"This isn't working." Quinn Morgendorffer yanked her bass guitar over her head and tossed it aside with a clatter.

"Quinn! Be careful! You're not going to be able to play if you trash your bass." Daria Morgendorffer glared at her sister from across the basement, where she'd been fiddling with the amps.

"Daria, I'm not going to be able to play at all." Quinn matched her sister's glare with one of her own. "I can't sing and play the bass, no matter how hard I try. I'm not Bobby Joe, or something."

"You mean Billie Joe?" Daria couldn't help but smirk.

"Whatever!" Moments like this were a reminder that, no matter how much she knew or how far she'd come, deep down Quinn was still Quinn and always would be.

"I think she's right," Jane Lane said from her perch behind the drums. Both Morgendorffer sisters turned in shock, and she continued. "Look, Daria, Quinn's singing is wonderful and she's really got presence, but she's not getting any better at bass."

As Daria paused to reply, Quinn jumped in, sensing weakness. "Yeah, and we need another voice. Jane's drumming is better every week, but she's no one's idea of a singer. We need a low voice to help us on the harmonies."

Daria looked back and forth between her two bandmates. She'd had this argument with Quinn before, but this was the first time Jane had taken a side. That it wasn't Daria's told her that her position was probably untenable. "We could—" she paused and sighed. "You're right. We do need a fourth."

She stared moodily around their practice area, the basement of the three-story house that contained her one-bedroom apartment. Talking her absentee landlord into letting them use the space hadn't been nearly as difficult as Daria might have expected, but then she should have taken into account that she lived in a college town. Her landlord was well aware of the habits of college students, hence the absentee status.

"It's just that the three of us fit. Jane and I can gang up on you, Quinn, when you're being flighty, and Quinn and I can gang up on you, Jane, when you're being lazy."

Jane laughed, "And Quinn and I can gang up on you, Daria, when you're being rigid and unreasonable, like right now." Quinn nodded, smiling. In different ways, they were the two people who knew Daria best. "We need a fourth. We'll just get some genius bass-chick who has no opinions as long as she gets to play."

"And sing low harmonies," Quinn added. "Sorry Jane, but your voice may be even worse than my bass."

Both fell silent, waiting expectantly. With a sigh, Daria gave in. "All right. It looks like Girls Together Sarcastically will be adding a fourth. But," she added, "we continue to practice as a three-piece until we find the right person. After all," she said, overriding Quinn's objections, "playing while you sing can't hurt if you want to pick up rhythm."

"Agreed." Jane smirked. Watching Daria ride herd over her sister was always entertaining.

"Agreed." Quinn grunted. At least Daria had thrown her a sop this time. Quinn had to admit that her sister was getting better at managing people.

"Then if we're all in agreement, I believe we had a couple more numbers we wanted to run through…"

Alone in her bedroom later, Daria struggled with lyrics by the light of her bedside lamp. It was a small room, similar to the old cell in Lawndale sans padding. The Kafka poster had made the trip with her and now overlooked a couple of full bookshelves, a much emptier dresser—Daria was still not one for too many clothes—and a spacious and cluttered work desk on which sat her trusty iMac. The iMac, a gift from her parents on the occasion of her starting at Raft, was now pushing two and a half, but had given her no trouble.

There was also a nondescript twin-sized bed, and it was there that Daria sat, back propped against the wall. She had always felt that poetry—and, by extension, lyrics—was best written in the most primitive fashion, since it usually dealt with the most primal emotions. Thus, she used an old-style marble-bound notebook as a lyrics book, one that right now seemed to be laughing at her. She knew why.

Jane and Quinn were right. Playing bass and singing was the musical version of patting your head while rubbing your stomach. Expecting Quinn, who had never picked up an instrument before joining the band, to do it was brutally unfair. Daria herself had taken guitar lessons for nearly two years while still in Highland. She had mentioned this in a late night conversation with Jane near the end of freshman year, and was surprised to find that Jane had, at a teenaged Trent's urging, learned the rudiments of the drums. Though she quickly lost interest in playing with her brother, in Mystik Spiral or any other form, Jane had never quite given up on the skins. It had taken some doing, and not a little histrionics, but she had finally convinced Daria that, with Daria's poetry serving as lyrics, they already had the basis for a band.

