InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Dubious ( Chapter 158 )

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

-< i>OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'Tell me why you have to go and make things so complicated …?
'I see the way you're acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated
'And life's like this: you—you fall and you crawl and you break and you take what you get
'And you turn it into
'Honestly you promised me I'm never gonna find you fake it
'No,no, no ...'

-'Complicated' by Avril Lavigne.


"Are you sure that this is necessary?"

Valerie shot him a dour look but didn't break her stride as they moved toward the produce section of the grocery store.  "They don't have that much money," she stated in a tone that indicated that Evan ought to know as much already.  "Feeding you would break them, for sure."

"That's so mean," he grumbled despite the grin on his face as she stopped to eyeball the potatoes.

"Oh?  So you don't eat like a horse?" she challenged mildly.

He snorted.  "Keh!  I don't eat like a—Oh, all right, so I do tend to eat a lot . . ."

She rolled her eyes and started to move but stopped suddenly and whipped around to poke him in the chest.  "And while we're at it, you, no more hillbilly jokes, either.  Got it?"

He opened and closed his mouth a couple times then chuckled.  "Your daddy made that one, if you'll recall."

She wrinkled her nose.  "But you laughed—and then you added to it."

"I didn't laugh," he reminded her.  "Well, I tried not to, remember?"

"You didn't try very hard," she countered mildly as she turned her attention to the row of fresh lettuces.  "And I don't need to be 'fattened up'."

He chuckled.  "Give it up, woman.  You really could stand to gain a couple."

"Well, good, then," she tossed back, completely unfazed.  "If you think that, then you can stop hitting on me every chance you get, too."

"No way," he insisted, reaching for a couple bell peppers, "you're still way too hot not to hit on."  She snorted but didn't respond.  "Speaking of 'hot'," he went on casually, "your mom's pretty damn hot, isn't she?"

"That might work," she remarked at length, "if she weren't happily married—and if I thought for even a moment that you were being serious.  Too bad I know damn well that you're not."

"Who says I'm not?" he scoffed airily, reaching over her to grab an English cucumber.  "I'm totally serious!  Dead serious!  So serious, I'm—" His cell phone cut him off, and he dug into his pocket to retrieve the device.   "Yeah?" he said in lieu of a greeting.

Taking the cucumber out of his slack hand as he scowled at whatever the person on the other end of the call was saying, Valerie stuck it into the cart and turned her attention to the fresh herbs.

Okay, so it was a bit of a stretch, wasn't it?  She hadn't decided to go to the grocery store just to buy food to supplement the dinner that her mother was making at the moment—well, not entirely, anyway.  True, Evan did eat a lot, and she did think that they should help out a little on that front, but . . .

But the truth was that maybe a part of her really needed a few minutes to process everything.  It was so much—too much—and she needed to catch her breath, so to speak.  They were so happy to see her, weren't they?  She wasn't sure why that surprised her, but it did.  She supposed that she hadn't actually considered that they would be, likely because she wasn't looking forward to it herself.  Still, the warmth of their welcome was genuine—she knew it was.  She just wasn't sure exactly how she felt about any of it . . .

Well, that wasn't entirely true.  She wanted to be happy about it all, didn't she?  A part of her . . . a part of her had been thrilled, even if she had felt as though she was betraying another part of herself, too.  But that wasn't it, not really.  She still wanted answers that only they could give her.  So why couldn't she bring herself to ask?  Why did she hate the idea of saying anything that would take the smiles off their faces . . .? And no matter how many times she'd thought before that she deserved those answers—that she was justified in wanting to know why they hadn't bothered to try to get her back—if she made demands, those smiles would disappear, wouldn't they . . .?

'Face it, Valerie.  It's not like getting your answers would change a thing; not really, and even if it would, is it really worth it?  That warmth you felt when your mother hugged you . . . Can't you just forgive them?  They were young; you've said that yourself.  They made mistakes.  So did you when you were a teenager, remember?  The only difference is that you weren't unfortunate enough to end up pregnant from yours.'

Flinching inwardly at the deadly accuracy of those words, Valerie bit down on her cheek—hard.  Was that really all there was?  Some unlucky twist of fate?  Some people came out ahead while others were dealt a crappy hand . . .? And if that really were the case—if she ought to forgive them for their mistakes in the past—then did it negate the years of her life when she'd wanted nothing more than to go home . . .?

