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The Song That Jane Likes: A Daria Fan-Fiction

By: Sam Lincoln (samlincoln@mac.com)

Rating: PG, nothing too objectionable though


Spoilers: This makes a whole lot more sense if you've seen Is It Fall Yet? Also really helps to have read my earlier story Busted Stuff

Summary: Yes, another Post-IIFY Jane crises of confidence fic, just what the world needs.

Soundtrack: Dave Matthews Band 10-26-1993. Cool old school DMB soundboard recording.

The Song that Jane Likes
"Would you like to play/With the thought of a friend/In a distant passing stage"

Mr. O'Neill began his senior English class with even more enthusiasm than normal. "Oh class, I have such wonderful news. Lawndale High will be staging a production of Dylan Thomas's beautiful play Under Milkwood. Now I can't make participation mandatory, but I will be awarding extra credit to everyone who shows up to audition for a part, or volunteers to help out with the technical aspects of the production." He wrung his hands as he tried to gauge the student's reaction; apathetic was the most charitable description. "I can tell you're all worried that you'll audition and not get a part."


"I can't say that was one of my worries, but ok," Daria replied drolly.


O'Neill continued, ignoring Daria, "Don't worry, there are plenty of speaking roles in this play; in fact many people will have the opportunity to play two or more characters."


"Yeah, that'll be a real big selling point," Daria editorialized. She looked over at Jane, curious as to why her friend hadn't chimed in. To her surprise, Jane was actually paying attention to O'Neill. Before Daria could talk to Jane, O'Neill switched topics and was talking about a paper assignment, something Daria wanted to listen to. Daria did not get a chance to talk to her friend for the rest of the class period.


As soon as the class finished, Daria turned to face Jane. "Boy that was a spine tingling class huh?" she said as they walked into the hall.


"Huh?" Jane asked, confused. "Oh, yeah, a thrill a minute," she said distractedly.


"What's up, for a while there I thought you were actually paying attention in class."

Jane shrugged, "It was just a crafty stratagem to only appear involved."

"Ah, so you really weren't listening to O'Neill then."

"When have I ever?"

"Good, because for a moment there I thought you were thinking about signing up for that play."

"And what if I was?" Jane asked defensively, "What's the harm in that?"

"It doesn't seem like the sort of thing you'd do, that's all, after all it's school participation."

"But the theater is another expression of art, and you know me, I'm the art chick," Jane said, a hint of bitterness creeping into her voice.

"Uh yeah, ok," Daria replied hesitantly.

Jane sighed, "Look, could we just drop this? So, have a hot date with Tom tonight?" She said, trying to change the topic.

Daria looked at Jane quizzically, "We're planning on going to the movies actually, unless you want to do something else instead."

"Oh no, far be it for me to intrude on your 'Tom Time.' Go, have fun."

"Well, are you sure you don't want to come along? I'm sure Tom wouldn't..."

"Daria!" Jane shouted, cutting Daria off, "You have a boyfriend who just so happens to be a great guy and cares a lot about you. Spend time with him, don't worry about me, I'll be fine."

"Jane, I..." Daria started to say.

"Don't sweat it Daria, I'm not mad at you. Now don't you have that fancy AP class to go to?"

"Uh yeah, see you at lunch?" Daria asked.

"We'll see...probably...definitely...care to swap sandwiches?"

Daria nodded, and walked down the hall. Jane watched Daria walk off. She sighed and walked to her next class.

--------------------------------

"I'm worried about Jane," Daria told Tom as they sat in the Sloane's TV room.
"

Curious topic to bring up now," Tom quipped.

"I'm serious Tom."

"Sorry, I'll be good," Tom said sincerely. "So what's the problem with Jane?"

Daria frowned, "She seemed really distant today at school."

"We are talking about behavior at school here, I've been known to be a tad distant at school too."

Daria shook her head, "It's not that, I don't know, I thought we settled everything this summer...but I really felt a wall between us today."

Tom raised his eyebrows, "Well I guess you'd know since you are the resident expert on emotional walls." Tom started to chuckle.

"I really fail to see the humor of the situation, Tom," Daria said crossly.

"Sorry, it's just the thought of you being upset about someone shutting you out; some might say it reeks of irony."

"Others might say it just reeks," Daria muttered.

"There's that too," Tom agreed somberly.

"I just don't know what to do, I mean I tried to talk to her, I even invited her to the movies with us tonight."


"Did she, er, accept?" Tom asked nervously.


"Eh? No, she didn't. She said she didn't want to intrude on my 'Tom Time.' I'm afraid she's still holding a grudge."


Tom shrugged, "I can't answer that definitively, but I got the feeling that she's made her peace with you."


"Then what's her problem?" Daria protested.


"How the hell should I know, I'm not psychic. If it's bugging you that much, go talk to Jane."


"Yeah, I know," Daria said, sighing. "But it really would be easier if you had all the answers."


"Well Deus isn't my middle name I'm sorry to say."


"What is?"


"I can't say, it's a long standing family secret."


"I'll just ask your sister, I'm sure she'd love to expose your little secret."


"Is that all you're looking to expose?" Tom asked lecherously.


"Back off rich boy, you still have to pay for that resident expert crack."


"Oh I am huh?"


"Yeah, it wasn't appreciated."


"Even though it's true?"


"That's not the point."


"It's not?"


"No, I was trying to say something serious and important and you were making jokes, bad ones too."


Tom leaned over and hugged Daria, "Hey, I'm sorry about that, you know me, if all else fails make a joke." He kissed her, "I really am sorry."


"Well, I forgive you," Daria said, her face softening visibly. "Just don't think you can sweet talk me out of being angry and you every time you piss me off."


"Then I guess I'll have to not piss you off."


"Damn straight."


"So you'll talk to Jane?"


Daria sighed, "Yes, I'll try to talk to her tomorrow...if she lets me."


"Well at least try, and if she shuts you down try again until she doesn't, not much more you can do."


"I know, and that's what bugs me."


"Can't argue with you about that, but this way at least Jane knows you still care."


"Yeah," Daria said pensively.


"Come on Daria," Tom said while dragging her to her feet. "Let's go get some dinner before the movie starts." Daria allowed herself to be led out of the room, still deep in thought.


-------------------------


Jane sat on her bed, staring at a blank canvas. "This is getting ridiculous," She thought to herself. "Come on Jane, paint something." She stood up and angrily splashed paint on the canvas.
She surveyed her efforts and sighed, "Oh forget it, this is crap." She tore the canvas off the easel and tossed it on a pile in the corner of her room, alongside a picture of a stick figure and a crude drawing of a house. She dropped back onto her bed, dejected. "What the hell is wrong with me?" She wondered aloud.


Trent had taken the opportunity to amble by her room at that moment and heard Jane's cry of frustration. "I don't know, you didn't eat any of those pickles I found, did you?" He asked, sticking his head in her room.


"Oh, hey Trent," Jane said, not looking up.


"What's the matter?"


"Who said anything's the matter?"

"You did."

"Alright, alright, if you must know, that is the problem," She pointed at the pile of discarded paintings.

"Whoa, that's a lot of paintings."

"No, it's not," Jane replied testily.

"It isn't?"

"No, that's a big pile of crap."

Trent walked over and picked up Jane's most recent addition to the pile, "I don't know, this one's pretty cool."

Jane stood up and snatched the painting out of Trent's hands. "No, it's not, there's nothing behind it beyond my frustration."

"Does it matter where it came from so long as it's cool?"

"It does to me," Jane said flatly.

"So you're in a bit of a funk, no big deal."

"Trent I haven't done anything since I got back from that art camp this summer."

"Whoa," Trent said eyes wide in surprise. "Janey, what's the problem?"

Jane shrugged, "I don't know..." she trailed off.

"You don't?"

"No, I don't."

"That's a double negative."

"No, it isn't."

"So was that."

"Trent!"

"What's the problem Janey?"

"I told you, I don't know."

"I think you do."

"I don't"

"You do."

"I don't.

"You do."

"I don't."

"You don't."

"I do."

"You don't"

"I do."

"Nah, no clue."

"Yes, I know."

"What is it then?"

"That damn art camp!" Jane shouted. She paused. "Damn Trent, that was sneaky. Where'd you pick up that trick?"

Trent shrugged, "Some cartoon I saw last night. So, the art camp huh?"

Jane sighed and sat back down on her bed, "Yeah, the art camp."

"Why, I mean I know you hated it, but you did some really cool stuff there."

"Because I found out first hand that the art world is filled with shallow, duplicitous bootlickers who've never had a creative thought in their lives. And I guess on some level I'm not sure if I really want to have anything to do with art from now on because of that."

"Are you serious about that?"

"Yeah, I think I am

"But haven't you always wanted to be an artist?"

"Well yeah."

"And you're going to let a couple of posers deny you your lifelong dream?"

"There's more to it than that," Jane mumbled.

"Oh?"

"Yes..." Jane paused, "I don't remember why I wanted to be an artist in the first place," she said in a rush.

"What's that about?" Trent asked.

"I've been sitting here, thinking about why I want to be an artists and all the reasons I've come up with are crap."

"Oh come on, I'm sure..."

"Reason one," Jane said, cutting her brother off, "Because it makes me 'edgy.' Reason two, to prove how outsider I am. And lastly, reason three, to please Mom and Dad. As best I can figure I'm as bad a poser as those idiots I had such disdain for at that camp."

"Jane, haven't we had this conversation before?"

"This isn't about kiwi-flavored lip gloss, Trent. What's the point of being a unique individual if you're just like all the other unique individuals?"

"So in other words, you've lost the fire to be an artist?"

"Yeah, I guess you could say that."

"Ok, then go do something else, it doesn't make much sense to me to try and do something your heart's not into," Trent said simply.

Jane sighed, "Yeah, you're right."

"So, what'cha gonna do?"

"I think for right now I'll sit on my ass and do nothing.

Trent nodded, "That's cool, hey I've got a gig I need to go to; are you going to be alright?"

"Yeah, sure I'll be fine."

"Want to come along? We're debuting some new stuff tonight."

"No, no, that's quite alright. I'll be safer at home, less chance of heartbreak," Jane laid back on her bed, head propped up by her arms.

"Ok, well, take care Janey. There's kung pao chicken in the fridge if you want it."

"Trent, I'm not suicidal," Jane replied dryly.

Trent laughed spasmodically, "That's all I need to hear, see you later Janey."

"Bye Trent, have a good show," Jane told her departing brother. She waited until she heard the front door slam before rolling over on her bed; eyes clenched shut, trying to drive all thought from her mind. As she tried in vain not to, her conversation with Daria earlier that day bubbled to the surface.

"Hmm, there's an idea," she thought to herself. "Find myself something else to do huh? Well, it beats selling my body for smack." She stood up and walked over to her painting supplies. Jane picked up brush and started at it intently. She sighed, "Nothing, damn, time for Plan B." She dropped the brush and tossed a drop cloth over the pile.

-----------------------------------------

The following day at school Daria saw Jane walking down the hall. Daria sighed and sped up to catch up with her friend.

"Hey Jane, wait up," Daria called out.

Jane stopped and turned, "Hey Daria, what's up?"

Daria came to a stop in front of Jane, "Not much I just wanted to know if you wanted to walk to class with me?"

"Oh, how sweet, do you want to carry my books for me as well? Or how about we hold hands."

"Hardy har har. Maybe you should have taken that art bitch up on her offer."

"Nah, she was only after my hot, jailbait body. I'm looking for something a little more long term." Daria stared at Jane blankly. "I'm kidding Daria."

"I knew that," Daria said as they resumed walking.

"Sure you did," Jane replied sarcastically. "So, what's up?"

"You already asked me that."

"I did?"

"You did,"

"Oh no, I'm not playing that game again."

"What?"

"Never mind, it's not important."

"Uh Jane, are you feeling alright?"

"Ah ha! So that's what you were after."

"Huh?"

"You were trying to gauge my mental health, weren't you."

"Why wouldn't I, you're acting like a loon."

"No, before that."

"Can you stop being manic for a few minutes, I'm trying to talk to you," Daria said testily.

"Huh? Oh sure, sorry, got a little carried away there."

"No kidding."

"What can I say, I'm feeling chipper."

"When have you ever felt chipper?"

"Today at least."

"And what's brought on this bout of chipperness?"

"I decided to give up art last night, and boy, is that a weight off my shoulders."

"You what? Daria said in disbelief.

"I gave up art."

"You, huh, wha, but...why?" Daria finally managed to say.

"So I can sell my body for crack on the street of course," Jane deadpanned. Daria looked at Jane darkly. "Ok, ok, I lost the urge to paint, sculpt, or anything else I used to do."

"Why are you being so nonchalant about this? For as long as I've known you, you've been doing one artistic thing or another, and now you're no longer an artist?"
Jane shrugged, "I had a moment of clarity last night. All of my reasons for being an artist were crap, so I decided to try my hand at something different. If the old batteries recharge that's great, if not, that's fine too."

"Fair enough, but what are you going to do with yourself while you're recharging these batteries of yours?"

"I don't know, maybe I'll take up track again."

"Are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth? You hated your time on the track team."

"Correction, I hated all the phony privilege that came with being on the team. The running part was pretty cool."

"What's changed?"

Jane shrugged, "It's what people would least expect of me, and I do try to buck expectations."

"You're doing a hell of a job of that."

"I am? Thanks Daria, that means a lot to me." Jane replied brightly as they walked into O'Neill's classroom.

"Glad to be there for you in your time of need."

"I'm weirding you out with all this aren't I?"

"No, not at...well ok, yes you are."

"Sorry, I'm just trying to be true to me, you understand that, right?"

"I suppose," Daria said as she took her seat. "Though if you say anything about 'keeping it real' I'll hurt you."

"I guess I wont then."

"Class, may I have your attention please?" O'Neill asked querulously. Remarkably the class did quiet, a little. "Thank you, now before we resume our discussion from yesterday I would just like to remind everyone that auditions for the school play are still underway, attendance last night was, well, less than I expected."

"Did anyone show up?" Daria asked.

"Well, no, but it was just the first night, I'm sure people just had prior commitments last night."

"Right, like my prior commitment to my bed."

"Daria! You minx," Jane teased. "I didn't know you and Tom had that sort of a relationship."

"I think I liked you better when you were distant and unresponsive."

"I'd just like to take this opportunity to remind you all that the auditions continue tonight in the auditorium. I would also like to remind everyone that I am giving extra credit for just trying out for a part, or for joining the technical crew."

"But are they technically a technically inclined technical crew?" Daria quipped.

"I need to speak to Tom, you have too much time on your hands if you can think up stuff like that."

"So I expect to see all of you in the auditorium tonight. Remember, it's not that you get the part that's important, it's that you tried."

"Do or do not, there is no try," Daria said, deadpan.

"You'd better be careful Daria, if you keep making jokes like that people might think there's a little Tom in you," Jane said, leering.

Daria blushed faintly. "I'll do serious, permanent damage to you Jane, friendship or no," she growled.

"Now class, if we could all get out our copies of 'Things Fall Apart.' I'd like to continue our discussion on how by attempting to force his son into his culture's masculine archetype Okonkwo only succeeded in pushing his son Nwoye away."

