~A Purity Short~
.:December 24, 2074:.
Sebastian Zelig strode into the living room with the small red toolbox—Sydnie's toolbox, actually—in hand, only to stop short when his golden gaze lit on his brother. Sure, he was used to Evan Zelig's penchant for wearing the weirdest clothes at the most inopportune times. That didn't mean that Bas wasn't caught off guard by the little miscreant every so often, just the same . . . "What the hell are you wearing?" he asked in what could only be described as a bald tone of voice.
Evan blinked and glanced down for a moment, as though he couldn't rightfully ascertain exactly what Bas was referring to. With a wide, rather stupid grin, he lifted his gaze to meet Bas' once more and shrugged. "Oh, this?" he asked, shifting his eyes downward once more before laughing outright at the raised eyebrow-ed look he was garnering from his sibling. "Awesome, right?"
Bas snorted without changing his expression. "If you say so, you twisted little monkey," he replied without changing expression.
"Yeah, but did you see V's shirt?" Evan pressed, slipping an arm around Valerie's shoulders and tugging her coat open with his free hand.
Bas snapped his mouth closed and slowly shook his head, figuring that there really just wasn't much he could say about that, all things considered.
Beside him, Evan's ever-embattled wife heaved a sigh and slowly shook her head. "He whined until I agreed to wear it," she stated in an almost apologetic kind of way as she gestured at the bright pink shirt that said, "One in the Oven," along with an arrow that pointed down where her baby belly was just slightly showing.
But it wasn't Valerie's shirt that made Bas question his younger brother's sanity, no. It was Evan's that proudly proclaimed, "I Put It In There," along with an arrow that pointed at Valerie that did . . .
Evan's already wide grin widened even more. "I know, right?" Suddenly, he snapped his fingers, eyes flaring as he waved a hand at his brother. "Totally cool, eh?" he exclaimed.
"That's just proof that there's something wrong with you," Bas muttered. "I thought she was better at curbing your astounding lack of impulse control."
Evan laughed gleefully while Valerie snorted and wrinkled her nose. "I did mention that he was whining, right? Do you have any idea how annoying it is when he starts whining?" She seemed to consider what she'd just said and held up a hand to stop Bas before he could answer. "Well, that was a dumb question. You've been his brother a hell of a lot longer than I've been his wife, so of course you do."
"Yeah, but you love me," Evan countered, looking more and more like a completely besotted monkey by the second.
"Do I?" she countered dryly, arching an eyebrow as she gave one token shrug in a pathetic attempt to shake Evan's arm off her shoulders.
Somehow, it just didn't surprise Bas at all when Evan whipped out his cell phone and hit a button that started a looped recording of Valerie. "I love you, Evan . . . I love you, Evan . . . I love you, Evan . . ."
"Give me that," she grumbled, making a mad swipe in a vain effort to get the device out of Evan's hands.
He cackled and held it up out of her reach. "Forget it, woman! It's mine!"
She sighed and shot Bas a very droll look.
"We tried to warn you, Valerie," he muttered with a shake of his head.
Evan laughed outright as he leaned in to smack a loud, obnoxious kiss on Valerie's cheek while she planted one palm in the middle of his face to shove him away while trying to grab the phone out of his hand at the same time. "I swear to God, Roka, I'm going to erase that—and I'm never saying it again," she warned.
"You don't have to, baby. I know you love me," he replied in a magnanimous tone of voice. "Besides, I have the soundbite saved on hard disc, too."
For a moment, she looked a bit exasperated. Then she smiled and leaned over to kiss Evan on the cheek. "You're such a weird-o; did you know?"
"I know," Evan quipped, returning the favor, only much louder and much more obnoxiously. "I can't help it. I just like for everyone to know that I get to fu—"
"Finish that and die, Evan," Bas growled, smacking Evan upside the head as he glanced rather pointedly at the two giggling girls peering around the corner of the archway that led into the living room. When Olivia caught her father's glance, she giggled louder and dashed out of view again. Takara— Bas, Evan, and Jillian's two-and-a-half year-old aunt—followed suit, and Bas wasn't entirely surprised to hear a very loud grunt a few minutes later as the children hurled their little bodies onto the nearest target—Takara's father, InuYasha, judging from the sound of it . . .
