A Stranger in Lawndale
a multi-part story by Belle Book

Disclaimer: Daria Morgendoffer, her family and the rest of the regular Lawndale crew are the property of Glenn Eichler and MTV. There's a character who doesn't appear but is mentioned, and she's the property of Rey Fox. All other characters are of my creation.

I first got the idea for this story while reading Rey Fox's four stories on a kitsune named Rachel. We don't really know much about her. Sure, we know that she's a fox, that she takes the form of a beautiful young woman and that she tends to seduce men and drain them of their life-force. We also know that she tried to do that to Trent Lane but Daria stopped her, that Rachel later failed to seduce Kevin, and that she was successful in draining a guy called Casey of his life-force in Rey Fox's story "Curse of the Misery Chick." And finally thanks to "Last Dance With Mary Jane," we learned that Rachel apparently only remembers her time in North America but isn't sure how she got there -- and her memory doesn't go very far back. That's when I got the idea in my head to flesh out a little bit of Rachel's backstory -- by inventing a new character, a brother that she either didn't remember or just didn't mention to Daria. And from there, things just took off, with me giving him a reason for coming to Lawndale and from there, an actual romance with one of the characters. And now I've decided to write the story of Rachel's brother and his adventures in Lawndale.

Some geographical notes: I put Lawndale about a half-hour west of Baltimore, not far from Ellicott City. The town Rey Fox mentioned, Fairfield, would be near Cumberland, Maryland. Fremont would be around Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

The story takes place a couple days after "Is It College Yet?" ends. Also, I'm placing the events of Rey Fox's Kitsune stories during the third season, with the story "Last Dance With Mary Jane" taking place shortly before the events of "Jane's Addition". Here's the first part of "A Stranger in Lawndale":

Part 1: The Arrival

It was about 10:30 am and the morning sun shone over the trees in Hargrove's woods and into the Hargrove's Woods apartment complex nearby. Sunlight shone through the trees and illuminated a small clearing. The clearing was deserted except for what appeared to be a man lying on his stomach, his head turned to his right.

It was a young man who looked to be about 20. He was tall and slim, with very red hair which the sun shone on, revealing golden highlights. He was wearing an emerald-green short-sleeved shirt which revealed lightly-muscled arms, and black pants. And despite the fact that his eyes were currently closed, his face was gorgeous. The face had a pleasing oval shape to it, a very fair complexion with a hint of an ivory sheen at his cheekbones, a slightly upturned nose, eyes that were hidden by long lashes and set wide on either side of the nose, and finally a finely-drawn, warm-looking mouth.

For awhile, this young man looked like he might actually be dead. But then, he opened eyes that turned out to be strangely golden-brown. The young man groaned slightly as he got up and looked around at his surroundings -- and at his clothes, which were a little dirty on the front. His name was Derek.

Good thing I decided not to head to the apartment I'm going to rent after I transformed, but decided to sleep instead. Actually shapeshifting takes a lot of energy and it clearly wore me out, Derek thought as he looked up at the sun. It was later than he expected and he had a lot of work to do. Fortunately, after transforming he had decided to sleep right there, so he was refreshed. True, he'd have to change his shirt and pants -- or at least use his magic to take off the stains -- but that took less energy.

But first, it was time to check into the apartment that he was going to rent. Unfortunately, it was going to be empty, so he was going to have to get furniture. And he was going to have to get a car, as well as have the apartment painted, and all that took money. During the transformation process, he created enough money to pay the first rent, but he'd have to open a checking account and savings account in Lawndale and then withdraw money to pay for all of it. Luckily, he had created checking and saving accounts in the town he'd lived in for a time before moving to Lawndale. He could transfer the accounts to the bank here as well.

Derek got up carefully and was relieved to discover that he wasn't woozy. Definitely a good idea to sleep in the woods instead of trying to get to the apartment. He remembered learning how his sister, Rachel, had shapeshifted when she was in Lawndale but instead of sleeping in the woods after the transformation was complete, she walked through the woods until she reached the road and then targeted the first person to come along -- who happened to be a guy named Trent Lane. (1) A real bad move. Then again, she hadn't planned on spending a long time in Lawndale. Derek was.

