Down Feathers by Leigh.Aviator

Category:Maximum Ride
Published:2007-05-17 19:25:59
Updated:2007-06-24 21:08:20
Packaged:2021-04-21 23:41:10
Summary:Ever wondered what happened BEFORE the Flock was rescued from the School? This is the story of what happened before the first MR novel. Now part of Katie3llen's challenge.THIS STORY IS COMPLETE! R&R!

Table of Contents

1. The Pact
2. Night Flight
3. Escape with a Capital 'E'
4. Discovery
5. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

1. The Pact

Down Feathers

A/N: I've had this idea in my head for awhile. I always wondered what happened pre-Angel Experiment, if you know what I mean.

Of course you do.

I don't know exactly how long it will be; it could grow from a two- to three- shot to a full blown thirty chapter fan fic.

Doubt it.

But anyway, I like the idea, and I hope you do too.

Chapter One

I stared up at the dark brown plastic roof of "my room," a Kanine Kamper, size large. I looked through the bars of the cage to the left; saw Nudge lying on her back, staring up into nothing.

"Psst," I whispered to her, sticking my left hand out through the crate. "Goodnight."

"Sleep tight," she replied in a hoarse whisper, stacking her fist on top of mine.

"Don't let the bed bugs bite," I finished; giving her what I hoped was a reassuring smile. Who was I kidding? What was I trying to reassure? That everything was going to be okay? Nothing had ever been okay. We were living in dog crates for Pete's sake. I had lived in a dog crate for nine years. Believe me, it doesn't get any more comfortable with time.

We squeezed our right hands through the crates to tap the backs of each others' hands. "Love you, Max."

"Love you too, Nudge."

I slipped back into confinement, turning to my right. Fang was slouched down from his usual clenched position; one knee was bent with his arm draped over it, his head tilted back onto the wall of his crate, dark hair falling back from his face. Fang turned, caught my eye, and silently slid his hand through the crate, then curled it into a fist. I shifted, did the same, and we both stacked fists and tapped as Nudge and I had.

"'Night," Fang mumbled, eyes suddenly darting toward his crate door and back to our hands.

"G'night, Fang. Sleep tight."


You could only be so warm with him.

I looked back to the left as Nudge was stacking with Iggy, who was on her left. Iggy, in turn, stacked with the Gasman, who was on his left, and at three years old, found genuine excitement in stacking up with his neighbor at bedtime. Nudge was only six, yet the School had drained all her childlike innocence out immediately. She used to be a chatterbox, youthful questions and ideas pouring forth nonstop. But once you get slapped, shocked, yelled at, and knocked around for talking too much, you stop pretty quickly.

I sat back, trying to get some sleep, but knowing it would be a long, long time before it would ever come. We all needed it, who knew what would come for us tomorrow?

I looked over at Fang, who was staring straight ahead again. We were always the last ones up: he had nightmares, I was just anxious about the next day. Or the rest of our days, for that matter. We always confided in each other in the late hours of the night, talking so quietly no one could hear us. Suddenly, Fang turned his attention to me.

"Max, you remember what you were talking about last night?"


How could I forget? We had been discussing this little group, what I lovingly called "the Flock," and how we would always stick together, no matter what. I mean, we had to. What else did we have to hold on to besides each other?

"Well, I…I've been thinking about…what would happened if we got separated. Or…or taken or something. And…I just wanted to give you this," he finished quickly, sticking his open hand through the bars of his cage. We were about two feet apart, and he wrapped his hand around the bars of my cage, pulling it over until it was touching his own. He pulled the hand back between the bars, pushing his other hand, clenched into a fist, back through both sets of bars until his hand was inside my cage. I gently unfolded his fingers, which were holding something tightly.

Held safe inside his palm was a long, dark feather; one of his own. He had plucked out one of his feathers and given it to me.

I took it gingerly, running my finger down the middle of it, smoothing the silky fibers, a warm sensation tingling up my spine as I did so.

I looked up at him. "Thank you," I mouthed, suddenly finding that my voice had retreated into hiding. I reached back, searching through my own feathers, and plucking one out. I winced slightly, gathered it in my fist, and then repeated Fang's gesture. One corner of his mouth turned upwards. Was that a smile? I'd never really seen Fang smile before.

