InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Compromises ( Chapter 38 )

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


'When I'm tired and thinkin' cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away …'

-'More than a Feeling' by Boston.


Chuckling low in his throat as he started toward the doorway of the music room, Evan swigged a bottle of beer.  He wasn't entirely sure where Valerie had disappeared.  He'd expected her to light into him about the moment that Gunnar and Bubby had left, but she didn't.  He could tell that she was nearby, of course, but she had yet to show herself.  Grimacing slightly—damn, Bas hit a little too hard sometimes, didn't he?—Evan rubbed the soreness in the center of his chest as he reached for his favorite acoustic guitar, ignoring, at least for the moment, the unpleasant clinginess of his still-damp hakama.

'All that ballyhoo just because he wanted to ask you to watch Bailey and Olivia tomorrow?' his youkai huffed indignantly.  'A simple 'please' would have done nicely enough.'

Evan grinned since he was pretty sure that the thing that had set Bas off was the 'mountain' comment.  Still . . . 'Aww, I don't mind.  Been awhile since I got a decent workout.  I think Bone's going a little soft . . .'

'Yeah, and about that . . . He's your head of security.  I don't think that's a good thing, now do you?'

'What?  Bone?  I don't think it's anything like that . . . Where do you suppose she took herself off to?'

His youkai heaved a sigh, irritated, he figured, that he wasn't about to get into a philosophical debate on Bone's arguably declining skills.

Besides, he was still feeling a little restless.  True, the morning meditation had helped that, as had the impromptu sparring with Bone and Bas.  He had a feeling that the cancellation of his mini-tour had something to do with it, but if he were to be completely honest?  Yeah, he supposed that it had everything in the world to do with the photo shoot yesterday . . .

No doubt about it, if he could just get the feel of her body and the overwhelming knowledge that she'd trusted him on a level that she, herself, might not have understood, he'd be a far sight better off.  Too bad he couldn't.  They'd always said that he had an overactive imagination . . .

Settling on the edge of a ratty old puke green sofa—the first bit of furniture he'd ever acquired when he moved to New York City years ago—he took his time adjusting the strings, strumming notes to test the instrument.  It wasn't out of tune by much, and the actual task was more of a ritual for him instead of something that needed to be done.  Much like the meditating that he'd been missing lately, the simple act helped him to focus, helped him to relax.

"Okay, Roka.  Let's see it."

Evan reluctantly lifted his gaze off the guitar, only to smile as Valerie strode into the room with a no-nonsense expression on her face.  She looked like she was mentally prepared for the siege to end all sieges, and as she crossed her arms over her chest, spreading her feet shoulder-width apart, she leveled a look at him and waited for him to comply.

"Well, if you insist, V," he drawled, setting the guitar aside and slowly rising to his feet.

She snorted and rolled her eyes when he went for the ties holding the hakama in place, slapping his hands away before he could actually loosen them.  "I meant your chest," she informed him.

Wrinkling his nose, he waved her off as he turned away.  "Hell, it'd take more than that to hurt me," he bragged.

Valerie strode around him, reaching for the towel that still hung around his neck and effectively hid the top of his chest from her perusal.  "You realize, don't you?  A solid hit to the chest like that could stop your heart . . . Don't look at me like that.  I'm serious."

"You're right," he agreed quickly since he could feel her temper rising.  "Bet he wishes that he'd hit me a little harder."  She wasn't even slightly amused by his tongue-in-cheek attempt at joking.  He sighed.  "It's fine, V, I swear."

He knew well enough that she'd heard him.  He also figured that she'd chosen to ignore him, too.  Yanking the towel away, she flinched, her face paling just slightly as she stared in unabashed horror at the shadowy beginnings of a healthy sized bruise in the center of his chest.  "I think you should go to the doctor," she muttered, her voice little more than a rasping whisper.

"For this?  Are you joking?  Think of my rep, woman!  I'm Zel Roka, you know, and Zel Roka does not go to the doctor for something as minor as a stupid little bruise."

