InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ The Fourth Day: Part I ( Chapter 34 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Thirty-Four~~
~The Fourth Day: Part I~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I've become so numb; I can't feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
I'm becoming less
All I want to do
Is be more like me
And be less like you …'

-'Numb' by Linkin Park.

-Evan-


Smacking the front door open with the flat of his palm, Evan stomped into the house, his teeth ground together to in an effort to keep his temper in check.  Straight through the foyer and into the kitchen, he didn't stop moving until he'd grabbed a bottle of beer out of the cooler under the sink, twisting off the lid with a vicious yank and tossing the paltry bit of metal in the general direction of the trash can as he drained half of it in one very long gulp.

"E . . . Evan . . .?"

Whipping around at the sound of that voice, he could feel the rage burning deep within him suddenly falter, only to spark back to life hotter and brighter and far more volatile when his eyes met hers.  She almost gasped.  She did take a step back as though she needed a buffer between him and her, and maybe she did.  All Evan saw was the mottled discoloration, the livid reminder that he . . . "Goddamn it," he growled, slamming the half-empty bottle onto the counter with a heavy thud.  Beer foamed up and spilled over his hand.  He ignored it.  Valerie flinched at the violent outburst.

Evan pinned her with a furious glower as he strode past her, back toward the foyer once more, wrenching open the door and slamming it back out of the way when it bounced off the wall with a resounding shudder that shook the windows.

"Bone!" he hollered, knowing damn well that the head of security was still nearby.  "Get your fucking ass in here.  Now!"


-Valerie-


'The club isn't one of those places that one might expect to find a man like Zel Roka,' Valerie thought as she slowly glanced around.  It was rather amusing, really.  When she'd woken up from the unexpected but very welcome nap he'd insisted upon after they'd left the studio around noon, he'd mentioned that he'd be doing a small gig tonight at a local club, she had automatically pictured the place in her head as being a low-brow dive, crawling with almost scary-looking grungesters or worse.

What she hadn't expected was the posh and even classy Bunny Hole.  Sure, it was owned by one of Evan's friends, the flamboyantly gay Bugs, and yes, she'd been told that he used to be the house act at the club years ago.  Still, she hadn't been able to help the surprise or the smile that graced her lips when he'd shot her that sexy-as-hell slightly lopsided grin of his when the limo had pulled up behind it.

There were quite a number of people milling around the establishment, and she'd been there a few times with Madison, and the crowd, she had to admit, was just a regular one for a Thursday night.  Most of the tables were occupied, but there were still a handful of empty ones.  Would those fill up when it became apparent that there was going to be an international rock star performing here?

It had been explained to her that Evan had a habit of showing up for unannounced shows here, especially whenever he was trapped in a recording studio for days on end.  She supposed that it was a bit of a release for him, and she even thought that she might be able to appreciate it.  It wasn't that he minded being the rock star or the work involved in cutting a new album, but . . . But she had a feeling that he hadn't been lying before when he'd told her that the shows were what he loved about being a rock star: the immediate satisfaction of knowing that people appreciated what he did.

Even still, she couldn't deny the trill of excitement that raced up her spine as she watched a couple of the club's employees carefully push back the panel walls, opening the room and basically doubling the size of it.  The stage was pretty much in the center of the one large area, and it was even more amusing, she decided, as she watched Evan, his black-for-the-day hair tucked up under a camouflage print baseball cap and wearing an ugly, shapeless gray sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over the cap hiding who he was quite effectively as he moved from instrument to instrument, tuning and fussing and adjusting volumes and generally tending to things that she figured he usually didn't have to deal with and without anyone suspecting, even for a moment, that he was the Zel Roka . . .

And yet, even where she sat about ten feet from the front of center stage, she could sense his excitement, his overwhelming anticipation.  It was a palpable thing, wasn't it . . .?

As much as she didn't want to admit it, she was really looking forward to seeing this show, wasn't she?  Seeing Zel Roka—Evan Zelig—doing what he did best?  Of course she was.  She wasn't entirely certain what to expect, but something told her that it was going to prove to be interesting.

He'd also told her that Bugs never actually promoted Evan's little shows, either, partly because he didn't want Evan to feel badly if he couldn't make it when he said he might, and partly because of the drama that it caused.  Bugs loved to say that one never knew who would show up at the Bunny Hole, and it didn't hurt the mystique in the least.

