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Chapter 7 - Weekday Wrap-Up: Part Two


(Scene is at the front of the mansion, early in the morning)

Jane moaned as a concerned Darren carried her in her arms. Her right arm covered her face, which had contorted into a painful expression. Both had just about finished their jog, and were within sight of the mansion, when Jane suddenly had fallen down, and howled in agony, holding her right ankle. Darren had rushed to her side and felt the ankle tenderly over Jane's whimpers of weak protest. He was about to call for help on one of the nearby phones that dotted the pristine grounds, when Jane quickly begged off, insisting that the injury wasn't that bad, saying that it had occurred before, though it had not happened since just before she had met Darren. The moment she had stood up, however, she stumbled over once again, wincing. Hearing no more excuses, Darren immediately swooped her up in his arms, insisting he carry her the rest of the way, at least. Jane smirked briefly, shrugged dismissively as if she were "resigned" to it, put her arms around Darren's neck, and leaned on his left shoulder.

JANE: Ohhhh, owwee, owwee, owwee...

DARREN: Easy, we're just about there, Jane--

JANE: (Looking at Darren with a "wounded puppy-dog" expression, hugging his neck tighter, in a "pleading" tone:) Are--are you sure you don't have a problem with carrying me, Darren? (Pauses, sounding a tad more serious in tone, hesitates:) I know that your left shoulder was the one that was hit by that bullet--

DARREN: (Grins, looks down on her, gently cuts her off:) --Hey, don't you remember that I carried my "sneaky" sister Daria leaning on this very same shoulder out of the study, Jane? It's 90-plus percent healed now, anyway. Besides, are you kidding? Of course I don't mind carrying you. The way this is right now, I'm kind of wondering if you can stumble and fall a little more often. (Jane rolls her eyes playfully, chuckles, gives him a wicked smirk)

JANE: (Thought v.o.: That's right, play into my hands, you.) (Pauses, glances at him out of the corner of her eye, coy expression:) Ugghh. I can't believe my, er, "hallux valgus" muscle suddenly gave out like that. (Darren gives her a brief, odd look) The last time this happened, several months back, my family doctor told me to take it easy until it totally healed, you know. Too bad I didn't follow his advice. (Hesitates, adds:) Yeah, I know I didn't tell you something like this before, but I really thought it, um, wouldn't flare up anymore, ever. (Uneasy shrug and smile:) Shows what I know, huh?

DARREN: (Narrows eyes slightly down at her:) I--guess. (Pauses:) Ah, excuse me, Jane, but did you say, "hallax valgus"?

JANE: (Nods head:) Yeah, but it's no biggie. Once it's, um, messaged, I'll be as good as new. (Pauses, snorts:) Sounds strange, doesn't it? I didn't even know a "hallax valgus" existed 'till he told me. It's--(pauses:) ah, located in the lower part of my ankle, just above my foot. (Adds hesitantly:) It's a reaaal tiny muscle.

DARREN: (Ponders for a moment, cocks an eyebrow:) Really? You don't say. Hm, that is interesting. (Slight smile:) Er, if it's alright with you, how about if I message your ankle beside the pool to take care of this "hallax valgus"? We'll have plenty of space there to lay you out, okay?

JANE: (Grins, teasing tone:) Good idere, me bucko, the pool it is, lead on.

When the two came up to the front door, Jane good-humoredly reached over and rang the doorbell. Elenor opened the door with her customary towels for them, but she was paying attention to unfolding the towels, not noticing Darren holding Jane as of yet.

JANE: (Smiles:) Hiya again, Elenor!

ELENOR: (Smiles, still has eyes on the towels:) Good morning Jane, Master Darren, I--( finally looks up, gasps, wide-eyed, puts hand on mouth, almost drops the towels:) oh, my word, what happened?

DARREN: (In a reassuring tone, chuckles:) It's okay, Elenor, she'll be fine. (Jane nods) Keep the towels, we'll need, ah, I mean, get them later. Jane just strained her, uh, "hallax valgus" a little. (Elenor drops an eyebrow, gives Darren a peculiar look) We didn't want to take a chance and have her inflame it anymore, so I'm carrying her. (Pauses as Elenor continues to give him her peculiar look:) It's a reaaal tiny muscle in the ankle, just above the foot, did you know that? (Elenor shakes her head slowly) I'm going to take her to the pool, message it for her a bit, and she'll be as good as new.

ELENOR: (After a moment:) Er, very well, Master Darren, Jane. When do you want Henri to prepare breakfast, and what do you both want?

DARREN: Jane--?

JANE: (Looks up for an instant, then at Darren:) Ahhh, say in about 45 minutes. Lemme have waffles with whipped cream and strawberries, bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, orange juice, and some real strong black coffee. I've got a busy day ahead, with working on that mural in your meditation room, finishing up my portfolio for Tess Donovan, and of course, (smirks:) working on that you-know-what with you and Daria. I think I'll take that one outside and finish working on it, it's mostly done, anyway (Darren gives her a mildly surprised expression, but says nothing), and it's such a nice day, and everything. (To Elenor's puzzled look:) It's a surprise, Elenor.

DARREN: (Comes in, and Elenor closes the door behind them:) Elenor, I'm going to make it really easy on Henri and get what Jane's having. (Smirks at Jane:) I'd better get going, Jane's getting pretty heavy in my arms.

ELENOR: (Curtsys, chuckles:) Very good, Master Darren, Jane. (Leaves)

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow at Darren as they head in the direction of the pool, gives him a light, playful swat on his shoulder, smirks:) You trying to say something to me, "Darry", like, you're tired of carrying me, or I'm getting fat, or anything?

DARREN: (Drops a disbelieving eyebrow at Jane, smirks, in a mock-dramatic tone:) If I were Superman, I'd carry you forever, but alas, I'm only--(drops head, faux-sad voice:) human. (Jane rolls her eyes) As for you "getting" fat--(snorts, rolls eyes:) please. (Grins, in a playful tone:) You're so thin, it would take years to get your weight up. I'm tempted to ask Henri to cook up some all-fat dishes while you're staying up here during college, and feed them to you 24-7, or do it myself. I could arrange for you to receive his and my food intravenously while you sleep.

JANE: (Flat-eyed expression and droll tone:) You're too kind, going through all that trouble for skinny ol' me. (Snickers:) I don't know whether to be insulted by what you just said, or flattered with that last remark.

DARREN: Then I can only say that you're in quite a dilemma, aren't you?

JANE: (Playfully ponders this for a moment, puts her face close to his, smirks:) So are you, since I'm in your big, strong arms in close proximity, dear boy, and thus at my "mercy", just remember that.

DARREN: (Mild mock-cowering tone:) Oh, don't hurt me! I don't want to risk the wrath of Jane "Pain" Lane!

Jane laughed, and held Darren by his neck even tighter as Daria, dressed in her "Mark Twain" pullover, appeared from the study just as the two walked by, holding a book, Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf. She had decided to get up very early, not just because of she and Darren leaving around mid-morning, but mostly due to the fact that she had been privately very excited in anticipating what her brother had been planning for their trip to New York City outside of Eastward College and Appleton Industries, and couldn't sleep (of course, she'd never admit this to anyone else, certainly not to her parents and Quinn, Tom, even to Darren, and especially not to Jane). She cocked a quick, inquisitive eyebrow, then called out after them. Jane spotted Daria over Darren's shoulder, and quickly took on a "wounded" expression as Darren stopped, turning to her.

DARIA: 'Morning, guys. (Comes up to them with a now-slightly concerned frown as she sees Jane's "wounded" expression directed at her:) Jane--? What happened?

JANE: (Drops look, waves her off as a smirking Darren continues on and Daria walks beside them:) Hey, Daria. Ahh, I just kinda hurt my ankle while we were out jogging. Darren's taking me to the pool area to message it, then we're gonna eat some breakfast.

DARREN: Good morning, sis. (Pauses:) Actually, Jane's simplifying it a bit. Did you know she hurt something called a "hallux valgus"? (Daria gives him the same look Elenor gave him) It's a miniscule muscle just above her foot, in her ankle. (Jane nods, though it's a bit more of an uneasy one, as opposed to the one earlier with Elenor)

DARIA: (Frowns, perplexed:) Hmm--"hallux valgus"--(pauses:) that sounds sorta familiar. I think I read something like that once in that medical journal, you remember Jane, the one Quinn had when she called herself "studying" to become a doctor when my dad had his minor heart attack? I took a glance in it once when Quinn wasn't around to see how difficult the journal was for our "Princess" to read, and I believe I happened to come upon that very term-- (Jane now gets an uneasy look as the three walk into the pool area)

JANE: (Thought v.o., slightly alarmed: Just my crappy luck. Shut up, amigaaa--) (Cuts her off, uneasy chuckle as she looks up at Darren, adds quickly and dismissively:) --Well, like Darren said, it's a small ankle muscle, nothing to worry about. Once I get the ankle messaged--

DARIA: (As they come beside the deep end of the pool:) --That's just the point. "Hallux valgus" isn't an ankle muscle, it's a--

Daria couldn't finish her sentence, for she was stunned to see a grinning Darren suddenly toss a wide-eyed Jane into the pool. Jane came up to the water's surface after a second, shocked, obviously wet, embarassed, and definitely PO'd.

JANE: (While treading water, gasps for breath:) WHAT-THE-HELL--?

DARREN: (Still grinning, cuts eyes over to Daria:) Sis, you were saying--?

DARIA: (Gets over her shock, then smirks:) Um, "hallux valgus" is the medical term for simple bunions, Jane, which are found on your feet, not on your ankles.

DARREN: Thank you, Daria. (Turns, glances down to a glaring Jane with a playful smirk:) Like Daria, I had to think about what a "hallux valgus" was, then I remembered from what my podiatrist told me a while back on how to avoid bunions as I jogged, because I had developed one. He said that very term to me, and I asked for clarification because it sounded so strange. (Chuckles:) Since you wanted to get into my arms so badly, you would've been better off by simply saying you had twisted your ankle, Jane, and left it at that. (Pauses, adds, very big grin:) Or, you could've just asked me, you know...

JANE: (Continues to glare up at the smirking duo for an instant more, then develops a miserable look, lightly slaps water:) Ahh, hell, serves me right for trying to get freaking fancy. (Sighs:) I suddenly got a sneaky idea, and slipped into the study yesterday while taking a break from painting, hoping on the off-chance that Daria wasn't in there, and she wasn't, since she went out on the grounds like she told us last night, and whattaya know, I eyed a medical journal on a shelf, and skimmed it. I decided to use "hallux valgus" 'cause it sounded so cool, (pauses, narrows eyes at the two:) and so little-known, or so I thought.

DARIA: (Before Darren can respond, crafty look:) Ah, now I remember. (Pauses:) This is from our little talk about "tricking" my brother into carrying you like I did him, eh? (Smirks:) I didn't think you'd try that so soon afterwards. (Darren gives her a droll expression as Daria cuts her eyes over at him) Looks as if he's learned his lesson this time. (Adds after a moment:) I'm impressed with the way he caught on to your little scheme, Jane. (Jane rolls her eyes at Daria)

DARREN: (Shrugs, playful tone:) Well, you know the saying: "Fool me once"--

JANE: (Mock-snarl, cuts him off:) --Yeah, sure, don't rub it in, "Darry". Maybe I can make you look like a fool, eh? Just you wait 'till I get outta this pool and put you in--(smirks, starts to come to the edge to get out)

Darren grinned at this, and suddenly leaped in the pool beside Jane, surprising both girls.

DARREN: (While he's treading water:) Too late, Jane! Beat you to the punch!

JANE: (Grins:) If you think that's gonna save you--(reaches over and pushes Darren's head beneath the water)

Darren immediately resurfaced, laughing, and promptly returned the favor. Jane came back up, giggling, and splashed water at Darren, who mock-cowered for a moment, then splashed some of his own right back at her. Daria shook her head slowly, and squatted beside the edge of the pool, smirking. She placed her book to her side on the pool's deck.

DARIA: (In a mock-admonishing manner like a scolding mother:) Now, now, children. (Pauses:) Play nice, for proper pool safety is very important. We wouldn't want any accidental drownings, would we?

Jane and Darren stared at Daria for a moment, then glanced at each other briefly, and smirked, nodding wordlessly ever-so-slightly to each other in understanding. Daria narrowed her eyes for an instant, perplexed at their action, then immediately realized the situation she was in. Daria tried to jump back, but it was too late as she was suddenly pulled into the pool herself via each arm by her best friend and brother. Daria splashed around, gasping for breath as Jane and Darren laughed at her, pointing. Daria glared at them both as she treaded water, her glasses as wet as the rest of her body.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I see that we've quickly forgotten our previous lesson concerning swimming pools, my involuntary participation, and my personal well-being. It appears that we're going to have to go back to the drawing board. (Pauses:) Simply put, everybody dies. (Smirks slightly, splashes water at both, then suddenly reaches over and pulls Jane, who incidentally pulls Darren as well, underwater)


(Scene changes to the dining room, a little later)

After an avalanche of towels provided by Fiona and Claude to dry themselves off and a shower and a change of clothing into their usual attire (save for Darren, who wore a black polo short-sleeved shirt and baggy white pants with tan Rockport shoes), Jane and Darren sat at the end of the long dining room table, eating the hearty breakfast Henri had provided, with Daria, sitting across from them, joining in.

They spoke on several topics as they dined, from Darren explaining his cell phone talk with Tom Griffin about Sandi yesterday, of her apparently having nightmares about that night in the warehouse, and of Darren's offer to Mr. Griffin about getting Sandi psychological help, to Darren himself disclosing that he yet again had no nightmare about being in the study last night to Daria (he had already informed Jane).

Another subject, the mysterious overseas accounts, came up as well, an "inside company concern only", Darren explained in telling Daria and Jane just now, and why he asked Helen and Jake not to say anything, noting that this was "Nothing anyone in the family should worry about, anyway". Of course, Daria and Jane contributed their own little quick, sarcastic remarks about thinking that losing $50 million was "nothing", but left it at that. The rest of the conversation mostly centered on what Eastward College and Appleton would be like for Daria's visit.

However, by far and away, near the end of the talk, what Darren had saved for last, the real news that stunned both young women (even moreso than the $50 million embezzlement subject) was what Darren had told them in a calm, casual, drawn out manner (to get their full reactions so he could enjoy seeing them), between reading a newspaper from the rack beside the table, in this case, the New York Times.

DARIA: Let me understand this. Quinn--PAID you for that "power suit" last night, bro? (Pauses, as Darren nods while still glancing at his paper:) With her own moolah? (Pauses, as Darren nods, ditto with his paper:) Even with the newly-given stipends? (Pauses, as Darren nods yet once more, this time folding his paper with the financial section up, and placing it on the table while grinning, Daria looks up briefly, mock stunned look:) Damn fallen sky, how could've I missed it? (Drinks coffee as Darren laughs, and Jane snickers)

JANE: (As she's chewing waffles:) That simply cannot be right, Darren. We're talking about Quinn, here. (Pauses, then for emphasis:) Quiiinn.(Smirks:) Maybe you just imagined the whole thing.

DARREN: (Shakes his head slowly, smirks back:) Ho-ho. No, it's true. Quinn indeed did pay me for that power suit. I was as shocked as you two were, you know. Daria, it looks like what you said to her last night about her taking advantage of me when she came by your room looking for me convinced Quinn to change her mind. (Daria cocks an eyebrow, surprised that Darren knew about the "taking advantage" talk, and Darren grins) Quinn told me in my office. (Pauses:) It's similar to that time at your home when you "guilt-tripped" her into saying I didn't have to buy her any clothes in addition to taking her out to that "Chez Pierre" place just for her to be nice to Jane so Quinn could accept her being my girlfriend, remember? (Eats some sausage)

JANE: (Cuts in, subtle sneering tone, snorts:) Boy, do I remember. (Drinks some coffee)

DARIA: (After a moment:) Yeah, I do, Darren, but I was just reiterating what I told her about going after some of your, um, enormous wealth before we came up here. Quinn didn't seem to give a damn and listen to me then, so why now? I just can't believe she suddenly became "guilt-tripped" again without some reason to motivate her.

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Is that what set you two off and caused the more-nastier-than-usual tension between you guys up here? (Pauses:) Quinn "going after" my money? I asked her, but she wanted me to refer the matter to you. (Eyes financial section of paper casually, focuses in on it, to self in a very low tone:) Hm, Dupaul's up 3/8ths...

DARIA: (Pauses, glances at Jane:) Um, well, yeah, Darren. (Sighs:) I didn't want Quinn to think she could have an opening to try and take everything in sight now that she--we--have a brother who can--(pauses, gets in a quiet tone, turns red:) um, give us, uh, anything we wanted. (Quickly adds:) Not that I'd do it, though. I, well, never would do that--ever.

Jane dropped an eyebrow at this, which Daria picked up on, and Daria ever-so-subtly shook her head to indicate "I'll talk about that with him, later." Jane gave a tiny shrug, and ate some more eggs. Daria then quickly began to continue to read her book Steppenwolf as she chewed some waffles.

DARREN: (After a moment, looks up from his paper, nods, smiles:) I know you wouldn't, sis. I don't have to worry about you or now even Quinn on the money issue anymore, since you both have those stipends. (Daria and Jane then look at each other, give a "You wish" smirk to Darren, which he picks up on:) Hey, give her the benefit of the doubt, okay? The fact of the matter is that she paid for that dress with her own money, and it wasn't cheap, either--$300. Quinn didn't have to give me a dime back. (Pauses:) It floored me when she did, (adds after a moment, quieter tone:) and I'm proud of her for doing it. (Daria cocks an eyebrow, but says nothing) I'll make a special mental note to tell her that later.

JANE: (In a skeptical tone, glances at Daria again:) Eh, I suppose we should give Quinn some credit, Daria--?

DARIA: (Deadpan, snorts:) --About the same amount of credit that my mom and dad give her on the rare occasions when they used their cheap-ass charge cards, you know, the ones that didn't have the platinum or gold colors, (pauses as Darren and Jane stare at her, perplexed:) the ones Quinn refuses to use? (Pauses:) That much credit. (Darren laughs and Jane chuckles as Daria looks at an ornate wall clock on a side wall, sighs:) Um, I guess we'd better get ready to leave, bro. It's almost 8:45. (Pauses:) I've got to, uh, get something out of my room first, okay?

DARREN: (Follows Daria's lead by glancing at his watch:) Sure, sis. (Gets up with Daria and Jane:) We'll visit Eastward first since it's on our way. (Frowns as Claude comes in from the kitchen to gather the dirty dishes:) I wonder where everybody is, anyway? I thought for sure they'd be up about now, at least Helen, Jake, and my aunt Millie. (Cocks an eyebrow:) Claude--?

CLAUDE: (Stops for a moment:) Ah, yes, Master Darren, I was about to inform you. Elenor and I took some food up to the upstairs bedrooms through the other door from the kitchen while you ate with Mi--er, Daria and Jane. Master Jake and Miss Helen are eating breakfast in their bedroom, the same for Miss Quinn and her friends in their's, save for Miss Sandi, who wished to be awakened at the "usual" time of 10:00 a.m. (Darren glances at the others wordlessly and vice-versa)

DARREN: I--see, thanks, Claude. (Claude continues to gather the dishes while Darren cocks an eyebrow to Daria and Jane, lightens the mood a bit:) Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany are up already, huh? (Pauses:) I could understand them doing that yesterday to get ready for Candi, but I thought they'd sleep in a little longer this morning.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) They probably have a big day ahead today as well, what, with all that fashion crap they brought from Cashman's of Park Avenue--

JANE: (Chuckles:) --Yeah, they probably brought so much junk, they'll want to conduct some sort of egotistical private fashion show, or something. (Pauses, looks at Darren:) Say, didn't Helen mention something to you about Quinn not being allowed to eat breakfast in her room after that first time because Helen--(adds as an afterthought:) and Jake thought it would be a "burden" to the staff here, and it would kinda spoil her as well?

DARREN: (Ponders:) Yes, you're right. Helen and Jake must've changed their minds.

DARIA: (Smirks, deadpan:) The parental charming machine via the "Princess" is working at full-speed again, and is in top running form. (Pauses:) Surprise damn surprise. (Finishes waffles, pushes empty plate aside for Claude to retrieve)

CLAUDE: (Pauses, chuckles at Daria's crack, catches himself, embarassed, looks at Darren:) Well, er, I was told by Miss Helen it was alright for Miss Quinn to eat in her room after Miss Quinn came by while I was serving your birth parents, and, er, how shall I put this--whined to Miss Helen and Master Jake for permission to do so as well, adding that since they were eating breakfast in their bedroom, why not her? (Resumes gathering the dirty dishes)

DARIA: We shall sell no "whine" before our time, or in Quinn's case, spill it all over mom and dad, catching them in their hypocrisy.

JANE: Those are gonna be some awfully expensive "whine" stains to get out, amiga. (Darren moans at the puns)

DARIA: Ah, she'll be able to afford to dry clean their clothing with the stipend she now has, Jane, (pauses:) or get my mom and dad to pay for it, at least.

DARREN: (Shakes his head slowly, chuckles, joins in:) Ah-ah, sis, you were right the first time, considering the dress she paid for with her own money. (Daria rolls her eyes) What about my aunt Millie, uncle Jim, and Edward, Claude?

CLAUDE: Mistress Millie and Master Edward will be down soon, sir. I believe Master Jim will be joining them as well. (Daria and Jane exchange a subtle glance)

DARREN: Thank you, Claude. (Leaves the dining room with Daria and Jane, all go into the foyer) I'll be waiting in the garage, sis, we'll go in the Aston Martin.

JANE: (Hesitates, then proceeds:) Um, about Sandi, guys--? (Daria and Darren look at each other, then at Jane, as the three stop) Do you think she couldn't sleep well because of yet another nightmare, and was too tired to get up with the other members of her little fashion ensemble?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) I'd wager to guess that was the reason, Jane.

DARREN: (Nods grimly:) More than likely, Daria's right. (Pauses:) There's nothing we can do about it now, unless Sandi wants to possibly say something to us before she does her parents. (Changes tone to a more playful one, turns to Daria, smiles:) You know, I chose the Aston Martin because I was kind of "tired" of riding around in limos and helicopters. It'll be nice to take a peaceful country drive by ourselves for a change.

DARIA: (As she's now ascending the grand stairs, deadpan:) Yeah, I can see how riding in all those limos and helicopters can tire a person out, and everything. You need that all-important break with the Aston Martin to get away from it all. (Darren laughs and Jane smirks) Be back in a few, bro. (Mentally sighs, deadpan thought v.o.: And I looked so forward to riding in the Rolls today. I might as well face it--there's just too damn much money around here--and I find myself taking some of it, too.)

JANE: (Looks up after Daria:) I'm gonna wait out in the garage with Darren, amiga.

DARREN: (Turns to Jane, smiles, as they walk in the direction of the garage:) Daria and I will call you and everybody else later while we're out. Be sure to take a cell phone with you when you go outside to paint so security won't have to hunt you down on the grounds.

JANE: (Grins:) I dunno, I think it's more fun for the security guys to hunt me down, Darren, (pauses:) makes me feel like I've done something sneaky and low-down, and they're coming to get me, and put me in jail. (Pumps fist:) Power to the people! Down with "The Man"! Woo-hoo!

DARREN: (Chuckles:) I'm sorry to disappoint you, Jane, but the worse thing Tina and her "crack" squad can do is hold you until the police arrive if you did do something wrong. I'd save those rants for them. (Jane snaps her fingers in mock-frustration) Anyway, you have my cell phone number if you want to call us?

JANE: (Pats her jacket pocket:) Yep, got it right here. You guys have a good time. (Suddenly stops Darren by putting her left hand on his right shoulder, puts her arms around his neck, draws her face close to his, whispers huskily, smirks:) Gimme some goodbye sugar, "Darry".

DARREN: (Holds Jane around her waist, returns the smirk:) Sure thing, "Janey". (Begins to kiss her)


(Scene is upstairs)

Daria came up to Quinn's bedroom door and sighed loudly, still holding her Steppenwolf book, which she planned to take with her. She hated fibbing to Darren and Jane about getting something out of her bedroom, but this couldn't wait, much to Daria's consternation, and she wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible, with as little fanfare as she could manage. Daria knocked on the door lightly after a brief pause.

QUINN: (From inside, muffled:) Huh? Who is it?

DARIA: (Raises voice slightly:) Um, it's Daria, Quinn. (Pauses:) I want to speak to you about a few things, it won't take too long.

There was a brief pause, then the door opened to reveal a smiling Quinn, dressed in her yellow nightclothes with the pink bunny. As she looked past her sister in the hallway, her smile slowly vanished, replaced by a disappointed look.

QUINN: 'Morning, Daria. (Pauses:) Where's Darren? I thought he'd be here with you, or something.

DARIA: Hey, Quinn. (Shrugs:) Nope, hate to disappoint you, but I'm afraid you're stuck talking to your "beloved" other sibling, regular, plain ol' Daria. (Quinn snorts at her) He's waiting for me, so--(stops, looks behind Quinn, who frowns at Daria, baffled, turns around to see what Daria's looking at) ah, I see you have some company--

Behind Quinn in her (to Daria, sickenly) pink-painted room, a tray with Quinn's breakfast of muffins, skim milk, toast, and fruit sat partially-eaten in the middle of her pink-sheeted and ruffled king-sized bed. Daria was briefly surprised to see Stacy and Tiffany in their nightclothes also, lying chest-down on Quinn's bed on either side, with two identical trays of food.

STACY: (Perky tone, waves, smiles:) Good morning, Daria!

TIFFANY: (In her vacant tone, of course, smiles:) Hey...Daria.

DARIA: Um, 'morning, Stacy, Tiffany. (Sinister smirk, motions head in their direction, in a lower voice to Quinn:) "Something" I should know about, sis, with you guys having a "three-way" breakfast together in your bed-- (pauses, raises eyebrows in a suggestive manner:) if you know what I mean--?

QUINN: Huh? (Cocks an eyebrow in confusion, glances back at Stacy and Tiffany again, then it dawns on her what Daria's inferring, shudders, turns red from embarassment:) EWWWWW! Daria! That's just gruh--oss! Stacy and Tiffany just decided to bring their breakfast over from their rooms and eat with me this morning in my room, 'cause they didn't want to be eating alone, that's all! (Pauses, slightly uncomfortable expression:) Um, well, as for Sandi, she's not here because she wanted to, uh--

DARIA: (Gently cuts in:) --Yeah, Claude told us she wanted to sleep in later than you guys. (Lowers voice, glances at Stacy and Tiffany:) Did, um, you check up on Sandi?

QUINN: (Her voice also lowered, cuts eyes again quickly to Stacy and Tiffany, who are now speaking to each other in the background, sighs:) Um, no, I was too tired to do it last night. Sorry. I don't know if she went to the home theater or stayed in her room if she couldn't sleep again.

DARIA: (Still in the low voice:) Well, you might as well know that Darren spoke to Sandi's dad yesterday about her before Darren had that news conference. (Quinn's eyebrows raise in surprise) He told me and Jane over breakfast. He said he offered Mr. Griffin any financial help for Sandi, especially psychological. Darren added that her parents--(pauses:) well, Mr. Griffin at least-- will speak to Sandi about it when she comes back from here. Be sure to tell mom and dad, okay? They'd wanna know, and I'll leave it up to you to break the news, since you're Sandi's friend.

QUINN: (Ditto with the low voice, sad expression:) Sure. (Thought v.o.: I wonder why he didn't tell me that? Oh yeah, I guess he didn't because of Sandi bein' around us most of the time. [Pauses:] Then again, he coulda told me late last night in his office--:) Um, I hope Sandi will take the offer. I just hate to see her like this. (Pauses, then brightens, changing the subject:) We're getting ready to meet Juanita and Laflita when they come over later this morning to show off our clothes we brought last night, which is why we're up early, and stuff. (Daria gets a knowing smirk, courtesy of Jane's correct guess)

DARIA: Yeah, we sorta guessed that you'd all beat your Cross-Your-Heart-Bra-wearing chests over the success of the hunt of fashions at Cashman's. (Pauses as Quinn frowns briefly:) Look, I just wanted to tell you two other things in addition to Sandi, then get the hell out of here. First, our brother also told me and Jane that he didn't have his nightmare in the study again last night. (Pauses:) I, uh, thought that you'd want to know, since we're all genetically-related, (adds dryly:) though I know that really pains you to know that you and I share some of the same chromosomes.

QUINN: (So genuinely delighted about Darren that she ignores Daria's crack, gasps loudly while smiling, which makes Stacy and Tiffany, who're now observing the two, cock inquisitive eyebrows:) He didn't again? Wow, that's great, Daria! (Pauses, hesitates, slight smile, lower voice:) Um, thanks for telling me. He's really getting better, huh? (Quickly adds:) What was the other thing you wanted to say to me?

DARIA: (Pauses, gets an uncomfortable look:) I just wanted to say, (voice grows even lower, which makes Quinn lean in, trying to hear:) um, well, thanks for paying Darren for that "power suit" dress last night with your own money, even with the stipend he's now giving us. I'm glad you didn't want to take advantage of him like that over the makeover tape thing, having second thoughts. (Pauses:) I have to admit, you surprised the hell out of me with what you did, Quinn. (Quinn cocks a surprised eyebrow at Daria's frankness with her, for it's rare, of course)

QUINN: (Pauses, then smirks, decides to rub it in:) Huh, I see you finally came to your senses, sis. (Daria begins to frown as Quinn gets into a faux-dramatic tone and exasperated "suffering" stance by placing her arm across her forehead) I told you I didn't love our brother's money, just him, but nooo, you didn't believe me, and I had to show you my generous heart, and how I felt terribly guilty about taking advantage of him by using that makeover tape to get that dress, and everything. (Daria rolls her eyes at this) You know, you really should be begging me for forgiveness after you underestimated me, and whatever.

A curious Stacy, having caught only the tail end of the conversation (Quinn's part), had now rolled off of Quinn's bed, coming up to the two, while Tiffany continued to eat her breakfast. In the meantime, an annoyed Daria spoke through clenched teeth.

DARIA: Look, Quinn, drop the damn "Woe is me" act. I just came up here to--

STACY: (Sincere inquisitive tone and baffled expression as she comes up beside Quinn, cuts Daria off:) --Gee, Quinn, I thought we shamed you into paying Darren for that dress after you gave him that tape 'cause he had been so nice to us while we were up here, and had helped us get an opportunity to become fashion designer interns. (Quinn gets a wide-eyed look at Stacy, then glares, while Daria develops a wicked smirk)

QUINN: (Clenches her fists and teeth:) STACY!

STACY: (Cowers:) Eep! I'm sorry, Quinn! (Pauses:) Did I say something wrong? (Quinn slaps her own forehead as Tiffany looks up from eating)

DARIA: Why, Stacy, I do believe you've redeemed yourself. Since Quinn no longer has that tape, and the deal was for Jane and me not to go after her, we had briefly considered making you pay for assisting Quinn in giving us "makeovers" in our sleep, since we suspected you were the one who held the camera for the world to see while we were humiliated. (Stacy grows wide-eyed and pale, desperately looks to Quinn for help, which incidentally confirms Daria's suspicions about her helping Quinn. Quinn, however, turns away from Stacy with crossed arms, rolls her eyes) However, I think I can now persuade Jane to abandon that idea of hanging you by your mauve-colored fingernails via ten fishhooks and by the highest tree on the estate for most of the day. (Stacy gasps in shock as she pictures that frightening thought, then faints as a stoic-looking Daria and a wide-eyed Quinn watch her do so, and Tiffany stares vacantly at the scene for an instant, sits her tray aside, then rolls off Quinn's bed to help Stacy)

QUINN: (As she bends down and fans a laid-out Stacy:) Damn it, Daria! Look at what you've done! Why don't you just go, already?

DARIA: (Smirks:) Of a surety I shall take my leave, my work is done here.(Turns to go)

QUINN: (Suddenly grows pale as she realizes something:) Daria! Wait! (Daria stops in the hallway, and Quinn turns to Tiffany:) Tiffany, fan Stacy, 'kay? I'll be back in a sec.

TIFFANY: Sure...Quinn. (Squats down, holds Stacy's hand and fans her while Quinn goes out into the hallway, simultaneously shutting her bedroom door right behind her. Tiffany looks down at Stacy, concerned expression:) I hope Stacy...doesn't get too...fat just lying there...like that... (Stacy's eyelids slowly flutter open, and she sits up dizzily for a moment, mildly scowls at Tiffany, who gives her a sheepish expression)

Quinn glared suspiciously at Daria, who offered Quinn the usual detached look befitting one Daria Morgendorffer.

