InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Bitter Winds ( Chapter 121 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Carry on my wayward son
'There'll be peace when you are done
'Lay your weary head to rest
'Don't you cry no more …'

-'Carry on Wayward Son' by Kansas.

-Valerie-


It was bitter cold.

Standing just outside the doors on the balcony, staring up at the legions of stars that twinkled so high overhead in the icy sky, she pulled the comforter closer around her shoulders, absently realizing that the thin slippers on her feet weren't really providing much of a defense against the frigid stones below her, but she couldn't stop staring long enough to go inside to change into something sturdier.

She wasn't sure what had compelled her to step outside.  Having just changed out of the dress she'd worn to the party and carefully placing the jewelry that Evan had borrowed from one of the local jewelry stores back in the velvet box and into a pair of sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt, she'd been drawing the heavy curtains that covered the sliding doors when she'd first noticed the stars and wanted a better look.

No doubt about it, the view was absolutely amazing.

In fact, she had to admit that everything about her holiday was pretty damn amazing.  She could understand and appreciate it now, couldn't she?  The man Evan was: the mystery, the paradox . . . It had everything to do with the way he'd been raised, didn't it?  Going back to the beginning, she was starting to make sense of those things that had always made her wonder.  He came from money: lots of it.  Having grown up surrounded by the fortune amassed by the enigmatic artist, Cain Zelig, his parents had somehow managed to raise him as both privileged yet unspoiled.  Money wasn't the beginning or the end for him; it was something that he had always possessed, but it had never become something that he lived for, and while she didn't think that Evan's father was the kind to worry about finances, either, she didn't have a doubt in her mind that the true influence that had shaped Evan early on had to have been his mother.

She was just too warm, too loving: a one in a million kind of person who seemed to be untouched by the baser emotions that could have jaded her.  Gin Zelig just wasn't someone who would ever have put a value on physical things.  The things that she counted were the people who made up her family.  It was evident in everything about her, and that woman was the one who had shaped Evan, wasn't she?  The reason that Evan saw nothing odd in going out of his way for those he cared about was because it was what his mother did, too.

Cain was the real mystery.  It was true that Valerie didn't know the man very well, and it was true that she hadn't really talked to him nearly as much as she'd talked to others in the family, but given the things that Evan had said, the things that he'd hinted at a few times, Valerie knew that Cain wasn't nearly the influence on his son as Gin had been . . .

Or maybe Cain had been more of an influence than anyone believed, only not in the obvious way.  Maybe Evan had spent his life trying to be the opposite of the things that he perceived his father to be.  The problem was, as far as Valerie could tell, Cain Zelig was every bit as decent and kind as Evan himself was.

"What are you doing out here, V?"

Valerie didn't turn as Evan stepped outside behind her.  Still wearing his tux though he'd lost the bowtie and had undone the top two buttons on his shirt, he closed the door and wandered over to the heavy stone wall that surrounded the balcony.

"Just thinking," she replied.  "You were right.  It's beautiful out here."

"I told you," he said.

"You said you'd get me one of those," she said quietly, nodding at the stars that hung so near and yet so far away.

Evan chuckled as he brushed away a thick layer of snow and sat down, one foot dangling a few inches off the floor, the other resting flat, knee bent, his profile silhouetted in the weak light of the sliver of a moon that glowed more dimly than the stars.  "Which one do you want?" he asked, his voice just as quiet as hers.

"Hmm," she said, rubbing her arms as she pulled the blanket tight once again.  "Let me think about it a while, Roka.  I'll get back to you."

Nodding slowly, he sighed, his breath solidifying in a thick fog the instant it left his lips.

Lowering her gaze, she stared at him, mesmerized by the sight of him, sitting on that wall.  If he was feeling the chill of the night air, he didn't show it.  A lifetime of images, she'd seen earlier in the day.  She'd spent hours before the party, looking at those photo albums and then watching a succession of home movies.  It was crazy, wasn't it?  So many pictures, so many different moments, captured on film, captured in home movies . . .

"Tell me something, Roka," she said, tilting her head back, staring up at the skies.

"What's that?"

"What's it like to be you?"

Her question seemed to have caught him off-guard.  He didn't answer right away, but whether he was trying to figure out exactly what she was asking him or formulating his response, she didn't know.   "What do you mean?" he finally asked.

Bobbing her shoulders in a little shrug, she shuffled over to him and let him pull her into his lap, welcoming the warmth of him as she braced herself against the air and quickly opened the blanket to wrap over him, too.   "Your family," she explained simply enough.  "What's it like to be that loved?"

"Loved?" he echoed.  He sounded genuinely surprised, and Valerie wasn't entirely sure why that would have been.  He considered that for a long moment, and then he shook his head.  "Mama, you mean?"

"No," she said, wiggling around enough so that she could get a look at his face.  Half hidden in shadows, half bathed in the blue-gray darkness . . . "All of your family.  They all love you."

