InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Ugliness ( Chapter 137 )

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


'I'm so tired of being here
'Suppressed by all my childish fears
'And if you have to leave
'I wish that you would just leave
''Cause your presence still lingers here
'And it won't leave me alone …'

-'My Immortal' by Evanescence


Starin g at the closed door in a stunned silence, Valerie blinked, dashing a hand across her eyes as she scowled angrily and told herself to stop tearing up.  It wasn't crying.  God, no.  Why the hell would she cry over a jerk like Evan Zelig or anything that he had to say?

"That is what you wanted, right?  You want me to be exactly what you always thought I was, don't you?  The asshole rockstar?  The womanizing bastard?  Well, there you go.  That's what I am.  That's all I'll ever be.  Congratulations."

"Jerk!" she hissed, stomping over to the kitchenette, yanking the empty coffee pot out of the machine and filling it with water from the tap without thinking about what she was really doing at all.  Stupid, right?  That's what he was.  Stupid and shallow and thoughtless . . .

Who the hell cared what he went off and did or who he chose to do it with?  She certainly didn't; of course she didn't.  He could go screw the entire northern hemisphere, and she didn't care!  Why should she, she'd like to know.  Why in the world should she?  If he wanted to think with his penis, then that was fine—just fine.  He never had cared who he hurt in the process, now did he?  He certainly didn't care if she—

Cutting that thought off abruptly, she dumped the water into the coffee maker and slammed the carafe back into place.

No, she didn't care.  If anything she was glad—overjoyed—that he'd taken off.  If he went and did what he'd threatened to do?  Well, then at least there wouldn't be a repeat of this morning, now would there?

But that thought evoked too many memories, didn't it?  Things she hadn't wanted to understand, things that she didn't want to feel . . .

Better not to think about him, wasn't it?  Better to push him out of her mind, to forget that he even existed.

"Yeah, and maybe I'll forget to breathe while I'm at it," she muttered to herself, dumping a generous amount of coffee grounds into the filter and snapping it shut before hitting the power button and leaning back against the counter to wait.

He didn't have the right to have done what he was doing to her this morning.  That was the long and short of it, wasn't it?  He didn't have the right to foist himself upon her, especially while she was sleeping.  And it really was his fault that she was in his bed, to start with.  She hadn't gone crawling in there.  He'd insisted, hadn't he?  If he didn't like to be subjected to her presence, he damn well should have let her alone.  She would have been more than happy to stay on the floor, wouldn't she?  Or did he think that she was just making up that bed on purpose last night—every night, for that matter?

A quiet voice in the back of her mind told her that she was being unfair.  At the moment, however, she didn't care.  His words, no matter how he'd said them . . .

'Stop it!' she told herself sternly, glancing at the coffee maker to see if there was enough for a full cup yet.  'He's nothing but a rockstar jerk!  He had a fit because he can't have his way; that's all.  That's all . . .'

He was wrong, wasn't he?  Wrong about everything he'd said.  She hadn't done a thing to provoke him.  She hadn't done a thing to make him think that she'd welcome his advances.  She'd always told him that she wasn't interested.  It wasn't her fault that he never wanted to listen.  He was wrong, wrong, wrong—dead wrong.

It was exactly as she'd always thought, and yes, always feared on some level.  Evan might put on a good face.  He might act like he understood her, but he didn't, did he?  How could he?  How could he possibly begin to comprehend her and then turn around and say things so ugly, so hurtful, so . . .?

'So accurate,' that voice whispered.

She snorted, grabbing a cup off the dishtowel on the side of the sink and dumping all the coffee into it.  Accurate?  Hell, no!  There was no truth in any of it!  If there were . . .

He accused her of playing games?  That was laughable, wasn't it?  And she'd laugh, sure she would have, if the things he'd said hadn't been so cruel.  What did he think he was doing if not playing games?  He was enabling himself, that's what.  By putting all the blame on her, he was convincing himself that it was all her fault, that she'd somehow driven him to do what he wanted to do all along so that he would be able to point fingers later, so he could say that he'd only done what she'd made him do.

