Of Thorns and Lightning

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Breakfast at Aunt Malorie’s

♦️

As Maize and Peter were driving, they realized that as they headed towards the bridge to get back to Queens, it was closed off to all traffic. It would be a miracle if they got on the bridge, but a miracle is what they got. Since the rest of the Gods went on the Jet, William told them to let the two of them across the bridge since there was minimal structural damage and that was the only way they’d be able to go across. Maize drove like lightning over the bridge, making sure that they weren’t on the bridge a second longer than they had to be since she wanted to get away from all the remains of the robot and to ensure that they were far gone if the bridge did decide to buckle beneath them. When they made it off the island, Maize got on track to head back to Malorie’s house so they could keep their commitment of a breakfast date. There was more traffic due to the bridge being officially closed now that the Gods made it out.

Peter took the opportunity to break the silence.

“You doing alright Maize? You scared the hell out of me when you took that dive.” He admitted to her.

“Yeah, it scared me too. Jason said I was fine, it was a really weird experience. Like my body had protected me, it went into this super-fast state of suspension, and then I had this sudden burst of energy like I had already healed from any damage I might have gotten from the fall.”

“I can’t tell if Talia did it on purpose, you know.”

“You know, I don’t think she did.”

“I think you’re giving her too much benefit of the doubt.”

“Really? I mean, she was already pulling back so she could attack, and I think I just happened to be behind her. It’s on me, I think.”

“I saw her eyes, Maize. I don’t know if it was just the battle where the adrenaline just took over, or what. I’m just glad you’re alright.”

“Me too, Peter. Me too.” She answered, knowing she was lucky to be alive. If she didn’t have her powers, she would be dead. The fall would have been fatal, and she walked out without a scratch.

Peter was well aware of that fact. If this was two months ago, she would be dead.

He pushed down the thought of that, swallowing the lump in his throat. He tried not to make it obvious that he was watching Maize as she drove, just thanking his lucky stars she was there with him after the battle. He bit his lip and tried to look away, but even though she was sore and soggy, she was a sight for sore eyes to him. It was a unique experience, seeing his best friend that he was more than likely in love with drive a Maserati after taking a dip in the East River, wearing her full Thor armor and having the hammer resting between them on the center console. Then Maize’s eyes dropped from looking at the road to looking into her lap.

Suddenly, as they were cruising along the highway, Maize’s vision began to blur and she was dizzy again, the blood rushing to her head and out through her nose. Peter realized this immediately and leaned over, taking her foot off the gas and driving the car to the shoulder from the passenger’s seat. He reached and flicked on the turn signal so he could move over the lanes he needed to get to the shoulder and the car rolled to an eventual stop. He figured out how to put the car in park before he cut the engine. He put the hazards on, and he tried to stop the bleeding and prevent the blood from getting all over the interior. He knew both Maize and William would be mad if they had to get the carpets shampooed because there was blood everywhere. Maize was having a particularly bad vision, and it was nothing short of a horror story. All around her, her friends were lying dead. Their eyes were glazed over and permanently open, never to blink by themselves again. Their skin was gray, covered in ash and blood. Meaghan’s shield was crumpled to pieces, which was a nearly impossible thing to achieve. It was a nightmare.

A voice resounded in her head and it was muffled as if she was hearing it like you would hear a band if you were standing outside the venue.

“This is what happened to your friends because you couldn’t do what we asked. Every action has a consequence, and this is yours.”

Maize snapped out of her trance, and that still scared Peter. He didn’t know how or when she would come back, and she always looked scared to death when she did. Her eyes were wide open and pierced him through and through. She gasped for air, then grabbed Peter, making sure he was alive and real in front of her. She needed assurance that he was fine, because she wasn’t.

“Oh, my God, Maize. You’re okay now, I’m here. I’m here, I promise.” Peter reassured as she looked into his eyes with a panic he had never seen before. She grabbed at his shoulders, convincing herself that he was real. Peter wiped the blood on his suit so he wouldn’t get most of it all over her when he brushed back her hair and held her face before pulling her close to him. Her head was in the crook of his neck and he was rubbing her back, trying to calm her.

When things were quiet, Maize looked into his eyes with less panic. She just wanted to look at his face because she didn’t know how long she had left to admire it.

“Okay, I’m going to drive, alright? But first I’m going to call William, he’s gotta know.” Peter insisted, feeling like it was the right thing to do.

“No! Don’t call William, he’s got enough shit on his hands.” She exclaimed.

“This is important, Maize-”

“Don’t call William.” She commanded. He didn’t call, but if she wouldn’t tell him, he would.

“Fine. I won’t. Do you still want to go to breakfast?”

“Yes, I’m starving, let’s just move on, ok?” Maize rushed, trying to escape her vision as fast as possible.

