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halfway between the gutter and the stars

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the picnic near the lakeside was the start of a lazy afternoon one early October 

Jane rolls over on the picnic blanket she has brought, closing her eyes against the sun. As the days here grow shorter and cooler, the quality of the light changes: it is no longer searing to the skin, but it is yet pale and piercing. Thor shades his eyes against the sun and peers at the glimmering line where buildings and sky converge at the border of this park and Manhattan's 59th Street. Central Park, Midtown, Midgard: with Jane at his side, he feels at the very heart of the nine worlds.

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and lifts it above them to capture a picture of the moment, their hair lit by the sun, Jane's soft smile next to his beaming grin. The Rise filter suits the image perfectly. "I shall title this 'THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE,'" Thor says, typing carefully on the touchscreen. "With the small image of your planet, flanked by sparkling stars."

"Well, we abandoned a geocentric model of the galaxy hundreds of years ago," says Jane.

"'THE CENTER OF MY UNIVERSE,'" Thor says. He amends his caption and selects the options to crosspost from Instagram to Twitter and Facebook.

Jane presses a kiss to his cheek. A light breeze rustles the remains of their luncheon; Thor moves Mjolnir so that their blanket will remain undisturbed. Later, they will go home and eat pizza in front of the television, and Jane will fall asleep against his shoulder, dropping her plate with its forgotten crusts into his lap. A perfect day.

 

our picture will center on the picnickers even after they've been lost to sight

Thor has few duties on Midgard. He is in the employ of the Avengers; he meets dignitaries from across the globe; by agreement with Jane, he must do alternate rounds of laundry as well as the dishes. This afternoon, he puts on the second episode of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey while he loads the dishwasher, and Jane's friend Dr. Tyson appears on far wall of the kitchen in his questionable space vehicle.

"Spacetime itself can deform enough to carry you anywhere at any speed," Dr. Tyson says. "Black holes may very well be tunnels through the universe. On this intergalactic subway system, you could travel to the farthest reaches of spacetime, or you might arrive in someplace even more amazing. We might find ourselves in an altogether different universe."

At Father's knee with Loki beside him, Thor learned of each of the Nine Worlds connected through Yggdrasil: Muspelheim, Alfheim, Vanaheim, their own Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, Nifleheim, Svartalfheim, Helheim. He drew the map for Jane when they first met, and he has sketched it again at the front of the lined book in which he takes notes about the human world. These worlds were so close, across the Bifrost and past Heimdall's stalwart guard; to the people of Midgard, they seem impossibly distant.

By the time the episode ends, Thor has scrubbed the large soup pot in which he last prepared the Midgardian delicacy of Jane's Grandmother's Chili. He dries his hands upon a rag and reaches for his phone to compose a message.  


thor: @neiltyson I SHOULD LIKE TO BRING YOU AS MY COMPANION WHEN I NEXT APPROACH THE SPEED OF LIGHT
4:21 PM - 23 Oct 2015

thor: @neiltyson YOU WOULD FIND TRANSIT UPON THE BIFROST MOST COMPELLING rainbow emoji
4:22 PM - 23 Oct 2015

neiltyson: @thor COUNT ME IN
5:20 PM - 23 Oct 2015

georgetakei: @thor @neiltyson WHEN DO WE LEAVE?
5:48 PM - 23 Oct 2015

 

the distance a man can run in ten seconds

"I need your help," Darcy Lewis says a week later. They are in the coffee shop by Avengers Tower where Thor frequently breaks his fast with bacon-gouda sandwiches and a triple espresso. Mjolnir hangs at Thor's hip, but he is dressed down in woven pants of denim and a knit shirt of soft linen, his hair pulled back with a clip in the shape of a shell. Darcy is similarly casual in dress, but her mood is as serious as the line of men and women in suits which processes behind them. "I am going to flunk out of my internship, dude."

