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-fifth John Lane story
Echoes of a Relationship
John leaned over the back of the sofa where Daria was seated, looking over her shoulder at the television On the screen was the image of a killer whale in a courtroom as an announcer said, "Meet the killer whale with a license to practice law. Orca in the Court, tonight on Sick, Sad World."
After double-checking the contents, Helen closed the refrigerator door and cleared the dense array of magnet-held paper away from one placed at eye level and centered. She said, "There's plenty to eat in the refrigerator, so you shouldn't need to call out for delivery. I put the hotel's phone number on the door, right were you can find it. Just in case anything happens. Remember, we're with the Making Marriage Magic seminar."
Daria said, "How closely are you defining 'anything happens?' I'm sure a tornado ripping the roof away counts, but what if Quinn gets a hangnail?"
Helen rubbed her eyes. "Daria…use your best judgment."
"Does that mean you're leaving me in charge?"
"Since you're the oldest, yes. Don't let it go to your head."
"I'll try to keep my raging monomania in check."
Entering the house with the rest of the Fashion Club, Quinn heard the last comments. "Daria, ewww. I bet you've already given it to John. We're using paper cups all weekend."
"That'll save at least one load in the dishwasher," John said.
Jake hurried down the stairs, carrying two suitcases and calling, "Ready for First Aid for the Heart?"
Helen corrected, "No, it's Making Marriage Magic."
"Huh?" Jake said at the bottom of the stairs. "I though …oh, magic! Hey, do I get to saw…"
"No, Jake. It's about how to make emotional magic."
"Um, they're not going to make us talk about our feelings again, are they?"
Helen tiredly said, "Yes Jake, they are."
"Jake…it's for our own good!" she snapped.
"Yes, dear. I'll just take these to the car."
Helen sighed and turned her attention back to Daria and John. "Are you two going to that awful club to see Trent's band?"
John said, "They have a gig in Fremont this weekend. The band playing tonight at the Zon makes Mystik Spiral sound like, um, well, better anyway."
"So, what are you planning to do?"
Daria said, "TV, maybe a little writing."
"Some painting," John said.
"Sacrifice a virgin," Daria added, glancing at Quinn.
Helen dropped her head and rubbed her forehead. "I suppose I should be glad that you believe your sister's a virgin."
Corralling the rest of the Fashion Club upstairs, Quinn said, "We'll be in my room. Please forward all calls up there. Thank you."
Helen turned to the four girls on the stairs, and then back. "And of course, no parties."
"But Mom," Daria said, "Sometimes, a girl's just gotta dance."
"All loaded and ready to go," Jake said, reentering the house. "I even remembered the special…"
"That's fine, Jake," Helen rapidly said, turning pink in the cheeks. "Daria, dance all you want, just don't let Quinn invite a herd of teenagers to join you."
"If you insist," Daria agreed.
"Oh, and Daria, John, please be careful." Helen looked and felt uncomfortable saying that.
"Aren't we always?" John said.
Daria gave him a dirty look that said, "You're not helping." She said to her mother, "We promise. And thanks, I know this isn't easy for you."
Helen smiled and said, "Goodbye, have a nice weekend."
Jake cheerfully said, "Yeah, and don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Helen grabbed Jake's hand and yanked him toward the door.
Watching the door for a few seconds after it was closed, John said, "I hope we never end up like that. One minute they're chasing each other around like Kevin and Brittany, and the next they're bitching back and forth like…Kevin and Brittany."
Daria grabbed his shirt and pulled him down. "Never make that comparison again. Under no circumstances can you consider my genetic makeup to be even remotely associated with Kevin and Brittany."
Placing perfectly round burgers on a hot skillet, Daria said, "It says something about our society that even when we cook our own burgers, we're too lazy to shape the patties."
Setting an armload of hamburger buns, cheese and assorted condiments on the counter, John said, "That we just love their extruded goodness?"
"Well then, that must be it."
Sorting ingredients, John said, "Okay, we have ketchup, mustard, mayo, two kinds of pickles, onion, lettuce, tomato, and three cheeses."
Daria looked at the ingredients. "Grains in the bread, check. Lettuce, onions, and a nod to Reagan's infamous remark on school lunches, ketchup for vegetables, check. Tomato for fruit, check. Cheese for dairy products and pre-macerated cow flesh for meat, check. A balanced meal."