Or . . .

"Hell, no," Evan growled, looking more irritated than she'd seen him in quite a while.  "Tell 'em to quit shoving crap up their asses and shitting it out of their mouths.  I don't give a great goddamn."

A woman nearby with a young child sitting in the cart uttered an incensed sound and hurried past them, glowering at Evan as she moved away while the youngster stared, wide-eyed at him.

Valerie shook her head, knowing well enough that pointing out that the folks around here weren't quite as forgiving with the foul language that he was so used to using just wasn't going to make much of a difference to Evan, she sighed.

"Forget it," he went on in a 'don't argue with me' kind of tone.  "Just take care of it."

"Something wrong?" she asked in what she hoped was a casual tone as he ended the call and dropped the cell phone into his pocket once more.

Rubbing his forehead, it took a moment for him to get a grip on his very obvious irritation.  "Stupid shit," he replied with an offhanded shrug.  "Nothing for you to worry your gorgeous little head about."

"It didn't sound like 'nothing'," she pointed out, crossing her arms over her chest as she turned to level a no-bullshit look at him.  "It was Mike, right?"

The glance he shot her was definitely surprised, almost a little guilty, but he masked it quickly enough behind a careless shrug and an exaggerated, momentary frown.  "Yeah, but you know how he is."

He was trying to downplay whatever Mike had said to him on the phone, and she knew it.  Reaching out to catch one of the lemons he was currently juggling, Valerie slowly shook her head and pinned him with a very serious stare.  "You're lying to me."

He neither confirmed nor denied it, but he did smile that cocky little half-grin as he caught the last lemon in the air and set them back on the angled shelf.

"You've come all the way here with me," she pointed out reasonably.  "Dropped everything to do it, right?  If you have something to say, then I want to hear it.  Please."

For a moment, she thought that he was going to ignore her again.  He must have thought better of that, though, because he shot her a sheepish kind of smile and shrugged offhandedly.  "Mikey said that they're asking me to appear at the Grammys."  He laughed suddenly, but it sounded forced, almost weak.  "Told you it wasn't a big thing."

She frowned.  "The Grammys?  But aren't those next week?  You're telling me they don't already have all that stuff set up?"

He rolled his eyes.  "Ordinarily, sure," he agreed, grabbing the cart and pushing it down the aisle.  "Guess they're banking on 'Piece of You' winning fucking song of the year.  That's a riot, right?  Song of the year?  Huge joke, huh?"

Inwardly, Valerie grimaced, knowing damn well just how touchy Evan tended to be about that particular song.  He hadn't bothered to tell her about the nomination, either, which hadn't really surprised her in retrospect.  He wasn't trying to keep it from her.  He simply didn't care enough to bother to make a comment on it, in the first place.  Maybe it was his own way of trying to keep things in perspective, and she figured that was all right, too.

"I get why you're saying that," she agreed slowly.  "That song wasn't meant to be a single, and it still pisses me off that Wicked Soundsations screwed you on that front.  However, your personal feelings aside for just a moment," she said, tilting her head as she stared at the rockstar, "I have to say objectively that it does deserve to win.  It's a fantastic song."

"Yeah, well, it doesn't change the fact that I have no fucking interest in appearing at the Grammys."

Breaking into a wan smile, Valerie shrugged.  "No, I didn't figure that it did," she allowed.

"Anyway, enough about that," he insisted with a flick of his hand.  "We'd better get a move on before your parents think we jumped state or something."

The blatant reminder was enough to startle her out of her musings, and Valerie nodded.  Evan glanced at her then smiled, slipping an arm around her waist to pull her against him and planting a reassuring kiss on her forehead.  "I figured they'd be thrilled to see you again."

Valerie rolled her eyes and shoved him away playfully even as a wan little smile tugged at her lips.  "They were, weren't they?" she asked rather sheepishly.

Evan chuckled and headed toward the meat department.


"So, uh . . . Are you an attorney, too?"

