InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Stillness ( Chapter 120 )

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

-O oOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
'And it's filled with people who are filled with shit
'And the vermin of the world inhabit it …'

-'No Place like London' from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (movie).


"She is gorgeous."

Evan turned to glance at Martin Sanstrom, or more officially, the general in charge of overseeing the western part of the United States.  He was gazing off at the dance floor with a wan smile on his face.  "Depends on which 'she' you're talking about," he replied, straightening the sleeve of his tuxedo before jamming his hands back into his pockets once more.

Martin chuckled.  "The one that came with you, of course," he replied.  "Miss Denning, correct?"

Breaking into a vague smile, Evan nodded.  "That woman is beyond mere 'gorgeous'," he said.  "That woman is a goddess."

"Hmm, well, your goddess is absolutely stunning."

"Of course she is."

And she was; she really was.  The rusty copper colored velvet dress that he'd paid for, sight unseen, for the event brought out the brilliant green flecks in her hazel eyes and hugged her frame like a second skin without looking vampy, drawing attention to the understated but luminous topaz set in platinum along with the matching drop earrings that he'd gotten on loan from one of the local jewelers.  He'd tried to buy them, but Valerie had told him that she'd never speak to him again if he did, mostly, he figured, because of the mind boggling price tag on the dress.  He didn't really want to return the pieces, but if it kept the peace for now, then he supposed that he could play nice.  Hair swept up into a neat chignon with small tendrils framing her face, her skin still glowing with the warmth of her lingering tan . . . yeah, she was absolutely stunning, as Martin had already pointed out . . .

Now if he could just dance with the woman, it'd all be good.

'I swear to God, they're doing it on purpose.'

Evan nodded slightly.  That actually sounded fairly feasible.  After all, he hadn't actually gotten to dance with her even once, but she had danced with all of the other men already, Griffin notwithstanding.  Even if they were able to talk the bear into it, which Evan doubted they could actually accomplish, the man wasn't exactly in dancing mode and had spent the majority of the evening, sitting at one of the tables with his wife.

"Do my eyes deceive me?  Is she wearing your color, no less?" Martin went on, entirely oblivious to Evan's thoughts.   "Are congratulations in order?"

"Where's your lovely wife this evening?" Evan asked, pointedly changing the subject.

Martin laughed.  "She's here . . . Last I saw, she was off, talking to Sydnie and Madison."

Evan chuckled, mostly because he could only imagine how that particular conversation was going.  Madison had just arrived in Maine in enough time to come over and see to the women's hair, and she'd come with them to save time even though she'd be over at her parents' house for the rest of the holiday.  Her parents were wandering around here somewhere, too . . .

"I was," Jan Sandstrom said as she stepped up beside her husband.  "Now I think I'd much rather dance with my husband."

Martin smiled and kissed her cheek, inclining his head toward Evan as he passed with his wife.

Evan sighed.  Now, if he could just figure out how to get the vermin he called family away from Valerie, he'd be one step ahead of the game himself . . .

"Hey, Evan."

Blinking as he shot his brother a rather bored look, Evan opened his mouth to explain to Bas that he knew damn well that he was somehow behind this ploy to keep Valerie out of his diabolical clutches for the evening.

Bas held up a hand to forestall Evan's tirade.  "Step outside with me," he said in a completely serious tone of voice.

Evan stared at him for a long moment but finally nodded.  There was something unsettling about Bas' demeanor, reminiscent of the times when Bas would lecture Evan about whatever he deemed deserving at the time.  Bas must've read Evan's reaction correctly because he rolled his eyes and grasped Evan's shoulder, propelling him toward the doors that led to the foyer of the Clarissa Manly Memorial Center.

"What's this about, Bubby?" Evan demanded almost mildly as the doors closed behind them.  The foyer was much cooler than the ballroom where the party was being held.  It was a welcome change, in Evan's estimation.

Stuffing his hands deep into his pockets, Bas took a moment to glance around, making sure that they were alone before he spoke.  "Relax, Evan," he said with a scowl.  "You wanted me to look into Valerie's family, remember?"

Evan blinked and nodded.   "Oh, right.  You find out anything?"

"Yeah, I did," he admitted.  "I've got a file back at Mom and Dad's for you."

Narrowing his eyes on his brother, Evan rolled his hand to prompt him to go on.  "But . . .?"

Bas sighed, rubbing his forehead.  "I don't think you're going to like what's in there."

