InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ Confrontations ( Chapter 199 )

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


'I wish the best of everything for you ...
'I hope you know that honestly I do
'How long can you run, turn your back on everyone …?
'Just let me know when you're tired of being alone …'

-'Wish' by Lifehouse.


"Don 't you see what you're doing?  Keeping Marvin on the line while you're stringing Evan along?  How fair is that, V?  How fair is that to either of them?  I'm not just talking about Evan, but just how fair is that to Marvin, too?"

Staring out the window at the darkened, moonless sky, Valerie swallowed hard, hearing those words echo through her head for the millionth time since they'd been uttered.  It didn't seem to matter how hard she tried to block them from her mind, they wouldn't go away, and the ugly feeling that had exploded inside her when she'd come to her senses hadn't waned.  No, it was growing larger, more ominous by the moment.  So unbearable, so harsh . . . and so very true . . .

It didn't matter what she tried to tell herself: how many times she tried to convince herself that she didn't realize, that she hadn't known.  The truth of it all was too blunt, too painful, and far too hard to ignore.  The path to hell was paved with good intentions, right?  And weren't her intentions always above reproach?  Laughable, wasn't it?  Laughable and a little pathetic . . .

"Would you care for something to drink?"

Valerie blinked and slowly glanced at the smiling flight attendant.  For some reason, the slight woman's bright expression only seemed to add to the throbbing ache that had settled over Valerie's very being, and she couldn't even summon a token show of appreciation for the feigned kindness of a stranger's smile.  It was her job, after all—smile at the people she would never remember after the plane emptied—just as it was Valerie's job to stand in front of a jury, to argue the innocence of the accused while she stood alone, dirtier than the rest of the human race combined . . . "Water, please," she replied before shifting her gaze out the window once more.

And as much as she might want to try to defend herself, at least in her own mind, she couldn't, could she?  There wasn't a defense, and she knew it.  If it was a case she was working, she'd advise herself to just plead guilty and throw herself upon the mercy of the court.

If only it were that simple, but nothing was anymore—not since that day when he had first waltzed into her office . . .

She couldn't see a thing except the blurry fog of the clouds that they were passing through, and that was just fine, too, wasn't it?  It seemed somehow befitting of her mood, of the fluffiness of oblivion that she'd struggled for so long to maintain, and yet, hadn't she known on some level that it was starting to wear thin?  Hadn't she started to notice little things—silly things, stupid things—that had whispered to her that nothing was as it should have been? And in true Valerie fashion, she'd managed to ignore those warnings, too, telling herself that maybe she was better off, not knowing.

Ignorance was the last refuge of the damned, wasn't it . . .?

Calling the airlines, booking a last-minute flight, had taken her mind off things, at least for a transient moment.  She hadn't bothered to pack a bag—she might have, had she been thinking clearly.  Blame it on having just been sick for days on end, already tired to the bone, and all she really wanted was to go to sleep, to retreat into slumber so she didn't have to think, didn't have to face the ugliness of her own actions . . . Maybe the oversight was due to the words swirling around in her head, but what did it matter when those things she'd been trying to avoid were closing in on her with a vengeance?

"If you love him, then for God's sake, stop this!  Don't you see what you're doing?  Keeping Marvin on the line while you're stringing Evan along, too?  How fair is that, V?  How fair is that to either of them?  I'm not just talking about Evan, but just how fair is that to Marvin, too?"

Grinding her teeth together to hold back the sob that swelled up in her throat, as the harsh truth of Madison's assessment hit her once more, Valerie nearly knocked over the small plastic cup that the attendant had left on the fold-out table when she reached to pick it up.  Hands shaking, it took both to bring the flimsy cup to her lips, and she drained it in one gulp, wishing absently that it was something stronger, thankful to her core that it was not.  Those whispers couldn't be ignored any more, and she knew that, too.  They were angry, bitter that she had ignored the warnings, and in the process, she'd only succeeded in hurting those she had never intended to hurt . . . She . . . She hadn't meant to do any such thing; of course not, and yet . . . Yet she had, hadn't she?  Somewhere along the line, the barrier between friends and something more had blurred, and she hadn't seen it—hadn't wanted to see it, and maybe . . .

'But . . . But Evan . . .'