QUINN: (Narrows eyes:) You're--you're not gonna tell Darren about this while you guys are out, are you? I mean, I did pay him for my dress with my own money, no matter what the Fashion Club said or did to me to make me feel guilty about it!

DARIA: (After a moment:) I see. (Pauses:) You don't feel genuinely guilty at all about what you almost did, "shame" or not?

QUINN: (Looks away, lower tone:) Well, um--okay, maybe a little bit, but still--

DARIA: --He told me and Jane that he was proud of you for doing that, sis.

QUINN: (Wide-eyed, stunned:) He--he did? (Thought v.o.: Darren told them that first, too?)

DARIA: Yep. Darren's gonna tell you that after we get back. (Pauses:) Hell, he even believes that you're now officially over your little "money fixation" with his moolah. (Quinn rolls her eyes) I'd hate for his newly-found pride in you to be misplaced, Quinn. I think one of the reasons he gave us the stipend was to kinda appease your money-spending "appetite" a little so you wouldn't go behind mom and dad's backs to get some of it from him. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow, adds:) I suppose when you did the quid pro--(stops, realizes Quinn might not understand her term:) er, "deal" thing with the dress and the tape, it confirmed to him what he suspected you'd do all along, you know, take advantage of him. He told us it floored him that you changed your mind.

QUINN: (Scowls, thought v.o.: No! Darren wouldn't think that of me! [Pauses:] Would he?:) Damn it, Daria! I told you that I--

DARIA: (Cuts her off, crosses arms:) --Yeah, yeah, that you love our brother just for him, and not his money. If that's the case, then I'll assume that you won't ask him for any stuff on the side like that ever again.

QUINN: (Furious now, red-faced:) Now, wait a min--

DARIA: (Cuts her off yet again:) --I won't say anything to Darren, sis--provided that you promise me that you won't do something like that again.

QUINN: (Ashen:) B-But--

DARIA: (Sighs:) --Quinn, it's not much when you think about it. You and I both know that if we ever really financially needed something, (narrows eyes:) that is, for something really important, even more than fashion, beauty, and boys (Quinn gives her a quick, incredulous expression, as if to say, "What else besides that is more important?"), Darren would give us the money. Remember, along with our stipends, he's paying for our college educations in full, so we've got it made there, the same for mom and dad not worrying about figuring out how to shell out the money for it. (Quinn ponders what she's saying, nods briefly) We don't have to resort to anymore money-getting tactics--(pauses, smirks:) well, maybe we can still use that on mom and dad just for the hell of it on occasion in our final year or two while living under their roof. (Quinn returns the smirk weakly as Daria pauses:) Besides, in Darren's case, he could afford it easily, there'd be no "challenge" there. We'd be wasting our time, and the generational financial challenge here is to drain mom and dad for our "services", not our fellow sibling.

QUINN: (Slight smile for a second:) Yeah, that's true, I guess. (Sighs:) Okay, Daria. From this point on, I won't--I--won't--(pauses, struggles to form the words, notices Daria mock-helping her by mouthing the same thing, which makes Quinn glare at her for a moment:) Stop it. (Pauses:) I--won't--ask Darren for any money and stuff like I did last night in the wrong way--ever again. I--I promise.

DARIA: (Narrows eyes slightly, serious tone:) And I'll hold you to that promise, sis. (Leaves)

Quinn continued to stare after Daria for a moment, looked off to the side, all the while frowning as if she were thinking about something, then went back into her room.


Just as Daria walked by her parent's bedroom, Helen and Jake, still dressed in their nightclothes, came out, smiling. Daria sighed, stopped, and went back to meet them.

HELEN: Oh, Daria, there you are! Good morning!

JAKE: Yeah, 'morning, Kiddo! For a minute there, we thought we'd missed you leaving! We were gonna come to your room, and say goodbye! (Looks around:) Where's the Big Guy?

DARIA: (Deadpan, thought v.o.: Serves me right for dillydallying around here too long. Damn "acting up again" conscience.) Um, yeah, good morning, Mom, Dad. I'm on my way downstairs to meet Darren, who's waiting there with Jane for me in that one-story of a parking deck he calls a "garage". (Pauses, adds:) It's so big, I half-wonder why I haven't met "Deep Throat" as of yet.

JAKE: (Wide-eyed:) You mean, they've got a pornographic video library in there? How'd I miss that? (Frowns as Helen gives him a gargantuan eye roll, and Daria stares at him with her patented "expressionless expression":) Now, that's just plain nasty if you ask me! How in the hell can Millie allow our son to--

HELEN: JAKE! Daria's just kidding! (Sighs, turns to Daria:) Have you all eaten breakfast yet, or are you and your brother planning to get something later?

DARIA: Jane, Darren, and I have just gorged ourselves of Henri's fab food, Mom. (Pauses:) Don't worry, we won't leave here starving. (Pauses, thinks about leaving then and there, but decides to inquire:) Soooo, what are you two gonna do today, loaf around the palace here, or something?

HELEN: (Chuckles:) Well, sweetie, actually in a way, I am loafing around the, er, "palace", at least. After I speedwalk, your aunt Millie and I are going to ride some horses around the estate's grounds, and enjoy the scenery--

JAKE: (Jumps in, cuts Helen off, grins:) --And as for your 'ol dad, well, he's suddenly decided he's gonna take a day off from the golf course, and bone up on some cooking stuff he's been neglecting! (Helen and Daria become alarmed at this)

HELEN: (Frowns:) Jake, you didn't say anything to me about that last night! (Jake flinches a bit, confused and hurt, and Helen softens down the tone of her voice, pats him on his back gently:) I'm sorry for sounding like that, honey. (Pauses:) Er, well, are you sure you don't want to go golfing today? Don't you remember what our son said about sitting back and letting Henri and his staff do all the cooking while we're here?

JAKE: (Grins like the lovable doofus he is:) Yeah, I know honey, but that's just it! Henri's gonna still do the cooking, but he's gonna be giving me some tips on how to improve my cooking while he does! I'll be spending most of the day in the kitchen learning from a gourmet chef! We talked last night just before he left for the evening, through my, er, "condition" when I returned from the golf course, and he agreed to help me! (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Ya know, Henri didn't seem to mind when I asked him if I could work with him in his kitchen, 'cause he was as happy as hell, saying no one's been so eager to work with him outside of his staff since Darren had done it as a little boy! Henri told me Darren's folks wanted him to learn to do stuff for himself, so Henri taught him how to cook! (Pauses:) So, that's how our son learned to be such a good cook himself! Did you guys know that? (Chuckles as Daria and Helen nod, exasperated by Jake's clueless and forgetful nature, since they all had been told this already by Darren:) I guess Darren was kinda wrong in thinking Henri would be upset by my asking him, huh? (Daria and Helen now look at each other uneasily)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Well, um, with Henri teaching you, I can truly say that you can only get much, much better at the art of cooking at home, Dad. (Helen gives Daria a mild frown at her subtle sarcastic remark)

JAKE: (Not surprisingly, goes completely over his head, grins:) Gee, thanks, Kiddo!

HELEN: (Sighs at her husband's obliviousness:) Have a good time visiting Eastward College and Appleton Industries, Daria. Where else do you and Darren plan to go in New York City?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Well, I asked for him to "surprise" me a little, (smirks:) though I did want him to take me by that newly-opened New York City branch of the Sick, Sad World Museum of Oddities, which he already anticipated that I'd ask about. (Helen and Jake shudder) He'll take Jane by there, too, tomorrow. Darren told me that we'll eat out at a nice restaurant for lunch while we're in the city, as well.

JAKE: (Thumbs up, grins:) Tell Darren to take ya by Montoni's, Kiddo! It's a-ok in "The Jake's" book! (Gets a dreamy look, and in a salivating tone:) Oh, that lobster was perfectly prepared, just like I wanted it, tender, with that scumptious butter sauce--(brightens up:) hey, maybe I can get Henri to cook another one today, and I can compare each one!

HELEN: (Appeasing Jake, smiles:) Uh, yes, you do that, dear--

DARIA: I might as well tell you guys that Darren also told me and Jane about Appleton losing $50 million smackeroonies overseas because of our two favorite bastards. (Helen and Jake look at each other for an instant, mildly surprised over Darren himself telling them this) Hell of a way to misdirect some money, huh? (Smirks at Jake:) I mean, misplacing the TV remote control is one thing, but--

HELEN: (Pauses, uneasy expression:) Er, sweetie, your father and I didn't mean to keep that from you, but--

JAKE: (Cuts, in:) --Yeah, uhh--

DARIA: (Shrugs:) --Mom, Dad, it's okay. Like Darren told us, it's, uh, "nothing" we should worry over, or could've done anything about anyway, and it's "an inside company concern", to boot. (Pauses:) Oh, yeah--lest I forget, Darren told me and Jane he didn't have that recurring study nightmare of his last night again. Guess our being here is doing the trick like his doctor told him, huh?

HELEN & JAKE: (Delighted, with Jake pumping his fist:) That's wonderful, Daria! Yeah, my son's gettin' stronger and stronger!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Uh-huh, he's becoming a regular Schwarzenegger, he is. (Glances at her watch:) Well, I'm outta here, 'bye. (Quickly leaves)

HELEN & JAKE: Goodbye, Daria. See ya, Kiddo! (Both stare after Daria for a moment, look at each other, suddenly develop lusty smirks, then immediately go back into their bedroom, closing the door and locking it, all the while laughing and/or giggling.) (Note to reader: I'll leave what happens next for your imagination--brrr!)


(Scene shifts down the hall, opposite of the direction Daria left, the moment Helen and Jake had shut their bedroom door)

Millie exited out of her bedroom, stretching and yawning, still in her nightgown. At the very same instant, behind her a few doors down the same hallway, Jim came out of his bedroom, but dressed in regular clothing. He paused, wide-eyed for the briefest instant as he watched his ex-wife stretch, noticing her "feminine assets", briefly wistful of his memories of the woman he was once married to, and still loved deeply.

Jim shook his head of those thoughts (at least for the moment, anyway), particularly since last night's call to Gerald Woo, who had accepted Jim's offer of investigating Edward White in secret. Jim had told Woo of his suspicions about Edward, very weak as they admittedly were--and only after a considerable amount of begging and persuasion, along with a very generous advance fee, did Woo agree. Woo had been very doubtful and weary when Jim asked that Woo not speak to his nephew of the real reasons for the investigation, only that Woo use the "company embezzlement" excuse Jim had given to Darren last night if Darren asked Woo on the side what was going on. Jim also added that Darren did say that he could ask Woo for help, and the client privilege rule was in effect, anyway, so Woo could refuse to say anything to Darren if worse came to worse. Jim also added that if nothing turned up, he'd come clean with both Millie and Darren, and much to his consternation, Edward, taking the entire blame. That was the clincher. Woo promised that he'd find something by the end of the week either way, and contact Jim.

As much as it pained Jim, he'd have to put on an act for Millie's sake concerning Edward. There was no need to let Edward suspect that Jim was suspicious of him anymore than Jim thought, since to Jim, Edward seemed to be watching him closely last night, particularly just before Edward went out again with Millie. Jim frowned in deep thought as he remembered that Edward subtly checked his bedroom door to make sure it was locked when he spotted Jim coming towards him down the hallway. The two exchanged hostile glances, and were about to say something nasty, when Millie had suddenly appeared from her room, much like she had done just now. Both men saw her, and suddenly formed "phony" smiles to one another, the same for greetings. Millie didn't seem to fall for either man's "performance" for one bit, moreso with Jim's rather than Edward's (Jim later figured he was at a disadvantage following the disasterous confrontation in front of the media room the other day--to him, Edward had the "sympathy" edge with Millie as a result). A dour-looking Jim had went into his bedroom to sulk, while a smirking Edward went out with Millie. His Millie.

Jim deliberately made a loud clearing sound of his throat, which drew Millie's attention. She turned around.

JIM: (Small smile:) Good morning, Mill, you're looking lovely this fine day. (Pauses, looks at her tepidly:) Uh, sleep well?

MILLIE: (After a moment:) Um, good morning, Jim, and yes, I did--(pauses, goes into a cool tone:) considering that Edward and I came in a bit late last night. (Jim winces at this) Going to breakfast like me, I presume?

JIM: Er, yeah. (Pauses:) Uh, Mill? I want to, well--look, about last night--

MILLIE: (Narrows eyes, aloof tone:) --Save it, Jim. I don't want to hear it. You're still angry at Edward for being with me, and God knows I'm getting sick of it. (Turns away)

JIM: (Goes up to her, alarmed, gently grabs her arm, making her turn to him. Millie scowls at his grip, and Jim immediately releases her arm:) Mill, please hear me out, I'm begging you. (Millie crosses her arms, listens while keeping the scowl) I'm sorry, I'm really, really, sorry about last night. (Millie rolls her eyes) I, well, I went into my bedroom after you two left, and got to thinking, and decided that your happiness is the only thing I care about. (Adds quickly:) I even spoke to our nephew last night about it, and he encouraged me to get over you and Edward, and accept it--and, well, damn it, he's right. (Millie cocks an eyebrow at this) I'll do anything, and I do mean anything to get back on your good side--even (swallows:) apologize to Edward for treating him like such an ass. (Looks down sadly, sighs:) Please, please just don't shut me out, okay?

Millie's countenance softened considerably after a long moment. She walked up to him, putting her hand on his chest, looking up at him in the eyes. Jim looked down at her, trying to desperately control his rapidly increasing breathing over seeing her so close to him like this, even catching a whiff of her perfume, becoming mildly aroused.

MILLIE: (Sighs, small smile, soft tone:) Oh, Jim, do you really mean that--?

Suddenly, as if on cue, Edward, coming out of his room and still dressed in his nightclothes, spotted the two. He frowned briefly, coming up to them. Jim swallowed his rage with all of his might, half-wondering if Edward may have been listening to him speak to Millie, and coming up to "thwart" any amourous ideas on Jim's part at the last instant--and Jim discovered that he couldn't blame Edward if he did after being so close to his ex just now. Jim quickly formed a pseudo-contrite expression.

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Good morning, Edward.

EDWARD: (Returns the smile:) Good morning, luv. (Suddenly sweeps her in his arms and kisses her, all the while viewing Jim out of the corner of his eye. Jim struggles to keep his rising anger under check, remarkably maintaining a stoic face. Edward then stops, smirks at Jim while Millie swoons a little:) Oh, good morning, Jim, I didn't see you there. (Pauses as Jim mentally glares at him:) It's a beautiful morning, isn't it? So beautiful, I decided to get up and have an active day with Millie, here!

MILLIE: (Recovers, giggles:) If that's the case, then you're getting off to a rousing start with that kiss, Edward!

JIM: (Thought v.o.: I'll just bet you'll have an "active" day with her, you bastard.) (After a moment, slight smile:) Yeah, it's a beautiful morning. (Pauses, glances at Millie, who's giving him a "Well?" look:) Uh, Edward, I've been thinking about how I've been treating you ever since I arrived here, and I, well, want to apologize to you. (Edward cocks a huge eyebrow in shock, glances at Millie, who grins) I was telling Mill I thought long and hard about what happened last night, with my nephew chiming in as well, and after careful consideration, (sighs:) I've decided to let bygones be bygones. (Extends hand:) I want you to make Mill here happy, and that's it. Once again, I'm sorry. I won't treat you badly again, I promise.

EDWARD: (After a moment, stares at Jim's hand as if it's hiding a weapon, then slowly takes it, shakes while smiling:) Well, old chap, I don't know quite what to say. This is an incredible surprise, I must admit. (Thought v.o.: Almost too much of a surprise. You "suddenly" changed overnight? What rubbish. What are you up to, dear boy?)

MILLIE: (Surprises both men by putting her hands on top of them both as they're still shaking, now grinning even more broadly, then getting between them, and hooking her arms with each:) This is what I've been waiting for, gentleman. Now that we're all friends, let's go to breakfast together, shall we?

EDWARD: (A bit uncomfortable at seeing Millie so close to Jim, but forces a smile:) But, er, of course, luv. Lead the way.

JIM: (Secretly estatic because Millie's so close to him, grins:) What he said, Mill! (Pauses, in a mock tone, index finger pointed in air, dramatic gesture:) To infinity and beyond! (Millie laughs, while Edward subtly rolls his eyes, and the three leave down the hallway to the stairs)

The three came down the grand stairs, still arm-in-arm, chattering, at least Millie and Jim were, while Edward looked sullen. Jane came from the direction of the garage, where she had seen Daria and Darren off, and into the foyer at the same time. She cocked a surprised eyebrow as the three met her at the bottom of the stairs.

MILLIE, JIM, & EDWARD: (All smiling, but Edward's greeting is more subdued:) Good morning, Jane. 'Morning, Jane! Jane.

JANE: (Uneasy smile:) Um, 'morning, guys.

MILLIE: Have Darren and Daria gone yet, dear?

JANE: (Motions head in the direction of the garage:) Yeah, they've just left the ol' homestead.

JIM: Have you eaten breakfast, yet, Jane? I was wondering if you and me could rap today, you know, get to know one another, the same for Quinn. I wanted to speak to Daria yesterday, but I heard she went on the grounds, and stayed out there most of the day. (Shrugs:) I'll catch her later today or tomorrow, I suppose.

JANE: (Thought v.o.: "Rap"? RAP?) (Small, quick smile:) I ate with Daria and Darren already, thanks. From what I heard about Quinn, she and her friends are gonna be pretty busy with their fashion what-not stuff for most of the day, so you might want to talk to her as early as possible today, or tomorrow. As for me, I'm gonna be working on my mural in that mediatation room of Darren's for a few hours. I'd prefer for no one to come in there while I'm painting so I can concentrate on what I'm doing, but then I'll be working on a, uh, personal work of art outside on the grounds--um, the Northwest corner. According to Darren, it's the most isolated part of the estate. (Millie nods in agreement over this, while Jane sighs in a resigned manner:) If you want, you can, er, "rap" with me there, saaaay about "3-ish"?

JIM: (Grins:) It's a deal, Jane, "3-ish" it is! (Edward narrows an eye at this, gets a conniving smirk briefly)

MILLIE: (Thought v.o.: You'll love hearing about her family, Jim.) Spendid. (Pauses, smirks:) Well, we'd better go on and eat breakfast before Henri has a conniption. (To Jane's and Edward's perplexed frowns, Jim nods knowingly:) You see, Henri doesn't like to serve breakfast after noon. He believes in having lunch prepared at lunchtime, and dinner prepared at dinnertime, so breakfast should be made at breakfastime, in this case, before 11:00 a.m., at least, with few exceptions. Henri considers it to be--(pauses:) "unnatural" any other way.

JIM: (Snorts, grins:) Henri's problem is that he's never been to an IHOP. (Jane watches the three leave in the direction of the dining room)

EDWARD: (Narrows left eye, slight sneer in his voice:) "IHOP", old chap?

MILLIE: (Cocks an eyebrow, chuckles, pats Edward's arm gently:) International House of Pancakes, Edward. You know, they serve breakfast all day long--? (Cocks an eyebrow as Edward continues to stare at her, frowning, perplexed:) You've never heard of it? (Pauses while Edward shakes his head:) You really should get out more often, dear...(Jim snickers while Edward rolls his eyes as they enter the dining room)

Jane snapped her fingers, frustrated.

JANE: (As she ascends the grand stairs, to herself:) Dammit! If those two have suddenly become buddies, how are Daria and I gonna settle our bet? (Pauses, realizes something, smirks:) Of course, if they don't fight, I wouldn't have to worry about losing this bet to her, at least...(goes up stairs, and out of sight)


(Scenes shifts to a narrow, winding, country road, several minutes later)

The Aston-Martin convertible rode along at a leisurely speed in the bright and party-cloudy morning sky, with its top down. Daria sat shotgun with her book in her lap, her right arm resting on the door, and her auburn hair blowing gently in the cooling breeze. She leaned back, feeling completely at ease as she eyed the surrounding countryside wordlessly, taking in the surprisingly (to her) fresh and clean air, as well as the lush, green, heavily-wooded forests that dotted the landscape. It's almost pretty enough out here to make me feel depressingly cheerful...

Slightly smiling, Darren casually observed her out of the corner of his sunglass-covered eyes as he drove, himself silent, his own auburn hair, albeit shorter than Daria's, but thick and wavy enough to be blowing as well, in the air. It was clear that his sister was really taking in the beauty of the area for the first time since she arrived, save for her foray into the estate's Northwest grounds yesterday, and rather than say anything to ruin the moment, simply kept driving.

As they came out of the forest into a clearing that took up both sides of the road, in the distance, to her right, Daria spotted several black and white-colored cows scattered on a hilly, deep green pasture feeding, their tails lazily swishing back and forth. One of the cows looked at her for an instant, then resumed feeding. Just over the same hill, further off, she saw the silver-tipped tops of twin silos, obviously part of the farm the cows came from. Daria also caught a whiff of the cow's manure in the air, but that disarming smell left as quickly as it came. She cut her eyes over to her brother, who happened to catch her look, and smiled once again out of one corner of his mouth. Daria looked away for a moment, feeling mildly foolish and embarassed a millisecond, then gave her small Mona Lisa smile back to him, and spoke.

DARIA: Um, it's really beautiful country out here, Darren. (Pauses:) Pretty peaceful as well. I wonder why I didn't notice all of this before while I was out with you and Jane Sunday, and when we first came up here?

DARREN: Well, you had a lot of other things on your mind at the time, sis. I mean, riding in the limo sort of takes away the personal feeling of appreciating nature with all of the limo's modern comforts and "sterile" artificial atmosphere. The same goes for the helicopter, which zips me over the trees so fast, I'm there before I know it. That's why I wanted to ride in the Aston Martin, particularly with the top down. I use this road mostly to just ride when I have nothing to do, or to just get away from it all, and to drive to Eastward during the year when the weather is good, that is, the spring through the fall. (Grins:) You should be here to see the leaves change their colors, it's beautiful. When it's bad, say for ice or snow during the winter, I'll use the highway, so of course, I can call the highway patrol or the mansion's security in case my car got stuck, or something.

DARIA: That reminds me--speaking of the mansion's security, Tina was awfully agitated that you left without any when she saw us just about to leave the grounds by the gate--(pauses:) she caught up to us before we could escape.

DARREN: (Laughs, then shrugs:) She's just being a little protective of me, Daria, that's her job. I think Tina's still worried about the media fallout from my announcement yesterday concerning me and Sandi, and that reporters might still seek me out and ask some annoying questions about that. I believe it was a big surprise to her that we'd go without any security at all to New York City. Truth be told, I guess I wanted to get away from them for a day, like the helicopters and limos, too.

DARIA: I know I'm not complaining about having anyone else along, bro. Those security guys, well-meaning as they are in doing their jobs, get on my damn nerves, too, sometimes. (Pauses, ponders, realizes something:) Hmm--you know, when Tina offered to give us some protection, you told her that you'd allow it only if she'd come along, and she began to make excuses about reviewing the mansion's security, and such, then suddenly booked off like her life depended on it. (Darren chuckles) That was about what happened to you guys Monday with mom and dad, wasn't it?

DARREN: You and Jane saw how flat-out tired Tina and I were when we came back, as opposed to Helen and Jake, who looked as if they could've went on all night. They wore us completely out. (Pauses:) I think those two needed that tour a lot, and I'm glad I took them when I look back on it, now. (Grins:) Poor Tina still hasn't recovered from that. Besides, it's not my fault she insisted on going with us, though I'm relieved that she did. I teased her a bit about it when I went with Quinn and her friends yesterday, too. (Calmly ponders:) I think she's plotting to get back at me for the tour Friday morning. (Daria cocks an eyebrow) She asked me that in an, to me, that is--(pauses:) too-eager of a manner while we were coming back with Helen and Jake to the mansion about resuming our martial arts workouts since my doctor gave me the go-ahead to exercise again, and I told her we could do so Friday.

DARIA: (Slight concern:) Uh, are you sure you know what you're doing in letting her do that? I mean, if she is kinda PO'd--

DARREN: (Gives a sharp laugh:) --Probably not, but then, both of us never really held back against other, anyway, and I need to get back into shape. She'll obviously have the edge--(pauses:) all the worse because she usually did even when I was in shape. I'll be brave, and take my lumps like a man.

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Eh, it's your life. (Darren chuckles) So, you don't know what this Pierpoint guy is like, huh?

DARREN: Nope, like I told you and Jane, only that he's a bit eccentric and flighty. I've never had him in any of my classes, obviously, and haven't really met him personally, though my (adopted) mom met him and his wife once while out in Maness. (Smiles:) She said he seemed "harmless" enough. Other than that, he's your average dean of journalism who happens to want to meet you.

DARIA: (Begins to read in her book, deadpan:) My heart beats wildly with anxious anticipation at the approaching moment. (Pauses, sighs, slowly shuts her book:) Hell, this can wait. (Darren cocks an eyebrow at her out of the corner of his eye over his sunglasses, but says nothing) Um, Darren--?

DARREN: (Cuts eyes over at Daria, uneasy expression:) Ah, what is it, sis? (Pauses:) You're not nervous about meeting Dean Pierpoint or Constance, are you? I mean it's really no big--

DARIA: --No, I'm not. It's something else altogether. (Pauses:) It's about--well, it's about everything you've given us, or in this case, me. (Adds, deadpan:) Quinn can speak for herself, though I'm sure she'd never even think of bothering you with such "petty" concerns like I'm having now. (Thought v.o.: As long as she keeps her promise, that is.)

DARREN: (Puzzled, frowns briefly, cuts eyes over at her:) You? "Petty" concerns? What's up?

DARIA: (Looking everywhere but at Darren because it's so uncomfortable for her, slightly blushes:) Uh, it's all about my specially-made padded bedroom, the contact lens, my college education, the stipend, the library/study, everything. (Frowns:) Damn it, this might kinda sound stupid to you, but I just feel like I'm losing my independence in taking all this stuff from you. (Darren's eyebrows raise in surprise)

DARREN: (Exasperated sigh, slightly pained expression as he keeps his eyes ahead, under his breath:) Oh no, I hope it's not the "charity" thing again.

DARIA: (Cocks an inquisitive eyebrow:) Come again?

DARREN: Helen and Jake told me they didn't want to take my "charity" when I offered to pay for your's and Quinn's college educations in full Monday, the same thing for the stipends, though it was easier to offer that to you two after they accepted my college funding offer. They thought I was giving them a "hand-out" of some sort. I told them that was ridiculous and crazy, that they were family now, and that I only wanted to help them out with you and Quinn. (Pauses as he glances at her out of the corner of his eye:) Don't tell me that's what you're thinking?

DARIA: (After a moment, pushes a few strands of wind-blown hair from her face:) Well, just a little bit, I suppose. It's just that I don't want to get too comfortable knowing that I can get anything I want from you, and feel like I'd become soft or something, and start to take my having money for granted. I still want to make my own way through life, (adds:) stupid as it is most of the time.

DARREN: (Smirks:) Good, I'm glad. (Now it's Daria's turn to look surprised) That's why we're going to Eastward, Daria, so you can make your "own" way through life, the same for Quinn and the Fashion Institute. My (adopted) parents made it clear to me that I wasn't going to get a "free" ride because of our wealth, adding that as an Appleton, I had to set an "example" for others. Hence, they laid down the law, and made me work--hard. They even volunteered me to feed the poor in soup kitchens, and I actually came to like it. Contrary to what you may think, there were no "freebies" under our roof. My (adopted) parents wanted me to appreciate the value of work, and believe me, I do now. (Narrows eyes while keeping them forward on the road:) They didn't spoil me--(pauses, adds with a bit of trepidation, smirks:) and I guess I should be glad that they didn't, thank God.

DARIA: (Small smirk after a moment:) I suppose it was kinda difficult to get that last part out, huh?

DARREN: (Sighs, in a tone that is afar off, shakes head slowly, while still keeping eyes on the road:) The stuff they had me to do to be as "normal" as any other kid...I still do some of it when I find the time, (adds:) at least at home I do--

DARIA: (After a moment, quieter tone:) Yeah, you told me about the stockroom work at Appleton, and Elenor told me and Jane that your parents made you clean up your room and do some yardwork outside, like clipping some hedges, or riding the lawn mower around that humongous "yard" of yours, all for the price of a weekly allowance. No wonder you didn't have a problem with helping in the housework while you were staying with us in Lawndale, inside or out. Comparing our house's and yard's sizes to both of your's is almost like comparing a gnat to a sperm whale.

DARREN: (Chuckles:) It took me the better part of two hours to mow the main part around the mansion on the weekends. Good thing I had an umbrella-covered riding lawn mower, and I didn't have to do our "yard" every week, just twice a month. (Adds:) Oh, and did Elenor also tell you and Jane that I had to clean the horse stables twice a week?

DARIA: Nope, she didn't disclose that to us. (Pauses:) So, um, out of curiousity, how much did your folks pay you a week, (adds, hesitates:) if it's alright to ask--?

DARREN: (Small shrug:) Sure. (In a casual tone:) $100.

DARIA: (Extremely skeptical deadpan tone, hiding her shock:) You're kidding. That's only twice what I got per week, and two-and-a-half times Quinn's.

DARREN: (Grins:) Nope. They made me budget it, too. I could only spend a maximum of $50. That helped me to understand the value of a dollar, and how to save it.

DARIA: (Shaking her head slowly:) I'll be damned. Here, Jane and me were thinking you were getting at least, oh--(looks up, ponders:) $500 to a $1000 per week. (Darren cocks a very arched eyebrow as he glances at her out of the corner of his eye)

DARREN: Now, you're kidding. (Snorts playfully:) Wait, don't tell me--you got that amount from reading Richie Rich, am I right? (Daria gives a brief Mona Lisa smile)

DARIA: Hell, no. Besides, Richie Rich's folks pay him at least a million per week, give or take a hundred thousand, or two. Compared to them, you're a primitive native living in a mud hut. (Pauses, smirks:) Get a grip, this is reality, not a damn comic book. (Darren laughs)

DARREN: So noted. (Gets a serious expression:) All joking aside, sis, your worrying about allowing the money issue to bother you alone is grounds enough to show that you'll be okay. I don't allow my money to possess me--I possess the money. Just always keep that thought in mind.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I'll file that in the back of my steel-trap mind, then. (Pauses:) Have you spoken about the issue of your money to Jane?

DARREN: (Deep in thought, then responds:) Well, actually, we haven't really discussed it. I thought about saying something over breakfast when I brought up you and Quinn having those stipends, but I decided not to. (Pauses, shrugs:) I mean, Jane has money coming in from her artwork, so at the moment, I think it's a moot point, though I'll probably say something to her on the side later, maybe tomorrow. (Pauses, hesitates, cocks an eyebrow:) Ah, did she or Tom ever say anything to you about either of them talking about Tom's family's wealth? (To Daria's slight narrowing of eyes, gingerly speaks:) I'm trying to gauge how she'd respond if or when I ever offered to help her financially in something like helping her show off her artwork, and I can use Tom as a measuring rod--?

For a moment, Daria privately thought about bringing up why Darren didn't approach this "thorny" issue with Jane the same way he did with his previous girlfriend Stephanie Reardon, but Daria decided not to say anything because she didn't know how her brother would respond, possibly bringing back some rather personal, yet also painful memories to him. She decided to go with the "safe" route.

DARIA: (Sighs:) I'm afraid you guys are on your own, there, bro. Jane never spoke to me about getting any moolah from young Thomas for her artwork, or anything, for that matter. I don't think she ever gave a damn about his or his family's wealth while she was going with him--(pauses, realizes:) which I won't either now, by the way. (Cocks an eyebrow, hesitates:) Don't tell me you think she'd believe that the money issue--

DARREN: (Rolls his eyes, cuts her off sharply:) --Of course not, sis. Like you or Quinn, I know Jane doesn't care about my money, and it's not a surprise to me that she'd be that way towards Tom. (Grows quieter:) Still, I'd like her to know that if she ever needed something for her art--

DARIA: (In an assuring tone, gently cuts him off:) --I'm sure Jane would come to you, Darren. After all, she did accept those camel hair paintbrushes from you, right? How many did you give her, seven? (Pauses as Darren nods:) How much were they each, anyway?

