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Chapter 5 - Down Time

(The next morning. Scene is in a mostly-darkened bedroom at the Appleton estate, so barely lit in such a way, we can't quite tell who's room it is. There is a lump sleeping in the middle of the queen-sized bed, completely covered from head to toe, and lightly snoring.)

The alarm clock on the right endtable beside the bed changed to "5:15", then suddenly began to give off a soft beeping sound, which made the lump shift towards it. A moment later, an arm reached from under the cover and slapped the top of the clock, thus ending its annoying beeping.

The cover on the bed that had previously concealed the figure commenced to slowly recede away, revealing a tired-looking Jane (looking the way she usually appears in the mornings). She stared at the ceiling warily.

JANE: (To no one in particular, voice matches her appearance:) Why in the hell did you agree to jog with Darren so damn early this morning again, Jane? (Pauses as if she expects an answer, narrows eyes:) What was that? (Pauses again:) Oh yeah--because he's going with Jake and that Edward guy golfing at 7:00 this morning, and he wanted me to get to know the estate ground's layout with him for our jogs. (Sighs, sits up:) I should be used to this since I am getting up earlier, at least for my summer jogs, but this damn bed's so freakin' comfortable--(pauses:) ah, hell, Darren's probably not even up himself. (Yawns, stares forward for a moment, considers:) Screw it. I'm gonna get a few more minutes of shut-eye--(begins to slowly lie back down)

Suddenly, there was a gentle, but rapid rap on Jane's door, which caused her to stop midway, and sit back up.

VOICE: (In a low voice to loud whisper tone, excitedly to the door:) Jane? It's Darren! Are you awake yet? It's 5:15!

JANE: (To herself, mutters:) You don't say. (Glares mildly at the door, equally loud whisper:) Yeah, yeah, if I wasn't awoke then, I am now. Hold your horses, and I'll be out in a few, okay? (Pulls back covers, sits on edge of bed. She's wearing her tee-shirt and short pants, which doubles as her pajamas, what we usually see) Geez, you're awfully eager to start jogging, huh?

DARREN: (Still in same voice, excitedly:) Actually, it's more than just that. (Pauses:) Uh, may I come in? (Adds:) That is, if you're decent.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, smirks:) You dare to call me decent, "Darry"? What a colossal insult you have just done to my personage! (Stands up, mock outrage, points at her door faux dramatically:) What, I say, have I done to deserve this put-down?

DARREN: (Loud sigh, chuckles:) Jaaaane--

JANE: (Laughs:) Oh, very well, young man. Yes, I'm "decent". Enter. (The vaguely outlined form of Darren comes in from the dimly-darkened hallway, and Jane forms a wicked smirk, lustful tone and lousy attempt in an unknown accent:) You might as well get used to coming in here under the cover of darkness, anyway, since I'll be staying with you and Daria under the same roof. Come to me, my dahlink.

DARREN: (Face turns red for a moment, privately relieved that the darkness of the room is concealing how he looks from Jane:) I'll keep that little thought tucked in my mind for future reference. (Pauses:) May I turn on the light?

JANE: (Grins:) Only if you're naked. Sure.

Darren clicked on the light, smirking. He was dressed in his jogging paraphernalia of a loose-fitting short-sleeved grey shirt that was cut midway up the arms, which also showed his biceps. He also wore black running shorts over his grey jogging pants, and sneakers. The rest of his muscles still showed underneath despite the presence of the shirt. As she adjusted her eyes to the light and viewed him, Jane found herself blushing slightly, but she tried not to show it.

DARREN: (Notices Jane's slight blush, grins:) Sorry to disappoint you, though something tells me from your look that this "ensemble" I'm wearing will pass as well. (Jane mock-glares at him, smirks) Listen, I have some great news: I didn't have that same nightmare about being in the study last night! It's the first time that's happened since I came back here from Lawndale! (Pauses:) Now when I think about it, the doctor said that you all being up here could've only helped me, and he was right! (Pauses:) I'll have to remember to call him later and tell him!

JANE: (Goes up to him, smiles:) Darren, that's great! (Darren suddenly lifts Jane up and twirls her around, both laugh) WHOOOA! Down, boy! (Darren gently puts her down)

DARREN: Heh--sorry. I haven't felt this relieved for awhile, Jane. In fact, I feel so relieved, I think I'm going to do this! (Suddenly bends down and kisses a surprised Jane on the mouth, which causes her to swoon) I'm going to let everyone know, starting with Daria! (Turns around, goes across hall, while a wildly-smirking Jane recovers enough to follow him after a moment)

Darren almost began to knock on Daria's door when he noticed it was slightly ajar. Jane came up beside him.

DARREN: Hm--her door's open. (Slowly pushes it completely open, walks in silently with Jane, and in a whisper:) Daria?

JANE: (In a whisper as well, narrows her eyes:) Uh, Darren? Something doesn't look quite right, here. Excuse me, but I'm gonna turn on the light. (Clicks it on:) Yep, just as I thought.

Daria's bed had not been slept in at all. Darren and Jane walked up to it.

DARREN: (Frowns, perplexed:) What the--where's Daria? Why isn't she in her bed?

JANE: (While looking around:) Hm--hold it. Didn't she say she was gonna go to the study last night?

DARREN: (Cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) You don't think she'd be in there all--

JANE: (Cuts him off, smirks:) --Daria. All of those books. Her voracious reading appetite. Yeah, I can see that. (Gives him a hesitant look, starts to leave:) I'll, um, go and--

DARREN: (Firm tone:) --We'll go and get her, Jane. C'mon. (Leaves, followed by Jane)

JANE: (Drops an eyebrow of uncertainty at him:) Darren, uhhh, if she's in the study--

DARREN: (Still in same, firm tone:) --I'll be fine, Jane, don't worry. (Small smirk:) I think because of last night's sleep, I can go in there uninhibited, (pauses, adds, uneasy chuckle:) at least long enough to check to see if Daria's in there, don't you think? (Jane looks at him a bit uneasily, then shrugs, and continues to follow him, turning off the bedroom's light)


A few minutes later, the two had quietly made their way through the barely lit hallways to the lighted study, which was known to them both to be so because of the light that cascaded around the outside and between the cracks of its double doors. Jane had privately wondered about Darren's reaction as they approached it, half-guessing if he'd tense up, or even stop and not go in. Much to her surprise, he didn't do either, though he paused for a moment at the double doors and took a quick, deep breath. Darren then opened the doors and went in with Jane.

Surely enough, there was Daria, asleep sitting up and laid back in an easy chair in the center of the study, holding an opened book of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge that was turned down in her lap, her head slightly cocked to the side and slumped, complete with her auburn-colored disheveled hair partly covering her face. Her glasses were barely staying on, hanging precariously on the bridge of her small nose, and she was snoring lightly. There were several other books laying around her feet as well, such as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, George Eliot's Silas Marner, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. The sight of Daria in such a vulnerable state of slumber caused Jane to grin deliriously. Darren gave a small chuckle at the scene.

JANE: (Whispers in a mockingly "sweet" tone:) Awww, she looks sooo cute sleeping there like that! If I had've known this, I would've had my easel ready to paint her like-- (gets an sinister "idea" look on her face:) hell, why not? (Turns around:) I'll just go up in your studio, and--

DARREN: (Same whisper, gently puts his hand on Jane's shoulder, smirks:) --Whoa, settle down there, "Janey Oakley". You know Daria would obliterate you if she discovered that you painted her like that, and I'd be out of one girlfriend, (pauses, realizes, narrows eyes:) then more importantly, she'd come after me for not stopping you. (Jane rolls her eyes at him playfully) Let's just wake her up, and be done with it. (Goes over to her)

JANE: (Mock glares and pouts:) You're no fun, Darren. I've gotta work on bringing out your bad side.

DARREN: (Half-serious tone, uneasy small, quick smile:) Jane, you wouldn't want to see my bad side, believe me. (Adds, realizes as Jane gives him a brief, but quizzical look:) What about your's and Daria's bedrooms? Surely they should've scored some brownie points with you on me being "bad". (Jane snorts playfully while Darren gently nudges Daria on the shoulder, whispers in her ear:) Sis, wake up. (Daria doesn't respond, and Darren does it again:) Daria, come on, wake up.

Daria's head suddenly drooped forward under Darren's second attempt at waking her, and she then mumbled some incoherent words, beginning to gradually lean over forward in the chair until Darren gently held her up straight by her shoulders, quickly catching her glasses that had slipped off her face in the same motion. Putting the glasses in his pants pocket, he turned back to a smirking and bemused Jane, cocking an inquisitive eyebrow. Both still were in their whispering mode of voice.

DARREN: Has Daria been this difficult to wake up before? I don't recall it happening back in Lawndale when I stayed with her. (Adds:) Of course, I never really had to wake her up. Most of the time she was up before me because she was working on writing something.

JANE: (Shakes her head slowly:) Daria must be waaay under, Darren. Reading that many books all night must've put her in a deep la-la land. (Snorts:) And she has the nerve to say that I'm hard to wake up. (Grins:) Wait'll I tell her how she was! Daria will never live it down!

DARREN: (Sighs:) Well, we can't just leave her like this, she might get a stiff neck or back sleeping in this position, that is, if she doesn't have one now. (Leans over, slowly and gently slips his arms under Daria's back and legs, and lifts her up effortlessly. Daria slumps on him, her head on his chest)

JANE: (Mock awed tone, grins, hands on sides of her face:) Oh, you manly man, you, caring for your beloved little sister like that! It just makes me want to explode in pure joy, so much so that I have to capture this moment in some other way--(scowls playfully at Darren, gets in an equally-playful dark tone:) since someone won't let me paint it in another way...'cuse me! (Quickly but quietly rushes out of study)

Darren stared after Jane for a moment, wondering what "devilment" she was up to now, and chuckled. He looked down on his sleeping sister. He had to admit with Jane that she indeed looked "cute" in this state, totally at peace.

After carefully using his shoulder to turn off the lights by the doors, he walked into the dimly-lit hallway (a small ceiling nightlight was shining down about every 15 feet, giving an illumination of alternating light and darkness in all the mansion's hallways) and gently used his right foot to nudge shut each of the double doors to the study, which made a soft clicking sound as they closed together. Daria shifted slightly in his arms for a moment after he had done this, but didn't awaken, in fact, she snuggled closer to him, and even placed her right arm across his chest and on his left shoulder, which made Darren stiffen considerably. He gulped for a moment as he looked down on her, speculating that if Daria did suddenly wake up, what exactly would he, or she, do? Would she possibly scream out of being startled, and wake up the entire mansion? Would he? Perhaps a startled Daria would clobber him?

Snickering, he immediately put those thoughts out of his mind and proceeded to silently take his sister to her room. It was no surprise that Daria felt very light in his arms, for she was slightly shorter than and just as thin as Quinn, after all. Darren briefly wondered how his middle sister (and Jane, for that matter) could keep off the weight as well as his "baby" sister, since Quinn was always dieting, and Daria wasn't. He had remembered witnessing all those greasy pizzas that Daria and Jane had woofed down while he stayed with them in Lawndale. At least in Jane's case, he could guess that her constant jogging helped to keep her lean and petite. In Daria's case, he wondered if perhaps her metabolism was unique, somehow?

Something else suddenly occurred to Darren: He didn't get uncomfortable at all while in the study, which turned out far better than he hoped for when he insisted on going there with Jane. He chalked it up to his primary concern for Daria, and of Jane's comedic bantering, both of which preoccupied his attention. Darren made a mental note to go back later and test himself out to see if he could stay in the study without tensing up. He frowned in determination to overcome it once and for all, especially since his middle sister would occupy it frequently over the next four years. Darren wanted to spend time with her there, and the more he thought of it, he personally deemed it ridiculous to allow that room to control him, which kept Darren from doing just that.

As he went up the hallway, he was surprised to spot a very tired-looking Sandi Griffin, dressed in a pink nightgown and matching pink fur slippers, coming out from the room that housed the home movie theater, about 20 feet ahead of him. She glanced in the opposite direction, then his way, but didn't see him because Darren was standing in the darkened part between the hallway's nightlights, and the fact that her visual peripheral senses weren't operating on all cylinders at the moment because of her weariness. She quietly made her way towards the grand stairs in the opposite direction. Darren thought about calling out to her, but decided not to for fear of possibly disturbing Daria. He then continued on his way, deep in thought.

Since Sandi was in the home movie theater, he suspected she obviously wanted to watch one, but at this time of the morning? Did she simply come back late last night and fall asleep while watching another movie by herself, and was just now going back to her room? Was it possible she may have forgotten something in there, and went back to retrieve it? That thought seemed ludicrous. What could she have possibly forgotten? A hairbrush? Her purse or compact? She was with Quinn and her friends until late into the night, having watched a movie or two already, so it's unlikely that would've been it, as one of the others would've reminded her if she did leave something behind, she could've come by later in the day to retrieve the item, possibly after being informed by the servants who cleaned the theater that she had left something.

Darren's eyes grew big, and he mouthed "sonavagun" as only one reason suddenly entered his mind: Was what happened at the warehouse that night affecting her sleep like it had his, so much so that Sandi was possibly having nightmares and couldn't sleep, too? Taking into account of the way she was behaving now and yesterday as opposed to when he had first met her in Lawndale, and from what he gathered when he spoke to Jane and his birth family last night, it had to have been when he considered it. He made another mental note to talk to Quinn about what he saw and to ask Sandi herself later to verify this. If Sandi still didn't want to directly answer his question that she was alright like she did yesterday, he'd call Sandi's father, and, as much as it irritated him, possibly her mother.

Darren gently went up the dimly-lighted grand stairs with Daria nestled in his arms. She snuggled closer to him once more, murmuring something unintelligible yet again, and holding him even tighter with her right arm as he ascended. Darren became very uncomfortable and wide-eyed at this point, quickly hastening his footsteps to get to Daria's bedroom.

As he rounded a corner to the hallway to Daria's room, he heard a snicker, and suddenly was blinded by a flash of light. He staggered back slightly with the after-image of the spot before his eyes, made all the more difficult while holding Daria. Darren frowned as his eyes readjusted to the dimmed light, and saw a the barely-outlined image of a softly-giggling Jane covering her mouth and leaning against one side of the hallway, all while holding an instant-picture camera.

DARREN: (Mildly annoyed, whispers loudly:) Jane! That's not funny! I could've dropped Daria, or she might've been woken up by what your flash-picture, or both!

JANE: (Smirks, ditto with the whisper, motions with her head:) Ah, but you're wrong on both accounts, Darren, see? (Darren looks down at Daria) Daria's still in her dreamlike state, snoring peacefully away. I could've probably taken a hundred more flash-pictures and she wouldn't have woken up, so relax. (Grins, holds up picture with the barely made-out image of Darren and Daria:) Since you wouldn't allow me to paint her asleep in the chair, this is the next best thing. (Pats camera:) Heh--the great irony here is that Daria herself suggested that it was a good idea to bring it up here with me, figuring I could take some great pictures of the estate's landscape and stuff. I know she's gonna regret doing that. I'll paint both of you like this, and call it "She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister".

DARREN: (Sighs, rolls eyes:) You really don't care if Daria will erupt, do you? She'll kill us when she sees your painting.

JANE: (Sneers:) Hah! I doubt that she will after everyone else sees my masterpiece, for we'll both hide behind Helen and Jake's fawning over the picture, like what they did over the family portrait I did of you guys, and it'll be much too, too late. Lemee toss this on my dresser, and make a quick change to my jogging clothes. In the meantime, you can place ol' sleepyhead in her bed. (Starts to leave)

DARREN: Jane, before you go, did you see Sandi come by? (Jane cocks an eyebrow) I saw her coming out of the home movie theater a few minutes ago on my way up here, but she didn't notice me.

JANE: Really? She did? This early? (Darren nods as Jane pauses:) Hmm--I didn't see or hear anybody come up other than you, Darren. Then again, my room's padded, so I may not have heard her because the sound is cut down from in there, and I was in there for a minute or two getting my camera. Sandi could've went by then. (Narrows eyes:) Why would she be up this time of day? I thought she and the rest of the Fashion Club wouldn't be up until high noon on a Sunday, (smirks:) or at least that's what Daria tells me about what Quinn's sleeping patterns are, and I'm assuming the other members of your "baby" sister's little fashion pack do the same.

DARREN: Actually, I'm sure I know why Sandi was up, and I'll tell you while we're jogging. Go on and change, and I'll deposit Daria in her room. Would you open her door for me before you go, please? Leave her light off, I can see well enough. (Jane opens the door, and Darren takes Daria in while Jane goes in her own room)

Darren gently placed Daria on her still-made bed, removed her glasses from his pants, and placed them quietly on the endtable. After carefully untying and removing her boots, putting them beside her bed, he covered his sister with a blanket that he retrieved from Daria's walk-in closet. Daria turned on her left side and began to immediately snore lightly. Jane's right, she must be really under. He chuckled softly as he took yet another look at her peaceful sleeping form, then slipped out to go to Jane's room, silently shutting Daria's bedroom door. Jane was waiting for him in the hallway with her arms crossed, dressed in her usual array of jogging clothes, and having combed her hair.

DARREN: Ah, good. You're ready. Since we took a little "extra" time getting my sister from the study, I'll tell her and the others about my little "breakthrough" later.

JANE: Smart move, me lad. Let's go. (Leaves with Darren)


(Scene is on the estate's grounds, a little later)

Darren and Jane had finished jogging and were talking and resting while lying back on a grassy hill that bordered the pristine-looking lake near the mansion, which was in their sight about a quarter-mile away. Even though she had been here but a day, Jane still was awed by the beauty of the grounds while she had jogged with Darren on a path that went through but one part of several sections of the woods that encircled the estate, one of several paths on the grounds. There were even signs that pointed out which path was which (the one they were on was called "The East Path"). During the jog, Darren pointed out the horse stables and the separate servant's quarters on the western edge of the grounds, which consisted of several modest but very nice-looking one-story houses with yards that had picket fences and a garage. To Jane, the servants certainly weren't living in "shacks", remembering Daria's little crack about her staying in one. Smirking, Jane was half-tempted to jokingly ask Darren which house Fiona resided, but dismissed that thought as she continued to take in the magnificent surroundings until they had come to the hill beside the lake.

A gentle morning breeze blew the meticulously-manicured cut grass and the trees that surrounded them as they stared at the now bright and sunny early morning sky. The same breeze made small, peaceful ripples in the lake, which appeared to be golden, due to the reflection of the sun on it. The sound of birds chirping only added to the present serenity of the moment, the same for several mallard ducks splashing and quacking off in the distance. Jane, her head lying on her crossed arms like Darren, looked over at him, and frowned, perplexed. Darren had told her about Sandi. Jane's visage then took on a skeptical look.

JANE: So, you really believe Sandi hasn't been able to sleep like you because of what happened at that warehouse? I mean, it is possible that she just went back after her fashion cohorts retired to sleepyland and wanted to see yet another movie, and fell asleep, (shrugs, mocking tone:) or maybe she couldn't sleep because she was worried over what make-up or fashions to wear when she and the rest of the Fashion Club meet that head of Circa Fashions this week, or something, and it drove her nuts. (Darren drops an admonitory eyebrow at her, which Jane notices) What?

DARREN: (Sighs, sits up:) Jane, I'm serious, here. I'm almost sure Sandi Griffin couldn't sleep because of the warehouse incident. It couldn't be anything else when you think about it. If something is wrong like I believe it is, then it's my responsibility to get her the help she needs to deal with it. (Pauses, looks down, guilty tone:) After all, it is my fault in a way for the way she's behaving, you know.

JANE: (Rolls her eyes, exasperated sigh:) Darren, if you had told us who you were from the beginning, you more than likely would've been killed by your uncle sooner rather than by him trying to do it to you later, remember? Something about him wanting to possibly do it then so you wouldn't "interfere" in company business, or some other crap? Besides, Woo told you to keep quiet until he could find the person who killed your parents, and it turned out to be your uncle! It actually saved your life by your holding off from telling us the whole truth, even though we got dragged into it, (Darren gets a downtrodden look, and Jane, realizing she just said the wrongest possible thing, quickly adds:) but everything turned out all right, and we're okay! (Sits up as well, realizes, narrows her eyes:) And why couldn't Sandi be up to anything else, Darren?

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Come again?

JANE: (Looks at the lake while holding her knees to her chest, slightly bitter tone:) See, I've known Sandi Griffin almost all of my life. Ever since grade school, she's looked down on me and people like me, like Daria. She's been nothing but a bitch in all the time I've been around her, all the way 'till the present day. It took a long damn time for her to develop into the way she is now. (Pauses:) Yeah, I know Sandi's been different lately by way of Daria via Quinn, especially with what happened at that warehouse and what Sandi did with well, that incredible act of calling me down beside you, and putting our hands together. (Darren nods slowly) Anyway, I keep wondering if the other shoe will drop with Sandi, and if she'll still try something with you while she's up here. We had a little "discussion" about that on our way here, but I'm staying on my guard nevertheless. (Pauses while Darren shakes his head slowly:) Damn it, I know you don't like her, it's just that--look, in a way, I think it was for the better with her seeing you bleeding like that on the floor that night. (Darren looks at her incredulously, is about to speak) Let me explain, okay? Don't get me wrong, here. Sometimes, well--sometimes it takes a bad thing to happen in a person's life to make that person want to change for the better. (Sighs:) Believe me, I know.

DARREN: (Pauses, narrows eyes:) This "person" wouldn't happen to be someone we both know, do we? (Frowns, perplexed:) Does this have something to do with last night, when you said in the media room about "Knowing how I feel, and not being alone"?

JANE: Yeah, it is. (Chuckles, in a quiet tone:) Well, you wouldn't know this person like I did. She did something very bad, very stupid to herself, and almost paid the ultimate price.

DARREN: (Concerned look, slowly gets out the words:) Jane, what exactly are you saying--?

JANE: (Almost in a whisper, returns her gaze towards the lake:) Darren, what I'm about to tell you goes no further than this hill, okay? (Darren nods reluctantly) We're kind of getting away from the subject of Sandi just a bit, I know, but I'm telling you this because I want you to understand that I know about feeling guilty because I did something wrong, too, and I know kinda what you went through. (Pauses, adds, small snicker:) I never told Tom what I'm going to tell you, so you should feel sort of "privileged" to hear something he never did. Trent and Daria know about this, but no one else knows, save for my parents, (snorts:) who, after getting me the help I needed and seeing that I was fine, went off immediately back into their own little nice and neat, career-oriented worlds, in other words, having everything return to what they perceived as being (finger quote:) "normal". (Pauses:) Darren, I tried to commit suicide once.

(Note to reader: This happened in Jon Kilner's excellent fic "That Stranger I Know So Well")

Darren's mouth dropped, and he stared wide-eyed at Jane, stunned. He hesitated for a moment, then slid closer to her and put his arm around her shoulders, squeezing her gently, comforting her. After a few seconds, Jane continued in a trance-like tone of voice.

JANE: I--don't want to go into too much detail about it, okay? It happened right after Daria and her family moved to Lawndale. Like you, I talked to a shrink when I had to deal with what I did and went through, too. I kept it under wraps for about a year from Daria until she accidently found out I had been in the hospital, and had a, um, "misunderstanding" about my condition, which she thought was something else altogether. (Small smirk, snort:) Daria even blamed herself for awhile in thinking she had something to do with me trying to end it all after I told her, going so far as even avoiding me at school. (Darren looks surprised) I was able to finally convince her that she had nothing to do with my stupidity. (Adds:) So, you see, you're not alone. I was able to come to terms with it, and I'm okay, now, really.

For an instant, Darren wanted to say something, but he decided to hold back, figuring that he could tell Jane about that incident later. Instead, he found himself trying to say any assuring words to her.

DARREN: I--I don't know what to say. You--you seemed to be the last person I'd ever think to try to commit suicide. You're so full of life, so full of energy--

JANE: (Smirks, puts her head on his shoulder:) --Just call me "Energizer Jane". I keep going on and on, and on--(pauses:) seriously, though, sometimes those who you think are the least likely to do something like I almost did, are actually the most likely to do so. Hell, Daria, who one might think is the one most capable of ending it all after you've read her writings and hearing her sarcastic, dark remarks, is really the least likely to "off" herself, since she really only uses both as a defense mechanism to deal with most of the shallow, know-it-all idiots in this world. (Pauses:) She's the most confident person I've even known, and that was the difference between us at that time in my life. Daria had the confidence to live in this world, and I didn't. I felt--alone. My psychologist told me that people like Daria rarely do the deed. (Adds, small chuckle, sheepish:) I hope you don't think you're attracted to a nutcase of some sort.

Darren stared at Jane, stunned for an instant, then let out a short, sharp, loud laugh, one that sounded to her like a relieved one. Jane cocked a nicely arched eyebrow at him, mildly perplexed and bemused at his reaction.

DARREN: Jane, I've been the one who's been afraid all of this time that you would see me as the "nutcase", and you were worried about what I would think about you? Talk about your classic irony! This is a load off of my mind! As far as I'm concerned, if we're both going to be "nuts", it might as well be about one another.

JANE: (Pauses, grins:) Sounds capital to me, my fellow "Nut-boy". (Darren chuckles) Okay then, let's return to the subject of Sandi. How did you wanna find out if she's really suffering from what happened at that warehouse?

DARREN: (Smirks:) So you do believe she's affected somehow?

JANE: (Smacks her mouth, rolls her eyes:) Let's just say that after talking to you about what happened to me, I'm gonna give her a chance after thinking about it, and just leave it at that. Now, what are you gonna do?

DARREN: I'll speak to her later about it after I confer with Quinn, and if Sandi still evades my question, I'll then talk to her parents and see if Sandi's said anything to them on the side. (Jane shakes her head slowly)

JANE: C'mooon, Darren. For all we know, Linda Griffin might deny something's up with her daughter, or worse yet, try to take advantage of this somehow by appealing for your "sympathy", and would want you to get closer to Sandi, or something. Anything's possible, you know.

DARREN: (Sighs:) You're really getting kind of paranoid about all of this, aren't you?

JANE: (Crosses her arms, frowns:) Hey, this is Linda Griffin we're talking about, here. I'll put nothing past her, just like Sandi. "Bitchiness is as bitchiness does", I always say.

DARREN: (Snickers:) Give me some credit, Jane. I certainly don't trust Linda Griffin anymore than you do, especially after her "claims" about her daughter and me to the media. Actually, I was going to ask Mr. Griffin if Sandi had told him anything first, then speak to Mrs. Griffin as a last resort. As much as I'm beginning to loathe that woman, I'm willing to bet even she wouldn't allow her daughter to suffer something as possibly traumatic as this, and not do anything about it.