There was just something about that man, something she'd realized long ago, something that could be and was truly dangerous to her—every single thing she'd ever feared, that was what he was, all tied up in a pretty package with a bright ribbon bow.  Hadn't she defended enough of his peers—those who lived in excess and didn't know how to stop or even slow down?  She'd seen the devastation that they could leave in their wakes: the broken families that they left behind when they found something shinier . . . The unhappiness that led to addictions and vices . . . and those things scared her.  Maybe he was different.  She knew that; of course she did.  But when the dust settled and everything was all said and done, how different was different, anyway?  When things started to fall apart, would she, like so many others, fall into those traps . . .? The one left clinging to something that took two to build when the other one had already stepped away, and his footsteps only grew fainter in her ears . . .?

The truth of it all was that she really didn't doubt Evan when he said that he loved her.  He meant what he said, at least, for now.  No, the real question was for how long?  How long was his idea of forever?  And maybe he meant what he said when he told her that he always would love her—now, anyway.  Was it ever anyone's fault, really, when the love just kind of faded away?  And no, she couldn't blame him when and if that happened, and yet, where would that really leave her?  What would it leave her?  Her pride?  Her memories?  Some kind of misplaced sense of accomplishment?  Or . . . Stifling a harsh gasp, she struggled to breathe against the pain that roiled up inside her, unexpected, at the very thought . . . How empty would her life be when he finally decided to walk away?

How . . . How long . . .? Was that even the right question?

'No,' she realized, squeezing her eyes closed, wishing in vain that someone would tell her the answers she needed, that someone else could dictate to her what she ought to do, to take the decisions away from her so that all that was left was to pick up the pieces and move on, but even when she listened hard, there were no voices now: just a hollowness, an emptiness, a confusion so real and so consuming that it was nearly a palpable thing.

Maybe Marvin wasn't the most exciting man in the world.  Maybe she didn't really love him like she  . . . Well, like she ought to, but in a world that constantly shifted around her, wasn't he the one constant that she'd always been able to count on?  Wasn't he the one who offered her a sense of stability that she so desperately needed?  She couldn't remember a time when she'd ever felt truly secure.  Somehow, the years of being shuffled from home to home and from family to family had borne in her the innate fear, the terror, and, yes, the loathing of any transient situation.  Evan, with his rockstar swagger and his million-dollar looks . . . Marvin, who would never be anyone's idea of a dream man, but . . .

She flinched at the viciousness of her own thoughts.  She hated that part of herself, didn't she?  The part that simply could not be optimistic.  After a lifetime of being let down, time and again, of being wrong and finding that the things that she thought would make her happy just weren't the things that ever could, she'd grown bitter and cynical, but those voices in her head: the ones that whispered warning after warning . . . She couldn't silence them, after all, could she . . .?

"You're using him, Valerie, just like everyone else ever has.  You're using him for whatever you get from him, and isn't that convenient for you?"

Was she?  Was she really?  She hadn't tried to do any such thing.  That never had been her intention.  Did that matter, though?  In the stillness of the silence that isolated her from everything else, even as the questions whipped around her head, threatening to overwhelm her, she knew in her heart that it didn't mean a damn thing.  No matter what she'd tried to do—what she thought she'd done—there were no real answers, only accusations, only remorse as she tried desperately not to think, not to wonder, and not to contemplate what might have been.  

As much as she wanted to think that she wasn't using Evan, was that really how everything had played out?  And yes, she'd told him that she loved him.  She hadn't remembered it right away—too many things that she thought she remembered while she was feverish just didn't seem real while other things—impossible things—had seemed just a little too vivid.  The problem was, she wasn't even sure herself what that meant; not really.  Maybe that was the real problem.  She had heard of that elusive thing, and somehow, she'd convinced herself on some level that real love—true love—was only something that men wrote songs about, that poets espoused in flowery prose, that only the fools truly believed in . . . What was it, this 'love' . . .? But she had said it, and Evan . . . 'God, what must he think . . .?'

