InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity 9: Subterfuge ❯ The Gift of Giving ( Chapter 219 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Two Hundred Nineteen~~
~The Gift of Giving~


'And you can tell everybody this is your song ...
'It may be quite simple but now that it's done
'I hope you don't mind; I hope you don't mind
'That I put down in words
'How wonderful life is while you're in the world …'

-'Your Song' by Elton John.


"So I was wondering about something."

"What's that?"

"Just, you know, what are your plans?"

Evan glanced over at Cain and frowned when he saw that his father hadn't paused at all in his work as he painstakingly matched up the pattern in the wallpaper before applying the next strip.  Staring at the intricate pattern with a slight scowl on his face, he had casually tossed out the question in such a way that made Evan wonder exactly what he was talking about.  "Plans for what?"

Cain gave a slight shrug, no more than the vaguest lifting of his shoulders and otherwise didn't seem to have heard Evan's question for a moment.  "I mean your career.  Are you going to drag Valerie along with you whenever you're out on the road and stuff?  Have you talked all that over with her?  What about her career?  You're not ready to give up being Zel Roka, right?"

"You've been wondering a lot there," Evan muttered more to himself than to his father.  "She doesn't mind who I am," he went on, louder this time.

"I didn't think she did," Cain went on evenly, either completely missing or choosing to ignore the tightness that Evan hadn't been able to filter out of his tone.  "I'm just saying that your lifestyle could be a little hard for her after a while, don't you think?"

"And which part of my lifestyle do you mean, Cain?" Evan shot back.  "Do you really think I'm ass enough to go out and dick around on her or something?  Is that what you're trying to say?"

Turning away from the wallpaper, Cain leveled Evan with a 'Don't-Be-Stupid' kind of look as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Evan for a long moment.  "I never thought anything of the sort, Evan, and you ought to know that," he replied shortly.  "I meant all the time you spend away from home.  You've been on the road for months at a time before—almost a year at a stretch, if I recall rightly.  I just wanted to know if you'd given that kind of thing any thought at all, given that Valerie doesn't seem like the kind who wants to travel like that all the time."

"We'll figure it out," Evan reassured Cain with a glower.  "Don't even worry about it."

"I'm sure you will," Cain tossed back then sighed.  "Listen, I didn't mean to offend you.  I know that you love her and that she's definitely your mate.  I also know the lengths you've gone to in order to protect your real identity—your future mate and children—and, to be honest, I'm glad you have."

Irritation was enough to make Evan grit out, "Yeah, well, you won't have to worry about that, either, Cain.  V doesn't want pups, so it's no big thing."

Cain's eyebrows rose in unabashed surprise, and he blinked a few times as he shook his head once, twice, while he struggled to understand just what Evan had said.  "She . . . She doesn't?"

Evan snorted.  "Again, something that isn't really any of your business, wouldn't you say?"

He looked like he wanted to say something.  Evan cut him short before he could.  "Look, you don't have to worry about us," he said tightly.  "It's not like when I was a pup, and you had to lecture me about every single thing I ever did.  I'll worry about V.  She really isn't any of your concern."

Turning on his heel, Evan strode out of the lighthouse before his temper got the better of him, and he didn't stop outside.  Instead, he veered to the left, stomping along the trail that eventually led down and around the cliff onto the beach below the house.

Did Cain honestly think he was still some idiot teenager, that he hadn't already given the whole situation some thought?  Did he really think that Evan wouldn't have talked to Valerie about all this already?  He had.  Of course he had.  True, they didn't have any kind of agreement set in stone, but it wasn't like Valerie was completely against the idea of traveling with him as much as her schedule would allow.

Besides that, she'd already left her job in the city—unavoidable since they were moving into the lighthouse after they returned from their honeymoon.  Evan had offered to pay the early-termination fee that was stipulated in her contract—basically repaying the firm for what they'd paid on Valerie's outstanding student loans from college.  Valerie had insisted, however, that she would pay it as well as the payments for the rest of her loans by herself out of her own money—an easy thing for her to do, given that he had adamantly refused to let her spend any of her money on anything else.  He wanted to take care of her, and he would.  She'd agreed, albeit reluctantly, since he hadn't really given her a choice, so any money she made would be hers to do with as she wished.  At the moment, she was spending some of it on the wedding, he was sure, despite his offer to pay for that, too, and he knew that she had set up a very nice trust fund for Kaci Lea, as well, even though the girl didn't know about it yet, either.  Valerie probably wouldn't tell Kaci Lea, at least for a while, anyway.  As it was, knowing the girl, she would probably see some kind of strings attached, and, though it was true that she was likely smart enough to get full scholarships to any number of schools, scholarships might not take care of everything, and even if they did, at least Kaci Lea would have enough money to be comfortable and not have to worry about finding and keeping a part time job, too.