Quinn, on the other hand, had no instrumental background, but she did love to sing. Learning of Daria and Jane's plans on their return to Lawndale that summer and knowing that she'd be joining them in Boston in the fall—New England School of Design had accepted her—Quinn had set about convincing her sister that she would be the perfect vocalist for their little group. Daria had finally conceded, partly out of curiosity about Quinn's motivations and partly because she was forced to admit that her sister had a fabulous singing voice, although she'd set her sister two conditions. The first condition was that Quinn learn bass to keep their group a trio. Quinn had quickly agreed. The second was that "Girls Together Sarcastically" would be the band's name. Quinn had tried her hardest to sidetep this condition, but both Daria and Jane remained adamant: The name was a tribute to a man they both admired, as well as a pretty good explanation of what they were about, and Quinn would go before it did. In the end, Quinn had no choice but to agree.

Blood, sweat, and not a few tears shed over the next eighteen months had brought them to this point. Jane, Daria knew, was in it to make the big time. Daria had her reservations, which she believed Quinn shared, but found herself intrigued by the possibilities. After all, a platinum album would be a wonderful platform for her words, and in a world where Mystik Spiral's first CD was to appear on record store shelves any day, Daria had reason to believe that anything was possible. But they still needed a bassist. Loath as Daria was to admit an outsider into their charmed circle, she would have to accept it for the good of the group.

An idea struck her and she scribbled "Charmed Circle" at the top of an empty page in her notebook. Within minutes, she had a rough poem that could be polished into lyrics with a little time. Smiling to herself, she put the notebook aside, shut off the light, and got under the covers. She was soon fast asleep.

Rehearsals over the next couple of weeks went uncommonly well. From the start, the girls had committed themselves to a regular three-times-a-week rehearsal schedule. Keeping this schedule had often proved arduous, as Daria and Quinn were both forced to hold down part-time jobs as part of their agreement with their parents. Helen and Jake were willing to subsidize the girls in off-campus housing but they were adamant that the girls pay their own expenses. Between schoolwork and the jobs, the Morgendorffer sisters hardly had time to breathe sometimes, but they managed.

Jane, on the other hand, seemed to have no source of income. Her tuition was paid, and Quinn, with whom she shared an apartment a town over from Daria, reported that Jane's half of the rent was always there on the first of the month, even if Jane usually wasn't. When she wasn't at Daria's, which admittedly was most of the time, she seemed to drop out of sight. For all Daria knew, Jane could be stripping in one of the clubs in the Combat Zone, but she'd long since decided that prying into Jane's affairs was bad for her mental health.

Regardless, the girls had persevered, and in the last few weeks had begun to reap the rewards. Knowing that she would soon be free of the bass had relaxed Quinn immensely, and the relief had her in fine voice. Daria and Jane, no longer concerned with covering up for the bass, had also shown a marked improvement, and the basement rang with laughter and good humor, as well as something that to Daria's ear was beginning to approach music. They still needed a real bassist though, and that had Daria, if not looking forward to the ordeal of auditions, at least willing to endure it.

The first audition was scheduled for two o'clock that day, a Saturday. The three girls sat on the couch in Daria's apartment, chatting quietly. The living space was somewhat larger than the bedroom, with space for a long couch and a couple of chairs. Opposite them stood the entertainment center, holding an imposing television—another gift from Helen and Jake; this time for making the Dean's List freshman year—with a VCR/DVD combo and a small stereo, which Daria had treated herself to after a summer of hard work, both at the bookstore and with the band. On either side of the entertainment center were the doors to the bedroom and bathroom. A tiny kitchenette, rarely used except for the microwave, completed the apartment.

As the girls waited, their voices the only noise, two o'clock turned to three. Daria, who had to work at five, began to get irritated. "This is getting ridiculous."

"Relax, amiga," said Jane, who had a good idea what her friend was thinking. "Us artistic types have a relaxed attitude about time."

"Like Trent?" Daria asked in an acid tone. "I don't think 'Early, late, or whatever' is what we're going for here, Jane."

Jane smiled apologetically. "Trent takes things to extremes."

"But it works for him," added Quinn. "I mean, they've got a contract and an album and everything, right? You have to go with what works for you. That's what style is all about."

"Well, I don't think super slacker mode will work for me as a style, Quinn," Daria said. "I have to make the four-thirty bus if I'm going to be at the bookstore by five. If we have to work around 'Spiral-time,' we may as well just give up, grab the tin cups, and head for Crestmore Square to start our new careers as street beggars."

