InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Misgivings ( Chapter 87 )

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


- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'You make me smile like the sun
'Fall out of bed
'Sing like a bird
'Dizzy in my head
'Spin like a record crazy on a Sunday night …'

'You make me dance like a fool
'Forget how to breathe
'Shine like gold
'Buzz like a bee
'Just the thought of you can drive me wild
'Oh, you make me smile …'

-'Smile' by Uncle Kracker.

-Evan-


Lifting his eyes to gaze surreptitiously across the table at Valerie without raising his chin, Evan didn't miss a beat as he idly strummed the acoustic guitar.

She was acting strangely.  To be more precise, she'd been acting strangely ever since she'd emerged from the bathroom after hiding in there as long as she possibly could.  Of course, that wasn't entirely surprising, all things considered.  Any time he'd caught her looking at him, she'd blushed crimson and hurriedly looked away.  He supposed that he ought to consider it a huge plus that she was actually still willing to ride on his bus, but . . .

Stifling a sigh, he shook his head.  When he'd gone to her hotel room to tell her that they were checking out around noon, she was sitting at the computer, looking up something on the internet.  Evan hadn't really gotten a good look at it, but at a glance, it had looked like an online journal profile page.

"V?"

"Oh, huh?" she said, whirling around to face him, a peculiar expression on her face—a certain belligerence, a certain amount of shock . . .

"What were you doing?  Spying on someone?"

"Spying?  Me?  Why would I do that?"  Shutting down the PC without bothering to end any of the programs she'd had open, she rubbed her forearms as she stalked across the floor and back a few times.  "What makes you say that?"

Evan shrugged.  "The page was pink," he said simply.  "Either you were checking up on some teenybopper or Arcane really needs to change his profile page—unless there's something about his personal preferences that he's not telling you
."

She narrowed her eyes on him.  "Don't be stupid . . ."

He chuckled and shot her an unrepentant grin, mostly since she'd given up on trying to correct him whenever he used a new and often irritating name for her betrothed.  "We're ready to get going," he said, opting to ignore her jumpiness for the moment.

Managing a weak facsimile of a smile, Valerie shrugged.  "Since when do you come get me, rock star?" she tried to tease. "You usually just send Bone or something."

Evan shot her a tentative grin.  "Well, you know, I was in the neighborhood . . ."

"Yeah, okay.  Let me get my suitcase," she said.

Evan's grin faded as she turned away to gather her things.

He hadn't missed the tightness around her eyes—the tell tale sign that there was something bothering her, and the thought that made him grit his teeth was that she was afraid of being alone with him . . .

"Have we crossed the state line?"

Glancing up, Evan paused, mid-strum and frowned when he saw her, staring at her hands with a little scowl on her face.  "Uh . . . I don't know," he replied, licking his lips, despising the strain that hung thick in the air between them.  "Listen, V, about the other night . . ."

Her eyes flashed up to meet his even as a vivid wash of color shot to the fore in her cheeks.  "I-I'm sorry about that," she blurted suddenly, shaking her head as a determined glint entered her gaze.  "I was . . . really drunk . . ." She cleared her throat and lifted her chin a notch.  "I-I kept trying to come on to you," she continued, "and you kept trying to stop me . . ."

"Don't apologize," he interrupted, feeling even worse that she was acting so grateful to him, in the first place.

She shook her head quickly, stubbornly.  "It's just that . . . Well, you're a really nice guy, aren't you?  You just don't like to admit it."

"Am not," he muttered.

"You can say that," she argued simply, "but I know better.  You—"

For some reason, her accolades were doing nothing but irritating him even more.  Just what the hell did she think he was?  A fucking saint or something?  Stifling a menacing growl, he pinned her with a hot, almost hostile, glower, and snorted loudly to cut her off.  "Keh!  You know something, Valerie?  The only reason I didn't fuck the living, breathing shit out of you is because you fell asleep.  If you hadn't, do you honestly think I'd have stopped?  Hell, no, and let me tell you something else, woman: if you ever, ever do that to me again, I swear to God I'll finish it, whether you're ass-drunk or not—and you'll beg me to fuck you before I do."

She flushed deep crimson but refused to look away despite the widening of her eyes, despite the nervous flare of her nostrils.  "You—"

Narrowing his gaze, Evan stood up slowly, deliberately leaned over the table until he was mere inches away from her face.  "You.  Will.  Beg.  For.  It."

She couldn't do anything more than stare at him, eyes still wide.  Just for a moment, though, her gaze dropped to his lips, and her cheeks pinked just a little more as she forced her eyes back up to meet his once more.  "You wouldn't," she said in a whisper.  "You . . ."

"Try me, V," he challenged, his voice barely audible even in the quiet.  "Just try me."

