Of Thorns and Lightning

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Untitled chapter

A Call to Arms

♦️

William was smoking a cigarette in his office, his feet propped up on the desk and was holding a coffee cup in the same hand he was holding his cigarette. He hadn’t smoked in years, but would somehow always come back to his bad habit when he was shut up in his lab working on something and he just couldn’t find the right answer. In this case, he was still thinking about him and Anne.

“Mr. Townsend, may I inquire what’s bothering you?” Jason spoke.

“Mm, I don’t know.”

“It’s your former lover, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Jason, I happen to be thinking about Anne.”

“Again.” Jason corrected.

“Okay, again, jeez! If it weren’t for the damn piano the other day...”

“May I suggest that you go talk to her? You’ll never get answers if you don’t ever ask.”

“If I go will you stop asking me about it?” He asked his computer system.

“Yes, I will.”

“Fine. I’ll go to Queens, but only for my own sanity!” William confessed, grabbing his keys and his jacket and hopping in his car.

“The next time I listen to a computer...” William mumbled as he parked his car and rang the doorbell to Anne’s house hesitantly.

Anne got up off the couch and opened the door, not expecting any visitors. Her right hand was up against the door frame and her other hand on her hip. Her strawberry blonde hair hung gracefully around her collarbone, swaying slightly from the breeze.

“William Townsend. Well, I’ll be damned!” She said in awe as she looked at the man standing on her porch, looking a little lost and confused. “You never come around here anymore. What can I do for you?”

“You see, that’s exactly my question. And I have a lot of questions lately because you’re on my mind constantly.”

“William, why don’t you come in?” She offered, stepping aside for him to enter. She offered him a seat, but he felt like he needed to stand. She paid close attention to his every word and his every move.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, because Maize reminds me so much of you. I know you insist that I’m not related to her at all, but after all that time I spent with her when you were with me and all that I see of her down in the Compound, I just... I see you in her and I never stopped loving you, Anne.”

“William, are you trying to relive the past? You know we can’t go back to those days.” Anne asked. “We’re older now and things are different.”

“I know. I’m not trying to relive the past, but I am trying to change my future and I know I want you in it. I think we had something better than we ever could have imagined but the timing wasn’t right. I’ve waited nearly 20 years for this, and I’d like to give it a shot if you’re willing to try again.”

Anne was thinking quietly.

“We’ll find out how we fit in each other’s lives again.” William suggested as something to fill the silence.

“Okay, William. Take me out on a date.” She agreed.

“Saturday at 8 sound good?” He asked, a weight relieved off his chest.

“Perfect.”

**********

Meaghan turned and looked at the clock. It was nearly midnight on Saturday, and she couldn’t sleep, she had raging insomnia and was wishing for nothing more than a good nights’ rest, but that was a pipe dream that was unlikely to happen. Though, she could make herself much more comfortable, and she knew just how she could do that. She tossed her wrinkled covers off her body, rolled out of bed and left her room, jumping onto the elevator and pressing the button for the floor that Dike’s room was on.

“I see you are going to see Dike, at this time of night?” The voice of Jason said over the speaker in the elevator.

“I don’t like to be judged, especially by a robot.” She responded. “There’s no need to be snarky, Jason.”

“I’m not questioning your decisions-”

“Jason, I would highly suggest you don’t finish that sentence or else I’m going to break into William’s lab and hijack your system MYSELF until you can’t think straight anymore. Got it?!”

“Loud and clear, Miss Vanderbilt.”

The elevator stopped on Dike’s floor and she tiptoed down the hallway, trying not to wake up any of the other Gods on the floor as she approached the room. She saw Dike’s door cracked and the light on, seeing his shadow cast against the far wall. She was relieved that he was awake because it made the elements of her make-it-up-as-we-go plan all fall into place.

She walked right into his room, startling him just a little bit, not saying a single word. She would let her actions speak for themselves.