Derek and Rachel were kitsune, foxes that possessed superior intelligence and magical powers. First and foremost was the ability to shapeshift. Other powers that kitsune had were the ability to possess humans, create fox-fire, willfully manifest themselves into the dreams of others, and to create illusions so elaborate that they were almost indistinguishable from reality. Derek had some of these abilities, though he wasn't quite strong enough to willfully manifest himself into the dreams of others as even though he was almost 400 years old, that was young for a kitsune. His most common skill was the ability to increase his height while retaining his fox appearance and create the illusion of a human that was almost indistinguishable from reality. It took less energy than actually shapeshifting. He only shapeshifted if there was a total bitch whom he could seduce so he could feed on her life -- and that was rare.

But that was before last year. Before he and Rachel had finally crossed paths after their mother sent them on their separate ways so many years ago. That was when she'd told him about her time in Lawndale. Before this point, although Derek had been thinking about finding a mate, he had wanted to explore his roots and then knew he needed to choose between his roots in Japan or America, his birthplace. And after he decided to return to America, he was trying to find his sister. Now he'd found his sister -- and he now sensed that it was time to look for his possible mate. In Lawndale.

That's why he was really in Lawndale. He wanted a permanent mate, and he felt that she was here in this town. However, unless his future mate was a kitsune, the odds were pretty great that he'd have to turn the girl or woman into a kitsune herself because for some reason, male kitsune couldn't get children from human women. And turning someone into a kitsune took even more energy -- which was the reason why he had shapeshifted this time. He felt that he needed at least a year's time to find his potential mate. And he didn't want to disrupt things anymore than necessary with his magic. So he was renting an apartment, getting a car, and opening checking and savings accounts the human way.

Derek was thinking over all of this as he walked carefully through the woods to the apartment complex. Soon, he was in an office in the main building, agreeing to the conditions given out by the landlord and getting the key to his apartment, along with other keys. He paid the first month's rent, and then went to check the apartment.

The apartment was a one-bedroom apartment on the eastern edge of the apartment complex -- overlooking the woods. It was actually something of a relief for Derek to find that he was going to be looking over the woods. The apartment was of average size for one-bedroom apartments, with a combined living room and dining room, a kitchen off to the side, a bathroom, and a bedroom. Although the only furnishings in the apartment were in the bathroom and the kitchen, it would do -- and it would do even more when he got a bed, a dining table, a sofa, a coffee table, and a dresser for the bedroom.

So much for the apartment. Now it was time to get checking and savings accounts opened before he could do anything else. It was time to leave.

Trent had driven to the 9-5 store for some coffee. Mystik Spiral was going to have a practice session in the Zon this morning, and they'd need the coffee in order to focus. Trent certainly knew he'd need the coffee, since he was prone to falling asleep at just about anytime. Now that he had the coffee, he was driving back to Dega Street and the Zon with four cups of coffee. He hoped he didn't spill it on the way.

He had to pass by Hargrove's Woods and the apartment complex on the way to and from the 9-5. As he was approaching the entrance to the apartment complex, he saw a young man coming out and looking towards the road. Then the young man seemed to spot Trent's car, for he was waving towards it. For an instant, Trent hesitated. He didn't want to pick up any more hitchikers -- not after the last time he picked up one. Of course, that was the girl Rachel, not a guy. Still, this guy looked harmless enough, so he stopped and rolled down the window when he reached the young man.

"Hi," said the young man. He had a melodic, pleasing voice and a slight accent which Trent couldn't quite place. "I'm sorry to bother you, but could you take me to the bank and then to the nearest car dealership? My car broke down last night shortly after I arrived and I only had enough money with me to pay my rent. I need to withdraw some money before going to the car dealership and getting a new car."

Trent hesitated for an instant, but then decided that the guy wasn't going to hurt him. "Sure," he said. "You don't look like you're going to hurt me. Hop right in."

"Thanks," said the young man as he opened the door and got inside. Up close, Trent already felt a slight twinge of envy. The guy was extremely attractive, with short red hair, golden-brown eyes, and a face that a guy would kill to have. Then he frowned. Golden-brown eyes? He remembered Rachel, with her long red hair like a copper river -- and this young man's hair was also coppery-red -- and golden-brown eyes that looked a lot like this young man's eyes.

