Maximum Ride: Warp by Uherenye

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Romance
Characters:Fang, Max
Published:2006-08-26 10:30:12
Updated:2010-08-07 22:32:51
Packaged:2021-04-21 23:13:24
Summary:Max and the flock have just escaped from Itex but can they find a safe place to live now? Is there even such a thing? Various pairings including, of course, FAXNESS. If you don't particularly love Faxness, I think you should be ok though.

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1
2. Chapter 2
3. Chapter 3
4. Chapter 4
5. Chapter 5
6. Chapter 6
7. Chapter 7
8. Chapter 8
9. Chapter 9
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. She's Alive!
20. An Offer

1. Chapter 1

Author's note/Disclaimer: As you know, I don't own any of the characters in this story unless I add new ones later one. They belong to James Patterson and James Patterson only. Also, in order to set the scene for this fanfic I felt it was necessary to include the entire last chapter from Maximum Ride: School's Out - Forever. I put a "-" in the line after that ends. Everything after the "-" is mine; everything before is James Patterson's.

If you enjoy this story, PLEASE review. I will try to update as often as possible, but when I get feedback I feel more motivated to write. And I am not just saying that, it is true. So even if you don't like it, please review and tell me why. Thanks for reading!

Maximum Ride: Warp

Chapter 1

Needless to say, there was a tearful reunion, stories exchanged, hurts examined and gotten mad about all over again.

We grabbed our stuff and flew south until sunrise. Then we dropped down into the Everglades and found a patch of dryish land to sleep on. We felt exhausted and wrung out and yet deeply happy to be together again. To have won again.

Iggy, the younger kids, and Total crashed immediately. They curled up together like puppies, filthy and ragged, an dI was so happy to have them all in one piece that tears leaked out of my eyes and ran down my bruised cheeks.

Fang sat down next to me, and we split one of our last warm Cokes.

"Breakfast of champions," he said, raising the can in the air.

"Did you see what happened to the other Max?" I asked him.

"No, actually I didn't," he said. "But maybe she escaped."

I drank the warm soda, feeling it run down my parched throat. Never would be too soon to see the other Max again. But I couldn't make myself destroy her. Killing the fake Max would be like killing the Eraser Max who looked back at me from the mirror sometimes. Besides - it would just be wrong.

I was exhausted, beyond exhausted, but the last time I'd gone to sleep, I'd woken up with my mouth duct-taped shut and then gotten put in an isolation tank. So I didn't want to close my eyes anytime soon.

The tank. I shuddered just thinking about it.

"Was it bad?" Fang asked quietly, not looking at me.

"Yep," I said, not looking at him, and took another swig of Coke.

The sun was higher, the air heavy and warm and growing warmer. It was December. We'd been on the run for what felt like forever. I didn't know how much longer I could do it. I was ragged out, and between the tank and the Voice, I felt like I was losing my mind. I still wasn't sure how the Erasers were tracking us. I remembered Angel campaigning to be leader and didn't know what to think.

"Did you know it wasn't me, the other Max?" I asked.



"Right away."

"How?" I persisted. "We look identical. She even had identical scars and scratches. She was wearing my clothes. How could you tell us apart?"

He turned to me and grinned, making my world brighter. "She offered to cook breakfast."

A second later we were laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes all over again. Fang and I leaned against each other and laughed and laughed, unable to speak, for the longest time.


Finally I stopped, my stomach aching from the effort of laughing for so long. I carefully wiped the tears out of my eyes - well, the ones that hadn't already spilled out, anyway.

Fang was already his quiet, composed self. Jeez, you would've thought the guy had never laughed in his life. But that's Fang for you.

I tucked my knees under my chin, wrapping my arms around my legs, and let out a breath. The exhaustion was catching up with me, but I still didn't want to close my eyes.

"You should sleep," Fang said. When I didn't answer, he looked over at me. "Max? Seriously. I'll keep watch."

I barely heard him. I was too absorbed in figuring out what the flock was going to do next. "Remember on the beach?" I asked slowly, reflecting back on it myself.

Fang smirked. "I seem to recall more than one," he answered, giving me that look that said Don't think I've forgotten what you did. Meaning the - oh come on, you know what he meant.

