InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Gravity ( Chapter 37 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Thirty-Seven~~
~Gravity~


-OoO oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'And all of your weight; all you dream
Falls on me; it falls on me
And your beautiful sky; the light you bring
Falls on me; it falls on me
Aah, aah, aah …'

-'Falls on Me' by Fuel.

-Evan-


Day Seven.

Evan glanced at the clock and made a face.  Eight a.m., and he should have been up and gone hours ago.  Mike had already called a few times—Evan had shut off the ringer on his phone the first time.  Beside him, Valerie sighed contentedly and snuggled just a little closer.  He smiled.  Okay, so he knew damn well that she wouldn't be doing any such thing if she were coherent, and if she weren't completely exhausted.  After the photo shoot yesterday, he'd spent a few hours at the V-ROK studio, taping an interview that they'd cut the hell out of and splice together to suit their purposes, not that he really gave a great goddamn.  From there, they'd had an appointment at one of the local music stores.  Funkatronic was holding a midnight event to celebrate the single release from the upcoming album, and Evan had actually gotten the chance to attend it, spending about two hours signing autographs for the kids who had hung out to buy the first copies.

By the time they'd reached his house, Valerie was near comatose, and he had given up on taking her home, opting instead to carry her up to his room, where she'd promptly snuggled against him and fell right to sleep.

And now?

He grimaced.  He couldn't do it.  He had a whole slew of things that he was supposed to get done today, but he just couldn't do it—couldn't wake her up and make her move, bet or no bet.

'You'd better,' his youkai pointed out a little too reasonably.  'Your tour depends upon it.'

Closing his eyes, Evan wrapped his arms tighter around her.  'There'll be other tours.'

True enough, right?  The surge of adrenaline whenever he stepped out onto the stage . . . The feeling that there was nothing on earth he'd rather be doing as he fed off the energy of the crowd.  In that one insular moment, he knew what it meant to truly be alive, and that was the lure of it, wasn't it?  It was the greatest rush he'd ever known.

At least, it had been until he'd met her.

When had it happened?  When had her well-being become more important to him than his career?  The same things that used to hold so much meaning for him . . . What did any of it matter if it meant that she was suffering, or worse—that she had to be broken in order for him to keep up the mirage that had somehow become his life . . .?

He sighed and tried not to think about it too hard.  It didn't work.  There had to be a balance in there somewhere, didn't there?  That Valerie wasn't nearly as opposed to him as she was to her perceived notions of who he was, he knew, and her fiancé?  He was nothing but a security blanket, at best.  Evan might not be the smartest guy on earth, but it didn't take a damn genius to realize that her feelings for Marvin were based on mere illusion at best.

But she was just too exhausted to go on, and he knew it.

The display on his cell phone blinked again, and he made a face.  Mike was going to give him five kinds of hell when he got around to talking to him, not that it would make a difference.  He'd already made up his mind.

As if in answer to Evan's unspoken musings, Valerie snuggled closer, unconsciously gravitating toward the warmth of his body—something that never failed to make him smile, after all.  Damned if she didn't have a way of making him feel special without even trying, even when she was all pissed off and giving him hell . . . To be honest, he rather liked that, too.  It was almost perverse, he supposed, just how amused he was whenever she leveled 'that look' at him . . .

With a yawn, her entire body tensed, her feet extending downward under the blankets, her arms emerging, only to retract in a rigid reaction as she arched her back, effectively smashing her breasts against him as she stretched.  She didn't open her eyes, moaning quietly as a riot of goosebumps erupted on her arms seconds before she yanked them back under the covers and burrowed closer against him.  "W-What time . . . is it?" she murmured between a series of yawns.

Evan chuckled and wrapped his arms a little tighter around her.  "Little after eight," he told her in a quiet tone so that he wouldn't disturb her too much.

"That's nice," she murmured, only half-listening.  It took a full minute before it actually seemed to penetrate her brain, but when it did, she leaned back, her gaze still bleary from sleepiness that just wouldn't let go of her.  "Shouldn't you be somewhere?" she demanded in a much sharper tone than he could rightfully credit, given that she'd just been sleeping so soundly a minute before.

