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Chapter 8 - Weekday Wrap-Up: Part Three


(Scene is in Daria's bedroom, early to mid-morning)

Daria walked out of her bathroom, having showered and now fully-dressed. She went over to the intercom and asked Henri to prepare a breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and cereal, along with some very strong black coffee, adding that she'd be eating it in the dining room. Henri acknowledged that the breakfast would be ready in a matter of minutes. Daria grunted in compliance, and left her bedroom for the aforementioned room.

Usually with some exceptions, like Wednesday being one of them, Daria would've still been in bed, since she generally stayed up very late most of her summer nights by either writing or reading, but last night, she found herself having fallen asleep very quickly while reading Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, a book she'd taken from the study/library, and the resulting "early" start on slumbering had a oddly refreshing effect on her.

This privately had surprised her, since she had taken her brief nap while Darren had driven them back to the mansion last night, and thought she'd be able to stay up longer. Of course, she also contributed this to thinking she wouldn't have been able to sleep at all following the shocking news of hearing that her sister would be staying with her, Jane, and Darren while going to college. Her parents and Millie and Jim were estatic, with her parents happy that they wouldn't have to go across the country to see Quinn (and could visit Daria and Darren at the same time, of course), and Millie because Quinn would be staying under the same roof with her other niece and nephew, the same for Jim.

Darren was delighted and very supportive of Quinn's decision, which disappointed Daria privately. She'd figured that he'd try to coax Quinn about getting her "independence" by going out to the West coast, or something to that effect. Daria thought about speaking to him, but figured that it probably wouldn't do any good, and it could possibly make her look like the "Bad Gal", not only to her parents, but possibly even to Darren as well. She shook her head in mild dismay. Just as everything seemed to be going well in my life, this happens. I'm getting all sorts of damn curves thrown at me, it appears. Maybe I need to get a new bat to swing--in this case, one to crack over Quinn's head, making her change her mind.

And then there was Jane, who confided later to Daria that after thinking about it, she'd put up with it, a revelation that surprised and slightly stunned Daria. Jane quickly explained that even though Daria, Quinn, and Darren could never make up for all the years they were apart, maybe a few years together under the same roof would be good for them all to become closer siblings--that and the fact Quinn would only be with her and Daria for just two years, anyway. Jane casually added that since she had put up with Quinn for two years in Lawndale, she could do so here as well. Jane also didn't want to put Darren in the middle of any possible animosity between Quinn and herself, and Jane privately understood the concept of sibling bonding, pointing out her and Trent.

Daria slumped her shoulders in realization. Jane's allowing this for Darren's sake. She stopped and frowned to herself just before she entered the dining room. That stupid conscience was pestering her again. Crap. Am I being selfish in not wishing for Quinn to be here? Am I wanting our brother only for myself? Doesn't she have the right to get to know him, too? The conclusion Daria reached did not sit with her well for some reason. She sighed, then proceeded in.

Daria saw that there was another person in the dining room this morning, someone reading the business section of the New York Post at the other end of the table, holding it up like she usually did at home and here (particularly when she didn't want to be bothered), blocking their face.

Daria shrugged, figuring it was either her father or Darren reading, and went over to the newspaper rack beside the table, getting her town's newspaper, today's edition of the Lawndale Sun-Herald. She sat down wordlessly near the other newspaper reader, opened her paper, and began to read. Elenor quietly came in from the kitchen with a covered tray of Henri's prepared food, and sat it down in front of the reader of the Post, who put down his paper, revealing none other than a regularly-dressed Tom Sloane. Elenor smiled at him, and removed the cover, exposing a hearty-looking breakfast of coffee, waffles, eggs, bacon, and orange juice. Daria had not put down her paper as of yet.

TOM: (Rubs his hands in anticipation, takes a deep whiff of the food, smiles at Elenor:) Ummmm. That smells delightful. (pauses, looks at her uneasily:) Thanks, uhhh--? (A wide-eyed Daria puts down her paper, stares at him in shock with a hung mouth)

ELENOR: (Chuckles, notices Daria's expression as well:) It's Elenor, Master Tom, and you're welcome. Good morning, Daria. I'll get your food. (Leaves)

TOM: (Smiles, calls after her:) Elenor, I'll remember that next time. Shoot me if I forget, will you? (Smirks at Daria as Elenor chuckles while going into the kitchen, nonchalant:) Oh, hi, Daria. (Pauses:) I warn you, I'm really pretty hungry this morning. I don't want to have to slap your hand away in case you try to take my food.

DARIA: (Recovers, gives him a sly look:) Why should you, since you've already slapped my brain by my seeing you here in front of me?

TOM: What? I did? (Slaps his left hand with his right, playful tone:) Bad hand! Baaaad hand! Shame on you! This shows that one hand doesn't know what the other one's doing.

DARIA: (Slight smile:) I'd see a specialist on that, if I were you. (Pauses, deadpan:) Not that I'm loudly complaining, which would be completely out of my already-excitable character, but why are you here?

TOM: (Sighs, slumps as he bites into a waffle:) Okay, you got me. (Pauses, faux self-pitying tone:) I wanted to see how the other super-rich upper-half lives. (Daria smirks) Remember, I just come from a poor, ordinary rich family worth a paltry several million bucks, living in a tiny 8,000 square foot mansion with just one to two servants, only five cars (lowers voice:) save for mine, of course, (resumes normal tone:) worth an average value of $50,000, and a piddly 40-foot yacht. Throw in both my family's minuscule vacation cove and club membership, and you'll understand why I want to aspire someday to attain the lofty heights of your brother's wealth. (Pauses:) Oh, and I couldn't wait to see and surprise you so I could apologize again in person for that stupid thing I did.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Nice to see that I brought up the rear, at least. (Pauses:) Uh, have you spoken to my brother, yet?

TOM: (Drinking coffee:) He's the one who let me in really late last night, and before you ask, he didn't know I was coming up here. By the way, I asked my mother not to let you know I was arriving, so please don't ask Darren to hire a hit squad to knock her off. (Daria rolls her eyes, shakes head slowly. Elenor comes in with Daria's food, and Daria begins eating) After I took a hot bath and changed into some jammies in the nice bedroom in your wing he scrounged up for me, we had a long talk, and I apologized to him for dumping the responsibility of what happened between all of us on him. Darren waved it off, adding that he's the last one to go around judging people on the basis of "well-intentioned" deceptions and lies. I thought about speaking to Jane to apologize, but Darren said she was really into painting something, and I know how she could be when she's in that mode. (Daria nods, understanding perfectly) I'll speak to her after she wakes up. Anyway--(in a quiet, sincere tone and expression, gently takes her hand, which she briefly glances down at, then back up at him:) I'm sorry again, Daria. (Adds:) Really, really sorry again. Can you ever forgive me?

DARIA: (Gives him a slightly coy look, decides to make him "sweat" a bit:) Hm, I dunno. You might have to sweeten the pot a little, you know, something to make your apology and my forgiveness really stick.

TOM: (Pauses, smirks:) I think I have the perfect solution--

Tom leaned over and gently kissed Daria, who then began to return the kiss. Elenor leaned against the doorway of the kitchen with her arms crossed, quietly watching the pair, a small smile showing at the "lovebirds". Henri looked over her shoulder at the two, smirked briefly, then went back into the kitchen.

It was at this time that a fully-dressed Helen, Jake, Millie, and Jim entered the dining room, interrupting the kiss. Daria glanced at the group, wide-eyed, and blushed for the briefest instant.

HELEN: (Wide-eyed herself, so shocked she didn't notice Daria's expression:) Tom?!

JAKE: (Ditto, though with a little more force:) TOM?!

MILLIE: (Looking between Helen and Jake, curious expression:) Tom? (Stares at Tom, narrows eyes:) He looks familiar...

JIM: (Grins, look of mock-admonishment:) Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom! (Pauses while still grinning, realizes:) Who in the heck is "Tom"?

TOM: (Sheepish expression, looks between them all:) Um, that's my name, don't wear it out--?

DARIA: (Looks around at the ceiling, deadpan:) There's that damn echo again in this "canyon", and this time it's stronger than ever before. (Tom and the others give her an odd look)


(Scene changes to the library/study, a few minutes later)

Darren, still dressed in his pajamas and housecoat, stood in the middle of the room and looked around, taking short, deep breaths, speaking to himself.

DARREN: It's only the study where I read books on occasion, you know that. You were even in here with Dr. Quinn during your sessions. There's no one around to hurt you. You're free. (Begins to smile)

VOICE: (From behind, snorts:) And now you think you've finally escaped from all of this, don't you, my boy? What a load of crock!

Darren turned around to see a wickedly-grinning William Appleton, dressed in a tux, and starting to ooze blood through his skin and clothes, rapidly saturating the hardwood floor, then the bookcases. William, keeping the grin, began to walk towards a wide-eyed Darren in a slow, deliberate manner. William's hands suddenly grew long, razor-like fingernails (Think Freddy Kruger, from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies).

Darren tried to run, but William's blood, which had reached Darren's feet by this time, became like a thick glue, holding Darren in place. Darren frantically tried to leap away, but could not. He looked back at the still-grinning William, who was almost on him. Darren took a swing at William, but his fist simply went through William's face. Darren stared at his fist, then at William in disbelief.

WILLIAM: (Chuckles:) I guess you can "see" through me now, eh, boy? (Pauses:) By the way, this will kill you more than it will me, "nephew"... (raises razored-hand up while laughing. Darren cowers, terrified)

DARREN: NOOO! (The hand comes down on him)


Darren woke up in a cold sweat in his bedroom, wide-eyed, and gasping. He looked around, confused for an instant. After a moment, he took a deep breath to relax himself. The dream almost seemed too real. Darren flopped back in his pillows, staring at the ceiling.

DARREN: (Thought v.o.: So much for my recent restful run, though this dream was a little different from the other one. Well, Dr. Quinn told me that I'd still expect a possible nightmare or two, even with my family up here...) (Looks at his clock/radio, becomes, er, "alarmed", thought v.o.: Great--I almost slept the early part of the morning away. It's almost 9:00. I've got another busy day ahead. I wonder if Tom's surprised Daria yet?) (Quickly gets up out of bed)

Darren hurriedly put on his housecoat and left his bedroom, intent on going downstairs for a quick breakfast. As he went past Jane's room, she came out, yawning, but dressed in her usual attire. Darren smiled, and stopped to wait for her. Jane walked up to him and pecked him on the mouth.

JANE: (Smirks:) 'Morning, "Darry".

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Hey, "Janey". On your way to breakfast like me? (Starts walking with her)

JANE: You got it. (Yawns again)

DARREN: (Cocks a mildly-concerned eyebrow:) You still look bushed. What time did you get to bed?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Hm, about 2:00 a.m., give or take an hour or two.

DARREN: Maybe you should've stayed in bed and let one of the servants bring breakfast to you--?

JANE: (Shakes head, waves him off:) Nah. I'm just about finished with what I was painting, anyway, and I wanted to keep my artistic adrenaline going on long enough to complete my latest masterpiece. If I had stayed in bed, I'd probably fall back asleep, and lose my edge. Soon as I wolf down some of Henri's great grub, I'm gonna go back to your studio and close it out. (Adds, grins:) And don't you fret, young man. I'll be ready and able for our date tonight, even if I have to take a nap to refresh myself. That way, I won't slump on your shoulder in the middle of making out, or something.

DARREN: (Returns the grin:) See to it that you don't. I'd hate to end up kissing a mouthful of your hair, though I do like smelling it. (Jane chuckles) Oh, and there's a special guest who arrived here late last night that you're familiar with.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, sly expression:) Intriguing. (Pauses:) Who? (Pauses, surprised expression:) Don't tell me Trent and the guys are here already? I thought they wouldn't arrive 'till sometime tomorrow afternoon.

DARREN: (Shakes head:) You're right, they won't. (Coy expression:) I think I'll let you find out for yourself. There's no way I'm going to tell you before time.

JANE: (Mock-pout:) Oh, pooh, that's not fair. Now I'll have to wait to find out, ding-dang it. (Thought v.o., wicked smirk: Unleeess...)

Jane suddenly stopped and turned to a now-surprised Darren, putting her hands on his chest as they reached the top of the grand stairs, stopping him as well. Grinning, she abruptly threw her arms around his neck, and pulled him into a very deep smooch. Claude, coming from the direction of the west wing, stopped as he observed the two, or rather Jane doing the kissing. He slowly turned around and sautered away silently, wide-eyed, and red-faced.

After about 15 seconds, Jane gingerly ended the kiss. Darren was in a light swoon, his eyes closed, slightly smiling. Jane leaned over and whispered in his ear.

JANE: Now, who, may I ask again, is this "special guest"?

DARREN: (Still swooning:) Tom. Sloane.

JANE: (Surprised look:) Tom? Here? (Pauses, grins:) Why that sneaky devil! No wonder Daria couldn't reach him last night! (Faux-cute expression, rapidly blinks eyelids:) Awwww, how cuuute! He wanted to see his girlfriend in person to apologize! I wish I could see Daria's face when she lays her eyes on him!

DARREN: (Slight smile, nods head in the same swoon:) Yeah. Sees him. Lays eyes on. (Suddenly clears head by shaking it quickly, slight scowl:) HEY! That's not fair!

JANE: (Smug expression:) Face it, dear boy: I have the means to get you to do my bidding. (Twirls her finger playfully in his chest while he rolls his eyes lightly:) I warn you, I'll use it anytime at my disposal. (Suddenly pecks him on the mouth, then while racing down the stairs:) Last one to the dining room's a rotten egg, slowpoke!

DARREN: (Narrows eyes, grins, as he's about to go after her:) You're o--(notices the fully-dressed Fashion Club coming from the direction of the east wing, turns down to Jane, who's waiting for him at the bottom:) go on ahead, Jane. I'll meet you in there in a few, okay?

JANE: (Sees the F.C., nods, playful tone:) I'll let you off the hook--this time, you wuss. Don't be too long. (Leaves, waves at Fiona as she passes her in the foyer)

Quinn and the other Fashion Clubbers came up to Darren, smiling. All were wearing more summer "skorts", with matching hats. Quinn hugged her brother, giddy.

QUINN: 'Morning, Darren!

DARREN: Good morning, sis, everybody. (The other F.C. members greet him as well) I see you're all ready for your trip to Reynaldo's--?

SANDI: (Nods:) Like, yes. We're going to pick up the Watley sisters first. Krystal will meet us there.

DARREN: Well, have a good time. (Adds, slightly pauses:) I'm sure they'll be no repeat of what happened Sunday. Quinn, may I speak to you for a moment?

QUINN: Huh? Oh, sure, bro. See you guys in a sec. (The other F.C. 'ers leave down the stairs)

STACY: ( As she walks, clasps her hands together in anticipation, grins:) Oooh, I can't wait to see their summer line-up again! It's almost as good as Cashman's!

TIFFANY: Yeah...but Cashman's is...better...

STACY: (Slight frown:) Um, that's what I just said, Tiffany.

TIFFANY: No...you said...it's almost as good...as Cashman's...I said Cashman's...is better...

STACY: (Holds her arms out in disbelief as Fiona holds the door to let them out:) What's the difference?

TIFFANY: There's always a...big difference...when it comes...to fashion...(turns to Sandi, who's watching Quinn and Darren speak while half-heartedly listening to the two:) right...Sandi?

SANDI: (Thought v.o.: I wonder if they're talking about me some more? I couldn't sleep again last night...) (After a second, notices Tiffany:) What? Oh, yes, a fashion difference, correct. (Quickly takes "charge" again as Tiffany and Stacy look at each other briefly over her demeanor:) Come on, let's wait for Quinn in the limo. (Leaves outside with the others, Fiona shuts the door behind them, leaves)

Quinn nodded quietly to her brother.

QUINN: Yeah, Darren, I'm sure I wanna stay here with you, Daria, and Jane, while I go to a fashion college nearby. I haven't changed my mind.

DARREN: (Smiles:) Good. I thought that maybe after you got up, you might have decided to reconsider your decision.

QUINN: (Walking downstairs with Darren, cocks an eyebrow:) Oh? Why?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) Well, I saw how Daria looked when she first heard about your staying here. She seemed to me to have been frowning a little when she and Jane came into the foyer last night. I noticed that you gave her a quick glance, but didn't say anything. I wondered if her expression might have discouraged you for some reason. Daria looked as if she wanted to say something, but didn't.

QUINN: (Frowns as they come to the bottom of the stairs:) "Discouraged" me? (Rolls eyes, snorts:) No freakin' way! I'm not gonna let Daria's attitude intimidate me from doin' this! (Pauses:) If she wants ta leave while I'm staying, then that's fine by me! (Crosses arms, slightly bitter tone:) Who wants boring ol' Daria around, anyway? I had her living with me for 16-and-a-half years, and I never got used to her!

DARREN: (Quiet tone, slight frown:) You don't really mean that, do you?

QUINN: (Frowns:) I--(after a moment, stops, looks off, equally quiet tone, sighs, shakes head slowly:) no, not really--

DARIA: (Coming from the side, smirks:) --Well, now, what do you know, she actually does want me around. (Quinn jumps in surprise, looks wide-eyed, while Darren chuckles) What's next, your becoming a "brain" like me?

QUINN: (Sneers:) Fat chance. (Pauses, brief scowl:) Look, I know you hate havin' me around to live here with you after our living at home for--

DARIA: (Frowns, cuts her off:) --Whoa, I never said that. (Pauses:) Disliked your staying here? (Shrugs:) Yeah, sorta, a little bit I'll admit, based on as you were about to say, our "sterling" past together in our shared homes in Highland and Lawndale. Hated? No. I just don't understand why you'd come up with this seemingly hasty decision all of a sudden. You looked to me to have your heart set on going out to Californy, and achieving all of your fashion designer dreams.

QUINN: (Glances at Darren, who stays silent:) I just didn't want to feel--(pauses:) left out bein' way out there, and you bein' here, getting to know our brother better, becoming closer to him than me.

DARIA: (Pauses, cocks an incredulous eyebrow, thought v.o.: That's why she's doing this?:) You really believe that? That Darren and I would be joined at the hip while you would feel left out as the "estranged" third sibling?

QUINN: (Defiant tone:) Yeah! I do! Really! (Adds, crosses arms:) And I'm not changin' my mind, no matter what you say! (Pauses, calms down:) I called Candi Gunwald last night, an' she says I made a good choice, 'cause she'll be here to help me out if I have any questions. She even sent me some e-mail in my bedroom computer last night on what colleges I can go to around here, and stuff.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Quinn, I have no intention of trying to change your mind. If you wanna stay here with me and Jane, then that's your choice. (Pauses, hesitates:) I, um, guess you have as much right to know Darren as I do. (Quinn and even Darren look surprised. Daria smirks, adds:) Just remember to keep to your side of the mansion while I do mine, and we'll get along just fine.

QUINN: (Smirks back:) Just what I was thinking. (Pauses, hesitates, adds:) Uh, thanks for not giving me such a hard time about this--

DARIA: (Sinister grin:) --Until we get back to our home in Lawndale, that is. (Quinn forms a terrified expression) I have a very special torture technique waiting for you when you go to sleep--

QUINN: (Scowls:) --Daria! (Darren chuckles, and Quinn glares at him, which shuts him up, though he's still snickering)

DARIA: Quinn, I'm kidding. (Pauses:) Sarcasm--?

QUINN: (Relieved look, snorts:) Oh, um, I knew that.

DARREN: Daria, I assume you've eaten breakfast?

DARIA: Just finished. Our genetically-shared folks are chowing down with Jim and Millie. Guess Edward's not up, yet. Anyway, they almost crapped in their pants when they first saw Tom, (Quinn cocks a surprised eyebrow) but everything's cool. Jane came in and saw Tom with us. He's patiently waiting for her to finish eating while enduring the usual barrage of questions from everyone. Tom wants to--(pauses, glances at Quinn:) uh, talk to her like he did with me. (Adds:) Everything's okay now with us, by the way. (Darren nods slightly, catching Daria's meaning) I'm going to the study, see you guys later. Enjoy your little fashion excursion, sis. Remember to leave some clothing for everyone else. (Leaves)

QUINN: (Snorts:) Ha. (Watches her go, turns to Darren, frowns, hands on hips:) So, Tom Sloane's here, huh? Okay, bro, what's goin' on with you guys? I saw how Daria kinda looked just now, and stuff, and it seemed to involve Jane, somehow. (Pauses, suspicious expression, narrows eyes:) You're not hiding something else from me, while tellin' them first, are you?

DARREN: (Holds hands up, calming tone:) Easy, Quinn. (Pauses:) Yes, it does involve Jane, Daria, and Tom, and I do know about it while you don't, but it's something between them, and them only. It has nothing to do with you.

QUINN: Oh. (Ponders, then smirks:) Hey! I bet this has something to do with how Jane broke up with him, and ended with you, huh?

Fiona was about to come from the direction of the dining room to open the front door, but Darren exasperatedly sighed to Quinn, wordlessly holding up his hand to Fiona, stopping her. He motioned to Fiona to go back, which she did. Darren proceeded to open the door himself.

DARREN: Don't you have to go to Reynaldo's, sis? (Pauses:) Your friends are waiting for you.

QUINN: (Smug expression that says, "I knew it!":) 'Kay. Remember, we'll come back just before you leave with dad, so don't go yet. (Stops, smirks:) We wanna choose what clothes you'll be taking to wear for your date with Jane first. After all, you have to look good--(adds:) the both of you. It's our fashion responsibility, an' all. 'Bye. (Leaves)

DARREN: Uh, 'bye. (Shuts door, leans against it, sighs, thought v.o., chuckles: Sisters. [Pauses, ponders:] The "both of you"? What did she mean by that? Guess I'll find out later...) (Leaves for dining room)


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

A fully-dressed Edward was speaking on his cell phone, sitting on his bed. He had told a curious Millie that he'd be a bit late for breakfast in the hallway because he had to make some more "business calls". Unfortunately for him, Jim had overheard while coming out of his bedroom, and had made a joking, subtle crack concerning "All of these recent business calls Edward had been having lately", wondering if anything was amiss with his job. Even worse, Jim had locked his bedroom door and asked Elenor that she or any of the staff didn't "Have to clean it since it wasn't all that dirty today", meaning Edward could not retrieve the bug as of yet, or at the least, it would mean he'd have to pick open the lock, and that could draw attention to him. For the time being, he'd have to wait for the right time to remove it. Millie, in a far better mood than before, did not catch her ex's jab, understanding Edward's excuse instantly, going downstairs with an obviously delighted Jim. For a moment, an angry Edward had been severely tempted to ask Jim if anything was amiss with his job, but he held off.

EDWARD: Yessir. (Pauses:) That's right, it was about Morse's business troubles, and not me. (Pauses:) Don't worry, sir, I'll get that bug in Morse's room, it's in a place that's quite hard to find. (Pauses:) No sir, I'm quite sure no one suspects a thing about me. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow, turns pale:) Excuse me, but you're going to do what? (Pauses:) But I'm still here, is that wise--(pauses:) a-are you sure about this? You usually wait until every week to--(pauses, winces at the animated shouting on the other end, sighs:) I--understand, sir. In fact, I'll be seeing if I can get anymore information at Darren Appleton's party Friday night, there should be some juicy tidbits to get, you know. (Pauses, slightly relieved expression:) Thank you for the vote of confidence in my abilities, sir. (Pauses:) Yessir, I'll be quite careful after you do this, I know the, er, "drill", and I will get that bug before I leave. (Pauses:) Good day to you too, sir. I'll next report after Friday's party via e-mail on my laptop. (Clicks off his cell phone, sighs, gets up, goes out)

Edward came into the hallway, this time intent on going into Jim's room to retrieve the bug. He stopped outside Jim's door, looked around quickly, then checked the doorknob, which was locked this time. He cursed under his breath, then reached into his pocket, pulling out a pick to unlock the door. Before he could put the pick in, he heard a chattering Elenor and Fiona coming up the grand stairs into the same hallway. Edward barely was able to put his pick back into his pants and pretend he was coming from his room before they saw him. Both maids smiled and gave him good morning greetings, which he quickly returned. As he went past them, he looked out of the corner of his eye, and saw both going into Jim's room, apparently to clean it. Edward clenched his teeth, frustrated, then decided to go downstairs to join the others so Millie wouldn't wonder what was wrong with his taking so long to join them--and to keep Jim from making time with his ex. The bug would have to wait.


(Scene changes to the rear of the mansion, 20 minutes later)

Jane, having just finished her breakfast with Darren and the others, came onto the pristine grounds looking for Tom, who wanted to speak to her alone after breakfast. The two had agreed to meet at the rear, near a clump of trees located at the end of the rear grounds that Tom "couldn't possibly miss", via Jane's request. In the meantime, Darren had excused himself to call Curtis, conviently giving time for the two to talk. Millie still sat at the dining room table, this time with a brooding Edward, who was finishing his breakfast. The reason Edward was brooding became quite clear, since Millie was also talking to a smiling (and subtly-smitten) Jim. A somewhat-bored Helen (also quietly suspecting that Jane and Tom wanted to "settle" something concerning Daria and perhaps Darren) had decided to go to her room to watch some TV (and to check over some legal briefs she had sneaked in her bags, taken from the firm). A very excited Jake followed her, wanting to make sure he had his "lucky glove" for the game, and to play a little pool in the gameroom while waiting for his son to dress.

