If Only by eclipsed heart

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Hurt-Comfort, Tragedy
Published:2010-01-08 11:34:41
Updated:2010-07-08 23:34:22
Packaged:2021-04-22 02:26:43
Summary:Seven years ago, a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member...

Table of Contents

1. This is Now, Part One
2. That Was Then
3. Obsolete
4. Torment
5. This is Now, Part Two
6. Shame
7. Angel and Devil
8. When the Bough Breaks, Down Comes Baby
9. Erasers Don't Work for All Mistakes
10. Noise
11. Running Never Felt So Good
12. This is Now, Part Three
13. Some Things Will Never Change
14. What They Say
15. Defiance
16. Dreaming
17. Everything Falls Apart
18. This is Now, Part Four
19. Severed Ties: Killing Romeo
20. Severed Ties: Mind Games
21. Severed Ties: Dreams of Pyromania
22. Severed Ties: Wish Upon a Fallen Star
23. Wanderer
24. Circles
25. This is Now, Part Five
26. Epilogue: The Miracle of Forgiveness

1. This is Now, Part One

AN: Good day to you all! Sadly, this will probably be my last Maximum Ride fanfic (unless the sixth one is majorly inspiring, in which case there will be more) and I intend to make the best of it.

Now, as mentioned in the summary, one person walked away from this terribly bloody battle, and this person is a member of the flock. It's up to you guys to figure out who this one person is, and this person will narrate the entire story, telling you about the events that led up to the battle and eventually where this character currently is in life. This character will delve into the past and share some things that have never been shared. It's really quite interesting how this person got caught up in all this trauma, and (s)he will tell you firsthand... Enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter One: This is Now

I walk through the dense trees, pulling my coat around me tighter. I am slowly making my way through these lonely, forlorn woods. No one else knows of where I am going, what my purpose is. No one even knows where this gloomy place is.

I hear a branch snap, causing me to swiftly turn around. A buck. Nothing more. Paranoia is a constant companion of mine nowadays. I guess that old habits die hard. All these years and they still haven't died. I continue to walk forward, seeing my breath mingle with the air before me. It is cold, and I can feel the iciness throughout every fiber of my being.

A cool wind hits me, causing the hairs on my arms to stand on end, my feathers to go stiff. I am getting closer; I know it. For some reason, it's always several degrees colder there, and always breezy.

Help me…why…how could you…please…

Who am I? What is wrong with me? Why can't I hear myself think?

Please just let me die! I can't bear it anymore!

I shake my head, a futile attempt to send the voices away. Coming back here always taps into the fountain of pain that is buried deep in the dark heart of this wood. If only the world knew of all that had happened here…

The trees are getting closer together, making it so that I have to squeeze in between them and twist my body this way and that. To me, they seem an endless maze with no exit. One can easily get lost in this forest, just as easily as they can lose themselves.

mercy…have mercy on me please…spare my life…

I can't see! Let me see! Why is there only darkness?

I pull my hat tighter to my ears, though that will do nothing to stop me from hearing. These voices are not audible; they haunt me directly through my mind, gripping my sanity and toying with it endlessly.

This is why I hate visiting graveyards, ones with tombstones and ones without. This one is of the latter.

I test myself every year, push my boundaries to their farthest limits. Sometimes, I pass out in the middle of these woods, too exhausted to function. Others, I collapse and scream. If someone screams as loud as humanly possible, and there's no one there to hear it, is there still a sound?

But then again, I'm not completely human. And I guarantee there is a sound.

This is it. I'm really dying. All those times I thought it would happen, and now it finally is happening…

Where is she? I can't die yet, not if she's still alive! I have to live for her!

Can you hear me? Please wake up! You can't do this to me! You can't leave me! You promised!

I must try…maybe there's hope…

Don't forget…please, promise me you won't forget…

I never will forget, even if I sometimes wish I could. I can hear them all now, and I know that it's just ahead. I can hear their screams of agony reverberating through my mind. I feel a pain shoot through my gut, remembering the bullet that was once there. An ache spreads through my head and I almost feel the blood dripping through my hair.

There's a break in the trees. This is it. I feel the chaos explode in my brain, contaminating everything within reach. Their voices are louder now and as perfectly as I remember from that day.

Where is everyone? Where'd they all go? I have to find them, I have to warn Max. She has to know we were betrayed by—

Max! Where are you? Max, please help me! If I know you're still here, I can make it through…

FANG! Don't! You promised me! Please don't! Wake up, Fang!

Angel, are you okay? Angel, I'm sorry, I really am. I wish that—

Breathe. Why is there blood? Everything hurts! Why is there so much pain?

I wince and stumble at the edge of the clearing. There's still snow on the ground, but none of it is red with blood like it was that day. My blood, the blood of the flock, their blood. So many lives were lost in this barren field, just seven years ago. My own life feels lost, too.

I close my eyes, trying to hold back the tears, and I take another step forward. I hear others now, too. Screams. Shouts. Cursing. Praying. So much agony held in this one place, this one innocent-looking clearing in the woods. If only people knew how far it was from innocent…

I remember the blood. There was so much of it, everywhere. The trees were splattered with it, seeming to die along with everyone else. The snow wasn't even pink at the end; it was a solid crimson color by the time I crept away, struggling to hold on to the little bit of life I had left.

That was the single most difficult moment of my entire life. It hurt so much to leave them all behind, warring with each other to the death. Enemies turned on enemies, friends murdered friends. They were so intent on ending it all that they even killed their own allies. This is for the greater good, they'd said, the good of us all.

But they hadn't informed us of this 'greater good,' nor of what our role in it would be.

My feet hit the very middle of the clearing and I open my eyes. I still hear them, hear them so distinctly. But what troubles me most is that not only do I hear their despair; upon opening my eyes, I can almost see this battle playing out, this battle for our lives and deaths.

This is my life. Every year, on this day, the day it all went down, I come back to this very spot in this very wood, away from any curious eyes. I try to honor their memory and not let myself forget who I am, what my family made me. Being here, I sometimes want to die with them, or blow away in the wind, or stay still until spring and melt with the snow. I just want to fade away with my breath.

I stand here, frozen in this forsaken battlefield. It is terrible to see their deaths playing out before me again, all the while I am absent from the scene. I wish I could help them, bring them back to me somehow, save their lives. There are so many regrets locked away in my heart, regrets and guilt. Endless mountains of guilt.

One of them shouts my name and I turn to look him in the eye. I had never known that he had been here. My well-built barrier shatters in that instant at the sight of him and the tears flow out uncontrollably, along with the truths to the many lies I'd told myself.

But one truth rings out louder than the rest.

They're dead. They're dead and it's all my fault.

AN: So a couple of people have been eliminated from the list of possibilities of who the narrator is. The entire story won't be this miserable, I promise, because the narrator will be going into the past, when everyone was still alive.

Check this out: Kudos and a chapter dedication to everyone and anyone who can tell me the name of the narrator. Of course, to tell me you'd probably have to review... In that case, HAPPY REVIEWING!!

2. That Was Then

AN: This chapter is for:
Night owl-Day goddess
and Blawwmkw.

The narrator of this story is...*drumroll*...ANGEL. She'll be the one to tell you what happened the day of that battle and why it happened, and why she thinks it's her fault. This chapter takes you guys into the past, more than seven years before the first chapter. Every few chapters, it'll just be Angel in the present. All those chapters will be titled "This is Now."

Correction: Last chapter, I said this would probably be my last MR fic. I was pretty dang sure that I'd changed that before posting to my last multi-chapter MR fic, but apparently I didn't. So, yeah, it's probably my last multi-chapter fic, 'cause I might randomly release some oneshots.

Anyways, enjoy the chapter!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Two: That Was Then

Things were going great. We had a home and it was safe.

It was a very special day. We, the flock, had not been disturbed for exactly six straight years.

After we'd taken on the U.S. Navy and those radioactive mutants, Max was sick of it all. We did stick around for a few months, helping the CSM in what ways we could, while still trying to take down the remnants of Itex. But one day, Max finally cracked. She blew up at everybody and threw whatever she could reach at anyone and everyone she'd had enough of. I think Jeb got the worst of his newly-fifteen-year-old daughter's wrath, as she threw his office desk and various other items at him. Dr. Martinez had a lamp thrown at her, Ella got a trashed room, Brigid narrowly dodged more than one chair, and Fang got a hard slap to the face. Max only apologized for one of those incidents, and I'm sure you can figure out which one.

That night, the seven of us (I refused to leave Total) left the safe house the CSM had gotten for us. Max had finally decided to take Fang's suggestion seriously. We maybe weren't looking for a deserted island, but we were definitely looking for a secluded escape.

We flew by night and slept by day. Max stubbornly didn't want to take any risks at being found by anyone: the School, Itex, or the CSM. She had said that trying to live a normal life was overrated and something we were terrible at. The years at the E-shaped house had been the best of our lives, and she was ready to go back to that life-style.

For the few months that followed, we never spent more than a week in the same place and the best of all those places was a cave we found in Baja California overlooking something that the locals (and tourists) call "La Bufadora." Every once in a while, water would explode from it in some huge spectacle that lots of people would gather to see. The weather was nice and the view was great, but Max started getting paranoid after four days, when she started seeing people with Eraser-like features walking around.

And then we found it. A place up in Wisconsin, just a few miles away from Lake Superior. There was a deep, dark forest there that no one went into and so many trees that they were impossible to count. Max liked it, Fang liked it, we all liked it. For a while, we just camped. Then it started getting colder and colder, and we all set to work building a house.

We had been there for six years to the day, but it was more important than that, somehow. I had just turned fourteen and it was Iggy's twenty-second birthday. I was young and naïve and I could read minds, so I naturally thought that I knew everything the world could possibly offer.

And then I met him.

His name was Darcy, and he was beautiful. He had pencil straight ink-black hair, pale skin, and dark black, almost purple eyes.

You see, Max had sent Nudge and I to the supermarket one day, as we were terribly short on eggs and chocolate chip cookies, and we wanted to get a cake for Iggy. Max didn't like to get out much after she hit twenty, but she always loved cookies. She claimed they reminded her of careless moments, when she'd had a family that didn't know she was family.

Nudge and I were walking out of the store, bags in hand. Once we were away from the people, we'd fly the rest of the way back to the house. As we were exiting the store, I tripped on the threshold and I felt two strong hands catch my fall.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, I—" I stopped talking when I looked up and saw him. He was smiling and I suddenly wished that I'd done something with my hair other than just tying it up.

"No problem. But pretty girls like you should be more careful."

I blushed. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," he said, winking and patting my shoulder and walking into the store. My own brain had turned into such useless mush that I didn't even bother trying to figure out what was in his, besides Darcy.

Once he was out of earshot, Nudge nudged me, a mischievous smile on her face. "Angel? I never thought I'd see you drool over a guy!"

I was aghast. "Was I actually drooling?"

Nudge nodded and giggled.

I blushed bright red. I knew I'd never live it down.

We entered the woods and relaxed the muscles in our backs, letting our wings hang. A few more steps and we took off.

The boy's face was still in my mind. I had to see him again. I just had to.

Ten minutes later, we could see the house. It was this shabby little thing that seriously needed a paint job, but it was what we called home. We nearly crash-landed into the densest thicket of trees surrounding our house. It was impossible to set foot within a twenty-foot radius of our house and not be heard, especially with our hearing.

We got two steps closer to the house before Gazzy ran out. Max made sure we were always prepared in case of an attack, but we hadn't heard from anyone in ages: the School, the CSM, hikers even.

Gazzy grinned wide when he saw Nudge and me. Over the years, he had also taken a major liking to chocolate chip cookies, and I had a feeling he was happier to see the cookies than he was to see us safe and sound.

He ran to us and took the bag with the cookies and the eggs from Nudge's fingers. Then he ran back towards the door, yelling to Max that Nudge and I had returned.

I rolled my eyes. Even though he was almost sixteen, Gazzy hadn't matured so much.

Fang had silently walked over, filling the narrow door-frame, but Gazzy didn't see him and knocked him clean over. So much for the eggs. They were all a mess between Fang, Gazzy, and our floor. Nudge and I laughed, but tried to hide it so that the guys wouldn't see.

Fang didn't say anything, but he did not look too happy. He gave Gazzy a bit of a glare, grabbed the still-intact container of cookies, and stood. He took off his black shirt that had egg yolk splattered all over it and walked to the laundry room to leave it in there. Then, still shirtless, he went up the stairs to the room he and Max shared, taking the cookies with him.

Gazzy frowned. "I guess that means I get to clean up," he muttered, standing up and going to the kitchen. He put the eggs that hadn't broken into the fridge and threw the carton away. As Nudge and I scurried up the stairs with the cake, we could see Gazzy exiting the kitchen with a rag and mumbling to himself about how chickens needed to lay harder eggs.

We knocked on Max's door and opened it. There was Max, sitting on the bed. Fang was sitting a few inches away and they were chowing down on those cookies like there would be no tomorrow.

"Hey, aren't you gonna share with the rest of us?" Nudge asked.

Fang shook his head, smirking slightly, and Max smacked him.

"Of course. We just wanted first picks." She held the container out for us, offering the cookies. I reached out and took one, nibbling on it. I knew that I should savor it, because there probably wouldn't be any left by the next day.

"Did you guys get the cake?" Max asked, biting into another cookie.

I held up my bag. The cake was still in one piece.

Iggy's smiling face popped around the door. "Did I just hear someone say cake?"

"No, Iggs. She was asking if we saw the lake on our way back."

Iggy's face fell. "Oh." Looking much sadder, he walked down the stairs.

Max smiled at me. "Nice save."

I nodded. "So we're gonna surprise him, right?"

"That's the plan. None of us have even mentioned his birthday. He thinks we've forgotten."

One corner of Fang's mouth lifted as he reached around Max for another cookie. He had yet to put on a shirt, but Max didn't seem to mind.

"I just love surprise parties, don't you? They're just so…surprise-y," Nudge enthused.

"Well, it's not really a party, Nudge. It's just gonna be us, exactly like every other year."

"Except other years it wasn't a surprise."

Max rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You can call it a party if you want." She turned to Fang, closing the cookie container. "What happened to your shirt?" she asked, raising an eyebrow like she had just noticed his lack of clothing (which she so hadn't).

Nudge and I giggled again.

"Gazzy ran me over and the eggs broke," was all Fang said.

For a moment, it didn't look like Max believed him. "Okay…and you haven't put another one on…why?"

He shrugged. "Just haven't."

Max shook her head at him. "I'm gonna put the cookies downstairs. You, get some clothes on please."

Nudge and I crept toward the door, but not before we heard Fang say, "Why? Because you just can't resist my sexiness?"

In my peripheral, I saw Max blush scarlet. "No, it's just…"

I laughed, interrupting Max. I knew she was lying, because from the moment he walked into the room with those cookies, she had been mentally drooling and thinking, My best friends is too freaking sexy for his own good… and How do I manage to sleep next to this guy every night when he's got a body like that? Because Max and Fang always assured us that sleep was all that happened in their room at night, which, surprisingly, wasn't a complete lie. Besides, the walls in this house were way too thin for that sort of stuff to happen without everyone else knowing about it.

Max turned to glare at me, but she was really begging me not to say anything. I obliged, and Nudge and I left the room. I headed to the kitchen to hide the cake and Nudge went to our bedroom.

As I entered the kitchen, I saw Gazzy throwing the last of the eggs and paper towels into the trashcan. Total was in there, too, lying on his little pillow in the corner. All he ever did was sleep. He was getting old and none of us expected him to last much longer. He barely even talked and his wings always hung limply and uselessly at his side. It was almost as if he were reverting back to being a normal dog.

Gazzy looked up at me. "What kind of cake did you get?"

"Marble," I replied, "Iggy's favorite."

"We're still going through with the whole surprise thing, right?"

I nodded. "He hasn't got a clue."


Iggy definitely didn't see it coming. Literally or figuratively. We even managed to make a not-so-sad excuse for dinner without his help. He came downstairs, ready to cook, only to find us in the kitchen with his favorite foods on the table.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IGGY!" we all shouted in perfect unison. Nudge was holding the cake with the candles, Gazzy was lighting the candles, Fang had a shirt on (after much insistence from Max), Max was trying to keep her cool about Gazzy with a match, and I was trying to make sure everything looked perfect.

"Make a wish, Iggy…" Total whispered from his corner. It was hard to hear his voice above the din, but Iggy's ears were better than most. He closed his sightless eyes and breathed in. I would swear everyone in the room froze except for him. He leaned down over the cake and, with eyes still shut, blew out the candles.

"What did you wish for, Iggs?" Total asked reverently, as if he, too, had felt the stillness. Max got a slice of the cake onto a plate for Iggy and handed it to him. Birthdays were the only time that we ate dessert before our actual meal.

Iggy stared straight ahead, picturing what he couldn't see. Nonchalantly, he put a chunk of cake into his mouth. "I wished for the same thing I wish for every year," he said so quietly I wasn't sure if Total heard him. Iggy never verbally said what it was that he wished for every year, but I still heard it clear as a bell: To see…

AN: Uh-oh. Can you say fOrEsHaDoWiNg?? I can. Who knew Iggy's deepest wish was to be able to see, especially when he gets on so well being blind? As for Darcy, it took me AGES to find that perfect name for him. It means "Dark One," by the way, and Darcy is very dark indeed (figuratively, not literally). Also, like his name reminded me of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Angel's found one heck of a guy, that's for sure. FAX will also pop up in this story on multiple occasions, though Max and Fang have not yet worked out their feelings at this point in time. They'll get around to it and be together for a time. But...this is a tragedy...

REVIEWS nourish the heart, enrich the mind, and strengthen the soul. Drop one for me please. (:

3. Obsolete

AN: To pscholllama: It looks like you really wanna know how everyone dies. Sadly, I don't get to that for another...lot of chapters. I have a habit of posting weekly (Friday or Saturday, occasionally Thursday) so...think you could just sit tight till then?? Thanks. (:

I don't have much to say, besides that I'm gonna try to cut down on the ANs. Now, enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Three: Obsolete

I walked down the dark street. I wasn't supposed to be out, but I hadn't been able to sleep. I'd ended up going for a short flight and that flight turned into a walk through the cold, deserted streets on the little town we stopped at so often, but never really bothered exploring. I'll admit I had an ulterior motive to going there that night: I wanted to see him again. Darcy. That was the only thing I had managed to get from his mind. His name was Darcy. Nothing more.

I don't know why it is that I thought I would be able to find him in this town, though small it was, with only a first name and most likely romanticized vision of him. Especially when my choice time to search was 2 AM, when every sensible person was tucked away into their warm houses and not wandering the empty streets and alleys. Even the rats were asleep.

But maybe, just maybe, I'd had a feeling somewhere in my gut that he would be there, someplace I had never even been. Maybe I was getting some sort of prophetic ability. Maybe that's how I knew where he would be and how to get there. Maybe that's what pulled me out of my bed at such a ghastly hour to roam a sleeping town.

Nevertheless, I saw him. He was leaning against the wall of an apartment building, which I presumed to be his home. He exhaled and a visible puff of his warm breath mixed with the cold air. Wait, no. He held a cigarette in his hand and brought it to his lips. A column of smoke exited his mouth.

I hadn't made any noise that I was aware of, but he looked over at me anyway. My heart skipped a beat, I'm sure. His lips curved into a smile that should have been intimidating, but it only made me catch my breath. His hair had fallen over his eyes, but I was sure they held some warmth in them. Warmth and goodness.

"The girl from the grocery store. Good to see you again." His voice had a bit of an accent, British, or Australian. He threw his cigarette butt to the ground and stamped it out, walking toward me. "Where's your friend? It's not good to walk alone this late, pretty girl."

I shrugged. "Couldn't sleep. So I decided to take a walk," I said calmly. He was so close now that his breath mingled with mine.

"Where'd you walk from?"

"Not far," I replied. He most likely wouldn't believe me if I said the woods.

"Is that so? You look pretty worn out for 'not far,'" he argued. Then he leaned down a bit. His breath smelled of smoke and something bitterly sweet that I couldn't quite put my feather on… "Are you scared of me, pretty girl?"

I closed my eyes. I was tempted to peek into his mind, but I resisted. He was a stranger and I had no right to invade his privacy. "No," I breathed. "I'm not."

He got closer to me, his nose brushing against mine. "Is that so? Did you ever think that maybe you should be?"

I almost stiffened. But he was so close… Instead, my lips instinctively reached out to touch his.

"Whoa, whoa, kiddo." He took a step back. "Not so fast. I don't even know your name, pretty girl."

I shook my head. What had I been thinking? Oh, right; I hadn't. "Sorry. I'm…I'm Angel." I don't know why I had told him my real name. For some reason, I don't think I could have lied to him, no matter how hard I tried.

"Well your name certainly suits you, Angel. I'm Darcy." He smiled at me in the dark.

I almost said, "I know," but I held my tongue. "Good to meet you, Darcy. Officially, I mean."

"Where are you headed, pretty Angel?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Nowhere in particular."

"Then would you mind if I accompanied you to 'nowhere in particular?'" His grin touched his eyes, intensifying his sharp features.

I couldn't help but smile, though I would swear that my cheeks had gone redder than a Santa hat. "I wouldn't mind it one bit."

"Good." He offered me his arm and I looped mine through his.

"So, Angel, tell me some about yourself."

"Uh…you first."

"Alright. So, I'm Darcy Higgins, I've lived in this quaint little town all my life, I'm a junior in high school, I love Shakespeare and all his classic little friends, I'm a die-hard romantic, and I'm often underestimated. I have an older brother who's always up to no good, a mom that's always in a mess, and a dad that I haven't seen in ten years. I like to walk on the beach at sunset, at least I'm sure I would if I'd ever done that. I'm frequently misunderstood and very independent."

I nodded. I was liking this guy already. "Well, I'm Angel…" Last name, last name, needed a last name! "Angel Ride. I've lived here for six years now--"

"Six years? And I've never seen you around until now?" Darcy looked at me incredulously.

"Yeah. I don't get out much. I'm fourteen, homeschooled, and I like to fancy myself understanding, even if I'm misunderstood. I have one biological older brother, and another two older brothers of sorts, one of which is more like a dad, the other more of an uncle. My friend you saw today is kinda my sister and I have another sorta older sister, who's more of a mom."

"You're actual mom and dad?"

I shrugged. "Never met 'em, and not sure I want to. Max, my sorta mom, is the one who raised me, her and her dad. Fang and Iggy also helped, plus my real brother."

"Sounds like you have one complicated family."

"Yeah, definitely. We have a dog too, but he's really old."

"Your sort of mom and dad? Are they actually married?"

I shook my head. "No, but they're best friends and pretty much act like it. If they'd wanted to get married, they would've done it a long time ago."

"So they're in love?"

I nodded vigorously. "Oh, yes. They grew up together and trust each other as much as they trust themselves. They're perfect for each other. I just sometimes wonder if they realize it."

Darcy smirked. "You sound a bit like a matchmaker. How can you be so sure that they feel that way, though? They could be strictly best friends. You never know, maybe this Max has a thing for your uncle of sorts."

I made a face. Max and Iggy? If that ever happened, I would probably puke. That just would not work. "Oh, no. That will never happen. I said he's more of an uncle because he can be super immature, and Max can't stand immaturity. Fang, on the other hand, is mature. And Max and Fang definitely have a thing for each other."

H e shrugged. "Alright. You know them, I guess. I don't." He paused, looking ahead of us into the night. "So you guys all live together?"

"Yeah. Max doesn't like to get out much, though, and Fang stays with her. Nudge and I usually go to run errands."

"Nudge is your friend…?"

"The one you saw today."

"My, my, Angel. I must say that you are a very interesting person, with an unusual family full of strange names, but, alas, our journey must end. It's nearly 3 AM and that's my curfew."

I raised an eyebrow. "Your curfew's three in the morning?"

"I told you my mom's always in a mess. Doesn't know what she's saying half the time." He smiled gleefully, but I had a feeling that bugged him more than he was willing to let on. "Is your home close by?"

I nodded. "Close enough. I'll get there without a problem."

"Listen, Angel, I know we've only just met, but…would you like to meet me again tomorrow? A bit earlier perhaps, in front of the grocery store?"

My eyes twinkled. "Sure. How about eight?"

"Works for me. So I'll see you tomorrow." He winked and spared me another smile before turning back the way we'd come. As he got farther away, I saw him light a cigarette.

He didn't once look back.


Every night for the next two months, I met with Darcy. In that little time, I felt like I'd found my best friend for all eternity, my significant other, my better half. Max didn't know exactly where I was going, but she never asked specifically or aloud. Nudge figured it was something to do with a boy and she teased me some about it, but she didn't bug me so much. None of them asked about my nocturnal activities, and even if they had, I wouldn't have been able to tell them much. If only I had realized then how little I actually knew about Darcy and how much he knew about me.

As I was leaving the house to go into town to meet him again, I was stopped by the one I least expected. Total. He was sitting in front of the door, his tired eyes drooping, but it didn't look like he was going to let me through. I hadn't even thought that he could still move at all.

"Hi, Total," I greeted politely, trying not to let my annoyance and impatience show.

"At least tell me his name, Angel."

I decided that playing dumb would be the safest route. "Who?"

"This secret boyfriend of yours. I can tell. You always space out and get this dazed, faraway look in your eyes. You mutter in your sleep. You smile a lot more. You actually do your hair. You borrow Nudge's make-up. You're falling in love."

Maybe he's right, I thought. Maybe I was falling in love with Darcy.

"And, quite frankly, I don't like it."

WHAT?! I glared down at the dog. "You don't know anything, Total. Move." I tried to force the door open, but Total had gained weight and he wouldn't budge.

"I'm a lot smarter than you give me credit for. He's turning you into something you're not, Angel. Can't you see that? You never sleep anymore. You don't talk to any of us. It's like you've found yourself a new family and we're suddenly obsolete."

I was getting angry. Not only was Total insulting Darcy, he was insulting me. "His name is Darcy Higgins and he's a better friend than you could ever be, Total! Now move before I make you!"

Total turned up his nose and stood. "Fine. But don't you dare come back until you're ready to give us back Angel, because whoever you are, you sure as hell are not Angel!" He strutted back to his cushion in the kitchen and I left, slamming the door behind me with all my might. If he didn't want me the way I was, then I wouldn't come back until Total was either dead or ready to shut up and mind his own dang business.

I got to the grocery store two minutes late. Darcy was already there, with his friend Lucas. Lucas was a big kind of guy with three lip piercings and two eyebrow piercings that I had first met a few weeks before. They were passing a bottle in a brown paper bag back and forth, each of them taking sips. I could see a little baggy of fine white powder hanging out of Lucas's pocket.

"Hey, Angel," Darcy smiled.

"Hi Darcy. Hi Lucas," I said.

Lucas offered me the bottle in the bag. "You want some?"

"What is it?" I asked cautiously.

Darcy put his hand on the bag, as if he were trying to stop Lucas from giving me the bag with the bottle. "Lucas, don't—"

"Chill, man. She can have some if she wants," Lucas argued, then he turned back to me. "I'm not exactly sure, but it's some pretty strong booze." To Lucas, that seemed to be all that mattered. I was still a bit hesitant, but I reached out and took the bottle in the bag anyway.

As I drank some, I could see Darcy out of the corner of my eye. He was trying not to look at me and was glaring at Lucas. The stuff—whatever it was—tasted absolutely dreadful. Awful. It took everything I had to not spit it back out. But I was not going to look like a fool in front of Darcy and his friend. Before I knew it, I had chugged down the whole bottle.

"That was good," I lied, handing the bundle back to Lucas.

He chuckled. "Whoa! Darcy, your girl has one strong stomach. I'm gonna go get some more." Lucas tossed the bottle in the bag into a trashcan and went inside the grocery store. I have to admit, I liked the way he'd called me Darcy's girl.

"Fake I.D.," Darcy said, explaining what I already knew from Lucas's mind. I was fine taking peeks into their minds, but just little peeks. "Plus, he knows the cashier, a bit too well maybe, so she doesn't call him on it, even though she knows he's still a minor."

"Why didn't you want me to drink it?" I asked. I didn't feel very different. Yeah, there was this icky taste in my mouth, but I could still think straight.

Darcy looked at his shoes. "I don't know. I guess I don't really want you to get caught up in that sort of stuff."

"But you are," I argued. "I see you smoke cigarettes. I can smell drugs on your clothes. You were just drinking from the bottle before I got here."

"Yeah, but I feel like you're still innocent. I don't wanna be the one who watches you--and lets you--lose that."

"Lucas is the one that offered it, not you."

"And I didn't stop him." He took out a cigarette and lit it. He avoided looking me in the eye.

"Listen, Darcy, I kinda need a place to stay for the moment…"

"Max catch you sneaking out?" He exhaled a cloud of smoke.