Slugging back the coffee, ignoring the harsh burn of the scalding liquid as it coursed down her throat, Valerie scowled.  That's what he was doing, wasn't it?

The glimmer of something caught her eye.  Setting the empty coffee mug aside, she narrowed her eyes.  Catching the brilliant sunlight cascading through the windows, the shards of the mirror that he'd destroyed during his tirade seemed to mock her.  There was something entirely ghastly about the tableau, wasn't there?  A shattered mirror on the floor, and a million pieces of something broken deep inside her . . .


The call of birds punctuated the dull rumble of the ever-changing ocean as Valerie wandered along the shore.  The gentle ebb of the water ran after her, rolling over her toes, only to run away again as her feet sank into the wet sand.

It was a warm day with a gorgeous breeze blowing in to keep the heat from becoming stifling.  The same breeze lifted her hair, tossed it gently, only to let go, to let the strands drift back down before lifting them again in an intricate kind of dance.

She sighed but kept walking.  She figured she'd made it about halfway around the island since she'd left the house hours ago.  She just needed to clear her head, didn't she?  She needed to stop thinking . . .

The anger that had lingered after Evan had left hadn't lasted nearly long enough.  Anger, she'd found, was easier to deal with, holding the pressing questions at bay, affording her the ability to discount everything that had been said.  The anger had prevented her from admitting that what he'd said held some measure of truth—truth that she didn't want to think about. Truth that she hated almost as much as the lies she tried to believe . . .

What did it matter, really?  That she'd been ready to bed down on the floor or not, it didn't matter in the end, not when she knew deep down that he wouldn't ask her to do any such thing.  She told herself that she wouldn't mind, and all the while, she'd known, and maybe she'd counted on it, too . . . Oh, maybe it wasn't a conscious thought.  Maybe she hadn't even realized that it was there, at all.  Still, it didn't take away her part in all of it.  If she had insisted that she stay on the floor, then this morning never would have happened . . .

And the hell of it was that, if she were to be completely honest with herself, she wasn't even angry at him for that, either.  How could she be when he was half asleep, just like she was?  She was angry at the situation, maybe, but Evan?

Biting her lip, she lifted her chin, shifted her gaze over the horizon.  Maybe he had been wrong to have said a lot of the things that he had said, but she had to admit that she was wrong, too.  Reacting before she could completely assess the moment, letting her temper get the better of her . . . No wonder he'd reacted so badly.  She hadn't given him much of a choice, had she?

But where was she supposed to go from here?  What was he going to say when he came back?  Was he going to still be angry with her?  Or was he going to do what he usually did: joke and smile and brush it all off as nothing . . .? And if he did that, was she supposed to do it, too?  To rewind time and pretend as though nothing at all had been said?  And if that was what he wanted to do, could she really go along with that?

No, she needed to apologize, and she knew it.  No matter what he'd said, no matter how hurtful his words had been, she hadn't had the right to take her frustrations out of him to start with.  No doubt about it, something about Evan inspired the most extreme reactions in her, whether it was anger or frustration or even amusement.  Still, the most important thing was that she try to explain it to him, explain herself better than she had before.  Saying that kissing him at Christmas had been an accident wasn't what she'd meant, exactly.  The trouble was that she hadn't really explained it the way she'd wanted to, and she needed to figure out just how she was going to tell him what she thought.  After all, she really did owe him that much.  Maybe she owed him a lot more than that . . .

Letting out a deep breath, Valerie rubbed away the goosebumps that rose to the surface of her skin.  There was something different in the air, wasn't there?

It felt like a storm was coming.


Leaning forward as she hugged her knees, Valerie's gaze scanned the horizon, watching in vain for the sight of the yacht rounding the island through the steady sheet of rain that fell from the moonless sky.  Through the drops, she could see the distant lights lining the dock.  They seemed to flicker as the rain continued to fall.  Off to the east, a flash of lightning illuminated the sky, and Valerie sighed.  When she was a child, she'd wondered more than once, what it'd be like to be struck by that lightning.  She'd wondered if she would have died, and if she had, would anyone really have cared . . .?

