InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Reconciliation ( Chapter 107 )

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

- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Now nothing seems as strange as
'When the leaves began to change
'Or how we thought those days would never end
'Sometimes I hear that song and I'll start to sing along
'And think, man, I'd love to see that girl again
'Man, I'd like to see that girl again …'

-'All Summer Long' by Kid Rock.


There was something infinitely therapeutic in the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other while pushing oneself beyond the limits of one's own endurance.

At least, that's what Valerie told herself as she plodded along the waterfront.

She'd been out here for hours, running along the streets of the city, along paths that she knew all too well; along paths that she'd just discovered.  Her entire body ached, but it was a good kind of pain, a satisfying kind of pain: the kind of pain that only came from a lot of physical exertion.  The weakness in her limbs only convinced her to keep moving, to keep going, plodding along the streets that were gray and dingy, covered with the same dust and dirt that seemed to coat every inch of the city at this time of year as the wind blew in, only to die in the dead end streets and the darkened alleys, until all that was left was the grime, the filth . . .

It was all out of her hands now.

The district attorney was more than a little skeptical of the letter and the convenience of a confession from a dead man, but after talking to Miss, after conferring with a handwriting analyst and after hearing what Mr. Thompson had to say regarding the physical evidence found in the car, he'd come to the same conclusion that Valerie had: there simply was no way on earth that Evan could have been driving the car that night.  It just wasn't possible.

In fact, she was waiting to hear back from him now for the formalities to be set: the official dropping of the charges against him, and while she had a feeling that the DA wasn't going to let it go with just a hand-slap, the worst Evan could be charged with now was obstruction of justice.  It was true that there could be fairly stiff penalties for the charge, but considering who he was, and given that the police had done a downright shoddy job of investigating the accident, in the first place, she was pretty sure that she'd be able to get him off of it without too much incident.  That Evan had maintained his guilt from the beginning shouldn't have mattered.  The police were too dazzled by the idea that they'd finally caught him in an air-tight case, one that he was more than happy to claim responsibility for, and it should have been open-and-shut, right?

Valerie sighed but kept moving, ignoring the stitch that was slowly developing in her side.

If anything, the DA was more agitated that Evan had tried to make a mockery out of the legal system—at least, that was the impression that Valerie had gotten.

'Stupid man . . . lying to me, just like every other guy that I've ever met . . . He's just like the rest of them: a liar . . . saying stupid things to me, asking me to marry him, of all the stupid things . . . and I almost bought into it, didn't I?  Some . . . Some friend . . .'

But the righteous indignation was wearing thin, too—the anger that had carried her through the last couple days was fading, and while she could appreciate why he'd refuse to tell her, why he'd lied to her, she couldn't help but feel pretty foolish, too.

She'd told him so much—of course, it wasn't like he'd flat-out asked her, though, was it?  No, she'd just told him, voluntarily . . . given so much of herself away to him—parts of herself that she didn't like to even consider, and yet . . .

And yet, he'd given her nothing; not really.  Gifts that meant nothing but the price tag, pretty words when it suited him to do so . . . and somewhere in the back of her mind, in the part of her soul that she kept so fiercely protected . . .

But he didn't trust her, and that . . . that hurt . . .

Grinding her teeth together as she pushed herself a little harder, Valerie reached down, adjusted the volume on her music player.  Raw, aggressive . . . perfect for her current mood, she supposed . . .

'And that's just your pride talking,' a voice deep inside her said with a derisive scoff.  'Face it, Valene: you just can't stand the idea that maybe—maybe—he didn't think you'd understand—and you hate it even more that you know that you wouldn't have.'

Wouldn't she?  What kind of crap was that, anyway?  She couldn't say one way or another whether or not she'd have understood because he didn't give her the chance to try.  Assuming that she wouldn't?  That was stupid, just stupid . . .

'And you know it's not.  Your ego, you know.  It's so damn big that there's no way you would have ever seen it as anything other than the personal slight that you think it is now, right?  You think that the reason he didn't tell you was because he didn't trust you, but you know, that's just your way of making it all about you, isn't it?  Because you've always got to do that, now don't you?'

'That is so not true,' she reasoned, unconsciously increasing her pace, jerking her head to flip the hair out of her eyes.  'All about me?  I don't!'

'Don't you?' the voice countered, taking on a nasty little twinge—the voice of every failure in her lifetime.  'So you did stop to think that maybe his reasons had nothing at all to do with you?  Then again, maybe I'm wrong.  After all, he probably didn't want you to know because he knew that the first thing  you'd do would be to run off to the DA to make sure that the charges were dropped before you even bothered to ask him why he'd ever take the blame for something so big . . . right?'

Snorting indelicately, Valerie stubbornly refused to acknowledge that thought.  Of course she'd go talk to the DA.  Of course she would . . .

