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 thirty-eighth John Lane story
"What was that?" one of her new roommates, Anais, said.
"Thinking out loud."
One of the other girls in the cabin, Paris, said, "Yeah, I do that too."
Reading a pamphlet, Caroline said, "I think it's so cool that they have Daniel Dotson as a speaker this year. His work is so…brilliant."
The final occupant of the cabin, Jett, said, "I hear that he'll have Paper Plate Genocide on display in one of his lectures."
"Awesome," Anais said.
Caroline said, "He is such a genius."
"Sounds impressive," Daria said. "What kind of art does he do?"
Surprised, Jett asked, "You don't know?"
"My boyfriend might have mentioned him, but I'm a writer, not an artist."
"Oh, yeah," Jett said.
Anais explained, "He's a postmodern multimedia sculptor."
"Okay," Daria said, thinking that she would need a translation from John later.
Hearing a knock at the door, Jett got up, saying, "I'll get it."
When she opened the door, John said, "Hey, is Daria here?"
"Yeah, come in." Jett stepped aside and said, "Daria, your guy is here."
"This is John," Daria said, rising to greet him.
The other girls in the cabin gave various greetings and John waved at them. "Hi."
"Do you have a brother?" Caroline asked.
Paris asked, "Available?"
John scratched his ear. "According to Mom, Wind finally has all of his divorces finalized."
"Pass," Anais said.
Jett said, "What about the other one?"
"He's about as available as a slacker musician can be."
"Musician?" Caroline said. "I am so over musicians and their creative egos."
"Tell me about it," Jett said, shaking her head.
"On that thought," John said, "We'll take our leave."
Once outside, Daria gave him a quick kiss and said, "Thanks for rescuing me from attempting further conversation."
"You're not stuck with the art colony equivalent of the Fashion Club, are you?"
"No, but…we definitely don't have the same interests. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the only person in the writing program."
"I'm sure you'll find out tomorrow when we go to our first classes."
"I guess. Oh, have you heard about this Daniel Dotson?"
John shrugged. "I've read about him in some magazines. Not my cup of tea, but if he can get stuff in the big New York galleries, there must be something I can learn from him."
Daria gave him a look. "You know, I can teach you bribery."
Seated on one of the sofas, Quinn talked on the phone. "Sandi, they're only going to be gone for two months."
She listened and shook her head. "No, Sandi, it still takes nine months. Not even a brain can speed that up. So, forget what you heard about Daria; that's not the reason she's out of town."
Quinn listened again and then said, "They're off someplace to do their writing and drawing things with others like them. Yeah, I know, but hey, it keeps them out of trouble. Anyway, what do you think about the new line of tops from Tres Chic?"
Helen walked over from the kitchen and stood next to the sofa, waiting for Quinn to notice.
Going back to scanning an array of Waif magazines on the coffee table and cross checking with carefully written notes in a small notebook, Quinn said, "Sandi, I so agree, and the designer name is so dreamy."
Tapping her foot impatiently, Helen stood over her daughter and said, "Quinn, a moment please."
"Hold on," Quinn said and then held her hand over the phone so that Sandi couldn't hear. "Can you make it quick? We're planning our 'Bringing in Summer' shopping trip."
"You are not going to spend the summer shopping."
Quinn sighed and said, "Okay, Mom, what's the deal this year?"
"I'm glad you're being reasonable. Mr. O'Neill called up looking for volunteers for his summer camp and I signed you up."
"Mo-om! You didn't. Mr. O'Neill?"
"Quinn, with all of your babysitting experience, I figured you would be a good fit."
"'What about working in your office again?"
"We already have a PR intern," Helen said, and then muttered, "Thank God."
"But…Mr. O'Neill? All summer? What did I do that was so wrong?"
"If you'd found a constructive activity on your own, I wouldn't have to find one for you."
"Think of the damage to my reputation!"
"I'm more than confident it will survive. Quinn, I don't have time to debate. You're working at Mr. O'Neill's camp and that's final."
The tone of Helen's voice told Quinn to acquiesce. "Fine, when do I start?"
"But that's when I'm going shopping with the Fashion Club."
"Then I'd say the timing was perfect. You'll have to reschedule your shopping trip."
"Mom, what am I going to tell my friends?"