Evan loped off the stage, sparing a moment to look around, catching Valerie's gaze and casting her a quick wink and a little grin, before disappearing in the shadows.

Okay, so she had to admit that maybe there was more of a work ethic behind the playboy smile of his than she'd first thought.  In the last four days since she'd taken up what he'd been calling the Roka Challenge, she'd barely been able to keep up with him, or so it seemed.  Just this morning, she'd seriously considered throwing in the towel after being woken up after a mere two hours of sleep.  In the last few nights, she might have garnered a grand total of six hours of sleep, if that.  At least he hadn't wanted to jog to the studio this morning, as he had the last three.  He said that he was a little tired, and while she had to wonder about the validity of that claim, she was grateful enough not to question it, either.

In fact, if Evan had accomplished nothing else in the last few days, he had done one thing: he'd completely confused Valerie: all of her preconceived notions, all of her prior beliefs about him . . . and yet he still maintained that he was nothing more than the deviant rock star, the icon that was entirely too recognizable.

And yet there was a quiet side of him, too; one that he tried to play down, one that he sought to hide.  She'd seen it, hadn't she?  As she'd helped him with his fake tattoos, she'd seen it . . .

"So tell me about this guy under the tree," she asked as she carefully positioned the camouflaging tattoo under it.  It was a strange sort of depiction, she thought.  A man dressed in billowing red clothes that seemed somehow Asian in deviation, somehow a little archaic, but the man had long white hair that was very reminiscent of Evan's natural color, and for a moment, she'd thought that maybe it was a caricature of him.  But the man had what looked like little dog ears atop his head.

Craning his neck to look over his shoulder at the ink in question, Evan grinned.  "Him?  Oh, he's my jiijii—my grandpa."

Her lips twitched.  "Your grandpa?  Really."

He nodded.  "Yep . . . InuYasha Izayoi, possibly the greatest being on earth."

"And why's that?"

Offering a little shrug, his grin widened.  "He's just done a lot of things in his lifetime."

"So why does he have animal ears?"

Evan chuckled and shrugged offhandedly.  "Why not?" he countered carelessly.

"But it seems a little . . . well, weird, to be honest."

"Why?  Because men don't have those, you mean?"

She nodded.

Evan sucked in his cheeks for a moment as he considered that then shrugged again.  "It's an old legend," he told her simply, as though it ought to explain everything.  "There was once a hanyou—a Japanese word meaning half-human, half-magical creature—who saved the world from the evilest entity of his time, a being known as Naraku.  That hanyou was half-dog-youkai, and he was said to have had ears just like those."

She laughed at the oddly fanciful thought and shook her head slowly.  "Is that right?"

"Sure . . ."

Taking a moment to smooth the fake tattoo in place, Valerie tried to ignore the unsettling sense of electricity that she had to be imagining.  To feel something like that just from touching someone?  That was insane, wasn't it?

But it was there, and she could sense it: a certain underlying tension that hummed in the air, crackled under her fingertips; an undercurrent that she reveled in despite the hint of warning being whispered in the recesses of her mind . . .

And maybe she let her hands linger on his skin just a moment too long.  Evan chuckled and peered back at her, that playful grin of his firmly in place.  "Something wrong, V?"

Shaking herself, she tried to hide the fluster that the wide expanse of his bared skin had caused.  "Wh—?  Oh, no; no!"

His laughter rang in her head as the memory faded.

"Well, well, well . . . Just look at what the cat dragged in.  Mee-ow."

Valerie blinked and glanced up as Bugs slipped into the vacant chair across from her.  "Hello, Bugs," she said calmly, the hint of an amused little smile quirking the corners of her lips.

Bugs picked a bit of lint off his black velvet dinner jacket just before his eyes slid over her as though he considered her to be a rival.  He must have decided that she wasn't a viable threat, though, because suddenly, he smiled and reached over to pat her hands.  "Oh, I'm so excited!  My Zelicious!  Here!  Tonight!  How win is that?"

Valerie couldn't help the burble of laughter that slipped from her.  "Well, to be honest, I've never seen him perform before," she admitted.

Bugs gasped, his eyes widening dramatically, and while he had foregone the women's garb and makeup for the evening, he was wearing very long, very thick, very black false eyelashes that only added to the over-dramatization.  "You're funning me, right?  You've got to be, right?  You've never seen Zel live?  And you call yourself a fan?" he gasped.

