InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Honesty ( Chapter 57 )

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

-OoOo OoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I can find a lover
'I can find a friend
'I can have security until the bitter end
'Anyone can comfort me
'With promises again
'I know; I know …'

-'Honesty' by Billy Joel.


". . . And then he said that he was really interested in hearing more, so he invited me to dinner with him and his wife, Becky, but he didn't tell me that he'd also called some of his other associates, too, so there I was, sitting in the middle of one of the most exclusive restaurants in San Francisco with the head of the Jacen Foundation and a handful of the biggest donors on the west coast!"

Valerie smiled at Marvin and set the glass of white wine on the table.  They'd gone straight from the airport to the restaurant, deciding that it'd be nicer to let someone else wait on them than it would be to go back to the apartment and rush around to make supper.  "I'm sure you didn't have any trouble at all with that," she assured him.  "What did they say?"

Fidgeting with his fork, he blushed slightly at the perceived praise and shrugged as though to dismiss it all as par for course.  "They gave me a grant for twenty-five thousand dollars along with the promise that they'd match it next year, too."

Leaning forward, Valerie's eyes flashed open wide as her smile brightened.  "That's fantastic!"

Marvin's smile dimmed but didn't completely disappear as he let out a deep breath and straightened his nondescript navy blue tie.  "It'll help," he admitted slowly, "I mean, it's not really much, but at least I've gotten almost enough to fund a year—eighteen months, if I'm careful."

"What do you mean, it isn't much?" she countered with a shake of her head to the contrary.  "It's a lot!  Think about how far you can get in that year!"

"I hope so," he said, his eyes giving away a glimpse of anxiety that he was struggling to hide.  "It just sounds like a short time, I guess, when I think about how many decades they've already devoted to finding a cure."

The hesitation, the reluctance in his tone just wasn't like the Marvin she knew so well, and she didn't like it, either.  So accustomed to hearing him speak with such passion, with such fervor when he was discussing his research, it unsettled her that now he was showing signs of faltering.   "And they're closer to finding a cure now than they ever were before, right?  Think of it this way: you've spent years, analyzing their data, so one year's worth of funding really is a huge deal.  Maybe you don't know exactly what kind of treatment will work, but at least you know what won't.  That's something, isn't it?"

Caught off guard by the impromptu pep-talk, Marvin stared at her for a moment, then smiled, ducking his head slightly in an apologetic sort of way.  "You're right, Val.  I'm sorry . . ."

Pulling the napkin off her lap and dropping it on the plate in front of her, Valerie sat back and smiled, too.  "Don't be sorry," she told him with a shake of her head.  "I'm on your side, remember?"

He gazed at her for a long moment, his eyes shining as the light from the electric candle between them flickered and danced.  "My own, personal cheerleader," he mused.  A hint of a blush surfaced under his skin, as though the idea of having 'his own, personal cheerleader' was just a little too much for him to take.

"When I need to be," she said.

He chuckled and picked up his knife again, carefully cutting a bite of grilled chicken breast and allowing a companionable silence to fall between them.

It was nice, wasn't it, having Marvin at home . . . A times like these, it was easy for Valerie to remember just why she was content with the idea of marrying him, of why she hadn't had a moment's hesitation when he'd nervously plucked up the courage to propose to her.  There were lots of reasons, of course, but the one that she appreciated the most was the ease with which they could talk, and whether they were discussing his research or politics or even her job, he'd never made feel even slightly self-conscious.  He was a good man, a kind man, and his devotion to his cause was something that she'd always envied on some level.  She couldn't really say that she felt his conviction about anything, and most certainly not about her job.  She supposed that was why she felt compelled to support him in whatever way she could.  Some people wandered aimlessly through their entire lives, never finding that one thing that could lend them purpose.  Marvin had found that . . .

It was a little frightening, too.  Even now, Valerie wasn't entirely sure that she'd ever find that elusive thing, either, but maybe that was all right.  Seeing Marvin's dedication first hand was enough.  She didn't have a doubt in her mind that he really would fulfill his goal, and she'd be there to watch him do it.  It was a rare and wonderful thing.  She might not change the world, but Marvin . . . Well, he just might.

His visit, no matter how brief, was just what she'd needed: the gentle reminder of everything she'd wanted out of life.  Whenever she looked at him, she saw the kind of existence that appealed to her, the predictability that went hand in hand with that kind of companionship.  After all, their relationship had never been based on the most transient of emotions that others seemed to think was a good, solid reason to get married.  Lust and infatuation weren't things that ever lasted.

