Then and Now by Ashily

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Angst, Romance
Characters:Fang, Iggy
Published:2006-02-16 14:48:42
Updated:2007-01-30 13:42:39
Packaged:2021-04-22 03:20:09
Summary:Fang and Iggy were best friends once upon a time, but as they grew up they grew apart. Now, on the verge of adulthood they find themselves growing closer than ever, if fate doesn't tear them apart. FangIggy. No SOF. DONE.

Table of Contents

1. Sunset Blues
2. Fire Starter
3. Day Trip
4. Musicality
5. Never the Same
6. He and Him
7. Into Darkness
8. Awkward Moments and Stolen Heartache
9. Let Me Fall
10. Everything Is
11. When We Were Good
12. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
13. Across the Sky
14. Family Values
15. Dreams of Delusions
16. No Matter the Weather
17. An Ocean of Us
18. Happy Allusions of What Was
19. Done

1. Sunset Blues

Title: Then and Now

Author: TearsOfEcstasy

Summary: Fang and Iggy revisit a childhood friendship, only to find something new in it's place.

Rating: PG13 for homosexual/bisexual relations.

Pairing: Iggy/Fang. Slash.

WARNING: Yes, two males are going to engage in romantic activities. You have been forewarned. Any anti-slash flamers will be met with my personal wrath.

Disclaimer: MaxRide is James Patterson's, but I have temporarily clubbed him over the head and stolen the characters for my own amusement. Just don't tell anyone, okay?

Dedication: to H.Moth on Fanfiction and Angel of Death on the maxride site, who wrote the first two Iggy/Fang slashes and helped make way for this bit.

A/N I: Yes, I swore I was done with Maximum Ride, but a new trail had to be blazed! I'm talking about slash! The greatest medium of all! Anyways, I'm very excited about these bit, if it goes well, more to follow. If not, ah well, I gave it a shot. That's all that really matters.

Of Then and Now

Chapter I: Sunset Blues

There was a cold wind running through New York that day. From the first waking hours of the morning, till even then with the sunset glistening in the horizon, random, icy blasts of wind would roll across the streets, ripple flags and chill its victims. It seemed to come at regular intervals, like clockwork almost. An odd phenomenon in itself, but Fang wasn't too bothered.

He had pulled a heavy overcoat on (black, to match his usual attire) and that seemed to do the trick. Or maybe it wasn't really the coat keeping him from feeling the cold dusk air. More likely, it was the fact that he'd gone completely numb to all physical feeling, both from the cold and his own tangled train of thoughts.

That morning, he'd left the flock's roost in search of some alone time, and he hadn't looked back since. First, it was the café (he hadn't bought anything, though, he'd only done a good bit of people watching. Which was amusing enough), and then he transferred his sulking party to Time Square, where he nearly got mugged, then there was Central Park, the record store, and, for one last bit of so-called thrill, he hopped a boat to Long Island. Once arriving at his destination, the lost looking boy wandered hither and thither before finally resting at Greenwood Cemetery.

He hadn't really meant to end up in a cemetery, he had only been looking for a place to take flight back to the city, but the cemetery seemed to match his morbid mood and that was just fine. Plus, not very many people enjoyed spending their time at a cemetery, so he'd at the least be alone.

After a good bit of mindless ambling and reckless exploring, he came across a small, polluted New York river and a forgotten stone bridge. It was obvious no one had come around for a while, most of the tombstones were ill cared for and many had simply crumbled. It was the perfect place.

So there he'd been for the past hour, sitting and staring at the dirt waters. Every so often, something in the water would twitch. Fang thought it was a rather stupid fish for swimming up a polluted New York river. Then again, it could have been a fly. A half-witted fly, nonetheless. It really didn't mattered that much, so he didn't know why the thought kept coming back. But it did.

When he wasn't thinking about the damn fish and it's obvious lack of sense, Fang would find himself leaning dangerously off the edge, as if he was about to jump in. And he might have (a semi-welcoming thought at that time), if it hadn't been for the damn fish... fly, whatever it was, that kept resurfacing in his mind.

But it was better than the other thing, the other thing he couldn't think about. So he'd let his mind wander away, Total- Gassy- money- Max- back to money- food- Angel- the damn fish, and then back to money again.

Money had become very tight lately, for various reasons, and Fang couldn't help thinking that there had to be something he could do about it. He obviously couldn't stop eating, because he wasn't really eating as it was. Neither was Max or Iggy, and Nudge and Gassy weren't quite as quick to ask for a second helping. Even Angel seemed to sense the impending financial hardship ahead, she hadn't asked for a candy bar in well over two weeks. Which was not like her at all.

They had nothing to sell, and no one to sell anything to, anyhow. Which, of course, left only one option. They had to open up a new window for money to come from, not just the ever draining, mysterious bank account. A new window being a job. Of course, no one in their right mind would hire a fourteen-year-old without parents, a house, or a work permit. Especially one with wings. Still, his mind began to race with half finished ideas and less than well planned schemes.

Have to get a job, He told himself sternly, money's running out. Not enough money for food. Not enough money for anything! $6.50 an hour was minimum wage. Not enough, not even close. Gotta find a high paying job, with long hours. Need to buy more food, more blankets, soap, get a real place to stay, Iggy-

No, he stopped himself in mid thought, he wouldn't think about that. Because once he did, it was all he could think about.

It's a hopeless situation, he told himself, don't get too involved.

Too involved? He argued, He's nearly my brother!

You'll only be let down in the end, he reasoned. That was right, he would be let down. Couldn't get too involved, if he just kept his head down and kept doing what he was doing, nothing bad could possibly happen. Not to him, at least. Someone would have to get hurt, but he wouldn't let it be him. He couldn't, because things would have to change... and as much as Fang tried to deny it, he was terrified of the prospect of change.

At the School, things had been the same, day after day, week after week. He like the sameness, the patterns he could follow to make the day easier. It was like letting his mind go into autopilot. After escaping with Jeb, things started out very hectic and crazy, but soon enough he could find another pattern to follow. When Jeb left, he just carried on. But ever since New York, it'd been harder to cling to the sameness, and the patterns. Especially now, when things were changing so fast, Fang felt like the world was slipping out from under him. And he was utterly terrified.

Once again, Fang caught himself leaning too close off the edge.

Am I trying to kill myself? He wondered faintly.

"How is it?"

Fang felt a seize of panic run through his body, thinking of the worst possible scenarios. That he'd been caught by a police officer, an Eraser, or worse, Max. What could he possibly say to explain any of it? Not that it would make sense to a police officer, they'd take him to a psych ward or Juvenile Detention. But Max... she'd never stop badgering him until she got the truth. About his fears, and all about his secrets... If she ever knew she'd probably kill him, that was a fact he could count on.

But when looked up, expecting a hard glower from angry eyes, he was rather surprised to be met by Iggy's gentle smile and carefree demeanor. He looked about as far from angry as possible, with his great smile and relaxed posture. He seemed to simply scream lighthearted, worry free days and tireless nights. One could almost mistake him for happy, except for the glaringly obvious tired look in his sightless eyes. Dark circles road beneath them, and the usual spark of playfulness that shone brightly in the darkest hours was dull and grey, almost lost among the great load of weight Iggy had taken to carrying.

"Iggy!" Fang caught his breath, "What are you doing here?" Without a second thought, he swung his legs over and stood in front of Iggy, he looked him over for any hint to what could have possibly led him to do such a foolish thing as to follow him all the way to Long Island.

"Max got worried, she came out looking for you. The rest of us sort of tagged along. Gazzy and I have been looking for you since noon."

"Where is Gazzy?" Fang asked, glancing behind Iggy for the younger boy.

"He ran off to get Max."

Oh God, why'd he do that? Iggy being there was one thing, Max was another entirely. Iggy was a kitten in comparison to Max, who ranked somewhere between grizzly bear and vicious shark.

Her temper, though very short, was not without reason. After all, Fang wasn't exactly known for being a perfect little boy. Even when they were kids, he'd get into all sorts of trouble, and last week, she'd found him smoking. It was only one cigarette of a half empty pack he'd found in the trash. He'd never really smoked much before (once he did steal one of Jeb's cigarettes when he was twelve, just to see what it was like) and people said it was a great stress reliever. He had been under a lot of stress, it was just logical. At least, that's what he'd convinced himself.

Of course, she'd found out and had a right fit. She made him throw the pack out and wash out all his clothes to get rid of the smoky smell, but that hadn't done much. Now he smelled like a mix of smoke, filth and cheap soap. Not exactly an alluring aroma.

He didn't know if Iggy knew, he suspected the blonde did though. Even if Max hadn't told him directly, he was bound to smell it on his clothes and his hair. Which still reeked, and he couldn't help thinking how revolting that must have been.

"I told him not to," Iggy offered apologetically.

"Well, he did anyways," Fang sighed sulkily as he retook his seat on the ledge. Just as he did, Iggy followed and sat next to him, swiveling his upper body to face the warmth of the sunset. He looked a bit troubled, but Fang didn't take notice. He was much too busy with his own thoughts.

He could already hear Max screaming in his ears. What were you doing? You could have gotten us caught! Led Gazzy and Iggy into danger... Which was just perfect because all he needed was another reason to want to kill Max.

Thinking of it, he could really use another cigarette right now. But he didn't because Max made him through them out. The hell with her so-called Maxocracy, it wasn't just a dictatorship! It was a god damn communism!

Fang couldn't help smiling to himself, if only Max could hear him now.

He stole a glance at Iggy, and found himself cursing for not being able to read minds. Iggy's face was it's usual calm, looking completely content in the world. Except for a glimmer of... something, a glimmer of something in his eyes.

Fang wanted to reach out to Iggy, to talk to him again as they had when they were kids. When they were kids, Iggy was Fang's best friend. The two were rarely apart, but after Jeb rescued (could he call it rescued?) them, things started to change. There was a riff between them that simply wouldn't let them be as close as they had been.

Maybe it was simply male hormones forcing them to find separate territory (as Jeb had accredited his observation to) or maybe it was Jeb himself, who seemed to favor Max and Fang for the fact they were the strongest of the lot. Either way, Iggy grew into a quick-witted, artistic type while Fang turned into himself and began to pull away from his so-called "family".

And in New York, things were still very different from the childhood bliss. Max was always hanging around him, she seemed to have it stuck in her head that he liked the attention, and Iggy would disappear to some place or another for an hour or so, before Max could notice his absence, and return with a stupid grin on his face. It was really quite irritating.

"You never answered my question," Iggy said after a moment.

"Which was?" Fang asked, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve.

"How is it? The sunset, I mean."

Fang looked at the sunset, it was just a sunset. There wasn't anything too great about it. Maybe he'd been listening to too many cheesy romantic comedies, because there was really nothing special about the sunset. It was a great orange ball coloring the sky all purple and blue as it sank, something as mundane as that didn't really need a description. But Fang obliged.

"It's... uh, it's pretty. The sun's red and the sky around it's all purple and orange."

"Sounds nice."

"It's okay." Fang shrugged.

"Whatever you say."

Fang smirked, "We rhyme."

"So we do." Iggy smiled back.

And the moment had passed, a glimpse at their childhood comradery lost again.

Looking out at the dirty waters, Fang couldn't stop his thoughts from wandering back to Max. And what she'd do when she found out where he'd been.

"Max is going to kill me when she gets here."

"Yeah. She was pretty pissed."

"Pissed? You think I was pissed?"

Oh, God. Here it comes.

"I was not just pissed! I was absolutely livid!" She stomped over to the two, staring Fang straight in the eye, "Now? Now I'm furious!" Her stare was cold and hard, her look dared him to speak, to say anything to possibly defend himself. He knew better than to take that dare, it was just another excuse for her to get angry.

But how could he pass up on a dare?

"I can see that, Max." Fang said cooly.

Max seemed to move past furious and into a realm of anger that had to no name, it was the type of anger that often sparked homicide.

"Where have you been?" She said through clenched teeth, "We've been looking all over for you!"

Fang considered answering, then thought the better of it.

"It doesn't matter, anyways!" She snapped, "We're going back home, where you can't get the rest of us in any more trouble!"

Fang felt asking her how she could call the abandoned warehouse they shared with a colony of termites a home, but thought better of it and bit his tongue instead. Max was angry, but she'd subside in the end. Just as she always did.

He tossed a careless glance at Iggy, to find him staring back in his own sightless way. He gave a sort of half smile as if to say, just go along with it. So Fang did as Iggy seemed to suggest and took his word thrashing with grace, and when Max had yelled herself and finally announced it was time to leave he paused just as Iggy came up behind him, obviously searching for a shoulder to hold on to.

"Thanks," He whispered, and Iggy seemed to understand because he simply nodded and rested his finger tips gently on Fang's shoulder.

2. Fire Starter

Chapter II: Fire Starter

The warehouse they'd taken up residency in could not have been called a home. It could have been called a dump, a shack, perhaps even a shanty, but a home it was not.

It was one story tall, with a low ceiling and ever crumbling walls. The deterioration made way for termites and cockroaches, mice and all sorts of disease bearing vermin that they could never seem to scare away. The only thing worse than the bugs was the cold, the freezing cold. It was only August and every morning the Flock would wake up shivering beneath their blankets.

The decor matched the condition, unfortunately. It was grey, gloomy, dark and despondent. Which was just perfect, because they really needed to feel worse about the situation as it was. Nevertheless, they'd tried to brighten up the mood with various old pieces of furniture they'd found on the street. It didn't really help that the furniture was often damp and invested with the filth of its past owners, not to mention they were all in various stages of deterioration.

There was an ugly armchair, an ancient couch, some awful smelling cots, a pile of trashed sleeping bags, and a sad looking set of fold away table and chairs. All of which they'd found either in the dump or just before they were fated to go into it. Most would have fallen apart if any more than one person dared to sit on it; some were very close to falling apart anyways.

Sadly enough, furniture was not the end of their troubles. There was the lack of running water, which was a big problem. A disgusting problem at that. Then there was the fact they had no electricity what-so-ever. Which meant no A/C, no central heating, no stove, no refrigerator, no radio, and no light at all. That was just horrible fiasco in the making, because in the winter... Fang didn't even want to think about what would happen in the winter. The summer had been bad enough, but to imagine a New York winter in that filthy dump... That was probably the worst of it all. At least in Fang's opinion.

If there was one good point- Scratch that, if there was any good point at all to the Filth Shack (as Fang liked to call it), it was the roof.

Fang had discovered it shortly after they'd first moved in. He'd gotten in (yet another) fight with Max and had gone off sulking into the dense brush in search of some peace and quiet. Low and behold, he should stumble upon a rickety, steel ladder hidden from sight by ragged weeds and what not. It looked completely and utterly unsafe, as if it hadn't been used in years.

Naturally, he had to climb it.

When he did, he found an amazing (at least, he thought it was) site. Up on top of the Filth Shack was a great pile of junk beneath a forest green tarp, and coming closer Fang recognized the legs of chairs, odd bits of metal and all sorts of miscellaneous items. Including an old radio and broken television. It was so random, and out of place for the area. Most things like this would have been looted before they had been so much as covered. But not this. He thought about telling Max, she'd have some type of us for it, but then he'd have to tell her where he found it and she'd just muck it up. So he left it alone, for the time being.

The tarp and its contents aside, the best part by far was the view. To one side was the Bronx, but to the other was the Harlem River, and across the Harlem was Manhattan. Some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Donald Trump's play ground. Lit up at night, it was completely breath taking. Totally peaceful. It was the type of place movies were made in honor of, books were written for and songs dedicated to. This amazing place he'd heard all about, yet never really experienced. He wanted to, though. He wanted to very bad.

Down below, tempers raged and turmoil ruled the atmosphere. And this was his escape. It was the only thing grounding him at times. It was his definition of perfection.

As far as he knew, he was the only person yet to discover its existence. Though he knew it wouldn't be long before Max found it and ruined it, just like she did with everything else.

But for now, it was his and his alone.

Which was why when Max had stopped screaming about his disappearance (it hardly was a disappearance, he was only gone six hours after all) he escaped to the roof top.

Manhattan looked beautiful that night, with the sky line alight and the river reflecting the sparkling illumination. It was, surprisingly; quiet for New York, and especially for a Friday. But that, Fang supposed, was a good thing. They could be assured that at the very least, the Erasers were at bay.



Fang felt himself jolt as he was hit squarely in the back. Muttering, he turned around to find another pelted rock falling just short of its target.

"Fang!" Iggy called again.

"Yeah?" He replied, peering over the opposite ledge. A story below, he could dimly see the blonde boy in the moonlight. But regardless, he could make out an easy going smirk across his friend's face. Fang couldn't help but feel the corners of his usually frowning mouth turn up at the site of Iggy's nonchalant demeanor; he just had that effect on people.

"Is this a private sympathy party, or may I join in?"

For a split second, Fang paused. This was his place, his place to be alone. If he told someone, even Iggy, it would spoil the whole thing. Yet, at the same time, Iggy wouldn't tell Max, and Max was the one he was hiding from. So it really couldn't do any harm, he reasoned, none at all.

"Yeah, come on up!"

Iggy smiled, "Thanks."

Below, Fang could see Iggy's wings gently unfurl. Their brown feathers glistened in the looming moonlight, and Fang could see every colored patch, every crooked feather and every contour. As Iggy stretched them to full length, Fang couldn't help but be help in rapture. The flock rarely flew in New York, Fang couldn't even remember the last time he stretched his wings, and he'd hardly remembered how long its full span was. His was the longest, which was natural since he was the tallest, and spanned a good twelve to fourteen feet. It was amazing to see, especially in flight. Which is precisely what Iggy did next, as one would imagine.

He shot straight up, quite a bit faster than Fang had expected. Consequently, he nearly skinned Fang's nose as he streaked by.

Then, quite abruptly, he stopped and took a minute to hover just above Fang's head.

"Am I clear?" Meaning, am I going to hit anything?

Fang took a quick step back, "Yep."

And Iggy dropped, landing quite cat like right before Fang.

"Hello, then," Iggy grinned.

"Hello," Fang replied quietly.

"Well, if you're going to be like that," Iggy frowned very disapprovingly, and then without missing a beat pressed his slender fingers against Fang's rib cage and began, to tickle him.

"Stop! Stop!" Fang cried through a horrible bought of laughter as he tried to pull away, but Iggy was much more forceful. As he took one step back, Iggy took two forward.

He was surprised Iggy still remembered how ticklish he was, it'd been a favorite game in their youth. See who could go the longest with a straight face. Iggy always won, Fang was just too ticklish to ever win at such a game. They hadn't played it in ages, not since... not since they were about eight or nine. Fang had forgotten how terribly fun it was.

"Now, are you ready to converse properly?" Iggy asked when he finally ceased.

"Properly?" Fang asked questioningly.

"No mumbling, muttering, etc."

"Spoil sport."

"And proud!"

Fang smirked, "Remember when were little? And we used to play that game all the time?"

Iggy returned the grin, "I seem to remember winning a lot."

"You did," In two short minutes, Fang's mood had improved greatly. Due mostly in part to the tickling, true. But it was also the memories, of the tickle fights, the chicken pox, watching cartoons, -oh! - and the matches!

Fang chuckled to himself, the matches. That was a story.

"What? Is there something you're not telling me about?" Iggy asked in a very annoyed fashion. He was usually left out of jokes, being that he couldn't see a lot of the stuff that was happening that caused the jokes to be so funny. Fang could imagine it got rather annoying after a while, especially since Iggy had a love for being the center of attention.

"Do you remember," He giggled, "the matches?"

"Oh god," Iggy sighed, breaking out into a broad grin, "the matches!"

"Do you-"

"Wait," Iggy interrupted, "this is going to be a long story. I think it'd be best to take a seat before our legs fell asleep."

"Right here," He put a hand on Iggy's upper arm and pulled him towards the ledge, "Just don't lean back."


"Okay, now do you remember-"

"How we got them in the first place?"

Fang smiled, "Of course!"

From that moment forward, the two were completely lost in the retelling of the valiant story of the day they nearly burned down the School.

Seven-year-old Fang and six- (one month away from seven, as he constantly reminded his best friend) year-old Iggy were quite a cute pair. They both had round, boyish faces, rosy cheeks and innocent, (though deceitful) saucer eyes.

This day in particular seemed to be a trying day for everyone, both experiment and whitecoat. Max had the stomach flu, and had subsequently thrown up on one of her handlers. They'd sent her to her cage early, not wanting to soil any of their expensive equipment with vomit.

After Max left, there was only Fang, Iggy and a young whitecoat, looking back Fang suspected she was simply an intern or trainee of some sort, seeing as she had no idea how to handle either the boys or their younger counter parts.

"That's it, now I'm just going to-" The young woman reached for a second needle, to accompany on the one she had already pressed into Fang's spinal column. Both were filled with suspicious liquids that she was to inject into their spinal cord. Supposedly, this was to increase blood flow. But Fang had reason to believe that the liquids were actually sedatives, seeing as the woman seemed to have reached her wits end.

"No!" Fang cried, swatting her away. The first needle had hurt the young child enough for the day, and he was smart enough to know what was coming next.

"Just let me-"

"No! Don't want no more shots!" And with his peace said, the child hopped off the stool and ran for the door before his handler could even register what had happened.

As he rounded the corner into the hallway, he vaguely heard her say something along the lines of, "Don't want any more shots."

Giggling, the wide-eyed boy ducked behind a chair. He was positively thrilled at his quickness and cunning. And as a group of whitecoats rushed by, looking entirely frazzled, Fang couldn't help but think of the fun Max and Iggy would have had if they had joined him.

When the fuss seemed to have settled (they'd gone off to seal the exits) the brunette boy slowly crept out of his hiding place. He was quite familiar with the hall; he was dragged up and down it nearly everyday. He was also familiar with the next hall over, where they were testing Iggy.

Fully aware that he'd have hell to pay once they found him, Fang quietly tip-toed down the hallway, taking care to hide behind every available chair, tree and portrait. Though he quickly found the trees were preferable, seeing as everything else reeked of disinfectant. Either that or what he strongly suspected was urine.

When he reached the neighboring hall, he was assured that there was a very good chance no one would be there. He was still prepared in case someone had stayed behind, but most of the whitecoats set to handling them were younger, inexperienced workers. The type who would go running in search of another charge, and in the process completely their own.

He wasn't sure which room Iggy was in, so just in case he decided to check them all.

By checking, he meant listening. If he pressed his ear against the door he could make out the noises in the other room, and Iggy was guaranteed to make noise.

The first room was empty, as were the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. There were only six rooms in the hall, so Fang figured he had missed something. He went back over the doors, twice in fact. On the third time around, he could hear a faint clicking in the fourth room.

"Iggy!" he hissed through the crack beneath the door.

"Fang!" Was the response, "You got away!"

"Yeah, I did! The whitecoats are looking for me right now, on the other side of the building!"

"Aw, you get to have all the fun," Iggy pouted.

"I came to get you, so you can have fun too!"

"Yay!" He heard Iggy cheer on the other side.

Smiling, Fang jiggled the door knob, trying to get it open. Unfortunately, the whitecoats weren't as stupid as he thought. They'd had enough sense to lock the door on their way out.

"Iggy, the door's locked!"

"Well of course I know that stupid!" Iggy reported, "Just wait a second, I'm getting it open!"

There was a sort of clinking and jingling, and then the knob started to wiggle and jiggle. The wiggling and jiggling went on for a minute or two, but the minutes seemed to stretch into long, painful hours. Every second that he stood there in the open, Fang was that much closer to being found, but he simply couldn't abandon Iggy. After all, the boy was his best friend.

So he patiently waited, hopping from one foot to the other at regular intervals of boredom. Twice, there was a banging sound and a groan, as if Iggy had decided to take a shot at blunt force. Still, the door did not open.

"Hurry up!" Fang hissed.

"I'm trying!" And the clinking and the jiggling continued.

In fact, it continued for a good ten minutes (ten minutes filled with a lot of hopping and "Hurry up!"s on Fang's part, and ten minutes filled with a good deal of "Just a second!"s and "I'm trying!"s on Iggy's) before Iggy finally pushed the door open.

Fang opened his mouth to say "About time!" but before he could, Iggy held something in front of his face.

"Look! Matches!" He said excitedly, waving the small sticks in front of Fang's face.

Indeed they were. It seems that Iggy's handler was a smoker, and a careless one at that. He'd left a package of Koole's and a box of matches on the counter when he'd gone out to search for Fang. The Koole's didn't obviously interesting them at the time, it was the matches.

They'd seen them in use, and knew what they were for, but regardless, they were new and exotic in their small, sheltered world.

"Lemme see!" Fang cried, and swiped them out of Iggy's hand. He fingered their long sticks and red tips for a moment, completely fascinated by the small objects.

Then, he turned back to Iggy. Who was doing a rather odd thing, he'd set them up in a row of three and the far left one then turned to it's fellow matches and seemed to scold them.

"What are you doing?" Fang asked, peering over Iggy's shoulder.

Iggy's cheeks flushed in slight embarrassment, "This is a whitecoat," he said, motioning to the one on the far left, "The other two are you and me. And together..."

He then took the 'Fang' match and the 'Iggy' match and used them to sweep the whitecoat match off the table into the trash. This was meant to illustrate that somehow, the two young boys were going to over take a full grown man. Obviously, this was not going to happen, mutation or not. But it was very fun to pretend.

Fang laughed, and then said, "No, we do this!" And stepped on one of his. This, of course, caused a lot of giddy laughter.

Together, they came up with various ways for the 'Fang' and 'Iggy' matches to torture the 'whitecoat' matches. The poor sticks were put through all sorts of death methods, crushing, drowning, choking, shooting; starvation, various unnamed diseases, hit and run, though crushing remained the most popular. It was the sort of thing a normal seven-year-old might do with dolls, in regards to a teacher or parent who'd displeased them, but instead, Fang and Iggy were playing with matches. Then, he'd never thought that that type of thing was anything but normal, but looking back he realized he'd been a very foolish child.

"Are there more?" Fang asked, after his last match, disappeared into the trash can.

"Yeah," Iggy replied, tossing him the box. Fang reached out to catch it, and as he did his fingers scrapped against the side of the small box. The rough side.

"Iggy!" He cried, as if he had been hit by a sudden epiphany.

"Yes?" Iggy responded, his voice was very blase as he tossed yet another match into the sink.

"Look!" Fang said, not letting his excitement go. He pointed at the rough side excitedly, trying to get Iggy's attention once more.

"Yeah, so?" The redhead responded, giving Fang's discover a once over.

He groaned at his friend's naivety, "We can light them!" He explained. To demonstrate, he took one of the remaining matches and carefully pressed it against the rough patch, careful to keep his fingers clear. Then, hesitantly, he struck it.

Before it'd even been given the run of the sand-papery edge, the match lit, quite suddenly in fact. So suddenly, Fang dropped it in surprise.

"Ah!" Iggy cried and sensibly stomped it out before anything else could catch fire.

"Sorry," Fang mumbled, "Slipped out of my fingers." Even at the age of seven Fang had a strong sense of pride. He would never admit the sudden appearance of flames had completely caught him off guard, instead he blamed it on sweaty finger tips (it could happen!), and decidedly, struck another one. Ready this time for the orange glow that suddenly appeared.

"Oooh," Iggy said, allowing his fingers to dart in and out of the flames.

"Stop that! You'll catch on fire!" Fang said, jerking it away from him.

"No I won't!"

"You will, and then you'll die!"

Iggy pouted, but obliged and kept his fingers a good distance away from the flames. That is, until he got a match of his own, and then proceeded to give himself minor burns and singes here and there at his own discretion.

It displeased Fang that Iggy was being so careless, but he had his own flaming match to worry about so he didn't pay it too much mind. Though he was always careful to keep on eye on Iggy's ever blackening finger tips.

The two quickly found a number of pleasing things they could do with lit matches (aside from the literal fire stroking Iggy seemed to have taken a liking to), such as licking their forefinger and thumb, then pinching the match out, or having flaming sword fights. They even tried to 'eat' the fire, but they quickly realized that a burnt tongue wasn't worth the satisfaction of learning a new trick.

Of course, through all the fun and games of fire, there is a reason small children are not given matches.

"Ow!" Fang cried as the match reached its end and his finger tips.

"Are you okay?" Iggy asked concernedly, looking at Fang's slightly singed finger tips.

"Fine, fine," He muttered, hoping the horrible burning sensation would stop soon.

"You sure? Cause that looks like-"

But what it looked like he would never know because it was at that moment that Fang suddenly realized when he'd cried out, he'd carelessly let go of the lit match. Scanning the room, he saw no immediate fire threat, until he took a chance glance at the counter on his left. On that counter were various medicines, shots, medical equipment and what not. And a clipboard crammed with a stack of papers.

On top of that stack of papers was the match.

Paper is flammable.

That match was lit.

If it wasn't already obvious, the stack of papers quickly caught fire.

Fang swore loudly, surprising Iggy who had never heard anyone is own age swear out loud. But Fang didn't take notice, as he was vainly trying to blow the flames out, as he'd seen other children do on the television. Except those flames were smaller, and on candles. Not the great blaze that had appeared before Fang.

The flames quickly spread to the various flammable medical products and other important papers sitting on the counter, completely engulfing the lone pack of Koole's before either Fang or Iggy had a chance to properly put a stop to the great inferno.

The two children were unsure of what to do, if they left the room they'd be in trouble, but if they stayed they'd probably die. Unless the fire was put out, and they could possibly do that. Maybe.

Thankfully and unfortunately, every room was equipped with a fire alarm and sprinklers. Soon, the crackling of the flames was joined by a high pitched screeching, and then the crackling was put out all together by a down pour of water from above. It reminded Fang very much of the rain he'd seen on the television, but usually it happened outside, as he recalled.

And Fang couldn't help it, he started to laugh. There they were, surrounded by all this charred lab equipment, being drenched by the sprinklers, and Fang just stood there and laughed.

Iggy gave him an odd look, one filled with confusion and worry that Fang had somehow lost his mind, but then, he joined in Fang's own private joke anyways. And that was probably the best memory of Fang's entire childhood, him and Iggy. Drenched in water, laughing.

"I can't believe we actually did that!" Iggy laughed once they'd both had their turn at retelling their greatest hour.

"I know," Fang sighed, catching his breath, "Max got so upset when we got back."

"She complained we always had all the fun."

"Which was not true," Fang said pointedly, as if Max was overhearing the conversation from below.

"Yeah..." Iggy agreed softly. The two sat there momentarily, still reliving the days of secret handshakes and adventures in exploration. Fang more so than Iggy, because he'd ran through these memories all before, he knew them by heart. Especially in the months after they'd gone by, when those memories seemed to be all he'd had.

"I guess we should go now," he said after a moment, "It's getting late."

Iggy nodded, "I can already hear Max screaming," He smiled. But he was probably right, because Max had been enforcing a strict curfew of eight-thirty as of lately, which they had certainly broken.

Moving swiftly, the two unfurled their wings and soundlessly settled unto the ground below. As they did so, Fang felt Iggy's fingers come to rest on his shoulder. Ever so slightly, Fang sensed his pulse rising as he felt the light pressure of Iggy's fingertips against his t-shirt.

Fang noted, as he ducked into the building, that everyone seemed to be asleep. Which would save them a lecture for now, but they'd have hell to pay when the morning came.

Fang over turned a few crates and found their night clothes (sleeping in a pair of jeans was more uncomfortable than it sounded) beneath a grave of long forgotten newspapers.

"Here," he muttered, pressing a pair of flannel pants and a t-shirt into Iggy's hands. Careful not the wake their sleeping companions, the pair crept behind a wall of boxes that served as an impromptu changing room.

Though it was dark, Fang could still see Iggy's outline in the moonlight. But he turned away very quickly, thinking to himself, don't stare, don't stare. Even if Iggy couldn't see him staring, he was sure to feel it.

Don't stare, don't stare.

Once they were both decent, Fang and Iggy crept over to the far corner, where the cots and what not lay. But as Fang moved to curl up in his customary armchair, he found Gazzy dozing peacefully in his usual place. He groaned. All the other cots were probably taken. And looking them over, he found that they were.

Muttering a few choice words to himself, Fang spread a blanket on the floor and prepared for a long, cold night.

"What are you doing?" Iggy hissed, pulling out his bed from the couch. He was the lucky one, with the double pull out bed and all. But it was the only one that'd fit his tall frame. Amazingly, he'd grown again. He was now a full 6'4", and any attempt to squeeze onto a cot failed quite miserably.

"Sleeping," He muttered grumpily.

"What are you, dense? You can sleep with me," Then, catching what he said, quickly added, "in my bed."

No, no, no! Don't do it! His mind screamed, but he looked back at the filthy floor, and realized there was only one choice.

Wordlessly, he packed up his blanket and pillow, spreading them on the double bed instead. It was not uncommon for one of the younger flock members to crawl into bed with Iggy, seeing as his bed was so large, but two more or less grown boys sleeping in the same bed was a different thing entirely. Fang couldn't imagine what would happen in the morning.

He was afraid that Angel would catch him thinking something, something he wasn't supposed to be thinking about. Not that he would, just if he did he didn't want anyone to know he had. If that made sense.

"I hope you aren't still a cover hog," Iggy whispered as Fang slipped beneath the blankets. He was referring to their various "sleep overs" (they weren't really as much sleep overs, after all their beds were only feet apart and pushing them together really didn't make much of a difference) of their youth, in which Iggy would wake up shivering with Fang wrapped in the sheets.

"I wouldn't know," he said honestly, because he really didn't know. He hadn't shared a bed with anyone since he was about eight, and to be completely true, he probably hadn't kicked the habit.

"I guess we'll find out," Iggy sighed, "G'night Fang."

"Night," He said quietly, nestling farther under the blankets. He closed his eyes, praying for the quick sleep he knew wouldn't come. Inside, he knew he'd toss and turn for hours, unable to sleep because laying right next to him was his best friend, who he couldn't stop thinking about, who caused his pulse to quicken, his breath to shorten and his imagination to run wild.

And he was right, because for the first half an hour or so, it was all he could do to forcefully keep his eyes shut and focus on not thinking about Iggy. Then, he fell into a fit full sleep, from which he'd wake up constantly, finding himself closer to Iggy every time.

As he woke, at an hour he would have guessed to be about four, curled up dangerously close to Iggy, he heard his mind scream out, no, no, no! Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Yet his heart seemed to scream, equally loud, yes, yes, yes!

Not going to hurt anyone, he reasoned, daring to pressing himself even closer, It's not like I'm doing wrong. Just trying to stay warm...

A/N: Much more slashy cuteness to follow, some awkward moments, and an appearance from Angry!Max.

3. Day Trip

A/N I: My apologies this chapter took so long! At first I really wasn't in the mood to write, then I went back and rewrote part of it, and then the document manager wouldn't work, but now I've finally got it up and loaded!

Chapter III: Day Trip

As the sun spilled through the blindless windows of the old warehouse, Fang couldn't help but curse God for creating such a spiteful object.

With a low groan, he pulled a blanket over his head, but of course, it only fixed part of the problem. The sun still shown through the blanket's thin threading (as if they could afford any better). Fang had to admit though, it was better than nothing. And anyway, as it was he could go on hating the sun as he pleased.

Well, it wasn't the sun it's self that was really the problem. It was it's early wake up call that was the cause of Fang's (not to mention the rest of the Flock's) distress. Every morning, at the crack of dawn the fiery orange ball would oh-so-rudely announce it's presence with light so bright it left white dots across one's vision, long before anyone could get a proper night's sleep. Though he'd learned a cup of sugar and coffee (there was much too much sugar in it to call it the reverse) could usually make up for lost sleep time for the first few hours, but after a while came the eventual crash when the caffeine wore off. (Not at all convenient.) Really it was preferable to just try and wake up by one's self, when Max wasn't breathing down your throat.

Max was forever in a hurry that never seemed to come. There was really nothing to do, yet she acted as if she had some master list of things to do a foot long. But what was on that list, Fang had no idea. Really, all they did was eat, sleep and take a few weekly trips into the inner city for groceries and what not. Those were the only days that it seemed anyone truly woke up, because they were the only days anyone could really look forward to.

Other than that, the highlight of Fang's day was pretty much going to sleep. Which really wasn't part of his day in the first place, but who really cared anyhow?

"Mmm..." Max moaned in her sleep. Moans, snores, grunts and groans were pretty common from her cot, which she attributed to vivid, almost-real dreams. But odd noises wasn't all that slipped from her mouth in her sleep. Sometimes she talked too (more or less often it was a four letter word that caused Gazzy to giggle with hysterics and Nudge to clamp her hands over Angel's ears), though no matter how often Fang or Iggy (or anyone for that matter) told her, she'd always brush them off with a casual laugh and a "No, I don't!" Of course, she did. Whether she liked it or not.

"Colorado..." There she goes again, he thought to himself. He wondered what she could possibly be dreaming about that'd involve Colorado, but then decided that was much too broad a topic to explore for the time being.

Fang supposed it wouldn't be long before her sweet murmuring turned to rampant screaming, even though Max had always been one of those take charge, get going people, but lately she'd become a time bomb. Everything set her off, everything. Nudge chewing with her mouth open, Fang's complaining, Gazzy's smell, Fang's odd need for a life that didn't simply consist of obeying her every will, Angel's doting on all creatures small and furry, Fang's attitude, Iggy's night owlishness, Fang and anything to do with Fang, among other things, would set off a huge explosion of screaming and shouting that would only subside after hours of angry simmering and boiling. Honestly, Fang liked Max better when she was asleep.

In the distance, Fang could hear the sirens of an ambulance blaring. Which meant only one thing, another battered housewife, another robbery, another stabbing, another shooting, another drug addict gone down the drain. Just a typical, cheerful New York morning.

Ever since coming to New York, innocence seemed to have flown out the window. Angel's sweet naivety, her belief that everyone was a good person, was slowly being chipped away. In New York, they'd been exposed to so much more than they'd ever been exposed to before. Drug addicts, drunks, drag queens, streakers, street musicians, and gang members, the type of people that had almost seemed mystical in Colorado, where the closest thing they got to other human interaction was Google searches on the topic.

The other day, for example, a drunk had come stumbling down the street preaching about the birds and the bees. It was almost sickening, the type of pleasure he seemed to get from slurring his way through an impromptu sex-ed class. He'd peered down at small children and ask them in a sweet sing-songy voice, "Do you know what Mommy does at night sweetheart?"

When the child answered (usually it was a shell-shocked stare, a shake of the head or the obvious answer, "she sleeps,") he'd give a sort of gurgle-cackle before looking back down into those big round eyes and say, "I'll tell you what Mommy really does..."

Usually at this point the child had already been dragged away by frantic mothers, of course in Angel's case she'd been out with Gazzy and Max (Fang and the others had been on a mission to find a sanitary, slightly used copy of the New York Times in a trash can), so it took a minute for Max to finally realize exactly what was happening. Unfortunately, by then Angel had already answered with "I don't have a Mommy.", leading the drunk to say "You got a Daddy?" When she again answered no he said, "You wanna know where you came from, little girl?" Thankfully, Max intervened at that point.

Overall, New York really wasn't the place to be raising any kid, especially without a proper home. Colorado wasn't either, the isolation was no better than the over exposure. Then again, thinking it over, the life they lived was no way to raise any kid.

"Total..." It was Max again.

In response to Max's unconscious call, Total let out a low whine.

Realizing he'd probably be blamed if Total wasn't let out, Fang yawned and stretched his legs, pulling the blanket back down below his chin. Lo and behold, there was Total. Licking his face.

"Oh, god," He groaned, pushing the hyperactive puppy away from his bed.

With heavily lidded eyes, Fang swung his legs over the side of the bed and managed to pull himself upright. He scooped up the yapping dog in his arms and shuffled over to the collapsed in doorway. He tied a bit of cord around Total's collar and shoved the nuisance under the curtain, hoping that would take care of whatever the problem was.

"Good morning, Sunshine," Fang nearly jumped out of skin at the sound of Iggy's voice from behind him. True, Iggy was usually the first up of all of them, but Fang hadn't even been thinking about him at the time.

"Don't do that!" Fang cried, doing a quick turn on his heel to find Iggy rooting through the food bag. Which seemed to be very empty, judging by the deep frown spelt across his face.

Just as he had in Colorado, Iggy made the food. Max (still) could not be trusted to create something edible, and Fang had no interest in the craft, so to avoid starvation Iggy did what he could to create some-what nutritious, not-at-all well balanced meals for the group. Most consisted of cheetos and what not, but he tried.

"Sorry," Iggy replied off handedly with his head still stuck in the burlap sack. He rooted around for a second or two more, and then, finally, with a puzzled look upon his face he pulled his face out of the burlap sack. His eyes, though sightless, immediately flickered up to Fang and as they did, a small, almost mischievous, smile broke out across his face.

