Last Dance With Mary Jane
Another Daria fanfic by Rey Fox
NOTE: This fic is a direct follow-up to "Curse of the Misery Chick," so one would be well-advised to check it out first.
There was light in the east, but not nearly enough to convince one that the day was supposed to be starting. Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane were particularly unconvinced, but they were nevertheless dragging themselves along the street on the way to school.
"Readyforanotherdayatth...saltmines?" asked Jane.
"Mmmmhmmm...," answered Daria.
"Uh, pardon me for noticing, but you don't seem like your normal animated self this morning," said Jane, enunciating only a little more than previously.
"Jane, everyone has their off-days, even me."
"Up too late last night?"
"Something like that."
"Hmmm. Pillow lumpy?"
"Jane, if you must know, I had a bad dream."
Jane raised an eyebrow at this. Dreams were always a good subject for paintings, particularly the bad ones. "What was it like?"
"Well, not so much bad, as kinda...weird. I've been having weird dreams lately. Mostly I forget the details, but I'm worried about them."
"Wow. Have you tried interpreting them?"
"Yeah, but...I'm worried about that, too." Daria suddenly stopped walking. She drew a breath and winced slightly before going on. "Jane, we're best friends, right?"
Jane narrowed her eyes, unsure of where this may be going. "Welllll, I prefer the term "partners in crime," but yeah, best friends is all right, too."
"And part of the unwritten code of partnership-in-crime is that we can tell each other things that we wouldn't tell other people for various reasons?"
There was a pause. "Of course, Daria, secrets and all, that's part of friendship, or so I hear. Go ahead, whisper in my ear the name of the guy you have a crush on, and I promise we'll giggle like the schoolgirls we are."
Daria rolled her eyes. "Jane, please, I'm being serious."
Jane smirked. "And I'm not."
"Well, maybe for once, you should. I think it's time I told you the full story of that fateful night in Fairfield."
"Oh Daria, you're not pregnant, are you?"
"Have I started talking yet?" Jane didn't answer. "Good. Now then, as you already know, it started with me getting on the wrong bus for Mrs. Barch's field trip..." With that, Daria launched into a brief recount of that Friday *, first mentioning the party in Brittany's hotel room, then the subsequent beer bust, and her taking the heat for it.
[* Which was immortalized in "Curse of the Misery Chick" -RTF]
"And just as the proverbial excrement was hitting the fan, I went into the bathroom and ran into our good friend Rachel."
"Jodie's little sister?"
"Noooo, Rachel the kitsune who nearly sucked Trent's life from him." *
[* Which happened in "Kitsune". There is one more previous fic reference in this story, I'll let you catch it for yourself. -RTF]
"Oh, THAT Rachel. How could I forget."
Daria told about her brief talk with Rachel, and then how she was not only spared by her, but that Rachel, in the end, seemed to have had an unseen hand in quelling the angry mob against Daria.
"Screwed with Casey's mind. He had completely flip-flopped his position against me, and he seemed really out of it. And Rachel was with him when I left."
"Strange. You oughtta publish that story."
"Or I could just toss it off as a crummy internet fanfic."
"Whatever. So what does this have to do with these dreams?"
"I'm getting to that. For the last few days I've occasionally woke up in the middle of the night. The first couple times, I just forgot about it upon waking up, but I still felt uneasy and wouldn't get back to sleep for a while. I can remember it this time, fleeting images, anyway. Images of a bright red fox, with more than one tail, running through the dark forest. It was like a...a flame moving through the forest, its fur was so bright. I was following it, but not really running, more like gliding over the underbrush, not quite able to keep up. I can also remember seeing Casey a few times, really quick glimpses off to the side. He wasn't running or anything, but he was still following me, somehow, looking sad. That's all I can remember, but when I couldn't get back to sleep afterwards. There would still be little orange flames dancing around in my head, and it worries me. I'm very protective about my sleep."
Jane rubbed her chin. "That is strange, indeed. But tell me, did you say that Rachel was hugging Casey when you left?"