"That you have another commitment."
Quinn gave in and uncovered the phone. "Sandi, I'm sorry, but I can't make it. I have…other plans."
Walking hand in hand with John, Daria said, "It never fails. Even in a new environment, I get to be the odd one."
"Like there's a problem with odd?"
"Not really, but from a writer's perspective, I should experience the alternative at least once in my life so I have a good frame of reference."
"Is that really necessary? You don't have a problem writing about secret agents gunning down commies even though you've never directly experienced it."
"Who says I haven't?"
"Note to self, don't piss off your girlfriend."
"Besides, you have the advantage of a room to yourself instead of a cabin."
"A room way too close to my parents, with Dad expected home soon. Let's just say that they're as loud as your parents, only the sounds are stranger."
"With that sharing violation, we can safely conclude that life continues to conspire against us. There are times when I think we should jump straight to lifelong paranoia and get it over with."
Daria gave him a faux angry glare. "I don't know if I should let you talk to me like that."
Yelling, "John!", a shapely, black-haired young woman ran up and grabbed him in a very friendly hug. "It's good to see you."
Off guard and slightly embarrassed, he said, "Hi, Alison."
"That was an unexpectedly friendly greeting," Daria said, showing a tinge of concern in her voice.
Extricating himself, he said, "Daria, this is Alison, the artist who did that drawing I gave you last summer. Alison, this is my girlfriend, Daria."
"Cool," Alison said. "You're still together." She then hugged Daria and said, "John told me a lot about you."
"Um…" Daria mumbled, uncomfortable with the open display.
"It's going to be great having two people who aren't art snobs around." Seeing the expression on John and Daria's faces, she explained, "You can learn a lot around here, but damn, you have to put up with a lot of attitude. When you think about it, you get a lot of attitude out there in the real world, so I guess it helps you learn to cope."
"Another microcosm that tells us that life outside our direct control sucks," Daria said. "Why am I not surprised?"
Alison laughed and said, "Speaking of attitudes, I like yours."
"I've worked hard all my life to cultivate it."
Stepping back, Alison then said, "I have the feeling you two were after some alone time, so I'll let you get back to that and I'll see you around. Okay?"
"We were trying to escape for a few minutes," John said. "Thanks."
"Nice to meet you," Daria said.
Alison said, "Later, guys," and hurried away down the path toward the cabins.
"You seem to have made an impression," Daria said.
Daria smirked. "She sees that you're a great catch, so she has more than two brain cells to rub together."
John relaxed and pulled Daria close. "You're a better catch."
"And don't you forget it," Daria teased.
"Good morning, Quinn," Mr. O'Neill cheerfully said as the teenager arrived at the school board offices. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt bearing an oddly smiling and crying face with a logo that said, "It's OK To Cry."
"Hi," she weakly said.
He gave Quinn a t-shirt and said, "Here's your counselor shirt. You can change in the restroom and then meet back here to get on the bus to pick up our campers."
She held it up. "You want me to wear this?"
"Now Quinn, all of the counselors will be wearing it. It's our uniform!"
Looking unhappy with his lot in life, Mr. DeMartino approached, also wearing one of the shirts. "Ms. Morgendorffer, what an interesting surprise to see you here this morning."
Mr. O'Neill and Mr. DeMartino. Can this possibly get any worse? Quinn thought. "Hi, Mr. DeMartino."
"The bus leaves in five minutes," Mr. O'Neill said. "You better get changed."
Quinn nodded and walked to the restroom, muttering, "Mom, you are so going to pay for this."
After an uncomfortable ride in the bus, made worse by Mr. O'Neill's attempts at singing, Quinn found herself in a classroom at Lawndale Elementary School, which was now the camp's activity room.
Standing before the small group of children, Mr. O'Neill said, "Greetings, and welcome to the Okay to Cry Corral. I'm Uncle Timothy, and together, we're going to take a journey to the land of self-discovery. A land where it's okay to laugh, and it's okay...to cry."
The children shuffled their feet and looked around, already losing interest.
"And now, I'd like my co-counselors, Quinn and Uncle Anthony, to say a few words about what they hope to accomplish here."
"Ladies first," Mr. DeMartino said.
