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Tag: fic: Key Largo

Key Largo #3: Check-In

Getting off the plane should have meant they were ready to start their vacation, and it might have if they had landed in any other airport but McCarran.  First, they had to get Loki past the banks of slot machines that distracted him worse than a gum wrapper distracts a magpie.  Then they had to find the trams to the main building and cram into that with several hundred other people.  Then they had to navigate the endless baggage carousels so Eloise could fetch her checked bags.  Then they had to wait in line outside, next to the mile-long queue of taxis, along with everyone else who had spent the last 45 minutes trying to escape the airport.  The driver wouldn’t let Loki sit in the front seat until Loki slipped him a $20 bill, and then all of a sudden it was no longer an issue.  But with him up front, and most of their luggage in the trunk, Verity and Eloise almost had room to get comfortable.

The taxi took them through a maze of twists and merges that came out not to a scene of glitz and glamour, but urban decay.  Sad little houses, bleached by the sun broke up empty lots holding billboards for personal injury attorneys and family counselling.  Loki looked around the scenery as they drove through the dusty neighbourhood, seeming entirely unimpressed with all of it.  For a moment, Verity almost thought something might be wrong.

“Wait, where’s the sign?  And all the… Las Vegas?” he asked.

“Oh, that was on the other side of the airport,” Verity said, looking out the window at a scene that had by now become familiar to her.  “Sorry, we should have asked to go that way.”

“Oh,” Loki said.

He sat back in his seat and watched the endless sprawl continue to sprawl.  It seemed almost surprising that Loki would even care.  He could go anywhere he wanted, whenever he wanted.  And then Verity realised that right then, he wasn’t a runaway god from Asgardia.  He was Verity’s weird friend from Oklahoma who had never been to Las Vegas before.

At the same time, she wasn’t entire convinced either.  He’d spent enough time around Broxton to see rural sprawl, and had definitely seen fallout and destruction, but Verity knew this was something a bit different.  This part of the city wasn’t the result of growth and expansion, but death; as if there had been more buildings and houses in the area once upon a time, but they’d all collapsed along with the local economy.

Finally, they turned off the winding road that was far too wide to be some hidden trail, bringing towering hotels into view in the distance. 

“So, which one’s ours?” Loki asked, sitting up to look at the skyline ahead.

Verity laughed, and then felt bad about it.

“We don’t stay on the Strip,” she said.  “It’s too expensive, and we have more money to do other things if we stay somewhere cheap.”

“Oh.” 

Loki slumped down in his seat again, actually pouting about it in a way that didn’t at all suggest he was acting.  This time, Verity didn’t feel quite so bad about laughing.

“Oh, come on,” she said.  “It’s not that bad.”

They stayed at the same hotel every year, and even though it was tacky and gaudy, Verity kind of loved it.  For some reason, despite being in the middle of Las Vegas, the hotel had gone for a Florida Keys theme, with palm trees and parrots and cartoon alligators wearing silk shirts and dark sunglasses.  It was stupid, and made no sense, but it was close enough to everything to be convenient, and cheap enough to make the trip worth it.  When they avoided the fancy restaurants and the headlining shows, they were able to get by on a budget and still find ways to fill the entire week.

The hotel sat right on the sidewalk, with no room for taxi loading and unloading.  They simply stopped in the parking lot wherever it was safe to do.  Before Eloise could pay the driver, Loki already had his wallet out, thumbing through his cash. 

“Oh.  Well, thank you,” Eloise said.

Loki smiled at her as he paid the driver, and then got out to unload their bags from the trunk.  As he handed a suitcase off to Verity, he leaned close to her.

“That’s highway robbery” he said, keeping his voice low so the driver wouldn’t overhear him.

Again, Verity laughed, and felt a little bad about it.

“I know.  Everything’s expensive here.  You get used to it,” she said.  “Why do you think we stay in the cheap hotel?”

Loki shrugged dramatically, acting like the whole thing was one big inconvenience.  He hauled out the rest of their bags, making sure they were all set aside and out of the way before dropping the trunk shut again.  As the taxi drove off to go rob somebody else, Loki flung his laptop bag over his shoulder and grabbed his suitcase, and then paused.  He looked at everything laid out on the pavement and frowned, before looking up at Verity.

“She always does it this way,” Verity said, shaking her head.  “If she brings two suitcases, she can buy more stuff while we’re here.”

Loki looked as though he’d been blessed with some ancient knowledge.  “Why didn’t I think of that?” he asked.

He grabbed one of Eloise’s bags, letting Verity and Eloise lead the way into the hotel.  There was a small line at the check in counter, which was apparently just enough for Loki to get bored.  He left Eloise’s suitcase behind and wandered off to the siren call of slot machine bells and chimes.  Taking a deep breath, Verity covered her face and tried not to regret everything.  It was going to be a long week if she had to keep an eye on him every time they passed a slot machine.

