~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty-Four~~
‘Honey, you’re my lucky day…
‘Baby, you’re my lucky day …
‘Well, I lost all the other bets I made …
‘Honey, you’re my lucky day…’
-’My Lucky Day’ by Bruce Springsteen.
Evan stalked around the room with a scowl on his face as Valerie’s words ran through his head for the thousandth time since he’d been so unceremoniously dragged away from her a little while ago.
“Besides, I know you’re a very sensitive, very sweet man deep down, even if your family tried their hardest to convince me otherwise last night.”
‘What the hell?‘ he fumed, stomping over to the window and shoving it wide open. Not even the sudden soft breeze was enough to dispel the irritation that clung to him in thick waves. Just what the hell were they trying to do? Sabotage his wedding as some kind of warped repayment for his negative behavior over the years? And why the hell didn’t it really surprise him, either . . .?
No, maybe he ought to have realized that they’d do something like this. After he’d talked to Cain, after he had made peace with the things he hadn’t understood, he’d thought that maybe . . . but no, he was wrong. What other reason would they possibly have for doing such a thing, and to make it even worse, Bas had admitted that it wasn’t just him and Cain, oh no. All of them—all of them—had been in on it, too? His so-called family—the ones who were supposed to love him, no matter what, and in the end . . .
And, of course, Bas just hadn’t gotten it, had he? Nope, Bas had just laughed like it was all just one big fucking joke. Didn’t realize or just didn’t care how irritated Evan truly was over the entire thing. It was clear to Evan, what they were trying to do. They were trying to convince Valerie that she really didn’t want to marry Evan, weren’t they?
All right, so he’d be the first to admit that maybe he’d gotten into a hell of a lot more than his fair share of trouble over the years, and yeah, he’d allow that he was much farther from being a saint than anyone. Still . . .
Here he was, hours from his own wedding—a wedding he hadn’t truly believed would really happen until he’d gotten up this morning—and all he could think about was his own family was trying to sabotage it all. Bad enough that he’d been too worried to credit as he’d watched from an upstairs window as Valerie had approached that damned Murvis. He’d secretly hoped that the little prick would have enough grace not to accept the wedding invitation Evan had sent, but no, of course not, and while common sense had told Evan that there was just no way that Valerie would change her mind and run right back to the little douche bag, common sense held very little sway in his mind, today of all days.
And he knew that was stupid, that Valerie had obviously made her choice. Still, somewhere in the back of his mind, Evan couldn’t help but worry, and maybe that was natural, too. After all, she had almost married him, hadn’t she? It occurred to him in a rather vague kind of way that his insecurity about Valerie’s ex was entirely ridiculous, all things considered. Too bad he wasn’t sure he could help it, either.
The last thing he’d wanted to do was to send that peckerhead an invitation to their wedding, and yet, he knew, didn’t he, because he knew Valerie, that there was still a small part of her that had hated the way things had played out. Because she was a decent person, because she really did care for Merriwinkle, as much as Evan despised that, he hadn’t had a choice, not really. He’d done it for her, and all the while, he had prayed that the scientist would just have the decency not to come.
So maybe it was his already turbulent emotions that were spiraling out of control, but the more he considered the idea that his family had reveled in laying out Evan’s entire life of bad choices, the angrier he grew, and the angrier he grew, the more he considered it all—a vicious circle, maybe, but one that he was helpless to circumvent.
Evan swung around as Madison let herself into the room. Smiling gently as she wandered toward him, she was the epitome of calm, and, while Evan could usually draw off that sense of tranquility, at the moment, he simply could not. “Hardly,” he grumbled, pivoting to glare out the window once more. “Damn . . .”
“What’s the matter?” she asked, crossing the floor in a whisper of movement. She hadn’t changed into her maid of honor dress, but that wasn’t entirely surprising. She was probably in between tasks of arranging the women’s hair for the big event to come.
“Dunno what you mean,” he muttered.
He didn’t have to see her face to know that she’d probably just rolled her eyes. “I mean, you don’t seem like a guy who’s about to marry the woman of his wet dreams. So, what’s up?”
Evan snorted indelicately. “Were you in on it, too?”
“In on what?”
Flicking a hand in a blatantly dismissive gesture, Evan didn’t entirely trust himself to give voice to his grievance.
