The Butterfly Effect by o0-flyinghigh-0o

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Drama, Sci-Fi
Characters:Ari B., Max
Published:2009-07-11 01:50:01
Updated:2009-10-10 00:08:51
Packaged:2021-04-04 14:45:56
Summary:Post SOF. Max is struggling to figure out how she's supposed to save the world, when a desperate plea from a fellow mutant for help to escape the 'Bad Men', whitecoats, captures her heart. Slash, language, Fax mostly early on and mostly one sided . R&R?

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Prologue
3. Chapter One
4. Chapter Two
5. Chapter Three
6. Chapter Four
7. Chapter Five
8. Chapter Six

1. Introduction

Welcome to my first attempt at a multi chaptered Fan Fiction. I'd love to say that updates will be very regular, but I promise nothing. Just thought I'd warn you in advance. However, I will try.

This is set after the second book, which means that we still have Erasers and Ari, and Jeb has not been revealed as Max's father. However, that doesn't mean I've just thrown out my third book. Itex headquarters, as headed by Marian Janssen, are located in Germany, and I haven't totally ruled out a cameo by Dr. ter Borcht. The story centres around the flock and Itex, like back in the good old days. However, I did introduce a new character to the action. A blonde, European mutant with the misfortune to have named herself Juniper. Hopefully you'll forgive the OC and read it anyway.

Other warnings. Well, it does feature Fax, all though that's mostly one sided, and really only early on. There is slash. Which, for those not in the know, means gay pairings. There is sex, most of it off-screen though. And language. I am prone to swearing on occasion, maybe more than just occasionally, so yes you will find your fair share of shits, craps and fucks throughout this story. I'm rating it T, but it's a high T, which I might change to an M. For the language, and sex. And because I'm not entirely sure how some of the stuff floating around in my head will evolve.

I love getting reviews. Hate it or love it, just let me know. I can't improve if you don't tell me what parts need improving.

And apologies for the very short prologue. Compensation? You get the first chapter at the same time.

Disclaimer: I own only my pen and my imagination. Neither of which conjured up the Flock, Itex and associated characters.

Claimer: They are, however, responsible for my OC and this plot. Please don't steal them.

Enjoy xD

2. Prologue


Every once in a while someone shoots through your life in a fiery glory. And so long as they are there you just can't look away. They fill your world with light, blaze across the skyline of your life, and they hold you transfixed.

While they hold your attention everything else fades to black. Even that which used to be your sun seems dull in comparison. There is nothing but this new source of light and energy.

And then they go. And you're left in the darkness trying to make sense of everything around you. Everything that your life became while you were under their spell.

And all the while you find yourself haunted by the glittering of their eyes, the sound of their laugh. And everywhere you go you find yourself searching for them, even though you know they couldn't possibly be there. Because it's better than facing the wreck your life is reduced to without them.

3. Chapter One

Chapter One.

Fires are extremely useful tools. Not only do they provide warmth and the ability to cook food, but they also tend to get people forming a circle around them if you build a big fire. And if you position your self directly across from someone you can study them discreetly, aided by all those lovely shadows a flickering fire throws across your face. And that's what I ended up doing with Fang. Not the cooking part, I'd left that to the boys who had managed to score some burgers from somewhere. Instead, I studied his face. It was so hard to tell what he was thinking. And even though he talked to me more nowadays, he still had yet to really let me in. I wondered whether his mind ever wandered back to the redheaded wonder. Or if it lingered on those times we'd been able to stop and talk and just spend time together. Or if he ever thought about that time on the beach where he'd almost died… At that moment Fang turned his head, and his eyes locked onto mine. I looked away quickly, hoping that the fire was better at hiding my sudden inexplicable blush than it had been at masking my inquisitive eyes.

Seeking distraction I turned my attention to my half-forgotten dinner, only to be reminded that I'd already finished it and end up staring lamely at my hands. When Angel gave a sudden gasp I was relieved to be pulled from my personal awkward moment.

'What is it, Angel?' I asked, getting up to pretend to scan the forested perimeter of our little clearing. Thank you for the distraction, I thought gratefully. Angel shook her head, frowning.

'I think someone's coming. Just one person, but I can't get a clear picture of them,' Angel said slowly after a moment. I began to scan the perimeter for real.

'Any idea if their friend, foe or Average Joe lost in the woods?' Iggy asked, his anxiety barely masked.

'I don't know. They don't feel… I don't know. Not bad… I suppose,' Angel replied uncertainly. And before I had a chance to ask anything else, someone walked out of the woods and into the clearing. It was a girl, and I suppose anywhere else she wouldn't have looked out of place. In fact she would have fitted in perfectly at any mall anywhere around the world. Stepping out from a densely forested area that required a lot of bush bashing when accessed by foot? Less believable, especially in her flimsy white dress and boots that, despite lacking a heel, were clearly not made for walking.

Everything about her seemed too much. Her eyes a touch too blue, her hair a tad too blonde, her face that bit too angular, her skin a spot too pale, her height a smidgen too tall. Not even taking into account the fact she seemed to be wearing glitter above her eyes. She seemed an overly exaggerated figment of someone's imagination. Completely unrealistic.

