~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-One~~
~Haste to the Wedding~
‘It’s the wild life that’s in your veins …
‘You’ll feel like an animal that’s been uncaged …’
-‘The Wild Life’ by Slaughter.
“You know, I’m trying to figure it out.”
Valerie blinked and leaned forward in the salon chair to peer down the line at her soon-to-be sister-in-law, Bellaniece. “What do you mean?”
Bellaniece giggled, flicking up her claws as she examined the nail polish that had just been so carefully applied. “You’re actually allowing Evan to have a real bachelor party? I can’t decide if you have that much faith in him or if you’re just trying to give him enough rope to hang himself.”
“I have serious doubts that he needs that much rope, to start with,” Sierra Inutaisho remarked almost baldly despite the smile on her pretty face.
Unable to repress the slightly gloating smile that surfaced on her face, Valerie tried for an innocent expression though she had a feeling that no one was buying it. “Oh, I think he’ll behave himself,” she allowed somewhat dryly.
“Bassie’s the one who planned the party, so I wouldn’t think it’d get too out of hand,” Jillian commented, lifting a steamed towel off her face to peer out from under it. Then she giggled. “Well, maybe . . .”
Valerie didn’t comment right away, but she was hard pressed to keep her knowing grin from spreading. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Madison’s questioning gaze, and she purposefully ignored it as she accepted a glass of champagne from one of the technicians passing through.
“You know something, don’t you?” Madison asked in a hushed whisper.
“. . . Maybe,” Valerie admitted. “Let’s just say I have little doubt that Evan will have a very memorable night.”
Madison giggled but let it go for the moment.
“And this is just heaven,” Valerie went on, closing her eyes as she sank down a little lower in her seat. When Madison had suggested a spa-day for all the ladies, Valerie had jumped at the idea, and, though Madison had insisted that it would all be on the house, Valerie still stubbornly insisted upon paying her for it, instead.
At the moment, however, Madison was busying herself by giving Valerie’s mother the royal treatment, as it were. Hair trimmed, color refreshed, a full vitamin body wrap along with a chem-peel for her face, and it was absolutely amazing, how young she looked now. “Shouldn’t you be pampering yourself?” Rhonda asked, leaning back to raise her eyebrows at Madison.
Madison laughed and waved a dismissive hand. “I pamper myself all the time, and I love doing this!” she insisted. “And you are one hot mama!”
Giggling softly, Rhonda blushed. “It’s the makeup,” she demurred.
Valerie rolled her eyes. “Give it up, Mama,” she scoffed. “Of course, you’re gorgeous!”
“You’d better call and make sure Daddy’s taken his medicine before he sees you,” Kaci Lea warned with a girlish little giggle. She’d already had her cut and color retouched, not that she’d really needed it, of course.
Rhonda laughed but couldn’t hide her blush at the compliments, either.
“So are you nervous, Valerie?” Samantha Drevin asked, leaning forward to peer down the line at the soon-to-be bride.
Drawing a deep breath, Valerie shook her head. “Not yet,” she admitted. “At this time tomorrow? Probably.”
“Well, I, for one, can’t wait until you’ve married my Evan,” Gin added happily. Suddenly, she sniffled and quickly dashed a hand over her eyes. “My baby’s getting married . . .”
“Aw, don’t worry, Mama,” Jillian piped up with a bright smile. “You’ll have another baby soon, so not all your babies will be married, after all!”
Gin giggled, and for just a moment, a strange sort of expression seemed to flicker across her features, almost as though she wanted to say something, but she must have changed her mind because she smiled instead and shifted around in her seat a little.
“Gin? Are you all right?” Kagome asked, her brows drawing together as she carefully eyed her daughter.
Gin blinked and nodded quickly, her bright smile back in place once more. “Fine, Mama.”
Kagome didn’t look like she wasn’t buying Gin’s insistence. “Maybe we should go back home and let you lie down a bit.”
“No, I promise, everything’s fine,” Gin insisted, waving off her mother’s concern with a flick of her wrist. “Besides, I took an early nap at Cain’s insistence, so I’m good.”
Kagome didn’t look entirely convinced, but she slowly settled back in her chair once more.