Madison sighed and stepped up beside him, and he could feel her questioning gaze, even if he didn’t bother to look directly at her. “I don’t think I was in on anything in particular,” Madison said, carefully measuring her words. “What happened?”
Evan grunted, gave a curt shrug. “Guess the powers-that-be decided to sit V down and tell her every bad thing I’ve ever done,” he replied. “Trying to talk her out of marrying me or something.”
Snapping her mouth closed, Madison slowly shook her head. “No . . . That can’t be. What in the world would be the point in that? Don’t you think—?”
“No, actually, that’s exactly what I do think,” he cut in quietly, his words no less stinging because of the soft timbre of his tone. “Damn it! How fucking low is that, anyway?” he fumed, breaking into a prowling gait as he stomped away, only to return again. “I guess I should have known, right? Always the screw-up, no matter what, right? Bullshit!”
“Oh, Evan, I’m sure that’s not what they were trying to do,” Madison insisted gently. “Don’t let this ruin your big day, okay? You and Valerie are meant to be, and nothing anyone ever says is going to change that.”
Evan snorted again.
Madison sighed. “You’re listening to me, aren’t you? Because I make it a point never to sound like a Hallmark channel movie of the week if I can possibly help it.”
“Oh, Madison! There you are!” Kagome interrupted as she leaned in around the door. “Sorry to interrupt, but Kaci Lea’s ready for her hair.”
Madison nodded, but cast Evan a questioning look before moving. “Are you going to be all right?”
Forcing a smile that he was far from feeling, Evan shrugged noncommittally. “Yep. Better go. Sounds like they need you.”
She didn’t look convinced, but she shot him a little smile and hurriedly kissed his cheek. “I’ll be back to check on you, but don’t you think you should start getting ready, too?”
“Get on out of here,” he replied, jerking his head toward the door. Madison heaved a sigh, but she finally left, pausing just outside the door, she shot Evan an encouraging smile before hurrying away.
“How are you holding up?” Kagome asked, quietly closing the door behind her.
“Me? You kidding? I play sold out stadiums for a living, remember?” He snorted, hoping that Kagome couldn’t see through his bravado. “This ain’t nothing,” he scoffed.
Kagome laughed as she strode over to the opened garment bag hanging on the rack nearby and carefully pulled the pristine white shirt off the padded hanger. “It seems like only yesterday that you were that little, tiny baby that was just happy to be held and cuddled,” she ventured.
Tugging off the tee-shirt he’d dragged on this morning, Evan dropped it on the floor and held out his hand. “That was a long time ago, baa-chan,” he pointed out with a wry grin.
Kagome held out the shirt and adjusted it over his shoulders before stepping around him to fuss with it more, straightening it perfectly. “Not so very long ago; not to me,” she went on, her fingers deftly working the buttons, her eyes trained carefully on what she was doing. Her eyes were bright, and he could smell the hint of tears that she stubbornly held in check despite the gentle smile on her lips.
“You’re not really going to cry, are you?” he teased, lifting an eyebrow to emphasize the question.
She sniffled then laughed. “I can’t help it,” she replied. “I always cry at weddings.” Taking a step back to examine her work, her smile widened as the smell of tears spiked though they did not fall. “I just wanted a moment to tell you how beautiful Valerie is, and I think you and she make a wonderful couple, Evan.”
“Thanks,” he muttered, drawing her into a hug before she could discern the irritation he couldn’t quite shake.
“I’d better go get changed, too,” she said, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “Besides, InuYasha is probably about to start hollering, anyway. He’s been to enough weddings, so you’d think that he’d remember how to tie his own tie, wouldn’t you?”
The smile that Evan managed was a little closer to normal as Kagome hurried out of the room again. Given that InuYasha wasn’t a big fan of tuxedos in general, Evan figured that Kagome was quite right in her estimation.
Letting out a deep breath, Evan shook his head. A thousand memories ran through his head as he strode over to change his pants. Okay, sure, he would admit that the family likely did have more than enough stories to keep themselves busy for a good, long while in discussing everything bad that Evan had ever done, but . . . It still burned him that they’d done such a thing. Telling Valerie all those stories? Just what the hell had they been trying to accomplish, anyway?
