Forest Primeval Part 2
Gentle reader, this is a chapter in a series. It will make much
more sense if you read what has gone before, starting with "My
Afternoon at Tom's". If you haven't the time or the inclination
to read the whole series, you'll find Bird on the Wire,
Quinntessence Parts 1 and 2, Tie Died, My Darling, and
Forest Primeval worthwhile background to the events that
"Mrs. Morgendorffer, Mr. Lane, thank you for coming.
Please take a seat," said Angela Li as she ushered the unlikely pair
of Helen Morgendorffer and Trent Lane into her office, closing
the door behind her.
"Are we in trouble?" Trent asked.
"No, Mr. Lane, you're not in trouble," Ms. Li sighed. "In
the absence of your parents you're, unfortunately, the senior
available adult member of your household, which is why I've asked you
"Oh," Trent said, sitting in an uncomfortably upholstered visitor's
chair facing the principal's desk, and feeling a distinct sense of deja
vu. "I thought it might be something to do
with that library book."
"Ms Li, can we get to the
point, please?" Helen interjected. "I have a very important deposition
that I should be
working on. I hope this is important."
Morgendorffer, of course. Mrs. Morgendorrfer, Mr. Lane, this is a
rather delicate matter. I have some news that may come as something
of a shock to you. More importantly, it is something that may reflect
badly on Laaaaawndale High."
"Well, we wouldn't want
that, would we?" Helen muttered, an edge to her voice.
we wouldn't, Mrs. Morgendorffer, particularly since the school is in
the running this year for the State High School Principals'
Assocation's Excellence in High School
"It must have fallen down behind
Ms. Li glanced at Trent. "Mr. Lane?"
"I only found it last weekend when I was looking for a
"Yes, yes, I'm sure you'll return it in good
time," Ms. Li said, also feeling an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.
"Ms. Li--please..." Helen said, looking at her watch.
course. On Saturday afternoon I happened to glance out my window when
I saw your daughter, Mrs. Morgendorffer, and your sister, Mr. Lane,
sitting on the swings in the park opposite."
that the park on Elm Street or the park on Walnut?" Trent
"Walnut, Mr. Lane. Why?"
thought you lived on Elm Street."
"Elm Street backs
onto Walnut, Mr. Lane."
"So it does," observed
Trent.. "That's odd."
"What's odd, Mr.
"Janey usually goes down Elm Street when she
goes running. She said that she doesn't like going down Walnut
because the sidewalk's cracked and she's afraid of tripping. I mean
Helen stifled a
"Your sister and Ms. Morgendorffer weren't running, Mr. Lane. If they
I wouldn't have observed what I did and this meeting wouldn't have
"Perhaps you'll tell us why
this meeting is necessary, then, Ms. Li. As far as I'm aware
sitting on swings in a park isn't against the law or the school
rules," Helen interjected, adding "yet" under her
"Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Morgendorffer. After a brief
time, Mr. Lane's sister stood up and approached your daughter, Mrs.
"Yes, Ms. Li?"
"I find this a little difficult. She
kissed her, Mrs Morgendorffer."
exclaimed, sitting forward with a surprised expression on his face.
"Weird, Mr. Lane?"
Trent said. "You've been calling me Mr. Lane. I just realised. I
mean...Mr. Lane is my father!"
The principal paused, unsure how to respond, as Helen stifled another
Lane...Trent...did you hear what I said?"
"Oh. About Janey kissing Quinn? Sure. What's the problem? I mean
"Mr. Lane. I'm not sure you appreciate
the situation. Your sister and Ms Morgendorffer are both
"Oh? I thought you knew that," said Trent, looking surprised.
"I do know that, Mr. Lane. That's precisely my point!"
cool. I mean it's not like when Daria kissed Tom or anything. It's
okay with Daria. In fact I think Daria actually had something to do
Helen glanced across at Trent, then
turned back to Ms. Li, starting to enjoy herself despite the waiting
The principal took off her glasses and rubbed her
eyes. "Mr. Lane, you don't seem to appreciate the seriousness
of the situation."
"No, it's serious
"Good," said Ms. Li with relief on her face. "I'm glad you
"Oh, yeah! Janey's had boyfriends before, but I've never seen
her as serious as this."
"Mr. Lane," Ms. Li began, raising her voice in exasperation, "I'm
trying to tell you that your sister, not to mention Ms. Morgendorffer,
has all the outward signs of being a lesbian."
She half-breathed the last word.
Trent paused again, looking
puzzled. "Why would she kiss Quinn if she wasn't a lesbian? That
wouldn't make any sense."
Ms. Li started to look angry.
"Mr. Lane! Do I have to remind you there are people who consider
this kind of thing to be a very significant matter of morality? If it
were to get into the press...just think of the scandal..."
“Maybe,” Trent continued, oblivious, "if she was
just very happy or something. Girls do that, but I wouldn't kiss
Jesse no matter how happy I was."
“Mr. Lane!” Ms. Li exclaimed.
"Wait a minute," said Trent. "You said this was
"Yes. Saturday. That is
"So Janey and Quinn kissed each other on
"What's that got
to do with school?"
In exasperation Ms. Li turned to
Helen. "Mrs. Morgendorffer--surely you must have
something to say about this situation?"
Helen replied, "I have. Exactly what has this got to do with
Or with Lawndale High?"
"So you're...aware of
this...situation between your daughter and Ms. Lane?"
and to be quite honest, Ms. Li, I still fail to see what concern it
is of yours."
"Tell me, Ms. Li," Helen asked. "This award; what exactly does
Lawndale High receive if it wins?"
"Yes. How exactly does Lawndale High stand
to benefit? Does it get a cash award, for instance? I'm sure that it
must be substantial for you to be so concerned about what is, after
all, a strictly personal matter between Quinn and Jane."
Yes. Well, the award is actually given to the administrator, but the
prestige for Lawndale High would be
significant. And you can't put a price on that."
see," said Helen acerbically. "Your concern is that the press
might run a story on lesbian immorality at Lawndale High, and that
this could jeopordise your chances--I mean, Lawndale High's
chances--of gaining an award for the quality of your administration."
Morgendorffer! You're not suggesting that I had anything except the
interests of Laaaawndale High at heart?"
wouldn't dare suggest such a thing, Ms. Li. But have you considered
how much damage a story about discrimination, prejudice, and
homophobia at Lawndale High could do? I'd imagine that such a story
could well become a national cause celebre, particularly if,
a student, or students, should bring an anti-discrimination suit
against the school."
An expression of panic crossed
Li's face. "Oh! Of course! That would be intolerable. Um, what
would you suggest, Mrs. Morgendorffer?"
"I would suggest
that Lawndale High keep its nose out of the personal affairs of its
students. Of course you need to have rules about how students behave
in school, and parents have a responsibility to see that their
children abide by reasonable expectations. But any suggestion of
discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation would be...shall
we say...a potentially litigious one. Purely from a hypothetical
viewpoint, you understand."
Principal Li mopped her brow
with a handkerchief. "Of course, Mrs. Morgendorffer. Purely
hypothetical. You can rely on Laaaaawndale High to uphold the very
highest standards of tolerance and equality."
stood. "I'm pleased to hear it. Now if you haven't anything
"Of course. Sorry to have kept you."
Ms. Li stood and ushered Helen and Trent out of her office, mopping
her brow as they left.
As they walked to their respective cars, Helen
turned to Trent and smiled. "You did very well, Trent."
did?" Trent sounded puzzled.
"Certainly. You threw
her completely off her stroke."
will you take the case if they...you know...?"
I take it?" Helen said enthusiastically. "Nothing would
give me more pleasure than to sue the pants off that
self-aggrandising busybody. If she utters one word to either Quinn or
Jane about this, I'll..."
"No, I meant about the
overdue library book."
"Yo, Trent," Jane called from
you get the door? It's probably Daria."
Trent called back, walking from the kitchen to the front door and
opening it. "Hey, Daria. How's it going?"
"Pretty good. You?" Daria glanced down at the empty pizza carton
in Trent's hand.
