Of Thorns and Lightning

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The Club, After Maize

“William knew that when they were all sober, he would have to get them together to try and piece together the evening so he could figure out what to do with them. Could he punish them all? Should he?”

♦️

It was early, early Sunday morning when the rest of the Gods-in-training stumbled through the front doors of the compound like zombies. As a group, they had partied hard but been through hell with each other, and not one of them were in any sort of functional condition. They were in bad shape, and that said a lot.

Angelina, Ariel and Talia were completely drunk. Jordie was still trying to talk himself down from Menoetius-ing out, and he had managed to score some sketchy club Valium for himself. Peter was trying to forget, and he was painfully becoming sober with each passing minute. Meaghan was battling her own emotions; she was the next Dike, the fighter for the little guy, but she couldn’t manage to even defend her own best friend at the club when three drunk girls wanted to pick a fight. She was facing her own morals straight in the face and was starting to deny who she was and what she was capable of. She had been their designated driver, but that didn’t mean she still wasn’t under the influence of something, and it was something more powerful than drugs or alcohol. She was under the crushing influence of her mind, and her own standards she had held herself accountable to her whole life.

Things were changing, and she felt it.

They shuffled as a group through the main hallway towards the elevators, but Angelina stopped to throw up in a potted plant on their way. Talia held her hair back and Ariel moved the leaves, and that was the most Meaghan had ever seen them support another person other than themselves.

It was a miracle they all made it up to their rooms, since nobody who was drunk could seem to remember anything or gather any sort of bearings for position or direction. The rest of the night was peaceful; no one bothered each other, or even moved. The morning and most of the afternoon was silent and motionless, which was rare. She decided that there was no better time to try and find Maize. She felt bad about not saying anything to defend Maize in her presence, and she knew that Maize would still be upset. If only she knew what happened after she left...

Meaghan and Maize had rooms right next door to each other, so it wasn’t a long journey for Meaghan. She assumed Maize would be in her room and thought it was a solid place to start, and that’s exactly where she found her friend but in worse condition than she could ever have imagined or expected. She knocked on the door only to have it be opened by Thor, all the lights off and an unmoving mass of tumbled blankets in the bed.

“Meaghan, Maize is very ill and is asleep. If there’s something you need, I can try to help you.” Thor spoke, catching Meaghan off guard.

“She’s sick?! What happened?!” She asked frantically.

“Her car broke down after leaving the club and she was caught in the rain for a little while.” He answered simply.

“OH, my god! How did she get home?!”

“William found her by pure chance on the same road and he took her home after getting her car towed. She’s resting now, but we’re hoping her fever breaks soon.”

“Can you just let me know when she wakes up, because I have a lot to tell her and a lot to make up for.” She spoke, and Thor was happy to relay the message to Maize when she woke up.

It was a few days before Thor came knocking on Meaghan’s door. Meaghan knew that her friend had pneumonia and was very ill, and she thought it was best that she gave Maize space while she was sick. But it was early Tuesday evening, Maize was nearly cured, and an explanation was long overdue. Meaghan opened it to see the Norse god before her, telling her that Maize wanted to see her. Meaghan followed him back into Maize’s room where Maize was awake and aware.

“Hi, Maize,” Meaghan spoke softly. Maize groaned and sat up. Meaghan moved so she could sit on the bed next to Maize.

“I have something to tell you, because it’s really important. I know as you left the club, Peter, Jordie and I didn’t say anything, and I can’t imagine how you must feel or what you must think of us. I know you’re sick, but I’m here to apologize for not standing up for you immediately and I want to let you know that we took care of it. We fought like hell after you left, and it wasn’t pretty. But I don’t think you’ll have to worry about Talia for a little while. Things are going to be different for all of us, but especially you. You deserve it after all this time.”

Maize was quiet for a few moments, soaking up all the new information. Still weak and a little bit sick, she mustered up a brief but sincere response to Meaghan’s explanation.

“Thanks, Meaghan. It means a lot.”

Soon enough, Meaghan decided to go back to her room and let Maize rest for a little longer. She got up off the bed and said her goodbyes to both Thor and Maize before stepping out into the hallway and closing the door behind her. When she turned around to go back to her room, she ran into William Townsend, and he was on a mission.

“Hi, Meaghan. Perfect that I caught you. I need you up in the conference room, we’re going to have an emergency meeting. Do you know where everyone else is?”

“I haven’t seen them leave their rooms since we came home.”

“That’s plenty of time for them to get sober, I’m going to get them all together.” William spoke, returning to his mission of waking up and gathering the other Gods-in-training. Meaghan followed his order and she was the first to arrive in the room, despite members of William’s security detail. Whatever it was, it had to be huge. Considering what Thor said and what happened at the club, she thought she knew exactly what this meeting would be about.

William gathered the remaining Gods-to-be in the conference room on the fourth floor, and he meant business. Now was the time to find out what happened in order for him to start the damage assessment and the healing process. They all knew William was not there to mess around, and it might be more serious than they all thought. It was the perfect time to get them together, it was recent enough after the club for their memories to still be fresh, but they weren’t cranky and hungover. At the time, William was too, so it wasn’t a good time for any of them. But now that they were all sober, it was time to get things straightened out.