But as for Cain's concerns, sure, they would have to spend time in the city, too, but that wasn't really a huge deal, either.  At the moment, she was toying with the idea of opening her own law firm here in Bevelle, but first, she wanted to take some time to study up more on family law so that she could switch her area of expertise when and if she did open an office.

It just figured, didn't it?  Leave it to Ol' Cain to come up with some sort of twist that would make Evan into an ass.  That it surprised him irked him beyond belief, too.  After all, it was a normal thing—something he ought to have been used to, but no.  Somehow, he'd almost started to think that maybe—maybe—things weren't so bad between them lately.

Plopping down on the pebbly sand, Evan heaved a sigh as he raked his hands through his hair.  Nothing at all had changed; not in the least.  No matter what he ever did, it wasn't enough for Cain, and he figured that it never would be, either.  They might have moments when they got along, but there was always something that reminded him that he wasn't nearly as good as the rest of his siblings, wasn't there?

'But you hoped . . .'

Face twisting into a marked scowl, Evan stubbornly refused to answer his youkai-voice.

He should have known better.  He really should have.


"So tell me what's bothering you?"

Evan blinked and glanced up almost guiltily from the guitar he was idly strumming, and for a moment, he looked like a child with his hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar.  Then he forced a smile, albeit a wan one, and shrugged.  "Just trying to figure out the best way to get into your panties," he quipped.

Valerie pursed her lips and rolled her eyes as she tossed the notebook aside.  She'd been looking over her list of things yet to do before the wedding and checking off what she'd gotten done today.  Too bad that every time she managed to cross something off that list, she added another two or three things that she'd forgotten before . . .

"You don't look good in my panties," she replied lightly.

"I thought I looked very good," he retorted.  "Okay, maybe not that great, but still . . ."

Shaking her head, she leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees, a gentle smile toying with the corners of her lips.  "Having trouble with the lighthouse?" she prompted.

"Nah, it's all good," Evan assured her, sticking the guitar pick between his teeth so he could set the guitar aside.  "All according to schedule."

"Hmm . . ." She nodded slowly, deliberating for a moment as she considered the best way to get him to answer her truthfully.  "You've been really quiet tonight," she went on, careful to keep her tone light, neutral.  "Tell me why."

This time, he sighed.  "Nothing," he insisted, then held up a hand to stop her before she could challenge him on the matter.  "Nothing important, anyway.  Just Cain being an ass.  Again."

"How's that?"

Evan ignored that question for a moment, or rather, he pretended to.  Considering that talking about his father—or more pointedly, the discussion he'd had with his father earlier—was the last thing he actually wanted to discuss, he figured that he ought to at least take a moment to gather his thoughts on the matter first.


Sparing a moment to shoot her a glance that ought to have warned her that he'd rather let the whole thing drop, Evan slowly shook his head.  "It was stupid, V," he replied instead, unable to keep the terseness out of his tone.  "I don't want to—"

"Of course you don't," she retorted dryly, "but if it's enough to put you in this kind of mood, then I want to know what happened."

He stared at her for a long minute then heaved another sigh—this one full of irritated resignation.  "Same ol', same ol'; that's all.  End of story," he remarked with a curt shrug as his gaze fell away, as a marked scowl surfaced on his features.

"And that's normal—at least, it is, according to you," she prompted when he made no indication that he was going to continue.   "Are you going to tell me what happened, or are you going to make me drag it out of you?"

Evan slumped forward, leaning his elbows on his knees.  "It's not important, V.  Just Cain, thinking I'm nothing but a damn fool."  Shooting out of the chair suddenly, Evan stomped across the floor and back again as a vicious and hot swell of righteous anger took hold of him.  He had to move, didn't he?  Had to before he lost his temper completely.  "You know, you'd think that after all this time, I might deserve just a little credit, wouldn't you?  I mean, would you honestly think that I'd screw up something as fucking important as finding my mate?  He thinks that I don't give a damn about you or your feelings—what you want to do or don't want to do . . . It's a fucking load of —"

"Evan, you're not making any sense," Valerie said calmly, grasping his shoulder and gently bringing him around to face her.

