Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged. Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske
This is a sequel to Falling Into College that takes place almost seven years later.
Helen Morgendorffer paused in front of the mirror to spend a few moments examining the gray streaks in her hair. She smiled at herself, thinking of how she would've reacted a dozen years earlier to even a single gray hair. But now at fifty-nine, she wore it as a badge of honor and accomplishment.
Gazing out of the front window, Jake Morgendorffer said, "Honey, they're here."
She turned to her husband, who, after briefly flirting with a blue and white Shelby Mustang, had survived the milestone of turning sixty to become a distinguished-looking man. "Thank you, Jakey."
"And they brought the kids with them!" he said.
Helen stepped over to join Jake at the door. "You didn't expect them to be left at home, did you?"
"Of course not; I'm just happy to see them."
"As if they weren't spoiled as it is."
Jake took only a fraction of a second to open the door after the doorbell rang. "Daria!" he said, immediately pulling his eldest daughter into a hug.
"Glad to see you too, Dad," Daria said with a smile on her face. The years had been good to her and in turn, Jake felt proud of his beautiful daughter.
Helen then took her turn at hugging Daria. "Sweetie, welcome home."
"Hi, Mom. Thanks for putting up with us."
"It's always a pleasure." Looking over Daria's shoulder, Helen said, "Michael, how are you?"
"I'm good," Michael Fulton said, holding two cat carriers. "And the brats are doing well."
Jake squatted down and spoke to the cats. "Bump, Sissy. How are my little granddaughters?"
Bump gave him a loud and happy-sounding "Maraow!"
"Mewr," Sissy said in her quieter, kittenish voice.
"I've got fresh salmon for you," he said.
Michael said, "Yep, they've got you trained, too."
Helen said, "Please, let's get out of the doorway. Come in and relax."
Following Helen, Daria said, "Thanks. It looks like we're the first ones to arrive."
"Mother is already here," Helen said. "But she's upstairs taking a nap and Rita's with her. Mother tires easily these days."
Helen continued, saying, "Amy called and said that they will be here in about an hour. Karen and Derek are following them from the VA conference."
"Thanks again for inviting them," Daria said.
"Karen was so close to you, it felt like the right thing to do."
"And you want to see little Eve."
"Since you don't have any children, do you blame me?" Helen said.
"We're happy with our cats," Daria said, catching the hint. "Grandma Ruth is with Cousin Alexandra and her kids this weekend, right?"
"Yes. Your Uncle Bruce is supposed to visit with them, too."
"They had the good sense to stay away from the Barksdale family reunion?"
Helen sighed. "You could say that."
Behind them, Michael had placed the carriers on the ground and opened the doors. In a bound, both cats were out and rubbing against Jake's legs.
"Hey there, kiddos. Have you been staying out of trouble?" Jake said, bending down to pet them.
Daria smiled at her father and then asked her mother, "What about Quinn?"
"Their flight was delayed and they'll call when they land. Quinn said something about having an announcement to make. Do you have any idea of what she's talking about?" Helen said.
Daria shook her head. "Not a clue, Mom."
Assisted by her daughter Rita and using a walker, Tess Barksdale carefully came down the stairs. Tess's once-vibrant red hair was now white while her arms and legs were thin and frail. But despite her physical aging, Tess's eyes were bright and she was still mentally sharp. Rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairs, she spied Jake on one of the sofas, hand-feeding bits of salmon to the pair of cats.
She said, "Don't you think that you'll spoil them like that?"
Jake looked up. "Absolutely rotten!"
"I'm glad you didn't do that to your children and I'm glad you don't have any grandchildren."
"Sure I do," he said, giving Sissy a piece. "Right here."
"They're pets," Tess insisted.
Tess continued on her trip to the living room. "I suppose you'll have to settle for that since your daughters seem intent on not giving you any grandchildren."