"Here, take a seat," he said, patting the upturned milk crate as he did. For a second, a split-second, Fang just stood there, staring at his friend. His mind racing, and his pulse going right along with it.

It wasn't that there was anything wrong with Iggy, far from it. There was something wrong with him. Because when Iggy said that, an odd thought had hit him. A ridiculous, impossible thought, but a thought none the less. Could all this seemingly friendly intent really be something more?

Of course, it was ridiculous. It couldn't possibly be- even if it was- Iggy wasn't like that- not that he wanted it- or maybe he-

Breathe, he reminded himself, breathe.

Realizing that he was being rude, Fang quietly took the seat offered to him. By that time, Iggy had gone back to his rooting, seeing as Fang had momentarily gone a bit mental.

"How's breakfast going?" He asked finally, peeking over Iggy's shoulder.

"Not well, unless you want to eat some stale bread," the blonde replied, tossing a bagged, loaf of bread over his shoulder. Fang caught it, but before he could even undo the tie he was already disgusted. The coloring, the texture, it wasn't at all right for bread. Maybe for sand, but not bread.

"Looks like we'll be heading in today," Fang sighed in a tired way, but as he did, a small smile crossed his lips. It'd been far too long since he'd been to Times Square and he was overdue for a Starbucks.

"Looks like it," Iggy said in agreement.


The pair sat in silence for a minute, Fang trying to figure out something clever and witty to say, and Iggy in seemingly deep thought. It was an odd thing, that Fang was feeling. It was as if he wanted– needed– impress Iggy, but at the same time, he'd known Iggy all his life, what need was there for him to try and impress him?

Fang opened his mouth, still thinking of something to say, but before the words could come out, Iggy interrupted.

"Fang," He said, swerving his body to face his friend, "I want to talk to you about something." His voice was quiet and breathy, almost inaudible.

"What? What's wrong?" Their knees were touching, and their faces were inches apart, literally. Momentarily, Fang had the urge to wrap his arms around Iggy, but he quickly suppressed the notion and kept his hands well to himself.

"Fang, I-"

Whatever it was, it would have to wait. Because Max had woken up.

"Breakfast?" She asked hopefully, trailing out of her cot in a dazed, sleepy manor. She stumbled over a few sparse sleeping bags scattered along the way before managing to drag herself up behind the two. Like Fang, the mornings were not her best time. Her hair was standing at a 90 degree angel to her head, and her eyelids were drooping with sleep.

She didn't look at all reminiscent of their make over day two months before. The pink had faded (much to her happiness) and her hair was just as tangled and long as ever. The same went for most of the flock, who's fresh, new looks had worn away very quickly. Nudge's roots were now a good two inches long, and the blue tips of Gazzy's hair now touched his shoulders. The same would have gone for Iggy, if Nudge had not been going through a beautician phase and re-dyed Iggy's hair a darker shade of red (he was the only one who trusted her enough to let her even touch a bottle of hair dye). It fit him quite well, really. Though, Fang had to admit, it was hard to get used to seeing him with darker hair.

Fang and Iggy had both allowed their hair to grow long and tangled, because Max's one cut fits all style really wasn't suiting them anymore. Admittedly, theirs didn't grow quite as long or fast as Gazzy's, but it grew. It tickled their chins and by now, they could tuck it behind their ears if necessary. Quite a change to Max's buzz cut fetish. (A good one at that.) And Angel? Well, she still looked like Angel. Just as sugary sweet and innocent as ever.

In a rare moment where she wasn't upset or nagging at something (read: someone named Fang), Max actually seemed quite friendly, though it was a stretch for Fang to put that word with her name.

"You like stale bread?" Iggy answered, taking the stale loaf from Fang's hands and giving it a toss.

In slight disgust, Max undid the tie and took a whiff of the bread it's self. She crinkled her nose and replied, "Not really." before tossing it aside like sack of potatoes. Fang didn't know what she was thinking, but honestly Total wouldn't even eat that crap. They might as well have burned it, because there was nothing better to do with it. Besides, it would be more exciting then sitting there and staring at it.

"Looks like we'll be heading in to the city today," Fang said, letting just a hint of excitement show. Inside, he'd already made a list of things to do. Time Square, see if he could maybe get on TRL? Bookstore, maybe hit a Starbucks while he was at it. He needed to get an up to date copy of the New York Times too. There was so much to do!

For a split second, Max almost seemed to smile. Which was just weird, for her to show any hint of human emotion aside from anger. Fang could remember back when they'd been living with Jeb (bastard that he was) she'd been much quicker to smile, to laugh. Then again, they all had been.

"Yeah, I guess we are." She replied, the corners of her mouth uplifted ever so much. It made a world of a difference.

"Gazzy's going to scream when he hears that." Iggy laughed, and it was true. Gazzy was absolutely fascinated with inner-city New York. The billboards, the shops, the food, the culture, the people, it was all so new and different to him that the young boy couldn't help but try and gulp everything in at once with wide, saucer eyes. Angel and Nudge were much the same, though Gazzy seemed to be the most extreme of the three.

"He's going to scream when he hears what?" A sleepy eyed Nudge asked. With her hair tousled the way it was, and the dazed look in her big, brown eyes, she somewhat resembled Celeste. Minus the robe and halo.

"Guess where we're going!" Iggy answered excitedly, he looked a bit like a rabbit to be honest, hyperactive and overexcited. But that was okay, because someone had to exert some kind of energy or nothing would ever happen.

"Where?" Nudge's brain seemed to still be in sleep mode.

"The city!"

As Iggy had predicted (though on the wrong person, he had still predicted it) she let out a screechy squeal of complete and utter joy. "I can't wait! Can we go to Time Square? I haven't been there in forever! And I really want to visit the record store too! I've been looking in the newspaper and there's going to be a sale today, and I really want a new CD! I mean, all we have is Iggy's hippie music and those weird albums that Fang likes." She exclaimed, the words tumbling out of her mouth quickly.

"Hey! Where did you two get those anyway?"

"What CD would you get?" Max asked politely, gently moving the topic away from Fang's brief (emphasis on brief) stint as shoplifter. True, he hadn't been caught by anyone, and as far as anyone knew he'd bought it fair and square. But Max wasn't that stupid, she knew he hadn't that much money. Because that day he'd returned home with two new CDs, a new coat and a CD player for the flock to share. The coat and CD player he'd bought himself, but the albums had been a five-finger discount. But it wasn't like he'd done anything too bad, they were on discount in the first place. And he'd left a buck in the tip jar to thank the Virgin Mega-Store for allowing him the opportunity to steal from them.

"I don't know! But definitely nothing like what we have now. I mean, I tried listening to Iggy's music and I just got confused, all the words were..." Nudge took a momentary pause to search for the proper words, "They were just really weird. Like there was this one, and it just didn't make any sense! It was just a bunch of random stuff, like about eggs and Tuesdays and walruses and cornflakes and knickers and vans and all sorts of stuff!"

"Was the song, by chance, called 'I Am the Walrus'?" Iggy asked genteelly.

"Well..." Nudge thought, "It might have been. I wasn't really paying attention."

Iggy smiled, "That's the genius of John Lennon right there."

Nudge, in turn, frowned, "Well I didn't like it very much. It just sounded weird to me. So I took it out and tried some of Fang's music, but that was even worse! There was this guy and he kept screaming in this girly voice! And I couldn't even understand what he was screaming! Well," She quickly added, "I could understand some parts. But it was really weird, like he just kept saying 'Love, love, love' or 'Bang, bang, bang'! It was almost as bad as that walrus song!

"I tried a couple other CDs but they were all still really weird. Sometimes the singer guys would scream, and some of them just didn't sing at all... It was more like they just talked. And I didn't like that, because people are suppose to sing on CDs, not scream. Or talk."

"We'll just have to get you some CDs of your own." Max said sweetly. It was funny how she could be so understanding towards the younger ones, yet so cold towards the boy who was practically her brother.

"I'd like that a lot. Maybe we could go shopping too?" She asked hopefully.

"Maybe," Max smiled brightly, lying right through her teeth. The CDs alone were going to be a stretch, and they would probably be used too. They hardly had the money to go out and by Nudge a wardrobe like she saw in all the Gap adds.

"Good, cause Celeste needs a new tutu." Angel yawned, rubbing sleep out of her eyes with the bear himself in tow.

"Of course!" Fang was amazed at how the girl he'd grown up with, the honest, kick-butt, hard working girl, had turned into a slightly spazzy, paranoid control freak who could let lies roll out of her mouth with such ease. She'd never been as good an actress as she was now. She'd never lied as much either. It was such an alarming transformation, Fang really didn't know what to think of it.

Admittedly, Fang had had a bit of a crush on the old Max. The girl back in Colorado who could always take the time to mother the little ones and take the time to have a laugh with her older comrades, the one who had a sense of humor. With the million watt smile. Where had she gone?

Now, Fang could hardly look at the mess she'd turned into without thinking about who she used to be. There was no way in heck he'd ever feel the same about her.

Iggy caught his eye, pointing at Max and then giving a hand gesture to signify, "What the heck is she talking about?"

"I don't know," He whispered back lowly.

"Whatever it is, she better know what she's doing." Iggy answered in a hoarse whisper, just so that Max couldn't hear.

Fang gave her another long look, a sad, forlorned expression painted across his face, "I don't think she does."

A/N II: The albums Nudge referred to where actually some of my personal favourites. "Crimes" by The Blood Brothers, "The Used" by the Used, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge" by My Chemical Romance, "She Wants Revenge" by She Wants Revenge and "Nevermind" by Nirvana.

I gave Fang a very dark musical taste, if you will, and I gave Iggy a lighter version. (The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, The White Stripes, etc.) It just seemed to fit better than the Taylor Twins, who gave me images of Hilary Duff and Jesse McCartney. In the next chapter we will see Nudge's taste in music portrayed in a very funny scene. Perhaps Max's and Gazzy's as well. (Angel really has no taste for music at this point.)

Anyways, thanks everyone for reviewing and the next chapter should be up within the next two weeks or so.

4. Musicality

Disclaimer:I do not own the bands:From First to Last, t.A.T.u., Plain White T's, AFI, The Used,or Motion City Soundtrack. They belong to their respect record companies and affiliates, and (obviously) I am not one.

Chapter IV: Musicality

Bright lights and colorful advertisements were screaming at them from all directions. There were homeless men playing guitars and trash can drums. There were rock stars in the making, burned out pop idols, and music enthusiasts a like. There were punks and scene kids, emos and goths. Rich kids and poor kids. Preps and geeks. Jocks and trekkies. Everywhere, different people, different sites, different sounds! Everything was just so different.

How he loved New York.

And how Max seemed to loathe it equally.

"Stay close!" She warned Gazzy, who had stopped to drop a quarter he'd found in a homeless man's guitar case. Apparently she wasn't quite as sympathetic. Still, the man gave Gazzy a smile and a nod, directing his next ballad at the quickly moving group of six.

Behind him Fang could hear a sudden change in Iggy's breathing pattern. A sharp intake of breath, and then he seemed to hold his breath before whispering not quite in Fang's ear, "I know that song."

"What song is it?" Fang asked, combing his memory over for the simple melody, and coming up blank.

"Hey there Delilah/What's it like in New York city/I'm a thousand miles away/But girl tonight you look so pretty." Iggy breathed quietly. Fang could not remember ever hearing that song before, but then again he didn't spend hours curled up in a corner memorizing the lyrics to old Beatle's albums. Nor did his ears automatically tune in to the nearest radio.

"Never heard it," Fang answered roughly.

"You haven't? It's called 'Hey There Delilah', by the Plain White T's." Iggy replied.

"Still not ringing any bells." Fang returned.

Iggy seemed to shrug it off, deciding it really didn't matter after all, and continued with his quiet rendition of the song, "Hey there Delilah/Don't you worry about the distance/I'm right there if you get lonely/Give this song another listen/Close your eyes/Listen to my voice it's my disguise/I'm by your side."

And the rest of their walk- jog, Max was in a hurry- went very much like that. With Iggy quietly singing along to whatever caught his fancy. Once "Hey There Delilah" had ended he broke into "Everything Is Alright", apparently by Motion City Soundtrack, ("I could have sworn you were there when I heard it!") which was quickly followed up by "The Leaving Song" which was by a band Fang had actually heard of, A.F.I. He followed that up with a song Fang thought he knew by heart, "The Taste of Ink", by the Used. Turns out he was wrong.

Really, Fang wasn't paying that much attention to Iggy's musical obsession. It hardly mattered to him that the words to "The Taste of Ink" were not, as he had thought, "as long as you're alive again", but were actually "as long as you're alive and care". Admittedly, though, he did like the feel of Iggy's breath against his neck, and his fingers just grazing his back.

But Fang did have to draw the line when Iggy started humming along with Madonna.

"How can you even stand that song?" He asked very pointedly.

"I can't," Iggy moaned, still humming along to "Hollywood".

"Well think of something else! Or else it'll get stuck in my head too." Fang advised.

Promptly, Iggy switched over to what was possibly even worse, Panic! At the Disco, "Time to Dance". That song had entered Fang's mind once, and had not left for several weeks. He was not keen to repeat that experience. But, weighing the options, realized it was better than Madonna and allowed himself to hum along anyways.

By the time they came to their destination, one of the many Starbucks in the area, the entire flock seemed to be one giant humming mass.

"I never want to hear that song again!" Max declared as they plopped down at the first available seats. Well, the first two. Gazzy, Angel and Nudge piled onto one, with Angel sitting on Nudge's lap, and the rest of the flock piled on the second. Max sat on the arm, Iggy on the other arm, and Fang found his place in between the two. With Max's hair grazing his neck, and Iggy's leg brushing his, Fang felt slightly torn. But he didn't know why.

"I'm with you!" Nudge agree, bouncing Angel on her knee.

The flock seemed to reach a mutual agreement on that, and after discussing why never to start humming any song that catchy, they finally reached business.

"I'll go get groceries if you guys want to watch over the little ones," Max said to Fang and Iggy.

"That'd be fine," Iggy shrugged, though Fang had his inhibitions he too went along with it. After all, the two of them could handle a couple of hyperactive bouncy balls, right?

"I want to go with Max!" Angel protested.

"I want to go with Angel!" Gazzy was very protective of his little sister ever since she had been taken back to the school, and he was not about to let her out of his sites if he could help it.

"I guess that leaves you guys and Nudge," Max said, standing to leave.

"Buy her a CD would you?" Max asked, carefully counting her money. Fang could see several twenties, even more fives, a tan, and about a million ones. Who knew they had that much money?

"And I don't mean the cheapest one in the store. Which ever one she wants, she gets." Max added, forking over sixty dollars, in cash.

"Some of that's for lunch though, in case we don't see you." She warned as way of parting. With that, Max seemed to have her final say, and left the café, with two blonde children following in her wake.

Max may not have realized it, but she just made a huge mistake. Fang and Iggy, sixty dollars, New York city.

Hell hath cometh.

Or something like it at the very least.

"The Virgin Mega-Store we go!" Iggy said, pulling Fang up by the wrist. Nudge quickly followed, dashing after the two and into the busy New York sidewalk. Fang felt slightly uneasy going towards the place of his shoplifting venture, afraid someone would scream out "There's the shoplifter!" and the red lights would go off and suddenly he'd be surrounded by the New York S.W.A.T. team. Of course, that had never happened before and it was a very unlikely occurrence, but still, he held onto that fear.

As they stepped off the curb, Fang could feel a sudden tug at his sleeve. Iggy's slender fingers had wrapped themselves around his upper arm, holding on tightly as if nothing was different. But it was. Iggy was usually content to let his fingers gently graze his arm, or put a finger through Fang's belt loop. The sudden physical contact was, in a word, alarming. Not at all in a bad way, but alarming all the same.

"Can you believe she gave us sixty dollars?" Iggy whispered in his ear.

"Hardly," Fang answered. Because that was true, and he had a sneaking suspicion that she had purposely given them counterfeit, just to see them get arrested.

"CDs aren't that expensive, and neither is lunch, what are we going to do with the rest of it?" Iggy asked, though it seemed to Fang that his friend's mind had already turned out a list of things to do with it.

"I don't know, why?" The question was very pointed.

"Well... you're birthday is next month." Iggy replied cleverly.

"It is." Fang said blandly, not really seeing the point.

"I want to get you something!"

"Why would you do that?" Fang answered without thinking, because the truth was, he didn't really want anything for his birthday. He just wanted to wake up, eat, and go back to bed. A day without drama. That was all he'd need for what he would call a "good day".

"Because you're practically my brother, Fang. It's nearly law that I have to get you something."


"Fang, I am going to get you something. The question is, is it going to be something you'd actually like? Give me some ideas here."

"Iggy, do you think I have any idea what I'd want?"

He shrugged, "We're going to the Virgin Mega-Store. You'll get some ideas there."

"Not much of a surprise," Fang pointed out.

"Well, Nudge and I could go and pick out something really random if you'd like."

Fang took a second to stare back at him, "Please, don't scare me like that."

Iggy laughed, "Now you see why you're going to at least give me a few choices?"

Fang cringed at the thought of Nudge helping to pick out his birthday present, "Yes, yes I do."

"Good," Iggy smiled.

Realizing Nudge had not said a word in the entire conversation, he took a quick head count to find Nudge a few feet behind, staring up at a giant screen projecting a picture of the Backstreet Boys.

God save me, she's turning into a teeny-bopper, Fang thought as he reported Nudge's current position to Iggy. He took it with equal distaste. Then, both went after her before she had time to properly soak in the release of their next album, thank god.

Though Nudge put up a fight, the two eventually managed to drag her away from the giant MTV screen.

"But everyone listens to them!" She protested.

Iggy coughed, but Fang could have sworn in sounded like, "Six years ago."

Keeping a careful eye on Nudge, the trio carefully made their way to the Virgin Mega-Store. Fang hated to admit it (or maybe scared was a better word,) but when Iggy didn't reach out to put his fingers around Fang's arms, he was slightly disappointed. And oddly enough... slightly jealous of Nudge, whom Iggy seemed to have selected as a guide, for he let the tips of his fingers rest ever so slightly on her shoulder.

As his mind began to wander, Fang started to think of Max. Of how he'd fantasized about her when he was younger, about how his thoughts would always revolve around the flock's self appointed leader. In his mind she was perfect, she was wonderful, and there was nothing better. Now, he knew otherwise.

She'd turned into something he could hardly imagine, and he could never forgive her.

He'd known Max almost all his life. Since he was sixteen months old, to be exact. They'd grown up together. Him and Max and Iggy, just the three of them for the most part. But it was just now that he was realizing how wonderful she truly was.


Fang was eleven years old, and she was his first crush.

He thought she was perfect, and in his eyes she could do no wrong. Max's word was law and he was willing to obey. She was all he could think about, and even as his mind seemed to wander else where, his thoughts would always return to her. Her and her pretty crystal eyes and soft grown wings. She was so much more than the girls he'd seen on the TV. She had personality and determination, a pride and responsibility to her.

When she wasn't looking his way, or was engrossed in something else, he'd simply sit and stare at her. Thinking about how perfect it would be if right then and there it'd been just the two of them. One day, of course, she caught him. He blushed and looked away quickly. She did the same.

He'd often sit and ponder that moment, if perhaps it'd meant more than he'd thought. If maybe she'd been staring at him too...


He tossed a look over his shoulder at the bed next to him, where curled beneath a dark blue comforter was Iggy, half asleep and trembling with fever.

He immediately turned onto his other side, so he could look at Iggy properly. He could see sweat droplets the size of bullets running down Iggy's forehead, and his color, even in the dim moonlight, looked off and sickly.


"What 'cha thinking bout?" was the hoarse reply.

Fang blushed intensely, "Just hoping you get better soon."

Iggy smiled, "You're a horrible liar."

Careful to hide behind Iggy, Fang cautiously entered the store. (Filled with tourists from wall to wall.) Looking just as twitchy as ever. He still held on to the (ridiculous) fear that he was going to be arrested. He knew quite well this was an irrational fear, that if he was to be caught he would have been caught when he was stealing the CDs, not when he was coming back into the store. Still, he reasoned, one could never be too careful.

Nudge was captivated from the second they managed to weasel their way through the sea of tourists. She had almost magnetically ran to the pop section. Max may have said any CD, but if she picked out anything to do with Hilary Duff Fang planned on clubbing her over the head and walking out of the store as fast as she could. Never, never, never would he allow that CD within a twelve foot radius of him.

"Don't tell me she's..." Iggy muttered next to him.

"I think we have a teeny-bopper on our hands," Fang replied, confirming only the worst.

The two, with great pain and remorse, carefully picked their way across the store, keeping that curly brown head just in site, should the opportunity arise that they needed to make a quick exit.

"What CD is she looking at?" Iggy whispered as they neared the over excited bouncing girl.

"Oh god... Max isn't going to like this," was all Fang could reply.

The CD clutched between Nudge's fingers was a CD by the Russian dance-pop group t.A.T.u. Fang knew who they were thanks to this little thing called the internet, but he doubted that Nudge knew that the two girls, Lena and Julia, posed as teenage lesbians.

Personally, Fang had no problem with that, but he knew that if Nudge got the CD and showed Max (if she recognized the group) he'd get in trouble for "exposing" her. But if he didn't get it, Nudge would tell Max, and Max would yell at him for not following her directions.

In times of crisis like this there was only one thing to do, consult Iggy.

"Nudge, just hang out for a second okay? I'm going to talk to Iggy," Fang said, directing his first comment to the girl, and the second more or less to the boy.

Quickly, Fang managed to drag his companion behind the R&B section before the other had time to speak, because he was not about to be the one to explain this type of thing now. And definitely not in the middle of the Virgin Mega-Store. Especially not when he was at risk for being arrested.

"She picked out Taboo," He said, tripping over the Russian name awkwardly.

Iggy cocked his eyebrow quizzically for a second before he put two and two together. "You mean..." His voice fell, "t.A.T.u?"

"Yes," Fang hissed, "the same."

"Which album?"

Fang quickly bit his tongue before how the hell am I suppose to know? Could fall out. Instead, he peered over the CD rack at Nudge, managing just to make out the name of the group and the words "wrong lane". Not to mention a very suggestive picture of the two girls.

"Something wrong lane." He reported.

Iggy muttered something very close to, "She just had to pick the lesbian album!"

"What?" Fang hissed, stepping on Iggy's foot sharply to remind him to keep his voice down.

"The first album was a gimmick set up by their manager. You know, the whole lesbian thing. They broke away from him for their second album." Iggy said with a roll of the eyes, as if this was all common knowledge. But it wasn't, because honestly that was news to Fang.

"So... their second album?" Fang said, choosing not the let his temper win.

Iggy laughed, "You'll never get Nudge to take that one! It's much less dance-pop than the first, A), and B), she's already got her heart set on this one."

He did have a point.

"So, what do we do?" Fang asked.

"We buy it for her and pray to god Max hasn't heard anything about them. Otherwise, Nudge is going to through a fit. And who knows, maybe she'll see something else before we leave."

Of course, that didn't happen. Though they claimed to be "just browsing", the trio was really trying to convince Nudge to give up the CD she had taken such a love to. It didn't happen, needless to say. Nudge was simply stubborn when it came down to things, and without some very pointed pushing (the type she would easily pick up on and then report to Max), she was not going to give up her dance-pop.

So, Fang took to praying while Iggy instead developed an odd habit of smirking whenever Nudge spoke.

When they'd finally tired themselves out looking at pop music and it seemed that they were ready to check out (one hour later, the damn store was so big) when Iggy suddenly grabbed his hand.

Seen anything?" Iggy asked, pulling him over by the wrist.

"Seen wha-, oh." Fang said, realizing what exactly what Iggy was asking, "No, not really. I mean, I haven't really been looking." Quickly, Fang did a sweep of the store, looking for anything that jumped out at him. Because he really didn't want to spend another hour walking around with Nudge on his heels, talking about silly tabloid news rumors. He hated to break it to her, but he wasn't at all interested in Britney Spears's marriage, and he really didn't give a damn about Paris Hilton and her little trifle with Nicole Richie.

There were a couple of cardboard cutouts around. One advertising the rapper 50 Cent's new movie soundtrack, and another advertising the British Invasion, neither really seemed all that interesting. For one thing, Fang really wasn't interested in rap music (read: he condemned it's horrible noise and it's sleazy, disgusting lifestyle), and for another, Iggy already had a fair collection of Bealtes CDs as it was, so he really didn't need to buy one. But, thankfully, he did see a third. This one was a rather large cut out of Sonny Moore. Apparently the band From First to Last had released a new CD, called Heroine.

"Actually," he said, as he did, he reached for Iggy's wrist to pull but instead, he found himself grasping Iggy's hand in his own. Fang really hadn't meant to, at least, he didn't think he had as far as he knew.

In any case, he blushed a bright shade of fuchsia with sheer embarrassment, which Iggy mirrored just as profusely, and the two immediately pulled away. The brunette cleared his throat nervously, and in response Iggy mumbled something to the tune of "I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to..."

Inadvertently as he did so, Fang scuffed the toe of his shoe against Iggy's, causing another great wave of choking awkwardness and embarrassed shame. They both bowed their heads and immediately shoved their hands in their pockets for fear of another moment of unenviable and awkward touch between the two.

Fang recalled that an official awkward silence was seven seconds or more long, at least according to Nudge. If that was true, they'd already had several.

"Th-there is something." Fang stuttered after a long moment and cleared his throat again, "Over here." He said, this time keeping a fair distance. Not that he didn't want to be near Iggy, it was that he couldn't trust himself around this best friend any longer.

"What is it?" Iggy asked, cautiously he reached his fingers out from inside his jacket and gently brushing his fingers against the jewel cases, though he was careful not to let his hands venture too far from his own body it seemed.

"From First to Last, it's their new album." Fang said, picking up one of the CDs and examining it for himself as a distraction from Iggy and their own troubles.

He had their first album, regrettably it was one of his five finger discounts. It was probably his second most played album at the time, the first being Guns and Roses's Appetite for Destruction. If you could wear out CDs, as far as Appetite for Destruction went, he'd very nearly done so.

"Heroine?" Iggy asked as he picked up a jewel case himself, analyzing it with his slender, pale fingers. From what Fang could gather, the blonde boy liked the album too, though knew that in Iggy's mind nothing was ever going to beat the Beatles. Fang liked the Fab Four well enough, but Iggy was bordering on obsession. All of his extra money (what little of it there was) went towards even more Beatles memorabilia. Albums, tee shirts, and the like. He had it all. Fang liked to listen to their CDs sure, but honestly, there had to be a point where you could put someone in the psych ward for this type of fandom. And if there was, Iggy had probably crossed it after the 700 page biography. Which Fang was still reading him, three months after he'd bought it. (Last Fang remembered, they were at page four hundred and sixty-seven. As one could imagine, running from maniac scientists didn't give one much time to read.)

"Yeah," Fang said, allowing himself ever so much to smile at the prospect of owning the album. But he couldn't help swearing when he saw the price, which was a mere twenty-three dollars. Quite a bit more jacked up than the original had been (at least, last he checked.) Which had been free to him, but fifteen dollars, ninety-eight cents for the average, law abiding citizen.

Twenty-three dollars wasn't that much, but pair it with a second CD and lunch for three, sixty dollars would be gone very, very fast.

"Twenty-three bucks," Fang added quietly.

"Well, the t.A.T.u. album is cheap," Iggy explained, Fang could see the cogs in his mind turning swiftly, numbers flying through his head. He was nearly a human calculator. "It's about twelve dollars, so that makes thirty-five bucks total. Well," He added, thinking it over, "with tax it's about thirty-seven, thirty-eight dollars. Not too bad, really."

But despite Iggy's assurance that it wasn't "too bad", Fang knew that meant they only had twenty-three for lunch. Only a little more than seven dollars per person, and what restaurant in New York sold anything for less than twelve or fourteen dollars per person? But, then again, street vendors were cheap, and Max was getting groceries anyhow.

"Don't you want anything?" Fang asked as he took the wad of cash from his pocket, "I mean, you're birthday's coming up too."

Iggy laughed, "Not for a while."

"December eighteenth." Fang recalled.

The Flock had all chosen their birthdays after escaping from the School with Jeb. They knew their approximate ages from their days at the school, where they were constantly separated by age. They knew Max was fourteen, and being that it was a Maxocracy, (the damn thing) she'd gotten (or rather awarded herself) first picks on birth dates. She'd chosen June (twenty-first) for her birth month, and from there Fang and Iggy had little choice. Fang had been forced into October (the sixth), and Iggy into December. Nudge, Gazzy and Angel had all had free range in their choice of birthday because no one else was their age. Nudge was February (sixteenth, she wanted it to coincide with Valentine's Day), Gazzy had April (twenty-fourth), and Angel had called January (the first).

Max's fifteenth birthday had already come and gone. They'd celebrated with what they had, cookies and a Barnes and Noble gift card (they hadn't any other idea what to get her). Max hadn't really minded, and in fact seemed to enjoy the gift card, but if the sixty dollars he was holding was any indication of their current financial status, then Fang suspected there would be some much bigger celebrations to come.

"See? Three months away, don't worry about it." Iggy said, brushing him of.

Fang decided then was the appropriate time to drop it, though he wasn't planning on forgetting Iggy's birthday by any means.

"What was that all about?" Nudge asked, as they returned to the check out. She'd been leafing through the latest edition of Teen People, which she seemed to be trying to signal to Fang that she wanted him to buy. Fang, of course, chose to ignore her. Unless she didn't want lunch, she wasn't going to get it.

"What was what about?" Fang asked as casually as he could, trying, trying very desperately, to hope that she wasn't referring to him and Iggy.

"Back there, you grabbed his hand and then you wouldn't look at him." Damn Nudge, she saw too much.

"Nothing, nothing at all."

Nudge frowned, "Fang, you're a horrible, horrible liar and you know that."

"Well, you're horrible at reading people. There was nothing going on over there."

Of course, they both knew that something had happened over there, but only one knew the nature of the encounter.

Iggy seemed to not be listening, and was instead standing to the side and humming, but Fang knew otherwise. He was tuned keenly into the conversation, listening quite intently to their every sound. It almost seemed as if he wanted to hear something specifically, but what Fang hadn't the foggiest of ideas.

"Come on, give me your CD." Fang said, walking up to the counter. Nudge obliged and handed him the CD, and Iggy slid Heroine in front of the cashier, who was a middle aged woman with bleached blonde hair and a stare that clearly read, "why are you even in this store?". After a second of staring at the trio, she reluctantly scanned both items, and read off the total. Thirty-eight dollars, just as Iggy had said. Fang handed her two twenties, and she made the appropriate change. It was a soundless encounter, as Fang could plainly see that she thought little of the group he saw no need to contradict such a thought.

They left the store quickly, Nudge complaining of hunger and Iggy making polite suggestions of restaurants along the way, with his fingers just grazing the small of Fang's back. Who really wasn't listening, and was instead thinking. He was thinking about Max, well, somewhat Max. Mainly, he was thinking about Iggy.

What was that about, back there? What had they been really saying? Fang couldn't help but wonder. If what they were doing, really wasn't just an awkward part of adolescence, but was something different. Something... more.

The trio sat down on a nearby bench to allow Nudge to examine her CD properly, and allow Fang and Iggy to share yet another awkward silence. There seemed to be a lot of those happening as of recently.

Nudge sat on the far end of the bench, Iggy in the middle, and then Fang, next to Iggy. The two uncomfortably shifted next to each other, neither daring to face the other. But they could both feel the electricity, the chemistry between them. And as their fingers brushed once more, it was undeniable, at least from Fang's perspective.

Fang, the strong, silent, stoic boy that he was, was falling for his best friend. And falling hard.

A/N: Sorry the update took so very, very long. But, to make up for that, it's quite a bit longer. Plus, this is probably one of my favourite chapters so far. And the one we've all been waiting for.

Also, I did make a referrence to several pop culture bands here (see disclaimer), including the band t.A.T.u. no offense was meant to either Lena, Julia, anyone involved in the band, or the fans.

5. Never the Same

A/N: The credit for the poem in this chapter goes to my beta, Shinigamihaku, who wrote it for me. Thank you!

And, before we go on, let me say my thanks to one other person. Anonymous. My dear reviewer friend who basically gave me the entire plot line for the last third of the story. Whoever you are, thank you so much. Your idea was far better than my original idea, and I hope I've done you justice.

Chapter V: Never the Same

It only took that one moment, that single revelation, for everything to fall in perspective for Fang. That Max, even as beautiful and alluring as she could be at times, would never cross the line of friendship with him. And, most importantly, that Iggy, wonderful, cheerful, artsy, best-friend Iggy, could be so much more than he already was.

Fang was terrified.

With that one tiny millisecond, everything seemed to change. At least, to Fang, He was about to quite possibly explode with the rush of foreign mixed emotions coursing through him, and to make it worse, the very person those feelings were for was sitting right next to him.

"Fang?" Iggy said, waving his hand before Fang's face wildly.

"Oh," Fang muttered, shaking the thoughts out of his head, "Sorry I kind of zoned out." He quietly took the CD from Nudge's hands and, as calmly as possible, placed it and the Virgin Mega Store bag in his back pack. After a long second of painstakingly zipping the pack up, he slowly stood and swung it on his shoulders. Nudge and Iggy both took the hint, though in very different manners.

Nudge took up her usual stance and began to rattle off a list of complaints. She was hungry, she was cold, she was tired, she was thirsty, and the whole world was simply against her. (Well, those weren't her exact words, merely Fang's interpretation. But it seemed close enough to her usual rants in any case.) Iggy simply stood and allowed his fingers to trail across Fang's belt, finally putting a finger through a belt loop after a long (at least, to Fang it had been long) minute. A shiver ran up Fang's spine, he'd never been one for touching, never. Back at the school, the only type of "touching" that he'd ever experienced had been the man handling variety. True, the television had shown happy families hugging and kissing and what not, but to Fang that'd always been part of "normal", something he could never be a part of. But now his anti-contact feelings were amplified times a thousand, because it was Iggy touching him... and, as much as he didn't want to admit it, this was exactly what he wanted.

"And I want chocolate," Nudge declared, "Really badly." Fang wondered when she'd become so spoiled.

"We'll get you some later," Iggy replied, his voice was soft. Softer than usual any how.

"I'm having a craving!" She cried dramatically, but she seemed to accept well enough that it simply wasn't going to happen, and reserved herself to pouting. Which Fang was quite glad for, considering that he had bigger problems to think of. Such as lunch, for instance. Twenty-three dollars...

"Hey! Fang! Iggy! Nudge!" Fang whipped around before he had a chance to properly think, and Iggy, unfortunately, had been nearly knocked off his feet. But Fang's assumption that the group was about to be chased/caught by a group of Erasers turned out to be wrong, as it was merely Max, Gazzy and Angel running their way with groceries in hand. Well, Angel was actually skipping, but that wasn't really important.

"Hey, I thought you guys were going to be longer," Iggy said, as Angel skipped around his legs quite happily holding Celeste in one arm, and Total's leash in the other. Of course, Total was not the world's most brilliant dog and his leash was very quickly tangling around Iggy's ankles.

"No," Max sighed in an irritated sort of way, "Gazzy accidently knocked over the coffee display. We got kicked out."

"I was only trying to get Total back!" He protested, sending an annoyed glare at Angel's little dog.

"Mmm-Hmm," Iggy replied, attempting to untangle Total's leash from his feet. Fang's fingers twitched, because his immediate reaction was to at least put a hand on Iggy's shoulder and keep him from falling over backwards, but at the same time, if he did...

"Total! Don't!" Angel cried, but the fuss she was making was only adding to the problem. At the moment, Fang was still struggling with his thoughts over the to-touch or not-to-touch idea, but Iggy settled that problem quite quickly, as one wildly flailing arm came to grip Fang's shoulder tightly.

Fang, seeing as he had no other option now, hesitantly knelt down and carefully began to untwist Total from Iggy, who still rested the tips of his fingers against Fang's shoulders for balance. After some very confusing moments and annoying barking, Fang had managed to untangle his friend from the mess at his feet.

"Thanks," Iggy said, clapping a hand on Fang's back in a friendly way.

"No problem," was Fang's vague response.

"Well, what are we going to do now?" Nudge whined, her mind was still obviously off in chocolate land.

Max shrugged, "Get something to eat, I guess."

"Good." Nudge nodded in approval.

Fang reached for the wad of twenty-three dollars, seeing as Max would probably want it back, but she brushed by him, seemingly banishing the thought of paying her back. Which seemed odd enough for Fang, but he took it quite well. Seeing as money was always welcome to find a home with him.

"Let's go," She said airily, and, because it was a Maxocracy, they had no choice but to follow.

And follow her they did, from the diner for lunch to the bookstore and onwards to Macy's. All sorts of places. Places that cost money. Money that seemed to simply appear from nowhere. But that was the least of Fang's problems.

For one, his coat was itchy. Very itchy. And his shoes were too small. He had a headache and... well, he couldn't really think of anything else right then. But there had to be something, he knew it...

There was a good point to the day though, a few actually. He got a full meal for once, a new pair of socks... and he almost pushed his growing crush on his best male friend out of his mind for a full three seconds.

At first, it'd only seemed a passing fancy. That maybe, just maybe, he liked Iggy. But then it slowly began to grow, with every touch, every word, it grew. Until it was completely undeniable that he'd either have to tell Iggy or explode. And he was rather tempted to let himself explode.

If he told Iggy, there were only a few things that could happen. 1) Iggy would hate him. 2) Iggy would ignore him. 3) Or perhaps he wouldn't hate or ignore him, and would only be slightly creeped out by him.

Then there was the ever elusive option number four. A slim chance Fang barely allowed himself to touch on... maybe Iggy felt the same. After all, they'd had such a nice chat the other night, and this morning-

He quickly pushed the foolish notion out of his head.


"Just a minute."

"Fang!" This time it was not a request, it was demanded of him. But he supposed that Iggy had some reason to be short with him, after all he'd hardly been paying any attention to his drawn out theory on the whitecoats and the CIA. Then again, he should have known better than to bother him when he was drawing.

Drawing was a hobby Fang had only recently found solace in, just because it was something that didn't seem to bother the whitecoats very much. He'd started with simple things, like fruit (it was what the kids on the TV did!) But eventually, an older doctor got sick of seeing his misshapen apples accumulating in the trash can, gave him a proper (though slightly old) art book that had once belonged to her daughter.

After he'd devoured it's exercises (though he had to admit the circle exercise had stumped him for a week straight) he'd moved on to anime. He'd seen a few cartoons of the style before, pokemon and what not, but he'd never really thought of doing that himself. Soon enough though, it became an addiction. Everyday from three-thirty to five he would plop himself down in front of the TV and copy whatever character appeared to him on the small screen. It was currently four-thirty-five and the only reason he wasn't sitting in front of the TV was that Max was busy watching a General Hospital marathon in the interns' room, which was the only TV they could ever manage to sneak in to see.

Seeing as it was four-thirty-five (actually four-thirty-seven) Fang considered that he had no obligation to listen, as it was still technically his time. All the same, ignoring one's best (and sometimes only) friend was not an activity he was keen in engaging in.

"Yes?" He said impatiently, pursing his lips in a displeased way. Both over the interruption and his crappy drawing skills.

"Did you hear me?"

"Quite so."

"No you didn't."

"I did!"

"Then what'd I say?"


"Before that, idiot."

"Oh, I dunno."

"See! You weren't listening."

"I was, just not to that."

Iggy sighed, "Anyways, I want you to do something for me tomorrow."

"And what would that be?" Fang asked, stealing a glance at his portrayal of Max as an anime character.


"Sorry." He mumbled, putting the drawing away partially to prove he was listening and partially because it was extremely hard to resist drawing a moustache on Max and calling it a day.

"Tomorrow... could you bring me my book?" His face blushed fuschia as he made the request.

Fang looked at him quizzically, "Why? It's not test day or anything. We're not going anywhere."

"Well, you're not," Iggy mumbled, looking down at his socks, "But... tomorrow's the third."

Fang swore loudly. The third. It was the damn third tomorrow, how could he forget?

A month earlier, the director and his wife had come down. Usually their visits were saved for huge events, new experiments, horrible deaths, illness, unexplained side effects of new medicine. Usually just the bad stuff. But last month had actually been going pretty well for Iggy, Fang and Max. No one'd gotten sick or hurt, none of the tests had gone wrong. Nobody died that they knew of. So it'd been very perplexing to see them.