Deciding it was easier to let him just wander off, and collect him later, Verity turned around to wait in line with Eloise.

“Where did he go?” Eloise asked, turning to watch Loki disappear into the crowd.

Verity shook her head.  “Probably to see how much money he can lose in five minutes,” she said.

She turned to try to spot him, but he was already gone, his green shirt blending right into the greens and blues of the casino floor.

“Oh,” Eloise said, still looking off into the crowd.  “I hope—it’s not a problem that he’s here, is it?”

She covered her mouth with her fingers, and once more Verity wished she’d put a little more effort into resisting bringing him along.

“No,” she said, shaking her head.  She tried to find a delicate way to say what needed to be said, that would neither drive herself nuts nor give Loki away.  “I mean.  I’m pretty sure he does have a gambling problem, but he’s not exactly hurting for money.”

Still, Eloise cringed, looking from the crowd to Verity.  Verity cringed back, hating this entire situation.

“You know those rich trust fund kids who run away from home to go live in some ratty old co-op, just to get away from Mom and Dad?” Verity asked.

For a moment, Eloise didn’t seem to follow, and Verity tried to find another lie that wasn’t a lie.  Then, thankfully, she could see the realisation hit Eloise in a slow, steady wave.  She looked back out at the crowd once more, and then back to Verity.

“Yeah, it’s that kind of thing,” Verity said.  “It’s kind of a secret, so…”

She shrugged, hoping it would be enough to stamp out any questions before they arose.  Thankfully, Eloise nodded, and that seemed to be the end of that.  Luckily, it was their turn to check in, and with Eloise distracted, Verity lifted her glasses and rubbed her eyes, trying to drown out the low buzz in the back of her head.  She was getting better at ignoring it, but it never truly went away.  Even with constant exposure to Loki and his bullshit, it was always there, a tiny little irritation every time something was even just a little bit not right.

Eloise got them checked in, and Verity got herself at least looking put back together, and the two of them sighed deeply.  The hard part was over.  As she moved out of the way for the next person, Eloise handed over one of the plastic key cards.  The envelope had 312 written on it, which bugged Verity in a different way, but she wasn’t quite sure why.

“I’ll go find him, and we’ll meet you upstairs,” she said.

She watched her mother roll both her suitcases through the crowded casino floor, dodging around with the skill of the sort of madwoman who made a habit of doing too much shopping while on vacation.  Eager to get unpacked and out into the city, Verity grabbed her own suitcase and started patrolling the narrow aisles.  Slot machines rang and chimed out all around her, filling the air with so much noise that she couldn’t even pick any one machine out of the cacophonous din.  Verity scanned the casino for Loki’s bright green shirt, knowing his height wouldn’t help her if he was hunched over one of the machines.  And that was exactly how she finally found him, staring at a screen that flashed and spun wildly as he tapped a button on the console.  She watched him for a few moments, tapping the button, letting the virtual slots spin, and tapping it again before it even finished chiming that he’d lost.

“How much are you down?” she asked.

“Hundred and fifty,” Loki said.

Verity nearly choked.  “You’ve been here five minutes,” she said.

“I know,” Loki said, tapping the button again.  “I was up five hundred about a minute ago.”

She knew he had money.  She knew he had an incomprehensible amount of money.  But losing almost seven hundred dollars in a minute wasn’t even something Verity could conceptualise.

“Oh my god,” she said.  “Cash out.  Let’s go.”

Loki hit the spin button one more time, letting it cost him another $25 before he cashed out.  The machine printed a ticket, and Loki snatched it up from the tray as he stood and grabbed his suitcase.  Together, they walked through the palm trees and flashing lights to the elevator, and took it up to the third floor.  Still, something bothered Verity, but it wasn’t until she slid the card into the door and opened it that she realised what the problem was.

“Damnit,” she said, looking in at the tiny room with its tiny sofa, and single bed.

“Oh, come on,” Loki said, nudging past her to get inside.  “You’ve fallen asleep on me dozens of times.  If anything, there’s more room now.”

He wasn’t wrong.  The enormous bed took up almost the entire width of the narrow room, leaving them plenty of space without having to flip a coin for the sofa.  Sighing, Verity followed him in and shut the door behind her, eager to dump her stuff off and forget about it for a few hours.

“I can’t believe I forgot to tell her to get a bigger room,” she said, stacking her things near the tiny kitchenette by the door.

Loki shrugged as he tossed his laptop on the bed.  “At least she remembered separate rooms.  That could have been quite awkward.”

Verity didn’t know if Loki was joking or not, but she laughed anyway.  “No, we’ve always got separate rooms.  Ever since I was old enough to be left alone overnight.  So she can watch TV at night, and I don’t have to.”

Loki nodded.  “Oh.  Right.”

