Of Thorns and Lightning

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Untitled chapter

A Friendly Game

“Yeah, William made us do some group therapy.”

♦️

Maize was the first one off the Jet when it landed. Everyone knew something was wrong and she needed someone, but they also knew that she needed to be alone for a little while. Instead of taking the elevator with the rest of them, she ran up the stairs and found a safe haven in her room. Mjolnir returned to its resting place on her nightstand rather aggressively as she dumped her books and other locker contents on her desk, finally feeling free enough to give it a good cry. She paced the floor, wiping her tears with the back of her hand and occasionally fanning her face trying to will the tears to stop and dry themselves. She felt the same emotions when she was around her father and so her emotions wandered to him. He should have been there. Everyone else she knows has a dad that cared even just a little for them and she felt like the universe was taking something crucial from her: a father’s love. She was angry, and she was sad. She hated how sometimes she felt invisible to the people she needed most. Her friends, her family.

The pictures of her, Jemma, Giles, Markie and Raelyn stared up at her from their scattered position on her desk, and she wanted to scream. She wanted to yell at them, try to convince them that she didn’t leave them just like everyone else left her, but they were already gone. There was no reversing that.

But there was a part of her that wouldn’t let her throw away those old pictures. Even though they hurt, there was a part of her that begged her to hold on. Should she hold on? Could she?

Meanwhile in the common room, there was a small celebration being hosted by Thor, surprisingly, that congratulated the kids on their hard work earlier that day. When William wasn’t paying attention, Thor offered them each a mug of beer from what William had on tap in his secret stash. William turned around just as Peter accepted the rather large mug of beer.

"THOR! What are you doing!? These kids aren’t old enough to drink! Not in my house, at least!” He scolded, but Thor was unfazed.

“They are growing boys and girls! They should be having two!” Thor opposed. “And it’s arguably better they consume earthly alcoholic beverages on the top-secret premises rather than in a dirty nightclub in New York City, yes?”

“Yes, but-”

“So, it is.” He interrupted, William knowing he wasn’t going to win this one.

“Does anyone know the whereabouts of my child legacy? Her presence is missing.” Thor then noticed.

“She’s in her room, needed a little bit of time to herself.” William answered, not seeming like he thought anything more of it. This was probably normal behavior for his daughter and that’s why he brushed it off, but Peter knew better than to just let it go. He knew Maize could be in trouble. Once she gets lost in her own head, sometimes there’s no going back.

Peter was the first one daring enough to approach Mazie since they had returned to the compound. He was growing increasingly concerned over Maize as the party went along, and he couldn’t focus on the cheery conversation because he was thinking about Maize. Her presence was missing, and they all wanted her there to celebrate their victory, but it went deeper than that. Peter wanted to know she was okay. A check wouldn’t hurt anyone, and he just wanted to make sure she was doing alright. If she needed to still be alone, he would leave her alone, but he wouldn’t know if he didn’t ask.

“Peter, she’s fine! Don’t worry.” Meaghan tried to convince him.

“Maybe so, I just want to make sure for myself.” He answered, grabbing his red plastic cup of soda that William traded him for the mug of beer, even though Peter would probably be handed another one once he returned to the party, thanks to Thor. Peter headed towards the elevator. He had no idea what his approach was going to be or how he was going to deal with whatever was coming his way, but he would go with it as he went.

After all, it was just Maize.
No immortal powers could ever change that fact.

He walked down the hall and paused at her door, ready to knock. He took a moment to try and listen to hear if she was upset or to gather any other details about what she may be feeling. He knocked, saying it was only him. She opened the door and they stood face to face.

Maize had changed out of her armor and was in black running shorts and a gray college hockey shirt, her hair a little bit all over the place. Her eyes were red, but she had stopped crying not long before Peter’s visit and denied that she had been crying in the first place. She didn’t want to cry in front of Peter. Even though she had done so many times before, she felt like some things were different now, and she didn’t want to seem vulnerable again.

“Hey. I just came to check on you. See if you need anything. I was getting worried, we hadn’t heard from you in a little while.”

“Yeah, Peter. I’m fine.” She half lied, flicking the remainder of a hot tear from her lashes.

“You sure? Can I come in for just a minute?” He asked, unsure of her response.

“I guess,” she invited, stepping aside and letting him in. She sat on the bed amongst her pictures and he stood for a few moments before sitting with her. He saw the faces in the photos and Maize didn’t even have to say anything before he got it.

