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 story happens in Season 4 sometime between I Loathe a Parade and Fire.
Sitting at the kitchen table while talking on the phone, Daria said, "I'll be there at seven. Bye."
Overhearing as she entered the kitchen, Helen said, "Are you going over to Jane's tonight?"
"No, she heard that there was a traveling Andy Warhol exhibit in Swedesville, so she hijacked Tom and his rusty steed to take her there."
Curious, Helen said, "So, where are you going?"
"I'm babysitting for the Guptys."
"Oh, really?" Helen said with obvious doubt in her voice.
"Really. Look, Jane's gone for the night and there's no way I'm hanging out with Quinn and the Fashion Zombies while they prowl the mall. I also noticed that you picked up Sleepless Romance from the video store, which means either you'll get annoyed at Dad when he falls asleep watching it with you or you two will get, um, exceptionally romantic, and that's something that no teenager should have to endure. Therefore, when the Guptys called for an emergency babysitter and were willing to pay time and a half, I said yes."
"They offered you time and a half?" Helen said. "Now I believe that you agreed to babysit."
"What else would I be doing? Going out on a date?"
Helen sighed and covered her face. "Oh, Daria."
On her way to the front door a little while later, Daria walked past her parents sitting on the sofa. "The Guptys said that they would be back by ten, so I should be home by ten-thirty."
Helen said, "Have a good evening, sweetie."
"Um, you too, Mom."
Jake said, "Drive careful."
"I will, Dad."
Helen stood up and went to the door with Daria. "You'll be home at ten-thirty, right?"
"Yes, Mom. And remember, I'm not Quinn. I don't run late." Daria opened the door and then hesitated. "Mom, could you, um, do me a favor?"
"Sure, Daria. What is it?"
"If you and Dad get 'exceptionally romantic,' can you please clean up the evidence? Sani-Scrub worked great to get the butterscotch syrup stains off of the sofa the last time you two were left home alone."
Helen blushed and said, "Um, sure, Daria."
"Your cooperation is greatly appreciated." Daria closed the door and quickly walked to her mother's SUV. "I hope that they remember I'll be home at ten-thirty."
Inside, Jake leaned over the back of the sofa and said, "Butterscotch…"
"We're all out," Helen said. "But I think we still have that piña colada whipped cream."
When Lauren and Lester Gupty led Daria into the kitchen of their home, he pointed to two bowls and said, "We appreciated what you did at the parade so much, we decided to leave extra carrot sticks and dried fruit!"
"I'm glad I didn't eat a big dinner," Daria said.
Lauren said, "You remember the rules, don't you?"
"Not a problem and I'm still flying solo, so no chance of having any boys over."
"Good," Lauren said. "Now, here's Tricia and Tad's schedule for the night. I know you'll do a good job of following it."
Daria accepted the slip of paper without comment and started to read the familiar list.
Lester said, "Now that everything is out of the way, we can leave you with our little monsters…"
"Lester!" Lauren gently rebuked her husband.
"Leave you with our children and we'll be on our way. Thank you so much again for agreeing on such short notice."
"Your plea was convincing."
As soon as Mr. and Mrs. Gupty had driven away, Daria faced the children and said, "I suppose that I can throw this schedule away, right?"
"Are we going to have another adventure?" Tricia said. "I hope so."
"Yeah," Tad said. "The parade was fun. I even wrote an essay for class about it."
"You didn't," Daria said.
Tad rushed to the bedroom and returned with a couple of sheets of paper. "I got an 'A' on it, see?"
"Very good, Tad," she said.
"Aren't you going to read it?" he asked.
"Why not?" Daria read through it and said, "Nice essay, but one thing. I've learned to tolerate Tom for Jane's sake, but I don't like him and I'm sure the feeling is mutual."
Tricia said, "He was kind of cute, in a dorky, spoiled, rich-kid kind of way."
"I agree that he's a spoiled, rich kid."
"Cute?" Tricia asked.
"Why don't we change the subject? Let's check out the Five-Day Outlook on the Forecast Channel."
Tad and Tricia looked at each other and then shook their heads before they followed Daria to the sofa to watch television.