When the doorbell rang, John said, "My turn to scare the solicitors."
However, when he opened the door, Monique was there. She said, "Hey, John. Can I borrow your key to Trent's place?"
"Um, sure," John said. "But I thought you had one."
"I think I left it in there."
"Ah." John took his keys out and started to remove Trent's apartment key. "What's up?"
Monique shook her head. "They got pulled over in Fremont and the cops won't let them leave until they pay their ticket. I warned them that town was a speed trap. Trent asked me to get some cash from his place and drive it over to them."
"Trent has money in his place?"
Monique laughed. "Surprised me, too. Maybe he was saving up for something."
"Kitchen, we're fixing lunch."
Monique waved and yelled, "Hi, Daria! Sorry I can't stay; maybe I'll stop by tomorrow when I get back."
Daria walked to the corner and said, "Hi, Monique."
John explained, "She has to drive to Fremont to bail Trent and the band out of jail."
Daria said, "Ouch. Good luck."
"Thanks. Anyway, I better get going; it's a long drive and Trent said that Max wasn't taking it well."
"See you later," John said and closed the door after she left. He asked, "So, would you drive a hundred miles to bail me out of jail?"
Teasing, she said, "Ever hear of Western Union?"
Walking back, he said, "Money probably would get there faster than someone in the blue bomb."
Daria poked her head back around the corner. "Correction, the money would get there, period."
"Hmmm. Good point."
Daria tied the sash of her maroon, terrycloth robe and leaned toward the fogged mirror to brush her damp hair. She faintly smiled and said, "Glad I got to the shower before the Four Amigas used all the hot water and clean towels."
After a couple minutes of carefully untangling her hair, Daria put the brush down and picked up her glasses. Like the mirror, the lenses were fogged. She placed them in one robe pocket and said, "Oh well, have to wait until I get back to my room."
Opening the door, she was startled by Tiffany inches away, hand raised to knock.
Tiffany blinked and moved her head forward, slowly saying, "You have such pretty eyes."
"Um, thanks," Daria mumbled, unprepared for the compliment.
"You're welcome. Are you done in the shower?"
"Good, because I have to go."
Moving past, Daria said, "Please, don't let me stand in your way."
"Thank you," Tiffany said, stepping inside before closing the door.
When she was close to it, Daria saw that Quinn's room was open. "The top-secret summit must be over."
Sandi walked out and paused for a moment, looking at Daria. "You know, that John boy you're dating would probably think you look good in contacts."
"Um, okay. I'll take it under advisement."
"Just a suggestion," Sandi said while going past. Daria could hear her mutter, "How does Tiffany always get the bathroom first?"
Daria was grateful that Quinn and Stacy were absorbed in reading a magazine, enabling her to complete the trip to her room undisturbed. She pulled a tissue from a box on the shelf and cleaned the fog from her glasses before putting them back on. "Ah, better."
About twenty minutes later, John, wide-eyed, stuck his head in the door. "Must…get…out…of…house…before…commit…crimes…against…humanity."
Looking up from her writing, Daria said, "Wow, you now consider the Fashion Club to be part of humanity?"
John blinked and shook his head. "Only humans can be that brutal."
"They decided that a male viewpoint was needed, knocked on my door, and then herded me down the hall to look at makeup base tones. I didn't think it was possible to make so many oh-so-slightly different skin tones."
"So tell me, Mr. Bond, how did you escape?"
"I regret to inform you that I had to resort to chemical warfare."
"In that case, getting you outside is a good idea."
Lying on the trunk of Trent's old blue car with their heads propped on the rear window, Daria and John watched dark clouds drifting in front of the evening's stars. John looked to the side and after watching for a couple moments, said, "Cool, the clouds are reflected on your glasses. I'll have to remember that for a painting."
"Funny you should mention my glasses," Daria said. "My glasses were fogged up from my shower, so I wasn't wearing them when I ran into Sandi. She made a comment that you would like how I looked with contacts."
He rolled and looked into her face. "I like the way your glasses magnify your eyes."
"Another weird thing was that I also ran into Tiffany, who said I have pretty eyes."
"You do; that's why I like to see them magnified."
"Tiffany said it like she was noticing for the first time."
"Bet she was. Didn't you tell me that a lot of people never look past the glasses?"
"Hmm, yeah, but not that literally. But now that I think about it, popular people tend not to see or notice unpopular people, so it's probably the same effect."
