InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Promises ( Chapter 100 )

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


-OoOoOoO oOoOoOoOoOoO-

'I don't care if you never come home
'I don't mind if you just
'Keep on rowin' away on a distant sea
'Cuz I don't love you and you don't love me …'

-'Promises' by Eric Clapton.

-Valerie-


Turning from side to side as she eyed her reflection in the mirror, Valerie smoothed the skirt of the flirty little red dress.  Fussing with her hair—she'd washed out all the dark rinse in the shower—she sucked in one cheek as she tried to make sense of the giddy excitement that wouldn't let go of her.

A birthday party, he'd said just before he'd send her off to his bedroom to change.  When she'd started to tell him that she didn't have anything to change into and that she'd just run home to get ready, he'd just laughed at her, and no wonder.  Somehow, he'd managed to arrange to have a dress by none other than the Tessa Hildalgo delivered for her—a complete ensemble, actually, right down to stockings and lingerie.  The dress wasn't much more than a slip, really, with a double layered satin skirt that flowed around her in a whisper of motion.  Tessa Hildalgo wasn't regarded as one of the most feminine designers in the world for no reason, after all.  Her designs graced runways and the most exclusive of parties the world over, worn by women who could afford the insane price tags that always went with them.  Valerie didn't actually want to think about just how much money he'd spent on her clothing—or on the blood red ruby that was as large as a half-dollar, easy, that was set in a stunning platinum pendant and was now hanging around her throat and the matching ruby teardrop earrings . . .

The skirt brushed her legs at about mid-thigh, not overly short, but enough to show off a generous length of her legs, she supposed.  Tasteful, certainly . . . In fact, she was pretty sure that this dress in particular had been one of the ones featured in last month's issue of Vogue . . .

The shoes were a perfect match, as well, the same shade of red as the dress and the rubies, and for once, she didn't have to worry that she was going to tower over her escort for the evening, either, and that was enough to draw a soft giggle from her.  Heck, she could easily wear six inch heels and still not have to worry about that, not with Evan.  It was a nice feeling—a feeling that set off a slight twinge of guilt when she thought about Marvin.  After all, she adored Marvin for whom and what he was, didn't she?

No doubt about it, she looked like she was going to some infamous Hollywood party or something, and when the hair and makeup artist had arrived about an hour ago, Valerie had laughed and shook her head in disbelief.  She recognized the girl as one of the ones who worked for Madison, and she'd stated quite plainly that Evan had instructed her not to cover up Valerie's natural beauty—his words, she'd said.

Even then, Valerie had to admit that being pampered like that was more than a little nice, and maybe that was the real reason that she was trying to be so fussy with her appearance tonight.  Evan had gone to such lengths just to make her birthday memorable, hadn't he?  That same expression that he'd had on his face while he stared at the seashell he'd picked up for his mother . . . was that what he was feeling now?

Glancing at the clock, she drew a deep breath.  Evan had told her that he'd give her two hours to get ready, and those two hours were about over.  She didn't really think that he would do anything outrageous like storm the bedroom, but she had to admit that she was looking forward to the party, no doubt about it.

After one final glance at into the mirror, Valerie nodded once before heading out of the room.  She hadn't thought to ask Evan what he was going to wear or anything, and maybe she should have, but then, she was so happy at the moment that she figured he could probably get away with ripped jeans and a cut up tour shirt, and she wouldn't complain at him about it.

Soft music greeted her long before she reached the stairwell.  His house was rigged up with thousands of fiber optic speakers build into the walls, so even ambient music was easily audible.  She couldn't place the artist, but she was surprised to hear the dulcet tones of jazz.  Then again, given Evan's love of all things musical in deviation, she supposed it wasn't so farfetched, after all.

The living room made her smile as she descended the stairs.  At some point while she was upstairs getting ready, he'd hung silly streamers and floating letters that spelled 'Happy Birthday', and there was a huge cake in the middle of the table: a white frosted cake with shades of pastels adorning flowers and vines that ran up and down the sides.  The top had a spray of flowers, and from where she stood, she couldn't rightfully tell if they were real or fake, but either way, they were coated with finishing sugar, and the result was an iridescent effect that shimmered in the soft light of the room.