JANE: (Relents slowly:) Well, I suppose. When are you going to contact them?

DARREN: Probably later in the week. I recalled Sandi saying something off-hand at dinner to Quinn and the rest of the Fashion Club last night that her family was in Baltimore for a marketing convention, and wouldn't be back until then.

JANE: (Smirks:) Okay. Be sure to get Mr. Griffin first. Otherwise, his wife will keep him under lock and key, and you'll never get to speak to him.

DARREN: Fair enough. (Looks at watch:) Oh-oh, we'd better get back. It's almost 6:20 a.m. (Both get up and head towards the mansion) Jake and Edward should be up about now, and I'll barely have enough time to shower and change before we go. (Pauses, considers:) You know, this is the first time I'll be going off the estate's grounds since I came back. I've been told by the golf course owner, Mr. Bickert, that we'll have absolute privacy to play, save for some other golfers on the course, and not have to worry about the media. What are your plans for today while we're out, if I may inquire?

JANE: (Coy tone:) Hmm, after I crawl back into bed and get another hour or so of sleep, (Darren chuckles) I'll probably take a soaking in that jacuzzi, then after breakfast, go to your art studio and paint from that precious picture on my canvas of you carrying Daria in your arms. If all goes well, it should be finished around early this evening, before you and Jake go to Yankee Stadium. (Evil smirk, rubs her hands together:) I can't wait to see your sister's facial expression when everyone sees it. Daria's in for one hell of a surprise.

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Aren't you worried about Daria coming into my studio and possibly surprising you, or anything?

JANE: (Ponders:) Hmm, that's possible. Good point. (Shrugs:) I'll lock the door to your studio so I won't be disturbed, and I'll keep my easel covered when I'm not painting, like when I break for lunch, and such. Besides, after Daria rises out of her slumber and freshens up, she'll probably make a beeline for that study, and spend most of the day in there. I don't think I'll see her until this afternoon, at the latest.

DARREN: Well, it seems like you've gotten your little "scheme" figured out quite nicely. Moving on to other matters, Quinn's told me that Juanita and Laflita are coming over today for some sort of "fashion summit" with the Fashion Club, and they'll all probably go out from the estate today after the meeting. Laflita called her after Quinn and the others left the swimming pool yesterday, saying something about a quick little stopover to a "Cute little fashion store off the beaten path" near Maness that Laflita and her sister told Quinn and Sandi about. (Shrugs:) The only fashion store that would come to mind is a place called Reynaldo's, which is only a few miles from the mansion. I know Circa sells some of their line there, though it isn't the type that's on the higher end of the expense scale.

JANE: (Mocking tone:) Oooh, too bad for Quinn and her buddies on not getting the "top" stuff until visiting Cashman's later. Daria told me that her parents are making Quinn save more, so maybe she'll be able to afford some of that "second-tier" fashion stuff. It's about time they did that, and you can take some comfort in the fact that Quinn can't come to you for any moolah on the side, (pauses:) at least not yet, anyway. (Darren smirks) Looks as if Quinn and the rest of the fashion mob will have a busy day today, all the more peace for me, (adds:) and Daria, for that matter. (Pauses:) Say, how are they gonna get there?

DARREN: They'll be chauffered there by limo, which, when I told Quinn, made her squeal in delight with her friends. (Concerned look, frowns:) Still, I'm kind of worried about them leaving the mansion for the first time since they got here. (Jane gets an inquisitive look) I'm wondering if the media will hound her and the rest of the Fashion Club while near town. Maybe I should send some sort of security team with them, at least two men, if they want it. I'll leave word with one of the security personnel to ask them before I leave with Jake and Edward.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, smirks:) Do you think that's fair to the security team? I mean, why subject them to that torture? (Darren laughs while Jane pauses:) Actually, that'll probably be a good idea from the F.C.'s point of view if you do send somebody.

DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Really? How so?

JANE: They'll need someone to carry all those expected bags of fashion crapola that'll be bought. (Darren snickers) Hey, since you and the "Jakerino" will be out hitting golf balls around with that Edward guy, what will Helen be doing?

DARREN: She's told me that after she does her speedwalking and changes, she's going with my aunt Millie to an Appleton Foundation meeting in nearby White Plains at the convention center there, and will meet some of my aunt's friends and associates. They'll go by helicopter from the mansion, and then land on the convention center's roof, and go in. It'll take about 20 minutes, as opposed to an hour by car. It'll be the same coming back.

JANE: (Impressed look:) Whoa. Talk about your direct transportation. What's this "Appleton Foundation"?

DARREN: It's our company's charity branch, which my aunt heads, and she was assisted by my mother, who was vice-chairwoman. Last year, we gave out about 200 million dollars total to various charities around the country and the world in the areas such as literacy, education, housing, and foreign aid. There are about 500 people who work under her. There's so much to be done, it really almosts qualifies as a full-time job, and aunt Millie's quite good in it. Today, we'll be donating 2 million dollars to a foreign food and clothing organization to help feed and clothe the starving people in Ethiopia, and the Sudan.

JANE: (Awed tone:) Wow, that's pretty cool, Darren. (Suddenly frowns, sarcastic tone:) Oh, I'm sure the "beloved" leaders in those countries really appreciate all of the help you guys give in keeping most of the people over there from becoming skin and bones--(pauses:) that is, after the leaders decide who gets what following the typical, long-ass political posturing, and have lined their stomachs with what food they, and their friends want first, then throw out the remaining scraps to the "common" folk. Don't you just love those Third-world dictatorial politics?

DARREN: (Nods:) I see your point Jane, and I understand where you're leading up to with this, but we're going through the International Red Cross in the distribution of our supplies. Basically, they've been given free access to give out what the people in those areas need, courtesy of the United Nations. Even the most ardent dictator knows it would be stupid politically not to give his people the most basic of needs, because angry and hungry citizens could lead to civil war, and to possibly getting that leader's head--literally. (Shrugs:) After the people get what they need, then the dictator could use his now happy, barely-fed and clothed people for propaganda purposes, saying that he's "taken care of them", and rallying them to his "cause", while on the side getting more than just enough for himself and his political allies. (Smirks:) Now, that's Third-world politics.

JANE: (Snickers:) Spoken like a true political science guru, Darren. (Pauses:) Um, speaking of your aunt, was it just me, or did she leave in a bit of a hurry from the media room last night? (Hesitates:) I know she said she wanted to meet Edward, but, I kind got the feeling that, well, you know--(looks away, voice trails off)

DARREN: (Sighs:) --No, it wasn't you, Jane. I think my aunt felt a little out of place with us there, like she was in the way, somehow. (Jane looks shocked) Yes, it does sound unbelievable, I know. I've tried to reassure her on several occasions before you all came up here that my bir--(pauses:) my family will not "replace" her, but I don't think it's registering with her for some reason. I'm sorry for what happened last night. I hope it didn't embarass you.

JANE: (Hooks her arm with Darren's, soft tone, smiles:) Nahhh, it's okay. I guess we're gonna have to work on convincing her that feeling "threatened" by the Morgendorffers is all in her head, huh?

DARREN: (Same tone, smiles:) Yeah, I guess. (Changes tone, smirks:) Speaking of "head", there's one thing that's bothered me from the talk you, me, and Daria had in your room last night, the talk concerning the hair-dye incident.

JANE: (Puzzled look:) Um, what's bothering you?

DARREN: (Glances up in thought, smiles:) Oh, I'm trying to envision your hair looking like a tiger's stripes. Tom told me that you painted a picture of yourself like that, standing in a jungle. (Note to reader, see the episode "Dye! Dye! My Darling!" for this) What happened to it? I didn't see it anywhere when I first saw your work in your room.

JANE: Um, well, I put it in a local art shop a few days after I showed it to Daria and Tom and it was eventually sold. It kinda reminded me of me, Daria's, and Tom's little "brouhaha triangle", and I wanted to chuck it after me and Tom foolishly decided to stay together too long. (Pauses, smirks, realizes:) And what do you mean "trying" to envision me having my hair look like a tiger's stripes? (Grins, mock accusative tone:) Just what are you implying, young man, that I'd look ridiculous with my hair like that?

DARREN: (Wide-eyed, puts hands up, waves them frantically:) Nononono! (Pauses, sighs:) Well, don't take this the wrong way, Jane, but yes. It's just that I prefer your current look, that's all. I like your "raven" black hair. I just can't see your hair looking like a tiger. (Adds quickly:) No offense.

JANE: No, none taken, Darren. (In a quiet tone, looks down:) Yeah, when I think about it now, I did look kind of stupid on that painting. (Snorts:) Some desperation ploy to "keep" Tom from Daria. I must've looked like an idiot to do that, huh?

Darren stopped walking, the same for Jane. He turned to her and gently tilted her chin up.

DARREN: (Soft tone, smile:) Jane, you're not an idiot. Compared to what I did to you all in Lawndale, what you did was far tamer. It's in the past. It's over. Time to move on. Don't beat yourself up over this, okay?

JANE: (After a moment, same tone:) Okay, yeah, you're right, I shouldn't, but still, I'll do that only on one condition--

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Uh, okay--what?

JANE: (Smirks:) That you just take your own advice you gave me, and forget about what you "did" to your family, me, and everybody else in Lawndale. (Snickers:) Quite frankly, I'm really getting sick and damn tired of hearing you tear yourself up over that, and I suspect Daria and the rest of your family would agree with me in a heartbeat.

DARREN: (Laughs:) It's a deal, Jane. From now on, no more "pity-parties" for me, or us.

JANE: That's more like it, "Darry"! (Suddenly surprises Darren by smooching him on the mouth, then takes off running in the direction of the mansion:) Race ya the rest of the way, slowpoke! Catch me if you can!

DARREN: (After swooning once again to Jane's kiss, shakes his head to clear it:) Hey, that was a dirty trick, Jane! Wait 'till I catch up with you! (Goes running after her)


From his window overlooking the estate grounds, Edward White observed the playful "scuffle" between Jane and Darren, snorted indifferently, then went back to finish dressing in his golf clothes, a conservative blue short-sleeved shirt and white pants that had been Arthur Sr.'s (Millie encouraged him to borrow Arthur Sr.'s clothes, and Darren had no problem with seeing him in them), which actually fit him. Privately, Edward didn't really want go to the golf outing and put up with what he considered to be Jake Morgendorffer's annoying "antics", but after Edward's little call on the side to inform his "Employer" of what he had heard in the media room last night, he was "encouraged" to befriend Jake and Darren, and to continually get any additional information on Darren and his family. Edward's "Employer" also reminded him of Millie's possible disappointment and subsequent suspicion of him if he suddenly begged off at the last minute. He had just put his golf hat on, (also formerly Arthur Sr.'s) when there was a rapid, excited rapping on his door. Edward rolled his eyes, suspecting who it was. He came up to the door, got a grimaced look on his face, and spoke.

EDWARD: (Strained tone:) Yes, who is it?

VOICE: (Loud tone:) Heya, Eddie, my man! It's the Jake! Can I come in?

EDWARD: (Thought v.o., puts forehead on door, looks down: Bloody wanker--) (Forces himself to sound happy, looks up:) Of course, dear boy! (Opens door, faux grin:) Come in! (Jake does, wearing his lucky golf hat, a very loud red golf shirt with matching black and red checkered knickers, and black golf shoes, all of which makes Edward try and not to laugh at him) Ah, I see you're, er, "ready" to go like me?

JAKE: (Grinning like an idiot:) You betcha! (Starts taking imaginary golf swings:) I'm ready and rarin' to go! Can't wait ta attack those greens!

EDWARD: (Still trying to keep in his humor at Jake's appearance:) "Attack", indeed. Well, I'm going downstairs to get some breakfast. Care to come along?

JAKE: (Stops his "swinging":) Huh? Oh, yeah, I'll catch up to you in a few. I'm gonna go and check on my son, and see when he'll be ready.

EDWARD: I saw him and his girlfriend coming up to the mansion just now, presumably from their jog. It's a safe bet that the old boy will have to shower and change first, then join us soon. I'd estimate it'll take from 15 to 20 minutes for him to join us. Our starting tee time will be around 7:30, so we'll have about 20 to 30 minutes to get there.

JAKE: Oh. Well, I'll guess I can join you then! (Rubs his stomach as he follows Edward) Mmm-mmm! My mouth's watering for some steak and eggs! I hadn't had that for years! (Pauses, looks hopeful:) Hey, do ya think ol' Henri will make that for me, "Eddie"?

EDWARD: (Looks up, sighs, exasperated:) Yes, Jake, Henri will make whatever you want. (Pauses:) In fact, I recalled you asking him to make you that for this morning during dinner last night, remember? (Jake has a "Ohhh yeah" look on his face) I wouldn't be surprised that he has it already prepared right now. He's done that for me when I stayed here earlier, and--

JAKE: (Eyes light up, interrupts:) --Hey, yeah, I did, didn't I? 'Cuse me, Edward, see ya downstairs! (Suddenly blows by a startled Edward, rushes down the grand stairs past a surprised Jane and Darren, who's coming up the stairs with towels wrapped around their necks given to them by Elenor when they came in) Mornin', son, Jane-o!

DARREN: (Shouts after him:) Er, good morning, Jake!

JANE: (Smirks, ditto:) Howdy, Mr. M!

EDWARD: (Thought v.o. as he watches the scene: I'm getting double-hazard pay from my "Employer" for dealing with that idiot.) (Sees Jane and Darren arriving at the top of the stairs:) Ah, Darren, Jane, good morning! I trust the jog you two had was invigorating?

DARREN: Good morning, Edward, and that it was. I recommend that you try it. It can get the blood flowing--

JANE: (Smirks, mock-crazed look, eager tone:) --Yeah, flowing through your veins, where it can then gather up in your head, and, thanks to the extreme pressure building up in there, explode it into an array of bloody brain mass, and other watery junk! Can't you just imagine that scene? It would make a glorious painting! (Adds, shrugs:) Sort of like what happened to JFK, you know? (Edward looks horrified at Jane's sense of humor, mouth agape, while Darren slowly shakes his head, trying not to chuckle. Jane sees that her little joke isn't going too well with Edward, changes tone:) Ah, 'morning, Edward. Just trying to add a little humor to your day, there. Didn't mean to startle you. (Kisses Darren:) See you later, "Tiger". Have a good time at the course, and hit a hole-in-one for me, okay? (Leaves)

DARREN: See you, Jane, and I'll try. I'll call sometime later while we're out. (Turns back to Edward, pause, slight chuckle:) Uh, Jane gets a little deranged now and then, you understand. I'll, ah, go and shower and change, then meet you and Jake downstairs in a few, all right? See you two at breakfast. We'll ride in the Lincoln Navigator to the course. (Leaves)

EDWARD: Very well, Darren. (Thought v.o.: How in the bloody blazes can anyone eat after that girl's rather morbid sense of humor just now? I'm asking for triple-hazard pay!) (Starts to leave when a stretching Helen suddenly comes out of her room, dressed in her red workout suit, and white headband, what she wore in "Lane Miserables", stops:) Ah, Helen, good morning! I see you're going out on your speedwalking workout?

HELEN: (Smiles, still stretches:) Good morning, Edward, and yes, I am. I see my husband is already up and about? I'm assuming my son's already risen?

EDWARD: Yes, both are up. (Helen goes with him down the grand stairs) Your son just came back from his jog with Jane, and is going to shower and change, then join us. I'm about to join your husband downstairs for some breakfast. (Both are suddenly startled by Jake shouting "YAHOO!" from the dining room)

HELEN: (Frowns briefly, then gives an uncomfortable chuckle to a wide-eyed Edward:) Oh, that's um, good, Edward. (Narrows eyes, sighs, lowers voice:) I meant to warn you about my husband's temper while playing golf: It's quite a nasty one when his game is off. The only time he wasn't like that was when he played against Darren, at least that's what my son told me, and that was when I suspected that my son allowed Jake to beat him, which I think kept Jake calm. You see, Jake is a decent golfer with a decent handicap, but even I've beaten him a few times when I've played against him, and I don't even play the game that much! Millie told me that Darren's a very good golfer, so that's what led me to believe that Darren let Jake beat him. I've reminded Jake to be on his best behavior while he's out there with you two, though, (mutters, frowns briefly:) at least he had better be.

EDWARD: (Thought v.o., sarcastic: Oh, this is quite marvelous. Now I have to be careful of that idiot possibly losing his temper while we're on the course. Quadruple-hazard pay!) (Waves her off:) Dooon't worry, Helen. I've played with some golfers that have had bad tempers when they couldn't get the ball to go into the hole. I'm sure if Jake grows (pauses, looks for words:) frustrated, it won't be anywhere as nearly as bad as playing with those other golfers. I'll be fine.

HELEN: Oh, all right, Edward. (Gets an apprehensive look:) I just hope I can find my way out there on the estate's grounds. Even though Millie showed me around on them yesterday, I still feel like I might get a bit lost.

EDWARD: (Chuckles:) You'll be fine, Helen. I assume you know that there are phones out there that you can call the mansion on, and the mansion's security routinely scours the grounds? (Helen nods) Good. It's next to impossible for anyone to get lost, so it'll be quite all right.

Both came to the foyer, where Claude opened the door for Helen.

HELEN: (Now sounding more relaxed, smiles:) Well, that's a relief, then. I'll see you later. Good morning, Claude.

CLAUDE: Good morning, Miss Helen, Master Edward. (Helen goes out, Claude shuts the door behind her, then Edward follows Claude to the dining room)


Jane came into her room, dead tired from her jog, shutting her bedroom door. She went straight to her bed, and plopped down on it face-first to get that extra sleep. She was so intent on getting some more shut-eye, she had not bothered to check the now missing picture of Daria and Darren that she had laid on her dresser.


(Scene changes to the grounds of the estate, about 40 minutes later)

Helen, having long since finished her speedwalking, now walked slowly on an unfamiliar narrow asphalt path by a narrow band of trees with a strong air of uncertainty. She stopped, looked around, and frowned in confusion, with her hands on her hips. There was a sign beside the trail which read, "Southeast Path", which she stopped and glanced at, then continued on the path.

HELEN: (Thought v.o.: Damn! "Next to impossible for anyone to get lost", eh, Edward? And all this after Darren confided to me yesterday that Daria had gotten lost briefly in the mansion, and I had the nerve to actually laugh at that! Guess I deserve this. Why didn't I think to ask that security man when he rode by me on his golf cart a few minutes ago on where I was exactly? "Southeast"? Southeast what? How embarassing! You and your stupid pride, Helen! I haven't seen a phone on the grounds to call for awhile, either. Wish I had remembered to bring my cell phone. Darren got me another battery for it yesterday, and--hm, what's this?)

Helen noticed that the path she was on broke off to a small slope that had what appeared to be newly-created concrete steps built into it, then to a diminutive, open, neatly trimmed grassy area, like a field, surrounded by the forest on three sides. Within the area, there was a small concrete plaza, and it was centered by two large, white marble headstones and even a larger single headstone of the same color and texture behind and taller than the other two, which had a message. All of the headstones were encircled by several rows of magnificent-looking flowers of red, yellow, blue, pink, and white, making the otherwise unsettling view of the headstones look actually beautiful. Helen came up to the site slowly with an air of respect for the deceased, that and the fact that she was curious as to see who was important enough to garner such a lovely site. She supposed half-heartedly that it was to some earlier relatives of her son's adopted family, perhaps Richard and Sylvia Appleton?

Helen froze in shock and turned pale as she viewed the two headstones, covering her hand over her mouth, wide-eyed. She had the relatives right, but the wrong era. It was the graves of Lucille and Arthur Appleton Sr.--her son's adopted parents, but to him, Darren's real parents. She came up to the headstones and viewed what was said on the taller single headstone silently:

To a man and a woman who meant more to me than anyone,
A man and a woman who taught me how to be a man,
A man and a woman who taught me how to show love and be loved,
A man and a woman who taught me how to stand on my own two feet,
A man and a woman who taught me how to work hard, and to be honest, and not spoiled,
A man and a woman who taught me how to respect others as equals,
To this man and woman, I will miss you both greatly and terribly, but I will carry a part of both of you inside of me forever,
A wonderful part, a bountiful part, a profoundly good part,
I can only say thank you, Father, Mother, though I know that my words can't even begin to tell you how I really feel, and that I could never repay you both in full, but my love for you both is boundless and unconditional.
I thank you both from the deepest recess of my heart,
Your Loving Son,
Arthur Darren Appleton, Jr.

Helen put a trembling hand on the taller headstone, and began to weep silently, looking down, closing her eyes. In the past two months, the "Tough-As-Nails-Everywoman" Helen Morgendorffer had found herself crying more than she ever did while raising her daughters (and to a smaller degree, Jake), and while growing up in the Barksdale household with her demanding father, preferential mother, and seemingly indifferent sisters, and she had good reason to be, trying to carve out her own niche in her life, all the while presenting a facade of determined toughness and independence. She had found her thought-of-dead son, only to almost lose him to death a few weeks later, and now, in a way, meeting Darren's adopted--no, his parents. She stepped back, and smiled through her tears at the two headstones, then began to speak in a low, choking voice.

HELEN: Hello, my name is Helen Morgendorffer. (Takes a deep breath:) You can just call me Helen. I'm your son's birth mother. He has a birth father named Jake, and two birth sisters named Daria and Quinn. My occupation is that of a lawyer, and my husband is a marketing consultant. My daughter Daria wants to go into the writing profession, and my other daughter Quinn aspires to be in the fashion design field. (Looks at the message on the taller headstone again, wipes her eyes:) You know, I think that message fits you two perfectly, and is quite appropiate in what I'm about to say. (Pauses:) I'd like to thank you both as well on behalf of my family for raising our son up to be such a fine young man, so much so to the extent that we'd like to do something in return, a matter that Jake and I talked about last night that we wanted to make up to you both somehow through your sister and sister-in-law Millie, (pauses:) something that I hope she'll greatly appreciate when I inform her of it later. As for your son, I'm sure you were as proud of him as we are right now, and we promise to be there for him as much as our daughters whenever he needs anything, (sighs, looks around, small chuckle:) though I'm sure he won't be needing any money from us. (Pauses, very serious tone:) Thank you again. Though I wished we all could've met each other in this life, and didn't, I'll wish for you two to have peace in the next one in my heart. (Stands at the gravesite for a minute in silence with her head bowed and eyes closed as her brown-to-auburn colored hair is gently blown by the breeze, then turns quietly away, starts to go back up the slope by the steps)

As soon as Helen came to the top of the slope, she saw a golf cart driven by a sunglass-wearing burly man who was also adorned in the mansion's known security colors of blue and black driving down the path. It wasn't the same man she saw earlier, but she wasn't complaining. She frantically waved at him to stop, and he did, pulling up beside her.

HELEN: (While getting in:) Hello! Thank goodness! I thought I'd never get back to the mansion! (Uneasy chuckle:) I sort of got, um, "turned" around.

MAN: (Smiles:) It's all right, Mrs. Morgendorffer. In fact, I was sent out here to check on you by Mistress Millie when you hadn't shown up at the time you said you told her you would for breakfast. Sometimes, visitors to the grounds can get, as you say, "turned around", though it is rare. I'll drive you back to the mansion. (Starts forward)

HELEN: (Sighs, relieved:) Oh, thank you again, Mr.--?

MAN: Dey, ma'am. D. T. Dey. I'm known as just "D.T." around here.

HELEN: Well, "D.T.", I appreciate your coming by.

D.T.: My pleasure, ma'am. (Pauses:) Uh, I saw you coming from the Appleton's gravesite. I hope you weren't shaken by seeing it, or anything.

HELEN: (Pauses, gets into a reflective tone:) No, actually I wasn't. In fact, I was comforted by it somehow. I was just paying my respects. (Thought v.o.: And then some.)

D.T.: (Looks at Helen sideways through his sunglasses strangely:) That's--good, ma'am.

The cart continued on its way to the mansion, quietly.


(Scene changes to the Maness golf course, about an hour later)

Edward had just finished hitting a near-perfect tee shot on the fairway of the fourth hole, his ball coming to rest about 210 yards from the hole, a par four 406-yard one. He was using Darren's golf clubs, while Darren had his (adopted) father's, and Jake his own. Darren and Jake had already hit their balls, with Darren's about 175 yards from the hole, also in the fairway, and Jake's around 236 yards away in the left light rough. Currently, Darren was at 1 over par, with Edward at 3 over, and Jake at 5 over. The three strapped their golf bags on their shoulders and started to walk, for the caddies that were supposed to carry them had been scared off, basically because of Jake. It had been quite an "eventful" first three holes so far, to say the least:

On the first hole, Jake immediately got into trouble when his tee shot went into the woods that lined the left side of the fairway and ended up directly behind a tree. After losing two shots in hitting the ball back unto the fairway, by which the ball went into the woods on the other side after his first shot to get out, he nearly bent his 1-iron in a rage over his knee, but Darren and an exasperated Edward calmed him down, with Darren explaining to him that it was Jake's first time playing on the course after all, and that he couldn't immediately expect to hit a perfect opening shot. The caddies that were with them glanced at each other nervously. They had seen angry or frustrated golfers at times, but never the way Jake had reacted.

On the second hole, Jake's tee shot veered into a very deep sand trap on the right side of the fairway, and it took Jake two shots again to get out, with his second shot hitting the top of the lip of the sand trap, and squarely ricocheting off his face, and unto the fairway. Needless to say, Jake became furious, this time slamming his sand wedge into the ground several times and shouting expletives, which drew angry shouting from the other golfers on other holes nearby, shouting at him to be quiet, and Jake shouting back at them, shaking his fist, and telling them to "Stick it where the sun don't shine, you bastards!". Darren sighed, and once again calmed Jake down, while Edward, even though he had been warned by Helen about Jake's temper, had still privately and half-seriously considered calling the boys in the white suits to take the man away. They did not see the now-petrified caddies that were with them sneaking off at first, at least not until Darren had hopelessly tried to call them back with promises of large tips after he spotted them running over a hill, and out of sight.

On the third hole, Jake's tee shot was very good and had landed squarely in the fairway, but a squirrel suddenly ran out and took his golf ball in its mouth, thinking it was a nut. After a frantic ten minute chase in which the squirrel had almost bit Darren and Jake (Edward watched the scene with his arms crossed, bemused), the ball was finally retrieved, and Jake didn't have to worry about doing a do-over from the tee. On the putting green, Jake missed an easy 4-foot putt for birdie, then the subsequent 1-footer for his par. Enraged yet again, he then bit his putter, screamed, and threw it about 50 yards away, almost hitting another golfer on the next hole over who was about to hit his tee shot. Edward now looked terrified (thinking about getting quintuple-hazard pay from his "Employer"), and then the club's owner, Mr. Bickert, who had come onto the course after the other golfers (and the caddies) had complained to him about Jake's behavior, asked Jake to stop, or leave the course. A now-calm Jake then profusely apologized to the owner, and promised not to make a scene again. Darren privately apologized to the owner, who he knew well from playing here with his influential father for years (and thus keeping them all from being kicked off), and Jake apologized to Darren and Edward for "acting like an idiot" and embarassing the two, then begged his son and Edward not to say anything to Helen about this, which both immediately agreed to, claiming a "Gentleman's Agreement". The three were in the middle of their walk to their balls, when Darren spoke.