"Yeah, she kissed him, too."
"Well, Daria, I'm no psychiatrist, but I think maybe what's going on is that you're feeling guilty about Casey."
"Yeah. Rachel has claimed him for her victim now, and you're feeling guilty that you didn't try to save him like you did Trent."
"Jane, I couldn't have saved him, I was going home."
"You could have jumped out of the car."
"Yeah, then what? Tell Casey that he's falling victim to a succubus? Maybe I could have sicked my dog on her, but I don't have a dog, it was Mr. Oatley's dogs that I used when I saved Trent, and that was just a lucky coincidence that I found Upchuck out walking them. Besides, I told her that I wouldn't stop her from her business when I was bargaining with her in the bathroom. Casey was a jerk, and while he may not have deserved to die, I shouldn't have been obligated to go out of my way to save his life when I probably couldn't have. I can't go around saving everybody, for God's sake."
"Well, so much for your Good Samaritan standing."
Jane was taken aback. "Hey, sorry, but that's my theory! If you think you can share this story with someone else, then you can get a second opinion, or maybe find your own."
Daria sighed. Jane had hit a soft spot in Daria with her theory, but she had also just logically cornered her. It had been hard enough to confide in Jane with this story, certainly no one else could hear it.
"...No, I'm sorry," said Daria, "I didn't mean to snap at you, but this is really bugging me."
"Well, if you still need someone to talk to, I'm always here, Partner-in-Crime."
"Thanks. And incidentally, I think we're about ten minutes late to class by now."
"Hmm, what a shame. Well, let's go before they sic the dogs on us." Just then, Jane got another evil smirk. "By the way, Daria, what is it with you and jerkwad ex-Lawndale football players?"
"Oh, that's just my curse. The Curse of the Misery Chick."
After school, Daria retired to her bedroom for some therapeutic ceiling-staring. That morning, Jane had pinned down perhaps her biggest worry about her state of mind as of late. Am I really going to be forever haunted by the knowledge that I sat idly by while a fellow man was being deceived and drained of his vitality? she wondered. That would be an inconvenient amount of emotional baggage for an already dysfunctional person.
She heaved an old tennis ball at the padded wall. Even with all of her arm strength, it would only come a foot or so back in her direction as it plummetted feeblely to the floor. Why am I even having this crisis? she mused. Kitsune are the stuff of folktales, and foreign ones at that. Kitsune, vampires, bogeymen, they don't walk among us, they don't target us for their unholy hungers, they simply aren't. They're figments of deranged imaginations, manifestations of childish fears of nighttime noises. And yet, Daria had been threatened by one, and later had her reputation (what little she had, anyway) saved by the same one. Maybe she would have to write about it some day. The boundary between reality and fantasy was blurring, and that should at least be worth something, creatively.
Daria walked down to the kitchen for a snack and was interrupted by the ungodly chirping of the phone. Daria had a passing thought about how cacaphonious modern phones were, then picked up the phone and pressed the button.
"Daria, please try to answer more politely in case someone important calls," Helen said wearily on the other end, "Anyway, I'm just about done for the day, and your father and I have decided to go out to Chez Pierre tonight."
"Sounds fun. Don't insult the waiters, though."
Helen worried briefly whether Daria was speaking from experience, then continued, "There's microwave lasagna in the freezer, is Quinn there?"
"She better not be buying anything...I guess you'll be all alone then?"
"Well, be responsible, dear."
"No inviting drifters or bikers in for the night?"
"Okay. See you tonight then."
"See you later too, bye."
The sun set not long after, and a light snowfall began, evident only from the tiny flakes glowing under the halogen street-lamps. Daria was in the living room taking advantage of the larger TV and VCR to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that she had taped. She fast-forwarded through a commercial, her remote-control arm raised from her prone position on the couch while her eyelids were slowly being weighed down. Well, she thought, a little nap might not be a bad idea, and began to shift her head deeper into the side cushion. She wouldn't sleep, though.
Daria raised her head and looked over her shoulder. No one was there, or anywhere else in the room.