He'd built a roaring fire in the hearth, had lit candles that sat on every surface in the room.  She laughed softly as she stepped off the staircase.  A moment later, Evan let himself out of the music room, pulling the door closed as he shrugged on the black tuxedo jacket.  It wasn't the same one that he'd worn the night of the benefit soiree, and for that, she was glad.

There was something about that moment, though, something that held her captivated.  Staring at the man she knew so well, why did he seem just a little less approachable, a little more aloof?  His hair was loose, spilling over his shoulders, framing his face in a soft kind of light, his eyes sparkling as candlelight was caught and reflected.  Lean hips, long legs, the muscles that she knew lie just beneath the flimsy cover of the fine linen shirt . . . He didn't wear a bowtie since the shirt had a mandarin collar, but she couldn't help but smile just a little at the fat ruby set in platinum button cover that almost matched the ruby pendant she wore exactly.

When he spotted her standing at the base of the stairs, he started to smile, but the expression died almost as quickly as it surfaced.

For some reason, the absolute silence from him disturbed her.  He might not be smiling, but he was pleased; she could tell from the brilliance of his gaze as he slowly, slowly looked her up and down.  Flipping the collar of the jacket, he straightened it absently as he deliberately strode toward her.  "Happy Birthday, V," he said.

She giggled since he'd already said as much earlier in the day.  "Thank you for the dress," she replied, unsure why she felt a sudden sense of shyness that simply hadn't been there before.

Evan chuckled and offered his elbow, waiting until she tucked her hand up through the crook of his arm before he led her deeper into the living room.  "You look damn good in red," he remarked, ignoring the thanks that she'd offered.  "Then again, I doubt you'd look bad in much of anything."

She smiled, pressing a hand against her stomach as a strange sort of fluttering broke loose deep inside her.  He really was a damn fine looking man, wasn't he?  Blinking suddenly when she noticed the old fashioned red checked cloth that he'd spread on the floor near the fire, she giggled again when he gestured at the blanket, indicating that she should sit down.  She wasn't sure why it amused her so much.  She wasn't sure why it surprised her a little.  If there was one thing that she knew about Evan after the months since she'd met him, it was that he never, ever did anything the way that one might expect.  Still, she laughed softly as she sank down on the cloth.

Evan made himself comfortable beside her and reached for a bottle of wine that had been set up next to the cloth on a pristine white marble tray-table.  There were three such tables—the one where the wine sat was slightly larger than the others, and the other two were arranged so that one was beside Evan while the other was beside Valerie, kind of like modified TV trays, she mused.  "I hope you're hungry," he said, handing her a glass of wine with a wink.

"I thought you said this was going to be a party," she said, setting the glass aside without taking a drink.

"You don't think we can have a party with just the two of us?" he contended.

Valerie smiled and shook her head.  "What are you up to?" she asked though there was no real accusation in her tone.

Evan sipped his wine.  "I just want you to have the most memorable birthday ever," he assured her with the boyishly endearing half-grin.

It was there, just below the surface, wasn't it?  That anxiety, that nervousness, that underlying desire to please her . . . She could feel it.  He really meant what he said, and she knew that, too . . . and that idea was both frightening and exhilarating, all at the same time.  "Evan—"

"I'll go get your dinner," he said suddenly, giving no indication that he'd heard her start to speak.  Then again, maybe he didn't want to hear whatever she was going to say; maybe he was afraid to hear it . . .

That thought drew a frown from her, and she bit her lip as she watched him get to his feet and saunter off toward the kitchen.  Did he think that she was about to upbraid him over something?  She wasn't sure, but that certainly hadn't been her intention; not at all.

But he didn't leave her much time to mull it over.  Striding back out of the kitchen a minute later, he grinned at her.  Her mouth dropped open slightly when she realized what he was carrying: a bright red plastic lunchbox in one hand and the pink Princess Sasha lunchbox in the other.