Helen entered from the living room. "Mother, Daria and Quinn are younger than I was when I had Daria. There's still time for them to have children. If they so desire."
Rita said, "Erin is happy the way things are, so don't start, Mother."
"I know that they're step-grandchildren, but don't forget Amy's girls," Helen said.
"And how old will I be when they are old enough to even think about children?" With some difficulty, Tess sat on the sofa. "I just want my grandchildren to be happy."
Coming down the stairs from her old room, Daria said, "What am I unhappy about now?"
"I just don't understand why you don't want children. Even your friend Karen has a child now."
Daria sighed. "Because that's our choice. Grandma, even if Michael and I wanted children, we're not in a good situation to start a family. I'm still stringing together adjunct teaching assignments and part-time editing between trying to find time for my writing. That doesn't leave a lot of time for a kid."
Following Daria, Michael said, "I'm in the process of moving from one post-doc to another. Granted, a field position with the Smithsonian looks good on my CV, but with today's academic budgets, it still won't necessarily translate into a position somewhere."
"I still don't understand why you two are having such trouble finding jobs with all of your education," Tess said.
Daria replied, "It all comes down to supply and demand. For any faculty position in the Humanities, you can bet on competing against one or two hundred other people with equally good or better credentials. I know people with better publication records or teaching credentials than mine that are still looking."
"But we don't regret our path," Michael said. "It's been tough at times, but getting our degrees was worth it. If only for our self-satisfaction."
"At least you're happy with that," Tess said.
Daria walked over and sat on the sofa next to her father. "Easter treats are supposed to wait until Easter morning."
"I couldn't resist," Jake said. "They're so cute."
Michael sat on the remaining open sofa. "Of which they are fully aware and use to maximum advantage."
After taking the last piece of salmon, Sissy gave Jake a happy meow and jumped over onto Michael's lap.
After Bump gracefully climbed onto her lap, Daria said, "You wouldn't know that they have favorites, would you?"
"You have had your cat for a while now. How long?" Rita asked.
"Nine and a half years."
Scratching Sissy around a bright, silvery collar, Michael said, "Six years ago last Christmas."
Daria heard a car door and said, "It sounds like somebody else is here."
No longer entranced by the cats, Jake got up and walked to the window. "It's Amy and Reese, with Karen and Derek pulling in behind them."
Daria asked, "Can you tell if they brought Jerica's dog with them?"
Coming from the kitchen, Helen said, "Amy told me that he was staying with Reese's mother."
"Not that it's a bad dog," Daria said.
"But I appreciate not hosting a dog/cat marathon in my home," Helen said.
"Wow, the twins sure have grown," Jake said.
"Don't just stand there, Jake," Helen said. "Let them in."
"Oh, yeah," he said before going to the door and opening it. "Hi, guys!"
Amy Barksdale-Wyatt said, "Jake, thank you so much for having us over."
Her husband Reese shook Jake's hand and said, "Good to see you again."
One of the thirteen-year-old twins squirmed past the adults and rushed straight over to Daria and Michael. "The cats are here!"
Amy said, "Jerica's still the same. She and Karen have been almost inseparable the last couple of days while Reese and Derek were busy at the conference."
The second girl entered and waved. Jocelyn said, "Hi, everybody."
Knowing that her old friend was about to come in, Daria slipped Bump off her lap and into Jerica's waiting arms. Bump gave a brief snort of disapproval from the faint smell of dog, but accepted Jerica's attention anyway.
"Daria!" Karen Adler said as she entered and rushed over. After a big hug, Karen stepped back and said, "It's so good to see you."
"Good to see you," Daria said.
Holding their infant daughter Eve, Derek Adler came in and said, "Hello."
"Aw, isn't he so cute?" Jake said, his attention drawn instantly to Eve.
"She," Derek corrected.
"Goo-goo," Jake said, not seeming to notice.
Michael walked over to Daria and said, "It looks like your dad found a new shiny thing."