“Everything going okay?” Cain asked as he stepped into the room. Already dressed and ready to go, he stuffed a hand deep into his pocket.
Evan shot him a glance as he tucked in the shirt. “Never better, Cain,” he replied tightly, unable to keep the snide edge out of his tone.
“Are you sure?” Cain pressed, a concerned frown surfacing on his features.
“Sure. Why wouldn’t it be?” Evan countered. “You finished trying to sabotage my wedding, or did you think of a few more things you could tell V to convince her not to marry me?”
Cain blinked in surprise and slowly shook his head. “What? What do you mean?”
Evan snorted, yanking the tie off the hanger and jerking it over his head. “Come off it! V told me all about it. Bubby and you just had to do it, right? Make me out to be such an ass that, sure, who in their right fucking mind would marry me? Thanks, Dad. Thanks a lot.”
The surprise in Cain’s expression slowly faded, only to be replaced by a distinctly uncomfortable shifting in his youki. “That really wasn’t what—” he began, only to be cut off by Evan’s loud snort.
“Save it,” he growled, grimacing when the tie in his hands ripped. He hadn’t realized that he was yanking on it so hard, and with a heavy sigh full of self-disgust, he threw the pieces onto the floor. “Goddamn, you know, just because you and Bubby are so fucking perfect doesn’t give you the right to try to ruin things for me.”
Reaching up, tugging at his own bowtie, Cain carefully pulled it loose and held it out to Evan. “That’s not what we were trying to do, Evan, and I’m sorry if you thought we were,” he said as Evan eyed the tie for a moment before snatching it away from his father.
“Yeah, well, don’t fucking worry about it. The last thing I’ll do is embarrass you two in front of everyone,” Evan snapped back.
Cain frowned. “Evan, you’ve never—”
“Forget it,” Evan snarled. “Just go the hell away . . . I promise I’ll be as respectable as you and Bubby today.”
Cain sighed. “You’re always respectable,” he said. Then he turned to go. “You and Valerie . . . I hope that you’re as happy together as your mother and I are.”
Evan watched in the mirror hanging over the dresser as his father left the room. Gaze shifting to his own reflection, he ground his teeth together, fought for a semblance of control over the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him, to no avail. The anger, the bitterness, frothed and roiled even hotter. “Respectable,” he growled, opening and closing his fists around nothing. “Respectable . . .?”
Without a second thought, he grabbed a pair of scissors that were lying on the dresser, and, grasping his hair in the other hand, he lopped the length of it off in one deft snip.
“Here you go.”
Giving Gin a quick smile, Valerie gratefully accepted the delicate mug of tea, careful not to pull too far as Madison meticulously arranged the pile of curls atop her head.
“You look so beautiful,” Gin said, blinking rapidly as a haze of tears washed into her vision. She wasn’t sure why it was that weddings always made her cry. Maybe it was just the memories of her own special day years ago. Cain, she was sure, would tease her about her sentimentality. She simply couldn’t help it, though. There were so many thoughts, running through her mind, and maybe that was natural, too. Visions of Evan through the years: bringing her flowers that he’d picked just for her . . . coming to her with tears in his eyes after Bas had taken off with his friend, leaving Evan behind . . . telling her about his exploits—sneaking out to see local bands in the clubs that he was too young to frequent—telling her stories that he probably shouldn’t have told her, and she hadn’t had the heart to curb her wild-child . . . Those bittersweet moments that were frozen forever in her mind, those years that seemed like mere moments when Gin was the one who Evan loved best . . . Growing up, building a life for himself, becoming a man who could stand on his own . . . All those things were things that Gin cherished, even if the smallest part of her still missed that baby she’d carried over the threshold so many years ago. It was right that he would find someone who would take Gin’s place as the center of Evan’s world, but, staring at the bride as she nervously bit her lip, Gin figured that it was all right, too. Not just any woman would do: not for her boy. She’d felt the same way, back when Bas had gotten married, too. Neither Sydnie nor Valerie was ‘just any woman’, after all . . . Her sons’ mates . . . They’d chosen well.
Gazing at Valerie, Gin couldn’t help but smile. She really was just gorgeous—not that she expected any less for her boys, of course. Bas’ wife, Sydnie, and now Valerie? Both of them had that inner sparkle—the kind of light that shone from the inside out—beautiful spirits that created that incandescence . . .
