InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Breaking Down ( Chapter 79 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Seventy-Nine~~
~Breaking Down~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>Baby cried the day the circus came to town …
'Cause she didn't want parades just passing by her
'So she painted on a smile and took up with some clown
'And she danced without a net upon the wire
'I know a lot about her, 'cause you see
'Baby is an awful lot like me …'

-'Don't Cry Out Loud' by Melissa Manchester.

-Evan-


Standin g in the shadows of the overhang on the top of the hotel, Evan let out a deep breath and slowly shook his head.

He was really, really stupid, wasn't he?

'What the hell inspired you to tell her that last bit about going and getting married for real, you moron?' his youkai voice demanded angrily.  'You saw her face, didn't you?  Why didn't you just slap her, for God's sake?  It probably would have hurt her less . . .'

'That wasn't—'

'Yeah, whatever.  That wasn't what you were trying to do, right?  You weren't trying to hurt her.  Of course.  You know, though, you did.  You know how touchy she can be about some things, and marriage is one of them.  Does it matter whose idea that was?  Really?'

He sighed again, staring at the torn marriage certificate that he'd picked up after Valerie had tossed it in his face.  It wasn't real, of course.  Well, it was, but the names on the certificate had voided it from the start.  So why . . .?

Why had he been so pleased this morning after the initial worry that he'd done something that couldn't be undone had waned?  The sight of the gaudy ring on her finger, and somehow he'd known that he'd put it there . . . and it had pleased him more than he'd care to think about, hadn't it?  Almost like she really was his mate . . . and that idea . . .

True enough, he was still a little fuzzy on a lot of the details surrounding their impromptu trip to the Sanctity of Amour—yes, that was actually the name of the garishly pink chapel where Valerie had decided that she wanted to get married.  Bone had filled in a lot of the details, and when he stopped to think about it, he'd started to remember bits and pieces . . .

The happy smile on Valerie's face as she giggled and signed her name in a scribble that was little more than a squiggly line . . . The way her eyes shone when she'd tried to keep a straight face as she spoke the words, "I do" . . . Literally howling with laughter as she and Evan sipped wine spritzers in the hotel bar after Bone was able to talk them into going back before Mike blew an ass gasket . . .

"You don't want that ring, V!  It's gaudy as hell, don't you think?"

"Listen, Roka, if I'm going to marry a rock star, then I should have a diamond befitting a rock star's wife, right?"

"But—"

"You're not really going to argue with me, are you?"

"Uh . . . nope.  Not at all."

He closed his eyes as he shuffled out into the hazy sunlight of the late morning sky.  Mike was going to kill him for blowing off all his interviews that he'd so meticulously lined up.  Evan didn't care . . .

"I did it!  I got married!  Fifth time's the charm, right?"

"That's right, V . . . Notice I didn't put you off . . . Get it moving, damn it!  I want to go have sex!"

"So just do it.  You're in a limo, right?  No one can see you, and it ain't like you ain't done it before."

"Boney, didn't anyone teach you anything?  You can't have marital sex for the first time in a fucking limo . . ."

"I did it!  I did it!  See?  I did get married this year, even if Marvin said we can't till next spring!"

Grimacing as Valerie's exultant voice echoed and faded in his head, he had to wonder if she realized what she'd said; if she'd realized that she'd said anything at all . . .

"Does it really not matter to you, V?" he mumbled, leaning on the railing that ran around the perimeter of the roof.  "As long as you get married . . ."

But it did matter to her, didn't it?  And not just anyone would do.  She was too independent for marriage to be high on her list of priorities, but if that were really the case, then why Marvin?

Drawing a deep breath, Evan slowly shook his head.

"Listen, Roka.  I wouldn't marry you for real if you were the last man on earth, and God himself decreed it.  Right now, I don't really like you very much, and even if I did, do you think I'm stupid enough to marry someone who doesn't know when to keep his damn pants on?  Someone who's never even had a girlfriend because he's too much of a player and a jackass to be serious for even five minutes?  As soon as your case is over, I swear to God that I never, ever want to see your sorry face, ever again."

He winced, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the ring that Bone had given him—Valerie's real engagement ring.  Bone said that Valerie had been so drunk that she'd actually tossed it aside in the limo on the way to the chapel.  He'd picked it up, and it was up to Evan to give it back . . .

He'd hated that look of sheer panic on her face when she couldn't find it earlier, hadn't he?  As much as he'd like to toss it over the side of the building and forget all about it, he couldn't . . . because she'd be upset . . .