But before Trent could really focus on his concerns, the young man introduced himself. "I'm Derek Powell. I'm glad you're willing to help me out," he said.

"I'm Trent Lane," said Trent. "By the way, do you have any sisters or brothers?"

"One sister," said Derek. "Her name's Rachel. Why do you ask?"

"I knew a girl named Rachel," said Trent. "I was totally smitten with her. She was a real knockout! But she was just using me. You look a little like her."

"Unfortunately, I think that is my sister," Derek admitted, frowning. "She spent some time in Lawndale and told me about it last year. That's why I'm here. But don't worry -- I'm not really like her. I'm more of a one-girl guy than a guy who uses and then dumps women."

Trent sighed in relief. "I'm glad about that. Anyway, I'll take you to the bank and then to the car dealership strip, but then I have to head on over to Dega Street. I'm in a band and we've got a practice session -- and I have a lot of coffee that we need to drink while it's still hot."

It didn't take long for Trent to arrive at the bank. He waited for a few minutes while Derek went inside, then took Derek to the car dealership strip, where he dropped Derek off before heading on his way. The Zon awaited -- and so did a session with Mystik Spiral.

By 11:30 am, Derek was seated in the food court in the Lawndale Mall, which was apparently known as Cranberry Commons until a couple of years ago, when the name was officially changed to the Lawndale Mall, eating a good meal for brunch. He hadn't had anything to eat until now, so he needed the food.

It had been a fairly busy day for him. He'd gotten all his stuff taken care off. First, he'd had his checking and savings accounts opened and transferred to the local bank. Once he'd done that, he'd withdrawn a lot of money -- more than just for the car, but also to pay for the arrival of furniture and for the painters who would pay for the apartment. Then Trent had taken him to the car dealership strip, where he found a slightly-used car (about four years old) which was in very good shape. He paid for the money, then found out who were the painters and called them, asking them to paint his apartment right away. He'd pay them once they finished.

Before he'd left his last location, he'd enrolled in Lawndale State University for at least a year. The college was a good location to find the person who might be his potential partner. But so was the mall. And he didn't need to go to the local university just yet, or withdraw any more money to pay for tuition. Also, he'd learned that there were places in the mall where he could buy the furniture he'd need. So he went to the mall after buying the car.

Once there, he realized that he was very hungry. So, he went to the food court and got himself some eggs over easy, a big piece of ham, two pieces of toast, bacon, orange juice and milk. Then he went to a table where he could eat in piece. It wasn't until he put the first piece of ham in his mouth that he realized exactly how hungry he was. He had to keep himself from gobbling down the food in his hunger. It took an effort, but he did it.

Now it was time to look for good furniture, good appliances for the kitchen, bedding and quilts, and personal care items. So it was time to go shopping.

Derek's first stop was a big store which held the necessary furnishings. Within a half-hour, he had found a dresser, a bed, a mattress, a sofa and a coffee table. He paid for them with instructions to have a moving van take the stuff and bring them to his apartment. Now it was time to find appliances for the kitchen, personal care items, and bedding and quilts for his bed. Luckily, the bedding and quilts were in the same store, and there was a nearby store where he could find the appliances he needed, so he bought the stuff he needed as well.

The last thing he needed to do was to find the store where they sold personal care items such as shampoo, cologne and underarm deodorant. He geot directions to the store and headed back towards the food court, since the personal care items store was at the other end. But as he neared the food court, he heard a very low voice -- surprisingly low for what he thought was a female voice.

"So, Stacy, I'm glad you found the time to come to the mall," he heard the female say. Derek looked and found four girls heading in his direction. One of them spoke, and it turned out to be the one who had spoken earlier. The speaker was a teenaged girl, presumably about 17, with dark brown hair, and dark eyes. She wore a blue short-sleeved shirt and maroon pants.

"At least you haven't forgotten your friends, what with your therapy and all," the girl said. She had a rather nasty expression on her face. Derek's instincts instantly told him, This is the bitch. He was all too familiar with the type -- he'd used many girls like her often enough. But if the bitchiness factor made her a good target to seduce so he could drain her energy from her, it disqualified her from being a good potential partner.

