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.
This is the twenty-third John Lane story
Cupid in a Nutshell
Looking at his printout, John snickered as Mr. DeMartino addressed the class. "All right, here are the results of your career aptitude tests. Perhaps they'll help you avoid whiskey-soaked decades wondering what might have been if only you'd had the guts to follow your dream of a life at sea!"
Seated beside John, Daria said, "Doesn't it feel good to get it all out?"
"Just don't expect us to clean it up," John tossed in.
The teacher leaned on John's desk to address him. "You've done it once again, Mr. Lane. Perhaps, you think congratulations are in order."
John showed his paper to Daria. "Three straight years of the same result."
Daria quizzically asked, "Accountant?"
"Answer 'C' for every question and you get the whole test over in under five minutes."
"Meaning…you didn't even try to answer the questions. Maybe Mr. DeMartino has a point."
"There's a first for everything. What'd you get?"
Confused and curious, Daria showed her results to John, saying "Not what I expected, but I guess it could've been worse."
"I don't know; that's kinda cool, in a morbid, Sick, Sad World way. But hey, why base your career choice on a test provided by the lowest bidder?"
Daria smirked and said, "Or the one that slipped the largest kickback to the school."
Trying to read his results, Kevin said, "Petroleum dispen…dispensation? Hey, I'm going to be an oil typhoon!"
Happy, Brittany said, "Oh, Kevvy, that's great!"
Mr. DeMartino stood in front of the slow-witted teen. "Sound it out, Kevin. This says you'll be pumping gas at a filling station!"
Stunned, Kevin said, "I'm going to be a gas jockey for the rest of my life?"
"Eww!" Brittany squeaked as she slid away from Kevin.
John said to Brittany, "Don't worry, when was the last time you actually saw a full-service gas station?"
Approaching Helen, Daria and John at the dinner table, Quinn cleared her throat and asked, "Do you think gold or platinum looks better with my skin tone?"
Daria replied, "I'd go with aluminum."
Helen sighed and said, "Daria, please. Quinn, honey, are you thinking about buying a necklace?"
"No, Mom. Well, not right away, that is." Quinn tilted her chin up and turned her head from side to side. "I got my career aptitude test results at school today, and they said I have a future as a jewelry model."
Daria said, "Oh, they said you could be a living mannequin for shiny things."
"Very shiny things," John corrected.
"I think it's wonderful that you're thinking about the future, Quinn, but you've got far more to offer than your looks." Shifting her attention, Helen then said, "Speaking of futures, did the two of you take a career aptitude test?"
John said, "We're not in the same grade as Quinn."
"That doesn't answer my question." Helen's voice hardened a touch and she added, "Do I need to drop by the school myself, talk to that counselor, Mrs. Manson…and if I don't like results, inquire about a retest?"
"Ouch. No need to pull out the big guns, Mom," Daria said, presenting a sheet of paper.
"We surrender, completely and unconditionally." John quickly followed suit and waited while Helen read the reports.
Glaring at Daria, Helen read, "Your lack of interest in personal interaction makes you an ideal candidate for working with the dead, and combined with your intellectual curiosity and sense of justice make you an excellent candidate for a forensic scientist."
"You always want me to get involved. Can I set up a colony of carrion beetles?"
"No!" Helen set the report on the table and said, "But, between that awful skeleton poster and those anatomical models in your room, I shouldn't be surprised at this result."
"You know, dead men can tell tales," Daria cautiously answered.
"And, I'm sure it'll supply you with a lifetime of dinnertime conversation. What about you, John? Accountant?"
He shrugged, "Hey, how accurate can those tests be?"
"You answered 'C' to every question. Amy did the same damn thing. Don't you have any plans for your future?"
"Sure, and I don't need a test to tell me I should be an artist."
"I'll grant you that point, but you should take these things more seriously; you may need a day job to support you until your art does."
"I've put on fifteen pounds since I started living here. I've done the starving artist thing and don't plan on repeating it."
As Jake came in from the living room, Quinn asked, "Daddy, can I have some money for a few head shots?"
He grinned. "Sure! I can run down to the bank right…head shots?" He dashed over to Helen. "Head shots? Is that some new kind of drug or something?"
Helen put her hands on Jake's shoulders and lowered him into a chair. "They're regular portrait photos, and Quinn doesn't need the money."