“So where is Evan taking you on your honeymoon?” Evan’s aunt, Deirdre, better known as ‘Nezumi’, asked.
Heaving a sigh, Valerie rolled her eyes. “You know, he refuses to tell me?” she complained since she was getting a first-hand lesson as to just how stubborn Evan could actually be. She’d thought that she could get anything out of him—or she had until she’d discovered that he really had no intention at all in telling her just where they were planning on going after the wedding.
“I don’t think he’s told anyone,” Sydnie remarked, tapping a delicately manicured claw against her lips thoughtfully. “I know he didn’t tell my puppy anything . . .” Trailing off for a moment, the cat-youkai’s gaze shifted to Gin. “Did he tell you anything?”
Gin blinked and slowly shook her head. “He won’t tell me, either,” she confessed. “He just wants it to be a big surprise. I’m sure that it’ll be wonderful, no matter where you two go.”
“Knowing Evan, it won’t matter, anyway,” Madison added. “I highly doubt that he intends to step foot outside your hotel room.”
Valerie laughed since she had to agree with Madison. Knowing Evan, it probably would take some cajoling on her part if she hoped to see anything outside of the hotel, after all . . . Though, she had to admit, at least to herself, she didn’t think she’d have very many complaints, one way or another.
“But you’re going to be going on a good, long honeymoon, right? Or does he have too many other things lined up?” Kagura asked.
“Actually, no, he doesn’t. I’m not sure how long he wants to stay gone, but he did mention that it would be ‘a while’ . . .” Valerie glanced over at the woman who was currently leafing through the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. When they’d been introduced earlier, it had surprised Valerie that she had actually been a little in awe of that particular woman. Maybe it had something to do with her husband; Valerie wasn’t sure, but there was a certain presence about the both of them, almost a feeling of understated royalty—or at least, what Valerie imagined that meeting royalty in real life might feel like. But Kagura had smiled, and Sesshoumaru had assured her that he was pleased to see that Evan had finally found someone to spend his life with, and that had been enough to put Valerie completely at ease.
It was no small thing, really. To be honest, Evan’s entire family possessed that sort of aura, and if she hadn’t known already that there was something different about them, it would have been easy to guess. After all, it just wasn’t normal to see that many absolutely stunning people, was it? And not one of them looked to be the ages that she now knew they were.
Evan and the rest of his family had refrained from giving actual relationship statuses to the introductions when it came to meeting Valerie’s family, though. She had to wonder if the only reason they’d actually gotten away with it was simply because of the commotion that was surrounding these last couple days before the wedding, and it helped, she was sure, that the mansion was so full, so busy, that it was fairly simple to sidetrack conversations that might have led to the harder to answer questions, anyway. It wasn’t that Valerie didn’t want to tell her family about Evan’s, but . . .
But Samantha had no qualms in explaining things to Valerie—things that Evan had only brushed upon. It was Sami who had told Valerie the horrifying story of her initial meeting with her husband, Kurt. She’d told Valerie in such a matter-of-fact way about the atrocities that had been visited upon her when she’d spent time in a research facility, being tested because the human researchers had known that she was ‘different’. She’d told all of it to Valerie because she’d wanted her to understand why there was a slight rift still between her husband and her father, who still blamed Kurt for his involvement on some level, even if he was the one who had ultimately set her free, too. Samantha had felt bad because the tension had been noticeable enough, even if everyone else had tried that much harder to be cheerful and happy, as though they believed that they could compensate for it. It wasn’t that Kichiro had been openly hostile or anything, no, but maybe it was the overall happiness that seemed to engulf the entire estate that drew more attention to the strain. For his part, Kurt had been friendly, even if he was a little on the reserved side, and it hadn’t taken long for his dry sense of humor to show itself, either, and that was something that Valerie could appreciate. The rest of the family including Bellaniece were warm enough toward Kurt, though Valerie would be lying if she tried to say that she hadn’t noticed the slightly more reserved way that Bellaniece behaved around Kurt, either. It wasn’t unfriendly, it simply wasn’t as open as she normally was, either.
