Once Loki got a plate of pancakes in front of him, he already seemed to feel better.  Darcy wondered if she should have taken him to get breakfast first, but it all got done regardless, and it was one less thing to argue about with Thor later.  She hoped that spending their morning separate would help ease things, and that they might even be able to enjoy their Christmas together once everyone accepted the arrangement.

“I guess we should go back to the hotel to grab lunch for later,” Darcy said as she spread strawberry jelly over her last pancake. 

Loki looked up at her over his plate, taking a moment to consider her words.

“There’s nothing to eat where we’re going?” he asked.

Darcy shook her head.  “No, it’s all out in the jungle,” she said.  “We’re gonna go on a safari, and do a few other things.”

Loki frowned and shrugged.  “Even Disneyland has concessions by the rides,” he said.

Darcy shrugged as well.  “Here’s hoping they at least have bathrooms nearby.”

Loki looked up at her again, and for a moment she thought he wanted to say something.  Instead, he finished off what was on his plate and sat back in his seat, turning a frown out at the crowd around them.  Darcy quickly finished off her own meal, eager to get out of there and meet back up with Jane.  She tried to find a conversation to draw Loki back out of whatever hole he’d climbed into, but nothing came to mind.

She paid too much for eggs and pancakes, and then led Loki back to the hotel to pay too much for snacks.  The entire boardwalk was crowded, and Loki spent the entire walk looking out over the crowd around them.  Darcy almost wanted to feel irritated at being ignored, but she figured being ignored was probably better since she had gone and managed to piss him off so badly earlier.

They got back to the hotel, and the convenience store in the lobby, and began searching the shelves for anything that might keep and be a decently substantial meal at the same time.  Darcy grabbed a variety of cold sandwiches from the cooler, and reached for some water to go with it.  And then she saw the price on all of it, and realised it was cheaper to grab a bunch of sodas instead.  With enough to hold the four of them over until dinner, Darcy took everything up to the counter.

She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it or not, but the entire time she almost felt like Loki was waiting for something.  He’d been on edge ever since they went off in search of breakfast, and she’d assumed it was because of their shopping trip.  But now she wasn’t sure.  She tried to ignore him as he stood close to her at the register, but he was close enough to make her want to step aside.

Then, he moved quickly, barely giving Darcy time to even react.  As the clerk finished ringing them up and announced a criminal price tag, Loki had his wallet out and was thumbing through the small amount of cash inside.

“Woah, you sure?” Darcy asked, trying to resist the urge to look into his wallet to see how much cash he had left.

“I’m sure,” Loki said.

She watched as he flipped the roles, fighting an uncomfortable feeling at watching him pay for lunch for all four of them.  As he stacked everything up in his backpack, Darcy’s phone rang, granting her a distraction and an escape from the whole damn mess.  She grabbed one of the sodas as she pulled her phone out of her pocket, and turned away from the register.

“Hey,” Darcy answered as she stepped away, leaving Loki at the counter alone.  “Where you at, lady?”

“Just getting out of Cabo Wabo.  Where are you?” Jane asked.

“ABC,” Darcy said.

She stepped all the way out to the lobby, waiting for Loki to finish up.

“We’re just picking up lunch, since it doesn’t look like there’s anywhere to eat up there,” Darcy said, turning to watch Loki finish packing up.  “Do you want us to wait for you here, or meet at the monorail station?”

Loki joined her, pausing to give her phone a look that seemed almost offended.  Darcy ignored him.

“Yeah, wait for us there,” Jane said over the phone.  “That’s at the hotel, right?”

“Yep,” Darcy said.  “We’ll be here.”

She hung up, not wanting to spend a single roaming minute more than she needed to.  With her phone safely away, Darcy opened up her soda and took a drink, before offering it over to Loki.  She was surprised when he actually took it, though not so surprised by the offended look he gave it.

“So, what are we doing today?” he asked.

Darcy looked around the lobby and found a bench nearby to sit.

“There’s this kind of hamster ball thing that’s like one of those wildlife walks,” she said as she sat. 

