InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Breaking Away ( Chapter 129 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>If you can give it, I can take it …
''Cause if this heart is gonna break
'It's gonna take a lot to break it
'So if you're so tough come on and prove it
'Your heart is down for the count, and you know you're gonna lose it
'Tonight you're gonna go down in flames
'Just like Jesse James …'

-'Just Like Jesse James' by Cher.


-Valerie-


"So how was your holiday?"

Valerie sipped the glass of red wine in her hand and shrugged.  "New Year's Eve, you mean?" she asked arching an eyebrow as she gazed at Madison.

"Yes," Madison said, setting her glass on the coffee table and flicking her hand to inspect her perfectly manicured fingernails.

"Before or after I spent hours, stuck in traffic in the middle of the city?" Valerie countered mildly.

A knowing look surfaced on Madison's face.  "Oh, is that what happened?"

Valerie shrugged.  "In a word?  Yes."

"Ah, I wondered . . ."

Letting out a deep breath, Valerie peeked out from under her eyelashes at Madison.  Her polished and calm façade was nothing new.  There were moments when Valerie had no idea just what was going on in Madison's head, and this was one of those times.  She could be thinking about anything—anything at all—or nothing in particular.  In this case, however, Valerie had a feeling that Madison was holding something back.  "Is he mad?" she asked, figuring that, whatever was clouding the deep violet of Madison's gaze was very likely a certain rock star . . .

"Mad?  Who?  Evan?"

Valerie sighed.  "Yes, Evan."

"Hmm, not really," Madison said with a simple shrug.   "You know him, though.  Even if the sky was falling, he'd never let you know if he was upset about it."

That didn't really make Valerie feel any better, and she grimaced inwardly.  "The show went well, though," she said, shrugging off the guilty feelings.  After all, it wasn't her fault, was it?  And it hadn't been a picnic for her, either.  Spending four hours in a taxi stuck in the middle of downtown New York City roughly halfway between the Acroplex where the concert was being held and the Wingate Plaza Hotel where the party was with a cab driver who didn't know much English, aside from the prerequisite 'Where to?' wasn't exactly how she'd pictured her night going.

Madison got one of those enigmatic little grins on her face that made Valerie nervous.  Normally, it usually was followed by a nonchalant, "So how about we go out for a night on the town?" or something comparable, and it usually ended with the hangover from hell and a grave promise that she was never, ever going to do that again.  Somehow, though, that smile seemed a little more dubious this time around.  "The concert was great," she agreed innocently—a little too innocently.

Valerie blinked and set her glass aside.  "Okay," she said, crossing her arms over her chest and leveling a no-nonsense look at Madison.  "I'll bite.  What does that mean?"

Madison heaved a sigh, her smile dissipating as she winced, just for a moment, before she pasted on another bright grin.  "I . . . don't really know what happened," she admitted, staring at Valerie as though she were trying to read her mind.  "Evan just said that he got a little drunk, that it was an accident . . ."

"What?" she demanded, grabbing Madison's wrist to stop her.  "What kind of accident?"

"He broke a window; that's all," Madison replied.  "Probably tripped or something."

Valerie wasn't sure whether or not she ought to believe Madison.  She was definitely nervous, wasn't she?  "He's not supposed to be drinking," she muttered, hauling herself off the of sofa and stomping over to retrieve her shoes.

"Well, technically speaking, he wasn't supposed to drink while he was still facing the charges for the car accident—and he didn't then," Madison reminded her.  "Besides that, drinking was kind of the lesser of the two evils."

Valerie paused long enough to pin Madison with a baleful glower.  "What's that mean?"

Madison laughed and rolled her eyes.  "It was a concert, V, remember?  There were more than enough groupies hanging around afterward that he could've gotten into a lot of trouble if he was of a mind to—unless you don't care if he's off screwing everything that moves."

She snorted, which, in her estimation, was a good enough response.

"You're bailing on me, aren't you?" Madison asked, raising an eyebrow when Valerie grabbed her coat off the back of the chair.

"Sorry, Maddy," she said as she shrugged it on.

"What about Marvin?" Madison asked.

Valerie blinked, unsure what the correlation between checking on Evan and Marvin was.  "What about him?"