The obscene sound of ripping paper as she'd torn the marriage certificate in half echoed in his head, louder than thunder, more cutting than a thousand blades . . . Why had that hurt . . .? It wasn't real, after all.  The names weren't any more real than much of anything else in his life, were they?  The existence that was nothing more than smoke and mirrors that hid Evan Zelig so much more than it shielded his family . . .

His youkai sighed—a strangely serious sound from the voice that had so often encouraged his antics.  'Give the ring back, Evan,' it said.

Tightening his fist around the offending bit of gold, he drew his hand back, meant to throw it just as far as he possibly could.  'The hell!  She . . . She belongs with me—with us!'

That sigh sounded again, only this time, it was longer, sadder, and far wearier.  'But it's not our choice,' his youkai pointed out almost gently.  'It's hers.  You can't make it for her.'

Slowly lowering his fist, he swallowed hard, forced his fingers to uncurl, forced himself to look at the pathetic circlet of gold.  'Give it . . . back to her . . .'

It was the last thing that he wanted to do: to hand her the ring that bound her to another man.


-Valerie-


"Liste n, Roka.  I wouldn't marry you for real if you were the last man on earth, and God himself decreed it.  Right now, I don't really like you very much, and even if I did, do you think I'm stupid enough to marry someone who doesn't know when to keep his damn pants on?  Someone who's never even had a girlfriend because he's too much of a player and a jackass to be serious for even five minutes?  As soon as your case is over, I swear to God that I never, ever want to see your sorry face, ever again."

Wincing as those words ran through her head once more, Valerie concentrated on refolding the clothes that one of the maids had just brought up from the hotel's laundry service.  'Okay,' she allowed grudgingly, heaving a sigh as she slowly shook her head.  'So that was a little harsh—or a lot . . .'

Angry at herself for her own colossal stupidity, she'd lashed out at Evan.  She knew she had.  She hadn't meant to, even if he'd offended her by his nonchalant offer to make good on the marriage, to start with.

The problem was that she'd done that for so long that it had become a habit—a bad one.  How many times in during her childhood had she blamed everyone else for things, even things that were her own fault?  Easier to do that than to admit that she had made a bad call, wasn't it?  Easier to blame others instead of looking inside herself to figure out why she'd made certain choices . . . or easier to blame it on others when she didn't understand what was happening around her . . .

Shaking out a cream colored sweater so that she could refold it, Valerie bit her lip and frowned at the glinting ring sitting on the nightstand—the ring that Evan had bought for her.  She had no idea how much he'd spent—hell, she couldn't even remember picking it out, and she scowled.

She hadn't meant what she'd said to Evan.  She really, really hadn't.  As much as she hated to admit it, she'd had more fun with him in the last few weeks than she'd had in years.  She'd laughed more in the last few weeks than she had in years, too.  Somehow when she wasn't paying attention, Evan had become a really good friend, hadn't he?

Face crumpling in a self-disgusted expression, she dropped the sweater on the bed and plopped down beside it.  She needed to apologize to him.  Unfortunately, that was something else she wasn't very good at, either.

The thing was, as much as she liked spending time with Evan, as much fun as she had with him, he frightened her, too.  It wasn't that she thought that he'd do anything to really hurt her, no, and maybe that was what really and truly scared her most.  She'd never met anyone like him before: someone who seemed to revel in making her laugh, in showing her things that she'd never seen before.  Yet those same things—that impetuousness that seemed to govern his life, the absolute desire to soak every possible moment of living out of every single day—those were the same traits that she'd been trying too hard to avoid, wasn't it?

She'd learned her lesson a long time ago—a lifetime ago, right?  As exciting as it was to be with him, it would never last, would it?  She'd been a sucker before.  She'd seen guys like him—flashy guys who seemed to be just a step above the rest—and she'd found out the hard way that nothing was ever as good as it looked from the outside, and when that moment came when she realized just what was happening to her, she'd felt like a part of her had died over and over again . . .

Why did it always seem to her that the ones that had caught her attention time after time were the ones who could do nothing but hurt her?  Why had she seen the same things?  Justin had thought that he was everything.  Duff had believed that he was above repercussions.  Payne had trusted in his irresistible smile to get everything he wanted . . . and Evan?  He already had it all, didn't he . . .?

