InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Courage ( Chapter 156 )

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


- OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'If you want to, I can save you
'I can take you away from here
'So lonely inside, so busy out there
'And all you wanted was somebody who cares, yeah yeah ...'

-'All You Wanted' by Michelle Branch.


-Valerie-


"'My uncle's my paw and my cousin's my maw way down here in Kentucky . . .
'I got my supper from a semi trucker, what hit a deer in Kentucky . . .
'I got me a truck that useta  get stuck till I duct taped 'er up in Kentucky . . .
'Now I can't drive 'er cuz she ain't got no tires an' she's up on blocks in Kentucky . . .
'My teacher named Nelle was fat as hell and when it rained she smelled in Kentucky . . .
'Her teeth had gaps, her breath reeked like ass, and she toked on grass in Kentucky . . .
'The chicks like my twang and my big old thang an' they just wanna bang in Kentucky . . .'"

"Okay, Roka," Valerie interrupted, smashing her hand over the plastic guitar he was strumming in time to the demented song he'd been singing for the last ten minutes.  "I get it.  You've made your point.  Very funny.  Ha ha."

He shot her an innocent look—too innocent, in her opinion.  "You don't like the Hillbilly Song?" he asked.

She snorted and crossed her arms over her chest.  "That is so not a real song," she argued mildly.

He grinned.  "It should be, huh?"

She rolled her eyes.  "You should use your powers for good, not evil, you know," she pointed out dryly.

"But evil's a lot more fun," he joked.

Valerie sighed.  Day Two of her vigil, watching the trailer where she'd spent the first seven years of her life, and Evan, apparently, was losing his mind.

He'd just gotten back about twenty minutes ago from walking up to the convenience store-slash-gas station where he'd gotten her the terrible coffee yesterday.  Today's brew was no better, but it was coffee, at least, and that was something—maybe.

But he'd also found a package of plastic kiddy musical instruments that really weren't instruments, at all.  It didn't stop him from trying to play them, though, and while she'd thought that the silly blue plastic guitar was amusing enough when he'd first gotten it out of the package, when he'd decided to compose the absolutely ridiculous Hillbilly Song, her amusement had died quickly enough.

He sighed and dug a Zero bar out of his pocket, stuffing half of it into his mouth after he ripped it open.  "Wan' bite?"

She shook her head and wrinkled her nose as she pushed his hand away.  "No, thanks," she replied.

He seemed content enough to eat the rest of the candy by himself.  At least he'd given up on the outlandish 'western' wear, though he'd shot her a cheeky grin when he'd emerged from his room in a blue plaid flannel shirt earlier.  She'd rolled her eyes but figured that it was better than what he'd worn the day before.

Making a face as she lifted the Styrofoam cup of coffee to her lips, she sighed.  "This stuff's so bad," she muttered.

"Yeah, and you'd think that you wouldn't be drinking it in that case," he remarked.

"It's coffee," she retorted.

They'd gotten here earlier than they had the day before—in time to watch as her younger brother was picked up for school by a kid in an obnoxiously loud hatchback that didn't look safe in the least.  Garret had loped out of the trailer and down the steps as she'd stared in silence.  Tall like their father, impossibly skinny, like he'd recently hit a growth spurt and hadn't gained the weight to go along with the height yet, his hair was a little darker than Valerie's, even if the shape of his face, the contour of his lips and eyes were very similar to hers . . .

"Damn," Evan whistled low as he watched the kid fold himself practically in half as he climbed into the car, "that is one pretty boy . . ."

Valerie was inclined to agree, even if she did snort indelicately at Evan's bald assessment.

A few minutes after Garret's departure, Kaci Lea had left, shouldering a faded denim bag that was laden heavily with her school books.  She'd trudged alone down the makeshift road that led through the trailer park, head ducked as she read over some pages in a notebook.  Studying for a test, maybe?  Valerie had smiled as the girl caught the length of her long blonde hair and held it with one hand to keep it from blowing into her face as she walked.  It was hard to see that face, unfortunately . . .