DARREN: Uh, about $50. (Daria's eyes grow wide) They'll last her for years to come. (Pauses, sees Daria's still-stunned expression, smirks:) Now, don't go into shock on me.

DARIA: (Recovering:) It's much too damn late for that, bro. (Pauses:) Um, that reminds me: How much did that contact lens and solution for me to use while swimming in the pool cost?

DARREN: (After staring at her for a moment out of the corner of his eye, sighs, laid-back, dismissive tone:) Ah, only $50,000. (Daria's eyes grow very wide now, her mouth drops, and Darren then grins:) Just kidding. (Daria then glares at him) The actual price was more in the range of $2500.

DARIA: (Sarcastic tone, smirks:) Now, I kinda wish it did cost you $50,000 for that rather smart-ass, heart-stopping crack, Darren. Statements like that are supposed to be my specialty, you know, laced with the usual sarcasm. (Darren chuckles) Still, that's pretty expensive for a contact lens and solution.

DARREN: Yes, but I think it was worth it, am I correct?

DARIA: (Looks away, turning red, mumbles:) Yeah, uh, I suppose. They felt great on my eyes.

DARREN: Good, and remember, that's your's to use now, when you decide to swim--(pauses, adds while grinning:) save for this morning. (Daria gives him a mock-droll expression) You can also use that solution with your other lens at home--(to Daria's now-"expressionless expression":) er, in case you ever decide to go out and about in Lawndale without your glasses again, that is.

DARIA: (Smirks:) I see you've spotted those flying pigs over Lawndale? (Darren snickers) Nah, I'm satisfied with my current look, thank you. (Goes back into her book)

DARREN: Gotcha.

DARIA: (After a long moment, looks up at him out of the corner of her eye:) Uh, Darren--?

DARREN: (Drifting tone:) Hmm--?

DARIA: You, um, still have that picture of you and me that I gave you, right?

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow, glances sideways at her:) Eh? Sure, it's in my closet safe, safe and sound, you saw me put it in there yourself. (Pauses:) Why do you ask?

DARIA: (While now reading her book:) Oh, just wondering, that's all. I just want to make sure I get it from you before we leave Saturday.

DARREN: Oh, okay. (After a long pause, glances over:) Uh, Daria--?

DARIA: (Nose in book, drifting tone:) Hmm--?

DARREN: Why should it matter if Jane has that picture or not? I mean, she's painting us together like that to show everyone else, anyway.

DARIA: (Puts down her book, a bit annoyed:) Because I'm not gonna make it any easier for her to make me feel anymore uncomfortable than what I'm gonna be when she reveals that painting of us, Darren, that and the fact it'll appear like Jane's painting will appear to be her own idea, and not inspired by that picture. Besides, when it comes for her to remember how we looked, I want Jane Lane to strain her brain.

DARREN: (Smirks:) Nice rhyme there. (Ponders as Daria rolls her eyes:) Sooo, are you saying you're embarassed for the other members of our family to see you in such a "vulnerable" position?

DARIA: (Back in her book:) Precisely. My hard-ass cynical rep is at stake, here.

DARREN: You do realize we'll be taking some pictures before you all leave, right?

DARIA: (Ditto with the book:) Um-hm. So?

DARREN: So, you'll have pictures of me and you together anyway with the rest of our family. It shouldn't make a difference.

DARIA: (Pauses, smirks, looks up:) Unless you want me to suddenly jump into your arms the moment the picture is taken, yes, it will. (Darren laughs while Daria looks away, mumbles) I, er, want that picture for, um, myself.

DARREN: (After a moment, surprised at his sister's frankness, then looks forward while chuckling, under breath:) Um-hmm. Boy, my quiet middle sister is cherishing some "special, personal memories", isn't she?

DARIA: (Looking quickly back into her book, scowls, red-faced, under breath:) Yeah, especially the ones where I strangle my older brother for embarassing his quiet middle sister, and putting her on the spot like that. (Darren laughs) Maybe I can get Jane to paint that for me?

DARREN: (Shrugs, grins:) As long as you get my good side sis, I don't care. (Daria sighs and smirks, and Darren glances at her book:) Ah, Steppenwolf. I'm kind of surprised you haven't read it yet.

DARIA: (Small smile, not quite Mona Lisa:) Actually, I have... (Daria's voice fades as the car goes down the road and out of sight around a curve, behind a clump of trees)


(Scene is back at the mansion, about an hour later)

The green BMW driven by Krystal came up to the stone-posted and barred front gate, and she leaned out to a camera mounted on the top of the barred gates, showing her smiling face. The camera was located on the far left side of the gates in such a manner that it would be difficult for anyone coming into the mansion for the first time to spot it. Of course, Krystal McKinna wasn't just anyone, having been here numerous times, though not since the funeral for Darren's (adopted) parents, and only very rarely in the past two years. The voice on the intercom embedded within the left stone post, Claude's, boomed back to her.

CLAUDE: Oh, good morning, Miss Krystal. When Master Darren told us you were coming over later this week, we assumed you'd call first to let us know when you'd arrive. I'm afraid that Master Darren has left the premises for most of the day with his sister, Mi--er, Daria.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Yes, I know. My spy watching the estate told me they already left. I wanted to meet Darren's birth parents and talk to Jane Lane anyway.) Good morning, Claude. (Pauses, in a faux-surprised tone:) He's left with Daria, you say? That's too bad! You're right, I should've called first. I thought I'd surprise him by suddenly showing up. (Pauses, sighs:) I suppose I might as well meet his birth parents since I came here. (Pauses:) Do you want me to key in the access code? (Reaches over to press a row of buttons on a covered console beneath the intercom)

CLAUDE: That won't be necessary, Miss Krystal. (Krystal pauses in mid-reach) Besides, we've changed the code more frequently recently--(pauses:) for rather obvious reasons. I'll let you in, and will let Mistress Millie and the others know that you're here. One moment, please. (The barred gates begin to slowly swing open, and Krystal drives in, waving her hand in gratitude)

The car came up the long driveway to the front circle, and parked. Krystal got out and threw her hair back in a nonchalant manner as she casually eyed the opulent mansion. At the same time, Tina and another security person appeared from the side. Krystal spotted Tina and grinned, which Tina returned in kind. Both came up to each other, and shook hands warmly, having known each other.

TINA: Hello, Krystal, good to see you again. I see you're well-tanned and rested from you and your family's vacation. (Smirks:) The question is, are you a little too rested?

KRYSTAL: (Grins:) Nahhh--don't worry, I've still been working out with my martial arts, of course, while relaxing. (Smirks:) Have you "worked on" Darren, yet?

TINA: (Chuckles:) That won't happen until Friday morning. Darren agreed to resume our martial arts sparring when I asked him this past Monday. (Pauses:) You're welcome to watch, you know.

KRYSTAL: You know, I think I will. In fact, if you're game, I'd like to work out with you and Darren. I haven't done that with either of you in God knows how long. (Thought v.o., bitter mental chuckle: Especially with me, since he'd been with Stephanie, that is. At least I don't have to worry about her, anymore...)

TINA: (Cocks an eyebrow at this for an instant:) Uh, sure. Darren will like that. (Frowns as she looks toward the direction of the front gates:) I wished he and Daria had taken some security with them when they left...

KRYSTAL: (Surprised expression:) What? You mean they went off by themselves? (Drops an eyebrow:) Why didn't you--

Krystal's statement was silenced as the front door suddenly opened, and Millie, along with Helen, Jake, Edward, and Jim, all now dressed in casual summer clothing, came out. Millie went up to Krystal and shook her hand warmly, smiling. One of the security men with Tina whispered something in her ear, then Tina left with him, going into the mansion. Krystal narrowed an eye at her, then turned to Millie.

MILLIE: Krystal, darling! Hello! It's good to see you again! How long has it been--?

KRYSTAL: (Quietly smiling in return:) Hello, Millie. It's been almost three months, right? (Adds reluctantly, voice trails off as she looks away:) Since the funeral...

MILLIE: (Along with everyone else, a respectful silence for an instant:) Yes, that's right, dear, since the funeral. (Brightens up, turns to Helen and Jake, extends hand:) Krystal, let me introduce you to Helen and Jake Morgendorffer, Darren's birth parents. Helen, Jake, this is Krystal McKinna. (Helen and Jake shake Krystal's hand, smiling)

HELEN: Hello, Krystal, this is a pleasure. (Adds reluctantly:) My husband and I want to thank you for, well, about my son concerning Sunday, and what you did on his behalf--

KRYSTAL: (Puts up hand, smiles:) --Say no more, Mrs. Morgendorffer. (Sighs:) As much as I hate to say it, my brother Rory was asking for it with what he said and did, and before you ask, he's fine, other than his ego being bruised. He's gotten over it. My parents weren't too pleased at first when they heard about what happened, but given my brother's past--(hesitates:) "history" with women, and my explanations on Darren's behalf concerning the situation, they didn't say or do anything else. (Helen lookes relieved) In fact, they wanted to meet you and your family while you were here, but my dad was suddenly called out of town last night on a business emergency, and my mom decided to go with him. They won't be back until Sunday, a day after you all leave. (Krystal turns to Jake, smiles:) Hello, Mr. Morgendorffer--

JAKE: (Comically grins:) Hiya, Krystal! (Throws arm up in a "high-five" gesture, which makes Krystal flinch a bit, narrows his eyes:) What's goin' down? (Helen rolls her eyes, while Jim and Millie chuckle, and Edward takes on an exasperated "Gimmie a break" expression)

KRYSTAL: (Slightly wide-eyed as she tepidly returns his "high-five" gesture:) Uh, right, "Going down". (Pauses:) Well, er, nothing's "going down" much, Mr. Morgendorffer--

JAKE: Call me Jake, Krystal! Any friend of my son's is a friend of mine! (Krystal narrows eyes a bit at the mention of "friend" concerning her and Darren, but says nothing)

HELEN: (Chimes in quickly:) And you can just call me Helen, dear.

KRYSTAL: Oh, um, sure, okay, Helen, Jake.

JIM: (Comes up, big grin:) Krystal! Hey! Remember me? What's it been, around eight months since we last met? (Shakes her hand vigorously)

KRYSTAL: (Smirks, in a bit of a sarcastic tone:) How could I ever forget you, Mr. Morse? (Thought v.o.: Especially since you seem to be here at the same time as this "Edward" guy is staying under the same roof as Millie? I wonder if you're trying for another shot at your ex? This is quite amusing...)

JIM: (Mock-admonishing finger-wagging at her:) Now, really, Krystal, you should know to call me Jim, like you called Millie by her first name!

KRYSTAL: (Contrite expression:) You're right, I forgot. Sorry Jim, my bad.

Krystal looked past Jim at Edward, who came up between Jim and Millie, making a point to gently "nudge" Jim out of the way with his shoulder. Jim gave him a brief scowl from behind as Edward went by, which an inwardly-amused Krystal took note of, the only one of the group to do so, privately confirming her suspicions. Krystal shook Edward's hand as he came up, smiling. He suddenly surprised her by gently kissing the back of her hand, which made Jim mentally gag.

EDWARD: Hello, I'm Edward White. Charmed, my dear. You may simply call me Edward. (Smiles, looks her over briefly:) I must say, Millie or Darren never informed that they knew such a lovely young woman.

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles, slightly blushing:) Why, thank you, Edward, and I must say that flattery will get you everywhere with me, so please keep it up, will you? (Everyone laughs save for Jim, who simply shows a small smile) I've read about you in the papers, and seen you on the tube with Millie while on my family's vacation.

EDWARD: (Now looking a bit uncomfortable, uneasy smile, which makes Jim drop yet another suspicious eyebrow at him:) Ah, yes, the media, quite the predators, aren't they? I've been quite fortunate they haven't really followed up on me, though, especially since they've certainly had most of their attention on poor Darren lately.

KRYSTAL: (Shrugs:) I'm sure they'll eventually let up on him, Edward, if nothing else, they'll become bored. (Edward nods in agreement to this, gives a reassuring "I told you" smirk to Millie, who playfully rolls her eyes) I've discovered that the world's attention span is constantly changing these days. (Quickly changes tone, looks around:) Sooo, Claude informed me that I just missed meeting Darren and Daria. Where's everybody else? (Thought v.o.: Particularly Jane Lane?)

HELEN: (Stepping in:) Well, my other daughter Quinn is--

Helen was suddenly cut off by Quinn's appearance in the still-opened front door. She was wearing a new off-the-shoulder pink summer dress and matching hat that she purchased from Cashman's of Park Avenue (with her own money), her familiar perky voice in full force.

QUINN: Mom! (Relieved tone, smiles, speaks in her usual, "excited-about something" mile-a-minute tone of voice:) There you are! I thought about usin' the intercom to talk to you, but after consul--consul--talking to the Fashion Club an' the Watleys, I, like, decided to use the "personal" approach, and found you guys out here. Anyway, I was talking to the others about your idea for the family spending time together this Friday, and--(delighted gasp and smile as she finally notices Krystal:) oh, hiiii Krystal! When did you come in?

KRYSTAL: (Smiles back:) Hello, Quinn. I just came up.

QUINN: (Grins:) Hey, since you're here, maybe we all can go back to Reynaldo's today, or something? They have a cute--

HELEN: (Mild admonishing tone and frown, cuts Quinn off:) --Now, Quinn, Krystal might not have the time to--

KRYSTAL: (Now gently cuts Helen off, chuckles:) --No, it's okay, Helen, I don't mind Quinn asking, though I probably won't be able to go until tomorrow morning, at the latest. (Smiles at Quinn:) How about 10:00, when they open?

QUINN: (Shrugs:) Sure, I don't think there will be a problem with that time, but I gotta check with the others just to be make sure, and everything.

KRYSTAL: No problem, take your time. I plan to be here for a little while, anyway. (Quinn nods)

MILLIE: Quinn, um, what did you want to say concerning this Friday and the family?

QUINN: Huh? Oh, yeah! Mom, I know you and aunt Millie have some stuff planned for th' early part of Friday for the family--(adds dismissively:) minus Jane, who's going to her little art school and stuff--but, like, I wanted to know if we can have a party here on Friday night, you know, like some sorta farewell to leaving Darren's on Saturday? We can, like, invite a few people from around here, and stuff, (adds quickly as she sees Helen forming an expression of doubt:) but it would still be mostly family, and you guys would kinda be like chaparrals there while we party! (Millie and Jim form a strange look in response to Quinn's misnomer, while Krystal and Edward chuckle to themselves)

HELEN: That's chaperones, sweetie--

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Whatever, Mom. Think about it--I've, like never asked you guys to be at a party that I'm attending at th' same time, you know! What do you think?

HELEN: (Exasperated sigh, narrows eyes:) I think it's obvious you want to meet some boys at this party, Quinn, but I must admit that your idea of wanting your father and I here with you and your friends while doing that is quite a surprise. (Pauses:) You have been well-behaved since we've been up here, and haven't asked your brother for anything on the side--(glances over at Jake, while Quinn guiltily looks away for a moment:) I suppose we can lift your punishment just for Friday, until school starts in two weeks. Honey, what do you think?

JAKE: (Rubs chin, then grins:) Heeeey yeah, I like it, Helen! We can get down and boogie, plus keep an eye on any possible (finger quote:) "shenanigans" that the young folks might try ta do! (Quinn gets a "Why me?" look of exasperation) Heck, it'll be fun!

JIM: (Jumps in, grins:) Yeah, I like it too, Helen! I haven't been to a good dance in years, not since--(pauses, looks over at Millie, red-faced, and Millie looks away, embarassed a bit, while Edward glares at him for a moment) ahem, er, well, if you do this, it's okay with me, I like parties! (Gives Jake a "high five")

MILLIE: (After a moment:) I don't think there would be any harm in hosting a little get-together, Helen. (Looks at Jake:) After all, some of Maness' residents haven't met your husband, yet.

HELEN: Then I suppose it's settled. (Quinn gets a very delighted grin on her face, and Helen forms a thoughtful expression:) Of course, this might be a good opportunity for Daria to mingle as well with some of the town's residents--(Quinn chuckles, rolls her eyes)

QUINN: (In a dismissive tone:) Mom, please. We're talking about Daria. She's not gonna want to come, you know, even if the party's here. She'll probably want to stay in that study of Darren's, reading away-- (adds, realizes:) probably the same with Jane and her art stuff! (Krystal privately ponders this as Quinn snorts:) It's a wonder that Daria gets enough air to breathe being in there all the time since we've been up here!

HELEN: (Frowns slightly:) Now Quinn, you shouldn't talk about your sister like that, the same for Jane! Besides, you know Daria's out with your brother right now, and she was out on the mansion's grounds yesterday doing her reading while you and Darren were gone, and it's not as if she's ever been out. Remember the parties at her little friend Brittany Taylor's, and Daria's going out with Jane to that "Zen" place, the same for this "McGrundy's"? As for Jane, she'll probably come with Darren, who I'm sure will be there, and more than likely, Daria will tag along. (Suspicious look, narrows eyes:) Don't tell me you don't want either of them to be there, do you?

JAKE: (Ditto with Helen on the look, in "back-up" mode:) Yeah, don't tell me you don't want that, Quinn--?

QUINN: (Quickly puts up her hands, frantic:) Nonono, Mom, Dad! If Daria and Jane want to come, then that's their business! I'm just tryin' to warn you two to not get too excited in thinking Daria's gonna be there, that's all! (Turns to Krystal, giggles:) You're invited too, Krystal.

KRYSTAL: (Small smirk:) Why, thank you, Quinn, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

QUINN: I'm going back to my friends in the rear, now. We're having a fashion show to show off our stuff we brought yesterday from Cashman's! (Gets an "idea" expression:) Hey, do you have the time to come with me now? It won't take too long, and I'm sure everybody would love to see you again, and we can check to see if they'll want to go to Reynaldo's then!

KRYSTAL: (Ponders a moment, shrugs:) I guess I can be there for a bit. Sure, okay, just a second. (Turns to Helen and Jake:) I definitely want to get to know the two of you better. (Pauses:) What do you plan to do today, and where can I find you both?

HELEN: Actually, Millie and I are going out to ride on the grounds, and Edward's going to join us. Henri said that he'll fix us an early afternoon picnic lunch, and send it out there when we call him.

MILLIE: (Chimes in:) Yes, we'll probably be on the Northern part of the estate grounds, since Helen hasn't really been up there much at all--

JIM: (Cuts in:) --If you all don't mind, since Jake's not going off to golf today, I'd like to come along, too. (Edward frowns ever-so-slightly in disapproval, but stays silent) I'm sick of hanging around inside the mansion when I'm here, moping around. A ride will do me some good.

JAKE: (Grins, points thumb at his chest:) And if ya wanna find me, Krystal, I'll be in the kitchen with Henri, learning his cooking techniques! (Gets an "idea" look on his face, very big grin:) Hey! How about if I join you guys out there when you call Henri for that picnic stuff? I'll just ride on a horse where you guys are with a picnic basket!

HELEN: (Uneasy look, glances at the others:) Um, Jake, I think your bringing the picnic basket is a wonderful idea, but maybe you should have one of the security people here bring you to us by a golf cart instead? I mean, you haven't ridden a horse in years, and holding a picnic basket while riding one might be a little awkward--

JAKE: (Waves her off, cocky grin:) --Nahhh, don't worry, honey! Ol' Jake has it all well in hand, trust me! (Looks at watch, grows wide-eyed:) Oops! Gotta go for my first lesson! I'll see you guys later! (Zooms past an astounded Quinn and Krystal into the mansion's front door)

KRYSTAL: (Searches for words as she mildly gapes after Jake:) What an--interesting man...

QUINN: (Embarassed expression, looks away for an instant, under her breath:) Um, yeah, in more ways than one. (Resumes normal voice:) C'mon, Krystal, see you all later. (Goes into the mansion, followed by Krystal)

MILLIE: (Reaches for her cell phone in a pouch on her belt, to Helen as they all walk towards the stables:) I'll inform the staff about the party for Friday night. (Frowns:) Of course, we'll have to find a music group of some sort on such short notice...(punches buttons as Helen nods)


Krystal looked around as she and Quinn walked through the mansion's hallway that led to the rear, her eyes narrowed.

KRYSTAL: Uh, Quinn? Do you know where Jane is--?

QUINN: (Shrugs:) Oh, she's busy painting some sorta mural in that meditation room of Darren's, wanting to spruce it up or something, or another. (Krystal's eyebrows raise in mild surprise) She's not letting anybody in there to see it until she finishes, so I wouldn't, like, bother her, or anything. (Quinn frowns a bit in disgust:) Don't tell her I said this, but after seeing where Darren does his meditating, I can kinda understand why she'd wanta paint it, it's so dirty and dingy-looking, ick. I just hope it won't be one of those weird paintings she usually does.

KRYSTAL: (In a disbelieving tone:) Let me understand--Darren actually allowed Jane to do this? (Quinn nods) And here Darren told us at school that he'd never allow that room to be touched, except over his dead body. (Uneasy chuckle:) What did Jane do, hold a gun to his head, or something?

QUINN: (Pauses:) Actually, I don't know what she did, but whatever it was, it worked.

KRYSTAL: (Frowns in deep thought:) Hm. (Pauses, hesitates:) Well, I guess I'll see her later today, it can wait. (Thought v.o., deep frown of frustration: Damn it, my work's cut out for me here. How in the hell did she get him to--)

Krystal was in such a deep thinking mode that she didn't see Fiona, who was dusting a painting in the hallway, and subsequently bumped into her, knocking Fiona down. Quinn stopped, turning back around to help a bewildered Fiona up, while Krystal looked at Fiona stoically, her arms crossed.

QUINN: Oh, Fiona, are you okay?

FIONA: (Shaking her head, holding it:) I-I think so, Miss Quinn, thank you--(looks over to see Krystal, turns pale in surprise, which causes Quinn to cock an inquisitve eyebrow:) M-Miss Krystal? I-I didn't know you were here--

KRYSTAL: (Frosty tone as she turns to resume her way:) Obviously not. Watch where you are next time, Fiona, dear. (Leaves)

QUINN: (Looks after Krystal:) Well, it was only an accident, Krystal, no big deal, right, Fio--(now sees Fiona quickly walking down the hallway:) Fiona?!

FIONA: (As she rushes around a corner, hurried tone:) Sorry, Miss Quinn! I'm way behind in my cleaning, thank you again!

Quinn looked in the direction Fiona went in for a moment, then back at Krystal's with an utterly baffled expression. She sighed, and followed Krystal. Like, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that Fiona was kinda scared of Krystal, but that's stupid--isn't it?


(Scene changes to Darren's meditation room, the same time, positioned in such a way that we see Jane on her cell phone in the foreground with the room's [presumably locked] door in the background, which is located on the last unfinished wall of the room as well, save for the barely-seen outer edges of what appears to be some yellowish-tan paint from the other walls that intercept it. In other words, what is finished isn't "seen" as of yet by you, the reader. There are paint-splattered plastic sheets of the same yellowish-tan color covering the floor, and a bevy of opened and unopened paint buckets, all purchased by Jane and brought in by the staff right after Darren had given her permission to paint the room, lined up in front of the unfinished wall.)

A minute earlier, Jane had been deep in her painting mode, what she personally called her "Zone", when Elenor had knocked on the door and told her that she had a call. Jane had been half-tempted to tell Elenor to ask whoever it was to call back later, wanting to concentrate, but when she was told it was a "Trent Lane", a suddenly-delighted Jane immediately had stopped painting, and took the call, half-seriously berating her brother over his taking so long to call her before he could say a word, then sounding her delight at finally hearing from him.

JANE: (Smirks:) So how's your first "real" tour been going, brother mine? Where are you? (Chuckles:) Pick up any groupies as of yet?


(Scene changes to an actually nice-looking hotel room with Trent on the hotel's phone, lying on a king-sized bed. He is wearing a blue denim vest over a--gasp--clean white tee-shirt, and matching blue denim pants, and is bare-footed. Trent forms a contented smile while looking around his room.)

TRENT: It's been pretty cool, Janey. After being in Connecticut and New Jersey for a few weeks, we're now in a town called Pageville in Rhode Island--(frowns slightly:) or is that Massachusetts? (Glances out window, in his usual clueless, tired-sounding monotone voice:) Hmmm, at least I think it's Rhode Island. The air seems to be really clean out there...

JANE: (After a pause, sighing sound:) Trent, focus. Are you guys in Rhode Island, or Massachusetts?

TRENT: Yeah, now I remember, it's Massachusetts 'cause we drove through Salem yesterday. Jesse wanted his picture taken beside the witch's racks at the museum there. Max and Nick got into some sorta fight over who'd use our camera, and I ended up taking it when they were kicked out. Jesse's pic turned out kinda dark there, though--could be because I forgot to remove the lens cap.

JANE: (Dry-sounding voice, sarcastic:) Yeah, I'm sure that was it, Trent, had to be. If you leave those cursed lens caps on too long, they'll screw up everything. (Pauses:) How much longer will you guys be touring?

TRENT: Another few weeks, Janey, then we'll figure out how things are, and right now, they're looking pretty good. So far, we've played in some high-class clubs several times a day almost non-stop, better than our tour earlier this summer. (Disappointed expression:) We've been so busy, we really haven't any time to get any girls either, and stuff. (Smirks:) I guess the good thing about that is even Max and Jesse have been too busy playing to notice. The crowds have been standing-room only, thanks to our agent "Nomad X", his partner "Caira", and their advanced booking techniques. The crowd's rocked with our groove, which we're really getting off on. Right now, we're taking a few days off, which started in Salem. That's why I'm calling you just now, sorry. (Pauses, sighs:) To be honest with you Janey, me and the guys are kinda bored. We won't be playing again until Monday. I'm sorta afraid that we'll end up being rusty.

JANE: (Snickering sound, though it's twinged with a tiny bit of genuine admiration of her brother's recent success:) Hey, don't knock it, Trent, rest up and enjoy yourselves, and don't worry about speaking to me 'till just now, okay? I don't think you'll get that rusty with your music. After all, who will be able to tell? (Trent laughs, then coughs) I mean, while you're laid back, you can go to see the sights and sounds of--of--(pauses:) um, what's this "Pageville" famous for?

TRENT: (After a moment:) Hmmm--I'm not sure, maybe Jess will know. (Pauses, realizes:) Oh yeah, he's probably still kinda out of it with the other guys in their beds from drinking too many pina coladas last night at a bar we went to.

JANE: Do tell. I'm surprised you weren't soused yourself.

TRENT: (Shrugs:) Hey, somebody had to drive them all back in one piece. Being the designated driver--

JANE: (Laughing sound, cuts him off:) --You mean, you drew the "usual" shortest straw to be the designated driver again, didn't you?

TRENT: (Smirks:) You know me too well, sis, yeah. (Pauses, changes tone, gets serious:) How are things between you and Darren going--(adds:) I mean, really going? I heard about all the stuff that's gone down on the tube with this "Rory" dude, and Darren telling everybody that there's nothing between him and that Sandi chick, with Darren really laying it out on Mrs. Griffin for saying that it was. Me and the guys got a real good laugh out of that. (Wicked grin:) I bet that rubbed Sandi's mom raw, huh?

JANE: Heh--did more than that. Darren told me and Daria that Sandi told him Linda Griffin fainted 'cause she couldn't take hearing what Darren said. (In a slightly bitter tone that Trent picks up on:) In the case of that Rory jerk-off, he's better off not being discussed right now, though his sister Krystal seems okay. It's hard to believe that they're of the same blood, she's so different from him. (Snickering sound:) At least in our case, we have that same famous laid-back Lane quality.

TRENT: (Smirks:) Yeah, we Lanes are consistant, aren't we? (Jane gives a laughing sound, and Trent becomes more serious:) How about you and Darren? Everything cool?

JANE: Trent, it's--well, it's beyond cool. Darren's really a wonderful guy, he's so good to me, almost too good. You've just gotta see the bedroom he's provided for me, it's like Daria's, padded and everything, only black. By the way, Daria's got another padded bedroom up here, a byproduct of Darren's sense of humor, which I find myself appreciating more and more everyday (under her breath, chuckles:), save for a "certain" pool incident this morning. (Trent drops an eyebrow) Don't ask about that, either. Oh, and by the way, Mr. and Mrs. M also have given their okay for me to stay under the same roof with Darren while I go to college, so that little worry is over and done with, too. (Trent smiles) As for the rest of the mansion, we've got servants, and everything, and the surrounding grounds are incredible. His aunt Millie isn't half-bad either, (adds quickly, snickers:) for a member of the older generation, that is. I'll be talking to Darren's uncle Jim later today, Millie's ex. (Sighs:) The best way to describe him is that he seems to be a "very mild" form of Daria's dad, only more attuned to reality. (Excited voice:) Oh, and get this--Millie's new beau, a fella named Edward, is staying here, too. Thing is, Jim still carries a torch for Millie, and he's kinda a rival for Edward, (pauses:) although both of them seemed to have reached some sorta truce this morning. (Adds:) Daria and I have a bet over whether or not those two will throw down the gauntlet and fight physically for her affections before we leave. I bet on "Eddie", Daria on Jim. (Long pause:) Getting back to Darren, I--I don't think I've ever felt this way about a guy--(adds:) even Tom, and that's saying a hell of a lot.

TRENT: (Pauses, looks off for a second:) Uh, Janey, one question I gotta ask about Darren just to be sure about something, so I hope you don't get too upset--

JANE: (Cuts him off:) --Lemee guess: Do you think part of my attraction to him is because of his enourmous wealth, and how it might be some sort of "distraction" between us?

TRENT: (After a moment:) Uhhh, don't take that the wrong--

JANE: (Chuckles, in a soft tone:) --Don't worry, I won't. (Pauses:) Relax, Trent. I'm "used" to going out with rich guys, remember, like Tom? Sure, he was a Sloane, but so what? Tom wanted people to appreciate him for him, and not his family's name and fortune. Darren's certainly more high-profile and um, (pauses:) richer, but he's a down-to-earth guy, like Tom, too, (chuckles:) save for the fact Darren's a little more "optimistic" than Tom. (Pauses:) Oh well, none of us are perfect. (Trent smirks) In a way, you can say being with Tom "prepared" me for Darren.

TRENT: (Ponders:) So, if that's true, then, well, what's the real difference in the two, sis? Aren't you afraid that the same thing might happen between you and Darren that happened with Tom?

JANE: (Pauses, gets into a determined tone:) Trent, as you know, both Tom and I did some stupid things, and I know I don't wanna make those same mistakes with Darren. The first thing is that Darren appreciates art more than Tom, (adds quickly:) not that Tom hated my stuff, mind you, just that he didn't--(pauses:) understand it as much as Darren seems to, and how important it was and is to me. As you also know, Darren paints for a hobby on occasion, a definite plus in my book. Second, (pauses:) I told Darren privately about my suicide attempt, Trent. (Trent cocks a surprised eyebrow:) This happened after he told us about what he went and is going through with his own personal, hellish nightmares from the past few months, and I mean that literally. We can talk about that later, he gave me his permission to tell you, it's too much to go over into now. Anyway, I felt that he needed to hear my story after he told us his. My point is, is that we shared something terrible that happened to both of us, a bond of some sort. I didn't have that strong of a bond with Tom, at least not later on. Third, crazy as it may seem, Darren's being in Maness and my being in Lawndale actually helps us because we don't have to see each other almost everyday like I did with Tom, which in a way kinda took away some of the anticipation of seeing him. Let's face it, I think part of the boredom we built up was because I saw Tom too much. It makes me want to see and appreciate Darren even more when I visit him on every other weekend, which we've agreed upon. Finally, fourth, there's no tension with Daria, mostly because Darren's her brother, (incredulous tone:) and she whole-heartedly supports us being together, can you imagine that? I don't think there was a time where she ever supported me being with someone so completely freely, and we both know how she felt about Tom--(pauses, snickers:) even though she should've thanked me for seeing him, otherwise, those two would've never gotten together. Geez, not only that, but Daria's folks like me, and even Quinn can stand me being with her brother--I think. (Pauses, in a lower tone:) Look, I'm honest enough with myself to understand that this might not last, so I plan to go through this one day at a time. I really like Darren.