"Boy, I bet that brings back memories," Jane quipped.

"There's a reason I've never let my dad see me while I'm reading this book."

"That really would set him off?"

Daria nodded, "Clouds have touched off patricidal ravings."

"Wow, I'll keep that in mind."

"Mack, do you have anything you'd like to add to this discussion?" O'Neill asked.

"Why me?"

"Well because you might have a unique perspective on the novel..."

"You mean because I'm a black man?"

"Um err, well...oh dear. Charles, how about you?" O'Neill said hastily. Mack leaned back in his seat, a smug grin on his face.

---------------------------------

After class Daria and Jane caught up with Mack and Jodie, who were standing in the hall; Jodie was staring angrily at Mack.

"Nice job in English Mack. If I didn't know any better I'd say you really were indignant," Daria told the football player.

"Hey Daria, thanks." Jodie smacked Mack on the back of the head, "Hey, I said I was sorry."

"And I'm still mad at you. That was a mean thing to do to Mr. O'Neill," Jodie said testily.

"Don't tell me you didn't think about doing the same thing when he asked you that question about Okonkwo's wives." Mack countered.

"Just because I thought about it doesn't mean I'd actually do it."

"I think the better point is that you probably did the reading, while Mack didn't," Jane said dryly.

"You didn't do the reading?" Jodie asked incredulously.

"Well, no, but I will finish the book before the test," Mack said sheepishly.

"Mack, this is the only book about Africa on the curriculum. If we don't look like we care about it, then people will think we aren't interested in our own heritage!" Jodie shouted.

"Come on, let's let them sort this out on their own," Jane said to Daria.

"Don't you even feel even the slightest bit guilty for starting that fight?" Daria asked.

"Nah, they'll make up by the end of the day." Jane shrugged, "Besides I wanted to make a point."

"And that is? Beyond the fact that you can make even the most well adjusted couple break into a full blown spat."

"That's how I was starting to feel about art." Jane said, ignoring Daria's sarcastic jab.

"Huh?"

"People expect me to be an artist, so I was, and then I'd be forced to act in way people thought were 'artistic.' And I don't want to be an artist for just that reason."

"Jane, stop rationalizing, I see your point."

"You do?"

"Yes, I do."

"You really mean that?"

"No, I'm just trying to get you to shut the hell up so I'm not late to my next class."

"Oh, well why didn't you say so?"

"I was trying to be polite."

"I think you do see my point and you're just trying to find some witty way to get me to stop talking."

"Believe what you want. I'm going to class."

"Lunch at the usual place?" Jane asked.

"I don't have any other pressing engagements then, so sure," Daria said over her shoulder.

"You never do!" Jane shouted back. She watched Daria walk down the hall for a few moments before heading to her next class. Along her way she saw a flyer for the play auditions. "Alright, alright I can take a hint," Jane said to no one in particular.

-------------------------------------------

Later that day as the student body rushed out of Lawndale High, Daria walked over to Jane's locker. Jane was slowly transferring books from her locker to her backpack.

"Hey Jane," Daria said, "Want to go do something? I'm Tom free this evening. We can go celebrate your freedom from the tyranny of art, or something."

"Uh sure, but can we raincheck for a little while? There are a few things I need to do here before I can go."

Daria shrugged, "I can wait."

"No, no," Jane said hastily, "you don't have to, I wouldn't want to bore you."

"What are you doing exactly?" Daria asked suspiciously.

"I'm uh, cleaning my stuff out of the art room. Yeah, since I'm no longer an artist I don't need to keep all that crap in the art room. So I figured I'd just tidy up a bit. See, something you'd have no interest participating in."

"Uh sure," Daria replied, unconvinced. "Give me a call when you get home, ok?"

"You got it compadre. Talk to you tonight then," Jane said, shooing her friend off.

"Yeah, right," Daria said, skeptically, but not wanting to pry into Jane's affairs. Daria walked out of the school but stopped after going a short distance. "I should go back and talk to Jane, she's hiding something." Before Daria could return to the school however, Tom drove up in his car.

"Hey Daria," Tom called out.

"Tom? What are you doing here? I thought you had that thing."

He shrugged, "It got rescheduled and I suddenly had some free time on my hands. So I figured the best way to spend that free time was with you. Come on in, if we hurry we can catch the start of that 'Sick, Sad World' marathon."

Daria hesitated, unsure of her next move. "Well Jane didn't want me around, and who am I to pry?" She rationalized with herself. She got in the car, "Let's roll."

------------------------------------------

As Daria drove off with Tom, Jane was standing in the hall outside the auditorium, gripped by indecision.

"Do I really want to do this? I mean, being the art chick is one thing, but being a theater geek is something all together different. Am I ready for that level of ostracism?"As she stood there debating with herself a trio of students walked past her. "Huh, that tall one's pretty good looking," she thought to herself. The trio continued past her and into the auditorium."Well that settles it, ostracism doesn't sound so bad when you've got someone to share it with." She followed the group into the auditorium.

Inside the theater, Jane saw a large cluster of students surrounding O'Neill down in front of the stage. The threesome she had seen enter had made their way down front and were sitting on the edge of the stage. As unobtrusively as possible Jane slipped into a seat towards the back of the group.

"Might as well not announce my presence to the whole world," she thought. She watched as more students continued to file in. She never even noticed the figure walking down her row until it collided with her.

"Hey, watch it!" Jane snapped.

"Uhm, sorry," an all too familiar, perky voice said.

"Quinn?" Jane asked in amazement, "What the hell are you doing here"

"Jane? I could ask you the same thing."

"Signing up for the tech crew." Jane replied simply.

"Trying out for a part to get the extra credit."

"Let me guess, you don't want anyone to see you so you came back here." Quinn nodded. "Pull up a chair and we can be invisible together."

"Ewww, why would I want to do that?"

"You're at the tryouts for a school play voluntarily. You can't hurt your social standing any more by sitting next to me."

Quinn thought about this for a moment then shrugged, "I guess, but we're not sitting together if anyone asks."

"Boy you sure know how to kill a romantic moment."

"Ewwwww, that's it, I'm leaving," Quinn said, standing up.

"No, sorry, forget I said anything," Jane said hastily. "So, what brings you here?"

"The extra credit of course," Quinn said as she settled back into her seat.

"But I thought you had transformed into an academic juggernaut over the summer."

"Well that's what I'm trying to do, but it's hard when they keep piling stuff on. Why can't I, like, work at my own pace?"

"And how is adding the school play to your to do list going to help you out there?"

"I'm just here for the extra credit. I don't want to actually be in the play, ick."

"How silly of me to think otherwise."

"Ok everyone," O'Neill called out. "I know you're all excited to be here and I'm sure we all want to get through this as quickly as possible. Now, for those of you who are here to volunteer for the crew, if you could just wait until the auditions are finished, I'd like to have a word with all of you. Also, even if you are just signing up for the crew, please feel free to get up on stage and work a scene for us."

"Yeah right," Jane scoffed.

"Now, when you come up to do your scene, could you please sign the book on the stage so I know who's tried out." He clapped his hands in anticipation, "Ok, then, who'd like to start?"

"I'll go," Kevin called out.

"Thank-you Kevin."

"Oh, this should be a trip," Jane muttered to herself as Kevin climbed onto the stage.

"Hi, I'm Kevin, I'm the QB," Kevin said.

"What scene are you going to be doing for us?" O'Neill asked.

"Uh," Kevin looked down at the script in his hands, "Waiting for Godot, scene one." He said, mangling the pronunciation.

"Ohhh, 'Waiting for Godot,' excellent choice." Unlike Kevin, O'Neill pronounced the name correctly.

Kevin looked down at the script and began to read. "Act One, Scene one. Two men are standing..."

"Hehehe, Kevin, you don't have to set the scene for us, just act our the dialogue."

"Oh, ok." Kevin resumed his recitation. "Vlad...Vladimir: What are we doing here? He paces. Es...estra...Estragon! We're waiting for Godot. Estragon sits down and rubs his feet."

"Now Kevin, you're not supposed to read the parts in parenthesis, you're supposed to do that."

"Ok, not a problem." Kevin picked up where he left off. "Vladimir: Why are you rubbing your feet? Estragon..." Kevin quickly sat down and began to rub his foot. "Estragon: Because my toe hurts!"

"Thank-you Kevin, that's enough," O'Neill said hastily.

"Are you sure? There's a lot more play left."

"No, no, I think we've all seen your range as an actor."

"About as far as I can throw him," Jane muttered.

"Did I get a part?" Kevin asked.

"Well, it's a little early in the casting process, I'll let you know, but hehe, don't get your hopes up, there are a lot of other contenders."

"Cool, Coach wouldn't let me be in the play anyway, he says I've got to keep practicing," Kevin left the stage.

"Ok then, who'd like to go next?" O'Neill asked. Another student raised a hand. "Great, get up there and show us what you've got."

One by one the students all got up on the stage and did little segments from various plays with varying degrees of skill. Eventually no one was left except for Quinn.

"So, has everyone tried out that wants to?" O'Neill asked.

"Not quite Mr. O'Neill, there's one left!" Jane called out.

"Who said that? Oh, Jane, are you trying out?"

Jane shook her head, "Not me, but Quinn said she was going to."

"I don't know what possessed me to sit next to you," Quinn hissed.

"Hey, I'm just giving you the kick in the ass you so richly need."

"Quinn, this is wonderful, why don't you show us your acting chops," O'Neill said happily.

Quinn made her way up to the stage. She scanned the crowd and breathed a deep sigh of relief when she realized she didn't recognize most of the faces she saw. "And besides," she thought, "all the people I do recognize are losers, and who cares about them?"

"So, what will you be performing for us today?" O'Neill asked.

"I'm going to be doing a passage from 'Antony and Cleopatra,' Act IV Scene 15," Quinn said confidently. She looked down at the piece of paper she was holding and took a deep breath to compose herself.

"No more but even a woman, and commanded by such poor passion as the maid that milks and does the meanest chores," Quinn began dramatically as she launched into her recitation. "It were for me to throw my scepter at the injurious gods;" She started pacing around the stage, gesticulating wildly. "To tell them that this world did equal theirs till they had stolen our jewel. But all's naught; patience is scotted and impatience does become a dog that's made: Then it is sin to rush into the secret house of death before death dare come to us?" Quinn laid an arm across her forehead in mock pain.

"Oh brother," Jane muttered as she watched Quinn chew scenery on the bare stage.

Quinn continued her performance, "How dare you woman? What, what! Good cheer! Why how now Charmian! My noble girls, ah women, women look our lamp is spent, it's out! Good sire take heart we'll bury him and then, what's brave, what's noble let's do it after the high Roman fashion and make death proud to take us. Come away: this case of that huge spirit now is cold: ah woman! Woman! Come, we have no friend but resolution and the briefest end." Quinn concluded the soliloquy solemnly.

Jane did her best to keep from laughing as the rest of the group digested Quinn's over the top performance. Soon O'Neill began to clap, "Quinn, that was very good. I'm sure we can find a part of two for you after that strong performance."

Quinn looked aghast at hearing this, "Me, have a part in a school play? Do I have to? I mean I'm like so busy with all my other activities."

"Then why did you try out for the play if you didn't intend to take part?"

Quinn looked around and realized she was stuck. "I suppose I can fit in the play too," she muttered, head hung dejectedly.

"Excellent, now then I'll have the cast listings posted tomorrow and we'll have a read through of the play after school. At that time I'll hand out the rehearsal schedule and we can start talking about who gets what role. Thank-you for coming everyone; let's give ourselves a big round of applause." O'Neill was the only one to applaud. "Eh, hehe, well now, if all the people interested in the technical side of the production would mind staying a few more minutes I'd like to have a few words with you. Everyone else can go with my thanks."

"Great," Jane muttered, "I'm glad to know my afternoon won't be a total waste." People began to file out of the auditorium until at last the only people left were Jane, O'Neill, the trio Jane had been watching and another girl.

O'Neill looked around and cleared his throat nervously, "Ah well, it looks like a gathering of the usual suspects. Why don't you boys sit down here so we can start talking about how we're going to stage this play. You too Ann." He called out to the other girl.

Jane cleared her throat, "Ah Mr. O'Neill, I'd like to sign on for this suicide mission."

"Jane, that's wonderful," O'Neill gushed. "So you'd like to paint a mural for us?"

"No!' Jane said sharply.

"Oh," O'Neill said, crestfallen. "Well I'm sure we can find something for you to do, right Mike?" He asked a red haired youth.

"Yeah, sure we always can use another person to aim spots at," the boy said sullenly. He glared at Jane for good measure.

"Great," Jane thought, "I can be the outsider in a group of outsiders. Boy you sure have the best plans Jane."

"Don't let Mike get to you, he can be a little protective of his turf, but he's a good guy underneath," A voice said from beside her.

Jane jerked her head around and saw that the girl O'Neill called Ann had sat down beside her. "Well sure, who doesn't love a standoffish, territorial asshole, I know they're my favorite people."

"Me too, Mike and I are going out." Ann said.

Jane's face reddened a little "Oh jeez, I didn't mean, er, if I had known...uh, I'm sorry?" She finished lamely.

"Are you sorry for insulting my boyfriend, or sorry that he is my boyfriend?"

Jane slouched down in her seat. "Would you like me to kill myself now, or dig my grave a little deeper?"

"I think you should stop while you're ahead." The girl held out a hand, "Hi I'm Ann Raeder. I'm in charge of the costumes, props, makeup, and general 'talent' wrangling."

Jane shook Ann's hand, "Jane Lane at your service, former artiste supreme, currently on the lookout for a new hobby."

"What are you interested in doing?" Ann asked.

"I dunno, what does he do?" Jane pointed to the tall member of the group.

"Ryan? He builds the sets and helps out with the lights, why do you ask?"

Jane shrugged, "He seems like a nice enough fellow."

"You mean you think he's cute."


"That too," Jane said with a smirk.


"May I suggest you talk to him before making any decisions."


"Why?" Jane asked guardedly, "Is he a flaming ass or something?"


"No, nothing quite like that," Ann said cautiously. "Ryan is just Ryan and that's not something everyone can handle."


"Oh pish, I've yet to meet anyone who's too much for me to handle," Jane said confidently.


"Yeah, sure, don't say I didn't warn you."


"Besides, it's not like I'm looking for someone to go out with anyway. I'm here to help put on a play, not to meet guys."


"But it doesn't hurt to look right?"


"Damn straight," Jane said agreeably.


They lapsed into silence as Ann focused on the discussion between O'Neill and Ann's boyfriend, Mike. Jane took the opportunity to size up Ann. She had almost classic Teutonic features, pale skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. It was hard to gauge her height since she was sitting, but Jane guessed she was a little taller than the other girl was. Ann's clothes did not scream rich, but they also did not bespeak of crushing poverty either.


"Must be a junior," Jane mused, "I don't remember seeing her in any classes." She paused, "Though that's not saying much." She realized O'Neill and Mike had stopped talking and that the teacher was now addressing the rest of the group.


