InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Mr. Zelig ( Chapter 26 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

' Unforgettable, that's what you are
'Unforgettable though near or far
'Like a song of love that clings to me
'How the thought of you does things to me
'Never before has someone been more …'

-'Unforgettable' by Nat 'King' Cole.


-Evan-


"Where are you going?"

Evan pulled his hair out of the collar of his shirt and flicked a glance at Valerie in the mirror without pausing.  "Sorry, V.  Some things are just private."

"Private?" she echoed?  What do you mean, private?"

He chuckled and slowly worked the closures of the rust-colored button-down shirt.  "I mean 'private'," he stated, shaking his head at her as though he couldn't believe her preoccupation.  "Don't worry; I remember the terms," he said before she could try to remind him.

She felt her cheeks heat in a painful blush but stubbornly held her ground.  "I wasn't done talking to you," she pointed out with a shake of her head.

Evan tucked in the shirt and shot Valerie an apologetic sort of grin.  "Sorry, baby.  It's not really something that I can get out of.  Anyway, you can stay here as long as you want, but I gotta go.  And don't try to follow me 'cause I'm too fast for you to see," he warned, almost as an afterthought.  Sparing a moment to wink at her, he slipped out the door and onto the porch.

'That was kind of ass-ish,' his youkai pointed out indelicately as Evan loped down the steps, across the yard, and slipped out of the side gate that led into an alley between his property and his neighbors.

'Maybe.  I could lose her if I wanted to.'

'Well, why would we want to do that?'

He grinned.  That was true, wasn't it?  'Why, indeed . . .?'

Deliberately slowing to a fast gait, he checked his watch as he stepped onto the street.  He'd left a little early; he had plenty of time to get there.  Still . . .

'Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . Ah, there she is . . .'

He was so attuned to her that he didn't have to turn around and look to see if she was following him or not.  He could feel her, sense her, and he'd known damn well that she wouldn't be able to leave well enough alone.  Oh, no, not his V . . . She was entirely too damn curious for her own good, wasn't she?

And so he slowed his pace, wandering along the sidewalk toward the one of the more modest areas of this part of the city.  It was a decent walk, but he liked to do it.  It gave him time to clear his mind before he got there, and it gave him an opportunity to put Zel Roka back on a shelf for awhile.  Once, he turned to look over his shoulder, only to see her duck behind a grocer's cart in an effort to elude him.  He almost smiled but managed to keep his expression blanked as he kept walking.

He stepped into a small flower shop he knew well enough, blinking for a moment as he let his eyes get used to the dimmer light of the ambient little place.

"Afternoon!  They're all ready for you—the usual, right?  Thirteen white carnations?"

He smiled at the middle aged woman named Kathy and nodded.  "Well . . . could you add one more to that, please?"

Kathy winked and nodded, hurrying away to wrap up the extra flower before returning with fourteen white carnations, each one nestled securely in bright green tissue paper, and a nondescript brow paper sack.  "How's that?"

"Add it to my tab?"

She chuckled and waved a hand in his direction.  "Such a charmer," she scolded as he headed for the door again.

"See you next week," he called as he stepped back out onto the street once more.

Valerie was holding up a newspaper, pretending to read it at a nearby stand.  Evan almost laughed as he stared walking once more.

'Damn, she's cute,' he thought as he kept moving.

'You know, you could have just told her what we were doing.'

'Sure, coulda . . . Wouldn't have been nearly as much fun, though.'

His youkai chuckled.  'True 'nough.'

Rounding the corner, his grin widened as he caught sight of the kids playing basketball behind the chain-link fence of the YMCA.  Slipping through the open gate, he set the bag and flowers on a nearby bench.  "Hey!  Looks like you're one short," he called.

The three boys stopped in their tracks and grinned at him.  "Aww, but you suck, Mr. Z!"

Evan laughed and held up his hands to catch the ball that came whizzing at his chest.  "Well, then, I suppose that it'll be a short game, eh?  First team to score thirty?"