TRENT: (Smiles, relieved:) That's cool, Janey. (Impressed tone:) You've really thought this out. I really like Darren, too. After hearing you, I think you and him make a whole lot of sense by being together, (adds:) unlike what happened between you and Tom in the end, you know? To be honest with you, I wondered why you guys even stayed together for as long as you did. (Pauses:) Look, sis, I've waited to tell you this until now, since you and Darren now seem to be hooked up pretty good. (Sighs:) I was really shocked when you told me you and Tom had decided to give it another shot, but since it was your life and everything, I respected your choice. Still, I really thought you two would break up right after Daria, uhhh--(looks away, figures he's said too much)

JANE: (After a moment of waiting for Trent to continue:) Gooo onnn--

TRENT: (Uncomfortable expression:) --Uhhh, well, you know, when Daria was staying at our place while her house was being repaired following that fire her family had? (Note to reader: See the episode "Fire!", of course) She and Tom were really getting along, and, uh, talking about their interests and stuff with you there, and you were feeling sorta, uh, left out. I talked to Daria a little on the side after you two had left that night about what the deal was, and I don't even think she knew what was what, you know? (There is complete silence on the other end, and Trent forms a contrite look:) Aw, Janey, geez, I'm sorry for even bringing it up, it's old news.

JANE: (Sighing sound:) No, it's okay, Trent, seriously. I was just thinking. (Pauses, in a barely-audible tone:) So you spoke to Daria about her and Tom, but she didn't to me when I asked her about him point-blank, huh? God, Daria was even more torn over him than I first believed. (Trent cocks an eyebrow in confusion, but keeps silent, while Jane's voice returns to a normal, but sneering tone) Tom and I should've known it was over then and there, but oh no, we had to "give it another shot", with the end result of breaking up after the kissing incident with Darren bringing even more misery to us--(pauses:) or so I thought.

TRENT: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh?

JANE: (Laughing sound:) Wait 'till you hear this, brother dear, it's quite a tale--(there is a door-knocking sound on her end) hold that thought a sec, bro...


(Scene switches back to Darren's meditation room)

Jane opened the door to find Elenor, then quickly but subtly slipping out into the hallway while immediately shutting the door behind her, gently causing a slightly-disappointed Elenor to step back, getting out of her way. This was identical to what happened earlier when Elenor had told Jane about Trent's phone call. Privately, Elenor had hoped to see what Jane was doing to the room on both occasions, but Jane apparently was determined not to allow anyone to see it until she was ready. Elenor sighed to herself, frustrated. Jane smiled, not bothering to put her hand over the cell phone's speaker part.

JANE: What's up, Elenor?

ELENOR: (Curtseys:) I'm sorry to bother you, Jane, but Mistress Millie and Miss Helen have decided to have a party for this Friday night here before you all leave. I was told to inform you. (Adds, smiles:) Miss Millie's fretting a bit over what sort of musical group she could hire over such a short notice, though I'm sure someone will be found. (Trent's voice is heard saying, "Party? She needs a group?", but Jane hasn't noticed as of yet)

JANE: (Smirks, amused:) A party, with Millie and Helen sanctioning it? (Pauses:) Who's coming?

ELENOR: (Pauses, frowns in thought, looks away for a moment:) Well, from what I understand, everyone who's currently staying here, Jane, and some of Maness' residents. (Adds:) The Watley sisters, who are currently with Miss Quinn and her friends in the rear, will be there with their brother Curtis, I presume. (Pauses:) Oh yes, and Miss Krystal, who's visiting here right now, will be there as well.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, surprised:) Krystal's here? (Trent's voice is heard again saying, "Hey, Janey? Did I hear 'party' and a 'group' being needed?", but again, Jane hasn't noticed)

ELENOR: Yes, Jane. She's with Miss Quinn and her friends at the moment, then she'll speak to Miss Helen and the others out on the grounds. She understands that you're quite busy now, and she'll see you later.

JANE: (Thought v.o.: Hm--thought she'd be here when Darren would be, for some reason. Oh, well...:) Thanks, Elenor, I'll--(Trent's now very rare, very excited fervent and loud voice, calls, "Janey, Janey!", and Jane, finally hearing, puts her ear back to it:) Trent--?

TRENT: Hey, sis, did I hear something about you guys having a party there Friday night, and you'll be needing a musical group, or something--?

JANE: Yeah, what about--(pauses, turns pale as she realizes:) aw, Trent, don't tell me you want--

TRENT: (Cuts her off:) --It's perfect, Janey, think about it. I can visit you there and see everybody else along with where you'll be living while going to college, plus the Spiral can play, both in keeping us from losing our groove, and giving Darren's aunt and Mrs. M a band! I can get the guys to do it cheaply, too, (adds:) since we kinda know Darren, and stuff, but we can talk about price when we get there, and before you ask, our managers won't mind, since we can play to make a little extra money on the side for ourselves on our off-days, without them getting a dime. (Jane pauses, stares at the phone in genuine surprise) It's a part of our contract Daria's mom made sure we had so they wouldn't take advantage of us. C'mon, what do you say?

JANE: (Thought v.o.: Maybe he is learning something.) (Very deep sigh:) Well, I do wanna see you. Okay, I'll relay what you said to me, and call me back in a half-hour, or something, capeesh? (Frowns:) And please, please, please don't fall asleep on me, okay? I don't wanna have to wait on pins and needles for your call. (Elenor drops an eyebrow, smirks, gives amused chuckle, which makes Jane smirk at her) I'm trying to finish something for Darren today, and I have to concentrate. The sooner you call, the better. If Millie and Helen accept, I'll give you fellows directions on how to get here when you call back.

TRENT: (Confident tone:) Don't sweat it, Janey, I know they'll accept. You can speak up for us. Don't worry, sis, it'll be cool. I'll call you in a half-hour, I promise. You won't regret it. (Pauses:) Hey, I gotta see if the others are up, yet. If not, I'll have to wake them with a bucket of hotel ice, or something--(adds:) like we've done to each other everyday since we've been on tour. (Jane smirks) Talk to you in a few, Janey--

JANE: --Hey, wait, don't you wanna hear about me and To--(forms a flat expression at the dial tone, clicks off her phone:) now, that's a surprise of epic proportions, Jane, m'dear. Guess I can tell him about the "triangle" story later. (Before a puzzled Elenor can inquire:) A veeeery complicated story, Elenor. I'll tell it to you, someday. Could you tell Helen and Millie that they have a band for Friday? My brother's volunteered his uh, "brigade". He plays in an alternative underground rock band, you see. They're on a tour right now, but are resting up between stops. (Uneasy laugh:) They can, er, "squeeze" us in.

ELENOR: Oh, they're on a tour? (In an curious tone, uneasy chuckle:) Well, I'm obviously not exactly a, um, "fan" of rock music, but I'm guessing he and his band must be quite good to take time from their break and come here to perform, I suppose. (Jane stifles herself from laughing out loud with every fibre of her being, nods again) I'll inform Mistress Millie and Miss Helen. Do you want something for lunch?

JANE: (Ponders:) Ask Henri to fix me up his scrumptous pizza, Elenor, extra sausage and pepperoni, with a soda on the side, okay? Make it an 8-inch one. I'll get it at about 11:30 in the dining room. (Smirks:) I hope that's not too early a time for him to fix it for me.

ELENOR: (After a moment, frowns, confused at Jane's words, then realizes, chuckles:) Oh no, Jane, I believe that'll fit well within Henri's time frame for lunch. (Curtseys, turns slowly from her)

As she carefully made her way down the hallway, Elenor glanced at Jane out of the corner of her eye, trying to see if Jane would go back into Darren's meditation room so she could see something, anything, of the room for even an instant. Jane, however, didn't budge an inch and crossed her arms instead, giving a bemused expression at the senior maid's mildly odd behavior. After watching Elenor go around a corner, only then did Jane go back in.

Elenor drooped her shoulders in defeat as she stopped around the corner, looking down with her eyes closed, sighing in defeat. She then opened her eyes, looked up, and saw a smirking Claude, Henri (both of whom had bet against her, saying Jane wouldn't allow her to see anything), and several other servants, including some security, along with Tina, all rubbing their hands together in anticipation of collecting. The group was about 50 percent for and against in trying to find out what was painted in there. A somewhat skittish-looking Fiona looked between her and them, leaning against the right wall, then turned away, sighing. Elenor frowned briefly for an instant at her demeanor, but chalked it up to Fiona's being in the losing pool as well. Shrugging, she went up to them, digging in her pockets.


(Scene changes to Eastward College, the same time)

Daria and Darren had already been at Eastward for about 30 minutes. Dean Pierpoint's secretary had informed Darren on his way over that the dean had been a bit "detained" at his home (the dean didn't tell her why), and would be 20 to 30 minutes late in meeting them in his office. Darren offered his sister a quick tour of the campus in the meantime.

From the moment she came onto Eastward's campus, Daria noticed that it looked similar to her parent's alma mater Middleton, but that's where the comparison stopped. For one thing, Eastward looked far cleaner in appearance (exactly like the picture brochure she had of the school, which unnerved her a bit for some reason), almost pristine in it's upkeep of the mostly Colonial-style buildings and grounds, which encircled a statue of George Washington on a horse. There were lush, deep-green trees from the surrounding forest that seemingly were everywhere. Daria gave a tiny smile of satisfaction. If she ever wanted to go outside to study here on campus, she'd have plenty of privacy, though she preferred to go back to the mansion after school. The first building Darren showed Daria was where most of his Business Administration classes were, Westin Hall, a white, four-story Victorian-era building which stood out from most of the campus' other structures.

To Daria, the library, located almost dead-center in the middle of the campus, was superb, the best outside of the mansion's (though the mansion had the privacy edge), and light-years ahead of Lawndale's, both the town's and her high school's. It had virtually everything she needed in her studies, from an almost-endless array of reading and research material, to instant Internet access on the top-of-the-line PCs, which had just been replaced over the summer, in its computer center. Daria noted briefly that almost all of the PCs were made by Appleton Industries. When she asked Darren about it, he told her that Appleton had an exclusive agreement with the school for several years, long before the time he became a student. Besides, he added, many other student's families had given generously to the school to keep it at the forefront of learning, though he did admit of hearing rumors that some students in the past had gotten in for such "arrangements". Darren made it clear in the very next instant to his sister in no uncertain terms that he had to earn his way into Eastward academically, and that there was no "deal" under the table, to which a mildly-embarassed Daria quickly apologized for inferring anything, and a just-as-embarrased Darren quickly apologized for his inferences about his sister's conclusions, adding that he couldn't blame her if that entered her mind. The two quickly put the matter behind them, continuing the informal tour.

Even some of the early-arriving students staying in the dorms Darren introduced her to impressed Daria--at least they didn't seem as "brain-dead" as most of the students she had met at Middleton the time she, Quinn, and her parents went to visit. (Note to reader: See "College Bored") Virtually all the students they met expressed their condolences to Darren over what had happened to him during the summer. Several female students were heartbroken that he was now "unavailable" (much to Daria's amusement), but wished him well with his girlfriend Jane.

Interestingly enough, both didn't spot many professors. A random student they stopped explained that he heard most of the faculty wouldn't arrive on the campus until Friday.

The two entered into a building on the southern edge of the campus, going onto a fifth-floor reception area of the six-floor building at the end of a hallway. The secretary sitting at a desk there greeted them, and motioned that they could enter Dean Pierpoint's office behind her, since he was now there, having just arrived a few minutes before.

The stained, wood-wall panel and floor office they entered was a modest-sized, but immaculate one, with several pictures of various journalists on the walls on either side of the doorway they walked in, and a bevy of awards and degrees encased within glass picture frames on the wall opposite of the two, along with a Venetian blind-covered arched window that overlooked the campus. In front of the window was a large simulated wood desk, complete with a neat stack of papers that were on the middle of it, and two comforter chairs in front of the desk facing away from them, which they quietly sat in. Oak bookcases seemingly bursting with books and notebooks on journalism lined the entire walls on both sides of the office, save for two doors near the rear, one on the right, and one on the left, directly across from each other. A water cooler complete with paper cups sat near the rear left door.

After observing the office silently, they noticed Pierpoint didn't seem to be around. The two were baffled for an instant, but there suddenly was the sound of a toilet flushing from behind the door on the right side, followed by the sound of running water, and humming. Daria and Darren looked at each other.

DARIA: (Mildly uncomfortable expression and tone:) Um, I guess that's the john he's in, huh?

DARREN: (Ditto:) Good guess. (Pauses:) So, while we're waiting for him to come out, maybe you can tell me what you think of Eastward so far, Daria--?

DARIA: (Her usual monotone voice, but spiced ever-so-slightly with an impressed tone:) Well, I have to admit that things here have gone far beyond my expectations, Darren. Everything's--(pauses, relieved sigh, slight smile:) great. I wondered if something or someone weird would suddenly come up and confirm my already-preconceived notions, but--

At that moment, Dean Pierpoint finally emerged from the private bathroom, wiping his hands quickly, still humming. He was a short, fat, balding, bespectled man with black to mostly silver hair, dressed in a conservative blue suit and vest, with a white dress shirt, and a red and white-striped tie. To Daria, now standing with her brother, he faintly resembled the high school principal Mr. Weatherbee from Archie Comics, save for his height.

Finishing his little humming ditty, he attempted to toss the crumpled-up paper towel into the bathroom's trash can, but for some reason, it refused to leave his hands. Pierpoint frowned, then began to shake it off frantically, but the towel continued to "hold on" for dear life. Daria and Darren stared at the scene, transfixed. Finally, the accursed towel fell from his hands, but it missed the trashcan. Pierpoint sighed, then reached down to pick up the towel, but lightly hit his forehead in the doorway, immediately standing erect.

PIERPOINT: Oww! Drat! (Rubs his forehead, frowns down at the towel:) Well, you can just stay down there, then, blast you! (Comes over to them, now smiling, holds still-damp right hand out, which is taken gingerly by the two, then both subtly wipe their hands on their clothes to dry off the rest of the water while he speaks:) I'm sorry I was late coming in, but I accidently locked myself out of my home when I left for here, leaving my car keys as well, and my wife had to come back from work to let me in to get them! (Pauses, pensive expression:) She didn't seem too pleased to hear that, for some reason. (Chuckles, shakes head:) You know, that's the third time that's happened this week! (Daria and Darren glance at each other uneasily) You must be Maria Dorgenmorffer, and her brother Aaron Dappleton! Welcome, welcome! I'm Pean Dierpoint, ah, I mean, Dean Pierpoint, head of the journalism department! I'm so excited to finally meet you, Maria!

(Note to reader: Pierpoint is pronouncing "Maria" MAR-ee-uh, not by the Spanish pronunciation MA-ree-uh. In other words, it "rhymes" with Daria's name.)

DARIA: (Out of the corner of her mouth, to a stunned and wide-eyed Darren, very low tone:) I should've known it was too good to last. I'm going to learn my "dare-to-be faintly optimistic" lessons one of these days, you'll see. (Darren cuts his eyes over to her, smirks a little, but says nothing)

DARREN: Uh, hello, sir, I think you made a-- (narrows his eyes as Pierpoint rubs his forehead again:) are you okay?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) That can be taken one of two ways, you know, bro. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Is that a trick question? (Darren now tries to give Daria an admonishing look, but instead struggles not to laugh)

PIERPOINT: (Removes hand from forehead, looks up at the ceiling for no reason with an utterly befuddled expression, not paying attention to Daria's crack:) Eh? Oh yes, yes, I'm fine, Aaron.

DARIA: (Thought v.o., follows Pierpoint's gaze for an instant with her bewildered brother: That remains to be seen. [Pauses:] Shoot me. Shoot me now.)

DARREN: Uh, ah, actually, that's Darren, dean.

DARIA: And, um, it's Daria. (Cuts eyes to window, thought v.o.: It's obvious that I can't jump out there, it's not high enough to finish me off...)

PIERPOINT: (Raised eyebrows, genuinely confused:) Oh, isn't that what I called you two?

DARIA: (Before Darren can say anything, sighs:) Yes, you did, our mistake. (Sits, gently pulls her puzzled-looking brother down with her by his arm, and he reluctantly sits as well. She leans over in a whisper:) I just wanna get this the hell over with, Aaron. Let the Pean think he's right. (Darren quietly chuckles to himself, shakes his head)

PIERPOINT: (Smiles obliviously, not hearing Daria again as he eagerly makes his way around to his desk:) Ah, good, good, I thought I--oops! (Tries to sit in his chair, but misses it, falls on the floor, and Daria and Darren, [well Darren does, at least,] immediately rise to assist Pierpoint, rushing around the desk, lifts him off the floor from behind, under Pierpoint's arms)

DARREN: Here, let me help you up, sir--

PIERPOINT: (Confused, but grateful:) Thank you, Aaron, my lad. (Twists around to glance at his chair, comically confused expression:) How in the devil did my chair get there?

DARIA: (Deadpan while sitting back down:) It was probably moved by one of those invisible, rather mischievous chair gremlins, the sneaky little bastards.

DARREN: (Tries once again not to laugh at another of his sister's cracks as Pierpoint now finally gives her a brief, odd look:) W-Well, if you're okay, dean, I'll sit back down. (To which he does, gives Daria a mock-warning glare, and she smirks)

PIERPOINT: (While carefully sitting, turns chair to them, grins:) Now, Daria, about your er, somewhat dark, but rather splendid writing--

DARIA: (Cuts him off:) --Don't you mean, "Maria"? (Darren hangs his head, tries to hold it in)

PIERPOINT: (Confused expression:) What? (Looks down at his papers, which he shuffles:) Oh, my word, you mean, your name's Maria? I thought it was--

DARREN: (Jumps in to keep from exploding in laughter, as Daria smirks slightly, for she's having a "ball" with "this" one:) --S-She's just kidding, dean, (cuts his eyes over to her, pleading look:) right, Mar--(shakes his head quickly:) I mean, Daria?

DARIA: (Holds back, keeping the smirk:) Yeah, just funnin' you a little, sorry. (Thought v.o.: At long last, someone that I can dump my famed sarcastic wit and humor on up here. It's time to have some fun with this hybrid of a O'Neill/Kevin/Brittany/Inspector Cleuseau/Nutty Professor/Mr. Weatherbee, dammit.)

PIERPOINT: (Pauses, ponders, then heartily laughs:) Oh, I see, you have quite a sense of humor there, young lady! I like that in our students! (Comically swings fist, which scatters his stack of papers a bit:) It shows a wonderful, upbeat attitude in their approach to their education and even their future lives in general, a real "Can-do" spirit of success! I can see you participating in so many activities around here! (Daria frowns a bit at this observation, the virtual opposite of what she wants to project, while Darren snickers to himself, drawing a brief glare from her) (Pierpoint re-shuffles and straightens papers, with several floating off his desk:) Now, as I was saying, Maria, about your somewhat dark, but rather spendid writing-- (Daria sighs, and Darren sits back in his chair, bites his fist hard to keep from losing it, turns red, shuts eyes, which water)


(Scene returns to the mansion, about 30 minutes later)

The mini "fashion show" the Fashion Club had put on for the Watley sisters and Krystal had just finished, with everyone agreeing to meet Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at Reynaldo's for a "final fashion round-up", and what additional clothing they could purchase for Friday's party. The Watleys were suprised to discover that they were to be made "honorary" Fashion Club members, considered to be a "high" honor by the Fashion Club. A seemingly-relieved Krystal quickly excused herself, saying she wanted to get to know Quinn's parents better, then speak to Jane just before leaving for the day. Before anyone could say a word, she had quickly made her way towards the Northern grounds by waving down a passing golf cart, driven by one of the security guards. Along with the others on the patio, a mildly miffed Sandi observed Krystal leaving, her arms crossed.

SANDI: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Like, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that Krystal wanted to get away from us as quickly as possible.

STACY: (Hesitates, then adds timidly, uneasy chuckle:) Maybe it's just that Krystal really wanted to meet Quinn's parents pretty badly, and maybe we were kinda bor--(quickly changes to:) I mean, holding her up a little, Sandi? (Sandi drops an eyebrow at Stacy, which causes Stacy to wilt a little:) Eep! I--I mean, we are the Fashion Club, right? We'd never bore anyone on fashions and boys!

SANDI: (Ponders this, notices Stacy's petrified expression:) Hmm--perhaps you may have something there, Stacy, (smirks:) and relax. I, like, won't bite your head off for giving your opinion--this time. (The other F.C. members look shocked for an instant, particularly Stacy, while Sandi continues unabated:) In addition to wanting to meet Quinn's parents, perhaps Krystal was already well-versed on both subjects, and was too kind to let us know. (Pauses as the Watley sisters give her an odd look, and the other F.C. members nod slowly in agreement after glancing at each other:) How kind of her to do such a thing as that.

TIFFANY: (With a pinch of awe in her tone:) Yeah, Krystal's so...noble to do...that for us. (The Watleys now give her their odd expression) Maybe we should...make her an...honorary member...like the Watleys?

STACY: (Gasps, delighted:) Why, Tiffany, that's a wonderful idea! (Hugs a surprised Tiffany:) What do you think, Sandi, Quinn? (Sighs, with a hint of envy in her tone:) Krystal looks so beautiful, and seems to dress so well, with those cool designer jeans, blouse, sneakers, and stuff--

QUINN: (Smiles:) I think it's super, guys! (Glances at Sandi:) Sandi--?

SANDI: I see no problem with making Krystal an honorary member of our club, like we did the Watleys. (Stacy jumps up and down giddily, and the Watleys subtly back away from her uneasily after looking at each other. Quinn and Tiffany don't notice because they're watching Sandi) Make a note of this, Stacy. We'll formally present her with our high honor tomorrow at Reynaldo's. (Stacy scribbles in her pad like a madwoman)

QUINN: (Grins:) I hope she's not, like, overwhelmed by it. (Pauses:) Tears of joy can ruin your mascara, and everything. (The other F.C. members nod in agreement while Quinn turns to the Watley sisters, smiles:) Hey, yeah, I almost forgot to ask you guys something. Darren told us that your family had relatives suddenly coming over to visit you this week, and you couldn't come here 'till they left, but yet you were still able to come today like you said you would, and stuff--?

JUANITA: (Giggles, gives her sister a coy look and vice-versa:) We--ell, Laflita and I sorta "charmed" our dad into letting us come here--

LAFLITA: --And you know how we girls can do that to our dads. (Light tone:) "Anything for Daddy's Little Girls". (Everyone smirks knowingly) Of course, this ticked off Curtis, who thought it was unfair because he had to stay and "entertain" our three cousins, since they're all boys. (Shudders:) You wouldn't believe the way those--those monsters have taken over our home!

JUANITA: (Chimes in:) They've eaten just about everything that hasn't been nailed down, it's as if they've never been fed before! On top of that, they've gone through our rooms like a tornado, turning over everything, (sighs:) including our make-up cases and clothes! (The F.C.'s mouths drop in stunned disbelief, save for Sandi, who's used to her brother's doings)

LAFLITA: (Rolls her eyes:) We should've done what Curtis did: Barricade the bedroom door from the inside, and hide in there until dinnertime, then going back in there as soon as possible. (Giggles:) Mom and dad all but forced him to play with our cousins--

JUANITA: (After a moment, small smirk, sympathetic tone:) --Hm, I guess I can understand why he'd want to escape with us, now. (The F.C. giggle)

LAFLITA: As for our mom, who thought it was rude for us to go and suddenly leave, it was a little harder to convince her, of course. I explained to her that--

JUANITA: (Mildly annoyed, cuts her off:) --We explained to her--

LAFLITA: (Narrows eyes at her sister:) --excuse me, "we" explained to our mom that since our cousins were only boys, they couldn't possibly understand what we were doing, it being "sissy feminine stuff", and all. Our dad and uncle quickly agreed, and let us come here--

JUANITA: (Grins:) --In our brother's car, which we got permission to use from him, I might add, (suddenly develops disappointed expression, sighs:) though we agreed to pay Curtis 15 bucks from our pooled resources as a "user fee" for the first hour, and 10 more each hour after that. (Shrugs:) Then again, I guess we should be thankful that he even allowed us to drive it this time, though.

LAFLITA: (Looks at watch, narrows eyes:) Speaking of which, if we don't want to pay him 10 more bucks, we'd better book, sis. (Begins to leave with Juanita:) we'll see you guys tomorrow morning to go to Reynaldo's. (To Juanita, their voices fading:) Let's make sure we stay in our rooms so we won't have to see those terrors anymore than we have to 'till they leave...

QUINN: (Calling after them:) Okay, oh, and don't forget that we'll come by limo to pick you up! 9:30! Krystal will meet us there! (Turns to the F.C.:) You know, I think I'm gonna go to Darren's art studio an' see some of the stuff he's painted, I haven't been in there since we've come up here. He said I could see it anytime when he showed me where it was a couple of days ago. Anybody wanna come with me?

STACY: (Excitedly:) Ooh, I want to come, Quinn! I forgot your brother's an artist too, right?

TIFFANY: Yeah, an artist...

QUINN: (Chuckles, waves both off dismissively:) Only as a hobby, guys, it's not like he paints a lot like Jane does, and from what I heard, it's normal stuff, unlike Jane's. (Pauses as she notices Sandi subtly stifling an "unfashionable" yawn by covering her mouth with the back of her hand:) Um, are you comin', Sandi?

SANDI: (Snaps out of her tiny yawn:) What? Oh, uh, no, Quinn. I'll take a look at your brother's art stuff later. Right now, I have to--(looks away, hesitates:) uhhh, prepare for tomorrow's fashion excursion to Reynaldo's. I'll see you all in a few hours in my room. I'll send word by one of the staff here. (Cocks an eyebrow, slight warning tone:) Be fully prepared, we have a lot to go over, especially about the latest winter fashion styles, (adds, smirks:) and our plans for Jane Lane's "transformation" on Thursday. (Quickly leaves)

The rest of the Fashion Club watched Sandi leave, then began walking upstairs to Darren's art studio. Privately, Quinn sighed, more than likely knowing that Sandi probably wanted to acquire some more "beauty sleep" because of yet another nightmare, even though she had extra time to sleep up to the "fashion show". During the meeting while showing off their newly-purchased clothing, Quinn took subtle note of Sandi's nodding bouts when Sandi thought no one was noticing her. Taking pity and not wanting to see Sandi possibly being embarassed, it was Quinn who initiated the end the meeting earlier than they all actually wanted. Quinn smirked to herself over this thought. As little as three months ago, she wouldn't have hesitated in the least to see Sandi look silly. Now, both of them were closer than ever (for real), and in a way, she could thank Darren for that, though Quinn wished it didn't have to involve her brother almost dying to do it.

While they walked to the studio, Quinn wondered briefly if Stacy or (even) Tiffany had noticed Sandi's actions, but they apparently didn't, having immediately entering into idle chatting about Reynaldo's.

A minute later, the trio entered the studio, and began looking through the small bevy of paintings that were stacked on the walls and leaning on the fronts of the room's floor cabinets wordlessly. After a few minutes, Stacy spoke.

STACY: (Awed tone while holding up a picture of the ground's landscape, one of several:) Wow! This is awesome, Quinn! Your brother can sure paint! I wonder why he doesn't have some of this hanging up, somewhere, and not just around the mansion, either, like maybe a museum, or something?

TIFFANY: (Looking over Stacy's shoulder:) Such pretty colors...

QUINN: (Glances at the painting Stacy's holding from across the room, small smile:) Yeah, it does look pretty, doesn't it? (Notices the portrait of Curtis and Lena on the wall:) Maybe I should get him to paint my portrait like what Fiona's told me he's planning to do with the staff's here, huh? (Smirks:) Too bad Jane doesn't paint like that-- (pauses, thoughtful expression as she comes beside them:) then again, I have to admit that Jane did such a radical job with me and my family on that portrait of us in our living room at my house--

STACY: (Raises eyebrow, gasps in shock while Tiffany continues to look at Darren's other paintings, then casually notices a cloth-covered one sitting on an easel in the far corner of the room, saunters up to it:) --That was Jane's painting? I didn't know! I thought it was Darren's!

QUINN: (Nods, small smirk:) Yeah, it was her's. (Frowns, ponders:) I think my mom told me once that Jane called it a "peace offering" to us over her liking Darren, or something. Anyway, I guess it proved to me that she could do a normal painting if she wanted to. (Rolls her eyes, smacks her mouth:) You shoulda seen the one she did during the time I stayed at her house when--

STACY: (Cuts her off, surprised expression:) --You--stayed at her house, Quinn? (Just before Tiffany is about to lift off the cover of the work, she stops and looks at Quinn, inquistive expression as well) When was this?

(Note to reader: This was in the episode "Gifted")

QUINN: (Wide-eyed, realizes that she doesn't want Stacy to know about her staying overnight at Jane's, especially since Quinn "dumped" Stacy to go there instead, uneasy chuckle:) D-Did I say stayed? I meant to say that I visited there once to, ummm--give Jane some fashion and make-up tips! Yeah, that's it! (Quickly adds:) Anyway, though I never got around to askin' her, I think Jane was doing a portrait of me, and it looked so icky--

Jane suddenly entered while wiping her paint-splattered arms and hands with an old rag, interrupting Quinn. Jane paused and cocked an eyebrow at Quinn and Stacy, who stared at her wordlessly, then spotted Tiffany, who had just removed the cloth covering the work on the easel and was viewing it. Jane scowled at her.

Suddenly intrigued, Quinn and Stacy followed Jane's scowl. Stacy's mouth dropped in awe as both saw a mostly-finished painting of Darren holding a sleeping Daria in his arms, which Quinn immediately recognized as very similar to the "valuable" picture she had possessed for but a little short of two hours on Sunday, save for one difference: The facial expressions of the two were not of surprise, but of brotherly concern on Darren's part, and of what seemed to her to be a sort of--sisterly reliance on Daria's part? Quinn narrowed her eyes at the painting in thought as Jane spoke.

JANE: Excuse me for inquiring, but what in the hell are you all doing here? (To Tiffany as she tosses the rag aside on a table:) Hands off, that hasn't been finished yet. (Walks over to the painting, covers it quickly, glares at Tiffany, who backs away fearfully and returns beside Quinn and Stacy. Jane then stares at Quinn, mock-deep shocked expression:) I thought for sure that your little fashion get-together would last well into the night--?

QUINN: (Hands on hips:) Ha. For your information, we came to see some of Darren's paintings. Besides, I thought you were still painting in Darren's meditation room-thingy.

JANE: (Deadpan:) There must be two of me then, since I'm standing here in front of you. Actually, I'm finished with the "room-thingy". Obviously, I'm here to get a few other things before I chow down.

QUINN: (Snorts, crosses arms, annoyed:) Obviously. (Pauses, motions head at the covered painting:) Say, um, isn't that painting just like that--(Jane cuts her off by cocking a "Are you sure you want to continue?" eyebrow, subtly reminding Quinn to remember Daria's warning about discussing the picture in front of the F.C.:) uhhh, never mind. (Stacy and Tiffany look at each other, miffed)

STACY: (Forges ahead bravely:) Uh, that's a really nice painting of Daria and Darren, Jane--(adds quickly:) what you've done so far, and stuff. (Pauses, ponders:) It, like, really brings out the message of strong sibling bonding between those two. (Quinn forms the same expression she had after talking to Daria earlier, looks away, deep in thought)

TIFFANY: (Slight smile:) Yeah, Daria doesn't...look fat at all...

JANE: (Genuinely surprised expression at Stacy's stunningly "deep" praise of her work, ignores Tiffany:) Really? Well, thanks. I was looking for just that message, you know, brother and sister, relying on one another, and all that. (Smirks:) I kinda know first-hand what that's like. (Pauses:) Ah, I realize I'm going out on a limb here, but do you guys mind not telling anyone else about the painting 'till Friday, when I unveil it? I want it to be a complete surprise, like showing off Darren's meditation room. (The others nod their heads, though Quinn is a bit more hesitant while glancing at the now-covered work) Thanks. (Cocks an eyebrow, glances around:) Where's Krystal? I kinda thought she'd be with you.

QUINN: Oh, she went to talk to my mom, aunt Millie, uncle Jim, and that Edward guy. She said she'll speak to you afterwards, and stuff.

STACY: (Hesitates, steps forward:) Um, Jane? About that m-makeover thing t-that happened w-with you and Daria--? (Jane stares at her stoically) I-I'm really sorry about what I did, o-okay? (Jane maintains the same stoic stare while Stacy glances nervously at an now-exasperated Quinn and vacant-looking Tiffany, then shocks them all by suddenly getting down on her knees in front of Jane, takes a very deep breath, begs:) J-Just, pleasepleasePLEASEdon'thangmebymymauve-coloredfingernailsbytenfishhooksonthehighesttreeherelikeDariatoldmeyouplannedtodotomeforrevenge! (Jane now forms an amused expression while looking down at her as Stacy exhales, tearing up) I mean, I just had my nails manicured, and everything, and--

TIFFANY: (Disgusted look:) Eww...fishhooks and fingernails...are sooo wrong...