Watching from the sofa, Tess said, "What a beautiful child, dear."
Realizing that she had to look slightly upwards at Jocelyn, Daria said, "Amy, you need to quit feeding these two growth hormones."
"Trust me," Amy said. "They are doing that strictly on their own."
Daria asked, "So, anything useful out of the conference?"
Derek said, "Maybe. Everyone agrees that we need more veteran support, but nobody wants to challenge the bureaucracy or provide the funding."
"Almost nobody," Reese said. "Derek's not known for being a shrinking violet, and, well, Paula's still pulling every string she can in the Pentagon."
"And you use your TV network connections," Derek said.
"Sometimes, money has its uses," Reese said.
Feeling left out, Sissy jumped to the floor and then flopped down at Jerica's feet, belly up. "Mew!"
Jerica squatted down and petted Sissy's belly, causing the cat to stretch in joy and, using her front paws, pull herself along the carpet.
Karen laughed. "We must always remember who must be the center of attention."
Quinn hugged her mother and said, "The flight was simply dreadful."
Shaking hands with Jake, Q said, "We hit so much turbulence, half the passengers filled their barf bags before we landed."
"Eww," Jake said.
Daria said, "Only half?"
Q replied, "The traveling public is getting tougher. The TSA checks weed out the weak."
"Darwinian travel," Karen said.
Karen's voice got Quinn's attention and she also immediately noticed the baby. "Oh, Eve is so cute!" Quinn exclaimed as she hurried over to the sofa where Karen and the twins were seated.
"She takes after her mother," Derek said.
Q passed a handled bag to Jake. "I hope everyone will find these enjoyable."
Jake looked inside to find two bottles of wine. "Thanks!"
"They're from two small vineyards I work with in Napa Valley," Q said.
Quinn joked, "In the last couple of years, I've learned more about wine than I ever thought was possible."
"Still fighting the good fight to protect wine making in California?" Michael said.
"Oh, yeah. With Pierce's Disease continuing to be a big concern, there's plenty of demand for controlling the vector, which, in turn, keeps entomologists like me employed."
Reese said, "Quinn, are you still working with medical prosthetics?"
She said, "Of course, Reese. That, and teaching patients how to use makeup and appliances to help them blend in with society. I know it sounds kind of shallow, but people can be so cruel – and it really helps."
Reese said, "Including veterans?"
"I have several veterans as patients."
Reese glanced at Derek, who picked up on the thought and nodded. Reese then said, "How would you like to speak at our next Veteran's Care conference?"
"I, uh – me?"
Derek said, "Helping the injured fit back into society is one of our biggest challenges and anything that helps is appreciated."
"I guess so."
"I'll make sure you get an invitation," Reese said.
Helen said, "Please, please, come in and sit down," as she ushered the new arrivals away from the door. "Make yourselves comfortable."
"I could use a comfortable seat," Quinn said. "Daria, do you think you can tolerate your sister sitting next to you?"
"I think I'll survive," Daria said, moving to give Quinn space and hugging her when she sat down. "How is life treating you?"
"Very good. You?"
"Some good, some bad. The usual."
Quinn said, "Rita, how is Erin doing?"
"She's still happy in Boston."
"She's so much better off without that pathetic ex-husband of hers," Tess said.
Rita said, "I couldn't agree more. Though it does seem fitting what happened to him."
Daria said, "Last I heard was that he had been arrested after Erin left him."
Rita said, "He spent some time in the county jail and when he got out, well, he associated with a poor crowd until his death." Rita shrugged. "He always wanted recognition and in a way, he got it when he died. But I don't think he expected to be on The Darwin Show ."
Michael said, "How did he get featured on that?"
"It involved his pickup, a frozen lake, some duck decoys, a blow-up doll and a few too many beers."
"Eww," Quinn said. "I don't even want to hear any more."
"I'll check it out online when I get home," Daria said.
Tess said, "Quinn, you and your gentleman still aren't married, are you?"
