Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged. Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2009.
This is the sixty-seventh story in the Falling into College series.
How Did We Get All This Stuff?
Sharing the contents of a Christmas stocking filled with chocolates, Gina and her friend Natalie sat on the sofa, watching Michael carrying boxes down the stairs and out to their father's car. Natalie said, "Wow, he really is moving out."
"Daria really has him whipped now," Gina said before popping a piece of double chocolate into her mouth.
"Oh yeah, if attending a second wedding with her doesn't mean she has him hooked, nothing does. Maybe that's why she's moving in with him."
"Knowing my goofball brother, he needs a little practice before he makes the big leap."
When Michael returned, he said, "And I went to such a special effort to give Mom and Dad one more original family Christmas."
Natalie said, "What would a Fulton family Christmas be without the two of you getting on each other's nerves and me egging you on?"
"You know, I should invite you to the wedding as Gina's date," Michael said as he started back up the stairs.
With a straight face, Gina said, "Sorry, big brother, but we broke up."
"But I'll take the invite anyway," Natalie said. "Seeing you go through with it is the only way I'll believe it."
"Okay, you'll get an invite. Besides, you're almost a member of the family anyway."
Samantha walked into the room and looked at her daughter. "You know, you should be getting ready to return to school, too."
Gina said, "Mom, I live in a dorm room with a fashionista from hell. All I need to take back is my clean laundry."
"I'm sure your roommate isn't that bad."
Gina said to Michael, "Do you want to tell her about your freshman roommate again?"
Samantha conceded the point, saying, "No need for a repeat."
For the first time in many years, the Lane living room had a completely decorated, full-sized tree in one corner. Daria and Jane sat near Trent, while Quinn cradled little Andrew Lane and Fran sat next to her, letting the infant play with her finger.
Fran said, "Aww, he's so cute."
With the happy but tired look of a new mother, Lindy said, "He takes after his father." Glancing over her shoulder at Trent, she added, "Too bad he doesn't sleep as much as him."
"Hey, I take my turn," he said in defense.
Curious, Jane asked, "Okay, Lindy, how do you get my brother out of bed to take care of Andrew in the middle of the night?"
"I keep a reusable ice pack that's nice and round in a cooler next to the bed. When it's his turn, I toss it into the bed and no matter where he rolls, he can't get away from it."
Trent said, "You see the brutality I have to put up with?"
"Yeah, real brutal," Daria said.
Still playing with the baby, Fran said, "Now that I'm out of the house, I think Uncle David and Aunt Beth are trying for one of their own. When I was home for Thanksgiving…that's why I asked to tag along with Quinn for Christmas this year."
Jane nudged Daria and said, "I see you're keeping your distance."
"You know I'm not big on children," Daria said.
"You're afraid that they might be contagious," Jane said, adding a poke with her finger.
"There's medicine to prevent it." Daria gave Jane a smirk and said, "Something I hope you remember after joining forces with CC and Nell to take over Boston."
Not to be outdone, Jane said, "Speaking of which, I need to get the name of that industrial-strength stuff you use…"
Daria checked her watch and decided it was a good time to say, "We really should be going so that Quinn and Fran can catch their plane."
"We have time," Quinn said.
Quinn stood and carried the baby to Lindy. "Damn security. It's been fun meeting you, Andrew. Fran's right, he's really cute."
Lindy smiled and said, "Does he make you want one?"
Quinn said, "Um, maybe later. You know, college and stuff."
"If you say so. You haven't said much about your boyfriend today."
"I've been busy," Quinn said, scratching the baby's tummy. "Q is doing well, making the winter rounds to his grandmother and then his mom."
"Any chance…?" Lindy said and tossed her head toward Daria.
Quinn emphatically said, "No. We're doing very well with the boyfriend/girlfriend thing for now."
Daria chuckled and said, "Talk about afraid of contagious."
The matronly owner of the bed and breakfast placed Karen and Derek's meal on the table and said in a French-tinged Maine accent, "Too bad you have to leave so soon."
"It's been a wonderful stay, Mrs. Lefebvre," Karen replied, "but we need to finish moving everything into our new apartment before classes start next Monday."
"We don't get many honeymooners this time of year," Mrs. Lefebvre said. "It's been wonderful having you."
"I know it's out of season for Mt. Desert Isle," Derek said. "Karen and I are glad you were open and especially for Christmas."
"We're here whether we have guests or not, so my husband and I figured we might as well make the place available. It was nice to have some young voices in the house over the holidays again."
"Our good luck," Karen said. "The Maine coast is so different from what I've seen before. It's been a lot of fun."