DARREN: You two go on. I'll be there in a minute. I have to make a quick call. (Reaches into his golf bag, pulls out his cellphone)

JAKE: (Gives thumbs up:) Okay, son! Don't be too long! C'mon, "Eddie"! (Comically jogs down the fairway)

EDWARD: (Rolls his eyes, sighs, droll voice while trying to sound enthusiastic:) Coming, old chap! (Drags himself after Jake, but sneaks a look back at Darren, wondering who he's going to call)

Darren closed his eyes and sighed, dreading making this call. Still, he knew that if he didn't call, he'd be worried into an early grave, at least that's what Jane and Daria had told him, both even telling Darren what to say exactly. Darren dug into his golf pants pocket and dug out a piece of paper, staring at it for a second, then putting it back into his pocket, and punching his cell phone's buttons.


(Scene changes to the front of the Thompson's home, what was seen in the episode "Mart of Darkness", then to the den. There are several sections of the Lawndale Sun-Herald strewn on the floor)

Doug Thompson, drinking his "morning" can of beer, lying on the couch and dressed in a white sweaty tank top and striped boxers, was reading the sports section (his favorite part of the paper, of course) when his cell phone rang on the coffee table. He scowled at it over the top of his paper.

DOUG: What th' hell?! Everybody around here knows not to ever call me on a Sunday morning while I'm readin' the sports section! (Burps)

CHARLENE: (From the kitchen while preparing breakfast, annoyed tone:) Doug! You know it can only be one person who'd call at this time of morning! That floozie, Brittany Taylor! It's bad enough that she kept our Kevin out until 2 a.m. last night, but this is going too damn far!

DOUG: (In a calming tone and that silly grin Kevin apparently inherited, chuckle:) Whoa, hold on there, "Mama Bear"! We don't know if it's her, you know! Let's just have a look-see, okay? (Clicks on, answers phone with a very loud burp) Hello?

VOICE: AGH! (Pause:) Uh, yes, is this the Thompson's residence?

DOUG: Yeah, who's this?

VOICE: Good morning sir, my name is Darren Appleton. You can just call me Darren. Is Kevin Th--

DOUG: (Excited, interrupts, jumps up:) --Hey, the Darren Appleton? The guy who can make himself invisible? (Charlene Thompson, her hair in curlers and wearing her nightgown, comes out of the kitchen wiping her hands, excited as well)

DARREN: (Unsure sound:) What? Oh, er, ah, yes, yes it is, and you're--?

DOUG: I'm Doug Thompson, Kevin Thompson's dad! My wife Charlene's standin' here beside me! You wanna talk to my son?

DARREN: (After an uneasy pause:) Ummm--yes, please.

Doug and Charlene immediately ran upstairs to their son's trophy-filled room, and dragged a obviously tired and confused (who can tell on the "confused" part either way?) Kevin out of his bed, with Kevin immediately hitting the floor head first. He was dressed in his pajamas, with football patterns on it.

KEVIN: (Rubbing his head:) Owww! Awww, maaan! (Pauses, blinks:) Dad? Mom? What's going on? (Gets his goofy grin on his face:) I was having a great dream about running 125 yards for the game-winning touchdown, (pauses:) wait, or was that 25? Anyway, a whole lot of cheerleader babes were in the endzone waiting for me and stuff, and my teammates put me on their shoulders with Mack Daddy givin' me the game ball, and everything--

CHARLENE: (Frowns:) --And I suppose Brittany gave you a big kiss as a reward, too, huh, son? (Kevin nods with the goofy grin, and his mother rolls her eyes)

DOUG: (Grinning, waves the phone:) You can tell us about your dream later, boy! Right now, the invisible man you told us about is on the phone! (Kevin's eyes light up) And for gosh sakes, be sure to talk through the speaking end, this time, boy!

KEVIN: (Quickly gets to his feet:) Alllriight! (Examines the phone carefully for a moment to insure that he's going to hold it correctly to his ear, then takes it from his dad, who's listening intently over Kevin's right shoulder like Mrs. Thompson is over Kevin's left one:) Hey, Daria's brother, the invisible guy! What's up?

DARREN: (Groaning sound:) Hello, Kevin. I heard from my sister you were interested in my uh, "invisibility formula".

KEVIN: (Excited like his parents:) Yeah, dude! I think like, you've made a gazillion dollars from it, right?

DARREN: (Trying to sound "legit":) Yes, that's right, Kevin. I, er, made a "gazillion" dollars. Anyway, I have to report some bad news to you--

KEVIN: (Face turns ashen:) Aww, man! Don't tell me you ran out of it, or something? I told my parents you had a lot of the stuff, and we were gonna make some money together, and everything! (Doug and Charlene eagerly nod)

DARREN: (Pauses, dramatic tone, sighs:) I'm sorry, Kevin, but you're right on my not having any left. I--no longer have any of the uh, "invisibility formula". (Kevin and his parents look devastated) You see, when I first made myself "appear" before you in Lawndale, little did I know that it would be the last time I could make my "invisicells" work. I tried to get some more of my formula where I secretly lived all those years with my (adopted) family, but I discovered I was out. So, when I came back to my, er, "secret lair" up here, I found out that the factory, which had made the stuff, had exploded due to a, uh, faulty valve in one of my machines.

DOUG: (Frowns in frustration, shouts over Kevin's shoulder into the phone, frantic:) Damn! Didn't you have any extra invisibility formula stashed someplace else, Darren?

DARREN: (Faux sad voice:) No, Mr. Thompson, I didn't, I'm sorry to say. All of my stuff was in that factory.

CHARLENE: (Frantic as well:) Oh, dear Lord! Well, were you able to recover anything from the remains of the factory, Darren, you know to help you make any more?

DARREN: (Pauses, though it's clear he sounding his disbelief of what he's hearing from these people:) No, I'm sorry, Mrs. Thompson. When the factory exploded, the, uh, "invisibility formula" showered it, and made the factory vanish into thin air. I was never able to find it.

KEVIN: (Gets a suspicious look:) Heeey, wait a sec--wouldn't there have been some sort of news report if your factory had blown up, dude? Me and my parents never heard anything. (Doug and Charlene look at each other and nod with the same look)

DARREN: (Pauses:) Uh, yes, that's true, but as I told you, the factory vanished. (Pauses:) How could the media report on something that no longer was there if they couldn't see it?

KEVIN: (After a moment, looks over to his now-heartbroken parents, sad tone:) Oh, yeaaah. (Pauses:) Bummer, dude. What are you gonna do now? Start over?

DARREN: (Faux determined tone:) Yes, Kevin, I am, but I'll no longer be able to make the "invisibility formula" because the "secret recipe" to it was in the factory when the explosion occurred, so I'm going to have to move to something else. Sorry.

DOUG: (Over his son's shoulder, sounding down:) Well, thanks for telling us, Darren. I hope you can find something else to replace your formula. It was nice to meet you. (Sighs:) C'mon, Charlene. (Leaves with his wife to go back downstairs, mumbling something to her about "What will I tell my friends who wanted to get in on it?", then loudly belches)

KEVIN: (Pathetically attempts to get into a philosophical tone of voice:) Well, dude, I guess that's the way the old ball flies, and everything. (Pauses, looks up:) Orrrr, is that rolls? Wait a sec, maybe kicked? Fumbled? (Scratches head:) Maaaybe--maybe the ball doesn't move at all, or something! (Dial tone is heard) Huh? Hello? Hello? (Looks at the phone for an instant, narrows eyes:) Hey, maaaybe--maybe Daria's brother turned invisible again, and just blew up himself? (Shrugs, clicks off phone)


(Scene goes back to the Maness golf club)

Darren quickly shoved the phone wildly into his golf bag, then put the bag over his shoulder and jogged to catch up to Jake and Edward, who were looking over the relative positions of their balls. He had had enough of Kevin's denseness to last him for a lifetime and then some, privately wondering how Jane and Daria could put up with it for so long. Maybe it's like living beside a waste treatment plant. You eventually get used to the smell, or something. Why doesn't it surprise me that his folks are that way, too? At least I know now where he got it from.


(Scene changes to the Appleton estate, about an hour later)

Helen, dressed in a blue "power suit", was in Quinn's room, hands on her hips, and frowning down at Quinn, who was still dressed in her nightclothes and sitting up in bed, eating a breakfast of fat-free muffins, skim milk, and fruit on a tray. Elenor had just served it to her and was gathering Quinn's dirty clothing as Helen was speaking.

HELEN: Quinn, I can't believe you're sitting in your bed eating! (Motions in Elenor's direction:) Don't you see that it's a strain on Elenor and the other servants here to do that? I want you to get out of that bed and go downstairs to finish your breakfast in the dining room this instant, young lady!

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Muh-om! Sandi and the other members of the Fashion Club are bein' served like me in their beds! I can't be the only one not to do so, you know! (Sighs, looks up dreamily, smiles:) It's something I've been looking forward to since we came up here, and it's not like Elenor here is serving all of us, and stuff, 'cause she's got other people helping her! Besides, Darren said for us to enjoy ourselves and relax while we're here! (Her mouth makes a smacking sound:) I don't understand why you're going postal over this, God!

ELENOR: (Comes up, gently interrupts before Helen can say something else, chuckles:) Please, Miss Helen, it's no strain, really. Like your daughter has said, I have the other servants helping me by serving the others, which is part of their job, and they love it. We've done this many times before with (pauses, slight look of pain:) the late Master Arthur and Mistress Lucille, as well as Master Darren, Mistress Millie, and our guests. Sometimes, Master Darren or Mistress Millie prefer to stay in bed, and we serve them there. (Quinn gets a smug look, but quickly changes it when Helen glares at her) It's quite all right, I can assure you.

HELEN: (After a moment:) Well, all right, it'll be fine this morning, but I don't want this to be a regular occurrence, Quinn. We don't want to take advantage of your brother and his generousity, (adds, narrows her eyes, admonishing tone:) remember?

QUINN: (With her mouth full, doesn't notice her mom's look:) Whatever, Mom. Have a good trip with Millie, and everything, (becomes excited:) especially by helicopter! Wow! I'm gonna ask Darren if the Fashion Club can take us to Circa that way! (Helen gives Quinn an look of admonishment) Muh-om, Darren told me we could ride in it at least once while we're here, so I chose my ride on that, okay? When are you guys going to White Panes? (Bites into some grapes)

HELEN: (Sighs:) That's White Plains, sweetie, and it'll be in about 15 minutes. After I check on your sister, I'll meet Millie downstairs and we'll be going. (Goes to the door:) Goodbye, and be good, Quinn. See you, Elenor. (Leaves)

QUINN: Okay, Mom, 'bye. (Sips skim milk)

ELENOR: (Curtsys:) Miss Helen. (Follows Helen out with a laundry basket full of dirty clothing)


(Scene is in Daria's room)

Daria, now in her blue tee-shirt and yellow short pants, stirred in bed when there was a gentle knock on the door. She placed her arm across her face while she stirred.

DARIA: (Mumbles to the door, raised tired voice:) No, Mr. Woodpecker, that door doesn't have any bugs in it. May I suggest trying Jane's door?

Giggling at Daria's remark, Fiona entered the room with a laundry basket containing a black shirt and charlcoal shorts, presumably Jane's clothing.

FIONA: Good morning, Miss Daria. I'm here to gather your dirty laundry, and to ask if you want breakfast served in your room, or perhaps you wish to sleep a bit longer?

DARIA: (Sits up in her bed, gets her glasses off the endtable, puts glasses on:) Uh, good morning, Fiona. (Smirks:) I have dirty laundry? It shouldn't be aired so publicly, you know. Perhaps I can bribe you not to tell anybody my secrets? If I can't afford your asking price, then maybe my bro can swing it for me. (Fiona laughs) As for that breakfast, I do find myself feeling ravenous. (Looks at her alarm clock:) I guess I've stayed glued to this bed long enough today. (Pauses, realizes:) Uh, did you say you can serve it in my room?

FIONA: (While gathering up Daria's orange tee-shirt and black skirt and socks from the floor beside the bed, including Quinn's white swimsuit Daria wore at the pool yesterday:) Yes, Miss Daria. Miss Jane, Miss Quinn, and Miss Quinn's friends are being served breakfast as well in their rooms.

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow, deadpan:) Queen Quinn and the Fashion Club I can understand the "breakfast-in-bed" thing, but Jane? (Pauses:) Hmm, I may have to beat some sense into my friend and remind her that we're just ordinary plebeians, and that we shouldn't allow the surrounding luxuries of this place to corrupt us in any way, unlike it already has done to my sister and her ilk. (Pauses while Fiona laughs again:) Ah, the hell with it. It won't hurt to eat in my new inner sanctum this morning. Tell Henri to give me the works, like waffles, bacon, eggs, and coffee.

FIONA: Very good, Miss Daria. Do you want me to draw your bath in the jaccuzi after you've finished eating, or choose to shower on your own, (pauses:) or perhaps you'd prefer to do either before you eat?

DARIA: (Thought v.o. as she gets out of bed, slight smirk: This is all too damn good to be true. Too damn good for me to think about how too damn good it is.) Uh, sure, a good soak in the tub before chowing down will do wonders for me, Fiona, thanks.

FIONA: (Curtsys, starts toward the bathroom:) Very good, Miss Daria, I'll--

DARIA: (Hesitates:) Um, Fiona?

FIONA: (Stops, turns:) Yes, Miss Daria?

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Can't let myself get too carried away with this place and lifestyle, even though I'm finding myself sorely tempted to do so. Damn personal feelings of a guilty conscience.:) After hearing myself being addressed this once too many times since I've been here, could you kinda stop calling me "Miss" Daria? For some damn reason, it makes me feel like someone's throwing something at me, but whatever that something is, I find myself barely avoiding it all the time when they do. (Pauses:) One of these days, that something's gonna get lucky and lay me out when it makes contact with my person. (Fiona chuckles)

FIONA: Miss Jane asked me that while I was in her room as well. I'm sorry, but it's proper protocol for us to do so, (pauses, smirks:) Miss Daria. (Daria sighs) If I called you simply "Daria" in front of Elenor or even Master Darren and Mistress Millie, I could be reprimanded.

DARIA: (Thinks:) Well, how about if Jane and I make it a point to tell Darren, Millie, and everybody else around here not to put "Miss" in front of our first names? (Pauses:) I just feel like I don't deserve to be called that. "Miss" wasn't on my birth certificate, and I think that term shouldn't be directed to me unless I'm single, and have the last name "Morgendorffer" behind it, (pauses:) or if I want Playboy magazine to know that I'm fully available without their worrying about a jealous husband to stop me if they ask for a photo-shoot. (Fiona tries not to laugh out loud, puts her hands over her mouth)

FIONA: Master Darren was right, you and your friend are very funny. (Pauses:) If you can convince Master Darren and Mistress Millie to allow us to call you both just "Daria" and "Jane", then I'll go along, Mi--Daria. (Daria smirks) Let me draw your bath. (Stops before she goes into the bathroom:) If I may be so bold to say, I think I'm going to enjoy seeing you and M--Jane staying here the next four years for college, (pauses:) Daria. (Goes into the bathroom while Daria gives her a thoughtful look)

HELEN: (Catches the last part of Fiona's remark, comes in, stunned:) WHAT?! (Daria is shaken out of her thoughts) Daria, did I just hear Fiona say that Jane's staying here with you and Darren while you two go to college? (Fiona looks out from the bathroom wide-eyed)

FIONA: Uh, um, good morning, Miss Helen! I--I thought you already knew about Ja--Miss Jane! (Turns pale, puts her hand on one side of her face:) Oh, no!

DARIA: (Sighs:) Relax, Fiona, it's okay. (Fiona looks tepidly between Helen and Daria, goes back into the bathroom) Good morning, Mom, and your ears did not deceive you. Jane's gonna stay here with me and Darren for the duration of our college years. (Pauses, shrugs:) What? You thought Jane was staying in the city while going to her art school, or something? Just her paying the high-ass rent alone would bankrupt her in a month, or so. Darren wanted to wait until later to tell you.

HELEN: (Frowns slightly, deep in thought:) Umm-hmm. So when, pray tell, was your brother going to tell your father and me this, Daria?

DARIA: I suspected when you guys went out later this week to the Big Apple. Look, Millie knows all about it and has given her okay, (smirks, remembers Jane's little crack to Darren when she and Daria first came:) and it's not as if Jane's gonna sneak into Darren's room and vice-versa in the middle of the night and create babies, thus making you and dad grandparents sooner than you want, and me and Quinn aunts, (pauses, looks around:) even though the little tyke prince wouldn't ever have to go about being hungry or needing clothes or toys around the palace here.

HELEN: (Raised eyebrows:) Daria!

DARIA: Anyway, moving on to other things for a moment to give us both a chance to take a break from our little conversation, why are you so all-fired dressed up? (Pauses:) Does Eric want you to do some client shopping up here, or something?

HELEN: (Gives her a droll look:) Most amusing, Daria. (Adds under her breath, slightly bitter tone:) Besides, he hasn't called me yet this morning. (Resumes her normal voice:) I'm going with Millie to a charity function by helicopter.

DARIA: Oh, right, she heads the Appleton Foundation. Darren mentioned it to me on the phone once. Go in style, I always say. (Pauses:) So what's your beef about Jane staying here with us?

HELEN: (Sighs:) I don't know, I just--(a very loud cry of "Damn it, where the hell is it?!" is heard from Jane's room, so loud, it attracts Fiona's attention as well, and Daria gives a tiny smirk for some reason) Oh, my, Jane? (Rushes across the hallway, followed by Daria and Fiona)

Now having changed out of her jogging clothes into a housecoat after after bathing and having just finished eating, Jane was looking frantically around and beneath her dresser on her knees when Helen and the others suddenly busted into her room. Jane glanced up at them uncomfortably, particularly at Daria, then got off the floor slowly.

JANE: (Uneasy chuckle:) Uh, good morning, Mrs. Morgendorffer, Daria.

DARIA: (Still with that slight smirk on her face:) 'Morning, Jane.

HELEN: (Cocked eyebrow, cool tone:) Jane. Why did you scream? You scared us half to death! (Looks around:) What's wrong? (Thought v.o.: Besides the look of this room, that is.)

JANE: (Looks at Daria again, pauses:) Ah, I'm just looking for my--(pauses:) uh, good camel hair art brush, Mrs. M. (Helen frowns at her slightly, confused) It was one of several that Darren had brought me before he came back up here. It's an expensive one, and I don't want Darren to find out that I can't locate it. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you like that.

HELEN: (Exasperated sigh:) No harm done, dear. (Pauses, goes back into her cool tone of voice, slightly narrows her eyes:) Speaking of my son, I just found out something interesting--that you'll be staying up here with him and Daria for the next four years while you'll be attending college. (Pauses while Jane looks surprised at the disclosure, and at the way Fiona looks down sadly, telling Jane how Helen had found out:) Is that true?

JANE: (Stares at Helen and Daria for a moment, then sighs:) Yeah, it's true, Mrs. M, (adds quickly, red-faced:) but I swear I'd never do anything, well, uh, sexual with your son while I'm staying here, honest! Uh-uh, no freakin' way! It'll be nothing more than petting and snuggling! (Adds, serious look, puts her hand over her heart as Daria rolls her eyes:) You have my word, so says Jane Lane.

Helen's eyes narrowed intensely at Jane, who now felt as if she was about to go under a very difficult cross-examination, not unlike what Darren had felt in the study yesterday when she and Helen had asked why he had behaved in a such a way. Daria crossed her arms at the scene, bemused, while Fiona looked between the two uncomfortably.

HELEN: (Nods her head slowly:) Very well, Jane, I believe you. (Jane lets out a huge sigh of relief, and Daria gives her mother a quick impressed look) Like I saw in my son, I know you to be a person of good character (Daria's impressed look now changes, looks at her mother as if she's lost her mind, smirking, and Jane subtly mock-glares at Daria), seeing as how you've been a great friend to Daria, and after Jake and I had gotten to know you and Trent as well after a few years. As Daria told me, Millie also gave her okay with the arrangement, so if she can endorse it, I'm sure I and Jake can, too. (Hears the helicopter coming over the mansion:) Oh, I'd better go on, Millie's waiting for me, I assume. (Begins to leave)

JANE: (Steps up, unusually contrite tone:) Uh, Mrs. M? Before you go--?

HELEN: (Stops at the doorway:) Yes, Jane?

JANE: (Pauses:) I just wanna say thanks for putting your trust in me. (Adds:) I mean that, really.

HELEN: (Slow smile:) You're welcome, Jane. (Cocks an eyebrow:) Just don't make me come to regret it later, hmm? (Jane smirks, nods) Daria, please try and get out of that study at least once today, all right?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Actually, I intend to do just that, Mom. If Jane wants, she and I are going to take in a movie or two in the home movie theater, then if she's "game", pun intended, we'll go in the gameroom. (Jane looks somewhat surprised) The study's not going anywhere, and I don't want to try to read every single book in one sitting, trying to gorge myself off of the fat of the rich literature in there. Darren almost has a whole damn town under one roof here, and I may as well entertain myself in some other manner as well.

HELEN: (Chuckles:) I was thinking about your going outside the mansion like we discussed, but I'll take what I can get for now, sweetie. Goodbye, everyone. (Leaves)

FIONA: (Looks between Daria and Jane:) I'll, um, finish drawing the water in Mi--er, Daria's bath (Jane cocks an intrigued eyebrow at the "Daria" part, minus the "Miss", but decides to wait until later to inquire), then I'll get her breakfast. Excuse me. (Curtsys, leaves, shuts door)

Jane looked after Fiona, then turned back to Daria.

JANE: Er, so it was Fiona who told Helen about my staying here with you guys, eh?

DARIA: Actually, Fiona was talking to me when mom came into my room and caught the tail end of our conversation about her being pleased that you and I would be hanging around for four years here, and mom put two and two together. Fiona thought mom already knew about our "arrangement". (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Um, why would you ask that, Jane? Surely you don't think Fiona deliberately let that out, do you? What would she possibly gain by doing that? I just told you she was pleased that we'd be staying here.

JANE: (Shrugs, smirks barely, weak chuckle:) I dunno. Maybe to try and convince your mom indirectly that your brother and I would do some "hanky-panky" while I'm living here, and that Helen would then try and fight my staying around, which would result in her actions somehow possibly driving me away, so Fiona could have him to herself?

DARIA: (Stares at Jane for a moment, narrows her eyes:) You don't seriously believe that unbelievably mind-boggling leap in logic that you just gave me, do you? First, even if my mom did object to your living here, she really couldn't stop either one of you, (smirks:) even if she is a lawyer. Second, if my mom had tried to do precisely that, she'd drive my bro so far away from her, that I doubt he'd come back within a parsec of her for a very long time, and I don't think she'd want that particular development to transpire. Third, Fiona strikes me as being a really nice person, (Jane's mouth drops) yeah, I can't believe I gave out another compliment either this year, but strange things do happen occasionally with me, more often than not in my case. Finally, fourth, I think I can truly say that you've become a bit paranoid when it becomes to Darren and the female gender lately, like the way you were with Sandi on the plane, and apparently Fiona here. (Jane is about to say something) Don't deny it, I saw how you were scoping her out while she was speaking to Darren when we first came upstairs, and your "sudden" volunteering in helping him paint Fiona's portrait in his art studio. Yeah, my bro is handsome, and seems to draw the women to him, but he's not, and I reiterate, hopefully for the very last time, not interested in anybody else. You're gonna have to learn to trust him while he's out and about when you're not around, otherwise, you're running the risk of becoming (long pause:) possessive of him, and that's not the basis for a sound relationship.

JANE: (Stares at Daria for a second, smirks slowly:) Sorta like I was with Tom around you, before our little hair-dye "adventure", huh? (Sighs while Daria looks a bit uncomfortable, and says nothing in response, and Jane goes and sits down on her bed, sags her shoulders, looks down:) Yeah, yeah, Darren sorta told me the same thing about the "paranoid" part, though he was talking about something that happened this morning with Sandi while we were jogging--

DARIA: (Very wicked smirk now:) --Does this have something to do with her coming out of the home theater early this morning?

JANE: Yeah, as a matter of fact, it does, and--(narrows her eyes:) hey, how could you have--(pauses, stares at her for a moment, realizes:) it was you, wasn't it?

DARIA: (Now looking "innocent", Mona Lisa smile:) Moi, Jane?

JANE: (Slowly gets up from her bed, puts hands on her hips, in her mock-motherly tone, cocked eyebrow:) Dooon't take that tone with me, young lady! You know very good and damn well what I'm talking about! My picture! You got it off of my dresser, didn't you?

DARIA: (Returns to the smirk:) Oh, you mean the one with my brother holding me in his arms? That one? (Jane crosses her arms and glares at her) If you're talking about that particular photograph, then I must answer yes to your question. When you two went on your little morning excursion, I immediately made my move to your room to retrieve said picture. I figured when you said in the study you were going to "Capture this moment", you were gonna get that camera I told you to bring up here. It's a good thing you didn't really look at the picture, otherwise, you would have seen my eyes wide open along with my brother's in the flash shot, and you'd know immediately that I was faking it.

JANE: (Shakes her fist at Daria, clenched teeth:) AARGH! Blast you, woman! When did you wake up? I should've known something wasn't quite right when I saw you walking in here in your jammies, and not the regular clothes you wore when Darren put you in bed! (Cocks an eyebrow:) Was it when Darren first lifted you in his arms?

DARIA: (Nods, enjoys Jane's agony:) Yep, just about. I stirred a bit when he first shook me, but I wasn't really awake until he was actually holding me. I kept my eyes shut and decided to go along for the "ride", listening to your bantering. (Jane drops her head in defeat, mouths "Damn") I even mostly kept my eyes open while he was carrying me through the hallways, save for the fact when he stopped and looked down on me. That's how I saw Sandi. I knew that the mostly-darkened hallways would keep him from seeing my eyes open. Of course, I figured that since he came all the way down into the study to check out where I was, and also since I was so tired from reading through those books and sure as hell didn't want to drag myself up to my room, I'd let him take me up there himself, and he even went so far as to remove my boots when he laid me in my bed, the kind fellow.