"Not exactly. She doesn't mind, but apparently some of the others do."

"Your brother?"

I shook my head. "I don't really wanna talk about it. Bottom line is I'm kicked out until further notice. Do you think…?"

"You wanna stay at my place? I'm sure my mom wouldn't mind. So, yeah. Definitely."

I smiled. "Thank you, Darcy. Thank you!" I threw my arms around him, my cheek pressing against his. I'll admit he wasn't very tall, though he was about a year and a half older than me. It was the closest our faces had been since our first official meeting, when I'd almost kissed him.

"I got s'more… Oh. Didn't mean to interrupt… I'll just shut up and drink the booze in peace then," Lucas said, exiting the store and coming to stand by us.

I stepped away from Darcy. "I don't think so. You'd better share that, Lucas!"

He laughed and handed it over. Darcy took another puff of his cigarette and tried not to look too perturbed about my fading innocence. If only I'd known how much of it I would sacrifice…

Soon enough, Lucas took the fine white powder from his pocket. "Have you ever tried any of this?" he asked me, pointing at the baggy.

I shook my head no. Darcy didn't look me in the eye.

And that was the first of many nights that I got drunk and high with Darcy Higgins.

AN: REVIEWS are like RAIN in the DESERT. Desperately needed and in short supply. REVIEW!

4. Torment

AN (Seriously trying to shorten these): Sorry, TwilightGirl100195, but...well, you'll see. Let me just say that it didn't happen just to screw with your head, but that it was already written this way. ENJOY!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Four: Torment

I woke up with my mind in a blur. I barely remembered the night before, but there was one thing I thought I was sure happened.

For the last three weeks, I had been living with Darcy. I had managed to sneak back into the house and get a few of my things, but I got out before Nudge or anyone else could realize I'd returned. Darcy and I slept well into the afternoons. He was on his school's spring break (and he rarely went anyway), so he could sleep in as long as he wanted. During the nights, we caused trouble and mischief with Lucas and some others in the dark back alleys of the town. I had never had a better time in my life than with them.

Last night, after I'd had a ton of booze pumped into me (and various other things), I'd told Darcy some things that I thought about him. Stupid stuff, really. He wasn't exactly himself, either, and he said some of this stupid stuff back to me. And, well, one thing led to another and…

There I was, in Darcy's bed, tangled up in his sheets, with him lying right beside me. And I mean right beside me. It took me a moment to grasp what exactly I had just done. I had given up the rest of my innocence.

Something hurt on my back, making me freeze.

What had I done? Not only had I lost my virginity, I had also quite possibly betrayed my biggest secret, one that wasn't even completely mine to share.

My wings.

I struggled to sit up, holding the sheets to my body. Darcy was still asleep. I hoped he had been too drunk and high to notice that I had feathers. But luck is no good friend of mine, because right then, Darcy stirred.


I stiffened, tugging my shirt down and tucking my wings in tight, but I wasn't fast enough.

"Angel, are those…" His sleepy eyes widened and he gasped. "My God, you really are an angel."

"Listen, Darcy, I can explain…" I started, but he didn't seem to hear me. His hand was reaching toward my back. It slid under my shirt and kept moving until he could feel the feathers.

"I knew there was something special about you from the moment I saw you. You're an angel, and I've corrupted you."

I shook my head vigorously. "No, Darcy, I'm not an angel. Not that kind, anyway. And I'm the one who's made my choices. You bear no fault." I hugged him to me. "I love you, Darcy, and I've made my choices."

His lips brushed my neck. "What aren't you telling me, Angel? Why don't you know your parents? Why do you have wings?" he whispered.

I was awed. I had almost expected him to be repulsed by my feathery predicament. But he was only worried. "I'll explain it someday, Darcy. I swear I will."

He kissed my cheek. "Okay. I'll hold you to your word." His lips touched mine. I loved how it felt to kiss him. He tasted like the world I had grown accustomed to, the underworld of this town, the same kind that existed in every town. And I loved the taste. I kissed him back with all my might. He was my first love and I never wanted to let him go.

And I wouldn't be the one to let go.


Darcy's hand was warm in mine as we walked down the sidewalk. It was just past midnight and Darcy had to meet some acquaintances of his. He wasn't too fond of them, so he asked if I would go with him. I wanted him to be able to trust me with anything, as I did him, so I agreed.

If only I hadn't been so stupidly naïve.

He steered me into the alley where these acquaintances of his would be waiting. There was no one there yet, so we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until they finally showed up.

These people—these things—literally melted out of the shadows. The walls seemed to give birth to them, clothing them in the mysterious darkness of the night. I had never been more scared in my fourteen years of life, and I had good reason.

"Higgins," one shadow greeted. "I see you brought it."

"What's he talking about?" I whispered to Darcy. "Brought what?"

Darcy ignored me. "Just give me a sec, guys. No more than two minutes.

The shadows seemed to consult each other. "Granted."

"Look, Angel," Darcy said, stepping between me and the shadows, gripping my arms so hard it hurt. "I know who you are. You don't have to explain that to me."

"What?" I was very confused. "How?"

"Look, I'm really sorry, Angel, but they got to me first. My mom has helped them before and…" He gulped. "This time, they asked me to help them. They needed to find you and your friends."

Oh, no. I had been such an idiot. I had willingly, gleefully, told him everything he'd needed to know. "Who…?"

He sighed. "I don't actually know their names, but they asked me to find you. I was hoping that you weren't the one they were looking for, especially after…" He shook his head, but I knew what he meant. "Just, I'm sorry Angel, but my world will fall apart if I don't do this, my friends and family, everything—"

I almost didn't want to believe what he was telling me. "How could you?" He opened his mouth to respond, but I stopped him. "No, Darcy. Just—just shut the hell up. I don't want to hear anymore of your lies. I can't believe I let this happen. I trusted you. I loved you. And this is what I get in return."

"Angel, I can explain, I swear. They were gonna go after my friends—"

"DARCY HIGGINS, THE ONLY FRIENDS YOU HAVE ARE A BOTTLE AND A CIGARETTE!" I freed my arm of his grip and slapped him hard across the face. The sound bounced off the alley walls. "I trusted you with everything and you lied to me about everything."

"No, I didn't lie about everything. I lo—"

"Don't you dare use the L word on me, Darcy. Don't. You. Dare."

"Your time is up," one shadow said. "Hand over the prisoner."

Darcy looked like he wanted to say more but he, wisely, kept his mouth shut. "Okay," he surrendered, not looking at the shadows. It felt as if he were searching my eyes for some sign that I could forgive him. I guarantee he didn't find a single one.

The shadows walked—or glided—over to me. Though they weren't exactly tangible, I could feel the precise moment that their smoky fingers curled around my flesh. Their touch sent an unnatural chill coursing through my body. It was as if there was a blizzard just below my skin. I shook violently in response and my knees buckled. Darcy reached out a hand as if to catch me, but I glared at him. I don't need your help, I wanted to say.

The shadows held fast to me and drifted back to the walls that had birthed them. I was afraid I would bump into them, but I found that I was as light as them. I was losing substance.

I don't know how long I stayed in the grip of the shadows, lingering somewhere between palpable and gaseous. And then there was light again. Not very much at first, but it grew and grew. I was entering the real world once again.

But as soon as I stepped into the light, I didn't want to be there. I wanted to go back to the shadows and hide, because as soon as I set foot into the School once again, I was attacked by a multitude of bodiless voices. The voices of the dead.

AN: And here is where Angel's creepy new power begins. I'm amazed that I'm already at the fourth chapter!

Anyway, REVIEWS are like ENLIGHTENMENT when you are sitting in a college Calculus class and you don't understand a freaking thing. Like me, for instance. I'm ready to rip my hair out, and I'm only three days into the course. (: REVIEW!!

5. This is Now, Part Two

AN: I just about forgot it was Friday. Sorry. Family-crisis-ish things going on. Should be fine soon. I apologize for the shortness of the chapter; it's not because of procrastination, honestly. Most of the "This is Now"chapter will be short fillers, as not much is happening to Angel at the moment and the core of the story is flashbacks. So, again, sorry for the shortness. Enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Five: This is Now

I collapse to the ground, the cold snow stinging my warm legs. He isn't supposed to be here. He was never here before, so why now?

I bury my face in my hands, not wanting to look upon his face. Though his face held no malice, no anger, it did hold the slightest fragment of guilt, and even love.

I won't look at him, I won't. If I look again I will surely give in to him, even though I now know which side he truly was on.

But if I'm seeing him, that means he's dead, too.

As this thought passes through my mind, my first response is, Good riddance. My next is, His death is my fault, too.

"Angel…" he whispers. I don't look up at him. He won't win me over so easily again. He lost me and I don't want him back.

How can he even see me? I wonder to myself. The dead that do manifest themselves to me, when I stumble too close to their bodies, their graves, never see me. They only see what happened in their last moments of life, repeated over and over again, with the living absent from the scene, just like this battle is happening again, but I shut it out. I usually don't even see the dead, only hear them whispering in their frantic voices. When I find a mass grave like this and I come too close, I can see them. But they never see me.

"Angel, please…" he breathes. He's closer to me now, and I can almost feel the wind shifting, moving, with the words that exit his mouth. That shouldn't be happening either. The dead that I see are nothing more the shadows, stains of presences that once were. The dead are not tangible and do not affect the environment around them.

Except me.

"Listen to me, baby," he's saying, "I'm sorry. I lo—"

"No!" I nearly shout. "No, no! Don't say that!" My hands cover my ears. "Shut up! Go away! Just leave me alone!"


No. He can't be saying this. I don't want to hear him say this to me. I may have dreamed about it years ago, but I no longer want it. Any of it.

Someone screams. It's Nudge. I look up and see her shadow running across the clearing. She's frantic, desperate, and she's saying: "Max! Where are you? I know what happened, I know who did this—" Her shadow falls to the ground, dead once again. I look away before I can see anymore.

Where is my baby? Where's Angel? I hear someone think. Max. She shouldn't have been looking for me. I wanted to die rather than live knowing that I had done such terrible things.

"Angel, please look at me. Please. That's all I ask of you. Pretty Angel, just look at me."

I swallow the lump in my throat. Pretty Angel. What he would always call me. A thousand memories flash through my brain at the sound of his voice saying that. I had been so careless. I had fallen in love. I had been shown the world in such an amazing way. I had always been happy. And before me stands the one that made it all possible.

Reluctantly, slowly, I lift my head and uncover my eyes to look upon the face of Darcy Higgins.

AN: Hope you liked it. Longer chapter next week, back to the past. Filler chapter, to kinda keep the suspense going after the sorta-cliffhanger last chapter. Things are going to get pretty interesting...

Disclaimer: The method of travel used last chapter to get Angel to the School ("Shadow Travel") was totally inspired by Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the method of travel Nico shows Percy in book four or five (not sure which) involving Mrs. O'Leary the hellhound. But this is done scientifically, not mythologically. (:

REVIEWS are like...PROTEIN to vegetarians, which I have just become. Apparently if you don't get the proper, necessary proteins, you can get pretty sick. So...REVIEW!!

6. Shame

AN: Yet another chapter. Now you don't have to wait anymore. (: This is back in the past, picking up from the cliffhanger. No other comments, except, ENJOY!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Six: Shame

"Oh, you've brought it," a cold, cruel voice said from the brightness. I couldn't see where it was coming from, or anything else for that matter. I couldn't hear the thoughts of anyone in the room, and I felt completely blind.

All I could hear were the countless voices of those that were no more.

"Just like you asked. It took a while for that kid to surrender it. I think he became a bit attached," said another voice, closer to me. One of the shadows, I guessed. I looked and saw that they weren't shadows at all, but people. Whitecoats.

"It doesn't matter anyway, whether he's attached or not. He's got his money, but he may not have time to spend it. Soon enough, they'll all be in the same place." The ice in this person's voice made me want to shiver.

I was confused. I didn't understand what was going on, what these two were conversing about, but I had a sick feeling that I was the "it" in their conversation and the "kid" was Darcy.

"Are there any accommodations set up for it? It's obviously not as hostile as its mentor."

This triggered something in me, a Max-like reaction. "I'm not an "it", you assholes. I'm a "she" and I have a name, which I'm sure you're aware of."

There was a pause. "Maybe it's just gathering its bearings."

"Or maybe it's a spoiled brat that's trying to play pretend," the cruel voice said. I could feel something looming over me. I squinted into the light, trying to see what it was. It was the voice's owner. "Pretend all you want, Subject Eleven, but you'll never be Maximum Ride." The person stepped away from me. "You know where to put it, Henson."

"Yes, ma'am," Henson replied. He had been the one talking with the cruel voice's owner earlier, I realized. I waited for him to grab my arm or something and lead me to my "accommodations", but I then noticed that he already had my arm in a tight grip. He had been one of the shadows. "Come on, Eleven. Don't expect any special treatment. Not even Batchelder got his way in this case. You're getting a normal sized crate just like all the others."

I tripped.

"Oh, damn. What did that kid do? He may as well have screwed your entire system, not just your hormones."

I blushed an angry scarlet. "It would be easier to walk if I could actually see two feet in front of me."

Henson seemed to drink this in. "Ah," he finally said. "The Shadow Travel. Yeah, it's always rough the first time, but it's the fastest method of long-distance travel yet, even if it does do screwy things to your vision at first."


The voices seemed to increase in quantity for a moment, when Henson was dragging me past some closed doors. There was writing on them, but I couldn't make out what it said.

I felt like we couldn't pass those doors soon enough, but where we were headed almost made me wish I could go back and camp outside those doors.

Henson dragged me through the spotless halls of the School and finally to a set of double doors, which he pushed past. Beyond them was a dark, dank room that was filled with the horrible stench of rot and filth. Though I wasn't an empath, I could feel the pain in this room, because there was just so much of it. It radiated from every corner, seeped through every bar of every cage, melted through the walls and ceiling. There were cries, moans, groans, and wails coming from all around me. And worse, I could hear voices everywhere, those of the living, the dying, and the dead.

"Sorry, but there are no luxury suites here for experiments, especially those that have evaded capture for seven years," Henson said as he led me over to a cage that was no bigger than the rest. In fact, it actually looked smaller. Either way, I knew it would be a tight squeeze. Slowly, Henson unlatched the door and opened it, as if awaiting some violent protests from me. I blinked at him innocently.

"Oh, come on, I've seen that 'I-couldn't-possibly-harm-a-fly' act enough times not to fall for it anymore. Look, kid, I don't pick the cages, I just settle experiments in them." He gave me a sad sort of smile.

It was then that I realized his mind was opening up to me. I peered inside. His thoughts rang out with the thousand complaints he had against the School and his job. "Why do you work here, if you hate it so much?" I asked, confused by his thoughts.

He scrunched his eyebrows at me. "What…? How did you…?" He cleared his throat. "What makes you think that, Eleven?"

I shook my head. "My name's Angel, not Subject Eleven. And I know you hate it. That's all you ever think about."

"Angel…" he muttered. "What, you read minds?"

I nodded. "Yes. And I can do a lot more. Trust me on that."

His gaze remained fixed on me for a moment as I probed his mind, seeing if, by any chance, this guy would be able to get me out of here…

Henson snapped out of the little spell I'd had him in. "Look, Ang…Eleven, just make my life a bit easier and get in the crate."

I frowned, but obeyed. I wouldn't dare provoke them just yet. Wait awhile, a week or so of following regulation, then surprise them when I wasn't as malleable as they thought. I thought it was a decent plan, and that it might even work.

Unless, of course, they managed to dissect my brain first.

Henson closed the door and sealed the latch, locking it with a sturdy-looking padlock. He put the key in the inside left pocket of his white coat. I stored that information away for later use.

Once he had gone, I realized that my vision had improved quite a bit. Not only was it restored to normality, but I felt as if I could see even better in the dark than before. Huh. Shadow Travel sure does funny things to you.

With my newfound sight in the dark, I drank in my surroundings. The room was full of cages, stacked on top of each other all throughout the room. Nearly every single one had an occupant, and some had more than one. Immediately to my right, the cage occupant stared at me with horrified yellow eyes that shone through the darkness. There was fur all over his (I refused to refer to any of my neighbors as 'it') sallow face and his lips were darker than charred wood, from what I could see. He was curled in on himself and his legs seemed shorter than they should have been and his arms seemed much too wide…then I realized that his arms were actually connected to something else. Wings, to be specific. But these were nothing like my snow-white, feathery wings. His were black and rubbery. A bat's wings.

Suddenly, the bat-boy opened his mouth and hissed at me, revealing long and terrifying fangs. Since when was the School manufacturing vampires? I couldn't believe that the fad had gotten to them too.

Still, he was rather intimidating. I scooted away a bit and looked to my other side, barely stifling a scream. My other neighbor wasn't a very comforting sight to behold, either. She had scaly skin and green gunk oozing down the sides of her mouth. Her eyes were different sizes, one yellow, and one red with blood. As far as I could tell, she had no nose. Her fingers were all stuck together and bleeding profusely, as if she had been trying to separate her them from each other. She wasn't wearing anything, allowing me to see that the scales contaminated every inch of her body and that she was bleeding terribly from what I assumed to be her torso, as though she had been attacked by some vicious beast.

She looked up at me with great effort, blinking the blood out her eye. I couldn't understand her thoughts; they were all in a jumble, but I could tell that she was in great pain and misery. She didn't have much longer to live.

Yet the whitecoats did nothing. How could such cruelty exist in the human soul, alongside such good?

I looked away from the girl. I didn't want to see anymore of this hellhole. I just wanted to get out, to be back at Darcy's, or back with the flock, pretending this all was a dream…


"Get out, Subject Eleven." I felt a sharp tug on my forearm.

I groaned. "Darcy…?" I opened my eyes and immediately felt like a fool. Before me stood an intimidating whitecoat, not Henson, and he was smirking, laughing at my despair.

"Sorry, Eleven, but there ain't no Darcy here. Now get out. The Director wants a word with you."

I allowed him to pull me out of my crate, but my legs didn't react quickly enough and I spilled out onto the floor.

"Get up, you clumsy bastard. No one keeps the Director waiting."

"The Director?" I mused quietly.

"Yeah, the Director. She's been waiting years for you to come back into our hands. She knew you'd be too disoriented when you first arrived to negotiate, so she let you off easy. But now you'd better get your ass up to her office."

The whitecoat towed me along as we passed through the various sectors of the School. We passed by those same closed doors, where I could hear so many voices coming from. I felt my legs move a little faster as I left them far behind.

Finally, we stopped outside a pristine white door. It was the only door in the hallway and it bore a little nameplate: Marian Janssen, Supervising Director. The whitecoat knocked lightly.

"Come in," responded a cold, cruel voice, the same one I'd heard when I'd first arrived at the School.

The whitecoat opened the door. "I've brought it, just as you requested."

The Director sat behind a large desk that held three computer screens, a printer, and endless stacks of paper. She didn't look up from her work as she answered, "Thank you. You may go."

"Are you sure it's safe?"

"I said you may go." The Director said this with such force that I nearly shivered.

The whitecoat turned to leave and shut the door behind him.

"Sit, Eleven."

I didn't move.

"Subject Eleven, defiance doesn't fly well with me. Sit."

I took a deep breath. "My name is not Subject Eleven."

"I don't particularly care what you think your name is as long as you sit down."

Her voice could've made a steel and stone tower bend to her wishes. I sat down.

"Good." At last, the Director looked up. She was older than the last time I had been able to see her, really see her. And I mean much older. Her face was sagging and wrinkly, deep shadows hiding under her eyes. Her hair had begun to fall out, and the rest was stark white. She looked at least a hundred, but her cruel voice sounded ageless.

"I have brought you here today to negotiate."

"Negotiate?" I asked dubiously. "Do you expect me to believe that after all this time, you're willing to turn to negotiation?"

"Yes, Eleven. I do expect you to believe that. In fact, this whole situation relies on you believing that."

"What are we here to negotiate?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Quite possibly, your freedom and life."

I couldn't help it; my ears perked at this prospect. I tried not to let the hope show on my face, but I think she noticed. The Director's lips turned up into a creepy smile that chilled me to the bone.

"I assume you're prepared to listen."

Reluctantly, I nodded.

"I'm sure you've noticed by now that you have a new gift. More of a curse really. Either way, I'm sure you've noticed that you now hear the voices of the dead."

I tried not to flinch, and then I realized that this room was silent. I couldn't hear anyone's thoughts, and I couldn't hear the voices.

"This gift is a torturous gift and, as you will soon find, a difficult one to bear. I'm sure you would just love to have it taken away."

I bit my lips to keep from saying anything. I wanted it gone. I didn't want this…this curse. But I didn't want to betray that fact.

"Of course you would, Eleven. Every test subject so far that we've bestowed this gift upon has either given in to our wishes or committed suicide out of insanity. And we sure wouldn't want to see you dead."

"What do I have to do?" I asked before I could stop myself.

The Director smirked. "It's quite simple, really. We need Maximum Ride."

AN: So...what will Angel do?? Heck, what will th Director do to make her comply? Next chapter should be up the nineteenth, so sit tight! Things are going to get good...(or bad...?)

REVIEWS are like ROSES on Valentine's Day. Sweet, beautiful, and very much appreciated. (: REVIEW!!

7. Angel and Devil

AN: So...I finally got a new cell phone. Haha. This should be entertaining. I'm going to see The Lightning Thief today. I really hope they did at least a half-way decent job with it. (I'm trusting you on this, Chris Columbus. (Is that even how you spell it??))Whatever. My crazy life, not yours. Now enjoy your peek into Angel's currently dreadful life and brace yourself for the unexpected...

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Seven: Angel and Devil

I walked out of the alley onto the street, the very same alley and street that I had last been to with Darcy. Most of my things were at his place, but that didn't matter. I was to go straight back home to wrestle with the decision of what to do with the choice I had been offered by the Director.

As I passed an empty alleyway, I heard a voice. Not with my ears, but with my mind. Some poor girl had been murdered there. The little devil on my shoulder said to accept the School's offer and get this curse lifted as soon as possible, no matter the cost.

I remembered back to when Nudge had been studying the works of Dante. According to him, the lowest level of Hell was reserved for the traitors. Would I chance his theory being right and the eternal torture that it would mean for me?

I shook my head. It wasn't exactly a betrayal. I was taking an opportunity and it was a bird-eat-bird world. Besides, they'd had it coming since the days they were born. I mean, everyone has to die at some point in their life, right?

I made a turn towards the woods and, once I was in the canopy's shelter, I took off in the direction of the flock's once-safe house.

Nothing had changed in these woods in the time I'd been away. I easily found the dense thicket in which the house was hidden and I carefully landed, dodging the tree branches that blocked the path to the ground. My feet lightly touched the ground, but I still made an audible crunch. I could see the house, ten feet away, and someone inside moved. The door opened and there stood the Gasman.

"Angel!" he shouted, running to me. I must've looked a mess. I hadn't been able to clean up at the School, or change my clothes since before I was taken. I hadn't slept properly in ages, and I was sure that heavy bags of shadow lurked under my eyes. My hair was gross and matted and unwashed. I felt like a half-drowned stray dog. Still, my brother threw his arms around me and I tried to comfort him by patting his shoulder.

"Angel, where the hell have you been the past month? I thought you were dead! Don't ever do that again!" he scolded, but I knew that he was happy to have me back; he was just having an over-protective big brother moment.

"Don't worry about it," I told him. "I'm fine," I lied.

How could you have left your brother? The little angel on my shoulder whispered to me. A sudden wave of guilt washed over me. Total had been right to not like Darcy, though he had never met him. I was embarrassed, too. A stupid old dog had better taste in guys than I did.

"What happened? Why did you leave?" Gazzy asked, pulling back to look at me. He stroked my cheek and smoothed my hair out.

I looked at him strangely. "Didn't Total tell you what happened?"

Gazzy looked at me sadly. "Angel…"


"Total…well, you see, Total kind of…"

I was worried that he wouldn't tell me whatever it was straight out. "What? Total kind of, what?"

"He died."

I froze, searching my brother's eyes. No, he couldn't be telling the truth. Total had been right; I needed to let him know! "W-when?"

"The night you left, Angel. He died after you were gone."

Tears filled my eyes. The last thing he had done before dying was fight with me. I had insulted him greatly and I wished I could take it back.

"Oh, Gazzy," I cried, wrapping my arms around him and sobbing into his chest. I had let him die on such a sour note. He had been trying to tell me something in the final moments of his life, and I had thrown it back in his face.

"Who's there?" a voice asked from inside. Max.

"Angel's back," Gazzy replied.

Max came out of the house to see for herself. She smiled wide when she saw me and jogged over. "Angel, what were you thinking?" she said as she embraced me. "Taking off on your own like that? You were gone for a month, you know, a freaking month. Don't pull something like that again until you're at least eighteen, got it?"

I nodded but didn't say a word. Okay, Mom, I thought at her. She snickered.

"Come on, Iggy's just finishing up dinner."

The three of us walked into the house and the little devil was fighting with the little angel.

See how easily they take you back into their wings? You could easily convince them of something while the School headed over, killed them, and lifted the curse from you.

The angel disagreed. They're you're family. They love you. They've missed you dearly this entire time, little one. How could you even consider turning them over to death for your own selfish reasons?

I tried my best to ignore the battle being fought in my head, smiling instead as I sat at the table. Nudge, Fang, and Iggy all greeted me happily and told me how much they'd missed me. I did my best to not look as though I were deciding their fates, which I pretty much was.

"Here you go, Angel," Iggy said happily as he served me a generous portion of the spaghetti he'd cooked up. "Fang and Max said you looked like you hadn't had a good meal in a while."

"Thanks, Iggs," I smiled, wishing he could see it.

"Anytime," he replied as he went on to serve Nudge.

I did a lot of thinking that night. Dinner was amazing and scored the angel on my shoulder a point.

You love them, she'd said, to which the devil had no retort.

But then, as I took a walk with Nudge outside, I heard the voice of a little boy who had fallen out of a tree he'd been climbing and broken his neck, earning the devil's side two more points. Nudge looked at me strangely when I froze mid-stride.

"Angel, are you okay?" she asked worriedly.

I shook my head, trying to rid myself of the little boy's scream as he fell. "Yeah, I'm fine," I replied unconvincingly. "Just…tired is all," I lied.

You should seal the deal as soon as possible, the devil suggested.

"Oh, then let's go back inside. You should get some rest. You look like you haven't slept in ages," Nudge said, taking my elbow and tugging me back toward the house.

"Okay," I agreed, though I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. I would be too busy listening to the angel and the devil on my shoulder debate about my course of action. And I didn't know which side I wanted to win.


You'll tire of them soon enough.

They're you're family.

They'll use you if they get the chance.

They would never let you get hurt.

You don't need them.

They love you, Angel.

They'll only slow you down.

Listen to me, little one.

No, it's my argument that's valid.

Heed my counsel.

Turn them in.

Stay with them.

Fight Max.

Protect them.

Get this curse lifted while you still have the means.

Learn to live with your trials.

Make the voices go away.

Your family can help you cope with this.

They could never understand.

Tell them of your dilemma.

Don't speak of it.

My mind spun with this argument of angel and devil, good and evil, right and wrong. Mankind had struggled with decisions such as these since the dawn of time, and the outcome was usually grim whichever path was chosen. I did not want to make the choice.

It was quite simple, really, I guess. The Director had the authority to free me from my curse, the curse of hearing the dead. I wanted the curse to be lifted. I knew where Maximum Ride was. The Director wanted to know where Maximum Ride was. A straightforward barter was all that it was. I had to tell her where Max was, and in exchange she would take away my burden.

But the actual decision was much harder than a simple, straightforward barter. It was the classic wrestle between two opposing forces, always trying to outdo each other, with me stuck in the middle of it all.

I will overcome, the angel and devil said in unison, making me wonder just how different the two were.

AN:Ooh...when two opposing sides desperately want two totally different things, how far is each side willing to go, how hard are they willing to push for it??

Disclaimer: This portion of the fic is inspired by Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, in which Tally Youngblood is forced to choose between betraying her best friend or giving up her lifelong dream. Similarly, Angel must choose between betraying her family or dying of her curse.

Ugh. I am hating school right now. I like the teachers, but I hate the actual classes. Ew...

How are you? How's life treating you? Are things going good, bad, or just plain whatever? Tell me about it. I greatly appreciate you guys and if something's biting at you, you can tell me, if you want. Of course...that means you'd have to REVIEW...

8. When the Bough Breaks, Down Comes Baby

AN: Chapter Eight already!! This is when things start to take a very Uglies turn. But, you also get a hint of FAX. (: And...chocolate chip pancakes, which I am currently craving. What else, what else...um, more evidence that Max is possibly bipolar and may need anger management classes. And fire. Fire not started by the resident pyromaniacs. Which means it is not good.