"Ewwww, Daria!" Quinn wrinkled her nose in disgust. "How can you even think that? It's bad enough I have to sweat while I sing—"

Mercifully, the deep tone of the doorbell cut Quinn off. Daria headed out the door and down one flight of stairs. Opening the front door of the house, she confronted a dark-haired girl who seemed to be a bit older than Daria.

"Uh… hey," the girl said in a drowsy voice. "I'm, uh, supposed to have an audition."

"You must be Cinder." Daria said in a more clipped than usual monotone. "I'm Daria. The rest of the band is upstairs."

"Cool," Cinder said, hefting a large black case that Daria could only assume contained her bass. "Sorry I'm late," she added as she followed Daria up the stairs. "I kinda lost track of time."

"Figures," Daria muttered. She snuck a look back to see if Cinder had heard her, but the other girl seemed to be fascinated by the walls of the stairwell. "Cool place," she said. Daria grunted something that could have been an assent as she led Cinder into the apartment.

"Jane, Quinn," Daria said as the other two girls stood, "this is Cinder. She's going to audition for bass. Cinder," she turned, "this is Jane Lane. She's the drummer." As she did the introductions, Daria got a better look at her prospective bandmate. Cinder was several inches taller than Daria, with near buzzcut-short black hair and more earrings than Jane. A blue nose stud dominated her otherwise unremarkable face, and her pants and jacket were a matching gray.

"And I'm Quinn Morgendorffer. I'm the singer. You've got a great look, but the clothes drain the color from your face."

Daria shot her sister a hard look. "Thank you, Quinn. We can have fashion hour later." With an apologetic nod, she continued. "Sorry about that. My sister had a terminal case of fashionitis. We thought she was in remission, but apparently it's come back. I play lead guitar, by the way."

"Sisters, huh?" Cinder smiled. "I can see the resemblance."

Identical looks of shock crossed the faces of the two Morgendorffers. Daria looked from Quinn back to Cinder, who seemed indifferent to the chaos she'd just caused.

"So where do we play?" She shifted the bass case on her back.

Jane jumped into the breach, not quite hiding an evil smile at her bandmates' discomfort. "The basement. It's down the back stairs."

She led them through the apartment's other door, in the kitchen area, and down the back stairs to the spacious basement, half of which was given over to assorted junk, a lot of it so rusted as to be unidentifiable. Another quarter was clearly a laundry area, with a washing machine and dryer set on concrete block.

Last was their rehearsal area, separated from the laundry area by drywall, creating the effect of a cubbyhole. Jane's drum kit—bass drum, snare, and three toms, one of which was a floor tom, along with ride, crash, and hi-hat cymbals—sat in the back like the lord of the kingdom, flanked by several small amps. In front of it were three microphone stands and off to the side were twin racks, one of which contained Daria's mint green Fender. Quinn's hot pink bass, however, had surrendered pride of place to the new bassist, leaving the other rack empty. On all three walls and the ceiling hung heavy quilts. "Compromise with the landlord," Jane explained at Cinder's puzzled look. "Dunno if it helps, but it makes him happy, so who are we to argue?" Grabbing her sticks off the snare, she hopped behind the kit, while Daria showed Cinder where to plug in and Quinn did breathing exercises.

"So what's your deal?" Cinder asked, after they'd set up.

"A pop-punk thing," Daria replied, "sort like an updated Runaways or Ramones." Daria had to laugh inwardly at her descriptions. Tom Sloane's secret fascination with early punk had been a shock to her when they were dating, but an even bigger shock was coming to like it herself. Her own musical interests pre-Lawndale had been almost entirely shaped by her parents, so it was only in the last couple of years that she'd learned that music didn't begin and end with the Beatles.

"A little like Eve's Plum," Jane added, "or the Donnas with brains."

"Lotta people doing the same thing," Cinder said diffidently.

"Well, it's just a starting point." This from Quinn, who had finished her breathing and taken her place by the mike stand. "With Daria's lyrics, we'll probably end up sounding like Smashing Pumpkins or something." Daria once again reflected on what a major change college life had wrought in Quinn. If Daria's musical tastes could be summed up as "sheltered" before leaving Lawndale, her boy-band-loving sister's could only be described as "appalling."

Cinder gave Daria a look. "You write, she sings?"

Daria nodded. "I have the words; she has the voice. Let's play."