"Nah," he lied.  "Gotta take some time off now and then, right, V?"

She blinked a few times, but whether it was to clear her vision or because she wasn't sure if she believed him or not was debatable.  "R-Really?"

He nodded and tugged her against him again.  "Yep.  You won.  Nice job.  I'll lick your toes now, if you want."

She snorted.  "Stay away from my toes, Zel Roka," she insisted.  The stern effect she was after was ruined a moment later when she yawned again and relaxed in his arms.  She did, however, manage a rather triumphant little giggle.  "I won?  I did?  You know, I—"  With a sharp gasp, she sat up straight, her eyes flashing open as she leaned over to slap her hands against Evan's hip playfully.  "I won!" she positively crowed.  "I won, which means you lost!  That means you have to take out that full page ad, and you have to be good!"

Evan cracked an eye open a little wider and couldn't help the grin that surfaced on his face.  "Yeah, yeah, don't rub it in, V."  Heaving a sigh, he started to sit up and toss the blankets aside, grimacing since he'd gone to bed last night fully clothed.  He might have been able to get by with losing the shirt, at least, but he didn't quite trust himself, either, not after the photo shoot yesterday.  No, he still remembered all too vividly, what it had felt like to have nothing but a pair of very flimsy panties separating their bodies, and that memory was just entirely too hard to ignore, so the bottom line was that, if he had a hope in hell of putting up any kind of resistance against her, he hadn't had a choice in the matter . . .

She blinked and frowned, catching his arm before he managed to get out of bed.  "Where are you going?" she demanded.

Evan rolled his eyes but shot her a grin.  "To call the paper, V.  A deal's a deal, right?"

She considered that then wrinkled her nose.  "Later," she stated, tugging on his shoulder until he gave in and stretched out again.  "It's freezing in here!"

"It's not that cold," he retorted mildly, pulling her against him anyway.

"Hmph!  Easy for you to say.  You're a living heat generator," she uttered as she snuggled closer.  Her eyes drifted closed, and she was asleep again within minutes.


-Valerie-


Valerie pulled the baggy sweatshirt over her head and grimaced as she reached for a towel to wrap up her hair, savoring the warmth the garment provided.  When she'd opened her eyes a little while ago, it was to find Evan gone, and after whining a little at the coolness that had set in around her, she grabbed the thick, white plush robe—she'd never seen it before and really wasn't sure if it was Evan's, but at that time, she didn't care, either, considering that it looked like it'd keep her more than warm enough.  The clothes she'd worn yesterday were wrinkled and looked like they'd seen better days.  No matter, she had figured.  At the moment, she had bigger fish to fry—like just where had the miscreant rock star disappeared to, and if he was off getting into more trouble, she'd make sure he was sorry; just see if she didn't . . .

She'd found him downstairs, sitting in the middle of that sun room that she'd scoffed at when he'd told her that he used it for meditation.  Lingering in the doorway, however, she'd watched as he sat in a patch of sunlight, head titled back with his eyes closed, back straight and proud, forearms resting on his knees, bared chest rising and falling as he'd breathed slowly.  It struck her again, just how quickly she'd jumped to conclusions about him in the beginning, and maybe he really could appreciate something as spiritual as meditation.

There was something about him, though—something entirely unapproachable: the same sense that she'd understood when she'd seen him onstage . . . She frowned.  No, that wasn't possible.  The Evan Zelig that she'd come to know seemed to thrive on touching, and not just when he was trying to be outrageous, either.  As though he really didn't know how often he really did it, he was just one of those people who could and did touch others, and somehow, he managed to keep it from feeling oppressive or conspicuous.  Instead of making anyone uncomfortable with it, he possessed the innate ability to put people at ease with his easygoing smile and a pat on the arm or shoulder.

Maybe that was the real secret behind the phenomenon that was Zel Roka.

Biting her lip, Valerie backed away from the room.  As far as she could tell, he hadn't realized that she was there, and that was all right.  Besides, she really, desperately needed a shower . . .

She'd just reached the top of the stairs, too, when a voice stopped her, and against her better judgment, she turned around to listen.