QUINN: (Through clenched teeth:) Stacy, stop it, you're embarassing us! I told you Daria was just kidding, remember? (Stacy timidly rises up off the floor, wiping her mascara-stained eyes)

JANE: (Wicked smirk to Quinn, enjoying this:) Was she, Quinn? (Adds casually, motions head at Stacy:) Why, only yesterday, Daria mentioned to me something about using a cauldron, a rope, boiling hot oil, and a torture chamber on our little nibblet, here. (Stacy's eyes grow wide, and she suddenly bolts out of the room screaming)

TIFFANY: I'll go after her...so she won't...faint and get fat...while lying on the...floor...(leaves)

QUINN: (Glares:) Thanks a lot, Jane. Stacy'll probably will be in some corner trembling, and stuff.

JANE: (Grins, bows:) My pleasure, I live to serve. (To Quinn's continued glare, pauses:) Sheesh, relax, willya? It was just a joke, a funny joke, but a joke nevertheless. I'm over that stupid incident, really. (Pauses:) Look, if it'll make you feel any better, I'll apologize to her later, (adds:) particularly since she actually liked what I had painted of Daria and Darren so far. Call it a sort of a "reward" to her for having good taste.

Quinn gave a sigh of relief, then turned to leave as Jane pulled back the cover that hid the painting of Quinn's siblings to examine it. Quinn stopped at the doorway and turned back to Jane slowly, all the while glancing at the painting.

QUINN: (Hesitates:) Uh, Jane--?

JANE: (Still examining the painting:) Hm? What? (Turns to Quinn, cocks an eyebrow:) Don't tell me that you think an apology to Stacy isn't enough, because if you are--

QUINN: (Shakes her head quickly:) --No, not that! (Pauses, quieter tone:) I was just wondering: Why did you paint them together?

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) 'Cuse me?

QUINN: (Sighs:) I mean, why did you paint just Daria and Darren? Why didn't you include me with Darren? I'm his sister, too. Why did it have to be just Daria?

JANE: (Pauses, hesitates:) Um, wee--ell, it has something to do with that "Special Moment" snapshot of those two that I couldn't resist taking, as I believed you partially figured out when you had the picture--

QUINN: (Cuts her off, annoyed tone:) --If you're like, worried about keepin' it a secret, Darren told me the whole story already, you know, you two findin' Daria in the study sleeping, your taking the picture to paint from it, Daria sneaking in your room and gettin' it back, and everything. I asked him about the picture, and he like, came clean with me. If you don't mind, could you not tell Daria how I found out? Darren asked me not to say anything to her about it 'cause he thought she'd be embarassed if my mom and dad found out what happened behind that. (Thought v.o., mental snort: As if the painting itself won't do that...)

JANE: (Pauses:) Sure, why not, though if you think about it, it wouldn't be that big of a surprise that since you had the picture, Daria would probably guess you'd inquire how she and Darren had gotten on there in the first place. Besides, you weren't there, you know. I could paint you with them, but it wouldn't be right to me, (shrugs:) artist's perception, and all, you know. (Jane stares at her for a moment more, realizes as Quinn ponders this:) This is really getting your goat, isn't it, me painting your two fellow siblings together, and not you--?

QUINN: (Snaps out of her thoughts, frowns:) What does a freakin' goat have ta do with Daria and Darren? (Jane rolls her eyes, sighs, and Quinn continues on before Jane can speak:) Besides, um, that's stupid! I couldn't care less if you painted them together! You told me why you did, right? (Quickly leaves)

JANE: (Looks after her, thought v.o., mental chuckle: Well, whattya know, the "Princess" is envious. [Examines painting, thoughtful look:] Hm--guess it never occurred to me that it would bother her like that, though...)


Quinn stormed down the hallway scowling on her way to find Stacy, her fists by her sides. Face it, Quinn, you're envious. Jane painted her best friend, your sister, and her boyfriend, your brother, together. Not you. A really nice painting, too. I mean, I know Jane's just copyin' that picture I saw of Darren and Daria together she took an' stuff from memory, but still, it just doesn't seem fa--

Quinn's thoughts were broken when she rounded the corner to the east wing and ran into Fiona, who was carrying clean bedsheets. For a second, Fiona almost dropped them, but Quinn recovered enough to help her keep them in Fiona's arms.

QUINN: Ooops! Sorry, Fiona! I didn't see you!

FIONA: (Smiles:) It's alright, Miss Quinn, and thank you for your help. (Giggles:) You know, this was almost the same thing that happened to me with Master Darren the morning you all first came here. Unfortunately, we both failed to keep the bedsheets from falling that time.

QUINN: (Chuckles:) At least you didn't fall on the floor like you did this morning with Krystal, huh? (Pauses, realizes:) Speaking of which--

FIONA: (Turns pale, becomes nervous:) --Um, Miss Quinn, (turns, begins to leave:) I'd better get--

Quinn, much to even her own surprise, gently grabbed Fiona's shoulder in mid-turn, stopping her. Fiona swallowed hard, turning back slowly to Quinn, who removed her hand.

QUINN: (In a soft tone, inquisitive:) Fiona, what's going on with you and Krystal? (Pauses:) Are--are you scared of her, or something? Did she, uh, well, do something (hesitates:) bad to you?

FIONA: (After a moment:) N-No, Miss Quinn. Miss Krystal hasn't done anything--directly bad to me since I've been working here, (pauses, looks away, trails off:) but--

QUINN: (Narrows eyes, draws closer:) --But what? (Pauses:) What? What did she do to you? (Fiona continues to hesitate) Fiona, I promise I won't tell Darren or anybody else who's living or working here what you tell me, but if it's something bad about Krystal, and she knows my brother, I'm kinda concerned, and I wanna know, (pauses:) you understand, right--?

FIONA: (After a moment, nods reluctantly:) It's just that--well, (sighs:) let me start from the beginning. From what I understood as told in bits and pieces by the experienced members of the staff, in the two to two-and-a-half years before I came on here, after their days at the martial arts school, Miss Krystal had sometimes ventured to the mansion to spar with Master Darren and Tina, occasionally joining in their little sessions, or she came to simply exchange small talk with Mistress Lucille, Master Arthur Sr., or Mistress Millie. (Pauses, ponders:) Master Darren then began to see Miss Stephanie around this time, I think, and Miss Stephanie sometimes came around to watch the other three spar. Though I'm not sure about the whole story--no one was--Miss Stephanie began to not like it when Miss Krystal came for these workouts, even after Darren insisted to Miss Stephanie that nothing was going on. To soothe his girlfriend's feelings, Master Darren asked Miss Krystal that they'd have to severely curtail the workouts. The reason was--

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows in surprise, cuts her off:) --Are you saying Darren's girlfriend thought something was going on between Darren and Krystal, and decided to almost end them getting together?

FIONA: (Shrugs:) More or less, yes. I was told that Miss Krystal became quite angered upon hearing this, even confronting Miss Stephanie the next day on the grounds while Miss Stephanie was with Master Darren, accusing her of "suffocating" Master Darren, and that Miss Stephanie should really not be so "jealous" of her working out with Master Darren, who was trying to calm Miss Krystal down. (Frowns briefly:) Ignoring him, she continued on, stressing that Tina and even Miss Stephanie herself were there, so how could anything happen? Now angry herself, Miss Stephanie pointed out that Miss Krystal had began to wear, er, "very suggestive" workout clothing in their latest sessions, (Quinn's eyes grow huge) and seemed to "snuggle" next to Darren every time she got the chance to get close in, which I heard later made Master Darren feel somewhat--(pauses:) uncomfortable. Miss Stephanie even pointed out that Tina herself briefly wondered what Miss Krystal was actually "doing" during the workouts. (Pauses:) After a moment, a furious Miss Krystal nearly hit Miss Stephanie. (Quinn's mouth drops in shock) I said "nearly" because a stunned Master Darren had grabbed her wrist before she could, asking Miss Krystal to leave, which she did. Miss Krystal later called to apologize to both of them, which Master Darren accepted immediately, and Miss Stephanie did as well--though rather reluctantly. I think Miss Stephanie was still shaken by what happened--(pauses:) something which I came to understand perfectly well on later. (Quinn frowns slightly at her, confused) From that point on, Miss Krystal rarely came around until Miss Stephanie died. (Adds:) Before you ask, Miss Krystal did show up at Miss Stephanie's funeral, (hesitates:) but much to her credit, she didn't, er, "take advantage" of his tragic situation, for she actually stayed away from Master Darren while he grieved, save for a few phone calls, and one visit, much the same way she did when his (adopted) parents died.

QUINN: (After a moment, gathers her wits:) Wow. I mean, from what Krystal told us the other day, she an' Darren only went out casually when they both were in that martial arts school place, and nothing really came of it. Besides, I think Krystal said it was mostly from the guilt Darren felt after he beat up Krystal's brother over that Donna girl. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Say, I wonder how long was the time after Darren and Krystal stopped seein' each other, and then this Stephanie girl came into the picture?

FIONA: Er, I believe that girl's name was Dora, Miss Quinn, and I'm afraid I don't know anything about when Master Darren first met Miss Stephanie exactly, only that he was very fond of her. I saw that first hand in the short time I observed them together here at the mansion because they always held hands, and (sighs, slight smile:) kissed each other. (Quinn sighs herself, and gets a dreamy expression over imagining the scene) (Fiona pauses, then, in a sad tone:) I do know, however, that Master Darren was very devestated when she suddenly died, and who could blame him? (Leans over to a sad-looking Quinn, whispers in her ear:) Rumor has it that Master Darren was going to ask Miss Stephanie to marry him.

QUINN: (Gasps:) Really? Wow! He never told us that, only that he had her as a girlfriend, and that she died. (Pauses:) Uh, how was Stephanie like? Darren kinda skipped over really telling us about her, though I guess I can understand why, and stuff.

FIONA: (Ponders for a moment:) Well, like I said, I really saw Miss Stephanie only a short time before she died, but from what I gathered, she was a very nice, funny, intelligent, and witty young woman, not unlike Mi--Jane, save for the fact that she was not as--(ponders the words:) um, "outrageous" as her personality-wise. (Quinn shows a "That figures" expression) Darren's parent's and Mistress Millie fell immediately for her, and everyone in the mansion liked her as well--(pauses, sighs, chuckles:) though when she first laid eyes on me, she sort of, um, (pauses, smirks:) reluctantly "inferred" to me when Master Darren wasn't around one time if I was sort of attracted to him because she caught me looking at them occasionally while she asked me what I did here, (grins:) as if she didn't know what I do is the same as the other servants. Anyway, I--

QUINN: (Giggles, cuts her off, in a casual tone:) --Yeah, I can see why she'd think that. I mean, when I first met--(catches herself, turns red and wide-eyed as Fiona cocks an amused eyebrow:) um, well, like I said, that's perfectly understandable, and everything, though I really couldn't blame my brother if he kinda looked in your direction. You really look cute, (adds quickly:) though I'd feel even better if we in the Fashion Club went through your wardrobe and make-up to see what you wear and stuff to get the guys. If you want, we can stop by your house tomorrow to see what you have after Reynaldo's. (Before Fiona can speak, coy look:) I bet you've got a lot of boyfriends, huh? (Fiona forms an uncomfortable expression)

FIONA: (Slight blush, grateful smile:) Thank you for the kind compliments Miss Quinn, but that's quite alright, I'm satisfied with what I wear, though perhaps we can all, er, "get together" in the future. As for my lovelife, well, it's rather personal, you understand--? (Quinn shrugs, nods) Thank you. Getting back to Master Darren, I'll admit that when I first saw him, I did find him attractive, but as I said, he was completely enamored with Miss Stephanie, and she him, plus, he didn't know me at all since I was new. Who was I to speak to someone like him? Besides, he was, well, my employer, like his parents and Mistress Millie. Even if I could like him and he me, I'd have to quit my service here, since romance is forbidden between the staffers, and I happen to like my job very much. I made it clear to Miss Stephanie that I had no "designs" on him. (Looks away, in a wistful tone:) She apologized for thinking that, and we got along well in the short time I knew her--

QUINN: --That's good--

FIONA: (Continues in the same tone:) --But I wanted to reach out and comfort Master Darren after witnessing his grief over Miss Stephanie's death. We began to talk more, and he and I grew to know one another better. He was very kind to me. I wanted to comfort him again when his parents died, but like what happened with Miss Stephanie, I held back, remembering my "place". Master Darren then suddenly left to find your family, and I found myself missing him very much. (Pauses:) You can imagine how I felt when I saw the television reports about him being shot and nearly dying.

QUINN: (Hushed tone:) You really did begin to fall for him, didn't you?

FIONA: (Small smile:) Yes, and please don't tell him. (Quinn shakes her head) I couldn't live with the embarassment, (pauses, narrows eyes:) though I believe Elenor and some other staffers knew about it, and didn't say anything to me or him just for that reason. They don't think I know it, but I do. I also realized how much he liked Jane after I sometimes saw him speak to her over the phone before you all came up here, laughing, and after meeting her, I think they're good for each other. She provides the perfect tonic for his recent pains, like your family has, and he can finally get on with his life.

QUINN: (Quiet tone:) I'm, um, really sorry.

FIONA: (Brief smile, dismissive wave:) Oh, don't feel sorry for me, Miss Quinn. I'm very happy for Master Darren, he deserves it after the hell he went through this summer--(adds quickly, smirks:) not including finding his family, of course. (Quinn shows a small smile) As for me, I'm confident enough in my looks to know that I can get "lots" of boyfriends as you said, and I'm over my "pining" for him, (thought v.o.: At least now I am...) though I still care for his personal welfare. Like Miss Stephanie, Jane had suspected that I was attracted to Master Darren, even going so far as apologizing to me for her "paranoia" in doing so. I surprised her by admitting that I really did like him, (Quinn cocks an eyebrow) but not in the way that she and he liked each other, and I didn't want to appear as a "threat" to her. I guess my blunt honesty paid off, for again like Miss Stephanie, Jane and I are getting along very well.

QUINN: (After a moment, dismissive tone:) Well, I know I couldn't tell another girl that I was attracted to her guy like you did, but since that worked for you, it was the right thing, I guess. Say lave, and all that. (Pauses as Fiona gives her an odd look:) Getting back to Krystal, what did she do to you that made you so freaked out about her?

FIONA: Well, like Miss Stephanie and Jane, I met Miss Krystal for the first time, a few days after first meeting Miss Stephanie. She had come over to see Master Darren, and he wasn't there. Elenor had informed her that he had went over to see Miss Stephanie, which, if you can imagine, did not put her in the best of moods. As she was about to leave the mansion, Miss Krystal saw me while I was vacumning in a hallway near the foyer, and came over. I asked if she needed anything, and she immediately began to pepper me with all sorts of suspicious questions, like who I was, and if I had seen Master Darren as of yet, and who she was, cutting me off before I could say anything, all while in my face. (Quinn stares with disbelief) I started to become (pauses:) frightened and upset, completely speechless with fear. It was then that I spotted Mistress Millie coming from the upstairs with Mistress Lucille, laughing about something--

QUINN: (Slight frown, hands on hips, cuts her off:) --Well, why didn't you say something to them about Krystal, Fiona? I mean, I'm sure that--

FIONA: (Sighs:) --I didn't want to cause any trouble, Miss Quinn. Like I told you, who was I to the Appletons? I was new after all, Miss Krystal was a McKinna, and she knew the Appletons very well. It would be my word against her's. (Pauses:) Besides, the quick warning glare Miss Krystal gave me before she brightened into a smile for those two sort of discouraged me from saying anything, too--(adds:) that and the fact that I heard from Tina when I first spoke to her about the people who frequent the mansion for security purposes that Miss Krystal was a black-belt martial artist. I simply didn't think it was worth the risk to tell anyone, even the staff. In the few other times I saw her since, she gave me that--(pauses:) look. (Quinn cocks an eyebrow) It was a look that combined--(frowns, ponders:) jealousy, contempt, and little bit of rage, like it said, "Know your place, and don't try me." (Looks down:) I became intimidated by her when she came around, so much so, that I began trying to avoid her, subtly going into other rooms, pretending to clean them when she came into one I happened to be in. Usually, Miss Krystal called over to announce when she'd arrive so I could be "ready", but this morning she suddenly showed up with you, surprising me. That's why I was so frightened, I was caught off-guard. (Pauses, slight shudder:) I don't know exactly what it is, but there's something about her that makes me think not to cross her.

QUINN: (Shakes her head slowly:) This is so like, unbelievable. I never would've thought she had a nasty side, 'cause she's been so cool around us. (Narrows eyes:) Maybe you should tell Darren or Millie now, or I can--

FIONA: (Suddenly wide-eyed and pale, puts her hands on Quinn's shoulders:) --NO! You promised! (Quinn is taken aback, and Fiona calms down, removing her hands) Miss Quinn, please don't tell Master Darren or Mistress Millie about what happened with Miss Krystal and me, I'm begging you! I mean, Miss Krystal really doesn't see me as a "threat" anymore with Jane now Darren's girlfriend. I still don't want to cause any trouble here, and Master Darren and Mistress Millie think highly of her, especially with Miss Krystal's defense of Darren over her brother Sunday! (Lowers voice, looks off to the side:) I just--I just want to get on with my work here, and not cause any unnecessary trouble.

QUINN: (After a long moment, sighs:) Okay, Fiona. I promise again I won't say anything about this to Darren or Millie and anybody working around the mansion either, and to them about your liking him once.

FIONA: (Very relieved smile:) Thank you, Miss Quinn. I'd better go before Elenor starts to look for me. (Curtseys, leaves)

Quinn watched her leave, then looked back at Darren's studio in the opposite direction for a moment, biting her lower lip, frowning slightly.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: I promised I wouldn't say anything to Darren, aunt Millie, an' anybody working around here about you an' Krystal, but I never said I wouldn't speak to someone else, like my family and friends. I just gotta tell somebody, it's like, in my nature, and stuff. Should I talk to Jane about Krystal, and warn her? [Pauses, considers:] About what? I mean, I haven't seen anything that would make me think that Krystal still likes Darren like that, even with Fiona's story, and like Fiona said, it might cause a lot of trouble for nothing. Daria? Nah, she'd have to say something to Jane. Mom? Too close to aunt Millie, might get back to Darren, or she'd tell him herself. Dad? [Pauses, rolls eyes:] Please. I don't really know uncle Jim or that Edward guy enough to tell them this, and uncle Jim might would wanta tell Darren, too. Tiffany? She wouldn't remember what I said, much less know what to do. Stacy? She'd fall apart. Speaking of which, I'd better go find her...) (Forms a small smirk as she begins to walk in the direction of the east wing, thought v.o.: Huh, I know who I can talk to about this, it's so obvious, an' everything. I'll wait until after our fashion meeting to speak to Sandi...)


(Scene is in a small area of a large underground parking garage, no more than ten to twenty spaces big, about the same time)

Darren's Aston-Martin, now covered by its soft top, pulled into the space marked by a sign that had "Reserved for Mr. Appleton only", located beside another parking space, and occupied by a black Mercedes that had a similar sign, which read "Reserved for Ms. Waters only". Both spaces were sitting beside what Daria assumed were the doors of the garage's elevators. Daria exited the car with her brother, and stared at the sign for a moment.

DARIA: (Small smirk, while Darren comes around the rear of his car to her:) And what else do we have here? First, it was the gun-wearing guards at the booths waving us through when we came in, and now it's exclusive valet parking away from the crowded lot over with Constance Waters only? All of this beside "personal" elevators? (Pauses:) What's gonna be next, some bellhop guy on the elevator waiting to take us up right to her office? If that's the case, then you'd better know that I'm not tipping him. (Walks to the elevators with Darren)

DARREN: (Chuckles:) All for security purposes, Daria, I can assure you. If we had rode in the limo, we wouldn't have had to park here. When my (adopted) parents came in their own cars, they used this area, which is set aside and apart from our so-called "common" fellow employees, and exclusively for any guest clients and some other Board of Director members. We've only used it for about five years. (Points to a wall across from them as he punches a button marked "29":) Because of terrorist concerns stemming from what happened in Oklahoma City and at the World Trade Center several years ago, Tina and our other security people suggested we put up special, extra-thick walls in the event somebody tried to bomb this part of the Appleton Tower, which my (adopted) parents went along with, though they thought it was a little bit of overkill. (Pauses, quieter voice:) Elenor told me not long after that it was more for my safety than anything else. (Daria gives him a reflective expression as both enter the elevator, and Darren motions around, grins as the doors shut:) See? No bellhop, I can keep my "tip".(Daria now gives a brief eye-roll)

They felt themselves begin to rise slowly in the elevator, then it speeded up. Daria felt her ears start to get stopped up from the increasing high-speed of the elevator, while Darren crossed his arms and leaned against the rear, looking up at the progressing numbers.

DARIA: (Dryly:) So noted. (Changes subject, glances at Darren's shirt:) That spot dry yet?

DARREN: (While looking down, lightly pats his chest:) Hm, it's still slightly damp, but dry enough, I guess. (Pauses:) By the way, that was a good idea on putting up the top and turning on the heat to dry my shirt for a little bit. Good thing we cracked the windows so we didn't roast from the heat outside as well. (Daria smirks slightly) Don't worry, this is a black shirt after all. It hides stains well, and it was just water that the dean spilled on me.

DARIA: (Shakes head slowly:) I still can't believe he spilled it from the bottle of the cooler on you like that. He didn't have to take the whole damn thing off to get us any when it wouldn't come out.

DARREN: (Quick shrug:) Well, he was just trying to be kind. I think he really wanted to have you as a student, Daria. The dean was very enthusiastic throughout our conversation when he, uh, finally settled down.

DARIA: (Deadpan, droll tone:) My cup runneth over.

DARREN: (Slight frown, pauses:) Ah, I hope our "experience" with Dean Pierpoint didn't discourage you any in possibly pursuing that major, sis.

DARIA: (After a moment, senses her brother's concern:) Nah, and stop apologizing already for not knowing how he really was, sheesh. I told you that Pierpoint isn't that much different from my high school teachers, and I haven't been driven crazy enough not to still get good grades there. Despite Pierpoint's--(pauses:) um, "faults", the guy seems to know a whole lot about the field of journalism. I found myself--(hesitates, looks off to the side for a moment:) impressed with what he said the curriculum offers, despite myself. (Shrugs:) Besides, if I do go the journalism route, I wouldn't have to put up with him all that much, save for an occasional meeting or two. (Pauses:) I could stand a good laugh now and then between classes, I suppose.

DARREN: (Mock-incredulous look, gasp and tone as the elevator starts to slow down:) You--you actually do that? (Daria cocks an eyebrow as a smirking Darren pauses:) Laugh, I mean? When will I get to hear it?

DARIA: (As the elevator stops and the doors open, and they walk into a huge gray-walled marble and red carpeted hallway:) Right now, if you wish, (points:) when I throw you out the window at the end of the hallway down there. You'll be able to hear my maniacal laughter as the last thing you'll ever remember while you fall to your death. (Darren laughs as a hand suddenly comes from behind them, gently touches Daria's right shoulder, startling and turning her around) AH!

DARREN: (Having seen the person behind Daria already, laughs even more at his sister's reaction, shakes the hand warmly:) Hello, Constance.

CONSTANCE: (Dressed in a blue "power suit", grins:) Hello, Darren. (Turns to Daria, shakes her hand warmly as well:) And you have to be Daria Morgendorffer. Please, just call me Constance. I'm sorry for suddenly coming up behind you like that. I was in a brief, last-minute session with an employee, and I just came out of his office as you two exited the elevator. I became a little excited when I spotted you. I think you can tell I've been really eager to meet you for awhile.

DARIA: (Deadpan, "recovers":) Well, when you get to know me, we'll see if you still feel that way a few minutes from now. (Constance and Darren glance at each other knowingly for an instant and chuckle. Daria sighs, to Darren, slight mocking tone:) I see you "got" to her about me, too?

DARREN: (Grins:) Afraid so, sis. Unlike Dean Pierpoint, Constance is "prepared" for your barbs.

CONSTANCE: (Chuckles again as they all come to a set of double doors, stops:) Don't worry, Daria. I'm sure Darren left out some things on you that I couldn't possibly know about. (Changes tone:) Now, as I understand it, you two have a big day planned ahead, so let's get to my office for some quick little small talk, then you can go on your way. By the way Darren, your office was just finished being remodeled very late last night, ready by today as promised. (Darren forms a satisfied expression) There's no one up there right now, so you two won't be disturbed. I'll leave it to you to hire your own secretary, of course. You can show it to Daria after we talk. (Enters right side door, followed by Daria and Darren)

The trio walked into the reception area to Constance's office, a small space lined by padded red sofas on either side of a small desk, the same for several picture windows that highlighted the spectacular Manhatten skyline. Daria took in a short breath in awe at the sight of New York City's various skyscapers, noting the Empire State Building nearby, and of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the distance, in lower Manhatten (Appleton Tower, dear reader, is located on the upper part of Manhatten Island).

Constance stopped at the desk, and looked around, frowning.

CONSTANCE: Hm--where's Mimi, my personal secretary? She was here just a few minutes ago when I left--(shouting is heard behind some more double doors that were slightly ajar several feet behind the desk, presumably Constance's office) what in the hell--?

At that instant, both double doors suddenly blasted open, and Mimi, a short-haired glasses-wearing red head, came out of the office, but it was who she was pushing out that really garnered Daria's (and Darren's) attention: None other than Val, of Val magazine. (Note to reader: See the episode "The Lost Girls", of course) Daria briefly glanced at Darren, who returned it just as quickly. Val struggled against Mimi, grabbing both sides of the doorway and steadying herself furiously.

MIMI: (In a strained, struggling tone:) Look, Val, you just can't see Constance without an appointment, you know that, and she's not here right now, anyway! If you don't stop behaving like this, I'll have to call security--

VAL: --NO! I'LL NEVER LEAVE, NOT UNTIL I SEE--(spots Constance, stops struggling, suddenly turns "sweet":) Oh, Constaaance! There you are! (Glares back at Mimi, who rolls her eyes, then Val walks up to Constance, smiling, arms wide open:) It's so good to finally catch up to--

CONSTANCE: (Scowls, puts hand up, which stops Val:) --Hold it right there, Val. Our association is finished, I told you that a few days ago for what seemed to be the tenth time. You were given your generous severance pay when we phased out Val magazine after we brought out Tramell Press, and as you know, after a thorough financial examination, we discovered that it simply wasn't profitable for us. (Shakes head slowly, slight agitated tone:) I'm really getting tired of all your annoying prattle on this subject--

VAL: (Wide-eyed, pale, desperate tone:) But, but--you don't understand! Please, I need my magazine, and it needs me! I can turn it around, give me time! I have new ideas! What about all those teen-age girls who read about me--uh, I mean, my magazine? What will they do now that their teen guide guru is gone?

DARIA: (Low voice, to her brother:) The odds will increase that they'll actually have normal lives now that her trifling rag is on the dung heap? (Darren glances at Daria to quiet her, but he tries not to snicker)

CONSTANCE: (Sighs:) I'm sure that someone with your reputation can start over, dear.

DARIA: (Again, to Darren in low voice:) Yeah, I heard that the AARP is looking for a new editor for their mag. Why, she'd be right up their alley--(Darren this time snickers, but it's a low one)

DARREN: (While still snickering, mock-warning tone:) C-Cut it out, Daria--

VAL: (Tone becoming desperate:) L-Look, I--I'll do anything, I'll even drop my teen fans for--(pauses, sees that Constance is not softening, spots the snickering Darren for the first time, becomes wide-eyed:) hey, you're the Arthur Appleton Jr., right? (Eyes him hungrily, which causes a suddenly-surprised Darren to now look uncomfortable, and Daria to appear amused by his reaction:) Umm-yeaah you are. (Saunters up to him, holds hand out, which Darren tepidly shakes:) Val, as in Val magazine. (Adds smugly:) I'm sure you've read it, of course. I've done an article or two on your (adopted) mother's fabulous fashions over the years. Let me just say that this is an honor--(seductive voice, leans closer to him:) in more ways than one, honey.

DARREN: (Draws back:) Uh, right, I'm sure it is, er, Val, and I'd prefer that you simply call me Darren. (Quickly motions to Daria, gently pushes her forward. She casts an evil eye at him for an instant:) Uh, you remember my sister Daria Morgendorffer, right? You visited her in Lawndale at her high school once to do an article for your magazine.

VAL: (Stares at Daria as if she's some sort of alien:) Oh yeah, sure, I remember her! (Shakes Daria's hand:) Hi, DeAnne, good to see you again! (Turns back to a frowning Darren, adds quickly as Daria stares at her expressionlessly:) Anyway, maybe you can help me here with Constance, Darren. (Glances at Constance, smirks:) I'm sure with your--(pauses:) "influence" you can persuade her to see the error of her ways in folding Val magazine. (Constance, Mimi, and even Daria narrow their eyes at Val) You do have the power to overrule her since you're the real one in charge here, right? (Smugly adds:) I mean, I am the one and only Val, you know. We famous people simply have to stick together, and all that.

Darren stared at Val expressionlessly. Constance began to do a slow burn inside while staring at Val, the same for Mimi. Daria looked between her brother and the other women, curious as to what he'd do, but personally guessing that Val wouldn't like the end result.

DARREN: (After a moment, firm tone:) I'm sorry Val, but there's nothing I can do for you. (Val turns pale with shock) Constance is the Chairperson and CEO of Appleton Industries, the "real" one in charge at this company, I might add, and her decision, (narrows eyes:) which I whole-heartedly supported, is final. (Constance gives him a slightly relieved look and grateful smile) She recommended that your magazine be dropped, and the Board agreed by voice vote. Also, from what I understood, your contract with Tramell stated that if your magazine ever lost money over a year of time without turning around and that the company happened to be acquired during the same time, that the acquiring company had the right to terminate your magazine. (Pauses:) Might I point out that all of these things happened? Now, unless you want to get your lawyer to fight this with our stable of lawyers, I suggest that you accept it. Like Constance said, I'm sure that you'll find something else. Good day. (Moves past her, followed by a slightly-smiling Daria, goes into Constance's office)

VAL: (Trying to recover, calls after him:) B-But, Darren--

CONSTANCE: (Now frowns, crosses her arms:) He said good day, Val, and by the way: Do not ever bother me again on this. (Pauses, narrows eyes, meanacing tone:) I mean it. You'll be very, very sorry if you do. (While she continues to frown at Val:) Mimi, escort the esteemed Val out of the building, will you? If she tries to give you any trouble, contact security to assist you.

MIMI: (While showing a very large smirk and glare to Val:) It'll be my pleasure, Constance. (Motions to a still shocked Val:) After you. (Val slumps, turns around wordlessly, leaves the reception area, followed by Mimi)

After slowly closing her eyes and taking a deep breath of satisfaction, Constance entered her large, spacious, glass-lined office with Daria and Darren waiting for her while standing in the center and speaking to each other. She went around to her desk and sat down wordlessly, the same for Daria and Darren in two very comfortable-looking office chairs, both almost identical to Constance's.

CONSTANCE: (After a moment, hesitates, then smiles:) Darren, thank you for saying that to that pest. It meant a lot to me, really. (Adds:) On both counts. Val's been leaving me messages on my answering machine and e-mail almost nonstop since her magazine was cancelled. It's been driving me crazy.

DARREN: (Small smile:) No problem, Constance. You are "The Boss", you know--(narrows eyes, serious tone:) I want to make that perfectly clear. You make the decisions in running this company, not me. I want you to remember that. Yes, I chose you, but when it comes to the day-to-day decisions, it's all your's.

CONSTANCE: (Quiet expression, smile:) I'll remember that, I promise. (Frowns:) I could just kick myself for not driving that point home to her from the get-go after she started to annoy me. I guess I didn't want to look like some sort of tyrant by lashing out to her in front of everyone here the first few weeks I had this job--(pauses, adds:) you know, with William here previously and the way he ran things, I wanted to make a good impression.

DARREN: Good, and you don't really have to explain yourself to me. (Smiles, changes subject:) I was just telling Daria that it didn't occur to me about Val magazine being owned by Tramell until I saw Val herself just now when Daria asked if I knew about this. (Pauses, sighs:) Sorry about not being able to attend the meeting in present about that a week-and-a-half ago.

