InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Carnival ( Chapter 135 )

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


- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'You pack your bag; you take control
'You're moving into my heart and into my soul
'Get out of my way; get out of my sight
'I won't be walking on thin ice to get through the night …'

-'Dangerous' by Roxette


-Valerie-


The insanely loud bang awoke Valerie from a sound sleep, and she sat up straight, eyes flashing open wide as her heart lodged itself in her throat, a terrified scream tumbling from her before she could stop it.

"Sorry, baby," Evan remarked, sounding anything but contrite as he sat just outside of the mosquito netting, doubled over with laughter.

Smashing her hands against her chest to still her rampantly beating heart, she breathed hard, her wild-eyed gaze shifting to stare at the man in question.  "What was that?" she finally managed to rasp out.

He chuckled for another minute and held up a deflated plastic bag—the one he'd blown up and popped to wake her up.  "Sorry," he said again despite the huge grin on his face.

Understanding slowly dawned on her, and Valerie narrowed her eyes on the rock star.  "Such a jerk," she muttered, flopping over and dragging a fluffy white pillow over her head.

His chuckling escalated by degrees as he reached in through the curtain to tug the pillow off her head.  "How's your foot this morning?"

"Not talking to you right now," she informed him sulkily.

"I've got a cup of coffee here with your name on it," he told her.

For a moment, she considered ignoring him.  Then the aroma of the drink hit her nose, and she grudgingly sat up.  "Give it," she demanded, holding out her hand and wiggling her fingers impatiently.  "Don't you think there was a nicer way to wake me up?"

His grin widened.  "It seemed like a good idea at the time," he told her.

She snorted, draining the coffee in one long gulp then holding out the empty mug with a very pointed look.  He chuckled and took it then sauntered over to refill it for her.  "Anyway," he said as he handed the cup back to her, "I'm leaving in ten minutes, and if you want to go, you'd better be ready."

"Ten minutes?" she echoed, arching an eyebrow over the rim of the coffee mug.  "Why?  Where are you going this time?"

He shrugged.  "They're having a carnival on Mayaguana," he told her.  "Just come on.  You can take a shower on the yacht."

Handing back the cup once more, Valerie flopped back down and rolled over.  "You go on," she told him, her voice muffled by the pillow.  "I'm going to sleep in—and then I'm going to lie out."

"No way, woman!  You can't say no to a carnival!" he scoffed.

"I just did," she muttered.  "Besides, I thought you were dying to go fornicate with some island girl."

Damned if he didn't chuckle again.  "Jealous, V?" he teased.

She snorted, which was more than enough answer, as far as she was concerned.

"I'll get to that," he assured her, poking her with his toe on her rear end and shaking her back and forth.  "Come on . . . You know you wanna."

"Carnivals are for children," she stated, trying her best to ignore his efforts to get her out of bed.

"Keh!  They're not just for kids!  When's the last time you went to one?" he challenged.  "Rides, junk food, silly games . . ."

She turned her head far enough to give him a look designed to let him know what she thought of his description.  "And those things aren't for children?"

"Good for the young and the young at heart," he quipped.  "And here I could have sworn that you said you were fun."

"I never said that I was fun," she corrected as she sat up with a sigh.  "I said that we had fun together."

"And I'm saying I want to go to the carnival and have fun with you."

She sighed again.  She did say that, didn't she?  "All right," she allowed, tossing aside the sheet and taking his hands so that he could help her stand up.  "You want fun, Roka?  I'll be fun."

His grin widened.  "That's my girl," he replied, his approval quite apparent.

Stepping over to the wooden rack mounted on the wall, Valerie pulled down a couple dresses and held them up.  "What do you think?"

"About what?"

She rolled her eyes.  "The dresses," she told him, giving them both a little shake to emphasize her point.

"They're both pretty," he told her.  "Just grab one, and let's go."

"You're going to pass up a chance to play 'Dress the V'?" she asked.  "Don't think I'll offer to let you choose again . . ."

He laughed, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he sipped coffee from her cup since he hadn't bothered to get a clean one out for himself and had just refilled hers, instead.  "Well, in that case . . . hold 'em up in front of you."

