Author's note: This is the sequel to my story "A Hot Summer Night". I'm not sure it makes a whole heap of sense if you haven't read that first. You'll find it in my profile. So go and have a look, I'll wait. *muzak plays* You're back? Awesome! On with the show!
Disclaimer: Loki is (sadly) not mine. Neither is anything else created by Marvel that you might recognise.
Walking between realms wasn't that difficult, if you knew what to look for and how to protect yourself in the in-between place. If your only requirement was to be in the other realm it was child's play, really. Slightly harder was targeting your journey to arrive at a known location in the other realm, thus cutting down the amount of overland distance you needed to travel once there. Harder still was targeting an unknown location based on a description or a set of criteria. At the height of the skill was targeting your journey to arrive by a specific person, regardless of their location within the realm.
Loki was skilled at all of these - and how not, when he'd been using his abilities for so long to come and go from Asgard without notice? - but it was this final application of realm-walking that he employed now. It had been about a month and a half since his last visit to Midgard. In that time the mortal he had passed the night with had never been far from his thoughts but he had resisted the temptation to return for as long as possible. Even now, as he allowed his memories of that night to fill his mind and act as a lodestone, he refused to dwell on why. He also refused to consider what her reaction might be to his appearance after such a delay. Actually, no, that wasn't quite true. He knew what he expected her reaction to be: anger, hurt, betrayal. A part of him felt this would be for the best. She would rant and rave and demand that he never speak to her again, and he would leave and maybe with such an ending he would finally be able to stop thinking of her. Yet there was a part of him that already grieved at the loss, and that part he wasn't sure he understood or wanted to understand.
There. He was close now. Steeling himself, he stepped from the in-between place to find himself in a Midgardian bed chamber. Remaining cloaked in the shadows where he had emerged, he looked around. A chamber-for-hire, he decided, given the lack of personal touches and the large container full of clothes open on a chair. Movement caught his eye and he found himself smiling as she stepped into view. Karla, whom he couldn't help thinking of as his mortal, even though he knew he probably no longer should. He hesitated, unwilling to do more than stare at her and drink in the details for now.
She was evidently preparing for some occasion, clad in a short, tight dress that followed her curves quite delightfully and wearing boots that added several inches to her height. I'd only have to dip my head a little to kiss her now, he thought with a grin before ruthlessly squashing that impulse. Shaking his head he watched as she paused in front of the mirrored dresser and applied paint to her eyes and lips. In the moonlight it had been impossible to make out details like colour, and it had appeared that her hair was dark like his own. This was true, but what he hadn't expected was the streak of vivid crimson that ran from her right temple. The effect was eye-catching and he suddenly found himself wanting desperately to know what colour her eyes were. It was a question that had niggled at him for a while now.
Chiding himself for his nervousness - she's just a mortal; you barely know her; show some backbone! - he nonetheless waited until she bent to retrieve a dropped brush before stepping forward into the light. She caught sight of him in the mirror as she straightened and dropped the brush again as she spun around with a little shriek of surprise. Summoning his usual mask of arrogance he smiled at her and said quietly, "Hello Karla."
Karla stared at him wide-eyed for a long moment, one hand gripping the edge of the dresser for support. Her eyes were ice blue, he noted, but the swirl of emotion in them meant they couldn't in any way be considered cold. Then he couldn't notice anything more as she launched herself at him with a cry and threw her arms around his neck. As his arms reflexively came up around her and held her to him he felt a sliver of tension drain away even as he silently cursed himself for feeling such relief. Still, having prepared himself for anger and rejection it was wonderful to have her in his arms again. Finally she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up at him with damp eyes. "I thought you weren't coming back," she whispered.
"I wasn't," he admitted, wincing at the flash of hurt in her eyes. And as had happened before, he found himself wanting to explain himself in a way he did to no one else. "When I left, I intended to return," he clarified. "Then I found myself thinking of you. Constantly. Remembering the things we did, the things we talked about. Imagining our next meeting. Thinking about things I wanted to say to you next time I saw you, not to mention the things I wanted to do to you." He couldn't quite keep the smile from his lips at that, and she gave him a small smile in return. He swallowed hard as he continued, "It... discomfited me. I've never been so... obsessed... with someone as I was with you. It felt dangerous, to be prey to such strong sentiment."