They started with "Blitzkrieg Bop," and ran through "Basket Case," "Lipstuck," "Cherry Bomb," "Going Down to Liverpool," and "I Will Follow," before finishing with "Paperback Writer." Daria called out the tunes, and Jane gave the time. Both noted happily that Cinder was familiar with all the songs and didn't miss a beat. The sound was still raw to be sure, but with a strong bass complimenting Jane's drums, the songs were really starting to go. As the last notes faded, Daria looked back at Jane, who had a huge grin on her face.

"Not a jam band, huh?" Cinder asked, breaking the moment.

"Well, we won't be doing 'Dark Star' or opening for Rusted Root anytime soon, if that's what you mean," Daria said as she set down her guitar and began putting it away.

"Three minutes, tops," Jane added, "or Quinn and I get bored."

"Not fair," said Quinn. "I don't mind slower stuff. You're the one who insists everything be short and to the point."

"What can I say?" Jane returned her drumsticks to their previous resting place. "I like to play fast. I'm like a young Keith Moon."

"Or Animal from the Muppet Show," Daria shot back. "Now, there's an idea. We could chain you to the drum kit to keep you out of trouble."

Cinder cut in before Jane could answer back. "That's okay. Playing fast is cool."

"Well, then, let me talk to my bandmates and we'll see where we go from here." Daria smiled a Mona Lisa smile.

"Uh. Look," Cinder started, and then paused uncomfortably. "You don't have to bother to decide. I'm gonna, uh, take a pass." She packed up her bass and lifted it to her back, while Jane and Quinn exchanged shocked looks.

"Huh?" Daria tried to hide her disappointment. "I thought we sounded good. You and Jane really meshed, and the harmony will get better with practice."

Cinder's mouth quirked in a half-smile. "Sound's not bad. Harmony won't get better though."

Daria folded her arms. "Feel free to explain that whenever you want."

"You and your sister." Cinder's glance traveled from Daria to Quinn. "Total opposites. If you ever make it, you'll make the Gallaghers look like the Petersons. I don't need the hassle."

"So you're saying that Quinn and I aren't mature enough to keep from ripping the band apart?" Daria asked in her coldest voice.

Cinder shook her head. "Didn't say that at all. You've got as good a shot as anyone. Maybe better. You've got something good going on."

"So you won't join, even though you think we have a shot. Why?" Jane asked.

"Even if do you make it, I've got a feeling you'll hate every minute. Your two bandmates," she nodded at Daria and Quinn, "are a time bomb. And when they go off, it's not going to be pretty." She turned to the door that led up the stairs. "I'll let myself out."

The thud of the closing door was the only sound in the basement for long moment, before all three girls began speaking at once: Jane excitedly about their chances of making the big time; Quinn angrily about the implication that she and Daria were too immature to work together; and Daria quietly about what in their behavior would set off alarm bells in someone as experienced as Cinder seemed to be. Realizing that her own words were being lost and no actual communication was occurring, Daria kept her thoughts to herself until Jane's enthusiasm and Quinn's anger ran their separate courses. While they settled down, Daria decided to keep her concerns to herself for the moment.

"Well," she said, when she judged the other two girls were ready to listen, "who's the next audition?"

Quinn looked shocked. "You're not mad or worried about what she said?" she asked.

"No," Daria lied matter-of-factly. "She's not going to be playing with us, so her opinion doesn't count. What does count is that we still don't have a bassist. So we need to worry about auditions. Jane?"

Jane, who had been lost in a daydream where both the art and music worlds groveled at her feet, snapped back to reality. "Uh, we have two tomorrow afternoon and one on Wednesday night."

"Good," Daria nodded. "So, things are rolling right along. I have to work tonight, but why don't you two get here early tomorrow and we'll go for pizza or something. On me." Jane and Quinn both agreed enthusiastically.

Later, waiting for the bus in the late February raw, Daria let herself consider Cinder's words. She knew that entente between Quinn and herself was a fairly new phenomenon and she still worried that the spirit of cooperation could collapse at any minute, revealing Quinn to be as self-centered as ever, or worse, Daria the rigid self-righteous misanthrope she'd always feared she'd become. Bands, she knew from watching that peculiar four-headed entity known as Mystik Spiral, were difficult at the best of times. You lived in each other's pockets all the time. Even as kids, Daria and Quinn had always been able to avoid each other if they really needed to, retreating to neutral corners as it were, but within Girls Together Sarcastically, she knew that wouldn't be possible. Cinder's grim prediction worried her, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. She and Quinn would have to cooperate. They had been so far, which was encouraging. As they bus pulled up, Daria shoved the doubts down. She and Quinn would be fine. They had to be.

