Monday, April 28, 2014

P9: 220: Reconciliation

~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty~~

~Reconciliation~

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

A child arrived just the other day

He came into the world in the usual way

But there were planes to catch and bills to pay

He learned to walk while I was away …’

-‘The Cat’s in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin.

-Evan-

 

 

Gin hurried into the bright and airy kitchen humming a low song under her breath as she made straight for the refrigerator without noticing Evan, sitting in the breakfast nook with a cup of tea and a scowl on his face. The moment he saw his mother, however, that scowl dissipated, and he couldn’t help the soft chuckle that escaped him at the sight of his tiny mama and her less-than-tiny belly. “Mornin’, Mama,” he called as he lifted the mug of tea to his lips.

 

Gin squeaked in surprised and whipped around to face him, nearly losing her balance when her extra girth kept going but her feet did not. “Oh, Evan!” she exclaimed softly, steadying herself on the counter beside her. “When did you get here?”

 

“Just a few minutes ago, actually,” he admitted, then nodded at the white enameled kettle on the stovetop. “Made up some hot water if you want tea.”

 

She spared a moment to stare almost longingly at the pot then sighed. “I promised your father I’d drink more milk and less good stuff,” she admitted, her face contorting for a moment, designed to let him know what she thought of the idea of drinking milk.

 

Evan grinned. “Well, some people put milk in their tea,” he remarked mildly.

 

“That sounds so gross! Why would any—Oh-h-h-h,” she breathed as her eyes flashed open wide in understanding. “That would make the milk taste better,” she decided, spinning around to retrieve a mug out of the cupboard behind her.

 

“Speaking of Cain,” Evan said with a frown, deliberately taking his time in choosing his words, “he in his studio?”

 

“Your father?” Gin asked, her voice preoccupied as she set about making a mug of tea. “Well, he’s probably up now, but he was sleeping when I came down. Is that why you’re here?”

 

“Mmm,” Evan replied in a non-committal sort of way. “I promised V I’d talk to him.”

 

Gin didn’t seem to find anything amiss in his words, and she spared a moment to cast him a bright smile before resuming her task once more, and Evan had to shake his head when she stopped only long enough to pour about a tablespoon of milk into her teacup. “He mentioned working on that sculpture for your wedding present,” she went on before sipping from her cup. Then she sighed and closed her eyes as though she were in heaven. “Oh, this is nice . . . Well, aside from the milk . . .” Then she blinked and frowned as she glanced at Evan once more. “Will you be staying long? I could make a nice lunch . . .”

 

Evan sighed and shrugged as he forced himself to stand up. No sense in delaying the inevitable, now was there . . .? “I, uh . . . I don’t know, Mama. Maybe.”

 

Her frown shifted from thoughtful to slightly worried, and Evan could have kicked himself for the change. “Is everything okay?” she asked in a brighter tone than he supposed she would have normally use—proof positive that she was more concerned than she ought to have been.

 

For that reason alone, Evan wandered around the counter to give her a hug and a loud, obnoxious kiss on the cheek. “Everything’s right as rain, Mama,” he assured her. “I just . . . I just need to ask Cain a few things.”

 

“All right,” she relented, taking her time as she sipped her tea. Staring at Evan over the brim of the delicate cup, she seemed to be considering something. “Make sure you find me when you’re done! Seems like we haven’t had much time to visit lately.”

 

Sparing a moment to smile and to step over to give her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, Evan wasn’t so sure, but he didn’t gainsay her, either. “I will, Mama. Promise.”

 

 

-Cain-

 

 

He almost missed the soft knock on the studio door. Having just taken a step back to give the painting a critical eye, Cain blinked as the abrasive sound intruded on his thoughts. “It’s open,” he called, crossing his arms over his chest, using the heels of his hands to idly rub at his sides and inadvertently smearing traces of paint onto his skin in the process.

 

“Hey, uh, Cain . . . Got a minute?”

 

Scowling at the paint he’d managed to get all over himself, Cain spared a moment to glance over at Evan and nod. “Sure,” he said, reaching for a work cloth to clean himself off, only to succeed in adding to the mess since he’d been using it to dab his brushes on, too. “Um . . .” he drawled, jerking his head in the vague direction of the bathroom. “It’s ‘Dad’, and let me clean this up, first . . .”

 

Digging his hands into the pockets of his jeans, Evan shuffled forward, following in Cain’s wake. “If, uh . . . If you’re busy, I can come back later . . .”

 

Glancing up a he stuck a clean white washcloth under the running tap, Cain shook his head quickly, casting Evan an apologetic kind of glance. “No, it’s fine,” he assured him quickly. There was something weird in Evan’s aura, a sense of reluctance, of complete reservation, and Cain wasn’t sure why. “I just need to get this off me before I forget about it.” Rubbing at the drying paint smears, he frowned. “What do you need?”

 

Letting out a deep breath, Evan slumped back against the shower stall, crossing his arms over his chest as he considered Cain’s question. “I . . . I don’t need anything, Cain. I just . . . just wanted to . . . talk.”

 

That got Cain’s full attention. Frowning thoughtfully as he stared at his son’s reflection in the plate glass mirror over the sink, he nodded slowly and dropped the washcloth on the counter. Something about Evan’s stance, the reticence that he was trying to hide . . . “Okay,” he said, leading the way out of the bathroom, lifting a hand to gesture for Evan to follow. He said nothing as he crossed the floor to the small sitting area at the far end of the studio, Sitting on the sofa, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and waited for Evan to sit down, too, before asking, “Is this something about the lighthouse or the wedding . . .?”

 

Evan made a face and quickly shook his head, and for the briefest of moments, time seemed to reverse, bringing to mind Evan as a small boy when he’d had to confess that he’d accidentally knocked Cain’s cake off the counter because he was running through the house with the first bokken he’d just been given. Cain smiled at the memory and wondered vaguely just what could inspire Evan to make that same kind of expression now.

 

Turning his head to the side, Evan scowled at the far wall, as though he thought maybe he could find the answers he sought written there. “V,” he said at length, haltingly, hesitantly. “She . . . She asked me to talk to you about . . . about things . . .”

 

Cain’s nostalgic smile dimmed then disappeared, and he gave the smallest shake of his head. “What kind of things?”

 

Heaving a sigh that seemed almost defeated, Evan let his gaze drop to the floor under his feet. “Just things . . . like . . .” Face screwing up into a disgusted grimace, Evan quickly shook his head again. “Like . . . Ah-h-h, this is stupid!” he growled, shooting to his feet, striding around the coffee table as he headed for the door.

 

Cain stood up, too. He wasn’t exactly surprised by Evan’s show of temper, but there was something else there, too—something that Cain couldn’t quite put his finger on but there, nonetheless. “Evan, wait,” he called after him. Evan stopped abruptly but didn’t turn around. “What’s this all about?”

 

“Nothing,” Evan grumbled, still refusing to face Cain. “It’s not important. Go back to your . . . well, whatever you were doing.”

 

“No,” Cain insisted, stuffing his hands into the pockets of the smudged and rumpled khaki pants. “I want to know what’s on your mind. I want to know why . . .” He made a face that Evan didn’t see. “If this is about yesterday, I apologize. I really wasn’t trying to say that I thought you weren’t taking things into consideration, and I’m sorry if you thought that I was.”

 

Evan snorted indelicately, his shoulders slumping forward as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Just yesterday, huh? Nothing about the million other times you’ve just assumed I was a damn idiot without bothering to ask me anything first, right?”

 

Cain blinked, more in reaction to the raw vehemence in Evan’s tone than because of the actual accusation. “I’ve never—”

 

“Bullshit, you’ve never!” Evan snarled, his words warped slightly, enough for Cain to understand that he hadn’t opened his mouth to utter them. The crackle in Evan’s youki spiked, jagged, sharp, as though it could keep everything—or maybe just Cain—away. “That’s all I’ve ever gotten from you, isn’t it? The only faith you’ve ever shown in me is that you know that I’m always gonna fuck everything up, right?”

 

Shaking his head as though to refute Evan’s claims, Cain took a step toward his son, but stopped. “That’s not true. I—”

 

“Forget it,” Evan growled once more, his words galvanizing him into action as he started toward the door again. “Settle things with you? Keh! How the fuck can you tell me why you’ve never wanted m—” Biting himself off with a very decisive snort, Evan shook his head again. “Dumbest damn idea, ever.”

 

“Evan!” Cain called, striding after Evan to intercept him, only to draw up short when Evan slammed out of the studio so hard that the door creaked and groaned against the hinges. The sound echoed in the quiet as Cain tried to figure out exactly what had set Evan off. ‘Never . . . Never wanted . . .? Him . . .? But . . . that’s not . . . Why would he think . . .?

 

 

-Evan-

 

 

Slamming out of the studio, Evan was so absorbed in his own anger, his own emotions, that he smacked right into Gin. She squeaked in surprise as he caught her, steadied her. “Mama . . . sorry,” he muttered. It took another moment for him to get his rampant fury under control, and, willing himself to take a few deep breaths, he closed his eyes for a moment and struggled for a semblance of calm, forcing a smile that he hoped would fool Gin. It didn’t.

 

“Evan? What’s going on?” she asked gently, concern marring her brow as she reached up to touch his cheek. “Why are you fighting with your father?”

 

Giving up the pretense that wasn’t working anyway, Evan let out a deep breath and furiously shook his head. “It’s nothing, Mama. At least, nothing important.”

 

She didn’t look like she believed him. “It didn’t sound like ‘nothing important’,” she pointed out in a carefully reasonable tone. When he refused to volunteer anything more, she sighed and reached for his hand, dragging him down the hallway and toward the stairs.

 

He let her lead him through the house and into the kitchen, and she finally let go long enough to heft the giant cookie jar she always kept fully stocked. “Sit with me,” she said, her tone light and pleasant as always but with an underlying sense of purpose that he couldn’t ignore.

 

Seeing no way around it, Evan slipped into the breakfast nook but shook his head when Gin nudged the jar toward him. “V . . . V wanted me to try to talk things out with Cain,” he finally admitted.

 

“Did the two of you have a disagreement?”

 

He shook his head. “Not exactly . . . Not unless you can call my whole life one massive disagreement, anyway.”

 

“What do you mean?” she demanded, unable to keep the nonchalant tone that she had previously managed to maintain. “Your whole life . . .?” When he didn’t answer right away, Gin sighed softly, shaking her head, gnawing on her bottom lip in a troubled sort of way. “The two of you used to get along so well, Evan. I . . . I just don’t understand . . .”

 

Uttering a terse snort, Evan flopped back in his seat, his foot hammering up and down in a nervous kind of cadence. “Yeah, well, that makes two of us,” he grumbled.

 

“Did . . . something happen?” she asked carefully, as though she needed to measure her words.

