InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ The Hardest Word ( Chapter 22 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Twenty-Two~~
~The Hardest Word~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'" Everybody needs a little time away," I heard her say, "from each other ..."
"Even lovers need a holiday far away from each other …"
Hold me now
It's hard for me to say I'm sorry
I just want you to stay …'

-'Hard to Say I'm Sorry' by Chicago.

-Valerie-


Valerie bit her lip as she slowly, hesitantly, raised her fist to knock on the door.  She couldn't bring herself to do it right away, though, and she shook her head.

No, she had to do it.  She really did owe him an apology for her behavior, and she knew it.  There was nothing left but for her to swallow what was left of her already tattered pride and do it, right?

Right.

She hadn't even bothered to try going back to bed.  It was almost six in the morning by the time she'd finished watching the recording of the commencement ceremony.  Marvin had hurried out of the bedroom fully dressed with his suitcase in hand, paused long enough to kiss her cheek, and then had rushed off to catch his plane.  She'd gone for a run then had cut over to see Madison just after seven.

It didn't surprise her that Madison was still in bed, no, but what had surprised her was that the normally vivacious woman had looked very much like she'd just been caught in a windstorm or something, and her low groan that greeted Valerie was more than a little strange; strange enough that Valerie had ignored her reasons for stopping by in lieu of demanding to know what had happened to Madison, instead.  "Maddy?  Are you all right?"

"Coffee," the woman croaked, rolling over in the large bed and huddling a little deeper beneath the covers. Valerie hadn't said anything as she'd hurried off to the kitchen to retrieve a cup, though she was surprised that the coffee in the pot was still very, very hot.  She made quick work of filling a mug and dumping a couple sweetener packets into it before carefully hurrying back to the bedroom once more.

Maddy sat up and reached for the drink with a low groan and a rather spacey-looking smile.  "Much, much better," she approved after she'd slurped down about half of the coffee.  "Thanks."

Valerie shook her head as she sank down on the edge of the very rumpled bed, rubbing her arms against the chill in the morning air that blew through Madison's opened windows.  "So are you going to tell me why you look like you were hit by a Mack truck?"

The enigmatic little grin on her face widened as she tipped the cup of coffee to her lips once more.  "He was a helluva Mack truck," she murmured.

Valerie's eyebrows shot up in surprise.  "He?"

"Hmm," Madison intoned with a secretive little smile as she flopped back on the bed and heaved a contented sigh.  "I have been well and truly fucked," she said.

Valerie laughed despite herself.  "But I thought you were going out with Bugs last night," she remarked with a shake of her head.

"I did," Madison agreed, tugging the sheet up over her still-naked body.  "It didn't last long.  Of course, I'd have been surprised if it had."

"Why's that?"

Shifting her violet eyes to the side to meet Valerie's gaze, Madison giggled.  "Because Bugs is never that interested in me, lovey.  He found something that caught his attention more—he was probably wearing really tight pants or something—and he ditched me."

Valerie's lips twitched.  "You don't sound like that was a bad thing," she pointed out.

Madison shrugged.  "It wasn't.  He ditched me with one of the sexiest men living and breathing."

"Oh, really?"

"Oh, really," Madison quipped.

Valerie shook her head again, but couldn't help her smile.  "Do I know him?"

A strange sort of expression filtered over Madison's features, and she laughed.  "I don't think so, but you may know of him."
"Oh? Who?"

". . . Gunnar Inutaisho."

"The Gunnar Inutaisho?  As in, the filthy rich Gunnar Inutaisho?  Really . . ."

She nodded then made a face.  "V, swear to God you won't tell Evan," she insisted.

"Oh, I won't tell—wait . . . You just called him 'Evan'."

Madison rolled her eyes and waved a hand.  "Of course I did.  That's his name.  I mean, you did see him last night at the gala, right?"

Valerie narrowed her gaze as the vivid reminder of the events of the night before inundated her with a ferocity that nearly made her blush.  "So you knew that he was going to be there, too?  Why didn't you warn me before I stuck my foot in my mouth?"

"For the same reason I didn't warn him," she retorted airily.  "How much fun would that have been, I ask you?"  She sat up suddenly, her eyebrows drawing together in a marked scowl.  "What do you mean, 'before you stuck your foot in your mouth'?"  Valerie grimaced.  Madison winced.  "That bad?"

Valerie sighed.  "Worse, actually," she admitted quietly, unable to meet her friend's probing expression as her eyes fell to her hands, folded in her lap.  "I . . . I i-i-i-insulted . . . his mother . . ."

Madison gasped.  "No, you didn't . . ."

"Yeah, I so did."

"But . . . But Evan . . . loves his mama . . ."

