The Long Way Home by deludedfreak

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Drama
Published:2006-10-01 18:50:05
Updated:2007-08-25 16:25:52
Packaged:2021-04-21 23:32:09
Summary:DISCONTINUED Hmm... This story's crap. It's generic and ADD and just generally bad writing on my part. So, I guess, read if you want, but don't blame me if you don't like the way it is.

Table of Contents

1. Prologue: Note to Self
2. Five Big Macs and an Annoying Neighbor
3. Strangers in a Library
4. Late Night Rendezvous
5. Talk to Me
6. Reunions Are Just SO Much Fun
7. Voice of Reason
8. Of Existentialists and Mind Readers
9. To Forgive and Forget
10. Everything Changes
11. Let's Murder Him in His Sleep
12. Head Implosions
13. Poor, Deluded, Her
14. Eat Your Heart Out
15. The Orphan Hermit
16. Not All Who Wander
17. A Mission from God
18. Waking Up PART ONE
19. Waking Up PART TWO
20. An Unsuspecting Victim
21. Impossible
22. Truth
23. Building and Burning
24. What Goes Up Must Come Down
25. Finally!

1. Prologue: Note to Self

The Long Way Home


Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride, or any of the characters mentioned in this chapter.

AN: This is my first MR fic, and my first chapter fic on this site. Ever. So... I'm still getting used to things, and it would be AWESOME if you just bear with me on this. I'll be putting my Author notes at the end of the chapter, but this one was just here for safety. And the title might be replaced. Not that you care.

It's always funny how you never realize things until it's too late. Like so many instances in my own life. Including a day ago, when I left behind everything I'd ever known- forever.

I always take off without looking back. That was the one thing I knew, to just leave the past behind and forget. But how can I forget the last fourteen years? It's not like my memory can be erased willy-nilly. I'm not that flimsy. Or so I like to think.

It's so weird how I hardly feel sad at all. I'm not crying, like I thought I would, and I don't feel as if my world is ending. I'm just sitting here, at this bus stop, writing a freaking letter to myself that I'll probably just throw away when I'm done. My wings hurt from having flown so far. I'm all the way on the other side of the continent, without the help of my turbo-flying. Why the hell I didn't use that, I don't know. Maybe instead of feeling sad, my mind is making irrational and stupid decisions. Like flying for twenty-four hours, straight. Yeah, that could be it.

My pen is running out of ink, see? But I don't want to stop writing, because I don't want to let go. It's too late now, to turn back and get the flock. I wish. I wish we could sleep in a subway tunnel again, stacking our fists before falling asleep, and fight those goddamned Erasers one more time- Hell, I'd kill to see even Ari right now. Of course, I'd be killing him, but that's beside the point.

My body is aching all over and I really need some sleep. Really badly. Everything feels all tingly, like I've just come out the isolation tank. I wonder if I'm ever going back there. I hope not.

I need to wake up.

And I need another pen. This one isn't cooperating.

There. This one works. Good thing I grabbed a whole bunch. So I'm just about to head over to Ella's to see if she'll let me stay for a little while. But only a little. I'm hoping to start school again, lead a normal life, just like I've always wanted to. I think I might give up flying, too. It'll just get in the way. And I'm never going to see any of the flock ever again. I'm promising myself that right now. It'd be too painful, and like flying, it'd just get in the way.

I know you'll never see this, guys, but I wish you could. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done that you hated, I'm sorry that we've lived this life. But, if there was one good thing that came out of this, it was that we got to know each other. Despite everything, I do believe we were destined to meet. Who knows. Maybe we'll see each other in another lifetime. Until then, I'll never forget.

I walked for a little while, my pockets stuffed with pens and a backpack slung over my shoulder. My eyelids were heavy, and I had difficulty keeping them open. Finally I entered the neighborhood, and going down one of the many streets, I stopped before a familiar house. Stopping at the door, my hand paused as it was about to knock. I smiled slowly, and rang the doorbell. My new life was just beginning.

AN: So... How was it? Good, bad? Tell me in your review. The next chapter should be up soon, I've got it typed up and everything- just need to adjust a few things.

I only have a faint idea where this story is going to go, so some parts may seem a bit trippy every now and then. But, like I said before, bear with me. PLEASE.

2. Five Big Macs and an Annoying Neighbor

The Long Way Home


Chapter One: Five Big Macs and an Annoying Neighbor

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride or any of the characters mentioned. I only own Jeanine and the plot.

"Leave the road and memorize
This life that passed before my eyes
Nothing is going my way"
-- REM, "Find the River"

Okay, so this is probably the millionth time that I've had to leave somewhere that I'd grown attached to. And unlike other people who say this, I'm not exaggerating. I stood on the porch, watching as the sun came up, waiting rather impatiently. I'd told myself to leave as soon as the clock struck eight. When it did, I'd get out of this dead-beat town, which I'd said was a boring-as-hell middle-of-nowhere dump, but had gotten attached to despite all that. I mean, I'd spent my last two years of high school here, and now I was moving to LA, to go to college. UCLA was a good school, I'd heard. From all of my teachers. And everyone knows that all teachers say the same thing.

But, it's not like I'm complaining. I mean, five years ago, I was wondering if I'd ever even get to go to college, or at least live that long. And this was nothing like I'd ever imagined.

Checking my watch, I tap the glass twice. "One more minute until eight," I tell myself.

Going down to where my dingy little car is piled high with all my crap, I jingle my keys slightly. Turning back to the house, I wave to my landlady. "'Bye, Mrs. Carmichael!" I call.

"Goodbye, Alison! Good luck in college!" She waves back, smiling that cheery smile of hers.

Opening the car door, I get in and start the engine. I'm leaving Lone Pine, for what seems like the first time in ten years. I'm leaving Lone Pine, and heading for Los Angeles.

By the time I get to Pasadena, it's past noon and I'm STARVING. Going through a McDonald's drive thru, I order my food and leave. After parking in an empty lot, I chow down on my Big Mac, four others stacked up in the passenger seat. Once I finish my lunch, I open the car door and begin to stretch.

I walk in a circle to work out the kinks, pushing back the sleeves of my sweatshirt to my elbows. It's midsummer, and really hot. I'm almost tempted to take off my sweatshirt, but remembering my wings, I decide against it. For obvious reasons. Looking out at the street, I'm almost surprised at the lack of cars. There isn't anyone out, for some reason. Feeling a little spooked, I climb back into the car and close the door. Starting the engine, a convertible filled to the brim with people my age strolls past, the top down. Music is pumping down the street, hip hop. I don't mind hip hop, just prefer rock. Scowling at them, I turn on my radio to block out the sound.

The driver, who seems to be squished against his car door looks at me, his mirror sunglasses hiding his eyes from my view. I glare at him, rolling down my windows. Obnoxious jerk. Go pump your music and blast your ears all you want. You'll be deaf before you know it.

He smirks, and one of the girls in the backseat snatches the sunglasses off his head, putting them on. His eyes catch mine, and I suddenly get the feeling I've seen him before.

Before I know it, the car is gone, along with the mystery man and the music. Shaking my head, I pull out of the lot and head for Los Angeles. I'll be there soon.

It's been five years since I've seen the flock. I've pretty much put them out of my mind, until now.

I don't even remember how everyone found their parents- they just did. And suddenly I was all alone. We still hadn't found out about me, and the only real lead I had was what Jeb had told me. I didn't really want to follow through with that. Iggy's parents, though, had given me hope. Maybe I wouldn't be so alone. I could take Iggy to Ella's house, and we could live there. Unfortunately, his parents had come to him, begging for forgiveness and promising they'd never do it again. You could tell how much he wanted to believe in them, and so he stayed with them. I was alone again.

Nudge's family was more than perfect. They all looked exactly like her, and I was extremely jealous. Though they didn't have much money, they got by, with five children. Nudge has four younger brothers, and an older one. Devon, Tyrone, Omar, Zeke, and William. I still remember their names, after all this time.

Angel and the Gasman were a different story. Their parents were just one huge problem waiting to be locked away. They'd been drug addicts and they were teen parents, married in Vegas when they were high or something. I don't really know the details, but the bottom line is that when the School came to them, offering money for their kids, they took it, not caring about their kids' futures. When we found their parents they were in some drug rehabilitation institute or something and Angel and Gazzy went to live with their grandparents- a cute couple who buttered them up with sweets. Their real names were Carly and Louis Parker.

Fang's mom turned out to be really cool, and she was only in her thirties- I think. But anyway, when she was sixteen or seventeen, she got pregnant after a little night of fun with her boyfriend. He ditched her to raise Fang by herself, but she never quite got the chance, after he was taken. She married later, and had a baby. The kid's twelve years younger than Fang, but I think he'll manage. And his real name was something like Andrew Marticelli. I think. I can't quite remember, but I know his last name was definitely Marticelli.

And me? I don't have any parents, or at least none that I know of. But I changed my name after I started living with the Martinez's to Alison McClay. But at my old school there was a guy named Max in every single one of my classes, so every time anyone said his name, I'd look up. It got annoying, and I eventually learned to ignore it in senior year.

The Voice disappeared a while back. I don't know where it went, but it's just not here anymore. Thank god.

Fang and I used to exchange letters, but eventually those dwindled away to nothing, and now I have no idea where anyone is. And they probably don't know where I am, since I moved out of the Martinez's house a year after I started living there.

It's been five years since I've seen the flock. I've pretty much put them out of my mind, until now.

Until I saw the guy in the convertible.

I found the college in no time, registered, and went in search of my dorm. I was told I'd be having an apartment by myself, which was perfectly fine by me. When I got to the room, I was surprised at how small it was, but I adapted pretty quickly. I didn't have that much stuff, so it wasn't super cluttered like I'm sure all the other girl's rooms would be.

A knock at my door causes me to jump, and I quickly open it.

A girl stands there, smiling.

I stare at her, my eyebrows raised. "Well…?" I ask, a little annoyed.

Her smile widens, if that is even possible. "I'm your neighbor!"

Wincing at the insanely high-pitched voice she has, I hesitantly take the hand she's offered. "Nice to meetcha." I say, smiling falsely.

"We're going to be such great friends! What classes are you taking?"

I draw my hand back quickly, sticking it behind my back. This girl was beginning to creep me out. I'd like to tell her off, but that would be rude. I'm the nice girl after all. Or supposed to be.

"Um… Sure. I'm taking youth counseling. I… want to be a teacher. I can't remember my other classes though…" If the Voice were here, it would have snorted. Loudly. I don't want to be a teacher. I'm only doing it because my guidance counselor recommended it, and I didn't know what else to be. And I did remember my other classes. Just… didn't want this pep-squad leader knowing them so she could stalk me and force me to hang out with her.

Mentally shuddering at the thought, I glance over my shoulder. "Look, um…"


"Jeanine, right. I have to finish unpacking. I'm a little tired from my flight over here all the way from Boston. So I think I'll be hitting the hay soon. Bye," I close the door quickly, locking it. It seems these days lying is the only thing I'm good at anymore.

Collapsing on my bed, I lay there for a while before rolling over onto my stomach, burying my face into my pillow.

College is turning out to be just great.

And that's sarcasm, for all of you nitwits out there.

3. Strangers in a Library

The Long Way Home


Chapter Two: Strangers in a Library

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride or any of the characters mentioned. I only own Jeanine and the plot.

"You've got to choose a wish or command
At the turn of the tide, is withering thee
Remember one thing, the dream you can see
Pray to be, shake this land"

Cat Power, "Maybe Not"

College sucks. That's all I have to say. I have no time for anything anymore, I haven't made any new friends, and for some reason, I've been thinking of the flock more and more.

Oh, and did I mention my professors all seem to hate me?

I would be okay with that if I was in high school, but as it is, I'm in college, and they've been sending me death glares all week.

Little miss happy sunshine isn't helping either. Jeanine has been constantly knocking on my door, asking if I want to go to the movies with her, or hang out with her and her friends. I always answer back that I have to study, but I don't think she gets it. She follows me around the campus, chattering on and on about nothing, while I just try to ignore her. Try. Lately I've been taking refuge in the library, where I know she won't dare go. She doesn't like libraries, or so she told me. Something about too many books and a silence so loud you could hear it.

Oh well. It's her loss, really.

I roll over in my bed, setting my bare feet on the floor. Wiggling my toes slowly, I get up, heading for my closet. Today is my day off- I don't have any classes today. So that means I've got plenty of time to get my homework finished.

That is, if I want to. But I don't. Grabbing a plain red t-shirt and some jeans, I change quickly, pulling on my shoes. Stuffing my library books into a bag, I head out the door, tip-toeing past Jeanine's room.

Running the rest of the way down the hallway, I burst out into the sunlight of the early morning. Squinting, I look up at the buildings around me. The campus was still unfamiliar to me, so I had trouble finding my way- fortunately most of my classes were close to my dorm.

It had rained last night, and there are small puddles covering the cement. I step into every single one of them intentionally, running for the library. For some reason, I feel energized and ready for anything, like I can fly if I put my mind to it.

That thought brings all my others to a complete halt. In fact, my legs just stopped moving for a second there. And I just tripped.

With a loud splash, I land smack-dab in what has got to be the biggest puddle on campus. Sitting up immediately, I glance around to see if anyone had noticed. Hopefully, if I'm lucky… Damn. There's some guy staring at me over there. Better get moving if I don't want to be laughed at. Or at least laughed at while he can still see me.

Grunting, I stand quickly, my clothes now soaking wet. Great. I take off in a sprint, embarrassment making my face hot.

Once I get to the library, I head straight for the desk in the corner. It's been labeled as mine already, since I'm always sitting there, staring out the window. Apparently no one wants to sit at a table that I've touched.

Pulling out my books, I open one; flipping around until I find the page I'm on. Bookmarks are overrated, in my opinion. Wasting paper…

"Uh… Hello?"

Wow, I was so wrapped up in my book I didn't even hear this guy approach me. Looking up, I close the book on my finger.

"Are you okay?"

Puzzled, I wonder what the hell this guy is talking about.

"Uh… Yeah?"

"I saw you trip. You seemed pretty embarrassed, and really wet."

I roll my eyes. "Yeah, thanks for noticing. Maybe that's why I ran away from you as fast as I could."

He smiles sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. "Sorry. I didn't follow you, though. I was planning on going to the library too, when I noticed you."

"Oh…" So I didn't just gain another stalker. I don't think I could handle another Jeanine.

He sets his books down on the table, pulling out the chair on the other side. "Mind if I sit here?"

"If you do, the people here will think we're friends."

"And what's wrong with that?"

I wave my hand in the hair. "You'll be lumped in with what they refer to as the 'social outcasts'." I make air quotes as I speak.

"You're a social outcast?"

"Do I look like it to you?"

I didn't expect him to say yes, but he did anyway.

"Yeah, I guess you do."

How's that for honesty.

He sits down now, before I can argue anymore. I open my book again, and continue reading. That is, I try to.

"You know, you look really familiar."

Not looking up, I nod in an okay-that's-nice way.

"Really, really, really familiar."

I give no indication that I've heard him.

"Really, really, really, really, really-"

"I get it, okay? I look like someone you know." I set my book down and glare at him.

He smiles again. "Yeah, but if I keep talking to myself about it I'll probably figure out who-"

He stops mid-sentence, staring at me with huge eyes. I stare back at him, unblinking, until he opens his mouth so wide, an SUV could fit in it.

"Max?" He stutters out.

And then I freeze up.

So maybe I lied when I said Fang and I exchanged letters. But it was almost like we were. Whenever I was feeling alone, and I really needed someone to talk to other than Ella, I would grab a pen and whatever paper was lying around and just write a (kinda, sort of, not really)letter to him. I never sent them. Instead, I kept them in a small box under my bed, and I never opened it unless it was to put another letter inside. That box got pretty full after a while.

I was too scared to send them. Not only because they held some of my deepest feelings and secrets inside of them, but because… Well… Fang and I hadn't exactly left on the best of terms (that BIG FIGHT). I don't want to go into detail.

Those letters were more of a diary thing than anything else actually. In fact, Dr. Martinez even told me I should start a journal, so I could vent whenever I felt like it. The idea of being like a normal person and writing in a diary… I think it scared me, so I did what I could, and began my Letters to Fang collection.

I don't know what happened to them. Think I might have left them at Ella's house. That's… um… A scary thought?

Wonder what hell Ella would give me if she ever found out…

"Max?" He asks again, this time with even more certainty.

I try to ignore him by staring out the window, lost in a train of thought.

"Max, Max, it's me. Sam, remember?"

I look back at him, trying to keep my emotions from showing in my face.

"Who's Max?" My voice, which I thought would surely crack, sounds so stable and eerie that I wonder if it's even my own. I cringe mentally, hating myself more than I already do. Does he deserve this? No, I don't think so.

Tell him the truth… Tell him…

Sam recoils, as if he'd been burnt. "God… After all this time. I'm sorry, um…"

"My name is Alison," Like a bullet in the chest, Sam jerks away, scooting his chair out from under the table.

"Yeah, Alison, look, I'm sorry for bothering you… I have to… go to class…"

He leaves, just like that, making me feel like a complete jerk.

A/N: I have absolutely nothing to say for myself. Except... I'm sorry? The past few weeks have been kind of busy for both me and my beta, and it's really just the aftermath of our combined efforts of laziness. If you can even call it "effort." Anyway, Happy Halloween to all my readers!

I'm gonna beg: PLEASE REVIEW!

Hopefully the next chapter will be up in a few days. If not, don't shoot me.

4. Late Night Rendezvous

The Long Way Home


Chapter 3: Late Night Rendezvous

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any of the characters mentioned and named in the story. However, I do own Jeanine and the plot. So keep yer dirty mits off!

"And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it's alright, it's alright, for we live so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong, I can't help it I wonder what's gone wrong"

Simon and Garfunkel, "American Tune"

My short conversation with Sam was over a week ago, but it still haunts me, making me wish I hadn't said those things to him.

But can it really be helped? I had wanted to forget, and guess what; for once God actually decided he would listen to me. Why, though, did he choose that one particular…?

The look on Sam's face was enough to kill me. I know I deserve it now. I don't think I've ever felt this low since… Well, probably since Angel was kidnapped. Or maybe when Jeb disappeared and we'd all thought he was dead. I really should stop thinking about these things. They're making me too depressed, and yet, at the same time, they make me feel better because finally I'm taking the time to reminisce on days past.

I must sound so corny right now. But that's exactly how I feel.

Like a big, huge, hairy husk of corn.

I'm going to sleep.

I was just sneaking out of Fang's house when he stopped me.

"What are you doing?"

I straightened immediately, turning to look at him. "Uh… Leaving?"

I thought he would understand. I was wrong.

Fang gave me a look. Explain, Max.

"I'm going to Ella's. I'll be staying there if you want to get a hold of me," I began cautiously.

"Stay here, Max."

Shaking my head, I shifted the weight of my backpack nervously. "I can't, Fang. I'm sorry. I just can't stay here. It'd be too hard."

Fang gave me another look. "What do you mean by that?"

Letting out a weak sigh, I rubbed my forehead with the back of my hand. "I'm too weak. I'd rather run away from my problems than face them."

"What problems?"

I shook my head again. It was too complicated. "Everything. Everything here reminds me of something I want- no, need- to forget." He opened his mouth to speak, but I cut him off. "I can't tell you, Fang. Not this time."

He fixed me with the strangest glare I had ever seen before. Pinned in his gaze, I swallowed loudly, palms sweating.

"Isn't that being a little selfish?"

I tried to grasp at a suitable response. "Well- Ah, I- I… guess…"

I didn't know what was bothering me at the time. Perhaps it was the jealousy that I didn't have a family to love me like everyone else did, or that I simply wanted nothing to do with being a mutant freak. Either way, I was screwed.

I could almost hear his thoughts.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? Leaving us all behind- Did you ever once stop to think about we thought? What about the flock! They'll miss you, I'll miss you!"

But I wasn't really, not being a mind reader like Angel. I was a pathetic little… Piece of shit.

"Max!! Stay here!!"

By this time, the argument had heated up. We were outside, on the back porch, and I dismissed the idea of waking Fang's family up.

"We can help you! Don't face this on your own…!"

"Stop yelling at me!" Yeah, like I wasn't yelling as well.

He hadn't been angry at me before, but he was mad now.

"You're pathetic! You're too much of a coward to even take into consideration the feelings of other people. I hate you, Max; I never want to see your face again!"

Lashing out at me in the worst of ways, I lashed back, just as sharp and pained.

"You don't have to worry about that, Fang. I'm never coming back."

Backing away from him, I barely registered almost tripping down the steps in my haste to get away. Angry tears burned at the back of my eyes, and my fists clenched with anger and frustration.

That night, something inside of him must have exploded. He'd never been that mad around me before. I'd always be the one blowing up in his face, but that night, it was like we'd switched personalities.

What he was saying, I hadn't thought much about then. But now, it's hard not to.

I hadn't thought that what he was saying was true. But now, I know that it is.

I think, that night, was when I started hating myself.

I wake up in the middle of the night, my stomach growling so loud it could probably wake up a hibernating bear.

Grabbing my wallet and keys, I put on a jacket and my shoes, heading out for something to eat. A glance at my digital clock tells me that it's 11:23 PM, and I wonder if the liquor store down the street is open.

When I get there, it's not. I walk a few more blocks until I get to the closest 7-Eleven. Still open!

Once inside, I head straight for the candy aisle, taking inventory of what they have before moving on to where they keep the chips. I grab a couple bags and go back to the candy, snatching the last Skittles bubble gum and adding it to my stash. From the cooler I get a few water bottles, and a soda for later. I stumble over to the counter, trying my best not to drop anything.

