I have no idea what I'm doing

Tag: fic: Isla Nublar (2022)

Isla Nublar #13: Monorail

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.

« ||

Isla Nublar #12: Ferragamo

Darcy woke up, and immediately wished she hadn’t.  Her neck felt hot and stiff, and her head was throbbing, and she couldn’t tell if her stomach felt sour because she wanted to puke again, or if it was because she was hungry.  She’d never made it under the blankets before falling asleep, and her pillow had bunched up beneath her shoulders instead of staying where it belonged.  But she knew if she tried to go back to sleep, everything would get ten times worse, so she slowly sat up, trying not to hiss and groan too loudly as every muscle in her back felt like it had seized up.  Once she was sitting more or less upright, Darcy tried to stretch her neck to loosen it up.  Rather than stretching, her neck snapped and popped loudly, each time sending an electric jolt down her spine.  She tried stretching again in the other direction, and her bones snapped and popped again, but not as many times, and not as loudly.  When she tried to make her back do the same thing, it only hurt, so she gave up.

She sat quietly, feet on the floor for a long moment while she looked around the state of their room.  Loki’s mess was everywhere, her mess was everywhere.  On some demented level, they were perfect for one another.  She’d have to remember to hang the Do Not Disturb sign so nobody had to come pick through the trash.  Her tray from the night before was gone at least, no longer sitting precariously on the night stand.  She figured Loki must have dealt with it on his way to bed, and wondered how long he had stayed up after she fell asleep.  Somehow, knowing she’d been asleep while he was still awake was a bit too close and uncomfortable, but the only thing she could do was not think about it.

He was asleep on the sofa, once again sprawled out in his underwear.  He slept on his stomach, one arm dangling to the floor, and his blanket tangled in a knot by his feet.  She watched him for a long moment, distinctly remembering him putting on a T-shirt when they got back to the room.  It slowly occurred to her that he probably was the sort who slept completely naked, and keeping his underwear on was his demented idea of a compromise.  Realising she was full-on staring, Darcy shook her head and tried to look anywhere else.  Their room faced toward the west, and with the curtain drawn closed, it felt like a cave.  But a cave was better than a den of sin, even if that’s exactly what the room looked and felt like at the moment.

Able to stand the taste of death no longer, Darcy slowly pulled herself to her feet.  As she stood, she was shocked at the deep stab of pain on the left side of her ass.  She could hold her own weight, but something was wrong.  Everything from her hip to her thigh felt tender as she quickly walked to the bathroom, and it wasn’t until she pulled down her pyjamas and twisted to look at herself in the mirror on the closet door that she remembered being thrown to the bed and bouncing off.  Once the memory returned, it was clear as day.  And now that she remembered what had caused it, somehow it didn’t seem to hurt as badly.  In her rising panic and confusion, she had somehow convinced herself that she was more injured than she was.  But she wasn’t even bruised.  A bit red, and maybe a bit swollen, but nothing to sound an alarm over.  Annoyed with herself and with Loki, she pulled her pants back up and stepped all the way into the bathroom.  She didn’t know how her night had gone so badly, but she was determined to push past it and have some fun.

And that started with a toothbrush so she could scrub every last reminder out of her mouth.  The next step was gathering up some clean clothes for the day, and then showering, and then figuring out her hair, and finally her makeup.  She looked good.  She felt good.  She was ready to tackle the hard stuff finally.  Loki was still asleep on the sofa, having barely moved at all.  Darcy leaned over him, taking a moment to look at his tattoos to try to figure out what they were.  It was like trying to look at one of those Magic Eye posters, forcing herself to see an image that refused to pop into her view.  Finally, she gave up and poked him in the shoulder.

“Hey,” she said, poking him again.

Loki swatted lazily at her.  “Fuck off,” he grumbled.

“Rude.  No, get up,” Darcy said, poking him once more before stepping away to give him room.  “We’re gonna go on the safari today, and there’s things I want to do before we leave the park.”

Loki grumbled in protest as he rolled over onto his back, once more saluting the morning.  This time, at least, he had the decency to rearrange himself a bit before getting up.

“I’m getting you some pyjama pants for Christmas,” Darcy said, turning away just so she didn’t have to continue to see him in his underwear.

“No you’re not,” Loki said.

He bent to dig through his mess, picking up the same T-shirt he’d put on the night before.  Darcy wondered if it was the only clean one he had left, and whether they’d be able to get laundry service.

“It’s Christmas Eve.  You can’t tell me what to do,” she said.

Loki grumbled, saying something that didn’t even sound like English as he disappeared into the bathroom.  Darcy expected him to take his time and knocked on the door to Jane and Thor’s room to see what they were up to.  When nobody answered on the other side, Darcy left them to whatever they were getting up to and grabbed her handbag from where she’d tossed it on the shelf.  There were still a couple of hours before they wanted to be at the monorail station, which gave her plenty of time to make good on her threat of Christmas shopping.  She made sure she had her room key and her spending card and headed back down to the enormous gift shop in the hotel’s lobby.

It really was more of a small supermarket than a gift shop.  It had the usual branded toys and mugs and overpriced bottled water, but it also had an entire refrigerated section with sushi and sandwiches, but also small microwavable meals and frozen pizzas.  There was an entire clothing section, but it was a lot more gift-shoppy in selection.  She flipped through the T-shirts, not sure where Loki would draw the line when it came to the sort of graphics he’d actually tolerate.  Somehow, an old band shirt didn’t quite seem like it existed in the same category as a cartoony dinosaur leaping forward with its claws out.  She stuck to dark colours and simpler designs, grabbing enough to get him through the next few days until they could figure out laundry.  The pyjamas, she was much less conservative about.  She found a pair with colourful, tie-dye dinosaurs printed all over them, and grabbed them entirely because she thought they’d annoy him.  So far, he was the only person not annoyed by this trip, and that needed to change.

But while that covered the day to day wear, it still left out some of their other plans.  The only shirts that were more formal than graphic T-shirts were polos with the park’s name embroidered on the front, which truly would not cut it.  The only shoes they sold were cheap sandals and flip-flops, but those were at least useful.  She nearly grabbed a pair of slides, but changed her mind and swapped them with a pair of flip-flops instead.  She wasn’t sure if it was the right choice, but it seemed like the safer choice somehow.  The flip-flops weren’t exactly the height of style or comfort, but she wanted to irritate him with obnoxious pyjamas; not piss him off by handing him a pair of shoes that looked like they came from a prison shower.

Hoping the flip-flops weren’t somehow terribly offensive either, she began looking through the board shorts, and stopped at a black pair, with green scales down the sides.  Next to neon pinks and oranges, black and green definitely seemed like the safer option.  She wasn’t sure what size Loki wore, but she decided it might be better to go a bit too big, than to risk getting something that might be uncomfortably small.  It wasn’t exactly like board shorts fit anyone properly to begin with, anyway.

She knew Loki was going to be pissed off at all of it regardless, but she also knew he’d get over it.  Even if Thor had brought spare shorts for some reason, there was no way in hell trying to convince him to let Loki borrow them would go smoothly, and the last thing Darcy wanted to navigate through was another argument about clothes.  She took everything up to the register, dumping it all out onto the counter and looked at it.  It had felt like a lot when she was grabbing it, but seeing it piled up, it barely looked like much at all.  For a moment, she thought about turning back to see if they had some jeans back there, but again, she didn’t know what size Loki wore, somehow dirty jeans seemed like they’d be more comfortable than jeans that didn’t fit right.

“Is there anywhere else to get clothes here?” she asked, hoping she wouldn’t have to wait until they went back to the mainland.

The cashier turned to point out toward the park.  “There’s a kind of mall thing on the other side of the lagoon,” she said.  “It’s kinda fancy though.”

“Thanks,” Darcy said, trying to remember if they’d seen it the day before.

She watched as the cashier rang up everything and got her card ready.  It was over $150 when it was all done, just for a few shirts and some swim trunks, but it was money she didn’t actually feel guilty about spending.  The only way it would be money wasted was if Loki refused to accept any of it, and she knew he wouldn’t after the previous night.  He’d bitch and complain and grumble, but not outright refuse.  Darcy tried not to feel bad about knowing Loki wasn’t in a place to be able to refuse, even if he did want to.  As the cashier arranged everything into a paper bag, Darcy paid and tried to remind herself to check the account balance at some point during the day.  Logically, she knew she hadn’t spent anywhere near the limit, but she was already starting to feel nervous about it.

Loki was still screwing around in the bathroom when she got back to the room, but she couldn’t hear the shower running.  Darcy put the bag down on the coffee table where he’d see and took advantage of him being out of the way.  She tried to tidy up as best she could, picking up everything she’d left all over the place, while nudging Loki’s mess all more or less into one spot against the wall.  He’d left his black jeans on the floor, and knowing that he had deliberately chosen to wear the blue ones again only made her more determined to see the rest of her plan through.

He’d hate it, but she’d made up her mind.  She grabbed her laptop as she sat down on the bed and logged into her bank account.  The spending account was still very healthy, showing less spent than Darcy thought, which meant there was no practical reason not go forward.  Having settled it with herself, she traded her laptop for the park brochure and started flipping through it while she waited for Loki.  As she read about the Gyropshere, already knowing everything the tiny blurb had to say, Loki finally stepped out of the bathroom, still towelling his hair dry.  He made it about three steps into the room before stopping and pointing at the paper bag on the table.

“What is that?” he asked.

Darcy looked at the bag, and then at him.

“It’s part of your Christmas present,” she said.  “And it’s also your Christmas present to me.”

Loki tossed the towel back into the bathroom as slowly stepped forward, looking at the bag like he expected it to bite him.

“I told you not to get me anything,” he said.

Darcy sighed.  “It’s money I was going to spend on Ian.  But he’s not here.  You are,” she said.

Loki made sure she saw exactly how unamused he was as he opened the bag.  He looked down into it and sighed tiredly.  Then, he picked out a shirt and looked at it, before rolling his eyes and grabbing out another one.

“Could be worse,” he said finally.  He pulled out the pyjamas and seemed to immediately change his mind.  “Don’t buy me anything else.”

“I’m the one with the spending money.  You’ll regret saying that around lunchtime,” Darcy said.

Loki gave her another annoyed look as he stuffed the board shorts back into the bag.

“And we have two more dinner reservations with a dress code,” Darcy said.  “I want to get you something nice so you don’t have to borrow from Thor again.”

Loki looked straight at her, clearly biting back on something.  On some level, he scared her.  She recalled what he’d said last night about his relationships ending in screaming and property damage, and braced herself for the worst.  She had anticipated an argument about this, and hoped it would be the last argument she’d have all week, but arguing with Loki felt like a terrible thing to do.  Finally, instead of arguing, Loki sighed and dropped the bag down with the rest of his stuff.

“You seem to be feeling better this morning,” he said as he turned away to find the stuff Darcy had shoved against the wall.  “I think I liked you better when you were ill.”

Darcy snorted.  “Last night was too much rum and regret,” she said.

Loki shook his head and picked up his shoes.  “What time are we leaving?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” Darcy said, shrugging.  “When they’re up and ready to go, I guess.  But I would like to go check out that shopping centre first.”

Loki hummed quietly, and immediately Darcy knew he meant nothing good from it.  Then, he walked over to the door joining their suites, and without even bothering to knock, pushed the door open and stepped through into the other room.

“Oh my god!” Jane shrieked.

“Loki, get out!” Thor shouted.

Loki was already ducking back into their side of the room before the other two finished shouting.  He shut the door, and something slammed hard against it.  Loki stood where he was for a long moment, wide-eyed and still holding the door handle.

“Let me guess.  Not ready?” Darcy asked.

Loki shook his head.  “No.”

“How not ready?” Darcy asked, already having an idea.

“Very,” Loki said.

He shook his entire body, as if trying to dislodge the images of whatever he had seen from his brain.

“Then I guess that means we have time to go shopping,” Darcy said, not sure what Loki’s entire plan was, but fairly certain it had backfired all the same.

Instead of acknowledging her at all, he stepped away from the door and sat down on the sofa.  Assuming Loki had just caught a face full of his naked brother, Darcy cackled and sat down on the bed.

“When the hell did he get that tattoo?” Loki asked.

Darcy had no idea what tattoo Loki was talking about, but she laughed even harder.  She didn’t even know if he was serious, and mostly suspected that he wasn’t.  But every time she looked back up at him, shaking his head and grimacing, she started to laugh all over again.

“Do I even want to know?” she asked.

“No, it was awful,” Loki said, pulling one of his shoes on.  “How’d they get a donkey up here?”

“Oh my god,” Darcy said, laughing even harder.  Now she knew he was joking, but he’d got her going and now she couldn’t stop.  “They do not have a donkey in there.”

Loki pointed toward the door.  “Do you want to take a look?” he asked.

“No,” Darcy said.  “But you’re still full of shit.”

She picked up the park map and unfolded it, trying to decide if there was anything else she wanted to do, after they got back from the tours they’d planned for the day.  They’d only picked three of them, but after running out of things to do the day before, she almost expected each to only last about half an hour.

“Come on,” she said, standing up.  “We’ll get this out of the way, and then go get breakfast.  Whatever you want.”

Loki looked over at the door joining their rooms, and quickly checked his pockets.  “Just us?” he asked.

Darcy nodded.  “Just us.  We’ll meet back up when they’re ready to head out.  We’ll probably want to grab lunch for while we’re out, too.”

Nodding, Loki picked up his backpack and shook it out, making sure it was completely empty.  Darcy was surprised he’d stopped arguing so quickly, but decided not to drag anything out further.  She folded the map and brochure back up, and stuffed both into her handbag.  As she headed to leave, she stopped at the door joining the rooms and knocked on it.

“We’re going out for breakfast.  Text us when you’re ready to meet up!” she shouted, not wanting to risk opening it up and getting an eyeful of whatever Loki had seen.

Assuming someone on the other side had heard her, and probably got annoyed all over again, she nodded and made her way toward the front door.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Loki said nothing as they left the hotel, and remained stony and silent as they walked along the boardwalk.  As they neared the area she’d been pointed to, Darcy realised she had seen it the day before, but they’d walked right past the entrance.  It wasn’t exactly a mall or shopping centre in the usual sense.  They walked through a polished steel gate, where the ground changed from concrete to cobblestone.  The tourist vibe evaporated, and everything suddenly felt very up-scale and expensive.  The shops were all open and quiet, and she quickly realised that if she was expecting to find a Gap or American Eagle, it wasn’t going to be on the island.  Fancy, it seemed, had been a terrible understatement.  Feeling a bit lost, she began gravitating toward the first shop that had menswear in the window, but Loki quickly steered her away.

“Not that one,” he said.

She looked up at him, wondering what he knew that she didn’t.  But she shrugged and kept walking, following his lead.  There weren’t many shops along the narrow street, leaving them with few options.  Darcy realised, as the street began to curve back around toward the boardwalk, that the whole thing probably existed just to make sure vacationing bankers and lawyers would actually buy something other than alcohol.  Suddenly, Loki stopped and turned to look at the shop next to them.  It wasn’t a name Darcy recognised, but few of the shops they’d passed were.  After a moment of chewing on his thumbnail, Loki sighed.

“Fuck,” he said quietly before apparently giving up and heading inside.

Suddenly, she remembered Thor’s nice car, and his nice shirts, and realised that taste didn’t come from working in a Manhattan emergency department.  Loki might have looked like he’d crawled out of a Goodwill bin, but he clearly knew something about these shops that Darcy did not.

The shop was quiet and cosy, its walls lined with shirts and suits and shoes.  While Loki shook his head and looked annoyed at everything, Darcy picked up a shiny black shoe from the display and turned around to see what Loki thought.

“This one’s nice,” she said.

He stepped close and tipped it so he could see the insole.

“Put that down.  It’s Ferragamo,” he said.

Darcy put it down.  She didn’t exactly know what that meant, but she’d heard the name thrown around a few times, usually in the context of ‘fuck-off expensive.’

The man in the crisp suit behind the counter watched them, keeping a critical eye on Loki as he wandered over to the shirts.

“Can I help you, sir?” he asked.

Standing there, with his ripped up jeans and disgusting shoes, Loki looked like he belonged anywhere but a shop like that.  But Darcy saw something in him change instant.  Something undefinable and subtle, but it was as if he was suddenly a completely different person.  He looked up at the clerk, looking politely annoyed about being addressed at all.

“Apparently, we have dinner reservations I wasn’t warned about,” he said.  “And the lady insists on making this a Christmas gift.”

They looked at one another for a moment before coming to some strange understanding Darcy was not part of.  The clerk nodded and stepped over to the shirts, lined up and folded on a narrow shelf along the lower half of the wall, and stopped a few steps away from the front windows.  While they talked about collars and colours, Darcy began looking at a table full of silk ties, intricately woven into subtle and delicate designs.  She wondered if Loki even had a tie at home, but knowing he wouldn’t need it at their reservations, she resisted the urge to try to get him to take one.

She turned to ask him anyway, but was caught off guard as the two of them walked up toward the counter, but not to the register.  Instead, while the clerk disappeared behind a curtain, Loki knelt to drop his bag and take off his shoes, and then emptied his pockets onto the counter.  A moment later, the clerk returned with a measuring tape.  Expecting to be entertained by Loki getting annoyed and flustered, Darcy was surprised to watch him go through the whole routine as though he’d memorised it.  Again, she thought about Thor’s expensive car, and his nice shirts, and the shoes he’d leant Loki the night before, and wondered why she was surprised at all.  They’d lived in a dozen different countries before they’d graduated high school, getting dragged all over the world while their dad did whatever it was that required that much foreign travel. 

Even though he knew this routine, he didn’t seem very happy about it.  He moved his hair out of the way as the clerk measured something across his back, and that seemed to be the final straw.

“What are your alteration fees?” he asked.

The clerk paused for a moment, glancing toward Darcy before he spoke.

“Just the shirt and trousers.  No jacket?” the clerk asked.

Loki nodded.  “Right.  No jacket.”

The clerk nodded back.  “Twenty five dollars per cut, sir,” he said.

Darcy realised she didn’t exactly look like she belonged either, in her Walmart shorts and T-shirt that probably came off a thrift shop bargain rack.  But she didn’t care.  When Loki sighed tiredly, Darcy only nodded.

“If that’s what you want, get it,” she said.  “Then you’ll have something nice to take home.”

She expected more of an argument, but Loki nodded and let the clerk finish.  She didn’t really understand what the whole thing meant, but she knew enough to understand that everything would fit him better in the end.

“Look at it this way,” she said.  “You’ll show up looking better than your brother, and he’ll hate that even worse than he hated you wearing his shoes.”

Loki snorted, and at least for now, her words seemed to have cheered him up.

“When you’re done with that, come find a pair of shoes you like,” Darcy said.

And suddenly, his improved mood evaporated.  “You are not buying me shoes too,” he said.

“Yes,” Darcy said, standing firm on the matter.  “I am buying you a nice pair of shoes that fit those skis you call feet.  And then you can keep those too and not have to worry about it next time.”

Loki rolled his eyes and turned back to the clerk.  “What do you have in a plain toe that won’t bankrupt the poor woman?” he asked.  Apparently his arguments had reduced to being made for the sake of arguing, if he gave in that quickly.

The clerk, for his part, did an admirable job at not laughing at Loki’s tantrum.  “We have a few options that should fit your budget,” he said.  “Do you have a style preference, sir?”

Loki cringed, shaking his head.  Darcy could see him fighting against something with himself.

“I do like an Oxford,” he said finally.

Again, Darcy had no idea what they were talking about.  But the way the clerk hummed, Darcy had a feeling Loki’s tastes were starting to get expensive.

They finished up and returned back to the racks to pick through the options again.  They’d come in for three items, and of those three, the pants were the only thing Loki chose quickly.  He tried on about half a dozen shirts and as many shoes, finally settling on a silver shirt, and a pair of shiny shoes that looked almost exactly like the ones Darcy had initially looked at.  As she paid, she tried not to make a face at the price tag.  It was a single outfit, and it had cost more than everything she’d already spent, combined.  She knew the island was going to try to rob them blind at every avenue, and she wondered how many people got robbed the same was she was now, getting caught off guard about dinner reservations and dress codes. 

“Can we get it sent up to our room?” she asked, watching Loki put himself back together.

“Of course,” said the clerk.  “What’s the number?”

“Five-fifteen,” Darcy said.

He nodded and punched the number into his system.  “We’ll have it delivered by the end of the day,” he said.

Darcy smiled, and slid her card back into her wallet.  “Thank you,” she said.

She turned and found Loki looking once again like he did not belong, with his ripped up shoes and ratty old backpack.  They walked back out into the sun together, Darcy feeling considerably less constricted once they were out of the building.

“Jeez, do I even want to know what that first one was gonna be like?” she asked.

Loki shook his head.  “No,” he said.  “The shoes alone would have emptied your account.”

Darcy wasn’t surprised.  The whole thing had seemed almost unreal, and she resisted the urge to point out that the shoes Loki had bought had cost over $100 just on their own.

“Thank you,” Loki said suddenly.  “I’m very mad at you though, and you’d better not spend a fucking dime on me going forward.”

Darcy figured now was as good of a time as any to ask a question that had been bothering her ever since the airport.

“Do you even have anything nice?” she asked.

Loki took a deep breath, and she realised he wasn’t kidding.  He was angry, but Darcy still didn’t feel bad about spending the money on him.  When he didn’t answer at all, she got a feeling she knew the answer.

“I’d rather spend the money on something you need and will use, than on stuffed animals and snow globes that will get forgotten in three months,” she said.  “You can look nice for dinner tomorrow, and on New Year, and still have it to take home for when you need to look nice there.”

“I’m serious,” Loki said.  “Not a dime more.”

Darcy knocked her hip into him, trying to be playful.  They finally came back out to the boardwalk, near a string of small restaurants overlooking the water.

“I kind of wanted to find you some new jeans somewhere,” Darcy said.

She looked down at the ones he was wearing, and wondered how they hadn’t fallen apart yet.

“No,” Loki said.  “I’ll survive.”

Somehow, Darcy wasn’t surprised to hear him refuse.

“So I take it you’re just having toast and water for breakfast, then?” she asked, looking around at their options.

Loki closed his eyes and sighed.

“Please buy me breakfast.  I’m fucking starving,” he said.

Darcy laughed, and hoping that he’d feel better once he got something to eat, she led him down the boardwalk to find somewhere to go.

« || »

Isla Nublar #11: T-Rex

Darcy was surprised at how much warmer the air seemed as they left the bar and stepped back out onto the boardwalk.  The wind had died down, taking the mist with it, and she’d had a few more drinks than she’d meant to, making everything seem a bit too warm to begin with.  But it wasn’t just the rum, or even the wind.  She was in Costa Rica for Christmas, walking along the dark boardwalk a little too close to her fake boyfriend, and that fact suddenly struck her like a punch to the chest.  She couldn’t stop the sudden peal of laughter that erupted from her, and had to stop in her steps before she fell over from trying to walk in heels that were a little too high all of a sudden.  Leaning against the curved rail along the artificial lagoon, Darcy bent over to pull her shoes off as she looked out over the smooth, dark water.

“You know what I just realised?” she said, looking over at Loki as he leaned against the rail beside her.

“What?” he asked.

Darcy looked up at him, and then back out at the water.  “I spent thousands of dollars to spend Christmas with my boyfriend, away from my entire family, and that prick isn’t even here,” she said.

She shook her head, shrugging dramatically.  She wasn’t even sure if she was still angry or not at the whole thing.  She knew she should have been.  Part of her wanted to die angry about it.  But it was two days before Christmas, and she was in Costa Rica, spending $60 on drinks.  Drinks that weren’t even that good.  And she still didn’t care.

“Is this you not having fun?” Loki asked.  “I believe I was specifically tasked with making sure that didn’t happen.”

Darcy shook her head.  “No, I’m…I’m all right, I think,” she said.  “Just confused about the whole thing.  This isn’t what I’d planned, is all.”

She watched the water as it shimmered beneath the flood lights, still and silent, and was suddenly taken by just how easy it would be to climb over the rail and go swimming with a monster.  Though there were still small groups of people walking between bars and back to the hotel, there was nobody around whose job it would be to stop her from climbing the rail, or to pull her out if she went into the water.  She wasn’t even close to drunk enough to try it, but she wondered how many people had done it in the past.  Suddenly feeling very nervous about standing so close to the edge of the water, when she knew about what kind of animal lived within it, Darcy stepped away and bumped into Loki before stepping back into the path.  The ground was rough and cold beneath her feet, and she knew she probably should not have been walking around barefoot, but she’d rather step on a pebble than fall over and eat shit.

“Is it weird to break up with someone and not even care about it?” she asked, keeping her gaze out over the water.

“I wouldn’t know,” Loki said, matching her slow pace as they walked back to the hotel.  “My relationships all tend to end very poorly.”

“What?  Throwing dishes and screaming at one another at three in the morning?” Darcy asked him, knowing it was a bad joke, and being a bit too drunk to care.

“Something like that,” Loki said.

Darcy could actually picture it, his mother’s expensive plates crashing against antique wallpaper.  And then she pictured his snakes all lined up in a row in a glass cage, watching the fight like a tennis match.  It was a bit too much, and once again she couldn’t stop her laughter before it started.

“I’m sorry, that wasn’t funny,” she said, trying to stop.  “But I pictured your snakes…”

She moved her hand back and forth, trying to simulate their little snake heads looking back and forth and back and forth, and started laughing all over again.

“You’re drunk,” Loki said, holding his hand out to steady her.

“Little bit,” Darcy said, realising the drinks had maybe been a little stronger than she’d thought.  She schooled her face into a serious, sober expression, and pointed her finger up at Loki’s face.  “But I’m not drunk enough that you should think you can get away with anything.  I’m an expensive date, and I’m not easy.”

Loki wore the most insincerely innocent expression Darcy had ever seen.  “Of course not,” he said.

She frowned at him, feeling slightly dubious as they made their way into the hotel lobby.

“I mean it, mister,” she said.

Loki still looked at her innocently and shook his head.  “Not even once, for the rebound?” he asked.

Darcy pushed him playfully as they stepped into the elevator, but he was like pushing a brick wall.

“No,” she said, digging through her handbag for their room key.  “I’ll make you sleep in the hall.  Don’t think I won’t.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that for an instant,” Loki said.  He leaned casually against the wall, his hands back in his pockets.  “But if I paid for the drinks next time, then what are my odds?”

Darcy looked up at him, trying to arrange her thoughts.  She couldn’t tell whether Loki was joking or not, and she knew she should have been more wary about him than she was.  But he stood there so casually, hands to himself while he made obscene jokes with her, and all she could think about was Ian.

“See, that’s the thing,” she said, more loudly than she’d meant to.  “You can at least joke about sex you’re not having.  Ian just kind of turned purple the second you even started talking about it.”

“See, I’m a better catch already,” Loki said, irritatingly smug.

Darcy swatted at an area bout six inches away from him.  “Shut up.  No you’re not,” she said.

“Aren’t I?” Loki looked down at her, still looking so damn innocent about everything.

The elevator slowed down and dinged for their floor, and he stood up away from the wall, waiting for Darcy to exit first.

“No.  I don’t know.”  Darcy shook her head as she stepped into the hall, suddenly frustrated with the entire situation.  “You’re not purple, but I’m not sure if that makes you better.”

She sighed, wondering how it had turned into an argument.  She wondered which side of the argument she was actually on.

“Like.  Ian was fine.  He was fun, kind of.  I mean, he was never gonna last either way, really,” Darcy said, feeling like she was trying to convince herself more than Loki.

“Why do you say that?” Loki asked.

Darcy stopped in front of their door, looking at it for a long moment before feeding the card into the lock.

“Realistically, he was just here for school,” Darcy said.

She unlocked the door and stepped inside, realising they’d left the lights on in their rush to get to the theatre.  She tossed her handbag and the room key down on the shelf by the door, and then dropped her shoes next to them.

“But even then, he was just way too tame, you know?” she went on.  “Like.  Boring.  I mean.  I don’t exactly require whips and chains, but a little enthusiasm is nice.”

She wasn’t sure why she kept going on about it, only getting more and more irritated as she went on.  She’d never even admitted any of this to herself before, and now that it was coming out into the open, she couldn’t stop.  Even as she made space for Loki to make his way into the room and close the door behind them, she realised she wasn’t done.

“Mostly I wound up having to take charge, which all right, I guess,” she said.  “But sometimes a girl just wants to be thrown down onto the bed.  Every time he tried to take charge, he just apologised for everything.  Everything.”

Without warning, Loki stepped forward into her space and picked her up off the floor, holding her in both arms.  For a moment, Darcy was so startled by it, she could barely remember to breathe.  And then it all came back as she realised what had happened, and began to panic.

“Woah, hey!” she shouted, feeling very vulnerable and stupid all of a sudden.

Loki was tall, and he held her high against his chest as he made quick strides across the room.  From that height, it was a bit of a fall when he dropped her onto the bed, causing her to squeal loudly.  She shit the mattress hard, bouncing back up and landing suddenly on the floor.

“Ow, what the hell?” she asked, not sure if she wanted to laugh or scream or cry.

She looked up at Loki, surprised to see him still standing casually above her, as though he had done absolutely nothing.

“You said you wanted to be thrown down onto a bed,” he said with a shrug.  “I thought you meant right now.”

Darcy had nothing to throw at him, so she waved her hand at him instead.  “Whatever, douche.  You can’t just throw someone who’s drunk.  Help me up.”

Loki stepped closer and bent to offer his hand.  Taking it, Darcy pulled herself to her feet, finding them a bit more wobbly than she expected.  As she caught her balance, she twisted a bit to rub where she’d landed on her ass.  She still wasn’t sure how much she actually trusted him, especially after their conversation up to the room.  But after a moment’s awkward silence while Darcy tried to determine whether or not she was going to have a bruise on her ass, Loki turned away and left her to what had become her side of the room.  Just that little bit of space made her feel like she could breathe again, which let all her outraged indignation come flooding back.

“Gah.  I should make you kiss it better,” she said.  She winced at the persistent ache and wondered what she was supposed to do about it.

“Do you mean that?” Loki asked, right back to joking again.

“Yeah.  Kiss my ass,” Darcy said, barely managing to keep a straight face.

She walked over to the dresser and picked up the pyjamas she’d left on top that morning, ignoring Loki’s snort as he settled down on the sofa.  She slipped back into the bathroom to change out of her skirt and into her pyjamas, hoping she’d feel a little more comfortable sitting down with more skin covered.  As she stripped down, she twisted to look at herself in the mirror, but didn’t see any signs of bruising yet.  Knowing it would come eventually, Darcy pulled on her pyjamas and changed into her T-shirt a little more quickly than was probably necessary.  After being thrown to the ground, she felt a little less drunk, and a little more wary about going back out into their rather small hotel room.  Despite her talk with Thor, she knew she still did not have the full picture.  Thor had still been coy about some of the details, and she had no idea whether he was sparing her some of the more horrific bits, or leaving out something important.

But she didn’t exactly want to ask Loki about it either.  If he said something completely contradictory, Darcy was just going to wind up right in the middle of their family feud.  If he actually confirmed Thor’s story, she wasn’t even sure what she would do, beyond lock herself in the bathroom and cry.

She knew she needed to ask him, but not while she was drunk.  That was a conversation she needed to be sober for.  For the time being, she told herself that it simply wasn’t her problem.  Nothing Thor had said could be backed up by anything Loki had done.  Not on the trip, and not really since she’d known him, apartment shenanigans aside.  But even then, nothing ever turned up missing or broken, and as far as she could tell, he never showed up when he knew nobody would come home to find him there.  She’d set boundaries for the trip, and throwing her notwithstanding, he’d done nothing to cross those boundaries. 

It was a horrible, confusing mess, and whether she wanted to be or not, she was stuck in the middle of it, forced to make a choice she did not want to make.  Trying to remember that she was on a stupidly expensive vacation, and there to enjoy herself, Darcy left the bathroom and tossed her clothes down onto the floor beside the dresser.  She flopped down onto the bed and lay there for a few moments while the room spun lightly around her.  Loki was still on the sofa, still wearing Thor’s shirt, half unbuttoned, and playing around on his phone.  Darcy listened as he tapped at the screen, wondering who he’d turned his phone on to talk to.  He finished and started to get up, but his phone dinged and he just started tapping away again.  After a moment, the room stopped spinning and Darcy rolled over to pick up the remote.  She turned to the hotel’s information channel, but it had cycled back through to the dinosaur trivia she’d been watching with Jane earlier in the evening.