Settling back with a sigh, Madison slowly shook her head.  "Isn't he home alone right now?"

"No," Valerie replied, sticking her cell phone into her purse.  "He went out to dinner with a guy he met last night."

Madison snorted.  "But he's leaving tomorrow, isn't he?  Last night in the city, and he's spending it with someone else?"

"It's not like that," she replied, unable to help the defensiveness that had crept into her tone.  "Besides, if he hadn't gone to dinner, I wouldn't be over here, now would I?"

Madison giggled and reached for her glass once more.  "Except you're leaving me to go see Evan," she pointed out.

Valerie sighed.  "You could come with me," she suggested.

Madison fluttered a hand in blatant dismissal.  "Oh, I think I'll pass."

Taking a moment to run over and give Madison a chaste hug, Valerie hurried out of the apartment as fast as she could.

Why did she have such an ominous feeling about this?

Taking the stairs two at a time, she quickened her pace, her steps echoing in the stairwell around her.  "An accident, huh?" she muttered to herself.  Just what in the world did he do this time . . .?


-Evan-


Staring at his guitar with a scowl, Evan flexed his right hand and winced when he felt something in there pop.  'Damn . . .'

'Damn?  That's all you have to say?  Shit, I think you broke it . . .'

Yeah, okay, so that was entirely possible.  At least the deep laceration that ran the length of his thumb to his wrist had closed up.

'Maddy was pissed as hell at you, you know.'

'I didn't need to go to the fucking hospital,' Evan insisted, wondering absently if he could strum with his right hand.  'Besides, it was an accident—and Madison can mind her own damn business.'

'The only reason you're pissed at Madison is because she was the bearer of bad news.'

Evan uttered a sound halfway between a snort and a growl of pure frustration but didn't deign to answer.

'It's not her fault, you know.  I told you not to get your hopes up.'

He didn't bother to respond to that, either.

'There's something to be said about staying optimistic, but shit . . . Just hope to hell that she's not at home, boning that little bastard . . .'

Wincing at that thought, Evan had to grind his teeth together to keep from bounding off the couch and heading for the door—fine thing, considering the only thing on his mind at the moment was tearing Marvin-fucking-Pinkle limb from limb . . .  'Damn it . . . I thought I was making progress!' he fumed instead, digging the claws on his left hand deep into the arm of the sofa.

His youkai heaved a sigh.  'And you know V better than that, stupid.  Progress, sure, but honestly, did you really think she was going to run back here and dump Mervykins right away?  Because if you did, then you're even dumber than I thought.'

Unfortunately, a part of Evan really had thought that.  

'Anyway, I hope you got it out of your system.  If you didn't, you're going to have a fit at her, aren't you, and that would be kind of bad, considering she needs a little more convincing.'

'But she kissed me,' Evan rebutted, but there was more confusion than anything else in his tone.  'Why the fuck would she do that if she really wanted to marry him?'

'You know why,' his youkai pointed out.  'She wants us—damned if she don't—you know it, and I know it, and she knows it to, at least, on some level.'

Running his hand through his hair, Evan glowered at the ceiling.  'On some level,' he repeated derisively.  'Oh, that fucking helps . . . and I already blew off some steam, didn't I?  I'm good; I swear . . .'

'Is that what you're calling starting that fight with that new bassist?  What's his name again?  Gregory?  Georgio . . .? And it didn't really help, either, that you decided that the window would look better if it was as smashed as you were . . .'

Evan snorted.  'It was either put my fist through that window or put it through that douche bag's face—and I wasn't that smashed, damn it.  I only wished that I was.'

His youkai voice sighed.  'You were smashed enough, and so he was slightly off on a couple songs.  He's new.  He'll catch on soon enough.'

Evan didn't exactly believe that either, but what was the point of arguing it?  None, that was what.  If the guy didn't have the chops to keep up, then he damn well shouldn't have been onstage, in the first place: end of discussion.

'Yeah, well, you took care of that, now didn't you?' his youkai went on to say.  'You made your opinion painfully clear.  A fistfight with the new guy?  Jesus . . .'

"Well, Geoff isn't going to press charges or anything," Mike said, skipping the pleasantries as he strode into Evan's music room.  "I guess that's something.  Damn lucky, if you ask me."