The director was an unusually somber man, preferring the company of a computer and a beaker to his own wife. But the woman herself was much different, she'd often come with gifts abound (he supposed that was why he didn't bring her very often) and would chat idly with each and every one of them. Comment on how much they'd grown, how smart they were getting. She was a bit like a grandmother (or what Fang thought a grandmother ought to be like) in a way.

In any case, she'd flown right to their room whilst her husband took his traditional tour of the facility. She'd cooed over Max's lovely honey-blonde hair, Iggy's quick wits and his own strength before presenting them each with several large, wrapped presents. (Little did he know at the time, but it'd actually been Christmas.) Max had immediately dug into hers, finding beneath the pretty blue and gold paper a set of classic books. Call of the Wild, The Chronicles of Narnia, the list was positively endless. Needless to say she was thrilled.

But she also found, to her delight, a small, handheld gaming system. Nothing really too fancy, in fact it was probably a few years old, but she loved it nearly as much as the books. She was also blessed with new clothes of all sorts (always a thrill, anything new, from the outside world portrayed in the little television box they worshiped was priceless), and a stuffed bear, which she thanked her for and quietly set aside. Max had never been one for girly treasures such as stuffed animals, dolls or makeup.

Fang himself had received a book on the manga drawing style (and thank god for it), a set of Nerf sports balls ("Not to be used in the halls!"), new clothes (his own had grown so small that an intern had taken pity on him and brought him some from the Good Will the month before) and a stuffed elephant. There seemed to be a trend there- with the stuffed animals. All the same, he did like the book and the sports balls. Even if they were just nerf.

What took the cake though, was his larger present, which was most unexpected, turned out to be a playstation. Not just the system, but the games as well. An entire set. And it was new too! Seeing his excitement and confusion, the director's wife (whose name was Roxanne, but they hardly ever called her that except when she was in the room) politely explained that it'd be their duty to share their bigger presents with each other. But she needn't have said that, they already knew that was coming. And it would be their delight to, in any case.

Iggy, who had been polite enough to remember his manners and thank her graciously before tearing in, had been blessed (and cursed) with the pattern set before, the new clothes (Iggy's hadn't even fit him in July, he was getting much too tall) and the stuffed animal. His was a dog, but he didn't seem to be too bothered by it. If he hadn't known any better, Fang might have said he liked it.

Iggy also received a set of books, not quite as grand as Max's, but they were books all the same. The first four installments in the Harry Potter series (Fang now wondered how Iggy had lived without them before. He devoured the entire series in less than two weeks,) as well as The Lord of the Rings box set and a few non-fiction books on ancient civilizations. On the inside cover, they all had his name spelt across it in grand calligraphy. Which surely said "These are yours, and yours alone". That Christmas he also received his first CD. A catalogue of Elvis's greatest hits. His large present was, to their delight, a keyboard. Not an expensive one, mind you, but a keyboard with a piano book. He could positively see Iggy's fingers itching to play it.

They could easily see the books played to their strengths at the time. Fang was thought to be the stronge, jock type (hence the sports balls), Max was to be the intelligent one, and Iggy was... well Iggy really didn't have a very clearly defined role in the group at the time. He was Iggy, and that was it.

Before the group had proper time to gush over the lavish gifts, the director had come, completely spoiling the joy of the day.

He came with several whitecoats at his call, armed with various papers and test results. They pointed out Iggy, clearing saying that it was him they were looking for.

Eventually, they came to learn that Roxanne and her husband were there to scout out a subject for a new experiment. The experiment? Night vision surgery.

The group had their vision tested before, Fang was apparently rather short sited, and Max only slightly far sited, and Iggy had perfect 20/20 vision. Making him, the ideal candidate for the surgery. So the date was set, for the third of February.

Iggy rolled his eyes at Fang's slur, "Could you just bring me the Lord of the Ring's book? Please? I really want to finish it."

Fang smiled, "No problem."


The brunette boy turned with a start, and he could have sworn his heart skipped a beat as his eyes fell upon Iggy, the very person he'd set out to hide from.

He'd spent the last two hours or so on the rooftop, trying to sort out his feelings and turning out useless speeches he knew he could never say to a person. He was trying to think of the words that said, "I really like you, and I think I might be falling for you, so if I'm acting weird, that's why." Except... not as awkwardly. Or stupidly for that matter.

The thing was, he couldn't lead Iggy on thinking everything was just as normal as they'd ever been, because if/when he found out he'd probably be somewhat distraught. They shared a bed for god's sake!

Taking a deep breath. Fang managed to bring his pulse back to an acceptable rate, and checking in his feelings once more. Transforming into the stoic boy the rest of the Flock knew him as, he could finally face Iggy without feeling the urge to kiss him. So, he turned to him and said, in a somewhat mono-toned voice:

"Yes." It came out more as a statement than a question. And a lot harsher than he'd meant it

"Just wondering what you're doing!" Iggy said defensively, sensing a slight edge in Fang's voice. The smaller boy gave a slight wince at the sound of the hardness in his own voice that Iggy couldn't see. He quietly made a mental vow to soften his tone before speaking again, remembering this was Iggy, not Max he was speaking to.

"Sorry," he said quickly, "I'm just..."

He trailed off, what was he, anyways? He didn't even know! How could he possibly even begin to tell Iggy what he was feeling, if he didn't even know himself? That was when the realization started, the realization he was in over his head, and that he couldn't even begin to understand his own feelings, and that Iggy would be even less likely to understand.

That was it then, he couldn't tell him. Not now, not until-

"Stressed?" Iggy offered, his pale white hand seemed to glow in the moonlight as it gently fell on Fang's shoulder. But before Iggy could take a step closer he stepped away, pulling his arms tightly to his chest and shuddering an icy cold gust of wind ran through the air.

"I... I have to go," he said quietly, taking another step backwards, broken glass crunching under his boots as he did so.

"Fang," Iggy said, taking another step closer, "What's wrong? Please, tell me."

I want to so badly... He thought to himself, pulling his coat even tighter around him.

"You won't even talk to me anymore. It's like you're avoiding me."

Only for your own happiness. He shook his head, how could he possibly understand?

"Fang..." he paused, and shaking his head put his hands on Fang's arms, "Just forget what I said, okay? I didn't mean to... to upset you."

"I'm not upset!" Fang said defensively, as his brain seemed to turn on auto-pilot. Forgetting this was Iggy, who seemed like his only true friend in the world. Instead, he found himself twisting away, trying to escape his grasp, but Iggy's hands were firm, and he refused to let go. Fang was thankful for that.

"No, I suppose you're not, but come on, Fang, just forget it, please?" his voice was somewhat stern, but there was the same, light edge that made Iggy who he was.

"Fine," he said, his voice still simmering. He turned his head away, "forgotten."

"Good," Iggy's voice had suddenly turned quiet and breathy, so Fang had to strain to hear him over the hustle and bustle of the city below, "Can I ask you a favor?"

"Anything," Fang found his voice mirrored Iggy's own breathy softness.

"Could you... perhaps write something down for me?" Fang felt a sigh of relief reach his lips as Iggy said so. This was a common thing for the two of them. Iggy, being his artistic self, he always had something going through his head, a song, a story, a poem, sometimes even a vision of some sort of masterpiece. He'd yet to share his vision of an artist masterpiece or the great American novel, though Fang knew he had many, mainly they kept to song and prose. Prose really, seeing as Fang's limited knowledge on how to read music had faded since childhood and the odds of him being able to carry any sort of tune were greatly outnumbered.

Fang had almost forgotten about their little ritual, it'd been so long. Not since the day they'd moved into the filth hole, a month, maybe two ago, had Iggy asked such a favor of Fang. He could have asked the other Flock members, true. But that was unlikely. Gazzy and Angel were too young to be able to fully appreciate such a thing. Nudge was too noisy, she'd break in with her own opinions and chatter on with questions that would eventually grow tiresome. A nuisance, if anything. Max was too stern, too busy. She had little time to spare, and even if she had time to spare it was unlikely that she would take Iggy as seriously as need be. She was flippant about most things to do with other's feelings.

No, Fang was the ideal candidate for such a thing. Iggy would not take anything less, at least, in Fang's mind.

"Of course," Fang said, "do you want to sit or something?"

"Sure," Iggy said, pulling a small notebook from his back pocket, and a rather dismal looking yellow #2 pencil. It was the same notebook that they had used all those months before, when they'd last met like this on top of a sky scraper. The pencil was new, or rather old, but newly found. Not that it made much of a difference.

Though reluctantly, Fang took Iggy's hands in his own and lead him towards the ledge, where he'd earlier placed a small, somewhat ragged blanket he'd stolen from below and brought up for his own protection against the cold (he'd planning to be up there for quite some time), though now he found it useful for another purpose.

"But," Iggy said, as they sat down on the cold concrete next to each other, "there are a few conditions."

"Oh... okay, then," Fang said, taking the notebook in his hands quietly and flipping to a clean page. There'd never been conditions before, it'd always been simply I talk, you write. Was he trying to stop Fang from spreading his words? Or was it something else? He wondered.

"Please... don't interrupt, okay?" No problems there, he never did.

"And don't ask questions, at least until I've finished." Once again, no problem.

"One last thing, though, Fang. You can't leave until I finish, okay?"

"Of course!" he was insulted at the thought Iggy would think he'd do so.

"Thank you," Iggy smiled, pulling himself closer to Fang, who shivered a bit at the feel of Iggy's hand brushing against his thigh, but did not protest nor abide his urge to move away.

"No problem," Fang said, squinting at the paper so he could properly see what he was writing. Thank god for enhanced bird vision.

"Okay," Iggy said, taking a deep breath, "here goes...

In this darkness I cannot see
Anything that truly would make it seem
As if one of the words you say is true
And as my heart beats faster for you
We grew together in a forbidden place
My heart a flutter at the sounds you make
I wish you were mine
But it may not be
I wish that you could only see
For if you were as blind as me
It would be as bright as day
In the way I walk with you
And the words I say
The colors of your voice
And the sounds of your wings
So soft and tranquil
And hidden meanings
I want to touch you
And hold you through these difficult times
But you heart does not beat as mine
And you may never know the truth
What I say I mean to you Fang
With this noose around my neck
My words will make me hang
For my love for you is far greater
Than the world."

"I..." Fang stuttered as he penned the last word. He must have heard wrong, because unless he was mistaken (and damn, he probably was,) Iggy just... said he loved him...

No, no... that was right...

Iggy just said he loved me.

"I don't know what to say," his voice squeaked, his face becoming flushed partially from excitement over Iggy's feelings, and partially from the embarrassment of his own loss for words.

"Then don't say anything," the blonde whispered. With that said, he leaned over and gently pressed his mouth against Fang's.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

6. He and Him

A/N: This chapter is meant to take place some miscellaneous amount of time after the last, I give no specifics and instead leave it up to the reader.

Chapter VI: He and Him

For a night in the city, this one was unusually peaceful. The sky was a tranquil indigo blue, with hazy purple clouds covering the stars above. The noise was down to an unusually low dull roar, and the rain (which had been going on for days at a time, pouring without a pause) seemed to be at peace with the rest of the world. Nights like these were to be savored, they were rare in New York. And most New Yorkers did their best to do so.

Save perhaps Fang and Iggy.

At the moment, Fang was in a bitter battle with his own dreamland, thrashing about madly, and panting in an out of breath way that suggested strenuous exercise, not simply your garden variety nightmare.

Iggy, on the other hand, was doing his best to make himself as small as possible, trying to avoid Fang's flailing limbs. In a few moment's time, he knew the dream would climax and Fang would wake up, in a terrified cold sweat. Until then, it was the best he could do to try and stay out of the way.

These night terrors were becoming increasingly common, three or four times a week even. Every time they were the same, precisely three minutes, eighteen seconds in length (as far as Iggy could tell.) It also followed a strict pattern of moaning and panting throughout. Which- to an untrained ear- sounded more like... well, use your imagination!

And, in any case, only three words were spoken by the brunette during the whole dream. "No", "please" and "Iggy".

So far, Fang had told him little about these dreams. He only knew that the entire Flock supposedly died. Though somehow he found that hard to believe with the way the other boy called out his name. Or perhaps they all did die, and he was merely reacting to Iggy's death more emotionally. It was quite possible.

"Ah!" Fang's voice suddenly gasped for breath on the other side of the bed as the dream ended, and with the end of the dream, the night quickly became silent again, save the sound of the other boy's panting for breath.

Despite himself, Iggy let out a low sigh of relief. He was glad this was over, it was not the most delightful experience to be nearly attacked by a sleeping person. Especially someone like Fang, much stronger than he. Also, one who you'd never suspect to have such trifles.


Without warning the taller boy felt Fang's cheek pressed against his collarbone, and his arms wrapped around him tightly. They were both silent in the embrace, not wanting to wake any of the other Flock members who weren't already aroused by Fang's dream. But all the same, Iggy did get the impression this particular terror had been a bad one. Judging by the way Fang had refused to separate himself from Iggy since waking, and how his breath had still not settled as it usually did within the first few moments of his waking.

He knew it'd be best if they got some chance to talk about this alone, and as soon as possible. But at the same time, they couldn't wake everyone else, especially Max, without taking the risk of making some fearful scene. Max would likely want to squeeze every detail out of the dream that Fang had, and that probably included why it was only Iggy's death that got such a reaction out of him; not the others. Right now, the two weren't ready to explain that part of it. Or at least, Fang said he wasn't.

Iggy was honestly all for telling them, being open and honest about it all, but Fang... well, for some reason he seemed wary of it. Iggy supposed he'd have to talk to him about that too, if they ever were to tell the rest of the Flock about their little secret.

"Fang," he whispered softly as Fang's breath started to even out, "is anyone else awake yet?" He felt Fang's body move away from him, if just for a moment, to glance around the rest of the shack. Though he quickly pulled himself closer once again.

"Not," the other boy panted as his breath finally seemed to settle, "that I know of."

"Good," Iggy replied, pulling away just enough for a clear shot at Fang's lips, which he kissed both affectionately and reassuringly, "let's go up then, shall we?"

"Mmm-Hmm," was all that could be heard from Fang. He still sounded a bit shell shocked from whatever had been going on inside his head the minute before. But Iggy knew how to fix that, or at least aide in fixing it.

"C'mere," he whispered roughly and kissed Fang again, but this time, much harder. Fang seemed a bit surprised at first, but quickly relaxed and let the tension in his muscles slip away.

"Better?" Iggy asked when they broke apart.

"Definitely," Fang's second whispered reply was more assured than his little "mmm-hmm" from before.

"That's what I thought," the blind boy said as he quietly rolled out of bed, doing his best not to disturb the coils in the mattress too much and thereby waking the Flock with it's loud squeaking.

Silently, Fang took his arm and pulling him through the darkness. Over the years he'd gotten better at this sort of thing, and by now he was nearly a pro at it. If leading a blind kid around was an Olympic sport, Fang would have definitely gotten silver. (Iggy was forced to deduct a point, remembering the day before when they'd both nearly walked into traffic.)

"You first," Fang said as the cool night air whirled around the two of them. Despite himself, Iggy shivered. It was getting colder everyday it seemed, and soon, there would be snow. Or sleet at the least, then what would they do? The old warehouse surely wasn't built for that sort of thing, and they really did not have money to rent an apartment of any sort. Well, scratch that, actually.

Lately, they seemed to have come into a lot of wealth. Wealth no one could explain, save Max, who put herself in charge of finances. Fang had often expressed wonder at the feat, and Iggy had to try very hard not to spill Max's secret.

A week ago he'd woken up to the shifting of trash bags, and a few choice words flying from Max's mouth. She, with her heightened senses, knew right away when she was being watched, and that making excuses were not going to help the situation.

The fact was, Max had been looting. Not only the things in (and on top of) the warehouse, but from abandoned cars and apartments. Not unlike a street rat. Apparently she'd been making good money in it too, selling everything from fake Rolex's to old vanities.

She'd made him swear not to tell, seeing as she didn't want the younger children to get any ideas, and she wouldn't dare darken her image in Fang's eyes. (Not her exact words, but a good guess on Iggy's part.)

So, then again, maybe an apartment was possible.

The blonde was tempted, once again, to slip Max's secret to Fang, but remembering Max's tone of voice (border lining desperation and mental breakdown) clamped his mouth firmly shut, knowing there'd be a time in the future, and instead obliged Fang, and wrapping his fingers tightly around the rusted metal and meticulously began to climb the rickety ladder. Shortly after, he heard Fang follow.

When the two had reached the top, he felt Fang's hands take his own, "I'm sorry about putting you through this," Fang said, the rise in the volume of his voice was a good hint that he was slowly getting back to his usual, stoic ways, "must be awful to have my pathetic whimpering wake you up every night."

"On the contrary," Iggy was about to say, "I'd have it that way every night," but thinking it may have been a bit too forward at the time instead said, "I don't mind at all."

"Shut up," Fang said flatly, "You're nice Iggy, but you're not a saint."

Had he not been in the middle of a yawn, Iggy would have laughed.

"But I'm close." He managed at the tail end of the yawn.

"Closer than some people." Maximum Ride, for instance, Iggy thought to himself. Her temper was becoming notoriously short with each passing day.

The two sat next to each other somewhat peacefully for a time. Just sitting. Not talking, not laughing, just relaxing. It almost felt like they were back at the School.

"Fa-ang!" Max whined loudly, "Wa-ait!"

She sounded amazingly like the future Nudge, whom none of them knew at the time.

"Hurry up!" had been Fang's hasty reply. The three of them were sneaking into the staff room to watch television, it was three o'clock in the morning, and they were running all the good cartoons at the time.

"We're gonna miss it!" her moan was no less than annoying, no more than fretful. As she caught up with the two, Iggy could see a worried grimace across her face. She didn't want to get caught. She knew what would happen if they did. After all, she'd been caught out at night (chasing after a winged lab rat who'd passed her door) only the month before. She still had the scars to prove it.

"Don't worry," the blonde boy said reassuringly. He wasn't sure if he meant that they wouldn't miss it, or that they wouldn't get caught, but either way her frown eased up, if only by a little.

"C'mon!" Fang hissed, motioning at the door for the other two to follow. The guards would be coming around in precisely two and a half minutes, at 3:14. They'd memorized their time schedule the week before, carefully counting the seconds between each time they passed their room.

Iggy and Max both hurried after, not wanting to get caught or miss their chance at "Scooby Doo".

When they came to a skidding halt at the door, Max handed him a bobby pin she'd swiped off of an intern (she wouldn't dream of using them herself.) Careful not to make too much noise Iggy gently pushed it into the lock and gave it a few jiggles. He'd watched a female intern use this approach to break into the storage room when she'd locked her key inside.

"Let's go!" he said, cracking open the door just enough for three mutant kids to pass through.

Max hadn't stayed for more than five minutes before turning back, obviously the whitecoats' message had been strong enough to impale on her sense of adventure. Which left just Fang and Iggy, neither of whom were going to turn back until 4:38 AM, when the night guards switched with the morning guards. Then, they'd have the best chance of sneaking back, and they'd also have gotten in a little over a full hour of television.

Neither of them spoke since entering the room, partially so they would be able to keep the volume down, and partially because they didn't need to.

They were best friends, and they had a language of their own.

"What happens when I dream?" Fang said thoughtfully after a moment, breaking into Iggy's little flashback.

"Who what?" he replied, not having heard Fang correctly the first time, his head still stuck in the School. And his sight.

If there was anything possibly more annoying than being blind, it was remembering- and dreaming- with sight. Because in his head he could still see everything. If it was described to him he could make a picture of it, sure. But that was more or less like guess work. He didn't know if it was real or not. Memories on the other hand, those weren't guess work. He knew memories had happened, he'd seen them happen. Back before the darkness enclosed him, back before they'd escaped from the school.

Unfortunately, though, memories faded. While there were some things he could see in his head, clear as day, there were always certain missing pieces. Little chunks of his memory that he'd lost over time.

One of the worst things were people's faces. He was pretty good with profiles. The shapes of people's noses, the length and colour of their hair, etc. But he always had trouble with seeing people's faces straight on. Just plainly looking at them. Whenever he'd try to conjure up Max or Fang in his imagination looking at him head on (he'd only met Nudge and Gazzy slightly before his surgery, and Angel after, therefore he couldn't remember their faces as well, if at all) he'd find there were pieces missing. Max's eye colour, for instance, was a big problem. He remembered quite clearly they were green, but it was the shade the was the problem. Bottle green or blue-green? Bright or dull? As minor as it seemed, these problems continued to irk him.

He supposed if there were anyone he'd like to see though, it'd be Fang. Gazzy had described for him his New York makeover well enough, but it just had trouble putting it with his picture of nine-year-old Fang. In his mind, Fang still had his round, boyish face and big, watery brown eyes, but he knew Fang had grown up since then, and that his picture was quite wrong.

"What happens when I dream?" Fang repeated, a touch slower this time and with more diction.

"I still don't understand what you mean," Iggy said, running the words over in his head. What does he mean "what happens when I dream?" How the hell should I know? I'm not the one dreaming!

"Like, do I talk in my sleep or anything?"

Oh, that.

"Not really," Iggy said slowly, "you get pretty violent though." He bit his tongue immediately after saying it, violent? What the hell had come over him?

"Violent?" Fang seemed to be thinking along the same lines as his blind counterpart.

"You know, you toss and turn a lot," Not to mention swing a few good punches.

"Do I ever..." Fang paused as he chose the words, "hurt you?"

He seemed to be on a mind reading streak.

"Well... I do a fair job dodging," Iggy said slowly, knowing Fang would come down hard on himself either way.

"God, Iggy," Fang said, Iggy felt his body stiffen slightly as Fang's arms wrapped around his shoulders. That, he hadn't been expecting. Fang was not one to initiate touching usually. He was more of the standoffish sort, even when the two were alone.

"I'm sorry," he said, his hair brushing Iggy's cheek, "I didn't realize-"

"Don't worry about it," Iggy said reassuringly as he, in turn, wrapped his arms around the shorter boy. In a selfish way, Iggy almost enjoyed Fang's night terrors. Well, not the terrors themselves, but Fang's reaction afterwards. He was always more gentle, and vulnerable afterwards, more real than during the day, when he put up a stoic mask for the rest of the group.

Yes, Iggy decided, going over his own thought pattern, that was very selfish of him.

"But, Fang," he said, taking a deep breath and preparing for the worst, "I'd like to know... what are these dreams about, exactly?"

The brunette sighed- as if he'd been expecting this for some time- hugging Iggy even closer.

"I suppose I should tell you. After all, you've got to deal with it as much as me." He was quiet for a second, before picking up again.

"I've got to say there are some parts I still don't understand. And some parts I don't even remember." Iggy said nothing, realizing this was probably another one of Fang's tactics for avoiding the topic.

"Oh well, then," Fang sighed yet again, obviously seeing no way out of it.

"It starts out when I'm walking through this long hallway in the School, and there are all these doors, but they're closed and dark on the inside. Obviously locked on the inside. Except the door at the end has a light on, and I hear voices from it."

Of course, Iggy thought sarcastically to himself, don't all nightmares seem to start out that way?

"Well, when I reach the end of the hall there's really nothing to do but open it. When it's like the whole world kind of shifts and all of a sudden I'm in the middle of this white room. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, everything is white.

"To the right side, there are four gurneys lined up right next to each other. There's a white sheet over them, with a bulge like a body underneath and as I take a step closer I can see that it's them- Max, Nudge, Gazzy and Angel. They all have their eyes closed, and they're not breathing. It's like they're dead.

"I turn around," he could hear Fang gulping, as it seemed emotion had finally caught up with him, "and instead of the white wall that was there before, there's this sort of half wall. The top half is glass, so you can see in, and the bottom is plain old plaster. And inside there's Jeb, and he's standing over an operating table."

His voice turned, suddenly having less of a mono-toned quality to it, "Iggy, you're on the operating table."

Iggy couldn't help it, he felt a shiver run up his spine. The last thing he ever remembered seeing was the inside of the O.R. at the school, with Jeb, a big, doofy grin on his face standing over him.

"So, he's stand there looking at all these machines, like heart monitors and stuff. Then he stands over a table, looking at all the scalpels and stuff, like he's trying to decide what to use."

"That's when I see Ari, normal three-year-old kid Ari come into the room. He walks over to Jeb and starts to talk to him. After a second, the slime ball points at me, which is weird cause he didn't even look at me before. And then cute lil' kid Ari turns into big, scary Eraser wolf-man Ari.

"Then, the room starts to turn again, and it's just Ari chasing me through a forest, kind of like the one in Colorado, and I can hear him calling my name from behind me. But I don't look back, and instead I keep running. But then, I hear you, your voice calling after me. I turn around, and the last thing I see is you," Fang swallowed again, "falling over dead."

Ouch, Iggy thought to himself, that had to hurt.

"Are you okay?" he asked after a moment, for lack of a better thing to say.

"Yeah," Fang's voice cracked ever so slightly, "I'm fine."

"Listen," Iggy said firmly, as he pulled Fang's hands into his own, "don't ever think about it again."


"The less you think about it, the less likely you'll have it again," Iggy explained, it was a flat out lie he'd made up off the top of his head, but hey! It sounded logical, it even kind of made sense. And anyway, he knew neither of them wanted to think about it anymore.

Fang gave another little "mmm-hmm" (this time with more confidence and less weakly) but said nothing. Then Iggy could hear him swallow once again. As if he were going to say something. But he didn't, and instead Iggy could feel his lips against his cheek.

"I love you", Iggy was tempted to say, but bit his tongue against his will. He'd said it to Fang about... oh, half a dozen times maybe. Including the poem. But Fang had never returned the favor.

Iggy wasn't hurt by it, though, as other people might be. He knew perfectly well Fang at least felt something for him, the dream was proof enough. But he also knew that perhaps Fang wasn't ready to say it. Or ready to accept he felt it.

Iggy was, though. Because truthfully, he'd loved Fang for a long time. Since they were six years old, even. Not in the way he did now, of course, but he'd loved him all the same. They'd been best friends, and even then he'd known that you could love your best friend. And so he had, quite fiercely.

Now, though, things were changing, and the difference between best friend love and love love were becoming quite evident.

"Hey," the blonde said after a moment, breaking the long silence, "have you ever..." he paused, thinking of the best distraction for them to discuss. Because honestly, they needed it.

"Have you ever.. thought about what you were going to do after this gets over?" It was a question he'd actually been meaning to ask Fang for sometime, and everyone else for that matter. It was also a question he'd thought about thoroughly himself, having nothing better to do during long, sleepless nights.

"After what gets over?" Fang asked blankly.

"You know, the whole save the world, find out parents, defeat the Erasers phase Max seems to be going through right now."

"Oh, that."

"Yeah... well, have you ever thought about it?"

"Honestly? No. But! I suppose, excusing school-"

"Obviously," Iggy added before he could help himself. They were smart kids, true, but it was unlikely they'd be accepted in any type of school that he could think of. College? If, by some off chance, they managed to squeeze in a GED, the ACT and the SAT between stomping on Eraser skull, maybe. But just plain highschool? No way in hell.

"Then maybe I'd join the airforce." He felt Fang's shoulder rise and fall in a shrug.

Iggy cringed inwardly at the thought of his friend in uniform. His current picture of mismatched nine-year-old Fang with fourteen-year-old Fang haircut in uniform looked very, very wrong. "Why?"

"It seems to follow the same general scheme, defeat the evil, save the innocent, etc." Yet another rise and fall of the shoulder.

"Yes... but..." Iggy trailed off, realizing he had no idea what to say.

"But what?"

"Don't you think we'll miss you?" Iggy asked hopelessly. Really, what he meant was something like, if you die I don't know what the heck I'm suppose to do with my life.

"Well..." Obviously Fang hadn't thought of this, "it's not like I'd be gone all the time."

Iggy sighed, recognizing a circular conversation on the horizon, "Just don't get yourself killed, okay?"

"I'll try," And Fang, for the first time since the discussion of his dream came up, laughed.

"Good, because I'm not going to be stuck with Max and Total for the rest of my life."

"Hmm," (This "hmm" was more thoughtful than the feeble "mmm-hmm".) Fang paused, "what are you going to do?"

"I dunno," Iggy sighed at his half lie, "maybe work in music."

"Like, performing? Iggy and the Iggettes?"

"No! I mean like... producing music." Truthfully, it wasn't "like producing music" at all. It was producing music. He'd thought about it, he'd thought about it a lot. Music was one thing that really didn't require sight. All you had to do is listen and play.

But performing, no matter how much he loved it, was a dangerous thing. There were trends, people got shelved once their particular trend was over. Production, on the other hand, was different, as long as there were artists, and there always would be, they'd need producers. It was simple.


"You have no idea what I'm talking about."

Fang didn't even try to protest, "None."

"Just like I know nothing about the airforce."


Iggy sighed, he could envision their future. Fang would drop bombs on Middle Eastern countries for a living, and he'd work with melo-dramatic pop stars. What a glamourous life.

He felt Fang's lips press against his own once more, and he couldn't help but wonder, why were they doing this? And what was this?

They obviously had feelings for each other, feelings strong enough to give Fang nightmares and wake Iggy up in the middle of the night to help him banish them. But what did it mean? Were they... having a relationship, in some weird way?

Boyfriend and boyfriend, even?

Honestly, he felt like they were. They were sleeping in the same bed for one thing, not to mention their tendency to spend as much time with each other as possible, talking and hugging and kissing. This obviously wasn't normal behavior, even for two people in their positions.

"Fang," he asked after a moment, "what are we?"

"Fang and Iggy," another shrug.

"No," Iggy said in a slightly irked way, "what are you and I? Like... you know, together?"

He could hear a small noise come out of Fang's mouth, as if he was going to say something then thought the better of it.

After a paused, he said, quite firmly, "Yes, we are."

Fang's words shocked Iggy, because honestly he hadn't been expecting them. He'd been expecting more of an ambiguous answer, the kind one usually got from Fang, but instead he'd gotten almost exactly what he'd wanted (and probably needed) to hear. Amazing. A break through, even.

"Another thing," Iggy could almost feel Fang cringe as he spoke again, "And not to sound pushy or anything, but when can we... y'know, tell them?"

This time, Fang's loss for words was much longer, and more drawn out.

"Ig, I don't know if they're ready to hear it.

"If I'm ready to tell them," he added momentarily.

Had Iggy been in the mood to tease, he would have praised his usually stoic friend for identifying a feeling other than annoyance, anger or boredom, but seeing as he wasn't, he did the only thing he could do, he pulled Fang closer and kissed his hair softly.

"I love you." He whispered quietly as the sounds of New York filled his ears.

Fang said nothing.

A/N: Things should go a lot faster now, I've revised my chapter plan and I think we can finish by chapter eighteen. (Not to mention I've got three already written chapters. Yay for vacations!) Plus, things are definitely going to pick up as far as action goes. There'll be a big event in the next chapter, guaranteed to leave you hanging.

I'm also going to be replying to reviews now, just before I update my chapter. Because otherwise I forget whom I already replied to and get very confused. Thanks, though, guys! You're definitely motivating me to write more!

7. Into Darkness

Chapter VII: Into Darkness

"Fang!" Max's voice was sharp and harsh, though the brunette couldn't imagine what had gotten her so worked up. It seemed a perfectly quiet morning, at least, from his particular point of view.

"Five more minutes," he moaned, rolling onto his side and doing his best to block out both the light from his eyes and Max's voice from his ears. He'd been dreaming, pleasantly this time. About flying with Iggy. It was quite a change from his usual nightmares, and a welcome one at that.

Max needed to learn to appreciate quiet morning, not ruin them. Why couldn't she just go back to sleep and mind her own business? Or was this an estrogen thing he didn't know about? Wake everyone up simply because you can't get back to sleep? It'd better not be, because honestly, there was nothing Fang wanted more than to curl up in Iggy's arms and go back to his quiet dreaming.

The blonde girl groaned in an annoyed way at Fang's seemingly innocent protest and slapped him upside the head, "Erasers!" she hissed angrily, not unlike a snake.

"Holy shit!" he swore, shooting upright. The first thing that crossed his mind, How could this have happened? It seemed impossible! They hadn't seen nor heard for an Eraser or the School since the day Ari died. Heck, they were almost starting to relax about the whole thing! But no, it seemed they'd spoken too soon. While they were relaxing, taking trips to the City and watching the days go by the School was watching them.

Obviously, they were getting sloppy. All of them. Whatever happened to "constant vigilance"? Watching your back? They'd grown so accustomed to the quiet life they'd completely forgotten why they weren't still living like hermits in Colorado, or like some type of second rate slaves in the School.

He felt his heart begin to race, even faster than usual, thinking of everything they had to lose. The younger ones' innocence, happiness, life itself! This was not good by any means.

Max rolled her eyes sarcastically before running to wake the younger ones, her expression obviously saying something along the lines of "shut up and don't talk that way." Fang could imagine his probably mirrored hers.

"Ig," Fang whispered, looking over to his left, where Iggy had been sleeping peacefully at his side the night before. But, he spoke to the air, because it seemed Iggy gotten up long before, and had been up for some time since then. He didn't know how he'd missed that, because usually the minute one of them woke up the other quickly followed. But now it seemed Fang had slept right through it.

He glanced over to his right, and saw the tall, blonde figure bent over Nudge, attempting to shake awake the sleeping girl. So far, his attempts seem to have been in vain.

"C'mon!" Max yelled at him, pulling Gazzy up out of bed. Fang realized he'd been sitting up in bed, staring at everyone else like an idiot for the past few moments, when he should have been helping Iggy and Max prepare for the Erasers to breech their door. Talk about out of practice.

Quickly, Fang hopped out of bed and shoved the mattress back into the couch. He checked in his emotions, as he should have done when he'd first woken up, and took a deep breath to slow his pulse, mapping out escape routes, plans for emergencies and running everything Jeb had ever taught him in his mind. Dammit, why was he so nervous?

Total, the annoying little pest he was, was running in circles barking and whining like some type of idiot dog. "Shut up!" Fang hissed, picking up the little dog and attempting to soothe it's clamor.

It was still hard to register, that this really was happening. The Erasers were storming their home (for lack of a better word.) Even in Colorado, they hadn't ambushed them at home, they'd gotten them when they went out. This was... well, somewhat disrespectful. Not that the Erasers were respectful in any manor, but this was certainly the crowning blow. Attacking them in their own home.

"Fang!" he turned around to the sound of his name a second time this morning, but this time instead of Max's angry glare he came face to face with a worried looking Iggy.

"What?" he asked, shooing Total towards the back door, hoping there weren't Erasers standing right outside the door waiting for the little dog. No matter how annoying Total got, he had to admit, he didn't want Angel's prized possession to end up as Eraser food.

"Don't just stand there!" He sounded scarily like Max at first, then Iggy's voice turned quieter, softer more like himself, "I heard them this morning, they're right down the street, lots of them and they're coming quickly."

Ah, Fang thought to himself, so that's why he was already up. Obviously, he'd been the one to warn Max about the Erasers, the blonde herself hadn't seen nor heard them. But, thankfully, she'd chosen to take Iggy's word. Though Fang found himself disappointed Iggy hadn't told him instead of the older girl.

"What d'you think they're going to do?" he asked, taking a step closer, he discreetly took Iggy's hand into his own. He was wondering if perhaps Iggy had been able to hear their plans for the attack. It was unlikely, of course, they'd probably been speaking in code, or at least muffled their voices somewhat. Still, if he had that would give them somewhat of an advantage over their Eraser foes. Or leastways make them more or less evenly matched.

"Kill," Iggy reported plainly, "Nothing out of the ordinary there."

"Does Max have a plan?" he wondered aloud.

"Get out as soon as possible."

"That makes sense." Fang nodded to himself, thankful she wasn't going to try to play hero like she usually did. Knowing, though, if the opportunity to avenge their years at the School arose she'd most likely take it.

"Amazingly, it does." Iggy seemed to be thinking along the same lines.

"But, don't just stand there, she'll have your head!" he said, urging him towards the doorway, mostly for show of course, trying to make sure Max wouldn't find a reason to head their way.

He then quietly added, "I've got to take the younger ones out now."

"Be careful," Fang warned, and discreetly squeezed his hand. He couldn't help feeling a bit like a mother hen, worried about Iggy and the rest of the Flock. Iggy mostly, of course, simply because of their closeness. All the same, he could imagine Max felt much of the same way. Seeing as she was self-appointed mother of the Flock.

"I'll try," Iggy said and his hand quietly slipped from Fang's own as he stepped off to get the younger ones and lead them out. And not too soon at that.

Crack! The sound was earsplitting, and the site was veritably horrifying as one huge Eraser paw came crashing through the boarded up front door.

Crack! Crack! The second two came without pause, one right after the other, with two bloodied fists sticking out of the door like some horrible decorative plaque. Bang! The door fell over loudly, then bounced back up as if the floor were made of rubber and not solid, cold concrete.

"Welcome to the party," the voice was a deep, rumbling growl of an Eraser, but the shrieks of delight were that of humans. Whitecoats, interns, and the bastard himself, Jeb Bachedler.

"No crashers allowed," that, of course, was Max. Her typical, tough sarcasm still reigned through even as she delivered a hard kick to the Eraser's stomach. But instead of falling over, wheezing and gagging, like they usually did, the Eraser grabbed her foot in either hand and gave it a good, hard twist.

"Ah!" she cried, pulling away and gingerly placed weight on the ball of her injured foot.

"Max! Run!" that was Gazzy, running towards her and pointing wildly at a small, bleeping machine he'd attached to the wall. Realizing they had no time, Fang and Max both turned and covered their face with their arms. Hoping to protect themselves from the explosion.

Boom! As usual, Iggy and Gazzy's homemade explosives went off without a hitch. Several whitecoats fell to their knees, coughing as they inhaled bits of brick and dust. The Erasers only spit the white chalky stuff out of their mouths before advancing forward.

"C'mon, sweetheart, we need to get you out of here," One thought crossed Fang's mind as Jeb spoke, you bastard.

"Shut up!" she yelled, punching an Eraser hard in the jaw with the crack of breaking bone.

Fang, who'd been busily throwing punches at a smaller Eraser the whole time, felt his breath catch as a furry hand landed on his shoulder.

"Move aside," Fang turned quickly before the voice could register with his mind, executing a quick chop to the Eraser's neck before he had time to recognize the face.

But when he did, time seemed to stop, Ari.

"I," Fang began, giving him a sharp kick in the ribs, "Thought," Fang's fist met Ari's neck, "You," fist to nose, "Were," foot to cheekbone, "Dead." fist to temple.

"You know what they say," Ari said casually, pushing his fist hard into Fang's stomach, "some things never die."

"Shame," Fang answered through gritted teeth, he closed his eyes shut, trying to block out the feeling of Ari's fist tearing into his organs. He took a deep, hard breath, and then uppercut Ari's jaw so hard his neck nearly snapped again.

As Ari started to fall back he flailed his arms wildly, his claws catching Fang's upper arm and slicing through his skin.

He swore, pulling away just enough so he could check the damages, "You are an asshole!" he told Ari, stepping firmly on his hand, he could hear all the little bones snapping as he did so.

"I saw you!" the wolf-boy wheezed, swinging his foot around and catching Fang behind the knees, bringing him down effectively.

"I saw you," he said again, clambering to his feet, "You and that other freak- the dead weight- alone together. What is he, your boyfriend?"

Fang gritted his teeth and set his jaw, determined not to let Ari get a reaction out of him. Instead, he quickly picked himself up and landed another quick kick to Ari's rib cage. This time, hard enough to send him reeling unto the ground.

"Jealous?" Fang sneered. It was taking every muscle of his will power stop himself from screaming "You got a problem with that?" and pounding Ari into a pulp, and then pounding that pulp into the ground. But he knew that Ari deserved a slower, more painful death than simply being beaten senseless, so, instead, he quenched his thirst for Ari's suffering by driving the heel of his foot hard into the wolf-boy's trachea.

From this angle he could see why Ari hadn't pounded him into the floor yet, he looked much more patchwork-y, less smooth Eraser and more Frankenstein monster. His dad obviously hadn't done a very good job putting him back together.

"Of you two fa-" But Fang cut him off, giving him a hard kick in the head and crushing his neck as best he could.

"Shut up," he said, spitting at Ari's unconscious body.

He turned around, careful to stay arms reach from Ari's body, should he suddenly regain his senses. He could see that Iggy hadn't the time to shoo the little ones out the door before the attack, seeing as Angel was busily controlling the mind of a young intern, who had turned on her Eraser creations and was now lunging at one with a long, thin needle in hand.

Gazzy had disappeared behind the couch, Fang suspected he was setting up more explosives. He could see Nudge, hovering just above the grasp of a few whitecoats, dropping bits of plaster on their heads. Iggy he assumed was setting explosives with Gazzy, and Max was locked in a bitter battle with yet another Eraser.