 

“Not really,” Evan admitted grudgingly. “I mean, nothing out of the ordinary.”

 

Gin sighed, her ears flattening as she winced. “Evan, your father . . . He loves you, you know? I mean, he doesn’t really come out and say it all the time, but surely you know—”

 

“Do I?” he interjected, his gaze blazing as it locked with his mother’s. Too many memories of different things over the years—too many to count, too many to list—and the underlying knowledge that he just had never really measured up . . . “All I’ve ever been is a disappointment,” Evan concluded with a furious shake of his head. “That’s all he’s ever seen in me.”

 

Gin’s soft gasp was audible in the ambient quiet. She drew herself back as though he’d struck her, blinking quickly as a wash of suspect brightness entered her gaze. “That’s—That’s not true!” she insisted, the hurt inspired by his words, a palpable thing. “Your father’s just as proud of you as he is of your brother and sisters! Why ever would you think any differently?”

 

“Aw, c’mon, Mama!” Evan complained. Cutting himself off abruptly, he made himself take a deep breath, willed himself to calm down before he really managed to upset her even more. “He stuck me in the basement away from everyone else,” he said in a tone so low that she had to struggle to hear him. “He couldn’t even be bothered to have any pictures taken with me, ever. The only time he has anything at all to say to me is when he is telling me just what I’ve done wrong, and God forbid that anyone ever find out that Zel Roka and Evan Zelig are one in the same . . .” Pausing for a moment to drag his hands through his hair, Evan shook his head once more. “Hell, he couldn’t even be bothered to attend my college graduation, now could he? It kind of speaks for itself, don’t you think?”

 

“But,” Gin began slowly, shaking her head in obvious confusion, “of course he was at your graduation, Evan. Why in the world would you think otherwise? As for Zel Roka . . .” Trailing off, she suddenly stood, reaching over to grab Evan’s hand, to haul him to his feet once more. “Come on.”

 

“Mama? What . . .?” he said but allowed her to drag him out of the living room once more. Through the living room, into the foyer, and around the corner into Cain’s study, she led him, not stopping until they were standing in front of a small bookshelf near the far windows. On that shelf were CDs—Evan’s CDs—every last one of them, but that wasn’t Gin’s target. No, it was a small leather-bound book, and she picked it up, turning it over a time or two, before sticking it in Evan’s hand and stepping back again. “What’s this?” he asked, frowning down at it. Upon first glance, he figured that it was a very small photo album, but it didn’t seem to have any pictures in it.

 

“Just look at it, Evan,” Gin encouraged gently.

 

Sparing a moment to stare at his mother, Evan slowly lifted the cover.

 

Inside the plastic-pocketed pages were stubs—ticket stubs from various concerts he’d had in the area, even as far away as Massachusetts—and all of them were from his shows. There had to be at least seventy-five or more of them, all carefully stuck into the pages of the book. “What . . .?”

 

Gin laughed softly, sadly. “We never miss one in this area,” she admitted with a shrug. “Even the shows that sold out so fast, Cain’s always managed to get the tickets.”

 

Blinking slowly as he tried to understand the meaning of it all, Evan leafed through the pages once more. “I could have gotten you tickets if you’d just told me you wanted them,” he muttered.

 

Gin giggled. “Your father said that it wouldn’t be right, that you made your money from performing,” she said. “Besides, it’s always so exciting, being in the audience!”

 

‘All right, so he’s been to some of the shows . . . That doesn’t mean . . .’

 

I don’t know, Evan . . . Maybe there really is more to it than you thought . . .’

 

“When your last CD came out, your father and your brother stood out all night in line with all these teenagers, waiting for the store to open,” she went on. “Sydnie and I took them coffee and blankets. It was so cold, but your father was afraid that they’d sell out of he waited to go in the morning. They always make sure that they get your CDs the day they’re released . . .” As the memory faded, so did Gin’s smile, and as her gaze cleared once more, she sighed.

 

Evan wasn’t sure what to think of that. Bubby and Cain, waiting out in the weather, all night to get his CDs? That was entirely ridiculous, wasn’t it? There wasn’t any way in the world they’d do that . . . was there . . .? But . . .

 

“Your father loves you, Evan . . .” Suddenly, she grimaced, her gaze skittering away as a hint of a blush crept up her cheeks. “Maybe it’s my fault,” she admitted quietly. “Cain always held Sebastian, you know? So . . . so I told him that you were mine, that he had to let me hold you and baby you . . . You were . . . and Cain . . .” Shaking her head, she paced the floor, uttering a soft laugh that was tinged with a little sadness. “You know, he’d try to take you with them when they went to pick out the Christmas tree. But I . . .” Wincing as though she were ashamed of what she was about to say, Gin sighed. “But I always wanted to keep you close to me . . .”

 

“You . . . did that . . .?” Evan couldn’t help asking as year after year of memories rushed to the fore—always asking if he could go, the strange look that Cain always got on his face, like he might have wanted to take Evan along, and yet . . . And yet, Evan had never stopped to think about what those expressions meant, had he . . .?

 

Still, the other things . . . The explanations of a few minor details did not really change the bigger picture, and there were far too many instances of the same thing that couldn’t just be wiped away.

 

Gin slipped her arms around him, gave him a reassuring hug. “You know, Evan, maybe . . . maybe you should go look at the gallery—really look at it, I mean,” she suggested.

 

Evan shook his head, unsure why she would suggest that, all things considered. “What difference would that make?” he asked, arching an eyebrow at his mother.

 

She shrugged a little too off-handedly. “They say the easiest way to understand an artist is through his art, right?” she replied lightly. “I just thought that if you looked at your father’s work, maybe you’ll see something you haven’t noticed before.”

 

Evan digested that in silence as Gin leaned up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. Casting him a warm smile that trembled just the tiniest bit, she left him there alone to think.

 

Keh! What the hell is there to ‘think about’?‘ Evan fumed, dropping the book onto the shelf again before turning on his heel and heading for the door. ‘Completely useless . . . Sorry, V, but there just isn’t any ‘fixing’ some things . . .’

 

It wasn’t at all like her family, was it? They made their mistakes, sure, but they hadn’t stopped loving Valerie, and as far as he could tell, Cain had spent much of his life barely tolerating a son who hadn’t been able to fit into the perfection of the Zelig family framework.

 

Yeah, but maybe your mama has a point,‘ his youkai voice remarked slowly. ‘Maybe there is more to it. I mean, strictly speaking, Mama sucks at lying, you know? And she really seems to think . . .’

 

Of course Mama thinks that this is all in my head,’ Evan scoffed though his tirade had lost some of the overwhelming anger. ‘It’s second nature to defend Cain, isn’t it? He’s her mate, after all.’

 

And you’re her precious baby,’ the voice shot back dryly. ‘So maybe instead of doing all this for you or for V or for whatever reason, maybe you should consider trying—just trying—for the sake of that woman instead. After all, you can’t really think that leaving her in the middle like you always do can be a fun thing for her, either.’

 

That thought drew him up abruptly. Standing inches in front of the door, he let his hand drop away with a heavy sigh. ‘All right; all right: point taken.’

 

It wasn’t as though he honestly believed he’d get any real answers out of anyone, least of all Cain. It really wasn’t that Evan truly believed that Cain was really trying to be a jackass about everything, either. No, a part of him had to wonder, didn’t it, if everything had just become a habit to Cain, that his indifference might just be something that he didn’t really think about at all.

 

Or maybe he was the one who had grown to expect it.

 

Still, there were so many times, so many instances and examples. Even Valerie had noticed, too, hadn’t she? He’d realized a long time ago that the photo albums that Gin had so carefully and lovingly put together really didn’t have even one photo of him with his father—not one. So many pictures of Gin holding him while he slept or playing with him on the floor, Gin holding onto the back of the bicycle that he’d first learned to ride. Gin catching him as he flew down the slide at the park, Gin, Gin, Gin . . .

 

Even so, he found himself moving toward the stairs once more, not really knowing just what it was that his mother thought he would see, unable to reconcile the sense of resignation that he’d carried around for so long when it came to his father with the strange and foreign hope that maybe, maybe . . .

 

I just thought that if you looked at your father’s work, maybe you’ll see something you haven’t noticed before . . .”

 

Evan couldn’t rightfully recall the last time he’d bothered to wander through the gallery housed on the second floor of the mansion. Maybe he’d avoided it, knowing what was never there. As silent as a tomb, the room was, filled with the underlying odors of paint and canvas, of linseed oil and a hint of turpentine. But those smells were faint—a human nose likely wouldn’t be able to discern them. Partial walls had been constructed, hung with paintings, illuminated by soft spotlights. Pedestals of varying height were carved out of some of the structures, adored with statues of varying medias. Most of the paintings near the front of the gallery were ones that he’d seen so many times—too many to count—paintings that had evolved over time, telling the story of the Zelig family through pictures. Progressions of various family members as they grew from infancy through adulthood, insular moments in time, captured so expertly by an artist’s eye, a craftsman’s hand . . .

 

And Evan had to admit that there was something spectacular about his father’s ability to project such feeling. He’d always respected Cain’s work as an artist. Maybe that’s what made it all the more painful in retrospect: the idea that Evan . . . Had he ever commanded that kind of thought, that kind of dedication from Cain?

 

Entirely unfair, Evan, and you know it,’ his youkai voice chided gently. ‘You know damn well that all those paintings of you and Gin . . . He made those, too, and with as much care and deliberation as he’s ever devoted to any of his other masterworks.’

 

Why was it so easy for Evan to look upon those pieces, to tell himself that the devotion had gone into immortalizing Gin on the canvas and not Evan? And yet . . .

 

As he wandered slowly from painting to painting, pausing now and again to touch a sculpture, to run his fingertips over the roughened texture of the dried paint, he frowned. Jillian, standing before a huge window, her hand resting lightly on Evan’s arm as he leaned in to kiss her forehead, careful not to muss the wedding dress she wore . . . Bas with Bailey draped around his throat, with Olivia in his arms as Sydnie leaned in for a kiss . . . So many moments that Evan hadn’t even realized that Cain had witnessed, all captured in minute detail . . .

 

Frowning thoughtfully, he shuffled further on, but stopped in front of a different painting—one he hadn’t seen before. It was him—Evan—standing on a stage, accepting his bachelor’s degree, but there was something odd about the picture . . .

 

He hadn’t thought that Cain was there, had he? At the time, he’d brushed it off, smiled at his mother, and insisted that he couldn’t hang around for a family dinner, that he’d had plans with some friends that were leaving the next day to go home. Gin had seemed upset over the entire affair, but for once, Evan just didn’t have it in him to give in, to pretend that everything was all right. Ignoring the protests, the interrupted insistence that he wait, that he listen, Evan had given his family that carefree grin and waved a hand before darting off again. It had felt like one defection too many, hadn’t it, but . . .

