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Chapter 9 - Weekday Wrap-Up: Part Four (Conclusion)


(Scene changes to the mansion's rear grounds, early morning)

Darren and Tina, both wearing white gis and bare-footed, were slowing encircling each other in an open grass clearing, measuring one another. They had been going at it for about ten minutes. Krystal, having just arrived after quickly greeting the others, stood to one side with her arms crossed, watching intently. Jane, dressed in her usual jogging paraphernalia after having jogged on a brief route with Darren, was on the other side sitting with her legs crossed, sketching, presumably the two. Jane casually glanced out of the corner of her eye for what clothing Krystal was wearing, which was a simple gi, black in color, and sandals. She also had a matching black shoulder gym bag.

JANE: (Mentally rolls her eyes and snorts, thought v.o.: Huh. Now, why does that seem to be a fitting color for Krystal, even though Daria ironically likes it--? [Mentally sighs:] Oh well, at least it isn't some sorta tight-fitting leotard...) (Continues to sketch)

Tina suddenly rushed forward, screaming, which startled Jane slightly. Krystal smirked briefly at Jane, amused, then turned her attention back to the two.

Darren quickly countered by going low, trying to sweep Tina off her feet, but Tina merely lept over, simultaneously attempting to kick Darren, who fell back. Both presumed their new positions opposite one another, and started to slowly encircle each other again.

This time, Darren suddenly rushed forward while screaming, attempting to chop Tina in her shoulder. Tina promptly parried, grabbed Darren's left arm, and flipped him to the ground hard on his back. Jane's eyes grew in alarm, but Darren merely kicked himself up and bowed to Tina, who bowed back. The two then presumed slowly to encircle each other.

Darren once again tried to initate the attack, but Tina yet again countered, this time reaching behind Darren and flipping him over hard on his side, making him wince this go around. Darren rolled on his back and looked up at her, exasperated. From his point of view, she was upside down.

DARREN: (Slightly out of breath:) You're--enjoying--this, aren't you?

TINA: (Smirks:) Damn right I am. Revenge from Monday, as you full well know. To top it all off, I've got to whip you back into shape, and I know you can do better than that. Get up. (Darren does, and both bow at each other again. The two resume their slow encircling)

Krystal came around the two and over to Jane, who was sketching frantically now, her tongue protruding out of the side of her mouth. She looked over Jane's shoulder, cocking an impressed eyebrow. Jane had already captured the two in battle, with Tina having flipped Darren over. She was even working on Darren's facial expression, which was of pain.

KRYSTAL: (Whistles:) Nice.

JANE: (Still sketching:) Thanks. (In the background, Darren's wince is heard again)

KRYSTAL: (As she watches the sparring:) So, Tina said they found a bug in Jim's room last night, huh?

JANE: (Ditto with the sketching:) Yeeep. Tina took it to the cops, and they're trying to see if they can find some fingerprints on it, or something. My guess is they probably won't. Whoever did this isn't stupid enough to leave any behind, I don't think. Anyways, they checked the entire mansion again after doing everybody's bedrooms, (smirks:) save for Darren's meditation room, of course, this time electronically. They didn't find anything else. (Pauses, ponders for a moment:) You know, Jim seemed to take the discovery of a bug in his bedroom quite calmly. He didn't get too upset or anything.

KRYSTAL: Maybe it hasn't hit him yet. (Cuts eyes down at Jane:) I wonder why one was found in there, of all places? I mean, Darren's, Millie's, or even Helen and Jake's bedroom I can understand, but Jim's? It doesn't make any sense.

JANE: (Stops, looks up at Krystal, shrugs:) Who knows? Tina thought that maybe the person or persons were in the process of putting more in other rooms, starting with Jim's first, but stopped for some reason, maybe because they thought they were about to be discovered. Tina's said she's gonna check out everybody real closely when they come to the party tonight. I made sure she knew what my brother and his friends looked like so she wouldn't give them too much of a hard time when they come in later this afternoon. (Resumes sketching)

KRYSTAL: Oh, that's right, your brother's in a rock band. "Mystik Spiral", right?

JANE: (Not looking up:) Um-hmm. His name's Trent. (Pauses, now looks up at her:) Oh, and they'd prefer to be called an "underground alternative rock band". (Krystal cocks an eyebrow, as Jane smirks:) They said simply using the term "rock band" indicates they're sellouts to the "Man and his system" like every other band in the industry. (In the background, Tina screams, and Darren's wince is heard again)

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles as Jane resumes sketching:) Ah, rebels against the "system". I'll keep that thought in mind. (Watches Darren and Tina spar for a moment, then cuts eyes down to Jane:) Sooo, how did your date with Darren go last night? I heard you guys drew a lot of attention from the photo vultures on the early morning news. (Thought v.o., inwardly bitter sneer: And I thought a shocked Rory was going to drool a lake in lust when he saw your picture on the TV...)

JANE: (Stops, thought v.o. as she looks up to her: Finally! I was wondering when she'd get to that! Bet it's really getting to her. Might as well rub it in...) Yeah, but we avoided the paparazzi pretty good, in fact, it was kinda fun avoiding them, and such. (Smiles, exaggerated "dreamy" expression:) The date was incredible, Krystal. I've never had one go quite like that. We went out to Cherie's, to two museums, both of which I was dying to get into, and we had each place to ourselves! I even met some famous art critics who liked my work! (Slightly wicked smirk:) Darren even found the time to stop by a flower shop and get me a single rose, which he pinned on me. (Krystal forces a smile) Then, we went out to Central Park, where he took me on a carriage ride in the moonlight. (Adds casually:) Tom took me on one once in Lawndale, but Darren's was way better. (Sighs "heavily", smiles:) Darren then kissed me under the stars...(Krystal's mouth clenches under her "smile") it simply swept me away. I'm looking forward to doing that again with him soon.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: If I didn't know better, I'd say Jane was teasing me about her date, even laughing at me... :) (Exaggerated tone, "grins":) That's--wonderful, Jane--

JANE: (Stands, exaggerated "excited" expression, gasps:) Hey, maybe we can even double, no wait, triple, no, quadruple-date, huh? You and your boyfriend, me and Darren, Daria and Tom, Curtis and his girlfriend Lena? (Krystal looks taken aback slightly. Jane smirks:) Why, we'd dirty up the town!

KRYSTAL: (Looks off uneasily:) Well, maybe, Jane, though I'm sort of playing the field now.

JANE: (Thought v.o.: As long as you don't start playing in Darren's field like you want to...) I know how that was, (pauses:) at least before Tom, anyway. Well, I'm sure someone with your looks can get any guy, right?

KRYSTAL: (Tries to regain her footing, "grins":) Everyone keeps telling me that! First, the Fashion Club and the Watley sisters last night, and now you! (Feigns flattery:) Thank you!

JANE: You're welcome. (Pauses, adds:) It's true, isn't it? (Smirks:) You probably have guys lined up at your beck and call. (Stares right at her, pointed tone, forced chuckle as she crosses her arms:) I'm sure glad you're not after Darren. I wouldn't have had a chance. (Another wince is heard in the background, but this time, it's Tina's)

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: If it were up to me, you wouldn't.) (Slight chuckle:) Well, I guess you have nothing to worry about, huh? Darren's just a friend, and that's that.

JANE: (After a moment more of staring at her in silence:) Of course. Just a friend. (Pauses:) And that's that. (Picks up her sketchbook:) Well, I'd better get back to my sketching. Think I'll go over to the other side and sit down by that hill to get a better view. 'Cuse me. (Leaves, but looks back over her shoulder at Krystal for a moment. Jane's expression is stoic, yet pointed)

Krystal stared after Jane for an instant with her own stoic expression, then resumed watching Darren and Tina spar.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Jane knows. I'm sure of it now. She's "staking out" her claim on Darren to me. I guess it's time I ask her to-) (Looks off to the side, distracted:) Curtis?

A smirking Curtis Watley sauntered over the grassy ridge of a hill on Krystal's left, dressed in a casual khaki short-sleeved shirt, baggy black short pants, and black sneakers. He waved over at Krystal, who assumed he'd come over as she returned the wave. Much to her surprise, however, he veered straight to a now-sitting Jane instead. Krystal privately moaned. Curtis' seeming "approval" of Jane as Darren's girlfriend by going over to her first only served to further her frustration. She turned her attention back to Darren and Tina, who were so into their match, they hadn't noticed Curtis as of yet (not that Tina would care).

Jane remaining sitting and sketching as Curtis came over. She stopped and looked up as he approached.

CURTIS: (Smiles:) 'Morning, Jane. (Crosses arms, interested expression:) Sketching the sparring?

JANE: (Returns the smile:) Top of the morning to you, Curtis. Yep, I'm going to town on this.

CURTIS: (Grins as he examines Jane's work, nods:) Yeah. (Pauses:) That's how it usually is--Darren on his butt, and Tina standing over him. You've caught it pretty good.

JANE: (Chuckles:) Thanks. (Pauses:) I see you've finally escaped the homefront after nearly a week of imprisonment, huh?

CURTIS: (Narrows eyes:) I almost didn't. My visiting relatives and monster cousins had just about decided to stay a couple of days more, wanting to "extend" their vacation, but after my hungry dad came home from work last night and discovered that the frig was completely emptied along with the cupboards yet again, meaning that our breakfast this morning was also out of the question, he'd had enough. He got into his typical commanding baritone voice and declared to my mom, me, and my sisters in private, (in a mocking deep tone:) "I can't stand to have my freeloading brother and his family flopped up here with their butts tootied up on our furniture any longer! They're getting the hell out tomorrow, woman!" (Jane laughs out loudly, which draws Darren's attention, distracting him. Tina smirks, and flips him over yet again. This time, his wince is a little more pronounced) I and my sisters immediately backed him up, and out they went early this morning. (Grins:) Mom was sad to see them go, but I'm sure she'll recover, and my sisters will have to clean up after those brats, as per our agreement!

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Agreement"?

CURTIS: (Chuckles:) Yeah, see, it's like this...

After seeing and hearing Jane laugh out, Krystal decided to come around and over to the two as Curtis was explaining. While listening, Jane stopped sketching and stood up as she saw Krystal coming over, privately sensing that Krystal didn't want to feel "left out" of their little conversation. Curtis turned to Krystal as she came up, smiling, having just finished telling Jane. In the background, a more-attentive Darren and Tina continued to spar.

KRYSTAL: Good morning, Curtis.

CURTIS: Hey, Krystal. See you've got a tan from your vacation.

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow, smirks:) As do you--

CURTIS: (Looks down and over on himself:) Oh, really? Well, it's been a little more than a month since I've come back from Florida, you know, it's bound to have faded some. (Pauses:) Besides, how can you tell with the tan that I "naturally" already have? (Both girls chuckle)

KRYSTAL: How's Lena? Darren told me that she'll be coming up here to join you this spring.

CURTIS: One word: Impatient. She's dying to get up here with me, (adds:) not that she's trying to ditch her family, you understand. Still, I consider myself more impatient for her company than she is for mine.

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles, cuts eyes to Jane:) "Patience has it's rewards". It's well worth the wait to get the person you care the most for, (pauses, pointed tone:) isn't that right, Jane?

JANE: (Catches on to the subtle meaning, slight sarcastic tone, quick smirk:) Yeah, and it looks like after my "wait", he came to me. (Krystal stares at her stoically, save for a slight smirk of her own) (Pauses, to Curtis:) Uh, so you two have known each other for a while, huh?

CURTIS: Well, I first met Krystal several days after I first met Dar--(there is a loud shout of "AH!", which draws their attention:) huh? Darren?

Darren was grimacing, rubbing his left shoulder, the one that had been wounded by the bullet in the warehouse. Tina stood beside him, her hands on her hips with a concerned expression. The trio immediately went over to him. Krystal was about to ask if he were alright, but Jane beat her to the punch, putting her hand gingerly on Darren's shoulder as she inquired. Krystal glared at Jane subtly.

JANE: (Concerned frown:) Hey, you okay?

DARREN: Yeah, but I think I moved my operated-on shoulder a little too fast, and one of the muscles pulled just a bit. I should've taken it a little more easy, I guess. Hey, Curtis.

CURTIS: Hey, Darren--(cocks an eyebrow, cooler tone:) Tina. (Tina grunts at him) (Smirks to Darren:) You're not just trying to get out of your little match with Tina here, are you? (Darren cocks an eyebrow) From what I saw while I was coming here over the hill, she was wiping the ground up with you pretty good--as usual. (Darren rolls his eyes. Jane smirks along with Krystal. Tina's eyebrows raise in genuine surprise. Rarely does Curtis pay her a compliment. Curtis notices Tina's expression:) Don't let that go to your head, Tina. (Smirks:) I still can barely tolerate you. (Jane looks between the two, a grin showing. Krystal crosses her arms, having heard all this before, smirks. Darren looks up, annoyed, as if to say, "Not this again.")

TINA: (Smirks back:) Oh, the feeling's more than mutual, Curtis. (Pauses, "sweet" tone:) I still can't tolerate you at all. (Curtis mouths "Ha-ha")

DARREN: (Long, loud sigh exasperated:) Guyyys--

CURTIS: (Puts hands up, grins:) Take it easy, Darren, we're just kidding--

TINA: (Chuckles:) --Mostly, that is. (Pauses:) Seriously, I think you and I should stop for now, Darren. We can pick up on our practice next week while your aunts, cousins, and grandmothers are visiting. You might want the doctor to look at that shoulder between now and then.

DARREN: Tina, I'm fi--

TINA: (No-nonsense look and tone, cuts him off:) --Darren, please do what I ask. I don't want to feel responsible if you get really hurt and reinjure your shoulder while we're sparring.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Damn, I can't practice with him, now. Bet Jane's loving that.) (Before Jane can speak:) She's right, Darren. There's no need to rush yourself to get back into shape. (Slight smirk at Jane, who narrows her eyes, adds:) They'll be plenty of time for that during future sparring matches, right, Jane?

JANE: (Cool tone, stares pointedly at her:) Yeah, right. (Pauses:) "Future" sparring matches. (Curtis frowns a bit at Jane's tone, but dismisses it)

DARREN: (After a moment, unaware of what's going on, like Tina:) Well, okay. We might as well go inside for breakfast, then. Curtis, do you want--

CURTIS: (Cuts him off, slaps hands together:) --I thought you'd never ask! I was so hungry on my way over, I was tempted to eat the grass and tree bark out here! (Jane chuckles while the others stare at him oddly) Jane knows. I'll explain it to you on the way to the mansion.

TINA: (Turns to Krystal, smiles:) Ready to spar with me, Krystal? I'm still pumped-up, and I suspect I won't have to hold back on you as much as I did on Darren. (Darren rolls his eyes, stares at her in mild disbelief, then slips own his own pair of sandals, which were nearby. Curtis and Jane chuckle)

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Huh?

TINA: (Smirks:) You know, "practice", "work out", what you came here for? I don't want you to waste wearing that outfit, and keeping it clean. Outside of Darren and the people who work under me, you're the best workout partner I ever had. Besides, I haven't practiced against you in quite a while, and I'm eager to see what else you've learned in that time.

KRYSTAL: (Glances at Darren, uneasy expression:) Well, uh, but I was going to go in with--

DARREN: (Good-natured chuckle:) --It's okay, Krystal, I'll be fine--

JANE: (Grins, jumps in, puts arm around Darren's waist:) --Yeah, he'll have me and Curtis to take him back to the mansion and prop him up. (Wry, teasing tone:) You can join us later, Krystal--? (Krystal shows a cool expression, forces a smile, curt nod) You guys have a good time. (Walks off with Darren and Curtis)

CURTIS: (As they're walking, slight frown:) And in the meantime, bud, to give us a little something to chew on, maybe you can tell me again why in the hell you're allowing Rory to come to the party tonight...? (Darren sighs while Jane grins)

Krystal snorted to herself as she watched them from behind, then turned to Tina, sat her gym bag down, and started to stretch.


(Scene changes to the mansion, the same time)

In Jim's bedroom, Millie glared at her ex-husband, her arms crossed. Both still had on their nightclothes, and stood in the middle of his room.

MILLIE: --So, your little snide remark in the home theater last night concerning Edward was really about "nothing"?

JIM: (Holds arms out:) Yeah, nothing. I told you that. (Adds:) And it wasn't "snide". I was just wondering why Edward was so concerned about who'd go first when Tina checked our rooms, that's all--

MILLIE: --To which Edward insisted that we check his room first, which Tina did. So, what's the problem?

JIM: (Sighs:) Like I said, there's no problem.

MILLIE: (Narrows eyes:) You'll forgive me if I have a hard time believing that. (Pauses, realizes:) You think Edward had something to do with that bug Tina found in your room last night, don't you, (pauses:) or at least you hope that he did.

JIM: (Frowns:) What's that supposed to mean?

MILLIE: (Stares at him for a long moment as if he's an idiot:) You're wishing that Edward will go away like a bad dream, as if he never existed. You think that since a bug was found in your room, we can pin it on Edward, and this would give you your little "avenue" to worm your way back into my life. Well, I hate to burst your little bubble, but it just won't be, buster! (Jim looks off, exasperated) Your attitude hasn't changed against him, has it? You still don't like him. You've lied to me--

JIM: --Lied?! (Through clenched teeth, growing angry:) Dammit, wait a minute, Mill, I--(pauses, tries to calm himself down:) look, okay, fine. Yeah, I think he had something to do with that bug, don't ask me why, (Millie glares) and yeah, I want to believe he might be behind those damn stories about Darren and his birth family. (Holds hand up before Millie can speak:) Yes, I know nothing was found in his room, but, well--(stops, looks off)

MILLIE: (Narrows eyes:) Go on, Edward, you've come this far, why stop now? What were you going to say?

JIM: (Pained expression, wonders if should say anything about the Apocalypse Now tape Edward claimed to have had, or even Woo:) I--I--(long pause, looks off, quieter tone:) forget it. Just--forget it. I've been under a little, er, strain lately...

MILLIE: (After a moment, deep scowl:) "Strain", huh? (Pauses, controlled tone, sighs:) Jim, I'm not going to say anything to Edward or Darren's birth family about our little talk, but I want you to leave the mansion tomorrow morning, right after Darren's family, Jane, and Quinn's friends do. (Jim looks stunned) I don't think I can stand your being here anymore, particularly with Edward staying here right now. The only reason I'm not asking you to leave now is that it would create more questions than either of us can answer, and I don't want Darren's family to leave here on a bad note, or not to have a good time at the party tonight, knowing that you've left for some reason. I'll speak to Darren about this after you've gone. (Adds:) If you care about him as much as I do, you'll not say anything to him about our conversation.

JIM: (Heartbroken expression, holds arms out:) Mill, for God's sake, don't do this!

MILLIE: (Goes to door, glances back sadly:) I've already made my mind up, Jim. (Pauses:) Oh, and lest I forget, I want us to avoid one another as much as possible until you leave tomorrow, save for the news conference with Darren--we might as well put up a united front for our nephew. (Jim forms a pained expression) Helen wanted everybody to eat downstairs together this morning, but I think I'll make--(pauses:) other arrangements with Edward on breakfast. (Jim rolls his eyes) To be quite frank, I'm afraid I might say something really nasty to you if I'm there with him. (Pauses, softens a little:) I'm sorry, Jim, truly sorry. (Leaves)

Jim looked after her for an instant, then slumped down on his bed. He stared at the phone on his endtable warily, hoping that Woo would have good news soon.


(Scene changes to the dining room, several minutes later)

Daria (thanks to Helen's brand of "motherly persuasion"), Tom, Helen, and Jake were all at the dining table with the Fashion Club, who were to themselves at the far end of the table talking about the party and the upcoming activities for today, eating breakfast, all dressed in their summer clothing, save for Daria, who had on her regular attire. Tom even had departed from his usual ensamble with a short-sleeved white shirt and long, baggy short white pants and sneakers.

The long dining table was almost full (it could sit up to twelve), with a huge selection of fruits, which were eaten mostly by the F.C., of course, and of bacon, eggs, French toast, juice, waffles, sausage, coffee, toast, and other various goodies.

Jane, Darren, and Curtis suddenly entered the dining room and sat at the table, beside Daria and Tom. Fiona immediately came in with Elenor and Claude, placing plates, eating utensils, and napkins in front of the trio.

DARIA: (Stops her conversing with Tom for an instant, sees the three:) Hail, hail, the gang's all here.

HELEN: (Smiles:) Darren, Jane, you're both back already? (In her falsetto voice:) Oh, helloooo, Curtis!

JAKE: (Grins, in a "trying-to-sound-cool" tone:) Yeah, what it iiiis! (Darren chuckles as he sits down beside a smirking Jane. Daria sighs, and Tom shows a small grin. Helen glares briefly at Jake, then resumes eating. Curtis tries not to laugh as he sits down)

CURTIS: (Putting a napkin down the front of his chest:) Uhhhh, good morning, Helen, Jake, everybody. (Fiona begins to serve him) Man, everything looks delicious.

JANE: (Rubs her hands:) Boy, I'll say, what a spread. I'll take a little of everything, Elenor--

QUINN: (Stops in mid-conversation with the rest of the F.C., turns to Jane, smirks:) --Yeah, and while we're eating, you and Darren can tell us how your date went last night! (The other F.C.'ers nod as well. Jane and Darren glance at each other, cocked eyebrows. Jane looks uncomfortable)

JANE: (Thought v.o.: Great. Bragging to Krystal about last night is one thing, but this--:) Um, well--

SANDI: (Cuts in:) --Yes, it like, seems you two would share your evening's exploits with the rest of us. I think it's only fair since we all put sooo much effort into preparing you both.

STACY: (Nodding frantically, giggles, "puppy-dog" expression:) Yeah, pleeeease? (Tiffany simply nods slowly in agreement, smiling)

DARREN: (Pauses, looks between them all:) Er, well--

CURTIS: (Grins while chewing sausage, under his breath:) Looks like you two are becoming boxed in, huh? (Darren narrows an eye at him)

HELEN: (Admonishing tone, cuts in, glances over at Jane and Darren:)--Now, all of you, I don't think Darren and Jane should have to go into specifics, (adds reluctantly, since she privately wants to hear how it went as well:) if they don't, um, want to--

JAKE: (Usual "back-up" mode:) Yeah! (Pauses, turns to Darren and Jane:) So, uh, how'd it go, guys, have a good time?

HELEN: JAKE! (Jake cowers)

DARIA: (Smirks, looks between them all, enjoying this:) --You know, for once, I find myself agreeing with Quinn and her cohorts. (Jane stares at Daria, wide-eyed in shock, then glares. Darren narrows his eyes at her) I cut you two some slack last night by not inquiring, but since everyone else wants to ask, I might as well jump on the bandwagon. Give us the lowdown--(pauses, deadpan:) did you two score with each other?

HELEN & JAKE: (Red along with Darren and Jane, Curtis and Tom smirk along with the F.C.:) DARIA!

JANE: (Sighs, to Darren:) We'd better get this the hell over with and tell them before I lose my appetite--

DARREN: (Nods:) Good idea, we can't keep the details from them any longer, I suppose. I'll start. (Looks around, calm, serious-sounding tone, sighs:) Daria's right. (To Helen and Jake:) Jane and I went to a hotel room in the city and had mad, sweaty, passionate sex. (Pauses, smug look at Jane:) Last night, I became a man.

The others stared at each other in absolute stunned silence, all wide-eyed with their mouths dropped, save for Daria, who cocked a quick eyebrow, then slightly smirked. Even Tom seemed shocked, the same for Curtis, who stopped in mid-eating. Elenor, Claude, and Fiona, who were coming back from the kitchen to remove some of the dishes, paused, and did the same thing. After a moment, Jane, who quickly caught on to Darren's story and had kept a straight face, finally lost it, laughing hysterically, as did Darren. Tom began to laugh, the same for Curtis and the servants.

The Fashion Club looked relieved (particularly Quinn) and chuckled a shaky "We-knew-you-were-just-kidding" laugh, glancing at each other uneasily. Helen and Jake, after almost swallowing their hearts in shock, glared a moment at their birth son, then did the same sort of laugh. Jane and Darren then spoke about how the date really went as all continued to eat.


Over the next thirty or so minutes, after the breakfast, and of Darren's insistence of compensating the Fashion Club for Jane's dress (which she had decided to keep, despite the private but gentle teasing of Daria), Helen showed a list at the dining table of what activities were planned for the now-officially named "Family Time" after the upcoming news conference, such as a "rousing" game of lawn croquet on the estate's vast front grounds, after some picture-taking, with Jake giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Daria and Jane sighed at this, exasperated, with their shoulders slumped, particularly Jane, who shuddered at a previous memory of playing that insipid game once before with Trent--and their estranged relatives. (Note to reader: See the episode "The Teachings of Don Jake") A sympathetic and smirking Tom patted Daria gingerly on the back, consoling her, while Jane's shoulder was rubbed gently by a equally-sympathetic, but smiling Darren, who whispered to her to cheer up, since she'd be probably be gone to see Tess Donovan right after the time the game began anyway. Jane's eyes lit up with delight at the thought, while Daria mock-glared at her friend's luck. Quinn, after consulting with the Fashion Club, insisted that plenty of "nice-smelling sunscreen" be available so that she and her friends could keep a steady tan on their delicate skin while out in the hot sun, as well as plenty of covered golf carts to ride around in. Daria and Jane rolled their eyes.

Next on Helen's list was group horseback riding around the entire estate, which became far more appealing to Daria, who privately and sarcastically vowed to herself that she suddenly could break away from everyone at the first opportunity she got on her horse, but decided against it at the last instant, since she couldn't possibly be able to get to New York City in time to choke Jane for "escaping".

As Helen continued to go down her list, Darren glanced around for Millie, Jim, and Edward, not seeing them come down as of yet. Elenor informed him on the side that his aunt and her beau had decided to eat their breakfast alone out on the rear patio, not wanting to take up any additional room at the table, explaining that there were already "too many people" in the dining room. As for Darren's uncle, she told him that Jim had decided to eat in his room alone, saying he was "exhausted" from last night. This made Darren cock a perturbed eyebrow, wondering what was going on, since there was still plenty of room at the table for them all. He briefly glanced at Curtis, who shrugged. Daria and Jane looked at each other evenly with Tom, but said nothing.

After another few minutes, everyone (including the servants) left the dining room to go the front gates for the news conference together, save for Millie, Edward, and Jim, who were already waiting at the front, with Tina on her way. Krystal, having just finished her workout with Tina (and feeling a bit battered and bruised, much to the amusement of Daria and secret delight of Jane), met the group in the front of the mansion as they all came out. After a brief, but pleasant greeting, she followed them.

In the middle of the crowd, Krystal subtly glared at Sandi as she and the rest of the Fashion Club walked to the front gates of the mansion. They mildly complained about the long walk, and what affect it would have on their "delicate toes". The idea of walking together as a group down the very long driveway (not quite a quarter of a mile) was yet another idea of Helen's, who explained that she thought it would project "togetherness" before the world when the cameras started to whirr.

In the rear of the group, Jane had deliberately and subtly slowed herself and Daria down just enough to lag behind, wanting to privately and to quickly inform Daria out on what was said between her and Krystal this morning. Tom, walking just in front of them, listened wordlessly as well. Up front, Darren walked with Helen, Jake, and Curtis. He was so into speaking to Helen about the news conference, he was unaware of what was going on behind him.


(Scene is now at the front gates, about 20 minutes later)

There was quite a large contingent of the media in front of the gates of the Appleton estate as Darren was speaking in front of a hastily-arranged group of microphones, so much so that the narrow road that ran in front of the estate's gates was completely closed off to local traffic by the local authorities, save for the media and any emergency vehicles. Along with the media, there were some of Maness' locals on hand as well, in the rear of the large crowd. Darren and Millie recognized most of them as their neighbors, more than likely offering their support.

Darren was surrounded on his right side by his birth family, Jane, the rest of the Fashion Club, Millie, Edward, and Jim. On his left side were Curtis, Krystal, Tina, and most of the staff, which included Elenor, Claude, Fiona (who made it a point to keep herself as far away from Krystal as possible), and another maid and butler, along with Leonard Potter. Constance had called to offer her strong support, apologizing for not being able to come because of an important meeting, but letting Darren know that she would be able to come for this evening's party, which pleased Darren.

Earlier, Helen had taken the lead, announcing that after consulting her family, she'd sue the Weekly Blabber for invasion of her privacy concerning her seeing psychologists, (supported by an occasional "Hell, yeah!" by Jake thrown in for good measure) with Leonard and Helen's firm backing her up legally.

When a reporter asked about rumors that a bug had been found in a bedroom, there was an immediate barrage of questions from the media. On this, Tina took over, confirming that she had indeed discovered an electronic bug in Jim's room, and subsequently had turned it over to the police. After a quick glance at Edward, Jim had stepped over to the microphones and briefly announced that he "Didn't know why one was found in my room of all places, I'm just a harmless guy", much to the amusement of Darren and the others to chuckles, with Edward "joining" in. Tina further confirmed that the police didn't find any "recognizable" prints on it, which wasn't a surprise to her. Privately, Edward gave a sigh of relief, while Millie stole a smug glare of "I told you so" at Jim, who simply stayed sullenly silent.

The sum Helen was asking for was in the range of one million dollars, and a public apology from the Weekly Blabber. Darren was in the process of explaining his reasons for not suing, repeating what he had said in the home theater last night, minus his "personal" thoughts, of course.

DARREN: --And that's why I'm not suing, (adds:) tempting as it may be, it simply isn't worth it, (slight frown:) even with the discovery of that electronic bug in my uncle's room last night. I figure that the negative fallout the Weekly Blabber will have to endure from the public over invading our privacy will more than be enough to satisfy me. Also, I've just been informed that the public support for me and my family, particularly here in Maness, has been, suffice it to say, overwhelming. That alone is gratifying enough--

MALE REPORTER: (Cuts in, raises voice with a slight, detectable, sneer:) --Despite the fact that they, along with everyone else, have brought up copies of the Weekly Blabbler around here like they were going out of style? (Darren frowns slightly along with some of his entourage) With all due respect, even you'd think that your neighbors at least wouldn't care that much about your private life at all, Mr. Appleton--

MILLIE: (Before anyone else can speak, scowls:) --Now, wait a minute--

Millie was cut off by shouting and some brief scuffling from the rear, causing her to look over and past the crowd, like everyone else. Some of Maness' residents, nearer to what was going on, immediately recognized who was causing the commotion, beginning to snicker and point, and whispering to one another as the people who started it, a man and a woman, began to advance through the suddenly parting crowd, much like a hot knife going through butter, escorted by a state patrolman.

The man looked embarassingly around as they both came out from the crowd and up to the front, more out of regret that he had suddenly remembered there was to be a news conference at this exact hour, and he had forgotten to try and avoid it with the woman with him in tow. The woman accompanying him merely glared at the crowd, then rolled her eyes with contemptable disdain at them all.

As the cameras whirred and the two came closer, Sandi's eyes grew wide in surprise and recognition, the same for her Fashion Club cohorts, Darren and his birth family, and Jane, who scowled. Millie cocked an inquisitive eyebrow with Edward and Jim. Krystal showed a tiny, wicked smirk.

JANE: (Standing beside Daria, whispers:) Well, well, look what the cat just dragged in--

DARIA: (Returns the whisper, deadpan:) --And that cat paid for it in spades, Jane. It has a bitter taste in its mouth that'll last for a hell of a long damn time.

HELEN: (Steps forward:) Linda? Tom?

(Note to reader: I assume you know that there are two guys named Tom here at the moment, Sloane and Griffin. For the time being, Tom Sloane will be referred to as simply "Tom", and Tom Griffin as "Mr. Griffin" [unless he's spoken about or directly to by Linda, Helen, or by the other "adults"], so there won't be any confusion.)

LINDA: (Aloof tone:) Helen, Jake, everyone. (Mr. Griffin nods wordlessly in acknowledgement, miserable expression)

SANDI: (Comes from behind Darren with Helen:) Mother? Father? What are you two doing here?

LINDA: What does it look like, Sandi? Your father and I are here to take you back home immediately. Get your things--(cuts eyes to Elenor, Fiona, and the other servants standing behind Darren:) or better yet, get the help there to do it for you, and we'll leave.We'll take you up to the mansion in the taxi that brought us here...

SANDI: (Holds arms out, cuts eyes over to the rest of the F.C.:) B-But, Motherrr, I have a party to attend with my friends tonight here! I have a lot of stuff to do with--

LINDA: (Cuts her off sharply, no-nonsense but still-calm tone, narrows eyes:) --Sandi, I'm not going to argue with you. Get your things and leave with us. (Pauses:) Now.

Sandi slumped slightly, looking over to the rest of the Fashion Club and the others with a mixture of embarassment and sadness. She turned slowly in the direction of the mansion when Millie (who had eyed Darren to not say anything just as he was about to speak) spoke in an even, but courteous tone, though privately she did not like this woman, stepping up.

MILLIE: (Forced smile:) Um, hello, Mr. and Mrs. Griffin. I don't know if you two remember me or not--

LINDA: (Slight glare, cool tone, cutting her off:) --Yes, I remember you, Millie Appleton. We met briefly in the hospital a few days after your--(glares at Darren:) "nephew" was shot. (Adds:) Your point being--?

Millie took note of Linda's scowl and contemptous tone to her and her nephew, but managed to keep her now-rising temper under control. She glanced around uneasily at the bevy of reporters intently watching with their cameras whirring, then spoke in a quite-not-so-sincere-but-passing-for courteous tone of voice, simultaneously forcing a light chuckle.

MILLIE: Er, my point is, is why are you and your husband in such a hurry to leave with your daughter? Perhaps you can stay for the party we're having tonight? You're more than welcome to--

LINDA: (Cuts her off, hand up:) --No, absolutely not. I insist that we retrieve our daughter right now, if you don't mind. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Unless you're trying to keep her from us? Is that it? (Everyone looks stunned while the cameras continue whirring, save for Krystal, who subtly tries like crazy not to snicker)

MR. GRIFFIN: (Wide-eyed:) Linda!

MILLIE: (Ditto:) W-What? No, of course not!

HELEN: (Getting into the fray:) Linda, that's preposterous! I think Millie's only trying to say--

LINDA: (Voice starts to rise:) --Trying to say that she, you, and your family are trying to spoil my daughter up here, so much so, that she wouldn't want to come back to her family willingly!

DARIA: (Low whisper, to Jane:) I wouldn't want to come back to my family willingly if my mom did what Mrs. Griffin's doing to her daughter right now, (pauses:) not that I haven't been tempted to come back to them on any other occasions either, you understand.

JANE: (Ditto to Daria, smirks:) You mean, Helen hasn't done this before to you during your miserable past?

DARIA: (Pauses, ponders:) Actually, with the exception of a very rare case or two, she hasn't. (Pauses as Jane cocks a surprised eyebrow:) At least not in front of the entire world. My mom usually waits to humiliate me in private.

JANE: (Nods:) Good. Keep it in the family, I always say. (Daria shows a slight smirk)

MILLIE: (Scowls, before an increasingly angry Helen can speak:) Now, just wait one damn second, Mrs. Griffin! No one is keeping you and your husband from leaving with your daughter! I just thought--

LINDA: --No, you didn't think. You and your overly-rich family care only about yourselves, (sneers:) all directing us from your tiny little private kingdom, from which you can manipulate us, the "Little People"--

MR. GRIFFIN: (Shocked expression:) Linda!

SANDI: (Alarmed with her father, for the situation is beginning to get out of control:) Motherrr, please--

JAKE: (For the first time, trying to step in:) Uh, Helen--

HELEN: (Intently watching the face-off, puts up hand to stop him:) Not now, Jake! (Thought v.o.: Sock it to her, Millie!)

MILLIE: (Now in Linda's face:) --I beg your pardon?! (Snorts:) You? The "Little People"? Don't make me laugh! Just because your asinine idea of attempting to shove your poor daughter onto my nephew on the off-chance that she might've been able to seduce him into marrying her so you could steal his money through her fell flat on it's face, and you turned out embarassed beyond belief, don't you dare take it out on us, you--you conniving (pauses, bitterly spits out:) bitch! (Everyone gasps in shock except Helen and Jane, who are smirking along with Daria. Krystal bites her tongue to keep from laughing out loudly, turns away)

LINDA: (Shocked, red-faced, narrows eyes:) Who-in-the-HELL are you calling a "bitch", you (pauses, looks for something to call her in return, settles for:) bitch?! (Begins to take a step towards a frowning and steadfast Millie [by which a scowling-Jim also begins to subtly move in response to protect Millie] as the cameras whirr even more, but is quickly and firmly held by Mr. Griffin via her arms from behind. [This stops Jim as well. Only Daria and Jane notice this] Linda looks at his hands out of each corner of her eye, dangerous glare and cool tone:) Tom, remove your hands from me right this instant!

MR. GRIFFIN: (Hesitates as if in pain, then swallows:) N-No, Linda. I won't. You're out of control, you've got to calm down.

LINDA: (Becomes stunned, then furious at her husband's actions as she strains to turn and glare at him:) I'm--I'm out of control?! She's the one who called me a "bitch", you idiot! If anything, you're supposed to defend me against being insulted like this! Develop a backbone for once, and be a man, damn it! (Mr. Griffin winces out of embarassment. Some of the male reporters, Jake, and Jim mouth "Ooooh") Now release me! (Very nasty tone:) I won't ask you again.

As Mr. Griffin stared at his wife and pondered what he'd say, there was an absolute silence, save for the constant whirring of the cameras. Helen was privately surprised at (and privately impressed by) Mr. Griffin, previously assuming that the man indeed had no backbone when it came to dealing with his wife. (Not that she and Jake had the same problems, oh no.) Jake took the time to gently put a hand on his wife's shoulders. Unlike Linda, this calmed Helen down.

In the meantime, Sandi was mortified, gently placing her hand on her forehead. First, her parents come out of the blue from Lawndale, now this incredibly and increasingly embarassing situation--moreso in front of the media, and not the rest of the Fashion Club, whom she had grown closer to this past week. It was bad enough she had to deal with having nightmares about herself and Darren almost every night. Now, she was dealing with a real one in her parent's face-off, which, when she further thought about it, shocked her a bit, for her father was beginning to stand up to her mother, a continuation of her father's recent "brave" behavior.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Now more firm tone:) No, Linda. Not until you get a hold of yourself. (Scowls:) You're right about one thing, though--I'm going to develop a "backbone" and be a "man" by putting an end to your ridiculous behavior. (Linda's mouth drops in shock along with Sandi's and Helen's) This situation has gotten totally out of hand. You've already embarassed me by forcing us to come up here, then embarassed our daughter in front of her friends and everyone else. (Mr. Griffin looks over at Darren and Millie, expression softens:) From what I've seen, the Appletons have treated our daughter with nothing but kindness, even moreso after Tuesday, by which they didn't really have to, and could've sent her back to us then. They seem to be good people. (Millie, Darren, and his family give Mr. Griffin an appreciative expression. Daria and Jane glance at each other wordlessly)

SANDI: (Comes up:) Father's right, Mother. Darren and his family have been very kind to me. I've had a lot of fun up here with my friends. (Pauses, in an unsually contrite tone for her, surprising Daria and Jane in particular:) Please don't make me leave here, it's just one more day. We can go back tomorrow.

DARREN: (Steps up, nods:) I'll go even one step further: You both could stay here overnight with Sandi, while going to the party. We have plenty of room, and you could go back with my family tomorrow to Lawndale on my jet. I'm more than willing to put all of this--(pauses, looks for words:) "unpleasantness" behind us if you are, Mrs. Griffin. How about it? (Krystal's eyes narrow)

After a long moment, Linda looked between her husband and daughter as if they had lost their minds, then at Darren with an unreadable expression. She shook her head slowly in disbelief.

LINDA: (Now a nasty glare at Darren, vicious tone:) You can keep your damn jet, Darren! We don't need or want your charity! (Strains to twist around to Mr. Griffin and Sandi:) Both of you, or rather you, Sandi, have grown soft! (Pauses:) SOFT, DAMN IT!! (Mr. Griffin, Sandi, and even Darren draw back in fear, though Linda's husband is still holding her) I am not hearing this, I can't be! (Pauses, comes to her own personal realization:) Then again, maybe it's really not that surprising! (Jerks herself out of her husband's grip, turns to him, furious:) I can see now that Sandi's finally turning out to be her father's "true" daughter after all, isn't she?!

MR. GRIFFIN: (Pauses, backs off a little, looks off uneasily towards Sandi, everyone else, light chuckle:) Uhhh, dear, maybe this isn't quite the right time or place to say that, if you know what I mean--

LINDA: (Still in her furious mode:) --And why not?! (Sneers:) Are you starting to lose some that precious backbone that you've just "developed", dear?! I think it's the perfect time to say it, Tom! Sandi's like just you now--a true wuss when it comes to dealing with people! (Sandi looks stunned with everyone else, save for Krystal, who's now watching intently, intrigued by what seems to be a major turn of events. Linda looks at Sandi, narrows eyes:) I tried to instill my confidence and power into you out of my love throughout your life, I really did, but I obviously failed in the end!

MR. GRIFFIN: (In a calming tone, yet wide-eyed, alarmed:) Honey, please, you've got to calm down--

LINDA: (Now even more enraged:) --Why should I, Tom?! It doesn't matter if she knows, anyway! (Sandi frowns, confused at her mother's words) She's just like you, now, remember?! Besides, she's a big girl, she can take it, and since you haven't had the guts to tell her after all these years, I might as well get it out for Sandi and the world to hear! (Turns to Sandi, pauses:) Say hello to your aunt Linda, Sandi!

There was a definitive complete and stunned silence from everyone following the customary loud gasp of shock, save once again for the still-whirring cameras. Mr. Griffin had a horrified expression on his face, looking between his wife and daughter. Even Daria looked shocked along with everyone else. Jane was able to mouth "Damn!" through her shock, while Quinn mouthed "Oh-my-GOD!", through her's. Stacy looked as if she wanted to faint (again), but Tiffany held her up. Darren turned pale in realization when he remembered his conversation with Mr. Griffin the night Sandi had tried to kiss him in front of her home, and of Mr. Griffin's explanation of "long and complicated" concerning his marriage to his wife.

Sandi looked up at her mother, confused, not quite comprehending, more out of shock than anything else. Apparently, she was just about the only one who didn't get it from the get-go, with the exception, of course, of Tiffany, who simply looked out of it (as usual).

SANDI: (Shakes head slowly:) I--I don't understand Mother, what do you mean, "aunt" Linda?

LINDA: (Neutral, aloof tone:) It's as I said, Sandi. I'm your aunt Linda. Jenny, my sister, and who you thought to be your aunt, is actually your "real" mother. (Glares at Mr. Griffin, sneers:) But don't worry, dear--he's your "real" father. I'm sure you can put two and two together...

DARIA: (Thought v.o. as she watches, sadly: Which'll equal one hell of a emotional explosion, I believe...)

SANDI: (Blinks, shakes, backs up slowly:) N-No. You c-can't be serious! (Looks at Mr. Griffin, horror-stricken:) F-Father, tell me Mother is not serious!

MR. GRIFFIN: (Long pause, sad expression, sighs:) Sandi, I, well--I--

SANDI: (Turns pale, wide-eyed:) Oh, God, oh, my God--no, NO! (Turns around, runs through the gates towards the mansion, crying)

QUINN & STACY: SANDI! (Both go after her. After a moment of confusion, Tiffany follows)

MR. GRIFFIN: (Scowls:) Dammit, Linda! Look at what you've done! (Suddenly grabs his wife forcefully by her arm, turns her towards the fleeing back of Sandi:) LOOK AT HER! (Goes after his daughter)

Linda stared after her husband and snorted, looking at the red handprint he left on her arm. She paused, frowned out of realization, and turned slowly around to look at the throng of people. Virtually just about everyone was either glaring at her in steely silence, or in stunned disbelief with their mouths opened at her audacity. Linda's face formed a foolish expression, then she quietly walked through the mansion's gates in silence to follow her husband, repeatedly looking out of the corner of her eye behind her, as if she half-expected for someone to jump her from behind (not that one or two persons didn't consider doing just that in their minds).

Darren stared after Linda, then turned to the media. He had a stoic expression on his face.

DARREN: (Cool tone:) Show's over, people. (Turns, goes through the gates with the others wordlessly)


TINA: (Suddenly appears in front of the reporter, looks down in her eyes:) You heard Mr. Appleton. Go. (Pauses, narrows eyes in a nasty glare:) Now. (The reporter cringes, turns to leave with the other media members, though one or two are off to the side, giving live news reports)


(Scene changes to Sandi's bedroom, several minutes later)

Sandi cried in her pillow, not caring about the mascara that ran down freely on her cheeks. She frowned, perplexed beyond words. My mother is really my aunt Linda, and my aunt Jenny is really my mother? This is sooo damn confusing! Obviously, Sandi felt as if her whole world had been just turned upside down and inside out--which it had.

Outside the room, Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany were standing, obviously worried. Quinn had been frantically knocking for a minute after rattling the locked doorknob. Stacy wiped her eyes, wet from crying for Sandi, of course. Tiffany stood by with her usual vacant expression, handing Stacy tissues. To her, it was doing something, at least.

QUINN: (Worried expression while still knocking:) Sandi? Please, Sandi, let us in, we wanna help you get through this! (Pauses, hears silence, save for a few sobs:) I-I guess she doesn't wanta see anybody...

STACY: T-This is terrible! What are we going to do, Quinn?

TIFFANY: Yeah...do?

QUINN: (Sighs, slumps:) All we can do is just be there for her when she's ready to talk, I guess.

Mr. Griffin suddenly came up the hallway from the side. Quinn narrowed her eyes and glared nastily at him with utter contempt, whereas Stacy and Tiffany stared uneasily. Mr. Griffin cringed at Quinn's expression.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Quiet tone, sighs:) I guess I deserved that look. (Pauses:) Uh, may I try to speak to Sandi--?

QUINN: (After a moment, takes note of his sad look, softens her expression:) Well, um, you can try, I guess. We haven't had any luck in trying to talk to her. Don't bother trying to turn the knob, it's locked. (Steps aside)

MR. GRIFFIN: Thanks. (Starts knocking:) Sandi? Please open up! It's me, your father!

SANDI: (From inside, muffled and very bitter, sarcastic:) Are you sure you're my "real" father, and not my "uncle"?!

TIFFANY: (To no one in particular:) But I thought...he was her...father...

MR. GRIFFIN: (Rolls eyes at Tiffany, sighs:) Yes, Sandi, I am your father--your real and birth father like your mo--(pauses, checks himself:) Linda said, and not your uncle! Please let me in so I can explain what happened, I'm begging you!

There was a long pause, then the door slowly was unlocked and opened. Quinn and the other Fashion Clubbers gasped at her very matted-looking hair and facial features for the briefest instant, but Sandi was way past worrying about how she looked for a change, ignoring their reaction while zeroing in on her father with an emotionless expression (Daria would've been proud). Mr. Griffin turned to the group.

MR. GRIFFIN: Would you all please leave me to speak to Sandi alone?

QUINN: (Cocks an eyebrow, keeps her eyes on Mr. Griffin:) Sandi?

SANDI: (After a moment, changes expression, softens:) I'll be fine, Quinn, everybody. (Hesitates:) Um, thanks for coming up here, I appreciate it.

STACY: (Suddenly surprises Sandi by hugging her:) It was the least we could do for you, Sandi! (Puts Sandi at arm's length, narrows eyes:) If you need anything, just call us, okay?

SANDI: (Small smile, genuine:) Like, I--will, Stacy. (Stacy nods, lets go) (Watches them leave, turns to her father, motions with a subtle contemptible sneer:) After you-- (Mr. Griffin goes in hesitantly, door is shut behind him. Quinn looks at the others for a moment and vice-versa, then they head downstairs)


Mr. Griffin looked around Sandi's room as his daughter sat down on her bed and crossed her arms, now scowling.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Hesitates, trying to lighten the mood:) Er, Darren gave you quite a nice room. It's bigger than the one you have at home. You even have a walk-in closet.

SANDI: (Gives a quick glance around:) Yes, I do, and it's bigger than mine as well. (Pauses, straight to the point:) What, like, happened with you and aunt Jenny, Father?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Sits down on the bed beside her, pauses:) A stupid thing we both did one night almost seventeen-and-a-half to eighteen years ago, Sandi, (to which Sandi drops an eyebrow, adds quickly:) please don't take that in the wrong way. Your moth--Linda and I had some major problems early in our marriage. I was struggling through my first accounting job right out of college, the same for your mother at her new job as an young anchor for the early morning news that she had gotten right out of college. Our schedules always seemed to miss each other, and we rarely had enough time to be a real husband and wife to one another. It was straining us both badly, to say the least. We'd get into shouting matches, eventually even throwing a vase or two at each other. (Sandi looks surprised, genuinely shocked that her father actually had a backbone against Linda once) Anyway, your aunt Jenny, then a sophomore who had followed Linda across the country and was going to the same university, a (pauses:) "byproduct" of their parent's encouragement for Linda to keep an eye out for her "baby" sister, suddenly came by our apartment one night while your mother was out of town at a media convention. Jenny had had a nasty argument with her college boyfriend and they had broken up, which upset her greatly. She ran to Linda for some moral support, but found me instead. Jenny was really upset and crying. Add to that my being the dutiful brother-in-law who himself wanting to be--(pauses:) "appreciated", I, well, attempted to comfort her. (Pauses, looks off, shamefaced and embarassed:) Jenny--was quite--attractive, and one thing led to another--

SANDI: (Frowns:) --And like, I was (ugh) conceived, an' everything nine months later, right?

MR. GRIFFIN: I--yes, I guess it was like that. In between, needless to say, your mo--Linda was rightfully quite furious with us when I broke down and told her what happened after she came back a few days later. I was feeling guilty as hell, the same for your au--birth mother Jenny. In fairness to Linda, she didn't speak immediately about this to your grandparents on both sides, which I have to admit, shocked me to no end. (Pauses:) I thought for sure that the marriage was over. Linda explained to me that your granddad on her side had a weak heart, and it would've killed him if he and your grandmother found out, that the best thing to do was to not tell anyone, at least for the time being.

SANDI: But, like, what did you all do when you found out au--Jenny was pregnant with me? How was she able to stay in college, and stuff? What about the holidays when you all visited grandmother and grandfather? How'd you cover all of that?

MR. GRIFFIN: Well, when Jenny told us after she had started to have morning sickness symptoms a few months later as well as her beginning to show, and had checked with a doctor, the personal pain returned to Linda, and to me for doing this to her--to both of them. However, Linda was still very close to Jenny, (Sandi's eyebrows raise in genuine surprise, but her father doesn't notice) and even after what had happened, Jenny was still her "baby" sister. Linda decided to take care of Jenny like I did--and the baby she was carrying as well. We decided to pay for everything, and helped Jenny to continue in her studies, (pained expression:) even working out a "convenient" cover story to her classmates that Jenny had gotten pregnant by a "fellow student" who had dropped out and left school, and had abandoned her when he found out she was carrying his child. Some angry students wanted to "pursue" the guy, but we and Jenny convinced them that he "wasn't worth it". (Pauses:) We both usually went with her to the doctor for regular examinations. When it was time for Jenny and us to visit your grandparents, Linda covered for her absences, saying that Jenny was, er, too busy to come with us, having to study very much for her major, which was botany, and she wouldn't have time to visit until, surprise, a year later. Of course, Jenny called your grandparents frequently so she wouldn't be a "stranger" to them, though it was extremely hard for her emotionally to lie to them.

SANDI: (After a long pause, taking this all in:) Like, um, didn't the doctor you guys went to ask any embarassing questions and stuff, you know, like who was the father?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Shrugs:) Of course, and we came clean and told him I was, since we had to establish a true medical history for you. (Pauses:) He didn't really judge us, thank goodness. In fact, he praised us for being completely honest.

SANDI: (Another long pause:) You said mo--(pauses, lowers voice for an instant on the word:) mother and you helped to take care of the baby--me, right, while Jenny was carrying me? (Mr. Griffin nods) Well, after I was born, how'd I end up with you two and not her?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Sighs:) Jenny--wasn't ready to have a child, Sandi. She was still going to school, and raising you full-time would've taken that away, that and the fact she had plans to wait until she was married and well-established in her career to do so. We, or rather, Linda, offered, no, insisted on wanting to raise you as her own child and I immediately agreed. (Pauses:) I did not want to give away my own daughter to be adopted. (Frowns, pauses, pensive expression:) You know, it's ironic: My cheating on Linda actually ended up saving our marriage because it made us both more determined to work out our problems--(pauses:) well, that and having you as--as--our daughter. (Sandi simply stares at him with no expression) When Jenny had you, we immediately had the papers made out to have me as the father and Linda as the mother.

SANDI: (Turns pale:) So, aunt Jenny didn't want me, 'cause I'd be a "burden" to her? (Goes on before Mr. Griffin can speak, snorts, looks away:) I'm surprised she just didn't abort me when she first found out she was pregnant!

MR. GRIFFIN: (Shakes his head forcifully:) NO! Don't you dare think either of those things, do you hear me?! (Sandi draws back at his tone, surprised) Your au--birth mother loved you enough to never have done a thing like that to you and of giving you to us, I loved you enough to want you, too--(pauses, adds:) and Linda loved you enough to want you to be her daughter! We all loved you!

SANDI: (Stands, points accusingly:) Oh? If that's the case, why didn't any of you tell me all of this earlier in my life, huh? (Pauses:) And when I think about it further, did my grandparents ever find out about this--on both sides?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Stands as well:) Your grandfather on your mo--Linda's side died before we told your grandmother. (Frowns slightly:) When I think about it, she seemed to not be all that surprised when we told her, taking it very well. She said that you looked more like Jenny's daughter than Linda's anyway. (Pauses, ponders, looks up:) Yes, that's right. (Sandi rolls her eyes) We also told my parents right afterwards. They, however, took it far worse, being furious with me and Jenny for doing such a thing to Linda, (sighs:) and I really couldn't blame them. After a while, they forgave us, especially after they saw that Linda had forgiven me, and we were working on strengthening our marriage. They've obviously kept the secret like Linda's mother, even until this day.

SANDI: (Crosses her arms, cool look:) And what about telling me?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Pained expression: ) I wanted to, Sandi, I really did, but I--(long pause:) I just couldn't. I was too ashamed, and I was so--so scared about how'd you react. There were times I wanted to tell you when I stared at you playing by yourself in your room when you were little, but I just didn't have the backbone, (bitter chuckle, looks off:) which proved Linda right, I suppose. I felt guilty about my part in bringing you into this world, and I couldn't let go thinking about that. (Pauses:) I'm not trying to blame Linda, but every time we'd get into an argument, she'd bring up what I did, holding it over me, and I eventually--(hangs head:) just--shut up. I began to get it in my head that Linda was right, I was a wuss, and I just gave up and let her decide to run everything, including the marriage, eventually. You might say I thought I was obligated to let her have her way. (Pauses, looks back up, quiet tone:) I'm--I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Sandi.

Sandi turned away slowly from her father and stared off into space, deep in thought, trying to piece all of the seemingly unbelievable story she was hearing together. Mr. Griffin decided to not to say anything to interrupt her, allowing his daughter to dictate the situation. He felt he owed her that much, at least. After a long moment, she spoke in a low tone as if she were in a daze, her back still to him.

SANDI: Aunt Jenny rarely came around to visit us, even after she married uncle Mike and had a family, and went back to the West coast to live. (Shrugs:) I just thought she and (hesitates:) mother weren't, you know, close when they were growing up. (Pauses:) I remember she hardly came around me when she did visit, (narrows eyes, realizes:) even sort of avoiding me. When I think about it now, she got along better with Sam and Chris than with me. (Turns to her father, who looks briefly surprised and hopeful to have heard Sandi still call Linda her "mother" once again:) Was it because of what happened?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Nods head slowly:) Yes, basically, but I blame myself for that. (Sandi frowns at him, confused. He notices:) I could've told you at any time, remember, and I didn't. I asked Jenny to let me tell you, and she allowed me to do it whenever I wanted. (Sighs, sad expression:) If only I had done this sooner, maybe Linda and Jenny could've become closer again instead of eventually drifting apart--(pauses, guilty look:) because of what I did--and you wouldn't have had to go through all of this, now. (Pauses, frowns:) I think that's definitely part of what made Linda the way she is now, you know, her becoming hard-driving, determined, and uh, well--

SANDI: (Bitter smirk:) --And "bitchy", you can say it, Father, I won't be offended. (Sighs:) After all, I was taken under her wing, and she "molded" me into what she wanted me to be--like her. (Pauses, small chuckle:) I suppose I won't be able to use her as a "shield" against you when you get mad at me if I act like a spoiled brat anymore, huh?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Surprised expression that Sandi herself pointed this out, then a small smile:) Well, I guess not, though it'll be a heck of a lot easier for you not to behave like that now that you realize this, (pauses, frowns:) like I do now to be strong, as opposed to not having the "backbone" to tell you after all these years. (Sighs, slumps shoulders:) You're not the only one who was "molded", Sandi, though in my case, I allowed your mo--(hesitates, decides to continue:) your mother to do it, I have no excuses. (Pauses, turns pale:) Oh no, I just thought of something. (Sandi cocks an eyebrow) Sam and Chris. How are they going to react?

SANDI: (Sighs, rolls her eyes:) I suppose they'll get through this, just like I'm going to have to do. (Pauses:) And in case you're wondering, I still consider them to be my--(pauses:) brothers, not my half-brothers or half-cousins, or something, and aunt Jenny's kids to still be my cousins, (adds, brief scowl, sarcastic:) though at times I wish I could see my brothers as not being related to me at all.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Small smile, chuckles, relieved:) I'm glad you still see them as that, Sandi--(pauses, hesitates:) and--and apparently the same for Linda as your mother. (Sandi shows a cool expression, looks off for an instant)

SANDI: (Dismissive tone:) I basically decided to do that because I've been raised by her all of my life, along with you. Both of you are my parents. I can't simply, like, sweep that under an icky dirty boulder, or whatever. (Scowls:) Still, there are some things that are going to change when we get back home. We've all got to have a long talk, or something.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Nods:) Agreed--not just for you and us, but for me and--(pauses:) your mother, as well. (Pauses:) Speaking of which, I was thinking about your talking with someone else when we get back, too.

SANDI: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Oh? Talk to who?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Pauses, swallows:) Uh, a psychologist? (Sandi's eyebrows raise in surprise) Darren--told me about his suspecting that you were somehow affected by what happened in the warehouse that night. (Sandi grows tense, cringes slightly) Let's face it, Sandi, you have been acting differently ever since that night, and it's just too much for me to ignore that much of a change. (Sandi looks off, says nothing) Darren offered in full to pay for you to see one, like he's doing. I heard you talking about having a nightmare or two about it to your mother before you came up here, and Darren confirmed it to me before he had that news conference on Tuesday. (Pauses:) I hope you won't be annoyed with Darren for telling me.

SANDI: (Hesitates:) I--no, I won't, Father. I know he only has my best interests at heart, particularly because he, like, felt guilty because he thought all that happened that night was all his fault. The same goes for my friends, (pauses:) especially Quinn--and, uh, you. (Mr. Griffin looks surprised at his daughter's frankness, and Sandi quickly continues, shudders:) I've had the same nightmare just about every night since it happened, except for this Tuesday. (Mr. Griffin now takes on a concerned expression) I suppose that was because I was sooo excited about going to see Candi Gunwald, an' stuff.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Pauses, comes over to her, gently places his hands on her shoulders:) Do you--want to talk about your nightmare, (adds quickly as Sandi cringes again, quickly removes hands:) or, maybe not--?

SANDI: I, no, it's, like, okay. I don't think it'll hurt to talk about this to you--(pauses:) I'll stop if it gets, like, too hard or something. (Pauses, takes a deep breath:) I dreamed of finding Darren having been shot, lying on his back, in a pool of blood, like I saw him in the warehouse that night. Only in this case, it was outside, at night, on some sort of grassy plain, or something, and I was all alone with him. I came over, kneeled down beside him, and started to cry while caressing his face. I tried to say something to comfort him, but the words, like, got stuck in my throat and wouldn't come out. He looked up at me, and held my other hand, saying, "I'm sorry, Sandi", over and over again. (Pauses, looks as if she wants to cry, but holds back. Her father holds her close to him) Darren then went limp and died, (adds:) with his eyes open. The next instant, it began to rain--blood. (Mr. Griffin looks horrified. Sandi pauses, shudders:) Lots and lots of it. It, like, seemed to get soaked into everything, (pauses:) including me. I looked down at Darren, and he like--like, (narrows eyes, searches for words:) turned into a skeleton, then into dust for a second, then into a bloody sorta mud that sank in the red ground. I screamed, then I woke up. I was in a cold sweat, an' everything.

MR. GRIFFIN: Oh Lord, Sandi--(hugs her, and she reluctantly begins to return it)

SANDI: (Holding back sobs:) I, like, couldn't sleep but for a little while, then hardly at all! (Calms herself a little:) I started to hate sleeping, and at times even looking at Darren while I was awake up here, (adds:) at least at first, that's why I didn't wanna come up here, but I slowly became used to seeing him. (Pauses:) I tried to keep myself busy while being up here during the early morning hours, like going to the home theater to see a movie, or of seeing TV in my room, an' stuff, anything to try an' not to sleep, at least at night! (Pauses, quieter tone:) I slept a little better when the sun was up in the mornings, an' I could sleep in...

MR. GRIFFIN: (Rocking her, gentle tone:) Oh, Sandi, I'm so sorry--

SANDI: (Pulls away from him gently, wipes her eyes:) Wait, there's more. When I heard that Darren and his birth family were going to talk in the media room that night, I--(pauses:) decided to listen in, secretly.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Shocked:) What?! Sandi, that was supposed to be--

SANDI: (Cuts him off, annoyed:) --Yeah, like I know, a private conversation, and everything, you don't have to remind me, okay?! (Snorts:) It doesn't matter now, since everybody else has either heard or read about it since then, anyway! (Sighs, looks down:) Look, I had to find out if anybody was affected that night like me--

MR. GRIFFIN: (Takes over:) --You mean, like when that "Jane Lane" girl didn't use her red paints for a couple of days, and had no red in her paintings for a little while, because it reminded her of seeing Darren's blood? (Sandi pauses to remember, nods)

SANDI: (Surprised tone, snorts:) Then, like, I heard Quinn, who was actually worried about me! Quinn, the girl who I considered a threat to my popularity, beauty, and leadership in the Fashion Club ever since she first came to Lawndale High, didn't want anything bad to happen to me! Me! (Pauses, quieter tone:) That like, really got to me. She cared. Really cared...(Mr. Griffin smiles)

MR. GRIFFIN: I guess you sort of misjudged her, huh?

