InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ A Single Light ( Chapter 123 )

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


'All alone in the dark –no walls or windows
'Trying hard to define – heaven from hell
'See my life going by – each moment I am alive
'I keep reaching out, holding on, hoping somewhere in my life
'There's one light burning …'

-'One Light Burning' by Richie Sambora.


"You warm enough?"

Valerie tilted her head, sent Evan a sidelong glance as the barest hint of a smile quirked the corners of her lips.  "I suppose," she drawled, snuggling a little deeper into the thick white pelt lap blanket that she'd brought with her out of the sleigh.

Evan paused as he moved to drop another log onto the fire he'd built.  Long enough to grin at her in that endearingly shy sort of way—the rare smiles that never failed to make her heart do a strange little somersault in her chest that she invariably ignored.  "That fur brings out the green in your eyes."

She blinked and stared at him for a long moment, unsure why his off the cuff observation was enough to bring a measure of heat to her cheeks.  Maybe it was just the way that he tended to notice the small things about her, or maybe . . .

"Been dipping into the wine, have you?" she challenged dryly in a very obvious attempt to change the subject.

He laughed and sank down on his haunches beside her.  "Naw, but now that you mention it . . ."

"Hmm," she murmured as he reached across her to nab the opened bottle of wine beside her.  "No manners at all."

"Sorry," he replied with a broad grin that betrayed his lack of contrition in the matter.  "I forgot the glasses."

She smiled and shook her head.  "Well, considering you managed to pack an entire lunch and round up a sleigh just to bring me out here, I suppose I can't complain too much."

His grin widened.  "Liked that, did you?" he asked, sounding inordinately pleased with himself.

"It's not every day that someone takes me for a ride on Christmas Eve in a . . . What's the phrase?  Oh yes . . . a one-horse open sleigh.  In fact, the only thing missing so far is the falling snow," she quipped, taking back the bottle of wine and carefully tipping it to her lips.

Which was true enough.  Her first reaction to seeing the polished wooden sleigh was to clap her hands over her mouth and laugh.  Of all the things she'd thought he'd produce, that simply hadn't been one of them.  She really should have guessed, though.  After all, Evan was very, very good at making those things that young girls always thought were romantic, even if they were somewhat cheesy, happen.

As if the sleigh hadn't been enough, it had been heaped with thick, white fur blankets to keep her warm during the ride, and then he'd handed her a thermos full of steaming hot coffee, and they'd set off through the crisp, thin winter sunlight.

Their destination had rather surprised her, though.  It wasn't far from the Zelig estate—a couple of miles, at best: a lonely lighthouse situated on a cliff that looked out over the open water.  Run down and neglected, there was something sad about the place.  Crumbling in places, gaping wide holes in the roof over the house portion of the building, she was surprised to see that the giant stone hearth still stood strong, rising out of the darkened gloom, the dusty half-light that seemed somehow surreal, like a warped dreamscape . . . or a hazy fairy tale land . . .

As though he comprehended the direction of her thoughts, Evan's gaze lifted, scanning the ceiling high overhead—or what was left of it, anyway.  Patches of brighter gray daylight skies that threatened snow that had yet to fall dappled the hazy dimness inside the decrepit old building, and Valerie had wondered more than once if it really was safe to be inside here, but Evan seemed to think that it was, and while she wasn't sure that he completely agreed with him, she couldn't deny the sense of safety that she felt whenever she was with him.

"I love this place," Evan ventured quietly, a tone of voice that she hadn't heard him use very often.  There was a completely unguarded quality to it, a gentleness that he normally hid beneath layers of bravado.  "Used to come out here a lot when I was younger."

"Your thinking place?" she mused, tugging the blanket closer under her chin.

He shrugged offhandedly.  "Guess so," he allowed at length.  Stealing a sidelong glance at her, he grinned.  "You're only the second chick I've brought along, you know.  You should be grateful—maybe a little kiss-kiss or something for my thoughtfulness?"

Valerie snorted and rolled her eyes, her hand shooting up to smash into his face when he tried to lean in for a smooch.  "Back off, lover boy," she retorted dryly despite the hint of a smile on her face, too.  "Maddy, I presume?"