 

But the angle of the view in the painting and the photographs that he’d seen later . . . He hadn’t ever stopped to think about that, had he?

 

Cain . . . Cain was there . . .’ he realized with a start. Cain hadn’t sat with the rest of the family in the audience, no. He’d moved around to the other side, watching everything, snapping pictures . . . and Evan . . .

 

“Your, uh,” Cain cleared his throat, jamming his hands deeper into the pockets of his rumpled khaki slacks, “your mama said she thought you might be in here.”

 

“Cain . . .”

 

Letting out a deep breath, Cain tried to smile. It ended up more of a grimace, though, as the strain in the air thickened and settled over them both like an invisible fog. After a minute, Cain cleared his throat once more and shrugged. “I’ve been . . . been trying to figure out why you’d think that I never . . .” he grimaced, “never wanted you. That’s never been true, Evan.”

 

Evan wasn’t sure what to say to that, but somehow, the idea of arguing it further just wasn’t as appealing as it used to be. Turning on his heel, he took a few more steps, his gaze shifting over the collection of paintings. Cain fell into step beside him, and neither had much to say as they slowly perused the gallery.

 

Pausing before a painting that Evan hadn’t seen before, he jerked his shoulder in that general direction. Tanny, who looked to still be a toddler, sitting on the counter in the kitchen with a pretty white dress concocted of yards and yards of antique white lace with two handfuls of Cain’s cake hovering before her cake-smeared face and an angelic expression illuminating her gaze. “Sami seen that one?” Evan asked, more than a little surprised that Cain would paint such a scene, given that he hated sharing his cakes with anyone. Then he saw the brass placket under it, bearing the title, “The Cake Thief”, and he chuckled.

 

“She saw it,” Cain remarked, wrinkling his nose, obviously still quite irritated over the entire affair. “She wanted to take it home, but your mother wanted to keep it.”

 

“At least she’s better about it these days,” Evan pointed out since Tanny, now five years old, had at last learned that Cain’s cakes were sacred.

 

Cain snorted indelicately. “Not that well,” he grumbled. “Last week, I caught her sneaking crumbs.”

 

Heaving a sigh and slowly shaking his head, Evan shot his father a droll glance. “That’s pretty sad, Cain,” he remarked.

 

“I know it,” Cain replied. “You’d think she’d know by now that her grandma makes those for me.”

 

Opening his mouth to offer a rebuff, Evan snapped it closed before he could. That wasn’t exactly what he had been thinking, but pointing out to Cain that stealing a few crumbs wasn’t really the same as trying to take the whole cake was rather a moot point, as far as Cain was concerned.

 

But the traces of amusement brought on by the Tanny discussion faded away when Evan glanced at the next painting on the wall. Another one he hadn’t seen before, certainly—a hazy, smoky, dark piece: a lone figure on a backdrop of inkiness, of burring lines and almost insular motion. As though the figure was the only thing worth seeing, it took a moment for it to sink in: the image on the canvas . . .

 

Noticing Evan’s preoccupation, Cain pulled his hand out of his pocket long enough to flick his fingers at the painting almost dismissively. “Did that one a couple years ago, I guess,” Cain said quietly, almost absently, as though he were trying to remember the specifics. “It was after one of your shows in Portland,” he went on, his tone taking on a stronger sort of lilt. “Not that you have bad shows, of course, but something about that one was particularly memorable . . .” Then Cain suddenly laughed, more of an exhalation, a breath, than anything. “It’s weird, you know . . . I see you up there, and then I think about other times . . . like when you were smaller and you’d drag that, uh . . . that blue plastic guitar around . . .? Or . . . Or when we made up that waffling song . . .”

 

“The Waffling Song,” Evan repeated, a trace of a smile quirking his lips. The Waffling Song—a child’s misunderstood version of the Wassail Song . . . ‘Cain . . . He remembers that . . .’

 

Cain sighed, digging a rumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and taking his time as he shook one out and lit it. Staring up at the ceiling so high above, watching as the tendrils of smoke rose and dissipated, he gave an offhanded shrug. “Your mom said . . . Why didn’t you ever tell me that you didn’t like the basement?” he asked quietly.

 

Evan blinked and shot Cain a quick glance, but he couldn’t really tell what he might have been thinking.   Just staring at the ceiling, but not really seeing much of anything . . . “It’s . . . It’s not that I didn’t like it,” Evan replied. “It just seemed like . . . like you were trying to distance me—trying to get rid of me or something.”

 

That got Cain’s attention quickly enough. Evan could feel the intensity of his father’s gaze though he didn’t look to verify it. “That’s not . . . Evan,” he said, and maybe it was genuine surprise that halted his words, “You liked to stay up, to play your music and stuff,” he explained. “We thought about soundproofing your room, but I thought . . .” His smile suddenly seemed a little sad, a little lost, and maybe he was second-guessing himself, the decisions he’d made years ago. “Your mom said that it’d be cool to put in a little studio for you down there,” he went on almost philosophically. “There was more room in the basement . . .”

 

He hadn’t stopped to think about that before, had he? Concentrating instead on the proximity, the idea that he, unlike Bas or Jillian, was being moved out of the upper levels . . . That wasn’t what Cain had been trying to do, and maybe . . .

 

Drawing a deep breath, Evan tried to brush off the last lingering doubts, and yet, there was one thing: one big thing . . . “All right,” he allowed, a forced neutrality entering his tone, “then tell me, Cain—not that it matters, I guess, ’cause it kind of doesn’t—why didn’t you tell me you were at my college graduation?”

 

Cain blinked and gave his head a little shake. “I . . . I thought you knew,” he finally said. “I mean, why wouldn’t I have been?”

 

Was it true? All of those things that Evan had perceived over time . . . Had he been wrong?

 

It’s possible,’ his youkai voice remarked slowly. ‘So quick to assume that your father has always treated you like an afterthought, but you know . . . I . . . I don’t think that’s true . . . Do you?

 

Always so quick to assume that he understood the meaning behind it all, Evan had to wonder just how many things had been altered by his own desire to see them in a certain light. Was that . . . Was that what Valerie was trying to make him understand?

 

He winced inwardly, stealing a surreptitious glance at Cain once more. Gaze trained on the image of Evan on stage, there was a certain level of recrimination just below the surface that Evan could feel. Regret that he hadn’t told Evan these things before, maybe . . .? Or could he simply not comprehend just how much anger Evan really had been trying to hide . . .?

 

And suddenly, Evan realized something: something he hadn’t really considered before. Maybe Cain didn’t truly understand him, or maybe he did, Evan wasn’t sure. But maybe that didn’t really matter, after all because Cain . . .

 

“I, uh . . . I guess I never got a chance to tell you,” Cain began slowly, shuffling his feet, rolling his shoulders as though he were trying to diminish his stature. “I was really proud of you that day . . . and I’m . . . I’m really proud of you now, too.” Then he chuckled and glanced at Evan for just a moment before his gaze flickered back to the painting once more. “I mean, at least you weren’t kicked out of college for fighting.”

 

Evan chuckled despite himself at the not-so-subtle reminder that Bas had, indeed, been expelled from law school for that very reason. “Yeah, well, don’t take it too hard, Cain,” Evan relented, breaking into a tiny smile as he shifted his gaze to his father’s face once more. “Guess there are things I never told you, too.”

 

Cain met his stare and raised his eyebrows. “Like what?” he asked almost hesitantly, and Evan supposed he couldn’t blame him for that, either.

 

“I . . . I went on to grad school,” he admitted.

 

That seemed to surprise Cain. “Did you?”

 

Evan nodded. “I was going to tell you. To tell the truth, I was going to surprise you by just inviting you to my graduation, but . . .” Trailing off with a grimace since he knew well enough why he didn’t bother to do that, he shrugged. “I ended up missing it, anyway.”

 

Grasping Evan’s shoulder, Cain pulled him around to face him, irritation surfacing on his father’s features. “What do you mean?” he demanded. “Graduate school? That’s a huge deal!”

 

Holding up his hands to stave off whatever lecture Cain was gearing up for, Evan shook his head. “Sami was missing,” he explained with a simplistic shrug. “She was more important than anything. To be honest, it slipped my mind at the time, and by the time I remembered it afterward . . . Well, it just didn’t seem as important as everything else.”

 

Cain didn’t look like he agreed. “You don’t think we’d have wanted to hear about this?”

 

Again, Evan shrugged, but he also smiled. “It’s not like I can go around, calling myself Dr. Zel Roka—though that’d be kind of cooler than shit . . .”

 

“Doctor . . .” Cain repeated, his tone a mix of wonder and amusement. “So what’d you get your doctorate in?”

 

“Music theory,” Evan replied simply. “I mean, it’s not like I could deliver babies or anything.”

 

Cain chuckled, too, clapping Evan on the shoulder. “You know . . . Why don’t you call Valerie? Tell her to come on over, and we’ll go out to dinner. Celebrate your accomplishment, even if it is a little late.”

 

Evan opened his mouth to tell Cain that it wasn’t a big deal, that it was fine. Instead, however, he uttered a chuckle, but there was nothing dry or sarcastic to the sound. “All right,” he agreed. “You paying?”

 

Cain laughed. “Sure. I’ll call your brother—see if he and Sydnie can join us.”

 

Evan watched as Cain strode away, watching as he dug his cell phone out of his pocket and put it to his ear before slipping out of the gallery once more.

 

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.

 

As her words resounded in his mind, Evan’s grin widened. All right, so there was a good chance that Valerie was going to do some gloating when he told her, but that was okay. The understanding he’d gained was well worth it, wasn’t it?

 

Of course it is.

 

Evan chuckled and pulled out his cell phone, too. ‘Yeah,’ he allowed as he brought up Valerie’s number and dialed it. ‘Yeah, I guess it is.’

 

 

 

221: Haste to the Wedding >>>

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A/N:

The Cat’s in the Cradleby Harry Chapin originally appeared on the 1974 release, Verities and Balderdash. Copyrighted to Harry Chapin and Sandra Chapin.

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Reviewers

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MMorg

Media Miner seems to be having issues with reviews, including looking up older ones.   Sad, but I seriously think this site is dying a slow death. Starting with P10, updates will post to my blog, so if you’re not following it, you might want to, and comments are easier left on the blog, as well—and I can respond to them, too, which is nice.

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Forums

cutechick18 ——— amohip

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Final Thought from Cain:

A … doctor …?

