Missing by MoldyMoo

Category:Maximum Ride
Characters:Ella, Fang, Iggy, Max
Pairings:Fang/Max, Iggy/Ella
Published:2008-10-14 03:16:32
Updated:2017-12-17 14:00:43
Packaged:2021-04-22 01:27:52
Summary:3 years after STWAOES. Something is wrong. And it's more than just Max being kidnapped, the flock going through hell to get her back, and then moving in with Dr. Martinez and the constant changing of powers. It has something to do with these bird kids from the future and the people hellbent on killing them in the present...

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 01: Prologue
2. Chapter 02
3. Chapter 03
4. Chapter 04
5. Chapter 05
6. Chapter 06
7. Chapter 07
8. Chapter 08
9. Chapter 09
10. Chapter 10
11. Chapter 11
12. Chapter 12
13. Chapter 13
14. Chapter 14
15. Chapter 15
16. Chapter 16
17. Chapter 17
18. Chapter 18
19. Chapter 19
20. Chapter 20
21. Chapter 21
22. Chapter 22
23. Chapter 23
24. Chapter 24
25. Chapter 25
26. Chapter 26
27. Chapter 27
28. Chapter 28
29. Chapter 29
30. Chapter 30
31. Chapter 31
32. Chapter 32
33. Chapter 33
34. Chapter 34
35. Chapter 35
36. Chapter 36
37. Chapter 37

1. Chapter 01: Prologue

So I'm slowly going through and rewriting this fic chapter by chapter, as well as actively update, so apologies if all of a sudden the quality turns to absolute cringe for a few chapters. It's been nearly 10 years since I've started writing this, and nearly 6 since I'd stopped. So, with renewed interest, I'm going to make an attempt to update and finish this fic since every so often I come back and reread the whole thing. Who knows, maybe I'll finish the prequel…

Chapter 1: Prologue

I flipped on the light, revealing the shabby motel beds, and I sighed one more time. I can't believe I gave in. Again. Who was the leader of this flock? I didn't know anymore.

Nudge suggested we slept in actual beds, and Gazzy had to help her team up on me and point out every. Single. Hotel that we just happened to fly over. Angel joined in after a while, knowing from my thoughts that they were going to crack me. Fang was absolutely no help. Some second-n-command he was…

No use crying over it now.

Though I couldn't help but shudder as my eyes swept across the deep red walls, the cream-colored sheets, and the orange-gold glow of the lights. It was all too familiar. Oh yeah. The last time we'd spent the night in a hotel, I'd been kidnapped and—

"Max?" I looked up to see Fang watching me. The littler ones were dividing the two king-sized beds up. I shook my head at him minutely and then decided to intervene on the argument over the beds.

"I don't wanna sleep next to Iggy," Gazzy was whining. "He kicks."

"Girls in one bed, guys in the other," Iggy retorted.

"Iggy and Gazzy in one bed, Nudge and Angel in the other. Fang can taken the couch, I'll be in the arm chair on first watch," I muttered. I felt Fang's scrutinizing eyes on me until I turned the lights out, not letting anyone argue.

I settled into the lumpy armchair, listening carefully as the whispering around the room quieted and breathing slowed, evening out. Except one.

"Go to sleep," I whispered as soft as I could, trying not to wake the others. Sure, I had my reasons for not wanting to sleep. Last time we stayed in a hotel, three years ago, I was kidnapped. But Fang had no excuse.

"I can take first watch," he whispered back. "You need sleep."

"And I'll get it," I argued, "when it's your turn to watch."

And then I heard something and I held my breath.


A bullet sliding into a chamber. We didn't hear it often, but it was definitely a heart-stopping, unmistakable sound. Slowly, I sat up the same time Fang and Iggy did. We shared a long, wordless stare. I moved across the room as fast as I could and tapped the kids' hands near me and Fang did the same.

But before we could get everyone out of the beds, the walls caved in around us and we were surrounded like never before. They didn't even pause before they came at us. Smoke from the broken plaster made my eyes water and sting, but I strained through the fog to find a silhouette to swing at that wasn't one of the Flock.

As it settled, I could see Fang standing over a flyboy with his foot pressed firmly on his back, leaning back to rip the wings out. I took out one of my own, watching as a few surrounded me.

We fought each one off, knowing the Flyboy's weak points, but there were way too many. It was like a never-ending line. I would destroy one, and another two would show up. I felt like more and more were flooding into the room with us faster than we could take them out.

I heard an explosion that made my ears crackle and I paused for a second, looking for the rest of the flock in the stillness, my ears ringing. Hands wrapped around my arms and legs and I let out a scream as something tore at one of my legs. There was an intense pressure, like someone standing on the back of my calf, and I could hear it snap. A sickening sound that made my stomach lurch as the white-hot pain ripped through my nerves.

And then color exploded behind my eyes and it was dark and silent...

2. Chapter 02

Chapter 2

"Max!" her name was called by the rest of the flock, but Fang couldn't do anything but watch helplessly as they overwhelmed Max. If he left the grouping he was being occupied with, he risked letting Nudge and the Gasman getting overwhelmed. She screamed and he struggled to get over to her, his joints screaming in protest. The Flyboys had him by the torso and arms and he could barely move to hit them. He was distracted enough just watching them take her.

By the time he did get away, they had knocked Max out and were hauling her away.

"Put her down!" he hissed, voice menacing.

"You have nothing for us. We will take the girl," the Flyboy said robotically.

"Like hell you will," he growled back, adrenaline giving him renewed strength to knock out a couple Flyboys, but unfortunately, he was too late. Max was a small dot on the horizon. Pain shot through his body like electricity, his muscles contracting involuntarily, and then he was out like a light.

West. They had taken her west…


"Fang? Fang!" voices called to him from the darkness, but he chose to ignore them. Max. Max. She was gone. They'd taken her to God knows where. That's was the only thing he could remember. Seeing the limp, unconscious body grow smaller and small in the blackness of the sky.

"Fang!" another called, more sharply, and his body shook under the force of shaking hands.

He opened his eyes and sat up slowly, checking himself for any breaks and mentally cataloguing bruises. His fingers brushed over a knot on the left side of his head and I winced, jostling a few bruised ribs as well.

"Thank God," everyone sighed in relief. He sat back and looked around him, Angel being tended to by Gazzy near his feet, Iggy sitting on the edge of the couch popping a finger back into place, and Nudge rocking on her heels in a crouch to his right.

All was silent for minutes.

"What now?" Angel asked quietly.

He ran a hand through his hair. "We need to find Max," he said simply. It was the only thing he could do. He wouldn't be able to focus on anything else.

He began to plan it out in his head.

First thing they needed to do was find out where they had taken her. West…

"We know that much," Iggy grumbled. "Does anyone know where to start?"

"West," Angel murmured, echoing the mantra in my head.

He glanced around at the flock, cataloguing visible injuries. Angel and Nudge were crying, but looked unhurt. Gazzy had a small cut over his right temple and Iggy had a split lip. And then Iggy's dislocated fingers… Not too bad.

Fang stood up and nearly fell back down when he started coughing hard, his body warming. The world had a strange, slight tilt to it for a quick second, but he felt it quickly righting and he shook the feeling away.

"You okay?" Iggy asked, laying a light hand on his arm.

"Yeah, I think I just kicked some dust up in my face or something," he muttered, wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. "Let's go."


My head was pounding and I felt like there was an entire brick building sitting on my chest. I heard muffled voices around me and strained my ears to hear them, but couldn't bring my body to focus on much else. I was tired, so tired, and I tried to will the blackness to take me again.

"What good would putting her in a crate do? She's already broken out of one—she'll break out again," a voice argued over her head. "Learn from history."

"She's too injured to put in a tank right away. Let her heal up some before we put her away."

They seemed to come to an agreement, but my mind clicked with choice words. 'Tank' and 'crate' echoed in my head, alternating, and I wanted to scream. Maybe I did.

I couldn't hear anything and I assumed I was unconscious again, dreaming. I was floating at the edge of the darkness, teetering on the edge.

I woke up again when someone called my name. It sounded familiar. Like a good, happy familiar. I thought it was Fang at first, the voice deep and warm. It had turned deep over the years as we went through puberty. But slowly and torturously, it morphed and changed into a demon's voice.

"Max," Jeb called again softly, stroking my cheek.

I moaned and looked up at him. My head swam and the room shifted around the edges. "What?" I snapped weakly. "I was just having an amazing dream and you weren't in it." I slurred, laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world as I sat up on the gurney they'd had me chained to by the wrist. How lame…

He sighed, unlocking the wrist strap, and motioned for me to follow him out the door. I followed merely out of curiosity of this blatant act of trust he had just bestowed me with. We entered a large basement-like room with four white coats seated around a metal table.

"Oh, are we gonna play games?" I asked. What was wrong with me? I felt giddy, stupid. Was this what it was like to be high? I was obviously drugged, I thought sluggishly. Someone was gonna die…

"You'll have to excuse her," Jeb muttered. "The sedative drugs haven't worn off yet."

Great, so I was drugged. I tried to force myself out of it, to focus.

"Now, Maximum," one started saying. Oh, good. So I had a name now? I wasn't experiment-numbers-and-letters anymore? Aw, darn. "We have a few questions for you."

I dropped my head to the table, a headache already forming between my eyes. I picked it up and dropped it again and it felt like it eased the pain, so I did it a few more times.

"Max," Jeb said in a warning tone.

"What are these questions?" I asked, my voice muffled by the cold metal in front of my face. It felt goooooooood.

"Where are the rest of the experiments? The ones you freed?" another asked and I looked up, eyebrows pulling together.

"What are you talking about?" I asked honestly.

"Don't play dumb," a female whitecoat snapped. "The ones in Texas that you let go after killing the entire staff in the building. We know it was you, so don't lie."

"We haven't been anywhere near Texas," I argued, sobering a little. "You picked me up from somewhere in the north…"

"You blew up the building when you left." Ah, Iggy and Gazzy's trademark the last few years. But again, we hadn't been in Texas at all…

"We didn't do it," I replied honestly. We never did. No joke.

"Yes. You. Did," another argued.

"Where's your proof?" I challenged. "Where's your tapes or recordings or photos or anything?"

No one responded, the four whitecoats began muttering amongst themselves and I dropped my head to the table. I pounded my head a few more times. Oh, Metal Table, no one understands me like you do.

"I say throw her into the isolation tank now. She's healed."

There were small murmurs of agreement.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. "Healed?"

"You've been sedated for two—almost three weeks now," Jeb clarified softly, trying to put a comforting hand on my shoulder, but I wiggled out of it. "The wounds you sustained from your capture were pretty severe."

"Yes," A male whitecoat to my right stressed. "This is why—since she's apparently refusing to admit anything and tell us where the others are—she should be placed in the sensory deprivation tank for a day or two." He shot me a demeaning look with his creeper mustache and outdated glasses…

"She'll talk then," another nodded.

"We can prep for the next step in the meantime."

"I feel like we're wasting time trying to get information about the Texas Institute," the fourth piped in for the first time, a pristine woman with round glasses and perfectly styled hair. "It changes nothing and it is a waste of resources. Let's just focus on capturing the others. We can't move on with the next step without the two older males, anyways."

"You have a point," the creepy man murmured, scratching his beard in thought.

"But the escaped experiments—"

"Will resurface eventually, or they'll die off as Darwinism takes course. It's the perfect end-game experiment."

"Last chance, Maximum," Jeb muttered to me while the four continued debating my future in front of me. "Where are the experiments that were released? You have got to tell us if you know anything or you could have just killed us all. Including the rest of the flock."

"I'll tell you what I know," I said, and the whitecoats perked up, shutting themselves up. "I know that my flock and I did not do anything that you're accusing me of."

"I'm done here," one of the men growled, pushing his chair back and standing up. Others followed suit.

"You blew it, Max," Jeb whispered, waving someone over. I felt a prick in my arm and things got real quiet and fuzzy, the fear-induced panic that had been running it's course through my veins the last minute or two intensifying. When had they pulled out a needle? And then the room disappeared all together.

3. Chapter 03

Chapter 3

Three weeks, two days, and eight hours. Fang sighed and dropped his arm back down to his side once the night-light on his watched flipped off again, letting it dangle and brush the tree branch he was perched in. He refused to let anyone, especially himself, believe that Max could be dead.

But that didn't stop him from making it a possibility. It'd been too long. They were taking too long to track her down. West, he'd chanted that day, but they'd gone west. They'd gone to the facility in California. And Colorado. And Texas, though that one was still smoldering from…whatever had happened.

That's where they'd decided to stop and breathe. They wanted to wait for the emergency responders to leave, the FBI to abandon it, so they could comb the shell of a building and look for anything that might work. He'd hope Nudge might be able to find something she could work with. That was the current plan, anyways.

He watched the rest of the flock sleep. His mind raced as fast as his bird-kid heart as his mind drifted back to her, like it always did over the last year or so. Always on his mind...

Three weeks. Three whole weeks and they had yet to find her. Sure, there had been many leads and small traces, but nothing big. They had no idea where she was. What would he do if he never saw her again? Max was the glue that kept the flock together, and now that she's gone…they're all slipping. Nudge was quieter, Angel was less enthusiastic, Iggy was wordless, Gazzy was trying to put on a bravado act, and besides the pounding headache that sometimes left him spacey, he tried to step up and be the leader.

He'd never been the best leader of the flock, but a slight democracy had been working out, he thought. Working as a team to get their fearless leader back.


I opened my eyes. Darkness...Attempt number two, I opened my eyes. Still darkness. I started to panic. Attempting to spread my wings, I could feel the muscles working, but I felt no movement. None. I screamed. Or at least, I tried to. No sound. I took a deep breath. That, I felt.

Okay, I thought to myself, calm down. I could feel my heart pounding up a storm in my chest. I had to stay sane long enough to figure out where I was. If ever there was a time I wished the voice hadn't vanished, now was the absolute best time it could reveal itself.

But, of course I was never that lucky.

No, this was familiar, I realized, my heart starting to stutter at the terrifying, real possibility that this was a sensory deprivation tank. I pleaded with myself to think of the flock, my family, my mom, Ella, but all I could think was about the very fact that I would never see them again if I was trapped in a tank.

My resolve to stay calm shattered the same time a bright light broke through the darkness. My heart thumped wildly in my chest. So much so that it was painful now. I welcomed the blackness when it came.


I breathed heavily. Fighting off whitecoats would do that to you. I must have been getting weak if they didn't even need Erasers to restrain me. After they buckled me into a chair meant for mentally insane people, Jeb walked to the head of the table and flipped through some papers.

"What did you guys do to me now? "I asked, feeling weak. My eyelids were heavy, my wrists a little thinner than usual in the restraints. It had taken only three whitecoats to keep my flailing ass in the chair.

He found the one he was looking for and leaned on the table, staring at me. I filled my eyes and my face with as much anger and hate as I could, hoping it showed.

"What do you want?" I rasped, still squinting slightly at the bright florescent lights. "Three years. We defeated Itex three YEARS ago! What else do you want from us?!"

"No," Jeb said softly. "Just you. This 'us' you keep mentioning—no, it's just you."

"What do you want?" I ground out, somewhat relieved. If they just wanted me, then they'd leave the rest of the flock alone. But a memory bubbled to the surface from that last time I'd woken. The four whitecoats. They'd mentioned trying to find the flock…

"We here talked about just that in the eight months you've been in the tank—"

"Eight months?!" I whispered, horrified.

"—and we've created a schedule that spans about the next five years."

"Really…" Where was the flock? No attempts to break me out? No. I can't lose faith in them just yet. Not ever. I blinked, suddenly, realizing just how much trust I still blindly had in this man. Who's to say he wasn't lying? How could I believe him so easily when he'd said it had been eight months?

"Here's how it plays out—"

"Oh, goody, I get to know what hell looks like beforehand! It's like friggin' Christmas!" I cheered sarcasticly, a bite in my voice despite my fatigue. "Praise the heavens, this has never happened to me before! A warning of things to come!"

Again, he continued as if I hadn't even spoken, but I know he heard me. "First, we're going to replace that chip back into your arm—"

"Mind if I ask what it does?" I pressed, pulling lightly on the straps.

"It tracks progressions in your life. Reactions to your environment and such." Finally! An answer! "Then, after we replace the chip, you'll be put in a new deprivation tank—it'll be a bit easier on your heart." He smirked. "Can't have you having a heart attack on us." He winked.

Disgusting. "Go to hell," I snarled.

He ignored my comment. Glancing down at the table, I noticed it was metal, but the restraints wouldn't let me bash my head against it.

"Then we'll run regular daily tests for about six months after which we'll be working on a new experiment, now that you'll be of a safer breeding age—"

"Excuse me—what?"

Jeb looked up at me and blinked. "We've just acquired the other part of the equation, so a lot of my colleagues are pushing for the experiment to be expedited." He flipped through a few pages. "We'll be moving you to a cell at that time—not a cage." He paused expectantly, and I watched him, disgusted at the thought he might be waiting for me to laugh at his poor joke. He sighed. "We need you to heal faster than the tank is allowing."

My eyes narrowed at the insinuation. "What if I refuse?"

He seemed to be picking and choosing which of my comments to acknowledge. He didn't answer. Well, not verbally. He lifted up a remote that I hadn't seen and, aiming over his shoulder at the plasma screen hanging on the wall, turned the large television on.

I coughed, choking on air, a failed sharp intake of breath caught in my throat.

Fang was sitting, shirtless, against a wall, running his hands through his hair like he did when he was angry, really, truly, honestly angry. This was beyond the livid, dangerously silent Fang. This was a Fang that didn't care who saw his emotions, because he was seething. His face was angled down toward his knees, away from the camera.

"We'll kill him."

My glare shot to Jeb.

"That won't be so easy," I assured him.

"Oh?" He pressed another button and the camera angle changed. Same room, but a different view showed now. Fang's head was still angled away, but another figure was in the center view. Iggy. He was sitting against a wall perpendicular to Fang. Well, at least I solved the mystery of Fangs shirtlessness. Strips of black cloth were tied tightly around Iggy's thigh, right above the knee.

"Dude." Iggy's voice came through the speakers distorted, and vaguely recognizable. Despite the crystal clear visual technology, their sound system must have been from a decade ago. "I'll be fine. Everything will be fine." He paused, but not in a hesitant way. "When we get out, you should go see a doctor or something. I may not be able to see, but, dude, really," he joked. But the pain—from his leg, I guessed—was evident in his voice.

"I'll be alright," Fang said, his words sounding slurred and forced.

Liar. When he looked up to respond to Iggy, I caught a glimpse of him. Even through a camera lens, he didn't look well. His usual olive tone faded to a deathly light pale, and bright hectic spots of pink covered his cheeks and forehead.

"Let him go," I started to say, but while I had been preoccupied with Fang, a whitecoat had come up and sedated me. How weak was I?


Fang and Iggy snapped their heads toward the screeching of the large metal door being opened, tensing. Fang tried to slide up the wall to his feet, preparing to defend himself and Iggy.

"Put her in here with them until the tank is ready," Jeb ordered and a whitecoat gently, yet still roughly, placed Max on the ground and shut the door quickly.

"Max," Fang breathed, stumbling over and kneeling next to her. Iggy slid across the floor next to him, audibly gnashing his teeth with every quick, jerky movement, and helped Fang get her to a more relaxed position on her back and away from the door.

While his blood ran cold at finally seeing what the School had done to her, he couldn't stop the tidal wave of relief that washed over him at seeing her just breathing in front of him. He brushed her hair from her face, damp and cold.

He scanned her quickly, a loose fitting sweater and a pair of ratty scrubs covering her legs. The bones in her wrists were a little more prominent than he remembered, her cheeks a little more sunken. But he tried to commit her face to memory. Fang had panicked a few times, waking from a light, fitful sleep where he had dreams he couldn't remember what she looked like. It'd been so long…

But he couldn't find signs of torture, lingering effects of any experiments they'd done. Physically, at least…

4. Chapter 04

Chapter 4

I groaned, feeling surrounded by consciousness and cold air. The contrast to waking in the isolation tank soothed me just a little, but knowing I was still in the School somewhere kept me rigid in my skin. Pulling my eyes open, the first thing I saw was a very worried Fang. I sat up slowly and rubbed my aching head.

"How're you feeling?" he asked. I turned to get a better look at him, rolling onto my knees. Simply reaching out and taking his jaw in my hand, I held back a gasp at how hot his skin was. I tilted his face this way and that, using my other hand to brush his hair away. "What are you—" He swatted my hand away.

I cut him off. "The camera," I said, gesturing over my shoulder with my thumb at the small black box in the corner that hung conspicuously from the ceiling. I took his hands in mine—they were so cold.

"I'm fine," he muttered.

"Where's your jacket?" I scolded. "You're not fine, you're stupid." I pulled off my sweatshirt and chucked it at his face. Well, it wasn't my sweatshirt—it belonged to the whitecoats—but they had given it to me when they decided that I should not walk around naked. The sweatshirt was too big for me anyways, but it would fit Fang for now. Anything to cover up his chest...

As he put that on, I scooted across the floor a few feet over to Iggy, who was still slumped against the wall. "What did you do?" I asked, letting my fingers flutter feather light across the bloody strips of shirt wrapped around his leg. The blood had long dried and there wasn't any sign it was still bleeding. That was good.

"Whitecoats," he muttered. "What about you?"

I looked down at myself, but before I could say anything, Fang was already poking and prodding my leg, making me wince.

"Her leg is bent at a funny angle about two to three inches below the knee," Fang described to Iggy, who also began touching, but softer.

"An old break," he said. "Healed all wrong. Sorry, Max, but once we get out we'll have to re-break it." Iggy's face was apologetic. I groaned mentally, but couldn't help the swell in my chest at the thought of escaping soon. Which reminded me…

"How did you guys get in here, anyways?" I asked.

"Came to bust you out," Fang said simply with a grin, reclaiming his spot in the corner.

"Getting caught in the middle of a rescue mission isn't particularly something to smile about, dumbass," I ranted. "That's typically rule number one, don't get caught." Seriously, he was seventeen now, he should know how not to get caught. But his eyes widened a fraction and his eyebrows rose then dropped quickly. Was he urging me to play along? If…no…what kind of plan…he didn't…

Some say realization hit them like a ton of bricks, well, if you measure this realization in the matter of bricks, I'd have been hit by an entire brick house. And in my chest, I felt like it. I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me for a second in one, horrifying realization that my family is seriously stupid.

"You morons!" I growled, reaching out to punch Fang in the leg, but it was a lot weaker than I'd intended. My words had double meaning, a hidden, deeper meaning that I knew Fang and Iggy would understand, and the face value for whatever whitecoat happened to be listening in on the videos. "What kind of…"

They had meant to get caught.

"I don't wanna know—" I started, but the door swung open and Jeb, flanked on either side by erasers, entered the room. I gripped the hood of Fang's sweatshirt and stood up awkwardly, dragging him with me. "You told me you'd kill him," I snarled. "Well, if he dies because you can't keep him healthy, then what will you have to hold above my head? I'll kill you."

"Thanks mom," Fang muttered sarcastically before falling into a coughing fit for a few seconds. He really needed…appropriate medical attention. I made a mental note to take him to Dr. Martinez's house as soon as we escaped. She was probably the only medical professional we could trust right now.

We stood, glaring at each other for a few seconds before Jeb spoke.

"Change of plans, Maximum."

"Oh, too bad. What's the new schedule look like now?"

Jeb motioned the two erasers forward. "You're going to the new tank a few days ahead of schedule. I'm doing this for your own safety, really."

"The what? What about your plan?"

He crossed his arms over his chest. "I told you, some collegues were pushing to move up the breeding experiment, I couldn't hold them off any longer."

Rage spilled in my chest. "If you were worried about my safety I wouldn't be here."

He sighed in exasperation. "You've grown dense in your old age, Maximum—"

"I'm only seventeen!"

"—and for an experiment, that's an extremely long investment, especially for an experiment that so violently misbehaves." He motioned to the two Erasers with a couple flicks of his fingers

"Woah, woah! Hold it! Stop!"

I took a shaky step backwards and nearly tripped over Fang. He steadied me, his hands on my upper arms. I realized he'd just heard about where they were taking me and the breeding experiment. Through the fabric of my long-sleeved shirt, I could feel his freezing cold fingers tremble.

"What about the chip?" I asked, my voice as shaky as Fang's hands.

"Already in," he smirked. Gosh, did I just wanna hit him. Just once. Please, if there is some sort of higher power out there watching me, let me just sock him once before I have to die.

Fang stepped in front of me and I realized that the erasers weren't for me, but for Fang and Iggy—both weakened drastically. Jeb reached over and grabbed my wrist, thin and boney from the lack of food.

As soon as we got into the hall, I took my first swing, collecting every ounce of energy in my body. Hearing my knuckle crack as it connected with his face was like music. I chose to ignore the searing pain as I smiled. Damn that felt amazing. Jeb fell to his knees.

I walked up and my knee connected with his head, which then connected with the wall, before he fell to the floor, unconscious. Chuckling at what I planned to do, I pulled a pen out of his pocket and snapped it in half, gently touching the pointy edges to make sure they were sharp enough. I leaned over his face and began to carve into his cheek.

About two years ago, we tried to settle into a permanent home. We did for a while. Before we were forced to leave, Fang and Gazzy got into video games like crack addicts. Iggy just…listened to them play—not exactly much fun. Gazzy was speaking text-talk for weeks.

I stood up and admired my word. But it didn't last.

"Pay attention, Sweetie!" a sickeningly sweet voice chimed behind me.

A prick and I was done.

5. Chapter 05

Chapter 5

Fang stumbled as an eraser shoved him down the hallway and into a small room. He was shoved into a chair next to Iggy and told to wait.

"I think she got the message," Iggy whispered to Fang when they were alone.

"Yeah, I don't know about that. Are you sure?" Fang bit back sarcastically. His eyes darted around the room looking for escape routes, but he only found an air vent, which was welded to the ceiling. Nice. He'd have to wait until they had their guard down—they seem to have caught onto the air ventilation system being all the rage among teen mutant escapees. Then again, he and Iggy had bulked up a little since puberty. Would they even still fit in them?

He began to cough again, his throat feeling like it was being torn apart, a fire licking and burning it.

Jeb walked in with a bottle of water and a little paper cup with two pills and set them in front of Fang. Ha. Hilarious. He let Max get to him. Fang had to keep from laughing as he leaned forward and opened the bottle, pushing the small tan pills around in the cup and deciding they were nothing more than common ibuprofen.

But when he looked through the clear bottle—searching for any signs that it had been tampered with—he saw something on Jeb's face that made him laugh. Iggy visibly flinched away.

"What's so funny?" he asked Fang. He had never heard Fang laugh like that…or as long as he was. Sure, he'd let out a quiet chuckle, even a rare laugh. But Fang was actually having trouble composing himself.

"Max…" he laughed again. "Max…wrote…well, she carved…" Laugh. "Carved 'Max Pwns' on Jeb's face." He burst out laughing the same time Iggy did. Fang had memory flashbacks of Gazzy and all his 'pwnage' and cracked up all over again.

Slowly the laughing turned into coughs. And what startled Fang enough to sober him up was that, when he pulled his hand away, he saw blood. Not a lot, but enough to be worrysome. He let out a breath.

"Let's get down to business," Fang said flatly, wiping his hand on his jeans hoping no one noticed what had gone on. "What do you want?"


Angel. Awesome, Fang thought. They could finally bust out. If Angel was contacting him then they were ready on the outside. He needed to let Iggy know without Jeb noticing. After all, Jeb taught them how to signal each other, so tapping Iggy's hand was out.

Leave that to me…

Fang saw Iggy roll his neck—a movement that he realized Jeb did not know at all.

Fang, Angel thought to him Iggy needs one more thing before he's ready, just go along with whatever he says, okay?

Sure, Fang responded.

Iggy stood up and leaned over the table, taking a pen from Jeb's coat pocket. "What are you—"

"You want to see what I've learned, even being blind?" he chuckled darkly and Fang suppressed a shudder. Iggy could be creepy when he wanted to. He had the 'mad scientist' thing going very well for him. Iggy took a deep breath before flinging the pen across the table, hitting Jeb in a spot on his neck. Jeb tensed, flinching from the hit before scowling.

Nothing happened and Fang was about to say something when Angel interrupted him.

Wait for it…

Fang looked for the pen without being obvious. So that's why Iggy threw it there, Fang thought. Iggy had calculated the direction and position of Jeb by the sound of his voice and then guessed where his voice box was. From there he could determine where the pen would land if it bounced off him. Fang did the calculations a lot slower than Iggy, but he looked at where it should have landed and, sure enough, there was the black ink pen inconspicuously located between Iggy's feet.

"Enough goofing off," Jeb snapped, rubbing his neck. He accidentally scratched the carving on his cheek and made it bleed.

"Shoot," he muttered before standing and heading for the door. "I'll be right back, just wait here."

"On three," Fang whispered too low for Jeb. "Ready," he paused and waited for the door to open. "ONE!"

Iggy and Fang leapt across the table and, while Iggy knocked out Jeb, Fang held the heavy metal door open.

"Quick, go!" Fang whisper yelled, not knowing who was in the hallway.

Iggy raced past and Fang took one last look at the bleeding scratched on Jeb's pale cheek before letting the door slam shut, a loud clang echoing in the empty hall. Fang paused and waited for Iggy to tell him that it was clear. When Iggy nodded, they took off in the direction of the room they had been in. Once they got there, Fang started coughing so bad that Iggy had to stop running and race back to him.

"You okay?" Iggy asked hurriedly, yet concerned.

"Yeah," Fang rasped, grateful Iggy couldn't see the blood in his hand. He opened the door to their cell. "Get what you need and let's go!"

While Iggy collected his materials, Fang coughed. Come on, he thought to himself. This is definitely no time to get sick!

"Come on, Gasman's waiting for us on the other side of the building."

"Which way is Max?" Fang asked, glancing down the halls, fists ready to strike.

"Max?" Iggy asked, looking confused. "Oh, her!"

"Yeah, her," Fang growled, angry that he had actually forgotten.

"Chill out," Iggy said. "Where do you think I'm going? Angel says to go this way—" He pointed to the right with perfect aim for a blind guy. "—and then take the first left, second right, down a flight of stairs, a right and then the first room on the left is where Max is."

Fang didn't respond, he flew—not literally—down the hallway, taking the directions that Angel had given them. Three times on their way, they were nearly caught, but at the last minute, they'd duck down a hallway or into an abandoned room.

Fang came to a halt right in front of her door and tried the knob. Locked.

I already sent Nudge in. I knew it was locked from the beginning—

Why didn't you say anything? Fang thought.

Didn't see the need. He could practically hear her shrugging in his head and clenched his teeth to keep from lashing out. He needed to stay level headed or this wasn't going to work.

Fang could almost see the angelic smile that that child could emit to make anyone forget why they were mad at her. Footsteps pounded lightly down the hall and Fang turned, ready to fight, but was met by a flash of dark skin and wild black hair. Nudge. He sighed in relief. Just on the other side of this door, Max was there, waiting.

"Get it open," Fang growled to the door.

"I'm working on it," Nudge snapped, her fingers flying over the metal surface of the knob. Seconds later, the door clicked open with a solid beep and Fang was inside, looking around.

There, near the corner, was a tank. Something straight from a science fiction movie—a tank that usually held a clone of somebody, sleeping in a liquid, wearing an oxygen mask. This was exactly that. Max was floating, naked, in water, her ankles chained to the base. Lights in the huge, circular metal base tinted the water with an orangey glow. Her hair splayed out around her, occasional bubbles shooting up from the base and dancing with her hair before popping on the surface to keep the water from becoming stagnant.

Fang's breath escaped him in a single instant, seeing her so thin and floating inside the tank.

"Is she in here?" Iggy asked, glancing around the room. A computer sat to one side, across from the tank. There was a cold metal examination table in the center and a countertop covered in so many things that just fueled the fury in the pit of his stomach.

"Yeah," Nudge breathed behind him. "She's in here."

6. Chapter 06

Chapter 6

Fang's hand touched the glass for a moment, noting how warm it was, before tearing around the base, looking for a way to get her out.

Nudge was behind him, softly describing it to him.

"Any ideas on how to get her out?" Iggy asked her, stating the obvious. "Can you do your weird seeing tech-y stuff to see how they got her in there?"

"It's not weird," she snapped.

"Nudge," Fang urged, his heart pounding in his chest in a way he didn't like. He could feel his body warming, his energy disappearing quickly. And they didn't have much time to get her out. Warning alarms from the floor above echoed down to them barely, and he was worried this would be their first stop.

"Angel doesn't know, she just says to hurry," Nudge murmured, staring at her leader in disbelief. She shook her head quickly, putting on a stern face and held her hand up to it. "Getting her in was pretty complicated. A lot of commands on the computer. It will take me a few minutes to find the commands to get her out."

"I know of one way," Fang grunted, unscrewing a pipe from the wall that led to the base of the tank. It hissed loudly and the bubbles in the tank ceased. He really hoped he hadn't just cut off her air supply. "Nudge, Iggy, one of you get ready to catch her!"

Fang jogged over to Max and swung at the glass with as much force as he could muster, knuckles white around the pipe. It shattered instantly and water rushed all over the floor. Max's body twisted in the rush, her feet still chained, and began to fall. She fell into the open arms of Iggy.

"Put this on her," Fang said, handing over the sweater she had given him earlier, exposing his chest again. While Iggy put the sweater over Max, Fang watched as Nudge worked her powers to get Max unchained as fast as they could, letting the metal twist and crumble like paper.

Anyone coming? Fang asked Angel. Someone had to have heard that crash. It was really loud. And he was willing to bet they were way out of time. Guaranteed the other whitecoats knew exactly what their goal was now.

Two whitecoats are wondering what that sound was, they're about to come look. Angel responded quickly. Jeb came to upstairs, they're sending down a pack of Erasers…but they're different. Smarter. They have a hierarchy…

Distract them, Fang thought, stressing hoping that she would control them as long as she could—they'd had a long discussion about how she should only use that power when the situation called for it. And right now, the situation was screaming for it.

"Alright, she's good to go," Iggy said breathlessly, throwing her over his shoulder.