"Yep," he quipped easily enough.  "Sometimes she'd follow me.  Most of the time, I came here alone.  There's a spectacular view from the top of the lighthouse . . . You can look out over the water for miles . . ."

The smile on her face didn't fade as she scooted a little closer to him.  Despite the layers of clothes and blankets, not to mention the roaring fire that Evan had built, the stone floor was cold, and Evan, she knew, was always, always warm.  "I'll bet this place was beautiful back in the day," she murmured, letting him slip an arm around her to tug her a little closer against him.  "It's a shame that it's so run down now."

He chuckled.  "I used to think that I'd buy it one day and totally restore it, right?"  Heaving a sigh, he shook his head then shrugged once more as the wistfulness in his expression dissipated.  "Too busy right now, though."

She fell silent for a few minutes since there wasn't really much she could say to that.  He was busy, she knew, and as much as she liked to say that all he did was play around, she knew better, and she knew it first-hand.  He leaned to the side to pull the wicker basket over—the one he'd pulled the bottle of wine out of when they'd first arrived.  He managed to produce a box of very thin wafer-like crackers and some cheese that he'd already sliced and packed into a plastic container for the trip.

"Here you go," he said, offering her a slice of the cheese on one of the wafers, only to pull his hand away when she started to reach for it.  "Ah-ah," he chided, his smile back in place.  "No need to freeze your hands, right?  Just open your mouth."

It was on the tip of her tongue to argue with him, but she sighed and let him feed her.  After all, her hands were nice and toasty under the fur . . .

"Did I tell you how glad I am that you decided to blow off Monkey to come with me?" Evan went on, his grin widening broadly.

"It's Marvin, Roka, and I didn't blow him off, remember?" she pointed out without the rancor that the statement should have held.

He snorted.  "All right, fine, he blew you off.  Whatever, and—"

"Unless he has control of the weather, he did no such thing," she interrupted.  "Don't be mean."

Evan grunted and stuffed a cracker into his mouth, but refrained from further comment, much to her relief.  He must've decided he needed a little longer, though, because he ate three more crackers before he dared to glance at her again.  "I just don't fucking get him," he finally grumbled.  "If you were mine, I swear to God, I'd never let you out of my sight, ever."

"Oh, and that wouldn't drive me nuts," she muttered with a muted snort of her own.  "You'd drive me crazy—and not in a good way."

Suddenly, he chuckled, pinning her with that blinding smile of his.  "Ah, how little you know, woman.  I'll drive you crazy, and you'll love it, I promise."

It took her a moment to fight down the livid blush that his words inspired in her as she stared at him, and her slight shaking of her head wasn't nearly as strong as she'd have liked for it to be.  Something about the husky, almost caressing tone of his voice . . . Under the cover of the fur blanket, she rubbed her arms to chase away the goose bumps that had formed all over her skin.  "Pass the crackers, Roka," she managed as she forced her gaze away.  Her voice, at least, sounded stronger than she felt, and for that, she was grateful.  As much as she hated to admit it, Evan Zelig could disarm her very, very easily . . .

Too easily . . .


"Isn't your mom going to be upset that you've spent so much time out here today?" Valerie ventured as she stared into the dancing flames of the fire.

Evan let his head fall back and rolled it from side to side as his eyes closed.  "Nah.  The house is probably full to the gills with people.  She won't even notice that we're not there."

"Ri-i-i-ight," Valerie drawled, obviously not impressed with his claim.  "Her most precious baby boy?  And you say she won't notice?"

His grin widened.  "Eh, she's probably ass-deep in gift wrapping for the children's hospital . . . or she's still beating on Cain . . ."

His comment reminded her of the fighting she'd witnessed before he'd dragged her off, and she sat up a little straighter, her eyebrows drawing together in a thoughtful frown.  "Your family isn't normal," she stated flatly, as though it was a foregone conclusion.  "I can't believe your mother was actually fighting with your father like that . . ."

"Just be glad I got you out of there before she managed to strip off his clothes," Evan pointed out.

She blinked and leveled a dubious look on him.  He laughed.  "You think I'm kidding, but I'm totally not.  You have no idea how many times I've seen Cain naked over the years.  Scarred me for life; damned if it didn't.  'Course, it's not usually because of Mama sparring with him.  Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time she actually got him to fight her, anyway . . . Maybe he's going to try to tell her that it was an early Christmas present or some stupid shit . . ."

