Of Thorns and Lightning

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What’s Gonna Work? Teamwork!

“What about school? I’m worried about finishing out the year and walking at graduation!”

♦️

Both Maize and Meaghan had settled into their routines of training and schoolwork within a week and had been continuing them for almost three weeks. Maize was so far riding comfortably with her powers. She had been avoiding Talia and only got a slight premonition that something bad was going to happen in the cases of her slipping and falling in the shower and trying to grab onto the water for support.

Meaghan seemed happier than ever to be training with Dike and things were never going better in her life. She had adapted much quicker and seamlessly fit into her new life, but Maize was just beginning to feel that way. Her routine was important to her; she liked to know when things were going to happen and generally what to expect. She hated it when no one filled her in at the last second about a change in plans and she was caught off-guard. She valued consistency mostly above all things, and she knew that wasn’t a virtue in her line of work. She had to be flexible in some way or another.

Maize had been training with Thor which built some of her lean muscle a little bulkier and Artemis helped her refine her agility. Meaghan was spending all of her time with Dike because only he could be able to teach her how to be him. Her fighting style and physicality was specific to Dike, which is something only he could pass on to Meaghan.

But Maize suspected it was a little more than that.

Maize walked into the gym with her headphones in her ears, ready to sweat it out with a high intensity workout, but she wanted to spy on her friend’s training session on the other side of the room. It was hard to tell what Meaghan and Dike were working on since Meaghan was doubled over in a fit of laughter and Dike was trying to keep his cool but couldn’t. Maize couldn’t help but wonder what they could possibly be laughing about when she started her own workout.

“Okay, alright, alright. Let’s get ourselves together and let’s run that sequence one more time.” Dike instructed with a smile, standing back in his place. Meaghan joined him and they worked on a hand-to-hand combat sequence that Meaghan looked like she was winning at. They threw calculated punches and the footwork seemed choreographed just like a dance. Meaghan had memorized the moves and steps, but Dike was surely leading, which Maize didn’t expect. She couldn’t see Dike as someone who was particularly dominant, and he surprised her when he made a swift and unexpected move around Meaghan that caused them to go to the ground. Dike pinned her down, though both were out of breath from their workout. Meaghan’s chest rose and fell heavily as she stared into Dike’s grayish green and steely blue eyes, their bodies mere centimeters away from touching.

“I think you win this one.” Meaghan admitted in a whisper of defeat, but it was a loss she was happy to take. Dike agreed, getting up first and then extending his hands down to Meaghan to pull her up. At this point, Maize wasn’t doing a good job of spying and probably gave herself away, since Meaghan walked right towards her once their training session was over.

“What was that with Dike just now, Meaghan?” Maize asked, not so subtly inquiring. Meaghan blushed.

“It was nothing! We were just training?”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s all that was. Get real, Meg. How long have you and Dike been flirting like that, because something like that doesn’t just come out of the blue. I’m pretty sure he was into it, too.”

“Stop it! It was totally nothing! There’s no heat between us!”

“I didn’t say there was, but that didn’t look ice cold to me.”

“Fine! Maybe that was nice, but just a little bit, though!”

“I knew it!”

“Don’t tell anyone, okay! It’s a little weird I’m kind of into the goddess who’s place I’m taking. We’re like the same person. I shouldn’t be into him, you know?”

“Yeah, I get it. You guys are cute, though.”

“You’re not supposed to encourage me!” Meaghan laughed.

“Okay. Finish your workout, and just remember you’d didn’t see anything!” Meaghan finished before walking out and leaving Maize by herself in the gym. Maize worked out for about an hour, getting a good sweat on before she decided it was enough and headed downstairs.

She entered her room and struggled with her sweaty sports bra, tripping over her shoes as she was blinded by the stretchy fabric when she pulled it over her head. Soon she was free, and she tossed her gym clothes in the laundry basket before taking a refreshing shower. She got out of the steamy shower and dried her wet hair, it is becoming surprisingly fluffy. She slipped into a red and blue flannel shirt, ripped Mom jeans and high-top vans before grabbing her glasses and laptop and heading to the library.

She walked down the bright hallway, the sun coming in through the glass walls and hitting the white and gray color scheme on the inside. Maize swiped her ID card and gained access to the library where she settled herself onto the gray couch with blue and white throw pillows. Her knees were partially tucked into her chest and there she rested her laptop, opening up OneNote to view her schoolwork that was due that evening. She worked until two on AP Government and AP US History, doing chapter notes and a unit test.

School was one of the last connections she had to her whole life and sometimes it was hard to even look at it since she knew nothing was the same for her anymore. She was taking the same classes as all the other kids, but the ones she had called her friends surely had already forgotten her. She wasn’t a normal kid, not by any means, but her AP work was giving her the false perception that she was. And she didn’t know exactly why that hurt her so badly.

When she was finished she exited the library and ran into Jordie in the hallway. She broke into a smile, adjusting her glasses on the top of her head which pushed back some of her hair.

“Hey, Jordie.”

“Hey, Maize! I didn’t know you wore glasses.” He pointed out.

“Oh, yeah. I wear contacts but these are magnifiers. I’m an old lady at heart.” She explained jokingly.

“I like them. They suit you.” He complimented with a lingering and tender gaze. She didn’t know exactly what that meant but she met his rues the same way and she expressed her thanks. They were heading in opposite directions so he reached out a guiding hand that brushed her waist ever so gently so that they wouldn’t stall and not be able to move in their direction.

Attempting to decode the feeling of that moment, she headed to the kitchen to grab a late lunch. She made herself a turkey wrap and a protein shake and then went to find Thor. He always seemed to have an answer to something Maize couldn’t figure out on her own.