'You really hate to lose, don't you, Valene?  That might make you a damn good lawyer, but winning isn't everything, now is it?'

"This isn't about winning," she muttered, her voice broken by the bobbing thud as her feet hit the pavement in a methodical cadence.  "It's about Evan . . . and it's about him, keeping secrets that almost landed him in jail."

The voice in her mind didn't reply, but it did snort derisively.

As she plodded forward, she sighed.  The temperature was dropping with every minute as the sun sank lower on the horizon above the buildings that all seemed to fade together in a similar gray that only held variances in shades and slight hues.  Why was it that the world seemed so much larger, so much more ominous when Evan wasn't with her?

Scowling at the capriciousness of her thoughts, she concentrated instead on the ground below her feet.  She might as well head home soon.  The forecast called for snow overnight, and while she liked the distraction that the exercise offered, she'd just as soon not be caught out in that.

A strange sound, like soft clicks, a little jingle, cut through her musings as she jogged along the walkway that ran beside the water's edge.  A moment later, a low half-woof, half-growl sounded, and Valerie stumbled when she caught sight of the very large dog that fell into step beside her.  An involuntary squeal escaped her, even as it registered in her mind that she knew the creature.

The dog barked loudly, wagging his tail in an insane kind of way, his huge body shaking in excitement.  Valerie stepped back and yelped again as she slammed right into something very hard, very solid—or someone, anyway.

Arms snaked around her waist, pulling her back against a very firm chest, and she almost screamed—almost.

"Jesus, woman, your heart is beating so fast it feels like it's about to leap right out of your chest."

"Damn it, Roka!" she growled, fighting in vain to regain her freedom while refusing to take her eyes off the dog that was hopping back and forth at her feet.  "Give me a heart attack, why don't you?  And call that thing off!"

Odious man that he was, he chuckled.  "You know, he'd never hurt you," Evan pointed out reasonably.

She wasn't as inclined to believe him.  In fact, she'd swear that the beast really was staring at her as though he wanted to sample her leg, and it didn't help, either, that he had a long and gross string of slobber hanging from his loose jowls, either.  She shivered.  "I'm serious, Evan," she warned, inflicting as much coldness into her tone as she possibly could—not much at the moment, all things considered.

"Okay, okay," he relented.  "Go on home," he told the dog.

Under ordinary circumstances, she might have scoffed at him when he gave that particular command, but two things struck her before she could: that dog was absolutely one of the largest monsters she'd ever seen, and she also knew well enough that Evan's dogs tended to obey him whenever he told them to do something.  So it wasn't entirely surprising, though it was a huge relief to her, when the gangly beast gave a bark then careened around, lumbering off into the night.

She didn't speak until the dog was out of view.  "You're sure he'll go home?" she asked grudgingly.

"Yeah," Evan allowed, finally letting go of Valerie and taking a step back in retreat.  "He'll be fine."

Rubbing her arms against the conspicuous and sudden loss of warmth, she noticed absently that it had grown much cooler.  "You could have called my cell phone," she pointed out with a shake of her head.  "You didn't have to come looking for me."

Evan shrugged, rubbing his face as a deep breath escaped him.  "Actually, V, I was out jogging, too."

She opened her mouth to scoff at that but snapped it closed again when she finally noticed that he was, indeed, wearing a pair of insulated jogging pants and a matching windbreaker.  In fact, with his hair pulled back into a low-hanging ponytail, he looked like anyone else on the streets and not some infamous rock star . . . For some reason, the idea that he hadn't been out looking for her bothered her more than she cared to admit, too, and she turned abruptly, resuming her pace without another word.

He fell into step beside her easily enough.  The man was in uncanny physical condition, she'd have to give him that.  He didn't say a word for a while, opting instead to jog with her in silence, but it was a heavy silence, wasn't it?  A strange, stilted silence that was rife with the things that neither of them were willing to say . . .

They rounded the corner onto the street that was a lot busier with people hurrying on their ways as they made the trek home after work: women wearing smart little business suits, men sporting the grays and blues that made up a hopelessly normal existence as they avoided eye contact, reading newspapers or walking with their hands dug deep into the pockets of the long coats that they wore to keep those work clothes from inhaling the scent of the open air streets.  Somewhere up ahead, she could hear the lonely sound of an acoustic guitar—a street-corner performer; a young man with an acne-pocked face hustling passers-by as he tried to pass off cheap gold tone watches as genuine Rolex ones . . .

But none of those things were more than a cursory thought to her.  As she plodded along, the larger questions swirled in her mind—questions that she still wasn't entirely sure that Evan would answer if she asked him.

