A Little Place Called Home by nyanja14

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Romance
Characters:Fang, Max
Published:2006-06-30 17:48:50
Updated:2007-01-01 14:00:28
Packaged:2021-04-04 13:58:45
Summary:Home is not where you live, but where they understand you. Post SOF. Max's and Fang's POV. Faxness. Rated T for Language and Dark Themes. Check out the sequel, A Little Person Called God.

Table of Contents

1. And Then There Were Two
2. Last Flight
3. Home Alone
4. Good Quality Family Time
5. Helpful Horoscopes and Horrible History
6. Close Encounters with the Thug Kind
7. Reunion
8. Veterinarian and Veteran
9. Second Reunion
10. Answers
11. Reign of the Night Terrors
12. Kodak Moments and Polaroids
13. Real Life Werewolves
14. Old Scars, New Pain
15. Nothing, Something, and Anything
16. Vengeful Returns
17. Questions
18. Sudden Insanity
19. Pulling Off a Bandage
20. Impasse
21. Set in Stone
22. Losing It
23. Tattoos and Clues
24. Helpful Strangers
25. Lucky Number Seven
26. In the Woods
27. Fading
28. The Hand We Were Dealt
29. Resolutions
30. I Really Hate Goodbyes

1. And Then There Were Two

A/N: This is Max's life after the second book and after the rest of the flock has found their families. You know what? Just read the prologue. That'll explain everything.

This may, or may not, be a oneshot. Either way, it's not going to be incredibly long, like novella length, but it will have chapters. If you've read Dentistry, then that's about how long I predict it'll be. ….Maybe longer. We'll just have to wait and see how many reviews I get, won't we?

Prologue: And Then There Were Two

It's been two really long and amazing years since you last heard from me. So much has happened, so many things have changed, that I can't help but wonder if it's all over now. The long fight, always on the run, save the world, fulfill your destiny thing that is. Things have more or less settled down. Now things are about as normal as can be in my life. And it's driving me crazy.

The first thing to change was all the Erasers suddenly disappeared. Once upon a time, it seemed like we were surrounded by them whenever we turned a corner, but now they're just gone. Well, not entirely. Every once in a while we'll run into some Erasers, usually just one, four tops. After spending a lifetime living by my fight or flight reaction, having no blood thirsty wolf mutants chasing me is kind of unnerving. Not that I'm complaining or anything.

The next weird thing was the Voice left. I haven't heard from it since we blew up the Itex headquarters. Which was also the last time we saw a large group of Erasers. Seems like ever since then, everything dried up. I never thought I'd say this, but I sort of miss the Voice. It was kind of useful having an omnipresent being in your head, though rather annoying. And the Voice did have some good advice occasionally.

After that, our lives just seemed to fall neatly into place. The Griffiths contacted us, crying and begging Iggy to give them another chance. After Angel screened their minds and gave them the all clear, Iggy thought about it and decided to give the family life another shot. So far it seemed to be going well. Last I heard from Iggy, he was being homeschooled by his mom and both his parents were being astoundingly nice and understanding. He seemed happy, though he said he missed us a lot. I missed him a lot. Iggy, my insanely tall, blind, bird-kid pyromaniac. Never afraid to say it like it was, no matter how brutal.

When Iggy left, everyone was really torn apart for a while. Then one day Nudge announced that she wanted to go back to Arizona and see if she could find her parents. Having nothing else to do really, we did just that. We all went back to the address Fang and Nudge had visited so long ago and found out that that was where the family used to live. After a lot of hunting, we managed to track her family down. Turned out Nudge has a twin named Mona. And two other siblings. All of which love to talk almost as much as Nudge does. I can tell Nudge is really comfortable with her new family. And I'm happy for her, but incredibly sad for myself. Nudge always knew how to cheer me, how to cheer anyone up. She was just such a great kid. Things are way to quiet without her around.

Next to go was the Gasman and Angel. At first, they weren't sure if they even wanted to try to find their parents. I didn't blame them. According to Angel's mind readings from the whitecoats, they had given their kids up on purpose. But they thought about it and decided to at least meet them. Angel and Gazzy's parents took the longest to find. We searched for four months until we finally found their father. We were all a little suspicious of him at first. But then we found out that the dad had had nothing to do with delivering his babies to the whitecoats. Their mom had been on it all on her own. Dad found out about it a few years later and divorced her on the spot. Feeling like he had to make amends for his ex-spouse's actions, he was more than happy to take in Angel and the Gasman. I wish he hadn't been. Gazzy was my little trooper, Angel my baby. I'd raised them both since there were babies. Leaving them with their father, I felt like a struggling single mom ditching my kids in front of an orphanage. It hurt. It hurt a lot. And when Angel had hugged me one last time and whispered in my ear, "You'll always be my mom, Max," I'd just wanted to cry. But I'd promised myself I wouldn't let them see me cry, so I waited until we were out of the house, up in the air, before I let the tears stream down.

Which left just Fang and I.

We still hadn't found out anything about my parents, or whether Jeb was my father. Fang didn't want to leave me on my own. Actually he straight out refused to. Which led to a really big argument. After which Fang wouldn't talk to me for three days. In the end, he grudgingly agreed that if we found his parents, he would at least meet them, since I "wanted him to so damn much". Well, we did eventually find his mom and his step-father. And his step-brother, Mark, who was eleven and nothing like Fang. (For one thing he was blonde. For another, he was exceedingly cheerful, almost to a point of annoyance.) Fang's mother seemed nice and was a really good cook. His step-father was… okay. Fang was wary of them both at first, but after we'd stayed with them for a week and a half, he decided to live with them.

So here I am now, saying goodbye to my last and greatest friend, with a whole new chapter of my life leaning towards me.

It really sucked.

A/N again: No, that's not the end, that's the prologue. I really do not like this prologue. I hate it. If you think otherwise, send me a review. It might be a while before the next chapter's up. Because, I haven't written it yet. And I'm also still finishing up Dentistry. (If you haven't read Dentistry, I suggest you read it while you wait for chapter one of this story.) Please review and I'll promise not to be lazy with the updating.

2. Last Flight

A/N: And now the real story begins. Yea! I really have no idea where I'm going with this story. Mostly just making this stuff up on the spot. Which is freaky for me, because I usually have story's planned out to the very word before I write them. So this is a change for me. Let's see how it goes. BTW, when it "SC" that means scene change. Kind of annoying, but the computer was being stupid and not letting me do it another way, so I've resigned to this. You'll see what I mean. All so, some of the stuff that's supposed to be italizied isn't, so those pieces will have +at the end of them.Got it? Let's fly.




I really hate goodbyes. You'd think by now I'd be used to it, seeing as how I'm always on the move. Never in the same place for very long. But I didn't usually have anyone to say goodbye to. The people most important to me always moved along with me.

Not these last few times. Saying goodbye to Iggy for the second time was painful. Leaving Nudge was tough. Letting go of the Gasman and Angel had been heartbreaking.

But I knew already that this was going to be the hardest goodbye of my life.

At exactly midnight, I knocked on Fang's bedroom door. I'd already told his family I was leaving and thank you for letting me stay for so long earlier this evening. They gave me a decent enough farewell and his mom Angela had packed me a lot of food, but I could tell they were glad I was going to be gone in the morning.

Fang opened the door automatically, almost as if he'd been waiting for me. Maybe he had. Without a word, he let me in and shut the door. Fang unlocked his window and gave me a boost up onto the roof. I dumped my bag and then pulled him up with me.

We sat up there on the roof for a while, just the two of us. This was the last time we be with each other for a long time. Even when I visited, it wouldn't be the same. From here on forth, everything would change.

The moon looked impossibly far away tonight.

"You don't have to go Max," Fang said finally. I closed my eyes. I was already prepared for this argument. "I'm sure if I ask Angela and Robert, they'd let you stay."

"Fang-," I began reluctantly.

"-Or we could just call up Angel and have her make them let you stay."

"Fang," I said again, a little more forcefully this time. "I don't belong here."

He fell silent. He knew I was right.

"This is your family, not mine." I murmured softly.

Fang shook his head stubbornly. "Max, you and the flock are my family. I just met these people not even two weeks ago. And Robert's not even a bit related to me."

I reached out and touched his shoulder. "They're still your family."

Fang sighed. We'd already had this argument six times in the last couple of days and I'd won every time.

All was deathly quiet for a while. Finally, I knew it was time to go. And since there was no way in heaven Fang was going to say bye first, I had to start things off. I took a deep breath. Here goes nothing.


"Where are you going to go?" Fang asked suddenly.

That threw me off. "Uh… no idea?"

Fang rolled his eyes at my lack of planning. "Give me a general direction then."

I thought about it, my bird instincts muttering to me. "South. No. West. Southwest." I decided. Yeah, that felt about right.

Fang nodded as though I'd confirmed something, though God knows what. Then he stood up. "Okay. I'm flying with you to the border."

I blinked. We were in Chicago, which is about as northeast Illinois gets. "Isn't that kind of far?"

"Just about 230 miles," Fang shrugged. "Angela and Robert won't even notice I'm gone." He grabbed my hand and helped me up. This he took off and hovered in the air. "I'm coming whether you like it or not. Now shall we get going?"

He's just putting off saying goodbye. Any other day I might have fought with him about it a little, but not tonight. I was too weary to fight.

I slipped my backpack on, which isn't the easiest thing to do when you've got seven foot wings on either side of your spine. "Okay. One last night flight."

Fang smiled when I didn't argue with him for once and together we flew off into the dark.




"And what's the house phone number?"

I groaned. "Didn't you already ask me that? Like, ten minutes ago?"

"Number, Max."

I rolled my eyes and quickly rattled off, "Area code 358, 426-9715. See? I told you I know it."

Fang laughed. "I know you know it. Now. I'm making sure you don't forget it."

I pretended to be highly offended. "My memory's not that bad."

"Oh?" Fang raised his eyebrows ever so slightly. "Tell me then, what was your School ID code?"

"Like I could forget that. AGE010016M." I looked up at Fang, flying above me. He shook his head. "What is it then?"


I flapped my wings harder to gain altitude so that I was level with him. "How do you still know my ID?"

Fang whacked me playfully on the back with one of his wings. "Unlike you, I have an excellent memory." He looked up at the fading moon, which seemed to be soaring along with us. "Unfortunately."

"What?" I asked. What's that suppose to mean?

Fang ignored me. "House phone number?"

"I just told you. 358-426-971…uh…"

"Five," Fang supplied. He laughed again. "Want me to write it down for you?"

"I'll remember." I pouted.

Something about flying makes everything seem better. Like, up in the air, reality's problems feel farther away. Almost like you could escape them. So even though I knew our farewell was rapidly approaching, I couldn't help but imagine everything was okay, just another night flight with one of the flock. Plus, Fang was a whole lot easier to talk to when he was flying. And a whole lot happier. Sometimes I wondered how Fang could stand to touch the ground.

Fang whacked my back again. "Promise you'll call if anything goes wrong?"


"And that includes Eraser attacks, being spotted, getting sick, getting shot, getting cut, getting majorly hurt in anyway, and brain explosions."

I readjusted my backpack as it started to slip. "I haven't had a brain explosion since New York. The last time we had an Eraser attack was three months ago and both wolfies were nearly insane. And when was the last time any of us were sick?"

"Iggy got a cold when he was eleven."

"Yeah. But only after he accidentally fell through ice into freezing water."

"Whatever. If you need help, call me, and I don't care if you're over in Kenya, I'll fly out to you as soon as I can. Okay?"

"Okay. I promise I'll call if I should happen to need help." No way was I going to call him. He'd only get worried and have more ammo in the you-should-stay-with-me and the I-should-stay-with-you arguments. As much as I was going to miss Fang, I wanted him to get to know his real family. He deserved that chance.

"Good." He brushed his wing gently against mine. "Or call me if you just want to talk. Because I know you're going to be lonely. So, call me."

"I will, Fang."

"If you can manage to remember the number."

"I will, Fang."

Fang snorted disbelievingly, and then put on a surge of speed before I could wing-whack him. I didn't bother trying to catch him the normal way, (the boy had a foot of wingspan on me plus all those sweet hawk moves), instead I poured on the speed with my turbo-drive power for just a second, more than enough to get ahead of him. Then I abruptly stopped and waited for him to zoom by. As he went past, I gave him a whack on the back, that would have shoved Gazzy out of the air. Fang just barely felt it.

"Hey! Not fair." Fang complained as he slowed down. "I don't have any super powers to cheat with."

"Better go buy some at Wal-Mart then," I teased as I started flapping again.

"Fine. How much do they cost?"

I laughed and then stopped when I saw the border sign. On the back it said, "Welcome to Missouri!", and on the other side, it said, "Welcome to Illinois!". We had reached the border.

Fang's carefree expression was replaced by a much sober when we landed. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and then looked up at me. "You got any paper?"

"No. Why do you have a pen, but no paper?"

Fang rolled his eyes and then grabbed my hand, turning it palm up. With careful precision, he scribbled, "1-358-426-9715" across my skin. "Don't wash this off until you have it written down on paper," he warned as he stuck the pen back in his pocket. "Because trust me, you'll forget it."

I sighed. And Fang called me Mom.

All was quiet after that. The joy of flight had worn off and the goodbye had sneaked up on us. This was it. I blinked back a few tears, willing myself not to cry, and looked across the dead highway. It all ends here.

"You'll be back in six weeks?" Fang asked, more of a statement than a question.

"Yeah." I said, pulling my eyes off the road. "Six weeks."

Iggy's sweet sixteen was coming up soon. It was going to be a sort of flock reunion for us. Fang and I were going to fly out to Idaho, Iggy's new home, together, making six weeks the perfect time for me to turn back to Chicago.

"Six weeks? To the day? You won't be late or anything and freak me out?"


"Promise isn't good enough. You swear?"

"Cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing," I said. Fang smiled. It was something we'd made up when we were little. Fang and I were the only ones who knew it, so we only swore on sacred occasions. I think this counted.

"I'll hold you to that," Fang said grimly. I laughed, though it was a little hollow. Enough stalling. It was time to move on.

"…Well…" I tried again.

"Don't say it." Fang said sharply. "I hate goodbyes. And this isn't a goodbye."

I smiled a small, regretful smile. Fang always knew what was on my mind, always knew how to make me feel better. We'd gotten so close these last few years, that imagining life without Fang was near impossible. And painful. Don't cry. Don't make Fang change his mind. This is for the best. Don't cry.

The best can go screw itself, because I started crying.

Fang wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. I leaned my head into his shoulder and let my tears soak his shirt. He stroked my hair and murmured soothingly, though whatever he said was indistinguishable. I cut my sobs short and bottled up my tears. I could cry later. When I was alone. Which would be soon.

"Max, are you sure…?" Fang asked, resting his chin lightly on top of my head.

"Yes," I said, trying to sound sure of myself. "Now shut up, I don't feel like arguing."

Fang obliged, rubbing me slowly between the wings they way he knew I liked. I closed my eyes. I wanted thing to stay like this, forever. I hate change.

I hate goodbyes.

I sighed and opened my eyes. "I have to go Fang."

I felt Fang nod and move his head so he could look down at me. "Don't do anything stupid."

"I promise not to make you worry."

"I'll be worried anyway."

"I know." I reached up and ruffled his hair. "I'll be back in six weeks, kiddo."

"You better be," Fang grumbled. "And don't call me kiddo, shorty."

I grinned sadly, and stood tiptoe to quickly kiss his cheek. Then I stepped back a few feet, checked for any cars, and finally jumped into the air, spreading my wings wide. Looking down, I could've swore I saw a faint blush on Fang's face, but then it was gone. Like me.

I pushed down with my wings and rose a few more feet, then I started to turn, until Fang suddenly yelled, "Max, wait!"

I turned back around, hovering midair. "What?"

Fang bent down, pulled something out of his left boot, and then tossed it a good twenty-five feet up to me. I caught it smoothly and looked at it, squinting slightly in the dark. A knife. Fang always had at least three knives on him. Armed and dangerous.

I flicked it open and the blade came out, stainless steel, razor sharp, and razor thin. Simple, but deadly. Perfect for shoving down your shoes. I recognized the blade immediately; this was Fang's favorite.

I stared down at Fang, who seemed so small on the ground. "What's this for?"

"A gift," he said, meeting my stare with an intense one of his own. "Since I can't protect you anymore. Try not to hurt yourself with it."

I rolled my eyes, but inside I was immensely grateful. "Thank you," I said softly, just loud enough for him to hear. Then I turned around again, and began to fly off without a second glance. Don't cry. Yet.

I waited until I was sure he could no longer see me before I hit turbo-drive.




I watched Max go, feeling the blush I hoped she hadn't seen fade from my cheeks. I could still feel her lips there, soft and warm.

Max was gone. Everything was different now.

I sighed as a blanket of anguish settled over me. It didn't have to be this way. I could've stuck with her. But I knew Max wanted me to stay with my "family". And as far as I was concerned, what Max wanted, went. Even if it was stupid.

I remembered a conversation Iggy and I had had more than a year ago, in route to Florida after leaving Anne's.

I'd been keeping an eye on Max, who seemed a little distracted and completely zoned out, (probably the Voice again), when Iggy flew up beside me.

"Man, you so have a crush on her."

"What?" I glanced over at Iggy, whose face was turned my way.

"You've got a crush on Max," he said matter of factly.

I shook my head, which he couldn't see. "That's crazy."

"Want me to prove it?" he asked.

"Go ahead and try."

"Okay. Reason number one: you're always watching Max."

"Not true."

Iggy laughed. "Fang, you're watching her right now." He nodded pointedly in Max direction, then turned to face me again.

"That's really creepy, you know?" I meant it to. Iggy was creepy sometimes. "How do you do that? And don't tell me you can hear me watching her."

Iggy ignored me. "Reason number two: you're always thinking about her."

I didn't bother denying that one. "I'm always worrying about her. Someone has to worry about Max."

"Same difference." Iggy snorted. "Reason number three: whenever someone attacks Max, usually Ari, you always start ripping the guy apart."+

"She's one of my best friends. I don't want her to get hurt."

"Yeah? And who's your other best friend?"

"You. You know that."

Iggy nodded. "So how come you don't start beating up people when they jump me?"

I looked away from him. "You can take care of yourself."

"And Max can't?"

I didn't say anything.

Iggy rolled his eyes. "Reason number four-"

"There's another?" I looked over at him again. "How many do you have?"

"This is the last one. Though I could think up some more if you'd like. In fact, why don't I just write a book about it? Why It's So Obvious Fang Likes Max. By Iggy, the blind kid who seems to be the only one who's noticed."

My turn to roll my eyes. "No thanks."

"Fine. Reason number four: when Max dated that Sam guy, you were all pissed off and jealous."

"It's called brotherly protection."

"Right. Brotherly protection. So, if I were to date some girl, you'd get all brotherly protective on me?"

"No. You're a guy."

"Yeah. And Max is a girl."+


Iggy groaned. "I think you're missing the point…"

"Whatever." I turned my attention up ahead to Max, who seemed close to tears with frustration. Crap. What had I missed? "Got to go; the Voice is messing with Max again."

"Case in point…"

I ignored him and picked up my speed to fly beside Max, but not before I heard Iggy mutter, "Denial."

Back then, I'd put it off as another one of Iggy's insane conspiracy theories, but now looking back on it and watching Max fade from my vision range, I couldn't help but think that maybe Iggy had a point.

I sighed as the speck that was Max vanished. Six weeks. I could wait that long. Hopefully. The trouble was, a lot can happen in just six weeks. It only takes a moment to get hurt or killed.

"I promise not to make you worry."

"I'll be worried anyway."

God, Max. Why do you have to do this to me?

I kicked a chunk of asphalt across the highway. It skittered to a stop on the other side. "Max wants you to have a chance at a normal life," the last reasonable piece of me muttered. "She wants you to be happy."

Like that's possible. Hello? Wings? Crazy scientists? Wolf mutants? Our lives were never normal, were never meant to be. Never would be. Why didn't Max get that? I'd come to peace with the fact that I would always be a freak a long time ago. Why couldn't Max?

"She has. She knows that. But she still has hope."

I groaned. Logic can be so annoying when you've got a good rant going.

I glanced down at my watch. Three. A.M.. I had to head back. Get home before Angela got up for her morning jog. Home? Right.

I ran and took off, beating my wings. Once in the air, I felt a little of the sadness, anger, and loneliness wash away. But it was still there, just waiting to hit me when I landed.

If only I could just never stop flying.




A/N: Man, that ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be. Hope I didn't confuse anyone with the weird symbols I had to resort to, (it's not my fault, the computer's being mean!).Reading back on this, Fang seems really… emotional. Oh well. It's mostly in his head. People think I lack emotion, but there is always feelings zooming around in my mind. Review please. I like reviews, even if they are bad. Oh, and in case anyone's interested, I edited the prologue because I thought it sucked. It's a bit better now. Go back and check it out. And of course, read Dentistry if you haven't. What can I say, I need advertisement. And if you just now heard of Dentistry, READ IT NOW! It has like, 72 reviews last time I checked. That's GOOD! I'm so proud of myself. Alright, happy moment over. Just… you know, review and all that.

3. Home Alone

A/N: Okay… second chapter. Thanks to all the peeps who sent me reviews. I think I got about twenty. Four. Twenty-four. You guys are so great. Someone, can't remember who, sorry, said that the last chapter almost made them cry. I reread it just a second ago. It is really sad, isn't it? I hadn't meant for it to be that depressing… oh well. Thank ya very much for the marvelous reviews. Keep them coming. This chapter… I have absolutely no idea where it's going. None. Nada. Zippo. Maybe I'll e-mail my creative writing teacher and ask her for help. (In case you're wondering, I always write the Author Notes before I type the actual chapter.) Always good to have someone to talk to when you're stuck. Or maybe I'll take a bike ride… or a nap. Nap. That sounds good. Zzzzzzzz… Okay, I'm back. Must write chapter before angry mob of fans attacks me out of impatience. Right-o! Send much thanks to x Step on Me x because she's the one who PM-ed me and reminded me I hadn't updated. Oops. Oh, and once again, the SC stands for Scene Change.

Disclaimer: Just realized I've been forgetting these things. Shoot. I DO NOT OWN MAXIMUM RIDE. There.

Chapter Two: Home Alone

Eventually, the tears slowed and so did I. But not before I'd already crossed almost half of Missouri. Or was I in Arkansas now? Or Oklahoma? Or Kansas? One of those bordering states. Where was I?

Note to self: No more speeding across the country while not paying attention to where self is going. Causes much confusion and lost-ness.

I sighed and flew lower until I was just barely skimming over the treetops of some woods. Just another example of why I depend on Fang; at least he always knows where the heck we are. I choked up a little, but forced it back down. I wasn't going to cry anymore. It was for the best, after all. Working towards the greater good. Right. I almost convinced myself. Almost.

I spotted a small clearing down below and landed heavily. I set up a miniature camp and then searched for the map I kept in my backpack. After spewing pretty much everything else out of my bag and onto the ground, I found it crumpled up on the bottom. Just typical. I smoothed it out as best as I could and then poured over it for a while. After some basic math calculation and a lot of guessing, I determined that I was most likely still in Missouri.

Great. Now what was I supposed to do? It seemed like I'd always had some sort of mission in life. Rescue Angel, find information about our existence, save the world, keep the flock safe, and, most recently, find everyone's parents. But all that was over. Well, I still hadn't saved the world, but since the Voice wasn't bugging me about it anymore and I didn't know where to start, there wasn't much point to accomplishing that. Besides, as far I could tell the world was perfectly fine. It wasn't like there was a nuclear war going on or anything.

Back to the point. My life had always been ran on adrenaline, living day by day, so not having anything to do was… scary. Freaky. Abnormal.

Abnormal. That made me laugh. I was the abnormal one. Even in a group of six abnormal beings I was the oddest. No parents. Everyone else had a family. Everyone else had a home. Where was mine?

I thought back to NYC, in the sewer tunnels. Remembered Jeb screaming after me, "You killed your own brother!" Of course, I hadn't actually killed Ari. He was back on his feet and set on ripping me apart just barely a day later. But it still bothered me. Had Jeb been messing with my head? Or was he serious? Were Jeb and Ari my father and brother?

I shuddered. If they were my family, I might as well not have one because I was not going to go stay with them.

Where was I going to go?

I groaned. I really didn't want to think about it. The day had just barely began and I already just wanted it to end. Not a great start.

I dug my sleeping bag out of the pile of crap I'd formed around my backpack and stuffed everything else back inside. A quick nap. Why not? It wasn't like I had anything else to do. Might as well sleep this awful day away.

I curled up under one of the trees and did just that.


I woke up to rain. No joke. A freakin' thunderstorm. Could my life get any worse? At least I'd had the sense of mind to put everything back in my bag. It would've really sucked if I hadn't.

Then I saw the soggy mess on the ground a few feet from me. The map. Shit.

I went over to see if there was any hope in saving it. No good. All the ink had bleed over, creating one mushy, colorful mess of what had once been the United States of America. The whole country was absolutely undistinguishable-

Wait. One section of the map was perfectly fine. I bent over to examine the lucky area. Just one state. Out of the entire map of mush, one state had survived the still coming down thunderstorm without so much of a blot.


It made no sense. Why would just one state make it? The state was a exact rectangle of clarity, clearing standing out among the trashed map. Why Colorado?

Then I realized. It must be one of those "signs". Like the mystical taxi and the Ouija board in New York. If there was one thing I'd learned from that experience, it was when the unexplainable happened, just go with it.

But why Colorado? What was in Colorado?

Then it hit me like a pillowcase full of bricks. What was in Colorado? Just a little place called home. That's all. Home.

We hadn't returned to our old house up in the mountains since Iggy and Gasman left it due to the pack of Erasers surrounding it. Nudge and Fang had said that Ari had said that they'd burned it down. But then again, Ari had also told them that Angel, Iggy, Gasman, and I were dead, and clearly we weren't.

Was it still there? Or had it been torched? Was there anything from the good life left?

I knew right then that I had to find out. Not like I had anything else to do, remember? Might as well go check on the old place.

With a quick "Thank you" to the demolished map, I packed up what was left of my camp and took to the air, heading west.

I was going home.

(Sorry, quick A/N here. I know that we don't know for sure which state their old house was in, but when they went to save Angel, Fang had said the School was about six hundred miles away, in Death Valley. Believe me, I checked. And when I took in account that they had to fly through Arizona to get there, I decided they were either living in New Mexico or Colorado. I liked Colorado better and it's more mountainous, so I picked it. Okay, back to the story.)



I wasn't in a rush, so I flew to Colorado the normal way. I'd learned my lesson the last time. No way was I going to get lost again.

I took it slow, taking plenty of rest stops in different towns. Part of me wanted to end the suspense and just get there, but other part of me was… well, nervous. I mean, this was my home of four years we are talking about. The first place I ever felt safe. And I had no idea what it would look like when I got there.

So I took it slow and savored the journey. A bit after I hit the Colorado border, I ran into a group of hawks. They weren't as big as the ones we'd met in Arizona, but they were still undeniably formidable.For a bit, I was kind of scared of them as they glared at me, obviously thinking, "What the hell is that thing?" But eventually, they relaxed and allowed me to join them in their flight. I've been flying for six years of my life, but I don't think I'll ever be as amazingly graceful in the air as hawks are. Being in their flock, zooming around with other winged beings, I could almost pretend that my flock was with me. Almost forget that I was alone.

There's that hateful little word again. Almost. Almost, but not quite.

Finally, we hit the mountains, and my birdy friends began peeling away as we reached the end of their territory. And then I was on my own again.

Before long, I began to recognize things. The trees, the peaks, the color of the sky. All vaguely familiar. And then I saw something that was very familiar. A stumpy kind of mountain with a very rounded peak. Iggy, after hearing it's description, like dubbed it Mt. Bald Midget.

On the other side was our home.

All intentions of not rushing were abandoned, and I flew fast as I could without hitting turbo-drive. I blazed around the edge of the mountains and, after screwing up my courage, looked down.

A disaster met my eyes.

The entire house was burned away, and the few things left were charred a horrible black.

Blinking back a few tears, I landed carefully in what I was guessing used to be the living room. Everything was gone. A few beams remained, holding up chunks of wall, marking where each of our rooms had one been.

I turned a slow 360. Most things were torched beyond recognition, but a few distinguishable items remained. A picture frame, the couch, the T.V. that never seemed to work right and Iggy claimed he couldn't fix. Vague reminders of what had been the best years of my life.

I felt a few tears streaking down my cheeks, so I wiped them away. I was not going to cry. There had to be something important left. I had to have been sent here for a reason.

But first I needed sleep. It had been another crappy day in the life of a loner. I just prayed that I didn't wake up to rain this time.

Out of habit, I found my old room, (everything in it burnt to a crisp), and rolled my sleeping bag out on the floor. Then I crawled in, murmured a sarcastic, "Welcome home," to myself, and then fell into a sleep filled with bad dreams.




I know one job I never want to have. Arson investigator. Digging through the remains of a fried building that was once a home is just plain depressing. Sort of interesting, but depressing.

I picked through the entire house, room by room. First my room. I found a few scraps of recognizable things, but nothing more. Next I moved on to Angel and Nudge's room. One of Angel's stuffed animals, a frog that, if I remembered correctly, was named Fred, had survived with nothing worse than a few burnt hairs. I put him in my backpack to give Angel when I saw her on Iggy's birthday.

Speaking of which, Gazzy and Iggy's room was next. Their's was, by far, the worse. It didn't take a genius to figure out why. Despite the fact that I had constantly told Iggy not to store explosives in his room, or even in the house, he clearly had. All that was left of their bedroom was the charred doorknob.

Last was Fang's old room. I remembered that when we'd first moved here with Jeb, Fang had wanted to repaint his room black. Jeb didn't let him, but now it looked like Fang had gotten his wish. The entire room was black. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, everything. Fang would've been proud.

I sighed. I had already looked around the living room last night. So all that was left was the kitchen. I treaded carefully across the house, being careful not to put too much pressure on the floorboards. If one of them broke and I fell… that would be bad.

What I found in the kitchen was amazing. The kitchen was, more or less, fine. The table was demolished and some of the cupboards had seen better days, but other than that, the kitchen was in good condition.

Out of curiosity, I opened the refrigerator and instantly regretted it. All the food inside was rotten and deteriorating. The smell rivaled Gazzy's after he'd eaten Tex-Mex. I shut the fridge door and gagged. Ugh. Good thing I had my own food in my backpack.

I started opening cabinets. The dishes were pretty much okay. A couple had been singed, but oh well. They were just plates and bowls.

Great. I slammed the last cabinet door shut. Just great. I'd come all the way to Colorado, and for what? A depressing reminder that my life sucked, a stuffed frog, a doorknob, and some dishes.

I screamed in frustration. Why did I decide to listen to a soaked map? It hadn't been a sign. It had been a flippin' coincidence. I spun around and glared at the kitchen- and then realized that I had missed a cupboard. I sank down to my knees and peered into it hopefully.

Pots. Pots and pans. Semi-melted pots and pans. I growled and was about to slam the door shut when I noticed something tucked in the back of the cupboard. I reached in and pulled out… a book? Awesome. So I'd come to Colorado for a book. Well, this certainly improved things. A frog, doorknob, dishes, and a book. Definitely worth the trip. Please note the sarcasm here.

I turned the book over and gaped blankly when I saw neat cursive on the bottom left edge of the cover. Fang's meticulously neat cursive. All it said was a date:

November 5th, 2003

November 5th. That was Fang's birthday. November 5th 2003 would've been Fang's twelfth birthday. What the heck was this book?

A thought hit me. A diary. Whoa. I had found Fang's diary. Whoa. Fang had kept a diary? That was scary in some many ways.

He'd had a pretty good hiding place for it too. The pots and pans cupboard. Since Iggy was the only one who could cook, Iggy was the only one who'd look down in there. And since Ig was blind, there was no way he's ever notice a diary shoved in the back. Clever.

I stared down at the diminutive, black book, debating whether or not to read it. Sure, there was absolutely no way Fang would ever find out I'd read it, but still, it was a diary. The point of a diary is that no one else can read it. What more, it was Fang's diary. Did I even want to read it?


"You're a horrible person Max," I growled to myself. Then I slowly opened the book.

Jeb's face stared up at me.

I blinked. It wasn't really Jeb of course, wasn't even a photograph. It was a drawing. A pretty damn good drawing too.

It wasn't a diary. It was a sketchbook.

Which was almost just as scary. Sure, I knew Fang could draw. I'd seen his stuff on his blog that he'd started while we were at real school. But I didn't know he'd could draw this good when he was twelve.

I looked at the date near the top of the page. January 17th, 2004. About a week after Jeb had disappeared.

I looked down at the drawing. It was Jeb as I'd remembered him for those two years he'd been missing. Right down to the scar on his jawline and the tiny freckle on his right ear. I found it kind of hard to believe that Fang had drawn this from memory. Then again, Fang had said he had an "excellent memory."

I flipped through the pictures, staring a moment at each one. Mt. Bald Midget. A small bird up in a tree. A scenery I recognized as the view from the huge hallway window. Other things from around the house.

And then the drawings got darker. The room we were kept in while we were at the School, filled with cages of mutants. One of the whitecoats preparing a needle. An Eraser ripping apart a chimpanzee, learning how to hunt. All exactly as it had been, little details I'd forgotten about years ago. Suddenly I understood what Fang had meant.

"Unlike you, I have an excellent memory. Unfortunately."

No wonder Fang had always been kind of dark and… sad. I'd forgotten a lot about things that had happened at the School. Iggy was blind almost the entire time he was there, so he hadn't seen any of the stuff we had. Nudge had a naturally cheerful personality, and the rest of the flock had only been there a few years, Angel not even long enough to remember anything.

But Fang remembered all of it.

I sighed sadly. Poor Fang. If he'd been without me right now, I would've hugged him. But he wasn't. So I decided to save till I saw him again.

I sighed again and flipped quickly through the drawings concerning the School. Finally the bad memories stopped and I found myself looking down at four-year old Angel, sitting in a chair reading a book for the first time by herself. I smiled to myself and turned the page. Nudge jabbering away while she brushed her hair. Iggy cooking pancakes by sound alone. Gasman eating said pancakes. Me just after I'd learned to fly. The drawings were more of a photo album now, just different scenes from when we'd lived at the house.

Then I stumbled upon something interesting.

When I'd first looked at it, all I'd seen was just Nudge, Fang, and I flying. Then I noticed. This was the first time Fang had been in any of his drawings. But it wasn't just that. There was something else about this picture I couldn't quite put my finger on…

Then I got it. We were older in this picture. Nudge looked exactly as she had looked at eleven, and Fang and I were our fourteen year old selves. But that wasn't it. I recognized this scene. This was when we'd gone to rescue Angel.

But that didn't make sense. Unless Fang took his sketchbook with him and somehow returned it to it's hiding place in the house. Which I knew he hadn't. I checked the date in the corner. December 29th, 2004. Almost half a year before Angel had been kidnapped.


I turned the page and another familiar scene jumped out at me. The hacker kid from the subway tunnels, showing us his computer screen. The date on this one was January 11th 2005.

I looked rapidly through the drawings, all of them uncannily familiar and all of them with dates that made no sense. Angel glaring at Ari, demanding Celeste back. The fast food place we'd eaten at after stealing that van. The first group of winged Erasers we'd ran into. Jeb taking me to talk with him when we'd been brought back to the School. Disney World. Us minus Iggy racing out of the real school we'd attended. Fang flying while carrying me after I'd had my first brain explosion.

The last drawing in the book was of the flock in the ambulance when Fang had been taken to the hospital. Another impossible date: August 2nd 2005. And Fang hadn't even been conscious during that scene.

I closed the sketchbook slowly, still not believing what I'd seen. Could Fang see the future or something? He sure as heck had never mention that to me. Maybe this wasn't really Fang's. Maybe the Erasers had planted it for another one of the School's sick "tests". Maybe Fang had somehow gotten the dates wrong, though I doubted that.

Was this Fang's power?

I stood up numbly and put the sketchbook in my windbreaker pocket. I needed to get out of this place. I was pretty sure I'd just found what I'd came for.



A/N:This was pretty much a bridge chapter, except for the end. Kind of dull, but whatever.Wow, that was long. I was going to stop about half way through, but I figured you guys deserve a really long chapter since it's been a while since I updated. I wrote this chapter all at once. The only thing that kept me typing was my hunger. I denied myself the PB and J sandwich I've been craving until I finished this. So read and review. I'm going to go make myself that sandwich. And I promise there shall be Fang POV in the next chapter. NOW REVIEW! Mmmm... peanut butter and jelly.

4. Good Quality Family Time

A/N: Hello again. Wow, I got so many reviews for that last chapter. I'd like to address a few. Firstly, to everyone who thinks it's awesome that Fang can see the future: sorry, but he can't. I refuse to reveal more than that on that particular topic. Nextly, (which is a word I just now made up), to keypiebird, who mentioned my meticulous grammar. Thank you. Nice to know someone appreciates my talents. In the creative writing department, I have two nicknames. Helga is the first. The second is "The Comma Nazi". They call me this because I am very picky with other people's, and my, grammar, especially commas. I became so because when I first entered creative writing in sixth grade, my computer's grammar check was busted. I had to do all my grammar checks by myself for almost a year and a half and got really good at it. It actually bothers me when I see bad grammar. Next-nextly, Ashley-Lampost has pointed out that they lived in New Mexico, not Colorado. Proof of this is in the book, where they mention some mountains that are found in New Mexico. Oops. My bad. I still like Colorado better though. Lastly, to X Step on Me X, who demanded I give her a sandwich and chips. Here's your sandwich and chips. They're imaginary. Enjoy. But anyway. Back to the point. I promised Fang's POV in this chapter and you shall get it. Not the entire chapter, but some of it. Be happy.

Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride and all its glory. I merely steal its character and use them for my own devices. I do own Angela, Robert, and Mark. But who cares about them?




Chapter Three: Good Quality Family Time

Dinner with Angela, Robert, and Mark was always a… tense affair. Mark would be chattering away constantly with absolutely no one listening. Angela and Robert would have slow conversations that bordered on arguments. And I would eat. That's what dinner's for, right? Eating? They didn't seem to think so. Angela kept trying to lure me into their conversations/arguments with questions poised directly to me. I easily avoided this with my maximum-two-word-reply technique I'd developed years ago at the School. Which basically went like this:

Angela: So Josh, how was school today?

Me: It's fine.

Angela: Are you… adjusting okay?

Me: Yes.

Angela: The teachers are treating you all right? None of the kids are giving you problems?

Me: No.

Angela: Do you still miss Max?

Me: I'm fine.

Angela: Okay…

And then she'd leave me alone for the rest of the meal. Unfortunately, my maximum-two-word-reply technique didn't seem to work on Mark. But I'd learned by now to just ignore him. With almost a lifetime spent with Nudge, I was good at tuning people out.

Another problem about dinner was that they still weren't used to how much I ate. After hosted two mutant freaks for over a week, Angela had gotten used to cooking a lot more than usual. But she and Robert still didn't quite believe that I could eat so much food.

"Don't you think you've had enough?" Robert asked doubtfully when I started dishing myself my third plate of spaghetti.

"No," I said, grabbing a bag of shredded cheese. Shredded cheese: the greatest thing since sliced bread.

"Honey, maybe you should take it easy," Angela said. "Pasta has a lot of carbohydrates and calories. You're going to make yourself sick."

I almost snorted, but didn't. Sick? One of the pluses of being genetically engineered is that you don't get sick. It takes a lot to make one of us sick. Like when Iggy got that cold? He got that after walking on a frozen lake and falling through some thin ice. It took us two hours before we got him out, and all he got was a cold.

"I won't." I muttered, spearing a meatball with my fork.

"Well, you're going to start putting on weight eventually."

Yet another "snort-statement". As far as I know, none of the flock has ever managed to put on weight unless it was from simply growing taller. I probably burned more calories on a thirty minutes flight than they did four hours on a treadmill. Even without flying, my super duper metabolism ensured that I would never gain an ounce in my life. Also due to my super duper metabolism is my huge appetite. I thought about explaining the mechanics of my more efficient digestive system, but decided not to bother. That would take a lot more than two words.

"I won't," I said again.

Angela sighed and then started talking to Robert again. In just minutes I'd finished my third plate of spaghetti. I considered getting another dish, but I didn't want to provoke another discussion of my eating habits. Plus it was just a few minutes before seven. I had to get out of the house before seven.

I scraped and rinsed my plate before sticking it in the dishwasher. I murmured a quick thank you to Angela and then started up the stairs. I'd just gotten my foot on the third stair when the phone rang.


I heard Mark say, "I'll get it," and then the click of the phone being answered. "Hello?"

I shot up the rest of the stairs and closed the door of my room, but not before I heard Mark say, "Josh? Hold on, I'll get him."

"JOSH! IT'S FOR YOU!" the kid practically screamed.

Like it was for anyone but me. Ever since my first day at school three days ago, these two girls had been calling me everyday at seven o' clock. On the hour. How they'd gotten the house phone number, I'd never know. Alexandria and Nicole. Possibly the only two people I hated more than Ari, Jeb, and the rest of the whitecoats and Erasers. Sure, they were both nice and pretty enough. But they were annoying. Nicole, I could almost stand her. When she called, she would never shut up. I didn't even have to really talk to her. She'd just keep going and going. Once, as an experiment, I left the phone on my desk for about forty-five minutes and went out flying. When I came back, she was still jabbering away like she'd never noticed I wasn't there. Maybe she hadn't. However, that tactic wouldn't work on Alex. She actually tried to get me to talk. She'd keep asking me questions about my favorite band, where I'd came from, and whether she looked better in white or pink. She didn't seem to get that I didn't want to talk to her. Or to anyone. If I felt like talking to a person, then I'd speak up. But Alex didn't comprehend my way of life.

I heard Mark stomping up the stairs. I groaned and look out the window. I could probably open it up and leap out into the air before Mark got to my room. But then he'd tell Robert that I'd gone out flying during the day without permission again. Permission. Like I'd ever asked permission to do anything in my life until now.

But it was too late. Mark banged the door open and held out the phone. "It's for you," he said unnecessarily.

I looked down at the phone as though he was offering me a hand grenade. "Who is it?"

"I don't know. A girl again." He waved the telephone in front face and I took it reluctantly.

"They like you. Like like you." Mark said, looking up at me. "When are you going to ask one of them out?"

I muttered under my breath, "When Nudge shuts up, Iggy sees, and Gazzy stops farting." The flock equivalent to "When hell freezes over."

I shoved my stepbrother out of my room and locked the door. Then I fell backwards unto the bed, pressed the phone against my ear and asked, (not bothering to conceal my disgust), "What?"

For a moment there was beautiful silence and then, "Jeez Fang, try to contain your joy."

"Max!" I sat up so fast my back cracked. "It's you!"

Max laughed. "I know it's me. Who'd you think it was?"

"One of these annoying… never mind." I rubbed my back underneath my wings. "Where are you?"

"I'm in a glass case of emotion."


"Forget it. It's from a movie." Max paused and then said, "I'm in a phone booth in Colorado."

"Colorado?" That didn't sound right. Colorado was not a four-day flight from Chicago. Maybe a day and a half. "I thought you'd be in Mexico by now."

"Well, I would be." She hesitated for a second. "But I had to… stop somewhere here first."

"Why-" I stopped. Max had gone back to the old house. That had to be it. Speaking softly, I asked, "Was Ari telling the truth?"

"Yeah." I heard her sniff. "It's all gone."

Gone. I closed my eyes. The only home I'd ever had was gone. Unless you counted the School. But that was more of a hell than a home. Too bad the Erasers couldn't have torched it. "Is there anything left?"

"…Some stuff. Mostly junk. It all got burnt up." She laughed hollowly. "You should see Iggy and Gazzy's room."

"Blew up?" I smiled a little.

"Yep. Everything is totally demolished. Everything. Well, the kitchen is pretty much okay. I think the linoleum floors and lack of hidden explosives saved it." Something was funny with her voice. I almost positive to was hiding something. But people-reading is a lot harder to do over the phone.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Everything's fine. I called because I need to… to talk to you about something."

"…Okay." I replied slowly. "What?"

"Well… it's like…" she moaned. "This is really hard to put into words without sounding like a bitch."

"What Max?"

Max sighed. It sounded like thunder over the phone line. "Is there something you're not telling me?"

I swear my heart stopped. Crap. "What kind of something?"

"Something important. That's been going on for a long time."

"Important how? Important to you or important to us?"

Max groaned. "Stop answering my questions with a question. Important to me. Important to everybody."

I didn't answer. I hid a lot of things. Emotions, thoughts, dreams. But I didn't know what Max could be talking about.

She sighed again. "Are you hiding something?"


"Do you ever… see things?"

"No." See things? What the heck was she talking about? "I'm not crazy like you are, Max."

"Since when am I crazy?"

"Max. You had a voice talking to you. In your head. What more, you listened to it."

"Fang, that was not insanity. That was satanic scientists meddling with my mind. There's a difference."

"If you say so." I heard someone breathing loudly outside my door. Mark. "Hold on a sec." I got off the bed and opened the door suddenly, catching Mark right outside my room in the act of eavesdropping. "What?"

Mark turned red in a matter of seconds. "Who are you talking to?"


"You don't talk to Nicole. You listen to Nicole. Or leave the phone on your desk."

I narrowed my eyes at him. Brothers are annoying. Especially ones that are actually related to you and a lot weaker than you are. Because that means you can't just punch them. "Don't you have something better to do than spy on me?"

Mark made a sort of squeak sound and dash down the stairs. I locked the door again and picked the phone back up. "Sorry."

"Who's Nicole?" Max demanded.

I winced. "This girl that somehow got a hold of the house phone number and hasn't left me alone ever since. She's like Nudge; never shuts up."

"Oh." Max paused. I could hear a car engine in the background. "You started school?"

"Day after you left."

"How is it?"

"Okay. Better than that one Anne had us going to. No uniforms."

"How are you doing?"

"Fine, I guess. The teachers stopped bothering me after the first day. Coach won't leave me alone though."

Max laughed and it wasn't hollow this time. "Which team does he want you to join?"

"All of them, it seems. But especially basketball, football, or track."

"And are you going to join?"

"Heck no." I didn't even know how to play basketball or football. And I hated running, unless it was for my life.

"Make any friends? Wait, I forgot I was speaking to Fang. You don't socialize. Never mind."

"I'm talking to you, aren't I?"

"I don't count. You've known me forever. If we weren't friends yet, we'd be some sad, pathetic excuses for bird-kids.

"I think you count."

Max was smiling. I could tell. "So you're okay?"

"Yeah. Are you?"

"As okay as possible." She stopped for a moment and then muttered, "Crap."


"Phone time's almost up."

"So put more change in."

"I don't have anymore change. Unless this thing takes twenties, which it doesn't."

"Alright, fine. Where are you going to go?"

"I don't know. I'm going to stay in Colorado until I get another sign."

"Sign?" Max really is crazy, I swear.

"Yeah. The reason I came to Colorado was because my entire map got soaked in a storm except for that one state. A sign. Like the Ouija board, remember?"

I heard a small click and then an automated voice said, "Please insert more change to continue call. If not call will be disconnected in thirty seconds."

"Crap." Max muttered again. "Did you hear that?"


"I got to go. I'll call you if I need you, okay?"


"Promise." She breathed deep and then said, "I miss you, Fang."

She needed a hug, I could tell. But I couldn't give it too her. "I miss you too, Max"

She started to say something, but got cut off. And all that was left was a blaring dial tone.



A/N: Okay, I lied. The entire chapter ended up being Fang. His POV was getting so long; I didn't feel like switching to Max. Sorry that this entire chapter was pretty much all dialogue. It was mostly a phone conversation. It's hard for me to incorporate action and details into a phone conversation. And I think Fang was a little OOC, but I'm too tired and hungry to care. I have once again neglected food until I finished this chapter. Think I'll go get some ice cream… yummy. This chapter is dedicated to my hatred of the phone. I HATE talking on the phone. Because it gives me my infamous Max-sized headaches and I have a bad habit of pacing uncontrollably while on the phone. Once I fell into a bathtub while talking to my best friend. That hurt. But anyway, review me for my noble efforts. I like reviews.

5. Helpful Horoscopes and Horrible History

A/N: Chapter four. Whoop whoop. For anyone who is wondering, the seemingly randomly line last chapter, (I'm in a glass case of emotion.), is indeed from a movie. Anchorman. I love that movie. It is the hilarious. Wow, this story has accumulated so many reviews in so little time. Thank ya everyone. And once again: hate to disappoint people, but Fang's power is not seeing the future. Not exactly, at least. I hate "common super powers", ie: super strength, super speed, invisibility, telepathy, telekinesis, etc. So I always put a twist on them. Or think up something totally original, (which, let me tell you, is really hard. Everything seems to always be taken.) But, that's about it. I really don't have much of an Author's Note here. Well, it's long, but completely irrelevant. Let me close with some Random Myrah Facts.

