Of Roses and Thunder

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It was the day everyone was waiting for, had been planning for and anticipating all year: it was Prom night. Maize knew right from the start that she was going to prom and it was going to be incredible and magical- but that was before William Townsend threw a monkey wrench in her plans and made her a God. Suddenly, Maize’s dream of having a wonderful prom didn’t seem so feasible.

Maize and Peter had been distracted recently with the sheer number of exams they were taking chapter and unit tests, review tests, practice tests and finally, the AP exams. With all the stress of finishing up their senior year, amongst all the studying, they forgot to get things ready for prom. Maize didn’t even feel the desire to go anymore, she felt like she couldn’t just walk into her old school that had been renovated from the battle with the Sledgehammer. After all that time away, after the rejection from her friends, after everything, she couldn’t just show up there. But she was reminded by everyone that it was still her school, she was going to get her diploma from them, and that even though her friends didn’t want to associate with her anymore she still had every right to go to prom.

Maize had nothing planned. She didn’t have a dress, accessories, shoes, a ticket or a plan for her hair and makeup. The Gods decided that getting the kids ready for prom was the least they could do for them after everything they had been through it would only be right to try and restore a sense of normalcy that had long been lost. Just because these kids were mature beyond their years and fought battles nobody else would ever have to, didn’t mean they weren’t allowed to still be kids.

The Gods were split into pairs in order to divide and conquer, and Maize was rudely awakened by Artemis and Hecate bombarding her and her room with clothing, shoes, and makeup. Neither of them was girly, but they were determined to give Maize the prom makeover of her dreams. By God, it was going to happen.

Artemis and Hecate had completely ransacked their closets and brought out every fancy dress they had ever owned and hung up the dress bags on the back of doors, chairs, anything. They would give her a selection she couldn’t turn down.

“What is happening?” Maize questioned as she groggily woke up. Hecate came running in with armfuls of shoes.

“We are going to give you the biggest, best prom a girl has ever had. We’ve got to get a move on, we have a lot to get ready for tonight.”

Artemis unzipped all the dress bags, revealing dresses that were long, short, glittery, plain, sexy, serious, formal- she had everything. Hecate was lining up shoes that had just as much variety to them: platform heels, stilettos, open toe, peep toe, pointed toe, low heel, lace up, buckles. Maize quickly realized they were going all-out and she had her work cut out for her.

“Alright, then. Let’s get it started.” Maize approved, getting out of bed and taking the first dress off the hanger to try on.

Meanwhile, the guys teamed up to make Peter look like an agglomeration of all of their personalities- which didn’t end well. Menoetius, William, Dike, Thor, and Peter were sitting in William’s enormous walk-in closet and they were all arguing about what Peter should wear without letting Peter get a word in about the matter. He didn’t even know where to start with the rest of them, it was almost as if his one chance for input was long gone and his prom fashion was in the hands of a man from the 1920s, two stubborn geniuses, and a god. How bad could it be?

“Back in my day, men got dressed up as they do now for prom just to go to the grocery store...” Dike mumbled. “What the hell happened to gentlemen?”

“Dike, we are not going down this path again, it is not 1920 anymore.” William diverted.

“Exactly, so why don’t we give him a post-modernistic approach to the suit?” Menoetius suggested.

“And what would that be?”

“I’m talking like metal, shapes, fur, Alexander McQueen-”

“No. Peter is not going to prom looking like an extra from a drug-induced knockoff production of Macbeth!”

“We could give him a cape.” Thor brought up.

“Is that your only idea?” They asked Thor.

“Yeah, and it’s the best one!” He defended.

“I don’t think Peter wants a cape. How about...” William said as he walked over to his closet and rummaged through and found a feasible option.

“Peter, it’s your senior prom night. The last time you wore one of my suits you ruined it in a sulk-fest on the sidewalk, but I’m giving you a second chance. I think I can fit you for this Givenchy suit. You’re not going to just reappear suddenly and look average, Peter. Let’s see how this one looks.”

Peter looked into the mirror once he was completely dressed, and the suit instantly made him into a man. The way William adjusted the collar and buttons on the white button-up underneath made Peter look grown up, sexy, and mega Hollywood.

“That’s the one, Peter. It makes Dike happy with how formal it is, it makes Menoetius happy because the open buttons and modern take on the tuxedo is a fresh look, I’m happy cause he looks like he should, and Thor’s going to be happy because guess what?”

“You’re going to give that man a cape?!” Thor asked.

“Yes, sir, we are,” William responded, going into his closet and pulling out a piece of silk fabric that attached to the right shoulder.

“Now that’s what we call teamwork.”

Things were not going as well with Maize. She had tried on every dress and had narrowed it down to a few, but she wouldn’t pick any of them because they were too expensive, and she couldn’t take them from Artemis or Hecate.