She did, alternating between the airy white cotton and the floral print sundresses.  "Well?" she asked, frowning thoughtfully at Evan as she switched the dresses in front of her.

Curling a finger over his lips, Evan nodded slowly.  "I don't know," he drawled slowly.  "Maybe it'd help if you got naked.  You know, so I don't see your nightshirt."

Rolling her eyes, Valerie snorted indelicately despite the barest hint of a smile on her face.  "You're such a pig," she muttered, holding out both dresses so she could look at them again.  "Flowers, then."

He laughed.  "I prefer 'dog' . . . and the white one."

She rolled her eyes again, but she hung the floral dress back on the hook and carefully pulled the white dress off the hanger before taking the coffee from him and downing it, too.  "Okay," she said, reaching for the small bag she kept her cosmetics in as she slipped on a pair of white sandals.  "Let's go to your carnival."


-Evan-


"U-u-u-u-u-urp."

"That was sexy."

"I know, right?"

"Totally hot, V," Evan remarked with a chuckle as Valerie tossed the empty beer bottle into the nearest trash can.   "Damnation, every man on the island is gonna want you if you keep that up."

"Only if I belch?" she deadpanned, pinning Evan with a owlish look from beneath the thick, dark fringe of her eyelashes.

"It's their mating call."

"Oh, well, that's even sexier," she replied, rolling her eyes with a giggle.  "I can't help it; beer makes me do that."

He laughed and tried to shove a chili-cheese fry into her mouth.  She pushed his hand away.  "Hell, woman!  You don't eat anything good, do you?"

"What's so good about soggy fries, covered in greasy chili sauce and processed cheese food product?" she shot back, adjusting the wide-brimmed white hat that Evan had bought her so that she'd take off her sunglasses.  After all, he liked to see her eyes . . .

"Hey, hold on," he said as they passed a slushy stand.  "I'm going to get one of those.  You want one?"

It took a moment for her to follow the direction of his gaze, and when she finally did spot the stand, she wrinkled her nose.  "No, thanks," she replied.  "You know, if you don't stop eating all that junk, you're going to end up with indigestion later."

"I'll take my chances," he replied with a grin, dropping the empty fry container into the garbage.  "Be right back."

It didn't take long for him to buy the drink.  The girl working the booth smiled rather bashfully and blushed when he smiled at her.

He had to admit, he was having a lot of fun, and Valerie?  Well, her foot didn't seem to be bothering her in the least, and since she hadn't really remarked upon it, he hadn't, either.  All in all, he'd figured that she wasn't having the best of vacations, and he couldn't help but to feel a little bad about that, considering.  Besides, he'd realized something else this morning as he'd watched her sleeping.  It'd been a little too long since he'd heard her laughter, and that was something he'd planned on rectifying today, and so far?  Well, so far, he'd done a pretty good job of it . . .

Turning away from the booth, Evan wasn't entirely surprised to see that some guy standing near Valerie, obviously trying to hit on her.  'Poor bastard,' he thought, his grin widening slightly.  'Doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell . . .' Chuckling softly to himself, he wandered over to her once more.

"So how long are you here for?" the guy asked without taking his eyes off Valerie.

She smiled, but it was a very controlled sort of smile—the one that Valerie tended to use when she didn't know someone at all.  Wide enough to be a smile; not nearly friendly enough to offer any kind of encouragement . . . "I'm not," she replied simply enough.  "We're just here for the carnival."

Evan slipped an arm loosely around her waist and tipped the cup toward her.

"No, thanks," she replied.

He gave a little shrug and casually sipped the drink without a word.

The guy took a step back, his smile taking on a rather apologetic air when he glanced at Evan.  "Ah, well it was nice to meet you," he said, nodding at Valerie in a friendly sort of way.

She smiled tightly once more and nodded as the man wandered away.  "You know, that's going to turn your mouth blue," she pointed out, dismissing the stranger as easily as she would if he were nothing more than a fly, buzzing around her head.

"Blue mouths are sexy, too," he told her before sucking in a huge gulp of it.