He pulled his laptop from his bag and found an outlet to plug it in.  While he got settled on the bed to do his thing, Verity made sure she had everything important.  She never did much gambling, so she didn’t have any cash on her, but she made a note to pull a bit out for other things.  The problem with gambling was that it was real; the only truly real thing in Vegas.  The games were skewed, but they didn’t lie.  And that was addicting.  She could wind up chasing too many highs at once if she wasn’t careful.

Which meant this trip was going to be especially trying if she had to keep pulling Loki away from the machines and the tables.  He’d taken her to some illegal den once, and she’d watched him lose thousands in no time at all.  And then it was raided, and he’d led her out through a portal, except he was drunk and accidentally took them to Queens.  And if that’s what her week was about to look like, Verity knew she’d need to be prepared.

And being prepared started with distractions.

“So,” she said, slipping her wallet into her handbag.  “What’s on your wish list for this week?”

Loki looked up at her, and for a moment she thought he was going to crack some sarcastic joke.  But he didn’t, and she got the sneaking suspicion he was actually taking this trip seriously.

“Do they still have the tigers?” he asked.

Verity shook her head, somehow not surprised that of everything the city had to offer, Loki would want to go see sparkling, magic tigers.

“They haven’t done the show for years, but I think they still let you go look at the tigers,” she said.  “There’s also dolphins and sharks you can go look at.”

That seemed to really strike at something within Loki, which always made Verity a bit nervous.

“I would like to see the sharks,” Loki said.

“Of course you would.”  She looked down at the time on her phone, trying to wrap her head around the time difference.  “Come on, let’s go see what Mom’s doing.  I’m starving.”

That also got Loki going.  He quickly slapped his laptop shut and tossed it aside onto the bed as he stood.  Because if Verity needed to get Loki going in a hurry, the single most reliable way was food.

« ||

Key Largo #2: Departure

Las Vegas had always been kind of boring for Verity, but it was their little tradition.  Every summer, right in the middle of July, they would go spend a week in the most chaotic place on Earth.  They had tried other destinations earlier on.  Disneyland, Orlando, even a few National Parks.  But there was something about Vegas that didn’t try to lie about what it was.  The whole city was a den of sin, and its entire tourism ad campaign leaned into it.  It wasn’t pretending to be the Happiest Place on Earth, or some sort of movie magic in the making.  Nobody made sure everything was perfectly polished and clean.  It was dirty, everything reeked like hot garbage, and everyone wanted your money.  There were enough real things to do and see that every year they filled up an entire week, and every year Verity got through it all without getting on the plane home in a blind rage.

As long as she avoided the spectacle and make-believe, which was easy to do because those shows cost $200 to get in, boring was the best she could hope for.

To her immense surprise, Loki knocked on her door at five in the morning dressed and packed like a completely normal person.  When he wasn’t running around like some kind of hipster Viking, he had a decent enough fashion sense that the only thing that stood out about him was his height.  And Verity wondered if that was intentional.  Other people might have cosplayed as Asgardians.  Loki cosplayed as human, with expensive shirts and fitted jeans.  He’d even left his boots at home, wearing instead a pair of Off-White shoes, with green laces the same shade as his shirt.

Most surprisingly, he’d even packed.  Properly, with a TSA-approved suitcase and everything.  Verity had half expected him to attempt to skate by with his usual “magical bag of holding” bullshit, making excuses all week, but he was apparently committed to the bit.  Somehow, that was even more terrifying, because when Loki committed to a bit, he held absolutely nothing back.

“Is that enough to get you through a week?” Verity asked.

Loki shrugged, leaving his suitcase and laptop bag by the door. 

“Sure.  Why not?” he asked.  He paused briefly, while making sure nothing would fall over.  “How does it work?  I can take two before I have to check anything?”

Verity laughed.  “How much stuff have you crammed in there?  If it’s too heavy you might have to check it anyway.”

Loki looked up at her with a rising panic drawing over him.  “What?  Oh…”

“Oh no, you didn’t,” Verity said.

She stepped over to pick up the suitcase, almost expecting to find it stuffed with half his apartment.  But she had no issue at all with picking it up, finding it on the suspiciously light side, if anything.

“You ass,” she said, putting it back down to slap her hand against his chest.

Loki laughed in that way he always did when he thought he was hilarious.

“I’ve got secret identities on top of secret identities, but I’d like to avoid taking chances all the same,” he said.  “At least until we land.”

That was another thing Verity had been worried about, quietly and privately. 

“Please promise me you’re not going to get us kicked out of any casinos,” she said.  “No funny business.”

“No funny business,” Loki said, holding up his hands in a parody of innocence.  “If I wanted to steal money from a casino, I’d walk into the vault.”

Verity nodded.  He’d told her that once before.  “Right,” she said.  “Please don’t do that.”

