Of Roses and Thunder

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The Kind Worth Saving

♦️

“William you’re drunk. Get someone to drive you, don’t you even try to leave. The last thing we need in the headlines next to “Gods kill kids” is “William Townsend arrested for DUI after kids get killed.” Diana said from across the room, trying to be the one who happened to be William’s voice of reason.

“Diana, you’re drunk too, and hearing you say that was the last thing I needed,” William responded, just trying to take things one at a time and deliver the news to Anne.

“Okay, I’m sorry. But I’m getting drunk on the couch and not driving a car. Cheers, bitch! Get a driver.” Diana returned, but William knew he was right. He got Happy to drive him out to Queens which was even more of a good idea than William initially thought. He was a nervous wreck, beads of sweat gathering on his brow and his hands shaking uncontrollably. What words would he say? How could he face Anne when nothing he could tell her would fix his mistakes or make it any better? Anne would never forgive him, and he would never forgive himself.

Luckily, when he found himself getting out of the car because Happy pushed him out since he wouldn’t do it otherwise, he didn’t have to say a word. Anne was parked in front of the television all day in complete disbelief and was beyond herself, fucking furious, when she saw William’s car pull up in the driveway. He really had the audacity to go there...

“Get in here before anyone sees you, you’re a mess and your face is plastered all over the news! It’s all I’ve been seeing for hours. You didn’t even mention to me that this was happening with my daughter! Anthony Townsend, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”

Nobody ever called him by his full name. No, only his father did that.
Hearing Anne say that left the taste of stomach acid in his mouth.

“Anne, I made a mistake.” He admitted, sobbing. “I killed her, I killed your kid, I killed her-”

“You need to back up, Townsend. Tell me exactly what happened, because if my child dies-”

“She got pushed out a window during the battle and fell- hard- and she’s not doing well right now-”

“William, that’s not the beginning, and you’re drunk. When you’re sober we’ll talk about this? We can’t do this when you’ll be blacked out with one more drink. You’re going to stay here and I’m going to go find my daughter. If she dies, you’re next.”

“Do it, Anne. I deserve it. I killed Maize the day I brought her to the compound, Anne. I signed her life away.”

At that moment, Anne saw the face of a broken man. She had seen William at his worst before, but it was nothing like this. This, this was entirely different. William was low. But as angry as she was, she couldn’t find it in her heart to blame him. Yes, she was flaming with anger and she would be for quite some time, but she couldn’t place the blame on his shoulders when it wasn’t absolutely due to be there. The only one she can blame is The Order of the Black Rose.

Anne didn’t choose this for Maize, and Maize certainly didn’t choose it for herself. She was destined to be a hero, and tragically, heroes fall. Anne didn’t want it to be like that, but she had to come to terms with the facts and face the things she couldn’t control. But even so, she would always be angry, at everyone and at the entire world, for losing her daughter. The world made the ugly she had to fight, and it would eventually kill her.

She gave everything she had to the world and in return, it gave her nothing.

Maize is made of gunmetal, but the world found a way to melt her down.

And as angry as she was, Anne also knew that she might not have as much time left with her daughter as she expected. She could be angry now and angry later, but she refused to let the world take away the last few hours she had with her daughter, too. It had already taken enough.

“William, take me to her. Now.”

**********

Meaghan, fuming after her argument with Dike, ran into the worst possible person in the hallway. She didn’t know where to go, up to her room, downstairs to break something or to visit Maize. She owed her that much now, even though she was helpless. Standing in the middle of the foyer, she ran into Arawn who had heard everything.

He felt guilty because Meaghan was right. Dike got his best friend back, even though it took some time they were reunited. Meaghan didn’t have that same opportunity and Dike took it away from her. Every time Meaghan saw Arawn, she saw something she would never have again. She saw Maize. To make matters worse, Dike knew how it felt to lose his best friend, especially to The Order of the Black Rose. Dike knew exactly how it felt, and he put that upon Meaghan. This was a kind of pain and anger that Dike gave to Meaghan by denying her the option to go back for Meaghan. He never got to do that with Arawn, Dike didn’t have the chance to save him.