Valerie rolled her eyes but giggled in spite of herself.   "As if," she scoffed.

Evan nodded.  "He would, you know.  For as much money as he has, he's a damn cheapskate, just so you know."

She rolled her eyes again.  "Somehow, I don't really believe you."

He nodded a little more vigorously.  "He is; he is!  He's so damn cheap that he makes his own wrapping paper for Christmas, too!  You'll see!"

She snorted in response, fluttering a hand under the blanket dismissively.  "Now you're just being ridiculous."

"Okay," he relented a little too innocently.  "You'll see for yourself tomorrow, won't you?"

"Hmm, and here I wanted to do some last minute shopping," Valerie mused.  Judging from the sound of her voice, she was close to dozing off.  Ordinarily, that'd be a fine thing, but he could feel that the air was growing a little colder, and he knew well enough that Decembers in Maine tended to be fairly unpredictable, as far as the weather was concerned, but he couldn't help the hint of reluctance that assailed him as he heaved a sigh and pushed himself to his feet.  "We can do that," he allowed, extending a hand to help her to her feet.   "You should've told me a few days ago.  The stores are going to be nuts today."

Valerie blinked and seemed to shake herself as though to wake up a little more.  "Last minute shopping stinks, but I wanted to get a feel for your family first," she agreed, slipping a hand into his to let him pull her to her feet without losing too much of the warmth that the blanket provided.  "I saw some really pretty little dresses for Olivia the other day, but she's already got so many of them."

Evan stooped down to retrieve a metal bucket sand near the hearth then slowly poured the contents over the dying fire.  "Yeah, it never occurs to Bubby that she'd be warmer in pants."

"Bas is the one who buys her dresses?"

Evan shot her a grin as he straightened up once more.  "Not all of them.  Just the girly-girl ones."

She didn't look like she believed him, and he chuckled.  "If you haven't noticed, Sydnie's not exactly a lace and frills type girl," he pointed out.

Valerie wrinkled her nose, still not looking entirely convinced.  "Just because someone isn't a lace and frills type doesn't mean she wouldn't buy those kinds of dresses for her daughter, don't you think?"

Sparing a moment to scratch his chin thoughtfully, Evan chuckled.  "Sure," he allowed at length, "'cept I know that it's Bubby, first hand."

"You went shopping with him, did you?"

His chuckle escalated.  "Nope, but I've heard Sydnie saying that she has to buy Olivia play clothes because Bubby doesn't, and that she's glad he's got money because he spends more on dresses at one go for Livvy than she does on herself in a year."

Uttering a rather incredulous laugh, Valerie shook her head.  She still didn't seem like she believed him, but that was all right.  It was kind of fun to tell her things, even true things, that made her wonder if he'd lost some of his marbles.

He took her hand and helped her navigate her way across the broken floor, careful to keep her well away from the weakened edges of the few holes here and there.  In the years since he'd left home, the place had gone downhill a lot faster than he'd have thought possible, if he had stopped to think about it at all.  It was sad, really.  He had very fond memories of the lighthouse—of sitting up below the non-functioning light high at the top of the tower, staring off into space as he dreamed of what his life was going to be . . .

When he'd told Valerie that she was only the second woman he'd brought out here, he hadn't been lying, but it might have been more interesting to her if he had added that he hadn't actually brought Madison out here, exactly.  More often than not, she'd followed him, and he simply hadn't bothered to let her know that he would prefer to be alone.  After all, Madison knew him better than anyone else on earth and always had.  Sure, he'd brought Dieter and Bone out here a few times, but for some reason, neither of them had actually come with him more than a handful of times.  It was all right with him.  Didn't everyone need a place where they could be alone—really alone?

Valerie's grip on his hand tightened as she laughed quietly, lifting her face to stare up at the sky and the first light flakes of snow that had started to fall when they'd stepped outside.  The happiness in her expression reminded him of a little girl on Christmas morning, and she tugged against him to stop him for a long minute while she appreciated the beauty.  Golden hair unbound, tumbling down her back, whipping around in the rising wind that was oddly warm for this time of year, she seemed to glow against the grayish-white backdrop as her breath clouded the moment it left her lips, only to dissipate into nothing at all.  The horse, tethered to a thicket of trees nearby that provided a very nice makeshift shelter, whinnied and ducked her head in quiet greeting.