RMF #1: Yes, my name really is Myrah. That is not a penname. I was named after a bank robber and Oprah. (My parents were at a complete loss for my name. They opened a newspaper and saw a robber guy with the name Myra. They stuck the "H" on as an inspiration from Oprah, who also has an unnecessary "H" at the end of her name. )

RMF #2: I am a leftie, but am also unnaturally ambidextrous. My Gifted teacher in the 4th grade was really old fashioned. She thought I was a child of Satan, so she forced me to use my right hand. I got pretty good at it too, so now I'm almost both rightie and leftie.

RMF #3: I cannot whistle, do a cartwheel, or type properly. I type with my index and middle fingers only. I also have double vision, bad hearing in my right ear, and short term memory loss. I'm just so messed up.

Well, I'm going to stop now. I only did this because I have no clue how to start this chapter and felt like stalling. Time to write.

Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I didn't create it.




Chapter Four: Helpful Horoscopes and Horrible History

There is something undeniably wonderful about waking each morning in a bed. For those of you who are used to waking up in a bed and are thinking, "Big deal. It's a bed", let me tell you: do not take a bed for granted. Or a roof over your head. Or normal food. Or a family. Don't take anything for granted. Ever.

Alright, I'll get off my soap box now.

But seriously. Beds? Great.

I woke up around six out of habit. Years of waking up early to avoid being attacked by Erasers can do that to you. Even though my chances of being jumped at a Motel 6 after I hadn't seen Erasers for months, I still couldn't help getting up way before everyone else. Besides, this meant I didn't have to eat breakfast with a bunch of people around.

I got dressed and forced my hair into a ponytail before I put my windbreaker on to cover my wings. I stuck my hand in the spacious pocket and touched Fang's sketchbook. It had been three days since I'd called him. I'd wanted to ask him about the sketchbook outright, but I just couldn't do it for some reason. I still hadn't figured the stupid thing out. Fang had seemed genuinely confused when I asked him if he "saw things". And when I mentioned that the kitchen was still intact, he didn't seem particularly interested. Like, he didn't say, "Oh, you didn't happen to find my hidden sketchbook, did you?" Maybe it wasn't his. I mean, I was positive it was his writing, Fang was the only person I knew who had such beautiful cursive. But the whitecoats could've easily made the book and copied his writing into it somehow. They certainly had the technology. They'd made me after all. There was no doubt in my mind that they couldn't make a sketchbook with my best friend's handwriting in it. And the Erasers knew where our deserted house was, it would have been easy for them to plant it for part of some elaborate plan to mess with my head.

But what if it was Fang's? I couldn't really ferret anything out of Fang over the phone, but that didn't mean much. I was never as could at reading Fang as Fang was at reading me. And Fang had had plenty of practice hiding stuff over the years. But I couldn't believe that Fang would hide something as important as this from me for at least four years. I mean, seeing the future, that was pretty dang helpful. Fang wouldn't keep something as big as that a secret from me.

Would he?

I sighed. It seemed like just when I thought I had Fang all figured out, he toss me a curveball out of nowhere.

I shook the pensive thoughts from my head, checked myself in the mirror one last time, and then headed over to the lobby for my free continental breakfast. Another undeniably wonderful thing: free food. Okay, it wasn't free. I had to pay for my room. But Motel 6's are cheap. And I was loaded thanks to my trusty Maximum Ride bank card.

I glanced through the glass doors before heading in. No other patrons. Just the sleepy clerk. I opened the door, making the bell overhead ring. Christian, the said sleepy clerk, looked up from the Sports section. "Hey there, oh starving one," he grumbled, guzzling down a huge cup of coffee. "You checking out or are you down here to eat all the food?"

"Hey Chris," I said, though more cheerfully. Something about Christian put me in a good mood, no matter how down I was feeling. "Nope, just grabbing breakfast. You're gonna have to put up with me for another day." Christian nodded and smiled before looking back down at his newspaper. Christian was a nice guy. I was guessing he was somewhere around nineteen or twenty. When I'd came in hoping for a room a few days ago, Christian had raised an eyebrow at 1) my age, 2) the fact that I was alone, and 3) the fact that I had no idea how long I was staying, but he gave me a room anyway and hadn't mentioned it to his manager yet. He probably thought I was a runaway. Heck, if I was him, that's what I would've thought I was too.

"Don't suppose you could spare me the comics?" I asked. Chris yawned and shuffled through the paper until he found the "Lifestyle" section. He handed it too me, along with his cup.

"Fill that up for me," he mumbled.

I grabbed the paper and cup from him and grinned. Christian was so not a morning person. I don't think he could survive until the afternoon without his mandatory seven cups of caffeine juice.

I headed over to the breakfast bar and grabbed five bagels and cream cheese, three glazed donuts, a plate load of scrambled eggs, some orange juice for me, and a gigantic cup of joe for Chris. I dropped off his coffee and then plopped down on one of the armchair to eat.

By the time I'd read all the comics, I'd finished my first round of breakfast. I grabbed a few more bagels and a donut. Christian glanced up and shook his head. "You must have some astounding metabolism," he muttered. "There's no way you can eat that much and not get fat. You should be, like, a sumo wrestler by now." I laughed. The first time Chris had seen me eat breakfast, he'd sat there, openmouthed, until I was finished. Ever since then, he called me "oh starving one".

I smeared some cream cheese on my bagel as I scanned the advice columns. More wives whining about their OCD husbands and guys complaining about their clingy girlfriends. Boring. I skipped down to the horoscopes. Of course, mine wasn't real since I didn't know my own birthday. But since I'd picked a day in mid-August, I was a Leo. Proud, loyal, and would do anything for family. That's me alright. Funny how the random day I picked gave me a star sign that matched me. Fang's was way off. He's fake birthday made him a Scorpio. And there's only one word to describe a Scorpio: emotional. Fang? Emotional? Ha!

I shoved the bagel in my mouth and found my horoscope. I read it quickly, not taking in a single word of the cosmic advice- and then I stopped myself and read it again.

Leo (July 23- August 22)

Today is a good day to travel. Something upsetting has occurred and family is unavailable, but you can find comfort with old friends.

Whoa. That was… a little freaky. I didn't exactly read my horoscope daily, but I'd never had one that close to the mark. Wait. Was this another sign? Probably. That made more since than some random comment actually hitting home with one person. But what did it mean? Good day to travel… that was easy, it meant it was time to move on from Colorado. Something upsetting has occurred… another simple one. I'd lost my flock. I was alone for the first time in my entire life. Definitely upsetting. Family is unavailable… that was a little tougher. Was that referring to my "family", a.k.a. the flock, or the fact that I had no real family, except for Ari and Jeb, who were definitely "unavailable" as far as I was concerned. I mulled it over for a moment, really wishing the Voice was around to provide a snide comment with some hidden advice. After unconsciously chewing down another bagel, I decided. It meant my flock family. I couldn't turn to them because they were at the heart of the "something upsetting". Find comfort with old friends… huh. Was that they flock again, the oldest friends I had? No, that wouldn't make sense. They'd just said my family was unavailable. I kneaded my forehead and took a bite out of my donut. So who was the "old friends"? J.J.? Sam? Wouldn't they think it was a little weird that I'd come back with none of my brothers and sisters? Besides, they didn't even really know me.

Then I had what Gazzy referred to as a "duh" moment. Ella and her mom. Of course. They already knew about my wings and accepted me. Ella had wanted me to visit. And Dr. Martinez had said that if I ever needed something, I could come to them.

Why the heck not?

"Hey Christian," I called out, still staring at the magical newspaper. "I think I'm going to check out after all."

(Quick A/N here. You know how I had no clue where this chapter was going? Well, a magical newspaper also helped me out. That horoscope? That was- word for word- a real Leo horoscope I found in the newspaper today while I was reading the comics. Weird huh? I don't believe in horoscopes, but I always read mine, (I'm an Aquarius!), just for kicks and giggles. The weirdest thing about it is, since I said Fang's birthday was November 5th in the last chapter, Max's would be mid-August, making her a Leo. So maybe horoscopes do work…)




I packed up and left the hotel in less than five minutes and was up and away in no time. It felt so good to be in flight again, so good to have something to do. Arizona was just a quick flight away. The only trouble was I hadn't been to the Martinez's house for almost two and a half years, and I'd only spent two days there. Simply put: I wasn't exactly entirely sure where their house was. Bird instincts weren't going to be enough this time. When I was just past the Arizona border, I stopped up in a tree and dug around in my backpack for the notecard with Ella's address on it. No good. It wasn't in my bag. I must have lost it. Oh well. I could still find it.

I flew to the cave with our old pals, the hawks, and backtracked from there. (Robin! To the hawk cave! Sorry, just had to say that. I LOVE Batman. He is my hero. Okay, back to the story.) I flew away from Lake Mead, doing my best to remember the path I taken from Ella's place to there. By the time I spotted the forest that I'd been shot in, everything was looking familiar. Finally, I saw their house down below. I dived and landed in the trees near the backyard. I walked around to the front door, raised a finger to press the doorbell- and then hesitated. I mean, I hadn't seen them for two and a half years. Would they even recognize me? Was I still welcome?

I bit my lip and jabbed the bell. I'd come to far to back out now.

I heard a voice call out, "I'll get it." My heart lurched. Ella. I saw her figure distorted by the glass, approaching the door. It opened and I saw the girl I'd saved so long ago. Ella was a little taller and a lot older- she was starting to look just like her mother. For a moment she blinked disbelievingly, and then she said, "Max?"

I smiled. "Hey. Thought it was about time I dropped by for a visit."

She squealed and jumped on top of me, giving me a huge hug. "Omigod! It's you!" She turned around and yelled, "Mom! It's Max!"

Dr. Martinez popped up behind her daughter, smiling broadly. "Hello Max. It's been a while."

I smiled again. "It has."

Dr. Martinez looked to Ella. "Well? Get off her and invited her in."

Ella giggled and pulled me inside. Remembering her mom's rule, I kicked off my shoes and left them by the doorway. The mother and daughter ushered me into the kitchen and sat me down in a chair before bombarding me with questions.

"Where've you been?"

"Are you okay?"

"How come it took you so long?"

"Is your wing doing fine?"

I raised my hands defensively. "Too many questions! One at a time! Please!"

The vet laughed. Ella, a little breathless, quickly gushed out, "Max. how long are you going to stay?"

Uh… "As long as you'll have me, I guess. I don't really have much going on right now."

Ella's head snapped up to her mother's. "Mom? Please? Can she stay?"

Dr. Martinez grinned that comforting, warm grin. "Well…" she said, pretending to think about it. Ella bounced on the balls of her feet. "Max can stay as long as she wants to. On one condition."

Any doubts I had about being unwelcome or forgotten were, by now, vanquished. "Anything."

My perfect image of a mom looked down at me. "I want the whole story. The real one."

I smiled a third time. "I think we have a deal."




Homework. Another reason to hate school. Right up there with girls following me between classes and the coach trying to bribe me onto a team. Not that it was hard or anything. I'm not an idiot, despite my lifetime lack of education. It just took so much time. So I was stuck doing algebra equations and looking up which president succeeded who late into the night, which cut into precious flight time. And when I don't get to fly… let's just say it makes me rather grumpy.

Which was one reason when I was less than thrilled when I got my first project of the year.

For English. It was going to count as our final exam grade for the quarter. That I translated to mean, it was important, so don't halfass it. Of course, the Language Arts teacher didn't say that. But that was what she meant.

I had to write an essay. Ten pages typed, minimum. And guess what the clever little topic was?

My family history.

I almost laughed out loud when the teacher explained the project to us. I could just imagine writing a report about my family's history. Oh yes, the insider's scoop on government conspiracies and genetic experiments. The heartbreaking tale of six mutants kids growing up in a lab/prison, breaking out with the man who would become our traitor, rescuing our youngest, running from real life werewolves, etc. etc. etc..

I bet my English teacher never had and never would read a essay quite as interesting as that.

But of course, I couldn't put our true lives' story down on paper. So instead, I'd have to write up a boring article about my "real" family's history.

Since I hadn't even known what my last name was until a few weeks ago, I decided I should probably talk to Angela for a start. Not that I really wanted to get involved in a deep conversation with her about my family's past, but you got to do what you've got to do.

Angela wasn't going to be home from work for another forty-five minutes or so, so I found the photo album in the living room and started flipping through there. It didn't take me long to get hopelessly lost in the sea of unknown relative names and faces, so I reluctantly dragged Mark out of his room and got him to help me.
Excited that I was actually talking to him, Mark spewed out random information about our relatives, pointing to different people in the photos and jabbering on about so and so. He killing me by the time we were a third of the way through the album, and I noticed a guy that hadn't been in any of the other pictures, standing next to Angela's father. He was a short guy, with graying hair and thick square glasses. Really nerdy looking. "Who's that?" I asked, gesturing to the photo.

Mark paused and spare the shot a glance. "That's Granddad, you know-"

I gritted my teeth impatiently. "Not him. The guy next to him."

Mark looked at the picture again. "Uh… I'm not sure. I think that's Granddad's best friend, da Bot or something like that. It might say on the back."

He pulled the picture out of the plastic and flipped it over. "David King", he read. "That's Granddad. And… Roland ter Borcht. That's the geeky guy. Weird name." Mark shoved the photo back in place, turned the page, and started rambling about cousin Mary. But I wasn't listening anymore.

Ter Borcht. Why did that name sound so familiar? I closed a my eyes and did a mental instant replay of all the recent events. It didn't take me long to hit it. Ter Borcht. That was one of the gibberish phrases from the files that Max had googled. Some geneticist involved with illegal experiments on humans. One of them. The whitecoats.

I opened my eyes quick. My mother's father was best friends with one of the whitecoats? Well, that would explain a lot, I thought grimly to myself.

Suddenly, I was looking forward to my conversation with Angela a whole lot more. My family history had just got a little more interesting.




A/N: Another loooooong chapter for y'all. These gi-mongus chapter are to make up for all my short ones in Dentistry. Which, by the way, is just 6 reviews away from 100! Only six! Do me a favor, you guys, and review it again please? Say whatever the heck you want. I REALLY want to hit the big one-o-o. Anyway, I hate this chapter, I think it's boring and sucks, but whatever. At least I finally got it out. Reviews are, as always, very much appreciated. Oh, and just out of curiosity, when you review me, tell me what state/ country you live in. I wan to know how far this is stretching across the world. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. The biggest city, by area, in the U.S.A.. And home of Super Bowl… 39? I think. Can't remember. Oh well. That's my home town's claim to fame. Where are you guys living at?

6. Close Encounters with the Thug Kind

A/N: YES! YES, YES, YES! Dentistry has hit 100 reviews, the first Max Ride fanfic to ever do so. THANK YOU GUYS! If this was the Academy Awards, I'd make a lovely acceptance speech thanking everyone, but it's not. THANK YOU ANYWAY! YES! Anywho. A.L.P.C.H., (the title is so long and I'm so lazy…), is also doing excellent in the review category. Thanks. Me love reviews. Me love reviews so much, I'm going to try to update faster than usual. Notice the "try" in that statement. I have no idea how long it will take me to get this up. Where did I stop? Oh yes, Max is at Ella's place and Fang just found out that his grandpa hung out with whitecoats. Jiffy. Whose POV should I pick up with? Max or Fang? Max or Fang… uh… Fang? No. Yes. No… ugh who cares. Fang it is. Here we go. How to start? I dunno… here's some Random Myrah Facts for y'all!

RMF #4: When I was born, the doctors thought I was retarded. Seriously. They have this machine thingy that tells whether or not a baby is mentally disabled and I got a positive reading. So, for three days, (count them, three days!), every hour a doctor would come in, prick my foot for a blood sample and come back again an hour later to stab me again. I still have some holes in my feet from it, but they're tiny. Finally, after three days, another baby was born in the hospital and they tested it… and got the exact same reading. Which was when they figured out the machine was busted. But for those 76 hours, my mom thought she'd have to raise a retarded kid. Weird, huh?

All right, enough stalling. Let's get down to business.

Disclaimer: It's not mine, I never said it was. Enjoy J.P..

Chapter Five: Close Encounters with the Thug Kind




I dismissed Mark when I heard Angela's car pull up in the driveway. I hadn't really been listening to him anyway, too busy running scenarios through my head. It basically boiled down to four possibilities:

1) Angela was pregnant with me when she was just seventeen, which is the sort of thing that can ruin your life. When she turned to her Dad for help, he suggested "donating" me to his friend's Ter Borcht's "cause" and she agreed.

2) When Gramps found out his teenage daughter was pregnant, he decided to "do what was best for her". So, when I was born, he went behind her back, gave me to his bud Ter Borcht, and told Angela I had died.

3) Ter Borcht, upon learning that his friend's daughter was pregnant, took advantage of the situation and stole me away without anyone's permission.

4) This is all one colossal coincidence, my grandpa's best friend had nothing to do with me ending up at the School and/or this Ter Borcht guy is not the same person Max found out about on Google.

Somehow, I was doubting that last possibility. I don't believe in coincidences. Not anymore.

Angela looked a little surprised that I was down in the living room. I generally avoided the living room because it was Robert's terrain. But he wasn't home right now.

"Hi Josh," she said brightly, setting her bag down the table. Josh. God, I hate that name. I'd rather be called Nick.

"Hey," I replied. I had the sudden urge to add "I've been waiting for you," but I fought it down. Much too cliché.

Angela noticed the album I had open across my knees and smiled. "Looking at the family photos?"

"For a school project," I explained. No need for her to get any ideas that I was seriously interested in my heritage. Listening to Mark babble had been enough. "I wanted to ask you a question."

My mother sat down across from me. "Shoot."

I flipped to The Picture and pointed to the nerd. "Who's he?"

Something flashed across Angela's face. Something. Recognition, definitely. She knew who the man was. But there was something else. Dislike? I wasn't sure. I hadn't had much practice reading Angela yet. "That's one of your grandfather's old friends. Roland ter Borcht."

"Did you know him well?"

Dislike for sure this time. Dislike and fear. "Not really. He used to come around a lot. But he was private sort of person. Not much of a talker. He's in… prison now. Grandpa goes to see him occasionally."

Of course, I knew he wasn't really in prison. He was in a mental institution for the criminally insane. "What's he in for?"

Angela looked up at me. And there in her eyes was the truth: she knew that I knew.

"He's the one who took me, isn't he?" I asked softly. Her eyes filled with tears and she nodded, crying quietly.

I felt anger flare up, but I didn't let it show. Angela dropped her heads into her hands. "I didn't know!" she sobbed. "I was going to put you up for adoption- I couldn't just kill you. But they told me- they told me you were dead… they said you'd died." She was shaking, tears leaking through her hands. I felt kind of bad for putting her through this, but I had to know.

Angela sniffed loudly. "I didn't know!" she wailed again. "But then you showed up… after all this time. You weren't dead. They'd lied. The doctors, Dad, Mom, they all lied to me. And then when you told me about that- that place, and the tests and the experiments… and the… the wings, I knew it had to be him. Ter Borcht. That- bastard. I knew it was him who did it. He was the only one who could've… maybe Dad asked him for help… maybe he didn't tell my parents and just took you. I don't know. But it was him…him." She choked slightly and cried, "I'm so sorry!"

My mom was sobbing pitifully now, head in hands, rocking back and forth. I felt horrible inside. She just- she looked so much like Max right now. Max when she just couldn't take it anymore. I remembered the way her eyes looked when I found her on the beach, kneeling in her own blood. Hollow. Empty. Pathetic.

I stood up slowly and gently squeezed her shoulder. "It's okay," I murmured. Then I headed up to my room and jumped out the window. So what if it was broad daylight outside? It wasn't okay. It was anything but "okay".

Things settled down for about two weeks. Mark was he's annoying little self. Robert basically left me alone. Angela kept shooting me guilty, regretful looks. But other than that, things were pretty much normal.

Then one morning I woke up and found fifty Erasers in the backyard.




Two weeks. I had been in heaven for two weeks. Winged kids are supposed to live in heaven, right?

The first time I'd stayed with Ella and her mom, I'd only been their for a couple of days. Add in my bullet wound, guilt about delaying Angel's rescue, knowing that Fang was going to kill me when I met up with him and Nudge, and the fact that I couldn't tell the Martinez's anything about myself, and my stay was less than perfect. But none of that was holding me down this time. The only rain cloud over my head this time was the absence of my flock. Especially Fang. I was missing him a lot. He made me feel… I don't know, safe. Without him right next to me, I was feeling kind of twitchy. Like a smoker quitting cold turkey.

But that didn't stop me from having fun.

I told Ella and Dr. Martinez everything this time. About the School, Erasers, living on the run, and, most of all, my flock. I left out some of the personal stuff and a lot of the gore, but other than that, they got my life story in whole.

After that, it was all just games, catching up, and baking cookies. Of course, when Ella went to school and Dr. Martinez went to work, it got kind of boring. Usually when I was at the house by myself I'd either clean up around the place or go out and fly. Sometimes I'd just watch TV or surf the internet. I even read some of the books Ella had. (I butted through the Harry Potter series in fives days. At least now I know what everyone is talking about.)

But occasionally when I was all alone, I'd just sit in the guest room, (my room, that is), and think. And worry. About… everything. Where had the Voice gone? Why wasn't it bothering me anymore? What happened to all the Erasers? Was Ari dead now? Things had been quiet the last two years, but stuff was starting to happen again. Like all those signs. And "Fang's" mystical sketchbook. What was that about?

I had called Fang once since the last time, a few days after I'd arrived at Ella's. I still couldn't dig anything out of him. If there was anything to dig out. I could tell he was hiding something, but God knows what. That boy was way too good at hiding things from me. It wasn't really fair, since he could read me like an open children's book.

When he'd asked me where I was, I told him I was still in Colorado. I don't know why I'd lied to him. It was just another snap decision. I guess… I just didn't want him to be able to find me. Plus, if Fang was keeping a secret from me, then it only seemed to be justice that I kept something from him.

Stupid? Yeah, I know. It was stupid. I knew that later that one was going to turn around and bite me on the butt. But not right now. Right now, things were… perfect.

"Max?" Dr. Martinez called.

I got up from where I was watching King of the Hill, (A/N: One of my all time favorite TV shows, that, regrettably, I don't own),and followed her voice to the kitchen. "Yeah?"

Ella's mom was in there, pulling stuff out of the pantry. Typically, she would have been at work right now, but she had taken the day off. "I was thinking about making chocolate chip cookies…"

"Yes!" I proclaimed. There is nothing better than chocolate chip. And Dr. Martinez's are the best. I should know. I had gone on a country wide quest to find their equal. And I never came close to prevailing.

My mother figure smiled at my enthusiasm. "But we're out of flour," she finished.

"Darn it," I grumbled.

Two weeks ago, I would've said, "Well, you want me to go pick some?" But after baking cookies a million times and helping make real dinners, my ingredient ignorance wasn't as bad as it had once been. Iggy would've been proud.

Dr. Martinez smiled again. "There's still hope."

I perked up instantly. I could still have cookies. There was peace in the world after all. Man, was I addicted to those things.

Dr. Martinez dug a five dollar bill from her purse. "There's a grocery store a few blocks from here. Do you know which one I'm talking about?"

I nodded. "The Publix, right?" I'd seen it on my flights.

"Yeah. Could you walk down there and buy a bag of flour? I would go, but I'm kind of preoccupied."

"Sure," I replied, stuffing the cash in my jean pocket. "Anything for cookies."

"Okay…" Ella's mother frowned. "But… be careful, alright? I know you can take care of yourself just fine, but… be careful."

I smiled reassuringly, put my windbreaker on and borrowed a pair of Ella's flip flops before I headed out the door.

Half an hour later I was beginning to regret my helpfulness.

I'm completely athletically fit, right? I mean, I burn a gazillion calories while flying and my metabolism strips everything that comes down from my mouth clean. Plus, I'm genetically engineered. I kick butt.

However, I still did not enjoy walking five long blocks down to a grocery store. I'm just not used to walking. And this Arizona. It was hot. Plus, I was wearing flip flops. Why was I wearing flip flops?

So, I really did not feel like doing it all over again while carrying a huge bag of flour.

I stared up tiredly at the sky. I could fly back. Fly and get home in, like, a minute. Maybe ten seconds if I used turbo drive. But it was freakin' 2:30. Broad daylight. And there weren't any tall buildings or heavy clouds to hide behind. So I would definitely get spotted. Without a doubt.

I moaned. Walking it was. Boring, primitive, slow, idiotic, energy wasting, thigh busting walking. Great. I shifted the bag from my wrist to my hand so my circulation wouldn't get cut off. Then, I moved onward.

About two and a half blocks later, I was getting annoyed. How did humans put up with this? It seemed to be getting hotter with every step I took. And it was so damn slow. I sighed and cast an envious glance at the birds soaring overhead. Lucky.

Then an idea popped into my head. Shortcut! Duh. There had to be a shortcut. Why hadn't I thought of that before? I moved into a shady alleyway and leaned against the cool bricks, closing my eyes. I could picture the bird's eye view of the area, thanks to my flights. Okey dokey. I was on Middleburg Road. The Martinez's house was on Sharbeth Street. How the heck could I get there faster?

My thinking was interrupted my sneakers on pavement coming my way. I ignored at first. It was a free country. People could walk wherever they felt like walking. But then the two pairs of shoes stopped right by me. Crap.

My eyes snapped open. And two familiar faces sneered down at me. Two of those idiots who shot me. Dwanye and Jose. Crap.

"What do you want?" I practically snarled, stepping away from the wall.

"Isn't she that bitch that broke my nose?" the taller one, Jose I think, said to Dwanye.

"Man, I think it is," Dwanye answered him.

"Hello? Idiots? I'm right here," I said tauntingly. "Now either move along your merry way or else I'll have to teach you guys another lesson."

"Oh yeah? We're going to be the ones to teach you a lesson!" Jose growled. I rolled my eyes. Obviously they'd forgotten that I'd beaten them, plus two more, with absolute ease. Did they seriously think they could take me down?

The second guy, Dwayne, lunged at me. I side stepped out of the way and let him smash into the wall. I kicked Jose firmly in the chest and he fell backwards, breath knocked out of him. It was almost too easy.

Then I felt cold metal against my throat.

That yahoo Dwanye had snuck up behind me and somehow gotten a knife to my throat. Sheesh, I must have been out of practice. I tried to twist out of the way, but he pressed the blade harder against my neck and wrapped his free arm tightly around my waist. Crap.

Jose got up off the ground and pulled out a knife too. First guns, now knives. What were the parental units teaching these kids? Well, I had a knife of my own… back at the house in my backpack. Crap. Some weapon user I was. I actually beginning to worry now.

Jose placed his hand on his chest and winced. "I think she broke one of my ribs," he spat at Dwayne. He stepped closer and waved his blade dangerously close to my face. "I'm gonna mess you up, bitch," he growled. I closed me eyes, still trying to squirm away. This could hurt.He pressed the tip onto my cheek, drawing blood, and then-

He was gone.

I blinked confusedly. Huh? What had happened? Then I looked down. And there was Jose, on the ground, getting the shit banged out of him by the last person I'd expected to see.


A/N: Well. I've officially found the guy I want to play Fang in the movie. Jake Richardson. HOTTIE! And very Fang-y. Jake was in the movie Hangman's Curse. If you don't know who the heck I'm talking about, Google him. (Google is like, my life. I don't know what I'd do without Google.) The only problem is, Jake is too old. Ugh! Why is the world so cruel? But guess what? The Summer Obsession, (one of the bands on the MR soundtrack), is coming to Jacksonville (which is where I live in case you've forgotten)! Whoop whoop! Anyway… I'm way off topic. But that's the entire concept of my Author Notes. Off topic randomness. This chapter seemed kind of short compared to the other ones. I don't know why, because it isn't. But oh well! I felt like ending there just to be mean. And mean I am. But review please. Review and I shall be nice next time… maybe. Oh, yeah. I'm starting school again on August 7th, which is just over a week away. I'm going to start HIGHSCHOOL! I'm gonna be a FRESHMEN! Class of 2010! Whoop whoop! But anywho. Because of school starting up again, along with my Creative Writing class, it might take me a while to update. I'll try to get the next chapter up before the 7th, but after that… you may have to wait a bit. Anyway, just a heads up. NOW REVIEW!

7. Reunion

A/N: Sheesh, this story has already got almost 100 reviews. That never fails to surprise me. I mean, I've taken Creative Writing classes for three years alongside some really amazing student writers. I mean, some of them are REALLY REALLY good. Really. So, I've always considered myself a writer of average talent. I still do. In fact, I hate this stories guts out. But then again, I generally hate everything I write. I rarely fall in love with one of my own pieces. I guess that's why I can edit my stuff so much and so well. Because when you love a piece, you can't imperfections in it. But if you hate, you can edit it's life away. Does that make any sense? Sort of. Anyway, thanks for the reviews. It really bolsters my confidence. And with me returning to school with stunningly talented writers, I can use all the confidence I can get.

Anywho, I'm rambling now. Oh! I finally read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. So now I know who Edward is. Edward… (drools)… what a hottie. He rivals on Fang's hottness. Man, why is it that it takes me forever to develop a crush on real boys, but fictional ones haunt my dreams? Fang and Edward… so hot. If you don't know who Edward is, I suggest you read the book. It is… fantabulous. Outstanding. Magnifico. Really, really good. You know what? Just read it.

I got some bad news folks. My bike was stolen yesterday. In case you didn't know, biking is the only way for me to get un-writer's-bloked. So, if writer's block hits me… we're in trouble.

Alright, I'll get to the point now. Time to write the story so I can have this chapter up before school starts. Wah. I don't wanna go to school. But I'm excited that I finally got to this chapter. And you know why? FANG! Duh. Fang's back. Everyone celebrate! Alright, now I'll start the chapter. But first… another Random Myrah Fact!

RMF#5 Okay, I live on the westside, right? Which roughly translate to, I live in the ghetto. Alright, now get this: this is a rough, dangerous part of town, right? The kind of place you only feel safe walking home alone if you've got mace in your pocket. And can you guess what some of the street names are? Fairy Tale theme! I'm seriously, this one whole area is just fairy tale character names. Examples: Mother Hubbard Road. Cinderella Avenue. Tinkerbell Street. Can you imagine being in a gang and saying, "Yeah, we're the Spitting Cobras of Tinkerbell Street." Real manly. No one know what idiot had that bright idea. Fairy tale street names… but hey, at least I can truthfully say that I live down the road from Fairy Land.

Alright. I won't make you wait any longer. Here it goes.

Disclaimer: It's not mine. J.P. can have it all. But if he kills off Fang or Iggy in the third book… let's just say, I know where he lives. Seriously, I do. I could drive there right now. Unfortunately, I don't have a car…

Chapter Six: Reunions (Part One)




I blinked again, totally stunned. My mind had come to a complete stop. No matter how I thought it over, I couldn't make it fit. I mean, what the heck was going on? Fang was in Chicago. He didn't even know where I was. And yet… somehow, he was right before me, beating the shit out of the guy who had been cutting up my face about two seconds ago.

"What the…" Dwayne's equally astounded remark drew me back to the present. I felt his grip on me loosen, the knife slipping away from my throat just a centimeter or so. It was all I needed. I stomped on his foot as hard as I could with flip flops on. Dwayne swore in pain and I slipped out of his hold. Before he'd even had a chance to recover, I had the knife out of his hand shoved him against the brick wall. The fear was so plain in his eyes as I waved the blade in front of his face. He whimpered- actually whimpered! It was pleasing somehow, to see this so called thug shrivel up when confronted by a girl. Of course, I was genetically enhanced bird kid, way stronger than him and with a much higher pain tolerance. But still.

"I'm giving you an option," I said quietly. Not that he deserved it. I would have greatly enjoyed smashing his face in. Or busting his knee caps. Or carving pretty designs into his skin. But I was feeling particularly humane today.

Dwayne, the complete idiot he obviously was, didn't seem to get what I meant by "option". Or maybe he was to scared for my words to sink in. "You may run for your life now," I explained tersely. "Unless you want to stick around…"

He ran. Without so much as a glance at his unfortunate friend, he sped down the alley, tripping once, and then he was out of sight.

I snickered, then turned to the beating that was occurring behind me and winced. Fang was out for blood and he was getting it. Jose's nose was broken and probably a couple of his ribs too. He had a huge gash on his temple from when he whacked it on the concrete. And Fang wasn't near done yet.

Jose deserved ever bit of what he was getting, but didn't seem really fair to just let Fang pound him, since Fang was about ten times stronger than him. I decided I better break it up.

"Fang," I said sternly. He either ignored me or didn't hear. "Fang!" I said louder, grabbing one of his arms to stop him. Fang looked up at me reluctantly, and what I saw in his eyes scared me. His eyes were usually dark pits, completely devoid of feeling. Now they were ice cold, burning hot, absolutely furious. There was only one word for it: pissed. Positively pissed off.

I'd rarely seen Fang give over to anger like that. The difference startled me, but I managed to keep my voice steady. "I'm okay. It's okay. Let him go."

Fang's eyes smothered me but I refused to look away. Just when I felt like I was drowning in his irises, he glared down at Jose and stood up slowly, my hand still on his arm. "You better be glad she's here," he growled at him.

Jose spat at me. "Bitch." Fang's boot connected with his stomach, hard. Jose curled up in pain. I tugged on his arm before he could do anything else. "C'mon."

Fang let me lead him out of the alleyway, out onto the deserted sidewalk, but I could still feel the fury rolling off him. I could tell he wanted nothing more than to turn around and finish what he started. "Fang…" I said carefully. His eyes flashed at me, still incredibly terrifying, but I persisted. "Calm down."

He scowled at me sourly, but he then he closed his eyes and took one quick, deep breath. I felt the muscles in his arm relax. After maybe five seconds of meditation, he opened his eyes again, the familiar blank slate expression back in place. It really wasn't fair how he could do that, just release his emotions so easily. I doubted it was very healthy though.

"What?" he demanded when he caught me still staring at him.

"Remind me to never make you mad," I said teasingly. But there was truth behind it. I did not want Fang unleashing his rage on me. That would be painful.

Fang sighed. And then the impossibility of this whole situation caught up with me again.

"What are you doing here? Why aren't you in Chicago?" I asked, a bit of anger creeping into my voice. Then a bad thought occurred to me. "Wait- how do I know you're Fang?"

Fang, (or "Fang" I should say), rolled his eyes. "Who else could it be?"

"A clone, maybe," I said, watching him closely. "Fang Version 2.0."

"Fang" snorted. "Max, I promise I'm the original copy."

"But can you swear to it?"

He rolled his eyes again. "Cross my heart, hope to sing, take a-"

Before he'd even finished I'd tackled him in a hug. I could tell I'd surprised him, but he wrapped his arms around me tight. "Chainsaw to my wing," he finished, softer this time.

I smiled into his shoulder. "I missed you," I murmured unnecessarily. Fang kissed the top of my head.

"I missed you too," he whispered. He slid his hands up my back, pulling me closer to him. I breathed in his scent- a mix of wind and cinnamon- and felt, for the first time in over three weeks, safe.

I pulled my head back to look at Fang. "But why aren't you in Chicago?"

Fang hesitated. "Long story…" I frowned. "I'll explain later," he promised.

"Fine." Then I remembered something. "Wait a minute. How'd you even know I was here?" I couldn't help but wonder if he'd "seen" me here. I still didn't know if he could see the future or not.

Fang laughed. "Max, you know you can't lie to me. I knew you weren't in Colorado."

"So how did you know I was here? In Arizona?"

"I didn't know. I guessed."

"So how did you guess I was in Arizona?" I pressed.

"I know you inside and out Max," Fang brushed a few stray hairs out of my face and tucked them behind my ear. I blushed scarlet and looked down. "I figured you'd want to come visit the Martinez's."

"But how did you know what town they lived in?" I still couldn't look up. The blood in my cheeks was just beginning to fade.

"Well, I knew the general area from where you ditched me and Nudge to be Supergirl…" He paused. "And if I still couldn't find it, I took their address and phone number out of your backpack."

"What?" My head shot up; luckily the blush was gone by now. "I knew I didn't lose it!"

Fang shrugged. "You should be glad I did. If I had found you even a few minutes later…" He trailed off, tracing the fresh cut on my cheek carefully, glowering. "I should have got here sooner," he muttered.

"Your timing was perfect." I refused to let him beat himself up over something he couldn't control.

"Not perfect enough." Some of the old anger flickered in his eyes. I could tell he was regretting letting me pull him off of Jose.

I cast my mind around for a different topic. "What about you? Are you okay?"

Fang quickly reconstructed his usual empty expression. "I'm fine."

"Tell me," I commanded.

He sighed. "My leg," he answered shortly.

I stepped back and looked down. The bottom of one of his pant legs was ripped. It was hard to spot against the black fabric, but I could see it was soaked in blood. "Let me see," I said in my no nonsense tone.

Fang reluctantly lifted up his pant leg. I bit my lip. Jose must have gotten some use out of his knife after all. Starting a few inches below his knee and ending just above his ankle was a huge cut. Just glancing at it, I could tell it was deep enough to hit muscle. I could also tell that it must hurt like crap.

"And you were planning to tell me your leg was sliced open… when?" I asked.

Fang shrugged again. "Whenever you noticed." He dropped his pant leg back down.

I sighed. "You think you could walk a few blocks?" I already knew the answer to that one.


"Alright then. Let's take you to see the vet." I gripped his arm again and started leading him down the street. Then I recalled something vital.

"Shit," I muttered suddenly.

"Fang glanced at me. "What?"

"I forgot something…" I looked back at the alley we'd just left. "Stay right here," I ordered. Fang nodded and leaned heavily against the building we were in front of.

I ran back to the shady alleyway and peered around the corner. Jose was gone. I breathed out a sigh of relief and then fetched what I'd forgotten: the flour.

I headed back to Fang. He raised an eyebrow at the grocery bag hanging from my wrist. "Flour," I explained. "Dr. Martinez will kill me if I come back without it."

Fang chuckled and shook his head. I grabbed his arm again with my free hand and we were back on our way. We didn't talk much; I could tell Fang's leg was bothering him by the tight set of his jaw and the slight limp. So I decided not to bother him. Even still, the dreary blocks past by much faster this time and soon we were outside the door of my temporary home.

I squeezed his arm gently. "You ready?" Fang nodded, so I opened the door and we stepped inside.

"I'm back," I called out to the house.

Dr. Martinez's voice answered me from the kitchen. "You certainly took your time. I was starting to get worried."

I kicked off my flip flops my the door and motioned for Fang to do the same. He pulled off his boots slowly, extra careful with his hurt leg.

"So what took so long?" the veterinarian asked.

"Uh… I kind of ran into Dwayne and Jose again," I answered. Fang gave me a sarcastic 'What am I? Chopped liver?' look, so I added, "And someone else too."

I heard a chair scoot back and the sound of Ella's mother standing. She walked out of the kitchen, paused when she saw two people standing in her entry way, and then headed over to us. She stopped in front of us, the cut on my face catching her eye for a moment, but then she turned to Fang. "I'm assuming this is the 'someone else'?"

I grinned. "Yeah. This is Fang. Part of my flock. Fang, this is Dr. Martinez."

Dr. Martinez smiled warmly and held out a hand. Fang shook it cautiously. I sighed inwardly. Fang was far too cynical.

"Hello," Ella's mom said, voice every bit as welcoming as her smile. "I hope you stay for a while. I doubt you'll be going anywhere if that leg."

Fang looked a bit startled at how observant she was, though it was too subtle of an expression change for the vet to notice. "Hey," he responded. I rolled my eyes. Fang had never been much of a people person.

"I think he might need stitches," I warned her. Dr. Martinez's eyes dropped down to his blood soaked pant leg.

"Hmm… yeah. We're going to have to fix that up." She sighed. "This does put a damper on my baking plans…" she muttered, mockingly disappointed. Then an urgent expression crossed her face. "You did manage to get the flour, didn't you?"

I raised the bag. "Right here."

"Oh…" She looked sincerely relieved. "Good."

I laughed. I wasn't the only one hooked on cookies.

A/N again: Yeah, I know. Really abrupt end to the chapter. Though, technically, this is just the first part of the chapter. The second part will pick up with Fang's POV. I hadn't originally planned to spilt the chapter, but it was getting so darn long. Anywho. I'm going to post this now. And then I think I'll read Twilight again. Edward… yum. I did mention how hot he is? I can't wait for the sequel. It's coming out this October. YES! Well my peeps, I shall be getting my school schedule tomorrow. Three whole classes centered around writing… Creative Writing I, Editing, and Public Speech. It's going to be awesome/ Oh, how I love art schools. Speaking of art schools, I posted one ofmy assignments from my CW class last year. It's under the Edgar Allen Poe category. And it's a parody. Of "The Pit and the Pendulum". It's called "The Nostril and the Fingers". Read it if you're interested. Anyway.Back to hte point.Well, you know, review and all that. When I update again, we shall enter the terrain of Fang's head.


8. Veterinarian and Veteran

A/N: Yea! More reviews for me. Alright, if I'm going to get the rest of this outrageously huge chapter up before school starts, I need to get to work. So this is Part Two. Starting with Fang's POV. Yea! I love doing his POV. Though it's kind of hard. How am I suppose to know what shoots around a teenage bird guy's head? Okay, since my Author Note was so long last time, I'm going to cut this one short. But first, a Random Myrah Fact!
RMF#6: It is impossible to describe my hair color properly. This is not an opinion, it is fact. Proven when I asked six relatives, twelve friends, three teachers, and one hair stylist what my hair color was. They all basically said this: "Uh… it's kind of blondish, brownish, redish… and other stuff." The same goes for my eye color. My irises are "bluish greenish, grayish, orange stripy-ish". I'm pretty much a mutt.

Okay. Chapter time.

Disclaimer: It's not mine. I own nothing. Boo hoo.

Chapter 7: Reunions Part Two




Dr. Martinez took the grocery bag from Max. "Well, so much for my day off," she sighed. "I'll grab my stuff. You two head for the bathroom before blood gets on the carpet." She walked off and Max tugged on my windbreaker.

"Over here," she said. She lead me across the living room, pain shooting up my leg all the while, and opened one of the doors. Max motioned for me to sit on the edge of the tub. I sat down slowly, shrugging off my backpack. Max was examining her cut in the mirror.

"Huh. That's bigger than I thought it was…" she muttered. "Oh well. As long as it doesn't scar." I rolled my eyes. Yes, Max is always so concerned about her appearance. Notice the major sarcasm alert here. She turned around and caught me watching her intently. "What?"

"I can take care of my own leg," I said. I really could. Growing up around doctors and scientists can do that to you. Not to mention that I've dealt with more than my fair share of injuries in my short lifetime.

Max raised her eyebrows. "And you're going to sew up your own leg?" When I didn't reply, she sighed. "Fang, just let her do it. She a professional."

"And we've trusted professionals since when?"

"She's not a whitecoat. Give her a chance." I put my stubborn face on, provoking another sigh out of Max. "Please Fang? If you won't trust her, at least trust me."

I tried to remember the last time Max had said please me. The last and only time had been just after here first brain attack, and she was pretty out of it then, so that didn't really count. Max must've seriously liked Dr. Martinez.

"Fine," I murmured, just as the vet in question came in, lugging a black bag.

"Who's first?" she asked, putting down the toilet seat and dumping her bag on it.

"Max," I said before Max could say my name. She opened her mouth to object but I shot her a "don't argue" look and she closed it.

Dr. Martinez turned to Max. "Just that cut your cheek? Nothing else?"

"Yeah. That's all," Max answered, giving in quickly.

Dr. Martinez inspected it closely. "Doesn't look too bad." She wet a rag in the sink and cleaned up the wound before smearing antiseptic over it. "There, that wasn't so hard," she muttered, sticking a Band-Aid over it. The vet turned to me. "You on the other hand…" She shook her head and dug around in her bag, pulling out a pair of scissors. She got down on her knees in front of me. "You don't mind if I mutilate these pants, do you?"

I shook my head. They were pretty trashed already. And I had another pair in my backpack. "Go ahead."

Dr. Martinez cut a perfect straight line, right up to my knee, and then snipped off the entire lower leg of my pants. "Ouch," she muttered, examining the huge slash in my leg. She cleaned up all the drying blood and then looked at it more closely. The vet pressed on it gently, but it was still enough to make my mind scream in agony. I did my best not to let it show, but I'm pretty sure Max saw my eyes widen a little.

"You're very lucky," Dr. Martinez said, sitting up a little. "Any deeper and you could've had some major muscle damage, maybe even a permanent limp." Behind her, Max bit her lip. I knew she hated it when I got hurt because of her. But as far as I was concerned, beating the shit out of any guy who dared lay a hand on Max was well worth the possibility of a permanent limp.

"But I'm okay, right?" I asked so to assure Max.

"Well, I wouldn't say okay," Dr. Martinez responded, dumping antiseptic on and around the wound. In my head, I screamed again. "But you are extremely lucky."

She finished smearing the gook on my leg and stood up to wash her hands. "You're definitely going to need stitches. I can either take you to the office and do it or I can do it here."

"Here," I answered automatically. She was not going to take me anywhere even vaguely resembling the School. So what if it was just a vet's office? There would still be cages and dying animals and that horrible smell of a totally sterilized building. No way.

"Are you sure? I don't have any anesthetic around here. You'd have to tough it out." She pointed at my leg while drying her hands off on a towel. "And that's going to need a lot of stitches."

I looked over her shoulder at Max, whose eyes were commanding me to just go to the office. "I'll be fine." I said, more to her than to Dr. Martinez. It couldn't hurt any worse than it did now.

"Okay. It's your choice," the vet muttered. She pulled some more stuff out of her bag, a spool looking thing of metallic thread and a sterilized, thicker-than-normal needle. (A/N: As I've never gotten stitches before, I have no idea how it works. Bear with me please.) Then she crouched down again and got to work.

It hurt like crap, but since it already hurt like crap, I didn't notice so much. It wasn't that bad. Felt kind of funny though. Like that sharp little pain you get when you're foot falls asleep.

Max, on the other hand, seemed convinced that I was going through incredible agony and torture. She was watching me worriedly, careful not to look at my leg. I stared back at her levelly. After a bit, it turned into one of our all-out staring contests, both of us equally determined not to blink. Just when my eyeballs get getting severely dry, a door somewhere in the house banged open. Max blinked, turning her head around, and I allowed myself a smile in triumph. She shot me the bird and I held back a laugh.


"That would be Ella," Dr. Martinez sighed. "We're in the bathroom!" she shouted back.

"Oh." I heard footsteps coming our way. "Max didn't get hurt again, did she?"

I raised an eyebrow and shot Max a glance that said, "Again?" Max scowled at me.

"No, I'm fine," Max called out.

"I'm afraid she picked up another stray though," Dr. Martinez grumbled dramatically.

"Sweet. What is it?" The voice was just outside the door now. Max punched the lock so she couldn't get in.

"Guess," Max said, grinning mischievously.






"Not even close."


"You're getting warmer."

"I don't know Max," the voice sighed. "Don't I get a hint?"

Max glanced back at me. "Well… it has wings and it can talk. Though it generally chooses not to."

"It?" I mouthed at her. She smiled.


"Sorry, but no," Max answered. Dr. Martinez chuckled quietly.

"Max," the voice groaned. "Give me another hint."

"Okay, I how about this. It's name begins with a 'F'."

"None of the species of birds that can mimic have a name that starts with 'F', I know that for a-" The voice stopped abruptly. "Wait a minute. Are you saying that one of your Flock is in there?"

"Bingo!" Max said, unlocking the door and opening it. Behind it stood a Hispanic girl, maybe a year younger than Max, with dark, curly hair and a heart shaped face. A miniature version of the vet.

She looked at me with a hint of disbelief and then said, kind of flustered, "You must be Fang."

"That's me," I replied warily.

She stepped forward and held out a hand. I shook it over her mother's head. "I'm Ella," she explained.

I'd figured that much. I mean, really. Who else could it have been? But I didn't say anything. I could be staying with these people for a bit. No point in getting off on the wrong foot.

Speaking of feet, Ella glanced down to see what her mom was doing and immediately made a face at my leg.

"Geez," she said, sounding disgusted. "What happened?"

"Dwayne, Jose, and I ran into each other and decided to have some fun. Only with knives this time, no guns," Max explained sarcastically. She pointed to the bandage on her face.

"Ouch," Ella responded. "Well, did you at least kick their butts again?"

"I think Fang got in more of that than I did, really," Max said lightly.

But something registered in my head. "Those were the same guys who shot you?" I asked sharply.