Jane witnessed Tom speaking to a suspicious-looking Tina near the trees. She cocked an amused smirk, going over to the two. The conversation was, least to say, quite animated. (No pun intended)

TOM: (Now holding out his hands, pleading tone:) --But it's true! I'm a guest here! I came in late last night! It was a surprise visit to my girlfriend, Daria Morgendorffer! (Pauses:) Ask her, Daria's parents, Darren, his aunt, or Jane Lane! They'll all tell you who I am!

TINA: (Glaring while reaching for her cell phone:) Oh, I'll ask them all, alright! You just stay right here while I--(Jane comes up, and Tom smiles as he sees her, relieved) Jane! You know this guy? I just came to work a few minutes ago, and saw him leaning against the tree here. He says his name's a "Tom Sloane", and he was waiting for you.

JANE: (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Hm, I dunno, Tina, he looks kinda familiar, buuuuut--(Tom rolls his eyes)

TOM: Jaaaane--

JANE: (Grins:) Just kidding, Tina, yeah, he's cool. (Coy tone:) He's Daria's "honeybunch". (Pauses, adds, chuckles:) He used to be mine, in fact, then Daria got my hand-me-down when I traded up to her brother. (Tom gives her a droll expression)

TINA: (Softens slightly, cocks an eyebrow, small smirk as she glances at Tom:) Oh, really? Well, okay, Jane, if you say so. (Cuts eyes back at Tom:) Sorry. Next time, make sure you at least call before you come, and clear it with someone, do you understand? (Frowns:) I take our security very seriously up here, the same for the rest of our staff.

TOM: (Thought v.o.: Do tell. You look like you could probably give those sort of lessons to the commandant of a German prison camp in World War II yourself.:) Uh, I will next time, I promise. Sorry.

TINA: (Nods:) See to it that you do. Jane. (Leaves)

JANE: Seeya, Tina. (Watches Tina leave, turns to Tom, chuckles:) Wow. You haven't been here a full day, and you get in a tussle with Toughwoman Tina! You don't waste any time, do you?

TOM: (Sighs, smirks at Jane:) I guess it's my sparkling personality. The ladies can't resist it for some reason.

JANE: (Gives him a "You wish" expression, snickers:) Do not flatter yourself, young Thomas. When we first met at the Zen, you took one look at me, and fell for my charms, not the other way around.

TOM: (Mock-bows:) I humbly acknowledge that you are correct, my dear Jane. (Adds, grins:) When you sang "Old MacDonald Had A Farm", it reeled me in, hook, line, and sinker. I fell for that "seductive" siren's song. (Jane laughs with Tom)

Both then grew silent, their laughter subsiding slowly. The two stared at each other in silence, then Tom spoke after a few seconds more.

TOM: (Quiet tone:) I'm sorry for misleading you and Daria, Jane, and what I did in dumping it all on Darren.

JANE: (Small smile:) S'okay. I'm past it, like Daria and Darren. You actually did it to keep from really hurting me, and deliberately making yourself look like the bad guy. (Pauses:) Just promise me that you won't go to great lengths to do something like that next time you wanna break up with a girl, in this case, Daria. (Grins:) Simply admit you're a jerk, you're entirely at fault in the relationship, and leave it at that.

TOM: (Deadpan:) Gee, why didn't I just do that in the first place, it would have made everything so much easier. (Pauses, grows serious:) I won't do something like that again, I promise, especially with Daria. I really do like her.

JANE: I know, and she you. (Pauses, hesitates:) Um, I gotta know--did you ever stop liking her when you and I stupidly decided to give it one more chance?

Tom stared at Jane, then frowned slightly, pondering.

TOM: I'd like to think that I didn't, but now, I'm not so sure. (Jane cocks an intrigued eyebrow) Thing is, it's possible I subconsciously wanted to stay near Daria through you, (quickly adds, alarmed expression, which amuses a smirking Jane:) not that I was using you to do that! I'd never go that low!

JANE: (Chuckles:) At ease, Sloane. I know you wouldn't.

TOM: (Relieved expression, smiles:) Whew, Thanks. (Pauses:) I wonder if it's possible that I hoped Daria would still begin to look at me as more than a friend while she was hanging around us on our dates after we tried to stay together?

JANE: (Pauses in thought:) Maybe, though she was doing one hell of a job in denying her true feelings for you. (Ponders, realizes:) Hey, I wonder if Daria was subconciously pining for you to see her as more than a friend, too?

TOM: (Shrugs:) If she did, she may not have realized it like me. (Pauses:) Maybe it's karma of some sort.

JANE: (Shakes head slowly, smirks:) I'm not Hindu or Buddhist, thank you very much, and thus I don't believe in karma, just in coincidence.

TOM: Coincidence it is, then. (Holds arms out tentatively:) Friends?

JANE: (After a moment, smiles:) Friends. (Hugs him)

TOM: (Releases her:) Out of curiousity, you didn't look surprised at all when you first saw me in the dining room. (Pauses:) Darren told me that he wasn't going to tell you about me, wanting you to be shocked as well as Daria.

JANE: (Nasty grin:) Well, he told me about a "surprise guest", and tried to keep it a secret, but I "persuaded" him--

TOM: (Raised eyebrows:) --Oh no, you didn't! Not the "Deep Persuasive Smooch Technique"!

JANE: (Smug nod:) But of course. I did that enough times to you to get my way, dear boy.

TOM: (Mock-pleading tone:) Dear God, in the name of humanity, go easy on him with that, Jane! I'm still trying to recover from it!

JANE: Dream on, Tommy Boy! If anything, I'll be even more ruthless on Darren! BWAH-HA-HA! (Begins to walk in the direction of the mansion with Tom)

TOM: (Shakes head slowly, mock-horror tone:) You deranged fiend!

JANE: (Grinning wickedly:) Your point being...? (The two chuckle while going back to the mansion)


(Scene switches to Reynaldo's, the same time)

The Fashion Club and the Watley sisters were trying on summer and fall clothing and chattering noisily while being waited on by Lilith and some (or most) of her salespeople. Krystal, after having quickly purchased her clothing to wear for Friday's party, sat in a chair nearby, subtly looking at her wristwatch, and looking ever-so-slightly bored. She had expressed genuine shock and disbelief at being named an honorary Fashion Club member, more out of personal horror than of actually being chosen. She braved Stacy's overly-enthusiastic embrace, and, in a total surprise to the Fashion Club and Watleys, offered on-the-spot to purchase any single article of clothing in the Junior Miss section they all wanted (with the money she had gotten from Rory last night), an "appreciative gesture of thanks" from her in return. All surprised parties accepted the offer, even Quinn (with her stipend), but only after the Fashion Club thought it was okay in this case, having told Krystal about it. Privately, because of Darren, of course, Krystal wanted to get on Quinn's good side more than anything else.

Sandi was standing beside Quinn in front of a half hexagonial-shaped mirror. Both were trying on fall-colored denim jackets, Sandi in a red one, and Quinn in her brown one. Sandi narrowed an eye at Krystal, annoyed that she at least didn't seem too interested in what they were all doing, and not in participating more (especially since she was an honorary Fashion Club member now). This is as good as time as any to find out what's up with her and Darren, not to mention what she really thinks of fashions. Sandi nudged Quinn with her elbow gently.

SANDI: (Whispers:) Quinn, like, it's time to set our little plan in motion, don't you think?

QUINN: (Pauses, glances at Krystal uneasily, same whisper:) Um, Sandi, I've been thinking--maybe we shouldn't do this at all? (Sandi cocks a surprised eyebrow) I mean, after all, Krystal's buyin' us some clothes. Maybe she's not as bad as I think she is--?

SANDI: Oh, really? Are you sure this isn't because of her offer to buy us these fashions?

QUINN: (Suspicious look:) What are you saying, Sandi? That I've changed my mind on our plan 'cause Krystal's giving us a gift--(pauses, realizes:) sorta like what happened with me and Darren over my "power suit"?

SANDI: (Nods curtly:) Precisely, Quh--inn.

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Oh, Sandi, that's just ridiculous!

SANDI: (Narrows eyes, offended, in the tone of the "old" Sandi:) Oh, so now I'm being "ridiculous", am I?

QUINN: (Rapidly placating tone and look, raising voice just a tad too loudly:) N-No, Sandi! (The others look at them, then Quinn lowers voice:) You're not being ridiculous, really! (Pauses:) I just feel kinda badly doing this now--

SANDI: (Shrugs:) Like, I don't think it will matter if nothing happens when we put our plan forward. If Krystal doesn't care, then we've lost nothing, and you can relax. (Pauses:) If she does, then your fears will be well-founded. Surely since we've come this far, why not continue?

QUINN: (Frowns slightly, thinks, considers, sighs:) Okay, Sandi. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Let's go for it.

Both girls were about to implement their "plan" when Krystal surprised them by getting up and coming over.

KRYSTAL: Uh, Quinn, Sandi--? Maybe you should get what you want to purchase so we can leave--? (To Quinn, a little impatient in tone:) You did say that you wanted to see Darren again like I did before he left with your father, right?

QUINN: (Pauses, thought v.o.: She sounds really eager to see my brother, doesn't she? Then again, Darren won't return 'till late tonight when he leaves us--with Jane, that is...:) Oh, um, yeah, I almost forgot! (Cuts eyes to Sandi:) But Sandi wants to make an announcement first, I think.

SANDI: (Nods:) Yes, Quinn, I do. (Raises voice:) Would you all gather around, please? (Stacy, Tiffany, and the Watleys encircle her while Lilith and her assistants collect the clothing that's laid out) Thank you. Stacy, Tiffany, I think it's time we let Krystal and the Watleys know about "Operation Jane and Darren" for tonight. (Stacy and Tiffany develop wide-eyed, stunned expressions. The Watley sisters look curious, and Krystal narrows her eyes slightly. Quinn subtly takes note of this, narrowing her own eyes at Krystal slightly)

STACY: (Very uncomfortable expression with Tiffany, nervous:) U-Uh, d-do you think letting even honorary members know a-about classified inside fashion information l-like this is such a good idea, Sandi--?

TIFFANY: Yeah...I thought...it was against...our bylaws...

SANDI: (Dismissive wave:) Like, since we're making changes anyway to our club, we might as well do this one, too. (To a stoic-looking Krystal and the eagerly-listening Watleys as Stacy and Tiffany reluctantly nod:) Here's the plan: On Tuesday, the Fashion Club pooled its financial resources to secretly purchase an item of fashion clothing from Cashman's of Park Avenue for Darren's girlfriend, Jane Lane, which Darren himself approved of, though he did not know it at the time. The fashion item in question is a long, tubular sleeveless red dress. We will dress and give Jane Lane a makeover that will make her quite desirable to Darren for their date tonight. (Krystal frowns briefly and looks away in thought. Quinn once again takes subtle note of this, with Sandi now doing the same) Darren will also be suitably dressed for the occasion, his clothing will match Jane's. Both will be the envy of wherever they go tonight, I promise you.

JUANITA: (Excited:) Wow! That's gonna be some date!

LAFLITA: (Ditto:) Yeah! (Pauses:) Hey, maybe we can help you guys get Jane ready, too?

QUINN: (Glancing at Krystal sideways:) Why not? The more the merr--merr--(pauses:) well, just more people will make our work faster, easier, an' more fun. (Smirks:) Besides, we'll have more people to hold down Jane while we give her the makeover in case she resists. (Stacy giggles along with Juanita and Laflita)

SANDI: (Adds, slight smirk:) How about you, Krystal? Since you're an honorary member now, you can assist us with Jane as well.

KRYSTAL: (For once, really at a loss of words:) Uh, um, we'll see. I'll--I'll have to check my schedule for tonight, you understand, yes, that's it, my schedule.

SANDI: (Surprises Krystal by gently gripping her shoulders, "hopeful" expression:) Oh, I do hope you'll be able to help us, Krystal. It just wouldn't be the same without you, really. (Quinn forms the same "expression", nods eagerly in agreement)

KRYSTAL: (Barely "recovers":) I'll--I'll try. (Looks at watch, adds quickly:) Well, let's get ready to go, shall we? I'll be, um, in the powder room fixing my face. I'll be out in a few minutes. Excuse me. (Leaves quickly into a rear hallway that leads to the restrooms, looking stoic again, but slightly perturbed as well)

Quinn and Sandi quietly moved off to the side while the others picked what clothes they wanted to buy from Lilith and her assistants.

QUINN: (Whispers:) Well, there's no doubt about it, now. Krystal's still hung up on Darren.

SANDI: (Nods, ditto with the whisper:) Yes, it appears that is the case. (Pauses:) Well, are you going to say something to either Darren or Jane, now that your fears are well-founded?

QUINN: (Pained expression of confusion:) I--I dunno. (Sandi gives a brief eye-roll, which Quinn notices:) I wouldn't know how to go about it! If it were some other guy and girl, (pauses, adds:) or even Daria, it wouldn't be a problem, since I could spread gossip all over the place! (Pauses, looks away:) But, uh, this is my brother. He and Krystal seem to have known each other pretty well for a long time, and I wouldn't want ta mess that up without there being bad feelings. (Thought v.o.: Especially having Krystal aim those bad feelings at me for doing this.)

SANDI: (Crosses arms, narrows eyes:) It seems to me like whatever you do, they'll be "bad feelings" an' stuff.

QUINN: (Nods:) I--yeah, I guess. (Pauses, sighs:) I'll tell Jane what I told you after she comes back from her date tonight--(adds quickly:) but I'm gonna make her promise not to say that I was involved in tellin' her, though. I don't wanna be in the middle of this, no freakin' way. (Thought v.o.: For my health, that is, and stuff. 'Sides, Jane'll tell Daria anyway, and they can deal with Krystal.)

After a few minutes, everyone come out of Reynaldo's to the limo parked in the front with Lilith and her sales people carrying packages, only to find Rory McKinna standing near the rear of the limo, with it's trunk open. He was leaning on it, grinning and speaking suavely to a stoic-looking, yet increasingly annoyed young woman, a member of the mansion's security staff that had driven the Fashion Club and Watleys to the store. Krystal rolled her eyes as she saw her brother, annoyed at this unexpected development. The Fashion Club, along with the Watleys and Lilith and her assistants, immediately scowled as well. Rory saw them, quickly straightening up, smiling.

RORY: Hi, ladies! (Sees the packages, rushes forward to one of Lilith's assistants, snatches her's by the armful before anyone can say anything, quickly puts them in the trunk of the limo:) Here, let me help you with these, honey--


KRYSTAL: (Smacks her mouth in disgust:) Rory, what are you doing, and why are you here?

RORY: What does it look like, sis? I'm here to help with the packages your friends brought! (Begins to reach for another assistant's package, but she warily backs away, going behind Lilith. The guard is about to rush forward, but Quinn puts her hand up, stopping her)

QUINN: It's okay, Liliane, we can handle it. (Frowns to Rory:) We don't need your help! We have help already! (Lilith motions to her assistants, and they begin to put their packages in the limo's trunk)

SANDI: (Ditto:) Yeah! (Mocking tone, bitter sneer:) Why don't you go someplace else an' hurt an' kill another girl an' her baby, or something? (Looks at Krystal:) Like, you seemed so good at it, according to your sister...

Rory suddenly developed a very hurt expression and looked down, his shoulders slumped, eyes shutting slowly, as if in great pain. Everyone, save for Krystal, who stared at him stoically, simply glared in silence, though Stacy's glare softened a bit when she saw his deflated look.

RORY: (Whispers, looks back up at them all slowly:) I'm--I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do Dora like that, really. (Pauses:) It's just, well, it's just that I was so scared at the time. (The Watleys and the F.C., save for Stacy, who's listening intently, give him a skeptical look. Krystal maintains her expression) Look, try to understand my position, okay? (Pauses:) Please? (The F.C. and the Watleys cross their arms, listening) Thanks. I had gotten Dora pregnant, a girl I really liked a lot at one time, and then I stupidly treated her like dirt! I hadn't told my parents (glances at Krystal:) or my sister about what I had done, keeping it all to myself, and more importantly, I didn't know Dora was going to kill herself, (pauses, shudders:) and the--our baby in the end! If I had any idea she'd do that, I would've stopped her!

QUINN: (Narrows eyes:) What about seein' other girls at the time you knew she was pregnant, huh, after telling her she was the "only" one you liked?

JUANITA: (Ditto, cuts in:) And let's not forget about your telling one of those other girls about your wishing for her to "Get rid of the little brat", huh? (Sneers:) Seems to me that Dora eventually gave you what you wanted on both fronts...(Rory winces as the others nod, even Stacy, though she does it a little more slowly than them. Krystal continues to say nothing)

RORY: (Sighs:) Look, I'll admit I'm not perfect, no one is. Everything I did and said was wrong at the time, period. I'm an idiot, a jerk. There's simply no excuse. Like I said, I was scared, (adds quickly before any of the frowning girls can say anything:) though not as scared as Dora was, obviously. Compared to her, I had a walk in the park.

TIFFANY: (Whispers to Stacy:) What does walking...in the park...have to do...with a girl...being pregnant?

STACY: (Distracted, whispers back:) Huh? Oh, I'll explain later, Tiffany.

SANDI: (Narrows eyes:) What about your insult to Jane Lane and what Darren almost rightly did to you in retaliation--

LAFLITA: (Ditto, before Rory can respond, cuts in:) --How about your saying that Darren killed William Appleton as you stormed out of the store? What about that?

QUINN: (Pauses, realizes, gasps, jumps in right behind Laflita:) --And your giving Jane the middle finger! I saw that, too, you know!

RORY: (Throws up hands in exasperation:) Ladies, please! (Humble tone, looks down again, sighs:) I--I'd like to apologize to Darren and his his girlfriend in person for all of the stupid things I did. I thought about calling, but I know no one likes me around Darren's, and I guess I can't blame them if they wouldn't let me speak to him or Jane Lane. I know I had no right to say or do anything bad to either of them. (Pauses, glances at Krystal:) Darren was only defending Jane Lane's honor, I can see that now after having a few days to think about it. As for William Appleton, I definitely shouldn't have blurted that out, either. I mean, I liked the guy and looked up to him, but I can see now that he misled me, hell, everyone. (Pauses:) Look, it's been really rough on me these past few years since what happened with that idiotic thing I did to Dora, (snorts:) what, with living with it everyday of my life and all. It all built up and, well, I just--lost it all on Sunday. Do you know how it is to be a pariah in a place where no one wants to be around you? (Pauses:) Can't you all give me another chance to prove myself, maybe even putting in a good word to Darren and Jane that I want to personally apologize for my stupidity? (Adds, in a hesistant tone, to Quinn:) I, well--look, you and your family forgave your brother for what he did in sort of fibbing to you guys in Lawndale when he lived with you, can't you do the same for me?

QUINN: (Very angry expression now with Sandi:) Now, waita second! You're not telling me what you did is the same thing as what he--

RORY: (Gently and smoothly cuts her off:) --No, of course not. What I did was far worse than what Darren did, but even you can't deny that what he did was wrong, too, and like I said, you did forgive him. (Pauses:) Don't I deserve some sort of chance to make up for what I did to you--(looks around, hopeful expression:) to all of you? (Pauses:) Please, please, please give me that chance. (Looks away, sadly)

Everyone looked at each other, but said nothing. Stacy glanced at Rory, her look wavering slightly, softening even moreso. Rory noticed this and slightly smiled to her, grateful. Krystal finally made a facial expression, a barely-noticed eye-roll of "Gimmie a break". After a moment more, Quinn spoke.

QUINN: (Snorts:) Huh! Well, as far as I'm concerned, you're potatoes au gratin! Just stay away from me! (Quickly gets into limo as Rory, the Watleys and Krystal give her an odd look, then the Watleys get in as well. Sandi rolls her eyes at Rory, then enters the limo. Tiffany simply follows her wordlessly. Stacy gives Rory another brief look of sympathy, then quickly follows as well. Liliane shuts the door and trunk, gets in the driver's seat, drives off)

The McKinna siblings looked after the limo as Lilith and her assistants went back into Reynaldo's. Krystal then glanced around to see if anyone was nearby. Satisfied that no one wasn't, she slowly turned to Rory, smirking, as they walked to her car.

KRYSTAL: (Droll tone:) Bravo, brother, dear. You really laid it on thick, didn't you?

RORY: (Frowning in confusion as he continues to watch the limo go out of sight:) "Potatoes au gratin"? Why in the hell would Darren's babe of a sister call me food?

KRYSTAL: (Sighs:) I think she meant you're persona non grata to her, you know, unwelcome around her, and such. (Pauses as Rory nods, understanding:) Enough about her ridiculous misnomer, answer my question.

RORY: ("Innocent" expression:) Why, I don't know what you're talking about, sis--

KRYSTAL: (Snorts:) --Suuuure you don't. (Pauses:) Don't tell me that you actually think your little act worked?

RORY: (Grins:) And why not? You saw how that "Stacy" chick looked at me with those big ol' soft eyes of sympathy. She'll work on softening her foxy friends, and if I'm lucky, enough for them to get "Darry" to lighten up, and let me come to that party Friday night.

KRYSTAL: (As they come to her car, sarcastic:) Uh-huh. Well, good luck, you're gonna need it. (Pauses, sees Rory attempting to get in on the other side:) Excuse me, but what are you doing, Rory?

RORY: (Frowns, confused:) Huh? I was going to get you to give me a ride home before you go over to Darren's.

KRYSTAL: (Firm headshake:) Uh-uh. No can do. Darren's going to be leaving with his comical birth daddy soon to a baseball game, and I don't want to miss seeing him because I spent time taking you home, even though Quinn and her friends will be dropping the Watleys off first. I told Quinn I wanted to see him with her before he leaves. They'll be expecting me, plus I want to meet Daria's boyfriend and Jane's ex-beau Tom. He should be there by now.

RORY: (Holds arms out:) Oh, c'mon, sis, have a heart, it wouldn't be out of your way and won't take up all that much time, you know that! I had to pay for a cab to get here! My car's still in the shop, you know!

KRYSTAL: (Cold expression:) Tough. Looks like you'll have to call for another cab to get back, you have your cell phone, don't you? (Grins:) Besides, you should spend some more of that "hard-earned" money you got last night, it'll do you a world of good. Me, I'm making a beeline to Darren's, ta-ta! (Gets in her car, starts it up, backs out so quickly, she almost hits her brother, speeds out of the parking lot)

RORY: (Watching her go, a deep scowl on his face, thought v.o.: One day, sis--just one day, and you'll go too far with me...) (Reaches into his pocket, pulls out his cell phone, starts to dial, but discovers its battery has run down, frowns, slams it down on the parking lot, storms off)


(Scene changes to the mansion, several minutes later)

Darren came out of his bathroom, having changed into a Yankees jersey and blue jeans after showering. He grabbed his Yankees hat off his bed, put it on, and turned to his mirror, straightening the hat. Satisfied over his appearance, he proceeded to his huge walk-in closet, going in.

Inside, Darren glanced around at his incredible array of clothing, briefly wondering how long his "baby" sister and her friends would take in helping him choose what he'd wear for his date tonight with Jane, though he planned to wear nothing too formal. Slightly smiling, he hoped it wouldn't be too long, for he wanted to arrive at Yankee Stadium with Jake before the majority of the crowd came in.

Darren paused in thought. With Jake. Not my dad--but then again, technically, Jake is my dad, my birth one. This is really odd in a way, I suppose...

Darren fondly remembered the numerous times he went with his (adopted) dad to Yankees games over the years, of his eating hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack and of ice cream until he would get sick and vomit, yet he was happy nevertheless, particularly when he and his father usually "conspired" to not tell his mother of his overeating. Darren crossed his arms and looked up, smiling quietly at the memories. I guess I'll start some new memories with Jake, now. Thanks for the ones I had before, dad.

He shook himself out of thinking, and glanced at the wall in front of his safe for an instant, then smirked slightly, getting an idea. Why not? Tom's here, I haven't gotten rid of it yet, and Daria doesn't have to know...

Grinning, Darren punched the buttons on his console in the closet, and the wall in front of his wall safe opened. He punched his special code for the safe, then opened the door. Reaching in, he pulled out the tape that Quinn and Stacy had recorded of their makeovers of Daria and Jane in their sleep, slipping it in his jersey's pocket. Just before he shut the door, he stopped and glanced at the "Truth" tape that had been beside it, the tape his (adopted) parents had revealed to him that he had been adopted.

He paused for an instant, cocked his head curiously, then reached in and held it, simply staring. Darren had not seen it since after he had viewed it twice that day, preferring to simply keep it in here, not knowing exactly why. He wondered if it was his way to keep some sort of final memorial to his (adopted) parents, as well as a way to tell himself that despite their revelation to him, nothing had really changed, that Arthur Sr. and Lucille Appleton were his real parents. If he ever wanted to see it again, he'd see the anguish on their faces, of the pain they went through in telling him the incredible story, and of their fears of him actually hating them for keeping his adoption a secret for so long.