On a brighter note, my little brother told me this. Personally, I think it's quite funny. So, in the woods of the Twilight movie, Bella has finally figured Edward out...
Bella: I know what you are.
Edward: Say it.
Bella: *mutters unintelligibly* (yes, even for Edward's hearing)
Edward: Out loud.
Bella: ...*shouts* GAY!!!
Edward: ...
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! The sparkles are a dead giveaway.


If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Eight: When the Bough Breaks (Down Will Come Baby)

"Angel?" someone whispered. To my relief, this person was alive and this person was Fang.

My eyes flitted over to him. "Yeah?"

"You awake for the day?"

I had barely slept at all in the three nights that I'd been back with the flock. The angel and the devil were much too loud. I yawned and stretched. "I guess so."

"Okay, good. Iggy's making pancakes. Chocolate chip." Fang patted my shoulder and walked away. His face and eyes had been as devoid as emotion as usual. But I could still sense that he was kind of sad, disappointed somehow, just like I'd always been able to pick up on his emotions.

Curious, I decided to read into it further; I took a peek into his mind. Fang was verbally quiet, but he had one of the most active brains I'd ever seen. He thought about a lot of things simultaneously and his mind almost never shut up. If he was the kind of person to speak his mind, he would have always been worse than Nudge. This, however, was a bit of a disadvantage to me; it took me longer than it should have to find out what was bothering him, and I guessed that he was intentionally trying to shove it out of his mind.

In the time that I had been gone, Max had been desperate, at least through Fang's eyes. She had been more irritable than usual and thrown various items at the others. Fang bitterly recalled the flock's scanty paperback collection flying at his head. After a couple days, he had managed to calm her down and soothe her pain. Fang was very resilient and had always been Max's source of comfort, even more so since we had been like hermits living away from the world. She looked up to him so much, yet she was credited with leadership of the flock.

Anyways, she recovered after a couple weeks and learned to cope with the possibility that I might not return. She had smiled hollowly, becoming an empty shell, an echo of Maximum Ride. When I had returned, she immediately reverted back to her old self, no longer so entirely dependent on Fang. He had slipped back behind the curtain, the man to which we are to pay no attention to. He didn't mind it at all, working in the background instead of playing the lead, but he did wish that he wasn't always so invisible, figuratively and literally.

Fang was in love with Max. Deeply, truly, unconditionally, irrevocably, hopelessly. He was hooked for good, but Max pretended not to notice. For nearly ten years, Fang had felt that way and he wanted to know if it was returned.

I, being who I was and having all the backstage access that I did, knew for a fact that these feelings ran deeper than the ocean on both sides. Max loved Fang more than even she could comprehend, and not being able to understand the way she felt about him, she was scared of it. We all fear the unknown, what we do not understand and what we are unfamiliar with. Max feared her capacity to love, which was why those three words ("I love you") went virtually unspoken in our house.

Last night, Fang had tried (once again) to make these feelings known and lift the taboo on those words. He had kissed Max, pouring all the love and passion he could conjure into that kiss. And Max had kissed him back. He had whispered her name into the darkness, trying to tell her in those three letters just what he felt. She had kissed him again, hushing his whispered plea. He had said her name again, and gotten as far as, "Max, I lo-…" when she realized what he was going to say and pushed away. She had walked out the door and slept on the couch.

Fang was sick of being rejected. He probably would have moved on if not for the fact that he and Max shared a room and bed, the wings on his back, and his overall isolation from the world. Max may not have realized it, but she was abusing her right hand man and he was just about through. If she didn't face the truth, he could easily slip out the window at night and never return. Fang wasn't going to let himself be taken for granted anymore.

With Fang's thoughts flooding out of my mind, I walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs. In the kitchen, Iggy was cooking pancakes, just like Fang had said, but the kitchen felt so much emptier without Total.

"Can I help with anything?" I asked.

Iggy turned to the direction of my voice. "Good morning, Angel. Do you think that you could set the table?"


I got the plates and silverware out, setting them around the table. Our plates were chipped and scarred and the silverware dull. They'd been used a lot and had never been replaced. A couple minutes later, Iggy came around and began putting pancakes on everyone's plates. They smelled wonderful.

"Okay," Iggy said as he placed the platter in the center of the table, in case anyone wanted more, "that's about it." He walked to the kitchen doorway and leaned out, calling, "Breakfast! Get your butts down here!"

Gazzy and Nudge came from upstairs, Fang came in from outside, and Max rolled off the couch. She didn't look at Fang as she sat down across from him and began eating. He didn't say a word to anyone.

That breakfast was completely silent. None of us spoke, not even to ask someone to pass the syrup. Max and Fang seemed to be fighting (though I knew they weren't) and no one wanted to say anything to spark an argument, or suggest that they were taking sides.

When Max finished, she stood up, washed her plate, and left the kitchen. Gazzy followed suit, then Fang, and so on.

I walked out of the kitchen and through the front door, deciding to take a walk. The morning wasn't too chilly and the sun was up, so I didn't change out of my pajamas. I trudged through the woods, listening to the birds calling out to each other. Their song this morning was a tad eerie, almost mournful. The birds seemed to look at me with pitiful eyes, looking down on me from their perches in the trees. One of them cawed at me cruelly, no pity or mercy whatsoever. I glared at the bird until it flew away.

In my stroll around the house, I was very careful to avoid the spot where the little boy had died.

They hadn't asked me anything. The flock, I mean. They hadn't asked anything about where I'd been. Nothing at all. They had welcomed me back with open arms and no questions. They had let their guard down, it seemed.

But why would I think that? I was no threat; surely I couldn't still be considering betrayal.

Yet I was. To me, it was still a very real option.

Leaves and dirt and sticks crunched underfoot. Birds continued to chirp sadly above me. Animals ran through the forest, leaving a great deal of noise behind them. There was just so much noise in the forest. I didn't notice anything wrong, and neither did the others apparently.

Suddenly, the birds went quiet. The animals stopped moving. I froze. My eyes turned toward the house, my head not daring to swivel around, and I swore I saw a flash of white behind the window of Max and Fang's bedroom. But neither of them owned white clothing. A branch behind me crunched but I still didn't move.

"Ah, Eleven," came her cruel, sickly voice. "So good to see you again."

I was appalled. "We made a deal!" I shouted at her, turning on my heel. In my peripheral, I could see one of the house's glass windows shatter. I heard Nudge scream and Fang curse, over and over again. Iggy shouted and Gazzy yelled. But I didn't hear a peep out of Max from where I stood.

"Yes, Angel, indeed we did. But, you see, I couldn't risk the possibility of you saying no. Once you left, we tracked you here. You've brought us straight to Max, and that's exactly what I needed. However, if you still wish to cooperate, I'd be willing to hold up my side of the bargain and lift your curse."

"NO!" I screeched. I didn't have to think about it. Not this time. I couldn't help her capture and torture the flock. I couldn't turn my back on them. Not this time. I would rather die of insanity brought about from hearing the dead whisper their stories in my ears.

The Director's gaze didn't cease to penetrate me, but I would swear a spark of disbelief flashed across her face. Then she growled, "It doesn't matter either way. You'll die with all the rest."

Without warning, she grabbed my wrist. She gripped me so tight her knuckles were pale and my hand was quickly losing color. It hurt, though I would never admit that to her.

I saw a burst of flame lick the frame of the house, lit by the pale hand of a white-clad figure. Oh, no. Nudge screamed some more before the sound died out. I heard Fang yell, "DAMN IT ALL!" from the depths of the house. Iggy wasn't speaking, but he kept thinking, over and over, "Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…" Gazzy was trying to lead him safely away from the burning house. I still couldn't find Max, but I really wanted to assume that she was with Fang.

Then I remembered that they were sort of ignoring each other at the moment. If those two were gonna let pride get in the way of saving each other's lives, God help me I would murder them myself.

"MAX!" I heard Fang call. Of course he'd be the first to get off his high horse.

I turned to the Director. "Where is she? What have you done with her?" I hissed.

The Director smirked. "As I'm sure you've learned by now, Eleven, you should always deal with your highest priority first."

I glared at her as best I could in pain. She was looking very pompous and smug. Quite frankly, she looked like an ass.

"I loathe you," I spat at her. She just gripped me tighter and smirked.

"Eleven, do you know why the horse never bites the rider?"

I really didn't care. I just wanted to know where the hell Max was and what the hell the Director planned to do with my friends…my family…

"Because the rider controls the whip. And it would be quite foolish to ignore its sting."

There were more whitecoats arriving on the scene by the minute. Iggy and Gazzy at last stumbled out of the house, only to fall into their clutches. Gazzy's hair was singed and Iggy's clothes were charred. I could see that his right hand was burned badly, as though he had fallen onto a bit of fire. Gazzy held onto his shoulder still, even though the fire was behind them. Iggy coughed, over and over, and the sound was horrendous.

"Iggs?" Gazzy's voice trembled with fear.

He wheezed. "Yeah?" More coughing.

"Let me just say that you're really lucky to be blind right now."

I agreed with Gazzy. The sight of the army of whitecoats at our door was terrible to behold. I would've shut my eyes, but I was searching for the others.

Two minutes later, Fang struggled out, carrying Nudge. His charcoal-smeared face didn't change its expression as he took in the surrounding of whitecoats, and Nudge was unconscious.

"Where's Max?" he asked Gazzy calmly, at the exact moment that Gazzy asked, "Where's Angel?"

Fang's eyes darted over to where I stood. You're with them, he thought at me. It was not a question, though it did hold a hint of surprise.

I opened my mouth to explain, but then I realized that's what it would look like. I'd had the opportunity to explain, and I'd wasted it. Max was missing, and the blame fell most naturally on me.

I didn't reply to him, verbally, physically, or telepathically. He looked away in shame.

Just tell me where she is… Please…

I don't know. Honest. And I'm not with them. I swear I'll explain it all later, I thought back.

How am I supposed to believe you?

I didn't know what to say to that. I knew he had a point.

I tried to get into her head; I tried to see what the Director was thinking, to see if I could find out where Max was. It was one of the dumbest mistakes of my life because her mind was so well protected that the moment I tried to push my way in, I felt myself slipping into darkness, unconsciousness, and I didn't know what would happen to me or the flock.


I was sure that my eyes were open, but I couldn't see any difference between the moments they were open and the moments they were closed. I could hear rustling close by and I knew I wasn't alone, wherever I was.

My eyes finally adjusted to the dark and I could almost make out four figures around me. The flock. Sans one.

"Where are we?" I asked weakly.

The little light there was reflected off Gazzy's blue eyes and I could see them dart toward me. "You're awake."

I nodded and sat up. "Yeah. Who all's here?"

"All of us except Max," Iggy said. He coughed afterward, the smoke still tickling his lungs. "Nudge is unconscious, but she should be okay."

"Okay," I said, more to myself than to Iggy.

Fang didn't say a word, but his mind was racing. His top priority was currently finding out where the hell Max was, and he was searching for every possible way to get that information and get out of there.

Then he surprised by asking me (mentally, of course) if I knew. He looked into my eyes with so much hope, like he was absolutely positive that I knew where she was. Which I didn't.

I shook my head, trying my best to look sincere. It was the honest truth.

I realized, though, what the Director was playing at. She had planned this all along so that she would win, no matter my decision. She had always planned for it to look bad for me, for it to look like I had betrayed the flock, even if I hadn't. I disappeared, came back, and soon enough the School comes knocking.

And Fang already knew I had something to do with it, though he couldn't even begin to imagine the truth.

AN: ...And the truth is so much bigger than Angel can even imagine at this point. Rereading this chapter, I found my eyes tearing up. It's back to the School for our favorite feathery friends. And isn't kinda strange that the birds seemed to know what was happening? I've always heard that animals have that sort of sixth sense and know when "something wicked this way comes". As for using the birds, I thought they would definitely have a connection with the flock, with the avian DNA and all.

Okay, so who's read and enjoyed The Hunger Games and/or Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins????? Well, if you have...go read my fic for it, all about Foxface. (: AND!!! I've just found out that BOOK THREE will be called Mockingjay, which I think is quite fitting, as the Mockingjay becomes Katniss's symbol and the symbol of the revolution against the Capitol, AND IT WILL BE RELEASED TUESDAY, AUGUST 24TH OF THIS YEAR!!! (The day after my birthday!!!) AAAAAHHHHH!!! Now I know what to tell my dad that I want for my birthday, haha. So, yeah, if you're like a die-hard fan, you can pre-order it on Amazon right now (I just love Amazon) for...$8.50, apparently saving yourself almost ten bucks. (I pre-ordered FANG this way and paid the same price. ;))

REVIEWS are like BOOKS that we're all waiting for. Keep the wait short(er) by REVIEWING!!

9. Erasers Don't Work for All Mistakes

AN: Parts of this chapter make my stomach churn and my fingers tremble. I think this is a definite "T plus". I tried very hard to write it, and I think I did a pretty good job. Enjoy, if you can...

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Nine: Erasers Don't Work for All Mistakes

I was back in a dog cage. My right wing felt broken and my back ached. My left cheek was bruised badly, cracked teeth hiding behind it, and there was blood drying on my right shoulder. There was blood soaked into my hair, part of which had been pulled out in ugly chunks, and my arms and legs had multiple cuts, deep and shallow, lined up on them in a series of geometric patterns. I felt like road kill and the others didn't look much better.

It turned out that, over the years we disappeared off the map, the School had been hard at work. Part of this work involved furthering and perfecting their monsters.

The Erasers were the worst.

Their fangs were long and sharper than ever and strong enough to rip a limb clean off in less than a second. Killing was their sole purpose and mission. Their claws were long and jagged and bore a terrifying resemblance to saws. They were sharp and painful and nearly impossible to break. They lived longer than their predecessors, for as long as twenty years. They could smell blood from a mile away and it sent them into a shark-like frenzy. Their tongues were like acid-coated sandpaper that would cut and burn at once. Their snouts, arms, legs, tails, and torsos were covered in razor-sharp fur that could shred a sheet of metal at a touch as light as the wind. Their only flaw was that they couldn't shed their lupine form and take on a more human appearance. They stood on two legs and had two arms and a human-ish head. But they were stuck with the fur, teeth, tails, and claws twenty-four/seven.

The Erasers were bred from the time they were infants and grew at extremely fast rates, aging in appearance as much as a year a day. They were trained in every form of fighting from around the globe and saw more frames a minute than humans did. They could anticipate your every move even before you could, and that's why we were so beat up.

The whitecoats were barbarians and enjoyed seeing their entertainment half-killed, just like gladiators in ancient times. Too bad we were the sacrificial lambs.

Fang wouldn't look at me. He was sure I was one of the bad guys, and I had a strong suspicion he was sharing some of that with Iggy, who also refused to turn my way. We had seen Max about three times in the School. There wasn't a scratch on her. It seemed to me that this would paint her as the bad guy, but I was still stuck in those shoes.

And another thing: I still heard the voices. It was the worst in the courtyard where they would have us battle the Erasers, because so many others had been killed there. I got so distracted at times, and that was how I always lost. If I had the time to read their minds and figure them out, I would, but everyone behind the scenes at the School was blocked off. I could read five minds, but sometimes the flock even shut me out.

Most of the time, I couldn't read Max. Sometimes I got a little scrap of something, but I could never know beyond her immediate thought at the moment. Fang didn't trust me enough to open his mind to me. He was angry and alone and helpless and he thought I was at fault, which I pretty much was. Iggy was as silent as he was blind, his mind masking itself. Gazzy asked me something occasionally, but I never had an answer. Nudge cried and sobbed, wrapping her wings around her like a protective cocoon, but she couldn't protect herself from the whitecoats.

Suddenly, one of them walked by and paused outside Iggy's cage, opening it. He shook it, saying, "Get out, Subject Eight, and come along."

I could see the fear painted across Iggy's face. The last time he had been taken by a whitecoat alone, he had come back blind. I could understand his reluctance.

"Come on, I don't have all day. Get your ass out of the crate right now." The whitecoat grimaced down at him. I hadn't seen Henson since my previous visit, and I slightly hoped that he was alright.

Hesitantly, Iggy pulled himself out, trying not to wince in pain when his broken arm hit the side of the cage. He limped away with the whitecoat, his pant leg half gone and revealing the blood gushing out of an ugly wound he had received from an Eraser, and the rest of us watched him go, wondering if we would ever see our blind companion again.


Nudge, Gazzy, Fang, and I saw Max again that night. Iggy still hadn't returned and we were all really starting to wonder if his crate would remain empty.

The first I noticed about Max was that her clothes were much nicer than usual. The second thing I noticed was that she looked pissed. The third, her mind was now completely closed off to me.

The fourth thing I noticed, the one that stole the majority of my attention, was that Jeb Batchelder was walking at her side. I glared knives and daggers at him, hoping he could feel them pierce his skin.

Max's eyes darted around. "Where's Iggy?" she demanded.

I surprised everyone, including myself, by answering, "One of the whitecoats came for him a few hours ago. We haven't seen him since."

Max frowned. "Great. What the hell happened to you guys?"

Gazzy coughed. "Erasers."

Max sharply turned to look at Jeb, who went pale. "And who let that happen?" She walked over to Fang's crate specifically, looking in at him and even reaching in to touch his bruised and bloodied face.

"I don't know, Maximum."

That didn't help calm her down at all. "I want them out of here."

"I'm sorry, but that can't happen. They've been assigned their roles in the coming plan and you've been assigned yours. And I assure you that them being freed is not part of the plan."

Max threw her arms up in frustration. "Then I refuse to cooperate!"

Jeb shook his head. "No, Max, you know that's not an option. You have to save the world, not them. It's your purpose, your destiny. Not theirs."

Something cracked in Max at that. "DAMN IT, JEB!" she screamed. "DON'T YOU GET IT? I DON'T WANT TO SAVE THE WORLD!"

I knew that she meant it, too. There was a fire burning in her eyes that could scare the willies out of Iggy and I actually felt a bit of pity deep (very, very, VERY deep) inside of me for Jeb.

For a long while, silence hung in the atmosphere around us like an impending, threatening storm cloud. It was also very awkward, as the four of us were stuck watching Max and her father fight with each other.

Finally, Jeb rubbed his temple, like there was a flood of stress behind his skull just waiting to break loose, and said with great sadness in his voice, "Then we are all doomed."


Iggy didn't come back until what we assumed was that night. There was a whitecoat guiding him with her right hand on his back. He had been cleaned up and his right arm was in a sling. He was wearing clean clothes and I couldn't see a spot of blood on him.

The only disconcerting thing about his appearance was the bandage wrapped around his eyes. It was stark white and neatly, but tightly, wrapped.

"In you go, Subject Eight," the whitecoat said, gently helping Iggy into the crate. "Remember, don't take the bandage off until you're told."

Iggy nodded in wordless response.

"Alright." The whitecoat locked his cage and walked away without another word.

The moment she was out of earshot, Nudge asked, "What happened, Iggy?"

Iggy didn't move at all, but responded, "I don't know. They took me somewhere, gave me anesthesia, and I was out. I woke up clean and blindfolded. I have no idea what they did to me."

"But…why your eyes? You're already blind," Gazzy said.

Iggy shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it. What'd I miss?"

"Max came by," Nudge whispered. Iggy turned in her direction, as well as the rest of us.


"Yeah. Jeb was with her. He mentioned something about a plan and how she couldn't free us, though she wanted to. He said it was her destiny to save the world and she screamed that she didn't want to. He said we're all doomed and they walked away not long after that," Nudge elaborated.

I think Iggy's brow furrowed, but it was hard to tell with the bandage. "But why doesn't she want to save us? Why won't she save the world?"

Fang spoke up this time. "I think she does want to save us. That's the problem. She can't save both."

The other part of the problem he didn't mention: if she chose us over the world, where would we go?

AN: ...I hope the description of those Erasers sent chills racing down your spine and made something ugly boil in your stomach. Personally, I think they are horrible and terrifying. As for Max, her anger is going to take her to some extremes. She doesn't want to save the world. If she refuses the job, who will carry it on for her? Well, unfortunately, our good friend the Director has an agenda all her own...

Okay, so my friend Jasmin brought this manga artbook to school, from Kaori Yuki (the author of Angel Sanctuary, Cain Saga, Godchild, and other stuff). On the title page, there's a girl with long blond hair, blue eyes, and white wings. After I looked at this particular picture (I assume she's supposed to be an angel from Angel Sanctuary), I realized that she looks a lot like Angel, Angel from MR, and how I think she would look in this story. If you can, try to find the artbook and see for yourself. The other art is really pretty. (:

FANG will have officially arrived in the US in a week and half!!!!!!!!!!

REVIEWS are like DRUGS in a way. Quite stimulating, really, but not very good when you are lacking them. (No, I am not a druggie. I AM addicted to REVIEWS, however...) REVIEW!!

10. Noise

AN: So, this chapter isn't as...stomach churning as the last. I love the very end of it, and it helped to fuel some terrifically gruesome ideas for the final battle. I think it will definitely be...vivid. Graphic. The reason this fic is T, pushing M (I think). Anyway...FANG COMES OUT MONDAY!!! *fangirl squeal* I read the first few pages online at Max-Dan-Wiz, but the very first page left me itching in anticipation (and slight anger). The rumors were true: a character named Dylan is introduced. *GASP!* Guess we'll have to wait and see about that...

Ahem. So. The chapter. Enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Ten: Noise

I woke up to the smell of smoke. And I began to cough erratically. I opened my eyes and they burned. The air was so thick with smoke that I could barely see beyond my hands before I closed my eyes again to stop the sting.

Then I realized that smoke, especially that much, meant fire. And fire was not good.

I could hear the others around me coughing and moaning. I wasn't imagining the smoke; that was for sure. The air was smothered with it and it could be deadly.

I opened my eyes again, this time ignoring the burning sting. I would swear I heard someone calling for help as a door slammed shut. I didn't think this was a person entering to help us out, but one leaving to save his own skin.

"Help!" I called out, joining the other voice, before coughing again.

The lab door opened again and I heard footsteps coming inside. They sounded rushed, frantic, and I heard crate locks clicking in the footsteps' wake. Someone had come for us, to free us, someone who had taken pity on us. Suddenly, I heard my lock click.

"Get out of here, Angel. Now. Save yourself," Max practically growled.

"Max?" I asked unsurely.

"I said get out of here, squirt. Even if I can't get out, you and the rest of the flock have to go for it." Max sounded very determined and stubborn.

"Max, you will make it."

"What, did your whitecoat buddies tell you that?" Max retorted with ice in her voice.

And it stung. Even Max believed that I was a traitor. And I pretty much was. Without another word, I got out of the crate and watched her free the others through the dense smoke.

"Get out of here!" she told us, her voice crackly from the smoke. "Get yourselves out and meet me at the lake nearby if you can!"

No one responded verbally, but I saw Fang look at Max questioningly. He didn't want to leave her. She looked him in the eye defiantly, daring him to stop her, but I swear she hesitated for a moment.

Finally, she said more gently, "Go. Don't worry about me. I'll find you." Then she did what I don't think any of us expected: she kissed Fang for the briefest second, but it seemed to give him the strength he needed to go on, with or without her.

"Okay," he whispered, then he turned to us. "C'mon, guys. Let's get out of this dump."

We started running, trying to get out of the School as soon as we could. We had all the hallways memorized and every exit tacked onto our mental maps. Avoiding the smoke and fire was the hardest part.

Everything was chaotic. The whitecoats scurried about, trying to save their own sorry selves, even at the expense of their colleagues' lives.

For me, the worst thing was the sound of death. New voices were constantly popping into my mind as their owners died in the fire. One voice terrified me above all, partly because of what it was saying, but mainly because of who was saying it:

No, Maximum, please. I beg of you. I never meant for all this to happen…I don't want them to die; I didn't choose that…Fate did…No, Maximum, please. I'm your father; I love you greatly…It's true, even if I rarely acted like a father to you…Don't do this…

The voice belonged to Jeb. His last moments had been spent talking to Max.

She had murdered him. Max had murdered Jeb, her own father, all the while he had begged for mercy.

The dead don't lie. I knew it was the truth.

But I also knew Max had her strange, twisted reasons.

One more thing I knew: Max had started the fire, very much on purpose. She was responsible for the death of all these people.

I pushed myself to run faster and get the hell out of there.


We waited at the little lake seven and a half miles southeast of the School for six hours before Max showed up. She was bruised and bloodied and battle-scarred. We were all quite relieved that she had made it out alive, but this relief was most obvious in Fang's eyes and demeanor.

Max embraced Fang, obviously relieved to see him, and forgetting their previous conflict. It was all water under the bridge to her, and she was closer to accepting his love. This was a good thing, I supposed, because Fang was close to losing his patience.

Max hugged Gazzy next, ruffling his hair in a motherly way, though he was a good few inches taller than her. Nudge came after, bursting into tears and saying over and over again how glad she was to be out of the School and how horrible it had been there. Max looked at me and faltered. Her mind was still blocked off to me, but her eyes told me that she knew of my previous encounter with the Director, which made me realize that I hadn't heard her sickly voice in the multitude of the dead left behind at the School. Finally, Max hugged me awkwardly, patting my back.

Then came Iggy. She hugged his waist like he was the brother he had always acted like to her.

"I'm glad you guys all made it out," she sighed, letting herself drop down onto the ground to rest. The rest of us mimicked her actions, lying down to relax on the lake shore.

"Max, what exactly happened back there?" Nudge asked. "I mean, all I saw was a ton of smoke and then you came and released us and the experiments—"

"Nudge, don't call them that."

"What, experiments? But—"

"Do you consider yourself an experiment?"

Nudge didn't say anything for a moment, slightly embarrassed, then pressed again, "What happened?"

Max sat up, staring out over the lake. The sun was lowering itself steadily behind the hills, the worst of its heat disappearing with it. The fading light reflected off the water, a beautiful sight to behold.

"What happened…" Max repeated. "Well, I guess they had an accident or something in one of the labs and it caught fire. Whatever it was, it saved our sorry asses." Her eyes, thoughts, and the voices of the dead at the School all told me this was a lie. I wondered if Fang saw right through this lie, or if he bought it.

"But how did you know what to do? Where were you the whole time? Were you okay? You didn't look too bad when you stopped by, in fact, you looked great. Where were they keeping you?" Nudge ranted, sitting up to watch Max.

Max's face and eyes emptied of all emotion. She looked at me and I made sure to let her know that I knew the truth—or at least part of it. Her eyes flickered away quickly.

"I was living like one of them. They wanted me to help them with some 'master plan' of theirs, and they wouldn't tell me what it was until I agreed. I said I wouldn't agree unless you guys were safe and I could keep track of everything that happened to you. They were really very reluctant to allow that.

"I was living in some special quarters they had set apart. Bed, shower, food, the works. But I wanted to know if you guys were okay.

"They constantly had me touring the School, looking at all the different experiments, trying to convince me to join them. It didn't work; it only disgusted me and made me stand more firmly in refusal of their offer. Finally, I convinced Jeb to let me see you guys. But, as you might have noticed, he spent the majority of the time shoving garbage down my throat about saving the world. I've had enough of him."

"Max, what happened to Jeb?" Gazzy asked, cautiously eyeing Max from his resting spot.

Her voice was very guarded as she replied, "I don't know. But I hope his guts are burning and rotting in that damn hellhole."

They, in fact, were. And I knew that for sure.

"Did you see the Erasers, Max?" Iggy's voice choked up with fear.

Max nodded. "Yes. And I'm sorry you guys had to go through that. I nearly snapped someone's neck after I saw what they'd done to you guys."

Fang cleared his throat. "Speaking of the whitecoats and what they did to us, why do you still have that bandage on, Iggs?"

Iggy touched it, as it he had forgotten its presence. "I don't know…she told me not to take it off until I was told…"

"Take it off, Iggy," I whispered, knowing he would hear. "Take the bandage off of your eyes."

He was hesitant to follow my orders, but I somehow felt it was the right thing for him to do at this time. So slowly, carefully, Iggy took the gauze off his closed eyes with his unbroken left arm. His face was calm, relaxed, as he opened his eyes. Then, he gasped, "Oh my God."

Everyone was immediately on their toes, everyone but me, because I already knew what was going on.

"What's wrong, Iggy?" Gazzy asked worriedly.

Iggy stared straight forward, his eyes a startling shade of blue, a shade I had never seen them before, a shade that contrasted sharply with his fiery hair. The dimming sunlight reflected off his eyeballs as he gaped forward in amazement.

"Nothing's wrong, Gazzy…" He stood up and walked closer to the edge of the lake, not letting his gaze drift away from the sunset. "It's just…I've never seen anything more beautiful…"

"What…?" Nudge said, letting the rest of her question hang in the air around us.

"The sunset…I can see it. I can see it all."