When Daria turned it on, Tad said, "Forget the Five-Day Outlook. Let's watch Sick, Sad World!"
Daria remembered the code that Jane had figured out and unlocked the parental controls on the television. "Sick, Sad World it is."
"I’m not that interested in raisins," Tricia said. "Daria, what do you eat when you watch TV?"
Tad said, "Pizza. What's it like?"
Incredulous, Daria slowly turned and said, "You've never had pizza?"
"Mom and Dad say that it's one of the worst things you can eat," Tricia said. "It has all kinds of fat, salt and processed animal products."
"That's what makes it taste so good." Daria checked the time and said, "Tell you what. I'll call Pizza King and have some delivered. My treat."
Tad jumped and yelled, "Yes!"
"Tricia?" Daria asked.
"I want to try some processed animal products."
Daria went to the telephone and started to dial from memory. "I'd better get something simple like pepperoni. I wouldn't want to overwhelm you on your first time."
Tad said, "What's pepperoni?"
"Only one of the finest processed animal products devised by man," Daria said. "Perfectly round slices of compressed meat and meat byproducts that taste like nothing nature ever intended.”
Tricia said, "Daria, you said you'd have it delivered. Do you mean that someone will bring the pizza here?"
"That's what delivered means."
"We're not allowed to open the door to strangers."
"Don't worry," Daria said. "I don't know their names or anything, but I've ordered enough takeout pizza that none of the delivery drivers are strangers."
Accepting money from Daria while handing over a pizza box, the delivery guy lamely said, "Thank you for ordering from Pizza King. Enjoy your pizza."
"Don't let your enthusiasm get the best of you," Daria said in answer. She closed the door as the teenage driver turned to walk away and said to her charges, "It's here."
"I'll set the table," Tricia said.
Tad said, "How are we going to explain the extra napkins in the laundry?"
Daria said, "Whoa, there. This is pizza. All you need are your hands and the paper napkins on top of the box."
"Oh," Tricia said. "But what about the box? We can't put it in our composter. Mom and Dad will see it."
"I'll throw it in my car," Daria said. "That should hide the evidence."
"You think of everything," Tad said.
Daria took the pizza into the living room, set it on the coffee table and opened the box. After deeply inhaling the aroma, she said, "Dig in."
When she lifted a steaming slice, she said, "It's hot, so don't burn yourself on the cheese."
Cautiously picking up a slice, Tricia asked, "What kind of cheese is it?"
"Nobody knows, but word has it that some of the world's leading scientists are closing in on the answer."
Also with a slice, Tad eyed Daria and said, "World's leading scientists?"
Daria gave him an approving nod and said, "I see that you remember."
Tricia said, "So you don't know what kind of cheese they use?"
"No," Daria said, "But I'll bet that it's cheap."
"So we don't know if the cows that made the milk were treated right?"
"When I say 'cheap cheese,' cows may not be involved at all."
"How can they make cheese without milk?" Tad asked.
"It's summed up in an old saying," Daria said. "Better living through chemistry."
When the children looked doubtful, Daria took a large bite and said, "What does not kill you makes you stronger."
Tad was the first to try. After careful and thorough chewing, he said, "I like it."
Tricia followed and said, "Me, too. It's, it's…"
"Decadent and indulgent," Daria said.
"Yes!" Tricia exclaimed.
"That's another reason why pizza is one of humanity's great inventions."
Slumped on the couch, Tad burped loudly, patted his stomach and said, "That was great."
Tricia wiped her hands on a paper napkin. "You get to eat this all the time? You're so lucky."
"That's the advantage of having parents that got over their earthy-crunchy phase before I was born."
The Sick, Sad World logo flashed on the television screen and then it cut to the announcer. "What do you call a genetically modified fruit fly that makes its own Viagra? Spanish Fly for the new millennium!"
Daria said, "I don't think that's going to go over very well."
Tricia asked, "What's Spanish Fly?"
Tad asked, "What's Viagra?"
Daria had to take a moment to figure out what to say. "Something you won't need to worry about for a long time."
Tad said, "That's not an answer."
"You know what it means when an adult doesn't answer," Tricia said.
