|loki laufeyson (toberuled) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-09-29 22:46:00
|Entry tags:||cheshire cat, gwen stacy, loki, norman osborn|
Who: Neil, Sam, Louis, and Lin.
What: Visiting the carnival for a well-earned break.
Where: The carnival.
When: Before the dust storm.
Neil couldn’t actually remember ever having been to a carnival. Their childhood just hadn’t been like that, which was all the reason to go and make an effort to have fun. All the more reason to drag Louis along for the ride, too. Oh, sure, Louis would rather drive himself bananas over a dead guy and shit he couldn’t change, but what was family for if not to throw a wrench in plans and be a well-meaning pain in the ass? He knew Louis was angry, and he knew that him being released from the hospital didn’t mean he was magically cured, but being cooped up inside wasn’t going to fix anything either. So, opting to avoid what would likely be a drawn-out back and forth on the journals, he went straight to Louis’ apartment just in case actual dragging needed to occur.
It hadn’t been easy. Louis seemed to believe that he would somehow infect everyone with his misery and ruin the outing, and Neil’s patience had worn thin pretty quickly, which meant that repeated assurances of it being ‘fine’ became something more of the lines of ‘shut up and get in the damn car.’
And here they were, at midnight, waiting outside the front entrance for Sam and Lin to show. They were going to enjoy themselves, dammit, because while their lives might have been trainwrecks lately there were some positives: Ian was dead, he’d all but told Chloe to fuck off, and they were all still alive. That had to count for something.
Louis had been sure he would infect everyone with his bad mood, that his general anger with everything in the world would ruin everyone else's time. But they had insisted - or, rather, Neil had insisted - and despite the fact that he had managed to get in nothing but bickering fights with Sam and Lin recently, Louis agreed to go. There was guilt, of course, that he was somehow disappointing everyone if he refused to attend, but there was also the vain hope, not that he would have a wonderful time on the carnival rides, but that maybe something mildly positive could happen. It was hard to imagine it, but it was a fond dream, imagining getting through an evening with everyone without something going wrong. Ian was dead, after all. They had a right to celebrate, even if no one felt like celebrating.
Louis didn't look like as much of a mess as he felt, despite the fact that Neil's knock had come at eleven at night. It wasn't as if he'd been sleeping, of course. They'd discharged him from care with a generous sleeping pill prescription, but he'd been holding off on taking one until sleep seemed like a good idea. It hadn't, by the time Neil came knocking. Truthfully, he wasn't sure when it would next. He'd dressed in clean, ironed clothes, fresh back from being cleaned and made presentable again after his stint in care. He was clean, and he was awake, and he looked more nervous about seeing everyone face to face for the first time in over a month than anything else.
In Sin City, the lights were always on—somewhere, along the Strip, cocktail waitresses made of red and yellow neon and argon blinkered on and off, allowing the human eye the illusion of movement. A carnival then, just another electricity suck, another shining star in a clustered constellation, shouldn’t have stood out, but it did. It was part height and part press. The blurring whirl of the ferris wheel was visible blocks away and Lin made the taxi driver follow it, a bastardization of astronavigation, a new Polaris, as he wasn’t sure of the address of “that empty lot where they always put the carnival on the two days of the year it rains, come on, you fucking know what I’m talking about.” It took an extra turn or two, but whatever. It was cool out and the window was down, allowing a desert breeze, sand in respite, to filter into the stuffy cab. Lin was this close to just shoving his head out like a dog, but his hair was already thrown into a fit of black.
He was excited. Of course he was excited. Who didn’t like fucking hastily erected rides operated by drifters? Those weird slushie margaritas you could buy and keep the blinding oblong plastic container with the three foot long straw? Or friends, whom you haven’t seen since a huge, life-altering disaster? ...Yeah, who didn’t like that stuff? Lin did.
The boy was dressed for the sudden crop of fall in (yw, Sam) a dark cardigan lined with blue and pink over a generic white tee; he had over-worn gray cords and the promised light-up . When his carriage pulled up to the curb and midnight struck, he all but kicked the door open, pressing money to the sweaty palm of his kind chauffeur and giving him a far too exuberant “thanks, bro!” He jumped onto the pavement.
It took about 2.5 seconds to spot the Donovans. There was the skinny one, tall, with blond curls wild, and the Sam-approved one, broad-shouldered, also fucking tall, both hunched together near the gate, no Sam in sight. Lin’s mood buoyed at the surface, a bob he intended to keep afloat. He grinned as he approached on feet that sparkled and shined with every step, turning asphalt a chemical blue. Black eyes were snappish and observant, taking in the differences of the men, against each other and against themselves.
“Where’s Daphne?” He asked, a reference to a reference no one was like to get without context. He drew up to Louis and tipped his head against the man’s shoulder with kittenish affection.