Evan blinked and stared at Valerie's father for several long moments, trying to decide whether or not the man was being serious.  He seemed to be, but . . . really?  Did he really look like an attorney?  For some reason, that idea amused the hell out of him, mostly because he knew it'd irk the same hell out of Valerie . . .

"An attorney?  Me?"  He chuckled.  "No."

Jack seemed to relax a little as he reached up to adjust the oxygen line under his nose.  "Always wondered how it was that my girl could grow up to be one of those," he admitted with a sheepish little grin.  "Smart . . . always been smart . . ."

Evan nodded as he leaned forward.  "Yeah, she is—a little too smart sometimes."

That statement amused Jack.  "How do you know her?"

Breaking into a little grin, Evan laughed softly.  "Everyone needs a good attorney every now and then, don't they?"

Scratching his chin, Jack nodded slowly.  "I suppose they do," he allowed at length.  "But Valene . . . she works for famous folk, doesn't she?  That's what the papers said."

Evan blinked.  "Papers?"

"Yeah.  There was an article in one of them a while back.  Showed Valene—uh, Valerie—with that rock star—Zel Roka."  Jack suddenly laughed, but the laugh morphed into a small bout of coughing.  Evan started to rise to do something—anything—to help, but it subsided quickly enough, and he sat back down again.  "That boy can play, I tell you," Jack went on after a few wheezing breaths.  "My son's got a video, you know?  We watch it sometimes, and I tell you, he's right up there with the best of 'em.  Some of those guys just hold a guitar and strum it now and then because they think it looks good, but that one?  Zel Roka?  He's a player before he's a damn singer."

Evan didn't reply right away.  He wasn't sure how to.  Sure, the man had no idea that he was talking to Zel Roka, but that didn't matter.  From one musician to another, it was about the highest of compliments that he could have ever gotten . . .

"My boy wants to be just like him.  He's not bad—damn good for his age," Jack went on though his voice was growing a little thinner, a little weaker.  "He could make it as long as he don't follow my example, anyway . . . I don't suppose you've ever listened to him, have you?  Roka, I mean . . ." Jack laughed suddenly and waved his free hand.  "Never mind.  You don't really seem the type."

"I'm familiar with his music," Evan replied.

Jack blinked, looking rather taken aback.  "You are?"

Shrugging offhandedly, Evan chuckled.  "Isn't everyone these days?"

Jack considered that then nodded slowly.  "I suppose."

"V said that you play," Evan remarked.

Jack grimaced, his hand trembling slightly as he lifted the glass of iced tea to his lips.  "Used to," he said, his cheeks pinking just a little.  "I think I was better in my head than I really was, though."

"She said you were in a band, too."

Jack sighed.  "A few of 'em over the years," he admitted, his eyes taking on a glazed over kind of expression, as though he was looking back over time.  "We were just messing around between shifts at work and on the weekends."

The expression on his face gave Evan pause.  He'd seen that look before on different people at different times.  It was regret, wasn't it?  Regret for things that had never come to pass, he supposed . . . It made sense, of course.  Valerie's father had wanted to make it big, hadn't he?  But he hadn't done it, and whether it was because of bad timing or if he'd given up, what did it matter when the end result was the same?

"Eh, it's all right, though, if you ask me," Jack when on when Evan remained silent.  "The way I was back then . . . probably woulda ruined my life even more than I did without the fame."  Letting out a deep sigh, he slowly shook his head, unable to meet Evan's gaze as he scowled thoughtfully at the floor.  "I, uh . . . I guess Valene—err, you call her 'V', right . . .? I guess she told you . . . I wasn't the best dad to her.  Hell, I wasn't even a half-assed one . . ."

Evan didn't respond right away.  There really wasn't much he could say, considering.  Jack Duyer hadn't been much of a father, and while Evan could appreciate that people made mistakes, glossing over the things that had happened to Valerie as a child was a little more than he could do.

Jack seemed to understand that, though, and he sighed.  "You two seem like a good couple," he muttered after a moment of uncomfortable silence.  Then he chuckled.  "Must be pretty serious if you came all the way out here with her."

A voice in the back of his head told him that he ought to tell her father that they were just friends.  Unfortunately, that voice was pretty easy to ignore, too.  "You think so?" he quipped, breaking into a little grin.