Darren frowned as he continued to stare at the "Truth" tape. Do I want to keep this anymore, maybe even torturing myself in the process every time I see that look on their faces? Why not just throw it away and be done with it? It's all in the past--

His thoughts were interrupted by Helen, who had been standing in the doorway of the closet. She looked at him curiously for a moment, then saw what he was holding. Almost instantly, her eyes lit up, and she let out a small gasp. Darren frowned slightly at her in confusion, then he realized what she was looking at. He glanced down at the tape awkwardly, then up at his birth mother.

DARREN: Oh, uh, Helen. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Ah, how long had you been standing there?

HELEN: (Uncomfortable expression:) Er, well, just a few seconds, sweetie. Your bedroom door was open, and I invited myself in. (Glances at the "Truth" tape again, then at Darren:) I--didn't disturb you, did I? If so, I'll--

DARREN: (Gently cuts her off, subtly places the tape behind him, much to Helen's private disappointment:) --No, of course not. I was just thinking about something, that's all. (Changes subject:) So, what's going on?

HELEN: I wanted to see if you were ready to go with your fa--(pauses, catches herself:) Jake. He's getting a bit impatient, or should I say excited. He paced up and down in the gameroom and talked about what you two were going to do at the ballgame, and such. (Sighs: looks off:) He was about to come up here to see what was taking you so long, but I've gotten your uncle Jim to calm him down for the moment by persuading Jake to hit some golf balls in the rear of the mansion before Jim went to the golf course and I came up here.

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Don't worry. The game won't start for another hour-and-a-half. The helicopter ride to the Bronx lasts only 35-40 minutes. Tina told me that Quinn and her friends will be here in a few, even Krystal's coming with them. That's why I'm waiting. (Pauses, slight frown:) It seems like it's been such a long time since I've last seen her at my (adopted) parent's funeral. (Shrugs:) I guess that shows how crazy this summer's been, huh? (Helen nods slowly in an understanding way) (Adds:) By the way, Quinn and her friends want to see what clothes I'm wearing for my date tonight with Jane for some reason. (Helen rolls her eyes)

HELEN: Leave it to your sister to worry about your fashion sense. Anyway, Millie's gone into Maness with Edward for most of the day, so I'm left to my own, um--(pauses, looks for words:) "various personal devices" for spending my time constructively today. I think I'll use some of that time to for our "Family Time" tomorrow, you know, to "tinker" with it a little more. Your aunt and I basically already have the day worked out, but I wanted to fine tune it.

DARREN: (Nods:) I think that's a good idea--

HELEN: (Continues on:)--Daria's gone horseback riding with Tom on the grounds. (Gives a sigh of relief:) I'm glad he persuaded your sister to get out of that study, (realizes, adds:) that'll also mean Daria will more than likely come to the party tomorrow night, since she'll have Tom there like you will with Jane.

DARREN: (Nods, small shrug:) Yeah. I'm sure those two will want to catch up on a few things. Daria had already said her goodbye to me.

HELEN: (Pauses, hesitates:) Darren, did you know about Tom coming up here beforehand? You said you were the one who let him in very late last night--

DARREN: (Shakes head:) --No, I didn't. It was a complete shock to me.

HELEN: (Pauses:) Do you know what he's here for, (adds quickly:) I mean, other than seeing Daria, of course. (Looks off slightly:) It's quite nice to see him here, don't get me wrong, but I saw him leaving to speak with Jane earlier, and I couldn't help but to wonder--

DARREN: (Hesitates:) I--know, but I'd rather for you to speak to Daria about it, if you don't mind.

HELEN: Of--course. (Pauses, looks yet again at the tape Darren's still holding behind him:) So--I'll--well--guess--I'll--leave, then. Yes, leave to my room to do--(pauses:) those "things". I'll see you and Jake before you go-- (begins to turn away slowly)

DARREN: (Sighs, puts up his hand:) Helen, I--wait. (Helen stops, and Darren pulls out the "Truth" tape from behind him:) I know you're dying to see this, aren't you?

HELEN: (Uneasy chuckle, that falsetto voice kicking in:) Ohhhh, son, that's preposterous! It's none of my business about your personal life, and all--

Darren gave her a knowing smile, and held out the tape to a stunned Helen.

DARREN: Here. Watch it.

HELEN: (Pauses, looks in great pain, then tepidly takes it:) Are--are you sure, son? I mean, it is personal to you--

DARREN: (Slight nod:) Yes, but maybe it's time to let it be seen by someone else, another member of my newly-extended family. (Pauses, adds, looks off:) And maybe it's time to let go, also.

HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow, inquisitive:) "Let go", son? I don't understand.

DARREN: (Quiet tone, shuts the safe's door, then the wall:) I think you will after you've seen the tape. (Pauses:) Just promise me that you'll do two things after you've seen it.

HELEN: (Hesitates:) I--alright, son. What?

DARREN: That you won't feel sorry for me, and that you'll destroy the tape afterwards. (Helen's mouth drops in shock as he leans over and kisses her gently on her cheek, walks out)

HELEN: (Shakes her head slowly in disbelief, turns to him, follows into his room:) Sweetie, I--

Tina entered Darren's still-opened bedroom door in a huff, interrupting Helen.

TINA: Darren, what's this I hear about--(notices Helen:) oh, sorry, Mrs. Morgendorffer, I didn't see you there--

HELEN: (Glances at Darren:) It's--(hesitates:) alright, Tina, I was just leaving, and please call me Helen. (Pauses as she's about to go out:) Darren, are you really sure--

DARREN: (Gently cuts her off, affirmative nod:) --Yes, I am.

HELEN: (Looks down at the tape, sighs:) Alright, son, I'll do what you want...(leaves)

TINA: (Motions head after Helen:) I hope I didn't interrupt anything--?

DARREN: No, I was just putting something behind me for good. (Changes tone, smirks:) Now, what is it that made you storm into my room like a madwoman?

TINA: (Ignores his quip:) As I was about to ask before, what's this I hear about your going out with your birth father to the game, then Jane, without any bodyguards whatsoever?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) Why not? No reporters hassled me or Daria yesterday, it stands to reason they won't today or tonight, and I don't exactly want somebody around while Jake and I--(pauses:) bond, and I know I don't want anybody sticking with Jane and me on our date. (Grins:) Are you volunteering?

TINA: (Slight frown:) Ho-ho. (Pauses:) We'll see if you're still in a joking mood tomorrow morning when we work out. (Darren chuckles) Seriously, what if some nutcase approaches you while you're out? You and Daria got lucky yesterday, but it might not hold out today--

DARREN: (Rolls eyes, sighs, sits on his bed:) Tina, they'll be over 50,000 people at the game today, plus "New York City's Finest" to help keep things under control, and we'll park in our usual secure location with the limo. Besides, I do know martial arts in the event if anybody gets it into their head to try and harm us--(adds:) and to be honest with you, no offense, but I'm sort of tired of having security around me all of the time. (Pauses:) I'm not exactly the same little boy that my parents tried to keep under wraps anymore, you know. (Tina cocks an eyebrow) Nothing happened to me while I stayed in Lawndale, (adds quickly before Tina can speak:) even though I know no one knew who I really was there, it still sort of gave me a feeling of absolute freedom, of not having people harass me all of the time. (Small smile:) Yesterday, the same thing happened with Daria. We had a great time, just her and me. I want the same thing with Jake and Jane.

TINA: (Small, exasperated sigh after a brief pause, knowing she won't change Darren's mind:) Look, if you want to do this, fine, but at least make sure you'll take your cell phone just in case--

DARREN: (Pats his pants pocket, grins:) --Got it right here, fully-charged and everything.

TINA: (Firm nod:) Good. Still, if you don't mind, I want to call the security at Yankee Stadium and ask them to keep an eye out on you two--

DARREN: Sure. (Stands as Tina's about to leave:) --Tina--? (Tina stops, turns back to him) Thanks for caring, even though it is your job--

TINA: (Pensive expression, narrows eyes:) It's more than that, Darren, I think we both know it in a way. (Pauses, hesitates:) You're--the remaining link to Arthur Sr. and Lucille. (Darren's eyebrows raise in surprise) I sort of made a private promise to them and to myself to personally watch over you from now on. (Hesitates:) I know it's sort of stupid to say this in hindsight now, but I should've had some sort of idea of what William was doing. Maybe--maybe I could've been here to stop it, somehow. I failed to protect them, and I don't want the same thing to happen to you--(Darren's about to say something, but Tina cuts him off gently, slight smirk:) shut up. Like I said, it's hindsight, and I can't do anything about it now, but still--(quick sigh:) look, they treated me with a hell of a lot of respect, almost like a member of your family, and let me do my job in any way I wanted. I--won't forget that.

DARREN: (Pauses, searches for words:) Tina, I--I don't know what to say--

TINA: (Rolls her eyes, annoyed tone:) Please, do not get all sappy on me. I don't do sappy.

DARREN: (Grins:) Oh, I know that, believe me.

TINA: (Smirks:) You'd better. (Darren chuckles, and there are barely-audible female voices coming from the hallway) Hm, sounds like your sister and her friends have returned. I'll take my leave. (Adds:) Be careful, and have a good time. (Leaves while Darren looks in his mirror, frowns in disatisfaction, once again straightens his hat on his head, this time "baseball style")

(Note to reader: There's a certain way I've heard that a baseball player has to wear a team cap. It has to be placed just right on the head. Don't ask me how, please, I'm just relaying what I've heard, sorry!)


Tina came out in the hallway just as a frowning Sandi was speaking to a slightly-cowering Stacy as they all came up the stairs and headed toward Darren's room. Quinn and Tiffany followed behind, having the same expression as Sandi, annoyed. In the background, Claude, Fiona, and another maid had their Reynaldo's packages, taking them to each member's rooms. Tina chuckled to herself over the scene, supposing that the quartet were speaking about fashion again. She started to walk past them good-naturedly as Stacy was timidly speaking.

STACY: --B-But why not, guys? S-Shouldn't we give that guy Rory another chance? He sounded so sincere at Reynaldo's... (Tina stops at hearing Rory's name, turns around to observe, narrows an eye) D-Doesn't everybody deserve that? (Adds to Quinn:) L-Like he said, you and your family did forgive Darren--

Before anyone could speak, Darren, who had overheard them, suddenly stormed out of his bedroom, surprising everyone, even Tina. He walked right up to Quinn, putting his hands on her shoulders, narrowing his eyes.

DARREN: Excuse me, but did I just hear Rory's name, and that he saw you all at Reynaldo's a second time? (Deep scowl:) He didn't try to come on to you or the others again, did he, because if he did--

QUINN: (Gently puts her hands on his chest to calm him down, shakes her head slowly:) No, bro, he didn't. In fact, he wanted to say he was sorry for what happened there Sunday, or kinda make it to look like that--

SANDI: (Quickly adds:) --But, like, don't worry, we didn't fall for his little apology--(brief glare at Stacy, who cowers slightly yet again:) at least most of us didn't. (Darren cocks an eyebrow at Stacy)

STACY: (Looks between everyone wide-eyed, feeling as if they're all turning on her, begins to cry:) I-I'm soooo sorry! I d-don't want everybody angry at me over t-this, and stuff! (Starts to howl, sobbing. Tiffany reaches into her purse, pulls out a laced hanky, gives it to her) T-Thanks, Tiffany. (Wipes her mascara-running eyes. Tina mildly rolls her eyes in disgust as if to say, "Somebody give this girl a backbone", then leaves)

DARREN: (Sighs, in a gentle tone:) Nobody's angry at you, Stacy, I just know Rory, that's all. He's sweet-talked many girls into doing things for him in the past, then letting them go at the drop of a hat. Don't be fooled into thinking that he's changed. Believe me, he hasn't.

STACY: (Sniffling:) B-But he seemed so sincere, really. H-He even added that since y-your b-birth f-family had forgiven you--

QUINN: (Sharply cuts her off:) --Stacy! (Glances at Darren, uneasy chuckle:) Um, that's enough, okay?

DARREN: (Narrows eyes, listens:) No, wait, go on, Stacy. What did Rory say about since my birth family "forgave" me--?

STACY: (Timidly, while glancing at the other F.C. members:) W-Well, that since your birth family had forgiven you for what happened when you stayed with them in L-Lawndale, that maybe you and Jane could forgive him for what he did o-on Sunday? (Sandi rolls her eyes, while even Tiffany shakes her head slowly at Stacy)

Darren looked off at this, deep in thought. Quinn immediately narrowed her eyes.

QUINN: (Thought v.o.: Oh, great. I can't believe I'm sayin' this again...:) Darren, you're not gonna compare what that jerk did and said with what you did, are you?

DARREN: Well, of course not, but--(smiles, looks behind Quinn, who turns around:) hey!

Krystal had suddenly appeared in the hallway from up the grand stairs, smiling, coming towards them. At the same time, Fiona, having deposited some of the Fashion Club's packages in their rooms with the other servants, appeared from the east wing behind her. Immediately, Fiona paused, and turned around, quietly going downstairs via a minor set of stairs. Quinn, who had seen the whole thing, shook her head at this briefly, and sighed. Krystal came up to Darren, and before he could say a word, gave him a very long and deep hug. Quinn and Sandi subtly glanced at each other.


At the very same instant, just down the same hallway, Jane exited Darren's art studio, her latest artwork she had started only last night now finished. She stretched and yawned, intent on taking a nap to rest herself for her date tonight with Darren. Almost immediately, she cocked an eyebrow at the sight of Krystal hugging her boyfriend, and suddenly didn't feel so tired anymore. Having received her rejuvenation shot, she decided to saunter over to the group.


Krystal slowly released Darren, smirking, looking him over.

KRYSTAL: You're looking better than ever, I see. No worse for the wear.

DARREN: (Grins:) Ditto for you. I see you have a tan, too.

KRYSTAL: (Playful tone:) That strong Caribbean sun does wonders to the skin. (Looks around:) I would've been here sooner, but there were several cars in a funeral possession that came right up after you guys left Reynaldo's, and just before me. (Thought v.o.: And nearly drove me nuts in waiting for them to pass by. I was almost tempted to run through it.) (Jane comes up, and Krystal responds in a slightly deflated tone:) Oh, hi, Jane.

JANE: Hi, Krystal. (Looks around:) I see you guys have returned triumphant, I presume--? (Places left arm around Darren's waist and leans against him, slightly surprising Darren, who then absentmindingly returns the gesture. Krystal cocks an eyebrow briefly, whereas Quinn and Sandi once again glance at each other)

QUINN: Uh, yeah, even Krystal bought us something. (Darren and Jane give her an inquistive expression, and Quinn adds quickly, particularly to Darren:) Just a few little blouses, nothing real expensive, or anything.

KRYSTAL: (To Darren, shrugs:) It was a little token of my appreciation for your sister and her friends making me an honorary member of their club, the same for the Watley sisters.

JANE: (Smirks:) And you did this of your own free will after they captured you? Girl, that takes guts! (Darren and Krystal chuckle)

QUINN: (Frowns with the rest of the F.C.:) Hey!

JANE: (Puts her hand up, grins:) Quinn, guys, it was just a joke, that's all! Relax, willya? (The F.C. slowly lose their frowns, slightly placated)

SANDI: Well, alright. I suppose we can allow that minor barb to pass, Jane. However, you must understand that we do take our fashion quite seriously, you know. (Jane shrugs, indifferent) Now, Darren, if you'd be so kind as to allow us into your bedroom closet, we can examine your wardrobe for what clothing you'll be wearing with Jane tonight, so you can be on your way with Mr. Morgendorffer--? (Brushes past him with the other F.C. members, heading towards his room. Krystal forms a stoic expression)

DARREN: (Looks after them:) Oh, uh, sure--

JANE: (Frowns, confused:) Waitasecond, Sandi. (Pauses as Sandi stops while the other F.C. members go into Darren's bedroom:) What do you mean, "Examine your wardrobe"? It's just a little date tonight in the city. I assume Darren's gonna wear his usual stuff like I am, that's all. It's nothing to get all excited about, you know.

SANDI: (Smirks slowly:) That's what you think. (Jane narrows her eyes at this. Darren frowns at Sandi, perplexed) (Sandi turns to Krystal, adds:) Oh, that's right, I almost forgot, could you come as well, Krystal? We really could use your opinion, here, you know, since we had to drop off the Watleys at their home, an' everything...

KRYSTAL: But I-- (pauses, hesitates, looks between Darren and Jane:) er, yeah, sure. Coming. (Follows Sandi reluctantly into the bedroom)

JANE: (Shakes her head slowly, eyes shut, realizes:) Oh, no. They wouldn't. (Pauses:) They--wouldn't--dare...

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Huh? What do you mean? (Pauses, begins to realize as well:) Uh-oh. You're not saying that they're going to--

JAKE: (From below:) --GAH! DAMMIT! Son, aren't you and Quinn's friends finished yet with your clothes-picking stuff? We gotta go! They're not gonna wait to start playing, ya know! Jim wanted ta stay with me, but I told him to go on to the golf course before all of the tee times were filled--(the sound of steps, Jake's, are coming up)

DARREN: (Glances in Jake's direction as Jake comes to the top of the stairs, dressed in a comical-looking summer garb of short-sleeved white and red-stripped shirt, short black pants and socks, white baseball hat, sunglasses, sneakers, a Yankees banner, and glove. Darren becomes stunned at Jake's appearance, along with Jane. Also like Jane, tries not to chuckle:) I-It'll be just another few minutes, Jake! We'll leave soon, I p-promise! (Jake gets his goofy grin, gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up, goes back downstairs. The moment he's out of sight, both break out in smothered laughter. After a moment of gathering themselves under control, Darren begins to leave:) Excuse me, Jane. I'm going to see what they'll pick for me--

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) --Hey, what about me? (Darren stops) Damned if I'm gonna allow your sister and her "Fashion Gestapo" to do yet another makeover on your's truly!

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Then I suggest that you work it out with them, or maybe Daria can help you brainstorm something. (Leaves to his bedroom. Jane rolls her eyes, then crosses her arms and sighs, follows him)


(Scene changes, several minutes later)

Darren, holding a small handbag and a hanger of clothing with a baseball glove, came down the hallway with Jane, Krystal, and the Fashion Club to the foyer. Jane had a scowl on her face as she spoke to Darren while they all began to came down the grand stairs.

JANE: You don't really believe that jerk Rory meant what he said about wanting to apologize, do you? (Looks back at Krystal, realizes:) Oops, sorry.

KRYSTAL: (Shrugs:) About my brother being a jerk? (Snorts, rolls eyes:) Get in line, sister. (Jane chuckles, the same for the F.C., save for Stacy, who looks down for an instant)

DARREN: (Sighs, narrows eyes at Jane:) Look, let's not forget about what you-know-who did with two girls I know, (adds after a moment:) and I'm not speaking about me, if you catch my drift. He apologized, and they both accepted it, including me. Remember about what we all said about "Everyone doing the wrong thing"? (The F.C. look puzzled, glancing at each other) Upon further consideration after Sunday, I realized I sort of overreacted to what I did to Rory out of pure instinct, and how I did the wrong thing when I first grabbed him. Jane, I didn't like the way I reacted, justified or not. I'm willing to give him one more chance. (Jane narrows an eye at him, then rolls her eyes. Stacy gets a hopeful look)

Krystal formed a brief, suspicious expression, then realized Darren must have been speaking about Tom and what happened between them all concerning the "triangle". She slightly narrowed her eyes, listening more intently.

JANE: (After a moment, sighs as they stop at the foot of the stairs:) Fine. (Pauses, slight smirk:) You're too damn nice for your own good, do you know that? (Darren nods, weak smile) I guess that's one of the reasons why I like you. If you wanna allow Rory to do this, then I'll go along. (Stacy gets a giddy look, but quickly controls herself as the other F.C.'ers look at her) But he'd better be sincere about what he said and did to me was wrong, or I'll skin him alive.

DARREN: (Firm nod:) And I'll give you the knife to do it with. (Turns to Krystal:) Could you tell Rory that he can come to the mansion tomorrow to apologize?

KRYSTAL: Sure. Want him to come with me tomorrow morning when we both work out with Tina? (Jane, even though told by Darren about the planned workout previously, still forms a barely-noticible frown, but says nothing)

DARREN: (Considers:) Well--

STACY: (Jumps in:) --Ooh! I know! How about you bring him to the party tomorrow night? He can apologize in front of everybody there!

QUINN: (Frowns:) Now, hold on a sec, Sta--

DARREN: --It's okay, Quinn. You know, I think Stacy has a good idea. I'm willing to give him that chance.

QUINN: (Quick sigh after a moment, looks off:) Fine, whatever.


Jake paced back and forth impatiently in the family room while waiting with Claude and Elenor (who had become just as nervous because of his pacing after they snickered privately at his current garb), muttering, "We're gonna miss some of the game, dammit, I just know we are!" under his breath with each pass. After a moment more, he abruptly decided to go back into the foyer with the express intent of physically dragging his son from upstairs if he did not see Darren waiting for him.


Jake broke out in a broad grin in the foyer when he spotted the group having already gathered at the foot of the grand stairs, immediately walking over. Claude took Darren's clothing and handbag, then proceeded to the helicopter outside, which was starting its rotor blades. Darren turned to Jane, smiling.

DARREN: See you later, Jane, about "Sixish"?

JANE: (Grins:) Uh-huh. I'll be there with bells and whistles on. (Grabs his head, pulls him down, and kisses him. Krystal slightly looks off to the side, a slight scowl of disgust on her face. This is picked up on by Sandi, who stares at Krystal, her eyes narrowed. Quinn notices as well, says nothing)

TIFFANY: (Whispers to Sandi, which breaks her out of her stare:) But I thought..she'd have on...the red dress...we picked out...for her...bells and whistles...ewww...

SANDI: (Drops head, sighs, slight eye roll, returns the whisper:) Like, that's a metaphysical term, Tiffany. Jane's not going to actually have bells and whistles on--

STACY: (Overhears, interjects:) --Um, Sandi--? I think you meant to say it's a metaphorical term Jane's using. (Sandi glares at her, and Stacy cowers:) Eeep!

SANDI: (Sees Stacy's cower, and softens a bit, unlike her "old" persona:) Like, I suppose I stand corrected, Stacy. My mistake. (Stacy stares at her, wide-eyed)

Jake suddenly surprised Darren by gently but firmly putting his hand on his birth son's left shoulder, which broke Darren's kiss with Jane.

JAKE: (Frantically points at his watch:) Son, we gotta go! Time's a wastin'!

DARREN: (Grins, playful tone:) Okay, okay! We'll--(pauses, looks around:) say, where's Helen? She's not here yet? She told me she wanted to see us off...

As if on cue, Helen showed up at the top of the grand stairs, quickly coming down, red-eyed, as if she had been crying (which she had). She wordlessly came over to her son, ignoring everyone else, and hugged a surprised Darren fiercely. Jake rolled his eyes, the same for Quinn. Jane smirked, "touched" at the scene. Stacy showed an "Aww" expression.

JAKE: Helen! Jeez, we'll be gone for only a few hours, (pauses:) or I will, at least! Stop babying him! You'd think that we're leaving forever, or something!

QUINN: Yeah, Mom! Gawd! (Helen continues to ignore them both, still hugging her son)

JAKE: (Shrugs, grins:) Race ya out to the 'copter, son! (Runs out like a madman)

DARREN: (Concerned expression as he looks down on Helen:) Are you going to be okay?

HELEN: (Gives him a quiet smile:) I'll be fine, dear. Have a good time with Jake at the game, and treat Jane here to a great time tonight.

JANE: (Chuckles:) Oh, I sure he will, Mrs. M, even if I have to hold a gun to his head! (Everyone chuckles, save for Krystal, who forces a smile) Now get outta here Darren, before Mr. M. blows a gasket!

DARREN: (Mock-salute:) Yes ma'am! See you all! (Darren leaves so quickly, he runs into Claude as he comes back in, spinning Claude around:) Sorry, Claude! (Elenor chuckles at Claude, who glares at her briefly)

Everyone came out to the front of the mansion and watched Darren trot quickly out to the helicopter and get in. The helicopter then slowly lifted off and flew over the trees, out of sight. After another moment, the group came back into the foyer.

HELEN: (To Quinn:) I'll, uh, see you all later, sweetie. I have to--(pauses:) take care of some personal business. (Goes up the grand stairs)

QUINN: (Looks after her:) Okay, Mom.

KRYSTAL: (Quickly interjects:) I'm going to get my portable chess set in my car, and find Daria and her boyfriend on the grounds. (Jane cocks a curious eyebrow, which Krystal notices, quickly adds:) Quinn and her friends told me he had suddenly come in last night while we were out. One of the security staff will direct me to them. I'll see you all later--(begins to leave as Elenor opens the door)

SANDI: (Slight smirk with Quinn after they glance at each other, calls after her:) --Don't forget, you, like, promised while we were in Darren's room that you'll be with us and the Watleys to help prepare Jane for tonight! (Jane frowns upon hearing this again)

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o., through clenched teeth: Only because you seemed to continue to hound me relentlessly to do it more than anyone else, you heifer...) (Forced grin:) Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world! See you guys later! (Quickly leaves out, Elenor shuts door, leaves with Claude)

QUINN: (Turns back to the others, smiles:) Jane, wait 'till you see the dress we've gotten for you to wear tonight! It'll match Darren's clothes perfectly!

JANE: (Shakes her head slowly, holds hands up, slowly backing away:) Oooooh nooo you don't, you're not going to do a damn thing to me!