The boys glanced at each other, and Malcolm, the unspoken leader, nodded.  "All right," he said.  "Bring it in, man."

Evan tossed the ball to Avery—better known as Corky in the neighborhood—and dashed in, bumping Malcolm with his hip and getting bumped back in return . . .


-Valerie-


Valerie hid in the long shadows of the building beside the fenced yard, biting her lip as she watched Evan play with the children.  Of all the things she'd expected him to be doing, this just hadn't been it . . .

She frowned.  All right, to be completely honest, she'd expected him to be trying to sneak off to meet some woman or something like that.  Stranger, though, was that those kids . . . They knew him?

It didn't take long for the game to end.  Evan hadn't scored a point, though she had very little doubt in her mind that he could have if he had wanted to.  No, she had the distinct feeling that he was participating without actually doing anything to hinder the boys' game.

By the time it ended, all the children in the yard—there were about thirteen of them—were gathered around Evan, and all of them seemed to be talking at once.  Children of all ages, ranging from a couple little girls who looked like they might be about five, to the oldest boys that he'd just finished playing basketball with—teenagers, certainly—maybe fourteen or fifteen, and Evan?  He laughed and smiled and joked with them all, catching the smallest girl around the waist and tossing her into the air, only to catch her and flip her upside down where she landed on his shoulders with a very loud giggle.

"Okay, I hope you guys practiced," Evan commented as he nodded at the things he'd deposited on the bench.  "Malcolm, can you grab those for me?"

Malcolm loped over and retrieved the parcels as Evan led the way toward the front door of the youth center.

Valerie waited until they'd disappeared inside before skulking out of the shadows.  Taking a moment to debate whether or not she really ought to follow him inside, she snorted.  Sure, she could wait for him outside, but . . .

But curiosity was gnawing at her insides, and with a resigned sort of sigh, she quickly slipped through the gate and hurried up to the building.

"Hey, can I help you?"

Valerie nearly shrieked when the man called out behind her.  She'd barely gotten through the door and was trying to close it as quietly as possible.  Grasping at her chest, she quickly turned to face the man who had spoken.  Leaning out of what looked to be the office, he shot her a friendly smile.

"Uh, yes," she blurted, hoping that the man didn't sense her discomfort.  "I-I just moved here recently, and . . . and I thought I'd check this place out."

"Oh?  You looking for family plans or just you?"

She blinked, ready to tell him that she was alone, but remembering the children that Evan had met up with, she hesitated.  "Well, my . . . my daughter and me."

The man's grin widened.  "How old?"

Valerie shook her head.  "I beg your pardon?"

"Your girl.  How old is she?"

"Oh-h," Valerie exclaimed quickly.  "She's . . . she's seven."

He nodded.  "They're fun at that age.  Mine are twenty-five and nineteen."

Valerie smiled uncomfortably.  "Would you mind if I took a look around?"

"Nope, not at all.  In fact, I think there are a couple classes going on right now.  I'm sure that the teachers wouldn't mind if you looked in on them.  Just stop back by here if you need anything," he told her.

She nodded and heaved a sigh when he turned and headed back into his office again.

Grimacing since her heels resounded like gunfire on the clinical linoleum floor, she bit down on her lip and tried to step a little quieter, even as discordant sounds of someone tapping on piano keys echoed through the hallway from somewhere just ahead.  She could see what looked to be a gym at the end, but along the short corridor were a few doors.  One of them stood open, and she paused beside it, leaning to the side to peer through the doorway.

Evan sort of half-sat, half-sprawled in a bright orange beanbag chair near the piano with the rest of the kids in similar fashion as one little boy—maybe ten or so—plunked the keys.  Beside Evan was the little girl who had sat on his shoulders.  She kept glancing at him and smiling.  Valerie almost smiled, too.

"Okay, Marc.  Let's see if you practiced," Evan said.

The boy shot him an entirely cocky grin and played the opening of a song that Valerie thought she ought to know but couldn't place.  It was slow and a little clunky, but not bad for a child.