“You wanna watch a movie or something?” she asked, looking over to Loki as he finally escaped his phone and got up from the sofa. 

He kicked his mess from earlier that day closer to his backpack and picked up a shirt from his very small selection.

“What have they got?” he asked.

He pulled Thor’s shirt off and quickly swapped over to a T-shirt.  For a moment, he stood there, holding onto the shirt, before dropping it down onto the floor with the rest of the mess.  She watched him as he pulled his shoes off, and then picked the shirt back up from the pile.  He turned and opened the door between the two rooms, drawing startled shouts as he threw the shirt and shoes back into Jane and Thor’s room.

“Loki, get out of here!” Thor shouted.

“Shut up,” Loki said, closing the door again.

He sighed then, and shrugged a defeated little shrug at Darcy.

“Movies?” he asked.

Having nothing immediately in mind, Darcy navigated over to the On Demand menu.  While she flipped through sections, Loki walked past her and stepped back out onto the balcony.  Even though they hadn’t officially divided up the room, Loki had mostly kept to the other side, except when he wanted to stand outside to smoke.  Darcy watched him light his cigarette while she scrolled through the movie list.  For how big it was, she found surprisingly little she was interested in.

Godzilla?” she asked, not even sure she wanted to watch it.

“Which one?” Loki asked, turning to see the TV.

Darcy checked.  “Matthew Broderick,” she said.  “Ew, gross.”

“God no,” Loki agreed.

While she scrolled further through the list, Loki leaned back over the rail and looked out across the dark resort.  Suddenly, a loud roar echoed through the air, drawing out almost desperately before fading.  Darcy froze, every fibre of her body feeling like it was going to explode.  It took a long moment for her to realise the dinosaur that made the sound was not right outside their window, but somewhere else in the park.

“It’s the T-Rex,” Loki said, nodding toward the direction of its pen.

Darcy looked off in that direction, slowly sitting up so she could see better.  From where she was on the bed, she could only see sky and the glare of flood lights from down below.

“It sounds angry,” Darcy said, still not entirely convinced it was where it should be.

“It’s old and blind.  I’d be angry too,” Loki said.

Darcy took a deep breath to steady herself and started scrolling through the menu again.  A few moments later, the T-Rex roared once more.  Actually listening to it this time, instead of freezing up like a monkey in the jungle, Darcy realised that it was still very far away, and what she was mostly hearing was the echo.

“That’s actually kind of scary,” she said, mostly to herself.

They sat in silence for a moment.  The only sound that came through the window was the low breeze through the trees below, but the T-Rex seemed to have been done.

“That little one’s down there again,” Loki said suddenly.  “Look.”

Darcy nervously got up and stood next to him to look over the rail.  For a strange moment, she thought Loki was going to throw her over or something stupid, but he was right.  The head-butting dinosaur was down there again, snuffling around the plants that lined the hotel.  She watched it for a moment, almost preferring to see it able to roam around and explore without having to worry about getting bullied by another dinosaur.

“How’s it keep getting out?” Darcy asked, leaning against the rail to watch it.  “And why’s it like it over here?”

The T-Rex roared again, sending a chill straight through Darcy.  She stepped closer to Loki, reaching out to grab his arm in case they needed to run.  She half-expected to see the giant dinosaur crashing through the line of palm trees below, but the only dinosaur she saw was the little one she’d come out to look at.

“Petco has better animal husbandry practises than this place,” Loki muttered as he snubbed his cigarette out on the rail.

Darcy wasn’t sure what that meant, but when Loki put his hand on her back to guide her back inside, she gladly went along with him.  It wasn’t until he shut and locked the balcony door behind them that she felt any better.  She sat back down on the edge of the bed as Loki picked up the remote and resumed the search for something to watch while they wound down for bed.  Watching the list of movies scroll by, Darcy wondered if the T-Rex had been that loud the night before as well.  She’d been so tired by the time they got to the room, she’d fallen asleep almost immediately.  If the T-Rex had made a racket, she’d slept right through it.

“What about Pacific Rim?” Loki asked, still standing at the edge of the bed.

“Huh?”  Darcy looked up at him, confused for a moment.  In all the excitement, she’d almost forgotten what they were doing.  “No, I don’t think I want monsters right now.”

She was acutely aware of the little one below their balcony, and the great big one screaming from across the park.  She didn’t think she’d be able to sleep at all if she added TV monsters to the list.

Snowpiercer?” Loki asked, still flipping through the list.

Darcy considered it as she stretched tiredly along the bed.  “Sure, I haven’t actually seen that one yet,” she said.

“Thirteen bucks,” Loki said as he clicked the ‘rent’ button.

Darcy groaned, already kind of regretting her decision to rent a movie.

“You could buy it on iTunes for that,” she said.

She rolled over onto her stomach to make room for Loki to sit down next to her, but he sat down on the floor in front of the bed instead.  He seemed a lot more relaxed than Darcy felt, and for a moment she wondered if she wasn’t just starting to freak out over nothing.  At the same time, she felt almost relieved that he hadn’t joined her on the bed, and then felt guilty about letting him sit on the floor.  But she remembered what Thor had said, about Loki using her to get to him, and realised that he was right.  More than that, Darcy had known that was exactly what was going on before they even left New York.  It had been the entire point of Loki coming alone, because Loki wanted to ruin his brother’s vacation out of spite.  At the time, Darcy had been angry enough with Thor that she thought she wanted the same thing.  But now, full of rum and regret, she knew that bringing Loki for that reason had been a mistake.  Even if he was someone she hung out with after work, she barely knew him.  And now she was drunk, and they were sharing a hotel room, and she couldn’t help but feel like she’d led him on in more ways than one.  He’d had his hands all over her all morning, and then she called herself an expensive date, and the boundaries she had set for them were so blurry they barely existed.

Now, everything was tense and uncomfortable and there was no way to get away from it.  And because of it, she once again was not enjoying her ridiculously expensive vacation.  And worse, she’d spent so much money on making it happen that not enjoying it was only starting to make her feel guilty about that as well.  If she’d worked all that overtime, and just saved up the money for something reasonable, like a decent house or a car like an adult, maybe she’d have been better off.  Instead, she’d wasted all that money on a trip with someone she didn’t even know, and lied to her friends about it.

“Fuck,” she said, feeling the bile in her stomach rising.

Moving as fast as she could, Darcy rolled off the bed and ran to the bathroom.  She barely got the lid on the toilet up in time before three rum and Cokes and an expensive Gordon Ramsay dinner all came right back up again.  More money wasted, and Darcy felt even worse for it.  She whined like a pathetic puppy and crouched down low on the floor, not sure if she wanted to cry or puke again.  As she wallowed in her misery, she didn’t hear Loki follow her across the room.

“Do you need anything?” he asked, sounding weirdly critical.

Darcy didn’t even look up at him.  She could hear he was still at the door, and that was good enough.  He wasn’t all up in her space, and that was somehow better.  Groaning to herself, Darcy shook her head.  He hadn’t asked anything stupid, like if she was all right, and for some strange reason she was grateful for it.

Loki hung around in the doorway for a few moments longer before turning away and leaving her where she was.  She thought for a moment that she could hear him talking quietly, but another wave hit her stomach and she puked up the rest of whatever was left in her.  It had been a long time since she’d actually been sick enough to throw up, and she’d forgotten how painful it was.  Suddenly everything hurt, and she could taste the bile in her mouth, and all she wanted to do was curl up on the floor and die.

As she tried do to exactly that, Loki returned to lurk in the doorway again.

“Do you want to stay on the floor, go to bed?” he asked, still being refreshingly practical about it all.

“I don’t know,” Darcy said.  She groaned, not wanting to move at all, but also acutely aware that she was hugging a hotel toilet.

“Too much to drink, or bad seafood?” Loki asked.

“I don’t know,” Darcy repeated. 

She knew she wasn’t sick from what she’d had at Margaritaville.  At least, that wasn’t all of it.  The drinks were strong, but not that strong, and she’d only had three.  But everything she’d eaten, Loki had eaten as well, and he wasn’t praying for death next to her. 

“Too much to drink.  Too much sun.  Too much guilt,” she said.

Without warning, Loki stepped into the bathroom and pulled her to her feet with a surprising amount of care.  Even more surprising, he lifted her right off the floor and carried her back out to the bed.

“No, don’t.  I don’t deserve it,” Darcy said, doing absolutely nothing to stop him.

“If you say so,” Loki said.  He put her back down on the bed with significantly more care than he had the first time.  “But I don’t want to step over you if I need the toilet.”

Darcy groaned again and rolled over onto her side.

“Thanks,” she said flatly.

Loki shrugged and walked around to sit down at the foot of the bed, keeping plenty of space between them.  Darcy realised he’d paused the movie only when he started it up again.  Not that it mattered, since Darcy hadn’t paid attention to any of it, and felt terrible about spending $13 on it.  Just one more thing to feel guilty about added to the pile.

When a knock sounded through the room a few minutes later, Darcy thought it was Jane at first.  She wondered if she’d been loud enough to be heard through the wall.  But the knock came from the wrong door, which Darcy only realised as Loki got up to answer it.  She rolled over to see him answering a room service call, and felt even worse.  More money spent that should have been saved up for something different and important.

When Loki brought the tray over to her, she was surprised to see a glass, lidded bowl full of soup, and a sachet of pink tablets beside it.

“I don’t deserve this either,” Darcy said.

Loki gave her that critical look again.  The one she was too busy hating herself to put any effort into trying to understand.

“If you don’t eat it, I will,” he said.

She knew he was right.  Not only was he right, but he’d done something nice for her, and at this point clearly wasn’t expecting anything in return.  Darcy slowly sat up, moving like her body was made of sand, and took the tray from him.  A moment later, after making sure she was settled, Loki returned to go sit on the floor at the foot of the bed.

The first thing she picked up from it were the Pepto tablets.  She unwrapped them and ate them cautiously, waiting for a few minutes to see if they were just going to make her puke again like the liquid stuff did when she was a kid.  Feeling neither better nor worse for it, she took the lid off of her soup and picked up the spoon, still not sure if she really wanted to eat it.  But this was a five-star hotel, and the soup before her hadn’t come out of any cans.  There were no stodgy noodles in bright yellow brother, or questionable cubes of dodgy beige meat.  Real vegetables and shredded chicken breast and curled egg noodles all looked vaguely appetising, even with her stomach still feeling like it wasn’t quite ready to settle down.  Ignoring anything solid, Darcy quietly sipped some of the broth from her bowl.  Occasionally, she’d look back at Loki while he watched the movie, but he didn’t seem to be concerned about much else.

Somehow, knowing she wasn’t being watched like she could fall over and break at any moment made her feel a bit less like she’d put on some big dramatic show.  Though she was almost annoyed that the soup was making her feel a bit better, because she knew it probably cost about $20.  Darcy tried to ignore the numbers and focused instead on the movie they’d rented.  Whatever was going on, she had clearly missed something important.  She tried to catch up, but it was a lost cause.  Nothing made any sense, so she dared to eat some chicken instead.

“Can I ask you a favour?” Darcy asked once she was certain her stomach would stay where it belonged.

Loki turned to look back at her, and for some reason Darcy thought he looked almost suspicious.  Assuming he probably expected her to ask him something gross, Darcy ignored it.

“Can we lay off the PDA for a little bit?” she asked, feeling stupid and guilty all over again.  “I feel really bad about lying to Jane, and I’m sick of all the fighting.  This isn’t as funny as I thought it was going to be.”

She looked back down at her soup, expecting Loki to get annoyed or angry or something.

“Is that what this is?” he asked.

He didn’t sound annoyed or angry.  If anything, he sounded concerned.

“I think so,” Darcy said, nodding a bit.  “I just feel like I blew a lot of money just to piss off my friends.”

“It is a lot of money just to piss off your friends,” Loki said.

She was annoyed that he’d agreed, though she didn’t know why it annoyed her.

“You could have hired a hitman instead and got the job over with,” Loki said, apparently not done being obnoxious.

Darcy gaped at him, taking a few moments to realise it was just his fucked up idea of a joke.

“There is something wrong with you,” she said.

Loki shrugged.  “So I’ve been told,” he said.

Shaking her head, Darcy ate a little more of her soup.  She was feeling better, but somehow she knew it wasn’t the soup that had done the heavy lifting.  When she looked up again, Loki was spun all the way around, leaning against the bed and watching her almost expectantly.  She watched him right back for a long moment, but he apparently had nothing more to say.

“I don’t think I’m gonna puke again,” Darcy said, not sure what he wanted.

Loki watched her for a moment longer before nodding.  “Good,” he said.

Darcy could tell it wasn’t what he was expecting, but he turned back around to face the TV all the same.  Rather than watching the movie, Darcy finished off her soup and set the tray aside on the bedside table.  As she settled back in to get comfortable and watch what was left of the movie, she only then realised that Loki was still on the floor like a weirdo.

“Why don’t you sit up here?  It’s probably more comfortable,” she said.

Loki didn’t answer immediately, but when he did, he shook his head.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said.

“Why not?” Darcy asked.

She knew why not.  But she felt weird being up on the bed while Loki was on the floor.

“Because I don’t know how to get chicken soup and chalk tablets out of cotton,” Loki said.

Darcy didn’t know what she expected.

“Wow.  You can stay on the floor, then,” she said.

And just to make her point, she shuffled closer to the middle of the bed so she could sprawl out a bit more comfortably.

« || »

Isla Nublar #10: Isla Sorna

Once they finished their dinner, they debated getting dessert as the sun fell over the horizon.  As soon as darkness fell, the cool breeze from the ocean picked up, making the exposed observation deck a less than pleasant place to be.  They all quickly agreed to forgo dessert entirely, eager to get out of the rising cold.  But they didn’t have much of a reprieve inside, since the hotel was on a different part of the boardwalk.  Walking along the water, the breeze only seemed colder, and Darcy wished she had thought to grab her hoodie.  But before she could try to convince Loki to try to share some of his body heat, Jane pulled her aside, managing to get her far enough away from the men to talk quietly without being heard.  Loki turned back to watch them, but when Darcy waved him along, he moved to catch up with Thor.

“What was going on back there?” Jane asked, sounding like she wasn’t sure if she expected to hear gossip, or impending doom.

“What?” asked Darcy.

She didn’t think anything was going on.  Loki had behaved himself perfectly, and save the single highlight of the meal, everything had been fairly tame.  And then, she realised suddenly.

“Oh,” she said.  “Thor’s probably pissed because Loki stained his shirt while he was choking to death.”

Jane tilted her head, not quite following.

“Eyeliner,” Darcy said, gesturing to her own eyes.  “I don’t think it was intentional.  I mean, he kinda seemed like he was dying for a second there.”

Jane sighed heavily.  “Yeah, he did,” she said, nodding almost reluctantly.  “You two are… serious?”

Darcy shook her head.  “No, I don’t think so,” she said. 

She wanted to tell Jane.  Desperately wanted to let her know, but she didn’t want to ruin the whole trip because of a petty lie.

“Things with Ian were going south for a while,” Darcy said, trying to find a way to rationalise the lie she was supposed to be telling.  “I didn’t want to break up with him because I thought he was looking forward to the trip, and we’d put so much money into it.  But I’ve been over him for a while.”

Jane hummed, making a skeptical little noise that Darcy didn’t like.  “I have to admit, I’m just a little shocked,” she said.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Darcy felt like she’d have to keep lying forever just to cover up the first one.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I mean, we’re really not serious.  Mostly he’s just been someone to hang out with who isn’t completely fucking awkward all the time.”

“Wow, you really have been over Ian for a while,” Jane said.  She laughed awkwardly, looking away from Darcy.

Everything Darcy had said had been more or less true, but she wondered where exactly that line had been blurred.  Loki had been someone to hang out and talk to.  She’d take his stolen keys back, but she never did kick him out or turn him away when he showed up.  But how much of that was because she was over Ian and ready to move on, and how much was because she just wanted a friend who had nothing to do with her work life?

She looked up ahead at the boys, watching them have their own awkward conversation up ahead.  Sighing, Darcy tried to find a way out of this hell.

“You know he was planning on spending Christmas alone?” she said.

Jane looked at her, wearing a confused look on her face.  “What about their mom?” she asked

Darcy shook her head.  “No, he said he wasn’t invited.”

“Who needs an invite from their own mom?” Jane asked.

Darcy shrugged, and then nodded up ahead to where Thor and Loki’s conversation was getting dangerously close to becoming an argument.

Again, Jane sighed.  “Look,” she said.  “I know that you like him.  And he has been surprisingly well-behaved so far.  But would you please talk to Thor?”

Darcy looked over at Jane, hating every minute of this conversation.  “About Loki?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Jane said.  “He’s told me quite a lot, and I still don’t feel like I have the whole story.  But it’s bad.  Really bad.”

Darcy frowned.  She hadn’t heard much of a story at all.  “What did he tell you?” she asked.  “Every time I ask shit gets all awkward and weird.”

Jane stared straight ahead as they walked in silence, keeping a safe distance behind the other two.

“Their dad didn’t have a stroke,” Jane said finally.  “At least that’s what Thor says.  Honestly, it all sounds like a big mess.  A big, scary mess.”

Darcy didn’t think she wanted to hear any more.  She didn’t want to talk about this with Jane, or with Thor.  She didn’t want to talk about it with anybody.  Up ahead, the incredibly uncivil conversation was turning into a full-blown argument, and Darcy assumed it was about more than just Thor’s shirt.

“This is gonna be one of those ‘him or me’ conversations, isn’t it?” she asked.  “Because I hate those.”

“I don’t know,” Jane said.  She sounded tired and run down as well.  “Probably not.  Thor’s not really like that.”

Thor and Loki had stopped heading toward the hotel.  Right there, in the middle of the boardwalk, Thor started trying to wrestle his shoes away from Loki, while Loki was still wearing them.  They were both shouting at that point, having some secret argument in a language Darcy couldn’t even identify.  She and Jane both stopped to watch it, and suddenly everything just felt incredibly sad.

“Dear god, we’re dating six-year-olds,” Darcy said flatly while she watched the drama play out.

“Yep,” Jane said.  “This could go on for a while.  You wanna go upstairs and order drinks?”

Darcy thought about it for a moment, and almost said yes.

“How about cake?” she suggested instead.  “I really had my heart set on some before we got frosted out up there.”

She wasn’t sure she wanted to drink any more than she already had, not trusting herself to hold her tongue over anything important.

Jane watched the other two continue to fight, and then started to walk right along past them.  “Yeah, let’s go get cake,” she said.

They headed back upstairs without the other two, and went to Jane’s room, since it was the tidier of the two by a very slight margin.  They ordered two enormous pieces of double chocolate cake from room service, and camped out on the bed with it, slowly nibbling on it as they watched the resort’s information channel and chatted about lighter subjects, like how gorgeous the entire resort was.  Eventually, Thor made his way back up, still looking sour and grim as he let the door swing shut behind him.  Darcy knew Loki hadn’t taken his key with him, so she expected to see him follow Thor through the room to make his way into theirs, but he wasn’t there at all.

“Where’s Loki?” she asked, craning to see if he was lurking in the hall.

“He left.  He said he needed a cigarette,” Thor said, sitting down on the long sofa against the wall.

Darcy frowned, knowing Loki had at taken at least half a pack with him.  She’d watched him cram it into his pocket.  She wanted to get up to see if she could go find him, but somehow, sitting between her and the door, Thor seemed like a barrier.

“You’ll be better off if he doesn’t return,” Thor said.  “With any luck, he’s found a bar, and he’ll get arrested and deported.”

“What?” Darcy asked, not sure what Thor thought he was saying.

“My brother is dangerous, and not to be trusted,” Thor said.  He looked at the wall as he spoke, rather than at her.  “Whatever he may have told you, he’s using you.  Likely to get to me.  And I’m ashamed to admit that it’s working.”

Darcy suddenly realised she was having this talk with Thor, whether she wanted to or not.  And she did not want to.

“Get to you how?” she asked cautiously.  “I don’t get it.  Can we start from the beginning?  Because this was a trip that was already paid for.  He hasn’t taken anything from me.”

She knew that whatever Thor had to say, she didn’t want to hear it.  But maybe it would be easier to listen to it all at once than try to get through it in stilted bits and pieces over the course of the next week.

Thor nodded slowly, still looking at the wall in front of him.  He rubbed his face with one giant hand and sat forward, finally looking over to face Darcy.

“You know that our father is ill, and unlikely to recover,” Thor said.

Darcy nodded.  “Yeah,” she said slowly.

Thor nodded again, seeming like he was moving entirely to keep himself from exploding.

“He’s not ill,” Thor said.  “We’ve not been able to prove anything, but it was an attempt at murder.  Our father was in hospital for a week before Loki bothered to show up, and the only thing he had to say was that he wasn’t sorry.”

He shook his head, anger overtaking him again.

“The police closed the case three days later,” he said.  “I don’t know what he did to make that happen, but I saw our father’s injuries.  It was no accident.”

Darcy frowned, trying to piece it all together against what she already thought she’d known.  She’d been hearing little bits and pieces of the story over the last year and a half, ever since Jane first brought Thor home.  And she wasn’t quite sure how it all fit together, or even if it did.

“I thought you said your dad had a stroke,” Darcy said, fairly certain she remembered those exact words from Thor at one point.

He nodded.  “He did, but after.  Not before,” he said.  “They tried to say that the injuries were a result of him falling, but it never sat right with me.  I wanted him charged, but the police said there wasn’t enough evidence.  Now he lives in our father’s house and doesn’t pay a dime on it.  Just how he wanted it.”

Darcy wasn’t sure what to think anymore.  Though, everything made that much more sense.  She understood why Thor hated to even look at Loki.  And Loki’s seemingly playful antagonism took on an entirely new colour, if he knew why Thor hated him in the first place.  But at the same time, it made no sense at all.  Darcy didn’t know much about medicine, but she was pretty sure if anybody who wasn’t emotionally attached, be it at the hospital or the police, had thought there was something funny, they wouldn’t have closed the case.

Even though Thor had not actually said the words, Darcy felt like this was very much starting to turn into a ‘him or me’ conversation, and she hated him for it.

“Tell me about when he stabbed you,” she said.  “What happened there?”

Thor shook his head, making an exasperated little noise.  “He’s a terrible drunk,” he said.  “The worst kind.  Violent and cruel.”

It didn’t answer her question, but she remembered him ordering a soda at dinner, even before he reacted badly to a vodka shot.

“Why’d he go to jail?” she asked, since Thor was apparently in the mood to answer questions.

She was surprised when he actually laughed, though it wasn’t a very mirthful laugh.

“Booze isn’t his only vice,” he said, apparently not quite as generous with his answers as Darcy had thought.

She hated this whole thing.  She wanted to run and hide from all of it, but she still had one more question.

“When did he take our apartment key from you?” she asked.  “Because I didn’t even know him until after he started letting himself in, and he wouldn’t have been able to get it from Jane.”

Thor didn’t answer.  He just looked at the floor.

“Please just admit that you showed him where we live, and you’re where he got the key, because I’m sick of getting blamed for it,” Darcy said.

Thor took a deep breath and shrugged.  “I foolishly let him borrow my car,” he said finally.  “Yours must have been the last address on the GPS.”

Darcy looked over to Jane, feeling vindicated for at least this.  Jane did not seem as pleased to hear this as Darcy did.  She just looked tired and vaguely irritated and horrified at all of it.

“Cool,” Darcy said, getting up.  “I have to go.  I’ve got a lot to think about.”

Taking what was left of her cake with her, she walked into her own room, finding Loki’s mess still piled in the middle of the floor.  There were two packs of cigarettes mixed in with the T-shirts, and house keys, and various food wrapper trash.  It was almost like he’d packed what he had into the first bag he’d found, without even bothering to empty it first.

Shutting the door behind her, Darcy wandered over to her bed and sat down on it.  She thought about everything Thor had said, everything she had seen.  Though she didn’t know all of the detail of it, she knew Loki had been to jail for something, years earlier.  Though for some reason, both he and Thor had been awfully coy about why.  While Thor blamed some unspoken vice, Loki blamed their dad.  And now, he bred snakes and posted their pictures on the internet, and made just enough money doing it to keep the lights on at home.

The fact that he apparently didn’t pay rent put his budget into an even tighter perspective.  And yet, he’d bought her dinner with the very last of the cash he’d had, and shared his food even when he was starving.

But he also broke into their apartment and brought his dog over.  Although, that had stopped once they decided to go on this trip together, because she had asked him to stop.  No demands or ultimatums.  Just a simple request that went obeyed without question or argument.  He’d also so far kept to their bargain, keeping his hands to himself when they weren’t performing for Thor’s sake, and keeping his hands within the boundaries she’d set when Thor was around.

Though, now the performance just seemed cruel, if Thor truly believed that the person who had tried to kill their father was currently using Darcy against him somehow.  Especially since Darcy knew that Loki was there just to irritate Thor.  The dinosaurs were just a bonus.  Loki would have probably agreed to being a last-minute stand-in on a trip to Coney Island had that been the circumstance.

But that treacherous voice in the back of Darcy’s head pointed out that Loki would have probably jumped on that trip because he couldn’t even afford that much fun on his own.  His Christmas plans had been staying home alone.  His reasoning for not having cooties was that he wasn’t around people often enough to get cooties.  She remembered how much money he’d spent on his ticket, so shortly after saying he’d sold some snakes just to be able to afford getting his van out of impound.  She wondered how much he’d fucked himself up financially just to torture Thor.  She wondered how much he thought it was worth it.

She also wondered how much of the trip was actually about torturing Thor.  He never seemed to start any of  their squabbles.  Just him existing seemed to set Thor off, but that was hardly surprising given what Thor had just told her.  She wasn’t sure she’d be able to behave any differently.

Darcy sighed, and realised she was doing exactly what she didn’t want to do on this trip.  She was in Costa Rica, two days before Christmas, to look at dinosaurs and have a good time in the sun.  She was not allowed to do anything other than have fun.  Trying to get back to a place where she could have fun, Darcy turned the TV on and put it back on the resort’s information channel.  Watching something about the bamboo forest, she started to finish her cake, only getting about two bites in before someone knocked at the door.

“Darcy!  Let me in!” Loki called through the door.

Darcy jumped up without thinking and rushed to open the door for him.  He was still wearing Thor’s shirt and shoes, but his hair was down again, and the dark eyeliner smudges under his eyes were even worse.  But he didn’t seem like he’d been out drinking or narrowly avoiding getting arrested, so that was a plus in his favour.

“Did you still want to see the IMAX today?” he asked.  “There’s one more showing, and if we hurry, we can make it.”

“Uh,” Darcy said, surprised that of all the things he could have said, he was talking about the IMAX movie.  “Yeah.  Uh.”

She looked around quickly and replaced her cake with her handbag from the table beside the bed, and rushed back out to the hall with him.  Her shoes weren’t great for walking fast, and after a few steps, Loki seemed to realise that as well.  He stopped in the middle of the hall and bent over slightly.

“Come on.  Get on,” he said.

“What?” Darcy asked, realising belatedly what he meant.

“You’re too slow,” he said.

Darcy shrugged to herself and tried to hop onto his back, but her skirt and his height conspired to make it difficult.  The second time she tried, Loki managed to hook his arms under her legs before sprinting down toward the elevator.  Darcy held on for dear life, terrified she was going to slip, or he was going to drop her.  Though she wasn’t sure whether it was the hard landing, or the potential of flashing a stranger that scared her more.  Loki kept her on his back during the ride down the elevator, taking the time to secure his grip a bit better, before sprinting off through the lobby and out onto the boardwalk.  They both laughed during their mad dash in the darkness, neither able to compose themselves as they reached the IMAX theatre.  Loki put her down once they reached the ticket queue, giving Darcy only a few moments to put herself back together while everyone else stared at them.  She pretended she didn’t see as she dug through her handbag for her phone, and pulled the spending card from the case.  There were three different movies, so Darcy picked on at random, knowing there would be plenty of time to come back for the other two.  When the cashier told her that two tickets for the movie was nearly sixty bucks, Darcy began to wonder once more whether the $5000 she had in the account was going to be even close to enough to cover ten days.  But she still wanted to see the movie, so she handed over the card.

“So, is this 3D, or what?” Loki asked as they walked through the lobby.

Darcy nearly stopped in her tracks.  “It’s IMAX,” she said.  “Haven’t you ever seen an IMAX movie?”

Loki shook his head.  “No,” he said.  “What makes it so special?”

Darcy wondered how he and Thor seemed to come from not only wildly different backgrounds, but sometimes wildly different planets.  Not even sure how to describe what she had brought him to, she simply led him through the lobby, handing the ticket taker their tickets.

“House three, to the right,” he said, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of the appropriate door.

He tore their tickets and handed the stubs back.

“Thank you,” Darcy said, leading Loki back to the door.

As they left the corridor and stepped into the dark theatre, Darcy wondered why she had agreed to go with him after everything that had happened already.  Was sitting in a dark theatre with him the smartest thing she could be doing?  She glanced over to Loki, but he wasn’t looking anywhere near her.  His attention was fixed on the high, domed screen above them, stopping him in his steps and blocking the people behind him.

“Come on,” Darcy said, tugging on his hand and taking him to find their seats.

Watching Loki settle into the reclined seat, Darcy forgot all about everything Thor had told her, if only for a moment.  Loki’s odd uncertainty as he leaned back and looked up at the screen seemed almost child-like in a way, and Darcy couldn’t help but laugh.

“You okay?” she asked.

“I feel like I’m at the dentist,” Loki said stiffly.

He held onto both arm rests, as if expecting to either fall out of his seat, or have to use them as leverage to leap up and flee at any moment.  For a moment, Darcy thought to see if the arm rests would go up, but this wasn’t a date.  She wasn’t there with her boyfriend, and there was nobody around to perform for.  Instead, she settled back into her own seat and listened to the 90s pop music being played through the house speakers.  Boyz II Men had never sounded so good.  Sitting back in their rocket ship seats, it was hard to look around the house to see how many people were still shuffling in, so Darcy turned to Loki, watching him struggle to find a comfortable way to sit.  She felt bad about laughing, but the strangest things seemed to catch him off guard, once again making her wonder how he and Thor were from the same planet.

The movie started a few minutes after they got seated, with no trailers or First Look lead-in most cinemas played.  The house lights slowly went down, plunging them all into darkness, and then the projector came on, cycling through the vast production credits.

The movie itself was like one of those Walking with Dinosaurs shows the Discovery Channel played every now and then, but nothing about it was CGI.  It all seemed to have been filmed right there on the island, but some shots didn’t make sense.  High, sweeping helicopter shots above the island showed only mountains and jungle.  There was no resort anywhere, as if they’d airbrushed and composited the whole thing out to make the island look more natural and un-touched.  But even as remote controlled video equipment captured a giant dinosaur with a sail on its back fighting a stegosaurus, something about the entire documentary bothered Darcy.  Only when the giant spiny dinosaur killed its prey did Darcy forget about her unease with the way the movie was shot, becoming instead uneasy at the uncensored images of the giant creature tearing the other animal apart.  The narrator calmly pointed out how the spiny dinosaur used one of its feet to hold the stegosaurus in place, while its huge crocodile jaws ripped it apart.

After that, attention shifted to some brontosauruses, with the narrator drawing parallels to giraffes and acacia trees.  Which, Darcy realised, did sort of look like a lot of the trees on the island and in the movie.  Tall and spindly, with leaves only at the very top.  The dinosaurs grazed just like giraffes, eating what they could reach on the tree, and moving on to the next.

While the movie cycled through shots of the dinosaurs eating and wandering about, the narrator talked about old theories about the dinosaurs, and how palaeontologists once thought they’d need four or five hearts to pump blood up their long necks to their brains.  But that was back before John Hammond’s technology proved that the animals were warm blooded, with massive, four-chamber hearts capable of doing the job on their own.

Something Loki had figured out just by looking at them, Darcy remembered.  She glanced over to him, and was surprised to see him watching intently, absently chewing on his thumbnail again.  He was obviously into this kind of thing, and for a moment, she wondered why he had never been invited in the first place.  And then, she remembered she already knew why.  Feeling suddenly uneasy again, she shifted in her seat and turned back to watch the movie.