Little alarm bells clanged in the back of Evan's head.  He ignored them.  "Why?"

Bas opened his mouth to reply, but the doors opened, and he waited until the guy had wandered past them and around the corner, probably looking for the bathroom.  "Her father's dying."

Evan stared at him for a moment, unsure if he'd heard Bas correctly or not.  "Dying?" he repeated quietly.

Bas nodded.  "Yeah.  He's in early stage renal failure."

"His kidneys are shutting down?"

With a shrug, Bas shook his head again.  "He's got liver problems, too, but from what I gathered, that's secondary."

Evan sighed.  "So if his kidneys don't kill him, his liver might."

"Something like that," Bas agreed quietly.

It took a moment for Evan to wrap his brain around it.  In the end, he scowled.  "What about a transplant?  Is he on the waiting list?"

"He doesn't qualify."

Shaking his head, Evan shot Bas a confused look.

"He was an addict, Evan.  That's why they lost custody of Valerie—well, the underlying reason, anyway."

"Like that matters," Evan scoffed.  "Just because he fucked up years ago?  That makes him undeserving of the basic right to live?"

Bas glared at him, though Evan figured he wasn't really glaring at him, per se, but at the situation in general.  "There are guidelines," he explained.  "If you've done something to destroy your own body, you're not going to make the list, especially when you're talking about others who haven't done a damn thing wrong, others who were born with some kind of defect or developed problems through no fault of their own."

"Yeah, I got it," Evan muttered, waving a hand at Bas as he paced around in a small circle.  "Shit . . ."

"I'm sorry," Bas mumbled.

Evan stopped, swinging his shoulders around as he pinned his brother with a probing stare.  "Any idea how long he's got?"

Bas shook his head.  "The guy I talked to said that a condition like that can persist for a while as long as he's on dialysis or it can deteriorate quickly.  It all depends on his overall health and treatment."

"But it doesn't look good," Evan concluded.  Letting out a deep breath, he gritted his teeth.  "The rest of her family?"

"Her mother works two jobs since he can't.  Her brother has a part time job at a local fast food restaurant, and they think he gives his parents most of his money to help pay the bills.  Her sister just got a part time job at the library.  Apparently her brother is pretty gifted with music—a guitarist—and her sister is ranked in the top ten of her class."

"Good," Evan mused.  "Thanks."

Bas nodded slowly.  "Look, I'm going to go on back in.  I'll leave that file in your room when we get back to the house."

Evan turned away, lifting a couple fingers to indicate that he'd heard Bas.  The sounds of the party flooded out of the ballroom when Bas opened the door, but were silenced just as quickly when they closed again, leaving Evan alone with his thoughts.

"Damn," he muttered, trying to make sense out of what Bas had told him.  Her father was dying . . .?

The truth was, he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do with the information that Bas was collecting for him.  He hadn't really thought about it too much.  Then again, he hadn't imagined in a million years that Valerie's parents might not be in such great health, had he?  It was too easy not to think about that, wasn't it?  Considering what he was, what his family was, it wasn't really surprising.  Youkai didn't usually think in terms of death or dying.  It just wasn't something that normally crossed his mind.

But Valerie . . . she'd said that she didn't want anything to do with them.  Why bother changing her name if she'd ever wanted to go back home again, right?  Even then, she wasn't ready to face them; he knew she wasn't.  She could barely admit the truth of her childhood and the pain it had caused her to herself, let alone confront the people who had inflicted that hurt on her so long ago.  If she waited too long though . . .

'You know, that's not even the half of it,' his youkai-voice said quietly.  'She's going to be pissed as all hell if she finds out that you took it upon yourself to verify her story.'

And there was that, too.  Evan sighed.  'It wasn't so much that I was trying to verify her story.  I just wanted to know what the hell kind of people would have done that to her . . .'

'I know that, and you know that, but seriously, what the hell do you really think that she's going to think, rock star?  Think about it, will you?  She's going to be furious, and you know it.'

Yeah, yeah, he did know it.  He supposed that if he were to be completely truthful, he'd have to admit that what he'd really wanted to do was to go there himself, to beat some sense into her father, if need be.  He wanted the man to understand just what he and his wife had done to Valerie: to the little girl who simply didn't have a chance in hell of ever making sense of a damn thing they'd done.

Turning around, Evan slumped against the off-white wall hard enough that the stained glass sconce beside the door shook precariously.