"I need the therapy, Sandi," said a second girl. This was presumably Stacy. Derek turned to look at her -- and immediately something inside him became alert. The girl was also about 17, and she had long brown hair tied in either braids or pigtails, brown eyes, and a really nice, sweet expression on her face. She wore a dark blue jacket, a yellow shirt, gray pants and sandals. She was prettier than Sandi, and he liked her already.

Stacy continued, "It's been doing me a lot of good. I've not only learned how to stand up for myself, but I've learned why I became such a doormat in the first place. Of course, it's going to take a lot of work to undo the damage from years of being pushed around."

"Why were you such a doormat?" The instant those words were said, Derek realized that he had said them. Well, he might as well approach -- and apologize.

Stacy was surprised to hear a man's voice ask her the question. She turned to face the speaker -- and her heart almost stopped.

Approaching her and her friends was the most gorgeous guy she'd ever seen. He was tall and slim, with coppery red hair, golden brown eyes, and a face that was simply too beautiful to be described as just handsome. Indeed, his whole appearance was too beautiful to be described as merely handsome. And his voice was so warm and resonant -- in fact, it was almost bewitching. She knew there would be a mini-war between all of them as to who would catch this heartthrob. She'd put her money on Quinn, personally.

The young man stopped right in front of her and smiled warmly. Stacy felt like she was about to melt in the warmth of his smile. The young man then looked a little apologetic as he said, "Sorry about that. I was just curious why you were a doormat. I'm Derek Powell."

"I'm Stacy Rowe," Stacy said as she extended her hand. Derek then extended his own hand and took hers in his own. Immediately, she felt an electric charge sizzle through her as their eyes met. Time seemed to stand still for her as she felt herself being lost in those warm, golden brown eyes. And she had the funny feeling that Derek was feeling something quite similar.

She thought she heard someone coughing, but it was so distant that it barely penetrated the trance-like state she found herself in -- a state she wished would never end. Then suddenly Sandi's voice yelled, "HEY! DID YOU HEAR ME?"

That low and all-too-familiar voice slammed her out of the trance-like state like a sledgehammer. She blushed as she realized she'd been staring at Derek for way too long. Derek also looked a little embarrassed to be caught in a similar position as he withdrew his hand, allowing her to drop hers.

"I guess I'd better introduce you to the others," Stacy said. She then turned to Sandi. "This is Sandi Griffin," she said, smiling as Sandi stepped forward.

"Nice to meet you, Sandi," said Derek. "I'm Derek Powell." He shook Sandi's hand briefly, then dropped it, much to Sandi's chagrin. Quinn immediately stepped forward. She looked like she wanted to meet Derek, and Stacy couldn't blame her for that. "This is Quinn Morgendoffer," said Stacy.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Quinn," said Derek, smiling at her as he held out his hand. Quinn took it eagerly as she said, "I agree, Derek!" Derek's smile faded a little bit, but then returned as he shook her hand firmly, then gently withdrew it. Quinn frowned a little, but stepped back as Tiffany stepped forward. "And this is Tiffany Blum-Deckler," Stacy concluded.

"Blum-Deckler?" Derek asked, looking confused. "Is your mother from China or Japan, Tiffany?"

"Uh -- nei-ther," said Tiffany in her usual (at least, since her sophmore year) glacially slow voice. "I - am - a-dop-ted," Tiffany continued. Derek looked a little irritated now, and Stacy didn't think she could blame him, since Tiffany's speech was so slow. She probably should explain to him about the last name.

"The Blum-Decklers are a Jewish couple. They adopted Tiffany when she was a baby," Stacy explained. "I don't know who her parents are, but it's possible Ms. Li -- she's the high-school principal -- that she could be Tiffany's biological mother."

"Ah, I see," Derek said. "Anyway, as I asked, how did you become such a doormat? And are you one anymore?"

"Not so much anymore, but I still have some problems with being assertive," said Stacy. "As for why I became such a doormat -- my mother keeps telling me how dumb I am, that the only thing I have going for me is my looks, that I'm so stupid and I'll never amount to anything."

Derek looked really angry when he heard that. "What is wrong with her?" he asked. "I don't know you well enough to know how smart you really are, but from what I've seen, I doubt you're stupid!"