Evan laughed, but suddenly, he grimaced as he nodded at the small toolbox in Bas' hand. "Some assembly required?" he asked with a slow shake of his head.
Bas chuckled. "Yeah, something like that," he allowed with a good-natured shrug.
Evan didn't look quite as amused. "Yeah, well, don't let Cain anywhere near it," he warned.
Bas snorted but nodded. "I know," he agreed. "Don't worry about it."
"Why not?" Valerie asked innocently.
Both men turned to stare at her for a long moment. She honestly looked like she didn't have a clue, why anyone would say something like that. Still, it was hard to believe that Evan hadn't told her The Story, but if he hadn't . . . well, Bas wasn't about to be the one to do that, either . . .
"Are you tired, baby? You want to lie down for a little while?" Evan asked abruptly, casting his wife a bright smile in the hopes that he could cover up his desire to change the subject.
"I feel fine," she insisted, waving off his concern with a flick of her wrist. "So tell me why you'd say that your brother needs to keep your father away from whatever Bas is going to put together?"
Evan's grin widened as he slipped an arm around Valerie's waist and paused long enough to plant a loud, obnoxious kiss on her cheek. "Because Cain and tools don't get along together very well," he replied simply.
"What? Are you kidding?" Valerie scoffed with a snort. "Your dad's good with his hands—he's a sculptor, for God's sake!"
It was Bas' turn to make a face as he quickly shook his head. "There's a huge difference between using his claws and using a screwdriver," he pointed out mildly. "Anyway, if I don't get moving, I'll be up half the night putting this stuff together, so as much fun as it's been, Evan . . ."
Valerie sighed but let it drop as Evan tugged her off toward the archway that led into the bright and airy living room, and with that, Bas took to the stairs, two at a time, fully prepared to do battle with the small mountain of toys in the guest room where he and Sydnie had been stashing them for weeks.
"Damn, you look good with a baby in your arms, V," Evan mused as he sank down on the sofa beside her. Valerie giggled but didn't take her eyes off the tiny infant.
"She is so sweet," Valerie commented instead with a contented little sigh. "But I can't get over the idea that she doesn't look at all like your mother or your father."
Evan laughed. "That's because Mama got it on with the milkman," he leered as he leaned in to kiss the baby's head.
Valerie rolled her eyes and smacked Evan's shoulder with the back of her hand. "She looks like your grandma, right?"
This time, Evan sighed, his usually ebullient demeanor dimming by degrees as he sat back and pulled Valerie close against his side. "So they say," he remarked with an offhanded shrug. "Grandma . . . She died when Cain was a pup."
Valerie nodded slowly and carefully shifted the infant so that she was between them. "Your dad doesn't remember her, does he?"
"He remembers some stuff," Evan said, scratching his chin almost thoughtfully. Then he shrugged. "He remembers the important shit, anyway."
He glanced around, as though he were afraid of being overheard, before he answered. "Stuff like the way she sounded when she laughed—important, you know?"
Nodding slowly, Valerie smiled. "That's a good memory," she allowed.
Sparing a moment to plant a loud, obnoxious kiss on her cheek, Evan shot her a cheesy grin. "But the milkman thing sounds way better, and Cain ha-a-a-ates it, so double score, if you ask me."
She rolled her eyes, but remained silent. Gin and Cain had both been baffled when this baby was born, complete with fuzzy tufts of reddish-brown hair and vibrant lavender eyes—eyes almost as pale as Jillian's but without the hint of aqua—a cool, crisp, clear winter-ish color that brought to mind the haze of the thinnest layer of ice. They'd discussed naming her Heather, but when Ben Philips, Cain's best friend as well as head general, had seen the girl, he'd fallen strangely silent, and then, to everyone's surprise, he'd cleared his throat gruffly a few times, wiped at his eye in an entirely suspect sort of way, and had quietly said that she was the spitting image of Cain's mother.