Valerie heaved another sigh and shot Madison a scathing glower.  "Well, I know that now," she grumbled.  "I didn't know who she was last night, and he was all, 'She's special; I adore her', and I was all, 'Why?  Is she that good in bed?', so he said, 'I suppose you could say that', and not once—not once—did he say, 'Oh, by the by, she's my mother'!"

Madison's lips twitched despite the otherwise seriousness in her expression at Valerie's impromptu and horribly bad impersonation of the man in question.  "Does Evan really sound that stupid when he talks?" she deadpanned.

"Maddy!"

"How could you not know she was his mother?  He looks just like her—well, he does have his father's eyes, though . . . Sexier than holy hell, if you ask me . . ."

Valerie snorted then sighed, effectively putting an end on her own tirade.  "And just how was I supposed to know that?  The woman didn't look old enough to be his mother!  She looked like she might have been his sister—his younger sister, damn it!"
She laughed again then finally groaned.  "So you're telling me that you two didn't have a good time last night?" she asked, a hint of very definite worry creeping into her tone.

"Oh, don't worry," Valerie muttered, scowling at the toe of her running shoe.  "Zel—Evan—whoever . . . He got back at me in spades . . . and I completely deserved it, too," she added quietly.

Madison grimaced and sucked in a harsh breath.  "Oh, no . . . What did he do?"

Valerie gave a little shrug, as though the situation didn't bother her nearly as much as it really did.  "He . . . Well, see . . . Marvin, he . . . He wanted me to dance with Zel—you know, after he figured out that he was Mrs. Zelig's son, you know?  Wanted me to sort of . . . I don't know, put in a good word for him about the research and stuff . . . So, I told Zel that I'd do . . ." she trailed off for a moment and swallowed hard, blinking fast to stave back the tears that still rose whenever she thought about that awful moment.  ". . . A-A-Anything . . ."

Madison shook her head in confusion.  "Oka-a-ay . . ."

Valerie sighed and bit her lip.  "After we finished dancing, he . . . He tugged me into this side room, and he . . . he said that he wanted a . . . a blow job."

"He say wha-a-a . . .?" Madison demanded, a spark of complete incense in her demeanor— incense at Zel for having said any such thing.  "That little dick!  I swear to God, I'll—"

"No!" Valerie interjected quickly.  "Maddy, no!  He . . . He was right.  He was . . . Marvin told me to do 'anything', and Zel was right.  I should have . . . I should have thought about what I was saying—offering.  I didn't, and I deserved it after what I'd assumed about his mother . . ." She tried to smile.  It looked more like a grimace.  "He was right.  I . . . I was Marvin's whore."

"The hell he was right," Madison growled, her eyes flashing with indignant fire.  "He's never right, damn it!  Valerie—"

She let out a deep breath and managed a trembling smile.  "Seriously, Madison, he was, and even then, I . . . I do owe him an apology."

"Okay, fine.  Apologize to him for what you said about his mother, but you make sure that bastard apologizes to you first!  You are no one's whore, and even if you were, you'd be mine, not his!"

Valerie laughed weakly and shook her head.  "I'm going to go over there," she said, inflicting a lot more resolve into her tone than she was actually feeling, given the circumstances.

Madison snorted but didn't try to stop her.  "Fine, then, but I'm serious.  Just because you made a mistake doesn't mean that he had the right to be so shitty with you . . . and don't you dare tell him about Gunnar, either."

Valerie felt a little better, though she would have been hard-pressed to put a finger on why as she stood up to leave.  "Why's that?"

Madison finally smiled, though the expression held a little more animosity toward her friend than Valerie could credit.  "Because he's Evan's cousin," she replied simply.

"He is?"

Madison gave a quick nod and rolled her eyes.  "Evan's mother's Gunnar's father's cousin."

And just why didn't that little gem surprise Valerie at all, either . . .?

And which was neither here nor there.  Shaking herself out of her reverie, Valerie let out a deep breath, garnering her courage before it fled her completely. Telling Evan she was sorry—that was far more important at the moment, and she wasn't really one to procrastinate, anyway.  No, best to just get it over with, wasn't it?  Of course it was . . .

'Just do it, Valerie.  Swallow your pride and do it.  The worst he could possibly do is close the door in your face, and if he did that, then at least you'd know that you'd tried to apologize.  Just do it.  Just do it . . .'

The sound of her knock echoed through her head, and she grimaced, but the doorbell had been just a little more than she really could manage at the moment.  Wishing that he'd just open the door while the smallest part of her hoped to God that he wasn't home, she waited for what felt like an eternity before she turned on her heel and started to go.

The door opened behind her, and she swung around with a smothered yelp of surprise, her heart thumping erratically in her chest as she glanced at him—and stopped short—every breath, every thought, every last bit of her sanity fleeing her in that instant.