Sam had been to plenty of carnivals as a kid. Atlantic City was close to home, and Seaside Heights was within spitting distance. And there had been cheap and shitty fairs that come through all year long. It had been a thing with the Alexander kids, sneaking in without paying, and they'd eaten their share of cotton candy that was stolen from kids that were smaller than them. Fairs had always been great places to lift wallets, too, because they were crowded as fuck and no one paid attention to anything. So, yeah, a carnival wasn't exactly a new thing, and Sam had always liked the cheap noisiness of the midway, and the crowded 4H tents and all the stupid shit that was sold inside. Even the country area of the fair, where line dancing occurred under cheap tents surrounded by booths that sold leather boots and ribs, was cool. But the rides were best. Rollercoasters, haunted houses and gravitrons - anything that made her stomach scream and her blood rush, and she was fucking there.
But it had been a long time since those fairs of her youth, and Sam wasn't exactly 100% these days, no matter how she pretended. But she knew that, yeah? And she could work around it. By the time she hopped in the cab, she was fucking stoned. Trails of light and everything was fucking awesome, that kind of stoned. But she knew how long the drive would take, and she knew how much would wear off, because she'd been hitting the bong pretty steadily since getting out of the hospital. She had a Xannie tucked in her pocket, just in case, but she was hoping she wouldn't need it. She would try to hit a booze stand first, if shit got bad enough. Either way, she wasn't going to spend the night panicking or getting upset, no matter how many times Lou brought up Iris or Ian, and that was just hard and fast determination.
She paid the cabbie extra to pull up right to the entrance, so she wouldn't have to worry about walking through the crowds from the sidewalk, and she tipped her head back to look at the looming ferris wheel in the distance. The thing was fucking huge, and it made her stomach turn over a little to watch the carts swing. Ok, yeah, this could be a good thing. She loved that feeling in her gut, the one that said she might die at any minute, and that was just the adrenaline junkie in her.
And the boys were easy enough to spot, especially with Lin's fucking glow-floor sneakers and his near- snuggle against Lou's tense shoulder. She walked up behind them, just in time to hear Lin's completely senseless Daphne comment, and she slid her arms around Neil's waist without warning. "Did you ask another chick and not tell me?" she asked, all gap-toothed smile, red lips and cat's eye makeup. She'd finally given in and brushed her hair for the occasion, though she hadn't been able to bring herself to scrape it back in Ian's preferred braids or pigtails. Her grey and white camos were loose, indecently low and well past the curve of her hips, and they were held in place by one of Neil's belt (with a new hole for a notch). Her shirt was skin-snug black, long sleeves and entirely bare from her navel down, and her black workboots did not light up when she moved.
Of course Lin would show up in flashy sneakers. Neil shook his head, grinning, and it didn’t even bother him that he had no idea who the hell Daphne was or what kind of reference he was making. The way Lin sidled up to Louis, who couldn’t have been more nervous if he’d tried, was kind of adorable in a weird way, but before he could remark on it he felt a pair of arms wind around his waist. “I’d never,” he promised, turning his head to look down at Sam with mock graveness. “Lin might have, the little devil.” He’d never been too big on public displays of affection and Louis’ presence, more so than Lin’s, definitely brought a new level of awkward, but he leaned down to kiss her regardless. “Hey,” he said, quietly, a greeting meant for only her before he looked up. “So, gang’s all here. Are we going in or what?”
Louis literally had no idea what to do with Lin's sudden appearance, and the fact that his head was immediately nestled on his arm. His first reaction was flat startelement, since Lin had come up from the side and he hadn't seen him until he was speaking, a half second where he managed to tense in anticipation of awkwardness, and then a stare as Lin snuggled up like absolutely nothing had happened. He noticed Lin's shoes lit up, which was interesting, though somehow not as much of a surprise. He delicately avoided sputtering, instead staring for a second. "Hello," he said, a little like Lin was an unexploded bomb nestled against his collarbone.
Then Sam appeared, and he wondered for a moment if they had organized this in advance. He took one look at her wide blown pupils and somehow managed to relax and worry at the same time. So she was high on something, which meant she would be very relaxed, but that wasn't a good thing considering how fresh she was off of heroin. She was a bit too upright for it to be that, so that was a consolation. Sort of. He felt a scrabble of worry and then crushed it down with a little of the angry force he'd been blindly directing at everything lately. He was going to refuse to worry about anyone for a night, and possibly get drunk. It made him feel a little spike of heat in his chest to push it down so hard, but what was the worst that could happen? He liked Lin's head on his shoulder, and maybe that could be enough.
His lips quirked in a small smile. "Sam," he greeted, with the kind of dry amusement that used to come so much more easily. "Little seems too diminutive for the amount of trouble he causes," Louis said, nudging Lin. "Let's."
It wasn’t a senseless reference. Lin did little that was senseless, outside of baiting serial killers and shoving men he had crushes on into the clutches of the aforementioned. He grinned at Sam, a broad, youthful thing. She was cute, her red lipstick stark against the night that cocooned the four of them in its bright lights and off-season coolness. Her camos sat low on sharp hip bones. Lin smiled back, still placing his weight against Louis, the man he’d been most nervous about seeing (see: every conversation between him and the bro, post-gun). He was pleased to finally meet Neil outside of extenuating circumstances in which he was so devoted as to forget about the entirety of the world without. He seemed kind, with a softness underneath the extremely passive masculinity Sam seemed to like.