And it was that uncomfortable, stilted silence that lingered and grew.  She could sense the wariness in him, the reluctance to speak.  As though he worried that anything he said would only lead to those questions that he wasn't ready or willing to answer, he kept his own counsel.

Stepping onto the street she knew better than any of the others in the city, Valerie heaved a sigh of relief.  She could still hear Evan's steady footfalls, could feel his presence, but it was as though something was missing—something important that had somehow managed to be lost along the way.  She said nothing, increasing her speed as she sought the sanctuary of her apartment building.  Up the slightly bowed steps, worn by a thousand people who had come and gone over the years, worn by the weather that silently passed without remark, she sighed again as she let herself into the foyer, pausing briefly to nod at the security guard, situated behind the desk with his feet propped up and a magazine open in front of him.  He smiled at Valerie and tipped his hat—an old fashioned kind of gesture that never failed to amuse her just a little.

Evan followed her inside, as though it was the most natural thing in the world to do, and he still said nothing, even after they'd entered her apartment.

Valerie sighed as she glanced at the clock: almost six.  She'd hoped to hear back from the DA's office today, but it didn't look likely now.  To be honest, she just wanted the whole ordeal to be finished.  Stealing a surreptitious peek at Evan, she figured that he did, too.

He looked . . . haggard, didn't he?  Dark circles under his eyes, a certain tightness around his mouth that bespoke the anxiety that he surely must have been feeling, but it was the hollowness in his features, in the depths of his gaze, that made her grimace inwardly.  He hadn't looked quite like that in a while; certainly not since Dieter's death.  Had this whole thing somehow brought it all back to him?

Stripping off the two sweatshirts she'd worn to keep warm while jogging, Valerie tossed them onto the sofa carelessly, knowing the answer to her own question.  Of course it had, and she could understand what he'd meant.  The first reaction she'd gotten when she'd gone to see the DA was one of smug disbelief.  It was easy to blame something on a dead man, wasn't it?  A little too easy . . . But that . . . That wasn't really what was bothering Evan, and she'd have to be stupid not to realize that, too.  No, she had a feeling that it had more to do with the idea that he'd somehow abandoned a friend that did it, and that, more than anything, tempered her emotions.

"How have you been?" she heard herself asking.  Funny, wasn't it?  She didn't realize she knew what to say at all . . .

Evan shrugged moving around the room without a purpose, as though he needed to keep it up.  Maybe he did.  "Eh, you know: same ol', same ol'," he hedged.  "You?"

"Good," she replied, her gaze following him as he paced.  "Busy, but good."

Licking his lips, he still refused to meet her gaze.  Finally, though, he sighed and shook his head, that vulnerability, that confusion that she'd seen in him before back with a vengeance.  "I talked to Miss," he admitted at length.  "She thinks . . . She thinks everything'll be all right."

"And you don't?"

Heaving a sigh, Evan sat down on the edge of the chair, leaning forward, burying his face in his hands, his elbows propped on his knees.  "Are you fucking kidding me?" he asked, his voice muffled, his tone lacking any real rancor.  He sounded weary, exhausted, and very, very sad . . . "I don't know jack shit anymore, V."

Valerie sighed, too.  "I'm sorry if you're mad at me," she said quietly.  "I just . . . No one wanted to see you go to jail for something you didn't do.  Miss didn't, I didn't . . . and you know Dieter didn't, either."

"I know," he admitted.  "I . . . I know."

She left him in the living room and filled two glasses with iced tea.  He looked like he could use something stronger, but she didn't really have anything other than wine, and she didn't figure that would do, either.  But he took the iced tea gratefully, sucking down half of it before coming up for air.  "Thanks," he said, setting the glass aside.  Suddenly, he cleared his throat, shifting almost nervously.  "V . . . it's not that I don't trust you," he muttered, refusing to meet her gaze as he steepled his fingers and rocked back and forth just a little.  "I do . . . I just . . . I didn't want him to go back to jail."

"But you can't save everyone, Roka," she said softly, gently.  Perching on the edge of the sofa cushion, her knees almost touched his, and she leaned forward without another thought and patted his hands.  "As much as you loved Dieter . . . Don't you think that he loved you that much, too?"

Evan grimaced and shook his head, though she had the feeling that he wasn't arguing with her as much as he was still searching for a semblance of truth behind it all.  "You don't understand," he told her.  "Deet . . . Deet would have died in there.  He really would have.  He would have . . . have killed himself or something . . ."

"Do you really believe that?"

Slowly, he lifted his gaze—not his head, but his eyes, and she grimaced inwardly.  He did believe it; it was there in his expression—absolutely believed it, and there wasn't a thing that she could say to him to convince him otherwise, either . . . "Deet was bipolar or maybe . . . maybe manic-depressive," Evan said.  "I mean, he was never officially diagnosed, but . . . but, yeah . . . and if he thought that he had nothing, even if it wasn't true . . . You just . . . You never saw him; not like that.  It was . . . ugly . . ."