Arawn didn’t say a word. He stepped aside and let Meaghan do what she needed to do.

Meaghan knew it would be hard and it would kill her to see Maize, but now she had the chance to choose for herself to go see her best friend, even if there was nothing she could do. She ran downstairs to the hospital where William already was, accompanying Anne, but she couldn’t see Maize. She was surrounded by people in scrubs and a lot of intimidating medical equipment that would keep her alive. Meaghan put up her protective wall, she saw everything happen, but she wouldn’t process it and feel it at that moment as it was occurring. It was as if she flipped a switch in her brain and she was a completely different person. She had to be strong, not just for herself but for William and Maize. Both of them were falling apart, one physically and the other emotionally.

But William stopped Meaghan in her tracks.

“Meaghan, you shouldn’t be here right now. I know what you’re trying to do, but you’re not going to feel better from this. You’re not going to get anything out of it, you’re not going to get any closure. It’s not your fault that this happened and it’s not your fault you didn’t stay.”

“William, please, let me just stay by her side-”

“Meaghan, she knows. She knows you love her. But for her sake and yours, you shouldn’t be here right now. Go, Meaghan. Go to your apartment. Get some space. You don’t want to be here right now. Trust me.” William said, not looking her in the eye. Meaghan agreed; she didn’t want to be there. The air felt heavy and she didn’t want to be close to Dike after what happened between them. She also couldn’t stand knowing her best friend was on the brink of death just a few floors away and she was expected to go to bed and do nothing. No, she couldn’t stay there.

Meaghan moved slowly; she was sore from her gunshot wound even though it had already begun to scab over. She had no idea what kind of damage her internal organs withstood, but with the power of the gods, she felt like she didn’t have to worry. If something bad was going to happen to her, it already would have happened. But she was nursing the bruises on her body that hurt just as much.

She began to draw herself a warm bath. She stripped herself of her bloody clothes and sunk down into the porcelain tub, the water swallowing her body. Slowly, she was in water up to her neck and she sunk down, her hair spreading out into the water and she took a deep breath. She didn’t know the limits of the Serum, but she found clarity under the water and was under for about five minutes before she noticed small red swirls in the water coming from her gunshot wound. Why hadn’t it healed yet? Why was she still bleeding? Why did it still hurt her?

She wiped a hot tear from her cheek and watched the water swirl down the drain. She was physically clean, but she still felt the weight of her sins. She shouldn’t have listened to Dike. She should have gone back for Maize, despite the danger. She would feel better about herself; she would have more closure if she could just go back in time. It wouldn’t matter that Maize would still be hanging onto life in the hospital right now, but Meaghan would at least know she would have done what she knew was right. If she was going to die, it would be by Maize’s side, and if Maize was going to die anyway, Meaghan would have known that she went back for her. She would have had to live with knowing she tried, rather than knowing she left.

Her body didn’t feel like her own. She felt weak, she felt shaky, she felt dizzy. Nothing felt familiar to her now, her apartment felt foreign. The dusty piano in the corner she spent countless hours at being classically trained as a child didn’t feel like home anymore. Nothing felt like her own. She felt like a stranger and she couldn’t settle down in one place for too long. She never had a place to feel safe, a place to call home. She stumbled, nauseous, into her bedroom where she collapsed on her bed, not knowing but hoping it would be the last time she laid down. Maybe tomorrow she wouldn’t wake up.

But she was thinking about Dike, and the more she thought about it the angrier she got. Though, it came with as much sadness as it did anger. She gave her heart to him and was ready to give him everything else she had, her soul, her mind, her body, but he showed her who he really was and what his true intentions were. If he didn’t care about Maize, how could he care about her? What if it was her that was going to be left behind? How would he act?

She felt like she couldn’t trust him at all anymore. She didn’t know who the real Dike was, and if what she got was a taste, then she didn’t want to see what the rest was.

She hoped he felt like it was worth it.