"Okay I guess." Trent thought for a
moment. "I'm a little worried about a library book, but I think
your mother's got it under control."
asking an obvious question, such as "What the hell are you talking
about?" but instantly realised that it was against her
better judgement. "Jane called. She said she needed a
"She's in her room I think."
Daria walked in and started towards the stairs.
turned back to Trent. "Uh huh?"
"I'd knock if I
"Oh. Is Quinn...?" Daria flicked a
glance towards Jane's room at the top of the stairs.
but I'd still knock. I didn't, but I probably should
Consigning Trent's advice to the same file as the
comment about the library book, Daria walked up the stairs and,
pausing outside Jane's closed door, knocked.
Jane's voice came from inside.
"One and the same."
anybody else with you?"
Daria opened the door and stood, staring, turning a
warm shade of scarlet.
"Close the door, would you?"
Jane said. "I don't particularly care, but Trent's easily
embarrassed and, besides, I think the band's coming over for a
Jane was standing between a full-length
mirror on one side and her easel on the other. In her right hand she
held a charcoal stick. Her left hand was raised and held on top of
her head, and she strained to look in the mirror out of the corner of
her eye, paused for a second, then turned back to the easel, adding a
few lines. "Do you know it's impossible to see your face side-on
in a mirror?"
"Um," Daria answered after a
second or two. "I guess you could use another mirror."
Jane answered, "that could work. Go down to the bathroom would
you? There's a hand mirror in the top left-hand drawer. I would,
Concentrating." Jane carefully added a few lines to what she was
drawing. Daria sighed and walked out of the room, closing the door
behind her. Jane lowered the pencil and breathed out a long sigh,
slumping as she did so. "Round one," she whispered to
As the door opened, Jane immediately straightened up again
and went back to the drawing.
"So what the hell is this
all about, Lane?" Daria asked as she came into the room holding
a green plastic-handled mirror, blushing a little and
studiously avoiding looking straight at Jane.
portfolio. The BFAC application handbook stated at least three figure
studies. I figured this was the best place to start." She put
the pencil down again. "What do you think?"
walked over and stood beside her, staring at the sketch.
"It's...brilliant. Best thing you've done since that bulimia
poster for O'Neill."
"Thanks," said Jane,
"though I'd prefer not to have been reminded about that sordid
little episode. You've always been a sucker for my realistic work. I'm
happy with it myself. But tell me..."
Jane turned, looked back over her shoulder, and asked in a concerned
it make my butt look big?"
to look straight at Jane. Her lip trembled and, despite herself, she
grinned. "Yes, but at least you have cute pores."
"That's one thing I don't need to worry about, then," she
said, thinking round
two, and relaxing a little. "Okay, so let's try
the mirror thing, shall we?" she said, resuming the pose as
Daria held the mirror up in front of her. "Turn it a little...a
little more...up a little...there! Hold it right there!" She
stared at it intensely then turned back to the easel.
concentrated Daria allowed herself a quick visual appraisal, admitting
while she was no expert, Jane had a spectacular body; taut and lean,
where her own was rounder and softer. When Jane moved her breasts
moved with her, while Daria's, though they were about the same size,
lagged and, when she stopped, they kept going a little. Jane turned
back to the mirror just in time to see Daria quickly glance away. She
suppressed a smile and kept working.
Daria broke the silence. "You said you wanted a favour? I assume you
didn't mean holding
the mirror. Or watching you draw yourself naked if it comes to
yes," Jane replied, putting the pencil down and turning to Daria,
thinking two, actually, but let's deal with one at a time.
you remember I said the BFAC application said that I had to submit
three life studies...?"
Daria started backing away, her
eyes wide. "Oh no..."
"Come on, Daria. It's no
"It is for me! It may be alright for you arty types, but I don't
make a habit of
taking my clothes off in public. I don't even take my clothes off to
"I'm hardly public. And what about when you
and young Thomas...?"
"We do it with our clothes
on," Daria deadpanned.
"Oh," Jane smiled. "You were always
such a shy little thing. I remember you blushed the first time you
showed me your boobs. And they were made of silicone and kept in a box
in your locker."
"Yes. I was shy. I still
am. And that's just the way I like it."
"Come on, Daria," Jane pleaded. "I thought you were over all that
"Okay, I admit it, Tom has seen me naked. More than once if
memory serves. But that's not the same as pointing my pussy at your
"Daria, I hate to do this, but you leave me no
alternative. Who was it who convinced me to apply to BFAC?"
"I did," Daria replied, backing up farther. "But I don't
remember saying anything about taking my clothes off. That was
definitely not part of the deal."
"It's in the
application, Daria. Three life studies."
draw yourself three times."
"That doesn't count. And
I only know two people I could even think of asking."
"Eew. Trent's my brother, Daria. That's icky. Besides, I'm
no good at drawing...you know..."
"So I assume that
Quinn's in on this too?"
"Of course. Not that she knows it yet. Daria - please!" Jane begged.
"You have to
do this for me. If
you won't do this for me there's no chance at all. I won't meet the
requirements. I'll end up on the streets, selling my body for crusts of
bread, dying in the gutter at the tender age of eighteen, calling your
name - 'Daria, Daria,' I'll cry...'Why did you let this happen to me?
Daria stopped backing up, and she sighed, giving Jane the hairy eye.
"Damn you, Lane! When did you get so good at blackmail?"
can I say?" Jane said, grinning. "I had the best teacher." Round
glared at her. "No...you know...funny stuff."
is art, not pornography. That comes later, after I've been accepted and
I need to earn money to support myself through college. I promise.
"I'll leave that to you and Quinn,"
Daria muttered. "So when do you want
"No time like the present," Jane said, smiling sheepishly.
Now?" Daria's eyes widened behind her glasses.
"I'll take that as a rhetorical question."
Daria sighed again and looked despondent. She took off her green
jacket and walked over to the bed. "Does the door lock?"
don't know," Jane answered. "I've never tried."
you mind?" Daria said, turning the question into a command.
Jane walked over to the door as Daria followed
her butt with her eyes, thinking no bounce at all. "It
looks as if it probably doesn't lock. If it does, I have no idea how."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Daria sighed.
"I don't know why people say you're dumb," said Jane. "But it's okay;
Trent and the guys'll be down in the basement. You know how they get
when they're rehearsing."
was going to say 'absorbed', but 'comatose' is good." She walked back
to the easel,
picked up a can of fixative and sprayed the sketch, then took it down
and replaced it with a blank sheet of paper.
better be okay, Lane," Daria growled. "I can just see it. 'Hi, Janey,
Daria. We just thought we'd come up and visit with you between songs.
Gee Daria, you're naked.' If anything like that happens I promise I'll
kick those firm little buns of yours so
Now let's see
whether I know Daria as well as I think I do, Jane thought.
of my buns, would you feel more comfortable if I was dressed, or
would you rather I remained au naturelle?"
looked up. "This is weird enough already, thanks." She
reached down onto the bed, retrieved Jane's panties, and handed them
Bingo. Round four, Jane thought, sighing silently with relief,
dressed quickly as Daria sat on the bed unlacing her boots. At least
she won't be able to see any visible outward signs. That could have
know," Daria said, dropping her boots onto the floor, "that
when the opportunity arises my revenge will be swift and
"I'd factored that in," Jane
responded, trying hard to sound normal while her heart raced, and
handing Daria a bar of peanut brittle.
Daria took the peanut
brittle and stood, an expression of resigned reluctance on her face.
She took off her t-shirt, laying it carefully, Jane noticed
through the adrenaline haze, and with studied slowness, on the bed.
Facing away from Jane now, she unhooked the clasp on the side of her
skirt and unwrapped it, then laid it next to the t-shirt.
forced herself to breathe regularly and hoped that Daria would blame
the flush she felt on her face on the reflection of her red jacket.
Try not to stare, try not to stare, she thought, forcing
herself to putter around with a box of charcoal.
"Listen, Lane, are you sure I have to be completely naked? I mean
this...?" She looked down at herself and back at Jane. "Couldn't
you sort of...interpret...?"
For the first time Jane felt
a pang of guilt for what she was putting Daria through. Damn,
she thought, I don't know whether this is an act or not, but if it
is, it's a good one. She's really feeling uncomfortable about it.