"Like I give a great goddamn," Evan grumbled, flopping against the back of the ratty old sofa with a pronounced snort.  "You said he was good, if you'll recall."

Letting out a deep breath, Mike plopped onto the sofa beside Evan.  "He is," he argued with a shrug.  "He was nervous.  Can't really blame him for that, can you?"

"The biggest show of the year, and he fucked it up," Evan pointed out.  "Nice, very nice.  You read the reviews this morning?"

"No, I haven't, and you normally don't, either," Mike went on philosophically.  "Give the kid a break, can't you?  Biggest show of the year, just like you said, and it was the first time he'd ever performed in front of that many people, not counting the numbers that were watching on pay-per-view . . ."

"It's about balls, Mikey," Evan insisted.  "If he ain't got 'em, then he doesn't belong on my stage."

"Whatever, Roka," Mike muttered, shaking his head and likely figuring that it wouldn't do him a damn bit of good to argue with Evan any further.  "That aside, how's your hand?"

"It's fine," he mumbled tersely.  "Never better."

Mike sighed, rubbing his forehead in a weary sort of way.  "You should've gone to the hospital; I knew it . . ."

"I did mention that it's fine, right?"

Leveling a dubious scowl at Evan, Mike crossed his arms over his chest.  "You broke it."  It wasn't a question.

"You know what 'fine' means, don't you?" Evan countered, holding up his hand and flexing his fingers to prove his point.

Mike eyed him for a minute then sighed.  "Can you do that again?  Don't grit your teeth this time."

"Evan?"

Hauling himself off of the sofa, Evan spared a moment to narrow his eyes on his manager.  "Don't tell her," he stated tersely under his breath as he headed out of the music room to intercept the attorney.  "Hey, V," he greeted, pasting on a smile that he was far from feeling.

Valerie looked visibly relieved when she spotted him.  "What happened last night?" she demanded without preamble.  "Maddy said you had an accident.  Are you okay?"

Grimacing inwardly, he stifled a sigh and shrugged.  "Everything's cool," he assured her.  "Just slipped."

"Slipped?" she repeated, looking somewhat confused.  "You're not hurt, right?"

"Nah," he insisted, waving off her concern with a flick of his left hand.  "It's all good."

She let out a deep breath, and Evan had to wonder if she'd been holding it long.  The relief that surfaced on her features was instantaneous and thorough.  "She made it sound like something bad happened," she replied.

"Eh, just a broken window," he went on.  "No big deal."

Valerie's gaze flashed in alarm.  "Broke a window?  How?"

"It was either punch out the window or the new bassist," Mike remarked mildly as he shuffled out of the music room, his hands in his pockets and projecting a nonchalant air.  "Sound about right, Roka?"

"Sure," Evan drawled, narrowing his eyes almost imperceptibly at his manager.  "No harm, no foul, right, Mikey?"

Mike's smile was just as tight as Evan's.  "That's what they tell me."  The smile widened by degrees when he turned his attention to Valerie.  "Do me a favor, will you?  Don't let him out of your sight for awhile."

Valerie nodded slowly, her expression turning more and more confused as she watched the man brush past her.  She didn't speak again until after the door had closed behind him.  "What was he talking about?" she finally asked.

Scratching the back of his neck, Evan offered her another offhanded shrug.  "Made the mistake of bringing in some kid who'd never performed in front of more than fifty people, maybe, and he froze."

The expression on her face stated quite plainly that she wasn't sure she believed what he was saying.  "Surely it wasn't that bad," she said.

Evan stalked over to the coffee table to retrieve the morning's copy of the New York Times.  "If you think so, V," he replied, tossing the paper to her.

She stared at him for a long moment before shaking out the paper and pulling out the entertainment section.  'Roka Rocks Acroplex Despite Misfiring Backup', the headline read.  'As the lights in the Acroplex died down at thirty seconds to midnight last night for the concert to benefit the Youth Coalition of New York City, one hundred twenty-four thousand fans from as far away as New Zealand, were hoping that they were in for a treat, and they were—sort of.  Though the thirty-two year old rocker was in top form, the same could not be said for the rest of the backup band known as Philansoclantes.  The long-time touring band for the bodacious rock star had brought in local boy, Geoff Rensford for the event to replace the late Dieter Reichardt, who died in a shooting last summer, and while it could be assumed that the apparent on-stage jitters could well be caused by stepping into such a high-profile position, Rensford's mistimed bass lines were only emphasized by badly set equipment that drowned out Roka's acid-sugar voice repeatedly . . .'

