usual copyright disclaimer: CHANT: Characters are not mine, um-lalalalala they are property of MTV -um, lalalalala -- all inspiration is attributed to the script writers at MTV.

Trent Miserables
by medea42

Quacking interrupted the course of Trent's dreaming. "wackwackwackwack." He moved one muscle, slowly, extending his arm in the direction of his phone. "Wackwackwackwack." Whoever was calling meant business, so he opened one eye, and pushed one leg off his bedpost to lunge for the phone. "'lo?"

A harsh female voice alerted him. "It's Penny, Trent. Get a bed ready - a damn volcano wiped out my craft stand in Costa Rica." The phone clicked off, leaving Trent with a sleepy expression and the dial tone. Uh?

Oh yeah, Penny! Trent sat up and fumbled through the floor for a pen. No paper except for his lyrics notebook, and that better NOT be violated. As he scratched the word Penny and a picture of a volcano on his left hand, he contemplated explosion. Damn Volcano Explosion...might be a good band name. Ambidextrous, Trent switched hands and wrote the idea on his right hand, and set down the pen, ready to resume sleep. "wackwackwack" jolted him just as Trent reached the stage between sleep and awake. Man, he hated those disturbances.

"'lo?" maybe Penny needed money or something.

"Trent! Hi son! I just finished up my job -"

"Where were you? Somebody called to ask yesterday -" Probably Mom.

"Oh, in Ireland. I was taking pictures of Celtic rock formations, and I'm on my way home, ready to develop." Trent was still holding the pen, so he scratched the information across his left hand. Cool, Dad brought some interesting stuff home from his travels. And that meant someone else could catch up with mortgage checks.

During Trent's return to dreamland, he smudged the band name horribly and no matter what device he tried, his memory could not grasp the name he picked. Crud. Maybe food would help. As he wandered over to contemplate the empty refrigerator, Janey appeared by his side. "What's that red stuff?" He and Jane operated on the rule that if a substance was identifiable, they could eat it. Even if consumption involved scraping material off the walls. Food was food, especially since their parents forgot the grocery checks again, and they decided to put mortgage payments forward first after the last foreclosure-attempt fiasco. "Cherry soda," he guessed. He remembered some strange attempt at freezing cola until it exploded. Maybe that was this year.
"Nah," Jane argued. "Cranberry juice." She could probably determine the exact nature by trotting out her color wheel, but this debate never got that far.


Cool, Mom was home! "Hi Mom!" Trent couldn't remember the last time he saw her, and Janey mentioned something about thinking she might be home since she found the kiln still on. Hard to tell, since their mom left the kiln on all the time.

Trent was about to raise the topic of food as a necessity of life, but a knock on the door interrupted him. Wind arrived, sweeping in and distributing uncomfortable hugs and crying over everything. Same old Wind. Probably a long damn visit...oh yeah.

Penny and Dad were coming, someone ought to know. Since they showed up thirty seconds after he mentioned it, he felt his work was done. Back to bed.

Sleep, however, became impossible when his dad decided that Trent's room was the perfect space for his photographic equipment. Trent might sleep around it, but since Penny's room was right next door to his, and she stayed on the phone, arguing with the Costa Rican finance minister day...and night. and day...and night. Loudly. For an alto, her voice really carried. By the second night Trent thought he might choke a sibling with a spare guitar string.

After the third night running of squawking and whining, Trent relocated to the couch since the rest of the family seemed to ignore the spot with the TV broken. The angst of displacement welled within him, as he strummed his guitar:

The walls are closing in
The ice is getting thin
My house is not a home
No place to call my own
Psychic refugee, psychic refugee

Trent began sinking into the trance-like quality of song creation, and felt like he really was building an internal space for himself.


"Yah!" The quiet room Trent began to build within was torn down, and a guitar string broken in the wreckage. Penny was too busy on the phone to apologize for the damage inflicted by her green monster. Trent tried to recover, to resume building that space, but almost immediately he was beset by weeping Wind and his dad in an impromptu marriage counseling session.