As she walked into the clearing, I kept waiting for her to suddenly disappear. And then when she didn't and I began to entertain the thought that she might actually be standing in front of me I decided her first words would be something along the lines of 'Thank you, Jesus! It's been so long since I've seen another person. Now, how the heck do I get back to civilisation?' Complete with a New Yorker accent, of course.

What I didn't expect was for her to walk right up to Angel, before saying 'Thank you for so beautifully announcing my arrival,' in a European accent of some sort, and then leaning down towards her. Before she'd managed to close half the distance, Fang had her pinned up against a tree.

'I was just going to give her a kiss on the forehead,' she said in a puzzled tone. 'I vos jus' go'n' to geeve 'er a kiss on zhee fore'ead.'

Then she laughed.

'Flexing your muscles, Fang? We all know how strong you are. How you could quite easily crush a girl like me without breaking a sweat. You know,' she continued in a softer tone, 'Some women would find it a very big turn on to have so close to them. Your face just inches from theirs.' I couldn't believe the gall of this girl, to just walk in here and start flirting with the first man she laid her eyes on. He wasn't just going fuck her because she smiled at him and spoke in her exotic accent.

'I doubt you'll find it such a turn on when he crushes you without raising a sweat,' I muttered.

She laughed again. It was a silly, idiotic sound, favoured by the brainless. Made her sound slightly affected, not that she really needed any help in that department.

'I said some women, Maximum. I am not some women,' she replied condescendingly.

'Who are you, and how the hell do you know who we are?' Fang growled. She smiled.

'I'm Juniper. I picked my name myself. It is pretty, is it not?' She paused for a response, but found only silence. 'And I read all about you in the files.'

'What files?' Iggy asked sharply.

'The experiment files. There was a lot on you, the escaped Americans. At large and out of control. They don't know what to do about you. And me, I'm not stupid. I know if you want to learn how to do something you find someone who already knows how.'

'And what was it you wanted to learn from us?' I asked with a growing sense of trepidation.

'How to get away from the Bad Men,' she said with a feeling of finality.

'Bad Men?' I asked after a moment, with a sense I already knew the answer and the knowledge I really didn't like it.

'The scientists. They locked you up once, but you're free now. And now I'm free too, and I want your help to stay that way.'

'You want to stay free? Here's a tip. Don't pick up random strangers you know nothing about,' Fang said after another absurdly long pause. He was right. I nodded quickly, giving the flock the confirmation they needed.

It took them less than a minute to gather up our scarce belongings and take off into the night air. And as we flew off I could not help looking back and seeing Juniper silhouetted against the fire.

'We had no other choice, Max,' Fang said quietly, appearing at my side.

'I know, it's just…'

'I know.' I watched as he fell back beside Iggy. And found myself seeking out Angel.

'I think she was telling the truth,' she said simply as I fell in beside her. I sighed. Just because she was telling the truth didn't mean she was on our side. But that didn't make it any easier to leave her behind.

4. Chapter Two

As the sun made its way over the horizon, we tried bunking down for the second time. Yes, it was another forest clearing. They're good for birdkids, with easy air access, and we always choose ones that are near impossible to get to for those stuck on the ground. Bleary eyed, the younger mob headed fell asleep almost immediately after choosing their branch for the night. Gaz and Angel curled up in an almost indistinguishable heap of golden locks and fair skin. Nudge, after a moment hesitation, collapsed onto one of her own.

It didn't take a mind reader to work out why she'd hesitated. More and more Nudge had been pushing to be counted as one of the flock's older members alongside Fang, Iggy and myself, but that meant accepting more responsibilities, such as keeping watch. While most nights she'd argued that she was ready, and she could sacrifice the sleep, everyone was exhausted today, and she was, for once, deciding just to take advantage of an uninterrupted sleep.

While flying through the night had some advantages, such as better cover, it also tended to have this effect. Making the change permanent, which could alleviate that problem, would also require us to always be able to find somewhere to sleep that wouldn't be exposed under the light of day. When you're travelling over the forest, this isn't such a problem. Anywhere else? You're pretty much screwed.

'So who wants first shift?' I asked, pulling myself away from the actions, or rather non-actions, of the kids.

'I'll take it,' offered Iggy reluctantly, 'At least that way it'll be over and done with.'

'I'm fine with second,' Fang said quickly. I nodded tiredly.

'Right. In that case I'm going to get as much sleep as I can, while I can.' I said with a yawn, before locating a branch to make my bed for the rest of the day.


By the time Fang woke me the sun was high in the sky, impatient for the day to begin.

'I can't believe they're all still asleep,' I muttered as I surveyed the unconscious bodies of my flock.

'You were too, until two minutes ago. Plus it's only 10'o'clock,' Fang pointed out.

'True,' I conceded, positioning myself in a more upright position at the base of my sleeping tree, 'You should get some sleep, Fang. You must be exhausted.' He smiled a tired smile.

'In a minute,' he said, closing his eyes. 'Max, have you thought about what we're going to do now?'

'I'm not sure. We still have to save the world, and I suppose we'll keep looking for parents when we can.'

Fang snorted.

'Because that worked out so well for Iggy. Face it, Max, parents aren't really an option. We're all the family we need.'

'Which just leaves saving the world.' I reminded him, not really convinced that parents should be entirely wiped from the agenda but not feeling like having an argument now.

'And if we don't?' He said quietly, after a pause.

'What?' I asked, confused.