They all knew what was headed their way and were mutually uncomfortable, but they had to face the consequences of their actions just like everybody else. They were no exception to the rule.

Talia sat with an ice bag held to her face, she had an enormous and swollen purple cheek and was a little loopy from painkillers. Maize had fractured multiple parts of her orbital bone and cheekbone with the punch, but Talia knew she deserved it. Out of everyone, Talia had the most to regret that she desperately wanted to forget, but she also had the most self-analyzation to do. She didn’t want to be gathered in a locked conference room with everybody until her father got what he wanted from them. She knew he could be dangerously manipulative, and this was no exception to the rule, either.

They were all going to have to face what they had done, especially in order to help the group get along. They all knew they lacked in coordination and cooperation together, but they didn’t want to have it blasted in their faces.

But maybe that was the only way things were going to change.

Everyone was silent until William started off the conversation.

“I know what happened this weekend, but it would be wrong of me to only hear one side and one perspective. Take me back to the club, guys. Run me through everything. Don’t talk over each other, and do your best to remember it exactly.”

“This isn’t court, dad.” Talia spoke, already fed up and exhausted. The pain didn’t help.

“Yes, but there will be serious punishment, so we’re doing this.” William spoke, sitting down at his seat at the head of the conference room table.

“Meaghan, why don’t you start us off?” William asked, though it was a rhetorical question. Meaghan recounted her night at the club after Maize left.

“That night, Talia had just finished off the bullying started by Angelina and Ariel...”

“God, I wasn’t bullying her! That’s such a juvenile term, I wasn’t-” Talia began in her defense before she was cut off.

“TALIA! Please!” William scolded, giving her a sharp look and gesturing for Meaghan to continue with her account of the story.

“God, your so called ‘friend’ is such a crybaby! Every time I tell her the truth she runs off and hides and cries! Like, face me upfront for once!”

“Is that what you want, Talia? Do you do this to her, so she starts a fight with you? You’re not telling her the truth, you’re just spreading lies and being unnecessarily mean to her! You seem to be the only one around here who has a real problem with her. Angelina and Ariel just seem to be following your lead! You’re literally just a mean girl with bad intentions for everyone who you don’t see worthy to be in your presence, because you have an ego the size of the Empire State Building! You’re toxic, Talia, and you’re hurting my friends.”

Talia, unfazed, looked to Peter. “You don’t believe this, do you Spider boy?”

“Yeah, actually, I do. All you’ve done is give Maize shit and make her life at the compound literal hell, and you seem to be fueled only by sadism. It’s bullshit, Talia. We’re a team! How can we trust you to have our backs in combat when you’re only looking out for yourself?” Peter spoke. “And that’s the truth, Talia. What you say is the truth that you’re telling Maize? That’s pure malice.”

Off on the side by the bar, there was a loud shattering of a glass that was immediately traced to Jordie. He was trying to keep his cool but the whole thing made him upset and he was beginning to turn a little bit green. He had squeezed his glass so hard with his attempt to stay out of conflict and places were anger resided, but he couldn’t. He broke the glass in his hand, a million little shards covering the floor, his shoes and embedded in his hand. He brushed his hand off, those pieces of glass falling to the floor and he walked towards his compatriots in a fit of rage, his knuckles completely white. He was furious, and he made sure everybody knew it, too.

“Talia, you’re wrong. Maize isn’t a crybaby. She’s a much bigger person than you are right now, but you just happened to make me really angry with what just happened. You’re in trouble, Talia.” Jordie spoke. Peter, seeing where this might be heading, stepped in.

“Hey, man, cool it a touch. We’re really pissed but we don’t want you Menoetius-ing out right here and right now. We can settle this if you need a break, maybe some fresh air.” Peter spoke rationally, trying not to do or say anything that would get Jordie even more riled up than he already was.

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” He nearly yelled at Peter.

“What are you going to do if you don’t, huh?!” Peter rebutted, trying to get Jordie to back off. “That’s right. Take a chill pill, dude. Don’t get involved in this when you’re about to Menoetius out.” Peter advised.

“You’re right,” He said, walking away. “Chill pill, huh? That shouldn’t be too hard to find.”

“NO! Do NOT go looking for drugs from strangers!” Peter demanded, but it was too late. Jordie wasn’t receptive and had already gotten his mind set on it.

“Listen up, Spider boy. You are nothing without your suit. You owe everything to my father, and you wouldn’t even be here without him. You’re just a kid who thinks he knows everything, and that bothers the shit out of me, okay?! I know you’re trying to act righteous and stand up for your friend, but it isn’t worth it. She isn’t worth it, Peter. But you really aren’t either; I hope you know exactly how replaceable you are! You weren’t even part of the original search for the people to replace the Gods, you’re like a... footnote. Nobody event thinks you’re a real God, Peter. It’s that simple.” Talia continued, not missing a beat. She turned to Meaghan.