“Alright, let’s go then.” Peter responded softly, still worried about her. They switched seats in the car and Maize was working on cleaning herself up and stopping the bleeding completely while Peter drove.

“Sorry for all the blood.” Maize apologized.

“Don’t apologize, Maize. It’s fine. I’m not bothered.”

“That’s a lie. You’re pale.”

“Cause there’s a lot of blood and I don’t understand how that’s not bad for you, but I’m fine. You just scared the fuck out of me for the second time today.” Peter answered. Maize was just glad that he cared so much.

The rest of the car ride was silent. Again.

But this time it was different.

Peter pulled the car into the parking lot of Malorie’s building. They sat for a moment before Peter turned to Maize.

“Do you want to talk about what you saw-” He attempted to bring up.

“No. I don’t.” Maize shut down immediately. Peter knew it must have been worse than he ever could have imagined. Maize got out of the car and so did Peter, and they took the elevator up to Malorie’s apartment. Peter felt helpless because Maize didn’t want his help.

“Malorie! We’re back!” Peter called as he entered the apartment. Malorie was in the kitchen drying some dishes and she stepped out to the living room upon hearing his voice. The kids were standing in their battle armor, but Maize was still dripping a little bit of water from her armor onto the hard wood floor.

“Well, that isn’t inconspicuous at all, now is it?” Malorie asked, seeing their battle gear. “You can’t go out to breakfast dressed like that!”

“Then it’s great that we’re not going to. We were already getting stormed with press, William said that he’d take care of it, but you’re right. This is the least inconspicuous thing we could possibly be wearing.”

“Oh, I can’t believe you kids are going out into the world, being real heroes, making real change. I’m so proud of you, I’m blown away. Especially Maize, look at that armor! You’re really a god, aren’t you? But you’re a little bit wet and all bloody, is it yours?”

“Yeah, William’s daughter kind of pushed me off the bridge into the East River, so, that’s that. All the blood’s mine, but I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

“You poor thing. Go get some warm, dry clothes on, the both of you. The weather’s really starting to get cold now, it’s nearly December. Maize, I can’t believe you came without a coat, just a crop top! A crop top in these temperatures?”

“I didn’t even notice; the weather doesn’t bother me that much anymore.” She responded, realizing that the cold really didn’t have much of an effect on her. Still, Malorie insisted she wear a sweater.

Peter and Maize went back to Peter’s room to get changed. Peter shrugged his suit off, hanging it up in his closet for safe keeping until he could take it back to the compound later that day. He pulled on a gray tee shirt and a navy and gray flannel on over it, as well as dark jeans and his sneakers. Maize picked out an army green canvas jacket, one of his black pullover hoodies and she wore her jeans from yesterday to accompany her sneakers.

“Hey, I don’t want you getting sick again, don’t go outside in the cold with your wet hair, darling.” He suggested. “Take a hat.”

Peter handed her over a hat crocheted with a soft and thick gray and black yarn that covered her ears and had a pom-pom at the end. It warmed her immediately, and she wasn’t going to reject his attempts at comforting her. She was going to take all she could get in order to feel secure, and Peter was offering that to her. They walked out of the room and met May who was waiting, ready to go with her purse and keys.

“To breakfast!” She announced, and they left the apartment. Maize was just attempting to bring back some sense of normalcy to the day.

On the other hand, the Gods were on the Jet heading towards home. William was trying to get everyone together and settled in, since they had a particularly busy morning.

“Alright, how is everybody doing?” He asked.

“You know, I’m good! I’m all amped up!” Ariel answered bubbly. “Like, we actually did something really great and we did it together. It’s a good feeling. Kind of gives a sense of purpose.”

“Oh, shit. I’m not so good.” Meaghan answered after she stood up to hang the shield up so she wouldn’t have to hold it. She made a realization on something she hadn’t noticed before. William turned to her, alarmed. Dike was at full attention.

Meaghan had a laceration across her ribs that had been contained by the top of her uniform, but when she reached up to hand her shield the cut was revealed when her shirt rode up a few centimeters. She was shocked at first, her uniform wasn’t even cut, and she didn’t feel a thing until that moment when a thin line of blood escaped down her torso and a drop splattered onto the metal floor of the Jet. She didn’t know what to do at first, but Dike was on it immediately, before he could even process it. He took her hands that were resting at her sides and he put one over the other over the cut and put pressure on it while they were waiting for William to come over.

“Dike, is it bad?” William asked, trying to evaluate Meaghan without having him remove the pressure.

“Looks just like a surface cut, but she’s still bleeding, and I don’t want to risk it. It’s shallow enough that it probably started to clot but then she reached up and opened it back up again. It’s pretty wide, but not deep.” He answered.

