InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Seasons Change ( Chapter 61 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Sixty-One~~
~Seasons Change~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Would you know my name
'If I saw you in heaven?
'Would it be the same
'If I saw you in heaven …?'

-'Tears in Heaven' by Eric Clapton.

-Evan-


The tick of the clock was obnoxiously loud, like thunder in the darkness outside of the anemic circle of wizened light that emanated feebly from the solitary lamp on the table.  He'd lost track of time awhile ago.  It seemed to stretch on indefinitely, into an infinite number of moments and seconds and ticks in a place where the distorted shadows and filmy half-light were nothing but ghosts and illusions and matters of perception.

It had been awhile since he'd felt like this.  Fingering the pain that still lurked deep down as the stale scent of blood converged in his nostrils, despite the inner knowledge that it simply couldn't be.  Slumped over the coffee table, staring through unseeing eyes at the wrinkled bit of twisted paper—the joint he'd rolled some time ago—he smiled, but it was more of a grimace than a grin; more of a wince than an expression of joy.

'You there, Deet?' he thought as he picked up the joint and flopped against the back of the sofa, gaze roving over the ceiling high above while neither seeing nor caring as he tried not to think, not to remember.  There was no answer; he hadn't expected one.  The melancholy that assailed him, though, was harsh and bitter and just as fresh as it had been on the day Dieter had died.  'Damn, man . . .'

It had all been brought back, hadn't it?  All of those feelings, that sense of loss . . . He hadn't anticipated that.

Maybe he should have.

Two days into the search for a new bass player to replace Dieter in Philansoclantes, Evan's back-up band, and here he was, sitting in the dark, trying to listen to the demo tapes that Mike had dropped off earlier after Evan had nixed every last one that had been presented to him yesterday by the band.  He'd given up awhile ago, just before he'd stomped through the house in search of the bag of doobage that Mike had given him just after he'd met Valerie for the first time.

It just felt all wrong, didn't it?

Truthfully, the idea of going out on the road without Dieter wasn't something that Evan really wanted to contemplate.  'Talk about your double-edged swords,' he thought as he tucked the joint between his lips, let it dangle precariously as he dug a book of matches out of his pocket.  The fondest of his memories, both onstage as well as off, included Dieter, and while Evan knew that Dieter would be pissed as all hell if Evan cancelled the tour, he had to admit that the idea had crossed his mind.

"Listen, Zel, no one would blame you if you postponed or canceled the tour altogether," Mike said, sounding uncharacteristically benevolent, despite the thorough frown on his face as he dug his hands into his pockets and shifted his feet impatiently.  "It hasn't been that long since Dieter died, and a lot of your fans were his fans, too."

"Isn't that all the more reason to go out and do this?" Evan challenged mildly, tossing the stack of demos onto the table with a clatter.  "Besides, saying that I can cancel and shit just doesn't sound like you, Mikey.  Can't make money off me that way, can you?"

He'd meant it as a joke.  Mike, apparently, hadn't thought that it was amusing.  Narrowing his eyes, he looked like he just might light into Evan, but he restrained himself, probably because trying to maim one's client was not really a good idea, after all . . . "I'm allowed to have a heart sometimes, aren't I?" he grumbled, the edges of his youki flicking uncontrollably with the irritation that he'd fought to contain.

"It doesn't fit you," Evan replied evenly.  "Don't worry about it.  Everything's good."

Mike didn't buy the smile on Evan's face—not really surprising since Evan doubted that he would, either.

Still, he wasn't in too bad a mood when he'd sat down and started to listen to the demos, and it wasn't that they were horrible, either.  Thing was, they didn't sound quite right.  Whatever the reason, Evan couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the end result was the same.

'Like it matters.  You just need to find someone who can fill in for the duration of the tour.'

Deliberately ignoring the sage words of his youkai voice, Evan slowly dragged on the joint and closed his eyes.

'You know you have to . . . or take Mikey's suggestion and cancel the damn thing.'

He was being stupid, wasn't he?  Dieter was probably having a damn fine laugh over the entire situation wherever he was.  God only knew that Evan would be if the situation were reversed.  Sad but true, Evan figured that Zel Roka was easily the biggest rock attraction on the planet at the moment.  That didn't really mean he had that many friends.  Sure, he had acquaintances—lots of those—but people he could actually consider to be friends?  Those were few and far between—people he could trust unconditionally; people who didn't care that he was Zel Roka . . . 'Or people who like me despite being Zel Roka,' he thought with a half-smile as an image of Valerie's face flashed through his head.