Max locked eyes with me. "Yeah," she replied, calm and careful.

I should've ripped him apart. I was really regretting letting Max drag me out of that alley. No one deserved to hurt my Max and get away with it. Not until I'd at least broken their legs. And smashed their nose into their brain. And-

Some of my anger must have surfaced to my face because Max shot me a look that clearly said, "Calm down. Don't even think about it."

I closed my eyes and forced myself to think rationally. I felt the sudden burst of fury die down until it was just barely there, smoldering and unsatisfied.

Dr. Martinez glanced up from her work and looked over her shoulder. "There isn't enough room in here for four people. You two go start the baking. I'm almost done here. And Ella, try to restrain Max from eating half the dough."

Ella snickered. "I'll try. But you know how she is."

"It's so good though," Max complained. Ella snagged her arm and tugged her out of the bathroom, closing the door behind them. Max cast one more worried glance at me before they went. I smirked a little and she smiled back.

Then it was just me and the vet. The vet. There had been veterinarians at the School too. Veterinarians, doctors, and scientists. All whitecoats. I shut down all the memories, so focused and sharp, that flashed through my head. Max trusted her. That was enough. Max was as paranoid as they come. Sometimes I'm not sure if Max even trusts me. But she trusted Dr. Martinez. I held onto that thought as the vet finished with my leg.

"There," she murmured finally. She stood up slowly and examined her work. "Those are going to have to stay in for about five weeks. At least, that's what I would say. I think you may have a better idea."

"Ten days," I said simply. Our healing rates were about 3.5 times faster than a human's. So what normal people took a week to heal from would only take us two days. Being genetically engineered was helpful that way. (A/N: Yes, this is true. I did the math, based upon Max's comments while Fang was in the hospital.)

"Ten days?" Dr. Martinez shook her head. "That's amazing…" she murmured, trailing off. She stared off into space for a moment, then snapped back to reality. "Anything else? Or was that tiny little scratch it?"

I almost said no. But the dull pain in my wing was hard to ignore. "Uh… yeah. There is something else."


"I have a… bullet stuck in my wing."

The vet's face suddenly went stern. "Let's see it."

I hesitated. I could just get Max to take it out. But Max would demand an explanation. And once I gave it too her, she'd just get more upset. However, I'd only shown three other people my wings, outside the Flock, and they were Angela, Robert, and Mark. And that didn't exactly end well. But Max trusted this woman. And besides, she already knew.

I reluctantly took off my windbreaker and unfolded my wings just a bit. I could feel the bullet rubbing against the muscles in my wing and sucked in a breath. Man, that hurt.

Dr. Martinez got behind me, touching the area around the bullet gingerly, probing underneath feathers carefully. "Here?" she asked.


Her hand shifted a little over to a different spot. "There's something here too."

"Another bullet." I explained. "But that one went in and back out."

"Please don't tell me you flew here from Chicago with two bullet holes in your wings." I could hear the frown in her voice. I didn't answered her. What else was I supposed to do? Take the bus? Dr. Martinez sighed and then examined the wound more closely.

"Hmm.." Her fingers were back by the original spot. "There's a slight problem…" I waited patiently. "You see," she started again. "The entry wound is already healed. So I can't just dig it out. I'd have to cut it out."

"Just get it out."

Dr. Martinez pulled a scalpel out of her bag and did her best to shift between the feathers to the skin. She paused, and then made one small, quick cut. She swiftly squeezed around the area and I could feel the bullet slowly making it's way back to the surface. I gritted my teeth. It felt like I was getting shot again, only in slow motion.

"So how did this happen?" the vet asked. I could sense that she was asking to distract me, not out of curiosity, so I decided to answer.

"Erasers," I muttered.

Dr. Martinez didn't ask for elaboration. Instead she said, "But Max said the Erasers were mostly gone."

I frowned a little. Just how much had Max told these people? "Well, they're back." I remembered Max mentioning "signs" on the phone, like back in New York. Why was everything returning again? It had been so… normal the last couple of years. Of course, good things never last, I thought bitterly.

I felt the bullet fully emerge from under my skin. The dull pain that had been annoying me the last two days disappeared. I heard Dr. Martinez toss the bullet into the trash can. The vet cleaned out the small wound delicately and then applied the sting of antiseptic. "You have beautiful wings," she murmured suddenly. "Like a hawk. Can't figure out what species though. But they're incredible."

Well, what am I suppose to say to that? "Gee, thanks. You can get a pair of your own. They'll only cost you your childhood, freedom, and any hope for a normal life." But the compliment had pleased me all the same. At least she didn't think I was a freak.

"Thanks," I said finally. I meant it too. No one had ever said that to me before.

She didn't reply, just stuck a bandage on my wing, avoiding my feathers as much as possible. She stood back, satisfied with her work. "I take it you don't want me to mention this to Max?"

I nodded, glad that she had picked up on this. Maybe her and I would get along after all. Maybe that was why I felt obligated to provide an explanation. I tucked my wings in and put my windbreaker back on. "Max hasn't been able to relax for a long time," I explained quietly. "I don't want to be the one to ruin her chance."

Dr. Martinez examined me interestedly. I got the feeling she could somehow see through my carefully constructed and maintained façade. It wasn't uncomfortable, just… strange. I stared back at her. Eventually, she broke the silence.

"She's an amazing girl, in many ways. I can see why you care for her so much."

Now it was kind of uncomfortable. How did she do that? No one could see through me that easily. Not even myself, it seemed sometimes. This woman was astoundingly observant. She was… different. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

"Do you have a change of clothes?" Dr. Martinez asked, gesturing towards the backpack at my feet.

I nodded slowly.

"Good. I need to go save the rest of the cookie dough from it's demise in Max's stomach." She smiled slightly and then turned and left the room, leaving me alone and, for the first time in my life, utterly confused.




A/N again: Yes, another abrupt end to the chapter. Would you believe that this chapter is STILL not over? I haven't finished it yet. It's so long… I'm going to have to divide this chapter into 3 parts it seems. I was going to try to fit it all in here, but it was getting huge. The next chapter/part might me kind of short though. But you guys can deal. I think Fang was getting kind of OOC in a few parts, but maybe that was just me. Sorry I'm keeping you guys in suspense with the whole what-was-with-the-Erasers-in-Fang's-backyard-and-why-is-he-here thing. Don't fear, all shall be answered in next installment. But anywho. So many people are saying how they can't wait for the Iggy's Sweet Sixteen Scene, and I hate to disappoint you guys, but that's not going to happen in this story. Sorry. The story ends before the six weeks are up. Please don't kill me. I know some people were looking forward to that. Also, the dreaded school is coming up again. I go back this Monday. Therefore, I may not have much time to work on this story. But I will try to get the updates in as fast as possible. Please don't kill me if I don't update for several weeks at a time. I take Creative Writing, so it's not like I have much freetime to devote to stories that aren't for school. But don't worry, I won't abandon this no matter how much my workload piles up. It just might take a while to update. Sorry. Can't be avoided. Now review please. It will lift my back to school spirits. REVIEW!

9. Second Reunion

A/N: x Step on Me x just gave me a great idea. How about a sequel for this story? That way, I can get in Iggy's Sweet Sixteen and have another story going. I already got an idea for it. And I'll be adding in an OC. (Because everyone else has an OC and I don't and that's just plain not fair.) It's still an idea in the making. Let me know what you think. Because some people don't read my top Author Notes, I will mention this again in the bottom one too. Now I must get typing.

RMF#7: My favorite movies are: Rain Man, The Truman Show, Godzilla, and El Mariachi. People often remark that this list is extremely varied and seemingly random. Well, it is random. I'm going to from an Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, to a Jim Carrey movie, to Godzilla for pete's sake, to a movie completely in subtitles that was shot very, very, VERY cheaply. But I love them all for some reason. They just have something… special about them I don't know. Maybe I'm just weird that way.

Chapter time. I promise some Faxness this time. And I'm warning you now, this chapter is going to be shorter than the others. (Technically it's not a chapter. It's a part of a chapter. That's why it's short.)

Disclaimer: Do I own it? No. Do I wish I owned it? Heck yes.

Chapter Eight: Reunions Part Three




Fang and I went out flying that night. Flying is great and all, but when you do it alone it can get kind of depressing. And kind of scary. I still hadn't gotten over my winged Erasers paranoia. So having someone to fly with again, especially Fang, was awesome.

His flying was a little off tonight. Not so much that you notice, but I did. Fang was amazingly graceful and powerful in the air. So being just a tad off didn't make a devastating difference. He was probably just tired. Coming all the way down from Chicago to Arizona and getting your leg slashed open can do that to you. But I knew Fang wanted to come with me. He never could past up a chance for a flight.

"What's the news from abroad?" I asked Fang, zooming up underneath him.

Fang grinned and faithfully recounted what was going in with the flock. "Angel lost one of her front teeth. Gazzy managed to stay out of trouble at school for an entire week- new record. Nudge is meeting one of her cousins this weekend," I shot him a look and Fang quickly assured me, "She has a good cover story. It should be fine."

"Iggy?" I prompted.

"Iggy's mom is making him take piano lessons."

I laughed. "Poor guy. Is he any good?"

"Apparently he's brilliant. The piano teacher can't believe that he's never had lessons before."

I smiled. That was Ig for you. Good at everything. If you didn't have to see to do it, then Iggy could blow you away. "And you?" I asked carefully.

Fang looked down at me darkly. "You said you'd explain later. This is later." I reminded him. "Why aren't you in Chicago?"

Fang sighed, glancing up at a small plane overhead. "I found something out," he said finally.

I waited. Fang was more likely to dish on something if you didn't push him for it. You had to be very patient with him.

"I was going through some photo albums with Mark. For a school project." Fang began slowly. "I saw this guy that hadn't been in any of the other pictures. I asked Mark about him. He said he was Angela's father's best friend." He closed his eyes for a moment, navigating by the sound of my wings. "I flipped the picture over to check the name on the back and it said… Roland Ter Borcht."

I forgot to flap for a second and fell back a little. Fang opened his eyes to see where I'd gone. "Max?"

"The whitecoat?" I breathed, remembering the name. It couldn't be. It just couldn't.

Fang nodded. "I think so." He slowed down a bit so that he was even with me again.

It took a moment for that to sink in fully. Fang's grandfather knew one of the head whitecoats? "So you left?" I guessed.

"No," Fang said. "I talked to Angela about. She started crying, said she didn't have anything to do with it, that her father went behind her back and took me."

"Then you left?"

"No… she seemed sincere. And really upset. So I stuck around for a while longer. Everything was normal. And then…" Fang scowled. "The Erasers showed up."

I forgot to flap for a lot longer than a few seconds this time. I started to drop dangerously. Erasers? The way Fang had said it, it sounded like a lot more than just a few near-insanity wolfies. What in the world was going on?

"Max?" I looked over. Fang had rejoined me, watching me carefully. I snapped myself out of my reverie. "Let's land," I suggested weakly.

Fang nodded and followed me down. I landed carefully on a tree branch, high up in a white oak. The branch swayed a little so I quickly sat. Fang landed right next to me, the tree not swaying a bit. I frowned at him jealously.

"What?" he asked, sitting beside me.

I shook my head. "Forget it. The Erasers?" I reminded him.

Fang looked away from me, peering down into the forest. "I think they were meaning to sneak up on me, take me out of my room. But I woke up early that day because I was going to take an early morning flight. I saw them, in the backyard, through my window."

"How many?" I asked, praying for a low number.

"Fifty. Maybe more, maybe less."

I groaned. Fifty! And if they'd come up with a plan to try to kidnap Fang, they obviously weren't half-crazed. It could only mean one thing.

Someone was making Erasers again.


"Some of them had wings. Some of them didn't," Fang continued. "I knew I couldn't take out fifty, so I packed my backpack, borrowed some cash from Robert's wallet, and left."

"You just left?" I asked skeptically.

"Well, the ones with wings chased after me. But I managed to lose them by the time I'd crossed the Mississippi River." Fang still hadn't met my eyes, so I knew he was editing something out. But I decided to leave it alone.

"Do you know who…?" I trailed off. Fang knew what I meant.

He shook his head. "Someone must've called the Erasers out there. Maybe Angela. Maybe Robert. Maybe one of them mentioned it to her father and he called them out. Or maybe her father mentioned it to Ter Borcht while he visited him at that mental institution and Ter Borcht sent them out…" He sighed, looking up at the sky.

"I'm sorry," I said softly. Fang glanced down at me.

"It's doesn't matter. Even before things got all nasty, it didn't feel… right. It wasn't home." He slid his arm across my shoulder, pulling me against him. "Besides, it seems you can't stay out of trouble without me around," he remarked, lightly laying two fingers on the Band-Aid on my cheek.

I felt a blush coming so I turned away. "I can stay out of trouble. Trouble just can't stay away from me," I retorted.

Fang laughed quietly. "Sure, Max. Whatever you say." He ruffled my hair playfully and the casualness of it all surprised me. Fang usually avoided touching people unless it was either a medical emergency or an emotional emergency. This didn't qualify for either.

"You're in a good mood," I observed.

Fang shrugged. "I missed you," he explained.

I smiled and rested my head on his shoulder. "I missed you too."

We stayed that way for a long, just listening to each other's even breathing and slowing heartbeats. Then, a small breeze blew through and I shivered a little, sticking my hands in my pockets. My fingers brushed against "Fang's" sketchbook.

"What is it?" Fang whispered when he felt me tense up.

I sighed. Now was as good of a time as ever. "I've been meaning to tell you something…" I started. Fang stiffened. He hated it when I kept things from him.

"What?" he asked warily.

"When I was back at the old house, I found something in the kitchen. Something important."

Fang waited for me to continue. I breathed deeply. Here we go. I tugged the small, black book out of my pocket. "This."

Fang's eyes lit up. "Hey. That's my old sketchbook." He took it from me eagerly, flipping through it quickly. Then he looked up, shaking his head. "But how is this important?"

"Keep going," I said grimly.

Catching the tone of my voice, Fang continued turning pages. Finally he hit the first mystical picture- Nudge, him, and I up in the air, on our way to rescue Angel. He blinked and frowned, looking up at me sharply.

"Did you draw this?"

I snorted. "You think I can draw that good?"

Fang shook his head, glaring back down at the drawing. "Well, I didn't do this one." He turned the page and scowled again. "Isn't this that schizophrenic computer nerd from the tunnels?"

"Yep. Andcheck outthe date."

Fang's eyes quickly found the date in it's customary corner. "January 11th 2005? But that doesn't make any sense."

"That's what I thought. Look at the rest of them."

He slowly went though the rest of the sketches, shaking his head the whole time. "Max, I didn't draw any of these."

I frowned. "It must be another sign then. Or some piece of a puzzle the whitecoats concocted to test me with." Why can't they just leave me alone?

Fang looked up hauntingly. "No, you don't get. I remember drawing on these days…" He tapped the date on one of the pages. "But…"

"…But?" I said. I didn't like the sound of this.

Fang stared up at me with an anguished look on his face. "I can't remember what I drew."

I shrugged. "Big deal."

Fang stared me dead in the eye. "Max, I don't forget things."

"Well, then, what could they-" A searing pain burst into my brain, breaking off my words. I clutched my head, gasping. The pain intensified growing and burning and gnawing at my senses. Tears leaked through my eyes and I whimpered pathetically. An explosion of images crashed against my eyelids, flashing too fast for me to comprehend them. I became vaguely aware that I was falling, but it didn't matter, nothing could hurt as much as this, death couldn't even hurt as much as this, nothing compared. Not even the brain explosions from New York were this bad, this was five times worse, this was unbearable. My body should have been putting me unconscious, but it was almost as if the pain was too much for me to slip away. The pain, it was horrible. The pain, it was overwhelming. The pain, it was killing me. The pain… it was… fading. Fading… my breath caught and I heard someone say my name, but it was too much and it all went black.




I came to slowly. I could feel someone stroking my hair, murmuring in my ear. Fang. I groggily opened my eyes and his dark ones met my, boiling over with concern. The sudden color of the world was too much, it stung. I closed my eyes again and groaned. "Ow…"

Fang softly kissed my forehead. His warm lips seemed to help soothe my headache a little. "Are you okay?"

"I think so."

"You must be, because you're too stubborn to admit you're not."

"Ha ha," I grumbled. I tried opening my eyes again and found that I could this time. I realized that we weren't up in the tree anymore, we were on the ground. "Why are we down here?"

"Because you decided to give me a heart attack and fell." He rubbed my back in between my wings, fingers a whisper on my spine. "Don't worry; I caught you."

"How long was I out?" Everything was starting to spin, so I buried my face in his shoulder, hating my weakness.

"Not too long. A few minutes," he said.

I lifted my head up, feeling extraordinarily nauseous. "Move," I warned him weakly. My face must have looked green because he got out of the way fast. Once he was behind me, I threw up onto the dead leaves. Fang held back my hair as I heaved. When my stomach was empty, the vomiting stopped and I wiped the sick off my mouth with the back of my hand. "Ugh…" I moaned.

"Are you sure you're okay?" I turned to Fang. His jaw was tight and his eyes were filled with worry.

"Yeah," I said, standing stiffly. I felt dizzy for a moment, but luckily I had nothing left to puke up. "I feel better now."

"What was that?" Fang asked, pulling me away from the barf. "That wasn't another…?"

"No." I shook my head and instantly regretted it. Mybrain throbbed. "It felt the same, but that was way worse than a brain explosion."

"So what was it?"

"I don't-" My head suddenly twinged violently and I winced. Then an all too familiar sound echoed in my mind.

"Hello, Max. It's been a while."




A/N again: MWA MWA MWA! Am I not evil? I sure feel evil. And hungry. And tired. I typed all this in one go. FINALLY, this three freakin' part chapter is over. Let me celebrate for a moment.

Yes, that's right folks. Everybody's favorite annoyance is back. The Voice! Hooray! I can't wait to write the next chapter. It will be uber fun.

Fang was kind of OOC in this chapter, but I don't care. I could edit it, but my fingers are killing me.

Okey dokey, for you bums who don't read my first Author Note, I have something to tell you. x Step on Me x has suggested an idea to me. How about a sequel to this story? Then I could show Iggy's Sweet Sixteen and I'll have yet another story going. I already have an idea for it. What do you think? Should I write a sequel to this? Send me a review and tell me what you think and any ideas you have for it. I love crazy suggestions. REVIEW!

10. Answers

A/N: La, la, la, la, la. Lots and lots of reviews. La, la, la, la. I am bored. Is anyone else bored? La. La. La. I can't believe how astoundingly long that last chapter ended up being! If I hadn't spilt it up, it would've been like, thirty pages long! Aren't y'all glad I divided it up? I just read the Author Note that I put up at the beginning of the prologue. Remember that? I said I didn't think this story would be very long. HA! Yeah, right. This story is getting to be pretty colossal. Where did I leave off last chapter? Honestly, I forgot. Let me go check. La, la, la, la….oh yeah. The Voice. Right. I knew that. I was just testing you guys. Yeah. As you may have guessed from the title, this is the chapter in which some of our questions are finally answered. Aren't we excited?

This story has over 150 reviews! YEA! Thank you guys. I'm going to see if I can hit 200. It's possible. Just, you know guys, review a lot.

RMF#8: I suck at the board game Clue. My seven-year-old brother can beat me at it. However, I kick butt at Scrabble. My special Scrabble word that I always somehow manage to use every game is "qat". This is a real word. I have no idea what it means, but it was in the Scrabble hint book. It always drives me to victory. Another game I'm good at: BINGO! I love playing bingo, because I'm extremely lucky at it and always win at least once. The highest amount of bingo prize money I ever earned in one sitting: $64.00. That was at a family reunion. They started getting suspicious after I won four times in a row, and thought I was somehow cheating. How in the world do you cheat at Bingo?

Oh yes, as in my other story, Dentistry, the Voice is the italicized stuff with quotation marks. Max's thoughts are the italicized stuff WITHOUT quotation marks. Just FYI. Oh. And SORRY that it took so long. I've just been, you know, busy. Sorry.

Disclaimer: I do not own Max. Or Fang. Or the Voice. Or anything. Wait! I do own the "SC SC SC" thingy, which Ashley-Lampost stole from me. I SHOULD SUE! J/K, I luv you Ash.

Chapter Nine: Answers




"Hello, Max. It's been a while."

I almost jumped a foot, but couldn't. I was still too nauseous.

Not nearly long enough for me, I thought back at the Voice.

"So bitter. Didn't you miss me?" the Voice replied. The Voice was completely lacking of emotion, but I could somehow feel the sarcasm in my mind.

Like a headache, I snapped back.

"Maximum, I'm in your head, in case you've forgotten. I know you missed me."

"Max?" Fang said. "Can you hear me?" I suddenly remembered that Fang was there, still holding on to my arm. He was looking at me as though debating whether or not I had completely lost my mind this time. I nodded carefully, being sure not to make my brain ache anymore than it already did.

"Is it the Voice?" he asked. I nodded again. I was still too out of it to hold two different conversations.

Why did it hurt so much worse this time? I questioned the Voice. It usually didn't answer me when I asked it something, but hey, it was worth a shot.

"I had to re-manifest myself into your mind. I could've either done it in one go, or I could have done it like last time, shoving my way in over and over. I figured this way would be quicker."

Why did you leave in the first place? Why are you back now?

The Voice paused for a moment. "I'm sorry Max, but I can't tell you that. Maybe some other time."

I almost growled in frustration. Looked like the Voice was back to being it's usual cryptic self.

"What does it say?" Fang asked. I returned my focus back to him.

"It said that… it hurt more this time because it 're-manifested'-" I put air quotation marks around the word. "-Into my head all at once instead of pushing over and over. Like it did in New York."

"Re-manifested?" Fang said, raising his eyebrows fractionally.

"That's what the Voice called it," I explained. Fang frowned. "What?"

"I don't know. It's just the.. word choice. It doesn't sound like…" Fang trailed off when he saw me looking at him confusedly. "Never mind," he sighed.

I leaned against a tree trunk and sat down stiffly, my head still spinning. If it had been one of the old brain explosions, I would have been fine by now. I wondered how long the whole nausea-headache side effect would last. "I knew it was to good to be true," I muttered.

Fang slid down next to me. "What?"

"The peace," I explained. "Everything was going so well… I was hoping things were normal for good." I tilted my face up to peer at the stars filtering through the treetops. "But now the Voice is back and new batches of Erasers are popping up… and those drawings." I mentally played connect-the-dots with the stars, forming my own constellations.

"Max?" Fang's voice brought me back to land. I looked over at him. He was turning pages in his sketchbook again, examining the offending pictures.


Fang glanced up at me. "Ask the Voice if it knows anything about these drawings."

"Okay," I said agreeably. "I'll try. It doesn't really like handing out info, though." Fang closed the black book as I closed my eyes.

Voice? You there?"

"I'm always here."

No you're not. You ditched me for two years!

"That's not what I meant." I could feel the Voice's stressed patience. It made my head twinge. "Now are you going to argue with me, or you going to ask me Fang's question?"

Well since you obviously already know what I'm going to ask you… I grumbled back.

"You still haven't figured it out?" The Voice was speaking condescendingly now. It seriously ticked me off, and i was already grouchy enough.

Clearly I haven't! I snapped. Now are you going to tell me, or are you going to play mind games?

The Voice didn't answer me.

I huffed angrily and reopened my eyes. Fang was watching me expectantly. "Well?"

"Nothing," I answered. "It won't freakin' tell me." I rubbed my temples fiercely.

"Try again," Fang said. I looked up at him, surprised. "Only don't snap at it this time," he added. I sighed. I swear, Fang can read my mind better than Angel can.



Could you… uh, please tell me what's with the drawings?

"Please?" More sarcasm, fueling my headache. "And here I thought no one had taught you manners…"

I waited impatiently. Fang squeezed my shoulder encouragingly. He knew I hated asking nicely. I was used to being in control, not being in control of others.

"Well, I guess it couldn't hurt. What exactly do you want to know?"

I flashed Fang a quick thumbs up before asking, Are the pictures from the whitecoats or did Fang do them?

"Fang," the Voice answered shortly.

He did? I glanced up at him. But Fang said he didn't remember…

"It's called an indirect physical premonition."

Huh? A what?

I felt, rather than heard, the Voice sigh. It was like thunder rumbling against my brain. "An indirect physical premonition. You do know what a premonition is, yes?"

I was about to retort, but then remembered that I was trying to stay on the Voice's good side. If it had one. Yeah. It's the first part that lost me.

"An indirect physical premonition means that the Seer doesn't actually see the future or even sense what's coming. Instead the Seer is simply a channel, allowing a premonition to form a physical state. That physical state could be water spilling to form an image, small objects moving towards each other to make words, or many other things. The way the premonition merges into the physical world is unique to every channeler In this case, the premonitions are taking form in drawings. The Seer has no memory of channeling the energy however which way they did it. Now do you understand?"

I blinked, trying to absorb all of the sudden information. Uh… sort of?

The Voice chuckled. Pain shot up behind my eyes. Why does that hurt? I asked grumpily.

"Your mind is still tender."

Right. That made perfect sense. I brought my attention back to Fang, who was waiting patiently for me to finish my conversation with myself.

"You done?" he asked quietly.

"I think so. Give me a second," I mumbled, dropping my sore head into my hands. I slowly massaged my forehead, closing my eyes for a moment more. Fang rubbed my back between my wings the way I liked.

"Does it still hurt bad?" he murmured.

"A little," I admitted. "But I'm okay." I sat up carefully, opening my eyes again. I felt kind of dizzy still, but hey, at least I wasn't puking my guts out again. "Okay…" I began. Fang watched me intently. "According to the Voice, the pictures did come from you, but you didn't know about it because they were indirect physical premonitions."

Fang's blanker than usual expression told me that he had no idea what that was either. "A what?"

"It's like…" I frowned, trying to remember exactly what the Voice had said. "Apparently you're are a Seer, only you don't See. Instead you… channel the premonition into a physical state and don't remember doing it."

"So…" Fang fingered the sketchbook. "Those drawings were from me channeling?"

"That's what the Voice says." I picked up a dead leaf and twirled it by the stem. "Looks like you got a power after all." I started shredding the leaf into tiny bits.

Fang didn't reply, just nodded, kind of staring off into the forest. I knew that look, though you wouldn't catch it on Fang often. It might something "awkward" was bothering him. "Awkward" meaning, of course, human emotions, which Fang is still in denial of having.

"What's the matter?" I ask softly. I didn't really expect him to give me an honest answer. But I had to try. Fang has comforted me too many times to count. This time it was my turn.

His eyes flickered over to me, but remained locked upon a random tree. "…The forgetting thing. I don't like not remembering. It's… weird."

I knew that that wasn't entirely it, but if Fang didn't feel like opening up to me, then I wouldn't press him. "Fang, people forget things all the time. It's normal, not weird. Don't even tell me what's weird. You're talking to the crazy girl who speaks to voices in her head."

Fang smiled at my self-abuse, making me blush scarlet. I dumped my leaf bits into his hair so he wouldn't notice.

"Hey," he whined mockingly. He shook his head like a dog, whipping his hair around, but didn't succeed in getting any of the leaves out. All he did was screw up his hair. I laughed hard, leaning against Fang. Before long, Fang was laughing too.

"Here," I gasped out. I picked the worst of it of out of his hair, carefully being sure not to blush again. Fang sat still, mockingly solemn. Once his head was leaf free, I leaned back and examined him critically. His hair was stuck up every which way, as though he had just emerged from a hurricane. "There. Perfect."

Fang looked at me sourly, but in an almost good-natured way. "If my hair looks like crap, just tell me now."

I laughed again. "No. Actually, it's not half bad." Actually, it was a pretty good look for Fang. Fang generally just left his hair flat and straight, but with it all tousled up, it looked adorable.

Wait. Bad Max. Adorable? Since when have I used the word "adorable" in reference to anything besides Angel?

"Maybe you have feelings for him," the Voice piped up. My head pounded irritably as the sound reverberated in my aching skull.

I mentally groaned. Oh, back on that rant again, are we?

"Yes. Unless you want me to convert to the other?"

I rolled my eyes. Yeah, yeah, I know. Save the world. It's my destiny, etc., etc., etc.. You want to tell me how?

"All in good time, Maximum. All you have to do is listen."

Right, whatever. Shut up now.

I returned my attention to Fang, who had, of course, noticed my brief descent into insanity.

"What does it want now?" he asked quietly, careful not to make my headache worse. No one could be quiet like Fang could.

"Same old, same old," I replied airily. Fang watched me closely, scanning for any sign that I might be making secret plans to sneak away and ravage my arm open. Yeah. Right. Like I was stupid enough to do that again.

"So you're okay now?" I couldn't tell if he meant it as statement or a question. Either way, I answered it.

"Yeah. I'm fine. What about you?"

Fang smiled softly, making me blush once more. I knew he wasn't going to answer that. Fang rarely talked about how he was feeling, pain wise or emotion wise. I ducked my head down so he wouldn't see the pink tint in my cheeks.

After a moment, Fang gently lifted my chin so that he could see my face. Luckily, most of the blush had faded out by then. "I'm good," he said, studying me meticulously. "But you look like you could use some sleep."

"Is that suppose to be an insult?" I asked lightly, avoiding his dark eyes.

"No." He swept some of my hair behind my ear and pressed his hand against my forehead. "You just look kind of peaky." Fang frowned. "And you have a fever."

I glanced up at him, and his dark eyes locked with mine. "It's just a headache," I insisted. Fang's chocolate irises seemed to suck me in again. I tried to blink, but couldn't.

"You still need to rest," Fang murmured. His hand slid down to cup my cheek, thumb slowly tracing my cheekbones. I started to feel lightheaded, and it wasn't from the dizziness. With a great exertion of willpower, I managed to force my eyes down and broke the contact, finally sucking in a breath I didn't know I'd been holding.

"We better head back then," I muttered. Fang nodded and stood stiffly, (his leg must have still been bothering him), before offering a hand to help me up. I took it and rose carefully, head spinning.

"You sure you can fly?" Fang inquired, looking at me doubtfully. I waited a minute for my head to clear up so I could answer somewhat truthfully.


Fang cocked an eyebrow but didn't push the issue, just dropped his ominous sketchbook into his ever present backpack. (Be prepared, that's Fang's motto. The Boy Scouts just stole it from him.) I guess he knew I was still kind of out of it, because he rested his hand on my arm and lead me to a clearing in the woods, all while subtlety making sure I didn't do a face plant. I managed to reach the minute clearing without tripping idiotically and busting my pounding skull open. Fang gestured for me to take off first so I did. Fang was in the air just seconds behind me. We flew back to the Martinez's house in pure silence, Fang expertly tailing me the whole way. However, flying seemed to help ease the pain away, and soon I felt fine. Tired, but fine.

All the neighbor's lights were out, but we landed in the backyard anyway for paranoia's sake. Dr. Martinez was still up, reading a newspaper and drinking what looked like tea.

"Good flight?" she asked absently, scanning over headlines.

"Yeah, excellent conditions," I replied, grinning. I just loved how Ella's mom could refer to our abnormalities so casually. Almost as if, to her, they weren't abnormal.

"No trouble?" She glanced up at me and I kind of got the sense that she already knew the answer to that question. I shook it off.

"Nope." Then I realized something. "Where's Fang going to sleep?"

The vet's eyes drifted over to Fang, who was still shadowing me protectively. Then she started reading the paper again. "Couch or in your room. His pick." She raised her mug to her lips, drinking deeply. "There's a sleeping bag in the hall closet," she added. Dr. Martinez set her empty cup down on a coaster with a click. "Well, I'm going to bed." She rose from her chair. "Goodnight, Max. Fang," she yawned. And with that she turned and left the kitchen.

I looked back at Fang. "Well?"

He just shrugged indecisively. I rolled my eyes and headed off to brush my teeth and change into some PJ's. When I got back to my room, Fang was already there, rolling out a sleeping bag on the floor. I smiled and held out a closed hand so that we could stack fists for the first time in over three weeks. Fang tapped the back of my hand and then slid into his sleeping bag. I flicked off the lights and laid down on my bed.

My mind was just sinking into a shallow slumber when Fang whispered my name. "Max?"

"Hmm?" I mumbled inarticulately.

"Did the Voice say why it left? Or why it came back now?"

I blinked slowly, trying to remember. "No… it said it couldn't tell me. Why?"

I waited patiently, but he didn't reply. There was no way I was going to be able to stay fully awake for another minute, so I closed my eyes again and said quietly, "Night, Fang."

"Goodnight, Max."

I rolled over and let my best friend's steady breathing loll me to sleep.




A/N: GRR! I AM MAD! Okay, does anyone know that new show coming on called "Heroes"? (If you don't, just imagine a not so mutant-y television show version of X-Men). Well, I was watching a commercial for that, and in it this guy was painting a picture of a bus crash and then the next week, he sees the same bus in the newspaper. THEY SO RIPPED OFF MY IDEA! Grr. It just makes me feel like… suing somebody. Oh well. So! I just completed my first week as a freshmen. Go me! And I was never late and I didn't get lost. I did lose my ID… but luckily for me, I found it later. I have no idea how long it will take for me to get the next chapter up, but I'll go as fast as possible. There will be Fang's POV next chapter. I don't know how much, but there will be some Fangy. (I just realized the distinct lack of his POV these last couple of chappies…). I'll get it up as soon as I can. Wish me good luck for my next week of highschool!

P.S.: I officially have a title for the sequel. "A Little Person Called God". I am currently forming an outline for it in my head, but I'm not going to start writing it yet because I need to focus my energy on this story. But I'll tell you now, I started setting things in motion for it in this chapter. If you've got any theories and/or ideas for the sequel, please review. And if you don't, review anyway. Just... review, guys.

11. Reign of the Night Terrors

A/N: This next chapter will be Fang's POV. Woo hoo! Yea! Problem: I have no clue what will happen. AT ALL. NO IDEA. COMPLETLEY WRITER BLOCKED. I think you get the picture. So… if this chapter sucks butt, that's my excuse. Anyway. I'm going to try to write it now. Also, sorry that this one is kind of short. But technically, this is a part of a chapter. So really, it's not that short. I'll try to get another update up whenever I can. Until then, toodles.

RMF#9: For some reason, people think I have a New York accent. Complete strangers will walk up to me and ask if I'm from New York. (I swear, they do! It happens at least once a week!) However, my best friend, who IS from NY, claims that I have nothing resembling a NY accent. According to this accent survey I took, my accent is a perfect blend of American Northern and Southern with a touch of Texan to it. Makes sense since I was born in Texas, raised in the South, and all my relatives are from up North. But why do all these random people think I sound like a New Yorker? It is truly a mystery of the world.

Disclaimer: No. I actually do own Maximum Ride. I am really James Patterson writing under a false name to observe how people react to my writing. Seriously. Really guys. You know I don't own this stuff. Do I really need to put these disclaimers in?

Chapter Ten: Real-Life Werewolves (Part One)



I woke up automatically to the sound of my name. Lifting my head groggily, I quickly found the lit numbers of the alarm clock in the pitch black room. 2:14. Terrific.

I scanned the room cautiously. Max was still asleep. No one was at the window or the door. I didn't see anybody hiding in the shadows. So who frickin' decided to wake me up at frickin' two in the-


My head snapped back around to Max, who was definitely still asleep and had definitely just said my name, unless there was a really good ventriloquist behind the closet door. Max turned over and turned around again, making some sort of hand motion, and muttering something that sounded a lot like, "Broke his neck."

Crap. Nightmare.

I quickly slid out of the sleeping bag and stood over Max, ignoring my leg's complaints. Knowing from experience that Max might scream when she woke up, I carefully placed a hand over her mouth before I shook her shoulder and whispered loudly, "Max."

Max just groaned and dug her fingernails into her pillow.

I shook her a little harder. "Max!"

This time, Max's eyes shot open, filled with horror and fear. Breathing erratically, she looked up at me almost disbelievingly.

"You were having a nightmare," I explained quietly, pulling my hand away from her mouth.

Max sat up a little, breathing getting a bit steadier, but still too fast. Then she choked and started to sob silently. Crap.

I reached out to hold Max but she shied away, shaking her head, tears streaming down her cheeks. Stubborn as always, I moved closer and wrapped my arms around Max before she could do anything about it. Max sucked in a strangled breath and buried her face in my shoulder. I could feel her shaking as I lightly ran my fingers through her hair. "You okay?" I asked softly, rubbing her back with my free hand. Yeah, I know, lame, but if you can think of a better way to ask a person who's crying, 'What the hell just happened?' tell me.

Max nodded, weeping winding down, though she was still trembling. "Yeah," she croaked.

I brushed her hair away from her forehead and checked Max's temperature. No more fever, luckily. At least she wasn't delirious. "What was it about?"

Max stiffened. "I don't remember."

"Max, if there's one thing you remember, it's your nightmares," I said patiently.

She sighed and looked up at me. "Can we just drop it?"


"Fang, it's too early in the morning to argue."

"If you don't want to argue, then tell me."

Max sighed again and pressed her face back into my shoulder. Finally she muttered, "It was back underneath the subway tunnels. When I killed Ari."

I scratched the base of her wings while I waited for the rest of the answer. Sure, killing Ari had freaked her for a while, (especially that 'brother' part of it), but still, that was a long time ago, and the Eraser had been back on his feet and set murdering us within twenty-four hours. I doubted Max had much sympathy left for him.

After a long pause, Max hesitantly added, "But… instead of Ari… it was… you."

I involuntarily tensed for a moment and Max started to tear up again. Crap. I quickly pulled her closer to me and rested my chin atop her head. "It was just a dream, Max," I murmured. "You always have twisted nightmares. Nothing ever comes from them."

"What about the Eraser Max in the mirrors?" she mumbled into my T-shirt.

"I know you'd never intentionally hurt me, Max."

"What if it's unintentional? What if I can't control it?"

Inside, I cringed at the harsh words. As much as I'd like to say that that was crazy and would never happen, I couldn't. In our lives it was very possible, what with that Voice 're-manifesting' into her mind and whitecoats tinkering with her head. I hurriedly pulled myself together and said calmly, "Wouldn't matter."

Max shifted her head out from underneath mine and examined me doubtfully. "How so?" she asked.

Yeah, Fang. How so?

I mulled around for an answer while rubbing Max slowly between her wings. "When was the last time you beat me sparring?"

Max grinned weakly and I knew that she would be alright. I answered myself automatically. "Never."

"Not true…" Max protested. "When you dislocated my shoulder you forfeited the match to me."

"That doesn't count. That was a pity victory."

"Well, it should count. That hurt." Max huffed. A smile tugged at my lips.

"Get some more sleep, Max." I unwound my arms from her to let her lay back down. "And try not to wake me up in the middle of the night anymore."

"Sorry," Max muttered into her pillow, eyes closing. "Fang?"



I squeezed her shoulder softly in acknowledgement. I then crawled back into the sleeping bag, but I stayed awake, watching over Max until I was sure she was deeply asleep.




And so began the reign of the night terrors.

Max has always had a problem with nightmares. Called it childhood trauma, call it too much stress, call it whatever the freak you want, it all boils down to the same thing. As far as I know, Max has never once had a normal dream. Not that most dreams are normal. But, you know, a dream where there's no one chasing you, trying to kill you, or anyone else getting killed. A dream. Max has never had a single one of those. Just nightmares, all the time, every time.

But not like this. She usually had a nightmare once a week, sometimes less often than that. The standing record was three and a had months with no bad dreams. Not that she ever told anyone about them. But you could tell when she'd had a crappy night by her extra paranoia and twingey-ness the next morning. Occasionally, the nightmares were bad enough to where one of us would hear her tossing, (usually me or Iggy), and have to wake her, (usually me). But in all of sixteen years, they'd never been like this.

The second night, we arrived to late to save Angel from the School. The third night, Erasers attacked Iggy the first time we left him behind at his parent's place. By the fourth night, Max refused to go to sleep. I wanted to stay up with her, but she commanded to me to go to bed. However, around 2:15 my biological alarm clock woke me up and I discovered Max dozing in an armchair, kicking and muttering something about chimpanzees in between sobs.

The Martinez's hadn't found out about the night terrors yet, though the vet had commented on how much coffee Max was drinking. I intended to keep it that way. There wasn't much either of them could do to help anyway, unless Dr. Martinez happened to have a degree in psychology.

Max didn't sleep at all the fifth night, mainly due to the huge amounts of caffeine she was consuming, (thank God for Vault and Mountain Dew). As now custom, my body woke me up a quarter after two on the dot. I crept silently into the living room and found Max watching television on mute, sipping hot chocolate. I went back to bed to try to catch up on some of the sleep I'd been missing out on.

And so, on the sixth day of my stay at Ella's, I woke up in the morning and stalked out to the kitchen, where Max was working on a crossword puzzle while gulping from a gigantic mug of coffee. I drained the dregs from the coffee pot and got another round going for Max, seeing as to how she was living off of caffeine these days. After grabbing the milk from the fridge and a bowl from the dishwasher, I hunted down a box of Cap'n Crunch for breakfast. I hate Cap'n Crunch, (it scratches the hell out of the roof of your mouth), but it was better than nothing. Getting a good breakfast was hard when you didn't have a certain blind boy around to cook for you.

Max glanced up when I sat down across from her. "What a three letter word for compete that ends with an 'e'?"

"Vie," I answered automatically, pouring some Peanut Butter Crunch into the bowl.

"What about a five letter word, third letter's 'c', meaning a poisonous protein?"

I drowned the cereal in milk. Makes it less scratchy. "Ricin."

"Six letters. First letter's 'c', fourth letter's 'g', meaning an old man."


"Four letter word. Last letter is 'k'. A zebra-like mammal."

I couldn't remember a matching word right away so I thought around for a moment, scanning mentally through my vocabulary. My memory search came up with nothing. "That's not a real word. You made that up," I accused around a spoonful of soggy Cap'n Crunch. I felt Max staring at me, so I swallowed and looked up. "What?"

"Did you like, read the dictionary or something?" Max asked wearily.

"Yeah. So?"

"When did you read the dictionary? No- screw that. Why did you read the dictionary?"

I picked up the cup of coffee dregs and cautiously took a sip. Ugh. I downed the rest of it before it could register on my taste buds. "Back at the old house. Right before Nudge turned eight."

"Why?" Max pushed again.

"I was bored. It was either the dictionary, the Bible, or a Colorado phone book. Dictionary was more useful."

"You were bored, so you read the dictionary?"


"And you remember all of it?"


Max sighed tiredly as the coffee maker's timer went off. I grabbed the pot and filled up her now-empty mug before pouring the rest into my cup. I decided to change the subject before Max started interrogating me again. "So what's on the agenda today?" I asked.

Max stifled a yawn and drank deeply from her mug. "I don't know. I think we've pretty much cleaned everything possible in the house."

Thank God. We'd been spending a good part of each day cleaning up around the place. I'm grateful for having free shelter and food and all that, but I'm not the housework type. It gets really dull and tedious.

"So I guess we can do whatever the heck we feel like," Max finished.

I felt like flying, but we couldn't do that during the day. Arizona was too sunny. Besides, Max looked a little too wiped out for a long flight. "And what are we going to do?"

Max traced the mug's edge slowly with her index finger. "I was thinking last night…" she mused. "And I think I figured out why the nightmares are so bad lately."

I waited, wondering what the heck this had to do with what was on today's agenda.

"Actually the Voice kind of hinted at it," she admitted. I raised my eyebrows a bit.

"What did it say?" I questioned bluntly. Max seemed to trust the Voice- at least a little. I sure didn't. It was probably Jeb or some other whitecoat screwing around with her mind, none of which were on my list of people to listen to. But occasionally the Voice gave out helpful advice.

"It said something about worrying too much about the future… and that there was an easy way to stop," Max answered carefully. I saw where this was going.

"You want me to use my power to show the future?"

Max nodded, watching me intently.

If there was a way for me to stop Max's night terrors, believe me, I would do it without hesitation. But this was… I don't know, different. For one thing, the Voice had suggested it. For another, I didn't even know how to do this whole "indirect physical premonition" thing. And… well, much as I hated to admit it, I was kind of scared about not remembering what happened. Yes, I admitted something scares me. Get over it. But tell anyone I said that and I'll deny everything.

I looked up from my cereal bowl at Max. God, she looked so exhausted. Bloodshot eyes, dark circles, limp feathers, the works. I suddenly had an idea. "If I try to channel, will you try to get some sleep tonight?"

Max nodded again, a bit more reluctantly this time.

"Okay, then." I stood, yanked the coffee mug out of her hands, and dumped it's contents into the sink. "No more caffeine for you. You're going to get addicted."

Max just smiled. "Let's get set up, then"




A/N again: Man, this chapter is going to be LONG! I'm gonna have to do another three part chappie. Oh well… can't be helped. This chapter was inspired by my childhood of reoccurring nightmares. A lot of my phobias came from nightmares when I was a kid. EXAMPLE: When I was seven, for two and a half months, every night, I would have the same nightmare about being in a car crash. I finally managed to get them to stop by not sleeping for nine days. (Well, I did sleep, but I only took quick naps). But now I am afraid of cars and riding in them. (Thank God for bicycles.) In my entire lifetime, I've had only four good dreams and seven weird, but not scary, dreams. All the rest of them have been nightmares. Yeah, I'm pretty much messed up. I had to see a shrink about it. Now, I hardly ever have dreams, but when I do, they're nightmares. I hate going to bed…

To any people wondering, NO, Fang's extraordinary memory doesn't count as a power. He just has a really good photographic memory. I knew a kid who could read a book, then if you read off a random sentence to him, he could tell you exactly what page and which paragraph it came from. Pretty freaky. So no, Fang only has one real power.

Alrighty people, I need some help. I am currently writing the rough outline for the sequel and doing some research on stuff. (What's this research on? I shall never tell.) Anyway, I need a name for an OC. This is not the major OC that I have hinted at to some people, it is a different one. Anyway, I need a guy's name, nothing too odd because the character is human and parents don't go around naming their kids Shadow and stuff like that. Along with any name suggestions you might have, in your review I need you guys to vote for something. The next chapter is either going to be all Max POV or mostly Max POV with a chunk of Fang POV at the beginning. Which would you guys prefer?

12. Kodak Moments and Polaroids

A/N: OMG. I AM SO SO SO SORRY THAT THIS IS LATE. I've just been incredibly busy, church, school, homework, I fainted, had a bunch of projects due… yeah. Sorry.

Well, most people seem to be rooting for Max/Fang POV this chapter, so I shall do that. Actually, it's going to be more like half Fang half Max. But oh well. As for the unknown OC's name… I haven't picked yet. I will soon. I'm still experimenting. In the sequel, there will be three OCs, but only one will be important. The other two might not even be in more than a chapter. But OH WELL. The important OC, I have already named. The human OC you guys get to name. The last OC I am letting Sally name because I promised her I would.

Back to the present. Let's type this thing. Little side note here: certain portions of this chapter may be sort of confusing. Read carefully. Okay. Time for Chapter Eleven Part Two.

RMF#10: I am known in the Creative Writing Department for my lists. What "lists" you say? Well, whenever I got bored/writer blocked during a freewrite, I'd start a list of completely random things and keep going until I had twenty items. The things listed varied anywhere from me complaining about my sore ankle, to odd things I noticed about strangers, who just coughed in the room, etc. I never really liked them, but my CW teacher thought they were hilarious and made me make her a mini-book of all the lists I ever wrote. (At the time I made it, I had over 120 different lists. Now I'm on 178.) Anyway, if you are ever writer blocked, trying starting a list to get the juices flowing again. It helps, plus it's fun.

Disclaimer: I am not James Patterson. Or… am I?

Chapter Eleven: Real Life Werewolves (Part Two)




I fetched my old sketchbook and found a decent drawing pencil in Dr. Martinez's desk. When I returned to the kitchen, Max was already looking drowsy after, what, two minutes of being cut off from caffeine? I caught her staring disappointedly into her empty mug and grinned to myself as I sat down.

"No more," I reminded her. Max shot me the bird.

"Let's get this over with," she grumbled sleepily. But I could see a spark of her old energy in the way that she was sitting up straight now.

I opened my sketchbook and found an unused page. Out of habit, I quickly wrote the date in the top left corner. Max scowled at my handwriting. "What?"

"How come you do everything better than I do?" Max demanded.

"What do you mean?" I sighed. I could feel an argument brewing. Why Max and I get into so many fights, I will never understand. Neither of us like arguing. It just… happens. Iggy once commented during our argument over the pronunciation of the word "route" that we fought more than a divorced couple that still lived together. I don't think he was joking either.

"For example: why is it that your cursive looks like a masterpiece that should be hung up in a museum while my print looks like a second grader with no hands wrote it?"

A second grader with no hands? Where did Max come up with these images? "I don't know. And you do plenty of stuff better than I do."