As the movie ended, fading out over another helicopter shot of the boxy, almost square island, Darcy’s uneasiness returned.

“Are you all right?” Loki asked, looking at her strangely.

Darcy hadn’t realised she’d been letting any of it show.

“Yeah,” she said slowly.  “I just…”  She shook her head, telling herself she was just projecting again.  “I don’t know.  It’s nothing.  Ignore me.”

Loki frowned, but said nothing.  They waited until most of the crowd had cleared out before hauling themselves out of their reclined seats.  It took Darcy a moment to find her balance again, having got used to down being in the wrong direction for almost two hours.  Loki took her by the elbow to steady her, waiting until she was safely on both feet before walking back to the door.

Back outside, the breeze had picked up a bit stronger, blowing an icy mist off of the water.  In the floodlights that lit the boardwalk, Darcy could see the tiny droplets shimmering and sparkling in the air above them, and tried not to shiver.  All of the dinosaurs were back inside for the night, and most of the other attractions had closed, but despite the cold Darcy didn’t want to go back to the hotel just yet.

“So, earlier,” Darcy said slowly, trying to figure out how to phrase her question.  “With the vodka.  You don’t drink?”

Loki shook his head.  “Not right now,” he said.

“Oh,” Darcy said, not sure what to take from that.

“However,” said Loki, looking down at her.  “I will happily go with you if you would like to stop somewhere for a while.”

“Are you sure?” Darcy asked.  “I mean, it seems kind of rude to drink in front of you.”

Loki actually laughed.  “I’m not in AA.  I’d just rather not give Thor any more ammo than he already has,” he said, turning to look down the boardwalk.  “There are eight bars on this island.  I’m sure you’d like to visit at least one of them.”

“Oh,” Darcy said again, feeling kind of stupid.  “I guess I thought… I don’t know what I thought.  Ignore me.”

She covered her face and shook her head, hoping everything would go away.  It didn’t, and when she looked back up, Loki was still laughing at her.

“Come along, then,” he said with an exaggerated sigh.  “Before you choke on your own foot.”

“Shut up,” Darcy said, following him.

The first bar they came across was an obscene tourist trap, modelled after Jimmy Buffett, of all people.  Palm fronds and parrots made up the majority of the décor, and the man himself was being played on the bar’s sound system.  Groaning at the knowledge that she was officially a tourist, Darcy left Loki to find them a table, and went up to the bar to order herself a drink.  She felt vaguely like she was expected to order a margarita, or at least something else tropical and fruity, but she didn’t want tropical and fruity.  She wanted another rum and Coke, which was at least bordering on tropical.  Surprisingly, she got one without fuss, and even grabbed something for Loki.

“Sprite,” she said as she placed the glass down on the table for him.

The table had a map of the island on it, catching Darcy’s attention as she sat down.  She barely paid attention to her drink, or Loki, as she tilted her head to better read all of the little markers pointing out the individual dinosaur habitats on the map.  But it wasn’t the habitats that stuck in her mind.  It was everything else about the map.

“There’s that look again,” Loki said.

Darcy looked up at him.  He was wearing a concerned look, but didn’t seem to understand why.

“So,” Darcy said, sighing.  “It’s my job to take video clips and arrange them into a story.  Do that six days a week, hours and hours on end, and you get really good at spotting the bias in the reporter or the camera operator.”

She shifted to sit closer to Loki so she didn’t have to twist her neck about to read the map.

“They conveniently leave stuff out.  Everyone does it,” she said, still looking over the map.  “You film from this angle, instead of that, or zoom in a bit too far and only focus on one thing instead of getting the wider shot.”

Loki watched her, waiting for her to finish.  “That doesn’t explain the look on your face,” he said.

Darcy traced her finger around the outline of the boardwalk, and then followed the monorail lines, and eventually the river off to the east.

“They were lying about something in that movie,” she said, trying to remember what she saw that hadn’t sat right.  “Lying without ever even mentioning it.  Something was just wrong, and I can’t—”

She stopped, still staring at the island.

“Holy shit,” she said quietly.

Loki began to look honestly concerned as he looked down at the map as well.  “What?” he asked.

“Look at it,” Darcy said, pointing.  “Look at the island.  It’s like, a tiny little Africa or something.  But did you see the island in the movie?”

“Yeah.  It looked…square,” Loki said slowly.  “That was a different island.”

Darcy looked around nervously, expecting to get thrown out if anyone overheard them.

“The bias,” Darcy said, leaning in close so only he’d hear.  “You film one thing to distract from something else.  You said they’re breeding the animals, because it’s cheaper.  If you spent half a billion dollars on a stegosaurus, would you let some giant, killer kite monster tear it to pieces?”

“They’re breeding the animals,” Loki said, utterly convinced.  He looked around as well, catching Darcy’s nerves.

“That’s why you never saw the resort in the movie,” Darcy said.  “Why didn’t they just say that?  The guy kept saying, ‘here at Jurassic World,’ but that wasn’t Jurassic World.”

“It certainly explains the skeleton outside,” Loki said.

Darcy knew the one he was talking about.  She had assumed it was some kind of deformed T-Rex or something, with its ridiculously curved spine, but it was the sail giant dinosaur from the movie.

“Why don’t they have that thing at the park?  Like, a living one?” she asked.

Loki shrugged.  “Maybe they only had the one and it died?” he he said.

Darcy took a long drink of her rum while she thought about everything else that had happened over the day.  All of the tours that didn’t seem right and didn’t add up.  The more she saw, the less the island made sense.

“Does this place seem really fucking dodgy to you?” she asked.

Loki looked around at all the tourists again, getting drunk and blissfully unaware of everything that went on around them.

“You mean beyond the ordinary, mega-corporation skeletons in the closet?” he asked.

“Yeah.  Beyond that,” Darcy said.  She looked down at the map again, tracing its outline with her finger.  “Where do you think the money comes from?”

Loki looked at her, clearly turning the same thoughts over in his own mind.  “What are you thinking?” he asked.

Darcy wasn’t sure.  She shook her head and shrugged.  “I’m just a desk jockey.  I don’t do the investigations or write the reports.  I just put them together based on what I’m told the story should be.” 

She looked down at the map again, wondering where the other mysterious island sat relative to Isla Nublar.  She knew she wouldn’t be able to look it up from her phone, with the firewall surrounding the island apparently keeping people from looking into the inconsistencies around the park.

“But that’s always the mantra.  Follow the money,” she said.  “Are they laundering, or are they embezzling?  Or both?”

Loki didn’t respond.  The two of them sat quietly, watching everything around them.  When it became clear that nobody else cared, or even heard what they were talking about, Darcy sighed and took another long drink of her rum.  She’d paid $20 for it, so she figured she might as well enjoy it.

« || »

Isla Nublar #9: The Jungle

After spending all day on her feet in the sun, Darcy was already starting to feel worn down and tired by the time they got to the hotel.  The problem with working her ass off to pay for the trip meant a lot of long hours at a desk in an artificially-lit room.  Spending two days in a row under the actual sun, on her feet, was catching up with her faster than she wanted it to.  Part of her wanted to wimp out on dinner, but the rest was very interested in going.

As the two of them reached their room, she stopped for a moment and contemplated the best way to handle the situation at hand.  Taking a deep breath, she stepped over to the door that joined their room with Jane and Thor’s.

“I need to go talk to Jane real quick,” she said while Loki ignored her and poured his backpack onto the floor.

The door between the rooms was unlocked, but Darcy still knocked at it before slowly pushing it open just enough to hear what was said from the other side.

“We’re dressed,” Jane said, sounding amused.

“Oh, thank god.”

Darcy pushed the door open all the way and stepped inside.  Thor stood just outside the bathroom doorway, looking at himself in the tall mirror on the closet door next to it while he debated between two shirts.  Jane had already changed into something a little nicer than what she’d worn out on the boardwalk, getting rid of the sandals and shorts in favour of dark slacks and shoes with a closed toe.

“So.  Dinner.  Is there a dress code?” Darcy asked, suddenly nervous about the answer she felt like she already knew.

“No sneakers or T-shirts,” Jane answered.  “Why?”

Darcy cringed.  “That’s… kinda all he has.  I’m pretty sure he only owns about three T-shirts and two pairs of jeans, period.”  She bit her lip and looked back at the door separating their rooms.

“And let me guess.  One pair of shoes,” Jane said.

“There’s also a pair of boots that don’t fit, apparently,” Darcy said.

There were other restaurants at the resort, but they’d made reservations for the observatory deck at The Jungle months before, when it wasn’t a problem because Ian actually had decent clothes in his closet, even if he did never wear them.  Darcy frowned at a spot on the wall while she tried to figure out what to do.  She could leave Loki behind in the room, and let him order room service, but that seemed beyond mean.  Or she could stay behind with him, but then she’d miss out on one of the things she had specifically wanted to do on the trip.

Or, she could sneak down and buy something from the ABC Store in the lobby, and hope he didn’t pitch an insulted fit over it.

Suddenly, Jane sighed, annoyed.  “Thor.  Please?” she said, looking at him expectantly.

Thor sighed in return, and stomped over to his huge suitcase and began to pick through it.  He pulled out a few shirts, before finally deciding on a plain powder blue one, and picked up his other pair of dress shoes from the floor.

“If he wears his black jeans, he should be fine,” Thor said petulantly, handing the shirt and shoes over to Darcy.

She smiled at him, surprised at how relieved she felt.

“Thanks, she said.

She still wasn’t sure how well it would go over, but she turned back to the door to take everything to Loki.  On the other side of the door, she found him standing out on the balcony, leaning over it awkwardly while he tried to smoke his cigarette without letting the smoke into the room.  She put both the shirt and shoes down onto the bed and stood next to the huge, sliding glass door, watching him for a moment.

“You know, closing the door would probably be easier,” she said, holding onto it.

Loki turned around, confused.  “What?  No,” he said, before leaning back over the rail.

Cautiously, Darcy stepped forward as well, and peered over the rail with him.  Loki wasn’t trying out acrobatics out of any courtesy, but because down below, one of the head-butting dinosaurs had apparently got out of its pen and wandered down to the hotel.  A small group of handlers were trying to corral it, but it charged at one of them, knocking him to the ground with his head.  The man lay on his back, barely moving while the others all tried to divert the dinosaur’s attention.

“Oh, fuck,” Darcy said, unable to stop watching.  “How long’s that been going on?”

“I don’t know.  I only just noticed it,” Loki said.

They watched together as the handlers finally cornered the dinosaur and shot it with a dart that dropped it to the ground within seconds.  After that, it didn’t seem so interesting, so Loki finished his cigarette and turned to go back inside.

“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to Thor’s shirt on the bed.

“There is a dress code,” Darcy said.  “You can stay here if you really want to, but you’ll be staying alone.  Gordon Ramsay’s got a restaurant on this island, and you bet your ass I’m eating there tonight.”

Loki glared at Thor’s shirt like he wanted to set it on fire, before suddenly deciding on something and shrugging.  He pulled off his own shirt and picked Thor’s up, considering it for a moment and putting it on.  It was a little too big on him, too loose with sleeves that hung over his hands, which made for an odd sight given Loki’s size.  Shaking his head, Loki tucked the shirt into his jeans and rolled up the sleeves, making it look like it fit a little better.  It wasn’t perfect, but at least it didn’t look like he’d taken it from someone else.

“Apparently your black jeans would be better,” Darcy said as she reached for the shoes Thor had given her.

Loki started to argue, and then looked down at the blue jeans he was wearing.  His argument died on his tongue.  The jeans were faded and worn, and not in a trendy, intentional way.  Even though they fit him, were still torn around the cuffs and knees.  They were also the same jeans he’d been wearing the day before.  Sighing again, he picked up the black ones from the pile he’d left on the floor, and started to change right there in the middle of the room.  Turning away quickly, Darcy pulled a black skirt and nice top from the dresser and ducked into the bathroom to change where she wouldn’t be out on display.  She wanted to shower, but at that point she didn’t have much time.  She cleaned up as best she could and changed quickly, trying to save as much time as possible so she could at least fix her hair and makeup after all day in the sun.  Once she was done, she stepped out of the bathroom to find Loki fixing his hair in front of the mirror on the closet door, brushing the curls out before pulling it all back into a neat pony tail.  It was almost surprising how well he cleaned up when he wanted to.  The black jeans he’d changed into were old and worn as well, but they didn’t show it as badly, and went well with the shirt Thor had given him.  If she hadn’t known better, Darcy would have almost thought the outfit was intentional.

“Give me your eyeliner,” Loki said suddenly.

“Why?” Darcy asked, wondering if she should be nervous.

“Because I didn’t bring mine,” Loki said.  “Nobody told me we were going out anywhere nice.”

Still uncertain, Darcy grabbed both her liquid and her pencil, not sure which one Loki wanted.

“You don’t have cooties, do you?” she asked, holding them close so Loki wouldn’t take them just yet.

“I don’t spend enough time around other people to get cooties,” Loki said.

Having a feeling she was going to regret it, she handed both eyeliners over.  To her surprise, Loki took the liquid one first, and almost used it, but changed his mind at the last second and took the pencil instead.  He was surprisingly quick with it, and definitely knew what he was doing, drawing just a thin line beneath each eye.  Darcy watched him fuss with his eyebrows and a few little flyaway hairs before he decided he was ready to go and handed the pencil back.  Darcy looked down at it, wondering if she should just throw it out.  She believed him when he said he didn’t have any cooties, but at the same time, she didn’t trust that he knew whether or not that was true.  She tossed both eyeliners back into her bag to deal with later, and finished getting ready.

As they both pulled on their shoes, Darcy having a bit less trouble than Loki, a knock came from the door to Jane’s room.

“We’re dressed,” Darcy said.

Jane peeked her head through, but didn’t step inside.  “You ready?” she asked.

“Just about,” said Darcy.

She turned back to Loki, expecting him to be more ready than he was.  Instead, he was busy tearing the laces out of Thor’s shoes.

“Uh.  We’ll meet you in the hall,” Darcy said, not really sure what she was looking at.

Jane watched the scene for a moment before nodding.  “Kay.  Hurry up,” she said before shutting the door again.

Darcy barely responded, too busy trying to figure out what Loki was doing.

“You got a problem there, buddy?” she asked.

“Thor’s feet are smaller than mine,” Loki said, trying to pull one of the shoes on.

He grimaced as he got it over his heel.  Shaking his head, he pulled it back off, took off his funky mismatched socks, and tried again.  He still didn’t look like he was very happy with it, but he laced the shoe back up before going through the whole ordeal with the other one.  He looked almost in pain as he stood up, trying to keep his weight off his toes.

“Ready?” Darcy asked, wondering if there was a better way to do this.

“I guess,” Loki said.

He patted down his pockets, and then picked up his other pair of jeans from the floor and fished everything from the pockets.  Armed with his wallet, cigarettes, and lighter, he headed toward the door.

Jane and Thor were already out in the hall, waiting.  As Darcy and Loki stepped out as well, Thor’s entire posture stiffened as he glared at his brother.  Loki ignored it, paying more attention to getting everything back into his pockets.  As they all walked back down to the boardwalk together, Thor kept his distance from Loki, while still glaring at him the entire time.  Loki, meanwhile, kept right on ignoring Thor while he very deliberately slid his hand along Darcy’s back and down her ass.  The elevator ride down to the lobby was quiet and awkward, with nobody really wanting to say anything to one another.

Out in the evening sun, Darcy realised that Loki’s tattoos showed through the light-coloured shirt Thor had loaned him, seeming like dark stains on the fabric.  She reached up and smoothed the fabric down over his arm, trying to see the design underneath.  She wondered what it was supposed to be, but didn’t want to ask in front of Thor and Jane, since it was probably something she should have already known if she was actually dating him.

“What?” Loki asked, looking down at her, and then twisting his sleeve to see if there was something on it.

“Just looking at your stuff,” she said.  “It almost looked like a stain on the shirt for a second.”

“What did you get on my shirt?”  Thor asked, turning to face him.  “It’s not yours.  Don’t ruin it.”

“Lucky for you, I’m not wearing it because I want it,” Loki said.  “You’ll get it back.  Relax.”

For some reason, that just seemed to make Thor glare even harder.  Darcy wondered if he already knew the whole thing was a sham, but she wasn’t sure why he wouldn’t have said anything if he did know.  As far as she could tell, Jane seemed to believe them, and she was pretty certain that if Thor knew, he would have spilled the beans immediately.  But the way the trip was going already, she wasn’t sure about anything.

Trying not to work herself up over it, she took Loki’s hand and pointed over to where the mosasaurus in the giant tank was rolling around at the surface of the water.  It was enough to distract Loki from what was slowly turning into a fight, but Thor didn’t seem too interested.  It defused the situation enough, and they managed to continue on their path.  When they got to the restaurant, there was already a fairly large crowd waiting for the dinner service.  Thor used his size to muscle up to the hostess and declare their reservation for four.  He had insisted the reservations be under his name, and when they were immediately waved through the dining room, Darcy figured that maybe he knew something—or someone—she didn’t.

They’d reserved a table on the observatory deck, which was up a flight of stairs and outside, on top of the building.  To the north, they had a bird’s eye view of the giant tank in the middle of the boardwalk, where the mosasaurus was still rolling around on the surface.  To the south, they could see Isla Nublar’s golf course, beyond one of the raise monorail lines.  Darcy and Loki both immediately walked over to the glass rail to watch the mosasaurus in the water, while Thor and Jane sat down at the table.

There were birds flying all around the giant dinosaur now.  Dozens, maybe hundreds of white and grey seagulls, squawking and circling in a mad scramble.  Every now and then, they’d dive down and land on the dinosaur, having only a few moments to peck at its scaly hide before the dinosaur rolled enough in the water that the birds had to fly away to avoid getting pulled under the surface.

“Bath time,” Loki said, sounding amused.

Darcy looked up at him.  “What?” she asked.

He pointed to the birds.  “They’re eating parasites and anything else off its scales.  It’s getting cleaned, and they’re getting fed.”

Darcy watched for a few more moments, surprised to see that while the birds were diving down and pecking at the dinosaur, it wasn’t actually trying to fight back or eat the birds.

“I bet if we watched long enough, it would find a shallow place to bask with its mouth wide open,” Loki said.

He shifted awkwardly, as if he wanted to watch, but wanted more to get off his feet.  Darcy pulled him away from the rail and over to their seats with Jane and Thor, making the decision for him.

“What’s going on?” Jane asked curiously.

“The seagulls are eating bugs and stuff off the dinosaur,” Darcy said, turning back to watch a bit more.  “It’s kinda cool.”

She picked up the small menu and looked at it.  For some reason, she expected more options, but she quickly realised that she should not have been surprised.

“Oh,” said Jane, looking over at the dinosaur as well.

Before long, even Thor was watching the scene play out.  They were all so transfixed on watching the animals interact with one another, that none of them noticed their waiter bring their water to them.  It wasn’t until he came back a few minutes later to explain the specials that anyone had even noticed him at all.

“That seafood ravioli sounds delicious,” Darcy said, handing the menu back.

“With the bisque?” the waiter asked, punching the order into his phone.

Darcy nodded.  “Yes,” she said.

Jane was still looking over the menu, even as the waiter looked at her expectantly.  “I think I will have,” she said slowly, reading over everything again.  “I don’t know.  Come back to me.”

Darcy tried not to laugh, but going out to eat with Jane always meant spending twenty minutes trying to decide what to eat, followed by a coin toss over whether she actually liked it or not.

While Thor ordered a steak in the manliest way possible, Loki flipped his menu over to continue looking at the options.  Apparently just as lost for choice as Jane, despite the few options available, he shrugged and handed the menu back, ordering a sampler platter when it was his turn.  A sinister voice wondered if Loki’s frustration with the menu was less to do with the options themselves, and more to do with the price of the options.

“Have you decided?” the waiter asked, returning his attention back to Jane.

She flipped the menu over twice and shrugged.  “I don’t know.  What would you have?” she asked.

While the waiter listed off specials again, and then started talking about sliders, Darcy leaned close to Loki.

“Thor’s paying tonight,” she said, keeping her voice low so she wouldn’t be overheard.

Loki looked at her, and then at Thor, and then made a face like the entire situation had suddenly changed.  Once Jane finally decided on the sliders, they all put in their drinks—beer and wine for Thor and Jane—while Darcy went for a rum and Coke.  Loki, meanwhile, stuck with soda, which somehow still was not the right choice, judging by Thor’s face.

As the waiter hurried off to fetch their drinks, Loki started shifting around his in seat, leaning over to one side.  Darcy looked over at him, not quite sure what he was doing, and then looked under the table.  He’d slipped out of his shoes, freeing his heels but keeping his toes covered so he looked like he was still wearing them.

“What are you doing?” Thor demanded, watching him as well.

“Considering chopping off my toes to fit into your precious glass slippers,” Loki said, sitting back in his seat and taking a drink of his water.

“Don’t ruin my shoes.  They’re not yours,” Thor said.

“Good.  I don’t want them.  They don’t fit,” Loki said.

He turned away to look out over the water again.  Suddenly, he tapped Darcy on the shoulder and pointed out at the dinosaur.  When Darcy looked out, the dinosaur was no longer out in the middle of the tank.  Toward the north end of it, there were several little concrete peninsulas sticking out into the water.  The dinosaur had beached itself on one of them, and lay with its mouth open, while birds buzzed around its head and landed among its teeth.  Darcy expected to see a bunch of birds get chomped on, but they stood on its tongue, pecking at its teeth completely unbothered.

“Why doesn’t he eat them?” she asked.

“Because if he eats them, they won’t come back to clean his teeth tomorrow,” Loki said.  “He can’t exactly pick up a toothbrush.”

Darcy laughed at the mental image.  Somehow, she pictured a giant dinosaur trying to hold a tiny, people-sized toothbrush in its claws, struggling to reach its mouth with its funny, flipper-like arms.

“Actually, they’re all female,” the waiter said as he set the drinks over to the table.

Loki looked up at him.  “How do they know?” he asked.

The waiter laughed and shrugged.  “They don’t tell us that much,” he said.

As he disappeared again, Darcy turned back to Loki.  “They did say that this morning, I think,” she said, feeling like that sounded familiar.  “That they’re all girls.”

Loki shook his head.  “Their T-Rex is blind because they used frog DNA,” he said.  “If you take a bunch of female frogs and put them in a pond together, one morning you’ll wake up and find you’ve got on less female, and a brand new male.”

Again, Darcy wasn’t sure if she should believe him or not.  “Wait, seriously?” she asked.  “That sounds like some goofy-ass, Pierce Brosnan bullshit.  Like frogs boiling to death because they won’t notice water getting too hot.”

Loki laughed.  “I’d tell you to look it up, but they’ve probably blocked that from their network too.”

Darcy was tempted to try, but the waiter was back with her bisque, and salads for Jane and Thor.  She watched him set down the dish—a tiny little bowl, in the middle of a slightly larger plate, with a few small pieces of garlic bread—smiling and waiting for him to leave so she could dig deeper.  But she wasn’t fast enough, and Jane got there first.

“Hang on, wait,” Jane said, totally ignoring her salad.  “What are you guys talking about?”

Darcy and Loki looked at one another for a moment.

“So, you know he breeds like, snakes and stuff,” Darcy said.

Jane shook her head, eyes wide.  “No, but go on,” she said, looking at Loki suspiciously.

“Well,” Darcy said, trying to put it all into an order she could explain.  “It’s a lot of little things we’ve heard all day that just don’t really add up, you know?  Like how they used to use frog DNA to clone the dinosaurs, but then switched to alligators and lizards, even though they know that’s not right either.”

She was floundering.  Nothing she said sounded right.

“These creatures aren’t amphibians, but they introduced amphibian genes to them,” Loki said, holding up his hand to count off each point on his fingers.  “Their Rex is messed up, and needs to be damn nearly hand fed because it can’t see well enough to hunt.  They say every animal in the park is cloned, and that’s how they control the sex.  But cloning is ludicrously expensive, even if they’ve streamlined it.  Either they’re breeding their animals, which is far more efficient, and then culling any unwanted males, or they’re haemorrhaging money and forgetting that frogs are fucking stupid.”

Jane shook her head, shrugging awkwardly.  “I mean.  Yeah?” she said, looking over at Thor. 

Thor had nothing to say, so she returned her attention to Loki, finally picking at her salad. 

“But what are you saying?  That they’re lying?” Jane asked.

Loki shrugged and looked back out over the water.  “I’m saying something’s not adding up,” he said.  “If I had to guess, they’re breeding the stock they already have, and using their cloning budget on something else.”

Jane looked over at Darcy, wearing a face like she couldn’t believe anything she’d heard, and then shook her head.

“Like what kind of something else?” she asked.

Loki shrugged again.  “That’s a question for the billionaire supervillain who runs this island,” he said. 

He stopped suddenly, looking up beyond Thor and Jane and out at something in the far distance.  Darcy leaned over, trying to see what he was looking at, but nothing in that direction seemed interesting at all.

“What?” she asked.

“What do you feed an animal the size of a house?” he asked, looking back at her. 

There was something wrong with his expression.  Something almost haunted.  Unsure what to do with any of it, Darcy shook her head.

“Goats, apparently?  A lot of goats?” she said.

Loki shook his head.  “If they’re breeding the animals and culling unwanted males, what are they doing with the carcasses?”

The realisation hit Darcy and Jane at the same time.  Both of them gasped and covered their mouths, sitting up a little straighter as they looked at one another with disgusted horror.

“I mean,” Jane said, looking back and forth between Darcy and Loki.  “I guess that’s what a T-Rex would eat, but that doesn’t seem very ethical.  Does it?”

Loki looked out over the tank, where the giant mosasaurus lived.  “And what do you want to bet they feed that thing sharks so the public doesn’t see what its main diet is?”

Even Thor seemed uneasy now, as the four of them all looked back over the water, a cold silence falling between them.  This was not fun.  This was not what Darcy had envisioned when she and Jane had planned this trip.  And yet, she couldn’t tear herself away from this conversation.

“What were you talking about earlier?  At breakfast?” Jane asked suddenly.  “Some kind of problem with clones.”

Loki nodded, and reached over to snatch up one of the tiny pieces of bread from Darcy’s plate.

“Telomeres,” he said, eating the entire piece of bread at once.  “When you clone something, you’re also potentially cloning its problems.  Telomeres are one instance.  Genetic pre-dispositions are another.  Clones aren’t exact copies, no more than identical twins are.  They’re about as close as you can get, but if one twin gets cancer, that doesn’t mean the other one will.  Environmental factors and random mutations play important roles.”

Jane picked at her salad and nodded along.  “How’s that a problem?” she asked.

Loki shrugged.  “Some people think it isn’t.  Other people think a clone might be more likely to develop age-related diseases.  Not just cancer, but bone problems, mental acuity.  If a clone is more likely to develop these issues, what happens if you clone a clone?”

“Oh, like that Michael Keaton movie?” Darcy asked, suddenly understanding the analogy.

“Exactly like that Michael Keaton movie,” Loki said, pointing at her.  “Except maybe not.  Maybe it’s all baseless speculation and you can clone on indefinitely without any problem whatsoever.”

He shrugged again and sat back in his seat.

“But I threw everything away after graduation, so what the hell do I know?” he said.

The table fell into another uneasy silence after that.  While Thor shook his head and drank his beer, Jane and Darcy looked at one another nervously.  With an uneasy shrug, Darcy turned her attention to her tiny bowl of bisque and took a spoonful.  Despite being tiny, it was thick and creamy, and everything she expected from a place like this.  Conversation fell to a more casual discussion of what they’d done during their time apart, and soon the tension mostly melted away.  When Darcy was about halfway through her bisque, Loki stole her spoon and helped himself to what was left, leaving Darcy conflicted over whether she wanted to fight back for the rest of it, or behave like a proper adult at an expensive restaurant.  The lobster bisque won, and she fought back, stealing her spoon back out of Loki’s hand.

She didn’t even care that Thor was glowering at them from across the table again.  She was even starting to forget why she’d brought Loki in the first place.  If Thor really wanted to be this moody and cranky while everyone else was having fun, that was his problem.  Even Jane had started to relax and let her guard down.  The only one forgetting they were in Costa Rica, enjoying a December sunset while watching an honest-to-god dinosaur take a bath was Thor, who just wanted to hold onto his beer and look angry.

When the waiter brought their food, the amount of plates he’d brought over covered every inch of the table.  Jane’s deference to the waiter toward her order and got her six tiny hamburgers all in different configurations, a basket of fries, and a bunch of little ramekins of sauces.  Thor’s steak, meanwhile, was big enough to have come from one of the dinosaurs in the park, and had enough onion rings with it to feed the mosasaurus, while Darcy’s ravioli came with real bread sticks and a bowl of salad of her own.

And then there was Loki’s sampler, which had apparently been a sample of just about everything available on the menu.  Tiny little bites of assorted seafoods, a tiny hamburger of his own, thin slices of seared beef, and about eight different sides, all served on their own tiny little plates.  Individually, it would have been hilarious.  All at once, it was obscene.

“Wow.  I hope you’re hungry,” Jane said, looking at it all with wide eyes.

Loki shrugged, as if accepting a challenge.  Without a word, he reached for one of his onion rings and dipped it in Darcy’s ravioli, taking a bit of her sauce.  She almost protested, until she remembered the entire buffet next to her she could steal from later.  Shaking her head at him, she got started on her meal.

The ravioli was stuffed with oyster and octopus, and was drizzled with a thick, almost bisque-like sauce.  Darcy hummed in pleasure as she ate her first bite, trying to savour it for as long as she could.  Unfortunately, she was also starving after a full day of walking around, with only a few snacks as they came to them.

“What have you got?” she asked after her second bite, leaning over to inspect Loki’s spread.

He looked over everything, and stabbed a breaded clam with his fork, holding it out for Darcy.  She bit the entire clam off the fork without hesitation, and immediately reached for her rum and Coke when she realised her terrible, terrible mistake.

“Ow,” she said, after taking a sip from her drink and ignoring the way Loki laughed at her.  “Damn, that’s good.  But ow.”

“Let me try some of yours,” Jane said suddenly, holding her fork out, waiting for permission before stabbing at Darcy’s plate.

“Go for it,” Darcy said.

Jane did, and when she ate the little bit of ravioli, she made a face that looked like how Darcy felt.

“Told you it would be worth it to come here,” Darcy said.  She took another bite as well, wishing it would never end.

“Do you think he’s here?” Jane asked, looking around the deck as though she’d find Ramsay out mingling with the crowd.

Darcy shook her head, trying not to be pessimistic in her attempt to keep from getting her own hopes up.

“Probably not.  He owns like, thirty restaurants and does about as many TV shows,” she said.  “Plus it’s Christmas.”

He was probably filming some special somewhere, teaching his kids how to slaughter and cook their own Christmas goose.

Jane shrugged.  “Couldn’t hurt to ask,” she said.

“Maybe,” Darcy said.

She looked out at the dinosaur tank again, but the animal had gone, hiding deep under the water.  She was sad to see it gone so soon, but figured it was probably like a whale or something; so big, it would suffocate under its own weight if it was on land for too long.  When she looked back, Loki was watching over the tank as well, either thinking about something, or seeing something she hadn’t even noticed.

She was about to ask him what he was thinking about, but he turned back toward his food and picked up a little bowl that held a single oyster, drowned in just enough water to cover it.  Loki tipped the whole thing into his mouth at once, only to immediately start coughing violently, nearly dropping the little bowl on the table.

“Woah, you okay?” Darcy asked, sitting up suddenly.

Still coughing, Loki shook his head and held onto the table for support.  Even Thor looked mildly concerned, before thrusting Loki’s soda at him.  Still shaking his head, Loki waved it away and grabbed his water instead.  After a few more moments of a throaty, choking cough, Loki took the water and drank half of it.  Once he caught his breath, he rubbed the palm of his hand against his eyes, and then grabbed his shirt collar to dry his face.  Thor slammed his hand against the table, but Darcy and Jane both ignored him, paying more attention to Loki as he steadied himself.

“What the hell is that?” he asked hoarsely, pointing to the little bowl the oyster had been in.

