InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Bastard ( Chapter 21 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Twenty-One~~
~Bastard~


-OoOoO oOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Take a photograph ...
'It'll be the last ...
'Not a dollar or a crowd ...
'Could ever keep me here ...'

-'Rain' by Breaking Benjamin.

-Valerie-


Valeri e didn't know how long she sat in that room all by herself after Zel had left her there.  Struggling to get her tears under control, she covered her face with her hands, hating everything about him, about Marvin, about the entire night—but about herself the most.

The headache she'd been fighting all night was back with a vengeance, and she wanted to go home, wanted to be alone, wanted not to think about anything.  She wanted to forget . . . She just wanted to forget.

Drying her eyes with the back of her shaking hands, she cast a despondent eye around the room and spotted a utility sink near the door.  At least something was working for her . . .

She rinsed her face with water, uncaring whether or not she'd mussed her makeup.  There was a small mirror above the sink, but, given the circumstances, she just didn't feel like messing with it.  Drawing a few steadying breaths, she fished a tissue out of a box on the small table and dabbed at her face.

How ironic was it, really?  She didn't look like she'd been crying—at least, that's what she told herself.  Taking a moment to smooth her dress, she squared her shoulders and wondered how difficult it'd be to get out of the building without having to face anyone . . .

And she tried to skirt around the perimeter of the ballroom without drawing notice.  She figured that she could pull over a waiter and have him tell Marvin that she'd gone home.  An entirely humorless smile broke over her features, and she slowly shook her head.  She'd arrived in a taxi, hadn't she?  She could damn well take one home, too . . .

Or she could take her car and let Marvin take a taxi . . .

She sighed and shook her head.  No, she really, really didn't feel like driving . . .

She just wasn't that lucky, she supposed.  Before she could make her escape, she spotted Marvin, moving through the crowd.  He hurried over to her and smiled.  "Hey, Val!  How did it go?"

She blinked and rubbed her forehead.  Her hand was still shaking.  "Oh, uh, fine, fine," she lied.  "Marvin, I'm going to go on home."

His smile faded, only to be replaced by a late show of concern.  "But I thought we were having fun," he argued.

She shot him an incredulous look that he managed to miss completely.  "I have a headache," she told him weakly.

He glanced back at the party that was still going on strong.  "Well . . . okay . . . Let me just say goodnight and thank Gin . . ."

She grimaced.  "No, no," she said hurriedly.  "Why don't you stay?  I'll just get a taxi . . ."

His smile was back full-force.  "If you're sure . . ."

She waved a hand and tried to smile.  It felt more like a wince, but it was enough to fool him.  "It's fine," she said, realizing as the words came out that it really was.

"Okay, but maybe you should at least go thank them," he prodded.

"Why don't you do it for me?" she muttered.  Her head was pounding worse with every passing moment, and the very idea of talking to him again . . . She just couldn't do it.

He blinked and shot her a completely befuddled sort of look.

Shifting her gaze over his shoulder for a mere moment, she froze.  Though he was standing across the room from her, Zel's eyes were locked on her, his expression completely impassive.

She felt her face redden, and without another word, she turned on her heel and fled the ballroom as another wash of tears filled her eyes, clouding her gaze as she hastily retreated.

She was so intent on her escape that she didn't see where she was going, gasping quietly when she smacked against an unforgiving form.

"Oh, I'm sorry," a man's voice said as she barreled into him in the blessedly empty foyer.  He held onto her arms and gently steadied her.  "Are you . . .?" He sighed.  "Of course you aren't," he said quietly.  "Were you leaving?"

She couldn't even speak as she nodded miserably, hating herself for her deplorable lack of self-control.

"Here . . . Let me help you," he offered, leading her toward the elevator.

For some reason, the gentle compassion in his voice only served to make her feel just a little bit worse.

But she let him escort her downstairs, anyway, as she struggled to control her emotions.  She'd gotten a grip on the sobbing, but not on her tears by the time the cubicle stopped and they'd stepped out of it.  "Do you have a ride home?" he asked her.