QUINN: (Gives her an admonishing expression with the others, smacks her mouth, hands on hips:) And why not? It's in a color that matches your (ugh) jacket's, and it'll definitely look good on you! (Pauses, realizes:) Besides, we saw how you were dressed once on some sort of class assignment you and Daria did for Mr. O'Neill's class! You looked great!

(Note to reader: This was during the episode "The 'F' Word")

STACY & TIFFANY: Yeah! Yeah...

SANDI: (Narrows eyes briefly, ponders:) Yes, I remember that fashion episode as well. You looked very much like a normal student, in fact, you were quite attractive. (Jane rolls her eyes at Sandi's unintentional insult) We even secretly and briefly considered offering you a position as a Fashion Club alternative. (Jane now gives her a droll expression as the others nod their heads) I recalled we were somewhat disappointed when you resumed your current look.

JANE: (Holds arms out:) Like you said Quinn, it was just a stupid class assignment I chose to do to get a good grade in O'Neill's class! (Thought v.o.: And it still scares me to think about what almost happened to me...) (Cocked eyebrow, realizes:) Hey, how'd you guys know about that, anyway? (Smirks:) I thought miniscule brainy stuff concerning schoolwork was beneath your fashion radars.

QUINN: (Snorts:) Ha. We heard what you and Daria were doing from Brittany, (wicked grin:) after she told us a few days later in gym class that you had tried out for the cheerleader team. (Jane moans) Something about you all deliberately failing to get a good grade, or something.

SANDI: Um, I don't see what the big deal is, Jane. It's just for tonight, and you can, uh, (looks her over, slight look of repulsion:) afterwards get back to dressing like you usually do.

JANE: (Frowns, crosses her arms, determined tone:) Give me one good reason why I should do this. (The F.C. look at each other)

STACY: (Speaks up first:) Well, uh, 'cause we used our own money to buy the dress for you?

JANE: (Ponders this, then:) I suppose I should be touched by your stunning generousity, which I am, by the way, but you can take the dress to get your money back, you know--

TIFFANY: (Before anyone can speak:) How about...because...I wanted...to see how...you looked...in that dress...since it was...my idea...? (The others simply stare at her for a long moment)

JANE: (Smirks smugly:) I guess you'll have to just wonder how I'll look in your fashion fantasies then, won't you?

SANDI: (Frowns, frustrated, stomps:) Ooooh! What exactly is your problem with looking good for Darren, Jane? We're only trying to ensure that you two have a good time for tonight! What's wrong with that?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Actually, nothing, but that's just not me, you see. (Pauses, grins:) And besides, I already do look good for Darren. (Sandi rolls her eyes)

QUINN: (After a moment, turns to the rest of the Fashion Club:) Uh, guys--? Will you leave me alone with Jane for a bit? I'll join you as soon as I can.

SANDI: (Slight glare at Jane:) Very well, Quinn. We'll be upstairs in my room discussing make-up techniques--(walks with Stacy and Tiffany up the grand stairs, adds as she looks back over her shoulder:) hopefully for Jane tonight.

After watching the rest of the Fashion Club leave out of sight upstairs, Quinn turned back to Jane, who simply looked at her stoically, her arms crossed.

QUINN: Jane, look, I guess I can understand why you'd be so against this, especially after what me an' Stacy did to you an' Daria with the makeover thing, but I'm asking that you do this one thing for me, and I promise I won't ask you to do anything else ever again--(pauses, puts her hands in a "pleading" position, like a prayer:) pleeease?

JANE: (Looking uneasy, thought v.o.: Oh, crap, she's going into that "cutesy-poo" posing she usually does to get something. Well, that won't work on me...) (Shakes head slowly:) Quinn, I really think you're wasting your ti--

QUINN: (Gets into a quieter tone, cuts her off gently, glances upstairs:) --Jane, (hesitates:) you remember that time I told you that I preferred you over Sandi with Darren, you know, the same day we all almost--(pauses:) died?

JANE: (Narrows eyes, suspicious look:) Yeah, sure I remember--though shocking as it was when I first heard it with Daria and Darren, I assumed that you didn't really mean it--

QUINN: (Urgent tone, so much so it even surprises Jane:) But I did! Honest! (Pauses, looks off:) Um, even though Sandi's mostly, um, a little nicer now, I'm still kinda glad you're with Darren, not her, and he's uh, with nobody else--

JANE: (Hint of impatience, sighs, glances at watch:) Where's this conversation going exactly, Quinn? I wanted to take a quick nap before my date--

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes, cuts her off:) You can take your dumb ol' nap in a few minutes, okay? (Bites her bottom lip, hesitates:) First, I gotta tell you something really, really, really important. (Pauses, then in her mile-a-minute tone:) I wanted to wait 'till after you came back with Darren tonight to tell you, but that was before you became so stubborn about dressing up an' stuff, so I might as well tell you now so maybe you'll change your mind after you hear me, (adds quickly:) though you gotta promise me that you'll leave my name outta this, (adds:) though you'll probably wanna tell Daria--

JANE: (Stares at her for a moment after taking all of the info as best as she could, ponders, sarcastic tone:) My, but this sounds interesting. (Sighs:) Disclose what you wanted to wait until tonight to tell me, and I'll seriously consider your, uh, offer--

QUINN: (Long pause, thought v.o.: I might as well say Fiona told me, since Jane knew about her secretly liking Darren once, but I'll leave out telling her about Fiona and Krystal, like I did with Sandi... :) I guess that's all I can hope for. Here goes. (Swallows hard, takes a deep breath:) It's um, about Krystal. (Jane immediately narrows her eyes) I kinda know something about her an' Darren, and it sorta involved Stephanie, too.

JANE: (Crosses arms, very interested expression:) Really. (Pauses:) Go on--


(Scene changes to a remote part of the estate, a few minutes later)

Daria and Tom sat under a tree with a picnic basket prepared by Henri for them at the last minute, conversing about Daria's tour in New York City yesterday following Eastward. Tom enthusiastically congratulated her on Constance's writing job offer and acceptance, something a blushing Daria quickly acknowledged and put behind her. Nearby, the two horses they rode out the spot grazed quietly in a grassy clearing while tied to a fallen rotted tree.

TOM: --I'm glad you and Darren had a great time, Daria. (Pauses, hesitates:) So, you're definitely going to Eastward with your brother next year?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) It looks that way more or less, providing that an earthquake that rivals Alaska's 1964 one doesn't destroy the campus first. It was the primary college I really wanted, just above Raft. The journalistic department at Eastward is superior to Raft's. (Adds:) Looks like I'm headed in the direction of becoming a journalist, though I guess I can do some "authoring" on the side occasionally.

TOM: (Slightly disappointed tone, looks off:) Oh. (Thought v.o.: Eastward. [Pauses:] Damn.)

DARIA: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) I say something wrong?

TOM: (Pauses:) Uh, no, not really. It's just that you're going to Eastward, and I'm planning to go to Bromwell, where my family went.

DARIA: Bromwell? (Cocks an eyebrow, pauses:) Now, that's interesting.

TOM: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? What's so interesting about Bromwell--(smirks:) other than the fact that my folks will be paying through their noses for my tuition, while all I'll have to do is study like there's no tomorrow under intense pressure to even have a small hope of getting a passing grade, and to keep up the famed Sloane tradition of graduating from there with flying colors?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I'm sure you'll manage to get by somehow. (Pauses:) When I said "interesting", I meant that Jane told me once that you said you two were possibly planning to go to Leeville Community College. (Tom cocks a huge eyebrow to this, pauses, then chuckles in realization)

TOM: Jane misunderstood me. I told her that some of the students at Fielding Prep I know were planning to go to LCC, then transfer on to four-year colleges. I said to her in jest that maybe we should do the same thing like them together just to sock it to our parents financially with double tuitions.

DARIA: Oh. (Thought v.o.: Jane must've been royally P.O.'d the time she told me about that...) (After a moment, realizes what Tom's disappointed expression was about:) Um, yeah, I see now what you meant about your going to Bromwell, and me to Eastward. We'll be going to two different colleges in two different states. (Pauses:) Well, uh, that's still a year away, you know. (Casually adds, deadpan:) We'll still have plenty of time to cause mayhem and destruction while we're residing in Lawndale.

TOM: (Brightens up, smirks to cover his disappointment:) Hey, that's right! We can start our annihilation project there between now and then, with time left over for the postapocalyptic aftermath!

DARIA: (Slight smirk, deadpan:) Now you're getting in the swing of things. (Pauses, looks at watch:) My brother should be gone right about now with my dad to that ballgame, unless Quinn and her friends have shackled them in his walk-in closet, and they can't escape. Think I'll check to see if they've broken out yet. (Reaches in her jacket pocket, pulls out cell phone, dials)

Tom surveyed the surrounding area slowly in the meantime, admiring the view.

TOM: This place is incredible, Daria. So quiet and serene, so peaceful, sort of like the cove, only with no water, (pauses:) and no immediate family in tow. I can see why you'd want to come out here.

DARIA: (While on phone:) Yeah, an exterior library or art studio for me and Jane that we can have access to at anytime. (Pauses:) A place we can occasionally get away from the chattering hen that is my sister, even after she's staying here with us during college. (Tom chuckles) Okay, thanks, Elenor. (Clicks off phone, puts back in pocket:) It's official: They've made their break from the fashion sharks.

TOM: Three cheers for your dad and brother! (Pumps fist:) Hip-hip--

DARIA: (Monotone, cuts him off, sighs:) --Hooray times three. Let's drop the frighteningly perky cheer, capeesh?

TOM: (Mock-pout, crosses arms, grins:) Aw, you're no fun, Daria, you know that?

DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile:) That's the best thing you've ever said to me, Tom. (Pauses:) Do it again. (Pauses:) Arouse me. Say something like, "You're just a brain, babe", or "A guy can really fall asleep around a boring gal like you."

TOM: (Laughs:) You asked for it. (Looks up, ponders:) How about: You're--

A smiling Krystal suddenly arrived from the side, holding what appeared to be a small folded case, interrupting the two. Daria and Tom stood up as she came over to them.

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Damn. Forgot about Krystal coming here, and I haven't said anything to Tom about her yet from what Jane told me. Guess I'll have to play it by ear.:) Hi, Krystal. Tom, this is Krystal McKinna, a--(pauses:) friend of Darren's. (Both shake hands) Krystal, this is Tom Sloane, my, um, (low voice, turns red:) boyfriend. (Tom smirks, and Daria glares at him briefly, adds quickly to Krystal:) Uh, did you meet Darren before he left with my dad?

KRYSTAL: Hello, Daria. I did finally meet Darren, (pauses, slight frown:) though it wasn't as long as I liked. I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow morning to speak to him. I suppose I'll be able to speak to Jane some more tonight. (Daria and Tom look at each other, miffed) I'll explain that in a bit. (Thought v.o. as she looks at Tom: Wow, what a cutie, though not as cute as Darren. How Jane got this guy, then Darren, is beyond me.:) Hello, Tom. I was told you came in late last night. Darren was the one who let you in--?

TOM: Hello, Krystal. Yes, he did. (Pauses, realizes:) Excuse me, but did I hear that your last name is McKinna? (Pauses as Krystal nods, and Daria cocks an eyebrow:) That last name sounds familiar. I heard about a McKinna Shipping Line, which is based in New York City. You wouldn't know if...

KRYSTAL: (After a moment:) ...Uh, yes, I would know. (Pauses:) My dad owns it.

TOM: (Snaps his fingers:) Ah, now I remember! My dad's stockbroker firm traded some of your family's company stock once a few years ago. I remember that it sold pretty high, and the firm made a killing. (To Daria, smirks:) My folks really talked about that transaction for a long time. Elsie and I even got an advance on our allowances.

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow, speaks before Daria can say something:) Really? (Pauses, realizes:) Hold it. Sloane. (Pauses:) Is your dad a part of the Paige, Sloane, and Grace firm?

TOM: One in the same. You could say I'm his heir-apparent-in-waiting.

KRYSTAL: Well, this is a surprise. My dad said that your dad's firm was so good in trading, he planned to do some more business someday with them, (pauses, smirks:) which he obviously seemed to have forgotten to do. (Tom chuckles) (Thought v.o.: I should've looked even further into this "Tom Sloane" fellow, and not have just settled for Sesame's quick little gloss-over about him. Oh well, time for that, later...) I'll have to remind him of your dad's firm's work.

TOM: (Grins:) I'd appreciate that. I recommend tying a string around your dad's finger so he won't forget.

DARIA: (Deadpan, though ever-so-slightly annoyed tone:) I hate to interrupt this business-comparing lovefest, (motions head at Krystal's case:) but I see you're holding something--?

KRYSTAL: (Holds up case, grins:) Only my portable chess set. I heard you played it pretty good, particularly against Darren yesterday. (Stoops down on the blanket, begins to open it)

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Eh, I was okay, I guess. To be honest, I got kinda lucky against him. It could've gone either way.

TOM: (Surprised expression:) I didn't know you were a chess player, Daria, so am I. We could've gotten together for a few games over the past couple of weeks. Jane never mentioned this to me while we--(pauses, looks down uneasily at an wry-looking Krystal:) uh, well, she just never mentioned it to me.

DARIA: (Follows Tom's look at Krystal:) I played it a little in study hall sometimes after classes were over while I waited for Jane when she had to stay late to work on an art project in Ms. Defoe's class. Ms. Li tried to get me to join the chess club after hearing about it with her razor-sharp ears, but I quickly shot that idea down. (Sits down on the blanket along with Tom. Both cross their legs)

KRYSTAL: (While putting the pieces on the board, chuckles:) Well, let's just see what you can do, Daria, and that goes for you too, Tom. (Pauses, looks up:) Uh, what color did you want, Daria? I didn't mean to assume to place it like this--

DARIA: (Small smirk:) --You've got it right. I like black.

KRYSTAL: (Nods:) Black you have, white I have. (As she finishes placing the pieces, looks up at Tom, casually adds:) Sooo, Jane told me you were her boyfriend once, and now you're Daria's? Sounds like quite a story.

Tom stared at her, hesitant for an instant, then at Daria. Daria, however, narrowed her eyes slightly at Krystal. Krystal stared back at them with an "innocent" expression, but mentally smirking.


(Scene changes to Yankee Stadium, a few hours later)

The sell-out crowd roared as a Yankee player hit a ball down the third base line, just inside the bag, barely getting by an opposing player who had dived at it, missing the ball. Another Yankee player who happened to be on third promptly came home. Jake, sitting with his birth son behind home plate and wearing sunglasses with Darren (a continuation of Daria's idea yesterday), lept up with him and the crowd in wild approval. The Yankee player who had hit the double easily reached second base, standing.

JAKE: (Clapping and cheering like a madman, waves banner:) YEAH, BABY! Thatta boy, Jeter! Woo-hoo! The Yankees are kicking some A-1 ass, eh, son?! (Sits back down with Darren, drinks soda, eats hot dog)

DARREN: (Smiles:) You know it, Jake! (Looks at scoreboard:) We've gotten a 7-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, and unless the White Sox can make a stunning comeback, we've got this one in the bag! (Drinks bottled water)

JAKE: (Grins wickedly as he follows Darren's viewing of the scoreboard:) HAH! Not with "El Duque" comin' in to close it out, it's all over but the freakin' shouting! (Pauses, looks over at his son, small smile, softer tone:) Ya know, Big Guy, I'm really enjoying being here with you, today. (Brightens:) I'm having the time of my life!

DARREN: (Pauses, returns the smile:) Yeah, so am I, Jake. I really like the time we're having, too. (Pauses:) I mean it.

JAKE: (Hesitates:) Er, uh, your aunt Millie told me that you and--(pauses:) your dad had these very same seats, huh?

DARREN: (Pauses, nods head slowly, quiet tone:) Yes, we did, we came to games several times during a season, particularly during the homestands. When I look back on it now, it was incredible to me how he and my mom made the time to be with me, I mean with them running their businesses, and all.

JAKE: (Pauses, swallows hard, looks off for an instant:) I--I know I'm not your real dad, and can really never be--(Darren cocks an eyebrow) but I hope we can do more things like this together, (pauses:) sorta like what a father does with his son from now on, Darren.

DARREN: (Tries to decipher all of this for an instant, smirks:) That's funny. I thought what we're doing right now qualifies as something like a what a father does with his son.

Jake looked stunned at this for a moment, then threw his arms around his son enthusiastically, squeezing an embarassed Darren in his usual vice-like grip, looking as if he wanted to cry. Some of the fans who sat around both men gave them odd looks. Darren glanced at some of them uncomfortably while Jake was in his "mode", privately thankful that no one knew who he was under his sunglasses.

JAKE: My son! My wonderful Big Guy! Gosh, I'm really happy to hear ya say that! (Sniffs)

DARREN: Uhh--Jake? (Pauses:) You can let me go, now...(thought v.o.: Please?)

JAKE: Huh? Oh, sure! Sorry, Big Guy! (Lets Darren go, looks around in awe:) Wow! You guys sure had--(adds quickly, but clumsily:) uh, have some great seats here! These must be the best in the house!

DARREN: (Shrugs:) Just about. (The ball is heard being hit, and Darren grows wide-eyed under his sunglasses as he looks up:) Foul ball! Jake! The ball's coming this way! Get ready with the gloves! (Stands up with Jake and some other fans in the immediate vicinity. Almost all have gloves)

The baseball seemed to be headed straight towards Jake and Darren, who patted their gloves eagerly. Jake grinned in anticipation as he held up his glove, but the sun seemed to be in his eyes, even with the sunglasses on. He slightly moved his glove in front of his face to block the glare.

The next instant, Jake felt a thud on his forehead, then everything went to black.


(Scene changes to a small room)

Jake slowly opened his eyes and immediately discovered that he was lying on a table of some sort. He saw a bearded man dressed in white standing over him, holding something cold over his forehead. Behind the man was Darren, a concerned expression on his face. The bearded man started to show a relieved smile when he had seen Jake's eyes open, the same for his birth son. The man turned to Darren while still holding the cold object on Jake's forehead.

MAN: As I told you, he'll be fine, Darren. Mr. Morgendorffer won't need to go to a hospital. (Turns back to Jake:) This cold pack I'm holding on you will relieve the rest of the swelling, Mr. Morgendorffer. Keep it on for about a few minutes more, okay? I've got to get back to the locker room.

JAKE: (Weakly:) H-Huh? Oh--sure. Thanks. (Holds the pad on himself and slowly sits up while the man shuts a small handbag beside him)

MAN: (To Darren, pauses, adds:) Too bad what happened to Mr. Morgendorffer sorta drew attention to you guys, huh? (Jake develops a mild, guilty expression at this) From what I heard, you two slipped in the park unannounced.

DARREN: (Small shrug:) Eh, it couldn't be helped, Joseph. (As the man walks by him:) Thanks again. (Turns to Jake:) Jake, that was Joseph Kerner, the Yankee's team doctor. He and some of his assistants took you to the Yankee's clubhouse here. My (adopted) dad and I had known him for years. You've been here for only a few minutes. (Pauses:) How do you feel?

JAKE: (While still holding the pack, deflates:) Like--well, like a damned fool, son. (Darren cocks an eyebrow) I let a stupid little baseball hit me in the stupid noggin, in front of the whole stupid crowd, (adds:) and in front of you, not ta mention drawing a bunch of damn attention from them! (Slumps, quieter tone:) I guess you must've been embarassed by what happened, huh?

DARREN: (Pats Jake's shoulder, reassuring:) Of course not. I'm just glad you're okay. Besides--(grins, pulls ball from his pocket:) I got the ball! Here. (Jake lights up as Darren gives it to him)

JAKE: (Estatic:) WOW! How did you get it, son? (Pauses, narrows eyes, grins:) Did ya get into some sorta scuffle with the fans around us, and came out on top? Atta boy!

DARREN: (Pauses:) Uh, no, not really. I just caught it when it bounced off your forehead.

JAKE: (Stares at him for an instant, feeling foolish:) Oh. Well, anyway, you still got it! I'm proud of you, son!

DARREN: Ah, thanks. Anyway, that's your ball to keep.

JAKE: (Like a giddy kid:) Gosh, you're gonna let me keep this? Are you sure, son? I mean, since you caught it--

DARREN: (Chuckles, holds hand up:) --I'm sure. I have one or two myself from when me and my (adopted) dad came here.

JAKE: (After a moment:) Oh, okay. (Grins again, brightens up:) Thanks, Big Guy! I'll cherish this, I promise! (Puts ball in his glove he's retrieved from beside the table) Hey, is the game over, yet?

DARREN: (Nods:) I think so. Before you were brought in here, the Yankees had an out in the bottom of the ninth, and Hernandez had a 1-2 count on the batter with no one on. Do you want me to check?

JAKE: (Puts hand up:) Nahhh, I'll be able to see the score on TV, and stuff. Besides, ya gotta get ready for your date with Jane-o, don't you?

DARREN: (Slight smirk:) Yes, after I, er, make a quick stop, I'll go straight to Appleton Tower while you go back by the 'copter. Are you ready to go?

JAKE: (Gets off the table in a spry way, tosses the cold pack aside, grabs glove and ball:) I'm a-ok, son! (Both men leave the clubhouse)

The moment both did, however, they were suddenly swamped by a barrage of reporters in the long hallway that led out of the stadium, with cameras whirring away. There were two game security personnel firmly holding them back. Thanking Tina privately for this, Darren rolled his eyes subtly, while Jake narrowed his, annoyed.

DARREN: (Before anyone can speak, puts his hands up along with a brave front of humor:) My birth dad's fine, as you all can see. It was a simple, light, bop on the head. Nothing to write home about.

FEMALE REPORTER: (Speaking up before anyone else, jabs a microphone in his face:) Actually we wanted to ask you about something else, Mr. Appleton--

DARREN: (Cutting her off, sighs:) --If it's about that news conference scheduled for later today about the stolen overseas accounts from Appleton, the only thing I can say is that is I support Ms. Waters' actions 100%. Appleton can't allow these two men to get away with our company's money, it's as simple as that.

JAKE: (Jumps in, nods frantically:) Damn straight, Big Guy! Let 'em pay it all back, I say! (Darren subtly chuckles to himself while the reporters look at him oddly)

FEMALE REPORTER: (Shakes head:) No, I'm not talking about that, either. (Darren and Jake cock eyebrows at each other, miffled) I'm asking about your reaction from today's sudden special edition by the London tabloid paper the Weekly Blabber on your seeing a psychologist, the highly-reknowned Dr. Mike Quinn. The story just broke only a few minutes ago. (Darren's eyes grow wide in surprise, the same for Jake's)

DARREN: (Now narrows eyes:) What--did--you--say?

JAKE: (Ditto:) Yeah, what?

ANOTHER REPORTER (Male, surprised expression): You mean, you don't know? Over half the paper's devoted to the story! It seems pretty detailed through and through, even giving direct quotes along with an audio account they're giving to the networks to back up their story! Is it true that you dreamed about going into your own study because of your fears on dying, and--(Darren suddenly cuts through the crowd wordlessly, gently pushing a growing-angry Jake along as other reporters scream questions at them while struggling against the now-overwhelmed stadium security duo:) hey!


(Scene returns to the mansion, the same time)

Daria sat at the computer desk in her bedroom with Jane sitting on Daria's bed. Jane had decided to forgo her planned brief nap, for both were too busy comparing notes on their conversations with Quinn and Krystal, and of Rory's arrival at tomorrow night's party. Tom, who was asked by Daria that she wanted to speak to Jane alone about "something" after their chess match with Krystal (which Daria promised to tell him what it was about later), had gotten a DVD out of the video library (titled The Best of Sick, Sad World) to watch in the home theater, where Daria would meet him so they could watch it together. Krystal had left the mansion for a bit after the chess match to take care of some quick, "personal" business, but had (reluctantly) promised to return to help the Fashion Club with Jane for tonight. A slightly-smirking Daria shook her head slowly at Jane, who sighed.

DARIA: So you're really gonna go through with this, huh?

JANE: (Nods sadly:) Yeah, I'm afraid so, amiga. After what Quinn told me what Fiona told her about Krystal and Stephanie, I decided to give it a shot per our agreement, and after all, it is just for tonight. (Slight scowl:) Don't think I want to do this, now...

DARIA: (Deadpan teasing:) Heavens to Betsy, no, Jane. I'd never think that you were flirting with conventionality again, (counts on fingers, drones:) not after that stupid "failure" class assignment of O'Neill's, the track and cheerleading teams--

JANE: (Narrows eyes, slight warning tone:) --Daaaaria--

DARIA: (Ignoring her, continues to count on fingers:) --the lipstick you wear--

JANE: (Cuts her off, eyebrow cocked:) --And what's wrong with the lipstick I wear? I've always worn lipstick since we've first met.

DARIA: (Shrugs, slight smirk:) Nothing, really. I just was on a roll there, and I didn't want to stop in mid-stream.

JANE: (Rolls eyes:) Ho-ho, (smirks:) look who's talking, "Lollipop Kid". (Note to reader: See the episode "Road Worrier" concerning Jane's crack) (Daria rolls her eyes. Jane pauses:) Seriously, though, what d'you think should be done about Krystal? (Hesitates:) Should I talk to Darren about her?