She nearly laughed louder but contained it.  "I'm his attorney, not his fan," she pointed out.

Bugs rolled his eyes and fluttered a hand dismissively.  "Oh, puh-leez!  You're a woman, aren't you?  And there ain't a woman or woman at heart alive who isn't that man's biggest fan, honey!"

"Is he that good on stage?" she couldn't resist asking.

Bugs broke into a titter of laughter, fanning his face with his hands in a furious sort of way.  "Zel Roka is the total package, V: flash and glam and glitter and grunge with just the right amount of shimmy and shake.  He can work a crowd like you've never seen and have them eating out of the palm of his hand with nothing more than one of his sexy-as-hell smiles.  He's bigger than Elvis and the Beatles, combined.  He might just be bigger than God."

"Bigger than God," she repeated, carefully lifting the glass of sparkling water she'd been sipping.  "Is that so?"

Bugs nodded knowingly.  "You'll see, V.  He'll make a believer out of you, too . . ." His complacent little grin faded, only to be replaced by a completely suspect sort of expression.  "Just don't get any weird ideas, hussy.  Just because he's fascinated with you at the moment doesn't mean that you'll be more than a notch on his bedpost when it's all said and done."

She could feel her back stiffen at the implications of Bugs' words as the familiarity of her defenses rose.  "I'm engaged, Bugs," she pointed out in a clipped little tone.

He sucked in his cheeks and regarded her for a long moment.  "That's what they all say, isn't it, lovey?  Just you remember that and keep your puss-puss away from him, hmm?"

She was saved from commenting.  The house lights suddenly dimmed though they didn't go out completely as a single spotlight flickered to life, trained on the center of the stage.

Valerie blinked, narrowing her eyes at the man squatting down on a large amplifier in the center of the stage.  His face was hidden by the brim of a very wide cowboy hat and wearing a strange sort of faded black poncho-like thing.  Even the acoustic guitar he held on his lap looked like it had seen better days, and Bugs giggled madly at the spectacle.

"Who the hell is that?" Valerie heard someone at a nearby table demand.

But . . . But it didn't look like Evan.  Too squat, too diminished . . . none of the rock star hair . . . Even the presence that he possessed intuitively was lacking.  She frowned, glancing at Bugs in a rather circumspect way while the flamboyant man clapped and looked completely dazed.

The man on the stage strummed a few notes, taking a moment to pluck the strings and listening to them fade away as the general hum in the air grew louder, more restless.

The song that he started to play, though, was familiar, something she'd heard before, and yet there was something entirely foreign about it, too.  It took her a minute to figure it out, and when she did, she almost smiled.

It was one of Zel Roka's earlier songs, but the reason she had such a difficult time recognizing it was because of the conspicuous lack of the very loud electric guitar that had been replaced by the gentler tones of the acoustic guitar.  It was a little slower in tempo, and while she was far from an expert on such things, it didn't take a genius to realize that the mastery of the instrument was most certainly on display.

A rustle seemed to ripple through the crowd; no one knew quite what to make of the lone man on the stage.  To be honest, she wasn't even sure what to think.  She almost thought that maybe Evan had brought someone in with him to get things going, and yet that just didn't seem like something he'd do.  After all, he'd gone to the trouble of introducing her to every member of his road band.  Wouldn't he have introduced her to the guitar aficionado, as well?

She shook her head in confusion when the man started to sing.  Low, dry, whispery, like dry leaves skittering over the ground, his voice wasn't the same as the man she'd come to know; the one who had a habit of singing under his breath, even when he didn't realize that he was doing so.  Evan's voice was rich, almost more of one that she would liken to that of a Broadway star.  This guy . . .?

Just who the hell was he, anyway?

"Hey, old timer!" someone off to the side in the shadows beside the stage hollered.  She recognized that voice, didn't she?

"Dieter," she murmured.  It was lost under the general noise of the club.

The man on stage didn't miss a beat, and whether or not he'd heard Dieter was negotiable.

"Fucker, acoustic guitars are for pussies!" Dieter yelled.

A second later, an electric guitar flew through the air directly at the man on stage.  In a deceptively fast motion, he dropped the acoustic guitar and shot to his feet, kicking the instrument toward the other side of the stage in the motion and neatly catching the electric guitar in one hand.  Somehow, in the space of about five seconds—conveniently enough, a five second pause that was written into the song he'd been playing—the man whipped his free arm up, yanking off the nondescript black poncho and the cowboy hat and tossing them away, too.