“Fuck you all. Daphne with the Scooby Gang, you fucking assholes,” Lin reminded everyone present with the arrogance of the irritated, a cut of the hand in the black air between them, the white of a smile still there, lingering on retina. Still he used Louis for support, and looped his own arm through the man’s with little thought (okay, so the “senseless” bit is for references only) and little consideration for what it might mean for whom. He pointed as he spoke. “Neil’s Fred. Louis is Shaggy. Sam’s Daph, and I’m Velma. Obviously.”
The boy watched Neil smooch Sam without a word and only an internal sense of satisfaction that the man had actually fucking done something about his attraction toward the girl. He suspected something was slightly off with her, pupils black and large, but the boy in the light-up shoes didn’t want to dwell on it. Instead, he began walking toward the wide-mouthed gates of the carnival, taking Louis’ hand in his own and dragging him along.
“The trouble I cause is totes proportional,” he assured Louis with the least innocent smile ever observed, that faltered not until they drew up to the ticket counter.
Sam, luckily, was still stoned enough not to notice that Neil was uncomfortable. Anyway, she'd been embarrassing him in public since the first time they met and, yeah, so the pot made her feel chill enough that she wasn't even worried about it the way she normally would have been. No worrying about pushing him too hard, or about wanting more than he did, and she met that kiss without concern for her brother and Lin standing there, because what the fuck ever, yeah? She tugged at Neil's lower lip with her teeth, quick and inexperienced with the tug, and she let her hands slide away until they rested on his lower back for a few lingering seconds. Only then did Lou and Lin really get her attention.
Sam quirked a brow at all the head leaning and near-snuggling shit, and she leaned against Neil's arm and tried to figure out if she felt bad for Daniel. In the end, she was just too high to care about much of anything, really, and she refused to fucking worry, either. Lou wasn't crying, and Lin wasn't screaming, and she was considering that such a fucking win. Everything else could wait until morning. "Is there a television jingle that goes with that?" Sam asked Lin, because everything with Lin was a television show, and all of his television shows had songs. It was just part of being a hipster, she guessed, along with the little sweaters and light up shoes. "Something totally cheesy and synthesized?"
Sam watched as Lin took Lou's hand, and she nudged Neil's arm with her own, and then she nodded toward the twined fingers. That done, she looped her fingers in one of Neil's beltloops, and she tugged him toward the ticket counter. "They're going to out-PDA us in like five fucking seconds at this rate," she teased, all gap-toothed grin over her shoulder.
Okay, good. This was good. Neil didn’t give a damn about Daniel and, while he noticed that Sam wasn’t full and one-hundred-percent sober, he wasn’t seized by his usual amount of worry, the kind that made him awkward and uncomfortable because he was never sure whether or not he should voice it. “Oh, right, the Scooby Gang,” he said flippantly, like he’d known the whole time. “I’m good with being Fred, even if he does wear that stupid scarf all the time.” He let Lin field the question about cheesy jingles, because even though he was generally aware of pop culture he’d never actually been big on cartoons as a kid. His parents hadn’t been either; because yeah, television would have done so much more harmful than apathetic parenting.
Lin and Louis were cute, he could admit that. And, hell, if he made his brother happy or helped loosen him up even just a little then all the power to him. He nudged Sam back, confirmation that yeah, he’d seen, and he let himself be tugged towards the ticket counter without hesitation. “Lin’s like a puppy,” he said. “Stiff competition.” But he reached for her hand all the same, entwining their fingers while he reached into his pocket for his wallet with the other. He told the girl behind the counter that he wanted four, with only a glance over his shoulder towards Louis to indicate that he had this. He’d done enough for him and this family, after all, it was time he had a chance to just relax.
Louis let Neil pay and didn't worry about covering it himself. It was only a carnival, after all, and it didn't worry him, those concerns about the divvying of responsibility through spending. He was willing to do almost anything this evening to not feel like the sore thumb of the group, not bother anyone or ruin their time, and he was going to try, really try, to enjoy himself. Carrying Lin's weight on his shoulder was a welcome distraction, and there had been so many other things to worry about in the past months that he didn't even let himself fret about what it might mean or not mean. Nothing, he suspected. He was going to learn to simply be grateful and not overanalyze, someday, he might as well start trying tonight. For instance, he was grateful that Neil and Sam seemed alright even if Sam was clearly high on something. There was still something there, visible beyond just the making out, that gave him a little hope, at least.
"I'm curious why I'm the stoned one," Louis asked as they slid through the gates. "Irony?" He wrapped an arm around Lin's waist to better support him, and actually didn't wonder what anyone might think. For Christs' sake, it was only a carnival, and he just wanted to let himself be pleased to see Lin smile at him.