If what Bas said was true, and he didn't doubt that it was, the bigger question was whether or not Evan really had the right to keep the information from her.  He might not have had the right to ask Bas to do it in the first place, but it'd be much worse if he tried to hide it.  She had a right to know, didn't she?

All he'd wanted to do was to protect her from those things in her past that had hurt her.  Telling her . . . He didn't delude himself.  Telling her the truth was going to hurt her even more . . .


Something strange was definitely going on.

She had to admit, she'd been having a very good time.  The Christmas benefit seemed to have been a huge hit with the family raising a lot of money for the Zelig Foundation, mostly through silent donations that had been collected throughout the evening, both from those in attendance as well as from people who hadn't been able to make it.  Isabelle had told her earlier that it was basically just a huge Christmas party for close friends of the family as well as for some of the more steadfast supporters of the foundation, but because it was always held a day or two before Christmas, they always cut the festivities early—'early' being around eleven so that anyone who was traveling had time to get where they were going in time for Christmas Eve.

The only thing was, she hadn't gotten to dance with Evan at all, hadn't actually seen much of him all night, to be honest.  A few times, she'd seen him, standing off the dance floor, talking to different people.  When he caught her gaze, he'd smile at her, but he hadn't actually tried to cut in or anything, which was more than a little strange, all things considered.

Of course, she'd feel a little better about it if . . . one, Chera Karankoa wasn't at the party and nowhere to be seen, and two, Evan wasn't conspicuously missing from the gathering at the moment, too.

She snorted inwardly.  If that man was off fornicating with that woman, she was going to murder him, no questions asked.

"Tell me, do you always accompany your clients to their hometowns for Christmas?"

Valerie blinked away the lingering thought of committing a felony and smiled up at her dance partner at the moment, Gunnar Inutaisho.  "No, but he groveled a hell of a lot," she quipped, "and it was either come with him or watch a grown man cry."

Gunnar leveled a droll look at her as the barest hint of a smile touched the right corner of his full lips.  His amusement was more pronounced in the heightened brightness in his golden eyes than in an actual smile, though, and Valerie was struck once more by exactly how good looking this particular cousin of Evan's was.  His eyes were the same golden color as Gins, as Bas', as Isabelle's, but it was somehow starker, more startling on him, and that might have been because of the rich black hair that hung nearly to his waist.  It wasn't really any wonder why Madison would have chosen to bed that one, no doubt about it, and seeing him turned out so immaculately in a perfectly tailored Lorosche tuxedo?  Well, she supposed that Gunnar didn't have any trouble whatsoever in finding women who were more than a little interested in spending time with him.

Like the rest of the men, he was tall—very tall, but he was much slimmer of build than the Zelig men, even Evan, which didn't mean that he was skinny at all.  He was taller than Evan and almost as tall as Bas, but his frame was much lankier than Bas': broad shoulders, narrow waist, well-muscled without being overdeveloped in the least . . . Valerie herself might have been more impressed, too, but the aloof manner of the man was just a little stifling; at least, it was to her.  There was an arrogant quality about him, an easy grace that stemmed from a lifetime of privilege.  He was entirely used to being the final authority, wasn't he?  Somehow, Valerie had the feeling that Gunnar wasn't the kind of man who was used to hearing 'no' . . .

"You should have let him cry," Gunnar stated.

Valerie laughed.  "Probably."

"No 'probably' about it."

She smiled, her gaze slipping to the side yet again, scanning the room for the only silver-haired man in attendance.  He was still nowhere to be seen.

"I believe I saw him step outside with Bas," Gunnar remarked, his eyes roving over the masses in the same way that Valerie had just employed.  "I'm sure he'll be back soon."

"Oh, it's fine.  I'm sure that it's nothing," she blurted, her cheeks pinking hotly as she forced herself to look away.

Gunnar chuckled.  "I beg your pardon."

For some reason, his apology didn't actually sound like one.  She frowned.  "You have a slight accent," she ventured, leaning away from him to get a better look at his face.

"I do," he stated amiably enough.  "People don't often notice it."

She shook her head.  "I can't place it," she said.  Then she gasped and pointed her index finger at him.  "Japanese?"

"Ah, you did get it," he agreed, his smile widening a few degrees.

"I thought that the Japanese accent was usually thicker."

"Usually," he admitted.  "My mother is American, though, and she taught me English."

"Oh, then that makes perfect sense.  Your parents live around here, too?"

"No, they live in Japan."

