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Wild Card

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The distance between here and Las Vegas seemed like an endless stretch to Velma. Fred was driving, Daphne riding shotgun beside him, her head on his shoulder. It was only natural that they were lost in their own little world while she, Shaggy and Scooby played gin rummy in the back.

It was a time of peace and complete silence. Velma studied the handful of cards she’d been dealt and tucked the paper bits between her fingers as she contemplated the bet, the shift, the promise of what Shaggy threatened to deal out.

“Like, pair of threes,” said Shaggy.

“Shag, you’re playing Go Fish,” Velma scolded gently, plucking a pair of sixes from Scooby’s mouth. “This is gin rummy.”

“Like, I thought aces were wild and sandwiches were low,” Shaggy said.

“This has nothing to do with sandwiches. Or real alcohol,” she added. “Maybe we should have started with something slightly less ambitious. Like Old Maid.”

“Maybe,” agreed Shaggy, squinting again at the hand of cards he’d been so recently dealt. “Say, Velms, are you feeling okay? You seem a little oogly?”

“Oogly?” she asked.

“Kinda freaky deaky, especially since we left home.” He grinned, uncrossing his gangly legs and leaning an elbow against his leg. “Would you like to like, rap? I’ve always got time to listen!”

Velma took a deep breath. “It’s not a big deal. I’ve just been a little bit homesick.”

“You?” he gasped. “You were, like, the only one of us who dug sleepaway camp!”

“So I was. This is different.” She crisply reshuffled the cards.

“C’mon, Vels! Spill it! I can’t keep on treating you like, like you’re made of glass and stuff!”

“It’s not that, Shag,” she reached up, adjusting her lenses, nervously crossing her legs again until she could squirm herself into sitting position. “Do you remember how you felt about Penelope back in Spring Falls?”

Shaggy nodded. “I thought she was a groovy chick, like, for a long time I couldn’t get her out of my head!”

Velma shifted her shoulders, words reluctantly choking forth. “That’s kind of how I feel about Vespa Scoot.”

“Vespa?!” gasped Shaggy. “Vespa, that roadie for the Wyrd Sisters?”

“Shh!” Velma hissed, pressing her palm to Shaggy’s lips. “I don’t want anyone to know yet!”

“Like, why not? Everyone knew how I felt about Penelope.” He grinned. “If you feel like that about Vespa, you should be singing it from the top of the Mystery Machine! Like, love is the greatest thing in the whole wide world, and anyone you like must be the gnarliest!”

She smiled. “Shag, I knew you’d feel that way, but…” she cringed and hiked a thumb in Fred and Daphne’s direction. “I don’t know if they’d understand.” She was suddenly grateful to Fred for blasting an oldies station at top volume. She watched Daphne’s head bob along to the music and felt a pit of worry grow in her stomach.

“Like, why would you think we’d care?” wondered Shag. “It doesn’t make you not the Vel I’ve known since I could barely crawl.”

“Because it’s not easy for me to talk to anybody about it,” she admitted. “It’s hard to admit to myself what I feel like, and it’s even harder to talk to people I care about.” She tucked her chin against her knee, then felt the hot, wet lol of Scooby’s tongue drape itself across her knee. Automatically, she reached out to scratch his neck.

“Like, don’t you think your dad would be groovy with it? He’s into that whole evolution thing - you’d be like, the most evolved daughter in the whole wide world when you told him!”

She shook her head. “He expects me to settle down like he did someday – take on a nice professorship at a little liberal arts college, maybe ending up on the campus police force. He’s not exactly the most progressive man in the world when it comes to his little girl.”

“But he was so cool to Fred and Scoob and I when we hung out together!” Shaggy gave her an awkward grin. “Maybe you’re being way harsh on him?”

Velma glared at him. “Trust me. I know my father.” She buried her face in Scooby’s neck. “This is going to mean nothing but trouble for me – for all of us.”

“Okay,” said Shaggy, gulping bravely. “Like, if you want, I’ll come with you and help you break the news to them.”

“You’d do that, Shag?” she murmured. Velma tucked her legs closer to Scooby’s side, leaning into the dog’s side.

“’Course I would, Vels!” Shaggy grinned. “Like, we’ve been bff’s since we were this high!” he held his open palm inches away from the floor.

At that, Velma smiled.

“Re roo!” Sooby offered emphatically, head butting up under her open palm. She continued to scratch him.

“What about Fred and Daphne?” she wondered. In silence, she admitted she envied the two teens, their easy, steady, society-approved relationship. But her own personal happiness didn’t look like a white picket fence and a rose garden: it looked like a library filled with richly-scented books and long walks in a beautiful glen; it was test tubes filled with bases and acids and life under a squinting

“I think they’ll be happy for you,” said Shaggy. The lovers were off in a world of their own still, Daphne clearly sleeping and Fred staring at the road. “Just like we are.”

Velma reached out instantly, taking Shaggy’s hand. “Thanks so much for listening to me.”

“Hey, no worries. I’m always gonna be there, Vels. No matter who you are, or where you’re coming from.”

It was the sort of friendship hewn from iron and the many, many times they had been chased by monsters together: it was the sort of connection that would never truly fade or die away. She smiled as she reshuffled the deck.

“All aces are wild this time.”

“Gotcha. And Vels: you don’t back down when giant sharktopusses are trying to eat us. We won’t back down when someone’s calling you awful names.”

Tears came to her eyes, but she blinked them away. Velma didn’t do happy tears, no matter how much these two meant to her. She bit back her emotions and started to deal.