For an instant she considered letting Daria off the hook, but then
she thought of the consequences and realised that, whatever the cost,
the show had to go on. "Sorry," she said, meaning
Daria stared at Jane for a moment, then
she sighed, pulled down and stepped out of her panties, reached
around her back to unhook her bra and it slid if off over her
shoulders. She looked back at Jane. "Satisfied?"
word is "stunned". You're as beautiful as your sister, if only you knew
it. "See, that wasn't so hard. And besides, now that you've
gotten over the hard part just think about how nice it'll be to be
able to shower without getting your clothes wet." Unlike
parts of my clothes, she thought.
Daria grimaced and
picked up the still-unopened peanut brittle from the bed where she'd
put it down. "Where do you want me?"
all, Daria. "Hm, how about...there." Jane pointed to a
clear spot on the floor. "Hold on." She walked over to the
bed and picked up three pillows. "Sit down."
did as she was told, taking her glasses off and putting them down
next to her.
Jane put the pillows down. "Lie down on your
side. Here..." She gently held Daria's shoulder and guided her
down onto the pillows, and thought for a minute. "Put the
glasses back on."
Daria replaced her glasses and started peeling
the peanut brittle from its wrapper. She took a bite and crunched it
disconsolately. "This doesn't compensate," she
"Now," said Jane, "prop yourself up on
your elbow. Pull your right leg up and put your hand here. Yeah,
that's it." She stood up and stepped back to the easel to look,
then came back over to Daria and squatted down in front of her. "Hold
your left arm here. Let your hand hang over the pillows, like this."
She reached over and guided Daria's arm to where she wanted it,
inadvertently brushing against Daria's breast and feeling an electric
spark jump between them.
Jane took a sharp breath, and stood up
quickly, stepping back to the easel. She felt the heat in her face
and realised that, unless Daria was completely clueless, she'd given
herself away. She turned back towards Daria, silently offering a
prayer that her friend hadn't stood up and started dressing.
hadn't moved. She was looking up at Jane, her eyes half-narrowed and
magnified by her glasses, with an expression that said "That's
the way it is, is it? Okay then, Jane, let's see this through."
Jane stared and swallowed, wondering whether to say something or to
continue the charade. She slowly stepped back over to Daria, crouched
down and tenderly ran her hand through Daria's hair, gathering an
auburn tress and draping it over her shoulder so that it lay down
along the top of her breast. Then she stood up.
Jane said, unable to keep the tremor out of her voice, and she stepped
back to the easel. Daria's expression hadn't changed. Jane took a
piece of charcoal out of the box and started sketching.
by a knockout.
Half an hour later the sketch was close to
finished, even though Jane had done most of it on autopilot. Not a
word had passed between them, and Jane's thoughts had run like
quicksilver. Had she imagined Daria's reaction? Perhaps she hadn't even
What if she had?
need to move," said Daria. "I'm getting a cramp."
breathed. At least she's talking to me. "Why don't
you come and see how it's looking?"
Daria stood up and
walked over to stand beside Jane, staring at the drawing.
stepped back to stand slightly behind Daria, staring at her. The
downy hairs on the back of her neck, the soft curve of her...
"It's good," Daria
said, turning back to look at Jane.
into Daria's eyes, trying to read her mind, and failing. She paused.
"Daria..." she said, instantly deciding that she had to tell her...
"Can I get my clothes on now?"
sure, I guess that about does it." It was too late. The moment had been
* * *
Jane stood in the doorway watching Daria walk away, watching
her as she turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, as if the
intensity of her gaze could bring Daria back into view. Her lips
moved, silently speaking Daria's name. A tear escaped and rolled
slowly down her face.
She took a step back from the door and closed it with slow
reluctance, feeling the latch snick into place. Turning back into the
house she noticed the sound of the band rehearsing in the basement,
unsure of whether it had been there all the time or whether they'd
just started. In a daze she trudged back up the stairs, pausing at
the door of her room to take a jagged breath, and she walked in,
unconsciously pushing the door behind her with just enough force to
close it without slamming. She stopped, her eyes drawn to the easel
from which Daria's eyes stared at her accusingly.
Is that what it's all about, Jane?
Jane shook her head.
I saw it. I felt it.
No. That's not how it was supposed to be!
I felt you looking at me.
NO! You don't understand! I was doing it for YOU! For US!
You were doing it for you. You were doing it because I make you...
How do you think Quinn will feel about this?
QUINN KNOWS! Do you think I wouldn't tell her?
Even you're not crazy enough to think that we can still
be friends after this?
* * *
There was no answer. Trent knocked again. "Janey? Are you
<>He waited. After a minute he gently turned the doorknob and opened
the door a crack. His heart sank, and he walked in.
There was a sheet
of art paper propped up on the easel. It had obviously been a
drawing, but it was slashed to ribbons. He looked down to see an X-acto
knife lying on the floor underneath it. There were deep gouges
in the wooden backing board of the easel. He turned his attention
towards the bed, where the person who mattered most in the world to
him lay curled in a foetal position, sobbing. He sat down beside her
and cradled her in his arms.
"Jane talked you into posing
"No. She blackmailed
me into posing nude."
Tom smirked. "How much do you
think she'd want for a copy?"
"Why would you
want a copy? You have the real thing," Daria
"To keep me warm on those lonely nights at
"Don't toy with me, Sloane. How would you
feel to know that a bunch of strangers were going to be ogling
"What? You mean like in the 'JaneCam'
incident?" Tom said, internally breathing a sigh of relief.
least you had your clothes on."
"At least Jane
warned you about what she had in mind. Besides, they won't be
ogling you, they'll be assessing Jane's artistic talent. How did it
"Good," Daria said carefully. "Too
"You really didn't enjoy it, did you?"
"What? You think I should have enjoyed sitting naked in front of my
"Sure. I would have."
"Men!" Daria exclaimed. "Underneath your soft and caring exteriors,
you're all whores."
"Have any of us ever denied it?"
Daria said, turning to look at him.
you...if Jane showed you the sketch she drew of herself ... would
it .... would you...."
it turn you on?"
you wouldn't...I mean you wouldn't actually..."
"You know--do it--with
"Daria," Tom said, getting down off the
bed and sitting next to her, "I broke up with Jane. I chose
Daria looked away. "She's beautiful."
as beautiful as you."
Daria looked back at him. "Yeah.
"I mean it," he said, stroking her
"But she's perfect. She's lean, she's tall, she's
muscular...and those boobs..." She sighed.
said Tom, wide-eyed. "Is this Daria Morgendorffer? Or has she
been kidnapped by space aliens and replaced by a robot running the
Fashion Club program?" He leaned over and reached a hand down
her t-shirt, cupping a soft breast and gently squeezing. "Hm, no,
either it's you or robot technology's improved out of sight since
Daria slapped his hand and pulled it out of her
shirt. "Be serious for a minute, will you?"
said I wasn't being serious?" He paused. "Or is there
something else bothering you?"
doubt, but tell me anyway."
"Well, there was
this...thing." Tom saw that Daria was blushing. "She was
setting me up in the pose she wanted and, um, her hand brushed my
don't think so, but...it was weird. She acted as if she'd been stung.
I tried to work out what was going on. She didn't talk to me after
that, at least not while she was drawing, and I kept looking at her,
trying to figure it out."
Tom's mind raced. "Oh.
So...what do you think...?"
"I told you. It's
was afraid of getting turned on."
"What's so silly
about that?" Tom asked cautiously.
"Tom, this is
Jane we're talking about. And me. I mean if it had been someone
attractive, maybe I could believe it, but it's just
Thanks for confusing two issues, Daria.
I'm sure you could make it even harder for me if you tried. Tom sat
up, as much to give himself time to think as to assume an
authoritative posture. "On a purely hypothetical level, how
would you feel if you were right?"
Daria thought for a
moment. "I don't know. Weird...I guess. But ...."
buts. Just assume. Hypothetical, okay?"
"Well, I was
going to say icky, but...that's not right. I think it'd be a little
flattering to think that someone would find me attractive."