"Good, good," Evan remarked when the boy was finished.  "You did practice!"

"I can play more," he replied.

"Can you?  Okay."

The child played a little more then swung around on the bench before the upright piano and grinned.

"Ni-i-ice," Evan approved.  "How about you practice the next page or two for next week, then?"  The boy nodded happily and hopped down.  Evan dug a candy bar out of the bag and tossed it to Marc.  "Don't forget your flower," he said when the boy started to flop down in a vacant beanbag.  With a happy laugh, the boy ran over and snatched up a tissue-wrapped flower and plowed back for the chair again.

"I'm next," Malcolm said, pushing himself to his feet and fairly swaggering forward.  He shot Evan a cheeky grin as he sat down to play.

She didn't recognize the song that he played, but it was unmistakably jazz.  Evan nodded as the song ended, tossing a candy bar to him, too.

"Man, I don't need no flower," Malcolm muttered when Evan held one out to him in passing.

Evan laughed and tossed it into the boy's lap when he'd sat down again.  "Don't be dumb, Malcolm," Evan drawled, leaning on his elbow.  "You trying to tell me that your mama doesn't like the flowers?"

Malcolm snorted but carefully set the flower before him on the floor.

Evan chuckled again.  "What about you, Trista?  Did you practice?"

The little girl smiled and slowly, bashfully nodded.  "Yeah," she whispered loudly.

"Oh?  You want to show me?"

She pondered that then nodded, standing up and reaching for Evan's hand.  "You gotta work the pedals for me, Mr. Zelig," she informed him in a high-pitched, sing-song voice.

"Absolutely," he agreed, sitting on the piano bench and pulling Trista into his lap.  "Ready whenever you are."

She shot him a look full of childish admiration and giggled.

Valerie couldn't help but smile when the very familiar sound of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' chimed in the air.  It faltered a couple times, but there were no mistakes, and Evan chuckled when the song ended.  "Wow, Trista.  That was fantastic.  You really did practice, didn't you?"

The girl nodded and seemed to snuggle closer to Evan's chest.

"Well, you keep that up, and you'll outshine everyone at the recital next month," Evan remarked.

Trista's round cheeks pinked as she hopped down and skipped back over to her beanbag chair again.

Valerie wasn't entirely sure what to think.  Every time she thought that she had him figured out, Evan changed the rules, didn't he?  Just when she thought that she understood something about him, he'd do something entirely different; something entirely unexpected.

She watched the rest of the music lesson in something akin to awe.  He was good with kids—damn good, really—and she hadn't expected that, at all.  They all tried their best, too, and Evan made sure that he praised them all, even when he had to correct them.  He had a way of making them feel as though they'd accomplished something without belittling them or making them feel bad or singled out.

She smiled, crossing her arms over her chest, content to observe the lesson.

One of the boys—the one who had told Evan that he sucked at basketball—played surprisingly well, and though Valerie didn't really know much about music, she could tell just from hearing the piece that it was a more difficult one.  After the boy was finished, though, he shook his head, his cheeks reddening as he frowned at the floor.  "I don't want to play the piano," he finally said when Evan asked him what was wrong.

Evan blinked and nodded.  "Okay . . . is there something else you want to try?"

The boy shrugged, his ears reddening, too.  "I want to play the guitar," he finally admitted.

Malcolm snorted.  "You just wanna play guitar 'cause you think you'll get a girlfriend—Shoot, Corky, a guitar ain't gonna get you no girlfriend—you're too dang ugly!"

Another basketball player laughed and the two slapped hands.  Corky's face reddened a little more.

Evan rolled his eyes.  "All right; all right.  Shut up, you two.  Tell you what, Corky.  You want to learn how to play guitar?  I'll bring in one of mine next week—and don't listen to them," he remarked with a grin and a wink.  "Playing guitar does get you girls."

"I-I don't want a girl!" Corky insisted hotly, though his expression did seem to lighten up just a little.