Nervous for too many reasons at once, she checked her phone and nodded.

“Let’s go downstairs.”

Loki helped get everything down to the foyer, barely having time to even get settled before their cab arrived.  While she told the driver where they were going, Loki loaded all their things into the trunk, going as far as pretending the bags were heavy.  Despite what he was, he was surprisingly adept with the intricacies of New York transportation.  He even had a MetroCard, which came in handy on those nights when he would drag Verity out to a show or to meet up with someone, and not make their way back home until well past her bedtime.

She’d learned the hard way that sober Loki could go anywhere he wanted in an instant, but drunk Loki was more likely to take a wrong step and land in the Hudson.  And she knew from intimate experience exactly what that looked and smelled like.  He could have taken them and all their things straight to the airport, and she knew he would have if she’d asked.  But she wanted this trip to be normal; an escape from super heroes and gods and magic.  And as Loki settled into the seat beside her, sliding his sunglasses on, he looked every bit as ordinary as he was pretending to be.  He said little during the drive, and as Verity dozed off again, Loki occupied his time with his phone.  He let her sleep, waking her only as they came to the airport.  He paid the driver with his endless stream of cash, and then got out to unload their bags onto the pavement.

Feeling a bit in the way, Verity stepped aside to get out of his his way, and spotted Eloise unloading further up the lane.

“Mom!” she called out.

Eloise looked up and grinned, waving from across the pavement.  As Verity glanced over to Loki, he realised the situation around him and waved back before hauling the rest of their bags out of the trunk.  By the time he had everything settled and the taxi was on its way down the lane, Eloise had reached them and put her bag with the rest while she pulled Verity in for a hug.  While families hugged and said their farewells all around him, Loki took the opportunity to scout around and see what all the other perfectly ordinary travellers were doing, spotted the little luggage carts, and immediately seized the opportunity to escape a situation he had no idea how to handle.  Verity watched him go as she stepped away from Eloise with a big sigh.

“I haven’t been up this early in forever,” she said, shoving her glasses out of the way to rub her eyes.

“I thought you liked to get up early,” Eloise said. 

Verity rolled her eyes as she resettled her glasses.  “That got a lot harder when someone started dragging me all over New York until three in the morning,” she said.

She could see Loki listening to them, and the wild shrug he answered with, and chose to ignore it, just like she chose to ignore the way Eloise smiled at her.  Taking a deep breath instead, she started pulling their bags away from the curb to make room for the next person.  Even as they got their bags loaded up, Verity couldn’t help but dread what was coming.  It had been a mistake, and she knew it.  Loki was her friend, and she trusted him, but the thought of spending a week with him and her mother, with little opportunity for escape began to weigh heavily on her.

As they got to check-in, she realised they had another problem.  Loki wasn’t human.  He wasn’t even from Earth.  And he was going to try to get through airport security without being spotted.  They hadn’t discussed this plan at all, which had been a monumentally stupid oversight.

But apparently there was no plan, and again Verity realised she should have known that already.  When asked, Loki pulled out his wallet and produced an ID she realised he’d always had, which probably bore the same fake name on all of his credit cards and bills and all the other mundane things he tolerated at the cost of hiding out in New York.  Sometimes she forgot that, while he wasn’t exactly a wanted criminal, Loki wasn’t welcome on Asgardia either.  He lived in New York not just because that’s where all the superheroes had their headquarters, but because New York was enormous and noisy, and even a god could disappear into the crowd without being noticed.

He smiled and put up with the indignities of flying out of JFK with his usual disarming charm that did absolutely nothing to convince Verity this wasn’t a bad idea.  But even if it didn’t fool Verity, it fooled everyone else around them, and they got through check in without a hitch.

He even got through security without getting flustered like everyone else.  Loki was the epitome of acting like you belong, and he breezed through the process as though he’d done it a hundred times before.

“You must fly often,” Eloise said as they all found a place to put their shoes back on.

Loki sat on the floor, taking the time to tighten his laces just so.  “I think technically I’m still an Oklahoma resident.  At least, I spend more time there than I do here,” he said.  He shrugged.  “I do like it there, but who wants to live in Oklahoma all the time?”

“Oklahoma?” Eloise asked.  She looked at Loki, who was suddenly engrossed in fixing his laces, and then to Verity, who had no plan at all.

“You know, I think I did know that,” Eloise said finally.

Loki and Verity shared a nervous glance as he finished with his laces and fetched up his laptop bag.  They both lagged behind as Eloise led the way to their terminal, walking close beside one another in a comfortable silence.  Loki took in the shops and and crowds, and slowed as they neared a cluster of restaurants.

“Have you had breakfast?” he asked suddenly.

Verity looked up, seeing only a few fast food places that looked open.  She looked up at Loki, and then nodded as she turned back toward Eloise.