"I'll tell you soon enough, but right now, my friends and I are going to have lunch before heading over to Cashman's," said Stacy. "Would you like to join us?"

"I'd love to, but I just had brunch a half-hour ago," said Derek. "I just arrived last night and my car broke down right after I did so. I've been pretty busy since this morning getting furnishings for my apartment as well as a car -- and I didn't have anything for breakfast, so I had to have a brunch. Now I just need to get some personal care stuff for myself. However, I'll meet you in the food court right afterwards."

"Thanks," said Stacy. "I think we'll all be looking forward to it." She knew that she would, as the four girls parted from Derek.

On the way to the food court, Quinn said, "I think that guy likes you, Stacy. I mean, he really likes you."

"Is that true?" asked Stacy. "You're the cutest one out of all of us."

"Yeah, but he wasn't looking at me the way he was looking at you," Quinn pointed out. "And he wasn't holding my hand as long as he held yours."

Stacy had to agree with Quinn that Derek didn't hold Quinn's hand as long as he held Stacy's. But most of the time the guys were flocking around Quinn and ignoring Sandi, Stacy or Tiffany. It would be amazing if this gorgeous guy was more interested in her than in Quinn.

But stranger things have happened. And if Quinn was right about Derek -- it would be more than just strange to have Derek be interested in Stacy.

It would be amazing.

Derek walked to the personal care products store to get some stuff like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and above all, cologne. Whether he merely made himself look like a human being or actually shapeshifted, he couldn't lose his normal scent. Another animal would pick up on it right away -- especially a dog. That's how Daria got rid of Rachel before she could finish Trent off -- Daria somehow siced some dogs on Rachel. (1) But using a lot of cologne would mask his scent. He didn't want to use too much, however -- just enough to fool animals.

As he went inside and looked around, he reflected on the girls he'd just met. First, he thought of Tiffany. He'd never heard a girl speak so slowly as Tiffany just did, and quite frankly, that was really annoying! Was she on some kind of drugs or medication? That was certainly possible.

Then came Sandi. He winced a little as he remembered her voice punching through his transfixed state when he had taken Stacy's hand. She was a bitch all right. And definitely not the one for him.

Next up was Quinn. Derek liked her a little. She certainly was cute -- the cutest out of all of them, in fact. And he thought there might be some depth to her though he wasn't quite sure why he thought so. Maybe it was intuition. There were just three problems. The first one was her voice. It was a little too perky for his taste. He wasn't too fond of voices like Quinn's. The second -- and bigger -- one was that he had seen Stacy first. And the third one -- which was just about as big as the second -- was that this was probably Daria's sister, and flirting with Daria's sister was the last thing he wanted to do. He didn't really want Daria going after him the way she went after his sister. Still, if he'd been madly in love with Quinn, he would've risked Daria's involvement. But he wasn't.

And now, he could think about Stacy. From his brief conversation with her, she was as sweet as her expression had indicated. She also seemed to be struggling with insecurity issues, no thanks to her mother. It sounded like Stacy's mom was emotionally abusing her. He wondered why Stacy's mom treated Stacy like that. Was Stacy really as stupid as her mother said? Or did the mother have other reasons for treating Stacy so badly? More likely it was the latter. He didn't think Stacy was as stupid as her mother apparently said she was, although she probably wasn't as smart as Daria. Maybe she had average intelligence or slightly above but was just crippled by insecurity. Yeah, that was probably it.

Derek was really attracted to Stacy. The only problem was -- she was 17. And he was almost 400 years old, even if he looked like he was just 20. But even if he was 20 years old, it still made him an adult -- over 18. And in some states, if you were under 18 you might be charged with statutory rape even if the younger person was willing. Still, he could wait until she was 18 before making love to Stacy. And Maryland's age of consent might be 16 or 17, not 18. If that was the case, then he wouldn't have to worry. Still, it was worth checking out. And in any case, he had plenty of time. He wasn't going to make love to Stacy -- or anyone else -- right away.

Derek got all his stuff and went to the cash register to pay for them. Once done, he headed back to the food court. It was time to get to know Stacy a little better.

1. The plot of Rey Fox's fanfic "Kitsune."

To be continued...