Text ©2003 Roger E. Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2003 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: The best night that Daria ever had in Highland did not start out that way.
Author’s Notes: This is a multiple crossover story. If you are familiar with the comics of the late 1980s (when Daria and Quinn were under the age of ten), you might enjoy the little trip ahead. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the major characters of the “Daria” TV show, so explanations of who is who are not needed. The “Daria” episode “Boxing Daria” was used as a major source of information on the Morgendorffers’ home life in Highland; this story takes place before the traumatic events in “Boxing Daria.”
Acknowledgements: My gratitude goes out to the creators of the sources of the crossovers listed at the end of this story. Too bad I couldn’t include “The Far Side”!
“Okay, girls, here you go!” Helen Morgendorffer said cheerfully as she placed the serving dish of steaming lasagna on the dining room table in front of them. “Fresh from the microwave!”
Daria and Quinn stared at the dish with identical expressions of dismay. “Mom-MEEE!” Quinn cried. “It’s too hot! I can’t eat this!”
“Let it cool, then eat it!” Helen tossed the oven mitts on a countertop, then stripped off her apron, revealing her formal evening dress. She hurried out of the dining room. “Jake! Are you ready?”
“It’s still too hot!” Quinn yelled after her mother.
“And it smells,” Daria whispered, wrinkling her nose.
“And it smells bad!” Quinn yelled. She grabbed the collar of her pink t-shirt and raised it over her nose and mouth for protection.
“Quinn, now stop it!” Helen called from the master bedroom. “Daria, go ahead and give some lasagna to your sister.”
“Gladly,” Daria muttered, picking up the serving spoon. “Here, you get six big power shovels full.”
“Girls, I don’t have time for this!” Helen came back into the dining room, fixing her earrings. “Your father and I want you to be on your best behavior with the babysitter tonight. We won’t be back until late, so do what she says and don’t wait up for us.”
“Daria’s trying to make me sick!” Quinn yelled. “She put twenty big shovels full of—”
“Quinn, stop it! Daria, take some of that lasagna and put it on your plate!”
Daria made a face and scooped a third of a teaspoonful from Quinn’s plate to her own. She wiped her fingers on her green t-shirt. “Mom,” said Daria, “this is the third time this week we’ve had lasagna from the microwave. Are we always going to have lasagna? Can’t we have pizza instead?”
“Lasagna’s good for you,” Helen said, hurrying back to the bedroom. “And it’s cheap! Jake, are you out of the bathroom yet? They’re going to be here any minute!”
“I hope we get a good babysitter,” Daria said under her breath. She poked a fork at the speckled orange lump of lasagna on her plate, then put her fork down and pushed her glasses up on her nose with a fingertip. “Not an evil one who uses chainsaws on little kids after they go to sleep.”
“Stop saying that!” Quinn yelled. “They do not!”
“Most of them don’t, but some do. They wait until you’re fast asleep, then they get their chainsaws and—” Daria mimicked yanking a starter cord “—brrrrRRRRRRR!”
“Girls, you’re driving me crazy!”
The doorbell rang at that moment.
“I’ll get it!” Daria and Quinn screamed at the same instant. They jumped down from their chairs and ran for the front door, pushing and grabbing all the way to ensure that each was the first to arrive.
“I’ll get it!” Helen called, but she was fixing her hair and far too late.
The door opened to reveal a handsome woman of about forty, in an executive-cut gray-and-green outfit. Her blonde bangs hung to her shoulders. She saw the two little girls and smiled. “You must be Quinn and Dora,” she said in a warm voice.
“Yeah!” cried Quinn, all smiles and cuteness.
“Daria,” said Daria with a dark look.
“Mom-MEEE!” Quinn ran from the door to her parents’ bedroom. “The babysitter’s here!”
The woman winced. “I’m sorry, Daria,” she said, looking mortified. “I should have made sure I got your name right before I got here. Your sister paid me back, though. I’m not really the babysitter.”
“Come in,” Daria muttered, stepping back from the door.
“In my business,” the woman said as she came in, “you have to get everyone’s name right the first time, or else you never get back on the right foot.” She reached in a pocket of her vest and pulled out a roll of candy. “I was saving this for my little boy Jeff, but you deserve it, Daria.”
“Thank you,” Daria said, taking the candy. She closed the door. “Who are you?”
“Oh, I’m Joanie Caucus.” She put out her hand, and Daria gravely shook it. “I’m a lawyer with the Justice Department, in Congresswoman Davenport’s office in Washington. Your mother helped us a bit with a big case last month, and I was—”
“Oh, Joanie!” Helen rushed into the room. “Daria, go back to the kitchen with your sister and finish dinner. Joanie, how nice to see you! What a lovely outfit! So, how do you like Highland?”
“Highland is . . . um, it’s okay. Nice meeting you, Daria,” said Ms. Caucus. She waved, and Daria waved back on her way out. She tucked the candy in a pocket of her black jeans. She decided to torture Quinn with the knowledge she’d gotten it and Quinn hadn't, just before bedtime.