Want to bite off the other one? I won't be needing it."
know that's not what I mean. Actually, it's kind of odd that I could
even say that."
"Because you're afraid that thinking
that Jane might find you sexually attractive might be threatening to
your own sexuality?"
Daria thought again and stared at
the wall. "No. I don't have any problems with that. Besides, I
don't think I'll ever think of myself in terms of sexuality."
She turned to Tom and kissed him on the cheek. "Except when I'm with
And you don't count because you're certifiably
worries me is that if she started seeing me like that..."
change your relationship?"
sighed. "I can understand why that would worry you."
it's not possible."
"Daria, it's perfectly possible.
One of these days someone is going to beat into that thick skull of
yours the fact that, no matter how hard you try to hide it, you're
"We've had this conversation
before, Tom. You're blinded by...you know."
again. "Alright. We don't have to go there. But I know this.
Jane may lay awake at night lusting after you or not, but she'll
never let anything get in the way of your friendship. If I know Jane,
and I do, and if you're right, she'd be much more worried
about it than you are."
"You think so?"
“I'm certain. In fact it could be a bigger problem than you
think. If you're right of course. And you may not be. You
probably misconstrued the whole thing. But even if you didn't, you
can be absolutely certain that Jane cares too much about your
friendship to let simple lust get in the way," Tom said, feeling
a little guilty that he was lying to Daria about how much he knew.
But he consoled himself with the thought that it was the whitest of
white lies. He was worried, though, at Daria's description of how Jane
Daria stared at him. "And you know this how,
Tom turned red. "She was my girlfriend.
Remember? What do you think we used to talk about on those long
nights waiting for Sick, Sad World to come on?"
don't want to know what I think you talked about--if that's what you
"Have it your way," he said, smiling.
"But trust me on this. Besides, have you seen the way she looks
Daria stuck her tongue out. "Gah. Don't
* * *
Tom grabbed the phone as soon as
Daria had gone. He looked at his watch. Late. To hell with it.
He dialled and let it ring a dozen times. He was just about to hang
up when it answered.
Trent, it's Tom. Is Jane there?"
There was a pause. "Hold
Tom could hear the sound of the phone being covered,
and what was probably Trent's voice, muffled and unintelligible.
There was a rustling as the phone was passed on.
felt sick. Jane's voice sounded like a five-year-old's; shallow and
squeaky, barely recognisable. "Jane? Are you okay?"
That little girl voice, trembling.
"Jane, Daria's just
left. We talked. I thought you'd want to know."
high-pitched keening was the only reply.
me, everything's fine."
everything's fine. She told me what happened."
A little stronger.
"Yes. Sure. What did you think was
"I thought...I thought..." trying to
catch her breath between sobs.
"It's okay. Look, just
take my word for it--there's absolutely nothing for you to be worried
about. There's no problem. It sounds as if you could use some sleep.
We can talk tomorrow. You can tell me about it then if you want
Jane sniffed. "Okay."
sure you're okay?"
"Yes," Jane squeaked,
"Okay. Put me back to Trent, will
Trent took the phone back. He and Tom spoke for a few minutes,
then he put the phone down and turned back to Jane. She was sleeping.
watched her breathing slowly and deeply for a moment. He pulled a
blanket up over her and quietly walked out, stopping in front of the
easel to pick up the X-acto knife and scraps of shredded paper from
the floor, and the parts that remained on the easel, taking them with
him and turning the light out as he closed the door.
Jane wasn't sure how long someone had been knocking on the door.
She opened her eyes and stared blearily at the clock. It was just
before midday. She'd been sleeping for more than fifteen hours.
was another knock. "Hang on," she groaned. Throwing
off the blanket, she looked down to see that she was still dressed in
the clothes she'd been wearing yesterday and...and it came back to
her. Floods of conflicting emotions hit her like a freight train;
that look in Daria's eyes...the drawing...and some relief as she
remembered Tom's phone call. Everything's okay.
out of bed, sore, smelling of sweat, dehydrated, a bitter, metallic
taste in her mouth, and she walked to the door, opening it a crack.
"And this year's Miss American Morning award goes to Jane
Lane," Daria deadpanned.
"Well? Are you going to let me in, or are you going to stand
there with your mouth open?"
"Uh, yeah, sure." She stepped back and let Daria walk
in. Jane stared. Tom had been telling the truth. She resisted the
powerful need to hug Daria, to make sure she was real.
"You look terrible. Take a shower," Daria said. "I'll wait."
"Uh, yeah," Jane
nodded, and she walked out, turning at the door to confirm that Daria
actually there, the sight of her sitting on the bed reading a magazine,
balm to Jane's troubled soul.
She closed the bathroom door and shrugged
out of her
clothes, leaving them where they fell, turned on the water and
stepped in. Tilting her head back, Jane let her mouth fill with the
warm water, sloshing it around and spitting it out, getting rid of
the taste. It felt good.
After fifteen minutes the water had washed
away as much of the awfulness as it could, and she walked back into
her room, a clean towel wrapped around her. The aroma of
freshly-brewed coffee hit her immediately as Daria handed her a hot,
strong cup. Jane drank gratefully.
"Better?" Daria asked, as Jane drained the last of it.
Jane nodded and, for what felt like the first time in forever,
smiled. "Thanks," she said quietly.
"There's toast on the night stand. The peanut butter's a
little old and the grape jelly tried to escape, but it'll
probably keep you alive until you can get some food."
Jane turned, realising that she was famished, and ate hungrily.
She put the plate down and walked back over to Daria who had gone
back to reading the magazine, which she put down as Jane sat beside
"If this is going to be another 'thanks', thank Trent. He
called this morning and told me what had happened."
Jane blushed, shocked and alarmed that Daria knew. "He...told
"Uh huh. It's a damn shame."
"Sure, but nothing that can't be fixed."
Jane was in no condition to argue. She walked over to the chest of
drawers, pulled out some clean clothes, and let the towel fall. Just
as she was about to step into a pair of pale blue cotton panties she
felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Hold on," Daria said, standing back and looking
carefully at Jane, assessing her. Jane stood, stunned, wondering what
was going on, too surprised to respond.
"He's an idiot," Daria said at
last, apparently satisfied. "Now get dressed."
"Nothing. I'll tell you later."
wondering what the hell Trent had been up to. She put on her
jacket and turned to Daria, who had started to remove her clothes, and
tried desperately to collect herself. "Daria,
what exactly did Trent tell you?"
"That there'd been an accident and the picture had been
ruined--that you'd have to do it again. So help me, Lane, if Trent
saw that picture I'll have to open your mouth to untie my boots. What
the hell happened?"
Jane forced herself through the wall of amazement that was rapidly
gaining height around her. "It's, um, a long story. I'll fill
you in over a slice of pizza." And I hope by then I'll have
figured it out myself.
Daria smiled. "Sounds good. You're buying." She picked up the
pillows that Jane had used yesterday to prop her up, and lay down in
the same position.
"Deal," Jane smiled, picking up half a dozen sheets of
art paper and putting them on the easel, covering the gouges in the
backboard. She slipped into artist mode, forcing aside the memory of
sensations and emotions that had led to yesterday's fugue, and looked
down at Daria. "Straighten your right arm. Yeah, good.
Damn...". She crouched down and, as dispassionately as she
could, took the same lock of hair and, very carefully this time,
replaced it in position.
"Hold it," said Daria as Jane was about to stand up. "I don't want
to move, and my left boob itches like hell. Would
you scratch it for me?"
Jane froze. Slowly she turned to Daria, trying to read her, and
"Now, dammit," Daria said, sounding annoyed and
screwing her eyes up as if she was in pain.
Jane glanced down, slowly reached out a trembling hand, and gently
"Up a little...to the front...oh yeah! There." She
closed her eyes in ecstasy. "Okay. Thanks, that got it."
"No problem," Jane croaked, trying to control her
voice as she stood up. "I, uh, have to go to the bathroom."
She walked out, closing the door behind her.
Bingo, Daria thought, wincing with the realisation that Tom
had been right. Again.
