InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Keeping Up Appearances ( Chapter 33 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Thirty-Three~~
~Keeping Up Appearances~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'She's a dancer, a romancer
I'm a Capricorn, she's a Cancer
She saw my picture in a music magazine …'

-'C'mon and Love Me' by Kiss.

-Valerie-


Valerie groaned and rolled over in bed, unconsciously migrating toward the radiant warmth that compelled her.  So warm . . . too warm . . . too incomprehensively inviting . . .

"V . . ."

She stubbornly tried to cling to the last lingering remnants of sleep that was fast slipping away, no thanks to that rotten Zel Roka.  That was his voice, wasn't it?  She uttered a whine of protest.  Damned if he didn't chuckle, miscreant that he was.

"Come on, V . . . We've gotta get moving."

It was absolute desperation that brought her arm out from under the covers to swing madly, wildly, in the general direction of both the welcome warmth as well as the very unwelcome voice.  "Shut up—shut up—shut up!" she half-whimpered as she smashed her hand over his overzealous mouth.

Evan chuckled and grasped her wrist in one of his hands.  His fingers were long enough to curl over his thumb as he gently tugged her hand away.  "All right; all right," he agreed quite amiably.  "Don't worry about coming in with me.  Tell you what: I'll catch up with you later," he offered a little too smoothly.

"R . . . Really?" she breathed, managing to pop one eye open to cast him a very blurry eye.

"Sure," he agreed with that damned lopsided grin that she was really starting to despise.  "And I think I want a nice, big border around the full-page ad," he quipped.  "Maybe some dynamite or something.  That'd rock . . ."

She sat up abruptly, shoving the covers aside despite the wave of cooler air that hit her point-blank.  "I'm up!" she exclaimed, fighting to hide the tumultuous shiver that the loss of warmth had inspired.

He really laughed at that, which just figured.

She glanced at the clock and stifled a low moan.  It was a repeat of yesterday, wasn't it?  'Two a.m.?  He . . . He can't do this every day . . . can he?'

"Listen, why don't you just ride with Bone today?  You can catch some z's in the limo on the way," he offered, sounding completely sincere.

She snorted.  She had very little doubt in her mind that it was just a ploy: his way of tricking her into complying, only to be told later that it was against the terms of the bet or something.  "Just give me a minute," she ground out from between clenched teeth as she stumbled out of bed and toward the dresser, determined to wear whatever she laid hands on first.

His laughter trailed after her as she scooped up what she thought was sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt and stomped off toward the bathroom.

It was unfathomable, wasn't it?  After they'd finally left the recording studio for the night around seven, they'd headed straight to one of the local radio stations where Evan was doing a live interview for WTPE, and sometime during that, Bone managed to send someone off to a nearby deli to pick up a few sandwiches that the two of them had hurriedly eaten as the limo had sped them across town for another interview for Music Mania TV—Evan had graciously agreed to speak to them for a Zel Roka 'shockumentory' that was supposed to chronicle the rock star's life thus-far.  Of course, Valerie had to wonder how much of the supposed 'background' was made up, since the musician strictly refused to discuss his family and therefore went along with whatever story his manager had tossed out there.  According to the 'facts' given, he was the only son of a single mother whose father had died in a freak accident somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia—a concoction that had made Valerie roll her eyes as Evan had told the interviewer that he 'preferred not to talk about it' in a completely choked up tone of voice.

"Can't really tell 'em the truth, now can we?" Mike had commented as he slipped into the chair beside Valerie.  They were back in the shadows, out of the way of the cameras that were filming away: two of them, probably to get various angels of the rock star.  Valerie wrinkled her nose when the interviewer—she looked entirely familiar though Valerie had no idea what her name was.  "It's all a game of smoke and mirrors, anyway."

She nodded silently.

"I think he gets off on the idea that he's telling everyone that his father's dead," Mike went on in a hushed tone.

"Isn't that a little twisted?"

Mike shrugged.  "Maybe.  Then again, there's a history there, you know.  I don't think they've ever seen eye to eye about anything."

She shifted her gaze to the side long enough to consider Mike's words.  There was something behind the manager's tone, wasn't there?  A sort of resignation, maybe . . .?  "So you know his parents, too?"

"Don't know if you could say that.  I'm familiar with them, sure.  Can't manage their baby boy without having met them, right?"

