Of Roses and Thunder

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No God Left Behind


Maize lay motionless on the concrete, 13 stories below her last hope that seemed to fall out the window the same time she did. She watched herself stumble backward after being aggressively pushed, the Gods looking at her out of the window as she fell as the continued fighting and left her alone.

She crashed down through the already-decaying roof of the warehouse-shed structure that was brewing a strong fire inside it already. Maize’s fall left a gaping hole in the roof, letting the bouts of snow fall down inside, landing on her and the ground surrounding her. Over in the corner, a now-raging fire was working on fatally changing the structural integrity of the building. Maize was sure that the whole thing was going to come down on her soon, and the ashes would mix with the snow when the wind blew.

For all she knew, this could be a vision. She could be sitting safely at home, imagining this all in her head. But in her visions, she was always able to tell what was real and what was fabricated. Now, she couldn’t tell. This could be a dream. She didn’t feel anything at all, so she had no gauge on if she was alive and dreaming, or dead as dirt and laying somewhere in purgatory.

Everything was quiet. There was no sound surrounding her. Not even her mind could provide a running internal dialogue anymore. She wished for death if it hadn’t already happened to her yet. That was the best thing that could possibly happen to her at that moment, death.

She didn’t feel like she had felt when she found herself falling off the Roosevelt Island Bridge and into the East River. She didn’t feel protected from the impact or rejuvenated. She didn’t feel like a god. She felt completely and utterly helpless.

And, after all, the Gods had abandoned her. If she hadn’t died before someone found her, they left her for dead in the middle of winter in Russia on a The Order of the Black Rose base. They would take her and torture her for all the life she had left in her and make her death a living hell. She was just waiting for the rapture.

The snow swirled quickly and quietly around Maize in heavy bouts, her body dusted with the ice crystals in sheer seconds. The snowflakes melted when they came into contact with her hot blood but eventually began to clump her hair together and cool her skin down. The fire spread to where she was, the icy wind unfortunately not putting out the flames. Maize couldn’t move even if she tried.

She thought, she could be peacefully buried under a blanket of snow in minutes, nature taking care of her burial and funeral for her since no one else was going to. Maybe, even, someone would find her body in the springtime when the snow melted, and her silent and still corpse re-emerged. Maybe someone would care enough to properly bury her. Maybe, someone would even bring a bouquet of flowers for her remembrance. What if the flowers just grew around her instead? The loss of her life would provide the grounds for something new and beautiful to grow.

Wouldn’t that be romantic?

But if the whole city was in ruins and the people were all killed, no one would find her when the snow melted, and the ice thawed.

She would want lilies and pink carnations at her funeral.

Though it was blurry, there was a figure in a yellow sundress walking in the snow, barefoot towards her, holding a bouquet of daisies. As the figure approached her Maize recognized it as her mom, who was smiling down at her. She had her hair tucked back in an elegant twist, just how Maize remembered her looking on Easter Sunday years ago.

“Mom, aren’t you cold?” She asked. She got no response. Instead, the figure was blown away with a strong gust of wind, breaking down into millions of snowflakes passing by her.

Maize was on the ground, her whole body shivering even though her skin felt prickly and hot. She knew that hypothermia was setting in and soon she would be asleep, peacefully. She would never have to suffer again, and it would all be over in a little while. She knew that if she moved her injuries would only become worse, and the glass and gravel embedded underneath her skin would only dig in further and the rebar that punctured her body would cause more damage, making her last moments hurt so much more. The fall off the platform and through the window down 13 stories wasn’t a long or particularly hard fall for Thor, but factoring in her previous injuries made her fall nearly crippling. She knew that she very possibly would slip into shock if she didn’t get help soon, but the Gods had all left without her. They took the Jet and were getting ready to take off. She could hear it.