Jane returned looking more relaxed. "Okay, back to work," she said,
picking up a stick of
charcoal. After a while she paused, looking at what she'd done. The
basic plan was there, but there was something missing. She looked
back at Daria, then back at the sketch.
"What's up?" Daria asked.
"Your eyes," Jane said, torn between the need to recapture that
expression in Daria's eyes, and the fear of being reminded of what
she'd thought it meant. "Yesterday you
looked...they were different."
"Like this?" Daria asked, half-closing her eyes.
Jane shuddered as yesterday's feelings came flooding back.
Even through memories of the fugue, she forced herself to focus on the
fact that yesterday's
sketch was probably the best work she'd ever done. The subject matter
helped, of course. "Yeah," she breathed. "That's
Jane sketched in silence, wrestling with her thoughts. If she was
going to ask Daria to do the other favour she'd been contemplating,
perhaps there was no better time than this. The sketch flowed from her
fingers while her mind struggled with itself, finally reaching a
conclusion. It was now or never. "Uh, Daria," she said.
"I've got another favour to ask." She kept working, hoping that it
would make it seem less overwhelming. To herself.
"This has got to be easy. After posing nude, nothing could be weird."
Jane's heart sank. She gritted her teeth and told Daria what
wanted, trying to be nonchalant,
Daria smirked. "It'd be a pleasure."
“You're kidding?” Jane said.
“Of course not. I told you my revenge would be swift and
terrible. I've changed my mind. It's going to be slow and terrible.”
"I was afraid of that," Jane said.
Daria waited for a moment before she answered. "No," she
said, "that's not what you were afraid of." She stood up
and walked over to look at the sketch. "It's good. Maybe better
"What...do you mean, Daria?" Jane asked, trying to
suppress the jolt of adrenaline.
"I think you've got my hair a little better this time."
"That's not what...you know that's not what I meant."
Daria turned to her. "You were afraid of me. Well, not of me,
exactly. You were afraid of what happened to you when you were around
Jane blushed. "It's okay, you know," Daria said gently. "It's
weird, and I'd prefer that it wasn't like that. But that's not what
I'm afraid of."
"You knew, didn't you? All along?"
I suspected. When you touched my boob yesterday I thought you were
going to explode."
Jane sat on the bed and sniffed again. "So why...the itch?"
"I needed to be sure."
Jane looked up at Daria, tears starting to pool in her eyes again.
“I don't want it to be like that either,” she said.
“I know,” Daria replied.
Jane sniffed and smiled again. "I told Quinn. It wasn't something I
could keep from her."
"How did she take it?"
Jane shook her head slowly from side to side. "I thought she'd explode.
I thought she'd be hurt, and angry. But you know...she wasnt." She
looked up at Daria again. "I still don't understand her. Sometimes it
seems like she's the way she used to be, other times she seems so much
Daria sat down on the bed next to Jane. "Believe me, I know. I still
live with her. There are still times that I want to strangle her. But
she's doing okay, isn't she?"
Jane smiled and sniffed back a tear. "Yeah," she croaked. "She's doing
"I think she's still Quinn. I think she'll always be Quinn. But she's
putting new stuff on top of the old stuff." She paused. "I guess you
could say the same thing about us."
Jane nodded, smiling.
"But the new stuff doesn't replace the old stuff. You're still you. I'm
still me. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care if your hormones do
stuff to you when I'm around..."
"You don't? It doesn't make any difference?"
"Do you think I'd be sitting here on the bed next to you..." She looked
down at herself. "...like this, if it worried me? Not that I give you
permission to do anything about it of course!" She looked at Jane and
saw a little smile. "Uh, the last time I did this it didn't exactly
comfortable," Daria said. Cautiously, she turned to Jane and put
her arms around her. This time, Jane hugged back.
Daria felt a sob shake Jane's body. But when she spoke,
croakingly, there was a smile in her voice. "You weren't naked
"Mmm. I'd better get dressed. I can just see Trent coming in
now. He'd definitely get the wrong idea. Is that okay? Do you need me
Jane looked at her, smiling through bloodshot eyes, and sniffed.
"I'll always need you, Daria."
"I meant for the sketch."
"I know," Jane said, hugging her again, then letting her
go. "No," she smiled, reaching over, taking a tissue
from a box by the bed, and blowing her nose. "You can get
Daria stood up, but paused. "Jane?"
"Uh uh," Jane answered, blowing again.
"Does it matter to you?"
Jane looked down at the ground. "Yes," she said
quietly, and looked up. "I want it to be the way it's always
"You mean before you started having sex with my sister?"
Daria deadpanned, and instantly berated herself for slipping back
into old habits. "Dammit," she said, walking over and
sitting next to Jane on the bed. "I'm sorry. I was just..."
"Being Daria," Jane said, smiling again.
"I guess," Daria replied, slipping her bra on.
"I thought...I thought that there might be a way to...you know...fix
"Yeah," said Jane nervously. "Put it back. The way it was."
Daria stopped. "I don't even want to think about how many ways I
could interpret that.
Would you care to explain?"
* * *
she really look like that?" Quinn asked, looking at Jane's sketch of
"No. She's a different
colour. Also, she's three-dimensional and she's not made of
paper and charcoal."
Quinn playfully dug her elbow into Jane's
ribs. "You know what I mean."
"I guess that's
how she looks. If the sketch of me looks like me, I suppose the
sketch of Daria looks like Daria."
Quinn said wistfully.
"I know," said Jane. "But you must see her naked from time to time."
"Not if I can help it," Quinn said. "And really, no. That shy thing she
does isn't an act. I think that when Daria and Tom do it she keeps her
"That's funny," said Jane.
"No, I mean it's funny...Daria said that."
a waste," Quinn said, looking back at the picture.
hour later, Quinn stood next to Jane looking at the sketch.
"It's great," she said, though she looked a little uncertain.
Jane turned in surprise. "What?"
"Underneath her clothes she looks like that. Even
the glasses look good. And she dresses in that skirt! And that
jacket! And those...those boots! It should be some kind
of crime to hide a body like that under those."
crime against fashion?" Jane said, a gentle touch of cynicism in
"Exactly!" Quinn said before she realised
what she'd done. She blushed and turned to Jane. "I mean,
look--nice clothes are like the frame around a painting, right?
They're not the painting, but they make a difference. If you saw,
say, an old master, like...I don't know...a Galileo or a
Bertolucci, in some tacky old frame, the painting would still be
beautiful, but it just wouldn't be right. It would be...disrespectful."
"You make a good point. Although Galileo was an astronomer and
Bertoluicci's a film director."
Quinn blushed again.
"But you know what I mean."
Jane said, putting an arm around Quinn's shoulder. "I know what
you mean. In fact, you make me think
that I should probably take a little more notice of your fashion
Quinn spun on her heel to face Jane. "Really?
You're not just saying that?"
"No, I mean it. In
your own way, you're an artist too. Your canvas is the human body, and
your paint is clothes. I've never really thought of it like
"Really?" Quinn repeated, looking up
into Jane's eyes.
"Yes. Really. Now get your clothes
Quinn grinned. "You only want me for my
"That's not true," said Jane indignantly. "Well, I mean it is in this
case, but not usually. Well, not always. Now stand over there." Jane
took Daria's sketch down
from the easel and replaced it with a new sheet of paper.
"Over to the right a little."
moved to where Jane had indicated and slipped out of her
"Hold it," Jane said. "You're not
wearing a bra."
"No, I don't need to all the time.
Particularly if I'm just going to take it off again," she
"You have a one-track mind, Quinn
"I do not!"
said I was complaining? Now face the window."
"Good. Don't take the top off, just pull
it up over your boobs."
Quinn pulled the top up. "Like
"A little more. Yeah. Just right. Now the
Quinn pulled them down, letting them drop to
"No, wait--pull them up again. No, not all the
way. Just so that they're under your buns. Good. Now hold them
Jane walked around behind Quinn, turned her
around a little more, and stepped back. "Yeah. Now turn your
head back towards me. Look at, um, that pizza stain on the floor. Look
down a little. There! Perfect. Hold that!" She turned and
started sketching furiously, muttering to herself, looking back at
Quinn, and back to the sketch. "Yeah. Perfect."