JANE: (Grins wickedly, decides she's going to get something out of not having the photo anymore:) Orrr, maybe you liked being held in your Big Bro's protective arms, amiga. (Daria glares at her, rolls her eyes) Otherwise, you would've been immediately PO'd, and laid him out cold, you know, having been startled by him at first, thinking he was a stranger and everything.

DARIA: (Turns red, frowns slightly:) Jane, c'mon, cut it out. (Adds quietly:) I'd never really hit Darren. I told you I was too damn tired from all that reading, and didn't feel like moving. It's not like I haven't been carried by a man before. My dad carried me and Quinn to bed lots of times when we were small and we fell asleep while watching TV, or in my case, reading. With Darren, it was no big deal.

JANE: (Walks over, playfully elbows her on her arm:) Hah! Maybe being held by your brother reminded you of being held by Jake, eh? (Mock admiration look:) Oh, those wonderful memories you must've had with "Daddy Dearest"...

DARIA: (Looks at Jane evenly, deadpan:) Maybe being leveled by me and your subsequent falling on the floor in here from it will remind you of being laid out by Trent when you were but a wee lassie will bring back your "wonderful memories"?

JANE: (Snorts, grins:) Nice try, but usually it was Trent who was "laid" out more often than not in our little sibling tussles, m'dear, though I'm sure he let me win--most of the time, that is. (Pauses:) Seriously, Daria, you didn't like your brother holding you in his arms at all? I have to admit I kinda liked it as a kid when Trent did so, especially when I got really sick, or like you, felt too damn tired to go to bed on my own when I fell asleep watching the TV, or even painting. (Adds, shrugs:) Of course, he did it far more often than my parents did, so in a way, I have an excuse to appreciate what he did more than you would with your brother, who you and Quinn just met. (Shrewdly coy tone, waves her off, turns away from her:) On second thought, maybe you're right. It probably wasn't that big of a deal that Darren carried you all of that way to your room. Sorry for jumping to conclusions like that.

DARIA: (Pauses, gets in a very low tone of voice, looks around:) Weeell, maybe I liked it just a little. (Jane smirks a bit while turned away from Daria, then slowly turns back toward her with a small smile) He was worried about me, and I did feel a bit--(pauses, red-faced:) comfortable being held. (Small smirk:) I even teased him a little when I, um, "moved" around in his arms. (Jane cocks an amused eyebrow) You know, Jane, the human heart goes on an average of 72 beats per minute. In Darren's case, it sounded to me that his beat a thousand times a minute when I did that. He became stiff as a board, and I thought for a moment that he'd whizz all over himself. (Jane chuckles) That poor, poor lad.

JANE: (Finger to her mouth, frowns, deep thought:) Hmm--I gotta try that with him in the future, you know, pretend that my ankle is hurt, or something while we're jogging, and let him carry me back to the mansion?

DARIA: Tricking your boyfriend and my brother like that, Jane, is sneaky, lowdown, and downright nasty. (Pauses as Jane gives her a look:) Which is why I did it like that. I may try that with Tom in the future while we're walking together in beautiful downtown Lawndale.

JANE: (Smirks:) Oho! You're getting past with what he did, amiga?

DARIA: (After a moment, red-faced:) Well, I told him that we have to have a talk when I get back to Lawndale after he called. For the time being, I just wanna leave it at that, okay?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Fine. Okay, um, what did you do with the picture?

DARIA: (Stares at Jane with her "expressionless expression", deadpan:) Ashes to ashes, dust to dust--

JANE: (Rolls her eyes:) Geez, Daria, you actually burned it?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Maybe, (pauses, ever-so-slight shrewd look:) then again, maybe not. It's your guess. Either way, I had to insure that you'd never use that frozen-in-time moment to "capture" my weakness, to betray me to my parents, thus giving them an edge over me for years to come. It's bad enough that you have my likeness linked with them, Quinn, and my bro in our living room already with that family portrait.

JANE: (Sighs, shakes her head slowly:) Oh, Daria, Daria, Daria. I'd never betray to to your parents--(pauses, smirks:) at least without your knowing I did, that is. (Daria smirks) So, you really want to hang out in the theater, then the gameroom?

DARIA: That's what I said, didn't I? We can see a bad movie, and play games 'till our heart's desire. It's a veritable dream come true for your's truly. Besides, I figured that you'll need to be consoled over not being able to use that picture to paint of us. (Jane chuckles) You need my company.

JANE: (Points to her head:) Daria, you should know by now that I have a photographic mind when it comes to my artwork. It'll take me longer, but I'm determined to paint that picture of you two like that. I still have the after-image in my head.

DARIA: Then I'll have to try and get that after-image out of your head while we're watching a bad movie and are bowling and playing video games, you know, the type of pleasurable distractions that can be effective when necessary?

JANE: (Grins:) We'll see, Daria, we'll see. (Pauses:) You do realize that when Darren came into the study to pick you up, he didn't react in any negative way whatsoever?

DARIA: (Considers:) Hmm--yeah, now that you mention that, he didn't, did he? (Cocks an eyebrow:) Possible breakthrough?

JANE: Yeah, maybe, but you also gotta remember that (mocking tone, smirks:) he was deeply concerned about his other "baby" sister not being in her "beddy-weddy". (Daria gets that "Gimme a break" glare) (Jane gets into her normal voice:) I also wanna talk to you about what me and Darren said about Sandi. (Pauses:) I told Darren about my near-suicide, (adds:) though I didn't tell him everything.

DARIA: (Nods knowingly:) I suspected that was what you'd say to him when you hinted about it last night in the media room. Looks like we have a hell of a lot of things to discuss while we're enjoying ourselves.

JANE: Looks. (Pauses:) By the way, do you think Henri can make a pizza? I'd like to be munching on that while we're playing games, or something.

Daria was about to respond when there was a knock on Jane's door, and Jane opened it. Fiona came in, giving an uneasy glance at Jane.

FIONA: M--er, Daria, your bath is ready. Henri is preparing your breakfast, and it'll be ready in 20 minutes.

DARIA: Thanks, Fiona. Oh, Jane, I meant to tell you that I'm gonna get Fiona and the rest of the staff here to call us simply "Daria" and "Jane", so the "Miss" crap will be hopefully gone by tonight. Maybe we can tell Darren that when calls you sometime today while he's swinging balls with dad and Edward.

JANE: Ah, so that's why Fiona called you just plain 'ol "Daria". Cool. I was beginning to feel like an out-of-place common debutante, or something.

DARIA: I'll see you in an hour, "Plain 'ol Jane", okay? (Jane smirks) If I'm not finished stuffing myself by then, you can just barge in, and wait for me to emerge from the john. We'll ask Henri about that pizza later.

JANE: Later, amiga. (Watches her leave)

FIONA: (Hurries by her into Jane's room:) I'll get your tray, Jane, and--

JANE: (Puts her hand up as Fiona goes by, sighs:) --Wait a sec, Fiona.

FIONA: (Looking nervous as she turns around slowly:) Jane, if this about what Miss Helen heard--

JANE: (Cuts her off:) --Yeah, part of it is, but it's not what you think. (Pauses:) Look, I think I owe you an apology--(Fiona looks suprised)


(Scene changes to the helicopter that Helen and Millie are riding in)

Millie and Helen sat in the rear cab of the helicopter across from each other conversing as it flew over the peaceful-looking, rural New York countryside in the late morning of the day. The helicopter they flew in was a luxurious and large one, with the cab soundproofed so as both could barely hear the rotating blades while they talked. The conversation, light at first, had been about the Appleton foundation and of its various charitable functions, and of the various well-known people Helen would meet, then it took more of a serious turn as Helen had just explained to Millie of first seeing the Appleton's grave while speedwalking.

MILLIE: (Turns pale, puts her hand on the side of her face in shock:) Oh, Helen, I'm so sorry about that! I thought you knew because of the media reports and Darren telling you--

HELEN: (Sighs:) --It's all right, Millie, and Darren didn't really tell any of us about the site. He probably assumed we knew already from the TV reports and such. It actually turned out to be good that I did see the site for personal reasons. (Millie nods knowingly after a brief pause) I only wished Jake and I could've met your brother and sister-in-law. From what my son told us, they were remarkable people.

MILLIE: (Distant tone, slight smile:) Yes, Helen, yes, they were. Arthur Sr, and Lucille were quite the duo.

HELEN: (Pauses, frowns in deep thought:) Now when I think about it, I should've remembered that Darren's adop--er, parents were buried there. The newspapers and TV did mention it when my son first came to Lawndale, but, well, my husband and I were so excited to see our son still alive, (Millie looks a bit pained for an instant, something that Helen notices:) and, well, you understand--

MILLIE: (Smiles:) --Of course I do, Helen. (Reads some papers she's taken out of her small briefcase, presumably from the Appleton Foundation)

HELEN: (Looks outside at the landscape below for an instant, then back at Millie, hesitates:) Um, Millie, may I ask you a personal question?

MILLIE: (Looks up from her paperwork:) Hmm--? Yes, of course, Helen. What is it?

HELEN: Do you--do you have any children? (Millie cocks an eyebrow, Helen quickly adds:) Forgive me for asking, but I've never heard you mention having any since my family met you. (Millie stares at her with an unreadable expression) Darren told us that you were married once to his uncle Jim, then you two divorced.

MILLIE: (After a moment:) Yes, yes, I was married to my ex-husband, Jim Morse. We had--(pauses:) irreconcilable differences. (Slightly curt tone:) No, I'm sorry to say that we didn't have any sons or daughters.

HELEN: (Catches Millie's tone of voice, pacifying retort:) Millie, I didn't mean anything by--

MILLIE: (Cuts her off:) --It's all right, Helen, really. (Pauses:) I apologize for the way I spoke to you. It's something of a--sensitive thing with me when it comes to the subject of me and children. (Smirks, raises an eyebrow:) For some reason, I can't help but to wonder that you had a reason for asking me that particular question, perhaps because you're wondering if my ex-husband and I partly broke up over my not having any children, hmm?

HELEN: (Becomes extremely uncomfortable now, chuckles weakly:) Well, um, it's really none of my business, Millie--

MILLIE: (Shrugs:) --No, I might as well respond, Helen. You're not the first person to ask that, and you won't be the last. (Pauses:) Yes, that was the main reason why Jim and I divorced, though other reasons such as working late nights and being everywhere but with each other weren't too far behind. He wanted children, and I didn't. I basically wanted to be free of that type of responsibility, and he wanted an heir to take over his elevator business, preferably a son, (snorts:) though he wouldn't've "complained" if he got a daughter. I told him before we were married that I wasn't sure that I wanted children, and he understood that, though he hoped that I would change my mind someday. (Sighs, adds quietly, looks out window:) I never did, much to his chagrin--and to mine. He had his work to hide his growing frustration, and I had my family's foundation work and fortune to hide my fear of raising kids.

Helen cocked her head curiously at Millie.

HELEN: (In a mild tone of disbelief:) You were--afraid to raise children, Millie?

MILLIE: (Smirks:) Surprised? Call it a result of seeing how my brothers were at each other's throats while we all grew up at the mansion. Arthur and William were always competing for our parent's, particularly my father's attention. At times, it grew very competitive, from participating in sports, to one-upping each other in the business. More often than not, Arthur won. In the end, that was the difference in Arthur getting the Chairmanship, and William the Vice-chairmanship. (Shakes her head slowly:) I didn't know how much that really affected William at the time, though I could sense a very mild resentment from him towards Arthur when the will was read after my father's death. (Bites her lip:) If only I knew how much William came to hate his brother, maybe I could've stopped him somehow--

HELEN: --You couldn't have possibly known, Millie. As Darren told me, your brother fooled him and everyone.

MILLIE: (Nods her head:) Yes, you're right about that, I have to admit. Anyway, I saw first-hand how my father actually encouraged the sibling rivalry, you know, (in a mild sneering tone:) to "build up manly character" in my brothers. At times, I tried to play the "peace negotiator" between them, refusing to take sides. I loved both of them equally, you understand. My mother hated to see her sons go at it constantly. She tried to stop them, and sometimes it worked, but in the end, I think it wore her down. She died before my father did. (Helen shakes her head slowly, mouths, "I'm sorry") I saw what effect it had on her, and I wasn't sure I wanted that as a mother, trying to "calm" my children, and possibly ending up the same way.

HELEN: (Sighs:) Along with Daria and Quinn sometimes competing against each other, even though it wasn't quite as serious with your brothers, I know all about "sibling rivalry" while growing up in my home as a child. Me and my sister Rita were constantly competing for my parent's attention as well. (Chuckles:) My other sister Amy stayed on the sidelines and watched us. I think she was amused at our antics. (Adds sarcastically:) You're going to love the visit from my mother, Ruth, Rita, Amy, Erin, and Brian when they come to your place next week. (Millie smiles kindly) Sooo, I assume things between you and Jim got worse--?

MILLIE: Yes, the relationship we had began to sour, slowly but surely. Jim had his business meetings in San Francisco, Tokyo, and Sydney. I had my charities in London, Paris, and Milan. (Pauses, looks at Helen stoically:) One day, after five years of patiently waiting on his part, and of excuses on my part, we had a huge knock-down-drag out argument that resulted in his leaving me. The divorce proceedings were, suffice it to say, quite nasty. It took several more years of healing, but eventually we got past it, and began to become friends.

HELEN: (Gets a look of genuine compassion:) Oh, Millie, again, I'm so sorry.

MILLIE: Thank you, Helen. (Looks back out of the helicopter's window:) Arthur and Lucille still considered him a part of the family, but kept him at arms length when I was around out of respect for me. William didn't like him at all though it wasn't a direct type of rudeness, rather a subtile one. Once he implied that Jim was a "gold-digger" who wanted to worm his way into the family's fortune, despite the fact that Jim's elevator business was on solid ground financially, and Jim had his own money, even turning down Arthur's offer of a loan once when Jim needed a quick cash infusion on a project in Jakata several years back. Jim wasn't a big fan of William's either, but out of deference to me, tolerated my brother's subtle rudeness to him. (Smiles quietly, remembers:) It was one of the things I loved about him so much, his ability to not let things or people upset him.

HELEN: I see. (Pauses:) So, uh, when did er, Edward come into the picture? Darren said something about you two meeting somewhere in Europe while you were on vacation, and my son was visiting us--?

MILLIE: (Brightens up, grins:) It was in London, and he was working for a Danish commodities firm called Mikkelsen Industries, which is part of the European Common Market, and was there on some stock-selling business. We first spotted each other while I was touring Westminister Abbey, (adds:) or so I thought. (Giggles:) The security I had with me almost had a fit when he came over to introduce himself! (Helen chuckles) They were about to "escort" him from me when I stopped them. Edward told me that he had been following my whereabouts by newspaper and television since I first came, and he simply had to meet me, giving me that song-and-dance routine of his being drawn to me by my "American intelligence, beauty and charm".

HELEN: (Coy look, smirks:) It seems to have worked.

MILLIE: (Sighs, smirks back:) Yes, it did. From the moment Edward came over to me, I was dazzled by his dashing manly British charm and wit. Before I knew it, he and I started to go everywhere in London, with Edward showing me its sights and sounds, (adds, smirks:) of course, I didn't let him know I already knew the city.

HELEN: (Sighs dreamily, looks up, smiles:) Oh, those men and their cute tendency to try and win us over when they first meet us, the young dogs. (Millie chuckles) When Jake and I first laid eyes upon one another at Middleton College, I knew immediately that we were made for each other.

MILLIE: (Uneasy chuckle, briefly thinks about the match-up of the comical Jake and serious Helen:) Yes, uh, oh, really? I--see. I'm sure you and Jake have had your, um, troubles while being married to each other?

HELEN: (Recalls some of the marital troubles she and Jake have had over the years:) Er, yes, of course. We've had our fair share of (pauses:) ups and downs, Millie, like any other married couple have had, but Jake and I have been able to persevere.

Millie suddenly developed a piercing, yet thoughtful stare at Helen for a long moment, which made Helen feel slightly umcomfortable, then Millie spoke in a curious, almost trance-like tone of voice while continuing her stare.

MILLIE: How have you done it, Helen?

HELEN: (Raised eyebrows:) Um, what do you mean, Millie, done--what?

MILLIE: (With the same stare and tone of voice:) Be happily married, while obviously raising your daughters very well, and having a successful career as a lawyer, even reaching equal-partner status in your law firm?

HELEN: (Blushes ever-so-slightly in pride:) Well, it hasn't been easy, Millie, but my love for my family and my will to succeed had a hell of a lot to do with it, I can tell you. (Frowns deep in thought:) I never gave up, not for one damn second. (Grows quiet:) I couldn't afford not to, literally. There were times when Jake struggled in his consulting firm and had no clients for sometimes what amounted to weeks at a time, and it fell on me to keep bringing in the "bacon" for the family, which helped to drive me. My husband and daughters were counting on me, I couldn't let them down.

MILLIE: (Narrows her eyes:) So, it was your love for your family, and your family's financial needs that kept you going? (Helen reluctantly nods while Millie gives a small, bitter laugh:) Maybe that's part of the reason why my marriage to Jim didn't work--not just because I was afraid of raising children, but also because of my family's fortune. I didn't really need anything, you see, it was always there for me. If I wanted, say, the latest sportscar, I could get it. If I wanted a yacht, (snaps fingers:) mine. I didn't want children to hold me back from enjoying myself, ergo, I became selfish, not spoiled, mind you, because our parents made us work like Darren's parents made him do so as well, but just--plain--selfish. In reality, I wanted Jim to see things my way, that is, to have no children at all. I kept thinking he'd come around to seeing my point of view. (Sighs:) I don't blame Jim for not wanting to wait anymore, not now, when I think about it. (Helen is about to say something when Millie cuts her off) Trust me, Helen: It was my fault mostly. Jim loved me very much.

HELEN: (Pauses:) Out of curiousity, did Jim find, well, anyone else after you two divorced?

MILLIE: I heard he got back into the "groove" several months later with a few women, but he never seriously stayed with any of them after me. (Pauses:) I guess I must've discouraged him from ever marrying again.

HELEN: (Narrows her eyes:) With all due respect, I think you're being much too hard on yourself, Millie. It appears to me that Jim could've found someone and re-married on his own and have had children if he wanted--(pauses, realizes:) unless he--(stops, while Millie looks at her in anticipation:) um, nothing, never mind.

MILLIE: (Frowns at Helen, perplexed, then realizes:) Are you saying that Jim still has feelings for me, and that's why he never really found anyone else? If that's what you're thinking, then you're wrong, Helen. I have feelings for Edward, now. Even if, and I stress, even if Jim did feel something towards me, I don't have the same feelings for him that I used to when we were married. I'm going on with my life. If Jim's able to come in while you all are here, and he says something to me about that, then I'll tell him what I told you.

HELEN: (Quickly falls all over herself:) Of course, Millie, and I didn't mean to imply anything.

MILLIE: (Slight smirk, assuring tone:) No harm done, Helen. (Looks out the window, quiet tone:) It's a beautiful morning out there, so peaceful...

HELEN: (Does the same for an instant, then reclines back in her seat, smiles, releases a deep breath, though it's clear she hasn't quite relaxed yet:) Yes, I haven't felt this, uh, relaxed for quite awhile. I push myself at work, you understand, and I'm trying to take it easy more now than ever before, Millie. Being an equal partner certainly is a lot less stressful than what I used to do at my firm with corporate law, and everything.

MILLIE: (Chuckles:) Darren said that you pushed yourself to the brink like Jake did on his consulting job, and he was worried about both of you, and Darren wanted you all to take it easy up here.

HELEN: (Sighs, smiles:) Oh, that's so sweet of our son to worry about us, Millie, but we'll be fine, and--(notices Millie looking off again, appearing reflective:) Millie, is there anything wrong? You look like you're concerned about something.

MILLIE: (Looks back to Helen, snaps out of her trance:) Hm? Oh, I'm sorry, Helen. I'm just thinking about how Darren's really changed since you, your family, and Jane have entered his life. He looked lost right after Arthur and Lucille were killed, but he immediately focused on looking for you all after seeing that video of his adop--his parents telling him he was adopted. (Helen nods slowly, though she knows very little about the video other than what Darren had told her and her family) It was quite fortunate how he found you all so quickly, sort of like a support mechanism that kept him going. (Hesitates:) I'm--glad he found you. Thank you for accepting him.

HELEN: (Shakes her head, smiles:) Oh, Millie, seeing my son alive is a blessing I can't even possibly begin to give thanks for, of course we'd accept him in a second. Thank you for being a such a wonderful aunt to him. (Pauses, sees Millie glance out the window yet again with the same reflective expression as before:) Millie, I think now is a good as a time as any to tell you this: I want you to be part of our family as well. (Millie cocks an eyebrow) We'd like to adopt you. Think of it sort of as a payback for your brother and sister-in-law in taking care of our son. (Millie now looks at Helen, stunned, while Helen continues:) Jake and I talked about this at great length in our room last night before we went to bed, and he thought it was a fantastic idea, and, well, since you're Darren's aunt, and because it's so obvious that you're a very big part of his life, it's only logical that you become Daria's and Quinn's aunt, too. Darren doesn't know about it yet, but I'm sure he'll be delighted, and my sisters and mother will be after I tell them as well.

MILLIE: (Can barely speak because she's so shocked:) Helen--I--I don't know what to say--

HELEN: (Smirks:) --A "yes" answer will just suffice, you know. (Pauses:) Well, how about it?

MILLIE: (Trying not to shed any tears:) W-Why not? You've got yourself a deal, Helen. (Reaches over and hugs her, pauses, wipes her eyes:) T-This doesn't have anything to do with the way I behaved last night in the media room, does it? If it is, I want to apologize for that--

HELEN: (Looks surprised:) Uh, no, you don't have to bother yourself about what happened then, Millie, really. You wanted to see your beau. Jake and everyone understood that--

MILLIE: --No, Helen, I can't let that go so easily. (Long pause, sighs:) I lied. I didn't see Edward. (Helen shows no expression) I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could because I felt like I was intruding on a private family moment when you all gathered around Darren in the middle of the room to comfort him.

HELEN: (Pats her hand in an assuring manner:) It's all right, Millie. From now on, you don't have to feel like that anymore, okay? All family moments from now on will include you. Feel free to jump in and hug anytime. (Adds, shrugs:) Or shout in exasperation, whatever your fancy.

MILLIE: (Chuckles:) You haven't heard my high-pitched screams yet, you might come to regret asking that. (Helen laughs, and Millie puts her hand to her face, gasps in realization:) You know, other than Daria and Quinn, I've got to get to know Darren's girlfriend, Jane, too. With everything's that happened, I haven't yet. I'm going to pull her over to the side and grill her sometime this week when she's free. (Leans over, whispers, smirks:) Can you "prepare" me for any surprises? Darren's told me she's a bit more open than Daria. What's her family like?

HELEN: (After a moment, uneasy chuckle:) Well, um, I can only tell you what her mother Amanda's told me. (Pauses, bites her lower lip:) Er, ah, you see--(the cell phone in Helen's bag rings, which makes Helen privately grateful for the intrusion, not wanting to tell Millie immediately about Jane's "strange" family:) Excuse me for a moment, Millie. (In the familiar falsetto voice:) Hellooo? Oh, Eric, how are you? (Long sigh:) For a minute there, I didn't think you'd ever call me! (Pauses:) Yes, we're all doing fine, and--(pauses:) have I spoken to Darren specifically about the firm? (Frowns slightly, through clenched teeth and a hint of annoyance:) No, not yet, having just gotten here, but--

Amused, Millie observed Helen's animated conversation for a moment, then sat back in her seat, looked out her window at the distant, but fast-approaching skyline of White Plains, and smirked, thinking about Helen's grimace when Millie had inquired about Jane's family. Something tells me that this should be quite an interesting story...


(Scene changes back to the Appleton mansion, two hours later)

The Fashion Club and Juanita and Laflita, all wearing sandals and "skort" outfits, sat outside in the rear of the mansion on a huge brick patio at three round, white parasol-covered outdoor tables watching Sandi, who was standing up holding a small chalkboard and writing. A cool, gentle breeze barely shook the parasols in the warm summer air. They all had been at the "fashion summit meeting" for about an hour, and were bringing the meeting to a close. The Watley sisters sat at one table with pens, notepads and bottled water, while Stacy and Tiffany sat at another table with the same items, and Quinn, who sat at the other table with the aforementioned articles, except for an additional item: the latest Waif magazine. Sandi, who also had sat at Quinn's table as well, wore a white smock over her peach "skort" summer wear and white gloves so as not to get any chalk on her hands and outfit. She then turned the board to the Watleys, which read "attitude".

SANDI: (In her cool "Valley-girl" tone:) --In closing, the key, like, to having a good fashion club in your school is attitude. (Juanita and Laflita immediately begin to eagerly write on their pads, circling in one spot, presumably the word "attitude") You must have an air of confidence, of com--com--(frowns, tries to remember:) --competence, yes, that's it, competence to dictate fashions to those students who are fashionably starved, and are in great need of your advice. (Cocks an eyebrow, pointed stare at the Watleys:) You must, like, never allow others to control the tone of fashion, always remember that. (Quinn and the other F.C. members nod) I cannot stress how important that is. You will control the fashion, not them. You are the leaders, and they are the followers. (Goes over to Quinn's table, picks up the Waif magazine, shows it to the Watleys:) This will be your ultimate guide to dictating fashion. I suggest you immediately subscribe to it, and never let it out of your sight. We also wish for you to provide us with progress reports on your fashion club throughout the school year so as to check on how you're getting on.

JUANITA: (Finishes scribbling like her sister:) Got it. (Takes a deep breath, sits back, sighs:) Wow. We've got a lot of work to do, Sandi. We never realized there was so much to organizing a fashion club. Laflita and I really want to thank you and the rest of the Fashion Club for helping us out.

