“Did you hear? Maverick is in charge of the pranks for tomorrow.”
“Meek Maverick? You can’t be serious.”
Maverick frowned as his fellow trickster gods walked past, relieved they couldn’t see him. His body was well hidden under the office table. The office was a state, as always. Stacks of paper towered to the patchwork ceiling, and there were pens everywhere, completely hiding him. Maverick had never been more grateful he worked in the department of chaos, even if his fellow tricksters viewed him as nothing more than a joke.
It wasn’t Maverick’s fault Trixie had assigned him the lead on April Fools’ Day.
If Maverick had his way, in fact, he would have been quite content working with the Eros’ downstairs. The little gods always had it easier than the pranksters, he thought. They made velvet bows, created chocolates the creatures on earth had never seen before, wrote poems that spoke to Maverick’s soul. His best friend, Caradoc, always waxed poetic about his job, with a sparkle in his eyes that Maverick tried his hardest to ignore.
Caradoc was one of the greatest Eros’ the Valentine Department had ever had. He could match people together left and right with hardly a thought. The young god just always knew who to pair. Caradoc’s last case had been a surly young woman who everyone had thought a spinster until she came face to face with a free-spirited adventurer from her childhood. Caradoc had clicked his fingers, worked his weird romantic magic, and been successful once again. Maverick could only hope to be like Caradoc one day.
Maverick waited until his trickster coworkers had passed. There was nothing but the heavy panting of his breath left, and so he crawled out from under the desk. The papers stuck to his face, ink wet and blotchy and put there on purpose, he knew. The worst thing about working in the Lark Department was the increasing amount of pranks that every member pulled. Maverick’s boss, Trixie, was notorious for her escapades. She utilised her extensive knowledge of practical jokes to get one over every young trickster god who worked there. Her last prank had included a whoopee cushion, an electric pen shocker, and lots of tears on poor little Medea’s part. Maverick was just grateful that Trixie always ignored him as a potential victim of her sordid pranks.
He sometimes wondered if Trixie treated him differently from the other trickster gods because she knew. Knew how much watching people suffer put him on edge, made his teeth grind together. As a trickster god, he knew it was stupid. His duty was to come up with ridiculous pranks that made everyone laugh. Practical jokes that wouldn’t really harm anyone. One-liners that could make someone’s entire day. Still, Maverick couldn’t deny how much he hated jokes. His sense of humour was non-existent, and he was far too concerned with the fact that a joke could hurt someone. Forcing the humans to play such pranks every April Fools' Day left him feeling cold and weird. Almost like their job wasn’t worth doing.
He startled as Trixie appeared out of thin air in front of him. Trixie looked as small and intimidating as always. Although she was short, her jaw was firm and her beady eyes looked as if they could see straight through him. Maverick tried not to let his fear show and nodded at her with all the respect he could muster. He knew it wasn’t much and, judging from Trixie’s expression, she knew it too.
“How are preparations coming along?” Trixie asked, after staring Maverick down until he felt five feet tall instead of his regular ten.
“They’re coming,” Maverick responded, pleased at how his voice didn’t stutter.
“Hmm,” Trixie said, staring at her fake fingernails. They were long and covered in black nail polish. Maverick just knew she had put them on that morning to play a prank on someone. “Not good enough, Mavvie. It’s almost midday. April Fools' Day is tomorrow. I want a full brief of what you’re going to do on my desk before you leave the office.”
“No arguing,” Trixie said, still staring at her nails. “For that, I expect them in half an hour. Chop chop. You know I’ll have no problem cutting you out of this department if you don’t pull your weight. You may enjoy being the laughingstock of this office, but I take pride in the fact that I make people laugh out of respect, not pity.”
“Yes, boss,” Maverick said, eyes downcast. There was no point in arguing with Trixie. What Trixie wanted, Trixie got. He glanced down at his papers. “Half an hour. I can do that.”
“Great,” Trixie said, offering him a sharp smile that seemed to cut her face. She disappeared, leaving behind wisps of black smoke that made Maverick cough.
He settled down on his office chair, wincing at the whoopee cushion that one of his coworkers had left. Rekker’s work, if he had to guess. Still, he was used to the silly jokes by now. Maverick remained on his chair, snapping his fingers to remove the cushion until he was sat on a nice wooden surface. Much better, he thought, and then grabbed several reams of paper to start his preparations.
If there was one thing Maverick was good at, it was preparation. Due to his disinclination with tricks, his work often composed of research. The other trickster gods teased him about it, particularly Riot and Rogue, but Maverick ignored them. He’d wanted to explain how preparation made him one of the most vital members of the team, but he knew there was no point. Riot and Rogue were young, foolish, and desperate to tease the humans down below.