"Here," Fang said, cracking a metal rod over the back of the thing's head.

"Thanks," she mumbled reluctantly, turning and breaking the jaw of another one with a well placed windmill kick.

"You're welcome!" he rolled his eyes at her ingratitude, finding himself face to face with an Eraser on Eraser battle, obviously one controlled by Angel.

"Did'ja see who joined us?" he said, directing his comment to Max, who he was standing back to back with.

"No, who?" He could hear her manage another strong punch to an Eraser's stomach.

"Your old friend, Ari," he smiled, pulling the long, gorilla like arms of an Eraser behind their owner, twisting his shoulders till the wolf-man howled in pain.

"The dead one?" she asked suspiciously.

"You guessed it," he answered, giving the same Eraser a strong uppercut.

"Crud," was all she said.

Fang smirked to himself as he watched three Erasers knock heads at Angel's will. No matter how creepy her powers got, one had to admit they were extremely useful.

"Get out!" Gazzy's small voice rose over the crowd, "Get out, now!" Time for the Big Bang, Fang thought to himself, snapping his wings out and shooting up, just escaping the grasp of a very confused intern.

"Out now!" Max echoed Gazzy's words, scooping up Total, who'd locked his jaw around the wrist of a whitecoat.

Quickly, the flying bodies shot out of the great hole in the wall, still left behind by Gazzy's first explosion.

"How long do we have?" Max called to the blonde boy over the roar of the panic below.

"Ten seconds!" he called back.

She didn't even need to say anything, they all shot forward, flapping and banking as fast as they could possibly manage, pitying the poor Erasers and whitecoats who'd be left behind for the Big Bang.

"Something went wrong."

"Didn't work.

"Horrible complications."

"It was too soon."

"Dunno if he'll make it."

"Shame he was so young."

"Such a tragedy."

Fang could hear the voices rushing past his door, their footsteps clamoring after each other, not even bothering to check on the experiments like they usually did. He could hear a lot of shouting and whispering, people's voices turned grave and others turned angry. He had no idea what had happened, he suspected it was another failed experiment. All he knew was that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

"Head count!" Max's voice was loud and forceful, honestly she could have had a wonderful career in the military.

"One!" Angel pipped up, "And one-and-one-third, and one-and-two-thirds!" Celeste and Total's honorary numbers.

"Two!" Gazzy bellowed from behind, where he was spearing a worm on a stick. How easily his mind wandered.

"Three!" Nudge called cheerfully, she'd just been happy to kick Eraser ass again.

Then, there was a pause. A long, torturous, heart-wrenching pause.

"Four?" Max called unsurely, as if she were just hoping she hadn't heard. But even she had been listening at the time, and she'd heard the silence. She knew what it meant. Even if she wasn't ready to admit it.

Her voice wavering in dread, then said the name, "Iggy?"

She said something after that, something Fang didn't hear, because his heart had dropped into his stomach, pounding so loudly that he couldn't hear anything but the sound of Ari's voice taunting him.

"What is he, your boyfriend?"

"Kids?" the voice was soft, strong, not at all like the usual whitecoats. Who spoke firmly, but with the constant fear that their charges were going to use their mutant powers to attack.

"What?" Max looked up at him with round eyes, perhaps wondering why the man was speaking so kindly to them.

They'd been sitting in a small room with three other kids for the past fifteen minutes or so, just kind of goofing off. There was one black girl a couple years younger than them, she said her name was Nudge. She was nice, but she never kept her mouth shut.

Then there was a little blonde boy, he was nice too, but he smelled awful. There was also a baby, about a year old. A little girl, according to the blonde boy they were siblings.

"Hi," he smiled, holding his hand out for her to shake. He was a tall man, one with dark hair and a strong chin, "I'm Jeb." Max shook his hand, and then he held his and out to Fang, then the talkative girl, the little boy, and he smiled at the cooing baby.

"Most of you know Iggy, the boy who went into surgery today, right?" They all nodded, except the baby, "Well something went wrong, I'm afraid..."

Wrong? Fang wondered to himself, What could have gone wrong?

"Iggy's not going to be able to see anymore."

When they'd first realized Iggy was missing, for the first time in months, Max felt on the verge of tears. Because she felt like she'd failed him, why hadn't she noticed he was gone in the first place? Why didn't she pull her head out of her bitter feud with Jeb long enough to check on everyone else?

But she wasn't the worst of the group, Angel was distressed, that was for sure, Nudge was oddly silent, Gazzy kept staring off into space as if waiting for him to come back, but Fang seemed to have lost all purpose in life.

He'd sat alone in the corner ever since they'd returned to the warehouse, half of which had survived the blast. Thankfully, the side with the supplies.

She'd asked him about halfway through the night if he was okay, he shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut, as if he didn't want Max to see his eyes. But no matter, she could tell just by looking at him he was on the verge of tears. Which was an amazing feat as far as Fang went.

In fact, as she looked over at him, she realized he looked a lot like he might kill himself. She hoped he didn't.

Half an hour ago, the younger ones had gone on a mission to clear away as much residue from their battle as possible. The Erasers had cleaned away a lot of their debris. Namely the bodies, but the rest it seemed was left up to them. No matter how worked up they all were, this was no time to get sloppy and let themselves get discovered.

Now it was just Fang and Max. Normally, they would have all gone, but seeing as Fang would not move she thought it'd be best not to pester him. And she'd stayed behind to make sure he didn't hang himself.

There was something different about Fang, she knew. She just couldn't put her finger on it. He'd always been a loner, but lately he and Iggy had grown close, very close. Why, though? Not that it bothered her, it was just so damn sudden and the way they looked at each other-

"Max! Max!" her head snapped up to see Angel picking through the debris.

"What, sweetheart? What happened?" she asked, coming to her feet to take Angel's hand and make sure she didn't fall.

"He's breathing! Nudge says he's breathing!" she cried, jumping up and down excitedly.

"What? Who?" Max's brow furrowed.


Fang looked like he was going to die from pure shock and happiness.

A/N: In regards to the flashbacks, my envision of the School is more or less like that of When the Wind Blows (which, for the record, is not a prequel to MR:TAE), as opposed to MR Max's description of living in a cage. Just clearing things up.

In regards to the flashbacks, my envision of the School is more or less like that of (which, for the record, is not a prequel to MR:TAE), as opposed to MR Max's description of living in a cage. Just clearing things up.

I thought I put this up Monday...

8. Awkward Moments and Stolen Heartache

A/N: Pen name change! I will now be: Mercy Me Its Ashley. TearsofEcstasy was just getting too emo. ;)

Chapter VIII: Awkward Moments and Stolen Heartache

Max had originally wanted them to stay together, in a group or something, for saftey. But Fang had other ideas.

Instead, he'd ignored her desperate pleading and run ahead of the group. Far, far ahead of the group. A good mile, he ventured to guess. He'd run till his lungs nearly collapsed, till he was dizzy to the point of fainting. But he wouldn't- couldn't- stop. For one thing, he couldn't bear to be there another minute with the Flock, trying to plan out a plan of action when something was obviously wrong. And for another, Iggy needed him, and he wasn't going to let Iggy down.

And so Fang kept running, past the trees and the garbage and the rocks, through shallow puddles and bushes. The stench of sweat and chemicals- the smell of Eraser- surrounded everything him. Vicious tears in the barks of trees, beaten down twigs and dead grass and shrubbery told him he was gong in the right direction. Erasers couldn't go anywhere without destroying everything in their path, and that, Fang was thankful for. For once in his life.

But even as he attempted to track his way through the thicket of trees, his thought train was interrupted continually as visions of Iggy flickered past his vision. Iggy smiling, Iggy crying, Iggy laying in their bed, Iggy with a broken wing, Iggy with a broken leg, Iggy with a broken neck, Iggy bleeding, Iggy dying, Iggy dead-

He sucked in a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. No, he told himself, forcing the image out of his mind, he's not dead. Nudge said he was breathing.

But what if he'd died since then? The thought arose, to his horror. But still, he managed to keep a somewhat positive outlook. No, he can't, he wouldn't go without a fight. He wouldn't do that. Not to me.

Fang bit his tongue and forced himself to focus on his breathing, which was suppose to be calming. And he found it was. Because didn't think of Iggy again. In fact, he didn't think about anything at all. For the first time in a long time, his head was completely clear. In, out, in, out, in, out.

The feeling of ignorant bliss was wonderful, especially since this morning's events. In fact, he felt the best he had in a long, long time... In, out, in, out.

So calm, so peaceful... At least, until he was rocketed back to reality and reminded of exactly why he was there. Because as he fell into a small clearing, he found himself staring at a pale, white body amongst the green grass.

Fang's heart skipped a beat- several in fact- as he saw Iggy once again. The boy's crumpled body laying in a folded position, his legs bent towards his left, and his torso curling towards his hips in a half-fetal position. He looked... unfinished, in a way. Like the scene that had unfolded was only half of what was suppose to happen.

Fang stood, staring at his friend's unmoving body for a few moments, trying to slow his breath down and make himself return to that ignorant bliss once more, but it wasn't working. The sight of Iggy's unconscious figure simply wouldn't let him. Even when he closed his eyes, he saw Iggy. His messy, reddish hair laying in contrast to the green grass, and left arm laid across the ground, showing it's white under side, and his fist, half open-half curled.

It was heart wrenching, to be completely honest. Fang had seen more gruesome scenes at the school, filled with blood and bones and all sorts of horror, but this one moved him the most. Without the gore.

Finally, unable to hold himself back any longer, Fang allowed himself to fall to his knees, simply allowing his body to buckle under the emotional pressure. Not at all coincidently, right next to Iggy. He squeezed his eyes shut briefly- if only for a moment- afraid of what he might see, before exhaling deeply and opening his watery brown eyes up once more.

Looking closer, he could see Iggy's head was bleeding, both from the temple and a nasty looking gash in the back. Bright scarlet head-blood seemed to have seeped even into the grass around him.

Fang felt sick. His stomach churned and his heart ached, his head was pierced with a violent headache that over powered him so much it was all he could do to put his hands out in front of him and try to support his weight. Praying he wouldn't lose it right then and there. His chest racketing with sob like breaths, he was finally able to bring himself up right and force down the nausea sweeping though his stomach.

"Oh god," Fang's lower lip trembled and his eyes were moist with tears that threatened to spill.

He placed a gentle hand on Iggy's cheek, which felt as if it were burning with fever. In fact, Fang realized his entire face was flushed with feverishness. Obviously, a little gash was the least of Iggy's problems. He was sick. Very, very sick.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered, his voice shaking and his heart tearing into a thousand tiny pieces as he spoke. He let himself sit, stroking Iggy's cheek, hoping with all his will that he might wake up and laugh. Tell him everything was okay. But nothing, save the rise and fall of his stomach.

Waves of panic and sickness circulated a new through his body, causing his hands to began to tremble as he slipped his arms beneath Iggy, one under his shoulders, another beneath his limp legs. He pulled the taller boy towards him, into his embrace, disregarding the blood on his hands and the distant sound of approaching footsteps. Lost in Iggy's hair, his mouth, his everything. Lost in Iggy, chest aching with the emptiness he felt inside.

"I promise," Fang whispered, gently kissing Iggy's forehead and cradling his body close to his chest, feeling his slow, steady, hot breath against his neck, and the beating of his heart against his own. The type of steadfast tempo his own seemed to be lacking, "I'll never let his happen again."

The footsteps were coming closer, he could hear them. And their voices on the wind. The Flock was coming, help was coming.

"Fang!" He heard Max cry, her voice was strained between anger and despondent hopelessness.

"Are you two okay?" She managed, the loud snapping of a twig told him she had taken a step closer, and her words told him that she could see Iggy's broken body in his arms.

"I am," Fang said breathless as he pushed up on one knee, staggering shakily for a second before gaining his footing once more. He took a deep breath, looking long and hard at Iggy's face once more. "But Iggy's not."

"I'm sorry, Fang," Max said, patting his arm gently.

But Fang didn't hear her, he was staring out the window. Thinking of all the things that were never going to happen again. He and Iggy would never be able to play again, they'd never read another comic book together, everything was going to change. Absolutely everything.

Now he knew those fears were foolish, but then, the possibility of losing his friend to blindness seemed very, very real.

"Don't drop him!" Max warned as the small group carefully picked their way through the rubble, some of which Gazzy and Angel had managed to clear away, some of which was still left for them to trip over. It looked a lot like a war zone (well, technically it was), with all the scorched bits of rock and concrete everywhere, some chemical reeking Eraser blood, not much though.

Fang grunted in response, not caring how standoffish and rude it was. Because honestly, he'd marry Ari before he dropped Iggy, and she knew that very well. And Fang felt degraded that Max would imply otherwise.

But then again, she didn't know exactly how much he cared about him. And Fang cared about Iggy a lot. Enough that he'd nearly been sick at the thought of losing him all over again.


"Shh!" That was, ironically, Nudge, shushing Angel. Under normal conditions, he might have laughed. But, seeing as under current conditions he was carrying an unconscious Iggy in his arms, he thought laughing might be a bit inappropriate.

Max had tried to say something about splitting Iggy's weight between the two of them earlier, but Fang refused to hear it. He was fine as it was, and a strange protective- almost possessive-ness had overcome him. He wanted no one else to touch Iggy. His Iggy.

And no one said anything, because they all knew once Fang was set in his ways, there was no way of convincing him otherwise.

"Here," Max said, trying to be helpful and dusting bits of plaster off of the couch, which had thankfully survived the blast with little to no damage. Otherwise they'd be trying to squeeze Iggy onto one of those teeny-tiny cots, which obviously was not going to happen.

Gently, and slightly reluctantly, Fang laid the taller boy down on the dusty couch. As he did so, he was careful to support his head under the arm of the couch, elevating his feet on the other end. He didn't know where he'd heard it, but he knew elevating someone's feet in the case of an accident of this nature somehow helped the healing process.

He sighed, wishing he could press his lips to Iggy's once more, though knowing that the Flock probably wasn't ready for that. So instead, he furrowed his brow and forced himself to think about the business at hand.

From there, he got his first proper chance to examine Iggy medically. Fang found a long, and not at all, deep scratch on his leg, what felt like a cracked rib, and he pretended to take note of the cut on his forehead and the gash in the back of his head. He wasn't bleeding much anymore, if at all, but Fang supposed it was a fairly bad injury, seeing as Iggy was still asleep. His eyes were closed, and it felt like is pulse had all but come to a close, not to mention the limpness in his limbs, but he was still breathing. Long, deep breaths. He was still alive.

"What do you think happened?" Max whispered as she crouched next to Fang, pointing out Iggy's head wound.

"Probably Ari," he answered surely. Even as he said the name, uncontrollable rage began to bubble up inside of him, thoughts of that, that thing, hurting him. Oh, the things he wanted to do to that monster.

But the fault wasn't completely Ari's, he had to share in the blame too. If only he'd paid more attention to his damn dream! Which had obviously been meant to warn him of what was to happen in the near future. But even when he'd seen Ari, back from the dead, the thought hadn't crossed his mind that this just might be his nightmare made manifest. Could he be anymore of an idiot?

Bitterly, his thoughts turned back to this afternoon, and what Ari'd said to him.


"Of you two fa-" But in his head, Fang had already finished his sentence. Fags, that's what he called them. Fags. Or maybe he'd even finish the whole word, faggots. What an ugly word, a horribly ugly, vile, sinister word.

You should be jealous, Ari, you wolfy monster, he thought bitingly, because I've got someone when you've got no one.

Max didn't say anything about his accusation, but he knew she was probably agreeing with him. Ari hated them, hated them all with such a passion there was no need to think of a motive, it was already there. Pure, fiery, hatred.

"Max?" Nudge said quietly as she stepped in from the shadows, "What can we do?" She and the others had been so unusually quiet, he'd almost forgotten they'd existed.

"Oh, guys, I don't-" Max began to protest, knowing her she probably thought they were too young to understand, and that they'd best run off to bed while the older kids dealt with this. Honestly, Fang had to disagree. If they wanted to do something to help out (and they should) so the better for them.

"But we want to," Gazzy piped in, cutting the older girl off, "We really want to help."

Max looked at them, and she looked as if her heart had melted at the sight of their earnest, concerned faces, "C'mon," she choked, "I'm sure RiteAid is still open."

She stood up and took either of them by the arm, guiding them towards the gaping hole in the wall they now used as a door, taking one slight detour to grab a tin can that jingled when she picked it up. Max's savings, obviously.

Fang couldn't help snorting, as if a simple trip to RiteAid was going to fix anything. The problems Iggy was having weren't the kind that Advil and some R&R were going to fix.

Nudge shot Iggy a worried look, and gave Fang a somewhat cheerful wave and a smile that obviously said "maybe things will turn out okay?"

He counted to five after they left before he let out a breath of emotion, worry and complete, despondent hopelessness.

In that one breath, he'd finally started let it all out, his anger at Ari, the asshole who did this, his annoyance at Max, for seeming so flippant, and his hopeless, crushing, sadness and worry about how this might turn out.

He opened his mouth to try to say something, perhaps to Iggy, perhaps to himself, or no one in particular but all that came out was a croak like moan. So instead he put his hand up to his mouth and bit down firmly on the skin of his index finger, concentrating as hard as possible on the pain he felt on the outside, and not the fear he felt on the inside.

It'd only taken a moment for the panic to set in. The panic that maybe Iggy wouldn't make it through, that he might be dying in front of him, and there was nothing he could do. Fang's fear of change was sweeping over him, consuming him in such a way he felt he might die from the sheer weight of it all.

"Fang?" He nearly jumped at the sound of Angel's soft, sweet voice behind him.

"What?" he choked, sounding entirely too emotional for his own tastes.

"He's gonna be okay, you know that?" she said, putting her small hand on his shoulder encouragingly.

"Thanks, Angel," he mumbled absently, with an air so flippant it was nearly opaque.

"Fang," she said firmly, more seriously this time, "I mean it, he's going to be okay."

"Huh?" The realization was finally hitting Fang, this was Angel, the mind reading, mutant girl, saying this. She wasn't trying to be nice, she was entirely serious.

"I can feel his thoughts, he's thinking about you," she said in a soft, reassuring voice. He wanted to know more, he wanted to know everything about what was going on in Iggy's head, but he decided pushing Angel was not a good idea for the time being. She was only six after all, there was no sense in using her as some type of medium between him and his sleeping friend.

"He loves you," She added, sitting back down in the armchair which was much too big for her. He was amazed at the way she said it so easily, he loves you. Like it were no big deal that they were two boys, in love.

But that's the beauty of the innocent, Fang supposed, to them, love- in any form- was true.

He wanted to say something to her, to thank her, but he found himself tongue tied, unable to say anything without the fear he'd burst into tears. So instead, he gave her a quick nod, which she seemed to understand as having a more serious meaning.

"He loves you," He played the words over in his head again.

I know he does, Fang thought to himself, taking a deep breath and letting himself relax, just a little bit.

"Go on," Max said, gently shoving Nudge and Gazzy towards the debris covered hole in the wall, "I've just go to check on something."

She could see the dim, flickering light of a candle, and hear the long, awkward silence. Which told her two things A) Fang and Angel were still awake and B) Iggy was still asleep. Which was, in two words, not good.

Because, in fact, it probably meant that Iggy was not simply asleep, and that the gash on his head was not actually a surface wound, but much more serious. He was hurt- badly- and they had to do something to help him.

"Max?" Nudge asked, turning her head towards the older girl before stepping over the rubble into their so-called home, "Honestly, now, don't go easy on me," she warned with a bit of a tease and a smile.

But then her voice turned serious again, "D'you think Iggy's going to make it?"

She just had to ask.

I hope so, Max wanted to say, because that was the truth. She hoped so, but she had no idea if her hopes would come true. Despite Nudge's wishes, though, she couldn't bring herself to dampen the other girl's spirits, and instead answered with a bright, cheery attitude to mask the feeling of her insides turning at another lie.

"Of course," she flashed Nudge a big, fake smile to go with her big, fake lie.

Thankfully, Nudge didn't seem to realize the true nature of Max's words, and she gave her a small, somewhat thankful, nod before joined Gazzy in the warehouse.

When she was sure they'd all gone, Max turned back and quickly made her way past the forest of trees. She was headed towards the bus stop, which was about a quarter of a mile away. Nothing compared to the distances she'd gone before.

She wanted to run there, to let out all her tension and anger and energy with a good run, but at the same time she knew she'd draw eyes to her if she did run. Eyes which may or may not belong to Erasers.

So, instead, she kept up a light, walking pace while her mind did the running for her.

How had the Erasers found them? Why had they just taken Iggy? Did he, like Angel, have some type of special place in the School's plan? What was wrong with him, why hadn't he woken up? Was he ever going to wake up?

She took a long, deep breath, assuring herself over and over again all things would come, eventually, to her. Even if she didn't like the answers.

When she reached the bus stop, she was pleased to find no one there, or at the phone booth nearby. The more privacy the better.

Quietly, she locked herself away in the grimy phone booth, hoping no one had seen her. She, then, took a small slip of paper out of her coat pocket. On it were ten digits. A phone number.

She dialed the numbers, (with a 1-800 in front of them, of course. She was not about to pay their outrages fees for one phone call,) listening to the beeping tones in the ear piece of the phone as she did so.

Brring. She held her breath.


Please pick up, please pick up, Max thought over and over again to herself, hoping the next dial tone would be the last.


"Hello?" The voice on the other end was smooth and sweet, sounding quite happy, in fact. It was the voice of a confidant, single, working mother. The only person Max would ever dare to call a mother.

"Dr. Martinez?"

"Yes, this is she... who's this?" Max felt her heart drop ever so slightly, but convinced herself that it was only natural. She'd visited her months ago, and she'd only been there for two days. It wasn't like she'd remember her winged visitor by voice alone.

"Um, Max. Maximum Ride."

"Max! Oh, Max, how are you? Do you want to talk to Ella? I'll get her-"

"No!" Max snapped quickly, no matter how much she liked Ella, now was not the time to speak with her, "I mean... please, I'd like to talk to you."

"Oh," she said slowly, quickly realizing something wasn't right, "So, what's up?"

"Um, a lot." Wow, that sounded stupid, Max thought to herself.

"Doesn't sound good."

"Well... there is this one thing."

"This one thing..." Dr. Martinez repeated.

"I don't know if you'll be able to help us."


"It's one of my brothers. Today, we were attacked by Erasers-"


"Monsters, mutants. Bad mutants. Who want to kill us."

"Ah... I see."

"Anyways, we don't really know what happened, but he has this gash on the back of his head and he hasn't woken up since."

"Oh... oh." She sounded very taken aback, but Max was thankful she was at least realizing how grave the situation was and not brushing it off as some goofy kids getting themselves into trouble.

"Max... that's pretty serious."

"Yeah, no kidding."

"And where are you, again?"

"New York," she breathed.

"New York City?" the older woman thought for a second, "Actually... I think I have an old colleague from med school there who might be able to help. Where are you in New York?"

"Um, near the Bronx, I think."

"Hmm," she seemed to be considering something, and at that moment she switched into what Max would later call her "doctor mode."

"Alright, listen, I'll drop Ella off at her grandmother's and get the quickest flight out of here, I'll see if I can get there by morning. I'll have to call my colleague first, but I think he'll be willing to help. I'm going to have to ask you a few questions, though." She was talking fast, a lot like the doctors on the TV did. Then again, Max suddenly realized, she was a vet, the only difference was the furriness of the patients.

"Sure." Max said, sounding not at all sure.

"Does he... have wings too?"

"Mmm-hmm." Scribbles on the other end, she was writing this down.

"How old is he?"

"Fourteen, almost fifteen." That's right, his birthday was coming up.

"Approximate height?"

"Six foot four."


"Um, I really don't know. He's pretty skinny though."

"I see. Any previous head injuries?"

"He had a surgery when he was nine, it was suppose to enhance his night vision. But he's been blind ever since then."

"Okay, good. That's important. Anything else I need to know?"

"Um, it looks like he might have a cracked rib."

"Okay, I'll- Oh! One thing! I'm going to need to know, exactly where are you in the Bronx?"

Max gave her some general directions towards their warehouse, though she wasn't sure how helpful she was going to be. She didn't even know what street they lived on, let alone the house number. Why was she getting so sloppy?

"I'll talk to you tomorrow, sweetheart, okay? Bye." Max could hear Dr. Martinez hang up on the other end. Max wasn't quite sure how much she liked Dr. Martinez in doctor mode. She reminded her a lot of the whitecoats. Always worrying and rushing about everything. Then again, this wasn't something to be casual about.

Max was just leaving the phone booth when it hit her. Dr. Martinez had called her sweetheart.

From there, everything just sort of imploded.

Jeb called her sweetheart, she recalled, back in Colorado... and today even, he'd called her sweetheart. And now, thanks to him and his goons, the Flock was about to lose a member, Gazzy was going to lose his idol, Nudge was going to lose her reading partner (the two spent many a night up, her reading to him, and he listening), Angel, the boy who'd grown more and more like a father since Jeb's absence, Fang, his best friend and confidant, and she, Maximum Ride, was about to fail them all.

Tears of self-pity rolled down her face but she refused to cry out or crumble to her knees and let her emotions win. She would not be weak, she had to be strong. For the others. For herself. She had to be.

It's okay to cry, Maximum, her old friend, the Voice told her, crying is natural.

You don't cry when you're the leader, she thought bitterly.

Then maybe it's time to stop being the leader and start being a person again.

The voice said it, and she knew it was true.

And so, she, Maximum Ride, allowed herself to fall to her knees in the middle of the grove of trees and cry as she'd never cried before. She cried for Angel, and for when she'd nearly been lost. She cried for Gazzy, and how his innocence seemed to be stolen away right in front of their eyes. She cried for Nudge, and how everyday her voice grew more and more hollow. She cried for Fang, and how he'd drawn so much into himself it seemed he couldn't even feel anymore. She cried for Iggy, and for letting him down in his time of need.

But mostly- selfishly- she cried for herself.

Max still remembered the first time she'd seen Iggy blind. They'd wrapped gauze around his head, to give the scar tissue more time to heal. But all the same, he looked miserable.

Had his eyes not been firmly covered in bandages, he probably would have been crying.

"Iggy?" she'd said softly, coming up next to him.

"Yes? Max, is that you?" he swivelled his head so he could face her.

"Yes, it's me. And-" she was about to say "and Fang", but behind her she could hear the swishing of the door, and the sound of a choked sob. It seemed the sight was too hard for him to bear.

"What was that?" Iggy asked, turning his head wildly as if that would help him hear the disturbance in the room.

"Nothing," she assured him, "Just the wind."

After she'd put herself back together, Max marched on homeward. Determined not to let the other see her cry, she picked her way slowly over the rubble. Stall for time, to make sure the red rimmed quality to her eyes wouldn't give away too much.

She'd fully expected everyone to be asleep when she got there, and they all were, except for Fang. Who was sitting by Iggy's bedside- couch side- looking worried. At first, she was all ready to walk over and put her hand on his shoulder and comfort him as best she could. But something stopped her in her tracks.

She watched, shocked, as Fang stood up and bent over Iggy, pressing his lips to the unconscious boy's own. It wasn't the kiss that shocked her, it was the nature. He'd kissed him much longer and harder than was necessary- even between close friends, a kiss in a time like this was okay, but never one with such... emotion- and the entire time he seemed to be choking back tears. Completely unlike Fang.

She took a step closer, hoping to come up behind Fang and surprise him, that way she'd get the chance to properly talk with him. But, unfortunately, she managed to knock over the trash can with her foot. Which landed on the floor with a loud clatter.

She winced at the noise she made, and nearly laughed as Fang jumped up in surprise and glared at her accusingly.

"Sorry," she said softly, stepping closer yet again, "I didn't mean to... intrude."

Fang said nothing and only turned back to sleeping Iggy before sitting down once more.

"Fang..." she said, coming closer to him with each breath, "is there something you're not telling me?"

Nothing from the stoic boy.

"I swear, Fang, I'm not... I'm not going to be judgement or disapproving about it, if that's what you think."


"Please...?" she sighed knowing it was pointless. She resigned, at least for the time being and instead just sat in another folding chair by Fang's side. The two sat there, neither daring to speak, or even think, about what happened. Afraid of what the other would do

Fang probably fearing whether or not she'd approve, Max fearing whether or not she'd say the right then.

"I have to ask, at least," the blonde girl said after a minute, swivelling her upper body towards him, her confidence and authority a new, "how much do you care about Iggy?"

For the first time since the incident started, Fang looked at her straight in the eye with his own watery brown orbs and told her, in the most serious and emotional tone she'd ever heard him speak in, "I love him."

He said it, and she knew it was so.

A/N: I'm turning Max somewhat human now, as you can see. There'll definitely be some more Max-centric bits in upcoming chapters. And yes, I will definitely be updating more! I've written out a few more chapters... just gotta get some editing done.

9. Let Me Fall

Disclaimer: Chapter named for the song "Let Me Fall", used in the Cirque Du Soleil show Quidam. No ownership on my part.

Chapter IX: Let Me Fall

In less than twenty-four hours, Fang's life had done a complete 180.

Eighteen hours ago, he was laying in bed with Iggy, deep in his embrace, not thinking of the world, or of the next day, or really anything at all. Living in that moment, breathing in Iggy's scent, of musty bedclothes and rain and feeling his breath against the curve of his neck. It'd been close to what Fang would describe as perfection. No, it was perfection.

Eight hours later, their house was raided by Erasers, and their dead nemesis, Ari, came back to life.

An hour after that, Iggy had been discovered missing, Fang's heart had been torn in two.

Then, only four hours later, Iggy had been found. Alive. But unconscious. That, Fang met with a bittersweet feeling. For one, he was glad that Iggy was alive, but the fact that he wasn't waking up... well, that was just horrible.

Now, they- Max- were calling for outside help. Completely against his wishes and seemingly destroying Fang's life as he knew it.

Dr. Martinez seemed a nice enough woman, honestly, but Fang couldn't shake the feeling that she shouldn't be there. She seemed out of place amongst their shabby little ruin, with her well cut bangs and her gentle, waving hair. A well tailored, beige jacket and stark, black pants also set her apart from their dirty, sweatshirts and torn denim jeans. Well, then again, the fact that she was clean generally set her apart from the group.

But besides that, there was an air about her... an air of education and sophistication, even compassion, a type of adult behavior that none of them had seen before. Or perhaps in passing, but never up close.

Then, it hit him square in the face, as his thoughts trailed back to the day he'd passed a mother and daughter walking down the street. The daughter laughed and generally ignored what her mother said, but when she, the daughter, began to speak, the mother listened long and hard, laughing at the right moments, and looking completely engrossed in what her child had to say. It was an amazing thing, the mother and daughter.

And that's what Dr. Martinez was. A mother.

At the moment, she was glancing curiously around their home, trying to hide the concerned grimace that kept uprising in her smile. Max was talking to her, giving her the full tour, showing her the highlights of the home, perhaps? Not likely, seeing as if she was, she'd be sure to toss around a few trademark sarcastic remarks and make wide gestures at the gaping hole in the wall. But instead, her mouth was creased into a frown, as she pointed out the couch. And on it, Iggy's body.

But as they stepped closer, they did not go directly the couch, as Fang had thought they would, but instead, detoured to Fang, who had currently backed himself into a corner, watching the scene unfold.

"Hi," the older woman smiled, sticking out her hand to shake, "I'm Dr. Martinez, you must be Fang."

Awkwardly, Fang took her hand and shook it firmly, feeling odd and unusual, doing such a formal thing, in the Flock, formalities had never been needed.

"You must be Fang"? I'm sure as hell not Angel, he wanted to say, but instead forced himself to look her in the eye and give a forced smile, which probably came out more like an angry smirk, no matter how much he tried. She didn't deserve his angry sarcasm, no matter how much he wanted to use it.

He wanted to say more to her, to ask her what she could do for them. Or about her colleague, the one who would be serving as the actual doctor. But his tongue became oddly tied, and his moment was stolen away, as her attention moved to the antsy looking "oh-my-god-I'm-about-to-meet-a-stranger" dance that Angel was currently engaged in.

She was a pretty woman, Fang decided as he watched her charm her way into the hearts of the younger ones. With her sleek, black hair, her big, brown eyes and megawatt white smile, of course she was pretty. No, not pretty, he thought, beautiful. And not textbook beautiful, either. Real person beautiful. Which was even better.

How could a woman like her ever get mixed up in their little game? He just couldn't see it happening.

"Nudge, so good to meet you at last," she said, embracing the self about voice of the group like her own daughter. Fang gritted his teeth at the sight, regardless of his own wishes. They were acting to flippant, like this was just another game, a little reunion party that they were going to have. But the amusement in the situation, the fun, party feeling quickly faded, as Max brought them crashing back down to earth.

"I'm glad you're here, Dr. Martinez," the blonde girl said, pulling her over to the couch where Iggy was laying. Then, whispered most seriously, "This morning he was breathing so shallowly, I thought he might have been dying."

That was the truth, as Fang knew, because that morning she'd woken up him, and only him, and told him something was going wrong with Iggy. That is breathing was too shallow, too quick. He wasn't getting enough oxygen to his brain.

His breathing had returned to normal soon enough, but they'd both nearly had heart attack watching him hyperventilate like that. His chest entire chest rising and falling, shaking like the force of an earthquake, and the way the ragged breath escaped his lips, it sent chills up and down Fang's spine, and cool, heartless rush into his chest.

And he was completely surprised when, in a moment of pure, innocent emotion, Max put her arms around Fang's shoulders, pulling him into her warm embrace, with he met with a stiff, awkward hug. Actually, he didn't hug her back, he only let her try to comfort him. In vain, of course.

They broke away quickly, of course, because hugging Fang was like hugging a pole. But he couldn't help feeling there was something wrong with her hug. It wasn't the hug of two friends, or a friend and a pole, but she put a little extra in it. Emotion, turmoil, hormones, it was different.

Honestly, Max wasn't as angry as he'd thought she would be. Heck, she wasn't angry at all. She only seemed to accept it as fact and move on. Which, for her track record, was amazing. It was not in her nature to simply say to herself, Okay, Fang loves Iggy, now let's talk about something else. But he fully expected a long talk with her about it later.

And Angel? Well she truly lived up to her name, serving as a sort of medium between him and Iggy, and passing on the message: he loves you.

"Hmm," Dr. Martinez scribbled a few more notes in her book, "I can't say anything just yet, but I think you were right about the cracked rib, and I'm almost a hundred percent positive that he'll have to be hospitalized for his head injury."

Now that, came as a shocking blow to Fang. Honestly, he thought Dr. Martinez and her friend would patch him up in the comfort of their nearly blown up shack and then leave. But now he had to be hospitalized, and see doctors. what the hell was up with that?

She left, without saying her formal good-byes, promising to be back within the hour with her colleague and perhaps an ambulance.

It took her all of thirty minutes.

"It'll be alright," Max said, squeezing his hand as they watched Mr. Bellmont, a fat, pudgy neurosurgeon at a big, fancy hospital, examine Iggy's head, pointing different things about it out to Dr. Martinez and the paramedics.

"How can you be sure?" he asked her, nerves flooding his stomach as he watched the paramedics retreat back to the ambulance, perhaps to get a stretcher.

"I just am," she shrugged as the paramedics reappeared, it seemed his guess about the stretcher was correct. Except they also brought a small, toolbox like first aid kit with them.

As they began to treat the unconscious boy, Dr. Martinez began to herd them together in a half circle around her. It seemed there was something they needed to talk about.

"We're going to take Iggy to the hospital," she told them, "only one person can go with him in the ambulance, the rest of you will go with either me or Mr. Bellmont, and we'll take you there ourselves. Then, when we get there I'm going to ask that you guys stay quiet and just hang out for a while, because there's a good chance he's going to be in surgery. When that gets over, you can stay as long as you want to, but eventually I'll drive you all back to my hotel, where you'll get your own room."

Hospital, brain surgery, hotel. Seemed simple enough. Though Fang really would have preferred it without the brain surgery, or the hospital for that matter. The hotel though, he had to admit that was a nice touch.

"Which one of you wants to go in the ambulance?" she asked just as the paramedics seemed to be getting ready to shove off.

"Fang," Max said immediately, before the brunette himself had a chance to think about what had been said.

"No," he protested, "You're the leader, you go." Honestly, he wasn't quite sure he was ready to do something like that. Because they'd surely be sticking wires and pins and tubes of all sorts into him, speaking in that weird medical code. It made Fang very uncomfortable.

"Which is why I have to go with them," she motioned to the younger ones, "Plus, you know Iggy best out of all of us, if the paramedics have questions, you'd be the best one to answer them."

He sighed, she did have a point. Though he couldn't help thinking last night's little revelation had tainted her decision. Come to think of it, it was tainting a lot of her decisions.

"Everybody ready?" an annoyingly cheerful male paramedic asked, coming up behind Dr. Martinez.

"Yes," she nodded, "Fang will be going with you." She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly. It took every bit of his will not to pull away, honestly, he hated it when adults touched him. It was so creepy... so reminiscent of the School and their particular brand of manhandling.

"Hi, Fang," the paramedic smiled, "I'm Jake."

"Hi," he mumbled back.

"C'mon, then," Jake said, clapping a hand on his shoulder, "We'd best get going."

He lead Fang over to the ambulance, where he met Danielle, a blonde, female paramedic with a Southern accent, and the driver, an older man named Aaron, who looked somewhat like an ex-hippie with his long, white hair.

"So, this is your brother?" Jake asked as the van started up. He and Danielle were already busy, hooking Iggy up to all sorts of wires and tubes and god knows what else. It looked scary, almost inhuman, what they were doing to him.

"Kind of," Fang shrugged, "More like close friend."

"Oh, I see," Jake answered, "You guys grew up together?"

"Yeah, something like that." He answered, and remained silent for the rest of the time. Instead he listened to Aaron and Danielle jabber on about getting hot dogs later, and Jake put in his two cents, saying he'd like pizza instead. The conversation got very dull, very fast.

Which was why Fang let out a sigh of relief when they finally pulled in to the hospital, no matter how much he was dreading to have to let Iggy go off to the operating room, at least now he'd have the rest of the Flock with him.

"Just hang back," Aaron, the driver, said as he watched Danielle and Jake take the stretcher away, "I'll take you inside, cause it looks like they're going to be there for a while."

And boy was he right, there were all sorts of people swamping the ambulance bay. None of whom he knew. He assumed- hoped- they were all simply doctors and nurses, coming for a look see, but he did see a few cameras flash. Luckily, the owners of said cameras got a hard punch in the face, courteous of Mr. Bellmont's hired security guards. Thank god, the last thing they needed was some slime ball leaking them to the press.

When the bay had finally cleared and everything seemed to have settled down, Aaron led him through the double doors, up the stairwell, through the reception and a long hallway, more stairs, another set of doors, more hallways, and finally, to the waiting room. Where everyone else was sitting, looking very grave.

"They sent him in for surgery about thirty minutes ago," Max explained as he took a seat next to her.

"How long did they say they were going to be?"

"They said it might take hours."

"Will they let us stay that long?" Fang wondered aloud.

"One can only hope."

Iggy found himself walking down a long hallway of doors, just like the one he'd envisioned when Fang told him about his dream. Except in this hallway, all the doors were lit with light from the inside, and none had voices.

The last thing he remembered was hearing Ari's voice piercing through the air, "You know what they say, some things never die."

Then, he felt a great, throbbing pain in his head. And he was out like a light.

Now, he had no idea where he was, or what he was doing there. But he knew that he was alone, where no one else could reach him. Not Angel with her mind powers, not Max with her will power, not even Fang could reach him, wherever he was.

He looked up and down the hall, searching for a way out when suddenly-

It hit him, he could see. Wherever he was, he wasn't blind. He felt his breath pick up and his pulse heighten as he looked- yes, he really did look- down at his feet. And he saw, so sharply and vividly, a pair of Nike tennis shoes, the logo a bright orange colour. He looked down at his hands, and gently rubbed his forefinger and thumb together, to make sure it was real. And he felt it. His skin, but he could see it too. It was real.

It was real! He couldn't say it enough! It was real! He could really see

He looked to his right, trying to take everything in at once, and then he saw it. A great, silver key on the floor. In front of a door, with a matching handle and key hole. It was fairly obvious to Iggy, that the silver key was meant to unlock the silver door.

Carefully, very carefully, he kneeled to pick it up. The feel of the cold metal against his skin, it sent shivers up his spine. But he loved it, the way the light reflected off it, the way the intricate designs made marks on his fingers, it's weight in his hand. Mostly, he just loved seeing it.