“As long as Evan agrees,” Valerie ventured with a wry little smile as she turned her head from side to side, examining Madison’s handiwork with a critical eye.
“Agrees?” Rhonda echoed with a quiet laugh and a shake of her head. “That man is absolutely crazy about you. I don’t think it much matters, what you wear today as long as you meet him at two o’clock.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Valerie shot her mother a decidedly nervous little smile, then shifted to face Madison once more. “Maddy, do you think you could go check in with Evan?” she asked. “He’s probably driving whoever’s with him crazy, don’t you think?”
Madison laughed and gathered her bag. “Sure,” she said. “I might as well check in on the guys, anyway. Make sure they’re all up to snuff.”
Kaci Lea stepped quickly into the room, her eyes bright, glowing, as she smiled a little shyly. “Did you have a nice look around, Kaci?” Rhonda asked, raising an eyebrow as she fussed with Valerie’s bouquet.
The girl laughed, her eyes brightening even more as a slight blush rose to her cheeks. “Y-Yeah,” she admitted, ducking her head before giving a tiny shrug. “I was talking to Evan’s cousin, Mikio.”
“Oh? What about?”
“Just stuff . . . He told me about Japanese schools. It’s a lot different from here,” Kaci Lea remarked almost absently as she straightened her dress.
“Mikio . . . Mikio . . .” Rhonda repeated, obviously trying to place the name with the face. It wasn’t surprising, given that so many guests had arrived within the last few days.
“He’s my brother,” Gin supplied, idly rubbing her distended belly.
“Oh!” Rhonda exclaimed, the confusion on her face disintegrating fast. “Oh, he’s just a cutie!”
Kagome laughed as she stepped out of the bathroom, casually messing with one diamond earring. “He’s always been a lot sweeter than his older brothers,” she allowed.
“That’s putting it mildly, Mama,” Gin remarked, wrinkling her nose since she knew quite well, just how rotten her twin brothers really could be.
“You know Kaci Lea-chan, you could always come stay with us for a year, like a student exchange,” Kagome offered.
Kaci Lea looked completely taken aback by Kagome’s offer. “Oh, I . . . I mean, thank you, but . . .”
Kagome laughed and reached over to give Kaci Lea’s arm a reassuring squeeze. “Just think about it. The offer stands. If you change your mind, just let Evan know, and we’ll work something out.”
Kaci Lea didn’t look like she knew just what to think of it, but she nodded slowly.
“Wench! Where the hell did you put my shoes?” InuYasha hollered from the closed side of the door.
Rolling her eyes, Kagome giggled and hurried across the room.
“I’m coming, InuYasha!” she called back as she reached for the doorknob. “Excuse me, ladies.”
Gin caught Valerie’s sidelong gaze, and they both broke out in laughter. “Some things never change,” Gin mused.
Valerie stood up slowly, staring at her reflection in the antique mirror nearby.
“My son made an excellent choice,” Gin mused, stepping over to straighten the veil. It wasn’t quite time to put it on, but it would be soon enough. “I can’t imagine anyone who would be more perfect for him than you are, Valerie, and I’m so happy that you’re about to be a part of our family!”
Blinking at Gin’s softly uttered statement, Valerie blushed as her smile widened. “Thank you,” she replied, her eyes brightening even more.
Gin opened her mouth to reply, but snapped it closed when Madison burst into the room with the oddest expression on her face. She looked like she had something to say, and maybe she didn’t really want to say it, at all, but her gaze flickered to Valerie, and she grimaced. “Uh, V,” she began in a halting tone, like she were attempting to soften whatever she was trying to get out, “umm . . .”
Valerie’s eyes flared wide as her smile faded. Turning to face Madison, she shook her head. “What? What’s going on?” she demanded. “Is everything all right?”
“Well, that’s kind of subjective, really . . .” Madison winced again, twisting her hands together in a decidedly nervous kind of way. “I-It’s Evan,” she hedged, still trying to decide the best way to break whatever it was to the bride. “He got a little . . . Well, he lost his temper, and . . .”
“Maddy . . .” Valerie began in a warning tone.
Heaving a sigh, Madison shook her head. “He kind of . . . cut off his . . . hair . . .”