She swallowed hard, her lips parting as her breathing quickened.  Evan sat down abruptly and reached for his guitar again.  Cranking out an angry riff, he tried to squash the froth of anger that churned his belly—anger directed at himself for what had almost happened . . . Anger directed at her for having the gall to apologize . . .

She heaved a sigh and rubbed her forehead.  Her hand was shaking just a little bit.  "Evan . . ."

The riff ended on a sharp, sour note, and he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the guitar, hands dangling as he glanced at her and slowly shook his head.   "Yes?" he asked with a sigh of his own.

She licked her lips and shrugged helplessly, brushing her hair back behind her ear and rubbing the back of her neck.  Her skin was still a little pale under the tan, and she looked like she was trying to figure something out in her head.  "If something had happened the other night, it would've been my fault," she said at length, her voice low, raspy.  "If I hurt you . . ."

He blinked and stared, a thoughtful scowl surfacing on his face.  She was afraid that she'd hurt him . . .?  But . . . "I'm fine, V," he assured her, a lopsided half-grin turning up one corner of his lips—a grin that he was far from feeling.  "You, of all people, can't hurt me."

She didn't look like she completely believed him, but she nodded slowly.  "Then . . . Then we're okay?"

Chuckling softly, Evan shook his head and grasped the guitar once more.  "Stop sweating the small stuff," he told her.  "What do you want to hear?"

She stared at him for several moments before finally breaking into a little smile of her own—the first one he'd seen on her face since the incident.  "Something soft," she said, leaning forward, folding her arms on the table and propping her chin on her hand.  "Something pretty."

"Soft?" Evan echoed, cocking an eyebrow as he glanced at her.  "Come on, woman . . . I'm Zel Roka!  Zel Roka doesn't do 'soft' and 'pretty' . . ."

"Soft and pretty," she maintained as her smile widened a few degrees.  "Zel Roka might not do it, but Evan Zelig does."

He heaved a longsuffering sigh and slowly shook his head but strummed the guitar once then adjusted the strings slightly.  "Soft and pretty," he mumbled under his breath though his grin didn't fade.  "Soft and pretty, served up on a silver platter, right alongside my balls . . ."

She giggled and waited, her gaze expectant as she watched him.


"'I don't wanna hear about it anymore ...
'It's a shame I've got to live without you anymore
'There's a fire in my heart
'A pounding in my brain that's driving me crazy …'"

"'We don't need to talk about it anymore
'Yesterday's just a memory; can we close the door?
'I just made one mistake
'I didn't know what to say when you called me 'baby' …'"


Valerie listened to the rest of the song, and the smile on her face didn't disappear.  When it was over, she sat back and clapped softly.  "I've never heard that song before," she ventured.

Evan shot her a bemused look and chuckled.  "Ah, V, you poor, deprived woman."

She rolled her eyes but smiled.  "Come on, Roka.  Not everyone's listened to the vast amounts of music that you have."

Catching the pick between his teeth, he played another riff then grimaced when his claw caught on one of the strings and snapped it.  "Fuck," he muttered, his curse slurred by the guitar pick.

"Didn't you just change those a few days ago?" Valerie asked, watching as Evan stood up and set the guitar on the table before moving off to locate his kit.

"I did," he allowed, grabbing the leather bag that looked something like an attaché case off the floor next to the one amp he carried along on the bus.  "I break strings a lot when I'm not careful."

"Yeah, but you make it look easy," she remarked, leaning to the side and snagging a magazine off the table between her index and middle fingers.  "Changing the strings, I mean."

"Not so bad after you get the hang of it," he replied as he plopped into his chair again.  "Your dad played guitar, right?  Didn't you watch him change strings?"

"Seemed like it took him longer," she said, absently thumbing through pages and not paying a lot of attention to what Evan was doing.  "He was more . . . methodical about it, I guess.  Then again, he always said that they were expensive . . ."

"Strings?" Evan echoed with a frown.  "Not really . . . but if he thought that they were, then he probably took a lot more time in changing them, I guess."

Glancing up from the magazine, she watched in silence as he pulled the bridge pin and caught it between his teeth.  "He always used a pair of pliers-things to pull that pin out," she commented thoughtfully.  "Once I think he used his teeth . . ."

"Well, they're put in pretty snug," he said as he pulled the end of the old string out and tossed it toward the trash can then reached for the new one.  "Most people do—not with their teeth, though."

Wrinkling her nose, Valerie shook her head.  "Why do you do that?"

Pulling the pin out of his mouth long enough to frown at Valerie, Evan eyed her for a moment.  "Do what?"

"That," she said, flicking a lazy finger at him as though he ought to be able to figure out what she was talking about from the simple gesture alone.  "Run that string through your fingertips like that."