She was going to argue with him.  He could tell from the expression on her face.  Evan held up a hand to forestall her.  "Listen, it's fine.  Just a bruise.  Happens all the time, you know?  Besides.  I did cut his hair.  Can't say that that's ever happened before . . . at least, that I know of."

She uttered a frustrated growl, holding up one finger in his face, her mouth opening to grumble at him.  She must have thought twice about it, though, because she let the hand drop as she whipped around on her heel and stomped out of the room again.  He considered following her, intrigued that she was so obviously irritated by his stubborn display, but she was back before he could, and this time, she held an ice pack in her hand.  "Here," she said, the gentleness in her hands a stark contrast to the aggravation on her face.

"I'm fine, V, I swear," he told her, taking the ice pack and holding it against his skin, figuring that if it would pacify her, then it was all good.

Letting out a deep breath, she slowly shook her head, collapsing onto the sofa with her shoulders hunched forward as she buried her face in her hands.  "What am I going to do with you?" she lamented, her resigned voice muffled by her skin.

"Well, I could think of a few things," he deadpanned.

She let her hands drop and lifted her gaze without moving her head.  "Evan . . ."

He grimaced inwardly.  It sounded a little too much like she was getting ready to say something to him that he really wasn't going to like.  "Hmm?"

"I wanted to tell you . . ."

"Aww, V . . . it's too early in the day to be using that tone, don't you think?" he complained, unable to stomach the sudden and overwhelming feeling that she was about to apologize for some perceived ill or something equally humbling.  In fact, the idea appalled him . . .

She ignored his outburst.  "I underestimated you," she went on.  "You . . . You work a lot harder than I gave you credit for."

He shot her a half-hearted grin intended to be taken as cheeky but likely appeared more contrived than anything else.  "Nah . . . I just get paid to play around.  Lucky little bastard, huh?"

Her eyebrows drew together as she frowned at him—one of those penetrating sort of stares that he felt all the way down to his bones.  "All the same," she continued with a somewhat stubborn shake of her head, "I think . . . I think that it'd be nice to go on your mini-tour with you. I'd like to see a little bit more of what you do."  She shrugged as a small, vague, rather contrite smile quirked the corners of her lips.  "I'd like to see one of your real shows—more than just three songs."

"Y-Yeah?" he said, his expression brightening by degrees.  "You would?"

Her smile widened just a little, and she nodded.  "Yeah."

"It's because I'm just irresistible, right?" he couldn't help goading.

"You're something, all right," she muttered with a resigned sigh that was followed in short order by a little giggle.

'That sound,' he thought with a satisfied sort of grin, 'I could stand to hear that . . . forever . . .'

Valerie stood up, her attention skittering away as she frowned in concentration at the unchartered territory she'd happened into.  Since her immediate concern over his well-being seemed to be as done as dinner, she finally realized that she had never been in this room, and her curiosity was a viable thing—or it would have been if Evan had been paying attention instead of thinking about the sound of her laughter . . .

"Bagpipes?" she said, her voice cutting through his idyll.

Evan blinked and broke into a little grin.  "Sure."

She picked it up, turning it this way and that as she inspected it.  "Do you actually know how to play it?"

He rolled his eyes.  "Of course."

She gave it another good look before shoving it against his chest.  "Show me."

Never having been one to back down from so blatant a challenge, Evan winked at Valerie as he took the instrument and arranged the long pipes over his left shoulder and grasped the bag under his elbow.  He'd checked all the plugs recently, so that wasn't an issue, and he almost laughed when Valerie cocked an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest.  The interruption was enough to shift the steady, low groan of the instrument as the air he blew into it escaped evenly through the pipes, and the resulting screeches made her grimace.  "That's awful!" she said, plugging her ears and affecting an exaggerated grimace.

He played the first few bars of Amazing Grace before she reached for the instrument, and when he didn't give it over right away, she waved her hand impatiently.  "Let me see!"

With a sigh and a shake of his head, he let her take it, though he did step around her to position the bag and pipes.  "Here . . . this is where you finger the notes," he told her as he wrapped her hand around the chanter near her waist.

"I 'an't 'ee 'em," she muttered around the blowstick in her mouth.

