~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Two~~
‘These four walls they could tell you some stories …
‘About lyin’ and dyin’ and fame …
‘There’s a price that you pay for the glory …
‘About losing and choosing and pain …’
-’The Hardest Part is the Night‘ by Bon Jovi.
“This way, please.”
Frowning at the uncharacteristic stiffness with which Bas led Valerie into Cain’s office, she said nothing as she slipped into one of the chairs across from the wide desk after Cain gestured to it. Closing the door behind himself, Bas moved off to stare out the windows behind his father, hand draped on his hip as he stared out into the darkness. Just after midnight, and she’d been ready to find her bed when the two had approached her and asked her to follow them. There was a strange sense of gravity about the entire affair, but she didn’t object.
Settling back in his chair, Cain didn’t speak right away, and in the quiet, Valerie’s trepidation grew.
She wasn’t entirely sure why Cain had asked to see her, and the formal setting seemed strained. As far as she knew, nothing unusual had happened—well, aside from Evan’s repeated attempts to breach her window, anyway, and if that were the problem, she was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be the one here in the office waiting for the proverbial gauntlet to fall.
Or maybe Cain had taken exception to the idea that Evan—twisted little monkey that he was—had showed up last night to take the place of the stripper that had been hired, which made for a rather interesting moment, given that most of the women in attendance at the bachelorette party were related to the miscreant, including his own darling mother—Cain’s wife . . . He’d even started to strip off the obnoxious bikini pouch that held his ‘family jewels’—the one with ‘The hEvan’ scrolled across it in lurid gold glittering paint. Valerie had managed to stop him, albeit barely. The man really didn’t possess even an ounce of shame.
Clearing his throat, Cain slouched lower in his chair, resting his elbows on the thickly padded armrests, steepling his fingers in front of his chest as he continued to stare at Valerie. “Would you like something to drink?” he finally asked, breaking the stony silence that had fallen.
“No, I’m fine,” she replied, brows drawing together as she shifted her gaze around the room. “What is this about . . .?”
“Sorry,” Cain remarked with a slight smile. “We’re actually waiting for Gavin.”
“For . . .?” she finally asked, her gaze shifting from Cain to Bas then back again.
Cain stared at her for several moments then finally smiled just a little. “Oh, it’s nothing bad—well, too bad, anyway.”
“Just thought you might want to know what you’re getting into,” Bas remarked without turning away from the window.
Flicking his wrist as he glanced down at his watch, Cain frowned. “Well, I suppose we might as well begin. After all, it’s been over twenty minutes since Evan last tried to break in.”
Bas uttered a pronounced snort. “Oh, yeah? Well, at least that little shit didn’t try to sabotage you,” he grumbled.
Pressing her lips together in a tight line, Valerie struggled not to laugh outright since she’d been told that Evan’s most recent attempt had involved catnip—only amusing when she was then informed of Bas’ mate, Sydnie’s remarkable affinity for the stuff.
“The only thing that works on your mother is Reese’s, and that wouldn’t accomplish what he tried to do to you,” Cain pointed out.
“You say that like it surprises you,” Bas pointed out with a shake of his head. “Twisted little monkey, anyway . . .”
Cain raised his eyebrows and gave a little shrug before turning his attention back to Valerie once more. “Anyway, Valerie, we . . . we thought that we should probably warn you about some of Evan’s more . . . colorful moments,” he explained. “Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Valerie’s lips twitched, though she managed to keep from smiling—barely. If she didn’t recognize the understated amusement evident in both Cain as well as Bas’ demeanors, she might have taken offense to it, all things considered, but for some reason, she had the feeling that they weren’t nearly as irritated over Evan’s apparent misdeeds as they might have wanted to appear. “Kind of late for that, isn’t it? The wedding’s tomorrow.”
“You still should hear it,” Bas insisted, finally turning away from the window as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the glass. “I mean, he’s been a pain in my ass since the day he was born.”
Bas nodded slowly but smiled just a little. “Well, he was kind of cute as a baby,” he admitted at length. “At least, until he started walking and talking . . .”
“Back then, he only used to repeat things,” Cain pointed out. “That wasn’t so bad.”
“Says you,” Morio retorted as he slipped into the study. “He was like one of those . . . those . . . Oh, those myna birds—and he repeated everything he heard.”
Cain slowly shook his head. “Oh, you mean like him telling your mother just what you and your cousins had planned to prank InuYasha? You should be glad he told her that. InuYasha would have beaten the crap out of you boys.”
Breaking into a wide grin, Morio chuckled. “It still would’ve been funny as hell.”
“I didn’t say it wouldn’t have been,” Cain allowed mildly.
Waving a hand, Morio flopped into the chair beside her, pausing long enough to cast Valerie what could only be described as a shit-eating grin. “Oh, hey, do you remember that time Evan decided to break into the city pool to go skinny dipping?”
“Why did he do that?” Valerie asked.
Cain shrugged. “Because he’d already been banned from the city pool for life for unhooking girls’ tops.”
Somehow, that just didn’t surprise Valerie at all.