He'd wanted to bring Valerie out here, hadn't he?  He'd wanted to share this, one of the most personal places he had, with her—only with her.

And being here with her?  Damned if it wasn't one of the most peaceful things he'd done in quite a while . . .


"Hey, V, check this out!"

Glancing up from the two baby dolls she'd been comparing, she glanced at Evan, only to do a double take when she realized what he was doing.  "Oh, my God, Roka.  You're going to get us thrown out of here," she predicted under her breath as she stuck the dolls back on the shelf again and turned to give him her full attention.  "What are you?  Five?"

He grinned and held out the container of Sooper Snot day-glow green slime.  "You should get this for Bailey.  Swear to God, Bubby'd love that."

She crossed her arms over her chest and refused to reach for the plastic tub.  "Should you really be hopping around on that pogo stick through the store?" she countered mildly.

His grin widened.  "Are you kidding?  How do you know if you want to buy something if you can't try it out first?"

That earned him a very pronounced rolling-of-the-eyes.  "I'm pretty sure you weigh a lot more than a kid who would be getting that would weigh," she pointed out.

"Yeah, don't be jealous just because you can't do this as good as I can," he jeered.

Those eyes of hers narrowed dangerously.  "Don't think that I don't know what you're doing, Roka," she replied.  "I do, and it's not going to work."

"And what do you think I'm doing, pretty lady?"

She snorted indelicately.  "You're trying to get me onto that so that I can prove you wrong," she stated.  "I'm not falling for it, buddy."

"Ah, you think so poorly of me, woman," he complained, managing to turn the pogo stick around without dismounting.  "I'm going back to the fun section.  See you!"

Valerie shook her head slowly as he hopped back down the busy aisle, heading for the boys' toy area, she supposed.  It was only after he was out of view that she cracked a little smile.  As if there were any doubt in her mind that he wasn't normal, he'd proved it tenfold during the last hour that they'd been in Walker's Toy Emporium.  Bad enough that the place was absolutely packed with last minute shoppers like her, but he kept coming over to show her 'cool stuff' while riding things that he really shouldn't be on.  The first time, it had been a stick pony that neighed whenever the end of the stick hit the floor.  After that was the GI Joe army Jeep that looked entirely ridiculous, given that the battery-operated machine was much too small for his lanky frame—so much so that his legs were flopped over either side of the vehicle.  The last time, it was a pastel pink scooter with white and pink tassels on the handlebars.  She wasn't sure what he'd manage to get the next time he showed up, but she didn't put anything past him . . .

In fact, she figured it was a good thing that she was nearly finished shopping.  She'd already chosen a huge, fancy fire truck for Bailey.  It operated on eight D cell batteries and came complete with flashing lights, obnoxious siren, and a water reservoir hidden on the bottom that shot real jets of water out of the two-foot rubber hoses that were neatly wrapped around pegs on the side when not in use.  She thought it was pretty cool, and Evan had said that Bailey would love it.  Evan had stayed behind in the boys' section while she'd moved on to find something that Olivia might like.

Evan had said that Olivia loved baby dolls, which Valerie supposed wasn't really surprising.  She would have loved to have gotten any of those dolls herself when she was Olivia's age.

It was fun to shop for children.  That was something that Valerie hadn't realized before.  She'd never actually done any such thing.  To be completely honest, she didn't really remember going to the store very often, let alone during the holiday shopping season when she was young.  Her parents, of course, hadn't had the time or money to bother.  It never seemed to be important to them, and even after she'd been taken into protective custody, her first few homes had enough other foster children that taking one or two of them along to the store just wasn't something that seemed to cross their minds.

Sad, when she stopped to think about it.  The first Christmas tree that she remembered seeing was in her classroom at school or in store display windows—always out of reach—and she'd thought for the longest time that they were something special, something that ordinary families didn't have in their homes.