“Check each other for injuries- if anyone else is hurt speak now or forever hold your piece.” William instructed, wanting to make sure they were all taken care of. They had some bruises and scratches, but nothing requiring advanced medical care. William took care of logistics and figured out how long they had until they were home. In that time, Dike stood behind her and basically hugged her from behind so she could put his hands over top of hers and ensure there was pressure on her wound.

“Dike, I can hold pressure by myself,” Meaghan stated. “I’m barely bleeding, you don’t have to worry.” She tried to convince. He was stuck in his decision.

“Yes, I do have to worry, and you’re still bleeding either way. I just want to make sure I’m doing my part in helping, so I’m going to stand here and apply pressure too if that’s okay with you.” She answered. Meaghan didn’t reject him.

“We’ll be back at the compound in less than ten minutes, guys.” William announced. Everyone was exhausted and silent, but they were all kind of paying attention to Dike and Meaghan. Especially when blood started seeping through Dike’s fingers.

“William, are we almost there? It’s getting worse.” He asked, becoming impatient.

“Just about. Hold on, Meaghan.” William responded. When they landed, everyone else filed off and made their way back into the compound, decompressing from the morning and getting their armor or suits put away.

“Okay, let’s get you fixed up,” William stated, paging the doctor to come out. Dike let go with one hand so he could grab the shield, and he secured it on his back. They walked inside and ended up in the hospital unit, Dike accompanying Meaghan. Meaghan laid down on a stretcher, the doctor asking her questions about if she knew how she got it and what caused it, but she had no idea she was even hurt until twenty minutes ago.

Meaghan still had her hands over the laceration, slightly afraid to move them. The doctor asked her to remove them so he could see the severity of her injury and to clean it. Dike was there as a second pair of ears, so he knew the instructions for her wound care and for moral support. The doctor asked her to take off her uniform top so he could clean her torso, and Dike looked up at the ceiling and turned slightly. Meaghan got rid of her metal gloves and took of her fitted crop top as best as she could without stretching her abdomen and causing her pain. The doctor asked Dike to help if they were both comfortable since it would be easiest and cause Meaghan less pain if the three of them helped pull her top off. Meaghan took a mental note to talk to William about that design flaw in her suit when she was better. She was left in her sports bra, a white bra with strappy crossover accents, and Dike forced himself to look away. She didn’t ask him to see her without her shirt on her own accord, so therefore he wouldn’t look. He took the uniform top and was wondering how they would clean the blood off of it.

The doctor worked to wash the dried blood off of her skin and once that was done, her injury was much less intimidating to look at for her and Dike. The doctor didn’t expect she would need stitches, so she was bandaged with gauze pads and stretchy self-adhesive tape around her ribcage to ensure it was held in place.

“Dike, can you help her with changing the dressings each morning and night until she’s healed?”

“Sure.” He agreed. “If Meaghan’s fine with that, then so am I.”

“It’s alright with me.” Meaghan responded.

“Perfect. Let me give you some instructions and then I’ll send you both off on your way.”

When they were finished, the two of them walked out and went back upstairs. Meaghan was rocking an interesting look of her sports bra, blue medical tape around her torso and then her uniform pants with her utility belt and her shin guards. Dike made sure to tell William that she was alright. Dike walked Meaghan up to her room and reassured her that he would be back to change her dressings later that night, and to get some rest. She deserved it, it was barely noon and she had helped save New York as well as bleed all over everything. She and Maize had that in common for sure. Meaghan crawled into bed and slept, not able to wait until Maize to return to catch up with her and hang out. Rest was the top priority for everyone. William also advised them all to not watch the local news, but that was difficult for Peter and Maize out at breakfast.

At the diner, which was Malorie and Peter’s favorite, they were all paying attention to what the Channel 8 news reporter was going on about. Every TV in that place seemed to be on different news stations, but they were all saying the same things; describing the attack in detail, but they differed on their opinions of the Gods and those who would ascend to their position.

“So, are you kids going to tell me what happened today? You both seem eerily calm for what I can see looks like happened this morning. I’d just have gone crazy. I don’t know how you do it.”

“No, because our faces are plastered all over every TV in New York and we’re out in public immediately after. I just want to eat my pancakes in peace, you know? I’m afraid we’re going to be bombarded at any second with scrutiny from the people, even though we saved them.” Peter answered. “So let’s keep it down, and keep this talk to a minimum.”

“Now you just sound cynical. I don’t want to believe the job has already taken that much of a toll on you that your whole outlook has changed.”

“I don’t want to believe it either, but I’ve already made awkward eye contact with eight people who looked at the TV and then looked over at Maize and are trying to piece it together. They can see her face, not mine in those clips.”