The curt knock on her door drew her out of her reverie, and she sighed.  Her hands were trembling, and she could feel the hot prickle of tears behind her eyelids.  Closing her eyes, she drew a deep breath, considered ignoring the visitor but discarded the idea.  She really didn't have to wonder about who it was, anyway.  She knew it was Evan, even if she didn't know how.

"Hey," he said quietly, shifting from one foot to the other without meeting her gaze when she opened the door and stepped back.  Scratching the back of his neck, he let out a deep breath, scowling at the floor.  "Sorry about earlier," he muttered.

"N-No," she said just as quietly, her voice cracking as she swallowed hard, as she blinked rapidly.  "I lost my temper, and . . . and I didn't mean what I said."

For some reason, her apology didn't seem to please him.  If anything, he seemed even more agitated, didn't he?  "Don't worry about it, V.  I was . . . I was being an ass, right?  Anyway, I, uh . . . I've got to get to sound-check," he told her with a little shrug.  "I just wanted to . . . to give you this."

Valerie blinked as Evan took her hand and pressed something into it.

Glancing down at her hand, she found herself staring at her engagement ring—the one Marvin had given her.  He'd found it . . .

"Oh . . ." she whispered.

"Bone had it," he muttered, trying to forestall any thanks that she might consider offering.  "Anyway, I gotta go."  Then he turned and hunched his shoulders forward as he dug his hands into his pockets and started down the hallway.

"Evan," she called after him, hanging onto the door jamb and leaning out into the hall.

He stopped and slowly turned his head to look over his shoulder at her.  The expression on his face was painful to see—a sadness so deep, so lingering that she winced inwardly.  He really didn't believe her when she'd told him that she hadn't meant what she'd said, did he?  She'd never seen him look quite that vulnerable before, and something about it opened up an ache so deep that she had to grind her teeth together to keep from gasping out loud.  "I'll be at your show," she said, her voice uneven, almost broken.

He stared at her for a long moment, and when he finally smiled, he looked a lot more like the Evan that she knew.

Then he nodded, sparing a moment to let his gaze linger on her before he pushed into the stairwell.

Valerie let out a deep breath, her own contrived smile fading as fast as it took the door to close.

After all the nasty things she'd said to him, he'd still wanted to return her ring to her . . . Why was it so hard to remember that it wasn't nearly as simple to take things back once she'd said them as it would be to just stop and not say them, to start with . . .?


-Evan-


"Woman, I'm warning you . . ."

Rolling her eyes, Valerie scooped a blueberry onto her spoon and aimed.  Evan narrowed his eyes in disapproval that she summarily ignored as she let the fruit fly directly at his face.  He reacted before he could stop himself, leaning to the side, catching the berry in his mouth and chewing it with a thorough scowl on his face.

"You haven't missed even one," she commented, her eyes sparkling as she grinned unrepentantly.

Evan snorted and swallowed the fruit.  "Call it a reflex," he muttered, leaning forward to tug the spoon out of her hand and chucking it over his shoulder.  It clattered in the sink.  "An annoying one."

"No fair!" she protested.  "Now how am I supposed to finish this?"

Stretching across the table, he stabbed a strawberry with his fork and shoved the entire thing into her mouth when she went to bite it in half.  "Urk!" she grunted, twisting away from him, holding her hand under her chin in case she dribbled.  "Ou-ah uh urk!"

He chuckled and sat back, pushing the potato salad around his plate idly.  "Oh, I'm a jerk, am I?" he laughed.  "Who's been chucking fruit at me for the last half hour?"

Covering her mouth as she chewed and swallowed, Valerie giggled.  "I didn't know you'd start catching it," she protested, shaking her head as she reached for a napkin.  "Anyway, anyway, give me a fork."

"No way," he countered.  "Use your fingers."

"So mean," she complained though her continued giggling ruined the harshness of her assessment.  "Now explain again why we have to go to North Dakota.  Is there anything actually in North Dakota?"

Pushing his plate away, Evan grinned.  "Because even repressed kids in North Dakota love them some Zel Roka," he pointed out.  "If memory serves, they loves them some Zel Roka a lot . . ."

Narrowing her gaze on him, she was still smiling.  Evan sighed.  Damn, but he loved that smile . . . "What does that mean?" she asked slowly.  "If you say something perverted, I swear . . ."

"I just mean that there's not a whole helluva lot to do up there," he explained.  "It seems to me that the girls up there learn how to put a smile on the men's faces a little early . . ."

She whipped a toothpick at him.  He caught it in his teeth and spit it out on the table.  "You're so gross," she pointed out.

Evan chuckled and shrugged unrepentantly.