Valerie figured that made sense since it had been said that Cain took after his father in looks—as did the twin boys that were born shortly after their sister made her grand entrance into the world. Hayden and Connor were a bit smaller than their sister and had to stay in the hospital for a week after they were born, and Cain had been shocked enough when he was told that she was carrying twins. The boys, they'd known about. The girl had been a complete surprise to everyone.
Anyway, the boys were actually identical twins—identical to Cain, as well, who, she had been told, looked like his father, right down to the bright blue eyes, even if Bas had actually gained more of his grandfather's looks in build and stature.
It somehow seemed poetic, in a way. Gin had sniffled as she stared at her daughter, and then she'd quietly said that the girl's name was Akinako Daniella, named after Cain's mother. Cain had just hugged his wife with one arm while his new daughter held tight to his thumb, as he'd cuddled one of his sons in his free arm while Gin managed to hold the other as well as the newborn girl. Then he'd kissed Gin on the forehead in an infinitely gentle sort of way and smiled.
The triplets were easily the tiniest babies that Valerie had ever seen. At birth, Daniella weight five and a half pounds while the boys were a bit smaller at just over five pounds each. Now, almost a month later, they had each gained at least a pound, but the thing that had surprised Valerie was when Gin had said that, triplets aside, Evan was the smallest of her children at birth. Apparently, he'd weighed a whole six pounds, two ounces at birth, not that anyone would know that by looking at him now. Well over six-and-a-half feet tall with the build to go along with it, it was hard enough to try to imagine him as an infant, let alone as a tiny one, at that.
Gin hurried into the room with a fluffy pink blanket tossed over one arm and one of the boys—Valerie wasn't sure which one—and when she spotted her daughter, her already friendly smile widened. "Oh, she's sleeping! I guess she doesn't need me at the moment, after all," she said in a hushed stage whisper, then she sighed happily. "I love having the whole family here," she remarked idly and to no one in particular, "and next year, there'll be another sweet face, too!"
Evan chuckled and wrapped his arms securely around his mate before landing a very loud, very obnoxious kiss on her cheek. "That's right!" he agreed happily. "Bo Diddley Zelig!"
Valerie rolled her eyes again and reached up to tug on a long lock of Evan's hair. It was currently a lovely shade of bronze—something that she figured he'd done expressly to irritate his father. "You're so much cuter when you don't speak," she informed him dryly.
His answer was a quick squeeze and a nuzzle against her neck. "You gotta admit, it's better than Jimi Hendricks Zelig."
"I'm not naming my child after a dead rock star, Roka, no matter what you or my father might suggest."
"Oh, that reminds me," Gin cut in suddenly as she sank down on the edge of the coffee table in front of them. "You're father . . . He's doing better, right?"
Valerie nodded and ignored Evan's antics in favor of talking to Gin, instead. "He's doing all right since he's been seeing that specialist," she said with a wan smile. "I mean, he's not really getting better, but they have managed to slow down the deterioration of his condition."
Gin's friendly smile dimmed as she bit her lip and slowly shook her head. "I'm so sorry that there isn't more that we can do," she said quietly, very obviously distressed by the fact that the best they had been able to offer was in getting her father in to the highly sought-out Dr. Yatstone.
"You've done more than enough," she insisted, leaning forward to pat Gin's hand gently. "He never would have gotten in to see Dr. Yatstone if you hadn't called him for us."
Gin still didn't look like she was convinced, but she tried to smile, pathetic as the attempt was. "Even so . . ." Trailing off for a moment, she looked like she was considering what she was about to say, but finally, she sighed and shrugged her thin shoulders. "I really wouldn't have been offended if you had chosen to be with them this year," she finally said. "I mean, they're your family, Valerie, and family is important . . ."
Valerie laughed and quickly shook her head. "Oh, no, not this year," she assured Gin. "To tell the truth, Evan and I had thought about driving down to Kentucky, but Mom and Daddy decided that they'd rather go on a little vacation of their own—their first, really . . . Daddy said it was more of a very belated honeymoon, and apparently—his words, not mine—'kids' weren't invited."