She felt the sensation of crying in her chest, but she could barely breathe, and no tears flowed out of her eyes. She tightened her grip on the hammer and waited for her lungs to fill with smoke. She couldn’t move and make an escape, and she never expected to be destined to die like this. She never saw betrayal from the team coming, especially on Christmas Eve and it would be the last thing she was going to remember.

She couldn’t even spend one more Christmas with her mother. That opportunity was ripped out from underneath her before she ever had a chance to save it.

And William would have to be the one to tell her that her only child, her precious daughter was dead, on Christmas Day.

What a tragedy.

Maybe her story would be a legend someday. She could only hope her death would be justified; everyone wants a meaningful and poetic death and she was one of them. Maize didn’t want to die in vain.

The fire burned hot and heavy around her. The flames were inching towards her, threatening to lick at her delicate and broken body. Some part of her wanted them to, dared them to. She was ready to let go. In the distance, she heard far away screaming and arguing but she was dizzy and fading in and out so much she couldn’t tell what it was about. But out of the smoke, a figure emerged, and Maize knew immediately who had stayed behind and risked their lives for her. She felt the vibrations of their footsteps crunching in the snow with every step they took getting closer to her.

It was William.

He knelt down next to her and began an assessment, attempting to determine what was her worst injury he could treat. It made it increasingly hard as she slipped in and out of consciousness, unable to communicate with her even when she was awake. The explosion had temporarily damaged her hearing, and everything sounded muffled to her. He rested her head on his lap as he sat back on his heels, cupping her face in her hand despite the fact that she could have a neck injury. She was already critically injured, what possibly could be added to it? As she blacked out once more, William gently shook her and slapped her face just enough to bring her back. Her lips were blue and the veins in her face were becoming more prevalent with the onset of hypothermia. He knew at some point he wouldn’t be able to bring her back if she was out here for much longer.

“You gotta stay with me, Maize. Stay with me. Look at me, ok? You gotta stay awake cause you’ll be so god damn tempted to close your eyes and then you’ll never be able to open them again, okay?! You gotta fight, Maize. There are people depending on your return. Peter, he can’t live without you. He loves you more than Star Wars, Maize. You have to stay with me, Maize. I love you so much, don’t leave me so soon.”

“I’m ready to let go, William.” She rapidly choked. His heart was full of pain having to see her like this. He wasn’t ready to see the life slip out of her lungs. He felt indescribably sick.

“If I were you, I’d let go too. I wouldn’t want some asshole telling me not to when they didn’t understand that I was ready. But today, I’m that asshole. I know you’re ready to let go and on any other god damn day I’d let you, but today is not any other god damn day, Maize. Not today. Today is not your day. Do not let go. Hold on with everything you can because I’m so fucking selfish and I can’t let you let go.”

She seemed to understand what she was saying and fought hard against passing out. He knew that the power of positive thinking was a lost cause and saw that she was still in a lot of pain and instead, he pulled a hypodermic needle out of what seemed like nowhere and bit the Dike off, a miracle the contents of the syringe and the needle itself survived the fight. Maize winced just looking at it, not knowing what was going to happen to her. The contents of that syringe would determine her fate. It could either be lethal injection or life-saving medication; it was like Russian roulette and she had already made peace with the fact that she wouldn’t mind one of the options over the other. William quickly calmed her, knowing that a million thoughts would be running through her mind, the second the needle was exposed.

“Everything hurts now, but it’s not going to in a half a second. You’re not going to feel any more pain, Maize.” He reassured, even though he didn’t know if it would be enough or take her pain away. It seemed unlikely that just a few milliliters or pain medication could heal a superhero that was impaled and barely conscious. He told her it would be okay anyway. He needed to convince himself of it.

“Jason I don’t know how to get her to safety without hurting her more.” He said in a panic inside his suit. Jason analyzed her body in its current condition.

“Unfortunately, there is no other way than picking her up and moving her. That is the very last thing you want to do, but your other option is leaving her right here which you have made clear isn’t an option.”