'If we don't save the world, then what?'

'The world ends, Fang! It all goes kablooey!' I replied, somewhat hysterically, while trying not to wake everyone.

'Or they'll bring in Max II.'

'If she killed me, she'd get the gig. Since she didn't, they're leaving it up to me.'

'We don't know that. We don't know anything. We don't even know what we're saving the world from. Maybe you don't have to save the world. Remember that island we were going to find? We could still do that. And it'd just be the flock, far away from anything and anyone who wanted to hurt us,' he sat up and opened his eyes, locking them onto mine, 'Wouldn't that be great Max?'

'We can't. We can't just say "Oh, we've had enough, so we hope you enjoy the end of the world while we take our island vacation". God, Fang, do you have any idea how selfish that sounds?'

'You can't tell me you're not all tempted,' he said leaning towards me, 'Just the six of us, the whole island to ourselves. We could do whatever we wanted.' His face was less than an inch from my own, lips almost touching. I would like to say I pushed him away and told him to stop being so self-centred, but quite frankly I was having trouble breathing. 'But,' he said suddenly, pulling away, 'At the moment we've only got this clearing, and we can't really do whatever we want with everyone sleeping just metres away. Speaking of which, I should get some of that sleep.'

And then he was gone. And my heart was beating wildly out of control. And all I could think was how tempting that island sounded right at that moment.


He hated this. He'd seen it in Max's eyes, how much she wanted this. But it didn't matter how many times he tried to convince himself he felt the same, he just… didn't.

He loved her, of course, but as a sister, not the way she wanted him to. Not the way he wanted to. But was it so wrong to lead her along for a bit when it might possibly save her life, take her off the self-destructive path Jeb had placed her on? She was never going to save the world. Not by aimlessly flying around, occasionally beating up erasers, and spending intermittent spells at the School. And he was going to end up with her eventually, there was no escaping that fate.

What did it matter if she didn't hold his heart? The person who did was out of the question, and if he couldn't be happy the very least he could do was make sure Max found her happiness. And if that meant pretending to love her back, then so be it. He did care about her.

He let out a muffled yawn, trying not to alert Max, keeping watch below him, to the fact he was still awake. Something he really ought to change, if only his mind would settle for a moment so he could get some sleep.


He watched as she landed daintily in front of him, listening to the rhythmic thud-thud-thud as her oversized, brilliant blue wings brought her down in front of him.

'Ari, my dear, 'tis truly wonderful to see you again,' she called out in her melodic accent.

'Juniper. I thought you'd be with the flock already,' Ari replied, trying to sound as professional as possible and ignore his accelerating heart. Something that became impossible when she leaned down and began kissing him rather thoroughly on the lips.

'Hmm… Yes, I'll be joining up with them tomorrow. I'll join them mid-flight, rather than ambushing their campsite again. But Ari, love, I think we should really just make the most of this most magnificent morning together. It might be a while before we see each other again. And then we'll be able to answer once and for all, who's the better fuck – The original or the copy?'

'You know, they have to let you in first.'

'They'll let me in. I'm a fellow mutant, on the run from the big, scary scientists, and I'm desperate for their help. There's no way they'll turn me away. Hell, they'd probably let you in if they thought you'd changed sides,' she said between kisses.

'They'd never let me in. They all hate me.'

'Well, perhaps if you stopped trying to kill them they'd change their minds,' she suggested, as she started undoing the buttons of his shirt.

'You're trying to kill them,' he reminded her, 'And I don't think Fang is going to forgive me anytime soon.'

'But they don't know that, plus I'm not really trying to kill them. And Fang is the only reason I'm not with them this very second. Maybe he has got more brains than we give him credit for,' she replied, beginning to take the shirt off him. Ari grabbed her hands, stopping her suddenly. She looked up, surprised. 'Ari, love?'

'Not here,' he growled. And with her hands clasped firmly in his, he whisked her away to a more private location.

5. Chapter Three

The sudden switch from being on watch, completely at one with the forest and quiet noises of its inhabitants, to being in control of five other kids, all of them hungry and most of them loud, is one that I have yet to get used to. I swear, we need to seriously get to work on staggering their body clocks so that you don't find yourself suddenly bombarded by noise. Instead you get them one by one, building up gradually. That could be nice…

But instead, not long after midday, I was violently shoved out of my rather peaceful state of mind into a more practical, leader-like one by a pack of starving children.

'Okay, enough!' I said as loudly as I could after the tenth request for food. Normally that would mean that you seriously need to improve your service level, but when it was just one birdkid, with some supporters chiming in their approval, repeating it over and over again before you'd had a chance to answer them at all, telling them to just shut it is a perfectly reasonable response. At least Gazzy had the decency to look properly abashed.

'Right. Fang, you're in charge of finding food. And take this one with you,' I said, pointing at Gazzy. 'Iggy, you're in charge of getting this fire going again. It's November and it's cold. Everybody understand?'

Iggy smirked. Fang nodded. Gazzy scowled.

'Do you want me to do anything Max?' Nudge asked.

'Uh… I think we're right. You can help Iggy with the fire if you really want to, or you can just enjoy a couple of minutes off with Angel and myself.'

'Whatever,' Nudge grumbled. I didn't know what I was going to do about her. Angel frowned slightly at Nudge, and I wondered whose thoughts she was reading: mine, or Nudge's.