Quinn stepped forward and had to think for a moment before saying, "I hope to give all of you a good start on your fashion sense."
When she stepped back, Mr. DeMartino reluctantly stepped forward, almost saying something before he remembered a card in his pocket and pulled it out. Reading from it, he said, "To help make this a pleasurable experience for all. Let's learn to love ourselves together," and then gave the children a forced smile that was more frightening than reassuring.
Mr. O'Neill said, "Thank you, Uncle Anthony. Now, I'm going to divide you into three groups." Gesturing with his hands, he counted off groups of four, "One, two, three. Quinn, you can take Group One, Uncle Anthony, Group Two and I'll take Group Three."
Quinn's group had two girls and two boys. She said, "Hi everybody. My name is Quinn, what's yours?"
The last boy, who had to this point been sitting with his head resting on his arms, mumbled, "Link."
James said, "I like your smile."
"Your nails look so good," Allie said.
Wanda said, "You have such tiny pores."
"Thank you." Quinn then focused on Link and asked, "Do you have anything to say?"
"Yeah, it's summer."
Seated on a stool, John listlessly watched the featured summer lecturer, Daniel Dotson, speaking in front of a bundle of spears with paper plates skewered on them. Daniel said, "When I unveiled Paper Plate Genocide in 1991, it was hailed as intriguing, provocative, even brilliant. And not just by me."
While most of the other students laughed, John whispered to Alison, seated on the next stool, "But also by every critic I paid off," causing her to snicker.
Daniel said, "No, we all know critics tend to get carried away. But what was I thinking when I created a work that seems to have turned out both seminal and semiotic?"
"Wow, that 'Learn-A-New-Word-A-Day' calendar was really worth it," Alison said, generating a chuckle from John.
Daria's cabinmate Paris said, "Excuse me, Mr. Dotson?"
"Please...Paris, isn't it? Call me Daniel," he said, giving her name a faux French accent.
Impressed by his personal attention, she said, "Daniel. I just want to say, I think you're the greatest living artist of our time."
"Even better than that guy with the happy little trees," John said, his comment hidden by the other students clapping their hands.
One of the other students, John remembered his name as Grant, said, "I was wondering; where do you get your inspiration?"
Alison said, "Every time I wipe my ass."
Dramatically mimicking his points, Daniel said, "I don't sit around and wait for inspiration. I grab it -- in the glint of the sun on a frozen peak...in the pain of an arthritic's hobble...in a lover's whisper in the dark. So I'd have to say, my inspiration comes from life itself."
Grant let out an overly impressed, "Wow."
John said, "You called that one right."
Daniel wrapped up his class by saying, "Well, that's enough of the old windbag's ramblings for today. We'll pick up here tomorrow."
"I can hardly contain my excitement," John said. "I wonder if the entire summer is going to be like this."
Alison shook her head. "I thought he sounded pompous in interviews. He's worse in real life. How far behind is he on child support to come here for some quick cash?"
"I bet it's the free room and board. Trust me; they don't pay staff worth a crap."
"Oh yeah, are your folks still working here?"
"Yep. Mom's doing pottery and ceramics and Dad's doing photography. Well, he will be when he gets back from Finland tomorrow."
Daria joined John and Alison as they waited in line at the cafeteria. John asked, "How was your first lecture?"
Daria sighed and said, "Method Writing. We should 'feel' what our characters are going through. The man is full of more hot air than the Hindenburg after it landed at Lakehurst."
"I thought the Hindenburg blew up trying to land at Lakehurst."
"Sounds like you had as much fun as we did," Alison said.
Daria looked at John. "Whose idea was this?"
"How was I supposed to know the inmates were messed up more than the ones at Lawndale High?" he said in defense.
"Hmm, the odds of that were pretty unlikely, so you're off the hook."
Alison shook her head. "You two are weird."
"That sounded like my brother."
Daria glanced at Alison and said, "And your tattoos look like his brother's."
"You like them?" Alison said. "I got a great deal trading some of my designs."
"They make a statement," Daria said.
Alison asked, "You got any hidden tats?"
"No, just, um," Daria said before briefly lifting the edge of her shirt, "just a belly ring."
"I knew you weren't as plain as you tried to pretend."
Daria nudged John. "Are you going to let her talk to me like that?"