“You know, after today I’m sure they understand it all, why you had to leave.”

“But they didn’t seem too grateful or happy to see me again. They’ve moved on completely and still think I left them because I wanted to.”

“Then maybe they’re really not your friends, Maize. You’ve got me and Meaghan, and we’re for real with you. They don’t get it. We- I- do.”

“Yeah... yeah, I know.” Maize spoke. “But it still hurts.” She admitted. Peter softened, seeing that she was vulnerable and being open with him. Even though they were the best of friends, it was still a rarity that Maize had completely revealed herself and her deepest emotions to him.

“Hey, let’s get these pictures out of here. You don’t need them, come on.” He said as he gathered the pictures she removed from her locker and shuffled them out of sight. “You’ve got all these great pictures of the three of us together, don’t have those other ones laying around. There, that’s better.” Peter said as he pointed out all the polaroids of the three of them. Maize wiped her eyes.

Peter cleared her math book and homework from her bed that was placed underneath all the photos, and he couldn’t help but scan her responses as he put the Calculus book aside. He bit his lip, not knowing if this was the best time to bring the matter up, but it would bother him if he didn’t.

“Maize, you got number seven and ten wrong. You didn’t do your day/dx substitution right in seven and in ten you messed up the differential equations, but all your derivatives and antiderivatives are correct.” He spewed, the look on Maize’s face told him that she wasn’t in the mood for math and frankly didn’t care about her mistakes at this point in time.

God knows she’s made too many. Mostly not about math.

Peter found his spot on her bed and he sat against the pillows. Maize’s arms were crossed across her chest, but they fell to her sides and met Peter’s outstretched hand in an invitation for her to join him.

“Just lay with me and before you know it, it won’t hurt as much.” He spoke softly as Maize curled into his side. Her head rested against his chest and her hand was placed on his core, he ran his hands through her hair as they laid together on her bed. They were silent, only interrupted by the occasional sniffle or sound of tears, but then Maize had stopped crying for the day. She was getting better, it was all flowing out of her to her grand relief.

He kissed the top of her head as she was falling asleep, and he let himself fall along with her.

They slept the rest of the afternoon and through the night, only to be awoken by a message over Jason that was broadcast into every room- a wakeup call from William Townsend himself.

“Time to get up, mini Gods! Rise and shine! We’ve got a lot of shit to do today, so get your asses up and moving! Meet me in the main yard in fifteen minutes, and bring your sneakers!” William announced, and the kids reluctantly got up. Maize groggily rolled out of bed and went over to her closet, getting out a dark blue sports bra and leggings with mesh cutouts, matching those with her pink and blue sneakers. She changed while Peter was still asleep, he was like a rock. She jostled him awake and it wasn’t long before they were traveling downstairs to the front yard where their peers were already beginning to gather. They all knew William meant business, and they weren’t going to ignore his instructions. William looked triumphant and completely confident in whatever the hell he was about to do. Once all the initiates were there, he explained what was going on.

“Alright! I figured that getting all of you to talk about your feelings with a stranger was a long shot in itself and I don’t want to push my luck with sitting you all around and trying to communicate properly right off the bat- ha-, so we’re going to start our process of learning how to work together, with baseball.”

“Really, dad? Baseball?” Talia asked, not entertained by his idea.

“Hey, what’s better than learning how to get along and work together for one goal than a team sport? Just be glad I’m not making you play football, you would crash and burn so hard! Anyway, you’ll be playing against the current Gods. The winning team’s members get to eat pizza and the losers have to pay for it. It’s on, kids. Get suited up!” He further clarified.

Maize had a slight smile on her face. She had a secret that only she, Peter and Meaghan knew... she was an incredible baseball player. Not softball, no, David put her in baseball when she was a kid, and she was the pinch hitter for the Varsity baseball team at her school, alongside being a phenomenal swimmer. They knew that they had at least one person on their team that would give them a fighting chance.

Maize reached the gear stand first and made sure she got the bat with the right length for her before it was gone. She grabbed a red helmet before running inside and grabbing her custom Mets jersey, Talia wanting to roast Maize for getting so excited. But it turned out, that was exactly what their team needed, since the only person into the challenge was Maize. Peter wasn’t all that good at baseball and Meaghan hadn’t touched a bat since they played waffle ball in gym class in Freshman year.