“Hey, Mom.  We’re gonna find something to eat.  Want anything?” she asked.

Eloise turned back, and for a moment seemed like she was going to decline the offer altogether.

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” she said finally.

Leaving her to go find their terminal and reserve them a seat for their wait, Loki and Verity headed off to find something with a breakfast menu that wasn’t completely terrible.  While Verity ordered modestly, Loki ordered nearly everything on the menu.  The flight was barely six hours, but he’d made sure none of them were going to go hungry during it, assuming he had any intention of sharing at all.  It was one more thing Verity realised might become a problem.  Loki wasn’t quite as bad as Thor, unironically eating four whole fried chickens and a Coke in a single meal, but Loki was still on the absurd side of things when it came to appetite.  She wondered if he planned on starving all week, or just not even bothering to hide the fact that he could go through an entire McDonald’s menu all at once if he wanted.

And sure enough, he didn’t wait to start digging into his own order, eating an egg sandwich with one hand while they walked toward the terminal.  Walking next to him, Verity watched as he tried to choke it down without making a face.

“I don’t know what animal this came from, but I don’t think I like it very much,” Loki said finally.

Verity tried not to laugh at him.

“Cardboard, probably,” she said.

Loki scrunched up his nose and kept eating anyway.  He finished it by the time they found Eloise, and as they sat and waited for their flight to be called, Loki pulled out a box of hash browns from his stash.  As soon as she was settled and comfortable, Verity realised she was still very, very tired.  She managed to stay awake by eating her own breakfast, barely paying attention to what was going on around her otherwise. 

The next thing she knew, Loki was waking her up to get on the plane.  They were flying coach, because they always flew coach, and immediately it became one more in a string of small hitches Verity had forgotten to account for.  The seats were small and wedged in as tightly as the airline could manage, and Loki stood in the crowded aisle wearing the same discontented frown he’d worn at the state of his breakfast.

“What?” Verity asked as she watched him glare at the seats.

Loki stepped out of the way as much as he could, making room for Verity to get past him.  He stared down at his boarding pass for a moment, and then sighed tiredly.

“You two can brawl it out for my seat, because I need the aisle,” he said.

Verity looked up at him, taking a bit too much time to understand why he was giving up the window seat.  And then she realised very abruptly that he was a literal giant, albeit a rather small one as giants went, and quite a bit taller than the average guy.

“Oh,” she said suddenly.

For a moment, she thought about snatching up the window seat for herself, but managed to find enough space to let Eloise through instead.  Between Eloise laughing awkwardly, and Loki looking like he’d finally realised why the entire trip had been a mistake, Verity wanted to crawl into a hole and never come back out.

Once she and Eloise were settled, Loki began the task of attempting to get comfortable in a seat designed for someone slightly smaller than the average airline passenger.  He finally found room for himself and his laptop bag, mostly freeing up the aisle around them for everyone else to do what needed to be done.  With one knee sticking out into the aisle, Loki looked over to Verity without a hint of playfulness about him.

“Is it too late to upgrade?” he asked.

Verity couldn’t help the little pang of guilt.  She should have thought about this and reminded Eloise when the tickets were bought.

“Probably.  Sorry,” she said, cringing.  “We can see if we can do something for the way back.”

Loki almost managed to avoid rolling his eyes as he twisted his entire body in an effort to pull his phone and earbuds from his pocket.

 

« || »

Key Largo #1: Scrabble

Loki was on the floor, in front of the sofa.  Verity didn’t know why.  That’s just where he always seemed to wind up, stretched out on his back like an enormous cat, leaving Verity the entire sofa to herself.  He tended to have two natural states, either stretched out as horizontal as possible, or with more energy than a fuzzy, pink bunny with a drum.  Sometimes Verity thought that was why he tended to gravitate toward the floor.  Verity’s sofa wasn’t exactly small, but neither was Loki.  He could stretch out on the floor without having to worry about where to fit his feet or his elbows.  While the TV played quietly, droning on with some bizarre thing from the hidden depths of Netflix’s library, they both had their phones in their hands, taking turns frowning and tapping at the screen as they tried to out-score the other at a Scrabble-type game.

“Oh, that is so a word,” Verity said when the app rejected ‘unmuted’.

 Below her, Loki made a sound that was almost a laugh.  “It rejects most words I know,” he said.

“Yeah, well.  Good,” Verity said as she struggled to find a new word to play. 

If Loki were allowed to play even half of the words he knew, she’d never win.  It was why she never played chess with him.  He had insane advantages nobody should have, starting with a several-thousand-year head start.  And yet he lay on the floor with an open bottle of beer precariously close to his elbow, quietly bitching about not being able to find suitable words to play.  He’d forgotten about the beer again.  She just knew it.  In another ten minutes, it would be staining her carpet.  Again.