DARIA: (Long pause in thought:) Well, maybe you can kinda hint about her tonight while you guys are out, you know, by doing it in such a way that doesn't make him think you're worried, or anything, and possibly having him think you're becoming possessive. (Pauses:) Then again, it's possible that Krystal may be wanting you to do just that, to maybe plant a seed of doubt in your's and Darren's minds. (Jane cocks her eyebrow) From what I gathered while we played in our little chess matches, she's quite shrewd. Krystal didn't waste any time on jumping in about you and Tom. Fortunately, I didn't give her much to go on, and Tom seemed to catch on pretty quickly himself, adding that we all just decided to start seeing other people, (hesitates:) and I, um, just "happened" to be the person he wanted to start seeing, (adding quickly:) just like Darren and you. I don't think Krystal was totally convinced.

JANE: (Narrows eyes:) So, you think she'll speak to Darren about what happened sometime in the near-future, or something, (pauses, ponders:) like perhaps even tomorrow morning during their martial arts workouts with Tina? (Scowls:) I'm sure as hell am gonna be there bright and early to make sure she doesn't "snuggle up" to Darren when they all play Bruce Lee...

DARIA: (Shrugs:) I don't know, though she'll more than likely try to hint around it while nobody's around. (Pauses:) I kinda turned the question onto her as I was kicking her ass in our chess matches, and while she was kicking Tom's. I casually inquired about her and Darren, particularly before he met Stephanie Reardon. Krystal sorta became uncomfortable, and quickly blew me off, adding that they were just longtime occasional friends, though with what you just told me about her and Stephanie, it's obvious that Krystal's holding some stuff back.

JANE: (Frowns, looks off:) Yeah. (Pauses, through clenched teeth:) Damn. Just as I had gotten past Sandi and Fiona, this crap happens. (Adds, puts hand on forehead:) Hell, I'm halfway tempted to just ask her out-and-out on the side on whether or not she still likes Darren, but it'll just make her aware of what I'm doing, and she'll more than likely deny it--

DARIA: (Narrows eyes, cuts her off:) --Would she, I wonder?

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Huh? Whattaya mean? (Holds arms out:) Of course she'd deny it!

DARIA: (Sighs:) Jane, I think Krystal sorta now knows we suspect her of more than just having a minor liking to my brother, and she's decided to just not hide it as much anymore. (Jane gives her an odd expression) Look at all of the clues: Her grilling you about him yesterday, the same for trying to suck up to my folks, her trying to grill me and Tom today, (adds:) and her trying to buy off Quinn and the fashion fanatics with some free clothing, too. She might just be wondering if we're, or rather you, are going to say something to her soon about it. She might be kinda caught off guard if you simply asked her out directly.

JANE: (Ponders:) Hmm, you know, you just might have a point there, Daria. Maybe I will ask her about it tomorrow sometime, or see if I can give her a strong "hint" tomorrow when they all train together, and throw down the gauntlet. I'm not gonna worry Darren tonight with this. Why should I let the subject of Krystal taint our date, however subtly I ask him?

DARIA: (Nods:) That seems like the logical thing to do, Jane. (Pauses:) However, just make sure a security person is nearby if Krystal suddenly goes psychotic on you when you ask her. (Jane mock-glares at her) Might I recommend Tina, or would you prefer I loan you my canister of pepper spray?

JANE: You're really on a roll with the jokes today, aren't you? (Daria shows a slight Mona Lisa smile as Jane grins, brightens up:) Yeah, I'll wait 'till tomorrow. (Pauses, stares at Daria thoughtfully:) I still can't believe what the Fashion Club is going to do for me tonight, particularly Sandi, who also knows about this, (adds:) and that Quinn of all people told me in the first place. (Hopeful expression:) I guess she really does want me to be with her brother...

DARIA: (Rolls eyes:) Don't let this all go to your head, it's a trick. (Jane smirks) I think you're merely a fashion experiment for tonight concerning Sandi and the others to get at their real target down the line--me. (Jane snickers) As for Quinn, she's simply concluded that you're the lesser of two evils for Darren, when compared to Krystal. (Thought v.o.: Though I have to say I am impressed she didn't go for Krystal's act and appearance. Maybe Quinn's finally beginning to look below the surface. [Pauses:] Careful, you moron, don't go there...)

JANE: (Sarcastic tone:) Ah, Daria Morgendorffer, spoken like the true cynic you are. (Pauses:) Always looking for the dark side of things.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) It's my calling in life, Jane, what else can I say? (Changes subject as Jane rolls her eyes:) Speaking of the dark side, I'm kinda surprised you didn't put up more of an argument against Darren about that jerk Rory McKinna coming here for the party tomorrow night, even though it is to supposedly apologize for Sunday. Do you honestly believe that he'll be sincere in kissing up to all our asses?

JANE: (Shrugs:) Eh. If he wants to try and (finger quote:) "heal" his so-called reputation, I think Rory'll have no choice. The only reason Darren's doing this is to give Rory one more chance to change, it's no skin off my chest either way. If that bastard acts up, he'll be off of the mansion's grounds in a heartbeat. (Snickers:) I heard that Tina's making a special point to be at the party tomorrow to keep an eye on him. (Smirks:) Besides, it just wasn't Darren who wanted to give him another chance, it was Stacy, too--

DARIA: (Sighs:) --Only because she more than likely fell for our illustrious Mr. McKinna's charms. (Pauses:) Too bad her heart and head can't seem to jibe in sync when it comes to smooth-taking cassanovas, if it ever did.

JANE: (Chuckles, puts up hand:) Don't worry amiga, they never did. I think we can safely say Stacy's record is still perfect on that. (Daria smirks slightly)

At that moment, there was a light, playful knock on Daria's door. Jane's facial expression immediately became miserable, and her shoulders slumped.

VOICE: (Familiar giggle, from behind the door:) Oh, Jaaaane! We're reaaaady!

JANE: (Whispers, mock-desperate tone and expression:) Tell Quinn I'm not here. (Pauses, glances at the door:) Tell her I ran away to join the freakin' circus, or something--

DARIA: --I don't think even Quinn will buy that, (pauses, glances at the door as well:) even though after they'll finish with you, you'll probably look like you belong there. (Jane's head drops)

QUINN: (Knocks a bit more forcefully now:) C'mon, Jane! You promised me you'd do this! I know you're in there! (Pauses, coy tone:) Remember, even Krystal's waiting to fix you up with us an' the Watley's in Sandi's room! (Daria and Jane look at each other, realize this, then smirk slightly) You wouldn't wanta disappoint her, wouldya?

Both girls immediately got up and came to the door, with Daria opening it up.

QUINN: (Smiles:) Finally! (Begins to walk towards the east wing with them)

JANE: (Exasperated sigh:) Let's just get this the hell over with, Quinn. (Adds:) Nice little encouraging speech at the end about Krystal, I gotta admit. (Pauses:) Now when I think about it, I'm gonna enjoy doing this a little more, (to Daria's cocked eyebrow, adds quickly:) but only because Krystal's helping you guys out.

QUINN: (Smirks:) It was Sandi's idea, especially since Krystal really looked like she didn't wanna help. (Daria and Jane glance at each other with knowing expressions, the same for Quinn) Sandi thought it would kinda make you more--(pauses, looks up:) what's that word I'm lookin' for, again--?

DARIA: "Receptive"?

QUINN: (Gasps:) Yeah, that's it, Daria! "Receptive"!

JANE: (Shrugs:) Well, it worked. Might as well get into the swing of things.

As the trio crossed past the top of the grand stairs, Daria suddenly stopped.

DARIA: Well, this is my stop. Got to get off. I'm going to meet Tom in the home theater. I'll see what they transformed you into innnn--(glances at Quinn)

QUINN: --Try an hour and-a-half, Daria. (Gently grabs Jane's arm:) C'mon, Jane--

JANE: Y'know, I'm starting to get third, fourth, and even fifth thoughts, here... (weak protest as Quinn pulls her along, looks meekly at Daria, same tone:) don't leave me--? (Quinn smirks once again while she's facing away from Jane, this time more wickedly)

DARIA: (Deadpan as she looks after them, calls out:) Be brave, little one, be brave. (Walks down the grand stairs)


(Scene changes to Sean's restaurant in Maness, the same time)

Millie sat with Edward inside at a small table, having feasted on mostly-eaten roast beef and rye club sandwiches. There was a full crop of patrons this time around, since there was a waitress scrambling to take orders. Edward uneasily glanced subtly at his watch, then at the bar's TV just over his shoulder, which had the World News Network report on. He had done both things for what seemed to be the tenth time over the past half-hour. Millie, who had been talking about Darren's date later with Jane and ignoring his (to her) bizzare actions, had finally had enough. She stopped and narrowed her eyes at her beau. She followed his stare, and glanced over at the TV.

MILLIE: (After a moment, cocks an eyebrow:) Something interesting happening on the TV I should know about, Edward, (adds, smirks:) or am I boring you?

EDWARD: (Shaken out of his stare:) Eh? No, no, of course not, luv. (Returns the smirk:) You could never bore me, no matter how hard you might try.

MILLIE: (Chuckles, sarcastic response:) Oh, now sweet of you to tell me that--(pauses:) I think. (Motions head in the direction of the TV:) If I'm not boring you, then I'm assuming that it's something on the TV that you're interested in, since you keep looking over there.

EDWARD: It's just that I'm--(pauses:) waiting on Mikkelson's stock report, that's all. The business segment is supposed to be on in a few. It's supposed to be good news. (Millie cocks an eyebrow) I do have quite a vested interest in it, you know, for rather obvious reasons. (Pauses, looks down an instant:) I'm sorry if I've appeared to ignore you, luv--

MILLIE: (Softens, smiles, gently puts her hand on his:) It's okay, Edward. (Pauses, prepares to get up:) If you want, we can go over and see--

EDWARD: (Now gently putting his hand on Millie's, which stops her:) --No, it's quite alright, Millie. I can catch the stock report anytime. Please sit back down. (Millie does) I'm (pauses:) holding back on you a bit. It's something else that's bothering me. (Slight deep breath:) I want to talk to you about your ex-husband, Jim.

MILLIE: (Raised eyebrows in surprise:) Jim? What about him could possibly bother you--(pauses, realizes:) you don't think I still have any feelings for--

EDWARD: (Puts hands up:) No, luv, not quite that. I know you don't, but he appears to still have those feelings of love for you. (Millie looks stunned) Believe me, I've noticed how he's seemingly--(pauses:) swooned over you these past few days, ironically even more so after he and I, er, patched up our differences--

MILLIE: (Snorts, rolls eyes:) Edward, that's ridiculous! I would've been able to tell if Jim still felt that way towards me! (Pauses:) I--spoke to him about what he might've wanted to feel after what happened in front of the media room a few days ago, which he practically told me he still loved me, by the way, but in no uncertain terms I informed him that it was over, and I liked you, period. (Edward pretends to look as if he's heard this the first time, gives a "relieved" expression) Hasn't he been the perfect gentleman since you two shook hands and have been nicer to each other? I've just been friendlier to him, and he to me.

EDWARD: (After a moment, grudgingly admits:) Well, I suppose he has been nicer. (Adds:) I guess I just wondered if your "friendlier" feelings towards Jim might be misinterpreted by him as meaning something more than friendship.

MILLIE: (Grins:) You mean, like you had? (Soft chuckle as Edward sighs, shakes her head slowly:) Edward, you have nothing to worry about, believe me. I like you, and only you, (pauses:) more and more everyday.

EDWARD: (Relieved expression, then smirks:) Just "like", eh? Nothing more than that?

MILLIE: (Coy tone, smirks back:) Weeeell, I--(looks past him at the TV:) say, isn't that Darren and Jake on the screen? (Edward uneasily turns around to look while some of the other patrons at the bar hone in)

Surely enough, there was a scene in the Yankee Stadium parking lot, with Darren quickly grabbing the arm of an angry Jake Morgendorffer, stopping him from hitting a reporter. The two quickly entered the limo, which sped away. Millie frowned, perplexed, then rose out of her seat, going over to the bar to listen. After a moment, Edward followed her.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER: --And Arthur Appleton Jr. refused to comment on the latest gossip, or apparently, truth about him, this time concerning a very detailed report from the London tabloid the Weekly Blabber, backed up by an audio version that the tabloid refuses to say how they acquired, which states Appleton's currently seeing a psychologist over the past tragic events of this summer, one Dr. Mike Quinn, who's reportedly to be on vacation in the Bahamas. (Millie looks stunned, Edward stoic) The paper has just hit the stands today, an unusual departure from their weekly distribution, and are being snapped up like hotcakes. World News Network has tried to speak to Dr. Quinn, but he apparently has refused all requests for interviews, not answering any phone calls from his hotel room, in fact, he hasn't been seen since this story first broke. The tabloid's story has needless to say overshadowed Appleton's latest news that the late William Appleton and his henchmen stole an estimated $50 million from the company's coffers, which has yet to be recovered. Constance Waters refused to comment on reporter's questions about Arthur Appleton Jr. at the news conference, saying she's as stunned and outraged as anyone else at Appleton over the news, the same for the Appleton mansion, where there also has been no comment. As for what's in the tabloid, (on the screen, a transcript of words appear with who is saying what, much to Millie's horror, whereas Edward gives her a comforting squeeze while watching wordlessly) here is what is said, read along with the audio version--

MILLIE: (In a soft whisper as she sees word-for-word what was supposedly the private conversation between her nephew, his birth family and Jane a few nights ago in the media room:) Edward. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here. Now.

EDWARD: At once, luv. Come on. (Leads her out of Sean's as some of Maness' patrons look at them wordlessly, most with sorrow, some with anger [at the Blabber] on their faces, though one or two in the rear of the bar, a couple, actually snicker. The other patrons glare at them in a deafening silence. After a moment, the two stop laughing, look around uncomfortably, then wordlessly get up and leave)


(Scene shifts to Darren's limo in mid-Manhatten, some 20 minutes later)

Having just spoken over his cell phone to an angry and sympathetic Curtis, Darren now sat in the rear seat on the same cell phone, speaking to Leonard Potter as the limo bobbed and weaved through the heavy traffic. He looked over to his left side in the seat at a copy of the Weekly Blabber he had immediately gotten from a newsstand right after he and Jake had left Yankee Stadium (Jake had acquired his own copy to read and get for Helen). The quotes from it were frightenly accurate, right down to his bloody nightmares with his adopted parents, Stephanie, and William Appleton in the study. He shook his head slowly in disbelief.

Previously, Jake, who had been worried about his birth son's reaction to the news, which amazed Darren, since he was the one who stopped his furious birth father from hitting a reporter, wondered if he should have gone back to the mansion and not stay a little longer with Darren, even suggesting that perhaps his son cancel the date. However, Darren pointedly assured Jake that he would be alright, and that nothing had changed for the date with Jane, and for him to go back on the helicopter to the mansion.

Before Jake left, however, he insisted (perhaps "worried to death" is a better term to use) that Darren make a quick call to the mansion and have a reassuring talk with a now-very angry Helen, who'd inform Daria, Quinn, Jane, and the others what had happened. Darren also spoke to an equally-angry Tina, who vowed to find out how all of this occurred, immediately conducting a visual (first) mansion-wide security sweep for electronic bugs, save for the bedrooms (at least for the time being), starting with the obvious choice of the media room. She also said that she'd check to confirm the identities of all of the people who delivered anything to the mansion over the past several days.

Darren added to Jake as Jake was leaving on the helicopter that he'd call the mansion to speak to everyone some more about the news right after he changed at Appleton Tower over a speakerphone, preferably in the home theater, which had an audio system similar to the one Darren had in his home office when he had called Daria and Jane in there on Tuesday. The theater was also large enough to accomodate them all. Darren listened intently as Leonard spoke, nodding on occasion.

After several minutes, the limo suddenly slowed down to a stop in front of a glass-lined small shop. Having just finished his conversation with Leonard, Darren looked out through his window, recognized the building, and nodded to the driver that this was the place. The driver, a man named Renfield, got out, and came back to the rear of the limo, where Darren rolled down his window halfway, and slipped to him a wrapped small package, which the man took into the shop. After a minute, the man came back out, got in, and the limo drove slowly off to Appleton Tower.


(Scene changes back to the mansion, the home theater, about an hour later)

Save for the Fashion Club, the Watleys, Krystal, and Jane (who was still being "prepared" for her date with Darren by the aforementioned group), Helen, Jake, Daria and Tom, Millie, Edward, and Jim sat in the middle section of the theater's viewing chairs to await a call via the theater's intercom from Darren himself. Each sat with their companion, save for Jim (having immediately come back from his golf game after hearing of the news to see to Millie and the Morgendorffers), of course, who nevertheless sat beside a still-upset Millie, gently patting her right hand, whispering to her that everything would be alright, and that their nephew would survive this recent bout of media-inspired nastiness like he had everything else this past summer.

Edward, sitting on the other side of Millie and holding her left hand, glared at Jim gentle's assurances to Millie for an instant, but decided to stay silent, for he had other things on his mind at the moment, remembering when he had come home with Millie from Sean's, he knew that he had to get to Jim's bedroom to retrieve the electronic bug he had put in there, particularly since an obviously-PO'd Tina was directing security on a mansion-wide hunt for bugs, though she had not said anything about asking to check everyone's bedrooms--at least not as of yet.

Jim, however, had been waiting for them both in his room, and immediately came out to greet them in the hallway, telling both that Darren had called, and asked if they could come to the theater for his reaction to the news. Edward, after a moment of wondering if he should attempt to get rid of his extra bug and small box of surveillance equiptment, grudgingly went with them, not wanting to raise any suspicions.

Millie suddenly looked in his direction, which snapped Edward out of his thoughts. He smiled and nodded in agreement with Jim. Millie then surprised Edward by laying her head on his shoulder gently, which made him smirk ever-so-slightly in Jim's direction. Jim, for his part, simply maintained a stoic countenance and looked forward, though he was seething inside.


Helen held Jake's right hand, deep in thought and anger as she read the copy of the Weekly Blabber Jake had brought back with him in her other hand. The moment she had seen the news about her son on the TV she had on in her bedroom while she worked on her smuggled files from her law firm, she had been busy, from loudly and immediately notifying everyone within earshot to what was going on (she had been the only person in the mansion who had seen the report), to planning for some serious lawsuits against the tabloid, particularly about the part on her seeing psychologists from her thinking she had lost Darren (fortunately, her law firm had known this already, with Helen having disclosed it to them when she gave them her resume). She'd received several calls, one from Eric, who said that if she or Darren wanted to sue, that the firm would be 100% behind them both, and some from her very upset and angry mother, mother-in-law, and sisters. When Darren had made a quick call to talk about what was going on, Helen had almost felt like crying inside, but held it behind her fury instead for his sake, yet also wanting to hug her son to tell him it would be alright, like a mother naturally would do for her son.

When Helen had asked Darren if it were wise to continue his date with Jane, he immediately said he had no second thoughts whatsoever of cancelling, and that everything was still on for tonight. Jake's loud entrance into the foyer after leaving from the helicopter of "The date's still on, everybody!", more than confirmed that. In fact, Darren seemed more concerned about how she and the others were doing, rather than himself. Helen further informed him that she didn't know how Daria, Quinn, or Jane felt as of yet.

However, Helen found out a scant second later the moment after she hung up when Quinn had blasted into her room to tell her what had gone on concerning everyone's reactions in Sandi's room (with Jane insisting that Sandi's TV be on to see what was said while everyone was preparing her), they were all shocked and furious, particularly Quinn, who vowed that she'd never again tell the media about her views on fashions and boys when they asked her.

Helen continued to think to herself, considering her youngest daughter's comments about Sandi, who seemed more stunned than angry when she heard the news, as if she looked lost in thought over something. Helen supposed that Sandi was privately even more sympathetic to Darren's plight, obviously because of what happened that night with them all in the warehouse.

In Krystal's case, according to Quinn once again, she immediately asked if this meant that the date was off, and if so, perhaps it was "for the better" because of the possiblity of the paparazzi coming after them both over this while they were out. Both Quinn and Sandi instantly said no way, which, also according to Quinn, Jane (after a gentle prodding from Sandi) also said she shouldn't think it would matter, and that they should continue the makeover. Helen verified Darren's decision about continuing the date when she told Quinn, who was obviously delighted. One thing briefly baffled Helen was over the way Quinn told her all of this about Krystal's response: Her youngest daughter seemed to be smirking as she was telling her.

Privately, Helen couldn't help but to feel proud of her birth son's ability to go on as if nothing had happened. Then again, compared to what happened over the summer, this may have been nothing to him.

Helen looked over at Jake, who now had fallen asleep with his head leaned back on the headrest, lightly snoring. Helen rolled her eyes, sighed, and continued to read the tabloid, still in deep thoughts.


Daria sat beside Tom and stared ahead wordlessly, also in her own deep thoughts. Both had been in the theater just beginning to watch the Sick, Sad World DVD, by which Daria had also taken the time to explain to Tom about Krystal's motives and had just gotten comfortable, when a very upset Elenor had suddenly rushed in, informing both of the Weekly Blabber story, via Helen's news. Needless to say, Daria and Tom immediately went over to the media room to see what was reported on its big-screened TV.

After viewing the tail end of the report, Daria shook her head slowly in disgust, frowned, then began to wordlessly look around the media room, going under the sofas and cushions, and glancing behind the room's large variety of audio and video devices. As a baffled Tom inquired to what she was doing, Daria replied that she was searching for any electronic bugs. Tom gave her an odd expression, and Daria explained in better detail of what the report was all about, and where it took place. Afterwards, a frowning and now-understanding Tom proceeded to assist Daria in searching around as well, with both finding nothing, which really wasn't totally surprising to Daria.

TOM: (His arm gingerly around her shoulder, hesitates:) Uh, are you sure you're okay? You've been awfully quiet for awhile.

DARIA: (Monotonic, of course:) Yeah, I've just been thinking about how that damn tabloid could've gotten what we said in the media room. We looked over it with a fine toothcomb for bugs--

TOM: (Nods:)--To which a seriously-PO'd Tina followed up on in there with her own fancy-smancy electronic bug-finding device while scanning the mansion--

DARIA: --You mean, using her own eagle-eyes to look around, and like us, coming up short, too?

TOM: (Shrugs:) Isn't that what I said?

DARIA: In so many words, you did. (Pauses, frowns slightly:) Why is it that I'm left wondering if I'm missing something, here? It seems obvious that the answer is right in front of me.

TOM: (Comforting tone:) Don't worry, Daria. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of this. Whoever played "spy" will be caught, it's only a matter of time.

DARIA: (Shakes her head:) I dunno. If that's the case, how'd they get all of this crap out for the world to put their beedy little eyes on, and not get caught?

Tom was about to say something when there was a slight commotion coming from the rear of the theater, causing him and the others to turn around to see who it was. What he saw made his mouth drop in disbelief, the same for the rest of the males he was with. (Jake had been "gently" elbowed by Helen to wake up when he began to snore louder.) Even Daria looked wide-eyed at the sight, along with Helen and Millie.

What they all saw was the Fashion Club, Krystal, the Watley sisters and Jane at the home theater's rear. But the emphasis was obviously on the now-stunningly beautiful young woman that was one Jane Lane. She was dressed in a moderately-low-cut tubed red dress that accentuated her fit hourglass figure, which was underrated, like Daria's. Jane also wore red silken gloves (provided by Millie, on loan) that ran up her arms to her elbows, and a genuine diamond necklace (also by Millie, on loan, of course--Jane didn't want to know how much it cost--well, okay, for you, the reader, $3,000).

To Daria, Jane's facial features almost looked similar to the way Quinn had made her over a few days ago in her sleep, except that Jane didn't have as much eye shadow around her eyes, but did have on just enough red rouge to bring out the roundness in her cheeks. Jane's lips were even more of a luscious red color than they usually were, almost shining. Her hair was cropped in a fancy beehive hairdo, and she wore a black pair of high-heeled sandals that wrapped up around her ankles. A white shawl around her shoulders completed the ensamble. After a moment, Daria also noticed that Jane's trademark earrings had been removed as well, replaced by modest-looking, tiny red ruby ones also provided by Millie. As the stunned silence continued on for a few seconds more, a clearly uncomfortable-looking Jane spoke through it as she looked around uneasily.

(Note to reader: If you're an avid 'Daria' fanfiction reader, then these brief scenes may be slightly similar to Mike Yamiolkoski's very good fic "Is Summer Over Already?" I sincerely assure you [and Mike himself] that it's only coincidental. Really. I thought about deleting this scene because of his fic, but I decided to keep it in--why should he have all the fun in dressing Jane up? If you haven't read it, I suggest that you do. I personally find Jane quite attractive--for a cartoon character, that is. Thank you.)

JANE: Uh, how do I look, guys? (Thought v.o., directs a pointed light glare at Daria: Go on, amiga, get it out and over with...)

