InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Wasted Time ( Chapter 44 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Forty-Four~~
~Wasted Time~


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>I think back to the times …
When dreams were what mattered
Tough talking youth, naiveté
You said you'd never let me down
But the horse stampedes and rages
In the name of desperation …'

-'Wasted Time' by Skid Row.

-======-


"Are you sure that you should be doing this?"

Bas Zelig didn't pause as he reached for the sword that was normally kept suspended over the fireplace mantle in the New York City townhouse where they stayed whenever they were in the area.  "I'm sorry, kitty," he said gently, sparing a moment to force a small, tight smile at his mate as he strapped the magnolia wood scabbard around his waist.  "I can't just sit here."

Sydnie bit her lip, her eyebrows drawing together in a marked scowl as she tried in vain to hide the acute anxiety that he could sense even if he couldn't see it.  "I know.  Evan . . ." she allowed, rubbing her forearms as though she were chilled.  "Didn't Cain say that he would send Cartham down?"

Bas shook his head and hurriedly pulled his mate against him, kissing her forehead and giving her a quick squeeze before he let her go.  "Cartham's still in Maine," he explained.  "Even if he left right now, it'd still take him a few hours to get here, tops.  Someone needs to be over there, and Dad agrees."

"Daddy!  Daddy, can I go, too?"

"Not this time, Bailey," Bas said, rubbing his little head affectionately, but unable to muster even a token smile for the much-loved little boy.  "I need you to stay here and protect your mama, okay?"

Bailey brightened considerably.  "I can do that!" he insisted, clapping his hands and tearing off through the living room, probably off to find the bokuto he'd recently been given.

The boy didn't see the concerned glances exchanged over his head.

Grimacing as the vibration of the cell phone in the pocket of the long black jacket that he wore rattled against his ribcage, Bas brushed away the lingering memory as he dug the device out of his pocket.  "Zelig," he answered without bothering to check the name on the PrismaCrys ID display.

"How are things?"

Letting out a deep breath as he ran his long fingers through his hair, Bas leaned back, scowling at the slight glow of the apartment windows across the alleyway.  "It's all clear at the moment.  Is Mom keeping it together?"

Cain Zelig heaved a long sigh.  He was smoking a cigarette, Bas could tell.  "She's all right, all things considered," Cain admitted.

"God.  What a damn mess.  You find out anything?"

"I'm still waiting to hear from Mike," Cain said.  "It doesn't seem to be youkai-related, though.  Gunnar said that he didn't sense any foreign youkai in the vicinity of the Dominique Ray Clinic . . ."

"Meaning that the bastard was human . . ." Bas finished when Cain trailed off.

"Yeah," Cain agreed.  "Mike said that he hasn't heard a thing—no threats or anything like that, and the authorities don't know shit."

"Bullshit," Bas cut in coldly, his right hand tightening unconsciously around the hilt of his sword.  "That is complete bullshit!  You're telling me that some son of a bitch walked up to the hospital, whipped out a fucking gun, shot Evan in the chest, and they don't know where the hell he is?"

Cain's deep breath echoed Bas' feeling of absolute frustration.  "That's what I'm telling you," he said, his tone so weary, so thin, that Bas had to strain to hear it.  "Just make sure that you keep an eye on her—on Ms. Denning . . . I don't know what there is between them, but . . ."

"But Mom thinks that there's something," Bas concluded.  "I know.  I saw it, too, when I was over there the other day."  Biting his lip as he drummed his claws against the wrapped metal under his fingers, he slowly shook his head.  "I think maybe Mom's right . . ."

"It's what Evan would want," Cain went on, his tone broken, raw.

"I know, Dad," Bas said, blinking, a painful stinging erupting behind his eyelids despite his stubborn resolve not to lose his composure with a heavy sigh as he watched the woman in question pace the floor before the row of windows in her living room—all she'd done since she returned to her apartment half an hour ago.  "I know."


-======-


Hands stuffed deep into his pockets, he hitched his shoulders forward as he slipped from shadows into deeper shadows in that hateful city, in that hateful night.

Flashes of fire, of indistinct screams . . . Death and rebirth in the breath of an instant . . .