“This is a designer gown, there’s no way I can wear this to prom.” Maize protested as Hecate zipped her into the dress.

“Yes, you can, and you’re going to be dripping with diamonds, too.” Artemis and Hecate convinced. Hecate picked up the curling iron and began doing Maize’s hair as Artemis worked on giving her a cat eye so sharp it could kill a man.

“Nat, did you grab the diamonds?”

“The ones we got from space, right?”

“Yeah, those ones.”

“They’re right here.”

“This is a PROM, not my wedding!” Maize again protested.

“There is no other place where we can wear space diamonds! Plus, they totally match the aesthetic we’re going for you.”

“We figured since you’re the god of thunder, we should do red and gold, to match your eyes and the whole Asgardian legacy shit.”

“Oh boy, I don’t have much say in my look, do I?”

“Not really. Close your eyes, I’m putting on lashes.”

In the evening when everyone’s prom looks were finished, William was waiting outside in his Rolls Royce Phantom to drive the kids to prom, but not before a hundred thousand pictures were taken. Maize came down the stairs in her Gatsby style mermaid prom dress, the fabric at the bottom creating an elegant train. She wore suede red stilettos that had gold metal detailing up the back of the heel. She had deep red nails with gold glitter tips, a curled updo, and a deep matte red lip. She wore a diamond necklace, drop earrings and a ring to pair with a gold clutch.

Every God was taking pictures on their phones, but the old men and those not of Earth were struggling- a lot. Dike ended up taking hundreds of selfies rather than pictures of Peter and Maize, and he was completely unknowing. Thor accidentally smashed the iPad Dike was using to take pictures against the wall because he offered to help, and he was pressing the button for pictures gently, but it still wasn’t working. He had even practiced pushing the button gently, too.

Peter and Maize sat in the back of the Rolls, hearing the speech from William to stay out of trouble, but even his comedic relief didn’t bring them any actual relief. Despite the efforts from the Gods, even though they were dressed to the nines and had looks that could kill, they had bigger things to worry about.

Peter gripped Maize’s hand stiffly. They were nervous, for they were walking into their school for the first time since the battle with their former teacher. They would be seeing their classmates that had forgotten their existence entirely, but it was prom night. Neither were willing to give their senior prom up.

“We can leave whenever we want to, Maize. We don’t have to stay, don’t feel like we have to.” Peter reminded as they walked inside, also hinting at the fact he didn’t want to stay long.

“I know, but I want to give this a fighting chance. We get to be normal, Peter. I don’t know about you, but I miss that.”

They walked inside nervously, Maize met eyes with everyone who she used to go to school with, but nobody approached her. She didn’t get any evil looks in return if she got any looks back, everyone seemed confused at the most part. She looked different, and Peter went to a different school than them. She understood why they wouldn’t recognize her- but two girls surely did.

“’Maize!” Jemma and Markie squealed, running up to Maize in the venue. Maize was taken aback. Her friends who had previously disowned her were suddenly overcome with excitement. Peter raised an eyebrow; this was also not the reaction he was expecting. He squeezed Maize’s hand as a quiet gesture to see if she was okay, but Maize wasn’t even sure of that herself.

“Maize, you look so good! We didn’t expect to see you here if we would have known we would have taken you in our limo! You just look stunning- and Peter!” Markie exclaimed.

“Do you two have a table? We have space at ours!” Jemma offered. They didn’t have a table. Peter looked at Maize with a degree of concern, since this is the exact opposite of what they were expecting. Maize was trying to keep her cool- and she accepted the spot at her friends’ table.

Once everyone was settled, it was like Maize was back in the crew. It was as if nothing changed in the time they were gone. It was bittersweet, considering how they had treated her and how they were pretending like t never happened. They didn’t make it right with Maize and expected she would move on and forget it too. But it didn’t work like that- Maize wanted them to be accountable. They knew what they had done, and they can’t just skip over the hard part to get to the good.

It was almost as if the universe read her mind. In the middle of the conversation, Jemma turned to Maize and looked her dead in the eye.

“You know, Maize, I’m sorry. On behalf of all of us, we didn’t understand what was going on. You left one day, and we didn’t know why, and we couldn’t get in contact with you. Our best friend was taken away by the men in black, what were we supposed to think?”

“But like, now that we know you’re a superhero, we get it!”

“So, you only want to be around me cause you think I’m somehow cool?”

“I mean, yeah!”

“You’re like, a god, Maize.”

Maize’s stomach dropped like a rock. They had no idea what she could do, and it hurt to know that was the only reason they wanted to reconcile with her.

“You saved our school, you saved New York, you almost died in Russia, you’ve got some crazy experiences! We saw it all over the news, and we told everyone that we knew you!”

“Yeah, and my experiences aren’t anything to wish for. I wouldn’t want any of you to have to do the things I’ve done.”