AN: I hope you guys enjoyed reading that last scene as much as I enjoyed writing it. I started tearing up. And Max? Who saw that coming? I sure didn't. I did not plan for Max to kill Jeb, or set the School on fire. Stupid out of control characters. Angel recently did something unexpected too...Grr.

More on FANG: I've been hearing lots about it on Max-Dan-Wiz, such as Dylan is introduced within the first 12 chapters; there's an iTouch/iPhone app where you can download said first 12 chapters; the ending is supposedly shocking :O; Dylan is apparently gorgeous (but no one can beat out Iggy); you need a 3.0 update to download the aforementioned app (either that of my brother lied to me 'cause he's just too lazy to download it); and I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT FOR IT!!

REVIEW if you want FAX to LIVE ON!!!!! (And Fang...)

11. Running Never Felt So Good

AN: On Wednesday, I got FANG in the mail. I started reading at about 4PM and I finished just after 10PM. I don't think I've ever read that fast before. I mean, 300+ pages in six hours? It's official: I have no life. Overall, I liked the book (I'm currently rereading it(:). It made me laugh it made me "Awwwww", and I spent the last fifty pages or so bawling like I've never bawled before (curse you, Jose, for making me such a sap!). (Slight spoilers follow.) I found out that my theory on Angel havin a Voice was correct, though it does not come into play for this fic (check out Silver Linings for that, or Kina Kalamari's Angelic Tyranny). I also found myself hating the oxymoronical (is that a word? Whatever. You know what I mean.) little brat even more. I even began to regret making her the narrator of this story because that means that I don't really get to come up with a gruesome way to kill her. Now, for Fang, around whom much of the drama centers: I am sooo glad I get to kill him. I was pacing around my room, thinking up bloodier ways to kill him than I had originally planned, because it just wasn't painful enough. I wrote his death in my calculus class on Thursday, and, now satisfied, I will settle for leaving hate comments on his Max-Dan-Wiz profile. (x Oh, what an evil author I am...

Now, the chapter. Enough of my ranting. Enjoy!!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Eleven: Running Never Felt So Good

The trees became our domain that night. We each picked one, or shared, and got as comfortable as we dared. Iggy took first watch, not wanting to close his eyes now that they could see.

Not surprisingly, no one wanted to share a tree with me. I really needed to explain the situation to them some time soon, and tell them everything that had happened. No more secrets. I would tell them everything.

Okay, maybe not so much about how far I went with Darcy. Or about the drugs. Or the alcohol. Maybe just the essentials. You know, just about being captured and what the Director said. I'd leave Darcy and Lucas and the rest of them out of it. And the fight with Total, too. For good measure.

No, no, no. Just tell them the whole damn story for once. Don't lie, don't withhold information. Their lives could be at stake here, Angel, I admonished myself.

I sighed in exasperation and turned myself over on the branch of the tree I had chosen. Iggy looked over at me. I closed my eyes, heard a whoosh through the air, and opened my eyes to see Iggy perched on the branch next to mine.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi, Iggy," I mumbled sleepily.

"Why'd you do it, Angel?" Iggy was obviously in a no-nonsense mood, getting straight to the point. "Why did you betray us?"

I looked him straight in the eye, knowing he could see the sincerity there. "It's not what it looks like, Ig. Not at all."

"How can you say that? You freaking disappear, then once you're back, you bring the School with you. The Director was talking to you outside. It was obviously a setup."

"Yeah, a setup to frame me and make it look like I had betrayed you, which I hadn't." I almost had. But there's a solid difference. Okay, maybe not that solid, but there's still a difference.

Iggy looked at me dubiously.

I sighed. "Look, I know it looks really bad for me, but just remember that I was suffering alongside you guys. Even if I did betray you, they turned their backs on me, so it just about evens thing out."

"That's not the problem."

"Then what is?"

His fathomless blue eyes looked straight into mine. "How're we supposed to trust you, Angel, if we think you're gonna betray us or hold things back from us?"

I didn't know what to say. He had a point. A damn good one at that.

I turned away from him, too ashamed. "Maybe it is my fault, Iggs, but I didn't mean for it to happen. Please know that."

I could tell that he was very doubtful and cautious. It would take a while to earn back their trust. Maybe forever.

"Did you know?" Iggy asked me.

I turned back to look at him. "Know what, Iggy?"

He pointed to his eyes. "That they were gonna fix it?"

I shook my head. "I had no idea until you took off the bandage and your first thought was about the clear water and the radiant sunset, then surprise that you could actually see it."

He ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah, it was amazing. I haven't seen anything but darkness and whiteness since I was five years old, and before that everything I saw was terrible. Death. Blood. Fear. That's all there was at the School. And now, after all these years, I open my eyes and I see the sun setting over a little lake. It's just…breathtaking. I never realized there was so much to see in the world, so much…detail. All I knew was darkness, and now I can see everything."

"I guess wishes can some true, huh? Years and years of the same birthday wish and it finally happened," I whispered.

He smirked. "I guess you would know about that. But yeah, every year, every second of every day, I would wish that I could see, even if it was only for two seconds. Now I can. Maybe for the rest of my life."

"I sure hope so, Iggy. I sure hope so."


The first rays of dawn hit my closed eyes, causing bright shapes to dance across my eyelids. I felt my shoulder moving. I reluctantly opened my eyes and found Gazzy there, shaking me. His face was as blank as a crisp new piece of paper, so I knew nothing was wrong.

"Angel, you take last watch," he said to me. His eyes betrayed no emotion and his mind was blocked, so I knew that he was still convinced that I was a bad guy.

I nodded, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. He flew away as I sat up, trying to busy my mind with trivial matters so that I wouldn't fall asleep—and so that I wouldn't think about the bigger matters at hand.

Needless to say, I ended up thinking on the big, important matters, the ones that were staring me in the face:

The Director had betrayed me. She had released me, letting me think I was off the hook for a while, but she had really just tracked me to the safe house.

We had been captured. We hadn't heard from the School or Itex or any of those guys in years, and they suddenly popped up, and they had connections. They had used others to get to us, and I was afraid their puppets were in for much more than they had bargained for.

Itex was obviously not dead. It had been thriving like cockroaches hidden under a rock, multiplying, growing stronger right underneath our noses. They had come back at us full-force, when we had least expected it.

We had come full circle in our lives. We'd had some years of peace in the E-shaped house, been found, captured, gone on the run, calmed down a bit, and permanently settled. Then we'd been found, captured…

And now we were on the run again.

We were in deep trouble. We were once again on the "Must Eliminate" list of too many people. Our heads were pretty much on the chopping block, and there was no one to save our necks anymore, now that Jeb was dead.

Iggy could see again. For some bizarre, unknown reason, the School had chosen to experiment on Iggy's sight seventeen years ago, leaving him totally blind. Then they did something that allowed him to see things on a white background, but nothing more. Now, they had returned his sight to him. Fully, completely, totally. Iggy could see again, probably better than the rest of us. He had wished for this every birthday since he had lost his vision, and apparently most every day.

Max was keeping secrets. Itex had tried to convert her to their cause, Jeb had wanted her to save the world, but she wasn't going to share any of this vital information with us anytime soon.

Max was a murderer. Well, I guess, we all kind of were. We had all killed Erasers, Flyboys, and M-Geeks in our time, but this was different. Max had killed actual people. She had murdered Jeb, her own father, and with him any chances we had of surviving. She had set fire to a building which resulted in the deaths of most of the whitecoats in that School and the majority of the experiments being housed there. And all the while she hadn't even bothered to take down the biggest threat: the Director.

Another thing I had noticed: the Director was in bad condition. Though her DNA, particularly the DNA concerning health and lifespan, had been fused with that of a Galapagos tortoise, which can live more than a hundred years, her lifeline was quickly running out. More of the tortoise's DNA was becoming prominent, causing the exaggerated wrinkles and saggy skin on her face. Her hair had lost its color and was falling out plentifully. She had very broad shoulders and they almost seemed like a shell, as though at any moment her head would sink in and hide her ugly face. Even tortoises die. The Director's days were numbered.

All these things ran through my mind. I was pretty sure there were strings attaching some of these events, some of these ideas, but I just couldn't see them. It all had to be connected somehow, didn't it? But the strings and wires were all jumbled up, reminding me of those games in coloring books for little kids. This one was just a lot sicker and lives, our lives, depended on finding the connections.

Even with my mind in a mess over all this, I couldn't help but feel this deep sense of calm. It was the bird in me coming out, I suppose. I was back in my natural habitat: freedom. And it never felt better. Yeah, my life was in danger. Yeah, I had screwed up big time. Yeah, everyone I had ever loved was in jeopardy.

But I still felt great. I was on the run, and I felt more alive than I had in years.

AN: Yes, I admit this one was pretty much a filler/summary of the events thus far. But you see? That's why I love Iggy so much: he's caring, calm, reliable, a good friend, open-minded, and he doesn't put the flock (or me, for that matter) through half the crap Fang manages to put them (and me) through in aforementioned fifty pages. I LOVE YOU, IGGY!! Which is exactly why I must kill you...horribly...sorry.

I have a oneshot in the works. And, yes. Book six was inspiring. I may be spewing out more multi-chapter MR fics in the future. I'm going to finish writing this one first, though. Which won't take much longer. (:

REVIEWS are like the TRUTH. The truth can hurt, the truth can save, the truth can be beautiful and wonderful, the truth can be repulsive. Tell the truth. REVIEW!!

12. This is Now, Part Three

AN: Guilt is getting to me. I'm currently reading The Arabian Nights for English class and I keep coming across the phrase, "the greatest joy." I'm gonna try to get around to updating that fic soon...

Okay, back to Maximum Ride. Chapter Twelve, Angel is in the present. At first, the chapter was much shorter than this, only up to the page break. Then I got a brilliant idea to not make the present so...dull and I needed to add to this chapter. I hope you enjoy it. Wait, actually, I use that phrase to much. Ahem. I do sincerely hope that you delight in reading this wonderfully tragic selection of my story, If Only. (:

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twelve: This is Now

There he is, standing in front of me in perfect detail, right down to the last eyelash. Darcy's dark eyes look into mine, making my knees weak. His hand reaches out to me, as if to caress my cheek. I close my eyes, waiting to feel his skin brush against mine. I don't feel his hand cup my cheek. Instead, I feel a chilling breeze lightly hit my cheek.

I open my eyes with a start and jump back, remembering where I am and why I'm here and who he is.

He's dead.

I shake my head, scolding myself for what I've done, what I've let happen. I let myself fall for him once again, in just an instant. What is wrong with me?

Darcy looks at me, his eyes overflowing with sadness. I want to launch myself into his arms.

But he's dead.

He's not really here. He's just an illusion. He's just another dead person that was conjured up by this curse that I have to live with. He's no one.

He's just dead.

"Pretty Angel, please give me that chance."

"No. No, no, no. I can't do that. You're not here, you're—"

He grabs my wrist. I freeze. That can't happen. He's not here, he's can't be touching me, he's nothing more than an echo, an imprint of the past.

He's just a ghost.

He's dead!

I stare at his hand on my arm in bewilderment. I can't stop myself anymore. I look at his face and let myself fall into his fathomless eyes. They're just like darkness, endless darkness. Comforting darkness.

He steps closer to me. I know that I should feel a small trace of worry, fear even, but I can't find any reason to feel that way. He lifts his free hand and this time it's not a chilling breeze that I feel: it's the softness of his palm. He strokes my cheek gently and I lean into his hand. My forearm relaxes, my muscles softening under his touch. I swear that I feel my heart thawing out under this dead man's loving touch.


I snap out of this trance once again. Darcy Higgins is dead. This is just what's left of him. Just the soft whisper of the dead, no different than any other dead person.

But I don't really believe that. He is different than others who are dead. He entered my life and showed me a different world. He taught me how to love. He was no ordinary person, and is no ordinary dead person. He is Darcy Higgins. And he is dead.

Darcy is dead. He's dead, just like the others. Just like everyone else that I ever cared about. They all died, at different hands, but hands practically guided by my own.

Something inside of me breaks at this realization. It really is my fault that I see them before me. My stupidity brought them to their grave. I killed them, therefore I, too, am a murderer.

My knees buckle under me and I fall to the ground once again. The snow is cold against my legs, making me shiver. I can almost feel, literally feel, my mind fold in on itself, cave in. My walls start to crumble down and I can't stop them, not this time.

You see, for some time, I hadn't heard the voices of the dead to their full degree. They had been toned down so that they were quieter, subtler. My walls had kept them away enough for me to live my life to some degree of normality. I didn't hear them all the time in this way, and when I did, they weren't so loud.

But my protection is failing me at the most critical moment. My walls are tumbling down and there is no way to stop them. I'm dreading the pain I know I will feel, even though it has yet to come.

Tears collect in my eyes. I brush them away with too much force, accidentally scratching the skin beneath my eye. This spot begins to swell, I see it do so, and then I feel blood trickle down my cheek. My fingertips instinctively brush against this fresh wound, much gentler this time, and they come back reddened.

A single drop of blood falls and nestles itself in the snow. It might look like I'm crying tears of blood. The blood dissolves into the snow, bringing back a rush of memories. Blood in the snow. Bodies in a clearing. Death in the air. Blood everywhere.

I look back at Darcy, his dark eyes full of concern and one thing becomes clear through all the noise in my head, all the pain in my body, all the memories swirling around me.

Darcy Higgins is in none of these memories.


The time wears on. I still cannot remember Darcy in this field, in this forest, facing his death. He wasn't here; I'm sure of it. Is he dead? Apparently he is.

The ghosts of the past dance before my eyes, performing their bloody ritual. Darcy continues to do nothing but stand before me. Shouldn't he also be playing his role in this perilous battle?

"Oh, pretty Angel. What are you thinking about?"

I look up at Darcy."You shouldn't be here," I tell him.

"But I am."

"Why, Darcy? Why are you here? You didn't die here."

"But I did die, pretty Angel. I died for the same reason these other people died." He gestures to the battling figures in front of us. "And I'm here to make it known."

"How did you even get here though?"

He shrugs. "I walked."

I look at him dubiously. "Yeah, you just up and walked here."

"I did."

"None of this makes any sense, Darcy. You do realize that, don't you?"

"But soon it all will, Angel. Soon you'll understand everything, and you'll see clearer than you've ever seen before."

I blink. "Sure. Okay. Let's say for a moment that you're right."

"Which I am."

"Whatever. I shouldn't see you here, and you definitely shouldn't see me."

"Weirder things have happened in the world, pretty Angel. And this is just the beginning."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Stranger thing are about to unfold, things you wouldn't believe, even in your wildest dreams."

I stare into his eyes. I want so badly for him to just go away, for this all to be just that: a dream. Darcy's not here. He's not speaking to me. My subconscious mind is only fooling me. "What if I don't believe you?"

"It doesn't matter whether or not you believe me, pretty Angel. You can't stop the course of fate, of destiny. I'm sure you've learned that by now."

"I'm not going to listen to you," I warn.

"You don't necessarily have to listen to me. But it might be hard to not listen to them," Darcy says, pointing over my shoulder. I follow his finger, at first seeing nothing but Max, snapping the neck of one whitecoat and stabbing another with a knife she stole from one of the fallen. Fang is beside her, covering for her, despite his severely wounded state. He is shot again, in the arm, by a whitecoat who was aiming for Max. Fang clutches his arm, trying to ignore the pain and the blood pouring out of the fresh wound. He stumbles toward the whitecoat, his leg having also been shot some time ago. She shoots again. Fang winces but presses forward. Someone shoots from a different angle, and nails him in the neck. I see Fang's eyes roll back into his head as he fights to stay conscious. He feels like it's his duty to protect Max and not let her die. The whitecoat before him cackles as she shoots him again, leaving twin holes in his chest, his heart in between them.

I hear a rustle behind this gore-fest, a sound that should not be heard. I see a hand, a hand so pale I know it does not belong to the living. The first face I see sends a wave of slight warmth through my body, chased by memories of freshly-baked cookies and good times. However, the second face stops all these happy memories cold in their tracks. I glare at her, knowing for a fact that she did not perish here. She seems to feel my gaze and turns. Her chocolate eyes, her mother's eyes, her sister's eyes, are glassy and solid, the eyes of the dead. She does not react to me accusing glare; just simply stares at me. I break from her and turn to Darcy.

"I hope you were not talking about her," I hiss. He looks at the ground and I notice for the first time that his pale, translucent feet are bare.

"Strange things are about to take place, Angel. It's best you prepare yourself for them." Darcy looks back up at me, then at the two new additions to this dead party. Dr. Valencia Martinez walks right through the battle, ignoring the gunshots and dead bodies falling to the ground. I glare again and her companion does not move.


AN: That's just the first part of Fang's death. There's more to come. I was pretty much going to leave it at that, but then I read FANG...

So...what did Ella do? If Angel hates her, it MUST be something terrible...Ella will officially enter the story (in the past) in Chapter Fifteen...I think...

GUESS WHAT???!!! I JUST POSTED TWO MR ONESHOTS TODAY!! GO CHECK THEM OUT! (There's: A Red-Haired Wonder (I'm sure you can figure out who it's about.) and Broken Falls, which is POST-FANG.)

IMPORTANT!!: It is very possible that next week, there will not be an update. I'll be on spring break and out of state, so I might have an issue with time and Internet. Updates will resume regularly by the second Friday in April. If I'm unable to update, just read the oneshots I posted in the meantime. Thank you for your patience. (:

REVIEWS are like SCHOOL BREAKS. Refreshing, rejuvenating, wonderful...REVIEW!!

13. Some Things Will Never Change

AN: So, I'm not at all sure if I'll have the chance to post tomorrow, but I got a hold of the computer and an Internet connection tonight, so I intend to use it.

I am in Utah, and it is cold. I'm sorta excited for Saturday, 'cause for us Mormons it's General Conference this weekend, and my family got tickets. (: Never been to it before, so I'm psyched to see it all for real (and hopefully not fall asleep), and I get to walk around Temple Square afterward. Should be fun. (:

ANYWAYS, the story. Usually this sort of chapter would be my favorite to write, but this fic's different somehow. I'm just finishing the chapter that goes through the second half of the infamous battle, and the deaths are just so fun to write. (Maybe my friend is right: I've become a sadist.) So enjoy the chapter. I actually liked it a fair amount. (:

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter (Unlucky Number) Thirteen: Some Things Will Never Change

A week had passed and we pressed forward, heading in every direction but back to where we had come from. Max was stony and quiet, taking on those Fang-like attributes and barely speaking to anyone—except, of course, Fang. It really was just like the old days. Max and Fang forgot their quarrel with each other. They were best friends again, and maybe more.

Max had volunteered for fist watch, Fang for second, and it was now second watch. Max was not yet asleep, opting to stay awake with Fang for a while instead. My thoughts, and the ones of those around me, kept me from falling asleep. My heart was pounding, my blood racing, at the thought of telling the flock what had happened. Sleep would not come to me that night.

I wanted a distraction. So I chose to eavesdrop on Max and Fang's conversation, and it was very interesting:

"Fang, do you ever wonder what it'd be like to just be at peace?"

For a moment, there was silence. Then: "Yeah, Max. Yeah, I do."

"What does it look like to you?"

"Well…it looks like happiness, happiness and…love."


"Yeah, Max, you know, that warm fuzzy tingling you get when you're with someone special."

"You mean that tickle in your heart?"

"Yeah, that."

"How do you know what it is?"

"Who said I do?"

"You suggested it."

"Well maybe I do know what it is, and maybe I don't. How do you know what it is?"

For a long time, Max didn't say a word; she hardly dared to exhale.

"Uh, well, I think I actually do know. I know because I've felt all warm and tingly and fuzzy and tickly around someone, someone really special and close to my heart."

"Whoever you're talking about, he sure is lucky to have the fancy of someone like you."

"I don't know about that. He's too good for me. He's just so strong and resilient and calm. I'm constantly struggling to keep my temper in check. I lose myself. I snap at others for no reason. I mean, when Angel left I took my frustration at her out on everyone else. I was a bitch to my mom and sister the last time I saw them and I wouldn't really blame them if they never wanted to see me again. You guys have stayed by my side all this time when I've been a horrible leader. I don't deserve you guys, who are so loyal. If you had any shred of sense, you'd betray me, or abandon me, just crawl away in the middle of the night.

"Sometimes, I even let my anger blind me to who he is and what he means to me. I take things out on him; I blame him for my faults. I always regret it, but then I just go and do it again. I hurt him and I use him and I've never once apologized to him for it."

Fang was quiet. He was secretly hoping that Max was talking about him, because that was exactly how he felt most of the time. Invisible. Underappreciated. Abused. Unloved. But what could he say to that? Oh, well, you should apologize and try to do better. Yeah, right. Max never apologized and she would never change.

"Why do you do it?" he asked instead.

"WHAT?! You might as well ask me why I am the way I am!"

"Well maybe I am asking you that!"

Max glared at Fang, seething with rage. There she went, doing it again, blaming him for her imperfections, which were abundant.

Then, surprisingly, she calmed down. "Look, Fang, I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm this way, even more so recently. I'm just…I don't even know who I am anymore."

Fang stared at her in awe. "Something's definitely up. You never apologize."

She nodded. "It's just…all this crap with Angel. I don't even know if I can trust her. The Director said that Angel had been at the School and turned us in. But why wouldn't Angel have told us?"

"I've been wondering the same thing. But do you really believe the Director was telling the truth?"

"I don't trust her at all, but…it all fits. They never found us before and then Angel disappears. She easily could have gone to the School when she was gone and told them where we were."

"Angel keeps saying that it's not what it looks like. She said that there's more to it, and that she would explain. I want to trust her, I really do. There's too many secrets here nowadays. Whatever happened to the flock?"

"I don't know, but…speaking of secrets, Fang, there's something I need to tell you."

"Okay." He was all ears.

"You see, back at the School, I knew what I was doing. I got you guys out. I started the fire."

Fang nodded. "I know."


"I could see the calm in your eyes when everyone else was in chaos."

"How is it that you know me so well?"

Fang shrugged. "I don't know. But I do believe that you were going to tell me something else."

Max hesitated for a moment. She was going to tell him about Jeb. She looked Fang in the eye, letting him drink in her sorrow and misery. "It's about Jeb. He's…Jeb's dead."

Fang nodded solemnly. "I figured. His time was upon him."

Max struggled for the right words. "It's not that he's dead, Fang. It's how he died. It was all part of my plan. He was a crazy old man with too much hope in his soul. There's no hope left for us, or for him, but he wanted to think there was. I knew he wouldn't help me like he always had, so the only thing to do was take him out of the picture. I had to free you guys. He was in my way."

The pieces fell into place inside of Fang's mind and he was actually surprised. "You mean you…?"

Max's eyes had teared up and she nodded. She felt genuine regret for murdering Jeb, her father. "I killed him."

Fang didn't speak. He found it hard to believe that Max was a murderer. But he knew she wasn't lying; whenever she lied, her left eyebrow unconsciously rose a millimeter higher than her right. Only he and I knew that. At this moment, both her eyebrows were at the exact same height on her forehead.

Anxious to get off the subject, Max said, "What about the person you're in love with?"

I could imagine Fang turning to look at Max right now. "She's amazing. She's strong and beautiful and graceful and she doesn't even know it. But she confuses the hell out of me. One moment, I think she might feel at least an inkling of what I feel for her, but then she goes and slams down any hope I had. She keeps secrets from everyone. Sometimes I just wanna kick myself for falling in love with someone like her, someone so…undecided."

"I'm sure she feels the same way, Fang. How could she not? Maybe she just thinks it's not right. Maybe she's just scared of what might happen. Maybe she thinks that her place in the world might put you in danger, like it has so many times before. Maybe she thinks it would be better if she didn't love at all, in order to save all those she loves."

This information seemed to come as a surprise to Fang, but I had known this all along.

"Well, what if I don't care? It is my life, to live and to waste and to jeopardize. Maybe I don't care if loving her puts my life in danger. All I want is to be with her. I know that I'm slated to die; I'm not stupid. I feel a quiver in my feathers that's never been there before and all I can think is that I'm going to die soon. I would much rather die knowing if she feels the same than never knowing at all."

Max sighed. "God, do you really have to make this hard?"

"What? I'm just telling the truth here."

"Fang, I…I really do care about you. But I'm not gonna let you die because of me."

"Did you ever think though that knowing how you feel might save me?"

They were through with the hypothetical situations now. I knew what was gonna happen before they even spoke another word.

"Really? Do you really think that something as pathetic as love would save you from death? Love is just a silly emotion. Death is an unstoppable force; it can't be postponed."

"I think it could," Fang whispered. I could tell from his thoughts that he had moved closer to Max, close enough to touch her, close enough to kiss her. He did.

Max was so close to her breaking point. She was almost over the edge. But this was more of a gateway to a beginning, rather than a fall to an ending. She would tell him how she felt, and he would be blown away.

She broke away. "Fang, look…"

"Please, Max. Just tell me the truth. If you really don't love me at all, then I swear I'll stop. I'll leave you alone. I won't force you into anything. But all I ask is that you're honest with me this once."

Max was searching his eyes, her mind swirling around, lost in them. She was almost there…

"Fang, I love you. There, I said it. I love you, damn it, and I don't want to lose you."

Fang felt as though the universe had been lifted off his shoulders. He rested his forehead against hers. "Thank you, Max. You have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you so much." He kissed her. "I love you. And don't you ever forget it."

Max kissed Fang this time. She pressed her lips against his with so much hunger, so much eagerness and love, that he really was blown away. They had each been waiting a lifetime for this, the moment when they would confess their mutual love for each other. The emotions had been dammed up for years and they were now all pouring out.

"I really am sorry, Fang. I hope you can find it in you to forgive me somehow."

He hushed her with more kisses, stroking her, holding her gently as though she might break in two. He began a trail down her neck. "Max, I love you. You were forgiven before you even knew you were at fault."

Max smiled in relief. "Thank you." She put her hands on his cheeks and brought his face back to hers, kissing him in earnest and letting his hands blaze trails on her body as hers did the same.

I got the story of what happened that night from both sides. Yeah, some of it was too much, too much detail, too much feeling. But still…I was happy for them. They were bonding and mating, and birds mate for life.

Which was why I would never forget Darcy.

As the night grew older and the dawn peered on the horizon, they calmed down a bit, slowing to gentle, loving kisses, but kisses that were still filled with passion. Sleep had not come to me that night, but I smiled the whole day, tired as I was, because the world suddenly gave me a new, bright optimism.

Max and Fang, my surrogate parents were in love and they knew it at last. They had sealed their love for the rest of their lives, though it had just about been sealed already. Their love story had worked out.

Their life story, on the other hand, was a different matter entirely.

AN: So what did you guys think? This is just about all the Fax you get for this story, so I would hope you liked it. Maybe not as good as some of the others, but hey. It's an update.

Now I should probably go before my fingers freeze. It is very cold. I mean, it was snowing this morning. What the heck? Snow in April?? Or does the weather celebrate April Fool's too??? My California hands were not made for this Utah cold. Brrr.

REVIEWS are like WARMTH. AND I'M COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD!!!!! Share the warmth with me in a REVIEW!!!!!!!

14. What They Say

AN: Last chapter, I got one review. Thank you Midge1012. It's nice to know someone appreciates this.

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Fourteen: What They Say

Max surprised even me two mornings later when she announced what our next move would be.

"We're going to Arizona," she said calmly.

"What?" Nudge blurted. "But what about the CSM?"

Max shook her head. "No problem at all. The whitecoats told me that the CSM disintegrated ages ago."

"But what's the point in going back there? And how could you trust them?" Iggy asked.

"The CSM was their enemy; if they say that the CSM is dead, then I'll believe them. And…" Max sighed, like saying what she was going to say caused her great pain. "I want to go back there on the fly chance that my mom can help us."

There was dead silence in all our mouths. That hope seemed almost forbidden after what we had done to Dr. Martinez and Ella.

But families were always supposed be there for each other, through thick and thin, for better or worse. And the Martinezes were the closest thing we had to family. How could Valencia shut out her own daughter, in her darkest hour?

She couldn't.

So we no longer had a vague idea of where we were going; we had a definite destination in mind. We turned on our internal compasses and headed southwest, on our way to Arizona for the first time in many years.

Max's mind was racing with adrenaline and…fear? Yes, fear. Anxiety. Hope. Excitement. And was that…familiarity?

Amazing. How had she managed to keep this from me for so long?

Max had done this before.

I remembered now, one week about three years prior, when Max and Fang's room had been locked and blocked off. They had left. They had disappeared in the middle of a cloudy night. The night they returned was clear and lit by a full moon. They were arguing like they had never argued before, pushing and shoving each other, yelling about things unknown to the rest of us. They didn't speak for weeks after, Fang moving into Iggy and Gazzy's room. We all stayed out of their ways, not wanting anything to happen to us.