SANDI: I--guess. (Brief smirk:) Mostly. Anyway, Quinn's been keeping an eye out on me, even trying to hint at me to speak to her about it. I--couldn't tell her, I just couldn't, even though I wanted to the other day when she--(pauses:) confided something to me. I--didn't want to look weak to her or Stacy and Tiffany, and for them to think I was sorta loony in needing to see a shrink an' stuff.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Surprised expression:) Weak? Actually, I think it would've had the opposite effect. (Sandi cocks an eyebrow) She and your other friends probably would've admired you for telling them how you felt about that night. It would've shown that you were--human.

SANDI: (Looks off:) I--suppose.

MR. GRIFFIN: And as for the "loony" part about your seeing a, er, "shrink", you don't think Darren or his birth mother were "loony" for seeing any, do you?

SANDI: (Shakes head:) No, like, of course not. (Pauses:) I guess things are going to be a little different from now on with my friends when we all get back to Lawndale.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Smiles:) I guess so. It's good to have friends who'll always be there for you.

SANDI: (Ditto:) Yes, it is. But still--(long pause:) I-I suppose I should see a shrink, or something, huh?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Gentle tone, relieved expression:) I don't think it could hurt, Sandi, only help. (Hesitates:) I--tried to tell your mother several times about your possibly needing to see one after I spoke to Darren, but, well, she didn't want to be disturbed after being humiliated on Tuesday--(looks off)

SANDI: (Rolls eyes:) --She, like, wouldn't listen to you, of course. (Pauses, bitter tone which Mr. Griffin picks up on:) Figures.

The intercom in Sandi's room suddenly activated. Sandi went over to the intercom.

CLAUDE: (Voice, unsure:) Miss Sandi--? I'm truly sorry to have bothered you, but there's a call from a "Jenny Newman". (Sandi and her father look at each other, surprised) She claims she's your (pauses:) aunt, and she wants very much to speak to you--(pauses:) if you're up to it.

SANDI: (Cuts in, clicks on receiving button:) --No, it's quite alright, Claude. She's (pauses, glances at her father:) definitely my aunt. Thank you, I'll speak to her.

CLAUDE: Very well, Miss Sandi. I shall direct the mansion's operator to connect her to your room. (Signs off. Sandi releases the receiving button)

MR. GRIFFIN: I guess she viewed what happened on the TV like everyone else. (Pauses:) Or someone could've told her. (Pauses, concerned expression:) Sandi, are you sure you're really ready to--

SANDI: (Firmly interrupts him, slight determined frown:) --Yes, Father, I am. (Sighs:) I'm going to have to talk with her sooner or later anyway, so it might as well be now.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Pauses:) All right, Sandi, if that's what you want. I'll go downstairs and find--find your mother.

SANDI: (Small smile:) Very well, Father. (Pauses:) And, um, thanks for comforting me.

MR. GRIFFIN: (Returns the smile:) You're welcome, Sandi. (Pauses, hesitates:) And thank you for not hating me, or your mother. (Leaves as Sandi pauses, ponders on his words for an instant, then reluctantly picks up her phone as it begins to ring)


(Scene changes to the downstairs, a few minutes earlier)

Helen, Jake, Millie, and Edward were with Linda in the family room. Leonard had went back to Appleton Tower, and Jim had immediately excused himself to his room, which caused Edward to subtly smirk, assuming Jim had more "business troubles" to check on, or speak to Woo about. Jane and Darren had both gone to their rooms for a quick shower and change of clothing, ditto for Krystal, who was doing the same in an upstairs spare full bath, for she had brought her own clothes, both for today, and for tonight's party. Daria, Tom, and Curtis were in the study/library, and the Fashion Club, minus Sandi, of course, had went outside on the rear patio. It had been Millie's idea while they had walked back to the mansion for Darren and Jane to take the opportunity to go ahead and change, primarily becuse she (good-humorously) suggested that they were beginning to "Smell a little ripe", much to the amusement of Daria, Tom, and Curtis. Both immediately rolled their eyes playfully at her, and went.

In actuality, Millie had an another motive for dismissing her nephew and Jane to freshen up: The constantly nasty scowls they both were giving Linda as they followed her to the mansion, along with Millie herself and everyone else, but moreso with Darren and Jane. Rather than possibly seeing a shouting match break out with Linda after they came in (basically from Jane), Millie wanted a cooling-off period. Apparently, Helen had somehow picked up on this, and had privately thanked Millie for coming up with the suggestion.

Needless to say, the early part of the planned "Family Time" was abruptly cancelled. There was a tense silence and some more serious glaring in the large room between Helen, Millie, and Linda, with virtually only Linda on her own side, alone, with her arms crossed, looking out through the large window that overlooked the mansion's rear grounds. In the middle of the room, a scowling Millie leaned over to Helen, whispering.

MILLIE: (While watching Linda's back:) Look at that witch. The absolute nerve of her, just staring there, as if she doesn't have a damn care in the universe. How in the world could you have tolerated knowing that woman for almost two years, Helen?

HELEN: (Sighs, whispers back while glancing at Linda:) It wasn't easy, Millie, believe me. I didn't have to see her everyday in Lawndale, at least.

MILLIE: (Still scowling:) Just seeing her one second everyday can ruin anybody's cheery disposition. (Shakes head slowly:) How could she do that to her own--(pauses, still in a tone of disbelief:) niece?

HELEN: (Nods slowly:) It still boggles my mind that Sandi's actually Linda's niece, too. To me, Sandi looks so much like Linda, though in fairness I've never met this "Jenny" woman. (Pauses:) Kind to think of it, I've often heard a theory that some children look more like their aunts and uncles at times to some people. In this case, that seemed to turn out to be right. Still, despite how I--(pauses:) we might both feel about Linda, we have to look at both sides of this. How could Tom do that, even to Linda, of all people, and moreso, with his sister-in-law?

MILLIE: (Snorts, glares some more at Linda, bitter tone:) I don't know, but with his being married to--(pauses, motions:) her, I'm not surprised that Mr. Griffin would've been driven to go after another woman, even her sister. Right now, I'm more worried about Sandi, and how she's doing.

HELEN: Yes, you're right, of course. I hope her father will be able to talk to her--

MILLIE: (Sighs, glances up:) Well, he hasn't come from upstairs yet, so maybe he is. (Pauses, ponders, brief frown:) I wonder what made Sandi's parents come up here today, all of a sudden? Surely they could've waited until their daughter returned tomorrow. (Cocks an eyebrow:) Do you think that we should ask them--?

HELEN: (Narrows eyes:) Hmm--I've wondered about that a little myself, on both of your thoughts. (Pauses:) Tempting as it is, it's probably best that we don't. They, or rather Linda, may have had personal reasons, since Tom looked as if he didn't want to come here in the first place. To be honest with you, now that I think about it, I'm surprised Linda allowed Sandi to stay with us for this long.

MILLIE: (Sarcastic chuckle:) She probably just came out of her "fainting spell" after Darren had put her in her place on Tuesday, and it just hit her--(Helen smirks)

Jake leaned over to a bored-looking Edward while they were leaning on the fireplace as they were watching all three women, whispering.

JAKE: Whoa, this is some really heavy stuff, huh, "Eddie"?

EDWARD: (Drawn-out tone:) Yes, Jake, it's, er, "heavy".

JAKE: (Pauses, looks around:) Gosh, I wonder where Jim is? He's been gone for an awful long time...

EDWARD: (Inward smirk, thought v.o.: Probably filing for his business' bankruptcy on the phone?:) Oh, I'm sure he'll be down soon, Jake.

JAKE: Yeah. Gee, I wonder what's gonna happen next?

EDWARD: (Thought v.o.: Your leaving me alone?:) Oh, I simply don't know, Jake. I'm sure the Griffins will be able to work their way through this difficult time in their lives.

JAKE: (Looks down:) Yeah. Still, I wish I could--

A smiling Elenor suddenly entered with a complimentary tray of iced tea, breaking Jake's thoughts, surprising everyone. Elenor explained that she thought they all needed something cool to drink, to relax everybody. She went around the room, starting with Jake, serving the tea. Each took their glass, thanking her politely. When Elenor came over to Linda last, Linda cooly stared for a moment and took the tea, snorting indifferently.

LINDA: Huh, it's about time. I was getting parched, dear. Next time, do try and hurry it up a little quicker, hmmm? (Drinks tea. Elenor frowns, the same for Millie and Helen, and now even Jake. Edward continues his bored expression, looking off)

ELENOR: (Curtseys, faux-apologetic expression and tone:) Oh, I do apologize for my lateness, Miss Linda. (Pauses, snidely adds:) In the future, I'll first try to read your mind, and then try to conjure this up right on the spot. My magic wand's a tad rusty, you must understand. (Linda's countenence takes on a shocked and outraged expression, while Helen covers her mouth, giggles low, the same for Jake. Even Edward smirks briefly at this. Millie tries to give Elenor an admonishing glare, but fails miserably, low smirk and chuckle)

LINDA: WHY, YOU--(looks over at Millie:) I demand that you make her apologize to me for her smart mouth, or fire her!

MILLIE: (Trying desperately not to laugh:) N-Now, Mrs. Griffin, I'm sure Elenor was only kidding, (smirks:) right, Elenor?

ELENOR: (Thought v.o. as she smirks back to Millie: Of course not, and you and I both know it.:) (Faux-smile:) Indeed, Mistress Millie. I apologize for my flippancy, Miss Linda. Excuse me. (Leaves, thought v.o. as she eyes Linda: Definitely a pompous bitch...)

LINDA: (Smug expression, watches after her:) That's better. It's reassuring to know that the hired help knows their place around here. (Turns to Helen, smirks:) So, I'm curious, Helen: How long did you see a psychologist for thinking you had lost your birth son? A few months? Years? (Drinks tea casually)

HELEN: (Frowns with Jake and Millie. Edward watches intently, inwardly amused) (In a flat tone:) It was long enough.

LINDA: (In a casual tone that's laced subtly with amusement, continues:) I wonder how you felt in hindsight to go to a shrink for nothing? You spent all of that money and time, giving out all of your precious, private memories of your pain to a perfect stranger, (pauses, glances up for an instant:) oh, or was that strangers? You did see more than one, from what I read in the Weekly Blabber...(Drinks tea casually. Helen looks more stunned than angry to hear even Linda cut this deep into her. Millie appears to about to explode in a rage, which causes Edward to come over to hold her)

JAKE: (Suddenly jumps in, startling Helen and Millie, shakes fist in Linda's surprised face, enraged:) HEY! You can't talk that way to my wife, dammit! She thought she lost Darren and couldn't deal with it, so she had to speak to a psychologist or two, so what of it?! (Helen clearly is touched by her husband's defense)

MR. GRIFFIN: (From side, even tone:) --Jake's right, Linda. (Everyone looks at him in the open entrance from the foyer) You had absolutely no right to say that to her. (Walks over to her, looks down into her eyes:) Apologize to her right now.

LINDA: (Caught slightly off-guard, tries to regain the initiative:) And if I don't--?

MR. GRIFFIN: (Same, even tone:) This isn't open to debate, Linda. You will apologize to Helen right now.

LINDA: (Stares up into her husband's eyes uneasily. Isn't quite sure how to deal with her "new" husband yet, ponders, looks over to Helen:) I--apologize, Helen, Jake. I've been under some--(pauses:) enormous amount of pressure these past few days, you understand.

HELEN: (After a moment, decides to accept, particularly since she's never heard an apology before from Linda:) It's--(pauses:) all right, Linda. We've all been under some, er, "enormous" amount of pressure recently. (Thought v.o.: And you're partly the cause of it, to us and yourself, other than that damn tabloid story.)

MR. GRIFFIN: Thank you, Linda, Helen. (Pauses:) Now, Linda, speaking of psychologists, I meant to tell you that Sandi will need one when we get back to Lawndale. (Linda looks stunned. Helen, Jake, and Millie glance at each other. Edward crosses his arms, interested expression) I was able to talk to her up in her room. (Pauses:) She's speaking to Jenny right now. I assumed your sister had heard about the news from one of her friends, or has seen it on TV herself. (Linda's stunned expression recedes a little, now being replaced by worry as she slowly sits down on the couch, listening) As for the psychological situation about Sandi, I wanted to speak to you earlier, but you never allowed me--


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

Jim, already agitated concerning his situation with Millie, and slightly desperate, spoke on the bedroom phone.

JIM: (Frowns:) Whattaya mean, "Woo just stepped out"? He told me last night that he'd have something by today on my case!


(Scene is in Los Angeles, Woo's office)

Carla, Woo's secretary, sat at her desk, spoke in a hurried, but courteous tone.

CARLA: I'm sorry, Mr. Morse, but another big case Woo's working on broke, and one of our men called him to the scene! I don't know when he'll return! (Pauses:) I could try and page him if you want, but that's the best I can do on short such notice--

JIM: (Low snarl, cuts her off:) --No, that won't be necessary. (Pauses, sighing and calming voice:) I--understand that the man has other cases to attend to as well and not just mine. Besides, I just remembered that he told me he'd do the calling. (Pauses:) Look, I'm sorry for biting your head off, Carla. I'm--just really eager to find something, that's all...

CARLA: (After a moment, smiles:) It's all right, Mr. Morse. Believe me, your call is tame compared to some other client's calls Woo's had.

JIM: (Relieved tone:) Fair enough, and call me just Jim. Well, when he comes back, please have him to call me, okay? He has my cell phone number.

CARLA: I know. Good bye, Jim. (Hangs up)


(Scene goes back to Jim's room)

Jim hung up his phone and sighed, then left to go back downstairs.


(Scene changes to the rear patio, the same time as Helen, Millie and the others were speaking)

Quinn frowned at Stacy, perplexed while they both sat at the umbrella-covered table with Tiffany. They all were sipping sweetner-flavored tall glasses of iced tea (also provided by Elenor).

QUINN: Huh? You said Sandi wasn't with you guys in the home theater that night while I was with my family in the media room? (Stacy shakes her head timidly first, then Tiffany does as well, after looking at Stacy) Well then, where was she, and why did you guys wait until now to tell me?

STACY: (Of course intimidated a little, cowers:) I-I'm sorry, Quinn, Sandi asked us not to say anything to you because she told us she was in the movie's video library, looking for something for us to watch and everything, and she didn't want to be embarassed in front of you because it took her so long to find that--ew--Squirm tape! (Pauses:) Tiffany and I didn't think much of it at the time, 'till I noticed the way she looked when that horrible news story about Darren and your family's talk came out in the home theater last night. She looked--(pauses, looks for words:) guilty a few times for some reason. It made me wonder why Sandi was acting like that--(adds, looks off, lower tone:) among the other things that's happened to her recently...

TIFFANY: (Passes with what is considered "serious" thinking for her, slow frown:) Hey...yeah. She did look...funny...

QUINN: (Pauses, takes in what Stacy's saying, narrows eyes:) Waitasec. If she was in th' video library that night while we were in the media room, which is beside the video library, then--(gasps:) ohmygosh! She must've been listening to us talk, an' stuff! (Stacy and Tiffany look at each other. Quinn looks up, cocks an eyebrow:) But why? (Pauses, becomes wide-eyed in realization, gasps:) Unlessss--

Quinn was interrupted by Elenor, who came out on the patio.

ELENOR: (Curtseys:) Excuse me, Miss Quinn, everyone, but the Griffins, or, ahem, rather Miss Sandi and her father, request your immediate presence in the family room.


STACY: Um, Sandi and her dad want us in the family room as soon as possible, Tiffany.


QUINN: Thanks, Elenor. (Elenor curtseys, leaves) I think I know why Sandi did what she did guys, and I think we're gonna hear it from her. C'mon. (Leaves with the others)


(Scene switches to the library/study, several minutes earlier)

Daria and Tom, looking for a place to pass the time until Jane and Darren were finished changing, were reading at the study's table while Curtis was skimming through some books on one of the many shelves on the library's open second level. Little had been said about what had happened concerning the shocking events with Sandi and her parents earlier, though Daria privately found herself actually fretting about what Sandi was going through emotionally, now with something else more than her nightmares and sleeplessness, and possibly far worse. Tom glanced up at her briefly, concerned himself a little about Daria, who, unbeknowest to her, had a small frown of worry on her face while thinking about Sandi (which undoubtedly would've shocked her to no end, of course).

Krystal suddenly entered the study, now dressed in a light, yellow, short-sleeved blouse that was tied in a knot, exposing her flat stomach and navel, along with just enough of a cleavage that was "tastefully" exposed. She also wore short cut-off jeans and sandals to complete the outfit. Daria cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at her attire, then out of curiousity looked out of the corner of her eye at Tom, who was looking at Krystal as well with his eyebrow cocked, only a little higher. Even Curtis did a bit of a double-take as he stared down, putting the book he had back on the shelf and coming down to the trio via the stepladder. Tom shook out of his stare, quickly glanced at Daria, then immediately looked back down into his book with an "ahem".

DARIA: (Low tone, wry expression and smirk:) Like what you're seeing...?

TOM: (While still looking in his book, same tone, returns smirk:) Is it my fault I just happened to look up and see "Daisy Duke" over there entering the study--like you did?

DARIA: (Stands up with him, still in the low tone:) Don't try to weasel out by providing a putback in my face, Tom. I'm a female like she is. We can look at each other over how we dress. You, on the other hand, sir, are a male--a lusting one, I might add. (Tom rolls his eyes) I saw how that eyebrow was cocked--

TOM: (Grins:) Just like your's was--"female". (Daria mock-glares at him)

CURTIS: (Whistles:) Whoa, Krystal. Nice outfit. Are you wearing that to the party tonight? (Daria and Tom come over)

KRYSTAL: (Grins:) Why thank you, Curtis, and no, I'm not. I bought an outfit for tonight when I was with Quinn and her friends yesterday at Reynaldo's. (Shrugs, looks over herself:) This is just a little something to tie me over until then--

DARIA: --Quite an eye-catching "tie" if you ask me. (Pauses, subtle sarcastic deadpan:) Sure you're not trying to "rope" some guy with it? (Krystal cocks an eyebrow, pauses, slight smirk as she stares. She realizes who Daria is speaking about, suspecting she's spoken to Jane and vice-versa, but keeping it to herself. Tom's eye's narrow slightly at the moment, coming up with the same conclusion, and Curtis looks between the two, slightly puzzled, then at Tom. His eyebrows rise in surprise as he ponders)

KRYSTAL: (Grins, purrs as she glances coyly at Tom, winks:) Oh, don't worry, Daria. I'm not out to get your boyfriend--(Tom's face reddens slightly, uneasy chuckle. Daria's eyes narrow ever-so-slightly. Curtis, privately assuming that very same thing for some reason, shows a brief smile, inwardly relieved) (Krystal gives Tom a mock-seductive expression, grins:)--not that he isn't cute, mind you.

TOM: (Swallows hard, looks over at Daria uncomfortably:) Uh, thanks--?

DARIA: (Glances at Tom:) Oh, I know it's not Tom who you'd be after. (Pauses:) He's too well-trained to know who the "Mommy" is in this relationship.

TOM: (Mock-scowls while Curtis laughs:) Hey!

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles:) Exactly. (Saunters over to Curtis, mock-seductively rubs his arm, wiggles eyebrows up and down:) I'm pursuing--other specimens of the masculine gender--

CURTIS: (Shakes head slowly, smirks:) --Afraid I can't help you there, Krystal. Lena will hang me out to dry if I even thought about looking at another girl, which I won't. Try elsewhere.

KRYSTAL: (Mock-pout, crosses arms, grins as she looks around:) Oh, bother. Who can I turn to now?

TOM: (Glances at Daria for an instant:) Er, don't tell me that someone with your looks doesn't have a boyfriend or two on the side, Krystal? (Daria returns the glance) Surely you'll be bringing some guy along with you tonight for the party--?

DARIA: (Under her breath:) Keep digging that hole, Sloane--

KRYSTAL: (Grins at Daria's crack, amused:) Yet another compliment for me! Thank you! (Pauses, uneasy chuckle:) Well, um, like I explained to Jane earlier, I'm sort of playing the field right now--

DARIA: (Slight shrug:)--And um, based on what you've just said, I'm assuming that field you're playing in isn't around here, is it? I mean, all of the guys are taken at Palace Appleton, (adds:) save for Jim, of course, and I think he's a little too old for you, unless you go for that sort of thing. (Krystal shows a "forced" smile at Daria's crack, pressing her lips together. Tom gives Daria a very quick, mock-admonishing glance. Curtis narrows an eye, for to him, something now isn't quite right, but he says nothing)

KRYSTAL: (Faux-joking tone and grin:) Oh, Daria, what a deliciously nasty sense of humor you have there! (Pauses, slightly narrows eyes:) I'll bet you really go over well at parties, don't you?

DARIA: (Picks up on Krystal's subtle crack, unfazed:) No, not really, since I don't go to too many of them--

KRYSTAL: (Cuts in:) --Oh, that's right, your mother mentioned the other day when I first met her that you don't go out much. (Glances over at Tom, smirks:) I guess Tom here will just have to drag you out to more of those parties starting tonight, won't he? (Daria's eyes narrow, and Tom looks uncomfortable. Krystal adds with a faux-grin:) That way, you can get out more and intermingle with the rest of us so you can expose more people to that hilarious sense of humor that you have. (Curtis looks between them all, now convinced that something's wrong)

TOM: (Begins to cut in before Daria offers a possibly nastier retort:) Actually, I--

Jane, now fully-dressed and showered, walked in, breaking up what appeared to be an increasingly tense situation. She cocked a curious eyebrow at everyone (especially at Krystal's attire) as she looked around. Krystal stared at Daria for an instant, and vice-versa, then both turned their attention to Jane, the same for Tom and Curtis, who privately vowed to find out later what exactly was going on.

JANE: IIII was told by Claude that you guys were holed up in here. (Pauses:) Uhhh, did I interrupt something--?

KRYSTAL: (Before anyone can speak, smiles:) Oh no, we're finished. We just had a little talk, right, Daria, everyone?

DARIA: (As Tom and Curtis nod slowly while looking between the two uneasily:) Ohhh yeah. I think our "little talk" produced some fruitful results, (adds, subtly hints:) if you know what I mean, Jane.

JANE: (After a moment, slowly catches on:) Oh, um, yeah, sure, Daria. I know exactly what you mean. (Krystal looks between the two, also catches on to what they're saying and inferring to each other, stays silent) (Jane changes the subject:) Anyway, I'm curious--why'd you guys come in here? I thought for sure that you'd avoid this place for the moment for Darren's sake.

DARIA: Originally, we were gonna go in the gameroom, but Fiona's cleaning it, so we came in here. It wasn't deliberate, but I figured if we were wanting to relax after what happened in front of the mansion earlier, this was as good as a place as any to go. (Pauses:) Still, you have a point, Jane, maybe we should leave. We wouldn't want Darren to possibly come in here, and--

Darren, himself fully showered and dressed, suddenly poked his head into the study, a slight smile on his face. Everyone stopped, and looked at each other, concerned. After a second, Darren entered stiffly. For a brief instant, Jane privately wondered if he'd say anything about or even look at the way Krystal was dressed, but he seemed to ignore her, looking around uneasily at the study. In a strange way, Jane was seemingly grateful this one time for Darren's trouble with the study, which drew his main attention (not that Jane wanted it like that, of course).

DARREN: (Keeping his composure:) Ah, here you all are. At first, I went to the gameroom. Fiona reluctantly told me where you all were after I prodded, but I assured her I'd be alright.

JANE: (Walks over to him with Daria:) Uh, Darren, we can leave if you want to--

DARREN: (Pauses, hesitates:) No--that's okay, Jane, it's no rush. I was just on the phone with Dr. Quinn, having finally reached him on vacation, seeing how he was taking all of this. He told me to come in here today after we spoke, anyway.

TOM: (While coming over:) At least it's good to know that despite all of this garbage that's gone down, he still has your best interest at heart, huh?

DARREN: Well, he's considered to be one of the best out there, so it's no surprise he still worries about his patients, I guess.

DARIA: Does that mean Dr. Quinn will keep being your psychologist, Darren? I wondered if he would still be after the news--

DARREN: (Nods, keeping his composure:) --Yes, he will, sis. In fact, he's planning to sue the Weekly Blabber like Helen is, (pauses, smirks:) as well as Helen's psychologists. (Everyone looks at each other, surprised) It so happens that Dr. Quinn knows them, too. It's apparently quite a tight-knit community in his area of profession, and he's told me that it's going to be a class action lawsuit. He also explained that he's secretly checked out of his hotel and into another one on the other side of the island. He's been in touch with his lawyer all of this time.

CURTIS: (Nods:) Good for him. I hope he sues the hell out of them--

KRYSTAL (Laughs:) Likewise. If we're lucky, that tabloid will go bankrupt after the barrage of lawsuits it's getting. (Smirks, looks at everyone:) Are you sure you don't want to join in the piling on, Darren? Who knows? You might get enough to make up for that $50 million missing from the company's coffers. (Darren chuckles with Curtis while the others smile "kindly" to Krystal)

DARREN: I'm sure, Krystal, tempting as it is to actually follow up on your "idea". I figure Bowman and his tabloid will have more than enough to deal with without me.

KRYSTAL: (Cuts eyes over to Jane:) Oh, yes, lest I forget, I meant to ask you about something earlier this morning, Jane, but it sort of slipped my mind until now, for obvious reasons--(Jane cocks an eyebrow along with Daria) how were you going to see, (pauses:) what's her name again--?

JANE: (After a moment, narrows eyes slightly:) --Uh, Tess Donovan, and it was by a limo. (Looks at watch:) I have to be there in another hour-and-a-half or so, in fact. I've gotten my entire portfolio ready, (pauses, grins at Darren:) and a picture or two of Darren's work for her to look at. (Darren rolls his eyes. Daria smirks along with Curtis and Tom) Nope, I haven't forgotten, dear boy, sorry. (Pauses:) Why did you ask that, Krystal?

KRYSTAL: I was going to go to New York City for an hour or two before I came back here for the party, and I wanted to offer you a ride to there and back, if you didn't mind. (Jane looks surprised along with Daria and Tom. Darren is as well, though it's not for the same reason, obviously) I needed to, (pauses:) um, run to the company office to pick up an important document for my dad that just came in overnight. I'll come back and wait for your interview with Miss Donovan to end afterwards. In the meantime, on our way there we can perhaps--(pauses, smirks slightly:) get better "acquianted". Besides, why make two separate trips there at the same time if we don't have to, and riding in that limo probably would've drawn some attention to you that you otherwise wouldn't have wanted, anyway, especially after last night. What do you say? (Pauses:) Join me?

JANE: (After a moment, glances over at Daria, and vice-versa, returns smirk, shrugs:) Sure, why not? We can shoot the breeze while getting better "acquainted". (Daria and Tom look very surprised, which causes Curtis' eyes to frown briefly at this. Darren is looking at Jane, not noticing)

KRYSTAL: (Grins:) Excellent. We'll leave when you're ready. When will you have your things downstairs?

JANE: Gimmie 45 minutes, or at least until we'll see what happens with Sandi and her folks, first.

DARREN: (Pauses as if he wants to say something, but doesn't. Instead, in a grateful tone:) Krystal, this is really very generous of you, not that it would've been any problem for Jane to go by the limo, "attention" or not, of course. (Krystal smiles as Darren narrows an eye:) Are you sure it won't be a problem--?

KRYSTAL: No problem, Darren, really. (Stares at Jane pointedly, "grins":) No problem at all. (Jane returns her "grin", while Daria and Tom look at each other again)

The next instant, one of the study's two intercoms, this one beside the entrance, came on. Millie's voice boomed on it.

MILLIE: Darren--?

DARREN: (Goes over to intercom, switches it on:) Yes, Aunt Millie?

MILLIE: Sandi's just entered the family room. She wants to speak to everyone.

DARREN: (Pauses, looks at Curtis, Tom and Krystal:) Uhhh, when she said "everyone", does that mean everyone, Aunt Millie? (Curtis and Krystal look at each other, whereas Tom looks at Daria and Jane) If you know what I mean--

MILLIE: (After a moment of speaking something unintelligible off the side:) Yes, Darren, everyone, including Curtis, Krystal, and Tom. Mr. Griffin and Sandi say it's okay. (Speaks again off the side, this time understandable:) Elenor, could you please make sure Mrs. Griffin's coldpack doesn't fall off her head while she's lying on the couch? Thank you. (Everyone looks at each other)

DARREN: (Concerned expression, pauses:) Aunt Millie, is everything okay? Did something bad happen to Mrs. Griffin?

JANE: (To Daria, very low whisper:) We should only be that lucky, amiga...(Daria shows a slight smirk)

MILLIE: (Placating tone:) It's all right, Darren. Mrs. Griffin's just received some--(pauses:) "overwhelming" news from her husband concerning Sandi, that's all. Everything will be revealed when you all come in.

DARREN: (Glances at Daria and Jane, knowingly and vice-versa:) Okay, Aunt Millie, we're on our way. Thanks. (Clicks off intercom, leaves study/library with others)

Similar to the walk to the front gates for the news conference earlier, Jane and Daria had brought up the rear, with Tom joining them, all deliberately slowing down to allow Darren, Curtis, and Krystal to go on just ahead of them. Krystal, however, did smirk briefly while looking at the trio out of the corner of her eye for an instant, suspecting that they were probably whispering about her.

True to Krystal's suspicions, Daria had subtly leaned over to Jane and was speaking in a low whisper, ditto for Jane and Tom in their responses.

DARIA: Are you nuts? Why walk, or in this case, ride into the lion's den?

TOM: (Cuts in gently, smirks:) That's lioness' den.

DARIA: (Slight scowl to him while Jane smirks:) No, lion's. You're not seriously suggesting to me that the male lion gets off his lazy ass to leave the den to hunt for food while the female lion stays to keep house, are you?

TOM: (Mock-winces:) Yee-ouch. I guess I'd better shut the hell up now, huh?

DARIA: Yes, indeedy. That hole you've dug is deep enough, Tom. You don't wanna let it get so far down that you won't be able to climb out. (Pauses:) Seriously, Jane, have you lost the rest of your nearly-insane mind in going with Krystal to New York City? (Pauses:) Alone? I mean, I thought you were gonna speak to her here--

JANE: (Snickers:) --Nah, I've still got a brain cell or two in reserve, amiga, (pauses, smirks:) though I could go either way. (Pauses, more serious tone:) Look, she's thrown down her own gauntlet next to mine. Krystal knows that I know about Darren, I'm sure of it, and I'm doing this to show her that I'm not gonna be intimidated. (Shrugs:) Besides, we can get a few things out on the table anyhow concerning Darren, and I definitely want to do that, womano-to-womano, in her car.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Well, I guess it's okay if you really wanna do this--(pauses, deadpan:) since they're witnesses who'll see you leave with her from here. Krystal won't be able to say that she had an iron-clad alibi if you mysteriously vanish. (Jane chuckles with Tom)

The group came to the family room, with Krystal going in first. Darren and Curtis stopped at the entrance to wait for Daria, Jane, and Tom, who had fallen behind a bit. Curtis narrowed his eyes once more at the trio as they passed him and Darren by, briefly wondering why they seemed to drag along behind. He then entered with Darren into the family room.


Over the next few minutes, Sandi confessed to overhearing Darren and his family talk that night in the media room, apologizing as well, and her reasons as to why, even explaining her nightmare over her father's objections and concerns while he gently held her in his arms. At times Sandi looked as if she wanted to cry, but remarkably did not. The rest of the Fashion Club stood behind her in support, with Stacy almost ready to explode in a bawlfest of tears, stopped only by a (mildly) annoyed Quinn, who wanted to listen.

The Morgendorffers, short of a silent Daria, who nevertheless looked as sympathetic for Sandi as one could possibly imagine Daria doing for her, Darren, who obviously had felt guilty once again from hearing Sandi's nightmare because of his actions that led to her having them, and Millie, immediately let her know in no uncertain terms that she was forgiven, the same for Jane. On the far right wall of the room, Tom, Curtis and Krystal (who ever-so-slightly smirked in amusement while listening to Sandi, but then scowled when she observed Jane rubbing Darren on his shoulder with Quinn, comforting him), wordlessly watched the proceedings. Edward gently held the hand of a grateful Millie while they listened. Jim, separated from the two by Jake and Helen, stole a forlorn look or two at his ex and her beau, then sighed.

Sandi also announced that she would not be able to attend the party for tonight, much to the shock and dismay of the Fashion Club (and to the secret delight of Krystal), explaining that she just had spoken to her aunt, who wanted to meet her and the rest of her family as soon as possible to talk about what happened, wanting to stay over for a few days, starting tomorrow. Sandi encouraged the rest of the Fashion Club to "Carry on in the name of fashion and of social standing" in her stead for tonight's party. Quinn sadly nodded with Stacy and Tiffany, vowing to "Make her proud".

Mr. Griffin officially accepted Darren's offer of a psychologist for Sandi, with Darren paying for everything in full, until Sandi was well. Darren also reinterated his offer for them to use his jet to return to Lawndale, even offering to pay for the return tickets the Griffins had purchased on the commercial jet in full, to which Mr. Griffin reluctantly accepted--all after Sandi had eagerly asked if they could, not wanting to stand in a "Sweaty, long, icky baggage line", and of the rest of the Fashion Club quickly backing her up. Daria and Jane, standing beside each other now, smirked while glancing at one another: At least Sandi Griffin still showed some preferences for luxury, even after what she just went through. In a way, it seemed to them that some sort of "normalcy" for Sandi was returning.

Linda, who had not moved from her horizontal position on the couch during all of this time, finally recovered enough to take her ice pack off of her forehead to glare at Darren for a moment while he had made the offers, then suddenly flung her pack to the floor so hard, it drew everyone's attention. Linda just as abruptly rose from the couch and stormed over to Darren, moving so fast, no one could stop her, primarily because they were all so stunned by her action. She stopped just short of his face with her own, looking up into his eyes with a fierce scowl, speaking in an equally-fierce tone. Darren drew back a little in shock and surprise.

LINDA: I've been thinking: This is all of your damn fault, Darren! Sandi would've never needed to see a psychologist if you hadn't lied to your family in the first place when you came to Lawndale, and on top of that, she could've been killed in the warehouse that night! (Narrows eyes:) I sure as hell hope you're damn happy with what you almost did to my baby, you bastard, because when I'm through with suing you for putting her through an emotional and physical trauma, you'll be so damn poor, you won't even be considered to be poor!

DARREN: (Speechless as a now-furious Jane, Helen, Millie, Quinn, and even Daria begin to move towards Mrs. Griffin. For a tiny instant, Krystal considers doing the same thing, but doesn't.:) I--I--

Linda suddenly felt a very sharp slap in the face, a slap so hard, it reverberated throughout the entire mansion. She slowly turned in disbelief in the shocked silence while holding her palm-printed red face, along with everyone else, to Sandi, who was so angry, she was visibly shaking in a rage, her face as red as her rising temper. Mr. Griffin briefly considered holding his daughter, but thought the better of it. Sandi spoke through clenched teeth, her voice rising on occasion.

SANDI: You're blaming Darren for what happened to me? (Pauses, in disgusted disbelief:) YOU?! How DARE you! If anyone's to blame for what happened to me that night, it's YOU, dammit! Yeah, I admit I really liked him for a time, but you're the one who, like, encouraged me to go after him after I stupidly told you that Darren was rich! You're the one who turned up the heat on me when you found out who he really was, proclaiming in front of the whole world that he was my boyfriend, not Jane Lane's, over both of their objections through countless interviews, and all after I went through what happened at that damn warehouse, which Darren couldn't have possibly known about! YOU didn't seem to give a damn about what I was going through at the time, despite the fact that I had told you, only that I ended up with Darren so YOU could get your hands on his precious money, and NOW you're trying to worry about my welfare by suddenly suing him, so you can STILL get your hands on some of his money?! (Deep glare, realizes:) And you have the nerve about pointing out what Darren did, especially after what you said out there in front of the mansion to me earlier in front of the whole world! To me, that was far worse! (Shakes head slowly while continuing to speak:) I can't BELIEVE I still wanted to call you my "Mother", (Linda's mouth drops) I'm so ashamed of you! (Thumps side of head lightly:) What was I, like, thinking?! I'm such an idiot! You don't care about me or our family at all, only about YOURSELF! (Screaming so hard now, spittle is coming from her mouth:) DO YOU HEAR ME, "MOTHER"?! ONLY-ABOUT-YOURSELF!

Sandi slumped in exaustion the very next instant, only to be immediately held by Mr. Griffin and Darren by her arms. She leaned against her father for support.

JANE: (Thought v.o., impressed cocked eyebrow: Well, who would've thunk it? You go, girl!)

DARIA: (Thought v.o., ditto on the above, deadpan: Bitchin', Griffin, truly bitchin'...)

QUINN: (Thought v.o., stunned expression: S-Sandi--?)

In a slow, horrible self-realization, Linda's mouth began to tremble as she stared at the weakened form of her--daughter, particularly after the "mother" remark. After a long pause, she surprised her husband and Sandi by suddenly hugging them both very tightly, sobbing, speaking through tears, in a quieter tone.

LINDA: Oh Sandi, my baby, m-my poor, poor baby. I'm so sorry, sorry for everything. I was--was so damn angry, embarassed and frustrated over this entire week. (Pauses, holds Sandi's face tenderly with both hands:) How could I have been so stupid for saying all of that, over everything, especially about-- (stops herself, pauses, through her tears:) do y-you r-really still think of me as your mother? I-I thought that--that you wouldn't want me to b-be your's anymore after you found out about Jenny--

SANDI: (Cuts her off gently, small smile:) --That's like, so dumb. Of course I still see you as my mother. (Pauses, hesitates, glances at her father:) You wanted me like Father and raised me, and--and aunt Jenny gave me to you two.

Linda simply smiled and hugged her daughter even tighter. Mr. Griffin gave a relieved smile for an instant, then hugged them both, holding back his own tears. Helen and Jake smiled at the scene quietly while holding each other, both trying not to turn on the waterworks as well, the same (definitely) for the rest of the Fashion Club. Millie dropped her head in relief and smiled, with Edward holding her closely, "smiling" as well. Jim gave his own quick smile, but resumed his down expression yet again upon seeing his former wife and Edward.

Darren smiled slowly at the scene, like his aunt more in relief than anything else. The situation had gone from near-catastrophic (a possible and physical cat-fight, a.k.a. a "Five-On-One-Beat-The-Living-Hell-Out-Of-Linda") to benign in a matter of seconds. Jane broke away from standing with Daria and went beside him, putting her arm around his waist, showing a small smile. He returned the gesture as well, holding her closely.

Daria, out of curiousity (and of trying to take her mind off of the uncomfortable [to her] emotional moment), happened to glance over at Krystal and saw her roll her eyes subtly and snorting, crossing her arms while she leaned on the wall beside Curtis. Daria looked over at Tom, who happened to be doing the exact same thing while leaning against his part of the same wall. Both caught each other's look wordlessly, which suprised Daria. Now that's weird, being on the same wavelength like that. It's like we've been married a long time, or something, and I haven't even gotten the customary ring, bowed knee and proposal yet. I sure hope Jane knows what she's doing...


(Scene changes to the front of the mansion, several minutes later)

The limo Darren had provided for the Griffins to go to the airport was just finished being packed with Sandi's belongings in its trunk by Claude, Elenor, and another butler. Behind the limo, Jane's portfolio and two pieces of Darren's work were being loaded into Krystal's green BMW by an uncomfortable-looking Fiona, who was casually being observed by Krystal from behind.

After saying their good byes to everyone, Linda and Tom Griffin climbed into the rear of the limo, their door being shut by a driver, who went over to the other side of the limo to open the door for Sandi as she turned to the rest of the Fashion Club for a final chat. Millie, who was standing beside Darren while they watched, leaned over and began to whisper something to her nephew. Helen, nearby, noticed and listened in.

MILLIE: You do realize that Mrs. Griffin never really apologized directly to you for what she said--?

DARREN: (Returning the whisper:) It's fine by me, Aunt Millie. She said she wasn't going to sue, thanks to Sandi. To me, that's considered to be apology enough.

HELEN: (Ditto with the whisper, cuts in:) Don't tell me that you thought Linda actually had a legal case against you, son--?

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Didn't she, Helen? You should know, of all of us. I did misrepresent myself to you all for a time, and indirectly put her daughter in danger, whether I knew it or not. That seemed like a likely civil case if there ever was one. In purely financial terms, I got off lucky and escaped scot free, save for paying for Sandi's treatments and the plane tickets. (Helen frowns and ponders this)

In the meantime, Sandi smiled as she bid the rest of the Fashion Club adieu.

SANDI: --Goodbye, all of you. I'll call you all next Wednesday to catch up on our scheduled fashion meetings after my--(pauses:) aunt Jenny leaves.

QUINN: (Nods, smiles:) Okay, Sandi. I hope everything turns out alright, you know--?

STACY: (Enthusiastic, frantic nod and smile:) Yeah! It'll be okay, you'll see! (Grips her in a fierce hug, surprising Sandi, releases her)

TIFFANY: (Smiles:) Yeah...okay...(pats Sandi on her shoulder)

SANDI: Thanks, everyone, for being there for me, (pauses, turns to Quinn, smiles:) especially you, "Quh--inn". (Quinn chuckles)

Quinn was about to say something when Krystal hurriedly came around the limo, a "worried" expression on her face. Quinn and Sandi glanced at each other for an instant, then Krystal suddenly gave Sandi a Stacy-type of hug, shocking Sandi. Off on the side, Daria, Jane and Tom watched wordlessly, cocking surprised eyebrows.

KRYSTAL: (Faux-sympathetic tone, smile:) Good bye, Sandi. I do so hope that you get the type of help you so richly deserve. We'll be so disappointed not to have you or your parents here tonight at the party, (in the limo, Linda cocks an eyebrow for an instant as she overhears Krystal, frowns for a moment. Krystal suddenly startles Quinn and the remaining F.C.'ers by letting Sandi go and putting her arms around them all in a show of "Girl Power" solidarity:) but I'm sure we'll all somehow make it through your absence, right, guys?

QUINN: (Cuts eyes over at Krystal's arms while being squeezed, uncomfortable expression and chuckle:) Um, right, Krystal, we'll all make it through somehow...(Krystal "giggles", lets them all go. Quinn rubs her arms along with Stacy and Tiffany)

DARIA: (Low tone to no one in particular:) Be careful that that python didn't constrict your breathing, sis.

JANE: (Overhears, ditto with the low tone:) I wonder what that's all about? (Pauses:) D'you think Krystal's putting on a show of sympathy to impress everyone, especially Darren?

DARIA: If she is, then she's one hell of a lousy actress. I'd give her a one on a scale of ten.

TOM: I'd say point five, myself. (Both girls stare at him) What?

SANDI: (Taken aback for a second:) Errr, like, thanks, Krystal. I'll miss being here, (thought v.o.: And keeping an eye out on you. Fortunately, Quinn, her sister DeAnne, and Jane will be here to do it for me.) (Spots the last of her luggage being put into the trunk:) Well, goodbye. (Enters the limo. The driver shuts the door, goes back in on driver's side, gets in, drives off to the waves of everyone)

In the rear of the limo, Linda glanced back, then cocked an inquistive eyebrow to Sandi, who was reading her Reynaldo's fashion catalog.

LINDA: Sandi, who was that girl you were speaking to?

SANDI: (Looks up:) Who? Her? Oh, her name's Krystal McKinna, she's (pauses, with a subtle sneer:) a "friend" of Darren and his aunt. (Looks back down in the catalog:) Why'd you ask?

LINDA: (Small shrug:) Oh, just wondering who she was. (Pauses, frowns:) I thought I heard her voice from somewhere before, that's all...(Sandi cuts her eyes up to her mother then back down to her catalog, while Mr. Griffin looks at his wife briefly. Linda hesitates for an instant, then continues:) So, uhm, I've heard that you're going to work at Circa Fashions as an intern--? That sounds really interesting. (Sandi looks up from her catalog again, cocks a stunned eyebrow) Would you tell me about it...?


(Scene returns to the front of the mansion. I'm assuming you the reader know that we have just "one" Tom now, so he'll just be known as, uh, "Tom".)

Everyone watched the limo leave. Helen then turned to Millie and the others just as Quinn, Krystal, and the rest of the Fashion Club came up behind her.

HELEN: (Pleasant smile:) Just because the early part of our "Family Time" fun was cancelled, that doesn't mean we all can't still have a good time for the afternoon, can we?

DARIA: (Before anyone can speak, deadpan:) You mean, we didn't have our so-called "fun" from most of the morning already? (Looks at watch:) Where does the time go, I wonder? (Helen and the rest of the F.C. glare at her briefly)

HELEN: That's not amusing, Daria, making a joke at Sandi and at her family's expense.

QUINN: (Indignant expression with Stacy and Tiffany, snarls:) Yeah, Daria!

DARIA: (Privately surprised at the ferocity of Quinn's anger, holds hands up:) Whoa, there. Sorry, I didn't mean it in quite that way. It was just more sarcasm from your's truly, that's all. (Quinn turns up her nose, snorts)

MILLIE: (Soothing, intercedes:) Yes, I'm sure Daria was only making a little joke, Helen, Quinn. After all what's just happened, we needed to lighten up a little.

QUINN: (Softens:) Oh, um, okay. Sorry, Daria.

DARIA: Uh, no sweat.

JIM: (Steps up, hurried tone, glances at Millie, uncomfortably:) Uh, I'm going to do some horseback riding, if you all don't mind--(starts to leave)

HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) But we were going to take some pictures first, Jim--

JANE: (Cuts in:) --Which I can't, by the way, if you guys remember. I've got to go to see Tess Donovan. Krystal's offered me a ride, since she's gotta run an errand there, too. (Quinn's eyes grow very wide in shock at this, stares at Jane as if she's lost her mind, which Krystal subtly takes note of, smirks. Quinn notices Daria shaking her head very slightly, giving her sister an "I'll explain later" expression, which placates Quinn for the moment)

DARREN: I have an idea. Why not wait to take the pictures until after Jane and Krystal return? We should have plenty of sunlight left to do that.

HELEN: Hmm, I don't see why not. Jim, I suppose we'll be able to join you on your ride, since it is part of the Fam--

JIM: (Uncomfortably glances over at Millie again, this time with Darren's notice, cuts Helen off:) --Uh, well, I was sort of planning on a private ride, Helen. I have some--(pauses:) personal things to think about--(pauses:) alone. (Uneasy chuckle:) Don't let me stop you all from going on your own one, though, excuse me--(hurries off to the stables as everyone watches him leave, save for Millie, who's rolling her eyes. Edward cocks an eyebrow in amused curiosity at him and Millie, while Darren and Curtis frown, perplexed)

DARREN: (Whispers to Curtis, who's now standing beside him:) Something's going on between aunt Millie and uncle Jim. First, they and Edward don't show up at breakfast, then uncle Jim seems to be now avoiding them both. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Hmm, now that I think about it, they both sounded kind of sharp to each other last night in the home theater when uncle Jim seemed to question Edward about his hesitantcy in Tina searching our bedrooms for those bugs--

CURTIS: (Returning the whisper:) What, so you think this has something to do with Edward? From what you told me over the phone the past few days, those guys seemed to have reached some sort of truce--

DARREN: (Still in the whisper:) --Yeah, that's what I thought, but--(pauses:) maybe I can find out from aunt Millie on our ride, and if not her, then I'll speak to uncle Jim...

In the meantime, Helen was taken a bit aback by Jim's remark. She looked around foolishly for a moment, then continued.

HELEN: Er, um, allllright. I guess it'll just be everyone except Jim, Jane, and Krystal, hmmm?

JAKE: (Pauses, his own uneasy chuckle:) Uh, well, actually, dear--(Helen glares at him, which causes Jake to cower a little:) I kinda wanted to take some more cookin' lessons from Henri while you guys were out and help out for the food for the party, you know, what, with all that's gone down, and everything that's messed up our schedule, not to mention, uh, (hesitates:) ah, you know, me and horses--?

HELEN: (Sighs, remembering the fiasco on Wednesday:) Alright, dear, (narrows eyes:) but I want you to be sure to be out on the front lawn when we take pictures after Jane returns with Krystal, okay? We'll call you when we're ready.

JAKE: (Silly grin, thumbs up:) A-ok, honey! (Runs inside the mansion like a lunatic)

HELEN: (Brightens up, puts on a smile:) Okay, I guess we'll all be without Jim, Jane, Krystal, and my husband--

QUINN: (Steps up:) --Um, well, actually, Mom--(Helen's eyes narrow) I wanted to ask you if me, Stacy, and Tiffany can stay here to re-do some of our plans for the party, (adds quickly before Helen can speak:) 'cause since Sandi's gone now, we have to, uh, like, "rearrange" some things for tonight--

DARIA: (Low tone, to Tom and Jane:) --Yeah, like rearranging the shares of what boys are gonna be for who now that Sandi's flown the coop. (Jane smirks with Tom) More of the "boy's" booty for all, if you catch my drift.

HELEN: (Monumental eye roll:) Well, if you simply have to do this, Quinn, then--

QUINN: (Grins, waves Helen off:) --ThanksMom!Ohwe'llbeoutinthefront forthepicture-takingafteryouguysgetbackIpromisebyeeee! (Quickly enters the mansion with Stacy and Tiffany)

Helen dropped her head in frustration, for it appeared that her carefully laid plans were falling apart. A smiling Millie gently patted her on the back, consoling her as she turned to the others.

HELEN: (Once again brightens up with a smile:) Well, then! I guess it'll be just--

DARIA: (Smoothly cuts in, smirks:) --You, Darren, aunt Millie, Edward, and Curtis, Mom. I just remembered I, um, have to get ready for the party tonight with Tom, here--

TOM: --We do? (Daria sidekicks him in the shin barely, but since she has on her heavy Doc Martens, she makes her point) OW! (Quickly catches on, adds:) Oh, yeah! For tonight's party, that's right! (Darren, Millie and Curtis snicker with Jane and Krystal)

HELEN: (Skeptical expression, narrows eyes, crosses arms:) I see. And what exactly did you and Tom plan to do to prepare for tonight's party, young lady, (adds quickly:) though I am delighted to know that you're going--

DARIA: (Keeping poker-face expression, of course:) We're gonna make sure that everything's set for Mystik Sprial, Mom, you know, where they're gonna play and all beside the pool, then we're gonna check out the food to make sure it's edible.

HELEN: (Shakes head, hands on hips:) Now, Daria, I guess I can understand that you'd want to check everything for Trent and his band, but the food? Really!

DARIA: (Slight smirk:) But dad's helping Henri with that, Mom--

HELEN: (Pauses. Daria's got her here.:) Oh dear. You have a point, sweetie. (Loud sigh:) Very well, Daria, I guess you and Tom can go then, but remember--

DARIA: --We know, we know, be on the front lawn for the picture-taking, gotcha. (Glances at Jane and Krystal, hesitates:) Um, see you two later. (Prepares to leave with Tom)

CURTIS: (Intercedes, with stops them both:) Oh, uh, if you two don't mind, I'd sorta like to come along and help with the preparations. (Darren cocks an eyebrow, surprised with Daria and Tom. Curtis turns to him:) I don't feel like riding today, if that's okay. I'm still kinda full of breakfast. Besides, I want to get to know your sister and Tom a little better. (Thought v.o.: And get some info from you guys about what's going on...)

DARREN: (Pauses:) Uh, sure, Curtis. See you all later. (Curtis leaves with Daria and Tom)

Helen turned to her eldest, a near-desperate expression on her face.

HELEN: (Gently grips his shoulder, looks up at him:) Son, please tell me that you'll come along, and that there's no last-second emergency--?

DARREN: (Laughs:) Sure, I'll come, Helen, I'm here, aren't I? Don't worry, I won't "abandon" you like the others have.

HELEN: (Delighted, hugs him:) Oh, that's my son!

Krystal turned to Jane, "smiling".

KRYSTAL: Ready to go, Jane?

JANE: (Ditto with her "smile":) Yep. See you in a few hours, "Darry". (Gives him a big smooch on the mouth. Krystal maintains a stoic expression at this)

Krystal and Jane got into Krystal's car and drove off the grounds. The others watched them leave, particularly Darren, who stared at the car a bit longer as if he were thinking about something. He then proceeded to the stables for the now-'"bare bones" Family Time' horse ride with the others.


Fiona watched Krystal's car leave from her vantage point through an upstairs window in a spare bedroom that she had just prepared which was to house one of the members of Jane's brother's band for tonight. At least it seemed that Quinn had kept their shared secret about Krystal, since Jane was going with her to New York City. Still, this had first surprised Fiona a little when she found out. Why would Miss Krystal offer to take Jane on her own accord, unless they really are just getting better acquainted? Maybe I should've said something to Jane about what happened when I first met Miss Krystal...?

Fiona shuddered as she remembered the aloof glare Krystal had given her while she had loaded Krystal's car earlier, and of how nervous she had felt, feeling as if Krystal's eyes were boring into her. Fiona closed her eyes and smiled in relief at Krystal's absence, slowly turning against the wall, leaning on her back and simultaneously giving a huge sigh--only to open her eyes and have Elenor staring pointedly at her with crossed arms. Fiona froze, wide-eyed.

ELENOR: (Nods slowly in confirmation, slight narrowing of eyes:) Just as I suspected, you're relieved she's gone, aren't you? I wondered why you seemed so fidgety last night after she went upstairs to use one of the bathrooms. (Adds, realizes:) Come to think of it, you seemed to be quite nervous around her when she visited here during Stephanie's and then Darren's parent's funerals--(pauses:) and when you first started working here. (Pauses, no-nonsense tone and expression:) Alright, Fiona, I want to know what Krystal's done to you to make you behave like this...(Fiona slumps in defeat, sighs)


(Scene shifts to the pool area, the same time)

Daria and Tom entered along with Curtis, with Daria explaining that she simply didn't feel like riding--and very reluctantly inferred to a quietly-smiling Tom that she wanted him with her while they all lounged around. The pool was surrounded by a total of 15 tables with three chairs each distributed evenly on two sides, with a ten-by-ten, five foot-high modular stage made of wood on the far end of the pool. Two carpenters dressed in blue overalls and caps were hammering on the top of the stage, apparently almost finished. The stage itself was flanked on two sides by tall disco light towers. The walls were decorated with party favors all over the ceiling.

The trio sat down together at a random table. Daria stared at Curtis for an instant as if she expected him to say something, but noticed that he was looking around the area with Tom wordlessly. After a moment, Daria took in the preparations as well while looking around, then spoke.

DARIA: It looks like everything's just about ready for tonight's party. I hope Trent and the guys are ready for some serious primetime, though from what I heard from Jane, they've had a taste of the standing-room-only crowd, and I don't mean from Zen or McGrundy's on their rare good days, either.

CURTIS: That's the "Zen" and "McGrundy's" grunge night clubs Darren's told me about that they play at in Lawndale, right?

DARIA: One in the same.

TOM: Yeah, Jane says they've had pretty good success on their tour so far.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) If you call not being booed at or run out of town and being paid enough to call yourselves fairly and gamefully employed, then I'd say yeah.

CURTIS: (Chuckles with Tom:) Don't tell me that this "Mystik Spiral" group was that bad? Darren didn't tell me that.

DARIA: (Slight smirk:) Too late, I just did, and they're not. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like they were pathetic or anything, just not--(pauses, looks for words:) um, as focused as an "underground alternative rock band" should have been--

TOM: (Grins, cuts in, looks at Curtis:) --Translation: They were generally known as your run-of-the-mill, mostly uninspired, lazy-ass musicians. (Daria scowls at him, which he and Curtis notice:) Huh? What'd I say?

DARIA: (Cold tone:) That. The term "lazy-ass musicians". Trent and his group are not lazy, Tom--(pauses, ponders, considers what she's just said:) uh, at least not anymore. They were beginning to do well on their previous tour earlier this summer just before Darren came to Lawndale, if you'll remember. If their van hadn't have had that accident with the gorge and they lost their instruments, they might've been really been on their way earlier, you know. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Have you ever had this attitude towards Trent and the guys when you were with Jane? (Curtis looks between the two)

TOM: (Sighs:) Daria, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it in quite that way, really. I'm not putting Trent and his band down. I said that they were generally known as mostly uninspired musicians. They seemed to have gotten their act together, now. As for Jane, she's made comments privately to me about Trent and the others when I was with her, expressing frustration over her brother's seeming--(pauses:) "inability" to get it together over his future, mostly because he was worried about taking care of her, which is admirable. (Pauses, takes issue:) Besides, don't tell me that you weren't witnessing how Trent and his group were first hand in their approach to their music, with him taking "years" to finish just one verse to a song, according to Jane herself? (Curtis looks at him wide-eyed, while Daria rolls her eyes) I'm sure Trent had a love of music, but he had to take the initiative along with his friends if they wanted to get somewhere--

DARIA: (Cuts him off abruptly:) --Which is what he and the others are doing now, by the way--

TOM: (Ditto, curt nod:) --Exactly. (Pauses:) So, what's the problem?

DARIA: (Pauses, sighs:) Nothing, I guess. I just sorta thought you were disrespecting Trent and the guys for some reason. I admit I was like that toward him for a little while myself while Jane and I worked on a school project--

TOM: (Nods:) --You mean on the one with him promising to provide some music for the background, and not coming through? (To Daria's cocked eyebrow:) Jane told me right after it happened, or rather waited to tell me after you left the Pizza King that day, which is when she started to lament over the way Trent was to me for the first time, by the way.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Jane didn't waste any time in letting you in, did she?

TOM: Nope. (Pauses, smirks proudly:) I officially became part of your little group that day, and I was damned proud of it.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Goody for you. (Tom grins, Curtis chuckles)

CURTIS: I hate to break up this little trip down memory lane, but I really wanted to speak to both of you guys about something--

DARIA: (Cuts in gently:) --I wondered why you'd wanna tag along with us instead of playing cowboy with my brother and the others. (Tom nods in agreement)

CURTIS: Call it a crazy feeling of a sort. (Daria and Tom look at each other. Curtis takes a deep breath:) For some reason, I get the distinct impression that you, Krystal and Jane are at odds over something. (Unsure chuckle:) Is that just a crazy feeling, or what?

Suddenly, Quinn entered the pool area, surprising the trio, speaking in her mile-a-minute tone.

QUINN: (Pointing:) Daria! Claude, like, told me you guys were in here! Now, before you say anything, I got Stacy an' Tiffany to recategorize their clothes, so they won't be bothering me for awhile! What's this I hear about Jane goin' with Krystal of all people to New York City for her art school stuff? (Frowns:) You know Jane could be in some trouble--(stops, now notices Curtis as Daria glares at her:) oh, um, hi, Cletus.

CURTIS: (Slight frown:) That's "Curtis", Quinn--(pauses, for emphasis:) Cur-tis. "Cletus" sounds more like some sort of suspenders and tee shirt-wearing, barefooted, buck-toothed, goofy-looking, freckled-faced, red-haired, countrified White boy's name. (To Daria and Tom's smirks as Quinn grabs a chair and sits with them all:) So, you guys all think Jane might be in some sort of "trouble" while she's with Krystal, huh? (Pauses, realizes:) This "something" doesn't have anything to do with Darren, does it...? (Daria sighs, begins to explain)


(Scene shifts to Krystal's car, the same time)

Krystal's BMW had just gotten onto the highway that would take them straight to the city. Jane sat stiffly as she glanced wordlessly out of the window at the countryside, trying to hide her sudden case of nervousness. She had been full of confidence the moment the car had left the estate grounds, primarily expecting Krystal to start the conversation about Darren, but much to her surprise, Krystal had said nothing at all, preferring to simply drive in silence. This had the effect of catching Jane off-guard. Jane frowned to herself. C'mon, Lane, get it the hell together. You're here by choice. This is what you wanted. Don't allow her to do this to you. Jane cut her eyes over to Krystal. What's she waiting for, dammit? For me to start?

Krystal showed a small smirk as she saw Jane out of the corner of her own eyes. It was obvious Jane had expected her to talk about Darren first, but Krystal wasn't about to make it easy for her. After a moment, Krystal decided to give Jane a break by ending the long silence, which had started immediately after they had left the mansion, though it wasn't going to be about Darren--directly, that is. She also wanted to have a little "fun" in the process with Jane.

KRYSTAL: So, Jane--

JANE: (Inwardly relieved, thought v.o.: Ah, here it comes...:) Um, yeah?

KRYSTAL: Those were some incredible stories Sandi and her dad told us, you know, about her horrible nightmare and all, along with her adoption by her real birth father and au--I mean, her mother.

JANE: (Pauses, once again caught off-guard because it wasn't about Darren, looks off:) Yeah, it was--

KRYSTAL: (Smoothly cuts in:) --Quite a similarity to Darren's stories, huh? (Jane stares at her for a moment, cocks an eyebrow) I mean, it's almost like a strange, scary, weird coincidence of some sort when you think about it. Sandi was adopted, like Darren, though she stayed in her birth family. Sandi had nightmares, like Darren. (Adds:) All about blood, too. Oh, and let's not forget that Sandi's going to go to a psychologist like Darren's currently doing. (Chuckles:) You'd wonder if maybe they were meant to be for each other after all--

JANE: (Frowns, slightly defensive tone:) What's that supposed to mean?

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Heh, hit her nerve.) (Faux-surprised expression as she keeps her eyes ahead:) Huh? What's wrong, Jane? I was just joking. I didn't mean to--

JANE: (Waves her off:) --Nah, I just, er, kind of overreacted a little to what you said, that's all. (Pauses, adds:) You do have a point with that, though, it was a little weird with what happened when you compare the two stories. (Shrugs:) I'm just glad I don't have to worry about Sandi anymore concerning Darren--(thought v.o.: Unlike you...)

KRYSTAL: Oh? You mean what she said Sunday about her and Darren to the media and her having left with her family?