"Roka!  There you are!  What the hell do you think you're doing?" a very agitated Mike demanded as he strode through the living room toward the doorway where Evan was meditating.  For some reason, it bothered Valerie to no end, that anyone would dare to interrupt Evan when he was obviously deep in thought.

She could make out the soft sigh and shuffle as Evan stood up, even if she couldn't see him.  "Mind keeping it down, Mikey?" he asked dryly.

Mike uttered a terse sound—testament to the manager's irritation.  "I've been trying to get you on the damn phone all morning," he said, though his voice was much lower than it was.  "We're already behind, and—"

"Aww, come on, slave driver.  I deserve a day off now and then, don't I?" Evan drawled.  His tone had been neutral enough.  Still, Valerie could sense the underlying warning in his words.

"A day off?  Is that what you're calling it?  We're down to crunch time in Level Zero, and you're taking a day off?  Bullshit, Roka.  You haven't taken a day off in years!  What the hell's going on?"

Evan didn't respond right away.  Sauntering out of the meditation room, he crossed the living room floor to retrieve his cell phone off the coffee table as he continued on his way toward the back doors.  He gave a sharp whistle, and Valerie flinched when the floor rumbled under her feet as the huge tank of a dog—Munchies—galumphed through.  "Go play with Mimi and Momo," he said, pushing the door open and grinning happily at the crazy-huge beast.  The dog half-whined, half-barked, his body absolutely quivering in excitement as he lumbered outside and took off at what could only be described as a gallop.  Valerie shrank back into the shadows of the hallway and pressed her hand against her chest to steady her wildly fluttering heart with a grimace.  She hated dogs.  She really, really hated dogs . . . "Hey, Bone . . ." he said after dialing a number and waiting for an answer, "feelin' lucky?"

Mike followed Evan, propping his hands on his hips as he slowly shook his head.  "This isn't a joke, you know.  Ramón's already pissed as all hell at you, and we were supposed to have the rest of the tracks ready by the end of the day.  Now you want to take the day off?  To do what?"

"Look, I'm sorry, man.  Just reschedule stuff, will you?" Evan said as he snapped the phone closed and tossed it onto the table again.

"We're already on a tight enough schedule as it is.  We've got two months to get things shored up here before you leave on the mini-tour, and—"

"Yeah, about that," Evan cut in.  "Cancel it."

Stunned silence greeted Evan's words, and it took a few long seconds before Mike responded.  "Do what?" he asked almost flatly.

"All right, little man.  You asked for an ass-whoopin'?"

Neither Mike nor Evan looked at Bone as the big man loped into the living room.  "What the—?  Shit . . . that's why you blew off today?  Because of her?" Mike demanded.  Valerie recoiled at the vehemence in the man's tone, and maybe partially from the implication of what he was saying.

"She didn't have a damn thing to do with it.  It's my choice," Evan growled, his voice dropping an octave as his eyes flashed dangerously.  She'd seen that expression before, just once—the night that he'd lit into Bone because of . . . of her . . . "I made a bet with her, and I lost.  Just cancel the goddamn tour."

"The hell I will," Mike shot back, stomping after Evan when he headed for the back door, jerking his head to indicate that Bone should follow.  The door slipped closed behind the men, though, and whatever else Mike had been saying was lost to her.

Heaving a sigh, Valerie frowned at her reflection in the plate glass mirror that extended from floor to ceiling.  She'd thought she'd won that bet?  But if she'd been completely coherent at the time, she might have known better, wouldn't she?  It was clear to her after hearing the discussion between Evan and his manager that the rock star actually had chosen to let her win, but why when the stakes were that high—his mini-tour, to be exact?  He was willing to give that up just so that she thought that she'd won the bet?  And how dare he, anyway?  She wasn't so pathetic that he had to hand her a victory, now was she?  What was it about the assumption of pity that always—always—ticked her right off?  She'd had plenty of time during her shower to mull that one over, and the conclusion she'd reached?  He had done exactly that, hadn't he?  He'd given up because he felt pity for her, the jerk . . .

"Stupid," she muttered, shaking her head, yet unable to staunch the twinge of guilt that twisted her insides as she yanked on the oversized sweatpants she'd found in his dresser.  They looked positively awful, but they'd just have to do.  "All right, Roka," she muttered under her breath as she tied the string around her waist, "it's on . . ."