"It's about sex."
Daria sighed, rubbed her forehead and said, "Yes, it's about sex and no, I'm not going to explain it to you. Why? Because it exceeds my embarrassment limit for the day and by contract is the type of embarrassment reserved solely for parents."
Tad and Tricia giggled and high-fived each other.
A bespectacled scientist in a lab coat was on the screen, saying, "We had a tiny little containment problem at first. You wouldn't believe how inventive the little guys were at getting to the girls!"
The reporter nervously laughed and said, "Very interesting. How are your sales?"
"Well, they could be better," the scientist said. "We've gone back to the marketing people to figure out why this isn't taking off."
"Do you think it might be because your pills are ground bugs in a capsule?"
"Nah, people around the world eat insects without a second thought all the time. It has to be something else. Damn marketing people. Maybe we need to hire a new consultant."
Daria muttered, "I'm glad Dad isn't watching this."
Standing in front of Trinity Test Site in New Mexico, the Sick, Sad World reporter said, "Did we really develop the atomic bomb on our own, or did we get help from an alien race as part of an inter-dimensional war? Are we still making bombs for these aliens? Inquiring minds…demand answers. Good-bye, good luck, and keep one eye on the sky. They may be watching you."
Tad said, "Wow, that was pretty bad."
"How did they expect anyone to believe that?" Tricia said. "The alien looked so fake."
Daria said, "Tricia, Tad, I’m sorry. This new guy is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. They covered the 'aliens were behind nuclear bombs' story a lot better the season before last. And who did their CGI? The old miniature effects that looked like they were shot in someone's basement with a camcorder looked better."
"CGI is just another corporate ploy to put honest animators out of work," Tad said.
"Or the guys doing the special effects needed to move into a smaller basement," Daria said. "A computer takes up a lot less room than a ping-pong table."
"How do you know it was a ping-pong table?" Tricia asked.
"Because half the time, they didn't get the white center line covered up properly."
Headlights flashed in the window as a car pulled into the driveway. Tricia said, "Who could that be?"
"I'll check," Daria said as she got up and went to the window.
Outside, she saw Lester and Lauren getting out of their car. Lester slammed the car door and Lauren visibly scolded him, prompting an intense conversation.
"Dammit," Daria said, "Your parents are home early and they look pissed."
"We've got to get rid of the pizza box!" Tricia said.
Tad said, "And reset the TV!"
"One thing at a time," Daria said as she made sure the door was locked. "Panic will only make things worse and blow our cover."
Tricia said, "We'll be grounded for a month!"
"Or more!" Tad added.
Daria sighed as she hurried back to the children. "It's worse."
"What's that smell?" Lauren said as she opened the door.
Lester followed and said, "It smells like something I remember from college. I know, it's pizza."
"Pizza?" Lauren said. Raising her voice, she called out, "Daria!"
"In the living room," she replied.
Lauren trotted over and found Daria, Tricia and Tad cutting up the pizza box while the Forecast Channel played in the background. "What are you doing?!"
"Tad said that you have a composter in the back yard," Daria said. "I was wondering if it would work on a pizza box."
"Think of how much paper could be diverted from landfills," Tricia said.
"It's like a real life experiment," Tad said, holding up a small notebook. "I'm going to write down what happens to it."
"Hmm," Daria said and then said, "Efficacy of Residential Composting for Disposal of Post-Consumer Cardboard Food Containers. How does that sound for a title?"
"Title?" Lester said when he came into the room.
"You have to have a title when you write up an experiment," Daria said. "And what's the use of doing an experiment if you don't do that?"
"Well…" Lester said.
"Millions of pizza boxes are discarded every week in our country," Daria said. "Think of all the space that they take up in landfills."
"I suppose that they do," Lauren said.
"Exactly. And since the recycling people don't want used pizza boxes, what if we can come up with a simple and effective way to divert the boxes?"
Lester said, "Wouldn't it be better if people didn't eat pizza?"
"Yeah, but we have to deal with the real world and people eat pizza. Lots of pizza. So, we have to deal with the boxes."
Lauren said, "Sad, but true."