Dumping it unceremoniously before the cash register, I run a sweaty hand through my mussed-up hair. The clerk rings up my purchase, hands me two full bags, and I'm on my way again.

That is, before I bump into someone coming through the door.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," They mutter, helping me gather up my junk food. They probably wonder what the heck I'm doing, buying this much crap so late at night.

"No, it was all my fault. I should have been watching where I was going," I answer back, not looking up.

Once it's all been cleaned up, I stand and help the other person up, intending to go on my way.

She smiles, dusting off her jacket. "Thanks."

"No problem."

She looks at me, looks away, and looks at me again. I always love to watch when people do double-takes. Makes me wonder if there's a gigantic bug latched onto my right cheek or something icky like that.

But I suppose I should have been suspecting what she says next.


"Holy crap… Nudge?" The minute the words leave my lips, I wish I'd choked on them.

And the look on her face makes me think all too miserably, too late.

A/N: Okay... So... This chapter was too short, I know. But the next one will be better, I suppose. And the next one after that will be even better. I think. I've got the next typed up, ready to go. But I'll have to wait for my lazy beta to finish editing. Sucks for you. I KNOW what's going to happen next, and you don't! -taunts you-

EDIT: It's been edited. I'm bored today, and I am supposed to be working on homework. (2-10-07)

Plus, I've finally figured out what significance Jeanine is going to have to the story. It's gonna be big. See if you can guess. -wink-


And a thanks to all my reviewers so far- You rock(my world -lick-)!!

And also, for any Fax fans out there, I will warn you- It's not to come for a LONG time. And I mean, like, ten chapters at least. And even then, it'll probably only be that Fang stops hating Max... Haha, spoilers... -ish an awful person-

I'm gonna go try to wash the paint off my hand some more... BAI! -scuttles away-

5. Talk to Me

The Long Way Home


Chapter Four: Talk to Me

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any characters mentioned here. However, I DO own Jeanine, the plot, and the overall story. In other words, KEEP YER DIRTY MITS OFF.

"And I sing and sing of awful things
The pleasure that my sadness brings
As my fingers press onto the strings
In yet another clumsy chord
Haligh, haligh, an awful lie
This weight will now be satisfied
I'm gonna give you only one reply
I know not who I am"

Bright Eyes, "Haligh Haligh A Lie Haligh"

It had only been two days since Monique had called him, bearing the awful news. He hadn't wanted to believe it, but when she showed up at his door a day later with the newspaper clippings in hand, there was nothing he could do but believe it. And he still didn't want to. But he did anyway. He had no evidence that she was still alive afterall. It said, there, in the paper, that a teenage girl had died Thursday night after being hit by a drunk driver. When the police went to investigate the corpse, they were floored at the realization that this body had two large wings attached to it. Now who did that sound like?

Although the accident had occurred in New Mexico, which was halfway across the continent from where he lived, in Maine, the whole country was buzzing over what had happened. But all for the wrong reasons.

No one was sad she had died. It wasn't a sob story about a beautiful, successful teenager whose dreams were shattered one fateful night because of a stupid drunk. It was simply about the strange possibility of winged people living amongst us.

Of course, the girl hadn't been carrying any identification papers on her, so no one knew who she was or where she came from. She could have been an alien, for all anyone knew.

At first he wondered what it had to do with him. Why Monique had called him about a dead girl who he didn't even know. Didn't make sense- until he actually read the article. There was no doubt about it. The description, the location, everything screamed one horrible thing: Max was dead.

As he and Monique sat around the small dining room table in his tiny apartment, they sat in silence. And he called Monique by her flock name for the first time in years.

"Nudge," He managed to say, his throat constricting. "She's dead."

Nudge didn't say anything back, but both of them knew. They just knew.

I can't say anything. All I do is stare at her. Just freaking stare at her.

I'm absolutely pathetic, and I know it.

But before I can even say a word, she tackles me in a huge bear hug. Judging by the way her body is shaking, she must be crying.

"I- Nudge…" I mutter half-heartedly, my mind as far away from anything except for this girl, who is holding onto me as if she'll die if she lets go.

I can't even see her face- It was just for a second before she attacked me. I'm almost glad I can't… Like it'd break my heart if I did.

"Uh… Nudge... Can't breathe too well…" I gasp out now.

She just shakes her head. "Too bad," Her muffled voice is small and quiet, her head buried in her shoulder. That's when I notice that she's taller than me now. And for some reason, I let out a small, choked up laugh. The sound lingers in the air for a moment before falling to the ground, a motionless flop to be stepped on as soon as somebody walks in through the door.

Once Nudge lets go of me, she stares at me through blurry eyes. The tears linger at her eyelashes, not having fallen yet. "You're alive," She breathes, her smile causing the tears to run down her cheeks.

I look at her. "Was I ever dead?" I ask warily.

She nods. "There- There was an accident. Someone got hit by a drunk driver. The body had wings. We thought it was you." Her sentences are short and direct, not beating around the bush.

I shake my head slowly. "I'm alive," I reaffirm that fact for her, so she knows.

"That's good."


The night is cold as I make my way back to the university. After Nudge had gotten what she wanted from the convenience store, we walked around outside for a while, just glad to be in each other's company. Few words were spoken, but really, none were needed. We'd talk more later.

I walked her back to the 7-Eleven, and while I stood there on the corner, she pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket. "What's your phone number?" She asked, a small pen in her hand, ready to write.

I told her, not asking for hers. I didn't think I need it. We departed, and she waved good-bye until I turned a corner.

It was great to see her again. It really was. But I feel too guilty to actually celebrate. Opening the soda I bought before, I take a long swig of it. After an accident back in high school regarding a party and lots of beer, I found out that alcohol wasn't good for my system. I was sick for a week after that, and vowed never to drink again. Soda was as good as anything at drowning my sorrows in.

I get back to the campus late. Around 2 AM. I guess it's a good thing I don't have any morning classes tomorrow.

Once I'm safely in my dorm, I drop my bag of junk food and collapse on my bed. I'm not hungry anymore. Just guilty.


Two days later, I get a call from Nudge.

"Hey, Max!"

"Oh- Hi Nudge."

"Sorry I haven't been able to call. I haven't had much of a chance to be alone, with the flock over and stuff…"

"What- Why?"

"Why what?"

"What's everyone doing over here, on the west coast? I thought everyone lived on the east-"

"Well, we moved here not that long ago. And for my birthday, my dad said I could invite over whoever I wanted. So I sent out invitations to the flock, and wa-la! We're here!"

"Your birthday? Wasn't that a few months ago?"

"No, Max. We don't go by our fake birthdays. Our parents have our birth certificates and stuff… So we know when we were actually born and where."

"Oh. Yeah." I'd completely forgotten.

"So how's college so far?"


"Fang decided not to go. He didn't see the point. Plus, there was nothing that he actually wanted to be."

"And Iggy?"

"Ig didn't want to either. It was already bad enough in high school, you know, being blind and all."

"So what were doing at that 7-Eleven anyway?"

"Fang and I got in a fight, and I went up to my room. But, I got kinda hungry and Fang's room is right next to the kitchen so…I had to settle for the next best thing."


"Oh yeah! On Saturday, I'm having a birthday party. We're going all the way down to Huntington Beach, and we're gonna walk around for a while before going to Ruby's. It's on the pier, remember?"

"I've never been there, Nudge."

"Well, it is. Anyway, I want you to come. Think you can?"

"I don't know…"

"C'mon! It'll be a big surprise for the flock! They'll be so happy to see you- especially Fang."


"If you do, we'll be at the grassy area on the side of the pier. Meet us there around 3:30 PM. If you don't I'll understand."

"I- Thanks, Nudge."

"You're welcome- Oh crap. I have to go. Carly's whining about something."

"You mean Angel?"

"Yeah, bye!"

I was unsure about going to the party. Of course I would be. I had given up on them. And now they were going to (supposedly) welcome me back with open arms.

But, as luck would have it, I'm going, whether I want to or not.

A/N: I'm in love with my beta. Seriously. I gave her a deadline not even five minutes ago, and she sent it to me today. I told her to have it to me by Tuesday.

Ya hear dat, Estie? I LOVE YOU!

She's so fun to tease like that. And I'm such a freak.

Okay, so this whole weekend I've had to spend with my scary CHINESE grandparents, since my parents went away. –shudder- They've been nagging me to do stuff. When they are around, I'm not allowed to have my hair wet after I take a shower. It's gotta be dry five seconds after I get out. And- My grandma lectures me too much. So while she's telling me some irrelevant story about how when she came to America, she didn't drink milk, I'm sitting there, wondering when she'll finish and I can go back to what I was doing.

Sorry about that. Just wanted to rant.

I finished the next chapter, and I'm itching to write more. I LOVE the next chapter. It's called: Party in the Hizzouse! And Fang and Max get drunk and have a night of fun. –coughsexcough-

PSYCHE! Who thought I was for real? But, seriously, I really do love the next chapter. It's so awesomely angsty and coolio that I'm gonna marry it and we'll live happily ever after.

Don't worry, I'll nag my beta enough that she'll have to get it finished. And then you'll see what I'm talking about.

6. Reunions Are Just SO Much Fun

The Long Way Home


Chapter Five: Reunions are Such Fun…?

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride or any characters mentioned here. However, I DO own Jeanine, the plot, and the overall story. In other words, KEEP YER DIRTY MITS OFF.

"I am a new day rising

I'm a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?
It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again"

Foo Fighters, "Times Like These"

I've always wondered why the earth is round. Why couldn't it be in the shape of a cube, or a heart?

If the world was shaped like a heart, does that mean that there would always be peace? And no one would fight or hate, and I could live by myself, and not have to follow the rules of the Others?

I wish the world was shaped like a heart. Not a sphere. Spheres are boring. They remind me of drops of water, or some other liquid-y substance that is colored red. Blood. Yeah. Drops of blood. That's what the world is. A big, huge drop of blood. And the sun isn't any better. That is a giant ball of fire and gas, and soon it will explode and take the other planets with it and humankind will cease to exist.

Or at least in the Milky Way. Maybe there are other galaxies out there, with different planets, with different species of organisms on them. And maybe there is an alternate Earth, called Rathe, because that's an anagram of Earth. But there'll be humans and birds and wolves and horses and bugs and sloths and platypuses and all other sorts of animals that can be found here and others that can't.

If there is a Rathe out there, I want to live there. Earth is boring. I'm sick of this life. The Others won't let me give up yet though. They say I've got one last mission to carry out.

The Others have strange voices. They are all old and tired and wheezy, as if they are a bunch of senior citizens who have just run the 100 meter dash.

I learned about that when I was looking up what high schools are like on the internet. Turns out they have these things called track meets, and the students come meet each other and run one hundred meters. Whoever gets to the end first wins, which I don't suppose is fair, since what if people started at different times? Then the people who began to run last would be puffing and wheezing and killing their lungs by the time they got to the last meter.

I'm glad the Others aren't making me go to high school, or its icky track meets. I'm going to college. I don't think they have track meets or 100 meter dashes there.

One of the Others told me before I left that I shouldn't get too attached to anybody there. I only nodded, wondering what he meant by that. When I asked Bub he told me that it was when a human starts to feel affection towards something. I told him that I would never do that. I am, or was, emotionless. I can't get attached to anything.

I'm not supposed to.

But I think I did.

I knocked on the door, waiting for her to answer. Apparently she was my target. When she opened the door, she had the most bored face in the world that it made me smile, want to laugh, want to feel. I didn't use the name the scientists had given me. I didn't use the name my family gave me. I used the name that I remembered suddenly. I don't even know where it came from. I told her. She slammed the door in my face. And I felt happygiddy. Happygiddy happygiddy happygiddy, like I'd just landed my spaceship on Rathe and the animals (along with some humans) came to welcome me with open arms.

Happygiddy. Happygiggly. Happyhappy.

My name isn't Jeanine though. She doesn't know that. She thinks that it is.

When the Others first began to teach me how to read and write, I hadn't understood the difference between the ways the "y" sounded.

I'd read a sentence.

"Why don't you try harder," said the rabbit.

"Why don't you tree harder," I'd say.

My family picked on me. The Others didn't care, even though they saw it enough. They'd tell me things like I was worthless. The younger ones, older than me, would hit me. I used to think that they weren't my family. My family wouldn't be so mean to me.

They didn't call each other family. They would only snarl at each other, joining forces only when the Others let us out to get our food. They'd form a temporary truce, then combine their talents to get what we all wanted.

Bub told me that a family is full of people who are alike each other and take care of each other, and I'd thought we were a family.

But they aren't. But it's easier to call them a family than what the Others call them.

Once, when we were out getting our food, I hadn't had anything to eat in a while, since the last time we'd gone out I was sick and couldn't stomach anything. So I pushed to the front of the line, ready to grab the food my family caught.

I guess I wasn't supposed to do that, because I was pushed aside almost immediately, and by the time everyone was finished, I hadn't had anything to eat. So I nibbled on a tiny piece of bone, nursing my hunger as best as I could.

When Bub came to talk to me that night, I told him the story and cried. When I wouldn't stop, I just gazed up at him and, hiccupping slightly, asked, "Why can't I stop creeing?"

The next morning, my family started to call me Cree.

And I once again found myself wondering what Rathe was like.


I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe I just hopped in my car and decided to drive all the way down to Huntington Beach.

I better start believing, because otherwise, when I'm thinking that it is just an illusion, I could crash the car and it'll turn out that it actually is real and the car will explode in a fiery burst of flames, and I'll die and miss Nudge's party. Then she'll know that I'm really dead and will be sad for a while, then get over it. And I'll be dead. Dead, dead, dead now.

Right. That sounds like a plan.


I change the radio station to KROQ, hoping to drown my thoughts out with music. Just my luck, Metallica is on. Turning the dial up really loud, I have to concentrate hard to keep from head-banging while driving.

Damn. There was a tiny nod right there.

I'm in Seal Beach right now, which isn't too far from Huntington Beach, about fifteen or so more minutes.

My cell phone rings, and I grab it, pressing the send button without looking to see who it is.

"Hi, Alison?"

"Oh, hey Nudge. Why'd you call me Alison?"

"I've got two morons standing right next to me."

In the background, I heard someone cry out in protest. Holding back a chuckle, I smile.

"So… Are you…?"


"Alright, seeya then!"

And she hangs up.

I throw my phone back onto the passenger seat.

This sucks.


Nudge forgot to mention how annoying it is to find a parking space here. When I finally did find one, though, it was as far away from the beach than it possibly could be. So it took me ten more minutes just to get to PCH from there.

When I got to the grassy part, I completely chickened out. I saw them. I saw all of them. They were talking and goofing around and being so- so- comfortable with each other that it made me want to puke. So I fled to the pier, and I'm still just walking around on it because I'm pathetic. Every now and again I go to the side of the pier, stare at them, and walk away again.

This really sucks.

I saw Nudge looking around before, glancing at her watch every five seconds, and I knew she was wondering where I was. I'll have to tell her when she calls. I'll have to tell her what a coward I am, how fucking sorry I am, and then I'll have to tell her that I'm a stupid, awful person.

And then maybe I'll start crying. That would be a nice touch. What would be even better is if she hangs up on me, angry, never wanting to see me again. But- it's Nudge. Nudge is nice, empathetic, Nudge. She wouldn't do that. I wish she was more like me.

A complete, total bitch.

This still sucks.

I walk down to the far end of the pier, where Nudge said that Ruby's was. Well, whaddya know, she was right! Leaning against the railing, I stare at the sun. It hasn't even begun to set yet, but it still looks beautiful. Craning my neck further into the open space, I close my eyes against the raw sea winds. It feels like I'm flying again.

Damnit, it feels good.

My face is cold from the merciless beating of the winds, and my nose is filled with the deliciously wonderful smell of the salty sea spray and I'm suddenly at peace, more so than I've been in five years. I feel like I can do anything, and for a moment I imagine shedding the sweatshirt I'm wearing and taking off into the wind.

I'd hit turbo-drive the moment I jump off the pier.

I'd fly anywhere, because I would be free.

I'd be laughing and smiling and happy, twirling in the air.

And the flock would be right behind me.

And I'd be fourteen again, with almost no care in the world, except for the occasional Eraser attack. But we'd beat those wolf kiddies down, since we were an unbeatable team.

And Fang and I would be best friends again.

Opening my eyes, I smile. Turning on my heel, I start off quickly down the pier, hoping to catch Nudge before they leave. As I'm nearing the grassy area, I see a large thing lift from the ground, spreading its wings in the air. It doesn't look like one of the flock… That could only mean-

"Erasers!" I hear someone squawk, and when I look to see who it is, I find Angel pointing in the direction of the hovering figure, which has now been joined by several others.

"Holy shit," I mutter.

They are coming straight for me.

I sprint the rest of the way down the pier, turning quickly, screaming Nudge's name all the way down the steps to the beach. Taking the stairs five at a time, I dodge onto the seating to my right, hoping to hide myself in the crowd of people retreating from the beach.

"Max! Max!! MAX!!!"

I dash right on by the flock, not wanting to look at them at all, even though I know they've seen me. Looking out towards the beach, I hear the lifeguard station telling everyone to evacuate the area. Deciding that my best bet would be to fight in an open space, I take a quick turn and run out to the sand, my legs moving as fast as possible.

It's insane how fast us bird kids can run.

But I probably shouldn't be thinking of this considering-

An Eraser just tackled me to the ground.

Spitting sand out of my mouth, I roll over to see him standing over me, his eyes glinting with glee over the fact that he'd just caught his prey.

Aw, man. That's just sick.

Shooting him the bird, I grab his leg and yank it out from under him. "Eat sand, asshole," I tell him, stepping on his stomach angrily.

There's a lifeguard heading this way. Just as another Eraser nears me, I shout for him to stop, and the big fat fur-butt punches me, knocking me backwards for a moment. Wiping my mouth, I spit out blood. If I lost any teeth from that…

Before I can do anything though, someone moves in front of me and beats the Eraser down. They turn around, and I'm face-to-face with someone so familiar, so distant, that I almost find myself about to cry.

"Fang," I whisper weakly, and my voice gives out.

I can't take this.

The way he's looking at me- He's glaring, and there is nothing more that I want right now, for him to stop. He mouths something, but I don't know what it is. My vision's blurry, and I take my sweatshirt off quickly.

"I'm sick of this," I say now, my voice as steady and calm as I've never heard it before. Spreading my wings to their full extent, I back away from him. His expression hasn't changed at all.

"Running away from your problems again, Max?" Fang asks, a malicious edge in his voice.

"Yeah. And you wanna know something? My problem is you."

And I'm gone before he can say anything else.

A/N: Mommy!!! Fang and Max are being meeeeeannnn to each other!!!!!!!!

YUS! BRING ON THE ANGST! –victory dance-

I'm probably gonna get killed for leaving it like it is. It's not an actual cliffhanger, but… Hah. I'm an awful person.

-guffaws like a donkey- I'm soooo bored right now, that I'm writing this AN before my beta has given me the edited remains. I guess I should change the summary too. I'll do that later. Now… -sleeps-

EDIT: The next chapter's gonna be one big guilt trip for Max, where she ends up reflecting on things, past mistakes, and stuffs. Yups. Internal dialogue, here we come!

EDIT 2: Yar… If you didn't get the first part of the chapter, dun worry none. It's not supposed to make sense. –winkydink-

7. Voice of Reason

The Long Way Home


Chapter Six: Voice of Reason

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride or any of the characters mentioned. I only own Jeanine/Cree, Miss Voice-of-Reason, her dog, and the plot. And the story is written by me. No stealing or I'll poke your eyes out with a spork and feed 'em to Cobi.

"Show me how it ends it's alright
Show me how defenseless you really are
Satisfied and empty inside
That's alright, let's give this another try
If you find your family, don't you cry
In this land of make-believe, dead and dry"
--Breaking Benjamin, "So Cold"

I've gotta say, it was pretty amazing to be up in the air again. I'd sworn off flying forever, or so I'd thought. Dr. Martinez had offered to perform surgery to cut my wings off, to rid myself of the temptation. I said I'd think about it. I never did. Now, I realize that it was a good choice not to have given her an "okay cut 'em off, doc," because they were a part of me.

But the thrill of traveling the wind currents was made bitter by what had just happened.

"I'm such a stupid coward," I mutter, kicking at a small piece of bark. I landed in a huge park, where there wasn't much of anything or anyone to see me. I walked to the lake, having nowhere else to go. My car is close to Main Street. I think I'll try to avoid there as much as I can right now.

A park bench calls my name from up the path. I plop down on it, ready to wallow in my misery. It's all I do nowadays anyway.

I guess I'll have to explain to Nudge later. It'll be worse this time, though, because, really there is no excuse. I came, I saw, I left. Would she be able to understand what was going through my mind at that moment?

Heh. Yeah.

Fang Fang Fang Fang Fang- ERASERS- Fang Fang Fang Fang-

Come to think of it, that was all I could focus on. My tiny brain wrapped around the feeling of him next to me, and it was like I was calm again. Forget music. Fang soothes my savage soul. Not surprising, considering the insanely major crush I'd had on him when we were younger. And although I may not have admitted to it then, I think I might have loved him.

I wore my heart on my sleeve back then. I think I still might.

But, if I feel good around him, what was that all about?

The way he looked at me, the way his dark eyes could only express anger and hate, the way my heart crumbled into a million pieces and blew away into the wind, was enough to make me apprehensive of ever seeing him again.