She shook her head, dabbing at her eyes with the fine linen handkerchief he'd given her as the elevator doors closed.  "I was going to take a t-taxi," she stammered.

"All right," he said, slipping a hand under her elbow and leading her outside.

A myriad of flashbulbs disoriented her as they stepped onto walkway.  The paparazzi had not waned at all.  To her dulled surprise, the man slipped an arm around her shoulders, turning her just enough so that the cameras wouldn't get a good angle of her face, maybe, as he hurried her past the glaring cameras and reporters, who were calling out questions that she just couldn't discern.

But he said nothing as he stepped onto the curb and raised a hand, careful to keep her shielded from the press the entire time.  A passing taxi pulled to a stop, and he opened the door for her to get in.  "Take her wherever she wants to go, please," the man said, dropping a few folded bills through the window.

The cab driver picked up the money and chuckled.  "No problem, sir!" he called out.  "Where to, Miss?"

She didn't remember giving him her address though she must have.  A moment later, the man—her savior—stepped back, smacking the roof of the cab a couple times, and the cab pulled away from the curb.


-Cain-


Cain Zelig stuffed his hands into his pockets with a thoughtful frown as he watched the cab merge into traffic.  That poor woman . . . He sighed, waiting until the cab turned the corner and disappeared from view before turning around to head back inside.

It never sat well with him; women having to travel alone anywhere in the city.  It was too dangerous a place, and a woman who was already upset?  That was worse, in Cain's estimation.  He let out a deep breath as he turned to go back inside.  She'd get home all right, wouldn't she?

He ignored the reporters who called out to him; ones asking him about the 'mystery woman' he'd just seen off.  He made a habit of ignoring them, and since he'd arrived via the back entrance in an effort to avoid this sort of thing, it was more than a little nerve-wracking.

But the trip back up to the top floor didn't take long, and by the time he'd reached the foyer, he managed to brush off the unsettling feelings.  Digging his cell phone out of his pocket, he pulled up the picture that his youngest son had sent him: a smiling Gin, replete in a shimmering silver dress that was much, much slinkier than anything she would have chosen for herself, surrounded by a gaggle of besotted-looking fools who were trying to gain her attention . . .

And it wasn't surprising to find her still surrounded by those damn men, either.  He frowned and stalked toward his mate.

Her eyes flared wide as he approached, and with a happy squeal, she hurried over to meet him.  "Zelig-sensei!  You did make it!"

Cain smiled and kissed her cheek.  "I told you that I'd try," he replied.

Evan wandered over, his hands in his pockets and a strange expression on his face—anger, at least at first, but Cain could also sense an underlying anxiety that the pup was trying his best to hide.  For some reason, the woman he'd just put into the cab flashed through his head, and he had to wonder whether Evan knew her—whether Evan had something to do with her upset . . .

"I take it you got my message," Evan remarked in lieu of a proper greeting.

Cain nodded.  "Of course I did," he replied.  "Hey, Evan . . . There was a woman who just ran out of here pretty upset.  Could you make sure she gets home all right?"

A flicker of recognition lit his gaze, and the younger man shot his father an almost nervous sort of glance.  "Where'd she go?"

Cain shrugged, sure now that Evan did know something.  "I paid a taxi to take her home."

Evan nodded.  "All right."  He kissed Gin's cheek.  "Breakfast tomorrow, Mama?"

She giggled.  "Absolutely!" she said.

He forced a little smile and nodded at Cain before striding past him and out of the ballroom.

Cain watched him go and sighed, unsure what to make of the whole situation and completely unsure whether or not he really needed to know anything.  He finally sighed and shook his head, letting his gaze shift back to his wife as she giggled and slipped her arms around his waist.  "I'm so glad you came, Zelig-sensei!" she whispered.

He cocked an eyebrow and very deliberately let his gaze roam up and down her frame.  "Is that so, baby girl?"

She nodded.