I liked it.

"We'll stick together forever, right Fang?" I asked suddenly, looking straight into his eyes.

He looked back, nodding. "Promise."

He stuck his hand back into my crate, palm up, my tawny feather resting atop it. I laid his feather in my hand, then sandwiched the two feathers between our palms. Our fingers curled, each person clinging to the other.

"Swear?" I asked.

"Swear," he replied, looking down at our hands, our feathers enclosed in some sort of secret pact.

All of a sudden, I heard a rustling two cages down.

"Max?" Iggy whispered, sitting up to turn in my direction. I could see his stark blue eyes through the dark, searching for a face he would never see.

"Yeah?" I answered back.

"I hear something. Somebody's coming."

A/N: Real short. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I want to see if it's worth continuing. Like it?

Tell me.

2. Night Flight

Chapter Two: Night Flight

Fang released my hand, taking the feather with him. He nudged my crate back to its original position as I slid his feather into my jeans pocket, looking over to see him doing the same.

I slouched back into a reclined position, immediately shutting my eyes, praying this wasn't about some midnight Eraser training lesson that involved bird-kid bait.

And to my horror, the footsteps that had been growing increasingly louder stopped right in front of my crate. Letting no emotion show on my face, I pretended to remain asleep, even as I heard the faint rattle of my lock being opened.

I prepared for the rough snatch on my leg that usually came, but instead found a gentle tapping.

"Maximum? I know you're awake, sweetie."

Jeb! If I had to see whitecoats, at least he was a plus. I let my eyes flutter open, seeing his head peer into my cramped cage.

"Come here, Max," he whispered, motioning me closer. Don't ask me why, but I listened.

"Look, I have an idea. An idea I've been considering for a long time now, I just need you to do exactly as I say, alright?"

I pulled back slightly, not having a clue as to what he was talking about.

"I want to get you out of here, Maximum."

Out? I leaned forward again, liking this idea more by the second. Running all this over in my mind, I hit a road block.

What about everyone else?

I looked to my left, watching Nudge resting as peacefully as six-year-old little girl can in a dog crate. Then I turned to the right; saw my best friend doing a darn good job of pretending to sleep.

I knew he was hearing every word.

"I want them, too."

My head shot back around to stare Jeb in the eyes. If this was some sort of sick whitecoat test, if he was pulling my strings, I swore right then and there, I would never, ever trust another human being again, as long as I lived.

"I want to help you, Max. You are all special, special in many, many more ways than one. A dog crate is not the place for you to be, my dear."

I stared at him, waiting for the punch line, the turnaround, the downfall of this vibe of hope I was beginning to feed off of at the moment. I paused, took a deep breath, and made an executive decision.

"What do we need to do?"

Jeb held open my cage door, helping me crawl out as quietly as possible. He let Fang out, who was already wide awake. I went to Nudge, waking her and pulling her out of the cramped space as carefully as I could. We freed Gazzy and Iggy pretty quickly, promising answers later and asking only for total quiet now. Jeb grabbed my hand and led us down the stark white corridors.

"Wait!" I whispered suddenly, coming to a halt; Jeb tugging impatiently at my hand. "What about Angel?"

"That's where we're going, Max. She's in a separate holding facility."

Angel, the youngest member of our group, was barely a year old. The name came from me, because Jeb overheard me telling Iggy she looked like a little angel when we saw her for the first time.

We snuck into a dark lab room, smaller than our holding facility, but even quieter. Jeb brought out a small penlight from his labcoat pocket, and ran it along the name tiles adhered to the front of each cage. He stopped at "Experiment #6; "Angel". Opening the tiny door, Jeb flicked the light into his coat, reached in, and scooped up a small, limp body. I felt a small tug on my finger, and I looked down to see the Gasman's bright blue eyes peering up at me. He was looking from his baby sister, hanging lifeless in Jeb's arms, to me, and back again.

"What did you do to her?"

Jeb snapped a finger up to his lips, grabbed my wrist, and hauled us out of the room. We walked rapidly down the hallways, making a sharp turn here or there, until finally Jeb stopped about ten feet from a sturdy white door.

