InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Killing Time ( Chapter 155 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>If you're gone maybe it's time to come home …
'There's an awful lot of breathing room
'But I can hardly move
'And if you're gone, baby, you need to come home
''Cause there's a little bit of something me in everything in you ...'

-'If You're Gone' by Matchbox Twenty.


-Evan-


He was trying not to look at the clock; he really was.  It made no sense to do it, anyway, since it was probably only a few minutes later than it was the last time he'd checked.  Funny how he'd never noticed before, just how much he hated sitting around and doing absolutely nothing.

Glancing over at Valerie, he stifled a sigh.  Scowling as she stared at the run-down old trailer, she hadn't said a word in well over an hour, and she hadn't said much before that, either.

"Do you think they're in there?" Valerie suddenly asked without dragging her gaze off the trailer.

"I don't know," he said in an almost absent kind of way.  "I'll go knock."

She grabbed his arm when he started to reach over for the handle.  "Don't you dare," she hissed at him.

He relented with a sigh.  "Okay, okay," he grumbled, letting go of the door and settling back in the seat again.  "You wanna go get a cup of coffee or something?  I mean, they're probably here, and it doesn't look like they're planning on going anywhere . . ."

"I'm good," she replied, letting go of his arm.

Evan frowned, turning his attention back to the trailer once more.

Damn, it was a sad place, wasn't it?  The gray paint on the metal siding was peeling off here and there, and in some places, the weathered gray aluminum peeked through.  Even from where they sat just off the narrow path that might have been covered with gravel at some point in time, he could see the patches here and there that had been affixed to the walls where pieces of the paneling had come off.  The yard covered with sparse dead grass, obviously cut short before the winter months had set in, but there was no snow on the ground despite the chilly air.  Against the backdrop of the grayish, overcast sky, the overall bleakness seemed to be almost oppressive . . .

But the very old car sitting in the driveway looked like it was in reasonable shape despite its advanced age, and it had to be the one they were currently using since it had a handicapped placard hanging from the rear view mirror as well as a current handicapped plate on the back.  In fact, everything about the place looked old and tired, from the skeleton of what was probably last season's garden off to the left to the faded black sports car that was resting on cinder blocks right beside the trailer.  The roof of the trailer was a few different colors—patches, Evan supposed—maybe not the prettiest work, but he figured that it did what it was supposed to do: keeping the weather outside where it belonged.

But as worn as it all was, there was something else about it, too—a lived-in feel and the kind of understated warmth that surprised him.  Maybe he'd expected that her family was going to be a den of monsters, but there was an unmistakable pride beneath the surface of it all.  Maybe the yard wasn't as lush as it could have been, but it was trimmed neatly all the way around—at least, as far as Evan could see.  Maybe the cars weren't the latest models, but both seemed clean enough, despite the rust dotting the lower panels.  The window boxes below the frames were covered with snippets of green tarp, as though they were ready for the spring's flowers to be planted.  Even the cheap plastic yard chairs on the porch were neatly stacked and covered with the rest of the green tarp that was secured with a bright yellow bungee cord and seemed to be affixed to the house to keep the chairs from blowing away.

'Paradise Palms,' he thought with a inward sigh.  Hardly what he'd consider a paradise, but maybe a bit better than what he'd ultimately expected . . .

Then again, Durkes wasn't much to look at, either, was it?  It seemed like little more than blocks of weathered buildings: a post office, a handful of stores—more of them closed than open for business.  A couple gas stations at either end of the main drag—a few office buildings.  Smaller than Bevelle, certainly, but retaining the same kind of laid-back atmosphere.  He'd read online that the population of Durkes was about two thousand, and most of those people likely worked in Lexington and commuted every day.  Valerie had mentioned that the other side of Main Street was the nicer side of town with more expensive houses with better cars sitting in the driveways, more expensive little mom and pop shops and stuff like that.