Trent himself sucked at relationships, if Monique was any evidence, but Wind held a record of grasping desperately for love. The last thing he needed was to absorb some of the weirdness vibes of his brother and try to carry that through his life. "Trent, do you mind being the flirtatious girl behind the counter?" His father, however, was full of advice despite one of the lowest-maintenance marriages on record. Oh NO. "I've gotta, uh, go sharpen my guitar pick." Escape now, and minimize the trauma.

Trent thought Jane might head towards food, since the fridge was filled. He wanted to know if she felt as crazed by this family convergence as he did, or if he was just being moody. Where was she? He carried his guitar to the kitchen, thinking he might wait until she appeared. No Jane, but his mom evidently laid claim to the phone. She was the only person in the house who would not have to wrestle Penny for the line. She was just hanging up as he approached.

"Isn't it wonderful?" She was filled to the brim with Amanda Lane excitement. "Adrian and Courtney are coming for a visit!" Summer's two eldest children managed to embrace all of the Lane wanderlust harbored from his dad's genetic code.

"Don't you think Summer should know?" Since she probably didn't. Every couple weeks she called the house to see if her children stopped for food, and every other month or so she was right. Good kids, and they really helped Jesse and him out that time they were stranded in Arizona, but they really needed to settle a little.

"She is their mother," Amanda mused. Summer was the kind of mother who did not believe in the hands-off parenting method his parents espoused; hers just wound up hands-off with two of her kids persistently running away. He then realized, with his niece and nephew visiting, he was out of a tent. Aw hell.

Trent located his mom in her basement and asked about some sort of space compensation regarding the family togetherness nightmare that left him with a broken guitar string and no couch to call his own. This resulted in that damn butterfly speech.

"And what," he muttered as he walked away, "Would happen if I tore off its precious little wings?" Of course him mom could act content; she still owned her personal space! Attempts to call Jesse or Monique were thwarted by Penny's trade war and Wind's desperate messages onto Katey's voicemail. Trent couldn't hold the phone long enough for Jesse to say, "Sure man, cool." Trent's car was again out of commission, and since it blew parts spontaneously, he wasn't about to sleep in it. Staying at Monique's was out of the question; she wanted him to move in with her and sleeping over would only encourage the problem. Nick's kid was staying with him for the month, and Trent couldn't stand Max -- all the guy did was talk about how much he hated Nick and what an intense "criminale" he was. Moron kept showing off for Jane's friend Daria, not that she was fazed. Daria...Jane! Jane probably went to Daria's. Made sense, since no one else really knew where they were. Her house was at least walking distance, unlike Jesse's and Monique's. Trent was familiar with the Morgendorffer modus operandi, and perhaps he could wangle a little blanket space for himself. If Jane managed, he might. Courtney and Adrian were at the front door as he opened it to leave. He told them that the basement had some really fun stuff in it, and left with a smirk.

Daria let him in without saying much, and led him straight to Jane. What a relief to see a family member who gave a damn about him. They were all eating dinner, some pasta dish. Janey was holding on to a carton of milk with a desperate gleam in her eye; Helen probably attempted bonding. He'd noticed Daria show up at their house with a similar expression. Jane looked surprised- and relieved- to see him. "Trent! Why didn't you call?"

"Couldn't get near the phone." True enough. He paused, to see if Jane might somehow help his cause, but her silence indicated the Lane signal was jammed. "I just came to tell you that I'll be sleeping in the Tank for awhile," he informed her.

"The Tank?" Helen inquired. Good, taking the bait.

"It used to be a van," Jane explained.

Trent glanced at Jake's plate, pretending to just notice that everyone was in the middle of dinner. "Is that spaghetti?" he asked, adding, "It's my favorite." Jake's vanity and artistic expression was most strongly reflected in his cooking.