Evan chuckled and tossed Corky a candy bar.  The boy loped over and grabbed a flower before heading back to his chair.

Valerie shook her head but smiled.

'Evan Zelig . . . what am I going to do with you . . .?'


-Evan-


Evan stepped outside the building, holding onto Trista's hand as the other children hurried on ahead.  The sun was disappearing, leaving everything veiled in a smoky grayish hue.  The boys called back their hurried goodbyes as they ran out of the yard and down the street.  A couple of the girls ran toward their rides, waiting beside the curb while the rest of them were met by parents who had arrived on foot to pick up their charges.  Within minutes, they were all gone.  Trista sighed and shuffled her feet in the dirt beside him.

"Mommy working late again today?" he asked gently.

Trista shrugged and shot him a sad sort of look.  "I don't know," she replied.

"You want to give her a call?" he offered, digging his cell phone out of his pocket and holding it out to the child.

She shot him a bright smile and took it, making quick work of dialing the number and waiting.  "This is Trista.  Is my mommy busy?" she asked.

He waited while the child paused, then greeted her mother.  "Hi, Mommy . . . Mr. Zelig's here with me . . . Yeah . . ." She covered the end of the phone and frowned up at him.  "Mommy wants to talk to you," she said.

He chuckled and took it.  "Hey.  How's it going?"

"Uh, hi . . . Listen, I'm sorry.  I got held up here.  We got a rush order, and the boss kind of demanded that we stay and finish it."

"That's okay," he said.  "I'll walk her home and all that jazz."

"Really?  I'm so sorry . . ."

He laughed.  "Nope, it's fine.  Don't worry about it."

The woman sighed.  "Thanks so much.  You're a life saver."

He hung up the phone then grinned down at his young charge.  "How 'bout it?  Feel like hanging out with me for awhile?"

Her little face lit up as her cheeks pinked, and she giggled.  "You're going to walk home with me?"

He nodded.  "Sure . . . Do you want to swing or something first?" he asked, nodding in the direction of the bright green painted swing set nearby.

She dropped her book bag and took off at a run.  "Push me!" she hollered happily.

"You know, this is pretty one-sided," he complained jokingly as he picked up her bag and followed her.  "You're always the one who gets to swing, and I'm always the one doing the pushing."

Her little face scrunched up in a thoughtful scowl, and she hopped off the swing.  "I can push," she insisted finally.

Evan chuckled again and set her bag down, along with the last flower that he hadn't given to the children.  "Oh, yeah?  You think you can push me?"

She nodded and sped around behind him as he sat in the swing.  His legs were ridiculously long in the child's contraption, but he let Trista give him a good shove, holding his feet out to the sides to keep them from dragging in the dirt.  That lasted all of five minutes, tops, before Evan hopped out of the swing and caught the chain to stop it.  "Okay.  Your turn."

She giggled and hopped up into it.  Evan waited until she had a good grip on the chains before giving her a very good shove.  She screeched in laughter, pumping her feet to keep the momentum going.  Evan watched her for a long moment before letting his attention wander just a little.

He grinned and shifted his gaze to the side.  Valerie, it seemed, was trying to hide in the shadows behind a few very tall bushes just outside the YMCA.  She honestly thought that he didn't know she was there?  He cleared his throat.  "V . . . what is it about bushes that you like so much?" he drawled.   "Lemme guess: you dropped your necklace this time?"

He heard her suck in a sharp breath seconds before she scooted out from behind the bush, her face a lovely shade of red that bespoke her acute embarrassment at having been caught spying.  For the vaguest of moments, she seemed to be trying to decide what she really should tell him.  She must have decided that she didn't need to explain herself, because she quickly shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest in a blatant show of stubborn defiance.  "I don't know what you're talking about," she retorted haughtily.  "I was just making sure that you weren't out . . . getting into trouble or something."

He chuckled and nodded slowly.  "Okay, I'll give you that one," he allowed.  "You wanna meet my girl, here?"