"What are you doing?" she asked, unable to keep her amusement out of her tone.

He sat down next to her once more and handed her the Princess Sasha box.  "What does it look like?" he grouched.  "It's dinner, of course."

She laughed, tucking her hair behind her ear before unlatching the lunchbox and opening the lid.  "Sushi!" she gasped, a little giggle escaping her as she stared at the unexpected surprise.  "I love sushi!"

Evan chuckled and set his open box on the cloth between them as he stretched out on his side, propping himself on his elbow as he carefully opened a very ornately painted black lacquered pot filled with soy sauce.

She bit into the first one and groaned.  "So good . . ."

He glanced at her, only to do a double take as his eyebrows lifted, disappearing under the thick fringe of his bangs.  "Eating with your fingers, V?" he teased.

Wrinkling her nose, she swallowed the bite and stopped before popping the rest of the roll into her mouth.  "I always eat sushi with my fingers," she replied.

"Yeah, but you've got chopsticks in there," he pointed out.

"So there are," she agreed with a shrug.  "My fingers are faster, though."

"Are you telling me that you don't know how to use those?" he asked, his unspoken challenge punctuating his words.

Rolling her eyes, she let out a deep breath but picked up the chopsticks since he seemed so set on seeing her try them out.  It didn't really help when she glanced at him, either.  He was using his pair with the proficiency of a seasoned pro.  He was staring down at his own food—he had something else, though she wasn't entirely sure what it was, but she didn't delude herself into thinking that he wasn't paying complete attention to her, which only served to make her a little nervous.

She watched him for several moments as he worked his chopsticks quietly.  He made it look easy enough, didn't he?

And her first attempt wasn't too bad.  She actually managed to pinch the sushi roll between the points of her sticks, but they slipped when she started to lift it to her mouth, and she wrinkled her nose and tried again.

Evan laughed and watched her next two attempts without a change in expression, and by the time she'd dropped the roll for the fourth time—she'd almost gotten that one into her mouth, damn it—she was ready to admit defeat if it meant that he'd leave her alone and let her eat in peace.  Judging by the look on his face, though, he wasn't about to give up, and with a pronounced snort, Valerie stabbed the chopsticks into the sushi roll and bit into it with a triumphant grin.

"Oh, hell, you can't do that in civilized company," Evan complained despite the throaty chuckles that escaped him.

"Why not?" she demanded, quirking an eyebrow.  "I got it to work, didn't I?"

His chuckle escalated into a bark of laughter.  "Well, see, in Japan, you don't stab your food unless you're offering it to the deceased."

She shot him a look that stated quite plainly that she thought that he might well be full of it.  "Who told you that?"

Pulling a bite of food out of a long, shallow box, he ate it before speaking to her again.  "Mama told me.  When I was little, I didn't want to use the chopsticks, see?  So I thought I'd be smart and use them to stab my food—until Mama told me that it was very rude."  He winced.  "I thought she was going to cry or something, she was so shocked . . . I never did it again."

Valerie vaguely remembered Evan mentioning that his mother was Japanese by birth, so that made sense.  For some reason, the idea of a little Evan exasperating her with his antics . . . It brought a smile to her face.  "You were kind of a brat, weren't you?" she commented at length.

He looked like he was going to argue with her.  "I'll have you know I was a really goo—Okay, yeah, I kind of was."  Setting his chopsticks aside, he pushed himself to his feet and moved around behind Valerie.  "Here," he said, leaning in close to her, his arm reaching around to grasp hers.  Slipping his other arm around her, too, he adjusted the chopsticks in her hand and chuckled.  "See, you use this one as a lever like . . . this . . ." he murmured.

Turning her head just enough to look at him, she swallowed hard at his proximity.  He was staring at her hand in complete concentration, and she forced her attention back to the task, albeit grudgingly.  Strange, wasn't it?  She would hardly call Evan a big guy—he was a little on the lanky side, really—but he could manage to make her feel so small by comparison: not in a bad way, no, but in a wholly masculine sort of presence that left her feeling almost vulnerable, though never in a negative sense . . . 'Knock it off, V,' she chided herself, frowning at the chopsticks in her hand.  Fawning all over him like some lovesick school girl?  She snorted inwardly and straightened her spine as Evan, using his hand to guide hers, helped her to pick up a roll properly.