"...I know we've got a lot of work to do, but I'm confident that we can pull it off." He stopped, "I almost forgot, there is going to be another student working on sound for the production."


"What?" Mike exclaimed, "That's Greg's job."


"And I'm sure Greg can use a hand in running the soundboard."


"Who is it?" The student named Greg asked.


"Oh dear, I seem to have forgotten his name, but he did seem quite qualified to help us out. At any rate he'll be with us at rehearsal tomorrow. Which is a nice way to segue into my next announcement. Our first read through of the play will be tomorrow. I'll expect all of you to be here as well so you can begin familiarizing yourselves with the play."


"Are we going to be getting scripts this time?" Mike asked.


"Well, no, probably not. There are an awful lot of parts, and the budget can only stretch so far. But on the brighter side, our request for new lights was approved."


"It was?" The group asked collectively.


"Yes, on the condition that we produce audio and video copies of the performance to sell as a way to recoup some of the expenses for the lighting equipment."


"Whose brilliant idea was that?" Greg asked.


"Ms. Li's so there's nothing we can do about it. I think it's exciting, the Lawndale High Theater starring it its very own movie."


"That nobody will buy," Jane muttered.


O'Neill looked down at his watch, "Oh dear, I have to go. I'm late for...err...an appointment and I don't want to upset Janet...er, the person I'm meeting." O'Neill gathered up his briefcase and scurried out of the auditorium.


"Don't forget the safety word!" Ryan, the tall crewmember, called out to the departing teacher.


The door slammed shut and Jane looked around. "Hey, well, I'm Jane Lane and I just can't wait to get started on this," she said with mock cheerfulness.


Mike looked at her for a long moment then sighed, "What the hell, welcome to the theatah!" He said dramatically and swept his arms open to encompass the space. "I'm Mike Grissom, I suppose I'm the head tech. That means I get to design the lights and the sets, plus I run the light board during the performance. The 'twins' over there," Mike pointed to the other two disparately sized techs, "are Greg Enfield and Ryan Traczewski. Greg does a lot of the work up on the catwalk and runs the soundboard. Ryan builds the sets and helps out with whatever. I take it you've already met the lovely and talented Ann?" Jane nodded. "Great, do you have time for a quick tour of your new home?"


Jane shrugged, "If I had anywhere better to go, I'd already be there."


Ryan chuckled, Mike looked a little put out, "Ok, we'll start from the top and work our way down, come on up on stage." He motioned for Jane to follow him onto the stage. "This is the stage, obviously. Here's where the 'magic' takes place," the disdain in his voice was evident. "Stage right, left, and center. The big wall back there is called the cyc." He waved his arm in various directions, indicating these landmarks. "Ok, let's go backstage." He led Jane off to one side of the stage. "Backstage, exciting huh?"


Jane looked around at the jumble of equipment and set pieces strewn about. "I'm thrilled to death," she replied.


Mike smiled slightly, "You might just have the proper attitude for this job after all."
"Thanks...I think."


"Let's go check out the fun part of the theater, the catwalk." Mike walked over to a ladder with a cage surrounding its base. He turned the door's combination lock before opening the door. "I hope you're not afraid of heights."


Jane regarded the ladder coolly, "I've painted frescos on higher ceilings, lead on."


He shrugged, "Ok then, I guess I don't have to warn you not to look down." He scampered up the ladder.


Jane took a deep breath and followed Mike up. Climbing the ladder did not prove to be challenging, but transferring from the ladder to the catwalk did provide a brief moment of concern. She managed the transition without falling to her death and found herself standing on a dimly lit catwalk.


"Glad you could join us," Mike said sardonically.


"Oh shove it," Jane replied curtly.


"Well that sure is a pithy comeback."


"It's the altitude. It does strange things to my head."


"Right, anyway, this is the catwalk, we set up the lights that illuminate the stage here. We're standing on the Number one bar, there are also bars three and five further back to get different angles for lighting."


"What happened to two and four?" Jane asked.

"We don't talk about two and four," Mike said plainly.

"Oookay."

Mike shrugged, "That's how they were named when we got here, and nobody felt like changing it."

Jane figured it wasn't worth the bother to think about it, "I can accept that."

"Hey Mike!" Ann called out from below.

"Yeah?" Mike asked, looking down at the stage.

"I need to get going and you promised me a ride."

"Damn, right, one second." He hurried past Jane on his way to the ladder. "Looks like I have to go, want to continue this tomorrow?"

Jane shrugged, "Why not?"

"Great, see you tomorrow then." He started down the ladder then stopped, "Oh, and welcome aboard." Mike disappeared down the ladder.


Jane waited until she heard Mike reach the floor before making her own, much slower, descent. She found Ryan sitting on the edge of the stage.

"Hey," he said, standing up.

"Hey," Jane replied.

"How was your tour?"

"Abbreviated."

He nodded, "That's probably for the best, Mike likes to throw a lot of stuff at the newbies to scare them off. The trick is not to get to worried about the terminology and just do what you're told, the rest comes in time."

"Thanks for the tip."

Ryan smiled, "No problem. Hey, do you need a ride home?"

"Uh, I don't...oh what the hell, why not? You're not a mass murderer or anything are you?"

"No, I left the axe at home."

"And you're not going to break up with me and start going out with my back-stabbing best friend are you?"

"Whoa, when did we start going out?"

"Oh damn, I said that out loud didn't I?"

"Care to talk about it?"

Jane shook her head, "Not with you, not right now at least."

Ryan nodded, "Uh, ok, still want that ride? No strings attached."

Jane sighed, "Yeah sure, beats the alternative."

"Great, let me just lock the theater up and we can go."

Jane waited outside the theater patiently as Ryan ran a heavy chain through the door handles of the theater's main doors. He secured the chain with a large Master lock.

"You've actually got a key to the theater?" Jane asked when Ryan was finished.

"Yeah, that and ones for the main doors and the security system."

"Wow, how'd you get so lucky?"

"Li likes to rent the theater out to whoever's got the cash, and we all got keys so we can run the theater during those productions."

"Get any kickbacks?"

"About ten bucks an hour."

"Cool, sounds like a profitable racket."

"It is, though I do have to sit through the shows in order to get the cash."

"They're that bad?"

"Ass lousy doesn't even begin to describe them," Ryan said as they walked down the hall.

"Ouch, still a key to the security system has to be pretty cool."

"Oh, it is, and the best part is there's no way of knowing who's deactivated the system."

"Now that opens the door for all sorts of fun scenarios," Jane said thoughtfully.

Ryan chuckled, "Trust me, we've done most of them. Though you didn't hear me say that," he hastily added.

"Hear what?" Jane said blandly.

"You're a pretty cool person Jane. I think you'll fit in just fine with the rest of us theater wonks. Here, let me get that door for you." Ryan pushed open the door.

"Why thank-you, though I hope you don't think that acts of outmoded chivalry will impress me."

Ryan shrugged, "It never hurts to be a little gallant from time to time."

"You will notice I did thank you."

"And you're very much welcome for those thanks," he replied lightly.

"Hey, why did Ann warn me about you?"

He laughed, "She did? What did she say?"

"That you're a person not everyone can handle."

He chuckled, "She's too kind. What did you make of that comment?"

Jane stared at him evenly, "That I'm not most everyone."

They stared at each other for a long moment before Ryan looked away. "Uh, my car's over there," he said lamely, pointing to a nondescript blue sedan. Ryan let Jane into the car and they drove off in silence.

"While I'm sure driving around aimlessly does have it merits, mind telling me where I'm going?" Ryan asked, finally breaking the silence.

"Oh, yeah, that would be a good idea wouldn't it?" Jane started to give Ryan directions to her home.

"So, uh, Ryan, tell me a little about yourself."

"Let's see, well, for starters I'm a senior like you."

"Really, we must have different schedules then."

Ryan shook his head, "I'm afraid not, we're in a lot of the same classes."
"Then why didn't I recognize you?"

"Just how often do you look behind you in class?" he asked dryly.

Jane frowned, "Yeah, I guess me paying attention in class would be required, so I take it you recognized me."

"Just as a pretty face I like to look at in class."

"Gee, my own personal stalker."

Ryan shrugged, "You know how it goes when you're bored, you start checking out all the girls."

"You can't win for trying, do you know that?" Jane said chuckling.

Ryan smiled, "Story of my life, but you are pretty."

"Who am I to turn down a compliment. Ok, so you're a horny little toad with a keen eye and sophisticated tastes, what else?"

As Ryan began describing his family Jane took the opportunity to check out the teen up close. He was tall, easily over six feet. His brown hair was roughly as long as Jane's and was currently held in place with a reversed baseball cap. A pair of cheery, blue eyes looked out from his open, friendly face. He obviously did not maintain the most rigorous exercise regimen, but he was not overweight by any means. He wore a simple pair of blue jeans, t-shirt, and an unbuttoned over shirt. Everything about him, from his car to his clothes spoke of a solid middle-class background.

"...So that's basically the Traczewski family. Me, my dad the data base administrator, and my mom, the city worker." Ryan said, concluding his family history.

"Wow, aren't you a child of privilege."

Ryan shrugged, "Nothing fancy, just the descendent of hard-working Polish immigrants, with a little Irish thrown in for good measure. What about you? I know you style yourself an outsider and are friends with that dour chick, but other than that there are some blanks in my knowledge."

"What can I say, four other Lane children have passed through Lawndale High's hallowed halls before me. My parents are rarely home and I live with my brother. We somehow manage to scrape by and live every teen's dream of a life free of parental interference--at least overt interference."

"Damn, that's got me beat by a mile."

"Don't feel bad, you came up against a Master. When it comes to dysfunctional family arrangements only the Brady Bunch has the Lanes beat."

"They were pretty freaky weren't they?"

"And yet we could never look away."

"Very much like a train wreck," Ryan agreed.

"My house is the next one on the right," Jane said suddenly.

"Ok then, boy that sure is your house isn't it?" Ryan commented as he pulled the car into the driveway and turned the engine off.

"I'll just take that as a compliment and move on," Jane said dryly.

"Go for it."

"Well, thanks for the ride," Jane said as she got out of the car.

"Here, let me walk you to the door," Ryan said quickly as he exited the vehicle.

"I really don't think that's necessary it's not even twenty feet," Jane protested.

"But who knows what might happen in those intervening twenty feet, a meteor might hit you on the head, or something."

"Oh really, and just how are you going to save me from a falling chunk of the cosmos?" Jane asked, arms folded across her chest and a bemused smirk on her face.

"I'd push you out of the way at the last second," he replied confidently.
Jane sighed, "Fine, you can walk me to the door, but you aren't coming inside, I'm not that kind of girl."

"I wasn't implying that you are. Nor was I trying to get an invitation into you house. I just want to fulfil my chivalric duties and see you to your door, it's the gallant thing to do."

"Do you really think this is going to impress me?"

He shrugged, "It can't hurt can it?"

Jane shook her head, "I guess not. Come on, you can aid me on the trek across the vast distance to my door," she said sardonically.

"Excellent, shall we be off then?"

"No, I want to stand out here all night," Jane said as she started walking to her house.

"You've got a lot of pent up hostility don't you," Ryan commented as he fell into step with Jane.

She shrugged, "So the guidance counselor told me in sixth grade."

"What did you do in the sixth grade?"

"I called my art teacher a Philistine for not giving me an A on a project."

Ryan laughed, "Why am I not surprised."

"I don't think Mrs. Dawkins knew what a Philistine was."

"Did you?"

"Not really, I remembered my parents calling someone that, it seemed like a good thing to say at the time."

"So, what possessed you to sign on with the theater crew?"

"It's kind of a long story..." Jane began.

"Then why don't you tell it to me, say over dinner?" Ryan asked hopefully.

Jane chuckled, "Are you asking me out?"

"Maybe I am, what's it to you?"

"Well I'd like to, believe me I would."

"I sense a but coming on," Ryan said sourly.

"...but, now's not the best time for me."

"Let me guess, this has something to do with the back stabbing best-friend?"

Jane sighed, "Yeah, something like that, but that's another long story."

"Care to tell me that one tonight, not as a date or anything, just as a friend?" Ryan asked, one eyebrow quirked in an inviting fashion.

Jane was about to answer Ryan when she saw a familiar car pull up in front of her house, "Uhm, can I take a rain check on that, I've got company."

Ryan looked over and saw Daria and Tom walking up, "Let me guess, the back stabbing best friend, and the cause of the back stabbing."

"Something like that, yeah. But she still is my best friend so I would like to talk to her."

Ryan nodded, "Ok, you can tell me all about it tomorrow at rehearsal."

"Sure thing, I love talking about my personal life with virtual strangers."

Ryan chuckled, "While I might be a little strange I hope I'm not a stranger for much
longer." He reached over and gave Jane a quick hug.

"Hey, watch the hands buster!" Jane snapped.

"Don't worry, I'm just a hugging person, nothing was meant by it. Unless you want it to of
course," he said, leering playfully. "See you tomorrow Jane," Ryan waved to Jane and
walked past a surprised Daria and Tom.

"Uh, hi guys," Jane said to her friend and ex. "What brings you two here?"

-------------------------------------

Earlier that afternoon while Jane was sitting through bad high school acting, Tom and Daria
were sitting through bad television.

"You know this show really has fallen on hard times. You'd think an expose on green-eyed
man goats would be more interesting," Tom said dryly.

"Mmm," Daria replied.

Tom looked over at Daria and saw she was staring at a point above the television, "But the
piece on girlfriends who stare at inanimate objects to avoid talking to their boyfriends was
quite good."

"I wasn't avoiding you, I was just thinking."

"Really, penny for your thoughts."

"Come on, you can afford to pay much more than that."

"Ok, a buck fifty, but that's my final offer."

"Cheap skate."

"The Sloanes didn't get rich by throwing money around," Tom said sagely. "We only pay
fair value for what we buy."

"And my thoughts are only worth a buck fifty?"

"Actually, it's all I have in my pocket right now."

Daria shrugged, "Good enough, pay up."

"You're serious."

"Hey, you offered, who am I to refuse such a generous offer?"

"You're far too mercenary for you own good, you know that right?" Tom grumbled as he
handed Daria the loose change from his pocket.

"I blame my parents, society, and the Internet," Daria said as she took the money from
Tom. "I'm really worried about Jane."

"Why, you did try to talk to her, right?"

"Oh we talked, she quite happily explained to me why she's giving up art."

"She what?"

"That was my reaction too."

"But why?"

"She says she's lost the fire or something like that. Her logic seemed shaky at best to me."

"What is she going to do now?"

"I'm not entirely sure, but I have my suspicions."

"Want to go by her house and see how she's doing?"

"Uh sure," Daria said hesitantly, "that's not quite what I expected you to say."

"What you thought I was going to say that Jane has to live her own life through her own choices and whatever we say doesn't matter?"

"Something like that yeah."

Tom shrugged, "This just sounds so off for her, something must be up, and chances are good that whatever is bothering her will spill over to you and then I'll affect me so I figured we take care of the problem now, before it spreads."

Daria smirked, "Your logic is as impeccable as always Mr. Sloane."

"Why thank you for thinking so Ms. Morgendorffer."

"When do you want to leave?"