“After I trounce you, shall we order dinner?” Loki asked.

Verity managed to fit ‘mute’ into a different slot.  “Are you paying?” she asked. 

If she ordered in half as often as Loki did, she’d be broke in a week.  She was pretty sure the thing he called his day job wasn’t what paid his bills, but she had no idea where he got his money.  And he seemed to have an endless supply of it.

“Of course,” Loki said, tapping away at his own phone. 

Verity’s phone buzzed, signalling that he’d played.  How ‘jazzy’ was valid, she had no idea.  It wasn’t fair.

“Look, we need to find a new game, because this one’s cheating,” Verity said, looking at her complete jumble of useless letters.

“Let me see,” Loki said, reaching up. 

He’d come over straight from his latest mission, having only shed his armour.  He still wore his tunic and leather bracers, sleeves untucked and rolled up to his elbows, while at one point his horns had migrated to the coffee table.  For a moment, Verity hesitated before handing her phone over.  Loki spent just a few seconds looking at it before tapping away, moving tiles around.  Then he handed it back, and Verity frowned.

“That’s a web browser.  How did you play that?” she asked.  She could have sworn he cheated somehow.

“It’s also a processed metal,” Loki said.

Verity had forgotten about that.  She didn’t know how, but somehow she had completely forgotten about the existence of chrome plating.

“Oh, just order dinner.  You win,” she said, closing the app.  They really needed to find a new game.

Below on the floor, Loki chuckled quietly to himself while he scrolled through his phone.  Verity tossed her own phone to the other side of the sofa and leaned against the armrest, turning her focus to whatever was happening on the television.  It was always on, playing something in the background, but they rarely just sat and watched.  It was background noise to fill the silence.  Verity didn’t mind the silence, but Loki seemed to despise it.  He always had something playing whenever he could.  Music, TV, video games.  Constant, endless noise to drown out whatever it was he didn’t want in his head.  As if having the opportunity to think was something he sought to avoid.  He lived only next door, and there were nights when he’d kept his TV or his stereo on just a little too loud, and she could hear the base note of whatever he’d fallen asleep to.

A side effect of it was extreme, intense immersion therapy.  Loki often watched the worst kind of absolute garbage.  He didn’t seem to care what he watched, as long as it had sound.  Comedy, fantasy, suspense, action.  All things that only a year previous would have driven Verity up the wall from that little buzz in the back of her head.  That little tickle that told her that it was all fake, a lie, something someone made up. And yet she watched someone get eaten alive by a piece of modern art, and she wasn’t angry or irritated.  That tickle, that buzz was still there, telling her it was fake, wrong, lies.  But she didn’t care.  The lie was the point.  People who weren’t Verity would believe the lie, willingly be taken in, and maybe even be frightened.  Verity couldn’t do that, and likely would never be able to.  But she could watch, and even become interested enough to want to see where the lie went.

Loki reached up to her again, this time offering over his phone, open to a delivery app.  Verity scrolled through the menu of the little Chinese place he liked to order from, picking out a few side dishes to turn into a full meal.  She knew he spent money like it was meaningless, but always felt a little dirty whenever he just handed over his phone like that.  Making a few quick choices of chicken, rice, and vegetables, she handed it back so he could complete the order.  A few more seconds of tapping, and then Loki locked his phone and tossed it off to the side, nearly knocking over his beer.  He made a worried little noise as he quickly reached over and caught it, before it toppled and made a mess.

“Oh my god, Loki,” Verity muttered.

He at least had the decency to look a bit sheepish about it. 

“Sorry,” he said.  He sat up just enough to finish it off and put the empty bottle up on the coffee table, next to his horns.

Loki brushed his hair from his eyes and sat up a bit more like an actual person, leaning against the front of the sofa.  After a few minutes, Loki shifted, leaning his head back against Verity’s hip.  Almost without thought, Verity’s hand moved to his hair, carding through it and finding it full of some sort of pulverised plaster or concrete.  Even as she picked out the worst of it, she did not ask him what he had been doing, because she wasn’t sure she could handle both the terrible movie and Loki’s special way of telling stories that both rang true and completely false all at once.  Instead, they sat quietly, watching whatever the hell was happening in that evening’s bizarre movie until the door buzzer interrupted them.  Verity quickly got up to unlock the door downstairs, and waited for the delivery guy to get to her door.  Loki was no longer watching the movie, but her.  He sat lazily, leaning against the sofa like he was trying to decide if he wanted to take a nap, but Verity knew better.  He was one of the most dangerous people she’d ever known, and yet there was always a little part of him that seemed wary of threats.  Delivery drivers ranked pretty low on the threat list, all things considered, but it was New York.  Everything and everyone was a threat, and Loki had built up a long list of enemies over he years.

Then the knock came to the door, and Verity opened it.  But she didn’t find a delivery driver with $60 of Chinese food in a bag.