"Hey, I knew right off the bat that you weren't some plain Jane."
Carrying their lunches, John and Daria went to the Lane cabin and he opened the door.
Waiting inside and smoking his ever-present pipe, Vincent Lane turned, genuinely smiled and said, "John, I'm so glad to see you again."
"Dad," John said, setting his lunch on the nearest chair and going to Vincent. "You made it back."
Contrite, Vincent said, "I thought I would be on time for once."
"Hi, Mr. Lane," Daria said, feeling uncomfortable seeing the man for the first time since her parents had been made John's legal guardians.
"Daria," he said. "How are you?"
"Here, let me help you," Vincent said, going to the dining table and pulling out some chairs. "We can sit down and catch up on each other's lives."
Amanda came in from the bedroom and said, "Oh good, John and Daria are here."
Daria whispered to John, "This is going to be a long lunch, isn't it?"
She sighed. "I suppose it's only fair; you have to live with my parents."
Standing in the kitchen, Jake squinted at the fine print in a cookbook and read aloud, "Roast the garlic bunches at 350 degrees for 40 minutes."
The phone rang, causing him to jump and drop the cookbook, losing his place. "Dammit!"
When nobody appeared to answer, he picked up the phone and said, "Hello!"
"Hi," Tom Sloane said on the line, surprised by Jake's abrupt tone. "Um, can I please speak with Quinn?"
"What? Oh, sure, young man." Jake covered the phone and yelled, "Quinn! Phone!" as if he hadn't been upset moments before.
Quinn came down the stairs, dressed up for the evening and brushing her hair. "Who is it, Daddy?"
"I don't know. Do you want me to ask?"
"Forget it," Quinn said, taking the phone. "Hello."
"Hi Quinn, it's Tom Sloane."
"Oh, hi Tom."
"I need a favor and you might be able to help me. Are you busy on the Fourth of July?"
"Well, I was planning on going to the Landons, but that's not firm yet."
"Well, since I didn't come up with other plans, Mom's informed me that I will be attending the country club celebration."
Quinn rolled her eyes in sympathy. "I know the feeling."
"There will be fireworks."
"Fireworks? Those are so noisy."
"I'll buy you earplugs. Quinn, I have to go and would prefer decent company. If I don't, Mom and Dad will try to set me up with one of the Muffys sure to be prowling around."
"Hmm," Quinn said. "Formal or semiformal?"
"Semiformal. This is when the members get to, quote, cut loose, unquote."
Quinn grinned at the shopping possibilities. "I'll be there."
John smirked as he watched Daria sitting on a bench and writing in a notebook while half a dozen of his father's students moved around her taking photographs.
Vincent stepped among the students and said, "That's good. Everyone to the darkroom and develop your film. I expect to see finished prints in the morning. Have a good day."
After the students left, Daria said, "That felt weird."
"Thanks for your patience," Vincent said.
"Not that I don't mind a break from my writing class, but I'm still confused," Daria said. "I'm no good at posing or modeling, so why have me do it?"
"It's easy for a photographer to work with a model or someone who is automatically aware of how they look. But in the end, they will look posed while you look natural. This was an exercise to teach my students how to get a good photo from someone acting normally. Those are the photos that show real creativity and art."
John stepped up, saying, "And writing is about as normal as it gets with Daria."
"Hey, how was your class this afternoon?"
"Let's see, Paris is pissed off that Daniel is now paying more attention to Charlene while Alison was joking about using her female attributes to get a few gallery openings out of him."
Vincent snorted and said, "Some things never change in the art world."
"Does this mean we're being prepared for later life?" Daria asked.
"I've always said the art world would make a great soap opera," Vincent said with a smile.
John shrugged and said, "And we get to live it for the summer."
In her bedroom, Sandi paced back and forth in front of the rest of the Fashion Club. "Quinn, I hope you have a very good explanation for blowing off the Landons' party and not demonstrating the best of your summer wardrobe. Or has all that brainy PSTAT preparation caused you to lose your senses?"
Slightly irritated but also slightly amused, Quinn said, "Sandi, you know that I would love to go to the party, but I accepted an invitation to see the fireworks at Winged Tree Country Club."
"Winged Tree?" Stacy said in amazement. "They are so exclusive."