"Like what?"

I glared at Max, completely unable to believe she was actually asking me this. "What do you think?"

Max opened her mouth to shoot something back at me. And then she closed it as what I was taking about became blindingly clear. Max was all fired up and red over our petty argument. I was still sitting calmly, completely unprovoked. Well, I was angry, but it wasn't showing. Which was exactly what I was referring to.

Max finally spoke, biting her bottom lip. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, you know," she said quietly. "It's just who you are."

"Yeah, well, who I am isn't healthy then. Ask any psychiatrist."

"So why do you do it then?" Max asked, genuinely curious and slightly frustrated.

A dozen different answers ran through my head. Because I'm used to it. Because it's easier. Because I have to. But I knew that only one of them rang absolutely true.

Because I'm afraid of getting hurt again.

If anyone asks, you didn't hear me say that. Or think it really. I'd never admit to something like that aloud. Not even to my closest friend, the sole person I'd trust my life with.

I glanced up at Max, who was watching me, waiting for an answer. Unfortunately, she was going to get one, because I'd decided to invoke the maximum-two-word-reply method. "Forget it."


"Drop it."


"I'm fine, okay?" Alright, technically that was three words, but close enough. I shot Max the "back off" look, but she just stared back stubbornly.

"Why won't you talk to me?" Max suddenly burst out angrily. "I want to help you. You're always helping me and doing stuff for me, but I can't ever do anything for you. It's not right!" She dropped her head, shaking a little, and I knew she was crying.

Shit. I had no idea where that had come from. Sure, Max explodes from time from time, but not like this. And what did she mean she never did anything for me? The thought sounded ridiculous in my head. Max has done more than plenty for me. She kept me out of the School. She made me fess up when I got hurt. Most importantly, she made me talk. As bad as I am now about speaking to people and displaying emotion, I used to be a lot worse. As Iggy likes to say, Max used to have to take care of a blind guy and a mute guy. But Max had slowly shoved me out of my comfort zone over the years, the same way she'd convinced Iggy that being handicapped didn't mean you were disabled. Without Max, I'd probably either be living by myself, utterly alone, or dead from committing suicide. Max didn't owe me anything. I owed her.

But how's she supposed to know that?

That's when I decided it was time to drop the mask for a moment.

"Max?" I knelt down in front of her. She shook her head, red eyes carefully avoiding me. "Max. Listen to me." I grabbed her chin and forced her to look into my eyes, so she could see the absolute sincerity there. "You have done more for me than you could possibly ever understand," I told her softly, catching what I hoped was the last of her tears on my fingertips. "Alright? So stop feeling sorry for yourself or for me or whatever it is that's bothering you, okay? Because I don't want that."

"You're doing it again," Max choked out.

Well, that wasn't what I was expecting. "What?"

Max smiled sadly. "Being better than me."

I laughed and brought her face down a little so I could kiss her forehead. "Nobody's perfect," I teased her, relieved that she was alright. "Not even me."




After I finally convinced Fang that I wasn't going to freak out and start screaming randomly at him again, (withdrawal symptoms from the coffee, I swear!), I got him back into his chair in front of the magical sketchbook. "Okay… let's see some channeling!" I said with false enthusiasm.

Fang rolled his eyes but didn't comment, already slipping back into his usual "strong and silent" stereotype. "How?"

"How am I suppose to know? It's your power, not mine."

"Yeah. And I can't remember ever using it, so it might as well me yours." He picked up the pencil and started tapping the table irritably.

I sighed. Voice? Any instructions? You know a lot more about it than we do.

My brain neighbor took it's sweet time answering me. "Tell him not to think about it. Distract him, get his thoughts away from doing the task. Oh, and take that pencil away from him."

I blinked. Fang was looking up at me, almost as if he could hear us talking in my head. Uh, why? The pencil part I mean.

"He won't be needing it."

I subtly, (cough), yanked the pencil out of his left hand and tossed it on the counter behind me. "Okay, don't think about it too much or we're going to be sitting here for a long time," I informed him. Fang raised an eyebrow.

"And on who's authority do we suddenly have an instruction manual on indirect physical premonitions?"

"Voice," I answered simply, nudging the sketchbook a little closer to him.

Fang sighed, which isn't something you'll hear him do often. "You really shouldn't listen to that thing," he began.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. It can't be trusted. We don't even know what it is. But it's never, like, lead us into a trap or anything, has it?"

"It drove you to a suicide attempt, Max."

"That wasn't supposed to be a suicide attempt. I just… didn't think my… self-performed surgery through all the way."

"It looked like a suicide attem-"

Fang stopped in the middle of his words and very slowly blinked. When his eyes opened again, the pupils had expanded greatly, almost obscuring the irises completely. It was kind of creepy, so I turned my gaze down to the sketchbook and gasped. Flowing from the dead center of the page was black, seeping into the white of the blank page, filling it to the corners. What more, the black looked like it was shaded in with pencil lead. After maybe two minutes the darkness had covered the paper entirely, sucking in the date at the top last. And then it all just… faded. The pencil lead disappeared into the paper, just as oddly as it had come. I watched as the page went from black, to gray, to white again. The only thing left on the paper was the date, exactly as it had been before.

I looked back at Fang again. His pupil weren't all wide anymore, but his eyes looked kind of glazed over. At first it looked like he wasn't moving at all, but I watched him for a moment and saw that he was breathing veerrry shallowly. I waved my hand in front of his face. "Fang."

Nothing. Not even a flicker.

I sighed and looked back at the sketchbook. Whoa. Vague outlines were starting to form on the paper. I couldn't tell what they were yet, but as I stared, more details starting coming into view. Okay…

Fang was still looking spaced out, but he had to see this. I grabbed a cup and filled it up with water. I pushed the sketchbook to safety on the other side of the table before I dumped the water over Fang's head.

He instantly sputtered and glared up at me, wiping water indignantly out of his eyes. "What was that for?"

I calmly set the cup down onto the table. "You were out of it and wouldn't wake up."

Fang shoved his wet bangs out of his face. "What? You mean I fainted?"

"I don't know. More like a trance. It was kind of freaky."

Fang still looked confused so I slid the sketchbook over to him. More details had appeared; I could now make out a bed and a window. He glanced down at it and then back up at me. "So wait- I did it? What happened?"

"Uh… well first, your pupils got all huge. Then black pencil lead started to shade in the paper, but it was coming out of nowhere. It filled up the entire page then it disappeared again and the paper was blank except for the date." I stopped, wondering if anything I'd said made any sense. Fang didn't ask for clarification, so I guess it did.

He examined the outlines in the sketchbook. "So how come it's not blank anymore?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe it's like a Polaroid. You have to wait for the picture to show."

Fang just nodded, still staring at the drawing.

I sighed. "You sure you don't remember anything?"

Fang shook his head. I thought he was going to leave it at that, but then he added, "First I was talking to you about the Voice and then you decided to drown me. Nothing in-between." I couldn't quite interpret his tone. Not sad or confused… vulnerable? I hesitantly rested my hands on his shoulders and felt Fang tense and look up at me.

"It was just a couple of minutes," I told him quietly. "That's all." Fang's muscles relaxed. I still didn't get why not remembering something bothered him so much, but I guess if you went through your entire life being able to recall every second of it, not remembering something would be kind of weird. I thought about the way Fang had hesitated before agreeing to channel for me. Sometimes it seemed like Fang did way too much for me, especially this past week- Fang had practically been taking care of me since the nightmares had started. But whenever I tried to help him, he generally turned me down. It didn't seem like a fair exchange, and yet Fang seemed to think he didn't do enough.

"You have done more for me than you could possibly ever understand."

I didn't quite see how that could be true, but Fang had been so sincere and… open, that I knew he believed it.

I squeezed Fang's shoulders to get his attention. "Fang?"


"Thank you."

Fang tilted his head back and studied me closely. "For what?"

I thought about it for a moment, not entirely sure what myself.


Fang dropped his head down again and muttered something that I couldn't quite hear. I didn't want to ask him to repeat it, so I distracted myself by glancing at the sketchbook. The picture was a lot clearer now; I could see a bed, an open window, a nightstand, a closet… it all looked sort of familiar, though I couldn't place where from.

Reading my mind, Fang suddenly commented, "It's Dr. Martinez's room."

That's where! I didn't usually go into the vet's room, but I had vacuumed it sometime the week before.

But, okay, wait. Why was it set in Dr. Martinez's room? A dozen scenarios piled up in my head, but none of them made sense. I forced myself to slow down and sank in the chair next to Fang. All we could do was wait.

And we did. Three more minutes, pure silence. Finally the drawing was complete enough to see it clearly. Fang stared at it for a moment, jaw tightening, and then slid it over to me. I took a breath, examined it- and felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

It was Dr. Martinez's room, like Fang had said. But more importantly was the window; huge, hairy hands were pushing it open from the outside, a wolf-like face visible through the glass.


Erasers breaking into the Martinez's house.

I glanced up from the picture, eyes meeting Fang's. "We should leave," he said simply. "Before they track us here."

"We can't just leave them here alone. Maybe the Erasers already know where we are. What if they come and Ella and Dr. Martinez are unprotected? Besides, you've still got those stitches in your leg." I protested.

Fang considered it for a moment. "But this could happen months from now. Years even. And I can take out my own stitches"

I shot him a you-are-not-going-to-take-them-out-yourself glare and then looked over the picture again, for something indicating time. I found it quickly. Just over the Eraser's head was a full moon.

"When's the next full moon?" I asked.

Fang answered automatically, in that built-in-search-engine way of his. (Who needs Ask Jeeves when you've got Ask Fang?) "Five days from now. But there's a full moon every twenty-eight days. So that doesn't mean the Erasers will come then."

I studied the drawing some more, really wishing that the vet kept a calendar in her room. Then something caught my eye; on the nightstand table was the book Invisible Man, which also happened to be the book her book club was reading this month. I pointed this out to Fang.

"Okay," Fang relented, giving in. "But once we've gotten rid of the Erasers, we should leave. So that this doesn't happen again." I opened my mouth to argue, but Fang cut me off before I even got started. "We can't stay here forever, Max. We're just putting them in danger. And my stitches will be out by then so don't even think about using that against me."

I sighed. He was right- of course. The end of my vacation was closing in on me. It was almost time for another goodbye.




The rest of the day went by uneventfully, unless you counted Fang snapping at me whenever he caught me by the coffee pot an event. I was getting some serious withdrawal symptoms, but the worst was the headaches. Not only did they hurt, but the Voice kept making snide comments about them all day. But Fang was right. I did need to sleep. I just didn't know if I could.

Fang forced me to go to bed earlier than usual. But I couldn't go to sleep. Instead, I laid on my side, facing the wall, turned away from Fang so he hopefully wouldn't notice my horrible sleep imitation. I stared at the wall, trying not to think about the nightmares and failing miserably. I'd already watched Fang, Angel, and Iggy die. Despite my effort to prevent dreams, on the fourth night I saw Gazzy ripped apart by Erasers among the hunting practice chimpanzees. What next? Nudge? Was I going to have to watch her death? Or was my own demise scheduled for tonight?

"Go to sleep, Max." Fang's voice drove me out of my reverie. Guess my sleep imitation needs more practice than I thought.

"I can't," I muttered back, hating how pathetic I sounded. I heard Fang move and a second later he was sitting on the bed beside me, hand resting reassuringly on my arm. I immediately felt better, calmer, mind more at ease. How he always managed to do that, I had no idea. Fang could be the most comforting person in the world, when we wanted to be.

"You're not going to have any nightmares tonight," Fang said quietly. "Know how I know?" I shook my head, best as I could while lying on my side. "Because there's nothing to worry about yet. Besides worrying about having nightmares. So stop, okay?"

I swear, he really can read my mind.

Fang must have used up his word quota , because I felt him get up. Almost instantly, all the worries and fears returned again. I tried to shut them out, but couldn't. There was only one way I going to get any sleep tonight.

"Fang?" I heard him stop moving, but hesitated. "…Could you…stay?"

Pure silence met my words. Just when I was starting to feel like a real idiot I heard Fang walk away and come back. I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had gotten his pillow. Fang laid down next to me and wrapped one arm protectively around my waist. I sighed in relief; I had no clue how, but somehow Fang could always make me feel safe. "Thank you."

Fang didn't answer me, just murmured, "Go to sleep, Max."

Listening to his heartbeat, I managed to do just that.




A/N: Yes! Finally done! Since this was so late, I wanted to make it a little longer for you guys. It got kind of rushed near the end but oh well. Once again, I'M REALLY SORRY THAT THIS WAS LATE. Final installment of this chapter is coming soon. Hopefully. As for the human OC's name, I have picked…. (drum roll please!)… CHARLIE! Kudos to kat and sekhra for the winning name and thanks to everyone else who submitted. I can't wait to start working on the sequel. But first, I must finish this story! See you next time when I get the third part of this chapter out- whenever that is. Until then, REVIEW!

13. Real Life Werewolves

A/N: WHOO! New chapter! Or, end of a chapter I should say. Thanks for all the review for the last chapter, (even though I was really late, sorry.) To whoever apologized to me for "being rude on the forum", (Anony I think it was), for pete's sake don't apologize! It's my fault it took so long. (Well, my fault and my Film History teacher's fault for giving me so much homework.) Really, don't tell me you're sorry, if it weren't for all the people nagging me, I'd probably never post. Anyway, on to happier news. ALPCH has broken through the 200 reviews barrier! YEA! Thanks again to all my reviewers, especially the ones that review practically every chapter, (I'm really bad at doing that for other people, sorry). If you've only reviewed once or twice, let me tell you, I sometimes drop major hints about what's going to happen next or what's going on in the sequel to my faithful reviewers. (Especially if your name happens to be x Step on Me x. Man, I spill way too many of the beans to her.) Alright! Chapter time!

RMF#11: Truthfully, I don't actually like to write. (PLEASE DON'T HURT ME!) I do enjoy coming up with stories in my head, but I hate actually writing them, putting them on paper. It's so… tedious. And things don't always turn out the way I wanted them to. I don't HATE writing, (if I did, how would I have survived 4 years of taking Creative Writing?), but I don't particularly like it either. (Makes you question my motives for posting on this site, doesn't it? Well, my dislike of writing is heavily outweighed by my love of compliments.)

Disclaimer: I don't own it. You don't own it. We don't own it. Only HE owns it.

Chapter Twelve: Real Life Werewolves (Part Three)




I didn't have any nightmares that night. The next night I got maybe three minutes into a bad dream before Fang woke me up and then he abandoned his sleeping bag for my bed the rest of the night. After that, Fang stayed with me without me having to ask. I'm pretty sure he knew that he was stopping my nightmares, which was kind of embarrassing, really. But Fang didn't talk about it, so neither did I.

We spent most of the next five days debating, (okay, fine, arguing), over whether or not to tell Dr. Martinez that Erasers would be invading her bedroom. I wanted to warn her. Fang didn't want her to freak out and make a big deal over it. We finally reached a compromise: to go to really extreme measures to make sure the vet wasn't in her room when it happened. The problem, of course, with this was we didn't know when it would happen.

So, around eleven-ish, we were all down in the living room. We meaning, Dr. Martinez, Ella, Fang, and I. Dr. Martinez was working on a cup of green tea that I'd laced with caffeine while doing some paperwork. Fang was reading the fifth Harry Potter book, (I was making him read the series. He liked it so far, though he thought that Ron was an idiot), but I could tell he wasn't really focusing by the way he sat perfectly straight. I was talking to Ella, but was seriously distracted. We were discussing the pros and cons of making books into movies, when the Voice suddenly piped up.



"You have five minutes."

"Fang and I are going out flying," I announced. Fang glanced up, saw the follow my lead glare I was sending him, closed the huge book, and got up, wary and alert.

Ella blinked. "That was random."

I forced a laugh. "Sorry."

"Have fun. Don't be gone too long," Dr. Martinez said, drinking some more of her secretly caffeine powered tea.

"We won't." Be going far, I finished in my head.

I ascended the stairs, Fang right behind me. "Are they here?" he asked quietly, out of human hearing range.

"In less than five minutes, they will be," I answered. I looked over my shoulder and caught Fang red-handed in the act of actually using facial muscles; he was frowning. I sighed. "Yeah, yeah, the info came from the Voice. But it's been okay lately, really. It hasn't even been nagging me about saving the world."

"I'll be getting to that soon enough."

Fang opened his mouth to reply, but he closed it, noticing that I was busy talking to myself. I smiled regretfully at him, and held up one finger in the universal 'give me a sec' gesture. Why not now? I thought back at the Voice.

"In case you haven't noticed, you're kind of busy. If you get disemboweled in a fight because you're distracted, whose going to fulfill your destiny?"

Nice to know you care.

"Oh, but I do."

I blinked, realizing that we were outside Dr. Martinez's bedroom. Fang hand was hovering over the doorknob, watching me, waiting till I got my head back in the game. "You ready?" he asked, seeing that was paying attention now. I nodded, so he opened the door and peered cautiously inside. The coast was clear, so we slipped in and hid in the closet directly across from the window, waiting for an Eraser to show his ugly mug through the glass.

After a moment, I broke the silence and muttered, "Ironic, isn't it?" Fang turned his head towards me with a Fang version of a confused expression, so I explained. "Erasers showing up on a full moon."

Fang grinned in the dark and quietly added, "Real life werewolves," before turning his attention back to what we could see of the window through the crack in the closet doors. I concentrated on not breathing too loudly for the next few minutes, until finally Fang grabbed my wrist and squeezed gently. An Eraser had showed up.

Fang shifted a little so I could see a too. I peered through the crack anxiously. I could see large paws, vaguely resembling human hands, forcing the window open. Not an easy thing to do from the outside, but he was managing. Eventually, it was open all the way and the Eraser stuck his hairy head through. I felt Fang press three fingers against my shoulder- a silent countdown.

The Eraser looked left, examining the room cautiously.

Two fingers.

The Eraser looked right, scanning meticulously. Hie eyes passed over our closet but he didn't notice us.

One finger.

The Eraser looked back and gestured to others below. The coast was clear. Or so he thought.

No fingers.

The Eraser turned back around and started to climb through- but he didn't get very far because Fang had burst out of the closet and taken a running lunge out the window, feet first. His boots caught the Eraser right in the muzzle, (OUCH), and they both fell to the ground. Well, not Fang so much, since he spread his wings just enough to slow his descent. The Eraser, on the other hand, didn't quite have the flight instincts we have and crashed to the ground fast and hard, one of his unfortunate comrades providing a cushy landing.

I jumped out of the window right behind Fang, but stayed airborne, figuring our odds. There were about eleven more, all of them winged, way too much for just Fang and I to handle. I signaled to Fang to take to the air. We'd have to lead them on a chase. Besides, if we fought them in the backyard, one of the neighbors was sure to hear and call the police.

Fang was next to me in a heartbeat. The dozen Erasers were starting to rise also, heavy, laborious wings beating powerfully. "Where to?"

I thought quickly. "Woods. Spilt them up and lose them. Meet me back here, make sure you are followed," I spewed out, already heading for the forest just beyond the Martinez's yard. Fang nodded, then disappeared into a dense patch of trees. I went the opposite direction, glancing behind me. Seven Erasers were just behind me. Luckily for me, they looked like crappy fliers. Grinning grimly, I poured on the speed, staying just below warp-drive level so the wolf men could still track me. This could be fun.

The woods was a dingy, manmade forest, trees spaced evenly, and didn't have much room for wings. This was good news, since the Erasers' wingspan were about four or five feet wider than mine. I went as fast as I could with my wings unfolded only about halfway, and eventually I heard a pained scream and then a crash behind me. An Eraser had spread his wings too far and had clipped them on a truck at about sixty miles an hour. Idiot. I snickered as I took a sharp turn and heard another tortured cry. Another dumbbell had smashed his wing. That was two down.

I dropped down lower where the branches were bigger and more numerous and sped up. I was reaching a danger zone now. Sure, I'm a great flier, but I'm still pretty clumsy. You can only fly so fast through a forest. Eventually, you'll hit something. I remembered how we'd done this in D.C. and couldn't help but wonder how poor Iggy had managed. It seemed impossible.

Just then, a small branch that was poking out scraped against me. I felt a few feathers get yanked out. Ow. Okay, so it wasn't a gaping wound, but it still stung.

"Pay attention, Max," the Voice warned.

Oh, now you tell me.

I looked back for a moment and saw that the remaining Erasers were gaining on me. Snap-snizlle. (A/N: That is one of my anti-curse-word curse words. Weird, I know.) Time for some fancy flying.

I headed for two trees that were closer together than most, speeding up even more. Right before I broke my wings against the trunk, I turned sideways so that I was flying vertical and then twisted back around again once I was through- a tricky maneuver that Fang had a spent one long afternoon teaching me. The results were satisfying- I heard two Erasers snap both their wings against the trees. Their screams sounded like a car wreck A lovely, silky smooth car wreck.

Just three more to go.

An Eraser, (one of the better fliers of the group and the only female), had managed to get directly behind me, just a few feet away. Swearing under my breath, I dipped a bit lower and grabbed onto a thicker branch. Following my momentum, I swung around and brought my feet down against the Eraser's back hard. She yelped and dropped instantly, crash landing on the forest floor. The skin on my palm had been rubbed raw though, so I made a mental note to never try that again unless I couldn't avoid it.

Then I felt something right above me. Panicking, I looked up and sighed in relief. Just Fang. So much for meeting up in Ella's backyard.

"What's taking you so long?" Fang asked, ducking smoothly under a branch.

"I had seven Erasers. You only had five." I explained, narrowly missing another haphazard stick.


I rolled my eyes, trying to focus on the trees zooming past me. "Whatever. How'd you find me?"

"You fly loudly." Fang glanced back, muttered something, and then shot straight up through a clearing in the treetops. One of the Erasers stupidly went after him and ended up getting his huge wings tangled in the trees. One left then.

Feeling too tired to keep the chase up, I suddenly stopped entirely and grabbed the last wolfie's wings as he flew by. He screeched in agony and crumpled to the ground. Seeing a wolf mutant lying on the ground weeping pathetically is a beautiful sight, if you like that kind of thing.

I loved it.

Smiling to myself, I burst out of the woods into the night sky and found Fang, hovering in mid-air. "I do not fly loudly," I said randomly.

Fang smirked. "You do. Ask Iggy. He'll tell you."

I rolled my eyes again, which is an action you could never overuse when Fang is involved. "C'mon, let's head back to the house."

Fang drifted next to me. "Are we leaving tonight or tomorrow?" he asked quietly.

I bit my lip, smile fading out along with my adrenaline. "Tonight if we can. I don't want the Erasers following us back to the Martinez's." But I don't want to say goodbye either.

"You knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. You don't belong there."

Now was definitely not a good time to hear from the Voice. Of course I knew it was coming! But I didn't think it would be this soon!

"You don't belong there, Maximum," the Voice repeated.

All of a sudden, I was fighting back bitter tears. I don't belong anywhere! I rubbed at my eyes angrily with the backs of my hands. A movement on my left drew my attention away from the Voice. Fang. He softly brushed his wing against mine and looked at me questionably. I nodded, though I had no idea what I was answering to. Seeming doubtful, Fang edged closer till he was right above me, carefully avoiding my wings. Fortunately, it was a breezy night, so there wasn't a lot of flapping going on. He dropped down, less than a foot away, dangerously close, and pressed one hand to the small of my back, rubbing soothingly. It was so unbearably sweet of him, that I almost wanted to cry again, but I didn't because I was already starting to feel better.

I began to fall a bit from the lack of wing usage, so Fang drew away, muttering, "You'll see them again."

I sighed shakily, reconstructing my resolve. Fang always knew what was bothering me and how to fix it. He was like… a psychic, diary, and therapist all rolled into one and wrapped up in black clothes.

An idea suddenly struck me: what if Fang had another power that he didn't know about? Like… he was a peace-bringer or something like that? Voice? Does Fang have another skill? Is calming people another one of his abilities? It would explain why he could let go of his own emotions so easily and why my resolution always went to mush around him.

The Voice didn't answer me.

Which wouldn't have surprised me two years ago, but lately it had been responding to most of my questions. Hello? Are you there?



So… was I actually alone in my head for the first time in a week? I decided to test it.


Nothing. Nada. Zippo-roo.


I snapped my attention back to Fang, who was shooting me "explain before I chuck you into the funny farm" glances.

Sighing, I curtly said, "The Voice is gone." I mean- the Sexy Beast is gone.

Still nothing.

Fang didn't even ask me if I was sure. "Like last time? Where does it keep going?"

Could a Voice even go anywhere? Besides in and out of my head I mean. "I don't know. It better not leave for two years again. I don't want another brain explosion."

Fang gave me a "really? And I thought you enjoyed them" look. Man, I know him way to well.

I wiped away the salty trails left on my cheeks, raw palms stinging, as the Martinez's house showed up in my vision. It was time to leave, though I had no idea where we'd go. I couldn't let Ella and Dr. Martinez get hurt after everything they'd done for me. But that didn't make the farewell coming up any easier.

Did I ever mention that I hate goodbyes?




A/N again: Okay. Chapter over. Finally. Many people have been asking, so I will tell you: there are still about three or four chapters to go until the sequel. Maybe more. I'm not entirely sure. Which reminds me, are any of you guys reading x Step on Me x's story Me and My Gang? If you aren't, you should. If you are, REVIEW IT! Her story is nearly over and she's nowhere close to her 100 review goal. She's a great author and it's a great story. So if you have any time, review it please. It would make her day. Anyway. GOSH! So many people copying my stuff! For instance, I was reading fanfiction on the MR board and found this in acavoo's fanfic "MR3: Destiny". Here it is:

I looked at him like he was crazy. "What do you have a photographic memory or something? I think you got everything!"

"Yeah I read the dictionary once and I remember every single definition." My eyes widened and I swore they would pop out of my head and roll onto the floor.

"Fine then. What's the definition for disputation?"

"An academic exercise consisting of the arguing of a thesis between its maintainer and its opponents."

My mouth fell open. I quickly closed it and asked another word. "Deoxyribonucleic acid?"

"An extremely long macromolecule that is the main component of chromosomes and is the material that transfers genetic characteristics in all life forms, constructed of two nucleotide strands coiled around each other in a ladder-like arrangement with the sidepieces composed of alternating phosphate and deoxyribose units and the rungs composed of the purine and pyrimidine bases adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine: the genetic information of DNA is encoded in the sequence of the bases and is transcribed as the strands unwind and replicate."

My jaw dropped again, but this time I didn't close it. He just said that without even hesitating.

"Photographic memory." Fang said, tapping his temple.

"Why did you read the dictionary?"

"I was bored."

"You were bored, so you read the dictionary?"

"Yeah, so?"

"You're weird." I said, looking at him with a disbelieving look. "Who reads the dictionary." I said under my breath.

"I heard that." Fang said.

Hmm… sound familiar? I CAUGHT YOU ACAVOO! DON'T DENY IT! (BTW, great story, just read the latest chapter, update soon.) I've noticed other stuff in other people's stories too. But that's okay. I think it's funny, really. And like Max told Max 2: "They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So I guess you're really sucking up." J/K, J/K guys. But seriously. I'm going to start putting copyrights in, or something. Just in case, you know, one of these stories gets national attention, I can say it was mine and sue you. J/K. LOL. It just cracks me up whenever I recognize a line or idea in someone else's stuff. It makes me feel… influential. LOL. Anyway, send me some love and review. Like I said in my above A/N, I drop hints about the sequel to people who review lots. For instance, I just told Illa Scriptor some confidential info because she was the first person from over here to read my Edgar Allen Poe fanfic. So see, I do reward my reviewers, and I give out better stuff than cookies. (Though cookies are great.) REVIEW YOU FIENDS!

14. Old Scars, New Pain

A/N: Okay. I finally get to start the new chapter. SWEET! And I am doing some pre-writing for the sequel… (pre-writing for me is taking conversations that I know will be tough and just writing out the dialogue, no action. It's actually very helpful and gets the juices flowing.) I pre-wrote a lovely conversation between the Igster and Fangie poo at Iggy's sweet sixteen just a few minutes ago. As we all know, any conversation with Ig is going to be funny, no matter how serious it is… I started laughing madly and my mom asked me if I'd gone crazy. Aw… I can't wait to start the sequel. But first! We must finish this story. Here. We. Go.

RMF#12: I am fourteen and already have arthritis. In my fingers, wrists, and ankles. It runs in the family. My sister has arthritis in her fingers too, which sucks for her, because she's a pianist. Sometimes my fingers are too sore to type, which is why it takes awhile to update sometimes. I got arthritis in my left wrist because I have fractured it four times… (the first time it happened was actually REALLY funny… ask for the story in your review if you're interested). I have arthritis in my right ankle because I suffered a severe strain to the tendon in what I refer to as a "football accident"… (another amusing story, once again, ask if interested). The strain never healed properly because I didn't use my crutches. Bad mistake. I eventually developed arthritis there. All the arthritis flares up when it's raining, and since Jacksonville is one of the cities with the most thunderstorms, that's often.

Disclaimer: It's not mine.

Chapter Thirteen: Old Scars, New Pain




We reentered the house through the vet's still-open bedroom window. I went through first and when Fang came through I closed it behind him. I winced as I press down on the frame with my raw palms, but ignored the stinging that hung around afterwards.

We headed downstairs again and Ella glanced up at us from the TV show she was watching.

"That was quick," she commented.

Dr. Martinez had finished her paperwork and was working on Invisible Man. She looked over the top of her book. "When I said 'don't be gone long', I meant for you to be back in a couple of hours, not thirty minutes." Her eyes picked over us, noting the leaves in my hair and our tense expressions. "What's wrong?"

I opened my mouth to answer her, but my breath caught in my throat and I couldn't say it. Fang touched my wrist and answered for me. "We need to leave."

"What?" Ella asked, surprised. "Why?" The TV show played on behind her, but she ignored it, watching us intently.

I found my voice again and said, "Erasers." Short, concise, and to the point. Ella gaped at me, obviously stunned. Dr. Martinez kept it together a little better.

"They attacked you on your flight?" she questioned.

I shook my head. "They tracked off here and tried to enter the house. We chased them off, but they'll be back again with reinforcements if we don't leave soon."

"So what?" Ella said belligerently. "That doesn't mean you guys have to leave. I'm not scared of them."

"No," Fang replied flatly. "One of you two could get hurt. That wouldn't be a very nice way for us to repay you."

"But-" Ella started. Her mom cut her off.

"You aren't going to change your minds, are you?" the vet asked tiredly, addressing both of us. "You've already decided?"

We nodded, me a bit more reluctantly.

"Well, I really wish you wouldn't go. But if you feel you have too…" Dr. Martinez sighed sadly. "When will you be leaving?"

"Now," I said.

Fang and I went up stairs and packed what little we had with us. Ella followed me around, pleading with me, but I just kept shaking my head and murmuring "No," gently to her. Finally she got that I wasn't going to change my mind and left the room, crying silently. I turned and Fang's eyes met mine, holding them for a moment. His eyes were as emotionless as a blank sheet of paper, but I could see hints of remorse hidden away. Whether it was for Ella or himself or for me or whatever, I have no idea, but it was there. I started getting lost in his irises, so I broke the connection and stuffed some final items into my jam-packed backpack. Fang had already finished up, so we trooped back downstairs for some final goodbyes.

I could hardly wait. (Major sarcasm alert.)

Ella and Dr. Martinez were sitting at the dinner table, talking quietly. I was relieved to see that Ella had stopped crying, though her eyes were still puffy. She stood up when we entered and tackled me in a fierce hug, a little too reminiscent of the day I'd arrived.

"I'm going to miss you, Max," she choked out. "You'll come visit again though, right?"

"Yeah," I told her, hugging her back hard. "If I even get the slightest opportunity, believe me, I'll come." Ella nodded into my shoulder and then pulled back, rubbing at her eyes with the heels of her hands. She then turned to Fang and hugged him too. Fang instantly transformed into an unbendable statue.

"It was really, really great meeting you. I hope you come back too."

"Same here," Fang said evenly, subtly peeling her off of him, though not meanly. Fang's just not a very huggable guy.

Ella got the message and pulled back, looking to her mother. Dr. Martinez smiled sadly and embraced me also.

"Be careful, Max. Try not to get hurt. But if you do, you know where to come," she spoke softly to me. I nodded, starting to tear up again. "Remember- you're always welcome back here. You and any other strays you bring along with." I grinned just a bit and she let me go.

She turned to Fang, who automatically stiffened. She chuckled and held out a hand; he shook it gratefully.

"It was very nice to finally meet you. And the same goes to you; if you need anything, I'm always available."

Fang nodded. I didn't expect anymore out of him, but he surprised me and said solemnly, "Thank you for letting Max stay here. And me, even though you didn't know me. And thank you for taking care of my leg and…" He hesitated, glancing at me, but finished with, "…and my wing."

Wait- what? Wing? What'd he do to his wing?

Dr. Martinez smiled softly. Leaning forward, she whispered something into his ear, and for the slightest moment, I could've swore Fang blushed. But then it was gone.

Okay. What was that about?

Fang muttered, "I will," and the vet smiled again. I glanced at Ella to see if she knew what was going on, but she looked just as clueless as I did. Join the club.

Dr. Martinez turned to me and I knew that I had to go before I changed my mind. Without a word, I headed out to door into Ella's backyard, Fang following me dutifully. I gave Ella and her mom one last hug, then stepped back and ran, leaping into the air and spreading my wings. I looked back and saw Ella starting to cry again. The vet was starting to break up too. I tore my gaze away and forced myself to stare forward, locking my eyes onto a random cloud. Tears were forming, but I refused to cry again.

Fang passed over me, brushing his feather tips against mine. "Where are we going?" he asked quietly.

"As far as we can get from here before it's dark again," I replied bitterly. We had to make sure the Erasers left the Martinez's alone.

He nodded. "Which direction?"

I thought for a moment. These were the times when I wanted the Voice to pop up with an answer, because I sure didn't have one.

I let my eyes drift from their focal point and into the rising sun's glare. Dawn was here. Just another day.

"East," I decided. And so we disappeared into the light.




We flew all day. No kidding. All day. And in no general direction either. Iggy's birthday was still a week and a half away. So it wasn't time to head for Idaho yet. And since the Voice wasn't jabbering to Max, we didn't know where to go. So, we pretty much flew for three hours or so, stopped to refuel, and then headed off in a new direction. All day.

It was great.

We went east until we hit mid-Texas. Then we turned northeast all the way to Kentucky, where we stopped at Denny's for breakfast. Then we went northwest, straight over Lake Michigan and on into Minnesota. We considered moving onto Canada, (we'd never been out of the country before), but since some areas spoke French instead of English, we opted out and continued on westward to Montana and then south again.

It was pretty much a cross-country flight.

It was great.

Really, it was. I honestly couldn't remember being… happier. There weren't any Erasers after us, we didn't have some baffling destiny looming overhead, we were flying practically 24/7, and we were fed and healthy. The only flaw in the day was the absence of the rest of the flock. But I was with Max, which was better than being alone.

A whole lot better.

Max was still really upset about leaving the Martinez's, (I was too, believe it or not), but somewhere between Texas and Kentucky her gloom shrank and she let herself enjoy the day. Maybe my good mood was contagious.

Unfortunately, every great day has to end sometime or another. It was beginning to get dark when we stopped again, somewhere in northeast Colorado. All that flying around and we only ended up a couple states away from the Martinez's. We landed in the middle of a large forest, not a manmade one, but a real one. The trees were mammoth, moss dangling from their branches. It was the type of forest that horror movies should be shot in. Dark, creepy, and full of shadows.

Max hunched down and dug a bottle of Vault out from her backpack in a desperate frenzy. Although she'd managed to kick her coffee habits, she was still hooked on Vault, which was turning out to be her replacement coffee. She drained the entire twenty ounce bottle in about three gulps. Crazy addict.

I dropped my backpack with a little less gusto and glanced up at Max to see if this was where we were spending the night. I never got to ask because I noticed the odd way she was holding the empty bottle. "Max," I asked instead. "What's wrong with your hands?"

She put the empty bottle back into her bag and stared at her palms. "Ow."

"Let me see," I said impatiently. I knelt down in front of her and took one her hands, spreading her fingers carefully. She winced all the same and I saw why. The palm of her hand was one bloody, half scabbed over, mess. It looked as though she'd scarped all the skin off of her palm. It had tried to heal over, but the constant movement of her hand hadn't had our amazing healing abilities work properly. Glancing at her other palm, I saw it was the same.

"What did you do?"

Max was still staring at her hands in disbelief. "Back in the woods with the Erasers. I tried out a new maneuver. It worked, but…" she trailed off and flex the hand that I wasn't holding and winced again.

I wondered vaguely what sort of flying maneuver left you with raw hands, but I decided against elaboration. "Why didn't you tell me? Or Dr. Martinez back in Arizona?"

"I forgot," Max replied honestly. I restrained the urge to roll my eyes. How exactly you forget to mention that your hands look like a piece of uncooked steak, I will never understand. I mean, even if you have a horrendous memory, how do you go through an entire day without noting that you're in pain? I thought about asking for a better explanation, but chose not to. Max had had a lot on her mind today.

"Okay," I sighed, dragging my backpack across the ground towards us. I dug around in it single-handedly and pulled out the new and improved first aid kit. I'd upgraded it with new supplies thanks to the vet. I also took out my water bottle, (no Vault for me), and dumped about half of it over her hand. I delicately washed out the area and cleaned up the dried blood before getting out the antiseptic. I shot her a warning glance and gave her a moment to brace herself before pouring it over the raw area. She cringed, sucking in a breath, and looked away, staring at one of the moss ridden trees. I paused to let it sit for awhile and then brought out a bandage spool. I started wrapping up her hand methodically, working around her thumb and pinky, and soon her right palm was utterly mummified. I dropped it and shifted over to her left.

I picked up her left hand gingerly and pushed up her sweatshirt sleeve so I wouldn't get antiseptic or blood tainted water on it, but then I stopped.


Almost two and a half years old, and they were still there. Pale, disfiguring lines, marking the spot where the alleged chip laid. The flock doesn't scar easily, our regeneration rate sees to that. But since Max had chosen a broken shell as her weapon of choice, the cuts had been jagged and hadn't healed properly. They were still there, fresh as ever.

I had a sudden flash of déjà vu, Max and I kneeling on the ground, me bandaging her up because she hadn't told me something that was bothering her. I tried so hard to take care of Max, but if I didn't know something was wrong, how was I suppose to do that? I'm not a mind reader, despite Max's beliefs.


Her voice drove me out of memory lane. I lifted my gaze off of her arm and looked up at her, Dr. Martinez's words ringing in my ears.

"She's an amazing girl, in many ways. I can see why you care for her so much."

Was that why I bothered? Protecting Max was nearly impossible. Granted, it had been easier the last couple years without any Erasers hassling us, but they were back now, along with the nightmares and the Voice, (although it had disappeared again). I had a bad feeling that Max's destiny had come back to haunt her. I was only one guy. There was no way that I could watch out for her every second of the day. And even if I did somehow manage to do that, what about our expiration dates? One of whitecoats at Itex had said that she had one. Max was four months older than me. She would die before me anyway, and there was nothing I could do about that. So why bother?

"Thank you."

"For what?"


No. I couldn't just give up on it. Max never gave up on me, or any of us for that matter. No matter how crappy things got, Max never tossed in the towel. She'd kept us together and alive and well. And I was going to do the same for her. Even if it was impossible.

"Man, you so have a crush on her."

God, Iggy was right.


The world snapped back into focus. I blinked in surprise as I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. "Sorry," I muttered, spilling the rest of the water onto her hand and cleaning up the wound. I could feel Max staring at me, but when I put on the antiseptic, she flinched and looked away again. I began the process of bandaging her up, sinking into the rhythmic motion.

Iggy was right. Dr. Martinez was right. Somewhere along the way of our insane lives, I'd fallen for my best friend and somehow hadn't noticed. And here I'd been chiding Max for not noticing her hands were hurt all day, when I'd gone at least two and a half years without noticing… this.

Man, am I an idiot.

I finished wrapping her left palm and let it go. Max flexed her fingers, opening and closing her hands. She looked up at me and smiled. "Thanks. That's better." I smiled back faintly and she squeezed me in one quick, light hug. Max didn't initiate hugs with me very often because she knew I didn't like them much. And I don't. But I decided that from now on, I was going to appreciate every last one she gave me.

Because there was no way she could ever feel the same way about me. I would always just be a brother and friend to her, nothing more than that.

Max let me go and examined the white bandages circling her palms. "Thanks," she said again.

I could feel my heart slowly ripping apart as my last thought flooded my head. I swallowed and cast around for a topic to distract me. "Are we going to stop, or keep going?"

"Uh… stop I think. It's getting late." She looked around at the surroundings. "But I don't want to sleep here… it's…"

"Creepy," I finished.

"Yeah," Max agreed. "Where are we?"

I thought back to the last road sign I'd seen. "Otis, Colorado."

Some hint of recognition crossed her face. "Otis? Isn't Platner like, just barely to the west of Otis?"

I scanned a mental map of Colorado in my head. "Yeah," I answered vaguely, still preoccupied by my heart's agony. Just suck it up and get over it.

Max grinned. "I know somewhere we can stay then. C'mon!" She grabbed her backpack, ran a few steps and took to the air, hovering just over a knotted tree. I shoved the first aid stuff back in my bag and followed her up, pain easing away.

Maybe Max would never feel the same way I did, but I would stay right beside and protect and take care of her.

And hope…




A/N: Wow. Um… let me tell you, that was not the direction I wanted the chapter to go in. In fact, that wasn't even suppose to happen. It just kind of… wrote itself, you know? Fang was sort of OOC, but it was all in his head, so I think that's fine. If you think otherwise, please let me know. Okay. Yeah. Ugh, I hate this chapter. But that's okay. We are reaching the end of the story. Next chapter, I shall bring back a certain minor character: CHRISTIAN! Everyone's favorite coffee addict/ Motel 6 clerk. I luv that guy… anyway… REVIEW! I got practically no reviews last chapter! My heart was broken, maybe that's why I wrote such a depressing chapter. J/K guys J/K, but please review. They fill my life with joy.

15. Nothing, Something, and Anything

A/N: Wow. You guys must have liked the last chapter a lot more than I did, because it got more reviews than any other chapter so far, (either that or you all wanted to hear what a miserable klutz I am). Uh… thanks? I'm going to try to hit 300 reviews on this fanfic. Yes, that number seems impossible. But I'm going for it. 300 is a lot, which means I need a lot of reviews from you guys. Which means that I'm going to have to make these last few chapters REALLY REALLY good. (Note to Self: NO PRESSURE!) I'll try guys. I'll try. Depending on how long this chapter ends up, it may or may not include Fang's POV. (Poor Fang… I'm being so mean to him. I mean really, who DIDN'T feel bad for Fang last chapter? I thought that chapter sucked, but I still felt bad for him. Poor guy… and it's only gonna get worse.) But anyway: REVIEW LIKE CRAZY GUYS! And sorry that this took so long.

RMF#13: Me + Stairs Chaos. Seriously. Do not stick me on stairs, because I'll find some way to fall. Take for instance last Sunday. I was innocently walking down this HUGE staircase made out of marble, (MARBLE! WHO MAKES STAIRS OUT OF MARBLE, IT'S ONE OF THE SLIPPEREST MATERIALS ON EARTH), when all of a sudden, I felt my feet DISAPPEAR. Now, I've done this at least 117 times, so I have a quick reaction speed. I get this DEATH GRIP on the guardrail and fold my knees. It worked. Sort of. I fell down a few stairs but not too many. But I have this gigantic bruise on my leg now. When I say gigantic, I mean like, the size of a grown man's hand. OUCHIE!

Disclaimer: It's not mine.

Copyright: BUT IT IS MINE. (That's right, the idea/dialogue thievery has gotten way out of hand. I still think it's pretty funny… but I'm still sticking in a copyright.)

Chapter Fourteen: Vengeful Returns (Part One)




I could tell Fang was at least vaguely surprised when we landed within walking distance of the Motel 6. We didn't stay at hotels, or motels, very often because there was a better chance of being spotted and it was harder to fly away and it cost money and… well, we didn't stay at them very often. But I'd spent the last couple of weeks sleeping on a nice, soft bed in a nice, safe house, and what can I say, I liked it.

"Why are we here?" he asked, folding his wings and pulling on a windbreaker.

I slipped on my own jacket and stuck my hands in my pockets. It was a lot colder up here than it had been in Arizona. "Because I know someone who works here. Or worked here, I don't know if he's still a desk clerk," I added. Fang gave me his "you're crazy, but if you say so…" look as he grabbed his backpack and we set off for the motel in pure silence.

As I've said before, walking is annoying. I really don't get how regular people stand it. I mean, flying kicks walking's butt any day. I guess it would kind of be like if for some reason, you, (as in humans), were forced to crawl everywhere. Understand my misery now? I glanced over at Fang and automatically summed up how he was feeling by evaluating his demeanor. It had become a game over the last couple of years. Guess Fang's Mood! I was getting pretty good at it, though I highly doubted I'd ever be able to read him like he read me.

Okay. He was walking slower than he usually did, though that was probably because he was matching my stride. He was walking left foot first, which he didn't normally do. He had his hands deep in his pockets and he was staring absently at the ground. And, (most important detail), he had the hood of his black, (of course), jacket up over his head, making him appear more Goth than he already appeared. Fang never wears his hood up. Not even when it's raining.

Man, this was a toughie. Grouchy? No, Fang walks faster when he's grouchy. Mad? Fang's rarely mad, and, as far as I knew, I hadn't done anything to make him mad. Depressed? Fang had gotten over his depression when he was around twelve and a half. Sad? Why would Fang be sad? We'd just spent an entire day flying. Flying. Fang loves flying. Flying and Fang are like, like, synonyms.

It hit me with all the raging glory of one of the Gasman's farts. Pensive. Fang was deep in thought. I mentally applauded myself and imagined the game show host handing over the prize, a new car! I should become one of those body language analysts. Compared to Fang, figuring out other people's emotions was a piece of cake.

I guess Fang felt me watching him, because he lifted his head and turned towards me. I looked away, concentrating my vision on the Motel 6's blue and red sign. I felt him stare at me for a while, but after a few moments the sensation was gone. I heard him sigh quietly as we approached the hotel.

I paused outside the door and peered through the fogged-up glass. And there, sitting lazily up at the desk was my fellow caffeine addict, Christian.

"He's here," I muttered to Fang. He looked over my head with mild interest. "C'mon," I said, opening the door, sending the bell into a startling ring.

Christian jumped in his seat, instantly replying with a moaned remix of "Good evening".

"God, Chris, it's only nine-thirty and you're already down and out," I said. He nodded sleepily in agreement, then my voice registered and he looked up at me, clearly surprised.

"Well, if it isn't my favorite starving street urchin," he yawned. "And I'm tired because I haven't had my coffee since you left. No one else will get it for me." He held up his empty cup and waved it at me. I took it, laughing, and filled it to the top, just plain black. He took it from me hungrily and downed about a third of it in a single gulp. He looked up again with renewed zeal, finally noticing Fang sulking behind me.

"My favorite starving street urchin with an extra in tow." He extended his mug free hand over the counter. "I'm Christian." Fang stepped forward and removed his hand from his pocket long enough to reluctantly shake.


Man, if Fang ever wants Iggy to stop calling him "Fnick", he's really got to stop using that false name.

Chris nodded sociably, and then took got down to business, sipping some more joe. "I'm guessing you need a room," he remarked, typing lethargically on the computer keyboard.

"You guessed right."

He nodded again. "Do you actually know when you're checking out or are you just going to leave randomly in the middle of your gigantic breakfast again?"

"We're leaving tomorrow." Had to stay on the move.

Christian yawned while trying to say "okay" at the same time. He scanned the computer screen slowly. "You're in luck; there is exactly one room left. It's a single though, is that alright?"

I glanced at Fang who gave me one of his classic "your call" shrugs. It didn't really matter since one of us would have to be on watch anyway. Even if we weren't doing watches tonight, I couldn't fall asleep anymore if Fang wasn't right next to me. I had gotten too used to it, and besides I had a sneaking suspicion that if he weren't nearby the nightmares would make a vengeful return. "That's fine," I answered.

Chris's eyes roamed over us suspiciously for a moment, but then he disregarded it with a shrug equivalent to Fang's. He fiddled around under the desk and came up with a plain plastic card, which he handed to me. "Okay. Your room number's 214. I'm working the morning shift tomorrow, so I'll see you then with another food to feed three countries' militaries and then some."

I smiled and poked Fang's side. "Just so you know now, Nick eats more than I do."

Christian shook his head. "That's not possible."