"H-Hey!" she complained when he guided her hand toward his mouth.  "You have your own food, Roka!"

Evan chuckled and leaned over her shoulder to intercept the bite as she tugged against his hold.  She managed to thwart him—kind of.  He ended up with half of a bite for his efforts, and before he could steal the rest of it, she grasped his wrist in her free hand and guided it into her mouth easily enough.  "Ack off, ocker-oy," she garbled.  "Eat your own food."

"You're a tough woman, V," he complained with an exaggerated sigh.  She was almost sorry that she'd said what she did, though, when he let go of her hand and moved back over onto the cloth to finish eating.

"What is that?" she asked, leaning over to peer into his lunchbox.

"It's torafugu," he replied simply.

She blinked and stared at him for a long moment.  "What's torafugu?"

Swallowing the bite that he'd just eaten, Evan set his chopsticks aside again.  "Tiger blowfish.  'Tora' means 'tiger'.  'Fugu' means puffer fish—blowfish.  It's a kind of Japanese puffer fish.  Fugu's a delicacy.  It's also highly poisonous and can be lethal if it isn't prepared correctly."

"It's what?  Then why the hell are you eating it?" she demanded.

Picking up his chopsticks again, he took another bite and chewed thoughtfully.  "You heard me say that it's a delicacy, right?"

She wrinkled her nose.  "So you're eating something that could kill you," she said.  "That sounds sane."

"It's fantastic," he maintained, "and it's perfectly safe if it's prepared the right way."

She couldn't help but stare as he ate another bite of the grisly dish.  He caught her unabashed eyeballing and blinked.  "Forget it, V," he told her.  "You're worth more than I am—you know, in case this one is toxic."

She snorted, more at his statement than him saying that he wasn't going to share.  "I'd rather eat something that doesn't have the potential to kill me, thanks," she retorted, using her fingers to lift a sushi roll out of her lunchbox and popping it into her mouth.  "Anyway, you're the international star, so you're definitely worth more than I am."

"Not to me," he replied simply.  She stared at him, unable to decide whether she thought he was being serious or not.  He had said it so easily, just off the cuff, as it were, that she wasn't entirely sure.  He didn't seem to notice her preoccupation, though, and he sat up a moment later, stowing everything back into his lunchbox again—Power Puppies, no less—and set it aside before pushing himself to his feet again.  "Better go check on the guy I hired to serenade you tonight," Evan said when he finally noticed her attention.  "He's late . . ."

"You hired someone to serenade me?" she asked, her eyebrows lifting in surprise.  "You, Mr. Musicman?  You hired someone else to serenade me?"

He chuckled.  "Well, yeah.  I mean, I can't pay much attention to you if I was busy playing for you instead, now could I?"

She wasn't sure what to make of that, but she slowly nodded.  He shot her an easy grin before striding off toward his music room and disappearing behind the closed door.  It was entirely possible that his reasoning held water.  Still, Evan loved performing, whether it was for one person or one hundred thousand . . .

She didn't have long to wait.  A few minutes later, the door opened again, and Valerie turned, only to blink as her eyebrows lifted, as she stared at Evan, who had changed into a regular tuxedo shirt along with a pristine black bowtie, and a shorter-waisted jacket, complete with long coattails.  It wasn't the difference that drew her attention—and her amusement.  It was the absolutely awful black dreadlock wig that he'd donned that did it.  Small, round framed, blue tinted lens glasses completed the weird ensemble, and he didn't look at her as he strode purposefully toward the piano, sheet music in hand.  Sheet music?  Since when did Evan need something as simple as sheet music?  Valerie bit down on her cheek to keep from giggling out loud.

When he reached the piano, he turned to face her, offered her a low bow before slipping onto the bench before the piano and taking his time adjusting the pages of the sheet music.