Fang lapsed into an intense coughing fit again, and he looked at his hand, the amount of blood that he was coughing up was increasing. But this time was different. He looked up to see Nudge staring at him, wide-eyed.


"We don't have time," he muttered, whipping his hand on the seat of his jeans. He grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the door.

Once they were in the hallway, they heard the first explosion. It was far away, but the building still shook beneath them. Fang rubbed his hand across his chin, feeling the stubble there. His thoughts were flip-flopping between this is too easy and we're never going to make it out.

"That was the fence, come on! Iggy, you got that bomb ready?!" Nudge yelled, leading the way to a window. It was way too small for Fang or Iggy to get through, but a fourteen-year-old Nudge would fit perfectly. "Place it here on the windowsill and let's go. There's a room right around the corner where we'll be safe. Angel says to hurry, the Erasers are coming, she lost hold of them."

Fang carefully took Max from Iggy, cradling her in his arms freeing Iggy's hands to rip apart the pen he'd stolen from Jeb and placed the small metal spring inside and snapped the boxy-looking bomb shut. "Alright," He called. "Let's go!"

Once they were inside the room, one full of computers and cubicles, Fang looked at Nudge, who was holding out Max's clothes. She must have snagged them before they'd left the room Max had been in.

"Put them on her," Fang whispered, setting Max on the ground by Nudge before turning to Iggy. "How long do we have before it goes off?"

"About 30 seconds now. I wasn't sure how long we would need to get a safe distance away so I set it for 45 seconds." Nudge threw the sweater back to Fang, pulling the scrubs top down over Max's head.

And, unfortunately, 20 seconds later, Max started to wake up, fully clothed now. Fang was pulling his sweatshirt over his head when he saw her sit up.

"Five seconds!" Iggy yelled, getting to the ground, Nudge tucked safely underneath him.

"What the—" Max was cut off when Fang tackled her to the ground just as the far wall exploded. The explosion was loud and debris went flying everywhere, some lightly bouncing off Iggy and Fang's backs just enough to leave them sore later.

After all was quiet, Fang slowly sat up, brushing pieces of wall off Max and himself.

"I thought you said we'd be safe here," Iggy snapped at Nudge.

"It was your bomb!" she growled back, jabbing him in the chest with a finger. "Besides, you're alive, aren't you? Let's go, Gaz and Angel are waiting." She stood up, a little wobbly at first, but she gained her balance and then took a running start before diving out the large hole in the corner of the wall about 10 yards away.


I looked over wearily to see Nudge jump out the window. Was this their great plan? The pounding in my head was loud and aggravating. That combined with the ringing in my ears from the bomb and the delirium from the haze of unconsciousness, I barely heard Fang talking to me.

"Can you fly?" He asked again. He'd grown paler—if possible—and his red cheeks were more definable. His voice was a lot weaker and less forceful, a concerning hoarseness to it. I reached up and brushed my fingertips across his blue-tinted lips.

"I can fly, can you?" I countered, letting him pull me to my feet.

Our heads snapped in the direction of the door to see four or five Erasers racing down the hall towards us. We jumped up and raced for the window.

"Guess we'll find out," Fang muttered to himself snapping his wings open, probably not meaning for me to hear. As we flew towards a hole in a large fence that domed over the entire School, my mind raced to catch up with the situation and piece together what I had missed between being dragged out of the cell with Fang and Iggy.

I tried to push into a super speed of any sort, but most of my focus was spent on making sure to keep a rhythmic flapping so I didn't fall. My body felt like it was filled with lead, and I pushed myself to follow the silhouettes of Iggy and Nudge in front of us through a large hole at the base of the fencing.

We shot through and continued on for a few miles, heading towards a lake. I could see two dots in the sky that I knew without a doubt were the Gasman and Angel, hovering, waiting for us to catch up before we finally escaped.

I felt tears falling down my face and I watched a few fall to the lake below us, surprised on the emotion I couldn't hold back. That wasn't the only thing I saw fall to the lake below. I guess being in a sensory deprivation tank for a few months made my reaction time slower because he was half way down toward the water before I even realized what was going on. No one else saw it. Iggy and Gazzy were wrapped up in dramatic conversation, and Nudge had her back to him.

"Fang!" I screamed, diving for him without a second thought. But my body was still slow and sluggish. He was limp, falling head first for the water. I could see even from a couple hundred feet up that it was too shallow to land in.

Iggy got to him before I could, his feathers brushing mine as he dove, and Gazzy got to me before I hit the water. My wings crumpled as Gazzy slammed into my back, his wings shooting out to slow our decent. As soon as we were slow enough, I pushed Gazzy away, flying on my own. We all followed Nudge and Angel as they landed in a clearing on the north edge of the large lake.

"Fang!" I called when I skidded messily to a stop. Iggy had laid him on his back in the grass, Nudge and Angel looking down at the pair worriedly. I fell to my knees next to his motionless form. "What's wrong with him?"

"He's got an intense fever," Iggy said lowly, "but I can't find any kind of injuries."

"He's just sick," Nudge added quietly. "He was coughing up blood before."

My eyes shot to her, but she was nearly shaking like a leaf, looking scared. "Alright, alright," I breathed, standing, trying desperately to grasp onto a form of a plan. "We need to get away from here now."

"Dr. Martinez," Angel supplied helpfully and I nodded. She was probably our best bet right now.

"Alright, Iggy, can you carry him for a few hours?" I asked and Iggy nodded, already pulling him off the ground by his arms. "Good. Lets go."

"Can you fly?" Gazzy asked skeptically, holding a hand out to me as I prepared to take off. I looked around to the the others watching me as well. "I mean, you've lost some weight, I could probably carry you if you—"

Angel handed me something wrapped in paper. "She'll be okay. I have two more, you can eat on the way." I looked down at the fast food burger in my hands and smiled at her gratefully.

"I'll be alright. Where are we?"

Angel off in a direction to her left and we all took off. "We're about 300 miles from Dr. Martinez's place. If we need to stop, I'll know," she called over the wind.

"Angel," I warned.

"Don't worry, I won't be reading, only…feeling for general ideas," she argued lightly.

I bit down into the burger instead of responding. I nearly melted right there. When was the last time I actually ate food? Like, real not-from-a-feeding-tube food? I probably should have been wore concerned over that fact, but between my euphoria over the burger and my worry over Fang, I had no room in my head for anything else.

"What if he wakes up?" Nudge called over, looking down at Iggy carrying Fang, who was still limp in his arms.

"We'll worry about that if it happens," I said, not really sure myself. I wanted nothing more than to gather energy, take Fang myself, and super-speed to my Mom's. But life never works like that. And he was solidly unconscious a couple hours later when we landed in her backyard. My feet nearly gave out and my whole back ached.

"Should we knock?" Nudge asked, looking around at the darkened windows facing us.

"Knock," Angel told her, helping Iggy hold Fang up. "Ella's out, but Dr. Martinez is reading in the living room."

Nudge bounced up to the back porch and knocked on the door a couple times, while I quickly made my way over to where Iggy and Angel were holding Fang upright, still limp.

"You okay?" I asked Iggy, putting my hands on Fang's cheeks. They were warmer than when we'd taken off.

"Tired," he muttered. "But I'll be okay once we find somewhere to put him."

"I could have taken a turn," Gazzy mumbled, coming up behind him.

The backdoor swung open, spilling light into the backyard. "What's going on?" Mom demanded.

I looked over my shoulder at her and gestured to Fang. "Help him, please."

"Oh, my—" Nudge and I parted to make way for Mom as she dashed towards us, immediately picking Fang's face up in her hands to get a better look. "Alright, you guys go inside, wait in the living room." She touched Iggy's arm. "Help me get him upstairs to the guest bedroom."

Mom replaced Angel and I herded the younger kids into the house after Mom and Iggy. I felt a weight lifting from my chest, a knot loosening in my stomach at the thought of Mom being here, helping. Was this what it was like having a mother, someone you could depend on and go to when you had problems?

"He'll be okay," Angel said after a few minutes. Her and Nudge had taken a seat on the couch, Gazzy making himself at home in the recliner. He looked ready to pass out. "You can stop pacing. You're going to make your nail bed bleed."

I pulled my thumb out of my mouth and looked down at it, not realizing I'd been chewing on the nail. "Stop reading my mind," I snapped, spinning to face her.

Iggy came into the room and flopped down next to Nudge with a sigh.

"Did she say anything?" I demanded, but Iggy shook his head. It was going to be a long night…

7. Chapter 07

Chapter 7

I paced around the kitchen, the anxiety making me itch.

"You're going to wear a hole in the floor," Ella stated flatly, looking bored out of her mind at the kitchen table, her head resting in her hand. She'd gotten home maybe ten minutes after we'd gotten there. A quick update and she offered to make us something to eat, which Gazzy and Iggy jumped on.

I shot her a glare. "I just don't know what it could be. Pneumonia maybe?"

"Possibly," Angel whispered.

"Sit," Iggy commanded, pointing to an empty chair next to him. "You're giving me a migraine and I can't even see you!"

Reluctantly, I obeyed, giving my tired feet some rest so that in five or ten minutes I could continue my pacing. Ella pushed a plate of sandwiches at me, but I couldn't even think of food right now. Finally, after forever and a half, Mom emerged from the hall way and I shot up to my feet.

"You guys can't see him yet," she said quickly, putting her hands on my shoulders firmly. "What he has is highly contagious. How updated are you guys on your shots?"

I laughed. "Updated? I'm not even sure we've ever had shots. I mean, I've had my tetanus shot—" I smiled at her, "—but the rest of them haven't had any. I'm sure something in the hundreds of injections we've had over the years did something—"

"Alright," Mom sighed. "Well, until you're vaccinated, you cannot go see him."

"What exactly does he have?" I asked. I sat down in my chair, not wanted to be standing up if she was about to tell me he was dying.

She took a deep breath. "He has some kind of bird flu would be my guess. I'd need to do some blood work to know for sure. There have been a few cases of it cropping up further south, but there haven't been any recorded cases of it in the US. I dosed him with some general anti-viral drugs, but I won't know until morning if he needs something different."

I wanted to bang my head into the wall.

"So he's not going to die?" Nudge asked, speaking for the first time since we got there.

"No," She shook her head quickly. "I've given him a high dose of the anti-viral—nearly twice what I should have. He'll live, I just need to find the right medications and doses."

"Un-freaking-believable," I whispered. Are you kidding me? We can get freaking avian sickness now, too?

"How did he catch it way up here then?" Iggy mused. "And it's not like our immune systems are the worst."

"Yeah," Dr. Martinez responded. "That's true in most cases. But there have been illnesses in the past that attacked healthy people because they had good immune systems. It triggers an overreaction which caused symptoms like coughing up blood."

"But how did he catch it if cases have only been further south?" Nudged asked.

"We were in Mexico when Max was caught," Angel explained. "I think he started getting sick then."

"That was months ago," I frowned.

"I don't know," Mom shrugged, pulling down a mug from a cabinet. "Like I said, I would need to run more blood tests tomorrow."

"When can we see him?" I asked quietly.

"Uh, no thanks," Nudge declared. "I don't want to get sick like that, Fang can keep it."

"Well, I'd like to keep you guys away from him until I'm sure he's not contagious," Mom explained as she fixed a cup of tea for herself. "It'll be a day or two, I think. I'll take some blood samples here tomorrow morning and test them at work. There's no real vaccine for this, so we just have to wait it out and hope the anti-virals work."

I sighed heavily and looked over the remaining flock. Angel and Nudge looked back wearily, and Iggy looked like he was about to fall over with exhaustion. I put a hand on Gazzy's back when I realized he had been very quiet and he jerked awake.

"Alright, let's get some sleep then," I decided, forcing a laugh. I made myself think of things other than Fang so that Angel wouldn't catch on to me. I knew I would have trouble sleeping tonight. What with my body so used to watch shifts. I motioned for everyone to get to the living room.

Mom left quietly and brought in some extra blankets and two sleeping bags so that two or three of us could sleep on the two couches and the recliner and two would sleep on the floor. Fine by me. Gazzy took the recliner while Nudge and Angel occupied the couches. That left Iggy and me on the floor. I moved my sleeping bag as far away from him as possible without him noticing. No need to wake him up when I went to check in on Fang.

"What if he doesn't get better?" Nudge whispered after I shut all the lights off and said goodnight to Mom and Ella.

"Go to sleep," I told her. "He will. He'll be fine."

"What if we get sick?" she asked. "I don't want to—"

"Nudge, you won't get sick, I promise," Angel told her, clearly annoyed. "Go to sleep."

I reached up onto the couch and squeezed Nudge's foot. "If you do, Mom's here."

"I want to stay here, Max," she whispered down to me, peeking over the edge of the couch. "I want a house like this. I want to go to school with Ella. I don't want to be afraid for my life anymore."

"I know, Sweetie, I know," I said, because it was all I could say. I couldn't promise her something I couldn't provide, and I didn't want to fill her with false hope. Right now, I wasn't sure how long we could, or even should stay. Once Fang was better, we'd need to regroup and figure out a plan then.

About a few hours later, I knew everyone was asleep and I was pretty sure myself that I wouldn't be sleeping at all. Not when one of my flock wasn't there. As quiet as I could, I rolled out of the sleeping back and tiptoed down the hallway and straight into the room I'd heard Iggy and Mom take Fang to.

And of course when I peeked in, his was lying on the bed, on top of the blankets glaring at me.

8. Chapter 08

Chapter 8

I shut the door as quietly as I could and grinned in the darkness. "What?" I whispered as innocently as I could.

"Go away. If you stay in here and get sick, I'll murder you."

"Kind of harsh, don't you think?" I asked, sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him. He winced as he pushed himself so that he was leaning against the wall on the other side of the bed—as far away from me as he could get.

"Just leave me alone. Did your Mom tell you what I have?" He snapped. "You just got out of the school after months, we don't know how good your immune system is right now."

"She told me," I hissed back. "And I'm not fifteen anymore. You can't tell me what to do."

"I never could," he grumbled.

"I'll be fine," I pressed. "I just wanted to come see how you were doing."

"Like I said, if you get sick…" he trailed off.

There was a long pause and I just looked him over in the moonlight. He was a lot less pale, but his cheeks were still tinted red.

"How are you feeling?" I asked quietly.

He hesitated. "I should be asking you," he murmured, lying on his side against the wall. I folded my arms on top of the comforter and rested my chin on top. The weight of the day was finally hitting me and my mind wandered a bit. I hadn't slept in a bed, even had real sleep, in months. Fang reached across the bed and brushed his fingers across my cheek. "You've lost weight."

"Oh, how nice of you to notice," I mocked.

He offered up a tired smile and a sigh. "I did miss you," he said quietly. "I didn't think we'd find you after a while."

"I would have gotten out eventually."

He pressed his lips into a line and frowned. "You weren't conscious often enough to try, Max."

"I'm here now," I offered, taking his hand in mine. "Now I'm just worried about you."

"Nothing to be worried about," he said nonchalantly. "I'm more concerned about what they were going to do with you."

"The breeding thing? I'm not worried about that right now." I grasped quickly for a change of subject before he could continue down that road. I wasn't ready to think about that yet. "How are you feeling though, for real?"

"Everything hurts. Throat is on fire. Hurts to breath."

"Other than that?"

"I'm fine," he smirked. "Other than that."


"Max, maybe you should…" I gave him a glare that made him switch thoughts. I was not leaving. I wasn't sure if I would have stayed or gone back to my sleeping bag after I'd checked in on him and he'd been sleeping. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine." My mind dusted over the memories again and I scrunched up my face, willing myself not to think about it. Seeing Fang and Iggy in the cell, being thrown in with them, fighting the Erasers off as they stripped me down and put me in that horror movie set piece of a tank. Then I remembered one sharp detail like a splinter. When they put me in the tank…I was naked. I lifted my head and glanced at the fabric that I was dressed in, a pair of soft scrubs. Oh, jeez. "Who…" I felt myself blush and I wanted to slap myself.

"Who what?"

I took a deep breath. "Who dressed me?" He blushed too—that was new…

"Nudge," he mumble. He paused and I thought that was it. "Are you sure you're okay? Because seeing you in there, like that, it was…"

"I'm fine." I glanced down at my leg and groaned.

"What is it?" his voice panged with concern, even in a whisper.

"Iggy's gonna have to re-break my leg soon."

"Well, if you don't wanna limp when you walk," Fang said with a half shrug, trying to lighten the mood.

It worked. I flicked his foot and he jerked it away.

"You're hands are cold!" he complained. I grabbed his foot. "Quit it! You're going to wake everyone up."

I stood up and stretched, content. Fang was going to live. He was already bouncing back—a lot quicker than when he'd had surgery when we were fourteen. Damn. He didn't need surgery because of this illness. Relief flooded my veins and I swam in the feeling. My flock was whole again and we'd be alright. We were in Mom's protection for now. We had food, warmth, a temporary refuge.

I headed for the door.

"Talk to Nudge, tomorrow," Fang blurted out.

"What?" I stopped and turned around, walking back over to the bed. "Why?"

"Back at the School," he mumbled, staring out the window by the foot of the bed. "I was coughing up blood. I tried not to let Iggy know, but Nudge saw. She didn't say anything about it to anyone, but I think it freaked her out a little." I nodded slowly, understanding.

"That actually makes sense. She said some things earlier—I'll talk to her. But, to be honest, I was scared, too," I confessed with a sigh, sitting down on the edge of the bed and rubbing my tired eyes. I hadn't done this whole admittance-of-emotions thing, but it's become a lot more frequent lately. Especially to Fang. Ever since he'd left, when he came back…things just started to spill…Anything to keep him there.

"I was, too," he whispered. "I thought we were done with them." Him and me both. Sure, we'd come across them on our own, trying to destroy their Schools and all. But they hadn't come after us directly. Fang took a deep breath and then looked up at me. His eyes were deep and reflected brightly in the light of the full moon. "What did they do to you? I mean, aside from the breeding plan, what did they do?"

I shook my head. "They replaced the chip," I muttered, my fingertips brushing the raised pink scar along my arm. They had put it in the other arm this time.

"Great," Fang groaned. "Please don't try to cut this one out."

I scowled at him. "I'm not going to, but it needs to come out still," I grumbled, standing. "But they said it was a chip to track my body, changes and stuff. So it's gotta be transmitting that data to them."

"Do the rest of us have one?" he asked after a beat of silence.

"Maybe. We can talk to Mom about that later." I paused, grasping at another thought flying through my head. "How did you guys even find me?"

"I tried. We followed the direction the Flyboys took you for days, but got nowhere." He took a deep breath and adjusted himself against the wall. "I posted on the blog that you were kidnapped and we followed some false leads for months. Then we finally got a hit. Some guy in Idaho said that he'd seen some news story on some chopper that crash-landed a few miles from him. Locals had said they'd seen werewolves after it crashed, but those were just rumors. So we flew up, just in case."

"Erasers," I mumbled.

He nodded. "So the flock and I devised a plan that had a high chance of you getting out—"

"And getting caught has a high chance…how?"

He threw a glare at me and continued. "So we decided that Iggy and I—the largest of our group—would get caught and plant a bomb on the inside white Angel stayed outside with Nudge and the Gasman. Nudge was unsure of how she could help, so she stayed out, but Gazzy was to plant a bomb near the fence on the outside. Turns out Nudge was needed on the inside, but it worked out alright."

"Yeah," I muttered, imagining everything that had gone on while I was away. Seems like they did okay without me. Their plan worked perfectly. Well, alright, not perfectly, but they'd managed to get in, get out, get me out, and get away without too much harm. There was Iggy's leg, though.

"But our plan was flawed," Fang said suddenly, as if reading my mind. "Iggy's leg was broken. We didn't think things completely through."

"But it worked. And he's healed for the most part—he was walking on it fine, even when we escaped. And I'm here, aren't I?"

"We got you thrown into that tank early," Fang stated sadly.

"Yeah, two days early. Hardly any difference."

"Who knows what they did to you," he argued.

"I do, Fang," I said, aggravated. "Would you just take a 'job well done' like a man and shut up? Not all plans are going to come out exactly like you want. And, as long as you succeed, take the consequences in stride."

He shifted so that he was lying on his stomach, his head on the pillow, and he sighed. "How do you do it?" He asked softly, closing his hand around mine.

"Do what?" I asked, moving so that I was sitting on the floor again, my arms folded on the bed so that I could rest my head a bit. I threaded my fingers through his and rubbed his thumb with mine.

"Lead as perfectly as you do?" His eyelids fluttered shut and I saw exactly how tired he looked, despite the fact that he had just been passed out for the last half a day.

"I have this friend. He's an amazing little helper," I chuckled. "Get yourself a second-in-command. They tend to keep you in line."

He shook his head slightly and said, "No, that sounds like a very difficult job, being your second-in-command. Full time job and then some." I glanced out the window and saw the sun just beginning to rise.

"Go to sleep, dork," I said, standing. "Mom will check on your in the morning."

Content that he would live for the most part, I made my way back to the living room as silently as I could and slipped back into my sleeping bag, which was so much more comfortable than an isolation tank, you would not believe

9. Chapter 09

Chapter 9

"Should we just do it while she's asleep, surprise her?" someone whispered, waking me from a deep, dreamless sleep. I kept my eyes shut. Come on, five more minutes of this would be heaven right now. Everything was quiet for a few seconds before I felt arms around me, picking me up off the floor. A few moments of playing asleep later, I was placed on something soft—the couch?—and people started mumbling around me.

"Guys this is a bad, bad idea," Nudge argued quietly, not whispering like the others. "It's not going to be a surprise, it's torment and it's not right, not after our lives. This isn't funny."

"Yeah, but better to ask for forgiveness than permission," Iggy murmured, fingers rolling up the fabric on my pants to my knee.

"I don't think we should—it's gonna hurt," Gazzy grumbled, "she's gonna scream. It's one thing to scare her while she's asleep, it's another to hurt her."


"Shouldn't we have Dr. Martinez knock her out first and correct it herself—she's the expert!" Nudge again.

"She went to work. Besides, she's awake and listening to us," Angel told them, sounding bored.

I opened my eyes and smiled. Iggy was standing over me, flanked by Gazzy and Nudge, while Angel and Ella stood behind the couch. "You guys weren't planning to do something to me like, break my leg, were you?" I asked, sitting up. "After being traumatized at the School for months, you weren't possibly thinking about doing that while I was asleep."

"Yeah, they were," Nudge grumbled, crossing her arms and glaring at Iggy.

"That's just cruel, Iggy," I said. "You could have asked, I already said we could do it."

"They!?" Gazzy exclaimed, glaring pointedly at Nudge. "I didn't wanna do it either. Iggy was the only one who did."

Iggy shrugged. "I tried waking you up but you were out cold. Figured your little early morning trip wore you out."

"Well," I stood up, quickly changing the topic, heading for the kitchen. "I'm definitely not letting Mom give me drugs."

"Oh, come on," Ella laughed. Shit, wrong topic. "That was funny. Fang got a kick out of it, too."

"What?" Iggy and the others looked confused. Angel giggled as blurbs of the memory flashed through my eyes.

I spun and glared at the two of them. "You'd be smart never to mention that ever again. Both of you."

"Hey," Ella laughed, holding up her hands. "You said something about it first. I was just commenting."

"And I have no idea what was going on. I just heard you confess—" My hand landed over Angel's mouth and I jerked her to me playfully, feeling her lips curve up into an apologetic smile beneath my hand. I rolled my eyes and, when I was sure she wouldn't continue, I removed it.

Food. My stomach growled loudly as I headed for the kitchen, Iggy following me. "Has everyone eaten?" I asked, noting that it was only eight in the morning, according to the stove clock.

"Yeah," he nodded, taking a seat as I pulled a bowl down from a cabinet and searched for some cereal. "I cooked Dr. M some breakfast before she left for work this morning. Least I could do for her since she'd letting us stay."

Once I was sitting at the table with my Lucky Charms, I noticed the look Iggy was giving me. Like I was one of his more difficult bombs and he was trying to figure me out.

"What?" I asked slowly and his brow furrowed.

"I'm trying to think of a way to break your leg without it damaging any of the surrounding tissue," he mumbled. "Because where you broke it at, it's going to be extremely painful and I don't want to cause any more internal damage than there probably already is."

"What about your leg?" I countered, suddenly remembering. "Yours was broken, too." If mine was going to hurt like mad, maybe I could break Iggy's and get away with it as revenge. I crossed my fingers.

He grinned. "Mine healed correctly while we were still in the School. Fang and I created a splint." Damn.

I sighed and stood up after only a single bowl, rinsing it out in the sink and heading for the living room. Didn't want to end up puking rainbows everywhere if it was going to be as painful as Iggy was assuming it would be. The rest of the flock was already there waiting. My little support team.

"Aren't you supposed to be in school?" I asked Ella as I took a seat on the couch in front of the coffee table, propping my leg up. Angel sat next to me and gripped my hand while Gazzy and Nudge stood wearily behind Iggy.

Ella grinned wickedly. "The good thing about Mom going to work before the bus picks me up, is that she doesn't know when I skip."

"I didn't hear that," I muttered as Iggy once again rolled up my pant leg. Everything from my hip to my kneecap was fine, but after that, the bone went straight until you came to the break. The skin was raised slightly where the bone healed crookedly.

"Go for it," I began, but stopped when I saw a dark figure coming down the hallway.

"What are you doing?" Fang asked suspiciously, hand trailing the wall next to him like he thought he would fall over. As much as his complexion had returned, he still looked frail and sickly. That look didn't suit him at all and it made me feel uneasy.

"We're playing a game," I told him, trying to make the mood softer in light of what we were about to do. "Iggy breaks my leg and then I get to punch him in the face. Then I break someone's leg and they punch Iggy in the face. Then they break someone else's leg and punch Iggy in the face. You go in a circle."

"I feel abused," Iggy muttered, fingers pressing into my leg hard, exploring the remnants of the break.

Fang walked around and sat on my other side.

"Should you be up?" I asked him.

"I'm fine," he stressed. He looked fine. His skin was still a tad pale, but the hectic blotches of red were off his cheeks and his eyes were a lot clearer.

"Alright." I took a deep breath and held it. Iggy's cold hands lingered above my leg. He placed on hand right above the break and one hand below it, turning to place his sightless blue eyes on me.

"Ready?" I nodded vigorously, trying not to let my fear show on my face, and my hand moved from clutching the couch cushion to gripping Fang's thigh. His hand landed on top of mine and it distracted me enough.

Iggy took a deep breath. "On three—" Oh, crap. Three meant—"One!"

My scream filled the house as the audible snap filled my ears, a sickening sound that immediately threw me back into that hotel room. Smoke filled my lungs, debris covered my skin—

Fang squeezed my hand, prying it from his leg, and the motion pulled me back into the present.

Iggy smiled sheepishly at me. "Sorry, might have overdone it a little tiny bit." He proceeded to set it.

"Mother of god," I ground out, really truly wanting to knock him in the face. I slammed my head against the back of the couch as he created a splint and wrapped up my leg, willing myself not to cry but feeling the pinch behind my eyes anyways. I waited for him to finish touching the new break, breathing slowly through clenched teeth. We had really gotten softer over the years. Three years ago and this break would have felt like a paper cut.

I was vaguely aware of Fang's hand in mine still.

"Next time," I panted, reaching for the glass of water Nudge held out to me. "Next time, I'll break my own damn leg."

"You broke it yourself in the first place," Iggy muttered.

"I did not," I snapped.

Ella appeared in the doorway of the living room, her face white as a sheet. "You okay?" I managed to ask between breaths, calming now that Iggy was sitting back on the coffee table with his hands nowhere near my leg.

"That was…" she whispered, the horror painted all over her face. "I've never seen…"

I grimaced. "Life of an experimental bird kid."

"You've had to do this before?" she asked, horrified.

"We'd be lying if we said no," Nudge murmured, putting an arm over her shoulder. "It gets easier though. Just keep thinking that now Max won't walk with that ridiculous limp anymore."

"Hey!" I protested.

"And," Nudge continued, "if we ever get chased again, Darwinism won't take over."

"That helps absolutely none," Ella said flatly. Nudge just grinned and Ella rolled her eyes before turning to Iggy. "Are you gonna make dinner tonight?" she asked hopefully, and Iggy blushed.

"Uh, sure." He muttered something about wires and such and left the room, followed by the Gasman.

Ella held up finger at me, or rather, Fang next to me. "Mom said you're to stay quarantined until she gets home from work."

I narrowed my eyes at her. "How does she think you're going to enforce that if you're at school?" But Ella just shrugged and smiled.

"Five minutes," Fang muttered, and then yawned, as he headed back down the hallway. "I left for five minutes."

"How long was he really out for?" Ella whispered to me.

"Just long enough for Iggy to fix my leg."

"Mmhmm," she pondered. "And how long did you stay in his room for last night?" I blushed and she, along with Angel and Nudge, laughed.

"I just checked in on him," I argued, carefully repositioning myself, distracted a little twinge of pan shot up my leg when I jostled it.

"Just?" Ella pried. I glanced over at Nudge and Angel, who were both smartly keeping their mouths shut. Or they didn't like talking about Fang like this. I didn't like talking about Fang like this. "Oh, come on, Max. I've known you have a thing for him since I met you guys."

"There is no thing," I denied forcefully and Nudge scoffed, standing.

"Because it's so much more than a thing," she laughed. "I think everyone has come to terms with this but you, Max." Angel just smirked, clearly knowing more than I wanted her to. Probably knowing more about it than I did, to be honest, what with her reading Fang's mind as well.

"Fang has a lot more defenses than you do," Angel said aloud with a giggle. "He doesn't think as loud."

I rubbed my face with my hands, willing the embarrassment to be over. I focused instead on the dull throbbing in my leg, no longer a sharp pain as it had been when Iggy had done the deed.

"Do you want some pain killers?" Ella asked, standing. She motioned for Nudge and Angel to follow her and left me alone in the living room, and I wished I could walk so I could leave myself. A few more hours maybe, I thought, gently prodding the splint Iggy had applied. Definitely by the time Mom got home.

If we were lucky, she'd probably never even know…

10. Chapter 10

Half an hour later and I was lounging on the couch against Fang's chest. He'd lasted longer than I would have thought before he got bored enough to venture back out. So there we were, flipping through the hundreds of boring channels. It was a Wednesday morning, Ella had explained.

I sighed. Boredom was nearly painful. The pain killers Ella had given me were helping to numb the pain so that it fell to the background in my mind and I could focus on the stupid guide long enough to learn there was literally nothing on. Baby shows, talk shows, reality TV reruns…

My eyes lifted naturally when Fang's arm that was wrapped around my shoulders holding me to him tightened.


Max looked up at him from his lap, adjusting her arm slowly so her elbow slid up his thigh behind her.

"Stop," he warned, pulling her arm out straight.

Max smirked. "What's the matter?" she did it again, this time hitting her mark, causing a reaction he really didn't need right now.

He looked down at her. "Stop."

Her smirk widened. "Am I making you uncomfortable?" She twisted in his lap so that she was on top of him now, pressing up against the front of him in a way he'd only ever dreamed of. His breath caught in his throat as one of her hands slid up his thigh, her lips millimeters from him. "Feels like that's a no…"

"Max…" he breathed half a second before catching her lips. He barely felt the kiss, more distracted by a thought than the fact that Max was on top of him, the length of her pressed against the front of him, her hands all over him… He pushed her away gently and tried to sit up to see around her, but she held him down harder, an inviting and playful grin on her lips.

"What's the matter?"

"Your leg—"

"What about my leg?" she frowned. "You don't like my legs?"

"It was broken." He forced his legs out from under hers and in a quick, swift motion, she was underneath him, her thighs pinching his waist in a way that shouldn't have been legal. He looked away from her, despite the numerous distractions, and rand a hand down her calf, but the skin was smooth, the bones straight.

"Come here," she cooed, ignoring him as she gripped the front of his shirt and pulled him down, her thighs sliding up as her ankles locked behind him.

That was it. He couldn't help going along with her motions, now. His fingers found the hem of her shirt, which weren't the scrubs she'd had on before…

"Stop hesitating," she murmured into his neck, taking the skin there between her teeth. He couldn't help the audible hissing he made with the sudden intake of breath. Again, following her lead, her shirt was up and off her and she made quick work on the jeans he was suddenly in. He didn't remember putting those on…

Ignoring the small inconsistencies, he let his weight drop, feeling the warmth of her skin against his, when a sudden thought occurred to him and he nearly jumped off her if she hadn't been holding him so tightly.

"The kids—"

Max frowned, confused. "What kids?" Her smile returned and she cupped his cheeks. "Just c'mere."

His mind turned to complete mush as her lips met his, her hands sliding achingly slowly up his thighs. He reached between them and grabbed her wrist to guide her upwards faster, but she bit his lip and jerked her hand out of his grip with a snicker.

"Uh uh," she breathed. "Not yet…"

"Max." He leaned down to her throat, relishing in the warmth there.


He hummed in response into her skin. She pushed on his shoulders.

"Fang!" he jerked back and looked at her, surprised by the sudden change in her tone.


Fang's eyes fluttered and I sighed in relief when his dark irises were finally visible, staring straight at me. But they way he looked at me was strange. Like he was confused. Not necessarily like he wasn't coherent, but like he was waking up from a dream.

"What?" he asked, looking around the room before down at himself, a hand dragging down the front of his chest.

"You were having an intense dream, I think," I told him, holding back a laugh at the look on his face as his gaze snapped to mine.


I nodded slowly, raising an eyebrow at him questioningly. "Care to share? You kept saying my name. You were kicking me."

"Oh, jeez," he breathed, sitting up and sliding out from behind me.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Nightmare?"

"No," he said, a little too quickly for my tastes, and I felt a little worry stir up in me.

"Fang, maybe you should relax for a bit," Iggy said, attempting to hold back a laugh. Fang blanched as he realized probably or the first time that Iggy was on the other couch, having joined us after Fang had fallen asleep.

"Wait, what's so funny?"

Iggy finally let out a laugh as Fang stood, body tense, and made his way towards the hallway. "I'm gonna go take a nap," he muttered on his way out. Iggy only shook his head with a grin.

