Chapter 21

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ah I did it! And with just a few days to spare! I'm not entirely satisfied with this chapter, because endings are hard, but this is what I was building to and I hope that you guys enjoy it. This is easily the longest complete story I've ever written and I appreciate so much everyone who's read, liked, comment, etc. You guys are great! And feel free to let me know if you think this ending could be better. I might update it if I see opportunities for improvement.

It was almost odd how normal dating Loki was. They spent time together, they texted, they went out to eat, they watched movies, they even went on a hike or two. Remove the portals used to get between New Asgard and LA, and practically everything else about their relationship was indistinguishable from Alice's relationships with normal, non-godly men.

About a month into their relationship, Alice visited Loki at his offices in New Asgard bearing takeout and Die Hard. Loki had retrieved the Casket of Ancient Winters immediately following his healing, but while the Casket was in his possession, negotiating its return to the jotuns was proving difficult. Loki and Thrym had spent many long nights discussing the terms of the treaty and meeting with Aesir and jotun leaders, and it was beginning to take a toll. Knowing how stressed Loki was, Alice decided the best course of action was to convince him to take a short break, hence the takeout and movie.

Thrym did not much appreciate Alice's plan, but Loki's promise that he would finish the draft of their latest proposal later that night appeased him, and Loki and Alice retired to Loki's rooms to eat and enjoy each others' company. Loki loved Die Hard, unsurprisingly, and he tolerated the greasy Pad Thai with minimal complaint. After the movie Alice expected him to get right back to work, but instead he set his takeout on the coffee table in front of the couch and grabbed Alice's hand.

"I've been talking with Eir recently. Without telling her the specifics of our situation, I've made inquiries regarding which magics and techniques might best extend your lifespan. There are many options, and we should begin research in earnest to address your concerns sooner rather than later," Loki said, then he squeezed her hand and laughed. "With your talents for healing magic and my power, you may even live longer than I do."

Alice grimaced, and a strange fear clenched in her stomach. Loki's smile faded as he took in the obvious trepidation written on her face.

"I don't want to live five thousand years," Alice said, her fingers tightening around Loki's, "Can you imagine? Everyone I know and love dying centuries before I even come close? I like being human."

A shadow passed over Loki's features.

"Then, you wish for me to see you die? You wish me to live 4,000 more years without you?"

Alice swallowed thickly. She knew what it was to be left behind. Perhaps she hadn't fully thought this through.

"I… I don't want to hurt you, but… I am human. If I somehow turn into this magical, nearly-immortal thing, then… what will I be?"

Loki's frown increased, but he nodded tightly. He turned a few degrees away from her, looking off into the corner of the room.

"Of course I wouldn't force it on you."

Alice's hands wrapped around Loki's waist and her fingers dug into the fabric of his shirt. Her arms pulled Loki back towards her, and she pressed her face into his chest, eyes screwed shut. She had never seriously considered trying to extend her lifespan, had always thought of her place in Loki's life as a meaningful yet passing companion. To ask for anything more felt… presumptuous. Wrong. Alice had long since been reconciled to the realities of death. Doing away with that reality, leaving the rest of the world she knew behind her… that was much more frightening.

"I will think about it," she said, her voice muffled by Loki's fine green tunic. "But if I… If I do live a normal lifespan, will it be enough for you? Is the time I have to give you enough?"

"The more I can have of you, the better," Loki said quietly, "but I will have to accept whatever you have to give."

They did not speak of extending the length of Alice's life again, though over the months they came to an unspoken agreement that Alice would live and die as a human, as she wanted.

One night after a particularly long negotiation session regarding the Casket of Ancient Winters, Alice and Loki accepted Tisha's invitation to stay behind at the New York Sanctum for drinks. The negotiations were occasionally held at the Sanctum, as Dr. Strange was the interim keeper of the Casket until its long-term home could be determined. Dr. Strange had helped Loki recover the Casket from the time-wreckage of Asgard, and his stewardship of the relic had been one of the primary motivating factors that had convinced Strange to assist Loki in his endeavor in the first place.

