A/N: A recount of the final battle of "Don't Judge A Girl By Her Cover," told in Zach's POV, with a little extra scene added on. :) Enjoy!
What Happened After
The night blurred in my mind. Unfortunately, not everything was covered in the haze of disbelief; there were some things my photographic mind wouldn't allow me to forget. For instance, I could recall with excruciating clarity the minute my fears were confirmed—the minute the van swerved away from Macey and headed straight towards my Gallagher Girl.
I remembered that damn van blocking my way as I ran after her. But never let it be said that a Blackthorne Boy allowed something as simple as a van to stop him from reaching his destination in a timely manner.
Unfortunately for her, my timely manner wasn't quick enough. I remembered the fight she put up even as I sprinted towards her. I knew what she was capable of, but considering the limited time she had to comprehend her situation, she called on her training so flawlessly that I felt a tinge of surprise.
I recalled thanking whoever was listening that Cammie had figured out the uneven odds against her, and had chosen flight rather than fight.
I remember the burn in my chest as I pushed my legs to their limit, trying to reach her even as a large man grabbed her around the waist and stuck a rag over her nose and mouth. But my Gallagher Girl fought hard even then, even as he knocked her to the ground with a sickening thud that replays in my mind too often for my liking.
After that, the memories start to blur. I think I tackled the large man in a moment of rage, something my teachers wouldn't have been proud of. He went down on top of Cammie, and a buddy I hadn't seen turned his attention to me. As we fought, Cammie somehow freed herself from the rag on her face, and her attacker's bloody nose was like a snapshot in my mind. Even as I blocked and punched my opponent, I felt nothing but pride; that was my Gallagher Girl, never giving up.
Then she was being dragged, limp, back to that damn van again, and I knew time had run out. My horror was confirmed as a shot echoed through the streets and Cammie's aunt fell. In a flash, Cammie was on her feet and lashing out in a way that only cold fear and adrenaline could spur, and the man who'd fired the shot was effectively taken out.
For a split moment, I foolishly thought everything would be okay. After all, my Gallagher Girl was standing, had defeated her opponent and was triumphant.
I was quickly corrected when she collapsed to the ground a moment later, trying to crawl to her still aunt. At some point, I must have beaten the man I was sparring with, because the next thing I knew I was a lot closer to Cammie. Soloman came from somewhere, reminding me that although this scene was horrible, it would soon be under control.
I wasn't expecting him to snap at me, "Get her out of here!"
Luckily for me, my body registered the words even when my mind flailed, and a moment later I had her hand and was pulling her to her feet. She fought, and I'll never forget the fear and anger in her eyes as she whirled on me.
Time stilled, and I gave her a slight tug, "Gallagher Girl," I said clearly, because the nickname was the only way I could think of to get her attention. It worked, her eyes clearing slightly as she seemed to register that it was me holding her hand. "Run."
And then I was pulling her along, away from the fight and back to the safety of the hotel. Past Gallagher alumni were pouring from the building, descending on the scene.
I nearly faltered when I heard her choke, "Abby," but a good spy doesn't stop for anything once he has a goal in mind. And just then, my goal was getting Cammie somewhere safe, which was anywhere but here. Shots were fired somewhere behind us.
Suddenly enough to make my pace screech to a halt, a masked man intercepted us, clearly intent on stopping our progress. Cammie ran into my shoulder, and I tightened my grasp on her hand to keep her from falling as I glared at him. As if I'd let you hurt her.
But he simply stared at me in wide disbelief, and I knew exactly why. When he said, incredulously, "You?" I could do nothing but watch him, my body in front of Cammie's to protect her in case this man decided to do something stupid. His gaze flickered from me to her, and then he turned and fled.
I wasn't exactly surprised, but my face was smooth when I heard Mrs. Morgan charging up to us, all but tackling her daughter into the protective darkness of a nearby alleyway. Her hand was wrenched from mine, and without thinking I followed the two, kneeling beside a dazed Cammie as her mother glanced at me sharply, "Keep her safe," she told me before running through the wall of Gallagher alumni and Secret Service agents forming a protective barrier around us.
