"Look, I'm sorry Tony. I'm just really not in the mood to party right now," I said for what seemed like the hundredth time that evening.
"We just saved the world. You should be celebrating," he complained, throwing his hands up in the air. His eyes were already starting to become bloodshot. Vaguely, I wondered how many drinks he'd had so far tonight.
Tony quickly glanced around the room, looking for some excuse to make me stay. His eyes fell on the god of thunder. "Think of Thor! He will be disappointed if you leave."
I eyed where Thor was standing, talking animatedly to his girlfriend, Jane. "I think he'll be fine without me."
"Ande, relax. It's a party. Have some fun once in a while and quit worrying about everything." He placed his hands on his hips and raised an eyebrow.
"This isn't really my idea of fun." My eyes scanned the crowded party room of Tony's New York mansion, feeling self-conscious. I looked down at my outfit. It was a deep purple dress with a scooped neckline a little lower than I would have liked and it twirled out like a bell when I spun. Pepper had picked it out earlier, ignoring my complaints. She had all but forced me into it. It was lovely, really. At least I had been able to talk her out of the heels- after much pestering, she finally allowed me to wear my sandals.
"Still no word from Loki?" Tony sighed. I glanced away, shaking my head. My fists clenched up as I thought about him.
"Thor spoke with Odin earlier. Odin said that Loki is here on Earth, but he hasn't tried contacting us." I really didn't want to talk about this right now. I was afraid I'd start crying or something stupid like that if I did.
"Alright, fine," he sighed, obviously exasperated. "Go get some sleep. We'll have another party next week and I expect to see you there." His tone was stern, but his grin gave it all away.
"Of course Mr. Stark," I replied gratefully. I turned on my heels and walked out the wide open door, where various people were still spilling in. I easily dodged through the crowd, hoping that nobody would recognize me. I'd answered enough questions that night. From behind me, the music was cranked up to the point of blasting.
Finally succeeding in leaving the premises, I examined the tall buildings located around the mansion. Construction had already begun on several of them, large cranes suspending metal beams in the air as work ceased for the day. The place was vacant aside from the sounds of the party booming behind me. Out of ingrained habit, I reached up to twirl my owl pendant in my fingers. The tiny charm meant so much more now that I was on speaking terms with my mother again.
I started walking down the aligned streets of Manhattan. The silence still got to me, ringing in my ears. This wasn't the New York that I knew. No car horns. No people. No vendors. No newsstands. No obnoxious people trying to force you to buy their overpriced t-shirts. The relocation process had barely begun. We hadn't even tried bringing the citizens back to their homes in New York, as the place was still deemed unsafe. It made me wonder where Tony had acquired all the party-goers.
I was several blocks away before I looked up again. This was another construction site. Directly above me hung a steel I-beam. A lone figure perched on it as it swayed slightly in the spring wind.
The small wings on my sandals unfolded and began fluttering. Gently, I lifted off the ground and flew up to meet him. Flying wasn't scary anymore. It was a nice break from reality, actually.
My toes made contact with cold metal as I landed smoothly on the beam. It wasn't particularly thick, though it was long and wide. A golden, horned helmet sat some distance away from where its owner was seated.
"We've been looking for you for hours," I spoke up. He raised his head in acknowledgment of my words.
"Perhaps I didn't want to be found," he said bitterly. I took a step nearer to him, holding my arms out to balance me so I didn't fall off the beam.
"Where have you been?"
"Here," he said simply. "Watching the rebuilding efforts. Mortals can be quite resourceful when they must be."
I sat down and let my legs dangle over the edge.
"What happened with your father?" I nearly whispered, fearing the answer. A nagging voice in the back of my mind kept repeating 'he gets what he deserves, even if it's death.' I shoved that heart wrenching thought out of my head, cringing visibly.
"He has forgiven me. But that does not mean I am to escape punishment."
He fell silent, obviously unwilling to say what happened next.
"Go on," I prompted. He turned to face me.
"I have been banished for two mortal years. I will not be able to return to Asgard until I have done some sort of good for Midgard. I must fix what I have ruined."
"You could join us," I offered. He snorted. "We've already discussed it as a team. It was Thor's idea. Fury said he'd consider it."
"I see..." His voice trailed off as he gulped, shaking his head.
Even from up here, the music from the mansion was still audible. The lights were not visible, however. In fact, it was dark- as dark as it ever could become in Manhattan.
"Where does this leave us?" he finally brought up, not meeting my eyes.