Did you see the way he glared at me? And then- he snarled at me! Oh god, he hates me! My best friend- Fang! - Hates me. I'm a piece of crap that doesn't deserve anything at all. Least of all him.

One look at us, and you'd never be able to tell that we used to be inseparable. How Fang had taken care of me, helped me through some awful times, how even though he was younger than me, acted so much more mature and intelligent than I could ever be.

We were fucking best friends.

And guess what? The idiot-that's me- blew it, and ruined the relationship with a few words and some innocent wing beats.

Really, can you get any lower than that?

If Fang hates me that much, what about everyone else? Iggy, Angel, the Gasman, hell, even Total! That is, if Angel actually hung on to that mutt.

What would they feel if I disappeared again?

Would they even care?

Or would they brush it off, say "we don't know her" and go on with their lives?

If I was dying in front of their eyes, and they were standing in a crowd of people, would they be the first people to run to my aid? Would they turn a blind eye? Call an ambulance? Stick a knife in my throat to end my suffering and rid Maximum Ride of this world once and for all?

What did I ever do for them? Anything that was good? When we were fourteen, the only reason we were actually being attacked by Erasers, it seemed, was because of me. Me, my destiny, the Voice, and Jeb Batchelder.

Looking back, I can't think of anything that would have made them stick with me. I think it was because they had no other family. I was as good as it gets.

I'm putting myself down.

I'm making myself miserable.

I'm a dork.

Closing my eyes, I imagine what the flock's life would be like without me. Nothing bad- If it wasn't for me, they might not have even been the flock. They would be normal kids, without the super-duper Maximum Ride to start off the pack of avian-human hybrids. As they are walking to school, going to work, doing whatever their normal lives led them to do; they'd pass each other, glance, and walk away. And that would be it.

Without me, they'd probably be happy.

But I'm kidding myself. When has anyone ever been happy for their entire life?

Did that even make sense?

"Are you awake?"

I practically jump out of my skin. Opening my eyes, I see a little girl sitting next to me on the bench. She has large, brown eyes, a small face, and a skinny build. She's holding onto a leash attached to a large dog that is snuffling at my feet. Yelping, I retract them immediately, pulling my knees closer to my chest.

I HATE BIG DOGS. Since, uh, you know, some really big dogs attacked me when I was younger… And gave me nightmares every night when I slept in a cage that they should've been sleeping in instead…

"Don't worry about Cobi. He wouldn't hurt a fly."

I look at the girl again. She has a strange look on her face. I can't read it. It's not cold, emotionless, like Fang, it's… unreadable. Like she has a completely different set of emotions about her. Would I be able to understand?

"Uh… Hi," I say uncertainly, an unsteady smile tugging at the corners of my lips.

"Hi," She replies, smiling. Her smile even looks weirdly genuine, like she actually means it, like she's happier than I could ever understand.

"I just don't like dogs," I tell her, eying "Cobi" suspiciously.

Her eyes light up. "I can understand that."

I wonder vaguely why she's talking to a complete stranger- one who is obviously way older than her.

"Why were you sleeping on the bench?"

I shake my head. "I wasn't sleeping, little girl," My snarky-ness is showing. "I was thinking."

"So you was thunkin'?"

Incorrect grammar. Great.

Rolling my eyes, I nod. "Yeah. Why do you care?"

"My dad told me that there was once a man who asked a lot of questions. He got to be really smart because of it."

Before I can even ask what she means by that, she continues on.

"Because I like to know things. Because I'm nosy. And because my teacher tells me never to start a sentence with because."

That weird look is on her face. She's odd, but I like her.

"Yeah, but everyone does it anyway."

"How old are you?"

I have to think for a bit on that one. I don't keep track of my birthdays anymore, it became too much of a hassle. The only way I knew time was passing was when the anniversary of my ditching the flock came along and I locked myself up in my room.

"I turned nineteen a few months ago. How old are you?"


"Hm. Are you sure he won't attack me?" I stare at Cobi, who is sitting in front of me, his tongue lolling out. A drip of drool hits the ground, and he licks his chops, keeping both eyes trained on me.

"Don't worry about it. I used to like one of my best friends. I think I still do. He goes to a different school than me though, so I don't get to see him much. And the last time I did, we got in a big fight, and he told me some pretty bad things. Have you ever been in love before, Sleepy?"

"Name's not Sleepy," I mutter. "I-I have liked someone before. But not anymore. My life's a big waste of time anyway."

"Don't say that, Sleepy. Everyone is born for a reason. Everyone is born to do something, love someone, everything. No one has no purpose in life."

I'm not looking at her. "What're you, the voice of reason?"

"I might be," There's a hint of amusement in her tone. She's laughing at me. Laughing. Laughing, like she couldn't get enough of it. I try to imagine what that'd sound like. I can't.

I stand up, keeping both eyes on Cobi. "Hope you make up with your friend. You'll regret it if you don't- trust me."

As I'm walking away, I hear her say something.

Turning almost immediately, I glance around me at the other people in the park. She's not sitting on the bench anymore. She's not anywhere. Making my way back to where I'd landed, her last words haunt me.

"I hope you do too, Maximum."

Shit. She wasn't joking about being the voice of reason.


Gosh darnit, that little chick managed to convince me to go back. No, not back to UCLA, back to the beach!

I'm at the intersection of PCH and Main, waiting for the light to change when I see Fang on the other side. The flock isn't around him, and luckily, he hasn't noticed me. I'm about ready to turn right around and head for my car, but Cobi's girl's words stopped me. I know I shouldn't be listening to a little, creepy, disappearing girl, but it's like the Voice. I know I can't trust it, but I do anyway.

I walk across the street, heading straight for Fang, who is standing at the vending machines, trying to figure out why the thing just ate his dollar.

Tapping him on the shoulder, I'm not surprised that he towers over me now- even more so than before. He turns, and seeing me, there is a fleeting look of surprise, confusion, and… Happiness before his face turns stone cold again.

"What-" He starts, but I intercept him.

"I needed some time to cool off. Where are the others?" I answer, coolly. My feelings are aching from the way I'm treating him, as if he is inferior to me, and doesn't deserve my respect.

"They're by the bathrooms," Fang answers back, his tone matching mine.

"C'mon then, let's go. You're not going to get your dollar back anytime soon," I say, grabbing his wrist.

He pulls it out of my grip. "Fine," His face tenses up, and I can tell just how much he hates this. Or how nervous he is.

I walk ahead of him, a lump pricking at the back of my throat.

"God, Fang, can we ever go back?" I whisper just barely loud enough for myself to hear, not intending for it to reach his ears, or anyone else's, for that matter.

He walks right on by, and in a tiny breath, that I almost can't even catch it, he answers back.


A/N: -points- DO YOU SEE IT?! It's there! It's there! FAXNESS GALORE!! Well, only if you squint a little… And, to tell the truth, I hadn't even planned on putting any at all in this chapter but… I guess those things just write themselves.

-huggles her creepy voice of reason- Oh god, I love her. She's so friggin' awesome it makes me cry and wish I was more like her. And guess what? My dog's name is Cobi too! And he acts like the Cobi in this story:D Yayness…? Too bad they probably won't be making another appearance in this story. And that makes me cry… -tear-

SO. You review, no? I be changing the summary for this story soon. And maybe even the title. Iono. Look out for any changes.

(This chapter was really long- it just kept goin' and goin' and goin' and goin' and- Yeah.)

8. Of Existentialists and Mind Readers

The Long Way Home


Chapter Seven: Existentialists and Mind-Readers

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride or any characters mentioned. That is, besides Jeanine, Voice-of-Reason, and her dog. And the plot. That's mine too. Which also means: No stealing. 'S against the LAW.

"There are moments when

When I know it
And the world revolves around us
And we're keeping it
Keeping it all going
This delicate balance
Vulnerable, all knowing"
-- Straylight Run, "Existentialism on Prom Night"

She must have caught me staring at Max about ten thousand times.

While we were eating dinner, she kinda sat in the corner and slowly ate the food she'd ordered- which wasn't as much as she should have. She hardly spoke, and when she did, it was only after Nudge had coaxed her into answering a question, or to order her salad and lemonade. The others didn't seem to notice, but it was pretty obvious how awkward she felt.

I wonder how guilty she was- or is, for that matter. Did she even want to come? And if she didn't, why did she? Or if she did, why did she want to see us again? To apologize?

Angel cornered me after dinner.

"Fang," She said, "Don't tell me you still-"

I looked away. But she knew what I was thinking. Curse her annoying mind-reading ability.

"I don't," I told her. "I hate her."

I don't even know if I was lying or telling the truth.

Angel didn't say anything.


Ugh, that Eraser really did a number on me. My face hurts like hell. It's so swollen up that I couldn't even go to class today. It'll be gone by tomorrow, though, so I won't be missing too much.

I chew on a tasteless piece of gum, staring at my computer screen.

"And so, in conclusion, the world of science has become so vast and wide that scientists around the world may have already found a way to alter human DNA, resulting in genetically engineered humans. So next time you see your neighbor, give him or her a close look. Superhumans are among us," I read from my essay.

Snorting, I turn in my swivel chair, getting up. "Among us, indeed… Why did Professor Kinston have to assign that particular topic? I know too much about it already…"

There's a knock on the door.

Looking up from my ranting, I spit my gum out into the kitchen sink and head for the door.

"Hi Alison!" Jeanine bubbles, smiling widely.

I'm almost tempted to slam the door in her face.

"I heard you weren't feeling very good, so I decided to come-"

I close my eyes, putting two fingers to my temple. "Yes, Jeanine. I am not feeling good. Got the measles, y'know? And now I'm going to die. Thanks for visiting." I moved to close the door, but she stopped it with her hand.

"Your face is all puffed up," She squints at me, moving closer. Her breath is right at my neck- She's shorter than me.

I step away, a little spooked by her actions. "Jeanine-"

"What happened?"

I wave a hand in the air. "Got in a fight with someone."

Her eyes widen considerably, the blue irises swirling with a million different lights. She turns her head and mutters something to herself that I can't catch.


"Can I use your bathroom?" She asks now, looking at me.

"Jeanine. You live right next door."

Her eyes glaze over for a moment, and then she laughs sheepishly. "Forgot."

Turning, she disappears behind her door in almost two seconds. I close the door now, wondering how I ended up with a psycho neighbor like her.


Today I met up with Nudge in a Starbucks a few blocks from campus. I was sitting there, nursing a Triple Chocolate Chip Frappuccino when she asked me something I thought I'd never have to answer.

"Max- Uh… Why'd you- Why'd you leave us?"

I didn't know if she meant five years ago or at the beach. My answer was the same for both of them.

"I was scared."

"Of what? Our families could have taken you in; you do know that, right? Fang wouldn't tell us what had happened between you two- He would hardly talk at all."

"Nudge… It's… It's complicated."

"I-" She looked at me, her eyes pleading for answers. I couldn't give them to her now. "Alright then. When you're ready, you know who to call."

As she got up to leave, she looked me over. "Carly and Lou are going home tomorrow. You should be at the airport to see them off."

"Nudge, why don't you just call them Gazzy and Angel?"

Nudge looked out the window, searching for something to stare at. "Because they aren't Gazzy and Angel anymore."

She wouldn't tell me what she meant by that.

A/N: Sorry for the chapter being late. Sorry for it being so short.

Yar… Writer's block had me in its evil clutches for a few days. I think I've recovered though… AND GOSHDARNIT!! Stupid past tense, present tense bullshit, screwing up mah brain like a geometry proof on a hot day!! bangs head against wall The very last part is in past tense, while the rest of the story has been present. So… Just pretend that she's in her dorm or somewhere, remembering what happened. Writing's harder than it looks… But still fairly easy to me.


And, ladies and gentlemen, heteros and homos, I need your help. I am going to change PPF's title once and for all. Here are your choices:

The Road that Takes You Back

I Was Gone Before You Knew It

The Long Way Home

Shards of Light (old title- YUCK.)

PLEASE VOTE. Or I'll just pick one, and it'll probably be The Long Way Home, if I can't remember the other titles I'd thought up.

P.S. I've decided I don't need a beta. This is an amateur's work, it doesn't need to be scrutinized and polished and perfected until it's squeaky clean. So that means: More frequent updates! YAY!!

P.P.S. For anyone that knows what existentialism is, it has nothing to do with this chapter, contrary to the chapter title. I just like the word, and its meaning. If you actually spot any existentialist beliefs/ whatever in the chapter, tell me, so I know and can be happy that the title I thought up was actually correct!

Please review! I need the encouragement!

9. To Forgive and Forget

The Long Way Home


Chapter Eight: To Forgive and Forget

Disclaimer: You know I don't own Maximum Ride. You SHOULD know that I do own the plot, Jeanine/Cree, and various other things I drop in now and then.

"The things that I've loved the things that I've lost
The things I've held sacred that I've dropped
I won't lie no more you can bet
I don't want to learn what I'll need to forget
Bend and shape me
I love the way you are
Slow and sweetly
Like never before
Calm and sleeping
We won't stir up the past
So descretely
We won't look back"
-- Audioslave, "Doesn't Remind Me"

I'm lurking about the library again when I run into Sam. He looks surprised to see me again, but it quickly turns into hurt. Just when he is turning away, I grab a hold of his sleeve. I don't need to hide it anymore.


He looks at me questioningly.

"I'm sorry for kinda blowing you off earlier. That was extremely rude of me- And- Can I ask you- Who was that girl that you mistook me for? What did she mean to you?"

His face was uncertain, his eyes shifting uneasily as they passed over me every now and then. "I…"

"I'm sorry. If you don't want to-"

"She was my first girlfriend. Back when I was 14, and… And… she left suddenly. It was weird though. I didn't know what was happening: one minute she was there, racing down the halls of our old school, and the next she was gone."

Yeah, that definitely sounds like me. "Oh… Okay. I- Thanks, Sam." I find myself smiling at him. I haven't done that unconsciously in a long while.

Turning away, I wave over my shoulder, leaving the library.

Someone's waiting by my door. As I get closer, I'm surprised to see who it is.

"Hey Fang. Could you move so I can open the door?"

He doesn't say anything, instead shifting to stand to the side. I unlock the door and go inside. Holding the door open, I quirk an eyebrow at Fang. "You want to come in?"

"Monique told me to pick you up."

"Uh… For what?"

"Carly and Louis are going home today."

"Oh… Forgot. Wait just one moment."

I close the door, not expecting him to feel offended. Dropping the bag of books on my table, I take off my jacket, grabbing my sweatshirt.

Changing my shoes, I open the door, keys in hand. "Alright, let's go."

The car he has is old, like mine. But it's clean too, which is definitely not like mine. I sit in the passenger seat, fiddling with the sleeve of my sweater.

"How'd Nudge know where my dorm was?" I ask him once we're on the road. He doesn't answer.

Ah. The silent treatment.

We get to LAX in no time and Fang parks in one of those parking lots that are ten thousand miles away from the terminal. More walking!

"Hey Fang-"

"My name's Andrew."

I pull back, confused. "Alright… Andrew. Where's everyone going to be?"

He shrugs, and I don't say anymore. I am obviously not going to get any answers from him.

We find the others pretty easy, Nudge and her brothers all crowded together. I say hi to them, wondering vaguely if they even remember me. Devon, the oldest, who is twenty- I think-, gives me a hug. Apparently he does.

"It's good to see you again."

He wasn't at Nudge's party, but he was here to say good-bye to Gazzy and Angel. Kind of confusing, but I'm not about to ask.

"Hey, Dev, don't hog her!" Omar is saying, pulling at his older brother's shirt. Nudge stands off to the side, giggling. I wonder why the flock isn't standing in his place, when I remember.

Oh yeah…

Once Omar has given me the longest bear hug you could ever imagine, I stand back and look around. Angel and the Gasman- excuse me, Carly and Louis- pick up their bags.

I'm looking at them, wondering if I should attempt to make amends somehow and tell them good-bye when Angel smiles at me. "Thanks for coming to say bye, Max."

Her voice is odd and detached, polite and quiet, as if she's talking to a complete stranger. That's… weird.

She continues on, and I wonder if she had read my mind then. "You really didn't have to though. We hardly know you, so it's not like you had an obligation to come."

I freeze, time seems to slow down completely, and I stand there, my eyes wide and my stomach about to drop out of my butt. I try to say something, but nothing comes out. Finally I manage a weak, "Its okay," before Nudge comes up behind me, tucking her arm into the crook of my elbow. "Everybody, me and Max are going to go to the bathroom."

She whisks me away before I can say anything.

We stand beside an empty coffee stand, waiting for someone to say something.

"Well, that was definitely unexpected," I choke out, a hand on my stomach for support.

Nudge looks away from me, then looks back and puts a hand on my arm. "Angel and Gazzy… Lost their memory a while ago. It was a car accident, and they both survived and got amnesia. The other people in the car died, because they were sitting in the front seats. But, they still forgot everything, and the flock had to get together to help them get better, and have them remember. We brought pictures and everything."

I breathe slowly, tears pricking at the back of my eyes. "How come…"

"Fang." She answers me readily. "Fang. We told them that we were all the same, that we all were friends, the flock, had wings, grew up together, but we left you out of it. Because Fang told us to. He was the leader, so…" Her voice trails off. "Iggy and I went along with it because we thought it couldn't hurt- we'd never see you again, Fang told us."

This is low, even for Fang. "How long ago? How long ago did this happen?"

Nudge's gaze averts to her shoes. "About half a year after you left. So, whatever you did to Fang was still fresh in his mind. He was feeling… Spiteful, I suppose you could say."

I look away, biting my lip. My eyes sting, but I don't want to cry. Not now. Later.

"Max, I'm sorry. I'm sorry we did that to you- We weren't thinking… It was crazy, what happened, and I guess we were in so much of a shock that anything sounded like a good idea."

I rub my eyes, exhaling slowly. "Nudge, don't make me ride back with Fang today, alright? I'll just… I'll just take the bus home or something, okay? I don't know if I can stand being in the same car as him…"

She nods quickly. "You can go home right now, if you want."

I smile bitterly. "I will."

I'm on the bus and on my way home without so much as a good-bye to anybody. I lean my head against the dirty bus window, watching as the rain comes down, heightening my depression. How could he do that? Why go so far as to ensure that two of my best friends would forget me?

"Fang…" I whisper, my fingers curling tighter into the fabric of my sweater.

Bending my head down to my lap, I begin to cry.

There's a knock at my door at seven in the evening. I pray that it isn't Jeanine.

It's Fang. Which is much, much, much, much worse than Jeanine could ever be. My eye twitches when I see him, and I almost slam the door in his face.

Instead, I grit my teeth and stop myself from asking rudely, "What the hell do you want?"

He's the one to initiate the conversation- A first for him.

"Nudge told you. Right?"

I raised an eyebrow at him. "Yeah. Why do you think I ran off like that?"

The moment the words leave my lips I wince. I ran off- again. I hadn't been thinking about it at the time, but I did do it. I ran away from Fang, because I was scared. Again. Why couldn't I just face him?

He seems to notice my obvious remorse.

"Look, you want to come in? It's pouring outside."

He's soaked from head to toe, something I'd just noticed. A flicker in his eyes shows me how much he doesn't want to come in, but that's just discomfort, I realize, not hatred.

Fang comes inside, taking off his waterlogged shoes and jacket.

"I don't have anything to eat. So, tell me when you get hungry, so I can order take-out or something like that, 'kay?" I tell him. I might as well be decent, instead of returning the favor. Treat unto others as you would have them treat unto you, or some bullshit like that.

He stays silent, standing in front of the closed door. I sit down at the table, looking away from him.

"Max, look-"

"Fang, don't. I don't want to hear how sorry you are, and if you aren't sorry, any stupid things you're going to say that is probably going to leave me guiltier than before. What's done is done, and while I can't say that I forgive you, I understand that you were angry and not thinking clearly." I paused, letting that sink in. "Unless you weren't going to say anything about Gazzy and Angel."

He stares at the ground. "I'm sorry anyway."

"Fine. Look, I don't care if you're hungry or not, I'm ordering Chinese," I get up, grabbing the phone.

My anger dissipates into the thin air between us when he smiles at me. Things are cool again.

I guess that's what being best friends is about. In a few simple words, all can be forgiven. I'd almost forgot.

A/N: IMPORTANT. PLEASE READ OR YOU MIGHT GET CONFUSED ABOUT DELUDEDFREAK'S WACKO PLOT. So, the part in the last chapter in Fang's POV, where Angel asks him about if he still likes Max, don't think that it's because she remembers. She doesn't. Gazzy and Angel were told about Max, that she used to know Fang and Iggy and Nudge a long time ago. Um… I remembered it at the last minute, and if I had put it in the story, it would have broken the flow.

Scary bold letters are over. I wasn't planning to put the last part with Fang in it yet, but it just came out. So they're friends again. Except Max is still a bit angry at what he did. And some things will still be a little iffy with them, so no romantic stuffs.

I'm too lazy right now to write anymore in the AN. Yeps.

The new title is The Long Way Home because it was a tie, and I decided I like this title better. Because it fits the whole premise of this story- How Max is trying to go back to the way things used to be, how she is struggling to keep those she loves close to her and all that other crap.

I'm so tired. -falls asleep at the keyboard-


10. Everything Changes

The Long Way Home


Chapter Nine: Everything Changes

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride, yada yada yada… This ain't nothing you haven't heard before. So. DON'T BE STEALIN' MAH STUFF, CRAB-CAKES.