I waited for the door at the end of the hall to close before I did my best to maneuver on the couch to face Iggy. "Was he having a nightmare?"

Iggy shook his head.

"How do you know?" I demanded.

"The way his breathing changed, his heartbeat—that was not a nightmare. For him, at least."

I narrowed my eyes at him, wishing he could be intimidated by my looks like the other could. "Then what was it?"

Iggy gave me a wicked grin. "Can't tell you, Max, sorry. Bro code."

"Bro code?" I repeated incredulously.

11. Chapter 11

Why was it so damn hot? The bed was up against the wall, and I was leaned against the window there, my cheek sucking up all the cold from the glass for as long as I could. It was nearly three in the morning and I'd woken up from a dead sleep hot as hell and extremely uncomfortable. It was a weekend, so Nudge and Angel, who'd been staying in the room with me, had fallen asleep on the floor in Ella's room. But I was a big fan of beds these days, believe it or not…

Thankful they weren't there, I moved slowly and quietly to lock the bedroom door before making my way back to the window, cringing a little as it scratched the windowsill as I pushed it open. But, dear lord, that winter breeze felt so nice…

The last time I had been this hot was when I got my super-speed. But this was different. Then, I'd woken up feeling like my skin was burning off. Right now, it felt like I was sitting way too close to a fire, the flames nearly licking my skin itself.

I reached over, pulled my pillow further down the bed so I could lie directly in front of the window, hoping to fall asleep.


"Max." Someone banged on my door and I rolled over, groaning, only to squeal when my bare skin touched the ice-cold wall behind me. "Max!"

"What?" I called, my voice shaking from the cold and probably low blood sugar to be honest. A draft directed me to the open window, which I immediately closed, and I was reminded of how hot I'd been the night before. Why couldn't my body find a happy medium?

"Breakfast," Iggy called.

"I'll be right down." I flew around the room, collecting my pajamas and putting them back on, savoring the feel of the warm fleece.

"You okay?" He called, voice softer and a little concerned.


He left. Thank God. I pulled the sleeves down so that it covered my fingertips and opened the door, not wanting to feel how cold the metal would be. The door swung open and I was met with Fang as he walked towards the stairs.

"Jeez, Max," he mumbled, wrapping his arms around himself as the cold air from my bedroom hit him. "If you need to warm up, just climb in the freezer."

"Put come clothes on," I snapped, smacking his bare arm. He wore nothing but a thin black short sleeve shirt, and a pair of navy flannel pajama bottoms.

He recoiled from my hit. "You're hands are cold!"

I pulled the sleeves down again and shivered. I wascold.

As soon as the warm eggs and bacon hit the inside of my mouth, I was warm again. The hot right-off-the-stove heat burned my tongue as I shoveled more and more food into my mouth, but I could feel myself warming to a more comfortable level, though the hot flash of the previous night still concerned me.

"Why is it so cold upstairs?" Nudge asked, rubbing her arms as she joined us in the kitchen. She took a plate of food from Iggy and sat down.

"Max had the window open," Angel said, following Nudge's example of collecting food from Iggy and sitting at the table.

"Why did you have the window open?" Dr. Martinez scolded from across the table. "It's the middle of December!"

I glared at Angel, receiving a lopsided grin in return. We'd have to have a talk about opinions and their importance. Mostly, how important it was to keep her opinions of my activities to herself.

"I got hot," I mumbled with a shrug, adding more salt and pepper to my eggs. Was it a crime to be overheated in December? Maybe if the room hadn't been 80-something degrees I wouldn't have had to sit in front of the window nearly naked.

I heard Angel begin to choke on her eggs as she was eating and snickered to myself. Serves her right for invading on my privacy.

"You okay?" Nudge asked, eyeing Angel as her coughing turned to laughs.

"Don't," I hissed quietly, pointing my fork at her.

"What?" Fang and Nudge asked in unison.

"Don't," I said a little louder. It was one thing for her to get that little mental image, but another for her to share with the class.

Angel just shook her head and began eating again. "You owe me, Max."

"Nope, pretty sure you still owe me, Kid." I ignored Fang's questioning stare and returned to my food.


"Can I talk to you really quick before you leave?" I mumbled from the doorway awkwardly as Mom stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom, pulling her hair back.

"Sure," she replied, putting the brush down on the dresser to wrap the tied from her wrist around the ponytail. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," I defended automatically, stepping inside the room and closing the door.

"I'm sorry, Sweetie," she laughed. "You just have this look on your face like something is wrong. What's up then?"

I sighed and rolled up the sleeve of my shirt, revealing a fairly new scar on my forearm. "When I was taken, they replaced the chip in my arm."

Mom frowned and stepped closer, taking my arm in her gentle fingers to examine it. "Did you find out what it was for?"

"Tracks changes in my body and stuff," I explained quickly. "Which doesn't sound all that bad but—"

"It could be sending them information, essentially becoming a GPS for you," Mom nodded, understanding quickly. "Do the others have these chips?"

I shrugged helplessly. "I have no idea. I just want it out."

Mom nodded again and pulled her coat out of the closet. "I'll look into it when I get home and we can see about having them removed." She paused, hesitating, and I watched as she grew a little more apprehensive. "Max, I wanted to talk to you about something. Something I've been thinking about for a little while now."

"What's wrong? "I asked, trying not to sound demanding, but her tone was doing nothing to comfort me. Were we about to be kicked out?

"This three bedroom house was nice for Ella and I, but I feel like in a bigger place, with more yard and space, the rest of you guys would be a little more comfortable," she explained, standing in front of me. "I was thinking of selling the house and we can find something bigger."

My mind went blank. What? An adult wanted to do something nice for us? Something like buy a house? "I can't ask you to do that," I sputtered quickly. "Really, we're fine here. We love it here." A new though plagued my brain then. "Are we making you and Ella uncomfortable?"

"No, no," Mom interjected quickly. "It's nothing like that. I found a five bedroom home a little ways outside of the city. A lot more secluded, lots of trees across the street, huge front yard. It's just under seven hundred, but it should be plenty of space for everyone. We can always turn the evtra living room into a sixth bedroom if—"

"Mom, no," I gasped, the pieces of what she was telling me finally clicking into place in my brain in a single moment of understanding. "That's way too much money and I can't ask you to do this—"

"You're not asking me," she whispered, a sad smile on her face now as she took my face in her hands. "I'm asking you. Max, when I helped Jeb with the recombinant DNA project, I was well compensated. I haven't touched that money for various reasons, and even taking out Ella's college, there is more than enough for this house."

My heart raced over this, pounding loudly in my ears. "Why are you asking me?"

"I had never planned to use that money outside of Ella's education—and yours, too, if you'd like it. Any of you," she started slowly. "But when I met you I knew I would never use that money, money they paid me to keep quiet about what we'd created, and what it did to you. I want to use that money for you now. To help you."

I jerked forward and wrapped my arms around her waist, swallowing hard. "Thank you," was all I could manage. I pulled away and smiled up at her. "You've never needed to use that money? You just stashed it all away?"

"I never did it for the money," she admitted. "And I make pretty good money doing what I do." She glanced at her watch. "Speaking of which…We'll talk about the chip more when I get home."

She leaned forward and planted a quick kiss to my forehead. "You have no idea how grateful we all are to what you're doing for us," I murmured, pulling her in for a hug again. "Thank you. For everything. Even if it could end up…"

Her arms tightened around me. "Don't worry about any of that, alright, Max? Ella and I are capable of handling ourselves."


And so I waited. And waited. And waited…

Do you know how boring it can get when you're stuck at home while your little half-sister is at school and your mom is at work? Fang and Gazzy had discovered Ella's ancient PlayStation in the basement and were absorbed entirely in that—thank god, because Fang still looked like death. Nudge and Angel were watching old Disney movies on the only other TV—the classics, Ella had called them.

I got up from my chair in the kitchen—I had dubbed it "Max's Thinking Chair"—and headed for the front door when I bumped into Iggy.

"Where're you headed?" I asked.


"How long 'til it's ready?" I asked, really wanting to go for a fly. Sitting indoors for the last few days was making me jittery and I was getting hot again, that fever-like warmth spreading through me slowly, growing.

"'Bout a half an hour. Why? Where are you headed?" He walked around me and opened the fridge, gently feeling around for what he needed. Ella had labeled the important, common things with different combinations of colored tape so he could find what he needed quicker.

I pulled on my sneakers and a light sweater. "I'm going for a quick fly. I'll try to be back for lunch."


Let's just say that the cold air in my face felt so good that I didn't make it back for lunch. Or dinner. Or bedtime.

But I did make it back. And the minute my feet touched the ground in front of the house, I felt terrible. I immediately knew exactly how stupid that had been, that I was supposed to be waiting for Mom to get home from work to talk about the very-important-chip situation. And also because I'd recently been sprung from The School, so there was that unnecessary worry I probably put everyone through.

But damn, the chilly air was like heaven and the pounding headache made it hard to think straight at all. And right now, all I could think about was the inevitable embarrassment of an explanation I'd face in the morning, not just with Mom but the rest of the Flock.

The house was dark and silent, and I almost felt a little suspicious that no one was awake for me. Maybe I hadn't worried them as much as I thought? And suddenly I didn't know which I feared more, being forgotten or having my Flock become so complacent they didn't worry when I didn't come back.

Luck on my side for once, my window was still unlocked from the night before, and slid open easily. After climbing in, I immediately made my way out into the hall, quietly peeking into the girls' room to see them all asleep. Satisfied that they very clearly weren't out looking for me, I headed down the stairs as quietly as I could to put my sweater in the hall closet and my shoes by the door, planning on grabbing a quick sandwich before going to bed myself.

"I swear, if you get pneumonia, I'm going to kill you. What were you thinking?" a voice hissed behind me, making me jump. I spun around, fist flying out to punch anyone behind me, but Fang caught it, close and towering over me.

He must have been waiting up. He was in a pair of pajama pants and no shirt.

"Jeez!" I growled, pushing him gently away from me so that I could walk down the narrow hallway towards the stairs. "You scared the crap outta me!"

"You scared the crap out of us!" Fang followed me up the stairs. "Where the hell did you go for ten hours?" His hand pushed the door back open when I attempted to slam it in his face. "Do you know how hard it was to keep everyone here? As much as it kills me, I couldn't go look for you. It's not safe, Max." I rolled my eyes and stepped away from the door, heading to sit on the bed. "If you hadn't come back by morning, Iggy was going to take Gazzy and Angel and go find you."

"If you must know, I just went for a fly."

"Just?" Fang angrily jerked a hand through his hair, clearly seething. He turned and shut the door quietly before turning back to me, hand pinching the bridge of his nose. "Max, we just got you back, you can't do shit like this."

"Why are you treating me like this?" I demanded quietly, aware that the others were sleeping a room over. "I'm not one of the kids, I told Iggy where I was going—"

"You told him you'd be back by lunch," he threw back. "Max, please be rational and see how it looks. If any of the others had done what you did today, you would have gone and dragged their ass home."

"I'm sorry," I ground out, looking up at him and wishing he would leave so I could stew in my own embarrassment and go to sleep. "You don't think I know I royally messed up? But I'm okay, I'm fine."

Fang walked over and sat next to me on the bed, our thighs bumping. "Where did you go?" he asked softer, "for ten hours?"

"I got hot again," I said simply with a shrug like it was nothing and absolutely had been concerning me for the last 5 hours…

"Max, this isn't good," he sighed, but stopped when I yawned. "We'll talk more in the morning, I guess."

"Sure," I mumbled, watching as he walked out of the room and shut the door behind him. I'd have to ask Angel for a little favor. Fang didn't need to know that for three of those ten hours I'd been flying around completely nude…

12. Chapter 12

I knew that I was going to have a bad day as soon as I woke up. Hot. That's how I woke up. Burning hot and sticky and just gross. But it was later than the past nights. I had been waking up at two—three in the morning. But today, I woke up when Iggy called for breakfast at nine.

"Yo, Max! I'm getting a little tired of waking you up every morning," he joked, but there was a sting to his tone that I didn't need enhanced hearing to catch. Yup. The Flock was pissed. I jerked the door out of my way and glared at Iggy, flicking him in the forehead so that he knew I was awake. "Breakfast in ten. Glad to see you found your way home and didn't get captured by the School again."

I grunted a quick apology and headed down the hall towards the girls' room. Angel was sitting cross-legged on her bed, grinning up at me. I leaned against the doorway with my arms crossed. Angel immediately jumped up to her knees on the bed and held up a hand at me.

"No, what you're about to ask me—no."

Nudge and Ella just looked between me and Angel, both frowning.

"I'm sorry," I muttered. "What I did was incredibly stupid and just…stupid. I'm sorry I made you all worry."

"Apologize to Mom and Fang," Ella commented with a wave of her hand. "I wasn't sure who was going to have a stroke first."

"I'm just glad your home," Nudge grinned, crossing her legs beneath her. "And I accept your apology. Please buddy up next time."

"Will do." I turned back to Angel. "Please? Help?"

"No, Max," Angel shook her head, face turning serious. "Think of this as punishment. You can't hide it forever. There's something wrong."

"If you're getting this uncomfortably hot, maybe you should have Mom look you over," Ella suggested.

"Sure, when she removes the chip, I'll have her do that. But you need to get Fang to forget—" She stood up and headed for the door, a devious little grin on her face.

"No can do, Max. I love you, but it gets boring around here."

I was going to smack her. I was going to murder this little child. Age nine and already manipulative. Where did she learn that? Certainly not from me…

I rubbed my temples and sighed after Angel left the room, then looked back up at the other two. "I really am sorry. I just lost track of time…"

"Just let us know next time?" Nudge pleaded gently, pressing her palms together. "I'll go with you. Just ask."

I nodded and moved to leave, glancing down the hallway to see that no, Iggy did not wake up any of the boys.

"Gazzy," I pounded on his door. "Up and at 'em. Breakfast time." I paused outside of Fang's room, hand hovering above the knob. My heart thrummed loudly in my chest and time slowed down when I heard the doorknob twist, an audible creak echoing in the hall.

I took a step backwards to leave, but heard myself say, "Breakfast time," instead.

Fang caught my wrist and just stared at me and I felt a shiver ripple down my spine. I was fretting over what would happen, but unsure of why. I was their fearless leader who had kicked Eraser ass many times. I've been experimented on, beaten up, and in more pain than anyone can imagine, but one of the only things that scared me was…the wrath of Fang? Oh yeah, remember how I said I was getting soft over the years?


His face was completely impassive, but the muscles in his arms were tensed. And what did the fearless leader of the flock, the Maximum Ride do in this simplistic situation? I nodded and headed for the stairs, gently pulling my wrist out of his grip.

"After breakfast…" Fang mumbled behind me.

"What about it?"

"Max, you and I both know there's something wrong." He pulled my arm again and spun me around to face him. "Hell, Angel knows it. And after you pulled that stunt yesterday, everyone else in this house knows it."

"Alright!" I snapped in a whisper. I headed for the stairs muttering, "We can all sit in a circle and share our feelings." Fang sighed behind me.


Let's just say that sharing our feelings would have been better than what went down. Chaos. Total chaos. And it even started before breakfast. As soon as I set foot into the kitchen, I swear I heard a ding-ding-ding! sound for some boxing fight.

Mom was out of her chair and around the table too quick for me to react. "Where did you go yesterday?"

"Out," I muttered, taking food from the counter. I loved my Mom, and I was glad I had found her and all that jazz, but I was not okay with answering to her as my parent. Following orders, answering to authority? Never been my style, sorry.

"Do you know how worried everyone was?" She walked around the table and stood in front of me, her hands crossed over her chest.

"Since when have you started acting all motherly? You've let us live in trees for the last three years or so. And cages before that." The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them, a defense mechanism to the embarrassment and horror of being called out and scolded in front of my Flock.

"Since you came home," she said easily, clearly unaffected by my words.

"Where'd you go, anyways?" Iggy asked the question that, everyone had asked me since I'd woken up.

"North." Geez, they were going to make me admit it…

"Why North?" Nudge asked, taking her plate to the sink. I looked around at the curious faces staring at me. Dr. Martinez, Angel, and the Gasman sitting at the table, Fang leaning against the doorway, food in hand. Nudge and Iggy were staring at me from the sink.

Way to put the pressure on me. They were going to make me admit it, and it really wasn't even that big of a deal anyways…

I shrugged like it should have been obvious. "It's colder up North in winter than it is here." I glanced across the faces staring back at me, all expectant, waiting for me to elaborate.

Fang only stood in front of me, arms crossed over his chest, his eyes wordlessly telling me to move on.

I looked at Mom and tried not to sound like I was begging when I asked, "Can you take the chip out, and I'll tell you the rest later?"


Fang and Iggy had come along, standing off to the side as Mom worked, taking quick x-rays to get a better idea of how to proceed. She'd gone ahead and scanned both Fang and Iggy, but found no chip in either of them.

"Well, you know, I'm not surprised," I'd mumbled. "The whitecoats have more or less written the rest of you off…"

"What makes you think that?" Mom asked, prepping a few tools on a tray sitting on the counter along the wall.

"There was this panel, like a board," I explained briefly. "They talked about how only Iggy or Fang were needed for breeding purposes. At least that's how they made it sound."

Mom nodded slowly. "I still want to x-ray the other three, just to be sure, but it's no rush since the boys here don't seem to have a chip." She spun around the the tray in her hands and motioned for me to lie back as she took her seat next to me. "Now, tell me what happened yesterday."

I pursed my lips as I adjusted into the chair, letting Mom take my arm and twist it to get better access to the new scar. I was really uncomfortable doing this in front of Fang and Iggy, and really wished neither had come with us. "So I'd get really hot. So hot that it was almost painful. I went north so that it would be more comfortable."

"How far north, exactly?" Mom dared to ask, pausing in her movements of wiping my arm down with antiseptic.

"Uhm," I started slowly, knowing exactly how this bomb would break. "Last sign I saw was for Winnipeg…"

"Canada," Fang stated in audible disbelief, which was a little rare for him. "You flew all the way up to Canada."

"Max, that has to be like 2000 miles," Mom gasped, hands freezing in their motions.

"Pretty sure I broke my speed record," I whispered down at my lap, playing with the edge of my shirt with my other hand. "Think I broke 400 for a while."

"You should give her a physical," Fang spoke quietly. "Make sure it's not just in her head."

"Then again," Iggy started, "this is how she got her super speed in the first place, right? Maybe it's just a growth spurt of sorts."

Mom nodded in agreement. "Could be."

"I'd still feel better if she got a physical," Fang muttered.

"Not happened," I ground out to him over my shoulder. "We don't know anyone who would…just no."

"Alright," Mom intervened. "Relax and we'll get started."

As much as I didn't want to bring it up, I felt like I had to. Iggy was there and there was absolutely no way I was going to embarrass myself in front of another flock member. "No valium," I said quietly, glancing at Fang. The corner of his lips twitched and he moved to stand near my feet.

"Why not?" he asked, a smile in his voice. I just scowled at him.

"Is there something else you can use?" I asked, hopeful.

"Possibly. Because your arm was recently operated on, it would probably be safer to knock you out completely, but we don't have that option. I can try some other medications, but none that would work as well as valium."

I sat in silence for a second as she let me weigh my options. Valium, or no medication at all. Valium, or—

"Max, just take the stupid valium, you're not doing this without some kind of medication," Iggy groaned. "Don't put yourself through that torture just to avoid twenty minutes of embarrassment."

"Oh?" I challenged. "Is that all it would be? Because I'm pretty sure you'd drag it out a lot longer than that…"

"Max," Fang warned and I just rolled my head to the side to look helplessly at Mom, who only pressed her lips together and shook her head.

"Fine," I sighed dramatically. "Drug me."

13. Chapter 13

Fang wouldn't lie, he was a little excited that Max had caved and would be on valium again. He knew Iggy would get a kick out of it. Drug-induced Max was a very interesting Max to talk to. And it didn't take her long to start.

"You feel okay?" Dr. Martinez asked.

"Super," Max drawled quietly, sinking into the chair.

"Alright, I'm going to go ahead and start," she murmured, leaning over Max's arm that was strapped down to the chair.

"She's not going to feel it, right?" Iggy asked anxiously, his fingertips brushing Fang's arm.

"She's fine," he whispered to Iggy. "Listen." Fang held back a chuckle.

"Fang," Max sighed, tilting her head to look at him. Iggy started to laugh, but Fang elbowed him in the side.

"Dude," Fang whispered to him, then to Max, "I'm here."

She sighed and looked down at what her mother was doing. "I wish you weren't. You should be at home with everyone else. This is soo embarrassing."

Iggy choked back a laugh. "Is that what I was listening for?" He whispered.

I hit him upside the head.

Fang glanced at the operation. Dr. Martinez had a grin on her face and she was leaned over Max's arm, working carefully with a scalpel to move tissue and muscles out of the way to reach the chip. "You guys are walking a very thin line," she muttered, shaking her head. "Maybe you two should wait in the lobby."

"Mom," Max continued, her voice slurred and slow.

"Yes, Sweetie."

"I love him."

Iggy started laughing again. "We know."

She pointed at Iggy with her free hand. "Shh. No one said you could date my sister, so shh. Peanut gallery."

Dr. Martinez glanced up at Iggy, who was a little surprised and Fang let out a laugh that time.

"Man," Iggy said in disbelief. "Did she do this last time, too?"

"Oh yeah," Fang replied.

"I remember that," Dr. Martinez mumbled. "She loves you this much."

"Oh, jeez," Iggy rubbed his eyes.

"More 'n that," Max muttered. "Love 'im more 'n that."

"How much?" Fang asked her.

"Tons," she replied, then yawned. Her face changed suddenly, she started blinking rapidly and looking around at herself.

"What's this?" Dr. Martinez murmured to herself, poking at the machine to her right that was keeping track of Max's vitals. She immediately switched gears and picked up the needle and thread on the tray, making quick work of stitching together the dime-sized hole in Max's forearm.

"What's wrong?" Fang asked flatly, trying to keep his calm façade perfect. Panicking didn't help any situation.

"Her temperature just jumped and her heart rate is fluctuating wildly." She scurried around the room, searching for gauze to wrap around Max's arm. "Something is very wrong."

Fang placed his hand on Max's forehead and jerked back immediately in surprise, before pulling Iggy's hand towards Max's cheek.

"That's…outrageous," Iggy murmured. "Max?" All he received was a groan in response.

"I think she's passing out," Fang murmured, bending over Max's limp form and taking her face in his hands. "C'mon, Max, I need you to look at me. Talk to me."

Dr. Martinez reached out and pressed the back of her hand to Max's forehead. "The machines aren't wrong. Go get ice! Break room has a freezer—at the end of the hall where we came in," she commanded and Fang ran off.

When he got back after fumbling through the freezer for ice to throw in some gallon sized bags that were sitting on the counter, Dr. Martinez had ripped out every wire that had been connected to Max. He began to strategically place bags of ice and icepacks on Max, murmuring to her to try and get her to come around.

"Where'd Iggy go?" Fang asked, looking around the room for him.

"He's flying home to run an ice bath for her. None of the tubs here are big enough. We need to get her home." She sounded almost apologetic. It wasn't her fault that a vet can't always accommodate and Avian-human. It wasn't her fault we couldn't just take her to a hospital.

Fang pulled a thin sheet off a shelf behind him, it being the only thing he could find, and he wrapped Max's body and the ice up in it as carefully as he could. He brushed the back of her neck when he went to pick her up and found that she had cooled down some—which was a little comforting.

Fang wasted no time scooping her up and quickly making his way out of the clinic and towards the car parked out back. Dr. Martinez raced around, opening the backdoor for him to slide in with her, before shutting the door and jumping in the driver's seat.

"Fang," Max sighed, and he looked down at her, cupping her face in his free hand.

"I'm right here," he murmured. "Max?" He patted her cheek a few times as the car took off out of the parking lot and down the road back to the house.

"Five minutes," Dr. Martinez called back to him. "Is her temperature lowering?"

Fang put his hand to her forehead. "Some, she's still warm."

Dr. Martinez cranked up the air conditioning and Fang leaned back to adjust the vents near them towards her. After what felt like forever and the longest red light he had ever sat through thanks to the cop stopped next to them, Fang raced into the house with Max unconscious in his arms past the Flock and up the stairs.

In the bathroom, Iggy had run the water as cold as he could and put every bit of ice and every icepack he could find in the water.

"Alright, Max," Fang grunted as he swung one leg over the edge of the tub and tried to gently lay her down in the water, clothing and all. Her body let out an involuntary shudder, a gasp escaping her lips as she submerged. Fang sat on the edge of the tub, hovering over her, and checked her temperature again. "Do you have a therm—"

Dr. Martinez appeared next to him on her knees, tilting Max's face towards her to stick the digital thermometer under her tongue. Max's face lost is red warmth, and she felt better. Much, much better.

The thermometer let out a shrill beep and Dr. Martinez plucked it out of Max's mouth and checked it, a relieved sigh escaping her. "Normal range now. Disaster averted. She still has a slight fever, but she's not about to have her organs shutting down."

For now, Fang though, wondering grimly how long until the next episode.


I was suddenly aware. It was different from waking up. It was like you just all of a sudden popped into existence. Like you wake up from a dreamless sleep that's only left you tired.

I felt someone's hand, ice cold, brushing my cheek and I immediately flinched away from it.

"You really awake this time?" a male voice asked.

I pried my eyes open to be met with Iggy's sightless blue ones.

"Yeah," I croaked and he handed me a glass of ice water, which I sat up and downed in record time. I was in the room I shared with the girls, it was dark out, which concerned me a bit.

"Fang and I have a bet and since I really wanna win, I'm gonna to play dirty," Iggy started, getting my attention.

I held up my hand to halt him for a second while I swallowed. "Is this anything that he'll kill you for?"

"Possibly, probably, and most definitely, but he's played dirty, too." He shrugged.

I quirked an eyebrow and, as if sensing my confusion, he elaborated without me even asking him to do so.

"Let's just say that Nudge stabbed me with a fork…"

"I don't wanna know," I muttered. If there was something Iggy had done to make Nudge stab him, I didn't want to know. At all. "Why am I in here?"

Iggy frowned. "You don't remember earlier today? Dr. Martinez was removing the chip in your arm. Things went south really fast, just as she was finishing. We had to rush you home and throw you in an ice bath just to cool your body down to a safer temperature."

"Huh," I frowned. "I don't remember any of that. I remember talking before the procedure a little then just kind of…nothing…"

Iggy grinned like mad. "Oh, Boy, I'm about to win this bet."

"Iggy," I said, about to warn him. The bets he and Fng got into always led to trouble. Always.

"Well, Fang was egging you on while you were drugged out," he blurted. "While Dr. Martinez was operating, Fang got you to talk to him. Even knowing how wrong it was."

My face heated up. Embarrassment and anger surged through me like lightning. Someone was about to die…Fang knew how I felt about being on the valium. Regret surged through me at not having demanded the boys leave the room before the procedure…

14. Chapter 14

I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to punish Fang for the blatant breach of trust, but that in itself ended up being a pretty good punishment. I'd immediately left Iggy when he told me he'd made some food and that it was down in the kitchen waiting for me, the others were finishing up.

Fang saw me first when I entered the kitchen, but I quickly continued scanning the others, doing a mental head count of my Flock.

"Are you alright?" he immediately asked, standing.

I ignored him and headed for the counter where a plate of sandwiches sat waiting for me beneath clear plastic wrap.

Mom was at my side, brushing hair away from my forehead. "Are you alright?"

I looked up at her and nodded, taking a bite. "I'm alright I think. Iggy filled me in on what happened." I shot Fang a quick, pointed look in my peripheral that I know he saw.

Mom put her hand to my forehead as I chomped down on my sandwich. "You feel normal now, but let me know if it starts flaring up again, alright? That temperature can have some bad consequences if left unattended. Organ failure, organ death, sterilization—just keep me in the loop, alright?"

I nodded, flicking Nudge's ponytail as she walked past me to put her plate in the sink. "Have you talked to the others yet?"

Mom's eyebrows dropped. "About what?"

"The house," I said slowly, relieved when a smile broke out on her face.

"Oh, no, I thought you and I could go look at it first," she said. "I want you to make sure you think you guys would be safe there. I can always keep looking, but I have to say, it's really nice."

"What house?" Fang asked behind us, but I made a point of keeping my eyes away from him.

"Are we moving?" Nudge asked after a second, a little excitement on her face.

"Maybe," I told her. "Mom was telling me she found a bigger house across town. Lots more room for you guys, a little more privacy in the yards."

"Oh my god, that would be awesome," she gushed. "Can we take off from the yard? Because we can't really go flying in broad daylight here, not without—"

"Maybe," I interrupted. "I do want to check it out, like Mom suggested."

"It's Sunday, so we could probably go poke around the outside later today if you guys wanted."

"It looks nice," Angel piped in from the table next to Fang. She tapped her head once and gestured to Mom when she saw the confused looked I was sending her.

Nudge jumped up and down n her toes, asking Mom all kinds of questions about the house and if she could come with us to go see it. I glanced back over my shoulder, starting on a second sandwich, and glared at Fang, who was listening to Nudge and Mom, his plate and cup empty in front of him.

"Oh yeah," I heard Angel tell him. "She's pissed. You can stop wondering."

Fang stood abruptly and moved to put his plate and cup in the sink before swiftly leaving the kitchen altogether. Good.

"Max, you're gaining weight," Nudge commented. She reached past me and pulled at my wrist, my hand subconsciously gripping the counter with white knuckles.

"Gee, thanks Nudge," I muttered sarcastically around my sandwich. "You're too kind."

"No, I mean, when we found you at the School, you were so skinny," she amended.

"Oh, yeah, nearly a year on an IV diet can do that, I guess," I commented flippantly, finishing the last bite of my second sandwich and reaching for a third.

Mom sighed and tucked some of my hair behind my ear. "Finish eating, shower, we'll head over to the house whenever you're ready."

"Sounds good."

"Is this an open invitation?" Nudge asked, looking at me with wide, pleading eyes. I glanced over at Angel, who was smirking down at her own food.

"Let's just make it a girls' trip," I suggested, grabbing another sandwich and heading for the stairs.

"Gazzy is gonna be so bummed," Angel sighed mockingly.

"Oh, I'll bet," I said with a wink.

I finished my food, showered and dressed before peeking into the boys' room and letting Iggy and Gazzy know we were headed out for a little while. Fang was there, too, but I could see his jaw clench when I addressed Iggy and Gasman specifically.

The house itself was huge, and I expected nothing less from a house with five bedrooms. We couldn't go in without the realtor, mom explained, but since no one was living in it, she figured it would be okay to poke around the outside.

Like she'd said, the area across the street from the house was heavily wooded, which could act as protection for both us and anyone after us, but I put it in my mental Pros column anyways since it would be easy to lose attackers in the woods than worrying about being attacked from it.

Nudge and Angel were more interested in the balconies coming off two of the bedrooms in the back and the huge pool below in the backyard.

"Oh my god, we could totally jump from the balcony into the pool," Nudge was saying, looking between the two.

"Uhm." I peeked over the edge of the pool, which was empty since it was still only the beginning of winter. "This is really not deep enough for that," I told her, watching her face fall. "But I'm sure you will totally have fun anyways."

Angel pushed her wings through the slits in her coat and flew up to one of the balconies, causing Mom to jump a little.

"Please be careful," she called up. "I'm not sure what kind of security alarms this place has."

"These rooms are huge," Angel called back. "There are five of these?"

"Mom gets the master bedroom, of course," I told her. "But the rest are ours to divvy up."

"There are two living rooms and a den, along with a kitchen and dining room on the first floor," Mom read off the pamphlet she'd taken from the plastic container on the For Sale sign when we'd arrived. "And then there's an open basement. We can always turn a room or two on the first floor into another bedroom."

Mom flipped over the paper and I spotted floor plans for the three levels. The master bedroom looked like it was at one end of the house, two bedrooms faced the back, two faced the front. The two in the front were smaller by a bit, and didn't have the balconies that the back two had. The house itself didn't have a garage like other similar houses on the street had.

"Whoever bought the house when it was being built probably requested to turn it into another room," Mom explained when I'd mentioned it.

"Our gain," I murmured, leaning over. "It's the only room on the first floor with a proper door. We can stick two in there as a bedroom." Mom nodded. "Have to be bird kids though, I wouldn't feel comfortable sticking Ella down there away from everyone else in case someone got in at night.

"I agree," Mom mumbled. She looked up at me with a grin. "So you like it?"

Angel hopped off the edge of the balcony and landed in front of us, Nudge joining on my other side.

"We like it," Angel declared, glancing at Nudge.

I glanced around. Woods in front of us, a spacious backyard that was backed up against another thick string of woods. Our neighbors weren't nonexistent, but you couldn't see their houses through the trees that lines the property. It was perfect.

"Alright, I'll call the realtor in the morning and see what I can do," Mom said, gesturing for us to head back to the car.


Angel and Nudge immediately bounced into the house to start telling the boys about the new house. I passed them wordlessly, making the very conscious decision to ignore Fang, whose eyes I felt on me the whole way.

I followed Mom into the kitchen where Ella was at the kitchen table doing homework, Iggy at the stove already at work on dinner.

"Was it nice?" Ella asked with a grin.

"Oh yeah," I told her, sitting down. "There two rooms in the back have balconies. There's a pool. We didn't get to go inside, but from the windows it looked really nice inside."

"You can come when I do the tour of the inside with the realtor," Mom said, leaning down to kiss her on the top of her head. She dropped the pamphlet in front of Ella.

"So who gets what room?" she asked, flipping it over and seeing the floor plan.

I pulled my legs underneath me and leaned across the table. "That's Mom's," I said, pointing to the biggest bedroom with the bathroom off it. "These two I was thinking were yours and mine, I was thinking of sticking Fang in this one and Iggy and Gazzy can share this one."

"Hey, why do I have to share a room with the Gasman?" Iggy asked, turning around to face the table.

"Because it's a new environment and you can't see," I told him. "Also, we're short on rooms. I'd rather double up the bird kids than have male-female pairs."

