InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Denial ( Chapter 55 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Fifty-Five~~
~Denial~


-OoOoOo OoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'By the light of the moon, she rubs her eyes,
'Says it's funny how the night can make you blind …
'I can just imagine.
'And I don't know what I'm supposed to do,
'But if she feels bad, then I do, too …
'So I let her be …'

-'Her Diamonds' by Rob Thomas.

-Valerie-


Valerie fumbled with the door and stumbled into the welcome silence of her apartment before leaning all of her weight against it to close out the rest of the world or at least a certain part of it.

She didn't move right away, her strength seeming to give out as she slumped, her entire body feeling as though it was cast of lead seconds before the tremors took hold of her.  Her purse landed with a dull thump on the floor near her feet, but the constant, unrelenting pulse of the music still echoed through her spinning head; she could feel bile rising in the back of her throat as she lifted a limp hand to smash against her lips, stifling everything deep inside her that threatened to spill over.

The look in his eyes . . . Part of her hadn't understood the emotions that had flickered to life, but there were just too many of them, all in the space of an instant, and none of them were pronounced enough to make any sense, whatsoever . . . There was only the mesmerizing glint that had somehow left her feeling breathless, light headed, though whether it was because of him or because of the unbreakable mood of the club, she still didn't know.  She'd seen his intention in his gaze before he leaned in to kiss her, she'd understood that much and yet she was powerless to stop him . . .

'What . . . What did I do . . .?'

That insular question taunted her, tortured her, repeating over and over again like a scratched record that only she could hear.

'No . . . No!  I didn't do anything—anything!  It was him; he did it!  He . . .'

Yet even as she tried in vain to deny it all, she knew, didn't she?  Deep down, she knew that she hadn't stopped him; she'd just stood there and like a thousand women before her, she'd let him do whatever he wanted.

'No . . .! That's not how it happened!  He . . . He just—I was shocked!  That's all!  I didn't expect him to . . .'

"To . . . kiss me," she whispered, squeezing her eyes closed against the words she simply hadn't wanted to admit.

An irrational surge of anger rippled through her from somewhere in the depths of her—anger at Evan for his absolute audacity, anger at Madison for having bought her a drink when she knew damn well that Valerie just didn't hold liquor very well, anger at her boss for caving in to Evan's demands, but worst of all, anger at herself because as much as she wanted to believe otherwise, all of it—all of it—really was her own fault.

No one had made her go with them, and even then, hadn't it been her idea in the beginning?  Irritated that he hadn't thought that she could dance, and as much as she really hated it, the fact remained that it was her idea to go to that club, in the first place . . .

Wincing as she drew a deep breath, as though to garner what was left of her tattered nerves, she pushed herself away from the door, stumbling slightly before kicking off her shoes and rubbing her face with trembling hands.

There was simply no excuse for it, was there?  She'd known that Evan Zelig was dangerous, more so than his alter-ego, Zel Roka.  There was something innately playful in the rock star persona, and in the end, it was easy to remember exactly who he was, but . . .

No, that wasn't it.  She wasn't attracted to a man like him; it simply wasn't possible.  He was everything—everything—that she despised, that she had avoided.  Sure, there were moments when he seemed different, but he wasn't, and she knew that, too.  The only thing he was to her was a paycheck, damn it: a client who needed her help because he was stupid enough to get into trouble since he didn't think about repercussions—because he never thought about repercussions.  Rock star that he was, he'd started to believe his own legend, and somewhere along the way, he'd forgotten that he really wasn't above the law.

Her temper was rising, displacing the misery, the confusion that had accompanied her home.  Stomping through the apartment without stopping till she reached her bedroom, she shoved the closet open with a resounding, if not rather satisfying, thud.

She simply hadn't expected that, had she?  That was it, and that was all.  She hadn't expected him to suddenly decide to kiss her.  She hadn't wanted him to do it.  That would have been stupid—really stupid.  She was engaged, for God's sake, and he knew that, too.  He'd done it just because he didn't like Marvin, and he thought that he could play with her.  She was nothing more to him than a shiny new toy because that's how he viewed all women.  Anyone who was demented enough to keep women's panties as a twisted trophy of sorts couldn't possibly give two figs about anything other than what a woman could do for him.

With a frustrated growl, Valerie yanked off the dress and tossed it into the closet, for once ignoring the pragmatic little voice in the back of her head that detested any sort of abuse of the things she worked so hard to attain.  Her expensive French lace bra followed suit, and she snorted into the obnoxious silence as she jerked an oversized sweatshirt over her head and yanked it down over her hips.

