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Water was Thor’s first memory. Before, waiting in the deep, dark loam, he had known no hunger, no thirst, content to sleep surrounded by the soft, gentle breathing of the soil, the quiet murmur of microorganisms. When the first trickle of water touched his seed coat, he felt himself stir, and he yawned, opening himself up to it.

He woke up to a world buzzing with life. All around him there was noise, and movement, and growth.

“Hello?” Thor said, surprised by how loud his own voice sounded within the ruckus. Something small, with many legs, brushed against him, and he suppressed the urge to sneeze.

“Hellooooo?” Thor called out again.

Beside him, a root twitched, and Thor asked, “I’m sorry, can you help me? What am I supposed to do now? I have only just woken up, you see, and I’m not quite sure...”

The root twitched once more, and slowly spread downward, deeper into the soil. It twisted and turned, as if beckoning to Thor.

“I’m not sure I can do that,” Thor said, doubtful. He didn’t have much energy, and he couldn’t move to get more. If he wanted another taste of sweet, delicious water, he would have to look for it himself.

It was a gamble. It was an adventure. Thor decided he liked the sound of that.

The little seed puffed himself up, drawing on all his strength. Then, as he exhaled, he pushed.

Slowly, he spread out a tiny root, feeling for food and water. Then, quickly, he drank up what he found, suddenly taken by a voracious thirst. For a long, long while, Thor did nothing but eat and grow and eat and grow. His first tiny rootlet grew into a taproot, and then spread further into lateral roots. He excused himself to passersby and established residents as he carved out a little space for himself to grow, spreading delicate tendrils outward, little by little.

Then, when Thor had anchored his feet deep into the soil, when he had gorged himself on food and water, he turned his head upwards, wondering what lay above. He began to push his head through soil and rock, greeting everyone he came across.

“Hi! Do you know if I’m heading the right way?”

But the plants and fungi were too busy working, taking water in through their roots and sending it...up, somewhere.

What was up there?

“Excuse me! Do you know what’s up there?”

But the bacteria were too busy reproducing to pay attention to him.

Thor wrinkled his cotyledons. Horizontal gene transfer was so weird.

Thor continued his careful ascent, humming softly to himself, resting when he needed to, eating what he could find.

And then, one day, something amazing happened: Thor turned his head, and he saw light filtering through the soil.

With a shout, he used a burst of energy to break through that last barrier between him—and the rest of the world.

There was golden, syrupy sunlight, and a big, blue, vast expanse above his head. Shaking with excitement, Thor expanded his cotyledons to greet the world above for the first time.

“MOOOOM! The sunflower’s sprouted!”

Oh, Thor thought, dizzy with new sensations, that’s me.

--

The sun was the best thing ever . Thor loved the mornings, when everything was warm and Thor would sleepily reach out for the light, stretching awake. Some mornings, Thor got a sprinkle of water to the bud, and he would shiver as it washed him clean. But then the sun would dry him up, and the water would go down to his roots so he could drink, and then Thor could do photosynthesis.

Thor loved photosynthesis. It made sugar , and sugar made Thor bouncy and bright and helped him grow, higher and higher and higher.

He’d been scared at first, when his cotyledons had withered and fallen off, but now he had real leaves, like a proper plant, and they were even better!

Thor squirmed and twisted his way upwards, becoming aware that there were others like him, and they were all fighting to get that perfect patch of sun on their leaves. He didn’t mind sharing with the others, though, and it was nice to touch leaves every now and then, though it made Thor blush to do it too much.

Soon, Thor had grown bud and stem and leaf and root. When his petals unfurled, he was delighted to attract the attention of insects, who told him how pretty and strong he was. The bees were his favorite, and he loved to hum with them as they tickled him into giving up pollen. He liked how they emerged all dusted with gold, wearing bright yellow boots on their fuzzy feet.

Thor basked in the praise, and kept growing, his head always turned towards the sun, following it all day as it crossed the sky.

Life was good, and Thor was happy.