But he'd seen all that hours ago when they'd driven through town on their way out to the trailer park where her parents lived, and judging by the expression on her face, he had a feeling that she still wasn't quite ready to approach or retreat, simply contenting herself for the moment in just observing and, he supposed, waiting to see if she could catch a glimpse of them before she decided what she really wanted to do . . .

He wanted to be supportive; he really did . . . but the sitting still thing was getting to him in the absolute worst way.  Even when he was on tour, he was doing something, and the vehicles that he employed were big enough for him to get up and move around.  He could stand it a lot better if they were moving at least, too, which, of course, they weren't.  He'd rented a dual-cab truck for the duration, thinking that they'd fit in better, and they might have if the trailer was on the other side of town, but even a dual cab wasn't big enough to allow much in the way of movement.

'Damn, I'm—'

'Don't say it,' his youkai cut in.  'Saying it only makes it worse.'

Evan snorted inwardly.  'Well, I am,' he pouted.

'Yeah, but it doesn't matter, does it?  We're not here on a vacation or anything.  We're here to support V, remember?'

'I know; I know,' he muttered.  'Fuck . . . I think my ass just fell asleep . . .'

His youkai sighed but didn't respond.

Glancing over at Valerie again, Evan stifled yet another sigh.  Something told him that he was in for a very long day . . .


-Valerie-


Biting her lip as she stared at the front door of the small trailer, Valerie frowned.  Almost one in the afternoon, and she still hadn't seen hide nor hair of her parents, and she really was starting to wonder if they were there at all . . . They had to be . . .

Evan had taken off on foot to stretch his legs, he'd said.  He'd offered to go on a hunt for coffee for her, and she'd agreed.  The sitting still was driving him crazy.  She knew it even if he hadn't complained.  It wasn't really surprising.  The man was constantly in motion except when he was meditating, and even then, he didn't do that for hours and hours on end, either . . .

It was on the tip of her tongue to point out to him that he was going to get a lot of strange looks since he was entirely conspicuous in the clothes he'd bought just for this trip.  She wasn't sure what he was thinking, but he had actually gone out and gotten a black silk—yes, silk—'western' shirt, complete with garish silver piping and metal arrow tabs on the collar, skin tight black jeans, a ridiculously large silver belt buckle, black snakeskin boots with silver tooling, and a black duster to complete the outrageous ensemble.  Add the black Stetson, and he'd looked about as non-Kentucky as he possibly could.  He looked like an escapee from the Grand Ole Opry, and even though she'd told him that no one dressed that way down here, he'd just grinned at her and tipped his hat.

Weird how things had changed from when she was a child.  The trailer she remembered was an off-white kind of color.  Her father must have painted it, and the change bothered her.  It was a somewhat crude reminder, wasn't it?  Even though she'd known that life had gone on long after she'd been removed from her parents, seeing proof of it, however abstract, was painful . . .

Everything had changed.  It was an unsettling feeling that had gripped her as they'd driven through town earlier in the day.  She remembered it all a little more vividly than she had thought that she would.  After all, she hadn't been in Durkes in years.  Changed, yes, and yet, fundamentally, it was the same, too . . .

Her frown deepened as she stared at the trailer.  Not for the first time, she had to wonder exactly what Evan thought about this place.  When she thought about the house he'd grown up in, the way he'd been raised, it seemed almost sad, didn't it?  Just how pathetic did she seem to him?  Even if he didn't really think that she was, he had to think that the trailer where she'd spent the first seven years of her life was joke enough . . .

The sound of a child's laughter drifted through the cracked window and interrupted her thoughts, and she turned her head to look at the trailer across the lane.  A little girl, maybe five years old, ran outside in a smudgy pink coat and a dingy white stocking cap, her threaded mittens dangling from her sleeves as she ran across the yard.  She was chasing a tired looking rubber ball—the kind the kids always used to play kickball at recess—and when she caught up with it, she gave it a little kick then took off after it again.