"I wonder if that's anything like the way I phase out during math class and not notice what's going on."
"I wish you would be a more careful about that," Daria said with genuine concern. "I hope your straight 'C' average doesn't end up biting you."
"Art schools are more impressed by a killer portfolio than a killer transcript."
"I suppose, but I still wish you'd be a little more careful, just in case."
Not wanting to talk about it, John said, "I'll work on it some, tomorrow."
With a sigh, Daria said, "It's a start."
The damp morning chill felt refreshing as John jogged along the sidewalk, head bobbing in time with the music from his portable tape player and headphones. Intent on the run and music, it wasn't until the third honk that John noticed Trent driving beside him in the Tank. Trent leaned over and said through the open window, "Hop in."
Concerned by his brother's drained appearance, John slowed to a walk and then got into the van. "Looks like Monique bailed you out, so what's going on?"
Driving off down the street, Trent said, "We broke up."
"So, what else is new?"
"No, um, I don't think we'll get back together, this time."
"Oh." After several seconds of silence, John asked, "I'm guessing that you want to talk about it."
Following another period of silence, John said, "Well?"
"She's a musician; I thought she understood."
"That you've got to focus on your music. Not let other stuff distract you."
"I kinda know the feeling."
Yawning, Daria opened the front door. "Oh, Monique. I wasn't expecting you so…early."
Shoulders low, Monique said, "Sorry, bad night."
"Come in. Want some coffee?"
Following Daria to the kitchen, Monique said, "Please."
Daria poured a cup and took it to the table, setting it next to the dark-haired woman. Monique started spooning sugar into the coffee. "Thanks."
Watching the growing number of spoonfuls, Daria sat down and asked, "Like a little coffee with your sugar?"
"I like extra-sweet coffee when I'm depressed."
"Sorry, me and Trent broke up last night. Permanently."
"Was he in jail for something other than speeding?"
"Nah, it's just that he blew off the whole thing as nothing important. That hundred was his entire savings, and flushing it for a stupid speeding ticket didn't even bother him."
Daria nodded. "Yeah, he seems a little irresponsible with money."
After a long drink, Monique said, "Trent just doesn't seem to get the idea that he needs more than just talent to make it."
Agreeing, Daria said, "And it's not like you haven't tried to tell him that he needs more than art."
"Yeah, and when I tried again last night, he just made a nasty remark that The Harpies was a good name for my band."
"I suppose that is worse than putting off the conversation for later."
"Oh, he's done that plenty of times. Sounds like you know what I'm talking about."
"Good luck, Trent," John said as his brother drove away. Stretching his back while walking to the house, he muttered, "Why did I let him talk me into helping him unload the van?"
Thirsty, John went straight to the kitchen and found Daria still seated at the dinner table. She said, "You took a long run this morning."
"Ran into Trent and we drove around town, talking. He broke up with Monique and was bummed about it."
"Yeah, I heard."
"Huh?" John said, opening a can of soda.
"Monique stopped by and we talked. Trent really screwed up this time, didn't he?"
"Maybe a little, but so did Monique."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You can't keep harping on someone and expect them to put up with it forever."
"You also can't keep ignoring someone who's trying to help you succeed."
Almost sounding like Trent, he said, "You can if you think their plan distracts you from your vision."
"Wishful thinking isn't a vision. You can't just picture your goal; you have to have a plan."
"That's right, and you don't need distractions from your plan, like studying for more math than you'll ever need or use."
Daria's eyes flared in frustration. "As if you already know how much you need to know about math for your entire life."
Irritated, he grumbled, "Look, it's just not as big of a deal for me, okay?"
"No, it's not okay," Daria barked in return.
Sleepy, Quinn asked, "What in the world is all that noise? Are Mom and Dad home early?" as she walked down the stairs.
John yelled, "Just because I don't meet your standards of academic excellence…"
"I'm not trying to get you to meet my standards!" Daria retorted, her voice rising to a surprising volume.
"No, you just rag on me if my grades aren't as good as yours. Here's a hint; I'm not as smart as you are!"
"This has nothing to do with your intelligence," she snapped.
"Fine! Then I guess I'm just plain lazy!"
"You said it."
"That's what you meant, which is great, coming from someone who does everything that she can to avoid gym class!"