"But I can't get started without a portfolio," Quinn countered.
"Then, you'll have to get a job and earn the money," Helen explained.
"A job? What about the Fashion Club booth? You said if I did that, I wouldn't have to find a job or anything."
"Your choice. The booth or the photos."
Quinn squirmed with indecision until Daria said, "Quinn, why don't you ask Stacy's boyfriend, Ted, if he'll shoot the photos. He's almost as attached to that camera as…" Daria glanced at Helen and stopped that train of thought. "…as humanly possible."
"Hey! That's a great idea. Thanks, Daria," Quinn said.
"Yes, Daria," Helen said. "Almost suspiciously good."
Daria tapped her head. "Big brain? Logical conclusion?"
Helen relented. "Okay."
After dinner, Quinn followed Daria and John upstairs and once out of earshot of their parents, asked, "Okay, what's up? Mom had me and you gave me an out."
Daria stopped and held her thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart. "Mom was this far from making you get a job…and we all know that in the interest of fairness, she would make all of us get jobs. Call it enlightened self interest."
Quinn grinned. "Ah yes, because we know you could never do something nice for your sister."
"Who says she can't do both?" John said.
Daria gently warned John, "That never leaves the house."
Walking down the street with Daria after school, John said, "There are a few advantages to having a job…like having enough money to get the blue bomb back in running condition."
"We'll just have to save our allowance, like any other spoiled, upper-middle class teen does," Daria said. "Besides, I'm starting to like writing for the school paper. It gives me an outlet and forces me to write about subjects I wouldn't otherwise consider. A job would cause problems with that."
"Yeah, and I like my cartoon. Oh, well. Walking gives us more quiet time together, anyway."
Daria squeezed his hand. "True."
"Wah!" Piercing crying, accompanied by running feet, came to them from behind. Turning to see the source of the noise, they saw Stacy run up and stop in front of Daria. "I can't believe she'd do that to me!"
Daria folded her arms and said, "Who did what to you?"
"Quinn's trying to take Ted away from me!"
John started to say, "I don't think Ted's…"
Still crying, Stacy cut him off with, "I was a little worried that he might like you, Daria. I mean, you being smart and all. But I never thought that Quinn would do anything!"
"What?" Daria answered in growing confusion.
Between sobs, Stacy rattled on, "But he likes the way I laugh and he's learned to dress less geeky, even if his parents get all weird on him and stuff. Yeah, yeah, I know Quinn can get any guy's attention, that is, any guy but you, John, everyone knows Daria has you hooked, but I didn't think that Quinn would try anything with Ted. We're like, sisters or something like that in the Fashion Club and besides, she always thought he was too geeky, which he is, but that's one of the cute things about him. Why is Quinn doing this to me!?"
Daria grasped Stacy's arms. "Stacy, why do you think Quinn is trying to, um, take Ted away from you?"
"The last couple days, they've left together after school and went…I don't know where!"
John asked, "Has Ted mentioned anything about what he's doing?"
"He said he's shooting a portfolio for Quinn. Couldn't he at least come up with something better?"
Daria said, "Stacy, Quinn wanted a portfolio because of the results of her career aptitude test. I suggested that she ask Ted to do the photography. That's all it is, he's telling the truth."
"Aah!" Stacy screamed. "Oh, my God, it was your idea! You're helping her!" The hysterical girl spun and ran away at top speed.
John watched Stacy run back to the school and said, "That didn't exactly go well."
Daria shrugged. "The photo shoot should be over soon and Stacy will realize that she's over-reacting. Probably about the time Jamie, Jeffy and Joey run over Ted to get Quinn a soda."
John laughed and started walking home. "Quinn certainly has those three hooked, doesn't she?"
Daria nodded and walked beside him. "What do you think Stacy meant that she was worried that Ted would like me?"
"Well, in my biased opinion, I can see that he might."
"Sorry, kind of weird to think about."
John glanced once again at Daria and reached out to hold her hand. As if there's a problem with being hooked by you?
Outside the Lawndale Mall, Stacy closed her eyes and whispered to herself, "Think shopping. Think shopping."
Stacy then opened them and walked in, ready to let the shopping experience push everything else from her mind. For the next hour, she wandered the stores, looking, trying things on here, pondering what would be a good accessory there, and otherwise totally failing to forget about Ted and her worries.