“Oh? Hello!” Dike said as he closed the book in front of him and took off his glasses, putting both on the nightstand. The dim glow of the lamp made him look gorgeous, the shadows settling into his cheekbones and the light reflecting just enough off her eyes. She was wearing a black V-neck shirt, gray sweatpants and a green and black flannel, not realizing how attractive he looked in the moment. Before he could get another word out, Meaghan climbed on the bed and straddled his legs, cupping his face in her hands and leaning down to kiss him. Dike sunk into the kiss right away, taken aback at first but falling into her. He relaxed his shoulders against the pillows and her hands migrated to Meaghan’s waist.

“Hope I wasn’t interrupting anything.” Meaghan apologized, pulling away and taking a breath, but her apology was more like an afterthought.

“Was I doing anything? It’s not even important,” He said, not caring about anything but the way her skin and her lips felt against his.

Dike dove right back into her after Meaghan flung her shirt across the room, letting her dark hair fall in front of her breasts and her lacy bralette. He exhaled heavily, completely in awe by her body.

“This was a nice surprise, Meaghan.” Dike said into her neck. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“I’m glad. I couldn’t sleep, So I thought I’d pay you a visit.”

Meaghan pushed the flannel off his shoulders and grabbed onto the hem of his shirt and pulled it upwards off Dike’s body. She kissed down his neck and chest, teasing him as she moved further down. She stopped at Dike’s navel and slowly grinded against his thigh as she moved to meet his lips again. Dike responded with fervor. Grabbing the waistband of Meaghan’s pajama pants, he revealed her lacy underwear and got adventurous with his hands, but teasing Meaghan just as she did to him. She gasped at the feeling of his fingertips trailing up the inside of her thighs all the way up to her most-guarded area. Dike bit his lip with a smirk and kissed her neck, leaving a trail of kisses down to her breasts.

At that point he grabbed her waist and flipped her over, her curly hair sprawling out all over the pillow. Meaghan was quite a sight to see in the gentle lighting underneath Dike, and that visual, her position, made nasty thoughts he hadn’t had in decades cross his mind. Meaghan did something to him that she couldn’t quite explain, but he was under the complete control of her mind, body and spirit.

Dike held Meaghan’s wrists down above her head with one of his own hands and he cupped her breast with the other, feeling the soft and delicate skin that was hidden away. Dike wanted nothing more than to watch Meaghan fall apart underneath him, and that’s exactly what she wanted from him. That was their plan all along, until Dike’s phone began to ping constantly on the nightstand. Meaghan caught her breath enough to respond to his phone.

“If that’s William, I’m going to kill him! Ignore it, please.” She begged, not wanting now to be the moment she had to leave, and they were both left hanging. Dike reached out a hand to pick up his phone, seeing that it was, in fact, William and he told all the Gods to wake up and meet him at the tower ASAP. Meaghan knew it immediately.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She exclaimed. “William can wait.”

“No, he can’t. William doesn’t do this often, but when he tells us in the middle of the night to get our asses out of bed to go to a meeting, he means it. Unfortunately.” Dike said in response. “I’ve gotta go.”

He groaned and rolled over, putting his clothes back on, then leaned down to kiss Meaghan on the lips before he left.

“Hurry back. Don’t leave a girl hanging for too long.” Meaghan said.

“I’ll try not to. Sleep well.” Dike said, knowing she wouldn’t get any sleep, not now, not after what just happened.

“When you get back, we’re picking up right where we left off.”

“Pinky promise.” Dike said before leaving his room and hopping onto the elevator. His mouth was dry, her cheeks were flushed, his hair was a mess, all of which he prayed to the gods William didn’t see. He was hoping for a quiet escape where he didn’t have to see anybody. He grabbed a water bottle and tried to cool down, but of course, he saw William in passing, he was going upstairs while Dike was going downstairs to the garage.

“Dike! You look different! What the hell just happened to you?!” William questioned.

“Well, William, I was in the middle of something when you called. Take a guess.” Dike answered, unamused.