"Studying would be a much better use of my time than bouncing around playing stupid games!"
Quinn cautiously said, "Daria? John?"
Daria said, "It's none of your business."
John added, "Just don't ask. Screw it; I'm going to my room."
After John stomped past Quinn, she went to her sister. "Daria, what happened?"
She growled, "I said, none of your business. I think I'll go to my room."
Left alone in the living room, Quinn looked upwards and said, "Oh, boy."
John slashed an orange streak across a canvas. "Dammit!"
He dropped the brush in a rinse cup and stepped away from the easel, anger and a queasy stomach breaking his concentration. John fell onto the bed face-first and pulled the pillow over his head. He rolled over and threw the pillow across the room. "Crap."
"How could she say that? I do okay in math, not great, but okay. I want to be an artist, not an accountant. Miss 'I'm too smart to work out in gym class.' What a crock."
He turned on his TV and started to flip through channels, barely stopping long enough at each for an image to form. "She's at it all the time, nagging and pushing me. I can see why Trent kept getting so pissed off at Monique, if she acted the same way."
Unhappy, he turned the TV off and lightly tossed the remote onto his dresser before going to the window. "I wish I could get her to exercise more."
In her room at the other end of the hallway, Daria wadded a sheet of paper and threw it into a waste can. Her mind raced in frustration. "Can't he just see how much he's hurting himself? Dammit, he won't accept anything less than perfect in his art, but when it comes to math, he'll accept anything that barely gets by."
She rolled her chair back and went to the bed, sitting down with her arms tersely folded over her chest. "Nagging, that's a load of crap, as if he doesn't nag me about not being in as good of physical shape."
She picked up her TV remote, looked at it for several seconds and put it back on the floor. "So I can't run a lap around the track, big freaking deal. It's not like I'm going to need to run as a writer."
Seductively laughing, Helen said, "I have a few ideas for some magic tonight," as she and Jake walked from the car to the house.
Carrying the luggage, Jake grinned and said, "You can cast your spell on me anytime you want."
As soon as they stepped inside, Quinn stood from the sofa, exclaiming, "Thank God you're finally home!"
"Oh my God! What's wrong?" Helen asked.
"Daria! Where's Daria?" Jake shouted. "Where's John?"
"I mean, it's bad enough when you and Dad have your fights, but do I have to put up with it from Daria and John? I can only endure so much."
"They had a fight?" Jake said, dropping the suitcases. One onto his foot. "Oww!" he cried as he hopped away on one foot, holding the other.
Helen rubbed her forehead. "Do you know what they were fighting about?"
"Something about school and grades and lazy bouncing in gym class, it was very confusing. I think they've gone mad."
"Oh my," Helen said. "That doesn't sound like them."
"Trust me, it was them. I can't think of how they could've been more embarrassing. Well, I can think of one thing, but…"
"Helen! I think I broke my toe!" Jake yelled while dropping onto a sofa.
"…okay, two things," Quinn corrected. "What are you going to do about it, Mom? Do you know how embarrassing they'll be if they keep this up at school tomorrow?"
Walking quickly to the kitchen, she said, "First, I'm going to get some ice for your father's foot. Then, I'm going to talk to Daria and John. Where are they?"
"They're in their rooms, painting and writing."
"In other words, they're sulking and making matters worse."
"Kind of like you and Dad?"
Helen returned and thrust a freezer bag of ice into Quinn's hands. "Give that to your father to put on his foot, and if you're smart, you won't say another word."
Helen knocked on her daughter's door and slowly opened it. "Daria?"
Seated at her desk and staring at a blank page, Daria answered, "I suppose that the Morgendorffer Evening Herald has reported the news."
"You and John had a fight, so both of you are sulking. Care to fill in the details?"
"Trent and Monique broke up yesterday."
"That's too bad. Let me guess, you and John were pulled into the fight."
"Not directly, but um, yeah. I agreed with Monique that Trent was too lazy in his planning, and John went along with Trent that Monique didn't understand his creative nature and was nagging too much."
Helen nodded and waited a couple seconds before saying, "So, what lazy behavior have you been nagging John about?"
"Well, that after his art, he doesn't take math as seriously as…hey, how did you know?"
Helen's voice, while nurturing and motherly, was also sad. "I've been there. It happens more often than you think. Tell me, what has he been nagging you about?"
"Um, getting more exercise."