Tisha poured herself, Loki, Alice, and Strange each a drink, and they found their seats around a small circular table in the Sanctum's kitchen. Talk inevitably turned to the negotiations.

"...I worry there is too much ill-will between the Aesir and the jotun. There must be at least some miniscule amount of trust if these talks are going to go anywhere," Strange said after they'd already been talking for some time.

Loki shook his head.

"This rivalry runs millenia-deep. But that does not mean the talks will fail. The Aesir may never trust the jotun to do something that benefits New Asgard, but they can trust in the jotun's own self-interest. And vice versa, for that matter. Talks will succeed. We immortals just like to take our time with things," he finished with a smirk.

Strange rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink, and Alice smiled. Working together over the past few months had nurtured a love-hate relationship between the two sorcerers, and Alice felt strongly that it was good for both of them.

"You say immortal, but you're not really immortal, right? How long do jotun and Aesir usually live?" Tisha asked, her eyes wide. She'd already polished off a few drinks, and was finding it difficult to repress her natural curiosity.

"I'd say the average is around 5,000 years, but of course we can be killed at any age. And some among our kind are much older."

"So what will you do when Alice is all old and wrinkly and you…" Tisha gestured first to Loki's face, then his body, "like this?"

Alice's lips turned downwards, and she hid her expression behind her drink. Loki's smile fell.

"Well, that is something we have plenty of time to figure out, seeing as Alice has aged beautifully so far," he said, a smile reappearing that was similar to the previous one, but much more forced. "As for the future… I could always alter my appearance. If Alice's hair turns white and her skin becomes wrinkled, I can match her."

Strange set his drink down and leaned back in his chair, his eyebrows climbing high on his forehead.

"Or you could always just stay as you are. Maybe Alice prefers the look of a younger man."

Alice couldn't help the surprised laugh that escaped her mouth as she imagined the future Strange proposed.

"Yes, I'll impress all of the ladies at the rest home," she said.

One corner of Loki's mouth lifted, and he shot Alice a wry look.

"Whatever the case, I wouldn't let something as trivial as appearance become an issue."

Without a gesture or a word, Loki's skin suddenly turned blue and his eyes filled with red. Tisha nearly jumped out of her seat, and Strange just rolled his eyes again.

"I've always been more fluid than most regarding my appearance."

An odd weight on Alice's chest lifted, and she returned Loki's smirk. He'd been pleasantly surprised to discover how much Alice liked his jotun appearance, having assumed that the largely conventional nurse wouldn't be interested in his more outlandish, monstrous form. Contrary to his expectations, Alice found his otherworldly body to be unmistakably alluring. Loki knew it, and he was taunting her.

Alice set her drink down.

"It's pretty late. I think I need to head home," she said, her cheeks heating.

Loki stood from his seat, his smirk intensifying.

"I'll accompany you."

Tisha finished her drink and began filling up another one.

"Ugh. You guys are so boring. Fine, go off and do your own thing like a boring married couple."

Strange chuckled.

"I'm actually married, but I'm not boring."

"Yeah, well. I guess you're immune. They're not."

Alice prepared a rebuttal in her head, but before she had a chance to utter it Loki had already tugged her up from her seat and was pulling her towards the hall.

"Yes, yes, it's all very dull. It's been a pleasure Tisha, Strange."

Eventually, Alice told Kathy about Loki. Well, she told Kathy that Michael was actually Loki, and that they were seeing each other. Loki had wanted to be there for the confession, but Alice really had no idea how her mother would react, and wanted to give Kathy some space to sort out how she felt about the whole thing. After all, Loki was a formerly-murderous god and Kathy was a protective mother.