She nodded slowly.  That made sense, she figured, especially after having seen exactly how much his parents seemed to care about him, no matter what he wanted to think.  No, that one brunch with them had been more than enough for her to see it, first hand.

All said, Evan hadn't dropped her off until nearly midnight with a smile and a wave—and a promise that he'd see her tomorrow that had sounded more like a threat than something to look forward to . . .

And she still had to think that as she followed along behind him as the two of them jogged along the same path that they'd taken yesterday morning.  Sure, she was in good shape, but the lack of sleep was wearing on her more than she wanted to admit.

She heaved a sigh and shook herself out of her reverie, narrowing her gaze on the man jogging in front of her.  Barefoot and wearing a pair of ragged, frayed jeans that looked like they were about ready for the trash, he didn't even seem to be breathing heavily, and that just figured.  As much as she hated to admit it, he really was in phenomenal shape . . .

Still, she kept telling herself that he had to be putting on an act for her benefit, making things as difficult for her as he possibly could.  There was simply no way that he could possibly do all of this stuff every single day . . . was there?


-Evan-


'God, you're such a fucking bastard.'

Forcing his gaze off Valerie, who was trying her damndest not to fall asleep in the comfortable chair in the corner of the sound booth, Evan flubbed the recording for the tenth time in as many takes.

"Sorry," he called out with a simple shrug.  "My bad."

Mike shot him a nonplussed sort of glance.  "Right, right, Roka."

Buzz Marleighvaughn heaved a sigh and tossed his headphones down on the soundboard with an air of complete disgust.  "Why don't we take five and see if the real Zel Roka's gonna join us any time soon?"

Rubbing his eye with an extended middle finger, Evan didn't even try to stifle a yawn, preferring to allow his body to do the talking for himself.

"Oh, real mature, Roka.  You're such a little prick," Buzz muttered.

Evan chuckled and shot the producer a wide grin as he headed for the doorway that separated the two rooms.  "Hey, Mikey, would you send someone out to get some chow?  I'm dyin' here!"

"I ought to tell you to wait till you actually do something productive first," Mike complained but stood up.  "The Crab Shack?"

Evan grinned, but caught sight of Valerie.  She was blinking rapidly, forcing her eyes wide open as though she were afraid that they'd drift closed if she didn't.  "Aww, why don't you just get something light?" Evan drawled, earning himself the strangest looks he'd gotten in a long while from the other people in the booth.

"No way, fucker!" Dieter commented as he shook his head and hunched forward in his chair.  "Light is for pussies.  I want meat."

Evan chuckled and held up his hands.  "All right," he relented.  "Meat for the men, but pick up something light for V, would you?"

"Wh-What?  I'm awake," Valerie piped up suddenly, stumbling to her feet at the mention of her name.

Evan pushed Mike out of the way as he hurried over to Valerie's side when she tripped against the leg of the chair.  "It's all right, V.  Just sit back down for awhile," he told her in a gentle tone.

She gripped his forearm and lifted her sleepy gaze to meet his.  She really wasn't used to keeping hours like he did, and it was starting to show.  For the briefest of moments, Evan almost forgot about the others in the room as he stared at her.  Yeah, he could definitely get lost in those eyes, couldn't he?  The tired slant to them was nearly enough to make him groan out loud.

"All right: meat and light.  Got it," Mike muttered as he pushed a button on the board to summon one of the studio grunts.

Evan stifled a sigh, silently cursing the fact that they were surrounded by far too many pairs of eyes that were all rather avidly watching, and he forced a little grin as he helped Valerie into the chair once more.  "Don't worry about it, V.  We're just breaking for lunch now."

"Lunch?  Already?" she murmured with a rather confused shake of her head that Evan found completely disarming and absolutely adorable, besides.  He'd watched her through the window all morning—long enough to have noticed that she'd kept dozing off in the chair where she sat, and while he'd pretended not to have seen it, he had to admit, at least to himself, that she was the reason he'd kept flubbing the takes.

He chuckled.  "Yep," he told her with a glib grin.  "Just doing some last takes on a couple things, and then we'll be ready to start mixing."

She nodded rather vaguely, and he didn't even try to delude himself into thinking that she had a clue as to what he was talking about.  That was all right, too, though.  She was getting a crash course on the recording industry, wasn't she?  That was, when she could stay awake, anyway . . .