Making quick work of scanning the area, he didn't miss the doors situated off to the side of the room.  Cain leaned to the side and cleared his throat.  "Gin?"

She was watching the crowd, enjoying their party and didn't notice the odd glimmer that had entered his gaze.  "Hmm?"

He chuckled.  "One."

She gasped, eyes flashing open wide.  "C-Cain!"

"Two."

"But why?" she argued.

"Do you have to ask?  Three."

"I-I think I do," she countered, glancing around nervously.

"That dress, Gin.  Four."

"But we're in public," she reminded him though her tone was quite breathless.

Cain chuckled again.  "Five."

She tried to protest for all of thirty seconds as he slipped an arm around her waist and deliberately led her off toward one of those back rooms—the closest one . . .


-Valerie-


Staring up at the building she called home, Valerie rubbed her bare arms to chase away the lingering chill that had set in when she'd stepped out of the taxi.  She'd had every intention of coming home and hiding away, nursing her bruised pride and trying to forget that she'd ever gone to that damned fundraiser, to start with.  In the end, though . . .

She just didn't want to go inside, did she?

Turning on her heel, she wandered down the street, ignoring the odd looks she garnered from passers-by.  She blinked rapidly as yet more tears clouded her vision.  Those things he'd said . . . Damn him!  He'd known well enough that she hadn't meant that.  He'd known . . .

Yet her anger wasn't convincing, either.  As though she simply didn't have the right to maintain it, it lessened despite her resolve, and as she moved along, she couldn't help but listen to his words—hurtful yet containing a certain truth, even if she wanted to ignore it . . .

She'd been unfair, yes.  Her harsh assessment of his mother deserved an equally scathing rebuttal.  But the things he'd said to her . . . The things he'd said . . .

"On second thought, I don't think I want or need your fiancé's whore . . ."

She stumbled as a fresh sheen of tears glossed over her vision.  Those words . . .

"It can't really hurt to ask him, can it?  I mean, just ask him to dance.  Anything; anything . . . just get him to talk to you, maybe."

Was . . . was that what it was?  Had Zel—Evan—been right . . .? Maybe not in whole, but in part—in theory . . .?

Stifling a low groan with the back of a shaking hand, she shook her head and kept walking.

"Hey, sister.  Can you spare a dime?"

She didn't respond to the bum hunkered in the filmy shadows, blundering further along the street, past the darkened windows of stores and businesses as the ramble of traffic and the cadence of nameless, faceless people merged into the white noise.

"Lookee here . . . Hey, pretty lady!  Out lookin' for a party?"

"There's a party in my pants, honey.  Wanna come?"

Unconsciously quickening her pace, she paid them no mind as she kept moving.  The sharp rush of footsteps in her wake stopped abruptly.  She was too deep in her own thoughts—her own private hell—to register it.

"On second thought, I don't think I want or need your fiancé's whore . . ."

'But . . . but it's not . . . not true . . .'

Too bad she knew deep down that it was, and while she knew that Marvin didn't mean it that way, what did it matter when the end result was the same . . .?

Wandering deeper and deeper into the city—the buildings blending into a murky haze—she couldn't feel the chill in the night air anymore, yet the welcome numbness in her body didn't alleviate the gnawing ache that tormented her very soul, either.

The consuming sense of sadness was an overwhelming thing.  The agony, the pain . . . It grew larger and deeper and uglier . . .

'M . . . Marvin's  . . . whore . . .'

She flinched, suddenly collapsing onto a bench that was cracked and weathered and peeling layers of paint.

A dull sense of realization ebbed over her, obliterating the anger that had been driving her onward as a low, bitter surge of loneliness shot to the fore.  Absolute desolation—that's what she felt.  How was it possible to feel so entirely isolated in one of the largest cities in the world?

It wasn't the first time in her life that she'd felt that way, and she was pretty sure that she'd feel it again, too.  Still, she couldn't quite shake the emptiness that settled over her, either—the underlying knowledge that her entire life was nothing but a huge sham, and while she'd tried so hard to hide those things in her past, those things that were best left forgotten, they were never very far away . . .