Lounging in the doorway with the rumpled white shirt he'd worn under his tux hanging open and his bowtie undone and dangling from the tabs of his collar, his face still held onto the slow sleepiness of lingering dreams.  Eyes heavily lidded, a light sheen of silvery stubble clinging to his cheeks, he stared at her for a moment as though he just didn't recognize her before the slightest of smiles quirked his lips.  "Oh, hey, V," he said, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand.

Of all the receptions she figured she'd get, that simply hadn't been one of them.  Still caught up in her absolute bemusement, though, she could only nod when he stepped back and gestured for her to come inside.

"I, uh . . ."

"Shit . . . What the fuck time is it, V?" he interrupted, idly scratching the shallow vale in the center of his chest.

She swallowed hard, blatantly staring at the exposed flesh that somehow seemed that much more intimidating when she saw him up close, especially when coupled with the overly sleepy drawl that could be discerned beneath his words.  "T-Time?" she squeaked.

The scratching hand moved from his chest to the back of his head as he yawned again.  "N'er mind," he mumbled.

Forcing her gaze off his chest, she cleared her throat, her hands shaking pitifully as she drew a deep breath.  "I . . . I just wanted to apologize a-about last night," she blurted quickly, unable to staunch the flow of blood that surged into her cheeks.  "I never should have said those things about your—your mother, and—"

"Don't worry about it," he said with a shrug.  "Guess I never told you that she was my mama . . . Yeah, I shoulda told you she was, huh?"

Valerie shook her head, feeling just a little worse since he was being so damned nice about everything.  "All the same, you were . . . were right . . . about a lot of things . . ."

Evan snorted and rolled his eyes, but his smile widened and remained good-natured.  "Don't say tha-a-a-at . . . I'm never right . . ."

"No, you were right.  I should have known exactly what I was saying, and you . . . I'm really sorry, Ze—Evan," she corrected before he could.

He blinked and stared at her, a very slow smile quirking his lips as he carefully regarded her.  "Stop apologizing, will you?  No harm, no foul, right?"

She heaved a sigh and shook her head.  "No.  I . . . I still owe you a favor, don't I?  So . . . So, just name it."

She couldn't quite help the trill of foreboding that rumbled through her, either.  Unable to do much more than fidget and wait, she chanced a surreptitious peek at him, but blinked when she saw that he wasn't even really paying attention to her.  Rummaging through his pockets for something, he seemed intent on his mission instead of what she'd said to him.  "Evan?  Are you listening to me?"

"Yeah, you owe me, blah blah . . . V, you don't owe me shit. If anyone owes anybody anything, it's me.  I was just being an asshole last night, and I'm sorry.  Forget about it."

She narrowed her eyes and stubbornly shook her head.  "No, that's just it.  You were right.  You really were, and—"

He stopped and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning back just a little as he carefully regarded her.  "Is this gonna take awhile?"

"It wouldn't if you'd just let me speak," she muttered.

Evan rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, okay.  Know how to use a knife?"

She shook her head in complete confusion.  "What?"

He yanked off his shirt and chuckled as he grabbed her hand and started toward the kitchen.  "Mom and Cain are coming over for breakfast, so if you wanna keep apologizing when it's not necessary, then the least you can do is chop while you're doing it."

She snapped her mouth closed on whatever she was going to say, caught off guard by the thing he was suggesting.  "You . . . You really can cook?" she asked, remembering a moment too late that his mother had said as much during the bachelor auction.

"'Course I can!  Almost as good as my mama . . . almost."

The idea bemused her enough that she said nothing else as he led her into the kitchen and let go of her beside the long counter in the middle.  She watched in silence as he sauntered over to the shelf where he kept some fruit that he hadn't put into the refrigerator.  "Knives are in the drawer beside you," he said, grabbing three good sized melons and tossing them into the air to juggle them.  "Catch, V."

She barely had time to react, catching the first of the melons with a low 'oof' before he launched the next one.  "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with your food?" she muttered as she set the last one aside and pulled the drawer open.

"Sure," he told her with a wink.  "But who do you think taught me how to juggle, anyway?"

She smiled despite her still self-conscious thoughts as he pulled open the refrigerator and disappeared inside.  He was back a few minutes later with his arms laden with a few butcher paper wrapped parcels and some other odd items.

She worked carefully, but efficiently as he headed out of the room again, reasonably pleased with her own culinary skills.  She wasn't a chef, by any means, but she knew how to handle the knife well enough, and she was about midway through chopping the second melon when he strode back into the room a few minutes later, having changed out of his dress pants into a very ragged pair of ripped and faded blue jeans.  The snap was actually missing, she noticed as a foreign sort of warmth seeped into her cheeks.  "So, who's Cain?" she heard herself asking as she forced her attention away from Evan's well-shaped ass.