“Oh, I don’t have to guess! See you at the tower, Dike!” William said, his voice fading off into the distance. Dike hopped in his car and headed to the tower, wishing he was back in bed with Meaghan. But duty called.

******

William picked Anne up the night of their date, pulling up to her modest Queens house in his cherry red sports car worth more than the value of her home. He was nervous, he spent an unhealthy amount of time deciding which tie to wear because the exact shade of azure meant everything for the night’s mood. He didn’t know which car to take, how he wanted to present himself, so he took his trusty red convertible that had, admittedly, gotten him laid before, and made the journey out to suburban Queens.

Anne saw the car pull into the driveway and she stood up and straightened her back and white asymmetric gown, some of her worries alleviated that she was overdressed. William got out of the car and buttoned his suit jacket, jogging up the porch stairs and Anne opened the door before he got a chance to knock. William was taken aback.

“Anne, you look phenomenal, as you do.”

“Thank you, William. It’s been quite some time since I’ve dressed up like this. I’m a little nervous, I’m not sure I remember how to date.” She chuckled.

“Glad we’re on the same page. Shall we?” He asked, holding his arm out for her and escorting her over to his vehicle. He opened the door for her, and she sat down, taken aback by the sheer luxury of the car. She had forgotten how wealthy William was, and had to remember he had things she could only dream of having. Even when they were together before, she had always been simpler and more modest about her clothes, her car and her house while William was the exact opposite.

They headed deep into lower Manhattan, and Anne quickly figured out where William was taking them to dinner. He wouldn’t say a word, but at this point he didn’t have to.

When they pulled up to the restaurant, William escorted her out of the car and handed the spare key to the valet. The moment they stepped inside, the matron took them right back to the table, well aware of William’s reservation. The place was packed, the waiting room was full, and Anne had forgotten that William could do things like this. He didn’t have to wait in line for anything.

They led fantastically different lifestyles, and that was always a hindrance on their relationship.

“I remember this place! This is the restaurant we went to when you took me out for the first time after my divorce. You complained about the Mondrian on the wall! You thought it was the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.” Anne giggled, reminiscing on that time more than ten years ago.

“I still hate that painting! It’s just a fancy Excel spreadsheet with colors, I don’t care if Mondrian’s famous!” William began, full of rage every time he saw the painting. “But, you like it. And we happen to have the table reserved where we sat the first time.”

“Do you have the Shiraz, too, William?”

“You know I don’t miss details like that. Look, same batch and year.” He said, pulling the bottle out of the container by the table and holding it to show her. She blushed, but looked away and bit her lip. William didn’t know how to read her expression until she told him right away.

“William, this looks like you trying to relive the past...” She said, and William knew that she didn’t want to try and do that.

“Okay, this may all look familiar but now I have a better haircut, I won’t spill the wine and I have a surprise for you.”

“A surprise now, do you?” She asked, intrigued.

“Maybe even more than one,” He said as he pulled the chair out from the table for her to sit in before he gave her a gentle push in and sat down across from her. He poured them each a glass of wine

“William, can I ask why you took us back here? Why this place, why this table, why this wine?”

“Hold on...” William said, getting up from the table and putting his napkin on the table. He had the exact answer to her question. He took a few steps over to the painting and tilted it off the wall, an old napkin falling onto the floor from its resting place between the frame and the wall. He was bewildered that it was still there after thirteen years, and he picked it up off of the ground. He sat back down at the table and met Anne’s confused eyes.

“William, what’s that? How did you know it was there?”

“Well, because I wrote it. I scribbled this on the napkin in pen while you were at the bathroom.”

“But we literally just got here.”

“I mean when you went to the bathroom thirteen years ago.” William clarified. Anne was beside herself. She swallowed the rest of her glass of wine.

“Well, what does it say?”

William cleared his throat.