"You came to take us
All things go, all things go
To recreate us
All things grow, all things grow
We had our mindset
All things know, all things know
You had to find it
All things go, all things go"

-- Sufjan Stevens, "Chicago"

I wake up the next day in a cold sweat, terror gripping at my mind like a vice. Moaning, I sit up in bed, a splitting headache pushing any coherent thoughts out of my head. Calming myself, I lean my head against my knees, breathing slowly, in and out, in and out.

Getting out of bed, I walk into the kitchen to see Fang slumped at the table, asleep. Putting my fingers to my temple, I turn around and plop down on my couch, adjusting the volume on the TV, which is still on. I bury my face into a sofa cushion, drawing in on myself. "Bad dream…" Why couldn't I remember it? And why had Fang fallen asleep at the table, when he could have snagged the couch?

Someone sits down next to me and yanks the cushion from my hands. Speak of the devil- He blinks at me through half open eyes, and then falls to the sofa, pushing me off onto the ground. I'm too tired to care, and fall asleep on the floor.


I bet Rathe wouldn't be this rainy. Actually, I'm sure it wouldn't be this rainy.

Sunny and bright and cheery and smiley, so much that it'd make my heart burst and I'd die and wouldn't have to live like this anymore. Of course, maybe I wouldn't want to die on Rathe. On Earth, definitely.

But anyway.

I'm standing outside Alison's door, shivering down to my skivvies, debating whether or not to ring the doorbell to ask if she wants to go out for breakfast or not. Because I'm hungry. I don't know about her, but I am hungry. Starving. Ravenous.


So, if I remember correctly, the plan was to get close to the target, and when I have her complete and total trust, I can turn her over to the Others, and I'll be free to do whatever I want. Hmmm…

Raising a fist, I bang loudly in the center of the door, hoping she hears.

The sound of someone talking reaches my ears. I can barely make it out.

"Crap- Someone's at the door… Fang! Get off of my foot!"

A crash.


And then Alison opens the door, looking at me in surprise for a moment. She smiles, and, since I've never actually seen her smile, I grin too.

"Hey, Jeanine. How's it going?"

She must be in a good mood. Even though… I glance down at her hands, which are both placed on her right hip. Maybe that's where she fell…

"You want to go out to breakfast with me today? And what happened to your hip? It's also really cold out here, so don't take too long to decide," I say, adding a shudder in between sentences to show what I mean.

She looks uncertain. "I've got a friend over."

"That's okay, she can come along!"

Alison turns then, to look back at someone I can't see. Without turning around, she tells me, "Hold on, alright?"

The door closes a bit as she leaves, but I'm able to make out a little bit of the conversation.

"Um… My neighbor wants to take us out to breakfast."

There is no answer from the other end, or at least, none that I hear.

"Don't look at me like that. It's fine. We'll just go. If Nudge- Monique, sorry- calls, wondering where you are, you can call her back. Now, come on. I'm hungry and I know you are too."

"Fine," Someone answers. Sounds like a guy.

Alison's at the door again, and behind her someone, really tall, taller than her even, hovers at her shoulder, his head ducked so I can't see his face.

"Er… Jeanine, Andrew, Andrew Jeanine," Alison pointed back and forth. Andrew nodded a greeting, and I smiled.

This was one of them. I could tell. This was one of her family.

As we begin to walk towards the diner, I get guiltier and guiltier. Was it fair? What I would be doing to Alison and Andrew, and their family, would it be fair for me to betray them? I want to be their friend, I realize with horror. But… I'm not supposed to have friends. I'm one of the Hunters. The Erasers. I'm not supposed to have feelings, get attached to anyone, let alone our sworn enemy. Yet, here I was.

I remembered what my family had told me of the Hunter who came before me, who fell in love with Alison, and caused his own downfall. But that was because he was born human, unlike the rest of us. I don't remember the details, but he was definitely different from the rest of us.

But… I've been a Hunter since the day I was created. I can't be… I can't be different.

The plan. The plan was to gain the trust of Maximum Ride. Then lure her into the perfectly put-together trap, and rid the world of her once-and-for-all.

That's what Bub and the others told me.

That's what I should follow.

But that's not what is going to happen.

A/N: Finally. FINALLY FINISHED WITH THIS! ArggerfirgleraggledraggleABLAH. –vents-

Despite how short it is and how long it took me, I'm actually proud of it. The actual storyline is progressing, instead of just mindless fluff. And I totally just revealed Jeanine's secret identity. So be happy, 'cause I know you were wondering what she was. Hell, even I was!

So… Um… Apologies. Sorry for getting the chapter late. Too much schoolwork, stress, blah blah, you don't want to know… But just a few hours ago I read over the reviews from the previous chapter, and that made me feel good enough to write the next chapter. So I'm dedicating this to all of my reviewers from Chapter Eight.

Thank you: xXdiamondwolf027Xx, coolbeanie, JellieBeanz, Set.Me.Free.123, SamanthaFantasyFan, FireDitto, Golden Nugget, Odet Mae

And since I don't know if I'll finish another chapter before the holidays: Happy Chrismahanakwanzikah! –that was long to write-

11. Let's Murder Him in His Sleep

The Long Way Home


Chapter Ten: Let's Murder Him in His Sleep ('cuz we cool like dat)

Disclaimer: Mah… Do I even have to say it? I DON'T OWN MAXIMUM RIDE. Well, I do own two books. So… Uh… And I also own this. This… Thing. My insane love-child. And here's another chapter, duckies.

"Through the day as if on an ocean
Waiting here always failing to remember

Why we came came came
I wonder why we came
You talk to me as if from a distance
And I reply with impressions chosen
From another time time time"

-- Brian Eno "By this River"
(even though Mono sings a better version…o.o)

"So… How do you guys know each other?" Jeanine asks, eyes shifting back and forth between Fang and me.

Spearing a syrup-soaked piece of waffle with my fork, I answer before shoving it down my throat, "Childhood friends. Known each other since diapers, you know, that sort of thing."

Stealing a look at Fang, who was slowly picking at his scrambled eggs, I note that he hadn't ordered as much as he should have. And he hadn't said anything except to order his food and a cup of coffee.

I look at Jeanine now, chewing slowly. She seems out of it, like there is something else on her mind. And she is definitely not cheery and hyperactive, like normal. Whatever. It's better this way.

Her eyes flash as she leans forward to ask another question. "So your parents were friends?"

Fang's movements freeze for a brief moment before he takes a loud bite of his toast. I can feel his eyes on me, waiting for me to answer.

"I… guess you could say that," I tell her, wishing she'd stop asking about this, of all things. My brain is working slower than usual, and the lies seem to get stuck about halfway through, leaving me with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.

See? Just there. That didn't even make sense.

And Fang was obviously no help.

Sighing loudly, I take a long sip of my orange juice, eying Jeanine warily, waiting for her next question. I try to steel myself for it, but it doesn't work.

"Does he talk much?" She asks, staring in you-know-who's direction. Rolling my eyes, I open my mouth to answer, but he cuts me off.


Fighting back a snort at Jeanine's surprised expression, I shove another piece of waffle down my throat to keep from making any noise. I almost choke myself in the process, which shuts me up.

The rest of the meal continues in silence, the few questions Jeanine asks answered readily by me. Fang does not speak again, and it is only after we are safely back in my dorm that he says anything.

"I'm going to call Monique now."

I nod, turning away from him. "Phone's somewhere around here."

I walk away, to my room, hoping to find something to do while in there. I'm not sure I really want to go to class today. In fact, I'm not going to go.

Falling face-first into my mattress, I try to organize my scattered thoughts- the things that happened yesterday, today, and five years ago. It's not very easy, and I soon find myself empty, void of thoughts and memories.

Lifting my head, I hear Fang hang up the phone, and his light footsteps coming down the hall towards my bedroom. Rolling over onto my back, he appears at the door.

"What'd she say?" I ask, curious.

He shrugs, looking at one of the Taylor Twins posters I have hung up on the wall.

"She sounded surprised, but that was about it."

"What did she say?" I repeat.

"She wanted to know where I was. I told her, and she asked if it was alright with you. Is it?" His dark eyes land on me for a moment before shifting back to the poster.

"Yes. Why do you think I let you sleep over if it wasn't?"

"I dunno. Maybe you were planning to murder me in my sleep."

I grin, looking at him. "Sure."

He smiles back, then points at the poster. "We saw them in New York that one time, right?"

I nod, looking up at it. "The first time we went there…"

Our eyes meet for a moment, but I immediately look away. An awkward silence fills the room before Fang breaks it, which is probably a first for him.

"I've gotta go. Monique says it's my turn to do laundry."

I close my eyes against the sudden feeling of loneliness overwhelming my mind. "Al- alright. I'll see- I'll see you later, then," I stammer out, mentally kicking myself over my stutter.

He nods, and disappears down the hallway.

It is only after he has left my dorm that I get up off my bed, wiping my eyes in frustration. After all this time, it's still pretty bad between us. The tension… Ugh.

Letting out an angry sigh, I check the clock. It's not late, so that means I have plenty of time to do whatever I want until I have to make myself presentable to society, which makes me wince. Can't I just stay inside for the rest of my life?

Making another frustrated sigh, I head for the kitchen, hoping to make some coffee and clear my mind.

But as I'm setting up the coffee maker, a splitting pain bursts in the back of my skull, forcing me down on my knees. Unable to think, unable to move, I let it take over me until I'm lying with my cheek pressed onto the cold tiles.

"Whoa… Are those stars I see?" I blink my eyes slowly, trying to bring back reality into my aching mind. No sooner had the words left my mouth than another spurt of pain staggers my thoughts, pushing anything coherent out the door. I whimper as I wait for it to pass.

When it does, I sit up slowly and painfully, fingers pressed to my temples, daring my dysfunctional brain to try it again, just try it, and be disappointed when I keel over and die from the shock.

As I try to gather my scattered thoughts, I find one that I wasn't sure was there before.

"Was that… A brain attack?" I whisper, my eyes widening.

The Voice doesn't have to tell me, but it does anyway.

Yes, Maximum. I'm back.

"Fuck," I curse.

A/N: Dood-a-loo… -ish happy for no apparent reason- It's probably because I got a lot of "lucky money" for Christmas. For those that don't know (and I am sure there are many out there that don't) lucky money is a Chinese custom. I don't know the specifics, but I'm half-Chinese, therefore, half of my family every year gives me at least 200 bucks every year. I think it has something to do with the Chinese New Year, where random strangers run up to people's houses and wish them a Happy New Year, and they get money. Kinda like Halloween, except better. WHOOT.

I can't write someone in pain for beans. Well, not physical pain. Anguish, haha, YES. I CAN do that. A brain attack? Did she even hurt herself?!

I should be going to bed right now…

I forgot to mention last chapter that I FINALLY bought Twilight. Yups, it is awesome. Still need to finish it though…

All I want for Christmas is a couple of reviews! A couple of reviews! tries to sing and fails miserably Imma go post this now.

12. Head Implosions

The Long Way Home


Chapter Eleven: Head Implosions

Disclaimer: I dun own Maximum Ride. Now quit bugging me. And while you're at it, TRY not to steal this story. Or the plot. Or whatever. Just… Don't do it. I'm in a pissy mood as it is. You don't want to mess with me when I'm angry.

"Today is a very special day
It feels like the beginning
Of something more
And we are standing on the edge
Of all that we've imagined
In lives before"

-- Terra Naomi "Close to Your Head"

Scatter-brained and confused, I remain sitting on the kitchen floor. A steady string of curse words are flying through my head, my throat choking on them as I try to say something, anything, to make the situation seem better (or worse) than it already is. But my voice refuses to work, and as the external silence threatens to suffocate me, that annoying thing in my head is reprimanding me for my "poddy-mouth."

Well, excuuuuse me, Princess, I think, still trying to clear my throat of non-existent dust particles. You sound like Nudge's mom.

The Voice is quiet for a moment, and I hear a strange sounding gasp. It continues on and on, unending and annoying me further.

"Oi. Can you try not to give me a migraine with that gagging noise?" I ask aloud, finally able to speak.

I was laughing, Max. What you said surprised me.

"Yeah, well, sounded like you were having a fit or something. If you can even have one," I answer back coolly, testing my voice to see if it is steady. Getting up on my knees, I stay in the crouched position for a small moment longer, anticipating any shock that the Voice of Death might spring on me next.

Did you just call me the Voice of Death?

I don't answer.

The gagging sound starts up again and dies.

Standing now, I grab the phone off the stand where Fang had left it. He was always doing things like that. I'd throw things on the floor, he'd pick them up and put them where they belonged, and then I'd throw them back on the floor when I used them again. And the cycle continued.

I squeeze my eyes shut.

At least, he used to do that.

Dialing Nudge's number, I breathe out shakily. The phone rings three times before someone picks up. It isn't her.

"Hey, uh, Zeke?" I ask, remembering the youngest brother's name. "Could you go get your sister for me? It's Alison- Max. It's Max." I correct myself. I've gotten too used to pretending I am something I'm not.

A few minutes later, and I can hear Nudge's annoyed voice in the background. "Z! What're you doing answering my cell?"

"Hello? Nudge?"

"Oh- Oh, Max!" She sounds disappointed.

"Hey… um..." I suddenly can't remember why I called. "Fang back yet?" I cringe at the subject of our-soon-to-be conversation.

"No… I don't think so…" There is an edge to her voice, raw and unbridled enough that I can hear it over the phone. That is not a good sign.

"Er… Um. Alright. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Before she can answer, I thrust the phone from my ear, wanting to get away from Nudge's hurt voice. It's bothering me, like it is my fault she isn't up to her usual self. Speaking of which, what happened to the happy motor mouth she used to be?

My jaw set. It was obvious.

"She OD'd on reality," I mutter, clenching the cordless phone in my hands before chucking it across the room.

The Voice is unnaturally quiet throughout my revelations. Despite how long it has been since I had the pleasure of its company in my head, it is still hard not to remember just how talkative and annoying it was.

I find that offensive.

Bite me.

I can feel its emotions, almost. It wants to laugh, but it doesn't, probably due to the somber mood I am in.

I continue my tirade, with no regard towards anything. Not anymore.

"It happened to all of them. It happened to all of them! They became normal kids, with normal lives, normal families, and normal friends! Angel and Gazzy forgot about me! Fang is some punk emo kid who can hardly formulate a complete sentence without his head imploding! Iggy is still blind, and for some reason, thinks he can beat up anyone who comes his way, because he is a super mutant freak with unnatural powers! And Nudge- AND NUDGE!"

I shove at the table, knocking a full cup of coffee over with my anger.

It happened, it happened, it happened, the pressure got to me, and I exploded, my mind seems to be chanting timidly, and I imagine it cowering in the corner, watching as I continue to rant and rave about improbable bullshit.

Nudge is mad at me. I could tell by the way she talked to me, the way she seemed to want to hang up and get away from the phone. Or maybe that had just been me.

Fang feels awkward around me. It is so freaking obvious. Like he's scared or something. I don't know.

I lean back, letting myself fall into the wall. Sliding down to rest on the floor again, I attempt to calm myself, still feeling the choking grasp around my throat as I push the anger deeper into my mind, to lock it away.

Are you done?

I laugh, caught off guard by the Voice, who I had forgotten was even there.

"I'm trying to be."

I hold my head in my hands for a moment, glad that I finally set those emotions free. I guess I had exploded. Now I know how Fang felt. Or at least, I think I do. I can never be sure. That is, if I don't ask him.

Standing up cautiously, I try to still my shaking hands, steady my breathing. Something in me clicks, and I realize that I need answers. I need to know. I need to be fourteen again.

I need to go back home.

The one in Colorado.

I take off, leaving everything where it is, without thinking about what could happen when I'm gone, what could happen while I'm there, and what Jeanine or whoever broke into my dorm would think when they find it empty, devoid of Alison.

The only thing I do take with me is the Maximum Ride bank card. It still had loads of money on it, last time I checked.

I drive my car as far as I can go, trying to find a deserted area, maybe off a highway or in a park. I find a small hill, and finding a place to park, I stand on the hood of my car, eyes closed against the feel of the wind on my face. It is nothing compared to what I'll feel when I'm up there, but it is definitely close.

Taking a deep breath, I hop from the car and take a running start, jumping away from the hill, shedding my jacket as my wings pull apart, catching the wind.

Laughing into the open air, I feel at peace, imagining the flock gliding along behind me. This is as close to heaven as I'll ever get.

I can deal with that.

A/N: Meh. I'm not too proud of this chapter. In fact, I hate it. Maybe someday, when TLWH is finished, I'll come back and rewrite it to my satisfaction. But… that won't be until forever. FOREVER, forever. And the house in Colorado is… Well, I guess it's pretty clear, but it's the house that TAE started in.

In other news, winter break has been insane for me. Check out my LJ if you want details on my grandmother's four-day stay at my house. –shudder- Never again, I tell you, never again.

And my muse is firing off ideas for stories like crazy. I'm considering writing a fanfic for Twilight. You know, that vampire love story? Yeh, that. And I've also got an idea for a short story, if not a one-shot, that I've been desperately wanting to follow through with. It is the Maximum Ride category, and it is and AU. Not insanely out of proportion. Some things are the same, and the reason why I want to write it so badly is that I actually know what I'm going to go with it.

Maybe, if I'm not feeling TOO lazy, I could write it and post it to see what people think.

Iono. Been feeling pretty crappy lately. I think I need more sleep. Check out my profile for the summary of that Twilight story. It should be near the bottom.

P.S. I'm obsessed with Twilight now. It's official, after I finished New Moon.

13. Poor, Deluded, Her

The Long Way Home


Chapter Twelve: Poor, Deluded, Her

Disclaimer: You should know by now. I dun own, no stealing what I do.

"I never really dreamed of heaven much
Until we put him in the ground
But it's all I'm doing now
Listening for patterns in the sound
Of an endless static sea
But once the satellite's deceased
It blows like garbage through the streets
Of the night sky to infinity
But don't you weep (don't you weep for them)
There is nothing as lucky"
--Bright Eyes, "Easy/Lucky/Free"

Nudge glared at the door to Fang's room. It had been an hour since he'd gotten back from whatever-he-was-doing at Max's dorm, and he'd disappeared behind the door, without so much as a "hello" to anyone. But then… That was typical Fang.

She felt angry. Fang wasn't supposed to… Urgh! Groaning, she turned and headed for the kitchen.

It made her feel like some kind of jealous girlfriend, the kind that everyone hates because they try to get in the way of the hero and the heroine's relationship. But that wasn't the case. Max wasn't the heroine. Not this time. She had failed at that job five years ago, and there was no way she was picking that title back up now. Now, that they had good lives, families that loved them, and no Erasers- except for the one at the beach- but even that seemed a lifetime ago. There was no heroine role left in this story. There was no story left to tell. They were normal people, waiting and wondering when their expiration date was.

But she couldn't help it. Nudge had always known that somewhere, deep-down inside her, that she liked Fang. Not platonically, of course. She had never had a problem with it before. It would always lie low, not making a sound. The green-eyed monster hadn't engulfed her.

Or so she wished. She'd seen Max and Fang together before, but not together. Now that Fang had spent the night with Max, Nudge's mind was filled with questions, and she needed answers. She ran over the different scenarios in her head.

Fang and Max hadn't made any progress in their already unstable relationship. She allowed him to stay the night because of the weather, and promptly kicked him out once the rain let up.

The two of them were friends again, after sharing a civilized conversation in which they realized that both of their actions were worse than childish, and made up.

Fang had confessed his undying love for Max. No further explanation.

She screwed her eyes shut, blocking that last one from her mind. That didn't happen. That couldn't happen. Collapsing at the kitchen table, she rested her head on her arms. Never in her whole life did she realize how complicated things could be. Or how thin the line between love and friendship was.


Looking up, Nudge caught sight of Iggy, who stood in the doorway to the kitchen, staring blankly at the empty space over her shoulder.

"Oh- Er. Hey, Ig." She was the only one to call the others by their Flock names. It had bothered her, to suddenly rename them in her mind, when all of her life she'd known them as Fang, Iggy, Angel, the Gasman, and… Max.

The blind eighteen year-old made his way to the table, pulling out a chair and sitting down across from Nudge. "Fang back yet?"

"Ayep," She answered, frowning at the same time. A touch of her anger must have transferred to her voice, because Iggy was frowning too.

"Are you okay?"

There was no point lying to him.

"Not really," She admitted, putting her head back down on the table.

Iggy fidgeted. "This has something to do with Max and Fang, doesn't it?"

Groaning, Nudge hit her forehead against the wooden surface of the table. "Maybe," She hedged.

"Er… I don't know how to put this, Mo. Max and Fang… Well, we all knew it was going to happen sometime, didn't we? I mean, they had crushes on each other since forever. And the only reason they haven't gotten together yet is because Fang is too dense, and Max is too… Well, she had too much on her mind to think about it. Not to mention they were both sorta in denial about it."

Nudge clenched her fists. "I know all that. Still…"

Iggy sighed. "Look, Monique. I know how you feel."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do. I know how it feels to like someone who doesn't like you back."

Without looking up, Nudge muttered into the table, "You mean that Chelsea girl? That's different, Ig-"

Iggy stood up, leaning over to kiss the top of Nudge's head. "Not what I meant," He told her quietly, and left her alone in the kitchen, confused and bewildered.

A/N: Yay for character development! WHOOT. Okay… So, not really. Sorry about how short the chapter was. I wasn't in the mood to write what happens next in the Max part of the story, so I went for this idea instead.

Yes, it's a filler- sort of. I'm exploring the emotions of the characters. And the fake personalities I've given them.