"But...?" Jane started.
"No, I mean it's great. I just...I guess I'd just prefer if only you
saw it. You know what I mean? It's kind of weird to think that some
people will be looking at it. I guess it wouldn't feel funny if it
wasn't so good."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Jane smiled. "But yeah, I know
what you mean. I guess I'd rather have you all to myself too, but look
at it like this--when they see it they'll completely lose all sense of
judgement and pass me on the strength of your butt alone."
Quinn laughed. "Did I ever tell
you," she added, turning to Jane, "about the time that Sandi, Tiffany,
Stacy and I got a sketch done
by this guy at the fair?"
"I don't think so. Was
it a nude?" Jane asked.
"Of course," Quinn
replied dreamily. "We all took off our clothes, rubbed oil all over our
bodies, and made passionate love while this guy sketched
"I can see that," Jane grinned. "Or at least I could if you showed it
"It disappeared. Which was probably a good thing. Sandi and Tiffany
wanted Mom to sue the guy who did it."
"It can't have been all that bad, then," Jane muttered
contemptuously, instantly feeling terrible at the hurt in
"I know they annoy you," Quinn said, "but they've been my friends
since I came to Lawndale. Sometimes they annoy me too, but then maybe I
annoy them. Maybe it balances out..." she trailed off, uncertainly
Jane thought, and a little sadly.
Jane turned and hugged her as a flood of guilt threatened to sweep
her away. Looking down into
Quinn's eyes she saw only love beyond question; love that had brought
her back from the brink. And all she could do was to pour scorn on
Quinn's choice of friends. Jane knew that she would never understand
between Quinn and her friends, but what did it matter?
"I'm sorry, Light of my Life," she said
gently. "Daria said something to me a couple of days ago. As soon as
she'd said it I could see that she was sorry. She thought that she'd
hurt me and she apologised. I've just done the same thing to you." Jane
hugged her a little tighter. "I'm not going to do it again," she said,
releasing Quinn and stepping back. "They're your friends, and the least
I can do is respect that."
Quinn stepped forward and put her arms around Jane's waist, her
cheek resting against Jane's chest. "I'd like that." She looked up. "I
don't want you to, you know, sacrifice your principles or anything. But
if you could just...be nice to them."
"I will," Jane said, "first chance I get."
A little smile played over Quinn's lips. "Sandi's having a hot tub
party on Saturday."
Inwardly, Jane sighed. Outwardly, she returned Quinn's smile. "Then
I'll be there. If you think they'll have me."
"They'll have you," Quinn said, a little reluctance creeping into
her tone. "They're itching to see us together."
"Oh?" Jane said, as noncommittally as she could.
"Uh huh." Quinn sat on the bed. "Stacy'll be okay. There isn't a
nasty bone in her body. Tiffany...well, Tiffany'll be curious I
suppose, but as long as nothing's making her look fat she'll be fine."
"Whatever. I don't know. In one respect
I guess she sees it as an opportunity. It's taken me out of the
opposing team, so she doesn't have to worry about me any more as a date
rival. On the other hand, anything that draws attention away from
her...well, she won't take too kindly to. And believe me, this'll take
attention away from her. At least for a while."
"Ah," Jane said. "So we'll be the centre of attention."
"I'm afraid so," Quinn sighed, turning to Jane as she came to sit
beside her on the bed. "I'd understand if you don't want to do this."
Jane bent over and kissed Quinn. "Why would I not want to do it?"
"Well, it could be...you know...embarrassing..."
"I don't feel embarrassed when I'm with you," Jane said, looking
into her eyes. "Half the guys in Lawndale High wanted to be seen with
"Only half?" Quinn said, feigning shock.
"Okay then--all the guys at Lawndale High," Jane laughed.
"Those who were wealthy enough wined you and dined you and not
one of them got to first base..."
"I don't feel good about that," Quinn interrupted. "I didn't know
what I was looking for. I knew I was looking for something, and
I could never work out why I couldn't find it, so I guess I thought
that it was just...like that. That all that stuff about love was
just so much hype. I mean what was the point of dating anyone more than
once or twice? There was nothing there. I thought that if I kept dating
different people, sooner or later something would work. But it never
"Their bad luck, my good luck," Jane said, lying down on the bed and
pulling Quinn down beside her.
"It's all electrical, you know," Quinn said.
"What is," said Jane, holding her a little closer.
Jane smiled. "Shocking."
"I'm serious," Quinn said. "You know, nerve impulses and all that."
"Sure. And you know exactly where to connect the wires."
"Mmmm," Quinn said, snuggling against Jane. "You don't do so bad
yourself. But Daria was talking about it the other day."
Jane sat up. "Really? About orgasms?"
"Well, yeah," Quinn answered. "She was saying how weird it is that
some electric shocks can feel so good, and others can feel so bad."
"I've never thought of it like that. You mean as in 'the chair'?"
Jane took off her t-shirt and lay down again.
"Sure. Or like in the movies when the radiator falls into the
"As far as some people are concerned," Jane said, "it's okay for
some people to give other people electric shocks to kill them, but it's
not okay for us to give each other the other kind."
"To hell with them," Quinn said softly, tracing the outline of
Jane's breast with her finger. "What would they know?"
"They don't know you," Jane said, closing her eyes.
"But that's not really the weird part. The weird part is the
connections between orgasm and death."
"Really?" Jane said, losing interest in what Quinn was saying and
moving down the bed next to her.
"In some languages orgasm's called 'the little death'. And some
French philosopher guy said that the only way to be sure of reaching
heaven is to die at the moment of orgasm."
"Daria reads too much," Jane purred, running a fingernail lightly
down Quinn's back. "She shaaaaaaaaarrrrgggg. Damn! You're
getting good at that!" she panted, as Quinn reciprocated in the way
that she knew Jane
An hour later they lay, warm and tired, holding each other close.
Feeling, rather than seeing, Jane staring at her, Quinn asked quietly
"What are you thinking?"
Jane kept staring into Quinn's eyes. Finally she raised an arm and
gently stroked Quinn's hair. "I still can't quite believe it," she
said. Quinn closed her eyes, smiled, and held Jane closer. "You know, I
think this is better than sex," Jane added.
"This?" Quinn said, not moving.
"Uh huh. Just holding you, feeling you next to me. I think that guy
"Which guy?" Quinn asked, looking up at Jane.
"The French guy. Don't get me wrong, the sex is great...better than
right now I feel so good that nothing, anything, no matter what
happened, could ever feel better than this. If I died now they'd never
wipe the smile off my face."
"I couldn't stand that," Quinn said.
"I'm not going anywhere," Jane replied, holding her tighter.
"But you are."
"You're going to Boston."
Quinn sat up. "I can't stop thinking about it."
"I haven't even been accepted yet."
"But you will be,"Quinn said sadly.
"I guess we need to talk about it," Jane said, looking up at her,
and seeing her nod. "But not now. Please?"
"I'm sorry," Quinn said, and lay back down next to Jane. "I
feel...like that too. I don't want it to end. I love you."
"Later," Jane whispered. "Now is forever."
And so it was.
"Daria," Helen called, "Jane's on the phone."
"I've got it," Daria called back, picking up the phone next to her
"Now?" Jane said.
"You're sure you want to go through with this?" Daria asked.
"Uh huh," Jane replied nervously.
"Okay then. I'll be there in half an hour. Have you got the stuff?"
"Yes, dammit! I'm sure! Now get over here before I change my mind."
Daria sighed. "I'm there," and she hung up.
The afternoon sun painted the Griffin family's back deck orange, as
bikini-clad young women lay back in a hot tub as it bubbled gently.
Three young men, one dark, one blonde, and one with brown hair,
gathered around three of the four women, leaving one to fend for
"Can I get you a soda, Sandi?" said one.
"Why, thank you, Joey," said Sandi. "A diet Vanilla Coke would do
"Would you like a carrot stick, Stacy?" asked Jeffy.
"Sure," Stacy smiled.
"Celery stick, Tiffany?" added Jamie.