She rubbed her arms and shivered a little.  She'd changed into a pair of jeans and a light sweater after her shower, but she was always cold, and he knew it.  Nabbing a dark blue blanket off a shelf nearby, he shook it out and dropped it over her with a rather wolfish grin.  "Wouldn't want to see you freeze, baby," he told her when he caught her rather dubious expression.

She snorted loudly, but her cheeks pinked up as her gaze cleared fast. "I'm not your baby," she reminded him tightly, unable to keep herself from glancing from one side to the other to see whether or not anyone else had heard him.

His grin widened, and he winked at her before turning on his heel and heading for the doorway once more.

It only took about twenty minutes to finish recording the retakes, much to Buzz and Mike's collective relief.  Valerie had buried her nose in a magazine in an effort to keep herself awake, but her eyes kept straying off the publication to watch him, which was more than enough to keep him on track for the duration.  There was something altogether exciting in knowing that she was so into what he was doing.  He could tell by the way she was looking that she was absorbing absolutely everything, and for reasons that he didn't quite understand, that pleased him, too.  That she found his work interesting was just an added bonus, he supposed.  He caught the almost perplexed expression on Mike's face and ignored it.  The poor bastard was having a hell of a time, trying to figure out just what Evan was thinking and doing, and Evan wasn't about to explain it to him, either.

No, it had been a gift that Mike hadn't really questioned Valerie's presence in the studio when Evan had never allowed outsiders in while he was recording.  He knew damn well that the old manager desperately wanted to get him alone, to pose those questions to him in the hopes that Evan might actually answer them.  Too bad he had no intention of doing so.  After all, he worked for Evan, didn't he?  Evan didn't really need to answer to him.


-Valerie-


"And what do those do?"

Evan chuckled and tilted his head back to stare up at Valerie.  She'd wandered over after she'd given up on trying to eat the gargantuan salad they'd brought in for her.  To her surprise, he had yet to eat a thing despite the mountain of food that the kid, Brett, had toted in not long ago.  After he'd finished recording, he'd sat down promptly, grabbed a pair of thick headphones, and started messing around with the buttons and sliders on the large panel that spanned the length of the room beneath the window that separated the recording booth with the room they were gathered in.

"These?" he asked, waving a hand at the softly glowing amber sliders.  "These main ones control the recording tracks.  You can make them louder or softer . . . and those—" he indicated some smaller ones further up on the panel, "—alter the overall sound of each track."  He shot her a rather calculating sort of look and grinned seconds before he snagged her around the waist and hauled her into his lap.

"Let go, Roka," she insisted, pushing against him as she tried to regain her freedom.

Evan groaned.  "Wiggle all you want, baby.  Please."

She heaved a sigh but stopped squirming when he lifted his hips and ground them against her.  "You're reprehensible," she pointed out, craning her neck to pin him with as scathing a glower as she could muster.

"Only for you, baby," he quipped.

"Smooth as sandpaper, Roka," Buzz muttered under his breath as he lifted a mug of coffee to his lips.

"Yeah, she's just shy and hates to sweet talk me around you bastards," Evan shot back without taking his gaze off her.

Figuring that it simply wasn't worth the effort to argue with him, Valerie heaved a sigh and gritted her teeth as she forced her attention back to the lights that were blinking harmlessly at her.

"Gimme another set of headphones," Evan said, leaning to the side long enough to slap Buzz' arm.

Buzz rolled his eyes but grabbed an extra pair off a shelf near him.  Evan chuckled as he plugged them in and settled them carefully on Valerie's head.  "Now here's what the raw sounds like," he said, punching a green button just to the left of the main set of sliders.

She frowned, concentrating on the song that she'd heard him sing but hadn't really grasped as an entire work until that moment.  He'd called it the 'raw', but it sounded damn good, even if she really did hate to admit as much to him.

"If you want to hear, say, just the vocals, you can hit this button here, and it'll stop playback of the other tracks so you can tinker with it.  If you want to add a few seconds' pause or adjust the treble or anything, you can do that, too.  Just remember that if you adjust timing, you'll have to readjust it afterward, too, or the rest of the track will have that delay throughout."

She nodded vaguely and started to reach out to push one of the buttons with a masking tape label underneath that said 'lead guitar' in permanent black ink, but she jerked her hand back before she could push it.  "I'm not going to mess up anything, am I?"

Evan chuckled then shook his head, his dark gray eyes—she missed his blue ones—taking on a lazy sort of glow.  "Nope.  All the tracks have already been downloaded onto hard storage, so do what you want, V."