Still, by the time the two had gone, Valerie had felt a lot better.  There had been so many times over the years that she'd wanted to see both of them.  In her estimation, that was the worst part of it all.  It was easy for her to tell herself that she didn't care about her parents, but what bothered her the most was the lack of a relationship she had with her siblings.  They wouldn't even know her, would they?  She sighed.

The rustle of plastic drew her out of her reverie, and she blinked when she glanced over, only to see Evan shove another candy bar into his mouth: a Heath bar this time . . .

"How much candy did you buy?" she asked, arching an eyebrow as he stuffed the wrapper into his pocket again.

"They didn't have any real food," he explained almost guiltily.

She shook her head but refrained from further comment as she turned her attention out the windshield once more.  Surely they had to come out of the house at some point, didn't they?  She wrinkled her nose.  Of course they did, damn it.  The trouble was, she had a feeling that she wouldn't be sure exactly what she wanted to do until she saw them—really saw them.  Sure, she'd seen her mother the day before, but it was too shocking at the time.  It had been more of a jolt to her system after all these years, and she hadn't quite been able to process much of anything in those precious few minutes.  This time, she'd be able to figure it out, wouldn't she?

If they came out of the trailer, that was.  Ten in the morning, and it was starting to look like a repeat of the day before . . .

A strange sense of jiggling interrupted her thoughts, and she glanced over at Evan again, only to find him scowling at the trailer, too, but his right leg was bouncing up and down fast, as though he couldn't contain his energy and it had to find a way to escape.

She sighed.  It figured.  She really should have known that he simply wasn't used to sitting still for any real length of time.  Was that really surprising, given what he did for a living?  He really was trying; she'd have to give him that . . .

"I can't help it!  I get in trouble when I'm bored," he'd said.  Of course, it probably didn't help that he was eating yet another candy bar, too . . . He was going to end up so high on sugar that he'd be bouncing all over the place soon enough . . . She grimaced.


-Evan-


'Not bad . . .'

Evan's youkai-voice snorted indelicately.  'Not bad?  Keh!  Not good, either, if you ask me.'

'Which I didn't,' Evan shot back, tilting his head to the side as he considered his handiwork.

'Face it.  We're bored.  Bored silly—or stupid, in your case . . .'

'We're fine,' Evan retorted.  'Besides, I don't think V's ready to do anything but sit here and keep watching that trailer.'

Evan's cell phone buzzed in his pocket, and he dug it out with a grimace.  Mike.  He sent it to voicemail and set the device aside.

"Who was—?" Valerie started to ask, only to cut herself off when she turned toward him.  "What is that?" she asked, sounding less than impressed when she got a good look at him.

"What's what?" he queried as he grinned at her.

She rolled her eyes and waved a hand at him.  "That," she stated once more.

Evan glanced down then met her gaze once more as his grin widened.  "What?  My boobs?"

She snorted.  "They're Sno-balls," she replied flatly.

"Yeah, I know," he said, puffing out his chest to display them proudly.  "Small but firm, right?"

"How'd you get them to stick to you?" she couldn't help asking as she continued to eye him.

"Well, the backs are pretty moist," he explained.  "I should've bought some jelly beans.  Then I could've made nipples, too."

She stared at him for another long moment then grabbed the closest one and bit down.  Without a word, she smashed it back onto his chest, face shifting into a grimace as she reached for her coffee once more.

"V!" he complained, frowning down at his chest.  "You ate part of my boob!  Now I'm all lopsided!"

"Ugh," she groaned, draining the cup in one long gulp.  "Those things are gross, Roka."

"I can't believe you ate one of my boobs," he grumbled, pulling the malformed Sno-ball off his chest and stuffing the rest of it into his mouth.  "Mmm . . . 'arsh'alloh . . ."

She didn't reply as she dug a disposable toothbrush out of her purse and yanked down the visor so she could use the mirror mounted on it.

He heaved a sigh designed to let her know just what he thought of her ruining the overall effect and made quick work of eating the other snack cake.  "My chest's all sticky now," he told her as he tugged the flannel shirt closed and worked the button fastenings.

