When I watched Thor I thought that it would have been more poignant if he had been left on earth for much longer, and built a life for himself. This is that story.

Fire in the East

They stay in that little town, at the edge of the desert.

He stays at first because he has nowhere else to go, no one else but Jane. Jane and her brittle bones, her collarbone delicate, fingers long and thin, like a breeze could blow her away. Jane and her stars, and charts, that girlish voice talking about atoms and particles. Jane who doesn't believe him, but somehow accepts him, and that is enough. He thinks he might love her, but he isn't sure. He's never been in love before.

He stays, and he waits for a sign. The hammer still sits in the desert, trapped in plastic rigging, though slowly most of the government men disappear. Eventually, even Thor's guards, those men on the rooftops with their goggles and guns, even they disappear, because he is no one, nothing special.

He stays, and becomes a man.

Donald. Don. It's a strange name; it sits flat on his tongue, but after the first few months he starts to respond to it, like a dog responding to a bell. Don. Only Jane and Darcy still call him Thor, Darcy with sarcasm, Jane with that lilting, teasing way she has, that sounds like she's indulging him or asking him to bed. Thor, Thor, she says, Oh mighty Thor.

It's hard, at first, to become accustomed to this world. It's so harsh and bright and dry, the sun a flat disk, the colors all steel and wood and dust and linoleum, when he is used to rich cherries and crushed velvet magenta, cerulean and onyx and pure gold. Wine is not as honeyed, no one drinks mead. Meat is tossed in an oven instead of slow-roasted in its juices over a fire. Bread is always a little stale instead of white and doughy and smelling of yeast. The air smells like desert and exhaust fumes, instead of cinnamon and spices. The public urinal is almost unbearable. Public transit is akin to torture.

Only the night sky is similar, though the constellations are different. He tells Jane about the tree. She teaches him about The Big Dipper and Orion and The Great Bear. She takes his hand, tracing their outlines in the sky, and that's when he first turns and kisses her, and when the sun spreads hazy fingers of light over the horizon he realizes they have stayed out all night, and by now he is almost definitely sure he loves her.

Don is a doctor, but all Thor has are his muscles. He finally takes a job at a construction company, hauling and lifting. It's no fighting, but it feels good, working outside with his shirt off in the hot sun, sweating. He works there until he hears his coworkers whistling and yelling at a group of young women, and when he insists that they behave like gentlemen they taunt him, so he punches one in the face and knocks the others to the ground.

It is a glorious fight, but in the end the manager fires him and Erik is the one who has to beg them not to press charges. It shames Thor, to see another man fight his battle, and he goes back to the unworthy man and apologizes, and asks the manager for his job back. Thor is by far the strongest of the group, and it is by virtue of his biceps alone that he returns to work. He has never been so humbled.

Months pass.

Jane takes him with her to meet her family at Christmas. They travel north for a long time, in an old car, and he watches the world shift and change like a living thing. It's so vast, earth, and not all dry and dusty. At first when he sees the snowflakes flutter down he balks, remembering the ice-planet and its eternal darkness and heartless giants. But this snow melts in Jane's hair and children ball it up and throw it at him, and he runs with them to their frozen forts and their snowmen and then tromps inside with them to drink hot chocolate by the fire. The lights twinkle merrily on the small fir tree and for the first time in a long time the word rises up in his mind again: Home.

He finds that there are sweeter things than mead and glory and the fierce bright colors and rich textures of Asgard. Things like waking up next to her and then watching the sun rise from a front porch. The way his fingers, once eternally smooth, roughen with work, and are somehow made all the more gentle for it. The way that scrambled eggs taste when loaded with cheese and salt, or a fresh-brewed cup of coffee when doused in sugar. The sound of the dog that Jane brings home one night and shares their bed from then on, all soft fur and tiny sharp teeth. The feel of a cool shower after a long day of work. Her body, so small and fragile but containing such a bright fire, how she responds to his newly-callused fingertips, how she pulls him to her and still calls his true name, Thor, Thor.

All of these things, fireworks and rain, grass and dirt, pancakes and coco, work boots and flannel shirts, the bright eyes of a woman. He knows he loves her now. She says it often, and freely. I love you, I love you, I love you. He wants to buy her a ring. It is a custom here, on earth. He would give it to her, to see her smile. To make her his.

And on that day (when he is making pancakes and she is humming and bumping her hip playfully into his and the sun is rising fire in the east and he feels the ring in his pocket, his little secret) when his armored champions knock on the glass door, he knows that all of it is over. Jane drops her plate, and he sees in her eyes that knowing, that believing, and when she looks at him it is different, awed and scared, and he knows that all of these months he has just been playing a child's game. His fantasy world, and he let himself believe it. Believe in love, believe in escape, in simplicity and sanctuary and cotton sheets and pancakes. And it's over. It's all over.

He gets his armor and his power and his world and his throne back. He is a king. He gets it all.

And loses.