InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Reversals ( Chapter 119 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'All the days gone by – Do you remember when we were the best of friends …?
'All the days gone by – You know that mem'ries never fade
'As you're watchin' all your days go by …'

-'Days Gone By' by Slaughter.

-Valerie-


Stumb ling down the stairs as she rubbed her face and smothered a yawn with the back of her hand, Valerie only had one thing on her mind: coffee.  Evan had brought her a pot of coffee every morning, and she hadn't realized just how much she'd looked forward to that morning favor—until this morning, she supposed, since he hadn't brought her one at all.

December twenty-third.

Two days until Christmas.

The skies outside the windows on the landings of the staircase were overcast, gray—an onerous sort of gray that held no variations, no light patches or darkened clouds: a solid sheet of endless perfidy.  If she were anywhere else other than inside the warmth of the Zelig mansion, she might have found the effect to be somewhat melancholy, almost bittersweet.  It was nearly impossible, however, to hold that kind of mood, though: not when the absolutely charming scent of gingerbread tingled in her nostrils.  Her hand on the polished wood banister slid silently, effortlessly along the smooth surface.  In the distance, she could hear sounds, movements, rustling, and while she couldn't actually make out anything that she recognized, somehow she knew that they were coming from the kitchen.

Shuffling through the living room, she headed for the kitchen, noting on her way through that the piano had been shoved over closer to the fireplace and the chairs that stood near it had been pushed back the other way, leaving a very large, very open area in the middle of the floor.  Evan had mentioned that the guys would be going out to chop the Christmas tree, and that made perfect sense since there was a very large tree stand sitting on the floor along with a number of large wooden crates that had 'living room tree' stenciled neatly on the sides.

"You want me to start the thumbprint cookies or do you still need the trays for those?" Evan asked Gin over his shoulder as she pulled a sheet pan out of the top oven and carefully set it on the stovetop to cool.

"I just put in the last tray of gingerbread," she told him, "so it's okay to start those now."  Glancing up at Valerie when she stepped into the kitchen, Gin smiled.  "Good morning, sweetie," she greeted.  "We didn't wake you up, did we?"

"N-No," Valerie said, her eyes widening as she slowly shifted her gaze over the counter in mute wonder.  There were cookies everywhere: cooling on wire racks, stacked in half-full containers of every conceivable shape and size, arranged on plates and platters, in plastic baggies . . . Dozens upon dozens of cookies: sugar frosted with fluffy white icing and decorated with sprinkles and silver balls and edible gold foil and festive nonpareils, piped with different colored icing; coconut cookies dipped in chocolate, drizzled with white chocolate; peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, cookies that Valerie had never seen before and had no idea exactly what they were made of . . . It looked like they had been baking all night, and when she finally locked eyes with Evan, he grinned.

"Sorry, baby," he said.  "I meant to bring up your coffee, but I lost track of time."

"When did you guys start baking?" she asked, sliding onto a bar stool directly across from him and reaching for the cup that he offered her.  He'd made a fresh pot, and that was good enough.

"Well, we usually get started around three in the morning," he drawled, scooping out a spoonful of dough and rolling it between his hands, "but I couldn't sleep, so I got started a little early.  Made a few batches before Mama wandered in."

Gin giggled and stopped long enough to kiss Evan's cheek.  "You're such a sweetie," she gushed.

Evan grinned and leaned over to kiss his mother back.  Both she and Evan were wearing what looked to be plastic headbands with a wire sticking out of the top with an upside down hook that was wrapped around a sprig of mistletoe.  Valerie wasn't entirely sure what to make of those, but the silly things were enough to make her smile.  Well, that and the sight of his black 'V' tour shirt, covered with flour and what looked to be dribbles of icing . . .

"Hey, V, I don't suppose you noticed," he hinted, making a show of raising his eyes heavenward.

Valerie didn't answer as she drained her cup of coffee and held it out to him again.  "I don't suppose I did," she agreed easily enough.

He chuckled and quickly got her a refill.  "So cold," he complained.