In other news, I finally introduced Iggy. Finally. And… Eh. Forgive me; I couldn't resist the small bit of one-sided Niggy. Which won't be one-sided when I get into the later chapters. Meh. Nudge is just as deluded as Max and Fang. And Iggy's the only sane one left. Well, maybe except for Angel and Gazzy, but they don't count. Not without their whole memories and all.

I like this chapter. Because it explains something. I guess.


14. Eat Your Heart Out

The Long Way Home


Chapter Thirteen: Eat Your Heart Out

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Except for Jeanine and the plot. And the Voice of Reason and her dog. So.

"Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world."

-- Beatles, "Across the Universe"

It surprised me how easy it was to see the house. Even from far away, I could see something, a little building perched at the edge of the cliff.

But as I neared it, I began to feel an empty ache in my stomach. The dull throbbing in my chest wasn't helping either, and my throat still felt soar from all the screaming I'd been doing earlier.

So I pretty much dropped out of the sky.

Okay, so not really. But I managed to catch myself before I hit the ground, and I just set myself up against a tree, breathing in the rich pine scent that makes forests and mountains and wildernesses so great. And the open air. Yeah. That definitely does it for me.

Here I am, resting against a scratchy tree trunk, trying to catch my strength, build up my energy and steadying myself for the emotional waterfall I'm about to pass through.

Standing up shakily, I gulp down another breath of that mountain-fresh air and look around to see where I am.

What surprises me is that I recognize this place. I used to go hiking around here with Fang sometimes, and even the others, if they were up to it. Now… If I remember correctly, pivoting on my right foot, I spot a small bush halfway covering a patch of dirt. Yes! Feeling triumphant, I rush towards it, pushing the leaves aside to find a small pathway. This led straight back to the house. How lucky was I.

Listening for the sound of the stream nearby, I start up the trail, my heart thumping erratically in my ears as I practically sprint my way up the mountain. Hopping over the creek when I get to it, I see a corner of the roof in the distance.

The corners of my lips turn up in an unbidden smile, as all of the senses and feelings I have are magnified with the insane happiness I feel swelling in my chest.

I finally reach the house, and glancing over it with wide eyes, I'm amazed it hasn't fallen in on itself. Or been burned down. Or anything. It's still here. Circling it once, I pop out the screen to Fang's old room, and climb in through his still open window, falling straight on my face when I push myself through.

"Guess I'm getting a little big for that…" I mutter to myself. The sound of my voice startles me and I clamp my mouth shut, not wanting to ruin the peaceful serenity of the mountains with my yammering.

Glancing about the room, I take in the familiar posters, the furniture, and the bed sheets having been left exactly as when Fang had woken up in the morning. Five years ago. Opening a drawer in his desk, I ruffle through the various junk, just to find something.

This is amazing. I thought for sure the Erasers burned the house down…

They were too dumb to.

Wh- Holy crap! I bite back a startled yelp at the sound of the Voice.

Forget about me?

Erm… Yeah.

Why did you come here?

Because… Oh, I don't know. Impulsive reaction. Needed to clear my head, and I guess I figured the mountains were the best place to do it.

So you went to these mountains.

I don't answer, because I'm heading for the door. Walking down the long hallway, I peek into everyone's room. Iggy and Gazzy's, Nudge's, and Angel's closet. The door to mine is closed, and I just pass it by.

Stepping into the living room, my eyes wander from the sofa to the television, to the kitchen door, to the lamp with the broken shade, trying to find something to settle on. I leave them staring at the carpet, and sit back on my heels to think.

We left this place to save Angel. And we never came back. I think it was because we were scared of the Erasers that had camped out here. They were gone by now. Maybe, if things had been different, we would have come back to live here again after all the madness was over. But it seemed it hadn't ended, even after everything.

Groaning, I lean back to sit down. Propping myself up with my palms behind me, I throw my legs out, still staring at the carpet.

Er… Voice?


Are you sure there are no Erasers left here?

Positive. They all expired. The bodies were eaten by the wildlife, of course.

"Oh. Of course," I repeat hollowly.

Closing my eyes, I try to imagine a different reality, one where we would have stayed, peacefully, in this house. If Angel had never been kidnapped at all.

But as I do that, my thoughts begin to wander to an even further possibility. If we were never abducted by the School in the first place.

If we had just grown up as normal kids.

We would never have met each other. And even if we had, we were too different to interact. It was inevitable. None of us would have noticed, and we wouldn't know what we were missing.

We would have been normal.

But that's not what I want. I may have wanted it a long time ago, back when I didn't know what it felt like to not have the Flock in my life. And when they were yanked from me so cruelly and so quickly, there was nothing I wanted then to be together again.

We would have been normal.

Does it even matter anymore? There was no point wishing that we were regular kids. The dreadful deed had been done. There was no going back for us now. Not that we would want to go back.

Opening my eyes, I glance around the living room again before hauling myself up. I hurry down the hallway to my room, opening the door cautiously and peeking in. It's empty, which doesn't surprise me in the least. Though, I guess I was kind of hoping for fourteen year-old Max to come hopping out, yelling for the others to wake up.

Throwing myself onto the floor next to my bed, I push myself forward, reaching under the bed. Feeling around for the old backpack I know I have stowed away here, my fingers find a corner of something. Pulling it out, I stare at it.

It is a picture frame. I remember it as the one Angel and Nudge made for my thirteenth birthday. The photograph itself makes me blush as I remember it.

One night we decided to stay up late and watch a marathon of old Star Trek episodes. The little ones were the first to hit the hay, but Fang, Iggy, and I had made a bet to see who could manage to watch the whole marathon through. Unfortunately, I was dead tired, and it seemed that Fang was as well, so somewhere in the middle of it all, we both fell asleep. I remember waking up to see Nudge holding her camera, smiling mischievously, and Fang's arm over my waist.

The picture is of the two of us lying practically on top of each other, passed out.

Ah, memories. Eat your heart out.

I set the frame down on the floor next to me, biting my lip as I stare at it. I should burn the picture for all the humility it caused me, but… Diving under the bed again, I come out with an old dusty backpack. I put the frame in it, first thing, before moving on.

Gathering things I know I would want to take back, I move from room to room, dumping them in the bag. An old stuffed animal Angel always would sleep with… Iggy's old cigarette lighter that he used when he couldn't make any bombs… Some books I'd seen Nudge reading about ten million times… the Gasman's old blanket, the one he loved too much to throw away… and some of Fang's favorite CDs.

At the front door, I turn to look back at the living room. "I'll see you again, I swear," I tell no one, and I leave.

A/N: Oooo!! I want to continue it so bad… So I think I'll start on the next chapter. 'Cause for once I actually know what's going to happen next!!

The picture thing… Eh. Spur of the moment. Even though it's been used over and over in a lot of Max Ride fics… Or, at least, I think. And everybody's stuff, I just made it up, because I didn't know what else to make them have. We don't know nearly enough about the other Flock members as we should.

REVIEW, and the next chapter might be up in a few days!!

15. The Orphan Hermit

The Long Way Home


Chapter Fourteen: The Orphan-Hermit (All They've Ever Known)

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride or any of its characters. I do, however, own Jeanine/Cree and the plot.

"We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it"
-- Van Morrison "Into the Mystic"

First things first, I tell myself as I walk up the driveway. See how Ella is doing.

Hey Voice? You got any objections?


Y'know, to tell the truth, I never actually expected you to come back, but… I figured that if you did, you would be chattier than ever. But you're as silent as the grave, or some other expression people use for quiet people.

The Voice doesn't answer back, and I ring the doorbell. Adjusting the shoulder straps to my backpack, I wait until someone finally answers. I got lucky- It's Ella.

"Max?" She asks hesitantly, squinting her eyes at me through the screen.


"Oh, my god, Max!" She shrieks, throwing open the door, and hurtling herself at me. Somehow I manage to stay standing, but just barely.

"Er- Hello to you too, Ella," I say, awkwardly patting her back. My confidence just deflated the moment she flew at me.

Before I know it, she has my hand in hers and she's yanking me all over the house, stopping to point out things every so often and yammering on and on about what's been happening in the three years since I left. I take a seat at the kitchen table when she releases me, and sit there, watching her.

"So. How're your mom and David doing?" I interrupt. The reason I moved out was because Dr. Martinez had found a boyfriend, who she was very in love with. It made me feel extremely guilty, to stick around when I was hardly related to them in anyway, so I left. It was for the best, since I wasn't so sure David would've taken the idea of my wings very well.

Ella waves the question off. "They're in Mexico now, enjoying a 'holiday'." She tells me, making air-quotes. Her eyes settle on mine, and she leans forward. "What about you?"

Looking away from her face, I let my eyes wander nonchalantly. "I moved to Lone Pine, finished high school, got into UCLA, and met up with the Flock."

"You met up with the Flock?!" She squeals, and I wince, putting both my hands up.

"Ella, geez!! It's not that big of a deal…!" I make frantic gestures for her to calm down.

Several hours later, after our conversation dwindles down to nothing more than blank yes or no questions, she finally asks me what I'm doing here.

Shrugging, I look away. "I was in the neighborhood… And I suddenly remembered something I forgot. Is my room still…?"

Ella's fingers drum on the table. "Not really. All of your old stuff is in the attic, I think. What were you looking for?"

I can imagine they're probably panicking right now. Or at least, that's what I want to think. They probably don't even know I'm gone. This backpack is really heavy.

Maybe I should have taken up Ella's offer to stay the night. Flying in the dark is not pretty. I've got to be careful of a lot of things. Such as not hitting an airplane. Especially since I'm so close to LAX. That would be a nice mess.

Hahaha, not really.

Veering to the right, I watch the city lights below me flicker on and off in downtown LA. Nudge lives closer to the dorms, where that 7-Eleven was. But first, I think I should probably get my car, if it hasn't already been stolen.

Landing on the hill, I try to find where I parked my ghetto-wagon. There shouldn't be any people here at this time of night, so I don't have to worry about being seen or getting in a fight. I finally find the car, and quickly inspect it to make sure there is no damage. I accidentally left the doors unlocked.

"Er… Oops?"

I drive back to the dorm and leave the car in the parking lot, taking the backpack with me. It's full of all the stuff I knicked from the old house, and everything I got at Ella's. So that's why it is so fudging heavy.

"Now… Where is Nudge's house?"

Go right.

The Voice decides it wants to be helpful and guides me towards Nudge's neighborhood, and I'm wondering why I didn't take my car when I walk up the driveway to her porch.

Ringing the doorbell, I cover the peephole with my finger.

Iggy answers.

"Can I come in?"

Dumping the backpack on the table, I give Nudge, Iggy, and Fang a long stare.

They are all seated, and I'm standing up, my arms folded, my legs restless. Reaching for the zipper, I pull it down, and turn the bag upside down. The contents fall out in a jumbled mess. Sorting them slowly, I can feel the stares of Nudge and Fang.

"What's she doing?" Iggy asks.

"I've got some of your old crap. Here," I tell him, tossing the lighter in his direction. "Nudge," Sliding the books across the table, "Fnick," I sneer, dropping the CDs in his lap. "And these are for Angel and Gazzy. You can mail it to them if you want to. I'm not going to, for obvious reasons," I don't look at Fang as I gesture to the stuffed animal and ratty blanket.

He picks up the picture frame, eying it warily. "I thought you got rid of this."

Snorting, I tap my foot. "I should."

"Max… How did you get all of this?"

I look back at Nudge, who is staring at me quizzically. "The Erasers didn't burn it down. It's still in good shape, though I'm sure the food in the fridge is spoiled, and there's about a foot of dust on everything."

I pat the backpack to emphasize my point. "I think I'm going to move back there, when I get tired of college."

I don't even ask if they will too, because I already know the answer. Of course not. They can't just abandon their families to live in a house up in the mountains. Plus, whenever I'm around them, I get the feeling that our relationship isn't what it used to be. So, it'll just be me, the hermit. The orphan-hermit.

That is the best kind of hermit.

Nudge is staring at me with a weird kind of expression on her face, Iggy is frowning, and Fang is still looking at the picture.

"Well," I start, grabbing for the backpack again. "I just have one more thing to spring on you, and I'll be off. It's been a long day, and I'm pooped. I have to get back before it starts raining, too."

Digging around, I pull out the envelopes. I hand a stack to Nudge, one to Iggy, set two of them down on the table, and plop three stacks of envelopes in front of Fang on the table, held together by rubber-bands.

Zipping the backpack back up again, I throw it over my shoulder.

Grinning at the three, I make the peace sign and wink at them. "I'll give you an explanation later. I'm not quite ready, but I will be."

I leave the confused bird-kids behind, and following the Voice's directions again, make my way back to the campus.

A/N: You have no idea how much I skipped in the story just to get this chapter done. And it's long! Hurrah! It was supposed to be MUCH longer, but I felt like not going through all of that crap in one day, so I shortened it. The next part has been transferred to chapter fifteen.

The semi-title of this chapter comes from something I was going to write into the story, but it upset the idea flow so I took it out. All They've Ever Known, a shortened version of Loneliness is all us orphan-hermits have ever known, and all we'll ever know. Maha, because the flock are a bunch of orphan hermits. Except, they… live with each other, so… I dunno.

Be happy I updated. Because I'm nice like that.

I have finals to study for. So I'll be sorta busy during the next two weeks. I hate school.

REVIEW. YES, you know you want to. And even if you don't. REVIEW.

16. Not All Who Wander

The Long Way Home


Chapter Fifteen: Not All Who Wander

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride. I own Jeanine/Cree and this wonky plot, only.

"Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing
Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn
Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean"
-- U2, "Yahweh"

It was a few minutes after Max had left that someone said anything.

"What just happened?" Iggy asked, his hand enclosed around the green cigarette lighter.

Fang shook his head, bouncing the stack of envelopes in his hands carefully. "That's what I'd like to know. What are these?" He asked, holding them up.

Nudge inspected her smaller stack. "Letters, I guess. She sure is independent, to go all the way to Colorado to see if some old house is still standing."

Fang snorted, standing up. "You can say that again."

He pulled the CDs, the envelopes, and the picture frame into his arms and walked out of the room.

Nudge looked over at Iggy. "That's your old lighter."

"I know."


Glancing back down at her envelopes, Nudge shrugged her shoulders. "Wanna open the letters? I'll read you yours."

I can't tell you how much I miss your motor-mouth right now. I hope you're getting along with all of your brothers. Remember- if anyone of them gives you any trouble, just give them the old knee-to-the-groin, and that'll shut them up. Nah, I'm just kidding. That must be painful…

I'm starting school in a few weeks. I have to take ninth grade over. I'm not exactly overjoyed.

This guy was hitting on me at school. He was hovering around me all day. It was pretty annoying. I wonder what kind of joke the flock would crack at about this time.

I hope that you and the Griffiths are doing okay. They're not setting up more interviews for you, are they? That would be horrible. But I'm glad you have your parents. No matter how awful they are to you, they're still your family, right? Well, I guess you could say the same goes for me.

Someone started a fire behind the local supermarket. It reminded me of you and Gazzy.

What am I doing, writing all these letters?

"They're like diary entries, not letters," Nudge thought aloud. She glanced over to Iggy. "Why didn't she just mail them?"

It was silent in the kitchen.

"Fang's stack was huge. I guess she had a lot to say to him," She muttered, looking down at her lap.

Iggy flicked open the top of his cigarette lighter and lit it. He snatched an empty envelope and held it to the small flame, burning it.

There was nothing else to say.

If I apologized to you now, would you even listen? You know what, I don't care. I'm sorry. I'm sorry about that night. I don't know what you were feeling. I was only thinking of myself. But maybe you can understand that, because, for the better part of my life I've been thinking about five other people. I've been worrying and worrying about them, with nothing for myself. And then, at the very end, they are the ones to go home to their families. What am I left with? An empty backpack and some unanswered questions. It wasn't entirely selfish of me. But it still was pretty bad. Can you forgive me?

I was thinking about you during my biology midterm today, and I completely bombed. You get me into too much trouble as it is. Thanks a lot.

I smell like fish. Ella and her mom took me fishing. I smell like fish. Or a wet dog.

This guy in my French class asked me out. I said yes, to be nice. I wonder what you would say to me. I remember when I went on that date with Sam, and you didn't say anything. What were you thinking, when I told everyone? Were you jealous, or happy for me? Either way, I was pretty mad when you and the red-haired wonder were exchanging saliva. You could have gotten rabies from her.

Dr. Martinez and her boyfriend are going to get hitched. I don't know what I should do.

When I get back to my dorm, I head straight for the bathroom to take a long shower. Once I'm done, I leave my hair wet so it can dry by itself and dress, putting on my long pajamas and an old sweatshirt. Sitting back on the bed, I stare around the room, my eyes barely seeing the posters of various bands stretched across the walls. Trying to find something to do to calm my twitching muscles, I reach for an old book.

"The Hobbit, There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien," I read aloud from the cover. Flipping to a random page, I read over a single riddle that Gollum had told Bilbo.

"This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down."

Snapping the book shut, I sat down on it, biting my lip.

"Time. Stupid time. I don't know how much time I have left, and I've already wasted enough of it. I don't need some dead guy telling me about time," I grumble to myself, pulling the sleeves of the sweatshirt down to my wrists.

There's a knock on the door.

"Oh god, I hope that's not Fang…" I wince, getting up.

They knock on the door again.

"I'm coming!" I yell. "Freaking impatient…"

It's Jeanine. I tilt my head. "Hey. Do you need something?"

She looks at me funny, with a strange, concentrated expression on her face. "No…"

"Then what?"

At that exact moment, someone, or something, tackles me to the ground. My hair flies into my face, and as I'm lying on the floor, spluttering and trying to catch my breath, Jeanine backs away from the doorway to let in a hoard of Erasers.


Voice! Voice, what do I do?! I yell in my head, fighting to stand up. But the Eraser sitting on me is twice my size, and I can't move.

"I'm sorry about this, Max," I hear Jeanine whisper.

I black out before I can do anything else.

A/N: This is probably the last update for another week. So cherish it. And don't kill me for the cliffhanger… But finally the actual story- er- Kicks off. Now we can get to the fun action-y stuff. And more angst. Because angst is fun. To write, that is.

The amount of letters was shortened. They were all just what you'd probably write in a diary or journal, and I just put in a few of them to illustrate that point. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. : )


17. A Mission from God

The Long Way Home


Chapter Sixteen: A Mission from God

Disclaimer: I think we've been through this before…

"Time for the final bout
Rows of deserted houses
All our stable mates highway bound
Give us our measly sum
Getting the air inside my lungs is heavenly
Starting out with nothing but crippling doubt
We'll rest easy justified
Suffered a swift defeat, I'll endure countless repeats
The gift of memory is an awful curse
With age it just gets much worse, but I won't mind
I won't mind"
-- Death Cab for Cutie, "Stable Song"

Nudge looked up at Fang, who was standing at her door. She raised an eyebrow, sitting up and brushing her hair from her eyes.

"I'm going over to Max's dorm. Iggy already told me he was coming," He told her, glancing back down the hallway behind him.



"Why are you going?"

"Don't you want answers too?" His question caught her off guard, and she lifted her fist to her chest, pressing it firmly there. Of course she wanted answers. But she wasn't going to ask them when the two she wanted to ask about were right there in the room. Besides… Would Max have all the answers? She sounded (sort of) ready before, but you could never be too sure.

Blowing a raspberry exasperatedly, Nudge nodded and climbed off her bed. "Let me get dressed," She told Fang, shutting the door in his face. Shedding her oversized t-shirt, she changed into a red blouse and an old jacket.

Grabbing her purse from the desk, she walked out into the kitchen. "I'm ready," She called, running a hand through her wildly curly hair.

Iggy opened the door wordlessly, and Fang followed him out. Fidgeting with the strap to her purse, Nudge sighed loudly. "I'm going out with Jeff and Andrew for a while! 'Bye!" She yelled, running out the door and closing it behind her.

"We're here to see Alison McClay," Fang told the student sitting at the desk.

The kid looked puzzled for a minute, and looked over the three of them suspiciously. "I'm sorry, she dropped out of school yesterday evening."

Fang stiffened visibly, and Nudge winced. She touched the back of Iggy's hand gently, and moved forward. "What do you mean?"

"…Er- She- Doesn't go here anymore," The boy flinched, scooting his chair further away from the desk.

"Do you know the reason why?" Nudge asked, pushing Fang back.

"She… Just left. And, that other girl, I think her name was Jeanine… She left with her. It was really weird. I mean, I didn't see it, but what everyone else was saying, it was really weird. There were a lot of good looking guys there, too, and I was wondering if some kind of boy band was in town… Though- er-" The boy glanced at the grim looks on the faces of the three. "Well, if it helps, are you… Are any of you guys named Nick?"

Nudge and Fang exchanged a look, and Fang nodded slowly.

"Ah- She left a note, saying that if someone named Nick comes by, then… Here," He held out a piece of folded up paper. "The note said to give it to him."

Fang grabbed it out of the boy's hand and stalked away. Nudge looked after him for a minute, then snapped out of it. "I- Thank you!" She told the boy, grabbed Iggy's wrist and dragged him after Fang.

"Andrew!" She yelled, racing to catch up with him. "What are you going to do?"

He whirled to face her. "She told us…" Taking a deep breath, he continued, eyes livid. "She told us she would explain! Then she fucking leaves! I know where we can- where we can find her. She said that she was going to go back to the Colorado home when she dropped out- She'll be there-"

Nudge opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off by Iggy.

"Fang… I don't think that's what happened…"

"Of course that's what happened!" Fang bellowed. "What other possible explanation could you-"

"Were you even listening to that kid in there?" Iggy asked, stalking forward until he was an inch from Fang's face. The taller boy had a scowl on his face, but he was staring at Fang's forehead.