Evan grinned.  "Da-a-amn!  Do you have any idea how hot it is to see you with your lips wrapped around that?" he couldn't resist asking.

She rolled her eyes and snorted, but not before a hint of pink blossomed in her cheeks.  "'Oh 'oo hell, 'Okah."

He chuckled.  "Just blow, V.  If you can do that, then you can worry about making notes."

And blow she did.  To her credit, she did manage to inflate the bag, at least to a degree.  When her entire face darkened to a crimson hue, however, causing her eyes to bulge just slightly, he winced and reached over, flicking the blowstick out of her mouth with an exaggerated shake of his head.  "You're going to pass out if you keep it up," he told her mildly.

"Ugh, I feel dizzy," she admitted, pressing her hand to her forehead as she swayed slightly.

Evan took the bagpipes and hurriedly set them aside.  "Maybe you should leave those alone," he suggested.

She nodded then sighed, sparing a moment to glower at the instrument, apparently irked that she couldn't quite muster enough hot air to sustain it.

"You should probably sit down a minute," he said, quickly reaching out to steady her elbow when she swayed slightly on her feet.

"Nuts to you, Zel Roka," she scoffed though she still appeared a little flushed.  "Oh, my God . . . You have one of those . . .?  Those . . .?"

Following the direction of her fluttering hand, Evan chuckled.  "Alpenhorn?"

She wrinkled her nose as she continued to stare at the eight-foot horn.  "Let me guess: you can play that?"

He nodded.

She snorted.  "You're so weird," she muttered.  "What's this?"

Evan grinned as she gingerly touched the base of another instrument situated on a wooden pedestal nearby.  "It's a kalimba," he told her.  "An African thumb piano.  Check it out."

She touched one of the keys and winced since she didn't seem to know exactly what to expect.  Her eyes widened, though, at the very dulcet tone that sounded not unlike a tap on a xylophone.  "Oh!"

He played a short piece for her; one that he'd learned from the old villager who had given him the instrument a few years ago when he'd taken a trip to Zimbabwe.  The man was blind, but there wasn't a damn thing wrong with his ears, and the songs that he'd played for Evan had been emblazoned in his brain forever.

When he looked at Valerie, though, it was to find her staring at him in something akin to awe.  As the last notes died away, so did that expression, but the gentle smile that lingered was enough.  "So you're telling me that you know how to play all the things in this room?"

Sparing a moment to glance around, he shrugged, feeling unaccountably bashful for some reason.  "Yeah, I . . . I guess."

"Idiot rock star, indeed," she scoffed.  Wandering away from him, she paused long enough to look over his collection of guitars before dismissing them as unremarkable.  She did stop to look at the tonkori that he kept housed in a glass case mounted to the far wall.  "So pretty," she breathed, her fingertips lightly brushing over the glass.

Evan chuckled as he drew up behind her.  "Of course," he said with a simple shrug.  "Legend has it that it was designed in the shape of a woman's body."

She didn't take her eyes off of it.  "Is that so?"

He closed in behind her, his hands itching to reach for her.  He stopped himself and grimaced.  "Yep . . . See the way it's been carved?  The curves there . . .?  The way it narrows there . . .?  And . . . there's her heart."

She leaned against him, probably without realizing what she was doing, and he could hear the beat of her heart in the silence of the soundproof room.  "Beautiful," she whispered.

"You have no idea," he grumbled.  "You know, the parts are named for the corresponding parts of a woman's body."

"Hmm," she demurred, only half listening him.  "Have you ever played it?"

Dragging his attention off the gentle arch of the back of her neck, Evan stifled a sigh.  "Not that one," he explained.  "I know how to play it, but that one was a gift.  My uncle sent it to me a few years ago."

"The same uncle that taught you the piano?"


She laughed softly.  "It seems like a shame not to play something just because it's pretty," she pointed out.

Evan sighed and nodded.  "I suppose," he agreed though he made no move to open the case.

Turning slightly though not enough to break the contact, she smiled at him—a warmth in her eyes that he couldn't rightfully recall having seen before.  "You're a surprising man, Evan Zelig."