Putting her sandals back on while seated in a shoe shop, Stacy muttered, "If only I could make him understand how I'm feeling. He's just…confused. That's it, confused." She jumped up and left the store before the salesman returned with another stack of boxed shoes for her to try. She wandered through more of the mall, trying to figure out how to point things out to Ted.
Noticing an enticing aroma, Stacy went to a new kiosk store, It's a Nutty, Nutty, Nutty World. Wearing a shapeless apron and a squirrel-like hat, Kevin stood behind the counter. When she approached, he smiled and said, "Welcome to Weird World Nutty Nut, it won't go to your butt. Lunch and crunch a bunch wing munch."
Surprised, and misinterpreting Kevin's mangled delivery, Stacy said, "Wow, you have diet nuts? I'll have a bag of macadamias."
"Um, sure, Stacy. A bag of ragamanias."
"Oh, yeah. Mackdaddy-Os." Kevin stared back and forth at the numerous bins of nuts, trying to figure out which one was correct.
A red-haired girl with a single long, thin tress falling in front of her face stepped past Kevin and scooped out the requested product, filling a small paper bag. Stepping back around Kevin, she went to the register and rang up the order.
Kevin noticed the red-haired girl and said, "Hey, where are the…oh, you got them. Cool."
She rolled her eyes with a look of "Why me?" and accepted Stacy's payment. After a very brief, forced smile, she gave Stacy her change and purchase without saying a word.
Kevin grinned again and said, "Come back to Smutty Word!"
"Kevvy!" Brittany called from the other side of the food court. The red-haired girl covered her ears and fled into the back room of the store, leaving Stacy with Kevin still smiling at her. Brittany stopped with her hands on her hips, "I heard you were handing out nuts and smiling your head off. You know women can't resist your smile!"
"Aw, Brit, I gotta smile. It's for the job."
"Are you sure?"
Suddenly getting an idea, Stacy said, "I can't resist."
Brittany spun around. "What?"
Stacy smiled at Kevin. "I can't resist his smile. I know I'll be back."
"Ooooh!" Brittany clenched her fists and stomped away from the stand.
After dinner, Daria knocked on Quinn's door and looked in. "Um, Quinn?"
Looking over from her makeup table, Quinn said, "Wow, you're coming into my room. Something big must be going on."
"Um, Quinn, how's the portfolio coming?"
"We're almost done. You know, Ted really is good at taking pictures. I bet he could make a lot of money as one of those pepperoni guys."
"Yeah, them. Daria, is this going to take long? My date will be here soon."
"That brings up what I wanted to talk about."
"Look, you and John have got to find someplace more interesting to go than bookstores and that, ugh, grunge club downtown. Okay, if Chez Pierre isn't your style, how about Casa Alejandro?"
"Quinn, John and I are fine. We ran into Stacy earlier today. She thinks that you and Ted…"
It only took a fraction of a second for Quinn to catch on. "Ted? Oh, please. He's a nice guy and all, really nice to Stacy, but him and me? No way."
"Stacy's convinced and she was rather, I suppose hysterical would be the best description."
From below, Jake's voice called up, "Quinn! Your date is here!"
Quinn hurried past Daria. "I gotta go. We can talk to Stacy tomorrow. Maybe you can get John to talk to Ted. You know, give clueless boy a few hints."
Before Daria could say more than, "Quinn…" the younger sibling was halfway down the stairs.
John joined Daria in the hallway. "Well, how did it go?"
"It sounds like Stacy's being a little over-imaginative. However, Quinn has agreed to help me talk Stacy down tomorrow."
"Pack your aspirin."
"She also had a good idea for you to talk to Ted."
"If it's what I think you want me to talk about, my track record isn't that great. Everything I said to Kevin went in one ear and out the other."
"Yeah, but Ted apparently has something between the ears. If you're lucky, something might accidentally stick."
Right after school the next day, John went to the yearbook workroom and cracked the door open to look inside. Ted was easy to find, sitting with perfect posture at the end of one table, examining photographic negatives through a loupe. John entered and stopped next to the blond-haired boy to say, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Suddenly noticing John, Ted looked up and said, "Yes, I have a minute. But I need to leave in two minutes to meet with Quinn for her portfolio pictures."