She really wasn't any better than a whore, was she?  Whether it was by accident or design, did it really matter when the end result was invariably the same?  Marvin . . . he hadn't said that he expected her to do any such thing; of course he hadn't.  That didn't really change a thing, did it?  Zel . . . Zel was right, and as a lawyer, she knew it.  She should have realized it at the time, shouldn't she?  'Anything': that was what she'd said, wasn't it?  'Anything . . .'

The spring air was chilly with a certain misty quality that loomed thick around her.  For the first time, she blinked and frowned as she glanced around herself.  She vaguely recognized the area though she couldn't rightfully say she knew where exactly she was, either.  Ramshackle buildings that were decaying slightly with age—a tired part of the city that never appeared in tourist guides or anything like that, but the area still held onto a quiet dignity that was lost in those areas most commonly considered 'slums': not the best part of town by any means, but certainly not the worst.

'Kind of like . . . me,' she thought wanly as a humorless little smile twisted her lips.   Kind of . . . almost . . .

'Valerie . . .'

Her name floated to her from somewhere deep inside, and she blinked, shaking her head, she turned to look around, knowing deep down that she wouldn't see the owner of the voice she'd heard, unable to place it, though it sounded entirely familiar, too . . .

But it was that voice that gave her the resolve to stand up once more, gave her the will to turn back the way she'd come, and to put one foot in front of the other and walk . . .


-Evan-


Evan crouched in the shadows cast by the looming apartment complex, completely hidden from view as he watched the woman quietly moving around inside.  He'd followed her from the moment she'd decided to take an impromptu walk after the taxi that his father paid had dropped her off.

Damn it, it wasn't supposed to have been like this; not at all, and even though he'd been there the entire evening, Evan still wasn't entirely certain, just what had happened, in the first place.

Well, that wasn't entirely true.  She'd caught him by surprise in her overly harsh assessment of Gin, to start with, and he knew well enough that nothing else she might have said would have made any difference at all, in the end.  He hadn't wanted to listen to her.  He was too angry to be unbiased, and . . .

He winced, letting out a deep breath as he wondered for the thousandth time or more just why he'd wanted to lash out at her so badly.  That's exactly what he'd done, wasn't it?  He'd hurt her because he'd wanted to—lashed out at her in an attempt to completely humiliate her, to hurt her because she'd hurt him, first—and that was absolutely inexcusable.

She strode back into the living room from the short hallway—he figured she'd gone to change clothes, and she had.  Somehow, the oversized, pale pink sweatpants and baggy sweatshirt she was wearing was a little more welcome than the figure hugging dress she'd just removed—now dangling limply from her hands, along with the shoes she'd worn, and he wasn't entirely surprised when she stalked through the living room into the open air kitchen, where she dumped the both into the trashcan next to the counter.

He'd seen her the very moment she'd stepped out of the back room where he'd left her. To be honest, he'd started feeling bad about it before he'd ever managed to get out of there, in the first place.  Seeing her on her knees with those damned tears in her eyes . . . It was just a little more than he could stand.

The long and short of it was that he'd acted like a complete and utter bastard, and he knew it.  After all, she hadn't known that she was inadvertently insulting him, had she?  No, all she'd wanted was one dance, and it didn't really matter, what her reason was.  He knew that, too.  Still . . .

And he'd just stood there, watching as she hurried toward the exit, only to be intercepted by that little fucker she called a fiancé.  Evan wasn't sure if he was just that dense or just that uncaring, because the miserable shit hadn't even noticed her upset, had he?  It hadn't taken Evan long to figure out that Marvin didn't seem to notice much of anything unless it involved his project, which was the main reason that Evan himself wasn't too keen on recommending him for any such thing.  Maybe he was just as smart and everything that Valerie had claimed, but there were other things that were important, too, and the main thing there being one's fiancée.