'Everyone hop to it then,' I said cheerily, trying to shake off my concerns about Nudge. I could worry about her some other time, like when I could actually do something about it. I watched the flock scatter. Fang and Gazzy taking off, into the sky, before disappearing behind the trees. Iggy also disappearing into the trees, in search of wood for the fire, with Angel skipping along behind him. Nudge going so far as the edge of the clearing; brooding on something she obviously had no intention of sharing.

I sat down heavily on a fallen tree trunk and tried to figure out what we needed to do. If Fang had been right about anything, then it was that I had no idea what I supposed to do in order to save the world. Where exactly was I supposed to go from here? What was it that I was supposed to be doing?

Stop worrying, Maximum.

And I almost fell of my log. Voice? I'd say long time, no see, but it sounds so clichéd. And well…. I never actually see you.

You didn't need me. You are an extraordinarily capable individual.

So, the voice in my head believes in me…

Everything will work out for the best. Just remember to breathe every once in a while.


'It's good advice,' came the distinctly accented voice of Roland ter Borcht.

Jeb almost jumped at the sound.

'How long have you been standing there?'

'How long has it been since took the time to remember to breathe?' Roland asked, avoiding Jeb's question.

Jeb gave a small, tired smile.

'Everything's been so crazy recently. Hopefully, when this is all over…' he started to say, when Roland cut in.

'When this is all over, in God knows how long, you will have already run yourself into the ground.'

Jeb sighed, but didn't argue.

'I just realised that with everything that's been going on, it's been an awfully long time since anybody did the voice.'

'So you thought you'd drop everything, stress yourself some more, and come and make a broadcast? You could have asked someone else to do it.'

'Everyone else was busy, and I didn't want to bother you,' Jeb replied distractedly, uncomfortable with this topic. Ter Borcht gave a small, humourless laugh.

'I'm sure Reilly would have been happy to help, and you should know I don't mind being bothered by you.'

'I know, it's just there's so much going on at the moment, with that girl and everything. You wouldn't happen to know where she is, would you?' Jeb asked in a not so subtle attempt to change the subject.

'Last I heard,' Roland began, a smile tugging at his face for the first time, 'she was screwing your son in the Janitor's Closet.'

Apparently, remembering to breathe was something Jeb really needed to work on.

'What?' Jeb finally managed to spit out between coughing fits. A four letter, monosyllabic word that was hardly worth the wait.

'Yes. Sounded like fun to me, except of course I'd take the father.'

'Did no one point out that she's something like eight years older than him?'

'Jeb, he's not a seven-year-old boy. He's an eraser. You know that,' Roland said gently, putting all thoughts of fathers and Janitor's Closets aside.

'I know,' he said quietly, after a moment, 'I know. It's just sometimes…' Jeb left the sentence hanging.

'What was it you said before? Everything will work out for the best. Sometimes you just need to trust that.'

Jeb didn't trust that at all, and he knew Roland didn't either, but when Roland leant down and kissed him it was so easy to believe that perhaps they would, for once. Because at that moment, everything felt so right, it seemed impossible to picture it all going wrong. Everything will work out for the best.


'What are you doing?' Ari asked lazily, watching a nude Juniper search through the surprisingly spacious Janitor's Closet. He propped himself up, so that he could see her better and watched with puzzled amusement, not at all oblivious to the view, as she suddenly reached behind a vacuum cleaner to retrieve a small purple piece of cloth. Her underwear, he realised, which she then proceeded to put on.

'You know, you look better without those,' Ari tried again. This time she actually looked at him, a small, if distant, smile on her face.

'Can you pass me my dress?'

Ari turned around to grab the abandoned garment lying behind him.

'You don't have to get dressed right now,' he suggested, as he began to stand up and move towards her, dress still clutched in his hands.

'I have a flock to join, remember? Unless you're suggesting I do that naked,' she replied coolly.

'They can wait,' Ari insisted, his voice almost a growl. He dropped the dress on the ground behind him, and wrapped his arms around her. 'Don't tell me you really want to leave.'

Ari could feel her almost quivering – no, actually quivering – under his hands. He smiled, and touched his nose to hers, 'So what do you say?' he whispered.

She hesitated for a moment, before allowing a smile to light up her face.

'I suppose I could stay a little longer,' she answered.

'Good,' Ari replied, a playful note entering his voice, 'Because I wasn't going to let you go.' She laughed, and he grinned. He would never tire of hearing her laugh, not even if he somehow managed to defy possibility and live to one hundred. It was even better when he was the one causing it.

'Ari, love?' Juniper said softly, her eyes cast downwards in a semblance of modesty, wrecked only by the smile she was struggling, and failing, to contain.

'Yes, June, dear,' he replied, with slight sarcasm tainting his term of endearment. He saw no need to refer for them to one another as darling, or dear or love, yet she seemed to do so almost constantly.

'I seem to have an extra item of clothing on. Would you help me remove it?' She glanced at him through her eyelashes, and finished with a disarming little smile. She sounded so innocent when she said it, and hell, it made him want her so much more.

He smiled. God, there was a lot of smiling going on, but when he was with her, the whole world could be going to pieces out there and he wouldn't know, wouldn't care. All that mattered was Juniper, and her touch, her taste, and for once his short life he actually felt good.