The hard bench against her thigh sent a swift reminder of the night before, making her shift her weight to the other side. 

“Only you’re in a giant hamster ball, probably so you don’t get stepped on or something,” she said

Loki nodded and sat down next to her, putting a more comfortable amount of space between them.

“Then there’s a safari,” Darcy went on.  “And like, a bird house thing.  The flying dinosaurs look really cool.  I kind of can’t wait to see those.”

Loki took a drink of the soda and handed it back.  He stared pensively across the lobby at a few potted palm trees at the other side, nodding slowly.

“It’s not like the aviary at the zoo, is it?” he asked.

Darcy shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe?  Why?”

Loki answered only by pulling a sour face.  Darcy wondered if maybe he’d been pooped on as a kid in the bird house at the zoo.  Then again, he apparently got pooped on all the time with his snakes, but it was probably different when it unexpectedly fell from the sky.  Or maybe it wasn’t, and he knew something she didn’t.

“What’s that face all about?” she asked him, hoping it was just a story about being pooped on at the zoo.

Instead of answering, Loki shook his head.  “It’s probably nothing,” he said.

Not sure what else to do, Darcy looked out in the other direction just in time to see Jane and Thor walk in from the boardwalk.  Darcy waved, flashing a wide, toothy smile at them, hoping the other two were in a better mood.  Jane waved back, but didn’t stop as they walked into the store and disappeared between aisles of souvenir shirts and stuffed toys.  Inhaling quietly and steeling herself, Darcy turned to Loki.

“Let’s have fun today.  Please,” she said.

For a moment, Loki looked like he was going to say something sharp and bitter.  She didn’t like the way he looked toward the store, but he quickly threw a mask over everything and sighed.

“I’ll behave as long as he does,” he said.

Darcy nodded.  “Okay.  I can live with that,” she said.

“What the hell are they doing in there?” Loki asked, still looking toward the store.

“Maybe they don’t like sandwiches,” Darcy said, not sure if there was anything else that would have even been worth grabbing.

Loki grumbled quietly, and for once she agreed with him.  Maybe she hadn’t been clear when she’d mentioned they were grabbing lunch, but either way they were going to wind up with way more than they needed.  Trying to ignore it, she looked out across the hall, watching as the trickle of people walking to and from the elevator slowly grew heavier as the the rest of the park opened.  She knocked her knee against Loki’s, getting bored with sitting around and growing ansty to get going.  She was pretty sure Jane and Thor had spent about a year getting their lunch by the time they came back out, with Thor wearing the same annoyed look as Loki.  Without a word, Thor walked straight to them and thrust a plastic carrier bag in Loki’s face.

Backing off, Loki glared up at him.  “What the hell do I want that for?” he asked.

“You have a bag,” Thor said.

Loki snorted.  “You don’t trust me with your shirt, but you trust me with your food.  Interesting,” he said.  He still refused to take the bag.  “She told you we were here getting lunch.  Why did you even need to get anything?”

Thor again thrust the bag in Loki’s face.  “I’d rather not spend all her money on myself,” Thor asked.

Loki took a deep breath, and suddenly the pieces clicked.

“Actually, he bought lunch,” she said.  “So knock it off.  Please.”

She knocked her knee against Loki’s again, far less playfully that before.  Sighing, Loki finally snatched the plastic bag away from Thor and unzipped his backpack to find room inside it.  As he zipped everything back up, even the noise the zipper made sounded angry.

“Let’s go,” Loki said, getting to his feet and striding out of the hotel.

Darcy let him go for a moment, making sure Thor could see just how pissed off she was over the entire thing.  He at least had the decency to look sorry, which was good enough for Darcy.  She turned to catch back up to Loki, taking his hand in hers to slow him down before he got lost.

“Where are we going?” Loki asked after a few moments.

“Monorail,” Darcy said, trying to tug him back in the correct direction.  “A little less angry walking, maybe?”