There was still a bit of water in the bowl, so Darcy picked it up to give it a sniff.  She expected it to be oyster juice that had maybe gone rancid, and was caught by surprise by a familiar, eye-watering burn.  Had she been expecting it, it mightn’t have been so bad, but she could see why Loki had reacted the way he had.

“Oh, that’s vodka,” she said, setting the bowl on the edge of the table, as far from everybody as possible.

Loki rubbed his eyes with his hands again, leaving black smudges under his eyes from his eyeliner.

“Wow,” he said, blinking hard.  “They didn’t have to be so cheap about it.”

By then, the waiter had appeared back at their table, replacing Loki’s water with a fresh glass.

“Is everyone all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” Loki said, finally reaching for his napkin to try to clean off his face.  “Just a very nasty surprise.  Warn a guy next time.”

“Oh,” said the waiter.  He searched the table, and picked up the bowl.  “My apologies.  I’ll get this out of your way, sir.”

“Thank you,” Loki said, wiping his eyes again with his napkin, while the waiter hurried off, taking what was left of the vodka with him.

“You okay?” Darcy asked, resting her hand on Loki’s arm.

He nodded, and put the napkin back down.  “Yeah,” he said.  “That was…horrible.  What the hell was that?  Stoli?”

Darcy and Jane both laughed uneasily, but Loki seemed fine for the ordeal, and got back to the rest of his meal.  Thor was glaring at him even harder than ever, but everyone continued to ignore him.

“That’s my shirt,” he said suddenly.

Loki stopped halfway toward grabbing his last onion ring.  “Good for you?” he said.

When Thor said nothing else, Loki shook his head and shrugged, before grabbing the onion ring and stuffing it into his mouth.  Darcy watched him, and suddenly spotted what Thor wasn’t saying.  The inside of Loki’s shirt collar had been smeared black with eyeliner.  To keep herself from laughing or saying something stupid, Darcy stuffed her face with more ravioli and wondered if the whole thing had been an elaborate plan.  Across the table, Jane looked a bit perplexed, but Darcy shook her head and mouthed ‘later’ at her, once her mouth was clear.

A few moments later, the waiter returned with a tray of oysters on the half-shell, and set them in an empty spot near Loki.

“Our apologies again,” he said.  “It’s on the house.”

Loki nodded graciously.  “Thank you,” he said.

After the waiter left, Loki fed the first oyster to Darcy.

« || »

Isla Nublar #8: SeaWorld

Standing at the edge of the enclosure, watching a pair of dinosaurs ram into one another with their skulls, Darcy couldn’t help but wonder what the island would have been like had it maintained the safari park vibe mentioned in the Creation Lab tour.  As it was, the park felt more like a zoo.  A beautiful, enormous zoo, but still a zoo.  The animals weren’t given the room they needed in the enclosures that were designed to put them on display for hundreds of people at a time.

While the crowd around them laughed and crowed each time the dinosaurs ran into one another, cracking skulls with a force Darcy could feel in her chest, she couldn’t help but feel uneasy.  Next to her, Thor was into it, enjoying the show with the rest of the crowd, but neither Jane nor Loki seemed impressed either.

“What’s that all about?” Jane asked.

“Territory, probably,” Loki said.  “Or sex.  Take your pick.”

Darcy suddenly realised she was watching a scaled up version of putting two betta fish into the same tank, just to watch them fight.  It might have been natural behaviour, but they probably would have rather been allowed to have a few square miles to themselves instead.

They wandered off down the path, leaving the violent display behind.  Other pens housed dinosaurs that weren’t quite so eager to murder one another, though some seemed eager to murder the people looking at them.  Coming to a pen with a perspex shield between the path and the dinosaurs inside, it took only a moment to figure out why.  The swan-sized critter on the other side hissed and barked at the crowd, showing off a colourful hood like a cobra’s, before spitting something thick and sticky at the shield.  Like the dinosaurs that were beating one another up, Darcy couldn’t help but feel like this one was only getting stressed out and upset at being looked at by so many people.  Although she was seeing actual dinosaurs in person, seeing them so visibly distressed took all the fun out of the experience.

The uncomfortable SeaWorld atmosphere of the park only got worse when they came to the mosasaurus show.  They took their seats in the arena alongside the enormous tank, making the SeaWorld vibe all the more real.  Darcy half expected to see a trainer in a wetsuit get into the water with the dinosaur and ride it, or make it do some tricks.  But there was no trainer in a wetsuit.  Instead, the woman giving the presentation stood on a platform off to the side, dressed in the same safari khakis as everyone else.  Rather than trying to instruct the dinosaur in any way, she had more to say about how their single specimen had done more for helping scientists understand behaviour in prehistoric aquatic animals than the fossil record ever could.  Like the Creation Lab, it all sounded like spin, constructed to justify what they were doing, rather than the foundation of the entire project.

It turned out the mosasaurus did have one trick though, throwing its huge body out of the water to catch a dangling great white shark.  For a moment, Darcy actually felt offended that of all the food they could have given that enormous creature, they chose a great white shark.  But then she remembered the lecture at the Creation Lab, about how the entire resort started because the Guy With The Vision wanted to help preserve endangered species before he moved onto bringing dinosaurs back to life.  The shark had probably never even seen the ocean in its life, and Darcy wasn’t sure whether that made it better or not.  The poor thing had been conceived in a test tube, never knowing a natural habitat, just to be food for something incomprehensibly ancient.

As the stadium seating slowly lowered down to give the crowd an underwater view of the giant dinosaur tearing the shark apart, Darcy realised why the Creation Lab was recommended as the first stop.  Everything they’d been told in the tour was to give the impression that none of this was truly real.  The animals were real.  They lived and breathed, but they weren’t natural.  They existed only as exhibits, and that was the only life they would ever know.  It as more like some giant proof of concept, open to the public to come gawk at while shady people behind it all raised capital to fund the next step in whatever they were up to.

“How do you think they clean the tank?” Loki asked suddenly.

The question was so unexpected, Darcy laughed.  And then she realised it was exactly the sort of question Loki would ask.

“How do you clean your snakes’ tanks?” she asked, glad for the distraction from her own thoughts.

“I put them in a plastic tub on the floor and give them a shoebox to play with,” Loki said.

For a second, Darcy thought he was joking, but she quickly realised he was actually serious.

“Yeah, but.  How do you get them out without getting bitten?” she asked.  “Aren’t snakes poisonous?”

All around them, people were shouting and screaming at the carnage in the water before them, drowning out whatever the presenter was saying.

“No,” Loki said.  “Some are venomous, but not pythons.  And if the snake’s going to strike at me every time I try to get close to it, it’s not a snake I want to keep around for very long anyway.”

It made sense.  Darcy watched the dinosaur in the tank finish off the shark, the red cloud of blood slowly dissolving in the water.  With a stroke of its massive tail, the dinosaur turned and swam away quickly into the cloudy water, away from the noise and chaos of the crowd.

The platform began to raise again, and Darcy looked over past Loki, toward Jane and Thor a few seats away.  Jane looked absolutely shocked at what had just happened, while Thor was craning about, trying to see more of the animal.

“You think they give that thing a shoebox to play with?” Darcy asked.

Loki leaned back in his seat and laughed.  As the platform settled and the presenter ended her spiel, they got up to join Jane and Thor for the next stop on their list.  They shuffled out with the crowd, following a path back down to the boardwalk.

“Where next?” Darcy asked, pulling out the park map.

“I want to see that other giant monster they’ve got,” Thor said, leaning over to look at the map as well.  “Where is that one at?”

“Uhm.  Oh, the T-Rex?” Darcy asked.

“Oh, yes, I’d very much like to see that too,” Loki said.

Thor looked up at Loki with a sour glare, while Darcy tried to orientate herself on the map.

“Oh, it’s right over here,” she said, finding it fairly close by.  She turned to point in the direction they needed to go, finding a large crowd heading the same way.  “What time is it?  They feed him every couple of hours.  We can go see what that looks like.”

“I don’t know if I can handle two giant monsters in one day,” Jane said, shaking her head.  She had a nervous twinge to her voice as she spoke, giving Darcy momentary pause over the idea as well.

“Why don’t we go,” Loki said, crowding in a bit closer to look at the map, forcing Thor to step back, “and let those two go do their own thing for a few hours?  But I want to see what they feed this monster.”

Loki leaned up against her back, wrapping his arms around her waist.  Darcy looked up at him, and then to Jane.  She expected Jane to protest, but instead she shrugged, nodded, and then looked to Thor.  Thor was looking out over the crowd, pointedly trying to ignore Loki.

“Yeah, meet back up for dinner later?” Jane said finally.  She knocked her hip against Thor to get his attention.  “We can go check out the IMAX, if you want.”

Thor was the only one who didn’t seem happy about this arrangement.  While Thor stalled in his answer, Loki pressed himself even closer against Darcy, squeezing her tightly around the waist as he rested his chin on her shoulder.  She watched Thor go from uncertain to irritated in about two seconds, before he finally gave up.

“Fine,” he said, throwing everything into sounding magnanimous.  He failed.  “Just don’t get into too much trouble.”

With a curt nod, he led Jane away, leaving Darcy and Loki standing uncomfortably close.  She looked up at him, but he wasn’t looking at her.  Loki’s gaze was fixed on Thor’s back as he walked away.  This was supposed to be her trip with Jane, and already it was turning into something very different.

“So which was that?” Darcy asked, pulling away to put some distance between them.  “Sex, or territory?”

Loki laughed and stood up straight.  He stepped back and slipped his hands into his pockets, but had nothing to say about his shameless methods of chasing Thor off.

“Come on,” Darcy said, slapping the map against his chest.  “Let’s go have some fun.”

They walked off together toward the T-Rex paddock, keeping enough distance between them so Darcy could breathe.  But somehow, even the distance between them didn’t make it any easier.  She wasn’t too sure how she felt about seeing the T-Rex so soon after the mosasaurus show, but she was determined to go to every attraction on the island at least once, and the T-Rex was a short distance down the boardwalk.

The T-Rex enclosure had a smaller viewing platform, and longer lines as a result.  Their chunky rubber bracelets let them skip the longer of the two, but even the fast pass line had a bit of a wait.  They scanned their bracelets on the little kiosk as they stepped into line, having to crowd in close, but Loki’s attention was elsewhere.  He stood tall to peer over the crowd around them, looking in the direction of some horrible, wailing roar.  The park was full of animal noises sounding over everything else, each and every one of them bringing with it some visceral, animalistic urge to run and hide.  Most of the roars and screeches were far off in the distance, and then the T-Rex roared from its pen just up ahead.  Darcy jumped so hard her bones hurt.  She grabbed for Loki, feeling stupid about needing to, but unable to stop herself.  Seeing him looking equally shaken about it made her feel a bit better though, and looking around, she realised every person in the line was having the same dilemma, trying to decide whether they should be running or not.  But nobody ran, and soon everything calmed down again.

“Fucking hell,” Darcy said, still struggling to calm down.  “No wonder Jane didn’t want to come.”

Loki laughed, and began looking around the crowd again.  “I wouldn’t want to run into that in the middle of the night,” he said.

“I was a little kid when that one in California got out,” Darcy said. 

She realised she was still holding onto Loki’s hand and let go, trying to subtly put distance between them again.  If he noticed, he didn’t let on.

“I never heard about that,” he said.  “When did that happen?”

“Like, mid-nineties, I think?” Darcy said.  “I was like, nine or ten.  Something like that.”

Loki frowned, and then shook his head.  “That might have been when we were in England,” he said.

“Yeah, it was a whole bid deal,” Darcy said.  The line started moving again, letting more people onto the observation deck.  “They were like, trying to expand San Diego Zoo or something.  But nobody had figured out how to transport an animal the size of a house.”

“Imagine thinking you could,” Loki said.  “What happened?”

Darcy shrugged.  “I don’t really remember,” she said.  “I think it happened at night, so it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been.  The expansion never happened, obviously.  They probably got a slap on the wrist and paid a fine.”

Loki snorted.  “Naturally.”

The line finally moved enough to let them onto the deck.  It was a long catwalk, with a dark wall on one side, and a tall, glass window on the other, looking out over a dense, jungle-like enclosure.  If there was a T-Rex in there, Darcy wasn’t sure how they were supposed to see it.  Then, a small platform raised up from the ground below, with a goat chained to a post.  As everything settled into place, the goat started nibbling on a small pile of hay on the platform, bleating obliviously.

“Our T-Rex is one of our oldest animals on the resort,” another presenter in safari khakis said.  “She was part of the second generation of animals created by John Hammond’s original team, in 1989.”

Darcy stood as close to the glass as she dared, trying to see anything other than the goat, while the presenter carried on with his script that seemed to be going in a circle to make sure everyone heard the important bits as people cycled through.

“The gene splicing that was used to create her, which you can learn more about in the Hammond Creation Lab, did cause some unexpected side effects, however,” he said.  “She’s healthy, and probably has at least a few more active years in her, but unfortunately she can’t see very well.  Her vision is based off movement, which makes hunting smaller prey difficult for her.  So we’re going to help her out a bit.”

Suddenly, a red flare fell from the ceiling, landing within feet of the goat.  Darcy frowned at it, and then looked up at Loki, finding him deeply unimpressed with whatever it was they were looking at.  Then, the entire catwalk began to tremble in time to massive footsteps, as a dinosaur bigger than Darcy had ever expected moved smoothly through the trees, rather than crashing and stomping like she would have expected.  She remembered earlier, listening about birds being used in the bio-engineering, and could see it in the way the Rex moved, almost like a giant, slow-motion road runner.

“She gets live fed five times a day,” the presenter said.  “She prefers it, but we keep her healthy by supplementing her diet before and after the park closes.”

Then, a roar like a crashing freight train bellowed through the enclosure, making the windows rattle and the catwalk shake, and the dinosaur picked up its pace.  Now, it did crash and stomp through the final layer of vegetation as it made its way into the clearing, heading straight for the catwalk.  Darcy grabbed Loki’s hand again, tense and ready to run.  But the T-Rex didn’t seem to even notice them.  The goat down on the floor panicked and thrashed, trying to get out of its bonds, but it was no use.  The T-Rex bent to pick up the goat in its jaws in a smooth, fluid motion, taking the entire animal into its mouth before stomping off into the jungle again.

As it moved away, Darcy could see several long scars on one of its shoulders, as if it had been hurt.  For a moment, she wondered if it was the Rex that was loose in San Diego.

“Did something happen to it?” she asked out loud.

The presenter looked over at her, and then back out to the crowd.  “Originally, there were plans to make this island into a safari park but that structure ultimately proved unsafe for many of the animals.  Now, we only allow our animals that move in herds or packs to roam,” he said.

“Oh,” Darcy said, feeling like her question had been dodged somehow.

She knew there were tours outside of the main resort, but she hadn’t really thought about what the tours might be for.  So far, she’d only looked at the sections of the brochure for the boardwalk attractions.  She looked up at Loki again, but he was still staring out into the enclosure, gazing critically at something she could not see.  Then, a door opened on the other side, and the crowd began to shuffle out to let the next group in.  Darcy had hoped to be able to see more of the dinosaur, but it didn’t seem to like being out on display as much as some of the others did.  They walked with the crowd back out into the sun, Darcy feeling like the whole park was missing something.  She wasn’t sure what they ought to do next, and it seemed like they were already running out of things to do.  There weren’t as many things to do along the boardwalk as she’d expected there to be, and the attractions all seemed so much shorter than she’d expected.

It reminded her of the summer she’d spent with her aunt in LA, but in a backwards sort of way.  They’d gone to Disneyland one day, and even though they’d got to the park just as the gates opened, they only had time to go on about half of the rides.  Darcy and Jane had planned the trip around that experience, expecting longer attractions and not enough time to get to all of them.  Now, she was wondering if the ten-day package was going to be too much.  She looked over at the long line for the spinning egg ride, but decided after watching two giant monsters eat things alive, a frantic ride didn’t seem quite like her speed.  Instead, she stepped out of the way of traffic and pulled out her brochure again.

“Frogs,” Loki said suddenly.

Darcy looked up at him.  “What?”

“They originally used frog DNA to fill in the gaps in their sequence, remember?” he said.  “Horrible, impossible frogs.”

He pulled out another cigarette, realising as he did that he couldn’t smoke it where they were, and tucked it behind his ear again.

“He said the Rex’s vision was based on movement.  That’s not advantageous to a hunter.  That’s only useful if your diet comes from bugs flying around your head,” he said.  “You wanted to know what they meant by improving their dinosaurs?  It sounds like they ruined them in the first place, to me.”

Darcy thought about it for a moment.  She thought about tigers and wolves and bears, sitting in the grass and waiting for the right moment to jump out.  The T-Rex didn’t do that.  It needed to be told when to come eat, and given its meal on a platter.  There was no way it was going to be able to hunt in the wild if it couldn’t see well enough to find anything to eat in the first place.

“So, their T-Rex is blind because they fucked up?” Darcy asked.

“That would be my guess,” Loki said.  “It makes you wonder what else they got wrong.”

Darcy didn’t know enough about frogs or bio-engineering to even be able to speculate, though the whole thing sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.

“Do you think that’s why they changed it?” she asked.  “Because something else went wrong?”

Loki looked straight at her.  “Oh, absolutely,” he said.  “What’s the saying?  ‘Regulations are written in blood’?  So are massive overhauls.”

They started walking, aimlessly heading back to the boardwalk, not really having a particular destination in mind.

“The one in San Diego,” Darcy said, slowly connecting dots.  “If it was the same, unable to see right because it was part frog or whatever.  Do you think that’s why it just ran around wrecking shit, instead of eating people?”

Loki shrugged as Darcy pulled out her phone.  She tried searching for the incident to get her facts straight, but all her phone’s browser would pull up were 403 Forbidden errors.

“Well, this is the sketchiest shit I’ve ever seen,” she said.

She showed the phone to Loki, watching his frown deepen.

“Do you have a VPN?” he asked.

“On my phone?  I never needed one,” she said, trying again and getting the same error. 

Wondering if maybe her phone was acting up, she tried a random search for tigers, and Google loaded up instantly.

“That’s fucked up,” she said.

The two of them looked at one another for a moment, neither needing to say what they were thinking.  Private island, private cell towers.  She could only imagine how many sites were blocked to keep people from reading about things that might make them question the whole operation.  Sliding her phone back into her pocket, Darcy sighed and looked around the park.

“You’re doing a real crap job, by the way,” she said.

Loki laughed.  “You’re right.  How dare I allow you to chase such a compelling mystery?”

“I’m serious,” Darcy said.  “I’m working, and I don’t want to be working.  I want to be having fun.”

“Then you shouldn’t have gone on vacation to somewhere with so many pending lawsuits,” Loki said.

“Action Park had half a million pending lawsuits, and I had fun there,” Darcy said.

Sure, she felt like she’d nearly died on every single ride, but that was part of the action.

“Are you speaking a different language?  What are you talking about?” Loki asked.

Darcy laughed and shook her head, not even knowing where to start.  “Come on,” she said.  “Take me somewhere fun.”

They continued to wander aimlessly, checking out small shops and kiosks, looking at cute souvenirs that would all wind up in a box or the back of a drawer after three months.  Eventually, they wandered back to the petting zoo, having spent as much time as they possibly could window shopping and looking at racks of key chains that lacked either of their names.  The animals that were in the petting zoo had changed, replacing the goose-looking critters and the triceratops with a new mix.  A baby stegosaurus seemed particularly curious and wandered up to see what Loki and Darcy were all about.  This time, she was able to lean over the fence and reach it, petting its head between its eyes.  She expected it to be all rough and scaly, but its skin was more like leather, hard and smooth.  It made braying noises at them as it sniffed at Darcy’s clothes, and then licked her arm.

“Ew,” she said, laughing as she pulled away. 

She hadn’t expected to find herself covered in dinosaur spit, but that was exactly the condition she was in.  She looked around, trying to find something to wipe herself clean with, but the only thing nearby was Loki’s shirt.

“Don’t even think about it,” he said, stepping away.

“Oh, you’ll let a snake poop on you, but dino spit is where you draw the line?” Darcy asked, using her own shirt instead.

“The snake doesn’t know any better.  You do,” he said. 

He leaned over the fence to pet the dinosaur as well, only to be met with the same fate.  Groaning, he pulled his arm away and looked around, finding the exact same nothing Darcy had.  Laughing at him, Darcy gave up on getting clean and looked out over the pen.  There were plaques mounted all along the edges, with information for all the individual dinosaurs that were kept there, but none of the plaques nearby had any information on the dinosaurs that were out at the moment.  Instead of looking around for them, Darcy pulled out the brochure again to see if it had anything to say.

“Oh, neat,” she said as she skimmed the page.  “So, these are all the herd dinosaurs that you run into when you leave the resort.  It says they put them here to socialise with people so they’re not as easily spooked when they run into humans out in the jungle.”

“Sounds like a good way to get them habituated, to me,” Loki said, daring to pet the baby dinosaur again anyway.

Darcy leaned over to pet it as well.  They were both already gross from everything else that day.  A little more dinosaur spit would not have made any difference.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Have you ever been to Yellowstone?” Loki asked.

Darcy shook her head.  “No, but I’ve been to Yosemite.”

“So you’ve seen the ‘do not feed the bears’ signs,” Loki said.

“Yeah.”  She stepped back as the dinosaur got distracted by something else and started to wander away.  “I always thought it was so the bears don’t get sick from eating like, Cheetos or something.”

“That too,” said Loki.  “But mainly they don’t want the bears to get used to being around people.  Once bears start associating people with food, they’ll start seeking people out for food.  Now imagine a bear that weighs two tons trying to bully people for food.”

Darcy looked back at the baby dinosaurs.  None of them were exactly tiny, but they were quite a bit smaller than the typical bear.  But for how long, she had no idea.

“Oh, cool,” she said flatly.  “But aren’t these things all herbivores?”

Loki shook his head and leaned back against the fence.  “Very few animals eat plants and only plants.  Pandas, and a few others.  But a panda will still fuck you up, and even deer will seek out protein every once in a while.”

“Really?” Darcy asked.  That didn’t sound right at all.

“Give me your phone,” Loki said.

Hesitant, Darcy pulled it out and unlocked it before handing it over.  She watched as Loki went straight to YouTube and started tapping away, before handing her the phone back.  The video was short, but she watched in horror at someone’s back yard home video of a deer beating up a couple of starlings with its hooves and eating them.

“Oh, what the fuck?” she asked.  “That’s not right.”

She closed the app and put her phone away, unsure why that disturbed her more than watching a goat get eaten alive just a few hours earlier.

“Great, so this thing’s mom is out there somewhere, just looking for someone to munch on?” Darcy asked.

Loki only shrugged.  After watching the dinosaurs a bit longer, Darcy stepped away to go find something else to look at.  She wasn’t sure how much of what Loki said was complete bullshit, but he had a way of speaking that made everything he said sound totally true.  Trying not to think about it, she walked with him to the next stop on the boardwalk, hoping to find one thing to look at that didn’t make her brain itch.

“Thor is right behind us,” Loki said suddenly, keeping his voice low.

Before Darcy even registered his words, Loki pinched her ass hard.  As she squealed indignantly, he wrapped his arm around her and managed to spin her around so she came face to face with the murderous look Thor wore.

“Hi,” she said, slapping Loki’s hand away.  She tried to covertly rub the spot where he pinched her, but there was no covert way to do that.  “How was the IMAX movie?”

“Good,” said Thor, as if he didn’t mean it at all.

“Good,” Darcy said, as Loki slid his hand into her back pocket, while he turned to check out a woman walking past them.  Darcy pretended she didn’t notice.  “I was kind of thinking about going after dinner, but I also kinda just want to take a hot bath, I think.”

Thor wasn’t looking at her.  He was looking at Loki, who feigned completely obliviousness.

“That’s why I came to find you,” Thor said.  “Jane was wondering if you had forgotten about the reservations tonight.”

Darcy shook her head.  “Nope, didn’t forget.  We were just slowly making our way back to get changed.”

Loki frowned and looked down at his ratty old shirt, and the holes along the collar.  “What’s wrong with this?” he asked.

Whether he was serious, or being an ass, it didn’t matter.  Thor glared at him for a moment longer before striding off abruptly.  Once he was gone, Darcy nudged Loki away and continued along their path toward the hotel.

“I think they have a dress code, but even if they don’t, I really don’t want to eat dinner wearing dinosaur water and spit,” Darcy said.

Loki shrugged.  “I guess,” he said.

Darcy looked up at his torn shirt again, and then down at his faded and worn jeans, and then to the Chuck Taylors that were barely still able to be called shoes.  She wasn’t even sure how the canvas still held to the soles.  But she didn’t want to press the issue, because she didn’t know what the response would be, but she also didn’t want to deal with what might happen if he were turned away.

Taking a deep breath, she decided she’d come up with a plan once she had more information.

« || »

Isla Nublar #7: Psycho Babble

The restaurant was already packed and noisy by the time they got there, though they managed to beat enough of the crowd that the wait to be seated wasn’t very long.  To kill the time, Darcy pulled one of the park brochures from her bag, and was still engrossed in it by the time they were brought to their table and handed menus.  Darcy glanced only passingly at her menu, finding the breakfast items pretty much the same as she’d find anywhere, and returned her attention to the brochure.

“So, it says the Hammond Creation Lab is a good place to start,” she said, trying to skim the text and talk at the same time.  “It explains the history of the park, and how they clone the dinosaurs and stuff.”

Loki leaned close to read the page as well.  Without him smelling like snake poop, his invasion of her space was much less uncomfortable.

“I want to see that,” he said.  “I’ve always wondered what their breeding practises looked like.”

“Don’t you listen?  She said they’re cloned,” Thor said.

Loki looked straight at him, utterly devoid of expression.  “I don’t believe that,” he said, before turning back to read more of the brochure.  “I’m sure they started with clones, but it’s not sustainable.  Breeding’s infinitely cheaper, and you don’t have the telomere problem.”

Darcy forgot all about the Creation Lab for a moment.  “The what problem?” she asked, looking over at Loki.

“The science changes every few years because nobody can agree on it,” Loki said, shaking his head.  “Your chromosomes contain a sort of fuse that shortens as you age.  When you clone an animal, it inherits that shorter fuse, which led to the myth that cloned animals are born old.  They aren’t, obviously, but whether they die earlier than they ought is hotly debated.”

“What do you know about it?” Thor asked.

Loki looked back up at him, not quite able to hide his irritation this time.  “I have a fucking bachelor’s in biochem, that’s what,” he said.

Thor snorted, but Loki ignored him and turned back to Darcy.

“It’s expensive and inefficient,” he went on.  “Once they run out of viable material from the current stock, they may be able to start on a next generation without catastrophic diminishing returns, but again.  It’s all up in the air and nobody can agree on the long term viability.  But with the expense and the failure rate in producing a single viable organism, it’s infinitely cheaper to get the next generation as nature intended.”

Jane leaned over the table to look at the brochure as well, and then turned her gaze up to Loki.

“So you really think they’re breeding dinosaurs?” she asked.

Loki shrugged.  “I think someone’s lying about something.”

“You’d know,” Thor said.

“Of course I would,” Loki said, grinning smugly.

Thor looked over at the brochure as well and shook his head.  “I don’t think any of it makes any sense,” he said.  “They’re probably all just fancy robots or something.”

“It would be cheaper,” Loki said.

Thor didn’t seem to want Loki to agree with him, but he didn’t get a chance to say anything before the frantic and over-worked waiter came back round to take their orders.  He didn’t hang around after getting what they wanted, again leaving them in the limbo of restaurant service.  The table fell into a weird silence as nobody seemed to want to continue the conversation any further.

“I didn’t know you had a bachelor’s degree,” Darcy said.

Loki shrugged.  “I used to think I might actually do something with my life,” he said, looking over to Thor.  “It’s not as prestigious as an MD, but if you can survive organic chemistry, you can survive anything.”

“And then you threw it all away as soon as you graduated,” Thor said quietly.

“Nobody asked you,” Loki said.

“Nobody invited you,” Thor said back.

Darcy prepared for carnage.  Loki sat up tall and shrugged, the very picture of smug satisfaction.

“Actually, I was invited,” he said calmly as he picked up the brochure and looked over it.  “Unlike you, from what I’ve heard.”

“Hey,” Jane said quickly, putting both her hands on Thor’s arm, as if to try to stop him from doing something incredibly stupid.  “Let’s not do this, okay?  I think we should go to the Creation Lab, and then figure it out from there.”

Darcy watched Thor, worried that the way he glared at Loki would become something more, but he stayed put.

“Thank you,” Darcy said graciously.

Jane nodded.  “You’re welcome.”

After a few moments, Thor quit glaring daggers at Loki and began fiddling with his napkin, unwrapping it and dumping all of his silverware onto the table.  Eventually their meal arrived, and while they ate, Darcy continued to flip through the park’s brochure, half expecting somebody to get stabbed before they left.  It was almost a surprise when no blood had been drawn by the time the bill arrived.  After it was paid, and a generous tip left behind, the four of them wandered out to the boardwalk, slowly making their way around the giant, lake-sized pool or whatever was in the middle of the park’s main area.  Checking her brochure again, Darcy realised it wasn’t a pool, but a giant tank housing something living.  They called it a lagoon, but even she knew that kind of bullshit.  She peered over the railing into the water, and for a moment thought she could see something huge and dark moving around in the deep.

“Apparently they do like, SeaWorld shows here.  But with a giant water dinosaur,” she said, once more consulting the brochure.

“Like an alligator?” asked Jane.

Darcy shrugged.  “I don’t know.  It’s a Moses…saurus?  What’s that?”  She flipped through the pages, but it didn’t seem to have much information on the individual dinosaurs in the park.

“Maybe it needs such a big tank because it can part the seas,” Loki said.

Darcy slapped his arm with the brochure.  “And I’ll be on the first flight home as soon as that happens.”

By the time they got to the Hammond Creation Lab, the doors were just opening, letting in the growing crowd who had got up early enough to be the first group in.  They all stood in the lobby beneath a giant T-Rex skeleton, waiting a few more minutes until the staff were completely ready to start.  The whole building seemed much less like a lab, and more like a museum exhibit, with high, domed windows filling the space with natural light.  Fossils and models stood on display, illustrating some point or facet of the park they hadn’t yet explored.  When a young woman in safari khakis finally came through, she counted off the first thirty people from the group and beckoned them forward through the large lobby, past a bronze statue of an old man with a cane.

“To truly understand and appreciate this park and all its animals, you have to understand where it came from.  This man, John Hammond,” she said, pointing to the statue, “was the first person to look at bio-engineering during its rapid emergence and rise in the mid 1980s, and see its true potential.  Bio-engineering started in the pharmaceutical industry, finding new ways to benefit mankind.  But John Hammond realised the potential of bio-engineering to not only benefit our species, but the entire planet.  We lose species to extinction every day, and with each species that vanishes from our planet forever, many more become vulnerable and threatened as the ecosystem is disrupted.  Through bio-engineering, John Hammond saw the ability to save these lost and dying species, building up current populations, and even restoring those which had already gone extinct.”

As the tour moved on from the statue of John Hammond, and into a wide corridor, Darcy frowned and leaned close to Loki.

“Does that sound like spin to you?” she asked quietly.

Loki hummed.  “Perhaps,” he said, watching the tour guide closely.  “I only took about two biology courses, but I definitely know what psycho babble sounds like.”

The corridor led into a long room that looked into a laboratory of some sort, where people in white coats sat in front of white computers and typed furiously.

“And I know a staged shot when I see it,” Darcy said quietly, wondering what the so-called scientists were meant to be doing.

“This is where the process begins,” explained the tour guide, gesturing out to the so-called scientists behind the glass.  “Our geneticists take the samples collected from fossil digs and use an advanced computer system to analyse the gene sequences.”

Even Darcy could tell that sounded wrong.  She wasn’t sure how it was wrong, but she knew fossils were basically stones; no longer organic pieces like bone or scales or teeth.  But she said nothing as the tour guide went on, curious to see where the whole thing was going.

“Because the DNA gathered is so old, often times the gene sequence is incomplete,” the woman said.  “Our system is able to break down the sequence and find the gaps in the code.  When the project was first started in the late eighties, and through the early nineties, the sequence gaps were filled in using splices from amphibian DNA.  In the late nineties, we switched to reptile DNA.  Today, we still use a combination of reptiles to fill those gaps, with a pilot program to begin shifting to avian sequences within the next three years.”