CONSTANCE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Darren, you did attend by video tele-conference, remember? (Quietly adds:) Besides, you had--(pauses:) other things on your mind at the time. (Ponders for a moment:) You know, that was a pretty impressive point you made with Val on that contractual agreement Tramell Press made. I had almost forgotten about it.

DARREN: (Giving a quick, dismissive shrug:) I remembered it when I saw my (adopted) dad and uncle William iron out the final details when Appleton bought Tramell out.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I'm sure Jane will lament Val's magazine passing as much as I am right now when we call her later, Darren. (Darren and Constance look at each other, puzzled, Daria adds:) And if either of you believe that, you're out of your ever-loving gourds. (The others chuckle)

CONSTANCE: (While still chuckling, sits back in her chair:) Daria, you seem to be a very amusing and enlightening young woman!

DARIA: (Still in deadpan mode:) I'm a regular Rosie O'Donell, I am. I haven't even warmed up, yet. Want to hear my Roseanne impersonation? My friend Jane cracks up every time I go to town on it. It goes like this--

DARREN: (Trying not to laugh, gentle rebuke:) --Enough, sister mine. As Constance has said, we've got a full plate today, and we don't want to fall behind.

CONSTANCE: (Mock-glares at Darren:) Rob me of my fun, why don't you? (Turns to Daria, more serious tone:) Daria, I personally wanted to thank you for what you did--

DARIA: (Sighs, having heard this before from her brother, cuts her off:) --I really didn't do anything, Constance. I think your making me out to be some sort of heroine for allegedly having something to do with you becoming head of Appleton is being blown way out of proportion, here.

DARREN: (Head rests in left hand, with left elbow on armrest, mock-admiringly stares at his sister, smiles:) See how modest she is? (Daria stares at him) I told you about her modesty, didn't I? (Constance smirks)

CONSTANCE: Come now, Daria. I think you're short-changing yourself a little. According to Darren, it was you who pointed out what I did with Tsunama/Fuju that made him think about choosing me. (Pauses:) I sort of feel like I owe you something. I wanted to return the favor, if I could.

DARIA: (Cuts eyes sideways at her brother:) If it's about making Darren disappear for awhile, then I'm all ears. (The others chuckle)

CONSTANCE: No, I'm afraid you're stuck with your brother until the end of the day. In a way, it's because of what happened to Val and her magazine. I want to start a new teen publication to replace Val, and I'm looking for some new teenage writers from all over the country. (Daria cocks an eyebrow and Darren forms an intrigued expression as Constance pauses:) Real teen writers, writers that have actually gone through their own personal crisis and experiences, either at home, school, or anywhere else. I want writers that can give real teen advice on how to deal with the real world, not the teen phoniness of looking good for guys I skimmed over in an issue of Val's magazine. I want both gender's points of view of teen life in general. The new magazine would be bimonthly, meaning that you'd have at least a month-and-a-half to do an article to be published, provided that the editor we have yet to hire likes it, of course. You'd also be paid for your work, which you could send by mail or e-mail, if it's published for that issue. Should you accept, we can work out the financial details later. Darren had sent me photocopies of some of your writings when he told me you were a writer (Darren looks off nonchalantly as Daria slyly glances at him), and I thought they were very good. (Pauses, smirks:) Well, quite dark and deep too, but still very good. We're still looking for a title along with the editor and publication wouldn't start for at least six months, so you'll have a little time to think about it. (Adds:) I hope you seriously consider this opportunity, Daria, it could help you if you pursue journalism as a career.

DARIA: (Gathers her thoughts after a moment:) Wow. Um, you've given me a hell of a lot to think about, Constance. I never thought something like that would fall into my lap like this. (Suddenly pinches back of right hand, winces:) Ouch. Nope, it's not a dream. (Pauses:) Too bad the pain I'm feeling right now isn't, either. (Narrows eyes as Constance and Darren chuckle:) What would your magazine be looking for in "personal crisis or experiences", exactly? I mean, save for recently discovering that I and my sister have a brother, and what's happened since, my life isn't exciting enough to be considered for a showing on "Biography", yet.

CONSTANCE: (Snickers, sits back in her chair, rocks slowly:) It doesn't have to be just about your teen experiences and perspectives, Daria. It could be from someone else you know in your age group, like your friend Jane, or somebody at your high school, as long as the personal teen perspective is highlighted. That's what the magazine is all about.

DARIA: (Pauses, thinks for a moment:) When do you want an answer? What do you consider to be "a little time to think"? (Darren frowns slightly at his sister, perplexed, but says nothing)

CONSTANCE: (Ponders:) I'd like your answer in at least a month, Daria, if that's alright with you. We're hoping to have an editor in place just about then. We already have several candidates that'll be interviewed next week.

DARIA: Then I guess I'll have your answer for you, then. I suppose the only thing I can add is--(pauses, looks away slightly:) um, thanks for offering this to me. (Hesitates, reaches over Constance's desk to shake her hand stiffly, which Constance returns warmly while smiling. Darren sits back, small smile of satisfaction)

CONSTANCE: No, Daria, thank you. I--(there is a light, brief knock on Constance's door, which is opened slowly, and Leonard Potter's head protrudes in. He's holding a folder)

LEONARD: Constance? Sorry to interrupt you, but Mimi wasn't at her desk, and you did say that your schedule was very light this morning. (Spots Daria and Darren, smiles:) And here's why, of course. Hello again, Darren, and you must be Daria. Hello, I'm Leonard Potter, Appleton Industries head of Legal Affairs, and Darren's lawyer. (The trio stands up while Leonard walks up to Daria, shakes her hand)

DARREN: Hey, Leonard.

DARIA: Yeah, Darren and my mom's told me about you. Your job's to make sure Appleton isn't robbed blind by some conniving schmuck out to sue you guys over a defective product or a nasty employee work-related act, right? (Darren drops his head, looks off for an instant, sighs quietly at Daria's "directness" to Leonard, while Constance covers her mouth lightly and snickers, amused)

LEONARD: (Taken aback after a moment, then smirks:) Translation: Me and a bevy of Appleton's lawyers keep an eye out for this company's collective legal ass. (Pauses:) Yes, basically that, my dear. (Daria stares at him, wide-eyed in surprise. A surprised Darren and Constance chuckle)

DARIA: (Mock-glare at Darren, motions head to Leonard:) Got to him about me, too, huh?

DARREN: (Shakes head, genuinely innocent look:) Actually, no, I didn't--

LEONARD: (Grins:) --Your mother did, Daria, when we were all dining at Montoni's Monday. (To Darren's confused frown:) You were, ah, "busy" with Jake, talking to him about going to Thursday's game at Yankee Stadium instead of Sunday--? While you two conversed, Helen and I talked about your two sisters. (Darren nods slowly in understanding)

CONSTANCE: (Cocks an eyebrow, motions to Leonard's folder:) Leonard, you didn't come up here just to meet Darren and Daria, I assume--?

LEONARD: (Turns serious, hands Constance the folder, which she reads:) No, I'm afraid not, Constance, and I'm glad Darren's here to hear the news as well. (Glances at Daria, hesitates:) Er, I just found out a few minutes ago about that "money" thing overseas. Got it by fax from the FBI, who have been very busy on this. I thought you'd both want to hear it from me personally, but it can wait for a few if--

DARREN: --It's okay, Leonard. (To Constance:) I decided to come clean and told my sister and girlfriend about that this morning, if that's okay. (Constance nods her approval) What's up?

LEONARD: (After a moment:) Good and bad news. The good news is that we found out where the accounts were, courtesy of Benny Lodell, who was promised by the FBI that he'd get out of jail a few years sooner in exchange if the money were returned. There were three of them, in three different Zurich banks. (Sighs:) The bad news is that all the accounts were closed out, completely emptied. (The other three glance at each other) Records indicated that they all were on the same day, two-and-a-half weeks ago.

CONSTANCE: (Narrows eyes as she continues to read the folder, which Daria and Darren now read as well on either side of Constance's shoulders:) Who else besides Lodell--(pauses, looks up uneasily at Darren:) and uh, William, for that matter, knew about the accounts? Did Lodell say?

LEONARD: Yes. According to Lodell, two men who stayed overseas, one in Spain, the other in France, (motions:) page three. (Constance flips to it, reads) A "Miguel Hortega" in Spain, and a "Louis Forget" in France, which we assumed to be false aliases. When authorities checked the addresses in those countries and paid each a visit, they discovered both addresses were actually restaurants. The FBI then immediately inquired the same day to Lodell about what was going on, inferring that he had lied to them, but get this: Lodell was actually stunned to discover that both were not residential addresses, since William himself had taken Lodell to each home only last summer, in July, on that foriegn business excursion for Appleton at your father's behest, Darren, as I recall. (Constance and Darren nod, remembering) The authorites then went to each of the homes that Lodell had described, only to discover that they were rental houses. Apparently, William had rented them for the two just to mislead his right-hand man. Lodell insisted to the FBI that he and William had even met each man in person, giving descriptions of both, like the banks did, which the FBI sketched out. I assume they'll compare the two descriptions from both, and see if they were the same people. (Pauses:) I guess we can assume that either one or both decided to get all of the money out since it was of no use to William anymore, and use it for themselves. (Shrugs:) Needless to say, the FBI said the deal was off unless Lodell could provide any more leads, which he couldn't at the moment. All Benny could do while they took him back to his cell was mutter, "How could he do that to me? I was loyal to him. Loyal.", to himself over and over.

DARREN: (Narrows eyes:) So in essence, uncle William had even lied to Benny about how the accounts they had were really handled, providing a financial double-cross in case things went awry in planning my (adopted) parent's deaths, and he had to escape. He'd leave Benny in the lurch, holding the bag.

DARIA: You mean holding an empty bag, don't you? (Pauses, very sarcastic deadpan:) Honor among thieves. Nice to see that it's still in vogue. (To Leonard:) That still doesn't explain where those other guys are with the money. It's amazing that the Swiss didn't ask them why they were withdrawing all that much loot on the same day. (Cocks an eyebrow:) I assume the money withdrawn is untraceable--?

LEONARD: I'm afraid so, Daria. (Small sigh:) These were Swiss banking accounts, after all--

DARIA: --Which shouldn't be a surprise, since the supposedly-then neutral Swiss let the Nazis keep everything the Nazis stole under the sun from other countries they occupied in the Swiss banks during World War II, then the world hears that the Swiss had lied about it after all these years, I get your point. (Pauses, looks at Constance:) Are you going to try to follow the money trail?

CONSTANCE: (Narrows eyes:) You bet your ass I will, Daria. As I told Darren, $50 million isn't exactly chump change. Those bastards stole it from Appleton, and we want it back, at least most of it, anyway. Leonard, did the FBI provide their composite sketches of either man to us?

LEONARD: They'll send them tomorrow, wanting to run them against any pictures on their computer database first to try and match them.

CONSTANCE: We'll call a press conference after I contact the other members of the Board, and Appleton will post copies of them all over the globe when we get the sketches. I'm going to recommend a generous reward for any information leading to the capture of the two. (Turns to Daria and Darren:) If you two don't mind, I want to get started on this as soon as possible--?

DARREN: (Holds up hand:) --It's okay, Constance, Leonard. We'll see you later. After we take a quick tour of my office, we'll be on our way. Remember to try and come by the mansion before the end of this week, if you can, Constance. (Begins to leave for the door with Daria)

CONSTANCE: (Chuckles:) I'll try, that's all I can do.

LEONARD: Nice to meet you, Daria. Have a good time in New York City with Darren.

DARIA: I plan to. Nice meeting you guys, too. (Pauses, hesitates:) Um, thanks again for that offer, Constance. See you. (Follows Darren out)

CONSTANCE: (Smiles:) Good bye, Daria. Enjoy yourself. (Turns back to Leonard, speaks)


Daria and Darren walked to the elevator doors. Darren pushed the button marked "30", the highest floor in Appleton Tower. After a moment, Daria spoke.

DARIA: (Smirks:) You know, I should skin you alive for slipping Constance some of my writings on the side. (Darren cocks an eyebrow) You did promise me that you wouldn't show them to anyone else other than Pierpoint.

DARREN: (Holds up hands, apologetic tone:) Daria, I'm sorry. I didn't know about Constance's offer to you, I swear I didn't. I was as surprised as you were. (Adds, grins:) Delighted, but still surprised. She wanted to know something about you, and the subject of your writing came up while we spoke on the phone not long after I returned from Lawndale. I casually told her about sending some of your writings to Dean Pierpoint because you were an aspiring writer and was considering going to Eastward. She immediately asked if she could read some of them, so I let her.

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Eh, it's okay. I suppose I really shouldn't complain about something like this. In fact, I should be really happy. I guess my--our family and Jane will be glad for me when they hear about all of my good fortune--(pauses:) even Tom will be. (The doors of the elevator open, and both go in, then the doors shut, and the elevator begins to rise)

DARREN: (After a moment, presses the "stop" button, freezes the upward motion of the elevator, which causes Daria to give him an odd look:) I stopped the car to get my bearings for a moment, sis. Let me understand this--you "should" be really happy about Constance's offer? An offer of a lifetime, I might add? I know you're not exactly the er, "type" to get too excited about anything, at least not on the outside, but it seemed to me back in Constance's office that you weren't too enthused about taking that offer. In fact, I was tempted to think for a second that you'd turn it down.

DARIA: (Stares at Darren for a moment, surprised:) Why would I want to turn something like that down?

DARREN: (Returns the stare, leans against the doors, crosses arms:) I don't know, why would you?

DARIA: (Narrows eyes:) What do you think?

DARREN: (Keeps the same stance, even tone:) I think you're kind of scared to take the offer, myself.

DARIA: (Annoyed tone:) Excuse me? Scared? Me? On what grounds do you base your opinion, questionable as it is? (Leans against other side, crosses her arms:) This should prove rather interesting.

DARREN: (Maintains same tone:) Daria, this is an offer that any reasonable person would've jumped at, yet you didn't. Why? (Pauses:) Look at the facts: The new teen magazine is a bimonthly. You'd have plenty of time to churn out an article, unlike at a newspaper, where you'd almost have to do one everyday. You could produce a good story at your leisure, and not worry about having a deadline under pressure. Chances are pretty good, despite the editor's final decision, mainly because you'd be of a select few teenage writers for the magazine, that you'd be published most of those months, even for a small article. (Leans over to her, emphasizes point:) Published. The goal of any aspiring writer. Plus, think of the experience you'll get for the future. Any writer would kill to get into your position. (Daria stares at him wordlessly, and he continues, though in a gentler tone:) When I said you were scared, I meant scared as in not having enough confidence in yourself to believe you could do a good job for that magazine. Constance had enough faith in you to offer it--

DARIA: (Cuts in:) --Only because she wanted to pay me back, you heard her yourself. (Hesitates:) I don't know if I could--

DARREN: (Smirks, pounces:) --Ah, so you're saying I'm right in thinking you don't have enough confidence in yourself?

DARIA: (Frowns:) No, that isn't what I'm saying. I'm just thinking that maybe it's not fair for her to give me a chance to write for her new magazine based on what she thinks I "did" for her, and overlook any other teen writers out there who might be better than me--

DARREN: (Exasperated expression:) --You see, that's just what I mean, Daria. You don't have enough confidence in yourself. You're only using the "I'll scratch-your-back-since-you-scratched-mine" excuse. (Daria rolls her eyes) What makes you think you're not better, or at least as good as any other writer your age? I've read your work, it's very good. (Pauses:) Dark, but good.

DARIA: Thanks for the ringing endorsement, but with all due respect, your opinion's a little biased since you're my brother. You're supposed to pat my back, the same for Jane, Tom, and even our--uh, genetically-shared parents. (Pauses:) Quinn's up in the air when it comes to endorsing me mostly, which is understandable, since her brain is mostly made of air, anyway. (Darren shakes his head slowly in mild dismay at Daria, not concerning her crack about Quinn, but sensing [to him] her low self-confidence. Daria changes the subject:) Uh, can we continue up, bro? I'm feeling a little claustrophobic, here, and we do have a busy day ahead.

DARREN: (Sighs, very slight disappointed tone, which Daria picks up on:) Sure, sis, I'm sorry. You're right, we have a lot to do today. I won't say anymore about this, I promise, and if you want, we don't have to say anything to anybody else. (Adds:) I won't even tell Jane. I'll leave it up to you to say something to her and everyone else. (Pauses, realizes:) Maybe we should leave a message for Constance while we're out not to spill the beans to anybody else if she's able to come to the mansion this week--? (Sighs again, this time more "heavily", pushes the "go" button, and the elevator continues. Daria forms a very tiny look of guilt on her face as she cuts her eyes over to her brother)

The doors immediately opened, and the two came out wordlessly into a hallway identical to the one that led to Constance's office, save for the new dark blue carpet and matching "baby" blue paint that dominated it up and down in both directions. Darren motioned to his sister to the double doors directly across the wide hallway from them. He was about to go in when Daria stopped him, gently grasping his arm.

DARIA: (Hesitates, thought v.o.: Ah, hell. Dammit, Darren. You really know how to make me feel guilty, don't you?:) Um, Darren--?

DARREN: (Distracted:) Huh? What? Something wrong?

DARIA: Maybe. (After a very long moment, sighs:) Do you, well, do you really think I could write for Constance's new magazine?

DARREN: (Stares at her, narrows eyes:) You heard what I thought, sis. The question is: Do you really think you could write for Constance's new magazine?

DARIA: (Uneasy expression, blushes slightly, looks off to the side, very low voice:) I--well--I guess--I--can--maybe--uhgiveitashot--? (Darren forms a very wide grin, which makes Daria scowl:) Get that damn smile off your face before I knock it off. Let's see your stupid office, then get the hell out of here. (Brushes past a still-grinning and smug-looking Darren, goes into the left side door, and Darren follows)


(Shift to various scenes around New York City about 45 minutes later. Daria and her brother exit from the Sick Sad World Museum of Oddities, with both now wearing sunglasses so as not to be "recognized" by anyone, actually an idea of Daria's, so they wouldn't be slowed down on their tour by "interlopers", i.e., reporters and the public. Darren shakes his head in shock over what they had seen inside, chuckling, while Daria casually speaks as she pulls out a plastic bloodied severed head of a doll, a souvenir, mouthing "For Quinn", smirking slightly in satisfaction as she puts it back into the bag. Darren gives her a disbelieving stare, then laughs as they get into the covered top Aston-Martin parked on the street in front of the museum. [Yes, dear reader, they found a parking spot in New York City!])

(Cut to another scene at Montoni's, where both are in a booth feasting on mostly-eaten and very thick cheeseburgers, with a side order of cheese fries, and shakes. Daria shakes her head slowly in apparent disagreement as Darren is holding up and pointing to a page in the "Steppenwolf" book they're discussing. Darren shrugs for an instant, then sips his shake and sits back as Daria speaks while pointing to the same page. After a moment, Darren nods his head in agreement, conceding, but then reaches over and flips over another page, pointing to something else, speaking. Daria forms a thoughtful look at this, then nods.)

(Yet another scene later shows the two in the New York Public Library, in a small, private side bookroom where both are in a game of chess. There are several "geeky-looking" teenagers there of both genders, watching from the side, rather intently, for the game is intense in scope. Darren moves a white knight piece, which causes Daria to narrow her eyes and sit back in deep thought for a moment. She then gets a sly look, and moves her black bishop, taking Darren's piece. The "geeks" murmur to each other in approval, smiling, and nodding their heads. Darren's eyes widen in surprise as he now sits back in deep thought, staring at the board. He sighs and concedes to his sister, smiles, stands up and mock-bows to her in acknowledgement. The "geeky" crowd claps their hands to Daria, who forms an ever-so-slight Mona Lisa smile of appreciation to them as she now stands.)


(Scene changes to an isolated part of the Appleton mansion's grounds, around the same time Daria and Darren were at Montoni's. There's a canvas on a small, open, grassy hilltop with a figure behind it, painting. We can't see who it is, save for the long, lithe black stocking legs and tall black Doc Martens, though we all know it has to be no one other than Jane Lane. She is encircled by the apparent serenity of the forest, save for the occasional chirp of a bird, and the scurrying of an squirrel or two.)

(The same scene now changes to an exact opposite one, this time with the canvas behind Jane, who's facing it. We can't see what she's painting as of yet. A sudden shadow forms across the grass behind her from a figure, who we can't see as of the moment, and appears to be approaching Jane's rear in a stealthy manner. Jane seems to be so into her work, that she's totally oblivious to what's behind her as she now stops painting, and puts her hands on her hips. The figure's shadow creeps up the back of Jane's legs to her back, drawing closer.)

Jane stood back and examined her now-finished painting of Darren holding Daria in his arms, smirking.

JANE: (To herself:) It's finished. Hell, I might as well face it: I'm good. (Pauses:) Damn good. Jane old girl, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

VOICE: (From behind Jane, chuckles, lightly pats her on the back:) How about if I do it for you?

Jane almost jumped out of her boots as she simultaneously turned around wide-eyed, discovering a grinning and amused Krystal.

JANE: (Holding her chest, which is threatening to explode from her heart beating so hard:) Krystal?! Geez Louise, you scared the hell out of me! Where did you come from?

KRYSTAL: (While casually strolling up to Jane's painting to examine it, calm tone:) Good afternoon, Jane, and I came up from behind you, of course. (Smirks as she continues to look at the painting, Jane stares at her, slightly annoyed by Krystal's seemingly snide remark, but brushing it off:) Sorry for startling you, I guess you can say I was "practicing" my martial arts stealth techniques--

JANE: (Looks off, very low tone to her self while taking a deep breath:) --Which I can say sure as hell worked on me--

KRYSTAL: (Continues on, either not hearing, or pretending not to hear Jane's comment:) --I've been meeting with the Morgendorffers, Millie, Jim, and Edward on the Northern grounds. We had a wonderful talk about how Darren met you and his family, and ate lunch--(pauses, looks over her shoulder:) which Jake Morgendorffer had provided to us by Henri via horseback. That was quite a sight in itself. (Jane gives her an inquisitive expression over this. Krystal narrows her eyes as she focuses back on the painting:) You're right, this painting is exceptional. (Turns to Jane:) I'm sure Darren and Daria will be very pleased with it.

JANE: (Grins:) Thanks. Uh, would you mind not saying anything 'till I unveil it? I want it to be a surprise for Friday. (Krystal nods) Thanks again. Well, I think Darren will be pleased at least, I hope. (Shrugs:) Daria's sort of not too receptive to being put in the "spotlight", you know--

KRYSTAL: Yes, Helen told me about Daria's reluctance in seeking attention, and her--(pauses, ponders:) um, "anti-social" tendencies, which is ironic, since Darren's now getting so much of the glare from the media. (Grins:) Do you think she'll be able to stand it?

JANE: (Chuckles:) Daria has so far, saying the term "Go to hell" when directly confronted by the media snoops. (Pauses, smirks:) Of course, since I've first known her, she's said "Go to hell" when confronted by just about anybody.

KRYSTAL: (Laughs:) So noted. (Pauses:) How about the way Quinn's handled it, or do I even need to ask?

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, chuckles:) Nope, you don't need to ask. (Krystal gets a wry look of realization, remembering what happened Sunday) In fact, the media has tried to avoid her since she always goes on a tangent about boys and fashion. (Pauses:) That's about the only smart thing these people have ever done since they made us the focus of their stories. (Krystal snickers)

KRYSTAL: Yes, I've discovered that Quinn and her friends can become quite a--(pauses, slight frown in finding the right words while looking off:) handful to deal with. Still, they're not all that bad, I suppose.

JANE: (Snorts:) So's getting a tooth pulled, but you don't see me too eager to get in the dentist's chair, do you? (Krystal grins) At least Helen and Jake are handling the attention pretty well, and are raking in the moolah in their careers, thanks to Darren--

KRYSTAL: (Smirks, adds as she looks Jane dead in the eye:) --Just like you are, right? (Jane looks a bit uncomfortable, which Krystal takes note of, in an "apologetic" tone:) Oops. Sorry. I didn't mean it like that.

JANE: (Waves her off:) Uh, no sweat. Yeah, I suppose I am making some dough and getting some attention for my art because of having Darren as a boyfriend, but Darren himself suggested that I use it to my advantage, which I am. (Krystal gets a surprised look briefly)

KRYSTAL: Oh, I--see. (In a "matter-of-fact" tone that subtly suggests mocking:) Well, you would've gotten plenty of notice of your artwork if you never even knew Darren anyway, of course.

JANE: (Uncomfortable look again, looks off:) Yeah, sure--um, of course. (Quickly changes subject:) Er, what exactly did you mean by Jake providing "Quite a sight in itself" when he came out to you guys with Henri's lunch, (pauses, realizes:) and did I hear you right when you said he did it by horseback?

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) Yes, you heard right. Jake had spotted us from over a hill while riding one of the horses from the stables, a picnic basket and blanket draped over his right side. (Adds:) We were sitting on some boulders in a clearing when we saw him, you see. He waved at us and began to ride down the hill when he slipped partway off the horse, which had then went into a half-scale gallop. (Tries not to laugh:) J-Jake was hanging perpendicular by his legs on the horse, screaming!

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, slight smirk, snaps her fingers:) Dammit! And I wasn't around to see it! I wish I had my camera for that!

KRYSTAL: (Continuing, now laughing out loud:) I-I'm sorry, but it was such a comical sight! The picnic basket s-spilled over, and all of the food started to fall out! Also, the blanket had somehow gotten draped over his head, and Jake suddenly couldn't see, flailing around wildly! (Jane starts to chuckle as Krystal gets herself under control) Don't worry, he was never in any real danger. Fortunately, Jim and Edward were able to run beside the horse, grabbing the reins, and calming it down to help Jake off. Helen was so embarassed. (Pauses:) I have to tell you that it took all of my being not to explode in laughter, the same for Millie, I think, because she had her head turned away from us for awhile, making tiny little whining sounds. Jim told him not to worry about it, patting him on the back and encouraging him like Helen, while Edward quickly volunteered to pick up the trail of food that that fallen off the horse. (Grins:) He took off before we could say anything, but I could swear I heard him laughing like he had lost his mind while he picked up the food. I think he couldn't control himself, so he took off to let loose.

JANE: (Now laughing a little, shaking head slowly:) Poor, poor Jake. All that food gone to waste--

KRYSTAL: (Cuts her off:) --No, not really. Like I said, we did eat lunch, and it was what Henri fixed. (Jane drops her eyebrow, perplexed) He had the foresight to wrap the sandwiches he had for us tightly in Saran wrap, the same for the fruits and slices of pie, too, so they weren't ruined. There were some cans of soda as well, so we had to be careful when we opened those--(snorts:) b-but then Jake forgot, and when he quickly opened his, it sprayed in his f-face! (Laughs out loudly with Jane:) A-After we ate, I came here. (Calms down:) The others decided to ride horseback around the grounds a little while longer, save for Edward, who had some "quick business calls" to take care of, begging off, and riding back to the mansion. Jim said that he'll break off from the pack and come here before going back to the mansion, I think--? (Jane nods knowingly as Krystal pauses, ponders:) You know, for a brief second there, it looked like Jim wanted to follow Edward for some reason. (Jane narrows her eyes slightly) I'd think that he'd jump at the chance to be with his ex while Edward was gone.

JANE: (Carefully covers the painting of Daria and Darren after making sure it's dry, looks over her shoulder, thinking about this morning:) Uh, why would you believe something like that? Jim and Millie are divorced, have been for years. I don't think there's anything there, anymore--

KRYSTAL: (Rolls eyes:) --Come on, Jane. It's obvious to me that Jim still has the hots for Millie. He practically sat right beside her on the blanket while we were eating and talking, hanging on her every word, almost drooling. (Slight smug smirk:) At times, I thought I saw Edward give a killer glare in his direction when Edward thought no one was watching.

JANE: (To herself, low voice:) Then it's not over between those two yet...

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Pardon? What's not over between "who" yet? (Pauses, assumes:) Oh, then you agree with me that Jim's still pining for Millie?

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? Oh, uh, yeah, yeah, that's what I meant, I agree with you. (Thought v.o.: On both counts. The bet is still on!) (Krystal gives her a strange expression) How'd you get here, by the way?

KRYSTAL: (Shrugs:) Courtesy of one of the security guys on a golf cart, like when I had first met the others after seeing Quinn and her friends. He told me where you were, exactly, and I came up here. (Pauses:) How'd you get here?

JANE: (Wraps the painting tightly, takes it off her easel:) Oh, by a horse--(puts her fingers to her mouth, whistles, and a fully-saddled black horse appears from the brush, which surprises Krystal) (Jane grins as the horse comes up beside her, snorting. She reaches into her pocket, pulling out some sugar cubes, feeding it to the horse while gently patting it on the side of its head:) yeeeah, you're a good girl, aren't you? Thanks for hanging around.

KRYSTAL: (Wide-eyed:) You mean, you didn't have to tie it up?

JANE: (Still patting the horse:) Nope. According to Darren and the mansion's trainer, this horse, who's named Penelope, is very well-trained. I asked for this one in the stables 'cause there was something about her that I liked, (pauses, shrugs:) maybe it's the black color, I dunno. Anyway, after a brief argument from the trainer, who thought I couldn't ride her for some reason, I got on, and she was as calm as could be, which seemed to shock him to no end. He then told me that all I had to do was "let" her ride me out to here, and she'd stay. The only thing I had to make sure of was that I had some sugar to feed her as a reward. Henri gave me some after I chowed down on his pizza a few hours ago. (Chuckles:) At first, I thought I'd forgotten how to ride a horse, but it all came back to me, thanks to Penelope, here. I had no trouble guiding her at all. I think she likes me, don't you, girl? (The horse seems to "nod" to Jane) Well, I like you, too--(nuzzles the horse's nose with her own)

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o., indignant: That's Penelope?! And here she gave me nothing but trouble when she was a foal! I tried to pet her once, and she nearly kicked me! To add insult to injury, everyone heard about it, and laughed behind my back at me! I hated her, and she me! Nobody could ride her for a long while, save for Darren, and--and--Stephanie! Damn it, no, it can't be!) (Narrows eyes, thought v.o.: I wonder if Penelope remembers me--?)

Krystal took a step forward to pat Penelope, but the horse began to rile back a bit, whinnying. Jane gently grabbed it's reins, while a scowling Krystal stopped and backed away. Penelope immediately calmed down.

JANE: (Rubbing Penelope's head:) Eaaasy, girl. Whoa. (Frowns, looks around:) Wonder what made her get so suddenly spooked liked that? I don't see any animals around here big enough to do it, save for us, of course.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o., slightly despondent: This is not a good omen, not good at all.) Uh, yeah, us. (Thought v.o.: Get to the gist, find out more about Jane and Darren, other than what I know already, of course...) So, um, out of curiousity, how exactly did you and Darren become an item, anyway? I was told by his birth parents that he saved your life from a muddy sinkhole--?

JANE: (Feeding Penelope another cube:) Yep. I was lucky that he heard me screaming for help, I almost drowned. (Pauses, grows quiet, looks off:) Well, technically I did. Darren got me out, gave me CPR, and revived me. (Penelope wonders off to the side, begins to graze, which makes Krystal do a quiet sigh of relief)

KRYSTAL: (Hesitates:) Is, uh, that when you began to fall for him? You know, when he saved your life?

JANE: (Pauses, small shrug:) Um, well, at the time, I was just really grateful to him. I mean, I just met Darren, and I already had a--(after a long pause, causing Krystal to eye her slightly suspiciously:) boyfriend. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow, Jane adds quickly:) But our relationship was sorta on the rocks before I met Darren, and we eventually broke up the same day. (Small smile:) I'll admit that when I first laid eyes on Darren, (adds:) after we cleaned up, of course, I--started to become attracted to him.

KRYSTAL: (Ponders, thought v.o.: Ah, now things are making some sense, here.:) (Smirks:) Yes, I can understand how any girl could do that. (Pauses:) Er, did having your life being saved by Darren have anything to do with your boyfriend breaking up with you? (Jane slightly frowns at her, confused) I mean, do you think that he thought you fell for Darren after Darren had done such an incredible thing for you, and that helped speed up the end of your relationship with this guy once and for all? You did say it was on the rocks... (thought v.o.: Then you moved in for the "kill" at that "Zen" place, and Frenched Darren later that night, dumping that "Tom Sloane" guy for him?)