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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~

posted by Sueric at 8:53 pm  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

P10: 02: Charity Case

~~Chapter 2~~

~Charity Case~

 

 

Madison sighed as she hurried up the wide stone steps onto the Zelig family’s front porch.  If she had been thinking a little more clearly earlier, she would have remembered that she’d left her cell phone on Valerie’s nightstand.  As it was, she’d been home in the middle of cleaning guns with her father when Shar, one of the girls at her main salon, had called her parents’ house phone, grumbling about being out of a certain brand of conditioner, and just why wasn’t Madison answering her cell?

 

Her father hadn’t done more than offer a distracted little grunt when she said that she’d left the device in Valerie’s bedroom and that she was going to go over there to pick it up.

 

Are you sure you’re just not looking for a reason to go back?

 

Wrinkling her nose at her youkai voice, Madison shook her head and squared her shoulders before raising her hand to knock.  ‘Don’t be ridiculous.  What other reason could there possibly be?

 

Oh, I don’t know . . . a mysterious stranger that you ran down on the stairs, maybe?

 

Madison could feel her cheeks heat up as she shrugged.  ‘That’s just ludicrous.  I don’t even know him; at least, not really.’

 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know him, does it?

 

Ignoring you now,’ she thought with an indelicate snort as she drew her hand back to knock.

 

She didn’t get a chance to do it.  The door swung open, and she stepped back just in time to avoid colliding with a very angry looking Mikio, who didn’t seem to have noticed her standing there.  Realizing a little too late, he jerked back and pulled himself up short, using his hand on the door to steady himself.

 

Madison swallowed hard, ignoring the way her heart lurched in her chest as she smiled a little timidly and cleared her throat.  “Hi again.”

 

He blinked once, twice, left ear twitching horribly, and for a moment, Madison wondered if he could really be that agitated.  “H-Hi,” he stammered.

 

“I forgot my cell phone,” she explained quietly.

 

Mikio didn’t appear to have heard her.  The anger that flashed in his eyes dissipated, leaving behind a curious sense of wonder as he stared at her.

 

“Can I come in?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

She giggled then sighed as she slowly shook her head.  “Are you okay?”

 

He seemed taken aback at her question, and he blinked in relative confusion for a moment before opening and closing his mouth a few times, as though he were at a loss for words.  “What?  Oh . . . yeah . . . fine.”

 

Biting her lip, Madison wondered if she hadn’t overstepped her boundaries, if she weren’t being just a little too intrusive for his liking.  “I’m sorry.  You just looked a little . . . upset.”

 

“It’s nothing,” he insisted, waving off her concern despite the hint of irritation that had resurfaced in his expression.

 

She wasn’t entirely convinced, but she didn’t push it, either.  Reminding herself that she really didn’t know him well enough to ask such personal questions, Madison shrugged and nodded toward the doorway he was blocking.  “So . . . may I get my cell phone?”

 

Mikio’s cheeks pinked as he realized that he was in her way, and he quickly stepped back.  Grimacing as his face lost much of its color, he caught hold of the doorframe again, so tightly that his knuckles turned white.  Madison didn’t think.  Stepping toward him, steadying his elbow, it was her turn to blink in surprise when he shot her a weary, shy smile—wan at best, but so completely endearing that, for a moment, she couldn’t think of  a single thing—not even her own name.

 

“You’re not okay, are you?” she finally asked, her voice quiet, as though speaking in a normal tone might hurt him.

 

He grimaced and leaned heavily against the wall.  “Airplanes . . .” he managed, closing his eyes.

 

It took her a moment to interpret his reply.  Then she recalled Evan mentioning before that Mikio tended to have more trouble than the rest of them in coping with the strains of air travel—something to do with the rapidly changing air pressure, and it made sense.  “The airplane?  Oh . . . I’m sorry . . .”

 

“I’m fine,” he grumbled, cheeks finally pinking up again, and even though the color obviously stemmed from acute embarrassment, Madison couldn’t help but feel relieved.

 

Even so, she also couldn’t help but sympathize with him, too.  Of course he would want to be here for his nephew’s wedding, but if traveling affected him so badly . . . Well, it had to be frustrating, to say the least . . . “Maybe you should go for a walk or something?  Fresh air . . . I could go find Gin . . . or your mother . . . she’s here, right?”

 

Mikio grabbed her wrist as Madison whipped around to find Kagome.  “Not her,” he hissed, his whisper imploring as his eyes met hers.  “Not Mama.”  He grimaced and let go of Madison’s wrist.  “Please.”

 

Madison frowned in confusion but nodded.  “All right,” she agreed slowly.  “If you’re sure . . .”

 

Swallowing hard, he squeezed his eyes closed for a second before managing another weak smile.  “You’re right.  Fresh air.  I think that’d help.”

 

“Okay . . .”

 

He pushed himself away from the wall, his movements stilted, almost mechanical.  He took a few steps onto the porch but stopped suddenly and glanced over his shoulder.  “You . . . would you come with me?”

 

Madison didn’t think twice.  Pulling the door closed behind herself, she fell in step beside Mikio as the hanyou shuffled down the steps onto the flagstone sidewalk.

 

“Is that why you don’t come here to visit as often as everyone else?  Because of the airplanes?”

 

Mikio shot her an inscrutable glance as he stuffed his hands deep in his pockets and shrugged.  “Sort of.”

 

“I mean, I’ve been friends with Evan for . . . forever, I guess . . . and I don’t remember seeing you, other than the couple times when I was still pretty young . . . and at Bas and Sydnie’s wedding . . .”

 

“I hate flying,” he remarked.  “That’s all.”

 

“You’re a lot quieter than your brothers.”

 

He paused mid-stride for only a moment, his back stiffening almost imperceptibly, as though her question was more of an accusation than an observation.  “Is that bad?”

 

She laughed, remembering the outrageous things that she’d heard over the years; the stories about the Izayoi twins.  “Not necessarily.”

 

“I’m not really like them,” he explained quietly.  “I’m not really like anyone, I guess.”

 

Madison nodded as the pebbly ground gave way to the finer sand near the ocean.  “There’s nothing wrong with that,” she pointed out with a gentle smile.  “Granted, I don’t have much room to talk, given that Evan is one of my best friends, but I have to admit that there are things I wish hadn’t happened—and most of those were his idea.  I just went along for the ride.”

 

“So Evan’s the instigator,” he replied with a curt nod, as though that made perfect sense.

 

“Well, maybe not entirely,” Madison admitted.  “But the things that normally ended up badly for me usually were.”

 

“Sounds like what aniki and Kichiro-nii say about their exploits.”

 

She smiled to herself at perceived cuteness in the way that Mikio referred to his brothers.  “Too bad those are some of the best stories,” she went on to say.  “Don’t tell Evan I said that, though.”

 

“Understood,” he said with a curt nod and an overly-serious expression.  Then he sighed and shook his head.  “I guess sometimes I wish . . . I wish I was more like them . . .” He uttered a short chuckle that was almost sad.  “Well, sometimes, anyway . . . I don’t think I’d want to get into trouble like they did . . .”

 

Mikio took a few more steps before sinking down to stare at the sky over the water.  Something about him seemed so . . . almost melancholy that Madison bit her lip and frowned.  For some reason, she didn’t really feel like she could ask him why he seemed so upset, so she figured that the next-best course of action would be to see if she could make him laugh, instead . . . “If it makes you feel any better, the first time Evan took me out on his motorcycle, I ended up puking off the Brooklyn Bridge.”

 

He shot her a quizzical glance and then uttered a terse laugh.  “You did?”

 

She made a face as she sat, cross legged, beside him.  “Might have been because he insisted on seeing just how fast he could make the thing go.  I thought he was going to kill himself or me—maybe both.  He’s sort of an ass that way.”

 

Her story had done the trick, and Mikio still looked amused when he asked, “How’d you meet him?”

 

She laughed as she considered that question.  Easy enough to say that she’d known Evan for so long that she didn’t really remember not knowing him, but everything had to start somewhere, didn’t it?  And she’d heard the stories often enough, even if she was a little young at the time and didn’t rightfully remember it completely anymore.  “Mom brought me over.  I was three, I think . . . he threw my doll into a tree and got stuck when he climbed up after it.”

 

He thought about that for a moment then shrugged off-handedly.  “Maybe you should have left him up there.”

 

Madison grinned.  “That’s what Cain said.”

 

Mikio started to say something but stopped, as though something had just occurred to him, and he slowly shook his head.  “Wait . . . you’re the one he was telling me about, right?  The one he set the dog loose with?”

 

Madison groaned.  In one of his moments of bored inspiration, Evan had rigged up a harness for his dog, Fugly, and he’d gotten Madison to sit on the little sled, strapped in so that she wouldn’t fall out, just before he’d set off a string of fire crackers to galvanize the animal into action.  It had taken almost an hour to get Fugly to stop running—and yipping—and to this day, Madison wasn’t quite sure how Evan had ever talked her into that stunt . . .

 

“Yeah, that was me,” she confessed.

 

“Evan bragged about that for a year,” Mikio remarked with a slow shake of his head.

 

“Figures.  I’m not sure why I stayed friends with him.”

 

“Looking into becoming a saint?”

 

Madison giggled at the teasing tone in his voice.   “A saint?  Oh, I don’t think that’d ever happen . . .”

 

“Why not?”

 

She ducked her chin.  “Well, let’s just say that I doubt I’d meet the requirements.”

 

Taking his time as he slowly rolled up the cuffs of his long sleeved white dress shirt, Mikio didn’t speak.  Madison smiled, noting the deliberateness of his movements, the almost lethargic sense that surrounded him.  Even the shadows that fell on him in the darkness of the night didn’t quite seem to affect him in a normal way.  Maybe it was simply because, dressed in khaki slacks and the white shirt with his silvery hair and pale skin, he almost seemed to glow.

 

Snorting at her own whimsical thoughts, Madison shook her head and sighed.  ‘He’s just a guy . . . just like every other guy, right?  He’s wrapped up in a nice package, sure, but in the end, he’s just the same, isn’t he?

 

When did you get so cynical?

 

Am I?

 

Aren’t you?

 

Madison shifted her gaze out over the expanse of water in the moonlight.  ‘Maybe I am . . .’

 

“You live around here?”

 

Blinking as she cleared her mind and stole a glance back at Mikio only to find him staring off in the same direction she had been just moments before, Madison cleared her throat.  “My mom and dad do.  I normally live in New York City.”

 

He grinned a little, lopsided, shy sort of grin.  “You strike me as a metropolitan girl.”

 

“How so?”

 

He shrugged, his gaze shifting to meet hers though he didn’t turn his head.  “Polished, I guess . . . do you even own a pair of jeans?”

 

Glancing down at the short black suede skirt and matching suede thigh high, stiletto heeled boots, Madison laughed.  “What are jeans?” she joked.

 

He chuckled, too—an entirely pleasant sound.

 

“So what do you do for a living?” she asked, bending her knees and weaving her fingers together under her legs.