Two months later, the doubts were stronger than ever. The three auditions that followed Cimber's had all been unmitigated disasters. Despite their insistence on an all-female lineup, one of the auditions was a guy in comically bad drag who was convinced he could win them over with his playing, even though it had become quickly apparent that his bass skills were on a par with his disguise skills. Daria had driven him off with a few cutting remarks, and the girls had laughed about it later. The other two auditions were merely bad. The girls were nice enough, but neither of them had even Quinn's rudimentary bass skills.

Initially, it hadn't seemed so bad. They could laugh at the bad auditions, not realizing how lucky they'd been to get someone as talented as Cinder on the first try. As February turned to March and March to April, the string of failed auditions began to wear on the girls. For one thing, the semester was winding down, placing free time at even more of a premium. Daria never sweated midterms, but the end of April was when her various papers were due, each of which required solid days of research in the library, which had to be eked out around her classes and job, if Daria was going to stay on course for graduation. She knew Quinn and Jane had similar crunches: Though they both had presentations throughout the semester, the big projects—the ones that determined the semester grade—were all due at the end of April as well.

On top of that were the auditions themselves. Girls Together Sarcastically was made up of unknowns, and unknowns simply didn't draw much talent. Most of the girls who auditioned were nice enough, but almost none of them could play even as well as Quinn. The few who could were all slightly older women looking for a backing band. Girls Together Sarcastically hadn't been founded to play backup to anyone, so those auditions always followed a similar pattern. The bassist would make two or three condescending offers to "guide" the girls, after which Daria, acknowledged by mutual consensus as the best at telling people off, would issue a blistering reminder of exactly who was auditioning for who. At that point, the would-be bassist/bandleader would usually leave in a huff. If she didn't, Daria, sometimes assisted by Jane or Quinn, would continue to insult her until she did.

The problem, Daria reflected, as she headed up the stairs to the apartment one Friday evening after a dreadful all-day shift at the bookstore, was time. Time was at a premium. Daria had wanted to be playing in front of audiences after two years, which would be this August. To do that, they needed to break in a bassist, but even stealing an hour to audition one was nearly impossible. They would have plenty of time during the summer, but that would be too late. After the semester, all three girls were returning to Lawndale for two weeks—Daria and Quinn to reassure Helen and Jake; Jane to see if squatters or her nieces and nephews had taken up residence in Casa Lane—and by the time they got back it would already be June. If they didn't find someone in the next couple of weeks, they were going to lose months.

Grim thoughts in her head, Daria reached for the doorknob, only to pause as she heard Jane's voice through the door. Jane's presence in her empty apartment wasn't a total shock to Daria, who had given Jane a key on moving in. Quinn's voice was a little more surprising, but not much. Letting curiosity overcome manners, Daria turned the knob slowly and cracked the door to hear what they were saying.

"She's not going to like this," Quinn said.

"For the fifth time, Quinn, Daria will just have to deal." The irritation in Jane's voice made Daria wince. "If she's willing to play on our terms and she's as good as she says she is, I don't see how Daria can object. Did you set up an audition?"

"Yes, for tomorrow at one. I'm not telling her, though." Quinn actually sounded frightened. Daria briefly wondered what kind of a martinet she'd turned into. And why was Quinn so worried about setting up an audition?

"Fine. I'll tell her," Jane said.

Daria decided that she'd heard enough. "Tell me what?" she asked as she pushed open the door, with what she hoped was a pleasant expression on her face.

Jane and Quinn both almost leaped to their feet, eyes fixed on Daria with something akin to horror. "Uh, we have an audition tomorrow," Jane said after an uncomfortable moment.

"So I'd gathered," Daria said dryly. "Now, which one of you wants to give me the bad news?"

"Bad news?" Quinn said tentatively, "There's no bad news. It's just another audition, and she's really good."

"Uh huh. That's why you two are hanging around my apartment in your copious spare time, looking at me like I've just finished the Idi Amin Leadership and Home Cooking Correspondence Course." Daria gave Quinn a cold glare. "Spill."

Panicking, Quinn began to babble. "Well, I ran into her at a sale at one of the boutiques in town and we got to talking and she asked me what I was up to and I sort of mentioned the band, and I told her we needed a bass player, and how was I supposed to know she could play? She never mentioned it in Lawndale and I never would have guessed, but then I never guessed that Stacy liked magic so much and I had to listen to her and, Daria, she's really good…"

"Wait!" Daria threw herself in the path of Quinn's verbal barrage. "It's someone from Lawndale?!"

