Of Roses and Thunder

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It hit the news early the next morning, and there was no escaping the headlines broadcasted in bold across every network. William Townsend Found Unresponsive in Malibu Home, William Townsend Transported to Hospital in Suspected Alcohol Poisoning, Billionaire William Townsend...

Maize woke up to the news, and she had joined the group of Gods gathering in the living room. Each one was tuned in to a different network broadcasting the story since even they didn’t even have direct contact with him anymore. The only information they were getting was from the news. He was so distant, it felt as if their years of friendship, companionship, everything, was reduced to nothing. It was as if they weren’t his family anymore, and they were just like the rest of the world looking at his life from the outside. They could never really get inside his head, they were always on the outside, it seemed.

Dike had become the leader of the team that remained, and after a few minutes of staring at the TVs that felt like forever, Dike turned them all to mute. There was a heaviness in the air that rested right on the same spot in everyone’s chest to accompany their shocked faces. Peter squeezed Maize’s hand in support, but she wasn’t feeling anything. She was shocked and sad, but it was how she had felt when people had died that she wasn’t close to. It was almost as if her relationship with him never existed if he was never her father as if he was just another stranger.

“Listen up, team,” Dike said, breaking the silence. Everyone turned their attention to Dike, standing the strongest of all of them, it seemed. “I know this is extremely difficult for all of us. I will keep you all posted on what’s happening, what we can do and how he is if we get that information. It’s hard to be a bystander, but unfortunately, we have lost contact with him. William left the team and has dropped contact with us. I will figure out how and if we can help, but I can’t make any promises. Until then, I’ll be taking charge of the team, and we’ll keep trying to do the most good for the most people.”

Dike was a great leader, and he was making a difficult situation as easy as he could for the new and old gods. But Maize, as much as she appreciated Dike, needed to take some action of her own.

William’s lab, the vault, and other tools locked behind glass and bars had been sitting empty for the weeks William was gone. Nobody knew if he was ever coming back to them, but they had gotten their answer via the news, he had abandoned them and everything about his past. It was time to set those demons free.

Maize slipped out of the common room mostly undetected, but not by Peter and Dike eventually found out and followed her down to William’s lab. Maize had summoned Mjolnir from her room, and as she approached the glass doors to his lab that was only accessible by his face, fingerprints and a code.

“Maize, what are you doing?” Peter asked.

“William isn’t coming back, Peter. He left us, and his past, locked away. It’s not fair that the things that can help us are hidden behind these walls like we don’t have the privilege to touch them. So, you might want to stand back.”

“You think your hammer can break through bulletproof glass?” Peter asked, not doubting Mjolnir, but wary that they could break down the large and heavy walls William lived behind.

“I think it’s cute that you think it can’t.” Maize answered as she and Peter both stood back, and Maize swung her hammer before she released it right into the large glass sliding doors that kept his lab under siege. With one big explosion, the glass shattered into millions of pieces that crunched underneath their feet as they walked into the lab. Alarms were blaring, but they were quickly shut down. Jason wasn’t even working up to par without William to give it software updates, and he was the only one with the control and wasn’t really useful without him.

“Shut the fuck up, Jason, William isn’t here anymore. This is a mutiny, cut the fucking alarm.” Maize yelled into thin air, and suddenly the alarm had stopped.

“Next up is the vault, we’re only halfway there.”

At that point, Dike had found them out and was standing in the remnants of the glass with Peter and Maize, stopping them before they could move on to the Vault.

“Maize, what’s happening here?”

“I thought there were monsters hidden behind these walls, but there was just a looming shadow cast over everything that could have been good. I’m setting everything free since William’s not coming back. I want to use what he spent his whole life on since he isn’t.”

“Maize, there are some dark things in there,” Dike warned.

“I’ve been in some really dark places, Dike. I can handle what William left behind.” Maize reassured before heading to the Vault and breaking every single pane of glass. It was cathartic for her, rhythmically breaking free of William’s betrayal. She revealed different kinds of lasers, sonic sound technology, disintegrator rays, jet-powered roller skates, different kinds of armor, and a fucking iron spider suit for Peter that nobody knew about. As Maize smashed, Peter and Dike picked up each and every one of the pieces to bring upstairs for the group.

