A/N: There are a ton of different ways to write my favorite character. This time, I'm going for an outsider's perspective. ^^

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A DATE WITH QUINN

Part I: What Did I Get Myself Into?!

As Duane pulled up in front of the Morgendorffers' house, he tried to remember where the line between fantasy and reality had blurred.

He didn't go to Lawndale High School. He didn't even live in this bizarre and, shall we say, highly animated city; at least, he never used to. He had lived someplace else, someplace more…real. The details escaped him now. Maybe they had to, to keep him from going nuts or something.

These days Duane sat through boring classes and walked past Pizza King on his way home every day, as if he'd always done it. And the acute certainty that he had seen—no, watched all of this before—faded into occasional déjà vu.

Yeah, maybe it was better this way. That was what brought him here tonight: an attempt to go with the flow, and a bold attempt at that.

He had asked out Quinn Morgendorffer.

It wasn't a grab for popularity; it just felt like the right thing to do. In the early days, when he didn't know what was happening and thought he might freak out any minute, he fixated on one thing: that she would stroll into History class and sit in front him every day. He would listen to her prattle on about fashion with her friends, watch her covertly taking notes so the bitchy one wouldn't notice, and everything would seem better. Normal, almost.

Damn. She helped me so much, without even knowing it. I guess I owe her one dinner and a good time, right? He told himself that was the only reason. But in truth, maybe relief wasn't the only thing he felt when he saw her gliding through the halls.

Duane checked his blonde hair once more in the rearview mirror. He had agonized over whether to cut it, but decided the long hair was a part of him. Hopefully keeping it in a ponytail would suffice.

Another few minutes and he'd be late. He stepped out of the car. It was a silver PT Cruiser, not very stylish but credible. His parents (he could finally call them that, now) had let him borrow it along with the credit card. Not too shabby.

He walked up to the door and rang the bell. This was a big house, a mansion compared to his place. A huge bay window stared down at him from the second floor.

Finally a man with brown hair and a strong jaw opened the door. "Oh, hello! Are you here to help us with our squirrels? They're real menaces this time of the year. ALWAYS chittering at us from the trees. ALWAYS trying to get into our garbage!" he pointed to the trash can. Its lid was weighed down with three cinderblocks. "DAMN SQUIRRELS!"

"Um...no. I'm Duane Mason. Quinn's date?" he said in his slight southern accent.

"Oh yeah!" the man pumped his hand vigorously. "Jake Morgendorffer, my man. I'm Quinn's...uh...what was I saying?"

"Father?"

"Huh?"

"Quinn's FATHER?" Duane repeated. This guy seemed a few tacos short of a combo platter.

The man perked up. "Oh, hey, that's me! What can I do for you, pal?"

Duane resisted the urge to slap his forehead.

"JAKE, for God's sake," a woman's voice said with exasperation. The door opened wider to reveal a pretty, no-nonsense woman in a business suit. "Can't you even greet someone at the door properly? How are you, young man?"

"Great. I'm Quinn's-"

"Quinn's date, we know. What was your name again?"

"Du-"

"Oh yes, Duane! I'm her mother, Helen Morgendorffer. Won't you come in?" she smiled with more politeness than warmth.

"...Sure." Damn, these folks are wound up tight. Wait, I already knew that. Didn't I? Oh, whatever...

He walked in and immediately smelled something odd cooking on the stove. Possibly fried rice with a terribly inappropriate addition, perhaps guacamole. He was glad they hadn't asked him here for dinner.

"Quinn's still getting ready. She'll be down any minute!" Helen beamed. "So...er, tell us a little about yourself. What do you...like to do?" The last part was said a tad awkwardly, like she wasn't used to speaking with young people. Or maybe just not her daughter's dates.

"Well, I like to build stuff. I'm taking shop and sometimes I help my uncle. He's a carpenter. And I'm a wide receiver on the football team." These things had not always been true, but if he was stuck here for good he might as well accept them. Besides, he DID like carpentry and football.

"I wish I could've played football," muttered Jake. "But my old man said I was too WEAK for that game. Couldn't even let me try out, could you, you old-"

"JAKE, I think your rice is starting to burn." Helen cut him off.

"Damn it!" he rushed into the kitchen.

Helen turned to the couch, where a bored-looking girl in a green jacket and black skirt sat reading the paper. "This is our oldest daughter, Daria..." The girl in question looked up at Duane for a second, then continued reading. "Daria, this is Quinn's date for the evening."

"My condolences," she said sourly.

"Daria..."

Now this one looked really familiar. He had seen her around school a few times, and she didn't help his fragile state of mind. She was all rough edges and sarcastic remarks. Cute behind the glasses and the attitude, but not his type.

Duane heard the blessed sound of feet on the stairs. He turned and there she was: slender, graceful, and dressed to kill in a purple tank top and black pants, with a purple necklace and bracelet and black leather sandals. There was no question about it, clothes adored this girl. He wasn't far behind.

Long red hair danced around her face as she bounced down the last few steps. His breath caught in his throat. Remember your manners, perv. "Good to see you, Quinn! Um, you look nice."

"Thanks!" she said blithely. "Sorry I'm late, Dave."

Ouch. Mood killer. "Um, it's Duane."

"Whatever. Look, remember when I said we were going to Chez Pierre?"

"Yeah..."

A scowl marred her perfect face. "Well we're not. I just found out Sandi and HER date are there tonight."

Yikes, he thought. Crisis averted. "So what did you have in mind?"

"I don't know, just think of something. See you Mom! Back by 1 unless we're out later. Byyyye!"

They swept out the door before her parents could say anything. Before they reached the Cruiser and she started talking about her day, Duane had a brief moment to wonder...

What did I get myself into?