He sighed, knowing he didn’t have a lot of time and there wasn’t a good way to move her without worsening her condition. Knowing this anyway, he tossed some of her hair away from her neck since now was not the time to try and hit a vein in her arm; and he pressed the needle into her jugular. He watched her eyes flutter closed before he carefully picked her up in his arms and ran out to the helicopter that was taking off without them. He shot a grappling hook out of the arm of his suit, hooking it around the skids of the Jet. The winch pulled him and Maize up to the landing where William placed her limp body. She flopped unceremoniously onto the floor of the helicopter, William following her. The hammer clattered loudly on the floor, still in Maize’s cold hand. William did his best to put her in the recovery position but at this point, it wouldn’t help her. The passengers were stunned and startled that both of them made it on the craft, but they knew what they would have to face. It became real when they saw her face. Her sick, gray face covered in dirt, blood, and ash, accompanied by the significant piece of metal sticking out of her body.

“I can’t believe you were going to leave us behind. We’re arguing about this later!” He said as he closed the door to the helicopter. “I’m not getting into this now, but the second we land this god damn helicopter, someone’s getting killed and it’s not going to be pretty!” He threatened wholeheartedly.

“And her?” Artemis asked with no sense of sorrow about her. There was no hint of care in her words.

“Funny you ask since you didn’t seem to care when you were the one that demanded we left without her! I knew that you were stoic, but I didn’t think you were heartless Artemis. I don’t know what that program of yours taught you, but I sure as hell know that you weren’t trained to leave a kid behind-”

“She’s not going to make it to tomorrow, William! I didn’t think any of us wanted to watch her die! I gave you every warning that we were leaving!”

“It doesn’t fucking matter if she’ll make it to sunrise, hell, even sunset tonight! She deserves to die with some fucking dignity, in my opinion! I wouldn’t want to go out, left behind by the people I trusted, left to fucking rot in the snow and in the fire with nobody but us out there to know that her body lay dead like an animal-!”

Maize became more distressed with all the commotion around her, especially since she was hearing everything about her dying, coming from all the Gods.

“William, please!” Artemis commanded.

“Artemis, you can’t just bring up a subject like this and leave it hanging!”

Artemis swallowed hard. She faced William with gritted teeth.

“William, we will finish this later but not in front of Maize. This is you and me, William, not me, you and the dying girl between us.”

“But whose fucking fault is that?”

“It’s not any of our faults she’s dying!”

“That’s debatable, Artemis. What’s not up for debate is the fact that you were ALL okay with leaving her there to die. What if she was your initiate? Come on. Face the fucking facts: you wouldn’t have left her. She’s just a kid, guys.” He sympathized, his voice cracking. It hit him hard; not because he and Maize had become friends. This could have been his daughter instead of Maize.

His daughter.

Then, a realization struck him.

Maize is somebody’s daughter; ‘somebody’ being the keyword.
And she’s the daughter of the woman that saved his life.
And there was a tiny breath of a chance that she could actually be his. Not David’s.

He’s had the suspicion for a long time, but now was the most important time for him to find out the truth about it. Anne always denied it, but it just didn’t feel right in William’s heart. He knew there was still a piece missing, and he would want to know if this was his daughter laying in the hospital if she were to die tonight. It didn’t look good for her and William was running out of time.

William was never good at effectively communicating his emotions, but this was different. His paternal instincts were kicked into overdrive. He made everything loud and clear, especially since everyone knew he would only say it once.

“And to think you were going to leave her... you should all be ashamed of yourselves. If it was just me, okay. that’s understandable. I have a suit that flies and keeps me alive. I really would have been fine. But Maize’s just a kid.”

Just then, Maize’s breathing obviously struggled, and she let out some weak coughs. Her condition was getting progressively worse, and William was more concerned than ever that she wouldn’t make it much longer. William was once again on high alert. He ripped down an oxygen mask from the roof and secured it around her head. He assumed she was suffering from smoke inhalation from her time in the burning warehouse and the air in the jet wasn’t enough.