He reached out and touched the keyhole, and the same shivering feeling ran up his spine. It was so eery, to see his hand, doing the very thing he'd pictured it doing for so long.

He had to admit, he somewhat was surprised when after he'd fit the key into the keyhole, the door opened. He'd fully expected it to be locked. Or worse. Most dreams- for that's what this had to be- had unexpected twists like that.

As the door began to open, a crack of sunlight flooded the hallway. As if the door let to the outside. The, he began to hear voices. His own, and Fang's. Younger, higher pitched.

"Let's go play tag!" his own voice.

"We can't play it with two people!" Fang.

"Then let's go find Max!" His. He was about to close the door, thinking how droll and boring it was, when he suddenly remembered, this had actually happened. He and Fang, at the age of eight, had sat outside in the sun for the very first time after a long, hard test on wings and weather conditions. He'd tried to get Fang to play with him, like the kids in their books did on sunny days when school was over.

"Max won't want to." Fang.

"Please..." The older Iggy watched from the doorway as the younger version of himself began to pout, sticking his lower lip out for effect.

"Okay, but only because I don't want to hear you whining about it," The young Fang said, trying to look tough but failing horribly. That was Fang for you, elder Iggy thought to himself, a heart of gold hidden behind a veil of darkness

But honestly, Iggy wouldn't have him any other way.

Fang couldn't help but think they looked like a very, very odd family, sitting in the hospital waiting room. Max, acting as mother and trying to keep the young ones from bursting into tears. Nudge, he supposed she was like a hysterical aunt, constantly talking and bursting into bouts of sobs. Angel was simply Angel, the sweet, not-quite-so innocent child. Gazzy, he was the older brother, trying to be strong. Fang supposed he looked the crazy old grandfather who everyone hated, the way he'd been brooding in the corner. Only coming out for updates provided by Dr. Martinez.

Who had, in fact, just visited to the give them the news that the surgery had finally come to an end. Six hours after it had started, but it had ended never the less. There was much rejoicing.

She'd also told them that, in both her opinion and Dr. Bellmont's, the surgery had gone extremely well, and that the doctor himself would be in to talk to them very, very soon.

"Maybe he'll be awake," Nudge said wistfully from where she was sitting on the floor, playing blocks (though attempting not to touch them, because her ability to sense emotions through objects had kicked in big time) with Angel in an attempt to keep her happy. It was, of course, an attempt in vain. She knew what was happening, she could read emotions. It was no mystery why she didn't want to play for once in her life.

"Maybe," Max agreed, though Fang could tell she was, as usual, lying through her teeth. And badly at that. Which, he supposed was a good thing.

"Maybe he'll even get to go back to the hotel with us, he always said he wanted to visit the Ritz," Gazzy added. He too was trying to make Angel and Nudge cheer up by telling jokes off of gum wrappers. No luck so far.

Not likely, Fang thought to himself. He'd gotten past the point of denial. He knew that whatever had happened was bad, bad enough that he probably wasn't going to wake up for a while. Not even if the surgery was successful. The best he could hope for was the assurance that he'd wake up, maybe within a few day's time.

"Hello?" Dr. Bellmont said as he entered, still wearing his surgical scrubs. He'd plastered a fake smile on his lips, but his eyes did seem very, very grave. He knew Nudge and Angel both sensed it, by the way the two girls choked back tears.

"Yes?" Max asked hopefully, refusing to the look the doctor in the eye, perhaps ignoring his look of impending doom.

"The surgery went well, very well," he said sitting down on the armchair across from them. Fang could almost see Max take a breath of reef, but perhaps she had forgotten that day five years ago, the surgery "had gone well." But there was a catch. Iggy was never going to be able to see again. There was always a catch.

"I'm afraid though..."

Something went wrong, Fang shivered.

"There are some things that surgery simply could not fix. We did what we could, fixing the fracture in his skull and patching up his ribs. But, unfortunately, I'm afraid he's still in a coma. And when he wakes up- if he wakes up- weren't not sure how extensive the damage will be."

"Damage?" Max said unsurely, her voice wavering ever so slightly. He could tell she was thinking the same thing, those poor kids you saw on TV with the pieces of their skulls missing. The ones that get blown up on road side bombs and can never tie their own shoes again.

A cold, empty feeling overcame Fang's chest and he had to resist the urge to simple walk out of the room and close his ears to Dr. Bellmont. Because he knew Iggy needed him, now more than ever.

The grey haired man looked at Max kindly, like Jeb had when he'd told them the news of Iggy's blindness, and placed a hand on her knee.

"We're not sure just how much he's going to remember," his voice was smooth and soft, as if he'd been rehearsing it, "He might remember something that happened when he was four, but have no recollection of anything since he was eight. Or he may have short term memory loss, forgetting where he put things and stuff like that. But we're also concerned with his coordination, whether or not he'll be able to walk a straight line or stand on one foot without falling. Honestly, there's a lot that could happen from an injury like this. He's lucky to be breathing."

Seeing the looks of horror painted across their faces, he added, "Maybe he'll come out of this with no problems at all, I can't predict what's going to happen."

He sat back in his chair, perhaps waiting for applause, someone to burst into tears. Something to happen. But everything was still. No one moved. Absolutely no one moved.

"Listen," he said after a long moment of awkward silence, "You kids should get some rest, come back tomorrow-"

"Sir," Max said, her voice strong, though a bit higher than usual, "That will be all. Thank you."

The doctor, who was wise enough to see when he wasn't wanted, nodded and slipped out of the room without another sound. Very appropriate for the moment.

But still, his words chilled Fang. What if he didn't remember anything? Or worse yet, he didn't remember them? Then what were they suppose to do? Go on living as if none of this had ever happened? As if they didn't love each other?

Love, it was another word that chilled Fang. It was a word he didn't understand completely. Perhaps because he'd never felt towards anyone, and no one had ever felt it towards him. And now that he was starting to understand it, the more it confused him. Like why he'd never had the guts to say it to Iggy before, or even to say "same here" or something when it was said to him. But when Max asked him how much he cared about Iggy, the words came tumbling out of his mouth, I love him.

"He's going to remember," Angel said surely, as she stood up from her game of blocks. She scurried over to him and motioned for the older boy to bend so she could whisper something in his ear. He obliged, and so she said, in a not so whispery voice:

"I heard him thinking during the surgery, and he remembers you. He remembers Max too, and he still loves you lots."

Dammit, he thought to himself, wincing as he caught Nudge and Gazzy's stares.

Angel, meanwhile, quickly realized what she had done, and had clamped her hands over her mouth.

"Sorry," he heard her muffled squeak, "Do you want me to undo it?"

I don't even want to know what that means, Fang told himself, shaking his head. Her powers were obviously growing. Mind reading at a distance, possibly even erasing memories. God knows what else she could do.

He cleared his throat, "Um, I guess there's something you two need to know..."

He winced at the sound of his own voice, thinking of how pathetic it would be if Iggy chose that exact moment to wake up and join them, before launching into a story. A shortened version of yet another story filled with emotions and long nights. His story. Iggy's story. Their story.

10. Everything Is

We're getting close to the end now... only about four more chapters left, I think. Sequels are definitely in the works.
Chapter X: Everything Is

As ten-year-old kids, Fang and Iggy had very, very little to do. Before that time, there were constant tests, white coats rushing about, and what not. But in the weeks before Iggy's surgery, things suddenly got very relaxed. Honestly, Fang had no idea why. Perhaps it was their anticipation that caused them to back off so suddenly, or maybe it had something to do with them getting older. But in any case, they ended up with a lot of free time on their hands. Most of which was filled up with mindless wall staring, television, reading, tag and games of hide and seek.

Hide and seek, Iggy had decided early on, was his favorite. Seeing as neither wall staring nor television nor reading was very exciting, and tag was hard to play in a small space like the rooms they were presented with.

"Shut up!" Iggy hissed under his breath, as Fang tapped him on the shoulder.

"I didn't say anything!" the other boy protested, putting his hands up defensively.

"You were going to!" Iggy accused in an annoyed way.

"Prove it!"

"Shh!" Sometimes Iggy could be very competitive. But only when hide and seek was involved. Otherwise he was a very passive person. Really.

Fang, realizing he didn't want to be at the end of Iggy's competitive wrath, obliged and instead stayed quiet and tried not to reveal their hiding place to Max.

Hide and seek was probably best played with a large group, honestly (this was later confirmed when Nudge, Gazzy and Angel joined the group), but since they had three people they made due as best they could; Max usually seeking, Fang and Iggy hiding. The games never lasted very long, though, there were few places to hide in their rooms, and Fang and Iggy usually hid in the same place anyways. Which was slightly pointless, he realized. But Iggy liked sitting next to Fang, so he wasn't going to say anything.

"What's taking her so long?" Fang whispered after a long moment. Mostly to himself, but partly to see if Iggy was still feeling so competitive.

"Dunno," Iggy shrugged, peering around the edge of the table.

"Maybe the white coats got her," Fang whispered mysteriously, though he highly doubted that. They had better things to do than follow around three ten-year-olds.

"Shut up,"


"You should be." Iggy sniffed.


"I said I was sorry." Fang said after a painfully long, awkward moment.

"And...?" Iggy's competitive arrogance shined through.

"Well, aren't you gonna say something else?"


"Fine." Fang said defiantly.

Silence filled the room once more.

"Sorry." This time, it was Iggy. Because fighting with your best friend really wasn't that fun anyways.

Fang had never felt so horribly torn in his life.

Iggy, his love, was... sleeping, or in a coma. Whatever you wanted to say, but the point was he was now lying in a hospital bed, attached to wires and tubes and god knows what, and he wouldn't wake up.

Somehow, Angel, Max, Gazzy and Nudge had learned their secret. Well, not somehow. Angel had read Iggy's mind, Max had caught him kissing Iggy's sleeping body, and Angel had accidentally spilled to the other two.

Fang sighed to himself. He really had to stop blaming other people. She'd only hinted at their relationship, he'd been the one to spill the news.

And what news it was.

Angel had taken it without a second thought. Simply accepted it as fact and moved on. Thank god for her and her simplicity.

Max seemed... well, at first she had been somewhat accepting, and now, she seemed to be slowly slipping into a type of shock; as if it'd finally sunk in.

Nudge had probably suspected all along, to be honest, and she'd kept her mouth oddly shut. Though he knew she probably would've said something to him later.

Gazzy was the only one he'd hit a bit of a rough patch with. He hadn't quite understood it, how two guys could have feelings for each other. He kept asking, "How did this happen? What do you mean? Why...?" But Fang thought- hoped- he'd come to accept it later, though he couldn't care less if he did. He didn't care what anyone thought anymore.

Even if he didn't care, though, he could feel the dynamic of the group change. Gazzy was reluctant to talk about Iggy in front of him, Nudge seemed always on the verge of saying something, but then she'd draw back and close her mouth. Max herself looked at him with more pity, her eyes full of sympathy and concern. He brushed it off, though. He didn't need them and their problems. He couldn't have cared less what they did.

All he cared about was Iggy, that's it.

The doctors had come in only a few minutes before, sweeping his vital signs and checking over his brain waves. Apparently, there was no change. Fang didn't know what they were looking for exactly, but whatever it was, he could have told them it wasn't there. The only thing he'd seen Iggy do the entire time he'd been at his bedside was breath. Although he found the slow rise and chest of Iggy's stomach reassuring, because other than that he looked very, very dead.

"Hey," Fang looked up, and was surprised to see that Max had somehow slipped into the otherwise silent room without him knowing.

"Hi," he muttered, giving a weak wave her way to show he was alive.

"What's up?" she asked gently, taking a seat next to him with some hesitation.

"What's up? What's up?" He felt a rise of anger in his chest once more, what's up? Was that supposed to mean, damn, you look horrible, don't kill yourself? Because that's sure as hell what it sounded like.

"Sorry," she blushed profusely, her gaze falling down to her feet, "Stupid question."

"Very stupid question," It was taking his entire will not to scream at her at this point.

"Fang," her voice was no longer soft and easy going; it was firm and forceful, "Stop blaming people. You included. It was just the Erasers, that's it."

She just didn't get it, did she? He let this happen! If he'd listened to his instincts, or at least kept himself grounded, none of this would have ever happened!

And more importantly, he hadn't had the chance to really tell Iggy how much he really, truly cared about him.Iggy could have guessed, sure. But he never put it into words.He never said "I love you", he never did any of that stuff Iggy did for him. Now, he was possibly going to die thinking that Fang hadn't really loved him, which was just about the biggest lie Fang had ever.

"You…" You just don't understand, Fang wanted to say.But he hardly got past the first syllable before he felt his throat begin to close up on him, and it was all he could do to bite his lip and shake his head, his eyes squeezed shut with the desperate prayer, I will not cry, I will not cry.

"Fang..." Maybe Max was going to say more too, but she didn't. Instead, she pursed her lips together and put her hand on Fang's shoulder, which was probably better anyways.

She massaged his shoulder, dispelling all the tension he'd built up in his muscles, and seemingly so, his emotional barrier. The one thing that stopped him from crying out in pain, and he slowly felt himself crumble, from the inside out. His heart dropped into his stomach, and his lips parting to allow racketing, choked sobs to escape in place of words.

And Max sat quietly next to him, having the sense not to say something stupid like, "It's okay" or "Don't worry about it", she just said next to him, massaging away all his tension and feelings, she never said a word.

"I'm sorry," Fang choked when he found his voice again.

"Don't be," Max said softly as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

"I don't know what happened,"

"Fang, you... obviously care about him."

"What gave you your first clue," Fang muttered bitterly under his breath, his fire returning once more.

"I do want to know, though," Max said, obviously choosing to ignore his comment, "Wha… How, did this happen?"

Like I even know, Fang thought to himself.

"Why does it matter?" He sounded quite a bit more bitter than he'd meant to, but he didn't care either way.

"I… Jus… It doesn't." she blushed profusely, before adding softly, "I just wanted to know."

He supposed she would, after all, it must have come as a shock, two people who she'd considered herself closest to in the world turning out to be suddenly falling head over heels for each other, right behind her back.

He paused, wondering if he should humor her or just to reply sarcastically.

"I don't even know," he began softly, "One day..." he decided it was best to leave out their whole story, and just skip to the important parts, "Iggy just kissed me... things have been going ever since."

"You mean...?" Her face was twisted in perverted disgust, her expression saying something along the lines of, 'you've got to be kidding me.'

"No!" he said quickly, "I mean, we've just been..." Maybe the term in love wasn't appropriate for the moment, "together ever since."

"Oh," Max said quietly, "How... how long has this been going on?"

He shrugged, trying to stay indifferent and unattached to the situation, "A while."

So specific, he smiled discreetly to himself, proud of his ability to seem illusive.

"Are you... I mean, do you think you're...?"

Fang's brow furrowed, "Eh?" He had no idea what sh was getting at, if she was even getting at anything and not just rambling.

"Listen," she said quickly, "I shouldn't have asked. Just forget it."

"Am I gay?" Fang could not have been any more blunt at the moment, but as before, he didn't care. To him, the question was just a bit too personal, and a bit rude. So it should be met with the same attitude.

"Erm, yes."

How do you answer a question like that when you don't know? Fang wondered to himself, because he hadn't considered himself gay, but bringing up the question there were very little other options. Because obviously he wasn't straight, that was for sure.

"I don't know," he said honestly, "Because if Iggy were a girl, I'd still love him… Or her, as it were. Maybe I am? Sure. But to me, it really doesn't matter. I just..." he felt his throat suddenly start to choke again, "I love him."

He didn't know what it was about those words, that one little phrase. But it was the absolute worst for him. He loved the way it rolled of Iggy's tongue, the way he always put emphasis on the 'uh' of love. As if there was some secret message in it. But whenever he tried to say it- and god knows he had- he'd get tongue tied and back out. And now... it was almost too late.

"What-? Fang!" Max cried, probably surprised to see such a reaction coming out of him. At least, that would be his best guess. But if she thought this was going to turn into some heart-to-heart session, boy was she wrong.

"It's not important," he told her, clenching his jaw and tightening his fists, as if that alone could ward off emotion.

"Please, just talk to me-"

Fang only gritted his teeth in response, because he was not going to let himself fall apart in front of Max and let her think he was getting soft. Even if he was, she wasn't going to know that. In his mind, he was still Fang, strong, silent and emotionless. But in his heart, he knew that Fang was crumbling, and something new was coming in his place.

Iggy's first kiss was not actually with Fang, as he supposed Fang would have thought. It was a more innocent, simpler version of a kiss than the ones he and Fang had shared. When their hormones were raging and their emotions were churning, it was all they could do to just hold onto each other. He supposed maybe it was just the way Fang kissed him, or maybe it was the way he kissed Fang.

All he knew was that Max had certainly been different.

It'd been on one of their first days outside the School, a rainy day at the age of seven. Fang wasn't there, he was having a medical examination, and the two had eluded their chaperone long enough to escape into a small wooded area in back of the facility. Much of it was cut off by an electric fence none of them dared to touch, but there was a small thicket they could get to quite easily. And so, they decided exploring a 10x10 area was better than exploring nothing at all.

"I'm Superman!" Iggy declared, bounding from log to log, trying to give the impression of flight. Neither of them had flown in the open before, only inside. Had he been more daring, he might have tried it himself.

"Then, I'm Wonder Woman!" Max giggled, stepped up on the log in front of him and jumping gleefully to a nearby stump.

"And we'll fly far away," she said, coming up behind him soundlessly, and then, with perhaps a bit too much gloat, gave him a hard shove between the shoulders, meant to send him toppling to the floor. The plan went that far, but what she didn't count on was Iggy grabbing her by the hand and pulling her down into the mess of grass and dirty plastic cans and leaves with him.

She fell on top of him, laughing the entire way, because, honestly, it was probably one of the funniest things she'd ever seen.

"You were saying?" Iggy smiled, stroking the brown, crispy leaves from her hair.

"Nothing," she said through fits of laughter. Iggy could only smile.

Once she got her breath, she rolled off of Iggy's stomach and onto her side, staring at Iggy intently, as if deep in concentration. He turned and did the same, watching the way she was absent mindedly tearing a small, yellow leaf apart as she thought.

"You know, I think things are getting better around here," she said suddenly, her eyes not moving off Iggy's pale, relaxed face.

"Maybe," he agreed with a hint of a shrug.

"Hmm," she hummed, pursing her lips and looking to her left, where dark grey storm clouds were rising in the distance.

"Maybe we should be getting back," she said, pulling herself off the ground.

"Maybe," he agreed once more, allowing her to pull him to his feet as their feet crunched the leaves beneath them.

"Are you going to keep saying 'maybe'?" She laughed, giving him a slight shove in the shoulder.

"Maybe," he smirked.

"Would you hit me back if I hit you?" she wondered aloud as the tramped back through the small thicket.


"Would you kiss me back if I kissed you?"


Turns out, maybe was a definite yes, because as he felt her lips graze his, he could help but let himself fall into her. Because no matter how much he denied it, he thought Max was beautiful. And he loved the way she looked at him whenever things got too boring for her taste. He loved the way she'd twirl her hair aimlessly when caught up in her own thoughts. The way she'd walk down the halls, as if she owned the damn place. The way her eyes always had a spark...

But, then again, she didn't quite taste as sweet as he'd imagined.

"I fucked up, okay?" Fang said after much, much pestering on Max's part, some people file harassment claims after the type of pestering she did, "I really, really fucked up."

"Huh?" she blinked blankly, not quite understand how 'fucked up' and 'Iggy dying' went together. After all, he hadn't been the one to... to hurt him like that.

"I fucked up!" he repeated, "F-U-C-"

"Fang, I don't need a spelling lesson, just tell me what's wrong!"

"I just- god- I was such an idiot! He told me he loved me, he told me every fucking day, and you know how I repaid him? With nothing! Absolutely nothing!"


"Fang," Iggy said softly into the other boy's hair.

"Yes?" Fang responded, his voice equally light. Iggy could feel the brunette's arms wrapped tightly around him, holding him close, sheltering him against the cold. It felt so right, just exactly the way things should be right then and there. Nothing could have made it better, nothing could have made it worse. It was perfect, just absolutely perfect. There were no other words to describe it.

"This is... this is the happiest I've been a long time," he said honestly, resting his head in the curve of Fang's neck, nuzzling his t-shirt sleepily. And it was true, too. Ever since they'd left Colorado, they'd hardly had time to stop and relax. But this was one of the rare times Iggy simply got to enjoy the company of his boyfriend.

"Me too," the sigh from Fang was heavy, tired, almost sad but not quite, happy with a tinge of melancholy regret. A common Fang thing. Seeing as he was almost never completely happy, though Iggy knew he wasn't quite as cold as he seemed.

"Fang?" He murmured quietly.


"You're amazing, love," he whispered, burying his face in Fang's collarbone and pulling himself even closer to the brunette boy, and curling his knees closer to his chest as Fang did the same. Making them seem like one small, compact package.

Love. It was a term of affection rarely used in this part of New York, but it was the absolute perfect one for Fang. Nothing too childish or cliche, but it was still special. It still had meaning.

"You're beautiful," Fang paused, and Iggy opened his mouth to lay out another sentiment, but Fang beat him to it.

"In fact, I think you're perfect." Fang's voice had grown softer, and Iggy could feel his breath against his hair. His lips brushed against his temple.

"I love you so much," Iggy replied, his throat only slightly choked, "You make my heart ache."

"You make mine race, baby," Fang said, his fingers running across Iggy's scalp, combing through his hair. Iggy could almost feel Fang's heart, pounding against his, as he leaned in to kiss him once more. Harder, more possessively than ever before. He thought of how Max kissed Fang once, and how he'd once kissed her too. Well, tonight, they'd both forget about her. They didn't need her, they had each other, that was enough.

"Just kill me, okay? Just effing kill me, because I'm gonna die anyways, and right now seems like a pretty damn good time to die-"

"Calm down!" she cried, putting her hands firmly on either side of his shoulders, "You're not going to die, Iggy's not going to die, you're going to grow up together and buy a nice apartment and... and I don't even know what else! But Fang, this is not the end of the world!"

"It's not?" his breath was heavy, and halting, but he said it as if a revelation had hit, as if the little light bulb had at last gone off.

Max said nothing, she just looked at him. His dark, brown- almost black- hair and the way it fell into his eyes. How his eyes almost matched, except for a quiver of hazel and gold you could only see... once you looked properly. His mouth, open to reveal his straight, white teeth, and how beautifully his features came together...

What happened next, Max could only call a moment of stupidity, or complete forgetfulness and idiocy, because the next thing she new, if only for one brief second, her lips came to meet Fang's.

The kiss, if you could call it that, only lasted a second before both bodies pushed away. One completely disgusted with themselves and confused, the other just confused, and slightly shocked. And guess which one Max was.

"Ah!" she cried, suddenly realizing what she'd done.

"Max," Fang's voice trembled, "You're... a nice girl... but-"

She didn't stay to hear the rest, she stood up, hands covering her face for fear that wet tears would leak down her face, and quickly stumbled out the door and into the hallway. But she hardly made it a step before she found herself collapsing in front of the door, hot tears running down her face and painful, choked words slipping from her mouth.

"Why do I ruin everything?"

11. When We Were Good

A/N: Sorry for the late update, but I've been studying abroad for the past twenty days. No computer access anywhere. Many apologies.

Chapter XI: When We Were Good

According to Max, too much of anything was bad, all things in moderation. Normally, Fang agreed whole heartedly with the statement. It was their joint theory that if the world would just take more things in moderation, there would be no addiction, no war, no disagreements, no tragedy. All things in moderation. It made the world so much better.

But then again, maybe not in all situations was moderation best. Like... um... well, he'd think of something else later, but the point was: she was being completely ridiculous when she'd tried to apply it to their current situation. Meaning: she'd suggested they take a break from the hospital and spend a day in the city.

The blonde girl had said all he (yes, she'd singled him out among the group) did these days was sit by Iggy's bedside and talk to his comatose body. According to her, he needed to go out and get something to eat, take a nap, relax- at least for a short time. That had been last night, and he'd laughed and brushed it off as just a half-baked plan she'd forget in the morning. As most of them were.

So he'd spent the night in Iggy's silent company, dozing off occasionally, though only when he'd heard Max pass by. She worried too much, really, a coke and some sugar was better than a couple hours of sleep. He couldn't remember the last time he got a full night of sleep. Most recent ones were filled with worry, and even before that, he and Iggy had spent many nights up together, just talking.

In any case, he'd spent that night just as any other, not really concerned with what Max had said earlier. But, that morning, when he'd left the room for only a moment to grab a coke and settle back down by Iggy's side, she'd shooed him out of room and wouldn't let him through, despite his best attempts to break down the door.

Instead, while he sat outside in the hallway, grumbling to himself, she hatched a plan with Dr. Martinez, who arranged their entire day in a matter of minutes. Taxi cabs, restaurants, shops and even a show. A day for him, and everyone else in the group, to be happy with. After all, it was so unhealthy to sit around and be sad, cooped up in a hospital. How can it be unhealthy to sit in a hospital, for god's sake?

But it's what they said.

"C'mon," Max said, bursting through the door like a gust of wind after nearly twenty minutes being cooped up in that room with Dr. Martinez. Honestly, he'd expected something a little more grandiose, a great announcement of exactly what they were going to do that day. But she just said 'c'mon'? Very disappointing.

"Get your coat, the taxi will be here soon." she said, turning to him suddenly. As she looked down upon him, her eyes turned softer, and her mouth fell into a sympathetic frown. Fang forced himself to look away, he didn't need her pity. He didn't need her at all. He had never needed her and her stupid ideas and concern. Not even at the School. She'd been the needy one...

"I don't want to," Fang moaned, rubbing his cheek miserably. He was sitting with his back pressed against the cold, white hospital wall, his knees curled to his chest, and his arms wrapped around his knee caps, resting his forehead on top of his arms. A small, compact package, a.k.a., the fetal position. Despite the fact that Fang had perfected the art of bottling his emotions, he still found comfort in this position.

She groaned in a very netted manor as a way of response, but tried to stay nice and sweet. Plastering a smile on her face, and lowering her voice as if talking to a small, scared child, she squatted down next to him, putting her hand sympathetically on top of his.

"He's gonna be fine," she cooed, her voice sweet like honey, but maybe too sweet, "He might even wake up soon."

"But what if he wakes up today?" Fang said pointedly. She knew quite well that he planned to be there the second he woke up.

"I can assure you, he won't," that was Dr. Martinez, appearing from the depths of yet another all white hospital room. Fang couldn't help but shudder a little, the more he stayed here, he hated the hospital. The whiteness, cleanliness, the smell of chemicals... it was like the School all over again.

"How can you know that?" he raised an eyebrow, knowing there was no way for them to be able to pinpoint the exact second anything was going to happen. It simply wasn't possible.

"He may, um, well," she blushed a bit at her own wordlessness, "We might have to send him into surgery again. Nothing big, just some light swelling of the brain that we might have to clear up. And if we send him in, he'll be guaranteed to be out all day."

"And if you don't send him in?" Fang murmured softly, pulling himself up off the floor, ignoring Max's outstretched hand of help.

"If you want, we could give him a light sedative, so he won't wake up." she offered with a bit of a shrug, as it to say 'this is what I can do, take it or leave it.'

"No," Fang said sharply, surprising both women, "Don't drug him. I'll just... I'll... god, I don't know." Dejectedly, he ran his fingers through his hair, he was completely torn. On one side, seemingly selfishly, he did want to take some time outside the hospital, to see things and what not, to relax and get himself together, but also, he knew he shouldn't leave Iggy's side. He loved him, he loved him so much, he couldn't bear the thought of him waking up, and for him, Fang, not to be there. Instead he might wake up to the face of some blonde nurse named Debbie, or something. Ugh, Debbie, what an awful name.

"Fang," Max said quietly, throwing a look at Dr. Martinez as if to say 'just a second' and pulling him down the hall, so no one else could hear them, "He's not going to love you any less if you're not there the second who wakes up."

But she didn't understand. He would. He really wouldn't love him as much, he had to be there. He absolutely had to. Because if Iggy didn't remember, then he'd have to be there, to remind him of what happened, and how much they loved each other.

He couldn't imagine what would happen if Iggy didn't remember. No, actually, that was a lie. He could, but really, he didn't want to try.

Maybe things would go back to the way they were before, when they were just friends. But if it did, Fang knew his heart would still ache for something he couldn't have.

Maybe he'd remember later, but would it be too late? When they were each confined into their roles as heterosexual men, and they were forced to move on?

In either scenario, Fang was sure one of them would end up with their heart ripped out, laying bloody on the floor while the other moved on. He was pretty certain that would be him, too, that ended up with the broken heart.

"Fang," Max said impatiently, grabbing his wrist and pulling him towards the elevator, "You're not going to do him any good if you tire yourself to death.

"Have a little fun, it's not going to kill either of you." she said, pushing the Ground Floor button.

How could she know? Fang wondered to himself, listening to the tones of the elevator as they stood in silence. Fang's thoughts traveling back to Iggy once more, Baby, I'm so sorry, he thought over and over again, praying to be blessed with Angel's telepathy, if only for a moment, I swear I'll be back soon.

Maybe later he'd ask the little girl to give Iggy a message for him... then again, maybe not. Maybe some things should just stay between them.

"What time are we getting back?" he asked as they stepped off the elevator and into the lobby area. At least then he could count down the hours 'till he was back again. And then he could probably hurry things up by telling them they were going to be late, or that they were taking too long.

"Eight, maybe?" Max shrugged in an annoyingly nonchalant way, "I can't really say."

"Where are we going first?" he questioned, out of the corner of his eye seeing Nudge, Gazzy and Angel rise from a section of waiting chairs near the nurse's station.

"Fang," Max said, opening the door for the group to file out, "Just relax, okay? It's all gonna turn out just fine."

Right, Fang had the urge to roll his eyes, but thought the better of it, knowing that Max's eyes would constantly be following him today. Any anti-social behavior would not be tolerated. Maybe Iggy's the lucky one.

Panic gripped Iggy tightly as he awoke with a terrified scream.

It was a nightmare. Just a nightmare. But a terrifying one all the same. He blinked rapidly, trying to adjust his eyes to the pitch black, lightless dark that enclosed him. Enclosed him so tightly he felt as if he might suffocate in the eternal blankness.

But then, it hit him.

He was blind. He couldn't see anymore...

A whimpered sob escaped his throat, his mind racing desperately with scattered thoughts and visions of everything he'd never see again. He was blind! He was blind! Oh god, how could this happen?

He wanted to scream, to throw things and be glad to hear the sound of the delicate instruments spread out around the School breaking. The instruments that had taken away his sight forever, and not to mention their creators and operators, they'd go with them. The stupid bastards... how could they do this to him?

But he couldn't. He didn't know where they were, much less where he was. He was completely helpless.

By now, hot tears were dripping down his face and sobs were racketing through his chest.

He was so helpless, god it was pathetic the way he had to rely on people for everything now, the way he woke up like this, completely terrified because he couldn't see. It was so sad, it was like he was another little kid again, and not the tall-for-his-age ten-year-old he really was.

His life was ruined, dammit. Nothing would ever be right. Never again. Thanks to them, them and their stupid ideas and experiments. They gave him wings, perfect vision, speed, strength, but then they took it all away. In that one moment, they completely fucked the rest of his life up.

He pulled his knees to his chest, trying to muffle his sobs in the blankets.

Finally, unable to stop his emotions from sounding, a small cry escaped his throat, "Why did this happen to me?"

Curled in the fetal position, sobbing into his knees, Iggy could have not been anymore alone.

"You okay?" Nudge asked, looking at Fang with eyes full of concern and wonder. Her mouth turned down into a slight frown, and her brow furrowed. It wasn't a suitable look for Nudge, who was usually so bright and happy. Not at all.

Crammed in a car with her on his left, and Gazzy on his right, Fang was beginning to discover claustrophobia. It was... unnerving to sit so close to people. No matter how well he knew them. It still made him shiver and pull into himself, to feel Nudge's arm touching his, and Gazzy's hip bone in his thigh. Ugh. People.

Not to mention the overhanging scent of cigarettes in the car. And the fact that the driver insisted on playing his country music at the loudest possible tone. Plus, the A/C was broken, leaving the car stuffy and hot.

He was really beginning to hate Max now.

"Fine," he mumbled, brushing her off without a second thought. Not like she really understood what he was going through anyways. Nobody she loved was in a coma... then again, she was eleven. Not like she'd loved anyone like that before.

"Because if you're not, you know you can always talk to me. I'm good at listening. Iggy used to talk to me a lot, when we were back in Colorado. He told me a lot of things, like how he hated being blind, and how Max's Taylor Twins CD always annoyed him, and he told me about cooking too. I wish he would have taught me how to cook, cause that would have been so cool, I've always wanted to cook-"

"Nudge, please, just be quiet," Fang said sternly, clapping his hands over his ears firmly, attempting to divert the noise without luck, "I have a headache."

"Oh, sorry," she said quietly, "But if you ever wanna talk, you know I'm here."

Fang didn't say anything, he only shook his head and forced his eyes to follow a young couple wandering down the street, despite the burning sensation he felt deep inside, he wanted to talk to Nudge. He wanted to tell her everything, but he couldn't find the right words. Maybe later, when the words came to him. But not right now.

Fang could hear the sound, he could have heard it miles away. The tortured, muffled cries of Iggy. He'd woken up to the sound a dozen times, if not more. Usually, he was right at Iggy's side, hugging him and making the hurt go away. But even since the operation, he couldn't bring himself to make that walk down the hall and hold his best friend as he'd done a thousand times before.

It was so terrifying, the thought that Iggy, who he'd known for so long, could be hurt in such a way. Now, things would never be the same, and Fang knew that. He knew that very well. Never again would he be able to play hide and seek or tag. Well, maybe he would, but it wouldn't be the same. It'd all change. Because Iggy wouldn't be able to see them hiding, or see who he was running after... he'd have to play some other way. Change the rules.

And Fang was completely frightened of change. No more pattens, no more sameness. How could he possibly know what to do in a situation like this?

Yes, he told himself, curling onto his side and trying to block out the sound of Iggy's sobs, it was best not to get involved with this. For both of them.

The first event on the itinerary for the day was shopping. Or, in Fang's case, sitting around different shops aimlessly watching Dr. Martinez fuss over Angel and Gazzy while Max would attempt as usual to penny-pinch. Usually it went something like this:

"Maaax! I want this!" Whatever Angel was holding up, it was guaranteed to be pink, sparkly and very, very expensive. It was simply her taste.

"Sweetheart, I don't think..." But Max's desperate pleas not to bankrupt their sponsor would be silenced immediately.

"It's okay, here, Angel, let me see that," Dr. Martinez would coo, you could see her eyes bulge when she saw the price, but she'd smile and nod, taking out her credit card once more.

Max would usually try to talk her out of it, Angel would throw a fit and she'd shut up. No one really wanted to deal with the problem of Angel using her powers in the middle of a crowded store. That would be like setting off a bomb in a retirement home. It was just cruel. Plain and simple.

Then, the scenario would be repeated. Only this time, with Gazzy.

"Look! Look! It's so cool!" Whatever he was holding, it was usually robotic and just as expensive as whatever his sister had selected.

And well... you get the rest. Save one thing, his fits would be based around his newly discovered pyromania. And you thought Iggy was dangerous with fire!

No, the little Gasman seemed to be completely flame resistant. Except... the things around him usually weren't. Not a pretty picture. Not at all.

The only place Nudge got excited (surprising she hadn't gotten so aroused any where else, but not surprising what the one place she chose to be ecstatic was) was when they stopped at a RiteAid to get Angel a candy bar and she saw the makeup section. It was her current life dream to be a beautician. Last week she wanted to be a neurosurgeon/horse trainer.

She now had eyeshadow and nail polish in every color imaginable, eyeliner in black, blue and silver, and lip gloss in every flavor the candy shop offered. She wanted to get more hair dye too, but no one really trusted her that much. Iggy would have, but he was kind of a in a coma. One had to admit though, she did do a pretty good dye job last time.

Fang had gotten excited... no where, though Max had forcibly bought him some new clothes at a few places. He showed little interest, but he had to admit he needed them, so he let her buy them. No matter how much he didn't want to let her.

Dr. Martinez had tried to talk to him a few times, but he brushed her off. She checked in with the hospital twice, they'd sent him in, surgery went marvelous, he was fine. That seemed to be about it.

But Fang's heart still felt heavy with the guilt that he was leaving his best friend behind.

They went to lunch at a small restaurant called the Indigo Grill, where they bought out the back room and had ten of everything on the menu. They ate every last bit too.

"Fang," Nudge whispered halfway through their dozens of appetizers.

"What?" he hissed back, poking at his nacho plate boredly.

"No one else is listening," Which was true, most were engrossed with the fact that Total had suddenly developed a liking for Angel's onion ring plate, and was thereby stomping all over it. He didn't quite get why this was so important though.

At least, not until that day's earlier conversation hit him.

"Nudge!" Fang hissed sharply, "Get it through your head! I don't want to talk-"

"Stop lying," her voice was steeling cold, "I've seen the way you've been sulking all day. Don't tell me you 'don't want to talk about it', it's pretty obvious what you're doing. You're just cutting yourself off from us, and by doing that, nothing's going to get better. Just talk to me, Fang! I'm not going to laugh at you for saying more than one sentence consecutively!"

Fang groaned under his breath, but secretly, he could feel a bit of a flutter in his chest. A part of him- albeit, a very small part- knew he needed to do this. But another part, a much larger part, fought against it.

Well, you know what happened in David and Goliath.

And it all came pouring out. How Max had kissed him. His irrational fear of not being there when Iggy woke up. And how much he missed his voice, and the feeling of his skin against his own.

Nudge sat there, and didn't say a word for the remainder of their meal. Fang sat there, and was on the verge of tears for the remainder of their meal. But it was probably the best thing that had happened in a long time.

Iggy wanted to hear Fang's voice, to feel his breath against his ear and mostly, see his eyes light up in a smile once again. In fact, that's probably what he wanted the most in the world. He couldn't care less if he saw Max or Nudge, if their images faded from his memory what was he to do about it?

But he swore to himself the very day he awoke without his site, he'd remember Fang's face forever.

His hair, how it was nearly black but not quite, and the way it fell into his eyes when he was really concentrated on what was in front of him. His eyes, which were brown, but they had a ring of gold and sepia around his pupil. How the lit up in the morning. The way his face was eloquently shaped, with high cheek bones, a refined nose and a strong jaw line. He didn't look like anyone else he could ever imagine. Because Fang was one in a million. There would never again be anyone like him.

The reason he said it that way (what Max had called his 'pessimistic' way) was because Iggy felt like he was losing him.

Max had to admit, she enjoyed the day, even if almost everyone else didn't. It was good to get out, see what else was happening in the world. And to get food that didn't come out of a vending machine.

But the only other people who seemed to agree were Angel and Gasman, who took full advantage of the day and ate and shopped to their hearts content. But they were young, and easily forgot the tragedy that they'd left that morning. Almost running from. But Nudge and Fang didn't. Neither said more than two consecutive sentences that day, and neither bought anything or ate at their own will.

Maybe if Iggy died, no! No! That was a cruel thought! A horribly cruel thought! How could she even think that?

If he did, though... they'd move on...

Max pinched herself as punishment for even considering something so... heartless... cold... Not that she was thinking of killing him herself... but if he had... He wasn't though, he was going to wake up. Really soon. And they'd all leave New York and find themselves somewhere safe and warm. Maybe in Florida or something. Disney hadn't done them wrong yet.

Calm down Maximum, it's a natural part of mourning to blame the dead or dying person, the voice chimed in.

He's not dead yet. He's not going to die either.

Maximum... are you prepared for the fact that your friend could very well be dead when you return today?

No! The doctors-

Since when have you trusted doctors, Maximum? Honestly, haven't you learned anything?

She didn't reply to that, because she realized the voice was right. What had all their years at the school taught them, if not to be cautious? Never trust outside forces?

Oh god, what had she done?

"Iggy?" The boy's head shot up, bobbing in the darkness, searching for the sound of footsteps as the voice sounded from the doorway.

"F-Fang?" his voice was trembling, and then he could hear the sound of the door shutting, and hesitant foot steps...

But wait, this was wrong. That night- the night he'd woken up, crying for Fang- he'd never come. He'd spent the whole night alone, crying in his room and feeling sorry for himself... then how come...?

But before Iggy could register what was happening, his point of view flipped. He was standing in the corner of a room- almost exactly how he had pictured his room at the school- watching as fourteen-year-old Fang crept through the doorway. He took a seat at... his bedside?

