: All recognizable characters are owned by Glenn Eichler and MTV; no infringement is intended, and no money is being made. Also, close paraphrasing and some verbatim use from various episodes, again, no infringement intended.
"Tell me again why I'm doing this?" Daria asked of the blonde girl sitting beside her in the car.
"Well," said Jen, "because your parents don't have the time to drive you around, Jane isn't anywhere close to getting her license, I'm practicing and touring with the Spiral all summer, you can't drive well with your glasses, and your mom's willing to fork out a good deal of cash for you to have these contacts that don't irritate your eyes." She smiled at Daria. "Plus, both Jane and I think you look really hot without your glasses."
Daria blushed. "That's the thing. I've always been the kind of person who's dressed to make it obvious I don't want to be valued by my looks. What kind of a hypocrite does that make me?"
Jen gently took Daria's shoulders and turned her to face her. "Look, Daria, we know this. How could we be this close and not? Just like you know that you could shave your head, cover it with shoe polish, and we would still think that you were beautiful. But, yeah, we think you look better without the glasses. And you're not getting them for the look, but to be able to drive. The rest is just a bonus. So you're going to sit in the chair, answer their questions truthfully, and wear your contacts so that you can look even more beautiful for us. Is that clear?"
"I hate you."
"I love you, too," Jen said as she went around the SUV to help Daria get up and on her crutches, then kissed her. "And so does Jane."
From the inside of the SUV, Helen hid a wide grin with her hand.
Jane stood on her crutches, waiting with Jake and Helen as another girl on crutches opened the door to the Driver's license office, and began making her way over to them, her head down and her mouth in a thin line. As the girl came close, Jane put what was in her hand in her pocket, and patted Daria's shoulder. "Didn't make it, huh? Don't worry, we'll get'em next time."
At the pat, Daria raised her head, and with her Mona Lisa smile, said, "I made it. Granted, the reviewer said that he hoped never to be with me when I tried parallel parking again, but I passed!" This was accompanied by a wide smile, made wider when Jane hopped over and hugged her tightly enough that Helen and Jake had to grab at them to make sure that they didn't fall.
When they broke the embrace, Jane fished in her pocket again, while saying, "All right, license girl, why don't you try that out by driving us home?"
"Oh, now I'm a chauffeur, Lane?" Daria asked with her eyebrow raised. "Oh, well, if I must..." she said as she made her way back to the Morgendorffer SUV. "Say, Mom, how did you make it here?"
"Hey, Daria," Jane called from a few cars down, next to a late-model green SUV, "over here." She held out a set of keys in her hand.
Daria was shocked. She wavered back and forth on her crutches for a moment. "Mom? Dad?"
Helen smiled. "When it became clear that you were going to pass, Jane and Jen put up most of the money they'd made tutoring, and we matched it, and we got this." She waved at the late-model SUV. "This way, we don't have to dance around figuring who is driving what." She put her hands on Daria's shoulders. "You are responsible for gas, maintenance, and insurance, although for right now, you're on our insurance." She squeezed Daria's shoulders. "Congratulations."
"Thanks, Mom," Daria said, softly. She then turned and made her way over to Jane, who was holding the keys in her hands. "Hand'em over."
Jane let them drop, then said, "I'm supposed to navigate, and make sure you don't make any wrong turns on your way home."
"And why would they care?"
"Oh, a little matter of Jen, a case of Ultra-Cola, and a cake being there, I suppose."
Daria sighed. "I hate you."
Daria was just walking to her SUV from her last tutoring session of the week, when she heard a familiar voice behind her. "AH! Ms. MORgendorffer!"
She brought her leg and crutches to an abrupt halt, turned around, and said, "Hi, Mr. DeMartino."
"If I could TROUBLE you for a few minutes of your TIME?" he said, gesturing toward his room, where they both went. Offering her his chair, he sat in one of the student's desks.
When they were settled, Mr. DeMartino started talking in an even tone, quite unlike his usual demeanor. "Contacts suit you well, Ms. Morgendorffer,"
"Daria, please, if we're going to be so informal," Daria said, with a slight smirk.