JANE: Well, sure, but we'd made our peace even earlier than that. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow) You know, on the plane up here, then she took it even further on Monday when we shook hands. Take also what happened last night with her helping out on dressing me up for my date with Darren and I had no doubt she was no enemy of mine anymore over him, though we're not exactly "buddies", or anything.

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, slight frown:) What you're saying is that you don't think Sandi still carries any sort of torch at all for Darren?

JANE: (Looks up briefly:) I'd saaaay--nope.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o., narrows eyes slightly: Looks as if my little call last night was for nothing and I overreacted. [Realizes:] I should've seen that after Sandi's little outburst to her "mother". Still, I had to teach her a lesson for making me look like a fool and got a nice surprise in the process...)

JANE: (Sighs, looks over, forms a determined expression, under breath:) The hell with this. (Pauses:) Krystal?

KRYSTAL: (Shakes out of her thinking mode:) Hm? What, Jane?

JANE: Look, I'm just gonna jump in and ask: Do you like Darren?

KRYSTAL: (Tiny smirk, cuts eyes over to her for an instant, then back on the road:) Why, of course I do, Jane. (Pauses:) He's my friend after all.

JANE: (Frowns, low tone:) That's not what I meant, and we both know it.

KRYSTAL: (Barely-noticible amused expression, cuts eyes over:) No, I don't know "it", Jane. What do you mean?

JANE: (Narrows eyes:) Do you really wanna keep playing this game, Krystal?

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow, chuckles:) "Game", Jane? Where's this coming from?

JANE: (Barely-disguised low snarl:) How about from a certain moment in time in the past I heard from a reliable unnamed source about you and Stephanie Reardon? (Krystal drops a confused eyebrow) You know, about your little argument with her over Stephanie "suffocating" Darren, and of your saying she shouldn't be so "jealous" during your little "kung-fu" work out with him, and your almost hitting her, but was prevented by Darren himself? Has that jarred your memory any? (Krystal's face grows stoic as she keeps her eyes on the road)


(Scene returns to the pool area, the same time)

Curtis sat back in his chair in thought after hearing Daria's story concerning Darren, Stephanie and Krystal. Quinn had been tempted to add Fiona's little encounter with Krystal into the mix, but said nothing, remembering her promise to Fiona (or at least that part). Curtis then spoke.

CURTIS: (Nods:) Okay, I see. So you all think Krystal's carrying a torch for Darren. Look, Darren told me all about the workout incident, and others around the mansion here knew about it, since some of the staff were out there that day and had heard the commotion and it spread like wildfire. Like you said, Daria, Krystal did call later and apologized to Darren for what she almost did to Stephanie, and to Stephanie herself. It's no big deal, really, because Krystal also told Darren that she liked him, (the others look shocked at this) in fact, only the next day at Orbison. After Darren told her that he liked Stephanie, and only Stephanie, Krystal promised that she'd cause no more trouble for them both anymore, and she didn't.

QUINN: (Before Daria or Tom can speak, shocked tone, jumps up:) What? Krystal actually told Darren she liked him? B-But, I thought for sure Krystal would be tryin' something nasty and stuff!

CURTIS: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Trying something nasty"? What makes you think that? (Pauses, frowns:) And for that matter, what are you talking about?

QUINN: (Holds arms out, smacks her mouth:) Think? Well, you know! (Pauses, looks up for an answer:) Like, um--(looks back down to Curtis:) well, like th' way Krystal, like, uh, looked when Darren and Jane kissed and hugged an' stuff, yeah, that's it!

CURTIS: (After a moment, stares at her flatly as Quinn sits back down:) The way Krystal "looked"? What, was Krystal staring daggers at Jane, or something?

QUINN: Yeah! Daggers! She looked as if she wanted to kill Jane at times! (Looks over to Daria and Tom:) Right, guys? (Curtis looks over to Daria and Tom)

DARIA: (Pauses, glances at Tom and vice-versa:) Well, um, "daggers" and "kill" both might be too much of strong words, but I think what Quinn's trying to say is that Krystal sometimes looked--(pauses, searches for words:) annoyed when she witnessed my brother and Jane together here--

TOM: (Gently interrupts:) --Not to mention the way she asked all of those leading questions to us at our picnic the other day, Daria, remember? (Daria nods)

CURTIS: (Raised eyebrows:) "Questions"--?


(Scene shifts back to Krystal's car)

JANE: (Wide-eyed:) --You're--admitting that you had the hots for him when he was seeing Stephanie, and you told him? (Thought v.o.: Now why didn't Darren tell me that?)

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) That's what you wanted to hear, right? (Quickly adds:) The key word here is "had". Like I told you, Darren's just a friend now, nothing more, nothing less. He made it clear to me that he was only interested in Stephanie. (Shrugs:) I backed off, and we left it at that. In fact, only Curtis actually knew what had happened, for Darren confided it to him. Curtis told me later that he knew.

JANE: Huh. (Looks off in thought for an instant, then:) Another question.

KRYSTAL: (Cocks eyebrow, cuts eyes over:) Go on--

JANE: (Long pause:) Why didn't you go after Darren before he met Stephanie? Seems to me he was there for years, ripe for the picking.

KRYSTAL: (Forms a genuinely wistful expression:) Maybe because I thought he'd always be there, even when we drifted apart as we grew older and began meeting other people. After all, I've known him since we were children, if you'll remember. (Pauses:) Me and Rory would come to the mansion often to play with him, and we'd play hide-and-go seek, or go riding and play tennis. We'd have so much fun on the grounds, I didn't want to leave. (Slightly wicked smirk at Jane:) I even gave him his first kiss one day in a "private" spot there when no one was around. (Adds:) He seemed to really like it. (Jane stares at her stoically) (Pauses:) You know, until what happened with Dora, he had looked up to Rory like a big brother, with Darren being what he thought to be an only child at the time, of course. Rory would play the part, play-wrestling with him and such--

JANE: --Maybe that's why Darren nearly beat the living crap out of your brother when Rory did that "Dora" girl like that. (Pauses, cocks eyebrow, cuts eyes over:) Rory really let him down--?

KRYSTAL: (Slow nod:) Or that Darren didn't want to believe that Rory could do something like that, and lost it that one time. There were times when Rory was surrounded by as many as ten girls, starting with elementary through middle school, then at Orbison. Darren basically took Rory's so-called "girl magnetism" for granted. Like I told you and the others, Darren could've easily have gotten the girls if he wanted to, but he didn't, (snorts:) which in a way fed my brother's inflated girl-getting ego, letting him think he could draw them better than Darren. (Pauses, thoughtful expression:) I think Darren's parents had plenty to do with keeping him in "check", driving home the point that he was an "Appleton" and he had to set a positive example, even being there for him, taking him with them as they worked when Darren was out of school, teaching him the business, devoting their time to him... (pauses, quieter tone:) I wish my parents could've done the same thing with me and Rory, now that I look back on it, but when they were out and about, they left us to be raised by nannies or our servants.

JANE: (Expression actually softens:) I can sorta relate to that with the parents, (adds:) without the nannies or servants, of course. (Krystal gives her a curious expression) Long story. (Pauses:) What'd you think when you heard that Darren was adopted?

KYRSTAL: When I saw it on the TV while we were vacationing, I was naturally stunned, of course, I told Darren as much when we spoke on the phone after I came back, and he apologized for not saying anything sooner. (Small shrug:) Rory was shocked as well at first, but he cracked some jokes about Darren having it "On Easy Street thanks to his adopted name" from now on. (Jane rolls her eyes) But when I sat down and really thought about it further, it actually didn't surprise me. (Jane drops a peculiar eyebrow, which causes Krystal to snicker) You see, Darren always seemed out of place around the upper-crust as he grew up, save for being around me and Rory. Darren looked--(pauses:) uncomfortable sometimes when his wealthy peers would brag about their possessions and money, and of their "secure" futures. He'd tell either of us that he thought spending money for the wrong reasons like wasting it on trivial things was stupid. (Jane smirks slightly) Rory would tease him about it, but Darren said that's what his parents told him and they would never lie to him on anything--(stops, realizes what she's saying:) uh--

JANE: (Looks off uncomfortably for an instant:) --Yeah, um, well, that's water under the bridge. (Quickly adds:) We both know they loved him and had his best interests at heart, not to mention that they eventually were gonna tell him he was adopted, right? (Krystal gives a curt nod after a moment) So, um, getting back to Darren, why the "jealous" routine towards me with all of the nasty looks and smart-alecky remarks when I was with him and stuff? (Pauses:) Don't deny it.

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles, cuts eyes over:) "Nasty looks"? "Smart-alecky remarks", how quaint! (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow, sighs:) Okay, you got me. Seriously? (Pauses:) I was "testing" you over Darren, Jane.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow, incredulous tone:) You were-- "testing" me over Darren--?

KRYSTAL: That's right, "testing" you over him. I simply decided to see how you'd react to me, so I went through the motions, like all of the, er, "acting" I did to give you the impression that I was jealous of you two, my "interrogation" of you on Wednesday about Darren, the same thing on Thursday with Daria and Tom, (adds:) though I admittedly got nowhere with that (Jane smirks to herself), (pauses, glances down on herself for an instant:) and yes, even on the way I was currently dressed to see how you'd react, not Darren, since he seems so devoted to you, as well as what I just said about he and Sandi Griffin. (Pauses:) I did all of this to make sure that you were the right girl for Darren. After all, like I told you on Wednesday, you and he did get together pretty fast. (Pauses:) Even you admitted it.

JANE: (After a moment, grudgingly admits:) Okay, fine, I did, but I do like Darren and he me--period. (Pauses, snorts with a subtle sneer:) So, did I "pass" your little test?

KRYSTAL: (Ponders for a second as she keeps her eyes forward, casual tone:) Honestly? No, you didn't.

JANE: (Surprised expression:) Huh? I didn't? (Slight frown:) Why?

KRYSTAL: (Still in her casual tone as she drives:) By the way you've reacted to me and what I've said, of course. (Jane gives her an "explain" stare. Krystal sighs:) Look at your attitude, which towards me has been subtly hostile ever since whoever told you about the so-called "history" between Darren, Stephanie, and myself, and even beforehand you seemed sort of suspicious of me then. You've behaved in a most--(pauses, looks for words:) "possessive" manner of him when I've been around, (Jane cocks an eyebrow, remembers Daria saying the same thing) not that I can completely blame you, I suppose, but if you're like this to me, (coyly adds:) I can only imagine how it's going to be for you while Darren's up here working with students of the, shall we say, "feminine persuasion" at Eastward, while you're finishing your senior year waaay down there in Lawndale--

JANE: (Scowls, cuts her off:) --Now hold on a sec, Krystal. I'm not worried about Darren's college acquaintances, (adds:) particularly the female ones. I trust Darren and he me, (pauses:) really. (Shrugs:) It's basically like Curtis and his girlfriend Lena, and they live even further apart than me and Darren do. Besides, I'll be coming up here every other week to visit him--

KRYSTAL: (Returns the interruption, still with the coy tone:) --And he'll be able to come down to Lawndale to visit you and his birth family, when--?

JANE: (Pauses, slightly unsure expression:) Uh, ah, well, unlike high school, college is a trifle more demanding on the social schedule, as I'm sure you full well know. Darren's told me and his family that he'll be able to break away and visit this fall, when you guys have a short break, in about two months, I think--?

KRYSTAL: (Nods:) Yes, that's right. So, you're comfortable being in Lawndale and he up here. (Jane smirks, nods) Uh, good.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the car for an instant, then Jane spoke.

JANE: Yet another question.

KRYSTAL: (Keeping her eyes forward:) Go ahead.

JANE: (Pauses:) Stephanie. (Hesitates as Krystal cuts her eyes over:) Um, when she died, how'd you feel about that?

KRYSTAL: (Subtly agitated tone, sarcastic chuckle, thought v.o.: Actually, I couldn't believe my luck. I screamed into my pillow at home because I was so happy.:) What, do you mean if I threw a party when I heard that she did, so I could have a clear shot at Darren?

JANE: (Clearly uncomfortable expression, looks off:) Uh, well, when you put it that way...

KRYSTAL: (Neutral-sounding tone as she keeps her eyes forward:) I was truly sad for Darren and Stephanie's parents, Jane. (Pauses, glances at Jane:) Really. It was all so sudden, and it was obvious that Darren really loved her. I stayed away, save for the funeral, though other girls started to "stake out" their positions on Darren, (narrows eyes:) like vultures. Only a week passed when they started to try and move in for the feast.

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Really? (Thought v.o.: And you didn't join them?) What happened?

KRYSTAL: Curtis gently ran the blockade at Eastward and I, er, "followed suit" from a distance by doing the same thing. (Thought v.o.: As well as insinuating some threats of my own to some of them.:) We told the girls that he needed space to mourn, and not to crowd him. For the most part, they complied--(adds:) mostly. When one or two tried to approach anyway, however, they were treated as pariahs by Darren and everybody else. The message got out soon enough. Darren was basically in no shape to speak to anybody, save Curtis and one or two others at school, (adds quickly:) and before you ask, I stayed away from him directly, too. (Pauses, smirks at Jane out of the corner of her eye:) You can "check around" if you don't believe me. (Jane says nothing) Like I said, I gave him the widest possible lattitude out of respect. (Thought v.o.: And to bide my time, until you showed up and ruined everything...)

JANE: (Privately surprised at this, but keeps it to herself:) I see. (Pauses, decides to conduct her "own" test, remembers Quinn's info:) Ah, I guess you did the same thing like everybody else when his adopted parents died a month-and-a-half later, huh?

KRYSTAL: Of course. I came to the mansion to see him only during the funeral, just before going on vacation with my family, and just before Darren had went on his own "vacation", (pauses, cuts eyes over:) or so I thought.

JANE: (After a moment:) I guess it was sorta a surprise when you heard that he took up with me, huh?

KRYSTAL: (With some conviction, smirks:) Oh, you could say that. (Adds after a moment, hesitates:) Er, Jane, I think it's my turn to ask a blunt question or two, okay?

JANE: (Gives a wary expression for a tiny instant:) Ooookay. (Pauses:) What?

KRYSTAL: Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm asking this because I'm Darren's friend. If, (adds quickly:) and this is only a wild, purely ridiculous bit of random speculation, mind you, but on the off-chance that if things don't work out between you and Darren while you're staying with him and his sisters as you're going to college, what'll happen with your staying at the mansion, (adds quickly:) you know, just out of curiousity?

JANE: (Ponders:) Uh, I haven't given it that much thought, but I guess I'd have to move out or something if things grew sour, probably somewhere close to or in White Plains, since it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than New York City--

KRYSTAL: (Cocks an eyebrow:) --You don't think Darren would want you to continue to stay at the mansion? Somehow, I couldn't see him, or your friend Daria for that matter, letting you just leave like that.

JANE: (Now a bit annoyed, which Krystal picks up on:) You're probably right, but if, and I mean if they insisted that I'd stay, I still don't think I could, if nothing else for the simple reason that it would be kinda awkward, even with the size of the mansion. I'd have to run across him, eventually.

KRYSTAL: ("Off-handedly" as she continues to keep her eyes on the road:) Then I guess it's a good thing that knowing him could only enhance your artwork so that you could put enough money in the bank in case of a worse-case scenario, huh?

JANE: (Narrows eyes:) Lessee, taking Wednesday into account, that's the second time you've practically inferred that I'm riding Darren's name only to help my work, Krystal--

KRYSTAL: (In a quick, placating tone:) Whoa there, Jane, I'm not trying to start or say anything bad, okay? I'm just saying that it's wise to prepare for the future in case the bad stuff comes up, that's all--

JANE: (Slightly backs off, but only slightly:) --Which I'm not gonna worry about. (Thought v.o.: For a change.) (Adds, hesitates:) Besides, Darren and I talked briefly about the money situation last night while we were on our date. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow. Jane notices this, smirks:) He offered to help me out financially on my art projects and after a few minutes of his "gentle persuasion" as we were making out, I accepted, but only as a last resort, and that I'd pay him back. (Pauses, brief cool tone:) Satisfied?

KRYSTAL: (Hard sigh:) Jane, I'm really sorry for asking that, all right? I didn't mean to imply anything. I was just curious, that's all, (pauses, cuts eyes over, adds to Jane's suspicious expression:) seriously. (Slight smirk:) Truce?

JANE: (After a moment, looks off, low tone:) Yeah, well...uh, sure, truce. (Thought v.o.: For the moment, anyway...)

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o., sarcastic: Thanks ever-so-much for the "ringing" endorsement, Jane.:) Good. Now, if you can get that to extend to Darren's sisters, who I'm sure don't really like me as well, (Jane looks surprised) we'll be in business. What do you think I can do to get on their good side...? (The car continues down the very busy highway, with Manhatten's skyline now in the very far distance)


(Scene shifts back to the pool area, the same time)

Curtis shook his head slowly as Daria finished talking about her suspicions concerning Krystal, which was also laced with an occasional fill-in by Quinn and Tom, who was now speaking on of the mansion's cell phones, given to him from Elenor him while still at the table with the others. The call, which came from his home via Elsie, had briefly interrupted the conversation, but only for a moment as Tom turned away from the table to speak in a low tone while the talk continued.

CURTIS: (While Tom's voice is in the background:) I'm sorry, but all that you've told me about Krystal consists of her monumental eye-rolls, frowns, and constant questions concerning Jane and Darren to you. None of you haven't shown me any evidence that she's really done anything wrong. It's possible that Krystal's behaved like that because she's Darren's friend, and it's difficult for her to see how Darren and Jane came together so soon after Stephanie's death. Besides, Jane did go with her to New York City when Krystal offered. Why would she do that if she thought Krystal was up to something?

DARIA: (Pauses:) Um, to clear the air between her and Krystal once and for all over Darren--?

QUINN: (Frowning:) Yeah!

CURTIS: Then I guess you'll all know when they get back, huh? (Pauses:) Look, you're forgetting that I know Krystal. If she were up to something with Darren, I'd see it, and it just ain't there.

QUINN: (Narrows eyes:) But--

CURTIS: (Holds up hand, gently interrupts her:) --If Jane and you both feel so strongly about this, why don't any of you simply just ask Darren about it?

DARIA: (Pauses, for once at a loss of words:) Um, well, Jane was gonna do just that tonight, I think. (Quinn's about to say something else, but Daria looks at her sharply, which stops her)

CURTIS: (Even, but mild, pointed tone:) Well, then, I guess that settles that. (Gets up, stretches:) I think I'm going to the gameroom and play some pool and maybe bowl a game or two and play some video games while I wait for Darren and the others to get back. Anybody want to came?

QUINN: (Crosses her arms, glares at Daria:) Huh. No, I gotta get ready for the party, and stuff.

TOM: Hold on a second, Elsie. (Covers phone:) I think I could stand playing a video game or two. Go on ahead, you don't have to wait for me, I'll come along right after I finish this call. (Uncovers phone:) Go ahead, sis...

DARIA: I'll probably just stay here for a little longer and lounge around, or maybe go back to the study. (Pauses:) Uh, I don't suppose I can ask you to keep this to yourself and not say anything to Darren--?

CURTIS: (After a moment, hesitates:) Uh, sure, I guess we can keep this to ourselves, (adds:) though I'll assume you'll all tell him eventually what's up. See you all later. (Leaves)

Quinn turned her attention to Daria, keeping the glare.

QUINN: Dammit, Daria, why did you just drop this? We could've--

DARIA: (Cuts her off:) --Could've what, Quinn, hold a knife to Curtis' neck and make him see what Krystal was up to? (Sarcastic sneer:) Oh yeah, that would've made him come to our side. (Quinn rolls her eyes) (Daria ponders, sighs:) When I think about it, he's right. Krystal really hasn't done anything to play her hand, and we'll only be exacerbating the situation if we kept pushing it on Curtis--

QUINN: (Frowns:) --Hold it. "Exasperating"--?

DARIA: (Drones, deadpan:) "Exacerbating", or making it worse. "Exasperating", basically almost the same, means to irritate--

QUINN: (Annoyed tone, frown:) --Whatever, Daria. (Rises:) I'm going back to my room. (Begins to leave, but then stops and turns back:) Er, d'you think Jane'll come back with Krystal?

DARIA: (Stares at Quinn for a moment, dumbfounded over her sister actually worrying about Jane's welfare, deadpan:) I think Jane will. If not, then we'll send the hounds to pick up the scent of her blood after they've smelled Krystal.

QUINN: (Shudders:) Ewww! Daria! Stop it! That's not funny! (Leaves while Daria smirks)

Tom clicked off his cell phone and stared at Daria, who returned the stare. After a moment more of staring, Tom took a deep breath and quietly put the cell phone on the table. He rubbed his temples.

DARIA: (Now showing a slightly concerned expression:) Bad news from Elsie?

TOM: (Hesitates:) That depends on how you react to it.

DARIA: (Cocks eyebrow:) Come again?

TOM: My sister wanted me to know that a "very interested green-haired Goth girl" came by our home Wednesday looking for me, almost at the same time I was on my way up here. She was told by my mother that I was out of town. Elsie said the girl didn't leave a message or name, and that she'd get back to me later, "Wanting to talk to me very much". (Slight smirk:) I'm guessing my "suddenly-worried" mother conveniently was going to forget to tell me about the visit for some reason. (Pauses:) Good thing good 'ol nosy sis was sneaking around to overhear that conversation, (sighs:) though I'll have to owe her a big favor in the future.

DARIA: (After a moment, adds, flavored with what sounds like an ever-so-slight tone of jealousy:) Interesting. (Pauses:) Do you know this "very interested green-haired Goth girl"?

TOM: (Puts hands up, surprised expression:) What? No way! Like I told Elsie, I've never seen her before in my life, Daria, and that's the truth!

DARIA: (Narrows eyes:) Yet she's seen you before. (Pauses:) Why would she come to your house, thinking you were available?

TOM: (Shrugs, now in a brief plea, holds arms out:) How should I know? All I can say is that I came clean with you on this, and I didn't hide it!

DARIA: (Pauses, slight smile:) No, you didn't. You told me. You could've made up something, yet you didn't. Relax, Tom, I believe you. You don't have to worry about digging any new holes.

TOM: (Relieved expression, holds her hand:) Thanks, Daria. (Pauses, smirks:) My hands were getting blisters, and I thought they'd fall off. (Daria smirks) Still, that doesn't explain why that girl would think I was free, (pauses, realizes:) unless...

DARIA: (Takes over:)...Unless she was there at the Zen that night when Jane deep-smooched Darren, and figured you were ripe for the taking. I wonder who'd--(pauses, realizes:) hey, could it have been Sesame?

TOM: Huh? Who's "Sesame"?

DARIA: You remember, Sesame, the girl who was there front-and-center with her boyfriend Rocco, Jane, and Darren that night? We've ran across her a few times there, though she's talked with Jane far more than either you or me.

TOM: (Frowns in thought:) Hmmm--(it hits him:) ohhhhh, that Sesame? (Pauses, turns pale, wide eyed:) Wait a second: Her boyfriend, Rocco? The "insanely jealous" Rocco? The big ape who almost got into a fight with Darren because he thought Darren was coming on to Sesame, that Rocco?

DARIA: (Slight smirk:) Uh-huh, though it was more like the other way around. Looks as if Sesame's grown tired of him, and is setting her sights on you, you lucky dog, you.

TOM: (Suddenly stands up:) Ohhhh, no, oh hell no! It's got to be something else! There's no way I'm going to get within a billion miles of that girl!

DARIA: (Privately enjoying this, in a "deadpannish" sad tone as she stands, turns away slowly:) Oh, Tom, if you wish to be with Sesame, I won't--I won't stand in your way--

Tom smirked slightly, picking up her taunt. He went around the table, and gently turned Daria to him, looking down in her eyes.

TOM: (In a faux-determined tone:) Oh, yes, you will stand in my way, my dear, dear, Daria. In fact, you'll defend me against this vile woman's wiles to prove your like of me!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I'm afraid you'll have to fight your own battles, Sir Thomas. In fact, the Grand Duke Rocco will wish to battle thee on yonder high school field in the kingdom of Lawndale for the fair hand of Lady Sesame. Thou must not keep him waiting.

TOM: (Throws forearm across his forehead, "dramatic" pose:) Then I will refuse to battle the Grand Duke Rocco, thus allowing him to win by default!

DARIA: In that case, why then would the fair Lady Daria want Sir Thomas' hand, if he is a coward?

TOM: (Takes "offense", grins:) Hey! I'm not a coward! I'm just wondering why should I fight for someone who I don't want? (Pauses:) Uh, I mean, if thouest were the hand I had to fight for, then I wouldest.

DARIA: (Pauses, slips out of her "playful" mode:) Um, really? You'd fight for me?

TOM: (After a moment, draws closer, slips out of his mode as well:) Sure, I would, (pauses:) though you'd have to wait for a bit while I put on that heavy medieval armor and get my almost-as-heavy medieval weapons, in addition to being helped onto my horse by my medieval trusty squire--

DARIA: (Finding herself drawing closer, voice lowering:) --I think I could spare a few minutes for that--(pauses:) though don't think for a second that I'd be tied up to a tree while doing it, dressed in a ridiculously stupid-looking outfit that consisted of a frilly pink cone hat and equally-frilly pink dress, screaming my fool head off...

TOM: (His lips almost touching Daria's, lower voice as well:) You, the fiercely-independent and thoroughly-modern Daria Morgendorffer? Oh, no, perish the thought, I couldn't envision that...

Just as the two were about to kiss, an excited Jake (wearing a white apron he had borrowed from Henri) suddenly busted in, grinning. Daria and Tom quickly drew back.

JAKE: Hey, Kiddo, Tom! Guess who's right here behind me? (Looks behind, frowns briefly:) Hmmm--or at least I thought he was right here behind me...

DARIA: (Walking over with Tom:) If it's a really PO'd Henri who's angry because you burned something of his for tonight's food, I recommend jumping into the pool here and hiding underwater. You told me once you could hold your breath a full minute. I'll run interference and tell him I haven't seen you. (Tom chuckles)

JAKE: (Confused expression:) Huh? Oh no, Daria, Henri's not angry at me at all! In fact, he says I'm learnin' pretty darn okay! Anyway, Trent and his friends are here!

DARIA: Trent and the guys are here already? I thought they wouldn't be here for a few hours more.

JAKE: Yeah! Claude was gonna tell you guys, but I told Henri I was gonna use a break to stop, telling Claude I'd lead Trent here to you instead after he told me where you were!

At that very moment, a smiling Trent walked in and over to the trio.

TRENT: Hey, Daria, Tom.

DARIA & TOM: Hey, Trent. Trent.

TRENT: The others are like, up in their rooms and stuff, unpacking. We decided to come in a little early after I told the guys what Janey told me about Darren's mansion. (Looking around:) Wow, this place looks really cool, it even has an indoor pool. (Notices what the carpenters are now finishing:) Hey, a radical-looking stage we can play on, cool. I haven't seen digs like this since playing at the Taylors that time, (Note to reader: See the episode "Groped By An Angel") though Darren's place is way cooler than their's. (Pauses, turns to Jake, grins:) Hey, man, who knows? I might live in a place one day like this in the future after we make it big in the music business.

JAKE: (Swings fist:) Yeah, why the hell not? It's possible!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: Sure, and by that time, the former astronaut Taylor should be telling his ape captors to get their damn filty paws off of him...) Um, Trent--? Wouldn't that be like selling out, or something, you know, giving in to the "system"?

TRENT: (Looks up for an instant, frowns:) Hmmm, I haven't thought of it like that, Daria. (Pauses, ponders:) But then again, if we're able to like, happen to do what we want to do, and make some money on the side, then that wouldn't violate our principles, would it, you know, like the tour we had earlier this summer--?

DARIA: (Pauses. She actually considers this:) No, I guess it wouldn't, Trent, but you and the guys would have to sell a hell of a lot of records to get a house like Darren's, (counts on her fingers:) not to mention making enough to pay the servants, getting furniture, paying the taxes, not to mention purchasing security devices--

TRENT: (Holds head, puts hand up:) Whoa, Daria, this is getting too deep for me. Maybe I can build it up slowly and it'll work out in the end, you know, like, a good song--?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) That's a sound, fundamental way of approaching the problem, Trent: One step at a time. (Trent laughs, coughs)

TOM: Uh, and on that, I'll take my leave to the gameroom. Trent, after you and the guys settle down in your rooms, you can join me and Curtis Watley, a friend of Darren's, there. I'll intoduce you all to him. (Leaves)

JAKE: And I'd better get back to the kitchen! See ya both later! (Follows Tom)

TRENT: (Watches them leave, turns to Daria:) Whoa, your brother's got a gameroom, too? (Daria nods) Cool. (Pauses:) Where's Janey?

DARIA: Off to her future art school with--(pauses:) um, a friend of Darren's. She'll be back in a few hours.

TRENT: Oh, okay. I guess I'll go up to my room and unpack, then. (Turns, stops, pauses, realizes:) Uh, that is, if I can find it--

DARIA: I'll take you to it, or we can at least find one of the servants to direct us. Don't feel too bad about getting lost here in the "palace", it happened to me once when I first came up...(leaves with Trent from the pool area)


(Scene changes to a spot on the Southern grounds of the estate, the same time)

The quartet of Helen, Darren, Millie, and Edward lazily rode their horses in silence along a dirt path that was lined with long green grass on both sides. A gentle breeze cooled them all briefly, blowing the grass and the trees that were just beyond both sides of the grass. Only the sound of a buzzing insect or a bird call or two, along with the snorting of the horses and their hoof-clogging sounds occasionally broke the silence.

The four came to a shaded, very narrow small brook that split the path, where they stopped.

MILLIE: Let's allow the horses to rest for a bit here and drink at the stream before we cross it. (The others nod, dismount from their horses, which begin to drink the water)

Helen stretched for a moment, then opened her canteen of water and started to drink, looking around and appreciating the beauty of the mansion's grounds. Privately, however, she still was disappointed that the rest of her family had chosen not to come, even when Darren had tried to cheer her up earlier as they were all riding. She sighed, then sat down in a small patch of grass, crossed-legged (she wore the same clothing as in the episode "The Teachings of Don Jake", by the way), continuing to drink.

Darren paused, then went over to Millie, who had stooped over and dipped a handkerchief in the small stream, then wiped her face to cool off. In the meantime, Edward had dug into his horse's saddle, and pulled out a small pack of crackers. He witnessed Darren come beside Millie, cocked an eyebrow and thought about going over, but decided against it, at least for the moment. He went to a nearby tree and sat at the base of it, making like he was eating the crackers and quietly observing the surroundings, though in reality he subtly was watching them.

DARREN: (In a semi-lowered tone:) Uh, Aunt Millie--? May I speak to you for a second?

MILLIE: (Smiles as she continues to wipe her face:) Of course, dear. What is it?

DARREN: (Hesitates, glances over at Edward, who's looking off for the moment:) Uh, it's about uncle Jim. (Millie's smile ever-so-slightly loses its sparkle) Is there something wrong going on between you two, and before you say something, I remembered hearing the "mini" argument you guys had in the home theater last night, as well as all of you not showing up at breakfast this morning, then uncle Jim hurrying off for his little "private" ride instead of going with us.

MILLIE: (Tries to put on a casual expression, waves him off:) Oh, Darren, Jim and I just--(pauses:) um, had a bit of a disagreement, that's all. (Dismissive tone, wave:) We just had a um, quick little conversation about it in his room this morning, it's over now...

DARREN: (Cocks eyebrow:) "Disagreement"? (Pauses:) This "quick little conversation" wouldn't have been over Edward again, would it?

MILLIE: (Narrows eyes:) What do you mean, "Over Edward again"? Where did that come from?

DARREN: (Quick sigh and eye-roll:) Oh, come on, aunt Millie. What happened in the theater last night sure sounded like an argument to me, even if no one else had said anything. Edward wanted to know whose room was going to be looked through first for the bugs, then uncle Jim wondered aloud what the big deal was about that. You then questioned uncle Jim about this, and he blew if off. I couldn't help but to wonder--

MILLIE: (Shakes head slowly, gently interrupts:) --Darren, that doesn't mean anything. We all simply had a minor disagreement over the bugs, and I wondered why he'd go off on Edward like that. (Pauses:) By the way, please keep the information about the bugs to yourself, alright, Darren? I'll tell Edward--(pauses:) um, later about that. There's no need to have him get into a nasty tizzy with Jim over this. (Darren pauses, then nods) Thank you. As for the breakfast, Edward and I just wanted to dine alone this morning on the patio, (adds quickly:) it was nothing against you and the others. In Jim's case, I'm certainly not his keeper anymore. He might've wanted to just stay in his bedroom to eat because he was too tired to join you and the others, that's all. (Quickly adds as Darren ponders this, notices:) I think if you go looking for your uncle to get his side, he'll tell you the same thing. Jim and I reached an accord, if you'll remember: It's over between me and him--period. (Looks away, increasingly irritated tone:) I don't see why you're making such a big fuss over this--

DARREN: (Senses this, softens tone:) --I'm sorry, Aunt Millie. I was just under the impression that something was wrong, but if you say nothing's wrong, then I'll believe you. (Sighs:) I guess uncle Jim went off on a tangent over the bugs because he's been under some strain recent--(catches himself:) uh, nothing.

MILLIE: (Pauses, suddenly remembers her talk with Jim earlier this morning in which Jim had said the same word:) "Strain"? What do you mean, Darren? Is something wrong with Jim? (Realizes:) Now when I think about it, he had said the same thing to me...

DARREN: (Freezes, takes on an uncomfortable expression:) Uh, it's nothing, Auntie, really--

MILLIE: (Narrows eyes:) --No, now I can tell by your look that something's wrong with your uncle. (Pauses:) Out with it, Darren.

DARREN: Aunt Millie, I promised uncle Jim that I wouldn't say anything, all right? It's bad enough that you just suspect something. He'll think that I told you.

MILLIE: (Concerned expression:) Darren, if there's something wrong with your uncle's health--

DARREN: (Interrupts her, waves hands, which draw the attention of Helen as well as Edward, who begins to get up and come over:) --No, no, it's nothing like that! Physically, he's fine--

MILLIE: (Still with the expression:) --Then it's mental? (Rolls eyes:) Oh, no--

DARREN: (Surprised look:) What? "Mental"? No, not that, either! (Edward comes over beside him, the same for Helen)

EDWARD: (Cocks an eyebrow:) What's going on? I couldn't help but to notice that you two looked quite agitated!

HELEN: (Looks between the two:) Yes, I noticed that as well. What's wrong?

MILLIE: (Before Darren can say something, increasingly worried tone as she stares at him with a disapproving expression:) Apparently, something's wrong with Jim, something my nephew and your son has neglected to tell us--

EDWARD: (Begins to suspect the reason, thought v.o.: Bloody hell! The last thing I need is for Millie to feel sorry for that idiot's business woes!) (Quickly "backs up" Darren:) Millie, Helen, I think if something was really wrong with Jim, we'd heard something by now--

DARREN: --Ah, Edward's right, Aunt Millie, Helen. It's nothing to be concerned about, really. It's just a minor thing that isn't really important.

MILLIE: Oh, really? (Looks past Darren, smirks:) If you won't tell me, then perhaps I can ask Jim himself.

Darren followed Millie's stare, turning around. Jim had just come unto the same path behind them on his horse. He stopped, but didn't dismount, staring at them all with an awkward expression. Millie immediately made her way over, with Edward and Helen right behind her. Darren gave a colossal eye-roll, then followed.

JIM: (Slightly panicked tone:) Mill!? I swear I didn't know you all were riding on this path, really! (Begins to turn horse while Helen and Edward stare at him strangely:) I'll, er, go back--

MILLIE: --Wait a moment, Jim. (Jim stops his horse in mid-turn) I wanted to ask you a question, if you don't mind.

JIM: (Stares at her, then at the others:) Er, all right. What is it?

MILLIE: (Glances back at Darren:) Your nephew won't tell me exactly what it is, but, well, is there something wrong?

JIM: (Frowns, perplexed:) Eh? "Wrong"? (Sneaks glance at Darren, who shakes his head slightly at Jim:) What do you mean, Mill?

MILLIE: He let it slip out that you've been under some sort of (exaggerates word:) "strain" recently--? (Jim stares at Darren, who looks up and sighs) Is that what you meant by wanting to ride off by yourself earlier, over those "personal things" you had to think about alone? (Pauses:) Anything I should know--?

JIM: (Pauses, looks at Helen, who's staring at him with a curious expression, and Edward, who's staring at him stoically. Taking note of Edward, Jim smirks, privately getting an idea:) Well, since you seemed to so deeply care about my welfare, Mill, (Millie gives him an exasperated "Give me a break" expression. Edward merely glares. Darren notices this along with Helen. Both say nothing) I'll tell you. It's alright, Darren, I'm not mad at you, you did your best. (Pauses, sighs "heavily":) It's my elevator business. I've had some--(pauses:) "financial troubles" recently.

MILLIE: (Raised eyebrows, shocked along with Helen. Edward feigns shock as well:) W-What? Your business? What happened?

JIM: (Shrugs, "casual" tone:) Oh, though I'm not absolutely sure, I think that my business is the victim of some sort of "sophisticated" embezzlement scheme. An inside job, more than likely. No one outside of me and one other employee knows about it. (Pauses:) I've lost--(looks up for an instant, glances at them:) oh, around $800,000...

DARREN: (Now stunned along with the others as well, speaks before anyone else can:) $800,000?! You didn't tell me you lost that much!

MILLIE: Jim! Why didn't you say anything to me when you first came in? How long has this been going on?

JIM: (Improvising:) I, uh, didn't want to have you worried over this. Besides, ah, there was nothing you could've done. All of this happened over the course of a year, I think, I'm not too sure. The financial drainage has been very subtle and gradual, not unlike what happened with Appleton and that $50 million. But as Darren already knows, I've just hired Gerald Woo to be on the case Wednesday. (Pauses, casually looks at Edward:) In fact, I'm expecting to hear something from him sometime today. I'm hoping it's good news.

HELEN: (Impressed expression:) Oh, my! That fast?

DARREN: That's not surprising, of course. Woo doesn't waste any time, as we all know by now.

EDWARD: Er, so, that's who you were talking to when you were making all of those "business calls" since you've been staying here, old chap?

JIM: (Pointedly staring at Edward:) Yeah. If all goes right, I'll have all the answers I'll need by then, and whoever's done this will pay.

MILLIE: (Hesitates, walks up to him:) Jim, about what happened, you know, this morning, I've--changed my mind--I'm sorry for, well--(Edward cocks an eyebrow. Darren and Helen look at each other, miffed)

JIM: (Grateful expression:) --It's okay, Mill, there's no need to apologize. You had every right to feel like that. I was a jerk, pure and simple. (Turns:) Edward, I apologize for my sudden outburst last night in the theater. At the time, I was under the strain over worrying about my business, and I unfairly took it out on you.

EDWARD: (Looks between Jim and Millie:) It's--quite alright, Jim. I suppose I can understand your behavior now. (Stares at Millie again, she looks off for a second, then at him)

MILLIE: I'll--explain our talk to you later, Edward. (Pauses:) Jim, how about you ride with us for the rest of the way? (Edward bites his bottom lip slightly, looking chagrined. Jim smirks, noticing this)

JIM: Why, I'd like that, Mill, if it's not too much trouble...

Millie playfully rolled her eyes and was about to say something when Darren's cell phone that he carried with him suddenly rang. He reached in his pocket, pulled it out, and clicked it on.

DARREN: Yes? (Pauses:) Trent and his friends are here, Elenor? They're a little early. (Pauses:) Ah, my package has arrived as well? Good. We'll be back innn--(looks at the others:) say, an hour-and-a-half--? (They nod) Okay, see you then. (Clicks phone off, slips back in pocket)

HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Package", son?

DARREN: (Looking a bit uncomfortable:) Uh, yes. It's a little something I dropped off yesterday while heading to Appleton Tower from Yankee Stadium. I had, er, some things "done" to it. (Helen looks at the others and vice-versa) It's something of a--(pauses:) "personal" nature.

MILLIE: (After a moment:) I--see. (Pauses:) Well, we'd better get on, then. We still have those pictures to take for "Family Time" on the front lawn...(mounts her horse with the others, and they ride off)


(Scene changes to an upstairs hallway in the mansion, the same time)

Quinn came out of her room just as Fiona was about to walk by.

QUINN: Oh, Fiona! (Fiona stops) D'you have a second?

FIONA: Of course, Miss Quinn. How may I help you?

QUINN: (Hesitates, looks around for an instant, into a low-to whispering voice:) Um, you remember our, uh, "talk" about Darren, Stephanie, and Krystal Wednesday?

FIONA: (Looks at Quinn uncomfortably:) Yesss--?

QUINN: Well, I, uh, kinda told Jane about it, an' she told Daria and Tom, an' Daria and Tom and I told Clarence, Darren's friend--

FIONA: (Devestated expression, shakes head:) Oh, no! Miss Quinn, you promised--!

QUINN: (Waves hands frantically, adds quickly:) Nononono, Fiona! I didn't tell them about you and Krystal that time, honest! I just told them about the stuff that happened with Darren at that workout, that's all! Chris said that he and everybody already knew about it anyway, and that Krystal had even told Darren that she liked him, but he didn't like her, and she backed off!

FIONA: (Appears to be about to sound off, but sighs, slumps:) It's just as well, I guess. (Quinn cocks an eyebrow) I just spoke with Elenor, and I (pauses:) told her about what happened with me and Miss Krystal the first time I saw her, (adds:) though I didn't tell her that I told you that part. Elenor told me not to worry about it, and that she'll handle it.

QUINN: (Drops mouth, gasps, delighted:) Wow, that's great, Fiona! Now you don't haveta worry about Krystal anymore! (Thought v.o.: And neither do I...)

FIONA: (Looks off:) I--suppose, Miss Quinn. (Pauses, adds tepidly:) Please don't tell anyone about this, alright, no "part" of it at all--? Even though Elenor knows, I still don't feel quite safe...

QUINN: (Smiles, assuring tone:) Don't worry, Fiona. I didn't tell anyone about you and Krystal, and I'm not gonna tell them this--(pauses, smirks:) not even a "part" of it. (Holds hand up:) I promise. (Fiona smiles, grateful)


(Scene changes to what appears to be an office somewhere in Brooklyn, about 40 minutes later)

Jane stood beside a short, stout, older woman who had long, black (dyed) hair and was wearing huge, purple, moon-shaped earrings. The woman was also dressed in a 60's psychedelic-style, long-sleeved long dress and sandals. She wore thick, horn-ribbed glasses and had a "peace chain" around her neck.

Both were examining Jane's paintings along a bare wall opposite of the woman's desk, which lined the front of a somewhat dirty-looking panel of glass that showed the New York City skyline. An occasional sound of a car horn could be heard below, the same from a rumble of a jet plane in the sky.

The office was mostly small and crowded, with many copies of famous and not-so-famous artists lining the walls, save for the one Jane's paintings were leaning on. Darren's paintings that Jane had brought leaned against the front of the desk opposite of the two. Two fully-stacked bookcases sat on a far wall, its bevy of books on artists unevenly sitting on the shelves, looking as if some of them would fall out at any second on the dingy-looking floor.

If Jane had paid any attention to the way the room appeared, one couldn't tell, as she excitedly spoke while she suddenly reached down and held one of her paintings.

JANE: (Grinning:) --Yeah, I was considering Boston Fine Arts College for a time, but I decided to go to your school other than learning from you because it had the better liberal arts major, not to mention a superior kick-ass sculpture studio, Ms. Donovan--(adds:) well, for that and some other reasons...

TESS: (A gravelly-sounding, but in a "I'm-hip-with-the-times-voice", mildly admonishing tone, smirks:) Jane, please remember to call me just "Tess", alright? I'm not over the hill yet, you know.

JANE: (Sheepish expression:) Oops, sorry, Tess. I guess I'm just a little hyper, that's all. I mean, you're the Tess Donovan, the legendary head of the New York City Art School, and I'm here with you.

TESS: (Snorts, chuckles:) Why? It's not like I'm a "god", or anything, (adds, casual tone, grins:) though you are right about the "legendary" part. (Shrugs, sighs:) It's a curse, what can I say? (Jane snickers) Seriously, though, don't build me up into some sort of mythical figure. (Pauses:) I use the toilet and stink up the joint like everyone else.

JANE: (Laughs:) And here I thought you only excreted a pleasant lilac smell through your skin when you did! You've let me down! (Tess returns the laugh as she gently takes Jane's painting from her) So, um, do I pass your examination, Tess?

TESS: (While looking at the painting, a very bright-colored abstract one of a unknown, but smiling face:) Yes, you do, Jane, though when I compare this recent work to the other ones that you've done from only a few months ago, they all seem--(ponders, narrows eyes:) more brighter, more optimistic.

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) Mooooore, "brighter"? "Optimistic"?

TESS: (Now looks at Jane:) Yes, as if you've had a burden lifted from you recently. (Pauses, coy smirk:) I suppose your boyfriend Darren Appleton had something to do with that, (grins:) part of those "other reasons" you're going here--?

JANE: (Chuckles, shrugs:) Well, um, yeah. Since I've known him, let's just say that he's "grown" on me. It's the first time in a while that I've really felt good about myself. (Adds quickly:) Don't tell me that knowing him sorta hurts my work--?

TESS: (Cocks an eyebrow:) What do you mean, Jane?

JANE: Well, isn't an artist supposed to suffer depression in their lives, and thus their depression results in turning out some masterpieces?

TESS: (Shakes head slowly, chuckles:) Oh no, not you, too. Jane, it's true that an artist should put what they feel on a canvas or in sculpture, but it doesn't have to be sad or tragic all of the time. There are many great artworks that are quite optimistic in nature, you should know that.

JANE: (Lightly slaps head:) Yeah, yeah, I do, you're right. I just don't wanna do light stuff all of the time from now on. I just wanted that "artistic variety" in my work, you know.

TESS: (Grins:) I don't think you'll have anything to worry about. Picasso had his moods, and you will as well. You'll get that depression "back".

JANE: (Thinks about Krystal for an instant:) Yeah, you're definitely right about that. (Pauses, glances at Darren's paintings, one of the landscape around the mansion, and one of his [adopted] parents:) Speaking of Darren, what'd you think?

TESS: (Turns, glances at them, casual tone:) Oh, they're alright. If he dedicated more of his time to art, Darren Appleton would be a very good artist, at best. Right now, he's barely a novice.

JANE: (Surprised expression and tone:) Huh? I thought they looked great!

TESS: (Goes over, picks up the painting of Darren's parents:) Jane, the shadow tone on his (adopted) parent's faces is too dark. Their eyelines are slightly off, and the hair on his mother is painted on too thickly, there's not enough strokes to let the viewer tell that it looks like it's hair. (Jane comes over, narrows eyes as she examines it) See?

JANE: (After a moment:) Well, I'll be--you're right! I didn't see that! (Pauses, frowns:) Why didn't I see that?

TESS: Because you were in such a hurry to show me his work, and didn't pay attention to the very fine detail in it. (Curt nod, narrowing of her eyes:) That is the most important thing you must work on while you're going here, Jane--detail. (Jane's own eyes narrow, look off in deep thought) Embrace it. You have plenty of it in your work from what I can see, but you still have a ways to go. Even after many years, a veteran artist, like in other professions in life, like life itself, never stops learning. (Pauses, smiles:) I still consider myself learning, and have a long ways to go.

JANE: (Nods head slowly, considers:) Yeah, okay. Detail. Gotcha.

TESS: (Curious expression:) Why did you want to show me your boyfriend's works, Jane? Was he planning to enroll here? (Pauses, chuckles, adds good-naturedly:) Not that I wouldn't have minded having him here as a student, with the budget cuts we're having--

JANE: (Chuckles:) --Naaah. I guess I just wanted him to have a little more confidence in his art stuff, he didn't seem to put too much stock in showing it off. I figured that hearing from someone of your stature that his stuff wasn't half-bad could've given him a confidence boost, or something. (Pauses, realizes:) Uh, excuse me, but did you say that the school's having some financial problems?

TESS: (Slightly nods, sad, ever-so-slight bitter tone:) Well, yes. The state is cutting our funding by 40%, and our private donations by our alumni are running behind last year's efforts by 50%, even with our enrollment up. Our operating costs are simply becoming too high. We've even been forced to decide to reuse most of our supplies and equipment for our students. (Hesitates:) Undoubtedly, you've also seen some of our, er, "used" furniture outside in the hallway and around the campus, as well as the worn-out walls. We thought about doing some remodeling, but the cutbacks took care of that. (Sighs:) Obviously, we've had--better years...

JANE: (Slow realization as she looks around Tess' office:) Geez, I didn't really notice that the school had looked kinda worn. I was so set on enrolling here, it really never even occurred to me...

TESS: (Pauses, realizes something:) Er, Jane, I hope you don't think I'm attempting to get some money for our school from Darren Appleton by accepting you here, because you did get in by your own merits--

JANE: (Raised eyebrows, surprised:) --What? No, no, of course not! (Pauses:) Why would you think something like that?

TESS: (Hesitates, looks off, uncomfortable expression:) I--well, I wouldn't have blamed you if that thought had entered your mind, even for a second--

JANE: --Don't worry, it didn't, (slight smirk:) not until you brought it up. (Pauses:) But since you did bring it up, how much do you think the school will need to at least keep up? I can ask Darren for a contribution--

TESS: (Alarmed expression:) --Jane, it's not really nec--

JANE: (Puts hand up, cuts her off gently:) --I insist, Tess. This is where I'm going for the next four years, and it's kinda stupid to come here and have to settle for second-hand stuff to try and get my degree from. I want to work with better tools, the same for my fellow students. Besides, you're taking donations from the alumni, what's another dollar or two from my boyfriend? (Pauses, slight smirk:) So, how much d'you think will be needed?

TESS: (After a moment, sighs, in a matter-of-fact tone:) About two million, give or take a penny or two.

JANE: (Pauses, caught off-guard momentarily by the amount:) Ooookay, two million bucks, huh? I'll ask Darren about it when I get back to the mansion. He's pretty enthusiastic about the arts, (looks off, a tad uncomfortable expression:) I'm sure he'll give something, though I'm not promising that it will be two million smackeroonies.

TESS: (Chuckles:) Any little bit will help, believe me. (Pauses, looks for words, small smile:) Jane, how--how can I ever thank you?

JANE: (Grins:) You just did. (Pauses:) Hey, how about coming tonight to our party, if you have nothing planned? Who knows? You can maybe pick up a check or something from Darren, and I can show you along with everyone else some artwork that I've just finished, which I'm gonna reveal to the world. I can call the mansion on my way back and tell 'em to expect you.

TESS: (Chuckles:) Well, there's nothing on my itinerary for this evening, and I definitely want to see what else you've done. (Pauses:) If you think it's alright...


(Scene changes to the hallway two doors down from Tess Donovan's office, the same time)

Krystal sat on a battered-looking couch, the only one in the mostly-dingy hallway. She was speaking with her brother on her cell phone, while looking around in mild disgust. Save for some framed artwork done by students that covered some cracked plaster, the walls were, suffice it to say, quite worn, with old wallpaper peeling in some spots.

KRYSTAL: --And how Jane Lane can go to this so-called "art school" is beyond me. It looks so awful, ick. (Pauses, frowns:) You know, I don't recall NYCAS looking this bad, before...

RORY: (Chuckling sound:) Well, maybe she can hit her boyfriend up for some cash to improve the place. (Krystal frowns. Rory senses her silence, speaks in a "soothing" voice:) Oops. I almost forgot about hitting your little sore spot, sis. Sorry about that.

KRYSTAL: (Wicked smirk:) No problem, Rory. That just reminds me to hit your little sore spot when we get back home from the party tonight. (On the other end, Rory makes a moaning sound) Why did you call me, anyway? (Looks at watch)

RORY: Because it just occurred to me: It was you who called that Sandi chick's parents last night, making them come up here to fetch their daughter, wasn't it? (Krystal snorts) I saw what went down earlier on the TV, wild as it was, and I wondered why they'd suddenly come up, then it hit me.

KRYSTAL: Duh. Took you long enough, yeah, it was my sinister doing. (Pauses:) So?

RORY: So, I suddenly find myself PO'd at you for keeping that babe from me for tonight, despite the other hoochie mamas being there. (Pauses while Krystal rolls her eyes:) Why'd you do it, out of curiousity?

KRYSTAL: Because I thought she still liked Darren, and was trying to get me out of the picture before she did Jane. I decided to turn the tables on her, and like you, saw the "wild" thing that followed this morning with her adoption by her mo--aunt and birth daddy. (Pauses:) Thing is, Sandi Griffin really doesn't like Darren, at least not as a boyfriend anymore. Jane herself told me that, though it was more in an indirect way.

RORY: I thought that was settled on Sunday, and reinforced on Tuesday.

KRYSTAL: (Narrows eyes:) It was, but I moved against Sandi Griffin because she was the primary antagonist that made me look like a--(stops, decides to not divulge that information to Rory:) er, never mind that, now. (Quickly goes on:) Anyhow, during our little "get together" driving here, Lane somehow or another found out about my little tit-for-tat argument with Stephanie during that workout a few years ago over Darren, and lit into me on it--

RORY: (Laughs, interrupts:) --Oh, ho! That well-known martial arts incident, where "Darry" held you back from kicking Stephanie's ass, and basically drove home the point to you the next day at Orbison that he didn't like you, but her? (Teasing tone:) You cried sooo long that day on my shoulder after you told me...

KRYSTAL: (Deep scowl:) Even more of those damn sore spots for tonight, Rory, and you'll be crying...

RORY: Hey! I was just recalling some old memories, that's all! It's on the public record, anyway, and it's way in the past! (Gets into a quieter tone:) You got back in his and his family's good graces afterwards. He didn't push you off completely.

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Yes, but I had to watch him and Stephanie become the talk of Orbison, then Eastward, and the envy of the girls and the guys in both schools. (Bitter tone:) I tried to settle for other guys and forget Darren, but I always came back around to thinking about him. He never left my mind completely.

RORY: (Bored-sounding tone:) Yeah, yeah, like I said, it's on the public record. What I can't believe is that you actually came clean and told Jane that you told Darren you really liked him once. What in the hell is the matter with you? Are you trying to keep Jane Lane on her guard, sis?

KRYSTAL: ("Duh" tone:) Jane's not stupid, Rory, and neither am I. I figured she'd know about my "confession" to Darren sooner or later, anyway, if not by me, then by somebody else, possibly via Curtis, or even from Darren himself. I'd prefer her hearing it straight from me. This is my way of letting her think that I'm really over him.

RORY: Whatever. (Pauses:) You know, I thought that martial arts incident was mostly forgotten. What made that Lane chick ask about that, anyway? How'd she know?

KRYSTAL: (Frowns:) I don't know. When she first asked me while we were on our way here, it was all I could do from expressing complete surprise. I had no choice, since she called me on it. (Shrugs:) I assumed somebody, with Sandi Griffin on the top of my list, had gotten it from someone working there, then told somebody else, who then told Jane, Quinn and Daria, because I'm now sure both of the Morgendorffer sisters also either dislike or are suspicious of me, or both, yet another reason I wanted to pay Griffin back. (Pauses:) I don't know who could've told Griffin, if it was her, it could've been anyone. There were some of the staff out there that day that overheard us shouting. (Sighs:) Maybe one of them still has an ax to grind against me, or something. (Pauses:) I don't think Tina would've said anything, since we've gotten along so well, the same for Claude. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Hmmm, possibly Elenor, though she and I basically haven't had any sort of disagreement in years. (Pauses:) Fiona? (Deep smirk:) Nah. Too scared of me. She's pretty well cowered down. (Frowns:) If I knew who, I'd make them sorry they ever started to work there.

RORY: (Snickering sound:) Well, you can use the process of elimination, right? It was a while back, and the mansion has had newer workers since. Maybe you can whittle down the culprits.

KRYSTAL: Hmm, good idea. (Smirks:) Maybe I'll just leave one tiny sore spot on you tonight, brother dear.

RORY: (Sneering sound:) You're too kind, sis. (Pauses, gets into a coy tone:) Say, I wonder how "Darry" and the others would take to finding out about who called Sandi Griffin's folks up here? (Krystal glares at the cell phone) Perhaps we can "renegotiate" our little "agreement" over my paying you a 20% fee for you-know-what, hmmm?

KRYSTAL: Orrrr--say, I wonder how our parents would take to finding out about who's dealing in you-know-what, hmmm? Bet it would far outweigh what I did, and besides, just because Darren's invited you for tonight, don't think he or even any of the others would believe you of all people over my denials. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Go on. Find out. I dare you.

RORY: (After a moment:) Uhhh, perhaps we'll just forget this cute little attempt at blackmail, okay? (Krystal develops a smug expression) So, where d'you and Lane stand? You guys still mortal enemies?

KRYSTAL: (Sneaks a look at Tess Donovan's door, lowers voice:) I tried to tell her that I was just "testing" her on Darren and I really didn't have any interest in him anymore like that, but I'm not sure she bought it.

RORY: Hah! What'd you expect? I'm no expert, but I think that girl's sharp, (adds:) not to mention a babe in disguise!

KRYSTAL: (Quick, exasperated sigh of disgust:) It looks like that, but I--(glances to her right:) look, I have to go, someone's coming. My stuff's at the mansion, so I can't come to pick you up for the party. You'll have to either get a taxi, or bum a ride, (grins:) though we both know that's unlikely with your reputation around here. Gotta go. (Clicks off phone as Rory's heard speaking, puts it in her small purse, stands up, slight smile:) Uh, hello there.

From the side, an attractive-looking young woman who appeared to be in her early 20's, appeared. The woman had long, brown hair, and wore tatoos on her arms. She returned the small smile at Krystal, even cocking a slight eyebrow of approval as she looked her over, which unnerved Krystal slightly for some reason. The woman reached out and shook Krystal's hand, holding on to it for a second longer than Krystal wanted, then released it. Inwardly, Krystal shuddered at the woman's soft touch of her hand, for it felt briefly like a caress.

WOMAN: (In a smooth, purring voice:) Hi, my name's Alison. I'm here to visit Tess Donovan. You wouldn't happen to know if she's in--?

KRYSTAL: (Looks back at the door, still felling unnerved:) Uh, yes, as a matter of fact she is, er, "Alison", but she's speaking to a future student at the moment. I don't think it'll be too long, though.

ALISON: (Cocks an eyebrow yet again, looks over Krystal, smirks:) Oh, okay, I guess I can wait. What's your name? Are you a student here?

KRYSTAL: Er, no, I'm not. My name's Krystal. I'm waiting for that "future student" Ms. Donovan's speaking to to come out so we can leave. I drove her here.

ALISON: (Nods:) Oh, I see, Krystal. (Looks her over yet another time, once again causing Krystal to feel nervous:) That's a nice summer ensamble you're wearing. Is it a size seven, by any chance? (Suddenly walks behind and around Krystal, "appraising" her, a little too close for Krystal's comfort. Krystal's eyes grow wide slightly) It looks really good on you...

KRYSTAL: (Draws back a little from Alison, cuts her eyes suspiciously at her:) Ah, uh, thanks. Y-Yes, it is a size seven, in fact--

At the same moment, Jane (holding her portfolio under one arm, with Darren's paintings under her other arm) and Tess exited Tess' office, laughing and chattering. Krystal, for once privately grateful for Jane's appearance, immediately created a "workable" distance between her and Alison, politely going over to the pair. Alison smirked for a moment at Krystal, then followed at a casual stroll.

JANE: Oh, Krystal, hey. This is Tess Donovan, the chancellor of the New York City Art School. Tess, this is Krystal McKinna, a (slight pause:) friend of Darren Appleton's. She drove me here to meet you. (Both women shake hands and exchange greetings. Jane cocks an eyebrow at Alison, who's coming up from behind:) Um, hello--?

ALISON: (Reaches out to Jane, who puts down her portfolio for a moment, shakes hands with her:) Hi, just call me Alison. I'm a former student who finished here three years ago. (Smiles:) Hey, Tess.

TESS: (Surprised tone:) Hello, Alison! It's nice to see you again!

ALISON: You too, Tess. (Turns to Jane:) And you're--?

JANE: Jane. Jane Lane.

ALISON: (Eyebrows raise:) Waaaait a minute. The Jane Lane? (Lusty grin:) That ruggedly handsome Darren Appleton's girlfriend, Jane Lane, the artist? I thought you looked kind of familiar! You're the "future student" that was seeing Tess?

TESS: (Smirks, leans over to Jane, in a low tone out of the corner of her mouth, playful tone:) You're not a "god", remember thaaat...

JANE: (Mock-glares at Tess, shrugs, sheepish expression:) Yup, one in the same, that's me, humble little Jane Lane.

ALISON: (Excited:) Wow! I love your art and sculptures! They're so--so radical and independent of all restraint!

JANE: (Brightens:) Oh, thanks! Well, I try to stay away from the standard, generic forms of art that everyone else seems to be doing--

ALISON: --And it's working, too! Your art's selling like it's going out of style, I've been reading the trade papers! (Pauses:) So, uh, why are you enrolling here? (Adds quickly, smirks:) No offense, Tess, I didn't mean it in quite that way... (Tess returns the smirk, nods)

JANE: (Glances over at Tess, sighs:) Let's just say I wanna put a little more "detail" into my work, you know, polish it up. It's sorta like Tiger Woods when he started playing professional golf. He was well-known, and had a game that no one had seen before, but he was still a little rough around the edges and had to keep working on rounding out his game. He had the strength to hit that tiny little golf ball further than anybody who ever played the sport, but he needed to work on the other little things to have a complete game, and become an even better golfer. That's what I need to do--(adds, smirks:) the things to do to become a better artist, that is.

ALISON: (Impressed expression:) Hey, that's pretty deep. I never thought of it that way. (Grins, winks:) And I bet it doesn't hurt to have a really rich boyfriend to help you along the way financially, huh? (Adds quickly:) No offense again. (Krystal smirks slightly at this. Jane's eyes narrow a little. Tess gives Alison an admonishing expression)

TESS: (Before Jane can speak:) Alison!