Quinn nodded, shutting up.

"Not Upchuck in drag, I hope." This earned a chuckle from Jane.

"Well, that's something, at least." Suddenly, the pieces clicked. Quinn's nerves, Jane's reluctance, the mention of Stacy. Everything made sense. "Quinn," Daria said, "I'm going to ask you again who will be auditioning with us tomorrow, and when I do, you're going to tell me it's Sandi Griffin, aren't you?"

Quinn nodded again, eyes darting.

"Fine," Daria said. "then I won't ask. I'm going to beat my head against the wall. Or I could use the basement, where there's cement. Much harder than this stuff."

"Daria--" Jane began.

"Sandi Griffin, Jane. I don't like her. You don't like her. For fuck's sake, even Quinn doesn't like her."

"Hey!" Quinn broke in. "That's not fair."

"Fine, Quinn. Look me in the eye and tell me you like Sandi after all the crap she gave you in high school." Quinn met her sister's glare for a long moment before looking away.

"I thought so." Daria enjoyed a brief moment of satisfaction.

"Daria," Jane said, "we're not in a position to beg."

"It's not about that, Jane! It's about…" Daria paused, and Jane leaped into the breach.

"It's about what, Daria? We need a bassist. Let's hear her play before blowing her off."

Daria started to say something and stopped. She stared at Jane for a long moment and then suddenly rose. "Fine. Whatever. Tomorrow. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to be alone. You can show yourselves out." Heading to the bedroom, she slammed the door on Quinn's plaintive, "That didn't go well at all." Opening a history text, she tried to study, but couldn't focus. Giving up, she put her headphones on, sat on her bed, and played loud music for hours until she fell asleep.

The next morning, having used the music to burn off her rage, a much calmer Daria headed down to the rehearsal space with her acoustic in hand. She spent a relaxing couple of hours practicing her fingering and enjoying the quiet. At the thump of boots on the stairs she looked up. "Hey, Jane," she said as the door opened.

"Hey, Daria," Jane replied, black backpack slung over her shoulder. "Practicing?"

Daria nodded. "I haven't played in a couple of days. I probably should be studying, but I want to work on my fingering. After all," she smiled wryly, "we have an audition today."

Jane took a seat next to Daria. "About that…"

"Not your fault, Jane. Mine. It's just…" Daria shuddered. "Sandi Griffin."

"Yeah. Now Quinn has a Fashion Fiend faction."

"Not just that." A shower of discordant notes came from the guitar as Daria strummed aimlessly. "It's hard to explain." She set the guitar aside, then turned to face Jane. "Until I moved to Lawndale, I always thought that Quinn was the worst thing I'd have to deal with. She was vain, shallow, and stupid... and she was ashamed of me."

"The cousin thing," Jane said.

"The cousin thing," Daria nodded. "It started at summer camp. I was twelve and Quinn had just turned eleven. And it kept on like that for five years. I told myself that it didn't matter. My sister was the worst person in the world, so why should I care if she treated me like crap?"

"Daria…"

"Things changed between me and Quinn after we moved to Lawndale. Slowly, but…" she paused, with an expressive shrug. "Quinn started to realize that her head served a purpose besides supporting bouncy hair, which made her easier to relate to. And thanks to some great people, especially my partner in crime—" Jane had to smile at that, "I started to realize that other people could be worth bothering with. Even Quinn, I suppose. You know what the other thing was?"

"Lemme guess," Jane said with a half-smile. "You found someone worse than Quinn."

"Got it in one. One of the things that made me see that Quinn had redeeming qualities was meeting someone with none of those qualities. Sandi's like Quinn's more evil opposite."

"Like that Star Trek episode." Jane said then grinned. "That gives me an idea." Pulling her sketchbook out of her bag, she began roughing out an image in pencil, an image of a feminine face with long brown hair and attractive features marred by a black goatee.

Daria watched her friend indulgently for a minute before continuing. "Yes, O officer of the Imperial Federation of Planets. That's what I'm talking about. I'm afraid Sandi's going to be a bad influence on Quinn, but most of all I'm afraid of having to deal with someone like that."

"You did every day, at school."