He heaved a long sigh, closing his eyes for a moment, continuing to shake his head.  "Mama and Jilli love me, I guess," he allowed.  "Cain and Bubby tolerate me, at best."

"No," she countered, tucking her head under his chin.  "They all love you.  Anyone can see it."

He chuckled.  There was a hint of sadness behind the sound, but there was no irony, no real contention.  Abruptly, he lifted her, cradling her against him as he stood up and strode to the doors.  The warmth of the house was welcome, and she figured that he'd set her back on her feet.  He didn't.  He closed the distance to the bed and deposited her there before hurrying back over to close the door.

Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he leaned back against the glass, his gaze far away, looking back over time, seeing a past that she couldn't.  "I used to think that Bubby was the best thing on earth when I was little," he admitted.  "Tried to follow him everywhere . . . never wanted him to leave me behind . . ." Suddenly, he laughed—a warm sound—a sad sound.  "I just . . ." His laughter died away, and all that was left was a sense of melancholy that Valerie could feel as though it were a real thing.  "I wanted to be as good as him . . . just once . . ."

"And you don't think you are?" she prompted when he trailed off.

"Not good enough for ol' Cain," he said.  "I've never been good enough for him."

"Aren't you over-exaggerating a little?" she asked him pointedly.

"Not really," he replied.

"But it's not a one-way street, you know . . . You could've gone with them to cut down the tree.  It's not like I would've minded if you'd left me alone for a while," she pointed out.

He pivoted slowly, stared at her for a long moment.  "I wasn't invited," he replied simply.

Valerie frowned, unsure what he meant by that.  Shaking her head, she met his gaze, tried to discern the mysterious blankness of his features, the strangely matter-of-fact statement . . . "Invited?"

He shrugged as if he were trying to convince her that it didn't matter.  "Never have been," he said.  "It was always a Cain-Bubby thing."

That puzzled her even more.  "But Gavin and Bailey went with them," she began slowly.

"'Course they did," he said.  Why did he sound almost . . . bitter?  "I'm the only one who never goes."

"Why?" she asked.  There had to be more to it than what he was saying, didn't there?  They couldn't deliberately leave him out; not when the other 'men' in the family all went along . . .

"Like I care," he scoffed, a sudden defiance, a certain belligerence entering his tone, his demeanor.  "I enjoy making cookies with Mama.  So what?  It's just another example of the same shit, just like when Cain stuck me down in the basement.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?"

"Are you sure about that?" she asked, unable to completely reconcile his belief with the things that she'd come to learn since being here.  The look on Cain's face as he'd stared at that painting; the sadness, the worry . . . He cared a hell of a lot, didn't he?  He cared far more than Evan gave him credit for . . . "I think he loves you," she ventured.  "I think he loves you just as much as he loves your brother and sisters."

"V . . ." Drawing a deep breath, letting it out in a heavy sigh, Evan sounded exasperated.  He sounded like he was struggling to get a grip on his emotions.  "You looked at the photo albums, right?  The ones from when I was a baby?"

"Yes," she replied with a frown as she tugged the slippers off her feet and dropped them beside the bed.

He nodded, using his shoulders to lever himself away from the doors.  He strode over then helped her peel the blankets on the bed back so that she could slip under them.  "Did you notice anything weird about the pictures?"

"No," she admitted, catching his hand and tugging gently to get him to sit down beside her.  "What was I supposed to notice?"

Draping the jacket that he'd just pulled off over the back of a nearby chair, Evan took his time as he unfastened his cuffs then sat down on the edge of the bed to remove his shoes.  "Lots of pictures of Mama holding me, right?"

She thought about it and nodded.  "Yeah."

"Some of Bubby holding me . . .?"

"Okay."

"Other relatives, too."

She nodded again.  "Yes, which just proves my point.  Of course your family loves you!  Why do you think—?"

"Was there even one where Cain was holding me?"

She opened her mouth to tell him that he was being ridiculous, that he was imagining things that just weren't there, but it had struck her at the time, hadn't it?  Maybe she hadn't realized exactly what it was, but she'd noticed.  Somewhere in the back of her mind, she'd wondered why something about those pictures had seemed off . . . because in those pictures that did show Cain, he was always  . . . holding Jillian . . . but . . . but that couldn't be right, could it?

"Cain had his perfect son, didn't he?" Evan went on, but what bothered Valerie the most was not what he was saying.  No, it was the simple tone of his voice that bothered her because Evan . . . He was used to it, whatever 'it' really was . . . "I told you, didn't I?  He never wanted me.  Mama did."

She wanted to say something—wanted to tell him that he was being ridiculous, that of course he was wrong.  She couldn't, though, could she?  It didn't matter, what she knew or didn't know.  It was all what Evan thought, what Evan believed, and he truly believed that his own father hadn't ever wanted him . . .

So she did the only thing she could do.  Sitting up, she crawled over, slipping her arms around him, hugging his back tightly, her cheek resting on his shoulder, hoping, praying that he could understand what she was trying to tell him.