It was amazing, wasn't it?  Toys didn't have to be expensive or brand new, did they?  A child that young just didn't care as long as it was fun . . .

"Here you go," Evan said as he opened the door and climbed back into the truck.

Valerie blinked and took the Styrofoam cup he offered her.  "Thanks."

He snorted.  "Don't thank me till after you've tasted it, V.  It's not very good."

"Coffee is coffee is coffee," she insisted, sipping the hot brew carefully.  Then she grimaced.  "Wow, that's really awful," she muttered, glowering at the harmless looking cup and turning it slowly in her hand.

"Told you," he replied, ripping open a small bag of potato chips and stuffing about five of them into his mouth at one time.  "You want me to dump it for you?"

"Are you kidding?" she parried, arching an eyebrow as she shook her head.  "It's still got caffeine in it."

He rolled his eyes but grinned at her, pushing the Stetson off his head and letting it drop to the floor behind the seat.

"So did people stare at you funny?" she queried in a somewhat bored tone of voice, peering at him over the rim of the cup.

He shrugged.  "Kind of anticlimactic, if you ask me," he pointed out.  "I mean, everyone in town is dressed normally."

She shook her head at the disgust evident in his tone.  "You didn't really think that people walk around here looking like that, do you?" she countered, waving her empty hand at his outrageous outfit.

"It would've made things a lot more fun," he grumbled, crumpling up the empty bag and looking around on the floor for something to put it in.  There wasn't anything, and he stared at the wad for a minute before stuffing it into his pocket.  "Talk about misrepresentation . . . It's Kentucky, right?  Bluegrass music?  The famous country twang?  Kentucky hooch?  Hillbillies?  Inbreeding?  Inbred hillbillies—probably inbred after drinking the hooch, by the by . . ."

She snorted and slapped him in the center of the chest with the back of her hand as she turned her gaze back toward the trailer and sipped the horrible coffee.  "See, now that's how stereotypes are perpetuated."

He laughed.  "You win.  I'm sorry," he conceded even though the grin on his face hadn't diminished.

She opened her mouth to retort but sucked in a harsh breath instead when he door on the trailer suddenly opened.  A skinny, almost frail looking woman stepped outside, pulling a huge flannel insulated jacket closed over her chest and holding it in place with her arms crossed over her stomach as she hurried down the steps and across the yard.  For one dizzying second, she looked up, frowning rather curiously at the rental truck, and while common sense told Valerie that there was no way she could rightfully see into the vehicle, it didn't stop her from shrinking back slightly, slipping down a little in her seat to better hide in the shadows.

The woman only went as far as the mailbox on the edge of the yard to retrieve the day's delivery.  As she watched her, Valerie's frown took on a thoughtful turn.  She remembered her mother's bright golden hair—hair that always seemed to catch the sunlight that fell over her mother's shoulder, tickling Valerie's cheek . . . It looked tired and dull now, caught back in a low ponytail that hung nearly to her waist.

"Damn," Evan muttered, staring at the woman as she closed up the mailbox and turned back toward the trailer again.  "Holy damn . . . You look just like her, don't you?"

Valerie didn't respond though she supposed that she did.  Valerie was taller than her mother, certainly, having inherited her father's height, but it was difficult for her to reconcile the woman she saw and the mom she used to know as being one and the same.

Her mother . . . she looked so much older than she ought to, didn't she?  She was only, what?  Forty-two?  Forty-three years old?  And yet she looked like she could easily be fifty, maybe a little over . . . Deep lines in her face, especially around her mouth and at the corners of her eyes, lines furrowing her brow . . . the results of a lifetime of worry?  And . . . and why did it bother Valerie so much . . .?

She blinked suddenly and glanced down, only to see Evan's hand resting on hers.  As though he understood without words, once again, a simple gesture spoke volumes . . .

Grasping the door handle, Valerie couldn't quite bring herself to give it the little pull that would open it, watching instead as her mother crossed the yard again, then disappeared into the trailer once more.