He moved his hands up to the top of her back, and began to slowly slide them down the curve of her back.

'No extra clothes there,' he commented, as his hands continued their downward journey, before finally reaching the waistband of her underwear. 'Found it,' he whispered softly in her ear. He slipped his hands under the band and began to slowly lower them. As he reached her ankle, she stepped backwards, leaving the discarded undies on the ground.

'All better now,' she said sweetly.

'All better now,' he repeated, though his voice failed to find sweet, melodic line hers had adopted. Instead, it was ragged, unpolished, almost a growl.

She stepped over him, to the space they'd cleared earlier.

'Coming?' she asked. Ari could only nod.


You smile their smiles, you laugh their laughs. Let them think that you feel something when they move inside you. Let them think you want this too, because you were never going to get away. At least this way you get to be in control. Don't recoil from their touch; make yourself move towards it. Don't shy away from their kisses; make them last and linger. Don't draw yourself away; let them hold you in their arms. If you want to survive, you do what they say. Even when they don't realise they're issuing orders.

6. Chapter Four

'Where are we going?' Gazzy asked as we took off from the clearing. I wish I knew, I thought.

'We're just going to try and cover as much ground as we can before nightfall,' I replied, desperately hoping that no one, including our six-year-old mind reader, had noticed my lack of answer, a hope that was destined to be dashed.

'We know that, Max. But covering ground on the way to where exactly?' Nudge inquired, for once deciding not to blab on and on. A shame really, I could've made use of one of her tangents right about now.

'I think we need to head south,' I replied, jumping on the first direction that came to mind. 'To California, and try to find out what we're up against,' I continued, congratulating myself on a good choice, complete with a great argument to back it up.

'You want to voluntarily return to the school?' Fang asked quietly. There was a trace of anger and shock lingering in his voice, and I was suddenly less confidant in my call to head south. 'When exactly were you planning on telling the rest of us?'

'I haven't decided for sure,' I retorted, 'But we need more information, and that's one place we can be sure of getting it. So, unless you have a better idea…'

'Just about anything would be better than going back to the place where sadistic scientists tortured us for ten years, don't you think?' Iggy put in bitterly.

'I'm in charge here, remember?' I yelled angrily. 'And I'm not going to hide away while the whitecoats get away with torturing more innocent kids. I'm certainly not going sit by while they destroy the world. I have to save the world, but first I need to know what I'm saving it from, and I'm sorry if you're all too scared to help me.'

My cheeks were flushed as I flew to the front of the flock, deeply regretting my choice of direction. South? What the hell was I thinking? But it was true. I didn't know anything about my mission and when push came to shove, and the world was resting on my shoulders, I didn't want to uninformed. The rest of the flock would just have to understand, and trust me to what's right for them and the world, because ultimately I was trying to balance both of them. And it was no easy task.

Despite the fact we were only a few metres apart, the gulf between the flock and myself seemed to be widening. I sighed. With so much at stake, we couldn't allow our lives to be ruled by fear. They'd see in the end. They'd all see.


Marian glanced around impatiently. She'd spent too many hours on planes of late, too much time on the fourteen-hour route between here and Germany. When the girl finally decided to make an appearance, Marian could send her on her way once and for all and take her last flight for a while. She looked quickly at Jeb standing, apparently calmly, beside her. She wondered what he was thinking – it was his daughter's fate he was entrusting to this girl, who, really, they knew very little about.

At the time Marian had just been glad to find someone who met the basic criteria. Someone who could fly, spoke English, and was capable of appearing sane. There were very few of those around, and the girl had easily been the best of a bad bunch. It was strange, considering that the Swiss branch Marian had found her in had written her off as a failure. Obviously, the Swiss had much higher standards than the rest of the world when it came to their mutants. When she got home she'd have to pay them a visit, investigate the string of failures they'd reported and find out how many of them were actually fully functional successes.

'Here they come,' Jeb muttered, earning a quick glance which was quickly redirected at the two figures cutting across the field.

'Do you know what time it is?' Marian barked at them as they neared. For today they were supposed to be under her command, which meant they were supposed to listen to her and meet them at 1.00pm, not stroll over an hour later.

'Did we hold you up,' Ari sneered, and it was all Marian could do not to recoil from him. Jeb's face was unnaturally peaceful, and she spared a moment to wonder how he coped, what with his son an eraser, and his daughter a highly insufferable birdkid.

'The flock started moving nearly thirty minutes ago,' she continued, after taking a deep breath, 'They're heading south from Oakhurst. You'll need to head northeast in order to intercept them. Hopefully, you'll make it before nightfall, but if you don't you are not to return. You are to stay out there until you have successfully met up with, and joined, the flock. You will not have any contact with us until you have completed your task, am I clear?'

The girl nodded, 'Crystal. Any chance of seeing a map though?'

Marian sighed, before sending an idle eraser to fetch a map. That was one of the problems with this mutant. She was unfamiliar with the landscape, and her sense of direction was not nearly as honed as that of the birdkids, or even the erasers.

'You understand that you must get them to trust you, to accept you as one of their own, if this is to work,' Jeb stressed urgently. She laughed, as if the mere suggestion of someone distrusting her was hard to comprehend.

'I've got it,' she replied after a moment, her voice sounding almost idyllic. The eraser finally returned with a map and after a quick glance, she smiled at the small group that had assembled to see her off. 'I suppose I should go. Hunt down some birdkids, and the like.'