"Uh-huh. They don't sound like insurmountable problems."
"And now, you're going to tell me how to make up with him and everything will be better."
Helen sat on the bed with her hands folded on her lap. "No, Daria. If I knew that secret, life with your father would be a lot easier."
"Now that's encouraging."
"Then maybe we should just give up now."
"That is always an option."
"That's always an option. The other is to work things out, like your father and me."
Looking at the floor, Daria carefully asked, "Why haven't you and Dad used that, um, other option?"
"For the reason we go on those marriage retreats. We may not know the best way to deal with things, but we're still willing to learn."
"Sweetie, perfect couples don't exist. All, and I mean all, will argue from time to time. Let me tell you, nobody can make you angrier or hurt you more than someone you love. That's what makes the fights so bad. Afterward, every couple has to find a way to make things work again. Some do that much better than others." Helen sighed, "Your father and I are still working on the better part."
"That helps, but I still don't really understand why."
"We keep trying because we love each other and think it's worth it."
Daria snorted, "So all you need is love."
Helen slid across the bed and then crouched next to Daria to hold her daughter's hands. "No, Sweetie. Love is the first step."
Glad for the distraction, but sincerely concerned, John said, "What happened to your foot?"
Jake shrugged and limped into the room. "Stupid accident. Really stupid accident!"
"You didn't come up here just to rant about your foot, did you?"
"What? Oh, no, no. Sorry, just a little upset." Jake sat next to John on the bed and tilted his foot toward the teen. "I don't think toes are supposed to turn that shade of purple."
"Looks like it's broken."
"That's what I said! Better see a doctor."
"Don't bother; they'll just tape it up to the next toe and send you on your way. Broken toes get no respect, and you won't get any sympathy."
"I thought you didn't want to rant."
Jake calmed somewhat. "Um, no."
"Let me guess, it's the double team maneuver. You're here to talk to me about the fight and Helen's talking to Daria."
"Um, not exactly. Helen's with Daria, but she doesn't know I'm here. The toe thing."
"Gotcha. So, do you have any sage advice on relationships? Parsley or rosemary will do in a pinch."
"Well, they did have all these nifty ideas at the seminar. You could try some role play…" Jake blushed and then said, "Um, maybe not that."
"I'll pretend I didn't hear whatever you didn't say."
"Thanks! Now, where was I? Oh yeah, you might want to try…um, not that either. Wait, they had this great idea that uses…darn!"
"That seminar was mostly about sex, wasn't it?"
"Not really, but I kind of lost track of the other stuff. I wish I hadn't; then maybe I could've helped you."
John leaned forward, resting elbows on knees. "I know I messed up, but I also know that I was right. I should work harder on math; I certainly don't want to end up like Trent. But Daria nags so much that I dig in and resist. If she'd back off, I'd probably try harder." John sat up straight as he made a mental connection. "Damn. I bet I'm ragging her too much about exercise. Um, Jake, what do you do when you know that you've screwed up?"
"You mean, after I've blamed my old man?"
Meek, Jake said, "Tell Helen I'm sorry."
"What about if you were right about something, too?"
"She figures that out and apologizes."
"So your basic plan is to say you're sorry and hope she does, too?"
John asked, "Outside of things I'm sure you don't want to tell me and I don't want to hear, what do you two get out of those marriage seminars?"
"We try new things."
"Do they help?"
"No, we always go back to what we've done before."
"Then why go?"
"It makes Helen happy."
"Even though you don't like those seminars?"
Sighing, and then putting his arm on John's shoulder, Jake explained, "I know I'm not the best husband or father, but somehow I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful wife and family that mean the world to me. So, if going to those seminars and trying new things makes Helen happy and keeps us all together, I'll do it."
John gazed down. "Um, thanks Jake."
"Come to think of it, maybe you better have a doctor look at that toe. It's turning green."
"Green!" Jake yelled in a panic.
In Daria's room, Helen turned to face the sound. "Oh my, your father must've gone to talk to John."
Daria asked, "But why would he yell, 'green'?"
Mother and daughter faced each other, sighed and rested their faces in their hands.
Quinn twisted around on the sofa and rested her arms on the back to face her parents coming down the stairs, with Helen bracing Jake. Quinn asked, "Have they made up?"
"Not yet," Helen said. "But I think they're on their way."