I laughed, filled up Chris's cup one last time, and forked over the cash before Fang and I headed for room 214.




By some sort of miracle I convinced Fang to shower first. When he came out, hair dripping onto the cheap carpet, I went in and enjoyed twenty solid minutes of bliss. Then the hot water disappeared, so I got out and toweled off. I put on some night clothes and walked out of the miniature bathroom brushing my teeth.

Fang sitting in the chair next to the heater, still deep in thought. He was turning out to be quite the space cadet. Weird, since he'd been borderlining on happy just a few hours ago. And they say girls have mood swings. I'll never understand guys.

I took my toothbrush out of my mouth and said, "I've got first watch," around a mouthful of minty fresh lather. Or that's what I was supposed to say. It came out totally different. Fang turned his head towards me and raised his eyebrows. I sighed, went back to the sink, and spat out my toothpaste.

I tried again. "I've got first watch."

Fang sort of nodded. His suspicious lack of argument was worrying. "What's the matter?" I asked.

That snapped him out of it. He actually looked at me. "Me" as in me and not some dust particles floating somewhere over my right shoulder. "What?"

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Something's wrong. I know something is wrong."

"It's nothing."

"No it's not."

"It's nothing."

"If it's nothing, then why is it bothering you?"


I almost rolled my eyes. He was using that no-more-than-two-words rule again. And he'd said 'because'. People only use 'because' in an argument when they've got nothing to back them up. "Because what?"

"Because it's something."

I wanted to wring his neck. I really did. At least he'd said three words. "I thought it was nothing."

"It is nothing."

I sighed angrily. I could literally hear, and feel, my pulse increasing. "Fang-," I started severely. He didn't let me get too far.

"Max, look. Something is wrong, but it's stupid, okay? And- there's nothing you can do about it. Unless-," he broke off, resting his head over the edge of the chair and staring at the ceiling. He ran his hands over his face, stopping over his eyes. "Just- drop it. Okay?" he muttered, still covering his eyes.

I stared at him. Fang had been this close to losing his patience with me. Fang never loses his patience with me, or anybody. God, something was wrong. But what? I mentally went through the day. The only bad things I could remember was leaving the Martinez's house and my hands. But I had a lot more reason to be upset over leaving Ella's than Fang did. And why would my hands be bothering him? I reverted my gaze to the bandages wrapped flawlessly across my palms. Had something bad happened that I didn't know about? That couldn't be, we'd been together the entire day.

What the crap is bothering Fang?

Why won't he tell me?

These were the times when I really, really, really wished I had Angel, my little mind reader, with me.

After a few tension loaded minutes, Fang removed his hands and looked at me, finished with restoring his calm. "I'm sorry, Max, I am. But I can't talk about. I just can't."

I shook my head slowly. "You can't talk about anything."

Fang looked as through I'd just stuck a knife through his intestines. For a moment, at least. Then it was gone. "Max…"

I cut him off. "No. If I can't hear what the heck's wrong with my best friend, then I don't want to hear anything else." He started to say something but I stopped him again. "Just go to bed, Fang."

We both stayed there for a while, glaring at each other. Or, I guess I should say staring in Fang's case. He was mad at me, I could tell. But he was also surprised and upset and, well, sad. But then, finally, he stood, without a word, and walked to the bed, disappearing under the covers, his back and wings facing me.

I sank down into his unoccupied chair, pulling my knees up to my chin, and struggling against the forming tears. All I could hear was one line from that stupid Dr. Phil show coursing over and over in my head.

"The most important rule for any relationship is to never go to sleep angry."

When Fang's breathing slowed into a rhythmic pattern and I knew he was out, I buried my face in my knees and cried as quietly as I could. Oh God, what was happening to us? What happened? What happened, what happened, what happened…

I had maybe an hour and a half of my shift left when the brain explosion hit.




A/N again: Sorry this was shorter than usual. But it was getting long, and I wanted to post. Looks like this will be another one of my infamous divided chappies.

Once again, another ending I SWEAR I didn't intend for. Man, this is turning into quite the little angst novel.

This chapter was kind of ironic. In certain parts. Dramatic irony, what fun. Did anyone else catch it? Here's a hint: it was mostly towards the beginning.

Also, at least two people asked for my injury stories, but left me with no means of contact, so whoever you are, please give me an e-mail address or something if you want to hear them.

I have a challenge for y'all. Can any of you find the storyline mistake I made in the chapter Close Encounters with the Thug Kind? First three people who spot it and tell me win a fabulous prize of more classified information. So, anyone up for the challenge?

…I'm so mean to Fang…

REVIEW! Remember, I'm aiming for the big three-oh-oh.

16. Vengeful Returns

A/N: Gah! Nobody could find the mistake. Most people guessed it had something to do with the number of bullies Max beat up in the original story. Nope. Someone else said something about the flour. Nope. The mistakes was, when I wrote that chapter, I forgot that the setting was sometime during January, and said that it was hot. Although I'm sure Arizona doesn't exactly freeze over during the winter, it wouldn't be HOT. Oopsie. Aw well. No one noticed but me, so it doesn't really matter. Anyway! God, I have so much homework. This week I got a grand slammin' total of 10 hours of sleep. 10 HOURS! In SEVEN DAYS. Something tells me that's not healthy. That's all I have to say. WAIT!

(Cough cough. Pay attention to the images in the brain explosion, they'll be important later cough hint hint cough.)

Alright. Now I'm done. Oh wait, I almost forgot. I FINALLY READ NEW MOON! (The sequel to Twilight.) IT WAS FRICKIN' AWESOME! Though Edward was gone for practically 400 pages, that SUCKED! I would elaborate, but I don't want to give any of it away in case someone has yet to read it. (And if you haven't read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, you have no idea what you're missing.)

RMF#14: I hate music. I know- gasp! What a horrible human being I am. Everyone likes music! Well, guess what- I don't. My sister's a piano major, so it's agony for me to sit through her practicing every night. I have never once gone to a single one of her recitals. I do listen to music, but I only listen to it for the words. I love lyrics. I really really love lyrics. But I hate music. (This is the main reason why I never write songfics.)

Disclaimer: I do not own it.

Copyright: But I do own it.

Chapter Fifteen: Vengeful Returns (Part Two)




I had maybe an hour and a half of my shift left when the brain explosion hit.

My bandaged hands clutched my head in a pathetic last attempt to keep my skull from splitting. It was just like the last time, horribly, unbearably painful. Imagine a minefield of nuclear bombs detonating inside your brain. I know, not a very original simile, but I couldn't really think straight right now. Right now, I was praying, praying, praying that the pain would either stop or kill me. I really didn't care which option.

Somewhere, miles away, I heard whimpering, like a dog. Then the images starting going, epileptic burst playing across my eyelids. None of them stuck around long enough for my agonized mind to comprehend. I felt myself fall out of the chair and hit the ground hard. That'd leave a bruise, but it didn't matter because all I could think was begging God to make it stop somehow. The pain faded away from a moment only to come back with a fierce new determination. I cried softly. How in the world was I supposed to live through this? Just let me die, just let me die, let me die, let me die, God let me die…

I felt something around me and against my ear and my tangled senses managed to decipher it. Someone holding me, speaking in my ear. Fang. It was always Fang.

The images slowed down just enough to tell them apart. A dilapidated hotel, a street corner, a church, a tree trunk with writing on it, a woman's dead body, a laptop, a destitute village, an Eraser coughing…

Then they stopped. The pain very slowly faded out. And for just a second before it all ended, I could hear ragged breathing in my head.

But then there was nothing.

I cautiously let go of my skull. Pieces of bones weren't sticking to my palms. That was a good sign. My brain was throbbing. I was reminded of when Fang dislocated my shoulder and Jeb popped it back in. This was just like that. Maybe I'd dislocated my brain stem.

I opened my eyes and closed them in a millisecond. Ouch. It was still dark, but all the color still hurt like crap. It was like all my senses had been rubbed raw.

"…More or less…"

Now there was something I hadn't heard in a while.

"Max?" Ow. Even Fang's already practically inaudible voice was like a puncture wound to my mind. "How do you feel?"

"…Like crap…" I moaned. I buried my face into his shoulder in a sad attempt to hide from all the stimuli in the world. It didn't quite work.

"Is the Voice back?" I felt him very softly stroking my hair, and it stung and felt good at the exact same time.

I nodded into his T-shirt. And let me tell you- cotton hurts when your senses are on overload.

"What does it say?"

Uh… Voice?


Where the heck have you been? What's with the brain explosion?

"I had to leave. There was no choice in the matter. And then I had to come back."

Yeah, I got the gist of that. You going to elaborate on any of the points?

"…No details…" Was it just me, or did the Voice sound… tired? "I'm sorry that it hurts. But it's going to happen again."

It's going to happen again… there was simply no way in the world that I'd be able to stand another brain explosion. Especially if one came when I was flying or running from Erasers or something like that.

"They won't come when you're flying or running, I can guarantee you that. Why do you think I waited until you were in a hotel room before I re-manifested?"


Fang. What had he asked me? I blinked struggling to keep up with dual conversations. "It says that it had to leave and then it had to come back and that it had no control over the situation. And… the Voice said that I was going to have… more brain explosions," I answered. I felt Fang suddenly tense.

"More?" he breathed.

"Yeah." I could feel him stiffening more, if that was possible. "What's wrong?" Then I remembered what had happened the last time I'd asked that and I felt like kicking myself.

Fang hesitated, shifting a little so he could see me better. "I could hear you muttering… 'let me die, let me die'… over and over," he explained quietly. I could sense him watching me, so I rearranged my expression carefully.

"Yeah… it hurt…" I replied lamely. Fang shot me the classic "No! Really?" as he rubbed me between my wings. "I'm fine, really." I added, ignoring the eruptions going on in my brain.

"No, you're not," Fang murmured, gently guiding my head back to his shoulder. I sighed, closing my eyes; they'd been starting to sting. I just stayed there a while, resting and trying to settle the contents of my stomach. I knew I was probably going to puke like last time, but I was too sore to deal with it.

The pain in my head was nothing compared to the torture my conscience was suffering though. Fang was being so sweet to me after I'd been so mean to him. It made me feel like some sort of monster. Fang had always, always, always been the better person.

"God, Fang, I'm so sorry," I cried suddenly, unable to stand it anymore. He didn't need to ask what for.

Fang carried on rubbing my back, murmuring, "It doesn't matter, Max."

What a lie. "Yes, it does." I moved my head back to look at him, ignoring the Technicolor brightness of the world burning against my retinas. "I'm sorry."

Fang shook his head, long bangs concealing his eyes. "It was just the truth."

"That doesn't make it okay." It didn't. Like, if a pregnant lady asks you how she looks, you don't say 'like a cow'.

Fang continued to shake his head in disagreement, pulling me closer to him. I wanted him to yell at me, to give me the silent treatment, to do something, but like I said before, Fang never loses his patience with me. Never. Ever.

I really, really wished he would. Then, maybe I wouldn't feel like such a pathetic excuse for a ninety-eight percent human being.

"I'm such a jerk," I muttered to myself. Fang brushed my hair out of my face, tucking it behind my ear.

"You are not."

"I am." I could tell that this would somehow develop into another argument, so I raised my head and kissed his cheek lightly before burying my face back into his shoulder. Screw him being awkward with affectionate gestures. He needed one, whether he liked it or not.
And I needed a barf bag. Now. "I think I'm going to throw up," I announced as calmly as possible. Fang glanced at my green expression and quickly stood, bringing me up with him cautiously. He hurriedly led me to the tiny bathroom and I bent over the sink, heaving my guts out. Fang held back my hair, and when I was done, he reached around me and turned onto the water full blast to wash the puke down the drain. I leaned against the wall weakly, sliding down slowly, my legs a little wobbly.

Fang hovered over me, concern sneaking through his usual mask. He pressed his palm softly against my sweaty forehead. "You've got a fever," he declared. "A high one."

This just hadn't been my day. "I feel fine," I mumbled.

"Stop lying. You need to sleep," Fang instructed.

"My shift isn't over yet," I protested. Fang ignored me and lifted me up as easily as though I weighed seven pounds and not seventy. He carried me back to the bed bridal style and set me down carefully. I shivered and he tucked the covers up to my chin.

Touching my skin again, he muttered, "You're running at least one hundred and seven degrees." To you humans, that maybe fatal, but we bird-kids have a higher than normal body temperature. Still, one hundred and seven wasn't good.

Voice? Are you still there?


Why do I keep getting fevers? And the nausea?

The Voice was silent. I figured it wouldn't answer me, but finally it said, "Well Maximum, why do people get fevers or nausea?

Because the body is trying to get rid of something that shouldn't be there…I trailed off, understanding what the Voice was hinting at. What's that suppose to mean?

"Whatever you take it to mean."

Great. More psychological mumbo-jumbo. Just what I needed when my brain felt like it's been hit by a Mach truck.

I looked up just in time to see Fang coming out of the bathroom with a damp washcloth. He folded it meticulously and place it over my head. It felt incredibly good. "Thanks," I sighed, letting my eyelids sag. "And sorry."

I felt Fang sit on the edge of the bed. "What for?"

I opened my eyes to stare at him; he seemed genuinely confused. Well, Fang-confused at least. "You know," I said.

Comprehension crossed his face and he looked away from me, staring distantly at one of the lamps. I knew my harsh words were probably running through his head, emphasized by his perfect memory. You can't talk about anything. "It was just the truth," he repeated, stubbornly.

"I'm still sorry." Fang's turn to sigh. I decided to try a different track. "Do you forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive," Fang muttered, still intensely focused on the lamp. I started to vocalize my disagreement, both he held up a hand to stop me, turning slightly to meet my eyes. "I'm not upset with you, Max. I'm upset with myself, okay?"

"Why?" I asked, instantly regretting it. I bit my lip; this was almost exactly how the argument had started. Me and my big mouth.

Fang stared down at his feet, but not before I noticed the pain in his eyes. He didn't say anything for so long that I started to wonder if he was even going to answer me. Finally he said so quietly that I almost missed it, "Because I can't talk about. Not right now."

Because? What? I focused beyond my fever, trying to make sense of what he said. He was upset with himself because he couldn't talk about what was wrong? What? I latched unto the last part though. "Not right now? You will tell me sometime?" I questioned.

Fang looked up at me slowly, examining my face. "Yeah," he decided. "I will tell you. Sometime." It sounded like he was talking more to himself than to me.

Something big had just happen, but I had no idea what. And my brain was to sore right now to think about it. I rested my head against the pillow and closed my eyes tiredly. I felt Fang watching me for a while, but then I heard him stand silently. My sleepy thoughts automatically turned to the nightmares and my hand shot out, snagging onto his wrist.

"Stay," I pleaded, too exhausted to bother with full sentences. Fang nodded, gently prying my hand off his arm. He walked to the other side of the bed and sat down, back against the headboard. Touching his cool fingers to my shoulder, Fang muttered, "Good night."

"G'night," I breathed, letting sleep take me.

"…Good night, Max. You'll feel better tomorrow."

I better.

The last thing I remember before I was down and out, was hearing Fang singing very softly to himself. I couldn't hear any of the words, but I vaguely recognized the tune. This meant that the song was most likely by one of Iggy's favorite bands, though that didn't narrow it down much, seeing as to how Iggy had more than eighty 'favorite' bands. Either way, it surprised me, because Fang never sings. Doesn't even hum.

"Go easy on him. He's going through a tough time."

What happened? I asked desperately. I couldn't help him if I didn't know what was wrong. And there was no way I was going to let him go through another depression. It was bad enough when we were twelve. What's wrong with Fang?

"It's not my place to tell you. Either figure it out, or wait. He'll tell you when he can. Just go to sleep."

I sighed softly and did what I was told.




A/N again: Sorry that this was short. And bad. And dull. It was a chapter part though, so no complaining. I promise you Fang's POV next chapter.

OMG! I just found out the title of the third Maximum Ride book. It is… (drum roll please)…. MAXIMUM RIDE: SAVING THE WORLD AND OTHER EXTREME SPORTS!It comes out in May 2007! OMG, I so cannot wait. How did I find this out? Just check out the blogs on Maximum Ride's myspace. OMG! I am so frickin' excited. Aren't we all?

I have a challenge, (since no one won the last one…). Can anyone tell me the name of the song at the end of this chapter? Just give me the title. I'll give you 2 hints:

I'm a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. They have the best lyrics. (Coughcoughhinthint.)

"By the Way" was the best album they ever made, in my opinion. (Coughcoughhinthint.)

First person to tell me the title wins some classified info. Toodles.



17. Questions

A/N: I have an announcement to make… WE JUST BROKE THE 300 REVIEWS BARRIER! OMFG! Wow… uh… THANKS! We are currently at 325 reviews. Man, that's a butt load. Wow. Thank you guys! On to other news: SOMEONE ACTUALLY WON THE CHALLENGE THIS TIME! A lot of people either guessed "By the Way" or "The Zephyr Song" and although they are both awesome songs, they weren't the song I was thinking of. Although "The Zephyr Song is very relevant to the story, I was thinking of a certain song that fit the context. Anyway, the WINNER was… Ivisableshadow! However, Ivisable-shadow was an anonymous review and they didn't leave me any form of contacting them. So, IS, if you're reading this, please send me some way to talk to you so you can receive your fabulous prize. Oh, the SONG was: "I Could Die for You" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Here's the lyrics:

Something inside the cards
I know is right.
Don't want to live
Somebody else's life.
This is what I want to be,
And this is what I give to you
Because I get it free.
She smiles while I do my time.

I could die for you.
Oh this life I choose.

I'm here to be your only go between,
To tell you of the sights
These eyes have seen.
What I really want to do is
Turn it into motion,
Beauty that I can't abuse.
You know that I'd use my senses to.
You can see that
It's only everywhere.
I'd take it all and then
I'd find a way to share.

Come along and go,
Along with me.
Wander with me yo,
It's all for free.

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

Come again and tell me
Where you want to go.
What it means to me
To be with you alone.
Close the door and
No one has to know,
How we are.

Come along and go,
Along with me.
Wander with me yo,
It's all for free.

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

(Makes me wanna say)

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

I could die for you.
What you wanna do?
Oh this life I choose.

It is a great, great, sad, sweet song. And it fits the context in many different ways, some more subtle than others. For instance, the first few lines, "Something inside the cards/ I know is right". Anybody remember in TAE when the flock had just gotten Angel out of the School and she had told them the little bits and pieces about their parents? And remember what Fang told Max later? "'On the one hand, we have a mythical nice family that wants to adopt me. On the other, we have a gang of insane scientist scientists desperate to do genetic experiments on innocent children. Guess which hand I get dealt?'" (pg. 231). And you know that old metaphor that your life is a hand of cards fate dealt you? Get it? Get it? Anyway. There are other things about the song and it's relation to the last chapter that I could point out, but I'm too lazy. So adios. No Random Myrah Fact this time because this Author Note is already huge.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.

Copyright: But I do own the plot. So no stealing!

Chapter Sixteen: Vengeful Returns (Part Three)

WARNING: OOCness on Fang's part. (But it's in his head, so don't complain!)




Max crashed long and hard. The sun slowly inched its way over the horizon, then climbed steadily through the sky. It was late in the morning, I was tired and hungry. It had been a pretty crappy night, as nights go. First Max's hands and my belated epiphany, then the argument and the brain explosion.

I stared out the window at the sky, really wishing I could take off and just forget everything. But I couldn't. And I wouldn't. Whether she liked it or not, Max neededme and I needed her. It was an unspoken agreement between the two of us, dating back to the early days at the School. Just like Iggy needed someone to guide him and Nudge needed someone to talk to, Max and I just needed someone to understand. Sure, we argued. We argued all the time, but it was mostly just personality clashes.

Not like last night. Last night we crossed a line.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Something's wrong. I know something is wrong."

Closing my eyes and pressing my forehead to my knees, I sighed. I could sense Max's presence next to me, still and warm. Something was wrong, but there was no way either of us could fix it. Max couldn't change the way she felt about me. I'd already missed my chance, way back at the beach outside New York. The opening had been there and I'd let it slip through my fingers because I didn't understand my own feelings. Now, I did understand, but it was to late. It'd showed up for the party, but it was already over.

"I'm sorry, Max, I am. But I can't talk about. I just can't."

"You can't talk about anything."

No matter how many times Max apologized and no matter how much she meant it, it didn't matter. People are always the most honest when they are angry. What Max had said was the truth, we both knew it. I couldn't talk about anything, nothing of importance at least. I was just too… scared. Physical pain I could deal with, that was nothing. I was no stranger to physical pain. But my heart was too raw to take much emotional pain. I couldn't talk about things because when people know how you feel, it's like handing them a loaded gun; they are in complete control. That's how you wind up getting hurt.

"Do you forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive. I'm not upset with you, Max. I'm upset with myself, okay?"

Why couldn't I just be like normal people? Or at least be like normal freaks? None of the rest of the flock had trouble sharing emotion. Max didn't like it when other people knew how she felt, but she knew when it was getting out of hand and she had to tell someone. But I was too weak to do that. Max had always been the stronger person.


"Because I can't talk about it. Not right now."

"Not right now? You will tell me sometime?"

"Yeah, I will tell you. Sometime."

But I wouldn't leave it like that. I would tell her how I felt, someday, sometime, when I could handle it. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, or next year, but someday. I would make sure she knew, even if it took me the rest of my life span to utter three simple words.

It was a new day. Last night was officially in the past.

I raised my head up off my knees and watched Max sleep, expression calm and serene, untampered by nightmares. Sometime during the night, Max had snared my wrist in the soft trap of her fingers. My arm had fallen asleep in the awkward position, but I didn't mind much. After all, if this was all I was ever going to get, I might as well savor it.

Moving as little as possible, I reached over with my free hand and carefully touched her forehead. She still felt warm, but the fever was gone. That, at least, was good news. Hesitating a moment first, I began to trail my fingertips over her skin, lightly tracing the contours of her face. Max murmured something and I drew back, feeling slightly guilty. Max subconsciously tightened her grip on my wrist, cutting off any circulation I had left. I gently pried her hand off my arm, and my hand tingled sharply as the blood started rushing into it unhindered.

I knew I should have woken Max up hours ago; we needed to leave before the Erasers showed up here. But Max also needed her rest, so I shut down the logic screaming in my head and let Max sleep undisturbed.

However, half an hour later, the screams of my growling stomach had joined in with my logic. It was around ten in the morning, making it almost fifteen hours since I'd last ate. With my metabolism, that would be as though a human like yourself didn't eat for a week and a half. And where my logic wouldn't sway me, starvation could.

Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I walked over to Max. I stood over her for a moment, memorizing the peaceful look on her face, before I shook her shoulder and said loudly, "Max."

Max cracked her eyelids open and looked up at me blearily. "What?"

"It's ten." That got her moving. Max sat up slowly, propping herself up with her elbows.

"Ten? Why didn't you wake me up earlier?" she asked, rubbing sleep out of her eyes.

"Because you're sick."

"I feel fine now." I examined her closely, to make sure she wasn't bluffing. She still looked tired, but she seemed healthy otherwise.

"Because you were sick," I edited.

She couldn't disagree with that. Max sat up a little straighter and then suddenly touched her temple, eyes staring blankly ahead. The Voice. I gritted my teeth, waiting. After a few moments, Max blinked and fixed a fresh stare on me. "Jeez, you can go eat, Fang," she said.

"I'm not hungry," I replied, while my stomach began to digest itself.

"No, you're starving. Go eat." She watched, waiting for me to move. I didn't. Max sighed. "Eat, Fang. I'll be down in fifteen minutes. Okay? Now go eat before you faint."

I was feeling sort of light headed. I gave in and shoved my boots on before walking out the door and heading downstairs. It occurred to me on the middle of the staircase, that the Voice must have told Max I was hungry. But if the Voice came from the chip in her arm, then how would it know I was hungry? And what was with all the brain explosions? And the vomiting and fevers? I paused at the bottom of the stairs, thinking. Who was the Voice? What was the Voice? Mostly likely, it was a whitecoat; after all, Max wasn't just born with a computer chip in arm. Was it Jeb? Both Jeb and the Voice had been telling her to save the world. Whatever that meant.

We were going to have to have a serious talk about this.

My stomach grumbled at me to get a move on, so I did, walking hurriedly to the lobby. That Christian guy was still at the front desk, reading the sports section of the newspaper. I hesitated a second, then opened the door, ringing the bell overhead. Christian glanced up from an article about some football game. "'Morning."

I nodded, trying to keep any conversation I had with this guy to the minimum. I couldn't just talk to random strangers, it was too weird. Max, on the other hand, made friends where ever she went. Same with Iggy. And Nudge. And Gasman and Angel and Total. Okay, pretty much everyone but me. I scanned the room, quickly found a miniature breakfast setup, and headed over to it. I grabbed a stack of bagels and a whole bunch of those tiny jelly cartons, before sitting down. I could feel Christian's eyes on me as I meticulously peeled the lid off of one of the jellies.

"Nick, right?"

Darnnit. I nodded vaguely, smearing a bagel with grape before shoving it all in my mouth.

"How old are you? Eighteen?" Christian persisted.

I nodded again, chewing idly on the too-sweet pastry. Eighteen? Why not? I was tall enough to pass for it.

"Not much of a talker, are you?" I shook my head, still savoring the only food substance I'd had in over half a day. "My step-dad was like that. Never said more than a few words to me."

I picked up another bagel and started layering it with strawberry jelly, still eating my first one. Christian watched me in silence for a moment before shooting out the last thing I was expecting.

"So, is Max your girlfriend or what?"

I almost choked. What was that supposed to mean? I swallowed the food in my mouth and glared at the hotel clerk. He raised his hands in defense.

"Just asking, I swear. Are you?"

I stared him down, but he seemed to just be sincerely curious. "No," I deadpanned.

"Well, that got a reaction," Christian chuckled. I continued to glare at him so he quickly stopped. "So, what are you two then?"

I sighed, taking a bite of my second bagel. There wasn't going to be an easy yes-or-no answer to this one. "Old friends."

"How old?"

"…We've known each other since we were little kids. We grew up next door from each other." Yeah, if 'next door' means the dog crate to the left of yours.

"Where are you from?" Chris asked, chugging some coffee.

A place called "The School" a little north from Death Valley… real good neighborhood for couples to settle down, very family oriented. "Chicago."

Christian looked skeptical. "Really? Neither of you guys have much of an accent."

"We've been traveling a lot." Onto my third bagel.

"Oh. You two are backpacking it?"

"Something like that. After graduation plan."

Christian nodded, ripping open a packet of sugar and pouring it into his cup. "Sweet."

I nodded, shoving the rest of bagel number three into my mouth. Thankfully, it was then that Max shoved up with both our backpacks in tow, door clanging against the bell.

"Hey, Christian," Max said, sitting down across from me. She smiled at me and stole a bagel from my stack, before handing me my bag.

Hey, Max," the clerk replied. "You guys checking out, then?"

"Yeah." Max tossed the card key to the hotel room door at him.
"Good, because my shift is officially over," Chris said, looking out the glass door. I glanced over and saw an older, grumpy looking lady in the same uniform as him slamming her car door shut. "Bye Max." He looked at me and grinned. "Nice meeting you, Nick. Next time either of you are in the area…" He trailed off and waved goodbye as the grouch woman came in and he left.

Max waved after him and then turned back to me, taking a bite out of what had originally been my bagel. "Nice guy."

I shrugged noncommittally, drowning a new bagel in cream cheese. "I need to ask you about something," I muttered, lowering my voice so that the replacement clerk wouldn't overhear.

Max poured herself some orange juice before filling another glass for me. "What?"

"The Voice."

Max glanced up at me in slight surprise. "You already know most of it."

"I need to know all of it."

Max drank some juice, making a sort of 'ask away' gesture with her free hand. I made a mental note to myself to check her palms once I got the chance.

I thought for a second, tearing a bagel in half, wondering where to start. "What does it sound like?"

Max swallowed. "Nothing. Doesn't sound male or female. I have no idea how old it is, or what race. I don't even really know if it's a person or not, though it probably is. I don't think machines can be sarcastic."

I frowned to myself; that wasn't much of a help. "What sort of words or phrases does it use?"

Max mused for a second, reaching over her shoulder and pulling a doughnut out of a box. "I don't know. It likes to talk in riddles a lot. It uses my full name occasionally. Sometimes it sounds kind of annoyed with me, sometimes it's patient. It sounds pretty smart…" Max trailed off, shrugging.

"Have you ever just asked it who it was?"

Max frowned. "Not really." She stared over my head at the opposite wall for a moment, then refocused back on me. "The Voice says it can't tell me yet."

Of course it can't. I started eating again, drinking some of the orange juice. "How much does it know?"

"What do you mean?"

"I know that it can tell what you're feeling. But can it tell what I'm thinking or what that lady over there is thinking?" I nodded my head to the grumpy lady, who looked over at me suspiciously.

Max's expression went blank as she spoke to the Voice in her head. "It says you don't need to know."

I sighed, stuffing a final bagel into my mouth. So much for the Voice being helpful. "Do you know anything about the Voice?"

Max thought, tracing the rim of the plastic cup. "Well… last night… it sounded kind of… tired. And it when I asked about the fevers and the nausea, it asked me why people get those sorts of things. Which is because… the body's trying to get rid of something that shouldn't be there…"

I looked up at her sharply. "The chip." It was more of a statement than a question. Max nodded darkly in agreement.

Perfect. It seemed that after almost three years, we still didn't know much more about the Voice than we did when it first invaded Max's brain.

"Why the sudden curiosity?" Max asked lightly.

I shrugged. "Just thinking." I downed the rest of my juice. I was still hungry, but we needed to get on the move again; we'd already been here too long. "You ready to get out of here?"

"If you are." Max smiled at me again and I looked away before a blush could work up in my cheeks. She grabbed her backpack off the floor. "Let's blow this joint."




A/N: For anyone who didn't get the whole "Is Max your girlfriend" thing- typically when a guy asks another guy that, it means that that guy was fooling around with the other guy's girl. Man, that sounded confusing.

Here's another announcement: if any of you guys have read the Artemis Fowl Series, the first part of my AF twoshot is up. Yea. It's pretty short, but that's just the first part. Second part will be up very soon. Anyway, on to this story.

Northern Star asked me if this story will continue after MR3 comes out. Firstly: MR3 isn't going to be out until MAY. By then, I'll probably be already through about a third of the sequel. Secondly: I know that if I abandon this story, several people will hunt me down and kill me. Thirdly: I get paid to write this fanfic, so there is no way in heck I'm gonna stop writing it. I've got a contract to fulfill. However, I may or may not make this a trilogy. Whether or not I'll do a trilogy depends on a) the popularity of the sequel, b) how much homework I have, c) how much energy I have, and d) whether or not I feel like doing it.

I promise you I will finish the sequel, regardless of MR3. But first I must warn you: I'm going to answer a lot of questions that the real books bring up in my sequel. These are MY THEORIES. If I happen to guess one right and it shows up in MR3 before I write it into the sequel, then that is a coincidence. I already know EXACTLY what is going to happen in the sequel, it is already planned. So if something resembles MR3, I didn't do that on purpose. Just telling you.

Anyway, REVIEW! The next chapter should be pretty interesting. I didn't originally plan what happens in the next chapter to be in this story, but the idea came to me a few days ago and I just HAD to stick it in. You'll see what I mean in the next update.

Meanwhile, REVIEW!

18. Sudden Insanity

A/N: It is time for the notoriously unexpected Chapter Seventeen! That's right folks, I'm going out on a limb and sticking something in that I TOTALLY DID NOT plan to stick in. But it helps answer something along the way… so…. yeah. It's going in.

One more thing before I cut this short: I have decided to shoot for 375 reviews. We're pretty close already, so we should make it. We might even hit 400! Wouldn't that be awesome? Remember what my original goal for this fanfic was? 200 reviews! Man, I past that a while ago. LOL, anyway, let's go for it guys!

RMF#15: Do not get me started. Just don't. The second I get any energy, I go BESERK! Literally. I started cracking up in my Editing class and then I couldn't stop laughing and then I started running around the room and then I got another person to play catch with me… using a dictionary. (One of those HUUUGE dictionaries where they have virtually every word ever invented.) It was great. Luckily, we had a sub that day who thought my insanity was amusing, so I didn't get in trouble. But if I get hyper… watch your back. And your dictionaries.

Disclaimer: I did not come up with anyone of the characters or background info.

Copyright: I did come up with the storyline and most of the dialogue, so no stealing.

Chapter Seventeen: Sudden Insanity




Late afternoon. Max and I were heading east, flying through Kentucky. We'd stopped about an hour ago to get lunch/more breakfast at the IHOP. Which should really be called the IROLL. Or the ICANBARELYMOVE. Really, if you ever want to stuff yourself so bad that you just want to laze around all day, stop at IHOP for pancakes. Thank god we've got a great metabolism, or else there would be no way that we would be up in the air right now.

I glanced down at Max, fifteen feet below me or so, and frowned. Her eyes were locked on a random cloud, lips moving soundlessly. Talking to the Voice again. I folded my wings a bit and dropped down beside her. She didn't notice me. She looked worried and frustrated over something, though God knows what. I gave her a minute more to see me, but she didn't, so I gave up.

"Hey," I said loudly. Max jumped, if possible, and her eyes snapped over to me. "You okay?"

She nodded. The frustration was gone from her face, replaced with something else… guilt? The worry only intensified. What was going on?

"Yeah," she muttered, so quiet I almost missed it in the air rushing past my ears.

No, you're not. "What does it want?"

"Nothing," Max replied. A little too quickly. And I may not be a certified lie detector, but everyone knows that that means they're bluffing.

"It's not nothing," I pushed, edging closer to her.

Max sighed, looking away from me and biting her lip in an endearing sort of way. She was going to lie again; she was thinking of something else to tell me. I brushed my left wing against her right. "Max? What was the Voice telling you? The truth."

She glanced over at me in defeat and looked away again. I waited patiently. Finally, Max gave in.

"I was asking it about… something."


Max hesitated, turning to face me again. "I was- asking it… why…" she trailed off, sniffing a little. "What's that smell?"

It took me a moment to work out what she said and when I did I inhaled deeply. A scent filled my nostrils, a scent you can't live with a pyromaniac for almost fifteen years and not recognize instantly.


I scanned the ground and my raptor vision immediately picked out the blaze down below. A muttered a choice swear word and dived down a little to see better, Max just behind me. We approached the fire quickly and saw it: an apartment building was going up in flames.

Max gaped at the sight. We moved a little closer to the ground than we usually would in the day time, but it didn't matter much because of the masses of smoke rising in the air. The entire apartment complex was burning, fire stretching to the sky. The firefighters were already there, attempting to put in out and failing miserably.

It was a sight that Ig and Gazzy, those little freaks, would've loved to see. Of course, Iggy would love to see anything…

Max opened her mouth and said perhaps the only appropriate thing. "Whoa."

I nodded in agreement, really wishing that we could somehow put the School in this innocent apartment building's place. Now that was a sight I would love to see.

People down below were screaming, their cries drifting up to us, high as we were. I managed to catch words like "trapped" and "still in there". I frowned. That didn't sound good. That didn't sound good at all.

That was when I made when I had what Max called a "snap decision" and Iggy referred to as "bullshit insanity". I tucked my wings and started to drop through the smoke, straight for the apartments. I heard Max yell something that sounded very similar to "GET BACK HERE, YOU IDIOT!" but I ignored her and concentrated on finding my way through all the black.

I spotted a window that wasn't on fire and came in through it feet-first, folding my wings as I went. I landed on the floor heavily and heard the weakened wood groaned threateningly under my weight. The temperature instantly rose and I grudgingly pulled on my windbreaker to both hide and protect my wings- if any of my primary flight feathers got singed, I was screwed.

The smoke was making my eyes water, but I ignored it and scanned the room. I was alone, unless you counted the flames licking the walls greedily. I was guessing I was on the third floor, but I wasn't really sure.

"IS ANYBODY IN HERE?" I yelled loud as I could. Smoke filled my lungs and I coughed, waiting…

Nothing. I edged around the fire and kicked the door open so I wouldn't burn my hand on the doorknob. I was out in the hallway now. The doors were all numbered in the two hundreds, so I guess that meant I was on the second floor.

"IS ANYONE IN HERE?" I hollered again through the hand I had over my mouth. Smoke still got in, but it was better than last time.

I head a noise towards the right end of the hall. I moved that way, avoiding getting near to the walls. "HELLO?"

This time I heard it clearly over the crackling; a woman screaming. I kicked open the door I thought it was coming from behind and found myself in new apartment, totally aflame. I coughed violently, hearing cries of "Help!" coming from the back. I followed the sound the an open door and looked inside, peering through the thick smoke. It was a nursery. A woman was huddled in a corner, shielding a baby probably no more than a few weeks old in her arms. She was holding a blanket against the infant's mouth to prevent smoke inhalation. Smart move. I started moving closer to them, but the woman suddenly yelped, "STOP!"

I obeyed and then looked down. Suddenly I understood why she hadn't gotten out yet. The floor had opened up into a huge chasm, at least seven feet across. With all the smoke, I hadn't noticed.

I backed up, grateful for the warning, and then jumped across. I landed light as possible, right foot falling into fire. I swore and stepped away. Crap, that hurt. The woman was coughing now and crying. The baby was either unconscious or asleep. I lifted the woman and child up, (man, humans are a lot heavier than bird-kids), and made a running leap to the other side of the room. I landed a lot harder this time and the remaining floorboards groaned. I moved quickly, just before the rest of the floor gave up and collapsed. Talk about a close call.

I got the three of us out of the apartment and then set the woman back on her feet. "Where are the stairs?" I asked her, glancing anxiously down the hallway. I couldn't see a thing in all the smoke.

The woman was still crying, but she understood me and pointed to the left end of the hall. I took her kid from her and then grabbed her arm, dragging her in that direction. I found the staircase, which luckily hadn't caught yet, and shepherded her down. When we were on the ground floor, the baby woke and started bawling around the blanket. I ignored, located the entrance, and forced the woman to run.

When we got outside in the remarkably cooler air, firefighters and EMTs descended on us. They took the baby from me and wrapped me in a fire blanket, putting out blazes I hadn't even noticed. An EMT stuck an oxygen mask on the woman and tried to stick one on me. I refused it. I felt fine, that's what having air sacs can do for you. I scanned the crowd for Max, but didn't see her.

I heard a few firemen talking. "…I think that everyone has been evacuated from the building now…" one of them said. The woman apparently heard them too, because she shook her head frantically, tugging the mask off despite the doctors' protests.

"No- no!" she croaked. "Mr. Crenshaw… on the floor above me… I could hear him- banging things around-" She broke off in a coughing fit and someone that I assumed was her husband forced the mask back on her.

"Phil's still in there too, I think," another firefighter muttered. "I haven't heard from him in almost fifteen minutes. Last thing he said was that he was on the first floor."

Mr. Crenshaw… on the floor above her… Phil… first floor…

I tugged the fire blanket off and ran back towards the apartment complex. Several people yelled at me to come back but I ignored them and went back into the blaze.

The first floor had changed drastically since I'd last been on it. The fire's appetite had increased and it was gnawing away at the walls. I yelled Phil's name but there was no answer, so I started kicking open doors. I reached the end of the right side without finding anything. On the third left hand door I found him. The floor of the room above this one had fallen away, and an unconscious firefighter that I guessed was Phil was trapped underneath a beam. I worked my way around the gleeful flames and shoved at the beam; nothing. It was too heavy, even for me.

The beam had fallen unto the man's legs. One of them was definitely broken, the other I couldn't be sure of. Phil had most likely passed out from the pain. A little more wouldn't bother him. Better hurt than cremated.

I grabbed a hold of his shoulders and pulled. A loud POP made me wince; one of his kneecaps had been dislocated. However, I managed to slid his bottom half out from under the column of wood and it crashed the rest of the way to the ground.

I could feel the soles of my shoes melting as I lifted the firefighter's dead weight over my shoulder. With all his equipment, the guy probably weighed three times as much as I did. Coughing, I made my way back for the entrance, Phil's limp legs trailing behind me.

The second I was out, Phil's fellow firemen took him from me. I scanned the crowd and spotted Max at it's fringes, giving me the death glare. I sent her the "wait" signal and she nodded reluctantly, clearly PO'd at me. An EMT tried to stick an oxygen mask on me again, but I pulled away from her and ran back into the building.

The entire complex was crumbling to the ground. The fire had reached the stairs and the flames licked at my heels as I climbed two flights in a matter of seconds.

The third floor hallway was totally ablaze. Shit, I thought to myself, straining my ears. "MR. CRENSHAW?" I shouted. A sudden bang that sounded like a table falling over answered me and I head for the noise, avoiding the fire as much as possible, which wasn't much. I kicked open the door and entered the apartment. An elderly man, Mr. Crenshaw, was in the dead center of the living room, flames surrounding him on all sides.

And get this: he was in a wheelchair. This just kept getting better and better.

I walked right through the fire, cringing at the smell of my own burning flesh. I was a genetically enhanced mutant freak, so I was more fire resistant than your average human. But science can only go so far.

"Thank you, son, thank you," Mr. Crenshaw wheezed as I came behind him. His voice sounded like a deflating balloon. I ignored him and touched the handle bars of his chair. I regretted that, since his wheelchair was made of metal- it was scorching hot. No way, was I lugging this thing with me.

I unbuckled the seatbelt that held the old man in and hoisted him over my back. He was a frail guy- looked like a skeleton- and couldn't have weighed more than Max did. I moved carefully across the room and out into the hallway to make my bid for safety.

Or, that was the plan. Actually when I looked out into the hallway, I saw that the fire had conquered over the building. The floor of the entire hall was gone. Muttering curse words under my breath, I retreated back into Mr. Crenshaw's apartment to revise my plans. Unfortunately, this room was going up in smoke too. However, there was a window…

I had two options.

One: Die.

Two: Flash my wings.

Both of the options sucked.

Mr. Crenshaw was coughing violently. I peered out the window. It was facing the back of the building. The crowd was turned away, watching the front. With a bit of luck, I could make it without anyone seeing me. Except…

"Can you keep a secret?" I growled at Mr. Crenshaw. I set him down, supporting all his weight by his arms.

"What?" Mr. Crenshaw hacked out between gulps of ashy air.

"Can you keep a secret?" I practically screamed. The old man nodded, just as the roof started breaking apart. I was going to have to take his word for it. Either that, or die.

I hurriedly took off my windbreaker, stretching my wings a bit to loosen them up. Mr. Crenshaw gaped at them, mouth hanging open. He started sputtering out questions, but I ignored him, lifting him up bridal style and crouching on the window sill. I checked one last time to see if anyone was watching, and then I jumped.

Mr. Crenshaw opened his mouth to shout, but I pressed my hand to his mouth. Spreading my wings, they filled with air and we sank slowly to the ground. I tucked my wings and dropped the last few feet. I leaned the elderly guy against a trash can and he gripped it desperately as I pulled my windbreaker back on.

"You're- you're an… angel!" he gasped out.

Not quite, I thought humorlessly to myself. I leaned down so my face was in his. "If you tell anyone what you saw," I whispered dangerously. "You'll wish I'd left you in that apartment."

Mr. Crenshaw paled and nodded vigorously, still coughing. I dragged him over to the crowd and the EMTs jumped me and shoved the man onto a gurney. They wrapped me in a fire blanket. I let them, just in case I was still on fire. The second they looked away though, I threw it off and melted into the crowd. I found Max, grabbed her wrist, and we ran.

No one noticed us leave.

The town seemed deserted; most of the people were probably watching the fire. However, we decided to play it safe. We ran a few blocks until we found an empty alley, shed our windbreakers, and took off.

The second we were in the air and out of earshot, Max screamed at me, "ARE YOU INSANE?"

A/N: Meh. I'm not really pleased with how this chapter turned out, but it was fun to write. Next chapter, we'll be in Max's POV again. I don't have much to say besides, REVIEW! And sorry about the shortness.

19. Pulling Off a Bandage

A/N: Time for chapter eighteen! Yea! The end is coming guys. I have finished writing the last chapters. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. We'll see if you agree when I finally get to post them. After this chapter, we should have maybe one, two tops, chapters to go. I know that I keep saying that, but I mean it this time. And when ALPCH is over… it's sequel time. I'm excited. The sequel is gonna be so great. But I'm kinda scared too. Let's just see where life takes us- eh?

RMF#16: Loads of excitement at my brother's elementary school today. Some carjackers were running from the police and they jumped out of the car and ran into the school campus. The whole place was on code red lock down for half the day. More news… one of my high school's buses was in a major wreck the other day. Nobody got hurt or anything, but the school bus was TRASHED! In fact, I whole lot of school buses have been crashing lately. Man, why does all the fun stuff happen to everyone else?

Disclaimer: I didn't write it.

Copyright: But I DID write THIS.

Chapter Eighteen: Set in Stone (Part One)




"Hold still," I warned grimly. Fang gave me the "what does it look like I'm doing?" glare before looking away. I didn't offer up any retaliation because I could tell he was in a lot of pain- burns are one of the most painful injuries a person can get. Anyone who's ever lived with a pyromaniac and a mini-pyro knows that.

Fang and I had had the extremely good fortune of finding an empty vacation home. Winter was ending and whoever had lived here had left maybe just two days ago. It wasn't the greatest vacation home in the world, but that was good for us since the alarm system had been hysterically easy to bust.

More importantly, it had running water.

I was getting a crash course in treating burns, via the Voice. According to it, Fang had lucked out; all he had was first and second degree burns. That's genetic engineering for you- we may not be fire-proof, but our skin is more resistant to heat than a regular human's.

Fang had first degree burns on his feet, palms, and the small of his back. He had second degree burns on his left shoulder and lower legs. Fang also had some minor smoke inhalation, but the Voice said that it would clear up soon. All in all, he looked pretty good for an idiot who'd run into a flaming building not one, not two, but three times.

I'd dealt with all the second degree burns first because they could get infected easier. That'd been fun- not. Half an hour of having to listen to the Voice sound off whenever I wasn't careful enough around a blister. Cuts, bruises, and the occasional broken nose and I can deal with. Anything beyond that was Fang's gig. Usually.

I was cleaning up the soles of his feet. They were a brilliant shade of pink. It looked almost like he'd sunburned them somehow. Of course what had really happened was his shoes melted. We'd soaked his soles in cold water for a few minutes like the Voice had said to help with the pain. Then I rinsed with warm water and "gently patted with a towel until dry". The Voice had been very particular about this and had practically yelled at me when I did it too hard the first time. Now I was applying some stinky ointment from Fang's first aid kit with a tongue depressor, a.k.a. a giant popsicle stick.

I knew that this gook stung like a mother- Fang had rubbed some on me, (much more expertly), when I'd burnt my arm the last time I took it upon myself to cook. But the pain barely registered on his features. Fang just stared out the window like the faithful space cadet he was becoming. Fang had been so- weird lately. Fang was always alert, indifferent, and logical. He would never do something drastic without thinking it all the way through.

I'm pretty sure dragging an old geezer, a firefighter, a woman, and her baby out of a fire counts as "drastic".

"Focus, Maximum," the Voice growled at me.

Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, I commented sarcastically. Who ran over your dog?

"I gave you two years, Max," the Voice snapped. I winced at the sudden shot of pain. "Two years to do whatever you wanted. To 'be a child' since you insisted that you were one. Time's up. You're sixteen. Act like it."

Sixteen year olds drive, hang out with friends, and go to parties, I thought back angrily. They don't fly, beat wolf mutants, and go psycho while arguing with a voice in their head.

Another burst of pain came through, harder this time. The Voice was not pleased. I screwed my eyes shut, willing myself not to cry. I felt Fang press the back of his hand to my temple and the pain eased. I looked up at him in surprise. How does he do that?

"Voice?" he questioned warily.

I nodded. "It's mad," I answered. Short and sweet.

"Because of me?" He looked so guilty.

"No," I sighed. "It wants me to be it's foot soldier again. Same old, same old." I finished off my rather sloppy layer of the ointment and chucked the tongue depressor in the trash can behind me. I reached for the bandage spool and started wrapping his foot will all the skill of a ten thumbed freak. Fang watched me with utter pity.

"Max, I can do that, you know," he said.

I looked pointedly at his hands. The palms were badly burnt, and so were all his fingers. I don't know what he tried to touch, but whatever it was had been hot. "With those?"

Fang stared at me, forever stubborn.

"Why did you do it, Fang?" I asked quietly.

He didn't bother playing dumb. "It was just… something I had to do."

I shook my head disapprovingly. "Something you had to do? Fang, it's not like you're an arsonist or anything. You're not an idiot."

"You say that like you've never done something stupid."