DARIA: (Before anyone else can speak, deadpan, sarcastic, slight smirk, answering Jane's look:) Like a cheap knockoff of Madonna as a brunette. Don't give up your day job, "Material Girl". (Jane playfully rolls her eyes at this, while Helen briefly glares at Daria like the F.C. and the Watleys. Krystal's face is stoic as she glances at Daria, then looks at Jane with a slightly jealous expression. Millie chuckles under her breath at Daria's crack, the same for Jim. Jake, Tom, and even Edward simply continue to stare at Jane, awestruck)

HELEN: (Gentle admonishing tone:) Daria! (To Jane, smiles:) Jane, you look absolutely stunning! I think Darren's going to be bowled over with your beauty tonight! (To Quinn and the others:) You all did a wonderful job on Jane! (Quinn and the rest of the F.C. smile broadly, gleaming with pride along with the Watleys. Krystal forces a "polite" smile) What do you think, Jake? (Jake continues to stare at Jane, dumbfounded. Helen, slightly annoyed [and finding herself ever-so-briefly jealous], slaps him on the arm lightly, which shakes him out of his trance:) Jake! What do you think?

JAKE: Huh? (Grins, thumbs up:) Oh, yeah! Jane-o, you're a knockout! (Adds:) Why, if I weren't married and your age, I'd come after you in a second! (Jane gives him a semi-grateful and uneasy look, and Helen glares at him, which makes him quickly add:) But as you can see, you still have a long ways to go to catch my beautiful Helen, who's stolen my heart! (Helen's countenance softens, and she sighs dreamily at Jake, leans her head on his shoulder in appreciation. A grinning Jim nods in agreement as he eyes Jane, gives Jake his own thumbs up. Quinn and Daria look as if they want to gag)

DARIA: (Thought v.o. while Millie and Edward praise Jane's appearance as well: I wish someone would knock me out from seeing this travesty of the person I knew once of as Jane Lane. [Pauses:] As much as I hate to admit it, she really does look nice, though. Darren's gonna be floored.) (Sees Tom's continual staring at Jane slack-jawed, cocks an eyebrow:) Are we beginning to have second thoughts, now?

TOM: (Snaps out of his stare, looks at Daria, slightly panicked:) Huh? Oh, no, of course not, Daria! (Pauses, cuts eyes over at Jane, then quickly back at Daria:) It's just that I haven't seen Jane look quite like--like that before--

DARIA: (Jumps in, secretly enjoys ribbing him:) --You mean, looking really "pretty"? (Pauses as Tom searches for words, piles it on:) Perhaps "gorgeous" is a better term to use? Maybe you'd wanna see me dressed like that?

TOM: (Puts up gently waving hands, placating tone, chuckle:) What? No, no, I know you'd never be comfortable looking like that--

DARIA: (On a roll:) --Oh, really? So, you'd prefer being with me as my regular, drab old-looking self, as opposed to the way Jane is dressed over there, is that it?

TOM: (Pauses, privately knows his next words may depend on his survival:) You? (Pauses, shakes head rapidly:) "Drab"? Never. Jane's with Darren, and I'm with you now, aren't I--?

DARIA: (Stares, then snaps her fingers:) Damn. You're right. Nice choice of words there, "Slick". You may live another day.

TOM: (Mock bow of head, mock grateful tone of relief:) Oh, thank you, thank you, my queen! I only live to serve you! (Daria rolls her eyes)

Jane came into the same row with Daria and Tom, and was about to sit down, when Quinn and the other (official) Fashion Club members rushed over to her, startling Jane slightly.

QUINN: Be careful, Jane! You don't wanna sit down too fast!

SANDI: Yes, like, your sudden movements might mess your hairdo up! The interior wind from sitting down so fast could cause it! You should take your time, and sit daintily, like this... (Sandi motions to Stacy, who slowly and "seductively" sits in a seat a row over, and crosses her legs in a feminine manner) (Juanita and Laflita stare at her oddly, the same for everyone else. Krystal, still in the rear with the Watleys, subtly gives a monumental eyeroll)

JANE: (Annoyed tone:) Oh, for the love of--look, don't worry, okay? I promise to take 500 years to sit down correctly for Darren, and keep my hair in place. (Thought v.o.: I'm gonna make so damn sure that the 'copter's blades are on when I leave here...)

Tiffany suddenly whispered something in Sandi's ear. Sandi nodded, and turned to Jane.

SANDI: Oh yes, and lest we forget, we instructed the helicopter pilot to make sure that he not activate his craft until you are safely in, Jane. (Jane drops her head in disbelief, alarming Sandi) Please remember to not move your head so fast! The same goes for not allowing you off the helicopter when it reaches Appleton Tower until the rotor blades stop. (Goes back to the rear with Stacy and Tiffany, back beside the Watleys and Krystal. Quinn sits in front of Jane to keep an "eye" on her)

DARIA: (Whispers to Tom, deadpan:) You know, this is sorta scary coming from Quinn and her cronies. (Pauses:) They have all of Jane's hairstyle-ruining avenues covered. She's trapped. I bet they even have the exterior winds under their control. (Tom chuckles)

JANE: (Overhears, "carefully" leans over to the pair, whispers:) If they do, I'll scream, I swear I will.

QUINN: (Turns around:) I won't let you. Screaming will mess up your hair and give you wrinkles.

JANE: (Frowns:) How about if I mess up your hair and give you wrinkles? (Adds:) Wrinkles of facial pain, that is--

QUINN: (Snorts, smirks:) One of the other Fashion Club members would just keep you from doing that, so stop complaining and enjoy your date with my brother. After tonight, you can go back to bein' plain ol' Jane Lane. (Turns back to face the front. Jane makes as if she wants to grab Quinn's neck from behind, but stops at the last second. Daria and Tom smirk at Jane, who glares at them)


At the rear of the theater, an inwardly-depressed Krystal had personally figured that she had had enough, deciding to call it a night, and regroup for tomorrow. Jane had "won" this round, and she was beginning to feel like a third wheel. Nothing had gone right for her today, from not finding out where Darren and Jane were going for their date (the "personal business" she conducted after leaving Daria and Tom), to her failure to squeeze out info from Daria and Tom about the deal with how they came together during the chess matches, and why Tom didn't stay with Jane. Add also Quinn's (and particularly) Sandi's insistance that she help with preparing Jane despite the fact the other Fashion Club members and the Watleys were assisting (which began to make Krystal suspicious as to what Sandi was up to), Krystal wanted to throw in the towel.

Krystal personally was impressed with Daria. It was clear Darren's middle sister was very sharp and intelligent (as well as a very good chess player who waxed the floor with her). Each time Krystal tried to pry something out of her about her, Jane, and Tom while they were playing, Daria casually would counter it, asking Krystal about how long she had known Darren, and about her friendship with him. Tom Sloane had even refused to bite the bait, quietly and subtly "hiding" verbally behind his girlfriend, that is, either by not saying anything, or referring to Daria. More than likely, Krystal's guesses about when Daria and Jane would wonder about her motives over Darren probably were realized by her (or at least strongly suspected), and that she wouldn't get anything from those two (and Tom) at all. Krystal snorted in frustration.

When Krystal first had heard about the news over Darren having nightmares and of seeing a psychologist, which piqued her curiousity while she intensely viewed the report, she was as genuinely shocked and angry as the others, but immediately it became clear to her that this would be an opportunity to speak up about Darren and Jane possibly cancelling the date, giving what she thought to be "perfectly" valid reasons. Much to her surprise, Quinn and (once again particularly) Sandi immediately said no. Sandi immediately turned and spoke to Jane, telling her that more than likely, Darren would continue the date. After a moment of pondering (and of glancing in Krystal's direction), Jane agreed. To Krystal's disappointment, Helen Morgendorffer confirmed through Quinn her birth son's intention to continue the date. Krystal was about to say goodbye when the theater's intercom came on. Everyone grew quiet.


INTERCOM: (Voice of Darren:) Hey, is everybody here? It's Darren. I'm calling from my office at Appleton Tower. I've just about finished changing.

HELEN: (Perking up:) Son? Yes, everyone's here. Krystal and the Watley sisters are too, having just finished with Jane. (Glances back uneasily at the aforementioned group:) Uh, they were just leaving--?

From the way Helen put it, it was clear that perhaps those who weren't in the media room on that night shouldn't have been here. Tom formed an uncomfortable expression, slowly rising out of seat. He glanced at Daria, who wordlessly shook her head ever-so-slightly to him not to leave, which after a moment, he did not, sitting slowly back down. The same thing happened with Millie and Edward, with Millie even shaking her head subtly to Jim as well. Sandi (especially), Tiffany, and Stacy were about to leave as well with the Watleys, though they all (with the exception of Sandi) wanted to do so reluctantly. Krystal paused, then decided she could probably get the "details" from all involved tomorrow. She also made like she was going to leave.

DARREN: (Resigned tone, sighs:) Do they know about the news like everyone else seems to?

STACY: (Speaking before anyone else does, upset tone:) Oh, yes we do, Darren! We all saw it on Sandi's TV while we were making over Jane! We're so sorry! That was such a terrible thing that stupid tabloid did to you! (Begins to cry. Tiffany searches through her small purse for a hanky, but doesn't find one, shakes head slowly and shrugs shoulders to Sandi, who rolls her eyes, sighs, pulls out one from her own purse, gives it to Stacy. Stacy blows into it loudly:) T-Thanks, Sandi!

DARREN: (After a moment:) Uhhh, thanks for the support, Stacy. If anyone wants to stay, they're more than welcome, it really doesn't matter, since it's all out anyway. (The Watley sisters look at each other for an instant, shrug, then sit down on the last row of seats, the same for the rest of the F.C., though Sandi appears to look a bit uncomfortable as she does. After another moment, Krystal decides to do the same, sitting in the next-to-last row, right in front of Sandi)

MILLIE: (Concerned tone:) Darren, are you sure you're alright?

DARREN: I'm fine, Aunt Millie, really. (Pauses:) Now, I've been in touch with Leonard Potter on this--

HELEN: (Wicked smirk:) --And I assume you're going to sue the hell out of those bastards for libel or slander, son? (Edward's eyes narrow a bit over this) Just say the word, and my law firm will assist Leonard in any way--

DARREN: (Firm response:) No. (Edward cocks a high eyebrow of surprise at this)

JANE: (Stunned with everyone else, jumps up, which horrifies Quinn and the rest of the F.C.:) You're not? Why? Surely you're not gonna let those asses get away with this?

DARREN: (Sighs:) Jane, the secret is out. The damage, if any, is done. Sure, I could sue them if I wanted, and could probably win or get a nice financial settlement, but what would be the point? I certainly don't need the money, and everything in the tabloid was accurate, private as it was supposed to be, particularly with that audio backing it up. Libel or slander would be hard to prove, according to Leonard. (Helen pauses, ponders this) Besides, if I took them to court, who knows what else could be brought out?

HELEN: (Stands, holds arms out:) Darren, that's just the point. They could still bring out something else about you later, one way or another. (Frowns:) This way, you could make some sort of statement against them and all of the leeches who prey upon decent people! Besides, this could embolden other gutter-trash papers to come after you, too! (Pauses:) Maybe you can sue them for violating a patient-client privilege, or something? The conversation we had that night was supposed to be just between all of us, it was for no one else to hear, much less read. (Sandi once again forms an uncomfortable expression, looks off to the side)

JAKE: (Usual "back-up" mode:) Yeah!

DARREN: Helen, if you want to sue the Weekly Blabber for violating your privacy when they exposed that you saw a psychologist, then I'll support you 100%, but as for me--(pauses, weary tone:) I'm tired. (Everyone looks at each other as Helen slowly sits back down with Jane) I don't want to go into courtrooms on a regular basis just to fight claims against my character every time someone comes up with some sort of rumored story about me, though Leonard did get me to agree to at least let him fight the most outrageous rumors legally. I figured I've been in the spotlight more than enough this summer, and have dragged you all through it with me on more than one occasion--

DARIA: (Much to her surprise, speaks up:) Darren, it's--

DARREN: (Cuts her off, slightly annoyed:) --Not my fault, I know, Daria, but let's face it--I'm Arthur Darren Appleton Jr., billionaire, heir apparent to heading Appleton Industries, though that thankfully won't happen for a long while, and a probable magnet for attention, positive and negative, possibly for the rest of my life. Those people who are really close to me are going to catch some of that attention, good and bad. (Pauses:) My (adopted) parents knew this would happen, and tried to keep me away from it as long as they could, and to a seriously large degree, they succeeded. Now, it's time for me to face reality, it's as simple as that.

JANE: (Shrugs:) Hey, we all knew that, Darren, 'specially me. Don't sweat it--

QUINN: (Nods head:) --Yeah, Darren! I don't care! You're my--(glances at Daria:) our brother, (Daria's eyebrows raise in slight surprise) and I'm more than willing to not care about what those dumb 'ol reporters say and write an' stuff! (The other F.C.'ers nod their heads in agreement, the same for the Watley sisters)

JAKE: (Ditto:) Damn straight, sweetie, me neither! I can take any damn criticism from anybody for your sake, son! We've done it this long, so why not now? (Looks up, frowns, shakes fist:) I've had experience, having been taking it for years from my Old Man even after he's been gone a long time, the self-centered jerk--

HELEN: (Sighs:) Jake! (Jake stops) Very well, son. We'll support your decision--

JIM: --Yeah, the same for me, nephew. I guess we all wanted to get some blood from these jackels.

DARREN: Thanks again, everybody. Look, I will do one thing to assuage all of your demands for "blood"--I told Leonard that I'll have a news conference tomorrow in the late morning for about 30 minutes in front of the mansion to respond to the report. (Pauses, low chuckle:) Sorry to ruin our "Family Time" a little. Anyone here who wants to come for support is more than welcome. Curtis told me over the phone that he'll be there--

KRYSTAL: (Chimes in quickly:) --You can count on me, Darren. You're my friend, and whatever you do is fine by me. (Daria, Jane, and Tom glance at each other. Quinn turns around to Krystal, cocks an eyebrow. Sandi frowns slightly at Krystal from behind)

JANE: (After a moment:) Well, uh, the same goes for me if you wanna do this, Darren. I'll be meeting Tess Donovan about 1:00 anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem with my schedule. (Krystal looks off for an instant, then smirks slightly at this, as if she's forming an idea)

DARREN: Okay. I tried to contact Dr. Quinn at his hotel in the Bahamas, but his room phone's busy, more than likely because of pesky reporters, or he's just keeping it off the hook. Leonard told me he found out who owns the Weekly Blabber: An American businessman named James Bowman, head of the multinational Bowman Industries. (Edward sighs inwardly, slightly worried) Leonard said that he tried to contact him, but he's on vacation as well, and no one knows where he is. The tabloid of course refuses to say how they got the audio, though it's obvious how they did it. My (adopted) dad met Bowman once at a business function. (Pause:) I remembered he described Bowman as a "Fellow you could either love or hate, there is no middle ground". He also owns another British tabloid called the Tattletale, as well as two other "legitimate" newspapers here in the States--

HELEN: (Narrows eyes:) --Bowman? He sounds familiar. Wait a minute--didn't he also own that "Green Sink" novelty bathroom fixture company, the one he sold several months back--?

JAKE (Jumps in:) --Yeah, the one where all of the bathroom and kitchen fixtures made there were of a green color, the reason for the name? (Pauses:) That's the jerk who's hurt you and my wife verbally, son? (Begins rant mode, turns red, narrows eyes, clenches fists:) If I ever get my hands on him or anyone who's associated with him (Edward looks at him, slightly pale), I'll rip out his damn--

HELEN: --Jake!

JAKE: (Sudden grin, thumbs up:) I'm fine, honey!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., sighs: Tell me another one, dad...)

QUINN: (Shudders with the other F.C.'ers:) Green fixtures? You mean like toilets, sinks, and bathtubs? Ewwwwwww! Ice blue is so much more better to be around if you haveta do a really quick facial over the sink--

SANDI: (As Stacy and Tiffany nod in agreement:) Like, that is so true, Quinn. Our blue eye shadows and matching eye colors would go with that color perfectly. (Juanita and Laflita simply stare at the three in disbelief, while Krystal slowly rubs her temples in muted annoyance, slowly closes eyes)

DARIA: (Low voice, to Jane and Tom:) I'd much prefer a red sink myself. The better to spill someone's blood on, most notably anyone in the Fashion Club's. That way, we wouldn't have to worry about cleaning it up because it would blend in so well. (Tom chuckles, and Jane smirks)

DARREN: (After a long pause:) Ah, right, Quinn, Sandi. Anyway, Leonard told me that it was Bowman's other tabloid which, uh, almost ran another story indirectly about me, this one on someone I knew, and we stopped him legally. (Helen, Jake, and the others look at each other, baffled) You remember, Jane, Daria--? The one concerning Stephanie Reardon? (Edward's eyes narrow, glances over at Millie) I told you both about that right after you came up here--? (Quinn frowns at this, smacks her mouth, folds her arms quickly in frustration, looks away. Daria notices this, rolls her eyes. Darren overhears Quinn's mouth-smacking, pauses:) Uh, sorry, Quinn. I didn't mean to leave that out. (Quinn's face softens a bit, placated. Helen and Jake look at each other along with everyone else, then at Quinn)

QUINN: (Uneasily chuckles, returns the look to a curious Helen and Jake:) Um, I'll tell you guys later about it...

JANE: (Ponders, realizes :) Ohhh, that story? Whoa...

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Since his knife didn't do the trick, I guess the gun's next. (Pauses:) One would wonder if this "Bowman" guy is out to get you, Darren.

DARREN: (Snorts:) You'd think that, wouldn't you? More than likely, like I said, I'm a target of the tabloids. Other well-known people have been fingered by the same gossip rags for years.

Tina suddenly and briskly walked into the theater from the rear, along with two male, burly-looking security personnel. She had a deadly serious expression on her face.

TOM: (Whispers to Daria and Jane as she walks by their row to the front:) Uh-ohhh. Seriously pissed off woman at high noon.

DARIA: (Ditto as she watches:) I'd hate to be in that spy's shoes right about now--

JANE: (Ditto for both as well:) --Ohhh yeah. I think I'll avoid Pic 'N Pay for awhile...

TINA: (Commanding tone, crosses her arms after she stops at the front:) Darren? Tina. Nothing. Not a damned listening device anywhere in the mansion. Starting with the media room, we checked the undersides of tables, chairs, settees, the backs of drawers, cabinets, and desks, even all of the full and half-baths not connected to the bedrooms. We checked behind books on shelves in the study, and even in some of those books, as well as all of the telephones. (Long pause:) That is, we checked every place that wasn't a bedroom. (Adds, glances at Jane:) Uh, oh, and except for your meditation room as well, can't forget that. We're reasonably sure that nothing's in there. (Jane smirks in appreciation) (Pauses:) If everyone who's staying here doesn't mind, I'd like to ask for your permission to check your bedrooms. (Everyone looks at each other uneasily, especially Edward, who looks mildly uncomfortable. Jim catches this as he glances at him, narrows his eyes, then remembers what happened outside of the media room with Edward a few days back. Jim looks off in deep thought) You can all be present as we check, and I promise that it won't take too long. I've sent for a special electronic bug-detecting device that'll be here in 30 minutes. It's called a Non-Linear Junction Detector, which can hone in on hidden bugs, even if they're switched off.

DARIA: I've read something on that. It can conduct electricity in one direction, but not in the reverse direction, like, say, water in a water pipe that's fitted in a non-return valve. All transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits are non-linear in this respect.

JANE: (To Tom, whispers, grins:) She's such the brainy show-off, isn't she? (Daria stares at her stoically)

TOM: (Ditto with the whisper, smirks:) Yeah. She could give lessons to Thomas Edison, if he were still living, that is...

DARIA: (Whispers back, out of the side of her mouth:) I'm considering on giving lessons on ass-kicking to the both of you. Stick around.

JANE: (Retorts in her whisper, grins:) You'll have to give all of my lessons to young Thomas here, I'm afraid. I'm going out with your brother tonight, remember?

TOM: (Mock-glare, sarcastic:) Gee, thanks. (Daria and Jane smirk)

TINA: (Nods, slight smile:) Precisely, Daria. The device has a transmitting head on a "broomstick", and is swept across walls and other suspected areas, at the same time transmitting a radio signal. Any non-linear device will cause harmonics of this signal to be generated, which are then received by a receiving antenna in the head tuned to the second harmonic, and which signal a warning. These type of detectors are especially useful on such areas as wood-panelled walls, fabric--

STACY: (Alarmed expression:) Fabric? Oh, no! (To Sandi and Tiffany, whispers while Tina continues to speak in the background:) You guys don't think somebody's after our fashion secrets, do you?

SANDI: (Looks off, narrows eyes, still whispering:) Hmm--if that's so, then our fashion security may be severely compromised, Stacy. (Stacy grows wide-eyed, hyperventilates for an instant. Sandi pats her knee to calm her down) Be sure to check your notes for any tampering when you get back to your room. (Stacy fervently nods)

TIFFANY: (Ditto with the whisper, looks down on herself, lightly brushes her shoulders, worried expression:) I wonder if I...have any icky...bugs on me? (Juanita, sitting beside her, drops her head, shows a huge eye roll. Laflita cocks an eyebrow of unbelievability. In front of them, Quinn is suspiciously looking at her shoulders and down on herself as well. Daria, Jane, and Tom give her an odd look, the same for Krystal)

SANDI: (Old "haughty" tone, whispers:) Like, relax, you two. I know we are quite hygienic in our personal upkeep. It is a Fashion Club rule as you all well know. I don't think we have anything to worry about when it comes to these types of--ugh--bugs. (Stacy and Tiffany look relieved, continue to look at Tina. Sandi cuts her eyes over at them, then subtly brushes her shoulders as well)

DARREN: Uh, Tina--? Is this really necessary? I mean, it had to have been the media room that was bugged. Why would any bugs be in our bedrooms?

MILLIE: Darren does have a point, Tina. (Jim shows a brief, pained expression of frustration with her) Is all of this really necessary? (Looks around, motions:) Certainly, you don't think any of us could have had anything to do with this, do you? Edward was in his room (Edward nods quietly), Jim wasn't here as of yet when we spoke that night, Quinn's friends were in the theater next door (once again, Sandi forms a look of guilt, while Stacy notices this, frowns at Sandi, perplexed for a moment, but says nothing), and Darren and I only told you, Elenor, and Claude the meetings with Dr. Quinn without going into specifics, and surely we can trust those two--

TINA: (Holds hand up, gently interrupts:) --I meant no disrespect Millie, and I'm not trying to give the impression that anyone staying here has done anything wrong, only that whoever did this might have those bedrooms bugged as well, and could get personal information from people Darren knows, to use against him in the future. We have to be absolutely sure that the entire mansion is bug-free.

JIM: (Suddenly stands up:) Well, I have no problem with you checking my room, Tina. (Edward stares at him, cooly) Whenever you're ready, come on up with this "junction detector" thing. I'll be in there, waiting for you.

TINA: (Slight smile of appreciation:) Thanks, Jim. (Looks around:) Anyone else mind?

HELEN: (Stands:) Jake and I have no objections, Tina, provided as you say, we're there with you.

JAKE: (Pauses, quietly adds:) Uh, yeah. (Helen cocks an eyebrow at his demeanor)

TOM: (Shrugs, stands:) I have no problem with this, Tina, since I just came in last night. You can look through my things, too.

JANE: (Begins to stand, which causes an alarmed Quinn to stand with her, holding her arms out to "steady" Jane. Jane glares at her hard, which makes Quinn stop:) Sure, you can check my room. If some jerk's bugged it, they might've found out that I usually talk in my sleep while lying on the covers nude. I certainly can't have them letting that get out, can I? (Helen and Jake look horrified along with Quinn, the F.C., and the Watleys. Daria smirks, while Tom chuckles. Even Krystal finds herself snickering at this. Millie covers her mouth and giggles, and after a moment of wondering if Jane were serious, Jim laughs. Edward, wide-eyed for a brief instant, "carefully" laughs with Millie. Tina, however, gives the heartiest and loudest laugh at Jane's crack, along with her fellow security personnel, and Darren)

DARIA: (After a moment, sighs, stands:) Now that Jane's broken the ice, I suppose you can count me in. You can go through my vast wardrobe.

TINA: Thanks, Jane, Daria. (Turns to Quinn and the Fashion Clubbers:) Girls?

QUINN: As long as my clothes aren't wrinkled and you don't ruin my clothing color order patterns--

DARIA: (Deadpan:) --And we can't allow that horror to happen, can we--?

QUINN: (Glares back at Daria while Tina smirks:) --you can look around my room, Tina.

SANDI: (Ditto, after consulting with Tiffany and Stacy:) On behalf of the remainder of the Fashion Club, we also will agree to allow you to look through our bedrooms as well, Tina. Like Quinn, we ask that you not ruin our clothing pattern order.

JANE: (To herself, low:) You can't ruin something that's already ruined--

TINA: Uh, thanks, Sandi, girls.

MILLIE: (Sighs:) Very well, Tina. You can look through my room, though I still think it's a waste of time...

DARREN: The same here, Tina. You can look through it without me being there. Since everyone else is in on this, you might as well put mine on the list.

TINA: Thank you both. I promise I won't disrupt anything. And that just leeeeaves--Edward. (Pauses, glances at Edward:) Edward--? Do you mind--?

EDWARD: (While Jim eyes him suspiciously:) Eh? Oh, no, no, of course not, Tina, whatever you think is best. You can go through my room. (Pauses, adds:) Ah, who's going to have their rooms looked through first? Is there some sort of "order" we should be aware of?