"No, Grandma," Quinn said. "We're where we want to be and know where we are going."
"Your sister's been married for almost seven years, now."
Daria said, "Which is where I wanted to be, Grandma."
Helen walked over and said, "Quinn, there are so many advantages to being married. Why do you think gay and lesbian communities are fighting so hard for the right?" She glanced at Tess and added, "We just want you to have all of your legal rights and protections. Both of you."
"Mo-om," Quinn said.
"Come on, Quinn," Jake said as he joined the conversation. "Think of how beautiful you'll look in a wedding dress."
"I know I'll look good, but why are you all ganging up on me?" Quinn said.
"I'm not involved," Amy said, holding up her hands.
Helen said, "Honey, besides the legal protections, think of the symbolism. You two love each other so much, why don't you show it?"
A sly smiled formed on Quinn's face as she stood up. She tilted her head and jerked it to signal for Q to join her. "This seems like as good of time as any. I have an announcement to make."
Clearly nervous and fearing a detonation of monumental proportions, Q grasped Quinn's hand and stood beside her.
Helen said, "So what is this announcement?"
"You are not going to pressure us into getting married. Oh, and by the way. I'm pregnant."
Daria sat back and said to Michael, "I really didn't see that one coming."
"Pregnant!" Jake's sudden exclamation startled both cats, who decided that not being visible was the safest option and promptly disappeared under the sofas.
Karen said, "This is going to be good."
"How can you be pregnant?" Jake said.
"The usual way, Dad," Quinn calmly replied. "And it wasn't an accident. It's all been planned."
Daria said, "That I believe, though since you held off this long, I was picturing you more for adoption."
"I wanted things to be properly in place. Besides, Daria, you're still about Mom's age when she became pregnant with you."
"Don't even go there," Daria warned. "I'm happy the way things are with me and if you're happy with your choice, I'm right behind you."
"Besides, now that you're having a kid, maybe everyone will lay off me for a while."
Tess said, "You don't want to talk about marriage, even after such an accident."
Quinn fired back, "I said that this wasn't an accident!"
"Pregnant?" Jake said, still dazed.
Helen rose and glared at Q. "You got my little girl pregnant?"
Nervous, he said, "It was a mutual effort, Mrs. Morgendorffer."
Quinn quickly turned back and said, "Mo-om, I'm not fifteen!"
Michael said, "Daria, I think you need to reset your parents. They might be stuck."
"What were you thinking?" Helen said.
"That we want to have a child," Quinn said, trying to remain calm.
When Jake stepped forward toward Quinn, he bumped into Helen. When their eyes met, they saw the overloading emotion in the other's eyes and, at the same time, Helen said, "Heart attack!" while Jake said, "Stroke!"
The exclamations broke Jake and Helen from their shock. A sudden, huge grin formed on Jake's face before he said, "I'm going to be a grandfather!"
"I think he reset himself," Daria said. "Now let's see if Mom does."
"We need to start getting ready," Jake said, rushing for the door.
"Jake?" Helen said. "Where are you going?"
"To the store! I'll be back!" Jake said as he closed the door while pulling his car keys from his pocket.
"What could he possibly be after?" Reese asked.
Amused, Amy said, "I'd say anything from a white shotgun to a baby bassinet with built-in Blu-Ray and Surround Sound."
"I see that Jake is still rather excitable," Tess said.
Ignoring the others, Rita leaned forward and said, "Congratulations, Quinn. I'm very happy for you."
Quinn said, "That means a lot, Aunt Rita."
Settled down, Helen said, "I think it's wonderful, Quinn. You're going to be an excellent mother."
Michael said, "Reset complete."
"Though you really should get married first," Tess said.
Quiet to this point, Derek chuckled and said, "Karen, this is almost as entertaining as watching your family on Thanksgiving."
She developed a sudden look of horror on her face. "And they haven't fired up the grill or started drinking yet. Thank God they don't have moonshine around the house."
