InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Turning Away ( Chapter 161 )

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


-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

'< i>Where you goin' now …?
'When your world's turned inside out
'Isn't love what it's all about …?
'Where you goin' now …?
'When you get to the top of the hill
'Gonna be there—yes I will ...'

-'Where You Goin' Now?' by Damn Yankees.


-Valerie-


"I really don't think it's a good idea."

Evan rolled his eyes as he dropped his coat over the back of a chair in the hotel suite.  "Eh, it's fine," he scoffed.  "What could possibly go wrong?"

Valerie shot him a quelling look that he promptly ignored.  "You didn't really ask me that, did you?" she complained.

"Aww, relax, woman!  It's all under control!  We yanked off the bad part of the roof today, and tomorrow, we'll put the new shit up.  Easy-peasy, right?"

Valerie snorted.  "Nothing is ever easy when it comes to you, Roka."

"Besides, it's kind of fun."

Rubbing her forehead, Valerie strode over to the small cabinet that held some amenities and pulled out a packet of Tylenol.  "Please don't say stuff like that," she begged in a half-whine.  "Next thing you know, you'll be saying the 'b' word or something . . ."

"The 'b' word?" Evan echoed, heading over to the wet bar to retrieve a couple bottles of water.  "What one is that?"

Valerie snorted but took the bottle of water that he offered her.  "The one that you think is a good excuse for ninety-nine percent of your bad ideas."

"O-Oh," he drawled, nodding in understanding.  "Bored, you mean."

"Don't say it!" she snapped, giving the bottle cap a rather vicious twist.

Evan chuckled.  "Well, considering the option was letting your dad get up there?  I think I'm the lesser of two evils," he said.

Valerie heaved a sigh and swallowed the two pain relievers.  "I guess," she allowed.  "Mom said that she thinks he's doing better since I came to visit."

"He probably is," Evan agreed.  "The mind is a strange thing, right?  I mean, mental well-being is as important as physical well-being, isn't it?"

"Maybe," Valerie said.  "Still, he seemed really tired, don't you think?"

Evan nodded slowly.  "And that's why you wanted to leave early; am I right?"

"He needs to get some rest.  Besides, we'll be over there tomorrow, won't we?  Mom said something about a celebration dinner . . ."

"Celebration?  For what?"

Valerie shrugged.  "I don't know.  I was going to ask, but someone was outside, hollering for nails."

Evan grinned since he was that someone.  That was when she'd discovered that he was up on the roof with Garret, yanking off the bad section of roofing.  They'd even cut into the sub-roof and were in the middle of putting on a new piece when they'd apparently run out of nails.  If that wasn't bad enough, Jack was outside, too, but at least he was sitting in a plastic lawn chair, content to direct the action from down below.

She sighed and wandered over to the sofa.  "Did you know they tried to get me back?" she asked quietly as she sank down into the thick cushions and closed her eyes.

Evan sat beside her.  She could feel the shift in the sofa.  "Not surprising, is it?"

"I don't know," she ventured with a tired sigh.  "I guess I just figured that they hadn't."

"So why didn't they get you back then?" he asked.

Valerie opened her eyes just enough to pin Evan with a serious look.  He was leaning back against the sofa, too, his clear blue eyes bright.  "Well, at first, it was because they weren't fit to get me back, I suppose," she finally said quietly.  "Then, when they were, Garret came along, then Kaci Lea . . . and then they figured I was better off where I was."

"But you weren't," Evan concluded gently.

Valerie sighed.  "I wouldn't say that.  I . . . I probably was."  Wincing slightly, she hated the pragmatic tone of her own voice, and even if what she said was logical, did that really matter?  "They were good to me, the Dennings . . ." she went on.  "They . . . They loved me, you know?  I mean, they really loved me . . . The kind of love I hadn't understood at the time, and I didn't know what to think of it, either . . . Maybe . . ." she uttered a terse little half-laugh as she slowly shook her head.  "Maybe I didn't understand it because I'd never really felt that kind of thing before . . ."

"What do you mean?" Evan prompted gently, reaching out to tug her over next to him, her cheek resting on his chest as she relaxed in the comfort of his arms.

"At first, it was the same as all the other homes," she explained.  "It was that uncomfortable sort of thing, right?  Like they didn't know me, and I didn't know them, and so we went out of our ways to be on our best behaviors around each other . . . Well, they did, anyway.  I . . ." She grimaced.  "I wasn't exactly the model kid."