I groaned, finishing his feet and moving to his hands. They'd already been cleaned so I started applying the ointment with a fresh popsicle stick. "You ran into a flaming building. You know there's going to be fire in a flaming building. I got shot. I didn't know those kids had a gun when I went down there"

Fang cast his eyes down. "That's not all you did," he muttered.

My arm.

I froze, remembering… the Voice, the beach, the shell…

The blood.

Fang quickly realized he'd gone to far. "I'm sorry," he murmured. He curled his fingers around mine, though it clearly hurt him. "But- God, Max," he said, more strongly. "You could've died. Do you realize that? You almost killed yourself."

I looked away, ashamed. I was supposed to be the leader, in charge. But did I even ever deserve it if I was so weak? Maybe Angel had been on to something…

Fang squeezed my fingers and carefully touched my jacket sleeve where he knew my scars were. "I'm sorry, Max" he repeated softly. "But… do you have any idea how much you scared us? I mean- what would we have done without you?"

I lifted my head and stared at him. Fang stared back desperately. Somewhere in his dark eyes, I picked up a more significant undertone:

Do you have any idea how much you scared me? What would I have done without you?

Or maybe I was imagining things.

"I'm sorry..." I wasn't even really sure what I was apologizing for. I kissed Fang's hand on the untoasted side before I continued rubbing the gook on. I sniffed, "But thanks for stopping me when you did."

Fang sighed and muttered something that I didn't quite catch. I finished layering the ointment on and started wrapping his hands up, trying to imitate Fang's perfect, systematic way of bandaging around thumbs. It didn't turn out so great, but at least it functioned. I mummified each of his fingers separately, careful not to cut off circulation.

After completing his hands, I moved on to his back. The silence continued awkwardly. It wasn't that I was not used to silence, (I spent most of my time with Fang after all), but this one was different. Something was wrong with Fang. I was starting to wonder if he had an emotional disorder, like, maybe he was bipolar or schizophrenic. It wouldn't really surprise me; a lot of the School's experiments developed disorders. Or maybe Fang was going into depression again. I really hoped not. Those had been bad times…

"You've got more important things to worry about."

I grounded my back teeth. Fang is important to me.

"But is he more important than the world? Think about it, Max."

What have you got against Fang? If it weren't for him, I'd be dead and you'd have to find someone else to save your precious world.

"I don't have anything against Fang. It's you I have the problem with."

And why is that? I placed one last band-aid on Fang's back and tapped between his shoulder blades, muttering to him to spread his wings. He did and I proceed to check for singed feathers.

"You're stubborn and selfish."

All because I won't save the world for you?

"Exactly." My brain twinged to emphasize the point. And then, horribly sweet, the Voice sighed, "I care about you, Max, I really do. But I will hurt you if I have to."

You already hurt me, all the time.

"I don't mean that."

I stopped, fingers buried beneath Fang's black feathers. What do you mean?

The Voice was quiet for a moment, debating whether or not to explain. "Always remember this, Maximum: if you want to really injury a person, strike not for the body or mind, but for the heart."

My breath caught in my throat- for once I understood one of the Voice's riddles. It was going to get to me through the flock.

But when?

And who?

The entire flock was spread across the States. The Voice could go after anyone of them, at any time. How could I protect them all?


I slowly withdrew my hands and Fang folded his wings, turning to face me. He saw the panicked look on my face and instantly started to ask what was wrong. I ignored him, gripping his forearms as inspiration struck me.

"I need you to channel." The words spilled out of my mouth, falling over each other. With the help of sixteen years of experience, Fang somehow understood me.

His brow furrowed slightly. "Why?"

I was already digging through his backpack for his sketchbook. "The Voice is going to hurt one of them."


My hands closed on the small, black book and I ripped it from his bag. "It's mad at me. It's going to go after one of the flock to make me do what it wants." I managed to fit all the words in one breath. I flipped the book open to the first blank page I found and scrawled the date in one of the corners with the pencil that had been stuck through the spiral. I slid the book across the table to Fang. He stared at me blankly.

"Max, it's a voice," he said with stressed patience. "How much can it even do?"

Great. He thought I was insane.

"The brain attacks," I hissed. "What if it does it to one of them, but worse? And what about all those signs? Like, the Ouiji board and the map in the rain. If it can do things like that, why wouldn't it be able to get to the flock?" Fang opened his mouth to argue, but I cut him off. "And even if it can't do those things, it could still send a lot Erasers after one of them."

Fang sighed. "Max, it doesn't make sense. The Voice has been helping you lately, hasn't it? It's been trying to get you to trust it. Why would it suddenly change it's mind and try to off one of the flock? That's not exactly the best way to get on your good side."

I really, really hate logic sometimes. "I know it sounds crazy," I conceded. "But even if it is, there's still the slightest chance… it can't hurt to play it safe and check."

Fang shook his head. "I don't think knowing about the future is safe," he muttered.

"Please, Fang?" I pleaded. I rarely plead for anything, but this was important. "For me? Please?"

Fang glared at me stubbornly, but then his minute expression soften. "Fine," he grumbled, obviously not pleased. I hugged him hard and kissed his cheek, murmuring 'thank you' over and over, before shoving his sketchbook in front of him. Fang sat down unwillingly, bandaged fingers curling around the book's edges. He looked down at his old sketchbook, eyes flickering between the date I'd scribbled, me, and the blank page. Suddenly, Fang's pupils widened to stretch all the way across his irises.

A black blotch blossomed in the center of the page and dark tendrils reached out into the paper. The blackness slowly seeped into the page, spreading like water on a napkin. When it had covered the entire paper, it began to fade out, going from pitch black, to gray, to the white it had used to be. The date was still the only thing there, perched awkwardly in the corner of the page. The vague outlines were starting to pop out, thin, precise lines.

Fang's eyes were normal now, but glazed over like before. Luckily I didn't need to pour water over his head again; I snapped my fingers in front of his face a few times and he blinked, looking up at me.

"I did it?" he asked. I nodded, pointing at the sketchbook. Fang glared at the picture forming on the paper and flipped the book over so we couldn't watch it.

"I still don't think this is a good idea," he murmured darkly.

"I know, I know, and I'm sorry for making you do it," I sighed. "But this is the only way… I can't lose part on the flock. Any of them. Not even Total, that annoying, little brat of a dog."

Fang's lips quirked into the slightest of smiles. "You won't have to," he reassured.

I bit my bottom lip, not the reassured at all. Maybe Fang didn't think that the Voice could do it, but I did. The Voice was a lot stronger than he believed. We didn't know that much about it- who knew what it could do?

I glanced antsily at the overturned sketchbook. Fang interpreted and answered my question. "It's done," he said quietly. I had no idea how he knew, but I wasn't about to argue him on that point.

Fang reached out and lifted the book up so he could see the drawing. He stared at it blankly first, but then his limited expression went from shock to revulsion in two seconds flat. He slammed the sketchbook down, making the table quiver. He looked at me, dark brown eyes so pained it hurt me to see them.

For a moment, I was so scared I didn't want to see whatever Fang had. But then I knew I had to. If whatever the future had shown had made Fang react like that, then it must've been really, really, really bad.

I tentatively reached out with one hand. Fang pulled his sketchbook away from me, shaking his head. "No."

"Fang," I said sternly. He ignored me. "Fang! I need to know."

So quiet I might've imagined it, Fang whispered, "I don't want you to."

Now I really needed to know. Standing up, I leaned over the table and yanked the book out of his hands. Fang didn't bother fighting me; he knew he'd lose with his burnt fingers.

I gave myself a moment to brace myself. Then, I flipped the book upright and gazed upon the future…

I forgot how to breathe. The sketchbook slipped from my fingers, pages fluttering as it hit the floor. I heard Fang shout my name but it sounded too far away.

I fainted.




A/N: Howdy guys. Sorry about the evil cliffy. And sorry that this chappie was late. I've been busy with school and all. Unfortunately, the chapters are gonna be a bit shorter from here on out. It's the only way I can get a chapter done about each week.

In other news: I need a female human name. First and last name. It can be anything, as long as it is normal. You can give me your own name and I'll use it if you like it. It just has to be the FIRST AND LAST names of a human girl. Got it? Send a review with any suggestions. This is, of course, for the sequel.

OH! And Happy Birthday Kirstren. Even thought it isn't technically your birthday.


20. Impasse

A/N: Well, we just shoved our way across the 400 review line, which is more than TWICE my original goal. Thanks. You guys officially rock! No kidding.

Oh, and I'm sorry about that evil cliffhanger last chapter. I wasn't going to end it like that, but the chapter was already late and I wanted to get it up. No worries though, you'll find out what's going on in this chapter.

That's pretty much all I've got to say… except for HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

One last side note: the first section of this chapter are based off of personal experience. If you've never fainted before, then you're a lucky person. Waking up from it is not fun. Very disorienting.

RMF#17: I have 23 scars on my right arm and leg, but only 9 scars on my left arm and leg. How odd is that? And I have this scar on my knee that is shaped precisely like the coastline of Sicily. Freaky.

Disclaimer: JP wrote it.

Copyright: I wrote this.

Chapter Nineteen: Set in Stone (Part Two)




One syllable. Quietly, over and over. I listened to the musical quality of it, floating somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. That sound was supposed to mean something, wasn't it? I pondered over this, untroubled by the lack of memory. Why would I be troubled anyway? Nothing was wrong... right?


There was that syllable again. Or, at least, I thought it was. Some nagging part of my brain told me that that was my name. But wasn't my name longer?

"Yes, it is longer, Maximum. Now wake up."

How? No answer. Wasn't I already awake? And what kind of name was Maximum?


I opened my eyes, wincing at the rush of light. Someone was staring down at me, a guy with dark, worried eyes. That nagging part of my brain supplied that his name was "Fang". Screw Maximum- what kind of name was Fang?

I blinked. A couple of disjointed memories were shoved into my mind. Dog crates, a hospital, a little black book with unlined pages. I blinked again. Oh, right. Fang.

"Max? Can you hear me?" The briefest hint of relief flashed in those brown eyes before they went flat, devoid of emotion.

I swallowed against a dry lump in my throat. My voice came out as a crackle. "Yeah."

Fang helped me sit up. I noticed that his hands were heavily bandaged. Why was that? A glass of water was silently offered to me. I took it and drank it in one gulp. Peering into the empty glass, I remembered. He burned them.

"You okay?"

I nodded, automatically observing my surroundings like I'd been trained to. I was on a couch, in a living room that looked as though it had been recently emptied. "Yeah, I think so," I mumbled. Fang gently pried the glass from my loose fingers. I frowned, starting to remember… "What happened?" I asked.

Fang answered me cautiously. "You fainted."

Well, duh. "No, there was something before that," I murmured. Fang turned his gaze downward, but it didn't register much in my befuddled head. I looked around the room so more, distractedly. I spotted a entry to a kitchen that looked familiar. Then my eyes locked on an open book on the floor and it came flooding back.


I closed my eyes against the tears building up, but they leaked out anyway. The sketchbook. My head was pounding, so I let it fall against the armrest behind me. Fang shifted and cradled my head in his wrapped hands. The pain steadily ebbed away as he stroked my hair, but he couldn't take away my memory of what I'd seen. The grim future that he'd drawn. It was liked he'd unknowingly stolen it straight out of my nightmares.

The Voice had really meant it when it'd said it was striking for my heart.

"You'll be okay, Max," Fang said quietly. He moved so that he could see me properly. "I promised you that, remember?" I choked at his words. He was concerned about me? Fang was the one in danger.

I cried harder and hated myself for it. Fang. Fang had been the one in the picture. If there was absolutely one person in the entire world that I could not lose, it was Fang.

And that wasn't even the worst of it.

I was going to do it. I was going to kill Fang.

Fang hugged me, but I pulled away, shaking my head fiercely through the tears. I didn't deserve his silent gentleness, his impenetrable loyalty to our friendship. I was going to murder Fang. My best friend. I was going to kill him.

I could see the drawing clearly in my mind. Fang, lying on the ground out cold, cut, bruised, and bleeding. It was too dark to see the surrounding. The only other visible thing in the picture was me- eyes blazing and face set in stone- the knife Fang gave me raised over his throat.

I was going to cut his head off.

"Oh God, Fang," I wailed. Fang snared my hands in an undeniable grip, hushing me softly.

"It's okay. Everything's okay, Max," he whispered.

"No, it isn't," I cried. He had my hands, so I wiped my tears away on my shoulders. "God, I can't hurt you, Fang!"

"And you won't," he soothed, stiff thumbs rubbing slow circles on my hands. "I know that you'd never intentionally hurt me."

I recognized the words from the first time he woke me from a nightmare at the Martinez's place. I shot the old reply right back at him. "What if it's unintentional? What if I can't control it?" He didn't answer me, so I went on. "What about the dreams and Eraser Max? The whitecoats? What about the chip and the Voice?" Another thought stuck me and I stood up mid-rant. "What if the Voice takes control of me, Fang? If it can get in my head and use my senses, why wouldn't it be able to control my mind?"

I heard Fang stand, just behind "Like I said before- when have you ever beaten me in a fight?" He rested both of his hands on my shoulders, steadying me as I swayed slightly from the lightheadedness.

I framed my next question carefully. "Remember what you promised me? At Anne's?" Fang didn't reply, but I forged onward. "You said if I went… bad… you'd- kill me. To protect the flock." I felt Fang wince at the word 'kill'. "Would you, Fang?"

He pressed his fingers against my neck to check my pulse, speaking slowly. Even during times like this, he was concerned about my health. "For the flock, I would. For you." He sounded reluctant.

"What if- what if it wasn't for the flock or me? What if it was just to save yourself?" I pressed, turning to face him.

Fang didn't answer me- he didn't have to because I already knew the answer. Fang could never hurt me unless I asked him to, and even then he might not follow through. The one time he really did hurt me was when he dislocated my shoulder on accident. And even though I was fine after Jeb had popped it back in, he wouldn't stop apologizing until hours later. I knew there wasn't a chance in heaven that Fang would kill me in self-defense.

Fang decided to use to a different tactic. "It's just a drawing, Max," he muttered, suddenly interested in his taped feet.

I shook my head impatiently. "They're not just drawings, Fang. All the other ones came true."

Fang bit his bottom lip. It was such an unusual display for him, that I blinked. He raised his eyes, peering through his black bangs. I felt a new lump in my throat; he looked so young for his age right now. Not like a teenager who'd seen too much in just over a decade and a half- he looked like a small child, uncertain and lost. If there was one thing Fang never allowed, it was for him to seem vulnerable. But that was what he was right now. He was stuck in a hole and he knew it.

I can't hurt him.

"I should leave," I said suddenly. Fang's head snapped up to stare at me.


"I have to go," I repeated, more force behind my words this time. Fang glared at me with blatant disbelief.


"Yes, Fang-"

"No, Max. Last time you left, I found you just before you got your throat slit open. You think I'm going to let you go off on your own again?"

"I can take care of myself," I said coolly. "And if I stay, you'll get your throat slit open." I sighed heavily through my nose and added, more softly, "I'd never be able to forgive myself if I killed you, Fang."

Fang frowned and looked away. I took the opening and marched out to the kitchen. Keeping my eyes carefully adverted from the sketchbook, I grabbed my bag and started to stuff my stuff back in. Fang appeared and stopped me, gripping my hands, jaw tightening as the act pained his burnt palms.

"You still can't leave," he insisted.

"Why not?" I snapped, fuming. I would've attempted to free my hands, but I didn't want to hurt him more.

"Because we don't even know when that'll happen. There's no indicator of time in the drawing. It could be years from now. We don't even know where."

"It can't be too far away- we don't look much older in the picture."

Fang quickly changed gears. "What if the future can't be avoided? What if you leaving causes it to happen?" he pointed out.

"I don't know!" I shouted. I felt salty tears building up and burning at my eyes. I blinked them away furiously. "I don't know, Fang," I repeated, quieter this time. "But I have to do something. I am not going to let myself hurt you. I have to at least try to stop it."

"Don't go, Max," Fang pleaded. Fang never pleads. "At least… think about what you're doing. Use your head." I didn't answer him. "Just- wait another couple more days."

"Fang, in a couple of days, you could be dead," I reminded him flatly.

"One day then. Give it a day and think about it." I scowled at his words, so he said, "You're not going to go berserk overnight."

I sighed. "You don't know that," I said sadly.

Fang was silent. We were at an impasse- there was no way I was going to stay and risk hurting him and there was no way he was going to let me go out on my own.

But… if I pretended to agree…

"Fine," I grumbled.

Fang's head snapped up, surprised. "What?"

My stomach squirmed under his eyes. I was never good at lying to him. "I'll stay. But for only one day."

Fang stared at me suspiciously; I never gave in this easily. I tried not to look too guilty, but Fang, of course, could always read me with utter ease.

"Do you promise?"

"Yes," I said, not too quickly. I was relieved that he hadn't insisted on making me swear. 'Promises' were negotiable. But I wouldn't dare break an oath to Fang. He'd never trust me again if I did that.

Fang sighed and dropped my hands. "Thank you," he muttered.

My insides twisted with guilt.




It got dark fast. The moon hung in the sky, looking insignificant among the stars. It was getting pretty late but Fang and I were still awake. He was still awake because he wanted to keep an eye on me so I couldn't sneak away. I was still awake because I was waiting for him to fall asleep so I could sneak away. We were sitting back to back in the middle of the living room, both of us caught up in our own thoughts.

"Go to sleep, Max," Fang ordered for the umpteenth time.

"Nope," I replied stubbornly. Fang sighed; I could feel his feathers rub against mine. My conscience was burning a hole through my chest, but I knew it would be a lot worst if I hurt Fang. I had to do this.

I added, "If anyone needs to sleep, it's you."

"Why me?"

"Well, gee whiz, for one thing you kind of went into a building that was on fire, inhaled some smoke, and got all burnt up. If I ran into a burning building, I know you would make me go to sleep."

"The smoke is gone already," Fang said, avoiding the point of the statement.

"Fang, I may not be a portable emergency unit like you, but I'm not stupid. I know the smoke's still there. Your breathing is still all weird." I could hear it, a small rattle in his chest, especially when we were right next to each other like this.

Fang was silent. He knew I was right.

I leaned my head backwards against his shoulder. I felt him tense, but I ignored it. "You need to rest." I felt Fang's hair brush against my cheek as he shook his head. "Please Fang?"

"No. The second I'm asleep, you'll fly off. I'm not stupid either, Max."

That stung, partly because he didn't trust me, but mostly because it was… well- true.

"How can you say that? I promised, remember?" I sat up 'angrily'. The conscience inside me sparked.

"A promise doesn't matter much," Fang muttered darkly.

I moved so that I was in front of him and could see him. Fang stared back at me hauntingly, knees tucked underneath his chin. "They do if you mean it," I insisted. Not that I did… Fang maintained his steely glare, so I followed up with, "Do you really think I'd break a promise to you?" My conscience caught fire and burned viciously.

His dark brown eyes held no scruples. "Yes."

I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Sure, it was true, so I had no right for it to pain me, but it still really, really hurt. I mean, no one had known me longer than Fang and no one knew me as well as he did. If Fang couldn't trust me, who could?

Fang must've read the hurt in my face. He dropped his eyes guiltily, which made me feel guiltier. "Sorry," he murmured. "It's just- look, Max…" He sighed and slid over to me, tentatively giving me a one armed hug. "I trust you, I do," he began slowly. "But… sometimes… you don't trust yourself. Like now. So- I can't trust you keep that promise."

I groaned tiredly and rested my head on his shoulder. He stiffened again, but then relaxed. "But why should I even have to promise?" I questioned. "Why won't you just let me go away for a while?"

Fang hesitated. He looked away from my curious eyes, staring determinedly at the moon. I could've swore he was blushing. "You'll just get annoyed."

What was that supposed to mean? I lifted my head up to see his face. "Now I just want to know more," I commented. Yeah- definitely blushing. I would've teased him about it, but something told me this was the wrong time.

Fang sighed and turned back to me. I could tell he was choosing his words carefully. "You care about other people too much." I shot him a dirty look and he quickly amended. "Not that that's a bad thing. But… sometimes- you forget to take care of yourself. Or you pick their safety over yours. So- sometimes I have to take care of you."

I stared at him. "You were right. I am annoyed." Fang turned back to face the window. I wrapped my arm around him and squeezed reassuringly. "Fang- you really don't have to take care of me. Okay? If I get hurt, it's my own stupid fault, not yours. It would be my choice. You don't have toworry about me."

Fang frowned in disagreement, shaking his head. He opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. "Look- I'm not going to argue about this, okay?" Fang rolled his eyes. "But it's nice that you care, Fang. I think it's sweet." I laid my head back down on his shoulder and he flushed deeper. Fang was being so… not-Fang lately. "But will you please get some sleep? You're going to strain your lungs," I pressed.

"Fine," Fang muttered. He stood up walked to the couch, being careful with the leg he'd burnt. He sat down on it heavily. "But remember," he growled. "You promised."

"I know," I said quietly. My conscience raged with fierce heat. Fang examined my face, and then laid back, arm over his eyes.

I listened to his muddled breathing and before long, it was slow and even. I stood up and leaned over him. He didn't seem to be acting. I lightly touched his hand, but he didn't stir.

Silently as I could, I crept back to the kitchen. The moon glared at me disapprovingly.

My half-packed bag beckoned to me. I carefully put the last few items in my backpack. I divided what we'd drawn from the ATM the last time and left most of the money on the table- after all, I had the card.

Straightening up, I saw the menace- the sketchbook- on the ground. I picked it up and stared at the newest picture. Then tears flooded my ducts and I snapped it closed. I found the pencil that had fallen and ripped out a blank page from the back of the book. Struggling to keep the tears in, I quickly scrawled out one last message to Fang.

I slung my backpack onto my back. I quietly approached the couch where he slept and placed the sketchbook and my note near him. As a last thought, I plucked one of my secondary feathers and left it on top.

I briefly kissed Fang's forehead. Running my hand through his hair, I muttered, "Please forgive me."

I walked to the door and opened it silently as mutantly possible. Taking one last look at my best friend, my conscience blazed and blazed and finally burned right through my chest. It fell with a clatter to the floor and broke.

Tears streaming, I closed the door, ran, and took off for the air. I beat my wings against the wind and hit warp-drive. Like a falling star, I blazed away from the vacation home and Fang, granting no wishes.

I left my conscience behind.




A/N again: Meh. I'm not pleased with how this turned out, but oh well. You guys get this chapter early because I took the school day off on Friday for a Mental Health Day. (I mean… I was sick. Right. Sick. Cough cough. See how deathly ill I am? It's no wonder I played hooky.) But yeah, I wrote the entire day, so I finished this chapter early.

You may have noticed the word "scruples" early. If anyone of you guys knew what it meant- you have my praise. If not, I suggest you look it up. It's a really sweet word.

So, anyway, review! Oh, and I have decided to go with the name "Isabelle Townsend". Congrats to Katie Packers and marie47for getting their suggestions picked. I picked Isabelle from Katie because I just like it and Townsend from Marie because tha's one of my old teacher's name. (Oh, and peninhand9, I like the name Caitlin so much that I'm using it for sometihng else.) Thanks to everyone who submitted.

The story is almost over. I promise no happy ending.


21. Set in Stone

A/N: If you pay close attention, you may recognize things from earlier in the story. So pay close attention. Oh, and I stole some stuff from New Moon, but it was for the purpose of something that will be revealed in A Little Person Called God, so no worries. Some people have been doubting the faxness of this story- trust me, this story is fax, it's just darker, more realistic, anti-fluff fax.

RMF#18: I am currently writing a little book called "The Myranian Dictionary". (Myrania is a small country just a few hundred miles south of Pakistan.) If is a long list of all the odd words I use/butcher and their meanings. I am horrible at pronouncing words, and when talk, I accidentally try to say two words at once and so it comes out as a jumbled up medley of meanings. Plus, there are things that I say just cause I'm odd. So I'm writing the Myranian Dictionary. Will be on bookshelves soon.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Copyright: Is mine.

Chapter Twenty: Set in Stone (Part Three)




It was the sun that woke me up. The curtains were drawn- an unneeded precaution- but the yellow sun filtered through with enough ferocity to drive me out of my slumber.

I kept my eyes closed, still lost in the sticky remnants of a dream. I took an experimental breath. It came in and out steady, painless. Good. The smoke was gone.

Some sort of flickering instinct in the back of my head said that Max was too.


Opening my eyes, I sat up, hoping for better, but expecting the worst.

The worst struck me like an arrow, firing right through my wing, crippling me from flight.

Max was gone; I didn't even have to look around to know it. For one thing, the house was too still. For another, much more prominently, I couldn't feel her. My chest felt vacant, my mind felt unpolished.

Cursing myself under my breath, I got to my feet to check to be sure that Max really wasn't here. It was in vain though. I'd known she'd do this. I knew she didn't trust herself enough. And yet, I'd let her slip through my fingers.

Clenching the kitchen table angrily, I tried to rationalize what I'd done. When that didn't work, I abandoned reason and probed my sub-conscious. The answer was lying in wait for me there: to me, Max's feelings mattered more than mine. So what if it would practically kill me with worry if Max left? If I hadn't let myself fall asleep, if I hadn't displayed that blind trust in her, she would've been hurt. Just like when I'd told the truth and said that I did think she'd break a promise.

I really needed to stop listening to my heart.

Not that it matter now- my chest felt as though someone had ravaged it open and ripped my heart out. I was… hollow.

It was like the spring I was twelve, all over again. Only worse this time, because I really was alone.

Absolutely empty, I noticed that the sketchbook wasn't on the floor where I'd left it after Max fainted. That could only mean that she had moved it. I scanned the kitchen vaguely, but it wasn't in there.

Then I looked up and say it lying by the couch; I hadn't noticed it when I got up. I approached the small book as cautiously as though it was one of Iggy's "dud" bombs- (which don't always turn out to be duds). As I got closer to it, I saw a folded piece of paper and, on top of it, a feather that I instantly recognized as one of Max's.

Abandoning all of my unexplainable caution, I bent down and picked down the small pile. I dropped the sketchbook unto the couch and reluctantly unfolded the paper. Handwriting that I could recognize anywhere blazed up at me.


God, I'm sorry. I feel like such a bitch for breaking my promise and lying to you. But I had to. I may feel bad for what I did, but I'd feel a lot worse if I killed you. If you're mad at me, then that's okay. I deserve it. I don't care if you're angry so long as you're alive. But please forgive eventually. I had to go, Fang. Better safe than sorry. A lot better.

I closed my eyes and stopped reading for a moment. I can't forgive you if you're dead, Max. I couldn't forgive myself if she was dead either. I attempted at a deep breath but my lungs seemed to have departed along with Max. Out loud with no audience but the steady sun, I spoke the words I couldn't quite utter to Max, last night. "I'd rather be dead than alone." Might as well be dead if I was alone…

If I get hurt while I'm out here by myself, don't get mad at yourself. Like said- it's my fault not yours. I make my own choices.

Her fault- I would've snorted if I could've managed the effort. Maybe it was her choice, but I could have stopped her. I could've stayed awake and just strained my blasted lungs. They were gone now anyway… This was what I got for not using logic…

Don't follow me. Please don't. I swore I'd be at Iggy's place on his birthday, so I'll see you then. It's about a week away- if nothing's happened by then, I'll reconsider. But until then, please don't come after me.

A lot can happen in a week. Did she really expect me to listen to her? My frickin' heart had disappeared. If I couldn't see her- couldn't know for sure that she was alive and well- then there was no way for me to live. I had to find her before something happened.

Remember when we were twelve? When you were… sad? Remember what I told you? Well, I meant it and still do. That's why I'm doing this. Why I had to do this. I'd hate myself forever if what we saw in that drawing came true.

Of course, I remembered. How couldn't I? Those were some of the worst months of my life- including the School. Those bad months contained the day my life turned around. How was I supposed to forget that? Of course I remembered what she told me- but it hurt to much to think about right now. It hurt to much to think about ever.

I smiled darkly at the use of the word "sad". Sad. What an understatement.

You were right- knowing the future isn't safe. But sometimes you have to take that risk.

I'll be okay. I just pray you will be too.


This wasn't worth the risk. Maybe to her it was. Maybe she thought possibly preventing my death was worth all this pain- but I didn't. I was practically dying right now anyway. I wasn't okay. I needed Max.

Oh god, Max. I crumbled the note and stuck it in my pocket. I had to find her. But how could I find her? She could be five states away by now. And she wouldn't stop at any of the obvious spots becuase she knew I could find her there.

Don't follow me. Please don't. I swore I'd be at Iggy's place on his birthday, so I'll see you then. It's about a week away- if nothing's happened by then, I'll reconsider.

A lot can happened in a week. It only takes a moment to get hurt or killed.

"I promise not to make you worry."

"I'll be worried anyway."

God, Max. Why do you have to do this to me?

Fingering the feather she left behind, I slowly rubbed my thumb up and down it's shaft. Under my breath, I muttered to myself, "Where are you, Max?"

Something tugged at the back of my mind, the same flickering instinct that had informed me that Max was gone when I woke up. I closed my eyes- and I could see her. Well, not see her; it was more like I could feel her. In my head, I watched her stand over, move to the kitchen, write a note. I could sense her tears as she returned to the living room, placed some things near the couch, and leaned over it. And then, although I could "see" her by the couch, I felt her lips on my forehead and her hand in my hair, almost as though she was standing right here in front of me. Finally, I watched her crept out of the house, close the door, and run away, spreading her wings. And she disappeared, moving to fast to track.

I opened my eyes and blinked. East. She went east.

Well, it was a start at least.

But what had happened? Had I just got a new power? Or Max? Either way, I didn't have time to muse over it.

Tuning out my leg and back's protests, I headed back to the kitchen and shoved the first aid kit into my backpack. I would have to rebandage myself soon, but that would have to wait. Max could fly more than twice as fast as me. If I was going to catch her, I couldn't waste any time. I zipped my backpack and put the money Max had laid on the table into my pocket. A haphazard scan revealed nothing amiss from the way we'd found the vacation home. Grabbing my windbreaker, I burst out the door and ran. My burnt leg screamed but that didn't matter because soon I was in the air and one step closing to finding Max and breathing again.




"Slow down, Maximum."


"Do you have any idea where you are?"


"Slow down, Max."

No. I wasn't crying anymore, but my eyes were still puffy and red as a rabbit's. I was zooming across the United States, or maybe I was in Mexico by now, or even Canada. I wasn't even sure what direction I was going in anymore. I had started out east- I knew because they sun had been stinging my sore eyes. But I wasn't going east anymore.

"You're going to wear yourself out."

Oh, like you care! I snapped.

"I do care." There was a pause, and then the Voice continued hesitantly. "I'm sorry, Maximum. I really am sorry."

If you're sorry, we'll you stop what's going to happen?

"The future can't be changed. It's set in stone. I'm sorry."

I doubt it. The Voice didn't reply. If you don't want to punish me anymore, then why are you doing this?

The Voice did not answer me for a while, but eventually it did. "Everything's a test, Max. Remember that."

A test? I'm going to kill Fang for a fuckin' test?!? The indirect physical premonition Fang had drawn suddenly burst against my eyelids and bitter tears started forming. I could do- that. The Voice said no more.

However, I did slow down, easing out of my warp-drive. The blurry scenery steadily emerge and I looking down, I saw a thick layer of snow spilled over the ground.

"You're in Minnesota. A few dozen miles outside the Twin Cities area," the Voice murmured unexpectedly. I muttered my thanks grumpily.

"Max, you should stop." I ignored the Voice, focusing my concentration on a highway down below. "Dropping out of the sky from exhaustion isn't going to do you any good." I gave no indication that I had heard it. I felt the Voice groan tiredly in my head. "What do I have to do to get you to trust me?"

"Stop threatening me! And give me some real answers!" I shouted aloud. A few startled birds of prey glanced back me. It didn't matter- no one was around to hear me anymore. I was alone.

"You're not alone," the Voice reminded me gently. I mentally growled at it. The Voice sighed. "What do you want to know?"

A lot. I felt a small thrill. Maybe- finally- things would make sense.

"If I answer some questions, will you stop and eat something?"

Yes. If you answer some questions.

"I can only answer one for now. But if you trust me, I'll answer more over time."

Fine. I had to take it. Any answers were better than no answers. I thought hard- this one had to count. Who are you?

The Voice was quiet. "You had to pick a tough one, didn't you?"

Answer me. I flapped my wings angrily, gaining altitude. Who. Are. You. And what are you doing in my head?

"That's more than one question." I fumed and felt the Voice sigh again. "I'm someone who cares about you a lot. Someone a lot more like you than you think, but a lot more different too."

That's not a real answer.

"That's all I can tell you right now. You'll find out more in time. If you trust me."

And why should I trust you anyway? You're going to make me murder my best friend!

"I'm not going to make you do anything. The future is set in stone. And you should trust me because nobody cares about you more than I do." Suddenly, the Voice chuckled darkly. "Well… with the exception of him."

I stopped, and hovered. A hawk circled around me and turned away. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't kid yourself, Maximum. You know exactly who I'm talking about." A picture burst into my mind- me, huddled in a bathroom stall at that school Anne made us go to, sweating and breathing shallowly.

Fang? I thought incredulously. We're friends. I got over that a long time ago.

"You're a lot more important to him than that."

Whatever. I shook my head and started flying again, slowly. I really was tired; my wings felt like they were made out of steel.

"Are you going to hold up your part of the deal or not?" the Voice muttered.

"Fine, fine. I'm stopping," I said aloud. I let myself drop a little, scanning the ground. I was still outside the city area, but as I lowered myself, I saw a diner off the highway. Keeping an eye out for any human with their faces turned upwards, I sank down and finally landed. It was freezing.

"Well, you are in Minnesota during February," the Voice mocked.

Shut up. I zipped on my thin windbreaker gratefully and trudged through the snow towards the- hopefully- warm diner.




A/N again: Sorry about the shortness. I'm really sick, so just be glad I got something up. Also sorry about the OOCness on Fang's behalf, but if you look at it from this story's point of view, it's not that out of character.

Anyone who has got a cool diner name for me, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Review please. I'm shooting for 500 reviews!

22. Losing It

A/N: Since I'm SOOO NICE, I decided to post this one early. Usually, this chapter wouldn't even be done yet, but since I'm sick I've had loads of time to write. I'm actually proud of this chapter. I think it turned out pretty good.

I decided to go with a diner name suggested by Step. It was just too funny to resist. And this chapter needed all the humor it could get, because you guys are going to hate me when you finish reading it.

RMF#19: I have possible the worst allergy ever concieved my man/womankind. I am allergic to DENIM. This means no jeans for Myrah. I don't know how many times people have asked me, "Why don't you ever wear jeans?" and I always have to explain that if I so much as try them on, I break out in an annoying rash. BLEH.

Disclaimer: You know what goes here.

Copyright: You know what goes here too.

Chapter Twenty-One: Losing It




I stood outside the diner, staring at the sign. Whoa. The Voice chuckled at me. Oh, shut up.

"What? It's not like no one else in the world has that name. In fact, a famous NASCAR driver shares the name.

Yeah… but this is- too much.

The name of the diner was proclaimed on a oval, orange neon sign. The lights curved to form one simple word: Iggy's.

Iggy's. Iggy's Diner.

Just when you think your life can't get weird enough…

The Voice was still laughing softly, so I ignored and pushed the door open.

It was very warm inside. And very crowded too, though it was the lunch hour. My paranoia spiked up for a second, but I shoved it back down. There was nothing to worry about- just a roomful of hopefully nice, friendly, Minnesota folk.

"Be careful, Max," the Voice warned in my ear, suddenly somber.

Aren't I always? I walked through the room quietly, trying not to draw attention to myself. I sat down at the only open seat by the counter, next to a man deeply involved in his newspaper. A waitress came over to me almost instantly.

"What can I get you?" she asked. She pulled a pad out of her apron pocket and stared down at me, maybe a little bit longer than absolutely necessary. I stared back at her suspiciously, but she was far to old too be an Eraser.

I dropped my gaze to the menu before me and read off the first thing I saw. "Grilled cheese sandwiches."

The waitress scribbled something illegible down on the notepad. "And to drink?"

"Coffee. And a chocolate milkshake."

She nodded and scrawled some more. With one more odd glance at me, she scurried off.

I sighed and shoved my hands into my windbreaker pockets. The entire place smelled like home cooking and music played from an old fashioned juke box. It was all very comforting, but I wasn't comforted a bit. Fang would be up by now and most likely looking for me. He wouldn't be able to find me though- I could fly much faster than him and it was a big country. It wouldn't stop him from trying though. He was going to be so mad at me by the time it was Iggy's birthday.

"Are you okay?"

I looked up. The waitress was in front of me holding two cups, a mug and a tall glass. She seemed vaguely concerned and sort of nervous. I realized that I'd been crying silently.

"I'm fine," I managed to get out. She raised an eyebrow skeptically.

"Okay. If you need anything, just ask. I'll have your food in minute."

I nodded, not really paying attention as she left again. I rubbed at my eyes with my jacket sleeve and sipped some of the coffee. It was stupid, really- I had to leave and that was all there was to it. The future was set in stone. But there was no way I was going to kill my best friend if I could help it. I had to stay away from him as long as possible. For his safety.

But the cold logic I force fed myself did no good. I needed Fang. Without him nearby, I felt like a mouse in a vast lawn with a falcon circling overhead- completely vulnerable and totally unsafe. Maybe I was just being overly paranoid, but I couldn't help but shake the thought that something really bad was going to happen. Soon.

The waitress came back with my sandwiches. I smiled weakly at her to try to dispel any concern she might have but she still gave me that same weird look. What was with these Minnesotans?

I picked up the grilled cheese and sank my teeth into it. Melted bliss. I closed my eyes and savored the food.

The man reading the newspaper suddenly said, sadly almost, "You should be eating more, Maximum."

I almost choked. Swallowing hard, I reluctantly turned to face the man, already knowing who I'd see.

The man lowered his paper and turned towards me also, a kind smile touching his lips. I knew that smile. I used to love it. Now, it made my stomach clenched angrily, painfully.

The falcon dove for the mouse.

"It's so good to see you, Max," Jeb sighed.




(A/N: J/K, I'm not THAT mean. I WAS going to end it there, but then I figured that someone would probably murder me. So! Onward with the chapter. Yoohoo!)




"It's so good to see you again, Max," Jeb sighed.

I didn't reply, still staring at him in disbelief. I'd hoped that, with him being gone all this time, that he'd died in the Itex explosion. Apparently, I gotten my hopes up for nothing.

"Though you don't look too well, sweetheart. You really had better eat that; you look dead on your feet," Jeb continued. "How long ago did you last eat?"

He seemed so genuinely concerned. Maybe he was. But seeing him, and remembering all the hurt that he'd put the me and the flock through, especially Fang, all I felt was hard hatred.

"What do you want?" I hissed under my breath.

"You should eat."

"I don't have to listen to you, Jeb. I'm not you're little girl. I never was," I growled.

Jeb kept his smile up, but I saw the sting in his eyes. "Eat, Maximum." He matched my fierce stare with one of his own. Very reluctant, I picked up my sandwich and bit off of it, never looking away from the betrayer's face.

His triumphant features angered me. I resisted the urge to rip the smirk off his face. "We need to talk, Max."

I glared at him as I chewed the soft mass in my mouth. "About what? Wait, don't tell me- you need me to be the 'maximum' and save the world." My voice taunted his old words.

For the briefest of seconds, Jeb's mouth twisted into a scowl. Then it was carefully wiped away and replaced with the same gentle, generic smile. "No, actually. This is about Fang."

I immediately tensed, sandwich halfway to my mouth.

"No one's going to hurt you, Max," Jeb murmured. "You can trust me."

It was the same familiar tone that he'd used when I was upset, back when I was younger. I ignored the meaningless statement. "If you do anything to Fang, I swear I will happily murder you and let the vultures eat your body," I threatened.

Jeb shook his head. "We're not doing anything to him. It's what you're doing that worries me."

I felt my stomach drop out from under me. "I don't know what you're talking about," I whispered weakly.

Jeb's eyes bored into me. "I think you do, sweetie. You just don't realize it."

I felt myself getting dizzy. I forced myself to stare down at my half eaten food. "What do you want?"

"Go back to Fang."

I glanced up at him, startled. I wasn't expecting that. "And why should I?"

He looked at me as though he couldn't believe that I didn't understand. "He needs you, Max."

Fang doesn't need anybody. I could see what Jab was trying to do now; he wanted me to go back so that he could use the chip to take control of me and- cut his head off. "Fang doesn't need me," I muttered.

"He does." Jeb pushed my plate closer to me. "Eat." I shook my head stubbornly. "Eat, Maximum, and I'll tell you why."

I took the tiniest of nibbles from the grilled cheese. Jeb watched me as I swallowed and suddenly I had a bad thought that maybe the food was drugged.

"It's not."

I struggled to stay focused on Jeb's face and not look spaced out. Luckily, Jeb was gazing at his folded hands. After a moment, he looked at me.

"You see, Max, Fang has a… problem."

I nodded, trying to seem as though I was listening. Really, I was subtly scanning the diner for possible escape routes. "Don't we all have problems, Jeb?" I asked, lightly mocking. "That's part of life." I sipped from my milkshake for the benefit of anyone watching us.

My effort seemed to amuse him. "Maybe 'problem' was the wrong word," Jeb allowed. "Maybe 'disorder' would hit closer to the mark."

I kept my expression as far from startled as possible. Disorder? I asked silently. No answer. "I don't know what you're talking about," I repeated.

"You do, Max. You've know all along."

I shook my head, thinking. All thoughts of escape were abandoned- for now. What is Jeb talking about? "I'm afraid I don't quite follow," I said, calm as possible.

"Remember when all three of you were twelve?" he asked.

I knew instantly what he was talking about. "Fang got over that. He's better now."

Jeb chuckled darkly, but there was the faintest hint of hysteria to it. "I'm not talking about a little bout of depression, Max. This goes a lot deeper than that."

What was worse than being depressed? I didn't even want to think about it. "Are you going to tell me about this disorder anytime soon?" I spat.

Jeb's face grew unexpectedly somber. "I'm not sure if I should…" he murmured thoughtfully. "It would upset you."

"Stop beating around the bush. Tell me." I hissed through my teeth.

He had a shrewd glint in his eye. I didn't like it. "If I tell you, do you promise to go back to Fang?"

I nodded. How many promises was I going to have to break? Not that one to Jeb counted. Any trust there had once been between us was long gone.

Jeb steepled his fingers, like some sort of diabolical villain from a Grade B action flick. He spoke slowly, putting special emphasis on each word. "There is no real name for the disorder Fang's mind has, but if it had to be given one, I'd call it Reverse NPD."

I blinked. "Was that supposed to impress me? Because I have no idea what NPD is."

Jeb smiled, but that same hysteria was there again. "Go back to Fang, Maximum. He needs you more than you could ever imagine."

He was telling the truth. I could see it in his face. But I couldn't go back. I couldn't do that. "No. You haven't told me anything yet." My hands shook just a bit. I hid them under the counter.

The smile was still there, but his lips were quivering. Not because he was on the verge of tears, but because he was on the verge of losing it. Jeb never lost it. He was always serene, calm… except for when I broke Ari's neck. More than anything, that scared me. "You need to go back, Max."

"Forget it."

"Go. Back."

"Fuck you."

That did it- he snapped. Pure anger rushed across Jeb's face, but he kept enough compose not to draw attention to us. He leaned towards me, eyes wild. "I've work too long for this, Maximum! The six of you are my masterpieces!" he snarled. "I'm not going to let my life's work be ruined because two teenagers are fighting. I don't know why you left, I don't care, but you have to go back."

He doesn't know about Fang's power, I realized. He doesn't know about what's going to happen. I took deep breaths, struggling to stay calm. How did Fang do this 24/7? "I'm not going back. You can't make me," I whispered.

He smiled again, but it wasn't the kind one I was used to. This was the grin of a predator corning prey. "Watch me," he growled, smooth and dangerous.

"You can't try anything here. All these people will see."

Jeb laughed maniacally, not bothering to stay quiet anymore. "I'm afraid you've lost your touch. Look around, Maximum."

Suddenly, I got that sinking feeling you get when you glance down and see a dozen targeting lasers on your chest. Slowly, I looked around the diner. All of the hopefully nice, friendly Minnesota folk were gone, replaced by at least thirty-five already morphed Erasers. Shit.

"You don't say?"

But I could see the waitress and several other employees staring from the kitchen with frightened eyes. "What about them?" I said, voice breaking. "What are you going to do about them?"

He chuckled. "Them? I've already informed Mr. Iganorus and his staff that me and my special unit were going to attempt a capture of an extremely dangerous drug trafficker. And why would they question me? After all, I am FBI," he sneered sarcastically. Keeping his eyes on me, Jeb pulled a wicked looking syringe from underneath his coat, already filled with what I recognized as a tranquilizer. "Now, Maximum," he murmured, deadly serious again. "The question is, are we going to have to do this the easy way or the hard way?"

"The windows, Maximum."

I jumped onto the counter, shedding my windbreaker. Jeb could worry about explaining why a drug trafficker had wings to the diner workers. Kicking him just below the throat, I leapt over him and glided over the mass of Erasers.

"Don't hurt her!" Jeb shouted, gasping, hand on his chest.

My open wings smashed against the lights and fans, which were- luckily- off. Erasers snatched at the air, claws curving around my ankles and wrists. Crossing my arms over my head, I surged through the window. Ow.

Tiny cuts and bigger ones spilt blood from my arms onto the snow. The frosty air bit and stung at my torn skin, but I ignored it, orienting myself. I pushed my wings down hard, attempting to gain altitude after the crappy take-off.

Erasers stormed out of the restaurant, revealing their huge wingspans. They were in the air in mere moments, surrounding me, grinning evilly like my own personal demons.

"Fight, Max!" the Voice yelled in my mind.

"There's too many!" I screamed back, not even bothering to think it. I punched and kicked and scratched and bit but the wolves kept coming. I couldn't spread my wings wide enough to warp-drive. The mutant's giant hands ripped at my feathers, claws slashing my already slashed limbs.


It was then, amid all the other pains, that I felt the minute sting of a needle entering my skin. The tranquilizer emptied into my veins, a cool rush to contrast against the heat of adrenaline. The world faded around me fast, merging into a field of snow.





A/N: Oooh, I'm evil. Told you that you guys would hate me. Next chapter will start off with Fang's POV. Until then, goodbye. I REALLY need to do my homework. Be glad I'm so nice that I decided to finish this chapter so soon. Reviews would be awesome.

23. Tattoos and Clues

A/N: We are 9 reviews away from 500. I think we officially ROCK. Wow. Um… thanks guys. BTW, in this chapter, the word "tattoo" refers to a constant beat, usually a battle march. NOT a permanent skin marking. Just FYI.

I am, once again, "sick". That's why this is up so early. Be happy. And thankful. Which reminds me- Happy Thanksgiving.

Disclaimer: You know already.

Copyright: You know already.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Tattoos and Clues




I was closer to her. I could feel it in the hole where my lungs used to be. I kept my left hand in my jacket pocket as I flew, a death-grip on Max's feather. It was harder to track her up in the air because she was moving so fast, but I could sense the faintest hints of her sadness and, later, anger.

I'd gone east for six hours, then north for another three when the imprint- or whatever it was I was following- changed direction. Nine hours in the air, with only one stop for food and no rest, was rough, but I had so much ground to make up if I was going to find Max.

Find Max, find Max, find Max, find Max…

I was in lower Minnesota and about to drop out of the sky, when she finally slowed down. I stopped abruptly and hovered. I pulled out the feather and rubbed the shaft, closing my eyes.

I could "see" Max again, flying slowly just ahead of me. She was arguing with someone- I could only assume it was the Voice. She screamed something, but then paused in mid-air. I could still feel anger, but there was something else now. Excitement? It quickly switched to disappointment. I watched Max start moving again and, without warning, she dived for the ground. Keeping my eyes shut, I started to follow Max down.

Follow Max, follow Max, follow Max, follow Max…

There were a lot of birds of prey in this area- a few falcons lead the way to the snowy ground. I opened my eyes when my feet sank into the white stuff. It was freezing. I folded my wings in fast- both to hide them and to keep myself warm- and pulled on my windbreaker. I then looked up the road to see where Max had gone.

A lonely building laid ahead of me. The tacky curtains and cheery atmosphere marked it as a diner. I glanced up at the neon orange sign blaring through the dark evening and allowed myself a small smile. Iggy's. A distant part of my brain wondered if it was just a coincidence Max had stopped here, or if they Voice had told her to. But the rest of my brain focused on a continuous tattoo.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

I trudged through the snow, glad I was wearing boots, and opened the door to the diner. It was around dinner time and the place was crowded. Bad country music poured out of an old juke box. A permanent aroma of warm food hung in the air. My stomach growled loudly. I really should've eaten a long time ago.