Samantha had also admitted, too, that Kurt had said that it might be better if he quietly ducked out of the celebration. After all, he couldn’t blame Samantha’s father for his feelings, either. Evan, however, wouldn’t hear of that, and, given that he’d already asked Kurt to be one of his groomsmen, then having to rearrange things would have just been harder than it already was.
After that talk, though, Valerie had understood, and even when Evan had asked her if she wanted to tell her family about him, she’d assured him that it wasn’t entirely necessary. Sure, she was certain that her family would be all right with the information in the end, but she couldn’t help feeling as though it wasn’t really her place to tell them, either. As much as she hated to think in terms of death or any of that, she knew her father’s life wasn’t something that could be measured in decades to come, and her mother? Rhonda might well be in much better health, but the fact remained that parents were just not supposed to outlive their children. No, the only real question was whether or not to tell Garret or Kaci Lea, and there would be time to decide that later, too, though Evan had said something that he’d meant as a joke, but it still remained in Valerie’s mind.
“Well, we could always try fixing them up with youkai. I mean, they might be human, but if they had youkai mates, then they’d stick around, too, wouldn’t they?” he said as they were getting ready for bed last night.
“You make that sound a lot easier than I imagine it really is,” Valerie replied.
Evan shrugged then grinned at her. “Never say never, baby.”
But that wasn’t really the issue at the moment, even if she did wonder in the back of her head about the feasibility of the offhanded comments that Evan had made. The initial bout of nerves she’d suffered before all the guests started to arrive had proven to be groundless. It both pleased as well as humbled her to see just how sweet, how accepting Evan’s entire family—direct and extended—were toward hers. The women had all been more than happy to befriend Valerie’s mother and sister, and Valerie had seen most of the men taking the time to meet and talk to both her father and brother, as well. After meeting the family as a whole, she figured she shouldn’t be at all surprised at how Evan had turned out . . .
Valerie’s cell phone buzzed on the small stand beside her, and she smiled when she saw who was calling. “Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready for your bachelor party, Roka?” she asked mildly.
Evan chuckled. “Sure, but I figured I had time to check in with you before that. Having a good time?”
“The best time,” she replied. “Forget the rest of the party, I think I’d rather just move in here.”
“Oh? So what are they doing to you?”
“Right now, I’m soaking my feet in this tub of goo that feels fantastic.”
Evan’s chuckle turned downright nasty. “I’ll make some ‘goo’ for you, baby,” he offered.
Rolling her eyes despite the laugh that escaped her, Valerie shook her head. “Go to your bachelor party,” she told him, “and leave us alone, okay?”
He heaved a melodramatic sigh. “All right; all right,” he agreed. “You ladies have fun. I miss you.”
She smiled. “I’ll see you tonight.” Ending the call, Valerie laughed again. She hadn’t really thought that he could be any goofier, and yet, there was something definitely lighter about his mood, if that were really possible. In the last few days since he’d finally had it out with Cain, he had been so much happier, more at peace with himself. Come to think of it, Cain seemed to be that way, too . . .
They’d gone out to celebrate Evan receiving his doctorate. They’d brought along Valerie’s family, as well, making it a family outing of sorts. It was too bad that Gavin and Jillian hadn’t been there, but they weren’t able to fly in until late last night. Bas had looked rather shocked at first, but he’d also said later that it wasn’t really surprising. Evan had always been smart like that. Gin couldn’t help but to get a little teary over it all—Valerie supposed that her emotions were pretty touchy, but they were happy tears, and that was all right, too.
It was hard to believe that the wedding was so close—the wedding that, at times, she hadn’t thought would be possible. All the plans were finalized, everything was ready for the big day. Now if Valerie could just remember to stop worrying about those details and to let herself enjoy the next couple days, she’d be home free . . .
“I can’t believe you brought me to a strip club!” Evan exclaimed as he slipped into a chair beside Bas, who was leaning heavily on the table, toying with a cold bottle of beer. “You rock, Bubby! I take back every shitty thing I ever said or thought about you!”
Bas rolled his eyes but chuckled. “Yeah, well, since it’s your bachelor party, I figured that you’d want to have it at the tackiest, seediest, nastiest place I could find.”