That whole week they had been gone, we cracked jokes about how they were probably off on their honeymoon. These jokes seemed incredibly childish when they returned at each other's throats. We were so preoccupied with keeping out of their fight that we never did get around to asking where they had been. Thinking about it now, maybe that's what they intended. Maybe they had no real contention with each other, but were merely trying to cover their tracks. And they had done a damn good job of it, considering that I didn't see a chink in their armor until three years later.

Max and Fang had gone to Arizona, to test the waters with Max's mother. She hadn't wanted to tell the rest of us, so as not to get our hopes up, to make us think that all was well with the world and we could abandon our hermit stage.

Max and Fang had gone to Arizona, and returned disappointed. The Martinezes had moved. The CSM was alive and well. They had hung out for a couple of days, been recognized, and booked it out of there faster than a gazelle fleeing from a hungry jaguar.

The both of them were hoping to find them this time. It appeared that Max had gotten a city and address out of Jeb. But still, Max hadn't spoken to her mother or half sister in about seven years. She was afraid they would turn their backs on her.

I was more hopeful. I was sure they would help us. Surely they couldn't shut us out.

When the sun began to fall, we descended from our positions high above the cloud cover. Max was taking most every precaution to make sure we weren't spotted, which included flying at a crazy altitude, where the air was so thin I almost couldn't breathe. We took no breaks, except when the night was upon us. Then we touched down.

Nudge tumbled over, tripping over her feet as she landed and rolling across the ground until the inertia had had its run. Iggy clutched his head, rubbing his temples constantly. He was still getting used to seeing the world, and his brain was having some trouble coping with the overload of data that was being sent to it. Gazzy folded in on himself, gagging as though he would vomit. About twenty feet from the ground, my wings just couldn't take it anymore. There was soreness in them, the muscles having been cramped up too long, and having been bruised and fractured by the Erasers. My wings stopped moving, leaving me in a freefall the rest of the way down. By Murphy's Law, my left wing didn't fold back into its proper place and I landed on it instead. The pain was instant and I knew it was broken in multiple places.

Max and Fang managed to touch down gracefully. They came to my side, asking if I was okay.

I groaned, rolling over, off of my wing. "It's broken; I'm positive," I told them.

Max frowned. This injury not only crippled my ability to fly, but her plan to get to Arizona. Instead of asking me anymore questions, she just muttered to no one in particular, "I saw city lights nearby. Someone get over there and find out where the hell we are."

Fang nodded and leapt back into the night. Max glared at me and thought, Are you trying to let them find us?

Appalled, I immediately shook my head.

I swear, Angel, if they catch up to us…

They won't. You screwed them up. It's gonna take them a couple of weeks for them to get their bearings.

She raised an eyebrow at me. Is that what they told you? Or are you making an assumption?


She nodded at me and walked away. She tapped Iggy on the shoulder, forgetting for a moment that he could now see her. I heard her whisper to him to help me set my wing.

I sat up just as Iggy squatted down beside me, his fingers gently probing my broken wing.

"Ouch," he said. "This doesn't seem very good..."

I winced as he handled an area too roughly. "I figured."

He shifted around looked me in the eye. "You didn't plan this, did you?"

I shook my head. "I wouldn't do that."

Iggy nodded. "You're bleeding a lot. I don't really have anything to bind it. You're just gonna have to wait for it to clot."

I grimaced. "What about infections?"

"I heard a stream a little ways east; we flew over it. It's not too far, so I'll walk you over there and we'll clean it up."


Iggy helped me off the ground and put an arm around my waist, almost guiding me in the right direction. My stiff legs reluctantly moved, threatening to crumble at any moment. I didn't know where Iggy drew his strength. We stumbled onto the stream's bank a few minutes later. It was really quite small, but Iggy announced that it would do.

Iggy took out the bandage, the one from the School that he had decided to keep in his pocket, and dipped it into the water. He began to dab at my broken wing, all the while I winced in pain. As he looked closer, I heard the unpleasant verdict ringing through his mind before he finally said it out loud.

"You'll never be able to fly again."

I tried not to let the pain show in my face, my eyes. Really, I did. But…you'll never be able to fly again…I couldn't bear it. I felt the tears begin to trickle down my cheeks. Never again would I feel the wind blowing through my hair as I looked down at the landscape below me. Never again would I feel such freedom, twirling through the air, freefalling. Never again would I fly. What good is a bird with broken wings? She cannot do anything. She is worthless.

Iggy noticed my tears. "I'm sorry, Angel. There's nothing I can do. I don't have the materials I need. There might be chance, if we can find someone to operate and patch you up right. I can't do anything more than try to set the bones. Most of your muscles have torn. You literally snapped your wing in half, Angel. It's a wonder it's not dangling off your back. I'm sorry."

I shook my head, hastily wiping away my tears. "Whatever. It doesn't matter anyway," I growled. Anger was pulsing through my veins, anger at myself and Iggy's underdeveloped medical skills. He said nothing after that, just wrapped the bandage around my wings as best he could. He lifted me up after that, very carefully, carrying me in his arms, and he walked back to where the rest of the flock was. In his arms, being carried like that, I felt dead, almost. I couldn't fly anymore. There was no purpose to my life.

Iggy put me down by Nudge and Gazzy upon our arrival, then he went to go talk to Max. I could hear him whispering to her about my condition and his verdict.

She gasped when he dropped the bomb. Her eyes went wide with horror. Oh no, she thought. This was yet another rock in her plan.

Before she could verbally respond to Iggy's news, Fang landed without a sound, but making the air ripple. We all knew it was him, though we could see nothing. His invisibility was so strong now that he could conjure it up on demand. It was quite useful.

"I asked the guy at the gas station where we were. He said that, about a mile and a half from where we are, is a town called Snowflake. Snowflake, Arizona."

Max's eyes lit up. "That's it. That's where they are. Let's sleep here for tonight, then we'll head out to find them first thing tomorrow."

Everyone nodded in agreement as we all went our separate ways to scavenge for food and firewood. But all I could do was sit there.

AN: Okay, shoot me if you'd like, but I'm actually considering NO LONGER POSTING. I come here to improve my writing and skills, but how can I do that if no one is giving me tips? "I like this" or "Change this" or "That was absolutely dreadful, try--". I can write for myself all I'd like, till my fingers fall off, but I need help here. YOUR HELP. If no one is gonna be reading this, then I might as well just write it for myself and keep it on my computer to show nobody. If you guys aren't gonna do what I see as you part, which is helping me find my strengths and weaknesses, then why should I continue? If this isn't benefiting me or you, then who is it benefiting? NO ONE. So why waste my time? There's a world of possibilities out there, so why should I put my valuable time into this??


15. Defiance

AN: Wow...Much thanks, love, and appreciation go out to the SIXTEEN reviewers who care(:

Chasing Ideas
Team Switzerland in CO
Claire Ride
Dove's Wings
Midge 1012

You guys enjoy this story much more than I realized. I was wrong to assume you didn't, and I APOLOGIZE. I'm also glad that my apologies aren't as infrequent as Max's. I'm not gonna give up on this story. I'm almost done writing it and I've got plenty of chapters left to post. Thank you, guys. Thank you so much...


If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Fifteen: Defiance

149 Pear Street. That's what Max said. At 149 Pear Street, in Snowflake, Arizona, our freedom or doom awaited us.

Iggy convinced Max that we couldn't leave anyone behind, including me, so we ended up walking along the early morning streets. Fang went first, invisible, so that he could be on the lookout for anything potentially dangerous. The rest of us followed a good ten feet behind him. Max was extremely tense, adrenaline and paranoia pumping through her veins. She did her best to look relaxed but failed marvelously.

Finally, we stood outside the house. It was painted a creamy white and had a quaint little porch, holding a couple of chairs. The lawn had green grass, unlike some of the other houses we had seen, and a cement walkway led the way from a lamppost between the lawn and sidewalk up to the porch. Fang appeared beside the lamppost and waited for the rest of us.

Max stopped walking when she reached Fang, her face ashen. We all stared at her expectantly. She looked back at us. "What!" she exclaimed.

Gazzy cleared his throat. Nudge bounced uncomfortably on the balls of her feet. Iggy looked anywhere but at Max. Fang pretended to pick something from his nails. Finally, I said, "She's your mother, Max. You should go first."

Max took a deep breath, at first seeming as though she might lash out at me harshly. Instead, though, she turned swiftly and stalked up the walkway. She angrily hit the doorbell, muttering curses under her breath that we could all hear. We slowly crawled up the path after her, watching the door with anticipation.

It opened. "Hello, how may I—" Dr. Martinez paused her words, looking at Max with surprise. Then her surprise became confusion, as she wondered what her first daughter was doing on her doorstep. She wasn't thinking about the lamp Max had chucked at her the last time they had seen each other. Not at all. Instead of yelling at her, or hitting her, or closing the door on her, or any of the horrible things Max had envisioned, Valencia Martinez threw her arms around her daughter and held her close, weeping.

"Oh, Max," she said. "I thought I'd never see you again."

Reluctantly, partly from surprise and partly from awkwardness, Max hugged her mother back. "I'm sorry, Mom," she choked out.

Dr. Martinez looked up and noticed the rest of us. "Oh, my. Do come in. Please." She released Max and opened the door wider, ushering all of us through.

This house was just as cozy as the house the Martinezes had once inhabited. Valencia offered us all seats in the living room. She herself tried to settle in a seat, but she failed, too anxious to relax herself.

"Wow, Max. I just don't know what to say. Well, how've you been?"

Max shrugged. She looked at Fang, wondering just how much information she should reveal. He gave an almost imperceptible nod, telling her that we could trust Valencia.

"Well, Mom, for a while, things were good. Hell, they were great. We were left all alone. But recently…" Max went on to explain what we had just been through. She skillfully left out anything that had to do with Jeb, how we had found the house, and any suspicions against me. Valencia listened intently, not interrupting at all. If she had any questions, she didn't voice them. "…and now we're here," Max finished.

Valencia's eyes were quick as she took in our desperate state. "And you want my help," she said.

Gulping, Max nodded. "Yes."

Valencia's mind chose this inconvenient moment to remember that pastel green lamp soaring through the air towards her, its cord flying along behind it, the pale lampshade twirling around the little light bulb. It had clipped her shoulder, fracturing the bones there.

"So…?" Max pressed.

Valencia closed her eyes and put her face in her hands. She let out a great sigh. "You ask a big favor of me, Max."

"I know, Mom. But we're in really deep now, especially since Angel can't fly. We just need to disappear without a trace. Could you help us? Please? I swear you'll never hear from us again."

Valencia snapped up. "No. All these years I've been worrying about you, wondering if you were dead or alive. You haven't talked to me in seven years, Max. Seven goddamned years! Did you even stop to consider how I might feel about that?"

Max looked down at her shoes, not daring to look her mother in the eye. Shame flooded her body. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the air. "I did try. Once."

"Oh? Well obviously you didn't try hard enough. Why did you even do it, Max? Why would you up and leave, just like that, without thinking of how anyone else might react?"

"I was thinking of others! I had a flock to protect and they were my family before you ever were! Being out in the open like that put us in constant danger. We couldn't stick around forever. Surely you must have realized that."

Dr. Martinez seemed to understand. "I'm sorry, Max. It's just…seeing you after all this time, I don't know what to do. What it means."

For a while, no one dared speak. The only sounds in the silence were Valencia's steady sobs.

Max's voice rang out suddenly. "Will you help us?"

Valencia nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course I'll help you. You're my daughter and it's my responsibility to help you and your family. Just tell me what you need."

Max beamed. "Okay."

Whatever she would have said next was stopped when the front door opened and closed and a voice called out, "Mom, I'm home!"

Ella walked from the hall and into the living room with a smile on her face, but she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the six of us sitting there and her mother in tears. Her face twisted into a mixture of confusion and anger.

"What are you doing here?" she spat with venom in her tone.

Dr. Martinez looked at her daughter sternly, telling her to behave with her eyes. "They've just decided to drop in for a visit, Ella."

Ella's brown eyes darted between us all. "Mom, can I talk to you for a minute? Alone?"

Valencia nodded and followed her daughter into the kitchen. Ella closed the door behind them, though it did nothing to stop us from hearing what they said.

"What are you thinking, Mom! Why did you even let them in?" Ella nearly shouted.

"Ella, sweetie, look. They're in trouble. They need help—"

"Oh, so they only come to you when they need help? That's great!"

"She's my daughter and your sister. They're part of our family and therefore it is our duty to protect them!"

"Yeah, protect them! Whatever happened to their side of the bargain? They never acted like our family, so why should we act like theirs?"

"Ella, please try to understand. They couldn't. They had to protect themselves when we were unable to."

"Is that the crap Max decided to shove down your throat this time? She's manipulative, in case you never noticed."

"No, she just does what she can to make sure that she gets what she needs."

"And she needs your help? Or just wants it?"

"My help? As in, you aren't going to support me in this?"

"No. I refuse to let them take refuge her and mooch off our hospitality! If they'd wanted us in their lives, then they wouldn't have waited seven damn years!"

"Ella, she's your sister."

"And even though she's only been in your life for a bare total of two years, she's obviously the favorite daughter, the one that gets waited on hand and foot and gets whatever the hell she wants! She left and hurt you, hurt us, and you just welcome her back into your house, ready to let her trample all over you again? I won't have it!"

"Ella, I know how to care of myself."

"And so does she. She obviously knows how to take care of herself, which she decided to rub in our faces by just taking off. She's such a showoff, you know? 'Oh, look at me! I'm so smart and brave and wonderful! Everyone loves me and would do anything for me! But I don't need them!'" Ella mimicked. "She doesn't need us, Mom, as she has made so painfully clear."

"Don't let your own bitterness cloud your judgment of right and wrong, Ella. You haven't experienced half the pain that she has. I've managed to protect you from that world."

"Yeah, until she came along. She just comes waltzing into our lives and your focus immediately becomes her. Don't you think it hurt me, too? This girl I've never met comes along and snatches away my mother, getting her to things she never would've done before. You get kidnapped and no one even bothers to tell me how you're doing, or if anything's been found out. They're all too amazed watching her be Miss Fantastic and save the day!"


"Don't even, Mother. You know it's true! You left my life so that you could protect hers! Don't you think I missed having a mom in all that time? And when she left, I had to watch you mope forever, thinking she might come back! Do you know how much that hurt? You practically ignored my existence for an entire year! Do you know how it felt to have my own mother turn her back on me like everyone else when some new and oh-so-interesting pack of bird freaks came along?"



For a moment, the both of them were silent. In the living room, none of us dared breathe, lest we disturb the sacred-seeming silence.

"You do realize that if you had been the one to leave all the years ago and reappear at my doorstep in need of help, I would do the same. Max is my daughter, no matter how hard that might be for you to accept. I love her, no matter how short my time with her has been. She's my daughter and I plan to help her."

"And what if she does the same thing? Or what if it turns out that she's not your daughter? You're seriously telling me that you'd let her walk all over you again? You might as well go down the street and ask the butcher to rip out your heart and fry it for you! If you don't have the guts to make them leave, then I'll do it for you!"

"No, Ella! You will do no such thing!"

"You know, Mom? Back when you started to ignore me, I made some friends, some friends that told me if I ever needed anything, they would be happy to take care of it. Anything. And you know who they where? They worked for this place called the Institute, said they'd once known you. These strangers I'd never met before were willing to go to incredible lengths that even my mother wouldn't go to! Their only condition was that I give them some information in return, whenever I saw fit to do so."

"Oh, no. You didn't. You wouldn't dare."

"Yes, yes I did. And I definitely would, without a second thought or regret. I would."

"How could you?"

"I still know how to reach them, Mom. Either they leave or I fulfill that favor."

Max looked at us. Up and away, she mouthed. Dr. Martinez may have been willing to help us, but the ultimatum her daughter was handing her left her with almost no choice. Fang disappeared on the spot. The rest of us got up as quietly as we could and walked out of the Martinezes' house. Max was the last to leave, coming out minutes after the rest of us. The smug look on her face told me that she'd made her mark once again. (If only she hadn't taken it so far…)

So much for family, I guess.

AN: The funnest part of writing this chapter was house-hunting for Ella and Dr. M. 149 Pear Street in Snowflakes, Arizona, really does exist and I described it as best I could from the picture on GoogleMaps. I do not live in this house, nor do I own it, nor have I ever been there. If anyone reading this does live in this house, or own it, etc., my apologies once again, for stealing your house. (The rest wasn't so much fun...)

A lot of you guys commented on Angel's broken wing from last chapter and the abruptness of it. I assure you, there was a reason for it, though I didn't originally plan for it to happen. This story, as some stories do, seems to have developed a will of its own. So much has happened that I didn't plan for, but it's all building up to something greater. And you know what? I like the direction it's taking right now much more than I liked what I originally had planned for the story. And I sure hope it's worthwhile for you all too. (:

REVIEWS. Do I really need to discuss this subject after the last chapter? Just please. REVIEW.

16. Dreaming

AN: Just read and enjoy the chapter, guys!! (:

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Sixteen: Dreaming

We wandered the streets of Snowflake for an hour that night. I couldn't fly and I weighed us all down; I could see that in Max's face, in her mind; she considered me more a burden now than ever. I wished so much that I could suddenly be like Fang and disappear without a trace.

We kept walking, silent as a row of pencils, strolling aimlessly. We were so lost in the world. Displaced. We had never been created to belong, but it showed on our faces even more now. In a matter of days, our world had been yanked out from under our feet, shifting and changing drastically. We had gone from being hermits with as little contact with the world as possible to being caught up smack in the middle of it. The world was so different than it was six years ago—and we had even more enemies.

I don't know if Max considered her sister an enemy at that point in time, but I do. Max probably never knew what Ella did, as the one who would've have told her died before she could say anything. But me, I know what Ella did. I know how she betrayed us.

Betrayal is an unforgivable act, as I soon found out. Betrayal left the ultimate wound. Betrayal caused bad blood to run for generations. Betrayal caused death. Betrayal tore families apart.

Betrayal would tear us apart.


We found a vacant warehouse not too long after that and settled down for the night. It was next to impossible for us to get comfortable on the dirty concrete floor. Instead of fleeing to separate corners, we all piled together, using limbs and backs and stomachs as pillows. We forgot any conflicts with anyone. We just wanted to stay warm and try to sleep.

The Gasman took first watch. He sat up, so much running through his mind. I tried to keep up with my brother's thoughts, tried to follow the train they created. But his thoughts leaped from subject to subject in a seemingly random order.

One moment he was dwelling on the incident that had taken place at the Martinezes. The next he was thinking about Iggy's restored sight. Then he was remembering when the whitecoats had come for us. That logically led to the Erasers. But then his thoughts dwelled on what we would eat for breakfast.

Gazzy's staccato thinking gave me a headache. I shut my eyes and shut him out. It was only when I had silenced the Gasman's thoughts that I was sufficiently able to drink in my surroundings. And I immediately wished I had stayed hidden in the haven of my brother's mind.

Daddy, please, I promise I'll be good…

Ow! Daddy, you're hurting me!

Please Daddy. Please stop!


The little girl's shadow began sobbing. I couldn't help but cry either. I winced as her father finally did kill her, but only after doing the most horrible thing anyone can do to a little girl. That the little girl's rapist and killer was her own father made the act even more abhorrent. Her name was Sylvia Murdock, and her father had never been caught. He had reported Sylvia missing. And the police never found her body.

As Sylvia began pleading with her father again, I covered my ears instinctively and began singing songs in my head. When that didn't work, I plunged into Iggy's dream, hoping for an escape.


Iggy's dream was quite vivid. In it, he was in field of large, colorful flowers. The flowers were all taller than him; he had to crane his neck to see the tops of them.

The stalks and stems weren't just green: they were magenta, indigo, turquoise, sapphire, crimson, gold, sunshine, and rust. The colors flashed and Iggy was enthralled by them.

Iggy didn't see me. He had his hands in his pockets, his face skyward, as he turned in this field of flowers, trying to see them all. His eyes sparkled in the light of the brilliant sun. He had a huge smile on his face, content to just watch the flowers change and dance for him.

But then I heard thunder, just as a jagged bolt of lightning flashed across Iggy's perfect sky. His face dropped perceptibly as a lightning bolt hit one of the flowers and set it on fire. Rainclouds bustled in overhead and hail dropped from the sky. Iggy put his hands up to shield his face and ran under one of the flowers for protection. I knew this was a dream, unlike Iggy. The hailstones went right through me, hitting the ground of Iggy's ruined perfect world. The flames licked the bare skin of my legs, but I felt no heat, no burn.

Iggy's shelter flower caught fire and he began running. I ran after him, trying to catch up, thinking I might be able to help him.

Iggy kept running until he reached a wall. We both looked up and saw that this wall was far from ordinary: it was made of flower stems. And the flowers were stopping Iggy from escaping as the flames crawled closer and the hail pelted him.

A hailstone hit his eyeball and it fell out. I cringed. Iggy's brilliantly blue eye rolled away and was consumed by the flames. He screamed, watching it burn, as more hailstones hit him. He screamed some more and suddenly turned to me with an accusatory gaze. One hand covered his empty eye socket and the other lifted slowly, creepily, until he was pointing at me.

"You," he mouthed.

And then the flames reached Iggy. He wretched, fighting against the wall of flowers, the beautiful flowers that had deceived him. And then Iggy was dead.


Iggy and I woke up at the same time. Me, dreading the arousal. Him, gasping and shaking. Gazzy looked at the both of us strangely before turning away again.

"Why were you in my dream?" Iggy demanded, his face covered with sweat. "What the hell were you doing in my dream?"

I couldn't look at him. I had to think of a good excuse for my sleeplessness, and try to ignore the screaming dead girl in the corner.

"Angel, tell me the damn truth. What the hell were you doing in my dreams?"

"It's just a dream, Iggs. You're not really dead. You didn't lose your eye," I whispered.

"I know that, Angel. But what were you doing in there?"

I looked up at him sadly. Gazzy was becoming interested in our conversation. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Iggy's glare softened and he reached over and hugged me. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek slowly. Gazzy had come over now, too.

"What's wrong, Angel?" he asked, rubbing my shoulder with brotherly love.

I sniffled. "I can't sleep. I…I'm scared." It was more or less true; I was scared for that little dead girl.

"It's okay, Angel. We're all scared right now. We don't know what we're going to do next. Max has no idea, even if she's not willing to admit it," Iggy whispered in my ear.

I shook my head vigorously, feeling my curls fly through the air. "No, it's not that, Iggy! You have no idea what they did to me…"

Whoops. I had not intended to reveal that much.

"What do you mean?" Gazzy asked, concern lacing his voice.

I gulped. I was going to tell them. No turning back.

"The Director…she wanted me to betray you guys…"

Iggy's and Gazzy's faces hardened.

"But she didn't just ask me to do it; she cursed me. She made it so that I hear the dead screaming and reliving their last moments of life. It drives me insane! And here, years ago, a little girl was raped and killed in that corner." I pointed. "By her own father." I choked back a sob. "It's horrible. So horrible."

Gazzy and Iggy were both looking at the corner as the little girl shrieked again.

I shuddered. "She cursed me with this, and told me that if I turned you guys in, she would take it away."

"That bitch," Gazzy muttered.

I shook my head. "The worst part is, I-I almost did. I came back and I was thinking of doing it. I kept hearing this little boy out in the woods that had died. I kept thinking of how horrible it had been at the School, when the dead voices were louder than the live ones. I was gonna let you all die just so that I could have some peace of mind."

The both of them were speechless.

Then Iggy asked: "But, in the end, you didn't, did you?"

"No. In the end, it was all her. She must have tracked me to the house. I was so stupid, I led her right to what she wanted. And she didn't have to lose anything."

The two of them comforted me, murmuring that everything would be okay.

"I'm sorry," I choked out. "I'm so, so sorry. I won't blame you guys if you never forgive me."

They didn't say not to worry. They didn't accept my apology. They didn't say that I was forgiven.

Instead, Iggy nodded gravely. "I know."

AN:See now, that wasn't supposed to happen. Angel telling Iggy and Gazzy wasn't supposed to happen. Heck, this whole chapter wasn't supposed to happen. But, alas...it just did.


Okay guys, decision-making time: the battle chapters are coming up and I need to know if you guys want me to stretch out the deaths into separate chapters. It's kinda long with all the deaths and it's split into four sections. I could post these as different chapters or just leave them as one. What do you want? Tell me in a REVIEW.

17. Everything Falls Apart

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Seventeen: Everything Falls Apart

The three of us fell asleep soon after that. I managed to block out the little girl's screams long enough to fall into some sort of rest.

But we forgot to wake someone else up for the next watch. And that was a huge mistake on our part. We all woke up to the sound of people, lots of people. And guns clicking. And the people talking. I opened one eye and saw Max directly in front of me, her wide eyes telling me to be quiet and feign sleep. She rolled her eyes back into her head, signifying that she wanted me to communicate with the others.

I began to crawl into their minds.

Wake up, I whispered telepathically. Wake up. Don't move. Don't panic. We're surrounded. Wake up…

I repeated this is all of their heads until they were awake and still. And then, at Max's signal, we launched to our feet, surprising our foes. Too bad for us they got their bearings before we could make our next move and the element of surprise wore off fast. Soon they had shot each of us with a tiny dart. We all fell to the ground, slipping into the darkness of the sedative.


My eyes slid open as a gun barrel was pushed into my side. I was being pushed out of a van and into a field, a snow-covered field, in the middle of nowhere. My broken wing ached even more. There was another girl beside me, struggling to walk straight. She stumbled and I instinctively reached out to help her. Then I realized that my hands were bound together.

She regained her balance and I asked, "What's going on?"

She gulped and I saw that her eye were blood red. No whites, no pupils. Just solid red. Her fingers were webbed and her legs bare. I saw then why she was having so much trouble walking: there was a deep gash that ran the length of her leg. Her green, rubbery leg.

I was surprised when she was able to speak.

"The Director has issued an order. The whole School must disappear, with all its branches. Every piece of evidence that it ever existed must be wiped out. Everyone who knew of it must die. It's for the greater good. We must all go away."

I turned to the person who was guiding me with the gun. He was a whitecoat. I recognized him as Henson, the whitecoat that I had met after Darcy had turned me in. "That is exactly what must happen," he confirmed, though he didn't look too happy about it.

I started searching for the others. Where were they? There were so many other people trickling into this clearing. They brought us here to murder us all.

I caught sight of Nudge. Her dark skin stood out against the snow-covered background. She looked panicked. She saw me and fear shined in her eyes.

Next I found Fang. His wings were extended but limp. My guess was that someone had injected his wings with something to paralyze them. They were useless.

My gaze fell on Gazzy next. He was spitting out blood onto the crisp white snow. He jerked his bound hands away from his captor. He was putting up a fight with a fire I had never seen in him before.

Then Max entered my field of vision. She was eyeing everyone with a suspicion that I can't describe in words. She glared at all she could see, her wings paralyzed as well. I tried to move my good wing and when I couldn't, I realized that they must have done the same thing to all of us.

Iggy stumbled out of the van next to mine. At first, I didn't recognize him. He was a horrible sight to behold and it took every ounce of energy and willpower I had in me to not gasp or shriek at the disgusting sight.

Blood was flowing down Iggy's face like waterfalls. Some of it had dried and the rest just caked on, layer upon layer. My gaze traced the rivers of blood up to his eyes. For a moment, I couldn't tell if this was the source. There was so much blood piled onto his eyelids, making a puddle so dense I had to squint to see through it, and what I saw nearly made me hurl:

Iggy's eyes had been sewn shut.

I tried to tug my eyes away with no success. I felt the greatest surge of pity soar through my being. Iggy, who I had known all my life, had been blind as long as I could remember. Then his sight had been restored and he been ecstatic. Now…who could do something so cruel?

I peeked into his thoughts; he had no idea. Iggy thought he had just been blindfolded and wasn't concerned. He ignored the prickling pain in his eyelids, not giving it a second thought. Soon enough, though, he would try to open his eyes and feel that it hurt to pull on his lids. Only then would he realize what had taken place.

I got out of Iggy's head quickly. I didn't want an inside view when he realized that he would die blind.

There were dozens of other experiments shuffling into the field. Erasers. Experiments-gone-wrong. The flock. Whitecoats.

And then the weapons were brought out.

There was a variety of them: knives, handsaws, ropes, chainsaws, scalpels, butcher knives, daggers, metal rods, spears of splintered wood. There were even a few shiny, silver guns.

I gulped. This could not be good.

Walking through the organized chaos, in what I was sure was my direction, was the Director herself. She had a smile on her face, a grin that didn't belong on her sickly, wrinkled face anymore than it did in this field.

A scary silence swept over all of us. Satisfied, she began to speak:

"Many of you know why you are here today. Many of you do not.