LAFLITA: Yeah, thanks. (Looks down while reading over the pad:) This info is really gonna come in handy when we start our fashion club at Orbison. (Looks back up at the F.C., smirks:) When our friends hear what we know, they'll flip! I'm sure the headmaster will approve our application for club status when we go back next week. (Juanita nods in agreement, smirks)

QUINN: You're welcome. (Smirks back:) Just remember that only you two have the information we've supplied, and it'll give you the edge when you have elections for your club--

STACY: (Excited tone:) --Oh, and be sure to have a small club, no more than four members at the most, though it is acceptable to have five if you really want to appear inclusive, (adds quickly:) but not too inclusive. (Pauses, looks at Sandi timidly:) Um, is that right, Sandi? (Sandi rolls her eyes briefly, sighs, then nods curtly) You don't want too many students trying to get in your group, and everything. If you allow too many, you'll run the risk of um--(looks up, tries to remember, starts to hyperventilate and puts her hands on her chest:) ohmyGodohmyGod, it's on the edge of my lips--(Juanita and Laflita look at each other nervously again, and Quinn and Sandi look exasperatedly at Stacy)

TIFFANY: ("Cuts" in:) Stacy, I think you...want to say that...they'll be taking a risk...and won't have a...cli...cli...(pauses, frowns, thinks, smiles slowly:) clitoris...yeah, that's it. (The rest of the F.C. and the Watley sisters gasp in shock, turn wide-eyed and red-faced)


TIFFANY: (Completely innocent look:) What...isn't that...right? (Quinn whispers in her ear what the word means, and Tiffany suddenly gets very wide-eyed and gasps) Ohhhhh...I wondered what...our sex ed...teacher meant when...she held up those...pictures in class...and said that. (Quinn wimpers, cuts her eyes over at the still-stunned Watleys)

STACY: (Covers her hands over her face:) Oh, God, I'm so embarassed--

SANDI: (Searches for words, looks between the Watleys and Tiffany:) Err, she, that is--

QUINN: (Goes over to Juanita and Laflita from Tiffany, uneasy chuckle:) Uh, ah, what Tiffany really meant to say was--

JUANITA: (Giggles with Laflita:) --We get it, clique, right?

QUINN: (Returns the giggle with Sandi and Stacy, relieved:) Right! (Looks at her watch, gets up with the others:) Wow, we'd better get to that fashion shop, don't you guys think? Since it's Sunday, won't they be closing soon?

LAFLITA: (Looks at her watch as well:) Yeah, you're right, we don't have too long. How are we gonna get there?

SANDI: (Grins:) Quinn, like, told us that Darren is letting us go in a limo, an' everything.

QUINN: (Grins as well:) And we can have two security guys with us! (Pauses:) They can carry our shopping bags and stuff! (Smirks:) Good help is so hard to find these days, right, guys? (Everyone laughs and nods)

STACY: What is this fashion shop called again, you guys?

JUANITA: Reynaldo's, a regional store. It's on the edge of Maness, and only a mile from our house, on route 19. Granted, it's not like Cashman's, but it isn't J.J. Jeeters either, more like somewhere in between. However, they do have some really good fashions there, and for a reasonable price, too. Just about everyone shops there, we know the girls at Orbison do, right, Laflita?

LAFLITA: Definitely.

QUINN: Okay, then, it's on to Reynaldo's! We'll meet in what, an hour-and-a-half or so, so we can change--?

JUANITA: (Looks over at Laflita, who gives an "eh" shrug of approval:) That sounds about right, and you can come to our home and pick us up. The security around here knows where we live. (Sighs:) C'mon, Laflita, remember, mom said she'd be at home when we'd call her to come, and it won't take that long for us to get home and change. (Looks over to the F.C.:) We'll see you then--(begins to leave with Laflita)

SANDI: (Cocks an eyebrow:) --Like, wait a minute. (Pauses while the Watley twins stop:) Didn't you two leave here in your own car yesterday, or something? I thought you came here in and were going to leave in that.

LAFLITA: Nope, the car we left here in wasn't ours, it was our brother's.

JUANITA: (Snorts indifferently, crosses her arms:) Yeah, just because we took it yesterday and he had to walk home, he decides to get back at us last night by threatening to--to--(clenches her teeth in anger, closes her eyes)

LAFLITA: (Pats her sister on the back:) --It's okay, girlfriend, I'll take up the slack. (Pauses:) My brother threatened to burn all of our clothes if we ever took his car again without his permission! He even came into our rooms and showed the matches he was gonna use if we did! (The F.C. gasp in shock)

QUINN: (Frowns, angered with the others:) No offense, you two, but it seems to me that your bro's a first-class jerk! How could anyone want to do that to fashion? (Makes a smacking sound with her mouth, disgusted:) It's like, typical sibling behavior, if you ask me! I mean, Daria always threatened to do horrible things to me and my clothes 'cause I wasn't "brainy" like her!

SANDI: (Nods:) Yes, Quinn, I, like, go along with you on this point, and everything. Having brothers can be sooo annoying. Once, Sam and Chris, in their usual stupid goofing off and fighting and stuff, spilled some ink from a dumb pen onto a dandelion-colored Circa pair of designer pants in my room! It was ruined beyond repair! (Looks down, sad:) I haven't even broken them in for the usual one day wearing yet, either. (The F.C. and the Watleys scream in horror)

TIFFANY: I'm so sorry...Sandi. (Pats her on the back, along with Quinn)

JUANITA: (Looks at Quinn and Sandi, sorrowful:) You have our sympathies, Sandi. Having brothers or sisters can be a real turn-off. (Quinn and Sandi nod, look at Tiffany, who gives a tiny, small smirk, since she has no siblings) (Juanita glances at Laflita, who's scowling:) Oh, sorry, sis, let me rephrase that. Having at least a brother can be a real turn-off (pauses:) most of the time.

STACY: (Pauses, then gathers up the courage to speak:) Um, guys? (Everyone looks at her) Do you really think that's kinda fair to say that about your brothers? (Adds timidly:) I mean, like Tiffany, I don't have any brothers or sisters, and I'm sure that at times that having them in your homes and stuff can get on your nerves, but I sometimes wished that I could have either one. (The others look at each other, reflecting on what Stacy's saying while she goes on) I could, like, talk about the latest fashions and about boys with my sister, and just hang out with her occasionally when I needed to have somebody just around to listen to me. (Looks at the Watleys, sighs:) If I had a brother like you two or Quinn and Sandi, I could still hang out with him and talk, like about how guys really think about girls and what they'd do on dates, (giggles:) since he's one, and he could give me some advice on how to go out with a good guy, and he'd be there for me if I needed something, and to watch over me. (Looks at Quinn, quiet tone:) Quinn, um, your brother's really helped you and us out at Circa, and if you needed anything, he'd be there for you, right? I mean, he's rich enough to do it, and he's a really nice guy. (Pauses, looks down:) I envy you, I really do. (Quinn looks surprised at this revelation, hesitates, then walks over and squeezes a startled Stacy on the shoulders)

(Note to reader: The show hasn't revealed that Stacy or Tiffany have any siblings, so for the time being, I'm assuming that they don't. If it turns out that they do, then I'm just plain wrong.)

QUINN: (After a moment, sighs, shakes her head slowly, smiles:) You know, sometimes Stacy, you can--(trails off, adds quietly, chuckles:) I suppose I'll agree with you in that having brothers and sisters can be cool, (pauses:) most of the time. (Thought v.o.: At least with Darren it is.)

STACY: (Stunned, privately delighted that Quinn's praised her:) T-Thanks, Quinn!

LAFLITA: (Nods slowly with Juanita, smiles:) Yeah, I guess that's true. Curtis can be nice to us when he wants to. Juanita, do you remember when he brought us those Gicadi designer sweaters we both wanted badly for our birthday a couple of years back, but our parents couldn't afford to get at the time? (Juanita nods)

JUANITA: Uh-huh. (Looks at the F.C.:) He had worked at dad's business after school for about a year to save up enough on the side to get it after we "hinted" to him how much we wanted them. (Adds:) It's a good thing that those sweaters didn't go out of style fashion-wise. Mom told us on the side later that he begged her not to say anything about what he was doing. I remember how shocked we were when we opened the presents at our birthday party and saw those sweaters, and even more shocked that it was our brother who was the one that got them! (Smirks with Laflita:) We were so happy, we double-teamed him with cheek kisses, which mom took pictures of us doing, and poor Curtis tried to avoid us for a whole month at home because he was so embarassed! (Quinn giggles along with Stacy and Tiffany, and even Sandi manages a small chuckle)

LAFLITA: (Pauses, rolls her eyes:) I suppose we shouldn't have drove his car in the first place yesterday without his knowing it, but heck, we've taken it so many times, it's become like a ritual. (Smirks:) Maybe if we tried to apologize to him nicely, he'll let us drive it later on.

SANDI: (Curious tone:) It, like, seems to me that your parents can purchase a car, preferably a new one, for the both of you. Mine did. I have a yellow convertible sportscar which was new when it was purchased for me.

JUANITA: (Cocks an eyebrow, droll tone:) Lucky you. Laflita and I are saving up for our own brand new cars, (sullen look with Laflita:) at least we're being forced to by our folks to have up to half of the price of the cars we want, and they'll chip in the other half. We work at our dad's engineering firm part-time during the school year doing some secretarial or gofering stuff, and he designates that half our salary go into a special fund for the cars. The other half we keep goes for our fashions, and other personal stuff. I guess we can't complain, since my dad made Curtis do the same thing to get his car. (Smiles:) We've been saving for two years, and we're really close to reaching our goal.

TIFFANY: Doesn't working like that...cut into your...dating time? (The other F.C. members nod)

LAFLITA: (Shrugs:) Yeah, but we only date one guy every week, (smirks:) in my case, I have a steady guy I like named Geoffrey (Juanita rolls her eyes), and it's only on a Saturday when we do, so it's not that big of a deal.

QUINN: (Stunned with the other F.C. members:) ONLY one guy a week, AND only on Saturdays? "Not that big of a deal"? Wouldn't that drive you crazy?

JUANITA: (Surprised look:) Huh? What do you mean? Between work and school, we're lucky we have a social life! (Pauses:) Heck, just setting up our fashion club's is going to be a challenge we'll have to squeeze in somehow! Our parents push us to study most of the time, and if I want to be a dentist, I've gotta have time to study!

LAFLITA: (Sighs:) The same with me wanting to be a doctor. I barely have the time to do much of anything else, so I take what I can get.

QUINN: (Brightens, gasps, smiles:) You want to be a doctor? Really? I thought about being one when my dad had a heart attack once--

As Quinn's chattering faded in the background, Sandi looked between them all and stayed uncharacteristically silent while listening, crossing her arms, and formed an unreadable look on her face, save for a slightly arched eyebrow. Through her talking, Quinn still managed to notice how Sandi appeared out of the corner of her eye, but didn't say anything for the moment, preferring to turn her attention back to the Watley sisters.

STACY: (Panicked voice:) I know if I don't at least date a guy every other day, I'd go insane! (Adds:) Though I know if I wanna get more serious with my schoolwork and go into a fashion design school like you, Quinn, I'll have to cut back at least a little bit on my dating habits, too. (Frowns, concentrates, counts on her fingers:) If I can cut back to four guys in five days--(the Watley sisters stare at her with dropped mouths)

TIFFANY: I can't stand...to not be going out...with a guy...at least every day...including Sundays every other...week at least...but I guess I'll...have to cut back to...five guys in six days...every week from now on...until I graduate. (The Watley sisters' mouths drop a bit further)

JUANITA: (Waves her hands frantically, shakes her head to clear it:) Waitaminute, waitaminute. Let me and my sis get this straight: You guys date almost every day?

QUINN: Yeah, it's like in my blood, though I promised my bro I'd start taking my schoolwork more seriously since I wanna get into the Fashion Institute, and my mom's like, getting me a tutor to improve my schoolwork on some weeknights this fall. (As a matter-of-fact tone:) Now, I'm only gonna date three guys a week. (Droops her shoulders in defeat, sighs while Stacy and Tiffany pat her on the back reassuringly, and Juanita blinks her eyes, going back into shock:) Oh, the sacrifices a girl has to go through nowadays. (Pauses:) It's a wonder that you two can even live by not dating more.

LAFLITA: (Glances at her stunned sister:) Uh, riiight. (Slight sarcasm in her voice:) Wow, and here we were lucky enough to get a date once every week! (Pauses, adds quickly, uncomfortable laugh:) Well, anyway, we'll see you guys later. Coming, Juanita? Gotta make that call, remember? (Quickly goes into the rear of the mansion while pulling a still-shocked Juanita after her, going by Claude, who comes out on the patio to clean off the tables)

The Fashion Club stared after them, with Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany slowly shaking their heads, and Sandi still with the same look and poise.

STACY: Oh, those poor girls. All of that work and study and no fun at all. No wonder they never formed a fashion club at their school. (Sobs slightly) Gee, how are they gonna have the time to make one at that Orbison place?

TIFFANY: Yeah...

QUINN: (Serious and quiet tone, narrows her eyes:) Kinda makes you thankful for what you've got, huh? (Looks over at Sandi, slight concern in her voice:) Um, I didn't hear you saying anything, Sandi. What do you think?

Sandi looked at the rest of the Fashion Club stoically, then narrowed her eyes in a very deep frown, which looked as if she were deep in thought. Quinn cocked a curious eyebrow at her expression, while Tiffany and Stacy looked at each other, puzzled.

SANDI: After some very careful consideration on my part, perhaps those two may have a good point in only having one date a week. (The other F.C. members stare at her as if she's lost her mind, and she quickly adds:) I mean, like, think about it for a minute, all right? If we're going to be serious about getting into the fashion design field for our future careers, then perhaps we should severely curtail our dating until we graduate, and devote more time to our studies like those two. It will be well worth it when we leave high school with better grades, and thusly have better choices for fashion schools. I certainly see no harm in anyone here doing this. (Pauses to get the full effect of stunned silence among the F.C. members, looks at each one of them:) In fact, as the Fashion Club president, I'd like to make an immediate motion that from now on, any Fashion Club member does not have to date anymore than they want to, even if they skip a week--(adds:) provided that it's for studying to improve their grades. This exception will also expand to missing an occasional Fashion Club meeting, though one must give a reasonable time of at least a few days before the meeting to notify us of their not showing up so they may study. (Cocks an eyebrow, smirks:) All opposed?

QUINN: (Swoons, tries to get her words out from being so stunned as Stacy and Tiffany suddenly faint in the background, and an immediately concerned Claude gasps, and comes over to them, crouches down, pats their wrists, and sprinkles water from the bottles on their faces. Quinn continues on, oblivious to what's going on behind her:) Are--are you serious, Sandi? We don't have to date anymore than what we used to according to the club charter, the minimal three guys a week, especially on a weekend day? (In the background, Claude rushes into the mansion shouting for help)

SANDI: That's what I said, didn't I, Quh--inn? (Pauses:) Well? I'm waiting.

QUINN: (Takes a deep breath, shrugs:) Well, if Stacy and Tiffany agree, then it's okay with me, I guess. Aye. (Thought v.o.: I wonder if Sandi's completely gone over the deep edge. I can just see Daria giving her "opinions" on this, and mom, dad, and Darren probably bein' really happy about this and stuff.) (Pauses, narrows eyes, another thought v.o.: Then again, maybe Sandi has a point. I don't have to worry as much about coordinating my clothes with my date's eye and car colors.)

STACY: (While still lying on the patio, opens her eyes barely, weakly raises her wobbly right hand, in a strained voice:) A-Aye.

TIFFANY: (Ditto:) Y-Yeah...aye.

SANDI: (Curt nod:) Then, it's like, unanimous, and everything. We are entering a new chapter in our club's history, or something. I'm going to change, and meet you all in a little over an hour in the foyer, okay? Like, don't be late. (Leaves to go into the mansion as a worried-looking Claude, Elenor, Fiona, two other servants, and a burly-looking security man go by her to check up on Stacy and Tiffany, who are now sitting up, and holding their heads)


(Scene changes to the gameroom, almost an hour later)

Daria, now dressed in her regular attire, save for the bowling shoes she was now wearing, narrowed her eyes, and began to move forward holding her small black bowling ball. She walked up to the line stiffly, bent over, and with both hands, rolled the ball down the lane, with the ball gradually proceeding like a tortoise crossing a country road. Jane, who was sitting behind the scorer's table and dressed in her regular clothing as well, chuckled at Daria's "form". Daria cut her eyes back at Jane, slightly annoyed, but then looked at her ball, which appeared about to veer slowly off into the left gutter, but at the last moment turned to the middle, then "barreled" into the pins. All fell down in what appeared to be in slow motion but the ten pin, which twirled in a circle like a drunk briefly, then plopped over. Jane rolled her eyes, then began to hit her head on the table gently several times in a row, while a smirking Daria walked back to her.

JANE: (With each head thump:) I--don't--freakin'--believe--this. Another strike. Damn.

DARIA: Believe it, Lane. Go on, mock my "style" if you must, but may I point out that it's kicking your ass from one side of the mansion to the other? I think that final strike gives me a seventy pin lead on you, am I not correct? I have 220 to your 150. (Mona Lisa smile)

JANE: (Sullen, sighs:) Yeah, yeah, rub it in, why don't you? (Mock glares at her:) Are you sure you haven't bowled that much, Daria? (Pauses, suspicious look:) You weren't trying to pretend that you didn't to lead me on, or something? In a way, I'm kinda glad now that you didn't come along that time when I invited you to go with me and Tom bowling with his friends.

(Note to reader: This happened in the episode "Of Human Bonding")

DARIA: (While sitting down on a row of chairs beside Jane:) Nope, I speak the truth, Jane. Dad took me and Quinn with him occasionally at night while we stayed in Highland and my mom was burning the midnight oil, natural gas, and coal. After Quinn usually broke off from us to flirt with the bowling shoe boys, dad would coax me from my reading at the food table into trying my hand at it. I went along to keep his whining from annoying me and keeping me from my blissful relaxation. At first, most of the time I'd roll a gutter ball, which would please me to no end, since I could get back to my reading, but sometimes I watched my dad, and I discovered that bowling merely involves placing the ball where you want it to go. (Jane gives her a faux "Wow, that's all to it?" look, and Daria glares at her) Shut up. Anyway, I started trying this "deliberate" style that you see today, and found out it was pretty good. (Smirks:) I began beating my dad so often, he stopped taking me, which is precisely what I had planned on, of course. I spent more nights at home reading and writing. It's been about four years since I last lifted a ball.

JANE: (Coy look:) Why you sneaky little minx, you. (Chuckles:) Nice roundabout way to get what you want, I have to say. You want to bowl another game?

Daria shook her head "no" and was about to speak when Henri appeared with a large, round, silver tray that was topped by a lid with a handle. Both girls got up and followed him to to the far end of the gameroom where there was a small bar table and sink, which had a pizza cutter, plates, and napkins already placed, along with some cans of soda, an icebox, and glasses. After the girls washed their hands in the sink and dried them off, Henri spoke.

HENRI: (Smiles:) Ere you go, ladees. I hope you will enjoy eet! (Takes off the top to reveal a large, piping-hot and still-sizzling gooey pepperoni and cheese pizza, and the steam immediately escapes, filling the room with the aroma of the pizza) Viola!

DARIA: (Sniffs while sitting down at the bar table with Jane:) Umm, that smells delicious, Henri.

JANE: (Ditto, salivates:) Yeah, it do at that! (Takes the pizza cutter, begins to cut into the pizza, gives a slice to Daria)

DARIA: (As she takes the slice:) Thanks, Jane. I still couldn't believe you knew how to cook a pizza, Henri. (Pauses as Henri looks at her curiously:) Um, for some reason, well, it just didn't register to me. No offense.

HENRI: (Chuckles, waves his hands:) No, no, Miss--er, (pauses:) Daria, eet es quite all right. Eet is natural for one to theenk for me, a world-class chef, to cook such a, shall we say, "common dish" such as thees would be beneath me, but I ave cooked thees dish manee times before for Master Darren and Master Curtees.

DARIA: (While blowing on her slice as Jane's about to bite into her's:) Really? Darren didn't mention it to us.

HENRI: (Smirks:) Ah, but Master Darren wanted to surprise you, Daria, telling me to be ready to prepare eet at a moment's notice if you or Jane asked. I hope you like eet. (Sees Jane chewing, hopeful look:) What do you theenk, Jane?

JANE: (Narrows eyes in deep thought, looks up, swallows, becomes wide-eyed:) Duh-yam! This pizza rocks, Henri! I think you're in the wrong area of the food business! (Finishes off the slice quickly, begins to get another slice, then a can of soda and gets a glass and some ice)

HENRI: And what do you theenk, Daria?

DARIA: (Swallows:) Henri, this is one hell of a slice of good pizza. I agree with Jane--maybe you should threaten my brother and Millie with leaving and forming your own franchise of pizzerias if you don't get a substantial raise. (Henri laughs as Daria bites again into her slice)

HENRI: Thank you, Daria, Jane. Master Darren will be so pleased that you two ave approved.

JANE: (Mouth full:) No sweat, Henri. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Say, why are you delivering this? Fiona, Claude, Elenor, or somebody else in the staff taking a break, or something?

HENRI: (Shrugs:) I do not know, Jane. I heard there was some sort of trouble een the rear of the mansion about an hour ago, and Elenor asked me to take the pizza to you both for er while she looked eento eet. (Daria and Jane look at each other, inquisitive) I did not mind, seence I wanted to know your reactions to the taste of my pizza anyway.

DARIA: The rear of the mansion, you say? (Looks at Jane:) Isn't that where my sister and the Fashion Club were with Curtis' sisters for some sort of lame "fashion summit", or something?

JANE: (Smirks:) Knowing them, there probably was a catfight or something that broke out over whose nail polish looked better. (Snaps her fingers:) And we missed it, damn it. (Henri shakes his head slowly and snickers, then leaves)

DARIA: (Gets another slice, deadpan:) Oh well, them's the breaks--(pauses:) nail breaks, that is.

JANE: Enough about the teen-age fashion gurus, I'm trying to digest my food peacefully here. (Gets another slice like Daria:) I'm still trying to get over Fiona telling me that she had a mild attraction to Darren during our talk. (Pauses:) Talk about your standard honesty, sheesh.

DARIA: So? We both know my brother can attract women like bees to honey. I think Fiona wanted to be completely honest with you about what she really felt about Darren. At least you can no longer suspect her of hiding anything about him like you did with Sandi, who, like Fiona, told you that she still liked him, though she's kept her distance. (Pauses, hesitates, but goes on:) Honesty: Something I should have done with you about Tom after the hair-dye incident. (Jane looks at her uneasily as Daria bites into her slice)

JANE: (Nods her head:) Yep, and like I should have done with Tom in acknowledging that it should have been over between us then. Still, I found it unbelievable she'd come clean like that.

DARIA: (Smirks:) No more unbelievable than catching you looking under my bed when I came out of the bathroom after my bath, (pauses, adds, while Jane snickers wickedly:) or by your not saying anything to Darren when he called about my actually being awake while he was holding me this morning. (Jane now looks sheepish, then bites into her slice) Trying to still find that picture, eh?

JANE: (Thinks better then to fib with Daria, narrows her eyes, mock-glare, swallows her pizza:) In the case of the picture, I'm not taking any chances with you saying that you destroyed it, amiga, and as for not telling Darren, I'm gonna let it be a surprise to him when I do. I wanna see his reaction--(smirks, pauses:) the same for his finding out about Helen "approving" of my staying under his roof.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Hm--nothing surprising about your holding those two bits of info back from my bro. (Jane chuckles) At least Darren didn't object when I asked him to direct the staff here not call us "Miss Daria" and "Miss Jane" anymore. Now, as for what we've done so far, perhaps my diabolical plan of making you forget about that image of me and Darren in your head from watching Slasher and playing games is beginning to take fruit, eh? Maybe that's why you're thinking you need the picture, (pauses:) provided that I have it? (Chomps into her slice)

JANE: (Snorts:) You wish. I vow to die of old age with that image in my head if I have to, so if I can't find the photo, I'll wing it when I start painting you two. (Finishes off her pizza slice)

DARIA: (Deadpan voice:) Oh goody, Jane. Tell me, why would I keep that photo? (Pauses:) What reason could I possibly have in doing so?

JANE: (Shrugs, drinks some soda:) I dunno. Maybe to keep some sibling memories, or something? (Daria rolls her eyes, thinks, "Here we go again.") You know, when the other members of the Morgendorffer brigade came to visit Darren for the first time, they didn't take any pictures (Daria looks at Jane slightly wide-eyed in realization), at least that's what Darren told me over the phone. If that's the case, it's the first picture with him and a member of his birth family taken together. It's a great personal photo for you to keep to yourself.

DARIA: (Getting up from her seat after finishing off the last slice of pizza, with a hint of annoyance:) That's preposterous, Jane. Dad forgot to get any film when our relatives came to see Darren, and that's it, though mom's making doubly sure we get pics while we're up here and then some. I can get any of those pics with just him and me standing with each other and keep them to myself then, (adds quickly:) if I really wanted to do that. I'm going up to my room to put on my boots, then go to the study. (Pauses:) Coming?

JANE: (Gets up as well, follows Daria:) Sure, I need to do some painting in Darren's art study, anyhoo, and maybe do a sketch or two of the estate's landscape from there. (Pauses:) I can add a giant blood-sucking monster over the forest later. (Daria smirks) Lemme change to my boots. (Cocks an eyebrow as she sits down on a row of seats not far from the bar area. The seats are beside a row of eight lockers, not unlike those at Lawndale High, takes off her shoes and gets her boots out of one, while Daria waits for her:) Say, that reminds me: Why didn't you just keep your boots on down here with you when you changed into your bowling shoes instead of sending them up via Claude?

DARIA: (Hesitant look, searches for words:) Um, well, my boots represent my independence, Jane, my defiance against the inanity of society itself. I dare not take any chances of them being damaged by um, the inside of strange lockers, (pauses:) unlike the familiar ones at the school's gym lockers. I'll get Claude to take these shoes back down here after I change into my old reliables.

JANE: (Stares at Daria for a very long moment, then finishes up lacing her boots, leaves her bowling shoes on the bench:) Riiiight. (Gets up, follows Daria:) Well, we'd better get upstairs to check on those highly valuable Doc Martens of yours, then. Mustn't take any chances.

DARIA: Damn straight. (Stops beside the gameroom's intercom, turns on the "speak" switch:) Uh, this is Daria. We're finished using the gameroom, now. You can, um, clean up.

VOICE: Very well, Mi--er, Daria. This is Elenor. I'll be there in a minute.

DARIA: Thanks, Elenor. (Switches off intercom)

JANE: (Smirks:) Know how to use it now, huh? I'm damned proud of you.

DARIA: (Mock-frown:) I hate you. (Leaves the gameroom with a grinning Jane)

Daria and Jane walked by Elenor and another maid who went into the gameroom as the two girls made their way to the grand stairs, when a burly-looking but attractive woman dressed in a short-sleeve baby blue blouse and white dress pants and holding a handbag popped out from around a corner about twenty feet in front of them, and coming towards their direction, with a purposeful stride in her walk. Both girls stopped and looked at each other.

JANE: I think that's Tina, the head of security, Daria, but Darren said that she'd be here tomorrow, or something. Why is she here today?

DARIA: From the way she'd walking towards us, I'm almost too scared to ask. (Pauses:) Don't let me stop you from doing it, though.

JANE: (Sardonic:) You're too kind, Daria. (Tina comes up to them as Jane waves her hand weakly) Um, h-hi.