Cammie kept crying her aunt's name, struggling to sit up and move past me. I didn't need Soloman's loud order of, "Keep her down!" to know that she obviously couldn't go back out there. I tried to comfort her, but I'm pretty sure my comments went in one ear and out the other as she stared blankly through the wall of bodies at her possibly-dying aunt.
But the night took its toll, and Soloman's final warning rang in the dark alley as she slumped against the wall in defeat:
"They won't stop until they get her."
Over my dead body.
Eventually, the wall of agents broke off and hovered nearby as Soloman and Mrs. Morgan came to retrieve Cammie. I trailed after them, worried about my Gallagher Girl—I realized she had dealt with serious trauma tonight, and I wanted her out of the haze she was sinking into. I never wanted her to be in so much anguish again.
But the paramedics loading her into an ambulance were in for a surprise; my Gallagher Girl still had some fight in her, something she proved quite effectively as she punched a man trying to check her vitals. It would have been funny if it weren't so serious. Soloman turned to me as a second paramedic yelled, "She's hysterical!"
"Zach, you'd better get back to Blackthorne," his voice was quiet, and he glanced over his shoulder for a moment to watch Mrs. Morgan striding up to the paramedics and distributing orders.
I followed his gaze, but Cammie was what took up my vision. I shook my head vehemently, "I'm coming with you."
Soloman stared down at me in disbelief and irritation, "She's going back to the Gallagher Academy, which is no place for you."
In other words, I was a Blackthorne Boy, and we didn't intermingle unless a school-wide exchange program was involved. I folded my arms and didn't budge; going head-to-head with Soloman was quite possibly punishable by death, but Cammie was worth it. Even if she didn't know I felt that way.
"I'm not going back to Blackthorne."
"Yes, you are," Soloman's voice had a steel edge, and I wondered for a moment how he was willing to back up his words. A simple cuff on the neck? Or Chinese water torture in a dungeon somewhere in the Middle East?
He must have seen that I wasn't backing down either way, because he sighed heavily and said quietly, "I'll send word when all this is over, all right?"
And looking at his firm expression, I knew I was going to have to be happy with that. Deciding that it was better than nothing, I nodded slowly and began backing away, "I'm holding you to that, Soloman."
He scowled at me and turned away, back to Mrs. Morgan and Cammie, back to life at the Gallagher Academy. As I watched my Gallagher Girl, unconscious now, get loaded into the ambulance, I couldn't help but think of how she turned my life upside-down. I could only hope that she still trusted me enough to keep doing just that.
I waited two weeks to hear word from Soloman before deciding to take matters into my own hands. He might have fully intended to let me know the going-ons at the Academy, but I didn't feel like waiting any more than I already had. No one could accuse me of being impatient, but there was a line.
I figured that visiting the Academy in person was my last resort; I didn't want to seem too needy and just randomly show up on their doorstep, even if the look on Cammie's face might have been worth it. But I'd spent over half a year pretending I didn't care that much about my Gallagher Girl. I wasn't about to break that record now.
So I started with the first logical lead—the aunt. I'd only spoken to her a few times, but I knew her name, and that was all Jonas needed to hack into all the patient files of every hospital in the DC area. He hit gold in the CIA's database; as a Secret Service agent hit in the line of duty, she'd of course been admitted into the best military hospital there was and had gotten treatment from the best surgeons and doctors around.
She'd make a full recovery, and knowing that eased some tension in my heart. It was obvious that Cammie cared deeply for her aunt, and she would have been heartbroken if the gunshot had been fatal. I recalled the haunted look in her eyes as she watched her aunt bleeding on the street, and I held back a shudder. Yes, the last thing Cammie needed was to deal with another family death.
I made a trip to visit Abby, calling up on several points of my spy training to get to her room undetected. She was awake and watching a soap opera on TV when I slipped into her bedroom from a nearby window. She glanced at me in mild surprise, "It's a lot of trouble to scale a building just to see me."
I remembered then that Abby didn't exactly like me, and I couldn't really blame her. I kept a lot of information from her when we had talked, and she hadn't liked it. That, and she'd observed my interactions with her niece more times than Cammie realized. Judging by the scornful gaze she was giving me now, I figured she hadn't exactly liked what she'd seen.
"How are you doing?" I asked, even though I knew she got discharged from the hospital in two days.