But no, he was there... in the corner... he couldn't be...

Yet as he took a step closer, it was obvious now that the body in the bed was his own. With wires and oxygen and all sorts of tubes hooked up to his body... what happened? He didn't remember this happening before...

"I'm sorry." That was Fang, whispering to the body, "I didn't want to leave. Max made me. But I'm back now."

Iggy wanted to ask him where he'd gone, why he was apologizing, but found his voice was lost.

"I miss you... I miss you a lot... Everybody else does... I wish you'd wake up."

Iggy pinched himself, wanting to scream 'I'm right here!', but his voice was lost within his chest, and his body had gone so numb he couldn't even feel the pinching of the skin on his forearm. He glared at his slumbering body, as if to say 'Wake up, damn you!'. Of course, it didn't.

"I'm sorry this happened," Fang's voice suddenly seemed louder. As if projecting from a louder speaker of some sort, "I love you."

"I love you," Fang whispered, holding Iggy's pale, limp hand tightly in his own.

"Mmm, Fang."

12. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Disclaimer: "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning", belongs to Connor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes, and Saddle Creek records.'Kay?

A/N: For Phoebe, happy birthday.

This will be my last update for about a week and a half. I'm heading off to fine arts camp. Nifty, huh?

Chapter XII: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

No, it can't be, it couldn't... Fang's mind was off at a thousand mile per hour. Denial, happiness, disbelief, ecstasy, wonder, regret, hope, pessimism, and love. All at once, his brain was going a million different places. What if he was dreaming? What if Iggy didn't remember? But he'd just said...? Maybe that was just parroting, or maybe Fang hadn't heard him right. Fang felt his heart being torn once more. On one side, he loved Iggy, and he wanted to believe he was okay, but on the other he knew it wasn't likely. He knew the statistics on full recovery for a brain injury like this. Or at least, what the doctors had told him. Iggy couldn't just wake up and be okay. That just didn't happen...

Then again, Fang's thoughts turned as his lighter side came out to speak once more, miracles did.

Yeah, but only on Christmas specials.

"Mmm," Iggy moaned weakly, his eyelids fluttering open only briefly. Then, sighing deeply, he turned onto his side and curled into a tight ball. No, Fang hadn't been mistaken. His boyfriend was back from the living dead. Fang wasn't sure whether he should be happy or scared. Maybe both.

Remembering all the times they'd spent up late at night talking and laughing, Fang couldn't help but feel a little anxious to see if the same Iggy was still inside that thin body. Maybe he should wake him up now...?

"Iggy, Iggy, please, can you hear me?" he whispered, shaking his shoulder gently, his heart caught in his throat. This was the test. If Iggy was really truly okay, and if he remembered. Fang half wanted to call it all off and send for a nurse or Max, at least that way he wouldn't have to go through this alone.

Then again, when would they get a chance to be alone after this? Probably not for a very, very long while, he reasoned, knowing there'd be a lot of tests, a lot more doctors, the flock fusing over him... it might be a while before things got back to normal. If they ever did. Or if their lives could be called normal at all.

So, Fang managed to muster together his courage and take a deep breath, locking away all... unnecessary emotions, or at least until a later date.

"Iggy..." But Fang stopped short, because as he whispered the other boy's name, Iggy's hand reached out, and took hold of his own. Fang's heart began to pound in his head, like a little school boy's his hand began to sweat.

"Fang," Iggy murmured, curling his body around Fang's hand, like a child's teddy bear. Which Fang didn't mind, seeing as now he could feel Iggy's weak heartbeat against his hand. He found it reassuring, the rhythm. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. He'd found a pattern, and he was safe once more. Or at least, for the time being.

"Iggy, please," Fang's voice reached a desperate place. He was deathly afraid Iggy would go back to sleep, and he wouldn't wake up. That this was his one chance to bring his love back, or perhaps his opportunity to say goodbye. Maybe god- or whatever was up there- had given him this moment to be with him one last time.

If that was the case, they were going to make the best of it.

Actually no, they weren't going to make the best of the little time they had, they were going to make the best of the time they had, and make it as long as possible. Because Fang wasn't ready to say goodbye just yet, and he didn't think he ever would be.

"What?" Iggy mumbled, yawning as he spoke.

"Will you just... could you wake up for a little while? Just for me? Please?" he begged, wanting desperately to kiss him, but knowing that it could also make for a very awkward situation in that case that amnesia was now clouding Iggy's memory. So he held himself back, chewing on the inside of his cheek and waiting.

Iggy yawned again, then, putting one hand under his torso, pushed himself upward. But as he did so, he stopped, realizing that he wasn't laying on the pull out, but instead in a foreign bed, in a foreign room, in a foreign place. Fang had the urge to begin to explain, but thought it might be best for Iggy to remember on his own, maybe it'd help him recover. Fang had seen something like that on a television show.

So, instead, he took either of Iggy's hands and helped him to a sitting position, propping him up with pillows, seeing as he looked more or less exhausted, despite the fact that he'd just slept for nearly two weeks. Or maybe a coma wasn't like sleeping, and you didn't feel rested when you woke up. In that case, Iggy would probably end up sleeping a while longer, a thought Fang found rather disappointing. But either way, Fang was extremely, extremely eager to see what had happened to Iggy during his long slumber.

At first, he just sat back at his chair, waiting for Iggy to say something. But instead of rushing to explain what had happened to put him in the hospital in the first place, all the blonde did was yawn, rub his eyes and stretch his arms out above his head.

Now, in the light, Fang could see just how sickly and tired Iggy looked. His usually pale, milky white skin was nearly yellow, Fang supposed from malnutrition, and his usually bright eyes looked dull and misty. Not to mention the anorexic, concave look to his face, paired with the dark circles under his eyes, he looked like death, to be honest.

But Fang couldn't have loved him any less.

"How do you feel?" he asked gently. He'd folded his hands in his lap, he couldn't trust himself not to initiate some kind of romantic touching unless he did so. His fingers positively tingling at the thought of running his fingers through Iggy's hair, stroking his cheek, kissing his lips... holding him.

"Honestly?" Iggy asked, then, took a second to consider before answering, "I'm kinda thirsty, for one thing... I've got a little bit of a headache... and my back is really, really sore."

Then, a wicked grin came across his face, "You wanna help me with that?"

Fang laughed, partially because what Iggy said was funny, but mostly from relief. In fact, he probably could have cried from relief, but he was laughing too hard. So, once he caught his breath, he did the only thing he could. He put either hand on Iggy's shoulder, and slowly began messaging little circles across his white, cotton t-shirt.

"I swear," Iggy said softly, "I love you so much."

Fang opened his mouth to say the same back, seeing as he'd never said it to Iggy before, but as he did, there was an astounded gasp, and the clatter of plastic falling against the cold ceramic tile. Iggy nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound, but Fang was quick to shush him.

"I-I di..." the girl who stood in the doorway was an intern, or at least that's what he would have guessed, seeing as she was so young. Probably not over eighteen. Her hair pulled back in a tight, no nonsense bun, not a hair was out of line. Except for a few stray waves in the back, and a yellow #2 pencil sticking out of the bun like a single Devil's horn.

She stuttered a few more awkward greetings while trying to put her papers back together until finally coming up with the words, "You're awake." She sounded just as surprised as Fang was.

"Who's that?" Iggy whispered under his breath as the girl entered the room with a few unsteady steps.

"Nurse," Fang hissed back, watching her out of the corner of his eye as he spoke.

"I'll... um," she coughed, "I'll be right back." Just as abruptly as she'd appeared, she was gone with the swish of her long, white jacket.

"Fang," Iggy was so quiet, he was almost inaudible, "Where am I?" He bit his lip worriedly, and Fang felt as if his fingers might have fallen off from the lack of circulation. Seeing as Iggy was squeezing them to death.

"Baby," Fang replied slowly, unsure of exactly how to word his explanation without confusing the other boy too much, "You're in the hospital."

"The hospital?" Iggy mouthed, eyebrows raised in surprise.

"Um, yeah." Then, seeing confusion begin to takeover Iggy's expression, quickly added, "I'll explain later."

"Okay... promise?"

"Of course." Fang smiled, feeling happiness radiate throughout his chest, and pecked Iggy a light kiss on the cheek.

Or at least, that's what he'd intended to do, but as he leaned in, Iggy cocked his head just a little bit to the left, and instead of landing a small, innocent kiss on his cheek, he managed to get him full on the lips. At first, he wanted to pull away, just because he was surprised to be kissing Iggy's mouth. But Iggy's hand had come to rest on the back of his neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss. Even though he was trying his best not to erm, push Iggy too much, he found himself rather eager to make up for the past two weeks. In which the only kiss he'd received was a rather awkward, surprising one from Max.

But, in kissing Iggy, nothing felt awkward, or surprising, or wrong. Everything was just right, the way it should be.

As they parted, Fang could feel Iggy's heavy breath against his neck, "I missed you." he said softly, stroking Iggy's hair with his free hand, and massaging his shoulders with the other.

"I missed you too," Iggy's lips broke into an ear to ear smile, and Fang couldn't help but smile too. Because Iggy was happy, and that made him happy.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. Which Fang took as the chance to let his mind wander. Thinking of exactly what might lie ahead for them.

First of all, they'd get out of New York. It was too dangerous, the Erasers had already found them, and now they had to be careful. They had to. So, their only choice was to leave. Go somewhere where they wouldn't be found. Maybe somewhere warm? Seeing as the winter was coming...

Then, maybe this would all clear up... the government would discover all the shit going on at the school, and then they'd be allowed to just be normal kids. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

What would happen after that? They didn't have any formal education... but maybe they could get one. Virtual Highschool or whatever. Then they could get jobs, homes, families... that would be nice.

It wasn't going to happen, but it would be nice.

"Fang," Iggy's voice was rather cold and series, compared to how he'd sounded only minutes before, "Are you okay?"

Fang stuttered. Because he was gonna say "Yeah, I'm fine," but he suddenly recognized tears streaking down his face. Was he really that okay, after all? Why was he crying anyways... he wasn't terribly sad...

"Don't lie to me," Iggy warned, his tone steely with the scary seriousness. Fang had hardly heard Iggy's voice grow so cold and toneless... only when he was truly worried about something. Which, he supposed, was the reason it was so solemn then, and he felt flattered... but really, Iggy didn't need to be.

"I'm... I don't know?"

Iggy's hand reached up and caressed Fang's cheek, "Honestly, you sound like you're on your death bed. When was the last time you slept?"

Fang pulled away a bit, blushing at Iggy's protectiveness, "I don't know."

"Here," Iggy said, moving a bit to the left, "There's room on this bed for two."

"Baby, there isn't." Fang protesting, though he could clearly see that if they both squeezed in, there would be. But wouldn't that be uncomfortable for both of them? And anyways, he didn't need to rest. Iggy did.

"Shut up and get in the damn bed." Iggy's voice and expression rode on, 'are you an idiot, or what?'

Fang's lip twitched in a bit of a smile, "Forceful, aren't we?"

Though he knew it would be smart not to listen to Iggy, who was fiercely defiant and put people before himself, he also knew he hadn't properly slept in a long, long time. And he wasn't going to sleep anyways... he was just going to take a bit of a rest, right? So there, no problem.

The thought didn't even cross his mind that this might be considered "inappropriate".

So, he delicately crawled over Iggy, and curled up at his side.

"There, better?" Iggy asked, putting his arm around Fang's shoulders. But Fang was not satisfied with such little contact physical contact between the two- they needed to catch up on missed times, after all- so instead he leaned up and gave Iggy a kiss on the forehead.

"Now." he replied slyly, resting his head in the curve of Iggy's neck. Despite the overbearing scent of cleanliness and chemicals that all hospitals carried, Iggy still smelled a lot like himself. Kind of like the smell of an old musty t-shirt that you loved. Iggy was just like that, both figuratively and in scent.

"I love you," Iggy smiled, kissing Fang's hair lightly.

And had Fang not started to drift off at that moment, he would have screamed at the top of his lungs, "I love you too!"

"D'you think we should wake him up?"

"He's fine where he is."

"But he's got to hear this announcement."

"What's it about?"

"I can't tell you!"

"Well, he's fine then."


"Tell me what the announcement is about."

"You'll find out when he wakes up!"

"Quit being stubborn."

"I'm being stubborn!"

"Both of you, shut up," Fang mumbled under his breath, aware of only his arms around Iggy's torso, he hugged the other boy tightly, wanting only to go back to his peaceful sleep.

"Wake up!" And that had to be Max. Fang found it was, too, as she yanked on his arm, pulling him up to a sitting position.

Rubbing his eyes, the room started to come back into focus. He could see Dr. Martinez, standing at the end of the bed, and Gazzy and Angel to his left, as well as Nudge and Max on his right. And he almost missed Dr. Bellmont, standing and tapping his foot in the corner of the room. He looked uncomfortable, to say the least.

Suddenly, Fang became very, very self conscious.

He straightened up, smoothed down his hair and tried his best to look semi-normal. Which was pretty damn hard, considering at the time he thought himself a sexually confused Avian American, who had just woken up from a lovely nap- in the same bed as his boyfriend- to a room full of people.

Actually, looking normal was basically impossible.

But he tried.

Very hard.

"Okay, he's awake, now what's the announcement," Iggy asked, saving Fang partially from a new wave of embarrassments. But only partially.

"The announcement," Dr. Martinez said, speaking over Max who was saying something about patience being a virtue, "Is that Max, Dr. Bellmont and I, have just come up with a plan to get you guys out of New York- safely."

This announcement was met with a mixed reaction. Fang, and Iggy both gave a sigh of relief, Nudge seemed slightly disappointed, Gazzy angry, and Angel started wailing about needing to say goodbye to Freddy, her squirrel friend from Central Park. Needless to say, Max was very pleased with herself, though not with the Flock's reaction.

"Calm down, guys, let Dr. Martinez speak!" Max cried, trying to make herself heard over Angel's protestant screeches.

"Thank you Max," Dr. Bellmont nodded approvingly. That may have been the first time Fang heard the man speak.

"Yes, thank you," Dr. Martinez said with just the hint of a sigh, "Dr. Bellmont has arranged to fly you guys out to Atlanta, Georgia, and stay on one of his brother's properties, until we can find a way to stop this Eraser nonsense."

Fang could hardly believe his ears. Georgia. They were going to be flown out to Georgia. And stay with Dr. Belmont's brother. Or on one of his properties. Maybe that meant they'd get to live alone again. That'd be nice. Honestly, Fang missed their lifestyle from Colorado. When it was just them. No outside forces.

Then again, maybe they'd have to go to school... Fang was about to voice this concern, but then Dr. Martinez began to speak again.

"Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, the two of us will drive you to JFK, where you will meet a blonde flight attendant named Alicia in the front area. Now, it's very important you pay attention and say exactly what I tell you, because this plan is very, very delicate.

"She will ask you where you're going, and you'll tell her to Paris. She'll wish you a nice trip, and you'll thank her and hand her a red folder-" she held up a red folder to demonstrate "- inside will be your ticket information, and a signed note from Dr. Bellmont and myself. It's important that you not lose this folder or any of the papers inside.

"She'll take you into the backroom, and from there she'll lead you to the one o'clock flight to Washington D.C., by then it should be about 12:30, and you will be allowed to board first, taking the six seats nearest to the front, so Alicia will be able to keep an eye on you.

"When you arrive in D.C., Alicia and you guys will be the first to leave the plane, and you'll rent a black Ford Excursion with a vanity plate saying '12BLU74', from there Alicia will drop you guys off at the Holiday Inn, where Dr. Bellmont's brother- Dan- will be waiting. You'll spend the next day in D.C., while we cover your tracks here and Dan prepares your flight to Atlanta.

"These are pictures of Alicia, Dan and the pilot," she said, taking three laminated photos out of a manila envelope, "These are extremely recent, so if anything looks out of place on these people, I want you guys to call us. Max has one of Dr. Bellmont's cellphones."

Surprisingly, no one complained about Max being the one to get the cell phone, and instead stayed quiet, perhaps because they were trying to memorize the features of the three pictures put in front of them.

In addition to four separate photos from different angles, there was also a small Q and A section. For instance, Alicia's middle name was Jane, and her favorite food was fried chicken. Just random questions and answers, Fang supposed so they could question them if any issues came up.

"Wow..." Fang said, handing the photographs back to the women, "You guys... wow."

"No problem," she flashed him a smile, "You guys want to go back to the hotel and gather up some of your belongings?"

"That'd be fine," Max said, gathering up the younger ones, "Fang, you can stay here, someone's got to look after Iggy." She said it very nonchalantly, but as she walked out, Fang was sure he saw her wink at him.

"D'you know what day it is?" Iggy asked curiously.

In the last hour, he'd gotten a lot better. The color was returning to his face, and his eyes were bright again. His voice was no longer raspy, and he'd stopped yawning every other sentence. Which Fang took as a sign the Pepsi he'd given him had kicked in. Caffeine fixed almost everything, after all.

The pills the doctors had given him might have also helped, But Fang really didn't care what had done it, Iggy was better. Iggy was alive. That was a miracle in it's self.

Since the Flock had left, both had been tempted to lay in Iggy's bed and just explore each other's bodies, kissing and talking. But at the same time, they knew they had a duty to be ready when the Flock got back from the hotel. The plan, as Dr. Martinez had said, was extremely, extremely "delicate".

So Iggy had been forced to part with Fang briefly, though it killed both of them, whilst he was fussed over by doctors and nurses of all kinds, and then he'd been left alone to rest for a while. Or at least, until Fang snuck his way back into the room.

Fang himself had been gathering up the Flock's various bags from around the hospital, trying to group together something for the two of them to wear. Seeing Iggy hadn't changed out of the sweat pants and t-shirt he was wearing since entering the hospital, and Fang hadn't changed his since the night before.

"No, why?" Fang asked in an offhanded way, not even sparing a glance is boyfriend's way. Not that he didn't care, because he did, truly, and it was almost hard to believe that he'd finally woken up after so long... But at the time he was attempting to shove one of Angel's stuffed animals into a duffel bag already filled with clothes, a CD player, Total's doggie basket and the Flock's entire CD collection. Which turned out to be a very challenging experience.

"'Cause," Iggy's smile gleamed with a smug knowledge, "It's your birthday!"

From behind his back, he produced a small, plastic bag, scrawled on it- in Gazzy's typical messy penmanship- "For Fang- Love, Iggy."

"Oh god, Iggy, you didn't have to..." Fang cried, taking the bag into his hands, the eager look in his eyes completely contradicting the drabble coming out of his mouth. Presents were one thing, a rare anomaly at the School, to be cherished as one might cherish their own freedom. But presents from your boyfriend was another, especially when said boyfriend had just woken up from a coma. Because that made everything twice as good, maybe even ten times as good.

"I wasn't going to forget, Fang," Iggy replied, kissing Fang's cheek as he plopped down on the edge of the bed next to him.He put either arm around Fang's shoulders, spooning is body to beautifully fit Fang's. And Fang was reminded exactly how perfect they were for each other.

"I didn't say you were..." Fang said, pulling out the From First to Last CD, and then finding the new AFI CD under it, and he found himself completely in awe. Obviously, Iggy had not gotten that CD for him. But then... the flock?

"How did you know, though?"

Iggy shrugged, "Max. She brought the stuff over. The AFI CD is actually from her, Gazzy, Angel and Nudge, but she seemed to think it'd be better for me to give it to you."

"I love it," Fang said, wrapping his arms tightly around Iggy's neck, "I love it."

"You're not just saying that?" Iggy asked, rubbing small circles against Fang's shoulders, he knew Fang would say anything to keep him happy.

"No! Not at all!"

"Okay," Iggy chirped happily, also knowing Fang wasn't one to lie when asked a direct question. And even if he did, he was horrible at it and gave himself away almost immediately.

"I love you," Fang's voice was a hoarse whisper, "Iggy, I love you so much."

"I love you too, Fang," Iggy's voice mirrored Fang's, and then he laughed, "It feels weird to add 'too' on the end."

"I love you," Fang said it again, because he couldn't believe he'd said it the first time. And then, before Iggy could say some other wise ass comment, Fang pecked his lips.

"I love you," he said it again, and then kissed him again. Much deeper this time.

He did it again, as well. Three times, in fact, before Iggy stopped him, laughing uncontrollably, "It's good you're getting this out now, I suppose. Got to be nice when the Flock gets back."

Fang was about to ask what he meant, and then the little light bulb went off. Fang had forgotten to tell Iggy one little detail, he'd told the flock about them. He didn't think Iggy would be upset, perhaps disappointed he wasn't there, but not upset in the least.

"Iggy, the Flock kind of knows now."

"They know?"


"When did that happen?"

"'Bout a week ago."

"Oh. Kay."

"You're okay with it?"

"Duh, Fang, I was the one who wanted to tell them."

"'Kay, good." Fang said, ending the conversation with yet another kiss upon Iggy's lips.

"Love," Iggy said between their mouths, "They're gonna be here soon.

Fang sighed, pulling away, "You are right."

"I usually am," Iggy said, "Now hurry up, we don't have time for them to wait for us." And seeing as he did have a point, Fang went back to packing the duffel bags. Which, with the proper amount of applied strength and some duct tape, did not take very long at all. It was only ten-forty-eight by the time they finished, the Flock wouldn't be arriving for a good twelve minutes yet.

"Done," Fang panted, dragging the many duffle bags into the hallway, not caring to arrange them nicely, as one might do, but instead he simply tossed them around, piling up in the hall for people to trip on. He was very pleased with himself.

Walking back into the room, Fang thought Iggy had fallen asleep, seeing as his head was laid back against the pillows, eyes closed and breathing deeply, but when Fang took a step closer, he raised his head and yawned, though his eyes remained closed.

"You okay?" Fang asked, automatically reaching for Iggy's hand.

"Yeah, just a little tired." Iggy said with yet another yawn. There seemed to be a pattern to that.

"C'mon," Fang said, deciding maybe what Iggy needed to was another caffeine shot, "They'll be here soon." He took either of Iggy's hands in his own, and then very gently helped him up. Iggy swung his legs over the bed, and he seemed to shake with anticipation. Though Fang couldn't imagine why, it was his head not his legs.

Gingerly, Iggy pushed himself off the bed and for a second, he stood, tall and proud, just as usual. But then, his knees buckled out from under him, and he fell into Fang's arms.

"Whoa," was Iggy's remark, "That was... weird."

"You're okay?"

"You like asking that, don't you?"

"Not really, no."

Iggy sighed, "Yes, I am fine, mother."

"Shut up."

"Will do."

For a second, neither moved. Fang held tight to Iggy's torso, and Iggy simply allowed himself to be held. It was a nice moment. Perhaps even a peaceful moment. One that should be cherished, seeing as there was such little peace in their lives as it was. But instead, it grew very awkward. Like a drizzle turning to a storm, both grew decidedly uncomfortable, and it wasn't long before Iggy managed to gather his lower half together, mumbling apologies and holding himself upright once more.

But Fang was already quite worried, and wasn't to be thwarted that easily. He kept a loose hold on Iggy's waist, holding him up incase his legs crumbled from under him once more. Iggy insisted he was fine, and that all he needed was to get used to using his legs again. Fang said that was okay, but he watched Iggy very closely as he helped him changed into another t-shirt and pajama pants set. Though he also insisted Iggy wear a sweatshirt, because now the worst possible thing that could happen was for the blonde to get pneumonia or something.

"You're sweet," Iggy teased, kissing Fang full on the lips as the pair stepped outside to gather the duffle bags.

Fang wasn't sure what to say to that, so he said the three words he'd never get tired of saying, "I love you."

"I could almost get used to hearing that," Iggy sighed in mock contentment.

Fang laughed and allowed himself to be teased, but under their jokes, there was something biting at Fang that he needed to say out loud. Preferably to Iggy, but really he'd take any random person off the street at this point. Because he'd held it inside for much too long, as he did with most things, and now it was time to let it go. Maybe with some therapy sessions he could learn to stop doing that.

"Iggy," Fang drew the word out, speaking very evenly and easily so he could plan out exactly what to say, because suddenly all those speeches he'd prepared sounded cheesy, "While you were asleep, I realized two things. 1) I love you, and 2) I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

He swallowed hard, not quite sure if he'd actually said it, or if he'd just imagined he'd said it. But that question was quickly answered, when Iggy spoke again, "I've known that for a long time, Fang."

A/N: It's the happy, sappy chapter we all needed, and I'm damn proud of it.

Before I go, I just want to say thanks to everyone who keeps reviewing and sticks with the story. This has been an amazing experience, and is my favourite work up to date.

Don't take this as me saying it's over, because it's not. It's a thank you.

13. Across the Sky

A/N: For the past week or so, ff-dot-net's doc manager has been on the fritz, and now the dividers won't work, but oh well, right? So, know that the "xXx"s are to serve as dividers.


Chapter XIII: Across the Sky

Fang now realized why people weren't usually made with wings. The airlines would go broke.

Trapped in a small, enclosed space with dozens of strangers for several hours was no one's idea of fun, while soaring through the air, above the clouds and weather, alone with their own thoughts, was many people's idea of heaven.

The entire experience made Fang twice with paranoia. Though he knew Alicia was a very close friend of Dr. Martinez, and that she wouldn't let anything happen to them, every move the other passengers made caused him to jump up, or hide behind his headrest, fearing to see the hard glare of an Eraser looking back at him. The women behind him kept coughing, and the man to her right talked too much for comfort.

Alicia could see how uncomfortable they were, and she tried to put them at ease with an endless supply of free food, but that didn't help much. No one really touched anything. Not even Gazzy, who could usually eat for days. The younger ones slept for most of the flight, and Max kept staring down the aisle in her weird, paranoid way. But Fang, despite himself, really couldn't blame her. Life had not been kind to them, and it was only a natural reaction to be alert to the people around them. Thinking of all the times they'd mistrusted other people, how many times they'd been hurt, Fang too had the urge to turn around and examine the movements of other passengers, but he restrained himself, because there was also the fear that if he did, red eyes would be staring back at him. Iggy, of course, immediately sensed how ill at ease his other half was, and sought to rectify that. He took Fang's hand and tried to make him laugh, though it only produced a few awkward chuckles. But Fang had to admit, he did feel just a little bit better.

Which was why the moment they stepped out of the terminal, Fang fell to his knees and kissed the ground. Max laughed and pulled him to his feet, reminding him that Alicia was waiting. So they got into the proper car, and started off, very slowly, through the D.C. traffic.

The car ride it's self was very uneventful, and only consisted of more sleeping on the Flock's part, and jabbering on her cell phone on Alicia's part. Apparently her sister was having a baby, and her boyfriend was spending their anniversary alone.

By the time they arrived at their hotel, it was almost four, and everyone was in a zombie like, half-sleeping state. Except Alicia, who was either on a caffeine high or had some form of reverse jetlag.

They met Dr. Bellmont's brother, Dan, and he showed them to their rooms. Two adjoining rooms, each with two double beds. It was dark, and they were warned not to make too much noise and disturb the other guests, so they came to the unanimous decision that it might be best to just crawl into bed as is.

Max, Nudge and Angel said their goodnights, or at least Max and Nudge did, Angel had fallen asleep and Max was carrying her to their room. Gazzy was only slightly better than his sister, and subsequently collapsed into the bed nearest to the door as soon as he stepped in the door. Fang dragged himself, and consequently Iggy, who had put a finger through Fang's belt loop in the unfamiliar area, to the bed closer to the window. Fang could barely be bothered to rip off the comforter before they both fell into the bed, and almost immediately, they were both out like a light.


Most hotels offer wake up calls for their clients, that way they don't miss their appointments and what not. Said calls are usually in the morning.

Dan had arranged for a call around eight, hoping that he might be able to take the opportunity to show the group around D.C., seeing as their fight wouldn't be 'till late. Unfortunately, eight came and pasted, and still no flock. Finally, around ten he knocked rather loudly on the girl's room until a sleepy-eyed Maximum Ride opened the door. She yawned and asked what was wrong, and he carefully explained it was ten and he was wondering if he could possibly show them around. Maximum politely declined, explaining this would be the best time to relax and take some time off. Though she failed to mention what the folders behind her back had to do with it.

So Dan left, called his wife and suggested a romantic dinner together. He didn't think twice, knowing the kids could probably take care of themselves after living alone for so long, and deciding if he came back in the next twelve hours, everything would probably be fine.

And that was fine, because Max had other plans.

Split across the small coffee table were six folders, each bulging with papers of codes and names and addresses and other things that made little sense, but in the last hour she'd managed to find the bits that did. Six addresses, and twelve names.

Angel woke up almost immediately, yawning and shuffling to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Nudge took some more time. Things were thrown, names were yelled, but eventually Max managed to see her to her feet and shove her off to get ready.

While the other two were getting ready, Max took this time to consider what she was going to do about Fang and Iggy. As much as she hated to admit it, Fang was fifteen, and Iggy nearly so. They could make their own decisions, and if she tried to force them to do anything against their will it was likely to backfire. She also knew Fang did not want to see his parents. It was fairly easy to pick up on. His reluctance to join in their fantasies about who their birth parents were, the way he defiantly clung to his old ways, it was pretty much an open secret. He also knew Iggy was fairly indifferent, and that he'd probably chose to spend the time with Fang, so it was no use to try to force anything on them. But things changed, obviously. Maybe Fang's opinion did too.

She knocked on the door between their rooms softly, and after a beat of waiting, she knocked again. She called their names, and Gazzy answered the door. He yawned and asked what was up, she smiled and told him to get ready, and that they were going to meet their parents. Immediately, he perked up and ran to comb his hair. He was still too young to understand disappointment, she supposed, or the overhanging dread of it.

All the time she was looking over their files, Max couldn't help but shudder every so often, she knew that in some cases, they'd been given over to the School willingly, and she also knew in other cases they were taken. But what if their parents had lost interest in finding them? And, more importantly, what if they wanted them back?

She'd found her own address, after much combing. But the set of names were specified as "guardians", not "maternal" or "paternal", like the others were. She wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but her heart was thumping with the possibility she would find out.

She'd already come up with several plans in case they needed to escape, and several more incase they were ambushed. She was paranoid and over prepared, but she felt it was necessary if they were to make it to Georgia the next day.

As she stepped into the room, a smile almost crossed her lips as she saw Fang and Iggy collapsed in one bed, sleeping peacefully at each others' sides. They could both sleep through an earthquake.

"Rise and shine!" she said brightly, throwing open the blinds and allowing the harsh sunlight to pour in. Both moaned distastefully, and Fang flipped her the finger. Which was met with a snicker from Gazzy who was passing through on his way to the girls room. Max rolled her eyes and dropped to her knees by their bed.

"Fang," she said in a half-whisper, "I'm taking Nudge, Angel and Gazzy to meet their parents."

"I don't wanna!" Fang moaned into his pillow, his eyes were still squeezed she against the light, as Max suspected they would remain for a few more hours.

"I didn't say you would want to, or that you'd even go. All I'm saying is that if you change your mind your file and Iggy's are on the coffee table in my room, along with cab fare. Now, I have to go, promise me you won't stay here all day?"

"Yeah, yeah whatever," Fang yawned, he curled onto his side, turning his back to Max. She smiled and left a pre-written note on their table, explaining a few minor details that Fang probably wouldn't be able to digest in his half-asleep state.

And so she left, Nudge, Angel and Gazzy following in her wake. She didn't think twice, Fang and Iggy could take care of themselves, they were big boys after all.


"So, we have the place to ourselves?" Iggy asked with a yawn. He and Fang had so far managed to lay in bed, yawn and shiver in the two hours since Max had left. Fang had suggested they catch up (in more ways than one), and Iggy had brought up the point of Gazzy. And just now Fang had managed to explain their encounter this morning.

"Yeah," Fang grinned broadly, pulling himself closer to Iggy. He leaned in to kiss him, but then was struck by a thought. An odd anomaly in it's self, but Fang decided to run with it. So he said, very slowly, "...unless you want to find your parents."

Iggy looked very thoughtful, which was not unusual, and then he grimaced, "Well, honestly, love, I kind of do... you know, what to see them."

Fang sighed to himself, this was what he was afraid of. But nevertheless, he knew that if this was something Iggy wanted to do, he was going to help him do it. "Okay then," he croaked softly, "When do you want to go?"

Oddly enough, Iggy seemed surprised, "Fang," he cooed, "You don't have to..."

"But I do!" Fang said shortly, "If you want to do it, Iggy, I'm going to help you do it."

"I love you," Iggy's lips broke into a small as he wrapped his arms around Fang's shoulders, "Thank you."

Fang smiled back and kissed Iggy's cheek, "No problem, but we'd better hurry. They'll be back before we know it."

Both rolled out of bed with surprising agility, brushed their teeth and dressed quickly. Fang looked over a small note Max had left them, they picked up the files and they were off.

Though Fang was careful to make note of the last line of Max's letter:

Remember, feathers are thicker than blood.

From the moment they stepped in the cab, though, Fang knew there would be trouble.

First, there was the traffic jam, which added to their fare, the fact that driver spoke non stop about his heavy metal band, (he even played them their tape, and honestly they could not carry a tune) along with the general state of the cab.

It reeked of cigarettes and cheap booze, it was sticky too. It was all Fang could do to sink down into his seat, his arm around Iggy's waist, and pray for it all to be over very soon.

He half wondered where Max was. He could see the others, Angel, Gazzy and Nudge with her. Finding their homes in posh neighborhoods with perfect parents who both understood their need to be with the Flock, but also wanted to make them feel like a family. They'd offer them cookies and milk, a place to stay, buy them new clothes, and introduce them to their equally kind siblings. They'd ask them if they needed money, and freely hand over a check easily worth a hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, here they were, heading through downtown D.C. They'd be lucky if they even found their parents around here. Actually, Iggy's parents. Fang didn't want to look for his. With any luck, his mother was a crackhead teenager. Just like Jeb had said. But then again, when had Jeb ever told the truth?

"So, uh, you guys from around here?" the driver asked when he'd tired of talking about himself.

"New York," Iggy answered. Which really wasn't that far from a lie. New York felt more like home than Colorado or California ever did. And in an odd way, Fang almost missed it. Because D.C. was definitely not a close second.

"Beautiful country!" the driver said, "I've got relatives from up there too!" From there, he began to explain his very complex, extended family. It was at that point that Fang tuned out, staring despondently out the window and wondering why the hell this was happening to them. It was true, he'd fantasized about moving somewhere warm, but now that it was actually happening he wasn't so sure he actually wanted to do this. All the moving and now there were adults involved... honestly, why were they putting themselves through this? They could go hide out in a hotel for a while, wait for everything to blow over... right? No, they couldn't. Fang knew that. He knew how dangerous it would be for them...

"You sure you want to do this?" Iggy whispered to him.

Fang shrugged, "Yeah."

"I'll understand if you don't."

"Really, Iggy, I want to."

"...If you're sure..."

Fang sighed and put a hand on Iggy's shoulder, "Baby, I'm very sure about this, okay?"

Iggy nodded, and they both went back to their silent thoughts. As downtown D.C. began to pass, the lawns became greener, and the colors more mute. The garages were all built for two cars, and the gardens were manicured with various colored tulips. Minivans sat outside the homes, gleaming in the sun under mobile basketball hoops and canopies of green leaves. It actually looked... nice. Maybe their parents weren't crackheads after all.

As they rolled through suburbia, Fang's heart stopped. There was a boy, about his age, standing in his driveway, bouncing a basketball while laughing with his friend, a boy with blonde hair, slightly taller than the one with the ball. As the cab stopped at a street corner, Fang whipped his head around, seeing both boys go into the house, where it looked like a middle aged woman in a floral dress was waiting.

Is this the life that he and Iggy were suppose to have? Playing basketball outside their mute colored, two story house while their stay-at-home mother waited inside? And if it was... what would become of them? And their relationship? Would they have remained bestfriends? Without the circumstances to bring them together... would they have even become friends?

Fang looked back at Iggy. He would do anything for him, absolutely anything. And he simply couldn't imagine life without him. But if they hadn't both become victims of the School... Fang couldn't even imagine they would have said two words to each other. They were too different to come together inside a highschool environment, and even if they'd lived on the same block it wasn't likely that they'd ever develop any type of... relationship.

Maybe they were, in some sense, lucky. Maybe the School's determination to fuck them up for life had backfired, and really this was the best way for things to turn out.

But Fang's thoughts were interrupted when the driver suddenly said loudly, "789, Magnolia Drive."

It was the address on Iggy's papers. The car came to a sudden halt, and Fang took one second to glance at Iggy and whisper almost inaudibly, "Are you ready?"

Iggy nodded back, and they both stepped out. Fang paid the fare, though he was quite sure he'd overpaid somehow, but no matter. They'd be leaving D.C. soon anyways.

And that's when Fang caught the first glimpse of Iggy's family.

As the cab pulled away, a teenage girl a few years older than them stormed out of the house. She had dark, auburn hair which fell down past her shoulders in waves, with bangs dropped past her eyes, almost completely hiding them as they trashed back and forth. Yet as she flipped her hair back, one's breath was taken away by her deep, shining, crystal blue eyes and long, black eyelashes. Brought out only more by a pale complexion and high, bony cheek bones. But then again, her whole body seemed quite bony. Her long, thin build with that nearly white complexion, she almost looked skeletal. Yet, despite all of that, she was quite pretty, almost model like. No, she was model like. In fact, she could have been on the cover of Vogue, save the fact she was screaming at the top of her lungs.

"YOU ARE NOT MY FATHER!" her voice was shrill and angry, hard to believe it was coming out of that pretty little body, "ALL YOU ARE IS MY FUCKING ADOPTIVE STEP FATHER! THAT DOESN'T MEAN SHIT! MY REAL DAD LIVES FIFTEEN MINUTES AWAY, AND HE WOULD NOT STAND FOR THIS!"

The man who followed after her was dressed in a suit and tie, with small, piercing hazel eyes and sandy blonde hair, "YOUR FATHER IS NONE OF MY CONCERN! AS LONG AS YOU ARE LIVING IN MY HOUSE-"





"WHY DON'T YOU JUST SAY IT?" Janie looked close to tears as she threw her hands up in frustration, "Your adoptive daughter is a stoner! Okay? How do the girls at the Country Club like that?"

"Maybe we should go," Iggy whispered softly to Fang. Both sets of eyes, once small and hazel, the other watery and blue, fell onto them with quizzical expressions.

Both looked at a loss for words, and there were many awkward starts and stops before Janie finally managed to get the words out, "Who the hell are you?"


A/N: Oooh, what? Teen angst! Yup, we're going to be seeing a lot more of Janie now. Only a few chapters left!

14. Family Values

Chapter XIV: Family Values

"I'm... um... I'm," Fang too was at a loss for words, awkwardly stumbling over his own thoughts and tripping himself up as he tried desperately to string together an adequate reply. How exactly is one suppose to explain that they were the boyfriend of their long lost son without sounding like a complete nut job, exactly? Or maybe not their son, seeing as maybe that girl was his sister, and she called him her adoptive step dad. So, did that make him Iggy's technical adoptive step father too?

Luckily, before Fang could make a bigger fool out of either of them, Iggy managed to speak up in a clear, cool tone that Fang hadn't expected him to find. He spoke only a handful of simple words, but it was for the best. Giving a long explanation would only complicate things and get them in trouble. Obviously, Iggy knew that, and so he took the high road.

"Hi, my name is Iggy and I'm looking for my parents." But as the words left his mouth, they were met by confused looks. Actually, both were confusion, mixed with other emotions along the way. The girl had been stricken by a sudden sadness and intrigue, the man tried to remain confused looking, but there was an underlying anger that he tired to hide, though it was easy to see he was completely outraged by these two odd kids appearing on his perfectly manicured lawn.

"What? Iggy? Sorry kid, I think you and your friend have got the wrong house." The man in the suit said, his angry, little mouth twisted into an almost disgusted sneer. Rage seemed to fume from him, which seemed to recognize, because suddenly his face turned very soft and sympathetic. But his eyes betrayed him. Fang saw the way they darted around, looking them both over, and carefully glancing around their neighbor's yards. Not wanting to cause a scene. Obviously a high standing citizen, well respected in the community. Fang already didn't like him.

His holier than though attitude, his Armani suit, and his tone of voice. Especially his tone of voice, the way it was so condescending, daring you to try to explain why you were bothering him. Unfortunately, before Fang had the chance to turn around and storm out, Janie took yet another chance to piss off her parental figure.

"Iggy? Like Ignatius?" One eyebrow raised as she asked the question. Her eyes looked up and down him, as if scanning him for some type of mirror of herself or perhaps her mother or father. Yet as it did, she could see it dart back to the man in the suit.