In the fluid motion of a breath, he flawlessly, effortlessly picked up the song on the electric guitar with a very cheesy, almost snide, grin that he flashed at the audience as his hair fell from where it had been gathered up under his hat—ripped jeans that she recognized since he seemed to favor them despite their deplorable state; no shirt, whatsoever . . . A definite sway in his lean hips as a round of high-pitched screams erupted from the women in the crowd, and in the space of a breath, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand with a flash of a smile, a catty little smirk, the heavy thump of his heel on the wooden stage below him . . .

And the ripple in the crowd was viable, the change in the general atmosphere a palpable thing.  The laid-back ambience was gone, replaced by an audible buzz that sizzled in the air.  Beeps from cell phones coming to life as people called their friends became a white noise beneath the steadily throbbing guitar.  The backup band members dashed onto the stage with instruments ready to go as the drummer—a very stout guy who Evan had introduced as Frankie—slipped onto the stool behind the barebones kit, spinning his drumsticks as he waited for his cue.  Dieter hunched low over the bass guitar, his hair falling over his face, looking ghastly and spindly and almost anorexic—completely 'rock'—right down to the half-burned cigarette dangling between his knuckles as he strummed the bass guitar.  A guy with another guitar—Evan had called it a 'rhythm guitar'—stood on the other side, his hands at his sides as he swung his hips behind the instrument to the beat of the music.

She saw all of this in a matter of moments before her eyes shifted back to the lone man in the spotlight, struck by the ease with which Evan held it, somehow seeming larger than life in the space of an instant—Zel Roka, the rock star—a complete stranger from the Evan Zelig that she had come to know . . . In that moment, in that place, the unbidden knowledge that he had somehow been lifted above her, just out of her reach, was understood, but why that idea bothered her, she had no idea; not really . . .

People got up from their tables, moving in closer to the stage.  Valerie stood up, too, her eyes absolutely riveted on Evan.  There was something about him; something that drew her to him, something that couldn't be seen or touched, but she could feel the immense draw.  Could everyone feel it?  Was that why he was so insanely popular?  Was it more than the music, after all?  'The . . . The man . . . behind it . . .' Something about him was able to reach out to every member of the audience, fooling them into believing that every little grin was just for the individual: a rare gift that she'd never actually seen before—an earnestness that came through in everything he did.

That was his magic, wasn't it?  That innate ability to touch people; a warmth that he never, ever tried to hide.  Even onstage, there was a certain level of openness, as though he were laying every single thing in his heart and soul out there for the entire world to see.  As he strode to the edge of the stage without missing a beat, as he leaned down to clasp hands with as many people as he could reach—the rhythm guitarist had picked up Evan's riff for the duration of the unspoken greeting—as the craziness that spun in the air grew and spread like wildfire in a dry heat . . .

Women screamed, men cheered, and with every second that passed, more and more people squeezed into the club.  The healthy crowd had doubled within the space of a minute, surrounding the round-robin stage.  A sense of frenetic energy rose as bodies squeezed closer together.  The first song came to an end, and Evan heaved a deep breath and slowly glanced around as his grin widened.  "How the hell are you?" he finally called out, absently adjusting the earpiece microphone without breaking his stare or his smile.

The din that rose in response to the question was deafening.  Valerie nearly smiled.  That feeling . . . It was intoxicating, wasn't it . . .?

"Promised an old friend that I'd drop in.  You know: do a few songs tonight," he went on, reaching for a clear plastic bottle of water that was hidden behind one of the stack amps.  "So make sure you guys buy a drink or ten from the bar to thank Bugs for me, all right?"

He laughed as the audience called back.

"I love you, Zel!" someone screamed over the buzz of the crowd.

Evan leaned back, quickly scanning the audience for the face behind the voice.  "Oh, yeah?  Was that you, baby?" he asked, leaning forward and pointing into the darkness.

The woman giggled.

"Hey, hey!  Help her up here, will you?" he said, gesturing for the crowd to make room for her to pass.  They did, and the woman ran up to the edge of the stage.  Evan held out a hand for her and tugged her into the spotlight.  "Well, da-a-amn," he breathed, holding her hand up and letting her do a turn under his arm.  He whistled.  "Love me, huh?"

