Frayed Ends by Happi Zebra

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Family, Hurt-Comfort
Published:2009-01-16 04:01:53
Updated:2009-01-16 04:01:53
Packaged:2021-05-07 02:30:36
Summary:Trishot altfic taken from Angel's perspective. R&R. Warnings for dark themes and death.

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1
2. Chapter 2
3. Chapter 3

1. Chapter 1

((A/N: Events take place around Ch 59 in TAE – Angel is at the School, Max, Fang and Nudge have just gotten captured and Iggy and The Gasman had escaped))

Frayed Ends

Angel watched in terror as Max, Nudge and Fang were hauled past her crate, their limp forms unconscious and battered. They were tossed into crates similar to her own - if a little bigger - and left them there. For hours. Alone. The faint breathing of her family was her only comfort in the dark, she waited for each breath, panicking if one of them took too long to take one. She felt when Nudge, the least injured as far as Angel could tell, made the transition from knocked out to sleeping; the usually clear mind filled with dark and twisted dreams. It was only a few minutes – five? Ten? Fifteen? Who knew in here? – before Fang's mind did the same, though he slept quietly, lost in deep and dreamless bliss while his body worked at healing.

Max didn't dream. Angel couldn't feel any flickers from her mind. What was wrong with her? If one of the others would wake maybe she'd find out. Should she wake them? Should she call for the Whitecoats? She could scream that Max was hurt – worse than they could know – tell them to fix her, make her better. She couldn't do it. She couldn't call them. Tell them to fix Max? The way they improved Iggy's sight? No, Max would rather die than have them tamper with her mind. Angel kept silent, waiting, waiting in the dark, when will they wake?

The room lit slowly, the light from outside filtering through the barred and frosted window, as dawn came. It wasn't long before Jeb paid them a visit. Angel staring at him the whole time as he checked vitals through the crates; she watched him as he flicked a small light over each of their eyes, checking the pupil dilation. He stared at Max thoughtfully. Checked again. And exploded into action. Shouting. Whitecoats. Taking Max away. Everything was going so wrong. She'd tried to avoid this. Max was going to be so angry.

((Consistent with canon events:

They brought Max back after a long time, but Angel could feel the difference; they'd done something to her, something that had changed something inside of her mind. She was alive, though, so everything was okay. Angel had realized that Max might die – horrified with herself that the thought hadn't really penetrated before. Max could have really died. Gone. She was different now, but maybe she was still Max, maybe the difference wouldn't effect her.

Max woke, stared at me, Angel was alive. The thought was strong and relieved. "At least they gave you a big crate," Angel told her, "I'm in a medium," Max's shame pressed against her, the thoughts of failure battering at Angel's mind, "It's not your fault," she shook her head, God, how would she tell her. Max was looking around, checking on her flock, checking they were okay. They hadn't seen her taken away. She was back by the time they'd woken up. They didn't know anything was wrong.

"I'm sorry, Max," she whispered, "This is all my fault," Max didn't understand what she was apologizing for though, she started with her reassurances but Angel zoned them out, trying to work out a way to tell her that wouldn't totally destroy her. It was so hard to think. Max was scared; she could hear her thoughts buzzing back and forth, flashes of memory burning her mind like a light turned on too bright after darkness, the sharp patterns of fear tracing her mind second-hand.

"Max – there's something I have to tell you," she said and couldn't help but start to cry, she barely heard Max telling her that it could wait, she knew it couldn't, "No, Max, it's really important –" A door opened and her chance was lost, it was Jeb, she could tell that already from the mental block he seemingly had around him. He took Max away and Angel felt her realization, her inspiration that this is what Angel had been trying to warn her about, if only she knew the truth.

Max came back after what seemed like, but couldn't have been, an eternity, "You okay?" Angel asked, pressing against the crate, wondering desperately if he'd told her what had happened.

"I'm okay. Everyone hang tough, all right?"