After much thought, Alice decided her best approach would be to work up to Loki. She started by bringing Kathy the LA Sanctum and explaining that she was a sorcerer-in-training. Kathy had at first been quite convinced this was all an elaborate joke, so Alice had then walked her through the portal in the Sanctum to 177A Bleecker St., which was somewhat more convincing to her. They spent the afternoon in the Sanctum, talking about what Alice had learned as well as the difference between the very little the general public knew about magic and the truth of the matter. Dr. Strange arrived joined them later in the afternoon, which was particularly helpful in convincing Kathy of everything Alice was saying. The Dr. was a known member of the Avengers, after all.

Of course, all of these revelations led to the inevitable question that could not be answered without discussing the jotun prince.

"Alice, I believe you are… whatever you are, but… How did you even start learning about this stuff in the first place? Did you meet Dr. Strange at the hospital?" Kathy asked.

Alice shook her head, then took a deep breath, bracing herself.

"No, that's not how I met Stephen. ...Do you remember Michael?"

Kathy's eyes narrowed.

"Is he a magician or something? I always knew there was something off about him."

"He's… well he can use magic, although he'd hate to be called a magician," Alice said, knowing she was stalling. She forced herself to get to the point. "I didn't know it at first, but Michael is actually Loki. Um, as in the brother of Thor. The God of Mischief."

Kathy stared dumbly at her daughter for a long moment.

"God of Mischief? Isn't he the person who tore up New York a decade ago?"

Alice nodded.

"What?! Were you in danger? Did Dr. Strange rescue you from him?"

Alice shook her head vigorously.

"No, no. I mean, maybe I was in a little bit of danger, but that wasn't really Loki's fault. Or… Agh, this is so complicated."

Alice held her head in her hands, and Stephen put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Ms. Wakefield, perhaps I can explain," he said soothingly. "After The Return, Loki reappeared on earth, eventually ending up in the hospital Alice worked at. In a perhaps misguided act of compassion, Alice brought Loki home, not knowing who he was, and took care of him. At the time Loki was in a large amount of mental and emotional distress, and he benefited greatly from Alice's care."

"I don't care that he benefited from her care, I care that you were living with a murderer."

Alice lifted her head from her hands, distraught at Kathy's vehemence. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her mother this upset.

"He's not… It's not… It's more complicated than that, mom."

They sat together in the Strange's office, and Alice went over the events of the past two years in painstaking detail, wanting Kathy to see a better side of Loki, but also not wanting to gloss over his faults. She needed Kathy to know that she was clear-headed about all of this, that she hadn't simply been taken in by a pretty, godlike face.

"Mom, I know this is a lot to take in, but it's important to me that you understand where Loki is coming from. You should meet him, and then you can ask him whatever questions you want."

Kathy looked up from the glass of whatever she'd been staring into as she listened, her gaze sharp.

"You want me to meet him? Alice… please tell me you didn't…"

Alice swallowed nervously.

"Um. I've been seeing him for the past eight months."

Kathy's eyes went wide.

"He's the person you've been hiding from me? I knew you were with someone, but I didn't think… Oh honey, how could this possibly be a good idea?"

Strange stood from the table and cleared his throat.

"Well, I think I'll give you two some privacy. Kathy, it was a pleasure to meet you."

Kathy distractedly waved goodbye to the sorcerer, then rounded back on Alice.

"Look, I got pregnant with your father. I understand the allure of bad boys. But this. Alice, this is on a whole other level. Please tell me you're not serious."

Alice squeezed her eyes shut, hurt drawing tears to her eyes. There was almost nothing in the world more important to her than Kathy's approval. Still, she had known this was likely coming. She was an adult, and she had not made the decision to be with Loki lightly.

"Mom, he's important to me, and I love him. Please meet with him. You can ask whatever questions you want. Just… meet with him."

Kathy leaned back into her chair, a defeated expression weighing her features down.

"If your Avengers friends say that he's safe then… I guess I'll meet him. That's all I can promise, though."

The first meeting with Kathy did not go well. Loki put on his smoothest, most ingratiating face, but the harder he tried the more Kathy distrusted him. Alice had convinced Thor and Stark to come along for the incredibly uncomfortable dinner as well, mostly to serve as witnesses that Loki wasn't a danger to Kathy's daughter. Well, he hasn't killed her so far, Stark had quipped unhelpfully.