She wrinkled her nose and rubbed her arms as though she were cold.  He knew damn well that it was at least seventy-two degrees inside the bus.  "I don't think that you should have to go anywhere that the average temperature during the day is less than seventy," she muttered.

"Ah, don't be like that," he coaxed.  "After that show, we'll be heading to Hawaii, right?  Just think about that."

That dreamy smile of hers was back in place, and she leaned forward, resting on her forearms as she pinned him with an expectant sort of air.  "You've been there before, right?"

Nodding slowly, Evan stuck his hands over his head, stretching languorously.  "Yeah . . . It was more fun when I wasn't touring.  My uncle—well, technically speaking, he's my great-uncle—has a place there.  Not very big, especially by his standards, but it's got a nice, private beach and is pretty secure, and the view of the sunsets there?  Fantastic . . ."

"Sounds nice," she agreed rather dreamily.  "Is your whole family wealthy?"

Letting out a deep breath, he shrugged and shifted to the side, stretching his legs out straight.  "I guess so," he allowed slowly.  "Never really gave it much thought, but yeah, you could say that."

She stared at him for a long moment then suddenly laughed, shaking her head as though whatever she had running through her mind was entirely amusing.  "You know, where I grew up, there was this one house with this tall wrought iron fence and this huge, huge front lawn that seemed to just . . . stretch out so far that you'd think that the house would look small, right?  But it didn't.  It was one of those old stone places—not brick.  It was actually built out of stones—humungous grayish stones . . . and I always thought that it looked like a castle."  She giggled again, her eyes illuminated by a faraway sort of glimmer.  "It even had turrets.  Can you imagine?  Real turrets . . ."

"Victorian?"

She shrugged as her gaze cleared though the wan little smile on her lips didn't fade.  "I guess."  Shaking her head, she drew a deep, cleansing breath.  "I always wondered if the people who lived in that house felt like royalty when they woke up in the morning . . ." Ducking her head, her cheeks pinking slightly, she stole a glance at him from under her lowered eyelashes.  "Sounds stupid, doesn't it?"

He laughed and stood up to throw away what was left of his dinner.  "I don't think so," he allowed.  "I mean, when I was little, I always wondered if clouds were made of cotton candy . . ."

Sighing softly—a wistful sound that was not unhappy—Valerie stood up and carried her bowl over to the counter, rummaging through the drawers as she looked for some plastic wrap.  "They couldn't be cotton candy," she pointed out, ripping a strip of plastic off the roll and carefully covering what was left of her fruit salad.  "They'd melt in the rain."

"I suppose," Evan agreed, taking her bowl and sticking it into the refrigerator, "but then, Mama always told me that the sound of raindrops on the windows were the metal boots of the Snow Sugar King's army collecting the melted sugar so that the maids in his castle could spin them into clouds again."

She stopped and turned to stare at him, a very tender smile twitching on her lips.  "She told you that?" she asked quietly.

Evan nodded and scratched his bare chest, frowning slightly at one of the fake tattoos that was starting to wear off.  "Damn . . . hand me the mineral oil in that cupboard, would you?"

Valerie got it out and poured some onto a dishcloth that was lying on the counter.  "You mom told you all that?  About the Snow Sugar King and stuff?" she asked as she carefully dabbed at the fading tattoo.

"'Course she did.  Mama used to hold me during storms and tell me all kinds of stories . . . some of them were actually true ones."

A sad sort of smile surfaced on her features, and not for the first time, Evan had to wonder just what kind of memories she had of her own childhood.  From the things she'd said before, he'd gotten the impression that it hadn't been the best of times, and that idea pissed him off more than he could credit, and as much as he wanted to ask her, he just didn't know how to do it.  "It was nice, right?  Let me see . . . where were you then?  On the sofa or something?"

Evan smiled, willing away the questions that he couldn't answer.  "Sometimes.  Sometimes we'd lie in the bed—the big bed—the huge bed—with the blankets pulled up to our chins as we stared out the windows at the rain . . ." He chuckled and shook his head.  "Jilli always wanted to go outside and play in the rain, but Mama wouldn't let her . . ."

"Were you afraid?" she asked, turning the towel to rub at the remnants of the tattoo.

"Me?  Afraid?  Hell, yeah!" he replied, his grin widening.  She shot him an amused look out of the corner of her eyes, and he chuckled.  "I was a pup," he explained with a shrug.  "Couldn't have been more than . . . two?  Three, maybe . . .?  I wasn't afraid of the rain, but thunder?  Damn, that terrified me . . ."