Wonderful, thought Daria, now I'm hearing voices.
The window, the voice half-whispered, gooo to the wiiindooow...*
Instead, Daria put the couch cushion over her head. She now knew where she had heard that voice before, and she didn't like it. Why? she thought, why did I have to get mixed up in things not of this world? What did I do?
[* 500 points to whoever can guess what movie this is from. -RTF]
Okay, thought Daria, I'll go to the window, hopefully that will silence her, and won't be the first step to my impending madness. She walked over to the big picture window in the front of the room.
Wrong way, I meant the backyard.
Daria rolled her eyes and made her way to the window facing the back yard. She looked out, and gaped.
Rachel's conversational tone was in stark contrast to the sight that Daria beheld. Sitting regally on its haunches about five feet from the window was a fox, its red-gold fur made even more magnifient by the light of a small jet of flame that perched a few inches above the fox's head, which also cast an orange pall on the snow that fell around it. Daria took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes.
Been sitting too close to the screen, eh? Rachel said in Daria's mind. Daria held her glasses out in front of her and looked quizzically at them.
Oh sure, I'm just a speck on your glasses, Daria. Just give them a good cleaning, and poof! I'll be gone.
"Shut up," Daria responded. Rachel couldn't hear her through the window, nor could she read her thoughts, but that last statement was pretty plain on her lips.
You'll have to come out here, Daria, I can't read your mind, you know.
Daria rose with a sigh and raised her index finger at Rachel in a gesture that said "Wait here a sec" as she turned away and walked towards the hall closet. Soon she was in her winter coat and standing outside the patio door breathing steam into the chilly November air.
"Come closer, I won't bite," said Rachel out loud through an open muzzle which nevertheless didn't move to shape her words.
"What do you want from me?" asked Daria in a wearily frustrated tone as she crouched a few feet away from the fox.
"What else?" she answered, "Your soooouuuulll!"
Daria smacked her hand to her forehead.
"Oh come on," said Rachel, "I was just kidding. I merely want to exchange a word or two."
"Well make it quick, I'm meeting the Easter Bunny in the front yard in five minutes."
"Oh dear," said the fox, cocking its head to one side, "I've made you question your sanity, haven't I?"
"Maybe," said Daria in a low voice.
"Well, don't worry, you're perfectly sane. Maybe more sane than most people around here."
"In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," Daria recited.
"Mind if I ask you a question first?"
"Why have you been messing with my dreams?"
Rachel laughed heartily through an open and widely grinning mouth filled with sharp little teeth. It was more than a little disconcerting. "Okay, so I put an image of myself in your head last night. I wanted you to know I was coming, I guess."
"You could have just phoned ahead, you know."
"Sorry, no opposable thumbs."
Daria smacked her forehead again. "And the last few nights as well?"
"Nope, that must have been your own mind at work."
"What about Casey? He was in that dream too."
"Ain't responsible for that, either."
"Um...I know I'm going to regret asking this, but...how is he?"
"In a coma. I think I've got all I need for a while."
Daria buried her face in her hand. "Oh god..."
"Now Daria, don't be upset. If it's any consolation, I'm sure he's very happy."
"Oh, well that's just peachy then!"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but he was the ringleader of an angry mob against you."
"No he wasn't, he was just a drunken fool! I don't know if he even meant to target me when they got busted."
"Even so, Daria, you said yourself that you wouldn't stop me."
"Oh come on, I was just bargaining. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you were threatening to kill me, before you made light of my situation and told me not to play on your sympathies."
"Well, I wasn't in a very good mood. I mean, losing Kevin earlier that week to that bimbo cheerleader really surprised me. I wouldn't have really killed you, Daria, it would have been pointless." Rachel's little flame of kitsune-bi followed her as she padded over to Daria and placed a forepaw on her knee. "I'm not going to hold a grudge anymore, Daria."
Seconds passed. "Sooo," said Daria, breaking the palpable tension, "Is this a truce?"
"Yeah. You're all right with me."
"I can't tell you how much that means to me," said Daria sarcastically.