"Actually, it's fettuccine bolognaise," Jake could talk endlessly about sauces, according to Jane.

"Oh yeah, THAT'S my favorite," whatever bolognaise was. The food did smell good.

Helen's mothering instinct was surfacing. Daria and Quinn might do their best to suppress it, but he was ready to tug that internal caretaker out to play. "Trent, would you like to stay for dinner?"

Trent pretended to think about it. "Well, it is warm in here. Bet your doors lock, too."

"Would you like to stay here tonight?" she offered. Helen extended the invitation, meaning no disputes, Cool.

"Thanks," he said. "I'd like that."

"Eep!" Daria looked a little strange, like she was compressing from the inside. "What?" Didn't even realize she'd made a noise. She always looked so tense.

Trent managed to sneak a phone call somewhere between Helen's boss and Quinn's date rating. Trent figured Monique would want to know where he was; they'd broken up most recently over his habit of not telling him what he did day to day. He was right, she was demanding a schedule and accounting. "I stopped by your house," she told him. "Some weird chick with a bird answered the door. Asked me if I was seeing anyone, and for a minute she wasn't sure who you were."

"That's Penny. She probably thought you were cute." Penny had stolen at least two of his girlfriends in high school.


"Nevermind. My family's visiting and it's way crowded so I'm staying at Janey's friend's for a few days." Better head off the "stay with me" argument.

"Her friends' parents prefer that I'm around as a legal guardian for Janey." They'd said no such thing, but the lie saved his rear from Monique's wrath for the moment.

"Bummer," said Monique. "You're stuck with high schoolers for awhile."

Bummer on one count, considering Quinn. "Yeah," better to agree than give Monique another reason to "discuss" their relationship. "Wanna get together tonight? Harpies aren't rehearsing."

Trent looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. 7:30. "What time?"

"Whenever." About two hours.

"Cool." Enough time to shower and brush his teeth. Maybe hang out a little.

Trent wangled ten minutes in the shower, a luxurious period after fighting off photos by the toilet paper at his own house. He was drying himself off and trying to tame his hair when he realized he did not have his toothbrush -- normally, he would ignore the problem, but since he was seeing Monique, he was beset with a few...expectations. Trent peeked in the medicine cabinet, and saw the lone toothbrush sitting on the section labeled "Daria". He considered using it, but decided that Daria might find that gross. He would go ask to use Janey's. He knew Daria's room was at the end of the hall, but he never previously needed to stop there, since Helen settled him in the guest room at the other end of the hallway. The sight was awesome: padded walls and sawed off bars on the windows; this room would be an awesome setting for a Mystic Spiral video. Daria looked up at him like she was caught stealing a body; he must have interrupted her.

"Is Janey here?"

Daria recovered. "She'll be back in a minute."

Since he was there, he may as well wait. Janey probably went to the bathroom or something. Besides, Daria was cool - every conversation he had with her was so on, in so few words. He often wished she weren't in high school so he could hang with her more. Her room only revealed that much more of her worthiness, as he looked around at the decorations.

"Cool room."

The bed looked too tempting, and he stretched out on it at the first opportunity. "Comfortable bed."

He took a look at Daria from his reclined position. Nice body under that shirt, he thought absently. She'll be a knockout in a year or two, once she settled into her own look. Her nightshirt was the first item he'd seen her wearing that was not a green jacket or his grandma's nightgown. As he looked around her room, he realized how little he knew about Daria's interests. His eyes landed on her nightshirt. "Mark Twain. He wrote Huckleberry Finn, right?" Something about that book resonated with him, but his memory could not pin why. So Daria was into literature. Made sense, wished he knew more about it. Too bad his love of reading was ruined by that twit O'Neill. "I read that in high school, I think." Probably. Reading these days was limited to the books on music theory Jesse never returned to the library and flyers for parties where Mystic Spiral networked for gigs. Daria sat on the bed next to him, looking like a librarian on her night off. Trent wanted to coax a smile from her, make her more comfortable with finding her territory under observation. "I used to watch Huckleberry Hound when I was a kid. Now that I think about it, they're not that much alike."