Maverick was tired of being looked down upon by every other god in the office. Trixie’s threat remained strong in his head. The threat of being dropped at his age would make him worse than Meek Maverick. No. He would become Maverick the Mistake, the only trickster god who’d been fired from the Lark Department. In some ways, maybe it would be worth it. After all, he despised working there. But it was still his job, what he was born to do, and so he gritted his teeth, glanced at the papers, and began writing.
1. Googly eyes on appliances.
2. Pretend it’s March 31st.
3. Salt in sugar bowl.
4. Onion disguised as candied apple.
5. Pretend to quit your job.
Maverick stared down at the last note, scratching his arm until it bled. He pulled his hand away and looked down at the list again. All the pranks were basic, boring, and not up to Trixie’s standards. Not the Trixie who’d pulled off an armed robbery as ‘a joke’. Not the Trixie who’d happily convinced a mother that her daughter wasn’t hers. No. Trixie’s pranks were cruel, mean, and Maverick’s would never compare. Not Meek Maverick, who despised hurting people. Even putting salt in the sugar bowl rubbed him the wrong way.
With a sigh, he grabbed his hurriedly scrawled notes, and walked away to find Trixie. He was happy to see she was in her office, probably conjuring up her next trick. Maverick only felt a little guilt as he banged on her office door, startling her. He’d never gotten one over Trixie before, and it felt good. Not that Maverick would ever admit that to anyone.
“Ah, Mavvie! You’re here!” Trixie called. “Come on in, let me see what you’ve got planned for the big day.”
Maverick said nothing and opened the door, offering Trixie a strained smile. It was clearly fake, but Trixie either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Maverick didn’t know which one made him more upset, so he chose not to think about it. Instead, he threw his paper down in front of her, and watched as her eyes scanned the notes with a greed he didn’t know she possessed.
“These all seem a bit basic,” Trixie said, her beady eyes flickering up to meet his. Maverick met her gaze, refusing to look away. If he backed down now, Trixie would always have the last laugh, and that could not be allowed to happen. Not in this department, at least. “I do like the onion idea, though. Haven’t used that one in ages. It’s always funny seeing a human’s face shrivel up at the taste. Stupid little things.”
Maverick nodded, feeling a strange floaty sensation overtaking his tall body. “I’m quitting,” he said, after Trixie went back to reading his short list. “Right now.”
Trixie frowned up at him and then looked back at the list. A relieved smile hit her face as she noticed the last bullet point once again. “Number five. I see. Nice work, Mavvie.”
“No,” Maverick said, surprised at how stable his voice was. In all his years working at the Lark Department, he’d always been Meek Maverick, scared to state his own opinions without trembling. He wasn’t letting that stand anymore. “I’m actually quitting. I’m leaving.”
“But you can’t,” Trixie said, confused. “You’re a trickster god. This is what you were born for.”
“Maybe,” Maverick admitted, “but I don’t want to be trapped in an environment that makes me uncomfortable. I want to be somewhere that makes me happy.”
“Pranks should make you happy,” Trixie said, and Maverick pitied the look of confusion on her face. “There’s nothing better than pulling off a perfect prank.”
“Maybe there’s nothing better for you,” Maverick agreed, before pulling himself to his full height and nodding at a flustered Trixie, “but I know something that will be much more fitting for me.”
Throwing her one last grin, Maverick exited the room. He no longer felt like Meek Maverick, no longer felt stupid and useless and little. For the first time in his long life, he felt free and happy and relieved.
He ignored all the other trickster gods who were babbling as he walked past. Their opinions couldn’t affect him anymore. He walked and walked until he found himself on the fourteenth floor.
Caradoc lifted his eyes up to meet him and bundled over, his little wings flapping fast out of excitement. He obviously hadn’t been expecting Maverick.
“Mav! What are you doing here?” Caradoc asked him, embracing him in a very firm hug.
“Well, Doc,” Maverick said, offering his friend a sincere smile, “I’m no longer a trickster god.”
“You quit?” Caradoc asked, voice high and hopeful and entire body thrumming with energy.
Maverick nodded. “I was wondering if there was any space here. I think I’d rather make people happy than miserable.”
Caradoc nodded, before turning to face the fellow Eros’. With a crystal-clear cough, he gained the attention of the other Eros’. They were all babbling amongst themselves, smiling and happy. Maverick felt pleased. The radiant energy was infectious and unlike anything he’d ever felt before.
“My fellow Eros’,” Caradoc said, after he noticed everyone had turned to look at him. “I’d like you all to give a warm welcome to our newest Cupid. This is my best friend, Maverick, and he’s here to make the universe a happier place.”
Maverick beamed. Finally, he was where he belonged.