InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Just Friends ( Chapter 134 )

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


'I'm the one who wants to be with you
'Deep inside I hope you feel it, too
'Waited on a line of greens and blues
'Just to be the next to be with you …'

-'To Be With You' by Mr. Big


"What are you doing?"

Evan didn't look up from his task as he sharpened the stick in his hands.  "Making a spear," he said simply, testing the point before shaving off some more pieces to hone it.

"A spear?" Valerie repeated, completely nonplussed.  "Okay, I'll bite.  Why are you making a spear?"

Sparing a moment to grin over his shoulder at her, he winked quickly before resuming his task once more.  "I'm going fishing," he told her simply.

"Then why don't you use a pole?"

Sitting back on his heels, he scratched his chin idly.  "It's more manly to use a spear," he told her.  "Besides, I didn't get a pole, so if I wanted to do that, I'd have to make a trip in to Mayaguana.  Actually, to get a decent one, I'd probably have to go to Nassau, and since I can't trust you not to go looking for more seashells to step on . . ."

"Jerk," she said, whipping an empty water bottle at his head.  He ducked to avoid it and shot her another grin.  "It was buried, you know."

Chuckling softly, Evan jammed the blunt end of the spear into the sand and hauled himself to his feet.  "I hear you, V," he teased.  "You need anything before I go hunt down some dinner?"

The expression on her face stated quite plainly that she didn't think he was going to catch a damn thing.  "I'm good, thanks," she assured him, making herself a little more comfortable in the shade of the makeshift umbrella he'd fashioned out of a couple tree branches and a spare tarp.

"Okay," he said, pausing long enough to give a good stretch.  "Holler if you need anything."

Waving a hand to indicate that she'd heard him, she turned her attention back to her file once more, and Evan chuckled again, grabbing the spear and a second milk crate and striding off toward the edge of the water.

She'd wanted to lay in the sun, but had thought better of it when she realized that she'd end up with a pretty silly looking tan, given that her foot was still completely covered up by bandages.  Instead, she'd opted to sit in a chair with her foot up on a makeshift table Evan had made out of a plastic milk crate he'd found behind the house with a few pairs of old sandals in it, reading through some of the case files she'd brought with her.  She'd tried to leave the wrap off earlier when he'd helped her change them.  He'd insisted that she wear them, at least for the next day or so.

The doctor had assured him that the cut wasn't really that bad.  The large amount of blood was magnified by the piece of shell that was stuck in her foot and made worse because she'd had to get back to the house on it.  After he'd removed the shard with a pair of tweezers, it had stopped bleeding pretty quickly.  A couple stitches later, and she was as good as new—or would be soon enough.

'If you hadn't decided to take off yesterday, none of this would've happened.'

'Oh?  So you're finally talking to me again?' Evan couldn't help scoffing when his youkai-voice spoke.

'What was the point?' it shot back.  'You'd already decided what you wanted to do.  Didn't need me for that, now did you?'

He dropped the milk crate near the shore and waded out into the crystal clear water with a sigh.  It had occurred to him more than once that his entire plan to go find a willing woman was more than a little on the selfish side, and it had also occurred to him that the idea really bothered Valerie.  Still, he reasoned, she'd known from the start, and she'd still wanted to come along with him.  She'd known, and, more to the point, she'd agreed to let him do what he wanted.

'But is that really what we want?'

Snorting loudly as he tried to spear a fish and missed, Evan figured that didn't really deserve a response.

Of course it was what he wanted.  More importantly, it was what he needed.  He was strung so tightly that something had to give, didn't it?  Being around her while denying his body's needs had taken a huge toll on him, and spending hours in the shower, jacking off time after time was doing absolutely nothing to quell the rising need.

Even this morning, he'd awoken to the heat of her body huddled against his, her hand resting on his chest, her head nestled in the crook of his shoulder.  It was a beautiful feeling of well-being, tinged with the worst ache that he'd ever known—an ache that culminated somewhere deep down, as if he were looking at the most breathtaking vision on earth while knowing that it would never, ever be close enough for him to keep.

If she had opened her eyes and told him that she wanted him, he wouldn't have thought twice about it.  It was always like that with her, wasn't it?  Anything she wanted—whatever she wanted—he'd give it to her.