Daria thought for a moment, "How about when the marathon is over, no sense in bugging Jane while that's on."

Tom arched an eyebrow, "So you're worried about Jane's well being, but not enough to keep
you from watching Sick Sad World?"

"It's kind of like this. I offered to go and do something with Jane tonight, before I knew
you were free and she basically blew me off."

"And you don't want to stick your head back into the proverbial lion's mouth?" Tom
finished for Daria.

"Exactly."

"And you're not thrilled with the prospect of me and Jane under one roof."

"That too."

"And you're perfectly content here with me, and you don't want to wreck the mood."

"Quit while you're ahead Sloane."

"Come on Daria, admit it, you like this 'quality time.' There's no shame in saying so." He wrapped an arm around Daria's shoulders.

Daria stiffened, then relaxed against Tom, "Why the hell do you always have to be so damn
right?" She growled.

Tom chuckled, "You show affection in the strangest ways."

"At least I don't have pleasure mixed up with pain."

"You don't? Damn, there goes that fantasy."

Daria punched Tom on the arm, "Twit, watch the TV."

Several hours later Daria and Tom were driving up to Jane's house.

"We should have come sooner," Tom said.

"Who could've known that special on the Spanish Inquisition was going to air?"

"I for one wasn't expecting it, but then again..."

"Don't say it Python Boy," Daria threatened.

"All right, all right...say, whose car is that?" Tom asked, seeing Ryan's car in the driveway.

"Forget the car, who's that?" Daria asked, pointing at Ryan.

"The owner of the car I'd say."

"You think?" Daria asked sarcastically. "That much I figured out, I want to know who he
is."

"I don't know, we go to different schools remember."

"Oh yeah."

"Should we go introduce ourselves?"

"I don't...crap, Jane saw us, I guess we don't have a choice any more."

"I still could floor it," Tom said helpfully.

"No, that wouldn't be mature."

"What's the fun in being mature? I'm sure there's a show on the peasant revolutions in
Renaissance Germany on right now."

"Tom out of the car."

Tom sighed and killed the ignition. "Yes ma'am."

They got out of Tom's car and walked to the front door. Daria's eyes widened when she
saw Ryan hug Jane.

"Looks to me like Jane's doing pretty well for herself," Tom quipped. Daria couldn't form a
comment. They watched in silence as Jane and Ryan said their good-byes. Ryan walked
past them and neither he nor they said hello. When Ryan was past them Daria nudged Tom
in the ribs and they continued walking towards Jane.

"So you have no clue who that was?" Tom whispered to Daria.

"No clue, he might be in one of my classes though."

"You think?"

Daria shot Tom a disapproving glare, but Jane's greeting cut off any further comment.

"Uh hi guys, what's up?"

"We were in the neighborhood and just decided to drop by," Tom answered.

"Right, Daria, why are you and lover boy really here?"

"Because we're worried about you Jane, you've been acting weird the past couple days and
I--we, want to know if there's anything we can do to help."

"Truthfully Daria, I'm fine. I appreciate your concern, but you don't have to worry."

"Then who was that guy?"

"Oh, that was Ryan, he gave me a ride home, that's all."

"He sure was here a long time, school's been out for hours," Daria said dryly.

"Nah, Ryan and I just got here as well."

Daria arched an eyebrow, "Really, that's quite a few missing hours there, what's the
mystery?"

Jane shrugged, "No mystery, I stayed after the play tryouts to get a tour of the theater,
there's nothing going on between--oh crap," Jane exclaimed suddenly when she realized
what she had just said.

Daria smirked, "I thought so."

"You volunteered for a school play?" Tom asked.

"Yes I did, and I'm getting extra credit in English to do so. Got a problem with that?"

"No, not at all, just surprised that's all. I didn't think you were much for joining things."

"Neither did I," Daria added, "And Mr. O'Neill's made the same extra credit offer every year
and you've never taken the bait before."

Jane sighed, "If you must know I'm doing the theater thing because otherwise I'd be bored
beyond belief. I mean you two are spending more time together, and that's perfectly fine. I
don't want to be an extraneous wheel, that would just be too weird."

"An excellent point," Tom added hastily, Daria frowned.

"And since I decided to give up art I had to do something to pass the time, and going on a
crime spree seemed like a bad idea. So I figured why not give the theater thing a try."

"And it's purely a coincidence that a cute guy is involved," Daria said. This time it was
Tom's turn to frown.

"He wasn't that good looking," he groused.

"Uh-oh Daria, you've gone and made Tom jealous," Jane said, smirking.

"Hey don't try to change the subject, we're talking about you here," Tom protested.

"He's right, you're ducking the question. I'll address Tom's issue later."

"All right, no I didn't volunteer to be a tech just because Ryan is on the crew, the extra credit
really was a big incentive for me," she paused, "Ryan is just a bonus."

"So this isn't some cry for help?"

Jane shook her head, "Nah, I'm just trying to find my way."

"You do know the theater's considered one of the arts," Tom commented.

"Yeah, so?" Jane shrugged, "I'm not painting, sculpting, throwing pots, or any of that other
crap I used to do. I'm not acting in the play, I'm just helping put it together."

"If you insist."

"Hey, it's not like I'm trying out for the cheerleading squad again. This is the theater, is
there anything more outsider I could have joined?"

"I suppose not," Daria admitted.

"Look Daria, I appreciate your concern, but I'm ok. I'm just trying out something new
right now that's all. You can chalk it up to my 'impulsive nature' if it makes you feel any
better."


"You're really ok?" Daria asked.

"I'm fine," Jane said emphatically.

"I hate to break up this love fest, but I have to get home in time for dinner. Daria, do you
want a ride home?" Tom asked.

"Uh," Daria said hesitantly, looking at Jane.

"It's ok Daria, you can go."

"You're sure?"

"Of course I'm sure!" Jane shouted. "I'm glad you came by Daria, but I'm not some invalid
who needs to be hovered over."

"All right," Daria hesitated, "Talk to you tomorrow then?"

"But of course, see you later Daria."

"Bye Jane," Daria walked to Tom's car.

Tom turned to leave but Jane caught him by the arm, "Hey Tom."

"Yeah?"

"Does she really mean that much to you?"

"What?"

"Daria, do you really care that much for her? There's no way you'd be standing there if it
wasn't because of her."

Tom shuffled his feet, "I'd like to think you and I have reached some level of friendship since our breakup."

"That's crap, how many of you ex-girlfriends have you actively sought out to inquire about
their well being?"

"Well, er, you're the first, but keep in mind there aren't nearly as many as people think."

"And would you be here if it wasn't for Daria?"

"Would any of us?"

"That's a wonderfully vague way of evading the question."

Tom shook his head, "No, it's a valid question. Would either of us be at this place if Daria
wasn't around?"

Jane shrugged, "I don't know...but I'm not blaming for her for anything. And I'm not
wishing she wasn't here."

"I agree."

"So, to repeat my question, does she really mean so much to you that you'd visit your ex-
girlfriend at her insistence?"

Tom thought for a moment, "Well, I'm here aren't I? So I guess she does."

Jane nodded, "That's cool. Don't screw this one up Sloane."

"Or what, you'll come take me out?"

"It's not me you should be worried about, it's her," Jane nodded in Daria's direction.

"True, I'll have to remember that. Well, I do have to go, bye Jane."

"Bye Tom," Jane watched Tom and Daria get into Tom's car then drive off. She let herself into the house and started scrounging for dinner.

"What was that all about?" Daria asked Tom as they drove to the Morgendorffer residence.

"Oh nothing, just clearing the air over a few old issues, it wasn't anything really earth shattering," Tom replied nonchalantly. "So, are you satisfied that Jane's ok?"

Daria shook her head, "Not entirely, but I appreciate where she's coming from so I'm not as concerned." She shrugged, "Jane will go to a couple rehearsals, see how stupid the whole affair is and quit, or not, like she said, it is her life."

"She never said that."

"It was implied."

"Ahh...so, what do you want to do tomorrow?" Tom asked, trying to shift the conversation.
Daria sense Tom's desire to not talk about Jane and let the conversation drift to other matters. They managed to avoid mentioning Jane for the rest of the ride.

---------------------------------------

After saying goodbye to Tom Daria walked into the her living room and found Quinn reading a book. Intrigued Daria investigated the matter. "What are you reading Quinn, Twelve Easy Steps to a Better Pedicure?"

Quinn looked up from her book and sighed, "No, 'Under Milkwood' by Dylan Thomas."

Daria arched an eyebrow in surprise, "Thomas huh, what's the reason?"

"Do I have to have a reason to read great literature?"

"Quinn your idea of great literature has always been the annual mascara edition of 'Waif.'
I'm not buying it."

Quinn sighed, "All right, I'm reading it for Mr. O'Neill's class."

"See now if you'd just said...wait a minute, that wasn't on our reading list last year."

"He, uh, added it this year?"

"I don't think so, not with that school's budget."

"Ok, I'm reading it for extra credit. Does that satisfy your curiosity?"

Daria shrugged," I suppose so...hold on, isn't that the play they're doing?"

"So?"

"And didn't O'Neill offer extra credit to anyone who tried out for a part?"

"I guess, I wasn't exactly paying attention," Quinn said nervously.

"Uh-huh, let me just throw out a random guess here, let me know how close to the mark I
get. I think you heard about the O'Neill's offer for the extra credit and so you auditioned,
only you ended up with a part, despite your best efforts to the contrary. Am I on the right
track here?"

Quinn hung her head, "That pretty much sums it up. He didn't even let me turn down his
offer."

"How awful for you. You tried to abuse the system and got caught."

"Daria, this is serious, promise you won't tell anyone?"

"That would require me to talk right? Don't worry, your secret is safe with me."

"Thank-you, this is the sort of thing that could ruin me. Having the starring role in the
school play, what was I thinking?"

"Quinn, how much of that play have you read?"

"I haven't gotten past the introduction, why?"

"The sub-title is 'A Play for Voice.' There are over thirty parts and none of them could be
considered a starring role."

"How do you know, have you read the play?"

"No, but I did read a biography of Thomas that described the play. Sorry Quinn, you're in
an ensemble piece."

"I'm sure you find this all very amusing," Quinn groused.

"No more than anything else in life," Daria replied. "If Mom or Dad are looking for me I'll
be in my room. Good luck with the Welsh." Daria walked off before Quinn could reply.

--------------------------------------

The next day couldn't go by quickly enough for Jane. Not that she was excited about the play, but something different was about to happen. When she entered O'Neill's class she made a point of looking at the back of the classroom. Somewhat to her surprise she saw Ryan. He waved in greeting. Jane returned the wave, but did not speak to him. Instead she sat down in her customary chair next to Daria. Daria observed all of this, but did not comment on any of it.

The rest of the day passed without incident and Jane soon found herself back in the theater; this time watching O'Neill and the cast read through the play.

"Are they going to get better?" She asked Ryan who was sitting next to her.

"Probably not. Let's go check out the booth," he stood up.

"Is that your come on line to all the girls?"

"Only the ones I really want to nail," he replied.

"Ok, I won't respond to that blatant display of testosterone."

Ryan chuckled, "You've taken too many classes with Barch."

"And I've taken her self-defense class, so you'd better be on your best behavior."

"Say no more, you have nothing to worry about from me. I happen to have quite a fondness for my little friends."

"Little huh?" Jane said, quirking an eyebrow.

"I meant in relation to the rest of me, besides what do you care? I thought the time wasn't
right for you, or something."

"You know what they say, time heals all."

"And has it?" Ryan asked hopefully as he stepped into Jane's personal space.

"Possibly," Jane replied coyly.

"Hey Ryan, stop hitting on the new girl and get your ass over here!" Mike said sharply
from the back of the auditorium.

Jane and Ryan looked at each other for another long moment before chuckling nervously.

"The theater waits for no one I guess," Ryan said lamely. "The booth's this way," he led Jane to the back of the theater, coming to a stop in front of a recessed door.

"Ok, are you really sure you want to do this? Once you pass through this door your life will be irrevocably changed."

"Enough with the ominous crap, open the damn door. I'm already a pretty twisted cruller."

"Don't say I didn't warn you," Ryan said as he opened the door and walked into the room.

Jane followed, and was met by a wall. To her left she saw a short flight of stairs. She
ascended the stairs and looked around the room. "Well, it's obvious O'Neill doesn't come up
here too often," she commented dryly. "Are those condoms?" She asked, pointing at a
group of distinctly shaped objects pinned to a makeshift alter.

"Welcome to the inner sanctum," Mike said grandly. "Yes, those are condoms, they're
offerings to Leroy, god of the light booth."

"You see one night Ann and the three of us were working late on the lights and we had taken a dinner break," Ryan began to explain.

"All of a sudden we saw this large black guy in the back of the auditorium." Mike said,
jumping in. "Ann asked him what his name was and the guy said 'Leroy.' Greg offered
him some pizza, which he refused. All of a sudden Leroy was gone, and when we went
over to where he had been standing we found a fluorescent yellow condom."

"Creepy," Jane commented, unconvinced.

"We later decided that we had been visited by the god of the light booth, Leroy, who
dispenses fluorescent yellow condoms to the faithful and smites the unbelievers with badly focused spots."

"We burn some incense and offer Leroy a new condom before every show to appease him,"
Greg added.

"It also makes a great stress reliever," Ryan whispered into Jane's ear.

"Ok, well, that's pretty strange, but whatever gets you through a show I guess," Jane said
dubiously.

"Exactly, you're catching on. Now, this is the booth," Mike said, "You're in the nerve center
of the play. From here we run the lights and the sound for the show. The light board is on
the left, the sound board in on the right," Mike pointed to two tables in front of the room's
dual windows, "In between is the dimmer panel. It's like the fuse box for all the lights in
the theater. Behind the door over there is what we like to call the Tiki Room. It's where we
store stuff and just sort of relax."

"Uh-huh," Jane said non-committally as she took in the booth. Strings of Christmas lights
hung from the ceiling and the walls. A large bean bag chair lay in one corner of the room.
The walls were covered with posters from previous productions as well as other, weirder
pictures. Jane shrugged, "So what, did you expect me to run screaming from the room
never to bother your littler world again?"

"That was never my intention," Ryan said hastily.

"I was talking to your fearless leader over there," Jane nodded at Mike. "You're trying to
get in my pants, metaphorically speaking I hope, so I figured you wouldn't be trying to drive
me away."

"I just wanted to let you know what you're in for by working here. Long hours, no pay, no
respect, you have to watch a bunch of half wits try to act for a couple of months, and then
there's the stress of the actual performance. If you think you can handle all that by all
means stay. If not I'm sure Ann could use a hand with makeup."

"Look, I've submitted more pieces art for competition than I can remember, I know all about
stress, and do you know what? It's not a big deal to me because I know in the end it's just
not the end of the world regardless of the outcome." Jane said angrily, holding her ground.

"Jane, I'd love for you to stay, we always can use more hands helping out. I'm just trying to
let you know what you've gotten yourself into."

"Besides we can always use her to focus lights on," Greg added. Ryan shot Greg a dirty
look.