Brown silk on roughened suede . . . It slipped through his fingers like rain . . .

The blackened stains, soaking into the grungy, graying pavement . . . An insular moment of confused clarity . . .

Cozy mocha fleece . . . and the reassuring warmth of skin that somehow hurt him, just the same . . .

Hand shaking, rubbing his forehead, gaze darting swiftly to the side as an alley cat upset a trashcan somewhere in the distance, he pressed onward,  forward, his destination fading into and out of his thoughts like water . . .

Head pounding, ears ringing—odd, how that sound could echo much longer than the steady throb of drums: a musical cadence of death . . .

He'd lost track of where he was, where he was going, where he'd been, and he knew—knew—that it wasn't all right.  Far from all right . . . Where was he?  And why . . .?

But he did know, didn't he?  He understood . . . and as much as he welcomed the numbness of oblivion, it could not save him . . .

"Fuck!  Fuck!  No, goddamn it, no!"

"C'mon!  C'mon!  We gotta get moving!  Now!"

"No," he whispered, his throat rough, raw.  Rubbing absently at the gauze covering his chest, he staggered onward . . .

"Jesus!  Damn!  What the hell are you doing here?"

And he hadn't been able to answer, leaning heavily against the cold steel frame of the tempered glass window, staring at the slender form, huddled on the sofa inside . . .

"You going to stay here?"

Vision blurring, wavering—stubborn tears that refused to fall . . . "No," he said.  "I . . . can't.  Not yet . . ."

He wanted to argue.  Of course he did.  That proper, upstanding part of him . . . Fix it or fight it . . . and he could do neither . . . "You can't just go out there, running wild . . ."

"Fucker . . . Stay with her," he said quietly.  "Please."

And it might have been that single word that stayed the reprimand that should have come.  Staring at him in the darkness, eyes unnaturally bright in the haze, he nodded just once—silent assent.

So he'd slipped away . . .

The whine of a rising siren . . . the blare of a car's horn . . . somewhere, somewhere a baby cried out . . . and was blunted by the harshness of the stifling silence . . .

But he kept moving, blending into the shadows, into the alleys of the evilest intentions, haunted by demons that carried themselves with a bitterness that could not be defined.


-======-


He didn't know how long he stood there, poised at the end of the bed, staring at the form of the woman, sleeping so soundly.  The gentle rise and fall of her chest created little more than a whisper in the quiet—a reassurance that scalded him, that twisted his very soul, held it so tightly that an insular word, an interrupted breath, could shatter him.

The familiarity was so strong, so prevalent, that it forced a sense of confusion to converge, and though he knew, it just didn't make sense.  Everything that he'd ever thought or believed . . . and there she slept, and he . . . He was loathe to take that away from her . . .

So why did he step forward at last?  Why did he kneel to touch her shoulder?  Swallowing hard, trying to force the thickness that had congealed around his throat, he bit down on the soft flesh of his cheek, biting back the instant rise of bile as his own blood hit his tongue, as the smell seeped up into his nose—that crazy-mad sweetness of metal and salt . . .

She awoke with a start, her eyes flashing open, lighting on his face, frowning in the half-light filtering through the window from the gaudy yellow safety light on the building across the way.  "Wh . . .?" she whispered, sleep still thick in her voice.  "What are you . . . doing here?"

"Sorry I woke you up," he muttered, shaking his head slowly, unable to meet her gaze.  "Sorry . . ."

Pushing herself upright, she smoothed the rumpled white cotton comforter, her slender shoulders bobbing up and down once under the copious folds of the oversized tee-shirt she wore.  "Where's Dieter?" she asked quietly.

He flinched, a sharp pang shooting straight through him with the accuracy of a marksman.  "S-Sorry," he muttered again, despising the sound of that hateful word, yet unable to come up with anything better.  "I'm . . . I'm sorry . . ."

She stared at him for agonizing moments.  He could feel her gaze probing his skull.  "Why would you be sorry, Zel?" she demanded without raising her voice.  "Why?"

'Fucker!  Fucking coward . . .!'

Why did that voice sound like Dieter . . .?

"He, uh . . ." Clearing his throat, he could only shake his head.  "Miss, he . . . He can't . . ."