A half-forgotten memory flickered to life somewhere deep inside her; the faded and hazy remnant that was more of an image than an actual progression of events.  She'd made an angel at school, hadn't she?  A silly angel fashioned out of a white paper cone like the kind of cheap funnels that one could pick up at a gas station for car oil, some white tissue paper cut into tiny squares and smashed over the end of a pencil, dipped into glue, and carefully affixed to the inverted funnel, paper and popsicle stick wings, a Styrofoam ball head, yellow yarn hair, a gold pipe cleaner bent around to form a halo . . .

She'd been so proud of that silly angel, and her mother had smiled when she saw it.  Together they'd set it on top of the television.  They'd taped one of her little socks to the stand that the television sat on, and on Christmas morning?  She'd been so pleased to see the small lumps in the toe of the sock, hadn't she?  Five peppermint disc candies like the kind that filled the wicker basket on the counter at the bank the one time she'd gone in there with her father to cash one of his pay checks, and a dime-store cheap plastic makeup kit adorned with butterfly stickers that contained two different flavors of lip gloss poured into the two little compartments: one shaped like a heart, the other like a diamond . . .

And how happy had she been with that?  She'd spent hours putting on the garish purple lip gloss, wiping it off with a bit of tissue so that she could apply the bright orange shade instead . . . She'd done that so many times that her lips were dry, chafed from the tissue, but . . .

But she'd been so pleased when her father had smiled a little dopily—she'd realized later that he had to have been high on something—and said that she looked just as pretty as her mama . . .

"Check this out!  Check this out!"

Blinking away the last of the lingering memory, Valerie shook her head when she noticed Evan had returned and was busy, shoving a big, stuffed Power Puppy in her face, but that wasn't what got her attention.  No, what had done it was the huge blue rubber hopper-ball that he was currently bouncing up and down on that did it.  "Oh, jeez, Roka," she muttered.  "You're so infantile . . ."

He grinned.  "You think so?  They got a pink one over there, you know."

"Absolutely not," she insisted.

"Oh, come on, V!  Live a little!  When's the last time you played in a toy store?"

Wrinkling her nose, Valerie shook her head again.  "Never," she admitted, "and I don't intend to start now."

"Are you afraid that you'll look stupid?" he countered.

"Not nearly as stupid as you do," she shot back smoothly.

Evan's grin widened.  "How 'bout it, baby?  Wanna take a ride on my ball?"

She tried not to laugh at him.  She really, really did.  Staring too long at the absolutely silly expression on his face, however, was too much, and she couldn't help the giggle that slipped from her.  A woman with a couple kids in her cart paused long enough to cast Evan a very exasperated look, and he, in turn, pinned her with what had to be the cheesiest smile, ever, but he didn't stop bouncing, either.  A second later, the once grouchy looking woman smiled, too, uttering a soft laugh that grated on Valerie's nerves.  'Damn flirt,' she scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest and raising an eyebrow at the man in question that he missed entirely since he wasn't even looking at her at the moment.

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to get off the merchandise."

Valerie's eyes shifted to the side, only to come to rest on the small man who was hurrying down the aisle toward them with a very disapproving expression on his rather haggard face.

"I was just trying it out," Evan replied without standing up.  If anything, he bounced a little faster.  "I mean, it'd be bad if it busted on my nephew, wouldn't it?"

The manager scratched the back of his head in an entirely exasperated sort of way.  "I'm sure that as long as your nephew fits within the size requirements, it'll be just fine without you trying it out," he insisted.

Evan rolled his eyes but relented.  The manager nodded curtly and hurried away.  Once he rounded the end of the aisle, however, Evan plopped back down on the hopper-ball once more.

Valerie sighed.  He just never, ever learned, did he . . .?

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'One Light Burning' originally appeared on Richie Sambora's 1991 release, Stranger in this Town.  Song written by and copyrighted to Richie Sambora, Bruce Foster, and Tommy Marolda.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Silly1 ------ fanfic7inu ------ theablackthorn ------ Tashwampa ------ monkeyseemonkeynodo ------ sunshine161820 ------ Kilikina616 ------ halestj ------ lilswtheart9811
Mangaluva ------ cutechick18 ------ Shiratsuki ------ indigorrain ------ GoodyKags ------ sueroxmysox ------ FriskyPixie
Thought from Valerie:
He's a lost cause
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.

Chapter 122
Chapter 124
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