JANE: (Glances over at Krystal for a moment, sees her erase her slight smirk just in time, composes herself:) It's okay, Tess. No offense taken, Alison. I guess I can understand that some people would think that. Darren and I have a "working" agreement that he'd help me out if I really needed any moolah in a pinch, but that I'd pay him right back. (Smirks at Krystal:) Since I'm rolling in the dough with my artwork being sold so much, I don't think I'll have to worry about getting a handout anytime in the near future. In fact, I have just about enough right now, not only for my education, but to also buy my own car, so I can drive here everyday when I attend.

ALISON: Cool. (Pauses:) So, where will you stay while you're going up here?

JANE: (Smug smirk at Krystal, who stays stoic:) At my boyfriend's estate. His sister's planning to go to the same school he's going to, and she'll be staying under the same roof, like me. She also happens to be my best friend.

ALISON: (Grins:) Wow! You've got the complete package! I'm so damn envious!

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: You and me both.) Uh, Jane--? Are you ready to go--?

JANE: Hey, yeah, you're right. (Fumbles a little with Darren's paintings:) Mind giving me a hand with Darren's stuff? It's getting a little heavy, here. (Krystal takes them) Thanks. Alison, maybe we can get together sometime and compare our work--?

ALISON: Yeah, I'd like that. (Looks at Tess, smiles:) I'm going to rent a small shop that'll house a gallery of my art, which will be located in the Bronx. (To Jane, grins:) Be sure you, your friend, and your gorgeous boyfriend stop off there in the future, okay? (Jane smirks, nods) Daniel Dotson, the famous artist, is going to help me set up. (To Tess:) I met him earlier this summer at the Ashfield Artists' Colony when I stayed there. (Smirks:) You might say we hit it right off.

TESS: (Delightedly surprised:) Wait--the Daniel Dotson? Why, that's wonderful, Alison! (Alison nods. Jane gives Tess a "Now who's thinking who's a 'god' ?" smirk. Tess realizes this, rolls her eyes playfully)

JANE: (Turns her attention to Alison, pauses:) Waitaminnit--you met him at Ashfield? A friend of my mom's runs that place! We could've met! (Looks between them all:) I almost decided to go there earlier this summer, you see, but I went out West instead to another art colony in Arizona with my mom, (hesitates:) er, sort of as a "bonding thing". (Quickly goes on:) Anyway, I'm planning on some sort of gallery around here when I get settled, too, though that's still a ways off. (Turns back to Tess, smiles:) See you tonight, Tess. You have the instructions on how to get there, right?

TESS: Yes, though it's a pretty well-known fact where the Appleton mansion is. (Smiles, shakes Jane's hand:) Until then, Jane. Nice to meet you, Krystal.

KRYSTAL: Nice to meet you, too, Tess. (Pauses, motions head in a curt nod:) Uh, Alison.

ALISON: (Small smile:) Krystal. (Pauses, in her purring tone of voice again:) Maybe we can meet each other again soon, and you can tell me where you shop, hmm--? (Jane cocks an eyebrow, looks at Tess and vice-versa)

KRYSTAL: (Brief blush of embarassment, rushed tone:) Yeah, right, sure. C'mon, Jane. (Leaves quickly. Jane pauses, then follows)

Tess and Alison stared after them for a moment, then Tess turned to her former student, mildly perplexed.

TESS: I wonder what that was all about? You two know each other, or something?

ALISON: (Chuckles as she continues to watch the two walk down the hallway, Krystal opening up a "commanding" lead:) I'd like to get to know her, but something tells me that she's not the type to get into a "bi". (Pauses:) Such a shame, when you think about it, I could've taught her a lot of things. Jane looks kinda cute, too. Too bad she's spoken for, huh? (Smirks:) Maybe Darren Appleton would go for a three-way, you think...? (Tess shakes her head and chuckles. The two go into her office)


Krystal was moving so quickly down the hallway, she was almost running. Jane was barely keeping up with her, since she was also trying to keep her portfolio from falling on the floor.

JANE: Hey, slow down, willya? You're leaving me in the dust, and that's coming from a jogger and former high school track star!

KRYSTAL: Huh? Oh, sorry. I was--just in a hurry to get back to the mansion. (Slows down to a walk. Jane catches up with her, and the two go down the stairs at the end of the hallway.)

JANE: (After a moment:) So, uh, what was up with you and that 'Alison' girl? (Krystal looks over at her, cocks an eyebrow) If I didn't know any better, I'd say she almost creeped you out.

KRYSTAL: (Puts on a "pleasant" smile, nervous chuckle:) Oh? I guess I didn't notice. I suppose she just looks like that "creepy" type, you know...? (Thought v.o. while Jane glances at her strangely: I couldn't get Darren to look at me, but this "Alison" practically almost drooled when she stared. [Pauses, realizes:] Hm--I can't believe I let her get to me like that. Damn dykes. If she would've put her hand on me in a weird way, I'd have kicked her ass. Note to self: Never wear this thing in public, again.)

A minute later, the two came to Krystal's car, which was in a parking deck beside the building they came from. In the back seat, there was a medium-sized package marked "Quinn", with a smaller package marked "Daria" sitting on top of it. Jane cocked an inquisitive eyebrow and glanced at Krystal, who slightly smirked.

KRYSTAL: Okay, so I actually did run an errand or two while you spoke to Tess Donovan...


(Scene is back at the mansion, about two hours later)

After Jane and Krystal returned from the art school, Krystal quickly had presented Daria and Quinn with her gifts in front of everyone in the family room, completely catching the Morgendorffer sisters off-guard, surprising and delighting the others because of Krystal's "generousity". Under the gun of everyone's watch, both sisters reluctantly opened their gifts--and were subsequently surprised.

Daria's present was a book, Daniel Defoe's The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders. In Quinn's case, it was a voluptuous white cashmere sweater, a Circa exclusive (by which Krystal immediately indicated that she'd purchase one for the other Fashion Clubbers later, but didn't then because she was "rushed for time", wanting to get back to Jane at the school). A subtly-smirking Krystal added that she bought the gifts out of her "appreciation of Daria and Quinn being Darren's sisters", and "of them being really 'nice' to her." Both Morgendorffer sisters glanced at each other uneasily while Jane mentally rolled her eyes.

Curtis looked over at Daria and Quinn with a "What do you think of that?" expression on his face, saying nothing. Both girls didn't see him while they awkwardly thanked Krystal, but Jane and Tom caught his look, both keeping silent for the moment.

Relishing the moment of catching Daria and Quinn off-guard, Krystal then strategically decided to leave and change in the mansion at that moment for the picture-taking and the party, while Daria and Quinn immediately took their gifts to their rooms. Jane paused, shrugged at Darren and the others with an uneasy smile, excusing herself, then quickly followed Daria to her room. Stacy and Tiffany followed Quinn to her room, where Quinn could try on her sweater.

After a very quick and private comparison of notes that took place between Daria and Jane over their separate conversations with Curtis and Krystal (and of deciding to converse about the gift-getting later), the two rejoined everyone on the mansion's front lawn for pictures. Trent and the band took a moment from setting up their instruments to join in on getting some shots of their own with the others. It was decided that the band would get their pictures taken first quickly so that they could finish setting up for the guests, who were to begin to arrive around 7:00.

Jesse, Max, and Nick had quickly become smitten with the flattered (and shy) Fiona, so much so that they almost had gotten into a minor scuffle over her when they first laid eyes upon the young maid. After the group took a courtesy picture with Darren, the trio practically begged Fiona (who was privately reluctant with Krystal's presence, of course) to take some pictures with them for their "group photo travel album", and she only consented after an amused Darren had given his "permission". All three men would've stayed longer had Trent of all people not reminded them that they had to finish setting up.

Krystal also bore the brunt of attention of the three like Fiona, taking a courtesy picture herself with Mystik Spiral, but she tactfully ignored the trio, save for Trent, whom she cocked a mild, appreciative eyebrow to while she shook his hand as he introduced himself. This immediately garnered surprise from Jane and Daria, who glanced at each other wordlessly. For his part, Trent had appeared to not notice her (much to Jane's private relief), mostly checking his watch.

The band left, and afterwards the picture taking with Darren and everyone else began. Helen held her son around the waist while smiling with him, then Jake, who had his arm around Darren's shoulder, grinning like a proud father while Millie took the picture, then one was taken of both parents, with Darren in the middle. There were three pictures taken of each.

A delighted Quinn grabbed her brother in a tight hug and laid her head on his chest while laughing and waving at the snapping camera and at a giggling Stacy and Tiffany, which produced massive eye-rolls from Daria and Jane, and chuckling from Tom, Curtis, and Krystal. Darren appeared embarassed for a moment, but loosened up and grinned, having his own fun with Quinn by suddenly lifting her up in the air and twirling her around. Quinn giggled as he did, which caused a disgusted Daria to crack that "Since her sister lives like she goes around in circles and is dizzy and ditzy anyway, this isn't a major surprise", all of which made Jane, Millie and Jim laugh, and Edward to chuckle in amusement like Fiona, as opposed to Helen's admonishing scowl, and Jake's cluelessness. Quinn insisted upon at least ten pictures taken for her own album.

Daria simply trudged over to her brother and stood beside him stoically with her trademark deadpan expression while Jake took a picture of the two. She was about to quickly walk off when Helen and Jake insisted that they have at least one more taken together, and for Daria to at least show a tiny smile. Daria gave a quiet sigh, and dutifully stood back beside Darren, who whispered to Daria if he could put an arm around her shoulder on the second picture. After a long moment, a red-faced Daria gave a quick, reluctant mumble and nod, and Darren gingerly did so. A smirking Jane cracked that "Darren's kinda 'carrying' you in this picture, so smile for a change and make it even!", which caused a red-faced Darren to narrow his eyes at Jane, and Quinn to smirk, having gotten the barb and inference. Daria gave Jane a killer glare just as the camera went off, which forced Jake to want to take another picture. Daria agreed, but only if she could keep the ruined picture, much to the chagrin of Helen. On the final picture, Daria showed her Mona Lisa smile--and subtly had her arm around her brother's lower back as she did.

After Darren took a picture with both of his sisters and with his entire birth family, it was Jane's turn to get her share of pictures with him. She strolled over with a coy expression, and put her arm around his waist, which he returned in kind. Then, just as Jake's camera went off, Jane suddenly had turned Darren's head and smooched him. Darren swooned, Daria shook her head and smirked, Quinn stuck her finger down her throat in a "gag" motion while Helen sighed, putting her hand on her forehead. Jake was simply too busy snapping as Jane once again began to overwhelm Darren with even more smooches, his face quickly becoming covered with her lipstick.

Darren didn't care as she did, standing like a statue, grinning. Tom, Curtis, Millie, Edward and Jim laughed along with Fiona, while Stacy giggled and Tiffany smiled. Krystal actually forced a chuckle at this, all the while feeling as if she were going to throw up, but determined not to allow herself to look as if she were jealous this go around. Surely enough, Daria and Quinn glanced at her along with Tom, saying nothing as Krystal didn't betray her emotions. Curtis, now noticing this himself, once again looked over at Daria and Quinn, giving another "See?" expression, and this time both girls caught his look, saying nothing while glancing at each other.

Darren then took pictures with Millie, Tom, Stacy, Tiffany, Jim, and even Edward, who hesitated for a moment, then joined in. Curtis shrugged indifferently when asked, then participated as well. Krystal, who had changed into a shiny-looking summer black tank top and tan short pants with sockless sneakers for the party, subtly hooked her arm with Darren's and stood very close to him, smiling "politely" while Jake took their picture. Daria, Jane and Quinn looked at each other and frowned slightly in disapproval while they watched on the side, which caused Curtis to sigh a little as he noticed their reaction, exasperated. Tom, noticing all of this as well, said nothing, though he obviously looked uncomfortable at Curtis' expression. Darren apparently didn't notice, showing a small smile to the camera. The same was said for the others--save for two.

The first one was Elenor, staring out of the window at the gathering from the servant's quarters while on a short break. She narrowed her eyes intensely at Krystal's supposedly subtle action, then happened to notice Jane and the Morgendorffer sister's frowns. She shook her head slowly and left the window.

The second one to notice what Krystal was doing was Fiona, who had stayed behind when Mystic Spiral left, by Millie's request for assisting her and Helen with some last-minute minor arrangements for the party. She frowned slightly in confusion. To Fiona, it appeared that Krystal seemed to relish in being near Darren, even after her trip to the city with Jane. Does she still like him like that? She quickly looked over at Jane, and saw her disapproving expression. I guess it must be true. Fiona wondered if she should've inquired to Quinn what exactly did she suspect of Krystal. Fiona happened to look at the mansion and saw Elenor's expression from the servant's window, then of Elenor's leaving. Fiona's eyes widened in fear and realization for the briefest instant.

A few minutes later, the picture-taking finally stopped, basically because Jake had run out of film. Everyone conversed for a bit, then began to go their own separate ways until the party would start, which would be in an hour. Helen went with Millie and Fiona inside the mansion, followed by Edward, who decided to tag along with them; Jake returned to the kitchen to help Henri finish the preparations; Jim, now anxious over still not hearing anything from Woo as of yet, decided to go to the gameroom to "distract" himself from being on edge. This, of course, left the remainder of the group in the front. Darren turned to Jane and spoke.

DARREN: (Grins:) Jane, when are you going to show us what you've done in my meditation room? I'm kinda on pins and needles, here.

JANE: (Smirks:) Ya gotta wait another hour, "Darry". I want to make sure everyone sees the "world premiere" of Jane Lane's latest masterpiece, (winks at Daria:) along with my other ones. Sorry.

TOM: Hey, who wants to see the rest of the Sick, Sad World DVD that Daria and I didn't finish viewing in the home theater yesterday?

CURTIS: I'm game. (Smirks at Darren:) Thanks to Darren, I'm getting hooked on that show. Anybody else?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Your taste is beginning to show fruition, young Curtis. Soon, you'll be one of us. (Curtis chuckles)

QUINN: (Shudders along with Stacy and Tiffany:) EWWWW! That disgusting show? No freakin' way! We're gonna go to the pool area, and wait for everybody else--

STACY: (Giggling:) --And see the cute guys in the group while we're waiting! I could just die looking at that "Jesse" guy!

TIFFANY: (Smiles:) Yeah...me too...

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Gee, if we would've known that before, we could've simply have just shown you their pictures at school, and you would've keeled over then. Viola, no more Fashion Club. (Jane nods in agreement, smirking. Darren chuckles with Tom, Curtis, and Krystal)

QUINN: (Glares at Daria with Tiffany and Stacy:) Ha, Daria, very funny.

DARREN: Think I'll join you and Tom, Curtis. Jane, Daria, Krystal, are you all going--

KRYSTAL: (Gently interrupts:) --Um, Darren--?

DARREN: Huh? What is it, Krystal?

KRYSTAL: (Glances at Daria and Jane, hesitates:) Could I speak to you for a few minutes, alone before you go? It won't take too long, I promise. (Daria frowns a little with Jane and Quinn at this. Tom and Curtis look at each other)

DARREN: (Pauses:) Well, sure, I guess--

As if she deliberately had waited for that very moment to arrive (which she did), Elenor appeared from the front door, coming out from behind it.

ELENOR: (Quick curtsey:) Excuse me, Master Darren, I didn't mean to interrupt. (Pauses:) Miss Krystal--? There's a call for you. They didn't say who they were, only that is was very important that they speak to you. You can take it in the study, (adds, subtle pointed tone:) you're guaranteed absolute privacy in there. Follow me, please.

KRYSTAL: (Thought v.o.: Rory'll be here in a bit, so he could've talked to me then. Could it be that "Sesame" girl? I ususally do the calling...:) Oh, thank you, Elenor. I'm coming. Excuse me for a moment, Darren. (Pauses:) Perhaps we can speak a little later--?

DARREN: Sure. I'll be in the theater after you finish your call. (Krystal nods, leaves to follow Elenor. Darren turns to Daria and Jane:) As I was about to say, Jane, Daria, are you two going to join us in the theater?

JANE: Oh yeah, you bet--

DARIA: (Cuts in:) --Uh, we'll there in a little bit, Darren. I, um, needed to speak with Jane about some, er, more "private girl stuff", it won't take any time. (Jane cocks an eyebrow at her, then nods)

DARREN: (Looks between them both, shrugs:) Ah, okay, sure. C'mon, guys. (Thought v.o.: Good. This'll give me a little time to speak to Curtis and Tom in private about my "package"...) (Leaves with Tom and Curtis. Tom looks back at a moment to Daria, who gives him a her usual stoic expression, save for a small shrug)

QUINN: (Ponders for a moment, realizes what Daria and Jane might want to speak about:) Oh, uh, yeah, I just remembered I needed to speak to you and Jane about something as well, Daria. (Stacy and Tiffany look at each other, then at Quinn) You guys go on ahead, I'll be there as soon as I can.

STACY: Uh, sure, Quinn. (Leaves with Tiffany)

Daria and Jane observed the duo leave in the front door and turned to Quinn, who had crossed her arms and stared back at them.

DARIA: Why didn't you go along with Stacy and Tiffany? Don't tell me that you're beginning to prefer our company over their's, because if you are, you've discovered the one thing that'll make me end it all here and now.

QUINN: (Rolls her eyes:) Oh, come on, Daria! I know what you an' Jane are gonna talk about! (Pauses:) It's over Krystal, and those gifts she gave you and me, right?

DARIA: (Surprised look with Jane:) Whoa. You are becoming more perceptive, aren't you?

QUINN: (After a moment:) If you mean that I'm figuring out more about what you guys are doing, then I'd say yeah.

JANE: (Smirks, crosses arms:) Whattaya know, she might now be forming a complete thought pattern with the rest of her brain over people's motives in life, as opposed to just the ones in fashions and dates. (Quinn scowls)

DARIA: You mean, with the rest of her pea-sized one? I'd say it's remotely possible.

QUINN: (Bitter tone, stomps:) Dammit! I'm getting a little sick and tired of you guys teaming up and insulting me like that! (Daria and Jane draw back a little, surprised at Quinn's tone) All I did was guess what was going on, and you two, like, go all out on me, and stuff!

DARIA: (Softening tone, hands up:) Hey, calm down there, wildcat, okay? No need to scratch our eyes out.

JANE: (Ditto with the tone:) Yeah, ease up a little. We're sorry for the put downs, it's a natural reflex, you know that. (Pauses:) Besides, with all due respect, you've done the same thing to us on occasion while we've been up here--

DARIA: (Deadpan:) --And down there to us in Lawndale and to me in Highland as well--(pauses, drones on:) many, many times over the hours, days, years--(Quinn snorts)

JANE: (Glances at Daria, tries not to snicker:) Tell you what--how about we make a tiny truce and give no more insults to each other while we're up here, through tomorrow, at least? Will that satisfy you? (Quinn's countenence softens) After all, we all have something in common for once: Krystal.

QUINN: (Cuts eyes to her sister:) Weeeell, only if Daria agrees--

DARIA: --Quoad hoc.

QUINN & JANE: (Both frown, perplexed:) Huh? What'd you call me?

DARIA: (Slight smirk, sighs:) Quoad hoc, which is Latin for "to this extent" or "as far as this". As much as it'll kill me, I'll hold back on my customary zingers on you, but only until we return to Lawndale, sis. Deal. (Shakes hands with Quinn, who does the same with Jane:) Now, it's pretty obvious that Krystal was trying to bribe us with those gifts in trying to get closer to us over Darren--

JANE: --Which you two certainly couldn't have turned down when she suddenly did it right in front of everybody, lest it would've made you both look like you were ungrateful wenches. (Adds, shrugs:) Sorry I couldn't warn you both in time on my cell phone, but she was there in the car with me...

DARIA: Eh, don't worry about it. (Pauses, slight frown:) I still can't believe Krystal purchased one of the few books that I actually hadn't read yet in English literature, dammit. Even the study doesn't have it. (Pauses, ponders:) Hmm, I mentioned that title to my mom and even Darren once about really wanting that book. I half-expected that either of them would get it for me on my birthday or on Christmas. It looks like Krystal beat them to it. (Pauses:) Do you think she might have gotten the info from either of them?

JANE: (Nods:) Other than by a really scary freakish quirk of nature in our continuum, I'd say more than likely. I certainly didn't give her any idea when she suddenly barraged me with what the deal was with you guys on our way to my school.

QUINN: (Looks up, ponders:) Hmm--I kinda remembered that I raved to Stacy over seeing and wanting to get that sweater while we were all at Reynaldo's. Krystal, like, must've overheard me, and stuff. (Looks off, slight smile:) It was sooo soft...(catches herself, quickly adds with an uneasy chuckle:) uh, even though Krystal said she'd get the other Fashion Club members one, I don't think it would look right if I kept it, and everything, (looks off to the side, voice trails off:) I mean, I already have that blouse she bought for me earlier...

JANE: (After a moment, looks between the two:) Hmmm. If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you guys sorta liked those "bribes" Krystal's given you--

QUINN: (Frowns, but appears to weakly defend her ground:) Huh? That's um, dumb! I couldn't have cared less about having it--

DARIA: (Ditto:) --Yeah, uh, don't be ridiculous, Jane. I mean, just because it was a book I haven't read yet, (adds:) and really wanted to, doesn't mean that I'd really would want to keep it--

JANE: (Slight smirk:) --Then I'm going to assume that you guys won't keep them, and that you'll respectfully decline her bri--I mean, "gifts"?

DARIA & QUINN: Of course. That's right!

JANE: You guys do realize she might be just counting on that, don't you? It's bad enough that Curtis might be wondering if we're not giving her a chance, according to what Daria told me. If Darren or the others hear about it, it might make it kinda worse, and make her look like the "pure and innocent one" in all of this, and we as the guilty party in front of Darren, since she's done nothing outright to show that she's after him again--(Quinn looks off for an instant, says nothing)

DARIA: So, I assume that means you don't believe Krystal's story to you in her car that she was just "testing" you over Darren, of course--?

QUINN: (Raised eyebrows, cuts in:) "Testing"? You mean, Krystal only told Jane that she pretended to like our brother as a test to see how Jane would react, claiming that she was lookin' out for Darren 'cause Krystal was Darren's "friend", wanting to make sure that Jane was really the right girl for him...? (Snorts while Daria and Jane look at each other, stunned by Quinn's correct logic:) Yeah, right, as if...

JANE: (Nods:) Ummm, yeah, you got it Quinn, especially after her little arm-lock on Darren during the picture-taking. It may have looked innocent, but I'm not buying it. If I were you guys, I'd keep the so-called gifts. If nothing else, it'll keep her from thinking that you don't like her, (pauses, adds:) even though it's true, and it'll keep her from looking like the scorned party, plus we can keep an eye on her.

QUINN: (Nods head eagerly in agreement, smiles:) Yeah, that's a good idea, Jane! We wouldn't want Krystal to, um, suspect anything, would we? (Daria glares at Quinn, who notices:) Now, don't you start, Daria, and no insults!

DARIA: (Deadpan, dripping sarcastic:) Oh dear me, no, that's the furthest thing from my mind, Quinn. I know that all you wanted to do was to get rid of your super-expensive gift pretty badly, and now, you can't. (Pauses, realizes while Quinn frowns at her:) Hey, hold it--what do you guys think Krystal wanted to speak to Darren alone for? (Pauses:) Maybe to try and win his sympathy and subtly manipulate him against us from her perception, right as it is, that we don't trust her motives concerning Darren?

JANE: That's possible. (Sighs, pauses:) Maybe I should speak to Darren and come clean before she talks to him, and ask him about Krystal. The last thing I need is for her to try and wiggle into his heart...

DARIA: (Smirks:) You could always encourage Krystal to look in Trent's direction as a diversionary tactic. (Jane scowls at Daria. Quinn smirks) From the way she looked at your brother when she first met him, Krystal might have found a new suitor. Who knows? She might have better potential as a possible sister-in-law for you. (Quinn now giggles)

JANE: (Sinister smirk:) Very amusing, "Funny Gals". Maybe I should step aside and let Krystal have Darren so she'd be your's and Quinn's possible sister-in-laws?

QUINN: (Shudders:) Ew! Stop it, Jane! That's not funny!

JANE: (Grins:) So now you see my predicament.

DARIA: (After a moment:) Jane--? (Hesitates:) Uh, do you want to maybe have me and Quinn be there with you when you speak to Darren about Krystal--? (Quinn's eyes grow very wide in fear as she quickly looks between the two. Her expression is not noticed by Daria or Jane) Somehow, I feel like we're dumping this on you, and besides, we all feel this way towards her, you know...

JANE: (Slight smile, waves her off:) Nahhh, it's okay, pard. Thanks, but I'll do the talking, since your brother is my boyfriend. ("Dramatic" pose and tone:) I'll be the brave Joan of Arc who'll sacrifice myself for the well-being of us all. (Quinn forms a relieved expression, smiles, holds chest)

DARIA: (Slight nod:) Alright, "Joan", it's your call. Make us proud. (Pauses:) Still, ah, if you'll need our support--

QUINN: (Obviously not wanting to do this, but bravely jumps in, uneasy chuckle:) --Yeah, um, just call us--

JANE: (Chuckles:) --Don't worry, I'll scream for your help if Darren decides to strangle me. (Looks at watch:) We'd better go in before the fellas start wondering where we are... (Daria and Quinn follow her into the mansion)


(Scene changes to the study, the same time)

Krystal walked in and over to the study's phone after Elenor, who had waited until Krystal went by, then quietly shut both doors behind her from the inside, and leaned back against the doors with a slight scowl while watching Krystal. Oblivious to Elenor's expression, Krystal picked up the phone, putting it to her ear. After a moment, she frowned, then turned to Elenor while putting the phone back on the receiver.

KRYSTAL: Elenor, what's going on? There's no one on the other end, it's just a dial tone.

ELENOR: (Quiet tone, same scowl:) I know, Miss Krystal. I apologize for misleading you, but I needed to get you alone to speak to you. As you know, the study is soundproofed, no one will hear us.

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, light-hearted chuckle, smirks:) Well, you didn't have to go this route to do so, but I have to admit it's rather innovative. Go on.

ELENOR: (Still same tone and expression after a brief pause, which begins to bother Krystal a little:) It's about Fiona. (Krystal's smirk drops) Good, I'm glad I now have your full attention, (adds, slight mocking tone:) it's "deja vu all over again" with the servants, isn't it? (Krystal now glares) The poor child tried to keep it to herself, but after some gentle coaxing, I was able to get her to admit that you've been intimidating her ever since she started to work here.

KRYSTAL: (Frowns:) "Intimidating" her? What do you mean, Elenor? Explain yourself!

ELENOR: (Ditto with the tone and expression:) I'm speaking about Master Darren, Miss Krystal. (Krystal tries to keep a stoic expression, but underneath, she's now concerned) Fiona told me about your senseless bombardment of questions about him to her the first day she arrived, just before Miss Stephanie died, as if Fiona was some sort of "new rival" for him--

KRYSTAL: (Interrupts, very angry, walks up to Elenor:) --Now just one damn minute, Elenor! I don't know what that--that--little trollop told you, but--

ELENOR: (Completely not intimidated, looks her dead in the face:) --But what, Miss Krystal? I happen to believe Fiona, she'd have no reason to lie to me, would she?

KRYSTAL: (Red-faced, sputters a bit, which confirms Elenor's private suspicion:) Yes, as a matter of fact, she would! She probably likes him herself! Fiona's attractive, and works under the same roof as Darren! What better way to make a move on him by getting close to him like that?!

ELENOR: (After a moment, calm tone:) Actually, Fiona admitted that she did begin to really like Master Darren, but only after Miss Stephanie had died--

KRYSTAL: (Pounces:) Ah-ha! See?

ELENOR: But it's not like the entire staff didn't know that. It didn't surprise me at all, and I told her as much. She told me that she suspected we knew. (Krystal looks surprised) But she knew that Master Darren did not like her in that matter, and Fiona accepted it.

KRYSTAL: Well, that's good for her. (Pauses:) So, what does this have to do with me?

ELENOR: (Quietly:) I think we both know the answer to that, Miss Krystal. (Pauses:) What would happen if Master Darren or even Mistress Millie knew of what you said to Fiona? (Krystal's eyes narrow) I know you still like him, Miss Krystal--(pauses:) more than just a "friend". You practically confirmed it when you held his arm and stood very close to him while you all were taking pictures. Master Darren more than likely thought nothing of it, but you obviously did.

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, snorts, tries to blow her off:) You're out of your mind, Elenor, you've gone on a fishing expedition.

ELENOR: Have I? (Pauses:) Do you wish to find out? (Pauses:) Perhaps I should march straight to the home theater and inform Master Darren?

KRYSTAL: (Long pause, clenched teeth:) Why are you doing this?

ELENOR: Again, I think we both know the answer to that, Miss Krystal. It's no secret to either of us that Master Darren has been through hell with what happened to him this summer. His birth family and Mi--Jane's been quite a good tonic for his recovery from what happened. There's no need for you to "stir up the pot" with him and her.

KRYSTAL (Glares for an instant:) Then why haven't you said anything to him or Millie about what I allegedly said to Fiona, Elenor? (Adds:) Or to his birth family and Jane, for that matter?

ELENOR: (After a moment:) Because Mistress Millie and Master Darren obviously think highly of you, Miss Krystal. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow) After all, you kept your brother from pressing any charges against him on Sunday, you also helped to keep everyone away from him with Master Curtis at Eastward after Miss Stephanie had died when he was in mourning, (in a lower voice, but just high enough for Krystal to hear:) even though you probably had ulterior motives for when you did (Krystal frowns), and you respectfully kept your distance when his parents died, not, shall we say, "taking advantage" of the situation. You also have been friends with him since you were children. I think Master Darren's lost enough people this summer, (sighs:) and incredible as it seems for me to say this, he doesn't need to lose yet another by what he perceives as one in you.

KRYSTAL: (After a moment, holds arms out:) That should tell you something, Elenor! I'm not interested in Darren at all, only in his welfare like Curtis! I'm only his friend--(adds:) really!

ELENOR: (In her quiet tone again:) Please do not insult my intelligence, Miss Krystal. I haven't been working here for almost 40 years not to have known when someone has a hidden motive or two. I began to see it in Master William many years ago with his older brother, though I never imagined in my wildest nightmares that it would culminate into him wanting the company business so much that he'd kill his own brother and sister-in-law, and nearly his nephew.

KRYSTAL: (Ponders this, then after a long moment, goes over to, slams hand on nearby table:) Damn it, Elenor, don't you dare do this to me, do you hear?!

ELENOR: (Unmoved:) Believe you me, Miss Krystal, amazing as it seems, I really don't. However, I have no choice. If you want to stay near Master Darren just as a "friend" as you claim, then I will not interfere. However, anything more than friendship is completely out of the question, unless you're planning to come clean with telling him what you did to poor Fiona, and allow him to decide for himself over your intentions. If not, then I'm sorry.

KRYSTAL: (Shaking with fury, comes back over to her, almost in her face:) You old hag! I ought to--

ELENOR: (Still unmoved, though she ever-so-slightly cringes against the doors:) --Kill me? Is that what you were going to say? (Pauses as Krystal actually looks mildly shocked to hear this:) Well, I suppose I couldn't stop you, but what if you did? What then? You don't think you'd go to prison for it?

KRYSTAL: (Still in her face, smirks, thought v.o.: Maybe I can bluff the old crone into keeping her mouth shut.) (Slowly and methodically raises her right hand at Elenor's left arm, very low, ominous whisper:) I do know a hold or two that could cut off the blood supply to your main artery, and no one would be the wiser. They'd think that you had a fatal stroke, or something.

ELENOR: (After a long moment, quiet tone, shakes head slowly:) No, I don't think you'd do that, Miss Krystal. I'm not Fiona, you won't scare me. Do you think Master Darren or Mistress Millie and the others wouldn't wonder what really happened, if not just for an instant? (Pauses:) And for that matter, for some reason, I don't think Jane or Master Darren's sisters really like you that much, anyway. Perhaps they all suspect something in your motives. (Krystal glares) I saw how they looked when you were with Master Darren outside just now. Also, remember, I did say that you were in the study with me. If something happened, you'd be the first one they'd probably think did something to me. (Adds as Krystal ponders:) And how about Tina? She'd certainly wonder, even if no one else would. Could you face either of them all those years into the future after you've killed me, and keep it to yourself?

KRYSTAL: (This seems to cause her to pause, lowers hand slowly:) I--I--(narrows eyes:) damn you to hell, Elenor. (Long pause as she continues to stare eye-to-eye with the senior maid:) Fine, I won't do anything to "go" after Darren (adds quickly:) as you "believe"--(pauses:) for now. But don't think this is over between you and me, though. Now get out of my way.

ELENOR: Not until you also promise not to try and retaliate against Fiona for telling me.

KRYSTAL: (Snorts:) Her? She's beneath the ground I walk on, believe me, she's not worth my attention! (Elenor frowns) Sure, why not? I won't. Now, move. (This time, Elenor complies, opening one door. Krystal walks out of the study cooly. Elenor shuts the door behind Krystal, staying in the study, and leans against them, holding her chest, taking deep breaths of relief)


Krystal left the study in a mini-huff, privately contemplating various torture techniques she could use on the senior maid, when she suddenly eyed Fiona, who had come around a hallway corner. Both stopped, with Fiona staring at Krystal wide-eyed in horror. Krystal simply returned the stare for an instant, then grinned like a jackal, which sent shivers down Fiona's spine. Krystal sauntered over to her, and patted the very-nervous young maid on her right shoulder, drawing Fiona back as she did.

KRYSTAL: (Keeping the grin:) There, there. Relax, Fiona, dear. You're off the hook, you don't have to be "scared" of me anymore, (adds:) though it was fun seeing you behave like that around me for a while... (as she walks past Fiona, casual tone which levels off:) can't say the same for your "mentor", though...

Fiona stared after Krystal with a worried expression, then turned to see a harried-looking Elenor coming out of the study, and brushing the skirt of her uniform, trying to regain her dignity. Just as Fiona was about to say something after putting two and two together, Elenor gave her a very sharp look and head shake, which effectively silenced Fiona.


Krystal joined the others in the home theater, sitting beside Curtis and behind Darren and Jane, who were sitting beside one another, ditto for Daria and Tom in the same row. She stared at Darren and Jane for a moment stoically, then happened to glance at the big screen, suddenly horrified see a man licking the face and paws of a very fat, brown and black striped cat that was sitting (the cat had held up its paws for the man to lick them). The commentator was giving a voice-over, saying, "Pets that are too lazy to take care of themselves, and the loving owners who'll do anything to appease them, next on Sick, Sad World". Krystal covered her mouth in disgust, turning green, sinking slowly in her seat. Daria and Jane happened to glance at Krystal out of the corner of their eyes, and slightly smirked while glancing at each other.

About 30 minutes later, the remainder of the program had run its course, and the home theater's lights came on. The group rose out of their seats.

DARIA: Ah, the older episodes, they never wear on me. In fact, I think they're better than the newer ones. (Looks over at a clearly ill-looking Krystal, slight smirk:) Did you enjoy the show, Krystal?

JANE: (Piles on, grins before an even sicker Krystal can respond:) Yeah, how about that clip on the dentist who goes to the animal shelter after the poor creatures get euthanisized and acquires real animal teeth from their dead carcasses to use as dentures for his patients--

DARIA: (Finishes it off, still smirks:) --Especially when he simply removed the full sets from the dead dogs, not bothering to even sanitize their teeth, pointing out that dog's mouths are even cleaner than human ones, anyway? (Sinister grin:) Mmm-um. Get that mouth-watering, fresh "doggie-breath" taste, every time you swallow your own spit.

KRYSTAL: (Shaky voice, green again:) I--I--ulp! (Quickly covers mouth:) Excuse me! (Runs from theater. Tom and Curtis look at each other, both trying not to laugh)

DARREN: (Appears a little concerned for Krystal's welfare, frowning as he watches her leave:) I hope she'll be okay. (Turns, cocks an eyebrow to Daria and Jane:) Don't you think you two kind of laid it on a bit thick there?

JANE: Sorry, Darren. We'll apologize to her later, right, Daria?

DARIA: (After a moment:) Um, yeah, Jane. (Pauses:) Later. (Thought v.o.: Like never. Note to self: Be sure to get "Animal Maulings" DVDs when they come out, and watch them when Krystal comes around.) (To Darren:) I guess that was the first time she must've seen Sick, Sad World, huh?

DARREN: (Shrugs:) I don't know for sure. From the way Krystal reacted, though, it must have been. I hope she'll be able to stay for the party. (Pauses, slight frown:) I wonder what she wanted to speak to me about? (Daria, Jane, and Tom glance at each other briefly. Darren looks at his watch:) Hm. The first guests should be arriving pretty soon. I guess we should--

DARIA: (Interrupts:) --Um, Jane--? Didn't you want to speak to Darren alone about something, you know--?

JANE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Hah? (Realizes:) Oh, yeah, that something! (Puts hand on his shoulder:) Darren, d'you have the time--? I know it's awfully close to the start of the party, but this is really important.

DARREN: (Smiles, holds her around the waist:) I think I can "squeeze" you in, Jane. (Jane smirks) You guys mind letting everybody know where we are, in case we're late?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Just as long as you two don't stay in here too long, begin to make out, and forget the party's going on, sure. (Jane grins while Darren chuckles along with Tom and Curtis, who leave with Daria)

Darren watched the trio leave, then turned to a now uncomfortable-looking Jane.

DARREN: (Takes notice, slight frown:) Something wrong, Jane?

JANE: (Sighs, sits down in a seat. After a moment, Darren does the same, beside her:) Yeah, it is. (Pauses:) I wanna talk to you about Krystal...


CURTIS: (While walking with the two, as they come out of the home theater:) I guess Jane's going to finally speak to Darren about Krystal, huh?

DARIA: That's the general idea, yeah. Jane plans to come clean with him--(pauses:) on everything about her, including our talk in the pool area, and how Jane feels. (Pauses:) Uh, Curtis, I hope you don't think we're not being fair with Krystal, or that we're all somehow or another "ganging up" on her. I know she's your friend as well--

TOM: --Yeah, we don't want to put you in an awkward situation--(pauses, uncomfortable expression, glances at Daria:) well, at least no more awkward than you feel right now.

CURTIS: (Stops with the two, long pause in thought:) Well, I'll admit I kinda felt that you all were doing that, but as long as Jane (finger quotes:) "comes clean" with Darren, then I'm willing to cut you some slack. (Pauses, smirks:) Trust me, Jane has nothing to worry about. (Sighs, looks at his watch:) Well, I'd better go and pick up my sisters to bring them back for the party before they call and threaten me with bodily harm. See you guys later. (Leaves)

Tom turned to Daria, slightly smirking.

TOM: Ready for the onslaught of strangers at the party?

DARIA: (Deadpan, slight shrug:) Not really, but then again, I found that strangers are almost as better to crack on with my famed verbal wit than my family. (Pauses:) At least most of the time, that is. (Tom chuckles, then Daria forms a worried look as she looks back at the home theater's entrance:) Do you think everything's going to be okay with Jane and Darren's talk?

TOM: (Pauses in thought:) Well, I don't really know, Daria, but I think with Jane being honest about Krystal's intentions, Darren can't help but to be understanding to Jane. (Daria only looks slightly placated, which Tom notices, then in a gentle tone to cheer her up while putting his hand on her shoulder:) C'mon, let's go to the front and wait for some of the denizens of Maness to show up. We'll find out what happened later. (After a pause, Daria leaves with him)


("Cue" to the gameroom [pun intended], the same time)

Jim hit the 8-ball into the corner pocket, and put his cue stick back on the racking beside the pool table with the other sticks on a nearby wall. He checked his watch, frowning. The suspense on finding out about Edward was killing him, and the gameroom hadn't helped him in the least in calming down. Why in the hell hasn't Woo called yet? Did something come up at the last second? Jim paused in thought. Should I call Carla again, and inquire?

Jim wringed his hands, then shook his head. He'd wait for Woo. Woo must have had a good reason not to have gotten in touch with me, yet. He said he'd call me today, and today's not over. Have to be patient...

Having nothing better to do, and deciding to turn his thoughts to the party, Jim left the gameroom to go to the front and meet the soon-to-be arriving guests. Immediately he saw Tina, who had just walked past the gameroom's door in the hallway. Screw patience. It won't hurt to confide in Tina, at least--you hope. She can maybe help me keep an eye out on White if she believes my story... He paused yet another second, hesitated, then called out.

JIM: Hey, Tina! Wait up, will you? I want to speak to you for a sec!

TINA: (Stops, turns:) Oh, Jim. Sure. What's up? (Jim comes over)

At the same time, Daria and Tom were walking past the two at the far end of another hallway that was connected to the one Jim and Tina were in. Both were not seen by the head of the mansion's security and Darren's uncle.

JIM: (Faces Tina, hesitates:) Uh, I wanted to ask you about the media room. (Quick shrug:) Anything more on that, you know, like who else could've been in there, other than Darren and his birth family, Jane, Quinn's friends, and the servants, who clean it? (At the mention of "media room", Daria's head pokes back from around the corner where she and Tom were headed. After another moment, Tom does the same with his head, just above Daria's. Both listen intently)

TINA: (Shakes head slowly:) No, I'm afraid not, Jim. I've checked on everyone who's gone in there during the time we think the bug may have been placed, narrowing down the timeline to between last Wednesday and Saturday. The only ones who've been in there have been the people you've mentioned. (Frustrated scowl:) There's been no one else outside of the mansion in there during those days, save for a courier on Wednesday, and he stayed at the front entrance to deliver a package for Millie. (Pauses, narrows an eye:) Why? Do you know someone else who could've been in there that we missed?

JIM: (Pauses, considers:) Well, yeah, I do, but first, I want to ask you not to say anything to Mill or Darren about this, (adds quickly to Tina's puzzled expression:) at least until the end of the party tonight, please. I'll come clean with them and everybody else afterwards, I promise. I think I might have something on who put that bug in there and listened to the conversation Saturday night. I'm expecting the private detective Gerald Woo to call and give me the news by then. (Daria and Tom look up/down at each other for a moment)

TINA: (Long pause, stoic expression:) Really, now. Woo, huh? Let me guess: Does this have anything to do with Edward White? (Jim looks surprised, the same for Daria and Tom, who once again look at each other) Why are you shocked at this? (Pauses:) I don't mean to stick my nose in your business, Jim, but I think it's pretty obvious that you still have some strong feelings for your ex-wife, and Edward is in the way. Are you trying to look for something nasty on him--?

JIM: (Brief scowl, hesitates:) Edward--has nothing to do with it--!

TINA: (Returns the same scowl, interrupts:) --Oh, no? With all due respect, I more than think that he does, especially after you seemed so suspicious of Edward last night in the home theater, when the subject of who's rooms to search for the bugs came up--

JIM: (Cuts in, thumbs his chest:) --Where one was found in my room, as you recall--

TINA: (Curt nod:) --Yeah, I know, but as you recall, nothing incriminating was found in his room, which we checked first. (Pauses, pointed tone:) Nothing.

JIM: (Sighs:) I know, Tina, and yeah, you're right. (Hesitates:) I-I do think Edward had something to do with the bugs, (pauses as Tina stares at him:) and yeah, I--I still do lik--love Mill--(adds quickly:) but it's more than just about my feelings for her! (Pauses:) Let me at least tell you why I suspect him, okay?

TINA: (Crosses arms:) Go ahead, but make it quick. I'm doing a final check of security for the party.

JIM: Fair enough. Okay, it's like this--I caught Edward coming out of the media room this past Monday. I'm not completely sure, but it looked as if he had his hand in his pocket, you know, (suggestive tone:) like he was hiding something, possibly the bug? (Daria frowns briefly, trying to remember something. Jim speaks in a sneering tone:) He said that he was returning a video, Apocalypse Now, one he had seen in his room. (Pauses:) He told not only me that, but Mill, who was there, as well. On a hunch, I decided to check in the video library, and what do you know, the movie wasn't in there, and before you ask, I stayed in there almost the whole damn entire day, looking for it--(adds:) twice.

Tina seemed to consider this bit of new information, pausing deep in thought. Frowning, Daria leaned back around the corner out of sight with Tom, doing the same thing. Both spoke in a very low whisper.

TOM: (Stares at Daria's frown:) Uhhhhh, wait, let me guess. Other than finding out about Jim's suspicions concerning Edward because of Jim's still secretly loving his ex-wife, you really wanted to see that movie--?

DARIA: No, actually, I already have. (Pauses, still ponders:) It's something else. (Lightly hits her right fist in her left palm, realizes:) That's what I was missing last night in the theater. (Tom cocks a miffed eyebrow) Jane and I were going to swim with my brother last Saturday, and we had walked past the media room to get there, almost running into Edward--

TOM: (Smirks, cuts in:) --You went swimming? (Pauses, "lusty" pant:) In a swimsuit?

DARIA: (Slight smirk:) No, it was in my regular clothing, I always go into a pool like that, you should try it sometime. (Pauses:) I can arrange for you to do that at the party if you're game, just be sure to stand right by the pool when I walk by. (Tom grins) Of course I went in a swimsuit--(pauses, adds with a red face:) um, Quinn's.

TOM: (Lightly slaps his head, mock tone:) Dang, and it was in your sister's, too! Why didn't I sneak up here earlier to see that? Curse my family's wretched business schedule!

DARIA: (Recovers quickly, usual sarcasm:) Them's the breaks, Sloane. Next time, try to time your surprise visit with more accuracy, and you might get lucky. (Serious tone:) Now, focus. Anyway, Edward, uh, "greeted" us there, explaining that he couldn't find a movie to check out, despite the fact there were only over 5000 of them in the video library. I thought it was kinda strange he couldn't find one at the time--

TOM: (Catches on:) --And yet only a few days later, he's returned a movie that the video library apparently doesn't have, according to Jim's exhaustive search. (Pauses, realizes:) Are you thinking that Edward might've slipped a bug in the media room, and was coming out when he ran into you guys, then was in the act of taking that same bug out when he ran into Jim?

DARIA: You're catching on, "Dr. Watson", and if Edward did have more than one, he probably got rid of them before Tina and company checked his room--(pauses:) though that doesn't explain why he'd put one in Jim's room, (adds:) rivalry for Millie's hand aside--

TOM: (Shrugs:) Maybe Edward couldn't get to it yet, or something, and he had to leave it in there--? (Smirks, realizes:) --Hey, I wanna be "Sherlock Holmes"! I did come up with the theory first, you know!

DARIA: (Looks slowly around the corner, mock-firm tone:) Tough. I named you, and "Dr. Watson" is who you'll be. Now put a lid on it, and let me, "Daria Holmes", listen in some more. (Tom forms a mock-pout expression, joins Daria)

TINA: (Finally speaks:) Well, I have to admit that it does sound suspicious, Jim. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Why didn't you say something about this sooner, and for that matter, why would Edward put a bug in your room? (Daria nods) The only things he has in there are his laptop with its case, and his clothing. (Thought v.o.: Then again when I think about it, we didn't look in that case because the detector didn't go off when we scanned the outside. [Pauses:] Better make a mental note of that for the future...)

JIM: (Holds arms out:) Because I didn't really have enough evidence! He could've just said that he made a mistake or something, and Mill would've taken his side! (Frowns:) As for placing a bug in my room, Edward probably suspected that I suspected something about him, and he decided to move against me first to find out what I knew. Now that I think about it, he probably couldn't get that bug outta my room in time. (Pauses, considers as Tom smugly smirks down to Daria:) I don't think he heard anything, because he hasn't acted strangely towards me, or anyone else. (Grins wickedly:) I kind of lead him into thinking that I had some business troubles, and needed Woo to investigate them. (Loses grin, deep sigh:) Unfortunately, I've had to include Mill, Darren, and Helen into believing that, too, for the time being. (Tina gives him a bemused expression) It's part of the cover-up, that's why I didn't want you to say anything to them yet. Besides, like I told you, I have Gerald Woo on the case, and he'll call and let me know something today, (cuts eyes to a hallway window nearby:) or rather tonight. (Thought v.o.: I hope.) Please do this for me--?

TINA: (Long pause, sighs:) Okay, but only until Gerald Woo calls you and tells what he has. (Narrows eyes, looks off while Jim looks relieved:) Edward gives me someone else to keep an eye out on for tonight, other than that egoist, sexist jackass Rory McKinna. (Pauses:) It's incredible that he could be Krystal's brother. She's nothing like him, you know--? (Jim nods. Daria and Tom look up/down at each other) (Begins to walk down the hallway with Jim, opposite direction from Daria and Tom:) I can't believe Darren's letting him come to the party because he and Quinn's friend Stacy want to give McKinna "another" chance--

JIM: (Snorts, rolls eyes:) --Tell me about it. I know Darren's got a soft heart, but still--I mean, even Mill had her misgivings about allowing him to come here tonight... (both go around the corner, and Daria comes into the hallway with Tom)

DARIA: (Looks after the two:) It appears that Krystal has some people hoodwinked, unfortunately.

TOM: (Ditto:) Appears that way, for now. (Pauses, turns to Daria:) Well, what do you think we should do about this, "Holmes"?

DARIA: That's "Daria Holmes" to you. (Pauses:) And here I thought that the party would be boring tonight. For once, I'm looking forward to seeing what'll happen at one. (Pauses, ponders:) Let's allow this to play out. I'd tell Jane, but she and the others will find out later either way. Besides, she's got enough on her mind, what, with talking about Krystal to Darren, and of showing off her artwork tonight. (Thought v.o.: Particularly mine, dammit.) No need to distract her even more than she already is. (Smirks:) It should be interesting on what Woo finds out about Edward, if there's anything--(hesitates, realizes how she comes off, backs off a bit:) um, which I really hope there isn't. Even though Jim would be vindicated, Millie would be devastated. She doesn't deserve that. (Leaves with a nodding Tom down the hallway they were originally using)


(Scene changes to the outside in the front, a few minutes later)

Daria and Tom came out of the now-lighted mansion into the dusky evening, followed by Jim a second later. They joined Millie, Helen, and Edward, who were greeting the guests as they were arriving, some by their own cars, or others driven by a limo. Claude lead the guests to the pool area, with Elenor, Fiona, and another butler doing the same. Helen turned, and saw the trio.

HELEN: (Smiling:) Daria! Tom! Jim! There you all are!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Drat. Darren's invisibility formula must've worn off. He warned me about this. (Pauses:) Guess we'll have to get some more. See you in a few, Mom. (Makes like she's about to leave. Tom smirks, while Jim chuckles)

HELEN: (Narrows eyes:) Most amusing, Daria. (Pauses, looks after them:) I know where Quinn is, but where's your brother and Jane, (pauses, frowns, more to herself:) and for that matter, your father? I told him to meet us here almost a half-hour ago!

DARIA: (Pauses:) Um, Darren and Jane will be here in a little bit, Mom. Jane wanted to--um, talk to him in private about something first. (Helen cocks an eyebrow) As for dad, I'm sure he's still helping Henri with the final preparations, (adds:) with Henri making sure that he doesn't spill anything toxic in the food. (The others chuckle at this except Helen, who scowls at Daria) Uh, relax, Mom. I'm sure dad will be here.

HELEN: (Softens expression:) Oh, alright, sweetie, but no more cracks about your father's cooking skills, hmm--? He was very enthusiastic about helping Henri out, you know. (Sighs:) Well, I suppose Darren'll see some of his friends at the party--

MILLIE: Actually, Helen, the vast majority of people here are my friends, though Darren knows them as casual acquiantences. (Helen looks mildly surprised) Darren's friends are mostly at Eastward, other than Curtis and Krystal, of course, not returning until next week.

DARIA: I believe Darren said that he generally hung around the "palace" here, mostly, particularly after he and that "Rory" guy parted ways. (Adds, deadpan:) Given from what I've heard about the exciting nightlife around Maness, I can kind of understand why.

MILLIE: (Chuckles, looks off to the side, narrows eye:) Speaking of Rory...

A smiling Rory McKinna, holding a huge bouquet of roses, exited out of a taxi that had just pulled up in front of the group. He turned to the driver, and began to reach in his pocket.

RORY: (Light-hearted tone:) Here you go, my good man, fare plus a tip. (Pulls out some cash, gives it to the driver through the passenger-side window:) Don't spend it all in one place, now.

DRIVER: (Counts out the money, frowns. Sarcastic tone:) Wow, a whole dollar more than your fare. Aren't you the big spender. (Drives off)

Rory came up to the group. He immediately and directly strolled up to a surprised Millie, and kissed her hand. Edward scowled briefly, the same for Jim. Daria cocked a curious eyebrow at Edward, since he had done the same thing to her and Jane when they first met.

RORY: Hello, Millie. You're looking lovelier than ever. It's been awhile.

MILLIE: (Cool but polite tone:) Hello, Rory--(adds, correcting, dead-serious tone and expression:) and it's "Ms. Appleton" to you. (Rory looks foolish for a moment, stays silent, nods briefly. The others, save for Helen and Edward, smirk slightly) Yes, it has. (Pauses, motions head:) What's with the roses?

RORY: These are for Jane Lane, Darry's--er, Darren's girlfriend, along with my sincerest apologies for my stupidity on insulting her on Sunday, and believe you me, I definitely want to do that, especially after I saw her picture on the tube from last night early this morning. Man, was I wrong!

MILLIE: Well, you'll have to wait to speak to either Darren or Jane, they're busy elsewhere at the moment. I think your sister's either with them, or Quinn's friends. (Eyes off to the side:) However, Elenor here will put your flowers in a vase while you're waiting. (Elenor comes up, takes flowers)

RORY: (Grins:) Hey, Elenor! Remember me?

ELENOR: (Thought v.o.: I'd rather not.) (False smile:) Er, yes, Master Rory, I do. It's been quite a long time since you've been here. (Thought v.o.: And hopefully, it'll be a long time before you come again...) Excuse me. (Goes into mansion)

EDWARD: (Steps up:) Ahem--

MILLIE: Oh, Rory, this is my beau, Edward White. Edward, this is Rory McKinna, Krystal's brother.

RORY: (Shakes Edward's hand:) Pleased to meet you, Mr. White, (slight glance, smirk at Jim:) you know, you're one lucky man, sir, being with Ms. Appleton here, isn't that right, Mr. Morse? (Jim's eyes narrow slightly)

EDWARD: (Smirks, catches meaning, follows Rory's brief glance at Jim:) Charmed, young man, and I suppose I am...

JIM: (Reaches hand out, faux-smile and pleasant tone:) Hello, Rory. Good to see you again. (Rory takes his hand)

RORY: You too, Mr. Mo--OOO--OOHH--ORSE! (Cries out in pain as Jim's now crushing his hand, which Jim quickly releases. Rory rubs his hand, red-faced, and obviously PO'd, but keeps his temper and tongue. Daria and Tom smirk at each other. Even Edward shows a bemused smirk, albeit a brief one. Helen watches the scene, eyebrow cocked) Pretty good "grip" you have there, Mr. Morse--

MILLIE: (Inwardly trying not to smirk, admonishing tone:) Jim!

JIM: (Slight smirk, calm tone:) Sorry, son. Guess I don't know my own strength.

RORY: (Still rubs hand:) Uh, I guess you don't. No problem. (Eyes Helen, cocks an eyebrow:) Wha-oh! So you're Helen Morgendorffer? I never knew Darren's birth mother was such a beautiful woman up close! (Surprises her by kissing the back of her hand. Daria narrows her eyes)

HELEN: (Blushes:) Oh, my! (Composes herself, thought v.o.: He doesn't seem to be that bad...:) I mean, er, hello, Rory. (Pauses:) My (exaggerates word, mild scowl:) absent husband and I wanted to thank you for what you did on Sunday concerning my son--

RORY: (Holds hand up:) --Say no more, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I'm sure I'll meet Mr. Morgendorffer at the party. I acted like a complete moron, and I deserved for Darren to do what he did. (Looks off, "sighs":) You could say that it--(pauses, "shudders":) shook me into reality, and woke me up. Nice to meet you again, ma'am.

DARIA: (Thought v.o., monumental eyeroll: I'd like to put you back to sleep, jerk. [Mental sigh:] Well, at least mom didn't ask him to call her "Helen". There's colossal hope in that...)

Helen and the others turned to meet more arriving guests while a smiling Rory turned to meet Daria and Tom, who subtly put his arm around Daria's right shoulder and stood up straight, as if to make the point to Rory that Daria was "his" girlfriend, and not "available". Tom had gotten a quick lowdown from Curtis in the gameroom earlier concerning Rory, and wanted to make clear that Daria was "off-limits" to any possible advancements from Rory. Daria cut her eyes to Tom's hand and arm, cocking a wry eyebrow.

RORY: You must be DeAnne Morgendorffer, Darren's other sister, right? I didn't notice you on Sunday for--(pauses:) obvious reasons. (Briefly looks Daria over:) You know, under that, uh, outfit, you look kinda attractive. Ever thought of getting rid of those glasses and just wearing some contacts? (Tom shows a brief frown while Daria keeps her stoic expression) You're Tom Sloane, her boyfriend, right--?

TOM: (Cold tone:) Yeah, I am. (Pauses:) And actually, her name's Da--

DARIA: (Cuts Tom off, accompanied with a "sweet" tone, slight smile [no, not Mona Lisa]:) --Why, thank you ever-so-much for the compliment, Rory. (Tom cocks a shocked eyebrow at her as she takes Rory's hand:) Hello. (Pauses, pointed tone:) I've heard a lot about you.

RORY: (Grins, tries to turn on the charm:) All good, I hope. (Kisses back of her hand, which makes Tom's eyes narrow)

DARIA: (After a moment, pulls away her hand, loses smile, wipes the back of her hand on her jacket:) No, not really. In fact, I've heard that you're quite the bastard, and then some. (Rory's smile drops while Tom develops his) You may have guilt-tripped my brother and charmed Stacy with that line about "forgiving", but it won't work with me. What you did to that poor girl Dora was damn nearly unforgivable to me, especially with the sick way you just tried to come unto me, in front of my--(hesitates:) boyfriend, and sucked up to my mother. I can't speak for my friend Jane, but I'm relatively sure that she won't fall for your crap, either. If this wasn't for to appease Darren, I'd send you back to the hell-spawned ground you came from with some "Sweet Chin Music" upside your hollow head, courtesy of one Daria Morgendorffer. (Pauses:) As it is, you'll have to settle for a serious brush-off at the party from her instead. (Frowns:) Come around me, and I'll make you sorry you were ever born. (Tom now grins)

(Note to reader: "Sweet Chin Music" describes a move from the pro wrestler Shawn Michaels. It's sort of a sudden, roundhouse, high spinkick that's designed to knock the bejabbers out of an opponent via the face or head.)

RORY: (Long pause, backs slowly away with hands up:) Ooookay, sure. No problem--(pauses, tepid tone:) "Daria". I'll do just that. Uh, excuse me--(hurries past them into the mansion)

Tom, still with his grin, looked after Rory, then turned to Daria, prepared to congratulate her. Daria stared at him expressionessly, but with a slightly annoyed look that caught his attention. He paused for a moment, puzzled.

TOM: Uh, what's wrong?

DARIA: Tom, I understand that you're only trying to "protect" me, but what you've got to understand is that I can take care of myself around jerks like Rory. I've had plenty of experience a la Upchuck (inwardly shudders, thought v.o.: And those two [ugh] sub-creatures back in Highland.). I'm not "helpless". (Pauses:) And you don't have to speak up for me either, you know, my mouth can work itself.

TOM: (Pauses, pained expression:) Daria, I'm sorry, on both counts. I didn't mean to imply that you were "helpless", I--just--(looks off:) well, I--just thought--

DARIA: (Mona Lisa smile, softer tone:) --Yeah, I know. You were trying to be my "gallant protector" in both cases, and I appreciate it--(pauses:) really. I'll let you know if I'll ever need one--(pauses:) say, when Quinn starts her usual spouting mindlessly off at the mouth, and someone has to eliminate her. You'll be the first assassin I choose, I promise.

TOM: (Chuckles:) I'll hold you to that, I will. (Looks over to his left:) Hey, some older guy's waving at you. (Daria follows Tom's look, becomes stunned, sighs heavily) What's wrong? You know that guy?

DARIA: (Miserable expression:) I'm afraid I do.

From the side, Dean Pierpoint and his wife, an aged, silver-haired woman who was taller than him, appeared. Both were dresssed in their casual summerware, like the other guests. They made a beeline straight to Daria and Tom, bypassing the others, who were still greeting more guests. Pierpoint nearly tripped, but his wife quickly steadied him.

PIERPOINT: (Estatic grin:) Maria! It's good to see you again, yes it is indeed! (Turns to the woman beside him as he wildly shakes Daria's hand. Tom gives him a very strange look) Denise, this is Maria Dorgenmorffer, the young lady I told you about! She's going to be a student with her brother Aaron next year at Eastward! Maria, this is Penise Dierpoint, I mean, Denise Pierpoint, my lovely wife!

DENISE: (Now wildly shaking Daria's hand, equally estatic tone and grin, a little ditzy like her husband:) Hello, Maria! I'm so glad to finally meet you! Pank's, I mean, Frank's told me so much about you!

DARIA: (Supreme monotone:) I'm so glad to finally meet you too, Mrs. Pierpoint. (Motions to Tom:) This is my, um, boyfriend, Tom Sloane. (Both Pierpoints shake Tom's hand vigorously as well. Daria adds in more of her monotone voice:) Tom, this is Dean Pierpoint, the head of the journalistic department in my major at Eastward College, and his lovely wife.

TOM: (Kind smile:) Uh, pleased to meet you, sir, ma'am. (Rubs hand. Whispers to Daria out of the side of his mouth:) "Maria"? I thought you were "DeAnne"--? (Pauses:) And when did Darren change his name to "Aaron"?

DARIA: (Returns the whisper out of the side of her mouth:) I'll explain later, funny guy. (Pauses, to the Pierpoints in her regular voice:) Uh, sooo, what an incredible coincidence to meet you two here, huh?

PIERPOINT: (Matter-of-fact tone:) Oh, it was no coincidence, Maria. Your brother Aaron called me early yesterday afternoon while he was at a baseball game, and insisted that I surprise you at this party after I told him I had nothing pressing on my schedule for Friday night. (Daria's eyes narrow) He said I could bring anyone with me, and I naturally brought my wife along, of course.

DARIA: Of course. (Pauses:) I must remember to thank my brother for your sudden, surprising arrival. (Thought v.o.: Yes, thank him in a very special way...)