She unfurled her vibrant, oversized wings, and rose up above them. And then she was gone, the thud-thud-thud reverberating through the air the only thing left of her, and then that too was gone.


It takes 38 seconds to walk across the field, from where Ari had watched Juniper leave, to the building which was the closest thing to a home he could ever remember having. 38 seconds, that's all. And yet he couldn't even make it to the door without someone interrupting him.

'So, your lover's gone now,' Max said as she came up beside him. Not Max Max, but the clone.

'What's it to you,' Ari grumbled. He wondered how hard it would be to make her understand that he wasn't interested in her. Very, he decided, as he tried to shrug off the hand she'd just placed on his shoulder.

'She won't be coming back, you know.'

'I know. And strangely enough, I don't care. I see why you might though, she was the first person who bothered pretending that she gave a fuck whether you woke up or not.' Max looked startled, giving Ari a small moment of pleasure. It wasn't his fault that she was incapable of keeping her mouth shut, though God knows it would do wonders for her.

'She gave a fuck,' Max said defiantly after a moment.

'What, because she looked at you and seemed to see you? Because she kissed you and held you close? Because she stripped away your layers and told you that underneath it all you were still beautiful? You were nothing but a piece of meat to her. You meant nothing to her, just like you mean nothing to me,' Ari bit off viciously.

'How…' Max let the word trail off. Her eyes focussing on something far away, before she turned back to face him.

'I'm sure you've got better things to do then talk to me, so why don't I let you return to your wonderful life, and I'll go back to mine,' Max practically spat at him.

Ari watched as she stalked off, and tried to convince himself that everything he told her was true. That way maybe the dull ache inside of him would go away.


We'd been flying in complete silence for over an hour, when Iggy finally said something.

'That's something I've never heard before,' he muttered, and, grateful for the distraction from the simmering tempers around me, I quickly focussed my attention on him.

'What is it?'

'I don't know. It's sort of a thud-thud-thud sound. I don't think I've heard anything like it,' he answered, his face a picture of confusion. Angel seemed to frown for a moment before she burst out laughing.

'Angel?' I asked, my confusion growing by the second.

'It's fine Max. You'll see soon,' she replied happily, obviously overjoyed with whatever it was making the strange noise. I just hoped it wasn't some strange talking bird that she was hoping to adopt as our new pet.

It wasn't long before I saw it, and for a second I thought my strange bird theory was right on the money. There was this thing flying towards us with fluoro blue wings, that, as it got closer you could hear making the thud-thud-thud sound Iggy had picked up on every time it beat it wings. And then I could make out more details, and for a second my wings stopped beating.

'Angel, is that…?' I let my question hang. She nodded, enthusiastically.

'What is it?' Iggy asked, his annoyance coming through very clearly in his voice.

'Remember that girl from yesterday? Juniper, I think her name was. Well she's got like these freaking huge wings, and their like the brightest blue you could possibly imagine, and she's using them to fly right at us.' Nudge rambled. So long as she kept Iggy happy, I could put up with it.

A handful of seconds later she hovered in front of us.

'What sort of wings are those?' Gazzy blurted out. She laughed, and I remembered how annoying the sound was. But my heart wasn't in it like it had been last night. If I was supposed to save everyone, how could I justify abandoning this girl not once, but twice?

'A butterfly wings,' she answered cheerfully, before turning to face me, 'I realised last time that I didn't get a chance to tell you what sort of mutant I was, and it occurred to me that if you knew I had wings, and could fly with you, you might be more willing to let me join your flock. So what do you say?'

I hesitated. She'd just given me a perfectly legitimate reason for changing my mind, and I wanted to let her stay, but how could I be sure we could trust her. How could endanger the flock like that? But there was something about her that seemed so vulnerable, it was hard to imagine her doing any of damage.

Trust your instincts Max.

I sighed. My instincts said yes, and the Voice was right. My instincts had saved our hides a number of times, and I couldn't start doubting them now.

'Fine, you can join us,' I said, ignoring Fang's eyes boring into the back of my skull. Hopefully, I wouldn't regret it.

7. Chapter Five

She lay on the bed that took up most of the space in the small room, and squeezed her eyes shut as though that could silence the thoughts running through her head. She shouldn't feel like this. She was designed to not feel like this. It was the original Max who let herself be led by her attachments to others, not her. Not Max II.

And yet, as she lay there she could not shake Ari's words from her head. Did she really mean so little to him? To Juniper? She'd long accepted that Ari would never be hers. He'd only ever been interested in her because of her resemblance to Version 1.0, and then Juniper had swept him off his feet. And Max II didn't mind that. He was a great shag, but she never wanted anything more than that. At least, that's what she'd thought.

At some point, she'd come to trust him somewhat. She thought that maybe there was an understanding between them. A friendship of sorts, she thought briefly before dismissing the notion. An alliance was more accurate.

But maybe Ari didn't give a fuck about her. Maybe he simply tolerated her for his own amusement. Maybe she was nothing but an easy lay, for whenever he grew restless. A toy for him to play with. Nothing but a piece of meat.

The idea made her nauseous.

And that made her hate herself more.