"I think that's the best look, ever, Roka," she commented with a smile as she selected another sushi roll.

Evan shot her a blank kind of look and slowly shook his head.  "No hablo Inglés."

Snapping her mouth closed, Valerie giggled and rolled her eyes.  It amused her that Evan was suddenly trying to say that he didn't speak English, and if he wanted to pretend, then she figured it was all right, even if he didn't look even remotely Spanish, either—maybe Jamaican . . . maybe.

She was still smiling when he shot her a curt nod before turning back toward the piano and lifted his hands to play . . .


-Evan-


Slipping out of the music room as he adjusted his cuffs and shrugged his shoulders under the jacket that he'd just put back on, Evan heaved a longsuffering sigh as he pulled the door behind him and grinned apologetically at the woman who was still seated on the red checked cloth he'd spread on the floor.  "Sorry, V.  I couldn't find him.  Little bastard must've taken my money and ran.  Maybe it was stage fright or something . . ."

Valerie laughed and set her wine glass aside before getting to her feet to face him.  "No, he came out and played a few pieces—classical music, no less."

"Oh, did he?  Well, shit.  I wanted to hear him, too," Evan drawled.

"Ah, well, you just missed him," she went on, the smile on her face widening.  "A shame . . . He was very, very talented."

Evan snorted.  "He didn't hit on you or anything, did he?"

She giggled.  "Nope.  He said that he didn't speak English."

Evan snorted again.  "Keh.  Bet he's illegal.  I should turn him in, don't you think?"

"It's too bad that you missed him," she replied with a shrug.  "I would've liked to have danced with you."

He grinned and shot her a sheepish kind of look.  "Maybe I could come up with something else."

He half expected her to come up with a reason why that'd be a bad idea, but she didn't.  Evan moved over to change the music settings on the central control panel.  Valerie laughed softly when the stereo reset itself.

"Are you sure you planned all of this today?" she asked when he returned, only to pull her gently into his arms, swaying to the soft music as she stepped in just a little closer—nothing inappropriate, but very nice, just the same.  "Calling Mike, indeed . . ."

Closing his eyes as the soft scent of her surrounded him, Evan very nearly sighed.  "I'm good, huh?"

She laughed.  "You're something, Evan Zelig."

Letting out a deep breath as he contented himself with the nearness of her.  He wouldn't say that he'd ever been a patient kind of guy, no, but something about the little victories with Valerie made everything worthwhile, didn't it?

She sighed softly, her right hand resting on his arm, her left hand clasped in his, and she didn't say anything for a while.  The silence was companionable, a welcome thing, a viable entity.

"Evan?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you."

He leaned away far enough to get a good look at her face, and when he saw the tears standing in her eyes, he frowned.  "H-Hey . . . What's the matter?" he asked gently.

She wrinkled her nose, swatted at a single tear that managed to slip unbidden down her cheek, and she looked irritated, as though she couldn't quite believe that she hadn't been able to hold them back.  "It's nothing," she lied, the tremor in her voice cutting through him like a knife.

"Yeah, but I don't think those are happy tears," he argued as he pulled her into a hug.  "You can tell me, you know," he assured her.  "You can tell me anything."

Shaking her head, she seemed to resist the comfort that he was trying to offer her for a moment before slumping against him, allowing him to support her as a the bittersweet smell of a few more tears filled his nose.  "It's stupid," she confessed, balling her hand into a tight fist that rested against his chest.  "So stupid . . . So stupid!"

"Nothing about you is ever stupid, V," he admonished her.

She drew a ragged breath and sighed.  "It . . . It's just . . ." Drawing another deep breath as she struggled to find the words she wanted to say, Valerie leaned back, smiled weakly as he carefully brushed her tears away.  "No one's ever gone out of their way for me, not like you have.  My own parents never—"

"Your parents can go to hell, V," Evan interrupted in a much sharper tone than he'd intended.  A fresh wash of anger surged through him at the reminder—the people who should've taught her what it meant to be loved, to be cherished . . . bastards, all, as far as he was concerned.