"What do you mean?" I was pretty sure I knew what he was getting at, though.
"Are we friends? Or are we now enemies?" he sighed.
I didn't talk for a minute, thinking.
"Loki... Do you remember way back when we were younger and we went driving around in my sister's little yellow car to go rescue your brother?"
He looked up in surprise. "Yes. Are you still that terrible a driver?"
"Shut up," I glowered. "But remember when you were about to leave and I told you that you'd always be my best friend?"
He nodded slowly. "Did you mean that?"
"Loki, regardless of what I've said to you before, you still are and always will be my best friend," I explained carefully. "I meant everything I said."
"As did I, my dear," he whispered. "Do you remember when we went to that party together and we danced? I kept stepping on your feet."
"Are you still that bad at dancing?" I grinned smugly. He rolled his eyes and continued.
"The night I left Earth, I was dwelling on that memory. I promised myself then and there that if I ever returned to Midgard, I would make that dance up to you," he recalled. "Maybe I'll finally get that chance someday."
I couldn't help but smile. Maybe he was right. Maybe we would finally get the chance to dance. Below us, the music drifted to a slightly slower song.
"Vindicated," I whispered, recognizing the first few bars of the new song. Loki raised his eyebrows.
"Excuse me?" he asked, turning his body to face me.
"It's the name of this song," I said, gesturing vaguely down to the vacant streets the music was playing from. "It's one of my favorites."
"Isn't this the same song that was playing during our first dance?" he wondered aloud. My eyes widened; he was right. I was shocked that he would remember such an insignificant detail.
"Well, yeah. It is," I muttered, breaking my gaze away from his. My heart was fluttering, though I wasn't sure why.
"Which brings me to my question," he continued. "Will you allow me to make up that pitiful dance right now?" Loki held out his hand as an invitation.
I whipped my head back around to face him, smiling slightly. I hesitantly placed my hand in his. "I thought you'd never ask."
He stood and pulled me up with him. I noticed our problem then. "Um, I don't know if you've realized this, but there isn't exactly room to dance..." my voice faded away.
He waved his hand and the air surrounding our feet solidified into a glass like substance. "Problem solved."
He took a step out on the newly created dance floor. It seemed to support his weight well enough, but that didn't stop me from being nervous. Flying was an entirely different thing, because at least I had some control over it. Loki was a trickster and, well, I wasn't certain that he wouldn't let me fall just to tease me.
"It is quite safe, I assure you," he said as he noticed the reluctant look that appeared on my face.
"Okay, but don't let me go," I muttered.
"I never would." His smile was sincere, and there was no other motive behind it. So I took a step off of the beam.
It was terrifying, thrilling, and marvelous all at once. I could hardly feel the surface under my feet; it was as if the air itself was supporting me. I wanted to laugh with pure giddiness at the feeling. Loki's smile grew wider as he watched my face light up.
Still holding my right hand, he placed his empty hand gently on my waist. I reached up and set my other hand on his shoulder. We began to sway in time to the music.
It was peaceful being so high up, away from any noise except the music. Loki spun me around with grace.
"You have definitely improved since last time." I grinned, impressed.
"I've had quite a while to work on it," he murmured. He lifted up one hand and waved it with a flourish. In his palm appeared a shining golden flower. It was beautiful- sparkling and gleaming with a delicate stem. Loki placed it in my hair and we continued our dance.
He twirled me again and caught me in a low dip. Our faces were almost touching, but he leaned back at the last moment. I felt the slightest degree of sadness at that.
The dance went on, in careful time to the flowing music.
I rested my head on his shoulder as the music changed and was replaced by a beat with a much faster tempo. Loki didn't appear to have noticed. His head was resting atop my own.
"I think the song is over," I said, backing away shakily. My palms were sweaty, so I hurriedly wiped them on my dress. It didn't seem to help.
"Right. Sorry." He offered his hand and we walked back to sit on the steel beam together. His hands were a little moist too, I noted.
With our hands clasped, I couldn't help but smile. The breeze picked up and it blew my hair slightly out of place. Loki reached over and tucked a small strand back behind my ear. The small gesture made me shiver though his hands were warm for once. Maybe I was catching a cold... Yes, that would explain the semi-nauseous feeling that had developed in the pit of my stomach. But for some reason, it wasn't necessarily a bad feeling.
"There is something I have been meaning to talk to you about," he said, swallowing. His eyes moved to look at the street below us.