Daria got back to the table to find that Quinn had switched plates and was eating the small lump of lasagna from Daria’s former plate, while Daria now had the plate with the mountain of lasagna on it. Daria elected not to get into a fight with her sister right there, with Ms. Caucus in hearing range. Instead, she began carefully spooning lasagna back into the serving dish.
“Can’t do that!” Quinn yelled. “You can’t do that! I’m telling!”
“No, you’re not,” said Daria.
“Don’t talk to her while she’s talking to company,” Daria warned. “It just makes her mad.”
“You can’t put lasagna back!” Quinn said. “It’s got germies on it!”
“Dad will eat it,” Daria pointed out. “Dad will eat anything.”
“No, he won’t! He won’t eat this!”
“Yes, he will. You know that chili he made that made Mom sick? He ate it. He eats anything.”
“Jake!” The girls heard their mother stalking through the house. “Jake, come out of the bathroom, now!”
“Dad’s in trouble,” Quinn said, mashing her lasagna flat with her spoon.
“Dad’s already in trouble,” Daria said. “He works for Mussolini.”
“He’s a dictator. We fought him in the Second World War.”
“Why does Dad work for him?”
“’Cause he has to.” Daria finished scraping all but a teaspoonful of lasagna from her plate and carefully used a knife to shape the top of the lasagna to make it look like no one had taken it out yet.
“Is Muzzleen a bad man?”
“He’s very bad,” said Daria with authority. She suspected that her father’s boss was not the real Mussolini, but you never knew with adults. President Reagan had once been a movie actor, and Daria had seen him in Bedtime for Bonzo. She’d never gotten over it. That was the President? It made no sense at all.
“Is Muzzleen mean to Dad?”
“Yes.” Daria frowned, scooping up the last of the lasagna from her plate. “Dad hates him.”
“I’m done,” said Quinn, who had mashed her lasagna as flat as paper.
“Me, too,” said Daria. They got down from their chairs and picked up the plates and silverware, putting them next to the sink. Daria carried the empty glasses over next.
“Did a babysitter ever use a chainsaw on anybody?” Quinn asked nervously, not looking at Daria.
“Just the boy babysitters,” said Daria. “The girl babysitters use axes, like Lizzie Borden.”
The doorbell rang again.
“I’ve got it!” Quinn screamed as she ran from the kitchen. Daria walked behind her, thinking how unfair it was that someone would be mean to her dad. He was so tense and yelled so much. It wasn’t fair.
No one was in the living room when the girls got there. They opened the door with more cooperation this time . . . and looked up at a thirty-something man with combed black hair, sunglasses, a wrinkled business suit with one side of his white shirt hanging out of his pants, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“Great,” said the man, hands jammed in his pockets. “You Munchkins know if this is the Morgensterns’ residence?”
Quinn looked up with visible fear. “Do you have a chainsaw?” she asked.
“Left it in the car,” he replied. “I’ll get it for you.”
Quinn’s eyes grew to enormous size. “Mom-MEEE!” she screamed, running from the door.
“This is the Morgendorffers,” Daria said, frowning. “And you can’t smoke here.”
The man took the cigarette from his mouth and dropped it on the concrete steps, crushing it out with an unpolished shoe. “There, happy?” he asked. “You wanna check me for drugs next?”
“I’ll ask,” said Daria, and she shut the door on him.
Helen came into the living room at that moment, followed by Ms. Caucus and, at a distance, a very anxious Quinn. “Who was at the door?” she asked Daria.
“Some jerk,” Daria said crossly. “He—”
“Steve,” said Ms. Caucus, rolling her eyes. “Everyone says that.”
“Didn’t he come inside?” Helen looked around. “Mr. Dallas?” she called to the kitchen.
“He said he’d wait outside,” said Daria. “He was smoking.”
“Oh, don’t leave him out there!” Helen ran to the door and opened it. “Steve! Come in!”
“Your security midget is very efficient,” he said, walking in. “Did she train in Nicaragua with the contras?” He looked down at Daria with a sneer, and she glared fiercely at him through her large, round glasses.
“This is Steve Dallas,” said Helen brightly. “He sort of helped Joanie and me a little with a big case last month. This is Daria, and that’s Quinn, over behind the . . . well, she’s run away.”
“You’d better not be the babysitter,” said Daria, holding her nose. “You stink like cigarettes.”
“Sorry, kid,” said Mr. Dallas. “Not enough hard liquor in the world for me to be your babysitter.”
“Daria,” said Helen quickly, “go back to the dining room and finish your lasagna.”
“We already did.”
“Then go to your room and play in your refrigerator box. The babysitter will be here shortly.”
Daria sighed. Ms. Caucus smiled at her as she walked by, which cheered her. She liked Ms. Caucus. Maybe she would visit more often.
