Alisa sat quiet for a long while after Loki left her.
The sun had almost set, unknown Elves coming and kindly placing lit torches for her, so she did not sit in darkness.
The flickering firelight from them was soothing, and she took a deep breath, angry with herself for not leaving earlier. She could not very well leave now that darkness had pretty much fallen. And now that she had to stay another night she couldn't help but regret it. It made it that much harder to leave in the morning.
She couldn't help but think over Loki's words. Couldn't help but wonder what if...
A deliberate snap of a twig underneath a foot behind her made a tingle dance up her spine, but she schooled herself to stillness and did not move even when, a few moments later, a blanket fell across her shoulders.
'So you do not get cold...' came the softly spoken explanation.
'I had thought... I am surprised you are still here...'
Alisa said nothing, and looked doggedly down at the dark stream, trying to stay strong. Loki's words kept coming back to her though.
Dammit Loki... why did you have to make me second guess myself?
She felt more than heard Halcore sit next to her, and butterflies started up in her stomach when he sat in silence next to her for a few moments.
After a while Alisa couldn't take it, and had to speak. 'How are you feeling?'
She saw him from the corner of her eye look at her in the torchlight, but she would not meet his gaze.
'Much improved... quicker than I deserve probably.'
Alisa crossed her legs and pulled the blanket tighter around herself against the coming night chill.
'It was a pretty sunset tonight.' Halcore said quietly, making conversation, 'Are they much like that back at your home?'
A slight pause. 'They're different. Pretty, but just... different. Everything is different here than at home. It's cleaner, or more pure or something here. I can't describe it.'
'I should like to see a sunset on one of your oceans I think.'
'Why did you come here, Halcore?'
If Halcore was hurt by her abruptness, he did not show it, instead a wry smile twisted his lips and for a moment Alisa saw a fleeting resemblance to Loki in that self-depreciating grin.
'I had known this would be difficult...'
'Asking you to stay.'
'Wait, please,' he took her hand in his and she quietened at the gentle warmth that radiated from him. He seemed to think carefully on his next words, and when he raised his eyes to hers Alisa was shocked by the depth of emotion she saw there.
'I know,' he began quietly, sincerely, 'that you have given me your forgiveness. And I also know that I do not have the right to ask more from you than that. Not after the suffering that you went through at my father's – and at my own – hands.
'And please, if you wish me to say nothing further, and to leave, I will.'
He fell silent now, his eyes searching hers, waiting for an indication on what she desired.
Alisa couldn't find her voice. Words to tell him to leave would not come, and her heart thudded erratically in her chest.
A brief look of relief – and, joy? - sparked in the depths of his eyes and his hand tightened around hers for a moment. 'You do me a great honour by listening... and I intend to make it up to you. If you will...' the words trailed off and he took a deep breath, but Alisa spoke for him.
'-if I stay.'
Neither spoke, Halcore through fear of Alisa's next words, and Alisa through fear of the realisation of what her heart really wanted.
She did love the peace of it here. The quietude. She cared greatly for Raven, who was most definitely like a sister to her.
'And,' Alisa found her voice at last, chewing on her bottom lip nervously as she slowly raised her face to look at Halcore, 'how exactly do you plan on making it up to me?'
Her heart twisted at the outright look of pure joy that shone in Halcore's face as he grasped her hand to his chest fervently.
'By being your humble servant. Every minute of every day.'
Alisa couldn't help but laugh at the earnest expression in his eyes and she shook her head.
'I don't need a servant-'
'But that is what I will be. I give you my oath. I swear it before the Goddess herself. I will be anything and everything that you need. If you need me near, I will be near. If you need me gone from your side, then so be it.'
'And we Elves never break an oath. Ask Valare. She will vouch for the truth of this-'
'Halcore, stop!' Alisa was laughing now as she cut Halcore off and he fell quiet instantly, as if his oath was already in action.
'Listen to me right now. I don't want a servant. I don't need one, and the last thing I want is someone hovering on my every word with no brain or willpower of their own. What I would like is balance. A friend and...' she smiled shyly, 'maybe, in time...' she trailed off with a shrug and a blush.
A smile graced Halcore's face and he asked, 'In time?'
Alisa's blush deepened and she returned his cheeky grin with a shy one of her own, 'yeah.'
'Well, time means nothing to an immortal. I can wait.'
Alisa's smile slipped away at this, and her eyes were pained.
Alisa's lips thinned with concern and she opened her mouth to speak her fears but Halcore hushed her.
'No, please do not speak on it. I have made my choice. I know all that it means. But it is out of my power now. My oath has been made.' He smiled a bittersweet smile as he spoke. 'Besides,' he continued, before Alisa could voice any arguments, 'time here moves differently... so things will be,' another smile, ''different' for you here.'
'I cannot say exactly. But Valare will be able to answer that more definitely for you... and in the meantime...'
'In the meantime, you can start making it all up to me, right?' Alisa smiled sweetly and Halcore chuckled under his breath before nodding.
'Since I'm staying... I will be able to go home, won't I? To visit my mother? I couldn't bear it if I didn't get to say goodbye, or at least write to her, or something.'
Halcore nodded understanding. 'Valare would not make you stay against your will. You have that choice. And Loki comes and goes often enough, he could take letters for you I guarantee.'
Alisa sighed relief at the right to freedom that Valare – and now Halcore – had given back to her.
Both of them fell silent, wondering to themselves where they would go from there.
'Let's stay out here tonight. I want to look at the stars.'
His hand found hers again, clasping her fingers lightly in his own before he raised them to his lips.
'As you wish.'
'You better make it worth my while staying here.'
Halcore laughed, relieved. 'I swear upon the Goddess herself, I will. I-'
'Cos seriously, you really stuffed things up, ya know?'
'My Lady,' the mischievous grin that was spread over Halcore's face made Loki look positively innocent in comparison, and Alisa stopped short in surprise. 'I can safely promise you,' Halcore continued with an accompanying wink, 'that you will not regret it.'
And she never did.
** Well that's it for this particular story. I know it ends a bit abruptly, but I am planning other works that intertwine with this particular story.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and review this work – you guys are the best. **