"Friday, August 12, 2005

On this day I took Anne Leto out for a date. We sat at the table in the corner near this horrible fucking Mondrian painting. I spilled red wine on my white suit, and she splattered red sauce everywhere when I told a bad joke and made her laugh while she was eating. That was the moment I knew I loved her. She for some insane reason loves this painting so I will always think of her when I see it.

William Townsend.”

“That was the day of our first date after my divorce. You wanted to take me out so you could celebrate the settlement but also so you could see me smile again.”

“Exactly. That was the day of your settlement, and we toasted to your new beginnings. Now, I’d like to make that toast again, to a new beginning with you and me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, after all this time?”

“Did you genuinely think I’d forget?” He asked.

“You are known for giving your all.” She responded.

“I’ll toast to that,” he responded, and they clinked wine glasses gently.

The night seemed to fly by, they had a lot of lost time to catch up on, and whenever they were with each other there was never a dull moment. They fed off each other’s energy, both good and bad, but Anne couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled and laughed that hard, let alone with David. She swallowed the last gulp of her wine hard, the small voice in her head telling her that the right person for her was right in front of her all along and she made a mistake in choosing anyone else. But maybe it was meant to be this way: if it was meant to be then they would find a way to come back to each other. It soothed her.

After William paid the check and their table had been cleared, he revealed the second surprise of the night, as he promised to Anne at the beginning.

“Anne, I have something for you that I should have given to you long ago,” he said, reaching into the breast pocket of his coat and pulling out a jewelry box that was thin and rectangular. He set it on the table between them.

“William, you didn’t have to get me anything, you didn’t have to do this.”

“But I wanted to. You can accept it or not, it’s completely your choice, but,” he began as she opened the box. It was a shiny necklace made of fragmented bits of metal, joined in the middle with a heart-shaped piece. The heart was lined with tiny diamonds that gave it just a hint of glimmer.

“Oh, it’s beautiful, William.” She gasped.

William got up from the table and stood behind her, sweeping her hair to one side, clasping the necklace around her neck. She reached her hand up to her collarbone to feel the metal against her skin.

“I love it, William,” She said, her fingers wrapping around the heart-shaped piece in the center. William smiled gently. He got his credit card back from the waiter and tucked it back into his wallet, getting up from the table and offering his arm to her as they walked out of the restaurant. The valet brought his car around the front and handed him the keys when Anne spoke up.

“How about we keep this party going? What do you say, William?”

“Anne, you know I’d love to,” he began, but then he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He glanced at it, checking to make sure it wasn’t one of his kids calling to let him know the house was burning down, but instead he was faced with much worse news.

“Damn it,” William muttered under his breath, looking at the caller ID on his phone. It was Artemis calling, and that was never, ever a good sign, especially when it came in the dead of the night with no prior context. Anne knew the look on William’s face, and knew it was especially serious since she had gotten her fair share of calls from Artemis back in her day, and it was never good news. He picked up the phone and was quickly told without any hesitation that he needed to get the asses of all his Gods down at the Tower within the hour, or else. They had a big situation at their hands, and it wasn’t a joke.

“Anne, sorry to cut our date short, but I’ve gotta go.” He said to Anne just after he hung up the phone.

“William, I understand. Do what you have to do,” She said, and they sped through the streets of Manhattan.

When William pulled into Anne’s driveway, he was barely parked before Anne swung the door open, knowing he had an important place to be, ASAP.

“Thank you for everything, William.” She said sincerely.

“Anne, wait.” He said, grabbing her hand. She turned back to him. “I’m not going to keep missing my chances. Not anymore-” He began. Anne smiled, knowing exactly what William was going to say, reaching out to pull him closer to her and kissing him before he could finish his sentence.

“That’s for good luck,” She said before closing the door to his Maybach Mercedes carefully. He sat in the driveway until she entered her house, completely dumbfounded. She kissed him, and that was everything he didn’t know he wanted and needed, all at the same time. He put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, heading to the compound as fast as possible just to head back to Gods Tower, thinking about his night out with Anne the whole time.