“Lighten up, Maize! You sound like you’ve killed a man.”

Peter kicked her leg with his, urging her not to tell them that she has. They had already exposed themselves too much by just being at prom, showing their faces in public, in a place they used to go with people who knew them, and he wouldn’t risk her telling more than she should. They were already at risk for being found out as superheroes. Immortals.

“I’m digging the red contacts, though! It makes you look really interesting.”

“Thanks, um, they were a... surprise gift.” Maize said through her teeth.

“You know what, why don’t we go dance?” Peter suggested, sensing things were becoming uncomfortable and wanted to get Maize out of that situation.

“That sounds like a great idea.” Maize agreed without hesitation, taking Peter’s hand and getting up from the table.

A generic pop song played over the speakers from the DJ sitting behind his Spotify playlist on his MacBook, but that didn’t mean that Maize and Peter didn’t want to dance to it. They were going to try and have a good time, damn it, it was their senior prom. They deserved this moment of happiness.

Later in the night, the prom court was being announced, but Maize was distracted as they were calling out prom princess, prince, and finally, king and queen. Maize felt her phone vibrate off the hook in her purse, so she took it out to reveal the messages from William calling a code red.

“Uh oh... we’ve gotta go.” Maize nudged to Peter, showing him her phone screen. She had received an emergency text from William.

“There you go, leaving us again. This is just like you; we should have known better than thinking you would stay.” Jemma scoffed.

“I’m leaving to save your ass! You know what, never mind. I don’t owe you an explanation. I knew it was too good to be true, you don’t really want to be friends with me again. You just want your time in the spotlight, and if that’s all you’re going to talk to me for, then don’t bother anymore. Don’t be fake, guys. I thought I knew you better than that.” Maize said as she picked up the hem of her dress and ran out of the venue. She kicked off her shoes and grabbed them in her left hand, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to get out of there, drive to the location William gave them and take down the thief in heels.

Erik Kantos, famed thief, paid assassin and known enemy of William’s, had just robbed a museum- more precisely the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“...and the winner of Prom Queen is Maize Grace Leto!” The principal announced as Maize and Peter were rushing out, but it sounded muffled to Maize. Her mind was focused on other things and she barely heard her name being called from afar. She was caught in the middle of staying and running out to meet William and face the upcoming emergency, but she was pushed back out on the dance floor so she could receive her tiara. Her heart was pumping out of her chest, this was her dream and she couldn’t even enjoy it. Her mind was so focused on her job that she couldn’t even pay attention to her own crowning ceremony. She stared around the ballroom of people who were staring at her, expecting her to do the dance with the Prom King, or make a speech, neither of which she did. Peter saw that she was frozen and grabbed her hand, leading her through the crowd and out of the ballroom.

Maize ran out of the venue, Peter following closely behind. William was already waiting, his Audi idling at the front door. The kids jumped in his car, and Peter clipped a bracelet on his wrist that William tossed at him. Maize leaned out the car window as they were on the move and tried to summon the hammer, but she couldn’t.

“Does Thor have the hammer?!” She asked frantically. “I’m trying to get it, but I can’t!”

“Yes, he took it to Asgard,” William responded. “I hope you can do without it.”

“I’ve got lighting fingers; I think I can work something out.” She nodded, catching her breath. The force of the car accelerating pushed her back into the seat as William weaved through the traffic to get to the Met. Time was crucial in what they were dealing with.

William dropped the kids off at the front door and he drove around the back of the museum, covering the probable exits. Maize ran across the cold pavement, her bare feet hitting the concrete hard. Peter shot a web at the door from the bracelet he clipped on his wrist and opened it from afar so they could run inside. It was too bad that William didn’t tell them what floor had been robbed, but they were Gods. They would have to figure it out for themselves.

Maize felt electricity tingling through her blood. She could sense something big coming and the fine hairs on the back of her neck and arms stood up on end. Sparks began snapping from the end of her fingertips and she could tell they were getting close to the fight.

They were able to move through the floors quickly as they followed the sound of the break-in alarm.

They ran as fast as they could up to the exhibit, meeting Erik just in time. Glass shards covered the floor from where the case was broken, a nightmare for Maize’s bare feet. Erik didn’t expect any visitors, and they didn’t expect to even be there in time to stop him. For a split second, they stared at each other and didn’t move a muscle, but they both knew that they had to fight each other. That’s what they came for. Erik had been fighting his whole life, what was one more fight with two teenagers wearing formal attire? What could they do to stop him? They were just kids.

Turns out, as Erik Kantos didn’t expect, they could do a lot.

Maize channeled a ball of lightning in her palms, turning the air to static electricity. Peter used his webbing to make things complicated for Erik as they were exchanging punches. Maize ran across the floor, picking up shards of glass in the hem of her dress and on the soles of her feet as she approached Erik and Peter. Maize didn’t know exactly what to do and Peter was still fighting him, so she went with where her hands were leading.