"You should've thought about that before you decided to stick on your 'boobs'," she pointed out dryly.

He stifled the urge to sigh.  "You want another cup of coffee?" he asked, hoping that she did since he'd at least get to stretch his legs, walking down to the gas station again.

"And give you the chance to buy more candy?  You'll have to be scraped off the roof as it is.  I think I'll pass," she replied.

"I'm sorry," he muttered, sounding more irritated than apologetic.  "It's just sitting here, you know?  It's so—"

"Don't say it," she cut in before he could get the accursed word out.

He heaved a longsuffering sigh.  "Oka-a-a-ay," he drawled in much the same way as a pouting child might.

"Suck it up, Roka," she told him brusquely.  "You're fine—just fine—and . . ." Trailing off as a medical supply delivery van rumbled past, she frowned as it pulled to a stop in front of her parents' trailer.  "And what's that, do you think . . .?"

Evan sat up a little straighter and cracked his window as though to help him hear what was going on, not that it would help much.  Even with his youkai sense of hearing, he was still too far away to hear anything . . .

The man got out of the van with a handheld computer module in his hand, and he paused long enough to punch a few things in on the pad before stuffing the device into a pouch suspended from his belt before yanking open the back doors and reaching for a box inside.

"Oxygen," Evan said after a minute.  "That's what it looks like . . ."

Valerie frowned since she couldn't rightfully tell what was in that box.  "Are you sure?"

"Looks like," he repeated with a shrug.  "The warnings on the box . . ."

She leaned forward slightly to get a better view.  Evan dug a pair of binoculars out of his pocket—he'd bought them the last time he'd walked uptown from a small sporting goods store near the gas station—and held them out to her, repressing his rising amusement as he considered just how weird they had to look to someone who was just passing by.  She snorted at the binoculars but took them anyway, rotating the small knob that adjusted the zoom of the device.

"I feel like we're on a stakeout," he murmured, glancing at the attorney and tamping down the urge to laugh.

"You're right," she agreed, ignoring his assessment of the situation.  "It's just oxygen . . . Why does he need that, though?  He's got one of the ones that takes it out of the air, doesn't he?"

Evan shrugged and sat back, satisfied that it wasn't anything more alarming than a couple oxygen tanks.  "Those things work at home," he agreed, "but he'd still need tanks sometimes."

She uttered a sound of reluctant agreement, but she didn't lower the binoculars, either.

They watched in silence as the delivery man hurried across the yard with the cumbersome box.  Her mother opened the door before he had to knock, and she held it open while he stepped inside to leave the package.  A few moments later, she signed for the delivery and handed back the clipboard tablet.  The delivery man gave a jaunty wave before hurrying down the steps and back to his truck once more.

It was another reminder, wasn't it?  As much as Valerie might like to believe otherwise, her father really was sick.  It was now or never, do or die, put up or shut up . . .

So why couldn't she seem to make herself take that step?  Why couldn't she just reach for the door handle and step out of the truck . . .? Stifling a sigh, Evan slowly shook his head.  He knew why, of course.  That was a stupid question.  As much as she hated to admit as much, she was afraid, and why not?  Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, he frowned.  If she did manage to confront them, then what?  And worse, if they hurt her again?  How in the hell was he going to be able to stand back and watch it happen . . .?


-Valerie-


"What time is it?"

Glancing at her watch, Valerie slowly shook her head.  "About ten minutes later than the last time you asked," she replied.

Evan sighed and shifted around in his seat.  "Sorry," he muttered.  "Don't get me wrong here, V, I'm still really touched that you wanted me to come with you, but we're not really going to spend the next five days, sitting here in the truck, are we?"

"You're not being very supportive," she told him, sparing a moment to cock an eyebrow at him.

"I'm being supportive," he argued with a snort.  "I'm like the sportsbra of supportive."

She rolled her eyes.  "So you ruined a pair of my panties by putting them on the other day, and now you're comparing yourself to a sports bra?  Nice, Roka.  Really nice."

"I can feel the second verse of the Hillbilly Song coming on," he warned.