But all she wanted was to be 'just friends'.

'Maybe she doesn't really know what she wants,' his youkai voice remarked thoughtfully.  'She's confused, just like you are, and with her past?  It's hard—damn hard for her to trust anyone.  You know that.  That's why you've given her so much.  It's just a matter of time . . .'

Sure, he knew that, and he knew, too, that on some level, Valerie trusted him more than she trusted anyone else, and that really did speak volumes.  Still . . . Just a matter of time?  Why couldn't he believe that?  Why did his youkai's statements make him want to laugh—or cry?

'Because,' he realized suddenly, his gaze unconsciously shifting to the woman sitting alone on the beach, 'she's always said the same thing.  She's always said it, and she's never changed her mind . . . She's never once misled me, not really, because she's never, ever claimed to care more than she . . . than she does . . .'


'No,' he interrupted, unable to tolerate another of his youkai's pep talks.  'She's said it over and over.  It's about damn time I started listening.'


Heaving a sigh, Valerie set the file she'd been reading aside and reached for the eBook reader to catch up on the latest issue of Cosmopolitan since she hadn't gotten a chance to read it before they'd left the city.  It was a little hard to focus, given that the pain medication was pretty strong and made her feel a little out of it.  As a rule, she wasn't keen on taking meds like that, but her foot had swelled so much that it felt like she was walking on a baseball when she'd gotten up this morning that she'd agreed to take the pill without much cajoling from Evan.

Biting her lip, she tried to focus on the magazine, but the words seemed to blur together in her head, tumbling around until they made no sense at all.

"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 . . . I-I just . . . I wasn't . . . wasn't trying to mislead you . . ."

She frowned as those words echoed through her head even as she lifted her gaze to find Evan.  Standing in the water up to his waist with the spear poised and ready, he wasn't facing her as he waited for a hapless fish to swim past.

Why was it so easy to forget everything whenever she was near him?  What was it about him that could do that to her?

Just another question that she couldn't answer, wasn't it?  Just another mystery that she didn't understand . . .

In a blur of motion, he brought the makeshift spear down, and to Valerie's surprise, he actually had managed to catch a fish.  Yanking it free, he tossed it into the plastic milk carton he'd left in the shallow water before resuming his stance once more.

He was good at everything he tried to do, wasn't he?  And yet, he wasn't the kind of guy who bragged about those things, either.  Maybe it was that innate sense of understated sweetness that disarmed her so easily.

She sighed.  Did it matter?  As wonderful as he could be, it didn't change the facts, did it?  Everything about him was light years away from her and always would be, and even if she wanted it to be otherwise, the reality of the situation was that what she needed was stability—the kind of stability that she'd never find with a guy like him.  Friendship was the only thing that she could afford to offer him, and one day, he'd be glad enough of that, she was sure.  After all, unlike him, she couldn't just let go and live her life as a free spirit like he could.  The differences between them were too numerous and too vast.  He was too much of a dreamer, and she . . . She was too pragmatic to waste her time, dreaming about things that just weren't meant to be.

As if he sensed her attention, he suddenly turned and smiled at her, lifting a hand to give her a wave before turning his attention to the water once more.

Fishing without a pole . . . Things that would never have occurred to her . . . Evan made everything seem so easy, and a part of her had to admit that the same part of her wished that she could let go; that she could stop worrying about the future, but she couldn't.  It was ingrained in her so deeply that it had become second nature over the years: the need to protect herself; the overwhelming sense that if she didn't, no one else would.  Whether it was her compulsive habit of squirreling away every spare dime she had into her various low-risk investments that would build over time or the carefully constructed façade that she hid behind, using it like a shield against everyone in order to maintain her distance.

It had worked, hadn't it?  At least, it worked against everyone but Evan . . .

He really was her best friend, wasn't he?  The one person who knew all the ugly things about her and didn't mind at all; the one person she knew she could count on, no matter what—even when she wasn't entirely sure that she could count on herself . . .

A huge yawn interrupted her musings, and Valerie shifted slightly, sinking down a little more in the nest of carefully arranged pillows.  The warmth of the afternoon sun, the gentle breeze blowing off the water . . . Even the throbbing in her foot seemed to have dulled down to a monotonous cadence that didn't really hurt too badly seemed to converge upon her all at once as the eBook reader in her hands dropped against her chest, as her eyes drifted closed of their own accord . . .