"I gave her a mild tranquilizer. She's hardly a year old, Maximum. Even you should know she wouldn't wake quietly."

"How did you know I'd agree to letting you take us out tonight?" I asked, trying to sound as fearless as possible.

Jeb merely smirked at me.

"C'mon. Quietly now."

A/N: Slow, yes. But it'll pick up sooner or later. I'm trying to go through all the books and pick up info about their past so I won't leave anything out. I even got some new stuff from MR3 

But anyway, hope you like; please review.

3. Escape with a Capital 'E'

Chapter Three: Escape with a Capital 'E'

Jeb punched in a code onto a keypad next to the large door, and it swung open. A black sedan sat running silently in front of the open door, fog lights shining out toward the empty dirt path.

This was a moment I would never, ever forget, as long as I lived. That first breath of fresh, clean air. I looked down at my feet, standing on real soil. Of course, we had all been outside before, if the Eraser pen counts. But you don't have much time to enjoy the fresh air when you're gulping lungfuls of it as you run for your life. Nor do you have the ability to take in the huge mountains, gorgeous woods, or lovely green grass when you're mainly focused on the jaws of a massive monster that is hunting you.

"Come on, Max. We have to leave now," Jeb insisted, grabbing me around the waist and setting me in the back seat of the large vehicle. He climbed into the driver's seat as I looked around inside. Fang sat in the middle row with me, Gazzy between us. I turned to see Iggy in the back, with Nudge curled into a tight ball under his arm. Fang, who was holding the still sleeping Angel, caught my eye and handed her to me. I folded my skinny arms around her little body, brushing light blonde curls from her face. Giving her a kiss on the forehead, I sank back into the leather upholstery.

We rode for what seemed like hours, though none of us minded being in what seemed like a pretty indestructible vehicle with no one else but ourselves and Jeb, who was the kindest whitecoat at the School. I pressed my face against the dark window, watching hundreds of trees and miles of road whip by. I knew we were slowly traveling uphill, not just from the incline, but because my ears continued to pop. Just before I let my head flop back onto the leather headrest, Jeb made a final, extremely sharp turn to the right; the back tires spitting gravel as he gunned the engine to make it up a steep hill. Gazzy stirred from sleep beside me, sitting up straighter so he could peer over the dash to see our oncoming destination. I craned my head to read the digital clock in the front; 4:37 am. A huge, dark shape loomed out from the darkness, and I instinctively tightened my grip around Angel, who was still asleep in my arms.

The dark shape turned out to be a huge house, with three long branches reaching out over a humongous cliff.

Was this a new lab?

Were there other whitecoats here?

The tingly sensation of fear surged up and down my spine as Jeb unhooked his seatbelt and killed the engine, climbing out of the vehicle.

"C'mon, guys. You can get out now. I'm sure you're ready to stretch your legs!" Jeb said as he opened my door. He was much, much more relaxed now, almost excited. The vibe seemed to rub off on me a little, but he was still a whitecoat, and we were still mutants that had just left their only home: a huge, technologically advanced lab brimming with sick, masochistic scientists.

Jeb took the slumbering Angel from my numb arms, and I crawled out of the car, staring nearly straight up to take in this huge sight. I looked to my right and saw Iggy standing there. Of course, I knew he was blind. We all knew that. But until that moment, I never truly realized that he couldn't see the same things I saw. I looked at his face; saw the scared look in his sightless blue eyes. I silently grabbed his hand and gave it a quick squeeze. Startled, he looked in my direction, leaning over to whisper in my ear.

"What's up with this, Max? Why did we leave?"

"I don't know. But Jeb's always been kinda nice to us, right? I don't think it's really bad, but who knows? I guess we really don't have a choice at this point, do we?"

He swallowed and nodded, turning his head back toward the new house. "What's it look like?"

"Well, um, it's…big. And sort of a grayish blue color. There's a big front door that's dark blue. It's only one story, I think. But there's lots of windows. And there's like, branches, that reach out over the cliff. It's so cool. It looks like…like a normal house."