"Don't be a jerk," she warned him.

"Well, it's not like the song's about you," he pointed out in what he likely thought was a reasonable tone of voice.  "It'd only have been about you if you'd stayed here in Kentucky all your life."

"And I hope they all come after you with their pitchforks in hand," she said.

"We could stay down here," he mused, scratching his chin thoughtfully.  "We'd be like Ma and Pa Kettle—of course, we wouldn't really fit in too well, considering we're not inbred . . ."

"Shut up, Roka."

He chuckled.  "Did you know, V?  Kentucky is the only state in the Union that actually has a question on their marriage license applications as to whether or not you and your intended are first cousins."

"Shut up, Roka."

"Hey, V?"

She sighed.  "What?"

". . . Are you and Marvelous first cousins?  I mean, it'd explain a lot . . ."

Rubbing her forehead, Valerie sighed again.  "And what, exactly, do you think it would explain?"

He was grinning.  She knew he was grinning without having to look.  "For starters, it'd explain why you're willing to marry someone who's last name sounds like a euphemism for 'man-parts' . . ."

She snorted.  "First off, Roka, no, we're not related in any way, shape, or form.  Second off, it's not his fault that his last name is Pinkle.  It's not like he got to choose, and third off?  If you actually called your penis a 'pinkle', then I'd feel sorry for you because it would make it sound like a very, very small 'man-part'."

Evan pressed his lips together as he tried not to burst out laughing.  "So . . .?"

"So, what?"

He cleared his throat.  "Is it?"

"Is it, what?"

He cleared his throat again.  "Is it a very, very small 'man-part'?"

"Jerk," Valerie growled, turning to deal a succession of light slaps to Evan's arm.  "You're such a jerk!  Why are you such a jerk?"

He was trying not to laugh; she'd give him that.  He wasn't doing a very good job, but he was trying.  The jerk . . . "I don't know, V.  Why were you in my bushes?"

She opened her mouth to growl at him for the perpetual question that he insisted on thinking was the funniest thing in the world.  Movement in the yard across the way caught her attention, however, and she sat back suddenly, eyes widening as she stared—as she watched her father step out of the trailer onto the porch, pushing a walker-wheelchair in front of him.  A portable oxygen tank was strapped to the seat, and he waited while her mother stepped outside, too.  She seemed to be saying something to him, but Valerie couldn't hear the exchange.

She took the walker and carried it down the steps while he followed along behind her, painfully slowly, as far as Valerie could tell, hanging onto the railing as he took each step, one at a time.

Valerie frowned, shaking her head slightly as she watched the two people.  That . . . That couldn't be her father, could it?  The man looked so frail, so very different from the father she remembered.  His face was too gaunt, too haggard . . . such thin shoulders—shoulders that she used to think were as wide as the sky overhead . . . stooped over, as though he couldn't rightfully stand up straight, the thick plaid flannel jacket seemed like it might have fit him well at some point, but it hung off his frame in an almost pitiful way, much like the faded old jeans that had to be held up on his waist with a belt of some sort . . .

The long blonde hair she remembered was gone—buzzed so short that for a moment, she'd thought that maybe he was bald.  Once her mother had set the rolling chair on the ground, she ran back up the steps into the trailer, only to reappear a moment later with a gray stocking cap that she pulled down on her husband's head.  He must have said something to her, though, because she reluctantly turned and went back inside again.

Her father seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when he was finally left alone.  Leaning heavily on the walker-wheelchair, he turned it and headed across the dry grass, and for a moment, Valerie had to wonder just where he was going.  Her frown deepened as she watched him as he moved off toward the sports car suspended up on concrete blocks on the side of the trailer.

"He's not well enough to do that," she muttered to herself as she slowly shook her head.  "He shouldn't even be outside . . ."

Even as she said that, though, her father unfastened the cord that held a tarp over a rolling tool chest that she hadn't noticed before. Situated between the car and the side of the trailer, it had kind of faded into the background—a good thing, considering it could have very easily been stolen . . .