"I found the tape," Jillian announced as she breezed into the kitchen and held up a few rolls of scotch tape for their inspection.  "If Daddy asks, I didn't see the package in his top desk drawer that said 'Jilli' on the tag—and I didn't shake it, either."

"He hid presents in his desk?" Gin demanded, rounding on her daughter.  "Did you see any that said 'Gin'?"

"Oh, you really shouldn't have mentioned that," Sydnie said dryly as she sashayed into the kitchen, her arms loaded with about twenty rolls of wrapping paper.

"Now, Mama, you don't want to ruin ol' Cain's Christmas surprises, now do you?" Evan teased.

"It wouldn't ruin his surprises if no one told him that I'd peeked," she maintained, lifting her chin stubbornly despite the pinkness that seeped into her cheeks.

Valerie blinked and looked down when a slight tug on the leg of her jeans drew her attention, only to find Olivia standing on the floor, smiling up at her.  As soon as she met the girl's gaze, Olivia lifted her arms to be picked up.

With a soft laugh, Valerie scooped her up.  She wasn't wearing any tights, but she was wearing a very pretty, very expensive looking dress of red velvet over white lace.  "I can have a cookie, please, Aunt V?" she asked.

Valerie's mouth fell open as a slight blush rose to her skin.  Maybe it shouldn't have surprised her, but it did.  Still, there was something entirely precious about it, wasn't there?  She smiled and hugged the girl a little closer.  "Of course you can," she said, unsure why the simple mistake had the ability to make her feel like laughing.  "What kind do you want, Olivia?"

She sat up straighter and slowly looked over the heaps of cookies laid out before her.  "That one!" she said at last, pointing at a sugar cookie cut into the shape of a reindeer.

Evan was closer, and he handed it over the counter.  "There you go.  What kind do you want, Aunt V?"

"Did you tell her to call me that?" Valerie countered.

"I wish," he admitted with a shrug and a saucy grin.  "No, I didn't.  Now about that cookie . . ."

Valerie smiled but shook her head.  "Grapefruit, please."

He leaned across the counter with a grin.  "You're not really going to offend my mama, now are you?"

Opening her mouth and closing it again, Valerie narrowed her eyes on him.  "Fine, Roka.  One cookie."

He grinned, obviously thinking that he'd won as he handed over a thickly iced gingerbread woman.  She nibbled at one of the hands.  It was delicious, not that she'd expected anything less though the icing was a bit too thick for her.

"Hey, Liv, you want to sing the song I taught you for Aunt V?" Evan asked as he resumed rolling balls of dough and arranging them on the cookie sheet.

Olivia giggled and shook her head, peeking up bashfully at Valerie.

The look that Valerie shot Evan made him laugh.  "Relax, woman.  It was a clean song; I swear."

She shook her head since she wasn't entirely sure whether or not she believed him.  Then again, he usually behaved himself fairly well when the children were present, so maybe he'd taught her something appropriate—something like 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'. . .

Brushing his hands off before reaching for a paper towel to wipe them a little better, he strode around the counter and leaned down to stare Olivia in the eyes.  "Come on, Livvy.  You wanna sing, right?"

She giggled again, and for a moment, Valerie thought that the girl was going to tell him 'no', but Olivia smiled and hesitated for a moment before lifting her arms.

"That's my girl," he crooned as he scooped her up and held her on his hip, "Go ahead."

Olivia shot him a quick glance then buried her face against his chest, but she started to sing though her words were muffled, and Valerie pressed her lips together to keep from laughing outright . . .

.

"'Santa baby, stick a sable under the tree for me . . .
'I've been an awful good girl, Santa baby . . .
'So hurry down the chimney tonight . . .'"

.

Valerie clapped and laughed when the girl finished the one verse that he'd taught her, and Evan chuckled.  "That was so good!" Valerie said as Olivia buried her face deeper against Evan.

"Hmm, sounds like a perfect song," Sydnie remarked with a smile as she knelt on the floor between the counter and the booth in the breakfast nook with a roll of wrapping paper and a huge stack of toys behind her.  "Her daddy will love it."

