InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Christmas ( Chapter 126 )

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


- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'The angel Gabriel from heaven came
'His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame
''All hail!' said he, 'thou lowly maiden, Mary
''Most highly favored lady.' Gloria …'

-'Gabriel's Message' by Sting.

-Evan-


The strangest sensation woke Evan.  It felt like . . . fingers . . .? on his knee?

"Y'know, V, if you really want to wake me up, you could head a little north . . ." he mumbled without opening his eyes.

Beside him, Valerie rolled over, dragging the blankets with her.  "Sh'up, Roka," she slurred, more asleep than awake.  "Sleepin'."

He chuckled.  So did a very small, very girly voice.  "Candy?"

Eyes flashing open, he sat straight up, blinking quickly as the little face came into focus.  "Well, hey," he greeted, reaching over to pull the four-year-old onto the bed and grudgingly thanking God that he'd put on a pair of sweat pants before trying to crawl into Valerie's bed the night before.  To be completely honest, he'd been half-scared that she'd lock her door and not speak to him again until well after they went back to the city.  After the incident in the living room, he wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  She hadn't freaked out, though, and for that, he was grateful.  In fact, her lack of a real reaction kind of surprised him.  He wasn't sure if it was because she was the one who had instigated the kissing or because she knew well enough that his father was in the kitchen nearby, but she'd smiled, albeit a bit stiffly, and told him that she thought she'd go on to bed.

"Come on, Roka," she'd said as she headed for the doorway.  "You can tell me some more of your stories until I fall asleep."

And he had . . .

"Can't say that I've got any candy on me at the moment, but I'm pretty sure that Santa probably left some for you downstairs."

Unable to ignore the commotion, Valerie sat up, rubbing her eyes.  "There's a little girl in my bed," she stated rather flatly.  "Evan?  Who does she belong to?"

Evan chuckled.  "My cousin—or niece, if you'd rather.  She's her little girl.  Right, Tanny?"

Tanny giggled when Evan rubbed his slightly stubbly cheek against her baby smooth one.  "Has Santa Claus been here yet?" he asked, arching an eyebrow as he cuddled Tanny for a minute.

Her large dark eyes widened solemnly, and she shook her head.  Evan sighed, remembering a moment too late that Gin had told him that Tanny had been terrified of the Santa Claus that Kurt and Sami had taken her to see.  "Why don't you run on downstairs?" he suggested, hoping that she'd forget about the disastrous meeting with the big guy before the presents started being passed out.  "I'll bet you anything that my mama has candy in the kitchen for you."

Tanny giggled, Santa Claus obviously forgotten, and scooted off the bed before dashing out of the room.

Valerie watched her go as a smile tugged at the corners of her lips.  "She's really cute."

"Tanny?  Of course she is," he scoffed, tossing the blankets back and nearly tumbling off the bed.

Valerie, however, wasn't nearly as quick to get up.  "Tanny?  Is that some kind of family name?" she asked with a frown.

Evan laughed.  "No, actually," he said, grinning when she tugged the blankets back up over her raised knees.  "That was her first word."

"Tanny?" Valerie echoed, looking adorably confused.

He shrugged, sticking his hands over his head to stretch.  "Sam and Kurt adopted her, and she was a little behind for her age.  Anyway, Kurt kind of found her and then bribed her into being good using candy, and, well, you get the picture, right?"

Valerie thought that over then giggled.  "So she was trying to say 'candy'."

"Yeah, but 'Tanny' is cuter, don't you think?"

She opened her mouth to answer but was cut off when the door sprang open, and Bailey bounced into the room, still wearing his pajamas.  Launching himself from just inside the threshold and directly into Evan's arms, the boy laughed and hopped up and down.  "Come on, Evan!" he insisted.  "Daddy says we can't open presents till you're downstairs, too!"

"Hey, now, don't look at me," Evan complained with a cheesy grin.  "She's the one who's still in bed, isn't she?  You'd better convince her to get up, don't you think?"

That was enough prompting for Bailey.  He wiggled around until Evan set him down on the bed, then he crawled over to Valerie and gave her his best pleading look.  "Please, Aunt V?" he asked, sticking his bottom lip out for good measure.

He was relatively certain that he was going to die just as soon as Valerie had a moment to dispose of his body without anyone being the wiser.  Still, he had to hand it to her.  The woman didn't bat an eyelash as she mussed Bailey's hair with a bright smile on her face and hopped out of bed.  Less than five minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom in a pair of jeans and an oversized fisherman's sweater, hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, absolutely no makeup at all, and somehow managing to look entirely gorgeous, all the same.  "Okay, Bailey," she said, sticking out her hand to him.  "Let's go see what Santa brought you."