**********

William didn’t want to imagine what it would feel like to lose a kid, and in part, he didn’t have to imagine because it was becoming real right in front of his eyes. One of these kids... he just never fathomed it. He was closer than he ever had been to know exactly how it felt, Maize was getting progressively worse and he wanted with every fiber of his being to back away from that line between life and death. Maize’s condition was completely out of William’s comfort zone. He never expected any of these kids to be so critically injured, especially so soon. He was naive and he knew it, he didn’t want to believe it would happen to them at all. He was faced with the harsh realization that it did, and he’s the one responsible for putting a kid’s life in danger. He wouldn’t have done what they were doing at 18, and they didn’t have a choice. He forced them into it, and the danger didn’t become real to any of them until now. It was always set to the back burner because they were never put in that kind of danger before.

Now, they all had everything to worry about, and it wasn’t even noon.

Maybe William made the wrong decision about this project. The Gods still have a lot of fight left in them- better William risks his life than him pushing some kid out to do it for him. He was second-guessing it all.

Anne hadn’t looked back at him or said a word to him since William had brought her to Maize’s side. Maize was on a ventilator and had three bags of saline dripping into her body while a full blood workup was being run to confirm the diagnosis of septic shock. Getting impaled by a piece of rusty metal, accidentally overdosing and falling off a building and through another sure took a toll on the poor girl’s fragile body. Her life was like a newborn baby bird struggling to make it in the world for the first time.

Anne didn’t have any words to say to her daughter. Instead, she climbed in the bed amongst all the cords hooking her up to machines that kept her clinging onto life, just holding her. Maize’s first place in the world was in her mother’s arms, and so it would be her last, too.

William stood back, far away, succumbing to his gaping pit of self-loathing. It all had to be his fault. If he had just done things differently...

Suddenly, Peter Lannigan showed up anxious and concerned. He had been trying to get downstairs to see Maize since she came in, but he had a lot of emotions and injuries to deal with himself. He was nursing a black eye and soreness so bad he could barely move, but that didn’t stop him from thinking about Maize. He felt bad for thinking his pain sucked since there were others who had it worse, one who was clinging onto a life that he was utterly in love with. He didn’t get any sleep, he hadn’t eaten, he was absolutely devastated.

William put on a brave face for Peter. He knew that he still had to be strong for the other kids, he had to be the example for them, show them that it was all okay. But he couldn’t pretend, no. Peter wouldn’t appreciate that, not one bit. So, William swallowed hard and stood tall and strong, but this time he didn’t try to hide his emotions. He wanted Peter to see that he was struggling just as much as everyone else. He didn’t want to be cold and heartless. He was working on being more empathetic and dealing with his emotions in a healthy way. So, he told Peter the truth.

“Kid, she’s pretty roughed up right now. She’s not awake, too. If I were you, I wouldn’t go see her right now. That’s a bad idea.” He said, blocking the way to Maize from Peter. He knew that Peter would be stubborn, but not this time. He accepted the fact that he couldn’t see Maize that second.

“But... will you tell me when I can see her?” He asked meekly.

“Of course, kid.”

“Are you sure I can’t?” He asked, craning his neck to catch a glimpse through the glass. It was killing him not knowing what was going on.

“Peter, trust me. She’s in bad shape. You don’t want to.” William responded, trying to spare Peter from any unnecessary hurt.

“It’s okay, she’s in good hands. Her mom is with her. Now, I’ve got to go up to a meeting with the rest of the Gods, I’ll walk you back upstairs and I want you to get some rest. Understand?” William instructed, and Peter nodded. William draped his arm around Peter and put a supportive hand on his shoulder. It was all he could do for Peter and once more he was wishing that he could do more. He wanted to be able to do everything, have all the answers and make everything alright. Even more, he wished he could go back in time and prevent this from happening, taking all the hurt away from everyone. But he couldn’t do that, he could only deal with the situation he was dealt no matter how painful it was.

Peter turned down the hall to go to his room, and William turned the other way and walked through the doors of the conference room where all the Gods, except Thor, were waiting for him. Nobody’s eyes were on him, none of them wanted to look into each other’s eyes.

William sat down and there was a period of silence before he spoke up.