He shot her a grin despite the unsettling lurch in his belly.  "Aw, V, you have no fucking idea . . ."


She was wandering around, poking into everything like a child, she supposed, and yet she couldn't quite help herself, either.  As much as she hated to admit it, Evan's music room was fascinating . . .

To start with, she'd never, ever seen so many instruments all in one place before, and so many of them were so strange, so exotic, that she was fascinated.  That they were all in useable condition; that he could play them all—she didn't doubt his claim in the least—was . . . Well, it bordered on amazing, didn't it?

Just what kind of man was he?  It was a question she'd asked herself before, though it hadn't perplexed her nearly as much as it did now.  How could one person know so much about them?  How had he managed to learn it all?  It was . . . it was crazy, and yet, it somehow fit him, too.

The room wasn't that big; not really, and still, she wasn't done exploring.  Evan had gone back to the acoustic guitar that he'd been holding when she'd ventured inside earlier, content to let her poke around as much as she wanted while he strummed the guitar and sang softly.  The words to the vaguely familiar song were lost as she continued her search.

His library of hardcopy music was staggering: a wall of shelves stacked with compact discs and data chips, small plastic cases with what she suspected to be cassette tapes inside—she'd never actually seen one of those before, either, but apparently Evan had.  He even had a small mixing board similar to the one at the studio only a bit more compact.  She figured that it was just something he used when he was trying to write a song or something.  It was still pretty cool, she had to admit.

Stopping in front of a large glass shelf with various statues arranged upon it, Valerie blinked and stared.  She'd heard before that he'd actually won a few Grammys—not Zel Roka, but Evan Zelig, the man who had been described as an eccentric recluse who shunned the limelight in favor of his home in Maine.  Those awards weren't prominent, pushed back toward the rear though not completely out of sight.  She'd never touched one of those before, either, come to think on it, and with a mischievous little grin, she carefully picked one up.

It was heavier than it looked.  Hefting it in the palm of her hand while she grasped the gold gilded phonograph to steady it, then whirled around, leveling a look at Evan, who grinned but didn't stop strumming, even after Valerie cleared her throat and gave an arrogant toss of her head.

"I'd like to thank all the members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences who voted for me . . . all of my fans . . . my people, of course . . ."

"Zel Roka?" he chimed in with an arched eyebrow.

She fluttered a hand at him before placing it solidly on the statue once more.  "No.  Shush."

He set the guitar aside and leaned forward, elbows on knees with his hands dangling between them like a demented Neanderthal.  "Hey, V?"

"Stop heckling me during my acceptance speech, Roka.  What do you want?"

His lips twitched.  ". . . You have 'people'?"

Rolling her eyes, she heaved a melodramatic sigh.  "Don't all big rock stars have 'people'?"

"Oh, right."

"Now be quiet before I forget who I still need to thank . . ."

"Sorry; sorry.  Go on," he said, waving his hand in a gesture meant to speed her along.

She cleared her throat again and curled her lip at him.  His grin turned downright lecherous, and she shook her head.  "I want to thank the losers—better luck next time—and I promise that I shall forever keep this award close to my heart!  I love all you little people!"

"Damn, you're harsh," Evan remarked as his grin widened.

Valerie slipped the trophy back onto the shelf and giggled.  "Not bad, huh?"

"Sounds like you've been practicing," he teased.  "Let me guess: you were always a rock star in the mirror in your bedroom growing up?"

She rolled her eyes but couldn't quite help the slight flush that crept into her cheeks as she slowly turned to meet Evan's rapt gaze once more.  "Of course not!" she shot back, crossing her arms over her chest.  "I always won Oscars."

He laughed and flopped against the sofa, staring at her through half-closed eyes.  "I'll bet you did," he replied.

Valerie paused, rubbing her arms as gooseflesh erupted all over her.  Something about the unabashed warmth in his expression caught her off guard, and as much as she tried to look away, she found that she simply could not.

"W . . . Why are you looking at me like that?" she rasped out, wincing slightly at the breathiness in her tone.

Evan smiled.  "Like what?"

She shook her head.  "Like you're going to . . . to eat me or something . . ."