She didn't argue with him though he could feel her whole body tense at the reprimand, and he sighed.  "I tried to tell myself for years that they tried their best, you know?  I tried . . . Tried to make excuses for all the times that I'd get ready to see them—put on my prettiest dress and fix my hair and wash my face . . . and they rarely showed up . . . maybe once every six months or so . . ."

His arms tightened instinctively, though to be entirely honest, he wasn't sure if he was trying to shield her or if he was just trying to hold onto a part of himself.  "V . . ."

She choked out a half-laugh, half-sob.  "Do you . . . Do you think that they even know what today was?  Do you . . . Do you suppose that they stopped at some point today and . . . and remembered?"

He didn't know what to say to her, didn't know how to make it all okay for her when he wasn't entirely sure of anything at all.  Her pain was a palpable thing, hanging in the air around them like a vile mist.  In the end, he did the only thing he could do, pulling her close, tucking her head beneath his chin, wrapping himself around her in a stupid and useless effort to show her that she wasn't nearly as alone as she thought she was.

Clearing her throat, she let out a deep, ragged breath.  "That's why . . . Evan?  Those presents you bought for me?"

"Yeah?" he whispered, unable to rightfully speak past the suspicious lump that nearly choked him.

"I'll keep the lunchbox," she said simply as she leaned away to smile at him, and this time, the smile was blinding.  "That's what I want, Roka."

He smiled, too, hoping that she couldn't see the darkness that loomed just below the surface—a hostility that he couldn't quite repress: the outrage for a little girl who should never have had to learn some of the lessons she was taught.  "Just the lunchbox?"

She nodded.  There was no hesitation, and if anything, her smile grew even brighter.  "It'll do."

He shook his head.  "You're keeping all of it, V.  Consider it payback for a lifetime of birthday parties that I missed."

She looked like she was going to argue with him.  It was second nature to her, wasn't it?  Evan snorted and made a show of rolling his eyes before he pressed a finger to her lips to stave off the disagreement before it could begin.  "I swear on all that's holy, V, if you argue with me, I'll kiss you silly," he warned.

She blinked and stared at him, a sweet flush rising to stain her cheeks.  For a moment, he almost thought that she was going to argue with him on purpose, just to see if he'd make good on that threat, but she must've realized that he was deadly serious, because she slowly, slowly nodded just once.

Letting his hand drop away from her, he smothered the desire to sigh.  "You, uh . . . You ready for some cake?"

Valerie looked a little confused by his question, as though her brain was functioning at a crawl.  He stepped away from her—damn, but he needed to gain a little distance before he made good on the threat without the provocation of her trying to give back his presents—only to stop short when she caught his hand and squeezed it gently.

"Fine, then," she allowed, inflicting a level of curtness into her tone that nearly made him grin.  "But only on one condition."

Slowly peering over his shoulder at her, he raised an eyebrow in silent question.

"You," she began then cleared her throat.  "You've got to promise me that you'll keep your birthday cleared, okay?"

He wasn't entirely sure what he'd expected her to say, but that certainly hadn't been it.  Staring at her for several moments, he slowly grinned and shook his head.  "You're going to spend my birthday with me?"

She nodded, a glimmer of determination adding a sparkle to those amazing eyes of hers.  "Yes," she stated in a tone that left no room for argument, "and it'll be the best birthday ever, I promise."  That said, she let go of his hand and started to march past him toward the table where the cake stood, waiting.  When she drew up beside him, however, she leaned up on her toes, her hands braced on his shoulder, and kissed his cheek.

Evan stood stock-still as she continued her trek toward the cake, a silly grin surfacing on his face as he watched her go.  "It's a deal, V," he said quietly, unsure if she even heard him speak.  "It's a deal."


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A/N:
Fugu: Japanese pufferfish that is renowned as a delicacy but notorious because of the potential to be poisoned if it is not prepared correctly.

'Promises' originally appeared on Eric Clapton's 1978 release, Backless.  Song written by and copyrighted to Richard Feldman and Roger Linn.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
My birthday, huh …?
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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 99
Chapter 101
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