He sat still for several moments, but finally tugged her arms away from him as he turned around and stretched out on the bed beside her.  She didn't fight him when he pulled her down, pulled her close to him.  "Don't be sad, V," he told her quietly, pressing her head against his shoulder with one hand, his fingers buried in her hair.  "I told you before, it's no big thing."

Valerie bit her lip, snuggled closer to him, realizing on some level, just how pathetic her attempts to comfort him really were.  It was a big thing, wasn't it?  To Evan, it was . . . As much as he might say that it didn't bother him, that he didn't care, it did, and she knew it, and even if she knew—knew—that he had parts of it wrong, it wasn't her place to tell him that.  She couldn't berate him or try to make him see what she saw.  In many ways, he was just as hurt, just as confused, as she was, and that she could completely appreciate.

Or maybe it was worse, really.  At least she'd been able to take charge of the situation, breaking all ties with a family that had never wanted her, but Evan?  For all of his outrageous behavior, for all of his bravado, and for all the fronts he put up to hide his true feelings, he couldn't; not from her . . .

The only thing she really could do for him was the same thing that he'd done for her: to listen to him, to encourage him, to try to understand his point of view.

But . . .

"I think I worry about him more than I've worried about the rest of my kids, combined . . . He's always done whatever his heart tells him to do . . . It's always seems to work out for him in the end . . . I just . . . I hope it always does."

Cain did love Evan, didn't he?  He loved him just as much as he loved his other children.  In that moment, seeing the emotion in the man that Evan refused to call 'Dad' . . . She'd seen it then.  The problem was that the one person who needed to see it could not.   Somewhere along the line, Evan had come to the misguided understanding that he was the odd one out, that he was the one who had never really belonged, and then . . . and then he'd gone out of his way to make sure that his feelings were justified.

"V?"

"Hmm?"

She felt his lips against her forehead.  "I'm glad you came with me."

"Me, too," she agreed.  "You know what I like best about you?"

"My huge pecker?"

She snorted but giggled.  "No," she stated flatly despite her amusement at his warped and twisted sense of humor.  "Be serious."

He snorted, too.  "There is nothing more serious on earth than a man's pecker," he pointed out.

"Such a jerk," she muttered.  "Why are you such a jerk?"

Evan chuckled and kissed her forehead again.  "I don't know, V.  Why were you in my bushes?"

Pushing herself up on her elbows so that she could properly glower at him, she wrinkled her nose.  "See what I mean?  Jerk."

He laughed and leaned up to kiss the tip of her nose.  "Sorry, baby.  You just keep pitching, and I just keep smacking 'em right out of the park . . ."

She rolled her eyes but flopped back down against his chest with a longsuffering sigh.  "Now, see?  I was trying to be serious, and you're ruining the moment," she complained.

"Aww," Evan drawled, adjusting his hold on her.  "Okay, I'll be good . . . Tell me what it is that you like best about me."

She grumbled under her breath at the indulgent tone of his voice.

"Tell me; tell me," he coaxed, twitching his arm to joggle her.

"You're warm," she replied, unconsciously snuggling closer to him with the admission.  "Really warm."

"Yeah?  You think so?"

She nodded, closing her eyes for a moment to savor the warmth of him.  "Mhmm . . ."

"You want me to go make you some hot chocolate or something?"

Her hands closed around the fabric of his shirt—a futile effort to keep him exactly where he was, lest he should try to get up.  "No," she said, much to his amusement.  "Don't you dare."

"All right," he agreed with a chuckle.  "What about Mayfair?  He's not warm enough for you?"

Valerie shook her head, her death-grip on his shirt relaxing by degrees, and she giggled.  "Marvin?  Are you kidding?  He's got the coldest feet, ever . . . and he always steals the blankets."

Evan snorted.  "That's grounds for castration," he pointed out.

Valerie laughed.

"You know, I'd be happy to make sure you're warm for the rest of your life," he mused.

"I know," she replied, and this time, it was her tone of voice that was entirely indulgent.   "When I marry you, right?"

"That's right," he agreed.  "By the way, was that a 'yes'?"

Heaving another sigh, Valerie shook her head.  "No," she said firmly.

Evan grunted.  "Can't blame a guy for trying."

Valerie reached up, grasping a handful of his hair and giving it a good, healthy tug.

"Ouch, woman!" he complained.

"Like that hurt, Roka," she shot back.  A big yawn interrupted her, and she closed her eyes.  "Now shut up, will you?  Some of us are trying to go to sleep."

He chuckled softly and shifted just enough to pull her a little closer.  "Okay, okay.  Night, V."

She yawned again.  "Night."


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A/N:
'Carry on Wayward Son' originally appeared on Kansas' 1976 release, Leftoverture.  Song written by and copyrighted to Kerry Livgren.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Hmmdefinitely better than an electric blanket
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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 120
Chapter 122
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