The entire ordeal was tense and painful, and Kathy was by no means charmed by the God of Mischief by the evening's end. The only victory Alice could claim was that after Loki left, Kathy admitted that she was at least convinced that Loki wouldn't hurt Alice, or any other human, anymore. Thor and Stark's testimonies regarding the many assistances Loki had rendered to the Avengers over the past year had helped immensely in that regard.

"And I was so distracted by that greasy snake that I didn't even get to pinch myself that I was meeting Tony Stark and Thor," Kathy complained to Alice after all their guests had gone home. "What a waste of an evening."

No, the first meeting with Kathy did not go well. Neither did the second. Loki kept on coming over, though, and as they spent more time together his slick facade began to fall away, and Kathy's natural warmth and generosity gradually won out. Through sheer pig-headedness, Kathy's distrust softened first to annoyed tolerance, then to grudging affection.

One day almost a half-year after finally telling Kathy about Loki, Alice came home to find Kathy sitting in her living room, her eyes faraway and thoughtful.

"Mom? I didn't know you were coming over. What's up?" Alice asked in surprise.

Kathy looked up from the couch and sent Alice a smile that was difficult to interpret. The best word Alice could find to describe it was wistful.

"Oh, I just wanted to see you. Loki came by after school today, you know. Gave me an apple for teacher appreciation day."

"Oh? I hope he didn't cause a fuss."

"No, he was invisible to everyone but me. At least, that's what it seemed like. Who knows with you magical people."

"You're not mad he's still trying to suck up to you?"

Alice sat down next to Kathy on the couch, and Kathy smiled and patted her on the leg.

"No, not today."

Alice put her arm around her mother.

"I'm glad! That's progress."

Kathy turned to Alice, expression serious.

"I… I can't say he's my first choice, but… Well, he's your first choice. You love him, and I understand much better now why. I just want you to know that… I want you to be happy. And I support you and your decisions, including your decision to be with him."

Whatever she'd been expecting, Alice hadn't expected that. She bit her lip, then hugged Kathy to her fiercely.

"Thank you, Mom. That really means a lot to me."

"I know. I'm glad you care so much what I think. I'm sorry I haven't always been as supportive as I should."

"No, Mom. You're perfect."

The only subject Alice and Loki did not discuss was what they would do when Loki became king. They talked about the truce mediation, about the political situation in Jotunheim, about Loki's connections with New Asgard—but they did not address how Alice might fit into Loki's life post-coronation. Alice felt that they didn't need to talk about it, because she already knew what would happen. Things would continue on as they had before for a while. Loki would come visit her in LA (he'd said that Jotunheim was probably still too dangerous for her), and they would act like nothing had changed. Then, gradually, he would become more and more involved in his life on Jotunheim, and his visits would become fewer and farther between. Eventually, they would agree to make practical reality official and break off their relationship, and Loki would probably find some ice princess to marry and start a dynasty with. It hurt to consider, but Alice still didn't regret agreeing to their relationship. She would always cherish the time they'd had together.

About a week after Kathy's unexpected visit, Alice went to meet Loki at his office in New Asgard for dinner. She was originally going to meet him at the restaurant, but Loki had texted her to let her know that he was running late, and that she should wait for him at the embassy. A little disappointed at the delay, Alice sat on one of the luxurious golden couches in Loki's receiving room and fiddled with her phone, checking the news and her Instagram feed. Instagram was mostly food, which just made her more hungry.

"Alice?" Loki's voice sounded from his office farther inside the embassy. "Are you here?"

"Yep," she called back. "Just let me know when you're ready."

"You know that tie you gave me to help me look more 'normal' to Midgardians? I can't find it. Could you help me look in here?"

Alice sighed and got up from the couch.

"Did you lose it in another dimension again? I can't really help if that's what you did."

She walked into the office, then stopped dead in her tracks when she realized she didn't recognize her surroundings. Or rather, she didn't recognize them as Loki's office. She was back in the living room of her apartment in Brooklyn.