"You admit it?" she countered, shaking her head like she couldn't believe that he was being so candid about his childhood fear.

"Why not?  Everyone's afraid of something in their life, aren't they?" he reasoned.

Tossing the towel on the counter, she laughed as she dug a clean one out of a drawer, dampening it under the slow but steady stream of the faucet.  "I suppose they are," she allowed.

"So what were you afraid of, V?"

"Oh, I don't know," she hedged with a fortifying breath.  She took her time in wiping the area of skin she'd just cleaned off.  "I don't remember being afraid of anything in particular . . . but I do remember being afraid . . ."

"Of what?"

Bobbing her shoulders in a nonchalant shrug, she pulled open the cabinet where he kept the box with the fake tattoos.  "The dragon, right?"

"Uh huh," he replied, waiting for her answer to his original question.

She took her time, positioning the new print on his skin before pressing it into place and spritzing the activator onto the surface.  "I guess I was just always a little afraid of everything," she finally said as though it were the simplest thing in the world.

Her response puzzled him, but he could tell from the slight stiffness in her stance that she didn't really want to talk about it anymore, and he relented.  After all, what right did he really have to pry into her past any more than he already had?  "You know, you're the last person who strikes me as fearful of anything."

She blinked and shot him a surprised kind of look, but she smiled a little reluctantly.  "I'm not afraid of anything these days," she informed him with a curt laugh meant to cover her true emotions.  Maybe she even believed herself on some level, too . . . A slight frown flickered over her features, and she pressed her lips together as she tossed the backer paper into the trash.  "Uh, Evan . . . about earlier . . ."

He had a feeling that she was going to try to tell him once more that she didn't mean what she'd said when she'd left him in the elevator, and he sighed.  "Don't worry about it, V," he said before she could go on.  "I was being a jackass."

She looked like she wanted to argue with him.  He shot her a cheesy grin before she could.  "You freak out over weird shit, woman," he told her, shaking his head in mock disapproval.

Rolling her eyes, she started to say something, only to be cut off short by a very powerful yawn.  Evan laughed and grabbed her hand, dragging her over to the bed.  "How old do you think I am?  Five?" she complained when he pushed on her shoulders to sit her down then knelt, reaching for her feet to tug off her shoes.

"Three, maybe," he countered with a grin.

"Such a jerk," she complained as another yawn invaded.

"Well, yeah . . . like you didn't know that."

She wrinkled her nose and rubbed her eyes, her fists balled up like a tiny child.  "Thanks for giving back my ring," she murmured, forcing her eyes open to look at him.

He forced a chuckle as she crawled under the covers and stretched out on her side.  "I thought about throwing it away," he confessed.

She shook her head and smiled, obviously preferring to think that he was teasing her.  "But you wouldn't because you're nice . . . sometimes."

"Yeah, don't let that get out, okay?" he grumbled, looking away before she could figure out that he wasn't teasing about wanting to discard her engagement ring.

"Tell me more about your childhood," she coaxed, closing her eyes and snuggling into the thick pillow.

Evan stared at her for a long moment as he reached out to push her hair out of her face.  "Like what?"

"Hmm . . ." she drawled, her voice taking on that sleepy kind of thickness.  "The Snow Sugar King . . ."

"The Snow Sugar King . . ." he repeated, sitting on the edge of the bed.  She felt the shift and scooted closer to him as he stretched his legs out, as he leaned back against the headboard.  "Mama said that he was tiny—smaller than a mouse," he told her, "and his people lives under lakes and ponds and oceans . . . in glass domed cities that we can't see—unless the Snow Sugar King invites us, of course . . ."

"Mm," she murmured.  Evan sighed, staring at her as he carefully, gently stroked her hair.  Her breathing evened out, settled into a quiet monotony as she fell asleep.  Something about watching her evoked a feeling of being perfectly content—a satisfaction so deep—emotions that he'd never really felt before . . . except one time . . . just one time . . .

His humming started out low, barely more than a whisper.  As he gazed at her, as he watched her sleep, he didn't realize that he was doing it at all.  A song that he'd only sung once before—one that he'd made up on the spot, just for her—that girl who had disappeared out of his life as quickly as she had appeared . . . Whether she was a dream or just a fantasy, he'd wondered over the years, but Valerie . . . What was it about her that instilled the same sense of quiet awe . . .?