Thor lifts his eyebrows. "Jane has always said you are a most competent intern."

"Wow, really? I hope she put that in my reference letters." Darcy sighs, shoulders hunching over her pumpkin spice latte. "I'm pretty sure you guys just hired me because I have a twitter account and security clearance. Or, wait—am I being punked? Are we on camera?"

"There is one security camera to your rear and another to our left, facing the door." Thor takes another bite of his sandwich. The bacon and gouda meld perfectly together over the egg, no longer too hot for his tongue. It is hard to believe that just minutes before, this meal was frozen and secured inside a thin plastic wrapper. "Tell me more of your work, Darcy Lewis."

Darcy lowers her voice and leans in over the small table between them. "I'm the new Avengers social media intern."

 

long parades of clouds, the day's weather in the Middle West

Thor's first appearance alongside his father followed the successful completion of that year's Odinsleep. He stood between his parents upon the dais with his mother's hand clasping his shoulder, just as she held Loki at her other side. How awed and fearful he felt, looking down upon the court assembled before them; it seemed that he should be the one upon his knees, pinned beneath their gaze. "You are doing very well, my darlings," Mother said, bending down to whisper to each of them. "Stand up straight and smile. I believe in you." Thor looked past her to Loki, whose lips were pressed tight together, face pale. After a moment, Loki met Thor's eyes and their comradeship strengthened him.

Two more Odinsleeps passed before Thor and Loki began to join their parents in the parade that followed Odin's waking, at the center of the jubilant regard of the commoners and nobles alike who reveled around them. Thor found it easier to be on the ground, not quite so exalted, moving amongst the people—"who shall one day be your people," Mother reminded him—peering his head over the edge of their carriage and waving while Loki hung back beside him. Their joy was his joy, as his joy was theirs. It was as simple as that.

 

entering our field of view

"Come, Captain Rogers," Thor says as he tugs the elder Hawkeye into the square frame of the camera. They have drunk a pitcher of beer each, and Hawkeye has threatened to take out his hearing aids no less than four times. "I wish to share the glory of this night with your web." 

Captain Rogers sets his pint of ale on the table and complies, scooting along the bench of their round booth in the back of the public house. He crowds in close so that Thor can capture their faces with ease. Hawkeye's eyes are half-lidded and unfocused, his smile broad; Captain Rogers looks stiff, but still appropriately cheery. Thor taps the screen with his thumb to focus and takes three photos so he may select the best one. "I don't know how you do that one-handed," Captain Rogers says. "The angle is so awkward."

"It is because your model has a larger screen," Thor says as he types, @captainamerica @hawkguy #selfie clinking beers emojiclinking beers emojiclinking beers emoji. "Also, you must practice. I took many inferior pictures at first, just as I sundered many eggs to gain comfort opening them with but one hand."

"Holy shit," Hawkeye mumbles into Thor's ear. "You can crack an egg with one hand?"

"Indeed," Thor says, and because he is further into his cups than his speech and autocorrected text might suggest, he boasts, "Or none, aided by Mjolnir."

Captain Rogers reaches for his pint. "Prove it."

"There's a Pathmark around the corner," Hawkeye says, which is how Thor ends up breaking eggs in a parking lot with Mjolnir at 1AM. Thor posts proof of his prowess on Vine while Captain Rogers cleans up the spent yolks with paper towels and Hawkeye dozes against a streetlight.

 

our perspective changes so much at each step…

"Your conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson got a feature on Buzzfeed," Darcy says. "Last week, you posted the third-most-popular video on Vine of all time. No one retweets any of my stuff and there are only twenty-three thousand people following the Avengers account anyway." 

Thor stirs his bubble tea idly, watching the tapioca orbs within drift and settle in the purple-stained milk. "You are starting at the end, Darcy. That may be a valuable goal in battle, when you have the benefit of commanding an army—"

"I don't have the benefit of commanding an army," Darcy says.