She hadn't had that thought in years, but staring at the sky, the familiar and unwelcome idea came back along with the loneliness, the melancholy that hadn't ever gone away.  Maybe she'd buried it somewhere deep down, that feeling that she was nothing, that she didn't matter to anyone, and even if her logical mind told her that she was being foolish, it was still there, ugly, lurking just out of sight . . .

The rain had started around six, just before she'd made it back from her walk around the island, just after the sun had set.  Beside her on the porch sat the forgotten plate of food that she'd fixed for herself after drying off.  She didn't know what time it was now, but it had been dark for a while.  Pulling the blanket she'd brought outside with her a little closer around her shoulders, Valerie sighed.

She wasn't sure when she'd finally started to realize that Evan was right.  All those things he'd said to her, as ugly and painful as they were for her to hear, he'd been right, and as much as she hated to admit it, even to herself, she knew, didn't she?  She knew . . .

It didn't matter that he was angry or that he was lashing out at her just as much as she'd lashed out at him.  There wasn't a doubt in her mind that her misplaced anger had fed his which had done the same to her, resulting in an irreversible cycle as everything had spiraled out of control.  The thing was, he couldn't take back the things he'd said, and she . . . Well, she didn't really want him to try to.  They said that sometimes people could say things in anger that they didn't mean, but she didn't think that it was true.  After all, the thoughts had to come from somewhere, didn't they?  So there had to be some measure of truth in there.

And it didn't matter, anyway.  The anger of this morning had given way to a sense of self-pity by early afternoon, but Valerie never had been good at being a victim.  So, she'd brushed that off quickly enough, and now?  Now . . .

But it was harder to take a look at herself—an objective look at the things that she hadn't wanted to see.  She was the poster girl for the 'love yourself' movement, wasn't she?  Love yourself because no one else ever will; love yourself and you don't need anyone else to do it for you.  The things that she prized the most were the things that she could control.  Who she was, what she was . . . Those were the things that she could dictate, and as much as she prided herself on the efforts she'd put in over the years—efforts to create the Valerie Denning that she was now, just what had she ultimately given up?

Somewhere along the way, she'd forgotten a few things.  It was true, wasn't it?  At some point, she'd forgotten that it was entirely inappropriate for her to crawl into bed with anyone else, especially when she was only wearing a tee-shirt and panties.  Maybe it was because Evan was so comfortable with himself that it hadn't seemed like such a big deal, and worse, she knew, was that she really didn't mind Evan's attention, either.  She liked that he made her feel beautiful.  She liked that he very obviously approved of her looks, and even if she hadn't intentionally led him on, it didn't matter, either; not if the end result had made him think that she was.

And maybe deep down, she had realized that, too.

She grimaced and bit her lip as her gaze shifted over the horizon once more.  The emptiness that greeted her eyes somehow seemed apropos.

She really hadn't ever taken Evan seriously, had she?   He was right about that.  The trouble was that it was hard to tell with him sometimes.  He joked about things so frequently that it was hard to tell when he was just trying to cover up something else.  In a very real sense, he used joking to mask things in much the same way that Valerie used her own defense mechanisms, she supposed.  How often had she accused him of not taking anything seriously?  But she'd never stopped to think that maybe—maybe his joking about those same things might well have been his effort to downplay them so that she didn't know just how much thinking he really was doing?

But she couldn't always tell with him, either, and maybe that was her own fault.  Maybe she hadn't given it enough thought to try to figure him out, to see the signs that she might have missed.  She didn't know how much of his feelings were real, how many of them weren't, or how serious the real ones were, for that matter.  All of the things he'd said to her, whether he was joking or not . . .

She did understand that he cared about her.  She knew that he really would go out of his way for her.  She just wasn't sure how deep those feelings really were, how reliable they were.

". . . You don't want me, but you don't want anyone else to have me either . . ."

Was that true?  Was she really as bad as all that?  Was she really so blind that she would demand that of him?