JANE: (Narrows eyes, slightly defensive tone:) Excuse me, but are you implying something, here? That the only reason I fell for Darren was because he saved my life, and that we really have nothing in common, and--

KRYSTAL: (Quickly puts up waving hands, small smile, gently cuts her off:) --No, no, Jane! I'm not implying anything, really! Please try to understand, it's just that--well, look, it seems a little strange to me, you two getting together so fast. When I left Darren after attending his parent's funeral, I expected that he'd go off somewhere to recooperate for the summer. I mean, he was still just getting over Stephanie Reardon's death a month-and-a-half earlier. Imagine my surprise when I heard about everything that happened, then about his suddenly having a girlfriend, too! Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for you both, really, it's just that it's so incredible, you know--?

JANE: (Seeming placated at little, backs off:) Uh, sure, I guess I see what you mean when I think about it a little more, Krystal. I suppose from anybody's point of view, we seemed to get together too fast. Darren's birth family thought the same thing for a bit, as a matter of fact, save for Daria. (Krystal frowns very slightly) We're all past that now, though.

KRYSTAL: (Slight nod:) That's good. (Pauses:) Ah, so, are you still on good terms with the guy you broke up with? (Adds quickly and casually before Jane can say something, weak chuckle:) I've been in several relationships myself, you know, and I've experienced some really nasty break-ups. (Smirks, crosses arms:) Since he's now available, maybe I can, um, make a move on him? What's his name?

JANE: (Uneasy smile:) --Uh, yeah, his name's Tom, Tom Sloane. He and I departed on pretty good terms, but he lives in Lawndale, you know, and he's seeing someone already. (Pauses, wonders if she should say something more, decides to do so:) In fact, he's now with Daria. (Adds, smirks:) You may now be stunned, m'dear.

KRYSTAL: (Very raised eyebrows, thought v.o.: This "Tom Sloane" is with Darren's sister Daria now, while Jane, his ex-girlfriend, is with Darren?! How and when in the hell did all this happen? This is something new and intriguing--:) Daria, you say? (Takes a genuine deep breath of surprise, weak grin:) Wow. Talk about passing off your hand-me-downs in both directions--

JANE: (Wry chuckle:) I'd like to think he and I "improved" our stock a bit, thank you, but everyone's okay about the situation.

KRYSTAL: How did--

JANE: (Cuts her off mildly but sharply, puts up another new blank canvas on her easel:) --If you don't mind, I really don't wanna talk about it. (Pauses:) Besides, it's kinda complicated--reeeal complicated.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Damn! It must've been a real doozy! I wonder if I can get it out of Darren or Daria later? Possibly this "Tom Sloane" person somehow? I'll have to bide my time, [narrows eyes, gets an idea:] or maaaybe...) (Feigns meekness, uneasy tone:) Um, well, I see. Sorry to have hit a nerve--?

JANE: (Smiles, waves Krystal off, starts painting:) Nah. I assure you, my nerves are as calm and serene as the look of the grounds, here.

Before Krystal could respond, a grinning Jim suddenly showed up on horseback, slightly unnerving Penelope, who then began grazing again. Both girls stared at him as he got off his horse. Jim frowned at Penelope for a moment, then spoke.

JIM: Penelope? Is that you, girl? (Penelope stares at him with no expression) Who had the guts to ride a nasty filly like you from all of the horses in the stables way out here?

JANE: (Smirks, holds hand up, walks over to Jim:) That would be moi, mon capitan, "Gutmeister Jane" at your service.

JIM: (Chuckles, bows to her:) Well, little lady, I've gotta say I'm flattered beyond words! Nobody but Darren and Stephanie were able to ride her! Hey, Krystal, you remember that time when Penelope almost kicked yo--

KRYSTAL: (Slight frosty tone, cuts him off:) --Yes, of course, loads of wonderful memories, there. (Quickly glances at watch as Jane gives her a curious smirk to her response:) Well, it's time for me to leave, anyway. I'll catch a ride back to the mansion, I'm running behind schedule--

JANE: --Hey, you can use my cell phone if you want to call somebody out here--

JIM: (Motions to his horse:) --Or, if you want, you can ride ol' "Bessy" here back to the stables. I can use Jane's phone to go back after we talk.

KRYSTAL: (Slight smile, puts up hand:) No, that's alright guys, thanks anyway. The estate's security is always riding around on the paths, you know. Jane, it was nice to see you again. See you later, Jim. I'll talk to Darren and Daria after I come back from Reynaldo's with Quinn and her friends tomorrow, before Darren leaves with his birth father to Yankee Stadium. I hope they're having a good time in the city--(begins to leave)

JANE: (Calling after her:) --They called me about 30 minutes ago from that "Montoni's" place. (Krystal stops to look at her) Darren confided to me that he's then gonna take Daria to play some chess at the New York Public Library. I was kind of surprised to hear that he belonged to a chess club, and that he wanted to surprise Daria when he told her. He didn't play any chess with her when he was in Lawndale because he didn't know she played any.

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) --Yes, I remember he said something about the club at Eastward one time. It's a bit of an elite, private group (thought v.o.: Of stupid-looking little geeks, that is...), and he's considered to be the best player. They all sometimes play there, renting out a room, though it's every other month. (Ponders:) So, Daria plays chess, eh? I'm something of a player, myself. I might want to try her on. I'll remember to bring my set over tomorrow. (Thought v.o.: And see if I can get more info on what happened with her, Jane, Darren, and this "Tom" guy...)

JANE: I haven't seen Daria play, but from what I've heard, when she's played against some of my classmates at my high school, is that she's damn good. She sometimes beat some students in as little as ten moves. (Krystal looks impressed with Jim) I told Darren about it when we spoke over the phone a few weeks back, and then he told me about his little group. Darren better be ready--and you, for that matter. They'll then go to see a Broadway play. Darren said it was Hedda Gabler, based on Henrik Ibsen's book. He thought Daria would really like it.

JIM: (Snorts:) Huh, I saw that play a few years ago in Chicago. It was too dark for me--

JANE: (Chuckles:) --Which is right up Daria's alley. I think she'll love it.

KRYSTAL: Well, I'm sure she will. See you two tomorrow. (Begins to walk towards a gap in the shrubs downhill as Jane and Jim start speaking, then a "squoosh" sound is heard under her feet. Krystal frowns, and looks down to see that she has stepped into horse manure, more than likely Penelope's. She turns slowly around, scowling at the horse, which has happened to have watched her all of this time. Jane and Jim have not noticed as they continue speaking. Penelope makes a low whinnying sound, loud enough for only Krystal to have heard, as if to sound like a chuckle, then resumes her grazing. Krystal gives off a parting killer glare to Penelope, thinking of making the horse into glue as she wipes the manure off the soles of her shoes by the ground, disgusted expression, but privately thankful that she didn't wear sandals, leaves)


(Scene changes to the hallway of the mansion's east wing, the same time)

Edward looked around carefully as he subtly sauntered up to Jim's bedroom. Satisfied that no one was around at the moment, he jiggled the doorknob to see if it were unlocked, which it was. Edward suspected that Jim had left it unlocked for the staff to clean his room. Edward quickly slipped in, quietly shutting the door.

He immediately took a deep breath as he leaned back against the door with his eyes closed, grateful no one had seen him--yet. Why am I in here again, taking a chance on being exposed, even leaving that ass possibly alone a bit with Millie, who I can tell he still loves? Oh yes, Jim's "sudden" niceness to me this morning. The old boy's hiding something, I just know it. Relax, Edward, you've done things like this many times before, and you haven't been caught--yet. Just focus. Focus. Look for something out of the ordinary--and hurry before someone comes in.

Quickly scanning the room, he immediately discovered that it was already cleaned, which actually made it worse for Edward, since he wanted to go through the room with a fine toothcomb, and not have to worry about disturbing anything. He guessed that the staff left the room unlocked after cleaning so Jim could enter without contacting them on getting a key. Shrugging, Edward decided that he'd just have to be extra careful while searching.

Edward carefully made his way to Jim's dresser, lightly looking through Jim's clothes, just enough not to wrinkle them too much. Edward frowned at Jim's polka-dot shorts in disgust, putting them back into the drawers. He then turned his attention to the counter of the dresser, carefully and slightly moving some of Jim's toiletries, but once again finding nothing out of the ordinary.

A small business card on Jim's end table beside the bed suddenly caught Edward's eye. He walked over to the table, and took the card up, reading it.

EDWARD: (Thought v.o.: "Gerald Woo"? The detective that found Darren's birth family, now on permanent retainer for him? What would that simpleton possibly need him for--to investigate me, perhaps? That would help explain why Morse had a "sudden" change of heart to me this morning, wanting to throw me off guard--? Best to find out once and for all...)

Edward pulled out an electronic bug from his pocket, the same one he used to listen to the Morgendorffers and Darren the other night in the media room, slipping it under the end table. Just as he did, he heard voices out in the hallway, coming towards the room. Edward put Woo's card back in it's precise place quickly, then frantically looked around for a place to hide, spotting Jim's walk-in closet. He quickly went into it just in time as Claude and Elenor entered. Claude was carrying some of Jim's folded and pressed shirts and pants, smirking. Elenor was holding a feather duster, frowning. She waited in the doorway with crossed arms while Claude put away Jim's clothes in the dresser.

CLAUDE: Oh, come now, Elenor. Don't have such a sour dispostion simply because your side lost our wager over not seeing what Jane had painted in Master Darren's meditation room. (Smug expression:) After all, I know I'm quite over it. (Shuts drawer)

ELENOR: (Rolls eyes, droll tone:) Oh, I'm sure you are. (Pauses as Claude grins:) Alright, how about a "new" sort of bet on that, then, one that would pit everyone against each other this time, as opposed to two groups on the last one?

CLAUDE: (Interested expression:) Go on.

ELENOR: (Smirks:) This go around, the "bet", or rather the winner of a betting pool, would go to the staff person who guesses what Mi--Jane's painted, or the one who comes the closest to guessing, before her "unveiling" it Friday. After all, no one outside of Jane has seen it, right?

CLAUDE: (Ponders, narrows eyes:) Hmmm. I like your idea. I believe we can get the entire staff in on this. (Cocks an eyebrow:) You do realize that none of the staff can be allowed to enter that room? (In the closet, Edward rolls his eyes, bored expression, keeps ear to the door)

ELENOR: (Grins:) Of course, it's locked anyway. Jane has the only key, having gotten it from Master Darren. Also, none of the staff can be allowed to approach her in any way that would "suggest" trying to discover what's painted between now and then. Jane must be treated the same as always.

CLAUDE: (Nods:) Fair enough, I don't think we'll have to worry about that, since she's been quite zealous on allowing anyone in there at all.

ELENOR: (Cocks eyebrow as Claude comes up beside her:) Same wagers to be used in the pool?

CLAUDE: Certainly, though Tina's been aching to increase it. What do you think Jane's painted? Something peaceful, I'm wagering--

ELENOR: (Wry look:) Oh, no you don't. I'm not tipping my hand...(both leave the room, shutting the door, voices fade off)

After a moment, Edward came out of the walk-in closet, quietly making his way to the door, putting his ear to it. Satisfied that no one was in the hallway, he quickly came out, shutting the door quietly behind him, looking around once more. He walked hurriedly to the stables to wait for Millie and the others.


(Scene changes to Sandi's room, the same time)

After the fashion meeting had ended and Stacy and Tiffany had left (going to "categorize" their individual wardrobes per Sandi's instructions for Reynaldo's tomorrow), Quinn had spoken to Sandi about Fiona's story concerning Krystal, Stephanie, and Darren (but not about Fiona's former pining for Darren). Both girls sat on Sandi's bed. After a moment, Sandi spoke.

SANDI: (Frowns:) This is a most disturbing development, Quinn, but as you indicated, it could be about nothing as well. It leaves a rather wide way to go in either direction. (Pauses:) This is similar to choosing whether to wear silk or a high quality all-cotton blend to an exclusive party.

QUINN: (Nods:) Oh, most definitely, Sandi. (Narrows eyes:) How do you think we can find out what Krystal's true intentions are for my brother? Does all she want to be is a friend to him?

SANDI: (Sighs:) I--don't know as of yet. Let me think about it some more. (Quinn gets a slightly disappointed expression, and Sandi glances at her curiously) Quinn, may--um, may I ask you a personal question?

QUINN: (After a moment:) Uh, sure, Sandi. What?

SANDI: Why did you come to me about this?

QUINN: (Uneasy chuckle, looks everywhere but at Sandi:) Saaandi! I thought I told you that already!

SANDI: (Shakes head slowly:) No, you told me your basic reasons. You didn't tell me your real reasons. (Quinn frowns at her, confused, and Sandi continues) You think if Krystal, like, still really likes Darren, it's like what I felt for him, and maybe I'd know exactly what to say and do--(narrows eyes, leans close to her:) don't you?

QUINN: (Stares at Sandi, mildly surprised, sighs:) I--guess it was sorta a stupid thing to do, huh? You shoulda been the last person I'd talk to about this... (Sandi's expression is unreadable, which unnerves Quinn a little, in a quieter voice:) I'm--sorry.

Sandi continued her look for a second longer, thinking for a second about telling Quinn that she knew about Quinn's promise to Darren about keeping an eye out on her, but backed out at the last second, instead showing a small smile, which privately unnerved Quinn even more.

SANDI: (In a genuinely grateful tone:) Quinn, like, thank you. (Quinn's eyes grow very wide in shock, mouth drops) You trusted me with this information, and confided only in me. In fact, I'm quite honored by it. (Pauses again, smirks as Quinn's mouth drops a second time:) Like, don't worry, I'm not offended in the least by what you've told me, because I've accepted Darren and Jane being together. (Hesitates:) You--really are my friend, aren't you?

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Sandi, I've always been your friend, just like you've been mine, you know that!

Both girls stared at each other for a moment, suddenly feeling very guilty for some reason at this, looking around uneasily. Finally, Sandi spoke.

SANDI: Er, of course, Quinn, like, I knew that. (After a moment, looks off, gets an "idea" expression, sinister smirk of the "old" Sandi as she eyes the box labeled "Jane" on her dresser the F.C. purchased from Cashman's of Park Avenue:) You know, I think I'm getting an idea right now on how to "test" Krystal on Darren to find out what's what...(Quinn forms a wry look, leans over to listen to her)


(Scene changes to the front of the estate a few hours later. It is now almost dark)

Darren's covered-top Aston-Martin drove through the gate slowly on the long driveway to the Appleton mansion after speaking to Fiona over the gate's intercom. He looked over to his currently napping sister, who was slumped back in her reclined passenger seat. Daria's glasses were barely dangling on the bridge of her small nose, briefly reminding him of how she looked when he and Jane found her sleeping in the study early Sunday morning. He smiled at the "cute" scene for an instant, and gently nudged her left shoulder with his right elbow. Daria began to stir, sitting up, and looked around wearily as she rubbed her eyes after removing her glasses.

DARREN: We're back, sis. Wake up.

DARIA: (Puts her glasses back on, stretches her back:) Good. That nap should help to refresh me for tonight. I'm getting a book out of the study, and go to sleep reading it in my bedroom--

DARREN: (Chuckles:) --That is, if the others don't bog you down with questions over your newfound writing job and the meeting with Dean Pierpoint first. When our "genetically-shared parents", aunt Millie and uncle Jim found out after we called during the play's intermission, they were estatic, (mock-shudders:) and Jane was joking about going with you into war zones to paint death scenes while you do your stories on them.

DARIA: (Exasperated sigh, slight roll of eyes:) You just had to bring that all up, didn't you?

DARREN: (Smirks:) The death scenes or everyone's happiness for you? (Daria mildly glares, and Darren grins:) Hey, I'm just preparing you for their expected onslaught, sis. Relax, Helen and Jake are just very proud of you like I am, like any parents would be of their daughter. (Ponders, adds:) Even Quinn sounded happy for you. (Daria gives a brief "Yeah, right" shrug) I don't think they'll all drown you in praise--(Daria stares at him with her "expressionless expression", and Darren snickers:) well, okay, at least not too much.

DARIA: (Looks off, low tone:) Um, yeah, I guess. (Regular monotonic voice:) Just promise me that you'll throw a life preserver if what's supposed to hit the fan gets too deep for me when it comes in my direction. (Changes tone as Darren laughs:) Speaking of Quinn, why do you think she'd be so envious of seeing you and me on Jane's painting, according to Jane's call? (Pauses:) Not that I should complain, since this is Quinn, and it's so ever very rare to see her so upset. (Adds, smirks:) It's a welcome change of pace for me.

DARREN: (As the car comes up to the lighted garage, it's doors rolling up after Darren hits a button in the car, sighs:) I don't know, Daria, I'll see if I can ask her tonight.

Both got out of the car as the garage doors closed, then retrieved some souvenirs out of the trunk and back seat. Daria sighed as she came beside her brother while they went into the foyer with their bags.

DARIA: (Looking around:) They'll all be here in a second.

DARREN: (Ditto:) Yep.

DARIA: That'll give me just enough time to um, (turns red, low tone, looks off, Mona Lisa smile:) thank you for today, Darren. I really had a good time all around, the lunch, the chess playing, the play, everything.

DARREN: (Small smile in return:) You're welcome, sis, and so did I, even the media didn't pester us, it was an almost perfect day. (Pauses:) We're going to have to do this some more in the future, you know.

DARIA: (Still keeping the Mona Lisa smile:) Yeah, I'd really like th--

The next moment, Helen, Jake, Millie, Jim, and Edward stormed in from the family room, all smiling, having gathered in there after eating dinner only a few minutes earlier. Elenor and Fiona came down from the upstairs at the same time. Daria immediately resumed her "usual" mask of stoicness and stiffness as a delighted Helen hugged her, congratulating her middle daughter on accepting the writing job, ditto for Jake, who was beaming even more proudly, even to the point of pounding his chest in pride. Daria tried to beg off when the others started to ask questions, feigning tiredness from the tour, but everyone (especially Helen by far and away) wouldn't hear of it, insisting that she spill the beans on the tour and the meeting with Dean Pierpoint. Daria sighed heavily, and began to go into the family room dutifully, if nothing else, to get it all over with. She looked at her brother hesitantly for the "life preserver", but he simply gave her a thumbs up for luck, grinning, quickly explaining to the others that he'd talk to them later, wanting to speak to Jane first. Daria threw him a mock-glare of future payback as she went in with everyone, save Edward, who said he had to make some more "business calls" first, then would join them all in a few minutes. Jim looked at him suspiciously for an instant as Edward went up the stairs, then Jim followed the others, albeit reluctantly.

Darren was informed by both maids as they took his bags that Jane was currently out on the grounds, taking pictures of the landscape at night for a painting, an idea she suddenly came up with at the last second. They assured Darren that security was nearby to keep an eye out on her, the same for Quinn and the Fashion Club, who just as suddenly had decided to take a night stroll around the lake to absorb what they called "moon-rays" for their skin care. Relieved, and knowing that Jane could take care of herself, Darren decided to look for his "baby" sister first, wanting to inquire about her reaction to the painting. After asking Elenor to tell the others where he was going, Darren left.

He walked out towards the lake in the peaceful night on a rocky path and promptly heard thunder in the distance. He looked up at the night sky, noticing some thick clouds beginning to roll in. It appeared that rain was coming, but it was still far off, at least about a few hours away, to his estimation. He hastened his pace a bit nevertheless.

He spotted several security personnel on patrol while walking, waving to them as he went by. Occasionally, Darren heard the sounds of crickets chirping, followed by the hooting of an owl, but nothing else. Of course, he wasn't afraid in the least, having come down this particular path countless times in his life, morning, noon, and night. After a few minutes, he paused, hearing some giggling, splashing, and talking near the lake, all definitely female ones.

Darren then walked through a narrow wooded path to the large lake, finally spotting his sister and the rest of the Fashion Club members. They were all wearing tee-shirts and faded rolled-up jeans while sitting on the edge of the water on a pier that jutted about ten feet into the lake, dangling their legs in the water. Their sandals were placed at the foot of the dock. The half-moon above poked through the thickening clouds randomly, showing it's occasional reflection on the barely-made rippling waves of the lake. As Darren began to walk to them, Tiffany spotted him first, pointing.

TIFFANY: Hey Quinn...isn't that...Darren? (The other F.C. members look as well)

QUINN: (Getting up with the others, smiles, comes over to hug him:) Darren! When did you and Daria get back?

DARREN: (Smiles down at his sister:) Hey sis, everybody. About 20 minutes ago. I was told you all were, er, getting "moon-rays"--?

SANDI: It, like, does wonders for our delicate skin, Darren. You should try it out as well. (Looks up at the sky while Darren gives her a brief "Uh-huh, sure" expression.) Unfortunately, I don't think we achieved the full effect of the moon-rays. It appears to be a cloudy night.

DARREN: (Follows Sandi's look:) Yes, I think it's going to rain soon, maybe in a few hours.

STACY: (Wide-eyed, panicking:) Oh no! I just washed my hair! I don't wanna get it wet before we go to Reynaldo's tomorrow! I'm going inside, guys! (Takes off before anyone can say a word. All watch Stacy put on her sandals, leaving quickly in the direction of the mansion)

SANDI: (To Tiffany:) Come on, we'd better catch up to her to slow her down. It is unfashionable to sweat and be out of breath, as you full-well know. (Tiffany nods in agreement, and Darren drops an eyebrow to them, giving an odd expression to both girls) See you both later. (Gives Quinn a knowing glance as she passes by, mouths "Ask him about Krystal". Quinn, frowns for an instant in confusion, then understands, nods curtly to her as Sandi leaves with Tiffany)

DARREN: (Watches them go, turns to Quinn:) Good, I'm glad I didn't have to make an excuse to them to speak to you alone. I wanted to talk to you about--

QUINN: (Cuts him off:) --So, um, I told you Krystal was here today over the phone, right--?

DARREN: (Pauses, cocks a curious eyebrow at her:) Uh, yes you did. You said she was looking for me, but when she missed me and Daria, she spoke to you and the others. You said you all had a good time. (Pauses:) Why'd you ask me about that?

QUINN: (Pauses:) Um, well, I was just wondering--what do you think of her?

DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? What do you mean? Krystal's a good friend to me, though she isn't as close to me as Curtis, at least not anymore.

QUINN: (After a moment, narrows eyes:) Oh really? Why is that? She said you guys knew each other since you were kids, and stuff. What happened to make you guys grow apart?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) Kids grow apart as they grow older, sis, it just happens most of the time. It's pretty rare for it to last beyond the teen age years. Krystal and I still knew each other, but we started to meet other people. (Chuckles:) She started to draw the guys, (brief grim look:) and me the girls. (Pauses, uncomfortable sigh:) Rory and I stayed together a while longer, but you know what happened after what he did with Dora, Krystal told you that.

QUINN: (Pauses:) Uh, yeah. (Cocks an eyebrow, hesitates:) Uh, when did you meet Stephanie? You, um, never really told our family about her, except that you liked her before Jane--?

Darren stared at his sister for a moment, wincing slightly, as if in a bit of pain. Quinn immediately began to feel terrible for even bringing up the subject, looking slightly uncomfortable. Darren picked up on his sister's expression, quickly speaking to reassure her.

DARREN: I'm sorry, sis, I didn't mean to look so--(pauses:) tense. Stephanie's still a bit of a sensitive subject to me. Actually, she was a new student at Orbison when we first met, a few weeks after Rory transferred out. Her family had moved from Ohio when her dad had gotten a promotion to become head of his aerospace engineering company's local branch. (Small smile:) She was planning to follow in his footsteps by becoming an engineer herself. Our first meeting was in a advanced placement algebra class, she sat in front of me. (Chuckles:) It sounds sort of cliched, but when she dropped a pencil, I reached over and attempted to pick it up for her, but she happened to be doing the same thing, and well, our hands touched--(Quinn giggles, and Darren turns red-faced briefly:) and, uh, one thing led to another. Soon, we were dating.

QUINN: Like, that's sooo cute! (Thought v.o.: She seemed to be at least as smart as Daria to do that algebra stuff...)

DARREN: Uh, yeah, "cute". (Pauses:) And just think, before that simple incident happened, I wanted to speak to her like crazy, but then just about every other guy in school did, too, and I thought I wouldn't have a chance--

QUINN: (Wide-eyed, stunned, cuts him off:) --You didn't think YOU'D have a chance? (Smirks:) My gorgeous and handsome big brother? I thought you could get any girl you wanted at Obi-dobi Academy!

DARREN: (Chuckles at his sister's misnomer:) Sis, that's Orbison Academy. I never tried to go after the females as much as you think I did, not as much as Rory, Krystal told you that. They came after me, though at the time I didn't realize it as much as I do now. (Pauses:) I think there was a lingering after-effect of what Rory had done to Dora. It--scared me what happened in the end, and not just by my beating up Rory, either. I began not to like how I "drew" the girls, I didn't want to end up like Rory. (Quinn looks surprised) Rory's actions were so bad, several girls didn't even speak to their boyfriends for a few weeks around the academy, and some of the guys even vowed to change their ways, though most of them had forgotten about it soon afterwards, like the girls. (Frowns:) I know I didn't, and Curtis either, for that matter. He met Lena over that summer in Florida, and they're still together.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: I never thought about staying with one guy. It's that easy? Time to think about that later...:) So, you said you ended up loving Stephanie a whole lot, right?

DARREN: (Narrows eyes a bit, trying to figure out where this is going:) Yessss--?

QUINN: (Hesitates, quieter voice:) Did, uh, did that mean you were gonna eventually marry her? (Pauses:) Um, you never directly told us that morning when we first heard that Jane was your girlfriend. I just figured Stephanie was a really special girl who meant a whole lot to you.

DARREN: (Surprised at his sister's directness, after a moment, looks away:) I--ah, well, yes, I was--(adds:) and she was a really special girl. In fact, I was going to--(pauses:) propose to her just before she died. (Sighs as a sympathetic Quinn pats his arm gently:) It was a little painful for me to remember it, but since I told Daria about almost marrying her already (Quinn's eyes light up in shock, mouth drops at this), you might as well know, too. Few people actually do.

QUINN: (Searches for words, slight annoyance in her voice. She's so stunned upon hearing this, she forgets about asking any more questions leading up to Krystal:) You--you--mean--Daria knew about this before I did?

DARREN: (Stares at Quinn for a moment, a little miffed at her reaction:) Uh, well, yes, and Helen and Jake, too. Other than my late (adopted) parents, aunt Millie and Curtis, no one else knows, not even Elenor, Claude, and Tina or the rest of the staff, (pauses, frowns slightly:) though I've heard it was rumored that they knew something. I learned that Daria told Jane later about it, (Quinn's eyes narrow at this) the same night Jane, ah, kissed me at the Zen. (Quinn now cocks an inquisitive eyebrow) You see, Jane thought that I still had a girlfriend at the time, and was concerned that what she had done would break us up. Daria explained to her that she had nothing to worry about. (Pauses, shrugs:) But like I said, it's pretty painful to discuss--

QUINN: (Quickly develops a "chipper" tone to hide her growing anger upon hearing this, smiles through clenched teeth, cuts him off:) --Then'll let's talk about something else to get your mind off that, like, how was everything in New York City? (Small frown, tiny, bitter tone, pauses:) It wasn't boring with Daria, was it? (Both start to return to shore on the pier)

DARREN: (Small smile, not noticing his sister's behavior:) Nope, we had a very good time. I'll let you hear it from Daria herself. Right now, I wanted to speak about what you and Jane talked about today, namely that painting you saw of me and Daria. Jane told us over her cell phone what happened while we were out. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) You didn't say anything about that when I called you later, and I decided not to press the issue until now.

QUINN: (Frowns, narrows eyes, stops:) What did Jane say, exactly?

DARREN: (Gives her an even look, shrugs:) That you seemed envious of seeing Daria and me on it, and of your not being included--?

QUINN: (Rolls eyes, snorts:) That's like, so dumb, and stuff! I couldn't care less! I told her that!

DARREN: (After a moment:) Well, Jane said that you asked her about it directly, and that you sounded envious. (Pauses:) I didn't ask Jane to paint that, you know.

QUINN: (Looks out over the water, in her low, bitter tone again after a long moment:) Yeah, but you didn't try to stop her from paintin' it, either...

DARREN: (Raised eyebrows in surprise:) What did you say?

QUINN: (Growing angry, her frustration now showing, raises voice:) I--said--you--didn't STOP her from paintin' it, either! (Darren draws back in shock, and Quinn continues her tirade, fists by her sides, in his face:) You could've asked her to not paint it out of fairness to me, but ohhh nooo, you let her do that with you an' Daria!

DARREN: (Tone of disbelief:) Just what are you saying, Quinn? (Pauses:) You know Daria wouldn't have wanted to be shown like that! Besides, it was all Jane's idea, not mine, and it all happened so fast with her taking that picture!

QUINN: (Fumes, calms down a little, but still has anger in her tone:) Okay, maybe it did, but how about what you told Daria and Jane first this morning, but not me? (Darren frowns at her in confusion, mouthing, "What?") I'm talking about that overseas money stuff! We were told while you guys were out about it from Mom and Dad over dinner, after that "Constance" lady called about holdin' some news conference tomorrow over it, since they said you weren't keepin' it a secret anymore! They said you told Daria and Jane first this morning!

DARREN: (Now even deeper frown of confusion:) Huh? (Pauses, realizes:) You mean those overseas bank accounts that were stolen from Appleton? (Quinn nods furiously) Why in the world would you care about that?

QUINN: (Voice raising again:) I just DO, okay?! (Darren winces at her tone) You told Daria and Jane, why didn't you tell me that over the phone when you called earlier, at least, before that "Constance" lady told us all?

DARREN: (Holds arms out, stunned tone:) Sis, I--don't know! They were just there with me at breakfast, and you weren't! It happened to come out because I just wanted to tell them! (Cocks an eyebrow:) Where's all this coming from?

QUINN: (Ignores Darren, frowns, looks off, more to self than Darren again:) First that overseas money thing, (thought v.o.: And the call to Sandi's dad about th' way she's been acting up here, I can't forget that, oh no...) then the painting, now I found out about your almost marryin' Stephanie--(adds:) all after Daria an' Jane did. (Pauses, gasps, turns furiously to Darren:) What other things have you told them, and not me, I wonder? (Adds to Darren before he can respond:) And--and--they'll both be living with you, while I'll be way off going to fashion school in California! (Pauses, begins to sob, looking lost:) Daria will be closer to you than I will, even Jane! You'll forget about me! (Suddenly hugs a completely confused and thoroughly-stunned Darren tightly, crying in his chest)


At the same instant, a smirking Jane fearlessly made her way around the lake opposite of Darren and Quinn, frantically taking pictures of the estate's dark grounds (save for a few electric-lighted poles along the paths) with a camera, but this was another one from the one she had when she took the picture of Daria and Darren. This camera was of the special night-vision variety, complete with infra-red capabilities. She found out Millie had possession of it during their little talk on Monday. Arthur Sr. had been something of a novice photographer when he wasn't running Appleton, and he had used it during some rare nighttime picture-taking on the Appleton's vacations as a (very) minor hobby. Millie had decided to keep it as something to remember her brother by after he was killed, but when she discovered that Jane sometimes used a camera for her artwork, she offered the "leasing" of the camera for Jane to use for any nighttime picture-taking while staying here, which was perfect for Jane's sudden artistic inspiration, a van Gogh-type of "Starry Night" painting.

Jane couldn't help but to be impressed with the camera as she snapped it. Even her father Vincent didn't have one for his regular photography jobs, at least she didn't think he did, since she rarely saw him around the Lane house in recent years like her mother. Jane remembered how he griped one time about how expensive these type of cameras were, and that he'd have to "Work like a dog over five years" just to acquire enough money to get one so he could do some nighttime photography without getting one on credit. I wonder if that's one of the reasons he's hardly been around the ol' homestead lately? If it is, then it's a decidedly lame-ass reason... Jane stopped and glanced down at the camera. She suspected it probably cost in the range of several thousand dollars. Great, now I'm nervous over holding a portable mini-photo shop in my hands. I just hope I don't get sweaty palms and drop the damn thing. Maybe dad would have a good reason to stay away and earn one.