That done, he popped the hood of the car easily enough and used a cut off two-by-four to prop it open.  It started to slip, and Valerie sucked in her breath, but he caught it and managed to adjust the board before the hood slammed closed on his fingers.  He fussed with a socket wrench for a moment then leaned over the opening to work.  A sudden coughing fit hit him hard, though, and his grip on the tool loosened.  It slipped out of his hand, and the muffled curse that followed was audible.

Valerie yanked the door of the truck open and stumbled out onto the dead grass beside the lane, pushing it closed and  hurrying around the vehicle, only to stop short when she saw that he'd managed to retrieve the tool and was bent over the opening again.  Evan got out of the truck to stand beside her, slipping an arm around her waist as though to offer her a measure of reassurance.  She didn't even glance at him, however.  Her gaze was fixed on the man's back—on her father.

He moved painfully slowly.  A few times, he stopped and flexed his hand, staring down at his fingers as he opened and closed them.  She couldn't see his face from where she stood, but she didn't need to.  His own lack of mobility was annoying him, wasn't it?  Something about it—about his stance, about his demeanor . . . It hurt her to see it, to see him . . . to watch him . . .

Another round of coughing drew him up short, and he fumbled the wrench as he set it down fast.  The fit seemed to rattle right through him, and Valerie winced involuntarily as she leaned forward but didn't move her feet.

The depth of his coughing, the harsh rattling in his chest was hard for her to listen to.  Even after it had subsided, it took a few minutes for him to catch his breath again.

Was he really her father?  Really?  This man she barely recognized?  Somehow, he'd become an old man, beaten down by the years, by sickness, and by abuse.  Did it matter that he'd done it to himself?  Valerie winced.  Maybe it mattered to some.  She wasn't entirely sure that it mattered to her.  The bottom line was that seeing him this way was painful—more painful than she'd ever imagined that anything else could possibly be . . .

Evan's arm tightened around her.  She'd forgotten that he was standing beside her.  She shot him a quick glance, and he smiled just a little, just enough to bolster her waning courage as she slowly turned her attention back to her father once more.

He was leaning over the engine, his arm slowly, methodically moving as he worked the wrench.  Swallowing hard to force down the suspect lump that grew larger and larger in her throat, she drew a steadying breath, grasping Evan's coat, her fingers so tight that her knuckles ached.  She felt the warmth of Evan's lips on her forehead, and the simplicity of his gesture was enough to help her to relax just a little.

Her father worked in silence for another few minutes, pausing now and then to move the chair beside him so that he could adjust his stance, but another bout of coughing racked through him harder than the others, and with a harsh clatter, the wrench slipped from his hand, clanking loudly as it fell.  "Damn it," her father muttered, pushing the chair out of the way as he tried to catch his breath and kneel down at the same time.

Valerie didn't think.  Darting away from Evan, across the lane, across the corner of the yard, she retrieved the tool from beneath the car and stood up straight.

"Th-Thank you," he said, his voice taking on a wheezy sort of air as he leaned heavily on the car, his breathing still labored and harsh.  "Kind of a cold one for a walk, huh?"

Slowly lifting her gaze, she finally looked him in the eye.  It was the hardest thing she'd ever done.  She'd run over just because she hadn't been able to stand to watch her father trying to do such a simple thing, and now . . .

He looked confused for several moments.  But the confusion dissipated slowly, only to be replaced by a sense of absolute disbelief.  Green eyes flaring wide as what color there had been in his face slowly drained away, he looked like he couldn't believe what he saw as he lifted a trembling hand.  It hovered in midair, but he didn't touch her.  "V-Val . . . Valene . . .?" he whispered.

She swallowed hard, blinked fast, her heart lurching up to lodge in her throat for a dizzying moment before it slammed down somewhere close to her feet.  "H-Hi, Daddy," she murmured, unable to control the tremor in her voice.  "I . . . I'm home . . ."


~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
A/N:
'All You Wanted' by Michelle Branch originally appeared on the 2001 release, The Spirit Room.  Copyrighted to Michelle Branch.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
Bishounen …!
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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 155
Chapter 157
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