Dieter was one of those friends, and losing him was akin to losing family, as far as Evan was concerned.

At least Miss was doing all right.  He'd called her earlier to see if she needed anything.  She'd sounded tired, but she'd also said that she and Daniel had just gotten home after spending the afternoon at the park.  Still, he worried about her, and not for the first time, he had to wonder just how much Dieter had told her.  Of course he'd had to tell her that he was youkai; that Daniel was going to be hanyou when they'd found out that Miss was pregnant.  Funny thing, that.  Now that he thought about it, Dieter had acted rather surprised when he'd found out that she was expecting when he really shouldn't have, all things considered.  He'd never thought to ask Dieter how it could be that he didn't realize that he'd gotten Miss pregnant, in the first place.  It just hadn't occurred to him, he supposed . . .

Then again, Dieter was like that.  Given to impulses and even considered somewhat scatterbrained, only Dieter could actually get away with something like that without looking completely idiotic.  The thing was, Dieter really wasn't stupid in the least.  His problem was just that he'd have about fifty things going on in his head, and every time something else popped into his mind, it shoved something else aside, so a lot of his ideas were only half-formed, and most of the time, those thoughts were usually linked together in a really strange sort of flow.

But Dieter understood Evan, especially when it came to music.  He might've teased Evan about writing silly pop songs that were recorded by bubble-gum bands and overhyped wannabes who ended up digging between the sofa cushions for change when their ten minutes of fame were over, but he did get it.  Evan loved to write songs—any songs—even if they weren't the kind of music that had made Zel Roka famous . . .

And that was why Evan missed him.

Letting his head fall to the side, Evan opened his eyes, stared at the glowing ring of the smoldering joint held loosely between his fingers.  Better than half of it had burned itself down, resulting in a half inch ash that stubbornly clung to it.  With a sigh, he leaned forward, sparing a moment to take one last drag off it before smashing it out in the empty ashtray on the table.

The clock in the living room struck four as he reached for the next demo on the pile.  All of the musicians he'd listened to so far had potential, and many of them were damn good, but . . .

But not one of them was Dieter, and that was the entire problem.


-Valerie-


Rubbing her forehead as she scowled at the document she'd just gotten from Judge Lister's office, Valerie let out a deep breath and let it fall silently from her fingertips to the desk.  Her motion to reverse the order and allow Evan to go on the mini-tour alone was denied.  She figured that it would be, but she had to try.  "Crap," she muttered, thumping her elbow on the desk and rubbing her face in a tired sort of way.

Sure, he'd been behaving himself quite admirably for the last couple of days since she'd found out about Violca, but that was because he was busy discussing the preparations for the tour.  Once he had that out of the way and more time to be bored, she didn't doubt that he'd find some other method of devilry to get himself into, but if he really thought that he could drag her into it, too, he had better think again.

The thing that bothered her the most, though, was just the time that it cut out of her schedule for preparing Evan's case.  The trial was set to commence the week before Thanksgiving, and she'd be out with Evan on that damned tour until mid-October, which left her with roughly a month to finish preparing for trial—and hoping for a miracle, because at this point, Valerie was pretty certain that only said-miracle could possibly keep the errant rock star out of jail.  She would take the information with her, of course, but the interviews she'd wanted to follow up on couldn't be done unless she could rush them in before they left or hope that she could arrange them after they got back.

All in all, the entire situation was really nothing more than one big, fat nightmare.

If she could just make him understand that he was in serious jeopardy of having to serve time, maybe she could get him to tell her a little more.  As it was, she wasn't sure if his ego was so super-inflated that he honestly didn't realize that normal rules applied to him or if he actually thought that she could get him out of trouble, and while the second reason was far more flattering to her than the first, she had to admit, however grudgingly, that Evan might be sure of himself to the point of being cocky, and yes, he tended to aggravate her to no end, but he wasn't egotistical, either.