“Peter, get back! Hands off!” She yelled, knowing that if she shocked Erik and Peter was in contact with him, the shock would transfer, and his heart would stop. Peter backed up with his hands up, listening to Maize. Maize put her hands on his chest and pushed him back, simultaneously delivering a kick to his side, making sure that she would deliver the shock. She didn’t want to kill him, but he immediately went rigid and collapsed on the floor.

“Did you kill him?” Peter asked.

“I don’t think so.” She said, and she was right. He lost consciousness, but he was up again within seconds. He got up from his knees and swiftly reached into the back of his pants, pulling out a pistol on them. William’s words rang in their heads, Erik Kantos was an assassin. He could kill them both with one bullet and they wouldn’t know they had even been shot. Peter, thinking on his feet, shot a bit of webbing and grabbed the gun, taking it into his own hands.

“Who the hell are you guys?!” He exclaimed.

“Gods.” William Townsend responded from behind them.

“Alright, respect. Not bad. Peace, guys.”

Suddenly, an explosion caught everyone except Erik off-guard. The far wall of the exhibit was blown through, the air full of dust and drywall particles, crumbles of concrete scattered on the floor. Erik took the pieces from the exhibit and belayed down the side of the building. Peter shot a web that stuck to the neighboring building and he zig-zagged from the Met to the other and back all the way down, but when he hit the ground he was too late.

“William, did you get eyes on the car Erik got away in?!” Peter asked.

“No, I didn’t.” He sighed. “Sorry, guys. We’ll pick this up another day, see if we can track him before he drops off the grid.”

“What was in that exhibit worth stealing, anyway?” Maize asked. William, exasperated, answered.

“Oh, nothing, just the Renoir painting that belonged to my father.

“So it was personal.”

“Yep. This was personal. It always has been.”

William turned them around they walked slowly out of the Met, disappointed that they didn’t catch the bad guy. They knew they wouldn’t always win, and this was one of those times.

“You guys worked hard, though. I’m proud. I’m sorry I had to cut prom short.”

“Don’t apologize. My friends were being nice to me only because they think I have some sort of cool factor now that I save people. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

“Yeah, that sucks. There are a lot of people in the world like that, sadly.” William apologized.

They loaded back up into his car and drove back to the compound in silence, leaving the glow of the Met behind them. Maize picked out shards of glass from the bottoms of her feet, but the superficial cuts healed over by the time they returned home. They were a complete mess, but everyone was staying up, waiting to hear how magical prom was. Nobody expected that they would walk in, beat up and tired.

“Whoa, I guess Prom was more exciting than we thought, right?” Artemis asked.

“No, we just had to get into a quick fight at the Met, which was rough.”

“It was a miracle that Peter didn’t ruin my suit!” William remarked. Peter rolled his eyes.

“Well, we’re glad you’re back safely. We’re just reviewing the best pictures, and I think this one takes the cake,” Hecate transitioned.

“You two look just like those pictures in Victorian England, but Peter looks like he manages a hedge fund and models Calvin Klein on the side. Maize looks like a rich widower on her third husband- what a picture. You two look stunning.” Artemis complimented, holding the iPad in her hand.

“And tonight, Maize ran barefoot through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a floor-length dress and shot electricity out of her toes!” Peter exclaimed. “How am I the only one talking about this, everyone saw it! She has spark fingers and death toes!”

The group laughed.

“Thor’s got some catching up to do to get to her level, I see.” They nudged at the god sitting in the corner. Thor rolled his eyes.

“Her new nickname is going to be Human Taser,” William suggested.

“Please, no.” Maize chuckled.

“Lest we forget, Maize was crowned Prom Queen tonight.” William switched, placing the tiara on her head. Everyone cheered and clapped a little for her, and she blushed.

“Guys, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just a cheap tiara with rhinestones.” She said, trying to downplay how much it really meant to her.

“Maize, that is a complete lie, you’ve wanted this since we were kids.”

“And maybe that’s true, but at least it’s one victory tonight.”

“Maize, don’t blame yourself or get down about losing Erik. We don’t win every battle we get ourselves into, but we learn from each one. You did good, and everyone deserves some rest. I have a feeling that he will be back sooner than we anticipated. We should be ready for the next time he strikes because it could be one of us next. Get to bed, kids.” William debriefed, leaving Maize with a bad taste in her mouth.

He was right, it could be any one of them. He knew who they were, and it wouldn’t be hard for a black ops soldier to get close to them. The thought kept her awake, but Peter calmed her down in his arms. So, yeah, maybe their senior prom didn’t go as they wanted it to, but it went how it was supposed to. Maize learned a lot about herself and her friends, and she would live to see another battle- one she was determined to win.

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