“This definitely reminds me of the baseball scene from Twilight... I mean, think about it. Maize’s going to crack it so hard... she’s already great at baseball and she’s going to swing it like her hammer. She’s got a lot of power; the outfield has to be enormous in order for every hit to not be a home run.” Meaghan analyzed to Peter.

“Think about it, though. We’ve got Maize’s talent. You’ve got precision vision and increased strength, so you’re going to get some RBIs. Ariel has impeccable aim. Angelina is freakishly agile. Jordie already plays hockey and has power and aim going for him. Talia’s too much of a perfectionist to fuck this up, and I don’t think the Gods stand a chance. We’ve got the dream team here, Meaghan.” Peter realized, rattling it off to Meaghan.

“There’s just no foreseeable way we can lose.”

And, boy, was he wrong.

The full-grown Gods were fielding, and the initiates were up to bat. Artemis was pitching and Ariel was hitting first, and nobody expected the type of pitches they would receive from Artemis herself. They were all easily over 100 miles per hour, and she aimed directly for the strike zone, and didn’t miss. She never did.

That was one out.

Jordie batted next, Artemis throwing two strikes and Jordie hit one, getting to first base relatively safely. Talia managed to move things along, and it wasn’t long before Jordie was on second and she was on first, but Peter got them their second out. Talia, the third.

When the Gods were up to bat, Meaghan was pitching. She had the best combination of precision and power, but it was no match for Diana. Her arrows never missed, and neither did her swings. Meaghan tried to brush it off, pizza was on the line and she had to do her part in securing it for the team. Thor was batting next, and he shattered the bat and the ball simultaneously.

“Do we call that an error, an out or a foul?” Meaghan asked William who was officiating as well as playing.

“In all fairness, I want to say foul.”

“This bat has too much power on the swing! It’s not as balanced as Mjolnir; can I play with that?” Thor asked, slightly complaining about having to play with a wooden bat instead of a hammer forged in the heart of a burning star.

“No, Thor, you cannot.” William decided, and they continued with the game.

The Gods put three runs up on the board, and then the initiates were up to bat again. Peter started them off, but not on a good note. His nervousness got to him and he struck out, leaving Maize to clean up after his mess after him.

Artemis was still pitching, but Maize demolished it and hit the first home run of the game, putting a score up for the kids. Artemis knew she had to step up her game, since it was apparent to everybody in the same moment that Maize was more than they thought they’d have to encounter in this game. She had the power of Thor, but she had the right balance and that’s what made her a threat to the victory of the Gods.

The score was becoming close at the bottom of the seventh inning. Tensions were higher as the gap between the initiates and the adults was swiftly closing through the eighth inning. After a series of failures, the kids all gathered together and ordered themselves on who was up to bat and worked together to find a plan when they were in the outfield or on the bases, waiting for their rivals to come across them. There was little room for arguing and further discussion on the matter as they figured out their game plan, and for once they felt like a team, even when they were losing.

At the end of the ninth inning, Peter was on first base, Talia on second and Maize on third. Meaghan was still pitching and Ariel, Jordie and Angelina were in the outfield. Dike was up to bat and he hit it out into the outfield, making it to second base before the ball was caught and tossed back to the pitcher’s mound. William batted next and he too made it onto base, but the game was on the line as the ball was still in play. Ariel threw the baseball over to Maize who had caught it just as Dike was sliding onto third, but it was a clear out for him. Once the cloud of dust settled, Dike walked off the field a little bit annoyed. William was next. Menoetius was next to bat, and he hit the last home run of the game. William triumphantly jogged from second to third and finally across to home, then met by Menoetius who had ran the bases. The Gods rejoiced in their victory.

The kids all came together and put their gear back where they had gotten it from at the beginning of the game, sulking only a little bit. They were bummed they lost and had to pay for the pizza, but William made sure to let them know just how proud of them he was. He knew that they had worked together and eventually scored to match the teams, and that wouldn’t have happened without them thinking together.

Back inside, Maize had cleaned the dust off her face and clothes before she saw the Gods gathering around William with a pad of paper, taking their pizza order for lunch.

“So, we’ll get one with olives and peppers, one with sausage and pepperoni, one chicken and broccoli and then a cheese, yes?” William clarified, and the Gods were satisfied. William called in the order, telling the total to Maize so she could split it seven ways among her team. A deal was a deal, and they had to pay up.