"I don't think there is such a thing," Evan remarked.

Valerie nodded slowly.  "But I liked it there," she admitted with a wan little smile.  "It was the first time I'd been placed somewhere where there weren't a bunch of other kids.  It was just me, and they listened to me, you know?  They asked questions about me, about the things I liked and didn't like . . . the things I wanted . . . At first, I tried not to talk to them.  I tried not to let them into my life, but slowly, I found myself thinking that it wasn't too bad; that it was pretty nice . . . and then, as much as I started to like it, it . . . It scared me, too.  You learn pretty quickly when you're in that system that there is no such thing as a permanent placement.  I always knew in the back of my mind that if I did the wrong thing, they'd snatch me right out of there and put me somewhere else, and the thought of that . . ." She sighed.  "If I started to rely on it too much, it'd hurt when they took me away, wouldn't it . . .?"

Evan grimaced, and his arm around her tightened.  A moment later, she felt the warmth of his lips on her forehead, and she closed her eyes for just a second, savoring the feeling of being safe.  "That would be rough," he muttered.  "Damn . . ."

She shrugged.  "When I stopped to think about it . . . When I realized just how upset I'd be if they moved me . . ." She swallowed hard.  "I started acting up again.  I got into some fights in school, started staying out all night with my boyfriends . . . and so, I thought that I wanted welfare to move me again—I wanted to be moved before I got too used to my life with the Dennings . . ."

"But they didn't move you, did they?" Evan asked.

Valerie smiled sadly.  "They didn't," she admitted, swallowing hard, blinking back the stinging prick of tears just behind her eyelids.  "The Dennings never told my caseworker," she said.  "No matter what I did, they smiled at me and told me that it was all right . . . or hugged me and told me that they were there for me . . . and they never told the caseworker about any of it; not ever."

"Sounds like they were good people."

Valerie sniffled and dashed her hand across her cheek to wipe away the single tear that had fallen.  "They were," she agreed with a little nod.  "I didn't know why at the time, but . . . but it was because they loved me—really loved me . . . and they never gave up on me, either, even when they probably should have."

"Of course they loved you.  How could they not?" Evan said gently, kissing her forehead and giving her another little squeeze.  "You know what I think, V?"

"Hmm?"

Evan let out a deep breath and shifted slightly, pulling Valerie just a little closer.  "I think you were surrounded by love, even if you didn't realize it.  Your parents, even if you weren't with them . . . I think they thought about you all of the time, and your foster family?  It sounds like they wanted you to be someone you could be proud of, too . . . Granted, maybe it wasn't perfect, but it was still there, right?"

For some reason, Evan's statement surprised her, and she blinked.  She really hadn't thought of it like that before, and maybe there were times in her life when she'd felt alone, but . . . But was she really?  Was it enough for her to know now that things hadn't been the way anyone had wanted them back then?  The parents who had loved her so much that they hadn't been able to give her up . . . The same parents who had loved her enough not to bring her back home when they'd thought that she was better off where she was . . . and the parents that had given her the confidence to stand on her own, even if they weren't her parents in name . . .

"How is it that you can see things so much more clearly than I can?" she murmured, leaning away far enough to look up into Evan's face.

Evan smiled a little wanly.  "It's always easier to see when you're not in the middle of it," he explained.

"Maybe you're right," she mused, settling back against his chest once more, letting her eyes drift closed as a friendly sort of exhaustion filtered over her.

"You'll be loved for the rest of your life, too," he murmured quietly—at least, she thought he did—but she was already drifting off to sleep.


-Evan-


"What took you so long?"

Evan turned to look over his shoulder at Valerie.  She wrapped her arms around herself against the brisk air as she stepped off the porch and hurried over to the truck.  He grinned.  "Miss me, did you?" he teased, reaching into the back seat for one of the black cases.  He handed the first one to Valerie and grabbed the other two, then kicked the door closed as he led the way across the lawn toward the porch.

He hadn't meant to take as long as he had.  He'd dropped Valerie off earlier, telling her that he had an errand to run and that he'd be back shortly so that he could drive back to Lexington to drop in on an old friend who owned a music store.  If Gus hadn't been in, it wouldn't have taken nearly so long to buy the three guitars, but as luck would have it, Gus was there, and Evan had spent the better part of the morning, talking shop with the old guitarist.  Back in the day, Evan used to sneak into the smoky clubs whenever Gus was playing.  He had no idea how many hours he'd spent, sitting in silence and watching the old man, and he'd learned a lot, too—learned about heart and soul and showmanship, just from watching the twilight legend . . .