"That arrogant, manipulative, self-serving, egomaniacal, childish, spoiled, overbearing, asinine, condescending, fat-headed, intolerable, whore-mongering, conniving, fickle, irritating, womanizing, nasty, overinflated, hot-headed, rotten excuse for a human . . ." she muttered under her breath as she stomped out of the bedroom once more.

'But . . .'

Squelching the whisper that resounded in the back of her mind, Valerie strode purposefully into the kitchen to make a cup of tea as she filled a mug with hot water from the electric tea pot that she'd forgotten to shut off before she left the apartment to chase after Madison.  'But' couldn't possibly lead to anything good, and questions weren't something that she wanted to deal with.  It was easier to be angry; easier for her to blame him.  It was easier to remind herself of those things that she knew about him from the start, and even if—if—she were to think otherwise, even for a moment, she'd be wrong.  Nothing at all would change what he was, just like nothing in the world could change the fact that the one and only reason she was even associating with him was because she'd agreed to represent him in the case, for the sake of her employer and her career.

'Is that really the only reason?'

She ignored that, too, as she carefully spooned loose tea leaves into the steaming water in the mug.  That, as far as she was concerned, was a stupid, stupid question.

A small squeak escaped her when the trill of her cell phone cut through the silence.  As upset as she was when she'd walked through the door, she wasn't entirely sure what she'd done with that, and at the moment, she wasn't in that big of a hurry to find it, anyway.  With her luck, it would just be that man, and she most certainly didn't want to talk to him, not now and not ever.

Tea mug in one hand, rubbing her face with the other, Valerie shuffled back into the living room once more.  Just how many times did she have to tell him that she wasn't interested, anyway?  Exactly why couldn't he understand?  Eyes narrowing as indignant color suffused her cheeks, Valerie uttered an uncharacteristic growl and slammed the mug down on the corner of her desk, only to grimace when the scalding liquid sloshed up over the side and onto her hand.

She knew the answer to those questions already, didn't she?  He heard her well enough.  He simply didn't care because her answer didn't match up with his feelings on the matter.  Just like the spoiled rock star he was, 'no' wasn't something that he was used to hearing, and because of that, she knew damn well that it was nothing but the thrill of the chase that kept him coming around.

Dropping into the chair in front of her desk, Valerie sighed, sparing a moment to rub her forehead before reaching down to turn the computer on.  If only she hadn't let Madison talk her into meeting Evan, in the first place, then none of this would have ever happened, and she would still be living her life, blissfully unaware that such an obnoxious man existed.

Clutching the tea mug in both of her hands, she closed her eyes and sipped the fragrant drink, willing herself to calm down, wishing that she could forget the whole night, too.  The aroma worked to soothe the edges of her frazzled psyche, the burst of tangy spice that hit her tongue serving to wash away the bitter taste that had lingered in her mouth long after she'd forced the bile back down again.  Unfortunately, the ultimate cleansing also served to dampen the edges of her ire, leaving behind a corrosive confusion that licked at her soul, uttering the softness of questions that she neither welcomed nor answered.

It had to be the shock of the moment, right?  That unfurling she'd felt deep in her belly, the liquid surge of warmth that had rushed through her like adrenaline . . . She simply hadn't expected him to kiss her; that was all.  She hadn't wanted him to do it.  She'd told him all along that she wasn't interested in him.  Somehow, though, she'd forgotten that the two of them really weren't friends—couldn't be friends.  Besides, he didn't want that, anyway.  The price of that kind of relationship with him wasn't one that she could afford.  She knew that, didn't she?  After all, she knew what he expected from Madison, his 'best friend' in the world, and maybe that kind of thing didn't bother Madison, but Valerie couldn't say the same for herself.

No, it was her fault, and she knew it.  Somewhere along the line, she'd forgotten that Evan Zelig simply wasn't the kind of guy that knew what it meant to just 'be'.  He wanted too much, expected too much, and Valerie . . . She wasn't for sale; not for anything.

Letting out a deep breath, she opened her eyes and let her gaze focus on the computer monitor.  As though by habit, she pointed the web browser at her sister's blog, reading through the daily entry without retaining anything that she'd read.  There were a few new pictures posted from the summer theater that she belonged to.  She'd landed the role of Alice Sycamore in the under-eighteen production of You Can't Take It with You.  Ordinarily, it probably would have made Valerie smile, those pictures.  As it was, she could only stare rather blankly, unable to really focus on what she was seeing, in the first place.