"Noooo, thaaaaanks. I've already haaaad one. I don't want to get
"So, Quinn," Sandi said, lying back amongst the bubbles, "when do
you think Jane will arrive?"
"Oh, soon, I'm sure," Quinn answered, trying desperately to sound
relaxed. This wasn't the worst of the ordeals, she thought. Telling her
parents had been the stand-out, but this was close. She didn't care
what people said about her, but she cared desperately what they said
about Jane, and if Sandi decided to go on the attack, for whatever
Quinn didn't want to think about it. The butterflies in her
stomach had been breeding and taking flight all day. If they got any
worse, she thought, she'd rise up out of the hot tub, but a part of her
wished that Jane wouldn't arrive at all.
"Dating an artist is quite fashionable, Quinn," Sandi continued
casually. "You could have made a worse choice. And now that
Jane has decided to join us today, who knows? Perhaps we...I mean you,
of course...might be able to exercise some influence over her choice of
wardrobe. Who knows what a little judicious makeup might achieve,
though she does have an excellent complexion for someone who doesn't
believe in looking after their skin, and of course most of the earrings
would have to..."
"Oh, there she is," said Stacy, waving to Jane as she let herself
out through the double glass doors onto the deck. There was a barely
"Why, Jane," said Sandi, with barely-concealed admiration, "that
"Yeah!" said Joey, staring at Jane, who was wearing a light,
silk-like sarong in shades of pale pink, turquoise and lilac, her
shoulders, arms, and legs bare.
"Stunning," added Jeffy.
"Wow," exclaimed Jamie.
"Quinn, wherever did you find it?" Sandi asked.
"I didn't," Quinn muttered, torn between focussing on Jane and on
other people's reactions to her.
"This?" Jane said, looking at the wrap. "It's just something I
knocked up for the party. I got the material at the bulk store at the
Mall of the Millennium and I had some fabric dyes left over from the
wall hangings I made for last year's dance in the gym. Anyway," she
added happily, "it was so nice of you to invite me, Sandi, I thought
I'd at least contribute to the food."
She put two cardboard boxes down
on the table next to the plate of celery and carrot sticks, she took
the lid off the first. "I hope chocolate mud cake with double-chocolate
frosting's okay with everyone. Oh, and..." she opened the second
flat box, "...a triple cheese and pepperoni pizza."
Quinn winced and stifled a laugh as Joey, Jeff and Jamie scrambled
to the table and grabbed large slices of cake and pizza, their groans
completely blocking out Fashion Club members' expressions of dismay.
Their radar alerted, Sandi's younger brothers, Sam and Chris tumbled
out of the door and emulated the older members of their sex.
"Time to get in, then," Jane said, and all eyes turned to her as she
reached up and pulled out the piece of fabric tucked in at the top,
letting the wrap fall to the ground. Five mouths full of cake and pizza
stopped in mid-chew.
Oh my God, Quinn thought.
It was impossible to know what Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy thought,
their having, for once, been totally and utterly outclassed.
"Um, I need to get in the water," said Joey, bending slightly forward
in the middle.
"Me too!" said Jamie, hastening to get into the water, closely followed
by Jeffy. Sam and Chris, enjoying all the advantages of their youth,
continued, unembarrassed, to enjoy both the food and the view.
What Quinn noticed, though, as Jane got into the tub, was that not
only did she not have a hair
out of place, a small crease in the bikini bottom gave the distinct
impression that she didn't have a hair to be out of place.
Everyone's eyes followed Jane as she sank down into the frothy water,
and made her way across the tub to sit beside Quinn, turned to
her, and smiled. "Hi, sweetness," she said, and kissed Quinn on the
Okaaaaay, Quinn thought,
and, forcing herself not to blush, she put an arm around Jane and
kissed her back.
"Uh, I have to get out of the tub," said Joey, and he scrambled out and
hurried back to the table, bent almost double, and sat down facing away
from the tub, followed immediately and in an identical manner by Jeffy
and Jamie. "Eeewww, yuck," said Sam, and he turned and helped himself
to another piece of mudcake.
Sandi looked on disdainfully. "Take no notice of that uncivilised
behaviour, Jane," she said. "It was very perceptive of you to bring
something to distract them."
"Actually," Jane replied, "I brought it for me. Nothing makes me feel
more like pizza and chocolate cake than soaking in a hot tub. Well, not
that I've actually soaked in a hot tub before, but I imagined that it'd
make me feel like that."
She turned to the boys and shouted, "Hey--save
some for me." Then, turning back to Sandi, "Whaddaya know? I was right!"
"Sure Jane!" said Joey.
"I'll bring you some, Jane," said Jamie.
"Me too," said Jeffy, putting a slice of pizza and a slice of cake on a
plate and standing up to bring it to Jane. "Oh," he said. "Um, in a
little while, maybe," and sat down again.
Quinn and Stacy stifled giggles.
"Ahem, yes," Sandi said. "I must say that you're very fortunate, Jane,
being able to eat food that's so bad for you while keeping such a trim
"Yeah," Jane replied casually. "It's amazing what running ten miles a
"Wow!" said Stacy. "Do you mean that if I ran ten miles a day I
could eat pizza and chocolate cake and look like you?"
"Sure," said Jane, pushing away Quinn's bubble-concealed hand from her
thigh. "Why not?"
"There are other considerations, Stacy," said Sandi dismissively.
"Pooooooooores," said Tiffany.
"Eep!" Stacy responded.
"Precisely," Sandi said.
"But Jane has really cute pores!" Stacy said before she noticed the
expression on Sandi's face.
Jane sighed, fantisising about holding Sandi under the water for
ten minutes but knowing it would make Quinn mad. She tried to keep up
end of the conversation at the
minimum possible level and forced herself to smile and be civil, though
she noticed that Quinn was unusually quiet.
When a car horn
signalled Trent's arrival she thanked Sandi, saying that she had to
leave and, to her surprise, Quinn took her leave too, as if it had been
expected that they'd leave together, though Jane had expected her to
"It didn't work," Quinn said sadly, as they talked in the back seat of
Trent's car on the way back to Quinn's house.
"I'm sorry," said Jane, "I tried really hard, but I just can't..."
"No," Quinn interrupted, "No--you were great, I mean me. It didn't work
"What do you mean?" Jane asked.
Quinn turned to look out the window, pausing for thought. "It's hard to
explain. I kept going to say something, you know, like I normally
would, and every time I started I...it was as if I was listening to
myself speaking...through your ears. I mean it was like I was hearing
myself from inside your head."
"Oh?" Jane said quietly, reaching over to hold Quinn's hand.
"I sounded so stupid," Quinn said sadly, still staring out the window.
* * *
"Hey, Trent," said Daria, opening the door to her room. "To what do I
owe this honour?"
"I picked up Janey and Quinn from that...person's place. You know? With
the hot tub thing?"
"Yeah, I guess. Anyway, they're in the car outside. I don't think they
know that we're here. They were pretty involved in their..."
"In the car?" Daria asked, her eyes wide.
"...conversation," said Trent. "I figured I'd leave them to it."
Daria laughed, and said "Sit down, if you don't mind the bed."
"I'm used to beds," Trent said, sitting down. "They're comfortable." He
looked around. "Cool room. So how's it going?"
"Pretty good I guess," Daria answered. "And no, I don't want it
redecorated in pink."
Trent smirked and coughed.
"So tell me," Daria said, "what was it about that library book?"
"Oh, yeah. I forgot to return it. I should probably ask Janey to take
"Sure," said Daria. "What was it?"
"I can't quite remember. It was about fish."
"I didn't know you were interested in fish."
"I'm not," Trent said, "but it was a pretty cool book."
"Moby Dick?" Daria suggested.
"Could be," Trent replied, scratching his head. "Is that about fish?"
"A whale actually," Daria replied.
"No, I don't think it was about a whale. I'm pretty sure it was a fish."
"Hemmingway. The Old Man and The Sea?"
"Maybe. Was he a doctor? It was written by a doctor, I remember that."
"Ah," Daria said. "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish",
"That's it," Trent smiled.
"Um, isn't that a little, uh, young?"
