Author's Note: Well, it's finally done. I'm so proud this is my first fanfic I ever finished and once again say a huge thank you to everyone who's become emotionally invested in this and shown their support through the kind reviews. Just slightly over a year to complete this. Hopefully the next one won't take as long!
The morning after Darcy was released from the hospital was exceptionally peaceful. Her bruises had all neatly healed, nothing was broken; it would have been impossible to tell she had barely escaped with her life the following night. Yet here she was, in the bed of Jane's van with Loki just starting to wake up by her side.
There seemed to be the slightest change in his eyes as they opened; they had a less-hardened, almost younger look to them.
"Did you sleep well?" he asked.
She nodded. "It was nice of Jane to lend us her bed for the night,"
"Us?" he said crossly. "She wanted you to be the only one using it; she said you needed it to rest as it was the only good bed, remember?"
"Oh I remember," answered Darcy as she sat up, pulling the sheets close over her breasts, "I'm sure that was part of Jane's plan the whole time; have me sleep in the van so she and Thor could stay at the closest hotel and that way her stuff in the lab wouldn't be ruined by the impending earthquake."
Loki grinned impishly. "I don't suppose I should tell Jane Thor's that way because of centuries of practice?"
She threw her head back snickering. "I'm just wondering if she taught him the importance of sheathing his sword."
"I told you, men of Asgard...'sheath their swords', just with different material than what you mortals use."
"Yeah, and I like our version better. Give me rubber over whatever mythical animal you had to skin any day."
Now he was the one snickering.
Darcy sunk into her pillow. "Jane will probably want me to get out of bed by now,"
He stretched out a slender arm across her chest.
"That's assuming she's out of bed herself. I don't think she'll be ready to leave Thor just yet."
Meanwhile in Puente Antiguo's only hotel, Jane let out a disappointed moan as she opened her eyes to see Thor spreading apart the room's curtains, letting a stream of sunlight fall upon her.
"It can't be morning already," she pouted.
"The sun would say otherwise," replied Thor, already partially dressed in the jeans from last night.
She blew a stray copper lock off her forehead. "Are you sure you don't want to relax for 10 more minutes?"
He walked over to her and bent down, his eyes staring into hers as gently as they could muster.
"You know I have to leave today."
She sighed as she got out of the bed, reaching for his plaid shirt and wrapping it around her shoulders. "I know. Loki told you about the Bifrost and now you have to go back to Asgard to fix it."
"This isn't just about Asgard. Anyone from the nine realms can use the shards to get to anywhere. There's nothing stopping more enemies from coming here, and the sooner I can talk to Father and Heimdall about repairing the bridge, the sooner I know your safety will be guaranteed," he pulled Jane into a close embrace. "And when I return after that, I promise I'll be with you longer, although I hope I left you...satiated for the time being."
She smiled as she pulled away from him. "Oh, you did a very good job at...satiating me."
"Are you certain you do not want to come back with me?"
They were all outside the lab. Well, all except Selvig who was still in New York. Apparently Midgard had a Finder's Keepers approach to ancient artifacts from separate galaxies, and there was no way Fury would be willing to let go of the Tesseract, leaving the leftover shard Thor's sole way of returning to Asgard. He hoped it would only take one try after breaking it into two new ones for new entries.
He was staring at Loki, who was once again dressed in the clothes of Midgard.
"Do you really think I would even be allowed back? I have nothing to go back to, save perhaps the dungeons."
"You know I would defend you and explain what you did for Darcy." Thor said as reassuringly as he could.
"It's not just a matter of me having nothing there-I've...found something here worth staying for. A new purpose."
"Of course," said Thor, trying his hardest to smile. He couldn't deny the joy it gave him seeing his brother finally look at peace, finally believing he found a place he belonged. He just hoped it would be at home with his family. "This is the choice you've made, then?"
"Yes. Perhaps one day you'll make it for Jane."
Thor gave a mock-serious look and stroked his beard. "The gods who gave up their immortality for the women they loved."
"Leaving behind the lives they knew forever,"
"And they spent their days competing to see who'd be the first to have all his hair fall out."
That was when Loki did something he thought he would never be able to do again: laugh at a joke Thor made.
He brought in Loki to him, patting his shoulders, laughing the familiar deep chuckle, then stepped back to look directly at him, wanting to make one thing absolutely certain, the laughter replaced with the utmost sincerity.
"No matter what anyone says, you will always be my brother."
Loki wanted to say something in agreement, but he knew he just wasn't that man anymore. He still couldn't forget the countless times Thor had willingly ignored him, scoffed at his ideas, and act with all the arrogance of someone who was only king in their head. He could lie to him like he had done so many times in the past and say he was all healed, that he was ready to see him as a brother once more.
He just couldn't live with himself if he did. Perhaps one day Thor would finally see he played a part in driving him to the brink, but until that day came, he would not bend. Not just yet.
When Thor realized that Loki had no response, his smile faded and he walked over to Darcy.
"Thank you for helping him find what I once feared would be lost forever," he said as he embraced her.
"All I did was talk to him," she said.
"No, you did so much more than that," he replied.
He then turned to Jane, who reached out a small hand over his cheek.
"I'll keep busy while you're gone, but don't take too long, okay?" she said, trying her best to sound hopeful.