"Hello, anybody home?" A new voice called out. Jane turned and saw Dave Wylie enter
the booth. He was burdened by a large blue bag slung over one shoulder, and a large spool
of cable on the other.

"Who're you?" Mike asked.


Dave carefully set his bag down and let the cables drop. He walked over to Mike with a
hand extended. "Dave Wylie, pleased to meet you. I volunteered to run sound for the play
and O'Neill told me to go here."


Mike coolly shook Dave's hand, "I'm Mike Grissom, head tech. That's Greg, he's the sound
chief, that's Ryan, set guy, and that's Jane, the newbie. You'll be working for Greg,
obviously."


"Ok then, so Greg, how are you planning on setting things up?"


Greg, a short individual with a shock of curly black hair, looked a little perplexed by the question. "Uh, I'm going to play the sound effects when the cues say to."


"What about the house sound? And this recording we have to make?"


"The speakers in the theater have worked well enough before. As for the tapes I guess we'll use a camcorder, I don't know, we haven't talked about it yet. Why, what were you planning?"


"I'm glad you asked," Dave said happily. "I took a quick look around the space before coming up here and the room's acoustics seem pretty good so normally I'd say mics wouldn't be necessary. But since we want to record the show I'd do this. For starters I'd hang a pair of B&K 4021's over the stage. I'd back those up with a pair of Neumann TLM-170's, probably run cardiod maybe omni, with one on either side of the stage. I'd finish it all off by running a pair of Schoeps tubes with some kind of cardiod cap from up in the lighting rig, back about oh 20 feet or so from the stage. I'll mix those signals at the board, which is also where the sound effects will be added. I'll have all the effects recorded on a DAT. The board signal will then go out to the house speakers, obviously. I've got some JBL's at home I'm not using right now so we can use them here. That's the house sound. As for the recording I'll send a digi-out from the board into my PortaDAT with a timecode module attached to handle the audio. For the visual I'll use a pro model digital camcorder. Then it's just a matter of synching the visual with the audio and you've got yourself a high quality digital tape. We could even record it on DVD. Unless you'd rather do things Greg's way," he finished with a smile.


"Ok, everyone in favor of making Dave chief sound guy raise your hand," Mike said, they all raised a hand.


"Ok, it's official. Dave, you're in charge of sound. Greg, help him."


"Cool, come on, let's go get to work running mic cable," Dave told Greg, who reluctantly
followed him out of the booth.


Jane looked at the remaining two techs. "Did any of that make sense to you two?"


Ryan shook his head, "Not a bit."


"Uh, yeah, a little," Mike said in the hesitant tones of an unpracticed liar.

"Well now what?" Jane asked.

"We sit around, there's not much to be done until they get the play al; blocked out," Ryan
said apologetically.

"That's not entirely true," Mike countered. "We can go check the lights for burned out
bulbs and start training Jane in the finer points of rigging."

"If you want to be anal about things then yes, that's what we should be doing," Ryan said,
giving Jane an "I'm sorry" look.

"Yes I want to be anal about it. I don't want any unpleasant surprises later on when we're setting things up. If that intrudes on your plans to hit on Jane I'm sorry, but the play's more important than your love life," Mike said angrily before stomping out of the booth.

Jane's eyes widened in surprise, "Jeez, what an ass. I thought you two were friends."

Ryan shrugged, "Mike's just blowing off steam. He can get a little high-strung about things. O'Neill told him the new lights won't be in for another month and he's a touch pissy about it," Ryan said as they followed Mike out of the booth.

"And since he couldn't yell at O'Neill he ripped you a new asshole, I get it. Lovely
personality trait."

"Yeah, but we love him anyway."

"Why is he the boss?"

"He's the one who sat down and read the manual to the light board, that gave him the inside
track on the job."

"Such qualifications," Jane quipped.

"Back when we first started out working on lights it was," Ryan led Jane up onto the stage.

"So, what are we doing anyway?" Jane asked.

"Checking the lights. Mike's going to lower them down here and we'll plug them in and see
if they go. If they don't we replace the bulb."

"Sounds simple enough," Jane replied.

"Oh it is, just time consuming."

"You ready down there?" Mike called out.

"Lower away," Ryan replied.

"Now maybe I'm not seeing something, but why are we doing this? Wouldn't it be easier to
just check them up there?" Jane asked as she watched a light descend from the catwalk.

"You'd think, but the power up there is all controlled from the booth, we have a test plug
setup down here, not to mention a workbench."

"All right, I can admit when I'm wrong."

"How were you supposed to know? It's a valid question. Keep asking them and you'll be
up to speed in no time," Ryan said as he caught the light. "Could you untie this rope?" He
nodded at the rope tied to the light.

"Sure thing," Jane said helpfully.

Ryan took the light over to a small workbench set in a corner of the backstage area. "Okay, this is one of our lighting instruments, more specifically a spot. I know that you've heard of spotlights, right?" Jane nodded. "This is a spotlight. It throws a lot of light onto wherever you point it. We use 'em as our primary stage illuminators." He rested a hand on the light.

"These little lever deals control the shutters inside the light which affects the shape of the beam. We can also focus the beam as needed, cool huh?"

"I'm positively beside myself," Jane replied evenly.

"It's noticeable," Ryan replied in similar fashion. "Ok, let's fire this sucker up." He plugged the light into a special socket and flipped a switch. The light blazed into full glow. Ryan turned it off. "Ok one down, a whole assload to go." He carried the light back over to the rope. "Hey Mike, got the next one set? This one's good."

"Great, I'm ready to go up here."

"Cool, hey Jane would you mind tying the rope back onto this one?"

Jane looked at the light hesitantly, "Why don't I hold it and you tie?"

Ryan shrugged, "Okay, whatever suits you. Grab hold." Jane grabbed the light by the yoke
and Ryan expertly secured the rope. "Hoist away!" he shouted.

"So how many of these are there exactly?" Jane asked.

"Oh I don't know, fifty or sixty."

"Great," Jane muttered. "Just what I needed to hear."

The rest of rehearsal passed slowly as Jane helped Ryan test out the lights. Finally though
the last spot was checked and raised back to its perch.

Ryan stretched his sore back, "There that's done. Hey you did good Jane."

"Thanks," Jane looked around the theater, "Huh, I guess we're closing the theater again."
O'Neill and the cast were nowhere to be seen.

"That's always the way," Mike said as he made his way down the ladder. "We put in the
longer hours for none of the credit."

"But you're not bitter or anything," Jane commented drolly.

"We all deal with it in different ways," Greg chimed in as he joined the growing circle of
people. "I like to moon the stage at the end of every show."

"You're kidding." He said nothing to refute the claim. Jane faced Ryan, "Please tell me he's
joking."

"I'm afraid not, every show I look over and there's Greg dropping his drawers."

"Ewww," Jane shuddered. "Uh, no offense," she hastily told Greg.

"None taken."

"Oh, I agree with Jane, there's nothing nastier than Greg's ass," Ryan said, chuckling.

"I don't know about that, I think it's kind of sexy," Mike said with an affected lisp.

"Mike, stay the hell away from Greg's ass!" Ann shouted.

Mike jumped, "Uh sorry about that sweetie," he rushed over and kissed Ann. "Are you set
to go?"

She nodded, "I am if you are."

"Great," he turned and faced the rest of the group, "Pizza King for dinner?" The group
nodded in agreement. "How about you Jane, want to come with?"

Jane looked at the clock and saw that it was well past dinnertime, "I don't know..."

"C'mon Jane, it'll be fun," Ryan said encouragingly. "And hey, there are other people
around so it won't be a date."

Jane pondered for a few additional moments before shrugging, "Only if you buy."

"Fine, thought wouldn't that be considered a date?"

"Not if other people are around," she replied impishly.

"Are you two finished? I'm starving." Mike interjected.

"Yeah we're done," Jane said.

"Hey Dave," Ryan shouted, "We're going to Pizza King, do you want it?"

Dave, who was just coming down the catwalk ladder, nodded, "Ok, cool." The group left the
auditorium and walked to their cars.

-----------------------------------------------

Two hours, and several pizzas, later Ryan dropped Jane off at her house. "Well, I hope
your first rehearsal didn't scare you off or anything."

Jane shook her head. "Nah, it was kind of fun, in a weird and twisted kind of way."

Ryan chuckled, "That it is," he paused. "And I know I had a lot of fun at dinner."

"I did too actually," Jane said.

"And I think we could have even more fun if it was just the two of us," he said hopefully.

"You never give up do you?"

He shook his head, "Not easily."

Jane sighed, "If I told you the reason why I have to say no, will you stop?"

"Depends on what the reason is."

"How about if you just ease up a little."

Ryan shrugged, "Hey I'd stop if you didn't seem like you wanted to go out with me."

"Now that's an arrogant...well I guess I do, kind of. But it's still an amazingly arrogant
statement."

"So will you?"

"No...and here's why," she added hastily when she saw him deflate. Jane then told Ryan the
whole story of herself, Daria, and Tom, including her adventures at art camp. Ryan sat back
and listened in silence. "...So that brings us up to the present. I'm ok with Daria and Tom
going out, but I'm still a little too wounded to start dating again myself, not to mention the
whole lost the will to paint thing. If all things were equal I'd go out with you, but there're
not so I can't. I hope you understand."

Ryan nodded somberly, "Yeah, I can. I can't say I'm thrilled to hear about all this, but I can
deal, maybe."

"So you're not going to get mad or storm out in a huff because I'm not willing to go out with you?"

"Naw."

"Why not?"

"You are interested in going out with me right?"

"Yeah."

"Just not right now."

"Yeah."

"Okay then, I'll just keep asking till you agree."

"Great, that's all I needed to hear."

"There's an easy way to get me to stop."

"Oh really,"

"Yeah, go out with me," Ryan grinned, pleased with his cleverness.

"I think this is where I say goodnight, sir," Jane said, trying to hide a smirk.

"All right," Ryan leaned over and hugged Jane. "Take your time, I'll still be here."

"You sure about that?"

He nodded, "Yeah, you look like you could use a friend, and I think I can do that."

"In that case maybe you can take me out to dinner tomorrow night, as a friend," she added
pointedly.

"Ok, when and where?"

"Whenever, and wherever," Jane answered playfully.

"I can handle that."

"See you tomorrow Ryan."

"Yeah, see you tomorrow Jane."

Jane got out of the car and watched Ryan drive off. She walked into her house and found
Trent sitting on the couch.

"Hey Trent."

"Hey Janey, whoa, you're home late."

"Yeah, rehearsal ran over, and then a bunch of us went out for pizza."

"Sounds like you're having a good time."

"I guess I am, for now at least."

"That's cool."

"I'm going to be in my room if you need me."

"Ok, oh, Daria called looking for you."

"How many times?"

Trent shrugged, "A couple."

"I'll call her back then. Take it easy Trent."

"Always do Jane."

"I know, just don't slip into a coma while you're at it," Jane joked. She left Trent hacking in
the living room and walked up to her room. She picked up the phone and dialed the
Morgendorffer's number.

"Hello Morgendorffer residence, all the Morgendorffers you'd want to speak to are already
on the phone if you wish to leave them a message please do so after the beep...beep."

"Hey Daria."

"Oh hi Jane, did you just get back from rehearsal?"

"Pretty much, we went out for some pizza afterwards."

"Everybody?"

"No, just the crew."

"Getting pretty chummy with them huh?"

"Oh for Pete's sake. Daria, we're not going to go through this again are we?"

"What, me being irrationally jealous over a new person in your life? No, I've gotten over
that."

"I should hope so, you're dating him now after all."

"Please don't bring that up right now. I'm trying to be supportive. What I meant to say was
that I'm glad you don't hate your fellow thespians."

"Well, there is one guy who does sort of bug me."

"Who's that?"

"Mike, the self-appointed leader. He's a bit of an ass."

"Is that like saying Quinn's a bit self-absorbed?"

"Something like that yes."

"You could always quit."

"Wishful thinking Morgendorffer. I'm riding this thing out to the bitter end."

"Just so long as you don't regret the decision."

"Nah, I've got a feeling this will all work out quite nicely."

"You haven't eaten any more of those pickles Trent found have you?"

"Dammit Daria, could you just drop that? I offered to buy you new drapes."

"What drapes?"

"Oh, nothing, never mind, it's not important, bye Daria," Jane said hastily before hanging up
on Daria. She smirked to herself, "That's one way to end a conversation." She pulled a
textbook out of her backpack and got started on her homework.

--------------------------------------

Life proceeded to settle into a routine of sorts for Jane. During school she hung out with
Daria like always. After school she spent her afternoons in the theater, working on the play.
Her evenings were either spent at home in an attempt to keep on top of her schoolwork or
out with Ryan. The production progressed with all the attendant troubles of any technical
undertaking. One day Jane was helping Mike and Greg rig a set of lights for a specific
water effect.

"So, how are you going to do this?" Jane asked as she handed a light to Mike.

"Normally I'd just use a blue gel, but we got these little things with the new lights." He held
up a small piece of metal with a pattern cut into the middle. "This is a gobo, we install it into
the light and get a nifty wave pattern shown on the floor."

"Oh boy, isn't this a red letter day."

"You know if you don't care you don't have to say anything," Mike said curtly.

"Fine by me." She watched as Mike fumbled with the gobo. "You do know how to use that
thing right?"

"Of course he doesn't, we've never used one before and it didn't come with instructions."

"How hard can it be?" Mike asked rhetorically. "You just slap this thing in front of the
beam and..." He tried to place the gobo in the gel holder only to see it fall out. "Dammit!"

"Maybe it goes inside the light," Greg offered helpfully.

"Yeah, that's probably it." Mike and Greg quickly set about opening up the light. "You
have got to be kidding me," Mike cried out in frustration when the gobo again did not fit.

"Jane get me the tin snips. I'm going to ghetto rig this bitch."

"Aye-aye boss," Jane said with a smirk. She walked over to the other end of the catwalk.

"Hey Ryan," she called out.

"Yeah?"

"Do you have the tin snips?"

"Yeah."

"Could you put them in the bucket, Mike needs them to get those gobo things to work."

"Hang on, I'll bring them up myself. This I've got to see," Ryan dropped his hammer and
ran over to the ladder.

"Such personal service," Jane said wryly when Ryan met her at the top of the ladder.

"What can I say, seeing Mike out of his depth is a rare treat," he replied while handing Jane
the snips.

"And me without my camera," Jane quipped. She frowned when she thought about what
she had just said.

Ryan noticed the shift in Jane's mood, but didn't bring it up. "Come on, let's go enjoy the
show." They walked over to where Greg and Mike were working.

"Finally, hand me those snips," Mike snapped. He took the cutters from Jane and began
trimming the piece of metal. Ryan leaned back against the railing to watch.

"Hey Mike, how much do those things cost?" Ryan asked.

Mike sighed, "I don't know, why do you want to know?"

"I'm just curious how much money you're wasting cutting that thing up, that's all."

"Oh go back to building the set, jackass. I'm working my ass off trying to get this play off
the ground, and you're not helping. Besides," he added with a sly grin, "it's not my money
I'm wasting, so who the hell cares."

Ryan laughed, "Excellent point, snip away."