Clicking off the computer with a long, low sigh, Valerie let her head fall back, staring at the ceiling for a long minute.

She knew why it had been so easy to forget the real crux of their relationship.  She'd confused her general concern over his well being after Dieter's death with friendship.  She understood that now.  He was so vulnerable that she hadn't known how to react to him, and she'd done what had seemed natural at that time: to help him realize that it wasn't his fault.  No matter who it was, no one deserved to suffer that kind of guilt, that kind of recrimination, and though she'd known that Evan wasn't the kind of person given to showing his weakness, she'd let herself become too involved, and as an attorney, that was nothing but folly.

If she wasn't careful, she was going to lose what little objectivity she had when it came to Evan, and that certainly wouldn't help him in court.  Somehow, the focus of her attention had shifted from the case at hand to the imposed role of babysitting that she'd found herself trapped into.  Her professional demeanor was being slowly eroded, and the feeling that she was teetering on the very brink of toppling into faux pas was enough to make her grit her teeth.

The phone on her desk rang, jolting her right out of her reverie, and she blinked and snatched up the receiver, pausing a moment to glance at the caller ID and letting out a deep breath when she saw the name that flashed on the tiny monitor.

"Marvin," she said, clicking on the receiver and lifting it to her ear.

"Hi, Val," he greeted warmly and without missing a beat.  Either he hadn't discerned the vast relief in her tone or he just didn't choose to remark upon it.  It was fine with her, though, and for the first time since she'd walked through the door, she almost smiled.  "I just got back from dinner with Pete Cafferty and his wife, so I figured I'd call . . ." He chuckled almost nervously.  In her mind, she could see him, wandering around a generic hotel room—the surroundings didn't matter at all—maybe peering out a window at the city lit up around him.  "I wanted to tell you that I'll be in New York City in a couple-few weeks.  Not sure how long I'll be there, but it should be for at least a four or five days."

"R-Really," she whispered, as though she were afraid to voice her question out loud.  A surge of wild hope fluttered to life in her chest—not excitement, no, but a hope mingled with a sense of lost familiarity that she desperately wanted to recapture.  "That's great!"

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to spending some time with you, too," he admitted, his voice taking on that quiet hint of reluctance that she knew so well.  She supposed that it stemmed from having grown up as the class geek—the smart kid who was good enough to ask for help with your geometry but not the kind of guy that a girl would want to spend her Friday night with, getting all hot and heavy in the back of his or her parents' sedan . . .

There was something about him; a welcome sense of the predictable, the constant, and Valerie swallowed hard, eyes grainy and hot as another emotion nudged aside the security that comforted her as a hateful surge of guilt shot to the fore.  She'd betrayed him.  Even if that hadn't been the intention, the thousand excuses that rifled through her head all sounded lame, ridiculous—all of them.  "M . . . Marvin . . ." she began slowly, her voice betraying her, trembling despite her efforts to keep herself under control.

"Are you all right?  You sound really tired," Marvin said.  The concern in his tone was enough to bring on the sting of tears.  "Why don't you go to bed, Val?  Bainey's working you too hard, isn't he?"

"Mister . . .? Oh, no," she replied, pressing a hand to her forehead.  "I just . . . I need to talk to you."  Grimacing, she wished that she hadn't sounded as pathetic as she knew that she had.

Marvin uttered a quiet grunt.  "We'll do that when I come home," he promised.  She hadn't missed the hint of anxiety that he'd tried to hide.  Old insecurities, maybe?  She winced.  The very last thing she wanted to do was to hurt him . . .

"It's not like that," she blurted quickly, wanting to reassure him—or was she reassuring herself?  "I-I . . . Do you think you could come home a little earlier?" she heard herself asking before she'd really stopped to consider it.

Letting out a deep breath, Marvin didn't answer right away.  "I'm sorry, Val," he finally said, and he really did sound like he was regretting the idea of telling her that he couldn't.  "I was asked to speak, did I tell you?"

"Uh, no, where?" she asked, ignoring the voice in the back of her head that accused her of trying to avoid telling Marvin what had happened at the club.

The trace of uncertainty dissipated from his tone, lending Valerie a sense of guilty relief.  "Randall Pharmaceuticals asked me to fill in at a convention tomorrow.  One of the speakers they'd scheduled cancelled at the last moment, so I got the spot, instead."

"That's great news!" she said.  It was a big deal, and she knew it.

"Yeah!  They don't really fund my kind of research, but there'll be a lot of doctors there who represent some foundations that do."

"Are you ready?  Do you have time to be chatting on the phone?" she mused.