"For the benefit of the clueless, I will explain. The School must be shut down. We have gone too far down a corrupt path where our science is more demonic than practical. There is no turning back, not from how far down this path we've traveled. Therefore, the only way we can stop ourselves is to perish. And to take our creations with us. Everyone who has had contact with the School and its branches, everyone who knows of its existence, must be wiped out. Which is why we are all here today: for our executions."

A low, frightened murmur swept through the multitude as the newly enlightened beings realized what would become of them very shortly. I swallowed the fear in my throat, keeping a calm look on my face.

"And so," the Director continued, "let it begin."

Almost immediately after the Director pronounced these words, the whitecoat beside me pulled a pair of daggers from the folds of his clothing and used them like scissors to chop off the head of the girl next to me, her wobbly green legs shaking beneath her and crumpling under her. Simultaneously, other experiments fell to the ground. Nudge barely dodged the blades of a quartet of daggers herself, knocking her attackers off their feet and disarming them. The rest of the whitecoats, with Max in their midst, made a mad-dash for the weapons pile in the center of the clearing. I picked up one of the forgotten daggers of the whitecoat and sliced the binds on my hands, holding the handle with my feet awkwardly. When my hands were separated, I grabbed the dagger and ran.

As I ran, with no particular destination in mind, I felt something sharp and splintery connect with my head. I groaned and toppled over, blood soaking into my dirty hair. The whitecoat who had hit me wrenched the dagger from my grip and continued on.

I recovered soon enough, shaking away the stars in front of my eyes. I lurched forward, pushing myself to my limits, going straight for the weapons. A loud pop sounded through the air, echoing in my ears, followed by three more. After the last one, I felt a pain like a thousand knives ripping through my gut. I keeled over for the second time, my hands instinctively going to cover my wound. I fell into the cold snow, my eyes staying open just long enough to see it turn crimson with my blood. Then my eyes squeezed shut, trying to shut out the pain. But my nerves won the battle with my mind and I slipped away.

However, in my last moments of consciousness, I would swear that I saw the Director slinking away into the shadows, escaping the treacherous jaws of death while they preyed on her life's work.

AN: This is just Part One of the battle. Parts of it are told in the present, like the first of Fang's death, Iggy's discovery, and Max's death. As for the rest...the deaths (the rest of Fang's, Iggy's, Nudge's, and Gazzy's) will be split into separate chapters. Five people asked for this, two asked for one chapter, and a couple people gave no opinion. So, I guess majority rules. Next chapter is in the present, and then it will be the deaths.

So, last Saturday, I had the spectacular opportunity to go to UCLA for the LA Times' Festival of Books. I had a great time!! I got some books and got my friend's copy of Vampire Academy signed by Richelle Mead. I intend to go next year, and if any of you are able to, you should check it out, too!

REVIEWS are like TRUST IN A RELATIONSHIP. Essential, crucial, necessary, vital...catch my drift?? So REVIEW!!

18. This is Now, Part Four

AN: Oh my gosh, I am so sorry, guys. I totally forgot that last chapter was when you found out that Iggy's gonna die blind. I just spaced and forgot to give you guys a heads up on the nauseating-ness of it. SORRY!

So, here's your heads up for this chapter: you may want to vomit. These chapters and how graphic they can be are the main reason for this story's rating. Same thing goes for the four chapters following this, aka, the deaths, the first of which happens in this chapter, which is strangely the last death.

I recently realized that the names of everyone in the flock have the letter "G" in them...except Max. This is Max's chapter. So, other than the possibility of nausea, enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Eighteen: This is Now

My first instinct upon seeing Ella, the one who betrayed us in the end, the one who had a flesh and blood tie to us that obligated her to be loyal, is to tackle her and kill her. Of course, seeing as she is already dead, I can't do that.

And she sure as hell doesn't belong here.

Though I'm not sure if I can harm her, I run at her, rage seething through my every pore. Then Darcy grabs my wrists, stopping me.

"Angel, don't," he says to me. "You need to listen to them, listen to her."

"No," I say firmly. "I refuse to listen to that traitor."

"Pretty Angel, please try to understand: we all do things we regret in desperation."

"Oh, yeah, I'm sure you would know all about that."

Darcy wisely decides to shut up.

Dr. Martinez looks at me impassively as she walks toward me, ignoring as a dead bullet passes through her, rippling her shadow. Her eyes are cold and flat.

Hesitantly, Ella begins to follow her mother. I see that Ella looks exactly as she did when I last saw her, age-wise at least. She died shortly after betraying information to our enemies.

I try not to think that she put her own neck on the chopping block, killing herself in order to satisfy her thirst for revenge on us. I know that's not all: Valencia Martinez had had some association with the School. Ella was already labeled for death before she voluntarily offered information to the School.

Ella is obviously uncomfortable. Her step is reluctant and she tries to dodge the noose made from a dead rope as it is fitted around its victim's neck. I watch the whitecoat tighten the rope around Max's neck. She is floating in and out of consciousness, practically dead already. Her torn shirt is soaked in blood, the wound in her chest still bleeding. All I can see now, though, is a jagged black line smothered in blood, reminding me of a storm cloud looming overhead with a promise of rain. (With what happened to her that day, I wouldn't be surprised if they really did carve out her heart...) Her face is painted with blood, her lips severely cut and barely there. The lips she had used to kiss Fang are gone. Her palms are shredded, causing the slightest touch of anything on them to ache tremendously. One of her ears has been chopped off, leaving a gaping hole in the side of her head that is nauseating to look at. Besides that, she has nothing left to live for, no one left but me. And she doesn't really want to live for me.

Her body drags through the red snow, pulled by the rope. Part of the dead rope had been looped over a tree branch and the whitecoat just keeps pulling. Finally, Max is standing upright. The words: So you can die on your feet, hero, fall off the whitecoat's lips. And he gives the rope a final tug.

Max seems to wake up the moment she is in the air, her eyes going wide, a gasp escaping her mouth. She screeches, she chokes, her feet desperately kicking in the air below her. Fear shines in her eyes, the last moments of her life. Everyone else in the flock, everyone but me, has died. She is to die with fear. She is the last one. Save the world, Maximum Ride. But you can't very well save the world dangling from the end of a noose.

Saliva and blood rise up her throat, foaming in her mouth. Max tries to scream, horrified at her fate. It catches in her throat and she thrashes, dangling on the rope, her neck beginning to bruise, her windpipe caving in, her raw hands rubbing at the dead rope, only bringing more pain. She gives one final lurch forward, her eyes bugging out of their sockets. And then Max falls limp, no longer struggling against death.

And since then, the world has never, ever been the same.

Ella's eyes are also drawn to the spectacle of her very own sister braving death. She winces when Max finally lets go of her last bit of life. I smirk; I guess betrayal hurts both ends of the bargain.

Dr. Martinez puts a hand on Darcy's shoulder, letting him know that he can release me. He complies and frees my wrists. I swear I feel an ache, as though I had actually been able to feel the pressure of his hands on my flesh. I know that's impossible though.

"Angel," Valencia begins, "You have an obligation as one of the last parts of the School still alive. You do realize that, don't you?"

I narrow my eyes. "What do you mean, one of the last?"

"You remember it, Angel. You watched the Director walk away from the battle that day as everyone else died because of her."

My mind joggles. I search through it, browsing for confirmation of Dr. Martinez's declaration. That day is so hazy. Most of what I know about it comes from returning every year. I was too confused on that day to make sense of most of what was going on around me.

But somehow, I do remember it. And it's not from my annual visits. If the Director is dead, I would see her before me now, dying. But I have never seen her, not since the day of the battle, the battle she walked away from.

Valencia Martinez is right. I know it.

"So…what does she have to do with anything?"

Ella reaches us then and provides an answer: "She has everything to do with it."

Darcy nods in agreement. "You see, pretty Angel, it is because of her, because our murderer has not yet suffered justice, that we are unable to rest. The spirits in this graveyard and those of her other victims will only grow stronger as long as she still walks the earth alive."

It makes some sort of twisted sense to me, I decide. The first time I came back here, their voices were merely faint whispers on the wind. Now, I can see their shadows in front of me, killing each other again and again.

"So you guys are here for some sort of vengeance or something?"

Darcy nods. "Yes. We are searching for her."

"And instead you found me."

"Are you willing to help us, Angel? Help us find rest? Help yourself find rest?" Dr. Martinez asks.

Impulsively, I nod. Then I nearly slap myself for my rashness. How can I be so stupid sometimes?

"Thank you, Angel," Ella mumbles. I glare at her smugly. She looks at her feet.

"Just how are you planning to find her?" I inquire.

Darcy, Ella, and Valencia all smile at each other. The shadows around us all fade away, the battle having ended with the last two whitecoats dutifully sinking daggers into each other's chests. The air is crisp and still for a couple moments, random voices swirling in the air. The ones I recognize are the ones of my flock, the ones I first heard when I neared the clearing:

"Help me…why…how could you…please…" Fang pleads.

"Who am I? What is wrong with me? Why can't I hear myself think?" Nudge very nearly shrieks.

"Please just let me die! I can't bear it anymore!" Max begs.

"…mercy…have mercy on me please…spare my life…" Gazzy whimpers.

"I can't see! Let me see! Why is there only darkness?" Iggy's mind screams.

I have only a moment before the next flurry begins, starting with Nudge.

"This is it. I'm really dying. All those times I thought it would happen, and now it finally is happening…" she resolves, ready to let go of the last slivers of life she has left.

"Where is she? I can't die yet, not if she's still alive! I have to live for her!" Fang pushes himself, unaware that his overwhelming instinct to protect his mate will lead to his brutal murder.

"Can you hear me? Please wake up! You can't do this to me! You can't leave me! You promised!" Max screeches, trying to wake up her lover.

"I must try…maybe there's hope…" Gazzy tried to save us, but all his dreams brought him was a broken wooden stick piercing his back and stabbing his heart.

"Don't forget…please, promise me you won't forget…" Iggy's plea always confuses me. I never know who he's talking to, especially since he's thinking this to himself. Who is it that he doesn't want to forget? And what is it that he doesn't want to be forgotten?

The final round starts and I see wisps of air gather in some places.

"Where is everyone? Where'd they all go? I have to find them, I have to warn Max. She has to know we were betrayed by—" Nudge's voice is usually stopped here, her mind too shattered to finish her sentence, but this time, her own voice rings out loud and clear and shrill, chilling my bones: "ELLA!"

"Max! Where are you? Max, please help me! If I know you're still here, I can make it through…" Fang's voice calls out. But Max was too lost in her own curse of a newborn thirst for blood to actually respond.

"FANG! Don't! You promised me! Please don't! Wake up, Fang!" Perhaps this was Max's final straw. The School had had some control over her before this, but the moment she found herself holding Fang's dying body in her arms, she fell completely into the enemy's grips, even though she was sure she was injuring them. She had just become one of them. Perhaps the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

"Angel, are you okay? Angel, I'm sorry, I really am. I wish that—" What, Gazzy? What do you wish? I had been with my brother in his final moments, having dragged myself to his side to say good-bye. He went limp before he could finish his last sentence.

"Breathe. Why is there blood? Everything hurts! Why is there so much pain?" I wince, taking in the meaning of this. My guess is that the stitches, the ones across Iggy's eyelids, the ones that destroyed his dreams and fulfilled them all at once, were done in the back of that moving van, with a dirty needle, frayed thread, and absolutely no anesthesia.

It's all just so sick.

I then realize how terribly wrong this all is. Why did they have to torture us before killing us? Why did they give Iggy his sight back, just to take it away and kill him? Why did they choose to make Gazzy the almost-hero/dreamer? Why did they give Max a taste for the blood of her enemies? Why did they weaken Fang more and more and practically kill him multiple times? Why did Nudge have to be the one who lost herself in her own mind?

And what about me? What did they do to me?

They shot me. They hit me. Almost nothing. I have never been meant to save the stupid world, so why leave me alive?

Exactly. It's so imperfect that it's too perfect.

All these thoughts rush through my mind before the battle begins again. It all starts with the girl, her green, rubbery legs quivering under her fragile form. She is beheaded once again with the others and it is all set into motion.

Iggy puts his hands up to his face, feeling for a blindfold and finding none. His face contorts into a mask of horror as he runs his pale fingers over his eyelids, feeling the drying blood and the tight, uneven stitches that hold his eyes shut. He stumbles backwards in disbelief, then he pauses. He straightens up and takes a deep breath, trying to control his anger. He can't even cry over his realization, so he sucks it up. It's just like old times, he thinks. Iggy crouches down and picks up a forgotten weapon in the snow. A knife.

As the spirits swirl around us, I realize that there's more detail, just a little more, but enough. Nudge's skin has more color. Gazzy's eyes are bluer, closer to what they were when he was alive. Iggy's hair is redder and the blood running down from his eyes is a more violent crimson. Max's cheeks are more flushed. I can see drops of perspiration on Fang's face, as though it takes real work for him to do what he is doing.

They're right: the shadows only grow stronger each time.

I turn back to Darcy and the others, stumbling backward when I see that they've multiplied. There are numerous spirits gathered in the clearing, ones I don't recognize but I do know one thing:

They do not belong here.

AN: Now we've got something brewing in the present. This is one of the many unplanned aspects of the story. I hope it turns out alright.

I have a question. I would really appreciate an honest answer. First, lemme explain the situation: I'm having relationship troubles. We're on the verge of breaking up. We've gone through periods of time where we don't speak to each other. At all. We were both going through crap, but we just pushed each other away. It pissed me off like nothing else ever has. Then I tried to forget about it and keep going in the relationship, but then this week we barely spoke. Now he says he wants to keep going by just brushing it all off. What the hellk am I supposed to do about that?? Just please. Help.

And please review.

19. Severed Ties: Killing Romeo

AN: Thank you all so much for caring.(: And I'm not being sarcastic.=D

HEALTH WARNING: This chapter will most likely make your stomach churn. You may even upchuck. So keep a bucket or something nearby for good measure, so your lunch doesn't end up all over the computer.

Originally, the one deaths chapter was called Severed Ties. Now they've been split up and given sub-titles. This one is the first of four. Enjoy, as much as you can.

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Nineteen: Severed Ties: Killing Romeo

It felt as though my wing, having been trampled on, had been re-broken. I could feel the shattered, splintered bones piercing my skin from the inside. So many feathers had fallen out or been torn from my flesh that I was shivering with the cold. My left wing had already been folded in half almost perfectly, but now my right was also useless. Iggy was right: I definitely would never be able to take to the sky again.

My ankle was twisted into an angle so unnatural, so distorted, it looked to be straight from one of Picasso's cubism pieces. At least, if Picasso had painted his pictures in blood and signed them with pain. The arch of my foot was facing the wrong way and just the thought of standing on it sent more shivers down my spine. Shivers of disgust.

There was a bullet lodged into my side, the one I remembered being shot just before I blacked out. The wound it had made was constantly spurting blood, making my hands red and sticky from fruitlessly trying to stop the blood flow. I unconsciously began to pick at the sides of the wound, feeling for the bullet. I had to find it, had to get it out, though I couldn't remember why.

I could feel sweat, dirt, snow, mud, and blood caked on my hair, the blood from the wound that had opened up when the whitecoat had hit me over the head with that broken tree branch and stolen my weapon. I had no defense and I was lying in the middle of a bloody battlefield filled with the anguished screams of the dead and dying.

My survival instincts kicked in. I struggled to drag myself away from that clearing. I still heard gunshots, shouts and screams. I heard someone cry out, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I didn't think it could get much worse, but my remaining feathers prickled my skin when I heard the most unearthly scream exit someone's mouth. It was the scream of a broken heart. It was Max.

What had happened? I whipped my head around, wincing at the jolts of pain it brought. She screamed again, tears of blood flowing down her cheeks, though I couldn't tell if they actually leaked from her eyes. I could see that she had been severely wounded: the top of her shirt had been slashed open, allowing my eyes to follow the deep, jagged wound that stretched from her left shoulder to the middle of her breasts. Blood flowed heavily from the wound, soaking her shirt through and through. Some of her skin hung off her bones, loose on her skeleton and nauseating to see. The wound was so broad and deep and...precise. Someone had tried to carve Max's heart out. And nearly succeeded.

But that's not what she was screaming about.

Max was kneeling in the snow, her weapon a foot away, where she had dropped it. She was at Fang's side, cradling his head in her lap. I could see multiple punctures in his body, riddling through him like Swiss cheese, except that each hole was spurting a fountain of blood. It definitely didn't help that his back was also bleeding profusely, and not from a bullet.

Someone had sawed off Fang's right wing. I spotted it lying some distance away, the black feathers stained with blood.

"Can you hear me? Please wake up. You can't do this to me; you can't leave me. You promised. You're stuck with me forever," Max said. Fang's head lolled back, his hair brushing the snow lightly. A strangled sound exited his mouth and he coughed up some blood before it fell back into his throat, choking him. Max began to sob. Then she went hysterical: "FANG! DON'T! You promised me, dammit, you effing promised! Doesn't that mean anything? Please don't! Wake up, Fang, wake up!" She shook his shoulders roughly, desperate to retrieve him from the grips of death. "I LOVE YOU! Does that mean nothing to you as well? Did any of it mean a damn thing to you?"

Fang had lost too much blood to make sense of what Max was saying to him. His eyes kept rolling back into his skull. He was shivering violently, trembling from his head to his toes and in between. I could feel his thoughts fading rapidly as his mind succumbed to the darkness.

Fang was dying.

In my peripheral, I saw a whitecoat approaching them with a bloodstained saw in hand. The look on his face was cold, merciless and murderous. Max held Fang's face to hers, kissing his bloody lips, then she let go and sobbed into his chest. She didn't see the whitecoat coming towards them, holding the same saw that had claimed Fang's wing, I was sure. I tried to yell to Max, tried to warn her, but my voice caught in my throat, a stream of vomit exiting in its place.

I looked up just as the whitecoat swung the saw down. In one smooth, fluid motion, the fiend nearly chopped off Max's leg, cutting deep into it. But wait…how did he get her leg? He had sliced clean through Fang's neck. I didn't even try to stifle my hoarse scream when I glanced skyward and saw it, Fang's head, soaring through the air with a trail of blood in its wake. It hit the snow with a sickening thud and rolled right in front of me. And Fang's cold, flat, half-closed eyes stared up at me creepily, with what I could only guess to be peace shining in them. Still, I would swear he was trying to tell me something.

I looked away and gulped to keep my insides from escaping through my mouth. Fang had been the first one of us to die.

AN: I honestly didn't cry writing this. (Not too hard anyways.) This was my revenge on Fang. (x

HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray. The trilogy consists of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. I just finished the last book and I'm planning a couple fics for it. I loved the books. Check 'em out.

REVIEWS are like ANTI-DEPRESSANTS, when they are needed. They produce smiles, and laughs, and a feeling of happiness. (Let's ignore the fact that the anti-depressant happiness is artificial, because, I assure you, the happiness brought by REVIEWS is not.) REVIEW!

20. Severed Ties: Mind Games

AN: Thanks for reviewing.(:

Here's Nudge's chapter. While it's not as violent and Fang's, I think it's still kinda disturbing. But I'm sure your lunch is safe. Enjoy!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty: Severed Ties: Mind Games

I couldn't leave. I couldn't just drag myself away. How could I after what I had just witnessed? How could I leave my family in their darkest hour, when they were dying?

My mind blinked on and off, the blood flowing out of my body too quickly for me to really comprehend most of what had been happening.

I watched Nudge battling whitecoats left and right with a dagger, Gazzy backing her up. Then Nudge screamed, dropped her weapon, and clutched her head. She howled some more and dug her nails into her skin, leaving little red crescents embedded there in her temples. She ripped out chunks of her hair mercilessly, trying to fight whatever pain it was that she was feeling. Suddenly, she stopped, breathing hard, and pushed away Gazzy, who had stopped to help her. The whitecoats were satisfied to ignore them for the moment, as there were plenty of others to kill.

"Just a weird headache," she muttered, answering Gazzy's inquisitive gaze. She grabbed her fallen weapon and jumped back into the battle. I entered her mind quietly, using what little energy I had in me and my tired mind, looking to investigate. Two minutes later, Nudge shrieked again. I gasped and my fingers sank into the bloody snow, clutching it for dear life. I felt the…invasion of Nudge's mind, and the pain that came with it, as it happened for a second time.

It was a Voice.

"Nudge, are you okay?" Gazzy asked, pausing in his battle for a second time.

Nudge couldn't hear him. The two Voices currently inhabiting her mind were battling each other, arguing over the reign of another's brain. Before Nudge could stop screaming over the second's intrusion, another Voice entered, followed by another and another and yet another. Nudge's lungs were close to bursting from all the air she was pumping into them and releasing too quickly. The sound of her pain was louder than a siren.

Nudge! Fight it! Hold on to yourself! I told her telepathically. I only stupidly realized after the act that that had probably not been the best idea. Her mind was stressed enough already, ripping at the seams, without my advice. To top it off, one of the many Voices heard me and slammed me out of Nudge's mind. Hard.

My head spun with dizziness from my hasty exit and loss of blood, but I still managed to watch Nudge as she screamed in agony. Gazzy was by her side, desperately concerned for his friend, his sister, because he didn't know what was wrong, what he could do. And even if he knew what chaos was happening inside her brain, there was absolutely no way he could help her.

My mind was too weak to whisper to his brain. It wouldn't have done any good, but I almost told him, almost yelled to him what was going on with Nudge. In the end, I didn't. If her weakness was recognized, she would be an instant, easy target for our enemies.

After what seemed like hours of hearing Nudge howl in agony, she collapsed to the ground. The Voices conversing, disputing in her mind, had given her vital information: they had told Nudge that it was Ella who had told the School where we were. And Ella had done it out of anger and resentment for her half-sister, her own flesh and blood, Max. She had always been jealous, but then Max had taken it too far. And Ella would no longer be satisfied to just sit back and take it. She was going to fight back.

And the fight would kill everyone she loved.

"Nudge…?" Gazzy began, puzzled. He put a hand on her shaking shoulder, perhaps in comfort.

"Not now, Gazzy," Nudge replied, clenching her jaw. She pushed Gazzy away from her. "Not now."

Then she threw herself forward and off of the ground and started sprinting across the clearing, leaving the Gasman far behind her.

Where's Max? her mind asked. Maybe she was asking me, maybe she wasn't. For the moment, however, the Voices were quiet within her. My eyes darted to where I saw Max, covered in the blood of others and her own, killing as many people as she could, whitecoats and experiments alike. The irises of her eyes were red with rage, and probably blood. She killed relentlessly, telling herself that she was avenging Fang's death with each deadly blow she landed. Fang's blood was on the hands of everyone present. They would all pay for it. Max didn't have a thought in the world to spare for us. The only things swirling in her blood-thirsty mind were Fang in his last moments, and a single word:


Nudge had just spotted Max before she cried out again: the Voices were back. And this time, there were even more penetrating the once-safe haven of her delicate mind. Humans can say what they want, but Nudge in these moments displayed a truly shattered mind. A real taste of insanity.

Nudge's facial expression changed rapidly in the next few moments, as though she wasn't the only inhabitant of her body, as she should have been. She clawed at her face, leaving streams of blood to run down her dark skin. She ripped out more of her hair, sometimes even some of the skin from her scalp. She tugged at her skin as though it was foreign, not hers at all. Nudge plucked out the feathers of her wing and actually managed to detach part of her left wing from the skin of her back, the irony being that she had once wanted them gone. Her self-inflicted hurt only caused her to shriek louder, until she was like a banshee in my ears, echoing through my mind. The hideous, unforgettable sound of a lost mind.

Finally, it ended. She was back to herself, gasping for the breath of life, though the broken pieces of her mind were everywhere. Nudge got to her feet, forgetting her weapon, and resumed her mission fervently: get to Max.

She couldn't see Max, so Nudge just pushed her legs to run faster and faster and faster, running aimlessly through the battlefield, dodging the struggles all around her, searching everywhere for her leader, shouting: "Max! Where are you? I know what happened, I know who did this—" and then…

The gunshot echoed through the clearing, a lone sound in the cacophony of the fight for life (or was it for death?). The bullet pierced the cold air, neatly slicing the atmosphere in half like a knife plunging into soft butter. And Nudge, my Nudge, my sister, my best friend, gasped in pain one last time, her brain cutting off all feeling in her body, every last nerve, before she fell face first into the red snow.

AN: If you didn't get that, she was shot in the head after a sort of multiple-personality disorder thing. Kinda fitting for Nudge, don't ya think? Well, that's three down, two to go, my one true love coming up next.(:

I should get writing 'cause I only have the next two chapters written. Eep! So if you feel like encouraging my fingers to move a bit faster, do feel free to REVIEW!

21. Severed Ties: Dreams of Pyromania

AN: So I skipped my chem homework a couple of nights to write and I have two and a half more chapters written for this fic, on top of the one after this. Phew. Now I don't have to worry about falling behind on updates.(: Lucky for you guys.

Thanks for reviewing. As always, it's much appreciated. =D

Now, if I remember correctly, this chapter isn't as bloody and gory and violent as the others. I always tear up reading it through though. )': I hope it brings forth the desired emotion in you guys. In other words, I hope you enjoy it.

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty-One: Severed Ties: Dreams of Pyromania

Gazzy was fruitlessly searching for a way out. He was sure there had to be a weak link in this hellhole. Yet everywhere he turned was death and confusion and chaos. Nothing was familiar. He had never been so scared in his life, I could tell.

I watched my brother in his search and he seemed to sense my gaze. Gazzy looked into my eyes, saw the fear shining in them too, and decided that sometimes courage is more important than fear. And he decided that this was one of those times.

Gazzy had been with Nudge in some of her last moments, when she was desperate. He had seen her lose herself to the many Voices preying on her mind without any idea of what was happening, any idea of what to do. And then he had watched her run, seen Nudge fall, a bullet gone through her skull. And it hurt him to think he had just been by her side…

Trying to focus on the task at hand and not his fallen comrade, Gazzy looked back at me, our twin eyes meeting, and thought: I'll get us out, Angel. I swear I will.

Before I could object and tell him to just get himself out of harm's way, he ran the other way, to where he saw that Iggy was desperately struggling to hold off three Erasers and a pair of whitecoats. Even with his sight gone again, Iggy still knew how to fight. In fact, maybe he was a better fighter without the burden of his eyes overloading his brain. The Gasman ran to him with incredible speed. If Gazzy was going to do some saving and be saved, he would be sure to pull his best friend along.

By sheer luck, Iggy narrowly dodged a dagger for his heart and it scraped the side of his chest instead, tearing his shirt. I didn't know how Iggy could've possibly moved away from the weapon after his life, as it came from behind, wielded by a silent, now dead, assailant. But there had always been mountains of secrets for survival in his blind mind. Secrets I will never know. Gazzy came up behind an Eraser, stabbed it through the heart with the knife he had picked up from one of the dead, and muttered, "Take that, you furry-assed bastard." As the Eraser fell to the ground, Gazzy spat on its bloodied, razor-sharp fur. Gazzy's hand was bleeding from its contact with the Eraser's fur.

"Gazzy?" Iggy asked cautiously. The last thing he needed was another enemy to face.

"That's me, my man," Gazzy answered, then he looked more closely at Iggy, his eyebrows raising and his eyes widening. "Oh my God. What the hell did they do to you, Iggs?"

Iggy shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, like nothing in the world could bother him, despite that he was burning with rage inside. "I'm not exactly sure. But it feels like they might've sewn my eyes shut."

Gazzy's face twisted into a mask of disgust and anger. He plunged his knife into a whitecoat's chest with much more force than required. "I swear, I'm gonna effing kill them for that, Iggy. I'm gonna kill them and then I'm gonna get us outta here."

"All of us?" Iggy asked, keeping an Eraser at bay with his bloodied dagger.

Reluctantly, Gazzy decided to tell him the truth of the matter, the terrible reality of the situation. "No. It's too late for that. It's too late for some of us."

Iggy froze, almost paying for the shock with his life. Gazzy took the Eraser off his hands. "Who?"

Gazzy gulped, knowing that saying the words would only make it all that much realer. Saying the words would solidify the actuality of it all. But courage was more important than fear at that time. And courage won out. "Fang and Nudge are dead. Fang lost his head and Nudge got shot. I don't know where Max is; she's killing these guys off like a machine, like she's been trained for it her whole life. Angel got injured really bad; I saw her lying in the snow, but she's not dead. And then there's you and me. We can do this. We can get out of here alive. I know we can."

Iggy shrugged, unsure about Gazzy's ideas. Slowly, tasting the words, he said, "It's not that I doubt your abilities, Gaz. It's just that they seem hell-bent on keeping us here until we die."

Frowning, Gazzy responded, "Well then, we'll just have to kill them all." He looked to where he should have been able to see Iggy's eyes, clear or cloudy, blind or looking out on the world, but all that Gazzy could see was blood pooled on Iggy's eyelids, the stains running down his pale cheeks. The horrifying sight of it.