On his way back, it began to snow hard. The roads began to get worse, covered in slush and he was reminded of the last time they had a heavy storm: Maize was the one that was controlling it. It gave him a sinking feeling towards what was to come. He sent out a message to all the Gods in the group message telling them to get the hell out of bed, but he was going to go tell Maize himself. Thor had left a few days ago to have a rendezvous with a Valkyrie friend of his, and as much as he hated the situation, Maize had to take Thor’s place in a fight he knew she wasn’t 100% ready for, and he wasn’t 100% sure he wanted to put her in. But this was their only option. They needed her power.

He pulled into the garage and met the rest of the Gods that lived in the compound as he was running upstairs and they were going downstairs. He passed Dike on the way, who had obviously just come from a steaming hot hookup, speaking with him for a few moments before they both continued on their way. He told the rest of the Gods not to wait up for him, and his stomach sank the closer he got to Maize’s room. He asked Jason to unlock the door for him and he entered her dark room quietly. He flicked on a low light and stood by her bedside.

“Hey, Maize, wake up,” William spoke as he jostled Maize. He had to speak over the rain pattering against the windows, and Maize was a heavy sleeper.

“Ugh, what is it?!” Maize groaned, turning towards William but burying herself deeper in the covers. “Why do you smell like my mom? I’m confused...”

“We have to go. Big Gods meeting. You’re up, kid.”

“What’s in it for me? Why can’t you just fill me in in the morning? Does this mean I’m a real God now?”

“You always have been, Maize. Put on some jeans, you can take your blanket, too. But, we have to hurry.”

“Why are you dressed up so well?” She asked, noticing he was in one of his best suits. “It’s like...” She paused, turning over to see the time on her phone. “Almost one in the morning.”

“I was out on a date. Come on, we gotta hurry.” He answered and she rolled out of bed as she rolled her eyes, her feet hitting the floor. William got the cereal ready as Maize traded her pajamas for a pair of jeans and a blouse and she slipped on her flats that were sitting by her door. She grabbed a sweater and ran out of her room, meeting William down in the garage. She slipped into the front seat and William handed her a bowl of Lucky Charms carefully as he set out.

“Where are we going?” She asked, realizing that she was going along with his plan without any basic knowledge of what was happening.

“The tower.”

“Where’s everybody else?”

“Sleeping. The other kids shouldn’t get involved in this, but we need Thor and he’s off having a hell of a time with a Valkyrie and it’ll take him too long to cross the universe and get back here in time.”

Maize swallowed hard, knowing that this had to be more serious than she previously thought. She found it hard to swallow her cereal, no matter how delicious the marshmallows and sugary milk was. She knew that she was in trouble. Every minute she spent alive was on borrowed time.

But would William ever willingly put her in danger?

Could he do something like that?

She looked over at his stoic expression, hands grabbed tightly onto the wheel and his clenched jaw. Maybe he did know what was going to happen to her. Maybe it was best she didn’t know.

But she trusted him more than anyone. Was she willing to put all her faith in him in hopes she wouldn’t get killed?

All she had was trust for him. She didn’t have anything else to risk besides her life. Her life was in his hands at this point, and they were both painfully aware of the consequences.

In the tower, they took the elevator up in silence and then walked into the conference room full of Gods, military personnel, Artemis and members of The Assembly. Everyone looked at the two, walking into the room late, the last two they were waiting for. Maize kept her eyes low, she knew that everyone had their eyes on her and she didn’t want to make eye contact with any of them. She sat down in a chair and had sealed, confidential government documents in front of her. William slid her over a pen so she could sign things that had an alarming amount of fine print in them before she could even put her hands on the protected folder. Once that was completed, she was faced with crisp linen paper documents with State Department and Pentagon watermarks and gold embossed letterhead at the top. It made her feel nauseous, even more than the cereal did. It didn’t set with her right; her stomach was already churning with acid and nervous anticipation. It all went downhill fast after that point for Maize, right after she saw the letters jump straight off the page in sickening bold: THE ORDER OF THE BLACK ROSE.