But she knew what he thought, didn't she?  Ever the optimist, he was, and to that end, she knew . . . What she didn't know was whether she was running away from him or really searching for the answers that she owed a great many people, herself included.  She hadn't expected to see him, standing there in the doorway when she opened the bathroom door, hadn't been capable of stopping him, even if she wanted to—but she hadn't wanted to, had she?  She'd wanted him to do what he did, and more . . . She'd wanted him so badly that nothing else in the world had mattered or even occurred to her in those moments . . . And just what did that mean?  Lust . . .? Need . . .? Or . . .

But how could it be?  How could it possibly be?  Hadn't she been so very careful?  She'd known his game all along, and she'd fought against it, right?  She'd known, and yet, she'd ignored all those warnings.  Or maybe she simply didn't want to listen.  She wasn't kidding before when she'd thought that there was something absolutely magnetic about him, and she, too, had been drawn to him, just like every other woman he'd ever met.

And that was the worst of it, wasn't it?  She was a fool—fifty times the fool.  As earnest as he might be, there were still things that were simply out of his control.  The whole world wanted him, and she lived in that world, too, didn't she?

Common sense told her that she needed the things that Evan couldn't guarantee, no matter how good his intentions were, no matter how hard he might try . . . But Marvin . . .

The fasten seatbelts light blinked to life, and as if by rote, Valerie reached for the device.  Somehow, the flight to Las Vegas hadn't seemed quite as long as it should have been, and yet, it felt like the longest ride of her life, too.  The overwhelming sense of dread that she'd been able to keep at bay was growing heavier by the moment, thicker by the second.  Just what was she afraid of?  Or, more to the point, who . . .?

The fleeting memories of a million moments—lost forever except for in the recesses of her mind—flickered to life, filtering through her hazy head faster than she could comprehend them all.  A thousand smiles, laughter that filled every space in her brain . . . It was all Evan, just Evan . . .

"Marvin and you, what?  You're going to get married?  You're going to live happily ever after—the image of everything that you think is safe?  Reliable? Don't make me laugh!"

'Yes,' a voice in the back of her mind hissed.  Angry, bitter, insistent—a voice she'd never been able to ignore . . . It was the one that had kept her moving forward for years, ever since she was a little girl, when she was lost and afraid and so far from home—the voice that had taught her how to blank her face, how to keep her thoughts and feelings from showing; taught her how to hide every single thing that was precious about her so that no one—no one—could see it—so that no one ever could take it from her.  But Evan . . . She'd given that part of herself to him, bared her soul so that he could take a peek inside.  Was it scarier that she'd allowed him to do that or that it hadn't really scared her at all at the time . . .? 'Yes, it should have scared you.  You gave him the knife, didn't you . . .? And that's why he's the one . . . The last thing you need is someone who can take your heart and crush it without a second thought.  Haven't you already had enough disappointment?  Haven't you?'

She knew that, too.  Evan was the only person on earth who really could hurt her now, and she'd given him that power, and even if Madison could never understand, Valerie did only too well.  She had no control of anything as a child; no one had listened to her pleas.  Back then, she'd have rather been dirt poor and raised as white trash than to have been separated from her parents, and now?  As the vortex of emotion kept rising in a spiraling gale, just what kind of control could she hope to have now?

The plane touched down, unnoticed as she struggled with the answers that still were well out of her reach.  For once, the plane didn't have to wait as it taxied directly up to the terminal to disembark.  She sat still, motionless, as the rest of the plane slowly emptied.  The dread sense of foreboding was growing thicker, stronger, but she had no idea just why.

Blinking as she stepped out of the tunnel and into the bright airport concourse, Valerie veered off to the right, staring out the window at the tarmac, staring at the crew on the ground as they unloaded the cargo hold.  Letting her temple fall against the glass, she let out a deep breath, indulging just for a moment in the welcoming cold of the pane.  Her fever had returned at some point—slight, yes, but still there.

Almost as an afterthought, she dug her phone from her pocket and turned it on.  One voicemail, and she almost smiled, albeit a bit sadly.  Did she even have to call to see who it was?  Somehow, she knew . . .

"Hey, V . . . Uh, i-it's me . . . Listen, about earlier?  I wasn't trying to . . . to pressure you or anything, and I'm . . . I'm sorry . . ." A pause and a heavy sigh.  "Just will you let me know you're okay?"  Another deep breath, a hitch in his normally smooth voice.  "I . . . I love you."