TINA: (Serious look, tone of voice, forced smile:) Hello. You're Jane Lane, right? (Firmly shakes her hand, which makes Jane wince slightly) I'm Tina Rollins, head of the mansion's security. And you're Daria Morgendorffer, one of Darren's sisters? (Shakes her hand, which has the same effect on Daria as Jane)

DARIA: Yeah, we are, though my sister Quinn had me and Darren pegged as her cousins for awhile. (Pauses, feels her hand as Tina looks at her confused:) Uh, this doesn't mean that we've done anything wrong by being in your space, and you've come here to beat us up, have you? If so, I'll have you to know that Jane's by far and away the more athletic of us two. You can go after her, since she has the ability to struggle around more. (Jane narrows one eye at Daria, while Tina looks taken aback) I'll stand here on the side of the hallway and watch the carnage.

JANE: Throwing me to the lions while you come off clean, eh? (Smirks, motions her head at Tina:) When Tina grabs me, I'll take your arm and drag you in with me, and we can both die together, like Thelma and Louise!

Tina cut her eyes between them, looking strangely at them both for a second, then began to give a hearty, long laugh. The girls looked at each other again, though not as nervous as before.

TINA: O-Oh, y-you two are hilarious! Darren said you both had a wicked sense of humor! (Gets her laughter under control, smiles:) Don't worry, you're both safe. I just came here to pick up my handbag I forgot yesterday, and to do a quick check of everything. I was leaving, and in a hurry to get back to my boyfriend, who's waiting out front in his car to take me to a picnic. I didn't mean to scare you. (Cocks an eyebrow:) I seem to have that effect on a lot of people when they first meet me.

DARIA: (Deadpan, sarcastic:) Any idea why?

TINA: (Shrugs:) I dunno. (Pauses, smirks, points at her head:) I think it's the hair. Can't do a thing with it, with the split-ends and everything, you understand. Makes me look like Medusa, which could be an advantage, since I can freeze any man in their tracks with it. (Daria and Jane smirk)

JANE: Maybe we should introduce her to the Fashion Club for that hair problem, eh, Daria?

DARIA: Jane, please, we just met Tina, here. Let's get to know her first. (Pauses:) If we don't like her, then we can hand over her to the Fashion Club sharks.

TINA: (Chuckles:) Something tells me that might not be a good idea for some reason.

DARIA: And that something would be right for a very good reason. (Pauses:) Beware, Tina, beware.

TINA: (Gives Daria a very odd look, moves past the two:) Uhhh, okay, I will. Nice to meet you two--(pauses, coy look:) I think. (Both girls smirk) See you two tomorrow. (Leaves)

JANE: (Shakes her head slowly at Daria, smirks while the two continue on their way:) Oh, Daria, what are we going to do with you?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Decisions, decisions. Make sure when you all reach a conclusion about me, it'll involve some piano wire and the Fashion Club's necks, particularly Quinn's. (Jane snickers)


(Scene is upstairs, a few minutes earlier)

Quinn, having showered, changed, and now fully-dressed in another "skort" outfit, a creme-colored one with a matching purse, stopped in front of Daria's room, and shuddered.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: Ugh! I hate having to go in here an' stuff, but Daria forgot to return my white swimsuit, and I'm not gonna let her keep it--even though it did look good on her at the pool, not that I would tell her, or anything to her face. She's probably in the study, so I don't haveta worry about her seeing me come in here. I hope Jane doesn't come out of her equally creepy room if she's in there and happens to come out and see me. Better hurry up and get it before the rest of the Fashion Club wonder where I am.) (Opens door, slips inside)

Quinn quickly looked around, then made her way over to Daria's dresser drawers, pulling them in and out, carefully rummaging around the few clothes Daria had, mostly bloomers, orange and black tee-shirts, and blue jeans, in the drawers. She frowned in frustration, then stopped, and looked around again.

QUINN: (To herself:) Arrgh! Where's my swimsuit? Maybe one of the servants washed it, or something, and haven't returned it yet? I should've asked Elenor or Fiona before I ca-- (spots Daria's boots beside the foot of the bed on the floor:) huh? What's Daria's boots doing up here? (Pauses, turns pale:) OHMYGOSH! Is she in the bathroom? (Tepidly checks out Daria's bathroom, sees nothing, takes a deep breath of relief, then walks over to the boots, hands on her hips:) Is she walking around here barefoot, or something? (Sees what appears to be the edge of a white slip of paper protruding out from under the tongue of Daria's left boot:) Hey, what's that?

Quinn picked up Daria's left boot, and pulled the slip out, seeing that it was actually a photograph. She looked at it, and gave a loud gasp, wide-eyed. Suddenly, she developed a sinister look on her face, smirking wickedly, and put the photo in her purse quickly. Quinn placed the boot back to its previous position, and slipped out of Daria's room, suddenly not caring anymore at all about her swimsuit. She quickly came down the hallway and then proceed down the grand stairs, and met the Fashion Club in the foyer. All were dressed in a summer regalia of designer oufits, with Sandi wearing a bright yellow halter-top, hat, and matching shorts and sandals, Tiffany a lavender short-sleeve tube dress and sandals, and Stacy wearing a lime-colored "skort" outfit and sandals. Claude came up and opened the door.

QUINN: (Very perky, slightly out of breath:) Hiiii, guys! Wow, you all look hot!

STACY: (Excited, of course:) You do too, Quinn! I love that off-white color "skort" oufit!

TIFFANY: Yeah, Quinn...it really brings out...your cheek color.

SANDI: (Crosses her arms:) For a minute there, I thought you were going to be late, Quh--inn, but now that you're here, we can proceed to the Watley's, then to Reynaldo's. The limo's waiting out front for us with two security people. Let's go. (Leaves with Tiffany and Stacy)

Quinn was about to go when Daria and Jane suddenly appeared, about to go up the grand stairs. She smirked as she eyed Daria, who caught her look and stopped with Jane.

DARIA: I see you and the Fashion Club are off to raid another fashion store, Quinn? (Pauses:) Be sure to leave the crumbs for everyone else this time, okay?

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Ha, sis. (Grins smugly, which makes Daria feel slightly uncomfortable for some reason:) See you guys later. (As she leaves out the door:) I'll be (pointedly says:) "buzzing" about at Reynaldo's. Charro.

DARIA: That's ciao.

QUINN: (Shouting behind her, waves at Daria dismissively:) Whatever! (Claude shuts the door behind her, then leaves)

JANE: (Starts walking upstairs with Daria:) Quinn and her gang have left the mansion for awhile. We've been granted a reprieve, Morgendorffer.

DARIA: (Deep in thought about Quinn's smug behavior, but still manages to be sarcastic:) Yeah, but only a temporary one, Jane. Too bad it can't be permanent, but I suppose we should take all we can get at the moment.

JANE: (Swings her fist:) That's the spirit! (Pauses, notices, cocks an eyebrow:) Hey, you okay, Daria?

DARIA: (Shakes out of her thinking:) Huh? What do you mean?

JANE: (Shrugs:) I dunno. You looked kind of out of it for a second there.

DARIA: To be honest with you, there was something about my sister's behavior just now that bothered me for an instant.

JANE: (Smirks:) You mean, it hasn't bothered you for years? (Daria smirks) This is a surprise development.

DARIA: Not that behavior, which is unfortunately almost ingrained within my psyche. I'm talking about the way she acted just now, this chill that's going down my spine, this feeling that I'm having. It's almost as if Quinn has something on me, and she knows it.

JANE: Hm. If that's the case, then I'd advise for you to let her make the first move so you can respond to it in the typical Daria Morgendorffer way.

DARIA: (Smirks:) You mean by calculating her strategy, then turning it against Quinn, humiliating her in the process?

JANE: (Curt nod:) Exactly, like you do all of the time.

Both stopped in front of Daria's room.

DARIA: You know me too well. (Goes in, followed by Jane, which surprises Daria:) Uh, Jane? Why are you following me in my room? I thought you were gonna go to Darren's studio?

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? What do you mean, Daria? I was just going to wait for you to put on your boots, then we'd go back out together. All of my art stuff's in Darren's studio, so I don't have to go to my room to get anything, and I was going to come back out with you. (Pauses, looks at Daria suspiciously:) Why don't you want me to come in, Daria? (Grins wickedly, realizes as Daria looks slightly uncomfortable:) Don't tell me you're hiding that photo, and you don't want me to know where it's at?

DARIA: (Looks away quickly, deadpan:) You've gotten pictures on the brain, Jane. I'm not hiding anything. C'mon in. (Both go in)

Daria quickly made her way to get her boots beside the bed and sat down to put them on while Jane sat on the other side, subtly cutting her eyes all over Daria's room, looking for any sign that her missing picture was around. Daria, trying to be careful, reached into her left boot slowly, all the while observing Jane out of the corner of her eye. Daria felt around inside her boot with her hand for a moment, then grew wide-eyed and quickly looked down into it, which promptly drew Jane's glance in Daria's direction. Jane broke out into a delightful grin.

JANE: (Jumps up, points:) HAH! I knew it! You hid the photo in your boot, didn't cha?

DARIA: (Still looking and feeling in the boot, frowning, more out of confusion than being annoyed by Jane:) Apparently I thought I did. (Jane comes over to her side of the bed, and both look in it) Damn.

JANE: (Pauses:) You don't think Claude got it, do you? He did bring your boots up here for you. (Daria looks at Jane with her "expressionless expression" while slipping on her boots) Scratch that, dumb "Kevin-and-Brittany-like" question, sorry.

DARIA: I'll overlook that minor slip of the brain for now, just help me look for the damn picture. It probably slipped out of my boot when Claude brought it up here, and went under the bed. (Warningly glares at Jane:) Help me look under there, but don't even think of taking it, do you he--(Jane ignores her and suddenly dives under the bed) Damn it, Lane! (Daria jumps under as well, and both girls feel under the bed with an air of desperation)

A few seconds later, both girls came out from under the bed, their hair messed up, but still pictureless and disappointed.

JANE: (Monotone voice:) Nothing, Daria, not even any dust. The staff around here does one hell of a job in keeping this place spotless, I gotta admit. That floor under there's so clean, I could probably eat off of it.

DARIA: (Ditto, though one can't tell the difference:) Yeah, a veritable feast of hardwood.

JANE: (Shrugs:) Maybe when Claude was bringing your boots up, the picture somehow or another slipped out, and he didn't notice? I mean, who in the hell would think about a hidden picture in a boot?

DARIA: (Narrows her eyes, considers, shakes her head slowly:) I don't think so, Jane. Claude strikes me like the rest of the servants around here as being pretty thorough in everything they do. Even if the picture slipped out without him noticing, one of the other servants would've spotted it, and have said something.

JANE: (Thinks:) Hm, yeah, that's probably true.

The two stood for a moment, deep in thought. Daria suddenly developed a look of realization on her face, and grew pale. Jane cocked an eyebrow.

DARIA: (Through clenched teeth, slaps her right fist into her left palm:) QUINN! Damn it, why didn't I spot the clues? (Thought v.o.: She said "buzzed" to me, what I teased her with at the pool with Darren, and the picture showed me being held by Darren...)

JANE: (Interrupting Daria's thoughts:) Quinn? You think she's the pilferous purloiner of the picture? (Daria gives Jane an even stare as Jane smirks:) Hey, I always wanted to say that.

DARIA: Ooookay. Anyway, I should've known by the way she was acting downstairs that the little thief had to have snatched it, but what made her look in here in the first place? I thought she couldn't stand to come in here.

JANE: But why do you think Quinn could possibly--

There was a knock at the door.

DARIA: (Raised voice:) Um, who is it?

VOICE: (Ditto:) It's Elenor, Mi--er, Daria. I have your washed and dried clothes. May I come in?

DARIA: Sure, Elenor, c'mon in.

Elenor walked in with the basket of freshly folded and clean clothes. She smiled and nodded at the two, then started to remove the clothes from the basket, and put them in Daria's dresser. The girls watched her do so wordlessly until Daria spotted the white swimsuit Elenor removed from the basket.

DARIA: The swimsuit. That's it. (Jane and Elenor look at Daria) That damn swimsuit. I should've known Quinn would be back to get it, with her clothing obsession. I should've just put it back in her room instead of keeping it in here.

ELENOR: (Looks down at it:) You mean, this is Miss Quinn's swimsuit, Daria? I'm sorry, I thought it was yours since Fiona collected it in your room.

DARIA: It's okay, Elenor, no harm done, (pauses:) save for what's gonna happen to my soon-to-be-dearly-departed sister. By the time I'm through with her, she won't be able to wear a swimsuit for a good, long, while. (Jane smirks while Elenor frowns at Daria, confused) Excuse us, Elenor.

Daria went out in the hallway with Jane, shutting the door behind her. (Both immediately begin to walk down the hallway)

JANE: Heh, I'm guessing you're gonna go after her, amiga?

DARIA: You guess right, Partner-in-Crime.

JANE: Why not just wait until she comes back? You can have her here to kill then. Besides, the picture could be somewhere in Quinn's room.

DARIA: She seemed too rushed when we saw her, which leads me to believe she just came out of my room, and I can't risk waiting for her to get back. She'd show mom or dad the picture, then would run behind them, and claim their "protection" from me. Hell, she might even try to use Darren as a sheild. (Frowns:) No, I'm going down to this "Reynaldo's" right damn now, and if she refuses to give me the picture, I'll choke the living crap out of her.

JANE: (Sees Daria's determined look, decides to not challenge that:) Sure, no sweat. (Pauses:) How are we gonna get there? Ask one of the security people to take us?

DARIA: (As they now walk down the grand stairs:) Why not? I'm sure one of them can just whip out a another limo or helicopter or two to get there. I'll ask--

At that moment, a grinning Darren, a very excited Jake, and an exausted Edward appeared in the foyer via the family room, having made their way into the mansion through the side entrance from the garage. Claude and another butler took their bag full of clubs, except for Jake's, and went upstairs while Daria and Jane came up to them. Darren walked up to Jane, but stopped about three feet in front of her, which made Jane glance at him, puzzled.

DARREN: Hey, Jane, sis.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Greetings and salutations, all of you.

JAKE: Hiya, Kiddo, Jane-o! Boy, we had one hell of a round of golf! I finished fifteen shots behind Darren and ol' "Eddie" here (slaps Edward's back, which makes Edward stumble forward, gasps for air), but I came on strong in the final two holes, getting pars! (Sinister crazed look, grin:) I can't wait to get to that course tomorrow, and beat the hell out of it! I'm gonna get some more practice swings, then get Henri to make me something to eat, and shower! 'Cuse me! (Suddenly runs out to the rear of the mansion like a madman)

EDWARD: (Tired tone:) Daria, Jane. (Turns to Darren:) If you don't mind, I'm going to go upstairs and shower, then relax. Pardon me. (Drags himself up the stairs as everyone watches him)

DARIA: Dad had a great time, and Edward looks worn out. (Pauses:) Dad must've drove him crazy, huh?

DARREN: (Snickers:) More like Jake drove both of us crazy, but I did have a lot of fun out there, honest. I'll tell you two later what happened, (hesitates, looks around:) but, uh, you can't speak of it to Helen. (Daria gives an "Oh, really?" smirk)

JANE: (Walks up to him, slight scowl:) What, no greeting kiss?

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow, backs slightly away from her:) You don't mind that I'm all dirty and sweaty?

JANE: (Snorts:) Are you nuts? We did the smooching when we were both hot and sweaty after we jogged! This is nothing!

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Okay, but it's your red jacket. (Comes up to her and kisses Jane, who puts her arms around Darren's neck. Daria sighs, and crosses her arms, waits patiently)

DARIA: (After waiting for about 15 seconds:) Uh, okay, if you two have finished swapping spit, (Jane and Darren stop, then mock-glare at Daria) I need to ask you a favor, bro. I wanted to know if you could take me and Jane to Reynaldo's.

DARREN: (Wide-eyed:) Reynaldo's? (Smirks:) Don't tell me you two have given in to Quinn and the Fashion Club and decided to--

DARIA: (Rolls her eyes:) --Please. Let's just say Jane and I have to retrieve an "artifact" from Quinn--

JANE: (Wicked grin:) Yeah, you can say one that "involves" you and Daria, (adds:) if you know what I mean. (Daria scowls at Jane)

DARREN: (Frowns, confused, looks between the two:) Huh? What are you talking about, Jane? Daria and me--? (Pauses, realizes, turns pale, wide-eyed, and Daria sighs:) Oh--no--you--can't--mean--

JANE: (Slowly nods her head, same grin:) Oh, yes. Your dear sister was awake. (Pauses:) The entire way up to your room. (Pauses:) She even saw Sandi coming out of the theater. (Pauses:) Even took the damn picture from my dresser while you and I were jogging, and I couldn't find it. (Pauses:) Quinn just took it from Daria's room and has it now.

DARIA: (Finally smirks:) It's true, Darren. (Pauses:) All of it.

DARREN: (Puts his hands up, slowly backs away, soothing tone:) Now, Daria, I can explain if you'll let me. I saw you asleep in the study, and I--

DARIA: (Small smile:) Darren, it's okay. I'm not mad at you. (Pauses:) Really. (Darren's mouth drops and Jane covers her mouth and begins to giggle) You were, um, just trying to uh, (red-faced, embarassed look:) take, er, care of--(frowns at Jane, who's now laughing uncontrollably. Fiona and Claude come into the foyer, look at each other, then go back whence they came)

DARREN: (Not noticing Jane's laughing:) You're--not mad at me for carrying you to your room this morning? (Pauses:) At all?

DARIA: (Still frowns at the laughing Jane:) No, not at you, but Jane here is becoming another story altogether.

JANE: (Getting herself under control, puts her hand up:) O-Okay! S-Sorry! I-I won't laugh anymore! (Pauses, then snorts, promptly bends over and begins to giggle uncontrollably again, and Daria shakes her head slowly, clenches her teeth)

DARIA: I'll explain everything on the way to Reynaldo's, if that's okay with you, bro. I know you just got in, but Jane and I really need to go as quickly as possible. (Pauses:) I'm not keeping you from anything, am I?

DARREN: (Now holding Jane, who's buried her head unto Darren, still laughing into his chest:) No, of course not, Daria, we'll leave immediately, though I'll have to change vehicles, since the Navigator, like several of our other vehicles, is being washed. You two don't mind riding in something else, do you?

DARIA: I'd ride a tricycle there if I have to. What's available?

DARREN: (Shrugs as Jane's laughing is winding down:) How about an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage? The servants had just finished washing it when we came in, and it's fully fueled and ready to go. It's a convertible, so we can let down the top since it's a nice day, if you want.

DARIA: (While following Darren and Jane:) Do what you want, I don't care if it's a blizzard outside, as long as we get there in one piece, I don't give a damn.

JANE: (Smirks:) Did you ever?

DARIA: About killing my soon-to-be ex-best friend for laughing her ass off about my brother and me just now? You bet.

DARREN: (Chuckles with Jane, spots Claude, who's dusting a vase:) Claude, we're going out to Reynaldo's.

CLAUDE: Very good, Master Darren. (Keeps dusting)

JANE: (Grins:) And on our way over there, I'll tell you about Helen giving her okay on my staying here while I go to art college over the next four years.

DARREN: (Wide-eyed, stunned:) WHAT?! Oh, wonderful, how did she know? I wanted to tell her later this week, and--(pauses:) hold it, you said she okayed it?

DARIA: That's what Jane said, Darren. (Smirks:) I guess you two can openly sneak into each other's rooms late at night now without worrying about Helen suddenly showing up in either room and screaming, "Okay, this is a raid! Put those clothes back on!" (Jane snickers, while Darren turns red with embarassment, drops his mouth)


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

The limo drove up in front of the fashion store, where several eager-looking, fasionably dressed, petite saleswomen were waiting for them, having already been notified of the pending arrival. The sunglass-wearing security man that had sat in the front driver's seat got out, and immediately opened the rear passenger door to allow the Fashion Club and the Watley sisters to emerge. Several shoppers nearby gawked at the sight, pointing and talking to each other. One of the women, wearing heavy make-up and her hair done in a fancy hairdo, came up, smiling, opening her arms in a welcoming stance, and shaking everyone's hands. After a few introductions from Juanita and Laflita, who were well known by the owner of the store, everyone went in.

Across the quarter-full parking lot in a green BMW, two people had sat and watched the scene. At the wheel sat a very handsome, blond, blue eyed young man who whistled lustfully as each member of the Fashion Club had gotten out of the limo. Beside him in the driver's seat, a very attractive brunette, a young woman, scowled at him in disgust.

MAN: Heh--looks like your sources were right when they told you that this "Fashion Club" was coming. (Pauses, looks over at the woman:) I'm glad you invited me here with you. (Rubs his hands in anticipation, smirks:) Oh yeah, some new babes in town, and not just any new babes! Darren's girlfriend, Sandi Griffin, the standoffish ultra-cool chick, (in a low voice, wicked grin:) bet she'd be good in my bed, (the woman beside him rolls her eyes), that timid-looking Stacy Rowe dollbaby, the "innocent" one, definitely a virgin I suspect, and then the Asian chick, Tiffany Blum-deckler. (Shivers with delight:) Oooh, baby! I heard that those people are some good lays, (pauses, dramatic tone:) and then there's the prettiest one of them all--Darren's sister, Quinn Morgendorffer--mmmmmmmmm yeah. Untouchable. A user like the others, maybe even more so. Red-haired, and a fox, the ultimate challenge. (Pauses, smirks, looks at the young woman beside him:) The two go hand-in-hand, don't they? Red, and fox, that is. She's a knockout!

WOMAN: (Smirks herself:) Darren will knock you out if you go anywhere near them, Rory.

RORY: (Snorts, waves his hand, looks off:) C'mon, Krystal, I'm not worried about Darren, he doesn't scare me. I can kick his ass.

KRYSTAL: (Still with the smirk:) Oh, really? You're just saying that because he's getting back in shape after being shot by his uncle.

RORY: (Glares at her, looks at the store, very low voice:) Too bad Darren didn't croak--(into an even lower, almost indistinguishable sound:) after he killed William.

KRYSTAL: (Low snarl, dangerous tone of voice, only hears the first part of Rory's statement, and William's name in the second part:) WHAT did you say, Rory? Too bad Darren didn't--what? And what about William Appleton?

RORY: I said nothing, okay?! (Pauses:) I liked William Appleton. He was everything our old man wasn't, and he was there when I needed to talk with him about anything. He taught me a lot of good things on the side--

KRYSTAL: (Snorts:) --The "side" meaning, like how to pick up girls and bed them--

RORY: (Grins:) Exactly. (Krystal shakes her head in obvious disgust as Rory mumbles, narrows his eyes:) I wish I could pay Darren back for--

KRYSTAL: (Cuts him off, haughty expression:) --Face it, brother: Even if Darren was crippled, he'd kick your ass all over the place, he's just that good--(narrows eyes:) I know. (Smug grin:) I suggest you get over your "sugar daddy's" death and live with it. (Adds:) I know I do when I sleep at night.

RORY: (Looks as if he wants to shout back at his sister for her flippancy, then develops a smirk of his own, mocking voice:) Aww, is baby sister jealous-wealous because "Darry" has another girlfriend now, and she blew her chance after all those "playboys" she used to go out with, (Krystal shows her own scowl at him as he pauses:) again? (Chuckles, looks at the store:) You thought you had an open field when Stephanie Reardon kicked the bucket, then this Sandi babe showed up out of the blue to take his heart. (Sneers:) Poor, poor, baby sister...

KRYSTAL: (Through clenched teeth:) Shut up, big brother, or you'll find yourself in the back seat with your feet rammed into your mouth all the way up your rectum, (pauses:) and don't think for an instant that I can't do it. (Pauses, dangerous glare:) Just you try me. (Rory dismisses her by rolling his eyes, though it's clear he's well aware that's she's not bluffing) Yeah, I wanna check out Darren's girlfriend--(pauses:) or at least one of them. (Rory cocks an eyebrow)

RORY: Huh? What do you mean, sis? That babe Sandi is Darren's squeeze, everybody knows that! That "Linda Griffin" woman, (gets in a low voice:) who's kind of hot herself, (then back in his regular tone:) said so!

KRYSTAL: (While getting out of the car with Rory, begins to walk towards the store:) No, that's not completely true, Rory. There's that artist, that "Jane Lane" girl, remember? She claims to be Darren's "squeeze" too.

RORY: (Look of disbelief, snorts:) Ha! That "stick girl"? Gimme a break! Even Darren has better taste than that, sis! (Snickers:) Remember his previous babydoll, Stephanie? (Krystal scowls) Yeah, I guess you do. Anyway, compared to that Sandi chick, this "Jane" is a dog! (Frowns, deep thought:) I mean, yeah, she might be good for a "quickie", but that's about it. I'm telling you that it's a ruse, sis. Darren and his family did that all of the time with him when they took him out and about, tricking the media when they wanted to know where he was , and stuff, and this is no exception. This "Jane" chick serves as a distraction from his real girlfriend, Sandi Griffin. They're probably paying her some boucoup bucks to do so like all those other guys who pretended to be Darren over the years to distract the press--

KRYSTAL: Then how about what happened in that "Zon" place--

RORY: "Zen"--

KRYSTAL: Whatever, a little over a month ago? This "Sesame" girl told us after we bribed her that Jane Lane suddenly frenched Darren then and there in front of the rabble!

RORY: All the more reason to suspect it was a set-up to trick everyone into thinking it was this "Jane" girl who's his girlfriend, sis! I'm telling you, Sandi Griffin's his real girlfriend! Remember that "Haven" place, and--

KRYSTAL: (Cuts him off:) --We'll see. Now shut up, we're just about at the store. I can check her out up close then.

RORY: (Grins:) So can I, and her friends, too. (Goes in with his sister, walks by one of the Appleton security guards just inside the airlock who looks over at him, then Krystal, speaks into a walkie-talkie for a moment, then resumes his stance)


Inside the air-conditioned, nearly empty but bountiful-in-fashions store, the Fashion Club and the Watley sisters were in the Junior Miss section, already trying out dresses. They were surrounded by the saleswomen, who were busily taking off dresses from the racks. Stacy came from one of the rear dressing rooms, and extended her arms gleefully.

STACY: (Excited, of course:) Eeee! I just love this burnt orange sheer dress! What do you guys think?

SANDI: (Looks up at Stacy while she's sitting on a row of chairs trying on shoes from the saleswoman waiting on her, ponders, cocked eyebrow:) Hmmm--perhaps if you include a piece of blue opal jewlry with it, it would bring out the dress a little more, creating a contrast that it set off your look almost perfectly.