Mike finished cutting and placed the modified gobo into the light, this time it fit. "Ha, I'm
still the champion. Greg, get this light rigged, I'll get the other two gobos setup."

"I feel curiously unfulfilled," Jane commented.

"Me too, it's probably for the best thought. The more boredom in this job the better."

"I guess."

"Hey, want to help me build flats?"

"Oh, can I really?" Jane said unenthusiastically.

"It's either that or keep helping Mike with the gobos."

"Where'd that hammer go?"

Jane and Ryan worked on building flats until Mike and Greg came down from the catwalk.

"Got the water spots done yet?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, we're going to test them now," Mike answered.

"Cool, we'll come watch."

The group filed into the light booth where Dave was sitting hunched over the soundboard,
listening intently to a pair of studio monitors.

"Hey Dave," Ryan said, "What'cha doing?"

"Hmm?" Dave asked, "Oh, just listening to the mix, I'm going to swap out the Schoeps
sub-cards for the Mk4v cards, they're better suited for speech pickup anyway."

"Right," Ryan said hesitantly, "I'll just pretend that made sense and move on."

"Sorry, what I meant to say was that the mics I currently have hanging from bar five
displease me and I'm thinking about replacing them with a pair whose characteristics are
better suited to the conditions here."

"Still doesn't help."

Dave shrugged, "I tried, so what're you folks up to?"

"Mike and Greg finished the water spots so we're trying them out."

Dave nodded, "Cool." He turned in his chair to look out the window.

Mike readied himself in front of the light board. "Here we go," he dimmed the house lights
and brought up the new spotlights. "Oh hell." The front of the stage was illuminated by
three, murky indistinct puddles of blue, with no discernable pattern.

"Dude, that sucks," Dave commented.

"Tell me about it," Mike grumbled as he turned off the spots and restored the house lights.

"When O'Neill shows up for rehearsal today I guess we'll have to tell him the gobos are a
no-go."

"Hehehe, that rhymes, funny," Ryan chortled.

"Do you appreciate the fact that we're screwed?" Mike asked.

"I do, but you have to admit that was kind of funny."

"I agree with Ryan, that was pretty funny," Dave added.

"Who asked you?" Mike snapped.

"Sheesh Mike, chill out a little," Greg said. "So we have to yank the gobos out of those
spots, big deal."

As Jane watched the debate unfold she thought she felt a familiar tugging at the back of her
mind. However, when she tried to focus on it, the sensation fled. "Weird, for a moment I
thought I saw a painting there." She shook her head, "Must have been a bit of indigestion,
or a headache, or something."

"Hi guys," O'Neill said from the foot of the stairs. "How are things going?"

"We go the water spots up with the gobos installed, but it doesn't look very good," Mike
reported.

"Oh, let me see."

"All right," Mike said grudgingly and turned the spots back on.

"Why that's wonderful. It just gives you the suggestion of water, perfect!" He faced the
crew, "Good job people, keep up the great work." He walked out of the booth, leaving behind a stunned crew.

Mike banged his head on the board slowly. "This is not happening," he kept repeating to himself.

"Did that actually just happen?" Jane asked.

"I think so," Greg replied

"So we're going to keep the ass ugly lights?"

"Looks that way," Ryan said.

"Damn."

"Amen," Dave concurred.

-----------------------------------

Later that afternoon Jane and Ryan were sitting in the theater taking a break. Ryan was
rubbing Jane's shoulders they were both half-watching the rehearsal on stage. Quinn was
working on a scene with two male cast members.

"And what, what, dammit, what's the line?" Quinn shouted in frustration.

"It's 'and what do we do after the drapes?' Quinn," O'Neill called out.

"Right, I knew that."

"Also, Quinn, one more time, it's not 'Laregub,' the town is pronounced, 'Yar-a-gub.' Say it
with me..."

"Fine, fine, 'Yeargh-a-gub' is that better?" Quinn said, deliberately over-pronouncing the
name. "What, do you have a problem?" Quinn snapped when one of the other cast
members sighed.

"Yeah, I do. We've been at this for weeks and you can't even remember the easiest lines."

"Hehehe, why don't we put this scene down for right now? Let's move on to a Captain Cat
scene."

Quinn stormed off the stage, her fists clenched and her face turning a bright shade of red.

"Oh, that jerk, how dare he..." she trailed off, too mad to speak.

Ann looked on sympathetically, "Hey, Quinn right?"

Quinn looked over at Ann, "Yeah, who are you?"

"I'm Ann, I'll be helping you with your costumes and I'll do your makeup before the
shows."

"Oh, say aren't you that brainiac in all my classes?"

"I've always gotten A's if that's what you mean."

"Well you don't have to pick out my costumes. As Vice President of the Fashion Club I
don't need the help of some brain."

"But do you have period-appropriate clothes?" Ann asked innocently, "It'd be a shame if
you were out there in the latest from Cashman's while everyone else was wearing period
clothes."

"Why?"

"Because you'd look stupid that's why."

"Oh...well I guess you can help me out with the costumes, but I get veto power over any
outfit that's not cute enough."

"Sure, fine, whatever," Ann replied.

"Quinn, are you back here?" O'Neill asked.

"Yes Mr. O'Neill, I'm over here."

"Ah good. Quinn, I'm worried. I don't want to look like I'm stifling your creative energies,
but I also expect you to at least know your lines and be able to pronounce the names
correctly."

"I know," Quinn said sheepishly. "If you want me to quit, I understand. I'm just not cut out
for the theater I guess."

"No, no it's far too late for us to recast your parts. I'm afraid we'll just have to work through
your problems."

"But how? I've tried to memorize my lines, but it doesn't help."

"Hmm," O'Neill mused, "Maybe you need a dedicated acting coach."

"Is that like a tutor?"

"Yes, very much so. Now let's see," O'Neill scanned the theater until he saw who he was
looking for. "Ah, perfect. Oh Dave!" He called out to the sound tech. Dave was hunched
over a microphone set on a corner of the stage. He was wearing a pair of headphones and
appeared to be listening intently to something. "Uh, Dave?" O'Neill asked again when he
didn't get a response.

"I'll get him Mr. O'Neill," Jane called out. She hopped up and walked up to where Dave
was crouched. "Hey Dave!" Jane shouted into the mic, causing Dave to jump up in shock.

"Hey, watch it, that's a valuable piece of equipment," Dave complained as he took the
headphones off.

"Pay attention, you freak, O'Neill wants you."

"Heh, uh thank-you Jane," O'Neill said as Jane returned to her seat. "What were you doing
that was so engrossing, Dave?"

He shrugged, "I was making sure the side pickup mics were set to the right polar patterns."

"So you were listening to a microphone and you didn't hear me?"

"I was listening to the sounds, I wasn't paying attention to them. What do you need?"

"I was wondering if you'd like to help Quinn out with her lines."

Dave frowned, "Why me, I don't know anything about acting."

"You're good with sound, I'm sure you can think of something. Oh dear, that's not right,
excuse me." O'Neill muttered to himself as he scurried off to handle the next disaster.

Dave looked over at Quinn apologetically, "Hey, I'm sorry Quinn, but I know jack about
acting. I mean if you really want me to I can try to be of some help, but I can't imagine why
you would."

"Well, maybe you can help me with something else. You do well in all your classes right?"

"Uh yeah, I get by."

"See my problem is that I don't have enough time to get all my schoolwork done and
memorize these lines. If I had somebody to help me with my homework I'd have more time
for the play."

"So you want me to do your homework for you so you can focus on the play?"

"No just tutor me, you don't have to do my work, just help me with it, like last year with my
history paper."

"If you care so much for the theater why don't you just skip the school work. It's not like
you have any great love for it after all. Something you proved all to well last year."

Quinn stared at him for a long moment before realization hit, "Oh right you weren't here
over the summer."

"No I was following Phish, what does that matter?"

"Because I decided I want to do better at school, I got a tutor and everything."

Dave shrugged, "So?"

"Doesn't that make a difference?"

Dave looked thoughtful for a moment. "No," he said simply and walked away.

"Ooooo!" Quinn huffed, and stormed off.

"Quinn I..." Ann started to say, but stopped when Quinn left the theater. She sighed and
followed Quinn. "Quinn, wait up." Ann caught up with Quinn in the hall. "Are you ok
Quinn?"

"Yes," Quinn said tremulously.

"Are you crying?"

"No, Quinn replied, sniffling a little.

"Look Quinn, don't let those guys get to you. This is your first play right?" Quinn nodded,

"Some of those people have been acting for years. I'm sure they were worse when they
started."

"Fat lot of good that does me now."

"True, do you really want someone to help you out with your lines?"
Quinn nodded, "Yeah I do."

"I guess I could give you a hand when I'm not too busy."

"How could you help me?"

"Do you know just how many plays I've seen? Don't worry I can be a lot of help to you."

"That's great, but, uhm, why are you, like, being so nice to me?"

"Mostly because I don't want to see all the work I've put into this play go down the tubes,
but also because you remind me of myself."

"I do? How?" Quinn asked, slightly panicked.

"You see the reason I'm here is because it will look good on my college applications. That's
what you're doing right?"

"Actually I'm here for the extra credit, I never thought about college applications."
Ann shrugged, "It's the same thing really, and if I can make a fellow grade obsessed person
feel a little less stress then great." She paused, "Also, I could use your advice on
something."

"My advice? But you're like the big brain."

"Mike and I are going to be celebrating our anniversary soon."

"Really? How long?"

"Oh, a year."

"Wow, I could never do that, why limit yourself?"

Ann looked momentarily confused, "Because we care about each other."

"But he always takes you out to the nicest places right?"

"Uh no, most days we just hang out."

"I just don't get that, what's the point of going out with someone if you don't get anything
out of it?"

"You've never really cared about anyone have you?"

Quinn frowned, "That's not true, there is one guy I care about."

"Then why aren't you going out with him?"

"...Because he doesn't feel the same way," Quinn said with great reluctance.

"Amazing, a boy resistant to the charms of the Mighty Quinn Morgendorffer, who is he?"

"He doesn't go to school here. Look can we not talk about it? It's embarrassing enough as
it is."

"Ok, we don't have to talk about it, but it's not a sign of weakness to have feelings for a
person."

Quinn sighed, "It's not that...what did you want advice about anyway?"

"Uh, what should I wear?"

Quinn's face brightened, "Now that's something I'd be happy to talk about."

"Great, Mike and I don't normally get all dressed up for a date, but I want this one to be
special and I know you're better than I am at choosing an outfit."

"Too true," Quinn said condescendingly. "Err, I mean, uh," she tried to catch her error.
Ann laughed, "That's ok, you've got a better sense for clothes. I can accept that. I'm the
better trumpet player I'd wager. It's all just a matter of time management. Long ago I
decided I was going get a four point GPA and be the best trumpet player in the state. If I'm
not up to date on the latest fashions so be it. Unlike you my parents aren't rich."

"Huh?"

"You don't have to worry about college tuition, your parents will just foot the bill, all you
have to do is scrape by academically and you're set."

"That's not entirely..." Quinn began to say.

"Meanwhile I've got to work my butt off to make sure I'm valedictorian so I get that
scholarship money. I've got to practice trumpet an hour a day so I can get a trumpet
scholarship. I do volunteer work in hope of getting scholarship money from them, not to
mention how well that looks on a college resume. If I'm lucky by the time I graduate I
should hopefully have enough money between the scholarship and my job so that I'm only
in debt for half my adult life instead of the whole of it."

"Uh, breathe?" Quinn offered.

"Sorry, I just get a little stressed when I think about it."

"Obviously, so uh, how do you want to work this?"

"Why don't we go to my house after rehearsal, we can get started on your lines and you can
pick apart my wardrobe."

"Sounds good to me."

"Great, I'll see you then ," Ann walked back into the theater, leaving Quinn to think about
their interchange.

----------------------------------------------

Jane was building a piece of the set when Ryan called out to her. "Hey Jane, could you
grab the other end of this thing?" Jane looked over at Ryan and saw him holding one end
of a bulky flat.

"Sure thing, where are we taking it?"

"Outside to be painted."

Jane paused, "You sure you don't want someone else to help you?"

"Oh come on Jane, it's just slapping paint on wood, what's the big deal?"

"It's still painting, and I don't do painting."

"You're just being silly. Look, it's either help me paint these flats, or help Mike focus spots,
which would you rather do?"

Jane sighed, "If you put it that way hand me a brush." Focusing spotlights involved Jane
staring directly at a spot, trying to decided when a circle became visible. It was not how
Jane liked to spend time.

"I knew you'd see things my way," Ryan said with a grin as he held out a brush.

"What can I say, I like to see," Jane quipped, taking the brush from Ryan.

"I'll be over there if the paint tries to attack you or anything," Ryan said cheerfully, walking
to another set piece waiting to be painted.

Jane stared at the gallon of paint sitting on the ground. "Ahh, Weatherbeater semi-gloss,
my old nemesis." She opened the can and slowly stirred the paint. "It's not big deal Jane,"
she told herself. "There's no underlying artistic statement to be made here, you're just
slapping paint on wood." She dipped the brush into the paint. "No shapes, no patterns,
definitely no pictures. Just a solid block of color, any monkey can do that. It's not art, it's
house painting." She watched the paint run off the brush back into the can. "Slapping paint
on wood, paint on wood," She repeated to herself as she took her first stroke. "There, that
wasn't so hard now was it? Just do another of those." She ran the brush over the flat again.

"What was my problem anyway?" She said aloud as she dipped the brush back in the can.
Jane kept spreading paint onto the flat for a while then stopped and surveyed her work. She
frowned, "Hmmm, something's not right here," She walked over to the pile of paint
supplies and grabbed a few more cans of paint. She dropped the paint next to the flat and
returned for some paint thinner and an assortment of brushes.

"Now let's see here," she thought. "It just needs a smidgen of red there..." She quickly
became consumed in what she was doing and lost track of time.

"Hey Jane, how's it going?" Ryan called out. "I haven't heard, well anything from over here
so I was beginning to get worried...Whoa," Ryan finished when he saw Jane's progress.

"What?" Jane asked, distracted.

"That's some job of flat painting," Ryan said bemused. "We can't use it for the play of
course, but still, it's most impressive."

"What are you talking about?" Jane took a step back and for the first time looked at what
she had done. The flat was covered in a kaleidoscopic array of colors and patterns, all
intricately woven together in such a way that they suggested a cohesive whole without
actually displaying one. Jane looked at the flat, then at her paint stained hands in
amazement.

"Let me guess," Ryan said jokingly, "it's a sailboat, no wait, a schooner."

"But, how...that's...good!" Jane spluttered.

"You don't say. Hey, I thought you had given up painting, that you had lost the ability to
since you couldn't remember why you wanted to be an artist."

"Yeah, I did."

"That looks a hell of a lot like art to me."

"Yeah, it does," Jane paused. "Pencil and paper, quick!" She snapped. Ryan ran over to his
backpack and retrieved the desired items. He handed them to Jane who immediately started
to sketch.

"How's this look?" She asked as she showed Ryan a roughly sketched portrait of himself

"Wow, you really are good."