JIM: (Narrows eyes, subtle but sharp, mocking tone:) Why should you care, Edward? Who cares who goes first? (Edward throws him a stoic look that borders on a glare) (Daria and Jane cut their eyes at each other, the same for Helen and a befuddled Jake. Krystal shows a slight, amused smirk)

MILLIE: (Picks up on this, cocks an eyebrow:) And what do you mean by that, Jim? What are you implying?

JIM: (Waves her off:) Nothing, Millie, really. It shouldn't matter either way. In fact, I volunteer that Tina looks through my room first. (Edward stares at him stoically. Jim grins at him like a jackel:) How about it, Edward? You wanna be next?

EDWARD: (Cool tone:) Certainly, old chap, why not? How about if I insist that Tina look through my room first? (Jim is taken aback a bit by this, but tries not to show it)

JIM: (Shrugs, even tone:) Sure, whatever. I'll be up in my room. (To Jane:) You guys have a good time tonight. See you all later. (Leaves abruptly. Edward smirks slightly, looking after him while Millie frowns as she does the same thing)

After a moment of silence, Edward turned to Millie.

EDWARD: I'll be up in my room as well, luv. (Kisses her on the cheek, turns to the others, smiles:) Everyone. (Leaves)

TINA: (Hesitates:) Uh, Darren, Jane--? I've been thinking. Maybe you two should have at least a bodyguard or two for tonight, what, with all of the fallout from today? Erin and Crossada here can go along with you. (Both men step up. Jane looks wary about this, the same for Daria. The F.C. and the Watleys look at each other. Krystal now looks bored, glances at her watch. Helen, after a moment, begins to nod her head in agreement. Millie looks unsure) I promise that they, uh, won't get in the way for your date. They'll have specific instructions to stay a certain distance from you two, and will only act as a shield to protect you both in the case any reporters try to harass you. How about it? I'd feel a hell of a lot better about your personal space and safety.

DARREN: (After a moment, sighs:) Jane, what do you think?

JANE: (Sighs as well, defeated expression:) Ah, hell, why not? I sure don't want any media idiots to ruin our date. Yeah, okay. (Tina gets a relieved expression) Just don't let 'em try to interfere with our making out. There I'll draw the freakin' line. (Tina chuckles along with Darren)

DARREN: Alright, then it's settled. Jane, when you land on the roof of Appleton Tower, the pilot will escort you to the roof elevator, which will take you directly to the hallway to my office, where I'll be waiting. We'll go down to the parked limo in the Tower's garage and out afterwards.

JANE: Gotcha. (Darren hangs up) Well, I'd better get going, seeya. (Leaves. Quinn follows her to the rear)

Just as Jane walked by the Fashion Club, Krystal, and the Watleys, she stopped, and turned to them all. The two security men continued to go on, presumably to the waiting 'copter.

JANE: Uh, I'll probably shoot myself in the morning for saying this, but um, thanks for the gussy up, guys.

QUINN: (Slight smile with the other F.C. members and Watleys:) It was our pleasure, Jane. Darren will be floored with the way you look.

JANE: Yeah, I'm sure he will. (Smirks at Krystal, who forces a smile:) 'Night, Krystal. (Leaves)

KRYSTAL: (Cool tone, looks after her:) Jane.

Upon seeing Krystal's reaction, Quinn and Sandi smugly smirked subtly at each other, then went out of the theater with the Watleys and Krystal while everyone else lingered back for a bit. As they all came into the concessions area, Krystal spoke.

KRYSTAL: Well, I'm going home for tonight--

SANDI: (Gasps, ever-so-slightly laced with a sneer:) --What? Home? Don't you have a date for tonight? (Krystal cocks an eyebrow) I'd thought for sure that you'd have a guy for everyday of the week!

QUINN: (Catches on, smirks:) Uh-huh, like, you're sooo pretty an' stuff...

STACY: (Giggles, has no idea what's going on:) Yeah, I think so, too!

TIFFANY: (Smiles, nods head slowly:) You must have...guys waiting...on you...hand and foot...right? (Frowns, looks off:) But then again...how can guys...do that...with their hands...and feet? (The other F.C.'ers simply stare at her in silence for an instant, slightly embarassed)

JUANITA: (Breaks the silence, smirks at Krystal:) From what I heard, Tiffany, you're not that far off. (Thought v.o.: Concerning Krystal's looks, that is. You, on the other hand...)

LAFLITA: (Grins:) Yeah, Krystal's legacy for drawing guys still is told by students in and around Orbison, only a few years after she's left. (Krystal looks genuinely surprised)

KRYSTAL: Really? I haven't heard about that myself. (Slight smile. For the first time today, something seems to be going right for her:) Why, thank you all for the compliments. As for guys, Juanita and Laflita are, er, basically right. I have, uh, my "pick" of the lot, but for tonight, I just want to get home so I can be refreshed for tomorrow morning. See you. (Quickly leaves)

After Krystal left, the Watley sisters turned their attention to the Fashion Club.

JUANITA: Well, we'd better be going, too, guys. (Slightly deflated tone:) We'll see you all, um, tomorrow evening. (Pauses, hesitates:) We're sorry, but we won't be able to be at that news conference to support Darren...

LAFLITA: (Same tone, sighs:) Yeah...

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows, surprised with the rest of the F.C.:) What? Why?

JUANITA: We--(pauses:) sorta have an agreement with Curtis. He let us drive his car here again tonight in exchange for him babysitting our cousins alone on their final night staying at our house. As part of the agreement, this time we promised him that we'd--(pauses, disgusted expression:)

LAFLITA: (Takes over, both in tone and facial expression:) --Clean up after those little vermin leave tomorrow morning with our uncle and aunt. I'm sure it'll take most of the day to do it.

STACY: (Sympathetic expression:) Oh, we're sorry.

TIFFANY: (Ditto:) Yeah...

SANDI: Then we'll see you both tomorrow evening. Remember to wear something light and airy, like we will. Might I suggest that wearing an off-white or other bright light cotton color is quite fashionable on a summer night--? It makes the wearer practically stand out, particularly for the boys.

JUANITA: (Ponders, smirks:) Hmm--we'll remember that. See you guys then. C'mon, Laflita, let's use the side entrance, since that's where we left Curtis' car...(leaves with Laflita in that direction)

Just then, Daria, Tom, and the others exited from the theater, all came up beside the Fashion Club.

HELEN: I'm happy that Darren and Jane will have security with them for tonight. That was a very good suggestion, Tina.

TINA: Thank you, Mrs.--Helen. I think they'll be okay. Erin and Crossada will know how to stay away at a respectable distance and still do their jobs in keeping the press away. (Adds, after a moment:) Also, since they carry guns as well, they'll discourage any possible would-be, gun-toting robbers from trying to steal Millie's neckace and earrings, (smirks:) though we both know Darren could take care of watching out for Jane in his own way. (Pauses, looks at watch:) I'd better be out in front when the equiptment arrives. I'll see you all in a few. (Leaves)

MILLIE: (Sighs:) I could tell that Darren didn't want the protection, but given the circumstances from today, he didn't have much of a choice. (Pauses:) I'd better get to my room and wait for Tina's "bug detector". (Thought v.o.: And to ask Jim later about his "sudden" attitude change towards Edward. I'll probably confront him first thing tomorrow over it...) (Leaves)

HELEN: Yes, I'll do the same. Coming, Jake?

JAKE: (Pauses, quieter tone:) Honey if you don't mind, I wanna do some bowling in Darren's gameroom to take my mind off of today. Could you kinda be there yourself for when Tina comes? I'll--tell you about it later, I promise. (After a moment, Helen nods, slightly surprised at Jake's demeanor. Daria is as well, particularly about his bowling comment) Good. (Turns to the others, brightens:) Who's up for some knockin' down of the ol' pins?

QUINN: (Shudders with the other F.C.'ers:) Ew! Daddy! I don't wanna mess up my fingernails, you know that! (Turns to the rest of the F.C.:) Hey, you guys wanna lounge by the pool after they check our rooms an' stuff? (Stacy and Tiffany look at each other, nod in agreement)

SANDI: I think that's a good idea as well, Quinn. We can talk about what we'll wear tomorrow. Let's all go upstairs to our rooms and decide what our swimming lounging attire will consist of--(begins to leave)

DARIA: (Calling after them:) --I hope that doesn't take all night for you guys. There are only 24 hours in a day, you know. (Tom smirks while Helen and the F.C. glare at her briefly, then both leave. Daria turns to her father:) I guess you must be really depressed to wanna take up bowling again, Dad. (Tom cocks an inquisitive eyebrow at her) I'll explain later.

JAKE: Ah, I'm just blowin' off some steam, Kiddo. (Sighs:) I didn't like the way I almost leveled that lousy pesky reporter for getting too darn close to your brother today with his stupid microphone. I think throwing a ball as hard as possible at a pin with that reporter's face on it is just what your ol' dad needs to release his tension! (Grins:) How about it, guys? Wanna come with me after they scan your rooms for those bug-thingies?

TOM: Sure, why not? I can hone my bowling skills to an even more fantastic level than they are now. (Daria rolls her eyes) Daria?

DARIA: (After a moment, shrugs:) I was gonna relax with a book in the study, but I guess I can roll a game or two first, "Mr. Modesty". (Tom chuckles) Just see if we can get Henri to make a pizza for us while we play. I'm getting that craving again...(is about to leave with the two when Fiona comes up, stopping them. Fiona begins to tell them something)


(A few minutes earlier...)

Just before she'd leave the mansion for the evening, Krystal decided to use a half-bath (a bathroom with just a toilet and a sink, but no tub or shower), one of several on the first floor in addition to the many full baths on both levels. She went to one near the foyer in a side hallway. Just as she was about to enter, Elenor, who was pushing a small cart of cleaning supplies, came out so fast, both nearly ran into each other. Upon seeing who it was that she almost ran into, Krystal immediately controlled her annoyance.

Unlike Fiona, Elenor (and Claude, for that matter) had far more respect from Krystal because of Elenor's long service to the Appletons--that and the fact that the senior maid had told her off once while Krystal was a pre-teen after Krystal had openly and brazenly berated another maid in front of everyone. The maid had accidently spilled some soda on her designer dress at Darren's 13th birthday party, all of which was seen by Elenor and the Appletons. The maid broke out in tears, thoroughly humiliated, running off to the servant's quarters. After speaking to Darren's (adopted) parents, Elenor found and comforted the maid, then searched for Krystal, finding her in an upstairs bathroom reapplying make-up on her face with some of her female friends. After privately asking her off to the side, a furious Elenor unleased a rather thorough verbal barrage on a stunned Krystal about treating the servants here with respect, demanding that she apologize for humiliating the maid the same way she verbally hurt her--in front of everyone. When an embarassed and angry Krystal stormed to the Appletons for Elenor's "insubordination", she found out that Arthur Sr. and Lucille fully supported Elenor--and Darren did as well. Krystal grudgingly apologized to the maid in front of everyone, privately humiliated. It became very clear to Krystal that Elenor was not to be triffled with. From that point on, Krystal basically behaved in a respectful manner to her, although she personally couldn't stand Elenor. In Claude's case, it was simply by his senoir status on the staff--that and the fact that he seemed very respectful of Krystal, i.e. to her, "knew his place".

ELENOR: Oh! Sorry, Miss Krystal! I had just cleaned the sink and drained toilet in here--

KRYSTAL: (Sighs:) --It's quite alright, Elenor. (Pauses:) Pardon me, but did you just say "drained" toilet?

ELENOR: Yes. I'm afraid you won't be able to use any of the baths on the first level, half and full. The septic tanks connected to this and the other baths have just been turned off and are being cleaned. They won't work until tomorrow afternoon, just in time for Friday's party. I've told Master Jim and Master Edward just as they exited the theater. If you wish, you can use the baths upstairs.

KRYSTAL: Oh. Thank you, Elenor. (Goes up the grand stairs)

Just as Elenor was about to leave to clean another bathroom, a relieved Fiona appeared from the direction of the kitchen, having just witnessed the exchange between the two. Elenor cocked an eyebrow as she came up.

ELENOR: There you are, dear. Where were you? I was about to call over the intercom. You and I are the only ones on staff right now other than Henri, since Claude and the others just left for the day.

FIONA: Uh, sorry, Elenor. I just let Miss Juanita and Miss Laflita out by the side entrance to their, or rather Master Curtis' vehicle. I can help you clean the drained toilets and sinks, now.

ELENOR: (Nods:) Alright. I'll take the baths in the lower east hallway, and you can go back and get the ones in the lower west one. Before you do, however, be sure to inform the remainder of our guests and Mistress Millie about what's happened to them, hmm--? (Fiona nods) Good. I believe the meeting with Darren in the theater's over now. (Smiles:) Jane looked quite beautiful, didn't she?

FIONA: (Returns the smile:) Yes, she did, she should stun Master Darren quite efficiently tonight. (After a moment, glances hesitantly upstairs:) Well, I'll go and tell the others about the baths. (Leaves quickly)

Elenor paused, privately sure that something was not quite right with her young protege. She followed Fiona's glance upstairs for an instant, frowned briefly, then went on her way.


(Upstairs, at the same time)

Jim sat at his desk chair in his bedroom, on his phone. He had decided that he didn't (or couldn't) want to wait for Woo's call, instead taking the initiative.

JIM: (Sneers:) --And "Eddie" really seemed worried about something after Tina spoke about checking for bugs in our bedrooms, Woo. (Pauses, chuckles:) I don't know why, but I did a scant check for any listening devices the moment I came up here, not finding anything. Stupid, huh?


(Scene changes to Woo's office in Los Angeles)

WOO: (Leans back in his chair, thoughtful expression:) No, not really stupid, Mr. Morse. While Darren was in his birth family's town of Lawndale, your former and late brother-in-law had one of his lackies bug my office while pretending to have mistakenly delivered pizza to the wrong address, (slight frown:) an old trick I should've seen. (Pauses, looks off:) We let out some private info without knowing it to them, and it almost got your nephew killed. Since then, I've even had my offices checked for bugs on occasion, particularly when I've worked on some cases. I know it might sound paranoid a little, but, you know...

JIM: Yeah, and call me Jim, please. (Pauses, more to self:) So, I guess Tina had the right idea to check, huh?

WOO: (Glances at his copy of the Weekly Blabber:) I'd say that considering what happened to your nephew today, yes. There's no other way the tabloid could've known what was said exactly, according to that damned audio account, unless they bugged that media room. (Pauses:) And you really think White could've had something to do with this?

JIM: Like I told you when I asked you to investigate this, Edward came out of the media room only a day after Darren had spoken to his birth family, Jane, and Mill. I know he was up in his room at the time, but isn't it possible he could've been listening to what was said while in there? White told me he was returning a VHS movie, Apocalypse Now, which I later found out that the mansion didn't have in the video library, and you know my reasons for not saying anything yet. (Pauses:) He could've taken out that bug then.

WOO: Look, I shouldn't be asking this, but--

JIM: --Have I tried to check his bedroom for anything suspicious, maybe like listening equiptment? (Frustrated tone:) Yeah, you bet, a few times since I've first called you, but his door's always been locked, and that alone makes me wonder what's going on. (Snorts:) Too bad I'm not an expert lockpicker, huh? Anyway, I heard through Mill the other day that our butler Claude said something about asking Edward to leave his bedroom door open more often so they could clean his room. I obviously couldn't ask anybody to let me in, which would draw attention to myself. (Pauses:) How are things going on your end?

WOO: I'm expecting something over the Internet a little later tonight, in fact. One of my employees is hacking into Mikkelson's employment manifest, and it's taken a bit while he gets through the firewall. He's almost through. Do you want me to call you the moment I find out? It might be in the middle of the night there if I do.

JIM: (Sighing sound:) Nah. Might wake up somebody. You can call me sometime tomorrow. We're going to have some sort of "Family Time" Friday, with lawn games, picture taking, and a farewell party tomorrow night for the Morgendorffers and Jane. Oh, and they'll be a short news conference from Darren for his response to the news about him, sometime in the late morning in front of the mansion. (Snorts, sarcastic sneer:) Feel free to watch. (Pauses:) I feel like such a heel for lying to Darren. If you can't find anything bad on this Edward jerk, I'll have to come clean, and (long pause:) apologize to Mill for judging Edward wrong, much less to Darren for lying to him--either way in any case, and of course, to Edward himself, which I'd hate even more than anything else.

WOO: How's Darren and the others taking this?

JIM: Darren actually seems to be taking it in stride, while Millie, Jane, and his birth family, along with myself, were seriously PO'd.

WOO: (Pauses:) May I ask you a personal question about your ex?

JIM: Lemme guess: Do I still love her? (Long pause:) Of course I do. Mill was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never found anyone even close to compare to that woman after we divorced.

WOO: Well, like I told you before, I can't promise that I'll find anything wrong on this "Edward White" to er, "help" you with Millie Appleton, but from what you've told me, he does to seem to be of a suspicious nature. You'll hear from me tomorrow.

JIM: Thanks, Woo. (Hangs up)


(Scene changes to Edward's bathroom, the same time)

Edward frantically dropped his listening bug into the toilet, one of the two he had, in addition to the other one still in Jim's room. He immediately flushed it. Relieved, Edward thanked his lucky stars that the upstairs bathrooms weren't having their septic tanks cleaned.

He then came quickly back into his bedroom and carefully but rapidly dismantled his receiving box, the device which had captured the conversation with Darren, Jane, and the Morgendorffers in the media room Saturday night, with the skills of a pro. Fortunately for him, it was very small in size, three inches by three inches, and was easily broken up into several pieces, which he quickly stuck into the case with his laptop.

Edward knew it was too late to retrieve the other bug, of course, but he had privately prepared for this contingency with his "Employer", James Bowman. However, he'd have to call Bowman tomorrow to tell him about the bug, which Edward knew would displease him to no end.

Edward had heard of the bug detector Tina described along with Daria, and had even seen one once in one of Bowman's "brainstorming" sessions about their bugs being found out. He remembered being shown how it worked, what it scanned, and what to watch out for.

There was suddenly a knock on his door. After quickly composing himself, Edward calmly came over, opening it. It was Tina and a serious-looking, burly man. The man was holding the detector.

TINA: Hello again, Edward. As you requested, we're here first.

EDWARD: (Smiles:) And so you are, my dear Tina. (Motions smoothly:) Please come in--(both Tina and the man do, and Edward shuts the door behind them)


(Scene changes to the east wing, the same time)

Quinn came out into the hallway from her room, going over to Sandi's room. She knocked and Sandi opened the door.

QUINN: Hey, Sandi. Going through what you're gonna wear for our lounging session?

SANDI: (The haughty "Valley-girl" tone in full force, smirks:) But of course, Quinn. Are you finished, yet?

QUINN: No. Actually, I wanted to ask if you could, like, look at some swimsuits I just took out of my closet for a sec, if you can. I wanna get my stuff straight before Tina comes by to look through it for those--ew--bugs. I'm trying to decide what color I should wear, a tangerine or a candy-apple red one? As the Fashion Club president, I thought you should decide the choice.

SANDI: (Taken aback for a moment:) Oh, um, well, thank you for asking me, Quinn. I--appreciate your coming to me first--(pauses, slight smirk:) "again"... (Quinn smiles) (Narrows eyes, ponders:) Hmm, that is quite a quandry you're in. Let's go back to your room. (Begins to follow Quinn)

QUINN: (Tiny giggle:) We really put Krystal in her place tonight, huh? I just can't stop thinkin' about it.

SANDI: (Grins smugly:) Yes, I was just thinking about the same thing. Poor, poor, Krystal...

QUINN: (As both walk past a door:) I thought your idea on telling Krystal about the dress we brought for Jane was brilliant! Your guess on her reaction to it, particularly when we told her about Jane an' Darren going out tonight, was right on! (Sandi smirks again)

SANDI: (Now trying not to brag, but failing miserably:) Well, thank you, Quinn, but what I really liked more than anything else was my idea of having her help us out with making Jane over for Darren, though we really didn't need her, of course. (Chuckles:) Did you see how she looked while she was helping? It was, like, ew--eating her up from the inside, or whatever--

QUINN: (Grins:) Yeah! (Both go into Quinn's bedroom, shut door)

After a moment, the door that Quinn and Sandi had walked past, a full bath that connected to the hallway only, opened, revealing Krystal, who had a very cold and dark expression as she glared at Quinn's door. After a moment, she mouthed, "Sandi, you bitch.", through clenched teeth, shaking her head slowly in shock. Suddenly, to Krystal, everything had clicked into place concerning Sandi's behavior and snide remarks tonight. You made me look like a fool in front of everyone, didn't you? Big mistake. Very big mistake, both in my miscalculation, and of your plan. Good trick, though. Had me completely fooled. You still like him, don't you? You had wanted me to think you had given up, then after you'd "gotten rid" of me, you'd push Jane out of the way. You even manipulated Darren's dim-witted baby sister against me, too. Well, you slut, two can play at this little game... Krystal suddenly formed a wicked smirk, as if she had a nasty idea for payback, which she did. She quietly slipped past Quinn's door, went downstairs, and left the mansion.


(Scene changes to Appleton Tower, 30 minutes later)

Darren, dressed in a very fashionable white and striped red suit vest and tie, sat on a creme-colored couch in the middle of his spawling office, intently reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and drinking iced tea that he brewed while waiting for Jane. Around him, the newly-refurbished office, which also was of a matching creme color with a black rug that encircled a solid wood parquet floor on which the couch, with its matching end tables with lamps on them, was on. His desk was a medium-sized one of mahogany, with a speakerphone and a digital clock on top. The chair behind it was the classic businessman's one, black with a high back for support. The wall behind the desk was completely of tinted glass, showing a spectacular view of the now-almost dusky spectacular Manhatten skyline. There were two doors, one that led to a full bath on one side, and another that led to a small mini-kitchen, on the other side. A small remote-controlled double cabinet door that hid a large-screened TV, a holdover from William's old office Darren had decided to keep, along with several bookcases (where he had gotten the book) which lined both sides of his office, along with a painted picture, by Darren himself, of his adopted parents. The lighting was of a soft fluorescent glow, recessed within a paneled ceiling.

Jane, her hair having still stayed in place despite her deliberately and immediately having slipped out of the helicopter after it had landed on the roof (over the objections of the pilot), suddenly but quietly entered the office from the barely-ajar double doors. Darren had not noticed as of yet (his couch faced away from the doors), still reading the book intently.

Amused, Jane smirked at the sight, then decided to have a little fun, wanting to "shake" him up a little. She slowly tip-toed over, braving the slight awkwardness she felt while walking in her high-heeled sandals. Just as she was about to lean over to touch his right shoulder, Darren looked up and stared forward, smirking, stopping a surprised Jane.

DARREN: Hi, Jane. (Jane frowns, frustrated expression) You should know to never try and sneak up on someone who trains in the (puts book aside, turns slowly around, mouth drops in stunned disbelief, stands up slowly:) mar--tial--arts--? Oh--my--God...

JANE: (Grins:) You knew I was coming, and I still shook you up, "Darry". (Darren still says nothing, keeps dropped mouth. Jane mock-rolls her eyes:) Oh no, not you, too. First, all the male specimens at the mansion get all googly-eyed, then, the helicopter pilot makes ga-ga eyes at me, and finally the security guards here. (Pauses:) Ms. Barch was right: Guys are dogs. (Adds, wicked smirk:) Thank goodness.

DARREN: (Comes around the couch, gently puts his hands on her shoulders, looks her over:) Jane, you look absolutely beautiful tonight, simply--gorgeous. (Pauses, realizes, thought v.o.: Hold it, that's the dress that model wore on Tuesday when I took Quinn and her friends out to Cashman's of Park Avenue! [Grins:] Why, those sneaky, little--)

JANE: (Smiles:) Yeah, I guess I do, don't I? (Looks him over, then pecks him on the mouth:) You don't look so bad yourself.

DARREN: (Still in his staring mode:) Not as good as you look, I can assure you.

JANE: (Quietly grateful tone:) Thanks. (Looks around:) Whoa, not a bad-looking joint to work in. Daria was right. Care to give me a quick look-see before we leave? (Glances at the clock on Darren's desk, sighs:) Thanks to that crap we read about you earlier, I know it's probably too late to get into the Sick, Sad World Museum of Oddities--

DARREN: (Finally shakes out his staring mode, smirks:) Sure, I'll give you a quick look-see, and don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to visit there, Jane. In fact, I've made sure that we'll have a free rein in all of the places that we'll visit outside of the restaurant to ourselves. I made some-- "arrangements" to visit them after-hours.

JANE: (Draws her face close to his, grins:) Oh-ho! "After-hours", huh? You are a shrewd cad, aren't you? Gonna tell me what else you have in store for your's truly tonight, other than the museums?

DARREN: (Grins, draws back:) Nope, and don't bother trying to "Deep Smooch" it out of me, either. (Jane's eyebrows raise in surprise) Tom gave me the lowdown on your--techniques.

JANE: (Mock-pout:) Darn. Mental note: Tom dies tomorrow. (Darren chuckles)

DARREN: (Draws closer:) But aren't you even going to try to persuade it out of me? I wouldn't mind--

JANE: (Teasing, draws back slightly:) Nahhh. It's not as much fun if you know now. Works better on the spur-of-the-moment. It would've been better if Tom hadn't said anything.