Checking her watch, Valerie straightened up and exhaled heavily.  She had an appointment in an hour to look over both vehicles that had been impounded right after the accident.  She'd meant to do it sooner, but the expert she'd contacted had some other things that he was working on and wouldn't be able to meet with her until later in the month.  As it was, she would have to ask him to go take a look at it by himself and draw up an official report on his findings since she was going to be gone.  Hopefully she'd be able to make an appointment with him to go over his observations in person when she got back.

The trouble was, she really didn't think that she was going to be able to figure out much just from looking at the vehicles herself.  The police had assured her that they were being kept in a warehouse, and she figured she ought to be glad that they'd kept them this long since it wasn't exactly standard protocol to do so.  Apparently someone had enough foresight to demand that they do so—someone with quite a bit of clout since they'd have ordinarily been released after the investigation was finished.  Valerie's bet was on Evan's father, Cain, but she didn't know for sure.

Evan had told her that he was going to be busy all day, which was fine with her.  She'd learned over time that a busy Roka was a much more manageable Roka, and since Mike was going to be with him all day, she'd figured that she could afford to do some of her own things without having to worry too much that Evan was out getting into whatever mischief he could find.  Grabbing the phone before she headed out of the office, Valerie dialed Evan's cell phone number and waited for him to answer.

"Yeah."

Valerie blinked at Evan's odd greeting.  He sounded a little strange, definitely not like his usual self.  "You okay?" she asked, unsure why she felt like something was wrong.

He forced a chuckle that was empty and flat.  "Who, me?  I'm fine.  I'm good."

Frowning slightly, Valerie shook her head.  "You don't sound 'fine'," she remarked, trying to keep her tone light.  "Did something happen?"

Evan sighed, and the background noise diminished slightly.  A moment later, she heard the click of a closing door.  "Just a little tired, V," he said in that same hollow tone of voice.  "Don't worry about me."

Biting her lip, Valerie wondered if he really thought that she was buying his claims that he was 'good'.  He probably did.  After all, humans were born with the innate ability to lie to themselves and to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that everyone else believed those little lies, too.  "How are the meetings going?"

"Eh, you know," he hedged as though he were trying to downplay everything.  "Same old shit.  Anyway, I'm kind of in the middle of something right now . . ."

"Sorry.  I just wanted to check on you," she admitted.

"Don't worry, V.  I'm not getting into anything or anyone that I shouldn't be," he assured her.  It was entirely less than reassuring, though.  "Hmm. Well, if you're not busy later, I'll be at Affex this afternoon for fittings and shit.  Why don't you come on down and help play 'Dress the Roka'—or 'Undress the Roka', if you'd rather?"

"Keep your clothes on, Casanova." Valerie rolled her eyes but finally smiled slightly.  At least he was sounding a bit more like the Evan she knew better.  "Maybe I'll stop by, though . . . if I have time," she allowed noncommittally.

"You should; you should.  I'll tell you what.  I'll come pick you up—say, around five?  We can go get something to eat then buzz on over for the fitting.  Sound cool?"

Glancing at her watch, Valerie sighed.  It was one in the afternoon, so she had plenty of time to have a look at the cars before then.  "Do I get to pick the place?" she asked before answering him.

"Sure," he said, sounding a lot more animated than he had for most of the phone call.

"And are you paying?"

He chuckled at that, and this time, he sounded much, much better.  "I could do that."

She finally smiled and shook her head at his lightning fast mood swings.  "Then I'll think about where you're going to take me until you pick me up."


-Evan-


"So how many outfits do you need?" Valerie asked in a preoccupied sort of tone as she leafed through a magazine that had been lying carelessly on the table in the hazy light of the fitting suite.

"Not too many," he replied, bouncing his knee in a distinctly nervous fashion.  He hated waiting, and considering how busy he tended to be, sitting around for the last twenty minutes while Keese—most commonly touted as the authority in rock wear—took his sweet time doing God only knew what.  "Maybe twenty . . . thirty . . ."

She lowered the magazine long enough to peer over it in a completely droll way, as though she were trying to decide whether he was joking or not.  "What do you mean, not many?  Twenty or thirty is a lot, you know."

"It is not," he challenged with a grin.  "How many suits do you have hanging in your closet at home?"

"I don't know," she scoffed, as though she thought that he was comparing apples with oranges.  "Twenty or so per season."

"Well, see?  There you go," he stated, nodding his head since she'd just verified what he'd originally thought.

Valerie snorted and disappeared behind the magazine once more.  "Not even," she challenged.  "I wear those to work every day.  Of course I need to have that many!"