I felt my cheeks flare up and looked away for a moment. When I turned back around, his dark eyes were boring into mine. "The second one," I said, resisting the urge to smack him. "The one where I, um, with the shell…" I trailed off. Yep, that's me, Little Miss Eloquent.

"Yeah?" he replied quizzically, answering my original question and asking his own at the same time.

"I'm…just sick of all this. We all are," I stated. Helloooo, Captain Obvious. "I think we should find that island you were talking about."

He seemed not to know what I was talking about at first - then again, his face was so impassive that I couldn't really tell. But soon enough I thought I saw a flash of understanding cross his face and he said, "Yeah. Okay."

I hadn't exactly expected him to jump for joy, and I had been totally right.

"You think there's any deserted islands with grocery stores?" he asked with a completely straight face.

I couldn't help it. I chuckled. "Guess we'll see."

"Really though, Max, get some sleep," Fang said. And, as he does all too often for someone who's not Angel, he read my mind. "Look, I promise I'll wake you up first thing if anything happens," he said softly. "We need you awake latter, not half asleep, all right?"

"Yeah, sure," I said, but I didn't move.

"Fine then, go to sleep before I knock you out myself," he threatened, almost jokingly.

But I knew he probably really would, so I gave in. I curled up next to Nudge and Angel - and, oh yeah, Total - and scrunched my eyes closed against the sun.

"Hey Max?"

I lifted my head up blearily, already half asleep, to look at Fang.

"Welcome back."

I smiled, then buried my face in my arm and fell asleep.

Hope you liked it so far! I already have a lot of chapter 2 written so I will probably put it up later today, or at the very very latest tomorrow.

2. Chapter 2

Disclaimer: Once again, I don't own any of these characters, bla bla bla.

Author's note: Sorry for not getting this up yesterday. But hopefully you'll be satisfied because it ended up WAY longer than I expected. A couple of characters started doing things that I really didn't think they were going to do, but once they started I just had to let everything play out.

Also, someone let me know that I had anonymous reviews disabled, so that should be fixed now.

Chapter 2

I woke up with a jolt as adrenaline shot through my system. I had no idea what had caused it but a feeling of absolute terror was quickly filling me. No. NO. I was back in the tank. Panic seized me, and I thrashed around wildly. No! How had this happened? Fang had been watching. He had said he would wake me up if anything happened. Fang lied, I thought. Unless…dread seeped into my terror, making it ten times worse. Did they have Fang too? The rest of the flock?

Calm down, said the Voice. You're scared. Fear is a weakness. Conquer it.

I wanted to scream and bawl my eyes out, but I didn't. Shut up, I told the Voice. If I had been talking out loud my voice would have been shrill. Just shut up! Or give me some freaking straight answers! I felt like I was going to barf.

Open your eyes, Max, the Voice said.

Oh thanks, another lovely - I started to think, but then I realized: my eyes were shut. Oh. Knowing I would see nothing but the darkness of the isolation tank, I swallowed hard and let my eyes open - to see the late afternoon sun shining down on the Everglades, silhouetting five faces looking down at me.

I gasped and barely prevented myself fro sobbing.

"Max, it's ok," said Angel. "You're not in that isolation tank thing." She knelt down and put her little six-year-old arms around me. Then all of a sudden there I was with all three of the younger kids on top of me, like some kind of bizarre…I don't even know what, actually. Total came and licked my face a few times, despite the look on my face.

I realized that I was shaking all over, covered in cold sweat, my mouth dry and a weird feeling in my throat.

Fang was staring down at me, arms crossed over his chest, face inexpressive as usual except for a slight tenseness in his jaw.

Iggy was looking in my general direction, a question in his face. "Was it a nightmare?" he asked. "I heard you moving around a lot. Moaning and stuff."

I shook my head even though he couldn't see it. "No. I was awake," I said. My voice sounded as shaky as my body still was and I hated it. "I'm fine now, though," I said, hoping I sounded stronger. Even though I wasn't fine. Not really. What was that?

Angel, Nudge, and Gazzy got off of me and I levered myself into a sitting position.

"I'm glad you're okay, Max," said Nudge.