Dropping her forehead against her knees, Valerie scrunched up her shoulders as though she were trying to make herself as small as possible, as unnoticeable as she could possibly be.  That wasn't it; not at all.  Sure, his desire to go find a willing woman bothered her.  As much as he hated it, he really was her friend, and no matter what else was or wasn't between them, if there wasn't a foundation in friendship, there wasn't anything at all.  The idea that he thought that his value as a person was based upon whether or not he slept with women?  It horrified her—and it made her angry.  Not angry at him, no.  After all, it's what he'd been conditioned to believe over a lifetime of being treated like that's all he was worth.  No, her anger was directed at those women who had done this to him, time and again, to the point that he honestly thought that it was something that he needed.  She only wanted him to see—to realize—that it wasn't true.  Yes, there had to be a certain level of attraction.  She'd be stupid to try to convince herself that there wasn't, but if there was no emotion, no feeling behind the physical act, was there really anything to it other than a moment of gratification and a gnawing emptiness when that moment was over?

And Valerie knew that emptiness well enough.  She'd spent her teenage years feeling it over and over again.  Drifting from one bad relationship to another, believing that if she slept with the guys that they'd love her, the emptiness that was always there was painful, so painful.  Didn't he know that?  Didn't he have that feeling, too?  Or had he really been able to convince himself that there was more to it than what was really there?

"Again, if I didn't take you seriously, then we wouldn't really be here now, would we?  No, because if I didn't take you seriously, we'd have already done the fucking, and you'd be at home, hating me right now because I'd be the dickhead who used you then tossed you away!"

The memory of those words made her flinch, the harshness that emphasized the truth in his statement.  It really would be so simple for him, wouldn't it?  So easy for him to get her to go along with whatever he wanted, screw the consequences in the end.  This morning had only served to punctuate that, hadn't it?  If he wanted to—If he really, honestly wanted to . . .

But he hadn't, had he?  He never had, and that, in her estimation, spoke volumes.  If she were to believe that he wanted her so desperately, then why hadn't he just barreled right through her reticence and taken what he wanted?

And she knew the answer to that, too, didn't she?  Evan, she knew, didn't want her like that.   She wasn't sure how she knew that.  She didn't know whether or not it was just wishful thinking on her part.  Evan would never really manipulate her into doing something that she'd ultimately regret, would he?  Even if his body hated him for it . . .

Letting out a deep breath, Valerie lifted her chin, wondered what he was doing right now.  Did he find the women he was looking for?  And if he had, would that really make him happy?

'But isn't there more to it?  The sadness that you feel . . . Is it masking something else?  Something deeper than the idea that he's willing to accept whatever those women afford him . . .?  Isn't there another reason why you hate the idea of him sleeping with someone else—anyone else?'

She didn't know.  The idea that there was something more to it, something more to her feelings, was frightening.  Too many things kept twisting around in her head, one into another as she struggled to make sense of them.  Just how was she supposed to deal with anything at all when the accusations still resounded in her ears?

The truth of it was that Valerie never had liked looking at herself, never could stand to try to analyze her own feelings.  Asking herself why had availed her nothing over the years, and even now, there was the ugly knowledge that the kind of introspection that she was doing wouldn't really bring her any real answers.  When she was a child and wondered why she'd been taken away from her parents . . . When she was a teenager and wondered why they'd missed another visit . . . When she was a young woman and wondered why she didn't see them in the stands at her college graduation . . . A myriad of questions that she'd never, ever been able to answer . . .

Evan had been right about a lot of things, hadn't he?  All the things he'd said, no matter how cruel or hurtful they'd been, had held some truth.   Maybe he saw her better than she saw herself.  It wouldn't be surprising.  After all, one way or another, wasn't it always harder to take a good, objective look at yourself?

It seemed to her that she and he had hurt each other a lot over the past few months, and yet for all the hurt feelings, there was also a sense of understanding, too.  Maybe the argument had been inevitable, and as much as she hated the things that she'd said to him, the things that he'd said to her, maybe all of it had ultimately needed to be said.

The thing was, she had never meant to discount his feelings at all, any more than he'd meant to discount hers.  She hadn't realized that he was as upset as he was, had she?  He was just as good at hiding things as she was, maybe better.