But no, Evan had only watched as Marvin had conversed with her, and while he wasn't close enough to overhear what was being said, Evan wasn't stupid, either.  He'd been trying to talk her into staying, even knowing that she obviously didn't want to be there, and as much as it bothered him since he was the cause of it, her mood didn't seem to register at all to the one man who should have given a great goddamn.

He shook his head.  If that hadn't been enough, the little fuck had squared his shoulders, staring after her as she'd hastily dashed out of the ballroom with a perplexed sort of expression on his face.  Then he'd turned around, pasted on an idiotic smile, and had proceeded to continue annoying the other guests with his very presence.

He sighed.  All right, so that was a little unfair.  Marvin had seemed personable enough, and Evan might actually have liked him all right had he not showed up with Valerie—and had he not been a complete and utter douche bag, in Evan's estimation, too.

So, Evan had followed her all over the city during her impromptu walk with her little red satin purse in hand.  She'd forgotten it in her rush to leave.  Evan had checked on a whim as he'd headed out to follow her, and he was glad that he had when the cloakroom attendant had returned with the tiny red bag.  Of course, it hadn't really interfered too much, even when he'd had to put the smack-down on a couple of punks who thought they'd follow her, too.  He'd slammed one against a wall then tossed him at the second one, and they'd both decided that they'd do well to find someone else to bedevil.  It hadn't been until he was watching them run off down a narrow alley that he'd remembered the purse that was still hanging off his arm . . .

And if regret and recrimination were hard things to swallow, the absolute misery that had cloaked her as she slumped onto that rickety old bench was even worse, reminding Evan all too clearly that he was the reason she felt like that—his anger and his indignity . . . As her feelings deepened, he'd leaned against the wall, hidden in the deepest shadows of a nearby jewelry store, closing his eyes and wishing that he could have those hours back; that he could change everything, just for her—only for her.

So he'd reached out with his youki, let it brush over her, to soothe her, even if she didn't really understand what it meant, telling her without words that she really wasn't as alone as she thought she was, and while he knew damn well that he was just being a coward, maybe . . . Maybe that was all right, too.

Even now, he knew well enough that she was safe, and yet he still couldn't leave her.  She'd washed her face and masked the lingering hurt that he could feel despite the closed windows and manmade materials that separated them.  The despondence in her aura, though . . . 'I'm . . . I'm sorry, V . . . I'm sorry . . .'

The door opened as she was filling a glass with wine, and that little wanker strolled inside.  He, of course, was nothing but smiles and excitement, waving his arms like a damned lunatic while he told her what she missed after she'd left.  A violent surge of rage welled up inside him, and Evan grimaced, digging his claws into his palms, issuing a low growl that was cut off abruptly when the stench of his blood hit him.  Forcing himself to loosen his grip, he drew a deep breath and slowly shook his head.

If Marvin-the-Great noticed Valerie's mood, he made a damn good show of ignoring it.  She said nothing, nodding now and again in a half-hearted show of feigned interest.  He talked for a few minutes before pushing up the sleeve of his rented tux and grimacing at the hour.  He kissed her on the cheek and hurried down the same hallway, which only served to draw another low growl from Evan at the very idea that the two of them might actually share the same bedroom.

She slowly drank the wine and rinsed the glass, setting it, upside down on a clean towel beside the sink.  After a moment, she wandered over to the touchpanel near the door, securing her home for the night, before following Marvin down the hallway and out of view.

Evan gritted his teeth.  He had to see her, didn't he?  He had to see her, to know that she was going to sleep. Creeping to the edge of the balcony, he scowled at the narrow fire escape nearby.  The light was on inside, making it impossible for Evan to move over there just yet since the light spilling out of the window was too bright to keep him safely hidden, and after what seemed like forever, he muttered a low curse when the light was finally extinguished.  The leap to the escape wasn't far, and he settled himself under the window with a marked scowl.  She'd left the window cracked open.  He could hear the rustle of the couple as they got comfortable for the night.