"I've always loved you," she said, her face as red as the dress she wore.

"Is that so?" Evan queried.  Valerie rubbed her arms, idly stifling the goosebumps that rose to the surface of her skin.  That drawl in his voice—she knew it well enough.  Even if it wasn't directed at her, she could still feel it, just the same . . . "Gimme some sugar, baby, and you see the big guy over there?"

She turned to look in the direction where Evan was pointing.  Bone waved.  "You go talk to him, and he'll see if he can't hook you up with some good shit."

The girl looked like she just might cry—or pass out—as Evan slipped an arm casually around her shoulders, much to the delight of the crowd.  All the same, she still managed to kiss him on the lips before bursting into tears—uncontrollable sobs brought on by her overwrought emotions. Evan kissed the girl's forehead before letting Bone slip an arm around her and lead her off the stage.

He watched her go before turning his attention back to the audience once more.  Leaning back slightly, he threw his hands out to the sides and shook his head.  "I dunno, people," he drawled slowly, "I realize it's only a fucking Thursday night, but . . . Whaddaya say we have a big damn party right here, right now?"

The crowd roared.

Evan laughed and called over his shoulder.  "C'mon, Frankie.  Lay some skin."

Frankie complied, executing a flawless drumroll before launching into a steady, unfaltering rhythm.  Evan stomped his left heel.  "You know the drill, guys.  Get a lady on your shoulders, and let's see what you're made of!"

Valerie blinked.  General chaos, maybe, and somehow not surprising at all as men lifted their girlfriends on their shoulders, as men who had arrived alone grabbed single girls to do the same.  "Uh, no," she said, raising her voice to be heard above the dull roar as a man she didn't know turned to look at her almost expectantly.

The sudden feeling that she was being scrutinized made her stiffen, and she lifted her gaze in time to see Evan's eyes locked on hers, a secretive little grin on his face, and she knew—knew—that he really was looking directly at her.

Then he turned back to face the audience again.  "All right, ladies!  Shake 'em if you got 'em!"

She very nearly clapped her hands over her ears despite the smile on her face when the women broke out in another round of screaming.  Hands in the air, the collective mass of them like putty in his hands.  It occurred to Valerie in a vague sort of way that he could have commanded them to do just about anything, and they would have.  They really would have.  It was hysteria.  It was chaos.  It was amazing.

It was Zel Roka.


-Evan-


"Thank you," Evan said, catching a towel that Dieter tossed him and sparing a moment to dry off his face before chucking the bit of cloth into the surging crowd.  "Let's hear it for the Philansoclantes, my backup band!"

The noise of the crowd rose in volume as he waved a hand toward his road band, and he couldn't help grinning as the mad scramble to catch the used towel broke out, followed by a shriek of "Oh, my God!" from the lucky woman who managed to come up with the prize.

"That song makes you wanna go home and fuck the hell out of someone, doesn't it?" he asked.  Then he chuckled and shook his head.  "Well, if you're a guy, anyway.  If you're a woman?  Just go make someone's day.  Give some lucky bastard a handjob on the freeway on the way home tonight . . . or in the subway, if you gotta . . ."

"Yeah!" someone hollered loudly amid the chorus of assent.

He chuckled.  "Should I play one more?"

The roar from the crowd was absolutely deafening.

He shook his head.  "I dunno," he mused noncommittally, turning long enough to wink at Valerie, who was standing off to the left side, her cheeks pinked though whether it was because of the pervasive heat in the maximum capacity club, or because of her enjoyment of his show, he wasn't sure, even if he did want to think that it was the latter.  "I'm not too sure that I'm feelin' it . . ." The crowd combined into one low protest.  "Maybe you can help me out.  You know: gimme some inspiration . . ."

"Anything!" someone else yelled—someone female.

Evan grinned.  That was the response he'd been hoping for.  "Well . . . C'mon, ladies!  Show me how much you want it!"

And he wasn't at all surprised when blouses fell away, either.  First one, then another and another . . . His grin widened.  'God, I love my job . . .' he thought.  "All right," he agreed.  "Check it out, guys!  Mountains will crumble!  Oceans will dry up!  Breasts will heave!"  The women whooped.  "And I think . . . I think I got my groove back . . ."

Whipping around, he waved a hand at Frankie, who fired off a three count and launched into 'Overdrive', one of Evan's first hit singles.