Sighing quietly, Valerie tightened her grip on her legs, wondering absently if the rain would stop before Evan made it back to the island, and when he did, how would she tell him?  How could she possibly make him understand just how sorry she really was?  She'd never meant to lead him on.  She hadn't wanted to make him think that he was just some kind of easy distraction.  He'd given her emotional support during those times that she'd desperately needed it, and she'd repaid him with pain.  It did no good to tell herself that she hadn't meant to do any such thing, that he was the last person she'd ever wanted to hurt.  That would just be making excuses, and doing that wouldn't serve any purpose at all.  That was the kind of thinking that led to the accusations and confrontation.

Still, she wanted to try to make him understand that she hadn't meant to hurt him. Deep down, Evan was a good person, and she knew that, too.  The first to defend her, the last to abandon her, smiling at her when she felt like screaming . . . Evan often seemed to understand just what she needed, even if she didn't really know.  There wasn't a doubt in her mind that he cared about her.  She cared about him, too, didn't she?  No, what she didn't know was how deep those feelings really were—how deep they could possibly be, and even then, she really was the first woman who treated Evan as a person, wasn't she?  Not just some guy who was entirely too hot for his own good, but as a person, capable of emotions and thoughts of his own . . .

She scowled at the night and the inky blackness that surrounded the house on the beach.  Evan deserved so much more, didn't he?  More than any of those women who didn't know him but thought they wanted him—more than she could offer him.  He deserved to be with someone who wasn't already bogged down with emotional baggage from a lifetime of disappointment and, yes, fear.

He was infuriating at times.  He made her laugh when she wanted to be stern.  He showed her things that she didn't know existed or had somehow managed to forget over time.  Maybe he was better for her than she'd ever be for him, and as much as she loved being around him, maybe . . .

Pushing herself to her feet and retrieving the forgotten plate of food, Valerie went back into the house with a sigh.

"I tried not to, if you'll recall.  I told you that I wanted to go alone, didn't I?"

He had, hadn't he?  He'd told her from the start that he didn't want her there, and she hadn't listened to him.  She'd convinced herself that he was joking, just like he always did, but maybe that was just convenient.  She hadn't thought twice about it, had she?  All she'd seen was that he was going to the Bahamas, and she'd wanted to go, come hell or high water . . .

Setting the plate on the counter—she just wasn't very hungry, she supposed—she stared at Evan's cell phone with a frown.  Reaching for it, flipping it open, she ignored the beeping that told her she was out of range and pushed the button, looking at his speed dial, and wasn't at all surprised to see that her number was listed in the first position.  Something about that brought tears to her eyes, tears that she blinked back quickly as she closed the phone and set it down once more.  If she looked at her own phone, she knew what she'd see.  The first position was her office.  The second one was her apartment building's superintendent.  The third one?  That was where Evan's number was . . .

Picking up the satellite phone, she tapped it against the palm of her hand.  She had to show him, didn't she?  She had to show him that she did care about him, about his feelings.  She owed him that much, at the very least.  In truth, she owed him a hell of a lot more . . . and even if it was the very last thing she wanted to do, maybe it was time.  Maybe it was time she listened to him—heard him—really heard him—even if the idea of it hurt her somewhere deep down.  She'd done nothing but demand things of him from the start, and even if her intentions were good, she couldn't help but feel as though there was some measure of selfishness to it all, too.  It was convenient to wrap her concerns into a neat package and to say that she worried that he was going to tarnish Zel Roka's image even more, but . . . But even if she wanted to say that, and maybe it was true to some extent, Zel Roka was light years away at the moment, wasn't he?  Evan Zelig was the one here with her, and no one in the world would care what he was out doing or with whom he was doing it.  No one in the world but her, anyway . . .

The toy on the shelf, the one she was too afraid to play with so she left it there, near enough to look at, far enough away that it couldn't touch her . . . Evan was the one hurting, probably more than she was, and the idea that it was her fault, even if she hadn't intended to hurt him in the least . . . It was time, wasn't it?  After all was said and done, she needed to do what she should have done in the beginning . . .

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'My Immortal' first appeared on Evanescence's 2003 release, Fallen.  Song written by and copyrighted to Ben Moody and Amy Lee.
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Thought from Valerie:
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.

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