It was more fun than she'd have thought.  It also wasn't nearly as difficult as she might have believed before, either.  She figured out how to alter certain parts of the recordings without actually changing the entire track, lowering the volume of the guitars in places while bringing them up in others.  There was a very catchy sort of groove to the overall song that she couldn't help but love, and even if she never told Evan as much, she'd have to admit to herself that she really thought that this one was one of her favorite Zel Roka singles.

She also had to admit that it was rather fun, playing around with the track and fussing with this and that.  She was even rather proud of the mix she was creating, and yes, she even thought that there was a certain level of satisfaction in having put the thing together.  Almost absently, she noted the fact that he was slowly, almost idly, rubbing the small of her back, and she considered saying something to him to make him stop, but in the end, she was enjoying herself a little too much to ruin the moment.

'Okay, so maybe it isn't as great as a professional mix . . . but it isn't bad,' she decided at length as she listened to the end result with a critical little scowl.  Evan was saying something to Buzz, but she couldn't really make it out since, and she was busy, anyway.  Out of the corner of her eye, though, she could see Dieter leaning in the doorway with a thorough frown on his face.  Head tilted forward far enough that his shaggy bangs fell into his eyes, she couldn't rightfully discern the expression, and to her irritation, it unsettled her.

"Can I listen now, V?" Evan asked quietly, tugging one of the earphones away from her head.

She slapped his hand away and straightened her back proudly, doing her level best to ignore Dieter's ardent appraisal.  "In a minute," she told him.  "I want to tweak this."

"I wanna tweak somethin', too," he drawled, letting his gaze slip down to her breasts as an entirely lecherous sort of grin broke over his features.

Valerie rolled her eyes and pushed him back.  "You've been good up until now, Roka.  Let's keep it that way; shall we?"

He chuckled.  "You ruin all my fun, V."

"I-I want to paint you."

Valerie blinked and glanced at Dieter, caught completely off guard by his blunt statement.  Was that why he was staring at her?  She shook her head.  "Me?"

He nodded and grabbed a metal chair, flipping it around so that he could straddle it.  He sat down and crossed his forearms on the back of the chair and pinned Valerie with a very intense stare.  "Yeah, sure!  You could be part two of my death series!"

She clamped her mouth closed as an unwelcome flush stained her cheeks.  She didn't exactly want to hurt the artist's feelings, no, but she wasn't about to pose for a portrait of herself, lying dead somewhere, either.  "I don't think—" she began.

Evan cut her off with another chuckle.  "V's not into the death scenario," he supplied easily.

Dieter scratched his head as though the very idea didn't make any sense to him.  "She's not?"

"Sadly, no."

He considered that for a moment then shrugged.  "Did you show her the one I did of you?"

Evan's chuckle escalated into a full-blown laugh.  "Yeah, yeah, she saw that, all right . . ."

Dieter waved Evan's words off impatiently and held out his hands as though he were trying to get Valerie to see his vision.  "But you'd die in a different way, like . . ." His eyes suddenly brightened as he sat up a little straighter.  "Like you could get hit by a car or something . . . or the subway . . ." He shook his head quickly.  "Nah, not the subway.  Too damn messy.  Saw this guy once, you know?  He musta been pretty fucked up because he just sorta jumped out in front of the three-fifteen heading uptown?  Man, there wasn't nothing left of that poor mother fucker!"

"Deet," Evan interjected with a slow shake of his head.  "I'm not too sure that Valerie, here, wants to hear the grim details."

Dieter made a face that Valerie supposed was meant as an apology of sorts.  "Sorry.  Just that I think you'd look real good, all leeched out and that sort of silvery color that a corpse gets after rigor mortis sets in . . . Like a . . . gruesome sort of beauty, right?"

She didn't bat an eyelash, but she did take a moment before answering.  "So . . . you think I'm . . . grossly beautiful?"

Dieter's grin widened.  "Y-Yeah!"

"Dude!" Evan cut in quickly, leaning forward and shifting Valerie to his off knee, further away from Dieter.  "Stop before she rips off your balls!"

Dieter blinked, his expression blanking.  "Was it something I said?"

"No way, man.  Not at all," Evan quipped, wrapping his arms a little tighter around her waist despite the resistance she was trying to offer.  He casually let go, only to catch her arms under his, and effectively ending her struggle.

Then he winked at her.

Damn him.