Evan grinned.  "I'm sure he will."  He planted a loud kiss on her cheek and tossed her into the air, settling her back on Valerie's lap after he caught her again.  Then he stuck his lips out in a wholly ridiculous way and leered at Valerie.  She rolled her eyes and planted her hand in the middle of his face and shoved him back.  "Aw, no love?"

"No way," Valerie said, nibbling on the cookie again.

He tried to make a sad face but failed miserably.


-Evan-


"'Silent night . . . Holy night . . . When I look at you . . . My pants get tight . . .'"

Cain strode through the living room toward the tree that the men had just set up with a long string of white lights in his hand and reached out, whacking Evan upside the head in passing.

Evan chuckled and rolled his eyes but didn't miss a beat.  "'Round yon virgin . . . Mother and child . . .'"

Valerie caught his eye where she stood, helping Gin test the endless strings of lights.  When he winked at her, she pursed her lips and shook her head.  It was the fourth time he'd been smacked for altering the Christmas carols.  Cain seemed to be winning the war this time around.  He was in the lead: three to one—the one being Bas.  It was a pretty common thing, and to be honest, a couple of times, he hadn't even realized that he'd changed the words until he'd gotten the smack . . .

He couldn't help it, could he?  After all, it was kind of expected, right?  It was an annual ritual whenever he was home for Christmas.  Twisting Christmas carols was just an easy thing to do, and even then, his mother didn't always realize what he was doing, anyway . . .

Still, it was the familiarity of the situation that lent him a feeling of unquestioned comfort.  Everything about the day could've happened any year at the same time.  The only difference was Valerie's presence, and it struck him, didn't it?  This particular scene, this particular tableau . . . he wanted to see this exact same thing every year for the rest of his life . . .

It was funny, wasn't it?  It was the one time a year that it was all right for the family to stay together under the same roof, even if they had places nearby that they could call home.  Sure, he'd told Valerie that he had a place nearby, and he did.  Staying there hadn't actually crossed his mind, though, even if Miss wasn't using it at the moment.  Bas had a house on property that was adjacent to Cain's, but there wasn't a question as to whether or not he'd be here, too.  Besides, he'd mentioned that he'd given their housekeeper and live-in cook a couple weeks off, anyway.  As for Jillian and Gavin?  Jillian owned a house in Bevelle, too, and she could have easily stayed there if she had wanted to, but she hadn't even considered going anywhere for the holidays but home, right where she was, especially since she and Gavin had spent the year before with Gavin's family in Montana.

So there really hadn't been a question as to where Evan was going to stay while he was here.  He'd be where he always wanted to be at this time of year: surrounded by family, even the parts of his family that he might rather do without.

He sighed as he ended the song and sat back to watch the rest of the family as they started to trim the huge tree that they'd lugged home earlier.  Cain and Bas were arguing over whether or not Cain was wrapping the strings of lights close enough together while Jillian was sitting on the floor, stringing cranberries and popcorn on a long piece of twine.  Sydnie was carefully separating out the boxes of ornaments while Valerie and Gin finished going through the assemblage of lights.  Gavin sat on the floor, helping Bailey program the Junior Learning Center that he'd managed to get out of his father two days early—Evan had seen the ads for those.  Basically, they were computers that were only able to access websites that were approved by the Learning Center Network for children under the age of ten and came packed with tons of software designed to teach children as they did things like play video games.

All in all, he couldn't ask for much more, could he?  Somehow Valerie's presence just made everything that much better, that much more special.  'The first of many, V,' he promised himself as a secretive little smile quirked his lips.  'You'll see . . .'

"Ho, ho, ho!"

"Well, if that's not a fitting way to announce your arrival, then I don't know what is," Evan quipped as he rose from the piano bench to wander over and greet his cousin-slash-niece, Isabelle and her mate, Griffin.

"Spoken like a true deviant," Isabelle shot back as she stood on tiptoe to kiss Evan's cheek.  "Oh, now, isn't that cute?" she said, tweaking the mistletoe hanging over Evan's head.