“So, you’re worried about Maize, is that it?” Malorie asked, investigative. Peter was caught off guard, knowing that this was a trick question and he wasn’t sure how to answer. The answer wasn’t no, but it wasn’t quite a yes either. He stuttered as he tried to find the right words and he blushed a little, which May knew was an answer in itself. Maize did her best to ease the situation and try and develop the words Peter couldn’t.

“I think what he means is that of course he’s worried about me, none of us know what I’m capable of and I don’t know when or how I can get hurt. Like, I could have died today, and I never would have known that it was possible for me to die that way. But he doesn’t have to be worried about me all the time because I’ve got a magic hammer and that alone should be enough. Right?”

“Yeah, let’s go with that.” He agreed. Aunt Malorie had a different response.

“Oh, come on Peter. Of course, you’re worried about her no matter if she’s some god. You’ve had the biggest crush on her-”

“Malorie!” He exclaimed, not letting her finish that sentence.

“It’s about time she knew! I thought you guys were already dating, too, but this seems to be news to everyone!”

“You know what, let’s just eat our pancakes and not talk about this!” Peter requested, his voice rising in timbre. Maize blushed. In the past she thought she detected some sort of a crush between them but since nothing came about and they never talked about it and were dating other people, she always assumed that they would only be friends forever. Maize was okay with that, honestly, but she didn’t know that she needed to hear those words from Malorie.

The rest of breakfast was awkward and silent. Maize didn’t know exactly what to say, she couldn’t identify the mood of the table. Peter wouldn’t make direct eye contact with Maize, which made it even harder to finish off the breakfast date. Malorie made them promise that they would finally talk about their feelings with each other, to which she got a wishy-washy response.

Malorie knew they weren’t going to talk about it.

Peter drove the two of them back upstate, and neither of them were quite looking forward to being together in another confined space together, especially after Malorie dropped the bomb that there were some feelings between them. But all Peter could focus on was Maize’s dried blood underneath his fingernails, the only thing that remained from earlier gave him the red reminder that it all really had happened. He looked over just to convince himself that she was still real, but his curiosity was killing him- he wanted to know what haunting Maize was so badly.

The drive wasn’t filled with empty silence mainly because Maize was so exhausted that the was dozing off. She hadn’t gotten much sleep since she had visited Asgard and she knew somewhere inside her that she wouldn’t ever sleep the same way again, like a normal person. She was almost completely a god and didn’t have the same needs, but maybe she would sleep just for the enjoyment of it and not out of necessity. This was good because they didn’t have to say anything, but their words seemed to mean nothing when their actions spoke so loudly.

Peter pulled into the garage at the compound and Maize woke up from her light sleep. They sat together in the Maserati for a few moments after Peter turned off the engine. Maize was regaining her surroundings and realized they were home, and Peter felt like he couldn’t get out of the car just yet. There absolutely was unfinished business left to do.

Peter was nervous. He wanted to take a chance and just kiss Maize; something he had realized he had wanted to do. He wasn’t sure if he should go for it, or if she would even kiss back. When Maize looked over at him their eyes met, and Peter took a deep breath and bucked up the courage to just kiss her...

Maize saw the look in Peter’s eyes and was waiting for the moment he kissed her. For some reason she couldn’t bring herself to make the first move, especially because Peter swallowed hard and went a little bit pale just before Maize thought they were going to kiss and he quickly turned around and got out of the car, and Maize was glad that she didn’t go for it while he was running away.

“So, you’re not going to kiss me?” Maize called after him as she leaned against her car, getting out after him. She rested her arms on the roof and looked over the car at Peter who was still walking away. Peter didn’t turn and give her a response. William happened to be in the garage at the same time as this exchange and he raised an eyebrow, surprised at both Maize and Peter’s actions.

“Did I miss something, here? What happened at brunch?” William asked, a little lost. The situation and the vibe between them had completely changed from when he saw them before the battle. He knew something happened, but Maize would never tell.

“Nothing, William. Nothing happened, as you can see.” Maize answered, answering just with the kiss that wasn’t, walking past him and going back up to her room. William knew that more happened than the missed golden opportunity and he would wait until Maize came around to tell him what was going on. He knew her look, and something was up. He inferred that she had another vision and this time it wasn’t so nice.

Maize felt like a lot of things existed solely in her imagination. The visions, her feelings for Peter and his feelings for her, and it was hard to believe them until they came into fruition. But she had to face the fact that when things became real, sprung to life, that they weren’t always going to be exactly how she planned them in her imagination. But until then, she would keep them safe in the confinement of her mind, and she would ignore the fact that maybe she and Peter weren’t meant to be. But she was hoping that they would, and he would finally kiss her.

Before it was too late.

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