Iggy's brows, on the other hand, furrowed. He knew quite well that was at least part of his given name, hence the nickname 'Iggy'. "Yeah, I guess."

"Ignatius, like Alex Ignatius Brooks?"

"No I don't-"

"Iggy," Fang breathed quietly, "the paper." He remembered the words clearly, seeing as he'd read it over nearly a thousand times before they left, Alex Ignatius Brooks. Son of James Jonathon Frederick Lawrence Junes and Lillian Marie Brooks. Just for reference, though, he reached into his jeans pocket and, with slight hesitation, pulled out the now crumpled and slightly soggy paper.

And there it was. Alex Ignatius Brooks. Plain as black and white.

"So, you're Alex Ignatius Brooks," she said slowly, pointing a long, black nailed finger at Iggy, then turning to Fang, "and you are?"

"Um. Fang. Just Fang." He mumbled, his hands shoved in his pockets in an attempt to look all cool and nonchalant, he figured the first step was to hide his shaking hands.

"Both of you," her voice started shaking and her throat began to croak as her eyes lowered downward, "need to get inside. Now."

It was almost scary, to see this emotional trigger go off in Janie's brain. She'd gone from angry, to confused, to on the verge of hysteria, and Fang had no idea why. He hadn't pinned her as an over emotional girl, or even someone vaguely emotional, but apparently, this had hit some place very deep inside her.

"Janie, I am not done talking to you-" That was, of course, the man in the suit. Pointing a harsh finger at the red haired girl.

"Shove it." She said defiantly, striding up to the house and pushing past the blonde haired man. Fang and Iggy followed reluctantly after, not wanting to be rude, but also wanting to finally go inside and talk to this girl. Maybe find out exactly who Alex Ignatius Brooks was. Is. Whatever.

But the man seemed to be used to it, because he didn't yell back or even protest at all, just sent the group a hard glare before rolling his eyes and falling behind. Obviously, in this house, Janie ran the show.

Which probably was better than the other guy anyways.

The house it self seemed to be nice- no, scratch that, it was nice.

From the outside, it was what could only be described as unmistakably suburban. Two stories of quiet, mute tones. Brick, with white siding. Two car garage. Manicured lawn, of course.

From the inside, beige seemed to be a popular tone, and the carpet matched. There were a few bits of miscellaneous watercolors on the walls, blossoming flowers, an attempt to seem homey and welcoming. But a vain one at that. There was still an overwhelming coldness, no evidence someone actually lived there. It was... unsettling at the least, almost maddening at the most.

Overall, it was almost Fang's perfect vision of his parents' house- save the cold feeling. Or, at least it had been. Until he met the people inside, and now, no matter how he imagined the house, Janie and her step father immediately popped into mind.. Then again, this wasn't even his house, or his family. But who was to say his would be any different? He had no idea. All the paper had given him was an address and two names-

Wait, who was to say he was even going to see his parents? He did have a choice, not to see them. No one was going to force him... but now that he was here, he almost wanted to... still, he was afraid of how it might turn out. Who they'd turn out to be, where they lived...

Fang sighed to himself, this little fight inside him could go on for days. Maybe he should just wait, see how Iggy's turned out, then decide if he wanted to meet them. It did sound logical.

"Fang," Iggy's was quiet, hardly audible, but Fang heard him loud and clear, "what just happened?"

"Honestly? I have no idea." Fang answered, sounding quite shell shocked but still entirely earnest.

They were lead to what looked like a sitting room. Two armchairs and a couch, making a U shape around a small coffee table, facing an unlit fireplace. On the coffee table was a pile of magazines, mostly business, an ash tray and a pile of classical CDs. Obviously, Janie had little influence on this room. Save maybe the ash tray.

He could see her fingers twitch towards the ash tray as she walked by, in fact. There was a half finished cigarette in there, after all. Pot probably wasn't her only fix.

"Take a seat, the old man will be here in a minute," she said, flopping down on the armchair to the far left. Fang took Iggy's hand and gently pulled him over to the couch, sitting almost awkwardly close for protection. He wasn't quite sure if they were in a liberal house or not, but he was quite sure Janie wouldn't care if he wrapped his arms around his boyfriend, though he wasn't so sure about the "old man".

Speaking of whom, the old man walked in at that moment, glaring at Janie, and staring at Fang and Iggy before sitting down in the far armchair. He looked uncomfortable, and confused, though his anger seemed to have subsided just a little bit. Though not entirely. Maybe he was late to one of his fancy business calls, or a posh party in the city. Fang would be happy to see him go, after all, wasn't like this was really any of his business. He was only a step dad, after all.

"Good," Janie said coldly, her suddenly cold eyes never leaving the man's face, daring him to leave the room or speak up, "Now that we're all here, I believe there are some questions we need to answer.

"You," her upper body swivelled sharply, a long, thin finger pointing at Iggy, "where did you come from?"

The sudden confrontation seemed to confuse and surprise Iggy, who had been expecting to be the one to initiate the conversation, "I, uh, what do you mean?"

"I mean," she rolled her eyes in an annoyed way, Fang was beginning to think she took after her step-dad more than anyone else. They both spoke in such a cold, condescending manor, which completely matched their holier-than-thou attitude, that was hard to believe they weren't blood related, "give me your story."

Her sudden, cutting, sarcastic manor honestly scared Fang. He wasn't so sure he wanted to be there anymore, under her harsh glare, hearing her frigid words heartlessly spilling out demands that they may or may not be able to meet. This wasn't the way Fang had planned to spend his day.

Without thinking, Fang slipped his arm around Iggy's waist, closing the space between them to absolutely nothing. But it was comforting, to feel Iggy's diaphragm moving in and out with each breath and to have something the same to hold onto, and find comfort in.

In, out, in, out, in, out... such a steady rhythm. Fang sucked in a quick breath, in, out, in, out. And their breath pulsed together, one beat for two bodies. It was soothing, like a long, quiet night's sleep. But better. Because, he could see Iggy, and himself, and they way they moved. Together. It wasn't much, but for Fang it did a lot.

In that small moment, Fang found comfort in Iggy's arms.

That little move did earn them both a weird look, actually two. But neither of the parties involved said anything, so Fang did not dare change his position. As long as there wasn't a problem, Fang planned on keeping a tight hold on Iggy, he was the only thing familiar left, it seemed. The only pattern he could still hold on to.

"Um," Iggy started quietly, "Well, my name is Iggy and I grew up in a place called the School." He paused and took a breath, waiting to be interrupted by either party, who did nothing in turn, "The School was... an evil place. Fang, I and our four other friends were... experimented on, in ways that were so cruel and awful, it's not even legal on mice." He took another breath.

"Our DNA human DNA was mixed with avian DNA," he said slowly, because you can't really say that quickly without sounding at least a little psychotic, "We are 2 bird."

It was then, that Iggy was interrupted by a snort of laughter from Janie, Fang shot her a cold, hard glance, and she immediately sobered up, managing to snicker out four words, "Do you have proof?"

Now, that was probably what pushed Fang a little over the edge. On the verge of simply screwing it all over, and also on the first of ripping off his shirt and demonstrated exactly what they had been talking about. Of course, they had proof! What did she think they were, two kids seeking money and attention? Maybe some attention would be nice, but all they- meaning Iggy- really wanted, was to see their parents. Who were apparently assholes anyways.

So, here were two choices. Prove them right or prove them wrong. Thankfully, the more logical latter choice won over.

An audible gasp could be heard as he pulled the shirt off over his head, exposing the wretched, and occasionally blessed, things themselves. But perhaps they thought it was simply a rogue, because the entire room fell silent as his wings seamlessly extended, brushing the walls on either side of the room easily. He even flapped them a bit for effect, "Proof enough for you?"

Janie nodded weakly, and Fang quickly put his shirt back on, returning to his place next to Iggy, arm around the waist and all.

"Can you... can you fly?" Janie asked, she stared intently at him, as if trying to see through him.

Fang nodded, "Yes."

"Oh," was all she managed after that.

"Anyways," Iggy continued, feeling the tension in the room, "The six of us grew up there, being experimented on like... like we weren't even people. It was cruel and unusual... a horrible way to live life. In fact, when I was ten years old, they took my sight away."

Janie's eyes widened in surprise, and even the man in the suit seemed shocked by this news. Fang felt yet another surge of anger, but managed to stay at least relatively calm. Temper, temper, after all.

"Shortly after that, we were saved... by a man named Jeb. He took us to Colorado, lived with us and raised us for two years... before he disappeared. So we went on without him, we thought he was dead. Until two years later... when we were attacked... by Erasers, these wolf-human things. And... Jeb too.

"One of our friends, a little girl named Angel, was taken. Fang and two other friends of ours went to get her, while me and another kid stayed at home and tried to sabotage them. Eventually, once they'd gotten Angel back we met up and flew to New York. Where we almost escaped the Erasers.

"But, you know, stuff happens..." And Iggy left it at that. Perhaps it was too painful for him to think about, or maybe he didn't want to explain something that he couldn't remember, or maybe he just felt like they didn't need to know. Whatever it was, it wasn't important. They seemed to get the general idea of how shitty their lives had turned out.

"So, you're coming here...?" Janie asked unsurely. Fang could almost immediately tell what she was thinking. That they were going to try to bum a place to live off of them, or something like that, of course they weren't, and Iggy made a point of telling them that.

"No, actually we're headed... well, we can't really say, but not here."

"Oh, so you're just here for kicks?"

"Yeah, kind of."

"I see." Her expression was that of someone who had just turned very, very bored. Now, Fang was angry. Even more angry than when she'd asked for proof of their wings. Because now she was just brushing them off, like they and their feelings didn't even matter. Which was why Fang lightly pinched Iggy's forearm, signal for 'wait'.

"If you were separated from your parents at birth and now had the chance to meet them, what would you do?" Fang asked cuttingly, his nose raised in the air just for effect.

"Thing is, you missed your chance," Janie snorted, "Mom's dead, and Dad's place has been taken by Mr. Armani over there."

Mr. Armani chose to ignore this comment, instead he stood up and said rather coldly, "I have to go to the office, here," as he walked by he pulled out his checkbook, scribbled down a few things and handed it to him, "Take care of yourselves." He said it offhandedly, probably just trying to get through his good dead of the day. Give a poor blind kid and his friend some money and call yourself charitable.

But when Fang saw the number, his eyes popped. $500! How could someone just... hand over that amount of money to anyone? Seriously! It wasn't even funny how much they could buy with this sort of money... how they could start to live.

There was silence, and until they heard the slam of the front door, and the sound of a car pulling away.

"What do you mean Mom's dead and Dad's been replaced?" Iggy stage whispered after he'd left, as if he was afraid the house had been bugged or something.

"Kid, I don't know if you want to hear the full story," she sighed, taking a cigarette out of a package in her jeans pocket and producing a lighter from under a pile of magazines. For a split second, Fang thought about bumming one. Then, remembering how much Iggy loathed the smell, decided against it, "It's all tragedy and cliche." She sighed, taking a drag off of her cigarette whilst setting her high heeled black boots on the table.

"I'm all ears," Iggy replied, leaning back as if to say 'lay it on me'.

Janie sighed again, "Alright, I'll tell you what I know.

"Firstly, I know that Mom and Dad, our parents, met when they were sixteen at a party in the city. They both came from rough backgrounds and clicked right away. Started dating, and blah blah blah, a year later I came around. By then Dad was eighteen and mom was seventeen, and they were living in this dinky little apartment together. They were together for another two years before Peter- Mr. Armani- came into the picture. Mom worked at a coffee house where he got his espresso every morning, and I guess he had a crush on her or something 'cause he asked her out. By then Mom and Dad were fighting, 'cause honestly they couldn't stand each other as far as I remember. So she left him, and I went with them. Two months later Dad was forced to give up his parental rights, and Peter became my legal father.

"But I guess there was a little glitch in the plan, because when Mom left Dad she was three months pregnant with his kid. By the time they figured it out there was no time for the big A, and they definitely didn't have enough money to support a kid, so they started to weigh their options. Adoption, and stuff like that. And then they heard about this thing, this lab, that was basically giving away money to mothers who'd allow their children to have these drugs pumped into them. I think they called them 'growth enhancers', but anyway, Mom signed up for that and didn't even tell Dad. In the end, the birth went really bad. There was an emergency c-section and in the midst of all the confusion... the baby just kind of slipped away. The doctors said it was a still birth, but I remember hearing the baby scream, and I knew it was a lie. So did she, and Peter, but they'd never admit it," she sighed and took a long drag from her cigarette, "They moved on, and Dad eventually found out once I was allowed to visit him again. He really wasn't happy, and I think he almost died when he heard about it. But there wasn't really anything he could do... Still, he tried. Quit his job, hired a PI when he had the money. Never came up with anything.

"Anyways, last year Mom tested positive for cervical cancer. The 'growth enhancers' she was given? They gave her the virus that causes cervical cancer. She died two months later." Her voice had adopted a mono-toned quality, but even her steely grey eyes could not hide the sadness within.

"I'm sorry," Fang said quietly, squeezing Iggy's waist, "Really, I am." There really wasn't anything else to say, it's not like he'd ever gone through a loss like that, true his life had been quite eventful, but Max, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy and Angel had always been constants. He'd yet to lose any of them. Key word: yet. Because the risk was always there, living the life they lived, that one day he'd wake up and one of them wouldn't be there.

"It's okay," she sighed deeply, trying to sound lighter but failing horribly as she fell back into her chair. The aura of sadness around her was undeniable now, Fang didn't know why he hadn't seen it before. The way she sat, with her shoulders hunched over, looking down at her feet, the lifeless look to her hands as she gestured. It was unmistakably obvious that what had happened wasn't okay.

"I'm sorry too," Iggy added, "I wish I'd been able to know her."

Smoke clouded the room as she exhaled, "So do I."

A long, awkward silence washed over them not long after. Janie smoked her cigarette, staring off into the distance and looking deep in thought, whilst Fang and Iggy waited and tried to think of the best thing to say. Which turned out be a lot harder than it seemed.

"What about your dad, though?" Fang said quietly, "Is he still alive?"

Janie jumped slightly, as if she'd forgotten she was not the only person in the room, and replied with a bit of a yawn, "Yeah, he lives about twenty minutes from here, why?"

"Well..." Fang glanced at Iggy to see his brows furrowed in confusion, but he continued on none the less, Iggy would thank him later, "Would it be possible for us to meet him?"

Her eyes widened and her mouth formed an 'o', that and her raised eyebrows clearly showed she had not considered this option, "Yeah, I suppose so."

"Great! When can we go?"

"Now," She stood as she spoke, snuffing out her cigarette and throwing on a coat thrown over the back of the chair, Fang followed excitedly, pulling Iggy up with him. He wasn't even meeting his parents and he was excited! Maybe he'd consider seeing his too, after all, this experience hadn't turned out too bad.

So far, he reminded himself, they still had to meet Iggy's father.

She led them into the garage, revealing a dark blue sports car, "It was hers." was all she said as she slid into the drivers seat. Fang and Iggy both squeezed into the backseat, Iggy seemingly in a state of shock and Fang too excited for words.

As they backed out of the driveway, Fang was hit by an odd glare of light, as he blinked and looked closer, he could see that in the passengers seat was a CD, one he recognized nonetheless.

It's all white cover was unmistakable, and the extra thickness of the case only added to Fang's assuredness that he had in fact stumbled upon what was possibly one of Iggy's favorite CDs. The White Album.

Without thinking he reached forward and grabbed it, amazed that a modern, chic girl like Janie would carry a copy of The Beatles with her.

"What is it?" Iggy whispered, his fingers moving across it tenderly.

"The White Album," Fang whispered back, Iggy met this information with equal amazement, eyebrows raised and lips slightly pouted in an 'I see' look.

"Janie, you like the Beatles?" he asked hesitantly.

Almost angrily, the CD case was immediately snatched out of his hands and set back in it's place. Her hands clenched the steering wheel tightly, her elbows locked and she stared intently at the road before she spoke through clinched teeth in a scarily even tone, "They were her favorites. She always used to listen to it in the car."

Trying to match her even tone, Iggy spoke up, "May we play it?"

She didn't answer but instead used her free hand to open the case and pull out the second disk, popping it into the stereo and automatically skipping to the 11th track.

"Cry, baby, cry, make your mother sigh, she's old enough to know better," John Lennon's sweet melody filled the car almost immediately after, and Fang wasn't quite sure why, but suddenly this song seemed very, very sad. His chest beginning to fill up with emptiness, he wrapped both arms around Iggy's shoulders and held him tightly to his chest. Reminded once more of how lucky he was that he still had his baby with him.

As they passed through another stop light the car was silent, save two voices.

John's, and Janie's.

"Cry, baby, cry

Make your mother sigh,

She'd old enough to know better

So cry, baby, cry."

15. Dreams of Delusions

Chapter XV: Dreams of Delusions

"I GOT BLISTAHS ON MY FINGAHS!" Mr. Ringo Starr proclaimed loudly at the end of 4 minutes, 30 second sound machine that was Helter Skelter.

Janie paused the CD, she'd skipped to and fro among the tracks for the last fifteen minutes, and they had to be nearing her father's house, hadn't they? He only lived twenty minutes away. According to Janie.

"Either of you smoke?" Janie asked, shooting a glance in the rearview mirror at the couple.

Both shook their heads.

"More for me," she shrugged and she pulled out of her cigarette pack what was obviously not a cigarette, but a rolled joint. A lighter soon followed after, and she clenched the white paper between her teeth, one hand steering the car, the other flicked the lighter open, catching the paper aflame and before too long, the car was filled with the scent of marijuana.

She smiled into the rearview mirror, the kind that said 'look at me, I'm so cool' and blew a smoke ring. "Mary Jane is my bestest friend in the world," she cooed. Honestly, she sounded kind of stupid, but at the same time, it was intimidating. How could she drive and do that stuff? What if they crashed?

"C'mon, don't tell me you're straight edge," she grinned at their stunned faces, handing the joint back, "Just one puff and you'll thank me later."

Reluctantly, Fang took it between his fingers. He wasn't suppose to do this. It was bad for you, tar in your lungs, clouded your sensibility... got you high. He couldn't come back high, Max would kill him! Yet... it was so alluring. The thought of smoke curling from his mouth, the leaves, rolled up in crisp white paper. It was almost romantic.

Trembling, he raised it to his lips, Janie watched him from the mirror, "That's it, now just breathe in. You won't get high, maybe just a little buzzed, I promise you. I'll keep you safe."

He took a deep breath in before putting the butt firmly between his lips, was he ready to do this? Did he even want to? No... and yes.

Before he could think about it even more, he took a long, hard, drag in. Filling his lungs with the sweet smoke and intoxicating his senses. His throat was burning, and so were his nostrils, and before he could stop himself, he pulled the light away, coughing and choking on his own saliva.

"There you go, now, breathe," Janie commanded. He did so, and he started to feel a bit better, "Good job, now, share the love, darling. Pass it on."

Fang cleared his throat and handed the joint to Iggy. Who rolled it between his forefinger and thumb for a brief moment before politely declining.

"Straight edge, eh? My own brother," Janie shook her head as she took a drag, "Shame, that is. Dad won't want to hear that."

"What do you mean?" Iggy asked curiously, a confused lilt in his voice. Fang was about to ask the same thing himself. Disappointed? Wasn't the whole point of parents to keep you from doing drugs?

"I hate to break it to you, but our father is a pot smoking, acid tripping, hippie," Janie explained, "And our mother, an ex pot smoking, acid tripping, hippie."

"Oh," Iggy said slowly, "I see."

"You're scared?"

"No, not really."

"Good," she smiled into the rearview mirror, "Because Dad's gonna be thrilled to see you."

"That's good," Iggy sighed, his fingers drumming against the armrest in the door. His attention had obviously gone elsewhere, and Janie had noticed. So, she hit shuffle on her CD player and took another, long drag off her joint.

Fang's attention also began drift, because damn, there was no way his family would ever be this exciting. If he met his parents, if!, then the most that would happen is that his mother would turn out to be a crack head. Which was probably the truth, anyways.

He could picture it, a one bedroom apartment, a battery powered, black and white TV and a mattress that smelled like piss. That would be the life of his mother. He said mother, because he'd pretty much been assured that she had no idea who the father was. Maybe she'd know by then, and maybe they'd be married.

Of course, there was the "perfect" vision. Just like Iggy's sister's house, without the evil step-dad and stoner daughter. In that vision, his mother had fixed herself up, married his father and had a couple of kids his age. Wait, no, no kids. Instead, they'd have been waiting this entire time for their son to return. Well, that wasn't gonna happen, but it was a really, really nice thought.

When they were little, Fang, Iggy and Max used to play pretend, just like any other kids, but instead of pretending to be adventures in a far off land, or that they were royalty, they played the "My Parents Are" game.

This game consisted of each kid taking a turn describing who their parents were. And this game never got old, because their parents were constantly evolving. From actors and actresses, to simply housewives and businessmen, to explorers of the Amazon. Their parents were ideal, they were interesting, and they could do no wrong.

"My parents," Max licked her lips thoughtfully as her eyes fluttered towards the ceiling. She was seated on top of the gurney that was serving as their story-telling chair, in their storage room that was serving as their play room, in the laboratory that was serving as their home. She looked happy, as she was considering the options of whom her parents might be today, which was a rare vision in it's self, but today they were especially happy. Because this had been one of their even rarer days spent outside, away from the harsh, chemical smell and blinding, fluorescent light bulbs of the School.

"My parents are rich. Really, really rich. They have a big, big house with three stories, and lots and lots of rooms filled with books and toys. And a swimming pool in the back, with a slide and all sorts of stuff like that. They own a dog, a big, black dog and sometimes he plays in the pool too.

"My parents are so rich, they don't even have to work anymore, so they stay home all day and watch movies on a big TV and read books. All the classics, Hans Christian Anderson and everything like that. 'Cause they're real smart like that.

"And, when I get back they'll throw me a big party, with a huge cake and a petting zoo, and they'll invite all their friends, and all their friends kids, and we'll play all sorts of games until they have to go. And I'll go back to my favorite room, on the top floor with a big window so I can fly out whenever I want, and I'll go and fly all around the country and still be back in time for breakfast." Max sighed happily, she sat there for a moment, illuminated from behind by the light of the setting sun, and then quickly hopped off the gurney and plopped down next to Fang.

"You're turn!" she said, smiling broadly, high off the fantasy of a normal life.

"Well, I have one question," Iggy said as Fang stood up and took his seat on the gurney.

"What?" Max gave him a 'what is it this time?' look, complete with eye roll.

"Are we invited to this party?"

Now, Max had to laugh at that. And she did, lightly shoving him in the shoulder by way of apology for her earlier attitude.

"Shh!" he cried, though he himself was still laughing quite loudly, "It's Fang's turn!"

Max muffled a snort, and their eyes fell back upon Fang, who was desperately trying to conceal a smug grin on his face.

"My parents aren't rich," Fang started slowly, "but they live in a nice house. With two stories... and a big yard. Um... my dad's a fireman, and my mom's a nurse." he paused, unsure of what to say next.

"They don't have any kids, besides me. And um, a cat. That's it." Fang wasn't really much of a dreamer. Well, he was, all kids are, but he was more reluctant to dream out loud. Seeing as, well, he knew he could never ever compare to what Iggy came up with.

Iggy had a way with words that Fang simply couldn't get his head around. He'd describe foreign lands, exotic jobs, and amusement parks for houses, but still sound completely realistic. His speech wasn't splattered with 'um's and awkward pauses, but it wasn't planned out, either. It came right off the top of his head. Absolutely amazing.

So, Fang took his place besides Max and let Iggy do what it was that he did best of all of them, tell a story.

"My parents," Iggy said confidently, "live in Spain. They're not Spanish, my mom's actually from Florida, and my dad's from England, but they moved there after they won the lottery. They didn't keep all the money, of course. They donated almost all of it, but they took the leftovers and built themselves a castle in Spain. Right on the beach, and while their house was being built, they purchased a condo in the South of France, which they now use as a vacation home.

"They don't have any kids, of course, because they decided they'd wait for me to get back before they had anymore. But they invite my cousins over all the time, and they go swimming in the ocean and take boat trips all across the Mediterranean.

"They have a room, the biggest room in the house, and it's almost completely empty. Except for my mom's painting supplies. Since they won the lottery, they both stopped working, or working normal jobs. My dad's a writer, and my mom illustrates his books. But when I get back, they're gonna move her paint supplies onto the roof, so she can paint the sunset, and I'm gonna get to pick out all new furniture and clothes. Some of my favorite books, too.

"For my birthday, they'll change one of the guest bedrooms to an instrument room, with all sorts of instruments. A piano, an electric guitar, an acoustic, a bass, a cello, a violin, a saxophone and a trumpet. Plus whatever other instruments I want to get.

"And, unlike Max, I'll invite all of you over to the South of France for the entire summer, and we'll stay there and go flying everyday until the sun goes down and we go to bed in a room made out of gold." Iggy hopped off the bed before he'd even finished his last sentence, there was an ever so slight pink tinge to his cheeks, and he was looking quite intently at the floor. He was embarrassed, how modest of him.

"Iggy," Max said, stepping over Fang and bending down to pat Iggy's back, "that was amazing."

"No, it wasn't," Iggy mumbled to the floor.

"It was," Fang said, putting his own hand on Iggy's forearm, "And you know it, stupid."

Iggy smirked, pulling his head up, "I guess it was okay."

Max groaned and threw up her hands in frustration, but Fang could only grin, because the look on Iggy's face said it all.

"We're here," Janie said, as the car came to a stop in front of a small apartment building.

The sign in front read 'Axis Apartments', but someone had spray painted two sets of initials inside a shaky looking heart over the 'Axis' part. Not to mention the fact that the sign it's self was falling off of it's hinges. There were a couple of kids playing on some rusty monkey bars, and two college students were attempting to coax the two swings down after someone had swing them over the bars. There was also a third and forth, or there had been, now there were just a few, broken, rusty chains wrapped around the bar.

In all honesty, Fang sincerely hoped that they were walking down the block and around the corner, where he saw a non-graffitied sign which read 'Global Apartments- World Class Luxury', then again, what kind of pot smoking, acid tripping hippie would live in a world class, luxury apartment?

"Are you guys coming?" Janie asked as she slammed her door shut.

"Oh, yeah," Fang realized he'd been staring out the window for the past minute or two, and was therefore holding their entire party up. Quickly, he kicked open the door and hopped out, and Iggy quickly followed. The other boy reached for Fang's belt loop, but Fang intercepted him and instead took his hand.

"Let's go!" Janie said, tapping her foot impatiently. In some weird way, the dark haired girl was beginning to remind him of Max. Fang wasn't quite sure if that was a good thing for a bad thing.

Fang and Iggy hurried after, up to the doorway, where Janie was buzzing the forth bell, with the name Derrick barely showing through the dirt and grim on the name plate.

"Yah?" the voice on the other end sounded electronic and crack-ly, and just a little bit dazed and confused, in all honesty.

"Dad, it's Janie." She said loudly.

"Oh, what's up?"

"I brought you some visitors!"

"Visitors, Janie, you know I don't-"

"Trust me, Dad, you'll love them." She said firmly.

"Alright, alright, I'll buzz you in." The door bell crackled and then gave an electronic beeping noise, to which Janie responded by quickly throwing open the door and ushering Fang and Iggy inside.

Where they were met by a stale, disgusting stench of dead animals, and a grungy looking grey set of stairs. Disgusting, absolutely revolting. How could anyone live here?

"Ready for a light jog up the stairs?" Janie grinned wildly, putting a bony hand on the blackened handrail.

Fang was fully prepared to say "No, not really," but she had already disappeared around the corner. It seemed sprinting up the stairs was something she did on a regular basis, because when Fang looking up, he could see the tips of her fingers barely grazing the railing, going quite quickly up said three flights of stairs.

"Shall we?" Fang asked, this question being directed at Iggy, who couldn't help grinning at the lilt in Fang's tone.

"We shall." was Iggy's reply.

Of course, they were quite a bit slower. Iggy, being blind, had to feel his way up the steps gently, taking his own dear time. Fang didn't really mind, true, he would have loved to race past Janie, but he knew it wasn't fair to Iggy, so he kept a leisurely pace, a few steps ahead of the blonde boy.

Half way up, Janie came down to meet them. She had a look on her face that said 'What the fuck is taking so long?' but once she realized what it was, she promptly softened her glare and took her place a few steps ahead of Fang, who had returned to his place by Iggy's side.

She made polite, if not rapid, conversation about Iggy's father, describing him and the life he lived for the blind boy. On another note, her quick speech made her seem quite Nudge like, though he suppose that was just a nervous habit for her, not like Nudge, for whom it was an all the time habit.

Speaking of Nudge, what was she doing? How was the rest of the flock? Where they having the same experience? Or a better one? A worse one, even?

"Ah, come on!" Fang cried, throwing his hands down in frustration. He was standing at the end of the hall, tapping his foot impatiently, whilst Iggy was taking his sweet time. Swaying to and fro as he walked, with a tired yawn here and there.

"Ih-GEE!" Fang moaned.

"What's the rush?" Iggy shrugged, yawning again, "They're gonna catch us anyways."

"Not if you run faster!" You see, Fang and Iggy were in the middle of a transfer from one part of the School to the other when they made a break for it. They'd run down a few dark hallways, up a flight of stairs and ducked into a closet while they waited for their pursuers to run by. Once they did, they run back down the flight of stairs and took a quick right, leading them to where they were now.

For some reason, Iggy was about to spoil it all.

"Just calm down, we've got all the time in the world."

"No we don't!" Fang groaned and ran back towards Iggy, grabbing him roughly by the arm and dragging him forward.

"Fa-ANG!" Iggy's turn to whine.

Jesus Christ, could that kid go any slower?

"God dammit!" Fang cursed the loud, self-conscious curse of an eight-year-old who just learned to swear, "Suit yourself!" He flounced down the hallway without a second thought, though he had something quite different in mind.

He pressed his back up against the wall, counted to five and waited. Sure enough, Iggy turned the corner only five seconds after Fang, calling out "Wait up!"

Fang, being a completely remorseless soul, jumped out at him, yelling "Boo!"

And when Iggy screamed like an idiot, Fang just burst into laughter.

It took about six knocks, but Derrick eventually answered the door, in a pair of boxers, a tye-dye t-shirt and a plaid bathrobe, but he answered, nevertheless.

"Dad!" Janie cried, throwing her thin arms around her father, who looked almost completely unrelated to his daughter. He had a leathery, dark tan and once brown, now grey hair, with muddy colored eyes with bits of gold shimmering when the light catches him. He has the look of a once thin man who turned middle aged. He still was quite thin, toothpicks for arms and legs, but a small beer gut was beginning to show.

"Janie, Janie, Janie! My Janie!" He said loudly, as if he couldn't believe it himself, "Good to see you! Excellent to see you!"

It seems he liked to repeat himself.

"Dad," her voice was a little more tense as she pulled herself away, obviously hugs over ten seconds were just a little uncomfortable for her, especially when it looked like the other party was squeezing her to death, "I want to introduce you to two very special people."

"Ah, who's that? Your boyfriend? Fiancee, maybe?" he grinned, "You know I've got to inspect him before things get too serious."

"No, Dad," Janie laughed a little bit, but it sounded more like a polite laugh than a real one to Fang, "Even better."

Fang sucked in a quick breath of air as his hands clasped in front of him. How would this encounter go? Derrick wasn't like the step-father, that was obvious, but would he be any better? Mr. Armani gave them a check, but it wasn't exactly affection or welcoming. Would Derrick be able to offer that?

And if he did, what were they to do? Turn down his kind offers saying 'No, actually, we're going into hiding now.' They couldn't do that. It wouldn't be right.

But, then again, it was what they had to do.

"Dad?" Janie's voice was just a bit shrill with excitement, "I want you to meet your son, Iggy, and his friend, Fang."

His jaw hit the floor, "Son? You're, you're really my... son?" His voice trembled with anxious hope, and his eyes were beginning to look glassier by the second. Now this was the reaction they had been hoping for, the perfect vision of what their parents would do when they finally met. Minus the bathrobe, perhaps, but it was still a lovely vision, even if Derrick's fashion sense, or lack thereof, was altering it.

He put his arms around Iggy, embracing him like a true son, then did the same to Fang, and then turning back to his daughter.

"Oh god, come in, all of you!" He cried, throwing the door open with vigor to reveal the small, dingy apartment within.

The house may not be perfect, and Derrick certainly wasn't any closer, but for some reason, everything felt... right at that moment. This is what they had been waiting for. And truly, it was worth every second of it.

A hundred reviews, oh my shit I love you guys. Seriously, this is one of the best writing experiences I've ever had. We should finish up in approximately 2-3 chappies. But I definitely got to say thanks to all of you that stick with me and keep reviewing... I promise, I won't let you guys down!

16. No Matter the Weather

Chapter XVI: No Matter the Weather

Well, the apartment was just as bad as Fang imagined it. It smelled horrible, it looked grimy and awful. Fang highly doubted this building had a maid… or that Derrick owned a simple mop and vacuum. But there were little touches that made it all worth while.

Pictures of Janie, a lot of them, ranging from a young girl at the beach, to the two of them sitting in a circle with a few other people, smoky clouds circling their heads. There were more pictures of the two of them together, doing more "family friendly" activities. And, most importantly, a picture of a women whom who Fang could only assume was Janie's mother. Their hair color was nearly the same, only hers was a little lighter. And their eyes as well seemed to be alike. Yet, she was also unmistakably like Iggy. With a wide smile, a long neck and an elegant nose. It was a beautiful picture, and it was given the place of honor above the dining table.

It felt more like a home than any other place Fang had ever been.

Derrick dumped a large pile of news papers onto the floor, clearing off a monster of a plaid couch. He then scratched his head, realizing the problem of four people and three seats. But the problem was quickly fixed when Janie reappeared from the kitchen with a folding chair. Derrick smiled and placed the chair across from the couch, directly in front of his tiny television. At the same time, Janie fell comfortably onto the end of the plaid couch, putting her feet up on a pile of National Geographic magazines.

Fang, who'd been standing with Iggy in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, sat himself down on the opposite end, coaxing Iggy between them.

They both sat rather comfortably in an awkward sentence for several moments before Janie spoke up and broke through the silence.

"So," her voice was unusually bright, "Iggy, maybe you should explain your, em, situation to Dad?"

"Oh, yeah," Iggy said, as if suddenly snapping back to attention, "Well, I guess it started with the School…"

Fang could tell this was going to be a long visit.

"Oh god," Max sighed, her shoulders falling hard against the back of the taxicab seat. Nudge sat down next to her, a stunned expression also written across her face. They'd been on a four hour hunt for Gazzy and Angel's parents, and now they'd been sent yet again onward.

"One more house," Max breathed tiredly, "One more house and then I'm giving up."

"You can't do that, though!" Nudge's energy returned suddenly, "We've got to find them! We have to! It's only fair!"

"But, Nudge, what about your parents, eh? Are we ever going to meet them? We only have one day."

Nudge sighed, gazing at where Angel and Gazzy stood, letting Total out for a fire hydrant break, "Yeah, but, I mean they're little. I can handle it better."

"Nudge," Max said slowly, "Do you even want to see your parents?"

"Of course I do!" she cried in outraged, but then, her gaze fell down, and she added, in a lower tone, "Well, I want to want to see my parents, if that makes sense."

Unfortunately for Max, it did. She'd hounded over papers for hours, and found addresses and names, which she assumed were hers, but she couldn't be sure. She thought that perhaps it was related to someone else's, because those names seemed to be rather loosely connected with her. She half wanted to visit it, just in case, but at the same time, she didn't want to meet an awkward situation where she came knocking on the door of perfect strangers. Well, scratch that, perfect strangers she wasn't related to.

"It does," Max replied, "But why don't we try anyways? You never know what'll happen."

"I guess so," Nudge shrugged, "How d'you think Fang and Iggy are doing?"

Max laughed, "You might want to ask Angel."

"That's true," Nudge giggled, "When she gets back in here I will."

Max smiled to herself, just imagining what the boys were probably doing, "I bet they haven't even left the hotel."

Nudge grinned wickedly, "They're probably sitting there in their pajamas, watching cartoons and eating pizza."

Max laughed, because she'd been picturing…

Well, it's a fifteen-year-old female with a filthy mind, what do you think she was thinking about?

Anyways, she also found Nudge's version highly amusing. Because that was probably a lot closer to the truth. Fang and Iggy were too lazy to do anything before five at night, when they would probably be all together again.

And in any case, neither of them was going to get pregnant.

Derrick proved to be a much better audience than Peter, he listened in solemn silence, nodding at appropriate moments and giving his complete attention to his son, whose quiet voice barely carried over the room, though Fang could quite easily catch its detached, robotic quality.

Obviously, Iggy was not prepared to retell their story twice in one day.

At the end, they all sat in silence for a long, long minute. This quickly turned into two, three, four… until finally, Derrick summoned up a bit of courage.

He stood, stepped directly on his stack of newspapers, maneuvered himself around his daughter, and gave his son a firm bear hug.

It was one of those made for TV moments.

When they broke apart, it was clear that both their eyes were glistening with happy tears; their trip out here was worth every horrible, awkward second of it.

Derrick clamped a firm hand down on Iggy's shoulder, and after opening his mouth and then closing it several times as his voice cracked with emotion, he finally managed to croak out one word, "Son."

And suddenly, Fang and Janie both felt very, very out of place.

"Hey, Dad, I'm gonna go get us some drinks," Janie said rather loud and pointedly as she wobbled her way over the stack of newspapers, past the folding chair and T.V. set on her towards the kitchen, and just before she reached the doorway she stopped in almost mid-step and said in a seemingly offhanded way, "Fang, why don't you give me a hand."

But from the look she was giving him, he could tell that this was not a suggestion, but a command.

So, Fang stood up and followed her into the kitchen. After all, wouldn't want to spoil some good ol' father-son bonding time, now would he? And no, he was not being sarcastic. Okay, well, maybe a little. But not that much.

Because he did realize that this may be the only time Iggy would ever get to talk to his father. The only time he might get to meet his family. He should take full advantage of it. It was his birth right, and whether or not he liked it, Fang had no place intruding upon it. This was why he followed Janie out of the living room and its awkward situation, and fell upon yet another one in the kitchen.

The kitchen was, like the rest of the apartment, stacked with newspapers and used incense, plus a few beer boxes thrown in for good measure. An absolute mess, really. Something that resembled a college dorm or what Fang would imagine it as.

Janie opened up what looked like a tiny little college refrigerator one would keep in their dorm (see, he was right!), Fang had no idea how all that beer that obviously existed, somehow managed to fit in there.

Janie seemed to be in the process of attempting to find edible food, seeing as she kept pulling out spoiled cheese, moldy bread, and the like. Some beer, of course. But, surprisingly, Janie didn't seem interested.

"What'll you take?" she asked, flipping her hair as pulled out a Red Bull, which he assumed was her drink.

"Um, water," the one thing they were sure to have.

Janie did a bit more searching; unearthing a moldy cantaloupe as she did so, before she finally tossed him a bottle with seemed to be in fairly good shape. He open it up and took a whiff, just in case.

Janie was doing about the same with her drink, opening it up and checking for anything living inside. Once she found it was clear, she took a long drink and hopped up on the counter, explaining, "This'll take a while, Dad is very sentimental."

Fang shrugged and took a swig of his water, the shrug and swig Janie also returned. Though her eyes, unlike Fang's, never left his face.

The room was entirely silent for a long minute before Janie finally put her drink down and began to swing her legs back and forth, her eyes wandering around the room thoughtfully.

"Explain something to me," she said finally, curling her legs up to her chest almost protectively, her arms wrapping around her legs and her chin resting on her knee caps. It was a closed off, scared position, but her eyes remained wide and curious, "Who are you?"

Fang felt himself jump a little bit, completely taken back by her question, and the way she stated it. As if she was asking about something as silly as TV reruns.

"What do you mean?" Fang blinked confusedly.

"I mean, like… what's your story. I know Iggy's, but… you never said anything about yourself."

Fang bit his lip and shrugged, "It's kind of the same, and I mean we grew up together."

"So…" she dragged out the syllables slowly as she slid off of the counter and onto the linoleum floor, "You're like brothers?" She took a few steps closer, crossing her arms in front of her as she spoke.

Fang nodded sheepishly, "Something like that."

"Mmhmm," She blinked blankly, "Brothers."

"Yea- whoa!" he pulled away as her index finger suddenly trailed itself down his upper arm, "What was that about?"