It still sounded like some sort of strange spin to Darcy, but she wondered if that just wasn’t because her entire job was spin.  She had been trained to see it in everything, so after a while, everything looked like spin.  But when she looked up at Loki, he was chewing on his thumbnail and staring through the window with an almost concerned look on his face.  He knew something that she didn’t, which only made her more suspicious of what she was hearing.  It was a suspicion that never really went away through the entire tour.  Even as the tour guide explained how the eggs started out as ostrich and emu eggs, fertilised with this franken DNA, Loki began to seem almost disturbed by what the tour guide was saying.  Darcy wanted to ask him what was wrong, but at the same time, she didn’t want to miss out what other mad things the tour guide had to say.

It only seemed to go on from there.  Controlling hormones in vitro to maintain an entirely female population, and constant fiddling with sequences to improve the animals on the park, which sounded a lot like playing God to Darcy.  By the time they had walked through the entire lab, coming back out to the boardwalk at the end of the tour, Darcy was convinced Loki had been right earlier.  Someone was hiding something.  Paying more attention to Loki than to the park around them, they walked over to the petting zoo near the lab’s entrance to get out of the way of traffic.  Dinosaurs the size of baby elephants roamed in a large corral, some wearing saddles and bridles like horses, as though they weren’t strange, genetically-engineered monsters.  As Loki and Darcy stopped to look at one of them, Jane and Thor walked down along the rail, stopping at the other end to pet one of the two-legged dinosaurs in the pen.  Loki didn’t seem to care about petting them though.  His gaze was fixed on the tiny triceratops near them, watching it silently for a few minutes.

“These things aren’t reptiles at all,” he said suddenly, still frowning at strange creature.

Darcy really wasn’t sure what there was to frown about when an actual dinosaur—even a genetically-engineered freak dinosaur—was just feet away from them.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

Loki pointed at the triceratops.  “Look at the way it’s moving,” he said.  Then he gestured to all of the babies in the pen, like it proved his point.

“Yeah?” Darcy said. 

It was moving, but she didn’t know what she was supposed to be looking at.  The one in front of them snuffed and scraped at the ground, but others in the pen ran around playing with one another like enormous puppies in a game of chase.

“They’re moving constantly, and with their bellies high off the ground.  These things are warm-blooded.”  Loki leaned against the rail, still scrutinising the creature in front of them.  “Isn’t the current thought that they’re related to birds?”

Darcy shrugged.  “I thought that was the two-legged ones.”

Darcy still didn’t understand the significance.  She watched them move around, and they looked like every drawing she’d ever seen of dinosaurs.  Littlefoot and Cera and Spike all walked the same way, not exactly like what she saw before her, but close.  It was nothing special.

“How can you tell they’re warm-blodded?” she asked finally.

Loki looked over at her, and something instantly changed in his expression.  The hard, critical lines across his face softened, making him seem a little less annoyed with everything around him. 

“Reptiles get their warmth from their environment,” he said, pointing back to the one in front of him.  “Usually from the ground, which is why most drag their bellies when they walk and spend most of their time basking.  Even when an alligator or a basilisk lifts its belly to run, it can only maintain that speed in short bursts.  For a basilisk to run across the water, it has to spend hours charging up in the sun to get that energy, and it’s all spent by the time it reaches the other side of the pond.  An alligator can sprint like hell when he needs to, but he also gets tired almost immediately.”

He liked explaining things, and Darcy liked listening to him.  She watched the dinosaurs move around, considering this new context.  They definitely didn’t seem to move like alligators at all.

“But look at these things,” he went on, pointing across the pen at the ones running in circles.  “They haven’t stopped moving since we got here.  They’re more like cows or hippos than anything else.”

He was practically gaping at the tiny triceratops now, as if its entire existence was offending him.  Darcy realised it probably was.  The whole morning had been a surprise in more ways than one.  She hadn’t thought Loki really knew anything about anything up until breakfast.  In fact, he’d always seemed kind of stupid and off in his own little world.  But now she wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate act; some sort of private joke with just himself.  He never seemed to take a single thing seriously, and there were times she genuinely couldn’t tell if he was on something, or just an idiot.  The thought crossed her mind that Thor had always said Loki was dangerous, and she briefly wondered if this was what he meant. 

Because he wasn’t stupid at all, and had spent the entire morning proving it.  He hid his intelligence, and she realised, standing next to him while he frowned at a baby dinosaur, that dangerous people didn’t have to be impulsive or violent.  Dangerous people could be ferociously manipulative, and she had definitely fallen for his game.  She realised then that Loki had been incredibly quick to jump on the opportunity to go on this trip, and to spend a large sum of money he couldn’t afford to spend to be included.  At the time, she had assumed that he was coming along because a rare opportunity had been presented to him to come see some dinosaurs and help Darcy enact some petty revenge.  Now, as he studied the triceratops with an intensity she’d never seen from him before, Darcy seriously doubted her decision to bring him along.  She had wanted to irritate Thor, but now she worried Loki had come entirely to take the joke too far.  At the same time, she realised that this trip was extremely relevant to his interests.  He kept pet snakes, and no doubt understood nuances the tour guide had only barely glossed over.  He probably knew more about the subject than the tour guide did.

She watched him for a long moment, and noticed that there was something very predatory in the way he was watching the baby dinosaur.  She wondered why she had ever thought he was stupid at all, and seeing him now, and listening to everything he’d had to say over the course of the morning, she knew that everything about him was indeed an elaborate act, though for whose benefit she still had no idea.  And then, in an instant, it was all gone.  His posture relaxed, and expression shifted from critical to curious as he called the attention of one of the animal handlers as she passed by. 

And somehow, that scared Darcy even more.

“These animals are warm blooded, aren’t they?” Loki asked.

“Yes, that’s right,” the handler said. 

She held a small, bird-like dinosaur in her arms, offering it up so Loki could reach over the fence and rub under its chin.  A sign on the rail identified it as a galimimus, which apparently would eventually get as big as an ostrich.

“Our engineers first thought it was a glitch in the DNA,” the handler continued.  “Have you been to the Creation Lab?”

Loki nodded.  “We have.  They said you use reptile genes to fix sequences you couldn’t replicate cleanly.  But these aren’t reptiles.  I thought I read recently that they’re related to birds.”

“They’re not reptiles, no,” the handler agreed, shaking her head.  “There’s a lot of debate now on what class they truly belong to.  In fact, palaeontological discoveries were made right around the time our engineers were drawing similar conclusions.  Now we do think these creatures may be more closely related to birds, or possibly even egg-laying mammals.”

Loki hummed as he gave the baby dinosaur one more little rub beneath the chin.  Then, he nodded and continued down the length of the fence toward where Thor and Jane still stood.  Not quite sure what had just happened, Darcy followed after him.

“What was that?” she asked.

Loki turned to look at her, with that concerned look back on his face.  He stopped again, leaning against the fence to put his back to the handlers on the other side.

“Just inside, we were told that their engineers started out splicing in frog genes, but stopped suddenly,” Loki said.

He looked out over the park, and Darcy followed his gaze, but couldn’t tell what he was looking at.

“Yeah, and they never said why,” she said, feeling like she was finally catching up to whatever tangent his mind had shot off on.  “I thought that was kind of weird, but they threw so much at us I couldn’t keep track of any of it.”

Loki snorted.  He pulled a cigarette out of his pack, looked at it, and then tucked it behind his air.

“Probably because frogs are impossible,” he said, almost sounding like he was complaining.  “They’re like sponges.  They absorb everything in their environment, which is why they mutate so easily.  You get frogs with too many arms, and you know you’ve got a ground pollution problem.”

“Or a radiation leak,” Darcy said.

Loki looked at her, seeming almost surprised.

“Indian Point,” Darcy said.  “That’s what I do.  I edit news stories for TV.  I did a few segments on the radiation leaks, and there were these messed up frogs at one point.”

Loki nodded.  “It got into the groundwater,” he said.

“Yeah,” Darcy said.  “First they noticed the frogs were all messed up, and then little kids started getting cancer from drinking the tap water, and sick workers were told to just suck it up.”

Darcy looked over at the dinosaurs again, wondering how frogs played into their development.

“But you’re saying that the dinosaurs might grow extra legs or something?” she asked.

Loki laughed and shook his head, turning around to watch the dinosaurs as well.  They all seemed perfectly healthy, but Darcy realised she didn’t know the difference.

“No,” Loki said.  “It just seems odd that they’d use genes from animals that not only mutate if you look at them too hard, but aren’t even related to the animal they were trying to clone.  It seems like a good way to lose control of your entire operation.”

He picked at a bolt on the fence, and then reached out to try to get the attention of another one of the baby triceratops in the pen.  With his long arms, he was able to reach right over the fence to rub at the barely-formed horn on its nose.

“I scrape by on a few snake clutches every few months because I’ve been able to breed them to the point that they don’t even resemble wild snakes of the same species,” he said.

Again, the conversation veered off into unfamiliar territory, and Darcy found herself struggling to keep up.

“What, like dogs?” she asked.

She tried to reach over the fence to pet the dinosaur as well, but it was a bit too far away to reach.

“A bit,” Loki said.  “It’s not as dramatic, but some of the morphs go for a good chunk of cash.”  He tried to lure the dinosaur closer, but it stubbornly stayed where it was.  “One of my pairs produces offspring that can bring in a thousand dollars a head.  A few years ago, I had one born with two heads, and someone paid fifteen grand for it.  That was a pretty good year.”

“Jesus Christ,” Darcy said.

She wondered if climbing up onto the fence would get her into trouble, and decided she didn’t want to risk it.

“And naturally-produced clutches fail all the time.  Nothing fucks my month up like a rack full of duds,” Loki said, standing up straight again.  “There are a dozen reasons why a clutch might fail, and you just have to deal with it.  Which just makes me wonder how many of their clutches fail, or at least don’t turn out like they want.  And why they’re still using reptile genes at all.  Why not elephants, if they think they might be more closely related to mammals anyway?”

Darcy thought about that and realised he was right.  She looked around for Jane, thinking this was a conversation she would have loved to be a part of, but she and Thor were still on the other side of the pen, holding onto one of the little baby ostrich dinosaurs.

“She said they were starting using bird DNA to improve them,” Darcy said, remembering more of the tour.  “What the hell did that mean?”

Loki frowned, the same way he had done throughout the entire tour. 

“Dogs,” he said suddenly.

Again, Darcy didn’t follow.  “What?” she asked.

“There are a lot of groups out there right now improving dog breeds,” he said, suddenly walking away from the pen.

Darcy followed after him, not quite sure what he was looking for as he searched around in every direction.  Then he pulled his cigarette from behind his ear, and she realised he wanted to find one of the secluded little smoking areas.  She looked around as well, pointing one out as she spotted a sign.  Together, they both walked off in that direction, saying nothing until they were in the relative privacy of the tiny little jungle.

“Purebreeds are all walking disasters,” Loki said, lighting up his cigarette.  “Not just pugs.  German shepherds, boxers, dalmatians, King Charles spaniels.  All of them.  Improving pugs means giving them back the ability to breath.  Improving King Charles spaniels means giving them a larger skull so their brains don’t get crushed.”

He stopped there, giving Darcy something to think about.  She looked back out toward the park, and the tiny baby dinosaurs in the petting zoo.

“Why the fuck would they need to improve a dinosaur then?” she asked.  “They didn’t die because they were all having seizures.  They died because Mexico got clobbered by an asteroid.”

She looked up at Loki, able to see from his expression alone that she’d asked the right question.  She could also see that he didn’t have an answer for it.

“Why, indeed?” Loki said.

He took a long drag from his cigarette, looking nothing at all like someone who could ramble to no end about cloning conspiracies.  But Darcy supposed that was part of the image he played up.  If he acted like the biggest idiot in the room, nobody would notice that he was smart enough to take advantage of everyone around him.

“You’re doing a really shitty job, by the way,” Darcy said suddenly.

Loki looked down at her, again looking completely oblivious to anything happening around him.

“At what?” he asked.

“Making sure I have fun,” Darcy said.

Loki laughed and took another drag of his cigarette.  “Don’t pretend you don’t love this,” he said.

She couldn’t deny that she was deeply curious about whatever they’d accidentally stumbled upon.  If she were working, this would have been exactly the sort of thing she threw her entire day into.

“It’s not exactly what I had in mind when I took a vacation,” she said.  “Come on.  I don’t want to work.  Let’s go look at some more dinosaurs and pretend they’re not weird as fuck.”

Loki laughed again and carefully snuffed out his cigarette, slipping what was left back into his pack.  “As the lady commands,” he said.

Together, they left the little smoking jungle to go catch back up with Thor and Jane, and continue through the park as a group.

« || »

Isla Nublar #6: Uncomfortable

A monorail took them from the ferry dock to the hotel, riding high above the terrain at an amazing speed.  But Jane had been right about the timing.  It was completely dark by the time they got to the island, and Darcy couldn’t see anything out the window.  They’d caught the last ferry to the island, and the park would be closing by the time they got to the hotel.

But Darcy had decided that was just fine.  She was exhausted from a day cramped into small airline and bus seats, and couldn’t believe she was starting off her vacation the same way she’d spent the last several years.  Not even meaning to, she leaned against Loki’s side again, watching her own dull reflection in the window as vague blurs of colour passed by outside.  She fought against the urge to fall asleep, knowing that if she did she’d have a hell of a time getting up and making it through the check in line at the hotel.  Despite catching the last ferry for the evening, they weren’t alone on the monorail.  Countless others seemed to have had the same idea as them, getting in late so their first day on the island could get an early start.

There were no stops between the ferry and the hotel.  The monorail took them straight there, where there was a sleepy shuffle to disembark and go get checked in.  Fortunately, the queues at the check-in desk were short, since there were about a dozen people at computers ready to get everyone into their rooms.  As they stood in line, Darcy realised she was on the verge of falling asleep on her feet because despite what the clocks said, it was not 10pm.  It was an hour later as far as her body was concerned, and that hour made all the difference.  Checking into their room was at least quick and painless.  In possession of the room key, Darcy took Loki by the hand, lacing her fingers in his, and led him toward the elevator.  Between her suitcase, and her laptop, and her handbag, she felt like she was hauling supplies up Everest.  They were both tired and slow, and didn’t even wait for Jane and Thor to follow them.  They’d got adjoining suites, but something told Darcy the other two would be making themselves quite scarce during the evenings.

Once at the suite, Darcy felt like she could have just fallen straight into bed.  But there was a problem she’d been avoiding all day, and now it was staring them both right in the face.  Both rooms were single bed.  At the time they’d made the reservations, it had made sense.  But she was no longer actually dating her date, and even though they’d got plenty cosy on the trip to the island, she wasn’t exactly feeling cosy enough with Loki to share a bed with him.

“I’m assuming I’m on the sofa,” Loki said after a long moment.

“Yeah,” Darcy said, liking that idea.  “If you don’t mind.”

Loki shook his head and made his way toward the long, tan sofa against the wall.  Darcy left her big suitcase by the door and walked over to the bed, ready to just climb right into it.  Like any hotel bed, there were too many blankets and not enough pillows.  Luckily, it was still a bit too warm for comfort, especially with the awkwardness of the situation, so Darcy stripped off the top duvet and tossed it messily to Loki.

“Here,” she said, tossing one of the pillows over as well.

“Thank you,” he said, already getting himself set up.

“Yep.”

Darcy didn’t waste any time after that.  She went back to her suitcase just long enough to find some pyjamas and took them into the bathroom to change.  As she climbed into bed, Loki continued to shuffle around for a few minutes longer, before he turned out the lights and went quiet.

Falling asleep next to him on the shuttle from San José had been one thing, but the reality of what she was doing very quickly caught up with her.  She barely knew Loki at all, and she was alone in a dark room with him.  It wasn’t the first time she’d been alone with him, but now she felt particularly vulnerable.

And then he started snoring, and somehow that took the entire edge off of everything.

She woke early the next morning, without meaning or wanting to.  Between being an hour behind what she was used to, and being excited to go see real, live dinosaurs, as soon as she opened her eyes she was wide awake.

The same could not be said for Loki, who had at least stopped snoring at some point.  Darcy learned, rather abruptly, that he slept in his underwear though, and found herself utterly unprepared for that knowledge.  He had apparently kicked his blanket halfway across the room in the night, and was now sprawled out face-down on the sofa.  Even his hair took up as much space as possible, taken out of its pony tail and allowed to spread out into such a mess that Darcy thought he might actually choke on it.

But he seemed fine for the moment, so Darcy left him where he was and got up to deal with her suitcase.  She unpacked quietly, not really paying too much attention to what clothes she put into which drawer.  When she was done, she dug out her laptop to get it charging, and then found an outfit that would suit the day’s forecast.  Darcy quickly showered and dressed for the day, realising abruptly that aside from the few options she’d grabbed for dinner reservations, she’d mainly packed shorts in the middle of December.  The shorts in and of themselves were not the problem, but the fact that she hadn’t shaved her legs in nearly a month was.  She’d already been putting it off because of the cold weather, and then when Ian broke up with her, she’d quit caring about it entirely.

Now, suddenly, she did care.  She cared very much.  Not wanting to fall over and die trying to shave her legs in a hotel room shower, she perched herself on the edge of the bath and tried to shave quickly without cutting herself.  She gave up at her knees, calling it good enough for walking through the park, and finished dressing.  She’d expected to find Loki awake and waiting for his turn, but as she walked back into the main suite, Loki was still face down on the sofa, dead to the world.

“Hey,” Darcy said, carefully poking his bare shoulder with one finger.

She’d never seen him dressed in anything less than several layers, and she wasn’t sure what was more unexpected: that he’d so shamelessly stripped down to his underwear, or that he had a bunch of weird, kind of tribal-ish, Celtic-looking tattoos on both arms.

“Hey, dude,” Darcy said, poking him again.

Loki slowly stirred and looked up at her blankly.  For a second, he seemed confused, like he couldn’t remember where he was, but it passed quickly.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Darcy wondered why that was the first thought that sprang to his mind.

“Nothing,” she said.  “Just wanted to see if you wanted to go out for breakfast.”

Loki sat up a bit more, looking around the hotel room through the wild mess of his hair.  He usually wore it loose, but it wasn’t usually a tangled, curly mess.  After a long moment, he shifted his weight to rest on one elbow, freeing his other hand to rub his face and pull his hair out of the way.

“Give me a few minutes,” he said.

He didn’t move right away, taking a few more moments to get moving.  Darcy backed off to give him room, having not intended to rush him.  Then he got up to fetch his backpack, and Darcy wished he’d taken a little more time to get up.  She looked away quickly, finding anything to look at that wasn’t in Loki’s direction.  His underwear left nothing to the imagination, and did even less to hide the fact that some parts of him were more awake than others.

“Yep,” she said quietly, pretending she hadn’t just seen that.

Loki didn’t seem to notice either way.  He took his bag and shuffled into the bathroom, stopping in the doorway to look at the mirror before finally closing himself inside.  Only then did Darcy let herself laugh nervously.

This had all been a mistake.  A terrible, awful mistake, and Darcy realised she regretted it already.  Loki was far from the horrible person Thor seemed to paint him as, and for the five minutes they were both awake the night before, he had kept his promise about keeping his hands to himself, but they were both exhausted from a solid day of travel.  But now, knowing that he was planning on sleeping practically naked, Darcy wondered what other weird boundaries he was going to crash right through without thought. 

But then she wondered if maybe she was being a bit too unfair.  They were, after all, both exhausted from travelling, and Loki had already had a more difficult trip than the rest of them.  Maybe he had just been too tired to remember that he was sharing a room with her, or else too tired to realise sleeping in underwear that did nothing to hide morning wood was less than polite.

As Darcy tried to figure out which answer was the right one, a light knock came from the door connecting their suite to Thor and Jane’s.  Darcy rushed over, realising the door was still locked from her side, and opened it to find Jane on the other side.

“Up early too, huh?” Darcy asked cheerfully, stepping aside to let Jane in.

To her surprise, Jane actually took the offer.  She stepped away from the door, looking around at the state the room had already fallen into.

“Yeah, well.  I am usually at work by now,” she said.

She stepped around the blanket that had been thrown to the middle of the room and sat down gingerly on the sofa.

“Where’s Loki?” she asked, still looking around the room.

Darcy pointed toward the bathroom.  “Shower,” she said.

She sat down on the sofa next to Jane, wondering how the room had become such a mess so quickly.

Jane nodded.  “Okay,” she said.

Darcy waited for her to say more, getting the distinct feeling that Jane had come to say something specific.  But when she didn’t continue, Darcy spoke instead.

“We’re going out to breakfast before the park opens.  Do you guys want to come with?” she asked.

“Yeah.  Yeah, actually,” Jane said, sounding a little more easy.  “I was actually going to ask you the same thing.”

Somehow, Darcy didn’t quite believe that.  She looked down at the mess by her feet and kicked Loki’s discarded t-shirt closer to the bed.  Jane watched, and sighed like she still had something she wanted to say.  Still, she said nothing.

“What’s up?” Darcy asked, really not in the mood to play this game so early.

Jane inhaled deeply and fretted with her fingers.  And apparently it was one of those games.

“I kind of want to talk,” she said finally, looking back toward the bathroom door.

Darcy looked at it as well.

“Right,” she said, realising immediately where this was going.  “Well, he just went in there, so…”

She didn’t mention that she suspected Jane had about as much time to say what she’d come to say as it would take Loki to jerk off in the shower.  At least, she hoped Loki went in there to do more than just that.

Jane sighed oddly and nodded again.  “Okay,” she said.  And then she nodded again.  “I just.  Is he… Is he good to you?”

It wasn’t exactly the question Darcy had expected to hear, and it took her a moment to figure out exactly what Jane was asking.  This was not how she wanted to start her vacation, and yet it was inevitable with her complete lack of sense in making the decision to bring Loki along as her plus one.

“Most of the time, he’s a complete gentleman,” Darcy said.

In a strange way, it was completely true, though not in the way she had meant Jane to understand it.  Sometimes, it felt like her own little secret, shared with no one else, and part of her wanted to keep it that way.

Jane didn’t look convinced, though.  “And the rest of the time?” she asked.

Darcy nodded toward the couch they were sitting on, and the blanket that had been kicked out of the way.

“He hogs the bed, and it’s like sleeping next to a furnace, so I kick him out,” she said.

She felt bad about lying, but she was so far deep into it that there was no turning back without a lot of awkward and uncomfortable arguing.

“Well,” Jane said.  She nodded again, continuing to fidget with her fingers.  “I’m going to be honest with you, but he scares me, and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Darcy hated this.  She was offended on Loki’s behalf, because he hadn’t done anything more damning than checking out some flight attendant’s ass.  And then Darcy realised that being offended on his behalf and defending him, even in earnest, would be a bad look.  She took a deep breath and tried to find the best angle of approach.

“I do let him in sometimes,” Darcy said finally.  “Not at first.  I still think he stole Thor’s keys and copied them.  Even if he won’t admit it.”

Jane seemed less than impressed, but Darcy didn’t expect much more than that.  Not from a conversation like this.

“And I don’t put up with people who don’t respect me,” she continued.  “I’ve edited too many goddamn horror stories to let anyone cross that line.”

“And if he does, he still has a key to the apartment,” Jane said.

Darcy wasn’t sure how many times she could repeat herself.  “I take it away every time he lets himself in,” she said.  “You need to talk to Thor about that.  But I asked him to stop letting himself in, and he has stopped.”

Jane sighed, still not seeming convinced.  But this time when she nodded, she seemed ready to drop the subject.  And just in time, because the water in the shower stopped running.  Jane put on a forced smile and stood up, casting a quick glance toward the bathroom door.

“What do you know about their dad?” she asked quietly.

Darcy shook her head.  “Not much.  Why?” she asked, knowing just enough to know there was a lot to the story that went unsaid.

Jane kept her gaze aimed at the bathroom door.

“Thor wants to talk to you about that.  And about… the other thing,” Jane said.

Darcy was sick of secrets.  Of her own, and of everyone else’s.  Luckily, she was spared any more of the vague spy talk as the bathroom door opened and Loki stepped into the room, thankfully fully dressed.  Again, Jane put on her forced smile and stepped back toward the door to her own room.

“We should be ready in about fifteen minutes,” she said.

“Okay,” Darcy said.

She hoped Jane was better at faking a cheery emotion in front of patients, because she could not have been more obvious if she’d tried.  Darcy watched her disappear behind the door, and then looked over to Loki, who stood with a confused look on his face, even as he finished drying his hair with a towel.

“What was that?” he asked, looking toward the room Thor and Jane shared.

Darcy resisted the urge to ask Loki about his father.  That definitely seemed like an evening sort of question, and not one to start off the day with.

“They’re going to breakfast with us,” she said.  “And I got The Talk from Jane.”

Loki blinked, and then shook his head and pulled his hair back into a tail.  “The Talk?  As in babies and disease?  Didn’t your mother do that?”

Darcy almost laughed.  “No.  The other Talk.  The battered women talk,” she said, wondering why she was telling him.  “She doesn’t trust you at all, and I really want to tell her.  I kinda feel like this whole pretending thing was a mistake.”

Loki seemed to realise something suddenly.  “Right.”  He tossed the towel back into the bathroom and rubbed his face with both hands as he walked across the room.  “God, I hate him,” he muttered to himself, before falling down onto the bed.

Darcy didn’t have to ask who, although the question of why only seemed to be growing larger.

“Do you still want to go to breakfast?” she asked.

There was a long pause before Loki spoke.

“Will Thor be there?” he asked tiredly.

“Yeah,” Darcy said.

Again, it took a while for Loki to respond. 

“Ugh,” was all he said.

After another moment, he hauled himself back to his feet and went back to the bathroom to fetch his bag.  After digging through it like some kind of mad gremlin, he came up with a crumpled, half-empty pack of cigarettes and walked out to the balcony.  Darcy watched him, not sure what she was supposed to do or say, as Loki pulled one of the cigarettes from the pack, held it in his mouth, and fished around his pockets before coming to another sudden realisation.

“Damn,” he muttered.

“What?” Darcy asked.

Loki held his mouth in a flat line as he stared at the wall next to him.  “I didn’t even bother trying to get a lighter through customs,” he said.

Darcy tried not to laugh.  “I’m pretty sure this whole island’s non-smoking anyway,” she said.

Loki just continued to look annoyed, saying nothing for a long moment.  Finally, he shoved the cigarette back into the pack, and shoved the pack into his pocket before walking back in from the balcony.  While he sat back down and pulled out his phone to mess with it, Darcy wandered over to the shelf near the door.  There was a packet there she hadn’t noticed the night before, and when she opened it up, she found two park maps and brochures, two blue, chunky rubber bracelets, and a handful of small, plastic dinosaurs in a rainbow of colours.

The bracelets, she soon realised, were their fast passes.  She snapped hers around her wrist and took the other one over to Loki.

“Here,” she said.

Loki looked up at it with wary confusion.  “What’s that?” he asked.

“Your ticket for the rides and stuff.  It lets us skip the long lines, and get on rides first,” Darcy told him, modelling hers.

Nodding, Loki took his and snapped it onto his own wrist.  He shook his hand, letting the bracelet slide around loosely for a moment before apparently deciding that it wasn’t going to insult or annoy him somehow.  Feeling somehow out of place, Darcy returned to the sofa.  In the silence that spanned between them, she could hear the muffled conversation coming from Jane and Thor’s room.

“Oh, goodie.  Mum and Dad are fighting,” Loki said.

Darcy looked over to the door, unable to escape the feeling that whatever was going on over there, it was somehow her fault.  Sighing, she got up again.

“Put your shoes on,” she said, looking for wherever hers had wound up the night before.  “I bet the gift shop sells lighters.”

Loki acted like he wanted to say something, but then he looked back toward the door and got up instead.  While Loki put his shoes on, Darcy grabbed her phone to text Jane, letting her know they were heading out, and to catch up with them.  Slipping into her own shoes, Darcy made sure she had her handbag and her room key, and debated grabbing her hoodie.  She then decided to leave her bag, fitting as much as she could into her pathetic little pockets.  She couldn’t fit her entire wallet, so she pulled out her spending card and slipped it into her phone case.  Casting a glance toward the sky, slightly overcast and looking like it could get worse, she wrapped her hoodie around her waist just in case.  Loki, meanwhile, left his jacket behind, choosing to go out in ratty jeans and an old t-shirt that showed off the edges of his tattoos.  If she hadn’t known better, Darcy would have almost thought the thrift punk look was intentional.

They headed out together, walking a little closer than they needed to.  It wasn’t until they reached the elevator that Loki finally seemed to relax a bit, leaning against the wall and letting out a deep breath.  They rode in silence to the lobby, and began the aimless wander to find the gift shop.  They finally found one in the form of an ABC Store near the entrance and headed inside.  While Loki got his lighter and a few new packs of cigarettes, Darcy wandered around to look at the souvenirs and baubles on the shelves.  There was nothing at all she couldn’t live without, but quite a lot she was tempted to buy all the same.  But there would be plenty of time to pick up souvenirs during the trip, and she didn’t want to be carrying something around all day, so she resisted and met back up with Loki.

“They sell cigarettes here?” she asked, watching him try to find enough pockets for what he’d grabbed.

“They have a little smoking garden too,” he said.

Darcy followed him out to the smoking garden, which turned out to be a few isolated benches obscured by a comical amount palm trees.  They sat down together as Loki fished out his cigarette from earlier and lit up, acting like he was going to die if he’d gone another minute without one.  Darcy watched him for a long moment, letting her curiosity build until she couldn’t hide it any longer.

“Is it true you stabbed Thor?” she asked.

Loki laughed so loudly it startled her.

“He has never forgiven me for it,” he said.

It was far more direct of an admission than Darcy was prepared for, and she wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“Okay,” she said slowly, realising there was still so much she didn’t know about him.  “Why’d you do it?”

Loki was still laughing, even as he took another drag of his cigarette.  “Because he said I wouldn’t dare.”

In that moment, Loki seemed completely and totally unhinged.  Thor was always saying Loki was dangerous, and now by his own admission, he’d apparently stabbed Thor out of spite.

“And that’s why you went to jail?” Darcy asked.

Loki shook his head.  “Oh, no.  He punched me, broke a few bones, and called it even,” he said motioning to the area just below his eye.  “My father sent me to jail, and I’ve never forgiven him for it.”

Darcy wanted to ask why, but she had a strong suspicion that he’d just deflect and dodge the question. 

“You don’t get along with your dad?” she asked instead.

Loki snorted.  “He was never coy about playing favourites.”

She couldn’t help but notice the way Loki talked about him in the past tense, even in such a short sentence.  Thor always talked in the present, as through their dad was still there.  Darcy supposed that in some weird way, they were both right.

“Do you ever go see him?” she asked, feeling like she was letting her curiosity get the better of her.

“Fuck him,” Loki said, shaking his head.  “He died two years ago.”

Darcy was hit by a weird sting of guilt over being right about the way Loki spoke about his father.  They were getting dangerously close to the conversation Jane had wanted Darcy to have with Thor, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to have that conversation without hearing Loki’s side first.  And she wasn’t sure how to get Loki’s side of the story from him without ruining their day.

“Look, I’m sorry,” Darcy said.  “I shouldn’t have asked any of it.”

Loki shrugged, but said nothing as he stared at the plants in front of them.  He smoked his cigarette, and Darcy wondered if there was any recovering from this blunder.

“You shouldn’t tell Jane until you get home,” he said finally.  “If you tell her, she’ll tell Thor, and we’ll all be miserable.  And I’ve already got my hands full making sure you have fun on this trip.”

Darcy knew he was setting her up for an escape, and she was smart enough to take it.  She knocked her knee against his, leaning into him slightly.

“Yeah, and you’re not doing a very good job at it,” she said.

He laughed, and though it wasn’t sincere, she took it for what it was.  She had asked an awkward question, and he was prepared to pretend, for the moment, that none of it had happened.  He knocked back into her with a bit more force than she’d used against him, tilting her off-balance.  Before she could respond, Jane called out from the hotel entrance.

“Where you guys at?” she said loudly.

“Making out in the bushes!” Darcy called back.

“Ew.”

Jane found them a few moments later, dressed much like Darcy, as though she wasn’t sure what the day’s weather would bring.