QUINN: (Ditto with the pondering and eyebrow-cocking as she's looking at a white summer cotton bonnet dress:) Yeeeeah, maybe also if you add some ruby-red lipstick, and black strapless shoes, you'll have it right where you want it, Stacy.

TIFFANY: (Yes, her too with both, as she's trying on a lavender scarf:) And definitely...a matching purse...to go along with it.

STACY: (Now estatic, looks in the mirror beside the dressing room:) Wow, you guys are right! Thanks! (Looks off, points:) Oh, oh, there's a purse that'll go with this! (Rushes off, followed by a saleswoman)

JUANITA: (While checking out some summer dresses in a clothing rack, stops:) Whoa. You guys figured how she should look that fast?

LAFLITA: (Looks from behind another clothing rack, holding a pair of blue jeans:) Yeah, that's pretty impressive.

SANDI: (Smirks:) Now you two know why we're called the Fashion Club. We, like, know our fashions.

QUINN: (Smug:) Like you will once you start your own fashion club at the Oprah Academy.

LAFLITA: Um, that's the Orbison Academy, Quinn.

QUINN: (Pauses:) Oh, uh, whatever. (Goes back to looking over dresses while Sandi smirks, but it's one of mild bemusement at Quinn's occasional little gaffes, and not of the scorn she once had)

The woman with the fancy hairdo and heavy make up, now known as Lilith Geller smiled, and came over.

LILITH: I heard you girls are going to meet Candi Gunwald at Circa Fashions this week to become fashion design interns.

SANDI: Like, how did you know that?

LILITH: (Chuckles:) Oh, this is a small village. News travels fast around here. I've met her a few times, and I can tell you, she's one tough cookie.

TIFFANY: But I thought...she was a...fashion designer...not something...you could eat. (Everyone stops, looks at Tiffany strangely for a second, then go back to what they were doing)

LILITH: Uh, no, Ms. Blum-deckler, I mean she's a very demanding woman who wants to get the best out of her potential employees, you know.

QUINN: Yeah, Darren told us. Don't worry, we'll be ready. (Pauses, gets into an hushed voice:) I still can't believe my bro was the son of the Lucille Appleton, one of the top designers in th' business.

LILITH: Yes, she came in here quite often, checking out the clothes she often designed and gauged how customers reacted to them, sometimes with Candi to compare notes. Even though we didn't carry Circa's very top of the line clothing, just having her come in here was a great honor. Many other designers would scoff at even talking about designs that cater to the "not-so-fancy" sector of the market, but Lucille didn't care about that one bit, insisting that fashion was for all of the people, treating her lower market designs like her top of the line brands. (Quinn shakes her head in awe)

VOICE: (From the side:) Yes, Lucille Appleton, despite her family's wealth, was for the common people, one of the many attributes that we'll miss about her. (Quinn and Lilith look over and see Krystal, who comes over to them. Sandi spots her as well, and decides to go over to them, too. Krystal sees her coming over, and narrows her eyes, as if she's sizing her up, and she is, of course)

LILITH: (Smiles:) Ah, Krystal, how wonderful to see you again. (She and Krystal exchange blow kisses) Girls, this is Krystal McKinna, one of our best customers. (Krystal gives a humbling expression) Have you come to buy something, Krystal?

KRYSTAL: Hello, Lilith, and you flatter me. No, I'm just stopping by to welcome our new visitors. I heard they were stopping here, and I just had to meet them. (Extends her hand to Quinn, who shakes it, smiles:) You're Quinn Morgendorffer, right? Darren's sister? This is an honor (Quinn blushes slightly) since I know him quite well.

QUINN: You know my brother? He never mentioned you to us. (Krystal grows a bit pale over that remark, but recovers by giving a weak smile)

KRYSTAL: Um, no, I suppose he wouldn't, especially since me and my family have been in the Caribbean for just about the whole summer. (Pauses:) I left with my family right after Darren's parent's funeral. We got back only yesterday, a week ahead of schedule. (Shrugs:) My parents got pretty tired of being there, I guess, and I'm not complaining, since I did, too. I wanted to talk to Darren, but I decided to wait after I heard about you and your family coming up to meet him, and didn't want to get in the way. I was going to call and come over sometime later in the week to meet you all, but then I heard about your "Fashion Club" coming in here, and I stopped by for a friendly chat.(Looks at Sandi, forced smile, extends hand, which Sandi takes:) You're Sandi Griffin, aren't you? (Pauses, with a hint of jealousy in her tone:) Darren's girlfriend, I presume?

SANDI: (Freezes, wide-eyed, along with Quinn, who watches how she'll respond:) Uh, well, I--

RORY: (From the side:) --Hi, everybody. Sis, who are these gorgeous girls?

Everyone looked in the direction of the voice and Lilith (as well as the saleswomen with her) frowned mildly in disgust at laying her eyes on Rory, but Quinn and Sandi become wide-eyed and formed dreamy looks on their faces, the same for the rest of the Fashion Club, who also spotted Rory, and started to come over. Krystal frowned slightly in confusion at Sandi's reaction upon seeing her brother, since Sandi was supposed to be Darren's girlfriend, but then developed a small smirk on her face, as if she had reached a conclusion of some sort, and noticed Juanita and Laflita, who had looked from behind their clothing racks and gasped in horror at seeing Rory. Krystal smirked slightly at their reaction at seeing her brother as well, but said nothing. The Watley sisters quickly dropped their clothes on the floor, looked at each other and huddled, speaking in low voices,and not taking their eyes off of Rory for an instant.

JUANITA: Krystal, yeah, I can understand, but what in the hell is "Loverboy" doing here?

LAFLITA: (Rolls her eyes:) What in the hell do you think, girlfriend? To make some "moves" on the Fashion Club! To him, they're fresh meat! (Pulls her arm:) C'mon, we gotta warn them about that jerk--

The next moment, chaos suddenly developed as shouts full of expletives and scuffling broke out in front of the store. The two Appleton security men (the other one had gotten out of the limo to assist the one already in the store) were trying to keep a female news reporter and her camera crew from entering.

SECURITY MAN #1: (Authoritative tone, firmly but not harshly pushes the cameraman, who's pushing back:) Look, you can't come in here!

REPORTER: Excuse me, but this is a free country, mister, and the press can go any damn where we please! Now step aside!

SECURITY MAN #2: (Ditto with the voice, puts out arm to stop the reporter:) I'm afraid not, ma'am. Mrs. Geller said she didn't have to allow anybody in the media in here at all! If you want an interview, then you'll have to go outside in the parking lot!

LILITH: (Coming up with the everyone:) What's going on here? (Narrows her eyes:) You're Channel 15's "ace" reporter, eh? Well, the security man's right, I'm afraid. You'll have to get your interview outside, we're conducting a sale. This is store property, and we reserve the right to remove anyone from our premises.

REPORTER: (Smirks:) This'll mean bad publicity for Reynaldo's if you won't let us talk to your "special" guests.(Looks up:) I can see the headline story now--

LILITH: (Scowls:) --Now just a minute--!

QUINN: (Suddenly comes up from behind Lilith smiling:) It's okay, Lilith. I'm sure they just want to hear my opinions on fashions and boys, am I right, guys? Hi, I'm Quinn Morgendorffer, Darren Appleton's sister--

REPORTER: (Grows wide eyed as she remembers Quinn by accounts from other reporters on her ability to "chase" away the media by boring them to death:) NO! (Pauses, grows quieter:) Uh, I mean, no, not to you, perhaps um, a bit later--? (Quinn looks surprised, shrugs, then goes back into the group) I just wanted to speak to Sandi Griffin, Arthur Appleton Jr.'s girlfriend, that's all, you know, about how she's enjoying being up here with him. (Spots Sandi, who's in the rear of the crowd, shouts:) If you grant us that little exclusive interview, Ms. Griffin, then we'll be out of here in a flash, it won't take but a few! How about it?!

Sandi narrowed her eyes, and clenched her teeth, looking down. Privately, she had become finally fed up with the rumors about Darren and her once and for all. She knew that if she kept trying to avoid the media, it would only make matters worse. She glanced over at the smirking and very handsome Rory beside her, who suddenly winked. Darren had made it very clear to her that he could only be a friend to her, and nothing more, liking Jane Lane. This fellow had all the looks (though not quite as much as Darren), and apparently the "hots" for her as well. She took a deep breath and quickly considered her position: If she wanted to return to a "normal" life and see other guys, she'd have to tell the media that she really wasn't Darren Appleton's girlfriend. Of course, this would incur the wrath of her mother, and that wrath could mean anything. Could she stand up to her by doing this? Her father had tried it. Sandi's mind fluctuated as she tried to decide what to do, frowning slightly. Krystal observed her dilemma from the side, again with the same smirk, only more pronounced.


(Scene goes to the outside of the store, the same time)

Darren turned his grey convertible Aston Martin into the parking lot of Reynaldo's. Jane sat shotgun, while Daria occupied the rear.

DARREN: Sorry about the delay in getting here, you two.

JANE: (Smirks:) You're apologizing for those cars having a little fender-bender ahead of you on our way here, Darren? (Darren chuckles)

DARIA: Yeah, how'd you know we'd be held up by the ridiculous questions of the local "Barney Fifes" about it when they came to the scene? Besides, we're here, and Quinn and I can discuss--(notices a newsvan in the front of the store, slight frown:) crap. Well, look who's here. Caution: journalistic morons ahead.

JANE: Careful, girl--someday, you might turn out to be one of those "morons".

DARIA: And if I ever do, you'll know what we agreed upon during that sisterhood blood ritual ceremony, don't you? (Darren looks between the two, amused)

JANE: (Grins, gingerly pats her right side red jacket pocket:) Don't worry, amiga, it'll be swift, but painless, I promise. (Darren smiles, shakes his head)

DARREN: I'm surrounded by madwomen--(pauses, smirks:) I'm right at home here. (Daria and Jane smirk back at him as he parks the car behind the limo, then all of them get out:) I should be used to this by now, though this is the first time I've been off the estate's grounds since I came back other than at the golf course. I'll run the gauntlet for you two if the media gives you guys a hard time, if you want.

DARIA: (Waves him off:) Nah, don't worry, bro. I told you yesterday that's it's no big deal. They probably won't notice me anyway, and on the off-chance that they do, I've prepared my vocal cords for yet another rendition of "Go to hell".

JANE: Yeah, me too, and they'll probably want to ask about my art stuff anyhow.

DARREN: (Stops with the two just before they go in, cocks an eyebrow:) And if they ask you personal questions about you and me--?

JANE: (Smirks, takes his arm:) Then, other than the minor tripe I've been feeding them about you these past few weeks, I'll let them know some new juicy stuff, like everything about our naked romps yesterday on the estate's grounds, (pauses:) and your rubber ducky. (Darren laughs, and Daria gives a tiny smile, not quite Mona Lisa, as they go in)

The three were greeted as they walked in by the sight of the female reporter interviewing Sandi, who was making a startling statement:

SANDI: --Like, I just told you, I'm not really Darren Appleton's girlfriend. That artist girl Jane Lane is. My mother's claims that he's my boyfriend are just plain wrong. I'm just here to see that Candi Gunwald at Circa Fashions this week for a possible internship, that's all. (Jane and Daria look shocked, and Darren gives a quiet smile)

REPORTER: (Clearly stunned, but also delighted she has a headline story:) I see. Well, why did your mother Linda Griffin claim all of this time that Arthur Appleton Jr. was your boyfriend?

SANDI: (Shrugs:) Like, I don't know, you'll have to ask her that. I'm giving this interview to you to merely clear to the air, or something or another, and I've grown tired of all of the speculation this has generated for the past month, which is why I'm speaking about this now. If you don't mind, I'd like to end this interview right now. (Spots Darren and Jane, points:) Besides, like, there's the couple you should speak to, anyway. Excuse me. (Suddenly turns around and leaves as the reporter and the cameraman start to come over to Daria, Jane, and Darren)

JANE: (Searches for words:) She did it. The witch actually did it.

DARIA: She's definitely changed, no doubt about that. At least you don't have to worry about her anymore, Jane. (Ponders:) I wonder how Linda Griffin will take that?

DARREN: If Sandi needs any help on that front, then I'm offering my services like I told Jane, and--(looks at the group with Sandi, develops a very deep scowl, through clenched teeth:) what the-- (suddenly leaves a surprised Daria and Jane)

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Darren? Hey, what's wrong? Where are you going?

DARIA: (Concerned look:) Something's the matter, Jane. We'd better see what's up. (Leaves with Jane to follow Darren)

The reporter approached Darren, who pointedly ignored her as he brushed by her roughly, keeping a laser eye on the sight in front of him. In the meantime, the cameraman looked at his equipment, and frowned as he began to look through his bag.

REPORTER: Mr. Appleton--? We'd like to ask you a few questions about your girlfriend, Jane Lane! Where are you going? (Sees Jane and Daria following him:) Ms. Lane? Do you have anything to say? (Both girls ignore her, and keep going) Hey!

Darren's emotions had begun to reach a critical mass as he saw the sickening sight in front of him. Rory was talking to, and even far worse, standing very close to a dreamy-looking Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy, with Sandi now among them as well. They had surrounded him, and Rory had that smug "debonair" smirk on his face, the type of smirk that was intoxicating to members of the opposite gender when they first meet him, not knowing what kind of monster they were talking to. Juanita and Laflita were scowling at him, while he was "dazzling" the Fashion Club members with his so-called charm and wit, trying to get a word in edgewise, but to no avail.

Darren came up, roughly pushing aside the Fashion Club members, grabbed a surprised Rory by the collar, and suddenly slammed and simultaneously lifted him up against a wall that had summer dresses hanging on it, knocking the dresses unto the floor. Daria and Jane watched the sight in stunned disbelief, the same for the Fashion Club, and the Appleton's security detail. Juanita and Laflita were surprised a little by Darren's action, but then gave him a look of sympathy, the same for the Reynaldo's saleswomen.

On the side, Krystal formed an intrigued expression at this newest development, not expecting this bonus. She had quietly watched Sandi Griffin deny to the reporter about her being Darren's girlfriend, then spotted the artist Jane Lane suddenly come into the store with her arm hooked around Darren's, sealing Krystal's suspicions about who was Darren's "real" girlfriend once and for all. Sandi Griffin was no longer of any concern to Krystal now: This "Jane Lane" was. She had cocked an eyebrow at the "plain-looking" girl with them both, searching in her memory, and recalled it was of one Daria Morgendorffer, Darren's other sister, and Jane Lane's closest friend. Krystal made a mental note to get to know Daria as well as Quinn, figuring getting to know both sisters could come in "handy" as she wanted to learn all she could about Jane. She shook herself out of her thoughts, and she observed with a slight smirk at her brother's deserved predicament. Darren spoke in a low snarl.

DARREN: Hello, Rory. I see you're back from your vacation with your family, and you've picked up right where you left off with the women, huh?

RORY: (Cool grin:) Heya, Darren. I see you're finally out and about from the mansion. I wondered what took you so long to get away from the "nest". (In a low tone that only Darren can hear, goading tone:) Yep, just got back yesterday with my family a week earlier, and I wanted to stop by and meet these fine babes that are staying with you, where's the harm in that? (Darren's eyes narrow, but Rory doesn't flinch, instead he smirks:) Gonna plan on killing me now like you did your uncle? (Darren flinches, looks as if he has been hit by a sledgehammer)

DARREN: (Struggles to control his anger while shaking with fury, returns the whisper:) You're one to talk, since you killed two people yourself. (Rory frowns) I'll say this just once, so listen up: If I catch you around my sister or her friends again, you'll be using a straw since you'll be drinking only liquids while the dentist has to replace your teeth, is that clear?

Jane and Quinn suddenly came right up beside Darren while Daria stood just behind her.

JANE: (Slight frown:) Geez, Darren, what in the hell is the matter with you? What did this guy do that made you get so PO'd for?

QUINN: (Frowns deeper than Jane:) That's what I wanna know, too!

DARREN: (Still keeping his eyes on Rory, firm tone:) Jane, Quinn, not now, okay? Believe me, I know what I'm doing. (Pauses:) Well, Rory? I'm waiting.

RORY: (Chuckles:) Take a hike, "Darry". (Looks over at Jane:) Whoa, now that I see your girlfriend up close, she doesn't look half bad, though I thought you would've done a whole hell of a lot better after Stephanie.

Darren's eyes grew huge and red in a rage, and he suddenly threw Rory across the aisle, knocking him into a clothing dummy, which, when it hit the floor, had its head fly off. Darren, red-faced and furious, began to slowly advance on the stunned Rory, who was holding and shaking his head to clear it. Jane, who was taken aback from Rory's insult at first, recovered enough to grab Darren's right arm, whereas Quinn grabbed his left one. The two security men, like everyone else stunned at first, suddenly ran between Darren and Rory, holding out their arms.

SECURITY MAN #1: Sir, please! We--we don't want to have to stop you!

JANE: Damn it, Darren, get a hold of yourself! You're scaring the crap outta me!

QUINN: (Starting to cry:) D-Darren? B-Bro? P-Please stop! P-Please!

Darren blinked, and looked at Jane, Quinn, and Daria as if he saw them for the first time, then formed a confused look on his face, and suddenly backed away, running out of the store. Jane and Quinn glanced at each other for a moment, stunned as well, then ran after him. Sandi developed a concerned expression, and looked as if she wanted to go after him, but thought the better of it, and kept her place. A moment later, there was the sound of a car's tires screeching, then going away from the store. Everyone looked at each other, stunned, save for Krystal, who gave a quiet chuckle to herself. Rory got up, brushed himself off, frowning, and spotted the reporter and cameraman.

RORY: (To the reporter:) Well, did you get that on your camera? It was aggravated assault, pure and simple! Someone call the police to arrest that bastard!

DARIA: (Comes over to the reporter and cameraman:) Uh, I guess we can't forget this little incident, huh?

REPORTER: (Smirks:) Sure, missy, riiight. (Puts her hands up in a TV shape:) Top news headline: Arthur Appleton Jr. snaps! (To the cameraman:) Did you get that on tape?

CAMERAMAN: Well, uh, no, I didn't. (The reporter's jaw drops in shock) I was trying to look through my bag for another battery pack, since the one I had ran out of juice. I must've left the back-up one in the van. (To the reporter's scowl, uneasy chuckle:) We did get Sandi Griffin's interview, though, right?

REPORTER: Oooh, you idiot! Wait 'till we get back to the station! I'll have your head for this!

DARIA: (Smirks, points at the dummy's head:) Or you can take the one lying on the floor over there, "Missy". (The reporter scowls at Daria, then storms out of the store, followed by the cameraman)

RORY: (Grins like the cat that swallowed the canary:) It doesn't matter either way. I'm filing charges against Darren for roughing me up, and I have witnesses!

KRYSTAL: (Coming from the side:) No, you won't, brother, dear. (Everyone looks at her, and Rory glares) If anything, you started that scrap by insulting Darren's girlfriend. He was only doing what any man would do in defending his beau. Besides, I don't think too many people in this town would back you up with the "reputation" you have, anyway, in comparison to Darren's. Add that to the fact that Darren's gone through hell recently, and you won't find a jurist around here who'll push for a conviction, so I can say safely that you're screwed. (Looks around, cool tone:) Who'll testify that Darren actually started this?

No one said anything, looking around. The silence in the store was deafening. Even the Appleton security men said nothing, instead glaring at Rory.

RORY: (Frowns at Krystal:) Why, you bi--(Krystal develops a deep scowl at him, which shuts him up, and Daria notices the effect it has on him. Rory looks at everyone:) FINE! ALL OF YOU BE THAT WAY! I GUESS DARREN CAN BURN DOWN THIS WHOLE DAMN STORE, AND GET OFF SCOTT FREE! HELL, HE'S KILLED WILLIAM APPLETON, WHY STOP THERE?! (Storms out as Daria and even Sandi frown deeply at him and Krystal secretly chuckles to herself)


Outside in the parking lot, Jane and Quinn looked after the direction Darren's car went.

JANE: DARREN! WAIT! (Sees that he's not stopping:) Damn! (Pauses, narrows eyes:) It looks like he's going back in the direction of the mansion, though I can't be too sure.

QUINN: (Utterly at a loss for words:) I-I don't understand it, Jane! W-What happened to Darren to make him go postal like that against that "Rory" guy?

JANE: (Long pause:) I--don't know, Quinn, but whatever it was, that ass Rory shook something loose in him when he saw Rory talking to you guys. (Cuts her eyes off to the side, frowns:) Speak of the devil--

Both girls saw a very angry Rory get into the green BMW, start it up, and drive off, screeching his tires. As he drove past Jane and Quinn, he stopped, glared at Jane, suddenly giving her the "bird", (which Jane more than returned in kind) then suddenly drove off and out of the parking lot like a madman.

QUINN: (Frowns:) That jerk! And to think I liked him at first!

JANE: (Sighs:) C'mon, Quinn, let's go back inside. Maybe we can get some answers back in the store as to what in the hell is going on here. (Goes back in with Quinn)

After Jane and Quinn went back inside Reynaldo's, it was agreed upon by the Fashion Club to cancel the shopping here for a few days, deciding to come back later in the week after they went to Cashman's on Park Avenue. Surveying the area where Darren and Rory had their minor "tussle", Lilith concluded no real damage was done save for the "severed" dummy's head, which fit back on the neck of the dummy easily. She thus decided to forgo any monetary charges. The Appleton security men offered to call someone from the mansion to take Daria and Jane back since Darren took the car, but both girls wanted to talk to Krystal and ask her why Darren had behaved in such a way. Daria spoke to a very worried Quinn, who quickly agreed to allow her and Jane to ride back with them and Krystal in the limo, which was just big enough for them all to travel in. Daria couldn't help but to see the irony of her and Jane wanting to go with Quinn and the Fashion Club, but this was a special case. Daria and Jane sat beside Krystal in the very rear seat, with Daria in the middle, while the slightly-cramped Fashion Club sat in the next seat that faced across from them, and the Watley sisters sat in the seat that sat face-back from the Fashion Club reading a Reynaldo's catalogue, one of several given to them and the Fashion Club by Lilith. The limo was on its way to the McKinna home first per Krystal's request as Daria began the conversation.

DARIA: So, um, you're that guy Rory's sister, Krystal, huh?

KRYSTAL: Krystal McKinna. (Sighs:) I'm afraid so. You're Daria Morgendorffer, Darren's other sister, right? (Extends her hand, which Daria takes)

DARIA: (Small smile:) Yeah, and after what I just saw today, I'm afraid so. (Krystal smirks)

JANE: (Extends her hand:) Hi, I'm--

KRYSTAL: (Big smirk, cuts her off, shakes her hand:) --Jane Lane, I know, the artist, right? (Pauses as Jane nods:) Darren's real girlfriend. (Sandi sighs, looks away as Quinn and Stacy give her looks of sympathy without her noticing. Tiffany looks on vacantly) I'm sorry about my brother's idiotic, sexest crack to you.

JANE: (Smirks:) Hey, I've heard worse, really. At least I'm not "full-bad". (Grows quiet, looks away for a moment, smiles:) And Darren did take up for me, didn't he?

KRYSTAL: (Subtle stoic look at Jane for a moment, then adds:) Yes, he's always been the gentleman. (Pauses:) I suppose you all want to know what exactly just happened here, and why, though Juanita and Laflita already know.

JUANITA: (Rolls her eyes, looks back at them with her sister:) Do we ever. (Goes back to reading the Reynaldo's catalouge with her sister)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) That's terrific. (Pauses:) Mind letting us in on this big story?

SANDI: Yes, like, perhaps it would be prudent if you told us, Krystal. (The other F.C. members, nod, and Daria and Jane roll their eyes)

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) Why not? It happened about four years ago. Darren and Rory used to be the best of friends at Orbison and around Maness, though Curtis wasn't as close to Darren as he is now, running around in other circles at the time, and only casually knowing Darren. Anyhow, Rory had a reputation as a "ladies man" then, the same for Darren (Jane and Daria exchange sarcastic "What a stunning surprise" glances, and Quinn and the F.C. smirk), though he wasn't as active in the "field" as Rory, he could've put Rory to shame if he wanted to in the girl-getting department, but his parents kept him from going out too much, save for some outings. You do know about the way Darren's, er, family protected him from media scrutiny?

DARIA: You could say we're sorta familiar with it.

JANE: Yeah. (Pauses, chuckles:) Uh, just out of curiousity, did you like Darren as well all as those other girls? (Daria cocks an eyebrow at her, while Krystal pauses, then smiles)

KRYSTAL: Why, yes I did, Jane--(pauses, ever-so-slight hint of bitterness in her tone:) like all those other girls, though Darren and I casually dated, it didn't amount to much, and we stayed as friends. (Quickly changes subject:) One day, my brother came home with a girl named Dora Kurshwick, whom he introduced to my parents and told Darren and his friends about. He raved about her, saying she was "different" from all the other girls he had ever met. I scoffed at this, being as if he was just 17 years old at the time, and she was 15 1/2, like me and Darren were. (Daria and Jane look at each other, a bit surprised, which Krystal notices, and adds:) Rory's a year-and-a-half older than us, by the way. (Pauses, shrugs:) Anyhow, I kind of thought he and she were too young for love at the time, you know what I mean--?

STACY: (Giggles, holds herself:) Oh, I don't think age should matter if you really go for someone!

DARIA: (To Jane, low voice:) Or apparently, brains, it seems. (Jane smirks only half-heartedly, for she still has Darren on her mind)

KRYSTAL: (Gives Stacy a strange look:) Errr, right. Rory used to worry the hell out of me and his friends about Dora, and all the dates they went on, such as to the skating rink, the fair, and to any number of various social functions. I started to think she really was the one, even at that age. (Pauses, frowns:) What a load of malarky that turned out to be. (Everyone save the Watleys look at each other) Turns out that my bro was still good 'ol Rory, running around and having the time of his life with every girl he could get his hands on, but doing it on the sly while still proclaiming his "deep like" for Dora. Darren one day confronted Rory in private about what he was possibly doing to Dora, having heard "rumors" of Rory running around, and everything, telling him if he was seeing other girls, the least Rory could do is be honest with Dora about it. Darren wanted to know if the rumors were true, and Rory assured him it wasn't, and they left it at that. (Pauses:) But what Darren and everyone else didn't know at the time was that Rory and Dora had had some terrible arguments in private. Dora had wanted to know herself after she heard the rumors, and demanded to know if my brother was cheating on her several times, and each time, he denied it like crazy.

QUINN: How'd he get caught?