John took a second to collect his thoughts. "Ted, have you noticed anything, um, different, about the way things are going between you and Stacy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like, that she's bothered about how much time you've spent with Quinn?"
"I don't know why she would. I explained what I was doing, and Quinn is her friend. Though, come to think of it, she did seem a little upset today."
John sighed with mild relief. "Okay, good, now you're starting to see."
"See what? There's nothing different in this room," Ted replied, completely missing John's point.
"No, I was asking: do you understand why Stacy is upset?"
"She thinks something is going on between you and Quinn and she's jealous."
"Of course something is going on; I'm taking pictures of Quinn."
John rubbed his eyes. "But you and Quinn are alone when you do that, correct?"
"Yes. Quinn said she didn't want any distractions."
I knew Ted was naďve, but…sheesh. "Ted, on the surface, that could also look like you and Quinn are romantically involved."
"Why would…" Suddenly, some of his parents' warnings about "other teenagers" sank in for Ted. "No! I wouldn't do anything like that to Stacy."
"I'm sure you didn't, but it could look that way, especially to someone as insecure as Stacy."
"Now you're getting it. Why don't we track down Stacy and get things settled. Daria and Quinn were going to talk to her."
"Okay, I suppose that would be prudent."
"What do you want?" Stacy asked when she saw Quinn and Daria approach in the hallway.
Daria said, "To talk and clear things up."
"Right," Stacy sharply replied. "Quinn, why are you doing this to me?"
Quinn carefully said, "Stacy, I'm not doing anything to you. All that's going on is that Ted is taking photographs for my portfolio."
"Then why are you two going off alone? Why can't I be there?"
"Stacy, when you're around, Ted's attention is focused on you. I didn't want him distracted. My career depends on good pictures. Honest, that is all that's going on."
"You know Ted's all wrong for me, Stacy. But I forgot that he can be a tiny bit clueless. I'm sorry. Tell you what, I'll cancel today's shoot and go with what he's already taken. You two run off and have some fun…or whatever it is you do together."
"Yes, Stacy. I don't want to break you two up."
"Oh, Quinn!" Stacy hugged her friend in tearful relief. "I knew you were my friend!"
"That was easy," Daria remarked.
"Stacy!" Ted called from an intersecting corridor. He rushed up with John more leisurely walking behind.
"I'm so sorry, Ted," Stacy explained, "I'm so used to assuming the worst…I just, I'm sorry."
Ted said, "No Stacy, I should be apologizing. I didn't think about how things might appear."
John stopped beside Daria. "Well, that's one crisis averted. How did we get roped into this, anyway?"
Kevin's plaintive voice came down the hallway as he followed Brittany. "But babe…"
"Don't tell me it's just for work. I saw what you were up to with, with…" Brittany saw Stacy and pointed, screaming, "…with her!"
Kevin kind of shrugged and raised his hands, palm upwards. "She just liked my smile."
"She was after a lot more than your smile! I know that look in a girl's face. She wanted what's under all that padding!"
Brittany charged past Stacy and growled, "You can keep him."
Ted asked, "What was that about?"
Kevin approached Stacy. "So, you still interested in being my babe?"
Cheeks bright red with embarrassment, Stacy stammered incoherently as Ted's face fell in disbelief. He quietly said, "I trusted you," before he turned and hurried away.
John stepped between Stacy and Kevin, turning the taller football player away and saying, "Don't you have practice?"
"Oh, yeah! Gotta go!" Kevin ran at full speed toward the football practice field.
Daria said to Stacy, "Okay, what was that all about?"
Stacy's eyes were wide in shock, looking in the direction Ted had left. "I…I wanted to make Ted jealous like I was. So…I flirted with Kevin at the nut stand in the mall."
Daria shook her head. "Stacy, why did you think that was a good idea?"
"But, they always do things like that in the movies!" Stacy cried.
"This isn't the movies, this is real life," Daria said.
John added, "Besides, even in the movies, trying to make the other person jealous always backfires."
"Oh, yeah," Stacy quietly agreed. "I forgot about that."
Quinn asked, "What was that about a nut stand at the mall?"