“Should we leave you guys here, or do you still want to go to breakfast?” she asked.

Darcy nodded and stood up, looking over to Loki.  “Yeah, we’re just waiting for you,” she said.

Loki stood as well, dropping what was left of his cigarette to the ground and stepping on it, and for a moment Darcy was hopeful that the rest of the day would go without a hitch.

« || »

Isla Nublar #5: Costa Rica

For some reason, Darcy dreaded actually getting onto the plane.  She pictured a problem with boarding passes, or Loki getting pulled aside at the last minute and not being allowed to go.  She worried they’d somehow miss the boarding call and the plane would leave without them, and kept a hyper-vigilant watch on the kiosk.  But their flight was called, and they didn’t miss it, and everyone got through the final checks and into the line to board.  And as they shuffled onto crowded aeroplane, Darcy realised their problems were not in the terminal at all.  Thor took up the entire aisle as he tried to cram his carry on case into the bin, muscling it into the space despite it clearly not fitting.  No amount of brute force was able to get it into position, no matter how much he muttered and swore, or how much the line behind them grew more impatient.  Finally, with an exasperated sigh, Loki stepped forward, squeezing Darcy between the two of them, as he wrenched the bag from Thor’s hands.  Ignoring the way Thor glared at him, Loki flipped the chunky plastic case over and slid it in with ease.  For a moment, the two of them stared at one another without a word, until finally Thor shuffled awkwardly into his row, letting the line move forward again.  Loki easily stowed their bags away, giving Darcy a chance to get settled in her seat next to the window while Thor continued to grumble and fuss in his seat, not being as quiet as he clearly thought in his complaints about flying. 

As Loki tried to get into his seat, directly behind Thor, Darcy realised the problems were only beginning.  She didn’t know how tall either of them were, but they were both too tall for commercial airline seats.  Especially coach seats.  She watched Loki try to settle down so he wouldn’t be eating his own knees for the entire flight to Florida, while the seat in front of him lurched and jerked around under the force of Thor doing the same.  Leaning over to the side, Darcy poked Jane around the seat.  Jane turned to look back, clearly vexed and uncomfortable by the entire situation.

“Think it’s too late to upgrade to first class?” Darcy asked.

Jane groaned and rolled her eyes, and Darcy wondered why they hadn’t realised this would be a problem.  Ian hadn’t exactly been short either.  He wasn’t as tall as the other two, but somewhere along the line, one of them should have probably realised that tall men—especially tall, bulky men—couldn’t fit in coach.

“Maybe we should call the airline tomorrow,” Jane said, turning away quickly to face Thor again.

Loki settled in as well as he was able, but Thor continued to fuss and fiddle with his seat.  Leaning it back didn’t give him any more room, but he kept trying it anyway.  A few rows up, more commotion began to rise over the din of travellers eager to get going, as a flight attendant tried to deal with an old woman who didn’t want to sit in the emergency exit.  The attendant looked out over the cramped cabin and stood up on her toes suddenly.

“Is there anybody willing to take responsibility for the emergency exit?” she called out.

“Yes!” Thor said, already standing.

He looked down at Jane, but she shook her head. 

“You go,” she said.

She sighed and watched Thor shuffle out into the aisle as most of the commotion was settling down.  Darcy looked over at Loki, and then back up at Jane.

“Come back here with us,” Darcy said.

Jane looked over the seat at them, and then back at Thor, and made an exasperated little noise.  As she got up, Loki did as well, drawing both of their attention.  At first, Darcy thought Loki was getting ready to switch with Jane, but as he stood back and gave her room to take the middle seat, Darcy realised he was going to just take the aisle instead.  Not saying anything, Jane gave him a cautious look as she took his spot.  She scooted up close to Darcy, giving Loki room to get settled in the aisle seat. 

“Do you want the window?” Darcy asked, not quite sure what to do with the situation either.

Shaking her head, Jane settled back into her seat. 

“No.  This is—this is fine,” she said. 

She looked like she’d rather be anywhere but where she was at that moment, but the whole situation was already so awkward that Darcy wasn’t sure how to go forward.  The three of them just sat awkwardly in the cramped row together, while the old woman from the emergency exit got settled with her travelling companion in the row ahead.  Eventually, everything finally settled and the plane began rolling away from the gate while the flight attendants did their safety speech.  Darcy knew she should have been listening to all of the super important information about what to do if they crashed or fell into the ocean or whatever, but all she could do was grin at Jane.  Jane grinned right back, seeming just as excited about what was going on, and where they were going.

The safety brief ended, the flight attendants disappeared, and the plane made a turn on the tarmac.  Moments later, it began picking up speed, and with a light bump they were in the air, leaving New York behind for sunny skies.  Darcy tried to ignore the way her stomach wanted to fall out at the brief feeling of weightlessness as the plane angled further upward, gaining speed and altitude.  Out the window, she could see the airport growing smaller and smaller beneath them, until soon the entire city filled the window. 

That was it.  They were finally on the trip.  They had made it through the airport and onto the plane without calamity, and that evening they’d be in a hotel in Costa Rica, ready to spend their hard-earned vacation doing nothing but having fun.

“I can’t believe it,” she said, still not wanting to jinx things, but equally unable to keep it locked in a moment longer.  “We’re finally on our way.”

Jane laughed, giddy and nervous as she leaned over Darcy to look out the window. 

“You didn’t happen to check the weather down there, did you?  I completely forgot,” Jane said.

Darcy laughed.  “You kidding?  All morning I’ve been freaked out about what you and Thor would say about…”

She nodded over to Loki, expecting some sort of smart remark from him.  Instead, he was already asleep, slumped in his seat with one leg sticking out in the aisle.  Jane seemed to relax a little more, and again Darcy wondered if she should have pressed giving Jane the window.  She tried not to feel offended on Loki’s behalf that him being asleep seemed to be what it took to get Jane to calm down, but she knew bringing him along was going to cause some tension with everyone.  Maybe him sleeping the entire way to Florida would be the first step toward easing some of it.

“I kinda get the feeling he didn’t really go to bed last night,” Darcy said.

Jane looked over at him and scrunched her nose up.  “What is that smell?” she asked quietly.

Darcy laughed.  “Apparently one of his snakes pooped on him,” she said.

“What?  Ew!” Jane said, leaning closer to Darcy.  “I changed my mind.  You’re giving me the window as soon as they let us move.”

“I did offer,” Darcy said, still laughing.

“Yeah, teach me to be nice,” Jane said.

She was laughing too, so Darcy didn’t think she was too upset over the situation.  All the same, as soon as the seat belt signs turned off, the two of them shuffled around one another, Darcy trying to scoot along the seats while Jane stood and climbed over her.

“God, we’re totally Those People,” Darcy said, struggling to squeeze into place.

“Thor started it,” Jane said.

They got into their new seats and settled down easily.  Somehow, Loki slept right through the whole ordeal, and as Darcy got comfortable next to him, she caught another whiff of the snake smell as well.

“Buddy, you are taking a shower as soon as we land,” she said.

Loki didn’t respond.  Shaking her head at him, Darcy fished out her laptop from its case and settled it on the tray in front of her.  She handed Jane the headphones and line splitter to untangle while she booted up, eager to find something to entertain them for the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Miami.  About halfway through the movie, Jane dozed off as well, leaving Darcy all alone despite being crammed between two people.  She had to wake Loki up each time the snack cart came by, so he could move out of the aisle to get out of the way, but each time he fell right back asleep as soon as the space was clear again.  Darcy had been joking about not thinking Loki had gone to bed the night before, but the ease with which he fell back asleep every time made her think she might have accidentally stumbled upon the truth.

While the other two slept, Darcy was far too wired to even think about trying to join them.  Several times, she tried to peek over the seat in front of her to see what Thor was doing several rows up ahead, but all she could see was the back of his head.  He seemed to be awake, but beyond that, she had no idea.  Giving up, she returned to her movie, wondering how it had got so much longer than the last time she’d watched it.  Minutes crept by, and the two hours it took to get to Miami took all day.  Finally, the flight attendant came by not with the drinks cart, but to make sure everyone was awake and ready to land.  While Jane and Loki both regained consciousness, Darcy closed down her laptop and stowed away into her bag.

Getting off the plane was every bit the ordeal that getting on had been, since they’d all played musical chairs and Thor and Jane weren’t even in the correct rows anymore.  Eventually they made it off the plane and into the terminal, only to be met with the hassle of finding the gate for their connection.  Thor and Jane quickly pulled ahead as they began their trek, leaving Darcy and Loki behind in what felt like a herald of things to come.  Sighing, Darcy looked up at Loki and started after them, trying to keep up.

“We do have separate rooms, right?” Loki asked.

“Separate from them?  Yes,” Darcy said. 

She didn’t want to acknowledge that she and Loki would be sharing a room, though he seemed to get the hint all the same.  He shook his head and looked around the airport.  He seemed like he was looking for something, but before Darcy could ask what was on his mind, he quickly broke ahead to catch up with Thor and Jane.  Not wanting to get stuck in the middle of whatever was going through his mind, Darcy hung back.  Whatever he’d decided to bother Thor about was short-lived, or else not worth the trouble in the end.  He quickly stepped back, waiting for Darcy to catch back up.  Not sure she wanted to know, she shook her head at him and followed the other two down the concourse to their gate.  By the time they found it, boarding for San José was already in progress, barely giving them time to get in line without feeling like they’d be left behind.

Outside the window, Darcy could see the giant jet that would be taking them to Costa Rica, painted to look like a flying T-Rex.  If getting on the plane in New York had meant they were finally starting their vacation, seeing the giant Boeing in its ridiculous livery meant they were one step closer to actually seeing dinosaurs.  It wasn’t just the kids in their dinosaur shirts that were excited and giddy as they waited in the line, but the adults and parents as well.  The entire gate buzzed with a nervous energy as everyone waited in line to finally board.

“What did you go talk to your brother about?” Darcy asked finally, hoping for a distraction from her impatience.

“Asked if they wanted to stop for lunch,” Loki said.

“Oh, shit.” 

Darcy looked around, spotting the clock on the board above the info desk.  Somehow, it was nearly 11:00 already, and she suddenly understood the enormous breakfast Thor had made sure everyone ate before they left. 

“Maybe they’ll have something on the plane,” she said.

Boarding went only marginally more smoothly as it had in New York, and as the four of them settled into their seats across the aisle from one another, Darcy took the middle even though it wasn’t on her ticket.  She ignored the guy sitting in the window seat, paying more attention to Loki and Thor trying to find as much space in the aisle seats as they could.  While Loki completely ignored Thor, Thor seemed to throw a dirty look across the aisle every chance he got.

It was going to be a long trip if the two of them couldn’t behave.

After spending entirely too long at the gate, waiting for people who had checked in but not made it to the gate in a timely fashion, they finally began the taxi to the runway.  The flight wasn’t a long one, barely longer than the first one had been, but somehow it seemed to take all day.  This time, Loki had at least stayed awake, giving Darcy someone to talk to and watch half a movie with until her laptop battery gave up the ghost and died.  It was one of the many causalities of putting every spare penny she’d had into the trip, and at the top of the list of things to replace as soon as life went back to normal.

Without her laptop to distract her, Darcy tried to look out the window at the sea far below their plane, without bothering the guy next to them.  She’d never flown over the ocean before, and she wasn’t even sure which part of the ocean they were flying over, whether it was the Gulf of Mexico or something else.

While she was distracted by a vast and endless ocean, the snack cart came round again.  Not sure how many M&Ms and pretzels a person could eat in a day without throwing up, she ignored it.  Just like she ignored the way Loki very obviously leaned into the aisle to stare at the flight attendant as she passed.

“Loki,” Thor scolded, hitting him in the arm.

“What?” Loki asked, sitting back in his seat.  “I can look.”

Darcy knew Loki was only trying to irritate Thor, and wasn’t sure whether she should try to defuse the situation or not.

“Look at what?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Loki said quickly.

Darcy pretended to have no idea what was going on, while Thor just glared sourly.  Whether she’d helped or not, she wasn’t sure.

“I would have words with you once we land,” Thor said.

Loki grimaced dramatically as he scratched at his jaw.  “You might want to go out for lunch once we land, because there is no way in hell I’m getting through customs without getting stopped.”

Thor continued to glare, but said nothing.  He said nothing to either of them for the rest of the flight, and then had the nerve to look smug when Loki’s prediction held true.  As soon as they stepped into customs, Loki was pulled aside by one of the security guards for some sort of extra screening.  Looking annoyed, though not at all surprised, he waved them on before being led away.

Luckily, having to wait up for him didn’t really change anything.  They had planned on spending their first day in San José anyway, taking in at least a little bit of Costa Rica proper before heading to Puntarenas to catch their ferry to the island.  Figuring Loki would call when he was released from airport jail, Darcy tried not to feel too bad about leaving him behind as they headed off to explore what they could for the next few hours.

That was, if he got out of airport jail.  She wasn’t sure what the plan was if they sent him back to America for some reason.  Nor could she help but noticing that Thor and Jane both looked openly relieved to be rid of him.  As far as Darcy was concerned, he’d behaved himself perfectly all day, and she was annoyed on his behalf.

Her annoyance didn’t last long, however.  As soon as they were in the cab, she remembered that they were in Costa Rica, starting a literal vacation of a lifetime.  They took Loki’s advice from the plane, though it wasn’t really needed, and found a charming little restaurant packed with tourists.  Even with the crowd, they were quickly seated and given menus, before the busy waitress rushed off to help someone else.

An early investment Jane and Darcy had made, once they had decided to actually go forward with making the trip happen, were some basic Spanish lessons.  Even though the resort was American, on a privately-leased island, they knew they’d be spending some time on the mainland.  But even with those lessons under her belt, Darcy still struggled with her menu, having spent more of her time focusing on being able to speak with people, rather than learning the nuances of Spanish spelling.  Determined to make it work even if she looked like a complete fool, she squinted at the menu suspiciously.  Before too long, she felt like she’d sorted out the vowels enough to order the chifrijo without drama, even though she wasn’t entirely sure what it was.  Annoying, Thor ordered after she did, and the bastard spoke what sounded like perfect Spanish. 

What Darcy eventually got was a large ceramic bowl full of crispy pork, salsa, and avocado, which a huge pile of tortilla chips on the side.  Somehow, it wasn’t what she was expecting, but she dug in all the same.  But not before taking a picture of it for Instagram.

When they finished their lunch, they began a lazy stroll down the road, window shopping and taking dozens of pictures.  Darcy posted a few of them to Instagram and Twitter, vaguely wondering how many times she’d have to empty out her phone onto her laptop to make room for more photos.

The time flew by, and soon Jane’s alarm beeped to let them know they had an hour to return to the airport and catch their shuttle.  Loki had missed the entire thing, and worse, she hadn’t heard from him.  She texted him, but he didn’t respond, and once more she found herself worrying that something had happened.  Even as they hailed a cab and started their journey back to the airport, Darcy found herself in the shadow of a black cloud.  As far as she could tell, Loki had only come on the trip to irritate Thor, but she still felt guilty at the thought that he would have got his hopes up only to be sent back home.  Briefly, she wondered if “home” for Loki was even America, and realised she had no idea.  She supposed she could have asked Thor, but she didn’t want to get into another awkward conversation with no escape.

As they neared the airport, the dark cloud over her began to manifest in reality as evening rolled in.  The sun was getting lower in the sky, though it didn’t seem to be getting much cooler.  Darcy was glad she’d only worn a hoodie, instead of her big winter coat, because she wasn’t sure she’d be able to carry a coat, her handbag, and her laptop.  The hoodie could at least be tied neatly around her waist.

They arrived back to the airport with about twenty minutes to spare before their shuttle left, giving them just enough time to make sure their checked luggage had all been properly transferred over, and their carry on had made into the bus.  Darcy was surprised to find Loki waiting for them in the lounge, taking up as much room as possible in his seat, with his legs stretched out in front of him and his arms draped over the backs of the seats next to him.  Both relieved to see him, and annoyed that he hadn’t called, Darcy sat down beside him, invading his space as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

“They didn’t kick you out of the country?” Thor asked.

Loki shook his head dramatically.  “No such luck,” he said.

“Why didn’t you call when you got out?” Darcy asked.

She looked up at Thor and Jane as they both found a place to wait.

“I only got out about ten minutes ago,” Loki said.  “I figured you were on your way, and international roaming is expensive.”

Not for the first time, Darcy wondered how badly this trip would wipe out Loki’s finances.  When he’d agreed to pay for his ticket, Darcy had actually expected to have to meet him half way and cut into their budget, even if he was momentarily good for it.  She had a feeling his snake money was supposed to last him a few months, but between getting his van out of impound and getting his plane ticket, more than half of it was already gone.

“Well, they let you out.  It couldn’t have been too bad,” she said, trying to get back into a vacation sort of mood.

Loki rolled his eyes.  “Usually I have to pay to get that sort of experience,” he said.

Darcy snorted.  She leaned up against him, still able to smell the snake on him, and trying to ignore it.  She looked out over the small lounge, but her attention was quickly caught by the shoes Loki was wearing.  They were the same old Chuck Taylors she’d seen him wearing before, with the long tears along the sides that showed his mismatched socks underneath.

“Why’d you wear those shoes?” she asked.

Loki twisted one of his feet to look at his shoes and shrugged.  “It was these or a pair of boots that don’t fit.”

Somehow, Darcy had expected an answer like that, and again felt bad about bringing him along.  It was only a few days until Christmas, and here Loki was in a foreign country, looking like Tiny Tim had joined a heavy metal band.  Darcy couldn’t help but glance over to Thor.  His shoes were new.  His shoes were always new.  So was everything he wore, as well as the car he’d driven them all to the airport in.  Meanwhile, Darcy was fairly certain she’d only ever seen Loki cycle through about three different shirts, and was almost positive that the backpack he’d brought with him was the only luggage he’d brought at all for the ten-day trip.

“Can I take you shopping for Christmas?” Darcy asked.

“No,” Loki said.

“Are you sure?” Darcy asked.

She’d put enough spending money away for her and Ian to be able to buy way too many things on this trip.  She could more than afford to buy Loki a new pair of shoes and a few shirts.

“I don’t want you to take me shopping,” he said, his voice oddly firm.

Darcy took it as a cue to drop the subject.

There were so many things she wanted to ask, but she didn’t feel like she knew Loki well enough to ask any of them.  Instead of talking about something he clearly did not want to talk about, Darcy leaned back against him and waited for their shuttle to arrive.

The ride from the airport to Puntarenas was about an hour and a half, and even though Darcy wanted to watch Costa Rica go by out the window, she fell asleep only a few minutes after they started going.  The early start to the day, and all the excitement caught up with her, and she hadn’t even realised she’d fallen asleep until Loki woke her at the port.  As she got off the bus, she could see Jane giving her a strange look, though she was too tired still to decipher it.

When she found out that the travel plans to the resort included a ferry, Darcy had expected to see some huge, lumbering cargo ship or something.  Instead, it was an enormous white and blue Catamaran, with multiple decks and hulls.  And when it got going, it definitely did not lumber.  Isla Nublar was 120 miles off the coast from Puntarenas, so Darcy had expected to be on the boat well into the night.  But as they cruised toward the setting sun, kicking up spray from the ocean, she knew it was going to be a much shorter boat ride than she’d anticipated.  But it still wasn’t exactly quick, either.  120 miles was still 120 miles, and once they got away from port, she and Loki ventured off to explore.  The ferry was big, and thus well-equipped.  Not caring about lounges or discos, they sought out a cafeteria instead.  Darcy was getting hungry again, and she imagined Loki must have been starving after a lunch of hard pretzels and trail mix.  The cafeteria they found was more like a food court, and having spent nearly $30 on a pair of Subway sandwiches, they found a table with a view over the ocean to sit down at.  Not long after they settled, Jane found them and sat next to Darcy.

“Where’s Thor?” Darcy asked, looking around the various lines for him.

“Puking his guts out,” Jane said, obviously unimpressed.

Loki laughed, and nearly choked on his sandwich.

“What?” Jane asked.

It took Loki a moment to answer, stalling for time while he got himself under control.

“He always gets seasick,” he said.  “We went to Coney Island once, when we first came to New York, and he puked on me on the roller coaster.”

Darcy couldn’t picture it, and was sort of glad for it.  “Who pukes on a roller coaster?” she asked.

“Thor,” said Loki, before taking another ravenous bite of his sandwich.

Jane shook her head, rolling her eyes at the whole thing.

“Well, the park closes at ten, which is probably about what time it’ll be when we finally get up to the hotel,” she said.  She sighed and looked out over the ocean.  “I was gonna suggest we all go out for dinner, but then Thor started puking, and it looks like you guys already got a head start on that anyway.”

“Sorry,” Darcy said, not sure why she was even apologising.  “He hadn’t eaten since New York.”

Jane looked like she was going to say something, but stopped suddenly as a look of concern slowly overtook her.

“Oh, jeez,” she said, looking across the table at Loki.  “I mean.  He’ll probably want to go straight to bed, anyway.”

“Honestly, same,” Darcy said.  “I think we’re both pretty tired.”

Again, that strange look from Jane was back, but she didn’t say anything right away.  Instead, she nodded and stood up.

“I should go check on Thor,” she said, nodding over her shoulder.

“Good luck,” Darcy said.

She watched Jane leave, wondering where she’d left Thor in the first place.  Once Jane was out of view, Darcy turned back to Loki.

“Was that true?” she asked.

Loki looked up at her.  “About Thor?” he asked.  “I’m surprised he survived the flight.”

She could never tell when Loki was being serious or joking.  He never seemed to take anything seriously, and she knew that was what got so far under Thor’s skin.  She wanted to ask what Loki was hiding behind that mask, but he was enjoying himself and she didn’t want to take that away from him. 

« || »

Isla Nublar #4: Subterfuge

Darcy desperately needed a new job.  Working in the editing room of a news station wasn’t exactly what she’d gone to school for, and it wasn’t even a terrible job.  The work itself, even with never-ending double shifts wasn’t back-breaking labour.  She got a comfy chair and plenty of breaks.  It was everything adjacent to her job that slowly got under her skin.  Those things that made early morning and late night commutes feel like a horror movie.  At least when she was on the bus, there was a driver right there who would probably step in if something happened.  It was the dark subway rides with three other passengers and the walk home under malfunctioning street lights that made her feel like every noise was someone sneaking up on her with a gun.  It was only a couple of blocks between the bus stop and the apartment, but those couple of blocks were the longest walk in the world when it was dark and cold and she was the only person out on the streets.

Darcy wasn’t even sure what was worse; the cold and snow driving everyone else inside and leaving her completely alone, or the hot, sticky nights when people left their apartments to hang out on their stoops in a vain attempt at cooling off.  At the moment, as she listened for any sound that didn’t sound like snow or traffic, she decided it was the cold that was worse.  Trying not see monsters in every shadow, she kept her bag held tightly against her side, with her other hand in her pocket, gripping her taser.  She never loosened her grip of either until she was in the building, up the stairs, and right at the front door.  And then it was a mad dash to juggle her bag, her taser, and her keys to open the door and step safely inside.  Jane was already home, lounging on the sofa with a bag of chips while watching some low-budget monster movie, seemingly unbothered by Darcy scrambling to reach safety.

“You know, I really wish twenty minutes of every half hour of programming wasn’t focused on violent street crime,” Darcy said as she locked up the door.  She took off her glasses and rubbed her temples, wondering if it was possible to get a brain tumour from stress.  “It makes getting home at night really suck.”

Jane laughed.  “You say that every night.”

“Well, it’s true every night,” Darcy said.

She walked into the kitchen, dropping her bag onto the table.  There was a bottle of Advil that had a permanent home by the sink.  Darcy snatched it up and plucked two tablets from it, before pouring herself a small glass of water.  She gulped the tablets down, hoping they’d work soon.

“But,” she said, putting her glass into the sink.  “This was my last double shift ever.  My next paycheque after this one is going into the bank, and only coming out again for rent.”

Jane made a gaspy little sound.  “So, we’re officially covered for everything?”

Darcy joined Jane on the sofa, knocking her feet out of the way to sit. 

“Officially covered for everything,” she said, watching Jane sit up.  “I did the math today on my first lunch.  With this cheque, we’ll have five grand in the spending cash account, which better fucking last us ten days.  And that should deposit the day we leave.”

Jane laughed.  “Yeah, well.  I hear they charge seven bucks for a small soda, so we’ll see,” she said.

She offered her chips to Darcy, holding the bag so she could take out a handful.  Cool Ranch wasn’t Darcy’s favourite flavour, but chips were chips, and she was starving.

“Gordon Ramsay’s got a restaurant at the park.  We are definitely eating there,” Darcy said.  “Only time in my life I’ll ever get the chance, and I don’t care how much it costs.”

She munched on the chips and got comfortable on the sofa, trying to figure out if she was meant to be taking giant rabbits seriously nor not.

“That doesn’t sound like you,” Jane said.  “What happened to the woman who wanted to have her boyfriend beaten up over money?”

“I didn’t want.  It was an offer that I refused,” Darcy said.  “Because I decided to be the bigger person.”

Jane snorted, and not for the first time Darcy wanted to tell her what she had done with Ian’s share.  But if she told Jane, Jane would tell Thor, and it would be a whole nightmare.

“You sure it has nothing to do with the way you keep letting him in here?” Jane asked.

“It’s not me!” Darcy said, forgetting all about the killer rabbits and Ian.  “I have like, fifteen keys I’ve taken from him.  He’s getting them from Thor.  Has to be.”

Jane was obviously not convinced, and did a terrible job at hiding her smirk behind the crunch of a Dorito.

“Speaking of, where is he?” Darcy asked.  “Usually I come home and at least one of them’s hanging around.”

“Oh, he’s picking up a shift for someone,” Jane said.  “He tried to convince me to stay on with him, but nu-uh.”

She shook her head and ate more chips, having obviously made the correct choice.  Double shifts in the news room were chaos, but Darcy only compiled the stories.  Double shifts in the ER, dealing with the aftermath of those stories could have only been hell.  They all took their share of double shifts and skipped weekends to pay for the trip, which only meant Darcy understood perfectly the need to take a break every now and then.

“I swear, I’m never taking another extra shift another day in my life,” Darcy said, yawning loudly.

“Lucky,” Jane said.  “I wish I could say the same.  At least I’ll get a vacation before I have to come back and get puked on for sixteen hours.”

Darcy laughed.  “I swear, I’m gonna get hours that let me go in and come home during the day.  No more of this spooky-ass walking home in the dark bullshit.  I might even try to get it in writing that I no longer have to put together stories that scare the crap out of me.  I’d rather do rage-inducing politics for the rest of my days.”

“At least political scandals can be pretty funny sometimes,” Jane said, shrugging lazily.

“Hell, I’ll even take stories about Indian Point over street crime,” Darcy said.

Radioactive frogs were scary too, but not scary the same way muggings and car jackings were scary.  Radioactive frogs were something she could actively avoid by just not going anywhere near the plant.

“So does this mean you’re taking regular weekends now?” Jane asked.

Darcy hadn’t even thought about it.  “God, when was the last time I took two days in a row off?” she asked.  She tried to think about it, but she genuinely could not remember.  “Holy fuck, I need this vacation.”

“We have earned it,” Jane said, nodding.

They had earned it.  Even Thor, and again Darcy wanted to let Jane know what she had done with Ian’s spot.  When he wasn’t being a complete meat head, Darcy did like Thor.  But he had pissed her off so badly that she had made a spur of the moment decision without checking with anyone else.  It was petty, and it was mean, and it would just be plain cruel at this point to tell Loki he couldn’t go.

Sighing, Darcy got up and stretched, suddenly wanting to escape the situation she’d put herself in.

“I’m gonna call it a night,” she said.  “I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow.”

Jane laughed as Darcy headed to her room to change for bed, detouring to the kitchen to grab her bag.  She thought about finding something to eat before collapsing into a heap on her bed, but even something as simple as a sandwich would delay her ability to get a head start on all that sleeping in.  As she plugged in her phone to charge, the screen lit up with a text.  For a second, she thought it was Ian and nearly ignored it.  But it wasn’t Ian.  Not unless Ian had recently acquired a giant, fluffy black dog.  Loki had sent the photo without context, simply showing off his dog sleeping out in the snow.  Suddenly, Darcy’s desire to go to sleep was at war with her need to figure out why he had decided to send her that photo.

Ten minutes of back and forth texting later, Darcy still didn’t have an answer.  Instead, they wound up chatting about Darcy’s upcoming weekend plans, and how she hadn’t anything planned beyond the fact that it existed and she wasn’t sure what to do with that information yet.  She was tempted to see if Loki wanted to do something, if only to try to get to know him a bit better before the trip, but then there would be awkward questions and uncomfortable answers and the whole thing might have blown up before they even got to the airport.

It was a stupid plan, and now she was stuck with it.  But a part of her hoped that maybe Thor and Loki could both behave.  Or at the very least, they could have chilled-out, separate vacations.  It wasn’t what Darcy had wanted, since the whole point was to go with Jane, but then she thought about the $17,000 again and realised that it absolutely needed to be used on someone who would appreciate it.

Knowing she was never going to get to sleep with thoughts of subterfuge dancing in her head, Darcy decided that the only way this stupid plan was going to work was if it were rock solid.  They both had to be on exactly the same page, from start to finish.  Sighing, and wishing she’d grabbed something to eat after all, Darcy took that final step toward the point of no return and responded to Loki not about all her plans involving nothing at all, but to hammer out every single last detail about the trip, and Loki’s role in it.

Darcy may have been done with double shifts for the foreseeable future, but she still had to wake up at stupid o’clock one last time.  Her alarm sounded 4am, and suddenly her mind and body were engaged in a familiar war.  It was finally time to leave.  Finally time to gather everything together, eat breakfast, pile into Thor’s car, and get to the airport in time to wait in the security line.  And yet, the last thing her body wanted to do was leap out of bed at four o’clock in the morning.  4am was such a bullshit time of day.  It was barely even day.  4am was extremely late night, and her alarm was going off.  Grumbling and groaning to herself, she grabbed her phone and mashed the stop button, and then stared at the lock screen.

She had expected Loki to send a text when he was up and getting ready to head out and meet them at the airport.  But her lock screen remained woefully text-free.  She really hoped he hadn’t misjudged the commute from Yonkers, because if she went through all that guilt and secrecy just for him to miss the flight, she thought she might actually scream.

Not wanting to scream at 4am, she sighed instead and forced herself to sit up.  Then she forced herself to put her feet on the floor, silently repeating some action movie mantra that had lived rent free in her brain for years.  She scrunched up her toes against the carpet, feeling the fibres scratch against her skin in a way that was supposed to wake her up or something.  Instead, it gave her foot a cramp, making the whole thing feel like it was curling up on itself.  Crying out in shock and pain, she bent to try to prod the cramp away.  As she silently cursed Bruce Willis, a knock sounded at her door before it opened just a crack.

“Darcy?” Jane asked.  “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Darcy said, still trying to fix the problem she’d created.  “Just hurt my foot getting out of bed.”

Jane inhaled sharply, followed by a very brief silence.  “How?” she asked finally.

Darcy shook her head.  “Don’t ask.”

Awake and annoyed about what it took to get there, Darcy got up and dressed with the outfit she’d already set aside for the day.  A day in airports and on planes didn’t deserve a full face of makeup, but she did at least do her eyes and hair so she didn’t feel like she’d gone completely without making an effort.  By the time she was put together, Thor and Jane were already eating breakfast out in the kitchen.  French toast and hash browns was a bit much for stupid o’clock in the morning, but it was already set out and ready to go, so Darcy took the last plate and joined the other two at the table.

“What time are we leaving?” she asked, grabbing the ketchup to pour on her hash browns.

Jane yawned into the back of her hand.  “We want to get out of here by five,” she said.

Darcy glanced over to the clock on the microwave and nodded.  She had enough time that she didn’t feel completely rushed to eat and get out the door, but not so much that she could take her time either.

“I worry about being away for so long,” Thor said suddenly, frowning down at his own plate.  “You should have the landlord check in for you in case Loki moves in.”

“I don’t think he’ll come over,” Jane said, shaking her head.

Darcy looked up at both of them, wondering what Jane knew.

“No?” she asked.