"I will veto that," Mom piped in, raising her hand. I pressed my lips together and gestured to Mom, even though Iggy couldn't see me. He shrugged one shoulder in defeat and turned back to the pot in front of him.

"Where are Nudge and Angel?" Ella asked.

I slid my finger down the page to one of the big living rooms. "This room will be theirs. Plenty big enough for them, and it still has a door."

Ella looked up at Mom. "I can stay at the high school though, right? Or would I have to switch?"

"I think I can appeal to let you finish out your last semester here at least," she mused. "It's one semester, you'll live if you have to switch, though. You'll be moving for college soon anyways."

"Sounds good," Ella murmured with a nod. "I look forward to seeing it in person. And finishing this calc homework."

"Ew." I sat back in my chair properly with a laugh. "Can't help you there." I looked over at Iggy. "Let me know if you need any help."

"Ew," he mocked. "You can't help me here."


It wasn't until dinner that I said anything to him. I sat there, fork in one hand, dinner roll in the other, glaring daggers at him. I chewed slowly and I swore I saw him blush two or three times, but it was hard to tell when he wouldn't look at me anymore. Not when he knew I was staring at him.

Nudge and Angel continued to talk about the house and all the shenanigans they thought Gazzy would get into, creating rules like "No explosives near the pool." But I and Fang both remained silent.

Finally, after a few minutes of awkward silence fell over the entire table, the only sounds being forks on plates, Fang sat up straight in his chair. "Would it help if I said I was sorry?" he said quietly across from me. "You started talking first anyways—ask Iggy."

"Dude," Iggy said quickly before I could say anything. "Don't pull me into this."

"What, you scared?" Nudge teased.

"Of you and that fork? Yes. Of Max, hell yes. Of Fang?" Iggy only shrugged and I had a feeling that a testosterone fueled brawled would begin after dinner.

"Max, I—" Fang started.

"Don't," I snapped, "say anything to me right now. What you did was an invasion of trust, not to mention rude. You knew how I felt and you still egged it on."

"Angel does it every day. She invades everyone's privacy all the time," Gazzy shrugged. I threw him a look and he immediately hunched over his plate and hurried to finish. So the rest of the flock knew, too.

"I don't tell other people things I hear unless absolutely necessary or funny," she grinned.

"And unlike you," I said, glaring at Fang. "She knows when it's appropriate."

"I don't think that was the best word to describe what you meant," Angel smiled. "Try, I know when it's a blatant disregard for the feelings of others."

"I'm sorry," he tried again. "Come on, it wasn't that bad and it's not anything that's really a secret here."

"Just," I sighed, taking my plate to the sink. "No."

"Alright," Mom tried to intervene. "Let's finish up and clean up the table. Ella, you need to finish your homework. I think everyone can use their space for a little while."

Immediately Gazzy jumped up and stacked his plate on Iggy's empty one and took both to the sink, Nudge moving to put things back in the fridge.

"Max," Fang called as I tried to leave the kitchen. I stopped and glanced over my shoulder at him, staying put when I saw the look on his face. "I know this has happened before, and you also talk in your sleep sometimes, so I'm sure the rest of the Flock has experienced you like that before. But like I said, you didn't say anything I don't already know, right? I love you, and I'm fairly certain everyone here knows this. Above all, I'm pretty sure you do. And if you don't, this is me embarrassing myself and telling you now." I watched his face gain a red tinge in his cheeks and fought the urge to flee. "I'm sorry I upset you and embarrassed you, but I'm pretty sure now we're even…"

A silence befell the room and I actually turned to stare him.

"Dude," Iggy said finally. "That was—"

"An entire paragraph!" the Gasman exclaimed. Even Mom seemed a little surprised. Nudge and Ella's jaws were dropped, but Angel was looking around at everyone's shocked faces.

Angel laughed. "You don't hear the things he thinks in his mind, it's like a book." Fang kicked her under the table. "What? I think you hit the nail on the head that we all knew."

"You're different, Angel," Nudge said, crossing her arms. "You know everything everyone thinks."

I just continued to walk down the hall, my mind blank. I didn't know what to think. One thing he said was for sure, that hadn't been easy for him, and we were probably even on the embarrassment front—to a point. But he didn't need to say all that in front of everyone, Mom and Ella included. I closed the bedroom door behind me, hit by a new, refreshed wave of embarrassment.


I sat on the bed, my head against the wall. I watched the late sun setting, the lines the light drew on the wall moving in different directions by the second.

How could Fang do that to me? He knew why I was against valium. He knew, yet he thought it would be funny to…or did he? Did he really think it was funny? Or was he just trying to learn the truth? I scratched my head and groaned. I knew the most about Fang, but I didn't know the answer to this and that's what bugged me the most. He said he loved me, and I was sure I'd said it to him before, but he clearly meant it differently this time…

A knock on my bedroom door pulled me from my thoughts and before I even answered it I knew who it was.

"I don't want to talk to you," I told Fang, but he brushed past me anyways.

"Too bad," he muttered, closing the door from over my shoulder. "We need to talk about this."

"About what?" I asked flippantly. "How you keep messing with my head and I let you get away with it every time?" I started ticking off on my hand. "Trying to kiss me when we were kids even though I asked you not to, leaving me not once but twice—the second time even after promising—"

"Max," he said sternly, glaring. "Please. Please just listen."

"Alright," I sighed loudly, moving across the room to sit cross-legged on the bed. "Proceed."

"You know how the other night you were telling me to stop harping on you when you knew you had royally messed up?"

"I remember," I confirmed unhappily.

"That is me now, alright? I know. I get it. We should have left the room."

"So why didn't you?" I challenged. "You knew how I felt about it, you knew what was going to happen. Why didn't you take the initiative to leave? I mean, that's actually one of your specialties…"

Fang's face smoothed out and I recognized the poker face. He took a second to himself before he frowned and sat next to me on the bed, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands tiredly. "Because seeing you there like that, it reminded me of the School and I just…I got carried away when you started to talk…"

I pressed my lips together. "Sometimes I forget it's only been like two weeks since you broke me out."

He picked up one of my wrists and examined it like Nudge had. "You've been looking healthier lately."

I nodded and poked his cheek. "You, too, Mr. Bird Flu."

"It's taking me too long to feel completely better," he muttered, turning to face me. "Still tired way too often, too easily."

"You sure that's from being sick and not just because you're out of shape?" I teased. I blinked and suddenly I was lying on my back, Fang hovering over me. My arms were pinned next to me, and Fang had a devilish grin on his face.

"Who's out of shape?"

Do it, a voice in my head whispered. And I wanted to. So I did. And it surprised him just as much as the thought of doing it had surprised me. But he reacted quickly, his lips responding to mine almost as soon as they touched.

His hands moved off my wrists, one moving to tangle in my hair, the other moving to my waist. It was fast, moving too fast, and suddenly I felt like I was shrinking back into myself, falling back on old habits as I pushed Fang off me and quickly made my way to the door, not listening to see if he was following.

Mom was still down in the kitchen, helping Ella with something in a book. "I'm going to fly to the lake and back," I explained breathlessly in a rush, gesturing weakly over my shoulder. "Promise I'll be back in less than an hour. I just need to get out for a bit."

"Are you alright?" Mom asked, moving to stand. "Yeah, I'm fine, no fever. Just…need air."

"Alright," she said with a slow nod. "Back in an hour. I'm counting."

I quickly made my way into the foyer, pulling on a coat and shoes before taking off from the porch, my body feeling hot for a whole different reason this time…

15. Chapter 15

I flew straight to the lake across town, circling above it slowly as I beat myself for running again. Geez, almost 18—a legal adult, and I still couldn't handle the intimate situations Fang and I sometimes found ourselves in. Why was I so afraid? What was I so afraid of?

I knew the answer. I just didn't want to think it. Most girls are afraid their soulmates would leave them one day.

Mine already had once…

I coasted around the edge of the lake before deciding to land on the edge for a short break before I headed home. It'd only been about half an hour since I'd left, but I really felt like a long talk with Fang was way overdue.

As soon as my feet hit the ground, an explosion occurred in my mind. It was different from any of the other times I'd had a brain explosion. No, this was different. My entire body ached and throbbed in tune with my head. Images flashed before my mind; terrible scenes of fires, explosions, death. Then it stopped.

I paused, not moving from my fetal position on the ground. Very, very slowly, my hands loosened and disentangled from my hair. Barely breathing, I slowly sat up straight.

"No," I whispered, shooting up to my feet.

The deep navy night sky that had been hanging above my head a few minutes ago was ablaze with orange and red lights along the horizon. And I was no longer in the field by the lake edge. I was now in the center of an unkempt cemetery. The trees that surrounded the cemetery were scorched and charred, a fire raging across the flat land a far distance away, all around me. Dust drifted through the air, a mixture of ash and dirt. It settle on my skin, my clothes, a fine layer of grit that I could feel. The thick slabs of concrete that stood upright in the ground all bore barely readable names.

I let out a surprised scream as I deciphered them. My hands flew to my mouth, but I screamed. In the far corner was one, tilted and chipped in the corners, but was noticeably older than the others. I walked over to it and fell to my knees to get a better look. I had to make sure. There was no way these markers could possible…

But as my fingers trailed the barely-there letters, I knew whose grave this was.

"Fang…" I whimpered pathetically. "Fang…no, no, no, no…"

I looked at the ground beneath me and, as realization of what—or rather, who—lay beneath me, I got to my feet as quick as I could and moved down the line to the next stone, careful to leave a few feet between me and the markers now. But one after the other, each stone bore the names of the Flock. Some stones were blank, others only held half letters and names I couldn't decifer. But my Flock…all here…all accounted for…

"What is this?" I demanded, screaming for someone to answer me and explain. I stood dumbfounded. There was no possible way that the gravestone I was staring at bore my name.

But it did.

I finished up the row, having no more tears left to shed, and looked at the backs of the rest of the tombstones. If the back line held the names of my family, what were the others?

I walked slowly to stand in front of the next line in front of where I had started, careful not to look at Fang's.

But I never got to see what the other markers read, because once again, pain exploded behind my eyes and I dropped to my knees again.


Fang sat on the bed, staring out the window. He was trying to convince himself he wasn't waiting for Max to come home. He had no intentions on ambushing her this time, of forcing her to talk. He would give her space, but he just wanted to make sure she made it home alright.

But he couldn't help but be frustrated, a sentiment the rest of the Flock seemed to share when Iggy asked where Max had gone storming off to. They'd only calmed down when I promised that if she wasn't back exactly when she told Dr. Martinez that Iggy could take Nudge and Gazzy to go find her.

And I was kicking myself for not being well enough to fly. When I'd passed out as we escaped the School with Max, I'd torn a tendon in one of my wings. The healing process had been slowed by whatever vaccine Dr. Martinez had given me. I could feel it, this dull ache as I tried to stretch a wing in the small confines of the bedroom.

And then there were the strange occurrences with her body temperature that had me up at night. I tried to convince myself it was just her power, like she'd said. I'd gone through a similar phase when my invisibility had grown to become controllable.

"Maybe not," Fang muttered narrowing his eyes at the sight outside the window before flying down the hall, past everyone's open bedroom doors, past Ella and Dr. Martinez in the kitchen, and out the door.

Fang could hear Iggy calling his name and the others following him, but he didn't respond to them.

Two boys walked up the pathway meeting Fang half way down the driveway. A tall tan boy in jeans and a tee shirt, his black hair pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck, carried Max in his arms, while the other, a light skinned blond in jeans and a camouflage sweater, followed sluggishly behind him.

"What happened?" Fang demanded harshly, taking an unconscious Max into his arms. He did a quick scan but found no obvious wounds.

"I don't know," he said. "We found her unconscious in a field a few blocks away."

"How did you know she lived here?" Iggy asked skeptically, stepping up to Fang's side, Dr. Martinez stepping up to the other to examine her daughter closely.

"Uh…" the blonde stuttered, the two exchanging worried looks. "We…just knew."

Fang narrowed his eyes. "Lie better," he ground out.

"Just believe us when we say we aren't here to hurt you," the dark haired boy said quickly, hands up in a surrendering way. He looked around himself. "Where the hell is Nikki?" His friend just shrugged.

"Fang," Dr. Martinez said quietly, "let's get her to her bedroom."

Fang argued with himself in his head for a moment, trying to decide whether or not to pass Max off to Iggy and handle the two boys in front of him.

I got this. Fang glanced at Angel behind him and gave a curt nod. With one last look at the two boys, he turned on his heel and headed back into the house.

Fang put Max down gently on her bed and paused to brush a few strands of hair out of her face before checking all areas of exposed skin for any new cuts or bruises.

Dr. Martinez did the same thing and sighed. "She feels alright, no fever, no new lacerations." She looked up at Fang, who was flickering in place, there one second and gone the next. He was still as stone, staring down at Max. "She's okay, Fang."

"I don't know what it is about them," Fang whispered to her, "There's something about them."

"I know what you mean," she muttered back.


"You guys might want to come in," Angel said quietly as Fang passed her. "This is not optional."

The two nodded quickly and followed the flock into the living room.

"She'll be fine," Dr. Martinez said quietly, joining the group in the living room.

Fang came in quietly and sat down next to Ella and Nudge on one of the two couches while Dr. Martinez moved to stand behind them with Gazzy. Angel and Iggy came out of the kitchen and while Iggy took a seat on the armrest next to Ella, Angel grinned at Fang and sat between his legs on the floor.

Quit worrying about them, really, Angel thought to him. They're going about this all wrong, but they don't know any better.

"We're friends," a girl said from the floor in between the two boys. Eyebrows rose at the new voice. She had long wavy black hair and wore jeans and a black jacket over her red t-shirt. How had she gone unnoticed?

"Really, we are," one of the boys agreed.

"Where did you come from?" Nudge asked, amazed she, too, had missed the girl.

"I was preoccupied with something else, but I got here as quick as I could," she explained quickly with a wave of her hand.

"Nikki, this is going very, very bad," the dark-haired boy muttered.

Nikki nodded solemnly and stood, unzipping her jacket and shrugging it off. "Proper introductions then."

"That would be nice," Fang snapped lowly. "But I'm actually more interested in how you found Max and how you knew where to take her."

Iggy glanced in Fang's direction. "But they did take her here," he said. "Not the School."

"How did you guys find her?" Dr. Martinez asked calmly.

"We were looking for her," Nikki said quickly. "If I could just—"

"Why?" Fang ground out, sitting on the edge of the couch now. Ella exchanged a glance with Nudge behind his back, afraid the man was going to fly off the couch.

"Fang," Angel tried to intervene, gripping his knee by her shoulder.

"Can I just—" Nikki tried again, only to be interrupted by Fang again.

"Answer the question," he demanded.

A muscle in Nikki's cheek twitched and she dropped her jacket at her feet as two large, black wings emerged from behind her, filling the space behind the three kids. "That shut you up," she muttered. "You never let me talk sometimes…"

"Proper introductions then," the Gasman breathed, watching with shock and awe like the rest of them.

"I'm Nikki, this is Jay," she gestured to the dark-haired boy, then to the blond, "and this is Zak." Nikki pulled her wings back in and took a slow breath, pursing her lips.

"Look," Jay started smoothly as Nikki took her seat back on the floor between the boys. "We could lie and tell you stories, but the truth is—"

"We can't tell you how we know Max and how we knew to bring her here," Zak finished for him gravely. Nikki seemed mostly content with this answer.

But the Flock? Not so much…

16. Chapter 16

Fang stood up abruptly, his mask of emotion shattered, revealing dense anger and fury, his eyes alight with it. Again, he began flickering before everyone.

"No, no, wait," Nikki said quickly, standing up, too. "Ugh, dammit this is so messed up." She rubbed her forehead and tried to think.

"Tell us as much as you can," Angel murmured with an encouraging smile. "I'll get them to understand."

"Angel," Nikki breathed, a smile flicking across her face briefly.

"Great," Jay muttered. He took a deep breath. "We aren't…from around here." He scratched his head. "I'm not sure how much we should say…"

"We aren't from around now," Nikki added.

"What does that mean?" Ella asked quietly.

Seeing the confused looks on a few faces, Angel clarified, "They're from a few years in the future."

"What?" Fang's head snapped down to Angel, confused and angry. She wouldn't lie to him. "So they're allies from the future?" Angel nodded once, her gaze flicking to him over her shoulder, but she was scrutinizing the trio in a way that still left Fang feeling some sense of comfort, like the Flock hadn't become too trusting.

She's waking up, Angel murmured to him in his head. Please, try to calm yourself a little. Your intense reaction is scaring the others. We don't see you like this often and to be honest, it's a bit of an overreaction.

"This is giving me a headache," Fang grumbled, turning stiffly and heading for the stairs. He didn't intend to listen to them if they were going to play games. And seeing Max was what he needed to calm down. He tapped Iggy's hand twice as he left the room, seeing the other man throw him a quick thumbs up.

"Fang?" Nudge called after him.

"He just got over being quite sick," Dr. Martinez explained to the guests, putting a hand on Nudge's shoulder.

"Did we really come back that far?" Jay mumbled to the others.

"That wasn't the plan," Zak whispered.

"Well maybe we'll make it in time this time!" Nikki snapped.

"In time for what?" Gazzy asked.

Angel's eyes widened and she stood up abruptly, her eyes darting between Nikki and the boys. She could feel everyone's eyes on her, but her eyes were locked with Nikki's, their minds deep in conversation. A flicker of a smile flashed across Nikki's lips and Angel nodded slowly, taking a shaky breath.

"I'm going to go check on Max," she said with a smile, heading for the kitchen to get a glass of water for her. She glanced at Dr. Martinez. "Can I get a few aspirin for her?"

"Of course." Dr. Martinez followed Angel into the kitchen.


My head throbbed and it was then that the only thing I wanted in the world was something to make it stop. I tried to roll onto my side and my head seemed to hate that. Slower, I pressed my forehead against the cold wall.

I don't know how long I stayed like that, finally having found some comfort. The clicking the door knob made was my only hint that someone had come in, but the silence was what told me who it was. I knew I was at home, in bed. I could only assume I'd missed my curfew and Fang or one of the others had come and found me. So much for future solo flights…

I didn't intend on rolling over or opening my eyes because I wasn't ready to tell him what had happened yet. I didn't want to think about it. At all. But as the memory touched the edges of my mind I let out an involuntary shudder.

"That bad?" Fang asked quietly. The bed shook as he got in it next to me.

"I don't…" I tried to speak, but no sound came out. Maybe I hadn't needed to say anything, but somehow Fang knew exactly what I was thinking. He lay down next to me and draped his arm across my shoulders.

"It's alright," he whispered, his voice at my ear.

"Who found me?" I asked quietly, still not looking at him. "I'm sorry…"

Before he could respond, someone else came in and Fang sat up slowly.

"I brought aspirin, Max," Angel said, holding out a cup of water and small white pills. I sat up slowly and gratefully took the pills from her with a small smile, downing them all at once.

"You know who those kids are, Angel?" Fang asked in his usual quiet tone.

"What kids?" I asked, joining Fang in a vertical position to take the cup of water and little white pills from Angel, downing them quickly.

Angel pressed her lips together tightly and only looked to Fang.

"Three kids brought you home," he told me. "We don't know who they are, or how they knew to bring you here, but they claim to be from the future."

I gave him a flat look, wondering what kind of joke this was. "The future?" I asked skeptically. "Like, sci-fi-movie nonsense?"

"More like bird-kid-powers," Angel muttered, crossing her arms and rocking on her feet.

I narrowed my eyes at her when she said that. "They're bird kids?"

"Ange," Fang prodded again, "I know you read their minds. You know who they are."

She nodded once. "But for the sake of…well, everything, I can't tell you who they really are. All I can tell you is what they're willing to tell us."

"But you'll let us know if they're lying?" I demanded.

She nodded again, but laughed. "Oh, they wouldn't lie to us. They know how much trouble they'd be in if they did." She tilted her head in thought. "I can't find the best way to explain how they know us in the future, but we do end up mentoring lots of escaped experiments. If that helps."

"Angel," I whispered. "You know…"

"I know a lot, Max," she giggled. "You have to be just a little more specific."

"The others out there—"

"They sent them back. Or forwards. Don't worry about it. Nikki, Zak, and Jay are the only ones that stayed. The only ones who could."

I nodded. "Good." I felt Fang's eyes on me but I didn't look up. Couldn't.

"We'll explain if they do," Angel supplied and Fang tensed slightly.

"Thanks, Angel," I mumbled, sitting still and not making eye contact with anything but the floorboards.

She smiled, and with a short nod, left the room. The click the knob made echoed in the silence and I could once again feel Fang's eyes on me, expectant. I was torn in two. Part of me desperately wanted to tell him what I saw, but another part just wanted to forget, never relive those horrible moments in the cemetery, never see those inscriptions—

I let out another shudder and my hand twitched. I wanted to wrap my arms around myself in sink into the earth. But I couldn't. I couldn't do that to the flock. Now was not the time to give up and have a mental breakdown. I needed to stay strong for everyone…

"Max," Fang said softly.

I took in a shaky breath. "We need to talk about earlier," I said instead.

"What happened to you?" he demanded.

"We should jojn the others downstairs, then, if you don't want to talk about that now," I tried again.

Fang gripped both my shoulders, keeping me planted on the bed. "If we're going to do this," he said, gestering between us, "we need to start talking about the hard shit, alright?"


"Don't lie to me."

So I didn't say anything. It was the easiest thing to do in my confused state. Call it shock, trauma, whatever you want. Bottom line, is that I didn't know what was wrong with me. I'd gone through worse at the school than seeing my family's names on gravestones. I'd seen them being tortured. That, to me, is worse than the escape of death.

Isn't it?

"Don't do this," Fang pleaded. "You don't have to be Maximum Ride, the invincible, all the time. Not when it's just you and me."

I looked up at him. His dark eyes were glowing with worry and a million other emotions.

"Just be Max," he whispered.

I snapped.

One minute I was staring blankly at him, the next I had crumpled into myself with my face in my hands, trying not to scream as tears began to spill.

"Death is worse," I heard myself whisper after a few moments. "It can break us all apart."

"No one's going to die, Max," Fang said solidly, pulling me to him so that he could cup my face and force me to look at him. All the emotions that had swirled around his eyes seconds before was replaced by blazing determination.

"I saw it," I whispered in horror, my eyes widening at the memory. "When I was at the lake. I saw the flock's graves. A vision."

"It wasn't real," Fang pressed. "Your body temperature can jump too high and give you fever dreams, Max."

"That wasn't a dream. The pain—I saw myself before the vision started. I saw an older version of myself."

He didn't answer, but I didn't hold it against him. I didn't know what to say either.

I sat there, Fang still holding my face in front of his own, and squeezed my eyes shut. A few more tears escaped my eyes and I made no motion to wipe them away.

Fang let me go and stood up, facing away from me. His posture radiated anger and he crossed his arms. That surprised me a little.

"You may not be invincible," he mumbled, "but you were always reasonable. Rational. Stubborn, yes, but never stupid."

"Fang, you think I don't know what I saw?" I snapped, getting to my knees on the bed. "It seemed so real. I could touch the grave markers, feel the inscriptions on them, smell the dirt, the fire…That woman I saw was me."

He whipped around and stormed over to the bed so that his face was inches from my own.

"But it never happened. It's never going to. It wasn't real." He snarled.

"I could feel the stones," I said just as harshly, slowly.

Fang reached down and jerked my hand and held it up to his face. "Can you feel me? I'm real, Max! I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere. Not for a long, long time."

"Promise," I demanded. I would make him promise every chance I got. So if he broke it, I could remind myself that he didn't just break one promise again, he would have broken a thousand.

"I promise," he said before he pressed his lips to mine. And I didn't run this time. He pulled away after only a few moments, his hands to himself this time, but I could see a new distinct blush in his cheeks. "Now. I left three unidentified bird kids with your mom and the Flock…"

I took a deep breath and stood, brushing some of the wrinkles out of my clothing, hoping I looked like the definitive leader of our merry band of mutants. "Let's go."

"We can have that other talk later," he mumbled as I passed him.

"Oh boy…"

17. Chapter 17

"Fang's in Max's room, she just woke up," Angel muttered to Iggy, sitting down next to him.

Hearing this, Jay and Zak looked simultaneously at Nikki, who swung both arms out and smacked them both.

"They'll be down in a second," Angel continued.

They all sat in an uncomfortable silence while they waited, broken only by Dr. Martinez returning from the kitchen with a couple bottles of water for the three visitors. Nikki, Zak, and Jay didn't know what to say, and the flock didn't want to start until the entire flock was present.

Jay took the time to casually glance around the room at each of the flock members and take them in as they were. It was strange to him, seeing them so young. He paused on Iggy, staring into his pale, sightless, blue eyes.

"Zak," he muttered, leaning back to see him around Nikki. "Zak, he's blind, too…" This attracted everyone's attention. Nikki glanced from Zak to Iggy impassively.

"Too?" Iggy asked, slightly surprised.

"Zak is blind, too," Jay stated.

"Been that way since I was born," he said. He let out a soft chuckle. "I guess I'm lucky that way."

"Lucky?" Nudge exclaimed. "How is that lucky? You're blind! That's terrible! You've never seen anything before—"

"That's exactly why he's lucky, Nudge," Iggy said quietly with a soft smile. "He doesn't know what he's missing, so he isn't burdened with missing it. He doesn't know anything else, so being blind, to him, is normal."

Zak laughed. "My dad says the same thing all the time."

That caused Nikki to roll her eyes and Jay visibly held back a laugh. Angel even cracked a small, amused smile.


Silently, Fang and I filed into the room. I sat down between Nudge and Ella, while Fang chose to stand behind me, arms crossed and his poker face solidly in place. I tried to look as powerful as I knew I was, lethal and not to be messed with.

"Now that everyone's here…" Angel prompted, looking at the three on the floor. The dark haired girl nodded.

"Like we said before, we're from the future," she said easily, glancing at me. "I'm Nikki, this is Jay and that's Zak." Her eyes never left mine as she gestured to her two friends. "We originally came here with a few others, but they couldn't stay."

"Why not?" Gazzy asked, sounding bored.

"If one person from the future meets their own selves from the past, we weren't sure what would happen, but we found out it's not good. Knowing major things that you do yourself in the future can seriously effect time," Nikki explained in her smooth, quiet voice. "These are only theories, but if that happens, the universe could split into different possible outcomes. In other words, the timeline that happened before you knew and changed something, and the timeline after."

"That is, if the world isn't destroyed," Jay said gravely; Nikki nodded.

"But two people can't exist in the same space in time," Nikki continued. "I've tried with object before but nothing too serious every happened. It seems like people can't be within a certain distance of each other before the similar brain waves get interrupted. I had to jump someone back to the future while these two took Max here."

"How did you know to bring me here?" I asked. "What if we'd moved? How did you know when it is here?" God this felt weird referring to now in this way…

"We can't tell you that," Nikki said simply. I scowled.

"So your friends went back? Who were they? Why—" Nudge began, shifting uncomfortably next to me.

"We had…adult supervision," Jay cut her off.

"We sent them back because of what was happening to Max," Nikki said flatly.

"What do you mean?" Fang demanded, his tone just as flat. I smirked to myself.

"Her future self got to close to this one," Nikki gestured to me on the couch again.

"Still think it was a fever dream?" I whispered over my shoulder to Fang, but Mom put her hand on my shoulder and I faced the three kids again.

"Those were the results of….well, of someone getting too close to themselves…" Nikki mumbled unwillingly. "It's been noted and I'll try to avoid it from happening again…"

"Nik," Zak whispered. "Are you su—"

"We won't tell them everything," she whispered back. "Only what's necessary."

"So you're saying that—" Iggy started.

"We sent both Max and Iggy back to the future." No one moved. No one even blinked. Everyone was stone still in shock. Nikki blinked out of sight for a few seconds before becoming visible again, her face blank as if she hadn't just disappeared.

"Who are you," I demanded loudly, fully understanding Fang's intense uneasiness with these kids. This sounded like a trap from the school. None of this sounded real. "Time travel isn't possible —"

"—this sounds like a really bad plot for some b-rated sci-fi movie no one ever hears about," Nikki and Max said in unison.

"That was weird," Iggy whispered. Louder, "was that weird for anyone else?"

"Time travel," Nikki explained, her hands gripping her knees tightly. "I've been trying to tell you. I popped a few seconds into the future, waited in the kitchen to hear what you would say, then went back a few seconds."

"The blinking?" Gazzy questioned. "That was you time traveling?"

"It's a little more fun to look at when she takes people with her," Zak mumbled to him with a smirk.

"We're…mutant friends in the future," Nikki pressed, clearly growing impatient, which was starting to piss me off.

"Are there more of us?" Nudge exclaimed, causing Jay and Zak to laugh; Nikki merely nodded.

"But that's not the issue here," Fang said. The younger members of the flock looked at him strangely. "Why are you here?"

Jay looked at Nikki. "Can we tell them that?"

"This is the confusing part," Nikki said, narrowing her eyes at the floor and running a hand through her hair. "See, what we're here to do is change parts of the past so that something in the future never happens. I mean, we've done it before, but I've never been able to get us far enough into the past to make it in time. And we've never changed things this…important."

I could feel my headache coming back. This time travel stuff was seriously confusing.

"But wouldn't that split the universe, like you said before?" Iggy asked, also sounding as skeptical as I felt.

Nikki bit her lip, deep in thought. When she didn't answer him—or rather, didn't hear him—Zak answered for her. "Her parent's think it's different in that someone isn't changing something they themselves did in the past. So it's erasing that option of choice. That one person isn't meeting their past selves, thus leading them to a fork in the road when the decision arises."

"If someone goes back in time to tell their own self not to do something, when it comes time to make a decision, they'll have to decide whether to make the choice they went to the past to change, or a new decision entirely."

"Man," Gazzy groaned, rubbing his head. "This is so confusing."

Iggy laughed. "No kidding." I whacked him in the arm and he shut up.

"So what exactly is it you came to change?" I asked as gently as I could muster.

Nikki looked up at her. "Can I speak with you alone?"

I blinked, not having expected that. I glanced over at Fang, whose face had smoothed out a little in surprise, before I looked down at Angel who only offered an almost imperceptible smile. No one knew what to say after that. I glanced around the room at the surprised expressions. I paused at mom, who sat quietly. I'd almost forgotten she was there.

"Mom?" She blinked and looked over at me with her eyebrows raised. "Why don't you take Ella and make a snack? Please?"

Her face softened knowingly and she leaned down to kiss the top of my head as she passed. "I think we're perfectly safe, but I will go make our guests something to eat." Ella shook her head when I looked over at her, not moving from her seat, she'd scooted closer to Nudge when I'd stood, her knees against Angel's back. She was safe regardless…

I turned back to Nikki, whose face had gone white, the two boys behind her looking a little nervous.

"That's your mom?" she asked quietly, watching as Mom disappeared around the corner into the kitchen.

"Yeah," I said slowly, realizing no one had probably been introduced to them. I pointed slowly around the room. "Iggy, Ella, Nudge, Fang, the Gasman, Angel, Max."

"Nik, this isn't the time," Zak muttered behind her, demanding her attention.

"Right," she whispered, taking a deep breath.

"What are we going to do now?" Jay muttered.

Nikki nodded to herself then looked back up at me. "Can we talk outside?"

"Upstairs," I said instead, leading the way towards the bedroom. She was not going to be making any decisions for me, I would make sure I was in a familiar, defendable area. Who knew if she had someone waiting outside the house…

I heard her following, her footsteps light and quiet. She'd been trained well. The thought made my heart drop. If these fellow birdkids were as innocent as they were trying to seem, what kind of life had they led that they needed training, that they had to be taught to live the same way we had?

I led her into the bedroom I'd been sharing with Angel and Nudge—most days—and shut the door behind us for some semblance of privacy. I knew Fang could be invisible outside the door listening, and Angel would hear our thoughts anywhere on the street, but I hoped she'd feel better and be honest.

When Nikki didn't immediately start, I started for her. "You understand why we have a hard time believing you aren't a threat, right? If you know us in the future, I'm sure you know what we've gone through."

"Bits, yeah," she nodded. "I need to go back home to ask my parents some questions before we tell you that because we might have actually come back too far."

"What are you here to do?" I tried again, surprised at how gentle my voice was despite my stomach being in knots.

"I don't know what to tell you," she muttered quickly, pacing around the room. "I don't know what I can or should tell you that won't royally jack things up for us in the future."

I pursed my lips and waited stubbornly, watching as she walked slowly around the room, looking at all the weird trinkets that had been left in here forgotten. Mom had had to clear out storage boxes when we'd arrived to make room for us.

"In the future," she started slowly, "before you go to sleep at night, you count everyone. Oldest to youngest. Each person. I asked why when I was about eight and you told me stories about how you'd have nightmares of losing someone."

"I wouldn't tell just anyone that," I admitted quietly. The whole Flock did it, I knew, but we didn't talk about why, or point out that we did.

"I'm not just anyone."

"Alright," I said with a heavy sigh, standing. "We'll give you a pass for the immediate future. But I'm going to need better answers eventually."

Nikki nodded and rubbed her eyes with her hands. "I just need to talk to Daddy and I think I'll be able to give you something more substantial, I just don't know when we are compared to what we're trying to achieve."

I nodded and patted her shoulder like I would one of the Flock, and felt her relax a little. "Grab some food from Mom and then head back…or forward or whatever…"

But she didn't. We made it downstairs and she stood in the doorway to the kitchen behind me as I went to lean against the counter, watching the two boys at the kitchen table with Nudge, Angel, and Ella. Iggy and Gazzy were hovering near the fridge while Mom stood next to me at the counter, fixing a peanut butter sandwich. Fang was very noticeably missing.

"I'm going back." Nikki's declaration was met with resounding silence.

"Ni—" Jay started.

"I need to talk to Daddy," she mumbled as she pulled on her shoes that she had left next to the door just outside the kitchen.

"He's not going to be happy at all," Zak said, leaning back in the chair and crossing his arms.

"Yeah, well, he'll get over it."

"He'll make us stay there," Jay almost yelled, his face suddenly glowing with emotion as he ran to her side. "He won't let us come back and fix things! He'll just say what he always does! 'This is the way things are meant to be. We shouldn't mess with them.' But if that were true, why do you have this power?"