The Gasman walked up to my other side, grabbing onto the waistband of my pants. I put an arm reassuringly around his shoulders as we walked inside together. Jeb had flicked on a number of lights, which showed us the new space. We were standing in a large, open room, with a clean kitchen area to the left, and a dining room table big enough for all of us closer to the center. To the right was what I assumed to be the living room. A large television sat against the wall, with an assortment of mismatched chairs, a loveseat, and one very long couch surrounding it. Straight ahead, along the opposite wall from the front door, were three hallways, all equally spaced apart. Two stretched out into darkness, holding God-knows-what. But the other seemed to have a slight glow spreading along the floor, which made my ever-curious mind yearn to investigate it.

But, unlike most kids, who would explore every corner of this new, beautiful place, we all stood in the center of the room, afraid to move a muscle. Jeb had lain Angel down on the blue loveseat, which was too far away from where I stood for me to be comfortable.

Jeb crouched right on the floor in front of us. He didn't try to soften us up with food or seats on the couch. He knew we were scared, so he plopped right in front of where we were standing.

"I know you don't have a lot of reason to trust me, and I don't blame you. But I feel like you're all my responsibility, like you're my own children. And I wouldn't want my own children living in dog crates, with little to no food, clothing, or love. So I found a house far, far away from the School. You don't have to worry about experiments, or other scientists, or Erasers, or anything from that place, ever again. You're safe here. I promise." His kind brown eyes smiled up at us, and it was all I could do to keep the tears in.




Sounds like something we could get used to.

A/N: Sappy ending, yes. No, this isn't the end of the STORY, and I'm terribly sorry for the wait. YAY for summer! More updates, hopefully. Until I have to get a summer job, that is. Blegh.

Reviews make the world to 'round!

4. Discovery

Chapter Four: Discovery

Turns out, the long, bar-like things hanging over the side of the mountain were hallways, which held the bedrooms. Jeb pointed out three on one hallway, and two down the another; one of which he would sleep in. The other bedroom on Jeb's hallway contained a full-sized bed and another miniature one, for Angel. Nudge volunteered for the adjacent bed, and whether this was because she was trying to seem brave for staying so close to the whitecoat, or because she just plain didn't want to stay by herself, I couldn't really tell. Down the second hallway, Iggy and the Gasman took the first bedroom, which was closest to the kitchen (surprise, surprise). Fang took the room at the end of the hallway, and I took the remaining room in the middle. A small bathroom stood across the hall.

Jeb conveniently went on to bed, wishing us a sincere goodnight that literally warmed my heart. Since when did someone want us to sleep well? It seemed too good to be true. Though the thought of having an actual bed to myself, which I had only heard stories about, seemed right up right up there with Heaven, I really wanted to have everyone else around me. I wanted to hear Fang's light breathing, Nudge's occasional mutters in her sleep, Gazzy's random snoring. But Nudge pointed out an interesting change.

"We can all tap together tonight!" She smiled, which was an immediate kick to my spirits.

Gazzy let out a little squeal and thrust his fist into the middle of our circle. We all stacked our fists on top of his, and tapped the backs of each others' hands. I liked this, it made me feel as if we were a whole; safe from destruction from the outside world, for a change.

I gave Gazzy a kiss on the head, and he grabbed Iggy's hand, leading him to their room. I couldn't help but smile at how tickled he was to have his buddy rooming with him for the night. Gathering Angel into my arms, I walked down the opposite hall with Nudge, putting the two of them to bed.

"Max," Nudge whispered as I turned to leave, "If I yell, will you come get me?"

"Of course, sweetie." I was almost appalled. Why wouldn't I come? "I'm right down the hall if you need me. Don't be scared. I think this is a good place."

When I got back outside, Fang had left the living room and gone on to bed. I pushed the door open to my own room, finding a bed big enough for two people to sleep in, covered with a blue quilt and five pillows. Five! A large gray teeshirt, black shorts, and a pair of underwear were spread out on the bed, and I sat down beside them, taking in white room with a large window, which had some sort padded bench underneath it. There was also a desk, a chair, a big square thing with handles, and a fairly large set of double doors, which I was afraid to open, but was also too curious to sleep without inspecting them.

Why were there random doors inside a room?

There was already a window. Where did they lead to? Did the other rooms have these odd doors?