Jane shrugged, and pointed her fork at Thor.  “He only comes over here to bother him.  I don’t think he’d have a reason to come over here when he knows Thor’s in Costa Rica.”

Thor grumbled into his breakfast, stabbing at it with his fork. 

“It’ll be fine,” Jane said.  “Come on, save the anxiety for the flight.”

Darcy wasn’t sure what she hoped for more; that Jane had figured out what was going on and rolling with it like a champ, or that she’d be blind-sided along with Thor as soon as they got to the airport.  Trying not to think too hard about it, Darcy focused on her breakfast.  The three of them ate quickly, saving time to clean up and take out the trash so they wouldn’t have a mess to come home to.  With everything as put together as it was ever going to get, they hauled everything down to Thor’s car, cramming their bags into the trunk, and what wouldn’t fit in the trunk into the back seat with Darcy.  As she tried to find enough space to get comfortable, she promised herself she was going to attempt to bum a ride home off of Loki, since his ridiculous van would at least have plenty of space for both them and their luggage.  It wasn’t a particularly long ride to the airport, especially so early in the morning, but they still had to deal with parking, and getting their luggage back out of the car, and getting it all inside and checked at the counter.  By then, Darcy had been awake for nearly two hours.  And still, she had not received a text from Loki letting her know he was on his way. 

She hoped that maybe he’d just forgotten, but she didn’t see him anywhere near the ticket counter, nor anywhere between there and the security line.  She was tempted to call him, by now praying he wasn’t still in bed, but didn’t dare make things awkward if they didn’t have to be.  But if she’d been bailed on a second time, she had no idea what she’d do.  Part of her knew she’d have to be held back from choking his lights out, but another part of her would also be relieved at avoiding all the mess she’d invited by giving Ian’s spot to Loki.  But she said nothing, trying not to telegraph her nerves, and hoping that if either Jane or Thor noticed, they’d assume she was nervous because of the flight.

But as minutes passed and they waited in the security line, Darcy grew closer and closer to swearing off all men forever.  She’d go live in a convent if that’s what it took to never have to deal with broken promises ever again.

She never understood why common advice was always to arrive at the airport two hours early for security.  Especially for early flights.  They got through the line quickly, showed their IDs and boarding passes, took off their shoes, and got their carry on bags scanned without any hassle at all.  While getting through security quickly meant they didn’t have to deal with that stress for very long, it also meant they had an hour and a half to kill before boarding.  They slowly made their way toward their gate, taking as much time as possible as they stopped to look through the windows of all the closed shops along the way.  She hadn’t quite understood why she’d woken up to breakfast until walking through the terminal where the only options for food were vending machine garbage and coffee.

Just as she was about to give up on appearances and pull out her phone, Darcy was grabbed suddenly from behind.  She let out a startled shriek, immediately drawing not only Thor and Jane’s attention, but the handful of other people nearby as well.  Darcy tried to pretend she hadn’t just screamed in the middle of an airport and tried to step away, not sure if she was glad or disappointed that Loki had shown up.

“Where have you been? I was just about to call you,” Darcy said.

She turned briefly to look at Thor and Jane, and having no idea how to respond to their shock, turned back to Loki.

“Stuck in security for two hours with some guy’s hand up my ass,” Loki said, adjusting the backpack he’d brought with him.  “I’m the reason they tell you to get here early.”

He kissed her in a particularly ticklish spot on her neck, making her squirm.  She hoped she didn’t look completely uncomfortable with the total invasion of her space, and that to their small audience, all it looked like was that she was ticklish.  She knew Loki was going to be handsy and super extra close to her during this trip, but suddenly knowing and experiencing it were two different things.  She had set ground rules based both on what she thought she’d be comfortable with, and what she thought would best get the point across with Thor, and already she was having serious second thoughts.

And that point seemed to have been received loud and clear already, going by the way he was glaring daggers at the both of them.  Darcy tried to put a bit of distance between her and Loki, but it was too late.  They had already gone too far.

“Get your hands off of her,” Thor said, grabbing Loki and pulling him away.

Still gaping at the entire situation, Jane quickly stepped between the two of them, making sure they didn’t get into a fist fight right there in the terminal.

“Hey, calm down,” she said, looking first to Thor, and then to Darcy with a very obvious question written across her face.

“What are you doing here?” Thor asked.

“Going to look at dinosaurs,” Loki said, far too chipper and cheerful for how early it was.  “Isn’t that what we’re all here for?”

“I invited him,” Darcy said quickly.  This had all been a mistake, and it was too late to take anything back, and now all she could do was damage control.  “It had all been paid for already and I didn’t want it to go to waste.”

While Thor glared at Loki, Jane turned around like she was trying to be sure of what was actually happening around her.

“Seriously?” she asked.  “I knew you were the one letting him in.”

“No,” Darcy said.  “He actually hasn’t been over once since I gave him Ian’s spot.”

It wasn’t the defense she had meant to build, but that was the defense her brain had chosen to go with.

While Jane shook her head and struggled for words, Loki took several long steps backwards, putting as much distance as possible between him and Thor.  Thor followed him anyway, leaving the women to discuss everything alone.

“I thought you were taking that really well,” Jane said, shaking her head.  “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Darcy pointed over to Thor.  She and Jane both watched for a long moment as Thor and Loki both stared at one another like one of them was about to get killed.  And it probably wasn’t going to be Thor.

“Because I didn’t know how to deal with that,” Darcy said.

Jane sighed.  “So when you said you couldn’t get a refund on Ian’s ticket?” she asked.

“We cancelled it and he paid for his own,” Darcy said.  “We’re back at zero, nothing else was in Ian’s name.  It was all going to waste anyway.  This way, it’s not.”

For a long moment, neither of them said anything.  Finally, inhaling slowly, Jane nodded.  She crossed her arms over her chest and looked over to Thor and Loki, now deeply engaged in an argument that was far less civil than the awkward conversation Jane and Darcy were muddling through.  At first, Darcy thought they were being quiet enough that their voices didn’t carry well enough to be understood.  Then, she realised moments later, they weren’t even speaking English.  Despite not being able to understand a word they said, it was clear Thor was doing most of the arguing, while Loki simply refused to back down.  It was also Thor who seemed to be doing most of the posturing and threatening, which Darcy tried not to think too deeply about.

“All right.  Fine.  You’re right; it was wasted money anyway,” Jane said.  She turned back to look directly at Darcy, ignoring the impending brawl on the other side of the wide hallway.  “But he’s your responsibility.  If he gets in trouble, we’re not bailing him out.  If he goes to jail in Costa Rica, he stays in Costa Rica.”

Darcy nodded, wondering if the same condition applied to Thor.  “He won’t, but okay.  I promise he’ll be good,” she said.

“Okay,” Jane said reluctantly.  She nodded again, and took another deep breath.  “Now let’s just get Thor to make the same promise.”

Darcy stood back while Jane dared to once again break up the argument, pulling Thor away to speak to him separately.  Once she was certain nothing was going to explode, Darcy stepped closer to Loki, wishing she hadn’t done any of this.

“Jane’s not happy, but I think she’s cool with it,” Darcy said quietly, looking over to where Jane and Thor were quietly arguing.  “Are you sure we shouldn’t tell her? I feel really bad.”

Loki watched the two of them argue as well.  “If you tell her, she’ll tell Thor.  And I am not in the mood to go home in a box,” he said. 

It was clear Thor was not as open to the new arrangement as Jane had been.  Even from where she stood, Darcy could see the argument was not slowing down.

“Honestly, she’ll probably figure it out anyway, and then Thor will rip my head off,” Loki said.

Darcy kind of believed it.  She was fairly certain the only reason Thor hadn’t actually thrown any punches was because they were in an airport, surrounded by cops and security guards who were all just looking for an excuse to shoot somebody.  She watched Jane and Thor battle it out for a few moments longer before lacing her fingers with Loki’s and leading him to their gate, leaving the other two behind to argue in peace.  Darcy’s laptop was starting to get uncomfortable over her shoulder, and she couldn’t imagine Loki’s backpack was any more pleasant to carry around.  She wondered what was in it, since it seemed awfully full for carry on, but she figured that if he’d got through security with it, it must have been okay.

“Hey, can your snakes be left alone for this long?” she asked, suddenly curious.

Loki nodded, utterly unconcerned.  “I’ve got a friend taking care of them.  My mother has the dog,” he said.  “It gives her something to do, and it’s probably the closest thing she’ll ever get to a grandchild.”

Darcy laughed, not quite able to picture Thor as a father.  And then she remembered how things had got all awkward the last time she asked about their mother, and all the things that had gone unsaid.  She wondered how often Loki left his dog with her, and whether it wasn’t just some subtle trick to distract her.  Looking over her shoulder, Darcy saw Jane and Thor were still arguing, and she didn’t think the argument had anything to do with Loki’s dog.  It had everything to do with the fact that Darcy had lied to both of them, and already she felt like it had ruined their stupidly expensive vacation.

“Okay, I have a job for you,” Darcy said suddenly, tugging on Loki’s hand to get his attention.

Loki looked both confused and intrigued.  “A job?” he asked.

“You are not allowed to let me be grumpy on this trip,” Darcy said.  “This is supposed to be fun, so you need to make sure I have fun.”

Loki laughed.  “That’s a big ask.”

“Well.”  Darcy shrugged.  “There’s gonna be dinosaurs.  I’m pretty sure they’ll do most of the work for you.”

The trip was expensive, and had taken not just a lot of time to plan and save up for it, but physical labour as well.  It needed to be worth it.  Actual brontosauruses and pterodactyls were definitely going to go a long way in making it worth it, but she knew she’d need help if the whole trip was going to be overshadowed by arguing.  It was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, and like hell was she going to spend an obscene amount of money just to be miserable.

“I can’t believe we’re actually doing this,” she said as they finally reached their gate.

There were several other groups there as well, most with young children with dinosaurs on their shirts, and little stuffed dinosaur toys.  The two of them found an empty row near the ticket booth and sat down to wait, watching the crowd around them do the same.  Soon, Thor and Jane made their way over as well, no longer arguing, though not looking very happy either.  They sat on the other side of the lounge, putting as much distance between them and Loki as possible.

“I’m not sitting next to him, am I?” Loki asked, watching the way Thor continued to glare at him.

Darcy shook her head.  “I think you’re behind him on the way to Florida, and then across the aisle from him on the way to Costa Rica,” she said, trying to remember the seating arrangements.

Loki laughed.  “I am not going to survive this flight.”

He leaned back in his seat and pulled Darcy close against his side.  For a split second, she tried to move away, before catching herself and playing along.  She hadn’t noticed until that moment, leaning against him, just how big he actually was.  He was tall, and she’d always noticed that, but somehow she thought under the leather jacket he never took off, he was rail thin.  But suddenly she didn’t think a fist fight between Loki and Thor would be quite so one-sided.  She rested her face against his shoulder, wanting to take a nap and feeling too amped up all at once.  The leather of his jacket felt almost clammy against her skin, making it impossible to relax even if she did try to take a nap.  She could also smell something on the leather; not like the pleasing leather of old books, but like a jacket that hadn’t been washed in years.  And there was something else as well.  Something that smelled like an animal, but not like a dog.  It was the sort of animal smell that said ‘go away,’ and she couldn’t help but obey it.

“Did something pee on your coat?” she asked, sitting up a bit.

“What?”  Loki grabbed the lapel of his jacket and sniffed against the inner lining.  Then he grabbed his shirt and sniffed it.  “Oh.  One of my girls made a mess in her cage this morning.  I had to clean it before I left.  It’s probably that,” he said.

Darcy laughed, twisting her face up at the idea of snake poop.

“Gross.”  She pulled out her phone and sat up as she opened her camera.  “Here, smile.”

She held the phone out and took a quick selfie of the two of them, before moving over to Twitter and uploading the photo, with the caption, Waiting for our flight to #JurassicWorld! 😀

She wondered how long it would take for Ian to unfollow her.  Or if he’d even see the tweet.  As much as she felt bad about lying to Jane and Thor, Ian was still 100% of the problem, and still deserved all of the jealousy over this trip.  When it didn’t seem like he was going to respond in a timely manner, she put her phone away and watched as the waiting lounge filled up with more people dressed for Central America.

« || »

Isla Nublar #3: Revenge

Jane and Thor were still arguing behind closed doors when Darcy made it back up to the apartment.  Not wanting to deal with any of it, she gathered up what was left of their dinner and put it in the fridge, and disappeared into her bedroom.  Although she couldn’t understand their words, she could still hear them through the wall.  She was able to drown them out by turning on the TV, but now she was stuck in her room, the whole damn evening made too awkward to stay out front.  Tired and wound up all at once, Darcy pulled off her shoes and sat down on the bed, trying to find the energy to get ready for bed. 

She wanted to text Ian and call him every name she could think of.  She was exhausted and everyone was stressed over the upcoming trip, and now so much of that stress had been for nothing.  It didn’t take long for her resentment to get the better of her.  Without even meaning to, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened her texts.  But the most recent conversation on the list wasn’t with Ian.  It was an unfamiliar number, containing a single screenshot of bus directions to Yonkers.  Glancing over to the wall separating her room from Jane’s, Darcy tapped out a quick text to make sure Loki had found his way to the correct bus.  He responded quickly, affirming he’d got on the bus, and implying he’d bribed the driver to get his dog on with him.  Darcy hoped it wasn’t true, but wouldn’t have actually been surprised if it was.  She settled back in her bed, joking back and forth with Loki while she continued failing to gather up the energy to get back up and dress for bed.  Eventually, he stopped responding, and the late-evening garbage on the television transitioned into the nightly news, and all Darcy could think about was sleep.  She got as far as taking off her jeans before giving up and turning everything off and burying herself beneath the blankets.

She woke up late, exhausted from too many double shifts and glad for her single day off that week.  As she lay in bed, desperately trying to muster the energy to even sit up, she reached for her phone to check for messages.  Ian hadn’t even bothered to apologise, instead choosing violence by asking to still be friends.  Friends didn’t fuck one another over, and Darcy ignored him outright.  Below Ian’s pathetic attempt was another message from Loki, declaring he’d made it home eventually.  Not sure what to say back to that, she added his number to her contacts, in case something ever came up and she needed a man with a van, or decided to have Ian stabbed in an alley.  Somehow, as Darcy flipped back to Ian’s message, Loki’s weird offer the night before seemed a lot more tempting.

Eventually, she hauled herself out of bed and put on a pair of sweatpants before daring to leave her room.  The apartment was quiet, but she didn’t know if Thor was still there, or if he’d gone home.  Nor did she care.  She went first to the bathroom to wash her face from the makeup she’d slept in, and rinse out her mouth before heading to the kitchen.  Looking briefly at the Chinese from the night before, Darcy decided instead to pour herself a bowl of cereal.  She started eating it on her way to the sofa, where she parked herself to watch TV while she tried to decide exactly how lazy she wanted to be.  Not long after she settled down, Jane emerged from her own room, equally bleary-eyed and exhausted.  Darcy wasn’t the only one who had been pulling long shifts, and she knew she wouldn’t be the only one supremely pissed off at what had happened the night before.

“Hey,” Jane said, walking carefully around the edge of the living room and into the kitchen.

“Hi,” Darcy said, not even sure where to start.

For a moment they were both quiet as Jane performed her own morning ritual of standing in the kitchen and staring at the coffee pot for a moment.

“I kinda got the feeling something happened last night, but you were already asleep when Thor left.  What’s up?” Jane asked after a moment.

She finally started moving again, filling the coffee pot and getting it going.  With it bubbling and gurgling away at the beginning of its cycle, Jane left the coffee pot to do its thing and opened the refrigerator door to look at the same collection of unappealing leftovers Darcy had also ignored.

Not wanting to have this conversation, but wanting to vent about it all the same, Darcy sighed deeply.

“Ian broke up with me,” she said, staring straight ahead at the TV.  “He’s going back to England, and we can’t get our money back from anything we’ve already paid for.”

Jane spun round quickly, gaping at Darcy while still holding the refrigerator door open.

“That little shit,” she said.  “He could have at least waited until next month.”

“That’s what I said,” Darcy said.

Jane let the fridge door shut heavily.  “I could actually kill him.”

“I think Loki offered to,” Darcy said, still not sure if it was a joke.

She didn’t think offering to beat someone up was really the same thing as offering to kill them, but it was close enough.  Jane didn’t seem to think any of it was funny, and groaned.

“What was he doing here anyway?” she asked, flapping her arms in a weak shrug.  “Since when are you two getting all friendly?”

Darcy shrugged.  “We’re not, really.  But his van got towed and it was snowing, so I told him he could stay inside if he bought me dinner.  He was very well-behaved.  He stayed right there and didn’t touch anything the entire time.”

Jane snorted and turned to grab her coffee cup from the cupboard.  “Very well-behaved, aside from offering to kill Ian?”

“Well.  Beat up.  I’m like ninety percent sure he was joking anyway,” Darcy said.

“And I’m sure Thor was ninety percent sure Loki was joking, right up until he stabbed him,” Jane said, setting her mug down with a heavy thunk.

“What?” Darcy quickly turned to face Jane properly.  “No, back up, hang on.  No one told me that!”

She watched Jane awkwardly flap her arms again, not sure if she should be laughing or not.  For a moment, neither of them said anything while this new revelation hung in the air.

“The way he told it, it sounded like a bar fight,” Darcy said, trying to piece together exactly what little she had actually been told. 

“I don’t know anything about that,” Jane said.  “But between that and the other thing, Thor says he’s dangerous.”

She shook her head and began pouring her coffee, as though they weren’t talking about people getting stabbed and going to jail.

“No, what’s dangerous is screwing us out of the cost of a trip to Costa Rica and leaving the country,” Darcy said.  She wasn’t sure why she was still defending Loki, especially since she wasn’t even sure what was true and what wasn’t.

By the way Jane sighed, she didn’t exactly disagree either.

“Do you think we could sue him?” Darcy asked.

With her coffee poured and loaded with creamer, Jane shook her head and walked over to join Darcy on the sofa.

“Probably not.  If he’s going back to England, and we didn’t put anything in writing.  It would probably cost us more than we’d get from him,” she said.

They both sighed.  Darcy ate more of her cereal while Jane drank her coffee, neither saying anything for a moment.

“The plane ticket’s in his name,” Darcy said after a long moment.  “That’s kind of in writing, isn’t it?”

Jane shook her head and leaned back into the sofa like she could melt into it. 

“I don’t know,” she said.  She drank more of her coffee, trying to shake her head at the same time.  “I’m really sorry.  That was a seriously rotten thing to do.  He didn’t break up over a text, did he?”

Darcy snorted.  “No.  He asked me out on a date and tried to make me order dinner first,” she said.  “But he did text this morning and asked if we can still be friends.”

Jane nearly choked on her coffee.  “No,” she said, looking at Darcy with wide eyes.  “He didn’t?”

“He absolutely did,” Darcy said, shaking her head.  “I was so pissed off, I accidentally left my coat.  I need to text him to see if he took it.”

She thought about grabbing her phone right then, but the effort didn’t seem worth it.  It could wait a little while longer.

“Wow,” said Jane.  “That’s… I’m pissed off for you.”

“For both of us,” Darcy said.  “I mean, I was gonna break up with him anyway, but after the trip.  You know?  But now we’ve both busted our butts for nothing.”

Jane started to speak, but then sighed again.  “I mean, we’re still going.  So not totally for nothing,” she said.

“Yeah, but.”  Darcy shook her head and picked up her phone, pulling up the calculator app, punching in numbers as she spoke.  “Tickets are what?  Twelve a day?  Plus the eleven for the flight?  Plus the five hundred a night for the room?  That’s like, seventeen grand, before the spending cash for the entire trip.”

She grumbled and tossed her phone down onto the sofa.  If it was just her money, she thought it might have stung less.  If she hadn’t asked Jane to help pay for Ian’s part, she wouldn’t have felt so guilty about the money.  Angry, but not guilty.  The money had taken them years to save up, even with Thor chipping in to the fund once the trip had become a couples thing.

“At least the spending cash isn’t sitting on hold in a frozen account,” Darcy said, trying to find a silver lining to the whole situation.  Somehow, that wasn’t it.

She was so mad and sick about not just the money, but the cloud it had put over the entire trip that she didn’t care that her relationship with Ian had ended so abruptly.  She almost wished that she had cared, because spending the next few weeks in her pyjamas, eating gallons of Greek yoghurt and watching bad romcoms on repeat would have at least been cathartic.  What the hell was she supposed to do now?

“Well.  Think of it this way,” said Jane.  “You get that really nice room all to yourself for ten days.”

Darcy snorted.  Jane was always much better at the silver lining thing somehow.  And even if they were out the price of the flight and the park admission, the hotel room was still being used.  But it also meant that Darcy would be largely on her own for the entire trip, the third wheel she had tried to avoid being in the first place when she invited Ian along.  And now it was entirely too late to say anything about it.

“I need to figure out where my coat is,” she said, hoping it wouldn’t be a whole ordeal.

She got up and took her bowl to the sink, already in no mood to even deal with Ian.  The detour into the kitchen only served as a delay to the inevitable, but she really couldn’t afford to just go out and buy a new coat with everything else going on.  Leaving her bowl behind to be dealt with later, Darcy returned to fetch her phone from the sofa and retreated into her room in case Ian said anything that made her want to scream.  She quickly decided she didn’t want to talk to him, and sent a text instead, ignoring his weird olive branch.  While she waited for him to respond, Darcy picked up everything she’d tossed aside the night before.  Some horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she wasn’t going to be able to relax at all, so she got a jump on the day and started getting properly dressed.  Sure enough, when Ian finally responded to her, it was to report that he had not grabbed her coat from the restaurant.  Swearing to herself, Darcy threw her phone onto her bed and finished getting dressed.  She thought about putting her makeup back on, but didn’t want to go through the hassle.  She just wanted to get out there, see if the restaurant still had her coat, and come back home.

Jane was still on the sofa when Darcy went back out to the front room, shoes and purse in hand. 

“Where are you going?” Jane asked, watching her sit down to put her shoes on.

“Ian does not have my coat, so I’m going to go see if the restaurant does,” she said.

She checked her phone, both for the time and the weather, and decided she should at least grab a hoodie in case she got all the way down there and had to walk back without it.  She quickly fetched one from her room, barely pausing as she pulled it on. 

“Wish me luck,” she said as she unlocked the door.

“Good luck,” Jane said.

The walk down to the restaurant was cold and wet, with the snow having turned to an icy drizzle instead, turning all the snow on the ground into frozen slush.  Darcy walked the few blocks as quickly as she could without running, angry that she was spending her day off having to pick up the mess from the night before.  As she dodged puddles and ran across intersections, she realised she’d need to cancel Ian’s ticket somehow.  It was non-refundable, but somehow holding it hostage didn’t feel right.  Someone else might need a seat on their flight, especially with them going so close to Christmas.

She didn’t think too hard about it though.  Instead, she got to the restaurant with a gloomy determination, wanting to just get back inside and out of the cold.  Inside the restaurant, she was surprised to hear that her coat was waiting for her in the back, and less than thrilled to learn that the entire staff had heard about her ugly breakup the night before.  Trying to play it off as minimally as possible, Darcy took her coat and got the hell out of there, determined to never be seen on the same block ever again.

As she returned to the apartment building, Darcy noticed Thor’s car parked out front on the street.  Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Darcy unlocked the door to let herself into the building and climbed the stairs, not at all in the mood to be the third wheel in her own home.  As she let herself into the apartment, she found herself locked out by the chain.

“Hey, what gives?  Let me in!” she called through the crack.

She could hear Thor’s heavy footsteps on the floor, no doubt driving the neighbours insane.  Someone really needed to teach him how to walk in an apartment, but it wasn’t going to be Darcy.

“Sorry.  We didn’t want to take any chances,” Thor said as he let Darcy in.

“Chances with what?” she asked.

When nobody answered her, Darcy shook her head and hung up her coat on the hook by the door. 

“Jane says you’ve broken up with Ian?” Thor asked instead, standing back as though he thought Darcy might explode at him.

“He broke up with me,” Darcy said.  She took a deep breath and kicked off her shoes.  “His loss.  We’ll just have fun without him.”

“You’re still going?” Thor asked.

Darcy turned to face him, not entirely sure she understood what he meant.

“What?” she asked.

Thor seemed confused.  Even more confused than Darcy felt at that moment.

“Well.  I thought since Ian wouldn’t be coming, and we planned this as date thing—”

“Woah, no,” Darcy said, cutting him off sharply.  “Of course I’m still going.  I didn’t bust my ass working nine million hours of overtime for the last three years for nothing.”

She didn’t even want to touch the whole ‘date thing’ part.  She shook her head and tried to push past it, ready to go hide in her room.  But Thor wasn’t done sticking his foot into his mouth, apparently.

“It just seemed like—”  He was cut off again when Jane smacked him in the chest, gaping at him.

“Just stop,” she said.

Darcy suddenly decided she didn’t want to be stuck in her room all day, and turned to fetch her coat and put her shoes back on.

“You know what,” she said, cramming her feet into her sneakers.  “I’m gonna go to the airport and see if I can get our money back on his ticket,” she said.  “Don’t go to Costa Rica without me.”

“Darcy,” Jane pleaded.

Darcy regretted saying the last bit, but it was too late to take it back.  Ignoring the drama left in her wake, she let herself back out to the hall, just wanting to get away.  She was tired, she was starting to get a headache, and she didn’t want to be in the same building as Thor for a while.  Darcy vaguely realised he probably didn’t mean it the way it came out, but she was still pissed at him for saying anything at all.  Even as the door closed, muffling the sounds of Thor getting a serious ass-chewing, Darcy seethed.  The trip wasn’t a date thing.  It was never supposed to be a date thing.  She’d only invited Ian because it had become a date thing, and like hell was she going to back out just because he was an asshole.

As she reached the street, practically vibrating from nerves, she was momentarily distracted by the sight of Loki trying to break into Thor’s car.  Almost tempted to help him, Darcy opened the door and stepped out onto the stoop.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Loki looked up at her, and then pointed into the back seat of Thor’s car.

“Wallet,” he said.

Darcy stepped close enough to look into the car, and sure enough, Loki’s wallet was right there on the seat.  She’d seen it before, when he’d left it behind in the apartment; scuffed and beaten black leather that looked about 200 years old.  It had a tendency to fall out of his pocket whenever he sat down, though Darcy had always vaguely suspected was deliberate so he’d always have an excuse to come back.

“What’s it doing in there?” she asked.

“I convinced him to take me to get the van out of impound.  But,” Loki shrugged and gestured back to his wallet.

“Why is it in the back?” Darcy asked.

“Because he makes me sit back there,” Loki said.

Darcy laughed, only able to imagine how their morning must have gone.  Suddenly, Thor’s earlier remark about not wanting to take any chances made more sense.

“Well, he’s upstairs if you want to try your luck,” she said, stepping back toward the building.  “But I’m not talking to him right now, so it’s all on you.”

She opened the door to the building, waiting for Loki to follow her inside and back up the stairs.

“Why aren’t you talking to him?  I thought you liked the big ape,” Loki said.

Darcy groaned and shook her head.  “If I start, I’m never gonna stop,” she said.

Now, Loki laughed.  “That bad?  I thought I was the only person who ever got that angry with him.”

Darcy bit her tongue, refusing to start on the rant she knew would go on for an hour.  She’d already given Loki a good earful of it the night before, and he really didn’t need to know the rest.  Instead of saying anything, she stepped up to the door and unlocked it, letting Loki inside.

“Good luck,” she said.

Before she even turned around to head back downstairs, Thor started shouting at Loki to leave, while Loki started shouting about his wallet.

“Just give him his damn wallet and he’ll leave,” Darcy said, hating that they were becoming Those People in the building.

She left them behind as they continued the same argument they always got into.  Loki wasn’t supposed to be there, Loki needed something, Thor was sick of doing things for Loki, Thor only ever did anything for himself, Loki brought it all on himself, I hate you, go fuck yourself.  It was a particularly odd iteration, considering the entire argument was about Loki needing his wallet out of the back seat of Thor’s car.  She could hear them carrying on as she stopped to check the mail before heading out.  As she thumbed through credit card offers and insurance pamphlets, the two of them stormed back out of the building and onto the sidewalk, still arguing all along the way.  She took her time, pretending to be extra interested in her junk mail until finally she heard Thor’s car start up and drive away.  Stuffing all of the junk into her purse to be dealt with later, Darcy finally headed back outside to continue on her mission to try to get some money back from the airport.  She was surprised to find that although Thor had left, Loki was trudging down the sidewalk, kicking up snow and slush as he went.

“He didn’t even take you back down there?” Darcy asked as she caught up with him.  “Rude.”

“I just want to…” Loki made a fist and held it up.  “Punch him really hard in the nose.”

Darcy got the impression Loki wanted to say something much different, and laughed.

“I kinda know the feeling,” she said.

Loki shoved his hands into his pockets and shook his head.  She could see him mulling something over as though he were chewing on it, but she didn’t say anything.

“So you’re not going to tell me what he did?” he asked suddenly.

Darcy snorted.  “You sure you want to hear about it?” she asked, still not sure Loki needed to know any of it.

“Oh, very much so,” Loki said.  “I crave the validation.”

Darcy inhaled deeply, wondering what that was all about.  She didn’t exactly distrust him, and she definitely didn’t believe everything Thor said about him, but there was still something off about Loki.  Something almost completely unhinged and unstable.  A tiny voice in the back of her mind told her that maybe Thor was what made him that way, and she wondered what Thor might have done to drive Loki to violence.  After all, terrible people didn’t usually spend the last of their money to buy someone dinner.  But decent people didn’t tend to go around stabbing their siblings, either.

“So.  Ian,” Darcy said, looking straight ahead as she walked alongside Loki.

“Sure you don’t want me to beat him up?” Loki asked.

“Pretty sure,” said Darcy.  “I think I’d rather sue him.  But last night, double shift.  I’ve been working doubles about three or four times a week for like, the last three years to pay for this trip.  Which is why Ian pisses me off so much.  It’s not that he broke up with me, or how he broke up with me.  It’s that I’ve busted my ass for three years to pay for him to go on this trip with me, and now all of a sudden he’s not going.  He acts like he’s going to get arrested if he’s not back in England the day after he graduates.  But like, Jesus Christ.  Nobody’s going to care about an extra week.”

She took a deep breath, already regretting unloading on him like that.  The trip was supposed to be fun, and something to look forward to, but suddenly it was nothing but stress and frustration.

“So it’s already been paid for,” Loki asked, actually sounding interested.

Darcy looked over at him, wondering where he was going with this.

“Some of it,” she said, struggling to keep up with his long-legged gait down the frozen sidewalk.  “Technically, I don’t get charged for the non-refundable hotel rooms until the day of the reservation, whether or not we check in, but that was almost ten grand for two rooms.  On top of the five we already paid for the non-refundable plane tickets.  And his non-refundable fast pass, and his park admission.  Non-refundable.  All of it, just gone.  We’re never going to see that money again.”

Saying it out loud was only winding her up even more, and now she regretted saying anything at all.

“That’s more than some people make in a year,” Loki said.

“Yep!” Darcy said, well aware thanks to the insane amount of extra hours she’d put in for it.  “So you can imagine my reaction when Thor says that he thought I wouldn’t want to go, since it’s a ‘couples thing’.”

Darcy was nearly at the point of shouting, and now there was no going back.

“He actually tried to un-invite me from my own fucking trip,” she went on.  “Do you know how that feels?”

Loki shrugged.  “I wasn’t even invited,” he said.

They passed by the bus stop Darcy had intended to wait at, but she kept walking with Loki anyway, heading vaguely in the direction of the tow yard.  As much as he didn’t need to know any of this, it did feel good to be able to just unload about the whole thing.  Especially to someone who wouldn’t try to defend either of the people she was bitching about.

“Neither was Thor,” she said.  “Seriously, just one day he apparently assumed he was going, and asked how much his share was.”

Loki frowned.  “Ew.  Why didn’t you tell him to get lost?”

Darcy shrugged.  “I don’t know.  But that was the whole reason I invited Ian.  Because I knew if it was just those two and me, they’d be making their lovey face at one another the whole time, and I’d be wandering off alone to get away from it.  Which apparently I’m doing anyway, for double the cost of what it would have been in the first place.”