"Damn," she muttered, scanning the rest of the article quickly.  Though Carley Fartham—resident concert reviewer—had been kind to Evan overall, the scathing commentary regarding the backup band left the reader with an overall horrible impression of the concert in general.  "That's harsh."

"Just a stupid show, right?" he told her, brushing off her assessment with a shrug.  "How was your party?"

He didn't miss the slight grimace that his question had inspired.  "It was all right," she told him, dropping the paper onto the table beside the sofa and wandering over to run her fingertips along the sculpture in the middle of the living room.  "Got stuck in traffic in the middle of the city on my way to the Acroplex, though.  I didn't realize it was going to be that bad."

"It was New Year's Eve, V.  Of course it was gonna be bad.  You'd have been fine if you'd have let me send Bone over to pick you up," he pointed out.

He shot her a look that implied that she was being ridiculous.  "Shouldn't your head of security actually be wherever you are?" she countered.  It was the same argument she'd used when she'd called to tell Evan that she wasn't going to be riding over to the Acroplex with him, after all.

"Bone's job is to do whatever I pay him to do," Evan replied.  "Why'd you even go to that stupid party with Milford, anyway?"

"Marvin," she corrected but without her usual rancor.  "It was important to him."

Evan blinked and stared at her for a long moment.  He wasn't entirely sure why it was, but for some reason, her reply had caught him off guard.

She sighed, rubbing her arms through the thin fabric of her beige cotton blouse.  "I did try to make it," she said, sounding disappointed and even a little apologetic.  "You didn't get into a fight with him, did you?  The bassist?"

"Eh, you know," he replied, hedging the question and hoping that she didn't call him on it as he headed toward the kitchen.

"You did, didn't you?" she asked, following him out of the room.  "That's what Maddy was talking about, right?"

Pulling a chef's knife out of the butcher block on the counter, Evan tried to spin it, but it slipped out of his clumsy fingers and clattered on the floor, barely missing his naked foot.  Considering his mood, though, he really didn't care, he thought as he swiped up the knife once more and dropped it onto the counter before stomping over to the refrigerator.  "He's not suing me, if that's what you're worried about," Evan assured her.

Crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned in the doorway, Valerie bit her lip as she stared at him.  "It was just one show," she finally said.  "I mean, sure, it didn't go as well as it could've, but one bad show isn't going to destroy you, right?"

"Never know.  It could.  Hell, a rock star's only as good as his stage show, V."

"And your next one will be fantastic, just like it always is," she said.

"If they can find a bassist who's worth a damn," he scoffed, setting to work, chopping up some leftover steak that he'd cooked earlier.  "Anyway, what are you doing here?  Good ol' Murlock finally leave town?"

He heard her sigh but refused to look at her.  "He's not leaving till tomorrow," she said in a weary kind of way, "and I was worried about you."

"Worried about me?  Why?"

She pinned him with a look that proclaimed her belief that he was being dense on purpose.  "Because," she said, shouldering herself away from the door frame and shuffling over to stand on the other side of the counter, "you're my friend."

"Friend," he repeated, stopping mid-chop, to stare at her.  "Is that why you kissed me?  Because I'm your friend?"

She had the grace to look uncomfortable at the mention of the kiss they'd shared—that she'd instigated—on Christmas Eve.  Somehow, that night seemed so long ago, didn't it?  Why was that?

"That," she said, shaking her head, her cheeks pinking despite her stubborn resolve not to blush.  She sighed.  "That . . . was a mistake.  It shouldn't have happened, and I'm . . . I'm sorry if you read more into it than what it was."

"Okay," he said slowly, setting the knife aside as he leaned on the counter and scowled at her.  "Then suppose you tell me what I thought it was," he quietly challenged.

Her sigh was so thorough that her shoulders sagged as she shook her head, as though she couldn't quite come up with the right words to answer him.  "I-I just . . ." She swallowed hard, and she couldn't meet his gaze.  "I was caught up in the moment," she explained weakly.  "I wasn't . . . wasn't trying to mislead you . . ."