He opened his mouth to growl at her, but his anger seemed to dissolve when he met her concerned eyes.  "He just assumes that everything's going to go on the same way," Evan finally said, this time in a much calmer tone of voice.  "Like I'm going to marry you and just leave you home and go running off to be Zel Roka without even blinking.  Like I'd go out there and fuck anything on two legs without so much as a second thought."  That statement was enough to reignite the rage that had been so easily quelled by Valerie's mere glance, and he yanked away from her to stalk across the room again, opening and closing his hands as though he dearly needed to hurt something.

Valerie sighed softly and slipped her arms around him from behind, stopping him abruptly once more as she held on tightly.  He could feel her heartbeat, strong and calm, and slowly, slowly, it calmed him, too.  "You wouldn't do that," she said quietly, her voice muffled by the fabric of his shirt.

"'Course I wouldn't," he half-growled.

Valerie laughed softly—more of an exhalation than laughter, really.  "I'd kill you if you did," she assured him matter-of-factly.

Peering over his shoulder at her, he finally managed a wan smile.  "As if I'd want anyone else," he grumbled with a shake of his head.  "Cain's a damn idiot if he thinks otherwise."

She sighed again, holding onto him for another moment before letting her arms fall away from him.  Then she took a step back and idly wandered a few steps.  "I really wish I understood the whole thing between the two of you," she ventured at length as she shifted her gaze out of the windows at the darkening night.

"Nothing to understand," he insisted, taking the last few steps that separated him from the wet bar.  "I gave up trying a long time ago."

"But it wasn't always this way," she said.  Pivoting on her heel, she pinned him with a pointed stare.  "Your mother said that the two of you used to get along very well."

He shrugged.  "Depends upon your definition of 'well'," he parried, taking his time as he poured two glasses of beer.  "To tell you the truth, I really don't know what or why.  All I know is that Cain's always been that way with me."

She considered that while he rinsed out the beer bottles and dropped them into the empty crate for recycling.  "Have you ever tried talking to him about it?  About your feelings?"

"As if that would make a difference," Evan scoffed, striding across the floor, holding out a glass to Valerie.

"It might," she countered, taking the glass and then his hand, pulling him toward the sofa.  "Think about it, will you?  You'll never know if you don't ask."

"Can we just . . . let it drop?" he asked with a sigh.

She frowned at him, and he could tell by the expression on her face that she wasn't complying; was, in fact, trying to find another way to make her point.  He chose to ignore that, however, figuring that a change in subject was in order.  "So did you think about what it is that you want as a wedding present from me?" he asked, hoping that she would take the bait.

"Don't think that I don't know what you're trying to do, Roka," she remarked baldly as she lifted the glass to her lips.  "As for your question, though, I've already got everything I want."

He rolled his eyes but chuckled since she'd said the same thing every other time he'd asked her, but that was all right.  "Baby, it's my mission in life to spoil you abso-fucking-lutely rotten, so either tell me what you want or I'll just go buy something on my own, and if I do, you can't return it, no matter what it is."

She snorted at his blatant threat and laughed softly.  "Why don't you just save that money, and we'll pick something out together on our honeymoon."

"Is this some ploy to get me to tell you where I'm taking you?" he parried.

Her smile widened.  "No . . . Well, maybe . . ."

"Forget it, woman.  It's not going to work."  Setting the glass aside, Evan shook his head.  "I'm on to you, V.  You're not nearly as slick as you want to think you are."

Valerie laughed then snapped her fingers as she sat up a little straighter.  "Oh, I almost forgot," she said as she stood up and hurried across the room.  Grabbing a blue-backed docket off the desk, she took her time returning as she scanned through the bound pages.

"Whatever it is, I swear to God, I didn't do it," he said in lieu of whatever she was about to say.

Valerie blinked and looked up from the docket then pursed her lips and wrinkled her nose.  "For once, Roka, you're not in trouble," she stated as she flopped back down beside him.  "Sign it."

He jerked back when she shoved it under his nose and cast her a questioning glance as he took it from her.  "A pre-nup?" he said, arching an eyebrow at her and moving to hand it back.  "Don't need it."

She sighed and pushed his hand away.  "Just sign it," she stated, nabbing an ink pen off the table beside the sofa and extending it to him.

"Forget it," he insisted, dropping it on the cushion between them.

"Look, I don't want anyone saying that I'm only with you for your money," she persisted.

He blinked.  "But you are, aren't you?"

Rolling her eyes, she snorted.  "Of course I am," she scoffed.

"Ah, I knew it," he quipped.

She giggled and jabbed him in the chest with the pen.  "Now sign it."

"I don't need to because we're never getting a damn divorce," he growled.