"Did I tell you?  That painting sold for a hundred and seventy-five million," the little snake said in a hushed tone.

"Did it?" Valerie echoed in a mildly interested way.

He laughed then yawned.  "Totally worth it," he went on.  "I mean, I don't know much about art, but if it benefits charity, then that's even better, right?"

"Mm."

Gritting his teeth hard when he heard the definite sound of a very chaste kiss, Evan tried to remind himself that it was perfectly all right to kiss one's fiancée.  It didn't work too well as his anger grew.

"You looked really pretty tonight, Val," Marvin said.

"M-Marvin . . . Not tonight, all right?"

More rustling that grated even more on Evan's nerves.  "Okay," Marvin said in mid-yawn.  "Night."

For reasons that he didn't want to consider, the surge of relief that shot through Evan was welcome and almost pleasant.

'You know why,' his youkai muttered.

Evan nodded slightly.  'I guess I do.'

'. . . We could go home now.'

'We could,' Evan agreed, though he made no move to stand up.

No, he'd rather just sit there under the window, trying not to think about why Valerie had the power to harness such control over his emotions . . .


-Valerie-


Valerie lay in bed, listening to the sound of Marvin's breathing, listening to the sound of herself as she blinked in the stifling quiet.  She'd left the window open a crack since the sounds of the city tended to lull her to sleep most nights.  Why was it so quiet tonight, of all nights?

Glancing at the glowing numbers on the clock beside the bed, she bit her lip.  Nearly four in the morning, and she was still wide awake, still berating herself for her part in the night that she wanted so desperately to forget.

She sighed.  Marvin had rolled over and gone right to sleep after she'd fended off his advance.  Why did it just make her a little angrier?

Pushing the blankets aside, she swung her legs off the bed and stood up, unable to stay there any longer.  Pausing in the living room just long enough to turn on her computer, she headed for the kitchen once more, sloshing more wine into the glass she'd rinsed out before trying to go to bed.

She owed Zel an apology, didn't she?  Her behavior was absolutely intolerable, and really, after the things that she'd said about his mother, she couldn't really blame him for being nasty to her, could she?  She didn't have an actual excuse, either, aside from the idea that he'd just seemed so very different tonight, so completely unlike his normal self.  To be honest, the man she'd encountered tonight . . . He was a little intimidating, wasn't he?  And Valerie . . . She just didn't know how to deal with him; not like that.  Too used to his outrageous flirting and joking, the standoffish and aloof man who had called himself Evan Zelig . . .

But she'd brought it all on, herself, hadn't she?  Why?

Rubbing her face as she wandered over to her desk with a glass of wine in hand, Valerie let out a deep breath.  She knew why.  It was because . . . because she had to keep him at a distance.  Zel Roka . . . she'd met guys like him before—pretty boys who thrived on the wild lifestyle, who insisted that spontaneity was everything, professing their undying love and passion one moment, only to decide a week or a month or a year later that they had to have their freedom . . . She'd tried it before, and maybe that was the real reason why the security that was Marvin appealed to her so much.  She'd had more than enough instability in her lifetime, hadn't she?  After all, that had been her entire existence for the longest time.

And maybe it was that sense of restlessness that made her type in the website she wanted, clicking through links until she found the page she was looking for.  She'd missed the junior high commencement ceremony, but they'd uploaded it to their website, too.

Sipping the wine as the media player opened and loaded the streaming video, she leaned back in the chair and waited . . . She hadn't been able to make it, but at least she could see it, anyway, and that helped to make her feel just a little better, though not very much.

She never noticed the darkened figure lingering just outside on the balcony.


~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
A/N:
'Rain'< /b> first appeared on the 2005 album, We Are Not Alone Here as recorded by Breaking Benjamin.  Written by and copyrighted to Aaron Fincke, Jeremy Hummel, Billy Corgan, Ben Burnley, Mark James Klepaski; Breaking Benjamin Music; Seven Peaks Music.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
What's she watching?
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.
~Sue~
Chapter 20
Chapter 22
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