"Per season, which means that you own no less than eighty suits, my pookie-pooh," he pointed out.

She rolled her eyes again as she dropped the magazine, tented over her chest.  "And you don't need that many since you're only going to wear them for, what?  An hour or so onstage every couple nights?  And keep your weird pet names to yourself."

He grinned.  "Yeah, and in those couple hours, I'm running all over the place, rolling around, jumping . . . all of that, and sweating my ass off in the process."

She blinked and stared at him for a long moment before slowly nodding.  "So you're saying that it's basically a couple hour recess."

"Yeah!"

She snorted and shook her head, scowling at him yet again—she'd been doing that a lot this evening since she'd gotten into the car before he'd taken her to dinner.  Heaving a sigh, she pressed her lips together and started to bury herself in the magazine once more.

Evan cocked an eyebrow.  "Okay, V.  What gives?"

"Nothing," she said, her tone a little too neutral to credit.  "Nothing at all."

"Liar," he countered.  "You go to hell for lying, you know."

"You'll go first for everything you've done," she shot back without missing a beat.  "That hair color would be the biggest offense of them all."

Evan grinned and shrugged offhandedly.  To be honest, it was rather surprising.  Of all things for her to find offense in, she was bothered that he'd actually colored his hair today . . .? "What?  You don't like it?"

"Not really," she replied.  "Black looks fake unless you were born with it."

Evan's retort was cut off when the door opened suddenly.  "Sorry I'm late, Roka," Keese said as he breezed into the room—that was a good way to describe the tiny man's movements.  He was like a little perpetual motion machine, and in the number of years that Evan had known him, he didn't think he'd ever seen Keese do something as simple as sit in a chair for more than ten seconds unless he had to.  "You haven't done anything stupid, like gain a few pounds, have you?"

Chuckling as Keese's dark brown eyes darted over Evan from top to bottom and back again, Evan stood up and held up his hands.  "Well, maybe a pound or two," he teased.

Keese curled his top lip and shook his head.  "No, you don't look like you have," he allowed.  "Good.  I used the measurements that Mike sent over for that spring cover of Rock It."  Narrowing his eyes when they finally lit on Valerie, Keese cocked his head to the side as he tried to make up his mind about her.  "Who is this?"

Evan couldn't suppress the grin that surfaced on his face.  "She's my attorney," he replied.  He didn't miss the momentary surprise on Valerie's features.  She probably expected him to say something outrageous, and while he had been tempted to do that, he hadn't figured that she'd appreciate it.

"Your attorney?  You brought your attorney along to a fitting?"  Keese wasn't buying it; not by a long shot.  "Remember my rule, Roka: no semen stains on the merchandise until after it's paid for."

Valerie's mouth dropped open as violent color exploded under her skin.  She looked like she was ready to ream the designer.  Evan figured that he'd better diffuse the situation before it blew up in his face.  "Nah, seriously, man.  She's my attorney.  I'm so fucking busy lately that I have to schedule two appointments at once."

"Oh, yeah, those charges," Keese said as though he had just remembered that Evan was trying to keep from becoming a special guest in the big house.  "Get him out of trouble," he said, apparently ready to believe that Valerie was, indeed, his attorney.  "He's a good kid, even if he does think a little too often with his balls."

"Aww, now leave my balls out of this," Evan grumbled.  "So where are these outfits you wanted me to see?"

Keese grinned and abruptly forgot Valerie's existence as he hurried over to the illuminated closet and keyed in the code to unlock the doors.  "What do you think?" he asked with a child's giddy sense of excitement as the panels slid back to reveal the neatly arranged outfits, complete with accessories and footwear.

Evan nodded slowly as he wandered forward.  The first few ensembles were standard enough: low riding leather pants, a black silk, button down shirt, a red one that looked just like the black one aside from the color, black leather jackets with lots of shining silver studs, and narrow toed black leather boots.  'Guess you can't get any more 'old school' than that,' he thought wryly.  "What are you trying to do, Keese?  Kill me?" he complained, holding up the arm of the nearest leather jacket and letting it drop as he shook his head.  "Ever been under those damn lights?  I'll roast in that."