"And you didn't go home for Christmas?"

Gunnar shrugged.  "Christmas isn't such a big deal in Japan," he replied.  "Besides, I'm in the middle of a few very important things at work."

Valerie grimaced then offered him a sheepish smile.  "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be nosy," she admitted.  She hadn't missed the slightly clipped tone of his voice.

"On the contrary, it's fine," he assured her then nodded his head in a vague sort of direction.  "The little devil's back, it seems."

Valerie glanced over in the direction that he'd indicated, spotting Evan, who had just slipped back into the hall.  The song ended, and Gunnar stepped back, bowing slightly but not taking his eyes off Valerie's face.  "I thank you for the dance, Ms. Denning," he said in an entirely formal kind of way.

"No, the pleasure was mine," she replied.  "If you'll excuse me . . ."

That said, she turned and made her way toward Evan.  The large clock on the wall above the doors read nearly eleven o'clock, and she meant to dance with Evan before the party ended . . .

As she drew nearer to him, though, she slowed, her brows furrowing as a frown grew.  Something wasn't right, was it?  The expression on his face, the preoccupied light in his gaze . . . "Evan?"

He seemed startled when she'd called his name.  Blinking, glancing around, he stopped when his eyes locked with hers, and the smile that followed was thin, weak.  "Hey, V.  Having a good time?"

She nodded slowly, wondering just what had happened to put him into such a mood.  Closing the last few feet between them, she frowned at him, trying to figure out what he was thinking, wishing that she could read his mind.  "I am," she said, giving him a reluctant little smile that she hoped would make him feel a little better.  "Is something wrong?"

He stared at her for a long moment then smiled and shook his head.  "Nah, everything's fine," he said.

She didn't believe him.  Unfortunately, she also knew that he wasn't going to tell her what really might be bothering him, either.  Too damn stubborn, wasn't he?  She sighed.  "I've danced with just about every man in your family, Roka," she said instead.  "At least, every one of them but you."

Very slowly, his smile widened, grew into a real one.  "You . . . You want to dance with me, baby?"

"I suppose you'll do," she said, slipping her hand under his elbow and waiting for him to lead her back the way she'd come.

Pulling her close, one hand on her waist, the other clasping her fingers in a comfortable but firm grip, he smiled down at her, his sapphire blue eyes glowing with an independent kind of light.

"Did I tell you that I think you look really nice tonight?" she ventured at length.

"Nope," he said.  "Did I tell you that I think you look hotter than fucking hell in that dress?"

She rolled her eyes, mostly because of the amused tone in his voice.  "And here I thought you hadn't noticed," she shot back mildly.  "I mean, it's not like you actually seemed to want to dance with me or anything . . ."

He snorted, unconsciously pulling her a little closer.  "That was totally not my fault, woman," he told her.  "I swear to God that Bubby talked everyone else into dancing with you so that I wouldn't get a turn."

"Your brother isn't nearly as underhanded as that," she chided.

Evan pinned her with a contrary look.  "You just don't know, V.  You just don't know."

Valerie laughed as her gaze fell on Gin and Cain, dancing nearby.  Gin had chosen a very sleek, ruby red silk sheath dress instead of the white velvet.  "What do you think?"

"Hmm?  'Bout what?" Evan drawled.

"Do you think your mom managed 'sexy'?"

Chuckling softly, he turned his head, looking for the woman in question and sighed when he finally spotted her.  "Yeah, I think she's sexy," he finally said.  "You don't agree?"

Valerie smiled and rested her temple against Evan's shoulder without taking her eyes off his mother.  "Well, I wouldn't say that she's not sexy," she ventured slowly, thoughtfully.  "It's just that she's so damn cute . . ."

"And here I thought that you said that I was the cutest thing ever while you were looking at those photo albums," he scoffed.

"You were very cute," she said.  "But then you grew up."

Evan heaved a longsuffering sigh.  "You're a cold, cold woman, V."

"I am," she agreed.  "I really, really am . . ."

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~ =~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'No Place like London' was written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1979 musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
== == == == == == == == == ==
theablackthorn ------ fanfic7inu ------ Tueske ------ Kynkii ------ Dark Inu Fan ------ darkangel05 ------ Tashwampa ------ monkeyseemonkeynodo
cutechick18 ------ Shiratsuki ------ BlkbltVette ------ FriskyPixie ------ lianned88
Thought from Evan:
Well, hell
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.