DENISE: (Smiles:) Oh, that's so sweet, Maria, wanting to thank your brother Aaron like that! (Helen comes over. Daria sighs) Why, hello there!

HELEN: (Shakes hands with Denise and her husband, smiling, in her falsetto voice:) Hellooo! I'm Helen Morgendorffer, Daria's mother. You two can just call me Helen. Daria--? Do you know these two--?

PIERPOINT: (Before Daria can speak, grins:) Of course she does, Melen! I'm Pean Dierpoint, and this is--

DENISE: (Smoothly interrupts:) --That's Fean Pierpoint, dear, (realizes:) and who's "Daria"?--

HELEN: (Ditto, confused expression:) --Pardon me, but your name's "Fean"? What an interesting name, I've never heard of it. What language is that, what does it mean? (Pauses, realizes: ) "Melen"?

TOM: (Ditto again, gently cuts in:) --Uh, excuse me, but I think you meant Dean Pierpoint... (Daria slumps, covers her face in shame, simultaneously visualizing Darren's demise)


(Scene returns to the home theater, the same time)

A now-standing Jane had just finished telling a still-sitting Darren everything about Krystal from the last few days, and her's (along with Daria's, Quinn's, and to a far lesser extent, Tom's) suspicions over Krystal, and of Krystal's motives concerning Darren. Throughout the conversation, Darren had kept a mostly-stoic expression, occasionally mixed with a thoughtful look.

JANE: --And that's it. (Pauses:) All of it. Even though she's done nothing outright in pursuing you, well--I just can't help this feeling that Krystal might be up to something. (Crosses arms, pensive expression as Darren keeps his stoic look, mildly surprising Jane:) Well, um, I guess you can tell me how "paranoid" I am about Krystal, (adds, looks off:) like I kinda was about Sandi, (adds:) and other girls--

DARREN: (Cocks an eyebrow, stands, genuinely inquisitive tone:) --Why would I do that?

JANE: (Stares at him uneasily for a moment. This certainly isn't what she expected.:) Uhh, because you only see Krystal as your friend, and that's it--?

DARREN: You're right. I do. But you, along with my sisters and Tom, believe that she views me as something more than a friend, (adds:) like I her, (pauses, narrows eyes, looks off:) which in a certain way, is probably true. (Jane cocks an eyebrow) I'll explain that in a minute. (Sighs:) I suppose I can understand your suspicions to an extent, particularly after that workout incident, and of Krystal telling me that she liked me the day after at Orbison several years back. (Pauses:) I didn't say anything to you about that because it was a brief moment a long time ago, and nothing came out of it. I ended up forgetting about it until you brought it up, the same for the workout incident.

JANE: (Raised eyebrows:) So, you're not gonna get annoyed at me for telling you all of this?

DARREN: (After a moment:) Well, I'll admit that I'm a tad irked at you all for thinking that Krystal would be "up" to something, but like you said and Curtis has pointed out, she's done nothing to suggest that she still likes me in that manner. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) I wondered what was up when Krystal suddenly invited you to ride with her out of the blue like that earlier to New York City. I was tempted to ask what was going on, but--


(Scene shifts to a hallway just outside the home theater, the same time)

Krystal, having just changed into a white blouse (she had two extra pairs of clothing in her bag, fortunately), and from emptying any contents from her stomach into the nearest half-bath toilet (and unto her black blouse), was returning to the home theater. Though she was relatively sure no one was in there and had gone to the party, Krystal decided to check anyway, just in case. She was obviously and seriously PO'd at Jane and Daria for their rather disgusting and clever "replay" of that filthy program to her. Very amusing, you funny little bitches...

Krystal took some wicked solace at least in not completely vomiting into the toilet in her haste--she'd let what she desperately hoped to be Elenor, or to a lesser extent, Fiona, to clean it up as a sort of payback.

She walked into the "lobby" of the home theater, then stopped as she heard voices. Apparently, someone was still in there, and haven't gone to the party as of yet. Upon hearing that it seemed to be of only Darren and Jane, she quickly looked around, then silently slipped to the corner of the entrance to the theater, listening intently. Jane was speaking in mid-conversation.

JANE: (Uneasy expression:) --Sooo, I am being kinda paranoid about Krystal liking you? (Krystal cocks an eyebrow of surprise, narrows eyes)

DARREN: (Shakes head slowly:) No, I'm not saying that at all--

JANE: (Slightly narrows eyes, exasperated:) --Then what are you saying? Help me out, here.

DARREN: (Shrugs, looks off:) That nothing's there. Even if Krystal wanted to go in that direction, I'd tell her that I'm not interested like I did at Orbison that day. (Krystal forms a stoic expression) I've never seen her in a romantic way, nothing more, nothing less. (Smirks:) Even after she gave me that first kiss while we were kids, which I did sort of like at the time, by the way, I still couldn't see her as nothing more than--well, nothing more as a type of--sister. (Krystal gets a look of horror on her face, turns pale) That's what I meant by her kind of being something more than just a friend.

JANE: (Wide-eyed, mouth drops:) Wait a minute--you only see her as a type of SISTER? Seriously?

DARREN: That's what I said. (Pauses:) Rory was like a brother back then like Krystal told you, and so to me, Krystal was also like a sister. When she told me that she liked me, I was stunned beyond words. After regaining my senses, I told her I was very flattered, but that I liked Stephanie only, and as you know, I had Rory to actually thank for that, following with what happened to Dora. What he did really opened my eyes to a relationship. (Krystal frowns) Krystal was disappointed, but she said that she understood and respected our privacy, and she did. I saw Krystal occasionally around Orbison and Eastward, of course, and we were cordial to each other. I felt--relieved that she was getting on with her life when I saw her with other guys, and so did Stephanie, (pauses, realizes:) though in hindsight, she did get a little uneasy at times and stiffened when Krystal came around us at school...(Krystal rolls eyes, crosses arms, sulks)

JANE: (Ponders this for an instant, thought v.o., sarcastic: Gee, I wonder why?:) I see. (Pauses:) What did you think about what Krystal said over her "testing" me out of your friendship to her? (Krystal narrows her eyes, listens)

DARREN: (Pauses:) I'll admit I was surprised to hear she'd do that for a moment, but after the way Krystal had been towards me following Stephanie and my (adopted) parent's deaths, it shouldn't have struck me as surprising. (Pauses, quieter tone:) Krystal really was very respectful to me, Jane. Outside of Curtis, I valued her help greatly in helping me get through both times. (Jane's visage softens in sympathy. Krystal looks off, pained. Darren frowns a bit:) I'll speak to her off on the side about the "testing" thing if you want--(Krystal looks worried)

JANE: Uh, no, that's okay. (Krystal looks surprised) Look, ah, I just wanna put all of this behind me, behind us. I know I've sounded like a jealous jackass with all of this "possessive paranoid" crap, and like what Daria told me once, that's not right in a relationship. (Frowns:) I made that mistake with Tom and Daria, even though it had some truth to it, (Krystal cocks an eyebrow) and I don't wanna make that same one with you. (Darren's about to speak, but Jane covers his mouth while smirking:) Shaddup. (Removes hand:) Krystal and I sorta made a truce to be at peace on the ride to NYCAS, and I'm willing to get it a shot from my end. (Holds hand up as if she's on a trial stand:) From now on, Jane Lane hereby promises not to worry about Krystal McKinna anymore, (adds:) or any other females over Arthur Darren Appleton, Jr. She hereby also promises to concentrating solely on working on her relationship with him, with no distractions. (Suddenly leans over and pecks Darren on the mouth. Krystal looks off in thought, mouths, "Damn")

DARREN: (Smiles:) Good, that's a load off my mind. (Holds her around her waist, coy expresson:) Now that Sandi, Krystal, (adds:) and Fiona are out of the way--

JANE: (Wide-eyed, cuts him off:) --FIONA?! (Krystal rolls her eyes, knows where this is going) (Jane narrows her eyes:) How'd you know about her? (Pauses, suspicious look:) Did Daria or Quinn say anything to you?

DARREN: (Grins:) Nope, but you just confirmed it. I wasn't sure, but I sort of figured that Fiona really liked me. Please don't say anything to her about this, I think it'll just embarass her. (Jane pauses, nods) Thanks. Fiona supported me like everybody else around here, and gave me space. I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable by speaking to her about it, and I surmised that you two would talk when you arrived here with my family, and you'd see what a nice person she was, which you did, it seems. (Jane mock-glares) Hey, when you reacted negatively towards Fiona after she asked about me doing her portrait, it was icing on the cake.

JANE: (Smirks:) Why, you, I oughtta--(playfully swats him on the shoulder, and Darren laughs) c'mere...(begins to kiss him, and vice-versa)

Looking as if she were going to cry (but determined not to), Krystal had seen enough. She turned to leave the home theater (and the party), when she heard yet another pair of voices, this time raised and in the adjoining hallway, sounding like an argument. Krystal glanced at the theater in a mild panic, afraid that Darren and Jane would overhear like her, and come to where she was to investigate.

Surely enough, Darren broke the kiss, looking towards where Krystal was hiding around the corner.

JANE: (Inquisitive expression, glances where Darren's looking:) Hm? What?

DARREN: Don't you hear it? Sounds like someone's arguing, or something--

JANE: (Pauses to hear:) Yeah, it is. I can't tell. Wonder who's doing it?

DARREN: Only one way to find out. (Bows down, motions, smirks:) Ladies first.

JANE: (Returns the smirk as she's about to walk by, in an awful mock-southern tone:) Why, thank you kindly, dear suh. It's nice tuh know that chivary ain't quite dead.

Both were about to leave when Krystal, who had decided not to let the two catch her in the lobby (she didn't want to run into the hallway and let whoever was arguing see her leave the theater and possibly tell Darren or Jane later) suddenly "appeared" from around the corner, an uncomfortable expression on her face. Jane maintained a stoic expression, while Darren narrowed an eye at her.

KRYSTAL: (Rushed tone, pretending to be out of breath:) Oh! I was wondering if anybody was still in here! I thought about going to the party, but I decided to check in here, first.

DARREN: (Pauses:) We were just about to leave. (Cocks an eyebrow:) I see you've changed? (Raised eyebrows, realizes:) Wait, don't tell me that you actually threw--

KRYSTAL: (Wide-eyed, interrupts:) No! O-Of course not! (Glances at a bemused Jane for an instant. Doesn't want to give her or Daria the satisfaction of knowing that their "recap" got to her, dismissive tone:) I just decided that white was a better color to stand out for the party, that's all. Sorry for taking so long to change. I wanted to look my best, you know.

JANE: (After a moment, thought v.o., inward smirk: Yeah--right.:) Uh, sure. (Pauses:) Do you know who's arguing out in the hallway?

KRYSTAL: ("Innocent" tone:) Huh? An argument in the hallway? (Turns for a moment:) Um, no, I didn't notice. (Pauses, "listens":) Now that you mention it, there does seem to be one going on--

DARREN: Well, let's find out. (Goes past Krystal, followed by Jane, who glances at her for a moment and vice-versa. Both follow Darren)

The trio came into the hallway to find Tina and Rory going at it several doors down, almost in the middle of the hallway. Krystal rolled her eyes and looked up for a moment in embarassment.

RORY: (Arms stretched out:) --But, Tina, my dear, I was just trying to find out where Darren and Jane were and to apologize for Sunday, that's all!

TINA: (Scowls, points:) Then I suggest that you wait for them in the pool area, and join the other guests! There's no damn way I'm going to allow you to wonder around the mansion by yourself! (Adds, snarls:) And by the way, I'm not your "dear", jerk! (Narrows eyes:) I've decided that I'm personally going to keep my eye out on you all night, Rory...

RORY: (Sultry smirk, looks her over:) I certainly don't mind that, darlin', because I'm definitely going to keep my eye out on you...

TINA: (Steps toward him, menacing expression as she cracks her knuckles:) Then your eye's about to become a black one, you bastard--(balls her hand into a fist, and is about to swing to a cowering Rory)

DARREN: (Comes up with Jane and Krystal, in a surprised, sharp tone:) Tina! (Tina stops, sees Darren, drops fist) What's going on?

TINA: (Scowls at Rory:) I found this snake crawling around by himself, with no one to escort him. He claims he was looking for you and Jane to apologize for Sunday--

RORY: --Which I was! Hey again, Darren. (Smiles:) Jane. Sis.

DARREN: (Even tone:) Rory.

JANE: (Flat voice:) Rory.

KRYSTAL: Hello, brother. I see you made it here. (Smirks:) By taxi, right? Couldn't find a ride?

RORY: Uh, yeah. (Turns to Jane and Darren, suddenly surprises everyone by getting on his knees:) Look, I really want to apologize for my idiotic stupidity on Sunday, and I'm asking for your forgiveness. I was an imbecile, a moron, and an ass--

JANE: (Crosses arms as she looks down at him disdainfully:) --Not to mention a jerk, a sexist, perverted clown, a slimeball-covered dork--

DARREN: (Trying not to chuckle along with the others, yes, even Krystal:) --Jane! (To Rory:) Okay, Rory, get up. There's no need for dramatics. (Rory does. Darren sighs:) I accept your apology, and I wanted to give one of my own, by apologizing to you over how I reacted when I grabbed you.

RORY: (Holds hand up:) No prob, "Darry"--I mean, Darren. I had it coming to me. (Surprises Darren by grabbing and shaking his hand:) Let's allow bygones to be bygones, okay?

DARREN: Uh, sure, Rory. (Adds, cocks an uneasy eyebrow as Rory releases his hand:) Just don't make me regret allowing you to come here tonight, agreed? (Slight frown:) And stay away from my sister Quinn and her friends, alright? They're underaged, you know.

RORY: (After a moment, holds hands up:) Agreed, and ease up about your sister and her ba-friends, okay? I want no trouble, seriously. (Thought v.o.: Especially from that frigid bitch DeA--no, Daria chick.) I'll stay away from them as far as you want, they're plenty of other women at the party. (Pauses, "hopeful" look, holding hands as if he's "praying":) Jane--? How about you? Bygones be bygones--?

JANE: (Sighs, glances at Darren:) Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.

RORY: Alright! (Holds arms out:) Group hug? (Krystal and Tina glare at him while Jane and Darren merely stare wordlessly. Rory grins:) Just kidding! Oh, Jane, I brought some flowers to accompany my apology. Elenor took them.

JANE: Oh, uh, thanks. I'll (thought v.o.: Throw--:) er, look at them later.

RORY: (Points both index fingers at her, winks:) Gotcha. (Pauses:) You know, uh, you looked really pretty last night when you and Darren went out, (quickly adds:) not that you don't now, either, that is! (Tina frowns at him, while Darren, Jane, and Krystal merely stare at him stoically) Hey, I'm not kidding, and I'm not up to something! Seriously! You were gorgeous in that red dress, and that hairdo, wow! Darren, you're one lucky guy!

JANE: (Thought v.o., inward smirk: Of course he is, jerk. But you're not gonna "get any" either way.:) Uh, well, thanks again. Quinn and her friends picked both out for me. (Looks at watch:) Uh, shouldn't we get to the party? It's started up by now, I'm sure, and I need to make sure my artwork is set for tonight.

DARREN: You go on ahead, Jane. (To Krystal:) I think Krystal wanted to speak to me about something--?

KRYSTAL: Huh? Oh, um, it can wait until later.

DARREN: Then I'd like to speak to you in private, if you don't mind. (Jane cocks an eyebrow, along with Krystal. Rory looks between Krystal and Darren, slightly smirks) We'll be there in a few, Jane.

JANE: (After a moment:) Ah, okay, sure--(begins to leave)

RORY: (Grins:) Mind if I walk there with you, since we're going in the same direction? (Jane glances at Darren, uncomfortable)

TINA: (Before Jane or Darren can say something:) We'll both go along with Jane, Rory.

RORY: (Shrugs, chuckles:) Sure, I'll just have two beautiful women to walk into the party with me. (Pauses as Jane and Tina glance at each other, motions, holds out each arm for them to take:) Shall we go?

TINA: (Smirks:) Okay. You go first, we'll follow from behind. (Suddenly shoves him in the back, a wee bit "hard". Rory stumbles forward, almost falls) Ooops. Sorry. (Looks at her hands, "shocked" expression:) Gosh, don't know my own strength. (Jane smirks, and they follow him as Rory slightly glares back at Tina while he walks forward)

Both watched the trio go around a corner, then Krystal turned to Darren.

KRYSTAL: (Trying not to show an uneasy look:) So, what did you want to speak to me in private about?

DARREN: (After a moment:) Krystal, don't take this the wrong way, but did you hear any of the talk between me and Jane? (Krystal's eyebrows rise ever so imperceptibly in shock. She's clearly caught off-guard with this question) You sort of came upon us suddenly in the theater, and might have inadvertently heard something.

For the briefest instant, Krystal thought about lying, but decided not to--or to at least give a convincing half-lie.

KRYSTAL: (Quiet tone, looks off:) Well, yeah. I came up and first heard the part concerning Jane's--suspicions about me, (pauses, adds:) and the part where I'm like a "sister" to you.

DARREN: (Turns pale:) Oh. Uh, I'd like to explain both--

KRYSTAL: (Puts on a "brave" face, smiles:) --What is there to explain, Darren? I'm deeply--(hesitates:) honored that you'd see me like that. I don't see what the big deal is, (pauses, smirks, playful tone:) unless you're having second thoughts--?

DARREN: (Uneasy chuckle:) Heh--funny. (Pauses:) It's just, well, I've heard that some women wouldn't like to be referred by any male friend as being like a "sister", the same for any male not wanting to be called a "brother". The basic reason is that either still might like the other a little bit after knowing one another for a long while, even though he or she knew that they could never really have a relationship--

KRYSTAL (Hides her shock, laughs out loudly for a second:) --Are--are you saying that I still harbor some sort of--"feelings" for you, Darren? (Holds up hand before Darren can speak, "amused" chuckle:) Wait--this is from that day at Orbison, when you told me that you didn't like me, right? And now that Stephanie's gone, that I can maybe (finger quotes:) make a "move" on you?

DARREN: Well, I wouldn't exactly say--

KRYSTAL: (Brief frown, cuts him off:) --Get over yourself. (Darren looks surprised) You've gotten Jane, now, remember? You're devoted to her. As for me, you made it abundantly clear that day that you weren't interested in me because you liked Stephanie, and like you told Jane, I got over it, and found other guys, getting on with my life.

DARREN: (Pauses, quieter tone:) Alright, fine. I believe you. Sorry to have thought that. The reason I wondered about that was, well--(looks off for an instant)

KRYSTAL: (Waits patiently, then:) What?

DARREN: (Hesitates:) Ah, it's nothing. We'd better get to the par--

KRYSTAL: (Narrows eyes, interrupts:) --No, hold on. I want to know, Darren. You wouldn't have implied that I'd still have any feelings about you after your talk with Jane without a good reason. (Crosses arms:) Out with it.

DARREN: (Long pause:) Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you. I didn't get too upset with Jane after she told me about what she and my sisters thought your motives were over me because, uh, because--(stops, looks off)

KRYSTAL: (Intrigued look:) What? Because of what?

DARREN: Look, please keep this in mind, I've never told anyone else this, not even Stephanie's parents, my aunt Millie, Curtis, Jane, or my family, but--

KRYSTAL: (Now impatient, scowls:) What is it, Darren?

DARREN: (Sighs:) Because just before she died, Stephanie told me to be wary of--of--you. (Krystal takes on a stunned expression, which causes Darren to roll his eyes:) Great. I knew you'd respond like this.

KRYSTAL: I-I--let me get this straight. Stephanie Reardon's last words to you were for you to be "wary" of me? (Pauses:) Me? What did I do to deserve that? I never did anything to try to break up you guys after you told me you weren't interested!

DARREN: (Puts up hands:) I know that, Krystal, really. I guess Stephanie never really felt--(pauses, looks for words:) "secure" about you for some reason, I don't know why--

KRYSTAL: (Fire in her eyes, cuts him off:) --I bet I do! She never fully trusted me! She always thought that I was up to "something" with you two! You told Jane that Stephanie felt uncomfortable when I came around you guys at school! (Through clenched teeth:) I can't believe this crap!

DARREN: (Soothing tone:) Krystal, calm down--

KRYSTAL: --Why should I, Darren?! You obviously believed her suspicions of me, or else you would've said something about this right after she died, or before now!

DARREN: (Frowns, keeps an even tone:) Hold it right there. At the time, I obviously had other things to deal with as we both know, and I had put what she said about you out of my mind. You more than proven yourself after she died, the same for when my (adopted) parents died.

KRYSTAL: (Holds her arms out:) Oh, so I had to "prove" myself to you, huh, just to insure that you could trust me, me, the girl who kept her distance from you, the girl who helped your best friend keep most of those other girls from "moving in" on you during your grief?

DARREN: Krystal, don't twist it like that--

KRYSTAL: (Gives him an incredulous look:) --"Twist"? Twist what? Should I twist my feelings as if everybody's against me for no apparent reason, here? The only people who seem to take me at my word are Tina, Millie, Jim, Edward, and your birth parents, and that's only because they don't know me all that well! (Pauses, turns from him:) Maybe I should just leave the party, since you don't seem to tru--

DARREN: (Wide-eyed, interrupts:) --NO! (Krystal stops, turns back to him, surprised by his tone. Darren gets into a softer voice:) I mean--Krystal, you're here right now, aren't you? If I didn't trust you, do you believe I'd even allow you to come to the party? Besides, you're not Rory, it's not as if everyone around here doesn't like you--(adds:) especially the staff. (Hesitates as Krystal snorts, looks off with a mild scowl and crossed arms, for she privately knows that this is not true, of course:) You know, it wasn't just because of Stacy's plea on behalf of Rory or of my guilty feelings for what I almost did to him on Sunday that he's here--

KRYSTAL: (Glances at him, pauses:) Oh?

DARREN: (In same tone, continues:) --it was mostly for you. (Krystal looks surprised) I felt that I owed you for what you did with Curtis at Eastward in helping me get through one of the two most difficult times in my life. (Pauses:) I don't think I can ever fully pay you back for that. (Krystal's face softens) I'd like you to consider my gesture to Rory to be something of a "down payment". I know I can always count on you when I need you. I also know that we've drifted apart these last few years, because of Stephanie mostly, but I want to change that. I don't want to lose you as a friend.

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, recalls conversation with Elenor in the study earlier:) D-Darren, I--(pauses, grateful smile:) thank you. I'll--I'll stay for the party.

DARREN: (Relieved expression, smiles:) No, thank you...

Darren suddenly surprised Krystal by hugging her. She stiffened for a moment in mild shock, then returned the hug by melting in his arms, privately enjoying the moment. Suddenly, Elenor appeared from around a corner and stopped as she eyed the two, looking mildly surprised. Krystal saw her, glaring briefly, with Elenor returning a stoic look. Darren, his back to Elenor, had not seen her as yet. After releasing one another, Krystal looked past him. Darren followed her stare, turning around.

DARREN: Ah, Elenor. What is it?

ELENOR: (Curtseys:) Excuse me Master Darren, Miss Krystal. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I was just passing through to get some more supplies for the party. (Goes between them both, glances at Krystal wordlessly and vice-versa)

DARREN: (Watches her pass:) Elenor. (To Krystal, smiles:) Oh, I meant to ask you about that call you had earlier in the study. (Krystal stiffens) I hope it wasn't anything bad--? (Elenor pauses for a brief instant before rounding a corner, glances at Krystal, then leaves)

KRYSTAL: (Watches Elenor for an instant, smiles at Darren:) Um, no, nothing of the sort. It was my--(pauses:) dad calling me. He wanted to make sure I took care of something at home.

DARREN: Ah, good. (Pauses:) Ready to go to the party?

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) Raring. (Surprises Darren by hooking her arm with his, starts walking with him, hesitates:) I, um, also heard Jane telling you that she and I had made a truce over her thinking that I was "after" you. (Looks away, "ashamed" expression:) I--I wanted to go into detail about that. You see, it was a sort of "jealousy test" I conducted with Jane. It's going to sound stupid, but--

DARREN: (Pauses, looks off, gently interrupts:) --Er, yeah, Jane explained about this "jealousy test". She said she wanted to put what you did behind her. (Smiles, uncomfortable expression:) I appreciate what you, er, "tried" to do, Krystal, but Jane has no ulterior motives--

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles, pats his arm, gently cuts him off:) --I know, Darren, I know--now. She and I are okay with one another, as you know--(pauses, sighs, trails off in a "wistful" and "sad" tone:) unlike your sisters...

DARREN: (Sighs:) I'll speak to them about that. I'm sure everything can be worked out with you. They liked those gifts you gave them, right?

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, thought v.o.: Of course they did. It's not like they didn't have much of a choice in front of everyone. I thought for sure at least Daria would turn her's down later to me on the side, though. Quinn would gobble up any gift from me. Wonder if Jane had anything to do with Daria's decision...?:) Well, yes, I guess they did. ("Hopeful" tone:) All I want to do is to become their friend, too.

DARREN: (Smiles:) You will. (Pauses, changes subject:) So, why haven't you brought a date to the party? What happened to that "Raoul" guy I saw you with several months ago?

KRYSTAL: (Rolls eyes playfully:) Him? We grew bored with each other, and broke up around the time that Stephan--(pauses, realizes:) um, sorry, I didn't mean to bring that up.

DARREN: (After a moment:) It's okay. (Pauses:) You're playing the field, I guess, huh?

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) There's those words again. (To Darren's puzzled expression:) Like I've told Jane and the others, I guess I am. (Grins:) Don't tell me you're starting to get bored with Jane?

DARREN: (Chuckles:) Not on your life. Jane's incredibly unpredictable. She keeps me guessing almost all the time, (pauses:) sort of similar to what Stephanie did. (Inwardly, Krystal winces) Truth be told, often I wondered why Tom broke up with her in the first place...(the two go through the doors into the now-full and noisy pool area)


On the other end of the pool area opposite from where Darren and Krystal had just entered, Jane was in the process of conversing about Krystal with Daria, Tom, and Quinn, who had broken away from her very-disappointed male "admirers" (sons of some of the guests, no doubt, which she had asked Stacy, Tiffany, and the Watley sisters to "keep company with" until she returned), going over to meet the trio when she saw Jane enter with Rory (of all people) and Tina. Rory had tried to say hello to Quinn, but she blatantly ignored him as she walked by, throwing her nose in the air. He quickly turned from her to cover his embarassment, eyeing a few females in the crowd who seemed not to know him. Rory brushed his clothes suavely and went over, his "charming" grin intact, ignoring some of the scowling guests who did recognize him.

The quartet were surrounded in the middle of the rather large throng of guests, with Mystik Spiral singing a song on the stage called "Zebra Elephants". Some of the older guests sat at the tables and stared at the group with bizzare expressions as they mumbled to each other over this "peculiar" group, while the younger guests (those male ones who hadn't surrounded Quinn) were dancing to the beat.

On another side of the pool in front of a huge table of food and a set-up bar, Jake was pleading with Helen to forgive him for not being with her to meet the arriving guests earlier. Helen looked as if she wanted to ignore him while her arms were crossed, but softened when Henri, who was standing beside the table, began to speak to her on Jake's behalf, insisting that it was his fault for the delay, apologizing even moreso than Jake.

Jane was in the process of speaking while grinning (all had to raise their voices over Mystik Spiral's loud music nearby).

JANE: --That's right, Darren just considers Krystal to be like a sister to him! (Daria and Quinn look at each other, wide-eyed) Looks as if you two will gain yet another sibling, huh?! (Tom smirks)

DARIA: No thanks! I'd prefer the male shared blood and chromosomal one, thank you very much! But that doesn't mean Quinn can't have her!

QUINN: (Snorts:) Huh! No way! Although Krystal has great fashion sense and looks, I'd much rather prefer to keep her at a distance, and stuff! She gives me the creeps!

DARIA: (Subtle deadpan:) Careful, Quinn! You're starting to get a sense of what lies beneath the surface! You don't wanna get too deep, do you?! You might drown in your newfound depth! Wade into the water carefully! (Jane and Tom chuckle)

QUINN: (Agitated, frowns:) Hey! You promised you wouldn't insult me 'till we got back home, Daria!

DARIA: Sorry for the natural reflex! Besides, it wasn't totally meant to be an insult! (Hesitates:) I meant that I, um, was kinda impressed that you didn't fall for Krystal's tricks!

QUINN: (Surprised expression with Jane and Tom, grateful smile:) Oh?! Well, uh, thanks!

DARIA: (Quickly moves on:) Now that we disposed of the special, but sickening sibling moment of bonding, Jane, what do you plan to do about Krystal?!

JANE: Like I told Darren, nothing! I don't give a damn about her or any other girl anymore! Like you said, Daria, I have to trust Darren!

DARIA: But I thought it was Krystal that you didn't trust! (Jane chuckles with Tom. Quinn rolls her eyes) After all, she's talking to Darren alone right now, you know!

JANE: (Shakes head slowly:) Don't you don't get it, Daria?! It doesn't matter anymore! (Grins:) To Darren, his being with Krystal would be like him being a boyfriend with you or Quinn, and that's pretty unthinkable to moi!

QUINN: (Shudders, remembers the first time she met her brother:) Ewwwww! Jaaane! Stop it!

TOM: That seems like the sensible thing to do, Jane! (Daria and Quinn scowl at him, which he notices, then shrugs:) Well, it does! I mean Jane can't be suspicious of every girl that comes down the pike in Darren's direction! Daria, you trusted and believed in me when I told you about that "Sesame" girl, right?! (Jane cocks an eyebrow with Quinn while Daria rolls her eyes)

JANE: Sesame?! You mean, that green-haired Goth girl back in Lawndale?! Don't tell me that she was after Tom?! (Pauses, realizes, grins to Tom:) Does Rocco know about this, and if so, do you have your life insurance all paid up?!

TOM: (Winces:) I'd prefer not to go there anymore, thank you very much! I'm a one-woman man! Daria's the only gal for me!

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) "Gal" indeed! You wanna grab that shovel again, Sloane?! (Sighs to Tom's chuckle and Jane's dropped eyebrow:) Jane, we'll tell you more about that later, okay?! I guess since you two have reached an understanding over Krystal, then we don't have anything to worry about anymore!

QUINN: (Looks off to the side, narrows eyes:) Well, if you wanna believe that Krystal's given up, Jane--

JANE: (Interrupts:) --I didn't exactly say that, Quinn, just that I'm gonna trust Darren, and to answer Daria's question, no, I still wouldn't trust Krystal as far as I could throw the planet, but it's no biggie to me anymore if Darren sees her as just a friend!

QUINN: (Still looking off to the side:) Oh?! Then I guess you don't mind seeing that, huh?!

Everyone followed Quinn's stare to witness Darren and Krystal walk towards them while greeting some of the guests, with Krystal's arm hooked along with Darren's. As the pair came up, Krystal showed a tiny smirk to Jane, then released Darren's arm as if she were "turning" Darren over to her. Jane maintained a stoic expression, the same for Daria. Quinn glared a little at Krystal, then looked a bit sheepish as Krystal caught her expression. Krystal merely smirked at Quinn wordlessly. From the side, Curtis suddenly appeared.

DARREN: (Smiles:) Hey, guys! (Looks around:) Everybody enjoying themselves?!

JANE: (Thought v.o., eyes Krystal for an instant: I know someone's trying to "enjoy" herself, but I'm not gonna let Krystal's teasing get to me.) (Smiles:) Speaking for myself, I'm having one hell of a ball, Darren! (Looks at watch, raised eyebrows:) Whoa! I'd better make sure my artwork's ready for its scintillating world premiere! Ta ta! See you all in a few! (Leaves)

KRYSTAL: I'll be mingling around with the guests in the meantime! (Slight smirk to Daria and Quinn:) See you guys later! (Begins to leave, but suddenly comes between, hooks both her arms with a surprised Curtis and Tom:) C'mon, guys! For some reason, I have this feeling that Darren wants to speak to his sisters alone! (Quinn looks surprised with Darren, while Daria now scowls. Before Curtis or Tom can can say a word, she drags both with her voice, trailing off:) Tom, let me and Curtis introduce you to some of Maness' finest...

Darren turned to his sisters with a sheepish expression.

DARREN: Ah, sorry about that! Krystal can be a little--(pauses, looks for words:) "direct" at times!

DARIA: (Still with her scowl, looking after Krystal:) Do tell! I wonder if I can be "direct" in telling her not to do that again the next time she attempts something like that?!

QUINN: (Uneasy chuckle, cuts in:) Daaaria! (Glances at Darren:) I'm sure Krystal didn't mean anything bad, you know?! (Quickly goes on while Daria cocks an odd eyebrow at her:) Anyway, Darren, I wanna just tell you that I'm really sorry about Kr--

Suddenly, a grinning Dean Pierpoint appeared from the side, cutting Quinn off while holding a daiquiri. He surprised Darren by slapping him hard on the back with his other free hand. Darren, caught off guard, stumbled forward slightly. Daria merely stared at Pierpoint with her "expressionless expression".

PIERPOINT: Aaron my lad, wonderful party, wonderful party indeed! (Goes on before Darren can say anything:) Hello again, Maria! (Narrows eyes at Quinn:) You must beee--Minn, right?! Aaron's other sister?! I'm Fean--no, wait, Pean--no, wait, Dean Pierpoint! (Delighted expression, looks off in space:) Yes, yes, that's it! Dean Pierpoint! (Quinn gives him a very odd look) I'm Maria's future head of her journalistic major at Eastward, isn't that right, Maria?! (Slaps her on her back hard like he did Darren, which causes Daria to slightly stumble forward as well. Drinks daiquiri)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Ohhhh, yeah! I'm really looking forward to being your future student! (Pauses, glares at a now slightly-smirking Darren:) Too bad I can't guarantee the future life of some other students who are currently going to Eastward. (Pierpoint drops an eyebrow at her like Quinn, perplexed)

QUINN: (Draws back slightly:) Um, hello! Actually, my name's Qu--

DARIA: (Interrupts:) --I wouldn't bother, "Minn"! (Pauses:) It would be a complete waste of time, believe me! (Darren chuckles. Daria looks off to the side:) Um, isn't that your wife talking to my parents over there?! I think I saw her wave to you to come over!

PIERPOINT: (Follows Daria's stare:) Oh, she did?! Well, I'd better go over, then! Thank you, Maria! Excuse me, Aaron, Minn! (Quickly leaves)

QUINN: (Watches after him:) Ew! (Turns back to the two:) Was he drunk, or something?! He couldn't pronounce any of our names right!

DARREN: (Narrows eyes:) Somehow, I don't think he was--

DARIA: He wasn't! He'd probably pronounce our names right if he were! (Turns to Darren:) Well, enough about ol' "Peeny" there! Tell me why you wanted to have your middle sister kill you in the prime of your life, oh brother mine?!

QUINN: (Looks between the two:) Huh?! (The loud music Mystik Spiral was playing finally is silenced for the moment as they pause between songs. Everyone now speaks in a normal tone)

DARREN: (After a moment, shrugs:) I figured it would be a good idea for him to meet our "genetically-shared parents", sis. Would you have preferred Helen to have pestered you with all sorts of questions about him, and what he expects from you? This way, she'll find out herself, and spare you her penetrating questions. (Grins:) Plus, I knew that you missed his company. I know I did.

DARIA: (Gives him a droll expression:) While I appreciate your so-called "concern" for my welfare, I'm afraid I simply can't just let you off the hook like that. I'm trying to decide between a secret administering of the smallpox virus on your food, or an outright strangulation from behind by piano wire. (Pauses:) I know. I'll let you decide. (Darren sighs, slightly smiles. Quinn again looks between the two, now nervous)

DARREN: (Looks up for a moment, mock-thought:) Hm, that is quite a choice you've given me, sis. Since the smallpox virus is very rare in this country, and is only found in tiny vials the size of a basketball at the Centers for Disease Control, and since I'm somewhat confident that the possiblity of your sneaking up behind me with piano wire to choke me is next to null and void, I propose something else altogether. (Pauses:) How about a trade?

DARIA: (Narrows an eye:) A "trade", huh? Okay, I'm listening for your last words.

DARREN: (Glances at Quinn:) I won't say anything more to you and Quinn about your well-intentioned but clearly misguided attempts at rescuing me from Krystal's "evil" clutches, and in return, you'll spare me from suffering a terrible fate at your hands over Pierpoint being here. We'll start anew. (Pauses:) How about it?

DARIA: Well, I--

QUINN: (Suddenly hugs her surprised brother, excited:) --Oh, yes, YES! I totally agree, Darren! It's a deal! Bye--ee! (Quickly runs off on the side, a male cheer goes up:) Hiiii, guys!

"GUYS": (From side:) Hiiii, Quinn!

DARIA: (Stares after Quinn, shell-shocked:) What in the hell just happened?

DARREN: (Ditto:) I think our sister just closed the deal for us after I gave her an out.

DARIA: (Sighs:) Leave it to Quinn to sign the contract without reading the tiny wording-- (pauses:) like, uh, what I believe in what she was doing in trying to suck up to you because she thought you were gonna kill us over Krystal--?

DARREN: (Shakes head, rolls eyes:) Like I told Jane, I was a little annoyed at first, but I'd never "kill" you two--(adds, grins:) at least not intentionally, that is. (Pauses, more serious tone:) Give Krystal a chance, sis. I'm sure when you and Quinn get to know her, you'll both like her. Jane even made peace with her, you know.

DARIA: (Thought v.o.: Oh, I'm sure I already know her, alright. Jane has her number, and even Quinn and Sandi's gotten it. Maybe one of these days you and some others around here will get it as well, Darren, but I'm not gonna push you. Best that you find out about her yourself...) (Shrugs:) Sure, no problem, Darren--no problem at all...


(Scene shifts to another part of the pool area, opposite side. Mystik Spiral's music, which is now playing again, is not as loud here)

While Millie conversed with several guests, Edward subtly stood by two other guests, a man and a woman who were whispering something. His eyes narrowed as he was listening very intently to them speaking. Edward suddenly pulled a tiny notepad (one of those "Post It" pads) from his pants pocket, and began scribbling on it furiously with a equally-tiny pencil.

Tina suddenly appeared beside him, a suspicious expression on her face, surprising Edward so fast that he almost dropped his notepad, which also drew the attention of the two guests, who looked at each other and shrugged, continuing their discussion. He quickly slipped the pad back into his pocket as he faced Tina.

Nearby, Jim, who himself had taken to watching Millie (with Edward as an unwelcome addition), cocked a very interested eyebrow at the sight while a man he had been speaking to kept talking in an annoyingly bombastic manner. Jim pretended to be listening to the man while he observed Tina and Edward.

EDWARD: (Uneasy chuckle:) Oh, Tina! You gave me quite the scare for a moment, there!

TINA: (Even tone:) Sorry about that, Edward, I didn't mean to startle you. (Pauses, adds:) What were you doing, if I might ask? I saw you writing something on a pad...

EDWARD: (Pauses, looks briefly at a loss of words:) Oh, that? (Pauses, looks at the two guests, lowers voice, leans closer to Tina and vice-versa:) Well, basically, I was, uh, "acquiring" some business secrets for Mikkelson's Internet division.

TINA: (Skeptical expression, tone:) You were acquiring some "business secrets".

EDWARD: (Pauses:) Yes, that's right. You see, those two were discussing some potential acquisitions here in the States, and I wanted to know what they were up to. (Adds quickly:) It, ah, occurred to me that Mikkelson could use that information to get a foothold in the American market further. ("Sighs":) I--sometimes do this at parties on occasion. Millie doesn't know it, of course. (Looks over at the man and woman:) I realize this could look illegal, but, you know, they were only speaking randomly, so it might just be speculation--

TINA: (Looks over at the two guests for an instant, thought v.o.: That's Mr. Kilner and Ms. Cook, both the heads of two dot com companies that Millie knows on a casual basis... :)--Sure, Edward, I understand. Sorry for surprising you like that. It just looked strange that you were doing this at a party of all places, and I wondered what was up. (Shrugs:) You know, being head of security, I have a natural sus--curiousity of everything that looks out of place.

EDWARD: (Pauses:) Of--course, Tina. No harm done. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Ah, you won't say anything about this, will you, especially to Millie? (Motions head at the two:) The last thing I need is for them to know that a possible competitor knows about their little secret, and that Millie would scold me to no end, (adds:) particularly since she knows those two.

TINA: (Thought v.o.: Impressive. He seems to know all about them. He probably knows that I know about them as well. Best not to tip my hand.:) No problem. It's none of my "business", anyway. (Edward chuckles at her pun) Excuse me. (Leaves)

EDWARD: Tina. (Stares after her for a moment, thought v.o.: Now, what in the devil was that all about? I suppose it would've been only natural that Tina would wonder what I was up to, but, still, I wonder. It wouldn't hurt to make sure to check my things up in my room, at least...) (Turns to Millie, who's come over to him, smiles:) Will you pardon me, luv? I have to use the, er, bathroom. (Leaves quickly)

MILLIE: Of course--(cocks an eyebrow at Edward's sudden departure:) Edward--? (Thought v.o.: I guess he has an upset stomach, or something...) (Looks off to the side, smiles:) Oh, hello, Leonard--

Jim immediately came over to Tina after watching Edward suddenly leave the pool area. Tina had motioned to another security man to follow Edward in the meantime. The security man nodded to her, and quietly slipped out behind Edward.

JIM: (Eager tone:) I saw what happened with Edward, Tina, everything. What was that all about? What did that bastard write down on his little notepad that he tried to hide from you?

TINA: (Cocks an eyebrow, sarcastic tone:) Aren't you the considerate one, Jim, calling him that? (Sighs:) He told me that he was copying down some sort of secret business info he overheard from two guests for where he works at Mikkelson.

JIM: (Incredulous expression:) And you believed him?

TINA: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Didn't you see me tell one of my people to follow him, particularly since he left here so quickly just now? (Pauses:) Of course I didn't! Still, those two guests were in business. I checked them out thoroughly like all the other guests, you know. (Pauses:) What else could you think he possibly wrote down?

JIM: (Pauses, throws hands up:) Hell, I don't know! Remember, I suspect he's working for the Weekly Blabber! He could've been jotting down some gossip for that paper, or something, you know, getting even more dirt on Darren or his family! (Pauses, realizes:) Why don't you just ask those two what they were talking about? If it was over something concerning business, fine. If not--

TINA: (Gives Jim a "Are you serious?" expression, interrupts:) --No way! Those people would think I was some sort of nosy nut, or something! What would I say, (mock-serious tone:) "Excuse me, sir, ma'am, I was wondering what supposedly private thing you two were talking about just now? I have reason to believe someone that I can't divulge at the moment per security purposes, overheard your conversation, and they possibly plan to use your information to the detriment of Darren Appleton and his family?"

JIM: (Grins:) Couldn't have said it better myself, Tina! It's perfect! (Tina looks up, rolls eyes) Oh, c'mon! You know you want to! You suspect Edward's up to something wrong like me, right, especially after what I told you earlier? What better way to find out?

TINA: (Gives a hard sigh after a long moment:) Fine, I will. Excuse me.

Tina went over to the guests and spoke. Jim crossed his arms, watching. After a minute, Tina came back.

JIM: Well, what did they tell you?

TINA: After giving me the funny eye for an instant, about a few harmless business tidbits concerning the future of the dot com industry, like what firms could be taken over or are going out of business, in the area of what Edward said, I suppose, (pauses:) and about seeing Darren and Krystal first walking into the pool area, arm-in-arm, and how his "other" girlfriend Jane would react. That's it.

JIM: Ah-ha! There's your proof! Pure gossip, fit for Bowman's rag right there! (Makes a "headline" jesture with his hands, looks in space, wild-eyed:) I can read it now: "Darren Appleton Walks in With Second Girlfriend, Krystal McKinna"!

TINA: (Rolls eyes:) Jim, that's still no hard evidence, only speculation. We don't know for sure what Edward wrote down. It could have been only about those business tidbits like he told me--

JIM: --Unless we read what was on that paper for ourselves! Why don't we just demand to see what he wrote?

TINA: (Snorts:) And cause a scene? (Sarcastic tone:) I'm sure Millie would love that. (Jim ponders this, looks off:) Besides, we can wait for Woo to find something first, then confront Edward. I'd strongly advise for you to wait until then. Besides, my man will tell us where Edward went when he comes back. (Jim rolls his eyes)

JIM: (Grumbles:) Fine, sure. Why the hell not? I've waited this long. (Looks at watch again, frowns:) Woo, where in the hell are you? (Thought v.o.: Hey, that kinda sounds familiar...) (Shuffles off. Tina simply stares after him for a moment, shakes her head slowly, then leaves)


(Scene returns to the other side of the pool area)

Daria, having just being left by Darren, happened to see the tail end of the exchange between Edward, Tina, and Jim as well, staring in thought. Tom, having just "escaped" Krystal and some other guests, came over to Daria, following her stare.

TOM: What's going on?! See something interesting?! (In the background, "Icebox Woman" is now being played by Mystik Spiral. Hence, the conversation resumes the raising of voices)

DARIA: (Turns to Tom:) You might say that! It looks like something went down! Edward suddenly left in a tiff after speaking to Tina, and she sent someone after him, more than likely to keep an eye on him! Jim came over to her, and Tina then went over to some guests, and began to speak to them, then came back to Jim, and they talked!

TOM: Ah, the plot thickens!

DARIA: Or the building tension, take your pick! (From the side, an elderly woman comes over, smiling, which Daria notices:) Um--hello?!

WOMAN: (Barely heard above the music, shouts in her ear:) Hello, there, young lady, young man! I'm a friend of Millie Appleton's! (Shakes hands with Daria and Tom:) Aren't you Darren's sister, DeAnne?! (Daria sighs, while Tom chuckles under his breath)

(Comical note to reader: If you've seen the episode "The Old and the Beautiful", it's generally known that Daria's monotone voice bothers the elderly greatly. However, because of the currently loud music that's playing, her voice is being drowned out, and isn't bothering this woman--yet.)

DARIA: Yeah, I'm Darren's sister, but my name's Daria! Daria Morgendorffer! This is Tom Sloane, my, uh, (pauses:) boyfriend! (Tom mouths "Hello") (Pauses, slight smirk as she gets an idea:) I'm planning to go to Eastward College with Darren next year, as a matter of fact! (Thought v.o.: Go ahead, ask what I'm going to major in. I plan to get out my sarcastic, witty side tonight if it kills me, or cripples me severely, at least... :)

WOMAN: (Brightens:) Oh, that's very nice, dear! What are you going to major in?!

DARIA: (Supreme monotone, loudly, as the music suddenly dies down:) I plan to be a college call-girl! It's a new major at Eastward! I'll learn how to take out a guy (slows down as she realizes, looks around:) every--night? (Face turns red from embarassment:) Oh, God. (Thought v.o.: Figures. Leave it to me to forget that "Icebox Woman" isn't all that long...)

Everyone was staring at Daria in silent shock. Helen and Jake, both in the midst of eating Buffalo wings, simply let them fall from their mouths, which were hanging wide open. It was so quiet, one could hear only the sound of Buffalo wings dropping on the decking.

JAKE: (Suddenly grabs his head as well:) GAH! MY LITTLE KIDDO'S GONNA GO TO COLLEGE TO MAJOR IN CALL-GIRLING! (Shakes fist at ceiling, looks up, scowls, red-eyed:) DAMN YOU, OLD MAN! YOU DID THIS SOMEHOW, YOU OLD BASTARD! (Some of the guests nearest Jake back away from him, terrified)

HELEN: (Quickly puts hands on his chest to calm him down:) JAKE! SHE'S JUST KIDDING! (Quickly looks around, embarassed chuckle:) Heh-heh! My husband's a little tipsy, you see, he gets like this on occasion when he drinks...(now, even more guests back away while looking at the still-enraged and shaking Jake, frightened. Helen briefly gives a glare to end all glares to Daria)

Quinn gave her own brief glare at Daria for an instant, sighed, then quickly reached into her mini-purse, pulled out a pair of sunglasses, and slipped them on (she had expected her sister to do something embarassing to her). She then looked around at the ceiling and hummed a made-up tune, much to the puzzlement of Stacy, Tiffany, and the Watley sisters, who stared at her, then at each other.

In the meantime, Darren struggled not to laugh, the same for Millie, Curtis, Tom (who received his own brief glare from Daria), Jim, Tina, and the servants. Krystal merely smirked at Daria, amused.

TRENT: (After a moment:) Whoa, Daria. That's heavy. Not that it's any of my business, but does Jane know about this? Tom, you're okay with this, too? Man, you're brave! (Daria slumps while the elderly woman moves slowly away from her, nervous. Tom bites his tongue, trying not to lose it as well. Darren finally breaks out in a hardy laugh, not being able to hold it in anymore, the same for Curtis)

JESSE: (In his clueless tone:) I dunno, man, I kinda think it's cool. Maybe it's sorta like sharing the wealth, and stuff, you know...? (Glances at Fiona, who's standing beside Claude and Elenor:) Maybe I should ask Fiona if she wants to take that major just for me? (At this, Fiona blushes very deeply, embarassed. Elenor and Claude chuckle)

MAX: (Offended, scowls:) Hey, that was my idea, dude! Go get your own!

NICK: (Ditto, to Max:) What do you mean, your idea, man? It was mine!

MAX: Hey, man, you've got a girlfriend and a kid already, or did you forget? (The two almost come to blows, but Trent breaks them up)

PIERPOINT: (Admonishing expression, shakes finger at Daria:) Oh, no, Maria, this won't do, this won't do at all! I clearly see you as a journalist, do you hear?! I'll have to speak to the head of the call-girl department at Eastward, and tell them that you're my student, do you understand?! (Darren really laughs out now, so hard that he's crying in Curtis' shoulder, and vice-versa)

DENISE: (Sighs, embarassed, shakes head slowly:) Oh, Pank, Pank, Pank...

DARIA: (Deadpan, miserable expression, thought v.o.: Note to self--prepare that pistol and single bullet hidden in my room for suicide after party tonight. Make sure the barrel is snug in the mouth... :) Um, anybody want to declare me dead, now? I promise you all won't be able to tell the difference. (Some people move away from her nervously while Tom finally loses it as well like Millie, Jim, and the servants. Daria once again scowls at Tom, then slumps and sighs in defeat)


(The scene cuts to the upstairs, Edward's room, the same time)

Edward went in and shut the door, narrowing his eyes as he looked around. He did a quick, panoramic view for a moment. Nothing seemed out of place since Elenor had cleaned his room earlier today. Edward immediately went over to his laptop computer case on his desk and opened it. He breathed a sigh of relief that the dismantled three-inch by three-inch electronic metal box, which had received his bug's transmissions, was still next to his lapop.

EDWARD: (As he picks up and examines the box's empty casing, thought v.o.: Perhaps I really should get rid of this thing like the bugs. I was bloody fortunate that Tina didn't open it. But where could I dump it? The parts are too large for my toilet...)

Shaking his head and dismissing the thought for the time being, he placed the box's casing back in the laptop case, shutting it, and placing it this time in his walk-in closet. After another moment, he took the tiny notepad from his pants pocket, and put it in the laptop case as well. Edward then shut his closet door. Best not to push my luck. Mr. Bowman will understand why I didn't want to get any more info tonight when I e-mail him after the party. Too bad I didn't have a camera when Darren walked in with Krystal. The picture would've been just below the bold headline. I can see it now: "Darren Appleton Walks in With Second Girlfriend, Krystal McKinna"...

As Edward exited the room, he saw what appeared to be the tip of a shadow from around the corner at the end of the hallway, which quickly vanished, as if someone had just been watching him. He stared at the corner for an instant, then quietly tip-toed to the end of the hallway and suddenly looked around the corner. There was no one there. He narrowed his eyes.

EDWARD: (Thought v.o.: Someone was just there, I'm sure of it. Does someone suspect me? Could it have been that ass, Jim? Why would he--[pauses, realizes:] just what did he and Millie talk about this morning? Did it concern me, somehow? I think I'll ask Millie as soon as it's feasible...) (Leaves for downstairs)


(Scene shifts to the outside of Darren's meditation room, a few minutes later)

Several of the guests (not all, but particularly the older ones, wanting to escape Mystik Spiral's "loud and strange" music) had broken off from the party for the time being to see Jane's latest work, all mumuring amongst themselves over what they were going to see. In addition to them, along with an eager-looking Tess Donovan, were the Morgendorffers and Darren, Millie, Edward, Jim, Tom, Curtis and his sisters, Tina, Constance, Candi Gunwald (who found time to come after Quinn had called and asked her), Dean Pierpoint and his wife, Stacy and Tiffany, Krystal, Leonard Potter, and three of Quinn's male "admirers", quickly becoming known as "The Three K's" by Daria (you the reader can guess their names and looks if you want--oh, alright, they're named Kurt, Keenan, and Kenny). Trent and the rest of Mystik Spiral would come in a while to view Jane's "World Premiere Art" after they had finished playing their songs.

Rory was also in the long and now-crowded hallway, leaning against one side several feet down with his arms crossed, looking bored. He watched the crowd wordlessly, particularly at Stacy, who had seen Rory out of the corner of her eye, then looked away quickly, red-faced. This had occurred several times previously during the party. Rory had thought about going over to thank her for persuading Darren to allow him to come (among "other" things he was privately considering), but each time Tina had suddenly appeared nearby, giving Rory a wordless warning glare to stay away. Rory smirked at the thought. Tina can't stop me every time from meeting little 'ol innocent Stacy. I'm a patient man...

Further down the hall, the rest of the staff were eagerly awaiting what Jane had painted as well, with Claude and Elenor chuckling evilly at each other, both confident the other was wrong in guessing what Jane had done, the same for Henri and the others, rubbing their hands in anticipation.

Only Fiona seemed distracted, occasionally staring off in space, reminiscing about what Elenor sacrificed in dealing with Krystal. Elenor noticed Fiona's funk, and nudged the young maid gently by her shoulder with a hand, motioning her head towards Jane, who finally had exited Darren's meditation room.

JANE: (Grins, raises voice:) Ladies and gents, I proudly now introduce you to the new-look meditation room of Darren Appleton--

DARREN: (Grinning as well, interrupts:) --Finally! I thought I was going to die before you came out!

JANE: (Mock-scowl, smirks:) Hey, you still might by my hand, the night's young! (Some people chuckle) I also have placed two other paintings (winks at Daria, who rolls her eyes:) in the middle of the room! I wanted to take a few last-minute pics with my camera for prosterity, you understand, that's why it took so long for me to come out! Now, because of the size of Darren's tiny lil' box, I ask that only six people at a time enter, so there won't be any crowding, okay?!

MILLIE: It would only make sense then that Darren go in with you and his family first, Jane. (Jane nods while Krystal's mouth turns down ever-so-slightly in disgreement, which Rory notices, making him chuckle to himself) We'll wait in groups of six, (turns, smiles:) would everyone please line up like so...? (The guests begin to do what she asks)

DARIA: (To Tom, cocks an eyebrow:) Um, do you mind, Tom--?

TOM: No, of course not, Daria. Go in with your folks, I'll be in the next group.

JANE: (Smirks, hooks her arms with Darren's:) Aww, that's sooo cute for you to do that, Tom! Now, Daria can go in with her loving family first! (Helen and Jake chuckle with Darren. Quinn, however, simply looks off and says nothing, thinking once again about the painting of Daria and Darren together, feeling a bit envious and depressed)

DARIA: (Slight scowl:) As you just said, Jane, the night's young. There's plenty of time for some diabolical mischief between you and me, too. Keep that in mind. (The others chuckle, though Helen does give Daria a subtle look of admonishment)

QUINN: (Suddenly speaks as she comes over from her friends and "The Three K's":) Uh, you know, I've been thinking, maybe I should kinda come back later, and go back to the party--? (Uneasy shrug:) I mean, I'm gonna see Jane's stuff sooner or later, right? (Stacy and Tiffany look at each other, then at the Watley sisters)

HELEN: (Scowls with Jake:) Quinn! How rude! I can't believe that you'd--

JANE: (Realizing the reason behind Quinn's behavior, holds up free hand, gently interrupts:) --Hey, it's okay, Mrs. M., really. (Coy tone, "sighs":) I mean, if Quinn doesn't want to see a painting with her in it right now, I can understand that...

QUINN: (Gasps, shocked:) Y-You mean, you did one of me? Me? (Points thumb to herself, now excited, smiling:) ME?!

DARIA: (Deadpan, thought v.o.: The echo now has left the mansion, has entered into Quinn's empty head and bounced around for awhile, then has exited back out. That's some echo.)

JANE: That's what I said. I--(Quinn zooms past her and Darren into the room, surprising everyone:) ooookaaay...

Jane and a chuckling-Darren followed Quinn in, along with Daria, Helen, and Jake.


Jane had painted the back of the door and the entire room (windowless, save for a small wall vent, which Jane had cleverly disguised to appear to be a gopher hole) as a huge wheat field on a clear day during the late spring/early summer, in all directions, as far as the eye could see. The sky above, taking up the remainder of the wall, including the entire ceiling, was a sky-blue color, and cloudless. The lone light in the room that was centered on the ceiling represented the sun at high noon. There were also a flock of birds in a "V" formation flying very high on either side of the ceiling light. Upon further and closer examination, the wheat, which was a yellowish-brown tan color throughout, was slightly bent in various directions, indicating a gentle breeze blowing randomly in the field.

In the center of Darren's room, as Jane indicated, there were two paintings sitting on twin easels (one Jane's, the other she borrowed from Darren) beside one another, of the one with Darren carrying Daria in his arms--and one of a loving Quinn hugging an equally-loving Darren tightly, the moonlight's reflection illuminating in front of them on a body of water. Beside both easels was Jane's camera, on the floor.

Quinn stared at her painting wordlessly and with an unreadable expression (ignoring the room's appearance), the same as the rest of the Morgendorffers and Darren, who also eyed the easel paintings after the room painting. After about a minute more, a now-uncomfortable Jane spoke uneasily, breaking the silence.

JANE: Um, sooo, what d'you guys think? The one with Daria and Darren's titled "She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister", and the one with Quinn and Darren's titled "Lean On Me When You're Not Strong, Little Sister". (To Darren:) I painted that one from a picture I took of you guys while I was out Wednesday night. I saw you two talking near the lake. (Pauses, shrugs, uneasy chuckle:) So, are the paintings toooo sappy? (Pauses:) Toooo controversial? (Pauses, swallows:) Am I babbling toooo much?

Before anyone else could say a word, a crying Quinn stunned Jane (and the others) by running over to her and gripping her in a fierce hug. Jane froze like a deer in the headlights, the same way she reacted when Helen had done exactly the same thing when Jane had showed the Morgendorffers her "peace offering" family portrait of them all back in Lawndale.

JANE: (Wide-eyed, struggles:) AAAH! NOT AGAIN! NOOO! (Darren laughs with Helen and Jake. Daria's not with them, subtly moving off to the side)

QUINN: (Sobbing:) Oh, Jane! This is soooo pretty, and stuff, not like that painting you did of me before in your house! (Note to reader: See the episode "Gifted") I'm gonna hang this in my room at home! Thank you, oh, thank you for doing this! (Squeezes Jane harder)

JANE: (Even through her shock, thought v.o.: Huh? Quinn knew that was her I painted? Who would've thunk it?:) Uh, ah, thanks and you're welcome, Quinn, but the blood circulation to my brain's being cut off, could you please let me--(suddenly, a flash fills the room) eh? What the hell--? (Looks off to the side with Quinn, Helen, and Jake, shocked expression:) DARIA?!

DARIA: (Lowering Jane's camera, evil grin:) The mischief of the night begins, Jane. Payback's the proverbial bitch, isn't it? (Jane and Quinn, who's released her, scowl at Daria) I think I'll get Darren to paint this touching scene. What do you think, bro?

DARREN: (Smirks, glances at Jane and Quinn:) Yeah, I agree with you, sis. (Now Jane and Quinn turn their scowl at Darren) We can then hang it in your room, either here, or at your home in Lawndale.

DARIA: (Looks up, mock-ponders:) Nah, I was thinking someplace a little more public, like in the Laaaaawndale High hallways, for all time. I'm sure Ms. Li can make room for it, especially for you when you come down there with a sack full of money for her school a few months from now. We can call it, "When the Popular and Unpopular 'Twain Shall Meet". (Quinn's eyes grow really large in terror, whereas Jane's narrow)

HELEN: (Sighs, believes Daria's sarcasm is kicking in yet again:) Now, Daria, I don't think--

QUINN: (Pale expression, cuts in:) --Oh, God! Daria, no! You wouldn't! Anybody but Jane!

JANE: (Flat-eyed, sarcastic tone:) Gee, thanks, Quinn, and just as I thought when we were becoming bosom buddies, too. (Darren chuckles. Jane now grins while staring at Daria:) Besides, I wouldn't worry about it. There's no unused film left in the camera, I filled it with every shot I could take of the entire room. Daria can't use it. (Quinns forms a look of relief, smiles smugly at Daria)

JAKE: (Snaps fingers, frowns:) Awwww, dammit! And I was wondering how it would look, too! (Quinn glares at Jake, who becomes sheepish) Whaaat?

DARIA: (Raised eyebrows:) You're kidding me. (Looks down at the empty film indicator on the camera, scowls:) Ah, hell, you're right. (Sighs, slumps:) You two live a charmed life. I'm gonna have to choke the crap out of that Lucky Charm leprechaun one of these days...

HELEN: (Raised eyebrows, gasps:) You were serious? Daria!

DARIA: (Deadpan, shrugs:) Hey, a gal's gotta work out her revenge-slash-blackmail somehow, you know. (Helen rolls eyes. Darren laughs at Daria's crack)

DARREN: Oh, well, you win some, you lose some. (To Jane's and Quinn's suspicious looks:) And you two can relax, I wouldn't have painted it. (Grins:) Sorry, Daria.

DARIA: That's okay, Darren. (Pauses:) I know that the leprechaun got to you, too. (Darren and Jane chuckle with the others)

DARREN: (Looks around, awed expression:) Seriously, though, I really like the way you've painted my room, Jane. It's a very peaceful and calm look. I can't believe how much detail you've put into this painting. (Jane looks privately satisfied with the word "detail") I think I can resume my meditations without any distractions. (Smiles:) Thank you. (Kisses her. Jane puts her arms around his neck)

HELEN: Ahem. (Jane and Darren release one another. Helen smiles:) Yes, Jane, everything looks wonderful, right, Jake?