Maize was seated to the right of William at the head of the table and to the left of a four-star general and the last thing she wanted to do was have a vision in front of them. She hadn’t had one in a while but now that the Gods were needed, she was sure one was going to happen soon. Talking about death and destruction always did that for her. Maize’s head began to spin, and she let her head fall forward so she was looking down at her lap. She pressed her palm to her forehead, the immense headache coming on and the ringing in her ears becoming louder and louder. William saw this immediately and poked her hand with a pen subtly, since Artemis, the head of The Assembly was speaking, and she was not a woman to interrupt.

“Hey, you ok?” William whispered. Maize gave him a quick nod, but it was a lie.

Thick red drops of blood fell down on the crisp, white government papers in the folder in front of her, coming on strong. Soon, she blacked out completely, her hand catching on the papers and smearing the blood drops ominously as she slipped out of her seat. She didn’t even see anything among all the darkness around her. It was almost as if she fainted, or the vision she was about to have was too intense for her to process. She lost consciousness for longer than William felt comfortable with and he immediately knew something was really wrong. She went dangerously pale and slumped over in her chair, getting the attention of the general, who at first had just assumed she had fallen asleep. He was tempted to, as well.

“Is she alright?” He whispered ever so softly. William responded confidently.

“Yeah, this happens all the time.” He reassured the general.

William, not missing a beat, extended his arm out and caught Maize as she slipped out of her seat, bringing her back upright. He took his handkerchief out of his breast pocket of his suit and attempted to staunch the bleeding, but not before he could get a smear of red on his crisp white shirt.

“Townsend! Is there a problem down there?!” Artemis boomed.

“No, sir, we are all good here.” He said with a slight sarcastic tone.

“Well, then tell your golden girl to wake up! This is serious! She doesn’t get to sleep when we don’t.”

Maize was still limp, the thick trail of blood streaming from her nose was now visible to everyone. William did his best to keep her stable and fan some air onto her face, just waiting for her to come to. He had positioned her back in her chair, keeping her head from drooping with his hand and fanning with the other. When she awoke, she gasped and her eyes shot open, her head jolting back. Immediately, her skin went ice cold and she began to shiver. William knew they needed to make an exit, and a fast one.

He got up out of his chair and pulled hers back from the table, letting her lean on him as they stumbled out of the room past everyone who saw Maize’s face covered in blood.

They sat on a bench next to a potted plant out in the hallway. Maize was leaning forward, dropping her blood-soaked napkins onto the white tile. She just kept bleeding and William wasn’t sure what to do. The cold air conditioning made her skin prickly and her teeth were chattering. He put his jacket around her shoulders and tried to pull it close to her to keep her warm. Nothing seemed to be making it any better.

“Did you see anything?” William asked.

“No. Nothing. It was totally blank.” She responded. “That can’t be good.”

“I don’t think it is.” He handed her yet another tissue for her to staunch the bleeding that was still thick and red as ever. Maize’s mouth was soon full of that hallmark metallic flavor, her teeth coated with red. She spit into a tissue and wiped her mouth, only spreading the red further onto her face. She looked like a vampire and William didn’t know why she hadn’t stopped bleeding.

“Maize, I don’t know what to do. Tell me how I can help you.” William said, feeling absolutely helpless. He knew he couldn’t help her, and she confirmed it for him.

“I’m just going to go to the bathroom and try and clean this up.” She said, getting up slowly and shuffling down to the end of the hall where there was a bathroom. She left a trail of blood on the floor and a smear on the doorknob to the bathroom where she twisted it with her hand that was also bloody. William kept a keen eye and an ear out for any trouble instead.

Maize stared at herself in the mirror, running the warm water as she washed the blood off her hands and watched it run down the sink. She grabbed a paper towel and wiped the blood from her face and cleaned up the drops that had splattered on the white ceramic sink below her. She noticed that her blood was the same shade as her oxblood shade of nail polish. She dry-heaved into the sink, but she couldn’t even vomit. She just felt like she was choking.