Everyone was confused at first, angry that William had withheld so many things that could have helped them, but they were grateful that they had it anyway. Before anyone could really get in some concerned looks for Maize’s wellbeing, since William was her father, after all, she escaped from the crowd by means of an incoming video call from her mother. She escaped to the privacy of the balcony outside.

“Hey, mom. I know what this is about, and I’m doing okay.” Maize began as she answered the phone and they were connected.

“Are you sure? I mean, I’m having a really hard time with this and I don’t expect you to be fine”

“Mom, I can’t risk not being fine. It’s not that easy for me to let this hurt. I’ve lost not one, but two fathers and that’s already more than most people. It took me my entire life to be fine with David not wanting me, and I don’t want to spend another ten, twelve years being hurt by someone who didn’t want me, who didn’t love me. I mean, this hurts, it really does. But I just don’t have the energy to go through it again.”

“How did you find out?”

“Like you, the news this morning. It was rough. Dike got us all together.”

“Did William just get up and leave you guys?”

“Yep, he said he wasn’t going to come back. He built up this entire universe, he put me in this position and didn’t even see it out until the end. I’m angry, mom. That’s what I’m feeling.”

“I completely understand. Do you know what’s going to happen to the team now?”

“Dike is our leader, we all knew that he would take over when William was gone or just wasn’t there, and he’s trying to keep us together as best as he can. We broke all of William’s inventions and armor out of the Vault just a few minutes ago, too. We’re using all of our resources with what William left for us to stretch this out as long as we can. Maybe I have a chance to live a normal life.”

“Maybe, sweetie. I also just wanted to let you know that I’m leaving for California soon. My flight is in about an hour. I’m his emergency contact, and the hospital needs me to be there as his medical power of attorney. If he makes it through, I’m going to stay with him for as long as he wants me to be there. If he doesn’t, I have to be there to take his body back to New York.”

“I understand, mom. Have a safe flight.” Maize said, her voice choked up suddenly. She hung up the phone and wiped away one hot tear with the back of her hand before she felt an arm wrap around her shoulder. Dike had met her out on the balcony.

“How you are doing, kid?”

“I’m not so sure anymore. Mom’s going out to California to William’s hospital. She’s his medical power of attorney. I don’t know when she’ll be back. And I feel pretty much alone now. I don’t have a father, out of two people, and my mother is all the way across the country. I’m really in this alone.”

“Kid, family is really, really hard. Sometimes, actually, more often than not, the people that we think are supposed to love us, don’t. Family means a lot more than blood, it’s an identity, it’s a choice. Choose your family, choose to be around the people who truly love you and you’ll never be alone again. Peter is your family. I can be your family. Arawn, Savannah, Thor, we can all be your family if you want us to be. We’re here and ready for you to be family, Maize. It didn’t work out with David or William, but by no means does that make you unlovable or have anything wrong with you. You are incredible, talented, caring, smart, strong, and you’re extremely resilient. I’ve never watched someone come back from the dead quite as you did. You were dead, Maize. We knew you wouldn’t make it through the night, and you died, but then your eyes opened and looked at us with a kind of hope we’d never seen before. So, fuck David and fuck William, because they don’t deserve you.”

“Thanks, Dike.” Maize sincerely spoke, not really able to say much more.

“Arawn and Savannah are here. They asked how you were doing. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable, we’re here if you need us, but if you just want to be alone, we get that too. Take your time.”

Maize stood out on the balcony for a few more moments, taking in the fresh air in the world as she knew it before things would change and William might be gone. Again.

Stepping back inside, Arawn and Savannah immediately noticed her entrance and as if they had practiced it a hundred times, Arawn raised his arm out for Maize, taking her in for a hug. His other arm was wrapped around Savannah, and it was so obvious to everyone that they were so deeply in love. When Dike knew him during the war, he knew that Arawn always wanted to get married. Dike wasn’t so sure if that part of Arawn had remained the same, but now Dike had no doubt.