Reese said, "Speaking of the grill, we should get that started. It's the least we can do for Jake while he's gone."
Jocelyn said, "Mom, please tell me that Uncle Jake doesn't keep jet fuel around the house."
Amy said, "Helen is far too sensible to allow that."
Reese said, "I do not use jet fuel to light the grill."
"Oh, that's right," Jocelyn said. "You use rocket fuel."
"Better," Reese said with a grin.
While Reese, Derek, Q and Michael gathered with visions of fire in their eyes, Karen motioned for Quinn to come over. "Now that you've scrambled everybody else's brains, do you want to talk to someone who has been through the process lately?"
"Somebody with two X chromosomes needs to be out there to keep an eye on things," Daria explained as she followed the guys out to the back yard.
Helen sighed after Daria closed the door. "I guess she knows me too well."
Business-like, Tess said, "So, Quinn. What do you have planned for your child?"
Happy to get the attention she was after, Quinn said, "Well, I've already met with a dietician my OB/GYN recommended to make sure I have the best possible diet while I'm pregnant. After all, my child is going to be what I eat, and I want the very best."
Karen snickered and said, "Wait until you start craving something like grits and peanut butter."
"Eww," Quinn said, looking shocked.
"Maybe not that exact mix, but you'll crave something. Trust me, you will crave, and you will kick Chuck Norris's ass, if needed, to get it."
Helen nodded and said, "She's so right, Quinn."
"In that case, I hope it's not something totally gross."
After exchanging glances with her sister, Jerica said, "Mom, we're going to head out and give Aunt Daria moral support."
Amy gave them a wave and said, "She's probably going to need all the help she can get. Go on."
Rita watched the twins leave and, after they closed the door, said, "I guess they're at the age where they don't want to hear about it."
"That, and after years of picking up on things while Reese and I tried to have a baby…"
"I'm sorry, Amy," Rita said. "I didn't mean to remind you."
Amy sadly shrugged. "It's not your fault. By the time Reese and I got together, it was too late for me." To Quinn, Amy smiled and said, "But not for you. Congratulations, and I mean that."
Helen said, "I hope Daria doesn't wait too long."
Karen said, "Daria knows what she wants and if you start bugging her about it, expect me to sit things out. Anyway, let's get back to Quinn. She's supposed to be the center of attention."
That made Quinn sit up straighter and smile. "What advice do you have for me?"
Outside, Jocelyn and Jerica joined Daria, who said, "Hi, girls."
Jocelyn said, "Is this going to be as dangerous as I think it is?"
"My father, my husband, a mad scientist, a ground pounder and a fighter pilot gathered around fire and fuel. What do you think?"
Jerica said, "That we might want to step back a little more."
Seeing Jake pushing a shopping cart stacked perilously high with a mind-boggling selection of products, the saleslady brushed her hair aside and said, "Is there anything I can help you with, sir?"
"My daughter's going to have a baby!" Jake said.
"I see, sir," the woman said, eying the jumbo box of toddler diapers in the cart. "When is your daughter due?"
Jake stopped and looked at the woman in confusion. "Um…"
"Is it safe to assume that you still have a few months?"
"Is she showing yet?"
"She looks fine."
"Okay, she's fairly early on." The saleslady lifted the box of diapers. "She won't need these for a little while."
"Does she know yet if it is a boy or girl?"
Jake shook his head. "I don't know."
"How old is your daughter, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Um, she's, let's see. Nineteen eighty-two and her birthday is in a couple of weeks, that makes her, um, twenty-seven."
"It sounds like she's probably somewhat established."
The saleslady then started to guide Jake around the store, putting away the random assortment of items. After about ten minutes the cart was empty and they were at the toy department. The saleslady picked up a large purple and white teddy bear and placed it in the cart. "Since they probably can't tell yet if it's a boy or a girl, why don't we get something that can go either way? You can never go wrong with a good quality teddy bear."