Stacy said, practically without stopping to breathe, "I went to the mall to take my mind off thinking about you and Ted, okay, I know now that I was wrong, but I didn't know that then. I tried, shopping always made me forget my troubles, but I couldn't get Ted out of my mind. I saw Kevin working at that new nut stand in the mall and Brittany was there, mad at him for smiling at people and stuff. So, I flirted with him because I knew that Brittany would complain all over school about it and that maybe Ted would hear and get jealous. I'm sorry!"
Daria leaned against John and said to him, "I should've known it wasn't going to be that easy."
John snorted a frustrated laugh before saying, "Too bad we can't get something like Cupid's bow. Plunk a couple quick arrows into them and problem solved."
Daria said, "It's the nineties; Cupid's probably switched to something high-tech, maybe with laser sights."
Quinn said, "What's Kevin doing working at a nut stand?"
"Finally working among his peers?" John suggested.
Daria sat on her bed, arms folded over her chest and jean-clad legs drawn up, staring at the ceiling. "Damn butterfly effect. Who'd have thought trying to help Quinn would cause this much of a mess?"
Lying across the bed near her feet, John leaned on one arm and said, "Like I've told Mom: if I ever catch that damn bug, I'm yanking its wings off."
"Life was a lot easier as a complete outcast."
"But you have to admit, it was also duller."
Taylor pushed the door open with his nose and bounded across the room, leaping onto the bed and stopping with his head and paws resting on Daria's stomach, looking up patiently.
"Just invite yourself in next time," Daria told the feline while starting to pet its head, "I suppose asking you for advice would be a waste of time."
John said, "Since the vet removed most of his interest in that subject, I'd guess so. But, it looks like the petting therapy is working."
Daria faintly smiled. "Cats, they are such insidious creatures. But he's still not helping with the problem. My suggestion started this mess and I feel responsible for trying to straighten it out."
"Yeah," John agreed. "Ted was really knocked for a loop by Stacy's stunt."
Daria admitted, "I can understand; I remember how I felt when Brittany tried the same thing with you."
"But you listened to reason. Ted simply doesn't want to hear anything at all."
Moving her hand around the cat's head to scratch under his chin, Daria said, "I'm beginning to suspect that Ted's never been seriously, emotionally, hurt before."
"And he finds out, from Brittany, that his first love was flirting with Kevin. You know, I think I'd want to scrub my brains out with bleach if that happened to me."
"We both know that Stacy wasn't serious, she just had a really stupid idea. The problem is going to be getting that idea through to Ted. He's convinced Stacy and Kevin are a couple, as unlikely as that sounds to us."
John sat up and started to pet Taylor. "I wonder if Trent might have an idea to help us out."
"Who else has more practical experience at breaking up and then making up than him and Monique?"
"Monique might also have some ideas."
"Yeah, but I'm not sure that make-up sex would…" Daria blushed and mumbled, "Uh, never mind."
Curiosity massively piqued, John asked, "What?"
"That wasn't 'nothing.'"
Daria uncomfortably sighed. "In a TMI moment, Monique mentioned that she and Trent, when they get back together…"
"Um…okay, I can figure out the rest, but I'm not going to try to fill in the details. On second thought, maybe asking Trent or Monique would be a bad idea."
"I wonder…" Daria said, pondering a new thought.
"I wonder if Ted is backing away to avoid being hurt more. That he refuses to listen to anyone in case they have more bad news."
"Meaning, we need to convince him that he won't be hurt by listening."
"Actually, I'm afraid partially drawing from Stacy's thinking might help."
"Okay…I'm not following you."
"Ted thinks that Stacy wants to be with Kevin. If we show him that Kevin and Brittany are back together…"
John rolled his eyes. "They break up more than Trent and Monique."
"He doesn't have to know that. But, if we can show that Kevin isn't interested in Stacy, Ted might listen to us, or her."
John swallowed hard and said, "That means…aw man."
Daria rubbed her eyes under her glasses and then massaged her temples. "Damn conscience." Feeling like she was facing a firing squad, Daria stopped Brittany in a school hallway.
"Hi, Daria!" the blonde chirped.
"Can I ask a favor?"
"A favor? Sure! Your skirt is fine, you have the legs for it, but that jacket has got to go. Too bad John didn't keep his letterman's jacket; that would look good on you," Brittany started to rattle off, not waiting to hear anything more.