"Can't what?" she whispered.

He swallowed hard, blinking fast, hoping to moisturize his burning, dried-out eyes.  "He . . . can't . . . come home."

Miss stumbled out of the bed, pushing past him, running over to the window, slamming it closed.  "Why?" she demanded, her voice exploding in his head though her tone remained lowered.  "Is he . . .?  Is he fucking around on me?"

It occurred to him that she was reaching, struggling for a different reason than the one that she had to understand, even if it were only on a base level, at best.  "Deet wouldn't do that," Evan softly assured her.  Sitting back on his heels, his body slumped in abject defeat, he closed his eyes as flashes of sound erupted in his head once more.  "I'm sorry . . ."

"Stop it!" she hissed, her voice a painful rush.  "Stop saying you're sorry, damn it!  Where is he?  Where's Dieter?"

"Don't you die, goddamn it!  Don't you fucking die!"

He flinched as the flash of light exploded behind his eyelids again, for the hundredth time—the thousandth time . . . the unnatural wind that forced the Cadillac off the pavement and into a ditch on that desolate stretch of road as they sped away from the city . . . "He . . . He . . ." Evan stammered, trying for words that were just beyond his grasp.

"He, what?  Why are you here?  Where's Dieter?"

"He . . . He can't . . . can't come home," Evan said again, cognizant in a disjointed sort of way that his voice was weakening even as hers was gaining strength.

"What does that mean?" she challenged.  "What the hell does that mean?  Where's Dieter, Zel?  Where's my husband?"

Somehow, that word was like a dousing of icy water over him.  Shooting to his feet, he dug his hands into his hair, yanking hard as his knees buckled; as he plopped onto the bed that shuddered and groaned under the impact.

"Tell her . . . tell Miss . . ." Between the rasping wetness of his labored breathing, Dieter coughed weakly, a thin string of congealed blood coursing from the corner of his lips.  "I don't . . . I don't hate her meatloaf . . ."

"God . . . God, God, goddamn it, Dieter!"

"Where is he?" Miss asked again, her voice lowering, pleading, begging—hoping.

Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to lift his gaze.  Standing near the bureau, illuminated by the nightlight that she'd left burning in the hallway, and he knew.  No matter what she said, she understood what he was struggling to tell her; she just didn't want to.  "Dieter was . . . was shot," he heard himself saying in a voice that was not his own.  "We—I—couldn't . . ."

She barked out a harsh laugh full of derision and contempt.  "Youkai don't die," she said.  "Dieter said so!  You said so!  They don't die!"

"We can," Evan said quietly.  "I'm . . . sor—"

"Why are you here?" she demanded.  "Why you?"

"Dude!  That fucker's got a gun . . ."

"Wha—?"

The shove . . . The searing pain . . .

Evan blinked that away and pushed himself to his feet, digging into the pocket of his jeans to pull out the ring box that Dieter had pushed into his hand.  "He, uh . . ." Forcing his feet to move, he held it out to her.  "He wanted you to have this."

She stared at the box as though she expected to have something leap out of it.  "What's that?"

Setting it atop the bureau, Evan stepped back.  "He bought it for you," he said.  "Uh, last night."

Shifting her gaze from him to the box then back again.  She lifted her hand, her fingers trembling visibly, but yanked it away with a shake of her head.  "He can't be . . ." she whispered.

Evan caught a whiff of salt, of tears, and he stepped toward her, wanting only to comfort her.  She choked back a half-snarl, half-sob.  Balling up her fists, she lashed out, pounding on his arms, his chest.  Too tiny, too weak to deal him any real damage, she railed nonsense, half-formed words, dire invectives with intermittent pleas for vindication . . .

He grimaced when she connected with the torn flesh of his chest, yet he welcomed the pain on a wholly self-deprecating level, too.  With one last flail, Miss' petite body shuddered then collapsed against Evan, the first shattered sob wrenched from her as the understanding slowly closed in.

"I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry," he muttered over and over again, hating the knowledge that there wasn't a damn thing he could do to assuage her sorrow.  How could he help her understand something that he, himself, didn't . . .?