"Does the guy have a brother?" Tiffany slowly asked.
Not letting the news make a visible impression, Sandi said, "In that case, Quinn, you're excused. But we expect a full fashion report when you get back."
"Sure, Sandi," Quinn said. "Tiffany, I’m sorry, but Tom only has a sister."
"Oops!" Alison said, quickly stepping back from the small, secluded clearing in the woods beyond the main campus of Ashfield. Good-naturedly, she said, "Sorry about that. I'll give you a minute to put your shirts on."
Red-faced and shirt rumpled a bit, Daria appeared and said, "That was embarrassing."
Trying to put a different face on things, John said, "Alison had to learn about things sometime."
Alison said, "Funny."
"What brings you out here?" Daria asked.
"John, your mom was looking for you. I guess it's a good thing I found you instead of her. That would have been real embarrassing."
"Any particular reason she was looking for us?" John said.
"We better see what she wants," Daria said. "Thanks for, um, letting us know, Alison."
"Oh, my pleasure."
Daria put a palm to her face. "I walked right into that one."
"Actually, I did," Alison said with a wink.
"Argh," Daria said, caught again.
John smiled at the exchange and said, "See you later, Alison. I better see what Mom wants."
"Later, kids." Alison watched them leave and sighed. "Damn, they're cute."
After straightening up their clothes further along the way, John and Daria reached the Lane cabin and found Amanda inside. John said, "Hi, Mom. Alison said you were looking for us."
Amanda smiled and said, "Yeah. I haven't seen you at all today and wanted to say, 'Hi.'"
Quinn looked over the table of children quietly making simple wind catchers and thought, This isn't so bad. A thumping noise from outside the room caught her attention, which made her remember that Link had stepped out several minutes before.
Curious, she got up and went out into the hallway where she found him lightly pounding his head against the wall and saying, "Dammit."
She said, "Link?"
He groaned and turned. "Oh, one of the wardens. Surprised you noticed."
"You were a little loud."
"You don't notice that I'm miserable, but you notice that I'm too loud banging my head against the wall."
"You kind of remind me of my sister. Maybe we can get you a padded room, too."
Link crossed his arms. "Padded room. Funny."
"She really has a padded room."
Quinn explained, "The previous owners put in the padding for some freaky relative and my sister insisted on taking that room instead of the other normal room."
"You're not making this up," Link said. "You're not that original."
"Now that really sounds like my sister."
"My mom got rid of one jerk and then married an even bigger one. Since nobody wants to deal with me during the summer, I got sent to this lame-assed summer camp. What happened to your sister?"
"Smart, sensitive girl growing up in one of the most backward little towns imaginable with a little sister who could adapt better than she could."
Link snorted, but was clearly interested. "So what's your sister doing this summer?"
"From what she told me, stuck in an artist colony with her boyfriend and a bunch of snooty creative types that are driving her nuts."
"So life sucks no matter where you go."
"Not always," Quinn said. "But it will if Mr. O'Neill notices us and comes out with some of his icky New Agey silliness."
Link cringed. "Ugh, I hate that stuff."
"You and everyone at Lawndale High."
Allowing a small laugh, Link went back into the craft room with Quinn following.
"You looked so lovely this evening, Quinn," Kay Sloane said as she spoke to Tom and Quinn as the crowd dispersed after the fireworks display. Like the others present, the teens were tastefully attired in comfortable clothes that had just the right amount of formality for the occasion.
"Thank you," Quinn sweetly said. "I love your outfit. Where did you get it?"
"This? I picked it up at Orleans the last time I was in D.C."
Coming up behind her mother, Elsie Sloane said, "Tom, what a surprise; you survived the night."
"Like I had a choice?" he said.
"As much as I did." Looking past Tom, Elsie said, "Hi, Quinn. I'm impressed by your tolerance for my brother."
"If I can endure my sister and her boyfriend, I can endure anything. Besides, the fireworks were pretty, if a little loud."
"I wish I could talk with your sister some more," Kay said. "She sounds as fascinating are you are."
"It'll have to wait. She and John are at an art colony out of state and won't be back until the end of next month."
Kay tilted her head with interest. "Art colony? I thought she was a writer and her boyfriend was a painter."