"Of course I was! I-"

"You tuned him out after he told us Max dropped out. That was all you heard," Her mouth was running of its own accord, and she couldn't seem to stop it. "You are waiting for her to screw up. You don't pay attention to anything at all, except for those small things you take offense in. And you don't even notice the people around you. Max is trying, Fang. But you just can't let go."

Nudge took the last few steps until she was standing beside Iggy, looking up at Fang just as angrily.

"We have to go. Now." Grabbing Iggy's wrist, she dragged him to the car. Fang followed after slowly.

Nudge put both hands up on the kitchen table. "Okay. So, if what that kid said is true, we have a very good idea of where Max is right now. Except…" Meeting Fang's eyes, she winced. "It's at our least favorite place in the entire world."

It was quiet in the kitchen, so she continued. "But even then… We went there to save Angel once before. Now, it isn't one of the little kids in danger. It's Max. And, regardless of what she's done, and what some of us think…" She avoided Fang's gaze. "…It is still Max."

Iggy leaned back in his chair, until his sightless eyes were staring blankly at the ceiling. "So… We're on a mission?"

"A mission from God," Nudge mumbled to herself.

"A rescue mission," Iggy shot back. "Don't be quoting Dan Akroyd on me."

"Death Valley is that way. Where the hell are you going?"

Fang spun in the air, propelling himself away from Nudge, who had flown up to him.

"We're going to Colorado," He didn't look at her, keeping his eyes downcast.

"You mean you're going to Colorado," Iggy shouted to them from fifty feet away.

The look Fang sent his way went unnoticed. Breathing in slowly, he attempted to calm his shaking hands, eyes still trained downwards at the ground. "I'm going to… Make sure of something."

Nudge nodded slowly. "Fine. We'll come with you to check on the house. Right, Iggy?"

"But Max-"

Squinting at the bright sky, Nudge blew a raspberry into the air. "We don't know for sure where she is. She could actually be at the house instead of the School."

As they approached the familiar mountains, the trio's conversation disappeared altogether. It had never been much to begin with, a couple of curious questions from Nudge directed to either one of the older boys, and then a half hour of silence in between each one. But as they passed the snow covered peaks and stared at the tops of the pine trees beneath them, the wilderness kept their voices small and their minds loose. Words were not needed.

That is, until they saw the house. Nudge was the first to see it, while flying in large figure eights around the others. She let out an excited yelp and pointed frantically at the cabin in the distance.

It looked exactly the same. Max had been right. As they hurried to reach the familiar cliff it was perched on, a small figure in the distance caught Fang's attention.

"What… is that?" He asked loudly, stopping mid-air. Upon further inspection, he almost fell out of the air when he saw the two large wings protruding from the sides of the whatever-it-was.

"That isn't a bird…" Nudge gasped.

"And whatever it is… It's falling," Fang realized. Without thinking, he shot forward, leaving the bewildered Nudge and Iggy behind. But whoever it was, they were dropping too quickly, and Fang was flying too slowly. Taking a dive, he followed after, his wings beating angrily at the air.

Ugh… So tired. My head hurts like a bitch. Whoever decided that they wanted to make brain stew out of my head, ugh, is so dead.

Oh… Crap. I'm not where I think I am? Am I? Please, no. Puh-lease!!!

"Max. Max. Wake up, Max."

What the hell? Is someone shaking me? Hmm… Who?

So many questions, so little attention span.

I'm not getting up. I'm dead tired. And my head still hurts. What did I hit it on? Oh. Oh yeah. That. Oh. Ouch. Stop thinking about it, it'll go away.

"Wake up, Max!!"

Why do you want me to wake up?

I don't want to wake up. Isn't my opinion the one that counts here? Because I'm the one that'll have to do the waking up. Yeah… I don't really want to.

"Come on... You have to get up… Max!!"

I rolled over, waving my hand at whoever was disturbing my much-needed sleep.


"What?!" I opened my eyes and quickly closed them, the sunlight blinding me. Opening them slowly this time, I blinked at the person in front of me.


A/N: Sorry about the two week hiatus. Sorry if the chapter was a little obscure. Sorry about the cliffhanger.

Okay, so… this wasn't the best I could do. I skipped over a LOT of dialogue between Nudge, Iggy, and Fang. I kinda wanted to get this finished as soon as possible. It was killing me with the guilt. Er. Yeah, let's go with that.

I am really tired today. I spaced out about ten times during one class today. And I'm going to start reading Pride and Prejudice!! Or, I already did. But, yeah. My friend recommended it to me like a year ago, then I watched the movie at her house, then my mom bought the book for me and told me to read it, and I'm just now getting around to it. Must… read… RAWR.

Yay for Blues Brothers quotes!! Yay for reviews!!


18. Waking Up PART ONE

The Long Way Home


Chapter Seventeen: Waking Up (Part ONE)

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride. I own Jeanine/Cree and this wonky plot.

"What if everything around you
Isn't quite as it seems
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream, and if you look at your reflection
Is it all you wanted to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?
--Nine Inch Nails, "Right Where it Belongs"

I sit up so fast my spine cracks. Scooting away from Fang, who was leaning over me, I stare at him with wide eyes. What is he doing here? I'm at the School- I couldn't bear it if he was here with me…


I shriek then, his voice startling me. My hands clamp over my mouth and I try to get farther away from him. This can't be happening. Stuck in my hell-on-earth with the person who hates my guts. But that wasn't what I was worried about. If it had just been me in the School, I might have gotten out alive. With Fang to look after, I wasn't so sure about that. And what about the Flock? Were they here too?

"Max? Did you have a bad dream?"

Dream? Had I even dreamt while I was unconscious? My brow furrows, and I shake my head furiously.

Fang reaches out a hand to my wrist, a strange, concentrated look on his face. He grips it tightly and tugs it away from my mouth, doing the same with my other arm. I can't help but notice how warm his palms are.

Before he can do anything else, I rip away from him, covering my face with my hands.

"Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck. Fuck!" I whisper angrily, pressing my cold hands against my cheeks in a weak attempt to quiet my stomach, which is twisting uncomfortably.


I look up to see Fang's dark eyes just inches from my own. His hands are on my shoulders before I can pull away again. I can't control the emotions flitting across my face, and vaguely hope that they aren't screaming what I'm feeling at the moment.

Fearful, afraid, angry, excited, anxious…

"I…" My voice breaks out in a weak hiss, my tongue swiping over my chapped lips.

His eyes silence me, and I keep my mouth closed, for fear that if I open it, something… strange might slip out.

It's in that moment, that exact moment in time that I realize Fang's hair isn't the same as when I last saw him. It is longer, flopping over the tops of his eyes, and his face is younger, like he's only fourteen again-

"What the hell?!" I say out loud, completely ruining the moment. Fang pulls away, keeping his eyes down cast. Flinching, I bite my lip nervously.

I take the moment to see where we are. In a forest. With a campfire. And… The clothes I'm in are ratty and worn out. …Oh crap.

"Er… Fang? What year is this again?" Feign confusion. If I remember correctly, this Fang could read me like an open book, and, wherever I am, I don't want him thinking I was nuts.

He looks up from the ground for a moment, something flashing in his eyes, and then averting his gaze again. "Oh-five," He mutters.

I can feel my jaw drop. "You're kidding."

His eyes are on me. I try not to look at his face, afraid what I might see there, or what he might see on my own.


I jump, and Fang looks away, to the trees on my right, as if expecting someone to be there.

And poof. Out of the woods step the four missing members of the flock.

Exactly the same age as they were five years ago.

I almost faint dead-away, but instead I attempt to stand up on shaky legs. They're here, all here… But this is too crazy to be true. I need to calm myself down. Stealing a wary glance in Angel's direction, I'm relieved to see that she is smoothing the dress on her stuffed animal. Funny. It looks nothing like I remember Celeste being…

Pointing vaguely in the direction of the sky, I smile sheepishly. "I'm going for a flight. Be back in a few." My voice is weak and small, exactly the way I feel.

Before any of them can say anything to make me stay, I'm running through the trees, branches rushing past me as I gather speed to take off, trying to get away from what I've just seen.

I don't lift into the air; instead I remain on the ground, but still darting through the forest like an escaped criminal.

Stopping at a small clearing, I fold over, squatting on the forest floor, breathing into the soil and hearing the quiet sounds of trees and plants continuing on their path of life. Autotrophs have it so easy. It's unfair. They don't have to worry about anything except for photosynthesis.

There's a stream nearby. I can hear the water trickling and rushing down rocks. The sound is comforting to hear, and reminds me of home. Do I even have a home?

Shaking my head, I dispel that thought. Of course I have a home. It's in the mountains of Colorado, waiting patiently for me to return.

"Pffft," I breathe out, sliding my arms out of the sleeves of my windbreaker. Spreading my wings out, I stand slowly, spreading my arms out as well, parallel to my wings. Lifting my head up towards the sun, I focus on regulating my breathing, trying to work out the knot in my throat.

It then occurs to me that the Voice wasn't anywhere in sight. Or… hearing.

"Eh… Voice?" I whisper, closing my eyes.

My fourteen year-old body doesn't feel nearly as tired as my older one. Figures.

There is no response from my Voice of death, and, for some reason, I feel disappointed. Never thought I'd actually miss it.

It's been two days since I've been stuck in this parallel universe. Or since the School sent me back in time. Or since I woke up from a long, elaborate, horrible, horrible nightmare of what could happen in five years.

I've had too much time to think about possibilities.

Two days have gone by, and almost every hour I find myself happy to be back. Happy to have the flock back. That screwed-up future of mine wasn't the best I could have asked for, although it was better than what I'd imagined before.

Now, sitting in a flea motel somewhere in Utah, I'm left all alone with my thoughts. Fang, Nudge, and Angel went to find food, and Iggy and Gazzy are somewhere in the next room, probably making bombs.

My fourteen year-old tendencies are coming back to me, little habits that I had forgotten over the years and those tiny little opinions that I would have thought idiotic if I was older are forcing their way into my brain again, making themselves comfortable.

I have to be careful about my thoughts, though. Angel is always watching. Hearing. I can't suddenly start on a track of comparing the past with the present with her around, since- I don't want her to think I'm insane. Which is already an established fact, so I don't think I have much to worry about, but I'm worried all the same.

The door slams open, and I jerk up from my position on the bed, leaning over to see who is there.

Ha. And I thought that it would be safe. So much for my judgment.

Ari, standing there in the doorway with a wicked grimace-grin plastered on his muzzle, cracks his knuckles, making a motion with his left hand. The Erasers surrounding him file into the room, leaving me cornered. Well, mostly. I duck out the window before they can close off that exit for me, and make my way over to the Gasman and Iggy's room window. Tapping on the glass, I mouth the words "U and A" and zip away to find the last of my feathery compadres.

There they are, fighting off a whole legion of the hairy mutants.

"Fang!!" I yell, jerking my thumb up. He nods, and just as he is about to turn and tell Nudge and Angel, an Eraser decks him. He slams into the wall, head cracking against the brick.

A strangled gasp tears through my throat, and, without thinking, I use my turbo-drive to tackle the Eraser who punched Fang. The force of the blow sends him flying, me with him. I hear a loud crash, and something falls on top of me. Not daring to open my eyes, I lay there until the noise around me is quiet.

I think I know what happened. We went straight through the motel wall, and what is on top of me is…



"Max!! No… No, no, NO!! Max!!"


Nudge, Angel, Iggy, Gazzy…!

Get this off of me! I want to scream, shifting my position slightly. The Eraser whose back my face is buried in is still, not moving, and very smelly. Attempting to get up on all fours, I manage to dislodge some of the foundation that fell on top of me.

"Ugh…" Sneezing out some dust, I shake my head angrily.

"G- Get… Get me out of here!" My throat feels hoarse and dry.


Yeah, yeah. Less talking, more helping.

Someone grabs my arm and yanks me out from underneath the pile of rubble. I don't even know who it is, and I don't get a chance to see before they pull me into a tight hug.

"Jeez, Max… You see me hit the wall, and you go through it to get vengeance." I can tell he was worried. For once, Fang's not trying to hide anything. Nothing. Compared to Mister Call-me-Andrew-ungrateful-weasel back in the present/future, this Fang is… Sweet, almost.

Ugh. I sounded like a girl.

But, yeah, maybe my reaction was a little overblown. He didn't die or anything. Just hit his head against a wall. Hit his head hard.

No. He didn't. Not really.

"…Your head okay?" My words are muffled into his arm, and I hope he can understand. The rumble in his chest erupts into quiet laughter, and his embrace tightens around me.

"Yeah. Thanks for worrying."

"Um… Can you let go of me now?"

The hold on me slackens, and when I lean my head back to look up at him, something completely unexpected happens.

It takes me a few seconds to comprehend.

Fang… is kissing me. Not the let's-comfort-our-best-friend-because-she-was-almost-crushed-by-a-wall kind, but the let's-throw-all-our-cares-out-the-window-and-kiss-her-because-she-is-just-so-darned-CUTE kind.

I'm not sure Fang thinks I'm cute, and I'm not sure that's the right scenario, but does it even matter? He's freaking kissing me!!

And… Uh… I… Like it…

Leaning backwards, I practically run into what is left of the motel wall, ignoring the stares of the flock. Fang's arms snake around my waist, and I throw mine around his neck. I can imagine what I look like. Girly, romantic, completely-NOT-Max, and totally in love.

And I don't think I care.

Be this some kind of vision or School-induced happy dream turned nightmare, this rocks.

"How long has she been sleeping?"

"Almost a whole day…"

"When's she gonna get up?"

"Who knows?"

"Looks like she's having a good dream…"

Snort. "Haha."

"Max! Max, wake up!!"

My eyes open slowly, unfiltered light blinding them. Waking up all over again… This is crap. I blink a few times until my surroundings become clearer. Oh, god, no.

No. I sit up, my hands flying to the bars of my cage. "No!" I yell, pressing my face against the grate.

Hello, Max. Have a nice nap?

The angry tears cloud my vision, but I don't need to wipe them away to know that I'm in the one place I hate the most.

"Welcome back to the School," Someone to my right mutters drily.

A/N: I think I'm in love with this chapter. Or at least that second-to-last part. Too bad it- er… -clamps hands over mouth- NO SPOILERS, Jackie. Nooooo spoilers, because that would not be fair to the readers in any way.

Bu- But!! –looks helpless-

Haha, yes, my name is Jackie. LAUGH. Although I'm pretty sure it says so on my profile… But, anyway, my name is Jackie, and MY LAST NAME IS SHORT. Guess how many letters are in it! (That's my special li'l test to see just how many people actually read my crack-induced author's notes. Hmm… Yay?)

And if you get that right, you get a nonexistent-yes-it's-real-even-though-it's-really-only-pixels-on-a-computer-screen cookie. So.

Review, please? The second part of Waking Up will be finished… Ehem… Later. I've got a lab to do.

Did anyone else notice how much I refrained from swearing in this chapter? I really can't help it. It's a habit, and Max is already a potty-mouth...

19. Waking Up PART TWO

The Long Way Home


Chapter Eighteen: Waking Up (Part TWO)

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride. I own Jeanine/Cree and this wonky plot.

"What if all the world's inside of your heart
Just creations of your own
Your devils and your gods
All the living and the dead
And you really are alone
You can live in this illusion
You can choose to believe
You keep looking but you can't find the words
Are you hiding in the dreams?"
-- Nine Inch Nails "Right Where it Belongs"

The fluorescent lights overhead are making me dizzy, nauseous, and the tiny cage I'm cramped in is not helping. My head spins in a fluctuating pattern, making my vision swim as my mind tries to grasp any kind of thought that would help me. I can't seem to get a hold of myself.

Blinking my eyes slowly, I lean backwards, my back hitting the cold bars of the cage. Rubbing at my scalp absent-mindedly, I focus on the lock on my crate, attempting to keep my head from spinning.

It works- sorta, and I sit up a little, pressing my cold hands to my cheeks.

The voices that had called me back into consciousness get louder.


"Are you sure she's awake?"

"Her eyes are open- And for as long as we've known her, she hasn't slept with them open before…"

My eyes drift closed of their own accord, trying to block out the brightness of the white-washed walls, the cramped space I'm in, and the sterile smells of hospitals.

"Ah! Look! Her eyes are closing-!"


"Don't fall asleep on us again, goddammit!"

I know that voice. I snap my eyes open and whirl as fast as I can in the two-foot space I have to stare at the three people I least expected to see.

Well, two people. One dog.

"Okay. So, now that we are inside and out of the snow, we need to figure out what we are going to do. Now," Nudge held her hand up. "First of all, we have to make plans to help Max out. It's obvious that she's at the School. We can bust in and break her out- But before that happens…" She pointed to Fang. "Who is that chick?"

He shifted uneasily, looking at his hands. "Er… That, I'm not sure of…" Stealing a glance at the unconscious girl on the couch, he winced.

Iggy, who had previously been scoping out the rest of the house, entered the room and plopped down on the carpet.

"Can't you just tell for yourself, Nudge?"

She scratched at her arm nervously. "That's the thing. I tried. It's not as easy when I'm dealing with- er- mutant freaks, than with humans. I can't read anything. Not even by actually touching her. One thing I can figure out, though, is that she has been around Max lately."

Fang nodded. "She was Max's neighbor. Her name is Jeanine."

Nudge bit her lip.


"Guess we just wait until she wakes up."

"But what about Max?"

Nudge and Fang exchanged an uneasy look, both thinking the same thing.

She can take care of herself.

Iggy nodded, humming the tune to an obscure song.

"Hi, Max," Angel offers a sheepish smile from a cage further down the hall.

"Oh… Wow…" I mutter, grimacing.

This is really weird.

"It may seem that way, but…" Angel trailed off, plucking at her hair habitually.

Frowning, I look over to the Gasman and Total, raising my eyebrow.

"I know I don't need to say this, but, er-" I start, fumbling with the words.

"You want to know what we're doing here."


I bite my lip uneasily. "And- uh, I know what I'm doing here… Turns out my next-door neighbor is an evil Eraser who has been plotting to betray me from the first time I met her. Still can't trust anybody, can we?"

It is quiet for a few minutes. I sit there, thinking that maybe I shouldn't have said anything.

"That is, can't trust any outsiders. Y'know, normal people." Making a motion with my arm, I try to get them to talk. "But that doesn't matter. Explain, please."

The three of them exchange glances.

"Well… We've been here for the past… Hmm. How long has it been?" Angel looked over to her brother.

"Almost five years."

"Five years?!" I gasp. "But- I just saw you-"

Angel, reading my mind, looked startled as well. "You saw us? How is that possible?"

Clones, Maximum.


Sorry I was out. I had some- er- business to take care of.


I look at the three of them, smiling reassuringly. "The Voice."

They nod in understanding as the voice continues.

I am sorry that I could not explain much to you before, but now it seems I have to. You know the car crash that Angel and Gazzy supposedly were in, it never actually happened. The wreckage had been staged, so the School could move in and kidnap them. They thought that if they got the youngest members of the flock, then that would lure you in. They…didn't know about the fact that you weren't in contact with them. The Angel and Gasman you saw at Nudge's birthday party and the airport were clones. They've been trained to act as stand-ins.

"That's a lot to digest," I say aloud.

Relaying the story to Angel, Gazzy, and Total, I glance at the door, almost expecting someone to come in and break up the tea party.

But… Why would they want to lure me in?

Have you forgotten about your destiny, Max?

"Destiny, schmestiny. I just want to go home, at this point…" Ignoring the curious stares of the other three, I asked the Voice how he expected us to get out of there.

Jeb will be coming in to catch up in about an hour. You have until then.

I didn't ask how long we have. I asked what the plan was.

It has something to do with the Gasman's power.

I snap my head around. "Gazzy?" I ask incredulously. He looks at me with a startled expression on his face. The only power that he has that I am aware of is his mimicking skills. How would that help us?

Not that one. Something different.

I frown. "Do you have a power you aren't telling me about?"

He frowns as well. "I… Well… Sorta."

I sit up, almost hitting my head against the top of the cage. "What is it?"

His brow furrows. "I dunno. I kind of can… Er, ghost through things."

"Ghost? As in, tangibility?"

"I guess," He shrugs.

"Then why didn't you use it in the past five years you've been locked up here?!"

"Yeah, that's what I'd like to know," Total huffs.

The Gasman looks distressed. "It isn't something that I really know how to use," He whines

I calm down, sitting back on my heels. "Okay. We have roughly an hour before Jeb is going to come in here to talk with us, so you have that long to figure out how to work this power of yours."

"Alright, I can try."

I turn to Angel. "Alright, Ange. You can hear people's thoughts from far away, right? If you can, I want you to keep watch. If you hear anyone's thoughts coming towards this room-"

"Max, I can't read Jeb."

"Ah- Er… Nevermind then. Cheer your brother on."

"I got it!"

I face the Gasman, whose hand is completely phased through a bar in his cage.

"Well, that was really fast."

"All I had to do was-"

"Yeah, no time. Get us out of here!"

I gotta say, it is really nice to be flying with someone again. Even if I do have to carry a fifty pound dog while doing so.

"Total doesn't weigh that much," Angel informs me.

Said dog yips in indignation. "Hmph. You're still the same, I can see," He tells me.

"So are you."


I laugh, and we continue flying into the sunset.

What surprised me was how easy it was to get out of the School. There were no Erasers ready to pounce on us and rip our heads off. Maybe that was because we went out through the roof.