He grinned.  "Works like a charm," he agreed.  "Hey, Griffin.  How's the leg?"

There wasn't much of a change in expression on the bear-youkai's face other than the vaguest hint of a deeper scowl than normal.  He was still recovering from reconstructive surgery to remove more of the scar tissue that had built up in his joints over the years, and from what Evan understood, he still had at least another couple surgeries to go.  "It's all right," he muttered.

Evan grinned and clapped the man on the shoulder though not quite as hard as he normally would have.  "Yeah, you were just trying to get out of the annual ritual of slaughtering a perfectly good tree," he teased.

"There's that, too," Griffin agreed easily enough.  That said, he turned slowly, leaning rather heavily on the cane that he'd stumped in with and lumbered toward the sofa.

Isabelle hurried off toward the kitchen.  Evan followed her.  "So how's he really doing?" he asked.

She shot him a bright smile as she got a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.  "Very well, actually.  Papa said that he'll be in a bit more discomfort this time around because he had to go deeper to remove more of the scar tissue, but he should be back to his old self very soon."

"Good," Evan allowed, pulling the cartons of eggnog that he'd slapped together earlier and dumping them into the huge crystal punchbowl that Gin had left on the counter.

Isabelle laughed then arched an eyebrow.  "So is what I hear true?  Evan Zelig's found his mate?"

Pausing as he sprinkled nutmeg on the foamy surface of the eggnog, Evan glanced at Isabelle and grinned.  "I . . . I think so," he said, deliberately trying to downplay the situation.

"I hear she's a hottie," Isabelle went on as she fished Griffin's meds out of her purse.  "Is that right?"

"Of course!" he assured her, his grin widening.  "You think she wouldn't be?"

"Well, I can't wait to meet her," she said, giving Evan a quick hug.

"Yeah, hey . . . I haven't told her anything yet," he admitted.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she leaned back on the counter and smiled knowingly.  "You're saying that you're having woman trouble?  You?"

"She's coming around," he told her.  "It's just . . . taking a while."

Tossing her head back, she gave a deep belly laugh that made him sigh.  "Come on," she said when she finally wound down to giggles.  Setting the bottle of water she'd gotten out for Griffin onto the tray beside the glass mugs that Gin had also set out.  "I'll help you."

Evan chuckled and, punchbowl in hand, led the way out of the kitchen.


-Valerie-


Valerie laughed and slowly turned the page in the baby blue leather photo album that Jillian had plopped onto her lap when she'd sat down to watch the trimming of the tree.  Gin seemed to be doing most of it with Cain's assistance for the part of the tree that Gin couldn't reach and with the others pitching in now and again, but for the most part, everyone seemed to be content to sit back and watch, drinking eggnog and eating cookies while Gin fussed with the tree.

Actually, Jillian had given Valerie three photo albums—apparently all Evan's, but she still hadn't gotten through the first one, and she had to admit, Evan was probably the cutest baby she'd ever seen.  Always smiling, always laughing, she had yet to see any images of him without a huge grin on his face.  Okay, that wasn't entirely true.  There were a number of them where he wasn't smiling, but he was a newborn in those.  Still, there was a certain happiness in even those images.  Gin had told her that Evan didn't really cry as a baby, and Valerie had thought that was a bit of a silly notion.  Judging from the images, though, he didn't, did he?

'Evan and Jillian's first tub bath' was written under one image.  Evan was sitting in a mass of bubbles with a very tiny Jillian, and both were smiling at the photographer, but the most amusing thing about that image had to be the boy sitting in the tub with the two babies.  Thanks to Gin's labels, she knew that the boy was a ten-and-a-half-year-old Bas, and while he didn't look entirely happy about sharing the tub with the babies, he was smiling, too . . .

Evan, sleeping on the floor with his rear end up in the air, his hands resting on the floor by his ankles . . . Evan, sitting on Gin's lap, being held in Gin's arms, running along the beach beside Gin, making cookies in the kitchen with Gin . . . Evan, playing with cars with Bas on the living room floor, playing catch with Bas in the back yard . . . Evan, having a tea party with Jillian in her very pink room, playing with dolls with Jillian, sitting on a carousel horse with Jillian . . . and in every one of those pictures, if Evan was awake, he was smiling . . .