Jane looked at the sketch, a small smile played across her face. "Yeah, I guess I am."

"Want to bag this and have a celebratory dinner?" Ryan asked.
Jane nodded, "I'm down with that."

-------------------------------------------------

Daria was reading in her room when the phone rang. She picked it up, "Hello Morgendorffer Sanitarium, cut-rate psychiatric care since 1975."

"Hey Daria, Dave Wylie, nice side business you've got going there."

"Hello Dave, what do you need?"

Dave chuckled, "It's always right to the point with you isn't it? No chit-chat or pleasantries."

"The less I know about your affairs the less chance I'll be subpoenaed."

"I sense someone's making an editorial comment on my choice of lifestyle."

"I can't say anything else, the phone lines aren't safe."

"Ok, I can take a hint, no chit-chat. So to get down to business, I've got a question for you."

"Which is?"

"Your sister, at rehearsal today she asked me if I would help her out with her school work."
Daria raised an eyebrow, "And you said?"

"What do you think I said? No, she'd try to figure out a way to get me to do the work for
her."

"Um, that's not necessarily true..." Daria said hesitantly.

"So she wasn't lying?"

"About what?"

"About wanting to do better at school, or her getting a tutor over the summer."

"She wasn't lying. For whatever reason she's had a minor attitude shift."

"And the tutor?"

"Yeah, there was a tutor involved..." Daria trailed off.

"Well damn, and to think I missed all of that just to follow Phish around for the summer."

"You don't even know the half of it," Daria muttered.

"Oh?"

"It's not really my story to tell, but what the hell, it'll answer your question," Daria then told
Dave about Quinn's relationship with her tutor, David.

"The guy's name was David, seriously?"

"Yes."

"And she had the hots for him?"

"Apparently."

"Isn't that a funny coincidence."

"Don't read too much into it."

"Why not?"

"For one thing you're not in college."

"I should be."

"For another she knows you."

"Ouch, that was cold."

"I just call them like I see them."

"Even if we concede that, why'd she ask for my help?"

"Because you've helped her in the past maybe?"

"Mmm, true. So basically I was a major ass today."

"Pretty much."

"Great, I guess I'll apologize to her tomorrow."

"Are you going to tutor her?"

"If she asks again I don't see why I can't lend a hand as my schedule permits."

"You, uh, won't bring up the other thing right?"

"That whole crush on the tutor thing? Not directly for sure, although the mischief
potential is too high to pass up."

"And you're not reading anything into this?"

"No I'm not reading anything into the fact that by some weird fluke Quinn had a thing for
a tutor with the my name."

"Good, just one more thing."

"And that is?"

"We never had this conversation."

"Gotcha, is this anything like the conversation I never had with Jane about your summer?
And how is Tom by the way?"

Daria stiffened, then sighed, "Everything she told you was true."

Dave chuckled, "Now that much I really doubt."

"Why, what did she say?"

"How should I know, we never had a conversation about it."

"You're a bastard, you know that right?"

"So I'm told. Hey, thanks for the info Daria."

"Good to hear I'm of some use to somebody."

"Talk to you whenever."

"I can't wait."

"Bye Daria."

"Bye Dave," Daria hung up the phone and reflected on the conversation. "Why on earth
did Quinn have to ask him for help?" She wondered. Daria shrugged, filed it away in her
list of oddities and returned to her book. Shortly thereafter the phone rang again. Daria
sighed and answered it. "If this isn't Tom Sloane I'm hanging up."

"I used to date him, does that count?" Jane said sardonically.

"Oh hi Jane, I wasn't expecting to hear from you. To what do I owe this unexpected
pleasure?"

"You have to come over to my house right now. No, wait, go get Tom and then come
over here."

"But...why?"

"No questions Morgendorffer, just do it!" Jane shouted into the phone then hung up.
She looked at the phone for a moment then smiled. "That should get her over here." Jane
picked up her brush and went back to work on the painting on her easel.

"Hey Janey, I thought I heard shouting...whoa, what are you doing?" Trent asked as he
stuck his head in the room.

"I'm painting, what does it look like?"

"You got the fire back huh?"

"Yup."

"Cool, congratulations Janey," he said before walking away.

Jane chuckled to herself and turned back to her painting. As she worked on the piece her
thoughts drifted back to the conversation she had with Ryan earlier that evening.

-------------------------------------------

"I'm really happy for you Jane," Ryan said between mouthfuls of pizza.

"I'm happier than you are I bet," Jane said impishly.

"Yea probably," Ryan said, chuckling. "It must feel good. To know you've got your
identity back."

"It does I guess, thought I hope I was still me when I wasn't painting."

"I guess we'll have to find out, but tell me, would you have joined the play if not for your little crises?"

Jane shook her head, "No, probably not."

Ryan raised his glass, "Then here's to creative funks and their demise."

They clicked their glasses together, "Hear hear. I must admit I do feel kind of silly about
the whole thing though."

"How so?"

"I really jumped to conclusions, I have one little uncreative spell and suddenly I'm not
longer an artist? What was I thinking?"

Ryan shrugged, "I don't know, you tell me."

"If I had it figured out I wouldn't be asking you now would I?"

"I just build sets, don't look at me for answers."

"Then what the hell are you good for?" Jane said with a smirk.

"Other stuff," Ryan replied.

"Really, and just what is that other stuff?"

"You know what you have to say to find out."

"Dammit Ryan, how many times do I have to tell you?"

"Sorry, sorry I know, just making a joke that's all."

Jane sighed, "No don't apologize I shouldn't have blown up at you like that. It's just I
really jumped into my last relationship..."

"And it bit you in the ass, yeah you've said."

"I suppose I have."

"Here's my question for you. Now that you've got the art thing back are you going to
stay on with the play?"

"I...don't know. Let me think about it a little."

"Sure take your time, just remember you did make a commitment to the theater."

"And you don't want me to quit," Jane added drolly.

"There's that too."

"Don't worry I'll give it a lot of thought. At the bare minimum I'll paint a killer drop for
the cyc."

"Great, I'm sure it will be awesome."

----------------------------------------------

Jane's reverie was interrupted by a knock upon the door. "Hey Trent," she shouted, "can
you go get that, I'm expecting Daria and Tom so if it's them send them up." She didn't
hear an acknowledgement from Trent. "Trent?" She called out again.

"Don't bother," Daria said, "we let ourselves in."

"Yeah, we figured you'd be home since you called us over here. So what's the big
emergency?" Tom asked as he followed Daria into the room.

"It's not so much an emergency as it's an announcement," Jane said smugly. She turned
the easel around to show Daria and Tom the painting, a realistic portrayal of a spot falling
on Mr. O'Neill. "I'm back," she said simply.

"Jane, that's great news," Tom said effusively.

"So, what was the grand reason for being an artist?" Daria asked.

Jane shrugged, "I picked up a brush today and it clicked. I guess I'm an artist because, and
that's that."

"Because?" Tom asked.

"Because."

Daria shrugged, "Makes about as much sense as the rest of this hair-brained adventure of
yours."

Jane sat down on her bed, "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry about all of this, I really overreacted
didn't I?"

"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself," Tom said encouragingly. "You had a rocky summer,
there was bound to be some spillover."

"I suppose so."

Daria sighed, "Tom's right, and joining the theater was the best thing you could have
done."

"How's that?"

"Well, with the change of scenery you broke out of your old routine which had too many
negative memories for you, or some sort of psychobabble explanation like that."

"What's it matter so long as I'm back to my usual self huh?"

"You're the one who's spent the past month insisting you were fine."

"I did, didn't I?" Jane shrugged, "Whatever, we can put all that unpleasantness behind us
now."

"And act like nothing happened?" Daria asked wryly.

"Exactly and never mention any of this..." Jane trailed off. "I guess that's not going to
happen anytime soon is it?"

"I'm not going to let you forget that you volunteered to work on a school play if that's
what you mean."

"I would have been worried if you weren't going to give me a hard time over that."

"That reminds me, are you quitting the theater now?"

Jane frowned, "Now why would I do that?"

"The subject of your current work for one," Tom quipped.

"Who asked you Sloane? This is a satirical look at the way a theater tech thinks of the
director."

"Sure, fine, whatever you say Jane," Tom replied lightly.

"More to the point it's not what the 'Old Jane' would do," Daria said.

"Maybe this is the introduction of the Jane Lane Mark Three. Supremely confident in
her art and more willing to try out alternative expressions of art, even if they're school
related."

"In other words you don't want to wreck things with this Ryan guy."

"Well yeah there's that too. It's funny, he asked me the exact same question."

"When ?"

"At dinner, when we were celebrating my triumph."

Daria frowned, "Just when did you have this breakthrough?"

"At rehearsal today. I had to paint some flats and it all just went from there."

"So you rediscovered your artistic side when left with no other choice?"

"That sums it up, why?"

"I'm trying to get an accurate picture of this miraculous resurrection that's all."

"Ok," Jane said unconvinced, "you're not mad at me that Ryan was the first person I
talked to about this are you?"

"No he was right there, it makes perfect sense. Besides why should I be mad about that?"

"I don't know, it just seemed like you were."

"It's my latent hostility towards the world shining through."

"Ah that's it."

"Jane, I'm really glad to hear you've retrieved your artistic ambition, and honestly if you
want to keep working on the play that's your call. I'll back you either way."

"And besides, if I stay on with the play that will give you more time with Tom right?"
Jane asked with a smirk, Daria started to blush.

"Hey that's right, stay with the play Jane," Tom said eagerly.

Daria hit Tom in the stomach. "Don't listen to the horny teen, his opinions are irrelevant
to the matter at hand."

"He's irrelevant huh? Do I sense trouble in paradise?" Jane asked coyly.

"No, she just hates to admit she likes spending time with me," Tom said lightly.

Daria's blush deepened, "That's not true I...er...that is...there are worse things to do."

Tom leaned over and kissed Daria, "Good, I like being around you too." Daria looked
mortified.

Jane laughed, "You know, I'm glad the two of you are going out. This is so amusing."

Daria frowned, "I'm glad we've found a purpose in life."

"You're just so much fun to tease Daria, I never miss a chance."

"Do me a favor Jane, next time, just let it go."

"Or you could fight back, I know some very interesting facts about your friend Ms. Lane
and I'm sure they can be coaxed out of me for the right price," Tom said casually.

"Tom, don't," Jane threatened.

"Ten," Daria offered.

"Take off your shirt," Tom countered.

"Now wait a second here," Jane said.

"Twenty."

"We drive off somewhere secluded."

"Don't I have a say in..."

"Thirty."

"Evening at your house."

"Guys, this is silly..."

"Forty."

"Kiss me, right here."

"Ok."

"Evening at my...ok?"

"Wow, look at the time what a shame, I'm sure both your folks are worried sick. It was
nice of you to come over though," Jane started to push the couple towards the door.

"That's what I said, ok. I kiss, you tell." With that Daria grabbed Tom and kissed him
fiercely.

"When Jane was in the third grade she had a gerbil named Mr. Gerbilator and she still
visits his grave in the backyard," Tom blurted out when they broke for air.

"Tom you're a slut!" Jane shouted. "I told you that in confidence."

"But she used wiles," Tom protested.

"You had better find some dirt on her and give it to me, or there will be hell to pay," Jane
threatened.

"And you had better the hell not do that or there'll be hell to pay," Daria said.

Tom looked between the two teens nervously, "Uhm, I'm going to be in the car, bye
Jane, congratulations and all," Tom backed out of the room and dashed down the hall.

The two friends looked at each other and smirked. "That wasn't nice," Daria said drolly.

"He had it coming."

"So, what are you going to do?"

Jane shrugged, "I don't know, I'll probably keep working. They do need a painter after all."

Daria nodded, "Sounds like you Jane. I'd better go, my ride's probably quaking in the car
by now."

"Bye Daria, don't make out in my driveway."

Daria stopped in the doorway and looked over her shoulder. "Say hi to Ryan for me."

Daria walked out of sight and out of the house.

"Damn, she's getting good at that," Jane told no one in particular. She put a fresh canvas on
her easel and began a new painting.

-------------------------------------------------

The next day Dave caught up with Quinn outside the theater. "Hey Quinn, can we talk?"

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm here to apologize."

"Oh well ok, but make it quick I don't want to be seen talking to a geek like you."

"Fine, if you don't want to be seen talking to me we don't have to talk. I won't lose sleep
over it," Dave turned to leave.

"No wait, I didn't mean that. Say what you wanted to say."

"That reminds me, how have you explained your thespian activities to your friends?"

"Thespian? Ewww, I'm not a thespian, I like boys."

"Quinn, thespian, not lesbian, thespian."

Quinn's face colored, "Oh, heh, right, thespian, an actor, I knew that."

"Well, how have you explained it to your friends?"

"They, uh, don't really know."

"How'd you manage that?"

"I told them Mr. O'Neill forced me into working on an after school project. I just didn't
elaborate on what the project was. That and rehearsals haven't conflicted with any Fashion
Club meetings."

"You know the two are going to collide at some point."

"I'll deal with it when it happens," Quinn said phlegmatically.

"Ok," Dave replied.

"Didn't you say something about an apology?" Quinn demanded.

"Yeah...uh...well, I did some asking around and I guess I was wrong about you."

"How so?" Quinn asked innocently.

"My sources tell me you have made a stronger commitment to academics and it was wrong
of me to blow you off like that. And for that I'm sorry."

"We can't all be perfect," Quinn said condescendingly.

"Nor can we all have as interesting a summer as some of us have had," Dave said wryly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh nothing, just that some people met more interesting individuals than I did."

"Uh no, I didn't," Quinn frowned, not following Dave at all.

"That's funny, my sources tell me otherwise."

"Dammit, you're not making a damn bit of sense, what the hell did your 'sources' tell you?"

"That you had a torrid affair with a person who has a suspiciously familiar name."

"We did not have an affair!" Quinn shouted. "Who told you that?"

"Nobody, it just seemed like a good way to fish for information."

Quinn sighed, "What have you really heard?"

"Just that you had a tutor over the summer who's name was David."

"And nothing else?"

"Not really, although could you explain to me why people think we're about to date? Ever
since school started up this year I've had folks walk up to me ask as me how you're doing."

"What do you tell them?"

"I say I couldn't tell em, but I feel fine thanks for asking," Dave said with a smirk.

"Heh, uh, well, you see David...that is...we..."

"You went out with him?"

"No!" Quinn said sharply.

"But he asked?"

"I did..."

"You did? You had a thing for your tutor?"

"So, what's the problem with that? Yes, I liked my tutor, big deal."

"Strange you asked a guy with the same name to tutor you now."

"No it's not, you helped me out in the past."

Dave nodded, "That I did."

"And it was nothing more that a big coincidence that my tutor from the summer also is
named David. Besides, the two of you are like, completely different."

"Oh really."

"Yeah, he's like, not afraid to wear his glasses, unlike you and your contacts. He's nice,
smart, dresses...well neatly at least. You're none of those things, well except for the smart
part."

"If you insist."

"I do, now can we please not talk about David, I'd rather not think about it."