"There's no rush," he said quietly.  "I don't think they're going anywhere."

Valerie let out a deep breath and nodded.  "Yeah," she agreed just as quietly, a hint of sadness tingeing her voice.  "They never have . . ."


-Evan-


"There used to be a little second-hand store here," Valerie ventured as the two of them walked down the main street.  "It used to have this big old rocking chair in the window—not fancy, but you could tell that it was solid wood.  Just needed refinished—that's what my . . . my mom used to say . . ."

"You walk down through here with her a lot?"

Valerie shrugged and shook her head.  "Not really," she admitted with a shake of her head.  "Sometimes, though . . . When we were out of food and I complained about being hungry, we'd go on down there and check behind the diner to see if anything good was tossed out."

Evan frowned, unsure if the idea of Valerie eating food that had once been considered trash bothered him more or if it was the matter-of-fact tone of voice that did it, as though what she'd said was completely normal, and while it may have been a part of her early existence, that just wasn't how it should have been, especially not for a girl like Valerie . . .

She sighed.  "The Penny Press is still here," she murmured, staring at the old stone edifice as they passed by.  "It's the free paper," she explained.  "Mom used to check it to see who was having yard sales.  Dad's friend, Kenny lived up there above.  He played guitar, too, and when he'd come over, he'd always bring a bag of pot with him . . . sometimes, he'd bring other stuff.  Mom always said it was big people stuff . . . They'd smoke it or whatever and play guitar all night, and Dad, Mom, and he would all be passed out in the living room in the morning . . ."

Evan frowned.  The entire place just seemed so . . . so abysmal, as though the town itself was locked in a vortex of nothingness, like nothing at all could ever come from it—a dead zone.  It felt more like the kind of place where hope came to die, where nothing in the world could flourish except for the bitterness, the emptiness that came from the layers upon layers of dreams that were easier to forget than to chase after.

They crossed the street and continued down the block.  She stopped suddenly, scowling at an almost empty parking lot between two newer looking buildings.  "There used to be a park here," she said, her gaze darkening as she looked around.   "Well, not a big park," she amended with a shrug.  "A couple swings and a beat up old merry-go-round with chipped paint that made the worst screeching noise when you pushed it too fast . . ."

"Did you come here a lot?" he asked quietly, unwilling to interrupt her memories with a louder tone of voice.

She flipped up the collar of her coat against the rising wind that had cooled dramatically as the afternoon had progressed.  "Sometimes," she said, her gaze sweeping over the changed area.  "Sometimes I'd stop here on my way home from school to play for a while."  She shot him a hesitant smile, one that seemed uncertain as to whether or not it should be there at all.  "My father brought me here a couple times.  I liked it when he pushed me on the merry-go-round . . . Once, he pushed it so fast that I threw up all over the place."  Uttering a decidedly nervous kind of laugh, she shrugged and looked rather embarrassed.  "Then I begged for him to push me some more . . ."

"That's a good memory," he agreed with a little nod.  "Well, except for the puking, maybe . . ."

She laughed weakly, but her heart wasn't in it.  He couldn't really fault her for that.  She hadn't been ready to take this trip down memory lane, but here she was, and even if she was a little scared, a little reluctant, he couldn't help but to be proud of her, too.

"Show me where else you used to go," he prompted.

She stared at the parking lot for a moment longer then finally turned away with a soft sigh.  The silence that fell between them as they moved on was companionable, and when they reached the next corner, she frowned.  "The dime store used to be there," she said, pointing diagonally across the street at an empty store with plywood nailed up over the windows.  "The . . . The one where I'd stolen the lunch box . . ." After a moment, she glanced at him, smiling wanly as she offered him an offhanded shrug.  "Things change a lot, don't they?"

"I guess they do," he agreed, reaching over to tuck an errant lock of hair behind her ear.