“William, I’m cold,” She weakly whispered, her eyes still closed. If he wasn’t listening he would have missed it.

“Okay, baby. We’re almost home. Stay with me, sweetie.” He pleaded, trying to stay calm as he covered her with an emergency blanket.

He watched her closely and was shocked when he saw her eyes begin to flutter open, actively thinking of where she was and what had happened to her. She was becoming increasingly more conscious, making the pain even worse. Her protective shield was falling, fast. She didn’t recognize her surroundings and was beginning to freak out, just like William.

She began to whimper from the pain, breaking William’s heart. He could tell she was trying to hold back immense sobs because the pain was growing every moment. Her body began to shake from a developing fever, her dirty and bloody face dripping with icy sweat. Her lips and face were pale and ashen, but no longer blue. Her once radiant eyes were now completely dull and lifeless. She reached out for him with her good arm only to find the cold metal of his suit. He took off the hand and forearm piece of his suit to hold her hand, comforting her for the rest of the ride back to the compound.

“Don’t move, Maize. Stay still. I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere. Just stay still, okay? You’re almost home.” William said, not wanting her to move her head any more than what was necessary in case she had a spinal injury. She held onto his hand tightly and heeded his words, her icy sweat beads dripping down her face and cutting through the layer of grime. She tried to focus on the pure oxygen she was breathing in, but her whole chest felt as if it were on fire. Her teeth chattered but she tried to stay quiet, not wanting to be any more of a burden to them. William didn’t know what else to do.

When the Jet landed, William instructed no one to get near her or touch her until she was seen by someone who knew what the fuck they were doing with medicine. Only then was she transported to the on-site hospital in the basement to be properly taken care of.

As they were loading her off the chopper and onto a stretcher, they wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her arm, took her temperature and got her vitals, which looked gloomy. A nurse gently opened her eyelids and shined a light into her eyes, rattling off numbers for her pupil dilation, which was abysmal. They stabilized her head and neck and took her arm, putting a tourniquet on her bicep so they could start an IV of warm saline in her arm to raise her core temperature. Her temperature was almost ten degrees below normal, but she managed to feel as if her body was on fire and freezing at the same time. Maize didn’t have good veins, they were small and buried deep in her arm, but the nurse was able to get it on the first try. If her vein collapsed, that would be one more straw on the camel’s back. In transport, they fitted her with another oxygen mask and did everything they could to avoid worsening her injuries that nobody knew the extent of.

The Gods headed their separate ways silently and solemnly, knowing there was nothing they could do at that point.

Meaghan wouldn’t look at Dike. She walked off the Jet without his help, taking the lead for herself even though she had a hole in her body that continued from the front to the back. She didn’t feel it was as serious as it would have been if the bullet hadn’t gone straight through, but it was a point-blank shot which had to account for something. But she was angry at him, her emotions boiling up the whole time they were flying home. Dike wasn’t too happy either. The air was tense.

Dike wasn’t the kind of man that would leave an argument unsettled, and he could tell that there was something left unsaid between him and Meaghan. He followed her off the Jet, catching up to her easily with his longer strides. He pulled her aside into a different room, apart from the path the other Gods were taking inside. Meaghan was frank with Dike and always spoke the truth, and he owed her the same. He began with the first thing that had upset him, but it spiraled out of control quickly. They were both stubborn in what they believed was right and didn’t budge with each other.

“Why the hell did you go to Russia, Meaghan?!” Dike asked a touch of anger in his voice.

“I went because I couldn’t sit here knowing you were sacrificing your life and I was doing nothing. I have a lot to contribute and if Maize was going in, then damn it to hell, so was I.” She answered.

Dike would have done exactly the same thing. He saw so much of himself in her and was grateful she was alive. But she wasn’t feeling as lovey-dovey with him and had other things on her mind.