"No, I didn't." Daria sighed. "At school, I could always keep her away. None of Quinn's friends really wanted to deal with me. The only people that would were you, Jodie, and Brittany. And even if Brittany only bothered with me because she was too stupid to know she wasn't wanted, she was at least nice enough to try."

"We don't have to take her, you know."

"Actually, we do. We've been floundering around for nearly two years now, and we're finally building up some momentum. We can get paying gigs by August, but if we don't get a bassist now, we won't have time to work her in. Then school starts again and who knows how much time we'll lose. I suppose we could force Quinn, but I don't think her heart's in it, even if she'd be ready in time."

"Daria's right," Quinn added from the doorway as Jane and Daria turned in surprise. "We do need a bassist and it can't be me."

"Who let you in?" Daria gave Quinn an evil look, one that Quinn returned unruffled. "Grow up, Daria. I copied Jane's key three days after you gave it to her," she said, walking over and taking a seat next to Daria and Jane. "You're right about the timing, but only if we're ready. There's no way I'm going to be ready to play by August. Not in front of people."

"So, if Sandi can do it, I guess she's in," Jane said.

"Even is she is my more evil twin," Quinn added.

"Quinn…" Daria said in protest.

"Daria…" Quinn mocked, then added. "Don't worry about it. Neither of us was the best sister, but we're past all that, right?"

Daria paused for a moment, seeing a challenge in Quinn's eyes. Cinder's gloomy predictions of renewed sibling warfare rose in Daria's mind again. Comparing them to the Gallagher brothers, who occasionally squeezed in making music in the band Oasis around a nonstop schedule of abusing each other in the press, was a particularly low blow. Ruthlessly, she crushed her black thoughts. "Yeah, Quinn. We're past it. It's twelve now. What time did you say the audition was?"

"One," Quinn supplied.

"Fine. Let's set up now, then, so we can get started as soon as she gets here. Wouldn't want to keep her waiting."

Both Quinn and Jane nodded and the three girls got to work.

Sandi let the last bass note fade, while Daria banged out one more chord and Jane covered everything with a wash of cymbals before snapping off a quick roll to end the song. As the music faded and Quinn left her mike to towel off, Daria took a deep breath, allowing her to come to grips with the bare facts. Sandi was good. She was better than good. The four of them had ripped through eight songs in less than half an hour and to Daria's ears, no one had missed a note. Sadly, the music was not the only issue.

Helen had once said in Daria's hearing that one of the things she hated most about Sandi's mother Linda was her disapproving eyes. When Daria, for once intrigued by her mother's words, asked what she meant, Helen had tried her best to explain. "It's not easy to put into words, sweetie, but with certain people, you can tell that no matter what they're looking at, they can find something wrong. It's just the way they look at everything and everyone. Your grandfather Morgendorffer was like that. Linda Griffin is, too. It's like nothing in the world can match up with what they see in the mirror every morning."

Reflecting on her mother's words, Daria concluded that whatever other traits she had, Sandi certainly had her mother's eyes. Disapproving eyes. Not that she'd been difficult today. Far from it: Sandi had been punctual and reasonably pleasant. Though she still pronounced Quinn's name with two syllables, she didn't refer to Daria as "Quinn's cousin" once, nor did she pronounce "Jane" as "that weird art chick." In fact, she hadn't said much at all. She'd just played what she was asked—a set similar to what they'd played for all the auditions right back to Cinder. And played it well. None of their stuff was musically complex—no Yes covers here—but Sandi was fast and steady, and clicked well with Jane. She seemed a gift from heaven, the answer to all their prayers. Only she hadn't smiled. Not once. And there were those eyes.

After Daria and Sandi put their instruments away, Sandi headed upstairs to let the bandmates make their decision. Jane, who hadn't moved from behind the drum kit, leaned forward. "We sounded good. Who'da thunk the little fashion fiend could play?" Daria nodded slowly.

Quinn joined them, having finished her ablutions. Her doll face was marred with a frown, though. "I don't think this going to work, Daria," she said, without preamble. "I don't think Sandi's going to fit."

Before Daria could respond, Jane jumped in. "Why not? We sounded great. She and I really clicked on the backbeat."

Quinn's frown deepened. "I just don't think she's right. Working with her will be impossible."

Jane snorted. "Impossible how, Quinn? She was punctual, polite, and efficient. And she's perfect for what we're trying to do."

Sensing an ear-piercing whine coming on, Daria cut Quinn off. "Jane has a point. As a musician, do you have any objections to Sandi's audition?"