DARREN: (Mock-pout:) Darn. Mental note: Tom dies tomorrow. (Motions to his mini-kitchen, smiles:) Tea? (Jane returns the smile, nods, follows him into it. Darren makes her a glass, then proceeds to show her around his office)


(Various scenes take place on Jane and Darren's date. At the Sick, Sad World Museum of Oddities, both come out a few moments after the two security men, who are constantly scouring around. Jane and Darren have several souvenir bags. Just before the two get into the limo, Jane smirks, pulls out the body of a headless "bloody" baby-doll sized body wrapped in plastic, mouthing, "For Quinn", which is supposed to "match" the bloodied head Daria had purchased for her the day before. Darren and the one security man holding the door for them look at each other wide-eyed for a moment, then Darren laughs out loudly.)

(The next scene is at Cherie's, where this time there are several members of the paparazzi, who somehow had gotten wind of where the two would be [courtesy of Edward's tips to his co-workers, actually], frantically snapping pictures as both get out of the limo and prepare to go into the restaurant. Darren scowls at them for an instant and looks as he wants to say something nasty, but a smirking Jane merely hooks her arm around his, and pulls him gently in with her. The two security men with them hold their arms out, keeping the still-snapping photographers at bay. The moment Jane and Darren enter, they are warmly greeted by the owner, who directs them to a private booth. Just before they sit down, other patrons, who stared at them curiously beforehand, begin to clap, with some even giving a thumbs up, and smiling, all in support. Darren looks shocked, but Jane grins, and nods her head in thanks. After another moment, Darren does the same. Both then sit down in the booth.)

(After about an hour-and-a-half of feasting on spaghetti and meatballs, with pie a la mode for dessert, the two leave Cherie's, enduring yet another barrage of picture taking. The two quickly enter the limo, then it speeds off. The paparazzi quickly get into their cars that were parked nearby, following them.)

(The limo stops in front of a flower shop after briefly losing the chasing paparazzi's cars, where Darren quickly buys a single rose for Jane, who clearly is flattered, even though she desperately tries not to show it, trying to act in a nonchalant way as he gingerly pins it on what passes as the lapel part. The two barely make it into the limo and speed off just as the paparazzi's cars stop behind them.)

(About ten minutes later, the limo stops in front of the now-closed Guggenheim Museum. Jane glances slyly over to a smirking Darren, grinning. Both quickly leave the limo and enter just before the paparazzi's cars stop behind the limo.)

(Inside, the two meet the delighted curator, a middle-aged, bespectacled balding male who directs them to the elevator that will take them to the top to begin viewing the bevy of paintings in the museum's famous spiral design, working their way down by the spiraling ramp. Jane, however, holds up her hand and shakes her head slowly, stopping them all. She points to the bottom of the spiraling ramp beside the elevator, insisting that they view the paintings by going up instead. Darren grins at her and nods in agreement. The curator shrugs, then chuckles as well, having heard this all before. All three work their way up by the ramp while the curator speaks. Jane's eyes narrow as she listens, though she of course knows her art history.)

(Note to reader: This is the way I've heard that is best to view the works when entering the spiral. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, originally intended that the viewing public enter the elevator to go up, then work their way down by going around and around the spiral. However, it's worth the extra effort to simply go up the spiral to view the paintings in their correct chronological order.)

(After about an hour of viewing the works of such famous painters as Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Picasso, Renior, and van Gogh [and of comparing artistic notes of each with the curator, Jane's in her own way], the three begin to enter an area known as the rotunda of Thannhauser 4. The moment they do, however, several famous art experts of men and women, known to Darren [and now to Jane, who's seen them in magazines and on TV], appear, smiling. Jane clearly is stunned to see this group, all together in the same place no less, looking overwhelmed. She mock-glares at Darren, who chuckles, delighted at his ruse. The group begins to pepper the two, particularly Jane, with conversation, mainly about Jane's art, her views of what it conveys, and her future plans. After a brief period of anxiety, Jane becomes comfortable, even cracking her brand of humor, which seems to go well with the group that's encircled her. Nearby, Darren looks relieved that she's doing so while he checks out the sprawl of hors d'oeuvres on a round table.)

(Another hour passes, and after everyone says their goodbyes, Jane and Darren quickly brave yet another barrage of picture-taking, quickly entering the limo, then it speeds off. This time, as the paparazzi get in their cars to follow the couple, they find out that they cannot move after starting them. There are "boots", a mechanical device that's placed on the wheel to prevent illegally-parked vehicles from being moved, on all of the cars. The paparazzi howl in rage and frustration, kicking their cars. Nearby, several of "New York's Finest" snicker, their arms crossed.)

(Another scene takes place in Central Park, where Jane and Darren are riding in a horse-drawn carriage, driven by an elegantly-dressed driver wearing a top hat. Another carriage, not that far behind, but far enough to respect their privacy, has the two security men in it, watching the first carriage intently. The driver of the second carriage occasionally looks back at his passengers, a strange expression on his face. The moon illuminates the night sky over the skyscrapers of nearby Manhatten. Jane's head is leaning on Darren's right shoulder, and his arm is around her shoulder. Darren looks up at the stars and the moon, speaking. When he looks down on Jane for her reaction, she's sleeping, obviously exhausted. Darren chuckles gently, then looks back up at the stars and moon.)


(Scene switches to the Griffin's residence in Lawndale, the same time)

Linda Griffin lay in her bed under the covers and stared at the ceiling. She wore a wretched expression. Since Darren Appleton's mini-news conference on Tuesday and her subsequent fainting spell, she had gone into a deep depression, refusing to see anyone outside of her immediate family, such as reporters who wanted to ask her reaction to the news conference, and even then saying little to nothing to her husband and sons, preferring to stay in her bedroom and sulk, (warning them all that she didn't want to be bothered) save for eating, which her husband Tom had provided by ordering take-out, and by relieving herself to the bathroom.

Linda groaned and turned over. Fortunately for her, she didn't have to return to work until Monday to face her bosses or fellow employees at KSBC, whom she suspected were probably laughing at her behind her back. She knew that she didn't really get along too well with her co-workers, to her because of what she perceived as their jealousy of her hard work and success in her job as vice-president of marketing. Linda snorted at this thought, turning over in the other direction.

Linda turned her thoughts to Helen Morgendorffer and groaned again. More than likely, she was laughing the hardest at her humiliation. Ever since Helen's family had moved to Lawndale, Linda had felt immediately threatened by this woman, who's intensity for succeeding in her work, of having new ideas, and of not being second in anything actually had the nerve to rival her's. Linda narrowed her eyes and remembered some of the moments: When both were on the Lawndale Reading For Children Committee, Helen had come up with a barrage of ideas, impressing the other members. I used to have all of the ideas here, then she comes out of nowhere, and takes over? The same things happened with the Lawndale Beautification Committee, the Lawndale Job Creation Committee, the Lawndale Sanitation Committee, the--Linda stopped and shook her head. She had had enough thinking about Helen Morgendorffer, at least directly.

Linda began to see that Sandi had the same problem with another newcomer, Quinn Morgendorffer, who happened to be Helen's daughter, who happened to become more popular than Sandi to her fellow classmates (especially the boys), and as much as it pained Linda to admit, who happened to be prettier than Sandi, too. Linda had drawn these conclusions from her daughter's bitterly constant complainings about Quinn whenever Sandi came home from school, save for the last one when Linda came upon first seeing Quinn herself.

Determined to strengthen her daughter's confidence (and to get back at Helen indirectly), Linda would subtly play mind games with Sandi, "challenging" her to "battle" Quinn everyday at school and everywhere else the two would be with Tiffany and Stacy, for that matter. Linda would not allow her daughter's position to be threatened, much like she sometimes perceived herself (albeit rarely at times) with Helen. After all, Sandi was going to follow in her footsteps, being her daughter, the daughter she had always wanted to have--even after that one night her husband had had with her sister almost seventeen-and-a-half to eighteen years ago when their marriage was on the rocks. He always complained subtly to me, in his own little sneaky way, lamenting over not marrying our high school classmate Patty Wells and ending up with me, but since he couldn't get her, the bastard settled for my sister Jenny instead. Linda had forgiven them both for that one mistake, particularly after the "end" result, though she made sure her husband paid dearly for it, with her constantly holding it over his head, in more ways than one, even and up to the present. Linda brightened up and smirked for an instant over this.

Then came the very handsome "Darren Coverton", the lost son of Helen (and Jake), no less. He was supposed to be the possible and perfect future husband for Sandi once Linda found out via her daughter that he may have had some money, and even more definitely so when he turned out to be Darren Appleton, the billionaire, and future head of Appleton Industries. This pleased her so much, Linda was even willing to put aside and even behind her rivalry with Helen to complete the "merger" of the two families, that and the fact she knew such a thing would destroy Helen inside, and would be the perfect one-up(wo)manship that she could hold over Helen permanently. Even if things wouldn't work out between the two in the future after they married, Sandi could've socked it to Darren in their divorce proceedings, which Linda could get a little money on the side, of course. It was a perfect plan.

However, Darren wouldn't go for it, or rather Sandi, instead pushing her beautiful daughter away for this "Jane Lane" girl, who obviously was not in Sandi's league, a Bohemian artist, no less! Certainly, she wasn't as attractive as Sandi, who, when Linda further paused and thought about it, didn't exactly help her own case, either, like mentioning herself that the artist was Darren's girlfriend on Sunday, and not her. This had baffled and angered Linda, who had thought she'd taught her daughter better than that. In fact, to Linda, Sandi had been behaving in a most uncharacteristic way, with her allowing Quinn to run everything in the club, becoming "softer"--all after that night in the warehouse. Linda snorted, dismissing anything was amiss with her daughter, recalling the night Sandi spoke about having some nightmares to her about it. That simply could not be. "Nightmares" indeed.

Jane Lane. What did Darren Appleton see in her? Did this "Jane" have something on him? Whatever it was, it culminated into Linda's ultimate humiliation on national, no, international television when Darren called her a "Conniving, self-serving" woman who was out to get his money through Sandi. Linda paused in realization, and rolled her eyes. So what if he was right? What's wrong with wanting to have a secure future financially? That rich snot Darren had more than enough money to pass around.

Sighing, Linda suddenly sat up and rolled back her cover, hungry for a late-night snack, tired of feeling miserable. She looked over at her alarm clock, which read "11:00". Her husband had went back to work to catch up at the accounting firm for a few hours, and wouldn't come in for another hour, while her sons were staying over at their friend's house overnight. She didn't mind any of these developments, preferring to be alone anyway. At least there were no phone calls coming in today, save for a few "strangers" who laughed at her over the answering machine while adding their own brand of snide remarks in the form of crank calls, adding further to her humiliation. Virtually all of the calls had been against her. A poll she had seen while sneaking a peek on the local TV news her husband was watching Tuesday night was 98% in favor of Darren Appleton, 1% for her, and 1% neutral. From then until now because of that, Linda had stayed away from watching the TV. As for the calls, she guessed that since her family's number was unlisted, they probably were from her co-workers, hence her earlier belief that they were laughing at her behind her back.

Linda sluggishly got out of her bed, put on her robe, and dragged herself downstairs to the kitchen to fix something to eat. Just as she was walking past the phone on the coffee table in their living room, it began to ring. Linda paused for an instant to answer it, but decided to allow the answering machine beside the phone to receive the message, expecting yet another humiliating insult about Tuesday. She tensed up, seething. After five rings, the machine came on.

MACHINE: (Beeps, then Linda's voice:) Hello, this is the Griffin residence. We are not here at the moment, but if you leave your name and number, we will get back to you. Please leave your message at the beep. (Another beep)

VOICE: (Feminine, "timid" in sound. The tape recording the voice is also crackling a bit, for it's worn:) H-Hello? M-Mrs. Griffin? Hi. I'd just like to tell you that I'm really sorry to have heard what that--that jerk Darren Appleton said about you on Tuesday. (Linda's eyebrows raise in surprise) I thought it was a terrible thing he did to embarass you like that, in front of the whole world, nevertheless! (Linda, stunned that someone seems to support her, suddenly snatches up her phone, so excited, she merely turns down the machine's volume so that the noise feedback doesn't screech in her ear, does not turn it off)

LINDA: (Breathless:) Hello! This is Linda Griffin! I was, er, in the bathroom! (Pauses:) I couldn't help but to hear that you support me--?

VOICE: (Delightfully excited:) Oh! Mrs. Griffin! I'm so glad I caught you there! I was afraid you had gone to sleep! (Becomes more confident in tone, calms down:) Yes ma'am, that's right. That Appleton guy had no right to say that to you. He could have just as well have told you in private, but he didn't, preferring to humiliate you like that in front of the world! It was an outrage! I mean, just because he and his family's filthy rich, who are they to run over us, the "Little People"? Does he think he owns the world, or something?

LINDA: (Slowly smirking, realizes:) You know, you're right! (Smug expression:) I mean, I am the Linda Griffin! Who does he think he is?

VOICE: (Egging her on:) Exactly! I wouldn't let him get away with that if I were you, you know, particularly since he has your daughter up there staying with him, and those--(venomous tone:) those Morgendorffers, his (sneers:) "birth family", and that "Jane Lane" girl, the one he chose over your beautiful daughter! (Pauses:) Why are you allowing her to stay with those people, anyway? (Linda narrows her eyes, looks off in thought) Isn't it bad enough that she might feel as humiliated and embarassed as you, but might be too intimidated to ask them that she wants to leave there, and come back to you and your loving family? Why, if it were my daughter, I'd have her out of there so damn fast--

LINDA: (Cuts her off, frowns:) --I don't know, but now when I think about it, my daughter shouldn't be up there at all! What in the hell was I thinking?!

VOICE: (Gentle, but slightly sneering tone:) Hey, you were probably knocked down for awhile by the super-rich Appleton spin machine, it happens to everybody, but now that you're coming fully back to your senses--

LINDA: (Takes it from there, snarls:) --I've got to get my daughter away from those asses as quickly as possible! (Pauses:) Thank you for making me realize this, er--?

VOICE: (Pauses:) Uh, you can just think of me as a concerned citizen, Mrs. Griffin. I'm not trying to make a name for myself, you understand.

LINDA: (Sinister grin, thought v.o.: Heh--more than likely someone from my job. At least they're not all against me...:) Well, thank you for your support, "Concerned Citizen". I truly appreciate it.

VOICE: (Chuckles:) My pleasure, Mrs. Griffin, my pleasure. Good luck. (Hangs up)

Linda slammed down the phone just as Tom Griffin walked through the front door, holding his briefcase in his right hand, and what appeared to be a folded-up newspaper under his left arm.

TOM: (Surprised expression:) Linda? I see you're finally up--?

LINDA: (Commanding voice, hands on hips:) Yes, and I see you're early from working late. Good. I'm going to call the parents of Sam and Chris' friend, and ask if they can stay with them another day because of a sudden family emergency, and believe you me, this is. (Tom cocks an eyebrow) I then want you to call the airport and get us tickets for the first plane tomorrow morning to this "Maness" place. We're going to get our daughter from those--(pauses, spits out the word in disgust:) "people" and bring her back home!

TOM: (Stunned, puts down his briefcase:) G-Get Sandi? Why? I don't understand! Did she call here, or something, wanting to come ho--

LINDA: (Scowls, gets in his face, which makes him cower:) --Do NOT question me, do you hear?! I want to bring Sandi home! She doesn't need to be around the Appletons, Morgendorffers, and certainly that "Jane Lane" slut! (Scowls, rolls eyes:) I cannot believe I overlooked not making Sandi come back as soon as that damn so-called press conference by Darren Appleton was over on Tuesday!

TOM: (Timid, looks down, pauses:) I-I understand, dear. I'll call Sandi and let her know we're--

LINDA: (Again gets in his face, makes him cower again:) --ABSOLUTELY NOT! I'll not allow them to try and "prepare" for our coming, maybe even try to keep Sandi from us! I want to go in there, and get her out when they least expect it!

TOM: (Swallows hard, bravely forges ahead:) Honey, don't you think you're overreact--

LINDA: (Dangerous glare and tone, narrows eyes:) --Are you questioning my judgement, Thomas Vernon Griffin? You've been doing that more and more recently...

TOM: (Wide-eyed, hands and arms up, which makes him drop the newspaper on the floor. It is one of two.:) No, no, of course not, dear! If you want to go first thing in the morning, then that's fine with m-me!

Linda gave a wicked smirk of approval and a firm nod, satisfied that her husband was back in his "proper" place. She glanced down at the newspapers around his feet, and cocked an eyebrow. Seeing the Lawndale Sun-Herald was no surprise, of course, but it was the other paper lying just beneath it that really piqued her interest. There was just enough of the title, minus the headline shown, to draw Linda's attention.

LINDA: (Frowns while looking down at the paper:) Since when do you read the Weekly Blabber?

TOM: (Alarmed expression as he looks at both newspapers, quickly reaches down, picks them up:) Uh--ah--I--just--(Linda suddenly snatches the tabloid paper from him, begins to read it) honey, p-please keep in mind that it's just a tabloid paper, and the stories are not real, and--

Linda Griffin cut him off by laughing as she was reading. She flipped another page, read it for a few seconds, then laughed even harder, almost doubling over. Tom developed a miserable expression.

LINDA: (Through her laughing:) D-Darren A-Appleton is s-seeing a shrink? H-Helen s-saw some when she t-thought she l-lost her s-son a-at birth? Oh, this is a riot! T-Too bad this isn't true, otherwise--

TOM: (Pauses, looks off:) --Well, uhh, actually-- (thought v.o., winces: You idiot! Why didn't you keep your big mouth shut?)

LINDA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Actually"? Actually what, Tom? (Tom hesitates, stares at her) TELL ME! (Tom flinches)

TOM: It-It's true, dear. (Linda's eyebrows rise in surprise) Every bit of it. Apparently, the tabloid somehow or another listened in to a supposedly private conversation Darren Appleton had with his birth family this past Saturday night while Sandi was up there, and got the lowdown. It's been on the TV most of the afternoon, in fact.

LINDA: It has? (Scowls:) Well, why didn't you tell me while you were here before you went back to work?

TOM: (Hesitates:) I--I'm sorry, honey, but you said you wanted to be left alone, and--

LINDA: (Cuts him off dismissively, returns to reading the tabloid:) --Never mind that. (Chuckles:) "H-His late g-girlfriend suspected he was seeing J-Jane Lane behind her b-back" in his d-dream? "B-Blood all over the s-study"? "G-Gunfire"? (Looks back up at Tom, laughs:) W-What is this? A h-horror story of some sort, or a c-comedy? This is hilarious!

TOM: (Frowns ever-so-slightly, but in a still timid-sounding voice:) Uh, honey, I--I don't think it's all that funny--

LINDA: (Doubling over laughing again:) I-It is to me! (Pulls herself under control, wipes her eyes:) T-This makes it all the more imperative that we get Sandi away from those kooks. It's a good thing we know that Sandi doesn't need that kind of mental help.

TOM: (Looks off, uncomfortable expression:) Uh, I've been meaning to speak to you about that very thing, dear. You see, Sandi--

LINDA: (Waves him off dismissively, no-nonsense tone, picks up phone as she tosses the tabloid aside:) --Not now, Tom. I'm calling Sam and Chris' friend's parents. (Frowns:) What were their names again--?

TOM: (Sighs:) The Yamiolkoskis, honey. (Pauses:) I--I'm going to get a quick snack in the kitchen, dear. I'll call the airport to get those tickets as soon as you get off...

LINDA: (Grins:) Ah, yes, the Yamiolkoskis--(begins to punch the buttons:) oh, and be a dear and fix me something as well, hmm? (Smug smirk:) I'm really starting to feel ravenously hungry, now--

Tom nodded weakly, then walked towards the kitchen to prepare the snacks with a sad expression. Before he went in, however, he glanced out of the corner of his eye at Linda, and showed a slight scowl of disgust on his face.


(Scene changes to the McKinna's, the same time)

Rory was in the living room lying on the couch in his pajamas, giggling as he was reading his copy of the Weekly Blabber for yet another time. Krystal, dressed in her nightclothes, walked in and frowned from behind, crossing her arms.

RORY: (Wiping his eyes:) Hee-hee! "Darry's" a certifiable nut, and so's his birth mommy! (Pauses, giggles even harder:) S-So that's where he got it from!

KRYSTAL: (Cold tone:) I certainly don't think he or Helen Morgendorffer are "nuts". Going to psychologists is quite in vogue these days. (Rory looks over his shoulder at her, leaps off the couch, wide-eyed)

RORY: K-Krystal! (Quickly tosses paper aside:) Heh--I didn't see you there!

KRYSTAL: No, you didn't, obviously. Really, brother dear, you're not being grateful. Darren did invite you to come tomorrow to their party so you could apologize for your asinine behavior Sunday.

RORY: (Snorts:) Hey, I'm (finger quote:) "grateful", sis, don't get me wrong. (Smirks:) I wanna "make-up" for all the trouble I caused. Still, that shouldn't keep me from laughing at his problems--

KRYSTAL: (Steps toward him, a menacing expression on her face:) How about if I keep you from laughing at his problems, hmm?

RORY: (Swallows hard, puts hands up:) Okay, okay! No more laughing at Darren, sheesh! (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Where'd you go, anyway? A few minutes ago, you were in here with me looking through some your stuff about that "Lawndale" place, then you suddenly jumped up and left the room.

KRYSTAL: (Looks off, wicked smirk:) Oh, I was just doing my part as a "Concerned Citizen". Goodnight, Rory. (Rory stares at her oddly as she suddenly gathers her personal information on Lawndale off their couch, then saunters to her room)


(Scene changes to the estate, an hour later)

The limo containing Jane and Darren pulled in front of the lighted mansion. After one of the security men held open the door, both got out, holding the souvenir bags.

DARREN: Thanks, guys. Good job. I'll be sure to inform Tina of your work. (The man nods, smiles, gets into limo, and it drives off)

JANE: (Turns to him, smiles, sits down her bags:) Whew, I'm beat.

DARREN: (Looks down at her, returns the smile, ditto with his bag:) Yeah, me too.

JANE: (Quiet tone:) Thanks for tonight, Darren, for everything. (Looks up, awed tone:) I still can't believe I actually met those famous art critics and experts! (Shakes head slowly, now in a disbelieving tone:) Grenier? Cook? Wisenhunt? Nakasone? Morgan? Berry? They're the cream of the crop, and they liked my work, actually liked it! It was, well, it was like a dream.

DARREN: (Grins:) Well, you were dreaming in Central Park...(Jane mock-scowls, hits him playfully on the shoulder)

JANE: You're not gonna let me forget that, are you? At least you didn't kiss my hair.

DARREN: (Smirks:) You've got me there. (Pauses, motions to her head:) Then again, why would I want to kiss that still perfectly made-up 'do, and mess it up? (Jane looks horrified, for her fancy behive hairdo still is in place. She suddenly and deliberately quickly runs her fingers frantically through her hair, and it falls remarkably back to its natural look) (Darren laughs) How about if I just kiss you instead?

JANE: (Smirks:) I think that can be arranged--c'mere...(pulls him down to her, and they kiss)

The lip-locking was suddenly broken up by a nightclothes-dressed Daria (the blue and yellow pants one, wearing her robe), who opened the front door. She was holding a book, J.C. Herold's The Age of Napoleon. Jane and Darren looked slightly perturbed, to say the least.

DARIA: (Utter monotonic deadpan:) Boo.

DARREN: Daria!

JANE: You really know how to break up a romantic moment, don't cha?

DARIA: (Deadpan, looks between the two:) Little sisters are supposed to break up their big brother's romantic moments, you should know that better than me, Jane.

JANE: (Snorts:) Are you kidding? When Trent starting making out with his girlfriends, I got so disgusted, I ran! (Darren laughs)

DARIA: Point taken. (Pauses:) Uh, I volunteered to stay up and wait for you guys, everybody else has gone to bed. Tom couldn't keep his big head from drooping because he was so tired, (adds, slight smirk:) though I'm thinking it was more or less from me kicking his and my dad's asses from our bowling tonight, so he gave up and sacked out.

JANE: (Partly-genuine shock, smirks:) You volunteered for something? (Grins:) Getting in some practice for that valedictorian award for your senior year?

DARIA: (Rolls her eyes:) I think we both know Jodie's got that, hands down--

DARREN: (Chuckles, mocking tone, joins in:) --Sis, that's so sweet of you to wait up for us, but we're practically grown folks, now. (Jane nods, grinning)

DARIA: (Brief scowl, mildly annoyed:) Ho-ho, amusing, the both of you. You two should take your little act out on the damn road, on a freeway, preferably in the middle of one, during rush hour. Bet you won't be able to do anymore growing up then, will you? (Pauses as Jane and Darren chuckle:) Seriously, the real reason I wanted to stay up was to inform you guys about the results from the great bug search--that and the fact I wanted to read, and figured I'd run into you two when you came in. (Jane and Darren look at each other) Anyway, my mom thought about calling you both to tell, but Quinn and I somehow miraculously had found common ground, and asked her not to do it because it would interrupt your date.

JANE: Did you guys find something?

DARIA: Yeah, there was a bug hidden in Jim's room...(Darren frowns, concerned, the same for Jane)

Go to Chapter 9