Author's Notes: This is my first Daria fanfic ("officially," anyway). It's pre-canon about the Lane family; hopefully I managed to get the chronological details and tone accurate enough to fit into the series. Any comments or constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.


Trent lay still on top of his sleeping bag, alone, staring up at the roof of his tent and listening to the loud noises coming from the house.

The whole family was living together now, except for Trent. Summer and the kids had moved back in for a while, and at the moment she was yelling at Wind for accidentally waking the twins. Penny was screaming too, because apparently somebody had taken something that she needed to pack for her trip to Brazil. Dad was shouting about...something. It sounded like it had something to do with fire. The last time Trent had gone in to use the bathroom Mom had been downstairs in her studio, with the music at full blast to drown out everybody else's racket.

Trent sighed heavily. It's hell in there, he thought. I'm probably better off out here anyway.

Yeah.

Probably.

Trent turned on his side. At least the weather was nice tonight—not too warm or cool, with no threat of the rain that had been hounding him for the last week. Even during storms or snow, he never got more than an offhand "You gonna be okay, son?" from Dad. A few months ago it had been so cold that he kept sneaking off to sleep at Jesse's house. As far as Trent knew, his parents had never noticed. They really weren't all that concerned about him out there.

And they certainly didn't seem concerned about whether or not he was ever going to come back in the house.

Trent dimly registered the sound of the back door opening, but he was too deep in thought to move. The tent flap opened.

"Trent?" a voice said softly, as though afraid he might be sleeping.

He turned; his little sister Janie had crawled halfway inside the tent, holding out a plate with a napkin and a stack of sandwiches on top. He sat up.

"Oh. Hey, Janie," Trent mumbled, taking the plate and placing it on the acoustic guitar laid parallel to his sleeping bag "What's up?"

Janie pulled the rest of her body into the tent, drawing her legs up to her chest. She shrugged. "Not much. Dad accidentally set Wind's bed on fire."

"How'd he do that?"

Janie just shrugged again.

Trent took the top sandwich and started eating. Janie sat watching him; it had become routine for her to hang around for a while after delivering his meals. As sick as Trent was of this tent, he had to admit it must have seemed appealing compared to the house right now. Janie's eyes wandered awkwardly around the small space, looking for something to talk about. Her gaze rested on Trent's guitar.

"Wrote any new songs?" she asked.

Trent shook his head, swallowing the last of the sandwich and taking another. "Nah. Can't think of anything lately. Plus Jesse's out of town, so it's not like we can practice or anything."

"Hmm."

Silence fell between them again. Trent took another bite of his sandwich.

"So...when are you coming back in the house?" Janie asked that question every day or two.

When somebody actually wants me to, Trent thought. "I dunno," he said. "Maybe never." He tried to sound conversational, but couldn't entirely mask the bitterness in his voice; In reality, he wanted to go back in there so badly, almost as badly as he wanted not to.

He purposefully kept his head down to avoid Janie's gaze, so he didn't see the way her own posture fell at the news.

"Oh. Okay." He looked up in time to see her moving aside the tent flap, starting to climb back out again. "I guess I'll see you in the morning, then."

Trent had hoped she would stay longer, but didn't fight it. "Yeah. See ya."

Trent watched through the canvas as Janie's silhouette walked across the yard, listening as the back door creaked open and shut behind her. He sighed again, shoving the rest of his second sandwich in his mouth and starting on the third. He sort of missed Janie. That felt weird to say, partially because he still saw her every day, and partially because sharing a room with her had been one of the many annoyances that brought on his self-exile in the first place. He had to admit that after six months of sleeping alone on the ground, that complaint was starting to seem kind of petty.

Trent finished his sandwich and reached for the napkin to wipe the crumbs from his mouth. In the process something else fell from the plate and wafted to the grassy floor. Trent reached down to pick it up, assuming that Mom had just put two napkins by mistake; he was mildly surprised when it turned out to be a crisp sheet of paper, and even more surprised when he saw that it was covered in paint.

"Ah, man..."