With another sigh, Loki slowed a bit more and turned to follow her lead in the other direction away from the boardwalk.  Thor and Jane walked a distance behind them, but never rushed to catch up as they found their way to the raised monorail platform.  Even as they stopped to look out over the river below, the other two kept their distance, and the hopes of the four of them having fun together instantly evaporated.  Looking for anything to do, Darcy pulled the park brochure out of her handbag and flipped through the pages until she found something relevant.

“Huh,” she said as she read over the page.  “The river’s man-made.  It’s all pumps and expensive water filters and stuff.”

She tried wrap her head around the information, but it was written in a way that made her think it had been dumbed down, and in the process all of the actual information got taken out.

“I don’t understand this,” she said.  “It’s talking about reverse osmosis and ions, and what?”

“Huh?”  Loki leaned over to read the page.  “This is crazy aquarium people stuff.”

She watched him struggling to figure out what information was trying to be conveyed, but it seemed like the park was just as dodgy about their fish as they were their dinosaurs.

“Right,” Loki said finally.  “I don’t do fish, but I think it’s a needlessly expensive RO/DI system.  They take water from the ocean, take the salt out, filter it, and then distil it again.  What?  Why?”

He flipped over to another page, before belligerently flipping back, sneering at the page the entire time.

“Just to put it all onto the ground and get it dirty again?” Darcy asked.

She looked back out at the river, trying to figure out why it needed to be filtered at all.

“It does seem really wide for such a small island though,” she said.

From their perch on the monorail platform, they had a clear view of the river as it forked, one branch forming a small lake before draining into the sea.

“Do you think there’s anything natural on this island?” Loki asked.

Darcy laughed, both agreeing with him, and glad he’d found something a little less frustrating to be annoyed at.  She left him to sneer at the pamphlet and looked around for Thor and Jane, finding them on the other end of the platform.  Part of her wanted to drag Loki over so they could actually stay together as a group, but she’d finally got him into a marginally better mood.  Keeping them apart was the only way she’d avoid having to witness a flat-out brawl by the end of the day.  But Loki had promised to be nice, and Darcy was sick of spending her vacation separate.  Against everything that told her it was a bad idea, she took a deep breath and pulled Loki along the platform.  Surprisingly he didn’t protest as she led him straight to Thor and Jane, continuing to flip through the pamphlet even as Thor stepped away.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Jane asked, looking out over the sloping landscape.

“I know,” Darcy said.

She wanted to tell Jane that the river was fake, but decided not to spoil her immersion.  Even if it was man-made, it was still pretty, and the lake still sparkled brightly under the late-morning sun like a real lake would.

“There’s dinosaurs swimming in the river,” Darcy said, looking back over at Loki while he shook his head at the pamphlet.  “Swimming dinosaurs like the one in the tank, but a lot smaller.”

“How do they keep them from getting into the ocean?” asked Jane, looking at Loki as well.  “Do they say anything about that in there?”

Loki continued to shake his head.  “It’s all lies and deceit,” he said, slapping it shut and finally handing it back.  “If I had to guess, I’d say the animals they put in here can’t handle the salinity and stay in freshwater on their own.”

Jane gave Loki a strange, sideways glance, and then turned that same glance to Darcy for a moment.  Before Darcy could respond, the quiet hiss of an approaching monorail car rose from the track itself.  Excited to get going, Darcy tried to pick which of the doors would stop closest to them.  Taking Jane by the hand, she quickly rushed inside the car as soon as the doors were clear, and found a place to sit together.  She watched as Thor and Loki both skulked in, trying to avoid one another in the small space, while also trying to stay close enough to not get lost.  Not even remotely sorry, Darcy laughed at the pair of them.

“I swear, I just want to ditch both of them,” she said quietly, watching them struggle to find a spot before the monorail started moving.

For a moment, Jane looked like she wanted to admonish Darcy, but it was a very brief moment.  Her scandal quickly gave way to a tired eye roll as she shook her head.

“Yeah, well.  You brought him along,” she said.  “What did you expect?”

Darcy shifted in her seat, annoyed at how hard they were.  She thought that a trip this expensive would at least have comfortable seats in the resort transportation, but that was apparently far too expensive.