Bailey squealed in excitement, scooting off the bed and grabbing Valerie's hand to yank her toward the door.  Evan watched her go with a smile on his face as he tugged a tee-shirt over his head and followed them out of the room.


-Valerie-


Picking up a piece of wrapping paper that was still in pretty good shape, Valerie bit her lip as she turned it over in her hands, hating the idea of shoving the beautiful paper into the trash bag but feeling as though she was being a little too sentimental about it.  After all, Cain himself had picked up a number of scraps here and there and didn't miss a beat as he stuffed the paper into the trash bag.

Still . . .

Oh, sure, Evan had told her that his father tended to make his own wrapping paper, and she'd believed him.  She just hadn't expected that the designs he'd created would be so gorgeous, to the point that she hadn't wanted to open the present that Gin sat in her lap—a beautiful, old fashioned looking wooden music box that was so intricately carved that she'd been reluctant to accept it at first.  But the paper?  There had to have been about fifty hand-painted tiny Christmas trees adorning that paper, each one glowing with the magic of a true artist's hand.  Evan had told her that it was watercolors.  Valerie had carefully folded that piece of paper and stuck it inside the small drawer of the music box . . .

Everyone else was outside, helping Bailey with the small three-wheeler that Sydnie had bought for him despite the reluctant expression on Bas' face.  That she'd also bought a small cart to hook to the back of it for Olivia was rather disturbing, in Valerie's estimation.  Then again, what did she really know about parenting?  Surely Bas and Sydnie wouldn't have given something to their children that would be considered that dangerous . . .

Gin had told Valerie not to worry about cleaning up before she'd dashed outside, too.  Valerie, though, had wanted to do something useful, even if it was as silly as picking up ripped wrapping paper.

Scooping up an armload of paper off the floor, Evan seemed oblivious to Valerie's reticence.  "Hold that bag open, please," he said, striding over with his burden.

Valerie blinked and quickly opened the bag for him, watching with a frown as he stuffed the discarded wrapping paper in.  "Is that all right?" she finally asked.

Evan glanced at her, looking as though he had no idea what she was talking about.  "Is what all right?"

She shrugged.  "Throwing away all that paper.  Seems like a waste, doesn't it?"

"Nah," he insisted.  "We're bagging it separately from the rest of the trash.  Cain'll take it up to be recycled."

"No," she said, grasping his arm to stop him from stuffing more paper into the bag.  "I meant, your father put a lot of work into it, didn't he?  It doesn't seem right to throw it away."

He chuckled and took the bag from her.  "Cain will throw it away if we don't," he assured her.  "Besides, he didn't make all the paper.  Mama made some of it, and they bought the rest.  Do it every year, right?  Used to be just gifts from Santa were wrapped in the store-bought paper, but I guess they figure that they've got more presents than time to make it, so . . ."

Valerie sighed, wondering if he really didn't understand just how special she thought it was and feeling somewhat foolish for her reluctance to throw away the paper, in the first place.

"If we saved it all, we'd probably end up running out of room to keep it," he said in a much gentler tone.

Forcing a smile, Valerie shrugged, brushing off her misplaced feelings.  "I just wasn't sure; that's all," she said.

Evan stared at her for a long moment then sighed.  "You know, there was one time I saved the paper," he told her.  "I think it's still upstairs in one of my drawers, come to think of it . . ."

"You did?"

He nodded.  "Cain made this paper one year.  Looked like a bunch of dogs ran over it, you know?  Like they'd dipped their paws in paint and ran all over the place.  It was cool, so I kept it."

Valerie suddenly frowned.  During her stay, she'd put her clothes in a couple of the empty drawers, and she'd noticed it then, hadn't she?  "Your mother used it to line your drawers, didn't she?" she asked.

Evan looked a little surprised but grinned.  "Did she?  I hadn't noticed."

Which made perfect sense, too, really.  Evan had moved to the basement long ago, so it stood to reason that he might not have seen that paper, carefully cut to fit.  "And you said it was because your father's cheap," she scoffed, retrieving the torn box from a Baby-So-Real doll off the floor.  "Such a jerk . . ."

He laughed.  "Aww it's just a roll of paper and a little bit of paint."

Shaking her head, she stifled a sigh.  Four bags—four—of wrapping paper and toy boxes, and more if the children ever got around to opening more of the boxes that were piled here and there . . . Evan had straightened them up a little, piling each child's gifts together and pushing them back toward the tree so that they weren't out in the middle of the floor.

Smiling wanly, Valerie could only sigh as she recalled the general mayhem that had broken out about the moment she and Evan had strolled into the living room.  The others really must have been waiting for them because the kids tore into the nearest present before Valerie could even open her mouth to say, "Merry Christmas."