JAKE: (Brightens:) Yeah! (Lowers voice, disappointed look:) Although I still wished I coulda seen how Quinn and Jane looked on that painting, it looks so cute in my mind...

QUINN: (Snarls:) DADDY! (Jake jumps. Darren and Jane chuckle)

HELEN: (Inquisitve expression:) Daria...? What did you think of Jane's work?

DARIA: (Sighs:) Well, I unfortunately knew about the painting with me and Darren, but as for his room and the painting with him and Quinn, it's pretty good, (pauses, stares at the wheat field on the walls:) though I sorta wished Jane could've painted a nice, huge, destructive, black F-5 tornado on the Kansas horizon. It would've been perfect. (Helen sighs while Quinn rolls her eyes and Darren laughs. Jake has his clueless expression)

JANE: (Grins:) Now you tell me. Actually, I had this pegged as a far Western Canadian horizon, but I accept your "positive" critique, amiga, thanks.

DARREN: If that's the case, then you'll also accept my paying you for doing this. (Jane looks surprised, is about to speak when Darren holds up his hand:) Jane, before you say anything, I know you had to have spent a considerable amount of your own money as well as your time to paint my meditation room. The least I can do is to reimburse what you spent for this.

JANE: But--

HELEN: (Jumps in, smiles:) --Darren told me and Jake that he wanted to do so earlier right after you chose to do this, and we think it's only right. Besides, I know about the financial agreement you two made over his helping you out, Jane, (Jane cocks an eyebrow to Darren, who nods) so this falls in that category, doesn't it--?

JAKE: (Nods wildly, grins:) Yeah, damn skippy it does, Jane-o! You're gonna take that money, and like it!

QUINN: Yeah, I agr--(pauses, privately wonders if she'd have to pay any of her own money to Jane:) um, yeah, let Darren give you back what you put into all of this, and everything, Jane.

DARIA: (Of course picks up on Quinn's motive, thought v.o.: Because "we" wouldn't want to pay any of "our" own cash for Jane doing "our" portrait, surprise or not, would we, sis? Ah, now that's the "unselfish" Quinn I've come to know and loathe...:) You might as well accept your fate, Jane, the Morgendorffer full-court press is on. Better hurry up and take the shot the moment you get open.

JANE: (Sighs, after a moment, smiles:) Okay, okay, you've all talked me into it! (Pauses:) I'll admit, this did set me back a pretty penny or two, and we did make that monetary agreement.

DARREN: (Nods:) Good. Make sure you leave your receipts for what you spent, and I'll give you a check before you leave tomorrow...

Suddenly, Millie looked from around the doorway, the same for Curtis.

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Are you all finished viewing yet? The crowd's getting restless!

CURTIS: (Ditto:) Yeah, the rest of the world would like to see Jane's work sometime in the next hundred years, you know...(sees the room, wide-eyed:) deeeeg!

Needless to say, the reviews for Jane's art were enthusiastic (led by Tess Donovan, of course), particularly for both paintings with Darren and his sisters. Even Krystal genuinely had to admit that she liked all of Jane's work, though she was seething beneath the surface while she viewed the two arm-in-arm while fielding all questions. In the meantime, Quinn couldn't stop gushing with pride while she bragged about her painting to Stacy, Tiffany, and the Watley sisters.

In a surprise (particularly to her), Fiona had ended up winning the entire pot in the staff's betting pool, since she had guessed the closest (she had chosen a cornfield, while Elenor had a beach scene, Claude a wooded one, Tina a desert view, and Henri an underwater one. The others staffers weren't even close.), which cheered up the formerly-depressed maid considerably as she pocketed her money, grinning from ear-to-ear.


(Scene is now in Darren's home office, not quite an hour later)

Many of the guests had dispersed from Darren's meditation room and had returned to the party, while others who were at the party earlier had heard, and had decided to visit the room. Darren was sitting at his desk writing something, while Jane and Tess Donovan sat across from him, watching. Daria and Tom sat behind them on a sofa, observing as well. In the doorway of the office, Curtis and Krystal watched.

DARREN: (While still writing, not looking up:) You understand, Ms. Donovan--

TESS: --Please, call me Tess, Mr. Appleton--

DARREN: (Still not looking up while writing:) --just as you can call me Darren, Tess, that I can't just contribute two million dollars to your school, don't you? (Jane looks a little surprised like Daria, Tom, and Curtis, but she had expected this, since she had told Tess as much herself. Still, Jane looks disappointed somewhat. Krystal appears indifferent) (Darren finally finishes writing, looks up, then hands what is obviously a check to Tess over his desk:) However, I think you'll be satisfied with this amount instead...

TESS: (Smiles, very grateful as she takes the check:) Of course, Darren, thank you. Any amount would help--(looks down at the amount, becomes wide-eyed:) OH, LORD! This check is for five million dollars! (Jane becomes wide-eyed with everyone else, even Krystal)

JANE: (Jumps over, looks down at the check Tess is holding. Daria, Tom, Curtis, and Krystal quickly come over and look over Jane's and Tess' shoulders as well:) Whaaat? Holy cow, it is five million bucks! (Smirks at Darren, who's grinning:) Why, you sneaky dog, you...

DARIA: Oh, yeah, it's five million big ones, alright. (Glances at Darren, cocks an eyebrow:) I guess it's nice to have enough of that moolah to throw around for a contribution or two.

CURTIS: (Waves dismissive hand, mock-dismissive tone:) Oh, he throws money all over the place like that all of the time--(Darren rolls eyes)

KRYSTAL: (Jumps in just so she won't feel "left out", ditto with the tone:) --Oh, Curtis is definitely right. It's nothing to him--

TOM: (Smirks:) --Gee, I wouldn't know. (Daria stares at him, surprised, the same for Jane. He shrugs, sarcastic tone:) Well, it's true. Our little giveaways average only $100,000 generally to various causes. The most I can recall our family contributing without other filty-rich people helping out is only a paltry $500,000 a year to Bromwell, the lousy cheapskates. (Grins, "relieved" sigh:) Gosh, it's nice to look poor beside you, Darren. (Darren chuckles with the others, save for Tess, who's still staring at the check in disbelief, her hand trembling)

DARREN: (Smirks, sarcastic retort:) Glad to be of service, Tom. You deserve a break from looking like the "Rich Kid" every now and then. (Everyone chuckles, save once again for Tess, who's still staring down at the check in shock) Maybe I can go and stay at Bill Gates' home near Seattle for a few days and slum out there to make me look poor? (Finally notices Tess, cocks an eyebrow:) Uh, Tess--? Are you alright?

TESS: (Finally looking up at Darren, trying not to turn on the waterworks, struggling to get out the words:) O-Oh, I-I'm fine, Darren. T-Thank you. T-Thank you so much for this very generous contribution. I-Is there anything I could do for y-you, perhaps get our school's financial board to name a wing after you, or something--?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I should only be so lucky. I'm still waiting for those librarians at home to name that same reference table I go to after me, since I've been sitting at it so many times.

DARREN: (Glances at Jane, slight smile:) Actually, there is. Jane told me you thought my paintings didn't have enough detail on them, or something, and that I was barely a novice painter at best--

TESS: (Wide-eyed, alarmed:) --I didn't mean to put down your work, Darren--

DARREN: (Gently interrupts, smiles:) --I know, Tess, and you're not, really. You're the expert. I'm just wondering if you could give me a lesson or two sometime in the near future. I'd like to improve my techniques a little, since I promised to paint pictures of some of the staff members here, and I want to make them look their best, (glances at Jane again:) that is, if you and Jane don't mind.

JANE: (Chuckles:) Hey, who am I to argue with a pseudo-art student and my future art teacher about that? I think it's a great idea!

TESS: (Smiles:) Why, I'd be delighted and honored to teach you, Darren! I can certainly make the time for you! When did you want to get together on this?

DARREN: (Writes on his desk calender as a reminder:) I'll call you sometime next week, and we can work out a schedule that'll be best for both of us. (Reaches over, shakes Tess' hand)

TESS: I'll be looking forward to it, Darren. (Turns to Jane, surprises her by leaning over and hugging her:) And thank you again, Jane, for asking Darren to do this--

DARIA: (Smirks:) My, but you're quite the hugging magnet tonight, aren't you?

JANE: (Mock-scowl as Tess releases her:) As you said, the night's young, Morgendorffer...(smiles at Tess:) um, you're welcome again, Tess.

DARREN: (Stands up with Jane and Tess:) Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's return to the party, shall we?

JANE: Hold up, I just thought about something. (Turns to Tess:) Maybe you ought to put that check in a safe place until you leave--? Having five million smackers on your person is nothing to sneeze at, you know.

DARREN: (Nods:) Good point. Tess, I could put it in--

TESS: (Chuckles, holds hand up:) --Don't worry, Jane, Darren, I know just where to put this check. I did consider that before I came here tonight, (smirks:) even though the amount totally caught me off-guard. (Folds check, puts down front of her chest, in her bra:) There. It's safe.

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Ah, the five million dollar boob protection system. Crude, but effective. I like it. (Everyone chuckles)

Daria, Tom, Curtis, Krystal and Tess walked into the hallway, with Jane and Darren about to follow them out, when Jane suddenly stopped, simultaneously putting a hand on Darren's chest, stopping him as well.

DARREN: (Raised eyebrows:) Jane--?

JANE: Just a sec. Uh, you guys go on ahead, willya? I've gotta--(pauses, glances at Darren:) "speak" to Darren in private, okay?

Everyone looked at each other, save for Krystal, who narrowed a suspicious eye at Jane, who in turn showed a slight smirk to Krystal for an instant, then Jane just as suddenly but gently pushed Darren back into his office with her, shutting the door behind her.


Darren frowned for a moment, puzzled at Jane's behavior. Jane merely stared at him for an instant while she leaned back against the door, then slowly developed a sultry smirk, which matched her slow, deliberate saunter towards him. Darren finally began to realize what was up, swallowed hard for an instant as she put her hands on his chest, looking incredibly alluring to him as she drew his face down to her's while grabbing his shirt.

DARREN: (Now a little wide-eyed:) Ah, Jane, what if someone at the party asks where we ar--

JANE: (Cuts him off in a lusty whisper:) --Screw 'em, the others will cover for us. (Thought v.o.: Heh--though in Krystal's case, it's probably killing her. Oh, well... :) You didn't think you'd get away without me properly "thanking" you for your incredible contribution to the world of art, did you? (Puts her index finger on Darren's mouth before he can speak, grins:) Of course you didn't, tricking me like that, you silly boy. (Pauses while still grinning, her mouth very close to Darren's:) You know, I promised Helen that we wouldn't do any serious "hanky-panky" while I'm staying here with you and Daria during our college years, but that doesn't mean we can't go right up to the edge without falling over now, can we...? (Grabs a very wide-eyed Darren's head and kisses him deeply. Both slowly go down onto the office's sofa)


The others stared for a moment at the door in silence, perplexed, then began to leave slowly. Krystal stared for a moment more at Darren's door, then followed the others slowly down the hallway, glancing behind on occasion with a puzzled look, which did not go unnoticed by Daria and Tom.

CURTIS: (Up front, not noticing Krystal's expression:) I wonder what that's all about?

TESS: Oh, I hope it's nothing too serious, or anything--?

TOM: I guess Jane couldn't wait until the end of the party to speak to Darren for some reason, so I guess it was--

DARIA: Hm--I wonder...(pauses, realizes:) oh, yeah, that's it. Gotta be, knowing Jane.

CURTIS: (Glances back:) Huh? You know, Daria?

TOM: (Begins to realize, grins:) Of course. This is Jane after all. I should've known that, of all people. (Mock-sad tone:) I pity Darren--(pauses:) not.

KRYSTAL: (Now realizes as well:) You don't mean they'd--oh. (Thought v.o., winces: Damn, damn, DAMN!!)

CURTIS: What do you--(ponders, then grins as he realizes:) ahhhh!

TESS: (Frowns, confused:) Wait. Would somebody please tell me what's going on with Jane and Darren?

DARIA: Um, we'll tell you downstairs, Tess, (pauses:) though I'm sure you're familiar with the term "making out"--? (Glances back, sees Krystal looking behind her once again, this time with a very worried expression, smirks while slowing down, low voice:) Coming, "sis"? We don't want to leave you behind now, do we? (Krystal turns to Daria and gives her a stoic look, then catches up to them. They all walk downstairs)


(Scene is downstairs in the study, the same time)

A slightly-worried Edward gently pulled an inquisitive-looking Millie in by her arm, immediately shutting the doors behind him. For a moment, he looked around, finding no one. Satisfied, he visibly relaxed as Millie crossed her arms.

MILLIE: Alright, Edward, I've been patient with you, not saying anything until we came in here. Now, what in the hell is going on? Why'd you ask me to leave the party for a little bit to speak about something "really important", (annoyed tone:) which I'm sure could've waited until afterwards, (pauses, frowns:) and why are you behaving in such a strange way? (Narrows eyes:) You look as if you're worried for some reason--

EDWARD: (Cuts her off gently:) --Well, yes, in a way, I suppose I am, Millie. I apologize for doing this again, really. (Hesitates:) I wanted to ask you: What did you and Jim speak about this morning? (Pauses, narrows an eye:) Did it concern me, for some reason?

MILLIE: (After staring at him for a moment, as if he's lost his mind:) Wait a second. (Pauses:) You dragged me from the party to ask me that question? I told you this afternoon that I'd speak to you later about that!

EDWARD: Luv, this is "later"! Believe you me, I think I have a very good reason to ask you this--

MILLIE: Which is--?

EDWARD: ("Exasperated" sigh:) I'm sorry for upsetting you like this, Millie, but I think your ex is following me because he still thinks I'm up to no good for some reason! (Millie's eyebrows raise, begins to speak) Wait, please let me explain! (Millie says nothing) Thank you. I think Jim followed me up to my room (adds quickly:), when I left the party to use the bathroom, if you'll remember. I also wanted to, er, check my laptop for any e-mails. I'll admit that I didn't see him when I came back out, but I did see a shadow appear to leave quickly from the corner of the hallway that lead to my room, and to me, it looked like Jim's. Not only that, but I've noticed that he's been watching us intensely for almost the entire party tonight, an indication to me that he's still jealous of us, and perhaps the actions of an insanely obsessed man. (Millie rolls her eyes) Look, from the events of the past few days, this is the first time I can recall him doing this since you spoke to him in front of the media room Monday. (Becomes annoyed:) Luv, I say this because I'm really getting bloody sick and tired of his shenanigans, that's he's playing his little "games" with me! (Leans closer to Millie, lowers voice, even tone:) Now, I'm wondering about this morning, something about you and him--? Is he behaving like this because of whatever it was that you two "did", hmmm--?

MILLIE: (Frowns:) What are you implying, Edward? That Jim and I had se--

EDWARD: (Wide-eyed, interrupts:) --What? No! Of course not! I'm just trying to inquire about what you two spoke about this morning, that's all! (Pauses, narrows eyes:) Was it about me, or something, even indirectly?

MILLIE: (Glares:) You're not going to let this go, are you? You can't wait until the party's over, at least?

EDWARD: (Long pause, gets an idea while forming a "horrified" expression:) You--two--did--sleep together, didn't you? (Millie looks shocked, Edward goes on before she can speak:) Oh, God, how else can you explain your evasiveness about this?! ("Offended" look:) How could you, Millie?! I loved you! (Begins to turn away from her. Millie, stunned beyond belief, suddenly grabs his arm. Edward stops, turns to her with a cool expression)

MILLIE: (Trying to keep her anger from rising:) Edward--how--in--the--HELL can you even think that?! (Pulls her face close to his, for emphasis, through clenched teeth:) We--did--not--I--repeat--did--NOT--sleep together this morning! You know that only you and I have--(pauses, sighs:) alright, I might as well tell you, since you seem so damn "worried" over this, and won't let it go. (Takes a deep breath:) Jim and I spoke about what happened in the home movie theater last night, when he seemed to jump down your throat over who's room to look through first for those damn bugs. I was trying to defend you. I didn't want to tell you that right now because I didn't want a possible rehash of trouble between you two during the party--(pauses, resigned expression:) which, when I think about it, doesn't seem to matter, now...

EDWARD: (Narrows eyes:) You were--"defending" me? (Pauses:) Why?

MILLIE: Jim seemed to have this ridiculous notion that you planted that electronic bug Tina found in his room last night, and I told him he was out of his mind. (Edward keeps his cool expression, though listening intently) I asked if he had any proof, and he said no, but he was sure you had something to do with it--(adds:) or at least he hoped that you did, but don't worry, I shot that little theory down. I pressed him further, but then he relented, saying he made those charges because he was under some "strain", which, as you know, stemmed from his recent business troubles, of which the detective Gerald Woo will uncover tonight. (Pauses:) Satisfied, now?

EDWARD: (Ponders, even tone:) I--see. Yes, I am. (Pauses, slowly realizes as he looks off in space:) Of course. Why didn't I see that? (Frowns, spits out:) Bloody hell!

MILLIE: (Cocks an eyebrow, assumes:) Well, there's no need to feel that badly over it, Edward. You don't have anything to fear over Jim saying that, you know--

EDWARD: (Snaps out of it:) What? Oh, er, yes, luv, you're quite correct about that--(pauses:) I suppose. (Suddenly hugs her, feeling "badly":) I'm terribly sorry to have thought that you and he, well--

MILLIE: (Chuckles, pulls away, softer tone:) --Edward, you're the only man I care for, no one else, I've told you that, time and time again. (Pauses:) I'll speak to Jim, and tell him to stop harassing you--

EDWARD: (Excitedly:) --NO! (Millie stares at him oddly. Edward quickly calms down:) I mean, no, that's quite alright, luv. I want no trouble, you don't have to speak to him on this matter anymore, believe me.

MILLIE: (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Are you sure--?

EDWARD: (Holds her, smiles:) Oh, I'm quite sure, Millie. Let's drop this, shall we?

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Alright. (Kisses him:) Well, if there's nothing else, let's go back to the party.

EDWARD: I'll join you in a few, luv. (Pauses:) I want to--pull myself together for a bit, you understand.

MILLIE: (Drops an eyebrow at him:) Um, alright, of course. I'll be in the pool area. (Begins to leave, opens one of the study's doors)

EDWARD: (Hesitates:) Uh, Millie--?

MILLIE: (Turns:) Yes, Edward? What?

EDWARD: How do you feel about taking a trip first thing tomorrow, after Darren's birth family leaves, just you and me, anywhere around the world? I know it's quite sudden, but--

MILLIE: (Gasps:) --Edward! Where did this come from? You know that Darren's grandparents and aunts are supposed to arrive next week! I just can't up and go with you like that!

EDWARD: (Walks over, holds her, looks down in her face, smiles:) And why not? I'm sure Darren would understand if you'd want to get away, and he could spend some private time with his extended family alone!

MILLIE: (Pushes him gently from her, shakes head, smirks:) Edward, don't be ridiculous. I'm not leaving with you anywhere, at least not until after next week, when Darren will begin classes at Eastward. (Pauses, frowns:) Besides, didn't you tell me that you were supposed to get back to Mikkelson the middle of next week, anyhow?

EDWARD: (Pauses, improvises:) Well, yes, of course, but I can get another week off of additional vacation--

MILLIE: (Grins:) --Which you can take the week after next, or a month from now, or whenever! (Pats his face softly:) I'm not going anywhere, so there. Now, I'll see you in a few while you, er, "pull" yourself together. (Turns, leaves)

EDWARD: (Alarmed expression:) But--but--(Millie keeps walking down the hallway, pretends not to hear him, playfully humming a tune. Edward frowns briefly, then shuts the study's door)


Edward turned, and walked to the middle of the study, his frown still present, deep in thought. You bloody idiot. You stupid wanker. How could you have been so blind? Jim's gotten Woo onto me, and more than bloody likely, he's gotten Tina in on it, with her shrewd little questions at the party, which in turn means her blasted security team's probably watching me as well. One of them probably followed me up to my room, if it wasn't Morse. They can't prove anything, they haven't discovered that receiving box in my room--yet. But if Woo calls and tells them he's discovered something--I've got to get rid of that box, somehow, and get the hell out of here tonight, and the sooner, the better! But first, I'd better call Mr. Bowman, and warn him...

Trying to surpress a panic, Edward paused and mouthed "damn" as he patted his pants, for he had forgotten his cell phone in his room. After a moment of debating whether or not of going back after it, he decided to go over to the study's phone instead, which was located on a coffee table beside the sofa, lifting the phone off the receiver and quickly dialing a number. Edward nervously sat down on the sofa as he waited through the rings. He looked at his watch the same time. After five rings, the answering machine came on.

MACHINE: (Beeps:) This is Bowman. I'm not in right now, so leave your gossip from the Appleton mansion at the sound of the beep--(pauses:) White. (Beeps)

EDWARD: (Steals a look at the study's doors, lower voice:) Dammit, Mr. Bowman, the jig's up, they know about me, or are about to, anyway! That bloody Morse tricked me, but good! Remember when I told you it was about his job? I was wrong! It was on me! And since he's gotten that "wonder detective", Gerald Woo, Darren Appleton's "dog-sniffer", to do some digging up, he's going to find something, I just know it! I'm calling JFK airport after I get off the line, since I know Maness' airport is probably closed by now! I'll be in London on the Red-Eye early this morning, if I'm lucky, so wherever you are on your vacation, be sure to call me there! (Clicks off receiver, begins to punch some more numbers, pauses:) Hello, JFK? I'd like to buy a ticket to London, first available, the name's White, Edward White. (Pauses:) Yes, I'll hold, but please hurry, I'm a bit rushed for time, thank you. (Pauses, thought v.o.: I'll have to dream up an excuse to Millie about an "emergency" suddenly coming up, though, but she'll understand, of course. I'll inform her just before I leave. More than likely, I won't see her again...[pauses at this for an instant, as if he's genuinely pained:] at least we had some good times together, especially that night when we--no, best not to think about that, old boy...)


(Scene shifts to a hallway, the same time)

Jim and Tina, having just hastily emerged from a closet around the corner from the study, stared after the direction Millie went, then looked back at the study's doors while still around the corner.

JIM: (Whispers:) Crap, that was close! Mill almost spotted us! Good thing we saw this closet, and got in it in time! (Pauses, frowns:) Dammit, I hate doing this to her! You heard what that jerk said to her? He suddenly comes up with trying to leave tomorrow after Darren's birth family leaves--with her? Where'd that thought suddenly come from? (Pauses, realizes:) I think he knows we're onto him, I tell you! He's trying to make a break for it! He's probably making a call to leave, or something, that's why he didn't come out with Mill! I'm gonna go in the study, and stop hi--

TINA: (Puts a firm hand on his shoulder, stops him, whispers as well:) --Hold on, Jim, wait a minute! (Sighs:) Look, I agree with you, Edward's really acting suspicious now, but all we have is a conversation between him and Millie about going somewhere soon, and that's still no hard evidence! Besides, if you go rushing in there and start shouting accusations all over the place, he'll definitely know something's up! (To Jim's frustrated look:) Look, I'm having all of the calls on the system monitored by the mansion's security tonight, so relax. Edward didn't appear to have his cell phone when he went in the study with Millie, so if he's using the mansion's phone system, we can trace where he's called. (Pauses, stares at the study for a moment, frowns:) Truth be told, I think he's getting a little sloppy, if he's using the mansion's phone system to do what you alledge. Edward's been told about the monitoring already, like everyone else, he should know better.

JIM: (Looks at the doors of the study again, still in whispering mode:) Yeah, well, maybe he's getting nervous because he knows the noose is tightening. (Pauses:) Uh, your man told us he went to his room when he rushed away from the party, right?

TINA: Yeah--so?

JIM: So, d'you think "Eddie" went to check on his stuff in his room, or something, you know, to see if it was disturbed by you guys?

TINA: (Shrugs:) I dunno. Maybe, maybe not. I mean, I didn't authorize going back in there because we didn't find anything the first time, so why would there be any need for him to go in his room again to check if we did?

JIM: (Waves hand, dismissives thought:) Ahhh, you're right. Damn. (Pauses:) I mean, what else would Edward look for...?

TINA: (Looks off for a moment, frowns:) Well, actually, I've been thinking about something during the party. (Jim cocks an eyebrow) If Edward did bug the media room like your room, then he'd have to had a portable recording/receiving device of some sort while he was up in his room, wouldn't he, I mean, for him to have heard and record everything--?

JIM: (Brightens:) Heyyy, yeah! How else could he have gotten that info out of the media room? Maybe that's what he went back to check on! (Pauses, realizes:) Hold it, I just thought of something myself. Wouldn't you guys have found it when you checked his room last night?

TINA: (Shakes head:) Not if our linear junction detector had been set only to detect devices that transmitted signals, like last night, as opposed to searching for devices that received signals, like a recording/receiving one. I've seen them. They're usually small, metallic or plastic boxes, which can pick up the sounds on an electronic bug, and the listener would have an earphone hooked onto it, and they're pretty inexpensive, say, around $250, and can even be jury-rigged. It never occurred to us that anyone here would have one to function like that, since we were so set on searching for bugs only, from what we assumed to be an outside source--

JIM: (Nods head:) --While Edward, actually the inside source, would have had only the receiving device after getting rid of all of his bugs, save for mine, of course. (Frowns:) Crap, this is my fault. If I had told you earlier about my suspicions, maybe you could've set that thing to detect for receiving signals. (Narrows eyes:) But wouldn't he have gotten rid of it by now, if he had it?

TINA: I assumed he would--provided if he had the time, that is. One can't just throw something like that out in the trash without someone discovering it. Remember, the story only broke yesterday. (Pauses, narrows an eye:) Maybe he hasn't, yet.

JIM: (Grins, eager look:) Then we can just go up into his bedroom and find it, right?

TINA: If he still has it. Besides, I've already returned the detector to a--um, "friend" in the government this morning, and it would take a day to get it back. It could've been set to have found a receiving device, even one that's turned off, like the bug. Too bad you didn't tell me, then. We could've maybe have had something.

JIM: Don't remind me. (His pants pocket suddenly begins to "ring", looks down:) Huh? (Realizes while he reaches into his pocket, chuckles:) Oh, that's my cell phone. I decided to keep it with me at the party in case Woo calls. Maybe it's finally him. (Pulls out phone, clicks on:) Hello? (Pauses:) Woo? Thank God! What took you so long to ca--never mind that, what about Edward White, do you have evid--(pauses, wide-eyed:) what? You're on your way here by cab right now to tell me in person? (Tina cocks an eyebrow) Why? (Pauses:) Too much to get into over the phone? (Pauses:) Well, I appreciate your wanting to come across the country to tell me face-to-face to make it up to me, but you didn't have to--(pauses:) of course I'll be here. (Swallows:) Just--just--tell me, is it good or bad news? (Pauses, grins:) It is? Alright! See you then! (Clicks off phone, stuffs back in pocket. Deep smirk of satisfaction)

TINA: So, Gerald Woo's actually on his way here to tell you what is supposedly good news to you, that is, about Edward White.

JIM: (Still with the smirk:) You got it. Woo'll be here within an hour, he's just left LaGuardia. I want to wait until he's arrived before we tell Mill and Darren, alright? That la-dee-dah British bastard's days of tricking Mill and hurting my nephew's family for that gossip rag he's working for are over, and--(looks at the study, cocks an eyebrow:) hey, now...(Tina turns toward the study as well, following Jim's look)

Edward, frowning, suddenly left the study in a hurry, coming towards them, but also looking around as well. Jim and Tina barely made it back in the closet around the corner, with Edward barely missing seeing them. After another moment, the two came out of the closet, watching after Edward.

JIM: (Frowns, suspicious:) Well, now, he's in a rush, isn't he? (Pauses:) You don't think he definitely knows someone's onto him, do you?

TINA: (Narrows eyes, considers:) It's possible. I'm going to follow him myself and see what he's going to do, we don't want him possibly leaving before Woo arrives. (Begins to jog at a quick pace)

JIM: I'm coming with you! (Both run into some laughing guests in an adjoining hallway, struggling to get by them:) Excuse me! (Turns slightly to Tina, smirks:) You're really busy tonight, what, with keeping an eye out on Edward, and Rory as well--?

TINA: (Wide-eyed, realizes:) Rory? Oh, hell! I was so focused on watching out for Edward, I'd forgotten about that sleeze, and I told the other people on security that I wanted to do it! (Jim cocks an eyebrow) Dammit, it's just not my night, is it?! (Sighs:) I'd better call somebody to keep an eye out on him...(reaches into her shirt pocket, pulls out cell phone)


(Scene shifts back to the pool area, a few minutes earlier)

Rory had just finished speaking to an attractive, giggling, long-haired brunette, when Curtis walked by him.

RORY: (Grins:) Yo, Curtis! (Curtis stops, turns to him, scowling. Rory walks over, prepares to give him the "cool" handshake:) I've finally gotten the chance to see you after awhile! What's up, homeboy?

CURTIS: (Deep glare:) Kiss my black ass, Rory! (Rory cocks an eyebrow, backs off a little) You are so damn lucky Krystal's your sister, you know that?! Darren told me the real reason you're here! (Goes on before Rory can speak, pokes his chest:) And you'd better stay the hell away from my sisters, got that?! (Storms off)

RORY: (Thought v.o., slight scowl: And a hello to you too, "Sambo". Besides, your sisters aren't my "type", [smirks:] if you know what I mean...) (Turns away)

In the meantime, a dour-looking Krystal, having come back in with the others, now leaned against one side of the wall by herself, staring at space, having just blown off several guys who had approached her for dances. In front of her, there was still a rather large throng of guests, with the younger ones still dancing to Mystik Spiral's loud music. Krystal, however, was near the rear of the pool area, away from the brunt of the sound.

Rory, smirking, walked up to his sister from her left. After a few seconds, he waved his hand in front of her face.

RORY: Yoo-hoo! Earth to siiis! (Looks around, grins, comes closer to her:) Hmm, I don't see "Darry" or Jane anywhere in the vicinity, so I guess they've decided to forgo the party for their own little "festivities", huh?

KRYSTAL: (Still with the stare in space, dangerous tone:) Keep it up, and I'll throw your ass into the pool, Rory, I swear I will. I'm in no mood for your teasing. (Turns to him, narrows eyes)

RORY: (Backs off:) Touchy! Sorry for the barbs, alright? Geez! (Pauses, realizes:) Wait a minute. You mean, they really are--

KRYSTAL: (Red-faced, cuts him off:) --YES, ISN'T THAT WHAT I SAID, YOU IDIOT?! WHAT PART OF THAT DID YOU NOT COMPREHEND?! (Rory draws back, genuinely afraid. A few guests nearby look at the siblings for a moment, but most of the guests don't hear, since Mystik Spiral's music drowns her out. Krystal lowers her voice, looks away:) Why in the hell am I doing this to myself? Why don't I just leave this damn party, and go the hell home? Darren doesn't give a damn about me, not like that, I should've known, even after he hug--(stops herself)

RORY: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Wha--? Did I hear that right? Did you say that "Darry" hugged you? When was this? (Pauses:) Oh, wait--this was when you two conversed earlier, right?

KRYSTAL: (Glares at her brother for an instant, then relents, sighs:) Yeah, it was, but Darren did it out of pity for me, his "sister", sort of as a "thank you".

RORY: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Huh? Come again? "Sister"? (Pauses:) Darren thinks you're like a sister to him? (Adds:) And what do you mean, a "thank you"? What happened?

KRYSTAL: (Shakes her head as if to get rid of the memory, curt:) Look, I don't want to talk about it anymore, okay, so drop it.

RORY: (Snorts:) Okay, your call, no skin off of my nose. (Pats pocket, smug expression:) Got some phone numbers from a few babes tonight--

KRYSTAL: (Snorts:) --You mean, from the ones who didn't know about your "reputation" as of yet, don't you? (Rory rolls his eyes) I saw how mostly everyone treated you, brother dear--like a plague. I even overheard some of the rumors about you during the party as they eyed you--(pauses, slight smirk:) and we both know they're mostly true.

RORY: (Looks around after a moment, glares:) Yeah, well, I don't give a damn about the vast majority of these people anyway, save for that "Stacy" chick, who I didn't properly "thank" as of yet for changing Darren's mind, and--(grins:) well, now, what do you know. (Krystal drops an eyebrow at him) I don't see Tina anywhere. Good. That bad gal's been tailing me all over the place for the whole night, especially when I tried to come around Rowe and her fellow hoochies. (Becomes wide-eyed at something on the side, really grins:) Oh-ho! Now might be my chance for some action with Ms. Rowe!

KRYSTAL: (Narrows eyes, follows his stare:) I know that look, it's one of lust. (Stares, after a moment:) So, Stacy seems to be leaving with Quinn, Tiffany, and the Watley sisters with their "boy toys" to go outside, so what?

RORY: (Brushes his shoulders, suave look:) So, I can follow them out into the moonlight, and make my move on Stacy, that's what! (Begins to leave:) Wish me luc--

Krystal suddenly grabbed Rory's right shoulder gently, but squeezed it just enough to cause her brother brief pain, stopping him.

RORY: Owww! (Turns to her, annoyed as Krystal releases him:) Hey, what's your problem, sis? (Rubs shoulder)

KRYSTAL: My "problem" is this: I know you'll probably go after the "innocent little flower" that is Stacy Rowe, and I don't want you to do something stupid that might land you in jail, brother dear, do you understand that? If you get kicked off or arrested for any reason, I'll be seriously PO'd at you, and I might just do--(pauses, barely-disguised ominous tone:) "something" to you afterwards. I promise you, you won't like the results. (Rory turns pale for an instant) See, for your information, Darren allowed you here tonight, basically as a favor to your's truly, not primarily to make-up to you for what you nearly did on Sunday that almost got your ass kicked. I think it would look bad on me if "Stupid Rory" suddenly decided to show his true colors, hm--? (Rory frowns briefly) Even though it shouldn't be surprising to me, I'd think that you'd quit while you're ahead. You've gotten enough "conquests" for tonight, you know.

RORY: (Uneasy chuckle, thought v.o.: So that's what Curtis meant by my being "lucky" that Krystal's my sister.:) Awwww, it's mighty sweet of you to worry about me like that, Krystal, but ol' Rory's gonna be okay, you'll see! Now, I gotta go before I lose them, and Tina comes back! Excuse me! (Leaves through a side door that opens out to the mansion's rear patio)

Krystal rolled her eyes, then looked at Mystik Spiral's playing. Their song, this one called "Amnesia Love", had just winded down. The younger remaining guests in the crowd clapped wildly and cheered as the group bowed, while the older crowd simply looked relieved that the noise was over.


Curtis looked at his watch and motioned to Tom, who was standing beside Daria.

TOM: (Nods slightly, turns, over the cheering:) Uh, will you excuse me for a second, Daria?! I needed to speak with Curtis for a moment!

DARIA: (Deadpan as she looks at the stage while politely clapping:) Sure, go ahead! (Pauses:) Leave me for him after everything I've done for you! (Tom chuckles as he comes over to Curtis)

TOM: What's up?!

CURTIS: (Cocks an eyebrow:) You know! Darren! (Smirks:) You don't think he'll forget that he wanted to show us his little "package", do you?!

TOM: (Snickers:) With Jane "talking" to him, who knows?! (Glances at watch:) If we don't see him in ten more minutes, we'll march right into his office and snatch him from her seductive clutches--(pauses, adds:) and then hope like crazy that she doesn't kill us! (Curtis grins) See you then! (Goes back over to Daria)

DARIA: What was that all about?!

TOM: (Dismissive shrug:) You know, "private guy stuff"! (Daria drops an eyebrow) Hey, you and Jane wanted to speak about some "private girl stuff" before we all went to the home movie theater earlier, and I accomodated your wishes!

DARIA: (Gives him a suspicious look, tone:) Uh-huh! (Pauses:) Of course you knew what our talk was about, didn't you?! Krystal!

TOM: (While staring at Mystik Spiral:) Well, that's what I guessed it was all about! You didn't tell me outright! (Turns to Daria:) Don't worry, it's just a "guy" thing, that's all, really! (Daria stares at Tom a moment more in thought, then turns to the stage)

After another few seconds more of cheering and clapping from the younger guests, Trent began to speak in his microphone, just as two burly-looking security guards entered near Krystal, looking frantically around with worried expressions. After a moment, they slowly began to make their way through the crowd. Krystal ignored them as she continued to watch Trent, then smirked slowly as she started to formulate an idea in her head.

TRENT: (Smiles:) Thanks, everybody! We had a real blast! (Coughs:) This, like, concludes our song-playing for tonight! (Now the older guests suddenly clap their hands wildly and cheer. Trent and the other members look at each other, puzzled, then shrug. Daria, standing along with Tom and Curtis in the front, look at each other, smirk) Uhhh, yeah! Anyway, we wanna thank Darren, his aunt, and Mrs. M for our being able to come here, and play for you all! (Scans the crowd:) Would they all please come up to the stage?! (The crowd claps lightly)

JAKE: (Turns from talking with Dean Pierpoint and his wife, grins:) Yeah, Helen and Millie! (Twists right fist in air, a la Arsenio Hall:) Oooh, oooh, oooh!

PIERPOINT: (Grins as well:) Well spoken, Make! (Looks at right fist, befuddled expression as he tries to emulate Jake:) How does that go, again--?

JAKE: (Delighted-to-have-a-friend mode, grins:) Jake, m'man! Jake! (Shows right fist:) It's all in the twist, Frank, all in the twist--(Denise looks interested while drinking a martini, Jake shakes his fist too much, winces:) ow, dammit! Stupid fist!

DARIA: (Steps up from the crowd to the stage while Millie and Helen come up. Trent notices Daria, and bends down to her:) Um, Trent--? Darren's not here right now. He's with Jane. (Helen, overhearing, pauses and cocks an eyebrow) They're ah, "talking" in private. You can thank my brother later.

TRENT: (Nods:) Oh, okay. Cool.

HELEN: (Narrows eyes, slightly suspicious tone:) And just where are your brother and Jane, Daria? This is the second time tonight that they've "talked"! I've barely seen them at the party, save for viewing Jane's work!

MILLIE: (Chuckles as she steps up on the stage:) I'm sure they'll show up eventually, Helen. (Slight frown, scans the crowd:) Right now, I'm wondering where Edward is. He told me he was coming back to the party, and he's not here yet. (Pauses, realizes:) And for that matter, where's Jim? (Daria and Tom look at each other wordlessly as Helen joins Millie on stage)


(Scenes shifts upstairs, the same time)

Edward, still in rush mode, quickly entered his room, shutting the door right behind him. Tina and Jim rushed up from the grand stairs just in time to see him go in. After a moment, they stopped, then went into an adjoining hallway.

JIM: Okay, "Eddie" has gone, or rather ran into his room. (Pauses:) What now?

TINA: I think we should--(her cell phone in her shirt rings, she pulls it out:) hang on a sec. (Clicks it on:) Yeah? Jeff? (Pauses, narrows eyes:) You're sure about that? (Pauses:) Oh, and that, too? Okay, wait a moment. (Covers the phone)

JIM: (Now barely holding it in, tense:) What, what?

TINA: Security's just monitored three phone calls made from the study, where Edward was. One call was traced to JFK airport, then to the Maness Cab Company, where a taxi has just pulled up to the front gate. The driver's asking to enter to pick up Edward. The other call was traced to somewhere in South America.

JIM: That settles it! That ass is leaving tonight! With Woo on the way, we can't let Edward go!

TINA: (Nods:) Which is why I'm going to try something, first. Hang on. (Uncovers phone:) Jeff, tell the driver that the person he's come to pick up has changed his mind. Go ahead and compensate the driver for his troubles and give him something extra to "forget", I'll pay you back, whatever the amount. Also, connect me to Edward's room, will you? Thanks. (Pauses, waits for a moment while other line rings, then stops. Tina disguises her voice, lighter, sweeter tone:) Hellooo, Mr. White? (Jim drops his eyebrow, gives her an odd look) This is the Maness Cab Company. I'm sorry to inform you that the taxi you called has just radioed us that its been in an accident, and won't be able to arrive on time. ("Winces" as there's animated shouting on the other end:) Ooooh, I'm so sorry, sir! (Jim grins) All of our other taxis are out for the moment with other customers. There's a large three-day comic book convention in the White Plains Civic Center, you see, and we wanted to be there. It won't be until at least an hour until another one is freed up to come and get you. (Pauses:) Uh-huh, I understand that you have to be at JFK for your flight in two-and-a-half hours. Don't worry, I'll do everything in my power to get a cab to the Appleton mansion as soon as possible. Sorry again, sir. (Clicks off phone:) Well, we bought another hour, at least. Hopefully, that'll be plenty of time for Woo to arrive.

JIM: (So happy, he surprises Tina by briefly hugging her:) Tina, that was fantastic! You really sounded like an genuine phone operator, there!

TINA: (Smirks:) Thanks. (Sighs, loses smirk:) I wouldn't get too happy, Jim, though I wasn't fibbing about the comic book convention there. (Jim gives her yet another odd look) Hey, me and my boyfriend were planning to go there tomorrow afternoon, okay, and he and I like to read them every now and then! (Pauses:) If Edward suddenly gets suspicious and decides to call the cab service to find out what's really going on, then we're in deep doo-doo.

JIM: (Stares at Edward's bedroom door:) Which is why I'm gonna keep him from having any time to even consider that possibility.

TINA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) What are you talking about? (Frowns slightly:) What are you going to do?

JIM: (Still with his eyes on Edward's door:) Just stay here so he won't see you. I plan on keeping him distracted until Woo comes. (Starts to walk towards Edward's room)

TINA: Jim, I don't think this is a good idea--

JIM: (Continuing his walk:) --Yes it is, Tina, you've got to trust me, I'll be fine.

TINA: (Starts to stop him, reaches out while whispering:) Damn it, Jim, don't make me--

Tina's cell phone suddenly began to ring again, which distracted her just long enough for Jim to quickly move out of her grabbing range. After smiling at her for an instant, he went up to Edward's door and began to knock. Tina glared at him for a moment, but quickly went back around the corner so Edward wouldn't hear its ringing, answering.

TINA: (Quickly clicks phone on, whispers in a growl:) This better be important. (Pauses:) What? You don't know where Rory is? Well, find him, he couldn't have gone too far! (Clicks off phone. After a moment, Tina glances carefully around the corner, spots Jim entering in as Edward's holding his door open, whispers to herself:) Jim, you'd better know what you're doing, you idiot. (Sighs, thought v.o.: Nothing more I can do here for the moment, might as well check on where Rory is in the meantime...) (Leaves)


Edward suspiciously stared at Jim for a moment as Jim entered, then shut the door.

JIM: (Stops in middle of room, turns:) Thanks for letting me in, Edward.

EDWARD: (Hiding his suspicious expression, even tone:) What do you want, Jim?

JIM: (Shrugs:) What else? To talk. (Notices Edward's open, mostly-packed suitcase on his bed, "frowns" slightly, in a "casual" tone:) What's going on? You're planning on going some place?

EDWARD: (Thought v.o.: As if you didn't know.) (Walks by him, continues to finish packing:) Yes, I'm afraid I am, old boy. Tonight, as a matter of fact. I had a--(pauses:) sudden emergency business call to leave for Europe. Mikkelson wants me to return as soon as possible.

JIM: Oh, I see. (Pauses:) Does Mill know about this?

EDWARD: (Folds a shirt:) Not yet. I was about to go downstairs to tell her. A taxi was supposed to be on its way to take me to JFK airport, but it had an accident, and there won't be another for an hour. (Snorts:) Some ridiculous comic book convention in nearby White Plains, can you imagine that? (Jim shrugs, shakes his head) You Yanks have the most bizarre get togethers! (Jim frowns at him for a moment. Edward doesn't see his look, folds another shirt, stops, stares at shirt:) I suppose I should be a bit grateful when I think about it now, since I don't have to rush my packing. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow to Jim:) What do you want to speak to me about?

JIM: (After a moment:) I think we both know who it's about. Mill.

EDWARD: (Stares evenly, even tone:) Millie. (Pauses, smirks:) Well, I suppose you think you consider yourself "free" to see her now that I won't be here, eh?

JIM: (Pauses, then chuckles:) Nah, not really, at least not anymore. (Edward now drops an eyebrow) I just came up here to tell you that I'm not going to go after Mill ever again. She's free and clear to be your's. (Adds:) Seriously.

EDWARD: (Stares at him, uncertain:) Really--?

JIM: (Nods head:) Yeah. (Long pause, "sighs", takes on a "sad" expression:) Look, I know that you know that I've been watching you two at the party all night, am I right?

EDWARD: (Pauses:) Well, yes, as a matter of fa--(Jim walks by, suddenly flops down on the chair in front of Edward's desk. Edward frowns:) what are you doing?

JIM: (After a moment, trying to sound as "genuine" as possible:) I'm trying to sincerely apologize for acting like a jerk to you, what does it look like? ("Frowns":) What? You're not in a hurry, are you? You just told me that a replacement cab won't be here for an hour, at least. You can still listen while you're finishing packing, can't you? (Before Edward can speak:) Look, isn't this what you want, for me to admit that I acted like an ass to you over Mill? This is our chance to get out our differences once and for all over her.

Edward stared at Jim for a long moment, deep in thought, wondering. Hell, this is quite ironic, isn't it? In the midst of my leaving here for good, he's actually going to genuinely admit that he was "wrong" about me? Hm. Why do I have this suspicion that he's up to something? Well, since the cab won't be here for awhile, I might as well bask in this idiot's ramblings until I can figure out what he's up to...

EDWARD: (Slight smile:) Very well, old sport. I suppose I can continue to pack while we're talking. Go on... (Jim smiles, continues)


(Scene changes to outside, several minutes later)

Quinn, Stacy, Tiffany, and the Watley sisters walked along a dirt trail while chatting and giggling, surrounded by six guys, including Daria's "Three K's", who were grinning like idiots in trying to appease Quinn. Wanting to escape the "stuffiness" of the party, they were all on their way to the lake for a fresh-air moonlight stroll beside it. The brightness of the half moon was very apparent, since the group actually had casted shadows in the moonlight as they walked. The serenity of the moment was only broken occasionally by the chirping of cricket or two, along with the hooting of an owl. A giddy Quinn was in the midst of speaking as the group drew nearer to the lake.

QUINN: --Still can't believe that my brother has a 130-foot yacht, Juanita! Wow! The guys I've been with have never nearly had one as big as that, no freakin' way! (To an equally giddy Stacy and Tiffany:) We're gonna be able to go anywhere in the world on the water, and stuff, and lay out in the sun to get a tan on the deck! Wait 'till Sandi finds out about this! (Pauses:) I wonder why he didn't tell us, yet?

JUANITA: (Nods:) Laflita and I have been on it a few times when Darren and his family invited us along with Curtis. It's incredible, Quinn, you and your family and friends will love it. The yacht has just about everything, like the mansion, with several bedrooms and baths, a huge kitchen and dining room, a media and gameroom, and even a helipad with a small helicopter. It's usually docked in a harbor near the coast, but Millie's told me that it's been in the process of being retrofitted for almost seven months, and won't be ready for a few more months. That's probably why he didn't say anything, because it's still being worked on, (pauses, adds:) and that he wanted to surprise you and your family.

TIFFANY: (Frowns, confused look:) Why would...a yacht have...a big sheet put...on it...to retrofit? Is that to...protect it...from the water? (Everyone stares at her oddly)

LAFLITA: Uh, no, Tiffany. "Retrofit" means that the yacht's being overhauled, you know, new equipment and stuff's being put in to update it.

TIFFANY: ("Gets it" expression:) Ohhh...

The "Three K's" began to jockey for Quinn's attention. Quinn smirked slightly to herself as she listened, contented. She missed her feminine ego fix for far too long since Darren came into her family's life.

KURT: (A blond guy:) Hey, Quinn! D'you wanna take a walk with me in the moonlight? (Glares at the others:) Alone?

KEENAN: (A red-haired fellow, frowns:) Get lost, Kurt! Quinn's with me!

KENNY: (A brunet-haired gentleman, scowls at the other two:) Why don't both of you clowns get lost?! It's obvious that Quinn wants to be with your's truly!

ANOTHER GUY: (Bigger than them all, through clenched teeth:) Who say's Quinn's gonna go with any of you morons?! I'm the obvious choice here! (The other three glare at him, then suddenly set upon him. The other two guys who had their own designs on Quinn join in, and a melee ensues)

QUINN: (Giggling and "concerned" at the same time:) Guys, guys, st--op it! You don't have to fight over meee! (Juanita and Laflita glance at each other for a moment, then quickly leave to get the security nearby)

The boys ignored her "pleas", and continued to go at it.

Stacy sighed wistfully as she watched with Tiffany, mildly envious of Quinn's beauty as the guys fought over her, but then again, to her, Quinn was beautiful, and always had been from the first day she saw her when Quinn and her sister arrived at Lawndale High. I have no reason to hate Quinn, though. I couldn't possibly compete against her... Resigned to her fate, she walked over to Quinn, tapping her on the shoulder.

QUINN: (Mildly distracted:) Huh? What is it, Stacy? (Keeps her eyes on the fighting, smug expression)

STACY: I'm think I'm going to go on to the lake alone, okay? You guys can catch up to me.

QUINN: (Still watching, waves her off, dismissive:) Okay, whatever. See you then. (Stacy walks off)


Rory watched Stacy leave the group, grinning. He could finally see her alone. He looked around for an instant, continuing to avoid the outside security, then slipped off quietly to follow her.


(Scene returns to the pool area, several minutes later)

Helen and Millie, after being thanked by Trent and the rest of the band, had left the stage. The band had started to pack their instruments as well, while the staff were cleaning up. In the meantime, some guests were still milling around and speaking to each other, with a few giving their good-byes for the evening, and some of the remaining ones who hadn't seen Jane's artwork going to Darren's meditation room on their way out. Daria, Tom, and Curtis were with Helen, Jake, Millie, Dean Pierpoint, and Denise beside the full pool.

PIERPOINT: (Smiles:) Well, I hate to say this, but it's getting late, and we've got to leave, right, honey?

DENISE: (Ditto, nods:) Right, Pank!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: Be still, my beating heart, there's actually a light at the end of the tunnel...)

JAKE: (Sad expression:) Aww, crap! I hate to see you guys leave! (Grins, brightens:) Well, anyway, this was a swell party, eh, Frank?

PIERPOINT: (Ditto:) It sure was, Make! We enjoyed everything, from the party to Lame Jame's artwork! (To his wife:) I don't think I had such a good time in I don't know when!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: Now, there's a rip-roaring thought to ponder. I don't know when I think I had such a good time ever...)

DENISE: (Giggles to her husband, squeezes him:) It was so fun doing the "Funky Chicken" with you, dear...(the others, save for Daria, chuckle)

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: That's funny. It looked more like the typical "Dodo Dumbass Dance" I've seen far too often in your age bracket...)

MILLIE: (Smiles, shakes hands with them both:) We're all so glad both of you had such a wonderful time! I hope to see you two again really soon!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: Aww, now you had to go and ruin it for me, Millie...)

HELEN: (Smiles, ditto with the handshake:) Yes, do come again!

PIERPOINT: We will, I promise! (Looks around:) It's too bad I didn't see Aaron or his girlfriend Lame too much at the party... (pauses, brightens:) oh well, at least I've seen you again, Maria! (Reaches over, slaps her on the back again, which makes her stumble forward slightly again as well)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Yeah, aren't I the lucky one. (Adds in a "please leave" tone:) Well, um, see you two later--(thought v.o.: Say, hopefully sometime next year...)

PIERPOINT: (While turning from Daria, waves in a goofy manner:) Goodbye, Maria! Slom, Wurtis! OOPS! (Immediately falls into the shallow-to-medium depth of the pool, splashes water mostly on Denise. Helen, and Jake catch a tiny bit, whereas Millie escapes completely like Daria and the others)

DENISE: (Indignant expression as she looks down on herself, very soggy:) OH, DAMMIT, PANK! (Storms off, followed by a concerned Elenor and Fiona)

PIERPOINT: (While splashing around:) Honey dove, wait! I'm sorry!

DARIA: (As Jake, Tom, and Curtis rush forward to help Pierpoint out of the pool, thought v.o., smirks: That was mildly amusing. Now, I'm sorta sorry to see them leave.)

JAKE: (The first to reach down to him:) Hang on, Frankie! I gotcha! (Pierpoint promptly pulls Jake into the water. Both men are now splashing around, sputtering. Helen slaps her forehead, rolls her eyes, while Millie covers her mouth, trying not to laugh. Tom and Curtis finally pull both men out after almost being pulled in themselves.)

PIERPOINT: (Now being given towels with Jake by Claude and another butler, worried tone:) Thank you, Tom, Curtis. I'd better find my wife, (sighs:) I just know she's upset with me. Excuse me. (Quickly leaves pool area. The others stare after him)

TOM: (After a moment:) Whoa. Was it just me, or did Dean Pierpoint seem almost "normal"?

CURTIS: I'll say! He actually got our names right!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I thought "almost" only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes, (pauses:) this was far worse. (Curtis gives a low chuckle with Millie)

HELEN: (Exasperated expression:) Daria! (Pauses, sighs:) More than likely, he was just very embarassed from falling in the pool in front of his wife, and it just hit home to him how clumsy he seemed--(glares at Jake briefly, under her breath:) which I can understand all too well...

MILLIE: (Nods:) Yes, that's all. (Looks around, mild scowl:) Alright, that's it. I still haven't seen Edward in a while, (pauses, realizes:) the same for Jim, and it's starting to bug me a little. (Daria and Tom glance at each other) Will you all excuse me? (Leaves)

JAKE: (Now wrapped completely in towels, frowns:) Hmm, that is kinda strange that I haven't seen ol' Jim or "Eddie" much, either! (Pauses, glances at Helen:) Uh, I'd better go up to my room and change clothes before I catch a cold. (Grins, gives a thumbs-up:) Thanks a lot, Tom, Curtis! (Leaves)

HELEN: Yes, thank you both. (Calls after Jake:) Honey, I'll come up and help you in a few minutes, okay? (Pauses, turns to Daria:) Speaking of being fed up, I've become just that over your brother's absence, and Jane's for that matter. (Narrows eyes:) Are they doing something more than just "talking", young lady?

DARIA: (Deadpan:) I refuse to testify on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

TOM: (Glances at Curtis, and vice versa:) Er, Curtis and I will go and find him and Jane, Mrs. Morgendorffer. (Daria cocks an eyebrow)

CURTIS: Uh, yeah. We needed to, ah, "talk" to him ourselves, anyway.

DARIA: And what, pray tell, will this "talk" be about, if I may ask? (Pauses, realizes:) Does it have something to do with this "private guy stuff", by any chance? (Helen cocks an eyebrow)

TOM: (Slight smirk with Curtis:) We refuse to testify on the grounds that it might incriminate us. (Daria turns her mouth down at him slightly in disapproval. Tom grins:) Look, don't worry, Daria, okay? We'll have him back in plenty of time for beddy-bye, I promise. (Leaves with Curtis)

DARIA: (Calls after the two, deadpan:) Make sure Darren brushes at least before he goes to bed, okay?! And don't give him a glass of water! We don't want him to wet the sheets in his sleep! (Some of the remaining guests give her an odd look) They're up to something, Mom, I can feel it--(pauses:) either that, or the burrito I ate at the party is kicking in.

HELEN: (Gives a droll look, flat tone:) Daria. (Quieter, more serious tone, hesitates:) Sweetie, it just occurred to me: Are Darren and Jane by any chance, well, you know, doing (finger quotes:) "that"?

DARIA: (Drops her eyebrow very low at Helen, thought v.o.: Oh boy, here it the hell comes... :) Come again? "That"? That "what"?

HELEN: (Uncomfortable expression:) Uh, well, you don't think they're in one of the bedrooms doing "it", do you?

DARIA: (Scowls, annoyed:) Excuse me? Mom, please don't tell me that you think Darren and Jane are doing (finger quotes:) "it", especially after Jane promised you that she wouldn't while she was staying up here during college. (Mildly irritated tone:) Besides, like I told Jane right after you left with aunt Millie that morning after you indirectly made Jane give you her word, you really couldn't do anything to stop them from doing (finger quotes:) "that" if they really wanted to, you know. This is his house, and they are grown up.

HELEN: (Scowls:) Maybe so, Daria, but I--(pauses, sighs, realizes:) you're right, sweetie. I suppose I couldn't stop them--

DARIA: (Still with the scowl, though less of one now:) --Not to mention that you'd drive him away by bombarding him about "it" or "that". (Pauses, quieter tone:) I trust Jane and Darren, Mom, and so should you.

HELEN: (After a moment, shameful tone:) Yes, I agree, Daria. From what Millie told me, Darren's (adopted) parents were very--(pauses:) "informative" about "that" to him as your brother grew up--(adds:) like your father and I were with you and Quinn. (Daria gives her a subtle "Give me a break" look) Darren would certainly be well-versed in "it", wouldn't he?

DARIA: (Slight nod, deadpan:) Uh, exactly, Mom. I'm sure like you and dad did me and Quinn, Darren's folks sat him down one day and told him what "it" was--(adds, slight smirk, shrugs:) unless he's learning something "new" from Jane that they didn't tell him about...

HELEN: (Wide-eyed:) Daria! (Pauses, snorts, realizes Daria's funning again:) Very amusing. Well, I'd better go after your father. (Pauses, embarassed tone:) Thank you for the quick heart-to-heart about "that", sweetie. I'm--glad that this conversation didn't, well, get out of hand with, ah, you know--(turns from Daria, begins to walk away)

DARIA: (Looks after Helen, calls out:) Well, why should it have, Mom, since everybody's done basket-weaving at least once in their lives? We really should have more conversations about this in the future, you know. (Helen stops, turns to her middle daughter with an astonished expression. Daria smirks:) Gotcha. (Helen looks up, exasperated, then leaves)

Satisfied after playing with her mother's mind yet again for the moment, Daria casually turned to the stage to watch the band finish packing up in the now-mostly empty pool area. After a moment, she cocked an inquisitve eyebrow, looked around, then walked up to the stage.

DARIA: Um, Jesse--? (Jesse stops wrapping an amp cord, looks at Daria) I see everybody here packing but Trent. Where'd he go? (Smirks:) Don't tell me that he's now leaving the grunt work for you guys to do?

JESSE: (Continues to wrap, smiles:) Nahh, it's cool, Daria. The guys decided to let Trent go on to see Jane's artwork, since he got us this gig here, you know, sort of as a reward. He was surprised and tried to stay to help anyway, but luckily Krystal came over and dragged him from us. (Daria's eyes narrow) We'll catch up to them later, then we'll come back here for a late-night swim and get-together of our own. (Eyes Fiona cleaning up, smiles, the same for Max and Nick)

DARIA: Krystal, huh? Oh, um, thanks for the info. See you guys later. (Turns away from the stage, thought v.o. as she walks from the pool area: Oooohboy. Don't tell me that Krystal's really beginning to fall for Trent? [Sarcastic:] I know Jane would love that. [Pauses:] It seems unlikely that Krystal would go after someone else so soon after Darren. Should I find out what Krystal's up to? [Pauses:] Nah, she couldn't really do anything with Trent, he didn't seem to take an interest in her when they first met. Hm--wonder what's going on with Jim and Edward? Maybe they've had their possible little brawl out of sight of everybody? Looks like I should do a little snooping, "Daria Holmes" style...)


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

Edward had long finished his packing and was now sitting on his bed and listening wordlessly to Jim, who was still sitting at Edward's desk. Throughout the apparent one-sided conversation, Edward had occasionally glanced at his wristwatch or had looked out of his window for the cab, then back at Jim, looking somewhat bored at times.

Jim, for his part, had kept up a masterful front of crow-eating humbleness as he delved into one "apology" after another to Edward over Millie, subtly taking note of his antagonist's watch-and window-checking actions, yet not once stopping for any reason. Jim glanced at Edward's digital alarm clock by the bed, noticing that roughly 40 minutes had passed. Woo should be just about here by now. A few minutes more, and this bastard's nailed but good. Better keep kissing his ass before I kick it...

JIM: --And I won't be bothering you two anymore, I promise. (Slight smile:) You and Mill make a--(pauses:) wonderful couple. (Thought v.o.: I think I'm gonna be sick...)

EDWARD: (After a moment:) Well, I must say old chap, that I'm quite flattered that you've finally come to your senses--

JIM: (Cuts him off, "hopeful" expression:) --So you'll accept my apologies about Mill, then--?

EDWARD: (Stands with Jim:) I suppose it's quite the gentlemanly thing to do, old sport. (Pauses, narrows eyes:) One question: What made you come up here and pour out your heart to me all of a sudden at this particular time, I wonder--?

JIM: (Thought v.o., keeps a poker face: Uh-oh... :) Uh, well, what do you mean, "At this particular time"?

EDWARD: (Stares at him for an instant:) Oh, I don't know, (walks around him in a slow, deliberate circle:) I just find myself curiously mystified as to your true motives.

JIM: (Shakes head slowly:) You're losing me, Edward--

EDWARD: (Slight sneering tone:) Oh, I certainly don't want to do that, do I? (Frowns:) Come off of it, Jim, you've never liked me with Millie from the moment you found out we were together, and it's eaten you up from the inside, admit it!

JIM: (Thought v.o.: Doooon't lose it, Jim. As long as he keeps going on about Mill, he won't wonder... :) Uh, Edward, haven't you been listening to me during all of this time? I'm admitting that you were right! I was jealous of you two!

EDWARD: Exactly! However, you're missing the point, old boy--why here and now? Why not sooner? You had more than enough chances to confess before then, (sneers:) and I don't mean those so-called "apologies" from a few days back in front of Millie or earlier this afternoon count, either! (Goes on before Jim can speak, walks around him again:) You know what I think? I think you're purposefully trying to hold me here for some reason!

JIM: (Thought v.o.: Damn.) (Forms a "shocked" look:) Edward, what in the hell are you talking about? Why would I try to "hold" you here? That doesn't make any sense! If anything, I'd be dancing on the ceiling, since your leaving would free up Mill for me, right? Yet, here I am, pouring out my soul to you, practically endorsing the idea of you two being together!

EDWARD: Yes you were, but then again, you might be waiting for someone, (glances at the ceiling for a moment:) oh I don't know, Woo, perhaps, to call here tonight, possibly about me, would you not, and he could inform you on something about me?