Her smile widened, taking on a much more natural kind of air.  "If you don't slow down, you're going to get—"

"Ugh!" he exclaimed, letting go of her as he furiously rubbed his forehead and squeezed his eyes closed.  "Brain freeze!"

"Yeah, that," she said in an 'I-Told-You-So' kind of way.

He opened one eye and groaned.  "I think I just killed off a few brain cells."

"Oh, so that's why you are the way you are.  Too many slushies," she replied.

Evan laughed and started walking again.  Suddenly, though, he stopped short.  "Du-u-ude!  Let's go ride the Ferris wheel!"

She laughed softly.  "You're such a kid, Roka," she pointed out.  "It doesn't really look safe . . ."

"Aww, what do you mean?" he argued, grasping her hand to drag her away.  "It's a Ferris wheel!  Everyone loves the Ferris wheel!"

She still looked dubious, at best, and he grinned.  Who'd have thought that Valerie Denning, fearless attorney who relished devouring her peers in the confines of the courtroom, would have a bit of a phobia when it came to carnival rides . . .? Even stranger was that the ones she seemed to dislike the most were the ones that tended to move the slowest . . .

"I'm not scared of the rides," she scoffed, apparently reading his bemused silence accurately.  "I just don't think they look safe; that's all.  What if that thing breaks down while I'm on it?  I've heard stories about that happening.  One lady on Farron—you know, that talk show?—said that she was stuck on one for sixteen hours—sixteen hours—before they managed to get her down."

Evan snorted as he hustled her toward the Ferris wheel, anyway.  "If we get stuck up there, I'll distract you—and if we're stuck up there for sixteen hours, I'll distract you even more . . ."

"Distract me?" she repeated with a shake of her head.  "How?"

He gave her a sidelong look then wiggled his eyebrows at her.

She snorted, pulling her arm away in favor of slapping him in the middle of the chest with the back of her hand.  "I'll pass," she retorted dryly.

"Don't knock it till you've tried it, V."

She snorted, following him up onto the platform to wait for the attendant to seat them.  "I've ridden a Ferris wheel before."

"I mean the sex, baby," he corrected.

She giggled suddenly and shot him a wicked, wicked smile.  "I've ridden one of those before, too."

Evan groaned.  "You're a cruel woman, V."

"You walked right into that one."

He sighed and slowly shook his head.  "Yeah, I did."

The attendant glanced over at them and gestured.

Valerie heaved a sigh but let Evan drag her forward.


-Valerie-


Letting out a deep breath, Valerie smiled as Evan swaggered back to her with a cotton candy cone in one hand and a very red slushy drink in the other.  She'd have thought that he'd learned with the blue slush brain freeze earlier, but he hadn't.  "Wan' bigh?" he burbled through a mouthful of the fluffy stuff.

She wrinkled her nose but smiled.  "No, thanks," she said.  "I haven't digested the pretzel yet."

He grinned.  "Nothing better than carnival food, right?"

She didn't completely agree with that since carnival food in general was some of the fattiest stuff she could think of, but she didn't argue with Evan, either.

"So admit it, V.  Isn't this better than sitting on the beach, doing nothing?" he asked at length as he carefully rubbed some cotton candy off his chin while trying not to spill the drink in his hand.

She had to smile.  Something about his tone was so hopeful, so child-like, that she couldn't help herself.  "It's been pretty fun so far," she admitted with a shake of her head.  "Even though you didn't win me that stuffed bear that you were trying to get."

Wrinkling his nose, he rolled his eyes but grinned.  "The games are fixed, I tell you," he insisted with a shrug.  "Those rings kept popping off the pegs."

She laughed but waved a hand when he extended the cotton candy to her again.  The rings really had popped back off a few times.  "Excuses, Roka.  I want to see results!"

"I'll give you resu—Oh . . . Oh, those are just awesome."

Stopping short and turning to look to see what Evan was looking at, Valerie blinked as she stared at a small shop window.  "What are?" she asked, frowning in confusion.

Evan chuckled and grabbed her hand after dumping the rest of his food into a trash can.  The bell hanging above the door jingled rather anemically when they stepped into the small shoe store.  The older woman behind the counter looked up and smiled.  "Ah, Americans," she greeted, pushing herself to her feet and hurrying around it.  "You are looking for shoes?"