The mansion was still quite empty, almost eerie feeling, as she ran lightly down the stairs, pausing only long enough to roll up the bottoms of the pants legs when she stumbled over them.  She'd just turned toward the glass doors that led to the back yard when the piercing screech of metal scraping against metal drew her up short, and when she looked through the windows, she gasped.

Evan fell to the ground, flat on his back as a very long though thin sword flipped out of his hands, end over end until it disappeared from view.  Her gasp surged into a strangled cry as Bone swung an equally real-looking sword at the prone rock star.  Without stopping to think about it, she sprinted forward, yanking viciously on the polished brass handle of the door and shoving it open impatiently, one thing very clear in her head: that idiot was going to have his head cut off if he wasn't careful . . .

"Hey, look out!" Mike growled, grasping Valerie's arm and jerking her back.

"Let go!  He's going to kill him!" she bellowed as she tried in vain to get him to regain her freedom.

"Be quiet and watch," Mike insisted, nodding at the men.

She started to tell him to go to hell, but the words died on her tongue when she finally deigned to watch, even if it was only for a moment.  Evan swung his leg, catching the flat of the blade with the soft sole of his bare foot and shoving it aside without much effort.  Rolling to the side, he propelled himself forward, retrieving the sword he'd lost seconds before.  Suddenly, he was back on his feet again, casting Bone a condescending grin as he flipped the sword over his shoulder and caught it, rotating his wrist to spin the blade in a flash of sunlight.  "Nice try, Bone," Evan commented, "but you'll have to keep trying."

"You got to understand the plan, little man," Bone taunted back.  "R-E-S-P-E-C-T—Now that's what it's all about, you dig?"

Evan's grin widened, and Valerie narrowed her eyes suspiciously as he raised his arms high over head, pointing the sword straight up in the air.  "Bo-o-one . . . I am your fa-a-a-ahtha-a-a-ah . . ." In one fluid motion, he let it drop, parallel to the ground directly before him as he stood, legs splayed slightly, his grip firm but loose on the hilt .  "It is your destiny!"  The last bit was punctuated by a very loud, rather obnoxious hiss of air and subsequent expulsion of breath as the strange black pants he wore—she'd thought for a moment that it was a skirt—billowed around his legs.

"Who's your daddy, Roka?" Bone shot back, lunging forward on his right foot, raising his sword up and back as his other arm came up, looking every bit like a very large, very bulky samurai.  Flipping over his free hand, he curled his fingers once, twice, indicating that Evan should, well, 'bring it'.

Evan's answer was a rather arrogant chuckle as he dashed forward, tossing his sword into the air.  It spun around, end over end, rising up higher as the blade whistled.  It reached the top of the projection, suspended there long enough to complete another couple full rotations before tilting downward.  All the while, the man dashed toward Bone, and his gait didn't falter as he reached out behind his back with seeming effortlessness, wrapping his hand around the hilt of the sword and bringing it around in a circle, only to be met head on by Bone's weapon.

"You're all flash and no action," Bone goaded with a wide grin as he disengaged the clashing blades and swung again.

Valerie cringed at the visible reverberation.  If Evan felt it, though, he didn't give any indication.  In fact, his own grin broadened as he wrenched his wrist, bringing the sword in a tight loop.  Bone managed to hang on, albeit just barely, hopping back and tossing his sword from one hand to the other before leveling it at Evan once more.

"Shit . . . I've gotta get going," Mike said suddenly, checking his watch with a shake of his head.  "Tell Zel that I'll call him later, will you?"

Valerie nodded without taking her eyes off the combatants as Mike turned to leave.

"Yeah, well, not all of us were born as big as you were," Evan tossed back.  "Jesus, Bone.  It's a wonder your mama is still able to walk."

"Leave my mama outta this," Bone retorted good-naturedly, cleaving a wide arc directly at Evan's shoulder.  "She's a very healthy woman, and you don't have room to talk.  Your mama birthed a damn Mack truck."