"You two, uh . . . serious?" Jack asked a little too casually.

Evan shrugged.  "Well, she tells me I am not nearly serious enough for her at times," he confessed, trying to evade the question.

Jack chuckled.  "Ronnie does that, too," he admitted.  "Hell . . . sometimes you've gotta make jokes or you go crazy, right?"

"Sounds about right," Evan agreed.

The front door opened, and the kid Evan recognized as Valerie's younger brother stepped into the house.  He stopped short, green eyes flaring wide when he spotted Evan sitting on the sofa, and he stared at him for a long moment.  "Hey, Dad . . . there's a strange guy sitting in the living room," he pointed out rather dryly.

Jack chuckled.  "Garret, this is Evan.  He's here with your sister, Valene—Valerie."

The curiosity in Garret's eyes shifted into an expression of mild shock, or maybe it was disbelief.  "V-Val . . .?  She's here . . .?"

"H-Hi," Valerie drawled as she bit her lip and tried not to look nervous.  She'd come out of the kitchen, and she clasped her hands in front of her as she gazed nervously at her brother.

Garret blinked and turned, only to stare at Valerie for a long moment.  Then he chuckled.  "You . . . You don't look like I remember," he said with a shake of his head.

Valerie stared at him for a long moment then broke into a somewhat nervous little smile.  "Yeah, well, you don't, either."

Garret considered that then shot her a bashful grin.  "I suppose," he allowed, his smile widening by degrees.  It struck Evan once more, just how 'pretty' Valerie's kid brother really was.  With Valerie's gorgeous blonde hair and those bright green eyes of his, it was almost too much to see the thick fringe of sooty eyelashes.  Add all that to the fine bone structure, the straight yet narrow nose, the full lips, and yeah, he looked like he should have been her kid sister, but somehow, the message was lost somewhere in translation . . .

"You're a lot taller than I remember," Valerie joked, striving for a normal kind of tone and almost succeeding.

"You're a lot prettier," he replied, then grimaced a moment too late.  "I-I mean, you were pretty back then—" Cutting himself off abruptly, the kid seemed visibly shaken, then he grimaced almost apologetically.  "I can kind of remember you," he muttered, cheeks pinking as he jammed his hands into his pockets and scrunched up his shoulders.  "A-A little, anyway."

For a painful moment, no one said anything.  After all, what was there that could be stated without causing unnecessary damage in the process?  It was Jack who finally broke the stilted silence with a soft, albeit, weary, sigh.   "I'm sor—"

The front door opened, interrupting Jack's apology, which was just as well, as far as Evan could tell.  Valerie didn't look like she knew quite what to do with that yet.  Besides, that was definitely something that Valerie and her parents ought to talk about alone . . .

"Hey, Daddy, is it okay if I go to the library for a while?  I have to do a report for English, and . . ."

The girl who breezed through the doorway slowed, then stopped as she glanced around at the unfamiliar faces invading her home.  Brown eyes curious as they flitted over Evan, her expression seemed to darken just a little when she finally spotted Valerie.

"Do that tomorrow, Kaci," Jack insisted, waving a hand in Valerie's direction.  "Your sister's come home!  You should stay here."

Evan wasn't entirely surprised to see the momentary flicker of a scowl cross the girl's features, but she covered it up quickly enough, pasting on a wan little smile instead.  "I've really got to get some books for my report," she hedged, stubbornly refusing to look at Valerie again.

"Can't you check out some books at the school library tomorrow?" Rhonda asked, wiping her hands on a bleached dish towel.  "It's not every day your sister comes to visit!  She came all the way from New York City, and—"

"And the report's due by the end of the week for a third of my grade," Kaci cut in calmly enough despite the irritation that seemed to swirl around her.


"I thought you wanted me to graduate and go to college and all that," she went on, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder.

"Of course we do," Rhonda insisted.  "It's just that—"

"I'll be back by dinner time," Kaci replied.

"Stop interrupting your mama," Jack said, sounding even more exhausted than he had yet.

"Sorry, Mama," Kaci responded in an automatic kind of tone.