Everything was exactly as she remembered it, from the tiny kitchen to the old carpet to the precise placement of the couch and armchair. It was perfectly accurate even down to the particular way Loki sat in that very armchair.

"Loki? What's going on?"

"Just feeling nostalgic," he said, steepling his fingers beneath his chin.

"Oh, ok. Are we still going to dinner?" Alice said, not believing for one second Loki's nonchalant attitude.

"I thought we could eat here," Loki said, pointing to a collection of takeout bags on the counter.

Alice recognized the bags from one of her favorite Chinese places in Brooklyn—the very one she'd taken Loki to get xiaolongbao at all those years ago. She grinned at him.

"Xiaolongbao beats a fancy French restaurant any day."

"I thought you'd like it," Loki said, rising from his seat and taking Alice's hand, leading her to the couch.

Alice sat down next to him, smoothing the lace skirt of her black dress down and turning towards him.

"Is there a special occasion tonight?"

Loki nodded.

"Yes. I have big news." He swallowed and cleared his throat, shifting a bit in his seat. "Tomorrow, negotiations for the return of the Casket of Ancient Winters will be finalized, and Thrym will be made King of Jotunheim."

Alice started, her eyes going wide.

"Wh-what? Thrym?"

She grabbed Loki's arm in alarm. Why was he so calm?

"Did he turn on you? What happened?"

Loki shook his head back and forth, the look of complete unconcern on his face only increasing Alice's confusion.

"No, we arranged it together."

"Loki, I… I thought you wanted to be king. You're the heir, right? You've been planning for this for years!"

"That is what I wanted. But I want to be with you more. We've been more or less avoiding this issue all these months, but it never went away. This is the best way I can see to resolve it."

"But I couldn't ask you to give up something like this."

"You didn't ask me. I chose this myself, and I chose this because I believe it's worth it."

Alice shook her head vigorously, her hair whipping into her face as she did so.


Loki took her hand in his, then set his other hand firmly but gently on her shoulder, calming her.

"Alice, please listen."

Alice turned her head towards him, moving the hand not in his to her skirt, where her fingers fisted nervously in the fabric at the hem. Loki let her hand go and brought it up to her face, cupping her cheek under his fingers.

"I will live several thousand more years, but you are determined to only accept the 8-odd decades allotted you. Therefore, your time is much more precious than mine. If this is truly what you want, then I want to be with you, completely, as long as I can. Thrym and I discussed it, and in several centuries, if you are… not with me any more, I may ascend the throne then. But for now, I trust Thrym and his family's connections give him a strong claim to the throne. I also believe he will be a good leader. He is organized and responsible, and I will grudgingly admit that he is much more level-headed than I."

Alice sniffed loudly, her hands rising to her face to wipe away tears she hadn't even realized were falling.

"But what if Thrym is tricking you?"

Loki's soft smile hardened into an almost savage grin, reminding Alice starkly of the fiercely ambitious man she had first met and fallen for.

"I wouldn't be terribly shocked, but I am confident I can outmaneuver him, if it comes to it."

"I don't… why would-? I just…" Alice couldn't quite seem to complete a sentence, overwhelmed as she was by both the new information and the magnitude of Loki's sacrifice for her. She had looked into his mind. She knew what a place on the throne of Jotunheim meant to him. It meant success, it meant power. It meant acceptance and belonging.

"Alice, do you know why I brought us here, to your old apartment?"

Still wiping her eyes, Alice shook her head no.

"I brought us here because it reminds me of when we first met. Of what you did for me."

"You would have been fine even if I hadn't picked you up from the hospital, Loki. You're resilient," she said through her undignified sniffs.

"I didn't necessarily need you to provide for my physical needs, no," Loki said, dragging her legs over his lap and pulling her into his chest. "But you were the first person in years who showed me pure, unadulterated compassion. The first person to only give and expect nothing in return. I believe if I had not met you when I did, it is entirely possible I could have followed a much different path."

