Title: A Space Between
Category: Movies » Thor
Author: Enigma-Eggroll
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Friendship/Romance
Published: 06-10-12, Updated: 06-16-12
Chapters: 10, Words: 21,067

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

The hardest part of the day is the end. Not turning out the light or leaving a few loose ends to dangle, but flipping that little switch in his head from 'work' to 'life.'

A month has passed, and everyone is scattered to the four winds. For those left behind, life continues at its usual pace. The invasion showed just how much larger the world is, and without a bridge, the earth remains isolated. The scientists huddle together, their dark heads full of brilliance that Steve can't comprehend. Already the odd man out, he's left behind, watching them at their computers, scribbling complex algorithms on glossy white boards and arguing over equations no normal person can understand.

He's alone, at drift without an ally, someone who is perfectly content to see the potential in the world and enjoy the simple things in life. Someone who sees the world as he does, without all the fear and cynicism, simply hope.

O - O

The balcony is a happy accident, something he finds two weeks after Natasha and Clint's departure. Something in the lab has everyone wound up, a discovery made by the tiny, dark haired woman who people call Dr. Foster. She's young, not much older than Steve's physical age, as he calls it. The discovery has her excited, her cheeks flushed, and she's nothing more than a schoolgirl, glowing at the promise of a top mark or a special accolade. People flutter around her, swapping stacks of papers and mumbling about satellite trajectories and open windows. As they move away, the excitement moves with them, leaving Steve on the outside, looking in.

Dejected, he retreats to the elevators, jabbing the button that will take him to the gym. There won't be anyone there, but it doesn't matter, Steve thinks. They don't pay attention unless they need him.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it isn't anything new. He was created with a purpose, and outside of that, what is he? A man out of time and place, the war seventy years in the past. With no family, and no real friends to speak of, what is there for him other than punching bags and the intermittent call to save the world? He's in a new sort of deep freeze, but this time he's awake and fully aware of how easily he blends into the background.

A tower of boxes where the door to the gym should be is the first indication that something is wrong. Row after row of white boxes, neatly labeled and aligned flank the entire wall, which just hours before had been bare.

Steve turns slowly around, aware now of the details missed on his blind walk from the elevator - the lack of furniture, the quiet, and the organized chaos of storage. Somehow, he's gotten off at the wrong floor, stumbling off into an empty part of the building, put to use as storage. It's there, beyond the stacks, that he finds his oasis - a small balcony, the length and width of a delivery truck, shooting out over the New York skyline.

Too preoccupied with whatever it is that they've discovered, Steve's colleagues make no note of his absence. The balcony, located just two floors below the rooftop helipad, is semi-sheltered and safe, the perfect place to sneak away. Steve turns one of the empty boxes next to the balcony door into makeshift hidey hole, leaving behind books and magazines to pass the time. After a few weeks and no interruptions, he leaves a sketchpad and pencils behind, as well.

It's the closest thing he's had to any sort of home in more years than he can count.

O - O

Steve notices the shoes first – thin cotton, faded black with scuffed white rubber toes. They're the same shoes he wore as a child, stamping all his best memories with an indelible black star in a circle logo. They lay in a tumbled heap in front of the open balcony door. Turn chrome and glass into scarred wooden door in a fifth floor Brooklyn walk up, and they might have been his, once upon a time.

But this is more like The Three Bears than a fairy tale, and he highly doubts that the discarded tennis shoes belong to a little girl answering to the name Goldilocks.

"Hello?" Steve calls out. His voice bounces off the flat walls, the subtle echo picking up his flat, nasal o and elongating it into a caricature of his real voice.

There's no response.

He edges forward. There are no clouds to filter out the warm sunlight, washing everything in a brilliant blue-white filter. A woman lies lazily on the cement tile of the balcony, her loose, dark hair a stark contrast to the grey sparkling stone beneath her head. Small white cords snake up from a familiar black and silver box that rests on her stomach. Pepper, Tony, Coulson… they all live and die by these small devices – part phone, part computer, all mystery, at least where Steve is concerned.

The woman is a mystery, too, which overrides the natural urge toward irritation or invasion.. Her faded jeans and plain white t-shirt are by no means scientist appropriate, at least not compared to lab coats he sees day in and day out. She could be an employee of Stark Industries, but Steve doubts that affiliation. Her clothes are too casual for this modern, professional world. These are park clothes; worn by girls wandering around the boat pond and through the baseball fields, their thin arms and legs bared to the warm summer sun.

She's as different from those girls as a sphere amidst triangles. Round where they are angular, shadowed and three-dimensional where they are flat. She belongs in another time, with bright red lips and a full skirt that would set off her tiny waist.

Will there ever be a time or place where I don't compare then and now? Steve wonders.

He's been coming up here for weeks, fleeing to this little terrace. And now, here is a glimmer of time past, in the exact spot meant to be free of everything that troubles him about this all too distant future. She's like a mirage, a ghost of everything that he once longed for, and never could have.

As if sensing his presence, the woman's eyes pop open, but she doesn't scramble away or threatening to call for help. Instead, she raises her hand slowly to block the afternoon sun, her head tipping to the side as she looks him up and down. When she's done, the woman drops her hand lazily backs to her stomach and her eyes drift shut.

"Take a picture," the woman says. Her speech is slower than he's accustomed to, and lacking in the usual New York City affectations. "It'll last longer."

"I'm sorry, ma'am," Steve responds automatically. Too many years being drilled by his mother, who believed in the use of yes, ma'ams and no sir's and yes, pleases in all situations.

"I'm not old enough to be a ma'am, thank you very much," the woman says. There's a lilt in her voice, a little sing song annunciation – and if the woman's voice was deeper, she'd sound just like General Phillips.

Somehow, Steve doubts that General Phillips ever looked as good as this.

"Dude," the woman says, sitting up again. One eye is squinted shut to block out the light. "Anyone looking over the railing will see you. Now sit or move."

Chastened, Steve follows her command, dropping down silently onto the tile. In his khaki pants and white t-shirt, he likes to think he doesn't look all that, maybe passing for some low level employee or intern, as he's heard the younger workers called.

The idea of anonymity, of being Steve, just plain old Steve, is as comforting as the warm sun on his face. He leans back against the glass door, and his eyes begin to drift shut as he absorbs the relative peace of their little oasis.

After a few minutes of quiet, the woman pulls in a deep, slow breath, and then pushes it out with a huff. "I'm tired of voices," she says without precursor, "so I decided it was a classical type of night. You like Copland?"

She passes one of the small white chords to Steve, the tip at the end shaped like the head of a hammer. It's a careless gesture, one offered by the innocent, or those with the naïve belief that the world is, in fact, a safe place. He accepts the object, and follows her lead, slipping the tiny plastic piece awkwardly into his ear. Trumpets, timpani's and French horns roar to life, a beautiful, simplistic paean to the common man.

He leans back against the door again, one eye squinted shut to block out the sinking sun.

"I'm Steve," he says, hand extended.

When she turns to face him, the corners of her mouth arc up slowly, but she makes no move to shake his hand. Her teeth are small and rounded, like little white tiles. It's not a perfect smile, but it's warm.

"Darcy," the brunette says. "Welcome to the last sane place on earth."