"Then don't," said Rachel with another foxy grin. "You're a bright girl, I mean, you found me out, and you do your own thing and don't listen to all the popular people, I respect that."
"Flattery will get you everywhere, Rachel, if that is your real name."
"Yeah, as far as I'm concerned, that's my name. I'm serious, though, I don't respect that many people, I'm kind of on a higher plane." Rachel's flame began to dim slightly as she spoke. "And sometimes it can get lonely...sometimes...I wish I had a companion of some kind."
"Well, I'm afraid that my parents might get home soon, and I'm kinda cold, but I guess I'll stay if you're going to guilt-trip me."
"You can warm yourself by my fox-fire."
"I was afraid you'd say that." Daria reached her hands tentatively towards the flame. It did feel very good, and Daria wondered why that was until she realized that the whole of her hands felt the warmth, back and front, inside and out.
"Weird," said Daria, aware that Rachel was looking expectantly up at her.
"So what do you think about being my companion?" said Rachel, her voice taking on a strangely ethereal tone.
"I...uh...what do you mean?" Daria asked dumbfoundedly as the world around her began to take on an orangish firelit glow. In the center of it were Rachel's serene golden eyes.
"I mean to be like my familiar," Rachel intoned, "To leave your mundane life behind...and join me." Waves of warmth and calm were seeping through Daria's mind. Daria blinked several times as another voice, this time her own, called from the back of her head. Turn away, turn away now!
Daria turned her head slightly, and caught a glimpse of the TV in the window. The light in the room was blue and blinking slightly from the image of Mike Nelson and the 'Bots that was paused on the screen. Daria shut her eyes tight. It was enough to bring her back to the Here and Now.
"What?!" she spluttered.
"Um," Rachel stammered, as she lost her composure (Daria had fought her off sooner than she expected), "I want you to join me...as in be...like me."
"Crazy?" Rachel cocked her head again, "Who's in their backyard talking to a fox?"
"Ouch. But are you suggesting that you somehow make me into a kitsune?"
"Basically. I'm not sure if I can, but I think I may be able to bestow some of the basic abilities on you."
Daria's head spun a few revolutions. "Absolutely crazy. Completely and totally and utterly-"
"Look Daria, you're an independent person, right? Haven't you ever wanted to be out of the loop? Well here's your chance!"
"Maybe. But let me make something clear, if I may. I do not like having my mind messed with. If you pull that juju on me again, I will not hesitate in making a fur coat out of you, understand?!"
Rachel flinched a little at Daria's words, but she couldn't really say that she hadn't expected this sort of reaction. "I was really only pushing you a little bit, Daria. I could have you eating out of the palm of my...paw if I wanted to, but that wouldn't be fair. You're stronger than most, Daria, I'll give you that. And even though I was...persuading a little, because I know this proposition sounds crazy, I am still letting you have the final say."
"Well then the answer is no. My life may not be the best, but at least I know what's going on most of the time. Besides, you forget that I haven't even kissed a guy yet, let alone seduced one, so I'd rather not make a living off of that."
"Oh, seduction is easier then you think, Daria. That's not all I ever do, though. I've been known to meddle in the affairs of man in other ways."
"Wonderful. Like in the myths, I suppose." Daria paused as her mind got in gear. "You know, that brings up another important point. What's an Oriental myth doing in America, let alone Lawndale? I mean, you look Caucasian enough. In human form, that is."
Rachel's flame began to dim again as she tilted her head up and gazed into the gun-metal gray sky. After a pregnant pause, she spoke: "I wish I could answer that, Daria. The truth is, I honestly don't know. I've been on this continent for as long as I can remember, and I can't even remember back very far, really. I didn't even know my oriental nature until I started researching it. Perhaps I am the result of a union between a kitsune and an American human. Perhaps I was banished from my homeland by Inari herself for some great transgression. It's been blocked out, it seems. All I know is that I must be a mortal, because I haven't upset the natural balance in any major way."
Daria was unsure of what to say next. "Interesting story," she finally ventured.