"I think that Huckleberry Hound was much more of a joiner," she said.

"Yeah," Trent agreed, "Loser."

They both laughed, and Trent saw her nervousness deflate. Now here was a girl he could talk to. He wished he could achieve comfortable ground with Monique so easily.

His mind mused back to the cartoon. "I could never figure out why Quick Draw Mcgraw hung out with that freaky little mule."

Jane appeared in the doorway before Daria could offer her opinion. "Oh! Did I interrupt something?" Better catch her before she disappeared. He'd already spent 12 hours looking for her today. "I came to borrow your toothbrush," he told her.

Janey grabbed her toothbrush off Daria's desk and handed it to him. "Here," she told him. "It's a gift."

As he left, he heard Jane say something to Daria about "kismet" and figured she was talking to Daria about current events. Daria was probably into that news stuff.

Trent was pulling on his shirt when he heard Jake yelling that his date was here. Monique told him later he initially thought that she was Quinn's date, and thought about playing along for a minute, but she got the impression the poor guy might really have a heart attack.

Monique looked every inch the goth, and Trent suppressed a smile at Helen's disapproving expression. On some level, he felt gratified that Helen was so concerned that he went around town with a pierced and needled woman.

"Where are you going?" Helen demanded as he smiled a greeting at Monique.

The point was not to know. "Out," he said.

"When are you coming back?"

Since when did people worry about that? "Later."

Trent saw the beginnings of an anti-authority rant on Monique's face and shut the door quickly. He could distract her soon enough. Monique did not have the capacity to take on Helen Morgendorffer.

Monique, however, evaluated her capacity otherwise and made for a very bad night. She behaved like the Harpies her band was named for, and at one point in the evening, Trent thought about ducking to fend off her hen-pecking. "What a controlling bitch!" she ranted, still on the Helen track. "Like it's any of her business what you do. She's not your mother!"

Trent's only experience with motherly concern came from Helen. "I'm a guest at her house," Trent tried to reason.

"She probably just wanted to know when I'd be back so she could lock the doors."

For some reason, this further enraged Monique. "No she wasn't. I heard the tone in her voice -- you're not a child, for crying out loud!"

"Hey!" Trent surprised himself by his own anger. "At least I know Helen Morgendorffer gives a damn about me! Except for Janey, the Morgendorffers are more my family than my own family, so don't EVER let me hear you talking about ANY of them like that!" Not even Quinn, strangely enough.

This earned Trent a moment of ominous silence. Four hours later, Trent was out of a girlfriend, out of gas money since he'd needed a cab and out of steam. As he curled up on the Morgendorffers' couch, he wished desperately he could find a girlfriend he could talk to as easily as he could to Daria.

He wasn't sure, but Trent suspected Jake propped him at the kitchen table for breakfast that morning. Daria came in and sat next to him, already dressed for school. She didn't say anything, and at that point, that was exactly what he needed to hear from her. Somewhere between toast and cereal, Helen appeared with an aggravated Jane, caroling about their "power walk" and Jane mumbled something to Jake about breaking a deal.

As he stared into his cereal bowl, Helen zeroed in on Trent. "What time did you get in last night?"

"Uh..." his guess was as good as hers. "Midnight."

"I don't think so, young man." Young man? "Jake, was there something you wanted to talk to Trent about?" Uh oh. He heard about this maneuver from Jesse -- and from the look on Jake's face, he was in trouble.

Jake tried to save him by playing dumb. "What do you think if I make a gumbo tonight? I've been itching to break out the old wok -"

"Young man, you're going to have to reconsider the hours you keep if and when you join the rest of us in conventional society!" Wow. Helen just Mommed him. And he felt really bad.