Marvin sighed then chuckled.  "Probably not," he admitted.  "For some reason, though, I just . . ." He trailed off then chuckled again, that nervous little laugh.  "It sounds stupid, but I just felt like I needed to hear your voice."

Blinking at the surprising and unusual statement, Valerie couldn't help but smile a little.  "I'm really glad you called," she assured him.

"We'll talk when I get home, okay?  We can go to that restaurant you love, if you want."

"That sounds good."

"Why don't you go to bed?  You really do sound exhausted."

"Yeah," she said, biting her lip as she told herself that everything was fine, that it would definitely be better if she told Marvin in person so that she could try to make him understand that she hadn't actually wanted Evan to touch her at all.  "You'll do fine tomorrow; I just know it."

"Thanks, Val.  You're the best."

Flinching at his unwarranted praise, Valerie swallowed hard and pressed her lips together for a second before replying.  "Good night, Marvin."

"Night."

The line went dead, and Valerie sighed as she replaced the receiver.  It wasn't exactly like she was lying to him, was it?  After all, she had every intention of telling him what had happened when he came home . . .

'Admit it, Valerie.  You're not afraid of telling Marvin what happened as much as you want to come up with a way to exonerate yourself first.'

But that wasn't true, was it?  She didn't want to do that as much as she wanted to find a way to explain it so that Marvin wasn't hurt, so that he understood that it wasn't something that she'd wanted or encouraged in any way.  Maybe she'd had more to drink than she'd thought.  It was possible, and she hadn't really eaten much today, either, so that hadn't helped.

Besides, Marvin was a good guy.  He'd always been understanding and compassionate.  Those were some of the things that had originally appealed to her.  He didn't have to be flashy or any of that stuff.  His absolute devotion to the things he believed in, the passion for his work and the determination that she'd found so appealing in him were the reasons why she had started dating him, to start with.  He didn't have to be anything like Evan Zelig, and to be honest, she didn't want him to be.  There was no such thing as a future with a rock star.  With Marvin, Valerie knew exactly what her life would entail.

It would be easy to let herself get carried away with a guy like Evan, sure.  There really wasn't any sense in denying it, was there?  Thousands—millions—of girls fantasized about Zel Roka, didn't they?  Teenage girls who daydreamed that they'd meet the man one day, that he'd fall head over heels for them and that they'd live happily ever after in some sort of urban fairy tale.  When she was younger, she'd even done it, too, hadn't she?  Certainly not about Zel Roka, but about this actor or that musician . . . Twenty-somethings who worked as secretaries or receptionists by day but spent their money on concert tickets, belittling themselves by vamping it up, all in the hopes of scoring a backstage pass where they became fodder for the machinations of the rock star scene.  They'd get drunk, do whatever the bastards told them to do—things that they ordinarily wouldn't have ever considered, and they'd be lucky if they weren't diagnosed with some sort of disease or another a couple months later.  Those were the girls who ended up living in their run-down trailers and income-controlled tenements in the slums of the cities like New York or LA with a string of babies from rock star wannabes who didn't pay child support and didn't give a great goddamn.

Lips twisting into a sardonic smile that was as devoid of humor as it was paper-thin, Valerie pushed herself away from her desk and grabbed the cup, detouring to the kitchen long enough to rinse it out and place it upside down on a pristine white dishcloth beside the sink before heading off to the bedroom, shutting off lights and checking the locks along the way.

Rock stars.

She knew enough about that type to last her a lifetime.  Ironic, really, if she were to stop and think about it.  Not for the first time, she had to wonder just how she'd ended up where she was. When she'd decided that she wanted to study law, representing wayward entertainers was the furthest thing from her mind.  In fact, she'd never really wanted to do any such thing.  No, she was a little torn, having wanted to do something to help families in need but knowing that it wouldn't be very lucrative, and to her, financial security had always been something that she worried about, stressed over, even tended to become obsessed with.  In the end, she'd considered going into a field where she could make more money, make sure that she would be able to hoard away that cash, and then she could consider switching.

But representing people like that?  No, that was an accident.  Sort of.

One of her professors had gotten her an interview with Xavier Bainey, and he had been impressed with Valerie.  Though she hadn't actually intended to take an offer without shopping around a bit, so to speak, Xavier had offered to pay off her student loans as well as providing her with a very generous starting salary.  The benefits were also nice and Xavier had hinted that she stood a damn good chance at rapid advancement within the firm, and in the end, she'd decided that it was an offer too substantial to pass up.