"Bubby ain't a Mack truck," Evan muttered, evading Bone's swing by jabbing the point of his sword into the ground and using it to catapult himself backward.  "Bubby's more like a fucking mountain . . ."

"Is that right?"

Valerie blinked and turned in time to see a very, very tall man—taller than Bone though not by much—cross his ridiculously huge arms over his chest as a thorough scowl drew his golden bronze eyebrows together.  His coloring reminded her of Evan's father—in fact, everything about him brought Cain Zelig to mind—only bigger—a lot bigger—and a lot more intimidating, too, if she were to think about it, and if she were in the habit of letting anyone intimidate her, which she most certainly wasn't.  Golden eyes—were they really golden?  Of course they were . . . like Evan's mother's eyes . . . But the eyes that looked so warm and gentle on the woman added a fierce sort of light to the man's gaze, instead . . . 'Mountain?  Yeah, that sounds about right . . .'

"Bubby!" Evan greeted.  He started to drop his sword into the scabbard strapped to his hips.

'Bubby' snorted loudly.  "Keep that out, Evan," he insisted almost mildly.  "You're going to need it."  Evan's answer was a wide grin—Valerie was starting to wonder if someone had hit him on the head a little too hard—as 'Bubby' strode forward and held out a hand to Bone.  "May I?"

"Only if I don't have to clean up the mess," Bone joked, extending the weapon.

"Beat him, Daddy!" a tiny voice hollered excitedly.

Valerie glanced down and smiled at the boy.  She hadn't seen him—not surprising since he was so little that he was easily hidden by his father's massive size—and he looked just like his father, too, though instead of the intense golden eyes, the child had vibrant green ones, instead.  Hopping from one foot to the other, his excitement was a viable thing.  Bone loped over and grinned, scooping up the boy and settling him on his wide shoulder.  "Bailey, my man!  How's it going?"

"Daddy's gonna pound Uncle Evan," the boy insisted happily and very proudly, "because he says Uncle Gunnar's too easy!"

"I beg your pardon?"

Valerie didn't miss the absolute irritation behind that question, and she glanced over her shoulder at the back door, only to stop and look again while Bailey erupted in a round of high-pitched giggles.  The man . . . Good God, there really wasn't a good way to describe him, was there?  Incredibly tall with the kind of looks that brought the word, 'pretty' to mind—maybe even 'beautiful' . . . Much leaner of build than Evan's brother, and where the latter just seemed to look a little foreboding, this one?  He was the kind of man that made women stop and stare, even if they didn't dare approach him . . .

But he seemed to notice her standing there, which was a far sight better than 'Bubby', too, and he inclined his head just slightly, as though to indicate that he saw her.  "Gunnar Inutaisho," he said, sparing a moment to glance at Evan, who was too busy showboating with his sword to pay much attention before turning to eye her once more: a long, slow look that she was quite sure tended to melt most women upon impact.  "And you are . . .?"

She blinked and quickly shook her head.  He hadn't surprised her—well, not in that way.  What had surprised her was the sudden memory that had flashed through her mind, instead . . .

"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."

Biting down hard on the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing outright—no wonder Madison didn't want her to tell Evan who she'd slept with that night in question—Valerie carefully schooled her features before answering.  "Valerie Denning.  I'm Evan's lawyer."

A sudden look of complete comprehension crossed his features, and Valerie figured that it had something to do with the curious way he'd been looking at her, as though he couldn't rightfully understand why a woman like her would be hanging out with someone like Zel Roka, in the first place.  "I see," was all he said.

"You can't hit what you can't catch," Evan taunted.  "C'mon, Bubby!"

The elder brother stood his ground, holding the sword in his hand though he made no move to assume any kind of real fighting stance.  That seemed to suit Evan just fine, and he dashed forward, bringing his weapon out in a wide arc at waist-level.  With a quick flick of his wrist, he let go of the sword and caught it with the same hand behind his back, effectively building up momentum based upon what had to be the considerable weight of the object without losing sight of his intended target.

Evan's first blow was easily deflected by the flat side of his opponent's blade followed in short order by a terse shove that wasn't necessarily meant to send Evan flying, but was intended to throw him off balance.  It didn't.  Evan was a little too agile for that to work.  Beside her, Gunnar snorted quietly.  "Bas is just playing with him," he muttered under his breath.