For fuck's sake, Max, she told thought to herself, I am nothing. Just like he's nothing. We're both worthless pieces of shit that some lunatic scientist dreamed up. Does it really matter that he recognises that? It's better, surely, that we both know this than that we pretend that we could possibly be worth something to someone. Which begged the question of how she'd managed to forget that in the first place. The answer to that was simple: because he'd told her she was worth something, and then Juniper had told she was worth something, and at some stage she'd told the little voice in her head to take a hike and she'd let herself believe.

She snorted. She was such an idiot sometimes. And now it felt like someone had ripped her heart out and then handed it back to her on a plate. It hurt. It wasn't supposed to hurt. Not like this.

Damn Ari. Damn him to hell. Damn them all to hell. At least he couldn't hurt her anymore. No, she'd make sure of that. No one would be able to hurt her now, she promised.

A tear made its way down her cheek, quickly followed by another. They'd never be able hurt her again, but that didn't make pain go away this time.


Ari stared at the wall. He was so bored. So alone. He wanted to have Juniper with him, only so he'd have someone to distract him, he quickly added. He wouldn't have minded talking to Max II either, he thought guiltily before repressing the uncomfortable feeling. It's not his goddamn fault she was sticking her nose into his business. If she'd just learn not to pry, then maybe he wouldn't need to put her in her place. All she did was remind you that Juniper won't becoming back, a small voice reminded him. What was so bad about that? What was it you couldn't stand about that? What was it about that?

'Shut up,' Ari muttered bitterly. It wasn't what she said, it was simply that she thought it was her place to say it, he told himself.

He hated lying to himself.


Business Class was worth every cent, Marian decided, as she watched the flight attendant pour her a glass of champagne, especially when you've got a multinational corporation to foot the bill. It was nice to finally be going home, and perhaps this time she'd get to stay there for a while, she thought wistfully. She sighed, remembering that she had to go and check up on the Switzerland branch.

They'd surprised her when they'd nominated the Butterfly Girl for her most recent endeavour. The branch had recorded no successful recombinants; in fact, all of their reports had talked about weak, useless experiments. She was surprised one of them had managed to survive this long. This particular girl's report had spoken briefly of her 'flimsy underdeveloped wings, that seem to have no defined shape and are unlikely to fulfil their purpose' early on, before being neglected, apart from one quick note recording her first successful flight. A great deal of the report had been focussed on her lack of strength in direct, on the ground, combat, with little attention paid to her speed, which was reasonable, or her endurance which, while not exemplary, was impressive. Skimming over the report , one would get the impression of a fragile weakling who could barely stand up, nothing like the girl Marian had found herself actually confronted with.

Because of this, she knew she'd have to visit Switzerland herself. If one 'failed' experiment turned out to be such a success, there was no telling what other treasures she might find in the mighty Alps. God, just the thought of those other scientific marvels lying wait for her was exhilarating. But, she reminded herself, she couldn't get excited just yet. Maybe the rest were failures. Maybe the Swiss branch was so used to seeing failure after failure that they couldn't comprehend the fact that one of their experiments had been successful. Maybe, or maybe the Swiss were just perfectionists who refused to accept that an experiment that failed to live up to their high expectations could still be deemed a success.

She sighed. Debating this with herself would get her nowhere. She'd just have to see. No doubt it would be an interesting trip, whatever it turned up.

She sipped the last of her champagne and the overly eager flight attendant came quickly to refill her glass. After a moment's thought, Marian let her. No matter what class you were in, or what you thought about flying, the whole experience was vastly improved with a nice dose of alcohol. She wondered whether she could get Gin and Tonic next time.

8. Chapter Six

Tension is heavy in the air. You smile, you laugh. You revel in the disharmony you've already created. The smiles you receive in return are forced, and you get none at all from the Alpha and Beta of this motley crew, from whom the tension seems radiate. But that's okay, everything becomes so much easier if they dislike each other. They're impatient to have everyone else off to bed, and everyone else is eager to escape to their own little world where they don't have to watch Mummy and Daddy fighting. You stifle a laugh as your mind conjures an image of Mother Max literally tearing Papa Fang to pieces while their flock watches on with shocked, innocent faces. As much as you'd love to stay and enjoy the show, you know you need to go to bed as well. Nothing's going to happen so long as you're still here. So, with a smile on your face and a spring in your step, you find somewhere to settle down for the night. You'll still be able to hear plenty.


'Max,' Fang said finally.

'Fang,' I replied. Our voices were soft, deceptively calm. Almost like a still spot on the ocean surface while a rip forms underneath, with currents ready to drag an unwary swimmer into the depths of the sea.

'What are you doing, Max?' he beseeched.

'I'm trying to save the world,' I answered simply.

'And you honestly think dragging us back to the school, picking up random strangers and ignoring the advice of one of the few people you can trust is going to achieve that?'

'I think we don't have enough information. I think she's a lost girl who could quite possibly help us. And I think you have no more idea about any of this than I do.' I could feel my voice gathering strength with every word I spoke.

'I think it's dangerous and unnecessary. I think we don't know her and can't trust her. And I think you have no more idea about any of this than I do. So tell me why I should blindly follow your instinct instead of my own?' he retorted.

'Last time I checked, I'm the leader of this flock. I'm also the one who is supposed to save the world. And because of that I'm not going sit by and let you drag the flock in a direction I completely oppose.'