"I think… I think you would have figured it out," she said into his chest, wishing vaguely that he'd worn a soft dress shirt instead of his leather armor. He always seemed to pick this outfit when he was doing something important, though.

"Perhaps," he said. "Perhaps I would have found my way on my own, or perhaps someone else could have helped me. But it was you, and I am glad."

Loki's fingers found Alice's chin, and gently he lifted her face to his, blue eyes meeting brown.

"Will you marry me?"

He held out his other hand and opened his palm, revealing a simple golden ring.

Alice stared at the ring in utter shock for a long moment. When her tongue finally caught up with her brain, she could barely form comprehensible words.

"Uh, I, uh… Loki are-"

"Please do not ask me if I am sure. I am. I only want to hear your answer."

Loki set the ring down in the palm of Alice's hand, and Alice felt the weight of it much stronger than its small form implied. She had never really thought she would marry again after Andy, but this felt… surprisingly right. The past year or so of their relationship had worked remarkably well. Alice helped Loki to be more selfless and empathetic, and Loki helped Alice to push herself and achieve more of her potential. They enjoyed each other's company, disagreed in productive and healthy ways, and fit uncommonly well into each other's lives.

Loki was very different from Andy, but that was how it was supposed to be, wasn't it? It wasn't like she was looking for a replacement. She was just looking for a bit of happiness. Alice's fingers closed around the ring, and she looked up into Loki's hopeful gaze, finding her bit of happiness right there.

"I will."


Constipated Genius: I did it! It's published before Endgame, just barely! I hope I didn't sacrifice quality to finish on time, but tbh if this chapter has issues it's probably more likely because I'm not very good at endings than because of the time. I hope you liked how the lifespan difference was resolved (or rather not resolved?). I dunno, every time I thought about it I just kept thinking about how I would feel if someone offered me a pill that would let me live to 5,000 years old. As much as I'm afraid of death, that would really freak me out, haha. Also, perhaps it seems selfish but Alice knows that life continues on after a loved one dies. She knows that better than most people. Anyway I hope you liked the end of the story and that it was satisfying. I really appreciate that you take the time to write thoughtful reviews on pretty much every chapter. You're the best!

XinterestingX: yay I'm glad you ship it! If I managed to get you rooting for Alice and Loki then I know I did at least one thing right :) I also agree that the practical problems with their relationship exist, and that Loki wouldn't care about them too much. But Alice does, because she's a practical person. It's part of why they complement each other! Thank you so much for your support and I really hope you enjoyed the end.

Ninewood: Yeah, I think they deserve a happy ending, too! I'm not sure how Endgame will turn out, but I kind of doubt Loki will survive :/ We'll see, though! In just a couple of days! And if Loki doesn't get his happy (or at least not dead) ending in Endgame, you can always just come back to this story haha. I hope you liked the end, and thank you so much for your support!

LRRH17: I totally agree, canon is really important to me! That's why I'm generally not a fan of ships that just don't make sense in canon (like Hux/Kylo Ren doesn't make sense because they legit hate each other, but to each their own). Thanks so much for reviewing, and I really hope the ending was satisfying to you :)

SnowFlame2127: 我会努力!I enjoyed reading your review so much, thank you! It makes me so happy that you came to really care about Alice and her story, and that you appreciate her caution and pragmatism. I'm most glad that you felt the UWUs. You got the concept just right :) I hope this chapter provided a satisfying ending to the story, and thanks so much for sticking with me!

Inksplosion: I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter! And I also am glad that people can appreciate Alice's pragmatism and aren't just annoyed by it :) Someone needs to be realistic, right? Thank you for reviewing and I hope you liked this chapter!

Rowanoak: I'm glad you liked the chapter and are excited to see Loki healed! I hope you enjoyed the ending of this story, and thank you so much for your comments! They are much appreciated.

Zionne Makoma: I'm not sure if you got all the way to the end of the story, but thank you for reviewing! Also there is an explanation for why the random guy on the street attacks Loki in the next chapter. I hope it makes sense!