"Quit bitching, Zel," Keese shot back mildly.  "Mike told me that you're doing Rocktoberfest in the new outdoor stadium in Detroit, and lights or not, you'll want those jackets.  Then you'll thank me, and if you're nice, I might let you kiss my boots."

"Hmm," Evan drawled, stroking his chin as he considered what Keese had said. Okay, he had a valid point there.  The tour was going to wrap up in a blaze of glory when Evan headlined at the very prestigious Rocktoberfest, and this year was an even bigger deal since the new outdoor stadium in Detroit was easily twice as large as the last venue.  Fans from all over the world flocked in for the event—a week-long festival dedicated to all things rock, and it was always good for a laugh or two.  Vendors set up booths where you could get anything from the edgiest in festival foods—whatever one could skewer on a stick—to tattoos, clothes, gear, bootlegged music, even "rock comics" featuring the hottest bands, of course.  Everyone who was anyone in rock wanted to headline that gig, and even he had only managed to nab the top spot a couple times in the last few years.  He wasn't sure whether it was a testament to the overall toughness of the fans or some strange sadistic streak that the festival had always been held in mid-October and in one of the northern states, and he couldn't remember the last time that he'd performed at one of them when it hadn't been colder than hell, and somehow, normally raining, to boot.  "Okay," he relented with a wolfish grin.  "Besides, you can't have too many leather jackets, I suppose."

"Those should fit you without any trouble," Keese remarked as he fussed with one of the ensembles.  "The sides of the pants zip from top to bottom, so, you know: easy in, easy out."

Evan chuckled since Keese had always designed his pants like that, and considering there had been times when groupies hadn't wanted to wait long enough for him to strip off a pair of leather pants that tended to cling more when he was sweaty, he'd figured that Keese was like unto a god of sorts for the design of his clothing . . .

The chuckling escalated when Evan spotted the inevitable 'gag' outfits that Keese always tossed in, mostly to amuse Evan—clothes so outrageous that even he would have to pass, and this time was no different.  "You're a sick little man," he remarked as he strode past the more 'normal' rock attire and stopped in front of the black spandex body suit hanging anemically on a hanger.  Even better, though, was the black leather studded codpiece slung around the hook.  "Wo-o-o-ow," he breathed, shaking his head as he blinked a few times to make sure that he really was seeing what he thought he was seeing.  "You've outdone yourself, Keese," he said rather dryly.  "In fact—"

"Oh, my God," Valerie commented, her voice rife with her disapproval.  Evan glanced at her and grinned.  He hadn't realized that she'd followed him into the closet.  He must be slipping, he supposed.  "N-No-o-o-o . . ."

It was on the tip of Evan's tongue to explain to her about Keese's weird and warped sense of humor, but the absolute horror on her face was enough to make him want to drag it out, instead.  "I don't know, V," he said, shaking his head as he eyed the garment again.  "It looks pretty awesome; don't you think?"

"No, I don't think," she muttered, carefully keeping her voice down, lest she should offend the designer.  "You cannot be serious."

"Why?  You don't dig it?"

The look that his question garnered was priceless—truly priceless.  Valerie looked like she might just slap him—or that she thought that maybe he'd finally lost his mind.  "That's awful," she hissed under her breath.  "Seriously awful—are you listening to me?"

He chuckled and pulled the garment off the hanger before thrusting it under her nose.  "Then you try it on," he said.

She blinked and leaned back to eye the bodysuit with abject disgust.  "No way, Roka.  Not on your life."

He grinned and intercepted Keese's amused expression then winked at the designer.  "Either you do or I do, V . . . You know, the more I look at it, the more I think it'd be cool—you don't think?"

"Only if you're going to do aerobics," she retorted.  "By the way, the 1980's called, Roka.  Kiss wants their gear back."

He stopped abruptly and stared at her, his eyes shining in obvious admiration.  "You know Kiss?" he couldn't help asking.

Valerie rolled her eyes and whipped the limp garment out of his slack hand.  "Of course, I know Kiss," she insisted.  "Who doesn't?"

"Well, you don't really strike me as a Kiss-kinda-girl, if you know what I mean."

She snorted and brushed an errant lock of hair out of her eyes.  "This is absolutely not cool," she pointed out, shaking the bodysuit to emphasize her point.

"I dunno, V . . . I think it's growing on me."