"Or lack thereof," Rachel admitted.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Not sure yet. Hang around here, try to find some meaning. It's only been since recently that I've started to figure out how out of place I am. The events of the last month have only served to drive that point home. I suppose it's probably best that I try to puzzle out my situation on my own. You shouldn't get wrapped up in this."
Daria turned this over in her mind. "Soooo, I'm not going to be recruited?"
"Nah. It was a dumb idea to begin with. It would probably upset the natural balance in some way, I really don't know enough about these things to be sure, but I do know that the balance is important. The mundane and the spiritual, order and chaos, yin and yang, that sort of thing. I may be affecting it just by being here in Lawndale. Thanks for reminding me."
"Uhhhh, yeah, don't mention it."
Rachel gazed into the distance again, deep in thought. After another awkward pause, she spoke again. "But I mean it, you shouldn't be dragged into my problem. You seem like you have enough angst to deal with."
"You've got that right."
"So I guess I've said my peace. Now I must say good-bye."
"Wait, for what its worth, I call truce, too."
Rachel brightened. "Thank you."
"Just don't go targeting guys that I happen to like."
"No problem, Daria," said Rachel with a smirk.
"Hope things come together for you. Good-bye, I guess."
"So long, Daria!" With that, Rachel suddenly sprang up and unleashed a couple playful licks on Daria's left cheek.
"Ack!" exclaimed Daria, rubbing at her face with her sleeve.
"Sorry, couldn't resist. Just wanted to leave you something to remember me by."
"Well it's coming off as soon as I hit the bathroom."
"Whatever you say," said Rachel with a snicker, "Farewell!" With that, Rachel turned and sprang out of Daria's backyard, extinguishing her kitsune-bi as she went. Indeed, Rachel herself seemed not so much to run and hop the fence as flicker and die out while in motion. Daria watched where she had been until she heard the noise of a familiar car motor.
Daria headed back inside, shedding her winter coat and hiding it behind one side of the couch until Jake and Helen could pass through. Maybe my life isn't so bad, thought Daria, at least my existence doesn't contradict the general idea of reality. I'll have to tell Jane about that; she'd probably be proud of me.
Not too long after, Daria slid under the covers of the bed in her rubber-walled sanctuary. Of course, she thought, Jane will probably be disappointed that I can't remember much of my dream by now. And I think I'll be sleeping easier tonight.
la la LA la la...
Well, after a few weeks of writing it, then putting it down for a month, then letting people see it from the message board, then taking it down again, then writing a new version of the story from a different angle, then discarding that and reinstating this version with a few changes, "Last Dance With Mary Jane" is finally up for general reading. It's not really a complete story, it's fairly short, the premise is a tad ridiculous, but I guess that's how it goes sometimes. I had to get this story out of my head.
I hope that in this fic I have done the kitsune more justice than I did in "Kitsune." This was my main intent in "Curse", although I think that fic stood well enough on it's own aside from Rachel's surprise appearance. By the way, if you have time, check out Foxtrot's Collection of Kitsune Lore for more than you'll ever want or need to know about this topic.
As for Rachel, I'm really retiring her this time. At least from my Daria fics, anyway. Of course, now that she's my character, she'll likely pop up in some other writings down the road, although she may be a bit retooled for whatever my purposes may be.
As for the supernatural slant of most of my fanfics, well, I think I may write a "keep it real" fanfic next, then…well, stay tuned, you may be surprised at what develops. ;)
If anyone's still wondering about the title, "Mary Jane" is a term that refers to any character made up by a fanfic writer to further his/her story. This is my interpretation anyway. Many fanfic readers hate authors that bend the universes of their beloved shows around these characters. If any of those people are reading now, then nanny nanny boo boo to them.
Special big tip o' the hat goes to Diane Long, who's feedback was instrumental to this fic being finished, even though I think I didn't use a lot of her advice… ;)
Please send all questions, comments, blah blah blah, and etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org thank you. I want to know if all this effort was worth it. After all, I only got two replies to my original post on Martin J.'s message board.