"You . . . You said that you wanted to talk to me," he finally said without looking up from the plate as he carefully, almost methodically, cut another bite of meat.  He looked like he was struggling to maintain a sense of nonchalance but was failing miserably.

His quiet statement was enough to snap Valerie rudely out of her thoughts.  Biting her lip as she tried to figure out how to best approach the subject that she knew was going to come out sooner or later, she drew a deep breath and tried to remember exactly how she'd decided to broach the subject.

"A couple weeks ago, I went dancing with Madison," she began slowly, measuring her words carefully.  "One of her friends came along, too."  She stopped, unsure exactly how to continue but needing to get the confession out of the way.  It wouldn't do any good to try to keep it from him.  She knew well enough that not telling him about it would be akin to lying, and if the truth might hurt him, a lie would only make it that much worse.

"Sounds like fun," Marvin replied, his tone much more upbeat than the expression on his face.  Trepidation seemed to fairly ooze out of him so thickly that she could feel it.  Best she get this over with quickly before the shaky hold he had over his own resolve crumbled.

"He kissed me," she blurted, wincing inwardly at the abruptness of her admission.  Marvin stopped, dead-still for a painfully long minute.  That wasn't exactly how she'd wanted to tell him, but the wave of relief that flooded over her was a welcome and wonderful change.  That sense of almost giddy relief, however, was short lived as she waited for Marvin to say or do something—anything.

"Did you . . . want him . . . to?" he finally asked, his tone completely flat, devoid of any actual emotion.  Slowly lifting his chin, his face a dark, ruddy hue that bordered on painful, he couldn't quite make himself meet her gaze, and as embarrassed color suffused her skin, she let her eyes fall away.

"Of course not," she insisted quietly.  "It's just . . . I didn't . . . I'm . . . I'm so sorry.  It all happened so fast, and I—"

All the breath that he'd been holding rushed out of him in a whoosh, and he managed a wan little smile.  As though he were trying to reassure her, he reached out and rather awkwardly patted her hand.  "It's okay," he told her with a shake of his head.  "I mean . . . I doubt this guy's the first to have wanted to kiss you."

For some reason, Marvin's statement only served to make her feel just a little bit worse.  He looked like she had just told him that she'd run over his pet dog or something, and she bit her lip, unable to summon even a token smile.  "Marvin . . ."

His smile brightened a few degrees.  Too bad it looked more like a grimace than an expression of happiness.  "No, Val.  I understand.  I do.  I've always wondered why you're with me, you know.  I'm grateful, though . . . and a little confused."  Chuckling weakly at what he considered to be a joke, she supposed, he shrugged then sighed before finally looking at her.  "Guess I can't blame him for it, and you . . . Don't feel bad, okay?"  His smile dimmed as his gaze clouded over.  "You haven't been feeling bad about it all this time, have you?"

"Of course I have!" she countered, but as fast as her outrage spiked, it crumbled away, too, leaving her feeling a little lost, a little lonely, a little empty.  Letting out a heavy sigh, she slumped back in her seat and slowly shook her head.  "I kissed another man, Marvin.  How can you possibly be so understanding?"

He winced at her softly uttered question, drawing his hand back as he pondered what he wanted to say.  "Val . . . did you want to kiss him?" he asked, his voice barely audible, hardly more than a whisper.

Something about the defeated quality of his body language struck her as entirely wrong, entirely warped.  That he was trying to understand only made it feel that much worse.  Though he'd never said as much, she'd wondered from time to time if Marvin tended to think in terms of taking whatever he could get, and that thought was enough to bring tears to her eyes.  Maybe he wasn't perfect, and maybe he wasn't ever going to be what other women would think of as their ideal man, but that kind of vulnerability that she saw in him in that moment was especially poignant because she knew what it felt like just a little too well.  "No," she whispered back, her voice trembling, cracking as a solitary tear slipped down her cheek.  She brushed it away with the back of her hand and shook her head in denial.  "No, I didn't."

She would never understand his reaction.  If she lived to be a hundred and five, she'd remember that moment, she knew, forever.  As though he'd been waiting for that reassurance, for those simple words all along, he suddenly smiled, and this time, it was almost normal and filled with a sense of instantaneous relief.  "Then why are you apologizing?" he asked, and his chuckle this time was genuine, too.  "You're a beautiful woman.  If guys don't want to kiss you, then I'd have to wonder about them."