-Evan-


Evan glanced into the wide mirror that spanned the length of the room, not surprised to see Valerie sitting on the plush black velvet chair near the door with her earbuds in and a brand new silver ice Medialis that he'd downloaded her mix of Wide Open with the strict rule that she was absolutely not allowed to leak that song anywhere for any reason until after the release date for the actual album.  She'd rolled her eyes and demanded to know if there was something she had to sign in blood or the like, and he'd tried to whip down his pants . . .

But she was extremely proud of her mix, even if she wouldn't admit it.  She ought to be, all things considered.  She did a pretty decent job with it—good enough that Evan had teasingly told her that she could have Buzz' job if she wanted it.  She hadn't believed him, of course, but that didn't mean that she wasn't entirely pleased with his reaction.

And, well, he might as well face it: if it pleased Valerie Denning, then it pleased him, too.

Glancing at her again, he frowned.  Stifling a yawn with the back of her hand, she looked like she was about ready to doze off in that chair, and while he knew damn well that she'd made the bet willingly, he couldn't help but feel just a little bad, too.  She really wasn't used to keeping up with someone like him, and even he got tired from his schedule.  Being youkai helped a lot.  He didn't need nearly as much rest as a human would.  Still, there were times when he needed a break, too, and God forbid if she actually found out that he'd cancelled some of the things going on this week so that she could sleep for even a few measly hours at night.

This one, though . . .

He couldn't cancel tonight, anyway.  He'd promised Bugs he'd stop by long enough to introduce the newest house band, Scrotia.  It'd be nice to unwind a little after the last few days, anyway.

"What are you doing?"

Evan shot a quick glance over his shoulder and grinned as Valerie wandered over.  She had that rather vacant sort of expression in her eyes, as though she wasn't entirely able to focus but was trying damn hard.  "Putting on my tattoos," he said, holding up the largest one.  It spanned the width of the small of his back just above his ass.

"Fake tattoos?  You really are a poser, aren't you?" Valerie couldn't help goading.

He grinned.  "Nice, but entirely unnecessary," he told her with a grin.  "Remember, if you will, that I'm also Evan Zelig, and Evan Zelig doesn't have wall-to-wall tattoo-age, if you know what I mean."

She reached over and plucked the tattoo out of his hands.  "Which way is up?" she asked with a frown.

He chuckled and turned it over for her before letting go.  "That side is up.  One dot on top, two on bottom.  It's a tribal, so you gotta be careful."

She considered that and nodded.  "Okay, so how do I do this?"

"Peel off the sheet of plastic and position the print on my skin, but you have to start in the center and work your way outward.  When you've got it pressed down, spray on the activator, wait two minutes, and you're done."

She snorted but carefully positioned the tattoo.  "Seems like an awful lot of work just for show.  How long do these tattoos last?"

He frowned as he stared in the mirror ahead of him and positioned a mirror behind his back to watch what she was doing.  "It's not so bad.  They stay on for about a month unless I remove them myself, but I normally redo them after about three weeks so they stay real-looking."

"All part of the show," she mused.

He chuckled.  "I've told you before, right?  You savvy just fine, baby."

She heaved a sigh and shook her head but suddenly broke into a very cute round of giggles.

"Was it something I said?" he couldn't help asking.

She waved a hand in front of her face and held out her other one for the next tattoo.  "Where does this one go?"

"Over the one on my shoulder.  You position it so that the tree is covered up, but the guy under it isn't.  Just line up the dots with the outline of the tree, and it'll be fine."

"I see," she replied, falling silent for a moment as she eyed the fake tattoo critically.  "Anyway, I'm not your baby, and I'm going to beat you," she remarked as her laughter wound down, "just as soon as I'm coherent again."

'Trading a beating for her laughter . . .?  I can do that . . .'

He grinned.  "Is that a promise, V?" he leered.

She shoved his shoulder so that she could position the tattoo.  "You're so twisted," she pointed out though she sounded like she was pretty close to laughing once more.

"Only for you, V," he said quietly, almost reverently, unable to control the slight tremor that raced down his spine as her nimble fingertips smoothed the tattoo into place.  "Only for you . . ."


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A/N:
'C'mon< /b> and Love Me' first appeared on Kiss' 1975 release, Dressed to Kill.  It was covered in 1992 by Skid Row.  Song written by and copyrighted to Paul Stanley.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Twistedcompletely twisted
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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 32
Chapter 34
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