"Bas?" she echoed with a shake of her head.

Gunnar's eyes didn't leave the fighters, but he did nod toward the larger man.  "Bas—Sebastian."

"Oh . . ."

"He can beat the crap out of Evan any time he wants to—if he can catch him, that is."

"He's that good?" Valerie asked, unable to quite reconcile herself to that idea when Bas had yet to move much yet.

Gunnar chuckled dryly.  "It doesn't really have anything to do with 'good', but yes, he is," he replied.  "Let's just say that if Bas manages to hit you, you know it.  For days."

She supposed she could believe that.  After all, Bas was, well, huge, and considering that his hands were as big as baseball mitts, it made sense that they might hurt—a lot.

Evan just seemed to dance around Bas, though, neither causing much in the way of damage nor taking any, either.  Every time he got close enough for Bas to swing at him, Valerie cringed inwardly.  The sheer, brute strength behind the blade caused a ripple of wind that hit her where she stood, and just what that might do to Evan if Bas should happen to connect was rather disconcerting.

Still, Evan laughed and goaded his brother—not exactly what she'd consider to be sound advice, given his distinct weight and size disadvantage.  She knew damn well that Evan wasn't a small man, but he looked like one, at least next to his brother.  It was like a lion taking on a mouse . . .

"It's like the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle," Bone muttered.

"Bas is getting irritated," Gunnar mused.

"Get 'im, Daddy!" Bailey yelled, hopping up and down on Bone's shoulder.

Valerie gritted her teeth together and said nothing.

The beep of a cell phone drew Bone's attention, and he carefully balanced the boy on his shoulder as he dug the device out of his pocket and frowned at the caller ID.  "Duty calls, buddy.  Hop on down, will you?"

Valerie sucked in a sharp breath when the toddler sprang off of the huge man's shoulder, straight into Gunnar's arms, and she was certain that it was only Gunnar's impeccable reflexes that kept the boy from falling to the ground.  Bailey grinned up at Gunnar, though, completely oblivious to the near-mishap.  "Remember what your father told you before, Bailey?" Gunnar reminded the child with a slight scowl.

Bailey grimaced and stopped fidgeting almost instantly.  "I don't jump on people," he replied in a somewhat practiced tone.

Gunnar nodded but made no move to put the boy down, either.  "That's right."

"But you always catch me, Uncle Gunnar," he pointed out.

"That's because I have fast reflexes," Gunnar remarked.

It didn't take long, though, before Bailey started to bounce a little in his uncle's arms.  To Valerie, it seemed to be an almost absent-minded sort of motion since the child was intently watching the fight that appeared almost choreographed in Valerie's estimation.  Every time Bas would advance on Evan, the latter would spring away, just out of reach, only to leap forward to poke and prod at his brother before backing off with a laugh or a taunt.  If it weren't obvious to her before, it was now.  The longer that it went on, the more irritated Bas grew with the standoff.  Evan was just too fast, and Bas was just too damn big . . .

"Bailey, be still or I'll put you down," Gunnar warned.

Bailey uttered a sound akin to a whine and instantly stilled.

"The problem with fighting that one," Gunnar mused, almost more to himself than to Valerie as he nodded his head toward Bas, "is that it doesn't matter how agile you are.  Eventually you get tired while you're trying to avoid those ham hocks he calls fists, and, well, he's got more stamina than just about anyone has.  You get tired, you get sloppy, and—" His eyes narrowed momentarily when Bas came dangerously close to slicing through Evan's right thigh.  Evan, idiot that he was, just laughed and hopped back about a foot.  "Well, there you have it," he finished dryly.

Valerie swallowed hard, unconsciously smashing her hands against her heart to contain the nearly painful pounding in her chest.