“He’s been good,” Darcy said, trying to find a way to sit to keep her weight off her left side.  “Honestly, I’d appreciate it if Thor quit making a big deal out of everything.”

Jane took a deep breath, shaking her head.  “He’s worried,” she said.  She paused to sigh quietly, and looked out the window.  “I don’t think he understands why you brought Loki with.  I mean… you could have brought literally anybody, but…”

Darcy was getting sick of having to defend Loki, but at least Jane wasn’t being completely rude about it.

“Who else would I have brought, honestly?” Darcy asked.  “The two people I talk to at work?  The only family I have without kids are a couple of guy cousins I wouldn’t want to share a room with, much less a bed.”

“Yeah, I mean.  I understand,” Jane said.  “I do.  But since Thor’s known you, you’ve done nothing but work your ass off.  He thinks you should be spending the money on yourself.”

“Yeah, but most of it was already spent,” Darcy said.  “And then Thor’s weird response when I said I was still going.  And—”

She stopped, and realised that the entire time, she’d had an entire forest’s worth of wrong ends of stick.

“Oh my fucking god, did he shovel talk my boyfriend?” she asked, looking from Jane to Thor, who stood oblivious on the other end of the car.

“What?” Jane asked suddenly, looking back toward her.  Her mouth fell open, and she looked over to Thor, and then back to Darcy.  “He wouldn’t.  Would he?”

“Ian was really fucking weird that day,” Darcy said.  “When he showed up at the station, and later when we met up.”

She stared incredulously at Thor, ignoring the way she caught Loki’s attention.  Eventually Thor caught on as well, and for a moment the four of them remained in a silent tableau where nobody stood on the same page.  After a moment, Darcy looked back to Jane, her own confused anger mirrored back at her.

“Is that why he’s so mad?” Darcy asked.  “Did he chase Ian off so I’d spend the money on myself?”

“I don’t…” Jane shook her head.  “I don’t think he would have done that.  He liked Ian.”

“He terrified Ian,” Darcy said.  “They barely knew each other.”

She looked back over at Thor, watching as he and Loki got into their own discussion.  This was supposed to be a fun vacation, away from stress and drama and bullshit, and so far it had only been stress and drama and bullshit.  Darcy was actually happier when the park got frustrating and didn’t make sense, because at least then it was bullshit that wouldn’t follow her home.  Frustrated, she let herself sink down into her seat, and immediately wished she hadn’t.  Hissing sharply at the sudden and painful reminder of the night before, Darcy sat up and shifted back over to rest on her right side again.

“Damnit, ow,” she said quietly.

“What’s wrong now?” Jane asked, looking at her with genuine alarm.

Darcy cringed, trying not to rub her own ass right there in the middle of the monorail car.

“Loki bruised my ass last night,” she said.

Jane’s eyes went wide.  “Too much information,” she said.

For a moment, Darcy wasn’t sure what Jane meant, until she actually considered the words that had come out of her own mouth.

“Oh, no.  Not like that,” she said, still trying to find a comfortable way to sit.  “He bounced me off the bed.”

“Still too much information,” Jane said.

“Oh, not like—never mind,” Darcy said.  She shifted again, finding no way to sit that wasn’t somehow painful.  “It’s not even that bruised.  It just hurts like hell on these seats.”

Jane laughed, looking at her like she wasn’t sure what to say.  Suddenly, Darcy realised she wasn’t either.  She caught Loki giving her another strange look from across the car, and suddenly broke into laughter at the crashing realisation of just how far off the rails the last few days had truly been.

“Last month, I was flirting with this lunatic who broke into our apartment, and now I’ve brought him to a foreign country because his brother chased my boyfriend away,” she said.  “This is not what I had in mind when we decided to do this.”

Loki was still looking at her, and all she could do was look away.

“I really don’t think Thor did that,” Jane said.  “Why would he?”

Darcy shrugged, still struggling to control herself.  “I don’t know.  Why’s he being so weird about everything?”

Jane shifted to look back out the window again.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “You heard what he said about what Loki did.”