“Oh, poor Meaghan. Dike, huh? You always have to do what is right, don’t you? I bet that’s a blessing and a curse, Meaghan. Let’s take me, for example. Is the right thing to do to defend your friend and then attack me for hurting her, or does that make you just as bad as me? Is the right thing to do to stand down? Gosh, it must be hard being Dike, and you’re not even completely him yet. So, what does that make you, then?”

“Talia, it’s funny because you’re the next Thoth, right? Yeah, most of William’s power is in his suit, so how can you say that Peter’s nothing without his suit? You’re exactly the same as him, he’s just a better person. This whole time you’ve spent living with us, you’ve only done one thing: make Maize, specifically, miserable. On my first day you came to threaten me. Talia, why can’t you see that not one person is trying to take anything away from you? It wouldn’t kill you to be nice, for once, if you even have that capability inside of you. Which makes me to think, how can you fight evil when you’re a villain yourself? The world has a funny way of giving people what they deserve, and everyone deserves what they get. Talia, no one’s going to be there for you someday. Not even us. So, who’s got nothing now?!” Meaghan responded, ending the verbal argument.

Talia stood still until she delivered a solid, hard-handed slap on to Meaghan’s face. Peter immediately intervened, separating the two and everything exploded from there. To accompany the broken glass, there was enough ruckus and bloodshed to get the attention of security, having them immediately thrown out. They had a hard time finding Jordie, though once they did he was eerily calm and freaked everybody out.

Since Maize had left long before they did, the six of them had to climb into the SUV and go home all together, the car ride over an hour long. They had continued arguing on their way out of the club as they were being manhandled by security and then temporarily banned from the club, and still arguing when they got into the car, but for some reason, it all kind of died suddenly and they all were deafeningly silent. Meaghan was behind the wheel and got them home safely, but she never wanted to have to experience a car ride like that ever again.

She pulled into the parking lot around the side of the compound where the initiates were able to park their personal cars, and they all filed out of the vehicle, the doors the only things that made noise. The outdoor floodlights were shining a bright white glow on all of them, and their faces were completely exposed to each other. Meaghan whispered, knowing that the rest of them were all too drunk to understand or remember the events of the night,

“Look at us, guys. We’re supposed to be the Gods, but we all hate each other. We can’t save anybody else if we can’t even save ourselves. I’m so disappointed in us.”

Everyone agreed on the inside, even Talia. She knew that there was something very wrong, and she knew that she was at the head of it, but her feelings were her feelings and she didn’t know how to right her mistakes. She truly didn’t like the group all that much, but they had to find a way to surpass it so they could work together, because they were a capsized ship with an SOS call nobody was responding to.

They all shuffled inside the compound, waving their security cards in the general vicinity of the reader plate because everyone except Meaghan was too impaired to really get it right.

Jason spoke up at the wrong moment, his voice chiming in with too much volume and no sense to read the energy between them.

“Well, you six are home quite late, if I do say so myself.”

“Shut up, Jason, now is not the time.” Peter spoke, cranky.

“I see, Mr. Lannigan. Goodnight, then.” Jason answered, the tension between the group raised even more.

They all took the elevator together since someone would end up falling on the stairs, but the elevator would jumble them around with the motion. They picked their battle and squeezed into one elevator even though the last thing they wanted to do was be together. They were tense, but they were done with fighting for the night. They had faced a harsh reality about themselves as a group, and that alone was enough to put them down.

Knowing that they couldn’t sit alone in their rooms and create a magical solution by themselves without talking to the group, they still tried. They created a better version of themselves in their head and were able to get some sleep that night, content and waiting for the storm to finally pass.

They all recounted the night in a similar way, but the other girls admitted they had a hard time remembering what they said or what had occurred. After they were finished they all sat together in silence, their eyes secretly on William who had his elbows resting on the arms of his chair and his fingers intertwined, his eyes thoughtful.

“You guys need a therapist.” Townsend spoke after coming to an answer. They saw it on his face, but were a little shocked by his response. William sensed it too.

“I’m serious, guys. Obviously there is a lot of emotion between all of you, so we’re going to start some group therapy. Meaghan had it right, you can’t save anyone if you can’t even get yourselves together. I am sorry, though. When I put this project together I knew it would be different and difficult to pull teenagers from their lives and force them to live together and work together, but I didn’t expect it to ever be this bad. I’m sorry you don’t get along, but there is nobody else that can pull this off but all of you. So far, we’ve had individual training between you and your hero, but we’re going to start training as a group. We can’t just send you off into battle and have you guys never have worked a mission together. That’s the next stage we were moving into anyway after Christmas, but I think I’m going to jumpstart that. Maize will be in Asgard for parts of this, but she will have to do all the things all of you are going to have to do. You can all go, you’re dismissed.” he finished. Peter stood up first, clearing his throat and addressing the group.

“Well, I’ll be seeing you all in therapy.”

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