"I know what you've said," she began slowly, "and I believe you, but it just looks better if we have this, and—"

"To who?  And who the hell cares?" he cut in.  "I'm not signing it."

She wasn't quite ready to give up.  "What if—?"

"The only way you're getting rid of me is if I die," he said, raising his voice in an effort to let her know just how serious he was.  "For that matter, if you ever left me, I'd die, so all of it would be yours, anyway.  I don't give a great goddamn."

"That's not even remotely funny, Evan Zelig," she gritted out.

Evan snorted.  "The truth usually isn't.  Anyway, I'm not signing it, so forget it."

She opened her mouth to argue with him, but he held up a hand to silence her.  "No," he stated once more.  "Those things are basically like announcing to the world that you have no intention of staying married, that you don't really take your vows seriously."  He snorted.  "I'm not signing it, period, so you might as well save your breath."

Valerie didn't look like she was ready to concede, but she did heave a very loud, longsuffering sigh.  "Even if it would make me feel better?"

"Better about what?" he challenged mildly.

She almost smiled—almost.  "It'd make me feel better to know that you can't take my money away if you decided to run away with some barely-legal groupie."

"I should beat you for that," he grumbled.

"It's just for appearances, then," she said.  "It's really not that big of a deal."

"No one in my family has ever had a pre-nup," he insisted.  "I'll be damned if I'll be the first."

"All right; fine," she said, looking anything but pleased with the idea of dropping the subject.  "I'll let it go for now, but I really would like for you to sign it."

He didn't comment since he knew damn well that he wasn't going to be signing his name on that particular bit of nonsense.

"You know, I kind of feel like this whole thing is entirely one-sided," she went on thoughtfully.

"What whole thing?"

She shrugged simply, turning to the side, drawing her knees up to tuck her feet up under her.  "Our relationship."

He couldn't help the offended tone that crept into his voice.  "How do you figure?"

She shot him a cursory glance.  "I mean that you're always giving me things, and I don't get a chance to do the same for you nearly as often."

"What?  Birthday presents and stuff?" he teased as the tension drained away.

She stared at him for a moment as though she were trying to decide whether he was being serious or not.  "Everything," she ventured, her brow furrowing as she sought to put her thoughts into words.  "I'm not talking about material things.  When I think about who I was before I met you, I start to realize just how much I've changed, and . . ." Trailing off for a moment, she reached out, brushed his bangs out of his eyes, only to turn her fingers inward, to trail her knuckles down his cheek until they lingered just beside his chin.  He caught her hand before it could fall away, giving her fingers a squeeze, kissing the same knuckles and refusing to let go of her hand.  "You gave me back my family," she said, her voice thickened by emotion.

"I didn't," he began.

"You did," she insisted gently.  "Do you think that I would have even tried had it not been for you?"

"But that was you," he replied.  "You're the one who reached out to them.  I didn't do anything but go with you."

"That's really not true," she said.  Then she sighed, her eyes darkening as she continued to stare at him.  "Would you . . . Would you talk to your father?  For me?"

Evan blinked and let go of her hand in favor of reaching for his glass of beer, and he didn't answer her until he'd drained it completely.  "What?  That's . . .! Hell, no," he grumbled, letting the empty glass plop down on the table once more with a loud thud.

She had the grace to look somewhat ashamed of her request, but she didn't take it back.  No, instead, she lifted her chin a notch and nodded.  "That's what I want."

"Come again?"

Licking her lips, she let her gaze skitter away before coming to meet his once more.  "You asked me what I want for a wedding present, didn't you?  That's what I want.  I want you to try to reconcile with your father."

"That is entirely unfair!" he exclaimed.  He started to stand up, but she caught his hand and held it tight.

She looked like she agreed with him on some level, but she stubbornly refused to back down.  "I want you to promise me you'll talk to him about the way you feel," she reiterated calmly.  "I want you to find out the reasons why you feel the way you do.  You . . . You've taught me just how precious family is, Evan.  If there's even the smallest chance that you can come to terms with your father, then I want you to."

Evan made a face but didn't argue with her.  Sure, if he tried, he could probably talk her out of it or at least make her feel guilty for her demand.  After all, it wasn't like he honestly thought that having a talk with dear ol' Cain would make any difference in the long run, and he opened his mouth to tell her so, but the quiet emotion in the depths of her gaze was enough to still his tongue.  She really thought that it would help.

Too bad Evan wasn't entirely sure that he agreed . . .

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'Your Song' by Elton John originally appeared on the 1970 release, Elton John.  Copyrighted to Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
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Thought from Evan:
How's that a wedding present …?
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.