I found a deserted table and sat down, legs a little numb for the long flight. Wrapping my fingers around the feather shaft, I tried to concentrate through all the noise of the busy restaurant. It wasn't as hard as it should've been because Max's emotions were running high. Paranoia first. Max didn't like all the people and something else was bugging her. And then tears. The cavity in my chest ached as I felt her cry without even realizing it. I wanted to comfort her so bad. I wanted to hold her and feel her pulse and hear her breath, just so that I could know she was alive.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

And then hurt. I "saw" Max stared at someone I couldn't "see". Harsh words passed and Max reluctantly ate something. Practically tangible tension spawned between the mysterious stranger and her. And then- out of nowhere- curiosity that quickly merged into more anger.

Fear. Max was scared. I "saw" her hands shaking as she hid them under the counter. That was bad. It took a lot to get Max scared. She kept up a defiant act but then her face fell and she looked around, eyes widening. A few more whispered words and then, without warning, she leapt onto the counter, pulled off her jacket, and spread her wings.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

This was really bad. We never showed our wings in public unless there was no other option. I had no idea what was going on, but it wasn't good. I felt Max's imprint soaring high up by the diner's ceiling and then smashing through a window. I waited for her to fly off again, but for some reason she didn't seem able to move anywhere. I sensed masses of pain coming from everywhere as Max thrashed frantically in the air. My throat closed up as I watched her imprint fade as she crumpled to the snow-covered ground.

And after that, I could feel Max anymore.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

"Are you ready to order?"

I looked up sharply, steadying my quivering nerves. A cute waitress somewhere around my age looked back at me, pen poised against a notepad. She was smiling a lot wider than absolutely necessary. Thinking back to the mere glance of the menu I'd seen before closing my eyes, I read off the first item I remembered. "Lasagna. Two orders."

The waitress jotted something down, still beaming at me. I tried not to glower at her- she reminded me too much of Lissa. "And to drink?"

"Large Mountain Dew." I needed caffeine for the long flight. A few days of sleep would've been nice too, but I didn't have the time for that.

She nodded and wrote some more on the notebook. Smiling brilliantly, she said, "I'll be right back with that," and sashayed off. Literally- sashayed. She flipped her hair over her shoulder too, like those preppy girls on TV shows. I grimaced; some people just try to hard. Thank God, Max wasn't like that.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

What had happened here? Something had happened here. More importantly, how long ago had the scene I'd felt been? None the diner's windows were broken, but if I scanned the floor carefully, I could see tiny specks of broken glass. But who had Max been talking to? What had pushed her to reveal her wings?

But most important of all: where was Max now?

Where's Max, where's Max, where's Max, where's Max…?

Someone had to have seen what happened. A girl with wings smashing through a restaurant window wasn't the sort of thing that goes unnoticed. At the very least there had to be some rumors going around. If I just hung around for a while… asked some questions…

The waitress came back carrying a tray laden with my order. "Here you go," she chirped, setting two dishes of lasagna down in front of me. The plates were followed up by a big glass of soda. "Can I get you anything else?"

I stared down at the steaming food. My stomach growled mercilessly. "Uh… yeah," I answered. "Could you sit down, please?"

Her face easily revealed her giddy. She slid into the booth, subconsciously running her hand through her burnt-straight hair. The name tag pinned to her uniform shirt read "Nikki".

I ate a quick bite of the lasagna; my stomach sighed in relief. "Nikki, have you seen anything… weird around here lately?" I started.

Nikki tilted hr head, like a confused Cocker Spaniel. "What do you mean weird?"

"Anything not normal." As I said it, I knew she hadn't. If she had seen Max, she wouldn't have asked what was considered 'weird'.

Nikki shook her head, leaning forward. "Nope. Haven't seen anything. Nothing." I sighed and ate some more from my plate. "But…" I looked up expectantly as she continued. "I think something did happen here."

"Like what?" I asked sharply. The waitress looked slightly startled.

"I don't know," she replied. "But when I came in for my shift, these guys were here replacing one of the windows. I asked Mr. Iganorus about it and he just said that there was an accident. I asked some other people about it, but they freaked out and wouldn't talk to me." Nikki shrugged.

I'd stop breathing again. "How long ago was this?"

Nikki rearranged the salt and pepper shaker distractedly. "Today. My shift starts at two-thirty."

Max had been here a few hours ago.

"Is anyone here now that would've been here earlier?" I asked desperately.

"Mr. Iganorus. But he went home a while ago," the cute waitress answered. Any faint hopes I'd had were extinguished. "But… I think Marsha's shift starts at one. I think she's still here too."

Yes. "Could you get her to come over here?" I practically begged.

Nikki hesitated. "She's really busy…"

"This is really important." Pretty much the single most important thing in the world. Max. "Please, Nikki?" I wheedled.

The waitress stared at me, then smiled that huge smile. "Okay. Sure." She got up. I took advantage of the brief moment to gulp down some more of the warm lasagna. I'd finished the first dish in record breaking time, when Nikki came back with an older waitress, Marsha I guessed. Looking up at her face and her eyes, still slightly panicked, I knew.

Marsha had seen something. Masha had seen Max.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…




When I opened my eyes, everything was a little blurry from the tranquilizer. But I didn't need my vision to know where I was. I could recognize that smell anywhere.

I got up slowly, instinctively knowing to duck my head so I wouldn't bang it. With my back hunched, I was able to sort of sit up in the small amount of space offered by my dogcrate, size large.

And, yes, I did say dogcrate.

All the other cages around me were empty. So at least the whitecoats had given me the luxury of a little privacy.

Not for long.

I heard him before I saw him. His gruff voice literally barking orders to the owners of the heavy footsteps thudding behind him. I heard phrases like "wait outside", "she's mine", and "don't come in unless I tell you to". I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. And then- the soft click of pressed buttons.

The door opened and I finally saw him.

Ari closed the door behind himself and carefully locked it, before he tentatively approached my crate. He knelt just outside the bars, unmorphed, and smiled at me.

"Hey, Max."

I stared at him with clear suspicion. He looked exactly as I remembered him only… older. He was nine years old now- maybe ten- ancient for an Eraser.

"Hey, Ari," I replied, bitter and sarcastic. Th Eraser's smile transformed into a frown.

"Max, I'm not going to hurt you," he assured me.

I snorted. "Oh, you won't hurt me, but your goons outside will."

Ari shook his head, but didn't argue the point further. "Whatever. You and I are going to have some fun."

Those words sounded so creepy coming out of a mouth that seemed twenty-five. I sighed, starting to formulate escape routes. "What are we going to do?"

Ari shrugged. "Anything. As long as you play with me, I don't care."

"Why's that?" I asked distractedly. Damn. There was chicken wire embedded in the glass, no air vents, and one door- with at least six Erasers waiting behind it. Escape was starting to look pretty difficult.

Ari pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket and started to absentmindedly search for the one to open my cage's lock. "Because I finally got you to myself. Nobody can come between us now." A dark look crossed his face and he clenched the key ring so hard the metal bent. "Except for maybe him."

The inflection piqued my interest. "Him? Who's 'him'? Jeb?" Ari shook his head. Then I thought about all the jealousy that fueled his fights with Fang. "You mean Fang?"

Ari scoffed. "The nutso? Hardly."

Nutso? For some reason that annoyed me. "Who then?"

Ari growled, just like a real wolf. "Isaac."

Well, he'd lost me there. "I don't even know who that is," I remarked.

The Eraser started flicking through the keys again, face composed meticulously into a calm expression. He asked lightly, "You don't remember him?'

"No. Should I?"

Ari found the right key and inserted it into the lock. "I guess. You were older than me, and I remember him."

I made a mental note to ask Fang about any Isaac's the next time I saw him- if he was even alive. Don't think about it.

But then an epiphany struck me. "You mean the Voice?"

Ari stopped what he was doing, (opening my cage door), and stared at me curiously. "What voice?" Then his confusion cleared for a second. "Oh- you mean the Voice?" The capitalization was evident in his tone.

"Yeah." I wondered if I'd said too much.

"But how do you know about that? You don't have one in your head…" he continued, more to himself.

I realized that I may have stumbled across something important. "Never mind," I quickly amended. Ari gave me an odd look, but then seemed to decide to forget about it. He moved away from the cage door and held it open, waiting for me to come out. I stayed where I was- wings smashed against the very back wall of the dogcrate.

Ari sighed. "Max, I'm not going to force you to play with me, but…" he trailed off meaningfully. I remembered the other Erasers outside the room and decided to go along with the little kid's wishes- for now. I reluctantly crawled out of the cage. When I stood up next to Ari, he towered over me and I was suddenly reminded of just how powerful this 'little kid' really was.

"So… what do you want to do?" I asked, as though I was a babysitter hired to entertain a spoiled brat while the parents went to a party.

Ari's eyes lit up, clearly pleased that I was cooperating. "I snuck some board games into here earlier. Want to play one of those?"

"Sure," I answed dryly. Ari pulled me over to a storage cabinent and opened it with one of his keys. He shifted through dusty lab equipment and showed me three equally dusty boxes: Monopoly, Clue, and Operation.

"Which one do you want to play first?"

First? Great. Sounded like I was going to be stuck playing with him for a while. I almost wished a whitecoat would come in and whisk me off to an experimentation room. Almost. I considered the games. Monopoly reminded me to much of the flock- it was one of the board games we'd had up at the mountain house. Operation reminded me to much of where I was now. Clue sounded harmless though.

"How about Clue?" I suggested.

"Four of the cards are missing," Ari warned.

I shrugged. It didn't really matter. "That's okay."

We set up the board on the table. It was one of the older sets, from back in the mid 80s it looked. I wondered how long Ari had had it. If he'd played with anyone once the flock escaped. I was getting the most surreal feeling. It was just so weird playing games with this guy who looked like a model older than myself and whom attacked me several times. But there was something else, something strange that I could put my finger on, like when you get déjà vu and have no idea why.

"Who do you want to be?"

I stared blankly at the proffered game pieces. "Uh… the blue one."

"Ms. Peacock," Ari smiled, placing the little plastic thingy on a blue square. "I'll be Mr. Green." He stuck a green game piece on a matching square. I dropped tiny weapon replicas into the different rooms while the Eraser shuffled the cards. I watched him put three cards into a folder marked "CONFIDENTIAL" and then he started dealing.

"You know how to play the game, right?" Ari asked.

"Yeah," I answered. "But it's been a while."

Ari grinned. "Don't worry. You haven't forgotten." I frowned at him. Why did I get the feeling that there was a double meaning to that?

Ari finished dealing seven cards to each of us and handed me a pencil and a checklist. "Okay," he instructed. "You can look at your cards now." I flipped over my cards, ready to begin my sentence of enforced fun.

But instead of seeing pictures of suspects or rooms, all there was were words. I started reading the cards and felt my heart drop into my stomach.

The Dead and the Dearest

The Exit and the Emigrant

The Sightless and the Son

The Truth and the Tormentor

The Ignorant and the Insane

The Near and the Nicest

The Young and the Youthless

They were like… tarot cards, but they weren't. They were just blank cards with phrases scrawled across them in messy handwriting.

I didn't miss the acronym either.

Ari must've seen the look on my face. "What's the matter?"

Silently, I laid my cards down so he could see them. He gave a low whistle. "Wow. Talk about a rotten hand," he muttered.

I shivered involuntarily. "Wh-what does it mean?" I stammered helplessly.

Ari smiled sadly and pity reflected in his feral eyes. "It means…" he replied, reaching his hand across the table and touching the back of mine. "It means that your destiny lies before you."

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…


I woke up.




A/N again: Okay, be honest. How many of you guys actually thought she really had woken up at the School? In the beginning at least? I luv dream sequences. Especially ones that are loaded down with foreshadowing. (Coughcoughhinthinycough.)

Not my best chapter, but oh well. I'd least it's longer than the last few. And I promise we'll get to hear all about the Reverse NPD next chapter. I'll probably update over the thanksgiving holiday. But until then, Happy Thanksgiving to all my peeps out their celebrating Turkey Day.

24. Helpful Strangers

A/N: Well, happy turkey day my peeps. We're just a month away from Christmas. Whoppie! I promised I'd get this up over thanksgiving break, so here it is. I REALLY need to start my homework now…

Oh, and I saw what I believe is the cover of MR3. It looks really cool. It's kinda orange-ish and it shows this big wing(?) and a bunch of kids(?) looking over a cliff(?)… it's kinda hard to describe and I'm not absolutely sure it is the cover for MR3… though it did have the right title on it… hmm…. I saw it on Maximum Ride's myspace, on their blog about pre-ordering the third book. If that is the cover, it looks pretty cool.

Disclaimer: Insert disclaimer here.

Copyright: Insert copyright here.

Chapter Twenty-Three: Helpful Strangers




Nikki smiled hugely at me, like some sort of life-size Barbie. The older waitress, Marsha, sat down slowly, looking kind of unsteady on her feet. Her eyes flickered across my face with the same sort of panic a mouse has when cornered by a cat. I really couldn't blame her- if Nikki was right, then she'd seen a person fly today, and who knew what else.

"Thanks, Nikki," I murmured, barely glancing at her. It was a dismissal. Her face fell and she sulked off, probably to find some other guy to flirt with.

Marsha stared at me and I stared back, wondering where to begin. Thankfully, the waitress decided to start things off.

"What do you want with me?" she whispered. If I hadn't had enhanced hearing, I wouldn't have caught the words among the din of other voices in the diner.

I thought quickly, trying hard not to make this sound creepy. "I just want to ask you some questions." Marsha's lips quivered. Obviously too creepy. I tried again. "I'm looking for someone, my friend. I think they might have been here earlier and I was wondering if you saw them."

Marsha relaxed a bit. She'd probably been asked this sort of thing before. She nodded with consent for me to continue. "Who are you looking for?"

"A girl. About five feet and ten inches tall. Skinny. Looks around eighteen years old." Operating word being looks. "Fair skin, dirty blonde hair. She was probably wearing a blue windbreaker."

The hysterical look had returned to the woman's eyes. She had seen Max. Marsha shook her head, body shivering a little. "Haven't seen her. Sorry." Her voice broke halfway through. It didn't take an expert to know she was lying. But somebody- presumably her boss- had told her to keep her mouth shut about it.

Frustrated, I glanced at my watch, watching the seconds slip by. I'd already spent too much time here. Every moment, Max was getting further and further away from me, leaving a cold trail behind. I had to hurry before something happened. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

I leaned forward, placing both of my bandaged hands on the table. "Look," I muttered. "I know you saw something earlier today. I know you're probably scared. But I need you to help me." Marsha shook her head weakly, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. I sighed. "Marsha, please. I need to find that girl. You have to help me."
Marsha starting to stand up. "I can't," she croaked.

"I know about the wings."

The waitress froze and slowly looked back at me. I wordlessly drew Max's feather out of my pocket and held it up so she could see. Marsha's expression told me that she recognized it. Her mouth hung open in a little 'O'.

"Please," I murmured again.

Marsha sat back down, though she kept her chair scooted far away from mine. She stared openly at me once more, panic creeping back onto her face. "Are you one of- them?"

Them? "Who's 'them'?" I wondered.

I just barely caught her next words. "The dogs."

Erasers. The whitecoats must've sent them to get Max. A foreboding sensation tingled in my gut. Erasers. That explained a lot. Like why Max had to show her wings. And why Marsha was so scared of me. "No," I answered carefully. "I'm not one of the dogs." I hesitated a moment and then added, "Like I said, the girl is my friend."

Marsha's eyes widened more, if that was possible, and zoomed in on my windbreaker as she understood the undercurrent of my words. I nodded at her questioning expression and she gaped at me. It was kind of uncomfortable, so I pushed forward with the questions. "You saw her then?" She nodded. "Can you tell me what happened? Please?"

The waitress paused and glanced over her shoulder at the kitchen and then turned back to me. "Okay. But if anyone asks, I didn't tell you anything." I quickly agreed and she started talking in a small voice. "Before that… girl came in, there was this other guy. Looked like he was in his late forties. Tall, curly brown hair going gray. Had this scar along his jaw." I stiffened as Marsha described Jeb Batchelder. Jeb was here? We hadn't seen him since the explosion at Itex. Marsha went on. "He had all these college-age men with him. They were good looking and had the most lovely voices, but…" she trailed off. "Anyway, he said that he was part of a special field of the FBI, and that he was here trying to capture a dangerous drug trafficker. He said that they would be arriving soon and when they did the diner would have to be cleared out."

I stopped Marsha to ask a question. "How long was he here before the girl came?"

The waitress thought. "Not too long. I guess he was here for maybe forty-five minutes before she showed up."

Jeb had known that Max was coming, when even Max hadn't known she was coming. Was the chip in her arm a tracer? But even then, he couldn't have known Max was going to stop here forty-five minutes before she arrived. He must have led her here somehow.

The Voice.

Max had been talking to the Voice before she stopped. The Voice must've told her to come here.

Who was the Voice? Whose side was it on? Why did it help her only to lead her into a trap?

Marsha was watching me curiously as I sat in pensive silence. I gestured for her to continue.

"Anyway… then this girl came in. I didn't think anything of her at first, but then she sat next to the man. He seemed to recognize her, but she didn't even look at him at first. I took her order. When I came back with her drinks, she was crying. I asked her if she was okay and she stopped, said she was fine. I brought her her food. When she started eating, that man talked to her."

My stomach clenched angrily as I remembered the sudden hurt I'd felt from the imprint. What had Jeb wanted from Max? For her to save the world? Max had already made it cleared that she wasn't going to listen to him, and Jeb of all people should know how stubborn Max was.

"I could tell the girl recognized the man. She didn't look very pleased to see him either. I couldn't hear them, but it looked like they were arguing. When she wasn't looking, the man flashed the sign to Mr. Iganorus that it was time to clear out the diner. All the other people left and about twenty-five of those strange guys came in. The girl didn't notice."

Max didn't notice twenty-five Erasers coming into a diner? That was bad. Whatever Jeb was telling must've really caught her attention. But what had he been telling her?

The waitress was watching me, so I muttered, "Go on."

"And then, while the girl was still arguing with the man, all of those guys… changed into-" Marsha broke off and shuddered.

"Wolves," I supplied darkly. Marsha nodded.

"Yeah… the girl was still talking to the guy. Mr. Iganorus made all of us employees go into the kitchen, but I could still see. The man started laughing and the girl looked around and finally saw all of the… wolf men. The man pulled out a needle and said something else to the girl. And then-"

The waitress gazed over my head at the window, a far off glint in her eyes. I could tell she was thinking about what had happened earlier today. "That- girl moved faster than anything I'd ever seen. All of a sudden, she… flying up by the ceiling. Like some sort of angel. She had these huge tan and white wings… All of the wolves were grabbing at her. She flew right through that window."

Marsha stopped and pointed at one of the wide windows over the booths. "The alarm went off and Mr. Iganorus called the police and told them not to come, that everything was okay. I- I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear thrashing and wings flapping and that girl screaming. And then- the screaming just stopped. Mr. Iganorus told us to stay in the kitchen and he went outside. But one of the chefs peeked out the door. He said that the wolfmen were all normal again and were loading the girl into a black van. He said the girl was tied up in and unconscious and bleeding everywhere. He also said he saw that man give Mr. Iganorus a lot of money. Then we heard the van drive away and Mr. Iganorus came back. He called some company and got the window fixed… and that's all I know. "

I closed my eyes. Jeb had Max. I knew something like this would happen. Jeb had my Max. Eyes still closed, I asked, "Did you see what direction the van went?"

"No. But the tracks in the snow looked like it was heading southwest, towards I-35."

I opened my eyes excitedly. "Has it snowed since this happened?"

Marsha shook her head. "I don't think so. There were a little flurries, but that was it."

This was really good news. From the tracks, I could get the gist of where that van went. I wouldn't be able to follow the tracks, since there would be so many other car trails, but I could get an idea of where they were headed. Where they were taking Max. I quickly ate the rest of my lasagna and downed my drink.

"Thanks," I said, really meaning it. "You have no idea how helpful you've been. I'd really appreciate it if you didn't mention any of this to anyone." I stood up to go, but Marsha stopped me.

"Was that girl really a drug trafficker?" she demanded.

I shook her head. "No. Nothing like that at all. She's just… confused and upset. She… ran away from home." True enough. Max did run away.

"Was that man really FBI?"

I paused. Was Jeb FBI? Anne had been FBI. What about Jeb? "I really don't know. He might be," I answered. If this waitress hadn't been so helpful, I would've shoved her out of the way by now. I had to move. But Marsha did deserve to have some answers.

Looking to my windbreaker suspiciously again, Marsha asked in a much quieter voice, "Do you really have- wings?"

I hesitated and nodded stiffly. Muttering a goodbye, I left enough money for the bill and tip on the table and edged around the older waitress. I could feel her eyes on my back as I left. Once out of Iggy's Diner, I examined the tire tracks from the van behind the building. Following the tracks down the road, I saw that the van had indeed merged onto I-35. Recalling a road atlas from my memory, I saw that I-35 lead straight down to Missouri before snaking west and ending in Kansas. Of course, the van could exit the interstate at anytime, but I couldn't do anything but follow the interstate until I got more information.

It was a start. A start was better than nothing.

The good news was that I could fly faster than a van. The bad news was that the van had at least six hours head start. The worst news was that Max had been captured again. By the person she hated more than anyone else in the world.

But there was some good news. There was hope.

I quickly checked for any peering human eyes, ran through the thick snow, and took off.

I'm coming, Max.




I woke up from the strange dream and found myself in the back of van, locked in a cage. An Eraser sitting next to the cage growled at me. The other two Erasers in the back of the van tuned to look and then snarled out to the driver and the Eraser in the passenger seat, "The birdie is awake."

Five fully morphed, winged Erasers. I could take five.

If I wasn't locked in a cage and leaking out blood from half healed cuts swarming all over my body.

"About time you woke up," the Voice grumbled. "I've been trying to wake you up for hours."

Well, at least I had the Voice with me. Though it wasn't much help in a fist fight. How long have I been out?

"About ten and a half hours. Almost eleven."

Eleven hours? I'd been asleep for eleven hours?

"No. You were knocked out for eleven hours. You got tranquilized, remember?"

Oh, yeah. I did remember. That was why I was all cut up. That, plus the glass from the window.

But eleven hours? We'd been driving for that long? Where were we headed?

The Voice answered my question, apropos nothing. "Kansas. Right now you're in Missouri."

Kansas? What's in Kansas?

No answer. Something bad, I presumed. But at least I wasn't at the School, like in my dream. Talk about a weird nightmare. But at least it hadn't been real.

"Dreams are important, Maximum. They are an exercise of the mind, drawing up situations from your subconscious, things you'd never remember while awake. You shouldn't just brush them off."

What? You're saying Ari really does want to play Clue with me? Big whoop.

I felt the Voice sigh with exaggerated patience. "Was that all that occurred in the dream?"

No. I struggled to remember what else had happened, sitting upright in my small cage. The icy metal stung my skin. Then I remembered the name Ari had spoken with such contempt. Who's Isaac? Is that even a real person?

Again, all that answered me was silence. Groaning, I examined the lock on the cage door. I couldn't see it properly, but it was a key lock. Which meant one of the Erasers had the key. Unfortunately, the Eraser weren't dumb enough to hand it over to me.

I rest my back against the cage bars again, feathers poking through. I had to get out of this van. I had no idea what was in Kansas, but if Jeb wanted to take me there, it couldn't be good. I had to escape. But I didn't see anyway how.

"I know a way, if you're interested."

I sat up. Do tell.

"There are five Erasers in this van, and another four in the van behind us, plus Jeb. In about an hour, both the vans are going to drive by a forest. That'll be your chance."

Chance for what? I'm still in a cage, in case you haven't noticed.

"One of the Erasers will drop the key by your cage."

Oh, he'll just set me free. Why exactly will he do that? I snapped sarcastically.

"He'll do it."

I rolled my eyes. And then what? I'm not exactly in tiptop condition to take out five Erasers and then another four.

"I'll take care of them. All you have to do is walked out of your cage, open the back van door and run into the forest as fast as you can."

Run? Why not fly?

"Your wings are bound."

I reached my hand over my shoulder and there was indeed a strap there folding my wings to my back. How did the Voice know all this? And how was a voice going to take out nine Erasers?

"A little trust, please."

Fine. This mysterious plan was better than no plan. And all this goes down in an hour when we drive by a forest?


An hour. I had to wait and hour and then I just had to waltz out of this van and run? It sounded a little too easy.

"The simplest plans are the best ones. I won't be ale to stay with you for too long after that though."

Why not?

No answer. Again. I sighed and closed my eyes. Might as well rest and healed up all of the cuts on me. Looked like Fang was right. I couldn't stay out of trouble without him around.

Then I remembered what Jeb had said.

Hey, Voice?

"Yes, Maximum?"

What's Reverse NPD?

Silence. Seemed like the Voice was hiding all the important answers from me. Hey. You said that if I trusted you, you would answer my questions. Well, I am trusting you. So answer me. What's Reverse NPD?

I felt the Voice sigh again. "If I tell you, you can't tell Fang, okay?" the Voice warned.

Why not?

"Because, Maximum, it might make his condition worse."

Oh. Okay. So what's Reverse NPD?

The Voice chuckled. "You might as well get comfortable. This is going to take a while to explain."

Biting back the impulse to make a snide remark, I situated myself so that the cage bars weren't pressed so oddly against my wings. Getting comfortable in a steel cage isn't the easiest thing. One of the Eraser's smirk at me. Alright. Now will you tell me what NPD is?




A/N again: AHHH! I'm sorry! I really meant to get to what Reverse NPD was in this chapter, but the conversation with Marsha took longer than I thought it would. I'M SO SORRY!!! Randomness: Did you know that the name "Jeb" means 'merry'? Kinda off, don't ya think? I can't find a name meaning for "Batchelder", but I'm still googling…

More name meanings: IGGY means TROUBLEMAKER. Appropriate, yes? MAX means A SALMON BASIN. WTF? ANGEL means RIVER NAME. Why not just "angel"? EDWARD means RICH GUARDIAN. (Anyone whose read Twilight knows how fitting that is!) And finally, MYRAH means WONDERFUL. Extremely appropriate. LOL.

And so the plot thickens…

What's Reverse NPD?

Who the crap is Isaac?

What in the world is in Kansas?

Why can Fang "see" Max?

Why is Max going to chop Fang's head off?

Will this story ever hurry up and get to the end?

You'll find out in a weekish. But I SERIOUSLY need to do some homework. I've been slacking off way too much.

So until next time, REVIEW!

25. Lucky Number Seven

A/N: Hey guys! Finally, you get some answers!!! This chapter is kind of confusing, so read carefully and pay attention to who is talking. (Practically two thirds of this chapter is all in italics, so watch for the quotation marks so that you know it's the Voice.) I think this chapter sucks butt… but oh well. Sorry for the shortness.

RMF#20: I write almost entirely out of personal experience. And while I've never had wings grafted to my back, I have had best friends move away and never heard from again, fainted, fallen through glass, been burned, trekked miles just to get flour for cookies, been cornered by thugs, had friends run away from home, and was depressed when I was twelve. I even know someone who has NPD, (but not the reverse kind).

Disclaimer: Whatever.

Copyright: Whatever.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Lucky Number Seven




Alright. Now will you tell me what NPD is?

"…Fine, then." The Voice paused for a moment and then continued in a scholarly sort of tone. "NPD stands for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is a mental disorder in which the inflicted person has a grandiose sense of self-importance, or an inflated ego, if you will. They often lack empathy, have a strong sense of entitlement, and are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, etc. Simply put- they think they are the greatest thing that has ever touched the planet."

I thought for a moment, soaking in all the new information. I picked at a forming scab at on my arm, trying to fit what I'd just been told with sixteen years worth of knowledge about Fang. But- that doesn't sound like Fang at all.

"Well, Fang doesn't have NPD. He has Reverse NPD."

I sucked in a breath as my scab suddenly ripped. A miniscule drop of blood oozed out and the three Erasers sitting in the back whipped their heads around to face me, almost as though they could smell the blood. Maybe they could. What? You mean he hates himself? That would make sense, kind of at least. He had been depressed, and he never told me the real reason why.

"Don't make such quick assumptions, Maximum," The Voice instructed. "Fang doesn't hate himself. He's simply indifferent."

I don't get what you mean.

The Voice sighed softly, a quiet breath against my mind. "Fang doesn't think his life matters. He doesn't hate himself, but he doesn't love himself either. He just believes that he is utterly unimportant."

I immediently took up the defense. That's not true.

The Voice chuckled, sadly almost. "Think about it, Maximum. You consider Fang a logical person, yes?"

I peeled away the remnants of the scab. Yeah, I thought, grudgingly.

"Then where is the logic in his argument about you leaving? He was more concerned about the slight possibility of you getting hurt than he was about the huge possibility of his own death. Now tell me- what kind of logical person thinks that?"

Blood was slowly slipping my arm. The Erasers' eyes followed the trial hungrily. The Voice finally answered its own question. "A person who doesn't care about their life."

I still think you're wrong.

"Why doesn't Fang admit he's hurt then?"

Because he thinks he needs to hold up his rep.

"No. Because if he says he's hurt, then everyone will have to stop. And in his head, staying on schedule is more important than him getting fixed up."

If that's true, then why does he tell me when I bug him about it? I shot back.

"Because keeping you happy is more important than staying on schedule."

I shook my head stubbornly and rubbed the blood away with my shredded jacket sleeve. The bloodlust faded from the wolves' eyes and they turned away. The Voice groaned. "You still don't believe me, do you?"


"I guess I'll have to prove it, then." The Voice was quiet for one blessed moment, thinking, I suppose. Then it asked, "What's the first thing you remember, Maximum?"

I was taken aback at the seemingly random question. The School, I guess.

"Think, Max. I can help you remember, but you're going to have to try harder than that."

I concentrated, working my way through years of bad memories, trying to find the earliest one. I suppose when I was almost three, and Iggy was moved to the room with Fang and I.

"But did you two always share that room?"

I started to reply yes, but then I recalled something I'd long forgotten about. No- Fang was moved in with me a few months before Iggy.

"Why do you think the whitecoats moved him to your room?"

I wrapped my fingers around one of the cool steel bars. The wolfie closest to me glanced at me suspiciously. Part of their stupid experiments, probably. Or maybe they were just running out of space.

"Hardly. The whitecoats hadn't planned on putting the Subjects together. They did so only because they had to."

And I suppose you want me to ask why they had to? I thought sarcastically. Getting beaten up, shoved in a cage, and being told that your best friend is insane are the kind of things that could put anyone in a bad mood.

"Yes," the Voice chuckled, rumbling against the back of my brain. "Fang had to get moved to your room because otherwise he might have killed himself at the tender age of two. And the whitecoats couldn't have one of their few successful experiments dying on them…"

The mention of suicide made my heart clench as I remembered something Fang had told me when he'd been depressed. I shoved the memory out of my mind. Are you going to tell me the full story or not?

"Very well." The was a long pause. I was just starting to get annoyed when the Voice carried on. "Almost seventeen years ago, the whitecoats finally accomplished what they'd been trying to do for a decade. They believed that they'd finally managed to produce a truly successful avian hybrid. That would be you, Maximum," the Voice added. "Pleased with their victory, they produced yet another, and then one more. Fang and Iggy. The whitecoats already knew from a former experience that keeping intelligent experiments near each other did turn out happy results, and so they planned to keep Subjects Six, Seven, and Eight separated."

I stopped the lecture. Wait- what former experience? And why are we six, seven, and eight?

The Voice was silent.

I rolled my eyes and slumped my back against the cage bars. Fine, fine. Go on.

The Voice continued with the story, after another long pause. "They did this for about two years before they realized that there was a problem with Subject Seven."

Fang? I whispered unnecessarily in my mind.

"Yes, Fang," the Voice clarified. "You see, Subjects Six and Eight were developing just like all the other toddler experiments before them. But Seven lacked a major quality. Self preservation. Subject Seven never fought back or objected to any commands. At first, the scientist were pleased- it made him a very cooperative guinea pig. But when it got to a point of practically suicide, when Seven would just stand still and let Erasers have at him, they realized that this was a problem."

I interrupted yet again. "So Fang had this Reverse NPD thing ever since he was two?"

The Voice sighed impatiently. "Again with the assumptions. No- he's had it since he was born. The whitecoats didn't notice until later because infants can't really show symptoms of a mental disorder seeing as to how they can't talk and just barely can move and consciously think. Are you done interrupting me?"

Maybe. I stuck my hands in my windbreaker pockets and was relieved to find that my bank card was still in there. Keep going.

"The whitecoats began running psyche tests on Subject Seven. Psychoanalyzing a toddler isn't the easiest thing to do, but by then the Reverse NPD had developed so far that it was obvious even at his young age. The whitecoats realized that if the disorder wasn't treated, Subject Seven would one day kill himself or let himself be killed. They started searching for ways to fix or at least suppress his problem. But nothing worked. But finally, one of the head whitecoats- Jeb Batchelder- came up with a solution."

I wanted desperately to make a comment, but I didn't want the Voice to get peeved with me again. It was, after all, my only companion at the moment.

"Jeb's idea was simple. Subject Seven always cooperated during experiments because having a set of instructions to follow through with briefly gave Seven's life a point, a meaning. So his idea was that if they gave Seven a lifelong mission to accomplish, his life would matter to himself and therefore he wouldn't have to be on suicide watch 24/7. The problem was that this 'mission' would have to be self-appointed by the Subject. If it was given to him by a whitecoat, he would eventually stop trying as he got older and developed more conscious thinking."

"The other whitecoats were skeptical, but they didn't have anything else to work with. And so, in one last ditch attempt to save Subject Seven's insanity, they moved him in with Subject Six."

I couldn't stop the question from bubbling up this time. What? That doesn't make sense. Why did they move Fang to my room?

"Jeb hoped that with the introduction of another Subject, Seven would take it upon himself to take care of the other Subject and therefore have a lifelong mission."

It took a moment for that to sink in, but when it did, it caused an explosive revelation.

"Get off her!"

"You're a lot more important to him than that."

"You have done more for me than you could possibly ever understand."

"You die when we die."

"A gift. Since I can't protect you anymore."

"So- sometimes I have to take care of you."

"Go back to Fang, Maximum. He needs you more than you can imagine."

"You'll be okay. I promise."

(A/N: In case of confusion, that was a flashback.)

Oh. My. God.

I'm Fang's 'mission'?!? I practically shouted in my head.

"Yes," the Voice answered calmly. "Not just you- the whitecoats moved Iggy and, later, the rest of the flock to reinforce the mission in case he failed in keeping you alive. But since they've gone away now and are safe… it's just you."

Holy crap. This must be what the Voice meant earlier when it said that Fang cared about me more than anyone else. And why Fang had wanted me to stay at his parent's house with him. And why Jeb had snarled at me to go back-

A thought suddenly struck me, and it wasn't good.

Oh god.


Since I'm not with Fang right now… since I left… is he…?

The Voice sighed with exaggerated patience. "He hasn't killed himself. He's looking for you right now, therefore he has a mission, therefore his life has a point."

I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding. Oh. Thank god.

"But, Maximum," the Voice added. "If you get badly hurt- or worse- before he finds you, then he will commit suicide."

Shit. But then I remembered something even worse. The reason why I'd left in the first place.

But… the drawing. If he finds me… won't I…? I couldn't say it. Not even in my head.

The Voice was quiet for a long time. I fiddled with my torn jeans anxiously as one of the Erasers watched me. Finally, the Voice murmured, "Yes, Maximum. He will die."




A/N again: In a narrative sense, nothing happened this chapter. But oh well. It had to be written. I know that this chapter was probably kind of confusing, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I won't be updating for a while because of finals and homework, so you guys will have to wait. Sorry! Meanwhile, review!

26. In the Woods

A/N: So… how about I saw this guy who was like a carbon copy of Fang? I was at the library, waiting for my mom to pick me up, and then I see this astoundingly hot guy. He was a few inches taller than me, so that's roughly six feet. He was Southern Italian, so he had the black hair and olive skin tone. He was muscular and really skinny. And I'm not talking average thin- I'm talking envy-of-all-supermodels SKINNY! He was so totally emo. And get this- he was wearing a BLACK WINDBREAKER. It was kind of creepy. I just sat there watching him and then my mother showed up and ruined my goggling.

But anyway. It's storytime children! We're going to start out with some Fang POV, then move back to Max and her great escape. Also, this is important- the different POVs aren't happening at the same time. They are on different time frames. Just FYI. Next chapter, it will be happening simultaneously, though. Keep that in mind.

Now- are you ready?

Disclaimer: You know the drill.

Copyright: You know this drill as well.

Chapter Twenty-Five: In the Woods




I'd been breaking a lot of rules lately.

First- telling Marsha I have wings. A very bad move. Technically, I didn't tell her, but I heavily implied it. Bad enough. It could be on the front page tomorrow. Maybe no one would believe her at first, but what if some of her co-workers backed her up? Plus, our photos were already on file because of that stunt we pulled at that restaurant in New York. The quality wasn't good, but Marsha could definitely recognize Max's wings, and maybe her face and mine. Before long, the world could know about the Flock.

Second- I was flying too low. I was only a quarter of a mile from the ground, half at the most. From far off, I might look like a big bird, but if the person looked long enough, they'd figure out that I was way too big to be a bird. And if someone saw me from up in a building or through binoculars, I was screwed. But I needed to be near the ground so I could see van if I happened to come across it. How many black cargo vans could there be?

Third- I hadn't eaten since the diner and that had been hours ago. I hadn't even eaten enough then. And I hadn't slept since I'd woken up this morning. Or was it yesterday morning? I glanced at my watch. Make that yesterday morning. If I dropped out of the air and smashed into one of the car windshields below me, our cover was definitely blown. Not to mention that I'd be dead. And dead, I was no help to Max.

Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max, Max…

I had been following the interstate, on the off chance that the van hadn't already gone off on one of the exits. I was kind of light-headed, most likely from the lack of food and sleep. The shoulder I burned was stinging determinedly, pained from all the flying. My wings ached mercilessly. All in all, I was in pretty crappy condition, but if Jeb and the Erasers had Max, she was in a lot worse. Especially if I didn't find her soon.

I was somewhere in Missouri when I felt something flitting through my instincts. I slowed down my flight just a tad and stuck my hand in my pocket, touching Max's feather. The imprint was faint, so I slowed down even more and dipped towards the ground, as close as I dared.

I could "see" Max in my head. Her hunched back and folded knees told me that she was in a cage. I could see dozens of half-healed cuts hatching her person, probably from the glass window and the Erasers. A huge part of me wanted to clean the cuts and dump antiseptic on them- but that wasn't happening anytime soon.

She'd just woken up; I recognized the wild look in her eyes as resulting from a nightmare. I "watched" her glance around, and then her expression turned static as she began talking to the Voice. My gut clenched with foreboding as I remembered that it must've been the Voice that had led her to the trap at the diner. I finally had valid proof that she shouldn't listen to that thing and I couldn't tell her. She talked to the voice for a long time, face shifting from curiosity to annoyance to fear. Then, she started to cry.

The cavity where my heart used to be ached. I remembered when Max used to never cry. Not when anyone could see her. But every since our paradise had been ruined and Angel was kidnapped, everything just kept getting to her. She was only sixteen for God's sake. No one should be put under the kind of stress she was under.

Like in the diner, I wanted to hold her and tell her that everything was okay, even if it wasn't really. Anything for her to stop crying. I couldn't stand to see her do that. I never could. Not even when we were at the School.

I continued to fly while I felt her tears in my head. Eventually she stopped and sat with her knees tucked under her chin, eyes burning red. I don't know how long she remained frozen like that, but suddenly her eyes widened and she toppled over, smashing into the side of her alleged cage.

What the-?

I "watched" her quickly pick herself up and reached hesitantly towards something. Then she twisted her wrist at an awkward angle and I figured out what had happened- she'd somehow gotten the key. She push the door open and shakily climbed out of the cage I couldn't see. Max opened what I guessed was the van door, and then she started running.

Running? Why not fly?

She ran and ran and then finally… she stopped, panting. And then, the image faded from my head- I must have been out of range.

I blinked, focusing on the present again. That… imprint thing, had been clearer this time. Did that mean I was getting better at it, or that it had happened earlier than the others? I couldn't be sure.

And how in the world had Max gotten out of that cage?

I mulled over the way she'd toppled over, and it hit me. The van must've crashed. I didn't know how, but it had allowed Max to escape. And if the van had crashed, then there must be a lot of traffic where it happened…

I glanced down and saw that the interstate was really backed up. And it wasn't rush hour time. I spread my wings wider and flapped hard, ignoring my fatigue. I started surging forward, keeping my eyes plastered to the cars beneath me. An exit came up, and I could see that the traffic was worse that way, so I followed it. The jungle of motor vehicles disappeared, and all that was left was a smaller, two way road, winding next to a large natural forest. Just a little bit further and… I saw the crash.

There were two black cargo vans and a SUV, all practically sandwiched together. Several police cars were surrounding the area, cutting off the traffic flow. I landed carefully and crouched on a tree limb, staying back in the shadows. I just close enough that if I concentrated hard, I could catch a few words.

From the bits I heard, I gathered that the accident had been approximately forty-five minutes ago, that all the people in the SUV were injured, but alive, and that no one had been found in the cargo vans. Police were combing the forest, but hadn't come up with anything.

I allowed myself to grin darkly in relief. Forty-five minutes ago. I was so close.

Making sure their were no human eyes pointed my way, I silently jumped down from the tree and started picking my way into the woods.




I cried for a long time. Everything was just so pointless. If Fang found me, I'd kill him. If he didn't find me, he could die anyway. And if I stayed with the Erasers and Jeb, they'd leave me for Fang to find me or pick up where they left off when the Flock escaped, six years ago.

I could hear the Eraser's in the back snickering at me, but I ignored them. The Voice left me alone too, allowing me to have my grief.

Eventually, there were no tears left. I rubbed my eyes on my sleeve and rested my chin on my tucked knees, staring grimly ahead at nothing. What was the point anyway? Any future I had was going to be black. Either the scene that Fang had drawn would come through, or Fang would give up his search and commit suicide. Either way he was dead. And I couldn't live with that, especially knowing that it was my stupid fault.

"Max?" the Voice asked. Apparently it had decided to cut my pity party short.

What? I was devoid of emotion. If I didn't feel, it wouldn't hurt. Or at least that's what I told myself.

"Do you still have the knife?"

It took me a moment to gather what it was saying. Then I remembered- the knife Fang gave me the night I left him at his parent's place. I could still feel it in my shoe. I guess the Erasers hadn't bothered searching me.

Yeah, I answered.

"Good. You might need it."

There were a few more blessed moments of silence and then the Voice said, excitedly almost, "It's time. Hold on tight."

Before I could ask what it meant, screams of pain erupted around me. The three Erasers closest to me collapsed to their knees, clenching their heads and whimpering pathetically. Almost simultaneously, I felt the van crash into something in front and then no less than half a second later, something smashed into the back.

I was thrown against my cage's bars and my aching body cried out. The cage toppled over amidst the roar of smashing metal and the five Eraser's screeches.

One of the Erasers started crawling towards me, eyes shut and body twitching in pain. One had released his skull long enough to reach into a pocket and tossed a key in my general direction. I could hear him gasping "please" over and over.

I reached through the cage bar hesitantly and picked up the key. I manipulated my wrist to an odd angle and just barely managed to slot the key into the lock. A quick twist and the lock popped open. I shoved the cage door and crawled out cautiously. My legs were like wood after the hours of crouching.

The five Erasers were still withering on the floor on the van. I stepped over them, grabbed my backpack from the corner, and unlocked the back door, trying to open it, but it caught on something.

I peered out and saw that the other cargo van was smashed against the back of ours. Even worse though, I could see Jeb in the van, a gory gash across his forehead, slowly sitting up. He seemed totally unaffected by the spasms that were affecting his helpers and his only injury was from the collision.

He saw me and his eyes widened. I couldn't hear him, but I could lip read well enough to know what he was shouting- No, Maximum! Fang needs you! You have to stay! Maximum!

I was so out of here.

I squeezed through the small opening and set off running. I could hear Jeb now but I ignored him. The forest was there, just like the Voice had said it would be. I ran, itching to open my wings. But they were still bound securely to my back.

So I ran.

Before long, I could hear the sound of Erasers hurdling through the woods, racing for me. They must of recovered from whatever the Voice had done to them- brain attacks? I stopped my train of thought and focused on not tripping over one of the treacherous roots with my tingling feet.

I ran.

I had no idea for how long, but I pushed myself, ignoring my ragged breath and my pounding heartbeat. Finally, the sounds of the large, clumsy Erasers faded. I had lost them, for now at least. I could rest for a while. But not too long. And I had to get these wretched binds off my back.

Staying on the ground was too risky, so I climbed a tree and set my bag down on a large limb. I sat for a bit, attempting to soothe my hectic breathing and pulse. Every part of me was aching and I longed for nothing more than Fang's quiet touch to ease the pain away. But that wasn't happening anytime soon.

When my heart was no longer in danger of erupting from my rib cage, I sat up and did an injury check. Loads of cuts and bruises, so many I didn't bother cataloguing them all. I could feel a really big bruise forming on my side, from smashing against the cage. But no broken bones, so I was in luck. I really needed to clean up though.

"There's a lake a little south of where you are."

I jumped. Literally. I thought you wouldn't be able to stay with me, I accused.

"So did I." The Voice paused thoughtfully. "But I'll probably will be leaving soon."

You won't be coming back, will you? I asked warily. Because that hurts.

"Of course I'm coming back. You're stuck with me until you save the world."

I grumbled, I'm working on it. Then, I remembered something important. Hey- how come Jeb wasn't going all spastic?

There wasn't an answer for a while. I was starting to think that it had left already, but then it said, "I'm not sure. It was like there was something blocking his mind from me."

I thought about something Angel had said after we'd rescued her. "I didn't get anything from him at all. Nothing. It was like he was dead." Weird. Did Jeb have some sort of power that blocked people from his head? Or an implant? After everything I'd seen, not much was going to surprise me.

But the mention of Angel had piqued a question out of me. Voice? If Fang's always been all… messed up, how come Angel never noticed?

"It's on a sub-conscious basis, Maximum. He doesn't go around thinking that his life doesn't matter. It's just something he naturally knows. Like how you don't go around thinking, 'My name is Max.'"

So… Fang has no idea that he has Reverse NPD?


That bothered me. People should know if they are crazy. I was shocked that none of the whitecoats hadn't told him.

"Like I said earlier- he can't know. It could make his condition worse. So whatever you do, don't tell him, Maximum."

I'll remember that- if I ever see him again that is… I thought bitterly.

Fang's latest drawing floated up in my memory. I pushed the issue from my thoughts though. Right now, I really needed to clean up and keep moving. I grabbed my backpack and set off to find this alleged lake.

The Voice guided me, and I quick found it- a good medium sized lake, water glistening in the rising moonlight. I shrugged off my shoes and dug out Fang's knife. I felt around on my back and carefully cut the binds. My wings were stiff and I could hear joints cracking as I slowly spread them.

The water was freezing, but I stepped in and scrubbed the dried blood off of me. Though I was pretty sure I was alone, my paranoia shooed me out of the cold water and I quickly changed into a dry set of clothes.

I was starting to feel half way decent now. I knelt down by the water to quickly washed my face- and stifled a scream.

Eraser Max was back.

She smiled maliciously at me, displaying large canines. "Long time, no see, Maxie, dearest."

I touched my face automatically and the skin was smooth. But the reflection didn't match my motions. It was like she had a life of her own.

"That's right, Max," the Eraser cooed. "I'm part of you- and a lot more dominant than you think. I've been biding my time, growing stronger… just like that precious Voice of yours."

I backed away from the water. "No," I whispered. "You're not me. That's not me."

Her smile widened at the quiver in my voice. "Oh, I'm not you. I'm more powerful than you'll ever be. And now it's time for me to come out."

I crept backwards, hands pressed to the cool ground. "No. You're not real."

Eraser Max clicked her claws tauntingly. "Oh, I'm very real. And I'm hungry." Her tongue slid over her sharp teeth. "That bird boy of yours should make a tasty treat."

"Leave Fang alone!" I screeched. I scrambled to my feet and ran from the water, bare feet digging into the sand. A slick stone underfoot cost me my balance and I fell into the dirt, body heaving with sobs.

"Maximum?" the Voice said coolly. "Get up."

A sudden calm overtook me, and I obeyed, rising with a fluidity I didn't know I possessed.

"You need to go back to the tree. Now."

Why? I wondered. But I already knew.


I nodded, and grabbed my bag from the ground, slinging it over my back. I put my shoes back on.