He stared at her, unable to wrap his brain around her words.  His brain had managed to slow to a painfully slow crawl, and the throbbing in his head that had begun about the moment she'd started her explanation was rapidly growing steadily worse.  It didn't help, either, that absolutely nothing about her claims surprised him.  He wasn't sure if the feeling of absolute inevitability was worse or the apologetic tone that had made him feel all that much more pathetic . . . "You . . . You're still going to marry him, right?" he said.  It was more of a statement than a question.

Staring at her hands, clasped tightly on the counter, Valerie's head jerked once, twice in a nod.  "Sure, I am," she whispered.  "Evan . . ."

And suddenly, he didn't want to hear it: whatever she was going to say.  Something about her voice told him intuitively that she was about to hurt him, even if that wasn't her intention.  It was that 'Dear John' hitch in her words, wasn't it?  He cleared his throat to cut her off.  "Aw, shit . . . V, I hate to rush you off, but I just remembered that I've got an interview I've got to get to," he lied.

She blinked, and finally, her chin rose as her gaze locked with his.  "Oh . . ."

He tried to smile; he really did.  It must not have worked, though, because she flinched.  "Anyway, I'm going to go change.   Give Sherman my regards, will you?"

Leaving her standing in the middle of the kitchen, Evan strode out of the room, heading for the staircase, biting his tongue before he lost what was left of his control, of his composure.  Halfway down the upstairs hallway, he heard the soft sound of the closing door.

He stopped and let out his breath in a gust as he slumped against the wall and closed his eyes.

What the hell was it going to take to convince her?  He'd done everything he could possibly think of during that trip to Maine, and he'd thought that maybe he'd managed to get through those defenses of hers, hadn't he?  It just didn't make sense; none of it.  He knew that she cared about him, sure, but just friends?

'Damn, that was cold,' his youkai commiserated.

Evan let his forehead drop against his raised fist.

"I was caught up in the moment . . . I wasn't . . . wasn't trying to mislead you . . ."

It felt like it did whenever Bas punched him square in the guts, damned if it didn't.  Why couldn't she understand?  Why couldn't she see?  Marry that little shit?  Really?

Evan snorted, wondering absently why it was easier to be pissed off than it would be to delve deeper, to scratch at the rawness and find out exactly what he honestly thought about it all.

He was just too close, wasn't he?  Too near to be objective, too obsessed with her to be able to think straight.  Jumping when his cell phone rang, trying to come up with reasons why he had to seek her out, somehow Valerie Denning had become more important to him than anything else, including his music, and that was more frightening than he dared to consider.  She was like a toxin: a poison that had gotten trapped in his system.  Hell, he couldn't even sleep at night without dreaming about her, about them—about that damned kiss that she'd called a mistake . . .

'You know, I don't think she really meant that,' his youkai voice mused despite the resignation in its tone.  'I don't think she even knows what she really thinks.'

'Yeah, well, that's all nice and shit,' Evan shot back, unable to staunch the bitterness that tasted like bile on his tongue, 'but I can't deal with this anymore.  If I don't get away from her, I'm gonna go crazy . . . I can't . . .'

'So, you don't think she's our mate.'  It wasn't a question, and Evan winced.

'It takes two to be mates, doesn't it?' he countered despite the first twinges of melancholy that seeped into his psyche.  'Doesn't mean shit if she doesn't want it, too.'

His youkai was strangely silent for several minutes—minutes measured by the incessant tick of the clock hanging on the wall over his head.  'What do you want to do, then?'

That was the real problem, wasn't it?  What did he want to do . . .?

Heaving a sigh, Evan finally opened his eyes, staring dully at the off-kilter rectangle of sunlight that spilled out of the room and onto the floor by his feet.  What he wanted—what he needed—was time: time by himself to figure out exactly what he was going to do, and maybe . . .

Maybe all he needed was time to get over her, too . . .


~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
A/N:
'Just Like Jesse James' first appeared on Cher's 1989 release, Heart of Stone.  Song written by and copyrighted to Diane Warren and Desmond Child.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
A vacation, maybe …?
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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 128
Chapter 130
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