Valerie blinked then rather grudgingly stepped forward.  Evan reached down to retrieve the final flower.  "So you found me out, did you?" he teased, holding out the tissue-wrapped parcel.

She stopped short and stared at the impromptu gift.  "W-What's this?" she demanded, her reluctance echoing in her voice.

"It's a flower, V.  Hasn't anyone ever given you a flower before?"

She continued to stare at it then quickly shook her head.  "N-No."

Repressing the surge of anger that shot up inside him, Evan forced a smile.  It didn't matter, though; not when she was still eyeballing the flower instead of looking at him.  Her damned darling fiancé hadn't ever bought her a flower?  He snorted inwardly.  "Aww, take it," he coaxed gently.

She swallowed hard but reached for it, gently folding the tissue back before smiling just a little as she buried her nose in the blossom.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Who's she?"

Evan chuckled as he turned in time to see Trista's little scowl as she eyed Valerie.  "Trista, this is a friend of mine, Valerie.  V, this is Trista.  She's my girl."

Valerie glanced at Evan but smiled.  "I heard you playing.  You're really good."

Trista smiled bashfully.  "Is she your girlfriend?"

"Yes," he said before she could answer.  "One day, she's going to marry me."

Trista's eyes grew huge and round, and Evan wasn't stupid enough to think that Valerie wasn't going to try to beat him for that one later.  "My mommy was married to my daddy," she said with a solemn little nod.  "My daddy's in heaven, but my mommy says that he loves me."

"He was a security guard.  Killed in a hold-up before she was born," Evan murmured just loud enough for Valerie to hear.

"Oh . . . I'm sorry," she said.

Trista smiled.  "It's okay.  He went to heaven; mommy said."

Valerie smiled, too, though hers looked a little strained.  "I'm sure he did," she allowed quietly.

Trista suddenly giggled.  "You can push me, too!" she decided.

Valerie laughed and obliged the child while Evan stood back with a little grin on his face and watched.  'She's good with children,' he thought as he observed.

'A natural, huh?'

Evan chuckled.  'Something like that . . .'

Valerie pushed her for another few minutes before grabbing the swing when Trista hopped off to dart over to a couple girls who had just come outside from the art class that was also letting out.  "She's sweet," she commented, watching the girl talk with her friends.

"She is," he agreed easily enough.

Valerie smiled.  "You're good with kids."

He shrugged but didn't really comment.

"You know," she began, her gaze taking on a peculiar little sparkle.  "You should let the press in on this."

He blinked then glanced at her to see whether or not she was joking.  She didn't appear to be.  He snorted.  "No."

"Why not?  Zel Roka, doing a good deed?  They'd eat it up with a spoon, and it'd be great for your image right about now," she pointed out reasonably.

He shook his head.  "For starters, Zel's got nothing to do with this.  I'm Evan, V, and secondly . . . no.  The minute you drag the paparazzi into something, it gets ugly, and if that's the only reason you've got for doing something good, then you're not really doing a damn thing, are you?"

His response seemed to give her pause, and she frowned as she contemplated it.  "I guess you have a point," she allowed though she didn't sound entirely pleased about it.

He let out a deep breath and slowly shook his head.  "V . . . I do this for me; not to show off or to say, 'look at how good I am'.  I do it for me . . . and for the kids.  Most of their schools have cut funding for band and choir and even music in the elementary schools, so for them, this is about the only chance they've got.  I made damn sure that the lessons I give here are free, and just what do you think would happen if it got out that Zel Roka came down here every week to teach these kids?"

"I get that," she replied at length.  "But you know, your reputation could stand a little polishing."

He shrugged.  "Nah . . . If I did that, I wouldn't be the fuck-up anymore."

He shot her a grin then started over to get Trista.  He could feel Valerie's gaze following him, though.


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A/N:
'Unforgetta ble' was first recorded in 1951 by Nat 'King' Cole.  Written by and copyrighted to Irving Gordon.
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Malitiadixie —— Mangaluva
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Evan Zelig or Zel Roka, huh
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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 25
Chapter 27
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