"What'll I do?" she whimpered though he doubted that she actually wanted or expected a real answer from him.

"He . . . He wanted me to tell you that he . . . didn't hate your meatloaf," Evan said, unable to summon even a token smile.

Miss choked out a laugh—weak, surely, but a laugh, just the same.  The misery etched into her expression was horrifying yet beautiful, and as the laughter died away, all that was left was a quiet, desperate loneliness.  Straightening up, she pulled away from him, grasping the ring box and flipping it open.  "Oh, my God," she rasped out as she stared at the ring.  "It's . . . Oh, it's awful."

Evan couldn't muster a smile.  He'd said roughly the same thing when Dieter had insisted that the huge rock was perfect for Miss.  "He wanted you to have it," he said instead.

Her lips trembled as she pulled the ring out and slipped it onto her finger.  "Awful," she repeated, smashing her right fist against her lips as another tear slipped from the corner of her eye, trailing a silvery path down her cheek—stardust in the half-light.  "Zel . . ."

"Yeah?"

She shot him a rather apologetic look, a vague half-smile that didn't reach her gaze.  "I'd like to be alone," she said quietly.

Evan winced.  Despite the rawness of his own psyche, he had to wonder if it were a bad idea to leave her alone.  "Miss . . ."

She shook her head, rubbing her face in an infinitely weary sort of way.  "No, I . . ." Pasting on ghastly smile, she held out her hands in a pleading gesture.  "Please, go.  Besides, you look . . . exhausted."

"What about Daniel?" he parried quietly.

Miss' gaze shifted to the open doorway, unfocused as the smile faltered then faded altogether.  "I think . . . I think I'll let him sleep awhile," she said.  "He wore himself out, running around yesterday . . ."

Against his better judgment, Evan slowly nodded.  "Sure," he agreed reluctantly.  "You should probably stay inside for awhile," he suggested, knowing full well that the media was already thick around the building.  He'd seen it when he'd glanced down from the adjacent building since he'd opted to take the high road into Dieter's apartment.  Anger had been a tough pill to swallow, but he'd tamped that down, focusing instead on the task at hand: telling Miss the one thing that he simply hadn't wanted to face.

She understood, though, and he had to be grateful for that—as grateful as he could be, all things considered.

He sighed.  "If, uh . . . If you need anything—anything at all . . ."

Her head snapped back as her eyes narrowed, glowing like jewels in the darkness.  "I need my husband," she whispered.  "I need . . . I need Dieter, Zel.  Can you give him back?"

Her quiet entreaty chipped away at the tattered and frayed edges of his precarious sanity.  "If I could," he whispered.  "Miss . . . I'm—"

"You're sorry," she cut in with a rueful shake of her head as she wrapped her arms around her chest in a wholly protective gesture.  "I know . . . I know."


-======-


'Someth ing's . . . not right . . .'

A selfish attempt to cling to the lingering oblivion of sleep, even as she felt herself being tugged through the warm, murky waters as she cuddled a little deeper beneath the blanket . . .

'If I wake up, I'll have to . . . remember . . .'

And that was something she absolutely didn't want, wasn't it?  Cognizant thought . . . No, she didn't want that, at all . . .

'What . . . is it . . .?'

But she shouldn't ask that, should she?  To ask that meant that she might get an answer, and that answer wasn't something she could deal with . . .

'I . . . I have to know . . .'

Yet the persistent and inexorable insistence was growing stronger, the incursion cruel and harsh and sharp . . .

Opening her eyes in the wan and watery light that seeped into the living room where she'd fallen asleep on the sofa, Valerie blinked and hesitated to move, her mind blurry and unfocused as she tried not to think, not to move, and above all, not to remember.

The endless monotony of the drone of the television in the background was ultimately what drew her out of her self-imposed stupor.  The morning news, reporting the shooting of a rock star seemed to be the top story of the day, and as the teaser began, those memories returned with a vengeance.

The first moments of abject panic that had hit her hard . . . the police station . . . the impromptu memorial outside Evan's mansion . . . splashes of images, live and still shots of the vigil that still carried on . . . More kids had gathered, more security had been brought in . . . Valerie smashed a hand over her mouth, grimacing at the spectacle that she couldn't look away from . . .