Evan darted forward, still playing the court jester, or so it would seem, as he jabbed at Bas a few times, the blade flashing past the older brother's ear on his right side, then his left, then his right again.  A few strands of golden bronze hair fluttered down like sparkling rain, and that, apparently, was more than enough, as far as Bas was concerned.  In the blink of an eye, Bas tossed the sword in his hand aside, unleashing what could only be described as a growl that seemed to rumble up from somewhere deep down as he slapped Evan's sword away.  It sailed, end over end, out of his grasp and away, embedding itself, point down in the grass a good twenty feet away.  The growl escalated as Bas' arm—no more than a blur of color and motion, shot out, grasping Evan by the throat, and he jerked him forward as he snapped out his other arm, catching Evan in the center of his chest.  He let go of Evan, and Valerie flinched as the rock star's body flew through the air—was he laughing?—only to land with a huge spray as he hit the surface of the water in the pool and sank like a rock.

"And that would be 'Defeat by Dumbass'," Gunnar muttered.

"Yay, Daddy!" Bailey hollered, squirming down from Gunnar's arms and dashing over to his father.

"Oh, my God," she hissed under her breath, anxiously watching the pool where Evan had landed.  He didn't surface right away, and she started to dart over there.

Gunnar caught her arm and pulled her back.  "Stupid, yes, but perfectly fine," he assured her.

"Are you crazy?" she yelled, yanking against his hold.  "Do you know what a hit like that on the heart could do?"

Gunnar stared at her for a moment, the condescension in his expression deepening just before he gave her a curt nod and let go, shoving her back a step though not harshly, as he strode around to the far side of the pool where Evan had yet to surface.  Standing on the edge, looking down as he slowly and rather deliberately rolled up the long sleeve of the fine linen white shirt he was wearing, he seemed to be calculating something.  She heard him sigh as he hunkered down and plunged his arm into the pool, hanging on to the safety edge with the other hand.  A moment later, he yanked Evan up out of the water by a fistful of sodden silver hair.  The idiot was laughing.

"Shit, bubby!" he complained, rubbing his chest as Gunnar gave him a curt shove and let go.  "That almost hurt!"

"Baka," Gunnar muttered, shaking his hand in obvious disdain as he stood and stalked away from the pool.

"It'd take more than that to get rid of a cockroach like you, Evan," Bas retorted mildly.

"Daddy!  I wanna go swimmin'!" Bailey said, currently perched in his father's arms.  He tapped his shoulder rather animatedly to get his attention.

"What the hell is wrong with you?  Both of you?" Valerie blasted, interrupting whatever smart-ass comment Evan was about to make.  "Were you trying to maim each other?"

Bas blinked and stared at her for nearly a full minute, taken aback by the very apparent outrage in her expression.  "W . . . I wasn't actually trying to hurt him, no," Bas explained slowly, almost apologetically.

Valerie narrowed her eyes.  Bas shifted uncomfortably and started to open his mouth again.

"Give up, bubby," Evan said as he hauled himself out of the pool.  "V just don't understand brotherly love."

"Brotherly love, my ass," Bas grumbled with a shake of his head and a light blush that had been inspired by Valerie's tirade.

She snorted and crossed her arms over her chest, pivoting on her heel to glower at him, too.  Too bad that the sight of him, dripping water from head to toe, the sight of the tiny rivulets coursing down his skin, the strange pants that were now clinging to his legs as the weight of the water dragged the waistline precariously low on his hips completely distracted her.  A moment later, however, the illusion was broken as the man dropped to his hands and knees and affected a full-body shake akin to a dog that had just come in from the rain.

With a gasp and a strangled little shriek, she threw up her hands to cover her face and tried to turn away from the frigid spray.

"Use a towel, Evan," Gunnar growled, dropping one on Evan as he strode past before handing another to Valerie.  He'd nabbed them off out of the small wooden cabinet that stood near the pool.

Evan stood up and draped the towel around his neck.  "Sorry, V," he said, sounding anything but contrite.

She wiped her face on her towel and rolled her eyes, sparing a moment to shake her head before she spun on her heel and stalked back toward the house once more.  It wasn't just Evan who was insane, was it?  No, she had a feeling that his entire family just might be, too . . .


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A/N:
'Falls< /b> on Me' by Fuel first appeared on their 2003 release, Natural Selection.  Song written by and copyrighted to Carl Bell.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
They're all insane
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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 36
Chapter 38
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