"The pair on the right in the window," Evan said.  "Do you have those in a US size nine and a half?"

The woman glanced over at the display and considered that.  "Forty or forty-one European, yes?"

"Sounds about right," Evan agreed.

She nodded quickly then hurried away to look for the shoes in question.

Valerie blinked and stared at the ones in the window.  "Evan?" she asked quizzically, not completely understanding since the shoes in question were, well, awful.  Hideously bright orange with equally bright yellow, five inch wedge heels, she could feel a headache coming on, just from looking at those eyesores.  "Not on your life, Roka."

He chuckled and rolled his eyes.  "Not for you, V.  Maddy'll love those."

"They're awful," she pointed out in case he hadn't realized that himself.

"I know," he told her with a wink.  "That's why she'll love them."

Valerie opened her mouth to argue that, but snapped it closed once more.  Knowing Madison, she really would love the hideous things—and she'd wear them, too, at least once.  "How many pairs of shoes does she have now?" she asked as Evan picked up a pair of black pumps off the rack and gave them a critical look.

"Hmm, I don't know," he said absently.  "I mean, she said something about having bought her four hundredth pair, but that was a couple months ago, at least . . ."

Shaking her head, Valerie giggled.  "I think she wants to have a different pair for every day of the year," she mused.

"Well, she's never met a pair of shoes she didn't like," Evan remarked with a grin.  "Gotta love a woman with a definite shoe fetish."

"She told me once that she's holding out for Ray Shauzanne," she said, her smile widening as she remembered that particular conversation.  It was the first time that Valerie had really talked to Madison.  It was the first time that Marvin had delayed the wedding, and Valerie had been angry enough that she'd decided to pamper herself by booking herself an appointment at the ultra-exclusive hairdresser and day spa that Madison had opened up near her apartment.  She'd been there a few times for a trim and hair treatments, but she'd never really spoken to Madison before that, other than a perfunctory 'hello' and the like.  That day, though . . . something about Madison had put Valerie at ease almost immediately . . .

"Shauzanne?  The shoe guy?" Evan asked with a frown.

Valerie nodded.  "Don't say that to Maddy.  He's not just the shoe guy; he's the shoe master, the guru, the Shakespeare of Shoes . . ."

"Good God, did you just say Shakespeare?" he asked, turning to face her as he set the shoe back on the shelf.  "That's damn serious."

Valerie shrugged.  "Madison takes her shoes damn seriously."

He considered that then nodded sagely.  "She does," he allowed.  "She totally does."

"I have in the forty," the shop lady said as she bustled back over to them with the equally gaudy box in hand.  "You will try them on?"

"Oh, they're not for me," Valerie hurried to say, taking an unconscious step away from the woman.

Evan laughed.  "It's fine," he told her, taking the box and peeking inside to make sure that both shoes were there.  "I'll take 'em."

"Good, good!" the woman said, clapping her hands happily as she led the way to the counter.

Valerie browsed around while Evan paid for the God-awful shoes.  It seemed to her that the shop specialized in shoes for the color blind.  Most of them were perfectly terrible colors and equally appalling styles.  Psychedelic chic, she supposed, some might call them.  She would have used the term 'hideous' . . .

"Did you want something, baby?" Evan asked, the shoe bag dangling from his slack hand.

"Oh, no," she said, smiling politely since the woman was still watching the two of them with avid interest.

He chuckled, his gaze knowing as he escorted her out of the shop.  It took a moment for her eyes to readjust to the dazzling afternoon sunlight.  The breeze that blew in off the ocean was crisp, just a little moist, but not nearly enough to be humid.  All in all, the perfect day, she decided, and Evan?  She smiled to herself.  He seemed to be more like his usual, silly, goofy self than he had in a while, and for that, Valerie was thankful.

"I would've been surprised if you had actually wanted anything in there," he remarked at length as they wandered down the street through the milling crowd of merrymakers attending the carnival.