Her brows furrowed and her lips pursed, "Just like I expected."

"What?" Fang asked, sounding rather dumbfounded.

"You. Him."

"How'd you know?" Now he actually felt dumbfounded.

"I've never done that to a straight, single man and had him jump away like that." She playfully grinned.

"Why do you care?" Fang sounded almost disgusted.

She shrugged, "I dunno… Because I can?"

Fang shook his head, sitting down in a folding chair nearby. He rested his head against his hand, and looked up at her with sincerity, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're really fucked up. You know that?"

Janie only laughed as she pulled up a chair across from him, "Tell me something I don't know."

Fang rolled his eyes and said nothing.

"You're quiet, you know that?"

Fang nodded, "And?"

"Just noting."


She stared long and hard at him, and Fang squirmed uncomfortably under his gaze. And it was a long moment before she finally shook her head and looked out the window, "I don't get you."

"Well, you just met me." Fang replied sarcastically.

She waved her hand dismissively, "You've got everything going for you, but you don't even realize it."

"And how'd you come to that conclusion?"

"Iggy. It's easy to see, you care about him, he cares about you. But you're still this quiet little lone wolf. I just don't get it."

Fang rolled his eyes, "Maybe you're not suppose to."

"Look, I'm just a stranger making an observation. No need to get pissy."

Fang said nothing.

"Oh well, if you don't want to listen to me you don't have to. I mean, I'm not really saying anything. Just making a few observations."

Which was true, he supposed. It was just an observation. But a true one at that.

"C'mon, cheer up," she obviously felt remorse, "I didn't mean anything bad."

Fang shrugged, "Yeah, I guess."

"Okay, I feel bad now. You're turn to make an awkward observation about me."

"Um… you're skinny."

"Great one, really," she rolled her eyes, "I would have never known."

"Okay, fine, you're… a whore."

"Once again, thank you captain obvious!"

"You know what? You're not who you think you are. You're not this slutty, stoner girl you want to be, you're not cool, you're not edgy. You're just fucked up. You want attention, and you've got it. But it's for all the wrong reasons, clean yourself up and stop pretending. Quit putting all that bullshit out. Nobody wants to hear it, nobody cares about it, so just stop!"

That, he realized, was a bit too far. Because he could definitely see glassy tears begin to fill her eyes. But she smiled and took his hand in her own. But it wasn't like before, she wasn't playing games or pretending. She was earnest. She was real. Fang was almost completely taken a back.

Ever so slighly, he felt her squeeze his hand affectionately, "Thanks."

"I want you to stay." Derrick said firmly, "You're my son, and I've been cheated of getting to know you, you can't leave me now."

"But…" what was he suppose to call him, Iggy wondered to himself, Dad? "we have to… there's no way around it, it's for our own protection."

"Can't you be protected here?" he sounded a bit like a whiny child, in all honesty. But one could hardly blame him.

"I want to… but I can't."

Derrick sighed. His glaze traveled around the room, and he chewed his bottom lip nervously. You could see he was thinking, the way his eyes darted from the pile of newspapers, to Iggy, the window, and back to his son. His brow furrowed, and at last, he took a deep breath in, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. You're right. You've been through a lot, and you do need to be safe from those… Eraser things."

Iggy smiled, "Thanks for understanding."

"But," Iggy felt Derrick's hand squeeze his shoulder warmly and he felt his chest become suddenly tight in response. His hand was warm, and rough, but comforting. Just like it should be, "I want you to know, no matter where you live, no matter what happens, I am still your father. Even if we never see each other again, I am still your father. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could change that. And I want you to know, that if you ever need help. I'll be there in a second."

Iggy felt himself blush, "I… thanks, Dad."

He said it, and it felt right.

"C'mon," Janie said, grabbing a beer and another water, her eyes no longer reddened and puffy, "I think they're almost done."

Fang nodded and followed her back into the living room, where he took his place next to Iggy. Though it seemed Janie had been kicked out of her seat, and after handing Iggy and Derrick their drinks, she took her father's old one. Which had now been vacated.

And for a second, no one said anything. Iggy's attention seemed to be turned on Fang, who was staring confusedly at Janie, who was looking intently at her father, who's gaze had landed on his son. Awkward was one term that might describe the situation. Amazingly uncomfortable for all parties involved was yet another, that might have described the situation a little better.

"I guess you guys are gonna have to get going soon," Derrick said after a moment. Fang wondered if he was somehow suppose to understand this reference, or if it was just a general sort of thing. But before he could think about it too hard, Iggy answered.

"Yeah," the blonde boy nodded, taking a small sip of his water, "I'd really like to stay, but…"

"Say no more," Derrick nodded, tapping Iggy's shoulder considerately, "I understand."

No one else really needed to say anything.

After a few awkward goodbyes, it actually was time to leave. Janie hugged both of them fiercely, kissing Fang's cheek and winking seductively before she parted. Fang might have been alarmed, if it wasn't for the fact that she burst into giggles only a second later.

Derrick pulled Iggy into a long, long hug. Wherein, he seemed to be whispering in his son's ear. Fang didn't know what, nor did he really think it was his place to know.

Derrick then turned to Fang, and did the same. Though the hug was only half time.

And as they parted, Derrick instructed Fang with his duties, "Take care of him."

A/N: I think we need to have a big "aw" moment. Ready? One, two, three... "aw".

17. An Ocean of Us

Chapter XVII: An Ocean of Us

They called a taxi from the payphone downstairs. And as they waited on a grubby, disgusting bench outside the apartment structure of similar condition, they waited in silence. Fang didn't know what to say, and Iggy seemed to be lost in his very own world.

On one hand, Fang was relieved they'd gotten this over with, and that Iggy had at least one parent ready to stick by his side. Yet, on the other, he was nervous about this new revelation, and what was perhaps going on with the rest of the flock.

How would these new found family members play into their lives, if at all? Would they have normal Thanksgivings and Christmas's with them, or would they be alone, as usual? Would they ever see them again… would they take them back?

He took a deep breath in and buried the tension, he didn't need to think about this now, it wasn't important. What was important was the here and now. He couldn't keep living in the past, as he'd realized again and again.

Slowly, Fang wrapped his arm and Iggy's shoulders and squeezed his arm affectionately, "What'cha thinkin' 'bout?"

Iggy sighed and momentarily rested his head against Fang's shoulder, "Just, life. And how quickly everything can change…"



"Good change?"

Iggy nodded and bit his lower lip, "Mmhmm."

"I thought so." Fang nodded satisfactorily.

"One thing though," Iggy added quickly, "What about you? I mean… you know."

"Me?" Fang didn't get it for a moment, and then it slowly dawned on him, "Oh… I, well…"

Just do it, can't hurt anything…

Except me.

"You don't have to," Iggy cut in quickly, "I was just wondering."

Fang didn't answer right away, because he didn't have one.

On one hand, there was fear. Disappointment. Worry. Anxiety. And possibly hurt loomed on the horizon.

Looking on the brighter side, Iggy's little adventure into parenthood had turned out okay, hadn't it? He had a sister who cared, and a dad who definitely cared. A family, in its own sort of dysfunctional way.

Why couldn't he at least have some sort of happy ending to his story?

"If you were me…" Fang looked intently at Iggy, "What would you do? And don't say you don't know, because you do."

Iggy laughed quietly to himself, "I'd do it. Just because I wouldn't want to regret not meeting them. I mean, look what happened to me."

Fang nodded and sighed, then leaned over and kissed Iggy's cheek, "Yeah, that is a good point."

"So… what are you going to do?"

Fang couldn't help but laugh, "Of course I'm gonna take you're advice! You are the All-Knowing-Iggy, after all."

"I wish," but Iggy couldn't help grinning.

They sat in silence once again, but this time, peacefully. Without their raging thoughts and insecurities, they sat comfortably in each other's presence, and that was enough for both of them.

"I love you," Fang quickly spat out when the silence was at last so loud he couldn't stand it any more.

"I love you too," Iggy replied simply, and for some reason, Fang felt a sudden wave of relief wash over him. Though he couldn't place where it had come from.

Fang bit is lip and opened his mouth, because he suddenly felt a load of emotion rising in his chest, an indefinable, but seemingly familiar one. And Fang wanted to tell Iggy, but there were no words for what he felt, and therefore, he remained silent.

But before words could form, or action could rise, the taxi came. And Fang did as anyone with half a brain would do, he dropped it.

"C'mon," he said, coaxing Iggy up by the wrist, "Cab's here."

"And where's the cab taking us?"

Okay, this is it, Fang took a deep breath in, go with your immediate reaction. Don't think, do.

Fang looked down at the paper clutched between his sweaty fingers and read off the address, "444 S. Violet Avenue."

"Is that…?"


As they settled down in the backseat of the cab, Iggy discreetly kissed Fang's forehead and whispered to him, "I'm so proud of you."

Fang felt himself blush a bright shade of red as he did so.

The driver, a relatively young looking man with a round face and pale blonde hair, looked at them through the rearview mirror, "Destination?"

"444 S. Violet Avenue."

The house was big, like, really big. Bigger than she'd ever expected it to be.

That was a little obsessive, she had to admit. But the house was pretty goddamn big. Three stories, she'd counted, a porch, three car garage, circle drive way. If Nudge never came back to them, Max wouldn't blame her.

"Do we have to go in?" Nudge's voice was painfully nervous as the two girls stared up at the monstrosity from a safe distance.

"You're decision," Max replied, eager to leave the rich neighborhood where her torn clothes and messy hair felt awkward and out of place.

Then, again, she'd rather be here than Angel and Gazzy's place.

Angel and Gazzy's parents, who willing gave them up to the school, were possibly the absolute worst parents in existence. Though they were no longer together, Anne Marie and her ex-husband Gerry lived in the same apartment building, Anne Marie on the fourth floor, he on the second. From what Max had gathered from the accounts of the neighbors of both parties, they were drunk, disorderly and neurotic, often having loud parties, promiscuous sex in public bathrooms and would go disappearing for days on end. Like today for instance.

But Max was thankful for that. She would have been extremely upset if Gazzy and Angel had been forced to face the fact that their parents probably couldn't give a shit whether they were dead or alive.

And now it was Nudge's turn.

"No… I want to go in," Nudge said, more to herself than anyone else, "They are my parents, aren't they?"

Max nodded, "That's what the sheet says."

"How can we trust the sheet, I mean it could be wrong. Maybe Anne Marie and Gerry weren't Gazzy and Angel's parents, or we could have gotten the houses mixed up, or the names mixed up. What if Jeb is just trying to trick us again? There could be Erasers in there! Maybe we should just-"

"Nudge," Max said loudly, "breathe, and make a decision."

Nudge did just so, taking in a long, deep breath, and then letting it out in the form of a regretful sigh, "I'm going."

Max nodded and gave Nudge a reassuring smile before turning her attention to the six- and eight-year-olds now reeking havoc on the block's peaceful feeling by playing a game of tag with a talking dog.

Oh, the joys of life, right?

Total yipped his doggy yip and bounded up to Nudge, hopping up in her arms and licking her cheek reassuringly. And Max had to admit, maybe he wasn't so bad all the time. Only most of the time.

"Hey!" Angel cried as she recaptured Total in her arms, though Max couldn't be too sure exactly what that "hey" was about. Her thoughts, or the fact that Nudge had been holding Total, whom Angel had claimed for herself.

"Are we gonna go inside?" Gazzy asked curiously, peering up at the big house with eyes filled with wonder. Max supposed the two younger ones had never seen any place like this, or even imagined it existed. A place with perfect lawns, big houses and shiny cars. It was the kind of place you dreamed about, but never could quite picture.

"Mmhmm," Max said with fake cheer.

Gluing a smile on her face, she squatted down on the balls of her feet to the eye level of both kids. If- if- they were going to go in that big house, some rules definitely needed to be laid down. She wouldn't have Nudge's parental experience ruined by the fact that two overly curious blonde haired children had broken her mother's priceless vase or something of that nature.

"So," she almost cringed at the sugary sweetness that had become her voice, "you and Angel, and Total," she added the last bit quickly when she saw the dog open his mouth to protest, "have to be really nice and extra polite when you go inside. Because we don't want to make Nudge's parents mad, okay? Do you guys promise to be on your absolute best behavior?"

Gazzy nodded, "Of course."

"Mmhmm!" Angel chorused brightly.

"Yeahhh," Total drew out the word in his classic, sarcastic way, "we'll be good."

Max cocked an eyebrow and gave Total that sort of 'I could fucking murder you' look before she spoke again, her eyes drilling holes into the little dog, "I mean it. If any of you touches anything, especially if it's rare, expensive or if I don't see it, then I'm gonna have to cut T.V. privileges."

There was a chorus of gasps and "no!"s before any of them could actually form coherent sentences again.

"For how long?" Gazzy's eyes were wide and fearful. Oh the power of the TV.

Max almost wanted to laugh at that. All of them- the terrible three especially- would usually spend two hours and upwards glued to the TV. Game shows, soap operas, sitcoms, cartoons- in any language- would rivet them in place for hours on end. And it was extremely laughable, the way they responded when that aspect of their evenings was threatened.

"A week, maybe two if it's really bad. It all depends on what happens." Max drew out the sentence lengthily, emphasizing her seriousness.

They were more gasps and moans, but in the end, they all made their promise, to be good.

She didn't' believe them, but they did promise.

Ringing the bell of 444 S. Violet avenue, Fang couldn't help but wonder if there was a specific reason why he was going through with this, or if he was really, truly, going inside at long last.

Violet avenue, was a street filled with pastel colors and lovely gardens, old Cadillacs and two-seater bicycles. He half-expected to see Edward Scissorhands appear out of nowhere with the entire cast chasing after him.

Iggy pushed the bell again, bouncing on the balls of his feet anxiously. Though Fang had no idea why he was nervous, it was his parents they were meeting after all. Iggy had already met his with astounding results, so why should he be standing there, rubbing his hands together and bouncing like that? It made no sense, really.

Fang slyly leaned over towards Iggy, "If we run now, they'll never see."

Iggy slapped at his arm and smirked, "Fang, don't be an ass-"

"Yes?" the door to the small house cracked open, and a small face appeared in the space. It was a worn, wrinkled, pale face with shimmering brown eyes that shone with bright intensity. And oh god, looking into those eyes was so familiar. He might as well have looked into a mirror. For that's what their eyes were to each other, mirrors.

"How can I help you boys?" Her large eyes blinked as she spoke, and they darted nervously between the two.

"Um… does Alice Adams live here?" Fang looked down at the sheet, reading the name off with stuttering and awkwardness.

The door cracked open ever wider, revealing her full, pastel pant-suited body, to be small and rather petite. A small, thin arm reached out and rested against the doorframe tiredly- sadly.

She sighed, her eyes following the cast of their shadows on the ground, "She did, fifteen years ago."

Fifteen years ago? Fang's mind suddenly began to buzz again, and a lightness of shock and horror came over his body. And though he could see Iggy's hand reaching for his, and he knew it was there, he could not feel it. It was as if his whole body had gone into a state of shock, at the news that the woman he had assumed to be his mother, had died. Fifteen years ago.

"I'm sorry…" she said unsurely, "Er, why is it you were asking for her?"

Fang sucked in a quick breath and looked back up into those glassy eyes, "Um… we have… there is… reason to believe that she is- was- my mother."

The small woman jumped, and for a moment Fang thought she'd given her a heart attack. Her hand fluttered to her chest and her eyes closed for a half second, "Alice Adams. You believe, she- my… my daughter- was your mother?"

"Your daughter?" Fang heard Iggy whisper to himself.

"Yes," she breathed, mustering up as much pride and dignity, not to mention as much height, as she could, "My name is April Adams, and Alice is- was- my daughter."

Fang bit his lower lip, hesitating only for a moment, before taking in a long deep breath and sticking out his right hand, "My name is Alexander Aaron Adams, but most people call me Fang."

"Oh," her hand flew to her heart once more, "Oh."

As those shimmering brown eyes welled with tears, and those tiny arms outstretched, Fang found himself pulled into one of the tightest hugs he'd ever been pulled into. And all at once he found tears streaming down his face, and his throat being choked with a half sob, half cry out.

And suddenly, he was throttled away from her, held at arms length apart, she eyed him approvingly, breaking into a warm smile, "Come in side, both of you." She addressed Iggy for the first time. Who responded with a smile and a nod.

She shuffled into the house, beckoning them forward and calling to someone named Al.

Fang put his arm around Iggy's waist and kissing the base of his neck, pulling him into the doorway with the hugest grin plastered on his face. He felt like he'd won some kind of contest, what kind, he wasn't sure. But he sure as hell was pleased.

It would have only been better if his mother had been there.

A/N: Yes, Fang's family has a lame way of naming kids, I'm aware. But they're one of those cutesy families that do that kind of thing.

Anyways, I'm pretty sure the next chapter will be the last... or maybe I'll have to do one more, I'm not sure.

18. Happy Allusions of What Was

Chapter XVIII: Happy Allusions of What Was

Being invited into the home of his own family- the people who he thought were his biological family members- Fang was overwhelmed with the feeling of being out of place, accompanied by the nervous jittering of a paranoid schizophrenic. And yet, on top of it all, he was excited, and filled with great happiness.

There were dishes of hard candy everywhere, and the sofa was covered in throw pillows. Pictures of a young girl with a thin frame and long, brown waves- presumably Alice- were everywhere, there was evidence that a cat lived there- stray hairs and chewed cat toys- crocheted quilts… the ideal grandparents' house.

April, who was still a flutter, and still calling for Al, brought them into a small sun room in the back, over looking their tiny, but neatly kept yard with a rather large above ground pool in the corner.

"Sit, sit, sit," she said, flapping her arms in the direction of the loveseat in the corner. Which the two boys gladly squeezed onto. April herself momentarily sat down, then jumped right back up and started calling for Al.

"Wha' is it, Ape?" an elderly man who looked slightly confused entered the room, rubbing his eyes sleepily. His glasses hung in a chain around his neck and swung back and forth whenever he moved, and he seemed to be doing that a lot, out of disorientation

"Al, this is Alex!" Her voice was excited, hopeful, but also somewhat tired of her husband's nonsense.

"Alex? April, I don't know anybody named Alex." His voice also mirrored the tiredness of his wife's, although Fang was willing to be that was more out of defense than genuine annoyance.

"Alexander Aaron, does that ring a bell?" The small woman put her hands on her hips pointedly.

"Alexander Aaron… you mean, like…?"

"Yes, Al, like Alice."

"Oh, well…" Al fell back into a nearby armchair- covered in a layer of several floral print quilts- looking nothing less than completely and utterly shell shocked.

The elderly man wiped his brow of sweat that wasn't there, and then looked suspiciously from Fang to his wife and back again. His eyes narrowed, and his words took an accusing tone, "Yer sure?"

"Yes, Al," April's voice edged on annoyance, "I'm positive."

He grave a gruff sort of humph sound and continued to glare at the brown haired boy, who self-consciously shifted in his seat, staring down into his lap and wondering if maybe he should just leave now.

But slowly, Al's face began to soften, and his eyes warmed and his mouth fell into an easy smile, "Well, he sure as hell looks like her."

Alice nodded in approval, "He sure as hell does."

Fang looked around the room unsurely. There were four walls, a set of bunk beds pressed up against the back wall, and a cot lined up against the opposite. Both were covered in warm looking comforters and large, fluffy pillows. A dresser and a nightstand stood in between them, and there was a small chest at the foot of both beds.

Everything in the room smelt of cedar, and looked like it to. Even the floors and ceilings were made of the same material as the walls, which were made of the same wood as the chest and the nightstand.

Light streaked across the floor and decorative rug from a large, open window on the western wall.

Fang suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, a large one with a firm grip, "I'll get a lamp and book shelf in here as soon as I can, but for now we'll have to make due."

The voice was Jeb's, and Fang looked up into his warm green eyes with hope, and fear.

"A bit overwhelming, isn't it?"

Fang nodded, looking back at the room and swallowing deeply.

"I'll let you and Iggy get settled, and then I'll bring Gazzy in here and get you all tucked in, alright?" He didn't wait for an answer, but smile and nodded pleasantly before leaving the room.

Iggy, who had been clinging to the doorway, his head darting around in the direction of every incoming sound, bit his lip and called out to Fang unsurely, "F-Fang… can you…?"

Fang, nodded, then caught himself, "Y-yeah, of course."

He wasn't sure of what to do, but knew he had to do something. So, he stepped slightly behind Iggy, put his head hesitantly between his shoulder blades and gave him a gentle push into the room, "Okay, um, right here," he pointed Iggy into the direction of the window, "is a window, it's pretty big.

"Up ahead, are the bunk beds, I think those are ours." Iggy's delicate fingers reached out and grasped thin air. Gentle as always, Fang coaxed Iggy's hand towards the bedpost until his fingers were in contact with the cedar.

"Over here, is a dresser, and a nightstand." Again, he brought Iggy close enough to touch the object, and then moved on to the next.

"And then this is the cot, which I think the other boy will have."

"The other boy?" Iggy furrowed his brow confusedly, "You mean, the little one?"


"Oh… okay."

"Um, that's about it."

Iggy coughed and sat down on the cot, "Thanks, Fang."

"For what?" Fang blinked confusedly.

"You know, showing me around and stuff."

And there was so much Fang wanted to say, to that one little phrase.

I'm sorry we're not friends. I'm sorry I'm stupid. I'm sorry you're blind. Why couldn't it have been me? What's gonna happen? Are you gonna be okay? Why? I wish things were different. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to hug you. I want things to be normal. I want this to end. I want to go back. I'm scared to go back. What will happen to us?

And Fang felt his eyes prick with tears that threatened- and also refused- to spill at his command, I'm so scared.

And yet he couldn't. He could only nod his head and swallow his tangle of thoughts, "You're welcome."

Every few seconds, Max would look over at Nudge to make sure she was still there. Hard to believe, after they witnessed the splendor of her parents' house. There was marble, gold leaf, silver, priceless pieces of art which no one even dared to look at, for fear they'd break them.

Champagne was poured for them, although Max refused it, and made the three others do the same. Caviar was also offered, but no one really wanted that. Well, except Gazzy, who ate the stuff up like it was Wal-Mart brand potato chips.

Although if they'd asked for it, Max doubted they'd have given them the time of day. Half way through, Nudge's father left for a phone call, and then her mother was dragged away by an "urgent" instant message on her brand new Black Berry.

The winged group saw themselves out.

Nudge's parents made it very clear, though, they had no problem with any of them staying, or leaving, or taking anything, even. Nudge pinned for a pair of boots her mother offered her, but the two girls exchanged glances, and they knew it wasn't right. It wasn't theirs to take, even if the owner really didn't care.

They, did, however accept a debit card and a small scrap of paper with Nudge's fathers phone number on it. Should it run out, they were to text- and not call, most likely he'd hang up if he didn't know the caller- him and ask for more. Max doubted they would, because it also felt wrong… too dependent. But the money already on the card- which one of the house assistants had set up for them during the course of the meeting- could come in handy, so they accepted.

As her stomach grumbled, Max was beginning to think some of that caviar might have been a good idea, after all. Gazzy certainly wasn't complaining.

He and Angel- who had set herself in Nudge's lap- were squabbling over a coloring book, as usual. Nudge was looking dreamy eyed out the window, Max couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking about. What her life could have been like with those people? Or what it would be like without them?

The taxi purred along at a sad, slow pace in the rush of five o'clock traffic, only making Max's nerves worse. For their destination, was her own home.

Or what she thought it to be.

She had an address, she had names, but then she remembered Jeb.

"You killed your own brother!"

She wondered if Jeb was her father, and perhaps the name was that of her mother and step-father. She wondered if Jeb wasn't the father. She even went so far as to consider opening the door to see Jeb's face, but she immediately ruled the prospect out. Jeb was not her father. Jeb would not have followed them. Nobody could have followed them.

They were safe now, or they were going to be. They had friends, friends who would hide them and make sure the school would never hurt them again.

And a sickening thought gripped her stomach.

What if this was all just a trap?

What if they were really going back to the School?

She could see it, getting off the plane and being shuttled into a bus, where they were locked into cages and-

But the rest of the vision stopped there.

Paranoia, she realized, was what she was being gripped with. Not a real, true concern. But pure paranoia. There was always risk in every situation, obviously, but she had to trust these people. It was there only hope.

"I still can't believe it," Al said, drinking deeply from a cracked coffee mug which April had placed in front of him along with a tray of food containing chocolate cake and an omelet. Both looked to be leftovers, but no one complained.

Iggy and Fang received the same thing, although Fang couldn't help but notice April just took the coffee and continued to jump up and down looking for things to get them. Perhaps she should take some Xanax, or at least put down the coffee to soothe her nerves.

"Believe it, Al, he's your grandson," she sighed, placing paper towel napkins in front of them, which she had just jumped up to get rather excitedly.

"A'ight, a'ight, I do already." It was almost comical the way those two bickered, true husband and wife bickering.

April rolled her eyes before turning her attention to Fang, her voice soft and her eyes absolutely misty, "Oh you do look so much like her, you know? Exactly like I'd have imagined you."

Fang felt himself blush, "Thanks."

"But I bet you're wondering what happened to her right?" she frowned and furrowed her brow, "I mean, you came here to meet your mother and instead you ran into a couple of old birds you're vaguely related to."

Fang nodded mindlessly.

"Darling," she said slowly, "I'm willing to be that you've gathered your mother died?"

He nodded again.

"Good, you're a smart boy."

He didn't nod this time.

She took a deep breath in, "Alice is not, biologically, my child. She is the daughter of my sister, who died during Alice's birth. Al and I, her legal guardians, were given custody immediately. At the time, we were trying for children of our own, and we were reluctant to take on another responsibility…" Her tone edged on regret, and she fidgeted in her chair, much like he had done just before.

"But how can you turn away from family? We certainly couldn't. We took her in and raised her as our own, never did have a kid of our own, actually. So I guess it was good that we took her in. Turns out she had a brilliant mind, quite the little genius. Straight As, all her life. Never had any trouble at school, always a good little girl. Always."

Both April and Al showed great pride in this, sitting up a little straighter and smiling a little brighter. Fang had figured his mother was smart, seeing as there were a lot of certificates of achievements hanging around the place, and he couldn't help but feel proud too, that he'd come from such genes.

But the happy, drunken pride feeling was quickly diminished as the story took a low turn, and mouths turned to serious frowns as April continued her tale in a low, sad tone, "And then your mother turns sixteen and things start to change. She starts driving off at night, and this boy starts hanging around. Al and I thought it was good, she was making friends, Alice had always been a shy one, but then she starts stumbling in the doorway at six AM unable to stand up right or walk a goddamn straight line," bitterness hit her voice, "and dammit, we didn't do a thing about it. Too scared to.

"Of course, things turned bad. By the summer, we were lucky to see her face once a week. Sleeping all day, out all night with that boy. Should've put a stop to it, should've done a lot of things. But I didn't, and one day we got the news. Not from our own daughter, no, we weren't given that honor, but from the mother of the boy who'd done the deed. She'd found some pregnancy tests in their wastebasket and thought she knew what was going on.

"And we told her the truth, that it wasn't our fault her boy was sleeping around with anything that moved, and that there was no way our daughter would ever need to take a pregnancy test, let alone that it would be… positive. She was polite enough, thanked us for our time. Never called again. Of course, we were both shaken, so we asked Alice about it, if she knew why this boy had all these pregnancy tests, positive ones.

"She didn't answer for a long time, but when she did I think that was when we realized what'd been going on.

"We wanted an abortion, of course that was the only way to go, but abortions were expensive, and taboo. We did what we could. Pulled her out of public school, looked into adoption agencies, and in her fifth month we were approached by this 'agency'-"

At this time, Al, who had been silent, broken in, "Agency shmagency! They were nothing but a bunch of foolhardy, bastard, sons of bitches and I told you that from the very start."

"Yes, you did," she admitted, "Now can I please finish the goddamn story?

"Anyways, the 'agency'-" she shot Al a warning look- "wanted to test some kind of drugs or something on fetuses, for early brain development or something like that. They were always very vague about exactly what they were doing, but there were huge benefits. Or what we'd considered benefits at the time. They'd adopt the child out, deliver her at their own property, and pay her for her troubles, the only thing we had to do was come in for bi-monthly shots.

"The birth went flawlessly, and they even let her hold her baby before they took him away, but I think it broke her heart. To be giving her own flesh and blood away like that. For a while, it looked like things were getting better. All the homeschooling had paid off and she was going to graduate early. The boy we hadn't seen again, and we were looking into colleges when the nightmares started.

"She'd have these horrible dreams about failed abortions, orphanages, demon children, the like. She'd wake up screaming and thrashing in the middle of the night, and it was just horrible to see her go through it. We took her to a shrink, of course, that's what you do for these kind of things-"

Al broke in again, "He was a quack, an awful quack!" But no one really paid him any mind.

"-and he gave her some sleeping pills to sooth her dreams. That seemed to work fine, and we thought everything was going to be okay, but…" she let out a long, low breath and pressed the tips of her manicured fingers against her temple in the midst of an un-namable emotion she had been preparing herself for, but could obviously never sooth, "She overdosed. There was a note. Didn't say much. But I think she was sorry. About a lot of things."

Taken aback, Fang gaped at his grandmother, and then at a picture of his mother on the wall behind her. Standing in a garden of some sort, and you could see her freckled skin hidden beneath a plain white dress. Her brown eyes squinted into the sun and her mouth was broken into a genuine grin. She looked happy, innocent even. What would have happened, had he not been given away to the School? Would she still be here, what would happen to his father?

Iggy gripped his hand tightly, but Fang felt numb to his touch.

April looked at him intently, brown eyes staring deep beneath his skin and below to his thumping heart, "But you're back. Alice would be happy to know that."

But I'm a freak, with wings. Is that how my mother would have wanted me?

He cleared his throat, unsure of how much to tell them, how much they wanted to know, "What happened to my father?"

Al shook his head, "Motorcycle accident, years ago."

"So, I'm… an orphan?"

"Oh, no!" April sounded outraged, "I mean… you have us."

But that wasn't the same, was it? Most likely he'd never see these people again. They were going into hiding, weren't they? So, he really had no family. None at all. He was the last of the Adams… or whatever their last name was, with their all A naming scheme and the same brown eyes that everyone seemed to inherit. How could he be the only one left? How could he be so alone?

Somewhere a car alarm went off, and Al started complaining about automobiles, April replying in the same annoyed tone. The two were so absorbed in their own bickering, they didn't see Iggy tap Fang's hand and whisper in his ear, "You have me."

A/N: Rawr, fear the cuteness, and my tendency forget to update, and the fact that always breaks when I have updates ready... mmyeah. One chapter left.

19. Done

A/N: I am so sorry this took so long, for the last like month or two I've had almost no motivation to write this chapter. I don't really know what it was, but then my bestfriend sent me this song called "The Days Go By Oh So Slow" by Nightmare of You, and something just clicked. This is what came out of it. It's not very long... but I think it's kinda cute.

Chapter XIX: Done.

In contrast to the day, which had seemed to go on for endless hours in sun basked timeless sense, when in reality not even four hours had gone by, the bus ride home was a short one. A blur of passing cars and commuters on their way home to the inner city, filled with nothing but noise from the outside, and their own quiet thoughts to fill them within.

In fact, these thoughts were so consuming, so very overwhelming, that Fang very nearly missed their stop, and had it not been for Iggy's gentle tapping on his shoulder and careful listening, they would have most likely found themselves calling another taxi to find someway to get home.

They went in to the hotel from the back way and after fumbling with the key in the lock, the two fell into the automatic motions of taking off their shoes and setting those away; shedding their sweatshirts and whatever other baggage they'd picked up throughout the day as they leisurely made their way to their mess of a bed. Housekeeping had not come by, since Max had somehow found the sense to hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on their door before leaving. Which meant everything was exactly as they'd left it that morning. In one night they'd some how managed to already make a mess of their two rooms, leaving clothes askew, with magazines and newspapers spread all over every conceivable surface. Not to mention their beds, comforters heaped at the foot and sheets even worse. Pillows stuffed in the cracks between the headboard and the mattress. Yet there was a comfort in this sort of chaos- which was still nevertheless shameful- because therein, they could safely assume that the rest of the Flock had not yet arrived back. And maybe they wouldn't for a while. This gave them time. Time to think and digest and breathe without Angel and Gazzy's constant please for attention, Nudge's need to intoxicate their air with her nonsensical blabber, or even Max and her controlling nature. Time was what they needed, and time was what they had.

Until they'd grown so close, but boys had often felt smothered by the rest of the Flock. Sure, they loved them, but they were always there, every second, of every day, of every moment. Jus like families are, but there was no bedroom to escape to, no friends to call, no television to watch. It was the Flock. You couldn't move without one of them breathing down your neck. Or asking a question, or complaining, or… just being there. This was nearly twice as bad as any of the others. They'd stare you down, scrutinize and analyze you, like it was any of their business in the first place. And it wasn't. Not at all.

But things had changed, a lot. Not just that they'd found their ways to escape, or that they'd more or less started enjoying each others company, but all of this… the drama of the last few months, seemed to age all of them several years. Even the younger ones seemed to have started to calm down and relax a bit. A miracle in it's self.

Still, times like this, when they were all away, were the best.

Fang was the first to collapse onto the heap of sheets, eventually managing to wriggle his way beneath the now icily cool linens. Iggy came next, more carefully picking his way between piles of clothes and god knows what else, before peeling back the covers with the precision of a scientist measuring a beaker. He slipped in as well, but not before pulling the comforter, which was still bundled on the floor, over the both of them.

Wordlessly, they moved together. Iggy resting his head against Fang's chest and Fang resting his head atop Iggy's hair, and at the same time, their bodies fell into perfect form, due mostly to old habit, like two matching puzzle pieces.

Fang's breath ruffled Iggy's hair, and Iggy found himself listening for the reassuring beat of Fang's heart against his own, and their racing minds slowly began to calm and rationalize. Just like that.

Outside the air began to cool as the sun slowly lowered itself to sit across the horizon as a burst of red and orange, running into a sky perfectly water colored into shades of pink and purple by fluffy clouds in the distance. An open window let a low breeze in, and it swept across their bed. Iggy shivered, and instinctively, Fang tugged at the covers until it was nearly at both their chins.

Footsteps and yelling of the angry sort thundered like the breaking of glass down the hall, and that made Fang uneasy. As the noise escaladed, his head slowly rose, and he stared accusingly at their door to the outside. But, gently Iggy pulled him back down with smooth hands and a tight hug.

The clock showed the passing of forty-minutes, but it could have easily been a day and a half before anything disturbed them. But it wasn't as much a disturbance as it was a welcome distraction from the thoughts they'd spent nearly the last hour grappling with.

Slowly, Iggy swallowed and opened his mouth, letting his voice roll out low and husky, with just a touch of sleepiness tainting his diction, "I love you."

"I love you too," Fang's voice was soft as his fingers moved down Iggy's side, tracing his every curve and line as he went, gently tickling the other boy like a feather grazing your hair as it floats towards the ground.

There was a long pause filled with only the sound of the air vent purring, and the rustling of sheets as Iggy pulled himself up towards Fang's face- which he could picture so clearly. Long brown hair, with little waves at the ends, touching his shoulders, thick and smooth like silk. Big, brown eyes with flecks of gold like the sunset framed by long, dark lashes, set in high cheekbones and tanned, olive skin. Thin lips, likely chapped, and a long nose, which Fang had always been self conscious of, but Iggy thought it'd made him look more mature. He wouldn't have looked right without it.

If he strained his imagination he could picture what could only be the sunset, for he thought it was about that time, streaming through the window, blonding Fang's hair and making the gold in his eyes dance.

"I think this is the best day of my life." His fingers gently reached out and touched the soft skin of his cheek, while Fang's hand grasped his wrist, and then his hand, holding it tightly. Iggy liked the sensation.

"Not because I met my parents," Iggy cleared the smokiness from his voice in annoyance, "I mean, I met my dad. My dad's pretty cool, I think. He's one of those parents who'd always love their kids no matter what, just look at Janie."

He chuckled softly to himself, thinking of the sweet smell of marijuana, cigarettes and booze which seemed to emanate from her.

"I like that about him. And Janie's cool. I think she, like, gets it. You know, me. At least, more than I thought she would," and his tone suddenly turned rather perplexed as a vision of what he could imagine his mother as came to mind, "It kind of sucks that my mom's dead… I know Janie liked her. So she can't be all that bad, you know."

"Mmhmm," Fang hummed softly to show he was listening as he took Iggy's hand from his cheek and held it in front of him, burying it within both of his palms affectionately.

"I'm glad I didn't grow up with them though. I know they mean the best and everything. My mom and my dad, but I don't know what would have happened… I might have ended up like Janie or something, you know.

"I wouldn't be blind, though, and I guess that's a plus." Iggy shrugged a bit, mostly for his own reassurance, rather than Fang's.

Another silence followed, this one shorter, and the usual white noise was instead disturbed by the slight smacking noises of Fang's lips against Iggy's knuckles.

"If you grew up with them you wouldn't be Iggy… you'd be someone totally different. Like, they say that the way you grow up sets the way you'll be for the rest of your life, like makes you who you are. Since we grew up in the School we're kind of fucked up and stuff, but we're also… I dunno, just different, you know? And if you didn't… it just wouldn't be you. And I like you just the way you are." Iggy felt a fluttering in his stomach during the entirety of Fang's short lived monologue. Because he realized this was true. Perhaps there were some good points about the school. Or just one really. That they made them into the people they were. They could have become spoiled brats, or stupid jocks. Any number of things, but instead they ended up being them.

"You know how much you mean to me, right?"

"Do youknow how much you mean to me?" Fang retorted.

Suddenly, he found his eyes beginning to prick with what could only be tears. Because suddenly, the magnitude of it all, was there.

Months of changes and events. From the time that they spent in the City together, to their time on the rooftop, to the Eraser's attack, to coming here, to meeting their parents, to now.

Everything was so different. He found himself holding himself in less, and sharing his feelings more. Of course, this was mostly with Iggy, and of course he was going to do that with Iggy, but it was still a very unfamiliar sort of thing for Fang to do. Always the stoic one, always the strong one, always the quiet one, by choice. He liked it that way, within the solemn-ness of himself there was comfort in the sameness, there were no changes or things to consider. It was simple, then.

And feelings somehow came into play, slowly battering down the walls he'd built inside to protect himself from nothing until they fell, and things started to happen. The need to be near Iggy, the wanting to touch him, and eventually, the yearning simply for him.

A very, very knew phenomenon, considering the way he'd pushed away simple boyhood crushes before, such as the one he'd had on Max for so long. He knew it would pass, and it did. Yet this stuck, and it grew.

Until that night when they finally kissed… and everything sort of came pouring out after that. They grew so close so fast…

There were so many good times within that. Going into the City once, and breaking away from the group to spend the day together. They held hands for the first time in public that day, and sure people stared a bit, but no one came up to them and began to scream in their face. No one begged them to turn to god. In fact most people just ignored them. Being that it was New York, this was probably something they'd seen everyday. Somehow though, it felt like a big deal to Fang.

Once they'd come through the City during some sort of Gay Pride get together. This was with the rest of the Flock of course, but briefly, as they distanced themselves from the rest of the Flock to avoid their curiosity, they really belonged. It was also the first time they'd really identified themselves as a gay couple. They barely considered themselves a couple, so it was a bit of a shock when two outgoing lesbians started up a conversation, asking them about their experience as a teenage, gay couple. Luckily, Iggy made up some sort of story to satisfy them, and they went on their merry way.

Better yet, the time they'd taken Angel to see some silly kid movie, and they'd snuck out of the theatre together and seen something totally different. He didn't even remember what. But they'd sat up in the back row the entire time, completely engaged in shoving their tongue down the other's throat.

They'd grown up so much together, and not just in kissing and holding hands and being a couple, but they'd matured too. He used to just brush off things that happened around him as other people's silly problems, but he realized soon enough that those silly problems affected him even more than he could have ever expected.

He knew too, that though they'd already changed so much, there was so much more to come. There was Georgia, for one, and living in the South, where they'd never even been before. Working with these people who were hiding them, that was another matter entirely. He couldn't even imagine how that was going to go…

Yet somehow, it didn't scare him. There was risk he knew, and he'd have a whole new plate of things to get used to, but there was so much to look forward to.

The Flock was still together. And not only that, but he had Iggy.

And looking at him right then, he knew, this was it. This was his world. He didn't need anything else, nor did he want it. That was that.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am definitely writing some sequels for this... so check my profile for updates. Currently I think I have a oneshot lined up next, so hopefully that'll be up soon.

If not, slap me.