"I'm okay," Jake said, trying to sound cheerful. "Just taking a little trip to the hospital. You never know what kind of complications you can get."
"You're leaving me alone with those two?"
Reassuring, Helen said, "I'm pretty sure that they'll make up, so you won't need to worry about any fighting."
Quinn sighed dramatically and said, "And when they make up, they're going to act all lovey-dovey." She shivered for extra effect.
Stopping to open the door, Helen said, "All the more reason for you to stay; to help them avoid temptation."
Quinn folded her arms and turned in a mild huff. "How about if I just throw a bucket of cold water on them?"
"If you must," Helen said. "We'll be back as soon as we can."
John softly knocked on Daria's door, and after a few moments, she opened it. He said, "Um, hi."
"We had our first nasty fight. Does this mean we're in the big leagues?"
"Or added a new level to our relationship?"
Shuffling his feet nervously, John said, "Daria…maybe Monique had a point about Trent, and, uh, you had a point about me."
"You, too. Look, think we could compromise and stuff? I'll try to exercise more."
"I'll work on my math."
"That wasn't so hard."
"No, not really."
Daria stepped back and motioned John to step further into the room. "The gut-wrenching agony leading up to this was the hard part."
They crossed the room and sat next to each other on the bed. John said, "It's scary how easy that happened, and over stuff we should've been able to talk about."
Hunched over and arms folded in her lap, Daria said, "You know that most teen relationships don't last."
Head down, John said, "Yeah. Hell, it seems like most adult relationships don't last. The only one I can think of in my family is Mom and Dad…and they spend more time apart than together."
"I guess it says something that my Mom and Dad keep going to those workshops and counselors. At least they're trying."
"Do you think we can buck the trend?"
"I don't know. What about you?"
"Don't know, either. I wonder how people do know. I mean, know that someone is right for them."
Daria stood, walked to a window and gazed past the cutoff bars. "Does anyone? Look at all the messed-up relationships out there. Maybe it's all a delusion."
John joined her at the window, tentatively placing his arm around her waist. "Maybe, and maybe everything's a delusion." Feeling no resistance, he gently held Daria closer. "I think I'll take the gamble, anyway. Even a delusion is better than what I had before."
Daria's arm moved around John's waist and she looked up at his face. "I think this is supposed to be one of the moments where we talk about how much we've learned."
"Let's not and say we did."
Daria faintly smiled. "Works for me."
They gently kissed, first a brief touch, then a longer and more caring kiss as they moved into an embrace. John whispered, "I have to admit, I like the making up part."
"I'm not complaining," Daria whispered in reply.
When Daria and John went downstairs, they were greeted by Quinn pointing to a plastic pail on the coffee table. "Don't make me use it!"
Daria slowly asked, "Why is there a bucket of water on the table?"
"Mom said I could, if I have to," Quinn explained. "I know you two are going to have that 'we're so happy to be back together' thing going, just don't display it like Mom and Dad. Okay?"
John chuckled and said, "I think a cold bucket of water would've done more good when I was mad."
"I've never seen you two like that," Quinn said. "It was really kind of scary because I thought you were different."
"Sorry to bring you down to Earth, Quinn, but I guess we're human after all," Daria said.
Quinn nodded. "I see."
"Looks like your dad left the luggage down here," John said, pointing to the suitcases. "I'll take them upstairs, kind of a thank you."
Quinn said, "Mom and Dad's help actually worked?"
"In its own way," John said. "I'll be right back." He picked up both suitcases and trotted up the stairs.
Lowering her voice, Quinn asked Daria, "If you made up, why aren't you two all making out and stuff?"
Daria took a seat on one of the other sofa sections. "Feeling humbled after all this wasn't exactly a turn-on. We kissed and just held each other for a while. That's what felt right. In that way, we are different from Mom and Dad, or Trent and Monique."
"Or Kevin and Brittany?"
"Quinn…" Daria warned.
"Just joking, Daria," Quinn said.
"Okay, you got me."
Trying to open the bedroom door, John noticed that Helen's suitcase wasn't closed properly; possibly knocked loose when Jake dropped it. "Just hold on a couple more seconds," he told the luggage.