Mrs. Lefebvre said, "It is much more pleasant in the summer…if you ever want to come back."
Karen reached over the table to hold Derek's hand. "I think we'll want to return."
CC angrily stuffed her remaining suitcase and then looked up at her former Residence Hall Supervisor. "Yeah, yeah, I'm going. I'd tell you not to get your panties in a bunch, but I'm obviously too late for that."
"Look, CC. The new RA needs to move in. I thought you'd understand."
"I told you when I turned in my two-week resignation that I had a place to move into this weekend, not before the weekend."
The supervisor shrugged. "We're not obligated to keep your room available after your effective resignation date, which was yesterday, and the new RA needs the space tomorrow."
Closing the lid, CC said, "I said I'm going. Now, get out of my face."
Stepping aside, the supervisor said, "Don't expect to get a good employment reference out of me."
"I wasn't planning on it. I know I'll get a much better one out of my other job. At least there, I get a little respect for the work I do."
"I guess we can call this full circle, Nell," the young woman said to herself. She balanced herself on one crutch while she transferring odds and ends from her closet to a box on the open sofa-bed of her tiny efficiency apartment. "Jane moved in with me halfway through freshman year and now I'm moving in with her halfway through senior year."
She shuffled back to the bed and picked up the other crutch, fitting it to her arm. With ease, she moved from the living room/bedroom to the kitchenette to start dinner. She artfully braced herself against the counter and a stool as she took food from the small refrigerator, prepared it beside the microwave and popped the covered dish into the oven. While the meal was cooking, she looked back over the place where she'd lived for the last two and a half school years and felt trepidation about the move to a larger place. The close spaces of her current apartment gave her plenty of alternative supports to her crutches, allowing her to carry things around with relative ease, something the larger apartment that Daria and Karen were leaving didn't offer. She was also a little worried about the tall outside stairs and hoped that spring would arrive early this year.
Holding a box under his left arm, Michael unlocked the door to his apartment and swung it open. Inside, the place was half-empty. The sofa remained in the living room, but the television and stand were gone. In the kitchen, the dinette table and chairs were still there, along with the microwave, though the coffee maker was gone.
"Good luck in New Mexico, Lewis," he said, finally stepping through the door.
Following and carrying a box, his father said, "I think this will be a good first apartment for the two of you. Reminds me of the place your mother and I found."
"I hope so, but it feels a little empty, now." Michael placed the box on the sofa and checked Lewis's old room, finding it empty except for a single wrapped package in the center. "What's that?" he said, going to the package and lifting it.
A tag was inscribed, "To Michael and Daria with best wishes from Lewis."
He came out of the room carrying the package to the table. Ron said, "It looks like a housewarming gift for both of you."
"Yeah." With a smile, Michael said, "I'm willing to bet it's a good idea to wait until Daria's here to open it."
"That's a safe bet, son."
Arriving home after their long drive, Daria and Jane were surprised to find a pile of boxes and luggage in the apartment. "What the hell?" Daria asked.
Jane stepped around the pile and found CC napping on the sofa. She pointed and said, "I think somebody jumped the gun a bit."
CC slowly opened her eyes and said, "Hey. Hope you don't mind that I asked Mrs. Lyndon to let me in. The head RA kicked me out to make room for my replacement."
Deciding to make the best of the situation, Daria said, "In that case, the sooner you help me pack, the sooner you can move into my room."
CC mumbled, "Slave driver," but pushed herself off of the sofa to help.
"Have you seen Karen?" Jane asked.
"She's supposed to be back sometime today."
CC paused and put one hand on her hip. "Will she have her guy in tow?"
Daria said, "Of course."
"We should rustle up some strong backs of our own."
"Hmm, I like that idea," Jane said. "They could also help Nell get her things over here."
CC said, "Daria, speaking of strong backs, where's yours?"
"Moving some stuff from his parents' place and getting the place ready for mine."
"Okay, then," CC said, taking her cell phone from her purse and walking to the other end of the room. "Jane, I'll call up some guys to help and you call Nell."
"On it," Jane said, going to her room.
Confused, Daria looked between the women and said, "Did I just see a plan form?"
Forced to park her truck along the street because of the backup of cars in the narrow driveway around the house, Karen came up into the apartment and said, "What in the world is going on?"
Daria shrugged and said, "CC and Jane recruited some help whether we wanted it or not."
A fit young man with blond hair came out of Daria's room, straining to carry a box. "Ma'am, what do you have in these things?"
"Ungh," he grunted, shifting the box before moving past Daria and Karen to go down the stairs.