And yet there was something so warm, so happy, about the whole scene.  The laughter of children, the smiles on the faces of the adults . . . Most of the time, Cain said in a chair nearby with Gin in his lap, her arms wrapped around his neck, giggling and blushing from time to time when he whispered things into her ear.  Bas had made himself comfortable on the floor with Olivia while Bailey gladly opened the presents that Sydnie handed him.  Gavin spent much of his time, reading through the manuals of the video games Jillian had bought for him while Samantha and her husband, Kurt had helped Tanny open box after box after box.

Evan had been content to sit at the piano, playing every Christmas song he knew, sometimes singing—and occasionally using the real words, too—while Valerie sat on the bench beside him, her eyes drinking in the scene with an almost greedy abandon so that she could remember it always, this perfect Christmas.

"Your cousin's not here?" she asked as she shoved some more things into yet another bag.

"Who? Gunnar?  He'll probably be here later," he said.  "He wouldn't miss Mama's Christmas dinner for the world."

"Will there be a lot of people here?" she wondered.

Evan shrugged and sighed, planting his hands on his hips as he surveyed the tidied up living room.  "Eh, enough that Mama will probably have to open up the formal dining room."

Valerie stopped and shook her head.  "Formal dining room?" she echoed since they'd been eating their meals in what she'd thought was the dining room around a huge oak table.

He nodded.  "Yeah.  She only opens it when there are too many people for the regular dining room," he explained.  "She says she doesn't like it; that it's too 'formal'."

"How many people are going to be here?"

Again, he shrugged offhandedly.  "Well, all of us . . . Bitty and Griffin . . . Gunnar . . . Cain's friend, Ben, and Gunnar's twin sisters, Charity and Chelsea if they made it out of the city in time . . . Maddy'll probably be here, too, but maybe not in time for dinner.  She normally goes out to the children's hospital with us in the afternoon, though, and since ol' Cartham's in, her parents will probably come along, too . . ."

"In?  I thought her parents were still together," Valerie ventured as she tugged a long, red ribbon out from under the sofa.

"He travels a lot on business," Evan replied.  "But he always makes it home for Christmas."

"Hmm, I heard my name."

Valerie stood up and broke into a wide grin before hurrying across the living room to hug Madison.  "Maddy!"

Madison laughed and hugged Valerie back.  "New York City is so much grayer when you're not there," she quipped.

Valerie rolled her eyes and kissed Madison's cheek.  "Oh, it feels like I haven't seen you for years!  I missed you!"

"Wait!" Evan insisted, a stupid grin on his face.  "Let me go get my camera!  Hot damn!  Merry Christmas to me!"

Valerie snorted and glanced around for something to throw at him.  Madison stuck out her tongue.  "Don't be jealous because V loves me more than she loves you," she shot back.

"I don't care if she does," Evan agreed, his grin widening, "as long as I can watch."

"Such a pig," Madison said, waving a hand dismissively.

"Which is why you love me," he added.

Valerie sighed, but the effect was ruined a moment later when she giggled.  "Come on, Madison," Valerie said as she headed toward the archway.  "I'm going to go change for dinner, and you can catch me up on all the gossip while I do."

"What about him?" Madison asked, jerking her head in Evan's direction since he'd apparently decided that he was going to follow along.

"Back off, Roka," Valerie stated dryly.  "Girls only."

Evan heaved a sigh but grinned as the women disappeared through the doorway.


-Evan-


"Merry Christmas, Zel."

Evan blinked and turned around, smiling broadly when his gaze lit on the diminutive woman who had addressed him.  "Hey, Miss.  How's it going?"

Miss Reichardt smiled and shrugged, tucking a long strand of hair behind her ear.  "Not too bad," she admitted, her smile taking on a rueful air.  "Not as bad as I was afraid it was going to be, anyway."

"Yeah?  And Daniel?  How's he doing?"

"He's doing pretty good," she assured him, her smile brightening a few degrees.  "He still asks me where Daddy is, but I think he's starting to understand the idea that Dieter's not coming home.  Anyway, I've been meaning to tell you, I think that I'm going to buy a place up here . . . It's a nice area, it's close to Dieter's family, and Daniel's made a few friends at preschool."

Evan grinned.  Sure, she looked a little thinner, a little paler than usual, but she didn't look bad, and that was the most important thing . . . "Good."

She smiled, but her cell phone rang, and Evan excused himself to give her privacy to field the call.