A group of children ran past them in the midst of a heated game of follow the leader, laughing and babbling and without a care in the world.  Something about them made Valerie's smile falter, but it wasn't exactly a sad feeling, no.  It was more of a bittersweet emotion, witnessing a moment so sweet, so idyllic, that the understanding that it would be gone in an instant was difficult to embrace.

"You really don't want to have children one day?" Evan asked softly, his gaze on the kids as the ran off down the street.

She didn't know why his question caught her off guard.  She blinked and glanced at him but looked away, unable to look at him and unsure as to why that was.  "Not very fair, is it?" she countered simply, hoping she sounded more blasé than she felt.  "My work is too demanding, and Marvin's research is going to keep him busy, too."

"And that's all right with you?"

There was nothing contentious in his tone.  He wasn't trying to bait her or start a fight, and she knew it.  Still, she couldn't help the rise of her inner defensiveness.  "It's not just that," she said, hoping that he'd drop the subject but knowing that he wasn't going to.  "It's a huge deal, and if you can't devote yourself to taking care of your children completely, then what right do you have to bring them into this world?"

He considered that then nodded slowly, but his smile was a little strained, a little sad.  "Guess that's true," he allowed.  "Still seems kind of lonely, if you ask me."

She couldn't even summon the will to smile, and she sighed, instead.  "It's too easy to screw up a kid," she muttered more to herself than to him.  "Besides, even if I wanted to, I wouldn't know the first thing about being a mother."

"I don't know about that," he contradicted gently.  "Seems to me that you'd be that much better at it than most.  After all, you know firsthand what not to do.  You'd be more careful not to make the same mistakes, right?"

"Maybe," she replied, her tone indicating that she didn't really believe him.

With a sigh, he smiled and took her hand.  "Come on," he coaxed, tugging to get her to follow.  "Let's go find a restaurant or something where you can sit down and get something that's not fried to eat."

"Actually, I'm okay," she said, frowning slightly since her foot really wasn't bothering her at all.  In fact, it hadn't hurt all day, now that she thought about it, and that was strange, wasn't it?  After all, the cut needed stitches, so it wasn't a measly injury, by any means . . .

"Glad to hear it," he said with a grin.  "Just let me know if you want to rest for bit, okay?"

"Okay," she said, rolling her eyes despite the smile on her face.  "Why don't they have any real coffee shops down here?"

He laughed.  "You want me to find you some?"

"Ah, no, you don't have to," she said.  "Besides, it's probably too warm for that now, anyway."

"Nah, it's okay," he said, steering her toward a small bench beneath a bright blue and white awning.  "Sit down and rest a minute, and I'll be right back."

He set the bag beside her and hurried off before she could protest, and she shook her head.  He always did that, didn't he?  He went out of his way to get things for her that he thought she wanted . . .

It was just another of those things that she liked about him.  As much as he hated to hear it, he really was sweet sometimes, even if he normally did tend to ruin those moments with his outrageous antics, too.  She used to think that he did it on purpose.  She'd come to realize that he simply couldn't help himself.

"Hey, honey.  You know, you might not believe me, but you look just like this girl I used to know."

Valerie blinked when the stranger sat down and grinned at her, and she scooted over a few more inches, uncomfortable with his sudden imposed proximity.  She didn't know who he was—she'd never seen him before in her life—and she wasn't really impressed with the salt-and-pepper haired, middle aged man, complete with a predominantly red Hawaiian print shirt that matched the man's ruddy complexion and was stretched near to busting over a paunchy middle aged spread  "Excuse me?" she asked, unsure what to make of the whole situation.

The man's grin widened as he slipped his arm around her, resting it on the back of the bench.  "Now don't be shy," he coaxed.  "Let's be friends, right?"

She scooted a little farther away but was stopped by the metal arm of the bench.  "I like to know people for more than ten seconds before I call them my friends," she replied brusquely as she tried not to breathe in the stench of alcohol on the man's breath.

"Well, then, what say me and you go get to know each other better?" he leered, leaning in closer to her as he reached out with his free hand to grasp her leg just below the hem of the sundress.

