They drove further and further out of the city, hitting straight up wilderness by the time the sun started rising properly. They followed a winding mountain road through tall trees and along terrifying drops while snow fell outside. Every time the boat trailer they were towing hit a larger-than-usual bump or rocked in the wind, it made the whole car feel like it was going to fall over.
Darcy leaned over Loki to look out at the drop beyond the very narrow shoulder and guard rail that wouldn’t stop a Smart Car from going over the edge, let alone a giant Jeep towing a boat.
"So… You’ll do your bamf thing if we start to fall off to our certain deaths, right?" Darcy asked.
Loki sighed tiredly. "Do you expect me to take you with me?" he asked.
Darcy wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, and was too tired to figure it out. The boat behind them lurched again, and without thinking about what she was doing, Darcy threw herself against Loki’s side and wrapped her arms around him. She was going to make damn sure he took her with him if he went anywhere.
"Get off of me," Loki said, trying to sound threatening while being way too tired to pull it off.
"No. You’re taking me with you," Darcy told him.
Loki rolled his eyes and tried to push her away, but Darcy held on tight, digging her fingers into his shirt. Eventually, Loki gave up and flopped limply back into his seat.
"I hate you," he muttered.
"Good," said Darcy.
Soon, the steep drops became not so steep, and eventually leveled out all together. The road followed along the banks of a wide river, until Dennis turned right and drove over a long, low bridge. Darcy looked out at the water and all the exposed junk peeking up from the surface, wondering how high it got during the spring and summer.
Across the river, they started to climb again, this time with the steep drops on the other side of the road. Darcy was almost able to handle it, until Dennis turned off the main road and down a narrow little path that was almost certainly not open to winter traffic. As they crossed over a dam, Darcy tried to look everywhere at once, looking out for rangers or cops or big black SUVs. They got across without being seen by anyone, and followed the road along the bank of a lake. The water was low, even on the lake side of the dam, with what definitely looked like ice along the shore.
"So, on a scale of one to government shut downs, how stupid is this plan of ours?" Darcy asked.
"I don’t do winter crossings very often," said Paul. "It’s pretty stupid."
"Awesome," Darcy muttered.
They pulled off the road to a large, sandy outcropping. Darcy had never seen a boat launch before, but she imagined they must look like large, sandy outcroppings at the side of lakes. Dennis turned the car around and backed the boat into the water, somehow managing not to buckle the trailer. Paul hopped out of the car and started doing something loud and scrapey outside, making everything lurch and lunge back and forth again.
Finally, it all stopped, and Dennis pulled away to park back up away from the water.
"Okay. If you want to back out, now’s the time," he said.
Darcy looked back out at the lake, and then over at Loki, who had somehow managed to go back to sleep. She pushed against him a few times, waking him up and making him open the door.
"Don’t have much of a choice," she reasoned. She grabbed their bags and followed Loki outside. It was colder than she expected, and she was so not dressed appropriately for mountain winter weather, or boating. She needed about two more coats for both of those.
Dennis locked up the car and followed them over to the boat, which Paul had helpfully beached in the sand so they wouldn’t have to get into the freezing cold lake water. Dennis helped Darcy in, with Loki climbing aboard like there was nothing at all unusual with what they were doing. Then again, Space Vikings probably spent all their time on Space Oceans, in their Space Longboats. It was probably the first thing since crash landing in the desert that Loki actually understood.
After quickly looking over everything, Dennis nodded at Paul and turned back to the car. He opened the rear hatch and pulled out his bow and a bunch of deadly-looking arrows with razor-sharp steel tips, and slid them into a cheap quiver. Darcy watched Dennis with wide eyes, inching closer to Loki in case they had to start dodging arrows all of a sudden. Loki glanced over at Darcy, and as Dennis climbed into the boat, Loki nudged Darcy to the other side. They had some distance between them and Dennis’ murder weapon, but it still didn’t feel like enough. They wouldn’t have enough space between them until they were in Canada and Dennis was still in Washington.
Dennis and Paul used the wooden oars to cast off from the banks before Paul started the outboard motor and started pointing the boat in the right direction. He went slowly at first, looking out over the bow into the water below, probably trying not to run over any submerged trees or lake monsters.
"So, we just have to get across this, and then we’re in Canada?" asked Darcy. She thought she could see the far bank from where they were, but wasn’t sure if the lake didn’t just wind around the mountains.
"This? No, this is Diablo," Paul said as he gave the motor more juice and opened up the throttle. "We have to carry the boat over to Ross from here."
Darcy looked out at the snow that was starting to fall a little more heavily. "What? Carry it? For how far?"
No-one ever told her that getting into Canada would be such a workout.
"About a mile," Paul said.
Darcy flapped her arms in despair, wishing someone had told her that sooner. She might have tried to actually sleep the night before.
As they moved faster across the water, the wind kicked up and bit at Darcy’s face and whipped at her hair. She turned into Loki’s side and buried her face into his shirt, trying to keep most of the wind off of her. The uneven rock of the boat was already starting to get to her, but she ignored the rising sourness in her belly as best she could. Every now and then, the boat would jump up into the air and slam down so hard it made her teeth clack together and every bone in her body crunch. She looked up to see Loki looking into the wind with an almost amused look on his face, apparently not even noticing the cold.
The lake slowly narrowed into a river, with high, steep walls of mountain on either side. Paul kept the boat as close to the center of the river as he could, slowing only to take the boat around corners. After what felt like hours of rough water and hard wind, Paul slowed down and pulled the boat up to another boat launch. There was still plenty of river to go, but this was apparently the end of the line. Paul beached the boat in the sand again, letting them step onto the bank without getting wet. Once everyone was out, it became a moot point anyway, because he and Dennis pulled the little metal boat out of the water and brought half the river with it.
"Come on. Everybody help," Dennis said.
Darcy’s hands were frozen into useless claws that didn’t even want to try to grip the side of the boat. She tried to hold on, doing her best not to let her shivering make her drop her part of the boat. It was heavy, but not as heavy as she’d thought it would be. If she wasn’t freezing, it might have actually been kind of easy to hold onto.
The only thing that made her feel better was that Dennis and Paul both seemed to be having the same trouble. Every few seconds, one of them would slip and the boat would drop dangerously.
"Put it down," Loki grumbled. He let go of his end, and suddenly the whole thing felt about 100 times heavier. They all tried to control the boat’s fall to the ground, still holding up the stern to keep from breaking the motor. Loki emptied out the boat of all the oars and bows and everything else, tossing them carelessly to the side, before lifting the boat over his shoulder and carrying on up the gravel trail alone.
"Yeah, that makes sense," Darcy said, not even surprised anymore.
She picked up the oars and followed after Loki, while the other two gaped for a few more moments.
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