Angel nodded. She didn't know. She didn't need to know. No one else knew. Jeb hadn't said anything. Max didn't need to know that they'd done something to her head. Angel settled back, hating herself just a little, but knowing that this was the right thing to do, for Max and for the flock, maybe Jeb could catch them easier know, who knew what the change would do, but at very least, they could be a family for a little while, and not worry about what might have happened in that lab that night.

End canon-relevant explanation of Max's screwy brain.))

Angel waited, for so long she waited, Fang and Nudge woke, they asked where Max was, but Angel didn't answer, she waited, because Max would come back to her. Max would never leave her.

Jeb came back. Max was dead.

Max had left her. Max couldn't come back from this. Max was dead.

2. Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Angel listened closely as Fang's mind fell into depression. It started as disbelief. Whitecoats were playing them again, Max wasn't dead, she couldn't be, hate them, so much hate aimed at them, when will the games just stop? She pushed her way into his mind, prying, looking at his thoughts until they coalesced into memories. Max standing at the lab window, watching the Erasers hunt, One day we'll die out there, Fang, they'll tear us apart like the monkeys. Remembered pain, the thought of losing her, Max couldn't die, Fang would never let her die, how could she be dead?

Angel pulled away, the confusing tangle of thoughts were making her feel sick, the mixture of present, past and imagined realities all colliding within Fang's head. Surely he'd lose his mind, but how could she save him? Max was dead and it was her fault, she should have told them earlier, Max might say she'd rather be dead than at the Whitecoats mercy again, but who cared what happened to any of them so long as they were all alive and together? Max was dead. Her fault. All her fault.

Angel watched as Fang wasted away. He didn't move, didn't think, his mind revolved slowly but resolutely around an image of Max, flying, smiling, laughing, holding him a lifetime ago at the School after a particularly horrible experiment, all he thought of was her. Angel watched as he died, slowly, starving away in his crate and not even noticing because all he could think of was Max. She tried to talk to him, she tried to convince him to eat, tried to force her will on him, make him live. Nothing penetrated the fog of love and sorrow he felt for Max, his grief was so complete that nothing, not Nudge, nor Angel, nor Jeb or any other Whitecoat could glean any sort of reaction from him.

Fang – the old Fang – was dead long before his body collapsed, his lungs shut down, his heart stopped. There was nothing left of his mind to save, he was past the point where he could heal, dying like a love bird mourning its mate. He died, in captivity, one might say, barely a week after he realized Max was dead. He'd eaten while he still denied it, but as reality crashed in on him and his hope faded to nothing, he'd given up eating, given up life.

Angel watched it all happen – so much could happen in a week, two of the flock was dead, Nudge wasn't speaking. Had barely spoken since the news about Max, had stopped completely when Fang's breath rattled and finally gave out. She'd screamed his name and cried, cried until she was hollowed out and her sobs were dry and choking, and hadn't said a word since. Angel watched as Nudge withdrew into herself.

Then Jeb came and took her away. A lab tech's unprotected mind informed her that Nudge would be operated on, her wings removed, cut away and burnt, and she'd be sent to mental institution for hopeless cases. A hospice for the mentally irreparable.

"How do you know she's broken?" Angel asked Jeb in a dull voice. She almost didn't care if he answered, almost. He studied her for a long time.

"The mind is just electrical messages, Angel, my brain is fine-tuned to pick them up and read them, much like yours is," he told her and Angel nodded. She didn't have the energy to be shocked by this revelation. "You knew she was broken?" he asked gently.

"Anyone could see that; it doesn't take a mind reader," she said wearily and turned away. "You aren't going to tell me you're my father, are you?"

Jeb smiled and gave a faint laugh, "No, I'm not your father, Angel, we don't know who he is… there was speculation about Reilly, but your mother died in childbirth, so unless he's willing to come forward and claim paternity I'm afraid you'll never know,"

"But Gazzy-"

Jeb cut her off with an upheld hand, his forehead creasing with a frown, head shaking its dissent, "No, no, no, Gazzy isn't your brother – not biologically speaking, anyway – I don't know where Max or the others pulled that little fantasy from, but none of you were related,"

Angel stared in shock, her whole world had been turned upside down – Max and Fang were dead – and now the facts that she had to cling from were… were what? The assumptions of eight-year olds? They'd never actually known, but just decided that Gazzy and Angel looked enough a like to be siblings, never checked. Her life was a lie.