Gus used to be one of the best bluesmen in New York City, but he'd opted to retire a few years ago when the gigs had started to slow down and he'd been diagnosed with chronic arthritis in his hands.  After that, Gus had scraped up enough cash to open a store down here.  Maybe he hadn't ever made a million dollars, and he hadn't sold more than a few thousand units of the one album that he'd recorded well before Evan was even an afterthought, but what did that matter?  The man lived by his belief that his guitar could tell a story, and those stories were beautiful.  After Gus' retirement, Evan had been pleasantly surprised when he'd accidentally run into Gus down here during one of Evan's tours.  He didn't seem to mind the change, and Evan knew well enough that he could still draw a hell of a crowd when his hands felt good enough to indulge him for a few songs while he sat on a stool in the middle of his shop.

"What's this?" she asked, hurrying after him.

"I got your dad and brother new guitars," he replied casually.

"There are three," she pointed out, raising an eyebrow in silent question.

"And one for me," he added, almost as an afterthought.

She grabbed his arm to stop him and raised an eyebrow in silent question.  "I thought you said you didn't want anyone to know who you are," she reminded him in a low hiss since she was trying to keep her voice down.

He let out a deep breath, his eyebrows arching upward as he grimaced melodramatically.  "Yeah, about that . . ." he drawled.

Valerie blinked and shook her head.  "What about that?"

He chuckled rather sheepishly.  "Your brother . . . he's slick, I tell you."

She shook her head again, and judging from her expression, she wasn't entirely sure that she knew what he was talking about, in the first place.  "Okay . . .?"

He sighed.  "He figured it out yesterday."

Valerie considered that for a moment.  Evan pulled his arm away, apparently content that she understood what he'd just said.  A moment later, however, she grabbed his arm again.  "Garret knows?" she asked incredulously.  "You told him, you mean."

Evan gave a little shrug.  "Little bit of this, little bit of that . . . Anyway, like I said, he figured it out, so it's all good."

She still looked a little confused.  "But you said before that you didn't want anyone to know that you and Zel Roka were one in the same.  Why did you tell him?" she asked at length.

"He's a good kid," Evan told her.  "Besides, he's your brother, right?  So it's no big deal."

He might have laughed if Valerie hadn't looked so confused by his simple statement.  Instead, he just grinned.  "Look, V, I don't think he's going to go off telling everyone, and even if he did, what are the odds that anyone's really going to buy it if he says that Zel Roka was hanging out at his place?"

Valerie snorted and rolled her eyes.  "That's just mean, Roka," she muttered under her breath.

He laughed and set one of the cases on the porch, leaning it against the wall so that he could open the door.  "So what have you been doing all morning?"

Valerie followed him inside.  "Not too much.  Just had coffee and doughnut sticks and watched the news with Mom and Dad.  Then Mom had to take Dad to the hospital for dialysis, but she said it wouldn't take long when I offered to go along, and she said that the kids will be home early today, anyway.  Teacher In-Service or something . . ."

"Is everything okay with him?" Evan asked.

Valerie nodded and smiled a little weakly.  She just wasn't very good at covering up her own concern..  "Routine visit, she said . . . It's not that he was feeling worse or anything."

"Good . . . good," Evan remarked.  "You okay?"

She tried to smile, but it didn't work, exactly.  "I'm fine," she assured him.

He didn't really believe her, but he let it go.  After all, she didn't really want him to start making a fuss, now did she?  "Ah, so it's just you and me, huh?" Evan quipped instead, setting the guitars against the sofa and pivoting to pin Valerie with an entirely lecherous sort of grin.  "You wanna go do it in the kitchen?  Bet you'd never look at the dinner table the same way again," he offered, waggling his eyebrows in a ridiculous sort of way.

Valerie snorted but giggled as she set the guitar she was carrying down beside the others.  "Sorry, Roka," she shot back without missing a beat while sounding completely insincere, to boot.  "I've got a headache."

He sighed.  "Ruin my best ideas, why don't you?" he grumbled.

Valerie snorted again and rolled her eyes.  "Such a dork."

"Do you, uh, want me to leave you guys alone for a while?"