The look on his face . . . He was seeing something in the past, wasn't he?  Things that she couldn't even begin to comprehend, and while she could appreciate that he cared about Dieter . . . It made perfect sense . . . and yet, it didn't.  "But you can't always save people, you know," she told him.

"But you can," he cut in, his gaze narrowing as an intensity mounted.  "You can save them from what you think is a huge mistake, right?"

"Maybe," she agreed.  "But I think you know it, too.  Do you think that Dieter would have ever been able to deal with the guilt that he felt?  It's there in his letter, Evan."  She sighed and rubbed her forehead, wishing she could get him to understand, wishing that she could make him stop feeling responsible for . . . for everything.  "That you wanted to protect Dieter is a noble thing, you know, but not when it wasn't something that Dieter wanted you to do."

"Yeah," he muttered, his eyes dull, glassy . . . empty.  Suddenly, though, he heaved a sigh and shook himself, sitting up straighter, his gaze clearing as he frowned at her.  "You," he said, his tone a lot more forceful than it had been moments before, "You shouldn't be out jogging in that area alone."

She blinked and sat back, unable to completely grasp his abrupt change in topics.  "Wh-What?"

He snorted, crossing his arms over his chest as he continued to stare at her.  "You heard me," he stated.  "The docks can be dangerous, you know."

She snorted, too.  Sure, she knew that the docks weren't exactly among the safest areas to go running, at least at night, but she was out there during daylight hours, and there were more than enough people milling around: men who worked there, loading or unloading the boats that came in, men who worked on the different shipping vessels . . . and she hadn't gone there purposefully, either.  No, she'd just ended up there during her marathon jaunt through the city.  "There were more than enough witnesses if someone had tried to abduct me or something," she pointed out dryly.

Evan shook his head stubbornly.  "Like that matters.  Women are abducted all the time, even in broad daylight."

Wrinkling her nose, Valerie pushed herself to her feet and snatched the sweatshirts off the back of the sofa.  "So I'll get a can of pepper spray," she assured him.

He grunted.  "You'll call me, and I'll go with you or I'll send the dog over or something."

Her back stiffened as she drew herself up abruptly at the mention of the animal.  "I don't need your dog, Roka," she pointed out, proud of the way she was able to keep the slight tremor out of her voice.  "You keep that thing away from me."

"Are you kidding?  He's harmless!"

"I don't like dogs, Roka," she reminded him, hating the petulant lilt in her tone, "and I really don't like that one in particular."

"He'd never hurt you," Evan insisted with a wave of his hand.  "Anyway, I mean it.  That area is dangerous, and you don't belong there."

Clamping her mouth closed as she stomped into the bathroom and tossed the sweatshirts into the laundry hamper, Valerie shook her head, knowing damn well that she wasn't going to win that particular argument with him.  If she knew nothing else, she knew damn well that he could be stubborn in the extreme, especially when he thought that he was right, and he most certainly did think that he was right this time.

The trace irritation that she should be considered one of those weak little women who couldn't take care of herself was instant, a conditioned response that she'd developed over the years, and she snorted indelicately as she washed her hands and face.  That irritation, however, didn't linger for more than a few moments at best.  She knew, didn't she?  Evan hadn't ever been one of the people who had tried to make her feel incompetent in any way, and he wouldn't have started to do that now, she was sure.

Still . . .

'And what would be the harm in letting him have this one, Valerie?' she asked herself as she headed back toward the living room again.

There wasn't any, was there?  It wasn't really a question.  It might well give him back some of what he thought that he'd lost, and maybe that was worth it, too.  Of course, it'd be a cold day in hell before Valerie allowed him to send that monster of a dog over for her jogs.  Still, she knew, didn't she, that Evan had more than his fair share of the desire to protect, and as misguided as it was in Dieter's situation, she really could appreciate that about him, couldn't she?

Letting out a deep breath, she stepped into the living room, only to stop short as a frown surfaced on her face.  "Evan?"

There was no answer, and even before she moved toward the kitchen, she knew that he was gone.

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'All Summer Long' originally appeared on Kid Rock's 2007 release, Rock n' Roll Jesus.  Song written by and copyrighted to Edward King, Kid Rock, Gary Rossington, Uncle Kracker, Ronnie Van Zant, Robert Wachtel, Warren Zevon, and Leroy Marinell.
== == == == == == == == == ==
theablackthorn (yeah, but I mind it!  I'm sorry!!) ------ Titiana ------ OROsan0677 ------ monkeyseemonkeynodo
indigorrain ------ OROsan0677 ------ Midcat
Thought from Valerie:
Where'd he take off to now?
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.