--

One day, Thor woke up and realized someone was hugging him. His lower stems were wrapped in a strange sort of winding leaf. When Thor felt around in the ground, he realized that their roots were touching too, and he began to feel flustered.

“Um,” he said.

“Sorry,” came a soft voice from somewhere below him.

Thor wanted to look down and see who it was, but the sun was out, and Thor couldn’t look away from the sun . That’s not what sunflowers did!

“It’s okay,” Thor said instead. “Could you, um, maybe...”

“I can’t,” the voice said miserably. “I’ll fall on the ground and won’t get sun and I’ll die.”

“No, oh no,” Thor said, starting to panic. His leaves started to flutter, and, with effort, he craned his great golden head downwards to look at the plant he was speaking to. He saw deep green leaves winding around his stem, clinging along the length of him. There was one long white bud, closed into a pointed spiral, and smaller buds further down, all twisted closed.

“What are you?” Thor asked, voice hushed.

“I’m a vine,” came the reply.

Thor froze. He had heard of vines. They were selfish plants, greedy, using others to claw their way up to the sun and steal the light from their captives.

“I promise I won’t hurt you,” the vine said. “I’m just...I’m so tired.”

“I’m Thor. What’s your name?” Thor asked.

“Loki,” said the vine, whose name was Loki.

“I don’t mind sharing sun...” Thor said slowly.

In response, Loki’s vines tightened, just the tiniest bit.

--

Loki slept for most of the day, as far as Thor could tell. Every so often, he would turn his head slightly and peek at those slender tendrils and Loki’s drooping buds. When the bees came that day, Thor explained the situation in a quiet murmur, and they buzzed their concern. They’d never pollinated a vine, they said, and they had no idea what kind of plant Loki was.

Thor should be careful.

“Yeah,” Thor said, wilting slightly.

With the sun down, Thor instead watched the moon. A new smell was drifting in the air, and Thor perked up slightly to taste it.

“Loki? Is that you?” he asked.

“Mmm? Oh, yes, I suppose,” Loki replied.

“Are you okay?”

“Better, now. Thank you,” Loki said.

“Good,” Thor said. And then, because he couldn’t help himself, “You smell nice.” He kept his head tilted up, feeling warm even though the sun was down.

“Thank you,” Loki said again, with a note of surprise in his voice.

As he got ready for sleep that night, Thor felt a stirring at his stem. He turned his head down, just in time to see Loki blooming open, his flowers an incandescent white.

Holding his breath, Thor watched as Loki swayed towards the moonlight, the way Thor sought the sun.

Winged insects that Thor had never seen before fluttered through the darkness, and he watched with awe as they alighted on Loki’s blossoms, glinting as they did.

“They’re moths,” Loki said, answering Thor’s question before he could ask it.

“They’re beautiful,” Thor blurted out. “You’re beautiful.”

“Go to sleep,” Loki said.

“Will you still be here when I wake up?” Thor asked.

“I can’t really move, Thor,” Loki said, dry.

“Someone might take you away,” Thor said, voice serious.

Loki coiled tighter, and Thor felt like he was the one held up, supported by Loki’s embrace.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Loki said firmly.

“Oh,” Thor breathed.

“Good night, sunflower,” Loki said.

“Good night, moonflower,” Thor said.

In the morning, when Thor woke up, Loki had wound his way higher upon Thor’s stem, such that the spiral-horn petals of his now-closed flower brushed against Thor’s open face.

“Loki,” Thor whispered.

“Mmh?” In his sleep, Loki nestled closer against Thor’s face. In response, Thor stretched out his roots and twined them deeper into Loki’s. Down in the soil below, in the rhizosphere, Thor listened as the fungi gossiped back and forth, whispering about this strange new relationship.

“Don’t listen to them,” Thor whispered. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“’snice,” Loki mumbled. He nudged the tip of his bud against one of Thor’s florets, and released that wonderful scent again.

Thor turned towards the sun, and waited for Loki to wake.