 

“Me?  I’m a lawyer,” he replied.

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

 

He seemed genuinely confused by her apology.  “Sorry?”

 

She giggled.  “They say lawyers are boring, is all.  Then again, Valerie’s a lawyer, and she’s not boring . . . of course, that might be because I try to save her from herself, but I’m not sure . . .”

 

He chuckled softly.  “I see.”

 

“So are you?”

 

“Am I, what?”

 

“Are you boring?”

 

“Hopelessly, yes.”

 

“You mean you don’t have anyone to save you from yourself?”

 

“Nope,” he chuckled.  “I turn them all boring, too.”

 

She laughed.  “Somehow I doubt that.”

 

“Well . . .”

 

“Are you feeling better now?”

 

Madison could have kicked herself for having said that.  The easy laughter died away, and he cleared his throat as his gaze fell to the sand around his feet.  The random twitching in his ear hadn’t gone away though it had diminished somewhat.  He checked his watch, holding down the little switch that made the front glow in a pleasant aqua color, and winced.  “It’s nearly midnight,” he told her.

 

Madison frowned as she stared at the hanyou.  “Why don’t you have a concealment on?” she blurted before she could think about it.  True, when youkai gathered, concealments weren’t necessary, but since the wedding would involve some humans—mostly Valerie’s guests—everyone would have to remember to hide their youkai attributes before the guests arrived.

 

Mikio reached up, touched his ears, blushed as when he realized that she could see them.  “Oh, I, uh . . . it must have slipped.

 

“Yeah . . . sorry about that,” Madison apologized again.  Tumbling down a staircase, she supposed, would be a big enough shock to loosen the concealment, and she’d seen his ears then, too.

 

“About what?”

 

“The stairs,” she admitted as he stood up and brushed himself off before offering her a hand to help her to her feet.  Ordinarily she’d ignore such an archaic gesture of chivalry.  She slipped her hand into his and let him help her.

 

“Oh, that,” he mumbled.  “Not the first time I’ve fallen down the stairs.”

 

Something about his quiet admission made Madison stop for a moment.  He seemed almost angry . . . or was he more . . . resigned?  ‘Strange,’ she thought.  ‘Strange, indeed . . .’

 

“Looks like Evan’s at it again,” Madison remarked as the two neared the mansion.

 

Mikio sighed then shook his head.  “He’ll never learn.”

 

“Of course not.  I told V there’s no way he’d give up so easily.  She’s probably upstairs laughing at him.  I would be . . .”

 

“He was here earlier,” Mikio supplied, stopping to watch the entertainment.  Cain was standing on Valerie’s balcony, leaning over the railing to watch as Bas and Gavin tackled Evan to keep him from trying to climb up.  Gunnar ran around the side of the house, hollering something about impatient grooms with Morio close on his heels.  Mikio laughed.

 

“That’s just shameful,” Madison remarked but laughed anyway.

 

“He ought to give up.  I think Zelig-san’s going to sit outside Valerie’s door all night.”

 

“You think so?”

 

Mikio nodded.  “Papa says it’s because Zelig-san was forced to sleep at Kichiro-nii’s house before his wedding . . . if he had to suffer, so do his sons.”

 

“You mean there’s a method to the madness?”

 

“So it would seem.”

 

Madison laughed and reluctantly made a face.  “Thanks for the walk, Mikio.  I think I’ll check on Valerie, grab my phone, and head home.  I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

 

He blinked and shook his head.  “Tomorrow?”

 

“Yes, tomorrow . . . the wedding?”

 

“Oh, yes, that . . . okay.”

 

Madison turned to leave but stopped when the resistance in her arm brought her up short.  She was still holding Mikio’s hand.  Letting go with a mumbled apology, she crossed her arms over her chest and hurried toward the mansion, willing herself not to blush as she stepped into the light spilling through the windows from the great glass doors.  Drawing a deep breath, she pushed the doors open and strolled into the house, unaware of the bright golden eyes that watched her hasty retreat.

 

“I almost feel sorry for Evan,” Valerie commented without turning away from the window when Madison slipped into her room.  Staring down at the spectacle that resembled a football game, she was smiling as she shook her head and sighed.  “Almost.”

 

“He’s earned it,” Madison agreed, grabbing her cell phone before wandering over to grimace at the pile of bodies wiggling around on the yard below.  “That just looks wrong.”

 

“It does, doesn’t it?  I figured you’d be back for your cell.”

 

“Uh oh . . . looks like they’ve gotten caught,” Madison mused as InuYasha, with Toga and Ryomaru in tow, stomped into view.  The hanyou reached down to yank someone to his feet.  He got pulled into the fray, too.  Minutes later, the mass of dogs in the pile had grown.  Madison caught sight of Cain on the balcony.  The youkai shook his head and sat back in a plastic lawn chair, kicking his feet up on the railing as he knotted his hands together behind his neck.  If she didn’t know better, she’d swear he was grinning, though it was impossible to tell for certain.

 

“I’ve got to hear this,” Valerie said, nimble fingers working the lock before she pushed the window open.

 

Madison wrinkled her nose at the hot air that invaded the air-conditioned room but she leaned forward to listen, too.

 

“Will you let go, damn it!” InuYasha snarled at someone.

 

“Oi, jiji!  That’s me!” Ryomaru growled back.

 

“Then get the hell outta my way!”

 

“All right, whoever’s got their hand on my ass had better move it . . .” Morio growled.

 

“That’s your ass?  Damn, it’s fucking huge!” Evan scoffed.

 

“Baka, you’re not going to make it to your own wedding if you don’t move your kami-forsaken hand!”

 

“That has to be one of the strangest families I’ve ever met,” Madison remarked as she pushed on the window sill, rising up to peer over Valerie’s head toward the beach . . . toward the place where she’d left Mikio standing.  He was still there, hands in pockets, and while she couldn’t see his face where he stood, she had the feeling that he, too, was laughing.

 

“I’m sure everyone thinks that about their future in-laws,” Valerie replied.  “It’ll be no different for you.”

 

“Don’t curse me,” Madison said.

 

“Curse you?  So I didn’t see you walking up from the beach with Evan’s uncle?”

 

Madison snorted and turned around.  “Well, look!  I found my cell phone, and I think I’ll be going now.”

 

“You’re such a chicken,” Valerie pointed out.

 

“I am not.  You’re just crazy.  I think your wedding dress is a little too tight.  It’s been cutting off the oxygen supply to your brain.”

 

“He’s not really your type, is he?” Valerie pressed, giving up all pretenses about watching the scuffle in the yard below as she peeked over her shoulder.

 

“What do you mean?” Madison asked, unable to repress the hint of defensiveness in her tone as she slowly turned to face Valerie again.

 

Valerie waved a hand dismissively.  “Just not that flashy, you know?  He’s like . . . the anti-rockstar.”

 

“He’s nice.”

 

Tuning away from the window, Valerie crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the frame.  “So?”

 

“So, what?”

 

Eyes sparkling as she grinned at her friend, Valerie shrugged in a show of deliberate nonchalance.  “So was holding his hand nice, too?”

 

Madison whipped around before Valerie got a chance to see the heightened color in her skin.  “You’ve lost your mind,” she grumbled.

 

“Details, Maddy!  Did you kiss him?”

 

“Night, V,” she grumbled as she reached for the doorknob and gave it a rather vicious twist.

 

“Was it nice?”

 

“I wouldn’t know because I didn’t kiss him,” Maddy shot back.

 

“Mad-dy!

 

“It’s not too late to find another maid of honor,” she tossed over her shoulder as she closed the door behind her.  She could hear the muffled sound of Valerie’s soft laughter and grimaced.

 

He’s not really your type, is he?

 

Scowling as she strode down the hallway to the staircase, she sighed.  ‘No,’ she agreed, smiling sadly at the memory of the way he’d looked, sitting on the beach in the moonlight.  ‘He’s really not my type at all . . .’

 

 

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

 

 

“Kami, that was harsh.”

 

Mikio chuckled as Morio flopped onto his back in the grass beside him.  “Evan finally give up?”

 

Morio shot him a dark look.  “Are you kidding?”

 

Mikio shrugged.  “You’d think he would.”

 

“You’d think . . .”

 

Leaning up on his elbows, Morio let his head fall back to gaze up at the stars.  “So why are you out here instead of inside with everyone else?”

 

Mikio sighed and idly fingered his left ear.  “Just . . . quieter.”

 

“So . . . I noticed you were talking to that girl . . . umm . . .” Morio asked, rolling his hand in an effort to remember the name in question then snapping his fingers when it apparently came to him.  “Madison, wasn’t it?”

 

“Yeah,” he agreed then grimaced, glancing around in a decidedly nervous sort of way.  “Did . . . anyone else notice?”

 

Morio nodded.  “Nope . . . Don’t worry . . . In all the chaos, I’m pretty sure that no one else saw the two of you together.  They were kind of busy at the time.”

 

Mikio nodded.  “Good.”

 

“She’s a sweet girl . . . a little wild, but nice enough.”

 

“Wild?”

 

Morio shrugged.  “Well, she is Evan’s friend.”

 

“I see.”  He tugged a handful of grass and watched as the blades slipped through his fingers only to fall softly back to earth again.  “She’s . . . pretty . . . don’t you think?”

 

“Maddy?  Sure . . . yeah . . .”

 

Mikio grimaced as the first rumble of faraway thunder rumbled in the air.  “You, uh . . . think . . . she and Evan . . .?”

 

Morio sat up, scratching the back of his neck as he considered Mikio’s question.   “I don’t know . . . does it matter?”

 

Mikio wrinkled his nose as he fought down a furious blush and shook his head.  “No . . . no . . . I just wondered.”

 

Morio sighed.  “You’d be hard-pressed to find a virgin in this day and age, especially among youkai.  Thank your brother for that, I guess . . .”

 

Scowling at the rapidly clouding sky, Mikio nodded.  “I know.  It’s not . . . I’m not interested; I just . . .” He trailed off with a wince.  “Yeah.”

 

He could feel Morio staring at him, even if he stubbornly refused to look for confirmation.  “Not interested, huh?”

 

“Nope.”

 

Morio chuckled.  “Mikio, it’s okay be interested.  Any single man with a pulse would be interested in a girl who looks like Madison Cartham.”

 

That comment didn’t actually comfort Mikio; not at all.  The first droplets of rain hit his face, his bared arms.  “It doesn’t matter.  I’m going back home in a couple days, anyway.”

 

Morio sighed and slowly got to his feet.  “‘Course you are.”

 

Mikio shrugged.  “And she . . . she’ll go back to New York City.  That’s where she said she lives.”

 

Stuffing his hands into his pockets, Morio flicked his ears to shake off the descending moisture.  “Mhmm.”

 

“So I won’t see her again after the wedding.”