JIM: (Thought v.o.: Double damn. Well, I'm not gonna make it easy for him.:) (Narrows eyes:) Huh? What do you mean? Woo's gonna call me here about my business! You heard what I said this afternoon! (Cocks an eyebrow, suddenly suspicious expression:) What? Why would you say something off-the-wall like that? Are you hiding something?

EDWARD: (Scowls:) I have nothing to hide!

JIM: (Almost in his face, voice raising:) Then I sure as hell don't see what the problem is!

EDWARD: (Not backing down, voice also raising:) Then perhaps I can clear your vision a little--(a knock is heard from the outside of Edward's door. He turns to it, red-faced:) WHO THE BLOODY HELL IS IT?!

VOICE: (Muffled:) Edward?! It's Millie! (Edward's face turns pale for a moment, quickly goes over to open his door. Jim smirks at his back for a second. The door is opened) What's going on, why are you shout--(notices Jim, slightly scowls as she realizes, even tone:) oh, Jim.

JIM: ("Innocent" expression, smiles:) Hi, Mill.

MILLIE: (Glances at Edward, then Jim for a moment, goes over to Jim, scowls deeper, in his face:) I wondered where you both were, and I come to find out that you're harassing poor Edward once again, this time up here in his room?! (Edward purposefully smirks right at Jim, who's too busy listening to Millie to notice) And after the second chance I gave you this afternoon, this is how you pay me back?! (Throws hands in air:) The hell with it, you're going out tonight, mister!

JIM: (Holds hands up:) --Now, wait a sec, Mill--

MILLIE: (Cuts him off, shakes head:) --I don't want to hear any excuses, Jim--

JIM: (Frowns, fed up, cuts her off, ferocious tone:) --I know that you don't think your boyfriend can do no wrong, but for once, you're gonna hear my side, dammit! (Millie's eyebrows raise in surprise, draws back for an instant. Edward shows him a stoic expression) For your information, I came up here to really, really apologize for the way I treated Edward all of this week, and to tell him that I'm no longer gonna stand in your's and his way, that's all! (Millie looks stunned. Jim "glares" at Edward:) But ol' "Eddie" here, after listening to me for almost an hour, still suspects me of having "ulterior motives"! He's even accused me of trying to "hold" him here until Woo calls tonight, thinking that Woo's gonna tell me he's done something illegal, instead of about my business troubles! (Snorts:) Talk about paranoid! (Millie glances at Edward and vice-versa. Jim pauses:) Next thing, Edward will be telling me that I somehow or another stalled the taxicab from getting here until Woo calls! Anyway, you want me out tonight, I'll leave tonight! (Quickly rushes past her and storms out)

MILLIE: (Wide-eyed, starts to go after him:) Jim, wait! I didn't know--(stops at the door, sighs:) damn! (Turns slowly to Edward, lost expression:) Edward--? Is what Jim said true? You two did talk up here for awhile? Is that why I couldn't find you or him at the party? (Pauses, looks past Edward, continues before he can speak:) What's your suitcase doing on your bed, (pauses, realizes:) and what did Jim mean by a "stalled taxicab"? Are you planning to leave somewhere tonight?

EDWARD: (Grim expression, thought v.o.: Oh, that was smooth, Morse, leaving me in the bloody lurch like that.) (Forced smile, walks by her, shuts the door behind him:) Well, yes, luv, it is, both on our little "talk", and my trip. I have some rather--disturbing news...


Jim continued his "indignant" walk down the hallway, not knowing exactly where he was going, partly acting, and partly, to his private surprise, genuinely angered with his ex-wife. Mill didn't waste any time in lighting in on me, did she? She immediately took the side of that stuck-up British ass. Maybe--maybe I should've just left well enough alone, even if I suspected something crooked about White. Mill doesn't have any feelings for me, I'm wasting my--no, what in the hell am I saying? Even if Mill really doesn't love me anymore, I couldn't let her be used like that, not by him. I had to--

Jim couldn't finish his thoughts, for as he rounded a corner to go downstairs, he ran right into Daria, almost knocking her down the grand stairs. Had Jim not immediately reached out and grabbed her arm to pull her towards him, she would've done just that.

JIM: (Alarmed expression:) Oh, Daria! I'm sorry! Are you okay? (Releases her)

DARIA: (Recovering:) I'm fine, uncle Jim, just a little shaken, that's all, no harm done. (Pauses:) Um, you seemed to be in quite a hurry, huh?

JIM: Eh? Oh, uh, yes, but that's still no excuse for almost running over you, I--(the cell phone in his pocket begins to ring:) one second, Daria. (Pulls out phone, clicks it on:) Hello? (Pauses:) Woo? That you? (Daria narrows an eye) What?! Some accident on the highway's gonna delay your cab by a few minutes? A long line? (Rolls eyes, sarcastic tone:) Oh, great, this is just great! (Looks up:) Draw it out, why don't you? (Looks back down, to phone:) Do you know Edward White's planning to suddenly leave tonight for Europe? (Daria cocks an eyebrow) Yeah, that's right, Europe. He may know we're unto him, the jerk practically accused me of holding him here until you called--which, is only partly right. (Pauses:) See, Tina even cancelled a cab that was coming here to pick him up by making up a story, and if he decides to check himself--(suddenly remembers Daria's standing in front of him, becomes wide-eyed:) uh, ah, one moment, Woo. (Covers phone, searches for words:) Er, Daria, uhm--

DARIA: (Pauses, gently cuts in:) --It's okay, uncle Jim. I, uh, kinda know about what's going on with you, Woo, and Edward, the same for Tom, though Woo's coming here himself is a surprise. (Jim's mouth hangs open in shock) Tom and I, um, sorta overheard you talking with Tina about your suspicions concerning Edward earlier tonight in the hallway outside of the gameroom. (Pauses:) Sorry about eavesdropping. (Quickly adds:) Don't worry, we haven't told anybody in keeping to your wishes. In fact, if you don't mind, I'd like to compare notes with you when you finish speaking to Woo. There's some stuff that you'll probably want to know from when Jane and I first met him.

JIM: (After a moment, nods:) Yeah, sure, why not? Okay, Daria. We can talk someplace private. (Uncovers phone:) Woo, I'll be waiting for you. See you then. (Clicks off phone:) Where'd you want to go?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) I dunno. I was thinking about the study, but there might be some guests milling about downstairs. How about Darren's art studio? No one's really gonna go in there, and it's upstairs already.

JIM: Good enough, lead the way, Daria. (Daria does, and Jim follows her) Say, speaking of Tom, where is he?

DARIA: More than likely, my gut feeling is that he and Curtis are up to something, and they wanna drag my brother and your nephew into it. (Pauses:) If it's no good, Jane and I are gonna feel insulted that they didn't include us. (Jim chuckles)


(Scene switches to the outside of Darren's home office, the same time)

Jane and Darren, their hair and clothing a little ruffled from "talking", slowly emerged, still kissing as Darren struggled to open the door with his free hand. Jane continued to hold him tightly around his neck as they kissed.

DARREN: (Between smooches:) Jane--we've--just--about--missed--the--rest--of--the--party--you--know--

JANE: (Ditto, grins:) And--this--is--a--problem--how--?

DARREN: (Grins as well while still smooching:) It's--not--but--don't--you--think--people--are--going--to--ask--questions?

JANE: (Coy tone, continues with the smooching:) Aww--you're--getting--tired--of--my--company?

DARREN: Not--on--your--life--(glances to the side while his mouth's on Jane's, raised eyebrows:) uhhh, Jane, don't look now, but we have company. (Jane turns around)

Tom and Curtis were leaning against the other side of the hallway with "cute" expressions.

CURTIS: (Teasing tone, grins:) Awwwwww, isn't that sweeeeeet? (Darren stares at him stoically)

TOM: (Ditto, "dreamy" look, "sighs":) Yeaaah. ("Sad" expression, mock-sad tone:) You never were that romantic with me, Jane.

JANE: (Smirks as she smooths her hair and clothing, along with Darren:) You weren't as good as a kisser as "Darry", here.

TOM: (Mock-pouts while Darren and Curtis smirk:) Now I feel insulted.

JANE: (Chuckles:) Just as it was meant to make you feel, dear boy. (Looks around:) Where's Daria? (Cocks eyebrow:) Don't tell me you two had a blow-up, or something?

TOM: Nope. Left her downstairs because Curtis and I wanted to do some (pointed stare at Darren:) "private guy stuff" with Darren--? (Jane gives him an odd look)

DARREN: (Subtle nod to Tom and Curtis, gets the hint:) Yeah, Tom's right. Why don't you find Daria, Jane? The fellas and I are going to, er, do that "private guy stuff". Excuse us. (Follows Tom and Curtis)

JANE: (Surprised expression:) Uh, yeah, sure. (Turns in the opposite direction, while walking, thought v.o.: "Private guy stuff"? Riiiight. What are they gonna do, rough it in the woods tonight, or something? Yeah, I think looking for Daria is just the thing to do, so we can both find out what sorta devilment they're all up to--and we can get into it as well. I'll make a quick stop in Darren's art studio first, though, wanna make sure those receipts from painting Darren's room are in my bag...)


(Scene switches to the outside, to the lake)

Stacy was sitting down at the pier, the same spot where she and the other Fashion Clubbers had been Wednesday night when Darren had come out to meet them. She had removed her shoes and had her legs dangling in the water, humming a tune, relaxing, while glancing up at the half moon.

There was a sudden creaking noise from behind her, which forced Stacy to quickly turn around, revealing a sheepish-looking Rory. He had quietly made his way halfway to her on the pier. Stacy grew wide-eyed for an instant, simultaneously standing up and putting on her shoes.

STACY: (Narrows eyes:) Rory? Is that you--?

RORY: (Coming up to her, smiling:) Yeah, it's me. Sorry, didn't mean to scare you there. I was going to sit down beside you on the pier.

STACY: (Looking uncomfortable:) Oh, um, it's no problem, really.

RORY: (Takes note of her expression:) Uh, Stacy? Is there something wrong? (Uneasy chuckle:) If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were kinda scared of me.

STACY: (Shakes head frantically:) N-No, of course not! (Rory gives her an amused look)

RORY: ("Sighs":) Let me guess--you heard the guests at the party portray me in an "unflattering light", right? You began to start having second thoughts about me?

STACY: (Hesitates:) I-I--(looks down, whispers:) y-yeah. (Looks back up, slightly frantic tone:) I-I'm sorry! (Calms down:) I just heard some more, um, "shady" stories from some of the guests about you when they saw you there, and when you came around--

RORY: (Gently cuts in, nods:) --You started to avoid me. (Shrugs:) Figures. (Stacy looks pained) It's okay, Stacy, I'm not upset, or anything, really. (Grins:) Remember, I told you guys that I was a pariah around here. Look, all I wanted to do was to thank you for believing in me enough to convince Darry--I mean, Darren to give me another chance. (Comes closer to her, looks down in Stacy's eyes, gentle whisper:) You were the only one of your friends to do that, and I won't forget it.

STACY: (Seemingly mesmerized as she stares up into his blue eyes:) I--I--y-you're welcome, (swallows hard:) R-Rory.

After a moment, Rory reached into his pocket, pulling out a small slip of paper, which he gave to Stacy.

RORY: You got a computer in your house? (Stacy pauses, nods) Good. This is my e-mail address. If you ever want to chat with me over the Internet, contact me at any time, okay? If I'm not there, I'll be sure to return your message.

STACY: (Looks down at the paper, puts in her pocket:) Um, okay, sure. Thanks.

RORY: (Still with the gentle whisper, grins:) You're welcome. (Pauses:) You know, I think you're way cuter than your friends are. They can't hold a candle to you.

STACY: (Still mesmerized, brief shock in her tone:) R-Really? Y-You do? M-Me?

RORY: (Drawing his face closer to her's:) You. You're so sweet and kind, innocent and gentle...

Before Stacy knew it, Rory was kissing her. The kiss started out lightly, but then became deeper as she began to find herself returning the kiss. He placed his hands and arms around her back and pulled her to him while she wrapped hers around his neck tightly. After another few seconds, Stacy's eyes lit up in realization. She immediately released Rory, stepping back.

STACY: (Red-faced, looking everywhere except at Rory:) R-Rory, I'm sorry, this isn't right--

RORY: (For a brief moment, actually had enjoyed this kiss, then:) Well, uh, why not? We didn't do anything wrong, did we?

STACY: (Forces herself to stare at Rory:) I--I don't know. It's just that--

VOICE: (From the other end of the pier, angry-sounding snarl:) --THERE YOU ARE! (Stacy and Rory jump, turn to the direction of the voice) GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HER RORY, RIGHT DAMN NOW!

Tina and two other men, presumably part of the mansion's security, began to tromp out towards the two unto the pier, with a worried Quinn running right behind them. Tiffany, the Watley sisters, and Quinn's now-beaten up "admirers" had stayed back on shore after being ordered by Tina to do so.

Before Rory could say a word, Tina suddenly grabbed him and turned him around, brutally throwing him down unto the pier chest-first, twisting his right arm behind him, which made Rory scream in pain. The other two men immediately stood menacingly on either side of Tina, who by now had her knee deep in Rory's back. Stacy witnessed the scene wordlessly, too horrified to speak. Quinn quickly come up to Stacy and hugged her.

QUINN: (Clearly frantic:) Stacy, thank God you're okay! Did that jerk hurt you?

STACY: (Snaps out:) H-Huh? No Quinn, I'm alright, really! (Rory screams in pain again, which makes Stacy cry out:) Tina! You're hurting him! (Hesitates:) A-All we did was talk! He wanted to thank me personally for convincing Darren in letting him come tonight!

RORY: (Through his pain, wincing:) Y-Yeah! Cut me some slack, Tina! Owww!

TINA: (Not letting up for an instant while still glaring down at Rory:) Stacy, believe me, Rory's "personal" thanks lead to nothing but heartbreak or worse, ask any girl he's ever been with, they'll tell you--(adds, sneers:) save for Dora.

STACY: (Frowns, takes a more determined, ferocious tone:) Look, Tina, nothing happened, okay?! (Quinn stares at her in shock, the same for Rory, Tina, and the two men) There's nothing wrong with just talking, is there? I know you were only trying to protect me, and stuff, but you've no right to jump to a conclusion--or on Rory like that! Let him up!

After another moment, Tina released Rory's arm and got off of him. Rory rose from the pier, wincing and holding his right arm. He glared at Tina and the two security men beside her. Stacy went over to him, concerned. Quinn subtly rolled her eyes.

STACY: (Timidly, lightly touches his arm:) Are you okay, Rory?

RORY: (Stretching and twisting his arm, smiles:) Ahh, I'm fine, Stacy. Ol' Rory's still ticking. (Glares again at Tina and the two security men:) I should sue you all for harassment, you know! My arm could have been ripped out of its socket, too!

TINA: (Returning the glare with the two men:) Then you should consider yourself lucky I didn't, Rory, though all it was was just a simple judo takedown manuver. Given your reputation, I had reason to believe you were going to try something on Stacy. (Glances at Stacy briefly then back at Rory, sighs:) But, since she said nothing had happened, I guess the next best thing I can do is kick you off the property with those fellas who were fighting.

STACY: (Wide-eyed:) What? But--

QUINN: (Cuts in, gentle:) --Stacy, I think what Tina's saying is that we've kinda had enough excitement for tonight and stuff, okay? (Glares at Rory:) You can see him at another time, and everything. (Thought v.o.: Though I'm gonna do my best to make sure that never happens...)

RORY: (While glaring at Tina:) It's okay, Stacy, Quinn's right. I'll go, I don't want anymore trouble. Don't want to ruin my already damaged "reputation" any further. (Turns to Stacy, smiles:) See you later, sometime?

STACY: (Smiles:) Sure, Rory. (Pauses:) 'Bye.

RORY: (Winks:) See ya, babe. (Turns to Tina:) Since I'm leaving sooner than I planned, having wanted to ride with my sister, the least you can do is give me a ride home. (Glances at Stacy:) It's only fair.

STACY: (Slight scowl at Tina, nods:) Yeah!

TINA: (Quick sigh:) Sure, yeah, whatever. (Frowns, sneers:) Oh, and we'll make sure to tell Krystal that you're gone. Roger, take Rory straight home, okay? (Roger nods, escorts Rory off the pier with the boys who fought over Quinn. Tiffany come and the Watley sisters come over to them)

TIFFANY: (Concerned expression, for her:) Stacy are you...okay?

JUANITA & LAFLITA: (Ditto:) Yeah, okay? He didn't--

STACY: (Hard sigh:) Why does everyone keep asking me these stupid questions?! My clothes aren't torn, and he didn't attempt to rape me, or anything, okay!? (Tiffany and the Watleys draw back, surprised at her tone. Stacy shakes her head, lowers voice:) I'm going to bed, guys. Gotta get ready to leave tomorrow morning, and stuff. Excuse me. (Leaves)

QUINN: Um, we'll come with you, Stacy. (Turns to Tina, smiles, lower voice:) Thanks. (Leaves with Tiffany and the Watley sisters)

Tina and the other remaining security man wordlessly watched them all leave the lake and disappear into the woods. After a moment, the man turned to Tina.

MAN: You think McKinna got to that "Stacy" girl?

TINA: (Sighs, looks up and around:) On a beautiful night like this by the lake? All alone with each other? What do you think? (Snorts:) Had Stacy not wanted me to let him go, I could've gotten it out of him. Damn, this is my fault. I should've had one of you guys keep an eye out on Rory while I kept mine on White, but nooo, I had to want to do both! (Frowns, pauses, ponders:) At least one good thing seems to come out from this.

MAN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Really? What?

TINA: (Smirks:) That Rowe girl's beginning to develop a backbone. I kind of liked her spunk. (Looks at watch, raised eyebrows:) Crap, an hour's almost past! Woo should be here about now! C'mon, Wyvern, let's get back to the mansion--! (Leaves)


(Scene switches to the outside of Darren's art studio, about the same time)

Daria, Jane, and Jim walked out. Jane was speaking as they were, her voice laced with disbelief.

JANE: --Still can't believe that Edward's done something like what you're both saying! I mean, he seemed like the perfect British gentleman! (Jim rolls his eyes)

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Again, you're just saying that because he smooched your hand, Jane. (Frowns while Jane smirks at her, realizes:) Speaking of which, I can't say the same about that jerk Rory, though. (Pauses, ponders:) I wonder where he went? I haven't seen him in awhile.

JIM: If we're lucky, home, possibly with Krystal, (Daria looks up, sighs, which Jane picks up on, says nothing) though I'm wondering whether or not Tina has went to check on where he is. She didn't look too pleased when she forgot about him because of Edward. (Daria and Jane glance at each other) Think I'll go downstairs and wait for Woo's arrival. Excuse me, girls. (Leaves)

Both girls watched him leave, then Jane turned to Daria.

JANE: (Mock-sardonic tone, crosses arms:) Tsk, tsk, Daria, leaving your best buddy out of the loop like that about Edward! What were you thinking?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Hey, you were gonna find out later like everyone else, anyway. Besides, I figured you had enough on your mind for tonight, (drones off, slight teasing tone:) what, with your art, (pointedly:) Darren--

JANE: (Waves her off:) Ah, okay, okay! You've made your point! (Pauses, worried expression:) Uh, what d'you think's gonna happen when Millie finds out about Edward?

DARIA: (After a moment:) I've tried not to think about it. I guess we'll find out in a little bit.

JANE: (Thoughtful expression:) Yeah. (Brightens up:) Moving on to other things, why'd you get that "Oh, God" look when Jim mentioned Krystal possibly leaving the party with Rory? I'd think that you'd love to have heard that she left--(pauses, adds:) like me. What's up?

DARIA: Well, uh, Jane, you'd better prepare yourself. (Pauses:) Jesse told me that Trent went to see your artwork--(adds:) and that Krystal went with him. (Jane looks surprised, then scowls) Yeah, I pretty much figured you'd look like that.

JANE: Why, that little--what in the hell is going on with her? What's she up to? (Pauses, turns pale:) Aw, crap, don't tell me that she's decided to really hook her claws into my brother?

DARIA: I wondered about that for an instant, but it would seem unlikely right after Darren--

JANE: (Scowls:) Unless she was planning to get back at me through Trent! For some reason, with her, I think anything's possible! I oughta--

DARIA: (Smoothly interrupts:) --Jane. I think you're starting to get paranoid again.

JANE: What do you mean, Daria, I--(pauses, realizes:) oh, yeah. That again. I don't need to go through that anymore after Darren.

DARIA: (Nods:) Exactly.

JANE: (Puts hands up, shakes head:) You're right, Daria, you're right. Trent's a big boy, he can handle himself, what in the hell am I worried about? (Changes tone:) On to other things, like about three males we know, and what they're up to right now. (Rubs hands together, wicked grin:) Methinks it's something nasty and mischievous, amiga.

DARIA: (Nods, smirks:) Oh, my, yes, Jane, of course it is. I think we should find out what this nasty and mischievous thing could be, don't you think? C'mon. (Leaves with Jane)


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

Edward had just finished speaking to Millie about his "sudden trip", looking down into her eyes. He gently ran his fingers through her red hair while holding her closely.

MILLIE: (Sighs:) Well, I suppose if you have to go tonight, Edward, then I understand.

EDWARD: (Smiles:) Believe me, luv, if I had my way, I'd stay, really. I'll--(pauses, looks pained:) see you soon. (Suddenly kisses her deeply, surprising Millie. After 15 seconds, the kiss ends)

MILLIE: (Breathless, smiles:) Edward! I don't think you've ever kissed me like that, before, even when we--(pauses, blushes:) well, you know...

EDWARD: (After a moment, small smile:) Indeed. I suppose I wanted to get in one last kiss before I leave.

MILLIE: (Chuckles:) You sound as if you're leaving for good. (Edward stays silent, inwardly feeling uncomfortable) Call me when you arrive in--(pauses:) where in Europe, again? I don't recall you saying...

EDWARD: Uh, London. (Looks at watch, anxious:) Where in the devil is that replacement taxicab? If it doesn't come in the next few minutes, I'm going to call the company and complain! (Adds quickly:) I want to have enough time to check in at JFK airport, since it's an international flight, and all.

MILLIE: I'm going to find Jim and apologize for snapping at him. (Edward looks stoic) I'll see you downstairs. I'll call Claude to take your suitcase and laptop case, and put them in the family room next to the foyer. (Begins to leave. Edward suddenly grabs her arm) Edward, what--?

EDWARD: (Hesitates, lets her arm go:) Millie, I just want to say that--(pauses, long silence, then in a very soft tone:) nothing. (MIllie frowns at him, perplexed) Really. Go and find Jim, I'll see you later.

Millie stared at Edward for a few seconds more as if she were trying to read his thoughts, then left.

Edward slowly sat down on his bed, looking down at the floor, his shoulders slumped.


(Scene is downstairs, in a hallway)

Trent and Krystal had just left Darren's meditation room, walking past a few dwindling loiterers who had not left the party. Krystal had her arm loosely hooked with his.

TRENT: (Shakes his head slowly:) Man, Janey really outdid herself this time. The way she painted that wheat field was awesome. That grass "blowing" in all those directions was cool. I liked the way she painted Daria with Darren, and even Darren with Daria's other sis--(pauses, considers:) Quinn, too. I gotta remember to tell Janey all of that.

KRYSTAL: (After a moment, agrees:) Yes, Jane really is a very good artist, I even told her as much. (Pauses:) So, um, I assume you've supported your younger sister's efforts at being an artist over the years--?

TRENT: Huh? Oh, yeah, sure. I've tried to be there for her as much as I could, since, like, we were the only two in our house most of the time as we grew up.

KRYSTAL: (Faux-sugary smile and tone:) Ooh, that's sooo sweet! I'm sure you're very proud of her!

TRENT: You got it.

KRYSTAL: (Tepid expression:) Uh, Trent--? May I ask you a personal question about Jane and Daria?

TRENT: (After a moment:) Oh, uh, sure, I guess, Krystal. What?

KRYSTAL: How'd Jane end up with Darren so soon after she went with Tom, who's now with Daria? (Shrugs, uneasy chuckle:) I'm asking this because one moment Darren's girlfriend died, then the next moment, he's with your sister after he returns from Lawndale. It just seemed so quick to me, you know--? (Trent stiffens, which Krystal picks up on, adds quickly:) I'm also only asking because Darren's my friend, and everything, (pauses, adds in a tone to make Trent feel guilty:) you don't have to say anything, if you don't want to, I guess...

TRENT: (Pauses:) Well, since you and Darren are friends, I guess it won't hurt to tell you how they got together, but it's kinda complicated, too. I thought I'd warn you.

KRYSTAL: (Slow smirk, hooks his arm tighter:) Don't worry, I'll try to keep up. Why don't we go some place private around here, and you can tell me, hmmm...?


(Cut to yet another hallway)

Elenor was packing a box of party supplies with another maid (not Fiona) as Daria and Jane came up to her. Elenor stopped packing for the moment, smiling.

DARIA: Hey, Elenor. Have you seen my brother, Tom, and Curtis?

ELENOR: (Frowns in thought for a moment:) Hmm. I thought saw them walking towards the direction of the media room, though I'm not sure that they actually went in there. (Pauses:) Come to think of it, they seemed to be smiling for some reason. (Daria and Jane look at each other)

JANE: Uh, thanks, Elenor. (Elenor curtseys, resumes packing. Jane leaves with Daria)

DARIA: (As they're walking:) Curiouser and curiouser. They're gonna do "private guy stuff", and are smiling about it. (Pauses, realizes, cocks an eyebrow:) Ummm, you don't think they're planning to watch some dirty movies, do you? (Jane develops a shocked expression, grins wildly)

JANE: Daria! Are you serious? Those guys? (Pauses, ponders, narrows eyes:) Lessee, we don't know Curtis, but for some reason, he doesn't look like the type to take a gander at naked ladies on the side, especially when he harps about his girlfriend Lena all the time. Nope, can't see that. (Pauses:) Tom? (Chuckles:) No, definitely not. (Daria narrows an eye at Jane, who blushes, adds quickly) I mean, we'd kid each other on occasion about sex when we were dating, but it never went beyond that. (Pauses:) Darren? (Grins lustily:) Can't say that I'd blame him for watching one after our little "talk" in his office, (Daria's eyebrows raise) but nahhh, Darren's too much of a nice guy, kinda like Tom. He's Mr. Clean, (adds, wicked smirk:) though I'm working on changing that...

DARIA: (Pauses:) After careful consideration, I'd probably agree with you on all those points. (Pauses, hesitates:) So, ah, you and Darren did do it in his office? (Jane stops, which causes Daria to do the same. Jane stares at Daria as if she's gone loco) Ah, hell, it's none of my business if you two did, right? Just clobber me upside the head with a sledgehammer for opening my big mouth.

JANE: (Admonishing look, slight smirk:) Don't tempt me. (Pauses:) You're right that you said that it was none of your business, amiga--(Daria looks down, red-faced. Jane continues as she sees Daria's expression, hesitates:) uh, to a point, that is. (Shakes head slowly:) No, Daria. We didn't do "that". (Continues to walk with Daria, shrugs:) I gave your mom that promise, remember?

DARIA: Yeah, I do. Um, well, like I told you earlier, and my mom, who wondered where you guys were, if that's what you two did, it's nobody's business.

JANE: (Chuckles:) Oh-ho! So your mom's trying to stick her nose in our business already, eh? Oh, deaaar! Guess I shouldn't have been surprised. (Cuts eyes over:) Uh, why'd you ask if we did "it", if you figured that it wasn't your business?

DARIA: Would you believe I was just curious? (Pauses as Jane stares at her in genuine shock:) I mean, how long could it take to weave a basket, for crying out loud? (Jane now gives her a very odd look. Daria smirks:) Never mind. Inside joke. I'm getting everybody with that tonight. (Jane appears to want to say something more to this, but decides to keep silent instead)

The two arrived at the doors to the media room. Jane was about to go in when Daria gently grabbed her arm.

DARIA: (Releases Jane's arm:) Jane, wait, I just thought of something. Maybe we could spy on them from the video library, you know, the same place Sandi spied on us that night--?

JANE: (Grins:) Don't tell me you're starting to get cold feet, Daria?

DARIA: (Rolls eyes:) No, not damn likely, my feet are very warm in my boots. I'm just thinking it might be something really personal that only guys should be watching, and that we females might kinda be intruding on.

JANE: (Holds arms out:) What could possibly be so really personal for only guys to see, and not us gals, I might ask, (pauses, adds:) save for their watching a game of football, or something--?

DARIA: (Shrugs:) I dunno, it's just this weird feeling I'm having. (Pauses:) Maybe it's some naked home movies of "Young Darry" as a baby?

JANE: Hah! We'd have seen them the other night! (Sighs:) I guess to assuage your fears, we'll pull off a "Sandi", and observe the little proceedings in the safety of the video library. C'mon.


The two made their way quietly into the home theater, then into the adjoining video library the same way. The library was only partially dark this time as opposed to when Sandi had gone into it previously to listen in on Darren and his birth family, for an overhead light was on over the side the girls were spying. After pausing for a moment in consideration to turn it off but deciding not to so they could see, Daria and Jane very carefully cracked opened the door that led to the media room, listening.

Darren, Curtis, and Tom were indeed watching something--with Tom and Curtis staring at the screen, their mouths wide open in shock. Darren was smiling as he watched. Both girls frowned in confusion at their looks, then happened to glance at the screen as they opened the door slightly wider to see. The two immediately stared with stunned expressions.

On the video screen, in freeze frame, was Quinn and Stacy's clandestine video taping of them both after Quinn's little makeover, their stunningly beautiful faces illuminated by the soft light Stacy had shined on them with the camera as they blissfully slept.

DARIA: (After a moment, getting over her shock, scowls while whispering:) My brother is so damn dead. No, first he's gonna suffer, then he's gonna die. My promise not to hit him is now hereby null and void. I think it's time to let him know what the dark side of having a sister means, like Quinn, and since he's a guy, I can really light up on him--

JANE: (Scowls as well, ditto with the whisper, cuts her off:) --Not before I make him suffer first, amiga. You can have the scraps after I'm through with him. However, you can feast on Tom and Curtis as an appetizer, if you'd like.

DARIA: We'll argue details later as we're kicking everybody's ass. Let's--

Darren suddenly spoke as he was still smiling. Daria and Jane paused to hear what to them would be his final words.

DARREN: Tom, let's face it, we're the luckiest men on the face of the earth. We have two beautiful young women that we're boyfriends with. (Daria and Jane look at each other wordlessly, out of shock) I don't really care about Jane looking like this since I like her for her, but every once in awhile it's (pauses, motions to the screen:) nice to see her looking like that, sort of like the other night when she dressed in that gorgeous red dress.

TOM: (Nods, recovers from his shock:) Yeah, I agree with you, Darren. I like Daria the way she looks right now, (Daria cocks an eyebrow) but seeing her look like, like that, (sits back in his seat, breathless:) wow!

CURTIS: (Stares at the screen:) I hate your guts for doing this to me, Darren. (Darren grins) Here, you both have two beautiful girlfriends at your fingertips, and mine is still in Florida. (Pauses:) I wonder how Lena would look like that?

DARREN: She'd be just as stunningly beautiful as our girlfriends to you, you know that. (Curtis nods) Maybe you can get her to pose for some pictures when she comes up here, huh?

CURTIS: (Grins at Darren:) Don't give me any ideas.

DARREN: And why not? I'd strongly recommend that you get a photo-shoot of Lena in make-up for yourself. I like Jane for what she is on the inside first and foremost, but there's nothing wrong with appreciating her (pauses, wiggles eyebrows:) outside assets as well, if you know what I mean. (Tom and Curtis grin, nod heads. Jane finds herself blushing. Daria slightly smirks at her)

TOM: Ditto again with Daria, Darren. (Now this time, it's Daria's turn to blush, and for Jane to smirk at her) So, this copy is mine?

DARREN: Well, that's the original, which I'm going to keep for myself. The package I received this morning after stopping off yesterday on my way to Appleton Tower only has Daria on it, (holds up the very small "package":) and it's your's, edited without Jane. (Smirks:) I can't let you drool after her any longer, you understand. She's mine, you had your chance. (Tom chuckles with Curtis as Tom is given the package by Darren, slips it in his shirt pocket) And don't worry about paying me for it, it's on the house.

TOM: Thanks. I'm going to transfer it to my wallpaper on my computer at home. (Pauses, smirks:) I think I'll remember to reward Quinn by not assassinating her when Daria requests it. (Darren and Curtis stare at him strangely. Tom grins:) Looong story, don't bother asking.

Daria and Jane quietly shut their door, staring at each other for a long moment, then Jane spoke in a quiet tone and whisper.

JANE: Um, do you still wanna bust in there and kick everybody's ass?

DARIA: (Mock-dead serious tone and expression:) Are you nuts? Touch that door, and I'll kick your ass, Lane. Let's just slip the hell out of here, thank you very much. (Jane smirks, nods. They quietly leave through the home theater)

The two went in the opposite direction of the media room.

JANE: (Trying not to break out in a huge grin:) That's quite a magnificent, sneaky bastard you have in your brother, Daria. I'm gonna really give him such a romantic send off...

DARIA: (Quietly, slight smile:) Yeah, and Tom's not a half-bad sneaky bastard, either. I'll have to reward him in Lawndale sometime next week...(the two walk in the direction of the pool area)


Back in the media room, Darren, Tom, and Curtis looked at each other and gave a sigh of relief, chuckling.

DARREN: That was close, gentleman. I think they're gone.

CURTIS: (Nods:) Yeah. (Pauses:) How'd you figure Daria and Jane would spy on us?

DARREN: (Slight smirk:) I didn't. Based on what Tom told us how Daria reacted skeptically to his excuse to join us, and how we all recalled Jane's reaction as well to my excuse, I just guessed. Fortunately, they decided to listen in on us first, and not bust in here to murder us.

TOM: (Coy expression:) That was pretty clever, deliberately leaving the light on over the door connecting the video library to this side. (Looks at the TV screen, then at the door to the video library:) So the light from the video library leaves a reflective glare on the screen in here, you said?

DARREN: (Nods:) If the light is on in there, and the door is open, that is. Even the tiniest crack would reveal the reflective glare.

CURTIS: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Funny. I never noticed this, or was told by you.

DARREN: (Small shrug:) Sorry, I've never thought much about it. It's not the type of glare that totally messes with the picture in here, just something of an minor annoyance. My (adopted) mother first noticed it several years ago while we were watching a TV program. We've kept the lights off in the video library ever since when we're in here. It can really get dark in there, though, since there are no windows, and when someone's in there, having a light on is a must. (Pauses:) I'm sort of surprised Sandi Griffin made her way around so well without one in there. It occurred to me that's how Sandi got away with listening to me and my family in here that night. Had she turned on the video library's light and cracked open the door to listen, then it's a good possibility that I'd have noticed her. (Sighs:) I wouldn't've gotten angry if I did, heck, I would've invited her in with us to air out her fears from that night in the warehouse. (After a moment, clicks off screen with his remote control, grins:) Well, if there's nothing else, guys, let's go and "find" Daria and Jane. (Stands with Tom and Curtis, turns off lights, leaves)


Daria and Jane entered the almost now-empty pool area, save for a few members of the staff, who were still cleaning up. Jesse, Nick, and Max, the trio having finished packing their instruments, were talking to two female fans who wanted their autographs. Daria and Jane stopped and looked around for an instant.

DARIA: Peace and quiet at last. Maybe now the palace can get back to normal.

JANE: (Smirks:) Now, now, Daria, you know they'll be other parties here that you'll have to attend in the future, like the ones I'll sponsor for my fellow art colleagues, Darren and his friends, or even you for the bevy of fellow students you'll be with at Eastward in your profession. You have to let the world in.

DARIA: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Me? Sponsor a party? Get real, Jane. (Deadpan:) Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.

JANE: (Grins:) Then me, Darren, and Tom will have to huff and puff, and blow your house in!

DARIA: (Shrugs:) Do your worse. My triple steel rebar-reinforced titanium and concrete built house can withstand any and all attempts to breach it.

JANE: (Smirks:) I thought the house would be brick.

DARIA: Brick is so yesterday. Besides, I have to account for hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, too--(mock-scowl at Jane:) not to mention so-called friends who'd want to drag me to parties kicking and screaming.

JANE: (Bows:) I live to serve, dearie. You need me to keep you in touch with the world.

DARIA: (Slight smirk:) I'd rather touch your ass with my boots. Could you turn around for a second, and stand in front of the pool? (Jane chuckles as Daria looks off to the side:) Uh-oh, danger ahead.

Jane followed Daria's stare, and scowled. Trent and Krystal had suddenly entered from a side door via the patio, arm-in-arm, laughing. The two noticed Daria and Jane and came over, still arm-in-arm.

TRENT: (Smiles:) Hey, Janey, Daria.

DARIA: (Neutral tone:) Um, Trent, Krystal.

JANE: (Ever-so-slight frosty tone, crosses arms:) Trent. (Pauses:) Krystal. (Krystal smirks briefly, then grins)

KRYSTAL: (Faux-pleasant tone:) Hey, guys. (Turns to Trent, smiles:) Thanks for the little chat, Trent. I had a good time.

TRENT: (Smiles:) Yeah, me too, Krystal. Maybe we can chat some more later? (Daria and Jane glance at each other)

KRYSTAL: (Returning the smile:) I'd like that. (Surprises Trent by suddenly kissing his cheek softly. Jane's eyes go wide-open for the briefest instant, while Daria cocks an eyebrow) I'll see you tomorrow morning, when you see your sister and Darren's family off--?

TRENT: (Clearly blushes:) Uh, yeah, sure, Krystal. (Pauses:) Hey, you won't be able to stay for our own party tonight here? (Jane's eyes narrow) Henri's even making pizza and stuff just for us after we swim.

KRYSTAL: (Small smile:) I'm sorry, but no. (Glances at Daria and Jane:) I want to be here bright and early when Darren sees his girlfriend and family off. (Turns to the others:) Well, I'd better get home, it's getting late. See you guys then. Tell Darren I said goodbye, okay? (Sees the other members of Mystik Spiral, waves as she's leaving:) So long, guys!

JESSE, NICK, MAX: Hey, you can't stay, these girls are! What, you're going now? Don't gooo!

KRYSTAL: (Off the side, laughs:) Sorry, fellas, gotta go!

JANE: (Slow burn as she watches Krystal leave, under her breath:) It'll slip my mind to tell Darren of your impending departure, it will. (Turns to Trent, who's cocked an inquisitve eyebrow at his sister's demeanor) Trent, what in the hell did you guys "chat" about just now?

TRENT: (Drops an eyebrow:) Whoa, Janey, what's your problem? All we did was talk about some stuff after seeing your art, which was co--

JANE: (Scowls, interrupts abruptly:) --"Stuff", such as--?

TRENT: (After a moment, shrugs:) Just stuff. It's no big deal.

DARIA: Sooo, this "stuff" was over nothing important--?

TRENT: Nah, basically music. (Pauses, adds as an afterthought:) Oh, and mostly just about what happened between you guys and Tom over the summer.

JANE: (Wide-eyed with Daria:) What?! Trent, please don't tell us that you told Krystal of all people about that!

TRENT: Huh? What's the big deal, Janey? I mean, it's like you never told me to keep it a secret, or anything, did you? (Pauses, realizes:) And what do you mean "Krystal of all people"? She seems like a really nice person.

JANE: (Clenched teeth:) Dammit, Trent--! (Calms down, puts hand on forehead:) I'll--I'll explain everything later to you, okay, like when you and the guys get back to Lawndale after your tour. It's too much to get into now, and I'm too tired right now.

TRENT: (Pauses:) Uhhh, okay, Janey. (Pauses:) I'm sorry if I did something wrong, whatever it was.

JANE: (Long pause, sighs:) Let's not worry about it now. (Looks off to the side:) Jesse's waving at you to come over. You'd better go.

TRENT: Uh, okay, sure. (Pauses:) You're gonna be okay?

JANE: (Waves him off, slight smile:) Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, just go already. (After another moment, Trent leaves)

DARIA: (Pauses:) Um, as much as I hate to admit it, Trent did have a point. (Jane looks at Daria warily) It's not like you or I didn't make it a case of national security to him not to say anything, especially to her, dammit.

JANE: Fine, but either way, Krystal now knows about all of that. I can't help but wonder what she'll do with that info.

DARIA: I can't think of anything right off the top of my head at the moment. (Pauses:) Then again, I've hardly ever worn anything on the top of my head, either, so it's a moot point.

JANE: (Smirks:) C'mon, let's get outta here before they try to make us stay with them, and I get angry at Trent again. If we're lucky, maybe the guys have finished their "private guy stuff". (Daria follows her out)


A smirking Krystal made her way into the foyer just as Darren, Tom, and Curtis came from the family room. Claude appeared to open the door for Krystal.

DARREN: Krystal! You're leaving?

KRYSTAL: (Smiles:) Yeah. I want to see your family off bright and early, if that's okay with you guys.

DARREN: (Grins:) I guess we'll allow it this once. (Pauses:) Have you seen Jane and Daria?

KRYSTAL: I left them back in the pool area.

CURTIS: (Looks around, slight scowl:) You're gonna take your brother with you, right, or has he made other arrangements? (Sneers:) We certainly don't want to forget about him...

KRYSTAL: (Pauses, small chuckle:) Hmm, as much as it kills me to admit it, you're right. (Looks around:) Where is he? You don't think he's outside, do you?

VOICE: (From the side:) He was as a matter of fact, but now he's gone. (Everyone turns to the voice)

Tina appeared in the foyer from an adjacent hallway, coming over to the group.

TINA: Hey, Darren. I was just looking for you to tell you about that.

DARREN: Tina. (Pauses:) What do you mean?

KRYSTAL: (Cuts in, surprised tone:) Rory got a ride from someone around here, Tina? (Smirks:) Who was the lucky sap? (Daria and Jane come in at this time)

TINA: One of my security men, unfortunately. I'm sorry, Krystal, but I decided to kick him off. (Krystal cocks an eyebrow while Daria and Jane look at each other) We caught him down by the lake after stopping some sort of scuffle between some sons of the guests nearby. Rory claims he was just "talking" to Stacy Rowe on the pier that goes out into the lake. They both were alone.

DARREN: (Deep scowl, speaks before anyone else:) What?! He didn't--

QUINN: (Coming down the grand stairs with the Watley sisters:) --No, Rory didn't do anything, bro. (Everyone looks up at them) At least that what Stacy says. (Stops in front of Darren with the Watley sisters:) In fact, she even kinda defended him when Tina threw him down on the pier, and stuff. (Darren cocks a huge, incredulous eyebrow at Tina with Daria, Jane, and Tom)

DARREN: "Defended"--? (Pauses:) I--see. Where's Stacy now?

QUINN: She decided to go to bed, the same for Tiffany.

DARREN: (Turns:) Tina, I thought you were personally keeping an eye out on Rory--?

TINA: (Hard sigh:) Sorry, Darren. (Pauses:) Something--else came up at the last second that required my attention, (adds:) though that's no excuse, I know. In fact, you'll be finding out about it in a little bit, and if it's what I think it is, you'll understand why. (Darren gives her an odd look with the others, save for Daria, Jane, and Tom)

DARIA: (Steps up with Tom:) Um, Tina's right, Darren. (Now Tina gives her own odd look at Daria) She had a pretty good reason, believe me.

JANE: (Nods:) Yeah. (Tina gives Jane the same look)

TINA: You guys know--? (Daria and Jane nod, the same for Tom)

DARREN: (Looks between them all, uncertain:) Uh-huhhh...

KRYSTAL: (After a moment, looks between them all:) I'll--"speak" to Rory when I get home. (To Quinn, in something of an actual genuine tone:) I'm truly sorry for my brother's behavior, Quinn. Please let Stacy know that.

QUINN: (Taken aback for an instant, glances at an equally surprsied Daria and Jane:) Um, that's okay, Krystal. Like Stacy said, nothing happened.

KRYSTAL: (Shrugs:) Of course. (Thought v.o.: Not.) Well, I'd better go. See you all tomorrow morning. (Grins, coy expression to Daria and Jane:) 'Bye again, Jane, Daria. (Claude opens the door for her. Krystal leaves)

CURTIS: And we'd better make tracks so we can come back tomorrow morning to see you all off as well. Take it easy.

JUANITA & LAFLITA: See you! Bye, Quinn! (All leave to the "goodbyes" of everyone. Claude shuts the door behind them, leaves himself)

Daria and Jane turned to Darren and Tom.

JANE: (After a moment, slightly smirks with Daria:) So, um, you guys finished your "private guy stuff", huh? (Quinn develops an inquisitive expression, while Tina looks between them all, cocks an eyebrow)

DARREN: (Exchanges a quick glance with Tom and vice-versa:) Uh, yeah. It's "finished", right, Tom?

TOM: (Nods:) Yeah, right.

DARIA: (Pauses:) Alright, then.

JANE: Yeah, alrighty. (Crosses arms)

There was a long, awkward pause, then Tina spoke.

TINA: Uh, I'm going to find Jim. Anybody know where he's at?

DARIA: Um, he told me and Jane that he was going downstairs, but he didn't say where.

TINA: Well, I think I'll look for him instead of using the intercom, he could be out on the grounds, for all I know. I'll start looking in the mansion, first. Thanks, Daria. See you all in a few. (Leaves)

QUINN: (After a moment, frowns:) Okay, guys, what's with this "private guy stuff", and why wasn't I told about it?

DARREN: (Sighs:) Quinn, it's not what you think. It's just something Me, Tom, and Curtis were privately doing, that's all. It's not another secret I'm keeping from you with Jane and Daria. (Daria and Jane exchange subtle glances)

TOM: (Chimes in, dismissive:) Darren's right, Quinn. You wouldn't be interested, believe me. (Pauses, glances at Daria and Jane, shrugs:) Just plain old guy stuff.

QUINN: (After another long pause:) Oookay, then. I'm tired. I think I'll go up to--

Helen suddenly descended the grand stairs, smiling.

HELEN: Oh, Quinn, there you are! I've just received a phone call from Eric--(Darren cocks an eyebrow, which Helen notices:) now, son, it wasn't about work, (pauses, adds in a low voice, looks off:) of which he told me I can get back to Sunday, (quickly raises voice to normal:) it was about that tutor Quinn's going to have this fall to improve her grades! (To Quinn:) He's a rising junior at Lawndale State University, and his name's a "David Sorensen". Eric told me that he tutored Jasmine, Eric's niece, and he comes highly recommended. Her grades miraculously improved over her last semester, according to Eric--

DARIA: (In a very low voice, to Jane:) He'll have to be the ultimate miracle worker to improve Quinn's grades. (Jane shows a slight smirk)

HELEN: --and he'll be able to work with you for an hour-and-a-half in the evenings, sweetie, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, starting around five o'clock. It'll be for two months. He's working as a teacher's assistant in addition to his studies, and this is a part-time job for him.

QUINN: (Makes a face, pouts:) Fridays? But, Muh-oom, that's one of the top days for my daaaates--

HELEN: (Frowns:) --Now, Quinn, if you're serious about your schoolwork, you'll have to make sacrifices!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan chant: Oh, great god Monotikkitia, please accept this masculine sacrifice so I can become a brain...)

DARREN: (Nods, steps in:) She's right, sis. All of Candi's staff have excellent grades in their field, and she's not about to take anyone who's "average". You'll have to have a very good educational background, she told you that. Besides, you said you'd be cutting back on dates, anyway, right? What's missing a Friday for two months going to do?

DARIA: (In another very low voice to Jane:) Oh, just make all the eligible males in Lawndale wail in pain on Fridays during those tortuous next two months. (Jane chuckles, the same for Tom, who overhears this time)

QUINN: (Pauses, hard sigh, hangs head:) Fine, okay. I guess if I have to make it with Candi, then I gotta do this. We did promise each other in the Fashion Club that we'd buckle down...

HELEN: (Smiles, comes over, squeezes her:) That's the spirit, sweetie, I'm so proud of you for doing this! He can even help you out on your homework, (quickly adds:) though he's not there to do it for you. Oh, and speaking of which, why can't you see if your Fashion Club friends can use him as well to help them out on their schoolwork?

QUINN: (Brightens:) Yeah, that's a great idea, Mom! Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany can use him, too, I'm sure of it!

JANE: (In her own very low voice, to Daria, shakes head slowly:) That poor boy's got his work cut out for him if Quinn's friends go along--

DARIA: (Nods, ditto with the voice:) Yeah, it'll be bad enough with Quinn. Trying to teach the other members of Quinn's quartet will probably make him cut out his throat to put himself out of his misery.

QUINN: (Yawns:) Well, if there's nothing else, guys, I'd better get to bed so I can get up early and pack. (Sighs wistfully, looks around:) I'm sure going to miss this place. I can't wait to get back up here--

DARIA: (Slight smirk, deadpan:) --To be spoiled again by the staff, of course. (Quinn scowls slightly) Don't worry, it's not an insult--(pauses:) since it is true, right? (Darren tries not to chuckle like Jane and Tom)

HELEN: (Before Quinn can speak, gentle admonishing tone:) That's enough, Daria. (Smiles to Quinn:) Yes, sweetie, I know what you mean. I don't think I've had a more fun, relaxing time in a long while, save for when we had that fire in our home, and we had to stay at a hotel. (Note to reader: See the episode "Fire!") Even your father looked very relaxed. (Pauses, glances at Daria, then at Darren, adds:) Though I suppose Daria did have a minor point in your staff's serving having, er, "spoiled" us. It's going to be difficult going back to Lawndale to resume our lives after this.

JANE: (Chimes in, smiles, shrugs:) Ahhh, we may have been "spoiled", alright, but what the hell. I liked everything and everyone here, (saunters up to a smiling Darren, puts hands on his chest, smirks:) particularly you, dear boy. (Daria and Tom smirk, while Quinn rolls her eyes. Helen forms a brief, wary look, but says nothing, sighs)

TOM: I had fun, too. (Goes over to Darren, shakes his hand:) Thanks for letting me come up here, Darren.

DARREN: (Smiles:) My pleasure, Tom. Come back at any time with Daria when she visits, if you want.

HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow at that statement, but puts it out of her mind, gently presses:) Daria--? You haven't said anything.

DARIA: Um, I had a good time, too--(adds:) especially with the privacy of the study and my room, not to mention our day together Wednesday. (Mona Lisa smile:) Thanks again, Darren.

DARREN: (Smiles:) You're welcome again, sis. (Looks around:) I'm glad you all had a good time. As for the "spoiling" part, well, that's what the staff's paid to do. Get used to it, because the next time you visit, you'll get more of it. (Quinn smiles at this thought and sighs dreamily)

HELEN: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Speaking of making a visit, son, are you sure you won't be able to visit us until Eastward College has a fall break?

DARREN: (Slowly nods:) I'm afraid so, Helen. Between college and my work in learning the inside and outside of the Appleton "empire", I won't have that much time for anything else. (Smiles at Jane:) I'll be lucky to squeeze Jane and the rest of you in when you visit beforehand during a weekend or two.

QUINN: (Giggles:) Don't worry, bro, I'll be up here several times between now and then--

DARIA: (Coy look, tone, cuts in:) --But then, won't that cut into your studying time, sis, not to mention your already cut-into dating time? (Jane grins while Tom chuckles under his breath) And besides, this "David" guy might recommend against your coming up here, since it could take away from your schoolwork.

QUINN: (Frowns:) Wait a second, Daria--

HELEN: (Cuts in, ponders, looks off briefly:) --Hold on, Quinn, Daria might be onto something. (Quinn stares at her mother in disbelief) Maybe we should see what David Sorensen thinks before you come up here to visit your brother. He could say it might disrupt your studies.

QUINN: (Throws a killer glare at Daria for an instant:) B-But, Mom, that's not fair! Daria and Jane can come up here between now and then, but I can't?! I'll be able to keep up with my studies, and my dating won't be interrupted, cut back or not!

DARREN: (Steps in, soothing tone:) Quinn, don't worry. (To Helen:) I'm sure she'll still be able to visit during a weekend or two while being tutored. (Glances at Daria, smirks:) After all, Quinn can use the study for total privacy to do any weekend homework (adds:) even while Daria's in there reading, if she wants. (Daria now glares at Darren briefly. Quinn smirks. Jane and Tom smile)

HELEN: (Narrows eyes:) Hm, I haven't considered that, son. You're right, your study does provide a quiet atmosphere... (frowns in thought, changes subject:) I wonder if Millie's found Edward yet, and for that matter, where was Jim? (Daria, Jane, and Tom glance at each other, which Darren subtly takes note of) I didn't see him much at the party either, when I think about it. (Shrugs:) Oh well! I'd better check up on your father again. (Mutters:) I think he said something about choosing pajamas, or something...excuse me. (Leaves up the grand stairs)

QUINN: (Grins wickedly at Daria in triumph:) G'night, everybody. I think I'll be sleeping really well tonight. (Follows Helen up)

Daria watched her mother and sister go up the grand stairs, then turned to her grinning brother, best friend, and boyfriend, sighing.

DARIA: (Mildly annoyed tone:) Thanks a lot, Darren. I could've been all alone in that study with the likes of Keats, Melville, and Browning, but you had to add another Morgendorffer in the mix, didn't you? Now it'll be tainted with the smell of perfume and facial cream.

DARREN: (Chuckles with Jane and Tom:) C'mon, sis. If this helps Quinn do well in her schoolwork and future profession, then you should be all for it.

DARIA: I'm all for helping our sister out, don't get me wrong--(pauses, adds:) I just think you should build Quinn her own study, that's all, (counts off fingers, drones:) one with its own hair salon, manicurist, diet soda fountain, fashion store--

TOM: (Cuts in while laughing with Jane and Darren:) --Don't forget the mirrors. They could be located at the end of each bookshelf. Quinn could look at herself every time while retrieving a book!

JANE: Hey, yeah, why not? (Playfully rubs left hand through Darren's hair:) I'm sure "Darry" here could afford it!

DARREN: (Grins, puts arm around Daria's shoulder for a short instant:) What? And deprive Daria here of Quinn's company? Bite your tongue! (Daria gives him a droll expression as Tom and Jane laugh even harder) (Darren now begins to take on a more serious look and tone:) On a personal note, I wanted to ask you all a question.

DARIA: (Notes how her brother looks, tepid:) Uh, what's the question, Darren?

DARREN: (Quietly:) What did Tina mean by "something else" had gotten her attention as to why she didn't keep a closer eye on Rory tonight? I've known Tina to be very thorough in her work, and when she told me that she'd keep an eye on Rory during the party, I was pretty confident she'd do just that. It shocked me to no end that she didn't. Whatever distracted her had to have been serious. (The trio look at each other) And I don't want to wait for "a little bit" to find out why, if you don't mind. For some reason, I'm getting the feeling that this somehow involves aunt Millie, uncle Jim, and Edward. You all looked a little--(pauses, searchs for words:) uncomfortable when Helen pointed out that uncle Jim and Edward weren't around that much during the party--(smirks at Jane:) not that I knew it at the time, of course. (Jane smirks back) Do you know what's going on, (pauses, realizes:) and if you do, how'd you know all of this before me?

JANE: I think we should go on and tell him, Daria. (Looks at watch:) It's about time, anyway, right? (Daria glances at Tom)

TOM: (Shrugs:) Might as well, Jane's right.

DARIA: (Pauses:) Okay, but Darren, you'd better prepare yourself--(adds:) and more than likely, Millie...(Darren frowns, perplexed. Daria begins to explain)


(Scene goes to the front of the mansion, on the lawn, the same time)

Only two cars from the guests who had been at the party remained parked in the lighted circular driveway as Millie walked through the grass towards Jim, who was standing with his back facing her. To her, he seemed to looking in the direction of the now-dark distant front gate. Around the two, only the sound of crickets chirping broke the silence.

MILLIE: (Comes up beside him, smiles:) Hello, Jim. I had a little trouble finding you in the mansion. One of the security people told me you were out here.

JIM: (Glances over at her, slightly smiles:) Hey, Mill. (Looks back in the direction of the front gates, remorseful tone:) Sorry about what I said in Edward's room. I had no right to snap at you like--

MILLIE: (Cuts him off, rolls eyes:) --Please. (Jim glances over again, cocks an eyebrow) I'm the one who should be apologizing, you don't have to leave tonight. I didn't give you a chance to explain because I immediately assumed you two were at it again--

JIM: (Returns the interruption, turns to her:) --Because you heard us shouting from the hallway, remember that. You had a natural assumption from what happened between us this week. Don't be so hard on yourself.

MILLIE: (Smirks:) Are you trying to make me even feel more guilty by trying to tell me not to feel so guilty?

JIM: (Chuckles:) Did you understand what you just said?

MILLIE: (Pauses in thought, chuckles:) I think I did, I'm not quite so sure, now.

JIM: (Small smile, turns back to the direction of the front gate:) Well, maybe it doesn't matter. (Millie frowns at him, confused. Jim continues to speak while looking at the front gate:) Mill, please forgive me for what I'm about to do...

MILLIE: (Frowns, confused:) What's that supposed to mean? "About to do"? (Looks in the same direction as Jim:) Why do you keep staring at the front gate? (Pauses:) Are you waiting for someone?

JIM: (Forms a pained look, turns to Millie:) Yeah, I am. (Pauses:) Gerald Woo.

MILLIE: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Woo? I thought he was going to call you tonight about your business troubles--? Don't tell me that whatever he's found is so important that he simply had to come this late at night? (Glances at her watch:) It's almost 11:30!

JIM: (Bites his lower lip, long pause, blurts out:) It--It's not about my elevator business, Mill! It never was! (Voice goes into a whisper:) I'm so sorry for lying to you, Darren, and Helen, especially to you...(in the far distance at the front gates, headlights stop)

MILLIE: (Wide-eyed:) What?! (Pauses, stares at him uneasily, narrows eyes:) What's Woo here for, then?

JIM: (Closes eyes slowly for a moment, then looks down directly into her eyes, steadies himself:) It's about Edward White. (Millie turns pale, her mouth drops) I-I asked Woo to investigate him a few days after I came, and he's found some stuff on him that I think you'll have to know...

MILLIE: (Shakes head slowly, mouth still dropped:) N-No, I can't believe what I just heard, this can't be happening! (Through clenched teeth:) You--got--Gerald--Woo--to--investigate--EDWARD, AND YOU LIED TO US ABOUT IT?! (Red-faced, storms up to him, grabs him by his collar, shakes it and him violently:) TELL ME YOU'RE JOKING, JIM!

At this time, Tina was about to come up from behind them while on her cell phone, having been told by another member of security that Woo's cab had arrived at the aforementioned front gate, as well as where Jim was. She stopped dead in her tracks, shocked at the scene with Millie and Jim.

TINA: (Wide-eyed, thought v.o.: Oh, crapcrapcrapcrap. It's gonna hit the fan, now. Guess I don't need to tell Jim Woo's here, or that I sent a man to watch Edward's room so he wouldn't leave...) (Turns slowly away from the scene, intent on returning to the mansion)

MILLIE: (Suddenly notices, eyes Tina while holding Jim's collar, releases left hand, points at her, snarls:) HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, TINA! (Tina freezes, turns slowly to Millie, uneasy expression while Millie glares at a stoic Jim)


(Scene is now upstairs, the same exact time)

Edward, having now just left his room and greatly agitated, stopped to look out over the mansion's grounds through a curtained hallway window while on his cell phone.

EDWARD: (Scowls:) What in the bloody hell do you mean "You didn't want the cab when it came an hour ago"?! You told me that it had been in an accident, and that you'd send another one as soon as possible! (Pauses:) Yes, you heard me, an accident, and that the rest of your cabs were at some idiotic comic book convention nearby in White Plains! (Pauses:) No, I'm not making this up! You--(narrows eyes:) never mind, dammit, I see it coming over the crest now! (Clicks off the phone, mutters:) Stupid, moronic Yanks...(turns a corner to go downstairs via side steps just as a security man carefully comes into the same hallway from another direction, leans against the side, crosses arms while watching Edward's room)


(Scene shifts to the McKinna home, several minutes earlier)

Krystal's green BMW, having taken a shortcut in a rush to arrive, pulled up in the driveway in front of the castle-like home, turning off the headlights. Krystal got out of her car, paused, then looked around for a minute. She wickedly smirked, satisfied, then went inside.

Rory was sitting in the living room watching a female mud-wrestling match on TV, having changed into his pajamas and housecoat. He eyed a disgusted-looking Krystal for a moment, smirked, then clicked off the TV and rose off the couch. He came over, snickering.

RORY: Hey, sis, just getting my usual babe arousal at this time. (Pauses:) Guess the party's over, huh?

KRYSTAL: (Neutral tone, shrugs:) Eh. I guess when you put it that way, it is. (Rory drops an eyebrow) Never mind, brother dear. (Pauses:) I see you got here already, I was told you had left.

RORY: (Makes a face:) Well, duh! Of course I did, no thanks to that Xena bitch, Tina! (Sneers:) She kicked me off the precious Appleton holy grounds because--(stops, cuts eyes over to Krystal, uneasy expression:) uh--

KRYSTAL: (Forms the same mocking face Rory does:) Uh! (Pauses:) Listen to this: I kind of heard an interesting story from Tina. She told me that you and Stacy were caught all alone down on that pier that juts out into the lake tonight--(adds, pointed tone:) with the romantic-looking half-moon over the glistening waves...

RORY: (Swallows hard, puts hand up:) Now, hold on a sec, sis! Nothing happened! Tina told you Stacy Rowe said that, right?

KRYSTAL: Actually, it was Quinn, but I suppose you could say it was the same thing. (Looks at hand, blows on her nails gently:) Know what? Quinn also said that Stacy even defended you when Tina jacked your ass up and threw you down on the pier because she thought you had done something indecent to Stacy.

RORY: (Nods head frantically:) Y-Yeah, that's right, Stacy did! Honest!

KRYSTAL: (Nods:) Oh, I believe you, Rory, I really do. (Rory looks relieved. Krystal pauses for effect, then narrows eyes:) Trouble is, Stacy seemed dead set on trying to avoid you when she heard those ru--I mean, truths at the party about you. (Rory stares at her, wide-eyed. Krystal pretends to look "forgetful", forms her mouth into an "Oh!" expression:) Oops! Gosh, I forgot to mention that part to you, didn't I? See, I not only watched how the guests were reacting to you and what they had said, but Stacy when she heard what they had said. (Pauses:) Suddenly, she's defending you? (Chuckles:) You? I kinda have a hard time connecting the dots, here...