Setting the makeshift basket on the sand, Evan frowned as he gazed at Valerie's sleeping form.  She was sheltered enough from the sun, and her color was better than it had been for most of the day.  'Stubborn girl,' he thought with a shake of his head and the smallest of smiles on his face as he reached for the eBook reader and carefully extricated it from her grasp.

She'd insisted that she was fine this morning as she'd tried to hobble from the bed to the bathroom—and nearly fell flat on her face.  In his opinion, she'd been a bit pale since last night, and when she'd insisted that she didn't need to take one of the painkillers the doctor had prescribed, he'd talked her into it, anyway.

Letting out a deep breath, he strode into the house to wash his hands and retrieve the salve he'd mixed up last night.  It was his grandmother's recipe, one she'd learned form old Kaede back in the days when she and InuYasha were traveling all over Sengoku Jidai, and while Evan knew that it would help the injury heal faster, he also knew that Valerie wasn't going to be enjoying the rest of her vacation nearly as much as she would have otherwise.

The ring of the satellite phone interrupted him, and with a sigh, he grabbed it.  "Hello?"

"Hi, sweetie.  How's the vacation?"

"Eh, it's going," he said with a rueful smile at the sound of his mother's voice.  "What's up?"

'Now, does something really have to be up for me to call my baby?" Gin demanded.  "I was just thinking about you, and thought I'd call to tell you that I love you!"

His smile widened as he rapped his knuckles on the counter.  "I love you, too, Mama," he replied.  Funny, wasn't it?  How was it that Gin always seemed to know just when he really needed to hear something like that?

"Hmm," she drawled, a hint of concern entering her tone.  "You sound a little down . . . Is something wrong?"

"Uh, no," he assured her.  "Right as rain."

She wasn't convinced.  "Are you sure?  I'm a good listener if you need to talk about it."

"I'm sure," he maintained, stifling the urge to sigh.  "But thanks."

"Okay," she relented though she didn't sound completely convinced.  "Oh, you know, I saw the cutest little dress at the store the other day, and I couldn't help but think that it would've looked so good on your Valerie!"

'My Valerie,' he repeated in his head as his smile faltered then disappeared completely.  "Did you?" he asked, more to humor Gin than anything else.

"I thought about buying it, but I wasn't sure what her size was.  I mean, she's not very big, but she's so tall—"

Evan sighed.  "Mama, about V . . ."

"—But she looked so pretty in that dress she wore to the Christmas party that it was natural, wasn't it?  I mean, the one I was looking at wasn't formal or anything, but it was really sweet, and—"

"Mama," he said once more, this time louder and a bit more forcefully.

Gin cut herself off abruptly.  "Yes, sweetie?"

Licking his lips as he ran a hand through his hair, Evan had to tamp down the surge of irritation that was misdirected at his mother for having brought up Valerie.  "Sorry," he said with another sigh.  "I, uh . . . I should tell you.  V and I . . . We broke up."

Dead silence met his ears for several seconds.  "Oh," she said at length, her tone subdued, "I'm sorry to hear that . . . But the two of you were so close!  Did you have a disagreement?"

Rubbing his forehead, wishing that she'd let it go, Evan grimaced.  "Uh, no, not really.  Mama, listen, it's no big deal.  I promise."

Gin wasn't ready to let it drop, though.  "Was it some kind of misunderstanding?"

"Um, yeah . . . I guess you could call it that," he hedged.

"Well . . . Maybe if I talked to her . . .?"

"Absolutely not," he insisted firmly.  "Please, Mama.  It's fine, okay?  I just . . . I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Gin heaved a sigh, clearly unhappy with having been asked not to interfere, but at least Evan was reasonably sure that she would leave it alone.  "I'm sorry, sweetie . . . You really liked her, didn't you?"

"Ah, you win some, you lose some.  It's okay," he assured her, hoping that he sounded more upbeat than he felt.

"If you're sure . . ."

He heaved an inward sigh of relief.  The worst was over, or so it would seem.  "I'm sure," he said yet again.  "Hey, I gotta get going.  I had some stuff lined up.  Love you, Mama."