Her first case was a shoplifting charge against a slightly neurotic daytime serial star in which Valerie had managed to get the teenager off with one hundred twenty hours of community service—a very reasonable sentence, considering the girl had tried to steal more than fifteen thousand dollars' worth of merchandise from Kensington Jewelers.  She'd asked to see a few pieces and then she'd managed to call the store on her cell phone, distracting the clerk so that she could slip on out the door in the full view of no less than five security cameras.  To be completely honest, Valerie thought that the girl should've gotten a bit harsher of a sentence, considering all she had to say about it was that the jewelry 'was pretty'.  Then again, she'd learned fairly quickly that she really didn't have to like her clients to represent them . . .

But that case was enough to impress Xavier, and Valerie was pleased enough with that.

It was one thing, though, to represent a kid who was entirely screwed up because of a mother who had browbeat her daughter into acting and quite another to represent an idiot rock star.  Evan was the biggest star she had ever been asked to represent, and she'd wondered more than once if the main reason that Xavier had let her keep the case was because Madison had actually arranged the meeting, too start with.  She had very little doubt in her mind that, had Evan asked for someone else, Xavier would have agreed to it, too.  Valerie should've just listened to her gut feeling on the matter and stood her ground more emphatically when Madison had resorted to begging.

Then again, maybe she was just cursed.  After all, Evan aside, she had more than enough reason to dislike musicians on a whole, and even now, she couldn't help but think that the worst memories in her life had all stemmed from that lot . . .

"Where's Val?"

"Aw, she's around here somewhere . . . probably outside, playing or something."

"I should get her something to eat.  You eat the rest of the peanut butter?"

"She's big enough to make a sandwich, ain't she?  Just leave her . . . what'd you do with my pipe?"

"You said you wanted to quit.  I threw it out."

"What the fuck did you do that for?  God, if you ain't the dumbest bitch I ever met!"

"Don't get mad; don't get mad . . . What about this?  Can't we use this for a pipe?"

"'We', huh?  Thought you was quitting it, too."

". . . Just enough to calm my nerves, you know?  I can't quit shaking . . ."

With a grimace, Valerie deliberately shoved the hazy memory aside.  It had been a long time since she'd thought about that day, and she really wasn't very keen on the idea of strolling down memory lane, either.  Unable to cope with the fresh wave of embarrassment that hit her hard, she veered into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush in an effort to preoccupy herself.

It didn't work.

By the time she was done scouring her teeth, she didn't even want to look at herself in the mirror.  It was simply too much for her to consider, especially after the club debacle, but her mind was already two steps ahead of her, apparently intent upon making her relive things that she was better off forgetting . . .

"What the hell's your problem?"

"I don't have a problem."

"Then why are you staring at me like that?"

"Why were you fucking Dana?"

"Aw, shit!  Why are you making a big deal out of that?"

"Because it is a big deal to me!"

"Don't be stupid, Val.  It was just a blow job, for God's sake!"

"Yeah?  Then how would you like it if I gave Squeak 'just a blow job'?  Would you like that?  Would that be okay with you?  And if I hadn't come in when I did, you would have fucked her, wouldn't you?"

"Shut the hell up or I'll shut you up, you stupid, mouthy bitch!"

Without thinking about it, Valerie lifted a hand, rubbed her cheek.  For the vaguest of seconds, she'd almost felt the strike, could hear the sickening echo of knuckles meeting bone, tasted the imaginary taste of coppery blood filling her mouth.  The taste was so real that she spit once, twice in the sink.  A moment later, her temper ignited once more, and she slapped her hand against the lighting panel to shut it off before storming out of the bathroom and straight to the bed.

Just another thing she could blame on Evan, she supposed as she yanked back the covers and flopped into the bed, jerking the blankets up over her with a disgusted growl.  She was proud of the idea that she refused to let those memories dictate her life, and here she was, thinking about them all as though they had just happened yesterday.

No doubt about it, there simply wasn't any way she could possibly deal with him; not the way she had been.  She was willing to accept her obligation to represent him, and she would do her best to keep him out of trouble, but hanging out and buddying around with him was simply out of the question.  Maybe it was all just fun and games to him, but Valerie . . .

Gaze darkening as she stared into the darkest shadows of her room, Valerie frowned.

She was too old for those kinds of games, wasn't she?


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A/N:
'Her Diamonds' first appeared on the June 30, 2009 release, Cradlesong by Rob Thomas.  Song written by and copyrighted to Rob Thomas.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
That jerk …!
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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 54
Chapter 56
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