Evan laughed but didn’t disagree. “Did you check it out before tonight?”
Bas snorted. “Nope.” Then he grinned. “I had the groomsmen do it.”
He choked on a sip of beer since his groomsmen were Gavin and Kurt, the most unlikely pair, ever, and the idea of those two coming in here for any reason? Well, that really was damn funny, all things considered. “Bet that went over well,” Evan couldn’t resist adding.
Bas actually chuckled. “Their mates found it amusing enough,” he had to allow. “The girls said it was much worse than the other ones on the list, so I guess you could say that they’re the ones who had approved it.”
Evan’s grin widened. “Sami and Jilli? Those two scoped the places out?”
Bas offered a noncommittal shrug. “According to Gavin, the girls insisted on coming along. Apparently, they didn’t think Gav or Kurt would actually go in if they didn’t.” Slumping back in his chair with a thoughtful scowl, Bas shrugged. “They were probably right.”
Evan had to laugh since those two were currently sitting at a table as far back as possible with Sesshoumaru Inutaisho and Griffin Marin—all four of whom looked as though they’d rather be just about anywhere on earth than right where they were.
Grimacing when the music cranked a notch or two louder, announcing with the dimming of the house lights, the raising of the strobing spotlights above the stage that the real show was about to begin, Bas slowly shook his head and heaved an audible sigh.
“Kurt and Gavin said that you’re to blame for all of this,” Toga Inutaisho remarked, stopping beside the table to give Bas a very pointed look.
“If it were up to me, I’d have just had a football party or something,” Bas allowed, a slight grin surfacing on his features. “But it’s for him, so . . .”
Letting out a deep breath, Toga shook his head but chuckled. “Somehow, I feel that this has ‘disaster’ written all over it,” he added.
Evan grinned. “Aw, c’mon, Toga! You can’t really say that you wouldn’t enjoy watching Sierra if she wanted to put on a striptease for you.”
Toga’s answer to that was a terse grunt, and even in the dusky light of the club, Evan could make out the trace of red that had filtered into Toga’s cheeks.
“You’re bent,” Bas muttered as he tipped his beer to his lips.
“I have to say, I honestly didn’t think you had it in you to find a place this . . . interesting,” Kichiro remarked, slinging an arm around Toga’s shoulders.
“Interesting is a good way to put it . . . I suppose,” Toga grumbled, trying to duck away from Kichiro, who only tightened his grip on his cousin. “I feel like we’re all going to have to be fumigated before Gin allows any of us back into the mansion.”
“Well, Sydnie did say something like that, too, when I told her where we were going,” Bas admitted thoughtfully.
“Which reminds me: did you actually tell her what you were doing tonight?” Evan asked, raising a speculative eyebrow at his brother.
Bas snorted. “Yes, I did.”
“So how did you manage to make it out of the house?” Evan couldn’t resist asking since everyone knew about Sydnie’s legendary jealous streak when it came to Bas.
To his surprise, Bas broke into a somewhat smug kind of grin. “She was all right with it after I told her what was planned.”
Frowning at Bas’ almost cryptic wording, Evan turned his attention back to the stage, only to pull a classic double take moments before pinning Bas with a droll kind of expression that was completely ruined by the bark of laughter that quickly followed. “Oh, my God!” he exclaimed, smacking his hand down on the table in his complete amusement. “That is wrong beyond wrong!”
Bas grinned, too, but narrowed his eyes as he tried not to watch the spectacle unfolding on the stage where three transvestites were very happily doing their thing to the ungodly loud beat of the music. “You wanted strippers. You didn’t really say what kind of strippers . . .”
“Kami, I’ve been in some nasty-assed places before, but this . . .” Ryomaru Izayoi grumbled as he stomped over to his twin and cousin. “Are those . . .? Balls!” he exclaimed, the look on his face registering his abject disgust over what, exactly he was witnessing. “What the fuck . . .?”
Staring in complete and morbid fascination, Evan couldn’t help the idiotic grin that only widened. The tops had come off and there was jiggling a-plenty despite knowing that those three were most certainly male—even if the upper sections of their bodies didn’t resemble their male counterparts in the least. “I can’t believe you hired ladyboys!” he said, holding his hand up to summon a waitress. “Bring my brother another beer!” he insisted, waving a hand in Bas’ general direction. “Holy hell, Bubby! This is awesome!”