"I don't know, Gaz…"

"We can do it, Iggs. I know we can," Gazzy said, his voice fierce with determination.

Iggy turned to Gazzy, perhaps mentally searching the Gasman's face. I sifted through their thoughts, their futile dreams. Their hope broke my heart.

And so I just watched them, plotting to kill the whitecoats and save themselves, fantasizing of freedom, survival, life. Things they would never again taste on their tongues.

They were so caught up in their dreams, their whisperings of the impossible, that they couldn't see anything clearly, most especially the tragic reality staring them in the face. Or rather, creeping up behind them.

With a powerful surge of strength, a whitecoat plunged a splintered wooden rod into Gazzy's back. Iggy had been unable to warn him, naturally. There had been no noise he could hear besides the two of them conversing. And then the Gasman wasn't talking anymore. Apparently Iggy's blind secrets of survival only applied to himself.

But Iggy did hear the silence, clear as a bell.

"Gazzy?" Iggy mumbled into the cold air, realizing that his best friend had fallen into the snow. "Gazzy!" he wailed, dropping his weapon and crouching beside the Gasman. Blood trickled out of my brother's mouth, his troubled blue eyes staring up at the sky, blinking rapidly. He wasn't dead yet, but close enough. Iggy's hands groped the snow, trying to find something, anything, of comfort in the cold, callous ice. There was none.

As Iggy wept over his friend's dying body, his sobs echoing in the air around him, another whitecoat came up behind him just as quietly as the first, and dumped a container of gasoline on Iggy. Iggy instinctively began to shiver, the liquid only making the cold air harsher on his mostly bare skin. Then he smelled it: the unmistakable scent of petroleum.

He gave a frightened little yell as he immediately stood up, trying to shake as much as he could off of him. Iggy was unsuccessful, for the moment he was on his feet, he felt the unnatural heat close by. And the lighted match made contact with his skin.

You know the whole "stop, drop, and roll" thing they teach you in elementary school? Well if you're actually on fire, chances are that you'll be too busy panicking to remember what your first grade teacher told you.

Even Iggy, the pyromaniac supreme, didn't remember this most basic rule of playing with fire. Because when you're on fire, your every instinct, your mind, the very essence of your being, screams at you: run. You always run from your enemies when you're not powerful enough to take on them. You run from your problems when you don't want to face them. Who really is power enough to face fire head on and come away victorious? No one.

So you run.

And that's exactly what Iggy did.

And his instincts, the instincts that he had trusted all his life, ended up costing Iggy his life in one of the most painful deaths imaginable.

AN: Let me clarify something: this was Iggy's chapter. Gazzy is still alive and his chapter is next. The last death chapter... And then things take a very, very interesting turn. Unexpected to me and hopefully to you guys, the readers.

Okay, well here in SoCal, there's like three weeks of school left. I'm super excited for summer! I have two chapters to finish, though it might turn into three, and then I'll probably start another fic. I have a couple of ides lying around for PJO and the Gemma Doyle trilogy. And that's pretty much all I want to do this summer: WRITE. Hope you guys all have an awesome time.(:

So, I just finished reading JP's Witch & Wizard. It was pretty good, I must say. But there's one thing in particular that made me crack up. You see, the two main characters had been captured by the enemy, blah blah blah, and were fantasizing ways to get out. The brother then says that maybe they'll grow wings and just fly away. In response, the sister scoffs and says something like, "Kids with wings? Like that'll ever happen." Maybe it's just me, but I find this extremely funny coming out of the mouth of one of James Patterson's characters.

On the subject of jokes, REVIEWS are very much like them. They both bring a smile to my face.(: So REVIEW!

22. Severed Ties: Wish Upon a Fallen Star

AN: So I'm currently writing the final chapter for this story. It went by so fast and took so many unexpected turns. But here is the last death chapter. Do read and even-dare I say it?-enjoy.

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty-Two: Severed Ties: Wish Upon a Fallen Star

The scarlet snow burned my skin as I pulled myself through it. I wanted to cover my ears to block out the angry voices, the moans and the cries of the dying. I used my arms to drag my bloodied, incapacitated body forward, toward my brother's own dying one. His breathing was shallow and labored, coming to an end. His thoughts were a jumble, floating everywhere and nowhere at once, too confused and muddled for a sane person's mind. It was beginning to reflect Nudge's broken mind and Fang's faded one altogether.

I made it to his side almost completely unscathed; the impossibly sharp tip of a discarded knife stuck in the snow had scraped against my thigh as I'd passed. I looked down at the Gasman's face, the features he possessed so like my own, ignoring the pain I felt every place in my body, even places I had never known could hurt before. I put my cold hand to his cheek, which was covered in sweat and blood. I tugged my eyes away from the shard of wood sticking out of his back, splinters of it visible in his chest, through all the blood.

Iggy was screaming somewhere, facing the horrible pain of death by a fire that would consume him mercilessly. Somewhere out in these callous, heartless woods, Iggy's pale skin and fiery hair were being scorched and burned by the fire he had always played with so freely, so carelessly, his friend turned enemy. I gasped at this notion. Just like his dream nights before... A betrayal of sorts. The loss of sight. And finally the burning. Maybe Iggy really did have some kind of powers after all.

Max let out another war cry, attacking more whitecoats with the thirst for vengeance that kept her attached to life by one single frayed thread. She could no longer distinguish between friend and foe; everyone was her enemy now. She just wanted to kill them all, everybody in sight. She wanted to kill them a thousand times over, a hundred souls to pay for that of her lover's.

There was nothing I could do to help them. I sobbed and stroked my brother's face as he died under my touch. Iggy would be ashes in the chilling wind soon enough. Max would most definitely fall victim to her own thirst for blood. And all I could do about it was shed a lifetime's worth of tears, the tears I had never dared to release before, lest I reveal a spot of weakness to my enemies...or to my family.

"Angel…" Gazzy croaked out.

I shushed him, hoping that maybe, just maybe, if he saved his energy—

"Angel, are you okay?" he persisted with concern.

I looked down into his eyes, watching the light fade from them little by little. My efforts were useless, I realized. He would die anyway. "I don't know, Gazzy. I don't know." A tear landed on his face and I noticed that his eyes were wet as well. His own tears slid down his dirty cheeks and mixed with mine, two souls alike and unalike, never to touch again.

"Listen to me. Angel, I'm sorry, I really am." I wanted to tell him he had nothing to be sorry for. The fault all belonged on my shoulders; he knew that. "You have to get out of here. Max is still alive. Get through to her." Gazzy gasped in pain, more tears leaking from his eyes. He wanted me to save myself and Max, if it was possible.

"Gazzy?" I whispered into the air, which reeked of death.

My brother looked up at me, his blue eyes reflecting mine, and he squeezed my hand with what I guessed was all the strength that he had left in his body, his mind, and his soul. All were dying little by little, piece by piece. Slowly, but not slow enough. I wanted more time with him. "I wish that—"

The Gasman's words were interrupted by a coughing fit, his wish landing on a fallen star. Blood filled up his mouth, choking him, drowning him, blocking the passage of air to his body until his eyes, the perfect replica of mine, rolled back into his head to see his brain. And then Gazzy's hand loosened around mine, his cold fingers slipping into the scarlet snow, releasing me forever, and he was gone. Dead. So suddenly, just like that.

I managed to get myself back to the trees' shelter on the outskirts of the clearing, back to the relative safety of it, and I watched the rest of the battle until there was no one left. My mind swirled in and out of consciousness, blacking out every now and again from the immense loss of blood I was suffering.

I had one eye pried open when Max was hanged, the details so much more ghastly than what I would see later, the blood such a vivid red that it burned my eyes. Her strangled screams seemed to echo, bouncing off the frosty, blood-covered trees. And then I watched the remaining whitecoats kill each other, the very last two making sure they died at the exact same time, so that no one would escape. Of course, they did allow themselves a moment to revel in the glory of outliving all their colleagues, their friends even. If only they knew that I had been lying right there, watching them, wondering what the hell the School had done to make them all so barbaric, or if they had already been that way.

The School was gone, every last bit of the prison I had known my entire life reduced to blood and bones. Every bit of evidence that I had been made special by force and not choice, stuck in this frozen wasteland. And worst of all, I still heard their voices calling out for the hope that would never come.

Fang died, the lover and best friend he had always been to Max. He gave his own life to protect her.

Nudge died in a bout with insanity. She died trying to find Max, to tell her something that seemed so important at the time.

Iggy died by the hand of cruelty, reduced to ashes flying in the wind.

Gazzy died because of his dreams. His hope and desire. His spark. All of which brought him damnation.

And Max died, a fallen hero, in the air, where she had always belonged.

I should've died that day, too. Too many coincidences, too much perfection. My life should've ended. It sure felt like it had though.

Because from that moment on, I was alone in the world.

AN: Depressing note to end on, I know. But there's always the next chapter.(:

REVIEWS are somehow like...relief. They're like that fabulous feeling you get when something you've been worrying about for a while suddenly doesn't need to be worried about anymore. So, do you wanna share that feeling with me? REVIEW!(:

23. Wanderer

AN: I just had a bout of insanity about Iggy.(: He is a very attractive birdkid, ya know. I have too much fun Googling him. I should probably join Iggy Addicts Anonymous, or something. But you know what? I'm in love with him and obssessed with him and that's perfectly fine by me!

So, you can consider that litle rant an excuse for the attention Iggy gets in this fic and the closeness between him and Angel. Or you can decide that the thing's totally between Iggy and Angel and has nothing at all to do with the lovesick author.(:

Now that the blood's pretty much over and done with, we have a bit of a filler chapter here. Sorry about that, but I hope you still enjoy it. So go on and read!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty-Three: Wanderer

I don't know how I stayed alive. So much happened and didn't happen that it all blurs together into fantasy and reality in my mind and memory.

I recovered somehow. Did a doctor really help me? Or was that part of my dreaming?

The bleeding finally stopped. But was my heart still bleeding inside of me?

My wings…my wings were hopeless. They would never recover, just like Iggy said.

Iggy…Iggy made me think Gazzy…Gazzy made me think Nudge…Nudge made me think Fang…and Fang made me think Max…

But what did Max make me think?

Max made me think loneliness, sorrow, self-pity, if only…

Max made me think me.

If only I had helped. I could've helped out that day rather than just lying in the shadows among the dead.

If only I had, then maybe one of them would still be alive. Or at least I'd be dead with them.

If only I'd had the sense to say no to the Director when she'd first proposed her bargain. Then it all would've been stopped. She would've killed me and the flock would still be living in peace.

If only I hadn't let my emotions control me and throw us in the path of such danger.

If only…. This phrase made me think regret. Guilt. Unsatisfied hunger for the impossible. A powerful will to change the past in order to affect the future.

But the past could not be altered. And neither could my future, my present.

The present. Like a gift. Mine was a gift, a curse from the pits of hell itself. A gift that would consume me from the inside. A gift that would most certainly be the death of me.

It is impossible to escape your present. It is impossible to forget your past. It is impossible to evade your future.

But if only I could…

There is one way, I know. One way to end it all. But that is unforgivable.

So many thoughts were running through my mind in the time following the battle. I don't know how much time passed, but it was a lot before I finally got my bearings.

I decided soon enough that I couldn't let myself forget my family, the ones I loved. And so, every year, I went back there, no matter how hard it was and how much pain it caused me. I had to do it.

I guess the obligation I felt to return to the place my life should've ended is similar to visiting a loved one who passed on every year on their birthday, their death day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day… You just kind of go to their grave with flowers and sit there, talking to them maybe. I guess my returning to that clearing was much like that.

Except, of course, they did the talking and not me.

The first year I returned, I almost couldn't find the right forest, the right clearing, like the way you struggle to remember which section of the cemetery you're supposed to go to. It was dark by the time I found it and the voices were so quiet, just whispers in my mind. I didn't really pay much attention to what was happening and I left after a little more than an hour.

The second year, I had to take an airplane. I had never really liked them and would've preferred to use my own wings, but…well, Iggy's prediction had been correct. I had tried multiple times to take off, only to come crashing back down to earth and reality.

A broken-winged bird girl. A useless girl.

Well, maybe not completely useless. I found my niche just before my fifth visit to the graveyard.

I was barely nineteen years old and I was in Los Angeles. It was just after twilight and I was speed-walking to the homeless shelter, hoping to get a bed, before the fiends of the night began their gruesome rounds.

It seemed, though, that they had already started. I passed a taped-off section of street, inside of which police and paramedics and detectives were crowded. Some people had gathered around the outside of the tape to observe the growing spectacle.

My curiosity got the better of me and I paused to look. It was a murder scene; that much I could tell. I saw the mangled body of a teenage girl, her clothes a mess, her hair caked with blood, being covered up after several photos for evidence. I could see her shadow a few feet away, struggling against an invisible attacker. She screamed his name. Monty. Monty Blanchard.

I scanned the spectators. After all, the culprits always return to the scene of the crime. One of them approached another, greeting him, "What up, Blanchard?"

Blanchard smirked at his friend. "Nothing much." He pointed over his shoulder at the girl's body. "Looks like someone got lucky, though."

The friend guffawed. "You got that right, Monty."

I had my man. I pushed through the crowd and ducked under the tape. I watched the girl's shadow dancing as her clothing fell from her body and blood spread across her face. I was now a witness to this crime.

I tapped a police on the shoulder. He looked like he was about to tell me to leave, when I said, "I know who did it."

I described to the officer exactly what had happened and pointed over to Monty Blanchard in the crowd. The cop asked me to wait as he went to consult with his colleagues. They kept looking over their shoulders at me, mumbling amongst themselves. I peeked into their minds, trying to determine whether or not they would believe me.

Finally, one of them walked back to where I stood. She pulled out a notepad.

"Miss, can you tell me exactly what you saw?" she asked, readying her pen.

Mentally sighing, I relayed to her everything that had happened, everything I had seen the shadow go through and struggle against. I made sure to be as detailed as I could without sounding like I was lying.

"And you say this man is here?" the cop clarified.

I nodded. "Yeah. His name's Monty Blanchard and he's standing right over there." I pointed subtly over my shoulder.

The officer followed my finger, sizing up the guy. She glanced over her shoulder and nodded at the others. One of the cops, the one I had spoken to first, went in for the kill.

The cop ducked under the police tape and weaved his way through the crowd until he was a few feet away from Monty Blanchard.

"Mr. Blanchard?" the cop asked.

The smirk fell off of Monty's face, his friend's look turning quizzical. "So what if I am?" Monty retorted defiantly.

The cop shook his head, clearly not amused. He fingered the handcuffs on his belt. "Mr. Blanchard, you are hereby under arrest for the brutal rape and murder of Janie Collins. Please put your hands up."

Fear flashed across his face. Then, Monty made a move to run, but there were more cops. They weren't about to let him get away. The friend backed away slowly, and as he did, I peered into his mind. He had had absolutely no idea what Monty had been up to and he was disgusted at his vile act.

I watched the friend slink into the shadows, watched Monty get cuffed and pushed into the back of the police car as his rights were read to him.

"You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will…"

I felt something touch my shoulder and nearly jumped out of my skin. It was another cop.



"I'll need to take your name. Mr. Blanchard will be having a trial, and as our most valuable witness, you must be present."

"Oh…" I thought for a moment. Should I give them my real name? These were the law keepers and I didn't want to get on their bad side, so I figured that I should.

"My name's Angel. Angel Ride."

The officer took a moment to write it down and then launched her next question: "Are you under eighteen? 'Cause if you are, we'll need to speak with your parents."

I shook my head. "No, I just turned nineteen." And you wouldn't be able to talk to my parents anyway. And the only family I'd ever known was…

Well, you know.

"Okay, will you be comfortable at your home?"

I bit my lip. Home… To me, that was still the little house up in Wisconsin, the one that my family lived in, the one that had been burned to the ground all those years ago…

The police officer saw my hesitation. "Are you homeless?" was inevitably the next question.

I looked at my worn shoes, my tattered jeans. I was pretty sure the answer to that question was obvious.

"Do you have anywhere you can stay?"

I shook my head sadly.

"Well this is a bit of a problem. Stay right here for a sec, will ya?"

I nodded as the officer went to consult with the others about what to do with their homeless witness. The cop came back after a few exchanged whispers and told me, "We can find you a place to stay where you'll be safe until after the trial is over and Mr. Blanchard is safely behind bars. Are you fine with that?"

Was I fine with that? Of course I was fine with that!

Instead of smiling and jumping for joy like the bird in me wanted to, I just nodded solemnly, trying to act my age.

"Okay. Do you have any personal belongings?"

"Uh…" I had the clothes on my back, which I occasionally got to change. Sometimes I managed to get into a shelter and shower, sleep in a bed, stock up on food…

But right now, at this moment, it was just me.

"Alright. I hope you don't mind riding in a cruiser."

I shook my head. "No, ma'am."

The officer laughed. "As long as you're not cuffed, right?"

I let my lips curl into some semblance of a smile. Maybe, just maybe, my future was getting a tad brighter.

AN: It is indeed geting brighter. Don't bail on me just yet; there's a heart-warming ending on the way.(:

REVIEWS are like...the TRUTH. In fact, I hope they are the truth. They are much better than the lies and gossip that tends to spread these days, especially in high school. /: Anyways..REVIEW! Think we can hit two hundred this time around?

24. Circles

AN: Tuesday the 15th was the three-year anniversary of the creation of my FanFiction account. Yay! I was considering going on an updating rampage, but I thought twice and just wrapped up my final Twilight fic from, like, two years ago.

AND...WE'VE PASSED TWO HUNDRED REVIEWS! WOO-HOO! You guys rock! For that, I dedicate this chapter to all of you, my faithful readers and reviewers who have stuck with this story through all the depression and violence and are hoping for a not-so-saddening ending. Enjoy the chapter.(:

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty-Four: Circles

After the incident with Monty Blanchard, I snagged a job as an intern at the LAPD. I watched how the police structure worked, living at a local shelter until I scrounged up enough money to get a tiny apartment.

I admired the police for the work they did, the justice they brought to our chaotic society.

And I realized that I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to be the calm in the storm, the justice in the anarchy.

I wanted to help bring peace to the world.

So one day, I got up the nerve to ask the Chief what to do.

He spun around in his chair, his coffee (which I had brought to him) in hand and I cleared my throat.

"Um, Chief?"

"Yes, Miss Ride?" He took a sip from the mug.

I swallowed the nervous lump in my throat. "I was just, uh, wondering what training I would need to undergo in order to work here as an actual officer."

The Chief smiled and downed some more coffee. "I've always liked you, Miss Ride. You have character. A story. And I always thought you would make a wonderful officer. I'm glad you finally asked me." His withered face crinkled into a smile.

And then he told me what to do.

And I eagerly swallowed his every word.


I had just finished the first part of training before I left for the north. The year had come and gone full circle, and it was time for me to go back up north.

So six months after my twenty-first birthday, the day before the battle, I caught a plane. I didn't know exactly where the battle had taken place, but I used my instinct and chose a flight leaving LAX and going to…

The last place on earth that I would've expected.


Because, as fate would so will it in its everlasting cruelty, the battle where my family died happened on the very soil where we had once built our home.

The whitecoats had set fire to our house only to clear it away so that they could turn it into our execution arena.

I couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed it before. But then again, I learned something new about the day my world ended every year, when I forced myself to relive it.

And just when I'd thought the world couldn't get any crueler.

But let's not dwell on my cynicism. I was a police officer in training, on my way to taking over Max's rejected, uncompleted mission:

Saving the world.

I really don't mean to be pompous or anything, but maybe they'd given the mission to the wrong bird kid. They'd created Max to be perfect for it, supposedly, but look at what happened to that prospect. Max was dead and she didn't die trying to fulfill her mission. She died in anger and rage and vengeance. And she had made it perfectly clear that she had no desire whatsoever to complete her mission.

Max had chosen the ones she loved over the rest of humanity. And that was her flaw: the flock over the world. Except we didn't have to worry about where to go. The world was still around, just sans the flock.

No one could really be expected to save the world when there were things that were more beloved, more precious. That always led to an ultimatum.

Max had let her love take her over. And it had killed not only her, but the very people she'd been trying to protect.

I had no one left to love. I had the desire to fight for it, for this impossible mission.

And I would.

Save the world, Max.

But angels were supposed to do the saving, weren't they? When they were utilizing their Maximum ability?

So that made me think, had the whitecoats really meant for Max to save the world?

Or for the resident Angel to do it?

Either way, I would do it, with a gun in my holster and a badge on my chest. Max had died and the mission fell most naturally onto my shoulders. It was my responsibility now.

Save the world, Angel.

Now that's more like it.


I waded through the crowd at the airport. I had no baggage with me and I wasn't going to be staying in Wisconsin more than a day. In fact, I was planning to catch a flight the departed around nine PM, back to my cozy apartment in L.A. before anyone could miss me.

I stepped outside, the cold air chilling me, but feeling refreshing at the same time. I was glad to be back in the open after all those hours cooped up in that tiny plane. Fresh snowflakes danced through the air in front of me, not enough to be annoying, but just the right amount to look pretty and dazzle the eyes.

I was certainly dazzled, at least.

I hailed a cab and told him where I would like to go. Just to the town. I would pick my way through the woods from there, taking the familiar pathway home…

When the cabbie dropped me off, I could see that the town was pretty much empty. There were no kids playing in the snow, nor looking out at it with magic gleaming in their eyes. No shops were open, no cars on the street. It was eerily silent. A ghost town, a haunting of what it used to be.

Granted, it had never been a thriving town, but this was ridiculous!

I walked through the deserted streets for a while before I finally changed course and trudged toward the trees, the snow crunching under my boots. I had gone some way before I realized that it had stopped snowing. I was nearing the heart of these woods.

And you know what happens from here.

I walk through the dense trees, pulling my coat around me tighter. I am slowly making my way through these lonely, forlorn woods. No one else knows of where I am going, what my purpose is. No one even knows where this gloomy place is…

AN: Sorry for Angel's conceited moment(s), though they do have a point. The very last bit happens to be the opening paragraph of this story. Also, sorry about how short this chapter was, but the next (and last) two chapters will be EPICALLY LONG.

So guys. About those last two chapters. While they are, in my own humble opinion, amazing and mind-blowing, chances are that I will not be able to post the last chapter on time. Expect it July 9th. Sorry. (I seem to make a lot of apologies today...)

Next Chapter: This is Now, Part Five.

Today was my last day of school. I am now officially half-way done with high school, and from the looks of things, I won't have to take math next year! On that note, REVIEWS are like SUMMER VACATION. Now does this one really need any elaboration? REVIEW!

25. This is Now, Part Five

AN: Wow...Chapter Twenty-Five already...Ahem. So yeah. There's a poll on my profile regarding what my next fic will be. The options: "The Battle of the Exes" for MR (Fang comes back unexpectedly, arousing lots of conflict in the flock and within Max), "Far From the Ordinary" for PJO (following Percy and Annabeth's unusual daughter through Camp Half-Blood), and "Lady Hope's Tree" for Gemma Doyle (Gemma returns to the realms to make the alliance with the other creatures, with some twists on who will be part of it). The current numbers are 3 votes, 1 vote, and 0 votes respectively. Go vote on it and voice your opinion.(:

Sadly, this story is coming to a close. Well, maybe that's not so sad. Maybe you guys are just ready to get all the grief over and done with. Either way, everything will be wrapped up in these last two chapters. They are both pretty long, in my book. The epilogue alone was about ten pages. But, yeah. Just read AND ENJOY!

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Chapter Twenty-Five: This is Now

I stare at the shadows for a solid minute, probably more. There's so many, too many to count. Their presence here makes my head spin. I want to vomit at the sight of so many dead, want to clutch my head to block out all the voices swirling through my brain. It hurts…oh, how it hurts…

Darcy, Dr. Martinez, and Ella stand at the front of the multitude, calming the souls who don't belong here. A tear falls from my eyes, dampening the blood that's already on my cheek from earlier. I don't wipe it away this time, afraid of drawing more blood from myself and triggering more memories.

Darcy walks away from the other shadows and back towards me. There's a sort of…fierce look in his eyes, a look that does not belong in the eyes of a dead man. It's much too alive.

But is that what Darcy's doing? Is he coming back to life? Right before my eyes?

That seems like a perfect description of what I see happening. He's coming back to life. He's coming alive to avenge his death.

They all are.

The very thought sends shivers down my spine.

I hear branches snapping in the forest. Darcy pauses mid-step to find the source of noise. It's another spirit, running at us with a fiery intensity. This one doesn't stop at the edge of the crowd, but runs right into the fray of his fellow spirits, the ones who have yet to break away from their deathly prison. He pants like he's out of breath.

These are no longer shadows, mere stains of the past. These are ghosts.

Everyone's eyes are drawn to this new ghost, including mine. He straightens up and I see that he bears a frightening resemblance to Darcy. This must be his brother.

When the ghost opens his mouth, he utters a frightening message: "She's coming."

At least, it seems to frighten the other ghosts. I don't know what he's talking about.

Darcy must see the confusion on my face, because he finishes making his way to me. He takes my hand in his, rubbing circles into it, and caresses my face with his other hand, wiping away a mixture of blood and tears.

"The time has come, pretty Angel. She's here. The Director's come to finish what she started all those years ago. She's come for you. And only you can destroy her," he says.

My wings begin to shake. The Director… Every fiber of my being screams for revenge against the woman who inflicted this pain on me, the one who stole away my world, my sky, my life.

And she's coming here, to my old home.

For me.

My blood boils in my veins. Darcy sees the anger churning in my eyes and embraces me. His hug is somehow warm and allows my shoulders to relax the slightest bit. I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I'm amazed to find that Darcy smells exactly as I remember: of smoke and the night. Of darkness. Of mysteries. Of memories. Of my fourteen-year-old self.

I love it.

But I don't have time for this right now.

You see, Max left another mission undone, one she could have and should have finished back when she took down Jeb.

She left the Director alive.

I have to kill her.

And I'm not alone. I have an army of angry dead ghosts standing behind me.

All is quiet. I pull away a bit from Darcy's embrace, listening ever so closely to the forest's infinite sounds.

Then, I hear it: the sound of snow crunching under someone's feet.

I step away from Darcy reluctantly. I can't show any weakness, not in front of my greatest enemy.

"Pretty Angel, I'll be here, right by your side. I'll protect you, pretty Angel. You'll live, I swear it," Darcy murmurs in my ear.

I want to argue, say he shouldn't jeopardize himself for my sake. But he's already dead. What more harm can possibly come to him?

The crunching snow comes closer and I brace myself for my fate as the footsteps stop. A tree branch moves, and the face of the Director comes into view.


For a moment, I just stare. I feel Darcy's hand nestle in mine, providing more comfort than the touch of a traitor should.

But I loved him. And I discover, in this instance, that I still do.

The Director looks at me, her lips curling into a sickly sweet smile. She steps forward, through the crowd of ghosts, making me remember something: she can't see them. My army isn't real to her.

She doesn't stop walking until she's about ten feet away from me. She folds her arms in what I assume is supposed to be a smug, intimidating gesture. Her hair is a sheet of pure silver, her skin more creased than a crumpled ball of aluminum foil. Her smile is nauseating to look at, and that's all before she opens her mouth to speak.

"Ah. Number Eleven. We meet again."

I steel my gaze, squeezing Darcy's hand tight. From the corner of my eye, I can see him wince in pain and I loosen my grip.

"Ironic that it should be here, where we last met, and where we met the time before that. Don't you agree?"

My free hand balls into a tight fist, my fingernails digging into my cold skin. A slight moisture tells me that my hands are sweating, or bleeding, or both. I don't want to respond. I just want to get this over with, just watch her writhe in pain before dying forever.

I want to watch her suffer like I have for the past seven years.

Darcy steps behind me and wraps his ghostly arms around my waist. He kisses the back of my neck, his lips sending a brief shiver down my spine and through my useless wings. She can't see this. She can't see that I'm unable to face her without someone holding me up.

The Director chances to step closer, her eyes locking onto mine. I follow her every move carefully, determined to not let her slip away from my grasp. She seems to circle me, almost like a lion stalking its prey, moving in for the kill.

But this prey is so much smarter than this lion. And this prey is driven by a thirst for revenge.

"Don't you have anything at all to say, Eleven?"

My jaw clenches in rage, immune to the comforting things Darcy whispers into my ear, his unreal breath feeling unnatural to my skin.

The Director smirks at me, obviously satisfied with my silence. "I guess you know why I'm here, then."

My head jerks in some semblance of a nod. I bite my tongue to stop the words from pouring out all the things I want so badly to say to her.

"Well, I applaud you for your tenacity. But now, I will give you two options. After all, it's said that there's always a choice in everything and I most certainly would not want to deprive you of that.