 

“Probably not.”

 

“Unless I went to the city, and why would I do that?”

 

Wisely stifling his amusement behind a well-placed cough, Morio shrugged.  “No need to convince me, Mikio.”

 

“I-I know.”

 

“Unless it isn’t me you’re trying to convince.”

 

Mikio didn’t answer as Morio shuffled back toward the mansion.  He was lost in contemplation of the girl with the violet eyes.

 

 

<<< 001: Spreading the Love

 003: The Favor >>>

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

Final Thought from Morio:

Violet eyes

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Anomaly):  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~

posted by Sueric at 11:58 pm  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

P10: 01: Spreading the Love

~~Chapter 1~~

~Spreading the Love~

~o~

 

 

“Spit it out, Maddy,” Valerie Denning—soon to be Valerie Zelig—said as she glanced up from brushing her hair to meet the steady gaze of her best friend and maid of honor.

 

“Oh, please tell me you’re not going to do it,” Madison Cartham groaned, wrinkling her impish little nose melodramatically.

 

“Of course I’m going to do it,” Valerie scoffed. “I adore Evan—even when he’s being a big, fat jerk.”

 

Madison snorted indelicately, tugging the brush from Valerie’s slack hand and dragging it through her glossy blonde locks. “As if I didn’t know that.”

 

“Then what?”

 

“You know what. You’re not seriously going to try lay a guilt trip on me, are you?”

 

Valerie cleared her throat and blinked innocently. “A guilt trip? Over what?”

 

“Over the fact that I’m single, and happily so.”

 

Valerie made a face and shrugged. “Would I do such a thing?”

 

The brush paused mid-stroke, and Madison heaved a sigh. “I believe you would; yes.”

 

“Oh, ye of little faith.”

 

“Come off it, V. It’s a documented fact that people in love tend to make it their mission to hook up all their single friends, regardless of whether said-friends want it or not—and the happier and more disgustingly in love the couple is, the more likely they are to try to play Cupid.”

 

Disgustingly in love?” Valerie echoed with a little grin.

 

“Absolutely disgusting,” Madison agreed amiably.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t do any such thing,” Valerie protested, feigning a hurt expression that was completely ruined by the soft giggle that slipped from her. “Then again, would it be so bad? Just think about it—a steady man to do all those things for you that you hate doing, coming home to the same person every night—someone who knows you and adores you . . . worships the ground you walk on . . .”

 

Madison set the brush aside and picked up a rattail comb. “Oh, my God, it sounds worse when you put it that way,” she maintained, carefully dividing off a section of hair before jamming the comb between her teeth and reaching for a large plastic curler.

 

“It’d be nice to see you settled down and happy.”

 

“You’wah foahgetting one fink,” Madison grumbled around the comb.

 

“Oh? And what’s that?”

 

“My fafah.”

 

“Your father’s a pushover.”

 

Madison paused long enough to roll her eyes as she pulled the comb from her mouth and parted another section of hair. “Not with guys he isn’t, or did you forget that he’s got enough guns and ammunition to wage a small war?”

 

Valerie laughed as she pulled her notebook and pen from the table and idly tapped the pen’s cap against her lips. “You make it sound like your father’s stockpiling for a hostile takeover,” she pointed out idly then quickly shook her head. “Let’s see . . . I double checked the caterers, called the florist to make sure everything was set, had the final fitting for my dress this morning . . . Did I forget anything?”

 

Madison blinked a few times and slowly shook her head. “You know, Evan’s probably sitting at Bas’ house trying to figure out a way to escape.”

 

Valerie spared a moment to peer up at Madison’s face to see whether or not her friend was being serious. “He can be good for one night,” she remarked.

 

Madison giggled at the hint of foreboding in Valerie’s tone. “And I’m going to go join a convent right after your wedding,” she scoffed.

 

“I’ll miss you when you’re gone.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Madison snorted indelicately. “Yup. I went in to have my habit fitted while you were stuffing yourself into that sausage casing you like to call a wedding dress.”

 

Valerie choked on a giggle since she was the one who had aptly dubbed the dress she’d chosen as the sausage casing from hell. Skin tight to the hips where the skirt flared out around her in a billowing mass of silk and chiffon, she had grumbled more than once that she wasn’t sure what she was thinking when she’d bought the dress just weeks before. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Her mother liked the dress, too . . . “Figured I’d make Evan work for it.”

 

“He’s got claws, you know.”

 

Valerie ducked her chin as a heated flush broke over her skin. “Oh, I know he does.”

 

Madison laughed. “Anyway, what was the verdict about the piercings?”

 

Valerie sighed. “His father said that he had to take them out for the wedding since the generals are going to be there, but you know Evan . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves at least one or two in, just to irritate Cain.”

 

“Just make sure he keeps the tongue one in.”

 

“That goes without saying.”

 

“Like it, do you?”

 

Valerie grinned. “Just a little.”

 

“So where is he taking you on your honeymoon?”

 

Her friend’s smile faded, and Valerie grunted in response. “You mean he didn’t tell you?” she asked, looking more than a little hopeful.

 

Madison shook her head. “Actually, no. He said I’d tell you.”

 

Valerie’s lips twitched though she didn’t smile. “Well, you would.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Madison didn’t deny the claim. “Of course I would.”

 

“Because you love me.”

 

Madison giggled. “Damn right. Unfortunately, Evan knows that, too. So why did you think I’d know?” She shrugged, securing the last curler in place before dropping the comb onto the table top and brushing her hands together.

 

“Figured you’d have weaseled it out of him by now,” Valerie admitted.

 

“Nope . . . he’s being uncharacteristically stubborn about this.” Madison stepped back, satisfied with the task of setting Valerie’s hair. “I’ll be over tomorrow to take those out and arrange your hair. Touch it and die, woman—understand?”

 

Valerie laughed and stood up, hurrying to hug Madison before she could take her leave. “You sure you won’t stay here tonight?”

 

Madison laughed and kissed Valerie’s cheek with an obscenely loud pop. “I’d love to stay and wax nostalgic with you, dear, but I promised I’d help Daddy clean his guns tonight.”

 

Valerie stopped and shot her friend a quizzical glance. “You’re not serious, are you?”

 

Madison sighed, unsure whether it was more depressing that she really wasn’t kidding or that she had actually agreed to it.

 

“He hasn’t gotten the baby a gun yet, has he?”

 

Madison grinned, mostly because baby that Valerie was referencing wasn’t even born yet. Cartham hadn’t said as much, but Kelly had remarked to her earlier that her father had been absolutely thrilled when he had found out that they were expecting a boy—Madison’s as-yet unseen brother. “No, but I’m sure it’s coming soon, even if Mom objects on principle.”

It was something that most people really didn’t understand, she supposed. Closing the bedroom door behind herself as she paused in the dim hallway long enough to allow her eyes time to adjust, Madison figured that for folks who didn’t know Deke Cartham, it would be hard to explain. Her earliest memories were of standing by her father’s knee while he slowly, methodically cleaned and oiled his guns. At least he’d waited until she could walk before taking her outside and lining up soda cans along the fence. He slipped earphones over her tiny head, pulled her into his arms, helped her steady the small pistol, and he’d taught her how to fire the weapon.

 

Girls don’t learn how to fight. Protection is a man’s job,” he’d told her. “But I’d be worthless, wouldn’t I, if I didn’t teach you how to survive.”

 

She smiled as she hurried down the hallway, digging her car keys out of her purse without pausing in her stride. For her high school graduation gift, her father had given her a Colt .45, and not just any Colt .45 but the same one she’d first learned how to fire—her father’s favorite gun.

 

So absorbed in her memories, so bemused by the trip down memory lane, that all the talk of weddings and stuff inspired in her, Madison wasn’t paying attention as she rounded the corner and ran toward the stairs.

 

A whoosh of breath, a grunt escaped her as she barreled into a solid chest. The scream that welled in her throat slipped out but was bit off as sinewy arms locked around her. She tumbled down the stairs with the stranger, unable to see more than a flash of silver, the blur of motion.

 

They smacked into the banister on the middle landing, and the unseen face of the man she’d run down finally came into focus. Madison grimaced as she pushed herself up on her elbows, curiously eyeing him, unable to stop her blatant perusal. Golden eyes . . . silver hair . . . little white hanyou ears . . . He was unmistakably Izayoi, and dizzily, headily, she felt her heart skip a beat only to hammer hard against her ribcage like a wild thing trying to escape its confines. The man had yet to let go of her, not that she really minded. Still, propriety reared its ugly head, and she blushed. “I’m so sorry,” she blurted, trying to wiggle out of his grasp.

 

“N-No, it was m-my fault,” he stammered as blood rushed into his cheeks in late response to the predicament they found themselves in.

 

Madison blinked and tried not to let her blush darken. “No, really . . . it was mine . . . I wasn’t watching where I was going, and I didn’t realize you were coming upstairs . . .”

 

He blinked, too, pink tingeing his cheeks. “Oh . . . I . . . your eyes . . .” he said quietly.

 

“My eyes?”

 

He winced as the pink darkened to a rosy red. “They’re beautiful.”

 

“Th-Thank you . . .”

 

He grimaced, casting her an almost apologetic sort of glance. “You’re . . . poking me . . .”

 

“Wh—?”

 

Gasping as she realized she was, indeed, poking her keys into his stomach, she jerked her hand back and bit her lip. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Did I . . . hurt . . . you?” he asked, letting go of her at last and slowly climbing to his feet, offering his hand to help her up.

 

“I’m youkai; I’m tough,” she said, her voice almost reedy as she offered him a wan smile.

 

He shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. “I-I’m Izayoi Mikio,” he said with a low bow. “H-Hajimemashite douzo yoroshiku.”

 

“Oh,” she breathed with a little nod. “I know. I’m Madison—Madison Cartham . . . maid of honor, I suppose.” She giggled suddenly, and Mikio’s frown deepened. Waving her wrist, she covered her mouth with her free hand. “I met you before, a long, long time ago. I was just a child, though . . .”

 

He looked confused for a few seconds, then he shot her an uncertain little smile that was gone about as quickly as it had appeared. “Hmm, yeah . . . Evan’s friend?”

 

She grinned at the quizzical look on his face. “And Valerie’s.”

 

“Understood.” He cleared his throat as though he were nervous. “Are you staying here tonight?”

 

“Actually, I was just leaving,” she replied, stepping back and nearly tumbling off the landing.   Mikio’s hand shot out to grab her wrist, and he let go as soon as she steadied herself with a hand on the banister.

 

His cheeks reddened a little more. “Oh . . . right . . .”

 

She shot him a contrite smile. “Sorry again . . . I wasn’t really trying to maim you or anything.”

 

Mikio grimaced. “I’ve taken worse falls than that.”