"Whoa. I just wanted to ask for a ride to the mall. The car John and I use is broken down."
"I love shopping at the mall! I'll meet you right after school."
"Thanks. Will it be okay if John comes along?"
"I guess so, but won't he be bored? I know Kevin used to get bored."
"I'm sure John can find something to do."
"Hey, buddy, we are the world Nutty Nuts. Come to bunch a crunch….um, lunch scrunch," Kevin said to John the next afternoon.
At the far end of the counter, the red-haired girl clasped the ankh worn around her neck and tilted her head back with eyes closed, whispering something that was perhaps a prayer.
A man's voice from the back room yelled, "Kevin! It's, 'Welcome to It's a Nutty, Nutty, Nutty World. We're just nuts about nuts. Crunch nuts with your lunch. Buy them by the bunch. Send them to friends far away to munch.'"
Kevin quickly looked over his shoulder and then back to John, "Yeah, what he said."
"How about a bag of peanuts?"
Kevin scanned the back of the storage bins. "Peanuts…peanuts…" A cashew bounced off of the top of one bin, making him exclaim, "Peanuts!"
Pointing to John across the food court, Daria said, "There he is."
Peering around a large shopping bag in her arms, Brittany saw John accepting his order and said, 'Oooh, how can John associate with that…that…smiling Cas, Casa, um, Cassandra!"
Holding a small bag barely larger than her hand, Daria took a moment to resist responding to Brittany's misstatement before she said, "Knowing John, he's hungry, and when he has food on the mind, nothing else matters."
Brittany's lip trembled. "Kevvy's like that, too. I wish he'd never started working at the stupid nut stand, with all the smiling and stuff."
A young woman approached the stand, so Kevin smiled and stumbled through the greeting, causing Brittany to clench her fists and seethe at the sight. Daria hoped she wasn't going to regret her actions, and then said, "Brittany, if it bothers you, go show that you can charm Kevin more than she can."
"What can I do? His smile is so unresistible."
"But…who do you think will be more, um, unresisitble to Kevin; you or her?"
"Why don't you go show it?"
Brittany strode with certainty to Kevin, while Daria followed a bit behind, stepping aside toward John. She told him, "It's up to them, now."
John offered the open bag to Daria. "Peanuts?"
"Since you don't have popcorn, sure."
Swinging the entrance countertop up and out of the way, Brittany grabbed Kevin's shoulders and said to the dumbfounded woman at the counter, "Can you do this for him?" before locking Kevin into a passionate kiss.
"What in the world is going on?" the store manager shouted after opening the door in response to the loud thump caused by Kevin and Brittany falling against it.
Kevin's mumbled replies didn't help the manager's mood. Nearby, the red haired girl was quickly trying to complete the shocked customer's order while trying to ignore the activity 3 feet behind her back.
The manager reached between the teens and pushed them apart. "Kevin! What's the matter with you?"
"Uh….nothing?" Kevin said, not even sure why his boss was asking.
"Nothing? If that's your attitude, then you're fired!" The manager snatched the furry cap from Kevin's head and added, "Just leave the apron here and don't come back. Your check will be mailed."
"Um, I can go now? Cool!" Kevin threw the apron on the counter, grabbed Brittany around the waist and made a fast exit.
"Oh, Kevvy!" Brittany squealed as they disappeared into the mall crowd.
The manager looked at his remaining employee. "Can you handle things while I try to call in a temp?"
The girl nodded as a faint smile formed on her lips. Once the manager had returned to the back room and closed the door, she stepped from around the counter to John and Daria. Putting one arm around each, the girl bowed her head between their shoulders and gratefully said, "Thank you."
"Looks like Ted's gone back to his old taste in clothing," John said as he and Daria walked toward the boy sitting on a bench near the front of school.
Daria said, "Maybe a little more relaxed. As if he's stepping away from how Stacy had him dress, but not all the way back to the way his parents did."
"Maybe that's a good thing."
"Stacy dressing him up seemed a little bizarre."
"What do you want?" Ted asked the two.
"To talk to you about Stacy," Daria said, plainly.
"I don't want to talk about her," Ted curtly replied.
John asked, "Why, exactly, are you mad at her?"
"You were there and heard what Brittany and Kevin said."