Or was this a holding chamber for Erasers?

I searched around the desk, picked up two sharpened pencils, flicked on the overhead light, and crept near the doors, alert for any stray noises. Slowly, I extended my hand, and flung one door open, jerking the pencils back to jab them into whatever popped out.

A small assortment of clothes swayed in response.

It was like a little room with clothes hanging from a bar at the top. A couple pairs of shoes sat in a neat line on the floor, and after close inspection, I closed the doors. Next I examined the odd square thing, which didn't seem as scary. It too held shorts, underwear, socks, and pants; all folded neatly in their holes. As I closed the pullouts and pulled on the clothes lying on the bed, I noticed a small square of paper on top of the first pillow. Worried, I picked it up and unfolded it carefully. In small, black, slanted script, it read,

"Happy Birthday Maximum."


A/N: I know the chapters are pathetically short, but I found a good break for the next chapter, so I

took it. I wrote Max's POV from my own experience, seeing as I'm...ah...

scared of the dark. :/

Yeah, yeah, laugh. And as a kid, I would sit there and battle on whether I should suck it up and lay there, or get up and go ask my parents if I could sleep with them. I think I'll do one more chapter with this one before I'm going to finish it, so review!

5. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Chapter Five - Are You Afraid of the Dark?

About three weeks ago, Jeb had started taking Fang and I from our holding facility once a week, and began teaching us how to read a little; telling us we couldn't tell anyone that he did this. I figured Nudge was too young to learn, being only seven, and Iggy was blind. I knew how to write mine, Jeb, and the flock's names, as well as basic dates, and simple holidays. Tonight's escape had cut our secret lessons short.

And to be honest, I wanted them to continue. Learning how to read seemed like a necessary skill to obtain. I found a simple calendar on my desk, and found today's date: July 15. I was ten years old.

None of us knew our real birthdays, and I had gotten curious about our ages one day and asked Jeb. I remembered that day and counted it like a birthday; whenever it rolled around, we all got a year older. So by my calculations, Fang, Iggy, and I were still nine. Was today the boys' birthdays too?

I'd have to ask Jeb tomorrow.

But why did people say 'Happy Birthday' anyway? What's so special about it? Why should you be happy?

I'd have to ask Jeb that too.

Pushing the simple questions aside, I folded back the soft blanket and sheet from the mattress, and climbed in, waiting for the glorious sleep that had to come with this bed. I pushed my face into the cool pillows, curling into a small ball.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

What was that noise by the window?

Or that creak by the door?

Or the pop by my feet?

I jumped up in the bed, alert at every little noise.

I was cold. Ice cold. But more than that, I realized how much I missed my familiar noises that I heard throughout the night at the School. Here in this little bedroom, it was almost TOO quiet. Get it together, Max, I thought to myself. You're being stupid. I mean honestly, you're only home has been a massive laboratory full of evil scientists, and you can't lie down in a bed and go to sleep? There's a lock on the door, for goodness sakes.

But then again, why would Jeb randomly bring us to this house in the middle of nowhere, all by himself? Granted, he had been the most caring person at the School, but again, he was still a whitecoat. Scenarios flashed through my mind; jerking my tired lids open whenever I threatened to drift off. I watched two hours flick by on the small digital clock on my bedside table; the red numbers glowing like Eraser eyes out of the darkness. The longer the minutes passed, the antsier I became.

Come out, piggy piggy, come out and play. I'm HUNGRY.

SHUT UP. Shut up and stick your freaking arm out, you piece of shit. Worthless mutant.

You tired yet? Don't wanna run anymore? How 'bout I stick THIS down your throat, huh? Taste any

blood yet? You gonna run any faster for me, kid?

Sweat rolled down my spine as I realized my entire body was shaking. The visions were unbearable. Big bad Max was crumbling, and fast. I couldn't stay here. I ran to the window, let my thin wings push against the fabric of my teeshirt as I flung it open. I grabbed the neck of the shirt, prepared to throw it over my head to release my wings. I mean, I had never flown before, but it couldn't be that hard right? I was born with them, wasn't I? So it must come naturally or something. I stuck my head out the window, and the thousand-foot-drop down the canyon literally took my breath away.