Dave sighed, "Ok, I'm sorry I brought it up. I can see it's something you're sensitive about,
and I haven't exactly behaved in a mature manner..."

"You talked to Daria about it didn't you?"

"Uhm, I can't say."

"You knew the real story the whole time."

"Er, the possibility exists."

"You asshole, why on earth would you lie like that?"

Dave shrugged, "It seemed like the best way to see if Daria was telling the truth. Though in
hindsight that probably wasn't the swiftest move I've ever made."

"It certainly wasn't."

"But come on, look at it from my perspective. You fall for your tutor, whose name is David? What are the odds?"

"I didn't plan on it happening, besides David doesn't care about me so what's it matter?"

Dave frowned, "Er, ok, while I sympathize with your problem I don't see what it has to do
with my apology."

"Huh?" Quinn asked, "Well, I thought...Uhm, why don't we just drop this?"

"Now that's a good idea."

"Ok, apology accepted."

"Excellent, also as a way of making amends I'd like to offer my assistance with your schoolwork, if you're still interested. Strictly on an as my schedule permits basis of course."

" I'm sure I could use a little help every now and then."

"Ok, just let me know when you need some help and I'll see what I can do."

"I'll do that," Quinn looked at a clock mounted on the wall. "Well, I'm late for class, I'd better get going," Quinn started to walk away. "Bye Dave," She said over her shoulder.

"Bye Quinn," Dave watched Quinn depart before opening the door to the auditorium and entering the theater.

--------------------------------------------

Later that day, after school, Daria and Jane were walking through the school. "So, reach a
decision yet?" Daria asked.

Jane nodded, "Yeah, I have."

"Well?"

"I'll stick it out with the theater, I figure I owe it to them."

"Plus you talked to Mr. O'Neill and learned the extra credit was contingent on you taking
part in the whole production."

"There's that too," Jane admitted. "But even if that wasn't the case I'd have stuck around. I
mean I get to impart my artistic vision onto something everyone will see."

"Everyone?"

"Ok, the parents of the people in the play. That still counts for something."

"So long as you don't place an amount on that value I agree."

"Spoilsport, whatever it is Tom sees in you I just fail to see it."

"I'll tell you when you're older."

Jane stopped suddenly, "Daria, veiled sexual innuendo, from you. I don't believe it, you're
growing up so fast," she sniffed back mock tears.

"I discovered it drives my parents batty, how could I resist?"

Jane chuckled, "It all makes perfect sense now." She resumed walking, "So have any hot
dates on tap tonight?"

Daria shook her head, "Tom has to attend some fund raiser, I avoided it by the skin of my
teeth."

"Want to come hang out at my house when I'm done with rehearsal?"

Daria shrugged, "Sure."

They stopped in front of the door to the theater. "You're welcome to hang out here if you
want," Jane offered.

"That sounds too much like participation to me, I think I'll pass."

"You can watch Quinn make a fool of herself."

"Why didn't you say so in the first place."

"I was hoping you were enough of a friend that I didn't have to use sibling humiliation as an
inducement."

"You should know the answer to that by now. There are certain things I'll only do if the
humiliation of Quinn is involved."

"Oh yes, how silly of me."

They entered the theater. "So where can I sit?" Daria deadpanned as she stood overlooking
the empty auditorium.

"Pick a seat, any seat. Though I recommend one in the back. Less chance of O'Neill seeing
you and making you stage manager or something."

"Thanks for the tip," Daria said. "Isn't that Ryan?" Daria pointed at a lone figure on the
stage.

"Why so it is, make yourself comfortable, I have to talk to him." Jane walked down to the
stage, leaving Daria behind.

"Sure, I don't mind," Daria said to herself as she took a seat and retrieved a book from her
backpack.

Ryan looked up from the set piece he was fussing over and saw Jane coming towards him.

"Hey Jane, how you doing?"

"Oh you know what they say, time heals all." She leaned against the set piece.

"Oh really, that's good to hear. Have you made up your mind about staying with us?"

"Yeah I have."

"And?"

"You can't get rid of me that easily."

"You're staying?" Ryan asked, a grin on his face.

Jane shrugged, "Yeah, I guess so."

"Any particular reason why?"

"I felt like I owed you people my time, it seemed silly to quit this far into the production..."
she trailed off.

"And?"

"And what, that's it."

Ryan shook his head, "No, there's more, I can tell."

Jane sighed, "This will only serve to make your head more bloated, but you were also a
reason for me to stay."

"Oh I was."

"Yes, but a very small factor, tiny, infinitesimal." She held her thumb and index finger close
together to illustrate her point.

"Too late, the damage is done, I know you care about me."

"Well in that case in for a penny, in for a pound." Jane grabbed Ryan and pulled him into a
kiss.

"Wow," Ryan said when they came up for air. "So I guess this would be a good time to ask
you out?" He asked playfully as he hugged her.

"Yeah, could be," Jane laughed, "Just not tonight."

"You're kidding."

"No, Daria is coming over to my house and we're going to hang out."

"Sure you can't ditch her?"

"Hell no, this is important to me. Ryan, I really like you, but Daria's my best friend, right
now she comes first. Although I will be free the rest of the week. Besides, you've got me
for the rest of rehearsal."

"That's an excellent point. Come on, there's something in the Tiki Room I have to get."

"You sly dog. I like your style," Jane said appreciatively. The two linked arms and walked
up towards the booth. Jane waved to Daria as they walked past. "Don't wait up for me."

Daria sighed, "Yes, I'd be delighted to meet your new friend, hi I'm Daria Morgendorffer."

"Oh hell, Ryan meet Daria, Daria this is Ryan."

"Hi Daria, it's good to finally meet you. Jane's told me a lot about you, most of it's good."

"Whatever she says is not true. Jane's a compulsive liar, and a kleptomaniac, she's got very
sticky fingers."

"Oh kind of like circus folk?"

"What?"

"You know, carnies, you can't trust 'em, they've got small hands."

"Run that by me again."

"Don't bother," Jane cut in, "he thinks he's Mike Myers, that's all."

"Hopefully not the knife-wielding variety."

"Hey, I do not think I'm Mike Myers."

"No, you just mimic his every mannerism."

"Ouch, that hurts."

"The truth hurts, and so do I."

"Promise?"

"Guys, I'm standing right here," Daria said testily.

"Oh sorry, I forgot. See Daria here hates it whenever people act human around her," Jane
told Ryan lightly. "Unless of course she's around Tom, then all bets are off."

"You're going to pay for that one Jane."

"Just try, I've got a big strong man here to hide behind," Jane said jokingly.

"Yeah, you've got to get through me to get to her," Ryan said threateningly.

"So I have to kill you too, makes no difference to me," Daria said in an offhand manner.

"I'll defend the fair Jane down to my last breath."

"You're just saying that because Jane's standing right next to you."

"Of course he's saying that because I'm here, but it's still endearing," Jane said before
kissing Ryan.

"That reminds me, weren't we going somewhere?" Ryan asked.

"That we were, bye Daria. See you after the rehearsal?"

Daria looked thoughtful for a moment. "Give me a call when you get home."

"You're not staying?"

Daria shook her head, "I don't think so."

"Not even to see Quinn?"

"No, it's tempting, but I don't think I can take the mental abuse right now."

"Ok, if you insist, but it's your loss."

"So you say."

"Look, if you really want me to I'll stick around, but watching a high school play's rehearsal
is not my idea of a fun time."

"Then why'd you agree to come in here in the first place?"

"Cosmic rays?" Daria said lamely.

"Uh-huh, I think you're just uncomfortable because you think that Ryan and I are going to
make out somewhere in the theater."

"Aren't we?" Ryan asked. Jane elbowed him to keep him quiet.

"That would be pretty childish of me if it was true."

"Yes, it would."

"Of course it's not so I'll be going..."

"Prove it."

"What?"

"Prove it, if it really doesn't bother you then sit through rehearsal."

"And I can't decline because it's going to suck?"

"You were more than happy to be here before you saw Ryan and I together."

"I..." Daria started to protest before realizing she was stuck. "Ok fine, I'll sit through your
damn rehearsal. But I'd like to go on record and say that this is the modern equivalent of
trial by water, no matter the outcome I'm screwed."

"You're not screwed, Tom's not around. Unless you've got some sort of secret life nobody
knows about."

"You will rue that remark Jane, mark my words."

"Blah, blah, less talk, more sit," Jane replied cheerfully. "See you after rehearsal." Jane
took Ryan's hand and they walked off.

"That was pretty nasty of you," Ryan commented.

Jane shrugged, "Maybe, but it was fun to push Daria's buttons like that. Trust me, she
wanted me to do that."

"You've got a weird ass friend there."

"Less talk, more smooch."

Daria leaned back in her chair and tried to focus on her book as the rehearsal went on
around her. "Why are you still here?" She asked herself. "What does it matter if Jane
thinks I can't handle the thought of her making out with Ryan. Come to think of it, why
should that bother me? It doesn't, so why am I here?" Daria stood to leave.

"Oh Quinn," O'Neill called out, "Are you ready to try that Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard scene
again?"

"Ah yes, that would be the reason," Daria thought as she sat back down in her seat.
Quinn walked onto the stage with two other cast members. From the looks on their faces
Daria could tell they expected this to take a while.

"Ok, let's take it from the top, and go."

"Ok, Mr. Ogmore, Mr. Pritchard, what do we do first to get ready to go to bed?" Quinn
said confidently.

Daria watched on as Quinn proceeded to recite the scene with a high degree of accuracy,
and in the properly imperious tone.

"Quinn, that was very good," O'Neill said when the scene finished. "Did you and Dave
work on your lines like I suggested?"

"No, Dave doesn't know anything about acting," Quinn said bluntly. "But Ann was quite
helpful." Quinn looked over at Ann who gave Quinn a thumbs up.

"Well damn, that was anti-climactic," Daria thought to herself as she stood up and walked
out of the theater. "Now there's definitely no reason to stick around."

"Ok people, lets move on to Organ Morgan's next appearance." Daria heard O'Neill say as
she shut the door to the theater behind her.


---------------------------------------------

Later that evening Daria was thumbing through the newspaper in her living room when the
doorbell rang. She stood up to answer the door and found Jane standing on the front step.

"How long did you stick around?" Jane asked.

"Long enough to see Quinn not make an ass of herself."

"Who'd know she'd get competent help from a Lawndale student?"

"Come on, let's go up to my room." They started up the stairs. "Nice hickey by the way."

Jane slapped a hand to her neck. "Heh, uh, you know how it goes in the Tiki Room."

"No, I don't, nor do I want to know."

Jane chuckled, "Ask Tom when you're older, I'm sure he'd love to show you."

"Who's to say he hasn't," Daria said cryptically.

"Daria, why didn'y you tell me...no what it's probably better that I don't know, some images are
just too weird."

"I agree, I propose we don't talk about this again...ever."

"I second."

"Motion passes."

"I love parliamentary procedure," Jane quipped. They walked into Daria's room. "Think
'Sick Sad World' is on?"

"There's always a 'Sick Sad World' on, just look out your window." Daria turned on the
television.

"Fish playing hockey? Grouper goalies next on Sick Sad World."

"I think it's a law of nature or something," Jane mused, "Like the MacGyver Principle."

"The MacGyver Principle?"

"It's very simple, at any given time there is a TV station showing an episode of MacGyver."

"That's stupid."

"No, that's stupid," Jane pointed at the TV, "the MacGyver Principle is asinine."

"True."

"Now can we watch the stupid TV?"

"Sure." They lapsed into silence until the next commercial break. "Ok, let me see if I have
this straight. You lost your faith in your artistic ability and gave up art."

"Yes."

"So in a fit of depression you volunteered to work on the school play."

"Correct."

"Where you met a guy you like."

"Oh yeah."

"Then you re-discovered your artistic side."

"With a vengeance."

"So now you're back to painting, you've got a new boyfriend, but you're still attached to the
play."

"Can't win em all."

"Did I forget anything?"

"No, that pretty well sums it up."

"Ok, so what's the moral?"

"The what?"

"The moral, lesson, nugget of wisdom. What can we learn from your folly?"

"Daria," Jane asked, "Does everything have to have a moral behind it?"

Daria thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I guess not."

"Good because the show's back. Now shut up and let me watch." Jane leaned back against
Daria's bed and smiled.


Fin

The Song that Jane Likes
And in plays to write the wire in
I'll come back again
Torching time talking rhymes in
I'll come back again
Would you like to play
With the thought of a friend
In a distant passing stage
While you lie around
With your hands up and out
So resigned you will fall down
While you around here play
Wild on the warm and far away
While you around here play
The days keep scribbling themselves in tidy lines
Would you like to play
With a fool holding hands
With a one-eyed jack of spades
While on the deck they sing
All of the captain's cards are kings
Still he and the queen are lost at sea
I hope it isn't you or me
And I'll be back 'round again
Yes I'll walk in time with you old friend
And we'll find that place
That we had danced in so long ago
And in plays to write the wire in
I'll come back again
Torching time talking rhymes in
I'll come back again
With this resigned the letter I sign.


Author's Errata


Why, please tell us why? --Not much I feel like saying after this one. Suffice to say I'm one of those people who felt that Jane was in a much darker place in IIFY than the shows painted her. Such that the dinky little "pick-me-up" speech Daria gave her would not be enough to improve her mood. This is just one possible outcome of that dark mood. Hope it jibes sufficiently with the character we all know and love.


What's with all these people? --Is it a Daria fan-fic if the main characters are secondary characters? Good question, yeah, there are a lot of author-invented characters here. But they had to be. The problem with writing a story that involves some aspect of LHS that we haven't seen is that none of the cast are believable participants with those activities. It would require quite a bit of fast-and-loose with the characterizations to get them all into the play. Thus the need for new characters. One of these days I'll write a story that only involves the cast.


The story you are about to see...--The main reason I wrote this one is because I had a bank of great anecdotes from my time as a light tech in high school theater that I wanted to use in a Daria story. Everything theater related pretty much actually happened, especially "Leroy" and the gobo bit. In fact I left out a couple bits for time considerations. Also, yes Mike, Greg, Ann, and Ryan are all loosely based on fellow crew members. If any of them for whatever reason read this and realize that they are involved, uh, I'm sorry it's all in the spirit of good fun.

Why Quinn? --No real good reason for Quinn's involvement, I did want to address that whole David versus Dave Wylie thing. Obnoxious that I made a character who has some similarities to the infamous tutor of IIFY, but you've got to make lemonade out of those lemons and I realized that it made for the possibility of some interesting interaction between Dave and Quinn. Now what might happen if David shows up again?

Where's the play? --There's a very good reason the story ends before the actual production. Namely, I used the play "Under Milkwood" because it was the last play I've seen. I have pretty much no recollection of any of the lines, and it was growing increasingly difficult to write the story and not reference the play. So I just left room for a sequel and ended in the middle of the production. Plus it kind of fits with the "must there be a moral?" theme at the end.
Special thanks to all the kind souls who offered to beta read this behemoth, your input was most valuable. Thanks to everyone who reads this humble work, I hope it amuses when it should, provides points to ponder when it should, and generally makes your day that much more pleasant.


-sam 4/29/2001