Maize collected the funds and made her way back to William. She set the pile of cash down on the granite countertop between her and Townsend, who was doing who knows what kind of work on his laptop.

“This should settle the score,” She said as he counted the bills. He nodded with satisfaction, seeing that it was all there. The extra random 21 cents and all.

“Hey, Maize, can you go run and grab the pizzas for me? The pickup time is soon and I’m really busy.”

“Why don’t you just get it delivered?” She asked, wondering why that wasn’t an option.

“Security, really, and the delivery people all end up getting lost here. So, can you go?”

“I would, but guess who doesn’t have a car? I forgot while I was in Asgard, so thanks for reminding me of all the things I don’t have.”

William smiled, remembering his gift to her and hoping that she liked it just as much as he does.

“Maize, you have a car. While you were gone I set up something special for you.” He smiled. “Follow me.” He invited.

The two of them made it down to the garage, which doubled as William’s lab. There was a workbench with tools and metal parts strewn across the tables, sitting amongst half-finished suit pieces. Maize got a glimpse of what everybody meant when they said he was a millionaire and a genius. William grabbed her lanyard off the table and tossed it over to her.

“I think this belongs to you,” he said as she caught it and fumbled with the keys, seeing one huge and unfamiliar one- a fob with a trident on it. Her face went blank. She knew exactly what William was trying to give to her.

“William, no, I can’t-” She rejected, shocked.

“Yes, you can. Let me show you, come on.” He motioned and they headed downstairs into his lab and garage. Maize was instructed to press the unlock button, and the car at the far end of the garage in the corner clicked and glowed to life. Maize took off in a jog that evolved into a run towards the car, too scared to touch it but too eager to not ever let go.

In front of her, the Maserati Granturismo was sitting in all its glory.

“William, I can’t take this. This car is well over one hundred THOUSAND dollars, and my last one we bought from an impound lot auction. This is too much, I can’t accept this. Take the keys back, William. I can’t thank you enough for even offering this to me-”

“I gave that Peter kid a brand-new Audi, it’s fine, Maize. Look, his is right over there.” He spoke as he pointed to a shiny, cherry red Audi parked next to William’s R8.

“If it makes you feel any better, I won this car over from your dad in a poker game, he signed the pink slips and everything. So, if anything, it belongs to you more rightfully than it does to me.”

“How’s that supposed to make me feel better?”

“I don’t know, your dad treated you like shit your whole life, the least he can give to you is a nice car. And, it’s a shit on him, because you have it and he doesn’t. I just thought you’d like it.” William answered sincerely.

“I do. I love it more than anything my dad ever gave me. You’re right, it is a shit on him.”

“You want to go for a test drive?” William asked, his eyebrow raised.

“Hell, yeah I want to go for a test drive!” Maize affirmed energetically.

“Just don’t ever try and drag race Talia, she’s got that Ferrari California over there and she’s out for blood.”

“At least one thing hasn’t changed since I was gone.” Maize chuckled.

“Hey, she shouldn’t bother you anymore. We’re working on it, for real.” William assured, honesty in his eyes. Maize believed him, too.

William opened the car door for her, and she pressed the engine start button, the car roaring and then purring to life, as did Maize’s eyes and face. William knew she was happy. Really, actually happy, and he wasn’t sure if she had ever felt that yet during her time at the compound. Maybe this was the first time.

“Now, I don’t want any funny business going on in this car. Driving only, no touching or anything else, for the love of god.”

“William, who do you think I am?” Maize laughed. “I’ve been single my whole life!”

“I think you’re a teenage girl with an expensive car. Single or not, anything can happen with that.” He explained, shaking off that thought. It didn’t help that he knew about the romance between Maize and Peter before even they did. Even though Maize didn’t know it now, he felt like he had to give the appropriate warning ahead of time, just in case.

“You just never know what’s going to happen.”

“Don’t worry, there’s not enough room in here for anything to happen, anyway.” Maize teased a little bit before she shut the car door and headed to get the pizza. William walked out of the garage, and passed Peter in the hall on his way to his room. Peter was cheery despite losing the game, and it just astounded William that he could see they were in love, but they themselves were blind to it. He figured that’s where the saying came from.

William made it to his office and thought once again: just in case.

He just wondered when Peter and Maize were actually going to know for themselves.

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