When the bleeding slowed down she exited the bathroom and met William at the end of the hallway.

“Better?” He asked. She still felt sick and clammy, but she mustered up enough of her energy to speak past the golf ball-sized lump in her throat. Despite that, it was a raspy whisper. She was paralyzed with fear, she could barely speak.

“William am I going to die?”

William was taken aback. He didn’t have a good answer for her. He pulled her into a hug since her face was still ashen and she was still shivering. It took him a few moments in order to think of the words he could say to her to reassure her that everything was going to be OK, even though he had no idea if it actually was. She could die and they both knew it.

“I don’t know, Maize. But I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you don’t. I promise, I’ll die before you do.”

He said he promised, and he really wished he could keep that promise. The truth was, he had no place to make her that kind of promise, because he couldn’t keep that commitment. He had no idea what would happen, and yes he would sacrifice his life for her, but there was no way of knowing anything for sure. He felt just as sick as she did.

They knew they had to go back into the conference room, and they were a sight to see when they did so. They snuck back in and Maize got settled back in her chair, tugging William’s jacket around her body. She picked up the pen with a hand that still had blood dried in the minuscule lines of her skin, dried around her cuticles and tried to refocus on the whole point of the meeting. William sat down in his chair, white shirt obviously bloody, keeping one eye on Maize and one eye on Artemis. The Gods were all concerned about Maize and kept a watchful eye on her as well.

They knew she shouldn’t be here. Not yet. She hadn’t fully matured into all her powers, and if they didn’t heed Thor’s warning, she would die. If she tried to tap into everything she had, which is what the team needed, she would certainly be killed.

But that was a risk they had to take, if they liked it or not. The fate of an entire country was in their hands and she was a team member fighting for the same cause. They all had to emotionally detach, but William never did that. He never, ever could.

It was well into morning when they left the tower. Maize was numb. Completely and utterly emotionless. She was in shock and William knew it, too. The sun was risen over the horizon and it very well could be the last sunrise Maize would ever see. She took an extra minute to admire it.

Back at the compound, mostly everyone was still asleep, except Peter and Meaghan. They saw everyone come back to the compound, but they didn’t say a word to anybody and headed immediately down to the basement armor vault. Meaghan was concerned and so was Peter, knowing that this might be the last time they saw everybody there alive. Meaghan didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

Maize got suited up, and she didn’t even recognize herself in the full battle armor. She ran out of the room, grabbing the attention of everyone. William ran after her, only to find her at the end of the hall, her phone held up against her ear to accompany the sounds of quiet sobs.

Maize was calling her mom.
William felt sick.

She knew it was too early for her mom to answer the phone, and she heard the cheery voice of her mom’s voicemail message. Her stomach turned, trying to hold onto that last bit of home before she had to leave.

Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail of Anne Leto. Sorry I couldn’t get to the phone, so leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can. Thanks!

“Mom, I just called to say I love you. I’ll love you forever and ever, to the moon and back a million times. I love you, mom. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see you again. I don’t know if I’m going to come back from this. Just know I love you.”

She hung up the phone and turned around to face William, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. Nothing was said until Artemis yelled to everyone that the Jet was ready for them to go. Maize left before William.

Peter took his chance and ran outside to the helipad where he caught them just as they were taking off. Peter ran as fast as he could, yelling for them to wait. They reground the Jet for Peter, all wondering what he had to say. Meaghan wasn’t too far behind him, meeting eyes with Dike, telling her only with a look to come home alive. Peter had to use his words.

“Maize, before you go I need to you know that I’ve been in love with you since the day I met you.” Peter admitted.

“Why are you telling me this now?!” She yelled over the engines of the Jet.

“Just in case you don’t come back.” He answered honestly, and that was the last thing that was said before they were off the ground, in the air and heading towards certain death.

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