Daria went to her room and noticed immediately that someone had moved her refrigerator box, which she had decorated with crayons to look like her own fantasy house—a house just big enough for her, her books, and no one else. Having her own space was paramount to Daria. Sharing a room with Quinn for years before had almost driven both of them to violence.
As Daria watched, the refrigerator box moved slightly. “Quinn, get out of there!” Daria shouted, infuriated that her space was being invaded—again. “Get out!”
“No! The babysitter will kill me!”
“He’s not the babysitter! He’s some stupid lawyer friend of Mom’s. They’re gonna go away, so get out of my box!”
“No! Shhh! Don’t tell him I’m in here!”
“Quinn! Get out!” Daria tried to get into the box to drag her sister out, but Quinn was holding the cardboard flaps shut. Wrestling around would only tear the box.
“Fine, then!” Daria said. “I’m going to your room and take your Michael J. Fox picture!”
“You better not!” Quinn was out of the box in no time. She rushed past Daria for her pink bedroom and shut the door, locking it.
Daria made a mental note to use that particular threat more often. She heard the doorbell ring again. Curious, she walked out to the living room to see who was there.
“You must be Rosalyn!” said Helen. “You’re early. Come in, please!”
“Thanks, Mrs. Morgendorffer.” A tall, athletic-looking teenager in casual clothes walked in, with textbooks and notebooks under one arm. Her long blonde hair hung down in a ponytail. “Nice evening for going out.”
“Yes. Rosalyn’s a senior at the high school. Rosalyn, this is Joanie Caucus, she’s a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and, um, this—”
“Steve Dallas, in the flesh. Are you eighteen yet, cutie?”
“Uh, we’d better be going,” said Helen uneasily. “Rosalyn, the emergency phone numbers are by the phone in the kitchen. Eat what you want from the frig. We have dinner reservations at seven, but we might go somewhere later for dessert.”
“Looks like the dessert’s already here!” said Steve, grinning at Rosalyn. “Yowee!”
“Steve, right?” asked Rosalyn calmly. She leaned a little closer to Mr. Dallas.
Rosalyn’s voice dropped. “Do you know what a blood groove is, Steve?”
“Some kind of boogie dance, right? Disco, maybe?”
Rosalyn’s voice was very soft. “It’s the narrow channel that runs down the back of a knife. When you stab someone, the blood groove keeps the blade from getting stuck in the victim, so you can ram it in over and over and over and over, as many times as you want. My brother bought me a French misericord with a blood groove in it. Do you know what a misericord is?”
Steve Dallas’s face was pale and sweaty. “I’m not much for European culture. I think it’s time we left.”
“Yes,” said Helen, staring at Rosalyn wide-eyed. “I think it’s time.” She opened the front door, and Steve Dallas was out in a flash.
“Eight dollars for tonight, was that it?” Helen asked Rosalyn in a nervous voice.
“Ten. Sorry, Mrs. Morgendorffer, but college tuitions have gone up.”
“Do you get to Washington, D.C., very often?” Ms. Caucus asked Rosalyn.
“I plan to go to college there next fall, at George Washington.”
“Good,” said Ms. Caucus. She pulled a business card from a pocket and handed it over. “Call me when you get there. I could use a good sitter. My son would love you.”
“He doesn’t have a stuffed tiger and want to be ruler of the universe, does he?”
“He doesn’t have a stuffed tiger, no. Why?”
“Just curious,” Rosalyn said. “Sure, I’ll call.”
Ms. Caucus smiled and left. Rosalyn and Daria watched as Helen waved goodbye and pulled the front door shut.
One second later, Helen flung open the door and hurried back into the house toward the master bedroom, her face filled with fury. “Jake! Jake! Get the hell out of the bathroom! We’re leaving!”
Rosalyn smiled and looked down at Daria. “You’re . . .”
“Daria. My little sister’s locked in her bedroom. Was that true about the blood groove?”
“No,” said Rosalyn. “A lot of people say it, but it’s just a groove that strengthens the back of a knife. My brother told me about them.”
“That was cool what you did to that jerk.”
“Thanks. Have you had dinner yet?”
“Ye—um, no. We were supposed to get pizza, but Mom didn’t have time.”
“No problem. We’ll check the frig.”
Daria smiled. “Thanks.” She frowned a moment later. “My sister will be out soon.”
“What does she like to do?”
The frown deepened. “Play dress up, pretend she’s dating, stupid stuff.”
“Okay, tell you what. We’ll have her do a fashion show. She’ll be in her room changing clothes all night, and you and I can talk and watch TV and do anything else we want to do. We’ll get that pizza going once your mom leaves. Tonight will be our fling.”
Daria looked up in flat-out astonishment, then beamed. “I like you,” she said. “You’re cool.”
“I like you, too,” said Rosalyn, grinning. “Let’s have some fun.”
And they did.
Original: 1/29/03; revised 8/4/03
Past (Highland), crossover (late 1980s comics: “Doonesbury,” “Bloom County,” “Calvin and Hobbes”)