Bone loped onto the stage and grabbed Evan during the long intro.  "Man, it's chaos out there," he said without preamble.

Evan nodded, pressing the 'mute' button on his earpiece mic and shot Bone a look.  "No extra security?"

"The cops sent in a handful of off-duties, but not nearly enough.  Kress says that traffic's backed up about five blocks perimeter.  Chief Cole called to tell me to get you outta here ASAP."

Evan considered that then nodded again.  He'd wanted to do about eight or ten songs, minimum, and so far, they'd only done three—four counting 'Overdrive'.  "All right," he said, seeing no way around it.  "Get V outta here first; will you?"

Bone nodded once and headed for the side of the stage once more as Evan unmuted his mic and fairly bounced back into the spotlight again.



"'She don't like to tease . . .
She just likes to please . . .
She likes being on her knees . . .
Cuz she loves it long and hard . . .'"

"'In overdrive . . . overdrive . . .
In the night she comes alive . . .'"



The electric feeling in the crowd was enough to make Evan feel almost giddy . . . He hated to leave and cut the show short, but damn it . . . If anyone got hurt at one of his gigs, he seriously doubted that he'd ever be able to forgive himself.

He'd lost track of Valerie in the confusion.  He wasn't too concerned, though.  After all, Bone was damn good at what he did.  He'd find her and get her out of there safely.

It was a frenzy, wasn't it?  The roar of the crowd, the unseen energy that flowed, only to lift him higher and goad him further.

Damn, but he was having a good time.  Live shows always had been his bread and butter: the things he thrived on, and as much as he loved doing the road trips, too, he had to admit that the experience of playing in smaller venues was vastly different—better.  In the larger arenas and such, there was always a wall between himself and the people—not a real one, no, but one created by a barrier of space.  Rarely were fans allowed to squeeze against the stage—safety codes, of course—but it had never ceased to amaze Evan that he could get the same rush of excitement from a club with two hundred people as he could from an arena that seated fifty-thousand . . .

And he could see faces, too.  The pretty girl in the front row who just kept sobbing because she'd never expected to be this close to him—overcome by the moment or something . . . The guy—little more than a kid who didn't actually look old enough to be in the club—maybe he'd sneaked past security at the doors—a couple rows back who looked like he'd died and gone to rock-star heaven . . . And the intensity of a certain woman's gaze that he'd felt all night long . . .

'V . . .'

So why was it that the very thought of that woman was enough to send him into an absolute tizzy?  Hands playing the notes of the song as though by rote, his eyes scanned the crowd . . . Insane to miss her that much when he knew damn well that Bone was doing his job by getting her out of there before him . . . Yet he could sense an underlying emptiness that had only come when he couldn't see her anymore.

Turning on his heel, he ran over to Dieter.  "Gotta call it early, man," he muttered as the bassist executed a solo without incident.  "Old man Cole didn't send in enough security."

"Fuckers," Dieter muttered, shaking his head since he, like Evan, lived for the live rush.

Tay Nash snorted indelicately as he strummed the rhythm guitar.  He'd ventured over soon enough to catch Evan's statement.  "Hundred bucks says it was intentional," he grumbled.

"Whatever, whatever," Evan mumbled with a half-assed grin.  "Let's just wrap this up."

A minute later, and it was all over.  Evan lifted his fists, punching the air in a silent salute to the audience as they whistled and cheered and stomped their feet.  The air reeked of clean sweat and booze and there was an overall balmy feel to it.  He committed it to memory as he grinned at the standing room only crowd.  "Sorry, guys, but we gotta call it a night," he said when the noise had died down a little.

The boos were not unexpected, and he had to wait for them to subside, too.

"Anyway, don't let me ruin the fun!  Why don't you all hang out for awhile?  Show Bugs your appreciation?  You guys have been great!  Thanks for hangin' with me tonight!"

And he waved once more before he loped off the stage, followed by the rest of the band.  Hal Menkin and Pete Henley, a couple more of Evan's security team, were on the right side of the way with a couple other guys on the left, pushing back the crowd as the musicians hurried through.

"Thank you, Zel!" someone off to the left yelled.

"You rock so hard, man!" someone else hollered.

"Zel!" someone on the right called out.  "Don't go!  Please!"