"I don't think so," she replied, brushing his hand off and quickly getting to her feet, tamping down the spark of ire that the man would dare to touch her in such a familiar way.  When she reached for the bag, however, he managed to grab it first, and the grin on his face stated quite plainly that he thought he'd won.  "May I have my bag?" she asked after counting to ten.

He stood up rather unsteadily and grinned at her again.  "I don't know, honey.  You gonna ask me nicely?"

"I thought that was nicely," she replied with a very tight smile.  "I have to go, so if you'd be kind enough to hand over my bag—"

"Okay," he agreed suddenly, holding up the bag as he swayed slightly on his feet.  She hesitated for a moment, and when she did reach for it, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer to him.  Swallowing hard as she fought to contain the rising surge of panic that she couldn't help, but loathed just the same, she bit down hard to keep from letting him see any of her emotions.  "There now, see?  Isn't it better to be nice?" he drawled.

She opened her mouth to demand that he let go of her then yelped when she was yanked away from him and shoved back a few steps.  In a blur of movement, Evan shoved the man down on the bench and stood over him, fists clenched at his sides as he glowered at the stranger.  A huge wave of instantaneous relief washed over her, and her knees very nearly buckled.  In that moment, the sight of Evan was more than enough to reassure her that everything would be all right . . . "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't break your goddamn hands," he growled low, menacingly.

"H-Hey, relax, buddy," the man said, looking a little stunned at Evan's sudden appearance.  "I was just trying to get to know the lady."

"Yeah, well, the lady doesn't seem to be interested in a fat fuck like you, now does she?" he demanded, his already low voice growing lower, more gravelly.

The man's already ruddy face darkened a few shades, and he hauled himself to his feet to glower at Evan.  "Just who the hell do you think you are, pretty boy?" he demanded.

He swung his fist at Evan.  Valerie almost screamed, but Evan was too fast, neatly ducking out of the way as his arm shot out, catching the man in the center of the chest with the heel of his hand.  "I'm a helluva lot faster than you are," he taunted.

The man gasped for breath, rubbing his chest furiously.

"Evan," Valerie blurted, grabbing his arm and tugging him back a step.  "It's fine.  I'm okay.  It's okay."

He shook his arm out of her grasp, turning his head to glower at her, and for a moment, she thought that he wasn't going to listen to her.  Jaw clenching so tightly that his cheeks bulged slightly, he looked like he was ready to snap.  Frightening, wasn't it?  The absolute change in the demeanor of the man she knew so well . . . She'd only seen him this angry a handful of times, hadn't she?  Or maybe he was angrier now than she'd ever seen him before . . . That rage of his was destructive, malignant and ugly and seething, and as much as the change in him scared her, the worry that he might do some serious damage was far, far more imperative in her mind.

"I'm all right," she said once more, the tremor in her voice betraying her claims as she grabbed his arm again.  "Come on.  Let's go."

He stared at her for another long moment then turned his glare on the man.  "Touch her again, and I'll break your fucking arms," he warned in a deathly quiet voice that scared her more than any amount of yelling ever could.  He was dangerously close to losing control, wasn't he?  Dangerously close to something that she didn't fully comprehend but knew instinctively that she didn't want to see, either.

But to her relief, he let Valerie drag him away.  The silence that fell between them was tense, grating on Valerie's already frazzled nerves.  "Evan?" she finally said, glancing at him, wincing inwardly when she saw the absolute irritation still very strong in every movement, every line of his features.  His temper was still a terrible thing.  "Evan . . ."

"Don't," he snapped, unconsciously quickening his pace.  "I know damn well what you're going to say, and I'm not fucking sorry!  So help me fucking God, V, if that son of a bitch had so much as breathed on you again, I would have—"

"Thank you," she said quietly, interrupting him before he could go on with his defensive tirade.

Evan blinked and stopped short, looking startled, looking suspicious.  "You're not pissed off?"