"So your first option is that you come with me. No hassle, no pain, you just come with me. And you face your fate.

"Your second option is that you can fight it. You can fight against the inevitable, against me and my infallible plans. Your choice, Eleven. Make it now."

I glare at her, hoping she can feel the ice of it. Darcy knows what my decision will be, as do the other ghosts. I know the Director does as well; she just enjoys tormenting me so.

In a spark of defiance, I spit at her feet and say, "If you think I will ever again assist you of my own free will, you are sorely mistaken."

"I knew you would say that, Eleven. You've always had…spunk. Your exposure to the world has made you tougher than you started out. You were so young, so impressionable when you left the School. You have not tasted the pain of captivity in the way the others have. As a result, you have not been so easy to dispose of."

I can almost feel my blood boiling beneath my skin, sending flushes of warmth throughout my body. She has absolutely no right to talk about my family like that. I'll kill her for it. Honestly, I will.

It's as though the Director can feel the emotion seething from my every pore. She steps closer. "So how do you want to do this, Angel?"

I stagger backward into Darcy, shocked to hear my actual name exit her mouth. She's caught me off guard with the one thing I didn't expect.

"Don't let her find the chinks in your armor, pretty Angel. She thinks she knows you, but she doesn't. Don't let her use your weaknesses against you."

And with that, Darcy pushes me forward, toward the enemy.

"Ready to face your fate?"

I lunge at the Director, at her sneering, creased face. Her expression doesn't change as I make a grab for her neck. But…one moment she's there. The next…she's gone. Perplexed, I turn in place, searching for her.

"Behind you, Angel!" Darcy exclaims. I move at his warning just in time to dodge the Director's attack. It is then that I see she doesn't intend to play this game fairly: she holds a Swiss army knife in her hand.

I have no weapon.

Or do I?

My eyes fly to the battle taking place beside us, the shadows' never-ending fray. It makes me think that, if I can feel Darcy beneath my fingertips, then maybe, just maybe…

I see the ghostly weapons pile and run for it. Déjà vu surges through me, my feet following the same path at the same time that they did seven years ago. I hear the gunshot once, followed by the other three, and I know one of those dead bullets is now heading toward me. I'm hoping, though, that it will still be enough shadow to pass through me without harming me. But then a thought passes through my head, a question that I would love to have the answer to.

Who shot me?

I see the bullet piercing the cold air just inches in front of me, the bullet that hit me all those years ago. I retrace its path, following the disrupted air in its wake back to the source. I see the little gun, poised in a pair of shaking hands. Hands that are too familiar. Trying to suppress my horror and shock, I look up at the holder of this weapon, at the person's face.

At Max's face.

For a moment, I just stare at her, gawking. Seven years ago today, I was shot in a battle that killed my family. And the person that had shot me had been someone I had trusted with my life, all my life.

And Max had betrayed me.

The Director observes my anguish for a moment as I watch Max step toward where my unconscious body once lay. She pokes at the air there for a moment, and then it looks like she's picking something up. She gestures to Fang's ghost and he helps her lift my invisible body and move it out of the way.

Finally, the Director decides to take advantage of my rapture. As I watch Max and Fang move my incapacitated, invisible body, she comes up behind me, her footsteps crunching in the snow. I ignore it. I just don't get it, can't grasp it—

I've always believed that a whitecoat shot me because I was there to shoot. But now I see more of the big picture: Max knew what she had been doing.

I hadn't been the one working with the School. Max had.

I try to shove the puzzle pieces into place, all the stupid, lopsided, mismatched puzzle pieces of my life, finding that the ones that had seemed to be completely different from each other before were actually connected in the big picture. Max had died trying to save world after all. She was, is, saving it…through me.

I suddenly feel it: a cold blade slicing the skin of my arm. I turn around with a start, my hand covering my arm. It's now wet and moist and sticky with my blood. The Director is smiling at me wickedly.

"Distracted, are you, Angel?"

I scowl, looking from my blood-covered hand and arm to the Director, still holding her knife. The blood flows down my skin and jacket and finally nestles itself into the snow. The moment my blood hits the ground, the blood shed by my enemy, I see the ghostly fray come to a sudden, silent stop. Max's ghost then twirls the gun and lets it fall to the ground with a very solid, very real, thud. Nudge stumbles to her feet, recovering from her brain attack. The fresh bullet wound in Fang's leg closes up before my eyes. I scan the clearing for Iggy and Gazzy. I spot my brother running over to Nudge's side. And then I see Iggy drop his dagger and he looks back at me, his eyes big and blue and clear.

He can see me.

Every new ghost's attention is drawn to me and the Director and the army of ghosts standing by, the ones who didn't die here. I feel Darcy's presence behind me and feel him place his hand on my arm, over my wound. The pain immediately vanishes, the wound heals, and the Director stares, her eyes bugging out of their sockets. I know now that she can see him, Darcy. Now she can see what I see.

And she knows now that she is outnumbered.

Fearfully, she staggers backwards, dropping her measly weapon. And she trips over the recovering body of one of her colleagues.

She can touch them, too.

With a glint of evil in her eye, the Director runs, as fast as someone her age can anyway, straight for the weapons pile that I had been going for.

I run after her, knowing my hope, Max's hope, depends on me getting there first and getting a better weapon than that bloody Director.

I push her out of my way and dash ahead, until I feel her hand curl around my ankle, my bad one at that, and drag me back toward her once I've lost my balance.

My fingernails claw the snow, trying to slow her pull. And then it suddenly stops. It's just me lying in the snow, no hand, alive or dead, around my leg. I lift myself up and look behind me. The Director is being held back by…my army. And the ghosts from the field. They're beating her back, making it as painful for her as possible. And, boy, does it look painful.

I continue to the weapons, the place I had been unable to make it to seven years ago, slower this time. However, I'm once again unable to make it there, because Max's ghost stops me. Call it a ghost if you want to, but this thing, this entity, seems an awful lot like Max to me. Whatever she (it?) is, she puts a solid hand on my shoulder and hands me her gun.

The gun that she had used to shoot me.

"I hope you understand, kiddo. I hope you know what to do."

I nod at Max, closing my fingers around the gun's handle. And I turn away from her, my sister, my mother, my friend, and I take slow, even steps toward the Director, ready to face my fate at last.

It all seems to make some kind of sense now. Max knew she couldn't save the world. That's why she made sure that, someday, I'd be able to. Her last sane act before she completely lost her mind, and her love. She knew what had to be done, and she knew she wouldn't be able to do it.

There are no coincidences. Max shot me with purpose, let herself die with reason, watched her life wither away to nothing with hope. All to bring some shred of peace into the world.

And maybe, just maybe, her plan is finally working now, seven years later.

Seven years too late for her.

The snow seems to melt into spring beneath each footstep that I take, the gun getting heavier and heavier in my hand as I go. But I don't stop. I can't. I'm too far down this path to turn back now. Iggy looks at me, pinning the Director's arm behind her back. It's so good to see him now, like this. It erases the terrible picture of his bloody eyes, sewn shut with anger. They sparkle that enchanting blue in the sun's scarce light.

And then, holding the Director's other arm, is Darcy, the boy, man, that I love. His hair brushes the tops of his eyes, his breath exiting his mouth in little puffs. He sees me watching him and smiles. He mouths something to me, and though I can't hear it, it lends me the strength I need to walk the rest of the way.

The Director's eyes find me as soon as I stop in front of her.

"If you kill me, Eleven, you'll never have your curse lifted," she says to me, a last attempt to gain control of her experiment-gone-wrong (pun totally intended).

I weigh the gun in my hand, teasing her. "Well maybe, Marian"—she winces at her real name—"it isn't really a curse. It all depends on how you look at it. Maybe this 'curse' you gave me is really…a gift." A smile plays across my lips for a fleeting moment, before I turn serious again and point the gun at her.

The Director stares down the barrel. I swear I can taste her fear in the air.

"Maybe you were never really in control of all of this, of all of us. Maybe someone else had a bigger plan and you were just their pawn. And maybe now, it's time for you to give your life up for the cause."

The Director says nothing in response to my suggestion. She is indeed a part of a bigger plan, a part of Max's plan, her last and grandest scheme. The nearly-complete mission for the greater good.

Save the world.

And I pull the trigger.

AN: The epilogue will NOT be posted next week; sorry guys, but I will have absolutely zero computer access next Friday. So expect it in two weeks, on Friday, July 9th.

REVIEWS are just wonderful. Please leave one for me.(:

26. Epilogue: The Miracle of Forgiveness

AN: I will be posting a Mortal Instruments oneshot next Friday, as a sort of in-between for stories. Check it out.(:

Sometime soon, I hope, probably on July 24th, I will be posting my new story. The poll results say that it will be...*drumroll* The Battle of the Exes, for Maximum Ride! The (unofficial) summary: Dylan joins Max's flock as Fang scours the world, recruiting more mutants to his cause every day. Max claims that she's over Fang, but when fate brings them together to save the world after two years of separation, she can't stand being around him. Will she deal with her pride, anger, and anguish, or watch the world go to hell? All over a stupid ex-boyfriend? I have about...five chapters written for it so far, so I'll post the first on Saturday the 24th!

Ahem. Now, back to this story. So when I said July 9th, I didn't realize I'd be busy. Rather than making you guys wait longer, I'm posting a day early. This one (the epilogue) takes place in the present, picking up right after Angel shoots, and I hope it's long enough to satisfy. I also hope you guys enjoy the very last chapter of If Only.

If Only…

Summary: It's been exactly seven years since a terrible battle involving the flock played out in a forlorn forest clearing. But what really happened on that day can only be told by revisiting the bloody past and unlocking the secrets of the flock's sole surviving member…

Epilogue: The Miracle of Forgiveness

Death is a horrible sight on its own.

Death, when you know he's been called on by you, is the worst sight that can ever be witnessed by the human-bird mind.

There honestly is not that much blood in the Director's body. I guess it evaporates away or something with old age. And she was old as hell.

My army slowly disintegrates as soon as she's dead. Their murderer has at last been given justice and they no longer have any reason to linger in this realm of existence.

Finally, there are only eight ghosts left: Ella, Dr. Martinez, Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Darcy.

For a moment, we all just stare at each other, the Director's body in between me and them. Nudge whispers something to Max, eyeing Ella. I know she's completing her mission, telling Max what happened. Max turns to her sister. I feel my grip loosen on the gun and it falls from my hands into the white snow.

"How could you?" Max says to Ella.

Ella stares at her feet, too ashamed to look her in the eye. "Max…"

Before Ella can finish her sentence, Max's ghost pulls her into her arms. Surprised, Ella reluctantly hugs Max back. I swear I see a ghostly tear fall from her face.

"Don't worry, El. I get it. Anything for family, right?"

Ella nods against her sister's shoulder. Max eventually releases her and embraces Valencia. I guess Max got a lot sappier after she died.

I do my best to smile at the Martinezes when they look at me and fade away into the oblivion. Then, fives faces turn to me. Darcy hangs back, kicking the snow around. The flock starts walking over to me, Max in the lead, just like she's always been. For a moment, they stop and just look at me uncomfortably, like they're unsure of what to say.

Iggy gains his composure first. His ghost walks to me through the snow, looking down at his bare feet. (What is it with these ghosts and their bare feet?) His clothes are smooth and spotless, his skin pale and rough, but not scarred. His eyes are that intense shade of blue that they were after we left the School, not the dull, cloudy color they had been in all my memories before that. When he's a few feet away, he pauses. He rolls back his shoulders and right before my eyes, he extends his wings. They're perfectly fine. No longer paralyzed or mangled or charred and burned. It's a gorgeous sight to see. Iggy flaps his wings a couple of times, stretching the muscles, before finishing the walk to me.

Iggy's arms are warm when he wraps them around me, kissing the top of my head. I hug him back, trying so hard to not cry.

I feel his hand rubbing circles into my back. "Shh, shh, it's okay, Angel."

I want to throw something. "No, it's not! You guys are here because of me! You died because I was too stupid to stop it all!"

The tears fall from my eyes and there's nothing I can do to stop them. Iggy pulls back and wipes one of them away. "Angel. Just think about it: if it hadn't been for you, then I would never have seen the sun setting over that lake, I would never have seen you, or anything worthwhile. I would only have memories of darkness and misery and death. You gave me a new experience. And quite frankly, it was worth the price."

I want to tell him to stop, to tell him it's so stupid to say that. It's all so stupid that I want to slap Iggy for saying it. Wouldn't it have been better to have lived a full life than to have only lived for twenty-two years?

Gazzy walks over, too. His wings are outstretched, and he looks like a real-life angel. When Nudge, Max, and Fang follow my brother, their wings open, I can see that they all look like angels.

Iggy steps back and the Gasman nearly crushes my bones in a bear hug, lifting me up off the ground in the process. He twirls me around, my legs spinning in the air. I wrap my arms tightly around his neck, glad to feel him solid and strong beneath my touch. I close my eyes, and let my fingers run over the impossibly soft feathers of his resurrected wings. There is no hole in his chest, no splinters of wood poking out, no blood staining his clothes. I want this moment to last forever, to savor it for all of time.

He doesn't say anything, nothing at all. He just lets the moment be without adding words. His touch says it all.

Too soon, my brother stops spinning and my feet come down on the ground, feeling the reality underneath them. And then, before I can open my eyes again completely, I'm falling, falling down to the ground with something heavy, something too light, on top of me.

I feel Nudge's lips brush against my cheek. I open my eyes to see her smiling down at me, her eyes sparkling. She helps me to my feet and then really embraces me, her arms as tight as boa constrictors around my waist.

"Oh, Angel, my best friend. Angel, Angel, Angel…" Nudge smiles, her eyes closing delicately. "It's so good to see you. I can't believe you're all grown up now, in the blink of an eye. I turn around for a moment and you've transformed. Oh Angel…"

Her feathers are soft, too, so soft and oh so real, the wings completely attached to her back in perfect condition, her hair framing her face. Could it be…?

No. I stop the thought before my hope can rise.

I feel Fang's hand on my shoulder as Nudge releases me. I swear that there's a tear glistening on her cheek. Then Fang, ever dark and brooding and silent Fang, wraps his arms and his pitch-black wings around me. There are two of them this time. And there's no evidence of the meeting between the saw and his neck. His dark hair is the same as always, long and shaggy, trying to cover his eyes. His feathers brush across my face and the feeling is like heaven. His black eyes look at me and for a moment, I can read every emotion in them. Hope, sorrow, love, agony, forgiveness…


"We'll always love you, Angel." Just those simple words. I let my eyelids flutter shut and my mind wanders into his. Or at least, it should. I can't get into his mind and that reminds me that he isn't really here. Even so, I might as well enjoy this all as much as I can.

Max comes up behind Fang, wrapping her arms around his waist and kissing his cheek. "I love you," she whispers to him.

He turns to her, his best friend, cups her face in his hands, and kisses her deeply. A tear falls from Max's eyes and it's all just so beautiful to see.

"I love you, too, Max. And everything you ever did or said meant so much more to me than you could ever imagine. I'm not going anywhere. I'll gladly stay with you. Forever," Fang says to her.

Max smiles, remembering what she had said to Fang as he died in her arms. He had understood. She kisses him again, ignoring the tears falling from her eyes. Fang's crying, too, I see. The rock of emotion can feel. He can love.

And Fang truly does love Max. They both love each other, more than they can comprehend. But Max no longer fears this unknown. She accepts it.

We all just watch them, so happy to be with each other, even in death. And then Max stops. She takes Fang's hand as she bounds over to me, throwing her arms around me.

"Oh, Angel! I'm so proud of you! You did it. You saved the world."

I let myself hug her, too. It's good to breathe her in, to finally understand. But I have to know. "Max…why didn't you want to save the world?"

"I did, Angel, for a while. But power corrupts and I was being corrupted. Sometimes, it's more important to make sure something happens than to make sure you get all the glory. I didn't want it, I wasn't made for it. They told me so, they told me I was just the prototype. That there was another that had been made like me, but better. They just weren't sure about what they couldn't control, and they had control over me. They directed my path and I followed unconsciously. But you. They couldn't control you without your knowing, they couldn't predict your every move. I was the prototype. You were the real deal."

Even though I had suspected as much, I'm amazed to hear it. I was always supposed to do it. I was really made to save the world.

"And, Angel? You wouldn't have let anything stop you. I let everything stop me. Anger, jealousy, pain. I let my vision be clouded to what I needed to do. I let my thirst for vengeance control me when I could've ended it all. I knew from then that there was no turning back. I would never have been able to save the world after that, but I couldn't stand by and let it die."

I grip her tighter. "Thank you, Max. Thank you for believing in me."

She kisses my forehead. "You're my baby. I raised you to be believed in."

I nod, glad to know. Max really had known what she was doing. And she still managed to do it, even in death.

"Oh, and Angel?"


She leans in close and whispers in my ear, "Don't make the same mistake I did. He loves you." Her eyes dart over toward Darcy. "Give him the chance to do things right."

I smile, tears falling from my eyes. "Okay. Thank you, Max."

"No problem, kiddo." She tousles my hair and goes back to Fang. Everyone else hugs me again before walking into the depths of the forest. At the last moment, Max turns back to look at me. "By the way, Angel, it's okay to be selfish sometimes. I was selfish plenty of times. I…We just want you to know that we don't blame you for where we are today. Not one bit." She winks at me and they all wave good-bye as they continue into the woods.

Something in my gut tells me that I won't see them again for a very long time, not until it's my turn to die. When it's my turn to join them. For once, I don't find this knowledge painful. I won't see them until I die. And I can live with that.

When they've all disappeared, Darcy turns to me. His footsteps are quiet in the snow. I meet him halfway.

He strokes my face, catching the tears there. I look up at him, unsure of what to say.

don't make the same mistake I did…give him the chance…

I will give him that chance.

I pull Darcy to me, wrapping my arms around his waist like he's the last human being on the planet. And he pretty much is. He's the last person on this earth that really matters to me. And maybe it wouldn't hurt to let him know that.


"Yes, pretty Angel?" he murmurs into my hair.

"I…I love you."

For a minute, nothing happens. I feel Darcy's chest rise and fall with his breathing. I don't feel a heartbeat beneath his skin.

Then I'm in the air, impossibly high. It's exhilarating. I haven't felt like this in more than seven years. It feels like I'm flying.

Darcy's spinning around, holding me up in the air. His muscles aren't strong enough to keep us going forever and soon he topples over into the snow and I fall on top of him.

He kisses me, my hands, my fingers, my eyes, my cheeks, my forehead, my nose. And finally, my lips. The sensation of it is amazing, just as amazing as the first time. I kiss him back, realizing just how much I've missed him, his touch. I'd vowed to never forgive him. But I love him.

At last, Darcy breaks away. His breathing is not labored, like mine. Just the same, steady flow. "Oh, pretty Angel. I thought I'd never hear you say that again. I love you, too. And I'm so sorry."

I kiss his lips again. "It's okay, Darcy. I get it. Anything for family. And you did everything you could to save your family, your world."

"But it wasn't worth it, Angel. I thought that once I turned you in and got the money they would leave us alone for good. But they just came back. They came back and killed us all. My mom, my brother, Lucas, me…"

I nod, crying. He thought he had done the right thing to help them. He had all the right reasons. But he was just lied to.

"When they came, I didn't know what to do. My mom panicked. She screamed and screamed for help but no one came. They killed her first, to get her to shut up. My brother had just gotten home and he tried to fight them, swinging his fists everywhere. But he didn't have any weapons. And they were armed to the teeth. They had me, two of them holding me down, another ready to kill me in an instant, forcing me to watch it all. And then another one came in from just outside, dragging Lucas behind him. Lucas was bloody and half-dead, shouting to me that he was sorry. He had been scared and told them where I was. He betrayed me out of fear, just like I did to you. I realized then how you must have felt. And I started calling your name, yelling that I was sorry. They shot Lucas and I just yelled louder. And then everything disappeared."

I feel the tears dripping from my eyes. I hug him closer to me, so sorry for what he faced, for the regret he had felt. "It's fine, Darcy," I tell him. "I forgive you. I nearly betrayed everyone, too. They just had us back-stabbing everyone we loved, like we were all puppets or something, like we were their experiment."

An experiment. Maybe that's all it had ever been. Maybe it was just like they had told us, so long ago. It was all an experiment, a test of our abilities.

"Maybe we were…" Darcy says, like he's reading my mind.

I smile down at him. "Well whatever we were to them, at least we aren't anymore. Now we're just free to live our lives."

"Or are we really? What if it's just the next leg of the race? What if they're still here, watching us from the wings?"

I shrug. "I don't know. But it sure feels to me like there's no one trying to control me anymore. Don't you feel any different?"

Darcy nods. "Yeah. I do. I feel…alive. Just like I always have with you."


"Yeah. Did you know I stopped the drugs after what happened with us? I didn't want that artificial feeling of life anymore. I only wanted the real thing. And you were the only one who could ever give me that real feeling."

I kiss his lips. "Wow. From the moment I met you, I knew there was something about you. And I was just yearning to see more of you, to get to know you. And I fell in love with you."

"Angel, you are my angel." He kisses my cheek. "Thank you."

I hug him closer still. "I wish we could just stay here forever, Darcy."

"But we can't, pretty Angel. I have to move on, and so do you. Nothing can last forever. Forever is all of time, and time started before we did. We can't possibly have something forever."

I realize he's right and that he's not being pessimistic. It's only logical. He said so himself that he's a die-hard romantic. So it's not cynicism that makes him say this to me. It's the logical side of him. "Still, Darcy, I just…wish…"

He puts a finger to my lips. "I know that there's something else you wish for, too, pretty Angel. And that's a wish I can actually grant for you, though it can't possibly make up for all the wrong I've done you."

I look at him, confusion in my eyes. What else could I possibly want? And then I remember the little waves of envy that went through me when I saw the flock, felt their feathers.

I want to fly again.

Darcy moves me gently so that he can stand and then he offers me his hand. I let him pull me to my feet. The snow starts to fall again, just little specks of white floating in the air. I feel his hands on my shoulders as he takes my jacket in his hands and I step out of it. My wings shudder at the sudden cold.

Darcy finds a fallen branch and uses it to makes to long holes in the back of my shirt. He strokes my wings, his fingers gently caressing my feathers. I love the feeling of his touch.

His hands stop, pressing on my wings so hard it almost hurts. I wince slightly and he apologizes. But he doesn't stop. His hands are against my wings with too much force.

And then, just as suddenly as he started, Darcy releases the pressure. I gasp in relief and he wraps his arms around me from behind. His kisses my shoulder, my neck. "I'm sorry, pretty Angel. But now you have your wish."

He helps me back in to my jacket and kisses my lips again. "I feel like all I'll ever be able to say to you is how sorry I am. I'm sorry. But it's time for me to leave."

"I understand. Thank you, Darcy." I hug him for what I know will probably be the last time. "Thank you so much."

He kisses my lips briefly. "I love you, pretty Angel. Never forget that. I'll come for you one day, when your time here is up. I promise."

I want to cry so bad and never stop. "I love you, too, Darcy Higgins. And I won't forget it, I swear. I'll never forget you." I kiss his lips once, twice, five times. I don't want to let go yet. But I know I must.

He takes my face in his hands. I can already feel his touch disintegrating, turning more into that chilling breeze I first felt rather than the warm touch it had become. He kisses me, one last time. We just stand there and kiss until there's nothing left, nothing to see, and nothing to feel but that breeze.

He's gone.

A cold wind hits me and I hear the three words that the air whispers in my ears:

Fly, pretty Angel.

I close my eyes, letting the snow fall onto my eyelids. Fly. I take off my jacket, and move my wings. They shift and for the first time in a long time, I feel like they might actually be ready to hold my weight and to heed every command my brain throws at them.

Flying is much like riding a bicycle. Once you really learn how to do it, you never really forget. It's ingrained into your being, embedded into your brain, written on your DNA. My wings shudder open. You step onto the bicycle. I flap them once to try it out. You spin the pedals, keeping one foot on the ground. I run. You kick off. I leap into the air, the wind catching in my feathers. Your feet find the pedals. I flap my wings once, twice, again, pushing against gravity to stay in the air. You pedal forward, feeling the wind against your face.

But still. Flying is so much better. Incredible.

And before I know it, I really am flying, through the air, over the tree tops, in the sky. I feel so alive, especially when a breeze tickles my ear and I hear my name.

For the first time since the battle, since my family died and I lost everything, I feel a genuine smile break out across my face, chased closely by a laugh.

I'm flying again.


Thirty years, come and gone.
A promise to keep.
An impulse to act on.
Waiting for eternal sleep…

I didn't expect this to be the night.

It was just my normal rounds. I had been passing by. Just like I always had done for the past thirty years.

I had become an officer and slowly but surely climbed up through the ranks. I had seen so much evil, but so much life.

So much to live for.

Pretty Angel…

So much to die for.


And here I lay, dying.

He promised…

I cough, blood soaking me through and through.

The flock…

I had seen those men. They were doing terrible things to her. Oh, such terrible things. The monsters.


I couldn't stand it. I quickly radioed for back up. There were so many of them. But I had to stop it, to stop them.


I forgot my gun in the car. Who can respect an officer without a gun?


I admit I've gotten old over the years. But that doesn't mean I haven't been a good officer. I've played by the rules. I've done everything I was supposed to. I've saved lives.

Save the world…

A lot of the time, I fly if I'm needed somewhere fast, faster than a car could go in the congested street traffic of Los Angeles. No one knows about that. It's my secret. And sometimes, I use it to scare. Just like I had done tonight.

Fly, pretty Angel…

They had been scared, alright. Scared out of their wits. They'd backed away from the girl, thinking their death was upon them. The Angel of Death.


And fear told them, told him, to pull the trigger.


I felt the bullet, not the first to ever enter my body. But this one…it hit my heart, dead on. And they left me, lying in a puddle of my own blood. And there's no snow to absorb it. Just my wings, my wings! Everyone will see them, everyone will know my secret!


The girl is still there, sobbing. Over what they had done to her? Or over what she had just witnessed? She's in shock, I'm positive. There's nothing she can do to save me, to stop me from dying. I won't blame her for it.

My family…

It has been said that it is best to die with no regrets. They'd told me I was forgiven. But I somehow still feel the guilt, the regret.

If only…

I feel the vibrations of sound bouncing around the alley's walls. The sirens. My reinforcements have shown up. But it's too late, too late for me at least. Maybe they can still save the girl, but not me.


I see him then, as my eyelids become too heavy to hold up. I see his face looming above me and I want to smile. But my lips won't move. I'm losing all feeling.

Save me…

He reaches his hand toward me. I try to tell mine to lift up, to meet his.

"It's time, pretty Angel. Don't be scared."

I try to tell him I'm not scared. I'm relieved, and oh so happy to see him at last. I try to reach for him again and I see my arm lift up. But it's not really my arm. It's too pale and translucent. It's the arm of a ghost, the stain of a shadow.

"Let's go, pretty Angel."

My hand is in his now. I'm walking with him. I see the officers, some rushing toward the girl, others toward my lifeless body. They're astonished to see the snow-white wings extending from my back, speckled with blood. Still, they try to rescue me. But I don't want to go back.

You saved the world…

My time is up. My work is done. It's time for me to leave.

"It's okay, pretty Angel. I'm here."

Darcy looks so calm, so relaxed. And then suddenly, he's not the only one. I see them all, the rest of them. They've been waiting for me. Max and Fang, Iggy and Nudge, my brother, Gazzy.

"It's so good to see you again, Angel."

They wrap their arms around me and I look down at myself. I feel no more pain. I'm no longer in uniform. My arms aren't lined and withered like they were this morning. They're smooth and perfect. Like I'm fourteen again.

"Welcome back, Angel."

I see Total at my feet, wagging his tail excitedly. He's welcoming me back, with open arms and paws. He's forgiving me. They all are. I've never felt so happy.

"How are you?"

I'm perfect. Amazing. So alive when I'm dead. It seems such a silly question to ask and be asked. How can I been anything but fantastic?

I'm home.

AN: This is your last opportunity to REVIEW for this story. I would greatly appreciate it if you took it. REVIEW!

EDIT (09/06/10): Guess what I noticed, about two months too late? The epilogue of this story (If Only) correlates with the ending of Owl City's song "Vanilla Twilight" (if you haven't heard the song, I highly recommend it; it's one of my favorites). Listening to it, I think Angel talking to Darcy:

"When violet eyes get brighter
And heavy wings grow lighter
I'll taste the sky and feel alive again.
And I'll forget the world that I knew
But I swear I won't forget you
Oh, if my voice could reach back through the past,
I'd whisper in you ear:
'Oh darling, I wish you were here.'"

Do you see what I mean? Strange, isn't it? Okay, I'm done now. For real.(: