: Daria is owned by Glenn Eichler and other people who are not me. Buffy and friends are the property of Joss Whedon, et al. No infringement intended, making no money. A/N
: A continuation of Little Runaway
. Note that in this 'verse, the Morgendorffers moved at the beginning of summer, rather than the end, as in canon. Helen turned Daria around, and while hugging her tightly, alternated between sobbing and shouting, "Jake!"
Daria had an armful of mother, sobbing uncontrollably. That was all right, her eyes weren't entirely dry, themselves. When her mother started to calm down, she tried to break in, saying, "Mommy -"
But, just at that moment, Jake came crashing out the door, shouting, "Helen! What's wrong?!?" He skidded to a stop, then his eyes grew almost impossibly wide as he saw her face. "Daria?" he asked, his voice full of wonder.
Daria hung her head. "Yes, Daddy?"
Suddenly, she and her Mommy were gripped in a tight hug. "Oh, my God, oh my God, you're alive, and you're home, kiddo! Thank you Lord, I promise we didn't stop believing!" They were rocking in a hug for what seemed like days, but could only have been minutes, when Jake relaxed his grip a bit. "Kiddo, we're so glad to have you back, but where were you? How did you get here? Heck, how did you find us?"
Daria hung her head again. "It's...a long story, Daddy. How I got here? I made some friends." She motioned to the minivan, and made a "come-here" gesture. The doors opened up, and all six girls got out.
Helen wiped her eyes, and blew her nose, before saying, "Daria says that we have you to thank for her coming home. Won't you please come inside?"
As they turned, Daria asked her mother, "Mommy, so where's Quinn?"
"She's out shopping with a friend she made the other day." Helen looked at her watch. "In fact, she's due back any minute now."
"I'm glad my plan worked, then," Daria said as they all sat down in the living room.
"What plan, Daria? And where have you been, you're all skin and bones!"
"My plan to go away so that Daddy wouldn't go away." Daria hung her head. I heard Daddy saying that he didn't trust me, and that I didn't want to fit in, and you fighting, and him leaving!" Tears were streaming down Daria's face. "I was not
going to be why Daddy left us!" she said with clinched fists. She wiped the tears away angrily, and was about to go on, when the door opened, and Quinn walked in, accompanied by a girl in pigtails.
"-And the suspended skirt is so last month, Stacy, everyone who's anyone is wearing Daisy Dukes." Quinn was saying, before noticing everyone in the living room. "Hi, Mom, Hi Dad. Getting a group together to help you look for Daria?"
Daria looked up. "Um, yeah, that's what we are, Quinn."
"Hey, how did you know my - " Quinn took a couple of steps to get a closer look at the girl who had just spoken.
"Maybe this'll help," Daria said, and made eyeglass frames over her face with her fingers.
Quinn gasped. "Daria?" she asked, in a voice little louder than a whisper. "I thought you were dead!" She walked forward and embraced her sister. "So how are you here and so...fashionable?" In the middle of the hug, she said, "Why did you leave us, brainy-head?" tears coming from her eyes, as well.
"I thought I was making Daddy leave." She took a breath. "You see, when Daddy took off in his car..." she told the story of her running away, finishing up with, "...and then I saw the sign for the Welder Wildlife Foundation Park. I walked in there, found a cave to protect me, and lived, mostly off the land, but off of some things that people left out, too. That's how I kept myself clothed, and even had some things to read. I was going to stay there until I was an adult, or you found me, but then Buffy found me."
Helen turned to the small blonde. "We don't know how to thank you. If you didn't know, there's a reward posted -" She was stopped by Buffy's raised hand.
"Nannh, we were on our vacation already, no biggie. But we do want to keep in contact with Daria, to make sure that she gets better -"
The black-haired girl grumbled, "She's already two hundred percent better than she was when we found her. Ragged hair, old torn clothes..." She looked up at Helen and Jake. "I think she could use the money more, getting herself some new sets of clothes."
The redhead piped up, "Oh, and she'll need a tutor to get her up to speed if she's going to get in school at her right grade level." She blushed when everyone looked at her. "I'm Willow, by the way."
Helen raised her eyebrow. "You think that she can go through ten years of schooling in three months?"
Willow smiled. "I do. She's definitely smart enough. She's reading at a sixth or seventh grade level on most things, and others, it's high school or college. That's just a question of what she's had access to. She knows her basic math and her times tables. Everything else is memorization, and it's hit and miss. If you get her a good tutor, and she works hard at it, she should have a good chance to test in."
Helen decided that she would go through the footwork of reporting her child found the next day, and ordered a huge amount of pizza delivered. Everyone dug in, but from time to time Daria saw her mother looking at Willow and Tara with their arms around each other, her mouth in a firm line. Finally, Daria decided to ask. "Mommy, why are you looking at Willow and Tara like that?"
"Well, Daria, it's because they're acting a little...odd."
Daria thought. "You mean not like most girls?" Helen nodded. "Oh, that's easy. They're gay. Or...what's that other word? Lez...Lesbian, that's right. They act different because they are different, Mommy." She looked at Helen's face. "Is that wrong?"
Helen opened her mouth...and closed it. "Honey, it's not illegal in this state, but there may be people who would treat them badly because of who they are."
"Oh." After pondering for a moment, Daria smiled. "They've saved each other's lives, Mommy. I think they'll be able to deal with a few hip...hippo..."
"And do you know who you're attracted to, Daria?"
Daria laughed. "Mommy, I've just spent ten years away from everyone, and the last week or so, I've been busy getting here. I haven't had time to worry about it."
Helen hugged her. "That's fine, dear." She looked at her and smiled. "I just want you to realize that you're a beautiful young lady, and a lot of people are going to let you know that they're
"Will they be harder to deal with than a wolf?"
"I hope not."
"Then I can handle them, Mommy," Daria said as she snuggled into her mother's embrace.
The next day, Daria woke up where she never thought that she would again - in her bed in a room with all of her stuff. By the time she'd gotten up, her mom had already called the various agencies, and had put out an ad for a tutor on the local bulletin board. The sad part was when Buffy, Willow, and the rest had to go.
"Listen," said Buffy as they hugged just before the departure, "There are going to be some rough times. Trust that your family, even if they aren't always right, always loves you. And, Daria, we want to hear from you," she said as she dropped a cell phone and charger into Daria's hands. "We'll cover the costs on this, call as much as you need." And with a kiss on the cheek, they were off to sunny California.
When they were gone, Quinn grabbed Daria's hand. "Daria, come on up to my room."