Jeb sighed, "I'm sorry, Angel, I know this is a lot to deal with, but I have to go, no more questions?" She shook her head mutely, no, she told him in her head, no more questions; I'm not sure I could handle anymore answers.

3. Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Angel was alone. Not much longer now, she thought, she'd felt the familiar buzz of Iggy and Gazzy's minds approach the School; they were coming to save them all. They didn't know there was almost no one left to save. Angel wondered now if she should have protested Jeb sending Nudge away, did it really matter? She'd let her go because Nudge was broken, she still ate, drank, functioned, but there was nothing left. She'd live out the rest of her short life in an institution but surely it would be more comfortable than a dog crate – and removed the decision of Iggy, when he comes, to leave her or take her with them. There would have been no point rescuing the shell of Nudge with nothing behind it.

No matter. Angel had let her go without a murmur of protest and she'd just have to live with that – not that she could have stopped it anyway.

They came in the night. Iggy and Gaz outside her window, she could hear their thoughts buzzing around back and forth. Too much explosives or not enough… have to place them right, find the structurally weak parts of the glass, wire it to the bars, yes, right there. How did they think they could escape through that? Angel could slip through but had Max and Fang been there, there would have been trouble, even Nudge might have had trouble. Did that mean they knew they weren't there? Angel curled up as far from the window as possible feeling their ministrations draw to a close and hearing the ominous ticking. They flew back, pushing off the wall and flying high, and then the night lit up, Angel's eyes burned behind her lids and the thick glass cracked and shattered out into large chunks, the bars falling as a piece to the floor with a heavy clunk.

Angel scrambled to the opposite end of the crate where the glass had smashed through a corner – this really was a horrible plan, what were they thinking? – and started breaking through the damaged prison. She made it through in minutes, hearing sirens and emergency announcements and running feet, and fluttered her wings hard, leaping up to the window pane and squeezing through. The glass remaining shaved her of a few feathers and bit into her skin but she paid it no mind, grabbing Gazzy's hand when he appeared.

"We over heard where you were being kept, do you know where the others are?" Iggy asked, appearing from above.

"They aren't here anymore, I'll explain later, but we have to go," Angel said quickly, feeling pain lance through her heart. Iggy looked as if he might go searching but Gazzy nodded, seeing something in Angel's expression that made him anxious to be gone.

"Let's go," he said, grabbing Iggy's shoulder as he shot up into the air, Iggy followed, allowing himself to be persuaded by the looming threat of barking dogs and howling Erasers. Shouts echoed after them and shots were fired into the dark. A single tear traced its way down Angel's cheek and she wished fleetingly that one of those stray bullets would hit her and she could fall back to the School, her body burnt and her ashes mingled with Max's and Fang's, instead of living, free with only half the flock. She wished she'd been able to die like Fang, her love for Max – the only mother she'd ever known – consuming her until it destroyed her. She wished she'd been torn apart by shock and pain, like Nudge, retreat from the world and all its pain. None of them had to feel this grief. Angel was alone in her pain. But she wouldn't be for long.

She'd tell them soon. As soon as they landed for the night. She'd tell them and then she wouldn't be alone. How could she explain it all though, Max's death, Fang's lost hope, swept up in his grief, until death claimed him, Nudge's broken mind – what if they wanted to find her? Save her. Maybe she should say Nudge was dead. It would be better for them all. They're dead. They were all dead. She wouldn't explain how or why, she wouldn't tell them she could have saved Max, and stopped the chain of events that led to… they're all dead.

"Angel, where are the others?" Iggy called softly, the night was silent, even the wind had quieted. She could feel Gazzy concentrating hard, listening in as closely as possible, ready to act on what she said, formulate their daring plan to save them.

Angel swallowed hard; there would be no explaining, no guilt or blame or meaningless searches. "They're dead, Iggy," she started crying and looked over at him, his face locked in stunned disbelief, "They're all dead,"