 

“It was nice meeting you,” she remarked with a smile.

 

He nodded and bowed again. “Likewise.”

 

Madison turned and hurried down the stairs, heart thundering in her ears as she bit her bottom lip and made a beeline toward the front doors.

 

Heat lightning illuminated the cloudy skies as Madison strode to her car. Pausing with her hand poised on the door handle, she lifted her face up to the heavens and frowned. The past few days had been hideously hot, almost humid, and she hoped that it would rain. ‘V’s wedding needs to be perfect. Sweating on your big day is bad form, after all . . .’

 

As if in answer to her silent musings, a gust of wind blew off the ocean, and she could almost feel the rising humidity that bespoke a healthy rain.

 

Letting her gaze fall away from the sky, Madison gasped, her heart lurching wildly in her chest as she caught sight of the lone form in the second story window—the window she knew was at the end of the hallway. She wasn’t sure if Mikio could see her staring back at him or not. Slowly, hesitantly, she waved. His silhouette straightened, and he lifted his hand to return the gesture.

 

Your eyes . . . They’re beautiful . . .”

 

A sudden giggle bubbled up in her, spilled out into the night as she opened the car door and slid behind the steering wheel.

 

 

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

 

 

Mikio stared up at the starry, inky sky and heaved a sigh as his right ear flattened against his head. The left one twitched madly—the aftereffects of the dizzy spell that landed him flat on his back. He grimaced, willing the appendage to still. The twitch worsened.

 

“Holy damn, Mikio,” Evan Zelig said as he leaned over, hands on knees, peering down at Mikio’s face. “That was a hell of a fall.”

 

“I didn’t . . . notice,” Mikio lied, wincing as he tried to ignore his twitching ear.

 

“Didn’t notice?” Evan echoed incredulously as he sank down on the grass beside his uncle. “If you say so . . .”

 

Mikio made a face. “You can stay out of her room for one night, can’t you?” he asked, waving his limp hand in the vague direction of the third story balcony that Evan had been trying to reach.

 

Evan grinned unrepentantly. “You’re assuming that she wants me to stay out.”

 

“Nee-chan said it’s bad luck for you to see Denning-san before the wedding.”

 

The grin widened. “The hell you say! Bad luck would be me, standing at the altar with a boner. I think the neighbors would gossip about that . . .”

 

Mikio rolled his eyes and started to sit up only to flop back when the stars started spinning overhead. He sighed, willing the dizziness to pass. “You don’t possess even a modicum of shame, do you?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“There you are. Come on, you little ass.”

 

Mikio shifted his eyes to the side, catching sight of Evan’s older brother as Sebastian rounded the corner of the mansion. Spotting Mikio lying on the ground, Bas stopped for a moment and shook his head before loping over to them and slapping Evan across the back of the head before sinking down between Evan and Mikio. “Trying to sneak in Valerie’s window, were you?”

 

Evan laughed, rubbing his head as he shrugged. “Like you thought I wouldn’t?”

 

Bas snorted. “Pfft! I knew you would. I just didn’t think you’d sabotage me. You’ve reached new lows, Evan.”

 

“Dunno what you’re talking about, Bubby . . .”

 

“You mean Evan has even lower lows?” Gunnar Inutaisho drawled as he and Gavin Jamison slipped out of the shadows on the other side of the assembled men. Gunnar sat down, too, and Gavin knelt, leaning his weight on his forearms placed on his knees.

 

Mikio managed to push himself up and hooked his hands around his legs, letting his forehead drop against his knees for a minute as he regained his composure.

 

“What’d you do this time?” Gavin asked in an almost foreboding tone of voice.

 

Bas crossed his arms over his chest and snorted again as he frowned at his sibling.

 

Evan scratched his head. “You should be glad, you know. You got to benefit from it, after all.”

 

Bas rolled his eyes. “That’s hardly the point.”

 

Evan grinned once more. “So I don’t see the problem.”

 

“What did you do?” Gavin asked calmly.

 

“Nothing . . . just slipped Sydnie some catnip.”

 

Gunnar whistled. “Yep, that’s low, all right,” he agreed. “Low enough that I’d slap you across the back of the head if I were Bas.”

 

“He already did that,” Evan grumbled, taking a step away from his brother for good measure.

 

“If we beat the hell out of him tonight, do you think that he’d make it to his wedding tomorrow?” Gunnar mused. “After all, it’s not like he hasn’t already had sex, so it wouldn’t really be anything new to him . . .”

 

“Speak for yourself, asshole,” Evan grouched.

 

“Tell me again: how did you trick a level-headed girl like Valerie into marry you?”

 

He grinned unrepentantly. “See, she likes my tongue ring . . .”

 

“Oh, hell, you walked right into that,” Gavin said with a wince as he slapped Gunnar’s shoulder amicably.

 

“Yeah, he did,” Evan gloated.

 

“Definitely asking for a beating,” Gunnar contended.

 

Evan rolled his eyes as Bas turned thoughtful. “You know, that’s not a bad idea . . .” Bas mused slowly, scratching his chin as he stared at his sibling.

 

“There will be no beating on your brother, Bas,” Cain stated as he stepped out of the glass doors from the living room and glanced over his shoulder to ascertain exactly where his mate was. She must have been well out of earshot for his next comment, though. “But if you do, don’t leave any marks where your mother might see them.”

 

“Fork it over, old man,” Morio Izayoi remarked, holding out his hand and wiggling his fingers as Cain grimaced but reached into his pocket for his wallet.

 

“I said an hour,” Cain grouched as he fished out a fifty dollar bill and slapped it into Morio’s waiting palm.

 

“And I said ‘less’.”

 

“You were betting on me?” Evan demanded, alternating his incredulous stare between his father and his cousin.

 

“Yes,” Cain said evenly, stuffing his wallet back into his pocket once more, “and you just cost me fifty bucks.”

 

“We should have gotten in on that one,” Gunnar muttered to Gavin. Gavin nodded sagely.

 

Morio chuckled, stowing the money into his pocket as he reached down to help Mikio to his feet. “You all right?”

 

Mikio nodded, clenching his jaw and ignoring Morio’s offer of assistance as he slowly stood, grimacing at the stiff soreness in his shoulders. Slipping away from the gathering since they could keep Evan from scaling the mansion in order to sneak into the bride-to-be’s room, he trudged toward the doors, blinking as the brighter light blinded him momentarily.

 

He appreciated their understated show of support, of course. Ever since he could remember, they’d all sat down whenever he’d ended up flat on his back. Lately, however, it had begun to grate on his nerves. They shouldn’t have had to do such a thing, should they? Mikio sighed. Best not to think about it, he decided. ‘Damn it . . .’

 

Cain watched him leave before slowly turning back to eye his sons. “What happened?” he asked.

 

Evan grimaced.

 

“He caught you trying to sneak in Valerie’s window, right?” Gavin guessed.

 

“Somethin’ like that,” Evan grumbled. “He leapt up after me and lost his balance . . .”

 

Cain rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Another dizzy spell?”

 

“It wasn’t my fau—Yes, sir,” Evan replied, catching the darkening in his father’s gaze.

 

“Mikio’s fine,” Gunnar cut in, stuffing his hands deep in his pockets as he slouched against the solid trunk of a very old white ash tree.

 

“Getting dizzy and falling over constantly isn’t really fine,” Cain remarked mildly, digging a cigarette out of a rumpled pack he carried in his breast pocket.

 

“Yeah, well, he mentioned something before,” Gunnar went on, turning his gaze skyward. “Said that Gome-oba-chan and Yasha-jiji used to argue about that a lot. I think he just stopped talking about it to keep them from fighting.”

 

“They fought over his dizzy spells?” Cain asked.

 

Gunnar shrugged. “Sure. I vaguely remember my parents talking about it. Gome-oba-chan thought that Mikio had problems with his inner ear.”

 

“And InuYasha didn’t?” Gavin put in.

 

“Not exactly. I don’t remember . . . I wasn’t very old then, myself. I remember that Gome-oba-chan brought Mikio over, and we were playing with Kubrick while she talked to Mother . . . He had some sort of testing done, and Yasha-jiji made them stop when Mikio got scared, or so I seem to recall hearing . . . I was about three, I think, so Mikio was about five, I guess . . .”

 

“Oh, yeah . . . I remember that,” Morio added as he stared up at the stars high overhead. “Mama and the old man used to talk about that some. Guess everyone was disagreeing about it at the time.”

 

“Ryomaru agreed with InuYasha,” Cain supposed.

 

Morio shrugged. “Actually, no. Oyaji said that baa-chan was right. It’d be better to see if something could be done while Mikio was still young.”

 

“Didn’t they do some sort of testing?” Bas questioned, grabbing Evan’s arm and yanking him back when the latter tried to sneak away.

 

“The MRI,” Cain agreed absently. Kagome had called to talk to Gin about the entire ordeal. He remembered the sadness on Gin’s face as she recounted the tale for him later. Mikio hadn’t reacted well when faced with the machine that he was supposed to lie in for an hour or more while the doctors got a good look at his ears, and InuYasha, who had never been fond of anyone messing with his ears, had apparently broken the door down in his haste to get to his son, to save Mikio from the evil machine . . .

 

Cain sighed. He didn’t blame InuYasha, actually. Had it been one of his pups, he probably would have done the same thing. The instinct to protect was a fierce thing; a difficult thing to ignore, and with InuYasha’s background of fighting, of being an outcast, it wasn’t surprising that the desire to protect his own was so strong.

 

Of course, it would be a cold day in hell before Cain ever admitted that he respected his father-in-law in that . . .

 

“Come on, Evan. You might as well spend the night at my house,” Gunnar said with a sigh, pushing himself away from the tree.

 

Evan looked like he was going to protest until he caught his father’s scrutinizing gaze. “Can I at least say good night to her?” he complained.

 

Cain rolled his eyes and pushed Evan’s shoulder, sending his son stumbling after his cousin. Gunnar chuckled and grabbed Evan’s arm when the groom-to-be tried to veer off toward the mansion again.

 

Gavin shook his head. “You know, I don’t think he’s going to give up that easily.”

 

Bas nodded. “Hell, no . . . He’ll be back.”

 

Cain chuckled, breathing in a last drag off his cigarette before he tossed it away. “As if you didn’t sneak into Sydnie’s room.”

 

Bas grinned and rubbed the back of his neck as he ducked his head shyly. “That was completely different, Dad.”

 

“How so?”

 

He shrugged. “She was already my mate.”

 

 

-OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO-

 

 

“Mama says you’re still having those dizzy spells,” Gin commented a little too casually as she scrubbed the white marble counter by the kitchen sink.

 

“Did she?” Mikio muttered, trying not to fidget under his sister’s scrutiny.