"You're right on both. The colony has a writing program, too."
"Your parents show a lot of trust to allow the two of them to be away for the summer together."
"Eh, they've kind of earned it."
With John's cats Zachary and Taylor lazily purring on her stomach, Quinn lay on her bed talking on the phone. "Daria, yeah, it's a formal dance, but it's also a fundraiser for the Lawndale Art Museum and Kay Sloane is on the board of directors. Can you think of a better way for John to get his art noticed?"
Talking on the phone in the Lane cabin and not thrilled about the offer, but feeling the need to be fair, Daria said, "Okay, Quinn, I'll ask him since 'who you know' seems to be how the art world works, or at least, the way it seems to work around here."
"Duh, Daria. That's how the world works."
"You realize this stuff justifies my cynicism even more, right?"
"I'm trying to do you two a favor."
"I know you are." Daria leaned her head back to rest against the wall. "Sorry, Quinn, but things have been more disillusioning than usual."
"Come on, you've been there for a month. There must be something good about the place."
"Well, John's parents seem to be doing better and I think they're honestly trying to make things up in their way. And there is one girl who's at least interesting to be around and doesn't make me want to shove a rabid squirrel into any available orifice on their body."
"See, even you can make friends in new places. Things are looking up for when you two go off to college. Oh, and for the rest – eww."
"I wouldn't want you to miss me too much," Daria said.
Glad the bus had finally stopped at the end of the day, Quinn glanced at Mr. DeMartino and thought, After listening to Mr. O'Neill's singing every day, I'm starting to feel like him. She followed the students off the bus and helped to supervise them while they waited for a parent to pick them up.
Holding a small bundle of wildflowers, Link came over to Quinn and offered them. She gave him a bright smile and said, "Thank you," as she accepted the flowers.
"Quinn, you're the first person who's ever really listened to me," he said.
"Oh, Link. You just needed to get out of your shell a little bit."
"Like your sister?"
"Like my sister."
"You're pretty cool."
"I know," Quinn said. Seeing a car driving up, she added, "My ride's here. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sure thing, Quinn," Link said, looking as happy as she'd seen him since the summer began.
Quinn hopped over to the car and said, "Hi, Jeffy. I’m so looking forward to Chez Pierre tonight."
As Jeffy put the car in gear and drove away, Quinn looked back and saw Link with his eyes on the ground and slowly turning in despair. "Oh, no," she whispered.
Sitting on the floor of her cabin between Daria and John, Alison splashed wine into each of three glasses and then held up the bottle. In a faint slur, she said, "Oops, empty, sorry guys," and tossed the bottle behind her.
"You only had two glasses for each we had," Daria said.
John flipped through a sketchpad and said, "These are great pastels."
"I like them, too," Daria said and took a sip from her wine.
"I guess, it only took boffing Daniel twice to get them into a decent gallery."
John felt uncomfortable and said, "That was a little too much information."
"But he was fun."
Daria shook her head and said, "That was way too much information."
"Oh, come on, Daria. I've seen you two, in more ways than one. You're not above having a little fun with each other yourselves."
Daria blushed at that, but replied, "That's a little different."
"You're in love; that's great, but what about the rest of us?"
"Um," Daria said, trying to think of an appropriate answer.
Curious, Alison asked, "You're cute, in a bookish way. Have you ever kissed anyone besides John?"
With a light laugh, Alison said, "You need to. No strings attached," and then she kissed Daria. Having fun, she then turned and said, "You, too," before kissing John. Giggling, Alison fell back against the chair. After a moment, she saw John and Daria's surprised faces. "Um…"
Daria grabbed John's hand, said, "We've gotta go," and quickly pulled him out of the cabin.
"What the hell was that about?" Daria demanded when they were clear.
"I don't know, except that people do dumb things when they're drunk."
"Like kissing someone else's boyfriend?"
"Daria, she kissed you first."
"I need to think," she said as they moved out of view of Alison's cabin.
Meanwhile, Alison got unsteadily to her feet and looked out of the window, trying to see the couple. "Damn, I think I just screwed up."
To be continued in Leaving Summer
Some dialog from Is It Fall Yet? by Glenn Eichler and Peggy Nicoll
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.
December 2008-January 2009