“I’m so mad at you for not listening to us.” He said as he tried to hug her tightly, not ever wanting to let her go. She pushed him away, her gut telling her she had something to say, something she needed to make right and get off her chest.

“Why?” She asked. “So, I don’t end up like Maize?”

" I’m just afraid of losing you because I love you.”

“Dike, in any other moment I’d say it back to you, but you told me to leave my best friend to die. You said she didn’t have a chance. You told me that I couldn’t save her! Don’t excuse that with an “I love you”. Don’t taint those words. Say them when you mean them.”

“Meaghan, I was looking out for you.”

“I know, but I was looking out for her, too. You clearly don’t know anything about me, Dike, because if you did you’d understand why she means so much to me. She’s all I had, Dike. When I had nothing, I had her, and you made me leave her. If William hadn’t gone back for her and she had died, I would have never forgiven myself. Even if I couldn’t pull her out, even if I died trying, I could have been with her until the end. But you took that choice away from me, and I’ll never forgive you for that.” Meaghan explained.

“Meaghan! This job... We try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody, but, if we can’t find a way to live with that-”

“Stop. Stop. Stop it now. Next time don’t focus on saving me, Dike. I don’t need to be saved. Give me the most basic respect for making my own decisions. Don’t try to justify your choice in making me leave without Maize. You thought you were sparing me, but you were really just sparing yourself.”

Meaghan pushed past Dike and stormed out of the room. She didn’t have anything else to say to him. Not for a long time.

While the rest of the Gods showered and cleaned up, William only put his armor suit away and didn’t bother leaving her side. It was discovered that she had radiating micro-fractures all over her ribs, and was slipping into septic shock due to the metal bar that had been impaled through her body. They found a way to take it out safely and cause the least damage possible because she was now in a place where the projectile could be safely removed from her body. She was bandaged up around her core just in the hopes she could heal well. She had deep bruises all over her body and William barely recognized her. William was sitting in the corner of the room within a few feet of her hospital bed, trying to think things through over a bottomless glass of whiskey.

William hadn’t gotten as drunk as he was currently getting in a long time. He knew that Sober William wasn’t a fan of who Drunk William was, and neither was anyone else. He didn’t want anyone to see that side of him anymore; he knew how destructive and dysfunctional he could be when he was sober. When he was drunk, it just made it all so much worse. He was tired of being the person that broke things without even trying, so he didn’t ever become that person.

But now that things were already broken, he didn’t have a single damn thing to lose.

Her team of doctors worked together to tweeze away hundreds of embedded bits of gravel, metal, and glass from her skin over hours and hours of laboring. They sedated her with painkillers through her IV as they worked, reducing the amount of pain she would be in. But the drunker William got, the more questions kept rising in his head. Things weren’t adding up with her condition. It just didn’t seem right to see Thor like this, and he once again asked himself where things went wrong. Utterly, totally, completely wrong.

“I have to ask, doc, why did she react so adversely to this? Why is her body actively killing her? She’s taken much worse falls before. She fell off a bridge and into the East River and was perfectly fine like nothing ever happened. Why, why is she critically injured now?” William asked, confused.

“We’re running bloodwork now. Our best guess is that at the time of the fall or during the battle, her body didn’t have enough of the rare protein that made her have her superhero abilities. But since she’s still human at her core, it was just the wrong fall at the wrong time. We’re treating her as if she were a normal human until bloodwork comes back.”

William nodded. He didn’t like the feeling of being out of control of the situation, but he had to sit back and let it play out. He hated feeling helpless like there was nothing in the world he could do for her except sit, watch her motionless body and get drunk.

Talia knew things were bad, but she had no idea the extent of it all. She approached her father cautiously and quietly.

“Dad, are you okay? You’ve been down here for a while.” Talia asked softly, startling William out of his trance-like state of inebriation.

“No, Talia, I’m not okay.” He breathed, staring down into the glass on his lap, the liquor reflecting his tired face back up to him. He rarely ever told Talia explicitly was going on in his head. He kept the complete truth to himself most of the times, but today he laid it all out on the table for her.