"Daria, then. First, I'd like to congratulate you on bringing Kevin and Brittany up to speed. That is not a task I would have wished on my worst enemy. How did you do it?"
"It wasn't easy. I think that I wasted a week trying to get things past them, until I realized something - they were both good at doing things that used everything I wanted to teach them. It's like someone said, pitchers apply calculus at an intuitive level." Daria rested her hands on her good knee. "They had been taught at some time that either they were stupid, or that being smart was 'uncool.' So they don't respond well to regular teaching methods. But they both knew that they had
to pass. I just took a chance and, for Kevin, put everything in the frame of football. Everything. Math, History, even English. And he learned - enough to pass. He'll never be a big brain, but I think I might have given him the tools to get by."
"Well done. It's not something that would have occurred to me, and frankly, not something I could have implemented in any case - it would just confuse my twenty-nine other students." He looked down, then back up at Daria. "But that's not the real reason I asked to speak with you."
Daria's eyes narrowed. "Then what is?"
"I wanted to be sure that you understood the repercussions of your actions last year."
Her eyes narrowed. "Listen, if you don't -"she began to say when he held his hand up.
"I am not criticizing your actions at that time. Besides the fact that I was not there to see, I happen to agree with your mother when she gave her testimony - this school has needed a housecleaning for the last several years." He looked into her eyes. "But, justified or not, the actions of you and your partners have let loose a hornet's nest in this school."
"Yeah, tell me about it," said Daria, looking down at her knee, still recovering from the surgery that only gave her an 80% chance of walking without pain again.
"Just don't make the mistake of thinking that's the end of it," Mr DeMartino admonished. "There are still members of the sports teams, not many, but a few, who will be coming back, whether this year or next. Most of them will be gunning for you. Ms. Li is a toss-up. She has lost almost all of her power, but she is focused on you three as the reason that she did. Fortunately, between the fact that she has no more markers to call in, the massive drop in funding through the sports teams, the equally massive cost of getting most students through this with their use of tutors, and having to replace, train, and monitor well over half of the total faculty, she'll be too busy to interfere with you unless you deliberately put a target right in front of her.
"The new teachers will be a mixed bag. They'll all know that they have you to thank for their jobs, but they'll also know how you made those jobs vacant. They'll be wary." He put his hands on the desk. "But I'm sure that you've taken all of that into account."
Daria nodded. "Except for the new teachers. I was pinning them as more neutral, but I see your point."
"The issue that I believe you haven't thought about, is the fact that many of the students that have been forced to leave our fine institution, have friends, family, or both, still going here." He saw her eyebrows rise, and nodded. "And unless you're far more Machiavellian than you have any cause to be, you would have no reason to keep track of all of that information. I certainly don't have it. And so you can expect to get blindsided sometime this year."
Daria shook her head. "Damn it, all I want to do is to protect my girlfriends and stay ethically sound. Why can't they just leave us alone?" She held up her hand. "Rhetorical question." She looked up at him. "Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. DeMartino," she said as she struggled to get onto her crutches.
"Any time, Ms. MorganDORFFER!"
The girls were cuddled up on their bed, late one Saturday morning, reading their new class schedules. "So Ruiz took over from O'Neill in English," Jen said. "Who got Barch's Science course?"
"Someone named...Christopher G. Dawson. Says here, he's from Hawaii." Daria smiled. "Maybe a surfer dude?"
"Yo, dude, you put the Hydrochloric..." Jane collapsed into giggles. "How about Econ?"
"Lou G. Johnson, from Milwaukee."
"You think he'll have a beer gut and a cheesehead?" snarked Jen.
"The men's coach is Christopher N. Smith, he's from Virginia, and the women's coach is Teresa D. Durgin, she's from Florida. One good thing about this," Daria lightly patted her knee, "I'm excused from PE at least the next year."
As they parked in the student lot, Jen said, "Well, at least we got our classes together." She and Jane went around to hold the door for Daria, while Quinn headed off to see her classmates. They slowly made their way inside, and were about to head to their first class when Daria said, "Hold it, bathroom break." So they went in, and she used the facilities. Coming out of the stall, she saw Jodie, with her arms crossed in front of her, leaning against the wall.