“Mom!” she said, surprised to find Eloise standing on the other side.

As she turned to let Eloise in, she saw Loki quickly grab his horns from the coffee table and make them disappear.  Then he put on that smile he wore when he was trying to be charming and polite, completely fake and utterly convincing all at the same time.

“Hello, Mrs Willis,” he said from the floor.

When Eloise smiled back, it was genuine, if maybe a touch smug. 

“Oh, hello, Loki.  I didn’t know you’d have company,” she said as she walked across the room to the recliner nobody but her used.

Verity had never intended to introduce Loki to her mother.  It had just sort of happened through her tendency to show up unannounced, and Loki’s tendency to be sitting on her floor.  And now she knew him by name, and very little else, and Verity couldn’t tell if that’s how she wanted it, or if it felt a bit too dangerous for comfort.

“Yeah.  Most nights,” Verity said.  “I throw him out, and he comes right back.”

Never mind that they’d swapped keys months before, both having developed a habit of dropping in on one another with no more warning than a text.  Still, Verity didn’t miss that little smile on her mother’s face.  The smile that said ‘I told you so,’ even if her words did not.  The smile that betrayed her validation in signing Verity up for that idiotic speed dating event.  The smile that came from the knowledge that the idiotic speed dating event was exactly where Loki and Verity had met.

The smile that persisted, despite Verity repeatedly insisting that she and Loki were not dating.  Despite Verity blaming her for having met a complete weirdo, just like she’d known she would.

“Oh, well I was on my way home from the centre, and thought I’d stop in,” Eloise said, still wearing that same smile.

Loki stayed on the floor, as if trying to go unseen without actually turning invisible, even as Verity returned to her seat on the sofa.  She did not miss the way Eloise looked at Loki, though Loki pretended not to notice at all.  He confused Eloise, and Verity knew it.  Loki confused a lot of people.  Not because he was always hanging around.  But because he was sometimes so unapologetically not human.  He often passed as one, and did so very well when he tried.  But then he’d do something like sit on the floor dressed like he was ready for a ren faire, and people didn’t seem to know what to do with that.  He may have hidden his horns, but he was still wearing leather trousers and bracers, and boots with buckles instead of laces.  But they also lived in Manhattan, where normal was relative, and everyone had some little quirk or eccentricity.

Then he leaned back, not quite as lazily as he had before, and returned his attention to his movie.  And just like that, everything odd about him completely disappeared.

“Well, we just ordered dinner, if you want some,” Verity said.  “I thought that’s who was buzzing the door.”

“Oh, no.  I won’t stay that long,” Eloise said.  She waved her hand in front of her, physically dismissing the idea.  “I just thought I’d pop in and see how you were doing.”

Verity nodded.  “I’m good.  Work’s good.  We went out to a show last week.”

“It’s good that you’re getting out more,” Eloise said.  “It’s just that I worry about you.”

She returned her gaze to Loki, like she was still trying to figure him out.  Like he wasn’t trying very hard to be ignored.

“I knew you just needed to find someone to get you out of the house more,” Eloise said.

Verity tried not to take offense to that.  Though she knew her mother meant well, every little remark about her social life—or lack of one—seemed to stab right through her.  Those remarks had been the catalyst for this entirely new lifestyle she’d found herself living, whether she wanted it or not.

“Well, if he stays in his apartment for too long he explodes.  But I’m still perfectly fine,” Verity said.  “I like it here, and I don’t need to go out every other night to have fun.”

She liked her apartment.  It was safe there.  Quiet.  She did go out more often, whenever Loki wanted to see a new band, or there was something playing in theatres he desperately wanted to see and didn’t want to go to alone.  But he went alone far more often than he dragged her out with him.

The door buzzed again, but before Verity could get up, Loki beat her to it.  He was on his feet and at the door before Verity could even sit up.  He was trying to get out of the firing range.  And Verity didn’t blame him.

“So what’s going on at the centre?” Verity asked, trying to move conversation away from her lack of relationship with Loki.

“Oh, just the usual,” said Eloise.  “I’m taking a few extra days here and there up until the trip.”

Verity froze, and felt herself go cold inside.  Somehow, with Loki a constant force of chaos in her life, she had completely forgotten about the things that were normal.

“Is that already coming up?” she asked.

She looked up at Loki, watching as he paid the delivery guy and locked the door back up.  He just looked confused, which wasn’t exactly surprising, since she’d forgotten to tell him she’d be disappearing for a while.

“You can both get the time off, can’t you?” Eloise asked.

“Both?” asked Verity, slowly starting to panic.

If Eloise noticed, she didn’t let on.  Even as Loki brought the giant paper bag back over and sat down on the floor with it, Eloise remained infuriatingly calm.