"I love you, too," she said once more.  "You call me if you need me."

"Will do," he said.  Clicking off the phone, Evan let out a deep breath.

'Damn, that was brutal,' his youkai voice sighed.

Yeah, it was.  It was a lot more difficult than he'd ever thought possible.  It was so . . . so final, wasn't it?  'Knock it off, moron,' he told himself sternly.  'She never was mine, to begin with . . .'

Which was absolutely true.  Unfortunately, knowing that and accepting it were two wholly different things.

Picking up the jar of salve and the clean bandages, Evan shuffled toward the door, pausing on the threshold, staring sadly at the sleeping woman, half hidden from view beneath the cover of the tarp.

The hell of it all was that he couldn't even muster up the bravado to be pissed off at her, could he?  How often had she told him that there was no hope?  How many times had she insisted that she didn't want him?  He was the one who had made the assumptions.  He was the one who had summarily ignored her.  At the time, he'd been convinced that she was lying, but she really hadn't been.  Telling himself that he could make her happy, insisting that he knew better than she, what it was she really wanted . . . How stupid was he, really?

In a very real way, he'd done exactly the same thing to her that everyone else in her life had done over the years: ignored her wishes, her dreams, her feelings, relegating her to a role that was barely human, treating her as though she was little more than a doll, incapable of making her own choices, laughing at her when she said things that didn't jive with the things that he wanted her to believe . . .

And maybe in that sense, he was worse than all the guys she'd ever dated.  After all, at least they'd been up front with her from the start.  They were all too stupid not to let her know that they were just using her, but Evan?  Nope, he was her friend, just like she'd said, but he'd used that friendship to try to manipulate her time and time again . . .

'Is that really what you think?'

Bracing his shoulder against the door frame to push himself up straight, he shrugged.  'Yeah,' he thought with a grimace.  'Yeah, I do . . .'

'I don't know, Roka . . . Maybe you're reading it all wrong . . .'

He didn't miss the dubious tone in his youkai's voice.  'No.'

'Then why does she keep trying to stop you?  Why does she keep interfering whenever you say you're going to go find a woman?'

Evan's scowl deepened as he hunkered down in the sand by her foot.  'She's my attorney,' he pointed out as he started to carefully unwind the bandages.  'As if my public image isn't tarnished enough, right?'

'But that can't be it,' his youkai persisted.

'And why's that?  Because she makes me horny as fucking hell?  See, that's the bullshit that got me here, in the first place,' he scoffed.  'I played along with her to start with because Maddy asked me to.  That's it, and that's all.'

'Oh, yeah? Well, if that's all there is to it, then maybe you need to ask yourself why: why does she keep stopping you now when Zel Roka isn't the one on vacation here—Evan Zelig is—and Evan Zelig isn't her damn client, so what does it matter who the hell he fucks?'

Valerie didn't stir as he dropped the bandage and ripped open an antibacterial wipe to clean her wound—not at all surprising since she'd been prescribed some fairly heavy pain killers . . .

'Leave it the hell alone!  Just what am I supposed to do here?  I tried everything—everything—to change her mind, and she—' Cutting himself off abruptly, he drew a few deep breaths to calm his rampant temper.  'She just wants to be friends, and I can do that,' he reasoned.  'I'd rather . . . Rather have that than . . .'

'. . . Than nothing at all . . .'

The words that lingered but wouldn't form tore at him somewhere deep down, opening up a pain so raw, so bitter that for a moment, he had to close his eyes, had to fight against it before it overwhelmed him completely.

'. . . Just friends, eh?'

Steeling himself against the ache those words inspired, Evan bit down hard on his cheek.  'Yeah.  Yeah . . .'

His youkai sighed, a long, sad sound.  'If that's what you want—if that's all you want—then tell me something?'


The voice uttered a noise that might have been a laugh though it sounded infinitely sad.  'Why?' it asked at length.  'Why did you lick her wound . . .?'

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'To Be With You' first appeared on Mr. Big's 1991 release, Lean Into It.  Song written by and copyrighted to David Grahame and Eric Martin.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Thought from Evan:
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 133
Chapter 135
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