Lin was affectionate, happy or sad; it was a natural behavior—he gravitated toward people like some wayward comet, eccentric orbit of the long-period type and all (sure, he was likely in his aphelion rn, but still). He had always been that way, when it was an option (it was hard to cling to people who hated you, for example). It was certainly a component of his perpetual confusion and blurring of friends and more, but right now he was too excited to actually do something fucking fun to not be selfish and allow himself to see shit from Louis’ POV. It had nothing to do with Daniel in his mind. So he held on. Tickets were purchased, the main gate was passed and they were legit and officially at the carnival.
It was an assault on the senses—there were at least twelve different snatches of song spindling out of rides that whirred around them, adults laughing, you could smell the sticky-sweet of popcorn and candy crushed underfoot, and just feel the fucking heat that emanated from the rounds and rounds of bulbs pinned in colors that kind of made you want to eat them, if... you could eat light bulbs.
“Mostly because you’re tall and thin, but it makes me sound better if you say irony, so I’m down with that,” Lin told Louis with a flashbulb pop of a smile, before he twisted to talk to Sam, missing the PDA comments, happy to see her happy and happy to see Neil’s hand in hers. “Of course it fucking does, bro. It’s late ‘60s and poppy as fuck. Want me to sing it? I’ll need someone to come in as Scooby in the end though. Neil, I choose you.”
As he chattered, Lin dragged the group, and Louis by the hand, toward one of his favorite, brain-smashing rides just inside and to the left of the whirly, clowny gats: the motherfuckin’ bumper cars. The lightshow smeared on littered concrete as his feet hurried illustrated how excited he was.
“This shit, or Sam, do you wanna line dance that hard?”
Holding hands wasn't something Sam had a lot of experience with, yeah? Even her possessive husband hadn't been into that shit, and she rubbed her calloused thumb against the back of Neil's hand as he paid, more curiosity in the touch than anything else. She, for one, didn't complain about that wallet coming out at all. She had a thing against Neil feeling like he had to support her lately, but that didn't extend to things like carnivals, and she didn't have the kind of pride that minded taking money when someone wanted to give it (or when they didn't want to either, really). From her vantage point, she watched as Louis draped his arm around Lin, and she felt that conflictedness well up again. Daniel needed Lin, yeah? She knew that shit. But Lou would probably be better for the emo little hipster in the long run, if they could keep from yelling at each other. But, like Lin and Lou, she wasn't going to worry about it tonight. Fuck worrying, at least for one evening.
"You aren't old enough for the late fucking 60s," she told Lin, once they were all back together and walking toward the bright lights of the midway. She had no actual clue how old Lin was, and she assumed he was close to twenty, like she was. "Do you know every television jingle ever?" she asked, and she tipped her head up to look at Neil. "Has he told you about his fucking Titanic obsession yet? Do you think dying in really cold fucking water is romantic?" she asked, and then she grinned and tugged at the front of his shirt with her free hand. "Would you drown in really cold fucking water for me, Neil?" she asked, all gap-toothed exaggeration.
When Lin stopped, Sam looked around, fuzzy enough that she was just following along without any real fucking clue of where they were going. "You guys go," she said, leaning back against Neil. "Rollercoaster or haunted house next, before line dancing. Or something else that might make me want to die or puke." Because Lin might like hitting cars against each other, but she was the worst kind of adrenaline junkie, and she hadn't felt in a good enough mood to want to be scared to death in months.
“You choose me? What, am I your Pokemon or something?” See, Neil could even make some references of his own from time to time. He was pleased that no one challenged him on paying for the carnival tickets, which was admittedly a trivial thing, and his hand tightened around Sam’s once they were actually inside. The mention of a Titanic obsession made him chuckle, though he couldn’t recall whether or not it had ever been mentioned to him. “I thought everyone loved Titanic,” he remarked. “Well, almost everyone. It’s epic, no?” Personally the song drove him crazy and he thought the whole thing was overrated, but he wasn’t about to voice that opinion if Lin was some obsessed fanboy. Maybe it was Leo. Everybody loved Leo. “Dying in cold water sounds cold to me. But he died in cold water to save the girl, right? So yeah, I guess that’s romantic.” He grinned at her when she asked if he’d drown in cold water for her, all charm and gallantry. “Of course I would, baby.” He leaned in and stole another quick kiss, not really paying attention to where Lin was leading them, like an excited child paving the way for the rest to follow, until they all came to a halt. Bumper cars were fun enough but if Sam was hanging back, well so was he.
He pulled a face at the mention of line dancing, but a roller coaster and/or haunted house sounded just fine by him. “You two go, have fun,” he said, shooing them away like he was the parent and Lin and Louis were his kids. “Sam and I will watch. Take sides. Make bets. That kind of thing.”