"Not a half-bad idea," he ventured.

His meaning was not lost on her, and Valerie pressed her lips together in a thin line.  "That's really not appropriate, you know," she reminded him though her warning had lost much of the derision she normally saved just for him.

Evan sighed and sat up to reach for the bottle of beer he'd set on the table earlier.  "Appropriate is boring, and you know by now, just how much I hate being bored, right?"

His tongue-in-cheek speech was enough to chase away the discomfort that had been plaguing her, and she pursed her lips to keep from smiling.  Stepping away from the shelf, she took her time shifting her gaze around the room until she noticed one of the posters on the wall near the drum kit set up in the back: a gorgeous red head teasingly posed and apparently naked though only her profile was actually visible, smiling at the camera quite happily.  For a moment, Valerie thought that maybe she was a Playboy pinup or something, but upon closer scrutiny, the image actually seemed to be printed on much nicer paper than a standard poster, and as her scowl deepened, she took a reluctant step closer.

No, calling her a redhead was entirely too simplistic, wasn't it?  The woman's hair seemed to be a myriad of shades and colors, all blended together into one that was far more vibrant, more brilliant, than a simple shade of red or auburn . . . and eyes so green that they looked like jewels that shimmered and shone in the wan light of the image . . . A strange and almost ugly surge of emotion shot through Valerie as she stared at the picture—something cloying and hostile and just out of the realm of her understanding . . . "So . . . who's that?" she heard herself asking in a tone that sounded a little too clipped and short to her own ears.

"That?  She's Sydnie," he replied.

Valerie nearly jumped out of her skin.  She hadn't heard him sneak up behind her.  "Sydnie?" she repeated, struggling for a more neutral tone than she felt like using.

Evan nodded, reaching past Valerie to adjust the frame.  "Hot, isn't she?"

Valerie smothered the urge to snort.  "She's not bad," she allowed grudgingly.  "Why is she hanging on your wall?"

Evan chuckled.  "Because," he explained with a simplistic shrug, "she's my dream girl—or at least, she was."

"Your . . . dream girl," Valerie echoed.

"Well, sure . . . The first time I met her, I 'bout creamed my jeans—hell that.  I'm pretty sure I did cream my jeans."

"Disgusting," Valerie muttered, though whether she was more irked at his claim or at the idea that he was talking about that woman, she wasn't sure and she wasn't about to think about it, either.  Evan was way too busy drooling stupidly over her to have heard Valerie.  "So why aren't you with her now if she's so special to you?"

Evan waved a hand, heaving a sigh as he turned his attention away from the poster at last.  "Aw, she went and got married.  That kind of bullshit."

"Oh?" Valerie contended, unable to keep the twinge of a sneer out of her tone.  "Who'd she marry?"

Evan snorted.  "Just some bastard," he replied vaguely.

"You poor thing."

He ignored the dryness in her voice.  "Nah.  I said she used to be my dream girl."

"So what happened?" she couldn't help asking.

He chuckled and shrugged offhandedly, as though the subject were starting to bore him.  "I grew up," he said simply.

She shook her head, unable to grasp his meaning.  "And?" she prompted when she realized that he was, for all intents and purposes, done talking.

He blinked and glanced at her as another broad smile surfaced—the unjaded smile that made her feel just a little lightheaded . . . "And I figured out that I'd much rather have a dream woman, not a dream girl."

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'More than a Feeling' by Boston first appeared on their 1976 release, Boston.  Song written by and copyrighted to Tom Scholz.
== == == == == == == == == ==
theblackthorn —— WhisperingWolf —— AtamaHitoride —— malitiadixie —— Meru —— oblivion-bringr —— Sesshomaru4Kagura4ever —— OROsan0677 —— smurf_x3 —— inyu01 —— DonthatemecuzImbeautiful —— vayne —— ilovenaimecartoons —— Sovereignty —— alchemie —— phalon23 —— monkeyseemonkeynodo —— Titiana
Mangaluva —— cutechick18 —— Epa-chan —— OROsan0677 —— vayne
Thought from Valerie:
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.

Chapter 37
Chapter 39
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