She stared at him for a moment then smiled again, and this time, the expression seemed brighter, more genuine.  "Over there's where the old men always used to gather," she remarked, pointing toward an old fashioned news stand nearby.  There were a couple rickety metal tables set up out front on the sidewalk along with a few chipped metal chairs.  "Looks like they still use it, at least when it's warmer out," he said.

Valerie nodded.  "Probably, though I'd imagine that the faces have changed a little."

She turned down a side street where the concrete sidewalk gave way to much older molded brick cobblestones.  Many of them were broken, and the edges were grown over with flattened grass.  The houses were small, the yards were tiny.  Some were tidy, others not so much.  Even still, there was a level of warmth that seemed to exist beneath it all that was harder to find in the more expensive neighborhoods.

"Those people used to have this huge dog—a mutt, I think," she said, pointing at a rundown brick house across the street.  "Once it broke out of the yard and chased me all the way home . . . I thought for sure that it was going to try to bite me.  Scared me so badly that I avoided walking down this street for months until I heard Dad say that the dog had gotten hit by a car and died."

Evan nodded, not surprised when he noticed that she kept glancing at the house.  It was the same kind of irrational worry that the dog was still there, wasn't it?  The same kind of fear that his mother still harbored when it came to rodents of any kind . . . Maybe Valerie wouldn't admit that she was afraid, exactly, but he supposed he could understand her feelings just the same.  A little girl being chased home by a neighborhood dog?  Yeah, that had to be a fairly scary thing especially if the dog was perceived to want to do her harm.

"Oh," Valerie said softly, stopping mid-stride as she stared at the building across the street.  "I don't believe it . . ." Biting her lip, she blinked a few times, as though she thought that whatever she was looking at was about to disappear.  "It's still here."

Evan followed the direction of Valerie's gaze.  "Candy Cane Confections," he read out loud off the sign hanging over the glass doors.

She nodded slowly as a rather bashful little grin surfaced on her features.

Then he remembered.  That was the bakery, wasn't it?  The one where she'd tried to steal a loaf of bread and had ended up being given a couple loaves and a jar of peanut butter . . .

She started forward again, moving with a quiet sense of purpose.  Evan followed her across the street and into the small bakery.

It smelled good, didn't it? Damn good, actually . . . The yeasty smell of freshly baked bread seemed to encompass the store in a welcome air.  The girl behind the counter smiled at them.  Valerie wandered over an gestured at a row of baskets behind the counter on a shelf—baskets that held an array of different kinds of rolls.  "Two of the pretzel rolls," she said, glancing back at Evan and smiling.  "Oh, and a two pints of milk, please."

The girl bagged up two rolls that looked somewhat like a cross between pretzels and a roll and grabbed two containers of milk out of the cooler.  "Five twenty-five," she said.

Valerie handed the girl a twenty dollar bill.

"Have a nice day," she said with a bright smile as she handed Valerie her change.

"You, too," Valerie replied.

The clerk turned away to continue her task of wiping off some of the shelves, and she didn't see as Valerie crumpled the bills in her hand and dropped them into the tip can on the counter.

Without a word, she led the way out of the shop and back onto the sidewalk again, and she didn't speak as she dug a roll out of the bag and handed one to Evan along with one of the containers of milk.

"This is pretty damn good," he said between bites.

Valerie nodded, pulling a small piece off her roll and popping it into her mouth.  "They tasted even better back then," she allowed, then she shrugged.  "Well, I guess they taste the same, and it's really good, you're right," she explained.  "I think anything would've tasted like a treat back then . . ."

"Nah," he said.  "Definitely good."

She laughed as some of the tension that she'd carried with her for days seemed to drain away.  Maybe she wasn't completely relaxed, but maybe . . . Maybe taking the time to face her memories, to come to terms with some of the things she hadn't understood back then was good for her, even if she didn't really comprehend what she was ultimately doing.