Bas rolled his eyes as a soft chuckle escaped him. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Dad’s face,” he ventured as the waitress hurried away to fill Evan’s order.
Dragging his gaze off of the strippers, Evan glanced over at Cain who did, indeed, have the weirdest expression on his face: a very odd mix of amusement and complete horror, like he was busy watching a train wreck full of circus clowns or something . . .
The overall effect was enough to send Evan into another bout of laughter, and Bas grimaced when the groom stuck his fingers into his mouth to unleash a loud, shrill whistle.
“Congratulations, Evan,” Morio Izayoi remarked, clapping Evan on the shoulder. “Can’t say your choice of bachelor party entertainment is my thing, but it’s nice to see that the bride to be . . . trusts you.”
Rising out of his chair to give his cousin a quick hug, Evan couldn’t help the cheesy grin on his face, either. “Morio! How was your flight?”
Morio chuckled. “It wasn’t so bad.”
“Speak for yourself,” Mikio Izayoi said, nudging Morio out of the way with a wince. Paler than normal, almost peaked, the hanyou looked like he’d seen better days, and considering his balance problems tended to be exacerbated by flying, Evan figured that he probably didn’t feel any better than he looked at the moment.
“Yeah, but you always hate planes,” Morio replied. “Besides, how could you possibly say it was bad when you got phone numbers from two of the stewardesses?”
Mikio made a face as his cheeks reddened—about the only trace of healthy color in his features. “I didn’t ask for them; you did—and they’re probably fake, anyway,” he muttered.
Morio chuckled. “Are you kidding? Women love you! They think you’re so darned cute!”
Rolling his eyes at the added emphasis on the word ‘cute’, Mikio wrinkled his nose and opted to ignore Morio’s commentary instead. “I can’t stay,” he went on, turning to Evan once more, “I just wanted to stop in on the way out to the mansion.”
Evan nodded but then offered a nonchalant shrug. “Might want to rethink that,” he warned.
Mikio blinked, absently reaching up and fiddling with his twitching left ear. At this point, Evan had to wonder if it wasn’t more of a habit than anything else since he’d done it as long as Evan could remember. “What do you mean?”
Evan’s grin widened. “The women are supposed to be having V’s bachelorette party out there tonight—after they finished at the spa, anyway—so unless you want to be molested by all those women, you might wanna stay here.”
Mikio made a face. “The fact that I’m related to most of the women who would be at that party makes it all the more disturbing, don’t you think?”
Evan chuckled. “There’s that, too,” he allowed with an offhanded shrug. “Oh!” he suddenly exclaimed, digging into his pocket and pulling out his wallet to hand over the keycard for the front door of his house. He never used it since the identilock only required his thumb print, but he carried around the card just in case. “Go on over to my place, if you want. There’s food in the fridge, booze in the bar, and you’re welcome to use the guest room. It’ll be nice and quiet, too, so feel free to make yourself at home.”
“Oh, uh, okay,” Mikio agreed. “It’s not a problem, is it?”
“Nah, it’s all good,” Evan insisted.
Mikio didn’t look entirely convinced, but he finally nodded, taking Evan’s card with a rather wan smile. “Thanks. It’s just for tonight,” he explained quickly. “I’ll go over to the mansion in the morning.”
“Stay as long as you want,” Evan replied. “Besides, V was impressed when I told her that you’re an attorney, too.”
Mikio nodded, and Morio grinned. “I’ll take him over there. Don’t do anything fun without me!” Then he stopped to consider what he’d said and he shrugged. “Then again . . .”
Evan laughed and sat back down as Morio and Mikio headed for the exit, pausing here and there to greet their relatives in passing.