Letting out a deep breath, she managed a weak smile.  "N-No," she replied.  She couldn't growl at him, could she?  Not when her entire body felt wobbly and weak as the anxiety that had nearly choked her loosened its grasp; not when he's showed up in time to save her from an otherwise volatile situation . . . Even now, the unbidden thoughts of what might have happened if Evan hadn't showed up when he did were enough to make her look over her shoulder, to make sure that they weren't being followed.  That reaction, however, was enough to irritate her.  She'd rather bite off her own tongue than to admit that she was intimidated by anyone at any time, and even though she couldn't help the complete relief that had shot through her when he'd showed up, she also couldn't help but be a little frightened of Evan's temper, even if it hadn't been directed at her . . . "I don't really like it when you get into fights," she said with another deep sigh, "but I'm glad you came back when you did."

Rubbing his hands over his face, Evan still looked peeved but didn't look like he was ready to attack the next person he saw, either.  After a moment, he shook his head.  "Sorry . . . I, uh . . . I dropped  your coffee when I saw that guy manhandling you."

Forcing a wan smile, Valerie shrugged.  "It's okay," she said, reaching for Evan's hand.  "We can go get more."

Evan stared at her, then he finally managed a weak smile, too, though his gaze was still clouded with emotion.  "All right," he said as he fell into step beside her once more.  "But you're buying this time."

She laughed softly as the remaining tension seemed to drain away from her.  "I can do that, Roka," she said.

"Yeah?" he asked half-heartedly.

She nodded, hoping that she could coax him out of his current mood.  "Yeah."


-Evan-


Wandering into the living room from the bathroom in the shorts that he hated but wore to accommodate Valerie, Evan yawned as he scratched his chest, only to grind to an abrupt halt when he spotted Valerie, leaning on the kitchen counter with one hand with her foot pulled up behind her as she twisted her body in an attempt to look at the bottom of said-foot with a frown on her face.

"What are you doing?" he asked her as he leaned against the corner, a lazy grin on his face.

Letting go of her foot, she straightened her back and blew the hair that had escaped the otherwise neat twist she'd piled her hair into.  "It's just weird, don't you think?" she asked, arching an eyebrow as she crossed her arms over her chest and slowly shook her head.  "It was a pretty deep cut, wasn't it?"

"A fair one," he agreed.  "Are you complaining?"

She wrinkled her nose and pushed away from the counter, grabbing the two glasses of wine she'd poured.  "No," she assured him simply enough.  "It's just weird."

"So you said," he replied, taking the glass she offered him.

"Maybe it's the fresh air out here—or all the fresh fruit," she continued as though she hadn't heard him at all.  "I mean, it healed almost completely in, what?  A couple days?"

"Fresh air's good," he said a little noncommittally.

His youkai grunted.  'There's something wrong with you if you're scared to tell her that you licked her foot just to make sure she healed faster.'

'Shut the hell up.  You make it sound like a bad thing.  It wasn't.  You saw for yourself.  She's fine now.'

'Sink or swim, Roka.  Sink or swim.'

That was all there was to it, wasn't it?  He'd just wanted to make certain that she was all right—nothing more than a gesture that he would do for any of his friends if the need arose.  Sure it was.  Of course it was.  He just didn't want to see anyone he cared about hurting, right?  Licking her foot to accelerate her healing was simply a means to an end . . . right . . .?

'Except that's the kind of thing that one mate does for another,' his youkai pointed out.  'Are you sure you're not just lying to yourself?  There's nothing wrong with what you did.'

He didn't answer that.  To be honest, he wasn't sure how.  To respond to that would only bring him a little too close, flirting with the edges of truths that he wasn't sure he could deal with.  Questions that pertained to Valerie Denning just didn't have any simple answers—if they held any answers at all.

"They should market the air down here as a miracle cure or something," she concluded with a smile.  "Thanks for taking me to the carnival.  I'll admit it.  I had more fun than I thought I would."

"Good," he replied with a soft chuckle.  "You never told me that you were that good at Whack-a-Mole."

Arching an eyebrow, Valerie giggled.  "Why?  Does it bother you that I won you a prize?" she teased.

He laughed and sipped the wine.  True enough, he'd sucked at the game though it hadn't helped that he was still ticked off about the bastard who had tried to manhandle Valerie, and to his surprise, she had been damn good at it—good enough to get enough prize tickets to win a ridiculously goofy-looking stuffed mole, anyway.  "Nope," he assured her with a wink.  "But I'm warning you, you're gonna have to buy me more shit before I put out for you, V."

