Val was having a surprisingly good time. Nobody ever associated hospitals with fun, but for a telepath like her, they could be particularly unpleasant. (Try blocking out the thoughts and sensations of the patient in the next room having a colonoscopy sometime. Not fun.) She had the exatrin in her system to thank for a peaceful headspace, but the main reason for her good mood was Dave.
He’d gotten her popcorn. Just a small bag of white cheddar popcorn from the vending machine outside, but it gave the room a movie theater atmosphere as they watched the soap opera. He kept up a running commentary for her, explaining backstory from previous episodes and translating dialogue she didn’t understand. (Spanish was close enough to Italian that she could get the gist of it most of the time, but she’d never studied the language.) The show was ridiculous but strangely enthralling—or maybe that was the company. She doubted it would be as much fun watching by herself. In any case, the credits rolled far too soon.
“You didn’t tell me it ended on a cliffhanger,” Val accused. “What happens next? Do they prove Maricruz is innocent?”
“Eventually. I think she spends the next three or four episodes in prison, though. Concha ends up in there, too.”
“What? No. Concha was my favorite.”
He gave her a strange look. “She just tried to poison her own husband.”
Val laughed. “I know. She’s so ambitious. I love her.” She turned down the volume as the TV went to commercial. “So who’s your favorite character? Don’t tell me it’s whatshisname the billionaire superhero love interest.”
“First off, he’s a vigilante, not a superhero.” Dave crossed his arms. “Secondly, no, Juan Claudio is a dope. I always liked Maricruz best.”
“Hmm.” Val took a moment to consider the implications. Was that the kind of woman Dave liked? Sweet and innocent like Maricruz?
“I assume they get together in the end?” she asked.
“Maricruz and Juan Claudio? Yeah, if I remember right, they end up having twins.”
“Does she sleep with him or his vigilante alter-ego first?”
A faint, delightful blush spread across his face. Did the mere mention of sex really ruffle him so much? Oh, that made her want to do awful, awful things to him. She could heat up his face so much more intensely.
“Um, I don’t exactly remember.”
“I bet he’s rougher in vigilante-mode,” she said. “Probably keeps his mask on, too. Not that I can judge. I’ve done that a few times myself.”
Val would have stretched seductively at this point, but with the stitches in her side, that would probably leave her in tears. She settled for a teasing smile and counted on the fact that she lay in a bed to spur his imagination.
“He probably keeps it on,” Dave agreed after a moment, carefully avoiding her eyes. “I don’t think he tells her who he is for two seasons after, either.”
“You sound disapproving.”
“It shows a lack of trust and respect.”
Interesting. Val angled herself up straighter. “I thought you hero types liked your secret identities. Would you have told her?”
“If I was serious about her or planning on becoming serious.”
“How many women have you told, then?”
Another quick glance at her eyes. “Um. None so far.”
Excellent. No serious girlfriend, then. That was unexpected but welcome information.
She grinned. “You told me your real name.”
“No, I didn’t. You found it out by reading Agent Lee’s mind.”
“Hmm, I guess that’s right. You didn’t deny it, though.”
His smile was slow and crooked. “No, I guess I didn’t.”
The phone on the bedside table rang, and Val glared at it for interrupting. Dave answered, and it soon became apparent from his side of the conversation that he was talking to someone from the DSA. By the time he said “Yes, understood.” and hung up, his expression had gone back to professional and reserved.
“You’ll be free to go in a moment,” he informed her. “They’re faxing over some papers for you to sign. I’ll be right back with them.”
A flurry of activity followed. Val made a few calls while he was out of the room. He came back with the promised papers and the legal okay for her to leave. Then the doctor came by for another look at her stitches and gave her the medical okay to be released. It was all tedious and tiring and made her wish she could just go back to watching soap operas with Dave. But that moment had passed. He politely but disappointingly stepped out of the room as she got dressed. (Her shorts were bloodstained, and the belly shirt wasn’t the best look with the huge bandage she sported.) She opened the door for him when she was finished.
“Do you even have to stay?” she asked. “I thought I was a free woman.”
He stepped back inside and looked around the room. Was it her imagination or did he look wistful? Damn the exatrin in her system.
“The staff was told I’m here to protect them from you. If I just walked out and left you, it would be…alarming.”
“And we can’t have anyone being alarmed, now can we?”
He didn’t return her smile. The way he stood reminded her of a soldier at parade rest. “Do you need a ride?” he asked.
“I’ve got one waiting outside.”
“Right. I guess this is goodbye, then.”
Val’s breaths shortened. Would he really let it end between them just like that? Before it had even gotten started? She’d never been an expert at reading body language or facial expressions. With her powers, she didn’t need to be. But staring up at his face, she thought she saw the same emotions she felt reflected back at her in his brown eyes.
“Is it?” she whispered.
And she kissed him.
I kind of want the soap opera Dave and Val are watching to actually exist so I can laugh at it. I bet it would be the cheesiest thing ever. What tropes do you think would work best in a superhero soap opera fusion? I think characters would be lying to each other left and right. And betrayals. There would be so many dramatic betrayals.