She zipped up her jacket and looked at him evenly. "You're not coming." She turned to me. "Can they stay here at least until I get back?"

Startled, I tried to collect myself fast enough to answer, but mom responded first.

"Of course."

Nikki nodded once in thanks and opened the door.

"If you guys stay here, he'll have to let me come back. And since…" She looked over at us. "Well, he won't come back with me."

"Nikki. Tell my mom where I am," Zak said quietly. "Dad will understand, but Mom will just worry…" Nikki just nodded again and took off down the driveway, disappearing before she hit the road.

"Until she gets back, nothing is to be said about the future," Angel said as we all sat in silence, no one knowing what else to say. The others nodded and slowly dispersed. Nudge and Angel headed to their rooms. Iggy, Ella, and the Gasman remained in the kitchen with me while Mom left to find blankets and sleeping bags for the new guests.

Someone grabbed my hand, the fingers sliding between mine and I nearly jumped out of my skin when Fang materialized next to me. "Oh my god, stop doing that." I smacked his arm as he gave me a one-sided smirk.

Jay looked like he was going to cry.

"How old are you guys?" I asked quietly. They looked younger, not old enough to be taking on whatever burden they were handed by being here.

"Nikki and I are fifteen. Jay is thirteen."

I squeezed Fang's hand. They weren't much older than we were when we were on our own.

"Alright, guys," Mom smiled, breathless, "come with me and we'll get you set up on the couch. It's getting late and you're probably tired."

I hugged Mom as best as I could. Jay took a sleeping bag from her and handed it to Zak, taking the other for himself and they both followed her back into the living room.

"Bed, guys," I declared to the three eating around me.

"I'm a big boy now, Max," Iggy said seriously, leaning against the fridge with froot loops falling from his mouth.

I laughed. "Just be quiet. Bed as soon as you're done, Gazzy, ok? It's late."

"Ok," he responded with a yawn.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not one of your baby birds," Ella quipped as she passed me.

"I wasn't talking to you," I shot back, sticking my tongue out at her.

I moved to head back to my room, but made it as far as the bottom of the stairs before strong arms snaked their way around my waist. I couldn't help the smile that grew on my face.

"Tired?" he asked. I simply nodded.

Fang took my hand again and lead me up the stairs. Nudge and Angel had already gone to bed, knowing that as soon as I woke up, they'd be woken up, too, however early that was.

My hand left Fang's as we passed him room. "I know a lot just happened in the last few hours," he said lowly, his voice a deep rumble. "But if you still want to talk about earlier…" He raised an eyebrow at me and my blood began to race at the thought of confronting this. I really, really didn't want to, but I knew it needed to happen eventually, so I followed him into his room.

18. Chapter 18

Nikki opened the door and shut it as quietly as she could. No need to bring forth her impending doom any sooner than necessary. She knew her father knew the minute she stepped into the house and it was silent, a seriousness in the air. No doubt her mother's endless honesty with her dad had her spilling the beans as soon as Nikki had dropped her off on the back deck.

"Nikki!" a small voice cried, racing into the foyer from the kitchen. "Lookie, lookie!" the small girl held up a paper as high as she could go, which wasn't high at all.

"Hey, Kar," Nikki grinned, picking her up. She took the sheet of paper the younger girl held out and looked at the incredibly strange drawing. "What is it?"

She looked as exasperated as a 3-year-old could. "It's a picture! I drawed a picture!"

"Wow!" she said with over excitement, slowly starting for the kitchen. Yes, she could use the baby as a buffer. No one could scream at her in front of the 3-year-old.

"See, that's daddy," she pointed to a yellow blob-looking thing with green dots for eyes.

Nikki focused on the picture. He had a bunch of red and orange squiggles emanating from his blob. "What's he doing?"

"He's saving your mommy and daddy over here." She pointed to the far right of the paper at a single tan blob with brown dots for eyes.

"I only see mommy…"

"That's a'cuz your daddy's see-through." Invisible. Cute.

"And what's your daddy saving my parents from?"

"The rabid zebras of doom!" she exclaimed, kicking her legs and bouncing up and down excitedly on Nikki's hip, her loopy strawberry blond hair swinging in its tiny ponytail. Where did she learn these things from?

"Of course," Nikki laughed, entering the kitchen to find the four people she was looking for. How convenient. The universe couldn't have made things harder for her just this once and made her search for her aunt and uncle? Well, she knew she'd find her parents here because it was her house, but when Karma ran up she knew Uncle Iggy and Aunt Ella would be, too. Four birds with one stone, she guessed…

Ella was sitting at the kitchen table with her mom while Iggy and her dad stood at the counter. By the looks on their faces, they were talking about something serious, and she slipped back on her poker face, her fears confirmed.

Ella stood up and came to take Karma from Nikki.

"Zak says hi," She mumbled lowly, hoping no one else would hear.

Ella went into mother-mode; stiff, straight posture. "Oh? And where is he?"

"The past…?"

Nikki glanced at her mom, who only offered a small smile, which meant she hadn't told dad about her…adventure. So the seriousness was something else. Slowly she turned to her dad. Even with his poker face perfectly composed, Nikki could see the muscles tense in his face and arms; the slight slant in his eyebrows.

He was pissed off.

"Daddy," Nikki started slowly. "I know what you're going to say, but I have to try again—"

"It's not your problem to fix," he said coldly, arms crossed.

"No," she said, mirroring tone perfectly. "But if you're so unwilling to try, then it's up to me. And since I'm the only one with the power to do something about it, I have to try."

Her dad uncrossed his arms and gripped the counter tightly. "I said no. Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? You could try to save them and get yourself killed. Or worse."

Nikki released the anger from her face, affixing a blank stare. "Say what you want," she said flatly. "I left Zak and Jay there, so you'll have to let me go back."

"Not unless one of us goes with you."

"Nope," a smile switched at the corner of her mouth knowingly, but she knew better than to smile during an argument she was trying to win. "I took mom and Iggy with me, but…"

"I kept getting too close to me. I was a moody teenager, so annoying," Max muttered, her head propped in her hand at the kitchen table. "Remember the temperature changes and such?"

"I remember the 'moody'," her dad mumbled and her mom glared at him tiredly.

"In any case, I only came to ask you a question."

"And what's that?"

"Well, I'm tied to the past right now, I think you were late teens or really early twenties. You had just gotten over being really sick, the flu or something—"

Her mom's eyes widened and she sat up straight.

"Nikki, no," she muttered. Ella had a similar reaction. Iggy took Kar from her before she could drop the small child.

"Nikki, you can't want to…" Ella stuttered.

Her dad came around the counter and took her by the shoulders, standing so close to her that she had to look at him.

"Nikki, listen to me," he demanded, his tone frighteningly gentle now. "You can't say anything to her. Not to Max, either. If you say something to anyone, it won't be just Dr. Martinez that dies."

"I'm still going back to save Gazzy and Sky."

"Honestly," her dad growled, his grip tighter on his daughter's shoulders. "Do you have any idea what you could do? Have you thought about how this would affect the others? We could lose you, too. Iggy could go back to being—"

"If that's what it takes," Iggy said quietly. Her dad released her and turned to face Iggy.

"What?" her dad whispered in surprise.

"I could give it up," Iggy murmured, looking at Karma in his arms, who only blinked back up at him. "I don't know how I would react if I lost Zak or Karma. And it's not something I want to figure out. But the way you guys handled it…well, I know you want to do anything you can to bring Sky back, but not at the risk of anyone else."

"Iggy…" Ella said.

"If you had let me finish," Nikki said quietly and flatly, "you wouldn't be having this conversation."

Everyone looked at her.

"I've got a plan that won't mess up anything that needs to happen, only things that'll come back to bite us tenfold."

"So what do you need to know, then?" her mom asked, holding up a hand to her dad when he opened his mouth to argue. A smile flew across her face.


Fang shut the door as I made my way straight to his bed. I gestured to the clothes he'd left in piles all over the room. "Seriously, we're guests here…"

"Yes, mom," he grumbled, dropping down onto his back on the bed, his feet flat on the floor. I scooted back against the way to face him and poked him in the shoulder with my feet. He turned his head to look at me. "I'm surprised you wanted to talk about it."

"Yeah, well, I've been surprising myself all day," I muttered, pulling my knees up to my chin. "I just feel like we really need to have a talk about where this is going."

"And where do you see this going, Max?" he asked quietly. "Because I'm pretty sure you know where I want it to go."

I was silent, truly mulling over those words and their meaning. Of course I knew what Fang wanted, but did I know what I wanted? Where did I see this going? Did I envision us living that American dream of getting married, having a couple of kids, working that nine-to-five life and coming home to a house of our own?

No, not really—

"Talk to me," Fang breathed, moving to sit up. He slid back and sat against the wall perpendicular to me, his feet dangling over the edge of the bed. "Tell me what you're thinking, I want to help you work through this."

"I'm thinking," I started slowly, "that I don't know. Do you want the typical things any couple in America has—house, jobs, kids, wedding—do you want that? Because I don't see us happening that way."

"And how do you see us happening?"

"I just see us growing together," I said, looking at him but not really seeing him. "I see us figuring out all these things to take down the School finally."

"And after that?" he asked when I paused. "After we finally defeat the School and everything it's connected to, when we don't have to run or be afraid for our lives, what then?"

"Then I just…" I started, but didn't know where that thought led. "I don't see a wedding, but I see everything else. Living with you, maybe starting a family when it's safe to. Getting to experience everything with you."

Fang smirked and I resisted the urge to withdraw into myself, feeling like he was about to tease me.

"You know, that's how I see it," he admitted instead, looking down at his lap. "Just taking things one thing at a time. Maybe we'll have a wedding and get married, maybe not. Maybe we'll get a house of our own, maybe we'll live together with the Flock forever. Maybe we'll have kids, maybe we won't. Maybe we'll defeat the School, maybe we'll fight them until we die. But through all that, I see myself staying by your side and doing it all with you."

Everything recently…it was all becoming too much. I could feel it wearing on me, eating away at everything I was as a person. I was feeling more and more like a single minded system—take down the school, that's it. I hadn't stopped to give a thought to where the future would lead.

Maybe that's why I was relying on Fang so much lately. I knew the way I acted had changed over the years. I'd gotten—not weaker, but more…open. I was allowing Fang to shoulder the "burden" of "saving the world." I had admitted that I couldn't do it alone. Sure, I knew the flock would always be there to help, but Fang understood that more than anyone. Looking back now, I could only say that we'd gotten closer.

I let out a sigh and lay back, burying my head in the pillow. "I want that," I dared to whisper. Silently, Fang moved behind me, wrapping his arm across my shoulders, his other propping his head up to he could look at me.

"I know. And I'm going to fight for it. I want that for us, and anything else you want," he said quietly. "And for the rest of the Flock." He leaned down and pressed a kiss to my cheek before laying down himself, letting the silence wash over us.

19. Chapter 19

:( I was kinda disappointed to only get 2 reviews…

I kept typing and typing figuring if I got another review or two I'd update then, that way I'd have a lot to update with.

I never got them…

So I typed up this chapter and 1 and a half more. So if I get enough reviews today I COULD update again tonight…….but like I've said before, I'm not a bitch about reviews. I don't usually say I need x reviews or no more updates. They inspire me to update, but I don't demand them. I'm just usually disappointed when I update, get 20-some reviews, update again, and get 2.

It's whatever I guess. I just saw Iron Man and now I'm totally fricken excited for Iron Man 2 on May 7th.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE/READ FANG: Please, for the love of God, do NOT mention ANY PART of the book or it's events, characters, setting etc. Not a WORD about it. I'm probably going to include Dylan in later chapters based on what I've read online. But if you spoil it for me, I will stop writing entirely. I'm serious.


Chapter 19

Nikki sat on her bed, staring at the empty bedroom across the hall. She couldn't help the overwhelming sadness that swept over her and her body crumpled, shaking with perfectly silent sobs. She covered her tearing face with her hands and slid off the bed onto her knees on the floor.

Even after three years she would still sit in her room by herself and cry for him.

Slowly, a little girl appeared in the doorway. Nikki froze.

"Karma," Nikki whispered in surprise, hastily wiping the tears from her face.

"Nikki," Karma whispered, looking down the hallway in both directions. "Nikki, don't tell mommy or daddy."

"Tell them what?" Nikki whispered in alarm, standing up.

The 5-year-old shut the door and locked it before turning to Nikki and speaking. Neither of them saw that Fang had been leaning against the closet door the entire time, invisible and silent. He narrowed his eyes but didn't reveal himself.

"Sky says not to cry anymore," Karma said, a pleading look on her face.

"Kar, when did he say this?" Nikki asked slowly. Karma had only been two when Sky died.

The air shifted and the temperature dropped noticeably. A cold wind brushed by Fang's shoulders and he shivered.

Slowly and image appeared next to Karma. He was tall and dark haired and his wings hung freely away from his body. Nikki's breath hitched in her throat and she started visibly shaking.

Fang's eyes widened and his entire body tensed, wanting to go over to the boy and keep him there.

"Karma," Nikki barely whispered, backing up until her legs hit the edge of the bed. "Karma! What is this?"

"Nik, it's me," the translucent being said carefully.


The boy smiled.


Sky reached down to finger Karma's hair. She looked up at him and grinned. "I've been assuming it's her power." He looked up at Nikki. "She can see ghosts."

"So you're—"

"Gazzy's around here somewhere, too," he laughed.

Fang was sure his racing heartbeat was audible to all of them. The Gasman's ghost was in the house? Along with Sky? Some sort of morbid relief flooded through him to know that his son's ghost wasn't completely alone. Nor was the Gasman's.

"But…how?" Tears were falling from Nikki's eyes again.

"The Gasman and I have been helping her…hone her ability. She's been able to see us since we…came here. But it was only recently that she could make us visible to others. I'm assuming she can bend the light or something…"

"So when we all thought she was talking to herself…" Nikki muttered, horrified that so many times she'd been so close to him…

Sky nodded. "It was a terrible experience, the training." He looked down at Karma again before beginning to walk around her room, pausing at the mirror on her dresser.

Fang locked eyes with Sky in the mirror.

Sky looked away at the floor, then up to Nikki.

"The first time she was able to make one of us visible, you'd never guess who walked in…"

Nikki laughed humorlessly, putting her experiences together with his. "Was that the time we found mom in the bathroom with every water faucet on, crying?"

Sky nodded. "And dad was there. But the next few times she did it without any interruptions. But the last time we did it—"

"Last weekend when Iggy swore up and down that he saw Gazzy."

"Yup," Sky said.

"I gotta admit, death has changed you, Sky." Nikki laughed when he just stared at her blankly. "This is probably the most you've talked and laughed at once."

He rolled his eyes.

"Nikki, I'll admit I'm not here for a visit. I'm here because we need to talk."

"You were in the kitchen," Nikki said smoothly. Not a question, but a statement of fact.

"Look, Nikki…"

She stared at him blankly, already knowing what he was going to say.

"I'm glad I was the one that died."

"Glad?" She nearly yelled, surprised. "How could—"

"It was either me or dad," he snapped. "We all know who needed to stay. Sure, my death made everyone sad, but most of all, mom was the worst. I saw everything that she went through. I couldn't help her. But she got through it. With help. From dad."

"Sky," Nikki started, but Sky continued.

"If dad died, and he was in my position, both of them would have suffered. We can't comfort mom like dad can. And if he had to watch her suffer…her grief would have been much…" Sky stopped and looked at the floor, a hand gripping the dresser tightly.

"Is that it?" Nikki asked flatly.

Karma, getting tired of standing, crawled onto the bed next to Nikki, who put an arm around the girl.

"Is that it?" Sky repeated. "Nikki…" he sighed, exasperated, and ran both hands through his short black hair. "You're going anyways."


"Even after everything I told you?"


"You're just like mom," Sky groaned. Fang couldn't help but smirk.

"I'm not going to let anyone die this time."

Sky let out a breath and walked so that he was standing right in front of her. "Just…" Although his poker face was perfect and unbroken, Nikki knew there was something else he wanted to say, but wouldn't.

"Just what?" she demanded.

"Just don't die," he whispered.

"Are you serious?" she stood up and glared at him. Even though he was several inches taller the effect was not at all lost.


She sighed.

"And, Nikki, tell dad," his eyes flicked over to where Fang stood at the closet, "not to worry so much about you and Rider."

"Chyeah, right," Nikki scoffed.

Sky laughed. "Yeah, well, I follow you around enough to know."

Nikki's eyes widened.

"Don't worry, I follow Rider around the most. My little sister is okay. My little brother, on the other hand…" he sighed.

Nikki stood up slowly, knowing that what was needed to be said was said, and that the conversation was coming to an end. Slowly she lifted a hand to his chest, but it went right through.

"I'm just light, Nik," he said softly, sad. She heard Karma let out a breath like she had been holding it for minutes. Another cold wind blew through the room and Sky's image blew away like sand.

"You didn't say bye-bye," Karma pouted, standing up and rushing over to look at Nikki.

"It's okay," Nikki murmured, picking her up. "I won't have to. I'll see him again. No bye-byes."

Nikki stood there for a minute before unlocking the door and putting Karma down in the hallway.

"Thanks," she whispered to the little girl, giving her a hug.

Once Karma had run down the hall, Nikki turned towards the closet doors.

"Anything you need to say before I leave tomorrow?"

Fang shifted into view and stared blankly at Nikki.

"Nah," he muttered, walking over to wrap his arms around his daughter. "I figure I'll stop worrying about you so much."

"Gee, wonder where you got that idea," Nikki mumbled sarcastically.

Alright. Now…


\ | /

\ | /

\ | /


20. Chapter 20


And in case I can't/don't update between now and Sunday…HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!! Review and tell me how/who you're spending it, and for the single ladies: …I dun remember what I was gonna tell you gais o.o I'm single, too, so I usually just celebrate my birthday…

Anyways, thanks to those who reviewed. Sorry I didn't update that night like I promised—my power went out and I was so pissed and bored out of my mind…

Chapter 20

"I want to go with her," Fang blurted out in the stillness.

Max sat up on her elbows and stared at him in the darkness.


"I want to go with her," Fang repeated.

"I know what you said," Max snapped, turning on a lamp next to the bed they were laying on. "But what I don't know is why."

"Once a man has lost his son, he has nothing left to lose."

"Wha—Nikki! Rider! The flock!" Max argued. She searched Fang's dark eyes for something, anything, to make her think he didn't mean it. Any signs that would indicate a wavering decision.

"Me," she whispered.

He sat upright and cupped her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him and see nothing else. His eyes burned with determination and sadness.

"Sky died for me. I wish I—" He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and ran his hands through his hair.

"I know what you're thinking," Max whispered, not looking at him, but at her hands in her lap. She twirled the ring Fang had given her around on her finger. "But you can't forget your other son, or your daughter. You can't go off and get yourself killed because you want to bring him back. Nikki is fine on her own."

"I know. I just…" But Fang never finished. He knew he was going. Max knew this, also.


MPOV (IN THE PAST. FYI: I'm never going to do anything in the future flock's pov. It would get way too confusing.)

There was a loud crash and a string of swear words coming from two different directions.

After the crash, which sounded like the living room, I jumped and—forgetting Fang was in the bed next to me—accidentally knocked him in the head.

Fang groaned and sat up, rubbing his head. "What was that?"

"Sorry," I whispered automatically, listening for more sounds as to what the crash could have been. I crawled quietly to the end of the bed and stealthily tip-toed to the door. Barely audible, I could hear small shuffling movements.

"Is Nikki back?" Iggy asked, sneaking slowly down the hallway.


"She's asleep," someone whispered, the Gasman probably. "I can go—"

"Don't. Let her sleep," I whispered, continuing down the hall.

"I can barely see anything," Gazzy groaned.

"Me either," Iggy replied, equally annoyed.

Rolling my eyes, I paused at the closed doors to the living room. Zak and Jay were staying in there; maybe they were the cause of the noise. I glanced at Fang, but his face was blank…and was it the darkness or did he look really pale?

"You said you weren't bringing anyone back with you," someone whispered.

"She had no choice," a deep voice mumbled just as quiet.

"Aw, man, mom's probably freaked!"

I pulled the doors open with a single sudden motion and turned on the light. A beat passed and the four figures froze. That is, until Fang decided to collapse.

"Fang?" I gasped, catching him before he could hit the floor.

"Shit," a deep voice hissed. I looked up for the source and saw Nikki and Jay standing near a man with dark hair on his knees. His eyes were shut and his body was shaking. These lights must be trippy, too, because I could have sworn I saw him disappear for a half of a second.

"You have to go," Nikki nearly shouted. Zak rushed to the window and jerked it open, pushing the screen out. Nikki helped the man to the window and he dove out head first.

I nearly ran out after him.

"We're on the second floor!" Nudge exclaimed.

"It's okay," Jay said easily. "It's Fang."

"What?" everyone mumbled at the same time.

I looked down at Fang. His dark eyes met mine and I immediately helped him up, lingering for a second to make sure he wasn't going to fall over. He gave me a quick, short nod and I knew he was okay.

Nikki placed her hands behind her head and glanced at the window.

"What?" Jay demanded.

A smile flicked across her face as she said, "I just threw him out the window."

Jay rolled his eyes and I did a quick scan of the flock. Or the flock that was awake. I was surprised to find that only Nudge and Iggy had been woken up. Years ago that crash would have woken the entire flock up. We were just that careful back then.

"So where did he go?" I asked.

"Probably into the woods across the street," Zak answered. "He doesn't have to go far, just far enough that the two have no chance of seeing one another."

"We should go find him and talk," Jay suggested. Nikki nodded and headed for the door, flanked by the boys.

"Stay here," I murmured to Fang. He looked like he was about to protest, but sighed deeply and nodded. I smiled. "Check on everyone else, make sure we didn't wake them. We'll be back in a bit." He nodded again, but hesitated before giving me a quick kiss.

"Aw," Iggy laughed as we stepped out onto the porch. "I'm sure if I'd seen that I probably would have been sick."

"I died a little on the inside," Gazzy muttered, tying his shoes.

I ignored the urge to harm both of them and hurried to catch up to the three just barely visible at the edge of the woods.

I stopped right behind a tall, dark haired man. He stopped talking when we entered the woods and he turned to face me. If I hadn't been such a strong-willed woman armed with an amazing poker-face, I probably would have fallen over.

This was without a doubt Fang.

There were several differences besides the obvious age change. He was taller. At least 4 inches more than I was used to. And the muscle build up…his hair was a concern, though. The Fang I was used to had longer hair that hid his eyes and ears unless I brushed it out of the way. This Fang had it short. I knew I'd end up asking him who said what to convince him to cut it. His eyes, though, were as dark as ever. Shallow and hidden. Sadness was the only thing I found as I searched them.

I heard Iggy and Gazzy laugh and I tried hard to form words as fast as I could.

"Uh, yeah. I need explanations. Now," I demanded, trying to be a little nice about it. But I seriously needed some answers. This cryptic we-can't-tell-you junk was getting real old real quick.

"Nikki came back to stop someone from killing a few people in our time," Fang said, his voice deeper than I was used to.

"Kill who?" Iggy inquired, furrowing his brow.

"A boy named Sky," he answered, slowly and careful. He glanced at the Gasman, but narrowed his eyes at Iggy. He seemed to study Iggy and I exchanged a confused look with Gazzy.

"And?" I prompted.

"And the Gasman," he said quickly. "Hey, Iggy, are you…blind?"

Iggy's breathing quickened. "What?" he exclaimed, pretending to be alarmed. "I'm blind?"

"Ig," I sighed. To Fang I said, "Why does that surprise you?" A few neurons in my brain fired at once. "Unless…somehow he gets his sight back."

"Dude," Iggy laughed. "When does that happen?" Fang just smiled and put his hands in his pockets.

"I'm sorry," the Gasman apologized. "I didn't hear anything after 'and the Gasman.' I'm going to have to ask you to slowly explain that." Even in the darkness the forest offered at night, Gazzy was white as a sheet and shaking.

"It doesn't matter how. Knowing won't stop it," Nikki said.

"Knowing could actually be what ends up having you killed," Zak agreed.

"Don't worry," Jay assured him. "You won't die for a long time."

"Then why come back to now?" Iggy asked, his eyes narrowing in confusion.

"Because," Nikki started.

"It's like Jeb back when we were 14," Fang explained. "Someone we didn't know was a problem until the bad things started happening. It's not Jeb we're here for, though."

"So, someone we don't know about is going to spring up and try to kill Gazzy and someone named Sky in the future?" I clarified.

"Not 'someone'," Nikki said with a faint edge in her voice. "Sky was my brother.

"Don't get me wrong. I don't want to know how," Gazzy said. I looked at him, worried. "I don't even want to know when." I will admit I was proud of his bravery.

"Then what do you want to know?" Jay asked, morbidly eager to answer any questions he had. Something about this little blond kid was strangely familiar.

"Who?" he said simply.

Nikki began to respond but Fang held up a hand. "You haven't met him yet," he said, looking straight at me. Why was he staring at me? The more I thought about it, he'd only really looked at either Iggy or me. Not the Gasman. Sure, he'd glanced at him, but he didn't look him over like he had done to me and Ig…

"When will we meet him?" I demanded. Ice started flowing through my veins as everything began to sink in. The Gasman—my Gazzy—was going to die before his time. I had to find something—some way to protect him and the rest of the flock. I couldn't let him die. I wouldn't.

"Guys," Fang said quietly, his eyes locked with mine. "Go back to the house. I need to talk to Max."

I watch the Gasman lead Iggy back to the house, followed by Jay, who lead Zak back to the house. (A/N: IRONY. NOW GUESS WHY!!)

Nikki lingered, her face perfectly emotionless, just like who she was staring at. I raised an eyebrow and crossed my arms as the emotionless stare-down commenced.

"I'm going to find Fang," She said, stressing the name of the Fang I was used to.

"Nik," this Fang sighed.

"Don't do anything you shouldn't…or that mom wouldn't do," she muttered and jogged off.

Any predictions????

21. Chapter 21

I hope everyone had an amazing Valentine's day!! I'm officially 18 now :D

Anyways, as a birthday gift from me to you all, here's another chapter!! This is where the plot starts to move a bit…

Oh, and so people QUIT asking me via review or PM (because I've ALREADY addressed this in previous ANs…)







Thank you and please don't spoil it, either.

Chapter 21

I just stared at him patiently, waiting for him to tell me what it was he needed to say.

"His name is Dylan," Fang whispered, no longer able to look at me. "He's an avian hybrid, like us. And you end up having a thing for him."

Shocked, I couldn't stop myself from asking, "And how does that affect you?" Even more shocked, "And the rest of the flock?"

Fang smiled and let out a hard laugh. "I nearly went nuts drowning in my own jealousy. He was apparently made to be your perfect other half and I don't think you could help but fall for him. Even now, when you know this, I think you'll still end up falling for him."

"If he's going to kill the Gasman—" I started fiercely.

"The rest of the flock is going to distrust him completely because of the way I act towards him."

I laughed in annoyance, "Oh, sure. But when I acted cold towards Brigid…" Fang laughed.

"The Gasman hates him the most because of the gap he causes between Me, you, and Iggy."


"Iggy…Iggy gets taken to a facility in the east where they unintentionally fix his eyes," Fang says softly. "You have to let that happen and rescue him without our input or help. We want that to happen so we can't tell you when he gets taken or anything about the rescue."

"Ok," I said slowly, not seeing a connection. "But what does that have to do with the gap Dylan creates?"

"Iggy may be excited now, Max," Fang said sadly, "but he doesn't remember enough."

"Remember enough about what?" I prompted after a few seconds of silence.

"Seeing," he whispered. "He couldn't take it—seeing things, the pain the light caused after years and years in darkness. He shut himself in his room for the longest time, just sitting in the darkness." I was shocked.

"Did no one try to talk—" But Fang cut me off.

"That's where the gap came in." Fang sat down at the base of a tree. My first instinct was to sit next to him, but, even though this was Fang, it wasn't Fang, my Fang. I settled for sitting in front of him, our knees barely touching.

"So he blamed the flock?" I guessed.

"No," he said quickly. "He didn't blame us, he just…we weren't who he wanted to talk to."

"Who did he want to talk to?" I asked, confused. We didn't know many people outside of the flock. This didn't sound at all like Iggy.

"It's late," Fang stated, avoiding my question. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded envelope which he handed to me. I turned it over in my hands and looked up at him curiously.

"No," he said softly, his hands stopping mine from opening it. "Give it to Fang."

"What is it?" I demanded.

"Classic Max," he smiled.

"Isn't this," I said, holding up the envelope, "a bad thing? Won't it negative effect things or something?"

"Nope," he grinned. "I had some time to think before I came here with Nikki and I asked Max—future you—what she would change, what her biggest issue during this time was. She said that she would have found a way to help Iggy." He laughed. My Fang had changed over the years, sure—we all had. But this Fang, future Fang smiled and laughed more. It was…amazing. It made me want to smile and laugh with him. It made me want to run into the house and make my Fang smile and laugh like that.

"But I remembered how much you were dealing with that you didn't let me help you with," he continued, a bit more serious. "And this letter to myself will help you more than you know. It might even stop the gaps that form between everyone."

I smiled and stood up. "You say classic Max, but you…you're so different."

He laughed and got to his feet, running his fingers through his hair. It made me want to do it, too.

"It's the hair," he chuckled.

"Who got you to get it cut?"

"If I told you that," he grinned, "then you'd just go back to younger me and get him to cut it."

"There's always a Plan B," I mumbled, turning towards the house. "Where are you going to stay?" It's not like he could come back into the house after what had happened the first time.

"I think I'm gonna stay out here. Haven't done it in a long time. I kinda miss it, you know?"

"No," I smiled. "I don't know. But if you want, I'll leave the back door unlocked. Go down to the basement, but make sure to lock the door at the bottom of the stairs."

"I don't want to risk anything."

I just nodded and ran back to the house.



"He told me to give this to you," Max said in a whispered as she shut her door as quietly as she could. She held out an envelope as she tiptoed across the room.

"Was it weird?" I mumbled as she climbed into the bed next to me. I sat up and eyed the envelope curiously.

"Oh yeah," she laughed. "It was like two different people."

"Really," I mumbled, barely hearing her now. I pulled out the letter and immediately recognized my own handwriting. At least I knew some things wouldn't change.

There's no other way to inform you of what's happening besides just going in order and giving you directions. You have to trust me. Do not let anyone else read this. Not even Max. She'd kill me if she knew I was even writing this.

Nikki told me that you just got ever the Spanish Influenza. If I'm right, then it's Sunday, right? Well, 10 days from Sunday, Iggy gets kidnapped.

I looked up at Max's worried expression.

"Fang," she said again. She'd probably been calling my name the whole time.

"What day is it?" I asked quickly, looking for her calendar.

"Monday, why?"

I let out a string of curses and continued reading, dodging Max as she tried to grab the letter.

There will be a reason for this, but you need to wait exactly 2 days before you go after him. You need to keep Max from jumping out a window, literally. I can't tell you how you can save him, but you have to. You won't have much time to do so after those 2 days. As for his location, it's the School in California.

They thought that would be the least likely place to check, and for us, it was. It took us those 2 days to find it but it almost cost us a member of the flock.

I stopped to take a breath.

"Fang." Max reached out to me, but I tried to pull away, backing into a corner. I had to finish.

And now, the reason I'm writing you this, the most important thing you have to do, is when you get back from the rescue mission, Ella is going to try to go on a trip to visit some college in California. Max is going to urge her to go, even though Ella doesn't want to leave the flock. I'll be honest; the trip does nothing for her. She doesn't like the school.

Your job is to keep Ella from going. Tell her whatever you need to in order to keep her from going. Tell her future you told you. Whatever. Just keep her there.

Iggy needs her.

DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!!!! Predictions make me :D

22. Chapter 22

So…….I've had a few bad things happen recently. Over all: I read chapter 574 of One Piece. In short: Ace was the whole reason I was even reading this stupid series :(

I STILL HAVE NOT READ FANG. So if any parts are similar, close to, or remind you of something that happens in that book, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW!!!

Chapter 22

P.S. His name is Dylan, he may seem like he should be part of the Flock, but he does some bad things. He's supposedly Max's "perfect other half" though I never saw that in him. But overall, Max falls for him…don't go nuts yet, though. If you want proof as to who Max really loves, or you ever doubt, just look at Nikki. Just don't say anything. Dylan creates a sort of gap between you and Max. Keep that from happening. Both of you will avoid a lot of sleepless nights that way.


"Fang!" My head snapped up as Max's hand came down hard on my shoulder. I ripped up the note into tiny pieces so no one had the chance of reading it.

She looked at the pieces on the floor. "What did it say?" She gestured at the pieces angrily.

There were several things I could have done in a situation like that. Things I should have done, like tell her it was nothing concerning her. I could have told her the truth. I could have even lied, but I knew that wouldn't make the situation any better. No, I picked to do the one thing that would make her angry.

I flicked hair from my eyes and shrugged. "Nothing, really…"


I took her by the hand and led her back to the bed. "Sleep," I commanded.

"Fang—" she started again, more urgently.

I leaned over and knocked her legs out from under her and picked her up, placing her on the mattress like a child, before climbing over her into the bed as well.

"About what the other Fang told me," she started. I listened, wondering what was so important that I—he had to say that I'd—he'd risk the timeline and all that. "Someone is…"

She looked away.

"Dylan?" I guessed. Suddenly her eyes met mine and I knew I'd hit it dead on.

"Is that what the note was about?" she whispered. I shook my head. "Well, Dylan is going to…kill the Gasman and Nikki's brother Sky." My eyes widened and I tried to remember how to breathe.

So not only does this guy Dylan have Max's heart at one point, but he kills the Gasman. And Nikki. She was what older me used to prove Max's relationship with me in the future. Her dark hair and brown eyes, quiet and stubborn attitude. No doubt she was our daughter. And then Sky was her older brother. The chances of him being our son…

"Fang!" Max's voice was close to me, right above me somewhere. "Fang, breathe!"



"Fang!" I said again. He was hyperventilating and deep in thought.