“You hadn’t said anything otherwise, so I assumed you’d already got it all squared away,” she said.

Verity wanted to be annoyed, but Eloise always planned their trip that way.  The same week, every year.  And Verity had forgotten all about it.  She felt like a spotlight was being shone on her, yet she didn’t know any of her lines.

“We’d have to change the reservations, and adding another ticket can’t be easy,” she said, stumbling in trying to find the eloquent way out.

“Oh, I already thought you’d be bringing Loki,” Eloise said, turning her attention to Loki for a moment.

Verity nearly forgot how to breathe.

“We hadn’t really discussed it,” she said, looking over at Loki.

Through all of this, Loki sat quietly, watching the two of them talk about him as though he weren’t right there in front of them.  As though he weren’t the single largest source of vexation in Verity’s life at the moment.

“No?  I’d figured you wouldn’t want to leave him behind,” Eloise said, not feigning innocence nearly as well as she thought she was.  “It’s been close to a year, hasn’t it?”

“Yuh—” Verity managed to get out, before stopping herself from accidentally confirming her mother’s suspicions.

“What’s going on?” Loki asked quickly.  He looked up between the two of them, looking perfectly innocent and not at all like he was the source of all of Verity’s frustration.

“The trip next month,” Eloise said.  She looked over to Verity, still as calm and collected as ever.  “I hope it’s not too short notice.”

Loki looked back and forth between Eloise and Verity.  “I can take time off,” he said.  “Where are we going?”

Verity kicked him hard in the ribs, but he was like a solid wall that nearly broke her toes.

“Las Vegas,” Verity said, seeing no way out.

“Would you believe I’ve never been?” Loki asked.

Whether he was lying or not, Verity couldn’t tell, because he’d found an infuriating way of not actually stating anything, just to wind her up.

“Really?” she asked.  She wanted to kick him again, but didn’t dare.

“Well if you can get a week off from the fifteenth next month, you’re more than welcome,” Eloise said.

Loki smiled, some of that innocence completely gone. 

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.  He looked up at Verity, and didn’t even have the decency to pretend to be sorry.  “Are you sure you won’t be staying for dinner?”

Eloise looked between the two of them and shook her head.  “No, I really should be going.  I’ll leave you two kids alone.”

She got up and walked over to give Verity a hug. 

“I’ll be by this Saturday,” she said.

Verity hugged her mother, trying not to be completely annoyed at both of them.  “I’ll be here,” she said.

She got up to see Eloise out, and to lock the door again behind her.  Once everything was secured and fastened, she turned back to Loki, watching him as he finally unpacked their dinner.

“What the hell was that?” she asked.

Loki stopped, looked up at her, and shrugged.  “What?” he asked.

“She thinks we’re dating!” Verity said.  “Why does everyone think we’re dating?”

“I dunno,” Loki said.  He pulled out box after box from the bag, and then fished around at the bottom for the chopsticks.  “She already thought that anyway.  Might as well let her keep thinking it if it means taking a vacation.”

“You’re the worst!”  Verity wanted to throw him out of her apartment.  “Loki, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want!  Since when do you need an excuse?” she said.

He shrugged again.  “Yeah, but it’s boring to go alone.  Who else would I go with?  Sigurd?  Ew.”

Verity let herself growl just a little bit as she walked over to the sofa.

“I don’t want her to think that we’re dating,” she said, speaking slowly just to make sure he understood.

Loki was already digging into one of the boxes, picking at questionable strips of beef.

“I can make an excuse and not go,” he said, shrugging again.

Verity almost told him to do that, but then she realised she’d have to live with explaining those excuses all week.  And then she realised she’d have to deal with whatever changes Eloise had already made to their reservations to accommodate Loki tagging along.

“No.  Don’t do that,” she said, taking one of the boxes he offered her.  “Just promise me you’ll just be a little bit normal.  I don’t know if I can handle a solid week of unrelentingly weird.”

Loki opened another one of his boxes.  “If you wanted normal, you would have changed your locks by now.”

He was right.  She kicked him again anyway.

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Key Largo

Key Largo (Word Count TBD) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: Ongoing
Fandom: Loki: Agent of Asgard
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Loki (Agent of Asgard)/Verity Willis, Lorelei/Sigurd
Characters: Loki (Marvel), Verity Willis, Lorelei (Marvel), Sigurd (Marvel), Eloise Willis

Summary: Before she met Loki, Verity rarely left the house. She did make one exception, however: a yearly trip with her mother, on a typical destination vacation.

This year is no exception. Except for the part where her mother is absolutely convinced that she and Loki are dating.

Not only is this idea in her mind to stay, she is completely unaware that Verity’s new social group consists solely of a bunch of ancient Norse criminals, all living secret lives as hipsters with too much disposable income.

Somehow, Verity knows this is going to be nothing short of a week from hell.

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