"I personally think dying in the cold water for someone is romantic and stupid all at once, but all the most romantic things are, I think." Louis watched Lin strain like a puppy on a leash toward the bumper cars. There seemed no question where they were going, whatever Sam and Neil wanted to do. It would be good for them to head off by themselves, Louis thought. Even if things were still strange, the fact that they were reconnecting, that things might be alright between them enough that they wanted some alone time, that felt right.
Plus, Lin needed looking after, clearly. The smile he turned toward him was tired but fond. "I don't know the Scooby Doo song," he said. The name of the show in his mouth sounded even sillier with the accent, almost obscenely Scottish. "But I will smash you with one of those cars, if you like."
Lin did not need looking after. He was an adult. A perfectly capable, if exceedingly adorable and excitable adult, who happened to wear rad-ass shoes and spend hours a day yo-yoing. Still, he allowed the so-called looking after, because Sam and Neil should do their thing, and he was kind and he was giving and he would exact revenge in the form of forcing Louis to buy him an elephant ear or cotton candy later. Maybe he was a little disappointed not to sing the song for Sam, but there was time later, surely—now that Ian was gone, it wasn’t like… worse could happen, right? (Please, Jesus, let that be right. And if wrong, Jesus, please decide to come back soon.)
“Dying in cold water is totally fucking romantic, but I won’t count the ways, because you must—” There was an exaggerated pause to provide a stage for a very expressive eyebrow waggle, accompanied by a pen-knife slash of a grin, the same kittenish thing he always used. The carnival music blared with precise whimsy. “—Smash me. With one of the cars, of course. Because I would like nothing more.”
Lin gave Louis an innocent smile with the flip of some invisible switch when the black gates were opened on the area and, releasing the man’s hand, pattered off to climb into the nearest yellow, sticky car that forced his knees to his elbows. (Oh, and Jesus, sorry to bother you, but thanks for making him small.) It jerked forward when his shoe lit up the iron plate gas pedal.
The Bumper Cars were not exactly Louis' ride of choice, not the carnival attraction he would have chosen, given the opportunity to pick anything. The Ghost House, maybe, or the sideshow if they even had one of those here. One of the rides that swooped up and down and made him laugh, made his stomach feel like it would drop out through his chest cavity. He hadn't been to that many carnivals, but the times he had gone, on dates and with friends, no one had ever seemed interested in the bumper cars. As he climbed into the bright green car with the unfortunately tacky wheel, he wondered if this was such a good idea. But the more he thought about it, the more the idea of slamming into strangers in a car appealed to him, for some reason. He wrapped both long hands around the steering wheel, and when the ride kicked into gear, the music blaring to life and the lights flashing, Louis spun the squeaking wheel toward the nearest car and hit it full speed ahead, making a short, triumphant sound, as if he'd won a minor prize.
As Louis’ garish little car slammed into a nearby woman’s (a woman who screamed, apparently unaware that ‘bumper cars’ entailed bumping, as well as cars), Lin laughed, pleased that the dude was at least getting into it. He hadn’t seen Louis really fucking smile before, or get into anything that wasn’t taking a gun to murder Ian, and it was pretty cute.
Taking the time to parse his thoughts made Lin a particularly easy target. He’d been sitting there, head cocked to the side, watching the blond man in the green car. Several others had taken notice. He was hit not less than three times in a row, badgered into a corner, before he could even turn his wheel to escape. By then, he was swearing at the other drivers.
His heart had been jarred by the surprise and refused to back down now. As he flattened the electric gas pedal to gummy floor, Lin tried hard to forget again, that anything was happening outside of the chain-link fence that surrounded the carnival, high on all sides, and topped with curls of barbed wire.
Of course, the fucking bumper cars always were a short ride. Lin managed to seek out Louis and deliver to him the prophesized slamming with his own look of triumph, before the power fizzled and the man went around to let the next batch of suckers in. The boy hopped from his little car, his brain pulsing in his skull. He found Louis again and sidled up to him.
“That’s what you meant, right?”
Louis stumbled from the car slightly unsteadily, after a few minutes of sharp, abrupt bumping with the cars. That smile was still there, small but real, and turned on Lin. He wanted this. To feel like the teenager he'd never properly been, riding carnival rides and flushing under the rippling, garish ride lights. "Completely," he said. He took Lin tentatively by the arm, sliding though and linking together, and walked toward Sam and Neil, who had reappeared in the distance. He didn't want to think, anymore. It was good to simply have a moment of forgetting.
Sam watched Lin and Lou head toward the bumper cars, and she watched them get into the line there. And, yeah, so she was worried about Daniel, but she was glad that Lou seemed chill, and she was glad that Lin wasn't fucking screaming, and she was perfectly willing to let them slam each other with little cars to their hearts content. And, yeah, so she was in a pretty good fucking mood, too. She couldn't remember the last time Neil kissed her without her initiating it. No, that wasn't right. She couldn't remember that ever happening period, and it gave her some of her old confidence back.
Instead of waiting for Neil to tug them somewhere, Sam took the initiative and pulled him toward a bench, where they could watch Lin and Lou fuck around. But, at the last minute, she changed her mind and swerved toward the Enterprise, which was right fucking there, and which looked like a painless ferris wheel at first.