"So we're trying the experiment. You never know how creative kids can be when you give them the chance."
"You're right," Lester said. "Great idea, kids."
Tad said, "Thanks, Dad."
Taking a chance on diverting their attention, Daria said, "You're home early."
Lauren said, "Ugh, the Dewitt-Clintons can be so self-righteous and overly-protective of their son."
"Poor kid," Lester said. "I'm glad we're not sheltering our children like that."
Lauren said, "Ted is about your age, Daria. Have you met him?"
"We've met. Let me guess, his parents thought you were too influenced by modern society."
"Can you believe that?" Lauren said.
Daria nodded. "Boy, can I."
Lester said, "Well, Daria, we'll let you finish your project and then you can leave. Since you're such a good babysitter, we'll still pay you the full amount."
"That's very generous of you," Daria said, glad to get the full, promised amount despite getting to go home early.
Wiping the remaining compost from her hands, Daria waved back toward the Gupty home. "Good night."
Tad and Tricia waved enthusiastically and she said, "Good night. Hope to see you soon."
Daria slid into the SUV and closed the door. "That was close," she said to herself as she started the car. "I'm glad that they don't use a nanny-cam or anything like that."
Daria chuckled as she backed the car. "Like they're going to go that high tech when they tell their kids that CDs are the tools of corporate evil."
Shifting the car into drive, she pulled away and down the street. "If they think those are evil, I hate to hear what they think about Microsoft."
Noticing the faint glow in the large corner windows of home, Daria quickly looked down at the clock display on the truck radio. "Damn, I'm early. There's not enough eye bleach and ear cleanser in the world for me to risk that."
She drove past the house and down the road. "I guess I could stop off for an extra slice. Tad and Tricia might be happy with plain pepperoni, but this girl craves something more."
A little further down the road, she shook her head. "Did I really just say that?"
Carrying a slice and a soda, Daria made her way to one of the booths at Pizza King. Just as she sat down, Upchuck wandered over and said, "If it isn't the melodious Ms. Morgendorffer. What brings you out all alone on this fine evening? Seeking a little companionship, perhaps?"
"Not a chance," Daria said. "I'm in babysitting recovery mode."
"Babysitting? Do I detect the stirrings of maternal heartstrings?"
"More like the stirrings of garrote strings that I'm tempted to use on your neck."
"Oh, feisty. So feisty."
When Daria gave him a particularly powerful and intent glare, he backed away and said, "Like staring into the sun, a man can only take so much. Good-bye, for now," before hustling out of the restaurant.
Moments later, Jodie and Mack came up to her booth. She said, "Can you teach me that look? There are times it could really come in handy."
"Just not directed at me, I hope," Mack said.
"More like at the girls that keep scoping you out," Jodie said, putting her arm around his and pulling him closer.
Daria said, "Not that I've been looking, but you have to admit that Mack is about the only guy at Lawndale High that not only has more than two brain cells to rub together, but also hasn't had them scrambled by being dropped on his head when he was young."
Mack said, "I think that was a compliment."
"It was." Starting to lead Mack away, Jodie said, "And it looks like she was hoping to have some time alone."
"Okay," he said, following after her.
Daria settled back in the booth and said, "Thank you for catching on, Jodie."
In her nightgown, Helen was sitting on the sofa going through legal briefs when Daria came home. She said, "How was the babysitting, sweetie?"
"Oh, about as exciting as babysitting ever gets," Daria said. "How was the video?"
"It was okay."
"Good. Where's Dad?"
"He's already gone to bed. He had a busy day."
"Sleep sounds like a good idea. Good night, Mom."
Daria paused at the top of the stairs and sniffed. "Piña colada?" When she noticed the slight gleam on the hand rail, she sniffed her hand. "Huh?"
Looking down the stairs, she then said, "Oh, eww," and held her hand away. "I have to get to the bathroom. Now."
Right after Daria closed the door to the bathroom, Jake's head poked out from his bedroom. He called down, "Honey, there's still a little bit of the whipped cream left!"
From the bathroom, Daria exclaimed, "I did not need to hear that!"
Thanks to Louise Lobinske, Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.