Gazzy's ability was really cool. Of course, it was kind of weird to be walking –or flying- through a wall.

"Look! There it is!"

I look, and see the familiar mountain range ahead of us. Smiling, I pick up the pace. We're almost home.

A/N: So. Gazzy's power. What'd you think of it? Yeah, he can ghost through walls and the like, and other people can too, if he is touching them. He can vibrate his molecules at a rate that allows him to phase through a solid object. No exceptions.

Once again, I skipped over quite a bit. Originally, I intended for Nudge, Iggy, Fang, and Jeanine to save her, but, eh, I liked this idea better. It was fun.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Review, please and thankies: )

20. An Unsuspecting Victim

The Long Way Home


Chapter Nineteen: An Unsuspecting Victim

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride. I own Jeanine/Cree and the plot.

"I've been here so long, I think that it's time to move
The winter's so cold, summer's over too soon
Let's pack our bags and settle down where palm trees grow
I've got some friends, some that I hardly know
But we've had some times, I wouldn't trade for the world
We chase these days down with talks of the places that we will go"

-- Rise Against, "Swing Life Away

We land in the snow, the slush crunching underneath our feet as we make our way up the hill to the house. Total struggles to keep up with us, his short legs sinking into the snow. I ignore his whining, instead trying to dodge the Gasman's snowballs.

"Who wants to make a snow angel?"

Angel's head is suddenly covered with white, mushy, wet stuff. She glares at her brother, who is trying to hold back his laughter.

"I guess Gazzy did," I mutter to myself, picking Total up and then dropping him back into the snow. He barks at me angrily.

I can see a corner of the roof up ahead. "Race someone to the top," I point, brushing hair from my eyes.

The Gasman and I exchange a quick glance, and then we're both off, weaving in and out of the trees, kicking up snow as we go. I can hear Angel and Total shouting behind us, but pay no attention.

Gazzy appears out of nowhere, cutting me off.

"Hey!" I yell at him, speeding up.

He cackles wildly, right before falling flat on his face.

And, of course, I, who, previously, had been right at his heels, trip right over his prone body, landing in a heap next to him in the snow.

Wow, that's cold.

Laughing at our clumsiness, I sit up, shaking my head clear of the slush. Gazzy sits up, mouth full of snow. I burst out into hysterical laughter at the look on his face, gasping for breath.

"Don't… Eat the… Yellow snow…" I breathe heavily, reaching over to ruffle his hair fondly. He gives me a pained look, spitting out dirty water.

"C'mon," I stand, holding out my hand to help him up. "And no running this time."

"It was your idea."

I smile at him, skirting a fallen log.

We reach the clearing around the house, where Angel and Total are waiting.

"What took you so long?" Angel asks as we walk up to the two of them.

"We… Had a little accident."

That sends me into another fit of giggles, and I turn away from them to face the house. Stiffening, I stop in my tracks, eyes glued to Fang's bedroom window.

It's open. Looking back at Angel, Gazzy, and Total, I make a wide "SHUT UP!" motion with both of my arms, gesturing to the window.

"Someone's here… No wonder it was so easy to break out of the School. They knew we were going to come here, and then they're planning to ambush us!" I whisper to them. "C'mon. Time for a little sneak attack."

"Do you guys hear something?"

Fang looked up at Iggy, staring blankly at him for a long moment. "No. Why?"

The blind kid sat up from his previous position on the floor. "I thought… Nah, nevermind. It was probably just some wild animals."

"Hey! It's snowing!" Nudge cried, obviously excited.

"And Sleeping Beauty here still hasn't woken up…" Fang muttered, stealing a glance towards Jeanine's direction.

There was a knock on the door.

Everyone froze.

"Um… You guys mind getting that? I'm a bit busy here, what being scared shitless…" Iggy offered. Fang threw a pillow at him.

Peeking out the window, he didn't see anyone. But that was because the door wasn't in the window's range of vision. Looking back at Nudge and Iggy, who were waiting with bated breath, he reached for the doorknob.

At that exact moment, Jeanine's eyes snapped open. She lunged into a sitting position, shaking. Her hands flew to her head, and she crumpled into a ball on the couch.

"What the hell?!"

Fang looked like he didn't know what to do. Iggy was trying to calm the girl down, and Nudge was waving frantically in his direction to open the door. Fist clenched around the doorknob, he stole one last look at the inside of the house before yanking the door wide.

As soon as the door opens, I scream at the top of my lungs, "Fire!"

They know the plan. We lure the evil Erasers away from the house, and then fight them out in the open. Maybe, if we're lucky, we can get them to take a face-plant in the exact spot where Total decided to take a whiz.

Haha, revenge is sweet…

The snowballs launch into the unsuspecting victim's face, and then all four of us retreat, my command to run not even needing to be said.

Of course, I'm not looking where I'm going, and end up crashing through the underbrush into a dead end. The only way out is up and away. Leaning over the cliff a bit, I wince at how high up it is. Glancing back over my shoulder, I hear shouts, and kick off the ground, making my decision impulsively. Someone breaks through the bushes behind me as I leap off the cliff, my wings snapping out as I fall headfirst into the trees waiting below. One of them snags on a ledge jutting out of the cliff face, and before I know it, I'm tumbling through the air.

Crap. This is so not good.

I thought that if I just stayed absolutely still and quiet, like I was sleeping, everything would be fine. But, no. Nothing was fine. Well, not after Max got close.

The Others decided that it would be a nice punishment to inject something into my bloodstream that sent a jolt of fire right to my brain, leaving me in the worst pain you can imagine. Of course, it only works when the girl I'm supposed to save is in a 100 foot radius of me.

I've got to say, of all the things that they've done to me, and all of the experiments they've conducted, this was by far the most painful of them all. I can't even begin to describe it. My head is still spinning from the aftershock.

The sounds all around me are chaotic, whirling in an uncertain pattern in a way that leaves me worse than dizzy and confused as hell.

I can hear Max's flock shouting, running, flying, crashing, everything, as I lay here on the couch, trying to keep my brains from sliding out of my ears and onto the floor.

That is, until I hear the sound.

I bolt upright, ignoring the intense pain at the nape of my neck, swiveling my head towards the direction of the growling, tearing sound of-

"No," I gasp, falling off of the sofa and onto the floor, cowering against the armrest.

Ari leans over me, a wicked smile showing fangs red with what I hope is fruit punch, but know isn't. Licking his lips, he clicks two of his sharp nails together, the sound of it ringing in my ears. The tearing, growling noise continues, and as I stare in horror at him, I can feel the change.

I'm not like my family, as I've said before. No, I am much more powerful, valuable, and dangerous to myself and everyone around me than they are.

"You can never hide…" Ari warns me with that sickening grin. I turn my head away, just in time.

The change stops midway, and I revert to normal. I lie there, gasping for breath, listening for that sound of laughter from my illusions or the ripping feeling of my limbs converting into a smaller shape, my muscles reforming onto the shortened bones. The pain doesn't come, and I welcome the small moment of rest.


My eyes shoot open, and I force myself to stand on shaky legs. If she is in trouble, I have to do something to help out. It's part of my destiny, as much as I try to rebel. Bub told me a long time ago, that Max was… Well, in his words, my other half. The two of us, created together, but separated. The third one, who came to pull us even farther apart, is gone, and there is nothing left standing in our way…


I run to the door, stopping at the porch and looking out at the trees surrounding me. They corner me at the doorway, and I almost retreat into the safety of the house, but my legs are already flinging me into the wet, cold snow, which is squishing beneath my bare feet and between my toes.

Tearing the sweatshirt off of me, I race through the forest, the pain in my forehead growing more immense with each second and step I take.

I burst through the grove, nearly running into Angel and Gazzy, who have just arrived as well. They are staring over the edge of the cliff with horrified expressions on their faces. Without thinking, I dive down there, my wings snapping out in a sudden movement. The joints crack, creating a yanking sensation in my shoulder blades. Wincing, I speed up as I see Max hit the top of the trees.

The pain threatens to turn my insides to mush as I crash through the top branches, falling after Max- And this is the girl who is supposed to save the world?

I'm heading towards the forest floor faster than she is. That's both good and bad. Good, because, that way, it's easier for me to get under her to catch her, and bad, because I might end up ker-splatting instead. Either me or her.

I choose both.

I rotate mid-fall, twisting so that I am directly beneath her, prepared to catch her.

Somehow, somehow, I manage to pull up swiftly, my heels skidding against the ground roughly. She falls into my outstretched arms before I'm even barely ready, and I buckle under her weight.

"Oof," I grunt, rolling out from underneath her.

She sits up too, spitting strands of hair out of her mouth. Wiping at her clothes, she mutters something I can't catch and then looks up at me.

The expression on her face turns into a glare, and her lips curl back from her teeth in a snarl. She does a pretty good impression of a wolf. I contemplate telling her that, but bite it down when she growls at me.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?!"

The pain in my head doesn't seem so important anymore.

"Saving your ass, it looks like."

She looks taken back at my sudden change of attitude. Back at the college, I was the happy-go-lucky neighbor who loved to knock on her door at all hours. The Others told me that I would need to be annoying and naive to get her to lower her defenses around me. When, in actuality, my personality was just as sarcastic and smart-alecky as her own.

We both stand up, and I squint my eyes at the cliff face above us. I hear worried shouts above, and wince as a jackhammer begins to create potholes in my head.

Blocking it out as best I can, I point to the top of the cliff, where five winged figures hover uneasily.

"Looks like we both have some explaining to do…" Max mutters next to me, and I can only nod in agreement.

A/N: So, if I said I was surprised at the number of people who think that Jeanine is not a cool person(for lack of a better description), I would be lying. Here's the deal. I don't want you to hate Jeanine. She is probably one of my favorite characters, for reasons which shall be explained… Er, later. Anyway, the reason why she came off so… weird, was because she has problems. Major ones. Of course, more on those later.

In this chapter…Wow. A lot of plot adjustments. Some things didn't quite go the way I had planned, but…

GRRRR. One thing that I've learned from writing this: Subtleties are for NOOBS. And that's not just because I can't write anything NOT completely blunt for beans.

I have a lot to complain/rant/talk randomly about, but this was a request from a reviewer of the last chapter. Marie47, I think? Yeah, so, I was too lazy to just reply to your review myself, so I decided, that for all of the other confused readers out there, here's a summary of what has happened! Yay.

Max is kidnapped, right after she promises to explain a few things to Fang, Iggy, and Nudge. They head to the house up in the mountains, where Fang saves a girl, who turns out to be Jeanine, Max's neighbor from college. They decide to wait until she wakes up, because none of them are too keen on the idea of leaving her alone in their house, or in the wilderness, or taking her to the School. Anyway, Max has this really cool dream which takes place when she was fourteen, and some Fax stuff happens, and then she wakes up to find out that Gazzy and Angel DO remember her- And Total's back!! Yaaaay! Yeah, so the other Gazzy and Angel were clones sent to replace the real people, and then blah-blah explaining stuff… Gazzy finds out he has a power! He can ghost through things!! So, they escape from the School and head to the house in the mountains, where the rest of the flock (+Jeanine) are waiting.

I promise, next chapter, some explaining WILL be done. Enough that you'll only be a LITTLE confused. Erm… I hope.


21. Impossible

The Long Way Home


Chapter Twenty: Impossible

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Maximum Ride… But I own Jeanine/Cree.

"I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead;
I just need some place where I can lay my head.
'Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?'
He just grinned and shook my hand, and 'No!', was all he said.
Catch a Cannonball, now, t'take me down the line
My bag is sinkin' low and I do believe it's time.
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she's the only one.
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone."
-- The Band, "The Weight"

I wander aimlessly about the kitchen, peeking into dusty cabinets, just to look for something. The flock hovers behind me, waiting for me to say something. Jeanine is waiting in the living room, on the couch. Once we had gotten back onto the cliff, she had taken great care to stay as far as she could away from me. What was wrong with her?

More importantly, what was wrong with me?

I could feel five pairs of eyes boring into the back of my head. Wincing at the moldy mess our last loaf of bread had turned into over the years, I close the cupboard, my back still to them.

"Don't we have anything to eat?" I ask, frustrated. My stomach's been growling like a bear for a few hours now.

"Oh. So that's what you were doing."

I glare over my shoulder at Iggy, but he doesn't notice (for obvious reasons).

Grabbing a backpack off the counter, he zips it open and brings out a can of tuna, tossing it to me. The can glances off of my outstretched hands and onto the floor. Everyone stares at it expectantly.

Sighing, I turn away from them.

"Fine. Explanations first, food later. But if I faint from starvation, I'm blaming it all on you people."

Someone snickers behind me, and I smirk in satisfaction.

Taking a seat against the wall, I watch as Jeanine winces as I splay my legs out in front of me. I cautiously ease them back, so my knees are pressed against my chest and my chin is perched on my forearms. I look back up at her to see her eyes following my movements. I raise an eyebrow, and she looks away again, that strange, hard look in her eyes again. Her fists clench in her ratty t-shirt, and her jaw sets rigidly.

Puzzled, I tear my gaze away from her to the rest of the flock, who have found themselves positions all over the room, ready to hear me out.

"Well, um…" My voice wavers.

Yeah. Public speaking. Really not my kind of thing.

Breathe, Max.

Doing as told, I nod to myself, looking back at my waiting audience.

"For some reason, I really don't think my story is half as important as that of Jeanine's, but…" Biting my lip, I look away from them, to my knees. "…But I'll tell it anyway."

"It is… Probably going to be very boring, because the past five years have just been that. I've been a normal kid, exactly what we always wished for. Except, I didn't have any family, and no friends besides Ella and Dr. Martinez. Being a loner suited me, and it was easier that way."

"I left you guys, or, actually, Fang," Stealing a glance in his direction, I continue, "Because… Well, not because I was scared. Or because I was being selfish. There were a million reasons why I didn't want to leave, and a million reasons why I had to. I didn't want to leave because leaving behind old friends is the most painful thing in the world. Especially when…" Deciding I really don't want to elaborate on the Fight, I skirt the subject. "I left because it wasn't right for me to stick around like the homeless aunt with nowhere to go. I thought I was plenty independent, and I wanted to show myself that I was. I didn't want to be intruding on your perfect lives."

My words are met with silence, and the flock's faces are emotionless and stony.

"I admit I was a little jealous of you. But I swallowed that jealousy for about a year. That's when I began to notice how unfair it was that I didn't have anyone anymore, unlike my peers, and I felt alone. I closed myself off, I didn't do anything outside of school besides chores, and I didn't even know what was happening in the world."

Sighing, I set my jaw and stare straight ahead. "I was depressed."

Someone gasps. I don't look to see who it is.

"I don't want to elaborate. It was… pretty painful, and I don't think I've ever felt more like crap than then. Of course, I got out of the funk once I realized what was happening in Dr. Martinez's love life. She was back in the dating scene- It hadn't occurred to me that she was a candidate for marriage. I never asked about Mr. Martinez, and it never came up in any conversations."

"I made the choice to leave. Again. By this time, I was old enough to drive and take care of myself. I found a nice place to live in Lonepine. My landlady was nice enough, and she didn't question me when I showed up alone on her doorstep."

"By the time the second semester of my senior year rolled around, I realized that I didn't have anywhere to go after I graduated. I couldn't stay in Lonepine. It was a nice enough town, but I had to keep moving. Being sedentary didn't suit me. After two years, I knew I had to leave. But, I didn't know where. So, I came to UCLA. Surprisingly, the admissions offices let me in, although I was an unknown and my grades weren't usually the best in school. A lot of my classmates envied me for that- it's a tough school to get into. But I did it."

Grinning, I fiddle with my fingers. "Doing the impossible- That's what I'm known for."

My story over, I avoid eye contact with everyone but Jeanine. "Your turn."

A/N: Yeah, I know I promised explaining. The next chapter will have it- If I try to fit everything into this single chapter, it'll end up giving me a migraine. And probably you. So. Next chapter, is Jeanine's side of the story.

I've got work to do anyway.


P.S. I forgot to mention it last time, but I edited the scene in which Max and Fang fight. In my opinion, it is WAY better than before. I think it's in chapter four. Yeah, it's there. Go check it out.

I'm not exactly pleased with this chapter.

22. Truth

The Long Way Home


Chapter Twenty-One: Truth

Disclaimer: I do not own Maximum Ride. Jeanine/Cree is the only person who belongs to me…

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
-- The Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil"

I'm getting better at ignoring the pain, but every time Max makes a sudden move, it feels like hell. Maybe, if I'm lucky, this stuff'll wear off in a few days, but I'm not sure the Others would be that nice.

Hmph. Either way, a girl can hope.

I carefully dull my senses, send myself off into dreamland, to get rid of the pain while Max is talking. A part of me can hear her, and is listening with rapt attention, but the other part is watching as her mouth moves, her lips opening and closing, barely paying any mind to anything but the patterns on the wall behind her.

Not that it's really all that patterned. It's just a white wall. But I'm watching the way the little bumps, so small that a normal human can barely see them, rise and fall, creating pictures and landscapes for my mind to explore.

I don't get to.

"Your turn."

The spotlight's on me now. Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I imagine myself standing on a cliff high above the ocean. The waves are crashing and spitting sea spray at me and in my eyes. The salty flavor of the wind brushes across my lips, into my nose, and I breathe it in.


I dive straight into the foaming waters below.

"That's not my name."

I pause to read the expression on their faces. Not quite shocked, just… curious.

"It's Cree. That's my name. Not Jeanine."

It's quiet for a while longer before I finally realize I don't know what to say.

"Where should I start?"

"At the beginning."

The laugh builds its way up my throat until I'm choking on it, doubled over on the couch. "There is no beginning to any story- Especially not mine." I don't add what I am thinking: Our story, really. Yeah, you see, we're bonded.

I find it funny how deathly silent everything is. They're all watching me with guarded eyes, waiting for me to transform into a drooling Eraser and call out all of my cronies- Not a chance.

"Jeanine- Cree, just tell us something. Who are you?" Max's voice has that pleading note in it. Is she begging me?

"I'm Cree. And… I'm just like you guys." Not really. "Except… I'm different."

"How different?"

Nudge's curiosity is getting the better of her. She wants to know. That's good, I guess, because I feel kind of like that boring old professor in my philosophy class(why did the Others sign me up for that class in the first place?!). With no one that really wants to listen to me while I'm talking, it makes me, well, not want to talk. I'm not the kind of person who likes to hear my own voice. But, I guess my own voice is better than white silence.

Pushing the air out of my mouth through my front teeth, I tilt my head back to the ceiling. "Let's just say that… The Others- Oh, sorry, you guys call them whitecoats, don't you? Anyway, they decided that a single organism's DNA in a human wasn't enough. So they were experimenting, coming up with a lot of failures, and I popped out. They've tried it multiple times since me, but nothing works. And, to answer the question that I am sure is on your mind, I am 2 avian, 1 wolf-human hybrid. Or something." I frown, working out the math in my mind. It doesn't add up- But hell if I care.

I can feel them stiffen even when I can't see them. I snicker under my breath, and roll my head back down to look at them again.

"You- You're part Eraser?" It's the little one this time. Angel clutches at the dog's fur, staring at me with wide eyes. Holding back the temptation to lunge forward and snap my jaws at her, I nod, straight-faced. Or what I hope is straight-faced.

I know she can't read my mind. Bub made sure of that.

I turn to Max, who has one of those "I knew it!" looks on her face. Her eyebrows furrow.

"Then what-"

"If you're asking why I'm here right now and wondering if there is a legion of Erasers waiting right outside this house, I'm getting to that. Patience, young padowan," I waved her off.

"So, anyway. I was created around the same time your leader here was. In fact… Bub said something about the two of us being blood-related, but I can't remember what it was…"

My stomach growls. "I've got the munchies," I announce to no one in particular, rubbing at my side self-consciously.

"Right, right. Getting back to explaining." I open my mouth to say something more, but I can't remember. "Um. Yeah. I think I just had a brain fart. Any questions before I lose the ability to speak?"

Max sits up, tucking her legs beneath her. She leans forward, sending another jolt through my brain. Wincing, I cringe away from her.

Frowning, she sits back. "Okay. That. You can tell us about that. Why you're so flinchy."

Did she stop to think that maybe that could have been part of my- er- disposition? I mean, it's not, but still… You don't go asking people why they've got a twitch. Unless you're the great Maximum Ride.

"The whitecoats don't like me. And they injected some kind of formula into my bloodstream that causes my system to go all ape-shit on me whenever you get too close. So, uh, try not to do it?" Sensing what she'll ask next, I continue. "They did this because I hesitated."

"Hesitated? What?"

My stomach growls again. "I had an assignment- to capture you and bring you back to the School. But," I add quickly, seeing the look on her face. "I didn't want to do it. They forced me to, though. Those whitecoats… Since my DNA has been inspected so many times and they've performed so many experiments on me, my body, the way I work, everything, is common knowledge. They know how to manipulate me- I'm their puppet, pretty much. Of course- They don't know I'm here. Unless those idiots told them…"

"Why not, Cree?"


"Why don't they know?" The little Gas-kid breaks in. I hadn't noticed how much attention he was paying to my story. Good. I'm not like my philosophy professor.

"Let's just say that… Ah, hell, no one at the School likes me very much. For obvious reasons- Well, Bub likes me. I think. I'm not entirely sure sometimes. It's really hard to tell sometimes- I think he doesn't like me because of what happened with Ari…"

That gets their attention. Especially Fang's. He's on his feet, nostrils flared and eyes wide.

"What about Ari?" His voice shakes.