She stared at him for a long moment, as though she were trying to decide whether he was being serious or not.  She must've decided that he was, because she let out a deep breath and rubbed her forehead.  "You're going to look stupid," she predicted despite the defeated tone in her voice.

Evan chuckled and shrugged.  "Okay, I'll tell you what.  You try it on, and I won't take it with me.  How's that?"

"Then again, why should I care if you look stupid or not?" she went on, more to herself than to Evan.  "I don't.  That's right.  Not in the least."

"Did you see the codpiece, V?" he asked innocently, pulling the tiny leather thong off the hanger and twirling it around on his finger.

Valerie's eyes widened, and she grimaced.  For a moment, Evan thought that her head just might explode.  With a low string of muttered curses, she glanced at the spandex bodysuit in her hand before pivoting on her heel and stomping out of the closet and toward the bathroom, much to Evan's amusement.

"You're an evil being, Roka," Keese remarked, leaning back with one arm crossed over his chest, his other elbow resting in his cupped hand, his index finger curled over his lips thoughtfully.  "Don't think that I didn't see right through what you just did."

Evan grinned, but didn't argue Keese's statement.

"You know, right, that if you actually took some of these outfits with you, that darling Mike would flip."

The grin turned into a bark of laughter.  For reasons that he would never quite understand, Keese was absolutely obsessed with Mike—entirely gross, yet somehow extremely entertaining, nonetheless.  "Is that why you toss these things in?" Evan asked, reaching for a hot pink feather boa that was slung over a nearby mannequin.

Keese smiled and blushed.  "Well, I'd prefer to undress him, but I'll take what I can get."  Heaving a sigh, he shot Evan a longsuffering stare.  "I don't suppose that he's ready to get that divorce, is he?"

The hopeful tone in Keese's voice was a sad, sad thing.  Stripping off his shirt and tossing it aside, Evan spared a moment to stretch before carefully tugging the black silk shirt off the rack to try it on.  "Sorry, Keese.  Mikey's wife makes him a very happy man."

Keese heaved a long, low sigh then suddenly frowned as the lingering traces of feigned despair vanished, only to be replaced with a thorough scowl.  "I was sorry to hear about what happened to Dieter," he said, shaking his head and looking like he might actually cry.

Clenching his jaw as the carefully constructed veil of light-hearted banter fell away, Evan jerked off his jeans and tugged on a pair of black leather pants.  "Yeah.  Me, too," he said.

Keese rubbed his arms as though he was suddenly cold.  "I couldn't believe it when my assistant told me that he'd been shot.  You were there, right?  I'm really sorry."

"Yeah, I was . . . but don't be sorry," Evan remarked tightly, paying more attention than he needed to as he worked the side zippers of the pants.  "Nothing anyone can do about it now, anyway."

"Still, losing a friend is a hard thing," Keese went on, taking on a philosophical air.  "Has the band found a replacement yet?"

"No one can replace Deet," Evan growled, unable to control the temper that he'd so carefully held in check all day.

"My bad," Keese allowed with a sympathetic sort of smile that only served to piss Evan off just a little more.  "I didn't mean it like that."

Letting out a deep breath meant to calm himself, Evan shook his head, forced a smile that was more of a grimace.  "I know.  Forget about it."

Keese nodded and then clapped his hands.  "Do him proud on your tour, then, Roka.  Do it bigger, do it louder, do it harder, right?"

"Yeah," he agreed as the anger started to subside.  Not for the first time, he had to wonder exactly what was wrong with him lately—at least when the subject of Dieter came up, anyway.  But he didn't want to delve into it too deeply either, not because he was afraid of what he'd find, but because he wasn't sure that he was entirely ready to let go of Dieter's memory, either, and for some reason, he couldn't help but think that he'd have to do just that . . .

The bathroom door crashed open, and Evan turned just in time to see Valerie stomp out.  The legs of the bodysuit were too long and gathered around her slender ankles, and the sleeves were too long, as well, so she was tugging those up, but she'd yanked the zipper up all the way to her chin, which just figured.  He'd kind of been hoping that she'd leave it unzipped to show a little cleavage—no such luck.  Still, she was too cute to ignore, and he couldn't help the wide grin that surfaced on his features.  "Nice," he remarked, drawing her attention—and a formidable scowl.

"Stuff it, Roka," she snapped as she stomped over to the couch once more.

"You forgot the codpiece," Evan said, tossing the leather thong at her.