"Yes'm," and it felt good to have someone care enough to lay a guilt trip on him. "I meant to get in earlier, but Monique and I spent four hours breaking up." You'd think they would develop a code, or pink slips, some kind of time saver, as often as it happened.

Jane looked exasperated. "You break up every other week, because it's not meant to happen. Right, Daria?" Daria looked like she did not want to jump on Jane's bandwagon. Trent was grateful for that -- the last thing he needed was a double-teamed Jane lecture. Quinn said something about the hour she'd gotten in, and for a moment the attention shifted. She was tired and demanding attention, but not dumb, and shifted the attention right back to him when she realized her error. "Just tell them if they let it slide this one time, you'll never do it again." Yup. Quinn might hide it better than Daria, but she was definitely a lawyer's kid, too.

Trent decided he WANTED to be punished. "I'm sorry I broke the rules," he said. And he was. "At our house, we don't have any rules. Right Janey?"

"There is that rule about not building a fire in rooms that don't have fireplaces, " she mused. Oh yeah. Penny and Summer broke the TV set in the living room that way. Something about survival practice. Or maybe actual survival – they got their power cut out a lot, even in winter.

"Once I moved into a tent in the backyard for six months, waiting for someone to invite me back in, and nobody did." In fact, this was the first time he ever remembered an invitation into a family fold on any level. Helen looked ready to blast him with a super-Momming, but to Trent's regret, she was interrupted by a knock on the door. Turned out to be his mother, and by the next day all his siblings were gone. That evening Trent clung to his grounding like a precious gift, even shutting himself in the guest room and reading a book of Kafka's stories that he borrowed from Daria. He had to admit, except for the Monique situation, he'd enjoyed himself.

"Thanks for everything," he told Daria on his way out the door. Were it not for the grace of her friendship with Jane, he really would have needed to sleep in the Tank.

"No problem." She paused, and Trent sensed some delicate territory approaching. "Sorry your date didn't work out."

Oh, that. Happened all the time. Still, it was the first totally personal thing he'd ever heard Daria bring up. "That's OK. Janey's right," he told her. Jane probably discussed his Monique-go-round with Daria after she came by. Too bad his dating options were limited as long as he lived in Lawndale. Too bad the only girl he could talk to stood before him, cute and underage. "Too bad you're not older. I could take you out," and he forced a laugh that ended in a cough. Laugh or cry, since his situation sucked. The Mistress of Irony meant that the most compatible girl available was still in high school, and he already saw how she was developing into someone totally out of his league. If he ever dated Daria, between her and her parents, he would never be the same person. He just wasn't ready for conventional society. He wasn't sure he knew how to join.

Trent joined Janey at the end of the walkway where she waited. "You shouldn't have said that," she told him. Leave it to Jane to notice everything.

"What? About Daria if she were older?" He meant it as a compliment. She really was someone he would want to date if she were his age. Might boost her self-confidence a little.

Jane glared up at him. "When she saw you with Monique, Quinn and I both thought she was going to cry."

Huh. Trent thought for a moment. "I don't think she'll be seeing me with Monique again."

Author's Notes:
I hate to leave notes, but I'm finding it's alas, necessary in a fan fiction venue, since many readers are unsure whether to judge a work on its merits alone or to demand canonic interpretations as a replacement or enrichment to television. The purpose of my growing Trent vignette series is to give his character more of an inner-life, with Daria as a peripheral character to the many other things that happen with Trent off-screen. I find him actually one of the most interesting and complex characters on the show, but vastly underrated as nothing more than a love interest or disinterest for Daria, or stereotyped as a slacker. By exploring his thinking about his own lifestyle, about his sister and his role as parent/sibling and about his growing and changing relationship with Daria I may gradually shift off-canon in later script style fanfics, but for now, these are in-part an exercise in getting to know Trent Lane. I think there is much more to him than weird lyrics and a pretty cartoon face, but that means a little digging into his head.