“Hey, Thor, do you have a second?” She asked, knocking at the doorframe of the room he had made into his own space.

“Of course, come in,” he said, though his eyes were determined to finish something on his computer. She sat down in a chair across from him, trying to peek at what he was working on. Her question could wait, since she noticed him struggling.

“Do you need help?” She asked after he smacked his keyboard with a heavy hand.

“Yes, very much so. William Townsend sent me an attachment in an email, but I can’t open it! It’s saying I don’t have something called Adobe Flash player, but I don’t care about Adobe! I just want to see William’s file!” He spoke, his booming voice becoming increasingly louder as he explained it to her.

“Well in order to open some attachments you need Flash player.”

“Why!? I don’t want it!” He exclaimed, his voice thundering. He wasn’t yelling at her, he was just a god.

“Just... let me handle it.” She smiled, and within minutes she had the file presented before Thor.

“Thank you, Small Thor. It turns out he just sent me something he refers to as a meme, but I don’t know why this frog is funny.”

“Damn mortal humor.” She scoffed jokingly but Thor was serious. She chuckled.

“Didn’t you wish to ask me something?” He reminded. Maize explained how she felt like she was in limbo between her old life and her new one and he helped as best as he could. Even though there were some things she could never get a definitive answer for, she always felt better after talking to him.

“Thank you for your help with my computer, Ms. Leto.” He said as she headed towards the door. She still had to get used to his formalities, but she smiled.

“It’s no problem. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?”

That night, Maize was up for a little while thinking about Jordie and what happened in the hallway. Meaghan was thinking about Dike, and frankly, Dike was thinking about her too.

The next afternoon, Meaghan had invited Dike to help her study and eventually that invitation was expanded to Maize when she brought up the subject of homework. It would almost be like their normal study group again, but William had stolen Peter to go to some fancy convention about his unnecessarily high-tech Arachne suit. Maize called it a costume.

Meaghan heard a knock at her door and Dike announced his presence. Her heart skipped a little, but she didn’t hesitate to invite him in.

“Come on in, Dike.” Meaghan invited from her bed, not looking up from her schoolwork. She was writing a free response question for AP US History and she didn’t want to lose her train of thought.

Dike stepped into the room, leaving the door open a few inches and he stuffed his hands in his pockets. She didn’t exactly know what to say and waited for Meaghan to initiate the conversation once she looked up at him. He rocked back and forth on his heels patiently until that moment.

“What are you doing, Dike? Don’t just stand there, come over here and help me.” She acknowledged.

“I didn’t just invite you for your striking good looks and radiating personality, come sit!” She smiled when he found his place in her desk chair on the other side of the room.

“Like, on your bed? With you?” He asked, needing confirmation on the subject.

“Is that what this is all about, Dike? What do you think I’m going to do, smother you with a pillow? It’s okay to sit on my bed with me, Dike. I won’t tell your mother.” Meaghan laughed. Dike got out of the desk chair and stood up, moving towards her bed. He sat on the edge and slowly made himself comfortable, with Meaghan’s persuasion.

Later, Maize walked into Meaghan’s room to find Meaghan with her laptop on her lap and Dike laying at her feet, staring up at her. She had one arm crossed behind her head and her other hand was playing with the cuff on Meaghan’s jeans.

“Hey Dike, how did the US mobilize for war and what effect did it have on the Great Depression?” She asked, looking up from her laptop and twirling her pen around a strand of her hair.

“Oh, boy. Well, the US economy switched from peace to wartime production; jobs were created which then created an economic boom which got us out of the Great Depression. The War Productions Board was created to increase military production.” Dike answered without missing a beat. “And something about cash and carry and the Lend-Lease Act and stuff.”

Maize had so much to say about the events unfolding before her eyes. She crossed her arms and bit her cheek to disguise a smirk, since she finally had dirt on the oh-so-noble Dike. She was giving answers to Meaghan for a unit test!

“Meaghan, you know if I didn’t know any better, I’d call that cheating! Using an immortal goddess that witnessed those events to help you ace your APUSH test!”

“We’re not cheating, we’re tag teaming it!” Dike defended.

“That’s what all the cheaters say.” Maize poked.

“I’m using my resources! You know this unit isn’t my strong suit and Dike is a walking Quizlet on this shit!”

“Yeah, I’m sure he’s such a willing resource, helping you cheat!” She continued.

“I was happy to help, but we’re not cheating! She knows her stuff, I’m just here to remind her.”

“It’s not cheating if we’re working together!” She defended.

“Mm. Whatever you need to tell yourself. Whatever happened to this just being you and me, Meaghan? I was going to cheat off of you! Now Dike is here, and I’ve got nowhere to sit.”

“He won’t bite you. Come snuggle.” Meaghan suggested. “And I’m giving you permission to cheat off of him, too.”

“Unless she knows differential equations and theoretical calculus, then she might not be of much help to me. Immortal goddess or not.” Maize answered, finding a place on the bed amongst the other two occupants.

“Don’t you have APUSH work?” She asked, skeptical that she finished.

“I finished it, and cheated the right way, like everyone else does. I found the whole test online.”

“What, is her knowledge not good enough for you? Don’t make Dike feel unwanted!”

“I’m not trying to! If you’re so worried about it, show the gal some love yourself.” Maize hinted and Meaghan almost slapped her straight into Saturday.

But she was testing a theory. Meaghan and Dike both blushed.

Meaghan already knew Maize’s plan, and it would her require her involvement- which was something she dreaded. It was Operation Get-Dike-And-Meaghan-Together, and Maize knew exactly how to pull it off.

Knowing this, all that would come to Meaghan’s mind was- and for good reason- oh no. It wasn’t long before Maize would be talking about teamwork.

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