"Hey," said Jane, who was leaning against the stalls along with Jen. "I get that you two need to have this out. Yell all you want, but nothing physical, all right?" They both nodded.
"Look, Landon, I can see how we may have made your life harder -" Daria began, only to be cut off by Jodie.
"Make my life harder! HAH! Damn it, Daria, don't you ever think of anyone but yourself and your precious ethics? Not only do you arrange through one way or another for more than half the competent people in the school to leave the school, not only are you the reason that the only person keeping me sane had to leave the school, but because of your mom's lawsuits and the districts need to tutor people over the summer, there isn't any extra money around, and Li keeps expecting me to pull a rabbit out of my ass and find some!"
Daria rested on her crutches. "Are you done?"
"For now. I reserve the right to blow up later."
"All right." Daria looked at Jodie with narrowed eyes. "Here's my answer to all of that. It's not us. Newsflash: we weren't the ones that started giving all of these byes to athletes. That was Gibson, Morris, Li and the rest. The most we did was record things to protect ourselves, and we wouldn't have done that if Morris hadn't started her blackmail scheme.
"I'm sorry that Mack isn't around to help you, but he dug his own grave, lay down in it, and pulled the first few shovels of dirt in after him. He whined about not being able to get a scholarship. I'm sorry, but if he was that good, which he may have been, he'd load up on student loans, walk on, and earn a scholarship on campus. Or, hell, just have the coach, or his dad, call a scout to look at him as a senior, even though the team wasn't doing so well. But he decided to blame Jane, and we know how well that worked out.
"And the money? Are you really complaining about that, Jodie Landon
?" Daria's glare looked as if it would turn Jodie into ash. "Have you noticed that I'm still on crutches three months
after your boyfriend had his gang of thugs beat me down because they were actually going to have to earn their grades? I'm still on them because I had to have reconstructive surgery, and even with it, it's a coin toss as to whether I'll ever walk unaided again? So you're complaining that mom got the school district and the families of the boys who were there to chip in on the cost of that? Or were you complaining about the money that I took this summer to help make sure that as many people as possible, including football players
, passed to the next grade? Money that I didn't ask for, that was offered to me?"
Daria closed her eyes, took a couple of deep breaths, and opened them. "I want to ask you two questions, Jodie. Looking back at the track team incident, can you really see myself, Jen, and Jane acting substantially differently?"
Jodie slowly shook her head. "I didn't know all the facts then. But knowing them now? I could almost tell you word for word what you'd do. Anyone who paid any attention to you at all, would." She let out her breath. "Which puts the ball in their court, since you were reacting almost the entire time." She looked down. "Damn it, Mack! I thought you were better than this!"
"I did, too." Jodie looked up to see Daria's hand pat her shoulder. "It surprised the heck out of me to see him with the gang." She squeezed Jodie's shoulder. "And now for my second question. I'm sure that I've made mistakes, probably even bad ones, through this mess. Can you accept that I didn't mean to make them, and that," she looked down at her injured knee, "I've paid the price for making them?"
"I guess." Jodie suddenly walked the few steps to Daria, ignoring the suddenly whispering other girls, and enveloped her in a hug. "I'm sorry, Daria. I was so wrapped up in what was happening to me, that I didn't see what was happening to you." She held Daria at arm's length. "You got contacts, didn't you?"
Daria blushed and pointed her thumb at the still-whispering Jane and Jen. "My girlfriends pointed out that, in addition to being able to drive more easily, they both think I look hotter without glasses."
Jodie grinned and held her arms up. "Then I'd best keep my hands off of their woman."
Jane grinned crookedly and said, "Damned right!" and they all laughed.
As they were making their way out of the bathroom, Jen said, "You know, Jodie, you say a lot of your problems are because of money, and how Ms. Li misappropriates it?" Jodie nodded. "Well, Jane and I were talking, and we wondered if..." she continued as they walked toward their first class.