Valerie blushed and ducked her head as a little smile touched the corners of her lips.  It wasn't that she didn't know that she wasn't good-looking.  She worked at it every day, didn't she?  And certainly she knew that Marvin thought that she was pretty.  Then again, it wasn't something that he said very often, and she had to admit that it really was nice to hear every now and then.

"Besides, I'm the one that gets to go home with you, right?" he went on, his demeanor taking on a more philosophical tone.  "I mean, kissing someone doesn't mean anything unless you want it to."


"Kissi ng someone doesn't mean anything unless you want it to . . ."

Tugging the comfortable gray sweatshirt over her head as she changed for bed, Valerie frowned as Marvin's words ran through her mind again.  In the last few days since his arrival in the city and her confession about that night in the club, she'd thought about it a lot—more often than she'd wanted to, to be honest.

'Don't be stupid!' she told herself for the hundredth time.  Of course she didn't want to kiss that man.  Why on earth would she?  He was everything that she couldn't stand, damn it.  It was as though God had sat down, made a list of every single thing about guys in general that ticked her off and, voila! Evan Roka Zelig was born.

'And if you didn't want to do it, then why are you still dwelling on it?  Marvin's forgiven you for it.  If you hate Evan so much, then just get over it, why don't you?'

Valerie shook her head and pulled on a pair of pink flannel pajama pants, deliberately forcing Evan What's-His-Name from her mind.  Her conscience was absolutely right.  She was the only one who was still obsessing over it.  Marvin hadn't mentioned it again once they'd left the restaurant, and by the next morning, he was back to his usual self, much to her relief.  Still, she'd wondered in passing whether or not Marvin's ability to put the incident from his mind was odd.  She was his fiancée, for God's sake.  Shouldn't he have been a little more perturbed than he was?

'You're still doing it,' her conscience reminded her.

Wrinkling her nose, Valerie snorted indelicately as she grabbed the brush off her dresser and quickly ran it through her hair.  She could hear Marvin in the living room where he was setting up the chessboard and probably pouring a couple glasses of wine.  The clock read seven p.m., and she knew that he'd want to go to bed pretty early since he was catching a flight out at nine in the morning, but he was the one who had challenged her to a match, so she had accepted his challenge.

The last four days had been just what she'd needed.  Spending her time going with Marvin to the Museum of Modern Art and out to restaurants, passing quiet evenings in the same kind of discussions that they used to have in the early days after they'd first met was enough to remind her, to center her, to ground her.  Frowning at her reflection in the mirror hanging over the bureau, she set the brush down and took her time, fussing with her hair.  It had been a long time since they'd spent any real time together more than just a day or two, squeezed in between his various meetings and her work schedule.  It was a welcome change.  They'd even made love a couple nights, and while it was nice, hearing Marvin's light snoring shortly afterward was even more comforting than she could credit.

She headed out of the bedroom and down the short hallway into the living room.  Marvin was flipping through the channels, sipping a glass of red wine since he'd already set up the game and was patiently waiting for her.  "One of these days, I'm going to buy you a silk nightgown," he remarked with an easy smile as she sat across from him and eyed the chess board.

"I don't like silk," she said almost absently, wasting no time in making the first move.  "Too cold."

"I thought all women liked silk," he teased, answering her move with one of his own.

Valerie wrinkled her nose and shot him a droll look as she nudged a pawn forward.  "You really shouldn't believe everything you hear."

He laughed again and flipped the channel again, and for a moment, she thought that he was going to do it again, but he paused, his eyes narrowing.  "Hey, isn't that . . .? That's your guy, right?"

Choking on the sip of wine that she'd just helped herself to, Valerie quickly set the glass on the coffee table and wiped her chin as she glanced at the television then back again.  It was Evan, or rather, Zel, replete with all his rock star regalia, on national television at some function—she wasn't sure what.  In any case, Marvin's statement was enough to freeze her heart, mid-beat as a surge of sheer panic rifled through her.  Add to that the shock of staring at Zel Roka on TV, and by the time she remembered that she needed to breathe, her head felt like it was about to explode along with the careful sense of contentment that had cushioned her for the last few days.  "Wh-What?" she stammered, unable to come up with something better to say.

Marvin didn't notice her behavior.  Still staring at the television, he lifted the remote to turn up the volume.  "That's him, right?  The rock star you're representing . . ."