“What’s going on, dad?” She asked, interested and supportive. Though she had her issues with Maize, she set them aside and recognized that her father and Maize were both hurting immensely. He sighed deeply.

“No one wants to see their kid hurt. And I know she’s not my kid, it’s just that I know this could have been you. Bad things happened today, and our team betrayed her.” He introduced. Talia didn’t want to keep asking questions and digging deeper to find answers if he didn’t want to talk about it. But he did, and she let him talk about it because he rarely ever did.

“The problem never was you being my replacement for when I finally decide to retire. I know you want to, and you’ll be perfect for the job and I have full faith in you. I guess I just never wanted to think about what could happen to you in the field before. And today was an example of one of the infinite ways of demonstrating what could happen. I just can’t imagine any of it happening to you.” He continued, then paused before resuming.

“Maize is somebody’s daughter,” he spoke, still thinking on the possibility he was her biological father- “and you’re my daughter. Her parents- well, at least her mom- care for her as I care for you, I know that for a fact. I know you might get hurt; I can almost guarantee that; it’s inevitable... but it’s starting to scare me. Because things like this actually happen, and I’m worried about her and I’m worried for you.”

“And I don’t understand the actions of the team today. I keep playing it all through in my head over and over again and I don’t get why they left her. I’m scouring my memories and I’m coming up empty. I think I’m trying to find an answer that isn’t going to be there, but I keep expecting it will be. And I hate how I don’t have answers.”

There was a period of silence as they sat there, watching Maize lay motionless on the bed. The only sounds were the periodic, rhythmic beeping of Maize’s monitor. Then, they were interrupted by the nurses who came running into the room when things started to flash red.

“She’s crashing!” The nurse called and William watched be monitor, jolted awake and aware of everything. Her blood pressure dropped dangerously low, her oxygen saturation levels were below 60 and her heart rate was erratic and slowed.

“How is that possible?! She’s THOR! What’s crashing?!”

“We’re going to do everything we can to get her stable, but it’s different since she’s a human god, William. It’s a shot in the dark, and we’ll try to make it. But right now, we need epinephrine and the AED, stat! Bag her with oxygen, now! Get her airway open and keep it open by any means necessary! We can’t lose this kid.”

The doctors lowered her internal body temperature in order to decrease the risk of further damage on her body and her internal organs. It was horrendous to see her in the hospital bed like she was, hooked up to so many monitors, machines and IVs but he would rather see her live than die. He soon calmed down to a place where he could vocalize his questions and start getting answers. The doctor came up to William and explained what he knew was going on so far.

“Mr. Townsend?” The doctor asked. William diverted his attention to the doctor.

“I think I may have some answers for you. Since she is still building her god-like capabilities, her body had an adverse reaction to the medication. Instead of working in the body to relieve her pain, the drugs laid dormant in her system like it would on any god and we assumed we should keep upping the dose until her pain was relieved. That was our mistake, and she had accidentally overdosed on our behalf.”

“Is she stable? Is she in pain?”

“She’s stable. Her heart and lungs are working on their own but we’re monitoring her. We don’t know if she’s in pain, Mr. Townsend.”

William nodded silently, heading upstairs to the living room where the other Gods were sitting. He grabbed his jacket off of the hook, took his keys off the marble countertop and headed for the door.

“Where are you going, William?” They asked as he was putting on his coat. He turned his head to them and answered quietly and somberly.

“I’m going to tell her mother. She’s not doing so good and I want to let her mother know. She deserves to be there when her daughter dies.”

William didn’t want to accept that there was a strong possibility that Maize wasn’t going to make it, but it was beginning to hit him, and he couldn’t ignore the facts just because he didn’t like them. The last thing he wanted to do was tell Anne what was going on, but she deserved to know. It would be hard, but it was the right thing to do.

William just wished it didn’t hurt as bad as it did at that moment.

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