'I actually give a damn about the safety of this flock, our family. I'm not going to let you kill them simply because some scientist, who, by the way, betrayed us, in case you'd forgotten, told you that you're supposed to save the world. And, oh yeah, the voice inside your head agrees with him.'

'For fuck's sake, Fang, you're suddenly deciding you have a problem with a voice now? I mean why not when we were blindly following it around New York? Oh wait, that's right it helped us then. Just like it's helped us every time since.'

'All I'm saying is we have no idea who the voice is, mostly likely it's some scientist at the school, and yet we give it our complete trust. It hasn't turned on us so far, but who knows when or if it'll change it's mind.'

'And at the end of the day it won't matter whether or not the voice told me to save the world, whether we could trust it or not, the world will still need saving, and I'm better equipped than most to do it.'

'You're a child, Max. We're still just kids, me and you. And we're the oldest. Your idea that you are the only one capable of saving the world could potentially end all of our lives.'

'And not trying could potentially end the lives of six billion people inhabiting this planet. Lots of them are just kids too.'

'What are they to you? Why do their lives mean to you than those of your own family?'

I reeled back, shocked.

'How can you even say that?' I stammered.

'What's it to us if they do all die? They have no part in our lives, and we have no part in theirs. Let them tear each other to pieces, our responsibility is to make sure we survive.'

'Fang, if we can save all those people, surely that's our responsibility too?'

'Let them save themselves,' he answered harshly, 'Hell, Max, we don't even know what they need saving from, but it'll be another one of them, I can tell you that.'

'Like I said, we need more information. We need to find out what we need to save them from. Then we can save them, Fang. I know you don't really want them all to die,' I said earnestly, hoping some of my enthusiasm for the plan would rub off.

'Don't you understand, Max? You are my world. You, Iggy, Nudge, Angel, Gaz. You are the only people I need in the entire world. Why should I have to risk you to save the billions I don't care about from themselves?'

I could feel my heart thumping way too loudly, my breathing way too heavy. Just him, the flock and me, with the whole world to ourselves. I could see his eyes looking intently into mine, picking up the light of the stars in the night sky. All I needed was him, and all he needed was me. We could make each other happy. So why would we risk it all for those who have hunted us? For people who would reject us, make a freak show out of us, use us and abuse us? He was right, but there was a little part of me that still needed to object. If we let them die how are we any better than them?

He suddenly seemed much closer than he had before, and yet the space between us seemed bigger, almost offensively so. I caught his eye, filled with frustration and an earnest desire to protect the flock. Because he had realised something I hadn't. However much I claimed my role was to save the world, my job was first and for most here, with him. With the flock. And this was why I needed him, to remind me of this whenever I got carried away. Sure, we still needed to save the world, but I had to make sure the flock was safe as well. And Fang reminded me of that. That's why I needed him. Why I loved him.

And with that thought buzzing through my head, I closed the offensive gap between us.


Fang started when Max's lips met his. His eyes flew wide, and he involuntarily pulled away. Max did too, hurt and embarrassed.

'I'm sorry,' she muttered, turning away, attempting to escape with some scrap of decency.

'Don't be,' Fang replied hurriedly. 'You did nothing wrong.' His mind was racing at a million miles an hour. He should have expected this. He shouldn't have reacted like that. He needed to fix this, needed to show he was interested in her. However untrue that might be. She was still trying to walk away, hide her blushing cheeks and wallow in her shame and stupidity, so Fang reached out grabbed her wrist.

'Max, don't go. I meant it when I said you did nothing wrong. In fact, you did everything right. I just… wasn't expecting it.'

She stopped and looked at him.

'Really?' she asked timidly. He nodded, and then he kissed her. Because it was what she wanted, and at the end of the day that was all that mattered, wasn't it? If she was happy, the flock was happy. It made no difference whether or not there was someone else he'd rather be kissing, or even if she was the wrong gender, because at the end of the day she was Max and he was Fang. And she loved him. And the one he loved would never love him back. And going after the one he wanted would destroy the whole flock.

But he could love Max, or at the very least let her love him.


You hold in a sigh. There's no need to let them know you're listening. So Max liked Fang's little oration on how the flock was his world? It doesn't matter, just means you'll have a little more work to do. And she might be a bit more suspicious. But you're observant. You know Fang's eyes very rarely linger on Max with the same intensity they adopt while looking elsewhere. You know it's only so long until he slips up. Only so long before you can help rebuild the shattered remains of their once great leader. And you know how to put events into motion. Everything will work out, all it takes is a little skill and a bit of time. You happen to have plenty of both.


Angel closed her eyes, satisfied with the night's events. She'd been worried there for a moment, when Fang was so intensely devoted to protecting the flock while Max was equally devoted to protecting the rest of the world. When Max had finally realised what Fang was saying, Angel had felt like singing. She knew she could relax then, everything was going to be all right. And then they'd kissed. Oh, everything was going to be very much all right. Sure there'd been a shaky moment near the start where Fang had been surprised by the kiss and pulled away, but his thought were so sweet! He knew they were meant to be, he was so sure they'd end up together no matter what he tried. Angel held in a childish squee as she realised how lucky Max was to have someone like Fang. Fang was right, there really was nothing that could hold them apart, even if she'd been the wrong gender, although that would have been a bit … ick, y'know.