Evan grinned but didn't stop to chat as he made his way toward the black lacquered doors that bore a sign that read, 'Authorized Personnel Only'.

"That was an awfully short set," Valerie commented dryly as Evan pushed into the comparative quiet of the exclusive area.  He stopped abruptly and glanced at her, but grinned when he saw the sparkle in her eyes that she just couldn't hide.  She really had a good time, didn't she?  "Good thing I didn't have to pay, or I'd have had to register my complaint."

He chuckled at her teasing and reached out to grab her into a hug—he always wanted to hug someone when he got offstage.  She'd just have to deal with that, wouldn't she?  She made a face and pushed against him, probably protesting his sweat-soaked chest.  He only grinned wider.  "I'll give you a private show later, baby," he offered.

She snorted and waved a hand, finally succeeding in dislodging his arms as she stepped away, though not before he could discern the trace pink in her cheeks that had nothing at all to do with irritation for once.  "I think you need a shower before anything else," she commented.

"Yeah, first things first," he quipped.

"Come on, Roka.  The cops are afraid that the crowd's not gonna go home unless you're gone, so they're insisting," Bone remarked as he strode into the area, letting go of the earpiece hooked over his head as he pushed the button on the belt pack strapped to his hip.

"Oi, I thought I told you to get her out of here already," Evan commented as he reached for his leather jacket and jerked his head toward Valerie.

Bone nodded then shrugged.  "Had some trouble finding the little lady," he confessed.  "Anyway, I had one of the guys bring the car around.  All things considered, I figured that it'd be better to leave from the front.  If the kids see you go . . ."

Then they'd leave, too, or so the cops hoped.  Evan slipped the jacket on with a grimace—leather on sweaty skin was not exactly something that he cared for—and grabbed Valerie's hand.  "Stay close to me, V," he said as he followed Bone toward the door on the opposite side of the room that led to the small hallway that ran around the back of the club.  "Don't let go of my hand, okay?"

For a second, she looked like she was going to argue with him, and he didn't miss the tug on her hand, firmly held in his.  As he increased his speed, though, she fell silent.  He could feel the reverberations of the crowd, even through the cinderblock walls: the steady rhythm of the music playing over the stereo system in the club, the lingering electricity of the assembled people, and he glanced back at Valerie to see if she could feel it, too.  Her pretty face looked a little pale, her eyes wide as she shifted her gaze from side to side.  She could, and while she might not know exactly what to make of it, he could tell that she was a little leery of it, too.  Four more security guards fell in step behind her, and Valerie unconsciously quickened her pace a step.

And yet, as misplaced as it was, Evan couldn't help but squeeze her hand a little tighter, trying to convey his pride at having her with him without actually saying a word.  When he'd mentioned that he was going to be doing an impromptu gig, she'd stared at him for a long moment before asking him just what she ought to wear, and while he had been inclined to reply that she'd do well to show up in her birthday suit, he figured that he was already pushing it, as it were, all things considered.  Still, she'd chosen a black skirt—too long to be a micro-mini; too short to be considered 'work' clothing—that wasn't at all uptight and a form fitting white silk blouse that she'd left untucked.  The hem just barely brushed the waist of the skirt, with her hair cascading loose and freely around her face—dirty blonde since the brown rinse she normally used was something that she'd been forgetting to use the last few days.  He'd have to admit that she really didn't look much like a lawyer these days, and the clunky, four inch heeled, strap-ankle black sandals that she'd chosen to go with the rest of her outfit?  'Holy damn, she's hot . . .'

"We're ready," Bone said into his headset as he reached for the handle of the door that led to the side opening of the building.  Not exactly out the front door, but close enough to allow for his exit to be seen, Evan figured.

Bone waited for a moment then shot Evan a grin.  "Broadcast news, Roka," he said.

Evan nodded dutifully and pasted on 'the grin' as he followed Bone out the door.

The din of the crowd was deafening, growing steadily and rapidly louder as Evan stepped outside.  Raising his free hand to wave as he shot the masses a wide smile, he pulled Valerie a little closer as the security guards closed ranks around them.

Hysteria.

That was a good word for it.  Screams and catcalls, sobs and incoherent jabbering all combined into one low resonance not unlike the roar of the ocean.  The security team had set up barricades to allow about a ten foot walkway between, but those barricades were being pushed in fast despite the twenty or so security guards watching them.  It happened every time, didn't it?