"—but you cannot command your subjects to revere you," Thor continues. "A lesson which my brother would not learn."

Darcy makes a movement with her hands—the universal sign of the Uncomfortable Turtle.

"This is good," Thor says, sloshing the remains of the tea in its plastic vessel. "Shall I obtain another?"

 

…that even the background stars will appear to converge 

tonystark: @thor WHAT THE HELL IS THIS. http://bit.ly/1qePxi1
7:38 PM - 12 Nov 2015

Thor looks up from his phone. "I am in the room, Tony Stark. You may speak to me face-to-face if you wish."

"I want the whole internet to see me spanking you," Tony says from the couch across the conversation pit. The Avengers are assembled, in a manner of speaking: Captain Rogers is in the bathroom, so everyone else is on their phone, which Captain Rogers maintains is impolite. Sam the Falcon and Dr. Banner are angling their phones at each other and snickering, which likely has to do with the events of Kim Kardashian Hollywood; the Black Widow is typing furiously while Hawkeye peers over her shoulder; Tony and Colonel Rhodes are glaring at each other in a true display of brotherhood. 

Thor clicks on the link that Tony has tweeted him. The page beyond is nothing sinister, merely Thor's recent interview with the web periodical Rookie. "I do not understand what you mean by this," Thor says after a moment. "You do interviews as well."

"'THOR ODINSON: BABE KING OF THE AVENGERS,'" Tony recites angrily. "'OUR FAVORITE GOLDEN-TRESSED NORSE GOD ON LIFE, LOVE, AND THE COSMOS.'"

"There is but one Asgardian upon Midgard," Thor says. "That is merely exaggeration and flattery."

Tony closes his eyes and touches his forehead as if he is pained. "You're king of the Avengers?"

"There is no king of the Avengers," Captain Rogers says as he closes the bathroom door behind him.

Thor sets down his phone and rests his hand upon the shaft of Mjolnir for strength. Softly, he says, "And I am no king."

  
giant steps carry us into the outskirts of the galaxy

Jane is working at New York University's Center for Cosmology and Astrophysics; her work on wormholes has taken her from the excitement of observation to the pen-and-paper work of high energy astrophysics. "It's all General Relativity stuff," she said, bubbling with excitement when she shared her news. "I'll be in New York with you for a while, anyway."

Much as in New Mexico, Jane's work follows her home and occupies her at all hours. Often she falls asleep on their comfortable couch, work in hand, and Thor must carefully move her notebooks and Stark tablet to the low table for coffee before he carries her to their bed. "You're like a romance novel hero," Jane says sleepily as he lifts her into his arms tonight. "My very own Fabio."

"I am happy to be anything to you," Thor says, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Hero, Fabio, or mere man."

On Asgard, he was no mere man. He was an heir, a warrior, a prince upon a dais. The Rise filter on Instagram is almost like the light of Asgard, but it is not quite the same. At home, the apples are tarter, the wine sweeter, and his friends long-held and long-cherished. Here on Midgard, though, there is work to do. There are days to save, wars to end, dishes to wash, and his beloved to care for, lest she leave the house in her sleeping clothes or without her MetroCard.

Thor misses Asgard at all times of day, but least when he is here in the dark lying next to Jane, waiting for sleep to take them. 

 

whole galaxies of stars, seen as one

"I shall do shots of jello in each color of the rainbow in celebration of the restoration of the Bifrost," Thor says. "In descending order of their wavelength, as Dr. Tyson and Dr. Foster have explained." He gestures towards the kitchen, where Neil and Jane are setting the shots out in long, bright lines on the table.

Darcy turns her phone towards George Takei, recording. "And the rest of us are going to do the same in ascending order of wavelength," Takei says, nodding towards the Avengers massed behind him. "You better follow the Avengers twitter, because this is going to be a night to remember."

"Don't try this at home, kids," Tony says as Hawkeye signs, Not even for the Vine.