The door opened and I saw Nikki walk in quietly with a glass of water. Fang looked at Nikki and seemed to half-way snap out of it. He sat up and stared at the girl intently.

"What did he tell him?" she demanded, handing Fang the water.

"I don't know," I told her in a rush. "He gave him a note, but he wouldn't let me read it."

"What did he tell you?"

"Just stuff about Dylan," I answered, brushing hair out of Fang's face. "Fang, you have to take deep breaths." He seemed to be calming down slowly, the initial shock of whatever caused this weakening.

"Does Fang," she gestured to the one in the bed, "know about Dylan?"

"Yeah," I nodded.

"Mom is gonna be pissed when she finds out he wrote a note to his past self. In any case, don't worry about what was in the note. Whatever it was he found out, it was probably just reassurance for himself about Dylan. Don't worry about it too much. It's nothing bad," she said easily. "For the rest of the flock, well, let's just say they're expecting something like it."

"What?" Why did people have to be all cryptic like that? Why did they have to say just enough to get you interested, get you curious, and then not tell you anything else? Couldn't they just not say anything at all or tell you everything? All or nothing.

"If he knows what I think he does," she mumbled, "then it's better for me to leave."

As soon as she was gone I turned to Fang, who just sat leaned up again the wall, head tilted back, taking in air like it was about to vanish.

His breathing slowed to nearly a normal pace, he leaned forward and cupped my face in both of his hands.

"You need sleep," I whispered shakily, fighting the urge to back away or even run.

"Stay with me," he said back.

Confused, I lay down with him and muttered, "It's my room."

"That's not what I meant, Max," he whispered, lying on his side so he was facing me. His hair spread across the pillow much like mine—long and sparkling in the moon light. I had a fleeting thought to mention his hair later. "Stay with me. When we meet Dylan—"

"Fang, if you're worried about me falling for him after everything I learned that he's going to do to us I…" I tried to keep my face composed. Seconds, minutes, days, years passed in the silence. His face was betraying him every once in a while. He'd look emotionless one second, angry the next, emotionless, confused, and so on. So many emotions passed that I didn't want to say anything and break the illusion. "What was in the note?" I demanded.

He closed his eyes and sighed. "You know I love you, right?" I knew he loved me—more than a sibling or any other kind of familial love—but it was…nice to hear him say it. "Just trust me and not worry about it."

I groaned and rolled onto my back. "It's easier talking to future you," I said.

"Then go talk to him," he mumbled back. I could see him smirking out of the corner of my eye and it made me slightly angry.

"I should," I grinned, facing him again. "He had the greatest hair."

"It's the same," he chuckled.

"How would you know? You were unconscious on the floor!" After a few seconds of silence, Fang just staring blankly at me, I murmured, "It looked good short, you know," fingering the long, dark strands of hair in the pillow. Again, he said nothing and I began to wonder what he was thinking.

I closed my eyes, believing he wouldn't answer, and tried once more to fall asleep.

"Next Saturday," he whispered. I opened my eyes to see his dark ones blazing with an unidentifiable emotion.


"On Saturday. I'll get my hair cut."

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to," I sighed, closing my eyes. "Do whatever you want."

He sighed heavily and rolled over onto his back. "I hate when girls say that."

I shot up to my elbows, glaring. "And what girls have you been talking to?"

"Just you," he grinned, pulling me down onto his chest where I sighed and, too tired to move, I fell asleep.

23. Chapter 23

I'm going to assume no one is reviewing because they do not want to spoil Fang for me :) I've read some stuff about it because I like to spoil things for me. I HATE it when other people tell me, because when I spoil it for myself I know a.) when to STOP, when knowing too much is too much, and b.) what it is I want to know.

So for now, I won't say anything about what I've read about it for fellow American's who have yet to read anything about it.

Chapter 23


I tried as hard as I could to spend as much time with Max as I could without being annoying. I wanted to get close to her—not push her away. I wanted her to—if the situation ever appeared at all—be able to choose me easily. I didn't want her to think about who should would choose to spend her life with.

I wanted her to know it was me.

I sighed and shut off the shower. I couldn't force her to love me like I loved her. She loved me. I knew that she did. It was just that…she could love someone else, too. That's what worried me the most. She could love me and this Dylan at the same time.

And she could not choose me.

That was always an option.

An involuntary shudder rippled through me as I stepped out of the steamy bathroom and into the hall.

"You okay?"

I turned to see the Gasman looking at me with eyebrows raised. I couldn't tell if it was because I was in a towel or if I had a stupid look on my face.

"Cold," I muttered. Gazzy shrugged and raced down the stairs two at a time and I hurried to put clothes on.

"Max!" I heard the Gasman yell from the backyard.

"Dr. Martinez!" Nudge screamed.

I heard Max race out of her room and down the stairs. Not wasting time, I jerked on my jeans and ran down to the kitchen, hearing everyone run out the back door in there, and saw Nikki, Jay, and Zak standing by the windows next to the door.

"What's going on?" I demanded.

Nikki ran a hand calmly through her hair. "Dylan. He just fell into the backyard."

I ran out onto the back porch to see a boy lying on the ground, huge brown wings visible against the grass. Dr. Martinez was hovering on one side of him while Max was on the other. Nudge, Angel, and the Gasman were standing in front of the stairs to the porch with wide eyes as they watched.

"Gazzy, Angel, Nudge—get inside," I muttered, hoping it sounded like an order rather than a suggestion. Angel nodded knowingly and dragged the other two with her.

Content with that I walked over to kneel down next to Max.

"What's your name?" Max asked sternly, earning a look from her mother.

The boy groaned and sat up, pulling in his wings.

Iggy reached out to help him up but Dylan looked at him, leaned back, and launched himself at Iggy. His fist connected with Iggy's cheek hard causing him to fly backwards. I wasted no time in intercepting a second punch from him. Dylan was lying on his stomach in seconds and I sat on his back, pinning his arms to the ground.

Dr. Martinez jumped in shock, hands flying to her mouth in horror, but Max just watched with curious, angry eyes. I contemplated for a moment who she was angry at—me or Dylan-but chose to believe it was Dylan.

"I know who you are," his deep voice grumbled from beneath me.

"Who sent you here?" I snapped, ignoring him.

"You're Fang," he continued, making me angrier.

"You're Dylan." I didn't move, but I heard Max's sharp intake of breath. "Who sent you?" I demanded again.

"Fang, it was a reflex, you would have done the same thing, too," Iggy mumbled.

"Fang," Max said sternly in her warning tone. She gave me a cold look and I stood up. Iggy held out his hand once more and helped Dylan to his feet.

"Come inside," I heard Dr. Martinez murmur.

I looked at Max, expecting her to protest, but got nothing. I waited until Dr. M shut the back door to explode.


"I can't believe you," I hissed, dangerously calm. She visibly flinched. "You know what he's come here to do, but you still accepted him into the house." Her eyes flashed with anger.

"He's not going to hurt us right now! He's the one that's hurt!" she snapped. "If we watch him carefully then nothing is going to happen!"

I barely noticed Iggy walk around towards the side of the house.

"Yeah?" I countered. "And who's watching him now?"

"My mom!"

I laughed loudly. She took a step away from me, as if I'd gone insane. "Really, Max?" I can't believe how much she wasn't thinking. "And what's your mother going to do against an avian hybrid? If he has the skills to kill Gazzy then your mother would just be a warm-up—"

"Shut up!" she screamed. "Why are you thinking like this?"

"Because you're not!" I screamed back. "What happened to the Max that wanted a background check on anyone who even looked at us weird?"

"You want me to go back to being seriously paranoid? You think I don't want to protect the flock?" She was no longer angry, but…hurt.

"That's not what I meant, Max," I said evenly.

"Then what did you mean?" she asked annoyed. The way she had her arms crossed…that's when it hit me.

I closed the several feet between us in very few paces and had her face in between my hands before she could even blink. "Max, I love you. I've told you that before," I said softly. "It just kills me to know you have information that will keep one of our flock members alive, yet you're choosing to do nothing about it."

"I-I'm not doing nothing, Fang," she stuttered. "There's always a plan."

I kissed her long and hard before backing away slowly towards the back of the yard. "I know you well enough, Maximum Ride, to know that sometimes you just say that to reassure us." I gave a small, quick smile before launching myself off the ground and into the air, heading the opposite direction of the woods in front of the house.

Beore I got too far, though, I heard her scream, "Ever heard 'Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer' Fang?!"

"Yeah," I muttered to myself. "That's exactly what I'm afraid of."



I stopped at the first tree I reached. "Fang," I called out. I listened intently. The flap of birds' wings—not a hybrid—and the gently creaks of the trees bending to the wind. Small animals' frantic jerks in the brush on the ground.

"Iggy," a deep voice acknowledged somewhere to my left. I jumped.

"Jeez," I let out a breath. "Ninja much?"

"Sorry, I'm not used to…anymore…" I waved his apology away.

"I need to know something. How. How does Gazzy…."

"And what do you think you could do about it?" Fang said smoothly. The soft rustle of fabric and the squeak of leather-on-leather—he crossed his arms.

I didn't answer. I didn't know why I wanted to know. I just did. It was one of those things that drove you crazy unless you knew. Sleep had evaded me last night entirely and I knew that if I was stuck awake thinking about it, so was the Gasman. And who knew—maybe I could do something to prevent such a terrible event.

"If I told you, I'm not sure you'd be able to do anything about it."

"It would help."

Fang sighed. "Dylan shoots him."

"There's no way to save—"

"In the head."

I nodded in appreciation. "Thanks. I can't believe Max—"

"She's just infatuated," he said, annoyed. "She'll get over it." I heard a shift in him again. "I have to go. Zak is looking for me."

I laughed. "He's blind, Fang."

"Yeah? Well sometimes I wish he would act like it," he laughed, taking off into the air.

So…why does the US have to wait so long for FANG when it was released in other countries? Shouldn't it have been released here since, I dunno, the AUTHOR LIVES HERE?

24. Chapter 24

We had a winter guard competition yesterday and came in 3rd of 8!!!

Thanks for all the reviews; they are kept in my heart forever ;u;

Chapter 24


I was angry. I was pissed.

I turned on my heel and stormed into the kitchen, unintentionally slamming the door. Gazzy, Nudge, and Angel all looked at me curiously from the kitchen table while my mom and Dylan jumped at the noise.

"Gazzy, upstairs," I said. "Lock your door, don't let anyone in but me."

"Max—" he started, furrowing his brow.


Fang's words kept replaying in my head…you have information that will keep one of our flock members alive, yet you're choosing to do nothing about itsometimes you just say that to reassure us…I would prove him wrong. I would prove to him that I'm the Max that lives in his memories.

What was so wrong about reassuring the flock anyways?

Angel stood and took the Gasman's hand and led him away.

"I'm the big brother, you know," he muttered to her. "I'm supposed to protect you…"

Nudge looked at me carefully then offered a small smile.

"Iggy went out front. Can you go find him for me?" I asked. I turned to mom and was suddenly on the receiving end of the meanest glare I'd ever seen from a non-white coat human.

"Max, you're being rude!" she said angrily.

"No, I'm protecting my flock," I snapped. To Dylan I said, "We know what you're here—"

"I don't know what you're—" Dylan tried to defend himself.

"Don't lie—"

"I'm not ly—"

"I said don't lie to me!" I growled. "I know what you're here for."

"Oh really?" He crossed his arms and leaned smugly against the kitchen sink. "What am I here for then?"

"The Gasman," I said smoothly. Something lit in his eyes and his lip twitched. "It may not be today, or tomorrow, or even this year. But you're here for the Gasman."

He grinned and I grabbed mom's arm. "I think I hear Ella in the driveway," I muttered and she nodded in understanding.

"That's ridiculous. Where did you hear that?" He chuckled.

"Seems I have some friends in the future with interesting talents." The smile vanished.

"How unfortunate," he mumbled, reaching into his pocket. "I wasn't supposed to attack for a long time. Years in fact. But I guess we'll just have to speed up our plans."

Multiple things happened at the same time. I saw Dylan whip out a small hand gun. I heard Angel run down the stairs screaming my name, the Gasman screaming hers right behind her. I saw him pull the trigger. I heard myself scream as a searing pain tore through my left calf, knocking me to the floor.

"B…bastard!" I screamed, pushing myself upright.

"Max!" I heard someone yell. At this point I could only see the blood on the floor. I couldn't tell who it was.

"Stay away! Up and away, guys! Get everyone and get out of here!" I yelled.

Dylan fired again, this time hitting the wall next to the door.

"Go!" I screamed.

A third shot blasted and I felt it hit my right arm. I fell to the floor and tried hard to get up to an upright position to at least defend myself.

There was a sudden crash as the large window over the sink exploded. Something flashed in the space above the sink and I could have sworn I saw Fang standing on the counter, one foot on each side of the sink, glaring down at Dylan. I summed it up to a cross between wishful thinking and shock.

Suddenly, Dylan was flying through the air as if hit. He stumbled backwards and his head hit the refrigerator and he fell, hitting his head on the counter. There was no way he was conscious after that.

Slowly a form appeared in front of the broken window.

"You…didn't have to break…the window," I said, breathing heavy and wincing.

"Max…" He came over and sat on the floor next to me. Everyone seemed to rush in at once. Mom skidded to my side and began to peal the top layer of my shirt off, leaving me in a thin tank top. Fang helped by ripping off the sleeve so it wouldn't jar the wound.

"Whoa," Nudge whispered. I looked at her and followed her eyes to Fang. Who wasn't actually Fang. Well, not my Fang anyways.

"Where's Fang?" I asked him, wincing as mom prodded a wound.

Just as I saw him move to answer, Nudge blurted, "I couldn't find Iggy, Max." You would think that would be something you tell me as soon as you see me, but I assumed it was the shock of seeing an older version of Fang that shocked her for a second.

Suddenly I couldn't feel any pain. Ice ran through my veins. It was the look on Fang's face. It was not a good facial expression.

"What do you mean?" he asked, surprised. "He didn't come back yet?"

Nudge shook her head slowly.

"Damn it," I grunted, pushing my mom's hands away. I tried to stand and everyone in the room protested loudly. But me being me, I ignored them and headed towards the front door, shoving off anyone who got in my way. I would have found it strange that no one was particularly trying to stop me. But when I threw open the front door to see Fang—my Fang—staring at me, I assumed then that they had seen future Fang leave.

"Iggy's gone," I whispered. He blinked slowly before his eyes widened.

I could feel the tears that slowly left my eyes, trailing down my cheeks. They were multi-purpose tears, though. I was crying for Iggy, for what he would go through, and I was crying for the bullets that were still in my arm and leg because it was still a white-hot pain now that I thought about them.

"Max," I heard my mom murmur behind me, placing a hand gently on the shoulder of my good arm.

"Is everyone else alright?" Fang asked me calmly.

Wow. Did he not see the two bullet holes in me?

"Dylan shot her. Twice," Nudge said.

For the first time since I opened the door, Fang's eyes finally left my face and scrutinized my body, finally seeing the blood stains on my clothes.

"How can you even stand?" Fang whispered in horror.

After years and years of getting closer to Fang, I knew what he was going to do. Or rather, wouldn't let me do.

"You're not letting me through, are you," I asked flatly, but completely serious.

"You're impossible," he grunted, quickly leaning over and knocking my legs out from under we and rushing to catch me. I let out an involuntary scream in pain. "Thought so." He kissed my cheek and I so badly wanted to hit something.

My vision blurred in the pain and I felt like I was going to pass out. How could I have stood up during this? Could it have really hurt this bad before? Why did it wait until now to hurt this bad?



I wanted so badly so find Dylan and kill him. I wanted to see him defenseless on the floor and in pain like Max probably had been.

Max grabbed my hand as she lay on the couch, allowing her mom to remove the bullets. Her back and sucking in a breath as Dr. Martinez made an incision to remove the bullet in her leg.

"Max," I said, hovering above her. I dropped her hand and placed my hands on both sides of her face, forcing her to look at me. "Max, pay attention to me, don't look at your mom. I'm here."

"Good," she panted. Dr. M had turned away to clean off the scalpel and exchange it for something that could grip the bullet. "You promised you'd never leave me and I swear if you ever do…" She didn't finish as pain overtook her again.

"You'll what?" I asked, trying to keep her distracted.

"Die," she said.

"Max," I held her chin and looked down at her. "You don't mean that," I whispered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Fang—" She grimaced at the sight of her bloodied arm as Dr. M began to clean it. I turned her face towards me—away from it—and raised my eyebrows.

"Breathe, Max," I said in falsetto, mocking her from the night I'd had a panic attack. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The last bullet was removed.

"You're doing good, Max," Dr. M mumbled, turning away to sterilize a needle. "You'll be okay in no sooner than two days."

Two days.

There will be a reason for this, but you need to wait exactly 2 days before you go after him.

"So, really—" Max started to convert.

"Two days," she said sternly. "I'm serious, Max. You reopen these wounds and it could cause more damage. The one in your leg was so close to a main artery that if you reopen it, you might not make it."

It took us those 2 days to find it but it almost cost us a member of the flock.

So, we really went out looking for him for two days and it nearly cost us Max.


Not this time.

25. Chapter 25

Okay. A LOT has happened to me since the last update. I totaled my car, had a few competitions, and lost a "friend" over texts because of something TOTALLY UNRELATED to her in any way shape or form.

ANYWAYS…I've read FANG now so…I've gone ahead and started writing a PREQUAL TO MISSING. It's called "Searching".

Chapter 25

"Throw him in cell 44," a young male said, handing the clipboard to an older female.

The female scanned the pages of coded data, pushing black curls out of her face, and furrowed her brows. "I think I'm reading this wrong," she muttered.

"You're not," a deep voice stated next to her, startling her. His arms, too thick with muscle for the average scientist, were crossed over his chest and a deep scowl was on his face as he watched his subordinates place the experiment in a room.


"Back when I was an intern, Subject 5 was slated for extermination. That was before him and several other experiments escaped," the first male said.

"Why?" the female asked.

"He's useless. He's blind," the second said.

"Then why keep him in a cell at all?"

"Because, Susan Miller," a voice said from the door. "We've developed a new procedure."

"Oh?" all three questioned in unison.

"And what is that?" the second male asked, smirking. Word of this scientist, Jeb Batchelder, and his amazing failures had gotten around the School.

Jeb reached over and took the clipboard from Susan. "Well, Keith, back when he was here the first time, we attempted to enhance his vision, but ended up frying the optic nerve. Or so we thought. While he was…away, we created computerized eyes. But when he was 14, we had the chance to really observe the damage."

"So it was a mistake, thinking the optic nerve was shot?" the first male asked, eyes narrowed.

"Exactly. What is going to happen in the surgery today is we will replace several parts of the retina and the lens." Jeb handed the clipboard back to Susan.

"And what if you fail?" Keith asked, his deep voice colored with his doubt.

"Well, he's already blind. What else could happen?"



"Sit. Down," Fang said for the seventh time through gritted teeth.

"I have to go—" I tried.

"No," he said slowly and evenly. "You don't. Sit your butt on the couch." I flopped back down onto the sofa with an angry huff and crossed my arms, glaring at the side of Fang's face. He sat slouched next to me, arms crossed over his stomach, feet crossed on the coffee table, staring with a blank face at the TV.

I know what you're thinking. The mighty Maximum Ride is taking orders from someone?

Not quite.

Ok, yeah. I was. But trust me when I say I hated every single minute of it. And I didn't fail to let it show.

"I hate you," I grumbled, still glaring.

"No you don't," he said quietly.

"How can you just sit here while Iggy is missing?" I shouted, leaning forward in an attempt to look at him straight-on. "He could be being tortured right now."

"Max," he said. One syllable, my name, hitting me like ice. That tone…he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye, but didn't flinch. Damn.

"How could you throw a member of the flock to the sharks like this?" I yelled.

His mouth twitched down into a frown.


"You don't—"

"No," Fang yelled just as loud as I had. "You don't know what will happen if I let you go."

"Oh, and you do?" I asked, lowering my voice a little so we wouldn't scare the kids.

"I do," he whispered, turning back to the TV, his tone surprising me. Wordlessly, he reached out and took my hand, our fingers intertwining and lying between us on the couch. "Just one more day, okay. Just hold out for one more day."

I leaned back into the couch. "It was in the letter?" I guessed. "From the older you?"

He didn't say anything. That was all the reply I needed. I squeezed his hand and sighed.

"We'll leave tomorrow night. Promise."

I nodded in response and slid closer to him.


The sound of scraping metal jerked Iggy into sudden consciousness, greeted by familiar darkness. He could hear two sets of footsteps, but three different breathing patterns. Two of the three people approached him, each step making him tenser. When he felt hands on him he began to kick and scream. Even from down the hall he could hear them. He knew what they were going to try.

Iggy knew the chances of his survival.

"No!" he yelled, his voice already hoarse.

"We're doing you a favor, kid," a deep voice grunted.

"Let me go!"

"Sedate him," an authoritative voice commanded from the doorway.

"No!" Iggy struggled harder, but the inevitable prick turned his veins to ice. There was no escape. He knew his only escape was miles away, probably at home still, coming up with a plan. Maybe.



I lifted my head gently off the pillow and looked at Fang, making sure he was really asleep. The peaceful look on his face, the long shadows the moon created on his face…I almost wanted to make him come If I knew he wouldn't protest my going at all, that is.

True, Fang had promised we'd go after Iggy tonight, but that was over 12 hours away. Too. Much. Time. And it's not like Fang's promises were actually worth anything, considering the biggest promise he'd made to me, the one that had meant the most to me, was that he'd never leave me.

Yeah. We all know how that went.

I slid out of the bed, thankful I didn't weigh enough to seriously shake the mattress. Pausing to make sure Fang didn't wake I turned toward the window and simultaneously opened this window, while leaning down the grab my shoes; I'd put them on outside and a ways away from the house. But when I straightened up and had one foot out the window, a hand clamped down on my wrist and jerked me back inside. I whipped my head around to see who had me, but no one was there.

Sorry it's so short. I'm going to need suggestions for what happens to Iggy since I know a few of my readers are huge fans. So tell me what you'd like to see happen and I'll see what I can do. :D

Also, I've gone ahead and started writing a PREQUAL TO MISSING. It's called "Searching". You DO NOT have to read it for Missing to make sense since Missing was written FIRST. Searching is just the stuff between FANG and what happens in this fanfic.

26. Chapter 26

LMAO Ok. So. Those who want to kill me, please raise your hand :D

So, I know it's been forever, but I've had a lot going on. High School graduation, end of school, work etc etc.

Anyways, none of that's important. What IS important is my regained interest in writing this story again for a little while!

"I'm a horse!"

Chapter 26

He didn't say anything, but he had a seriously angry look on his face. Fang was usually expressionless, all his emotions swimming in his dark eyes. Occasionally a bit of expression would leak into his features. Well….let's just say the levees broke on this one. I averted my eyes and ripped my arm out of his grasp, pulling the rest of my body into the house.

"Just let me go, Fang."

"You promised," he ground out. His voice sent chills down my spine, but I ignored the fear and focused on the anger.

"Oh, yeah, you're a promise pro!" I snapped.

"Max," Fang started in a warning tone. "It's been four years—"

"And I still haven't forgiven you for leaving me."

"I know," he said, hurt tinting his voice though his expression stayed angry. "But that doesn't make this okay. Leaving to go find Iggy and almost dying isn't going to help anything."

Sudden light temporarily blinded me and I turned towards the door, blinking furiously, to see Ella standing in the doorway.

"What's going on in here?" she asked with a yawn. I threw my shoes to the floor and stomped out of the room, towing Ella behind me.

"Max—" I slammed the door to my room before Fang could say anything else. I knew he would leave me alone now—he got what he wanted.

I led Ella back to her room and stole an extra pillow off her bed.

"Were you guys arguing?" Ella asked, turning out the light as I settled on the floor.

"Doesn't matter," I grumbled.

There was a pause and I thought that that was the end of it, but Ella threw an extra blanket at me and said, "That was years ago, Max."

Yeah. I know. And the fact that part of me deep down still expected him to leave scared me.

A lot.



"Why is Max sleeping on the floor in Ella's room?" Nudge asked, coming to sit at the table with the Gasman and I.

"She's mad at Fang, I'm guessing," Gazzy said around a mouthful of Dr. M's eggs.

I could feel everyone's eyes on me, but I focused on my eggs like I hadn't heard them. I didn't do anything wrong. If anything, I did the right thing whether Max would admit it or not. She could get as mad as she wanted.

"Why would that make Max sleep in Ella's room?" Dr. M asked from the stove.

Ella walked in a surveyed the scene. "Mom. Really? Fang has been sleeping in Max's room for weeks."

I stood up abruptly in an attempt to flee and avoid this inevitable discussion.

"Sit," Dr. M commanded, pointing her spatula at me with narrowed eyes.

Ella laughed and grabbed a plate. "Mom doesn't like kanoodling in her house."

"No," she disagreed, turning back to her pan. "I don't like not knowing about the kanoodling going on in my house."

"We're not doing anything," I pressed, making Gazzy burst into hysterics, which was not helping at all. "Well, I'm not. Max tried to sneak out last night."

"Shouldn't you be getting ready to go, then? Max is just itching to go."

"'Itching' or 'Bit—" Gazzy began before Nudge kicked him in the shin. Hard. "Sorry."

I nodded. Naturally, I was packed and ready to go already. "Let Max sleep as long as she wants, but get ready quietly. I'll pack for Max. Someone wake up Angel," I ordered.

"When are you leaving?" Nudge asked Ella.

I'd almost forgotten.

"Tonight," she responded with a grin.

Wordlessly, I reached out and grabbed her wrist and dragged her down the hall to the bathroom.

"No kanoodling!" I heard Nudge say as we left.

I rolled my eyes and proceeded to turn on the faucet and shower.

"Fang?" Ella watched me curiously.

"You can't go, Ella," I said and slid down the wall and sat on the floor, resting my elbows on my knees. I ran my hands through my hair and sighed. I promised Max I'd get it cut…

Ella knelt down in front of me.

"Old Fang wrote me a letter. Told me a lot of things."

"Things you can't tell Max."

"Or any of the flock," I nodded. "Though with Angel…Well, I knew Iggy would be kidnapped. He told me where they took him and—"

"If you know where he is then go get him!" she said angrily.

I shook my head slowly. "The letter told me to wait two days. If we didn't wait, we would have lost a flock member."

"Max's gunshot wounds?" Ella gasped. I shrugged. We could only assume at this point. "So why didn't you leave Max here and go rescue Iggy? He could be suffering! He could—"

"He'll get his sight back." As expected, that left her speechless. A small smile grew on her face.

"You're sure?" She leaned toward me on her knees. "But…what does this have to do with me?"

"Iggy needs you."


"For the sanity of the flock. Just…" I hated to ask her to do this, to depend on her. But I had no choice. There was no one I could tell all this to. "You don't end up going to that college. At least, that's what older me wrote."

She nodded slowly and stood up. "What else did older Fang tell you?" I wasn't sure what else I could tell her. "Come on, tell me! You're practically my brother-in-law."

My jaw nearly dropped and she smirked.

I narrowed my eyes. "Everything that is said in here must remain in here. If anyone else knows any of this, well, I'm not exactly sure what could happen." She nodded and I stood up. "Nikki is your niece."

Her jaw dropped this time and I smirked, leaving her alone in the bathroom. I dashed up the stairs, narrowly avoiding a collision with Angel on my way, who was carrying her things to the front door. Ella's bedroom door was open a little and I stuck my head in to see Max still asleep on the floor.

After a quick argument in my head on whether or not I should let her sleep, I figured I ought to wake her up. It wasn't worth her getting angrier at me if I let her sleep when we could be getting Iggy back.

"Max." I knelt down next to her makeshift bed on the floor and brushed her hair out of her eyes.

She sat up right and looked away from me, no doubt planning on ignoring me.

"How're you feeling?"

She watch Nudge pass the door, a bag on her back.

"Great," she stretched, eying me with suspicion.

"Ready to go?"

Anyone heard of the Living Arts College?


27. Chapter 27

Okay. Two things.

Toy Story 3?


Andy is HOT, gaiz! Like, HOOOOT. I know he's a CG character, but I'm gonna work for Pixar one day and I'm going to make an animated short about Andy :D



A little.


Okay, not really.

But, I'm sorry this chapter is so short. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and writing it. I got all of this done and went to bed cause it was 2 AM. Well—and I knew my parents were planning this, I just thought they'd TELL me when they were going to do it—but they put one of my dogs to sleep this morning before I woke up. My little sister is at work right now and doesn't know she's gone yet, but even though this is the second dog we've lost, it's never easy and I haven't wanted to be at home much today.

Whoever said having 7 dogs was "cool" is a loser. Now I have 6 dogs…


Chapter 27

Iggy hadn't slept in what felt like days. After he had woken up, a headache hit him like the force of a brick wall. His hands, shakily, lifted to his face and explored the unfamiliar planes. Instead of smooth skin and hair, instead his fingers collided with medical tape.

Now, he sat, dejectedly, in the corner of his cell. If he slept, the white coats would sneak up on him. He was sure of it. So instead, he braced himself in the corner for the inevitable.

Sure enough, some time later an eraser came in to drag him away for experimentation. Iggy had discovered that they had stuck him in a room—though it still felt like a cell—and that the door was nearly inaudible. What alerted him to white coats coming was the painful brightness that seared his eyelids, even behind the medical tape.

"This should be fun," the male muttered, approaching Iggy.

Iggy had had enough. If I'm going out, he thought, I'll go out fighting. So with the last bits of strength, he sprung up and punched blindly. His fist connected on the first punch, but the second one is when he had heard a loud crack.

"Bad move, Birdy," another voice sneered.

Next thing Iggy knew, he was on his back, a heavy body sitting on top of his chest. The eraser that had pinned Iggy to the cell floor pulled out a scalpel. The scientist saw the metal glint in the sliver of light from the hallway.

"Hey, we weren't ordered to harm him," he barked, throwing up a hand as if he could stop the hybrid beast.

"Shut up," the eraser barked.

"Get off!" Iggy shouted the same time the scientist said, "You're only hurting—"

"Try and stop me," he mumbled, placing the tip of the scalpel on Iggy's cheek.

Iggy thrashed as much as he could beneath the eraser's weight, but the eraser had him pinned. Iggy braced himself for the pain, but still screamed as the blade cut into his flesh. It was like fire, like electricity. It was like hell. The erase pushed the scalpel deeper and deeper until the point jabbed Iggy's tongue. He tried to hold perfectly still, but the pain made his back arch, his arms twitch.

Laughing, the eraser slowly began to drag the scalpel diagonally across Iggy's cheek, pulling the blade out of his mouth quickly when it neared his chin, just near his lips. The pain of that action was like an extremely painful Band-Aid being ripped off.

Iggy could taste the blood in his mouth, but the screaming didn't stop. The pain was excruciating. Broken bones couldn't compare. The only escape from the pain he found was unconsciousness.




Awesome. The last person I wanted to see at the moment was the first person I saw when I woke up. I sat up straight and looked at the clock to avoid looking at him. It wasn't really morning anymore. It was a little past noon. Just a few more hours.

I was stopped mid-sigh when I glanced out the door to see Nudge walk by with a backpack.

"How're you feeling?"

I stretched to check. That way if anything hurt, hiding it would be easy. "Great," I responded, only feeling a small bit of pain as the skin surrounding the bullet wounds stretched painfully over them.

That's when Fang said the one thing that reminded me of how much I could love him sometimes.

"Ready to go?"

I looked at him evenly, a blank expression on both our faces.

"It's a stare down!" Gazzy yelled as he ran past the door.

"We have several hours still," I reminded him before I could stop myself. You know, sometimes I wonder why I open my mouth at all. Here I was, dying to get out and rescue Iggy, attempting to sneak out for the past 2 days, telling Fang we had hours left. I wanted to leave now.

But then again, Fang knew this. Reason number 2 I loved Fang sometimes.

"Well, you have several minutes. The rest of us are ready to go. Get dressed and meet us down by the front door," he ordered, standing up and walking out of the room.

My jaw dropped. "Since when do you give me orders?" I yelled to him, ripping off clothes as I ran down the hall to my room.

"Whoa, Max," Ella laughed. "Do that behind closed doors!"

"Or in Fang's room!" Nudge giggled.

I slammed the bedroom door to hide my red face from them.


An hour later, the flock was still in the air, flying madly to where Iggy was being held.

"How much longer?" I called down to Fang, who was flying beneath me.

"Not very," he called back.

"It's that building there," Jay yelled from my left.

I nodded and angled my wings downward, lading the flock toward hell.

VOTE: Should Iggy really get his eyesight back? Or something else?

28. Chapter 28

So, 123-Cat-Cat-321's review made me crack up the most. I still have it saved in my iTouch. I read it for the first time and ran into my sister's room and read it to her. Most entertaining review.

Anyways, sorry for the delay. Work and classes for college…etc. I am officially signed up for the Simulation and Game Development major. Unfortunately, so is the guy who is dating my ex-bff and his two whipped bitches—I mean, his best friends.

I got one of my text books and was flipping through it, looking for MapleStory or Flyff, or Luna, or Final Fantasy, but instead, I saw "Red vs Blue". Like, LEGIT Red vs Blue! I was freaking the hell out. The YouTube thing was in my textbook.

I hope they feel accomplished!

Chapter 28

Iggy lay on the floor in pain when he woke up. He was afraid to move. Breathing was even such a task. But concentrating on breathing kept him from thinking about anything else.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. In, then out. In, out.

If he weren't in such a deadly situation, he was sure he would have said something about how dirty that thought was.

With a deep breath, he lifted his hand, vaguely aware of the aches that ran up and down the entire length of it, and barely brushed his cheek. Light as a feather, his fingers tickled the skin until he found what he was looking for. Sure enough, the stitches grazed the skin on his fingers and he laughed bitterly.

He was alive. The white coats wanted him alive, for whatever screwed up reason they had.

He just hoped his family wanted him alive, too…



Fang's eyes flitted over to me as we entered the eerily quiet building. "I'm fine," I ground out under my breath. Something was itching in the back of my mind.

Not literally….

