First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
Dave broke down the process of standing up into steps. First, he got onto his hands and knees. The small movement ignited the pain in his back. It felt like he’d gotten lashed by a bullwhip that had been soaked in gasoline and set on fire. Except that metaphor didn’t work, because it was less extreme than what had actually happened. He should probably just stick to the truth: he felt like he’d gotten mauled by spinning helicopter blades.
He lifted himself into a kneeling position, pausing to give himself a rest. In case he’d forgotten his fight with Giordano, his cheek and ribs throbbed in reminder. He put his right foot flat on the floor, and by the time he’d finally managed to stand, Val was walking back from the crashed helicopter. Strands of black hair had come undone from her ponytail, and her eyes were red-rimmed from the tear gas, but her smile shone like the sun.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Fine. You finished your chat?”
“Yeah.” Her smile fell a bit. “It went alright, I guess. It’s funny. After I finished my piece, I expected Blueblood and the helicopter to finally fall dramatically off the side of the building, but he’s still hanging in there…” She glanced back to where the helicopter was on its side, teetering on the edge of the roof. Blueblood was indeed still hanging in there. He couldn’t climb out of the skyward facing door, but he clung to the side of it, shouting misogynistic slurs Val’s way. “It’s kind of awkward,” she finished.
“Yeah,” Dave grunted. He gathered himself and marched for the helicopter.
Val grabbed his arm. “What are you doing?”
Dave stopped, knowing that with his strength, he’d break free of her grip more forcefully than he wanted otherwise. “Saving his life.”
“That’s a horrible idea.”
“It’s literally my job.”
Val put a hand to the side of her head, clutching her hair. “Are you out of your mind? You can’t just reach out a hand and pull him to safety. He’ll kill you out of spite. Believe me. You don’t know him like I do.”
Dave nodded. That was reasonable. “I won’t touch him, then.”
He strode across the roof, Val sputtering behind him like she had too many criticisms to know where to start. When he got closer to the helicopter, he slowed, debating the best approach. The vehicle lay on its side like a wounded bird, the head halfway out over the drop and the tail sticking out over the roof. Dave took Val’s warning to heart and didn’t want to get close enough for Blueblood to touch him. The man was spitting a stream of expletives that made Dave want to wash out his mouth with soap.
Dave gripped the tail of the helicopter near the base and used it as a handle to pull. The side of the vehicle scraped against the roof as he dragged it, the strain making the muscles of his back scream in protest. Blueblood’s swearing cut off in surprise as the helicopter slowly inched away from the brink.
Then there was an awful metal screech, and the helicopter’s tail snapped right off.
Dave stumbled back, holding the broken tail. Blueblood screamed as the helicopter tipped and began to fall. Dave dropped the tail and lunged forward. He made a grab for the helicopter and got hold of the landing gear. That tore off, too. The vehicle plummeted over the side, and after a long second of silence, a massive crash echoed up from the ground. Dave stared forward at the place the helicopter had been only a couple of seconds before. He couldn’t move.
Val burst into laughter. “Oh my God. That was amazing. Did you see his face?”
Dave threw the chunk of landing gear in his hand to the floor. “It’s not funny.”
“No, it’s hilarious,” she said, clutching her sides as she kept laughing.
Dave walked to the edge of the roof and looked down. The wreckage was there, as expected, and the small forms of emergency personnel far below were rushing up to it.
Val walked up behind him. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, too.”
He turned away from the edge and stalked past her.
“Dave,” she said, and when he didn’t stop, she chased after him. “Dave. I’m not laughing at you. Blueblood was a bastard. Do you know what it feels like when he uses his powers on you? Because I found out when he tried to kill me, and let me tell you, it’s not pleasant.”
“What?” Dave stopped, turned, and looked her up and down. “Are you—”
“I’m fine. I got lucky.” She tucked a free strand of hair back. “Well, I like to think I made my own luck. But what you heard was laughter of relief that he’s dead. I—” She paused. “I’m glad you were here.”
“I’m glad, too,” he said, thinking of what the crashing helicopter would have done to her if he hadn’t been.
The wind carried the sound of distant sirens up to them, and Val glanced towards the edge of the roof. “And this is the part where I make my cunning escape.” She kissed him on the cheek so quickly that Dave didn’t register it until she pulled away. “Do me a favor and get distracted by something, okay?”
It almost worked, but Dave grabbed her wrist before she got more than two steps away. She stopped and gave him a heavy-lidded glance over her shoulder. “You’re going to bring me in?”
Dave’s heartrate sped up like he was dashing up the stairs again. “That disk in your hand,” he said, “It’s the List, isn’t it?”
Her fingers tightened around the case, and she shrugged, as if to say, “Yeah. So what?”
“I can’t let you take it.”
She turned back around to face him, and he released her wrist. “Is this about duty again?” she asked.
“If the names on that list go public, people—families are going to get hurt.”
“Maybe I won’t take it public. Maybe I’ll give the DSA the chance to buy it back first.” She held up the disc appraisingly. “Let’s say for three million dollars. That’s a bargain.”
“And you can guarantee someone like Mr. Lucifer won’t look at the contents?”
The hand holding the disc flopped back down to her side. “The only reason I went along with Blueblood’s moronic plan today was to get this disc. If I give it back, then it was all meaningless.”
Dave wanted to say that if she got away with the disc, it would make the suffering of all the agents and security guards who’d tried to stop her meaningless, but somehow, he didn’t think that would convince her. He wasn’t sure if there was anything he could say that would convince her.
“Please.” His voice came out gruff. “This is important to me.”
“Why the hell should I care?”
Dave broke eye contact and stepped back. Of course she didn’t care. Of course she didn’t. She was playing a game, and he was an idiot to think it was anything more than that. His limbs felt numb, and he pretended to find the view over the side of the building interesting. Part of him wanted to jump off it. He’d spent so long consumed with thoughts of her, wondering what she was up to and fantasizing about what might be possible if things were different between them. He’d thought she’d felt something similar. That kiss in the hospital had been incredible.
But it must not have meant anything to her. Or maybe she’d gotten over it during the past couple months. Or—and this was the most likely option—she’d been playing him for a fool from the start. He really was the “dumb muscle” stereotype, wasn’t he? He ought to—
Something jabbed into his ribs.
Dave glanced down. The disc. Val’s mouth was twisted, and she wasn’t looking at him. Her whole body was angled away from him, but she held out the disc. Was this…? She couldn’t mean what he thought she did, could she?
When he didn’t move, she pushed it at him again.
“Take it,” she growled. “Before I change my mind.”
Dave took it, staring at it in his hand for a moment before turning his awed gaze to her. It took him two tries before he could say, “Thank you.”
She turned her back on him and crossed her arms. “You looked like a kicked puppy. I couldn’t help it. So much for my nefarious plan to find out your last name and where you live.”
“It’s Del Toro,” he said before he could have second thoughts. “And I have an apartment in Brookland.”
Val turned back around. Her eyes searched him up and down before she gave a small, delighted smile. Dave could barely string two thoughts together. He’d just leapt off a cliff and was still trying to orient himself as he fell. It was a fantastic view on the way down, though.
“I really need to go,” she said. “I’ll see you around.”
Dave hoped so.
Wave goodbye to Blueblood, everybody. That’s the last you’ll ever see him. What do you think of his untimely demise?
This is pretty much the end of the story. I have a few more scenes left to tie up some loose ends, but the main plot is over. Don’t leave yet, though! There are three updates left, and you can expect the next one on next Monday as usual.