Just before reaching the bed, his plea went unanswered as Helen's suitcase opened. John quickly lowered the suitcase and pushed the handled side down against the other to prevent most of the contents from spilling. Grabbing things as fast as he could, John stuffed things back into the suitcase, stopping when he realized that he held a purple, cat-like mask and body suit. Wide-eyed in realization, he finished the job in a panic, snapped the latches closed and then tossed both suitcases onto the bed. On the way out of the room, he muttered, "Dear God, please never let me find out that Jake has a Batman costume."
Seeing her sister's continued discomfort, Daria said, "You were worried."
Quinn nodded her head. "Yeah. Being with John has been really good for you. I wouldn't want you to go back to the way you were before leaving Highland."
"I'll admit that I prefer my current situation to what I experienced in that wretched town."
"So you two aren't going to fight anymore?"
Daria slowly shook her head. "I'm sure we will, because it seems to be a part of the whole togetherness/relationship thing."
"But you're going to keep going, right?"
"We want to, but I don't know where we'll end up. Mom and Dad keep coming back together, even when Trent and Monique couldn't. I can't tell why there's a difference, and nobody else seems to be able to tell me, either."
Sad, Quinn barely said, "Oh."
Coming down the stairs, John said, "Where's that bucket? I need to wash that out of my eyes."
"What?" Daria asked, suddenly worried.
John jogged to the table and stuck his face in the water, rubbing his eyes while Daria and Quinn looked on in curious confusion. When he looked up, John said, "You really don't want to know, but after I'm done here, I'm getting rid of part of my comic collection."
Waiting until Daria shut the car off, John looked at the door of Trent's apartment and asked, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Not really," Daria replied. "But I somehow feel that we owe them."
John got out and then leaned into the open window. "Meet you at the Green in about an hour?"
"If it takes that long," Daria said. "Good luck."
After Daria pulled away, John went to Trent's door and knocked. After the third attempt, his brother opened the door. "Huh?"
"Sorry to wake you, Trent."
Trent shrugged. "Hey, it had to happen sooner or later," as he shuffled to the tiny kitchen alcove. "Want some soda?"
John followed him. "I'm good. Look, Daria and I were wondering if things between you and Monique…were repairable."
Trent shook his head while opening a soda from the mostly bare refrigerator. "Nah, but thanks for asking."
"That's too bad."
Trent pushed some clutter on the dinette table out of the way and motioned for John to sit. "Probably for the best, we weren't right for each other. Just too stubborn to say it."
"But, you did see something; that's why you kept trying."
"Monique's not bad and we had a lot of fun, but we didn't have the same vision."
"No chance of compromise, huh?"
"I don't compromise when it comes to my vision."
"I knew you would." Trent took a long drink from the soda can and then said, "Thanks for coming over. The band's been kind of staying away and it's good to talk to someone about it."
"Hey, you're my brother."
"Hey Daria, come on in," Monique said while opening the door of her apartment. The small place was simply but neatly furnished. Monique's fascination with music was confirmed by a row of guitars on stands at one end of the living room. She said, "I can nuke some water for tea."
"Thanks, but I'm not that thirsty."
"Have a seat," Monique said while motioning to the sofa. They sat down and then Monique said, "You have that 'I want to talk' look. What's up?"
"John and I were talking, and wondered about the chances of you and Trent trying again."
"No, that story's over. It's not like we didn't try; it's just that we couldn't make it work."
"Doesn't hurt to ask."
"Don't get me wrong; Trent's a nice guy. Easy-going, nonjudgmental, and actually sweet when you get to know him. But, we couldn't get over our differences. He has to go his way, and I have to go mine."
"Do you regret it?"
"Being with Trent? Nah, we had a lot of fun together. Breaking up? Some, but that's the way things go at times." Monique leaned over and gave Daria a hug. "Thanks for coming over. It's good to have someone to talk to."
"What about the rest of the Harpies?"
"They're my bandmates, you're my friend."
In the middle of the village green, John was seated at the base of a statue representing a Civil War general whose name was as long-forgotten as the missing plaque. When he saw Daria stop the car along the curb, he stood, stretched and walked over to her. He asked, "How'd it go?"
"Monique's not interested. How about Trent?"
John walked around and got into the passenger seat. "Well, we tried."
"So did Trent and Monique. But finally, they were realistic enough to know it wouldn't work."
"Yeah. But I was thinking your parents are also being realistic to keep things going. Does that make sense?"
Daria reached over and grasped John's hand. "Yeah, it does."
Some dialog from Speedtrapped by Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.