"It wasn't for Janey when I used to read it to her," Trent repliedm, as
happy and slightly distant look appeared on his face. "I saw it in the
and I remembered how much she used to love it, so I took it out to
bring it home and show her. I guess I just forgot to take it back."
Daria gave herself another mental kicking.
"I guess she was maybe four or five," Trent continued, still smiling.
"She drew me a picture of the fish--a red one and a blue one--with her
coloured pencils. She could draw better then than I can now. I've still
"Trent," Daria said, "how do you feel about, you know, this thing with
"I guess I was surprised at first, but when I saw how happy she was..."
He turned to look at Daria. "Anyone who can make Janey that happy is
fine by me."
Daria smiled. "Me too. Jane's lucky to have you for a brother."
"No, I'm lucky. And I'm glad she's worked it
out with you. She was really afraid of losing you."
"Uh, exactly how much did she tell you?"
"Not much. Enough."
Daria blushed and stood up. She walked over to the window and looked
out. "I wish she had more confidence in me."
"It's not confidence, Daria," said Trent. "It's...you know..."
"Yeah," Daria sighed. "I know."
"It scares me," Trent said.
* * *
Quinn turned to Jane. "Am I stupid?" she asked, making puppy dog
"No!" Jane said quickly. "But your friends..."
"I know," Quinn sighed. "When I'm with them it's fine. Well, most of
the time. I mean sometimes Sandi gets, you know..."
"Yeah. I know," Jane sighed.
"But when you were there, it was...different."
"When I was little," Jane said, "I remember playing fairies with my
friend down the street. We had sticks for fairy wands, and we ran
around pretending to be flying and casting fairy spells. We were having
a great time." She smiled at the memory. "Then, at some point, I looked
up and saw Penny watching us, and all of a sudden we felt stupid and it
wasn't fun any more. It was as if the spell had been broken."
"That's exactly it!" said Quinn. "That's exactly what it was
"Do you remember that night," Jane said tenderly, "when I was sitting
in the family room at your place with a black eye, and you came and sat
down beside me?"
"I'll never forget," said Quinn.
"You quoted some guy...you said that sometimes we're looking so hard
for things that we don't notice what's right in front of our eyes.
"Wittgenstein," Quinn smiled. "I remember."
"I asked Daria later who the hell that was. You read Austrian
philosophers, and you ask me if you're stupid?"
"I found it on Daria's shelf and I started looking
through it and it was...like all these cool things little things,
especially about what's close at hand, and when I first talked to you
that night I was self-conscious and thought you wouldn't take me
* * *
Daria looked down at the car. "It may have been conversation when you
left, but it's not conversation any more."
Trent walked over and looked. "I guess I'd better go and interrupt," he
"Yeah," said Daria, "I guess you'd better. I'll come with you."
"Who'd have thought you could steam up car windows in summer?" Daria
said as they reached the car.
"Daria!" Jane said.
"Eeep!" Quinn added.
"It's a good thing you didn't do that in the park," Trent
drawled. "Principal Li would really have had something to
hassle us about."
Quinn and Jane parted, blushing and rearranging their clothes.
"I've gotta go, Janey. Are you coming?" Trent asked.
"You may want to rephrase that," Daria deadpanned.
"Oh, yeah. Um, are you going back to our place or staying here?"
"I'd better come with you and change," Jane said. "You wanna come?" she
asked Quinn, then quickly turned to Daria and added,"And no wisecracks
from you, Morgendorffer."
"You're coming back here after you've changed?" Quinn asked.
"Yep. Tonight's the Sick Sad World marathon. My best friend and I
traditionally watch it over pepperoni pizza."
"Can I watch too?" Quinn said.
"Sure," said Jane, "but I didn't think you liked
"I don't," said Quinn, smiling at Jane. "But I like you."
"It's called 'aversion therapy,'" Daria said, taking another slice
of pizza from the box on the coffee table in the Morgendorffers' family
room, while Quinn munched on an apple.
"And it means?" asked Quinn.
"It means," Daria replied, "that you can condition people's
responses to stimuli by
making them associate a specific stimulus with positive or negative
reinforcement, depending on how you want them to respond to the
stimulus in the future."
"Oh," said Quinn.
"Yeah," said Jane. "What does it mean?"
"How about you explain it, Lane, since you don't like my explanation
and it was your idea anyway?" Daria
"Sure," said Jane jauntily. "Suppose you were really fat, like, I
"Tiffany?" Quinn said, smirking.
"Perfect," Jane replied, taking another slice of pizza. "You could
wire her up to an electric shock gadget, and show her pictures of her
"Right. And every time she sees a picture of a celery stick..."
"Wham. Fifty thousand volts, right up the wazoo," Daria added.
"Eewwww!" said Quinn.
"Yeah, that'd solve the problem," Jane said. "But no, just
enough to make it really unpleasant. After a while, her mind would
associate celery sticks with feeling bad, and no matter how much she
know it was artificial, she'd get to the point where she couldn't bear
to look at them."
"They made a movie about it," said Daria. "It was called 'A
"Orange is soooooo last year!" Quinn said, earning an elbow in the
ribs from Jane.
"It wasn't about the colour orange," Daria said, "or oranges. It was
about social engineering."
"Oh," said Quinn. "Math stuff. But I think I get it, I
Jane was worried about the fact
that she...enjoyed...seeing you naked, so she..."
"So I worked out a way of killing two birds with one stone," Jane
wanted me to do one of the most unpleasant things I'd ever conceived
of, and I needed to associate that aspect of Daria with something
unpleasant. Bingo. Two problems solved in one go."
"Three problems," said Daria. "I had a need to punish Jane for
making me pose naked so that strangers could ogle me. I admit that
tearing out her pubic hair with hot wax wouldn't ever have occurred to
me. But when she asked me, it was just so perfect I couldn't say no."
"Oh yeah," said Jane. "Something as fundamentally evil as that takes
a truly twisted mind."
They both looked at Quinn. "So, um, did it work?" she asked.
"Judge for yourself," Jane said, taking Quinn's hand and pushing it
down her shorts.
"Thank you," said Daria, turning away. "That was a sight I had never
hoped nor wanted
to see. Although after what I did to you I doubt that anything could
bother me ever again."
"I mean the aversion thingy," said Quinn, gently stroking Jane before
removing her hand.
"Oh yeah," Jane said, briefly wishing that either she hadn't done that
or, better, that Daria wasn't there. "The very thought of Daria naked
want to scream in agony. You're going to have to pack the sketch for
me--the very thought of it makes me shrivel."
"It worked for me too," said Daria. "Never again will I want to stand
between Jane's legs while neither of us have any clothes on, pasting
hot wax over parts of her that I'd never wanted to see, and tearing it
off while Jane screams. Oh--wait--I never wanted to do that anyway."
"Sure you did," said Jane, leaning forward to take another slice of
"Sure you did."
Quinn tucked her legs up under her and snuggled up next to Jane on
the couch. Jane put her arm around her and pulled her closer.
"Shh, it's on," said Daria.
"Can television rot your brain? We're about to find out! The Sick,
Sad World Marathon, next!" said the TV.
And Daria, to Jane's surprise and delight, leaned in from the other
side and put her head on Jane's shoulder.
Thanks, as always, to an exceptional bunch of beta readers;
friends and collaborators: DJ, Greybird, NoNameJane,
ipswichfan, Micka, WacoKid, Scissors MacGee, and Mistress Thea
Particular thanks to DJ for his inspirational drawings of
Jane, Quinn, and Daria, and to Greybird, whom I haven't had the
opportunity to thank previously, for his wonderful artwork for
Quinntessence II, Lux
Vivendi, and for his, and many others' constant encouragement
write more of this tale. I hope you're not disappointed.
Disclaimer: All characters are copyright MTV.
Quirks: I'm an Australian, so I've used Aussie English
spellings and grammar conventions. I may also have inadvertently used
some Aussie idioms though I've tried to keep in culture. There are
references to other fanfics in this. I hope their authors will take
them for what they are -- sincere flattery.
Liked it? Hated it? Tell me: email@example.com