Rhonda looked like she wanted to say something.  Valerie was faster, smiling brightly as she turned to look at her mother.  "It's okay," she hurried to say.  "I don't really expect you guys to change your plans on my account.  Besides, it sounds like Kaci's report is important."  That bright smile faltered as Valerie's gaze shifted to her sister, but only for a moment before she managed to right it again.  "English, right?  What's the subject of your report?  Maybe I could help you . . .?"

"It's fine," Kaci insisted tightly.  "It's not about law or anything.  I'll be home later," she called, whirling around to make for the door again.

"Kaci!" Rhonda called after her, only to be answered by the sound of the closing door.  Then she sighed and offered Valerie an apologetic little smile.  "Sorry about that," she said quietly.  "She's getting to be that age, I guess."

Valerie didn't comment on that, but she did nod.  "Dinner is starting to smell good," she ventured, turning away from the living room.  "Why don't you let me help with something?"

Garret slowly turned to look at Evan again.  "Don't worry about her," he muttered with a shrug as he dropped his knapsack on the floor and plopped down on the edge of a nearby easy-chair.  "Maybe she's PMS-ing or something."

Jack grunted.  "Don't talk about the womenfolk that way, boy," he corrected.

Garret wrinkled his nose.  "You said that before about my sixth grade history teacher," he pointed out.

"That's different," Jack replied evenly.

"How's that?"

Jack shrugged.  "Because she was."

Evan chuckled and sat back.  He had to admit, he rather liked Valerie's family.  He hadn't forgotten what they'd done to Valerie before.  He doubted that he ever would.  Still, it wasn't his place to hold onto a grudge, especially when he knew deep down that he wanted Valerie to be able to let go of her own feelings—the ones that made it impossible for her to move on.  That didn't mean that the people her parents were now were the same as they had been years ago.  He knew from his own family that people were quite capable of making terrible mistakes.  It was part of life, wasn't it?  As long as they didn't hurt her again, because if they did . . .

"You know, what you said earlier about playing?" Jack went on after a fortifying drink of iced tea.  "That boy, there . . . Now, he's pretty damn good . . ."

Evan nodded and shifted his gaze to the side, only to stop and blink when the kid in question quickly looked away.  "You play guitar?" Evan asked, ignoring Garret's somewhat odd behavior.

He lifted his chin long enough to blush slightly as he gave one jerky nod.  "Wh . . .?  Uh, y-yeah," he stammered before ducking his head once more.  "A little . . ."

Jack grunted.  "A little," he scoffed.  "Don't let him fool you.  He's a natural.  Listen to something once, and he can play it damn near perfectly."

"I-I'm not that good," Garret muttered, his already pink cheeks pinking even more.

"Don't let him kid you," Jack went on, unmistakable pride thick in his voice.  Suddenly, though, he frowned.  "You gotta work tonight, boy?"

That question drew a sigh from his son, and Garret nodded.  "Yeah," he allowed.  "I'd call off, but a couple guys said they were gonna."

"What're they all skipping work for?"

Garret shrugged.  "They got tickets for that Dovermyer concert tonight," he explained.

Jack digested that in silence, then finally nodded as he watched Garret push himself to his feet and pick up his back pack to take it to his room.  He paused at the entrance of the hallway and stared at Evan for a long moment, though Evan didn't look to confirm it.

"He wanted to go to that show," Jack mumbled after Garret had finally continued on his way once more.  "Had enough money for a ticket, but he's saving up to get a new guitar, he says.  He's got my old one, but hell, that thing's been through hell and back . . ."

Evan chuckled.  "I'd like to hear you both play sometime," he remarked.

Jack's smile dimmed then faded as he lifted his hands slightly and frowned at his fingers.  "Been a while since I've played at all," he admitted with a sigh.  "Not sure I can even do it anymore."

Evan flicked a wrist dismissively.  "Eh, it's just like riding a bike, isn't it?  You never really forget how to do it."

Jack considered that for a moment then nodded.  "Maybe that's right," he said at length, flexing his fingers slowly.  "Maybe that's right . . ."

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~= ~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~
'Complicated ' by Avril Lavigne originally appeared on the 2002 release, Let Go.  Copyrighted to Avril Lavigne, Graham Edwards, Lauren Christy, and Scott Spock.
== == == == == == == == == ==
Thought from Evan:
Was that kidstaring at me …?
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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