Fang rolled his eyes and let out a breath. "I don't think he's here," he said.

"I don't think anyone's here," Angel muttered, glaring at the walls.

"But Jay said that—"

"Things change," Zak whispered.

"Your future isn't set in stone. A small adjustment could have major, unrelated consequences," Nikki agreed, glancing at Fang who stood next to her, a perfect poker face in place. "Balance of the universe and all that."

I glanced around a corner. "You're sure no one's here?" I asked Angel, who nodded. I rubbed my eyes "We need to find out where they are now."

No one said anything for a few minutes, no one wanting to believe that this time, we may not actually find Iggy in time. Then Nudge spoke up, her voice uncharacteristically soft. "Find a computer."

"Why?" Zak and Jay asked in unison.

I walked down the hall, backtracking to a door I'd seen when we'd come in labeled "Office".

"Nudge is good with computers," Gazzy mumbled, trying to door knob.

Of course it was locked. Fang pushed us aside, raised a boot-clad foot, and kicked the door once; we were in. I gave him a quick, grateful smile and led Nudge to a computer. She did her thing as everyone watched.

"This was last accessed on…" Nudge opened a few windows and then leaned back in her chair with an air of accomplishment. "This was last accessed fourteen and a half hours ago. Now," she stood up and laid her hand on the monitor. "The lady who sat here. Her name is…Miller. Susan Miller."

"Can you tell if she had anything to do with Iggy?" I asked hopefully.

"Maybe she has a file about where they went," the Gasman added.

Nudge's forehead creased in concentration. "She was involved with Iggy," she muttered. "But she doesn't say where she took him."

"Does she say where they moved this place to?" Angel questioned, looking around the office. Boxes were sitting in the corners, some half full of files. "They seem to be moving."

"They are." Nudge withdrew her hand from the computer.

"Well?" Nikki prompted.

"They're a few hours away by car. In the mountains."

"Alright, thanks Nudge," I grinned. "Gazzy." The Gasman looked up at me questioningly. "Blow it up."

His eyes grew huge.

"All of it?"

"All of it. I don't want them to be able to salvage this place," I said, heading out.

It was an hour of our fastest flying—well, for the rest of the flock at least—before Angel and Nudge started pointing out roads and buildings near our destination. We lowered to the ground in a field not far from the place Nudge said they had moved Iggy to.

"That's definitely it," Angel nodded as we made our way through the thick brush of the woods located behind the building.


From what Iggy knew, security was thinned due to the move. They had had him sedated for a long time so that there would be no attempts at an escape. If his family was going to save him, he knew it would have to be now.

The move was temporary—Iggy had set off a bomb in a test area and the building had become unstable. With the right mixture of chemicals, it would blow at any minute. An emergency evacuation had been executed.

Though, of all the things Iggy knew, the one thing that was killing him inside was that he couldn't get out alone. He was relying so heavily on his family that each day his hope and faith in them was being forcibly stripped down thinner and thinner.

His cheek was white-hot with pain and a migraine pounded in his ears. If the flock didn't find him soon, he knew he wouldn't—couldn't survive without them. But even through all this, he couldn't help thinking about everything.

Ella. Her name was like a pain reliever for Iggy. Just the echo of her voice in his head, the way she said his name, the way she laughed. Everything. It took his mind away from the pain. And that was good, even if it was only for a few seconds. Thinking of Ella, he knew he wanted to see her. Not just hear her, but see her. Especially if she was as pretty as Gazzy had described.

But first things first. Escape?

Not so easy when you're blind.



I held out my arm to stop further movements. Something was bugging me. I turned to the three kids. "Any of you know how to drive? I mean, if you're our friends in the future, laws don't exactly apply to you, do they?"

Zak burst out laughing. "Don't let Nikki drive. She's terrible."

Nikki rolled her eyes. "Zak, the Gasman, and I will go hotwire a car and get it to that post office down the street. We'll be there when you get Iggy out of there. Fang can drive home. We all know Fang has permanent road rage," she said, muttering the last part to her friends. And if I hadn't known every single detail about Fang, I would have missed the fact that he tensed a little at the comment.

"Why Zak and Gazzy?" I asked.

"The pyros. I have no idea how to hotwire a car!"

"I know how to do it," Zak said. "I just need someone to give me the right color wires."

"Good," Fang said, his voice a little more strained than usual. "Gazzy is staying with us—just in case. I highly doubt Iggy is in any condition to be helping us escape." I winced. No condition? Did Fang expect him to be a cripple? "We're going to need Gazzy, Nudge, and Angel."

"I'm going," I muttered. "And Fang is. That's a given."

"Right," Fang agreed, pulling his black knit hat further down over his ears, his hair curling out beneath the bottom. "So just you two go get the car. We'll send someone if we need more help."

"Let's go," I ordered and we all split.

Two things:

I am still debating Iggy's eyesight. Cat's review makes me want him to have, but someone else reminded me there would be no more blind jokes. I mean, but there IS Zak's blindness….but once he's gone, who KNOWS how long it'll be before he shows up in the story again ….

Two, I wrote my first oneshot in a LOOOONG time. It's an Avatar: The Last Airbender one-shot in which the new avatar talks to the previous Avatar, Aang much like Aang did with Roku. It's in honor of my NEW FIRE NATION SUKI COSPLAY I MADE :D

29. Chapter 29

I got some interesting reviews. I'm sorry to the one reviewer who isn't a fan of Eggy, but I am so…sorry. Please don't hate me.

ALSO, I get these mixed up all the time, but JAY is blind, NOT Zak. Jay life Jeff. Jay = blind. I'll get it right from now on. Promise.

And I went to work today and I was like, "So, Brett. Did you hear I'm in one of your Game Design classes?" and he was like "Yeah. Josh called me crying about it."

He was crying cuz he was like "She's GOOD at it! She'll make us look bad!"

My skillz made a hot guy cry.

I don't know whether to be PROUD or Depressed over my taste in guys…..

Chapter 29

Breaking someone out of the school was always easier said than done. Not without someone getting hurt. But we planned on being over-careful this time. No one else would be caught. We really needed to stay away from this place. I'm pretty sure it's no good for our health.

"We're gonna need a plan," Fang murmured over my shoulder.

I peeked around a corner and turned to Angel. "Are there any guards that you could convince to bring Iggy to an escapable area?"

Angel just stared at me for a second. "Yeah, but once we find Iggy we'll have about 45 seconds to get in the car and disappear or we'll get caught."

I nodded and we followed Angel down the hall and stopped in front of a door. She went in and returned with a hypnotized white coat. "Go down that hall and into room 211. There will be a long window. Open it—don't break it. I'll go with this guy to get Iggy so that Iggy doesn't freak out."

"Got it." We went into the room and Fang busied himself with opening the window. "Nudge, make sure that there are no alarms attached to that window before he opens it. Gazzy, you got a bomb ready?"


"Good. When she brings Iggy in, Jay, I want you to knock out the white coat. Fang and I are going to get Iggy to the car. Nudge, when you've made sure there are no alarms, go to the car, and make sure Nikki has it ready to go."

A minute later the window was open wide and Nudge was gone. "Almost," I muttered to myself. "Where is Angel?"

"Right here," I heard Angel call softly down the hall. Angel and Iggy, led by the white coat, walked through the door. Iggy looked terrible. He was being supported heavily by Angel, ho was nearly half his size. Fang and I quickly took him from her and headed for the window. Just like we'd planned, Jay knocked out the white coat while Fang and I jumped out the window with Iggy. Jay was right behind us and I glanced over my shoulder to make sure Gazzy got out, too.

"Damn, Iggy," I breathed, examining the bandages around his eyes and on his cheek. We quickly arrived at the car Nikki and Zak has hotwired—a large van. It was the sketchy kind that your parents warn you about where the drivers often lie about having candy in the car. Nikki jumped out of the car while Zak pushed open the back doors of the van. Nikki took Iggy from Fang and helped me get him in while Fang jumped into the driver's seat.

Iggy had his hands over his face, which was a grimace of pain behind his fingers.

"Fang," I muttered. "Give me your hat."

His eyes flicked upwards and then he wordlessly tossed his hat back to me.

I nodded thanks and turned back to Iggy.

"Here, Ig," I murmured, pulling the black beanie gently down over his eyes, careful to be sensitive to the bandaged areas.

I surveyed the rest of the flock. The Gasman and Angel were sleeping on the floor in a corner, leaning on one another. Nudge was falling asleep not far from them. Nikki was sitting right behind the passenger seat. Jay was sitting next to Iggy, Zak on Jay's other side. Iggy was pressed against the back of the van.

"We'll be home soon, Iggy," I whispered. "Just hang on till then. You're safe."

I patted his shoulder and climbed over everyone to get to the passenger seat next to Fang. "Any possibility you can make the entire van invisible? I don't want anyone who may be following us to know where we're going or where we live." He glanced up from the road.

"I can help," Nikki offered, leaning over to the front seat.

"You have to drive, though," he mumbled, sounding skeptical but pulling over nonetheless.

We switched seats and as soon as we were going, Fang gripped the arm rests while Nikki placed her hands on the floor of the van. Both disappeared. I assumed it worked since no one noticed when we ran through lights. Especially that cop I just passed…

"Can you make it until we get home?" I asked. When I got no answer I sped up. A lot.

"Don't get us killed," I heard Fang barely whisper.

"Didn't plan on it," I responded, trying to make a safe s\turn without scrambling the birdies in the back.

"How much longer?" I heard Nikki ask from behind Fang.

"Few hours."

"I've never held it for this long before," Fang mumbled. "But I am never telling you theories about my powers anymore."

It was silent as we pulled into the driveway later that night…er….morning. I pulled the van down the long driveway and parked it as close to the back of the house that I could—right in front of the back porch.

"Ok," I said loudly, waking everyone up. "Fang, Nikki, you guys can stop. Gazzy, help me get Iggy up to his room. Nudge, get the doors on the way.

"I'll go make sure older Fang isn't in the house," Nikki slurred.

Everyone began moving at once, creating a chaos. As soon as we got inside, Iggy began screaming about the lights. Well, whoever had been asleep wasn't now.

"Jay, turn out all the lights!" I commanded over him. We got Iggy to his room with little trouble and I pulled one of Fang's black sheets from the hall closet and draped it across his curtained windows, making as dark in the room as possible.

"What's going on in—" I whipped around and stopped my half asleep mother from turning on the lights.

"Iggy can't take the light right now," I whispered, shooing everyone but Gazzy—who was mumbling back and forth with Iggy on his bed—out of the room.

"What happened to Iggy?" Ella asked, slightly panicked.

Wait a minute. "Aren't you supposed to be in California visiting a college?"

She averted her eyes. "I changed my mind. I wasn't sure if you'd need my help. Fang mentioned that you might…"

Fang. Of course. "I'll talk to you guys about this in the morning," I yawned. "Alright guys…" I was going to tell the flock to go to bed, but only saw doors shut, Jay and Zak heading down the stairs, and lights being turned out.

I pushed open Fang's bedroom door, but the room was empty. I searched the rooms downstairs but didn't find him.

"Where's Nikki?" I asked Jay and Zak, who were getting comfortable in the living room.

"She passed out as soon as she got in the house," Jay responded.

"Older Fang took her out the front door. He told us to tell you younger Fang is still in the car."

"Thanks," I muttered, turning on my heel and rushing to the van to see Fang still sitting upright in the passenger seat, his eyes closed. I quickly felt for a pulse and brushed his hair out of his face when I found it.

"I swear to God that if you don't wake up I'm going to shave your head," I whispered in a panic.

No good.


30. Chapter 30


They found a dead body 100 yards from where I work! Google "Adams Farm dead body" if you care. The scare kept people away from the pool so I didn't have to work for 4 days straight. My paycheck was not a happy camper.

Sorry it took so long. School starts next week so work has been demanding attention. I should be able to write DURING work now, so expect regular updates as soon as I get a routine down.

Chapter 30

To say I was freaking out would definitely be an understatement. I didn't know what to do. So I rechecked his vitals. He was breathing regularly. Pulse was normal. I placed my hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat even though I'd already checked his pulse. Normal. Everything was normal, yet something was wrong. He wasn't waking up.

"Fang," I murmured, climbing up onto the edge of the van to unbuckle his seatbelt. "Come on. You gotta wake up. You can't sleep in the car. And no way in hell am I going to be able to carry your fat ass into the house."

I took a deep breath. Okay. We need Rational Thinking Max. He'd said he'd never held his power for that long before. And Nikki had been exhausted. Fang had to be exhausted, too.

"If you don't wake up," I said, poking his cheek, "I'll be forced to drag your body through the house topless." Here, piggy, piggy. Come on. Wake up now. I punched him in the arm.

When my fist connected with his arm, he reacted finally, hissing in pain and glaring at me. Fang was finally awake. I didn't know whether to call him a sexist pig or a wuss. Either way, I was definitely relieved.

"Let's go inside," I grunted pulling him out of the car. It wasn't until his eyes started to droop that I fully understood the extent of his exhaustion. "Yo! No way!" I pulled Fang towards the door and entered the kitchen. "Stay awake until we get upstairs."

"Tired," he mumbled, pushing himself towards the stairs.

"Okay, well, work with me and I can drag your unconscious body to your bed. Just make it up the stairs."

Fang, being the trooper he and the rest of the flock are, made it up the stairs but tripped a few times. I headed for my bedroom, but Fang tugged me towards his as I carried him past it.

"Closer," he breathed.

"But my mom doesn't—"

"She knows."

Oh snap.

My mom knew Fang and I have been sleeping in the same room? In the same bed? This had the potential for ending badly, nevertheless I took him to his room, shut the door, and helped him into his bed, pulling off his boots and kicking my own off before climbing in next to him.

His dark eyes opened and locked with mine. "Don't ever," he sighed, giving up and closing his eyes.

"Don't ever…?"

"Make me do that again."


I woke up some time later to the light coming in the room too brightly. Fang's arms were wrapped tightly around my waist. He was still asleep. Carefully, I freed myself from his grip and headed towards the door, stretching. Seeing the door wide open when I remembered shutting—even locking it—I knew immediately something funny was going on. When I found out the instigator they were not going to be laughing.

I stepped out into the hall and noticed that only Iggy's door was shut. Everyone else must have woken up already.

How late was it? I wondered, ambling slowly into the kitchen, still a bit tired.

"It's a little past noon," Angel answered my silent question.

"Where's everyone else?" I asked, seeing Angel sitting at the kitchen table working a puzzle and Nudge at the sink cleaning dishes.

"Gazzy is in the living room with Jay and Zak," Angel replied.

"Dr. M went out with Ella to get stuff for Iggy," Nudge mumbled.

I furrowed my brow. "What kinds of things?"

"We're running out of gauze. Dark sunglasses, something thick to put over the windows—those thin lace curtains don't do anything really."

"Oh," came my reply.

Angel looked up at me and smiled. "We're fine, Max. Relax. You don't have to take care of us 24/7 when we're in the house."

Nudge shot a grin over her shoulder. "At least wait for us to go outside."

I couldn't help but wince. That's all Iggy had done—gone outside.

"Too soon?" She muttered, turning back to her cleaning.

I shook my head even though I couldn't help the smile that played on my lips. "Oh, and Nudge. Control that lock-picking of yours. Or you never know what could happen," I threatened playfully. Even if she had unlocked the door, I was pretty sure that it wasn't her idea.

"Hey," she called, throwing her hands and soapy bubbles in the air. "Not my idea!"

"Gazzy's idea," Angel tattled.

Spinning on my heel I headed for the living room.

"Gazzy!" I called, pulling the doors open. Immediately he jumped up in a defensive position and backed himself into a corner.

"Whoa! Wait a second!" he grinned. "It was for your own good!"

"But not yours," I grabbed him and threw him over my shoulder easily. I stopped moving when I saw Fang on the couch. "Should you be in here? I mean, what if the other Fang wakes up and comes downstairs?"

He glanced at his watch. "I have another 6 to 8 hours."

I just stared at him with my I-am-not-amused face.

"For real?" the Gasman laughed. "Dang."

"Nikki isn't awake yet, either," Zak motioned to the unconscious girl lying beside Fang.

"Well, just be careful," I mumbled, taking the Gasman through the kitchen. Mom would never allow fighting in the house.

"Max!" he cried. "What are you doing?"

Angel and Nudge laughed and followed us.

"We haven't sparred with each other in ages," I said, throwing him to the ground, but before he could hit the grass, he twisted so he could land on his hands, his legs wrapping around my waist. Not expecting him to have done that, he caught me off guard and with a jerk of his body, I was lying on the ground at his feet.

"Nice one," I laughed, standing up. "Don't expect it to happen again."

Any suggestions or predictions?

And yes, there will be some Eggy next chapter :D

Sorry, I'm not much of a Niggy fan.

31. Chapter 31

Haven't updated in a while!

COLLEGE STARTED AND I MADE THE ARIA WINTERGUARD IN NORTH CAROLINA (for people who know what winterguard is and CWEA and WGI and compete in DAYTON OHIO)

I have lots of excuses: Other obsessions have arisen. BLAME NETFLIX FOR THE WII. I got REALLY into (in order) Generator Rex, Supernatural started again, Orphen, Kaze no Stigma, Ben 10, Ouran Host Club (again), Soul Eater, Ben 10, Generator Rex, and MOAR GENERATOR REX :D And Soul Eater. My new favorite anime lessthanthree.

Anyways, thanks for being patient, here's a longish chapter. Won't take so long next time.

Chapter 31

Nudge, Angel, Gazzy, and I continually traded places with one another and practiced until Jay, Zak, Older Fang, and Nikki came outside.

"Nice to see you vertical," Nudge said to Nikki, laughing at her disheveled look.

"I know. Look like crap," she mumbled, yawning.

"Come to join us?" I asked them. I wondered if this Fang's fighting style had gotten better or worse. Unlikely it'd be the same, but there was only one way to find out.

I stood in front of Fang, fists clenching and unclenching in anticipation. Behind me I heard Nudge and the Gasman exchanging bets. Fang's eyes flicked over his shoulder and he smirked.

"What are you smiling about, old man?" I teased.

"Don't get too confident, Max. I'm not that old," he said quietly. "Who knows, maybe I can kick your ass in the future."

"Or not," I replied, leaping forward. Fang met my fist with incredible speed. His arm flew up and caught my wrist, jerking me to the side with ease.

Though, I'm not always that easy to knock down. I rebounded with a flip in the air, landing on my knees instead of my back; still painful, yet easier to recover from. I jumped up and ran at him again, throwing punches and kicks lower this time. He seemed to have a hard time defending so low, but resolved that issue by disappearing.

"Crap," I muttered, scowling when I heard him chuckle. I whipped around and kicked at the ground, sending dirt and grass flying through the air. Just as she had assumed, the dirt stuck to him and since he had turned invisible before it touched him, it remained visible in the air.

"Nice," Fang exhaled, returning to the land of the visible. "Where'd you come up with that?"

"Ah," I smiled. "So I've never used that on you before? Good to know."

"Maybe we should stop before we change something else," Fang frowned.

"What?" I threw another punch at him. "Chicken? You just know I can still kick your ass, no matter what timeline you're from."

He caught my wrists midair.

"No, I just don't want to affect things too much. I'm more or less content with the way things are right now."

Nikki burst out laughing. "Sure you are! You're as happy as I am, Mr. D'Nial."

I tried to jerk out of his grasp, but he didn't even budge a bit. Our fight ended there as my mom came out the back door and saw the state I had put the grass is.

"Max!" she gasped. "Everyone inside. Now."

Wordlessly Fang lifted Nikki off the ground and jumped into the air, taking off into the forest. I watched Jay and Zak take off after him.

"Chickens," I muttered.

"Max!" Mom snapped.

"It's just a little hole in the yard," I sighed when Mom and I were alone in the kitchen. "I'll fill it back up. I mean, you told us to fight outside."

"I told you not to fight in the house." Same thing. She ran her hands through her hair looking tired. I suddenly felt bad for being so inconsiderate. Here she was, a single mother taking on 6 needy bird kids in addition to the daughter she already had, and we were only causing her problems.

"But that's not the point," she snapped suddenly, pointing a finger at me. "You were shot not but three days ago—"

"But—" I tried to argue.

"—and even with accelerated healing there's no way you're at 100 percent yet!"

"I'm good enough," I said firmly. "Anyways, have you taken a look at Iggy yet? I'm worried…"

"Not yet," she sighed. "Ella went in to talk to him and said she'd come get me when he was ready for me.

I nodded and headed upstairs to check on Fang before she could change the subject back and yell at me again.


Third Person POV

Ella had come into the room as soon as she got home. She didn't say anything, just sat with him on the floor next to the door. No words were needed. She would wait for him to speak, for him to be ready. He'd been through a potentially traumatic past few days. She'd give him the time he needed.

After nearly an hour he got off the floor, pushed his black beanie back a bit and turn t look at her. Sulking wasn't going to change what had happened to him. Ella was right here with him, offering a metaphorical hand to help him. So he held his hand out to her and smiled a little, knowing that she couldn't see it in the dark. She was looking around, squinting with lack of light looking for him. He reached down and grabbed her hand, pulling her up.

"Help me pushed the bed away from the window."

"Okay," she said slowly, surprised.

"Get that end, I got this one," he instructed.

"So," Ella murmured quietly, helping Iggy push the bed into the wall away from the window. "What's it like?"

"What do you mean?" he felt the bed hit the wall and stood up straight, looking her. The way her dark hair fell down her shoulders and across her face as she bent over the bed to straighten the pillows. The way the corners of her lips would turn up slightly when she looked at him. The spark in her eyes as she spoke, the hints of interest. All the things he missed being blind.

"What's it like seeing?"

Iggy fell onto the bed and covered his eyes with his hands, recreating the darkness that he'd lived in for so long. "I don't miss it. I don't know if you knew this, but I wasn't born blind. It was something the school did to me."

"So," Ella sat down next to him, her arm brushing his in the closeness. "Did you miss seeing?"

"For a little while. I was so young, that as time went on I forgot what it was like."

It was quiet for a minute before she responded. "Does it hurt? You eyes?"

"Right now?" He reached up and brushed his eyelids.


"Looking into light, being in light. That's what hurts them."

"Give it time," she said, a grin even in her voice. "You've got the flock, mom, and me to help you if you need anything."

"Thanks," he replied.

"I think you should let mom look at your eyes, though," she told him seriously.

He groaned. "Let me talk to Max first."

"You just know she's going to pull you into the light," she said. He was like a kid who knew he was going to get a shot at the doctors. Nonetheless, she hopped off the bed and left to get Max.



I pushed open Fang's door and silently poked my head in to see him fast asleep. He'd rolled onto his stomach, arm dangling over the edge of the bed.

"I have 6-8 hours."

"Right," I muttered, shutting the door behind me as I left.

"Iggy wants to talk to you, Max," a voice whispered behind me.

"Jeez, Ella!" I jumped, giggling nervously.

"Sorry," she smiled.

"I'll go see what he wants." I stood in front of his bedroom door, hand hovering over the knob. What if I opened the door and scared him? I settled for knocking first. "Ig?" I called. "I'm coming in."

He didn't respond so I opened the door slowly. The room was dark, but I could see enough. The bed was pushed into a corner, and Iggy sat on it, leaning against the two walls.

"Hey," I said quietly, leaning up against the wall next to him.


"You should let mom—"

"I can't make blind jokes anymore, Max," Iggy sighed, pulling Fang's beanie off his head.

I smiled, my eyes meeting his in the dark. "I think, somehow, we'll live." He sighed dramatically and pushed me gently. "Will you let mom check you out?"

He smiled for half a second before agreeing.

"Be right back," I said, eyeing him suspiciously.

REVIEW KTHXBAI? Lemme know if you participate in winterguard!

32. Chapter 32

So naturally I promise a speedy update and then don't deliver.

Yeah, my bad.

Anyways, winterguard competitions have started up along with a busy semester of school. And tomorrow night I'm leaving for Richmond, Virginia to compete in the WGI regionals. Now, if we win, not only will I update out of excitement on Monday, but we will also be the highest ranked Independent A winterguard in the country for a little while :D

How cool would that be?

Fingers crossed.

Anyways, enjoy. This is where the REAL plot starts :D

Chapter 32

It was an hour after she went in and she had yet to come out. I got off the floor next too Iggy's door and left to check on the rest of the flock. Just as I passed Fang's bedroom door, it opened and Fang exited, heading for the bathroom." The look on his face told me he was half asleep.

"Don't fall in!" I called.

"Bite me," I heard him mumble.

I leaned against the wall across from Iggy's door and saw a dim glow flicker through the gap at the bottom of the door. Must be a candle. I took in a deep breath and realized that I was shaking. And not from the cold. I realized then the effect everything was having on me. Mainly Iggy. I was so worried. Worried they did something more than mess with his eyesight. Sure, he could see now, but what if he couldn't ever be in the light? What if he could see now, but right after he gets used to it, he goes blind again?

No. It was just too…unrealistic. Iggy getting his sight back, us getting home in one piece? No. It was too easy. Life hated us, remember? The mutant freaks never caught a break.

Fang walked back out of the bathroom and headed back for his bedroom but stopped when he saw me.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," I answered, confused.

He stared at me blankly before glancing at Iggy's bedroom door. "How's he doing? I don't even know what kind of state he's in." He came over and leaned against the wall next to me, out arms touching.

"Well," I started, taking a deep breath before telling him everything that had happened from the point we got home until now. His face remained emotionless, even as I told him how Iggy had regained his sight. "And now…"


I ran my hand through my hair and slid down to the floor. "Now we wait."

"For what?" He joined me on the floor, his eyes blazing.

"It's not over. This was just the tip of the iceberg. They know where we're at."

"We can't wait for them here," he said quietly.

"Where else are we going to go, Fang?" I exclaimed. "We can't just go back to living on the run—to living in the woods again!"

"And why not?" he asked, his voice rising. He stood up and I began to get angry. "We can't stay here! We'll only put your mom and Ella in danger."

I stood up and glared, looking up at him. He may be taller than me, but he wasn't the leader of this flock.

"The flock doesn't deserve to live in the woods again! I'm not—"

"None of us deserves any of this! Iggy doesn't deserve to be blind! Angel, Nudge, and Gazzy deserve to have friends their own age!" I glared hard at him. This was common knowledge by now. Did he really think I was this dense? That I hadn't already figured this out? His tone was suddenly softer, but still angry. "And you don't deserve to have to worry about everyone."

"No," I snapped. "I don't. And I don't deserve to be yelled at. You think I don't know how unfair all this is?" I gestured around me. "We shouldn't even be here right now. Mom and Ella could—"

"Stop it!"

I blinked in shock and Angel stepped between up. I hadn't noticed how close Fang and I had been standing, or that we had drawn a crowd—the flock.

"Yelling at each other isn't going to solve anything!" the Gasman agreed.

"We'll think of something," Nudge mumbled, watching us with fear filled eyes.

Fang shut his eyes and took a deep breath before turning on his heel, walking into his room, and slamming the door. That just made me angrier. I was about to scream in anger when my mom opened the door to Iggy's room and stepped out.

"What is going on out here?"

The flock looked at me. "Nothing," I ground out before following Fang's lead. I walked up to his door and swung it open before slamming it shut behind me.

"Don't slam the doors," I heard my mom say in the hall.

Fang was lying face down on his bed. "You can't seriously still be tired."

"You wear me out."

I rolled my eyes. "We need a plan."


"Fang!" He remained quiet, unmoving. "Fine!" I snapped. "I don't need you." He thought of me not needing him was laughable, but still I turned around and stormed out of his room.

"Max, where are you going?" Ella asked as I passed her in the living room on my way to the front door.

"Out!" I yelled, slamming the front door to make sure Fang heard me leaving. Okay, that wasn't really fair of me to take it out on Ella, but I was beyond pissed. I was boiling with age and I needed to vent. And my outlet came in the form on a small winged kid from the future.

I stepped into a small clearing beyond the woods in front of our house and quickly found Nikki among the group. I avoided Older Fang. I didn't need a spike in my anger.

"Fight me," I demanded.

"What?" She looked up at me, a perfect poker face in place, but her eyes sparked with interest.

"Isn't that like, child abuse?" I heard Jay mumble. Zak elbowed him in the ribs.

"What's wrong?" Older Fang asked.

My glare cut to him. "I need to vent some of this anger."

"So naturally you knew no one in your flock was capable and you found us," Jay said with a smirk.

I just shot him a look before returning my eyes to Nikki.

"Alright," she said easily, standing up and dusting off the seat of her jeans.

"Nik, I don't think—" Older Fang started.

"It's alright. She can't hurt me."

"We'll see," I mumbled.

33. Chapter 33

Uhhhh oops…? Where has the last 6 years gone?! Since my last update I've graduated 2 different colleges and a whole lot of other Life Drama…

I was re-reading this recently and got pissed off I didn't finish it, so, apologies to those just joining us for the clearly awful writing. It's a little cringe-y in some places, but I've reread this several times over the last 6 years, so I DO intend to finish it before my life is over…And I never had any ACTUAL plot idea, I remember that much, so any mentions of that previously was LIESSSSS so I have one now…

Chapter 33

Fang sighed. "You guys aren't going to fight."

"Nice to see you won't change," I scoffed, crossing my arms. "I just got done reminding one of you that you don't get to tell me what to do, I'm not about to repeat myself."

"Technically, you just did," Jay muttered, but took a step back when I sent a glare his way. "You haven't changed, either, you know. Still intimidating…"

"Well?" I asked Nikki. "I'm sure we have some sort of friendship in the future. I'm sure we've sparred before."

Nikki seemed to mull this over, amusement cracking through her poker face. "She doesn't fight me seriously," she said finally.

"Then take this opportunity," I dared slowly.

Her eyebrow twitched and she clenched a fist. I grinned, knowing she was about to ignore Fang as well and take me up on my offer.

Wordlessly, she took a few steps back. Fang's head dipped back and I could see the irritation on his face as he stared up into the treetops.

Waiting no longer, I launched myself at her, letting all the pent up frustrations out in every punch and kick I could throw. It felt good to tire my body out, but I was a little unnerved by how quickly that happened. I attributed it to the recent gunshot wounds that were still healing and achy, but it had only been 3 days. I shouldn't have lost so much stamina in that short of a time.

"Better?" Fang asked flatly when we took pause. Nikki's fighting style was clear that Fang had trained her. Her powers were even similar, though she also had a small, irritating ability to throw her voice behind me.

"Much," I sighed, tired now, but I couldn't muster up the energy to be angry anymore.

I noticed Jay and Zak had disappeared, leaving Fang, Nikki and I alone in the clearing. Nikki looked just as ragged as I felt, and I felt a little less than pleased that I could only just barely hold my own against a fifteen year old, when I had several years on her. Maybe life in the future had hardened her more than it had us…

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Nikki asked, and I felt the frown on my face smooth out.

"Nothing," I shook my head. "Thanks. For the spar."

"Anytime," she chirped, and then yawned. "Like, really. I mean it. Remember this."

"Nikki," Fang warned as she turned and left the clearing, leaping up into the treetops with a single beat of huge, dark wings. He turned to me now. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine," I mumbled, heading for the house, but he grabbed my arm gently, more asking me to not go than keeping me there.

"Max, please," he breathed, cupping my face in a way the younger version had never done. It threw me off, a cold, hard reminder that this was not my Fang. "Dylan is still out there, and I can feel it now."

"Feel what?" I asked softly, pulling away from his touch gently.

"The rift."

I blinked for a moment, trying to connect the dots. "The rift Dylan causes?" I asked, confused. "Fang, I know what he is here to do now, I'm not going to make that mistake."

"Can you kill him?" he asked, voice and face flat.

"What?" I gasped, shocked by what he was asking me to do.

"Can you kill him?" he repeated. "Knowing there is someone out there who is going to hurt your flock, can you kill him?"

I thought this over long and hard. Sure, my hands weren't exactly clean of blood. I'd made my choices in the past. But could I exact revenge, could I punish someone for something they hadn't even done yet?

"I don't know," I admitted in a whisper.

"Then just know you can't change him," Fang pressed. "You can't save him." He placed a hand on his chest. "As things change here, things that I didn't live through, new memories are being created. The rift? It still happens. It's happening now."

"What are you trying to say?" I demanded. "You can't ask me to be the one that bends every time. Why don't you ask yourself to stop being a dick for five minutes and let me lead my flock?"

He offered up a small smile. "Trust me, I'm not in that house doing anything but kicking myself for this entire night."

"That clearly doesn't change anything," I snapped, taking a step backwards.

"Maybe," he agreed. "But maybe we both just needed to think about compromise. How much time do you want to waste being mad at each other, silently being stubborn? Ask him the same thing. It can't hurt."

"You talk too much," I mumbled, turning and leaving him in the woods.

"Just know you are loved," his voice echoed around me in the same way Nikki's had and a crazy, crazy idea hit me like a ton of bricks just then, pushing me faster back to the house.

Ella and Gazzy were sitting on the porch waiting for me when I returned.

"We just wanted to make sure you came back okay," Gazzy defended as I approached. "Iggy got taken just across the street."

"It's alright," I said, ruffling his hair as I passed. "I appreciate it."


I walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind me quietly. I'd stood out there for several minutes working up enough strength to squash my pride enough to walk in there. Fang was still on the bed where I'd left him, but he was facing the wall, curled into a ball with his arms crossed.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, sitting next to him on the mattress. "I wanted to talk about things we don't deserve? I don't deserve you."

He let out a deep breath slowly and I knew he was listening.

"I'm sorry," I said again. "For losing my temper."

Fang finally rolled over and opened his arms, waiting for me to lie down with him. "I expect nothing less," he murmured into my hair. "Sometimes it's extremely infuriating, though."

"I'm tired of running," I explained. "We're finally a step ahead, we don't need to run. I want to stay here and fight. Whatever comes for us, I want to meet it head on and finally, finally be ahead of things."

"But at what cost?" he asked, not elaborating, and my mind wandered.

How many times would Mom uproot her life just to take care of us? How many times could she? Ella would leave us for college soon, and she hated the constant moving more than I or any of the flock did.