Valerie sucked in a sharp breath and whirled around, only to come face-to-face with her younger brother.  "G-G-Garret . . ." she stammered.  "When did you—?"

Garret shot her a little grin then glanced past her at Evan.  "Uh . . . I might not look at the kitchen table the same way again," he admitted sheepishly.

Evan chuckled—at least, he did until Valerie turned her head to glare at him.  "Good timing, kid," he remarked as he tried to school his features.

Valerie narrowed her eyes at him before turning back to face her brother once more.  "He was kidding," she clarified stiffly.  "Evan's just being a jerk; that's all."

Garret didn't look like he believed her, but he nodded slowly.  "Damn, that's so cool," he muttered, shrugging off his jacket as he kicked the door closed behind him.  "Zel Roka wants to do my sister!"

Evan bit down hard on the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud since he figured that Valerie really wouldn't appreciate that in the least.

'She's gonna kill you, for sure,' his youkai-voice pointed out casually, sounding a little too pleased with the idea of Evan's imminent demise.

'If I die, so do you,' he reminded it.

'All for a good cause,' his youkai went on glibly.

'Yeah, yeah . . .'

Garret's smile suddenly disappeared, only to be replaced by a slow expression of apprehension that crept in like a silent storm cloud.  "Dude," he breathed as something altogether different occurred to him.  "Zel Roka wants to do my sister," he repeated, looking more and more horrified by the second.

"He's being an ass," Valerie stated, her cheeks as red as the sweater she wore.

"No, it's . . . It's cool," Garret hurried on to say, though his expression still wasn't exactly thrilled.  "I just . . . I'd rather not think about it; that's all."

"No problem," Evan cut in smoothly before Valerie could say whatever was on her mind.  "Say, Garret . . . how comfortable is your bed, by the way . . .?"

Garret looked a little confused for all of ten seconds before the color in his cheeks faded out, only to explode a moment later in a riot of rose.  "Man, that's just wrong, wrong, wrong," he complained despite the incredulous little smile on his face.

Evan chuckled.  Valerie grunted something unintelligible and wailed Evan in the center of the chest before pivoting on her heel to stop out of the room and into the kitchen, all the while, muttering under her breath about idiot rock stars.


-Valerie-


"I'm surprised that your Evan was able to talk Jack into taking that guitar."

Valerie glanced up from the potato she was peeling and smiled at her mother.  "He's not my Evan," she corrected, her cheeks pinking slightly.  "Anyway, it's not really surprising.  Evan's wanted to hear Daddy play since he found out that he used to be in bands."

Rhonda laughed gently.  "If he's not yours, then he's not anyone's."

"He's just a world-class flirt," Valerie insisted, dropping the finished potato into a pan of water before reaching for another one.

Rhonda's smile didn't fade as she leaned against the counter for an idle moment.  "It does me good to hear your daddy play," she mused, the expression on her face turning a little wistful.  "It's been a while since he's done any of that."

"Daddy plays sometimes," Kaci Lea remarked a little tightly and without looking up from the celery she was slicing.

"Not nearly as much as he used to," Rhonda amended.  She gave herself a mental shake and turned back to her task of cutting the peeled potatoes.

Valerie smiled, too.  "It sounds like the three of them are having a good time in there."

"Are you kidding?  Your daddy and brother are never as happy as they are when they're playing, and it seems like Evan isn't much different," Rhonda teased.

"That's true," Valerie remarked.

It was nice, wasn't it?  Standing around in the kitchen, helping her mother prep for dinner  . . . It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  Strange, really.  She hadn't realized that there could be something so satisfying about doing something so simple, and for once, Kaci Lea hadn't tried to get out of spending time with her, either.  She wasn't being extremely talkative, but that was all right.  She wasn't trying to avoid her, and that had to count for something . . .

"So how did your report go?" Valerie asked, glancing over her shoulder at her young sister.

Kaci Lea reached for another stalk of celery.  "Oh, we won't get those back till next week," she replied.  "I think I did okay on it, though."

Valerie nodded slowly.  "Have you given any thought as to what you want to do after you finish school?"

Kaci Lea shot her a quick glance but shrugged.  "Some," she admitted.  "I haven't decided yet, though."

"Well, if there's anything I can do for you, just let me know," Valerie said with a smile.

Kaci Lea smiled back, but Valerie didn't miss the tell-tale tightness around the girl's eyes and lips.  "Uh, I'm all right," she muttered, setting the knife down and bracing herself against the table to push herself to her feet.  "I'm done with this, Mama.  I'm going to go study."