The line was short, and it moved fast, and Sam looked up at Neil with a challenging expression. "Scared, baby?" she asked, as the ride rose and spun ahead of them, her back to the person in front of them and her head tipped back to look up at Neil's face.
Neil would have been perfectly content to sit on a bench and watch Lin and Louis behave like kids. He’d even considered taking a video of the bumper car madness on his--well, Norman’s--tablet phone thing, but then Sam was dragging him towards some ferris wheel and he abandoned that idea. He wasn’t afraid of rides, necessarily, since he’d never actually had enough experience with roller coasters or crazy whirly things to decide whether or not he liked them, but it was no secret that he wasn’t exactly the thrill-seeking type. Still, he could manage a ferris wheel. The thing just went around in circles, right? No big deal.
Except it wasn’t just a harmless ferris wheel. Neil watched as the ride rose and spun, eyebrows raised, and he wished the line would have moved a little slower just so he could prep himself for this insanity. “Scared?” He scoffed, hah, he laughed in the face of fear. “No way. Looks like fun.” He grinned down at her, as though challenging her to challenge him.
Sam laughed as his eyebrows raised, enjoying the very moment when he realized this wasn't going to be some really slow, scenic view of Las Vegas where he got to cop a feel. She liked that grin he gave her, even though she was pretty fucking sure that he didn't think the ride looked like fun at all. But there was something super endearing about him being willing pretend, and the smile she gave him was more adoring than she realized, but whatever. She smoothed his shirt down over his chest, and she glanced over his shoulder to where the bumper cars were crashing against each other in the distance. "I hope they don't get hurt," she said idly, and she really wasn't talking about the ride, but the concern fled as quickly as it came, and the line moved forward.
Another glance up at the twirling ride, and Sam turned her attention back to him. "We'll make it on the next set," she told him, as if it was a great thing that they wouldn't have to wait any longer. And, yeah, for her it was. She'd always been a thrill seeker, but she hadn't really felt like seeking anything thrilling in fucking ages. Teenagers screamed and jostled around them, and he was probably the oldest guy there. The entire park was full of drunk youth this time of night, and the atmosphere was contagious. She took his hands, and she settled them on the bare skin between her shirt and the waistband of her cargo pants, and the look she gave him was just as fucking challenging as the one he'd lobbed at her a second earlier. "You can't think you're going to manage to out-challenge me in anything, baby," she said, some of that old street-smug showing through in her thick Jersey accent.
After what had become, in his mind, months and months of making her downright miserable, it was nice to see her smile and laugh again. And hey, Neil didn’t mind that adoration directed towards him either. He hadn’t felt deserving of it as of late but he felt like he was, finally, on the right track this time. When she looked over at the bumper cars he followed her gaze, mistaking her concern for physical injury rather than something else. “What, on those things? They’ll be fine,” he assured her, amused. Two grown men (well, mostly grown) getting hurt on a kid’s ride would be pretty fucking funny. But then the line was moving, and he stopped thinking about Louis, Lin and bumper cars and more about whether or not these rides had met any safety standards. He doubted it.
The news that they were up next didn’t exactly thrill Neil, but he acted like it did. “Great,” he told her, a grin and feigned enthusiasm to complete the facade. But hey, if a bunch of drunk teenagers could ride the thing without fear, so could he. Most of the crowd was a good decade or so younger than him, a fact he noticed, but he didn’t dwell on it and he was pretty sure everyone else was too intoxicated to care either. “No?” He tipped his head to the side and, after a moment, used his hands on her skin to tug her a little closer. “Why can’t I, sweetheart?” It was all tease and nothing serious, entertained smile and warm gaze as he looked down at her.
Sam wasn't used to pet names from him, and they always made her fucking blush a little, which was absolutely fucking ridiculous. But they did, and it's not like she could fucking do anything about it. And, sure, her high was starting to wane, but there was still enough left to make everything ok, and she might have stared a little when he gazed down at her like that, but so what? She didn't even pay attention to his reassurances that Lin and Lou were ok, because they were way the fuck over there, and if she focused too much on them, then she'd start thinking about Daniel, and Daniel would make her start thinking about fucking Toby, Iris, Ian, and all that fucking mess. So, yeah, no. She just swerved her hips a little when he tugged her closer, the movement intentionally exaggerated, more street and slut than anything seductive. But it came with a tentative rock against him, one that was more pot-bravado than anything else, scared-slow, but fuck it, she could do this.