Valerie had to blink furiously as tears sprang into her eyes.  After everything that had happened, and he . . . He was worried about her?  Of course he was.  He was just that way, wasn't he?

Still, she hesitated.  If she talked to him, if she heard his voice directly . . . In the end, she opened her messages, typed in a few words that she hoped would suffice.  'I'm fine.  I just need to do a few things.  We'll talk later.'

'Coward,' her mind accused as she hit 'send'.  She wasn't fine, was she?  No, there was nothing at all 'fine' about her.  Again, the overwhelming sense bore down on her: the feeling that nothing in the world would ever be 'fine' again.  One way or another, some part of her was going to lose, and the only real question was which part it would ultimately be.

Pushing herself away from the window, she commanded her body to move, straight through the airport, straight past the long corridors that led to the main terminal, past the people milling around baggage claim, waiting impatiently for their precious suitcases, out the doors.  As luck would have it, there was an empty taxi waiting, and, heaving a sigh of relief, she slipped into the blessed quiet and pulled the door closed.  "North Brimmerton Hotel," she said before settling back against the worn vinyl seat.  The driver said nothing as he pulled into the lane and started forward.

She didn't have to do it, did she?  She didn't really have to look at Marvin to know what she'd always known.  Right or wrong, he offered her something that Evan never had, never could, and it was the one thing that she just couldn't shake.  As much as she might want to be with Evan, the uncertainty was too much for her to deal with, and it wasn't her pride or even a misplaced sense of loyalty that spoke to her.  It was a deeper thing, a knowledge as sure as the sunrise, the sunset, the stars in the skies at night.  If Evan grew tired of her, if he decided that he just didn't love her anymore . . . That would destroy her, no question.  Whether it was in a week or a year or ten years, it didn't matter.  When he invariably found someone more exciting, more appealing, when she was left at home alone for days or weeks or months on end . . . Just the thought of it was enough to make her feel as though a part of her was dying, as though a part of her was lost in a wallow of panic, of doubt.  She couldn't always drop everything to run off with him, could she?  And how many times would he be able to say no to the legions of girls who would do anything for just one night with the rockstar?

"I swear to God, if you start touting Marvin's saint-like qualities, I think I'm going to puke . . . He's reliable, right?  Because you don't rely on him for shit!  And dependable?  Because you don't have to depend on him, either!  The bottom line is that he's safe for you, isn't he?  He's safe for you because he's nothing to you, and you know it!  You're safe with that little ass because you don't love him, and how in the hell can he hurt you when you don't even love him?"

Flinching at the ugly truth in Madison's derisive words, Valerie sighed.  Maybe what she said was true—maybe Valerie knew on some level that Marvin couldn't hurt her, and maybe the reasons were as deadly accurate as Madison had said, but . . .

"If you do decide that you want to marry Marvin after all, then I want you to promise me—swear to me—that you'll never, ever see Evan again."

A small sob welled up in her throat, and she had to swallow hard to force it back down.  Could she . . . Could she really do that?  To never see him again . . .? How . . .?

But she knew, too, that Madison was right.  For whatever reason, Evan really did think that he was in love with her, and she . . .

Shaking her head stubbornly, she just couldn't finish that sentence.  As though saying the words, even to herself, would make everything too real, was too painful for her, and really, didn't Evan deserve that much?  If she . . . If she acknowledged it, then what would that really make her, after all . . .? Didn't she owe Evan that?  Owe him enough to not say those words again?  Those words that could create or destroy her?  Those words that could hurt him so much deeper than anything else she could ever say to him?  And maybe one day, he'd understand . . .

Heaving a sigh, she swallowed hard.  Who was she trying to kid?  How in the hell would he ever understand when she couldn't understand anything, either?

The cab pulled to a stop in front of the modest hotel.  Without bothering to count, Valerie tossed a few bills over the seat as she slipped out onto the curb.  The driver hollered something at her—a word of thanks?  She ignored him and took a moment, staring up at the hotel, wondering just what kind of reception was waiting for her.

'Don't be stupid,' she told herself brusquely, squaring her shoulders, making her feet carry her forward toward the doors.  Marvin would be surprised to see her, sure, but in his own preoccupied way, he'd be glad she'd come.  He was nothing if not completely predictable.

For some reason, that thought made her feel worse instead of better.