"You know," she went on, stashing her milk in her pocket unopened so that she could devote her full attention to her roll as she pulled it apart bit by bit and popped little bites into her mouth, "some small part of me had always thought that everything here had stopped when I got taken away.  Stupid, right?"

He chuckled.  "Nah, not stupid," he told her.  "I think that's probably pretty normal, if you ask me."

She rolled her eyes but giggled softly.  "Something about eating this," she mused as she stared at the roll and ate another bite, "makes me feel like a little kid, all over again."

"I kind of feel that way whenever I eat one of those molded ice cream things."

"Molded ice cream things?" she echoed, casting him a questioning kind of look.

He grinned.  "Yeah, you know, like the ones you get from the ice cream truck?"

She laughed.  "What was your favorite?"

"Favorite?  Ah, let's see . . . Oh!  I always liked the Marvin the Martian ones," he said, his grin widening.  "Always liked to bite his damn head off . . . Guess I've never liked anyone with that name—well, except to eat it or something . . ."

Valerie snorted but the humor in her expression remained.  "Why doesn't that surprise me?" she asked drolly.

Evan shot her a cheesy grin but didn't make any excuses.

She rounded the corner on the next block then stopped, her smile fading as she gazed at the abandoned building before them.  Then she sighed, and while she didn't look sad, exactly, she did seem a little taken aback.

"What's this?" he asked when she remained silent.

Valerie crumpled up the wax paper that had held her roll.  "That's where I went to school," she said.  "See that window on the far end there?  That was my kindergarten classroom."

Evan took in the sight of the empty building and nodded slowly.  "You wanna break in?" he asked, only half joking.

She rolled her eyes and smacked him lightly in the center of his chest.  "How did your brain automatically go there?" she asked, arching an eyebrow as she slowly shook her head.

He held up his hands to protest his innocence.  "I just thought that you'd want to take a look around," he insisted and waved toward another window that looked like it was broken.  "Besides, it looks like someone already beat us to it, so it's not really a big deal, right?"

She snorted and grabbed his hand as she carted around on her heel to go back the way they'd come.  "Come on, deviant," she said, tugging on him when he didn't move fast enough.  "Only you would think of breaking into a school, anyway."

He laughed but let her lead him off.  The sun was starting to set, casting long shadows as the generosity of night closed in fast.

Back on the side street once more, Valerie let go of Evan's hand and slowed her step as she sipped the milk.  "I guess we should go back to the hotel for the night, anyway," she ventured at length.

Evan nodded.  "If that's what you want," he agreed.

She sighed and appeared to be deep in thought, if the scowl on her face meant anything at all.  "It's just . . ." She trailed off for a moment with a grimace as she chucked the empty milk container into a nearby trash barrel.  "I don't know if I want to  . . . to talk to them," she admitted, her voice raw with emotion.  "But if I do . . . Wouldn't it be better to do it when the kids aren't there?"

"Makes sense," he allowed, tossing away his trash, too.  "But you want to see them, don't you?"

"I'd rather see them than talk to Mom and Dad," she said.

Evan nodded, slipping his arm around her and giving her a reassuring little squeeze.  "Whatever you want," he told her, leaning in to kiss her temple without breaking his stride.  "We can drive back down here tomorrow."

She didn't respond right away, but when he started to pull his arm away from her, she caught his hand and held on.  "Evan . . . thanks again," she said, trying to offer him a smile but failing miserably.

He sighed and gave her another squeeze.  "I told you, woman.  Don't thank me.  There's no need."

She didn't look entirely convinced, but she did manage a real smile.  It was enough for him.


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A/N:
'If You're Gone' by Matchbox Twenty originally appeared in the May 2000 release, Mad Season, written by Rob Thomas.   Copyright 2000 EMI Blackwood Music.
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Reviewers
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MMorg
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Forums
lianned88 ------ MidCat ------ cutechick18 ------ sydniepaige ------ GoodyKags ------ amohip ------ KendallHearts
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Final
Thought from Evan:
V's mama is hot!
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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~

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