"What?  I win you a prize with my own skill and that's not good enough for you?" she shot back with a saucy grin.

"I'm not that kind of guy," he assured her.

She rolled her eyes and stepped around him to get to the bureau and the oversized black tee shirt she'd been using as a nightie.  "You're done in there?"

"Yeah," he replied.

Taking a moment to smile at him, to gently squeeze his forearm, Valerie nodded then slipped into the bathroom.

He sighed, draining the glass of wine in one fluid gulp.  Spending the day with Valerie had been nice.  It was obvious to see that she was more relaxed than he'd seen her in a while, and that, alone, was well worth the effort.  Seeing her smile, hearing her laugh . . . It was good for him, wasn't it?

But . . .

But his reaction when the old drunk had dared to touch her?  He flinched.  There hadn't been much thought to it, had there?  Just reaction—absolute rage that he would dare lay a finger on Valerie . . .

And it was frightening, wasn't it?  For a man who was determined not to care, just what had he been thinking, anyway?  Or had he really been thinking at all . . .?

He'd wanted to kill the guy, plain and simple.  He'd wanted to break his arms, break his face, break everything about him for what he'd done.  Maybe Valerie had needed Evan's help.  Maybe she hadn't.  He didn't know, and, more importantly, he didn't care.

She was too damn close, wasn't she?  Too near for him to even try to distance himself.  Somehow in the course of the last couple days, he'd managed to forget his resolve, hadn't he?  She tied him in knots, turned him inside out, and the hell of it was, she didn't really try to do any such thing.  It made no sense, did it?  And yet, somehow, somewhere in the back of his mind, maybe it made just a little too much sense, after all . . .

He was in serious danger of losing himself.  The emotions that he couldn't hide, the weakness that he couldn't fight . . . The consuming rage that had seized him when he'd seen the drunken bastard with his hands on her . . . It was all too dark, too savage.  How the hell was he supposed to regain a semblance of his reason when he was caught up so deeply in her?

The bathroom door opened quietly, and Valerie emerged, shaking out the dress and giving it a critical once-over before folding it up and sticking it into her suitcase.  "So what are you planning for tomorrow?" she asked, picking up the blankets and spreading them out on the floor.

After rinsing the wine glass in the sink, Evan turned it upside down on a dish towel.  "Don't know," he replied, scratching his chest idly as he shuffled over to the bed.  "What are you doing?"

She spared him a glance before reaching for a pillow.  "Making my bed, Roka," she said.

He rolled his eyes and grabbed her hand.  "Like you'll stay there all night," he scoffed.

"I'm telling you, I haven't been getting into your bed this week," she protested but let him pull her through the mosquito netting.

"Sure, sure," he teased.  "Just admit that you want me, will you?"

She snorted but stretched out, pulling the sheet up over herself as she curled up on her side.  "When pigs fly."

He chuckled and laid down beside her, feeling a good kind of lethargy seeping into his body.

'You know, you really are a jackass, rockstar.'

'Who asked you?' Evan countered with a yawn.

'Yeah, whatever, but you know, you're the one who puts her in bed every night.  Coward that you are, waiting until she's asleep before you do it.'

For once, he didn't deny it, and he didn't try to make excuses for it, either.  'Listen, pal, you don't mind her being in here, either.'

'Maybe, but I'm not the one who's pretending not to know a damn thing about it in the morning.'

He reached over and pulled Valerie against him, ignoring his youkai blood's commentary.  She didn't protest.  "Night, V," he said, closing his eyes, a little smile tugging at the corners of his lips—a sad little smile that contained more regret, more wishful thinking, and very little humor at all.  It felt like the end of a sad love song, the pathetic lament for a destiny that wasn't ever meant to be.

"Night, Roka," she replied, her voice already a little thick with sleepiness.  The silence that followed . . . It wasn't kind.


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A/N:
'Dangerous' first appeared on Roxette's 1988 release, Looksharp!.  Song written by and copyrighted to Per Gessle.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
Carnivals … nice
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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 134
Chapter 136
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