Ever since Russia, Arawn and Maize had become inexplicably close. Maize was terrified for her first big battle, and Arawn helped her through it. He never really told her how guilty he felt and how tormented he was after she was left to die, but somehow she knew that it had killed him to know he didn’t do everything for her. From then on they had a bond, a deep trust in each other that they would always work to keep each other safe. Plus, Maize had always liked Savannah. She knew that Savannah was someone she could trust, too, and that she would be good for Arawn. Maize was always good at reading people, but she didn’t even need a second moment to know Savannah’s character. They both cared really, really deeply about each other and for Maize.

Suddenly, Maize’s phone began to ring on the table. It was coming from her mom, and at this point, the news could go either way. Her stomach dropped like a boulder was in it anyway, and she slowly picked up and greeted her mother. She was preparing herself for the better news and the bad news.

“Mom, hi. What’s going on?” Maize greeted nervously.

“Maize, love, I wanted you to hear this from me instead of from Dike or from the news. There is no easy way to say this, but-”

“William’s gone, isn’t he?” Maize asked, her body and mind gone completely blank and numb.

“Yes. The doctors can’t explain it, he was doing so much better and was going to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility in a few days, but he made an unexpected crash and his heart just couldn’t do it again.” Anne said, her voice frantic and choked. Maize leaned against the wall and let herself slowly sink to a sitting position, trying to catch her breath. The line was silent for many moments. Maize had no idea what to think and what to feel. Her real father was gone.

The father she had grown up with wanted nothing to do with her. William, Maize’s real father who loved her for her entire life suddenly claimed she wasn’t good enough one day, and now he was gone too. She had lost the people that were supposed to be there for her, the people that were supposed to love her. She lost William without ever knowing the closure of him apologizing and them going back to normal. She missed out, not once but twice, on having a father.

William had battled his depression for his entire life. He too had lost both of his parents when he needed them the most. Maize understood, but it felt wrong that she had to experience the same thing she did.

She was overcome with grief and sadness, angry that the world didn’t give them enough time to make a happy ending. But suddenly, Loki’s words from the night before in the casino had repeated themselves in her head.

William Townsend still owes me a soul.

The scenario seemed all too familiar, just like the circumstances surrounding Zelda’s death. William had built her a technology that kept her heart from stopping and was completely fail-safe. Out of the blue, in an unexplainable way, it failed, and she suffered a fatal heart attack. Loki had killed her in exchange for Talia. It had dawned on Maize that William’s death was an exact repeat, and she was furious at Loki for killing the father she so desperately needed and deserved.

“Maize, I’m so sorry.” Anne apologized, repeating it over and over. “The lawyer is coming soon, and she’ll be reviewing his last will and testament with me. All I know from just knowing him is that he doesn’t want a funeral, he wants to be cremated, and that there’s a house in the desert he built and left for you.”

“Mom, I don’t even know what to do now.” Maize spoke.

“I know, baby. I’ll be there as soon as possible. I love you so, so much and I’m so sorry that this is happening because you’re the last person on earth this should be happening to. Stay with Peter for now, and when I get to you, you can let all your tears out on me.” Anne spoke, comfortingly.

Peter knew exactly what had happened when Maize stepped back into the room. He knew the news wasn’t good, and the look on her face told her everything he needed to know. He had never seen that look in her eyes, the expression of deep hurt and pain, shock and trauma. Out of all the people she had lost in her life, losing William had hurt her the most.

She was still trying to process the evening, and that phone call she prayed she wasn’t going to receive from Anne, but she got anyway. William was gone, and she was crying in Peter’s lap, a mess that she wanted to hide away from the world.

Everyone knew that William would never leave the world peacefully. They always knew that there would be loose ends that would never be tied up, and questions that they would never get answers to. William Townsend took things to his grave that the world would never have again. But Maize, she deserved answers, of all people. She deserved a father, and she deserved to have him. She deserved to hear him make things right with her, she deserved to hear him tell her that she was good enough for him.

Yes, she deserved it.

But the world is cruel, and she would never get what she rightfully deserved.

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