Guiding a black-haired man also trying to balance a large box of books, CC said, "You know, Daria, they have these places called libraries that have all kinds of books. You can go there and borrow the books and return them when you're done."
Karen said, "I wouldn't suggest talking about Daria's children that way."
"I thought the cat was her kid."
"No, that's her owner."
"I like books," Daria said. "And I don't want to waste time going to the library for my favorites."
Following a loud meow from Bump, Karen added, "And she says, 'Don't you forget it.'"
"Great, you're here," Nell said, coming up to the door. "I had the guys pile my stuff in the living room next to CC's. It looks like I'm taking your old room."
Coming up the steps and moving around the guy with the box, Derek said, "Why don't we all go inside like civilized human beings and get out of the cold?"
"Because that makes sense," Karen said, starting to push the others inside. "Nell, we'll start getting my stuff out after we warm up a bit."
"They've almost finished clearing Daria's room," Jane said. "I'm sure the boys won't mind moving on to yours next if we offer them another six-pack."
"Another six-pack, sure," a third guy said, coming from Daria's room with yet another box of books.
"Whoa," Michael said when he opened the door and saw the line of guys carrying boxes following Daria.
"I borrowed Jane, CC and Nell's labor pool," Daria explained as she gave Michael a hug. "I've missed you."
"It's so good to see you again," Michael said.
"Where do you want the stuff?" the first guy said.
Seeing that the box was marked "books," Michael said, "Down the hall to the right."
The other two he directed to the same room. Daria said, "You know, it's amazing how many books you can accumulate in a couple of years."
"Tell me about it," he said. "Dad and I had to move a bunch of my books from the bedroom so that we have space for your stuff."
"Hello, Daria," Ron said.
Releasing her hold on Michael, Daria said, "Good afternoon, Ron. How are you?"
"I'm doing well, thank you. Samantha sends her regards and so does Gina."
Returning from dropping off the box, the first guy said, "Are you two planning on starting your own library or something?"
Daria looked at Michael and then back at the spare room. "You know, I've always wanted a library in my home."
"We can put our computer desks in there, too…"
"I like the way you think."
"Done. Hmm, I wonder if we have enough shelves."
"If not, I'm sure we can hit up the used furniture stores."
Ron put his arm around both. "Don't worry about shelves. Think of it as a housewarming gift."
"Thanks, Dad," Michael said. "Oh, I almost forgot about the package Lewis left for us."
"Package?" Daria said.
Michael led her to the table. "Care to do the honors?"
"I guess it'll be safe. Lewis never struck me as the mad bomber type."
Daria untied the ribbon and then peeled the wrapping paper from the box. "Oh my," she said.
"What?" Michael replied, looking over her shoulder.
She held a well-made, imported espresso maker. On a small tag attached, Lewis had written, "I'm sure you'll put this to good use. Good luck on finding a grad school together."
Daria looked it over before setting it down. "I have a feeling Lewis is right."
"Meow," Bump voiced as she slowly nosed her way out of the carrier and into the new apartment.
"The place can't smell that bad," Michael said. "It's not like my old dorm room."
Kneeling beside the carrier, Daria petted Bump's back and said, "It's okay, girl. Take your time investigating your new home."
"Rowr," the cat replied as she slipped out into the living room to investigate. Without hesitation, she started to rub against each piece of furniture and box she encountered.
Michael crossed his arms and watched, saying, "That's mine. That's mine. Oh, and that's mine, too," as Bump rubbed against each item.
"Lewis had to introduce you to that show," Daria said.
"I've seen you crack a smile or two while watching."
"Okay, guilty," she admitted. After standing up, she said, "Are you getting hungry?"
"Sounds good. Since your dad is out picking up some shelves, is there anything we need to avoid on his account?"
"He'll even eat fuzzy fish, so don't worry about him."
Daria took her cell phone from her pocket and said, "In that case, do you have preferences today?"
Tired, Karen leaned on Derek's shoulder and surveyed the pile of boxes and stuff filling their bedroom. "How did we get all this stuff?"
"It must've reproduced in the truck on the way over here," he suggested. "The only thing I can think of."
"There's no way we're going to get all of it put away before Monday."
Teasing, Derek said, "So? As long as we clear the bed and can find the kitchen table, I'm cool with it."
"As long as your basic needs are sated," she replied, giving him a quick kiss.
"I'm a simple creature."
"I know better than that," she said, grabbing a box and handing it to him. "Now get to work and if you're lucky, we can have the bed cleared before dinner time."
"That's what I call incentive," he said, walking over to the stack and opening the first box. Puzzlement crossed his face when he lifted a chainmail bikini from within and said, "I haven't seen you wear this before."