“Well, what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know, I was thinking maybe we get pizza?” Menoetius suggested, misinterpreting William’s question.

“About the kids, Menoetius!” Artemis clarified.

“Oh! Sorry. Well, then, I don’t know.” He apologized softly.

“Okay, well, here’s where I’m at with all of this, stop me where you disagree, OK? I think, plain and simple: we don’t leave team members in the field. Full stop. That situation wasn’t dangerous for any of us but her because instead of helping her, you all left her to bleed and suffer and nearly die. That’s on you, not me. She’s not the kind you leave behind. She’s the kind you save. She’s the kind worth saving, but apparently, you all think that she- and God knows who else- is disposable. These guys are our only hope, and you’ve destroyed any trust she ever had for any of you.”

Dike knew he was to blame. He made the conscious decision to leave Maize behind and told Meaghan she wasn’t allowed to, either. He didn’t do what was right, and frankly, neither did anyone else.

“So, I’m thinking next time, we make a clear plan of action. Everyone should understand the plan forwards and backward to alleviate miscommunications. I understand that The Order of the Black Rose could have brought in even more troops back in Russia, I know that we were vulnerable, but none of us were thinking. We can’t make the same mistakes again. I’m not losing any more of these kids. We know what we did wrong and we’ve gotta do better. We’ve got to treat those kids better. We do.” William finished.

“We’ve got to make things right.”

**********

“William, Thor has arrived,” Jason spoke to William who was just starting to finally fall asleep, but it was from all the alcohol he had assaulted his body with since they got back from Russia. He jolted up, knowing that Thor’s entrance would not come softly, he came as fast as he could from across the galaxies upon hearing the news of the battle and of the casualties.

But no, Thor arrived in his usual, loud manner, but he did not speak to anyone and he did not stop until he reached Maize’s bedside. His feet fell heavily on the floor, shaking the building enough to be noticeable. He moved swiftly, his cape flowing behind him in a regal but intimidating manner.

He didn’t have to ask to gain entry to her hospital room, nobody prevented Thor from doing just about anything. He was a force to be reckoned with and everybody knew it, so if he was going to see Maize, he was going to see Maize.

“Maize, I’m so sorry.” He admitted, standing by her side and seeing her in the condition she was. It was difficult for him to come to terms with what exactly had happened. He didn’t want her to have had to go off into that battle if he could have been there to take her place. But he was in the wrong galaxy at the wrong time, and that was a choice none other but his own. He should have been there in the first place.

“I don’t know how to help you. I can’t heal you; I can’t take your pain away. I am living with the guilt of sending you off to die.”

Maize couldn’t respond and he knew that. Her eyes were completely closed, her lashes resting on the tops of her cheeks. She looked peaceful; she didn’t look like she was in pain.

“Here’s something I learned from the ancient Greeks and I hope it comforts you as it does me. The three Fates hold each person’s life on a golden thread, and they decide how long or how short the thread, the life, will be. So here, I present to you a golden hair of a Pegasus. And, a red ribbon, tied in a bow on your pinky finger, to represent the bond between you and your soulmate that can never be broken no matter where you go. Even in Valhalla. You are a true warrior.”

He gently tucked the coiled-up Pegasus hair in her palm and lifted up her pinky delicately, taking the red ribbon holding his hair back and tying it around her finger. Her hands and arms were bruised so much they were nearly unrecognizable as the same hands that loved and touched and served everyone she met. They were foreign to Thor, broken and fragile, not the strong hands he had come to know.

But yet, he knew she would heal, like a warrior, like a hero, like a god. Though she was born on Earth to human parents, she had the heart, and more importantly, the soul of an Asgardian.

Just before Thor left her bedside, he noticed something about her that would have gone undetected to the untrained eye; she had tiny sparks of lightning snapping at her fingertips as faint as static electricity. Some of her veins were standing out, even under the harsh hospital lighting, with an electric glow. He knew she had the power within her that would help pull her through this and give her a second chance at life she otherwise would not have had.

Maize’s spirit would not give up the fight that easily, and Thor was proud to call her his. He planted a light kiss on her forehead and let her rest.

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