"Ah, that's so cute," Jake said, smitten with the stuffed animal.
"Follow me, sir," she said, directing him to a register. "I can ring you up right here. Did you remember your frequent shopper card?"
Jake pulled his keys from his pocket and fanned a cluster of frequent shopper tags. "I know it's in here somewhere."
"I'll find it," she said, taking the keys, locating the proper one and scanning it. After ringing up the sale and running Jake's card, she said, "Thank you for shopping at S-Mart."
"Thank you!" Jake said. "I'll be back!"
After Jake left, a younger sales associate came over to the woman and said, "Wow, that was some customer."
She chuckled. "It's just Mr. Morgendorffer. If you spend the time to calm him down, you always make a good sale."
"That's Mr. Morgendorffer?" the younger man said.
She nodded. "In the flesh."
"From the staff memos, I always expected him to look more…like a mad dog."
Though Quinn had lived in her old room for four years in high school, the room now had little resemblance to those days. The old explosion of pink was gone, replaced with a modern mix of earth tones, and her mother's home office took up one side of the room. Still, Quinn was able to relax as she lay back on the bed to talk on her cell phone, telling her old roommate, "Fran, there was as much fireworks as I expected, but their excitement has overtaken the shock."
Preparing a smoothie in the kitchen of her San Francisco apartment, Fran Lawrence said, "Then things were successful."
"Though my dad hasn't gotten back from the store. Mom said that she thinks he has the platinum card in his wallet."
"So you get a few supplies early."
"This is my dad we're talking about. The man defines clueless when it comes to shopping."
"But he used to do marketing consulting."
"I never figured that out, Fran."
Fran laughed. "The girl that used to figure out what made every guy tick can't figure out her father?"
"I know," Quinn said.
"I promise not to tell the rest of the Tri-Thetas."
"It's a good thing the five-year reunion was last summer."
"But your ten-year high school reunion will be this summer."
"I know," Quinn said. "And I'm going to show them how to look good while pregnant."
"That, I know you can do."
Teasing, Quinn said, "So, how long until you…?"
Fran said, "Trey and I haven't even been married for a year. Give us a little time to settle into all this."
"Oh, I guess you're allowed. Until then, you're going to have to settle for being godparents."
Fran paused for a moment. "That still means a lot to us, Quinn."
"You mean a lot, Fran." After noticing something out of the window, Quinn said, "I'm starting to see smoke come over the house from the back yard."
"I thought your dad was at the store."
"Yeah, but Q and all the other guys gathered at the grill. I think it's some kind of ritual of respect or something."
"You mean that you left them out there unsupervised?"
"Daria's out there."
"I'm starting to sound like my mother, aren't I?"
"Yeah, and it sounds good."
As Quinn came down the stairs, she could hear Karen gently singing to Eve,
"That's pretty," Quinn said when Karen stopped and laid the sleeping baby in her carrier.
"Eve likes it," Karen said. "The rest of your clan went outside to make sure the menfolk don't burn the place down."
"Good, I could still use a little peace and quiet." Quinn sat down while keeping her eyes on Eve. "She's so cute."
"Derek's already threatening to start 'borrowing' machine guns from the armory and clean them in the living room when boys come over to see her."
"So you are happy with your decision?"
"Even though I've had my doubts a few times while changing diapers at three in the morning, yeah, I'm happy."
"Good." After watching Eve some more, Quinn asked, "Do you think that Daria will change her mind?"
"I doubt it. Sure, Daria gripes about things, you know how she can get."
"Oh, do I ever."
"Even with all that, she and Michael are happiest the way they are."
"But I worry about her."
"Both of us worry about her, and she worries about us." Karen leaned closer to Quinn. "Besides, Daria once told me that it was more dignified to cut out the middleman and buy toys for themselves."
Quinn giggled. "That's Daria."