Karen pinched her nose and shook her head. "Those guys grabbed one of CC's boxes by mistake. I hope there's nothing important in there."
A quick gaze at what else was resting at the top of the box pretty much told Derek the remaining contents. "Not unless she's expecting some company tonight."
Karen looked in and said, "Or has to go to work. I'd better give her a call."
"While you're at it," he said and held up the bikini. "Find out where she got this."
Stretched out on the couch and doodling on a sketchpad, Nell said, "Wow, room. I can get used to this place."
"You can get used to it?" CC said, lying on her stomach and reading. "Going all day with no calls from brain-dead freshmen trying to figure out how to open their closet is a blessing."
Scratching her head and not paying attention, Jane came out of her room, saying, "Hey, Daria, have you…oops, sorry. Old habits."
"I was about to say," CC said. "We don't look that much alike. She could never pull off blue hair."
"Anyway," Jane said. "Has anyone seen my coffee cup?"
"Which one?" Nell asked. "You have a whole cabinet full of them."
"The one still holding my coffee."
CC said, "Is it the one in the bathroom next to the toothbrushes?"
Jane checked and came back with a mug. "Found it, thanks."
"Isn't it cold?" Nell asked.
"Eh, a minute in the microwave will solve that."
CC said, "Well, after you finish your coffee, what do we want to do today?"
"I'm good just hanging out," Nell said. "What about you, Jane?"
"Um, hanging out, I guess. You guys want to catch some Sick, Sad World?"
"I always thought that real life was sicker and sadder, but hey, why not?" CC said.
Ron wiped his forehead with his arm and leaned against a bookshelf of what was starting to look like a library. Two computer desks occupied one wall, while used bookshelves of various sizes covered most of the remaining walls. On the shelf over Ron's head, Bump watched the proceedings with deep fascination. Daria and Michael were seated on the floor, sorting books and trying to get them onto the shelves in some kind of order. Ron said, "I'm going to call it a night, kids."
As he and Daria rose, Michael said, "I still feel strange about you staying in a hotel."
"Oh, don't worry," Ron said. "I'm getting a little old to sleep on a couch and besides, you two should be alone for the first night in your new home together." He winked and said, "I'll call you before leaving the hotel in the morning, to make sure you're decent."
Ron reached the door and paused when he opened it. "Good night," he cheerfully said before stepping away.
Daria lightly laughed and leaned against Michael. "He's still nowhere near as embarrassing as my dad."
"What do you think of their idea to man the grill for our wedding reception?"
"Tempting the Fates is one thing; throwing down the gauntlet in front of them is something else."
"Hey, I'm fine with a quality assortment of pizzas."
"Hmm, pizza. Want some leftovers?"
"Meow!" Bump loudly said from her perch.
Daria looked over and said, "I think you better grab some anchovies for her, too."
"Coming right up."
While he was gone, Daria took the time to examine the room. They were maybe halfway through unpacking and it was clear that they wouldn't be done until sometime the next day. However, a few small touches were already present to make the place feel like home. On her computer desk was the familiar old piece of gray padding taken from her old room in Lawndale, while on the shelf over the monitor was a small blue vase with a bouquet of miniature silk flowers. Though the flowers had slightly faded and had a light layer of dust stubbornly sticking to them, they were still as special to her as they were when Michael had first given them to her.
Beside his desk was the Roman legion standard replica she'd given him for his birthday just before their sophomore year. On the desk was a photo Michael had taken of Daria horse riding at the Myerson farm that Thanksgiving.
"Hey, what's up?" Michael asked as he returned and gave Daria a slice of pizza. After putting a small paper plate of excess anchovies on the shelf next to Bump, he added, "You're looking pretty introspective."
"A little. I was thinking about how much life we've shared already."
Lifting his pizza, he said, "Here's to many more years of sharing life together."
Daria lifted hers to match the toast and said, "Many more."
The delicious scent of fresh-brewed coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon drew Derek out of the small bathroom, in and around unpacked boxes and toward the kitchen. "Oh, you sure know how to get my attention," he said, coming up behind Karen and wrapping his arms around her waist.
"I hope so," she playfully said. "Maybe even enough to teach you how to eat grits."
"If I can live on MREs, I can learn to eat your southern wallpaper paste." Looking at the very healthy amount gently bubbling in a saucepan on the stove, he said, "Do you think you made enough?"
"The usual amount."
"You mean the usual amount for three?"
Karen glanced at the eggs in the skillet and the bacon in another, laughed and said, "Um, yeah. Habit, I guess."
"I guess I'll have to step up to the plate and eat the extra."