Bas wrinkled his nose. “Damn, Dad . . . He wasn’t even ten at the time, was he?”
Again, Cain shrugged. “He might have just turned ten. Should have known back then that it wasn’t just a phase.”
Bas snorted. “I lost count of how many times he was booted out of school for screwing girls.”
“Or for just pulling pranks on his teachers,” Cain added with an exaggerated sigh.
“You mean, like the time he decided to moon the student assembly at the ‘Just Say No To Crack’ presentation?”
“Oh, I forgot about that one,” Gavin remarked as he pushed into the study with Toga following close behind. “Jilli told me about it. She thought it was funny as hell. Talk about irony . . .”
“He must get it from that baka because he sure as hell don’t get it from his mama,” InuYasha grumbled, jerking his head in Cain’s direction as he stalked into the office behind Toga and gave the younger man a shove to move him along.
Cain rolled his eyes and settled back a little further in his chair. “I beg your pardon. I’ve never mooned anyone in my life—though I seem to recall stories about Gin lifting her skirt in front of an entire audience before, so I would guess that would mean he did get it from your side, after all.”
InuYasha snorted. “Keh! She was a pup, you bastard. Think again.”
“Did you really just throw Mom under the bus?” Bas asked in a low tone as he shifted his gaze to his father.
“Of course not, Bas,” Cain replied. “I was pointing out fact; that’s all.”
“I remember having to hunt that little shit down when he’d disappear from training,” Ryomaru remarked as he strode into the office. “Got easier after we figured out that he was usually hiding out over at Kich’s house.”
“Never did take training seriously,” Toga said, moving over to grab a bottle of water off of the sideboard. “I don’t know how many times I’d hide the candy bags to track, only to find that he’d located them all and traded the candy for rocks.”
Valerie smiled since that sounded like something that Evan absolutely would do.
“Almost flunked out of school because he never took anything seriously, right?” Kichiro added as he stepped into the room. “Guess he did test out early, though, so that’s something.”
“Well, he did get his doctorate, so that’s something.” Cain scooted back and dug into one of the desk drawers then handed a paper over to Valerie.
She looked at it and frowned. It was a standardized testing sheet with little circles that were to be penciled in. It was Evan’s, but instead of bothering to answer the questions, he’d drawn what looked to be a symbol with the circles instead . . . “What’s this?”
“The logo of his favorite band, I think,” Bas said, nodding at the paper. “Raunchy Little Fuckers, wasn’t it?”
Cain heaved a sigh and slowly shook his head. “Something like that,” he agreed.
“These stories aren’t nearly as bad as I thought,” Valerie ventured, accepting a bottle of water from Kichiro. “I figured he’d have done much worse.”
“Oh, there’s worse,” Bas replied with a snort. “Paid, what? Three? Four hundred bucks for a picture of Sydnie . . . I still owe him a beating for that . . .”
“A bit more forgivable than being arrested for defacing that statue at the school,” Sesshoumaru said as he strode into the room to take a seat on the sofa.
“What did he do to it?” Valerie couldn’t help asking.
“Pissed on it, wasn’t it?” Morio said. “Him and that friend of his.”
“Dieter,” Cain supplied. “Those two . . .” He trailed off, tapping his claws against the armrest. “If it wasn’t Evan and Dieter getting into one thing or another, it was Evan and Madison, and if it wasn’t them, it was Evan and Bone . . .”
“Evan and Dieter also nearly blew up the school when they decided to make nabe for lunch in the science lab and left the burners on, but it was Evan and Bone who stole Rudy Miller’s boat,” Gavin mused thoughtfully. “Tried to haul themselves, four girls, and a keg of beer out to Faulkner’s Landing and ended up stranded out there when the boat sprung a leak halfway across the bay.”
To Valerie’s surprise, Cain broke out in the vaguest hint of a smile. “That took a lot of explaining,” he muttered though he didn’t look any less amused. “Those girls’ parents weren’t impressed; not at all . . .”
Bas snorted . “Small wonder. They had to call in the Coast Guard to retrieve them, Dad.”
“Or that year we had that drought so the four of them decided to host a naked rain dance,” Gavin added.
“That was your fault, Dad,” Bas pointed out. “I told you that Evan would do something stupid if you left him home alone.”
Cain chuckled. “Well, your mother wanted to go to San Francisco with me. Was I supposed to tell her that she needed to find someone to babysit her fifteen year-old son?”
“If that son’s Evan, then yes,” Kurt retorted as he ducked into the office, too. “He’s a menace.”
“Just because he handcuffed you to the bed that time,” Bas reminded him.
Kurt just snorted in reply.
“Can’t imagine that you enjoyed getting that call from the police, oji-san,” Morio quipped. “‘Yeah, uh, Mr. Zelig, we just broke up a naked rain dance party out at your estate . . .’”
Cain nodded slowly, his expression shifting into a thoughtful frown. “That . . . was pretty accurate, actually . . .”
Bas shot his father a droll look as he slowly shook his head again. “Yeah, did I ever thank you for telling them that I was the adult in charge?”