The crowd seemed more ardent, more desperate than usual, though, and that didn't sit entirely well with Evan.  He could feel them pressing in on the right side, closer and closer.

"Zel!  Just your autograph, please!" one girl screamed as she was being forced back by one of Bugs' very burly bouncers.

Ordinarily, he probably would have stopped and indulged the girl, but somewhere in the back of his mind, Evan realized that the situation was a little dangerous: a throng of kids as far as he could see, swarming the block around the club as the traffic lights flashed.  The city authorities wouldn't stand for this kind of disruption for long, and he knew it.  Best to get into the car and get the hell out of there . . .

"Sorry, honey.  Maybe next time," he called, casting the girl an apologetic smile that he hoped would make her feel a little better.

"Get the fuck back!" one of the guards yelled, giving one of the barriers a warning shake as a swarm of kids fought to push against it.  The man pulled out a straightstick and raised it, his meaning clear.

Evan scowled at that, letting go of Valerie's hand and smacking Bone's arm.  "Stay with her!" he yelled to be heard over the din.

Bone glanced at Evan.  "What?"

Evan didn't stop to wait for an answer as he pushed one of the bodyguards aside and reached out to grasp the man's wrist.  "What the fuck are you doing, man?" he demanded.

The guard didn't look at all impressed by Evan's question.  "They won't stay back," he replied carelessly.

"You trying to turn this into a damn riot?" Evan parried.

"Roka, goddamn it, you're gonna get yourself into even more trouble if you're not careful," Bone growled, grabbing Evan's shoulders and pulling him back.  "C'mon!"

Evan shot Bone a fierce glower at the interruption then suddenly blinked.  "Where's V?"

Bone shook his head.  "What do you mean?"

Evan reacted without thinking, grabbing the huge buffalo-youkai by the front of the shirt and giving him a hard shake.  "I told you to stay with her, damn it!  Where the fuck is she?"

But no sooner were those words out of his mouth than the faintest trace scent caught in his nose: a bitter coppery sort of smell that he knew without having to verify it.  No, it was the underlying scent that was carried with it that caused his heart to stop for one painful and dizzying second, and he shoved Bone away as he glanced around wildly.

And then he spotted her.  No more than five feet away with three massive bodies of hired security guards between them—those sons of bitches were pushing her away from him—she was being forced back behind the barricades.  In the chaos, she must've slipped or tripped.  Either way, he could see in that momentary glimpse of her . . .

Shoving people aside—people who stood between him and Valerie, he couldn't think, could only keep moving, desperate to get to her.  He could feel her rising panic as the security team ignored her pleas.  With a frustrated growl, Evan shoved the remaining body aside and grasped Valerie's hand to pull her out of the crowd and ignoring the disappointed hisses coming from different directions around them.  "Come on," he said, not trusting himself to say more to the guard who was staring at him from where he stood, slumped over the barricade, stunned.  A moment later, he pulled off his jacket, carefully draping it over Valerie's shoulders as he reached for her hand and bit down hard on his cheek, clenching his jaw to keep his temper in check.

He pulled her through the obstacle course of people toward the waiting car, and he didn't stop as he brushed Bone's hand away as the youkai reached over to open the back door, opting instead to do it himself before shielding Valerie as she crawled inside.

He didn't dare look at her on the ride back to his house.  If he did, he'd lose what was left of his temper, and he knew it.  He'd told Bone to stay with her, hadn't he?  And even if he hadn't, Bone ought to have known better.  So why the hell had he left her?


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A/N:
'Numb' originally appeared on Linkin Park's 2003 release, Meteora.  Song written by and copyrighted to Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, Brad Delson, Darren Farrell, and Joseph Hahn.
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MMorg
malitiadixie —— Sesshomaru4Kagura4ever —— Dark Inuu Fan —— OROsan0677 —— CandyEars —— Meru —— vayne (I got the fanart and posted it on my website!  It was fantastic, and I loved it!  The only thing?  Evan has regular youkai ears, not hanyou ones lol!) —— Sovereignty —— monkeyseemonkeynodo —— sunshine161820
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malitiadixie —— BlkbltVette —— OROsan0677 —— jmm6204 —— laura.beth —— MouF —— Denyell —— sueroxmysox —— Mangaluva —— free_freeme_free —— Katterrena —— WonderAway
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Just what's gotten into him …?
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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 33
Chapter 35
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