"Don't forget the knife. You'll need it."

My eyes searched the ground and found the glinting metal. I picked up the blade and held it in my hand, unsheathed. It had a sort of reassuring feel to it, just like Fang did.


"It'll be alright, Max. Just do exactly as I say."

I took a deep breath and forced a grim grin.. Yeah. It will be alright.




A/N again: I think this chapter was pretty bad, until the end. I luv the end. You guys just want to kill me, don't you? Probably. The next chapter will be really good, I promise. Load-o-action next chapter. Can't wait. In the meantime, review please. I might be nicer if I get loads of reviews. Might.

27. Fading

A/N: AHHHH! I am sooooo sorry that this is soooooo late! Don't hurt me! I've been REALLY busy with the exams and holidays, but since Christmas is FINALLY over, I'll hopefully be able to finished this fic before I have to go back to school. I'M SORRY GUYS! Since I was late, I'm going to give you a nice, long chapter, the longest I've ever written. Happy? I hope so.

My newest guilty pleasure: excessive use of proper pronouns. You'll see what I mean.

WARNING: From here on out, the mean-ness filter is switched off. All of the pity I have in my being has dissipated. In this chapter, there will be no mercy.

FYI: Lots of POV changes here. Keep an eye on it.

Disclaimer: I didn't write the Maximum Ride series.

Copyright: This is what I wrote.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Fading




The sounds of the highway soon faded, and then, the forest was silent around me. The only sounds were my footsteps crunching through the layer of dead leaves left over from fall and my own muffled breathing. Usually, silence was a comfort for me. But this was just creepy. Dawn was steadily approaching, but I couldn't hear the rustle of night creatures that was supposed to come in the whole natural forest package. But there was nothing out here but me. And, hopefully- somewhere- Max.

The quiet made me cautious. I moved slowly through the woods, following the slight trail left by the imprint. I traveled for about an hour, meticulously keeping track of the "picture" of Max that was slowly getting dimmer from the time lapse.

And then the picture was totally gone.

I stopped dead in my tracks. There was nothing special about my position, but it somehow felt… right. Like I was supposed to be here. I did a careful 360, scanning my surrounding. A medium sized lake took up most of the area. The moonlight slid off the water surface, giving the vicinity an odd glow.

I breathed out and touched the feather in my pocket. No images surfaced against my eye lids, but I could feel something, that prickly feeling on your neck when you're being watched. I concentrated harder. Max had been here, I knew she had. Something started to come up- a scratchy outline of Max kneeling by the water- but then a piercing pain shot across my temple.




The forest was unnaturally quiet. The sounds of the clumsy Erasers Jeb had sent were gone now. And with them, they seem to have taken all the animals as well. There wasn't a rustle or a chatter to be heard.

Maybe they knew what was coming. Maybe the sensed the death circling overhead, waiting to dive down and snap some poor soul up.

Or maybe I was just getting overly paranoid.

I found the tree without any help from the Voice. I leaned against, trying to clear my head and not think about what was going to happen.

Can't you stop it?


You know what I mean! I snapped at the Voice.

I was alone for a moment and then it answered me with a simple, "No."

With all these single-word replies, it was really started to sound like Fang. Fang. Crap. I felt the tears burning around my eyes, but I did nothing to stop them. Why are you doing this? I demanded.

"Maximum, I'm not the one doing this."

You said you were going to hurt me so I'd do what you want!

There was a long pause, but I could feel the shame and regret in my mind. "I was mad, Max. People say stupid things when they are mad, you know that. I would never really hurt you. Not like that."

Why did that sound familiar? Then I remember what Ari had said in the tunnel, before he 'died'.

The Voice didn't give me much time to ponder on this though. "It's out of my control. I can't interfere anymore than I already have."

I rubbed at my eyes with my jacket sleeve. Can you at least tell me what's going to happen?

The Voice groaned sadly. "I don't know the future, Maximum. I do know that this night is vital to what happens next. But even if I did know, I couldn't tell you."

Why not?

"You're being tested, Max. I'm supposed to watch and push you in the right direction, but I can't help. I'm already going to pay dearly for what I did to the Erasers in the vans."

A test. No matter how much time past or how far I ran, it always came down to some stupid test. But something the Voice mentioned caught my attention. And this is the right direction? Fang dying is the right direction? I asked, appropriately pissed off.

The Voice sighed and murmured, "Yes."

I was granted some mental privacy as I started to cry again. Maybe a week ago, I would've felt like a crybaby from all this sobbing, but right now I really didn't care. It wasn't like anyone was around to see me. It wasn't like I didn't have good reason to cry. Fang was going to die. For some sick, twisted reason, I was going to cut off my best friend's head. And I couldn't begin to picture a future that didn't include Fang in it. Fang couldn't die.

But he was going to.




I inhaled sharply, the hand releasing the feather to press flat on my skull. The second I let go of Max's feather, the pain faded. I tentatively fingered the feather and the same pain echoed across my brain.

I opened my eyes grimly, an ominous feeling roaring over the aches of hunger in my stomach. The only explanation I could come up with for the pain was that something had happened to Max, a brain attack, or- the cavity in my chest flared- a bullet to the head.

Not good. If Max was dead, then I was-

No. I could think like that.

She wasn't dead. I knew that, somehow. If Max was dead… I'd know.

I looked down at the damp sand, eyes picking over the grainy surface. Before Jeb had left and betrayed us, he taught us a lot of things- among them, tracking. I'd never thought I'd actually need to do it, but right now I was greatly happy that I'd learned. My enhanced raptor vision worked well, even in the dark, and it wasn't long before I spotted the impression in the sand. I crouched down by it, examining the shape.

Someone had lain here. And that someone could only be Max.

I rose, and found the footsteps embedded in the sand, heading back into the woods. And so I followed the trail back into the dark confines of the woods.




I felt sorry for her. I really did. She was a sweet girl. Maybe if things had worked out differently, she would just be a normal girl, a sixteen year old- ripe and ready for the world.

But this was the way the hands had been dealt. Fate was a cruel dealer.

Her best friend, who had fought against his destiny for so long, heading for his demise.

Her father, who gave up everything for what he loved, finally giving in.

Her mother, who tried so hard, unable to do a thing.

And myself. So like her mother- maybe I could help, but I would not. I could not interfere. True, I did have my duties to her. I was under oath. But I had my own priorities. And if it cost the life of her friend to save billions of others… so be it.

You can't please everybody at once.




When I was beginning to run out of tears, eyes still stinging brutally, I was interrupted by the Voice.


I practically jumped. In all of three years or so, I'd never heard the Voice curse. What? I asked.

"Something changed. Max, you've got to move!"

Where? I was started to get really confused.

"Anywhere! Just move! Now!" the Voice barked at me.

Like before, at the lake, I felt a sudden calm flood through me and I hurried to obey the command. I jogged away from the large tree, moving as silent as a phantom in the shadows. Finally, the Voice muttered, "Okay, that should be good enough."

I stopped and stood still, waiting to see if I had anymore instructions. Apparently, I did, because the Voice muttered absently, "You should probably get out of the forest. Just in case."

Part of me-a huge part- wanted to do just as it said. But a smaller part of me stood firm. Why? I questioned stubbornly.

"Just trust me, Maximum."

Sounded like a good reason. I untucked my wings a bit, looking around for a space between the branches with enough room to get through. But all thoughts of flight were ambushed when the silence was shattered by a loud cry of pain. My head whipped around to the source. What was that?

"Just go, Maximum!" the Voice pleaded.
But it was too late, because I'd already recognized the sound, though I didn't often hear it: Fang in pain. Some serious pain too, because Fang would never cry out if it didn't hurt like hell. Or worse.

Fang! I turned around, heading towards the sound.

"No, Max!" the Voice shouted. "Don't forget the premonition!"

That stopped me dead in my tracks. If I was near Fang, it would happen. But...

He could be dying right now! I shouted back.

"Could be! If you go to him, he will die!"




The trees were thicker in this part of the woods, roots sticking up, hoping to snag one of my feet. I stepped over them, getting steadily dizzy from the lack of food and sleep, not to mention the constant hisses from my burns. I couldn't stop now though. Something had happened to Max, but I was so close to her. She was in this forest, somewhere.

Max's footsteps lead me away from the lake. I followed them faithfully, trying to ignore the foreboding in my gut.

And then the silence in the woods was broken. The sound of crunching leaves…

I froze, straining my ears. I knew that wasn't me. I listened intently, concentrating…

Max. I recognized the length of the stride, the soft step. The attempt to walk quietly and failing miserably. That was Max.

I turned in the direction of the sound, moving quicker now. I broke out into a run, shoving underbrush out of my way.

And there she was, right in front of me.

"Max?" I whispered, unwilling to believe it.

Max turned to face me, surprise clear in her hazel eyes. Her face was all cut up, her arms and legs as well. The dim moonlight revealed tiny shards of glass still stuck in her hair, and the handle of the knife I'd given her, poking out of her jean pocket- the same jeans she'd been wearing when I'd last seen her.

It was Max. It really was.

"Fang?" she answered. Her voice rang in my ears. It had only been a couple of days since I'd last heard it, but it felt like a lot longer. "How did you-"

The same instinct that had led me here roared.

I cut her off, taking one small step backwards. "You're not Max," I growled.




I bit my lip hard, drawing a drop of blood. No matter what I did, Fang was in trouble. I felt that strange calm started to take over me again, but I resisted it.

I have to try! If either way he dies, it doesn't matter! But I have to try! I screamed at the Voice. I tried to move, but my body wouldn't let me. Pain started trickling down the back of my skull.

"No, Max! You can't!" the Voice yelled furiously. "If you just listen to me, everything will be alright!"

If Fang isn't alright, then I'm not either! The pain elevated tenfold and I was forced to my knees, hands engulfing my head. I bit down on my lip to keep from shrieking, blood starting to dribble down my chin. I could feel myself fading, my grip on reality dissipating fast.


And it did.

I collapsed on all fours, gasping. The pain had ceased its build up, but my head still throbbed horribly. I ignored it, scrambling to my feet, and running full speed to where I'd heard Fang shout. Over the noise of my feet crashing through the woods, I could make out the sounds of a fight. I drew my knife as I ran.

I didn't know it then, but the death that had been soaring overhead began its descent.




I collapsed on all fours from the effort, beads of sweat stinging my eyes as they rolled down my forehead. I couldn't keep it up much longer. I could hear her screaming in my head, screaming for me to stop. The same alarms were ringing around me, flashing red against my lids. I let go, limbs shaking under my weight. Crimson eyes gazed over me, watching me with clear apathy.

I felt her get up and start running, like I knew she would- like she shouldn't. I growled at my weakness, but I knew that if I'd passed out, I wouldn't be able to watch her. And I had to watch her.

Panting weakly, I pulled myself into a technically upright position. My head spun, the dark surrounding getting blurry. I should have left her ages ago- it was dangerous for me to stay this long. But she still needed me.

Closing my eyes tiredly, I ran with her, feeling the branches in the woods scraping against her skin. She was really going to do it. Against everything I'd told, against everything I'd done to try to prevent her, she was running to the last place to couldn't go to and come out alive.

I exhaled hard, pressing my fingers to my temple in a futile attempt to stop the lightheadedness. To crimson eyes watching me, I muttered aloud, "Max, you are an idiot."




She stared at me as though I'd just told her she was Jesus. "What?" she said, moving towards me. I took another step back, bending my knees a bit. "Fang, what's wrong?" she asked, hazel eyes searching my face. She tried again. "Fang?"

"You're not Max," I repeated roughly.

Her eyes started to shine with salty tears. "What are you talking about?"

I waited for it. Waited for the emphatic pain that always compelled me to comfort Max. I hated to see Max cry, especially if I was the reason for it.

But it wasn't coming.

I backed up a few more feet, away from the clone. She continued to sob, shoulders heaving, until finally I muttered, "You're are a horrible actress."

The crying stopped, and Max II snapped up her head to glare at me with red, malicious eyes. "And you're a fool!" she hissed, right before she leapt at me.

I spun around a tree, quickly shifting to defense mode. I had to find Max. The real one. Max II's arm lashed out at me and I jumped away, whirling around. She kicked, aiming high, but I grabbed her by the ankle and she felled to the ground, hard.

She was up in an impossible amount of time, sweeping her leg against the backs of my knees. I dropped, the burn on my leg shrieking and bit my tongue to keep from crying out. Max II rose and kicked again, this time getting me directly on my left shoulder, right on my burn. I couldn't hold back a cry of pain this time, making Max II smirk.

"You shouldn't play with fire, crow boy," she taunted, kicking my ribs. All my air rushed out of me. "You might get burned."

Hazy purple dots swarm across my line of vision. I couldn't win, I knew. But that did not mean I was going to be a punch bag. My hand whipped out and caught the clone's wrist. I yanked her down to the ground, smiling when I heard a loud crack. I jumped to my feet, head still spinning. "That's hawk boy."

Max II growled and got to her knees, her right hand hanging weakly off her shattered wrist. She looked at it for a moment, then twisted it back into place, with one sick, grating pop. I stared at her, dumbfounded, and she sneered.

"They've been doing upgrades up at the Institute," she explained, as though we were discussing a recent ball game. The double wiggled her fingers experimentally. "Just like bumping a dent out of a car."

With blinding speed, her hand snapped out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me back down. Before I could do a thing, she was on her feet, her shoe pressed against my throat.

Max II leaned down and smiled. "I'm faster, stronger, smarter, better than you and your precious, little Max," she hissed. I could feel her cold breath against my face, stinging. "And I'm going to prove it."

I couldn't breathe. My consciousness was fading, just like it had been threatening to do for the last few hours. I saw Max II pulled the knife out of her jean pocket. I'm going to die, I realized. What shocked me more was that- frankly- I didn't care. But then a wave of panic hit me- I couldn't die. Not while Max was still in danger. I couldn't die before Max.

I struggled fiercely against the clone's clasp, but she just laughed. "You don't give up, do you?" she asked. She ran the tip of the knife down my cheek, with just enough pressure to break through the first, thin layer of skin. "Don't worry," she cooed. "Max won't die like this. She have plenty of die to suffer first. You should be glad that I'm nice enough to be quick with you. But… you don't matter anyway."

The shoe was taken off my throat and I sucked in a greedy breath. But it was too late for me. My world shrank into a field of white, and the last thing I felt was the cool of a blade pressed to my neck.




My head cleared as I ran, pain ebbing away with each of my footfalls. The Voice didn't say anything. Maybe it had finally left. I kind of missed it, but I had bigger things to worry about. Much bigger.

The sounds of the fight were fading, but I could hear soft words being spoke. I sped towards them. Then I burst into a minute clearing and gazed with horror upon an all too familiar scene.

Fang, lying on the ground out cold, cut, bruised, and bleeding. Me-Max II- eyes blazing and face set in stone- the knife Fang gave me raised over his throat.

She was going to cut his head off.

It took me about one whole second to sum this up, before I dove for my clone. I crashed into her, knocking the knife out of her hand and pressing the identical one I held to her throat.

She smirked at me from her spot underneath me. "C'mon, Max," she whispered. "Do it."

I pushed harder, drawing a fine line of blood. But I couldn't go any further. This was what the whitecoats had wanted me to do, way back in Itex. And I wasn't going to sink to their level.

Max II laughed, clearly not bothered by the gash on her neck. "I knew it! Look at you!" she crowed. "You are so weak."

With speed I never possessed on the ground, she shoved me off of her. Suddenly, Fang's knife was gone from my hand and she was on her feet. I punched me hard, catching me in the stomach. Not a moment later, she snapped out a side kick, sending me to the ground. When had she gotten so fast?

Max II stood over me, triumphant. She sneered, "I can't believe this. What on earth did Jeb ever see in you?"

"Is that what this is about?" I rasped. "Proving something to them?"

Something cold flashed through her eyes. She crouched down to meet my face. "No. This is about proving something to me," she hissed.

"But this is what they want you to do! All your proving is that they can control you!"

Max II snorted with disgust. "You sure are slow. You won last time. They love you now, they can't believe that they ever wanted you replaced."

I gulped, glancing behind her at Fang, who was still unconscious. "So, why are you here?"

The clone smiled viciously. "I'm just supposed to be bringing you back to base, for rewiring, so to speak." She stuck a finger out and caught a drip of blood running off my arm, and examined it with revolting fascination. "But, since there is no one else here, no one to see…" she continued.

"You're going to kill me," I finished.

Max II grinned. "You're catching on."

Like earlier, an unexplained feeling overtook me. But this time it wasn't calm- it was anger. Fueled by the sudden adrenaline, I punched outward, breaking her nose. I leapt to my feet and kicked her underneath her chin, causing her neck to whip back.

Suddenly, she was standing too, her hands crushing around my neck. I gasped and wrapped my hands around her neck as well. Her eyes widened, and she struggled against my grip and pressing with an iron grip. I could feel my throat constricting and squeezed back.

The fuzzy violet specks were dancing in my eyes as the air became harder to breath. I fought, struggled, but she was stronger than me. The adrenaline was fading, as was I.

"You can do it, Max!" the Voice urged. "Just a bit more!"

I can't, I murmured back, my grip already slackening.

"You can, Maximum! I know you can!"

I'm not a killer.

Max II's eyes were burning fiercely with victory. My vision was going dim, darkness eating away at the edges.

This is it, I realized. I'm going to die. She'll get Fang after me. This is it.


And then Max II's eyes widened- and emptied of their life. Her hands loosened around my throat and I could breathe again. Her knees buckled, and she fell forward onto the ground in front of me, a gory hole perpetrating the back of her skull.

And there, standing with the bloody blade in hand was Fang. Always Fang.




A/N: Once again, I'm sorry about updating late. I can only hope that this chapter was worth the wait. Be happy: I was going to stop the chapter when Fang lost consciousness, but I figured you guys deserved a nice long chappie.

In other news! In case you haven't heard, they have released the title of the seventh, (and last!), Harry Potter book: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. As I was so graciously informed by acavoo, a "hallow" is a blessing. So a fatal blessing? I don't know what that's all about, but I can't wait for it to come out! (Unfortunately, there is no mention of a publication date as of yet. Drat!)

Mmmmm… I'm eating nice, leftover Christmas ham. I heated it up too long in the microwave and it got all burnt… astoundingly, it tastes even better this way. Anyway. Hope everyone is having a happy holiday. (See? Happy Holidays. Nice and politically correct.) I promise the next chapter won't be so late, so long as you guys keep REVIEWING!

28. The Hand We Were Dealt

A/N: Wow... this story is nearly over. All that's left is the epilogue and the closing note, both of which will be up tommorow- January First of 2007. This story took me about half a year to write... this is easily the longest thing I've ever written. Well, I don't know what else to say besides Happy New Year's Eve!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Maximum Ride series.

Copyright: I do own this story, indirect physical premonitions, and Reverse NPD.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Hand We Were Dealt




Max II crumpled to the ground like a frail paper doll. I stood over her, bloody blade still in hand, blankly watching the fluids oozing from the back of her head. Her hazel eyes, a sick imitation of Max's, were dim and empty; there was no more life left behind them. I stared at her for a long moment, and then looked away; the clone was too similar to Max.

Bump that out, I thought, remembering the sick way she'd popped her broken wrist back into place without so much as a wince.

Max slowly sank to her knees, sucking in ragged breaths. Dropping the knife, I approached her carefully; she didn't seem to notice. It wasn't till I was right beside her that she whispered faintly, eyes still on the body, "…You killed her…".

I touched her shoulder. She flinched and, inwardly, I did too. "It was either you or her," I murmured, echoing the two-and-a-half-years old words. "I picked you."

I couldn't believe it. It was really her this time, without a doubt. She looked a little worse for the wear, but other than that, she seemed fine. On the outside at least. I took a deep breath, feeling my recently replaced lungs and heart. Max was here with me, and she was okay. It was better than I could've hoped for.

Max wouldn't look away from the corpse of her clone. I didn't blame her. I could only imagine what it must be like to see yourself lying on the ground, a gaping knife wound to the back of your skull. "How did you guess which…?"

"I didn't guess, I knew," I corrected darkly.


I wound my fingers through hers; she didn't react, but my heartbeat soared when I felt the warmth there. "You weren't going to do it," I answered quietly. "She was, but you weren't."

Max didn't reply, eyes locked upon Max II. It suddenly struck me that Max might be about to go into shock, so I decided to get the body out of her sight as fast as possible. I thought about leaving the body out in the open and letting the vultures and raccoons devour her, but some hiker might come across the bones. I didn't want to give her a proper burial either- she didn't deserve it.

I knew what I had to do.

Squeezing Max's hand one last time, I stood and carefully lifted the deadweight of Max II's body. Max's eyes didn't leave the place where the corpse had lain. I stepped carefully around her and headed for the lake I'd seen on the way here. I didn't like leaving Max alone, but I had to do something about the corpse.

Max II weighed exactly the same as Max and looked identical- with the life gone from her eyes I couldn't tell them apart. Bad images of a knife stuck in the back of my Max's head started emerging and I quickly shut them down.

I arrived at the small lake within minutes. I stood for a moment, grimly examining the dead leaves floating on its surface. The problem with trying to drown a bird-kid is that we have really high buoyancy; our hollow bones make it really hard to sink us. So, I tugged off the clone's jacket and shredded it into strips. A few knots later, I had my makeshift rope tied around her ankles. I then hunted down the biggest, heaviest rock I could find and secured it to her.

Satisfied that it would hold, I lifted Max II and her anchor up again. She was a lot heavier this time, I was guessing at least one hundred pounds. Her body was stiffening too. I ran a few steps and spread my wings. I just barely made it into the air- taking off was tough when you were lugging something fifteen pounds more than your own body weight. My feet skimmed the water as I flew to the middle of the lake, where the water was the deepest. I reached it soon and hovered in place.

People usually said things at funerals. What exactly those things were, I couldn't be sure, since I'd never been to one. This wasn't exactly a funeral, but it didn't seem fair to send Max II with nothing other than a boulder. It was a courtesy I could only hope to be allowed with some random stranger buried me. I paused, wondering what the say. Nothing came to mind, so I decided to just wing it.

"I never liked you," I muttered to the clone in my arms. "All you ever did was hurt the flock and try to kill Max. And for that, I hate you. But… I sort of feel sorry for you too," I continued. "You never got a chance to do any good. To the whitecoats, you were a failure. To Jeb, you were a disgrace. To Ari, you were a chance to annoy his father. To me, you were just a sick creation that never should have come into being. But- Max said you were a person, just like us. And I guess you were sort of like us. All we ever tried to do was play the hand we were dealt, and you did too. So… good luck in hell, or the bottom of this lake, or where ever the crap you're going. Maybe next game you'll get a better hand."

So it wasn't the best eulogy in the world. At least I tried.

And with that, I carefully slid Max II into the lake.

She sank slowly, empty eyes glaring up at me through the murky water. I watched as she went down, trying to stop the pictures of Max drowning that were forming in my imagination. I suddenly remembered a movie Nudge made us all watch, back when the TV at the old house worked. Titanic. That stupid movie about two young idiots who fall in love after only knowing each other a couple of days, and then one of them drowns. When the girl let go of Leonardo and he started going under, all frozen and tinted-blue, Angel and Nudge started crying. Gazzy did too, though he'll never admit to it. Max just glanced over at me and gave me a look that said, "if-we-are-ever-out-in-sub-zero-water-floating-on-a-broken-door-you-had-better-not-let-me-drown", or something along those lines. I knew that she had been kidding, but I couldn't help remembering.

When I could see the clone no longer, I turned and headed back to Max, worried about what she could've done to herself in the few minutes I'd been gone. I really shouldn't have left her alone in that state, but I had to get rid of the body, and I didn't think Max would appreciate watching me drown an exact replica of her.

I found Max exactly where I'd left her; she was staring at the pool of blood and brain fluid a few feet away from her. She didn't look up as I approached, didn't even acknowledge my presence as I turned her away from the puddle of blood and wrapped my arms around her. I could feel her shivering and her skin was cold with sweat. I knew she must be in shock, but there wasn't much I could do about it. All I could do was wait for her to snap out of it. But then a bad thought came to me:

What if she never snaps out of it? What if she's finally, really truly lost it this time? One person can only take so much…what if I pushed her over the edge?

"Oh God, Max…" I muttered. Suddenly, everything caught up with me, and the cool detachment I'd tried to forge between the recent events dissolved. I felt hot tears forming and I closed my eyes against them, locking them inside me, just like everything else. A few of them escaped from beneath my lids. "Max, Max, Max…" I lowered my face down into her hair, smelling the sweet scent there. I am never going to be able to forgive myself.

"Fang, I'm not insane," I heard Max suddenly grumble. I lifted my face out of her hair and looked down at her. Max stared back at me in disbelief, raising her fingers to my face. I felt myself smile involuntarily. Her hand was clammy and shook just a bit. I remembered that people's blood pressure and temperate drop when they go into shock and realized that she must be cold. I pulled off my windbreaker and wrapped it around Max.

I muttered, "Don't scare me like that," more to myself than to her. Apparently, she heard me, because all of a sudden she started crying. Crap.

I hugged Max hard, tucking her face against my shoulder. She inhaled sharply, trembling. I rubbed her between her wings, murmuring "I'm sorry, Max. I'm sorry," over and over and over. Suddenly, she wrapped her arms around me tight, sobbing more. I felt her fingers running through my down feathers and froze. It was something she used to do all the time back at the School, a gesture just for me. I never told her, but I loved it when she did it. However, she hadn't done it since-

No. I shoved the memory away. Don't think about it.

Max raised her head slightly, wiping away tears- and probably snot too- unto my shirt sleeve. She looked up at me, eyes pained, and smiled weakly. I held her face between my hands, catching stray tears on the tips of my thumbs. Her skin was still cool underneath my palms.

I wanted to tell her so bad. Tell her what she meant to me and how much it hurt when she disappeared. Tell her that I needed her more than anything else in the world and would do anything for her.

I couldn't though.

I knew that Max loved me- as a brother and a friend. That was all. She didn't love me like this. I also knew it would pain Max to have to tell me so. I studied her, the rising sunlight illuminating her features. Even beaten, sweaty, and splattered in blood, she was beautiful. Too beautiful to be meant for me. I couldn't hurt her. I just couldn't.

So I wouldn't tell her. Not yet.

I swept her hair away from her forehead and touched each of the small cuts on her face, silently counting off the years I would wait. If I told her now, she might leave again. There was no way I'd be able to stand that. Spending my days wondering if she was safe and if I'd ever see her again would hurt a lot more than putting on a brave face and lying through my teeth every time she asked me what was wrong. At least I'd be beside her, would be able to see her smile at me as she lived in blissful ignorance.


What if there was the slightest chance…?

"Max?" I breathed. Max lifted her face up and looked me right in the eyes, making my heart tremble. I forced myself to continue. "Promise me you'll never leave like that again."

She murmured, "I promise," with no idea what she'd just agreed to. I felt kind of guilty about trapping her like this, but I had to make sure she wouldn't disappear again.

I lightly traced a longer cut on her temple, my fingers becoming slick with her blood. "Swear?"

Max hesitated, and I wished more than ever that I could really read her mind. What was she thinking? However, Max finally whispered our special oath- a load of nonsense that two kids had made up, and yet, for us, was more binding than any contract or vow. "Cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing."

I grinned grimly in triumph, but I still couldn't tell her. I'm too much of a coward for that. Maybe someday. But until then… actions speak louder than words. "Thank you," I sighed. Just in case she left, I stared into her hazel eyes one more time- one more time before they ended up hurt and guilt-ridden. And then I did the bravest thing I've ever done.

I leaned down and kissed her.

On the lips.




Max II's eyes went dark and she crumbled to the ground just in front of me. Panting hard, Fang stood behind her, the knife he gave me in hand and covered with blood. I glanced down and saw the wound to the back of the clone's head and almost threw up.

Fang stabbed her in the back of her head.

I fell to my knees beside her, finding it hard to breathe all of a sudden. Max II's brain was slowly oozing out of her head- my head- accompanying the blood. Out of nowhere, I felt Fang's presence next to me.

"…You killed her…" I mumbled in disbelief. You killed me. Fang touched my shoulder and I couldn't help but jump in surprise.

"It was either you or her," he explained quietly. "I picked you."

I didn't look at him- I couldn't. What if he had missed? What if he had picked wrong? "How did you guess which…?"

"I didn't guess, I knew." He sounded so sure of himself.

"How?" I whispered. I felt him weave his fingers through mine, but my mind didn't acknowledge it.

"You weren't going to do it," he replied darkly. I didn't need to ask what "it" meant. "She was, but you weren't."

I just barely heard his answer. Everything felt far off and unreal. I was kneeling in front of my dead body, watching blood pour out from my own skull. I blinked. Fang was gone, and the corpse was too.

And that was when everything in my head warped into sick, disjointed sentences.

The body was gone, but the blood was still there. Her blood. My blood.

Fang had killed her.

Max II, my clone, was dead.

Those were the only thoughts capable of going through my brain right now.

Her blood was still there.

My blood was still there.

Fang killed her.

She was dead.

"Max, you're going into shock," the Voice murmured in my ears. "I need you to take deep breathes and look away from the blood."

In my mind's eye, I watched the life drain from Max II's eyes again, watched her sink to the ground, empty.

Her blood there.

My blood there.

He killed her.

She's dead.

"Max…" the Voice sighed. "Breathe. It's not like you haven't seen a dead person before."

This was different though.

Her blood.

My blood.

He killed her.

She's dead.

I'm dead.

He killed me.

"Max, you and Max II are completely different and separate people. She was just a copy. Trust me, Fang would murder himself if he so much as gave you a paper cut."

Max II wasn't just a copy. She was a person too. Just like me.

She's dead.

I'm dead.

He killed us.

I heard Fang come back from where ever he had gone, but it didn't register in my head. I just barely noticed as he forced me to look away from the blood. I didn't realize it when he hugged me against himself.

I was dead.

"Max! You are NOT dead. You are in shock. Fang killed your clone because it was trying to kill you! Fang would never hurt you, he could never hurt. He cares more about you than anything else in the world. Don't you realize that?"

I heard Fang whisper something, but I didn't listen. It was then that I felt something wet roll down my forehead. Fang choke out some words, and my brain was aware enough to put two and two together.

Fang was crying.

"He thinks you've gone insane and that it's his fault," the Voice explained.

Maybe I had lost it. Fang never cried.

"Don't forget, Max, if he thinks you've lost it, then he'll lose it."

Suddenly, I remembered what the Voice had explained in the cargo van- Fang's Reverse NPD.


"Fang, I'm not insane," I groaned, voice muffled by his shirt. I felt a weight suddenly leave my head and I looked up to see Fang staring down at me, dark eyes just a bit red. He had been crying. For me. Not a lot, but a sufficient amount to count.

I doubtfully raised one hand and traced the sparse, salty trails down his cheeks. Fang's lips quirked upward for the briefest of seconds and he shrugged off his windbreaker, draping it across my shoulders. It was then that I noticed how cold I was.

"Don't scare me like that," he muttered. The night's events suddenly caught up with me and it was my turn to cry.

I did.

Fang wrapped his ropey arms around me, pressing my face into his shoulder. I sucked in a ragged breath, feeling myself quivering like a baby rabbit. He rubbed me in my favorite spot, making soft, indecipherable sounds in my ear.

"Now that you know, you're going to have to be a lot more careful," the Voice reminded me. "If you get hurt, it's bad for him too. And if you die- then he'll have failed his most important mission and he'll…" the Voice trailed off. I didn't need elaboration.

I was going to have to be careful. I didn't know what I'd do if something happened to Fang because of me.

But right now, I was really just glad that he was here. It had only been a couple of days away from him, but even that had almost been too much. I needed Fang, probably just as much as he needed me.

I hugged Fang back hard, crying more than ever. I started running my fingers through the shorter, fluffier feathers at the base of his wings. I felt Fang stiffen with surprise. I didn't blame him; the last time I'd done this was over four years ago, almost five… not too long after Jeb had left. But I remembered it for another reason as well- the spring that Fang had been depressed.

That had been so long ago now. So much had changed since then.

I wiped my tears off on Fang's sleeve, smiling apologetically. He didn't seem to care, just caught the tears I'd missed with his thumbs.

The mask that had once covered Fang's face was gone- completely ripped off and put through a paper shredder. Concern, fear, pain, relief, all painted plainly across his features. I could see some sort of indecision raging in his eyes, some kind of choice tormenting him as he examined my face. His fingers brushed stray hairs away from my forehead as he touched the smaller cuts on my skin.

"Max?" he said quietly. I forced myself to look straight into his eyes, and they quickly locked mine in. "Promise me you'll never leave like that again."

I breathed, "I promise."

Fang delicately pressed his fingertips to the longer cut on my temple from where a branch had slashed me while I ran. When he pulled his hand away, I could see my blood there, gleaming weakly in the emerging sunlight. "Swear?"

I hesitated, not sure if I could agree to that because you just never know what life will bring you. But this was Fang asking me. I owed Fang that much. Besides, it wasn't like I could leave again- who knew what would happen to Fang. So I slowly whispered our withstanding oath. "Cross my heart, hope to sing, take a chainsaw to my wing."

Fang grinned grimly. His expression settled as he reached his conclusion, though God knows what about. "Thank you," he murmured. Fang made one last lingering look into my eyes and then, without warning, he leaned down and kissed me.

On the lips.

For a few seconds, I was too surprised to think. Fang's kiss was so gentle and soft, yet so passionate and wanting, that, for a moment, all my thoughts crashed and froze. But then, they all began racing faster than ever. I pulled myself together and began to shyly kiss him back.

A kiss is a thing shared between countless couples everyday, so common that in some instances it is almost meaningless. But coming from Fang and given to me, it said so, so much more. It said so much, in fact, that I wasn't even sure what it meant. I mean, Fang had never given any indication that he liked me that way. Plus- my gut twisted- Fang had that stupid disorder. He could just be trying to comfort me. Or, what if Fang had mistaken what he felt for me because of the Reverse NPD for love?

Just when I thought I had Fang all figured out, he threw me another curve ball.

After what had been either a minute or eternity, Fang pulled away. I opened my eyes and found him staring at me, gauging my reaction, gauging his own, and trying to figure out what the heck just happened. I stared back at him. For once, we both felt exactly the same way.


I didn't know what to say, and apparently, neither did he. There was nothing else to say. Fang wrapped his arms around me, rubbing my back between my wings the way he knew I liked, a familiar gesture with completely new implications. I inhaled his scent deeply, letting his warmth overtake me, as Fang began to lightly stroke my hair. All the shock and confusion that had recently ravaged my mind was forgotten as safety washed over it. As it always did.

That was when I realized something important, something I'd overlooked all these years. I didn't belong with the Martinez's, or at a motel, or even at the old house. I belonged here. With Fang. Because Fang kept me alive, Fang kept me safe, Fang knew when I just needed someone to tell me it was fine, even if it wasn't. He was my anchor on a very stormy sea of my life, the only constant. If nothing else, I belonged right next to him.

I rested my head against Fang's shoulder and slowly closed my eyes.

I was home. That's all I needed to know.

For now at least.




A/N again: A Little Place Called Home. Get the title now? (Of course, I HAVE been making infinite references to the meaning of home throughout this story, but whatever.) Finally what you've all been waiting for- Fang finally got a backbone.

Well... it's the last day of 2006. This was a year of great accomplishments for me: finished 3 years of Creative Writing, won the Language Arts award, auditioned for and got into a high school for Writing, actually got published (!), and finished my first official novel-length story- this one. Well... technically it's not finished. Yet. But tommorow, it will be.

NO, that is NOT the end. I still need to put up the epilogue, and then the closing note.

Happy New Years, guys. PLEASE review! I'm trying to hit 700!

29. Resolutions

A/N: The first day of 2007! YEA! Well, this is the epilogue. Mostly, it's filler bridging over to the sequel, but whatever, it's still important. Hope you guys had a great New Year's Eve!

Epilogue: Resolutions




Dawn had come- I could feel the sunlight creeping up my shoulders. I hadn't moved from my position in Fang's embrace. I could hear his heart beating and the slow rush of his breath. Fang was still gently rubbing the space between my wings. His other hand was wrapped around the back of my neck, fingers tangled in my hair, his thumb resting right on my pulse point. He was tired, I could tell.

I shifted his head slightly to look up at him. "You should rest," I murmured, finally breaking the silence that had stretched onward from The Kiss- Version 2.0. I could tell that this was going to become another one of our taboo topics, just like The Spring of 2003, The Beach, and The Beach Returns. At least Ig and the kids hadn't been audience members to this one.

Fang's hand ceased its movement and the other one dropped down to join its brother at the small of my back. "I've fine," he answered, voice so soft I wouldn't have heard him if I wasn't where I was. "It's morning anyway."

The Voice interrupted the still moment. "Don't let him get off that easily. He hasn't eaten since yesterday. He hasn't slept since he woke up at that vacation home."

But that was two days ago! And he was flying! That isn't possible. There was no way Fang could've made it all this way without sleeping.

"What part of he-has-a-mental-disorder do you not get?"

Fang was watching me suspiciously, almost as though he could tell we were talking about him in my head. Then again, he could read me so well, maybe he did know. I sighed and closed my eyes grimly. Reverse NPD. That was why he didn't stop. Because finding me mattered more than if he fell out of the sky.

"You shouldn't listen to it, Max," Fang said suddenly. I opened my eyes at the randomness of the sentence.

"Why?" I asked. Of course, I knew why- it wasn't like we hadn't discussed this before- but from the way he said it, I knew he had some fresh evidence.

Fang hesitated, then muttered, "Something… something I found out on the way here."

I stared at him curiously. What's he talking about? I directed at the Voice.

"Oh no. You guys are going to have to discuss this on your own."

Fang sighed and added, "Plus, there is something else I need to tell you."

I was practically dying of curiosity now, but the bruise-like circles underneath his eyes stalled my enthusiasm. "There is some stuff I need to tell you too," I replied. "But we can talk after you sleep. And after you eat."

Fang rolled his eyes stubbornly. "I'm fine," he repeated.

I slid my hands up his arms till my thumbs touched the insides of his elbows. "No you're not." He shook his head. "You need to sleep." A little softer, I added, "I'm not going anywhere, Fang. Please?"

Fang sighed. "Fine. But I'm going to clean you up first."

He released for the first time in practically an hour and reached behind himself for his ever-present backpack. He dug out the first aid kit and started rubbing antiseptic on all my cuts and scrapes, going extra gentle around the bruises. He didn't ask where they'd all come from. And when he saw the large, dark blue bruise on my side, he frowned and asked, "Is that from the crash?" It was almost as though he already knew about everything that had happened. But I didn't bug him about it; we could talk when he woke up.

I helped him fix up all of his injuries and change the bandages on his burns. When I was finished, I sat back on my heels and let out an audible breath. The tension in the air was practically tangible, but I didn't know how to distill the awkwardness. It was going to be making company with us for a while, I could already see that.

Thankfully, Fang broke the quiet this time. "What are we going to do?" he inquired. I looked up at him, at his unreadable face.

"I don't know," I responded honestly. But then I remembered. "Hey, how many days until Iggy's birthday?"

Fang glanced at his watch. "Six days." Then he grinned.

"What?" I asked. Fang shook his head, a teasing smile flitting across his mouth. Suddenly, it hit me- Iggy's birthday was January sixth. So that meant today was…

"It's January first," I marveled. Then I laughed. "So, last night was…?"

Fang nodded. "Some New Year's Eve party, huh?"

I couldn't help smiling like an idiot. "Next year, let's just go to New York and watch the ball drop instead. What do you think?"

"Sounds like a plan."

I sighed, hand-combing my hair tiredly. "I guess this means we need to go shopping for Ig's present, huh?"


"But you're going to sleep first!" I quickly added, before Fang could wiggle his way out of it.

Fang rolled his eyes, but nodded grudgingly. I held out my fist and we stacked and tapped- something we hadn't done for ages it seemed. When the gesture was done, Fang leaned down and lightly placed a kiss to my forehead before muttering, "Wake me up in a few hours."

Roses bloomed in my cheeks as he laid down neatly on his side. I remembered earlier tonight, the taste of his mouth pressed against mine. Firm but soft- like the skin of a ripe apple. We were definitely going to have to discuss that sooner or later. Hopefully later.

"We need to talk as well," the Voice said unexpectedly.

I tore my eyes off Fang's already drowsing form as I leaned heavily against a tree trunk. You're telling me. You've got some serious explaining to do.

"Firstly, can I apologize?" The sincerity I felt radiating in my head surprised me. "I looked at the situation from every possible angle, followed all the unlikely variables, and there was no way out of it without either you or Fang dying. And if you died, then we're all screwed."

I banged my head against the bark twice, trying to focus. The thing about variables is that they tend to vary, I replied sarcastically.

"So I've heard…" The Voice dropped off, and then continued, quieter. "Do you have any idea how lucky you are? What Fang did… shouldn't have been possible."

I stiffened. What do you mean?

"He was completely knocked out. Since he hadn't rested or eaten in so long, he should have been unconscious for hours. But… he woke up. And not a second too late."

I shivered, remembering how close I had been to… death. Well, that's Fang for you.


A long silence followed. I closed my eyes, rubbing the scar on my arm distractedly. As the prolong quiet stretch, I finally asked, You're leaving, aren't you?

"I need to for a while, yes." It paused and- almost hesitantly- added, "I just… want you to know that you can trust me. Everything I do… it's for the best."

The Voice had never sounded so self-conscious. So… real. Yeah… I know. I do trust you. Amazingly, it was true. When had that happened? But are you ever going to tell me who the heck you are?

The Voice chuckled. "Maybe. You need to do some things for me first."

I groaned, covering my face with one of my palms. Like save the world?

"Exactly. It's not like you've got anything better to do."

Great. Can't wait. The Voice chuckled again. I could feel a dripping sensation along the back of my brain and I knew it was the Voice leaving. Wait.

The trickling stopped. "What?" The Voice was quieter than it usually was and I had to strain to hear it.

I breathed deep and then asked, Does Fang really… like me- that way?

A short pause followed, but eventually the Voice answered. "I'm not sure. He believes so. But it is hard to tell the difference between the emotions of love and the protectiveness and adoration caused by Reverse NPD. There is someone who would know, though."

Who? I inquired interestedly.


I almost snorted. Ig? How would he know?

Dodging the question, the Voice said, "Have fun at Iggy's birthday party, Maximum. Because after that, you've got some work to do."

And then, I was alone in my head.

I lifted my hand away from my face and looked over at Fang, listening to his steady breathing. How I was supposed to save the world, I had no idea. What was going to happen with my relationship with Fang, I was clueless. Hell, I didn't even know what I was going to get Ig for his birthday.

But as long as Fang was around to watch my back and the Voice was 'pushing me in the right direction', everything would sort itself out. Or, at least, I hoped so.

What I didn't know then was that everything was already breaking into a million pieces.


A/N again: I swear, I didn't do that on purpose! I said waaaaay back in chapter three that Fang's birthday was November 5, and that places Ig's in early January. The dates just happened to coresspond. Cool, huh?

Well, the closing note will be up later today. PLEASE READ IT! It is VERY IMPORTANT and I spent a LOT OF TIME on it. So yeah. Read it. And REVIEW!!!!!!! I need 25 more to hit 700!

30. I Really Hate Goodbyes

A/N: Well, actually, all of this is an Author Note, but I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU READ THIS! This is where I stick my thanks for ALL of my reviewers, news about the upcoming sequel, and other interesting tidbits.

Firstly, my thanks: YES, I actually went and wrote down all the names of people who reviewed and how many times they reviewed. It tooks HOURS! I mean, dude, there was almost 700 reviews! But I'm very dedicated to thanking people and I had a lot of spare time, so I did it. Enjoy! Thanks…

To Peeps Who Reviewed 1-5 Times:


Black Goth Faerie

twilight xx3


non merseful angel




Astronomy Geek



Skylar Goth






Falling StAr

i miss you 182


Quill and Saber



When your strange.




angelic -x21









Self Hatred

Aden Ameryn (VRF)

Angel Oscuro- Dark Angel a...


Knucklehead McSpazatron




That one guy

Starfire Gracen



X Orangey x Love X











I luv FANG


silverly moonbeam

Dark Wings in the night Sky





Kellie Packers





Dark Fire Chain

Golden Nugget

superman is my hero

Forest Jaguar



Dirty Thoughts of Bliss

some one



Rakasha ShadowFang

Nostalgic Beauty







Tay. Martinez

Call Me Amaya





Eye Witness







Lee Anne


pointy star








Cassara and Lahela







To Peeps Who Reviewed 6-9 Times:







Northern Star


da archer






Odet Mae

Lady Soysauce

To Peeps Who Reviewed 10-15 Times

Da Jitter Bug





Rayna Terror



Illa Scriptor





To Peeps Who Reviewed 16-19 Times

x Step On Me x




To Peeps Who Reviewed 20+ Times







(Sorry if I messed up any names!)

And, VERY SPECIAL thanks to:

SamanthaFantasyFan: You went through the great trouble of PMing me when your sister stole the review. Thanks! I appreciate that a lot, you have no idea.

acavoo: For not spilling the green beans when I told you the ending WAY before we reached the end of the story. And for telling me that my writing doesn't suck when I'm in a crappy-writing-ditch. And for putting up with my constant complaints of your story's meanness.

Aquileo… coughcoughLauren: My fellow SHIFT founder and Hell Class Sufferer. Thanks for putting up with me. Period. I really don't know how you can stand me when I'm hyper.

Ihearthotguys… coughcoughKirsten: I don't think you know this, but you are the one who introduced me to Guess we should all be thanking her. ANYWAY! Same with the super genius- thanks for putting up with me and my nerdiness. If that's a word. Also, you get the great entitlement of the only person to dare curse at me in their review. Nice.

Okay… about the sequel. YES!, there is a sequel. The title is "A Little Person Called God". To any who are concerned, this story has NOTHING to do with God/religion/Christianity. Religion is just a reoccurring theme in the fic, as how "a place to call home" is a theme in this fic. I'm not going to "save the Flock" as some people have so bluntly put it.

To all who have been complaining: the Flock will sort of be in this fanfic. They will all make an appearance at Iggy's Sweet Sixteen. However, the Igster himself will play a very important role in ALPCG. I think you'll find that the blind guy is a lot more observant than any of us thought. You'll see what I mean. And guess what?!? I'm giving Iggy a power! (Or a new one, at least.) Don't bother asking what it is, because you'll never drag it out of me. All I will say is that it is really cool, and fitting for him. (No, it has NOTHING to do with fire. Or explosions.) Of course, we are talking about the girl who copyrighted Indirect Physical Premonitions! Of course it will be cool! (And yes, I actually went and got Fang's power copyrighted. So no stealing!)

But back to the sequel: it will be coming soon. I need a short break to get some things sorted out, and then I will begin the task of writing it.


But I'm not parting with the beans THAT easily!

Let's play a game… (wow, I sound like that creepy Saw guy)… anyway…

I'm going to give a list of excerpts from the sequel. Your job is to guess who each excerpt is about. Got it? (Or, in other words, who each pronoun is referring to.)

The possiblities range from ANY character in the books or in my stories. Wait, that's too hard. Alright, fine. I'll give you guys a list.

ANY of these exerts could apply to:

a) Max

b) Fang

c) Jeb

d) Ari

e) Anne

and some of my OC's, including

f) The Major OC (name will not be revealed)

g) The Hybrid OC (Leigh)

h) The Human OC (Charlie)

i) A Very Minor OC (Isabelle Townsend)

You MAY use a character more than once!


1) "I'm dying."

2) "He's not going to die."

3) "I'm dead."

4) "She died."

5) "You're dying."

6) "She's dead."

7) "She's not dead. Yet."

Just send me a review that looks something like this, (clearly, these are not the answers):

1- a

2- b

3- c

4- d

5- e

6- f

7- g

And I will tell you which ones you got right. (Obviously this means that you'll have to leave me someway to contact you.)

If anyone gets them ALL RIGHT, then I will reveal Iggy's power to them!

On one final note, this is something that I said in my prologue: "This may, or may not, be a oneshot. Either way, it's not going to be incredibly long, like novella length, but it will have chapters. If you've read Dentistry, then that's about how long I predict it'll be. ….Maybe longer. We'll just have to wait and see how many reviews I get, won't we?"

long pause ...SNORT! Dude, this thing is about 300 pages on Word! This is probably the longest story in the Max Ride category on All I can say is, I REALLY didn't expect this story to go anywhere. I was hoping to get 200 reviews at the most. Now, we're at about 700. Just... whoa. Thanks a lot guys. This really means a lot to me.

As I type, we are at 683 reviews! That's just 17 reviews away from 700! Let's make some history and REVIEW!

(And of course, keep and an eye out for ALPCG.)