Valerie stood stock still, unblinking as she stared at Madison, trying to make up her mind whether or not she believed her. “. . . What . . .?”
Biting her lip, Madison gave a helpless little shrug. “He thought that Cain and Bas were trying to sabotage the wedding,” she explained quickly. “That whole thing last night, right? Anyway, I guess he got into it with Cain, and so Evan thought he’d be more respectable if he . . . cut . . . his . . . ha-a-air . . .”
“What?” Valerie hissed, grabbing her skirts as she stomped toward the door.
Rhonda caught her arm and held her back. “Val, now you have to finish getting ready,” she reminded her calmly. “He’s okay . . .” Her gaze shifted to Madison. “. . . Isn’t he?”
Madison shot Valerie a tentative smile. “I fixed it,” she assured her. “He looks very nice; I promise.”
Valerie stared at Madison for several moments before letting her dress drop as she helplessly sank down on the stool once more. “Oh, my God,” she half-groaned. “But I love his hair the way it normally is!”
Gin shook her head, unsure as to what, exactly, Cain and Bas had apparently done. “What did those two do?” she asked, slowly, almost hesitantly. Then again, she, along with most of the women, had been kept quite busy in the kitchen, starting on things for the huge buffet they’d had this morning, so whatever they were discussing must’ve happened then . . .
Valerie sighed, rubbing her forehead in a completely exasperated kind of way. Gin could sense her very real upset, and she couldn’t stop the flattening of her ears, either. After all, a woman’s wedding day should be as perfect as it could possibly be, and getting news like this less than two hours before walking down the aisle? She winced.
“Last night, Cain and Bas—well, not just them, but they started it—sat me down and told me all these stories about Evan,” Valerie admitted. “But I don’t understand. I mean, they seemed to be more amused by it all than anything. I got the impression that they were just looking for a reason to relive those things . . .” She frowned and slowly shook her head. “In fact, they seemed almost . . . proud . . .”
Gin snapped her mouth closed and made a face. That might have been exactly what they were doing, she figured. After all, how often in the past had Cain broken into the vaguest smile over one of Evan’s antics or another, though always behind the closed door of their private room? To be honest, Gin didn’t doubt Valerie’s impression in the least, no, but still, did it matter if that’s not how Evan saw it? And the damage was already done, as far as Evan’s hair was concerned. There was nothing short of time that could rectify that, and nothing outside of a miracle that would fix it before two o’clock, either.
With a determined look on her face, Gin hurried over to the door as quickly as she could move—not exactly fast, really, given the extra weight she was carrying. Grasping Madison’s arm, she didn’t explain as she dragged her along behind.
Gin scowled, but didn’t falter as she headed out the door and down the hallway toward the stairs. “If my Evan cut all his hair off because of his father and brother, then it’s only fair, isn’t it?”
Madison blinked. “Fair?” she echoed, not quite grasping exactly what Gin was alluding do in her muttered statement.
With a very pronounced snort—an entirely odd sound coming from her—she gripped the banister in one hand and, keeping her hold on Madison’s arm with the other, she kept moving forward with a purpose.
Cain and Bas were both in the office, she could tell, and she didn’t stop until she stood in the doorway, pinning each man with a formidable glower that stopped them both, dead in their tracks, their voices dying away as they stared back at her. She didn’t miss the worried little glances they flicked at one another, and she wasn’t entirely surprised when her mate’s gaze lit up with the old traces of worry that always accompanied her pregnancies.
“Bald,” she stated flatly, pointing from Cain to Bas then back again.
Madison choked, her sharp inhalation fairly whistling in the unnatural silence. “B-B-Bald?”
Gin nodded just once, determination igniting behind her gaze. “That’s right,” she reiterated as she crossed her arms over her chest stubbornly, still refusing to back down from her current stance. Then she jerked her head at the men once more before she stated once more, her voice even, controlled—angry, “You heard me, Madison. Bald.”
‘My Lucky Day‘by Bruce Springsteen originally appeared on the 2009 release, Working on a Dream. Copyrighted to Bruce Springsteen.
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cutechick18 ——— gin-hayashi85 ——— mariea ——— OROsan0677 ——— Kats ——— Thayet ——— Celebrian ———
Final Thought from Madison:
… Bald …?
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.