RORY: (Squeezes his eyes shut for an instant, as if he's in great pain, or is anticipating it:) K-Krystal, please. (Pauses:) Nothing happened.

KRYSTAL: (Ignoring Rory, begins to move towards him very slowly, which causes Rory to back up just as slowly:) Know what I think? I think you got to her before Tina and the others got there. (Pauses, cool tone:) What did you do, Rory? Did you "persuade" her, somehow?

RORY: (Still backing up:) W-Well, you know, I d-do have the ol' Rory McKinna charm. R-Remember those girl's phone numbers I got at the party--?

KRYSTAL: (Still moving forward:) Ah, yes, your "charm", and those girl's phone numbers, can't forget that. (Pauses:) However, I simply can't drop this either, brother. Stacy, from what I saw, was really scared when she first heard those truths about you. (Looks up for an instant, then back down at Rory:) I think you used more than "charm" on Stacy to get her to your side, because she seems to be the type of girl that is pliable emotionally, and knowing you--(pauses, grins coldly:) I think you kissed her, am I right?

RORY: (Stops, wide-eyed:) N-NO! (Pauses, tries to calm down:) I-I mean, no! W-We just talked, t-that's all!

KRYSTAL: (Starts moving forward again, still with the grin:) Rooooory, stop lyiiiing...

RORY: (Looks around, frantic:) N-Now, sis, before you do anything, the maid and the butler are still here--!

KRYSTAL: (Shakes head slowly:) Nuh-uh. Nice try, but I checked to make sure they weren't around when I came in. Their cars were gone. It's just you and me, Rory...

A terrified Rory backed up again, but he couldn't move back any further, for his back was up against a wall. Krystal deliberately took her time as she came up to him, lightly walking her fingers on his chest. Rory was now sweating profusely and appearing miserable as he looked down on his sister.

RORY: (Cracks, closes eyes:) OKAY, OKAY! Yeah, I kissed Stacy, but it was a short one, I swear! (Opens one eye, sees Krystal staring at him stoically)

KRYSTAL: (After a moment, very calm tone:) Good, I'm glad you've told me the truth. (Pauses:) However, had you been caught even kissing, Tina could've called the (suddenly chops Rory in the face and chest several times:) POLICE AND HAVE HAD YOUR SORRY ASS ARRESTED FOR THE ATTEMPTED RAPE OF A MINOR! (Rory now falls down on the floor in pain, balled up. After a moment, Krystal suddenly kicks him several times, viciously, speaks with each kick:) I--TOLD--YOU--NOT--TO--BE--"STUPID RORY"--DIDN'T--I?! (Pauses, resumes kicking:) WELL--DIDN'T--I?! (Stops)

RORY: (Wimpers, while still in a ball, quietly:) Y-Yeah, s-sis, y-you d-did. I-I'm sorry, it won't happen a-again...

KRYSTAL: (Glares, points down at him:) You're damn right it won't! Stay the hell away from Stacy Rowe or her friends the next time they come up here, do you understand, Rory?! I've got enough "enemies" as it is from Darren's sisters and Jane Lane (thought v.o.: Not to mention those two maid bitches...:)! I don't need you to drag me down any further, got that?!

RORY: (Still in a ball, wimpers:) O-Okay, K-Krystal, I p-promise...

KRYSTAL: (Satisfied look:) Good. (Stares in space, smirks:) Besides, now that I've gotten the info I needed on that Jane-Daria-Tom "thing" through Jane's cute big brother, I'm going to make Jane Lane's life a living hell--(grins:) courtesy of one Trent Lane. When I'm through with him, she'll be so upset with being "paranoid and possessive" over her big brother and me, Darren will drop her like a hot potato! (A battered-looking Rory glances up at her weakly. Krystal looks down at her shoes, casual tone:) Oh, dear, now look at what you've made me do. I have blood on me. (Frowns briefly:) Thanks a lot, big brother. Now I'll have to take a quick shower before I go to bed and see Darren's family and Jane off tomorrow. (Shrugs:) Eh. Goodnight. (Leaves)

RORY: (After a moment, whimpers:) G-Goodnight--b-bitch...(begins to "unravel")

Krystal suddenly returned by looking around the corner, which immediately made Rory cringe into a ball again. She showed a cold smile.

KRYSTAL: Oh, and Rory--? I took great care not to have hit any vital organs when I kicked you, you know. Comes from my wonderful martial arts training concerning pressure points, and such. You won't have to go to the hospital, and you'll quickly recover before our parents return, though you'll suuure feel like hell for a few days as you move around. (Loses smile:) But next time, you might have to really go if you disobey me again. (Regains smile:) Ta-ta! (Leaves)

Glaring in her direction for an instant, Rory slowly struggled to rise while wincing in pain, carefully sliding himself up by his back along the wall. He looked down on himself, and immediately saw some extremely small bloody spots on his chest and arms.

RORY: (Thought v.o.: Huh. Not bad, I guess. [Pauses:] I have had it with Krystal pushing me around! Damned if I'm not gonna be allowed to see Stacy Rowe in the future, at least! Oh, well, Rowe has my e-mail address, she'll contact me soon enough. As for my "beloved" sister, I gotta figure out some way to get back at--) (the phone on the coffee table rings) (Rory scowls:) Who in the hell is this, now?

Struggling over in pain, Rory picked up the phone gingerly while sitting down slowly on the sofa.

RORY: Hello? (Pauses:) Yeah, this is Rory McKinna, who's this? (Long pause, then raised eyebrows:) WHO? NO WAY, IT CAN'T BE! (Frowns:) Stop joking with me, whoever you--(pauses, turns pale:) h-how'd you know about that? (Pauses, wide-eyed:) O-Or that? (Glances at where Krystal had been, whispers:) Y-You know all about those secret drug routes, too? You're the one who's been "protecting" me from the police ever finding out? (Swallows hard, lays back on the sofa:) Oh, God. (Pauses, sits up:) Y-You sound like him, b-but h-how do I know for sure that this isn't a trick, a set-up of some sort? (Long pause, nods, in a very low whisper:) Y-You are him, no one else knew that...(begins to smile slowly, culminating into a "Cheshire Cat" grin)


(Scene returns to the Appleton mansion, the present time)

Darren continued to listen to the story Daria was telling him in stunned disbelief.

DARIA: --And Tom and I only found out about it tonight, the same time as Tina. Uncle Jim and I told Jane all of this after you two, er, "talked" the second time. (Quickly adds as she notices Darren's dropped eyebrow:) Um, he was planning to tell you and aunt Millie after Woo got here, Darren.

After a moment, Darren shook his head slowly.

DARREN: I--I can't believe this! (Pauses:) Edward working for the Weekly Blabber? (Pauses:) He was listening in our conversation in the media room? It's crazy, Daria, uncle Jim has to be mistaken!

DARIA: He seemed pretty sure of it, especially when Woo said he had the evidence, and I know you don't think Woo would make something outrageous like this up, do you?

DARREN: (Long pause, slight frown:) No, I don't think he would, especially when I think about Edward "supposedly" having the Apocalypse Now tape. My (adopted) dad, if you recall, didn't talk too much about Vietnam, wanting to put it out of his mind, and resuming his life. (Pauses:) He also didn't want to be reminded of anything even remotely pertaining to that war, including any movies, forbidding them from the video library, and since Apocalypse Now was Vietnam-related--

TOM: (Nods:) --He'd definitely want to stay away from getting that movie, since it would remind him. (Darren nods)

DARREN: I had to either wait until that or any other Vietman War movie would come out on cable or video to see it, and even then, my (adopted) mother wanted me to do so in my room.

JANE: Uh, did Millie know about your (adopted) dad's ban, Darren? It would seem to me that it would make her immediately suspicious when hearing Edward say that he had it.

DARREN: My (adopted) dad's "ban" wasn't really told to anybody but me and mom. Besides, aunt Millie's not that much of a movie buff anyway, only occasionally watching a movie or two. (Pauses, ponders:) Thing is, my dad has movies from other wars in the video library. I'd think that any of those would trigger his horrible memories, but they never did--(pauses:) or at least I never knew if they did. In fact, he loved Sergeant York. It was one of his favorite movies.

DARIA: (Quietly:) And pretty far removed from his war. Far nicer and innocent.

DARREN: (Grim expression:) Yeah. (Pauses, looks around:) Where's aunt Millie? She has to know about this--(deep scowl, snarl:) and for that matter, where's Edward? He's got a hell of a lot of explaining to do!

DARIA: Edward's probably in his room, more than likely. Call it kinda a weird feeling, but I think Millie might be wi--

The next instant, the front suddenly door flew open, with a furious Millie storming into the foyer, followed by a pleading Jim. A moment later, Tina and Gerald Woo walked in, with Woo holding a stuffed folder. All stopped when they saw the others. Claude was about to come in, but he deferred immediately when he sensed the tension, quickly turning around and going into a side hallway, preferably as far away as possible, for the moment.

MILLIE: D-Darren--?

DARREN: (Goes over to Millie, hugs her:) Daria, Jane, and Tom just told me about Edward, Aunt Millie. I-I'm so sorry--

MILLIE: (Scowls, pushes him away gently:) --Don't tell me you're going to believe your uncle, too?

DARREN: (Surprised for a moment, glances at Woo:) Aunt Millie, have you seen what Woo has on Edward yet? Not only that, but I just remembered something about that Apocalypse Now tape Edward said he had--

MILLIE: (Frowns, glares at Woo, cuts in:) --I don't have to, Darren! (Pauses, scowls at Jim:) In fact, your uncle told me the same thing! I know Edward! I don't want to hear or see anything Woo has!

WOO: (Calmly, walks up to her with his folder:) Ms. Appleton, perhaps if you'd just read this--

MILLIE: (Nasty tone:) Get the hell away from me! (Woo backs away slowly. Darren clearly looks stunned with Daria, Jane, and Tom)

JIM: Dammit, Mill, why can't you face the facts?! Your boyfriend works for the Weekly Blabbler, and Woo has the proof! It wouldn't hurt just to look--

MILLIE: (Red-faced, interrupts:) --Speak for yourself, Jim! I'm hurting already from what you've done, or can't you see that?! (Trying to hold back tears:) I-I'm going to go to Edward's room, and let him tell you, Woo, Tina, (pauses:) and Darren that you're all wrong, do you hear me?! (Pauses:) WRONG! (Turns, storms up grand stairs. Almost runs into a surprised Elenor as she reaches the top, barrels past her wordlessly)

JIM: Mill! (Goes after her)

JANE: (Very low to Daria and Tom, sagged shoulders:) She took that quite well, huh?

DARIA: (Ditto with the low tone:) There's something to be said about denial--(pauses:) we ought to know.

WOO: (To Darren and Tina:) Perhaps I should go after them, or wait down here? The evidence against White is pretty damaging...

DARREN: (Sighs:) All the better to confront him with, I guess. Tina, take him up and show him where Edward's room is, would you? I'll follow you up in a second.

TINA: Sure, Darren. This way, Mr. Woo...

WOO: (While following her up:) Just "Woo" please. (Pauses, sees the others with Darren, smiles:) Oh, hello, Daria, Jane, annnnd Tom, right?

TOM: (Slight smile:) You got it. (Woo smirks, leaves)

JANE: Um, I think I'll come along, if that's alright, Darren. I'm kinda curious to see what'll happen. (Quickly adds sheepishly:) Not that I'm trying to see if any blood will be spilled, mind you...

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Oh, perish the thought. (Jane gives her a mock-scowl)

DARREN: (Small shrug, weary smile:) Sure, why not? Daria, Tom, how about we make it a foursome?

TOM: I'm game. (Pauses:) Daria?

DARIA: (Sighs:) Well, I suppose the more the merrier. (Deadpan:) Edward won't be able to take us all on if he tries to escape. Lead the way, bro. (Follows the others up the grand stairs)


Edward slowly peered from around the corner of the hallway opposite from where Claude had left, sweating. He had counted himself lucky after overhearing Daria and the others speaking about him in the foyer after he came down the side stairs. That devious bastard. He went one step further, didn't he, bringing Woo here, even dragging the others in this. Edward paused in realization, grinning bitterly. He told me that I'd probably accuse him of keeping that first cab from coming here, didn't he? Very shrewd, Tina, using your voice like that. Got me but good.

Taking a deep breath, he quietly and quickly made his way into the family room to retrieve his suitcase and laptop case that Claude had put in there. He immediately was making his way into the foyer towards the front door when Jake and Helen, now both in their nightclothes, suddenly showed up from the direction of the dining room, chatting. Edward stopped and stared at them, his heart beating rapidly, trying to surpress his growing panic once again. He took a quick, desperate glance up the grand stairs, then at Helen and Jake, forcing a smile. My room's near the end of the hallway on the second floor in the east wing. It'll take them a few minutes to locate me, even with security. I can get Woo's cab to take me, if it's still in the front. I'd run, but it could cause those two to become suspicious, and slow me down. Best play it straight...

HELEN: (Mild admonishing tone:) --Really, Jake! You already thanked Henri once for allowing you to help him with the food at the party! You didn't have to go the kitchen ag--(notices, smiles:) Oh, Edward! Helloooo!

JAKE: (Grins:) Hey, Eddie, my man! Missed ya at the party!

EDWARD: (Trying to control himself, glances nervously upstairs again:) Uh, hello, Helen, Jake. Sorry, old chap, but I was rather--"busy" with other things at the time.

HELEN: (Raised eyebrows, notices Edward's suitcase and laptop case:) You're--leaving?

EDWARD: Yes, I'm afraid so, this was the "other" thing, an--(pauses:) emergency at Mikkelson just cropped up, and they need me desperately. Mill knows. (Begins to move towards the door, hurried:) Well, I have to leave, my plane'll be leaving soon from JFK! Nice to have met both of you, goodbye! (Struggles with opening the door while holding his suitcase and laptop case. Helen drops an eyebrow, perplexed at his behavior)

JAKE: (Rushes forward:) Here, lemme help you out there, big guy! Guess the staff's still cleaning up, and stuff from the party, huh? (Opens, holds door open)

EDWARD: Ah, thank you, Jake, I suppose they are--(rushes outside. Surely enough, Woo's taxi is still parked out front. Edward sits his suitcase and laptop case beside the cab, quickly begins to speak to the driver from the passenger side window)

HELEN: (While coming out with Jake onto the front stoop, low tone:) Honey, does Edward seem to be acting a little--(pauses:) "strange" to you, being in a such a hurry like that?

JAKE: Huh? Whattaya mean, sweetheart? He seems normal to me! I know how it is ta rush away to my job! Besides, you gotta remember that he's (makes like his right hand's a plane, "glides" it:) gonna fly over the biiiig blue ocean to get over there, and has to check in at the airport, and stuff! (Helen sighs, gives him a droll expression, resumes staring at Edward)

Edward was having a difficult time with the driver in the meantime.

EDWARD: (Frantically shoving his hands in his pockets, pulling out money:) Come on, take me! I'll pay you whatever you want, quadruple or more, even for gas, to take me to JFK airport!

DRIVER: (Smoking a cigar, "New Yawk" accent:) Sorry, mack, but I promised my customer that I'd wait for him to take him back to a hotel, and believe you me, he's made it worth my while! (Rolls up passenger window, sits back with a huge grin)

EDWARD: (Miserable expression, beginning to see the writing on the wall:) But--damn. (In the background, behind Helen and Jake, Tina rushes down the grand stairs, followed closely by Jim, Millie and the others, with now a nightclothes-dressed Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy joining them, as well as Elenor, Claude, and now Fiona, who responded to the commotion. From both sides of Edward, two scowling security men arrive, firmly put their hands on each of his shoulders)

JIM: (Points at him while brushing past Helen and Jake with Tina, Millie, and Woo, frowns:) Hold it right there, White! You're not gonna go anywhere!

TINA: (Sighs:) Er, Jim, let me handle this, okay? (Walks over to Edward with Millie, and Woo, with Jim following behind. The others, all of come out on and around the front stoop)

EDWARD: (Snorts, turns around to Jim slowly, droll tone:) Yes, Tina's right, don't you think that sounds a little redundant by now? (Pauses, looks past him, turns pale, whispers:) M-Millie...

HELEN: (Frowns, turns around to see the others gathering around her and Jake:) Would someone please tell me just what in the hell is going on here?! (Jake, of course, looks confused, simply nods his head)

QUINN: That's what I'd like to know! I heard some freakin' shouting and running in the hallway just as I was about to sleep, so I got up to see what was going on!

STACY & TIFFANY: (Both rubbing their eyes and yawning:) Yeah! Uh...huh...

DARIA: (Comes up beside Helen:) Let's just say that the jig's up for Edward, Mom. Listen.

Millie, now with a stoic expression, wordlessly held out her hand to Woo on her right side, sounding stoic as well.

MILLIE: (Maintaining her stoic stare at Edward:) Let me see your folder, Woo. (Woo wordlessly hands it to her. Millie opens it, reads:) Explain to me what I'm looking at, please.

WOO: Ahem--yes. (Glances at Jim:) One of my men had a harder-than-expected time getting by Mikkelson's final computer firewall to get the information, one of the reasons it took me so long to get it to you, but at last it worked. Edward White is indeed his real name, and he works for the Weekly Blabber. (Helen, Jake, Quinn, and the remainder of the Fashion Club appear stunned, look at Edward)

JAKE: (Wide-eyed, begins to turn red with rage:) WHAAAT?! HE'S THE BASTARD WHO HURT MY WIFE AND SON WITH THIS TABLOID CRAP?! (Edward stares at him, wide-eyed, cringes) I'M GONNA TEAR HIM FROM LIMB-TO-LIMB! (Begins to try and attack Edward, but is held back immediately by Darren and Tom)

HELEN: (Alarmed:) Jake! Calm down!

QUINN: (Ditto:) Yeah, Daddy!

DARIA: (Thought v.o., deadpan: They're right, Dad, remember your heart. [Pauses:] Besides, Jane and I would rather see Jim verses Edward to settle our bet instead.)

JAKE: (Beginning to calm down:) I--I--yeah, you're both right. (Slumps, looks down, embarassed by his behavior:) Sorry, son, Tom, everybody. Guess I lost it a little too much there.

TOM: No problem, Mr. Morgendorffer.

DARREN: (Pats him on the back, smiles:) It's okay, Jake. (Glares darkly with Helen and the others at Edward:) I feel the same, exact way you do right now... (Edward swallows hard as Darren goes over to them)

MILLIE: (Keeping the stoic tone and expression:) Go on, Woo.

WOO: Er, right. You can see White's picture on page four, taken at an employee party thrown by Bowman in London about a year ago. (Millie, still with her stoic expression, flips the pages) You'll notice that it's him without his beard. (Glances at Edward evenly:) Apparently, Mr. White has been working for both the Weekly Blabber and Tattletale, not that much of a jump, since both were owned by James Bowman. (Edward says nothing, but stares at Millie, embarassed)

DARREN: (Narrows eyes, realizes, interjects:) Hold it a second, Woo. You said Edward White worked for both tabloids, right?

WOO: (Turns:) Yes, Darren, I did. He'd work at each one about half the time--

DARREN: --Aunt Millie, something just occurred to me--you remember what was about to be released on Stephanie that time by the Tattletale, some of what I told everybody in the home theater last night, but Leonard Potter was able to put a stop to it? (Daria and Jane glance at each other, recalling the story Darren told them over this as well. Darren glares at Edward:) Do you think by any chance he got any information from you on her beforehand to give to the Tattletale?

MILLIE: (Turns pale, looks over at Edward in realization:) Oh, God. I remembered him asking about her three-and-a-half weeks ago--(pauses:) just before Leonard had gotten the information about her, and passed it on to you. (Edward looks off wretchedly) I-I thought it was just a casual conversation about you, and who you knew. (Shakes head slowly:) Darren--I'm sorry, I should've connected it together...

DARREN: Aunt Millie, don't worry about it, you didn't know, none of us knew.

MILLIE: (After a moment, nods weakly:) So, he's never worked at Mikkelson, Woo?

WOO: Actually, yes, in a sense, he has, or is. How'd you think I acquired this information? Bowman secretly bought up a 20% share in Mikkelson several years back--about the same time he began investing heavily in the newspaper business. (Darren frowns, trying to remember something) Page six. (Millie flips the papers) It was a floundering company until he infused some capital in it--(pauses:) along with--

DARREN: (Cuts in:) --My uncle William, right? (Millie and Woo look at him) I remember that. He bragged about a "small investment at Mikkelson" over dinner several years back. My (adopted) dad thought he was crazy in "throwing money down the tubes". I recalled it because the two almost came to blows over it, the only time something like that ever happened at dinner. The thing is, it turned out that uncle William was right, eventually. Aunt Millie, you were there, don't you remember?

MILLIE: (Pauses, frowns:) Yeees--yes, I do, Darren. Go on, Woo.

WOO: Bowman eventually increased his shares in Mikkelson up to 40%, whereas your uncle William increased his from 5 to 10%, which he had up to his death. (Pauses:) By the way, did you know he, Bowman, and Mikkelson were good acquaintances?


WOO: Page nine. There's several pictures of them all together in Europe, Asia, and South America. I'm guessing that he never told either of you, or the rest of your family.

Millie promptly flipped the pages, with Darren and Jim looking over her shoulder. All the pictures showed William Appleton and two fit-looking men grinning, all surrounded by several equally-grinning, airheaded-looking, bikini-clad females. After a moment, Millie passed the pictures behind her to Darren, who went back wordlessly to the others, and gave the pictures to them to freely examine.

QUINN: (Low tone, to Stacy and Tiffany as they're looking:) Ew. Those stripes are so few years ago on that bikini. (Stacy and Tiffany nod in agreement)

DARIA: (Droll tone, low, deadpan:) Which is when they were taken, probably. You sure do know your fashion, don't you, sis? (Immediately adds to Quinn's glare, while Jane and Tom smirk:) No insult intended, of course.

HELEN: (Glances over at Daria and Quinn, low tone, admonishing:) Not now, you two. (Intensely returns to watching the others)

JIM: (Mild scowl, snorts:) Huh. Why didn't that surprise me? William hanging out with a (finger quotes:) "controversial" guy like that, and not telling us? (Millie looks up at him from the file, narrows an eye, says nothing, goes back to reading)

WOO: (After a moment:) Riiight. Anyway, Bowman began to use some of the money he made in Mikkelson's now-growing finances to invest in his then-fledgling newspaper holdings, and like you said, Darren, Mikkelson eventually became very profitable in Europe. Bowman then began to expand even more money into buying into the newspaper and tabloid business, which he apparently had a developed a knack for.

MILLIE: (Yes, still in the same, stoic tone, glances at Edward:) So how did--(pauses, motions:) he get on Mikkelson's employee manifest if he really worked at the Weekly Blabber?

WOO: Bowman basically became the de-facto CEO of Mikkelson after the founder, his apparent good friend Thomas Mikkelson, decided that he wanted less responsibility, tired of the everyday grind, yet wanting to keep some semblance of control while jet-setting to his private chalet in Switzerland. It looks as if Bowman and Mikkelson collaborated on letting Bowman take over quietly, while Mikkelson became the "front man", attending the usual monthly stockholder's meeting. Hence, Bowman could then secretly incorporate some of his tabloid reporters into Mikkelson's employment manifest when they went "covert" to get a story, in case people like me hired by people like you try to dig up anything on them when they report the dirt to cover themselves from possible lawsuits (turns to, smirks:) from people like Helen. (Helen pauses, then returns the smirk) We didn't find any "Edward White" on the Internet when we searched for him under both tabloids, or by Bowman's "legitmate" newspapers, by the way.

JIM: Pretty clever. Bowman could sneak reporters under the radar screen while they continued to work for his tabloid, all the while pretending to "work" for Mikkelson. (Snorts, smirks at Edward:) You'd think "Eddie" here would have gone under another alias when he was seeing Mill, at least. That's kinda stupid, if you ask me. (Edward glares at Jim, but continues to say nothing)

Millie looked off, pained for an instant, then quietly walked up to a now-sad looking Edward. After another moment of staring each other in the eye, she spoke, yet again in the stoic tone.

MILLIE: This is all true, isn't it, Edward? All of those good times we had in Europe, here, and even after--(pauses, eyes begin tearing, keeps her stoic look, lowers voice:) even after we--

EDWARD: (Searches for words, guilty expression, very low voice:) M-Millie--I--I--did lov--

MILLIE: (Gently interrupts, laced ever-so-subtly in a sneer:) --It's best that you not say anything more, Edward, at least until you get a lawyer. (Turns:) Isn't that right, Helen?

HELEN: (Caught off-guard:) I--um, yes, I--suppose so, Millie...

MILLIE: (Nods, turns back to Edward:) Yes, it's best that you don't say anything more, you heard Helen. (Pauses:) However, I can do something more--

Millie suddenly stunned everyone by making a fist and leveling Edward square on the nose, staggering him to the ground after falling back against the cab. Blood immediately poured from his nose while he held it. The two security men flanking Edward stared at each other for a moment in shock, then started to help him up as the equally-stunned cab driver got out from the other side, coming around. Jim couldn't help but to grin.

MILLIE: (Cold, controlled tone, staring at him with pure hate and rage:) Go to hell, Edward. (Turns from him stiffly, walks toward the mansion)

Jim came up to her from behind, concerned. He put a hand on her shoulder and gently turned her to him.

JIM: Mill, are you alr--

Millie pulled off another shocker, this time with a slap hard and loud enough to rival Sandi's on Linda earlier, this time on Jim. He stared at his ex while holding his cheek, at a loss for words. Even through the pain and blood, Edward couldn't help but to show a bitter smirk in return as he was handcuffed by one security man, and had his bleeding nose pinched with a rag provided by a scowling Elenor, who had come over.

MILLIE: (Tears freely running down her cheeks, same cold, controlled tone:) You can go to hell too, Jim. You've lied to me as well, even though you were right about Edward, and if you think I'll just "melt" back into your arms so you can "comfort" me, you're sadly mistaken. (Brushes past him)

DARREN: (Hesitates as Millie comes up to him:) A-Aunt Millie--?

Millie wordlessly buried her face into her nephew's chest, crying freely. Helen, Jake, Quinn, and the others gathered around them as well, trying to offer additional support, save for Daria, Jane, and Tom, who simply stared at each other with sad expressions.

Trent and the other members of Mystik Spiral suddenly appeared in the doorway as well, looking inquisitive. Jane went over to her brother.

TRENT: (Cocks an eyebrow:) Uhh, we sorta heard something big was going down here, Janey, and wanted to take a look, especially when Fiona suddenly ran off. Why is Millie crying, (notices, looks to the side:) and that "Edward" guy is being put in handcuffs? (Pauses:) Did he hurt her, or something?

JANE: (Sighs:) You could say that, Trent--you could say that...


Saturday (morning, very early)...

(Scene changes to the foyer, 30 minutes later. It's past midnight)

Edward had been carted off by the local sheriff, charged with invasion of privacy (for starters). Tina had discovered the metal recording/receiving device in Edward's laptop beforehand, what she suspected that he'd have gotten rid of as soon as he arrived at the airport, turning it over to the police, as well as what Woo found, for evidence.

Woo turned down Darren's offer to stay overnight, preferring to stay and take "advantage" of a "ritzy" hotel in New York City. After collecting his (huge) fee from a sober Jim, he gave his goodbyes to everyone, promising also to offer himself as a material witness at the civil trial to Helen and the other plaintiffs against Bowman.

A mostly shellshocked Millie had decided to go immediately to bed, claiming that she felt drained. When she overheard while going up the grand stairs that Trent and the band had decided to cancel their very late-night-to-morning party out of the sudden turn of events, she immediately came back down and insisted that they continue, sharply cutting Trent off, refusing to allow their fun to be tainted by how she felt, or what Edward had done. Trent gathered with the other members for a moment, then reluctantly agreed to go on with their party. Relieved, a smiling Millie went upstairs, the same for Helen, Jake, Quinn, and the other Fashion Clubbers.

After Trent and the rest of Mystik Spiral left to go back to the pool area, only Darren, Daria, Jane, Jim, and Tom remained in the foyer.

JIM: (Contrite:) Darren, I'm sorry for lying to you about all of this--

DARREN: (Sighs:) --It's alright, uncle Jim, you were going to tell us, anyway, remember? (Looks upstairs warily:) I'm just concerned about aunt Millie right now.

JIM: (Looks upstairs as well:) Yeah, so am I. (Pauses, looks down:) She hates me now, calling me a liar like White, and I can't say that I can blame her. (Bitter chuckle:) Kind of ironic that she sees me and him in the same boat, huh?

DARIA: (Speaks before Darren can:) Um, I think she was just really upset with you at the time, uncle Jim. She had just found out that her boyfriend was a lying bastard who had used her to scrape up private stuff on the people she was closest to--

JANE: (Chimes in, encouraging:) --Yeah, Daria's right. Once she sleeps on it, she'll actually see that you did her a huge favor in her dumping his sorry, conniving ass.

TOM: I agree with them, Mr. Morse. Surely you're not worse than what Edward White was when Millie stops and really thinks about it. Like Darren said, you were going to come clean anyway.

JIM: (Weak smile:) Thanks for the encouragement, everyone, and it's "Jim", Tom. (Tom smirks) Still, I've got a hell of a lot of soul-searching to do. (Yawns:) I'd better get to bed, it's really the early morning, now. Maybe some sleep will help me think. Goodnight, everyone. (Warily goes up the stairs to the "goodnights" of the others)

DARREN: (Looks at his watch, wide-eyed:) It is early morning, isn't it? You're all supposed to leave around 10:30, right?

DARIA: Yeah, but I'm already packed with my "huge" wardrobe of clothes, so it won't be a drag on me, though I'll probably order my breakfast chow from the bed, since my tired ass will be just alert enough to crawl out and take a shower and change my clothes.

TOM: You know my situation, of course. I came here with a bare-bones assortment of clothing, so I'm ready. (Pauses, rubs his chin thoughtfully, sarcastic:) Sooo, this joint serves breakfast in bed, eh? I think I'll go that route, too.

JANE: (Nods:) Same here, on both counts. My stuff's all packed as well, Darren, save for my easel, which I'll get when Quinn gets her painting tomorrow of you guys tomorrow. I think she said something about having it packed in that bubble wrap, or something. (Smirks:) Speaking of which, what are you gonna do with your's, Daria?

DARIA: (Pauses in mock-thought, looks up for an instant, then back at Jane:) Hmm, I dunno, maybe shove it down your throat--? (The others chuckle. Daria becomes more serious, very low tone, looks off, red-faced:) Um, maybe I'll get some some of that bubble-packing as well so I can take mine home, too--? (Everyone stares at her, surprised. Daria frowns:) Shut the hell up, all of you.

DARREN: (Laughing with the others:) Relax, sis, we won't give you a hard time, I promise--

JANE: (Wickedly grins at Daria:) --You may have promised, "Darry", but I didn't--

DARIA: (Mild scowl:) --I might not promise myself to spare you from vanishing before you wake up tomorrow, Lane, remember that. (Jane chuckles, puts her hands up to "surrender", to the other's amusement)

DARREN: I guess we won't be able to take that final jog before you leave, right, Jane--?

JANE: (Disappointed expression:) Nah, I guess not, Darren. Sorry. (Goes over, hugs him)

DARREN: Ah, it's no problem. I'd probably be too tired myself to go, anyway. (Smirks:) Something tells me that Elenor and Claude will be pretty busy serving breakfast in bed tomorrow morning, save for Fiona, who's attending Mystik Spiral's little party tonight. (Everyone looks mildly surprised) She was off for tomorrow, anyway.

JANE: (Grins lustily:) Oooh-la-la! Looks as if there's gonna be some hanky-panky into the morning...

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Get that mind out of the gutter, Lane.

JANE: (Deadpan:) Dream on, Morgendorffer.

TOM: Won't the staff be pretty tired themselves tomorrow?

DARREN: Don't worry, we have tons of bedrooms here. The servants sometime will stay overnight if they work very late, if you'll remember. Henri will be pretty tired, too, so he's staying, like the others, and he'll be able to cook that delicious breakfast for us tomorrow morning.

DARIA: Good enough, good night. (Goes up the grand stairs with the others)

Darren went into his room just as Daria and Jane were going into theirs. Jane paused for a moment, then turned to Daria, who noticed her.

JANE: (Very low voice:) Uh, Daria--? I was just thinking about, you know, our "bet"--?

DARIA: (Ditto with the voice, sighs:) Yeah, me too. (Pauses:) Call it off?

JANE: (Nods, sad smile:) Yeah. (Both go into their rooms quietly, shut doors)


(The time is about two hours later, the scene in a mostly-darkened side hallway)

A silhouetted figure was coming out of the mansion to slip into the huge garage that was connected to it, when it stopped, eyeing a giggling Fiona, now in a short, skintight black leather dress, and Jesse Moreno (who had "won" the right to be with her in a 'rock, paper, sissors' contest with Max and Nick) apparently making out near a door to the garage, which was where the figure wanted to go. The silhouette sighed for an instant, then forged ahead.

Fiona happened to see the silhouette out of the corner of her eye, and was about to scream, when the silhouette made a very loud "SHHH" sound. Jesse eyed Fiona strangely for a moment, then at the silhouette, which he just noticed.

A smirking Millie stepped out of the dark, holding two suitcases. Fiona, wide-eyed, immediately released Jesse, standing like a rigid soldier that's about to salute. After a moment of confusion, Jesse did the same, not knowing what else to do.

JESSE: Whoa, uh, we uh--

FIONA: M-Mistress Millie! I--I--I can explain--!

MILLIE: (Chuckles:) At ease, Jesse, you too, Fiona, you're off-duty anyway, right? (Fiona relaxes with Jesse) It's none of my business who you see in your off-time--(eyes her over, coy expression:) what an "interesting" dress you're wearing there, dear...

FIONA: (Red-faced:) It's um, a little something I purchased from Reynaldo's a few months ago, ma'am. No one knows that I have it. (Becomes alarmed:) W-Would you please not--

MILLIE: (Grins:) --Not tell anyone? Don't worry, Fiona, I'm not going to say anything--(adds quietly:) especially since I won't be here for awhile, anyway.

FIONA: (Finally notices Millie's suitcases, wide-eyed:) Y-You're leaving, Mistress Millie? B-But why?

JESSE: (Just to converse:) Uh, yeah, why?

MILLIE: (Sighs:) It should be fairly obvious, Fiona, Jesse. I can't stay here for the time being, I'm too wound up over what happened with Edward, and I need to go somewhere private for awhile. (Pauses:) I don't know when I'll be back.

FIONA: B-But what about Master Darren? He'll be so heartbroken!

MILLIE: (Long pause:) Darren has his--our family there for him, along with Jane. He'll be fine. (Adds quietly, looks off:) The same for Jim. I left them both notes as to why I had to go. (Quickly recovers, scowls:) You two haven't seen me, do you understand? I'll make sure any of the outside security that meets me as I leave gets the same message.

FIONA: B-But--

MILLIE: (More forceful:) --Fiona, please do what I ask, do you understand?

FIONA: (Slumps, sighs:) Yes, ma'am.

MILLIE: (Satisfied look:) Good. Jesse?

JESSE: Huh? Oh, okay, sure. (Pauses:) Do you want me to help you with your suitcases, and stuff?

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Thank you, I'd like that, Jesse. (Jesse takes the suitcases) Please take them to the Navigator.

Jesse followed her command as Millie pushed the key button she had, activating the SUV's unlocking mechanism for all the doors. He wordlessly put her suitcases in the rear, shutting the door. Millie came over with Fiona and opened the driver side door.

MILLIE: (Smiles:) Thank you both for doing this. (Surprises Fiona by hugging her, which Fiona returns:) Take care, Fiona. Listen to Elenor, and take care of my nephew for me, will you?

FIONA: (Trying not to cry, releases her:) I--I will, Mistress Millie. Please take care of yourself, alright?

MILLIE: (Gets in while not trying to cry herself, shuts door:) I promise. You do the same, Jesse.

JESSE: Okay. Take care of yourself, too. (Millie activates her hand-held garage door opener, a standard with each Appleton vehicle. The door directly in front of the Navigator opens up. Millie starts the SUV, drives out slowly. The garage door shuts back down after she clears it. Fiona begins to cry into Jesse's shoulder. Jesse also looks sad, holds Fiona gently)


(The scene is at the mansion, several hours later. The sun has risen)

Claude, carrying Darren's tray of breakfast, knocked on his door.

CLAUDE: Master Darren, rise and shine, sir! I have your food, and--(looks down, sees a letter with "Darren" written on it:) what's this? (Carefully bends down while balancing the tray, picks it up, narrows eyes:) It appears to be Mistress Millie's handwriting...?

DARREN: (From inside, muffled:) Come in, Claude! (Claude opens the door, enters to a smiling Darren, who's coming out of his bathroom in a robe, drying his hair with a towel:) Good morning! (Pauses, sees letter Claude's holding:) What do you have there?

CLAUDE: (Comes over with a worried look, puts the tray on Darren's desk, gives him the letter, pale look:) I-I believe Mistress Millie wrote this, sir. I just found it outside the door.

Darren stared at Claude with a slight frown, puzzled, then paled in realization as well. He immediately tore open the letter, unfolding it to read:


I'm truly sorry to be doing this to you, especially with our family leaving you this morning, but I couldn't sleep after what happened to me last night. I need time to think about my life, and where I'm going to go from here. Please do not try to find me, nephew, I'm begging you, and please discourage your uncle from doing so as well. I've left him a note under his door as well, apologizing for hitting him. I guess I was seeing too much red at the time, God help me, I hope he forgives me. He thought he was doing the right thing, and I know that he'd never really hurt me deliberately. I clearly was in some serious denial. Edward certainly did a job on me, didn't he? I was such an idiot.

Please don't reprimand or fire any of the security or staff that might've spotted me leaving on the off-chance, also. I ordered them not to say anything.

I don't know where I'm going, yet, or how long I'll be from the mansion. I've taken the Navigator and have left it at LaGuardia International in a secure parking lot nearby. You can call and get it retrieved. I'll call you soon. Please say goodbye to our family for me, and apologize to them as well.

All My Love,


Darren slowly looked up from the letter, an anguished look on his face. He wordlessly gave it to Claude to read.

DARREN: (Shakes head slowly, whispers:) Oh, aunt Millie...


(Scene shifts to the McKinna home, an hour later)

Krystal, fully dressed, gleefully came down the stairs, going into their dining room. A lightly-bandaged Rory was sitting at the table eating breakfast. Krystal sat down as the butler began to serve her.

KRYSTAL: Gooood morning, Rory!

RORY: (Glances at her, slight smirk:) 'Morning, sis. (Continues to dine) You're certainly in a chipper mood.

KRYSTAL: And why shouldn't I be, brother? Jane, Daria, and their brood's leaving this morning! (Pauses as the butler leaves them for a moment, slightly meanacing low tone:) What'd you tell Robert or the other servants about your "injuries"?

RORY: (Stares at her stoically:) I told them that I fell down and hurt myself at Darren's party last night, satisfied?

KRYSTAL: (Begins to eat her French toast:) Oh yes, that'll do. (Pauses:) Who was that on the phone last night? I heard it ringing while I was starting the shower.

RORY: (Stiffens, but quicky recovers:) Oh? That? (Pauses, grins:) Just a friend I haven't seen in a while. You might say we "caught up" on some old memories.

KRYSTAL: (Casually drinks some orange juice:) Oh, that's nice. You need all the friends you can get...(Rory simply smirks at her again, says nothing while eating)


(Scene is in front of the mansion, another hour later)

Following a very sober breakfast, Darren had released a terse reply "That justice was done" to the media via Leonard Potter about what happened last night, then adding that he'd say nothing more on the matter, based on his lawyer's advice.

Krystal had fought against every instinct in trying to comfort Darren as he told her, Curtis, Laflita, and Juanita about the events of last night, preferring to keep a "safe" distance as Jane and the others comforted him, privately seething, but distracting herself with Trent and her plans for him.

Elenor, Claude, another butler and maid, and Fiona (who wanted to help out even though it was her day off), had finished packing the two limos (this time) as Darren watched wordlessly with his concerned family and Jane, along with Jim, Curtis, his sisters, and Krystal, who was now standing beside a very-tired looking Trent. (The rest of Mystik Spiral was too tired to attend)

HELEN: (Turns to Darren:) Are you sure you don't want us to stay another day, son? I'm sure Eric wouldn't mind--

JAKE: (Swings fist:) Yeah! We can sneak in another golf game, or two, Big Guy! (Helen rolls her eyes)

DARREN: (Gentle, yet curt tone:) --No, Helen, Jake, it won't be necessary, really. There's no need to worry about me. Aunt Millie wanted space, and I think we should give it to her, as much as she wants. As for you all, you've got to go back to Lawndale.

DARIA: (Daedpan, "encouraging":) Unless you want to hold us hostage, or something, we'd be in no hurry.

QUINN: Yeah, bro! I wouldn't mind staying here another day! (Turns to Stacy and Tiffany:) Right, guys?

STACY & TIFFANY: Yeah! My mom wouldn't mind! Yeah...

DARREN: (Chuckles:) They'll be plenty of time for that, later. I'll be fine.

JANE: (Comes up to Darren, quieter tone, smiles:) If you ever need to call, I'll be hangin' around down in Lawndale.

DARREN: (Smiles:) Yeah, I know. See you in two weeks.

Darren kissed Jane deeply, holding her close. Quinn rolled her eyes briefly, but said nothing, while Stacy smiled dreamily at the scene (privately thinking about what happened with Rory last night), whereas Tiffany merely smiled in her stupor wordlessly. Helen and Jake turned red-faced while appearing uncomfortable, while Daria and Tom smirked with Curtis. Jim simply smiled quietly, his mind drifting towards Millie. Krystal kept her stoic expression, even suddenly and subtly holding Trent's hand as she watched. Trent's eyebrows rose slightly at this, which served as a simulant, causing him to fully awake.

JANE: (Breathless as Darren finishes kissing after a minute:) Wow! And I was gonna give you a romantic send-off!

DARREN: (Grins:) Just returning the favor from when you first came here. (Jane caresses his face once more, releases him)

QUINN: (Goes over to her brother, smiles:) See you soon, Darren. (Hugs him, releases)

DARREN: (Smiles:) I'll be here, sis.

HELEN: (Trying not to look sad:) Goodbye, son. (Hugs him, releases)

DARREN: (Smiles:) Helen. Don't worry, I'll call you all.

JAKE: (Grabs his son in his typical iron grip, grins:) Take it easy, Darren! We'll be seein' some more games, right?!

DARREN: (Straining to speak:) Of--course--Jake! (Jake releases him) In fact, I have seasonal Giants tickets, with a luxury box on the 50-yard line. Come on up during a weekend, and I'll take you to a game.

JAKE: (Excited:) OH, YEAH! You betcha, Big Guy!

Daria sighed, and went up to Darren. She stiffly hugged him.

DARIA: Goodbye, Darren. I'll probably be up here a week after Jane does, or something--(low voice:) if Quinn doesn't come the same week that is.

DARREN: (Low chuckle, same voice:) Then I'll make sure that she does, huh? (Daria mock-scowls as she releases him. He continues in the low tone:) You have that picture, right?

DARIA: (Keeping her low tone, slight smirk:) Of course. Right here in my pocket, (pauses, hesitates:) and um, those books you gave me.

DARREN: Good. If you want anymore, especially if the library down in Lawndale doesn't have them, don't hesitate to call, okay?

DARIA: (Red-faced, Mona Lisa smile:) Uh, sure. Take care of yourself. (Goes back to the second limo, stands beside Jane, while Darren says goodbye to Tom)

JANE: (Leans over, grins, in a low tone:) Sure took a long time talking to him, didn't you? Didn't want to leave, huh?

DARIA: (Ditto with the tone, leans back:) Sorry. We were working out the last-minute details over how Darren was gonna help me dump your body.

JANE: (Chuckling:) Sorry I asked. (Glances at Krystal and Trent, notices the hand-holding, scowls:) The hell--? (Daria follows her stare, cocks an eyebrow) I think I'm gonna--

DARIA: --Make a scene? (Jane cuts her eyes over) Maybe Krystal's counting on that, you know. You can speak to him about her when he gets back.

JANE: (Slow burn:) Yeah, sure, right. (Looks off, then back at the two. Trent is now talking to Krystal, smiling) Crap.

After the final goodbyes, the two limos left the mansion, albeit with far fewer reporters in the front from a week earlier. In the first limo, Helen and Jake sat with Quinn and the Fashion Club, while in the second limo was Daria, Tom, and Jane, who took one last glance out of the rear window at Trent and Krystal.

After watching the limos depart for Maness airport, Jim turned to Darren, who was standing beside Curtis, Krystal, and Trent. The Watley sisters had gone inside to take a swim in the pool.

JIM: I should go after Millie, Darren.

DARREN: Uncle Jim, I don't think it's a good idea, you heard how adamant she was. You might push her further away.

KRYSTAL: (Gently interrupts:) Darren's right, Jim. If you want a chance with her, you have to let her dictate the terms, (smiles:) isn't that right, Curtis, Trent?

CURTIS: (Nods:) In the affirmitive, Jim.

TRENT: (Seemingly distracted by Krystal's smile:) Huh? Oh, uh, yeah, right. She'll come around, Jim.

JIM: (Sighs, mumbles:) Yeah, well...(pauses:) Darren, I think I'll be going, I have to be in the office next week.

DARREN: Sure, Uncle Jim. (Pauses, cocks an eyebrow:) Just please remember not to try and look for her on your way there, okay?

JIM: (Curt:) I promise, alright? (Pauses:) Well, for a week, at least, then all bets are off.

DARREN: (After a moment:) Fair enough. Take it easy, Uncle. (Shakes Jim's hand)

JIM: Darren. Curtis, Krystal, Trent. (Goes inside the mansion)

CURTIS: (Changes subject:) Hey, Trent, how long are you guys staying, anyway?

TRENT: 'Till tomorrow morning. We've got a gig in a town called Kelboro in New Jersey on Monday night, that's where we'll meet our managers. (Shrugs:) Two more weeks, and we'll be back in Lawndale.

KRYSTAL: (Smirks:) Then that'll give us at least through today to get better acquainted, hm...? (Darren cocks a slight eyebrow)

TRENT: (Slight smile:) Yeah, I'd like that. You wanna do something here?

KRYSTAL: (Grins:) How about a horse ride around the mansion's grounds?

TRENT: (Long pause:) Hmmmm. I haven't ridden a horse since I was little, but since I sat on one, wouldn't it kinda like a bike, so I shouldn't forget?

KRYSTAL: (Chuckles:) Exactly! And what you don't remember, I'll help fill in the gaps! (Hooks arm with his:) C'mon. See you guys later. (Leaves with Trent)

Darren and Curtis watched the two head towards the stables. In the mansion, Elenor narrowed her eyes and watched as well through a window for the moment, then left.

DARREN: Am I crazy, or is Krystal becoming interested in Trent?

CURTIS: Looks like it--(adds, smirks, turns to him:) and yeah, you're crazy, psychologist or not. (Darren mock-glares, chuckles)

DARREN: Hm. I wonder if Jane knows about this?

CURTIS: (Quick shrug:) Don't take this the wrong way, but why should it should be any of Jane's business? Besides, Krystal lives up here, and Trent lives--down--there...(stops, realizes what he's saying as Darren smirks:) okay, it's similar to you and Jane. I reinterate: Why should it be any of her business?

DARREN: I don't know, but I'd guess she should know if it is. Trent is her brother. (Pauses:) Curtis, uh, I've got to take care of something personal, okay? (Curtis cocks an eyebrow) I'll be back in awhile, you can have the run of the mansion, if you want.

CURTIS: (Grins:) You do realize who you're talking to, right?

DARREN: Heh. Funny. Just promise me that you won't burn the place down, okay? (Curtis chuckles, goes inside with Darren)


(Scene changes to the Morgendorffer's, two hours later)

Two cabs pulled up to the curb, and the Morgendorffer clan immediately got out, unpacking their belongings. At least the arrival at the airport was very uneventful, unlike when they had left (much to Quinn's chagrin, though Joey, Jeffrey, and Jamie were there to greet her with a huge bouquet of flowers each, which she promptly threw out during the cab ride home). There were no reporters there. Daria suspected that either they were becoming old news, or had slipped into town secretly. Either way, Daria felt relieved that they all had slipped in under the radar. To her, they had seen more than enough "action" over the week.

Several notes littered the front door, mostly from the Three J's about when Quinn would return, Kevin about Darren's "invisibility formula" and if there was a chance that he had forgotten about stashing some more of it someplace, and from Ms. Li, about when Darren would next arrive, no doubt to inquire about his possible financial contribution to Lawndale High. A few others were from Andrew Landon, Steve Taylor, and Calvin Hopkins, over when to meet Jake about the land project--and two from Helen's law firm. Some other notes had even fallen on the walk in front of the door. Helen rolled her eyes, and sighed loudly.

QUINN: (Makes a face:) Ew! Look at all of the paper!

DARIA: (Deadpan:) Ah, welcome back to the inane stupidity that is Lawndale. (Pauses:) How I have missed you, stupidity.

HELEN: I can't believe all of this! Look at these notes! Some of them are even faded from being rained on! (Pauses, snatches the two notes from Eric's firm, puts both in her pocket)

JAKE: (Scowls:) Yeah! Haven't these people ever heard of a damn answering machine?! (Everyone stares at him. After a moment, it dawns on Jake:) Oh, uh, yeah...

The family came into the living room, with Daria and Quinn promptly depositing their belongings on the floor in front of the full sofa and half-sofa. Quinn looked around with a sad expression while Helen immediately went upstairs to retrieve Jake's missing batteries, and Jake took his belongings upstairs.

QUINN: (Sighs:) Home again, home again, juggity-jug.

DARIA: That's--(pauses:) never mind.

QUINN: (Looks over at her painted picture of her and Darren, quiet tone:) I'm already missing living up there, Daria.

DARIA: (Caught off-guard by Quinn's genuine-sounding tone:) Um, yeah, I guess I am, too. But we'll be going up there again, soon, you know.

QUINN: Yeah, I know. (Brightens, gasps:) I'd better call Sandi, and see how she's doing! (Leaves, runs upstairs, shouts:) Muh-om! Do you have my cell phone batteries, yet?!

DARIA: (Watches her go up:) That didn't take long. She'll be back on the saddle in no time, riding all of Lawndale. (Pauses, looks around for an instant, reaches into her pocket, pulls out the picture of her being carried by Darren, slightly smiles, thought v.o.: See you again soon, bro.) (Puts picture back in pocket, begins taking her belongings to her room)


Epilog Number One...

(Scene is in the county jail near Maness, earlier, about the same time as when the Morgendorffers were headed back home in the air)

Darren walked in the holding cell area with a deputy. Edward White was lying on a cot in the mostly-empty area, looking at the ceiling, apparently in deep thought. He cut his eyes over to Darren and the deputy, suddenly wide-eyed. Edward immediately rose up, coming over to the bars.

DEPUTY: (Hard tone:) You've got a visitor, White. I'm sure you know who he is. (Leaves)

EDWARD: (Concerned:) Darren? What are you doing here?

DARREN: (Very dark scowl and no-nonsense tone:) That's "Mr. Appleton" to you, "Mr. White", for the rest of your life. (Edward draws back slightly) Now, you're going to listen to me very carefully, because I'm not going to repeat myself. My aunt Millie suddenly left in the middle of the night, clearly upset over what you did to her and my family. (Edward looks shocked) I don't know where she could've went, and I wanted to know if you knew where she might be.

EDWARD: (Pauses, at a loss:) I--I don't know where she could've gone, Da--(pauses to Darren's warning scowl:) er, Mr. Appleton. I--I hope that she's alright--

Darren suddenly grabbed Edward's collar and pulled him, practically slamming his face against the bars, his nose almost touching Edward's. Edward cut his eyes over at the entrance door where the deputy was. The deputy stared, smirked, then slowly turned away.

DARREN: (Speaking in a low, feral, yet mostly-controlled tone, through clenched teeth:) As you can see, he hasn't "seen" anything. Oh, and if you're wondering, no, I didn't pay him off, or anything like that. He's just pissed off like everyone else around here about what you did to my aunt, like I am. Now to business: If anything, and do mean anything bad happens to my aunt while she's out wherever she is, then you, my friend, had better say your prayers, because you'll be dealing with me. Oh, and another thing: When you see Mr. Bowman after his lawyers come and bail your sorry ass out, and he gets back from wherever it is in South America, tell him that I'm coming for him. I'm going to make him sorry that he ever got into the newspaper business. You make it a point to tell him that, do you hear? (Edward pauses, shakes head frantically) Good. Now, when my birth mother and her fellow plaintiffs begin their lawsuit against Bowman, you'd better cooperate with them fully, or you'll have to deal with me again. If I were you, I'd start looking for another profession either way after you get out of jail. You're through as a "reporter". (Pushes him back into the cell so hard, that Edward falls unto the floor)

Darren turned around and began to walk out, when Edward suddenly rose off the floor. He spoke in a desperate tone of voice.

EDWARD: Da--Mr. Appleton, wait! (Darren stops, turns slowly to Edward, his dark scowl returning) I--I loved your aunt, I really did! I never meant to hurt her!

DARREN: (Stares at him as if he's lost his mind:) You mean, you never meant to get caught, don't you, Mr. White? Because you sure as hell succeeded in hurting her! (Edward tries to form words to respond, but can't, looks down. Darren wordlessly turns away, leaves the holding cell area with the deputy)


Epilog Number Two...

(Scene is somewhere in South America, in a very mountainous area, the same time the Morgendorffers arrived home. There is a large, one-story brick and mortar house located on a mostly-snowy, narrow plateau. In the front, there is a white SUV parked beside a grey Volkswagen minivan. There are legs protruding from under the SUV. After a moment, the figure comes out from under the SUV, goes around the rear. From the inside, there are two voices going at it, one very loudly and bitterly, the other very calmly, behind the door)

VOICE #1: (Both from behind the front door:) --Just received a call from my lawyers by my answering machine that Edward White's been arrested for invasion of privacy, and that's just for starters! Dammit, he was my best reporter! I'm in a hell of lot of trouble! Now, I've got to bail him out!

VOICE #2: ("Familiar", if you haven't guessed it already:) Calm down, Bowman. He's not worth it. In fact, maybe you should let him rot in there. (More concerned tone:) Right now, I'm more worried about what happened to my sister, and where she went...

BOWMAN: Are you crazy?! That'll make White even more prone to testify against me because he'd think that I've abandoned him, and he'd have nothing to lose! Besides, from what my lawyers told me, this "Helen Morgendorffer" and those psychologists have a pretty good case, and that your nephew's probably going to be out for my head! I've been sued before with cases like this, but this particular case is different--

VOICE #2: (Chuckles:) --Oh, you worry too much, Bowman. What could my "nephew" do? You could say that your man White was only doing his job as a reporter. He didn't make up anything when the world heard and saw the words from that conversation in the media room that night. (Snorts:) "Invasion of privacy", give me a break.

BOWMAN: (Pauses:) You know, you don't have anything to worry about, do you, William?! I'm the one who's got his ass on the line, here! The rest of the world thinks you're dead! (Pauses:) If it hadn't been for some old fart that found your barely-breathing, sorry ass down the shore ten miles from where that storm hit the next day, you'd be dead, particularly after you got him to call me to help you out! I spent a hell of a lot to help smuggle you out of the United States to be here and set you up while I'm on a "private" vacation, the same for helping you get that money out of the Swiss bank accounts, so how about you showing me a little bit more respect, you got that?!

From behind the door, there was a long pause, then William spoke in a quiet, cold tone.

WILLIAM: My apologies, James, you're quite right. I do owe you so much, don't I? I should thank my lucky stars that I'm alive, thanks to that old man and you.

BOWMAN: Damn straight you do! (Pause:) What happened to that old man, by the way? Aren't you afraid he might crack on you and me to the police?

WILLIAM: Oh, I "rewarded" him richly for pulling me out. He won't talk.

BOWMAN: (Snorts:) You hope.

WILLIAM: (Pause:) I know.

BOWMAN: (After a long moment:) Alriiight. (Pause:) Look, I've been thinking about ending our partnership--

WILLIAM: (Cuts in:) --What a coincidence, so have I, as a matter of fact--

BOWMAN: (Sneers:) --Funny. William, I'm serious. You've gotten your money, and while it was fun getting a huge scoop on your nephew's birth family through Edward getting to know your sister, and it made the circulation on my papers go through the freaking roof, it's high time we end this now. Besides, having the police crack down on me might make them be aware that you're still alive, right? You can get back at your nephew by your own methods from now on.

WILLIAM: (Pauses:) Fine. I understand. Thanks for helping me through a trying time, James. I'd shake your hand, but as you can see, I'm at a bit of a "disadvantage" for the moment.

BOWMAN: (Chuckles:) Yeah, that's obvious. Well, so long. Don't write. (The front door opens. A suave-looking man wearing sunglasses and winter clothing native to South America exits, goes to the white SUV, gets in, starts it up, drives off, leaving a long, black line from underneath. William is not seen as of yet, for the room is barely lit)

WILLIAM: (Voice from the darkness:) Is it done?

VOICE: (Accented, French, also from the darkness:) It is done, sir. I made sure to cut his brake lines barely, so the fluid could leak out slowly, and I emptied the steering wheel reservoir just enough for him to control it for a short while, and to jam his doors so he couldn't try to leap out.

WILLIAM: (Chuckles:) Excellent. Be sure to cover up the streak enough so the locals can't trace it back here. A snowstorm's supposed to hit here tomorrow morning, but it's best not to take any chances. (Pauses:) Oh, James, I really was serious about ending our partnership. You've become too much of a liability to me, too much of a whiner...


The SUV drove for about a mile on the snowy, mountainous road, then began to swerve severely, suddenly going through a guardrail, plummeting into a gorge, hitting front-first into the abyss. A moment later, an explosion occurred, with the result a distant rising smoke vapor that was seen from the house.


A smirking William Appleton rolled out of the darkness in a wheelchair, followed by two muscular, olive-colored men, one which pushing the wheelchair. William's body was wrapped completely in a bandaged cast, like a mummy, save for his head. He appeared to be growing a beard.

WILLIAM: That takes cake of Bowman.

MAN PUSHING WHEELCHAIR: (Accented Spanish voice:) Boss, can you really trust this "Rory McKinna" guy to keep tabs for you on what's going on for you?

WILLIAM: Of course I can, "Miguel". The boy practically worships me. (Pauses:) And I see him as something of a son, anyway. I've been keeping a close eye on him since we parted ways, even helping him out on his little drug-dealing "forays", (pauses:) something I used against him as a thinly-veiled blackmail threat if he didn't help me, though I honestly figured that he would, anyway. Had he not been so stupid as to do what he did to this "Dora" girl, he'd be here beside me, now. (Sighs:) Too bad I had to cut him loose, then.

MAN BESIDE THEM: (Accented, French:) What do we do now, Boss?

WILLIAM: Why, we bide our time and relax while I heal, "Louis". We have $50 million to spend any way we please, and women to enjoy it with after I do. Besides, I can find out where my sister is, and plan to deal with my "nephew" and his loving family. (Sinster grin:) I'm in no hurry to deal with any of them, no hurry at all...

The End


Whew! It's finally over--for now, that is. First, an apology. Waaaay back at the beginning, I wrote that this fic would come nowhere near the length of "Revelations". I was right. It was much longer. ;D

Seriously, though, I didn't plan for the fic to go this long, but so many ideas kept popping up in my head, and I couldn't stop! I saw the end from the beginning, but not the middle. My bad.

I'm also sorry for taking so blasted long on this--over two years! I could use several exc--uh, reasons for the time factor, such as writer's block, my depression over the tragic events of September 11th and what was really important, and plain laziness, but other than the September 11th one, I won't. I'm just grateful some of you decided to stick around for the ending.

Anyway, I want to sincerely thank all of the 'Daria' fanfic writers who allowed me to use some of their fics and characters in my story via their permission, like Jon Kilner, Mike Quinn, and Kara Wild (and anyone else I'd forgotten--heh, I'm sure I gave you credit during the story ;D ). It certainly helped my story along, and I'm forever grateful. Kara, thank you for your help very early in this fic. Even though you had Real Life to deal with and had to beg off eventually, you're still an inspiration.

Ah, the cameos. Yes, there were plenty of them, particularly the ones with James Bowman (better known as the [in]famous 'Daria' fanfiction writer critic "Cincgreen") and Thomas Mikkelson. I used Bowman's name simply because he's very controversial (though brutally honest and amusing to me in his writings), and it seemed to be a hilariously perfect fit to have somebody "controversial" dealing with William Appleton. Thomas Mikkelson, even though he eventually became "bored" with my fic, was someone who's fics I still liked. I harbor no ill will, Thomas, the same for you, Cincgreen. I used the names for fun, and there was nothing bad that I meant to imply against either of you. Seriously. I hope you were amused. As for the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed your "appearances", your "checks" are in the mail. ;D It's all merely "funfic", remember that.

The length of this fic was quite evident (duh!), and it got me to thinking about adding some short stories to my DF Continuum, sort of as a gap-filling element, a continuum-within-a-continuum, you might say. The purpose of these short stories would be to help cut down on the length of the next DF Continuum fic, which will be titled "Return Engagement", set two months after "Visitation", where Darren comes back to Lawndale during 'Season Five' (changed somewhat obviously from the "regular" Season Five), with what Daria described as a "sack of money" for Lawndale High School. This fic, with one exception, would be strictly comical, and hopefully more "canon".

Between now and then, and probably afterwards, I wanted to squeeze in this continuum-within-a-continuum, as a "gap" between the next few DF Continuum stories (yes, if things go right, they'll be more). I hereby announce the "Sidebar" continuum! Very short (for me) stories that would simply serve the purpose of filling the "gap" between my "major" fics. Look for one soon--I hope.

Please send comments (and flames) to SGall23241@aol.com. Thank you.

"Visitation"-first released September 2000, finished December 2002.