They walked in silence for a few moments, Darcy seething all over again.  It felt good to vent, but at a certain point all venting did was rub salt into the wounds.

“You said everything’s non-refundable.  Is it transferable?” Loki asked suddenly.

Darcy wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything.  “The only thing with Ian’s name on it is the plane ticket,” she said.  “I’m actually on my way to go cancel it and try to get my money back, but I’m not hopeful.”

“So really, you could take anyone you wanted, and not be left alone all week,” Loki said.

“At the cost of a new plane ticket, yeah,” Darcy said, looking up at him suspiciously.  “What are you suggesting?”

Loki shrugged casually.  “It would certainly piss off my brother.  And with any luck, make this Ian fellow insanely jealous.  Which I’m certain he deserves.”

Darcy thought about it.  If nothing else, having Loki around would prevent that constant lovey face from happening.  And she wouldn’t feel like she’d worked so hard for nothing.  And she was pissed off enough with Thor over the whole thing that the idea of irritating him right back kind of appealed to her.  And the thought of making Ian jealous was a nice bonus on top of it.

After all, she wouldn’t be in this position at all if not for both of them.

“Okay,” she said, nodding.

She didn’t know why she was doing this.  It was stupid.  It was petty.  It was mean.  But it was also a lot of money to throw away for nothing.

“I’ll make you a deal,” she said.  “If I can’t get this plane ticket refunded, you can take Ian’s place if you can pay for a new ticket.”

Loki nodded, and Darcy realised suddenly he was even more serious about this than she was.  “How much is the flight?” he asked.

“About eleven hundred when we bought them, but they might be more since it’s so close to our fly date,” Darcy said.  “And Christmas.”

She watched Loki pull out his wallet and thumb through the cash inside; a huge amount that he hadn’t had the night before.

“Holy shit, where’d you get all that?” she asked.

“I sold some snakes,” Loki said, nodding to himself and putting his wallet back into his pocket.  “You should have seen Thor’s face when I put them in his car.”

Darcy felt as though this information had slapped her in the face. 

“Snakes?” she asked.

“Three clutches.  A little earlier than I like to sell them, but I needed the money to get my van,” Loki said.

“You sold some snakes?” Darcy asked, still stuck on the first part.  “To who?  And why so many?”

She didn’t even know how much a clutch was, but it sounded  like a lot.

“Pet shops mostly.  Some private sales,” Loki said, starting to laugh.  “Depends on the morph.”

Darcy realised she probably sounded like an idiot, but she had no idea what any of that meant, and was still too hung up on the snake part to ask.  Then, suddenly, she realised the snakes were not the thing to be hung up on.  Not if everything she’d been told about him was true.

“Hey, wait a minute.  Can you even go to Costa Rica?” she asked.

Loki shrugged.  “I can get into Canada, and they get twitchy if you had a joint on you in 1985.”

Darcy shook her head, still baffled.  The past 24 hours had been an absolute whirlwind of stress and excitement, and she was ready to see the end of it.

“Okay,” she said.  “Well.  Let’s go get your van, and go to the airport to get your ticket.  But I’m gonna have to set some rules here.  I’m not your girlfriend, even if I kind of want Ian to think so.  I absolutely want to flood my Twitter with pictures of all the fun I’m having with my new fake boyfriend.”

Loki laughed.  “I like the way you think,” he said.

As they walked along toward the tow yard, Darcy began to wonder if this was a mistake.  She did want to irritate Ian, but she wasn’t entirely sure they’d all make it through a ten-day trip with both Thor and Loki.  But something also told her that Loki would have otherwise been spending the holidays alone, with his dog and his snakes, which gave her a strangely unsettling feeling.  And not letting all that money go completely to waste did make her feel a lot better.  Being out $1,100 instead of $17,000 was much easier to live with.

« || »

Isla Nublar #2: Invasion

Darcy climbed the stairs to the apartment and dug her keys out of her bag, stopping when she got to the door.  Someone’s keys were already in the lock, hanging forgotten like a tempting prize for anyone walking past.  Sighing the annoyed sigh of someone who regularly had to deal with unwanted guests, Darcy pulled the keys from the door and stepped inside.

“Who gave you this key?” she asked, holding the key ring up. 

She couldn’t actually see Loki where he was no doubt sprawled out on their sofa, but she could see his humongous black dog licking its balls in front of the TV.  The dog he had been repeated told not to bring around.

“I don’t know.  Why?” asked Loki tiredly. 

He didn’t even move to address her directly.  He just lay there, staring at the TV as though he hadn’t broken in just to annoy someone who didn’t even live there.  As Darcy moved toward the kitchen, she could indeed see him sprawled out on the sofa, with his ratty, holey sneakers up on the arm rest, and his wild black hair half-covering his face.  Darcy didn’t know what he did for work, but apparently whatever it was, it took him into Brooklyn frequently.  And when Loki was in Brooklyn, he always decided to stop by.  He was never invited, never wanted.  But he was there all the same, and for some reason, it was usually Darcy who had to deal with him.

Darcy worked her apartment key off of his key ring, swearing to herself that she would murder whoever kept giving it to him. 

“Because it’s not yours,” she said. 

She tossed Loki’s keys to him, taking his stolen key back to her bedroom to hide with with the others she’d liberated from him.  He wasn’t getting them back from her, because they were all still in her jewellery box, collecting dust while she figured out what to do with a comically large collection of duplicate keys.  Despite everything, he did at least seem to respect her and Jane’s doors.  For all he liked to let himself into their apartment and watch their TV and eat their food, he never once seemed to have entered their bedrooms.  Nothing but the contents of their fridge ever went missing, and he did at least clean up after himself. 

Which meant he wasn’t getting the keys from Jane, either.  Jane certainly would have noticed if he’d been snooping through her room.  Which only left Thor.  Somehow, Loki must have got a copy of their key off his brother at some point, and as far as Darcy could tell, had made a few dozen more for himself.

“We’re not supposed to have pets,” she said flatly as she walked back out to the kitchen to plug her phone in and drop off her bag. 

The dog wasn’t even a problem, ultimately.  Despite its enormous size, it was well-behaved.  It never had any accidents on the floor, and seemed content to just nap every time Loki brought it over.  But it was still 150 pounds of shaggy dog that shed all over the place, leaving its hair on every single surface in the apartment.

“You don’t.  I do,” Loki said. 

Even with his voice muffled from him lying with his face smashed against the sofa cushion, his accent came through.  Heavy and foreign, but nowhere placeable; just the European blend of someone who spent his entire childhood never being allowed to settle down in any one country for long.

Darcy had to hold her breath for a few seconds to keep from shouting at him.  She was too tired and worn thin for his semantics.

“Jane will sue you if you get us evicted,” she said finally, looking up to the ceiling for any strength she might find up there.

Loki laughed.  “And she can have every one of my eighteen dollars.”

“And your big, stupid van,” Darcy said, knowing they probably wouldn’t get any more than a grand out of it.  “Where is it, anyway?”

“Parked outside,” Loki said.  “Didn’t you see it?”

“That ugly thing?  It’s impossible to miss.  Was it double parked?” Darcy asked him.

“Fuck!”  Loki shouted so loudly, it made Darcy jump.

He leapt up from the sofa and ran out of the apartment, followed closely behind by his dog.  As soon as they were both gone, Darcy calmly walked over to the door and shut it, latching every one of the locks to make sure he stayed out, leaving only the chain unlocked in case Jane got home early.

With Loki gone, Darcy turned off the TV and went to run a shower.  She wished Ian would have just agreed to come over, because the idea of going back out again felt like torture.  She thought about texting him to ask if he’d reconsider, but somehow it seemed like more hassle than it might be worth.  It was just a few blocks away, and if she tried real hard, she thought she could almost convince herself that a change of scenery might be good for her.  She showered quickly, skimping on her hair so she had more time to focus on getting everything else clean.  She already didn’t have much time to get there, and dealing with Loki cost her the time it normally took her to wash her hair.

She got out of the shower and began making her way to her room, wearing nothing more than a loosely-wrapped towel.  As she stepped into the living room, she was glad she’d bothered to put on even that much, since the apartment was once again not empty.  Thor stood in the living room, glaring at everything as if he had walked into the scene of a horrible crime.

“Oh my god!” Darcy shouted, grabbing the towel around her chest and making sure she wasn’t flashing Jane’s boyfriend.  “First the other one, now you.  What are you doing here?”

Before Thor could answer, Darcy ran into her room to put some clothes on.  It was the fastest she’d ever got dressed for a date in her life, partially because she was already on the verge of being late, and partially because she was sick of men who weren’t her boyfriend being in her apartment.

“Are you decent now?” Thor asked with a laugh as Darcy stepped back into the living room. 

Like his brother, Thor had an odd accent that couldn’t be placed, because it wasn’t actually from anywhere.

“Yes,” she said sternly.  “Don’t sneak up on naked people.  It isn’t nice.”  She shook her finger at Thor’s face as she walked back to the bathroom to fix her hair and make-up.

Staring at herself in the mirror, she decided she didn’t have much time at all for her hair.  She grabbed a towel to dry it as quickly as possible, so she could shove it under a beanie and forget about it.

“I saw my brother outside on my way up.  Was he in here?” Thor asked, ignoring Darcy’s scolding.

“Yeah.  Was he throwing a tantrum because the Van Halen Mobile got towed?” asked Darcy, still doubled over as she scrubbed her hair with her towel.

“Perhaps.  He seemed angry about something, but I didn’t stop to ask,” said Thor. 

Darcy stood up to check herself again, and decided this was the best Ian got.  Damp hair would have to do.

“Well, he probably needs a ride home now,” she said as she started painting her eyeliner on.

Thor said nothing, watching her from the doorway, the same way he watched Jane when she put on her make-up; not with any kind of admiration, but with the unease of a man who expected to see someone poke their own eye out at any moment.

“I don’t actually mind him being here, as long as he’s supervised.  I mean, he wasn’t even watching porn today or anything,” Darcy said.

“He’s dangerous,” Thor argued.

Darcy knew that if it wasn’t for their mother, Thor would have abandoned his brother a long time ago.  But there was family drama, and then there was their family.  Darcy didn’t know the full story, other than apparently after dragging his kids all across the world until they were old enough to finally get a permanent residence of their own, their dad got unexpectedly sick, and somehow, everyone blamed one another for it.  Thor, very vocally, put all of his blame on Loki.

“Then find out how he keeps getting keys to this place.  I’ve got more keys than jewellery in my jewellery box right now,” Darcy said.

“Perhaps he takes them when you’re not around,” Thor said.

Darcy shook her head.  “No, I’m pretty sure he’s getting them from you,” she said.  “Which means you need to make it stop, and you don’t get to come in here and be all bitchy about it when he’s here.”

She finished her eyeliner and touched up the dark spots under her eyes with a concealer stick, before contemplating her lips, puckering her face up as she looked at herself in the mirror.  A few shades lighter than usual, she decided.  It seemed a little too cold for the dark red she usually wore, somehow.  Probably because it was the same shade of red as the stupid vest Ian always wore when it was cold.

Even as she finished putting herself together, she still contemplated trying to get him to change his mind.  Going back out was the last thing she wanted to do, but getting Ian to hang out at the apartment was becoming a chore.

“Darcy, next time he comes in like that, call the police on him.  He won’t do it again if you do,” Thor told her as she came out of the bathroom.

Darcy didn’t even begin to know how to respond to that, so she looked for a good pair of shoes and changed the subject. 

“How’s your mom doing?” she asked as she dug around the bottom of her closet.

“She’s well,” Thor said, sounding sad.  “She still spends more time at my father’s side than she does at home, though.”

Darcy realised her error in changing the subject.  She’d assumed Thor’s mother would have moved on a bit more by then, but it seemed she was mistaken.

“How long’s it been?” she asked, finding a pair of dark sneakers that might work.

“Two years, next month,” said Thor.  “The doctors say there’s little chance of him waking, but mother still holds out hope.”

“Sorry,” Darcy said, feeling stupid for bringing it up.

Thor shook his head.  “She does as she wants.  If it makes her happy to pray by his bedside, then who am I to take that from her?”

“Well, I’m still sorry,” Darcy said.  “I know it’s gotta suck for all of you.”

With her shoes on and a knit cap squashed over her hair, Darcy headed back out to make sure she had everything she needed. She looked at the clock on the microwave and swore under her breath.  Surprisingly, Thor laughed.

“Running late?” he asked.

Darcy rushed out to the kitchen to grab her bag and her phone.  “Very,” she said.  “Sorry for getting all heavy and then having to run out on you like this.”

“No, it’s fine,” Thor assured, sitting down and turning the TV back on.  “Go.  Don’t be late.”

“Wish me luck,” Darcy said as she made her way toward the door, grabbing her heavy black coat on the way out.

“For what?” asked Thor.

Darcy shrugged.  “I don’t know, but I feel like I’ll need it.”

Thor laughed again, wishing her good luck as she rushed out of the apartment and back down the stairs.  By the time she got outside, Loki was gone, leaving no trace that he was ever even there.  Grateful that Ian had asked to meet only a few blocks from her apartment, Darcy made her way down to the little Indian place he liked so much.  There wasn’t any snow on the ground, but small flurries fell from the sky every few minutes, making Darcy almost wish she had called a cab.  But waiting around for it would have only made her even later than she already was.  She wished she’d taken the time to dry her hair, but she really didn’t have time to go back and fix it, so she powered through and rushed all the way to the restaurant, one hand clutched to her purse and the other to her taser.

Ian was already there, waiting in a seat by the front window.  He hadn’t bothered to change or clean up since she’d seen him during her break, which only made her feel more ridiculous for bothering to get cleaned up.  If she’d known he wasn’t even going to try, she wasn’t either.  Sighing, and trying not to let her stress from a long day at work overwhelm her, she took off her coat and sat down at the table, taking the time to make sure all her stuff was settled.

“Hi,” she said, reaching out to take his hand.  “What’s up?”

“Uh,” said Ian awkwardly.  “Do you want to order first?” he asked. 

“No,” said Darcy, suddenly suspicious.  “I wanted to stay in.  You wanted to go out, so we’re out.  What’s going on?”

Ian cringed dramatically.  “Well.  Uh.  The thing is.”

Darcy wondered how long he was going to dance around whatever it was he wasn’t saying. 

“The thing is what?” she asked, growing more and more suspicious by the second.

“The thing is, I’m going back to England,” Ian said slowly.

“What?” Darcy almost shouted.  “When?”

Everyone in the restaurant was looking at them, but she didn’t even care. 

“Two weeks,” said Ian with another cringe.

“But you’re coming back, right?  The trip is in three weeks.  Everything’s already booked.”  She’d paid for most of his portion herself, and it was entirely non-refundable.  If he didn’t go, that was a lot of money she’d never get back.

“Darcy,” Ian said, looking around as if trying to make everyone else stop looking at them.  “We both knew my visa was running out anyway.”

“In the spring,” Darcy reminded him.  “It’s December!”

“I know,” Ian said, looking pained.  It just made Darcy want to shout even more.

“Darcy, listen.  My visa was good until the spring because that’s when I was supposed to graduate.  But I took those summer courses, so I could go on this trip and not have any classes to miss.  Which means I technically graduate at the end of this term.  Which means I’m not a student.”

“Oh, come on,” Darcy said bitterly.  “You can hide in someone’s basement for a week, and go to Costa Rica with us.  Who’s gonna care if you’re here an extra week?”

“The government,” Ian said.

Darcy scoffed.  “Well, are you coming back?” she asked.

Ian went strangely silent at that.

“Are you?” asked Darcy, suddenly desperate to know.

“I don’t know,” said Ian.  “And I don’t want to ask you to wait for me, in case I can’t.”

Darcy wished she had a drink, just so she could throw it at him. 

“So, you’re breaking up with me,” she said, so angry she could barely breathe.  “You asked me on a date, after I said I just wanted to stay in tonight, so you could break up with me?”

Ian cringed again.  Darcy used to think it was cute, but now it was just obnoxious.  Shouting loudly, Darcy grabbed her purse and turned to stomp out of the restaurant, getting half a block toward home before she even realised what she was doing, and that she’d left her coat behind.

She got a full block away before she realised Ian hadn’t followed after her.  She wasn’t sure what was worse; that he wasn’t following, or that she was mad that he wasn’t following.  She stomped all the way home, trying to huddle up against herself to keep warm in only the thin sweater she’d worn.  She didn’t want to go back to get her coat, and have to see Ian and his stupid face again.  It was only a coat.  What was $100 when she’d already dropped almost a full year’s wages on the Costa Rica trip?  

Nothing.  That’s what it was.  He could keep the coat, for all she cared.  Kept warm by her rage, she trudged back to her building, glad her keys were at least in her purse, which she was glad she had remembered to grab.

The apartment was empty when she got home, which she decided was the first good thing to happen all day.  She turned on the TV, grabbed her phone, and ordered some of the greasiest Chinese food she could get her hands on.  As soon as she was off the phone, she pulled her beanie off and tossed it aside, giving her scalp a chance to breathe.  When someone knocked at the door ten minutes later, Darcy got up and wondered how big of a tip to give the world’s fastest delivery guy.

Instead, when she opened the door, she found Loki standing in the hall looking sad with his dog sniffing at the neighbour’s door.

“Not supposed to be here,” Darcy reminded him flatly.  Then, she pointed at the dog.  “And really not supposed to be here.”

“I can’t get my van out of impound, I don’t have enough money to get back to Yonkers, and it’s really cold outside,” Loki said.  “And it’s getting dark.  May I come in?”

Darcy sighed.  “Well, at least you asked this time,” she said, stepping out of the way.  “You still got your eighteen bucks?”

“Yeah,” said Loki as he walked around her.  “Why?”

Darcy took her seat back before Loki could take it.  “Good.  You can pay the Chinese guy when he gets here.”

Loki sat down on the floor with his dog and took off his jacket, while his enormous dog crowded him and crawl into his lap like it wasn’t the size of a small pony.  How he had managed to train something that size, Darcy had no idea.  The dog, for its massive size, was at least well-behaved.  But generally it just seemed to follow Loki around like a giant, furry shadow.  Darcy always thought it looked kind of like a husky, if huskies were completely black and built like a truck.  It finally settled down on the floor and immediately started panting, while Loki pulled out his busted up and outdated phone and started texting someone.  They stayed like that, everyone minding their own business until another knock came at the door.  Loki automatically got up and answered it, giving the last of his money to the delivery guy.

“I’m four dollars short,” he called out.

Darcy grabbed ten bucks from her bag and brought it over, eagerly taking her dinner away and spreading it out on the coffee table.

“Do you want some?” she asked, pulling the paper-wrapped chopsticks from the bag and offering a pair to Loki.  “You did pay for it.”

Loki took the offered chopsticks and sat down on the floor again.  “Do you always get dressed up for the Chinese guy?” he asked as he pulled his sticks apart.

Darcy snorted.  “Only when my boyfriend asks me out to break up with me,” she said bitterly, before stuffing her mouth full of over-spiced orange chicken.

“Who, that dork that was always hanging around here?” asked Loki, completely without irony.  “Want me to beat him up?”

Considering he’d allegedly once stabbed a guy in a bar, Darcy assumed he was serious and shook her head. 

“He’s not worth it,” she said once her mouth was empty.  She sighed, still not sure what she felt.  “I mean, it wasn’t supposed to be serious or anything.  I knew he was only here on a student visa.  But man he sure found a whole new way to piss me off today.”  

She stuffed her face with more chicken so she’d stop talking.  Loki didn’t need to know any of this.  Except he apparently wanted to hear all of it, by the way he wasn’t looking away.

“There’s more?” he asked after a moment.

Darcy sighed.  “It’s not that he broke up with me.  I’ve been thinking real hard about breaking up with him after the trip.  It’s how he went and fucking did it.”

She stabbed her sticks into her chicken, not even sure she wanted it now that it was in her hand.

“I asked him to come here, because I’m fucking exhausted from all the doubles I’ve had to pull to pay for this trip that’s coming up in just a few weeks,” she went on, still taking her frustrations out on her food.  “And he’s like, ‘no, let’s go out,’ so I did.  And the fucker not only broke up with me, but he’s leaving the country.”

She stabbed at her dinner one last time, letting herself be bitter and miserable.

“And I blame your brother, by the way.  It’s his fault,” she said, more harshly than she meant to.

Loki laughed quietly, turning his attention back to his own meal.  “Things usually are,” he said.

“Well, don’t tell him that.  I don’t want that drama,” she said.

They fell into a quiet, almost comfortable silence as they ate while the TV played on, passing cartons back and forth between one another.  Eventually, Darcy calmed down enough to actually enjoy her meal, and as she picked through the noodles to get around all the weird chunks of bamboo in them, she watched as Loki shared his with his dog.  She wondered how much money he spent feeding a dog that big, and how much money he didn’t spend on himself as a result.

“So, it’s just you and your mom for Christmas this year, huh?” she asked.

He shrugged.  “I haven’t been invited or anything,” he said.  “I’m usually not.”

“Well, Thor won’t be there,” Darcy said, realising she needed to just stop asking about their mother.  “I’m sure she won’t want to be alone.”

Loki shrugged, but before he could say anything else the door opened and Jane and Thor came in.

“Hey,” Jane called out as she stepped inside and shed her coat.

“I thought you were going out,” Thor said, stopping in his tracks when he saw Loki.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Eating dinner,” Loki responded, pointing at what was left of it with his sticks.

“Get out,” Thor demanded, stomping toward them.

“He’s fine,” Darcy protested, but like always, she went ignored.

Thor pulled Loki up by his shirt and picked up his leather jacket on the way to hauling him to the door, with Loki’s dog following them both and growling loudly.  Pissed off, with its hackles raised, the dog seemed even bigger than usual, but Thor was utterly unfazed by it.

“Yes, throw me out to the street when I have no way home.  I’m sure Mother would love to hear about that,” Loki protested, trying to squirm out of his brother’s grip.

Thor let go of him violently and pulled his wallet out.  “Here,” he said, thrusting a handful of bills into Loki’s hand.  “That goes in a cab.  Not your arm.”

“I don’t put anything in my arm,” Loki argued as he put his jacket back on.

“Between your toes, then,” Thor said.

Loki glared at him murderously. 

“Go fuck yourself,” he said. 

He threw the cash back in Thor’s face before storming out of the apartment and slamming the door hard enough to make the dishes in the cupboards rattle.  Everyone stayed silent for a long moment after that, not knowing what to say or do in the wake of the sudden explosion.

“I told you to call the police the next time he showed up here,” Thor said, sounding like he was trying not to sound angry.

“He was stranded and it’s trying to snow out, so I let him in,” Darcy argued.  “His dog might have a fur coat, but he doesn’t.  I wasn’t gonna just leave him outside.  And he bought most of my dinner.”

Thor and Jane retreated to Jane’s bedroom, leaving Darcy once again alone.  She could hear them talking angrily about something, and even with the door closed between them, she had a good idea of what.  She looked at the remains of their dinner spread out on the coffee table and sighed, picked up her handbag, and rushed out the apartment and down to the street.  She spotted Loki walking down the sidewalk, huddled into his jacket as tightly as possible against the steady snow that fell now, and caught up with him.

“Here,” she called out to get his attention.

Loki turned to her as she dug through her bag and pulled out her last two twenties.  “Will this get you home?” she asked.

Loki took it and shrugged.  “It might get me to Manhattan.”

Darcy didn’t think being stranded in Manhattan would really be any better than being stranded in Brooklyn.  “Uh.  Here,” she said again, pulling out her phone and handing it over to Loki.  “What’s your address?”

He punched it into her phone and handed it back as it calculated all of his options.  Of course, the Hudson line had stopped running for the night, which meant everything had to just keep getting more and more complicated.

She showed the screen to Loki and screen capped it.  “Text that to yourself,” she said, passing the phone back.  “Looks like only buses for now, but it’ll get you home.”

Loki quickly sent the picture to himself and handed the phone and one of the twenties back to her.

“You’ll have to get change,” Darcy told him as she slid both into her bag.  She pointed up to the corner.  “The bus stop’s just right up there.  Sometimes, if you ask them to let you off at a certain stop, they’ll let you know when you get to it.”

“Thanks,” said Loki, looking down at his dog and sighing. 

He pulled a ratty old leash out of his pocket and attached it to the dog’s collar, almost reluctantly.  Darcy wasn’t sure if they’d let the dog on the bus, but she wasn’t sure what else to offer him, either.

“Good luck.  Sorry your day sucked,” she said as she turned to walk back home.

“Sorry yours sucked too,” Loki said, taking his dog to go find a place to break a twenty dollar bill.

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Isla Nublar #1: Overtime

Darcy stared at the computer screen in front of her, hovering her fingers over the keyboard while she tried to remember how to layer clips into a J-cut.  It was the easiest thing in the world to do; a cheap edit she did twenty times a day, but her brain utterly failed to conjure up process of aligning the audio track with the video in the correct order.

She needed a break.  She needed a weekend.  But weekends were for people who didn’t need to have a year and a half’s salary in the bank by the end of the month.

“Hey, your boyfriend’s outside,” a page said from the door.

Darcy looked up at him and felt like she could breathe for the first time in several hours.

“Oh, thank god.”

She couldn’t have a weekend, but she could at least take a break.  Slamming on the keys to lock her station, Darcy grabbed her bag from the floor and rushed out to the lobby.  Ian was waiting at the front counter with two enormous cups of coffee and a brown paper box, standing awkwardly like he wasn’t sure what he was doing there.  As Darcy got close, she went for the coffee first, taking a gulp before realising it was a bit too warm yet.  She caught herself from spitting it out, nodding as if it might help her speak faster.

“Thanks, I totally needed that,” she said.

Only then did she step forward to kiss him, standing up on her toes to reach.

“Are you coming over tonight?” she asked, looking forward to a quiet night in before another early start.

“Ah.  I was rather hoping to go out,” Ian said, cringing dramatically.  She used to think it was cute, but when she was tired and fighting off a headache, she wished he’d stop.

“Oh.  Yeah, sure,” Darcy said anyway, too tired to debate it.  “Nowhere fancy, because I’m already beat and it’s not even my second lunch time.”

She led him over to a bench nearby, not wanting to stray too far from the bullpen.  She’d been sitting all day, but somehow sitting down somewhere that wasn’t in front of a computer felt better.

“So it’s all set?  Everything?” Ian asked.

Darcy nodded and drank more of her coffee. 

“Yep,” she said.  “Everything is booked, charged, and in the budget.  We’re just working on getting the spending account as big as possible.”

Ian nodded, looking out across the lobby.  For a moment, it seemed like he wanted to say something, but all he did was nod again.  She could never tell if he was awkward and indirect because he was English, or because he was Ian.  Either way, the distraction and pick-me-up she’d hoped he’d come to offer wasn’t working.

“What you got there?” Darcy asked, pointing at his box.

“Oh,” Ian said, looking down at it.  “I think it was supposed to be Thai, but I didn’t fancy it.”

“Oh god, it wasn’t that place on Bridge Street, was it?” Darcy asked, horrified on his behalf.

Ian cringed again.  “Yeah. It was.”

Darcy cringed back.  “Yeah, I’d just throw that out if I were you, unless you like crying on the bathroom floor.”

“Yeah,” Ian agreed, looking down at it.

Darcy watching him for a moment, wondering if he was going to get to whatever had actually brought him all the way to Manhattan.  He could have texted her if he wanted to go out for dinner.  But he said nothing, so she said nothing.  And the longer she said nothing, the more tired she became, despite the enormous coffee she drank from.

“Well, I gotta get back,” she said, standing up.  “Text me with where you want to go.  Thanks for the bean juice.”

He didn’t rise to meet her, so she just waved and headed back into the depths of the building.  As she scanned herself in with her ID, she was met by one of the other technicians on the other side.

“What’d he come all the way out here for?” Roz asked.

Darcy rolled her eyes, pretending like she didn’t see him still standing awkwardly in the lobby.  “I don’t know,” she said quietly.  “To be weird about the trip, I think.  I wish he wouldn’t.”

She made sure the door was fully closed before walking back to her station with Roz.  “You know, if Jane’s boyfriend hadn’t invited himself along, we’d have gone two years ago.”

She didn’t blame Thor.  Not really.  He had at least paid into the trip.  Darcy knew Ian was being weird about it because he hadn’t been able to pay into it, and some dormant machismo manifested itself in painful fits and bursts only because she had paid his way.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you take a day off since we’ve been here,” Roz said.

They reached their stations, both taking their time to log back in.  Darcy settled her coffee first, and then her bag, and then stared at the machine in front of her.

“I take one full weekend a month, and days off when I need them,” she said, speaking each word deliberately.  “Because if I take any more than that, I’d be the awkward meat in a Jane and Thor sandwich on the trip that was my idea.”

Roz laughed.  “Ew,” she said.

Darcy sighed, shook her head, and clapped her hands together.  “But I’m not gonna be bitchy about it.  I’ve fucking earned this vacation and I’m going to enjoy it.  Even if it kills me.”

She unlocked her computer and stared at the editing timeline that had not configured itself into a J-cut while she was gone.  This time, at least, she didn’t have to stare at it to figure out what she was trying to do.  She stared at it because she was tired and sick of editing video.  With a few clicks of the mouse, and a couple of key taps, the video was cut and spliced.  Darcy put her headphones on to test the playback and decided that it was damn near perfect.

“Tell you what, though,” she said, adjusting her headphones so they sat a little more comfortably.  “All these double shifts and no weekends, and I am the best damn editor in the entire state.”

Beside her, Roz laughed and logged into her own station.

Darcy worked through the rest of the day, assembling stories as they were brought to her desk.  The work was simple, and the day slow enough that she was able to catch little snatches of time to herself.  She surfed Wikipedia and the park’s website, methodically taking notes of attractions, rating them in the order she wanted to visit them.  They had booked ten days at the park, and although she hadn’t planned out a full itinerary, she had made sure they wouldn’t miss a single thing during their stay.  Between safaris and rides and museums, there was going to be a lot to get through in their time on the island.

For four years, it had been a pipe dream.  The sort of thing they always talked about, but never actually expected to do.  It wasn’t like going to Disneyland, where you could at least save a little bit of money by staying in an off-resort hotel, and smuggling in food from the supermarket.  There was only one hotel on Isla Nublar, and it was the Jurassic World Resort Hotel.  While there were hotels on the mainland, the ferry ride was long and expensive and would have eaten into any money they might have saved.  This was never going to be an affordable trip, or a repeatable one, so every second on the island had to be worth it.

Between the hotel, and the resort admission, and getting to Costa Rica, and having enough left over for actually eating and doing things, it was never something she ever imagined would be possible.  Except, it was.  It totally was.  When she and Jane went from broke-ass college students to actually making real adult money, they kept their crappy little apartment and saved up every penny to make their pipe dream happen.  

Somewhere along the line, their trip for two became a couples trip when Jane’s boyfriend decided he wanted to come along.  That had not been ideal.  It meant two hotel rooms, and one extra ticket and pass for each ticketed and passed event.  But she tried to pretend she didn’t mind.  She had her hot, dorky, sexy English boyfriend as well, and was more than glad to spend ten days in Central America with him, looking at dinosaurs, even if it meant a fourth ticket and pass for each ticketed and passed event.  Except Ian was not a typical broke-ass college student.  Ian was a broke-ass PhD candidate studying abroad, so he had even less money to throw around.  So Darcy took double shifts and skipped weekends all in the name of avoiding being the third wheel in her own trip.

By the time she left the building that evening, Ian had texted her with details of where he wanted to meet.  He was broke and awkward, and had the fashion sense of a boomer’s rummage sale, but he was at least considerate.  Even tired and annoyed, she’d give him that much.  She was too tired to go anywhere other than straight home, but going home, taking the time to clean up and shower, and then heading out to the café a few blocks down did sound like something she could do.  She took the subway back out to Brooklyn, keeping one hand on her bag, and the other on the taser in her pocket the entire way.  She wasn’t sure which was worse.  The subway at 3am, when people who clearly hadn’t slept yet were riding around to stay out of the rain, or the subway at 7pm when it was still packed with people trying to get home.  Either way, she didn’t feel even a little bit safe until she was off the train, and out of the station, and walking down the sidewalk with her building in sight.

Though maybe she’d feel better if she hadn’t spent so many hours of her life editing stories about people getting mugged and murdered somewhere between their front door and the subway platform.

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