Evan chuckled and rolled his eyes at the dryness that had entered Valerie's tone. "And would you want to drag your pups along on a honeymoon?" he drawled, quirking an eyebrow pointedly.
"No, I suppose I wouldn't," she allowed grudgingly.
That seemed to perk Gin right up, though, and her smile reflected her emotions. "Is that right? Oh, where did they go?"
"They're borrowing Evan's beach house," Valerie admitted.
"That sounds so nice! But what about your father? Does he know how to sail?"
"Don't worry, Mama," Evan interrupted. "I hired someone to stay out there on the yacht in case they should need anything at all."
Gin considered that and must have approved because she finally nodded resolutely. "You always think of everything! So thoughtful, just like your father!"
Evan snorted loudly, likely at the comparison and just as likely out of pure habit. "About as alike as daylight and dark," he muttered under his breath.
Gin wrinkled her nose but ignored Evan's assessment as she leaned toward Valerie once more. "What about your brother and sister?" she went on. "Are they staying alone?"
"Well, not exactly," Valerie said. "They went with Mom and Daddy, but they're staying on the main island."
"And having a fantastic time, I'm sure," Evan helpfully added as he scooped his brother out of Gin's arms.
Valerie nodded slowly. "Even if Kaci Lea is spending the whole time in her room, studying."
"Do you really think she's doing that, V?" Evan countered mildly.
Valerie shrugged. "That's what she said, and I wouldn't really put it past her, no . . . That girl takes school even more seriously than I did after I straightened up—and that's saying a lot, if you ask me."
"It's unnatural to take school so seriously. If you do, your brain turns to mush." Evan sat up a little straighter and grinned. "So is that what happened to Bubby?"
"Your brother takes everything seriously," Gin said.
Evan nodded. "Yeah, I know," he told her.
"That reminds me . . . Speaking of Sebastian, Evan, have you seen him lately?"
Evan shifted his eyes away long enough to grin at his mother. "Not since we got here. Said he had some assembly work to do."
A very pronounced snort cut off Gin's response as InuYasha Izayoi stomped into the room and straight past his daughter, stopping only when he'd reached Evan and Valerie—and his apparent target, Daniella. "As long as he don't ask that damned Zelig to help him," he grumbled, the tone of his voice completely at odds with the gentleness with which he took the infant from them and lifted her to his shoulder.
"Now, Papa," Gin said soothingly, "Cain's good at a lot of things. Putting together toys just doesn't seem to be his forte, that's all."
InuYasha snorted again. "That's putting it mildly," he scoffed as he retrieved Hayden and headed out of the living room.
Gin giggled. "Where are you going?" she called after him. "I was going to feed her soon."
"Take it up with the wench," he tossed back without stopping. "Sent me on a baby run . . ."
"Is that where Connor is?" she asked, raising her voice to follow her father.
InuYasha snorted, which, in Valerie's estimation, meant 'yes'. Gin's giggles escalated as she watched her father disappear through the archway with her children in his arms.
Valerie frowned. "That's the second time that someone's alluded to the idea that Cain shouldn't help with putting toys together," she pointed out bluntly. "Why is that?"
Gin blinked and snapped her mouth closed as a tell-tale blush dusted her cheeks. "W-We-e-e-e-ell," she drawled, folding her hands together and slipping them over her knees as she scrunched up her shoulders in a decidedly nervous, almost apologetic kind of way. "We're not really allowed to talk about it."
Valerie's frown deepened into a scowl of concentration. "But that's—"
"Sorry, baby," Evan cut in, sounding anything but contrite. "That's how it is."
"Don't be silly," Valerie scoffed. "Surely you can just tell me the gist of it, can't you?"
"In a word? Nope. According to Cain, it never happened."
Gin tapped her chin thoughtfully. "What is it he calls it again?"
Evan chuckled. "The Un-Christmas, Mama."
"That's right," she said, her eyes widening as she pointed a finger at her son. "The Un-Christmas."
"The Un-Christmas?" Valerie echoed, shaking her head slowly. "What does that mean?"