Confused, Jake looked around what looked like an empty living room. "Hello?"
Resting on the sofa next to her daughter, Karen sat up and said, "Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer."
Two separate meows indicated that Karen's movement had also disturbed the cats sleeping on her. Bump crawled up on the sofa back to one side and Sissy onto the other.
"Hi, Karen. Where did everybody go?"
Quinn came around the corner from the kitchen. "Hi, Daddy. They're outside by the grill."
"They started without me?"
"Reese thought he would help out while you were busy," Quinn said. "Did you find something?"
"Oh, yeah!" Jake said, presenting her with a wrapped package. "For the little one!"
"I still have seven months, Daddy, but okay," Quinn said, accepting the gift. When she opened it, the cuteness of the bear hit her growing maternal instinct. "Aww, it's so cute. Thank you, Daddy," she said, giving him a hug.
"You like it?"
"Oh yeah, that maternal streak is kicking in," Karen said. "And can you keep it down? Eve gets really cranky if her nap is cut short. I wouldn't mind finishing mine, either."
"Oh, sorry. I'll go out back to see how things are going," Jake said. He leaned over the sofa to look at the sleeping baby. "She's so cute."
"Come on, Daddy," Quinn said. She then gently grabbed his arm and led him to the back yard.
"Those burgers smell good," Jake said as he reached the back yard.
Michael winked at Daria and said, "We had adult supervision."
Quinn said, "After living in Highland all those years ago, I think Daria secretly likes watching guys play with fire."
For dinner, the family was scattered around the back yard, seated on folding chairs and using folding tables or their laps as they ate their burgers.
Tess approached Daria and said, "What do you think about your sister having a child?"
"I think that she'll be a good mother," Daria said. "That still doesn't change my mind about having one."
"I suppose I'll have to be happy with one great-grandchild."
"Guilt isn't going to work. Grandma, a couple should only have a child if they want one. Any other reason shortchanges the child."
"You seem to have all the answers."
"I get asked a lot of questions."
At a whisper, Tess said, "Do you have a problem that you can't have children?"
Daria gave her a firm, "No."
"Then don't wait too long, dear," Tess said, glancing briefly at Amy.
Daria shook her head. "It's not the same, Grandma."
"I guess not," Tess said. "And I don't understand it."
"We have more options available to us now. I wish you could've had them when you were my age."
Tess sighed, "Maybe you're right."
"Why don't we not worry about it and be happy for Quinn?"
Tess looked at Daria with approval. "You have a good head on your shoulders."
Concerned, Daria and Quinn looked up at the folding stairs leading up to a hatch in the ceiling. "What is Mom doing in the attic?" Daria asked.
Quinn replied, "She said that she had some things for us."
"You know that means embarrassing artifacts from our childhoods."
Derek came up the stairs and saw them. "Oh, there you are. Karen sent me up to find you."
"What is my husband doing now?" Daria said.
"He's on the floor playing with the cats."
"That's mostly harmless. Does Karen need something?"
"With the two of you and your mother missing, Karen was concerned about excessive mother/daughter bonding."
Derek said, "Quinn, from what Karen told me, you have things pretty much planned out."
"That's Quinn," Daria said. "Anything like this is like planning the invasion of Normandy."
"I thought it was starting to sound more like Downfall myself, but hey."
Helen's face appeared in the hatch. "Oh, girls, I'm so glad you're here."
"You found something," Daria said.
"Oh, Derek," Helen said, moving a box to the edge. "Can you help me with this?"
"Sure," he said, sliding the box down and holding it. "Digging for lost treasure?"
Helen carefully came down the folding stairs. "The best kind."
"What did you find?" Quinn asked.
After Helen took the box back, Derek said, "I think I'll make a dignified exit right now before anything comes out of the box."
Helen opened the box and brought out a pink dress. "Easter when you were two, Quinn."
"Oh, my God," Quinn said, touching the dress and tearing up.