Max is standing up to, stepping closer to him. "Fang-"

I beat her to it. "He's dead. Been dead for a year."

The room goes silent again. I tap the arm of the couch nervously, trying to create some noise. I hate quiet places.

Max steals a glance at me, anxious. "H-how did he…?"

I close my eyes, remembering the heartbroken look on Bub's face. And Ari, lying there, graying hair and stiffened joints…

"He was old, and the whitecoats pitted him against their newest batch of Erasers to see how things would work out. They didn't."

The flock exchanges wild eyed glances. Nudge looks lost as she asks me, "What about Jeb?"

The name doesn't ring any bells. "Who is Jeb?"

"Jeb. Jeb Batchelder, you know?" The blind one, Iggy, is staring blankly at me. It's kind of uncomfortable.

"Well, obviously not."

The questioning is over. I'm done. If they want any more answers from me, it'll have to be after I get some grub.

"Let's go get something to eat," I say. My stomach growls feebly.

A/N: In case no one noticed, I had a fun time writing this chapter. Cree is an… interesting character. She's got a big imagination and a lot of issues.

The flock's not so stony anymore. I don't know if the next chapter will be up soon or not, because I've got a Romeo and Juliet project due this month, and a research project for Biology, along with a lot of other little things I've got to get finished along the way. Shouldn't take me too long, though. I'm a fast worker. :)

From now on, Jeanine is Cree.

Please review!! I want to know any questions you have concerning this chapter, or something that I may have left out of the explanations, so I can answer it later in the story- I know I forgot a few things, but I can't remember!!! D:

Thank you!!

23. Building and Burning

The Long Way Home


Chapter Twenty-Two: Building and Burning

Disclaimer: I own nothing except for Cree.

"I lost my place
Could stay a while
And I'm melting
In your eyes
Like my first time
That I caught fire
Just stay with me lay with me
In your eyes
Let's sleep till the sun burns out"

-- The Used, "I Caught Fire"

I lie awake in my room, listening to the sounds of the wilderness outside of my window and the way the wind whistles through the trees. It makes me wonder if there is a renegade ghost hiding up in the attic, haunting our tiny home.

Rolling over in bed, I stretch my fingers out from under the covers to the nightstand. There are several picture frames of varying sizes, most of them lying on their faces. Sitting up, I wrap myself in the thin blanket, flipping the frames over carefully, inspecting the faces for any faltering smiles, and when I find none, I slam them back down again.

My toes curl under my feet instinctively, and I shiver, feeling nothing but the cold.

I'll admit I'm a little jealous- the flock regarded me with nothing short of cold hostility, and then went skipping merrily off to Jeanine(okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration).

But it's Jeanine. Jeanine. Do I have to make myself clearer?

Jeanine, the evil werewolf girl out to off me- How do we know she isn't a narc, reporting our every move to the whitecoats?

We don't, really.

Huffing in the dark, I stand from the creaky, old mattress and leave the room, padding silently towards the living room. Cree's asleep on the couch- And I edge against the wall farthest from it, so as not to make any noise to wake her.

I slip out of the door and onto the porch, my bare skin tingling at the touch of the cool wind. My socks begin to soak through from standing in the snow, and I awkwardly take them off while trying not to fall over. Squashing my toes in the wet, I feel them go numb- or, really, don't- and hop out onto the porch railing, crouching beside the wall.

My arms, shivering, wrap around the beams, and I close my eyes, leaning against the cool, rough wood. I remember sitting out here, drinking hot cocoa whenever a blizzard had cleared, waiting for the sun to rise so we could leap out into the new landscape, joining Mother Nature as she was reborn. It felt good, to be rolling around in the snow with the flock, laughing and smiling while Jeb watched on. Sometimes we'd drag him out with us, forcing him to play as well.

Jeb. If Jeanine- Cree, was telling the truth, how could she not know who he was? It didn't make sense… And where had Max II disappeared to? She couldn't have died during that incident at Itex. There was no way.

Pushing my fists into my squeezed-shut eyes, I attempted to sort out my muddled brain and the information I had to digest just this evening.

Nothing made sense anymore.

Nothing had ever made sense in the first place.

"Couldn't sleep either?"

I jump, tumbling off of the railing and into the snow below. Shooting up to my feet, I pivot slowly around, my toes still numb.

Fang, dressed in a pair of old pajamas- probably Iggy's- and a sweatshirt way too big for him, stands awkwardly behind the railing, one of his hands running through his hair.

Huffily, I pull the blanket tighter around my shivering body. "Warn a person before you go sneaking around at night," I hiss, shifting my weight.

"Why are you out here, Max?"

The question catches me off-guard; I hadn't expected him to care. "Couldn't sleep either…?" I repeat his words carefully, weighing them on my tongue.

He understands, and crosses his arms. "Don't you think- Y'know, just maybe, that it is too cold for you to be squashing 'round in the snow in only a tank top, pajamas, and no socks?"

I blow a raspberry at him. "I can do whatever I like." To demonstrate my point, I lift one of my legs and stomp my foot into the ground, rubbing it into the snow generously. Of course, I can't feel anything in that foot now, but that's just a minor technicality. Proving Fang wrong is much more important than not getting frostbite. Much.

You and your pigheadedness…

The Voice sighs audibly in my head.

Hey! I resent that- And where have you been?

I sound like the mother of a teenager, asking where her daughter- or son- has been for the past ten hours. I almost giggle at the idea, but then realize how dumb I'd look laughing at nothing, and bite my tongue.

I was… attending to business.

My Voice of Reason is clamming up. But I don't really care, since my left leg is freezing cold- I wouldn't surprised if it had icicles on it at this point.

I limp over to the porch steps, trying my best not to make it too visible, and collapse on the top one, leaning against the railing again.

I hear the floorboards groan under Fang's weight, and he sits down next to me, staring out at the trees. The forest is eerie at night, and it makes you wonder when that giant rabid bear will pop out and maul you, or when a supernatural creature emerges from its hiding place, like it does every night when humans are asleep and gone from the realm of the conscious. I try to see as far as I can into the dark, but it doesn't work.

"Hey, Fang?" My voice is broken and weak when I finally break the silence.

He doesn't answer me, but I know he's listening.

"Do you think-" I stop, not quite sure what to say. I glance down at my hands, hoping that it will come clear. They clench and unclench in my lap.

"Do you think," I start again, still a bit unsteady. "Now, that it was a good decision for me to- to leave?"

I feel him shift beside me, but I keep my eyes carefully trained on my hands.


I chuckle softly. "Why?"

"Because if you hadn't, we wouldn't be like this."

I don't want to say "Like what?" because I think I already know the answer, and I don't really want to hear him say it. I don't want to believe that it's even the tiniest bit true, even though I already know it is.

"It's not so bad right now…" I bite my lip, turning to look at his face.

I'm not surprised to find him watching me too. He grins faintly, and I know I've made a small victory. It takes a lot to make Fang smile like that. Especially for me, his ex-best friend.

The term hits home, and I wince as my heart squeezes.

He speaks, though, not noticing my discomfort.

"That's only because we're both half-asleep, with no one but each other to talk to, and if we get into a fight now, we risk waking up some hibernating- and extremely grumpy- bear, or worse, the Flock."


There is a long awkward silence in which the two of us refuse to speak, dragging it out for even longer. I don't like this. I remember something an old high school acquaintance once told me- "Every time there is an awkward silence, a gay baby is born."

I snickered involuntarily, and Fang looks at me.

I wave him off. "Just remembered something funny, is all."

He nods slowly, the expression on his face still slightly curious, and looks away. I do too, focusing my gaze on the trees.

It's then that I notice something.

I'm on my feet before I have time to think. Fang stares up at me, his mouth open.

I motion for him not to say anything, sniffing the air cautiously.

"Max, what are you do-"

"Is that smoke?" My eyes are searching everywhere for the source, but I can't seem to find it. Unless the Flock lit a fire inside the house while Fang and I were talking, I don't know where it's coming from… Hikers don't usually come up the mountain far enough for us to smell their campfires.

Fang's suddenly on his feet too, staring at something in the trees.

"Fang?" I ask slowly, carefully.

He points.

I don't really want to see what he's seeing, but…

I look anyway.

There is a faint orange glow between the trees, steadily growing stronger. "That isn't a campfire…" I say aloud.

Fang moves away, back into the house. I jump off of the porch into the snow, unfurling my wings. The sound of my feet slapping the ground is all I hear, paired with the frantic sound of breathing, and then I leap into the air, catching the drifts under my outstretched wings. I beat them furiously, making my way higher into the sky. Usually we don't go flying at night in the mountains- With no city lights to show us where anything is, it's nearly impossible to tell where you are- But this was an exception.

As I finish my climb into the sky, I teeter a bit in the air. My feet have gone numb and I can feel the cool night air whistling past me. I shiver from the cold, and take a look at the forest.

There it is- A giant patch of orange light, flickering dangerously. I'm not stupid, and know exactly what it is.

" Forest fire," My throat closes up. We have to get out of here.

I hadn't noticed it previously, but up here, in the sky, the stench of smoke is overwhelming. I cough, veering away, to find a nice, clear patch of air. I slowly make my way back down, squinting in the darkness to see the house. The smoke is everywhere, making my eyes water- and I can't see very well. When I finally reach the ground, the house is nowhere in sight. I'm surrounded by trees, and in the distance, I can see the fire. Or is it the house lights. I turn around, and another orange light is behind me.

I curse. I'm lost, and if I'm stuck out here, I could get burned to a crisp. I could take to the sky, but I've never been found of smoke. Or I could take my chances and head towards whichever glowing ball of light I choose.

Either way, I could end up getting even more hopelessly lost than I already was.

So I choose the ground.

At least this way I can take to the sky if all else fails. I wonder if the flock's already evacuated the house, our newly bought groceries safe in their backpacks. Man, they better not have left it in there; I spent so much money on that food!

Focus, Max. This is highly irrelevant.

I snort. "Hardly."

You might want to hurry.

I shut my mouth and pick up the pace; wincing each time my feet hit the ground. It's so wet out here- Because of the snow, but it had melted, probably because of the-

I look up, and the words wheeze out between my teeth. "Holy crap."

I can't believe I hadn't noticed it before- But here it is. The crackling flames lick at the trees, just barely one hundred feet away from me. Without even thinking, I turn and run.

My mind is calm, and I only have one question.

How would it feel to be lit on fire?

Don't stick around to find out the answer.

I don't have time to reply, because suddenly, I'm facing another wall of fire- And this time, it's closer. Had I been spacing out that badly, so much that I hadn't even noticed it? The heat presses against me, and I edge away, uncomfortable, like when you stick your hand too close to a pot of boiling water. I spin around, looking for a way out.

"Up and away," I mutter, spreading my wings.

Before I get the chance to fully extend them, a flaming branch falls to the ground at my feet, and I jump back, the fire behind me scorching my feathers. Yelping in surprise, I leap into the air, grabbing a still-intact branch in both of my hands. My palms scream in protest, and I haul my body up into the tree. The flames gather beneath it, like a pack of wolves, and I climb my way to the top.

I escape just as it falls, my wings beating furiously at the air. I take a glance at my scraped hands, brushing at the slivers of bark and dirt caught between the cuts.

The sound of the roaring inferno follows after me, but I keep my eyes forward, unable to look down. The forest will be gone by tomorrow, along with our house. I thought, that maybe, just maybe, I'd actually have a place to come back to when all this saving the world thing was over, but it didn't seem likely anymore.

The severity of the situation caught up to me, along with the fear of what had just happened, and I nearly fell out of the sky. My wings felt weak, and my heart raced. But I was alive.

Something trickles down my forehead, and I reach a hand up to wipe it away. Shaking my head, I soar along the air-drifts for a while, feeling the sweat in my palms shakily. I'm too tired to hit warp-speed, and continue at regular pace. This way, I have a better chance of running into the flock without just zooming past them.

I continue on, painstakingly making my way across the mountain range, the scent of smoke following me. The sun rises quicker than expected.

I'd get out of the air if I were you.

"Huh?" I jump, startled. I'd been drifting along, half-asleep, when the Voice decided to give me some last-minute advice.

There is going to be an insane amount of helicopters buzzing around these mountains after the fire. Plus, you're dead on your feet- some rest would be good.

I yawn, not objecting, and begin my controlled fall towards someplace to sleep.

A/N: I'm gonna be frank- This chapter was extremely rushed. Especially the last part. Ew. I just wasn't in the writing mood, but I felt like I needed to finish this before being bombarded with schoolwork stuff. Because I've got a LOT. My teachers, I guess they decided that April through May would be the PERFECT time for a homework-dump and stress-the-students-out-til-they-die-of-a-stroke game.

I've got too many things to do. Don't expect the next chapter up until May sometime. I'll do what I can, but that's not much.

Excuse the awful writing towards the end of this chapter. The next will make up for it… I swear to god.

BTW: …Ican'trememberGRRRschoolismeltingmybrainsss…

Looong chapter that took a looong time to write. About three weeks, on and off. –eyebrowssss-

Reviews would be lovely in my time of need. –bats eyes-

Fun Fact! Right as I was finishing this, I got another review from xXdiamondwolf027Xx, I think their name is. I dedicate this chapter to you, for the hell of it. Have a nice day?

I REMEMBERED. The Voice of Reason is coming back to a chapter near you… Just not quite sure when exactly. But yes. She'll be back. ZE GOVERNATOR says so. And so do I.

EDIT: It's not letting me upload any documents. GRARRAGGLEFRAGGLE.

EDIT2: Thanks to acavoo for telling us all how to upload our chapters!! Yay!

24. What Goes Up Must Come Down

Somebody shakes me awake. I roll over, waving my hand at them half-heartedly, eyes squeezed shut. I can never get any sleep around here- It's either one person or another trying to get me to wake up and face the day when all I want to do is dream some more about chocolate and hot guys with wings named Fang walking around with nothing but their boxers on…


The hand on my shoulder disappears in a flash, and I can hear the sound of pounding footsteps.

"She needs her sleep, Gaz. Don't wake-"

I bury my face even deeper into the pillow, groaning.

Wait a second. Pillow. Now this can't be right.

I force my eyes open, rolling onto my back. A nice, peach colored ceiling greets me. I frown.

"Whoa. That's new."

"Max!" Someone rushes over to the side of the bed. Fang's worried eyes hover above my head. I push his face away, grimacing.

"Your breath smells," I mutter, pulling myself up. Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I almost fall backwards. Fang catches me, arms around my waist.

I blink at the close proximity, confused and embarrassed. I can feel my face heating up.

"Er, Fang-"

Before I can say anything else, his lips crash down on mine, pushing me backwards until I fall onto the bed. I let out what is possibly the most girlish "eep" in the world before I actually realize that he's kissing me.

What the hell is this?

"Hey, Fang- Oh, wow."

Gazzy stands in the doorway, an amused expression on his face. I break away from Fang, scooting away from him until I'm up against the headboard, blushing furiously.

He notices, and worry flits across his features for about a second before he turns to the Gasman. Growling, he grabs a nearby pillow and throws it at him. Gazzy ducks out the door, closing it behind him, laughing.

Fang looks at me again, and that's when I realize that he doesn't look like he did last night. And why is that?

The answer slaps me in the face.

He's fourteen years-old. Again. And so am I. My head is hurting pretty bad right now, too.

"What happened yesterday, exactly?" I ask curiously, putting on my I-just-had-a-concussion-innocent voice and batting my eyelashes.

"We were fighting some Erasers, a wall fell on you, and we kissed."

Sounds about right.

Okay, yeah, I'm going to stop right there. As you can see, my, er, creativity is lacking. I can't make myself write for this story anymore. So I'm going to abandon it. Right here.

I'm sorry, okay? I really am. I hate it when authors discontinue some of my favorite stories, but to tell the truth, there is nothing motivating me to write for this. I know that some of you must be really disappointed, but if you like to look on the bright side of life, here's a couple of pluses.

I'm working on an original story right now. I don't know if I'll ever post it on fictionpress or whatever, but it's there. If you really want to see it, send me your email address and I'll let you have a read. The first version was around 30-ish pages, but I scrapped part of it, and so far I've got 21. I really don't think anyone cares, though, so I'm not expecting a whole lot of people asking around for it.

I MIGHT start another fanfic. Maybe sometime during the summer or in the fall or something. It's not set in stone yet, but I know that eventually I'll get back into FF. Right now, I just want to focus on my original story.

And, here's the part you guys probably want to hear about the most: There is a possibility that I will rewrite TLWH. It ain't a very big possibility, but it's still there. The second version of The Long Way Home could end up insanely different from the first. I admit, I did not think this story through all that well. I'm not even sure how it was going to end.

As you can see from that little attempt at writing up there, I'm not very inspired.

Once again: I'm so sorry. Please forgive me.

25. Finally!

And, here this is, eons after I've discontinued this story... I've decided that that was definitely not very nice, leaving you guys at that. I think, at this point, that there is very little chance of me ever continuing with this or starting over- I'm taking a break from fanfiction at the moment. Working on an original story that I might actually finish! WHOO.

Anyway, I know that posting an AN chapter is against the rules, but it's kind of important. Listen up, ladies and germs, because I am about to give you a...


...Sorry, slip of the tongue. A summary. Of this story.

Keep in mind, though, that I never actually planned the entire story out before starting it- I just wrote the first few chapters and posted them on FF. So there will be missing pieces in between. And, since I haven't written this in a while and have forgotten a few of the finer aspects of this story, I'll be likely to forget a couple of things I might have mentioned.

Right, so the last chapter was supposed to go like this: Max has dream/flashback of five years ago... She and Fang share intimate moments, kissy kissy ga ga, you know. He confesses his undying love for her(okay, not really) and just when she is being convinced that this is reality, she wakes up. Again. And guess where she is now? In a house. Not in the woods.

Moving on to where the flock is. House is burned down, and they are searching for Max, Cree in tow. Fang gets really angry and frustrated, starts picking fights with everyone until Nudge pretty much yells at him to shut his mouth, because it's not really helping them find Max. At this point, Cree steps in and says: Oh gosh, guys, we gotta save the world. Now. So they go BACK to the school(reluctantly, very very reluctantly) to see if they can figure anything out.

Back to Max. Max finds the residents of this mysterious house, and get this: they're her family. Confused, she listens to their story for a little bit before telling them that she needs to leave- to find the flock. But as she's getting ready to leave, she notices that there is something wrong with her wing- one of her bones is broken. So, she is forced to stay put and wait for it to heal.

The flock gets to the School and sneak in with Cree's help. As they are skulking around they run into... DUN-DUN-DUN... JEB! Who is really Bub (something I've planned since the beginning of the story, don't be surprised) and he explains to them, um... things, such as what they need to do to save the world, and where Max is. So they go and find her, have a happy reunion, and Fang hugs Max briefly. Max, who remembers her previous dream, feels awkward, and begins to avoid Fang...

Random stuff happens. Max has more flashback dreams, and she doesn't understand what's going on until the Voice tells her that this is what her life would have been like if she hadn't helped the others find their families. But there's nothing she can do to change it, and continues with her miserable life.

WORLD SAVING TIME. Max saves the world, but in the process, Fang is injured badly. On the verge of death, he confesses that he is sorry for the way he has treated her, and Max tells him it's okay. He gives her a last request: kiss him before he goes. She complies, and Fang dies with a smile on his face.

Max, blinded by anguish, guilt, and anger, confronts Cree, demanding to know what it was that she really was around for. Cree tells her that she is a part of Max- they're sisters-ish, and Cree was needed to help save the world. At that point, a batch of leftover Flyboys swarms around them, and big fat fight scene ensues. Cree takes a blow for Max, and ends up dying in her place. Max, devastated, leaves to find the rest of the flock, who she was separated from when the whole World Saving Business began. Once she finds them, she is informed that Iggy and Total were killed when a Flyboy inadvertently set off one of the many bombs Iggy had on his person.

Max sends everyone home, feeling that it was her fault and hoping for a way out- to her horror, her expiration date appears on the back of her neck. She consoles the Voice, asking for a way out, anything, and he tells her that the only way out is death. She agrees, but before she dies, she asks for the Voice to allow her to dream of what might have been again.

So ends the story of Maximum Ride, lost in her fantasy world in which everything is fine and nothing is lost.

...If you have any questions, just ask, and I'll post the answers here for all to see.

Sorry about the kinda unhappy ending.

EDIT: I've gotten one review, two days after posting this again. But, luckily for me, that one review is a freaking awesome review. Anyway, it was left by a MRACR decided that they didn't like the way I ended the story(can ya blame 'em?) so she made up a different scenario in her head. I read it, realized that the ending I had before was crap, and came up with the idea of borrowing it, to make me and my readers feel better.

Here is the alternate ending, the director's cut, the happy, better ending to this already sad story.

Fang ALMOST dies, so Max kisses him, but he barely hangs on and really lives. This near-death experience showed both of them just how much they did care for each other and they completely turn around, and Max tells him about theflashbacks while he's recovering. In a sweet, heart-wrenching, hurt/comfort, awesome-like-that scene, Fang tells Max that they still have their happy ever after together, it can start right now and of course he kisses her again. He recovers and they both go to find the flock, mourning the death of Cree a bit, but happy to all be back together, truly, at last. They don't go home but decide to live together now that the world is saved, and have their happily ever after all together...

BY THE WAY: I didn't like the unhappy ending. I had something different planned out that I liked much much better, but... I forgot what it was. Silly me.

Thanks to everyone who ever reviewed for me during the span that this story was actually still running, and a big hug and smooch to MRACR, for being so imaginative. Or something(hope you aren't mad I stole your idea).