And then the line moved, and Sam grabbed Neil's fingers and tugged him forward. She showed her bracelet, the one that included rides for the whole night, then she lifted his arm and did the same for him, and she yanked on his fingers when the attendant pointed them at their car. "You first, baby," she said, waiting for him to crawl into the tight, caged space and sit, and then she crawled in after, her back against his chest and her knees bent. She sucked in an involuntary, nervous breath when the attendant came to check the latches on the belts, and she exhaled hard enough after to make it really fucking obvious that she hadn't expected the mini-freakout. Ok, so maybe finding another joint after this would be good, yeah? But once the ride cage was closed, it was better, and it was a slow twirl (fully upright) as they waited for the other cars to fill. She tried to look over her shoulder at Neil, and she gave him a gap-toothed, apologetic smile. "Ok, so I freaked a little," she conceded.
This was more PDA than Neil was used to and they were probably acting like a couple of teenagers themselves, but Neil didn’t care. He liked that something as simple as a pet name could get her blushing and, while he didn’t push, the way she moved her hips and rocked against him was encouraging. It was progress. His fingers moved reassuringly over her skin, enough to be felt but lacking the pressure that might have made her feel trapped or otherwise constrained. He might have said something, or tried, if the line hadn’t moved just then, and she was tugging him along and displaying their wristbands before his mind could really keep up with what was happening. There was no more time to worry about safety or the quality of the ride, and he wasn’t going to look like a wimp in front of her or a bunch of teenagers who loudly proclaimed their excitement as they clambered into their own cars. He was all feigned boldness and confidence as he climbed into the car and sat, but her nervous breath and hard exhale immediately spiked his concern. He wasn’t sure if he should offer her an out, but he could feel her breathing against his chest and aside from the initial panic she didn’t seem to be getting any worse.
Still, Neil was apprehensive, and he rubbed her shoulders soothingly as she looked over her shoulder. “It’s fine,” he assured her. “I think I’m about to have a panic attack anyway,” he added, deadpan. “You sure you’re okay?”
Sam was still young enough to feel invincible, even after all the shit with Ian, and it never occurred to her that the ride might fall out of the fucking sky or something. Monsters lived in houses and had enough fucking money to do whatever the fuck they wanted, and those were the things in her nightmares, not carnival rides with rickety parts and questionable carnies. She didn't even realize he was seriously freaked, not after that thing with the belt and the attendant, and his voice almost surprised her. Like it was wrong, and didn't sound like it was supposed to when she was panicking. But a few seconds in the quietly spinning ride cage, and she was breathing normally again. She loosened the belt just enough to turn and get a better look at his face (because, yeah, fuck gravity) in the flashing-bulb reflection of the ride's lights, and the smile she gave him was a little tentative and crooked, questioning but genuine. "You're seriously scared of the fucking ride?" she asked him, grin widening. "I got you out on a flimsy fire escape like thirty stories up once, with your dick out, and you're scared of this?" And ok, so that made everything a little fucking better somehow. "Is the lack of dick the problem, baby?" she teased.
She'd just managed to snake her hand back between them, behind her back and against the front of his jeans, when the ride started moving in earnest, and then it was, "fuck," and fumbling to get the belt tight again before the ride sped up and spun them upside down. And she thought there was something fucking amazing about being scared of something she chose to be fucking scared of, something that she could walk away from. And she screamed because it was fucking fun, and she screamed until she went fucking hoarse with it.
“I am not scared.” Neil's denial was immediate an all macho desire to keep his pride intact, more suited to teenage boys than grown men. It was a ruse, for the most part, because he didn’t actually want to admit to apprehension (not fear, thank you very much) when it was caused by something so stupid. “But, you know, the fire escape was different. I wasn’t strapped in. Just worth mentioning,” he pointed out innocently. As for the part about his dick being out, he just shook his head and laughed. “That had nothing to do with,” he began, but then her hand was moving back and he was torn between asking her if she was nuts and finding a way to encourage her. It was enough to, temporarily, make him forget that the ride wasn’t stationary, and he realized too late that there was really nothing to hold onto and the belt was the only thing keeping them in place. He wanted to close his eyes, to let it just pass by in a blur, but instead he forced them to stay open.
Neil didn’t scream, not like her. He intentionally bit down on his tongue to keep quiet, but muttered curses still slipped free, strung together in an endless loop. With few other options his arms went around her because she was something to cling to, something grounded and solid, even if she did end up teasing him about it once the damn ride was over.
The ride felt like it lasted forever, and it felt like it hardly lasted at all and, when the ride cages started lowering and slowing, Sam let her head roll back against Neil's shoulder. She laughed a nervous laugh, the kind that came after too much screaming and so much fucking adrenaline, and she looked down and noticed how tight his arms were wrapped around her waist. "What was that about not being scared, baby?" she asked, scream-hoarse, and she got in a kiss to his jaw before the attendant opened the cage for them to exit. And, yeah, she took care of the seatbelt herself this time, waving the attendant off with something that was obviously slightly panicked, but forceful just the same.