Evan blinked and stared at the string in his hand.  True enough, he was doing that, just like he did before he strung it on the guitar: twenty-five times, actually, giving it a slight twist between pulls.  "Oh . . . uh . . . I don't know.  Guess I've always done it.  Even then, there's always a chance that the string is defective—kinked or something that you don't see right off the bat—so I suppose I do it to make sure that it's good before I mess around with stringing it."

She laughed softly and shook her head again.  "As if you could tell.  Your fingertips are so callused that I'm surprised you can feel anything at all."

Evan grinned and slipped the bridge pin between his teeth again.  "I feel things just fine, baby," he leered—an effect that was pretty well ruined by the bridge pin in his mouth.  "Felt you just fine the other night, now didn't I?"

Valerie snorted.  "Not that fine, Roka, or did you forget that I fell asleep?" she shot back despite the pinkness that seeped into her cheeks.

Evan chuckled, relieved that she seemed to be feeling a bit better about the whole debacle.  "Ouch, woman.  Spare my pride, will you?"

Her cheeks reddened a little more, but she lifted her chin a notch and tossed her head defiantly—a flash of molten gold ripping around her like the softest wings.  The overwhelming urge to touch her shot through him, and before he could talk himself out of it, he reached out, running his fingers lightly through her hair.  It fell through his fingers, drifting back into place, leaving a softness lingering about him in an entirely welcome sort of way.  "Spare it?  I know better.  Give you an inch, and you'll run for a mile, Roka."

"I probably would," he admitted, resuming his task of restringing the guitar.  "Have I told you today how fucking hot you are?"

She'd turned her attention out the window, and she didn't look at him when she replied. "Huh?  Oh . . . no, you haven't," she said in a distracted kind of way.  "I am, aren't I?"

He laughed but had to wonder if she'd really heard him at all.  "Hell, yes," he went on, deciding not to call her on her inattentiveness.  "So hot I could come in my pants just from looking at you."

"Okay," she said at length.  She was still staring out the window with a strange sort of foreboding darkening her gaze.  "You do that."

He finished stringing the guitar before he deigned to comment again.  He didn't figure that she noticed anyway, but that kind of lapse just wasn't like her, was it?  "V?  Did you forget something at the hotel?  We can call them and have them send it . . . or we could go back, if you need to . . ."

Valerie blinked and jerked back, casting Evan a decidedly nervous sort of look that she tried to hide behind a halfhearted smile.  "Oh, no," she hurried to say, shaking her head furiously, as though to dismiss the strangeness is her behavior.  "No, I just, uh . . ." Licking her lips, her fake smile widened a few degrees.  "Any idea how long we're going to be in Lexington?"

"Not too long," he said with a shrug.  "A show tomorrow—err, I guess it's tonight, then out of there and heading for Rocktoberfest."  Cupping his hands around his mouth, he hissed and catcalled in a mock-up of a roaring crowd.

She bit her lip and seemed to be considering what he'd said.  "So no hotel?"

Letting his hands fall, he shook his head.  "Nope.  Why?  Did you want one?  Take a nap during the show or something?  You know, I should probably be offended on some level if that's the case . . ."

Rolling her eyes, she pinned him with a no-nonsense look.  "I was just curious," she informed him rather primly.  "Tell me about this 'Rocktoberfest'."

Closing the case he kept his spare strings and gear in, Evan shot her a grin as he reached for the guitar and strummed it a few times, pausing between strokes to tune it.  "I've told you about it, haven't I?  It's just the biggest rock spectacle in the world in any place, at any time: no holds barred, make your ears bleed, fuck your mama if she's close by rock and roll, baby."

She didn't look very amused by his summation, but she did smile even as she shook her head and rolled her eyes.  "And you're headlining."

He grinned.  "That's right, V.  Make you feel hot, does it?  I mean, come on!  You're traveling with the biggest rock star on the fucking planet, you know."

She didn't really look as impressed as she should have.  In fact, she didn't really look that impressed, at all.  "Is that right?"

He nodded rather emphatically.  "Absolutely!  Wicked, right?"

"Ri-i-i-ight," Valerie said, nodding slowly in an entirely humoring sort of way.

Evan heaved a sigh and set the guitar aside.  "Seriously, though, Rocktoberfest is the biggest damn party on earth . . . kind of like the World's Fair for all things 'rock'."

"You make it sound like a big carnival," she muttered, shaking her head.

"Kind of," he allowed.  "The whole parking lot sort of becomes like a gigantic boardwalk—even some of the streets nearby are taken over.  Crazy booths with leather and shit . . . stalls where you can get just about anything you want pierced, tattoo campers . . . food, booze—nothing too hard, just beer . . . Hell, the last few years, all the major instrument producers had little shops set up, too."