Quinn struggled visibly before finally giving in. "No. She was fine. Even her harmonies weren't too bad. But you don't know her like I do."

"What's to know, Quinn? You were the one who set up the audition. Now, all of a sudden you can't work with her?" Jane's tone was sardonic.

Sensing her sister's anger growing, Daria raised a hand. "Hold on, Jane. Quinn has a point, too. We don't know Sandi like she does. Quinn, what are you worried about?"

Daria's interjection seemed to calm Quinn. "Look, you two saw how she was today, right? She was pleasant enough, but she was totally cold. That's the nicest she'll ever be to you. She'll try to be fake friends with me because we were in the Fashion Club together, but all she'll really want is to use me to take over."

"This isn't the Fashion Club, Quinn," Jane said. "There's no Stacy Rowe to push around here."

"Doesn't matter, Jane." Quinn's voice was cracking, a clear sign that her temper was, too. "That's just what Sandi does. She takes over. Doesn't matter if she's the best person for the job. I thought she might have changed, you know, but I can tell she hasn't."

Watching her sister lose her composure, Daria was beginning to see Quinn's point of view. After all, Quinn knew Sandi better than Daria or Jane did, and Daria knew Quinn. Her sister clearly didn't want to deal with Sandi, and after years of watching them interact in the Fashion Club, Daria could certainly see why. On the other hand, Sandi was just what they needed. Improvement had been measurable over the last several months, but they had hit a wall with Quinn's bass playing, and a good bassist was just the thing they needed to keep the momentum going. With Sandi, Daria thought they could meet her timetable. Otherwise, they didn't have a chance.

As if in answer to Daria's thoughts, Jane said, "Can we afford to pass her up, Quinn? She puts us right where we need to be." Unable to answer, Quinn just looked at the floor.

"In that case," Daria said, feeling they'd said all that needed to be said, "I think it's time we vote. Jane?"

"Yo!"

"Am I correct in assuming that your vote is for Sandi to join?"

"Correcto, amiga!"

"And Quinn?"

Quinn made a small grumbling sound, without looking up.

"I'm going to take that as a vote against Sandi joining."

Quinn made no attempt to disagree, so Daria took that as an affirmative. "I see. This leaves the decision in my hands." She sighed. "Wonderful," she said, her tone wry. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to go upstairs and tell Sandi that we'll let her know tomorrow?" Jane shot her an evil look, while Quinn continued to ignore her.

"Fine." Daria really didn't want to make this decision, but she'd known from the moment they decided to find a bassist that the choice would eventually come down to her. Could she live with Sandi? Her heart said no. Quinn was right; Sandi would wreck everything for the sheer joy of destruction if she didn't get her way. But her head said yes. She would make it work. She and Jane were stronger than Sandi and they'd make it work. Daria Morgendorffer had always lived by her head and not her heart. Even if forming the band was the ultimate expression of emotion over reason, that was no reason to let emotion determine how things were run.

"We've got to take her," Daria said. "We have no choice."

Quinn looked up and heaved a resigned sigh. "I guess we'd better tell her then." All three girls headed for the stairs. When they got upstairs, they saw that Sandi had made herself comfortable on the couch. The television was on and she'd snagged a beer.

"Well?" She regarded them coolly.

"We talked it over, and we'd like you to join the band, Sandi," Daria said. Behind her, Quinn and Jane nodded.

"Okay."

"Can you be here on Tuesday night at 7?"

"Whatever."

Daria thought about disapproving eyes. Then she thought about how much they needed a bassist. "Welcome to the band, then," she said.

"Sure." Without another word, Sandi gathered up her bass and left, leaving her new bandmates wondering just what they'd gotten themselves into.

Author's Note:
This is my first published fanfic, and the first in a planned series of stories about Daria, Jane, Quinn, and Sandi as a band. The title is taken from the song "Perfect Circle by R.E.M. I like the idea of exploring the relationships between the characters in a different way, and I like rock and roll, so sticking them in a band seemed like a good idea. It's not anything supported by canon, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. And besides, it's fun.

Some of my musical references are no doubt out of date, as I'm about 10 years older than Daria, and my taste runs more towards classic rock, anyway. I'll do my best to reference at least some stuff that kids in college five years ago would listen to, but I make no promises. Also, I didn't know when I wrote the line, but know now that Billy Joe Armstrong plays guitar, not bass, for Greenday. That said, I figured it's a natural mistake for Quinn to make, so I left it in.