"Hm-mm. Have you seen those two, today?" Daria asked.
"Come here," John said, waving for Ted to follow.
"The parking lot."
"Is this a trick?"
Daria said, "No, Ted. We only want you to see something for yourself."
A minute or so later, John stopped at the edge of the parking lot and pointed to Kevin's Jeep, parked in one of the prized front row spots. Kevin and Brittany were making out in the back seat. "See them?"
"Oh, that's Kevin and Brittany."
"Very good," Daria said. "Do you think Stacy would tolerate that if she were dating Kevin?"
"No," Ted replied.
"Okay, so will you take a chance on at least talking to Stacy? It's not going to hurt you to try."
Sighing, Ted said, "Okay."
Just inside the door of Pizza Prince, John, Daria and Ted saw Quinn wave at them from the booth she was sharing with Stacy. As the three grew near, Quinn stood and stepped aside. "Hi."
Shyly, Stacy also said, "Hi."
"We all know why we're here," Daria announced. "So, John, Quinn and I will find a seat over there and leave you two alone."
John added, "Take my word for it, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone gets jealous."
Daria grasped his hand. "Everyone," she said, in agreement. "And we all have to learn to deal with them. That's where trust is important. To learn the truth when your jealousy doesn't want to hear it."
Stacy said, "Um, thanks, guys."
Quinn laughed and said, "Yeah, listen to the old couple."
"I don't know how we should take that," John said to Daria.
She said, "We'll just have to give something in return…later."
Quinn picked up the napkin John had been sketching on, smirked at Daria, and said, "That's a real interesting look for the Spirit of Halloween."
Daria explained, "The character's supposed to give a hint of mischief."
Quinn grinned wider. "I was thinking more like, naughty."
"Maybe a little," John said, taking the napkin back.
Teasing, Quinn said, "It would be an interesting look for Daria, too." The two sets of blushing cheeks brought an even wider smile to her face.
As a distraction, John nodded toward Stacy and Ted, who were leaning in close at their booth, whispering. John said, "Looks like things are working out over there."
"Wow, you did it," Quinn said, not trying to hide her awe.
"Looks like just getting them to talk was the ticket," John said, feeling a little proud of their efforts.
Ted and Stacy both rose from the booth and stood beside it. He extended his hand and asked, "Can we be friends instead?"
Stacy grinned and shook Ted's hand. "Friends. I think I like that."
"You know," Daria said, "I don't think they're getting back together."
"There goes our careers as yentas," John said, joking to cover his disappointment.
"But…" Quinn muttered as Ted and Stacy walked over to their booth.
Stacy spoke first, saying, "Hey guys. We talked things through and stuff and decided to be friends. We were getting kind of freaky around each other and well, um, it wasn't good. But Ted's a real sweet guy and all and I want him as a friend, so that's, like, what we're going to do."
Ted said, "John, Daria, you showed me that my parents were wrong about other kids; you care about more than just yourselves. Stacy was the best, first girlfriend I could have. Thank you."
Nearing home as they walked along the sidewalk, Daria said, "The rolling train wrecks are back together and the nice couple decides to be friends. Oh, and Quinn decided she didn't want to limit herself to just jewelry, when she could model so much more. If Cupid exists, he's one sick bastard."
"What does that say about us?" John inquired.
Daria half-smiled, kissed his cheek, and said, "Proof that he's a sick bastard."
John put his arm around Daria's waist. "And all this time, I thought it was because his aim sucked."
"Damn, Mom's home early," Daria said as she saw the red SUV parked in the driveway.
"Maybe we should've accepted that ride from the boy Quinn left with."
"Too late now."
"Sorry for running a little late. We had some stuff to do after school," Daria told Helen as she and John entered the house.
From the kitchen, where she was starting dinner, Helen said, "I know I'm the one that encouraged you to join the school newspaper, so please don't take this wrong. Both of you are putting a lot of effort into your writing and drawing, but they are still rather solitary activities. I worry about your interpersonal skills and think that maybe, you need to find some way to be more…engaged…with your classmates."
Daria sighed and looked over at John, who merely shook his head. She said to her mother, "If we get any more engaged with our classmates, I'll need a background in forensic science to avoid prosecution."
It Happened One Nut by Rachel Lipman
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.