"I was a devilish cute little shit, right?"

Valerie turned her head, smiled at Evan as he leaned on the back of the sofa, staring over her shoulder at the photo album.  "Hmm," she drawled, unable to hide the smile on her face, "you were."

"That one, right there . . . That's the best picture of me, don't you think?" he quipped.

Valerie glanced down at the image he was pointing at and shook her head.  In it, he was lying on his stomach with his feet kicked up and crossed at the ankles and his chin resting on his raised hands, watching television in the nude.  Gin's neat script indicated that Evan was almost two in the picture, and it was very cute, considering the only thing that could be 'seen' was his little bare butt.  Valerie sighed.  "So you're saying that you got an early start in the whole naked thing."

"Yeah, that sounds about right," he agreed with a cheesy grin.

Valerie glanced up at him, only to do a classic double-take.  He was leaning toward her, but he wasn't looking at her.  No, he was kind of sticking his face at her in such a way that brought a chicken to mind.  "What . . . are you doing?" she asked, her scowl deepening as she tried to figure out just what he was up to.

"Nothing," he assured her quickly, jutting his face sharply a few more times.  "Well, I am still under the mistletoe, right?"

Sucking in her cheeks before she burst out laughing, Valerie schooled her features.  "Considering you've yet to take that ridiculous thing off your head?  I guess you are."

"You're supposed to kiss whatever's under the mistletoe," he pointed out reasonably.

"No way."

"Why not?"

"Don't you think that it's a little pathetic to have to go around, begging for kisses like that?" she countered.

He considered that for a moment then shrugged.  "It's not pathetic if it works."

She stared at him then slowly shook her head.  "You're in such denial . . . How sad . . ."

"Just one," he coaxed.

Valerie heaved a sigh.  "If I give you one, will you leave me alone for the rest of your natural born life?"

He snorted.  "If you give me one, I'll leave you alone for the next two minutes.  How's that?"

"A year?"

"Five minutes."

She rolled her eyes.  "Will you leave me alone so I can finish looking through these?" she asked, waving a hand at the collection of photo albums on the coffee table.

He chuckled.  "Deal."

Valerie started to lean toward him to kiss his cheek.  He turned his head.  Catching his chin and forcing him to look straight ahead again, she quickly kissed him before he could try to misbehave.  "There," she said primly as she pushed him back and turned her attention to the album on her lap.

"I'm never going to wash this cheek again!" he teased.

Valerie shook her head and reached over her shoulder, smashing her hand into the middle of his face to shove him back when he decided to try to steal another kiss.  "Good.  Now, go away," she told him.

Evan chuckled and handed her a cup of eggnog.  "Okay, baby," he agreed, planting a kiss on the top of her head.  "Just holler if you decide you need more of The hEvan."

"Mhmm," she intoned without actually listening to him.

"I really like that girl," Cain remarked, having caught the exchange between Evan and Valerie.

Bas straightened up and glanced over at the sofa.  "Me, too.  'Course, I'm not sure if she's totally sane, all things considered . . ."

Gin smacked Bas in the chest as she stopped to watch the couple in question.  "I think they're perfect together," she decided.

Cain slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her over against his side, shaking his head as Evan yanked the mistletoe headband off his head and held it over his crotch.  "I think 'perfect' might be a pretty strong statement," he said as Valerie leaned over the side of the sofa to try to smack Evan.  He twisted away, pleading his case loudly between guffaws of laughter.

"Nope," Gin insisted, wrapping her arms around Cain's waist with a contented little smile on her face.  "Absolutely perfect."


~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
A/N:
'Days Gone By' originally appeared on Slaughter's 1992 release, The Wild Life.  Song written by and copyrighted to Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum.
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Final
Thought from Gin:
They're so cute!
==========
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 118
Chapter 120
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