As Jane continued her clicking, she suddenly stopped, and narrowed her eyes at something, or more specifically, someone, across the lake. Looking through the camera, which showed an infra-red, but crystal-clear viewpoint, she saw Darren and Quinn in a hug on the pier, with Darren looking worried about something, gently rubbing his sister's bright red hair, appearing to comfort her. Jane grinned in glee in getting yet another inspirational moment (and ignoring what the reason was at the time), and snapped the two together several times until she had run out of film. Shrugging after checking the camera, she began to make her way back to the mansion, whistling "We Are Family" happily, waving playfully at a passing security guard riding in a golf cart to stop, which the man did. Jane hopped in, and the cart proceeded in the direction of the mansion.


(Scene returns to Darren and Quinn)

DARREN: (Looking forward over the lake while caressing his sister's hair:) Okay, now I'm in the Twilight Zone. (Gently holds Quinn away from him, looks down at her:) Let me see if I can understand this, sis: You think I somehow favor Daria and Jane over you because you believe I tell them things I don't to you?

QUINN: (Glares, wipes her mascara-marred eyes:) Yeah, that's exactly what I'm sayin', or at least you tell them stuff before you tell me, admit it!

DARREN: (After a moment, stares down at her with no expression:) Okay, I admit I told them some things--(Quinn is about to say something, but Darren holds up his hand to stop her:) but it wasn't intentional, believe me. To be honest with you, I told Daria about almost marrying Stephanie when I stayed the first night in your home, and not the rest of you. I don't know exactly why I did it, maybe it was based on my early impressions of you both.

QUINN: (Frowns in confusion:) Your "early impressions" of us? What do you mean?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) When I first met you two at Cranberry Commons, you seemed--(ponders for words:) well, like a shallow "teeny-bopper" to me, a girl that seemed to only care about boys, looks, and clothes. No offense, but girls like that annoy me, having seen it countless times from scheming debutante wanna-be girlfriends at some of the boring, stupid parties I attended with my (adopted) parents, like how Sandi used to be when I went on that "forced date" with her. (Pauses:) It sort of annoyed me even more when I found out one like that seemed to be my "baby" sister. (Quinn looks hurt, which Darren immediately adds:) I said seemed, sis. I know you're not like that--(adds, smirks:) at least not completely, that is--

QUINN: (Forcing herself to give a tiny smile, rolls eyes:) --Huh.

DARREN: Now, when I first met Daria, I didn't know what to think, except that her sarcasm, whereas you, Helen, and Jake found so unappealing, I found it to be hilarious. I'd even go so far to say that it cheered me up. (Quinn looks at him as if he's nuts, and Darren grins:) Sis, you have to remember what I was going through at the time, I needed to laugh, and Daria provided the tonic, though I'm sure she didn't know it. (Adds quickly:) Not that you and Helen and Jake didn't, either, but--well, she had a "calmness" about her that somehow made me--(pauses:) comfortable, and I just chose to confide in her that first. That sort of caused me to blurt Stephanie out to her--

QUINN: (Sighs, looks down:) --So you do prefer Daria to me--

DARREN: (Shakes his head frantically, suddenly surprises Quinn by holding her shoulders gently, but forcifully, emphatic tone:) NO! Quinn, that's crazy! I--I love you both, sis, equally, you've got to believe me! (Quinn still looks unsure) Look, think about it for a second. While I stayed with you all, you wanted to pass me off as your lost brother and as Daria's cousin. (Adds quickly:) Yes, we'd gotten past that, but how about getting me to buy that $800 dress at Cashman's in Lawndale? (Rolls eyes:) And whoo-boy, let's not forget about what happened at Chez Pierre! I could barely talk to you about the Fashion Institute without some guy in our faces trying to woo you, which mostly interrupted our time together. In the times Daria and I spent together in Lawndale, she never asked anything of me except to be my sister--

QUINN: (Wide-eyed:) B-But you and me--

DARREN: (Cuts her off:) --Quinn, yes, you and I spent some quality time together there, too, like my helping you get serious about your future career. I really liked that, you know, when we simply sat down and talked, I mean really talked. I had a grasp on your hopes and dreams, and desires. I felt I was beginning to know the real Quinn Morgendorffer, not someone who seemed so unsure of herself, she hid behind a shallow facade.

QUINN: (Stunned expression:) Y-You thought that I wasn't real, that I was only shallow?

DARREN: At times I did back then, but I knew there was more to you than meets the eye, the same for Daria, especially compared to now. (Smiles:) You paid for that dress last night with your own money, and I wanted to say that I was proud of you for doing that.

QUINN: (Guilty look, mental sigh to self, thought v.o.: Yeah, something else you told Daria an' Jane before me...) (Forces smile:) Um, thanks. (After a moment, quiet tone:) I--I don't really care about your having a lot of money, you know.

DARREN: (Small smile, equally quiet tone, lightly hugs her:) I know, sis, I know...

Both siblings stepped back and stared at each other for a long moment, snorted, then broke out in a loud laughter which was so hard, they were holding their stomachs.

QUINN: (Wiping her eyes, getting back under control:) O-Okay, okay! I do care a little! I admit it!

DARREN: (Ditto:) G-Good! (Quinn cocks a surprised eyebrow) I mean, I care about my money, too, just not as the most important thing in the world. It's good to save and invest it wisely, the same for spending it, and let's face it, one does need to have at least a little to help make it through life. (Slowly loses his smile, grows serious, slight scowl:) Of course, there's the flip side: I also remember that it was about my (adopted) parents having money and their so-called "power" in Appleton Industries as the main reason my uncle had them killed, too, save for his being envious of my (adopted) dad. (Quinn ponders this uncomfortably) I've no intention of letting my money control me so much like he did. (Adds, smirks:) I think it's not good for anybody else to think of money like that, don't you agree?

QUINN: (Uneasy expression, looks off:) Oh, uh, yeah...

Seeing his point having been subtly made to Quinn, Darren decided to lighten and change the subject matter, slightly smirking.

DARREN: Good. (Looks around, leans over, whispers:) You know, Daria's as unsure of herself as you seem to be sometimes. (Quinn cocks an eyebrow) I had to encourage her to take that writing job for Constance's new magazine. (Adds quickly:) Uh, you didn't hear that from me, by the way.

QUINN: (Smirks, brightens up:) You're kidding! Daria? Unsure? Hah! Daria's probably the most confident person I know outside of mom, and--(Darren stares at her, wide-eyed at what he's hearing, and Quinn stops herself, stunned at what she's just said:) WHAT AM I SAYING?!

DARREN: (Grins:) Seems to me that you just paid our sister a genuine compliment, Quinn.

QUINN: (Grabs her brother's shirt by the collar, pulls him down to her almost face-to-face, snarls playfully:) An' you'd better not tell her what I said, bro, or I'll--I'll (pauses, looks up, then smirks at him:) tell her what you just told me not to tell her, got that?!

DARREN: ("Zipping" motion, chuckles:) My lips are sealed, sis.

QUINN: (Satisfied, lets go of Darren's shirt:) Okay, then. (Sighs:) Still, I'd feel like you would get closer to Daria and Jane while I'm in California, you know. I--(pauses:) I wanna be a part of your life from now on, like Daria, and maybe Jane, if things get really--(pauses:) um, serious between you two.

DARREN: (Thinks for a moment how to respond to Quinn's "serious" comment, but decides not to, and gently squeezes her shoulder instead, soft tone:) Hey, I can fly out to there, and you to here, you know--

QUINN: (Leans against him, smiles:) Yeah, but it won't be th' same. (Pauses, gasps, forms a wide smirk:) Like, of course! Why didn't I think of that? It's perfect!

DARREN: (Narrows eyes slightly:) Er, what?

QUINN: (Grins:) We--ell...


(Scene changes to Rory McKinna's bedroom, the same time)

Rory sat on his king-sized bed cross-legged in his silk pajamas, whistling "We're in the Money", while counting a very large stack of $50 bills. The bedroom, a large, luxurious one, had posters of many beautiful women in bikinis on the walls. On a desk beside his bed, his computer monitor screen showed a picture of a nearly-naked Pamela Anderson, which served as a wallpaper background to his desktop icons. Rory grinned down at his money for an instant, then kissed it.

RORY: I love you, you beautiful creature you, even more than a babe--(pauses, looks up, frowns:) well, almost. The verdict's still out on that one. (Begins to whistle the same tune again)

There was a sudden knock on his door, which caused Rory to grow wide-eyed in a mild panic and stopped his whistling simultaneously. He quickly tried to push the money beneath the covers, but a wickedly-smirking Krystal, wearing her nightclothing, a white negligee, entered blatantly. She walked to the foot of his bed, and crossed her arms. Rory glared up at her while on his hands and knees, his money scattered all across the covers.

KRYSTAL: (Keeping the smirk:) You should've locked your door. (Pauses:) Gimmie some, you know the drill, bro.

RORY: (Ditto with the glare, then smirks back slowly as he looks at her up and down, sarcastic, laced with a subtle leer:) Gee, sis, I think I have a headache tonight. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Maybe tomorrow, when I feel better, hmmm? Perhaps you can call Darren over to take my place, that is, if you can get him away from Jane Lane--?

KRYSTAL: (Dark, cold expression, which freezes Rory:) Very funny, my sicko sibling. (Holds hand out:) I'm talking about my share of your cash stash. 20% of what you have. (Pauses:) Now.

Rory sighed, and threw back the covers after gathering what money remained on the bed. He silently stacked it all neatly again, then counted out a portion to Krystal, who snatched it from him, folded it, and put it down her chest. Rory resumed his glare as he stood up.

RORY: You know, I'm really getting tired of paying you all of this blackmail money not to rat to our folks, sis--

KRYSTAL: (Waves him off, shrugs:) --Then stop dealing out the drugs through your "distributors" to all those morons who buy it. (Smirks:) I couldn't make anymore off of your "hard-earned" cash if you did, you know.

RORY: (Frowns:) Bull! Our parents still give you some cash whenever you need any, unlike me! (Sneers:) You know "Daddy Warbucks" cut me off a while back! If it wasn't for mom--

KRYSTAL: (Grins, cuts him off:) --Or your "business"--

RORY: (Through clenched teeth:) --I'd have to get a stupid job.

KRYSTAL: (Feigns sympathy:) Awwwww, poor baby. (Changes to a lighter tone:) Anyway, I been sorta busy since I've come back from Darren's. Wanna hear?

RORY: (Plops down on his bed, sullen:) Sure, why the hell not?

KRYSTAL: (Grins, playful tone:) Oh, goody! (Sits down beside him:) Here's the deal. As you know, I've already told you about what Jane told me earlier concerning her, Darren, his sister, and this Tom guy, right?

RORY: Yeah, yeah. You came to me for a minute or two saying something about some complicated relationship-thing with them all, and wanting to find out more on what it was about. (Pauses, shrugs:) So?

KRYSTAL: So, I decided to call the "Sesame" girl in that "Lawndale" place again, using my phony I.D. Just got off the phone with her. Took me awhile to contact her, but for some cash per our usual agreement, I got her to check on where this "Tom Sloane" guy lived, visiting his home. She pretended to be a girl who was interested in seeing him, you understand. "Sesame" found out that he wasn't home from his mother. It was something about him suddenly deciding to leave town until Saturday, wanting to see someone.

RORY: (After a moment:) Annnd--?

KRYSTAL: Annnd, where would that guy suddenly go to "See someone", I wonder? If he really liked Daria, wouldn't he be waiting by his phone like an eager beaver, anticipating her calling? (Rory shrugs, and Krystal rolls her eyes, raps his left shoulder hard, which makes him wince, rubbing it:) Isn't it obvious, you dork? That Tom guy is on his way up here to see her! He wants to surprise her!

RORY: Huh? Up here? (Snorts:) And what's made you reach this stunning conclusion, pray tell?

KRYSTAL: (Leans back on his bed, resting on her elbows, smug expression:) Simple. On a hunch, I called that hick regional airport down there, and found out that the illustrious Mr. Sloane left an hour ago on a flight to Maness via a small commuter jet.

RORY: Well, now. I guess you can get first hand what happened from him when he comes up here, huh?

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles, wry look:) Yes, along with Daria. A veritable question-and-answer session. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Of course, it's a good thing I stroked Jane's curiousity, though...

RORY: (Cocked eyebrow:) What are you babbling about?

KRYSTAL: I think I asked enough questions about her and Darren today to make Jane wonder a little what was up. She looked at me a little funny at times, and got sort of defensive on one occasion.

RORY: (Baffled look:) Uh, excuse me, but I thought you didn't want Jane to think that you liked Darren--?

KRYSTAL: (Wicked grin:) Call it a "subtle" challenge over Darren to her, brother, dear. I want her to feel threatened by me a bit, but in an oh-so-tiny way that makes her feel a tad uncomfortable. I planted a small seed or two in her mind, such as her making money off of Darren for her paintings simply by having him as her boyfriend, and his saving her life as the only reason she likes him, and such. (Pauses:) Besides, I've been thinking: I'm probably going to have to force the issue soon anyway, so why not start now?

RORY: (Smirks:) Ooh, nasty.

KRYSTAL: (Cooly stares at her perfectly-manicured fingernails, casual tone:) You know, she'll probably confide to Daria about our little conversation, something I'll have to keep in mind when I speak to Daria and this "Tom Sloane" guy. (Gets up, stretches, yawns:) Anyway, I've got a busy day tomorrow. I'll let Daria and her beau get reacquainted first, then meet them after I go with Quinn and her friends to Reynaldo's. I might as well also buy a new dress for that little party I told you the Morgendorffers and Darren are going to have at Darren's place Friday night, you know--(pauses, slight smirk:) maybe one that might sort of draw Darren's attention, hmmm? (Rory sits up, paying close attention to when Krystal mentioned about the party) (Krystal now rolls her eyes, not noticing his expression:) God, I thought I was going to die of boredom from hearing those girls only talk about fashions, make-up, boys, and nothing else. I was so relieved they broke up the meeting so I could get the hell away from them all. (Groans:) I hope I can stand being around them long enough to get through their stupid "fashion excursion" tomorrow. (Pauses:) Well, goodnight, brother dear. (Leaves)

RORY: Goodnight, sis. (Lays back on bed, grins as he looks at the ceiling, thought v.o.: I almost forgot about that party. Those hoochies are gonna be at Reynaldo's tomorrow, too, huh? Hmmm--time for ol' Rory to do some making up in the only way he can--on both fronts...)


(Scene changes to a makeshift darkroom, actually Jane's bathroom, a little later)

Jane, humming "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" (her Lawndale High teacher's version), carefully laid the last of the pictures she had finished developing on the bottom of her hot tub flatly, satisfied at the end results, particularly of the pictures with Darren and Quinn.

After rinsing out the lavatory she had used for developing her pictures, Jane capped the small bottle of silver nitrate she had brought with her for such a possible occasion, and shut the then-opened small window that had helped provide fresh air from the fumes. Outside, the thunder she had heard from far away when she was taking the pictures, was now heard louder and nearer. Jane flipped on the light switch, which was also connected to a fan that helped to air out any remaining fumes. For extra measure, she opened her bathroom door.

JANE: (Thought v.o., looks down at the pictures in her tub once again, hands on hips: Not bad, not bad at all for someone who's sorta new at doing this. Good thing I watched how dad developed his pics when I was younger--when he was around more, that is.) (Hears a knock on her bedroom door:) Coming! (Goes out, clicks bathroom light off, shuts door)

Jane opened her door, seeing a slightly worn-looking Daria.

JANE: (Grins:) Weeeell, if it isn't the future Katherine Graham!

DARIA: (Flat-eyed, monotone:) Funny. Actually, Katherine Graham wasn't a really an experienced journalist when she became the publisher. She inherited the Washington Post upon the death of her husband, and learned to run it by on-the-job training. She helped to encourage strong, independent reporting from her employees, which spawned reporters like Woodward and Bernstein to help kick Nixon's crooked ass right out of office.

JANE: (Smirks:) I hereby stand corrected. (Pauses, concerned expression:) Something tells me that you've just been put through the wringer, amiga.

DARIA: (Tired sigh:) Wringer, shredder, blender, mixer, every damn thing you can imagine, Jane. Mom, Dad, and the others nearly overwhelmed me with questions about today's developments--

JANE: (Snickers:) --Heh. "Developments". How fitting. (Daria narrows an eye at her) Never mind, you'll find out later. (Pauses:) Darren's not back with Quinn yet?

DARIA: (Shakes head slowly:) Nope, and I'm seriously thinking of putting him through the wringer for not running interference with the others on my behalf. (Pauses, realizes:) Wait a second--he went to Quinn instead of you first?

JANE: (Pauses:) Um, yeah. I--saw them with each other while I was out. I decided to leave them alone.

DARIA: (After a moment:) Oh. Well, at least I finally got rid of the rabble when Millie suddenly wanted to see The Bridges of Madison County, which we both know as a "chick flick", in the home theater. All the others present went in with her. Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy heard about it, and they even joined in on the fun. (Pauses:) I'm not sure, but I think Millie sensed that I was ready to throw a hissy fit, and headed it off in time.

JANE: (Smiles:) See? Someone was on your side.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Remind me to thank her later. (Hesitates:) Um, before I came to your room, I tried to call Tom at his home, but he wasn't there. (Jane gives a wicked smirk, and Daria frowns:) Hold that damn tongue, Lane, I'm warning you. His mom said he was out of town, and wouldn't be back until Saturday, at the latest. (In a slightly disappointed tone that Jane picks up on, shoulders sag:) I guess I'll see him at the airport when we return, then.

JANE: (In an encouraging tone:) Cheer up, amiga. It's only Wednesday, so don't be surprised that he'll call before we leave. (Smiles:) Besides, you can talk over old times with Trent and the boys when they come up here to play at our party Friday night!

DARIA: (Shakes head slowly:) My mom and Millie capitulating to having Mystik Spiral here, and Quinn not minding my folks watching over her shoulder at this party because she's so desperate to get back into the boy-baiting business. Will wonders never cease? (Pauses:) Join me downstairs for a late-night snack? (Jane nods, and the two go down the hallway) I guess Darren and Quinn had a lot to talk about, huh?

JANE: (Frowns as she remembers the scene at the lake:) Uh, I guess you can say that, now that I think about it. I hope Quinn doesn't think I deliberately left her out of that painting--

DARIA: (Deadpan:) --I wish you deliberately left me out of your painting. (Jane smirks, and Daria adds casually:) But, since you didn't, I'll have to resort to finding it, and smashing it to tiny bits instead.

JANE: (Holds up wagging index finger, grins:) Ah-ah, no ya don't. I worked too freakin' hard on that for you to fiddle with it, my-no-snapshot-providing-dearie. (Adds:) Besides, it's up in Darren's studio, and I'm going in there to work on yet another painting tonight. I might be on it all night, having to cancel my morning jog with Darren and sleep in late. (Shrugs:) Call it even more artistic inspiration.

DARIA: (Whistles as they walk down the grand stairs:) Whoa, first Darren's meditation room, then unfortunately the painting of me and my bro, and now this? (Pauses:) Think you'll have enough strength for your date with him tomorrow night in New York City?

JANE: (Grins:) Dunno, guess we'll find out, huh?

DARIA: (As they go into the kitchen:) I guess. (Pauses:) So, um, you and Krystal talked, huh? How did that go? (Opens the huge refrigerator, gets milk and a chocolate pie out, goes over to an island counter to open the carton while Jane gets a knife, two glasses, forks, and plates out of the large cupboard)

JANE: (Pours milk in both glasses:) Eh, it was okay, we had a good talk, (frowns:) though when I think about it now, she seemed like she was fishing for something.

DARIA: (Takes her slice of pie and milk, the same with Jane, to the dining room:) Explain.

JANE: I dunno, that's just it, I can't. At first, I thought she and I were just conversing, you know, shooting off our mouths, but later, I got this feeling that Krystal was scoping me out a little, asking me about when I met Darren and how, even--(lowers voice as they sat down at the table:) ah, about my former relationship with Tom. (Daria cocks an eyebrow as she takes a bite of the pie) I also kinda let it slip out that he's your beau, now.

DARIA: (Pauses:) Uh, you didn't tell her about how we all--

JANE: (Her mouth full, quickly adds, wide-eyed:) --Hell, no! (Swallows, drinks milk:) I didn't go that far! (Pauses:) Besides, it's really none of her business.

DARIA: (Relieved look, bites into another piece:) Exactly. (Pauses:) Why do you think Krystal would ask so many questions about that? (Pauses, realizes:) You don't think that she likes--

JANE: (Shuts eyes as if in pain, shakes head slowly:) --Dooon't go there, Daria, I don't wanna think about that--(hesitates, looks concerned:) do I? I mean, you're the one who told me not to be so paranoid about any girls and Darren--

DARIA: (Rolls eyes, sarcastic tone:) Gee, thanks for reminding me of that. (Thought v.o. and sigh: I can't believe I'm going to say this. Guess that suits me right for having Tom as a [pauses:] boyfriend.:) Well, he's known her for a long while, and it's not like she didn't have her chances to go after him before Darren met us, right? (Bites into another piece)

JANE: (Pauses, nods to try to assure herself:) Yeah, yeah, that's right, and we know Darren's not the type of guy to fool around, particularly since he thinks that would make him another jerk like that "Rory" guy, and he's right--it would. (Brightens up, smiles:) Hey, what am I worried for? Darren likes me, and only me!

DARIA: (Stares at Jane, chewing:) That about sums it up--(adds:) I mean, so what if Krystal's a very attractive girl? (Pauses:) You don't have anything to worry about. (Drinks milk)

JANE: (Leans back in chair, arms behind her head, smirks:) Yeeep, nothing to worry about, Daria.

Both girls stared at each other in a long silence.

JANE: (After a moment, sits up, uneasy smile:) Still, uh, it couldn't hurt to scope her intentions out, right? You know, just to be on the safe side--

DARIA: (Quickly adds in agreement:) --Oh, I, um, agree with you. (Pauses:) Just to be on the "safe" side. I'll try out my scoping when she plays me tomorrow in chess, okay?

JANE: (Breathes a sigh of relief that Daria agrees with her, smiles:) Okay, thanks. (Changes subject, smirks:) So, at the risk of seeing your hissy fit, how was your tour today with your dear brother? (Bites into another piece)

DARIA: (Finishes eating:) I'll let that crack pass, Jane, since, well, (pauses:) everything went so damn perfectly well. Even when I met Dean Pierpoint, which I'll go into further expansion about him to you later, he didn't damper my, um, brightening mood. (Jane gets a wide-eyed and delighted expression, which makes Daria roll her eyes:) Give me a break, the day went beyond my wildest hopes, okay? Constance's offer, seeing Darren's nice--very nice office, the restaurant and our conversing on Steppenwolf, the chess playing at the library, which I won two out three matches with him, by the way, the Hedda Gabler play on Broadway, and no media idiots to spoil our fun. (Pauses, shakes head slowly:) Dammit, Jane, it was perfect--just--perfect.

JANE: (Head rests in hand, elbow on table, grins:) Gives me something to ponder about my time with him tomorrow, pard. (Adds:) And just think: We'll have all of this to ourselves in a year, with time to savor it on some weekends and vacations beforehand, (smirks:) aaand--

DARIA: (Smirks in return:) --No Quinn, at least in a year, and I'll only have to put up with her on some weekends when she goes to this "Fashion Institute" way out in California and visits here. Even then, we can stay in our wing and I can go to the study, and you to Darren's art studio or on the grounds, while she stays in her wing and rants ceaselessly about fashion designing over the phone to her cohorts.

JANE: (Slaps table mildly:) Jack straight! Everything's going our way, Daria! See? The glass is half-full!

DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile:) Well--(pauses, low voice:) maybe more water can be filled in the glass--? (Jane forms a huge grin, but even Daria doesn't "challenge" it this time, smiling all the more)

At that moment, a familiar excited squeal, so loud it was even heard by both girls in the dining room, filled the foyer.

QUINN: (Very loud and excited voice:) Mom, dad! Everybody! Guess what? I'll be staying here while going to a fashion college in the state after I get out of high school! I'll be trained by Candi personally, an' most importantly, I can live with Darren like Daria an' Jane, isn't that great?! (More squeals, presumably the Fashion Club's, are heard, followed by delighted voices from Helen, Jake, and the others)

Daria and Jane suddenly developed shocked expressions while staring at each other with dropped mouths. Daria then quietly and stoically began to thump her forehead on the dining table with each passing word:

DARIA: When--will--I--learn? When--will--I--learn? When--will--I--learn--(Jane stares at her for a moment, then joins Daria, saying the same thing)


(Scene is the hallway in front of Jim's room, a bit later. It is very late in the night, and a heavy rain is falling outside)

Darren, now dressed in his pajamas and housecoat and holding an empty tray from his own late-night snack, paused for a moment when he heard the TV playing in Jim's room. After a moment, he knocked on his uncle's door. A second later, after the sound from the TV had gone silent, a tired-looking Jim, dressed in nightclothes, opened the door.

DARREN: Uncle Jim--? Did I wake you? I heard your TV going, and I didn't know if--

JIM: (Waves him off, smiles:) --Nahh, I was watching the Dodgers game on cable, and nodding. I see you're still up--?

DARREN: I just came from my studio. (Smirks:) Jane's sort of barricaded me out of there, too. She said something about working on a new painting late into the night from her little outing tonight on the grounds, and won't be about to go out with me jogging tomorrow morning, (adds:) which I might not do anyway, since it's so late now.

JIM: (Cocks an eyebrow, hesitates, adds:) Sure it wasn't from her and Daria learning about Quinn staying here with you after she graduates from high school? Jane didn't look too crazy over hearing it with Daria.

DARREN: (Pauses, ponders:) Hm--Jane looked strained a little about it intitially, but she told me on the side that she didn't have any real problem with it, since Quinn would be "On the other side of the county" here. (Jim chuckles and Darren frowns briefly:) Daria simply didn't say anything, now that I think about it. (Pauses:) I was actually delighted to hear that Quinn would be living here, of course. (Smiles:) Now, I can have both of my sisters and girlfriend staying under the same roof with me--

JIM: (Cuts him off, smirks:) --You do know how that sounds, right?

DARREN: (After a moment, mock-glares:) Heh--really funny, uncle. (Jim chuckles) (Pauses:) Maybe I'll talk to Daria some more tomorrow about it.

JIM: You do that. Are you ready to take Jake to Yankee Stadium early tomorrow afternoon?

DARREN: (Smiles:) Sure, we have box seats for the game. (Pauses, quieter tone:) The same ones me and dad had. (Jim pats him on the shoulder, reassuring him, and Darren brightens up:) Hey, are you sure you--

JIM: (Holds hand up, grins:) --Yeah, I'm sure I don't want to come, you need to spend some quality time alone with your birth dad. Jake almost talked about nothing else while you were out with your sister. Besides, I'm going to play some more golf tomorrow. (Pauses, realizes:) Hey, how are you going to have the time to go out with Jane, too?

DARREN: Got it covered. I'll take some clothes to change in when I ride in the helicopter with Jake, and we'll land near the ballpark, where a limo will be waiting to take us straight to the game. After the game, Jake will go back home in the helicopter, and I'll ride the limo to Appleton Tower with my clothes. My office has a full bath for me to change in. Jane will then ride the same helicopter back from the mansion to land on the building's rooftop, and we'll go out and back to the mansion by the limo.

JIM: (Impressed look:) Smooth. Where do you two plan to go?

DARREN: (Grins:) Well, we'll go to the same, er, "place" Daria and I went to when we first started our tour, then we'll go out to at Cherie's, (adds, smirks:) where Quinn and her friends practically begged me to take Jane there shamelessly, followed by a stop to the Guggenheim Museum, with a surprise I have for Jane there. The rest is, shall I say, even more of an additional surprise.

JIM: (Gets the point, chuckles:) Okay, I'm not gonna pry anymore. Just you make sure to have a good time with that girl, I like her. We had a great time talking today.

DARREN: (Smiles:) So I heard. (Pauses:) Thanks, uncle Jim, that makes me really glad to hear that you and aunt Millie like her. (Changes tone, grows serious, lowers voice:) Uh, have you heard anything on--you know--

JIM: (After a moment, uncomfortable look:) --Uh, I'm afraid not, Darren. Woo hasn't contacted me yet on anything--


In his bedroom while lying on his bed, (and of writing down where Jane and Darren would be going on their date) a pajama-clad Edward was intently listening to the electronic bug he had planted in Jim's room. Edward suddenly sat up in a panic. Oh no, is Darren Appleton in on this, too? Does he suspect me as well, and if he does, what do I do then? Edward narrowed his eyes as he continued to listen.


DARREN: (Nods:) Well, I guess we'll have to give it time. (Pauses:) Are you sure I can't at least loan you some money for your business? You can pay me back later--

JIM: (Looking uncomfortable, frantically waves hands:) --No, no, it's okay, Darren, really. I'm sure Woo'll will uh, find the jerk who's draining my business dry. (Pauses, hesitates:) Just make sure Millie isn't told about this.


Edward sat back in stunned silence for a moment, then sighed in relief. Apparently, the thing with Woo wasn't about him, but rather on some sort of inside embezzlement situation with Jim's elevator business, and Darren having some knowledge about it. Edward then slowly smirked in glee, adding a low chuckle of amusement. Poor, poor chap. Too bad he can't keep his bookkeeping in check. It would serve him right if I informed Millie of his troubles, but then, she might show him a bit of sympathy, not to mention that jackass would wonder how I knew about this. No, best to let him wallow in his "troubles"... Edward turned off his listening device with a grin of satisfaction, then the lights. Tomorrow, he'd tell his "Employer", who had expressed extreme alarm over hearing about Jim's sudden change in demeanor and of Woo's sudden involvement, that the situation was about something else altogether. Edward felt that he'd sleep very peacefully tonight. He'd retrieve the bug sometime tomorrow, when no one was obviously around, if he could.


DARREN: Uh, sure, uncle, I won't. (Changes tone, subject, motions to his tray:) I'm going to go downstairs and put this in the kitchen. No need to make more work for the staff, you know. Goodnight.

JIM: Goodnight, Darren. (Watches him leave with a guilty expression, then slowly shuts door)


Darren proceeded downstairs with his tray to the kitchen, briefly worried about his uncle's business troubles, wondering what could be done, even with Woo investigating. After placing the tray on a counter, he began to go back to his room.

As he came past the now-empty and nearly-darkened staff's office (the outside security usually provided the primary protection for the estate at night), there was a repeating buzzing sound from one of the mansion's various monitors that scoured the grounds, in this case, from the main gate monitor, which glowed brightly with the other monitors in the office.

On the screen, there was a male figure standing in the rain, with a yellow taxi in the background, it's headlight beams shining through the driving rain. He looked familiar to Darren, but he couldn't quite place who it was, due to the water drops that covered the lens. Darren narrowed his eyes, then walked over to answer, turning on the audio button.

DARREN: Hello? Who is this?

VOICE: (Loud, to the intercom, over the rain:) Hello! Finally! I'm getting drenched out here, and the taxi driver here's getting a little impatient! (Turns to driver, who's now blowing the horn, sarcastic:) Hold your horses, "Latka"! After all, I'm the one who's standing in the rain, you know! (Turns back to intercom:) Look, will you please let me in? I'm a--(pauses:) friend of Daria Morgendorffer's! If you don't believe me, let me speak to Darren Appleton! He'll vouch for me!

DARREN: (Thought v.o.: Daria's friend? I could see someone claiming any one of the others, but Daria? [Pauses, realizes:] And he knows me?) I'm Darren Appleton. State your name.

VOICE: Darren?! It's Tom! Tom Sloane! (Darren's eyebrows raise)

DARREN: Tom? Sure, hang on a sec. (Pushes button, which opens front gate, then leaves for the front door)

A few minutes later, Darren opened the door to a fully-drenched Tom (without a raincoat), who was holding a small suitcase. In the background, a greedily-smirking taxi driver finished counting off his wad of money, saluted them both playfully, then drove off. Another car, from the mansion's security, followed behind to let the taxi out.

TOM: Thanks for letting me in. I had to offer that guy a lot of cash to drop me off here after I spotted him at the airport. (Darren cocks an eyebrow, which Tom notices:) He had just gotten off-duty after bringing another person in, and there were no other drivers I could get to bring me here, since he's part of the only taxi service in your village. (Looks back at the cab through the rain, sighs:) Money talks--

DARREN: (Smirks, cuts him off:) --And in this case, the bull drives off into the night with it. (Tom returns the smirk, walks in, and Darren shuts the door)


Chapter 8 -- Coming soon!