The stage music ended, and the strippers ran off the stage moments before the overhead lights brightened as the slightly lower in volume house music came up. Bas got to his feet and stepped around the table to grasp Evan’s shoulder as he turned him to face the rest of the guests. “On behalf of my brother, I wanted to thank you all for taking the time to celebrate Evan’s impending wedding,” Bas said, raising his voice to be heard over the low din. “Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure that Evan would ever find a woman who was willing to put up with him, but I don’t mind admitting that I was wrong. Valerie’s a wonderful woman. In fact, she’s so wonderful that she even sent over a cake for you, Evan . . .”
Evan turned and glanced around, breaking into another goofy grin as a huge four layer cake was wheeled out of the back by the trio of strippers who hadn’t bothered to retrieve any of their discarded clothing. The tiers were lined with burning sparklers, and when they reached Evan, the ‘girls’ hurried over to make a show of kissing Evan’s cheeks in the loudest, most obnoxious way possible.
Bas reached over and handed Evan a blunt-edge cake knife.
“I am not entirely sure I want any of that,” Kurt remarked dryly as he stepped up beside the would-be groom.
Gavin flushed deep crimson when one of the strippers shot him a slow wink. “Makes me glad I didn’t have one of these parties,” he muttered.
“Cut the cake, Evan,” Gunnar remarked from his spot at the table beside Sesshoumaru who didn’t look uncomfortable, exactly, though he certainly didn’t look impressed.
Evan stepped over to the cake, narrowing his eyes as he considered exactly how he should cut into it. Before he could lower the knife, however, he jerked back as the top of the cake seemed to explode. “Ta-da-a-a!” Bugs exclaimed, throwing his hands high in the air as he burst out of the cake. Decked out in a fluffy little bunny costume, the rabbit youkai wiggled his fingers at the rockstar.
Evan laughed as he helped Bugs out of the cake. The rabbit leaned over and planted a loud kiss on Evan’s cheek before relinquishing his hold on him. “Surprise, Zel! You didn’t really think I’d miss a chance to be your bunny, now did you?”
“I thought you said you were boycotting the wedding!” Evan exclaimed, slipping an arm around Bugs.
“I was going to,” he allowed with an exaggerated pout. “But getting a chance to see all these fine men? Well, how could I possibly pass that up?” He spotted Gunnar and gave a jaunty wave. To Evan’s amusement, Gunnar actually nodded in acknowledgement of the greeting. Bugs heaved a very melodramatic sigh. “That one is just absolutely scrumptious, isn’t he? Melt-in-your-mouth good . . .”
“Looks like ol’ Gunnar’s in a pretty good mood,” Evan remarked. “Maybe you should go over there and say hi.”
Bugs giggled, waving a hand at Evan. “He’d never give me the time of day, Zel, and you know it’s true . . .” Trailing off as he seemed to be considering his options, Bug’s broke into a grin. “Then again, it doesn’t hurt to be friendly, now does it?”
“He’s not going to hit on Gunnar, is he?” Bas muttered as they watched the overzealous rabbit bound away.
Evan cleared his throat. “Oh, he might . . .”
Bas broke into the barest hint of a smile. “Is it bad that I kind of hope it does . . .?”
Evan chuckled. “Nope,” he allowed with a shrug. “I kind of hope he does myself . . . So V ordered the cake, did she?”
Offering a little shrug, Bas nodded. “She figured someone as bent as you are would enjoy it, yes.”
Digesting that in silence for a moment, Evan chuckled. “And here I was nice enough to hire a real stripper to show up at the mansion . . .”
Bas blinked and stared at Evan for several long moments. “You didn’t.”
His grin widened. “Oh, yep, I think I did . . . Calls himself John Long Dong. He’s not nearly as impressive as you are, though, but the odds of getting you to strip didn’t seem very good. Anyway, I figured the girls would get a kick out of him.”
“John Long—?” Cutting himself off abruptly, Bas slowly shook his head. “Only you, Evan,” he muttered, but he didn’t seem nearly as irritated as Evan suspected he’d be. Either way, he’d thought that it’d be good for a laugh. He only wished that he could see their faces when they answered the door and found Mr. Dong standing there, waiting to join the festivities . . .
<<< 220: Reconciliation
222: Reticence >>>
‘The Wild Life’by Slaughter originally appeared on the 1992 release, The Wild Life. Copyrighted to Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum.
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Final Thought from Bas:
John Long Dong …?
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.