Sam climbed out of the ride, and she held out a hand to help Neil out. "It's polite to help the elderly, yeah?" she asked, teasing as a pair of teenagers rushed past them to take the car they'd vacated. And the ground was a little uneven, and the earth was spinning a little fucking bit, and it was kind of like the high from the joint that had so worn the fuck off during all that yelling. She yanked on his hand, pulling him out into the middle of the midway, and then navigating the crowd back to the bumper cars. It took a second to pick Lin and Lou out in the commotion, and a man vacated the edge of a bench a few seconds later. She gave Neil a good, hard nudge, and then she sat down on his lap, thighs on either side of his thighs, and her feet swinging against the carnival dirt irreverently. She leaned back against his chest, and she watched the bumper cars. "You make a pretty good fucking chair," she commented, starting to sound a little calmer, a little more careful now that the high had gone. And, sure, it was PDA, but it felt safer to be close to him, especially with all these strangers and all this sound, though she wasn't about to admit that shit.
The fact that he’d managed to endure the ride without closing his eyes was a source of pride, though Neil wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a display of courage. Considering the fact that he’d never done carnivals or amusement parks, though, he thought he hadn’t done all that badly. He let out a long exhale once the ride came to a stop, unaware of just how tightly he’d been holding on to her until she mentioned it. “I said I wasn’t scared,” he retorted, immediately loosening his hold and attempting to act casual, though the kiss to his jaw made him smile. He noticed the way she waved the attendant off but didn’t comment on it, since the kid didn’t push and went off to unbuckle the others, mostly laughing teenagers who tugged uselessly on their belts as though that might actually accomplish something.
“Are you calling me elderly?” Neil gave her a mock insulted look and nudged her hand aside, climbing out of the ride himself just in time to make way for their replacements. He felt okay, not really dizzy or anything, but he didn’t have much time to compose himself before she was tugging on his hand and leading him through the crowd back to the bumper cars. “You know, we could have had just as much fun doing those,” he muttered, but the gruffness in his voice was entirely feigned, and he pretended to stumble before taking a seat on the bench and letting her climb onto his lap. ”Just what I’ve always wanted, to succeed in life as a chair.” His voice became wistful, a cover for his laughter, and he wound his arms around her again, gentler this time, as she leaned back against his chest. “I wonder if Louis and Lin had as much fun as we did,” he remarked, deadpan.
"I think you're full of shit," Sam said of him not being scared. "The whole point is to be fucking terrified," she explained, turning slightly on his lap without displacing his arms around her waist. She poked his stomach with a hard, unforgiving finger. "Here. You're supposed to fucking feel it here." Another poke. "No haunted houses or roller coasters in the Donovan childhood, yeah?" she asked, though she already knew the fucking answer. It made her think of Ash's silly and hopeful assertion that Neil's parents might actually not mind him dating a white-trash junkie. It was fucking hysterical, yeah? "And, yeah, you're super-elderly," she teased, looking back at the bumper cars as he assured her they could have been just as fun. "Whiplash is boring if you aren't freaking out and we would have been in different cars," she told him smugly, because her choice was obviously fucking better than Lin's had been, thank you very much. His deadpan earned him a laugh. "Asshole. I could find some other guy to take me on the rides," she threatened, though it was completely bullshit, and they both knew it.
She watched the bumper cars slow, then stop, and she watched for a few seconds longer as Lou and Lin got out of their cars. "I think I'm going to make them go dance," she said with a grin and a turn of her waist to place a long, slow and completely fucking sloppy kiss on Neil's mouth. She considered jumping to her feet, but fuck it. Neil could just suffer the fucking PDA of being a chair or whatever. It wouldn't kill him.
Louis came up on Sam and Neil with his arm linked in Lin's, still smiling a little. He still looked tired and gaunt, but less so. Something about doing something as silly as riding the bumper cars had suffused him with something different from the worry he'd carried in on his shoulders, difficult to pin down but very much there. "How did it go?" he asked Sam, once she'd concluded her sloppy kiss. He was struck by the sensation that things would be alright. Eventually.
"Neil didn't cry on the ride, so that's a win," Sam said, shit-eating grin and her feet hitting the floor again. She reached back for Neil's hand, unthinking, and she ruffled Lou's messed up fucking curls with her other hand. She gave Lin a look that was all well? where the fuck to next? because he was totally their fucking tour guide, complete with television jingles and light up shoes to guide the way. And, yeah, so maybe she was matchmaking a little, because she assumed Lin might want to go somewhere he and Lou could be alone-r. And it never occurred to her that maybe Lin wasn't into Lou, because the little bitch loved Titanic, for the love of fucking god, and she assumed he was just a romantic who had a soft-spot for more than one person. Yeah, so maybe she thought love would win out in the end or something pathetic, whatever.
One thing was for sure, though, Sam wasn't letting go of Neil's fingers, because the jostle of people was getting louder and more boisterous as the night went on, and maybe she could find a drink, you know, while Lin and Lou sucked each other off somewhere. Regardless, she tugged on Neil's fingers with a little more insistence, intentionally putting distance between them and the boys, the decision an abrupt one, and she grinned once they were alone. "Now maybe they'll hook up," she told Neil, before dragging him in the direction of the haunted house and (hopefully) a beer along the way.