Consider this my heartfelt thank you to all of you who made "The Lokistone" such a wonderful adventure. This is for you.
Epilogue to "The Lokistone"
Jane closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Her whole body filled with warmth—even the stone railing beneath her forearms lost its coolness as the new golden light washed over the balcony. Her hair hung loose all around her shoulders, and the skirt of her long, soft white nightgown brushed the tops of her bare feet.
She opened her eyes.
Below her stretched a stone-walled garden, still standing in deep, grayish-emerald shadow, but the tops of the trees that grew there caught the sun, so that the tips of the leaves looked as if they had been dipped in melted gold. A heavy mist rested among the pathways, and the air smelled of dew, faintly laced with the honey scent of apple blossoms. Jane lifted her gaze toward the horizon.
In the distance, far beyond the gates of the city, stood the mountains—grand and far and ancient—looking to be the deepest shade of violet. And beyond them rose the sky—soft pink and yellow at the horizon, blending into purples and blues until the stars twinkled and winked through a black velvet curtain. But the stars withdrew in the company of their elder sister—the brilliant, softly-laughing sun that lifted her shining head over the crags and shook out her hair. Birds chirped in the orchards, filling the air with a peaceful, faraway chorus, and from here Jane could just hear the deep, quiet rush of the cascades.
She felt him rather than heard him as he came up behind her. He slid his warm, strong arms comfortably around her waist and wrapped her into him, pulling her close and bending down to rest the side of his face against the side of her head. Jane leaned back against his chest, settling her head under his chin and finding his hands with hers. He turned his wrist, and began running his forefinger absently over the sparkling stone on her wedding ring.
"Are you looking for something?" he asked, then placed a light kiss on her ear before setting his chin on the crown of her head.
"No," Jane answered. "I'm just enjoying a sky that doesn't split open into other realms."
"Yes, that does ruin the scenery, doesn't it?"
Jane could feel Loki's half smile, and she answered it. A few moments passed, and she sighed again, blinking slowly, soaking in his warmth as well as that of the morning. Then, gradually, her brow furrowed.
"What is it?" Loki asked.
"Were you ever afraid?" Jane murmured.
"Afraid of what?"
She shifted one shoulder, considering.
"Afraid of everything all of us discussed—of what might happen if both sets of us ever managed to get the two tesseracts to the same place at the same time." Her voice lowered. "Afraid of what Heimdall said: that the timelines might snap together and become one big tangle, or that all of them might be eliminated except one, and who knows which one that might be." Jane paused. "Or that everything that happened after the bifrost broke might be erased."
Jane blinked, then turned her head.
"No?" she repeated in disbelief. "You weren't afraid? Not even for a little bit?"
Loki's arms loosened around her and he turned, coming around to stand beside her, then gently turning her toward him. He held her in his embrace, lightly, and gazed down at her, his right elbow resting on the railing. Jane lifted her eyes to him. He wore his long black nightclothes, unbuttoned at the throat so that she could see both the glittering silver Mjollnir pendant, and the edges of the dark, vein-like scars left behind by the venom of the great snake all those ages ago. His midnight hair moved slightly in the breeze, one strand falling across his forehead. He gazed down at her, emerald eyes alight in the fresh morning, and she could see every shade of black and green within their depths. Pale, angular and subtly handsome, his features remained solemn, earnest. He took a breath, as if preparing a thought, and pulled her a little closer. She eased toward him, wrapping her arms around his waist and tilted her head as she watched him, to show she was listening.
"My life has been very long, Jane," he said, glancing out over the garden. "Sometimes the length of it seems…tiresome. Childhood can be difficult to remember." His black eyebrows drew together in a distantly-dark expression. "And, as always, shadows loom higher with distance. I was always ambitious, and clever, and driven—forever searching, chasing. I thought I was chasing the acceptance of the people of Asgard, chasing my father's approval, and my brother's shadow." He paused, just a moment. "But, in truth, I was chasing you."
He looked back at her. Open. Honest. Brilliant.
"I had no idea of it," he confessed. "But every step I took, every path I chose, led me closer to you. Closer to that ledge that I had to tumble from, if I was to find you. A tumble that ought to have killed me." He raised his eyebrows frankly. "For a long while, I wondered why it hadn't. And your finding me, out in the middle of the desert, taking me in—and then uncovering something within me that you found worthy…" he gravely shook his head. "I once thought that a chance like that was as rare as finding a diamond on the beach."
Jane smiled, and glanced down a moment before lifting her face toward him again. And now, an awed, hushed look came over him.
"But looking through those ripped seams has proven me wrong," he murmured—and looked directly into her eyes. "You found me again. In that state. Ugly. Bitter. Completely savage and broken to the point of unrecognition." His arms tightened around her. His gaze captivated her completely—she could not breathe.
"And you still loved me," he whispered. He leaned closer, searching her eyes. "And I…I loved you back. Almost as if we already knew each other—could see each other, truly, through all the scarring and silence." He lifted his hand, and gently stroked her cheek with his thumb. "And looking across, into my own eyes," he murmured. "I discovered the truth." His hand went still. He held her gaze. "I loved you before I ever saw you. From the beginning of my being across to the end of it. There was a chamber built into my heart upon my birth, a chamber built to measure, and it waited empty until you came into it. And no matter what thousandth realm or split time or dark circumstance, that emptiness will remain so great that my heart will keep searching until it is made whole." He smiled at her—vividly, strongly—softly. "So no, Jane Foster." He shook his head again. "I was not afraid."
Jane looked up at him, thoughtfully.
"I love you," she decided.
His eyes twinkled.
Then, he raised an expectant eyebrow.
"So…when were you planning to tell me your secret? Or would you like me to guess again?"
Jane stared at him, then frowned.
He kicked back his head.
"Ah, so you have no idea," he realized. He leaned down toward her, and looked back and forth shiftily. "We are not alone."
Jane gripped his shirt.
"What do you mean?" she whispered, looking around.
"Someone is listening. Very closely."
"From where?" Jane said, barely making a sound as her attention caught on the door.
Loki's warm, soft hand pressed against her belly.
Jane's heart skipped three beats.
Her head came around, her eyes found his, her lips parted—
But she couldn't speak.
"What shall we call her?" he asked.
"I…" Jane choked, her heart starting again—then racing.
"What was the other name you liked?" Loki asked, canting his head, his eyes flittering over her face. "Aurora. After the dawn."
Jane's heart burst.
She let out a sharp cry and threw her arms around his neck then covered his face with a flurry of kisses. He had time to release a short laugh before she caught his mouth with hers and kissed him so deeply she felt his whole frame weaken.
She tasted water. Salt.
Their lips broke from each other—she looked up at his beaming face, and the brimming tears sparkling in his eyes.
"Don't cry, you'll make me cry!" Jane lightly slapped his chest as her own tears streamed down her face. Loki's tears fell, and streaked like radiant silver. He chuckled—Jane laughed in unrestrained, watery delight. Their voices mingled in the sunshine and carried out across the gardens and into the new light, only ceasing as their lips met again, as they continued to laugh within their hearts.