Humming quietly, entranced in the middle ground between his memories and the present, he blinked slowly when Valerie stirred, when she opened her eyes and pushed herself up on her elbows, frowning thoughtfully at him.  "That song . . ." she said, shaking her head as though she didn't really understand exactly what was going on.  For that matter, she didn't look entirely awake, either.  "What's the name?"

Shaking his head, Evan grimaced, not entirely ready to give that song away to anyone else, even if that anyone was Valerie.  "Eh, it's just a song," he replied, hoping that she'd let it go if he downplayed it.  "I don't remember the name."

Her frown deepened, but she did lie back down, eyes closing as sleepiness closed in around her fast.  "Oh . . ."

Heaving a sigh since he couldn't help but feel a little guilty for lying to her, Evan relented.  "Why do you want to know?" he ventured.

"Mm," Valerie murmured, almost asleep again.  Her voice was thick, bleary.  "Heard it . . . once . . . at a party . . . He . . . sang . . ."

The breath whistled into Evan's lungs as the reality of her statement sank in.  "Heard it . . . once . . . at a party . . . He . . . sang . . ." Just what the hell did that mean . . .?

"I just thought that she might have been the one.  I had her for one night, and when I woke up the next morning, she was gone . . ."

'But . . . you never wrote that song down,' his youkai voice said slowly, logically.  'You never wrote it because it was only for her . . . just for her . . .'

"Eh, it was a long time ago—nine?  Ten years ago, maybe . . .?"

But if it had been her . . . was that even possible?  With a frown, he realized that he didn't actually know how old Valerie was.  It was easy to assume that she was still in her early to mid twenties just because she looked that damn good, but if that were the case, then that night at Columbia University . . . It couldn't have been her . . .

'Goddamn it,' he thought with a wince.  He had to know . . .

"V?"

The only answer was her steady breathing, and in her sleep, she snuggled a little closer against his side.

Heaving a sigh, he shook his head.  Watching her sleeping so peacefully was torture, absolute torture.  Flashes of memory—it was too dark to discern her features, wasn't it?  But he'd tried to look at her, to commit every detail of her face to his memory.  He'd just been too exhausted, his head had been a little too cloudy from the booze and the pot and whatever else was lingering in the air of the small house when he'd wandered in.  His sense of smell had been completely fucked up, and there were just too many conflicting odors to ascertain the one that he wanted to remember . . . and when he'd awoken a couple hours later just as the sun was starting to rise, the party was still going strong—too strong for him to figure out a damn thing . . .

Sparing another moment to stare at her, to wonder . . . She could be, couldn't she?  Blonde hair, dark eyes . . . He hadn't gotten a good look at her face, even, but those eyes . . .

He extricated himself from her grasp, swung his legs off the bed and got to his feet.  He had to know, damn it.  He had to know before he drove himself insane.

"Heard it . . . once . . . at a party . . . He sang . . ."

Glancing around wildly, almost desperately, Evan blinked as his gaze lit on her purse.  True, under ordinary circumstances, he wouldn't dream of getting into it.  There were some things, after all, that should remain sacred, and even he had to draw the line somewhere, but . . . but damn, he had to know . . .

Casting her one last, long look, Evan strode over to the table and grabbed the purse before he could talk himself out of it.  He found what he was searching for a moment later, tucked neatly behind a clear plastic compartment in the slightly worn but very expensive black leather wallet.  'Valerie Denning . . . Date of birth: October 29, 2045 . . .'

So . . . nine years ago, she would have been . . .

Evan's eyes flared wide as he whipped around to stare at Valerie's sleeping form.  She would have been twenty, wouldn't she?  Nineteen, almost twenty—nine days before her twentieth birthday . . .

She was the one: the girl who had slipped through his fingers that night.  If he'd found her at that time . . .

A wrenching surge of panic shot through him, even as a sense of relief welled up deep inside.  He'd lost her once, hadn't he?  Eyes darkening as a stubborn set solidified in his features, as an irrational flare of anger shot to the fore when the laughable chip that Valerie insisted was a diamond glinted at him when she moved her hand.

He'd be damned if he'd lose her again.

"Sorry, Marvin," he muttered under his breath, a steely resolve reflecting as pinpoints of light in his unwavering gaze.  "She's always been mine . . . and you can't have her anymore."


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A/N:
'Don't< /b> Cry Out Loud' by Melissa Manchester first appeared on the 1978 release, Don't Cry Out Loud.  Song written by and copyrighted to Peter Allen.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
Little wiener
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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 78
Chapter 80
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