It took a moment for his words to sink in.  Smashing her hand over her heart, she swallowed hard and cleared her throat before she could speak again.  "Oh, him . . . uh, yeah . . ."

Uttering a clucking sound with his tongue, Marvin shook his head in wonder.  "Wow . . . Rock stars sure are different from the rest of us, aren't they?  Look at that girl he's with.  She doesn't look old enough to be out with someone like him."

That got Valerie's attention quickly enough.  Chin snapping up as her eyes flared wide, she stared at the screen in abject disbelief.  True enough, the girl might as well have been glued to his side since was huddling so close to him, looked like she might have been sixteen or so—maybe.  Hair so black that it shone blue under the myriad of flashing lights from the hundreds of cameras camped outside the Halifax Regal Hotel, the girl laughed and batted her bright green eyes at Evan like she was staring at some kind of god while he smiled broadly and said something to the reporter closest to him.  Her short skirt barely covered her hips, and when she reached up to stroke Evan's shoulder, the hem of the black suede vest she wore rode up, revealing her tummy as she giggled without taking her attention off the man beside her.  Sucking in a sharp breath so fast that it whistled, Valerie leaned over to grab the remote out of Marvin's hand and hit the volume button a few times.

"—Surprised to see you, the infamous Zel Roka, attending the festivities tonight," the reporter was saying, raising her voice to be heard over the din of kids who were lining both sides of the cordoned-off red carpet.

Evan chuckled, sparing a moment to hit the woman with that lazy smirk of his as he tucked a long strand of reddish blonde hair back behind his ear.  "Well, you know, it's for a good cause, and when JJ invited me personally, how could I possibly refuse?"

The reporter laughed politely.  "And about that . . . Not too long ago, there were rumors that you and Ms. Jamison were dating or possibly engaged, so how does she feel about your new girlfriend, here?"

"Aw, she ain't my girlfriend," Evan drawled.  "Y'know what they say.  We're just friends.  As for JJ?  She's the one who broke my heart when she ran off and got hitched, so she's cool."

Pressing her fingertips against her ear, the reporter nodded quickly.  "I'm being told that I need to wrap it up, so one last question: rumor has it that you've got new stuff for us soon. Any word on that?"

Evan grinned and shrugged offhandedly.  "Absolutely, then I'm going out on a short tour."

"Looking forward to it!  Thanks for stopping to talk to us, Zel!"

Evan held up a hand in a broad wave before slipping his arm around the dark haired girl and escorting her into the building.

"Oh, I can't believe him!" Valerie exploded, hitting the 'mute' button on the remote and tossing it onto the coffee table with a loud clatter as she shot to her feet and stalked over to retrieve her cell phone off the desk.  "I let him out of my sight for a few days, and he loses his damn mind!"  Hitting Evan's number in speed dial, she paced the floor, casting murderous glances at the television as she waited for him to answer.  "He knows the rules, that jerk, and he's breaking every single one of them with that little—and just how the hell old is she?  Twelve?  Thirteen?" she fumed.  "As if he isn't in enough trouble on his own, he has to go looking for jailbait, does he?"

The call was routed straight to voicemail, and Valerie growled in frustration as she waited for the 'beep'.  "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she blasted, her ire rising fast since she couldn't rightfully yell at him.  "Who is that girl, and what the hell are you doing with her on national television?  She'd better be your sister, your cousin, or your daughter, do you hear, because if she isn't, I swear to God I'm going to kill you—kill you—and answer your phone so I can yell at you instead of at your stupid voicemail!"

With that, she snapped the phone closed and whirled around on her heel, only to stop short when she noticed that Marvin was giving her his full attention, and the expression on his face . . .

Narrowing her eyes on her fiancé, she stomped over to the chair she'd just vacated and flopped down in a petulant huff.  "It's not funny.  That moron is going to get himself arrested for statutory rape if he's not careful," she pointed out from between clenched teeth.  "Why are you smiling?"

Shaking his head, Marvin's smile widened when it really should have waned.  "I'm sorry, Val," he finally said.  His tone might have been a little more convincing if he wasn't still chuckling when he said it.  "You're right; it's not funny . . ."

Valerie snorted and leaned forward to drop the cell phone onto the coffee table.  "Then stop laughing," she muttered under her breath.

He tried, and he did manage to contain himself at last thought he smile on his face remained.  "I'm just relieved," he said.  "That's all."