Then again, what if we stayed and drew the attention of the School and Mom or Ella paid the price? Or The Gasman? Or any of the flock? But no matter where we went, what we did, our lives were always at stake, always. Until the School and their scientists were stopped.

"We're never going to agree on this," I breathed in realization. I looked up at him. "It's going to tear us apart, just like the other Fang has been saying."

"Are you going to let it?" he asked.

"Are you?" I retorted gently.

Fang studied me carefully for a few moments, but said nothing. He'd been more open over the last few years, talking, smiling, laughing more. But the moments he stayed silent when I didn't want him to were absolutely infuriating.

"We've done this before and it never worked out, but do you want to split the flock up?" I asked. "I could stay here with Mom and Ella, protect them with whoever else wants to stay. You can run with whoever else wants to run. It won't count as breaking your promise because this is my idea—"

"No." The word was louder than our hushed conversation and forceful. "I'm not leaving you and we are not splitting up the flock."

"Then what do you want to do?" I asked, exasperated.

"We'll stay and fight," he conceded unwillingly. "I just hope you're ready to deal with whatever consequences come with that."

"No matter what choice we make, there will be consequences," I snapped, sitting up. "If we stay, we put Mom and Ella at risk by putting them in the middle of our mess. If we run, we leave them with no defenses." His face softened, smoothing out into his usual poker face. "And either choice, the flock's lives have always been on the line, no matter where we are." I studied his face, looking for any telltale signs to give me some kind of clue what he was thinking, feeling. "I really feel like the best thing we can do is stay and do what we do best—kick some Eraser ass."

He sighed and pulled me back down to him, encircling me in his arms. "Promise me you'll talk over all of this with the flock tomorrow?" he asked quietly. "They're not little kids anymore, they should have some kind of input. You're our leader, but you can't ignore us."

"I can do that much," I said after a few moments of Older Fang's voice echoing in my head. We both just needed to think about compromise…

34. Chapter 34

Chapter 34

"Max and Fang are fighting again," Ella said quietly, putting her chin on her knees that were pulled up to her chest. She and Iggy were sitting in the darkness of his room while he ate a snack Dr. Martinez had made for him.

"They'll be alright," he mumbled.

"They've been fighting a lot lately," she noted. "I thought they were finally going to…you know…be a thing, but now…The future can change."

"Maybe they were never meant to be together," he said. "Maybe they aren't in the future. We don't know."

"I do know," she whispered. He froze and looked at her, his eyes a pale blue even in the dim lighting from the candle across the room.

"Nikki," was all she said.

He blinked at her and she watched it process across his face. He went from confused, to wide eyed, then his jaw dropped open like he was surprised and disgusted, but more scandalized than anything. Ella giggled at the look.

"In this house?" he mock gasped.

Ella outright laughed. "I don't know, I hope not."

"How old is she?"

"Fifteen, I think."

"How old are…her parents?" Ella gave him a shrug. A new look washed over his face, then. This one genuine, real shock. Not a joke. "Oh, god, the blind one…"

"You don't think he's yours, do you?" Ella asked skeptically.

"How unrealistic do you think that is?" he asked quickly. "I don't mean the finding a girl part—I mean, have you seen me lately? I hadn't, I'm pretty damn good looking—but the odds that the random kids that come back from the future, one being related to not one but two of our flock?"

Ella giggled. "Calm down, what does it change? Do you really want to know?"

"Maybe," he muttered, thinking about it. "Wouldn't you want to know if you had kids in the future?"

"I have a niece," she supplied unhelpfully with a grin. "Or, I will, at least. I don't know that I would want kids."

Iggy nodded. "Me either. Our lives are too much to have to watch out for babies, too."

Ella pursed her lips and picked at Iggy's half eaten sandwich. "Okay, but, hypothetically, if all that was a nonissue, would you consider having kids? Imagine if you were no longer being hunted, if the School and Itex were gone for good."

Iggy looked at her and shrugged. "I'm not opposed to the idea, I guess."

"Fine!" Max's voice echoed through the house. "I don't need you!" A door slammed and Ella hopped up, darting down the hall.

"Where are you going?" Iggy heard her ask, glad his enhanced hearing hadn't dulled just because he'd regained his sight.

"Out!" Max yelled at her, the front door slamming a few minutes later.

Ella returned the room, closing the door as quietly as she could. Iggy held up the plate of less than half a sandwich and a handful of chips.

"Don't take it too personally," he mumbled as she sat next to him again, closer this time. Her legs and shoulder brushed his. "We'll give her an earful when she gets back."

"Ig," she sighed, "the last time one of you guys went out alone—"

"I know, she's being irrational and emotional," he interrupted. "That's been her for a little while now."

"If those two would just quit tiptoeing around each other," she grumbled, playing with the hem of her shirt. "They'd both be a lot less emotional."

"There's be a lot less hiding and lying," Iggy muttered bitterly.

"Was this stuff going before you guys came to us?" Ella asked suddenly.

Iggy looked at her like she was crazy. "This has been going on for at least four years. They'd always get jealous if the other was talking to anyone of the opposite sex. It was ridiculous."

Iggy yawned then, and Ella stood. She picked up the plate and his empty glass of water. "Get some sleep," she said. "I'll bring you more water."

"Thanks," he said, smiling up at her.

She left the room, closing the door behind her quickly. The Gasman was heading down the hall quickly and she stopped him. "Is anyone going after her?"

"Max can take care of herself," he said slowly. "But I'm gonna go wait on the porch."

"I'll be out to keep you company in a minute," she sighed in relief, bouncing down the stairs to the kitchen.


Fang and I stood in front of the flock the next morning after breakfast. I'd rounded everyone up in the living room. Nikki, Jay, and Zak had joined us for breakfast as were watching amongst the rest of the flock.

"Are you guys splitting up again?" Nudge asked quickly, a panic in her voice.

"No, no," I responded immediately. "We're going to do this as a group. As a family. Whatever we decide. Fang felt—" I glanced over at him, meeting his eyes for a second. Compromise… "We felt like this decision should be made together."

"I wanna stay," Gazzy spoke softly, "and fight."

"Gazzy," Angel whimpered, clearly reading his thoughts before he could speak them.

"I'm not going to die without a fight," he said, determined. "If that means we stay here and wait for them to come to us, fine. If that means we go out and hunt them down ourselves, fine."

"I vote to stay here and wait for them," Iggy spoke for the first time. He'd adventured out when he heard me gathering everyone, not wanting to miss anything. He was doing better, he had his wrappings over his eyes and a pair of sunglasses.

"Me, too," Gazzy added.

Nudge shook her head. "That's too big of a risk," she argued, glancing at Dr. Martinez standing to my right and Ella standing behind Iggy. "Dr. M and Ella would be trapped in the middle of all of this."

"And they're defenseless if we leave," Iggy challenged forcefully.

"Hey," I said sternly, holding up a hand. "Let's keep the discussion calm."

Iggy's eyebrows pulled together and he cocked his head. "That's interesting, coming from you."

"Alright, stop," Fang intervened, stepping forward. "We have to all agree on this, alright. We're open to alternative suggestions, too." He glanced at the time traveler's.

I noticed then how panicky and jumpy Nikki looked. She was pale.

"What's wrong?" I asked her.

She shook her head vigorously. "We shouldn't be here anymore, we shouldn't be here," she chanted over and over.

"We've been here too long," Jay said, standing and looking down at Nikki. "She's losing control."

"What?" Mom moved towards Nikki, but froze when the two boys held up their hands. "Is she okay? What's wrong with her?"

"Get him," Nikki muttered, trembling, her arms wrapped around herself. "Get him, get him."

"We have to get Fang," Zak demanded, his hands on her shoulders. "We have to go now."

"What's wrong?" I asked again, glancing back at Fang.

"It's her power," he realized aloud, before his face scrunched up in pain.

Gazzy jumped up and lifted Nikki into his arms effortlessly. "Come on," he called out to the boys before heading for the door.

I never felt so helpless. I grabbed Fang and pulled him towards the back door. "Fang?"

"He knew," he grunted. "I think he—"

I heard the older Fang's rumble of a voice coming from the front door, and then a loud snap and the whole house was silent.

35. Chapter 35

Chapter 35

Fang scooped up Nikki as soon as their feet were firmly planted in their own timeline and took off for the house. Lucky for him Nikki was coherent enough to take them back to the house and not some random location like she'd done before.

Jay zipped in front of him and opened the door and he charged into the house, passing everyone in the kitchen to get her to the couch in the living room. He heard the rest of the flock behind him asking questions, but he ignored them all as he gently placed Nikki down, his hands lingering on her too-pale face.

"Nikki?" he asked, gently patting her cheeks. "Come on, Nik."

"Fang, what happened?" Max demanded, appearing next to him.

"We spent too long there," he ground out, straightening as Iggy pushed his way to Fang's spot next to Nikki. "We should never have gone in the first place." He glanced around the room at all the familiar faces, but no one he was looking for. "Nothing changed."

"Yet," Max pressed. "I believe we can do this."

Ella stood in the doorway with Jay and Zak, her hand on Zak's shoulder. Ella intercepted a small child as he tried to race into the room. "Sorry buddy, mommy and daddy are busy," she murmured to him. "Come on, let's go see what Karma is up to."

Max looked at the boys with her hands on her hips. "What's going on?"

Jay visibly wilted under her gaze, but Zak spoke, blindly unaffected. "Dylan got away."

Max frowned, quiet for a second before she leveled her gaze on Fang. "I remember that now. You let him go."

Fang's head tilted down slightly fury coursing through him. "Remember better, Max. The way I recall it, having been there a few days ago, you were shot."

"I remember," Iggy muttered, standing finally. "She's fine. Exhausted, but fine. She should probably not time travel for a little while, though."

"Thanks, Ig," Fang sighed, relieved.

"Come on, boys," Iggy said, grabbed the two by the shoulders as he passed them.

When they were gone Fang glared back at Max. "This whole thing was way beyond stupid, Max," he said calmly. "You hadn't been shot the first time, Gazzy was. What if I'd lost you right then?"

"But you didn't," she argued, crossing her arms. "I'm still here."

"Gazzy isn't," he pressed, exasperated that after all these years she was still just as stubborn as she had been. "Your mom isn't, Sky isn't. We aren't changing anything."

Max smirked and raised an eyebrow. "Really? Sky is 3 years older than Nikki."

Fang frowned. "No, he's only 2 years older."

Max tilted her head. "You sure?"

He rubbed his hands over his face with a loud sigh. "We're changing the wrong things."

Max walked up to him and rubbed his arms and he moved to pull her to him. "When she wakes up and can do it again, I'm not going to stop her. You don't have to go anymore, then either Iggy or I will."

"Max," he began softly into her hair.

"I love you, Fang," she whispered. "But I need this."

"I know," was all he whispered back after a second.


Fang straightened and rolled his neck, I took off for the front door now that he could stand on his own.

"Is everyone okay?" I demanded loudly over the sound of everyone muttered at once. I did a quick headcount. Mom, Ella, Nudge, Iggy, Gazzy, and Angel. Fang was in the other room. All my little ducks here.

"They're gone," Nudge commented.

"It was so cool, though," Gazzy grinned. "Oh, it was like an explosion, but like, with no blast after."

"I wonder if they'll be back," Ella frowned, looking up at mom, who only shrugged.

"Alright, well, for now, we need to move on," I announced with a clap, motioning for everyone to go back up to the living room. "We were in the middle of something." But I couldn't help the little part of me that worried for Nikki.

"She'll be okay, Max," Angel whispered to me as we walked back to the room where Fang was already waiting. "They'll be back." She winked at me and took a seat and I fought a cringe.

"Alright," I said, clearing my throat. "Where were we?"

"Two votes for staying," Fang added helpfully.

"Right. Anyone else have any thoughts?" I asked. "Stay and fight, run and defend, or any other ideas. Mom? Ella?"

Ella glanced at the rest of the flock, hesitant.

"You are always welcome with us," mom said with a smile, warming me. "Whatever you decide, I'll help out the best I can."

Ella swallowed and looked back at me. "I want you guys to stay," she murmured, eyes flicking back to Iggy one last time. "Not that I'm putting your ability to care for anyone into question, but I feel like you need mom right now." I frowned at that despite her earlier words.

"I vote we run," Nudge whispered, pulling her legs to her chest. "I vote we go out and look for Dylan on our own."

I looked at Fang. "Majority to stay, you and Nudge to go," I said lowly. "You and Nudge can still—"

Fang let out a breath. "No. We're not splitting up the flock anymore. We're stronger in numbers. We'll stay." He looked at the frowning teenager. "Sorry, Nudge."


I nodded, content—not that everyone had sided with me, but that the decision had been made as a team, a family. Despite losing the final argument, Fang looked like he felt about the same.

Mom stood. "I have to go to the grocery store if anyone wants to tag along," she announced.

Gazzy jumped up at that and pulled Nudge with him, telling her how picking out some sweets would cheer her up a little.

The crowd disbanded quickly, leaving Fang and I in the living room alone. "You sure this is what you want to do?" I asked again and he moaned, moving to take my hands in his.

"I told you," he said in a husky whisper, his face close to mine now, our lips brushing. "I'm never leaving you again."

I didn't know what to say, so I left it at that, only gentle nodding. Even after years, I still didn't fully trust him not to. He had left me—twice now. Even after he'd promised me the first time. There would always be that mistrust at the back of my mind, and I think Fang knew that.


It had been more than a month since the future group had left us suddenly, and the flock and I had fallen into a routine in the Martinez household. After another week, I'd decided that if we were going to take up a mostly-permanent residence with Mom, that we needed to pull our weight any way we possibly could. Iggy helped her with cooking; Gazzy and Angel took up the after-meal cleanup. Nudge was in charge of vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the bathrooms, and that left Fang and I to laundry.

I was sitting on the bed, Fang on the floor, folding this week's clean clothes in silence.

"You're unusually quiet today," he mumbled, dropping a pair of jeans into Iggy's pile of clothing. I grunted in response, hoping he would drop it, but he continued. "What's wrong?"

"Just, each day that passes without incident, I feel like I'm winding tighter and tighter," I told him quietly, opening to him easily. I'd found it was easier to talk to him than to hide it and argue and sleep alone and worry the flock…We weren't kids anymore.

"I think it's just because so much happened so fast before." He picked up another wad of clothing from the basket and began smoothing it out on his lap. "We were on the run, you get kidnapped, I get sick, Iggy is taken, and then everything with Future Me and the kids…it was a lot in such a short amount of time."

"Iggy's doing better," I mentioned, jumping on that subject change as fast as I could. Hey, I may be quicker to open up, but it was still way out of my comfort zone and I still hated doing it.

"Yeah," he nodded. "He just had on the glasses today. Ella seems to be helping."

I narrowed my eyes at him and halting my fabric folding. "We don't acknowledge that," I mumbled. I'd found out one night, Fang and I had a heated—albeit quiet this time—argument, and I'd left to go sleep on her floor, only to find her bed empty.

Fang smirked and shrugged. "You can't control everything the flock does, Max. She's helping, he's happy. That should be the end of it."

"It's just weird thinking of Iggy being…doing…"

"Doing what we do with Ella?" he guessed, clearly amused.

I pegged him in the head with a rolled up sock, and he wasted no time send one back. I jumped up, three more rolls loaded in my arms and he took cover behind my desk chair, sending a few my way.

"You're going to lose everyone's socks," Fang said as I threw a couple in quick succession. He immediately retaliated, picking up some of our already-used ammo to reload.

"Then stop throwing them," I countered.

With a powerful leap, Fang was across the room and on the bed with me. The momentum pushed me into the corner, my back hitting the wall, Fang pressing up against the front of me. I bit my lip to contain a giddy giggle when the wall shook with my weight.

Fang smirked down at me.

"Oh no, please, don't," I mumbled sarcastically with a grin I couldn't hide.

And then his lips crashed down on mine and I lost track of our surroundings. His sharp intake of breath as I pushed up against him thrilled me, sending a tingle through body that electrified me. His hand on my hip slid down, and I left my thigh drift up to meet it, earning another change, his kissing hungrier, needier. I wanted to make him do it again and again and—

Someone in the hall cleared their throat and our little world in the corner shattered. Fang's head whipped around so fast I heard it crack. Iggy stood fully in the doorway with his arms crossed, and I could see him blinking at us behind the dark lenses of his glasses.

"Whatcha guys doing?" he asked, voice overly innocent. A female giggled and I felt my face going red as Ella stepped out from behind him, peeking over his shoulder into the room.

Fang cleared his throat, back still to Iggy, body still up against mine. "Folding clothes," he said quietly.

Ella rolled her eyes and walked down the hall.

"I can see now," Iggy stated, unmoving.

"Then why'd you ask?" I shot at him from over Fang's shoulder. "Go away."

Iggy let out a laugh and shifted his weight. "I just wanna see how long Fang is gonna stand there like that."

Confused, I looked at Fang, my eyes drifting a bit further south when I noticed the pink tinge in his cheeks. I let out n irritated Breath and pushed Fang back a little so I could get around him to shoo Iggy down the hall.

"Go away," I ground out, pushing him out of the doorway so I could close the door.

"Get it out of your system before the kids get back," he called through the wood. "And no fornicating!"

Fornicating? I mouthed to Fang, my back pressed against the door.

He dropped on the bed and pulled my pillow into his lap, the bouncing disturbing the piles of clean clothes we'd already managed to kick over. "It means—"

"I know what it means," I interrupted loudly. I rubbed the heels of my hands into my eyes, wishing Iggy and Ella had gone with Mom…I looked up at Fang. "You good now?"

He rolled his eyes, but otherwise said nothing, and stood, picking up a few of his folded piles to take them to the boy's rooms. I moved out of the way so he could open the door and get by me, reliving those moments over and over in my head.

36. Chapter 36

Gazzy and Angel get so neglected in this story D:

Chapter 36

"Hey, Angel," Gazzy started quietly. Dr. Martinez had gone down the wine aisle looking for something for dinner, so he and Angel had broken off when they passed the candy Aisle, following Nudge.

"I don't know," Angel replied to his thoughts. She looked at him and offered up a sad smile.

"I know you saw me die," he nearly whispered, rolling a bag of gummi worms between his hands. "You saw them remember, I know you did."

"I did," she said curtly, going back to scan the shelves.

"Would you be able to stop it?" he asked, voicing his thought this time.

She let out a loud breath, crossing her arms more to hold herself together. The memory she saw had been replaying in her head every minute since she'd seen it. "I don't know, Gaz. There's bound to be a huge shift in actions now because Dylan isn't in our lives in the same way."

"But he's still out there," he argued.

Angel nodded slowly. "Yes, but we don't know how it might happen." She walked up to him and pulled her brother to her, not knowing any other way to comfort him. "The biggest advantage we have is knowing who and how. Max will never let him near you ever again."

"We still don't know when," he grumbled into the crown of her head.

Angel pulled away and looked up at him with a smirk. "Nikki saw it happen."

"How tragic," he frowned, tossing the bag onto the shelf at his feet, not bothering to hang it up on its hook.

Angel shook her head vigorously. "Not what I mean—I mean, yeah, it's tragic she had to witness the death of—" She caught herself and shook her head, forcing herself to slow down. "What I mean is that is Nikki saw it, you have lots of time."

Gazzy's pale brows pulled together and he just looked down at her with a frown still plastered on his face.

Angel rolled her eyes. "Nearly everyone else has figured this out, Gazzy," she groaned.

"Figured what out?" he snapped.

"Mm-mm, I'm not telling you. I'm not getting in trouble for that," she teased. "But Nikki is much, much younger than us in the future. You're seventeen when she's born."

"How do you—"

Angel cut him off with a terrifying glare and a finger pointed at him. "You tell no one I told you that," she said, voice low. "I'm only telling you this for your own comfort. You're seventeen when she's born, and she's fifteen when she saw us and you were gone."

Gazzy did the math in his head quickly. "So at the end of the next 21 years I'll be dead," he mumbled.

"That's a long time, Gazzy," Angel whispered, taking his hand and squeezing it. "That's a long time to come up with a plan, don't you think?"

Gazzy considered this, but gave her no response. She could read his thoughts. He didn't need to talk about this anymore. He was tired of it eating him up, his impending, untimely demise on the horizon. 21 years was going to be no time at all…


We started doing patrols after nearly two months of nothing. I didn't want the flock getting sedentary, and as much as I would love for them to be the carefree, worry-free kids they deserved to be, I didn't want them to get too comfortable and let their guard down.

So we started a rotation of patrols around town, our house in the center of the watched area. We divided into pairs, an older kid with a younger for the time being. Me and Angel, Fang and Nudge, Iggy and Gazzy. It worked well, I felt. We did regular sparring to keep up on that front.

But you can never be prepared for everything…

I only woke up because Fang sat up. I wasn't sure at first why, because he'd left the bed in the middle of the night before. But this time he was sitting so still, he began to vanish. I sat up slowly next to him, my hand skimming the sheets looking for his. He reappeared as his fingers sought out mine and tapped it three times.

My blood ran cold and I froze, following his eyes to the window. But I didn't see or hear anything.

A heavy footstep creaked quietly in the hall, so quiet I knew we wouldn't have heard it without our enhanced senses. We hadn't prepared for this. We'd run drills of what to do if we heard someone outside, or someone trying to get in.

We hadn't thought they'd be able to get in without us noticing.

Fang pressed a finger to his lips as he slowly left the bed, forcing his body to disappear. I waited, holding my breath until I saw the door crack open, cursing the noise it always made when the wood of the door stuck to the frame.

And then the door was kicked open and Fang stumbled back as an Eraser forced himself through the door. Only one?

I pounded on the wall next to me, hoping to wake up Nudge and Angel before I leapt from the bed to tackle the Eraser while Fang got his bearings and sprung forward to join me. I dropped low, kicking out a leg and sweeping the Eraser's out from under him as Fang landed an uppercut just beneath his chin. The combined hits flung the Eraser backwards and his head smacked down onto the floor, letting out an echoing crack in the hall.

Whoever wasn't up was now.

I stepped over the unconscious Eraser and into the hall, surveying what I could. Nudge's door was open and I could hear the struggle in the room. Iggy's door across the hall was open but empty. Ella's door was shut, and there were three Eraser's headed for Mom's door at the end of the hall.

I let out a battle cry as I tore down the hall, hoping to distract them from where they were headed.

One of the Erasers changed back into a tall man with short, dark hair. He was wearing a tight black tshirt, cargo pants, and combat boots. He smirked and reached out with one hand. I ducked beneath it easily, going low for his knees.

With blinding speed I couldn't see, his other hand shot out and caught me by the throat. With ease he held me up in the air so my feet weren't touching the ground. I tried to yell out, but couldn't get enough air into my lungs.

"You're distracted, Max," he sneered. "We're here to eliminate those distractions."

I swung a leg up and pushed on his chest. His grip loosened, but didn't drop me.

"I'm not distracted," I gasped out. "I'm uninterested."

My struggling got a little more frantic as the other two Eraser's kicked down Mom's bedroom door, and I heard her scream in surprise. She was holed up in her bathroom, I guessed. I had only seconds.

Fang darted passed us into the room and I watched Gazzy come up behind the Eraser with what I could only assume was a bat, metal by the sound of it cracking against the back of the Eraser's head.

He dropped me completely, his arm going limp as he dropped to a knee. But he wasn't down for long. Again, the blinding speed had him up on his feet again, towering over Gazzy before he backhanded him down the hall.

We were too confined here. But we couldn't leave, not with Mom and Ella still in the house. Ella's door was still shut and I hoped with all my heart that Iggy was in there with her.

I was so, so, so tired of running. I glanced behind me as Gazzy got to his feet and darted down the stairs.

The stairs…

I didn't have to run, but I didn't have to be on the offensive, either.

"What, the School couldn't give you a shirt your size?" I asked flippantly.

He cracked his knuckles and took a step towards me. An Eraser flew from Mom's room behind him and crashed into the door frame, splintering the wood. One down, one to go. Fang was hopefully holding his own well enough.

Nudge and Angel still sounded like they were floundering a bit, but I could hear them both fighting still. At least a good sign there.

"You are just distracted all over the place, aren't you?" the Eraser stated, continuing to stalk his way over to me. "Worried about your little mutants?"

"That's pretty funny considering you're a mutant yourself," I replied, forcing a laugh to keep him distracted. "Mind telling me what I'm wanted for? I figure this is more than just the usual 'eliminate the old rebellious experiments' thing we've been getting for like, five years now?"

He crossed his arms and stopped walking, glaring down at me and I felt my hand brush the handrail of the stairs.

"The new director has a re-envisioned plan for you," he said easily. "We're going to breed a new generation, a better version of yourself. Jeb derailed your cognitive growth when he kidnapped you from the school. We plan to rectify that this time around."

I nodded slowly. "I vaguely remember Jeb mentioning that the last time I visited," I said sarcastically. "Sadly, I can't say my uterus is available for rent that this time."

His eyes narrowed at me as a loud crash sounded from Mom's room and Fang limped into view in the door, blood coving his hands and forearms. My heart nearly stopped at the sight, but he pushed himself into invisibility, flickering a few times before he was out completely.

The Eraser looked over his shoulder, probably noticing my attention being diverted again.

"So, what are you like their alpha?" I asked, drawing his attention back to me.

He advanced again and I toed the top of the stairs behind me, letting him get within reach of me.

"I'm not like their alpha," he growled lowly, intimidating me just a little. "I am the Alpha."

I dropped low again, hoping to kick his legs out from under me, but he jumped in the air. Something behind him knocked him mid-air and he flew down the stairs with a foundation-rocking crash, splintering the bottom two steps when he hit, landing on his back.

Fang flicked back into view beside me, breathing hard. I grabbed his hands, but couldn't find the source of the blood, which I think put me in shock even more.

"I called an ambulance from the phone in her room," he said between gulps of air. "The two Erasers in her room are dead."

"Check on the others," I barely managed to call back to him as I tore into mom's room. It was totally wrecked. The frame of the bed was cracked, the comforter slashed spilling filling all over the room. Blood was everywhere. A trail of it led me to the master bathroom, where I could see Mom lying on the floor.

"Oh, god," I breathed shakily, dropping to my knees next to her. "Mom?"

"Max?" her lips moved, but her eyes didn't open.

One of her legs was ribbons of claw marks and blood, but more worryingly was the horrific trio of gashes going down the length of her side. I turned around and ripped a towel off her rack, easily tearing it in half to press into the wound.

"This is my fault," I realized in a terror-filled moment, vaguely aware of the sound of sirens. "We should have left."

37. Chapter 37

Working retail sucks yo. Still trying to update old chapters while writing new stuff. It's hard when I have 2 and 3 AM shifts…I'm ded.

Chapter 37

I sat in one of the hard plastic chairs in a small waiting area outside the operating room they had whisked Mom into, vaguely aware of Fang's arm around my shoulders, gently pressing me into his side. I wasn't allowed in, no matter how much I yelled and screamed.

Even worse, was there was nothing, nothing I could do to help. Iggy took Gazzy to the cafeteria to look for food. Nudge was with Ella in a room in another wing, who was able to donate blood. I couldn't even do that for her. There was never a time in my life I so badly wished I were a normal human girl. Then again, if I was a normal girl, Mom wouldn't have been…

"Stop," Fang murmured, leaning over to smooth the wrinkles on my forehead with his fingers. The motion felt good against the pounding ache between my eyes, and I leaned into his hand involuntarily.

"I fucked up," I breathed, putting my face in my hands. "I should have listened to you."

"I've been reconsidering lately," he admitted quietly. "I think you were right. We need to stop running. We can't run for the rest of our lives. I want a real life with you. One where we aren't running."

"If we'd run, Mom wouldn't be dying right now," I spat angrily, pulling away from him.

"No, she'd have died on the bathroom floor, scared and alone," he said bluntly, watching my pace in front of him. "Ella too."

I didn't have an argument, so I shot a glare at him and shut him up for a few minutes. Whether he held back saying anything because he knew I wanted him to shut up, or he was just being Fang, I didn't know and I didn't care. He just continued to watch me pace, not offering up any kind of help, at all. And I think that was actually making me even more irrationally angry.

A door swung open and a nurse quickly walked up to us, pulling down the mask on her face.

"How is she?" I asked quickly, but she offered up a small smile and shook her head, making my heart skip a beat.

"I'm not at liberty to say right now, we're still working on her, but she's been stable for the last half hour or so, but that can always change," she explained breathlessly. "I came to ask if you'd be willing to donate blood. I know you were reluctant before—"

"I'm not reluctant," I snapped and Fang stood up behind me, gripping my shoulder tightly.

"It's just that we've gone through half your sister's blood already and we can't draw anymore from her." She shifted on her feet nervously.

My heart shattered right there. The one thing they were asking me to do to save her, and I physically couldn't. Never in my life had I wished I'd been born normal than right then.

"I don't know what—"

"I can donate," a voice announced to our left, three people rushing towards us quickly.

"You are…?" the nurse prompted skeptically.

I felt a relief wash through me as an older Ella ran up to us, an older Iggy and Nikki flanking her.

"I'm Valencia's sister," she said with a charming smile.

The nurse smiled and waved her down the hall, thankfully in the opposite direction of my Ella's room. "Your niece looks exactly like you," the nurse commented as they hurried away.

Ella laughed. "You should see my daughter. Spitting image of my sister."

"Well, well, well," I drawled, turning my attention to the remaining two time travelers. "Where's your captain?"

Iggy quirked an eyebrow at me. "Fang?" I nodded, waiting.

"He is one hundred and sixty million percent against us doing this anymore," Nikki stated dryly.

"So why are you?" I asked, crossing my arms and shooting a look back at my Fang. If he was that against something, there was very good reason.

"Because we haven't changed anything," Nikki nearly yelled.

Iggy threw an arm around her and pulled her to his side and she sighed, letting her poker face return as she calmed down a little.

"You're changing the wrong things, aren't you," Fang guessed.

Iggy only smirked in response. "I'm just here to supervise."

"And Ella?" I asked, not believing that one bit. If any of us would go to the ends of the earth to keep the Gasman alive, Iggy would be second in line behind myself. And maybe Angel.

Nikki frowned. "She just wanted to help," she defended. "This is…different."

"Mom was supposed to die." I meant it as a question, but it came out as a statement, and as soon as the words left my lips, I knew they were true by the immediate changes in Nikki and Iggy.

"She bled out on the floor," Iggy whispered. "I got Ella out of the house while you and Fang fought the Eraser's in the hallway. Gazzy got down the stairs and outside to help Nudge and Angel get out the window. By the time anyone got to your Mom she was gone."

"So what changed it?" I demanded. "What changed to make Fang go to her instead of staying with me?"

"It doesn't matter," Nikki snapped. "Time is fragile. I've never gone back in time to do something like this, I've never tried to change anything before, interact with people I know in the future. I could cease to exist by doing something by just being here right now."

Fang moved to stand next to me. "So Dylan is still a threat?"

Iggy pursed his lips and nodded. "Doesn't happen the same way as before, but it still happens. Same day, same way."

"And us knowing that it's coming doesn't keep it from happening?" I asked. "How? How is that?"

"Time is a little more complicated than that," Nikki said with a glare.

I put my hands on my hips, my patience long gone and my irritation combined with my exhaustion in a deadly cocktail driving me. "Then what are you doing here?" I asked lowly. For a second it looks like Nikki shrank down into herself like a child being scolded. "We can hunt down Dylan ourselves. If you're so concerned about changing the wrong things then go. We'll hide the Gasman for now. We'll take care of it."

"Max," Fang said quietly, voice harsh in my ear. "Stop."

"Do you know something I don't?" I snap at him, pulling away.

"Plenty," he ground out between his teeth. "But you're not thinking straight and you're taking it out on everyone else. Stop and breathe. Drop it until we know your mom is okay. Then we'll make a plan."

I spun on my heel, not wanting to deal with this right now, and headed for the elevators on the other end of the hall. Mom would be in surgery for a little while longer. I could pace downstairs in the cafeteria with Iggy, Gazzy, and Angel just as well as I could in front of the doors themselves…


Fang ran a hand down his face and sighed as Max tore down the hallway in a blind rage he knew was misplaced. She would end up apologizing in her own way later, he knew. And he tried to excuse it because of her Mom, but talking to Nikki the way she had was uncalled for even so.

"She's a little wound up," Iggy muttered after a few moments of silence. "I know of a few ways the other Fang fixes that in her."

"Stop," he interrupted loudly, holding up a hand, Nikki cringing next to them. "What did you come here for, if you're not going to tell us about Dylan or the Gasman?"

Iggy smirked wickedly. "Oh, I never said I wasn't going to tell you," he explained. "We just don't want Max to know. She doesn't know how this part happens."

"What part?" Fang asked slowly, looking between the two of them.

"We interfered once," Nikki mumbled. "We became a part of it, and you remember us telling you how to stop it."

Fang's eyes narrowed. "Yet I'm against you continuing to interfere?"

"Well, yeah," Iggy shrugged, taking a seat in the chair Max had been in. "Her and the two boys came back and started screwing around, some irrelevant things got changed. But there's one tiny thing we can do that we think will fix the Gasman and Sky."

"What's that?"

Fang looked to Nikki, but she just stared at Iggy.

"You've gotta end the School a little earlier than we originally did."

Fang took in a slow, deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose, letting it out before he spoke again. "Seventeen years and you make it sound like we've just been putting that off. If warning us didn't keep Gazzy from dying, who's to say we even can save him?"

Nikki crossed her arms and nodded slowly. "That's what I'm worried about. Some things in time are fixed points, things that just happen no matter what we do. The universe balances things out in certain ways and nothing we do to change things can interrupt that balance."

"Well, I still want to try," Fang sighed, moving to sit next to Iggy. He put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, wishing with everything in him that none of this was happening. He almost wished he hadn't known that one of the flock was going to die, that his own son was going to be taken from them.

"We know," Iggy said quietly. "And that's why I'm here to help you while you're still willing." The joke was apparent, but Fang read between the lines, taking a hint at what his future self was feeling.

He lifted his head to look at Iggy. "Just tell me one thing." Iggy's eyebrows rose in curiosity and he waited. "Do I ever wish it was me instead of Sky?"

"Every day," Iggy breathed with no hesitation.