"I'll live," she replied.
We sat in silence for a moment before Abby nodded to a small closet by her bathroom, "Your jacket's in there. They thought it was mine, since my blood was all over it."
I raised my eyebrows and said, "Uh, no thanks. You can keep it."
She obviously thought that statement was hilarious, because she laughed and said, "Don't be a wimp. They washed it."
"Oh," I suddenly got an idea, and grinned slightly. "Actually, can you give it to Cammie the next time you see her?"
Her look was full of pity, and she appraised me with the expression of someone studying a three-legged dog, "Oh, honey, you don't know…"
My blood ran cold. To say I froze was an understatement, even though my mind was whirling a hundred thousand miles a minute, "What?" I managed to say through my clenched jaw. If something had happened to Cammie…
"Cam got hurt worse than anyone thought," she swallowed, eyes watering a little. "At best, she's going to have to drop out of the Gallagher Academy. But it might be fatal; no one knows yet."
I staggered to a nearby chair, dropping into it and staring blankly at the white wall in front of me. No. Not my Gallagher Girl. She was strong; she'd never let something as mundane as an injury stop her from being the best pavement artist in the world. For one, her friends wouldn't let her.
I thought of her, her fate undetermined, fighting for her life, not knowing if she'd ever get to take on a fake alias again, get to explore passageways of her school, get to go on missions and get trailed by arrogant Blackthorne Boys. I buried my head in my hands, my worst nightmare literally playing itself over and over in my mind. But it was one thing to imagine it in a dark dream—it was quite another to hear it was coming true.
Just then, Abby's laughing cut through the room. I jerked my head up and glared furiously at her; her niece was in such a position, and all she could do was laugh! But then I caught the look in her eyes. She winked at me, "Just kidding, kid. Don't get all angsty on me. Cam's fine."
My breath caught. She'd played me. Me, a spy who'd been trained to watch people closely for lies, who'd been told over and over that enemies would sprout all sorts of nonsense about loved ones to make a captured spy cooperate, had fallen for such a simple trick. I clenched my fists, but the action lacked any real anger. Cammie was safe. She was alive and well and not dying from some unknown injury.
The relief that swept through me was so great that I couldn't keep myself from sagging into the chair again, shaking my head to clear it, "Why would you lie about something like that?"
I didn't really expect her to respond, but she surprised me by chuckling and stating, quite factually, "I wanted to see just how much you care for Cam. Because, honestly, kid, I'm not impressed by how you treat her most of the time."
I cringed slightly. She had me there; I didn't give Cammie half of the courtesy she deserved. But I couldn't help it. Whenever my Gallagher Girl came into the picture, I became a mess. Being sarcastic and smirking until she wanted to scream in frustration was the only way to appear composed before her.
Abby continued, ignoring my reaction, "Back to your jacket. You want me to give it to Cam?"
I produced a scrap of Evapopaper and waved it at her, "I want to leave her a note. Can you get the jacket to her once you get released?"
"Sure, sure," Abby gave me a stern look. "But don't write anything that'll put more stress on her. She's dealing with enough right now as it is."
I knew she was talking about the Circle of Cavan, and felt my stomach constrict. Knowing an organization that powerful had set their sights on my Gallagher Girl scared the shit out of me. It had been one thing to suspect, but everything had changed that night two weeks ago. I shook my head and pulled out a pencil, scribbling a note on the paper, "Have fun in London."
It seemed like the most harmless thing I could tell her, while still letting her know that I was following her life closely and that she wasn't alone in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully it would make her smile.
With a smile of my own, I signed my initial and stored the paper in my jacket pocket, knowing it would reach her eventually. Then I headed to the window with a wave of my hand, "Thanks. I appreciate it."
"Hey," Abby called my attention before I could slip out. "I'm going to be leaving on another mission, so it's up to you to watch her while I'm gone, all right? I might not trust you, but you care for her as much as anyone and you seem the most capable of keeping an eye on her. God knows she can disappear on everyone else."
A smirk played on my lips as I waved acknowledgment, "No problem. I'll make sure she doesn't get into too much trouble."
Abby smirked back, and I left, thinking of ways to crash the party in London.
A/N: Have a great day! :)