As always, the Angels' Mission Children's Hospital was completely decked out for the occasion, and in the main hall, all of the children who were well enough to venture out of their rooms were gathered, waiting for their turns to sit on Santa's lap and get their presents.  This year, Isabelle had somehow managed to talk Griffin into doing the honors.  Then again, it might not have been too hard for her to do, given that Griffin tended to have a soft spot for children in general, but seeing the bear-youkai decked out as Santa?  Definitely worth the price of admission.

Even better, though, was one of the elves in particular.  He wasn't sure who had managed to talk Valerie into it, but there she was, dressed in the silliest red and green velvet elf outfit, passing out presents to all the children and, judging from the looks of it, having a good time, too.  He snapped a few pictures with his cell phone with a chuckle.  Damn, he hated to admit it, but he wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to go home.  Well, he did, of course, since he had a number of things to do, not the least of which was getting ready for the upcoming New Year's Eve concert.  Still, he couldn't help but think that the time they'd spent here in Maine had been special—really special.

She'd kissed him.

He sighed.  It didn't do any good to dwell on that, as much as he'd like to.  It was enough for him that the dynamics had changed.

'Don't be too sure of that, rock star,' his youkai voice chided.  'You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss . . .'

He snorted.  'Whose side are you on, anyway?'

'Aw, don't pout.  You know damn well I'm on our side, of course.  You're just being a little simplistic; that's all.  Sure, she kissed you, but you can't really think that the war's over.'

'Maybe not the war, but the tide's turning.  C'mon, be a little optimistic here, won't you?'

His youkai sighed.  'I'm optimistic, you know.  You're the one who never has had his feet on the ground—not that that's a bad thing because it isn't.  It's gotten us pretty far, don't you think?'

Letting out a deep breath, Evan bit his lip.  It was turning, wasn't it?  Just a matter of time before Valerie—stubborn woman that she was—admitted that she really did care for him; that she wanted him to be in her life forever, and Marvin?  He'd never know what hit him . . .

"Who are you?"

Evan blinked and glanced down then smiled.  Bailey had asked that question, but it hadn't been directed at Evan, but at a little boy with long black hair and silver eyes . . . and dimples, just like his father . . .

It took a moment for Daniel to realize that Bailey had spoken to him, and when he finally did, he frowned.  "Daniel," he answered simply enough.

"I'm Bailey," he replied, tilting his head to the side with a marked scowl.  "Are you sick?"

"Sick?" Daniel echoed, his expression looking thoroughly befuddled.  He looked just like Dieter; damned if he didn't . . . "I'm not sick."

"Then why you in the hospital?" Bailey demanded.

"I'm giving a truck to someone," he said.  "Why are you here?  Are you sick?"

Bailey drew back, looking somewhat offended.  "I'm not sick!" he insisted.  "I'm youkai!"

"I am, too," Daniel insisted then suddenly scratched his head thoughtfully.  "Well, half-youkai," he amended.  "I'm hanyou."

Bailey nodded, as though it made perfect sense.  "My grandma's hanyou," he said proudly then pointed to the other side of the room.  "That's her over there."

"She's little."

"Nuh uh!" Bailey argued then made a face.  "Well, she's littler than Daddy—that's him there."

Daniel turned to look, then blinked a few times.  "He's really big," he finally said, a note of awe in his voice.

"I'm gonna be big like him when I'm big!"

Daniel nodded slowly, solemnly.  Evan tried not to laugh.

"Where's your Daddy?" Bailey went on.

Daniel's eyebrows drew together into a frown, and his gaze dropped to the floor.  "My daddy's dead," he said simply.

Bailey frowned, too.  "What's that mean?"

"It means that he can't come home anymore," he replied.

For a moment, Evan wondered if Daniel was going to cry.  'Hell that,' he thought with an inward grimace as he blinked a few times to alleviate the sudden sting behind his own eyes.

In the end, Daniel just sighed.  "It's okay," he decided at length.  "Daddy gave me a truck because he loves me."

Bailey didn't look like he understood that, but he nodded slowly, as if it all made sense.

"Did you bring a present, too?" Daniel finally asked, apparently deciding that he'd rather talk about something else.

Bailey grinned.  "Yeah," he said, grabbing Daniel's arm to drag him away.  "I brung a football!"

"A football?  Wow!"

Evan watched as the boys headed over to the crowd of children around Griffin, a slight smile touching his lips as he dashed a hand over his eyes and hoped that no one noticed.  What was it about children that brought everything into perspective?  He might not have an answer to that, but he supposed that was all right, and for some reason, he knew, didn't he?  Wherever Dieter was right now, he was smiling, too.


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A/N:
'Gabriel's Message' is a Basque Christmas folk carol and was, in this instance, recorded by Sting in 1987 for the charity release, A Very Special Christmas.
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Final
Thought from Valerie:
Merry Christmas!
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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 125
Chapter 127
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