"Cain?  Oh, he's my father," Evan replied, reaching high overhead to pull down a very large frying pan that he spun in the air and caught with one hand as he turned on and adjusted the flame on the cooktop with his other one.

"You call your father by name?"

He shrugged.  "It's the nicest of my names for him, sure."

She shook her head and rinsed her hands in the nearby sink.  "I need a bowl," she told him.

"In that cupboard," he said, nodding at the row of them in front of her as he pulled a couple of the wrapped packages open, dumped the ground sausage into a bowl and reached for a plastic container of some kind of unlabeled spice mix and proceeded to mix it all with his hands before forming them into patties at a speed that made her blink.

She found a bowl easily enough and carefully scooped the cut up melon into it.  "Wouldn't it be easier to call him, 'Dad'?"

"Maybe," Evan agreed with a careless shrug.  "Who the fuck cares?"

She watched as he quickly placed the patties into the pan and grabbed the bowl to dump it into the sink before washing his hands.  "Anyway, your mom . . . She seems really, really sweet."

The grin he shot her made her catch her breath for a dizzying moment.  As though he'd just won the greatest prize of them all, he absolutely beamed at her in complete and utter boyish delight.  "Yeah?  You think?"

She opened her mouth to reply but snapped it closed as she narrowed her eyes.  She'd been so preoccupied in her own upset that she hadn't noticed it before, but . . . Without a second thought, she reached out as he passed her, grabbing a fistful of his long hair and yanking to bring his head down to her level so that she could inspect it.

"Ow-w-w!" he exclaimed, his back bending severely when he didn't stop walking quite fast enough.  "Attached, V!  That's attached!"

"How did your hair grow back so fast?" she demanded incredulously.

He snorted and carefully straightened up when she finally let go of his hair.  "Haven't you ever heard of a wig, woman?" he countered.

She snorted.  "I saw your hair last night, Zel Roka.  That couldn't have possibly been a wig."

"It totally was a wig, V Pinkle.  Shows what you know, dunnit?"

Her mouth fell open at his retort, and she quickly shook her head.  "That is so not funny," she argued, chagrined in the extreme that she couldn't quite hold back the little grin that surfaced on her face.  "Besides, I never said I was taking his last name when we get married."

He snorted, too.  "Yeah, I wouldn't either, if I were you . . . but I know damn well I told you that my name's Evan Zelig."

"Whatever, whatever.  Don't you try to derail the topic, Roka.  I'm on to your tricks."

"Hmm," he drawled with an enigmatic little shrug.  "I had Maddy do it last night after the party," he said.

"Impossible!" she scoffed.

"What?  It doesn't really take that long," he argued.

"It's impossible because last night Maddy was busy doing someone else, not you."

He sighed and rolled his eyes but kept smiling.  "Then I guess you'll have to buy my story about wearing a wig."

"A wig," she echoed, her voice rife with dubiousness.

"Tha-a-a-at's right, baby.  Like it or lump it, but you'll have to accept it."

She heaved a sigh designed to let him know exactly what she thought of his claims.  "So when are your parents going to be here?"

He mashed his hands into a bowl of flour and what looked to be . . . lard . . .?  "In an hour or so," he replied.

She made a face.  She really ought to apologize to his mother, too, shouldn't she?

Evan must have seen it on her face, though, and he sighed softly.  "V . . . I said, don't worry about it, okay?"

She shot him a reluctant glance but didn't reply.

"Look, it was as much my fault as it was yours, maybe more.  I really should have told you that she was my mama.  I just figured you'd know it when you saw her.  It's all right."

She shook her head then shrugged, reaching into the bowl of fruit stationed in the middle of the counter and carefully paring a strawberry.  "All the same, you were right. A promise is a promise, and I did tell you 'anything' . . ."

For the briefest of moments, he actually looked irritated before he managed to mask the emotion behind a half-hearted smile.  "Aw, forget about it.  You don't have to—" He cut himself off abruptly as an altogether worrisome sparkle ignited behind those deep blue eyes of his.  "Well, I mean, if it would really make you feel better," he began slowly.

Valerie shifted her gaze to the side to give him the critical eye.  Yep, definitely something going on in that brain of his, and for reasons that Valerie didn't really want to think about, it frightened her a lot.  "Wha-a-at . . .?"

He stepped around her to wash his hands off in the sink before turning an entirely too-innocent look on her.  "See, it's like this . . ."


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A/N:
'Hard to Say I'm Sorry' was first released on the 1982 album, Chicago 16 by Chicago.  Song written by and copyrighted to David W. Foster and Peter P. Cetera.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Now what …?
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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 21
Chapter 23
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