The picture was quite obviously Janie's work; it was of her and Trent in their bedroom, holding hands and smiling at each other. At least...that's what Trent thought it was, thanks to the two figures being helpfully labeled in messy scrawl above their heads. Janie's art was always kind of weird, because she, like...worked at it a lot. When Trent had been her age, any person he tried to draw just had a messy circle for a head and an oval for a body, which lines thrown on carelessly for limbs. Janie tried to actually imitate the way people looked—faces curved into chins, necks gave way to shoulders and torsos, arms and legs had actual width. But she was still only seven—the lines were all shaky and the shapes exaggerated, the colors were off, that sort of thing. The result was that Janie's pictures didn't look childish or realistic, but instead just bizarre, almost grotesque.

Which was pretty damn cool in Trent's opinion.

Trent remembered a few years back, when Mom would pack his and Janie's lunchboxes and slip in little haikus, which had been her interest at the time. He chuckled, imagining that that was where Janie had gotten the idea from. He carefully put the picture on his guitar, next to the plate and the napkin. Then he laid down again, staring back up at the roof of his tent.

A cricket chirped. The yelling in the house had died down now, though he could still hear the sounds of people moving around in there.

Trent sat up suddenly. He looked around his tent, small and crowded and damn too monotonous and familiar. He picked up Janie's picture and stared at it for another minute. Then he put it back down and look around the tent again.

"Huh," he said vaguely.


"Hey, everyone. I'm h—"

"Ugh, finally! Who the hell put it..."

Penny marched past the back door and out of the kitchen, clutching the curling iron that she had spent the last half hour looking for. Trent jumped back to avoid her, then blinked, looking around the kitchen. One of the dogs, Fillmore, was sleeping in the corner. Otherwise the room was silent and unoccupied.

Somehow, Trent had been expecting a more momentous welcome.

Trent hefted his heavy duffel bag and guitar, slumping his shoulders slightly. On his way to the stairs he passed Dad, who had his sleeves rolled up and seemed to be rubbing aloe vera on his arms.

"Ow! Ah—hey, Trent. I think Summer's already using the bathroom," he added casually, not looking up enough to notice the load his son was carrying.

"Ugh...okay, Dad," Trent mumbled.

He climbed the stairs in slow, trudging steps, dragging his feet across the hall into his and Janie's room. He stood in the threshold for a moment; it felt weird coming back to a place so familiar. The floor was covered in Janie's toys and art supplies; most of his clutter had either been taken to the tent or put away at some point. His bed remained unmade from the day he had left, though.

Trent stepped into the empty room. The whole house seemed so quiet all of a sudden. He sighed, letting his duffel bag and guitar drop to the floor. He felt weird. Like a guest. Or an intruder.

Maybe this hadn't been such a good ide—

"Trent?"

He spun around. Janie was standing in the doorway behind him. She cocked her head to one side, making her pigtails swing, as she stared and took in the sight of his guitar and duffel bag. Without warning she suddenly jumped forward and threw her arms around his stomach, startling him as she rested her head on his T-shirt.

"You're back! You're gonna live in the house again! Right?" She suddenly sounded nervous, looking up at him as her hold on his torso slackened. Trent, confused, merely blinked down at her.

"Yeah, Janie. Whether or not anybody else cares," he grumbled.

"Well, I care. I missed you!"

Trent blinked again as Janie grinned and squeezed him tightly. "Huh. Really?"

"What, did I have to paint you a picture?" Janie giggled, then released him. "I'm gonna go tell Mom you're back, okay? I think she asked me to do that a couple of months ago."

"Whatever."

Janie turned and scampered out of the room, still uncharacteristically cheerful. Trent watched her go, then sighed, falling down onto the foot of his bed. He felt exhausted all of a sudden. It would be nice to sleep in a warm, soft bed again, he thought. He would wait until tomorrow to get the rest of his stuff from outside and unpack and everything.

Except...

He bent down and unzipped his duffel bag, removing the single sheet of paper that he had carefully placed on top of all his dirty clothes. He scooted up in bed and placed it on the nightstand between his and Janie's beds, letting it stand between his duck phone and Janie's lamp. Trent took a moment to gaze at the picture again before laying down on top of his blankets and staring up at the ceiling, listening to the soft noises coming from the rest of the house.