“What he thinks Loki did,” Darcy said.  “But then why doesn’t he have a restraining order?”

For a moment, Jane looked like she was going to argue, but then she only looked confused.  Again, she looked back at Darcy, and for the first time seemed to truly be considering what Darcy had said.

“I’m just trying to have fun,” Darcy said.  “And so far, all we’ve done is catch fallout from whatever argument they’re not giving us the full story on.”

“I know,” Jane said.  “And I’m sorry.  This was supposed to be just us, and I don’t know what happened.  I really don’t.”

Darcy gave Loki a weak smile, which seemed to be enough to get him to divert his attention.

“Honestly, I still can’t believe we’re doing this,” she said, still feeling strangely giddy about the whole thing despite everything else. 

“And to think, I used to get excited about going to the zoo.  Lions and tigers?” Jane said.  She scoffed.  “I could see those any day.”

“When was the last time you even went to the zoo?” Darcy asked her.

Jane shrugged.  “I don’t know.  High school?”

Darcy laughed, glad that they had at least stopped arguing.  High school seemed like the right answer for her as well.  She could go see furry animals whenever she wanted, but she never did.  There wasn’t even any reason why she never went.  The zoo was always there.  It was always going to be there.  But it always seemed like something you’d do for a reason, and not just to go look at animals for an afternoon.

Although, after Isla Nublar, spending $25 to get into the zoo no longer felt like highway robbery.  Maybe she would start going to the zoo more often when they got back to New York, just for the novelty and sense of perspective she could get from it.

The monorail glided smoothly over the artificial lake in the middle of the resort, through a narrow canyon, and over low trees, giving a bird’s eye view of the wildlife.  As they swept over the sloping valley below, Darcy looked out the window at a herd of somethings that were gone before she could even tell what they were.  She should have spent the entire ride watching the scenery pass by, but she’d spent it once again trying to justify her decision to bring Loki along.  But she refused to be bitter about it, and enjoyed the view before her.  Then, the track merged with another, and the car began to slowly pull to a stop at the platform.  The electronic voice over the speaker announced the stop for Triceratops Territory, sparking a flurry of motion in the car.  Darcy quickly checked the brochure in her hands, ready to spring up with the rest of the crowd, but stopped herself.

“Next one,” she said, finding their stop on the map.

She watched as the crowd thinned as people got off to go to whatever attractions lay beyond the platform.  Once everything settled down and the car got moving again, Darcy watched as Loki slowly began making his way a little closer, sitting in a seat across the aisle from them.  Darcy gave him a weak smile, but she didn’t want to say anything until they were alone.  Jane gave him a weak smile as well, and for a moment Darcy thought she might get up and go join Thor.  But she didn’t, nor did Thor come over to join them, and suddenly they’d found a brand new way to be awkward together.

It was a short ride to the next station, and when the monorail stopped at the platform as the electronic voice announced the gyrosphere ride, another big crowd got up to disembark.  As soon as they were on the platform, they were taken by the enormity of the line ahead of them, snaking around a course to take up as much room as possible.

“Oh.  Good thing we have those Fast Passes,” Jane said as she twisted the hard rubber bracelet around her wrist.

Darcy cringed as she looked out over the crowded platform.  She knew it would be crowded, but somehow was still surprised by it.

“Yeah,” she said.  “This is gonna be Disneyland all over again.”

She looked up at Loki and took his hand as they fought their way through the crowd to the Fast Pass line.  Somehow in the crowd, they had become separated from Jane and Thor by another group.  When Loki leaned in close to her, Darcy thought he’d forgotten about her request to lay off the performative PDA.  Instead, he spoke quietly in her ear.

“What was that back there?” he asked.

She twisted to look at him and shook her head.  “I want to have fun, so we’ll talk about it later,” she said.  She glanced back at Jane and Thor, watching for a moment as they had their own awkward conversation.  “But I think your brother’s in the doghouse and we’ll just leave it at that.”

Loki snorted, and turned to look at them as well.  “It’s about time,” he said.