She caught it and opened her mouth, likely to tell him to go to hell.  Evan's chuckle cut her off.  "You've got to try on the whole thing, V, or else I'll take it with me."

"Oh, you've got to be kid—Ugh!" Valerie grumbled, eyeing the studded pouch with obvious disdain for a moment before heaving another sigh and rather ungraciously stooping over to yank it on.  "You should have to pay me for this," she muttered, holding up her hands for a moment to let him inspect the outfit.

Keese was busy choking on his laughter as Evan slowly nodded and grinned.  "Looks a little baggy in there," he remarked.

Valerie rolled her eyes, her cheeks reddening just a little more before she yanked a red silk scarf off a nearby table, wadded it up into a ball, and shoved it down into the pathetically caving codpiece.

Keese's choking escalated into wheezing as he fanned his rapidly flushing face with a fluttering hand.  Evan snorted and pressed his lips together as he watched Valerie lean over to better inspect her handiwork.  She must've decided that it still wasn't enough, because a yellow, a blue, and a green scarf followed the red one in rapid succession before she waved a hand at her crotch and wrinkled her nose.  "There," she stated, the blandness of her tone completely at odds with the irritation thoroughly etched into her countenance.  "My penis is bigger than yours."

"Yes," Evan managed to say without laughing, though just barely.  "Yes, it is."

"Forget Mike," Keese muttered under his breath.  "I think I want to do her."

Evan chuckled as Valerie plopped down and grabbed the magazine once more.  Apparently deciding to take the moral high road in this particular situation, she'd opted to ignore the men.  Evan slung the hot pink feather boa around his neck and sauntered over to Valerie.  "So what do you think?" he asked, waiting for her to look up.

"What do I think of . . . ?  Why are you wearing that?" she asked blankly, staring at the boa.

"It kind of makes the ensemble, don't you think?" he teased, holding up the ends and waving them around like he was a bird.

Valerie was nonplussed.  "Whatever, birdman."

"I think it'd look great with your outfit," Evan hinted in a not-so-subtle way.

Valerie shot him a droll look but reached over to nab the end.  One deft yank later, and it was wrapped around her neck as she settled back with her magazine once more.

Evan chuckled, wondering absently what it was about her that seemed to even his temperament and even bring a smile to his face.  She was like magic, wasn't she?

"When did you learn German?" Valerie asked suddenly without looking up from the magazine.

Turning from side to side as he inspected the pants, he grunted in reply.  "Met a guy from Hamburg once.  He was about as crazy as they came, and he taught me a lot of it.  Why?"

"I didn't think gypsies knew German," she went on, flipping the pages as she looked for the rest of whatever article she'd been reading.

"It's one of Belgium's national languages," he said.  "But no, German's a second language for her.  Mostly, she spoke Romani with her mother."

"And you don't know Romani?" Valerie asked.  He didn't miss the hint of challenge in her tone.

"Some.  Not nearly as fluent in it, though."

"Oh?  And where did you study Romani?"

Evan shrugged and took the leather jacket that Keese held out to him.  "I didn't.  I just picked some up when I met her mama."

Valerie stared at him for a long moment then finally shook her head.  He figured that she was trying to decide whether or not he was trying to feed her a line.  In the end, however, she must've decided that it wasn't important because she opted instead to change the subject entirely.  "Those pants make your butt look big," she stated indelicately.

Evan chuckled and peeked over his shoulder at her.  "You think?"

She nodded before returning to the magazine again.  "Absolutely, Roka."

"Wicked," he breathed, a devilish grin lighting the depths of his eyes.  "More for the ladies to hold onto when I'm fucking the hell out of them."

Valerie uttered a sound that was something like a cross between a grunt and a sigh.  "Nasty."

"Don't knock it till you've tried it," he replied.

Valerie made a face and lifted the publication a little higher.  "No, thanks," she mumbled.

Evan laughed as he shrugged the leather jacket over his shoulders and shook his arms to adjust the sleeves.

He didn't see the trace of a smile that quirked her lips, though.


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A/N:
'Tears< /b> in Heaven' by Eric Clapton first appeared on the 2002 release, Rush (soundtrack).  Song written by and copyrighted to Eric Clapton and Will Jennings.
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MMorg
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
A codpiece …?
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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 60
Chapter 62
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