"Including the grits?"
"Mmm, that's your problem."
She turned and put her arms around his neck and said before kissing him, "Okay, but trust me, you'll learn."
"I look forward to it, if it tastes as good as everything else smells."
Karen sniffed the air and said, "This sounds odd, but something's missing, some smell."
"Daria always feeds Bump fresh fish on Sunday."
"Fish and bacon," Derek said. "Definitely an acquired taste, or I should say, smell."
"But strangely, I miss it, along with the smell of paint when Jane was on a streak and stayed up all night."
Teasing, he said, "Make me feel welcome, why don't you?"
"Oh, you're most welcome. After all, I have no interest in doing with them what we did to work up our appetite this morning."
"You know, with this big breakfast, we might need to work some of it off when we're done."
"I knew there was a reason I hooked you."
Still in her sleepwear of shirt and shorts, Jane automatically weaved as she moved to the bathroom vanity and then looked down at the blank spot on the floor she had avoided. "Huh. No more litter box to walk around. That'll make things a little easier."
"What was that?" Nell said from her seat at the table, where she was eating a bowl of cereal. Parked beside her was a small tea cart. Like Jane, she still hadn't formally dressed and wore a paint-splattered night shirt.
"Nothing," Jane said. "Just talking to myself."
Coming out of her room and wearing a deep maroon teddy, CC said, "Is there any coffee?"
Holding up a mug, Nell said, "You've gotta make it; I drink tea."
"I've got to get one of those programmable coffee pots like Karen has," Jane grumbled as she moved to the kitchen.
Following, CC said, "That sounds like something Daria would do."
"You don't think Daria was the first one awake, do you?"
"Okay, scratch that."
Nell turned as they walked by. "Do they make programmable microwaves to cook your breakfast?"
"Damn, I wish," Jane said.
CC stopped and rubbed her chin. "Hmm, do you think we could convince one of those MIT boys to design one?"
In the kitchen, Jane ground some coffee and filled the basket of the coffee machine.
CC made a face and said, "That thing sounds brutal in the morning."
"That, you can blame on Daria," Jane replied as she added water and started the coffee. "But it's worth it." Watching the coffee drip into the carafe as CC started making some instant oatmeal, Jane thought, CC and Nell are good friends, but I already miss you, amiga.
Barely squeezing back and forth past each other, Daria and Michael managed to prepare breakfast in the small kitchen without a major mishap, though a smear of grape jelly on his t-shirt told of one uncontrolled slice of toast. He carried the stack of pancakes to the table where his father had waited since he arrived from the hotel a few minutes earlier. At the same time, Daria took a piece of fresh broiled fish from a small oven pan and set it on a plate. Bump immediately perked up and watched eagerly as she sliced the meat.
Daria looked down and said, "Patience. You know it's coming."
"Don't let your food get cold while you're fixing hers," Michael said.
Daria stooped to place the plate on the floor and then to scratch the cat's forehead and snout. "I'll be there in a second," she said to Michael and Ron.
Ron whispered to Michael, "Despite all of her protestations to the contrary, she has quite a maternal streak there."
"Don't let her hear that," he whispered in return.
Daria sat down and looked from father to son. "I'm sure I just missed something."
"Not at all," Ron said.
"I know Karen got you hooked on this stuff," Michael said as he stirred the grits on his plate. "But I'm only doing this because I like you."
"Now I know I missed something."
Enthusiastically licking any remains of breakfast from her face, Bump started to investigate the house again, cautiously sniffing and walking around the still-sealed boxes.
Watching from the table, Michael said, "Her Majesty goes off to survey her new realm."
"She seems a little nervous," Ron said.
Daria replied, "Karen said it would take a couple days for her to settle in. After all, she's really only known one home since she hired me."
"Or as I prefer to explain, made her First Prime," Michael said.
Watching and listening to the playful chatter after having enjoyed the breakfast, Ron relaxed as he remembered similar banter between himself and Samantha at their age.
After several minutes, Michael noticed that Bump would start at the door to the bedroom, come back down the hall toward them and stop, looking to the side. After a couple seconds, she would move closer, stop, and look to the side again. This time, Bump looked at them and sadly meowed.
"I wonder what she's doing," Michael said.
Daria's shoulders slumped a little as she determined what was happening. "She's looking for Karen and Jane's rooms. They've been almost as much a part of her life as I have. I know it's hard to believe how much stuff we've crammed into this apartment," Daria said. She thought about her old roommates, adding, "But it also feels like I've left a lot behind."
In memory of Guy 'Decelaraptor' Payne, November 15, 1955 - March 12, 2009
Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.