The man behind the desk who called out a pleasant greeting stood as she approached.  Thinning hair, slightly old but neatly pressed white cotton shirt, blunt nails clean and pink as he reached over the counter to shake her hand, he quickly pushed up his black rimmed glasses as his smile widened.

"Hello.  What can I do for you?" he asked pleasantly.  The underlying anxiety in his tone—the desire to close the deal, maybe, reminded Valerie of Marvin.  Maybe it was his hands . . .?

Brushing that thought aside, Valerie shook her head.  "I'm here to see Marvin Pinkle.  Could you tell me what room he's in?"

The man's smile faded as a somewhat skeptical expression flickered to life.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, but it's our policy not to hand out that kind of information to just anyone.  I can call his room, but I'm not sure if he'd in right now . . ."

Unreasonable irritation ignited in the pit of her stomach.  After all, it wasn't like he knew that she was coming, so it wasn't his fault if he wasn't here.  Still . . . Without missing a beat, she rattled off Marvin's credit card number.  The man frowned, obviously not completely understanding what she was doing, and Valerie shook her head.  "That was his credit card number," she said.  "He used it to check in, right?  I'm his fiancée, Valerie Denning.  Would you like to see my driver's license?"

Suddenly, the man's eyes lit up in apparent understanding, and the used-car-salesman-smile returned.  "Oh, I see!  No, no, that won't be necessary.  A surprise visit?"  He laughed and winked at her, like they'd just shared some really great joke.  "Well, I guess I could make an exception this once . . ." Tilting his head back as he peered through the bottom of his bifocal lenses, he checked the guest list on the computer terminal.  In the lenses, Valerie could see the reflection of the screen.  "Room 434 . . . That'd be up the elevator to the fourth floor, and turn right.  Second door on the left, right next to the ice machine."

Forcing a tepid smile at best, Valerie nodded.  "Thank you," she muttered as she turned away and headed for the elevator.  Only after she'd stepped out of it did she sigh.  If she had been thinking clearly, she should've asked for a key card while she was down there, just in case Marvin wasn't in.  Oh well, she'd go back and get one if he wasn't . . .

But her footsteps slowed as she neared the door—the one with the black numbers, '434'.  For some reason, her feet felt leaden, and she stumbled slightly, catching herself with a hand against the wall.  That sense of foreboding that had stubbornly clung to her, ever since she'd left her apartment—maybe before that—seemed to grow and thicken around her like the impending sense of hopelessness with which one might approach the hangman . . .

"Go to Marvin, look him in the eye, and be honest with yourself.  Ask yourself if that's the man you really want to spend the rest of your life with, and if he's not, then end it.  If he is . . ."

Madison's words seemed to fill her ears, making her cringe just for a moment; only for a moment.  In her heart, she already knew her choice, already knew what she needed, even if it was totally at odds with what she felt.  Madison was wrong.  She didn't need to look Marvin in the eye to know, did she?  All that really remained was just how she would possibly be able to say goodbye to Evan . . .


Raising her hand to knock on the door, she paused, swallowing down the immense gulf of absolute futility that she couldn't ignore.  Never in her life had she ever felt so utterly alone, so miserable, so wretched, and even knowing that her choice was the best one she could make for herself did nothing to alleviate the overwhelming sense that nothing else in her lifetime would ever really matter; not after this . . .

The door suddenly opened, and Valerie stepped back as Marvin nearly ran straight into her, all neat and tidy and obviously on his way out.  He stopped short and blinked as a reluctant little smile surfaced on his ruddy face.  "Val!" he exclaimed, and the genuine warmth, the welcome in his tone, undid something deep inside her.

"M-Marvin," she whispered, her voice catching, her throat closing fast.  "H-Hi . . ."

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'Wish' by Lifehouse originally appeared on the B-Side of a 2002 release.  Copyrighted to Jason Wade.
== == == == == == == == == ==
OROsan0677 ——— ji-an ——— oblivion-bringr ——— Dark Inu Fan ——— theablackthorn ——— Lynzi18 ——— Tashwampa ——— xSerenityx020 ——— Cricket42
sydniepaige ——— cutechick18 ——— amohip ——— Saphirea83 ——— lianned88
Thought from Evan:
So where the hell is she …?
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.