"Okay," Rhonda said, taking the cutting board with the chopped celery.  "Don't hide in your room all afternoon."

"Sure," she said, grabbing an apple out of the basket in the middle of the table and heading out of the kitchen quickly enough.

Valerie watched her go with a sigh before turning back to the potatoes once more.  "She . . . She isn't happy that I'm here, is she?" she ventured, careful to keep her tone as neutral as she could.

"Oh, it's not you," Rhonda said.  "I think she's just got too much going on in that head of hers; that's all."

"Oh?"

Rhonda nodded, her eyebrows drawing together in a marked frown.  "She worries about everything, you know.  I guess it's in her nature, maybe.  Worries about her daddy, worries that I'm working too much, worries about her grades . . . She wants to get a scholarship for college because she knows we don't really have enough money to pay for it . . . I think she's happy, but she doesn't smile a whole lot—not like she did when she was little, anyway . . ."

Valerie wasn't entirely convinced.  "I don't know . . . I just get the feeling that maybe she isn't very happy to see me."

Rhonda looked like she wanted to argue with that, but maybe she didn't know how.  In any case, she smiled encouragingly and turned on the tap to rinse the potatoes.  "She just doesn't really know you yet.  I'm sure that the two of you will be just fine after you've spent more time together."

Valerie nodded slowly, though she wasn't quite as optimistic as Rhonda.  But the last thing she wanted to do was to drag her mother into the middle of it, so the best thing would be to just let it go.  After all, she had time to work on her relationship with Kaci Lea, and even then, it was natural, wasn't it?  She didn't know Valerie, and Valerie didn't really know her, either . . .

"Speaking of worrying about things," Valerie said in a carefully bright tone, "how did dialysis go?"

"It wasn't bad," Rhonda replied.  "The doc said that your dad's vital signs look good.  Said he seems more relaxed than he has been in a while."

Valerie let out a deep breath, stealing a sidelong glance at her mother.  Rhonda was smiling slightly despite the hint of worry that lingered around the corners of her eyes, her lips.  It wasn't the first time Valerie had seen that expression on her mother's face, and she knew damn well that she was worrying about Jack's health far more than she'd ever let on.  Biting her lip, Valerie dropped the last potato into the pan of water and moved the colander aside to scrape together the peels that had missed.  "I was thinking . . ." she began, hating the hint of trepidation in her voice.  "You've all been tested, right?  To see if you're compatible donors?"

"We were," Rhonda said with a sigh.  "The closest was Garret, but there weren't enough markers for it to be worth the risk."

Valerie nodded slowly, taking her time as she rinsed her hands and reached for the towel.  "I want to get tested," she finally said.  "I . . . I could be a match, couldn't I?"

The expression on her mother's face made her falter.  Rhonda looked hopeful yet strangely horrified and completely sad, all at the same time.  "Oh, Val . . . I-I . . ."

She frowned, trying to not feel bad about her mother's strange reaction.  "You . . . You think I shouldn't be tested?"

"Oh, it's not that," Rhonda blurted, her cheeks darkening in a painful blush as she reached out to touch Valerie's arm.  "It's just . . . Well, you know your daddy.  The last thing he'd want is for you to think that the only reason he's glad to see you is because you might be a potential donor, especially after . . ." she trailed off for a moment and swallowed hard despite the smile that she tried to maintain.  "Especially after everything else . . ."

"And I just found you again," Valerie heard herself whisper, irritated with herself for the sudden tears that welled up in her eyes.  "This isn't about the past, Mom . . . It's about the future."

Her words gave her mother pause, and Rhonda looked a little surprised at Valerie's statement.  "The future," she repeated, considering the word like she hadn't ever done so before.  But her smile brightened despite the heightened glow in her own eyes, and she dashed a hand over them to wipe away the tears that hadn't fallen yet.  Then she reached out and pulled Valerie into a tight hug, kissing her cheek soundly.  "You're a good girl, Valerie," she finally said.  "I'll talk to your daddy about it."


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A/N:
'Where You Goin' Now?' by Damn Yankees originally appeared on the 1992 release, Don't Tread.  Copyrighted to Jack Blades, Ted Nugent, and Tommy Shaw.
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Final
Thought from Evan:
Kitchen tablesnice ...
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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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