"It made you feel vulnerable." Her words were soft and full of too much understanding.
It woke an ache deep inside him and he nodded. "I told myself that it was too risky to return, that I was better off forgetting about you, about the night at the lake. And I tried as hard as I could to forget, believe me."
Karla studied him in silence for a while, and he could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she considered his words. At last she asked, "What changed?"
Loki laughed mockingly and shook his head. "It didn't work. No matter what I tried, as soon as there wasn't something claiming my attention - and occasionally when there was - my thoughts returned to you." He shrugged. "So I decided that since I was obviously already vulnerable I may as well enjoy it." His smile was more confident than he felt, and he couldn't bring himself to reveal even to her that he had fully expected her to summarily throw him out.
Surprising him seemed to be her specialty, however. She stared at him for a moment longer then sighed. "I should be mad at you," she told him. "I was, for a while, when it became obvious you weren't coming back. But I guess part of me never really expected you to. I started thinking of that night as a gift, a time out of time. One night only, no repeat performance. I mean, why would you come back?" She was almost talking to herself now, but she pulled back slightly and gestured to him. "Look at you. You're a prince, a god! You're intelligent, and gorgeous, and powerful, and... and I'm just me. Mortal. Ordinary. Dull."
Loki stared at her in shock, a lump forming in his throat. Anger he had been prepared for, but not this quiet resignation. Not this sense of abandonment. What was worse was that it was all too familiar to him, the feeling that what you were getting was no more than you deserved because you just weren't worth anything more. He'd felt like that for so much of his life, and worked hard to cover it up with arrogance and biting wit. When he compared the woman before him to her confident and daring manner the last time he saw her... His hands tightened around her waist and drew her back to him. "Mortal I'll agree with, but the other two? Hardly. Do you truly think I would have become so fixated on someone dull and ordinary?"
Karla's smile was sad as she pointed out, "I had no reason to believe you'd ever given me another thought until now."
He felt his cheeks warm and ducked his head in acknowledgement. "True. And while I know that an apology is easy enough to give..." He hesitated a moment, then plunged on, "I am truly sorry that I hurt you. I had not given enough thought to the way my actions would affect you." The strange part was, he actually meant it. He could probably count the number of genuine apologies he'd ever given on one hand and still have fingers to spare, but he did honestly regret hurting her. And somehow, in the face of her acceptance and understanding, it didn't feel demeaning or embarrassing to apologise either.
The young woman in his arms blinked in surprise, then her lips quirked with a smile that held a hint of familiar spirit. "Easy enough to give for some, perhaps," she murmured. "Not, I think, for you. Thank you." When his flush deepened she chuckled. "I said before that I should be angry," she admitted. "The truth is, I'm just too damned glad to see you to really be angry with you. Which probably makes me a sad and sorry excuse for independent womanhood, but there you go." She shrugged and traced one finger along the curve of his jaw. "I've missed you, Loki."
If he tried to speak now, Loki knew that his voice would be humiliatingly choked. Instead, he allowed himself to indulge his earlier inclination. Lowering his head, he brushed his lips softly over hers. He could feel her smiling as she responded, following as he made to pull away. That was all the encouragement he needed to claim her mouth for a more serious kiss. He took his time, teasing and exploring until he could feel her clutching at his shoulders for balance as much as to pull him closer and he was feeling a trifle light-headed himself.
When they finally came up for air, Karla's smile was closer to the wicked grin he remembered so well. "I'll have to wear these boots more often when you're around," she said.
"Or I could just pick you up again," he countered with a smirk.
"Don't tempt me."
The words sent a jolt of pure desire right to his core, but he made himself release her when she stepped back. There would be time, and as before he found himself curious to see what she would do next.
What she did next made him laugh: she half-turned towards her dresser, paused, then turned back to look at his face intently for a moment. Nodding in satisfaction as she turned away again, she murmured, "Green."