 

Gin nodded as she rinsed the sponge and wrung it out. “She said that you won’t talk to her about them, though.”

 

“They’re not that bad.”

 

“‘Bad’ is a matter of perception, Mikio. Mama just worries about you.”

 

He grimaced and dug around in the refrigerator for a bottle of water. “It’s nothing,” he grumbled.

 

Gin dropped the sponge into the sink and turned around, leaning against the counter as she crossed her arms over her chest and regarded him with her entirely too-discerning gaze. “I know you hated that Mama and Papa disagreed about it when you were a pup, but they both want what’s best for you—you know that, right?”

 

Ear twitching as he made slow work of swallowing a few gulps of water, Mikio couldn’t quite meet Gin’s pointed stare, either. “With all due respect, I hardly think that it’s really that important. I’m not a pup anymore.”

 

“And if you think that Mama and Papa stop worrying about their children just because we’re not pups anymore, then you’re wrong,” she remarked.

 

“They worry a little too much.”

 

“It’s only because we love you,” Kagome remarked as she breezed into the kitchen, making a beeline toward her youngest son. Mikio winced as Kagome hugged him and kissed his cheek.

 

“Mama . . .” he protested, suddenly feeling like a child getting ready for his first day of school. ‘Come to think of it,’ he thought with an inward sigh, ‘I sort of sound like one, too . . .’

 

“Will you get off it, wench? The last thing the pup needs is you hanging all over him,” InuYasha grumbled as he stomped into the kitchen, repeating the process that Kagome had just done, but his target was his only daughter. Gin giggled softly and kissed her father’s cheek.

 

“I’m not hanging all over him,” Kagome shot back before turning her deep brown eyes on Mikio once more. Her expression registered obvious concern, and Mikio braced himself for whatever his mother had on her mind. “You look peaked, Mikio. Maybe you should go on to bed.”

 

“I’m fine,” he replied, striving to keep the hint of irritation out of his tone—the same irritation that was becoming harder and harder to hide.

 

“I’m sure that everyone will understand. You really hated the airplane ride, didn’t you?” Kagome went on, fussing idly with Mikio’s bangs.

 

InuYasha snorted. “Kami, wench, I think Mikio’s old enough to decide if and when he should go to bed, don’t you?”

 

“I’m just worried, dog-boy!” she shot back.

 

Mikio shook his head as the argument escalated. Flattening his ears against his skull, he slipped out of the kitchen and strode toward the front door as quickly and quietly as he could.

 

He couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t like that. It seemed to him that his mother and father spent far too much time at odds with each other over him than they did getting along. Gin had always maintained that InuYasha and Kagome seemed to enjoy arguing. Still, Mikio couldn’t quite shake the feeling that the raised voices, the tension . . . it was completely his fault. If Mikio sneezed, Kagome was convinced that he needed to be lying in bed with a mountain of blankets and lots of soup. InuYasha, on the other hand, would tell his wife to stop being a mother hen and to let Mikio have room to breathe, and it always—always—ended up in one of those arguments.

 

Grabbing the door handle and giving it a vicious yank, Mikio nearly barreled straight into the woman who was standing in the doorway with her hand poised to knock. Brilliant violet eyes locked with his, questions awash in her gaze, and she looked rather surprised, though whether that was because he was obviously irritated or because of his sudden appearance before she could knock, he wasn’t certain.

 

As quickly as his irritation had come, it was gone. The woman smiled—eyes shining like the stars he’d been staring at earlier after trying to keep Evan from scaling the mansion walls—and for just a moment, Mikio forgot to breathe.

 

“Hi again,” Madison said, her voice soft yet sure.

 

“H-Hi.”

 

 02: Charity Case >>>

 

~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~*~=~

A/N:

Hajimemashite douzo yoroshiku:Pleased to meet you. Please take care of me”, basically.  The standard greeting when one first meets someone.  In this case, Mikio doesn’t realize that he has met Madison before, and even then, he was never formally introduced to her, either.

Kubrick: Japanese Lego.  They’re the same thing lol.

Baa-chan: Grandma.  All of the Japanese children would call Kagome this (her grandchildren, anyway).  Gunnar takes after Toga and calls her Gome-oba-chan (Aunt Gome).  Note: Gunnar addresses his mother as “Mother” because she’s American and that’s what he was taught.

Yasha-jiji: Gunnar’s address for InuYasha, basically, he’s calling him ‘old man’.  InuYasha’s grandsons address him as ‘jiijii’ (really old man lol).  This is also considered a rude way to address and older man.

Oyaji: There is some debate on this term as some people will translate it as ‘dad’ or ‘pops’.  Many, however, would actually translate this more as ‘old man’ in reference to one’s father. Considered to be fairly rude, one would not use this address for more formal family settings.  For example, Toga would never, ever call Sesshoumaru this, and for that matter, Gunnar would not use this for Toga, either.  Ryomaru, Kichiro, and Morio would use this form of address for their respective fathers.

== == == == == == == == == ==

Final Thought from Mikio:

Ouch

==========

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Anomaly):  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~

posted by Sueric at 11:57 pm  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stick a Fork in Me!

Seriously, so irritated beyond words at the moment. It’s just that indignant anger, I guess, that irritation and worry that just gnaws at me.

Eric’s still working (sort of). They say that Tuesday is supposed to be his last day, but no one has said for sure anything; that is the rumor, but it’s so hard to deal with because it makes it difficult to look for another job when you’re hanging in limbo like that, right? And it’s not that he’s even put in a full week lately, either, since they tend to send people home if they run out of things to do on a given day, which hurts even more financially, but even now, we’re coping and making it, or at least, we were.

Earlier this month, we got a nasty shock in the form of our electric bill. Well, as most of you know, this winter’s been hellacious. We didn’t realize that the electric company had been guesstimating our bill since November, and we’re used to our winter electric bill being around 300 – 350 a month, so it wasn’t a huge deal since we were able to pay it, but then this month, I open the mail to find our bill is 743.84, and that it’s due next week. So I called our local trustee to see if they could help us, and they said they could. Mind, this was maybe the 2nd or 3rd of the month. I didn’t hear anything from them, so I called them to verify it yesterday, and they’re telling me that they ‘ran out of funds’ and that they’re ‘sorry’; did I try the Salvation Army? I mean, seriously? They couldn’t have told me this earlier in the month when there might have been some hope that I could figure something out? So I called the Salvation Army, and they are strapped, too. It seems that we’re not the only people who are getting slammed like this and for a lot of folks, they didn’t have vacation time to fall back on, so they got short-checked on top of it all for the many days missed due to massive snowfalls. (Between December and early April, I don’t think we went more than a few days without more snow on top of more snow, not to mention the -50 with wind chill weather). I called the electric company, and all they could say was that we ‘should have realized’ that our bill was too low. I mean, I’ll be clear: we do have enough to pay PART of the stinking bill, but the whole thing? Geez!

I’m just so MAD that they couldn’t bother to let us know that the help they’d promised had fallen through. I am not a mind reader; I don’t just wake up KNOWING these things, especially when the trustee told me to check back “in a couple weeks, maybe three” to make sure that they had paid it for us. It’s so stupid! And yet, I suppose it’s my own fault for not having realized that they weren’t actually reading my meter … Whatever.

I keep telling myself that good things happen to those who don’t lose faith, and I’m trying. I’m so ready to get to the bright side of this whole downward spiral. I feel like it just can’t be that far away; that we’re due for a turn-around soon. I just have to hold on until then. I can do that. I just wish that I’d stop having bullshit heaped at me time after time.

On the brighter side (if there is one), I have been thinking that I want to work on one of my originals so that I might possibly start to contribute to our family income, but I ask that if you have a favorite between The Grace of Aberration and The Fulcrum, please do leave me a comment and let me know which one you’d rather read and why. Please. As the author, I love them both, so it’s hard to say which one is really ‘better’ than the other. I’m fighting to get my head back into writing, and it’s tough, but I’ve started to use my Twitter more, so do feel free to find me there. My twitter is Sueric@SuericFanfics.

I just needed to vent about the dumb stuff that’s going on, and I did want to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking, and I’ll keep everyone updated, too, provided I still have electricity after next week lol

EDIT:

I’ve tried everything, and still no luck.  If anyone can help me, I’d greatly appreciate it, please.  This just irritates me to no end.  Given that it was the electric company’s fault, you’d THINK they could be a little more lenient, wouldn’t you?  But why would they when they know damn well that you don’t HAVE a choice as there are no other providers around here.  Jackasses.


Or log into paypal and click on the Send Money tab. My email is sueric1111@gmail.com

posted by Sueric at 7:58 am  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Server Paid!

The server has been paid, thanks to a couple very sweet and generous folks :) I would post their names here, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone (unless they want me to, in which case, I’ll be happy to post their names!)

 

Now for future reference, I want to remind you all that, should MediaMiner become any more busted than it already is, I will post things here on the blog, so don’t worry about missing updates. There’s also an RSS feature on this blog to keep you informed, as well. Or you can find me on Twitter, where I will always post a notice if I post a real chapter either here or on Media Miner.

 

As for Eric’s job, his last day is Friday, though he will be getting severance pay for a few weeks following the termination of his employment, He’s also started looking for a job, (he couldn’t before then because they didn’t give him a real date of separation until about last week). He’s put in his application at a couple places, though, so please cross your fingers for us. My darling mother helped me get a computer (we have to pay for it when Eric gets another job, but that’s okay, too), and I’ve been sitting down for a few minutes at least every day to write a little, and as things settle down around here, that time will increase for me, too.

 

Please do keep us in your prayers. Money helps pay bills, but prayers help me feel the sense of support and offer me the knowledge that I’m not alone, that there are truly people who care. Oh, and also, feel free to email me. I swear I don’t bite, and I do like to hear from you guys, even if I can’t get back to you immediately, I do get back to those who email me as quickly as I can!

 

All my love,

Sue

posted by Sueric at 11:34 am  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Site removal

Hey, guys, just a heads’ up. This site will be going down in 7 days as I do not have the money to pay for the server this year. The total cost is 83.40, and with my husband’s last week of work being this week, we simply cannot afford it any longer. I’m really sorry to tell you this, in light of it being my last real place in which I can talk to you all. But it is what it is.

If anyone wishes to donate to the cost of the server, though, it’d be greatly appreciated. I love having this site, and I’d love even more to save it. Please let me know if you can help or send a donation through PayPal. I have till the 14th to pay the server cost. Thanks, guys, and if that doesn’t work out, then I hope to be back soon–as soon as my husband’s got a new job and everything is settled again!

God bless you all!

With all my love,

Sue




Or log into paypal and click on the Send Money tab. My email is sueric1111@gmail.com

EDIT!

20.00 received toward server cost!  Thanks, TS!!

posted by Sueric at 10:29 am  

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