"Evan . . ." she whispered.  As though she feared that she would come completely undone if she spoke any louder, she fumbled for her cell phone that she'd dropped on the coffee table when she'd finally gotten back home last night—this morning—whichever.

No new calls.

The disappointment that flooded over her was hateful, bitter, leaving a sourness in her stomach that was not unlike having the flu.  Guts twisting in a vicious knot, she squeezed her eyes closed, wishing that she could return to the comfort of being unaware, racking her brain to come up with some way to figure out exactly how she could possibly find answers where none were forthcoming . . . She'd called Madison when she'd gotten home.  She doubted that Madison would know anything since she was so far away, but she'd hoped, hadn't she?  She'd hoped . . .

A sudden and strange sense of calm trickled over her—a gentle reminder?  A futile hope?  Hand closing around a fistful of blanket, she sat up suddenly, eyes flashing open as she stared at the deep brown fleece blanket that normally lay folded over the back of a chair nearby was now covering her completely, wrapping her in its comforting warmth.  She . . . She hadn't grabbed it last night; she knew damn well that she hadn't.

Stumbling to her feet, pulling the blanket closer around herself, she padded through the living room, down the hallway, into her bedroom.

The window was completely open—the one that Evan liked to use as a door, and that, more than anything, soothed her even as it raised a myriad of questions.  Those questions, though, fell away as a shadow near the window moved, shifted . . . as the man stepped into view.

She gasped softly as he climbed through the opening.  He didn't seem to notice her there, and when he straightened up, he stopped dead in his tracks, a sad, almost guilty expression surfacing on his face.  Wearing a battered black leather jacket that she didn't recognize, his chest bare underneath despite the grimy white gauze bandage that extended over his shoulder, only to wrap around him . . . the same ratty old blue jeans . . . Black dyed hair hanging in dirty, chunky strands . . . face pale, drawn, a haze of grayness tinting his skin . . . cuticles stained with a rusty-colored tinge . . . and somehow, he'd never looked better in her eyes, never looked quite as welcome as he did in that moment, in that heartbeat . . . "V."

A strangled squeak whooshed out of her, and moments later, she was running across the floor, opening the blanket as she stretched out her arms, as she threw herself against him, unsure whether she was crying or laughing—maybe it was both.  "Oh, my God," she babbled, squeezing her eyes closed as she held onto him.  "Oh, Evan . . . I tried to call you!  No one would tell me anything—nothing!  I tried to call Mike and Bone and Maddy and . . ." She trailed off and heaved a sigh then suddenly leaned away.  "You . . . You were shot.  I saw it on television . . ."

"It wasn't bad," he said though something in his tone just wasn't right.  "I'm okay."

Momentarily torn between arguing with him over the severity of any injury he might have incurred and wanting to reassure herself that he actually was standing right there, she shook her head.  What did it matter, really?  He was there, wasn't he?  He was all right enough to crawl through her window.  Wasn't that enough?  "Thank God," she said, opting instead to take his hand, to drag him toward the living room.  He looked like he could use a cup of coffee, and she could, too.  "I thought . . . Never mind what I thought," she insisted.  "Everyone's okay, and that's all that matters, right?"

He stopped abruptly, pulling his hand away from her in lieu of digging his hands into his pockets as he stared at the floor.

"Evan?" she asked quietly, cautiously.

He didn't reply right away.  Turning his head to the side, staring at the row of windows and the slate-gray morning outside, he opened his mouth, moved his lips, but his voice wouldn't come.  "How's she gonna do it, V?" he finally muttered.  She had to strain to hear him.

"She?"

Evan shook his head, his agitation rising by degrees.  "Miss," he clarified.  "How's she supposed to tell Daniel that Deet's not . . . not coming home . . .?"


~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
A/N:
'Wasted Time' by Skid Row first appeared on their 1991 release, Slave to the Grind.  Song written by and copyrighted to Sebastian Bach, Rachel Bolan, Dave 'Snake' Sabo.
Bokuto: wooden Japanese practice sword.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
What … the fuck …?
==========
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 43
Chapter 45
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