Valerie considered that then shrugged.  "I'm surprised the city allows it."

"Allows it?  The city loves it," he said with a snort.  "Can you imagine how much money a week long music festival rakes in?  I mean, think about it: hotels are books to capacity, from the fancy ones where the better known bands stay to the cheap-assed ones where the kids who worked all fucking summer to save up enough scratch to make it to the show stay.  Restaurants rake it in, hand over fist, 'cause, you know, rockers gotta eat, right?  Everybody wins—except maybe the fuzz since they end up having to provide extra security."

She still didn't look entirely convinced, and he chuckled.  "You'll see, V," he promised.  "It's a great time.  Last year, there was a guy selling burgers and shit that he cooked using gear he built out of a scrap Harley.  Ever had chili cooked in a cleaned-out gas tank?"

"Is that even safe?" she argued with a shake of her head.

Evan laughed.  "Probably not.  I think the cops shut him down when they found out what he was doing, but hell!  What's more 'rock' than that?"

"Not contracting food poisoning, maybe?" she pointed out with an arched eyebrow.

"Baby, it's only a good story if it ends in the emergency room," he teased.

"Such an idiot . . ." She heaved a sigh and rolled her eyes as the bus pulled past the electronic security gates and into the comparatively smaller parking lot behind the Lexington Center.

Evan stood up and strode over to the closet to grab his leather jacket.  "Here," he said, extending it to her so that she wouldn't get chilled in the brief trek into the arena.

She glanced at the jacket then smiled a little too brightly.  "You know," she said quickly, waving a hand.  "I, uh . . . I think I'll just stay here."

"On the bus?"

She nodded, and then gave an offhanded shrug.   "I'm still a little tired," she lied, her eyes darting to the side, out the window, then back to meet his again.  "You'd better go before Mike starts hunting for you."

"Eh, I can handle Mikey . . ." Unable to summon the grin that he knew deep down that she wanted to see, Evan shook his head.  "Are you all right?"

The door sprang open, and Bone peeked into the room.  "Hey, Roka!  Sound-check, man.  Let's go."

He stared at Valerie for another minute before nodding slowly and lifting a finger to indicate that he'd heard the head of security.  "You sure you're okay?"

Valerie nodded quickly.  "Yep, positive," she insisted.  "Break a leg—That's the phrase, right?"

He didn't want to leave her there, but he didn't want to make a big thing out of it, either.  In the end, he sighed and shrugged.  "Listen, if you decide you want to come in, I'll talk to the building security team.  They'll show you where my dressing room is."

She nodded again, and when she smiled this time, it was closer to being normal, even if Evan didn't delude himself into trying to believe that it was genuine.

He didn't say anything else as he headed after Bone.  In fact, he didn't say anything at all until they'd entered through the heavily reinforced doors and were striding down the hallway.  "Hey, Bone, do me a favor."

Bone grunted and glanced at him but kept moving.

"I want you to go back out there and stay with her," he said in a tone that left no room for argument.  "She says she wants to take a nap, but . . ."

"Gotcha," Bone replied.  "Can't let anything happen to the future Mrs. Roka, right?"

Evan cracked a grin and chuckled despite the hint of worry that lingered in his gaze.  "Something like that."

Bone nodded and turned on his heel, striding away in the opposite direction to do exactly as Evan had asked.

The sound of the buffalo-youkai's retreating footsteps was enough to quell the rising anxiety that plagued Evan even if it didn't dissipate completely.

Something really was bothering her, wasn't it?  He could tell.  Hell, he could feel it, and she had to know that he knew it, didn't she?  And if it didn't have anything to do with what had happened the other night on the bus, then what was it . . . and why . . .? Certainly, it could just be that she felt responsible for what had happened, but that didn't really make sense, either.  After all, he'd told her not to apologize, and she'd seemed all right with that, too.

No, there was definitely something else bothering her, and he knew it.  The thing was, she seemed convinced that she wanted to deal with it all by herself, and maybe she actually believed that she was doing a good job in hiding it from him, but she wasn't; not by a long shot . . .

And more to the point, if he asked her, would she even tell him about it . . .?


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A/N:
'Smile< /b>' originally appeared on Uncle Kracker's 2009 release, Happy Hour.  Song written by and copyrighted to Matthew Shafer (Uncle Kracker), Jeremy Bose, Blair Daly, J. Harding.
'High Enough' originally appeared on Damn Yankee's 1990 release, Damn Yankees.  Song written by and copyrighted to Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw, and Ted Nugent.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
What's gotten into her …?
==========
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 86
Chapter 88
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