KRYSTAL: One day, I met Dora at my house as I came from school. She looked kind of sad for some reason, and said she needed to talk to my brother very badly about something private, something she claimed he knew what it was about, and she looked really worried. Concerned, I invited her in to wait for Rory, who I thought had not come home yet. Sometimes, he'd hang out with Darren and the others after school to play some tennis or even go to the golf club, you see, and he'd find a way to tell me his plans so I could tell our parents. (Frowns, thinks:) That day, however, I didn't know where he was after school, not even Darren and the others knew. I found out later that Rory had pretended he was sick, and got out of Orbison early, but he didn't tell me. When Dora and I entered the living room, let's just say that we both caught Rory and another girl in a, um, "compromising" position on the couch. (The F.C. goes "oooh", and Daria and Jane shake their heads slowly) Dora screamed at Rory, saying she thought she was the only girl he had "done" it with, and ran out of our house crying her head off.

JANE: Yee-ouch. Very bad situation.

KRYSTAL: And it gets worse. The very next morning, (long pause, sighs:) Dora had committed suicide in her room. (Daria, and in particular Jane turn pale in shock along with everyone else, save for the sad looks from the Watley sisters)

DARIA: (Concerned look at Jane, gathers the courage to speak, while Stacy cries into Tiffany's shoulders, and Quinn and Sandi exchange shocked looks:) Oh, God. Uh, how--how did she kill herself?

KRYSTAL: (Small shrug:) It was sleeping pills. (Jane gasps in disbelief, falls slightly back, and Daria puts her right hand on Jane's left shoulder in support) She took a whole freaking bottle of them. Her parents found her in her bed the next morning, having tried to wake her up for school, but couldn't. The paramedics were too late in trying to save her. Needless to say, the Kurshwick's were devestated by their only child's death, and couldn't figure out why someone so young could kill themselves like that. Hell, at the time, no one could figure it out.

JANE: (Narrows eyes:) How'd your brother react to all of this?

KRYSTAL: He--grew quiet, and said nothing to me, to anybody. Anyway, it gets even more worse, if you can believe it. At the autopsy, the coroner found out that Dora was a month pregnant. (Everyone gasps in shock)

SANDI: You mean, like, your brother knew she was pregnant, and did nothing about it?

KRYSTAL: (Snorts:) Oh, he had done something all right: He had asked Dora to have an abortion, and when Dora had explained to him that she and her family were Catholic and didn't believe in them, Rory exploded in a rage, and accused her of running around on him, then claimed he wasn't the father. When Dora threatened to make it known what happened to her parents, Rory told her to go ahead and do what she thinks best--since she didn't care about him. Talk about piling on your guilt trips. (Everyone rolls their eyes in disgust) Dora, of course, felt terrible, and then kept the secret to herself.

STACY: (Holding back tears:) T-That's so awful. H-How could she have kept that to herself? S-She couldn't stand the pressure anymore, r-right?

KRYSTAL: (Sighs:) More or less. (Pauses:) Well, my brother is ever the manipulator, believe me. He was able to persuade her to keep the pregnacy to herself that long, and still convinced her he loved her, so that was probably it. A few days after the funeral, when Rory came back to school, Darren and some of Rory's other friends went over to talk to him in the yard and asked what the deal was, because people were talking about who the father was, in this case, Rory. They saw him sweet-talking yet another girl behind the gym, and overheard him saying Dora meant nothing to him, and all she had to do was get an abortion in secret, and both could've gone on with their lives, but she had to, and I quote: "Do the stupid thing by wanting to keep the little brat". (Everyone gasps in outrage)

DARIA: (Deep frown:) You'll pardon me if I say that your brother is a first-class bastard, Krystal.

KRYSTAL: (Shrugs:) Get in line, Daria. Well, that was all Darren and some of the other guys needed to hear, for they set upon him and kicked his ass--(pauses:) badly, with Darren doing by far and away most of the pounding.

JANE: (Wide-eyed:) Did, uh, he use martial arts, or something on your brother?

KRYSTAL: Oh, no, he didn't know any then, or it would've been a hell of a lot worse. He, or rather his parents, got, or should I say made him get into it not that long afterwards because of that, (ponders:) it was about a month or so later. I came myself into the martial arts about another month after Darren, and we had the same sensei, or teacher. (Jane cocks a subtle eyebrow) We attended a martial arts school in New York City together. Darren turned out to be among the best students at the Takumi School of Martial Arts, (cuts her eyes subtly over at Jane:) as well as myself.

QUINN: (Frowns:) But, that doesn't make any sense! Why would his folks get him into something that would make him beat up people even more?

DARIA: (Sighs:) Quinn, martial arts is misunderstood to be something people use to beat other people up, and it's not really that. It's supposed to be a gentle form of self and mind control, used only in an act of absolute self-defense. (Krystal nods at Daria, impressed:) Remember when he told us after we, or rather, you first saw him use it on the Three J's at the Pizza King? (Quinn looks up, tries to remember, nods, then Daria narrows her eyes at Krystal:) Wait a sec, did that mean that Darren's folks thought he was out of control when they put him in there?

KRYSTAL: If you saw how my brother was beaten up, you'd think he was. Broken bones in his face, chest, and arms, internal lung damage. Darren's been working out lifting weights since he was about twelve years old.

SANDI: What happened next?

KRYSTAL: Obviously, my folks wanted Darren to be tried in court, but after the furor from the town over what Rory was discovered to have done to Dora, and of Mr. and Mrs. Kurshwick showing sympathy for Darren and the other boys who were with him had done, my parents quickly backed off, and were paid compensation from Darren's parents for Rory's medical bills and "grevious bodily harm".

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) In other words, a bribe to keep Darren from going to juvenile hall?

KRYSTAL: I'd think that the word "settlement" was used instead. From that day on, my brother was something of a pariah in Maness, ironically and especially among the town's women, so much so, my parents transferred him to another high school waaay out of town, and he spent most of his time out of Maness, only occasionally coming in with my parents when they shopped nearby. It was a miracle the town didn't hold it against me and my folks because we were related to Rory.

DARIA: (Hesitates:) Weren't you angry at Darren for, well, almost beating the hell out of your brother?

KRYSTAL: At first, I was kind of angry over what he did, but after I heard what Rory said, I began to feel that he deserved what he got. Don't get me wrong, I love my brother, but even I couldn't believe his coldness. I am, after all, a female. I wouldn't want a guy doing something like that to me. That's why I got into martial arts, (adds quickly:) not to "beat up" people as your sister said, Daria, but to defend myself from, well, (pauses:) from being another Dora. (Smirks:) Besides, I "got back" at Darren when we sparred together at the school, and I knew he wasn't a bad guy, (giggles:) though he did spend almost all of our time there apologizing to me over what he did. I found myself charmed over his constant apologies, and I dated him on and off with other guys, without my folks knowing, of course. (Pauses:) Then, he met (pauses:) Stephanie Reardon. I didn't see him much then, save for at Orbison, and then at the martial arts school. Something had changed in him. I think it was the combination of the art we were learning, and (pauses:) her. Anyway, he and Curtis became best friends, replacing Rory.

JANE: (Uneasy look:) So, um, I assume you still work out like Darren in your "karate chop" stuff?

KRYSTAL: (Bordering on something like a cold grin to Jane:) You bet. Wouldn't miss it for the world. It frees the mind, body, and soul. (Pauses:) Uh, do you do any martial arts, Jane?

JANE: (Cuts her eyes at the limo's window, uncomfortable look, which Daria notices:) Ah, nope, can't say that I do. My strokes are of an art variety, I'm afraid.

KRYSTAL: (Smiles:) Yes, I've heard about your work, and seen it on the TV. You do know Darren paints some himself, I assume? (Jane smirks, nods) Good. (Adds:) I'd like to look at some of your work, if you don't mind.

JANE: Sure, you can come on over anytime this week at the mansion to see my portfolio. I plan to go to the New York City Art School, and I'm gonna show my stuff to Tess Donovan, the chancellor.

KRYSTAL: Yes, quite a prestigious art shool. (Turns to Daria:) I heard from the TV interview that you'll be staying with Darren at the mansion because you're going to Eastward College to major in journalism. (Daria nods) I also go there, and I major in accounting. I plan to handle the finances in my parent's shipping business when I get out. (Smirks:) Might as well trust the kinfolk to handle the finances. Rory goes to a community college near White Plains, but his major's undecided.

DARIA: I see. (Pauses, glances at Jane:) Um, Jane's staying with us while she's going to her art school, too. It only makes sense. (Krystal's eyebrow rises, and Quinn's does as well, the same for Sandi briefly)

QUINN: Hey! I didn't know that! Jane's staying with Darren in the same house? (Smirks:) Do our parents know?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Sorry to bust your "blackmailing" bubble, sis, but mom does know, and has given her blessings. Theoretically, as we both know, that all but means that both our parents will approve of Jane's lodging under our brother's roof.

JANE: (Chuckles:) You're allowed to come and visit us if you want, Quinn--I'm sure we'll fit you in somehow. (Quinn rolls her eyes playfully)

KRYSTAL: (Looks between Daria and Jane, particularly at Jane:) So, er, I'm assuming that what happened at Reynaldo's hasn't changed either of your minds about staying with Darren at his place while you go to college?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Well, we're gonna talk, but after what you told us, I can understand better what's up, (looks up, mock ponders:) soooo--nope.

DARIA: What she said. I have no intention of leaving my brother in the lurch.

QUINN: Yeah! We all wanna help Darren, and I'm gonna be there for him, too!

DARIA: Hmm--speaking of help--(suddenly surprises Quinn by reaching over and snatching her purse from her lap) I think I'll help myself to the contents of your purse.

QUINN: Hey! What are you doing? Gimme back my purse, you thief! (Wide-eyed and reaches for Daria, who's holding her back with her left arm, while Daria rummages through it, Sandi and the rest of the F.C. look surprised, while Jane smirks, and Krystal looks bemused. The Watley sisters look back over their shoulders at what's going on)

DARIA: (While still looking in Quinn's purse:) You're one to talk. (Triumphant smirk:) Ah, success. (Pulls out the photo of her and Darren, slips it into her jacket, then tosses Quinn's purse back to her) There ya go, sis. (Quinn scowls at her deeply)

STACY: (Looks at the other F.C. members, confused, and vice-versa:) What was that, some sort of picture? What was on it?

QUINN: (Smirks wickedly:) Heh, it was of--

DARIA: (Cuts her off, deadly stone expression:) --You not ever getting any peace again if you open your big yap and utter the wrong thing, sis. (Pauses, equally deady tone:) Ever. (Quinn becomes nervous somewhat)

QUINN: (Uneasy laugh:) Um, just a surprise picture I took of my sister at home with really bad hair (pauses, brief scowl:) in the morning. (Daria gives her a subtle smirk of approval) She's just kind of embarassed about it, that's all.

TIFFANY: Oh...is that it? Yeah, I can understand...you're not wanting...anyone to see you...since having split ends...can really make you...look fat. (Krystal looks at her strangely)

SANDI: (In her usual cool tone:) If, like, you want, Daria, we can give you a new hairstyle.

DARIA: Uh, thanks, but no thanks, Sandi, I'm still kind of attached to this hair on my head. I'll file it in my head to contact you guys if I change my mind. (Turns back to Krystal:) There's just one more thing bugging me: Just before he relieved us of his presence by leaving that Reynaldo's place, your brother said something about Darren killing William Appleton, (Jane and Quinn look surprised at this, and Daria pauses, adds with a touch of anger:) as if he were there to witness what William almost did to us at the warehouse that night, if you heard the TV reports. What was that all about?

KRYSTAL: Yes, I did, and I'm not sorry that William Appleton's gone. I didn't like him very much, he was a standoffish prick in the few times I did meet him. There was only one person in Maness that still liked Rory after what happened with Dora, and that was William Appleton. Rory kind of looked up to him as something of a father figure since Rory was about ten years old. Our parents were always out and about and left us in the care of our servants or of our relatives because of their careers. (Frowns in thought:) I think it was when my family and Darren's got together on a deal to install some of Appleton's computers on some McKinna ships, or something. From what I remember, those two took to each other like a fish to water.

JANE: Why doesn't that surprise me for some reason?

KRYSTAL: (Smirks at Jane for an instant, continues:) William didn't like children all that much, and I assume you all know about him and Darren. (Everyone nods) But there was something in Rory that William liked, and the two occasionally went to William's office at the Appleton Tower. Rory came home always talking about William like he was a god, or something. My parents didn't mind the two getting together, since it occupied Rory's time. This continued until the incident with Dora, then the two kinda drifted off from each other. I think we can all say that there's no doubt William ended up influencing my brother a little too much.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) No damn doubt at all. (Everyone stares at Daria in silence)

The limo slowed in front of a large home that resembled a small castle. Krystal got out and turned back to the limo.

KRYSTAL: (Smiles:) Thanks for the lift. See you guys later in the week. (The limo leaves her, goes down the street)

Krystal came up to her home and went in. The living room was dark, since the shades were drawn. Krystal formed a smirk, then strolled in.

KRYSTAL: (In a playful voice:) Yoo-hoo! I'm hooome!

Suddenly, a hand went over her mouth from behind her, and Krystal's martial arts skills promptly went into high gear, for she reached behind her, and flipped the unknown assailant over her head. There was a groan, and Krystal flipped on the light switch, wickedly grinning down at her brother, who was rubbing his right shoulder in pain.

KRYSTAL: You gotta do better than that, bro. I saw that move a mile away. Too bad you didn't want to get into martial arts when you were offered the chance. Who knows, you might've actually given Darren a halfway decent workout.

RORY: (Frowns bitterly up at her:) Damn you, sis, shut up. (Pauses:) You told them about Dora, didn't you?

KRYSTAL: (Throws her hair back:) Of course I did. If I didn't, Curtis Watley's sisters would have after what happened at Reynaldo's, and I wanted to get in good with Darren's sisters, and to gain the trust of that "Jane Lane", which I believe I did. Besides, with what I have on you, I knew you wouldn't try to press any charges on Darren after I stopped you from doing so. (Smirks down at him:) You brought all that upon yourself, bro. All you had to do was keep your mouth shut, but you had to act macho. Now, you've gotten everyone PO'd at you, including all those "lucious babes" you drooled after.

RORY: (Snorts, gets up:) I'll recover with them, you'll see. They'll be eating out of my hand. (Frowns:) And I'm not finished with "Darry", either. (Krystal scowls at him, and he looks away)

KRYSTAL: (Suddenly smirks:) Always, the optimist, eh, bro? (Looks around:) Where are the servants?

RORY: I gave them the day off when I came in, with pay. I was sick of seeing their faces in the mood I was in.

KRYSTAL: And mom and dad are still at work, so we're alone.

RORY: Uh, yeah. (Pauses:) So?

KRYSTAL: So--(suddenly runs behind and twists Rory's right arm behind him, and Rory screams in pain:) there are no witnesses to see me doing this. (Low, dangerous tone:) If you ever try to jump me again, I'll make you regret it, the same for taking my car, even though I gained considerable knowledge and trust with Darren's girlfriend, and his family and friends. Oh, and that especially goes for getting back at Darren. You leave him alone, got that? (Rory ponders, and Krystal twists his arm again, and Rory screams again, she talks through clenched teeth:) I said, you got that?

RORY: YEAH! YEAH! I GOT IT, SIS! OWWW! (Krystal releases his arm, and he clutches it in pain, rubs it)

KRYSTAL: (Smug look:) Good. I think I'll take a shower. (About to go out of the room, turns around:) Oh, and thanks for coming with me at the last minute, part of my plan, of course. You helped me immensely with measuring how I should deal with Darren's family and girlfriend. (Smiles cheerfully:) You're a good brother. (Leaves)

RORY: (Looks after her wretchedly, in a very low tone:) Bitch.


(The scene changes to the Appleton estate, Darren's meditation room, an indeterminate time later)

The darkness receded as Darren, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor and in his gi, opened his eyes, and saw Daria reading Edger Allen Poe's The Raven and Jane sketching Darren sitting in meditation. Both sat cross-legged from him, and smirked when they both saw him open his eyes. He blinked in surprise for a moment, then saw Quinn sitting on the floor to the side, leaning back on the far wall, snoring lightly. Her face was covered with lipstick marks. Darren, trying not to laugh, glanced back at the two, and they both nodded, still with the smirks.

DARIA: You looked peaceful there, bro. I only wished I could phase our sister out like that in real life. (Darren shakes his head and chuckles)

JANE: (Shows Darren her work:) Got some good sketches here, Darren. You were the perfect model.

DARREN: (Motions head at Quinn:) Why?

JANE: (Shrugs:) I dunno. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, since she was so vunerable when she fell asleep.

DARIA: And we felt that it would cheer you up after what happened at Reynaldo's.

DARREN: (Looks down, contrite tone:) I'm sorry. I--I don't know what came over me. When I saw Rory talking to Quinn, then his crack about Jane--

JANE: (Quiet tone, cuts him off:) --You thought of that "Dora" girl, right? (Darren looks shocked) Your friend, Krystal McKinna, told us all about what happened.

DARREN: Krystal? She was there? I didn't see her.

DARIA: You were kind out of it at the time, bro. She was off to the side watching. She says she'll visit you later this week.

DARREN: Oh. (Pauses:) Did you both know I have a nasty temper?

JANE: (Smirks with Daria:) Do tell. Krystal said you went the martial arts route via your folks to get it under control.

DARREN: Recently, it seems to have come back with a vengeance. First, the way I was with Turley when I found out about what he did with the adoption, and his tricking my birth parents into thinking I was dead, then what happened with my uncle in that warehouse, now Rory. (Gets up with the others, sighs:) God, I'm pathetic.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Darren, you're not pathetic. It seems to me that you had good reasons in all those cases to get pissed. (Pauses:) Plus, you can add what happened to your parents, and well, hell, a person can take but so much you know.

DARREN: (Shakes his head:) No, Daria, I didn't behave right. Anger, maybe, but not to the point of rage. My sensei taught us to harbor our feelings and tame them from within. (Pauses:) I've failed him.

DARIA: Darren, you told us that when Turley told you the truth about what happened with your adoption, you choked him, but then Woo and Mrs, Turley stopped you, right?

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Yeah, so?

JANE: (Steps up:) I get it, Daria. (To Darren:) So, if you wanted to, I think you could've thrown them off and snapped Turley's neck, yet you didn't. You stopped. (To Darren's confused look:) You stopped yourself, not them. I mean, maybe Woo might've held you back for an instant, but Mrs. Turley? (Rolls her eyes:) Please.

DARREN: And what about my uncle? I killed him, right?

DARIA: Did you want to kill him?

DARREN: To save you both? If I had to, yes, but I--didn't want to.

JANE: (Smirks:) Right, you didn't want to, and were there several ways that you could have?

DARREN: (Frowns, ponders for a moment, then:) Sure, there were. I could've kicked him in several places and killed him, but I just kicked him in the uppser part of his chest, near the shoulder, a point that could do the least damage, to distract him, and to get him to drop the gun, which he did--

DARIA: --And you considered this all while in a rage, huh? You must have damn good self-control to pull that off. (Darren looks at her sheepishly)

JANE: And then at Reynaldo's, you stopped yourself when you heard me and Quinn shout at you. If you really were in a rage, you could've ignored us, and beat the hell out of that "Rory" jerk, not that we would've complained too much about it if you did, but you didn't.

DARREN: (Ponders:) Maybe. I don't know.

Quinn's eyes opened, and she saw her brother.

QUINN: (Jumps up, giggles:) Darren! (Hugs him)

DARREN: (Smiles down at her:) Hey, Quinn. (Smile slowly leaves his face:) Sorry about what happened at Reynaldo's.

QUINN: (Lays her head on his chest, hugs him:) I don't care about that stuff, bro. You were only watching out for us, keeping us from that jerk Rory, and were tryin' to protect Jane's honor, an' everything!

JANE: (Realizes:) Hey, yeah, he was, wasn't he? (Goes up to him, kisses him on the mouth, and he swoons:) Thanks for that gallant gesture, Darren.

DARREN: (Clears his head:) No problem, Jane. (Pauses, realizes:) How long have you all been here, anyway?

DARIA: About a little over an hour. (Darren looks surprised) Elenor said that when you came in, you looked out of it, and said nothing to anybody. We figured that you'd be in here. The rest of the Fashion Club was worried, but they couldn't get in here, so they went upstairs, (looks at Jane uneasily:) though Sandi just left about 10 minutes ago.

DARREN: To be honest with you, I was expecting the police to come up here, and I wanted to be as calm as I could when they came to arrest me.

QUINN: (Giggles:) Oh, that Krystal girl stopped her brother from doing anything!

JANE: Yeah, it is incredible that she could stop him like that.

DARREN: Krystal has a lot of influence on her brother. I think she may know certain things about him, and holds some things over his head. I heard Rory has done some bad things while he was transferred after what happened with uh, Dora. That's about the extent of it, I guess. I'll have to thank her for her help when she comes up.

The next instant, Helen and Millie opened the door, both with concerned looks on their faces, and ran up to hug Darren.

HELEN: Oh, son! We just got back from the Appleton Foundation function! I saw on the TV that you had gotten in a fight, and everything! (Caresses his face:) Are you alright? I had to calm Jake down when he heard! He's upstairs sedated now!

MILLIE: What happened, Darren?

DARREN: (Looks between them both, sighs:) Well--

HELEN: (Spots Quinn, who comes out from behind the others, and cuts him off, wide-eyed:) --QUINN! What happened to your face?

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows, feels her face:) Huh? What's wrong with my--(looks down, sees something red on her fingertips as Daria and Jane try and look innocent:) hey, what's this stuff on my hands? (Narrows eyes:) Lipstick? I don't understand, I always make sure it gets on my lips, how-- (digs into her purse, pulls out compact mirror, stares at it, and becomes wide-eyed:) AAAAGH! (Runs out)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Gee, I wonder what could've happened? Jane, do you know?

JANE: (Shrugs, innocent voice:) Gosh, it could've been anything, Daria, who knows? Maybe Quinn decided to try a new look, or something.

DARIA: If you ask me, I think it's an improvement.

HELEN: (Glances suspiciously between Daria, Jane, and Darren, who's trying not to chuckle:) "Improvement", huh? (Narrows eyes at Daria:) We'll speak of this "improvement" a little later, sweetie.

DARIA: Of course, Mom, though I'm sure if push comes to shove, (cuts her eyes to the side over to a smirking Jane:) I won't be the only one you'll discuss Quinn's little makeover with.

JANE: (To Daria:) I'm sorry, but do I know you?

MILLIE: (Herself trying not to smile:) Back to the matter of my nephew and your son, Helen. (Pauses, serious tone:) Darren, what happened?

Getting a serious look, Darren once again began his story, with Daria and Jane joining in when necessary.

The following few hours passed, with Jake cancelling the trip to go to Yankee Stadium, even after Darren had said he didn't mind the media scrutiny that was sure to follow him there. Jake insisted that his son rest after the scuffle, privately telling Darren on the side that he was proud of him defending the girls, which made Darren feel uncomfortable nevertheless. The rest of the Fashion Club (particularly Sandi) was relieved Darren was okay. Darren apologized to them all for his behavior, and like Daria, Jane, and Quinn, the girls immediately forgave him. Curtis called, saying he would be over on Monday.

Millie excitedly broke the news to a stunned Darren and Daria and Quinn about her being "adopted" into the Morgendorffer family. Darren expressed sheer delight at the disclosure, while Daria questioned if Millie had accidently slipped and hit her head while in the tub, which drew dark a dark scowl from Helen, and chuckles from Darren and Jane. Edward finally came from upstairs after a fitful rest (and a talk to his "Employer" about a hefty raise). Everyone took in a movie in the home theater (much to Daria's chagrin), settling on the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a title Daria found fitting, since she was seeing a movie with her family, and felt like an alien in doing so. As everyone came out of the theater, there was a ring at the door, and Elenor, dressed in her nightgown after Millie had asked her to stay the night, answered the door as everyone, save for the Fashion Club, who had gone upstairs to retire (and Quinn privately vowing revenge to Daria and Jane for her "makeover"), walked by the foyer. As she opened the door, she was swept up in a big hug by an equally smiling, big man with a full crop of silver hair. His voice matched his looks, as it boomed loudly.

MAN: Hey, Elenor! (Twirls her around as Elenor giggles) How are you doin'?

ELENOR: I'm fine, Master Jim!

JIM: Good! (Spots Darren:) Hey, nephew! (Hugs Darren in a grip)

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Hi--Uncle--Jim. Could--you--let--me--go--now? (Jim releases him) Thanks.

DARIA: (Smirks, thought v.o.: It's a wonder my bro hasn't gotten used to dad's hugs yet.)

Millie walked up to Jim quietly with a smile.

MILLIE: Hello, Jim.

JIM: (Now quiet:) Hello, Mill.

MILLIE: You're here earlier than I thought.

JIM: I got out of Seattle sooner than I thought, and I'm not complaining. (Looks at the Morgendorffers minus Quinn:) You're Darren's birth family, aren't cha? (Extends hand to Jake, who shakes it)

JAKE: Jake Morgendorffer, Jake Morgendorffer Consulting Agency!

HELEN: (Shakes Jim's hand:) Hello, I'm Helen Morgendorffer, lawyer. (Motions at Daria:) This is our daughter, Daria. My other daughter Quinn is upstairs.

JANE: (Shakes his hand:) Jane Lane, artise extraordinaire, and Darren's woman.

JIM: (Winks at Darren after looking over Jane:) You hit the jackpot with this one, nephew! (Jane smirks) I'm Jim Morse, CEO and everything else of Morse Elevator Company! You know, my business sometimes is considered to be pretty much unstable. (Grins, as Darren, Millie, and Elenor look at each other and roll their eyes playfully, knowing the answer to the question:) You know why?

DARIA: (Steps up, deadpan:) Because it has its ups and downs?

JIM: (Points at her, laughs:) You're sharp, Daria! I like that!

DARIA: (Monotonic voice:) Just call me Ginzu. (Jim howls)

Edward suddenly brushed his way up, with a cool, detached look on his face. Jim glanced at him, then acquired the same look. Millie looked between the two and frowned slightly.

EDWARD: (Stiffy shakes Jim's hand, cool tone:) Edward White, old chap. Millie's told me all about you.

JIM: (Ditto with both:) Edward. Millie's told me nothing about you. (Still holds his hand, which Edward is more than willing not to release:) Perhaps you and me can get to know each other a little "better", huh?

EDWARD: Yes, old boy, I think that can be "arranged". (Millie gets a disapproving look, and Helen looks uncomfortable as Jake is oblivious because he has a new friend, and Darren looks uneasy)

Jane leaned over to Daria and spoke in a low voice.

JANE: Why do I suddenly feel that the temperature just dropped in here?

DARIA: (Returns the whisper:) Haven't you heard? It's the new Cold War between ex-husbands and boyfriends of their ex-wives. I have a feeling that this is just the opening volley...

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