Valerie blinked and crossed her arms over her chest, wondering if Marvin had somehow managed to hit his head when she wasn't looking.  "Relieved?" she echoed, cocking an eyebrow to emphasize her question.  "How so?"

Turning to the side, he bent his knee and spread his arm over the back of the sofa.  "Because you're perfect," he said simply.

Valerie stared at him for almost twenty seconds before she replied.  "Nobody's perfect, Marvin."

He nodded.  "I know.  It's just that I always worried . . . I've been away so much lately . . ."

"With good reason," she pointed out, shaking her head in confusion since she still wasn't entirely sure where he was going with that.  "It's not like you've just been out, running around and having a good time."

"You're right; you're right.  I thought maybe you were starting to resent the fact that I've been gone, and . . . and that you're kind of paying for everything . . ."

He trailed off, staring at his lap.  Valerie stood up to move the game board aside so that she could sit down with him, instead.  "You think that I don't believe in what you're doing?  I do, you know.  Besides, I'm busy a lot, too."

He slowly lifted his gaze to look at her, and when his eyes finally met hers, he smiled.  "At least now I know for sure," he said, his smile resurfacing.  "If you were mad about it, I have no doubt whatsoever that you'd have let me have it by now."

She winced at the meaning behind his words.  She hadn't meant to lose her temper like that.  Heck, until she'd met Evan, she hadn't realized that she could actually get that angry at any one person and in such a short amount of time.  When Marvin continued to laugh, though, Valerie rubbed her forehead and heaved a sigh.  "Seriously, it wasn't that funny."

He chuckled for a few more minutes then finally stood up with a contented sigh.  "I guess it's getting later than I thought," he said as he reached for his empty wine glass.  "Can I take a rain check on that game?"

"Yeah, okay," she replied, reaching for the wooden box for the chess pieces.

He hurried into the kitchen.  A moment later, she heard the tap running as he washed out his glass and set it on the towel beside the sink.  He was whistling slightly off-key when he came back into the living room again, and he leaned over the arm of the sofa to kiss her temple.  "I'm going to go on to bed, then," he told her.  "Don't stay up too late?"

"Sure," she said, frowning as she replaced the pieces in the burgundy velvet lined box.  He squeezed her shoulder before wandering off as Valerie let out a deep breath and closed the box.

Just what did that idiot think he was doing?  He knew better than to mess around with girls that young.  Hadn't she warned him and warned him that he just couldn't afford to do anything that might look bad to the court?

Setting the box aside, he rested her elbows on her knees and buried her face in her hands as another thought invaded her mind—one far worse than the idea of him, cavorting with a school girl.

That kiss really hadn't meant a damn thing to him, had it?  Even though she'd thought as much anyway, having the reality of it flaunted in her face somehow made it feel that much worse.  As if there had been any doubt at all in her head, there it was: the ugly truth.  For all his talk and all his bravado, he was a musician, wasn't he?  Just like the rest of them, he didn't care about anything at all except for his warped sense of what he deserved.

Common sense told her that she ought to be pleased.  At least his strange fixation on her was over.  That he'd chosen a girl who was most certainly too young for him was his problem, because he simply couldn't be seen with someone her age, and whether he liked it or not, he'd have to listen to reason this time.

Valerie closed her eyes for a moment, gritting her teeth against the strange wash of desolation that swept through her—a violent sense of complete melancholy that she didn't want to analyze.  A dull ache throbbed in her gut, and she sighed.  She'd known all along that Evan would say just about anything to get his way.  She'd met guys like him before, and they were always the same: the pretty package that walked and talked and knew how to smile and what to say; the ones who thought they knew all the lines, who knew how to use their body language to get under her skin, or so they believed.  Evan was no different from the lot of them; he just thought that he was, and the hell of it all?  She'd started to believe that maybe he was . . .

She was right about him all along, absolutely correct in her initial impression of him, which meant that she was a decent judge of character, after all.  For that, she supposed, she ought to be pleased, yes.

So, exactly why did she feel like crying . . .?

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'Honesty' first appeared on Billy Joel's 1978 album, 52nd Street.  Song written by and copyrighted to Billy Joel.
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Theblackthorn —— Meru —— Patricia Amber Hiwatari ——OROsan0677 —— Nozome —— mynera —— JKD1989 —— fanfic7inu —— iloveanimecartoons —— Dark Inu Fan
OROsan0677 —— cutechick18 —— Proforce
Thought from Valerie:
He'll wish he was dead when I get finished with him
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.