“Well, you were,” Cain pointed out reasonably.
“I was cramming for finals, and I don’t recall you even telling me that you were leaving me in charge of that little deviant,” Bas replied.
Cain broke into the vaguest grin and gave a little shrug, as though it excused his part in it entirely.
“You could write a book about the trouble he and Madison got into over the years,” Kichiro remarked thoughtfully. “I mean, you know it’s bad when we heard about all of it over in Japan.”
“That one owes me more money for keeping his exploits out of the tabloids than you do, Zelig,” Sesshoumaru added.
“You owe cover money?” Bas asked, his head turning to look at his father.
“Not nearly on the scale that your brother does,” Cain replied smoothly.
“At least Evan’s consistent,” Ryomaru said. “If there’s trouble to be had, he’ll find it. One summer, he got into a fight with about ten other punks, all to impress a girl.”
“Sounds kind of like someone else I know,” Toga quipped, arching his eyebrows as he stared rather pointedly at Ryomaru.
Ryomaru grinned unrepentantly. “I never got into fights to impress girls,” he clarified. “I just got into fights, period.”
“You know, Valerie, it isn’t too late to back out,” Cain said, shifting his look to meet Valerie’s. His words sounded quite serious, but she didn’t miss the obvious, if not understated, amusement that added a brightness to his eyes, a sparkle to his gaze.
“And if you do go ahead and marry him, maybe you should consider adopting instead of running the risk of spreading his particular brand of troublemaking to your children,” Bas added.
Valerie’s amusement at the given situation faded, and she shook her head. “But he . . . he can’t have kids. I mean, you all should know . . .”
“That whole sterile business?” Griffin Marin grumbled as he, too, stepped into the office. The hulking bear-youkai didn’t move out of the doorway, but then, there wasn’t much room to be had inside, either. “Isabelle told me about that bit of nonsense,” he went on, his cheeks pinking slightly at the current subject. “I guess it made sense at the time, though . . .”
“Wait, what?” Valerie blurted, her confusion evident. Why did she feel as though she were two steps behind everything? “But he was tested, and—”
Cain waived a hand to cut her off. “Yeah, he was, you’re right,” he agreed, a faint hint of a flush creeping into his face, as well, “and he was sterile, I guess, at that point. I guess he never got around to telling you that, being youkai, he can choose whether or not to have pups, so if he doesn’t want to, then . . .” Giving his head a quick shake, he tapped a cigarette out of his pocket and spared a moment to light it. “Anyway, that was the easiest way to deal with that particular situation. Evan’s made some pretty stupid mistakes over the years, but that’s never been one of them.”
Valerie didn’t respond to that right away. Unsure exactly how she felt on the matter, she took her time sipping from the water bottle as she considered what she’d just been told. On the one hand, he really should have told her the truth about the whole child-issue sooner, but then, she supposed that the subject simply hadn’t come up. In the rush of planning a wedding in three months’ time, she had to allow that her mind hadn’t been on the issue of Evan being sterile, either. Still, a quiet voice in the back of her head prodded her. Why was it that the idea of children had always frightened her, but somehow, the fleeting thought of a small child with Evan’s eyes and the same silver hair was enough to draw a little smile from her . . .?
“If you do decide to have children with that one,” Kurt remarked thoughtfully, “we’ll just hope that they take after you and not him. You seem to have much better judgment than he does, anyway.”
“Keh! Marrying him, ain’t she?” Ryomaru rumbled, but he grinned and winked at Valerie, just the same. “Not too sure about her judgment, either.”
“Still, no one would really blame you if you decided to get the hell out of Dodge before it’s too late,” Kurt said. Then he, too, broke into a grin.
“Can’t say you weren’t warned,” Morio quipped. Suddenly, though, he frowned, his gaze shifting over the assembly of men. “Oi, where’s Mamo-chan?”
Bas grunted, likely at the use of the name that would likely get Morio clobbered if, in fact, ‘Mamo-chan’ had been there. “Gunnar took Evan home with him, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Morio allowed. “Too bad. I’m sure he had some other great moments to add.”
“Last chance to run,” Kichiro said despite the grin that tugged on his lips. Kurt’s cell phone buzzed, and he dug it out of his pocket, only to frown at the message he’d received. Abruptly pushing himself away from the wall, he nodded at the assembled men and Valerie and ducked out of the room.
Valerie laughed and shook her head. “Thank you all for your concern,” she replied as she got to her feet, “but I . . . I think I’ll take my chances.”
Nabe: Japanese hotpot. It’s a traditional Japanese ‘stew’ made from cooking veggies and assorted other goodies (mushrooms and seafood or meat) in a broth of fish stock, sake, and soy sauce.
Oji-san: polite way to address one’s uncle.
Mamo-chan: Morio tends to call Gunnar this, mostly to irritate him.
‘The Hardest Part is the Night‘by Bon Jovi originally appeared on the 1985 release, 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit. Copyrighted to Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and David Bryan.
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Ginger75125 ——— sutlesarcasm (shows on ch220 post lol)
Final Thought from Valerie:
He’s not sterile …?
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.