"I promise I'll stay no longer than I have to."
They then kissed, and for a split second Loki and Darcy looked at them then each other.
Thor walked over to the spot where the shards lay.
"When I come back, I swear I'll stay longer," he said to Jane. He then gazed at Loki with a bittersweet expression. "May this world give you the happiness you could never find in Asgard."
Loki placed his hand over Darcy's, looking at her the whole time. "It has."
Thor closed his eyes as he raised a shard over his head, silently praying that he would be able to find a way for the people he loved to stay with him despite so many barriers threatening to keep them apart.
As he disappeared, Jane stared at the spot he once stood for several moments. She sighed deeply, and then a back-to-business expression came over as she turned to Loki.
"So I take it you haven't thought of a job yet?"
"I got you a present!" Darcy's voice rang out behind Loki.
They were back on the rooftop, with Jane down in the lab, typing in data and very eager for Selvig to return and restore the balance of people who actually knew about astrophysics.
It had been a day since Thor left, and he was still getting used to living in far more humble living accommodations than the palace of Asgard, yet despite all reason the presence of a mortal girl made his stay tolerable.
She searched through her purse and presented him with a card. He glanced at it, then to her.
"It's your new ID! You better be grateful because what I did was very time-consuming and extremely illegal, but ever since Selvig called and said he'd be coming back this week, it's safe to assume SHIELD will come with him, meaning you'll have to take on a new identity and fast because we definitely don't want them to think there are any gods here." She sat down in front of him, grinning from ear to ear. "With that said, you are now my own private tutor helping me with my major while I'm not at school. You have to know more about politics than anyone else here."
He stared at the card, closer this time, and saw a picture of himself with a bizarre name underneath.
"Nikolas Anderson? That was the best you could come up with?" he said disapprovingly.
She rolled her eyes.
"Oh, come on! You know if I used your real name people would get suspicious! Besides, Anderson kind of sounds like Odinson and Nikolas has your name in it backwards."
It was one thing to sleep in a weaker bed and eat peculiar food (he hoped he would never again have to taste a clogged broth Darcy called ramen, which she took the utmost delight in devouring) but to answer to a name that sat so awkwardly on his tongue (even more awkwardly than the ramen)...
"So that's it then? That's the name I'll be called for the rest of my days here?!"
A smug expression crossed Darcy's face.
"Consider it your punishment for trying to destroy me and this town earlier."
Damn. She was being both cruel and fair.
Still, at least it wasn't Laufeyson.
He sighed. "I suppose I will be staying here for a very long time."
"About that," said Darcy. "I've been thinking about this whole you being a Norse god thing, and wouldn't you stay exactly as you are while everyone else-including me ages? Not that I'd mind being called a cougar, but..."
"That won't be a problem."
"Because as long as I'm here, we truly are equals."
"What do you mean?"
"There are golden apples that grow in Asgard that grant eternal life and youth for the Aesir. As long as I'm here, I will become mortal and age at the same rate as you. It will be as if I-" He paused and thought of the implications of what he was about to say next. "-As if I was always a mortal man." He tried to figure out how the words felt.
Darcy leaned toward him. "I could get used to that if you could."
He could start a new life with her. They could create a space all their own where they would finally fit in, no longer living to fulfill other's expectations, where they could say whatever they wanted knowing they would never be silenced.
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
"No, this can't be...you were right, you're aging, your hair's already turning white." Loki broke away from the kiss and looked at her in shock.
Darcy's eyes widened as she grabbed a lock and brought to her sight. It was mostly dark brown-dotted with a few white specks which seemed to have fallen there. She looked up at the sky. It was snowing again.
"A mortal man who just happens to still know magic." he smiled with teasing eyes.
She glared at him with a you-are-so-going-to-pay-for-this expression and then said something that was meant to be just a simple request. A joke, really. She certainly didn't expect it to change her life as much as it did.
"Teach me how to do that, and I won't stay mad at you."
"You want me to teach you magic."
"For self-defense purposes. And to turn you into an ass the next time you act like one."
The moon was barely a crescent over Svartelfheim, yet what little light it gave off was pierced through by the spiked turrets of a tall black stone castle, as if to announce that here darkness reigned supreme.
In the tallest of the castle's towers stood two dark elves, a man and a woman, their white, nearly translucent skin robed in many layers of leather and fur.
"You have the shard that will lead to Asgard?" asked the woman.
"Many pieces of the Bifrost fell to Svartelfheim, one of them is bound to take me there," said the man.
"Only Mjolnir could have had enough power to shatter the bridge, and so for whatever reason, the prince of Asgard must have thought he was protecting the nine realms by smashing it. And as its shards fell, so too will his father's world come crumbling."
A light smile played on the man's pale violet lips. "My troops will be most pleased to put their years of training to good use."
"And the throne of Asgard is in dire need of one who can make the right decisions," said the woman with an eerie calm, wrapping her cloak around the top of her hand which was marked by a trailing scar.
The man took the woman's hand in his with the gentlest touch.
"I will not disappoint you, Alflyse."
She smiled proudly. "I know you won't, Malekith."
OR IS IT? Okay, I couldn't possibly leave the story there, so expect a sequel this fall right before Thor: The Dark World comes out.
Thanks for reading!