"It's yours, Quinn. Take it," Helen said.
Quinn hugged the tiny dress close.
Helen also held up a toddler's jumper with a pink unicorn embroidered on the front. "Do you remember this, Daria?"
"Not really," Daria said.
"This is from when you were two. I want you to have it."
"It means a lot more to you than it does to me," Daria said.
Helen nodded and placed the garment back in the box. "But these you might want," she said, holding up a pair of round glasses. "Do you remember these?"
"My first glasses," Daria said, slowly reaching out to touch them.
Helen closed Daria's hand over the heirloom and said, "It's time for you to keep them."
With the family and guests once again gathered in the living room, Helen said, "I'm looking forward to hosting an Easter egg hunt next year."
"Mom, Quinn's baby will only be about five months old then," Daria said. "You might want to wait a year or so."
"It's the symbolism that's important."
Daria smirked at her mother. "Don't use the baby as an excuse. Buy the Cadbury eggs for yourself."
"Am I that transparent?"
"After all these years, I've learned a few things about you."
Helen said, "You're welcome back next year, Karen. I would love to see your darling little girl again."
Karen said, "Thanks, but I think we'll be with my folks next year. Easter egg hunts there are more interesting when the eggs may have been fertilized."
Quinn said, "Karen, eww."
Karen shrugged and chuckled. "A hazard of growing up on a farm."
"Cool!" Jerica said. "Mom, can we go to Aunt Karen's for Easter next year?"
Amy said to Reese, "They're your kids."
Reese said, "You can't lay all the blame on me. You've been around them too long."
Daria said, "I just thought of something. When are you going to tell all your friends from high school?"
"I'm going to tell Sandi when I get back home. As for the rest, they'll learn at the reunion." Quinn reached into her purse. "Oh, by the way, this is as good a time as any. I have one more thing for everybody," she said while passing out small envelopes.
"What's this?" Helen asked.
"Open it and read."
With an approving smile, Daria said, "Good one, Sis."
"I couldn't resist," Quinn said.
"Quinn!" Helen exclaimed.
Amy laughed and said, "Damn, girl."
"I'm really getting too old for this kind of thing, dear," Tess said. "But you've made me very happy anyway."
Rita said, "You've outdone any prank that Amy ever played on me."
"What? What?" Jake said, grabbing for Helen's card.
"You're getting married?" Jake said.
"You're getting married a month after your baby is due? That takes guts," Karen said.
Daria said, "With all of your planning, there must be a reason for all this, including the date."
"It's the anniversary of when we first met. I suppose it's ironic that I'm the sister that's been all analytical about getting married. We wanted to be together long enough to be certain that we would stay together before we got married. Once we decided we were certain and started planning the wedding, we decided to start trying to have a baby since we eventually wanted one." Quinn shrugged and giggled, "We really didn't expect it to work the first month. If genetics means anything, you'd better be careful, Daria."
Daria glanced at Michael and said, "We might have to look into more permanent options."
Helen folded her arms and said, "Being the Maid of Honor at Fran's wedding didn't have anything to do with this, did it?"
Q said, "We had to admit that Quinn catching the bouquet and me catching the garter was a sign…"
"And Fran said she wanted to be my Matron of Honor," Quinn said.
Helen put her arm around Jake's waist and rested her head on his shoulder. "Looks like we raised a couple of romantics. Twisted romantics, but still romantics."
"That's good, right?" Jake said with a sly smile on his face.
"As long as they don't pull any more stunts like this on us."
Amy looked at her giggling daughters and rested her face in her palm. "With family like this…"
Quinn put her arm around Q and said, "But we're such good examples."
Tess said, "Rita, Helen, Amy, I told you that some day, you were going to have children just like you. You should listen to your mother."
Many thanks to Brother Grimace for brainstorming ideas for this story over Skype. Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Brother Grimace for beta reading.
Lullaby by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Dan Wilson.