Okay, maybe learning to fly at this particular moment wasn't the best idea.

Maybe I should walk.

Closing the window, I stuck my head out into the hallway and noticed Fang's door was cracked open.

We'll stick together forever, right?

God, Fang. I couldn't leave Fang. I made a left, deciding to wake him; bring him to with me. If anyone would want to get out, it would be him. And anything had to be better than this, lying awake in the darkness, alone.

I flattened my hand against the cool wood of his bedroom door, and silently pushed it open.

"Fang?" I breathed into the darkness. I heard the sheets rustle.


I barely made out his figure sitting up in the bed; his hand motioning silently for me to come over.I crossed the room and sat on his bed, feeling the warmth of his extended legs through the sheet.

"You okay?" he asked.

I didn't even bother to hide it. "No. I'm jumpy as all get-out. I can't stay here Fang, I can't. And we could just--"

"We can't leave, Max."

I wondered if he could see my eyes widen in the pitch black darkness of the room. Couldn't leave?

Why not?

"We should stay here. It's...I don't know. I don't know why, but it's just, it's better. What about the others? Do they stay? We have no where to go, and none of us can fly."

I pondered this for a moment.

If I yell, will you come get me?

I heard a random snort from the other room. Perfect timing, Gazzy.

Defeated of a plan, a lowered my head into my hands. I could NOT go back into that bedroom and lie in the darkness, reliving my past from hell.

As if reading my mind again, Fang's gentle hand reached up to rub my back softly between my wings,

which always instantly relaxed my muscles.

"Here." He pulled back the dark blanket and sheets, offering me the other side of his bed. Fang's apparently would hold two bodies too.

I hesitated. Fang would take care of me. Or at least, I'd have someone to fight on my side if anyone WAS waiting for the right moment to pounce on us. I crawled under the covers that he offered, rolling over to face the opposite wall.

"Night, Fang."

"Night, Max."

I lay under the warm blankets for a moment, feeling the heat of his back against my own, his soft down feathers just brushing against me. But then a cold chill came over me, and a loud creak shattered the silence. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, beads of sweat immediately breaking out. My entire body went rigid, and I knew Fang must have felt it against him.

"Chill, Max. It's just the wind blowing on the door. See?" He propped his body up on one elbow, and I followed his finger to the open window, which was positioned over his bed. Then I looked at the door, which was still cracked open, and slightly moving from the breeze.

"It makes that creaking sound whenever it moves just a little at a time. It's okay."

I nodded, trying to seem like 'Oh yeah, I knew that. Definitely wasn't scared.' in the darkness.

Not an easy task, if you've ever tried it.

He lowered himself back onto the bed, and I tried to close my eyes once more, focusing on Fang's light, even breaths. The heat from his body eased the chill of mine, and without realizing it, I rolled over and wrapped an arm over him.

Hopefully, he was already asleep and wouldn't notice, because I just couldn't take the arm away. It was what I needed. That touch, that connection. One that you can't fully grasp when you're in a cage, all alone. But to both my horror and surprise, he reached up, grabbed my hand, and eased my arm closer around him.

God, Fang. What would I do without him?

He didn't ask me if I was scared, he just knew. He didn't treat me like a mom, and go all mushy on me. And he didn't ask me to move, or stiffen under my touch. He didn't tell me I was being weird for giving him a random hug, or even for wanting to leave everyone behind and run away just because I was scared.

I didn't ask him to be my friend. He could have just been my cage neighbor, my fellow mutant.

But he was ten million times more than that. He was my best friend.



A/N: I know in MR3, it says that Jeb taught Fang and Max to read, but it doesn't necessarily say when or where, and I've always wondered when the flock's birthdays were, so I saw that fitting. And yes, I know the "We'll stick together forever, right?" flashback was actually something that Max said, but she was reminiscing on the actual pact. So, yeah. But on to bigger things...

THAT'S ALL FOLKS! I figured now was a good place to stop; I wanna thank all you guys who reviewed, it really means SO much. I think I'm going to branch this off to another story, maybe a one- or two- shot about the flock learning to fly, living more with Jeb, etc. Keep your eyes open, and thanks again for all the support. Much love :