"What is it?" I asked, eyebrows raised. I bit down my tongue, but I quit when the metallic taste of blood spread over my taste buds.
"It's... Well... I..." he sighed, shaking his head pitifully. "I am supposed to be Loki with the silver tongue, the one who always knows just what to say. Lately, however, I never know what I should do and how I should act around… well, you, in particular."
I blinked, unsure of what to say. "Yeah?"
He sat in silence for a moment before turning his gaze towards me. Emerald eyes met my own grey. His look was smoldering. My breathing accelerated, highly anticipating the words that were about to spill out of his mouth. "What I really want to tell you is that... I love you. I always have, ever since we first met."
My mouth fell open and I tore my hand out of his, scooting at least a foot away from him. His eyes widened. "I'm sorry. Perhaps I should not have said that-"
He broke off because I had already thrown my arms around him in a tight embrace. He wrapped his own arms around me, cautiously at first, but more enthusiastic when I didn't let him go. I slowly released him, staring into his eyes. No, no, no, I can't do this right now, I thought to myself.
But it was too late. He leaned in, and our lips touched.
Thoughts rushed through my spinning head as our mouths moved in synchronization. He deepened the kiss and I tangled my hand in his silky black hair. I curled into his soft touch, trying to make sense of what was happening.
His lips became more frantic as he tightened his grip on my waist, crushing me against him. I was beginning to feel lightheaded, but that fact barely bothered me.
Oxygen seemed unimportant to me right now. All that mattered was Loki. He consumed my reeling thoughts, the taste of his lips filling my mouth. I could stay like this forever and be completely content.
But I needed to breathe, desperately now. I had to force my lips away from him, gasping. His cheeks, for once, were flushed pink, and his lips were swollen. His hair was completely mussed up. I imagined I probably looked about the same right now.
I pressed my hand to my mouth, feeling it tingle beneath my fingertips. Gently, Loki removed my fingers from my lips and placed both of his hands on either side of my face. Ever so softly, he placed a chaste, short kiss on my lips one more time before standing up and putting distance between us. He kept his back turned to me and gazed out over the darkened city.
Finally regaining my senses, I stood as well and walked out to where he was. I had spent years refusing love from anyone after the incident when I was fifteen. What had happened to me? I had sworn I would never let myself become physically and emotionally attached- in the romantic sense, of course. My hands dropped to my stomach. If only Loki knew what the thin layer of dress fabric covered... I repressed a shudder and shoved the terrible memory into the back of my brain.
I took a step closer. I couldn't believe I was about to say this.
"Loki..." I murmured. He didn't turn around.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I shouldn't have kissed you like that. It was uncalled for." I ignored his apology.
Instead, I grabbed his wrist, spinning him around to face me. I stood on my tiptoes and planted my lips on his again.
And then, with a tiny smile on my face, I whispered, "I love you too."
Author's Note:And they all lived happily ever after! Well... Not quite, but I guess you'll have to wait until the sequel to this sequel... Assuming that I actually *write* a sequel to this. I left a few plotlines loose, so I certainly could continue, if you want.
I'm a little sad to end this. I have had a blast writing it, and I am so blessed to have readers who have stuck with me through the better chapters and the worse. I love each and every one of you for still being here as I wrap this up.
Special thanks to: Spockjasperlokizukowriting, Redpinkandwhite, Chick With Brains, Musician'sLuck, GU3SS, Silverwinds1313, LoneAngel666, Anonymous Loki Fangirl, Violette Lokasister, Ikuni Hattori, TED1OUS, byebye-babeh, SheWhoDreamsOutLoud, Wolfie-chanLovesAnime, FantasyFlinger, Maeven Greystone, GRexCarolinii, RosettaRose, Let's Start Rumors, .Tippy-toes, SighingWinter, and Azreal Lillith. I love you all.
If any of you are wondering, the song that Ande and Loki danced to is "Vindicated" by Dashboard Confessional. It was also part of my inspiration for the story's title. Credit to SpockJasperLokiZukoWriting for the idea of the steel beam! She actually drew a picture of Ande and Loki sitting on a beam for one of the earlier chapters, and I just liked that image so much, I had to use it. Thanks!
As the possibility of a sequel is still floating around in the air, I am unable to give you a real teaser for it. Sorry! I'll be sure to keep you updated through my Deviantart journal on my decision.
I can't thank you readers enough for all the support you've given me throughout the story. You have my heartfelt thanks.
Thanks for reading, and please review one last time!