"Yeah," Gazzy agreed, "I was really worried about you."

Angel just looked at me with her big blue eyes, and I knew she'd heard me think about not being fine. Sometimes I hate that power of hers. Sorry, Angel.

"I'm glad I'm okay too, guys," I said, and they had no idea how much I meant it. 'Okay' in this case meaning "not going completely bonkers in a manmade hell surrounded by evil scientists who want to replace me with some clone because they don't think I can, quote, 'save the world.'"

I tried to stand up but I was still shaking too much. Wordlessly, Fang held out his hand to pull me up, and I took it, cursing at my weakness inside. That was when I knew he had been worried, because otherwise he would have found some clever remark to throw out right then.

"What are we gonna do now?" asked Nudge. "It's really wet here, don't you think? I don't want to live here. We're not going to, right? Oh, you know what would be really cool? We - "

I looked over at Fang and rolled my eyes as she rambled on. Was that the shadow of a half smile? I couldn't tell.

" - and every day we could have lunch at the restaurant," Nudge was saying. She paused to take a breath and I jumped at my chance.

"I'm sure that would be great, sweetie, " I interrupted, "but I have another idea."

"Well, get on with it!" said Iggy impatiently.

Before I could answer, Fang surprised me by saying, "Find an island. One where no one lives."

Angel and Nudge's eyes widened. "You mean like live on a beach?" Nudge asked. "That would be so cool!"

"I could talk to fish all the time!" said Angel excitedly.

"I like the ocean," Iggy said thoughtfully, almost to himself. "It's calming."

"As long as the water's not too cold," Total said.

The Gasman had looked happy at first, but now his grin was fading to a frown. "But Max…what about our parents?" he asked.

I hesitated, glancing at Fang for support. But apparently he'd spoken his two sentences for the day, because he was silent. Thanks for the help, buddy. "Umm…Gazzy….I hate to tell you this, but all the stuff at Itex was probably destroyed," I began. "And even if it wasn't, we can't go back there for a pretty long time."

Gazzy looked unconvinced, his large blue eyes full of determination.

"Just think of it as a little break," I said pleadingly. "Some time to recover. Maybe the Erasers won't even be able to find us."

The Gasman looked around at everyone's bruises and nodded. "Okay."

This may surprise you, but Everglades National Park is not exactly a hotspot for libraries. We ended up flying all the way to Miami, which wasn't that far for us, but it was still a drag.

The Miami-Dade Public Library was an arch-covered building fronted by a large plaza full of tables and chairs. The plaza had some serious décor issues - the bright orange tiles on the ground burned my eyes. Almost literally, actually - the Florida sun bouncing off them fairly blinded me.

"Someone likes orange," Fang commented, blinking.

"Come on," I said, "let's go find our island."

You'll probably be astounded once again, but plugging 'uninhabited island' into a search engine doesn't bring up a list of said uninhabited islands, their exact locations, maps to get to them, photographs of what they look like, and whether or not Erasers can find them.

"Hmm," Fang said. "West Caicos Island. Caribbean."

I looked at the computer, where he had up a map of a pepper-shaped island. "I'm liking the Caribbean idea," I said. "Any info on it?" I did a quick 360 while Fang pulled up another page. Nothing suspicious.

"Wait." Fang frowned at the monitor. "Says they're developing it."

I sighed. This was becoming a common theme. Frowning, I complained, "All these places are either being developed or are visited regularly by tours. What is it with humans?" Yes, I know I technically am one, but only 98 so cut me some slack.

Fang shot me a look that said Don't even get me started on that one.

Behind me, I heard Iggy twitch restlessly. "We shouldn't stay much longer," he said.

Angel looked up from where she was sitting with Total, trying to keep him quiet and hidden. "He sees an Eraser coming," she said helpfully.

"Why didn't you say something, Ig!" I said, alarmed. My head whipped around, but I didn't see anything. Wait…

"But Iggy can't see," said Nudge, voicing the exact thought I had just had.

"He sees it in his mind," Angel said. "That's how I know."

I looked at Iggy. He seemed puzzled, as if he was thinking something over. "Is that true?" I asked him.

"Yeah," he said after a moment, sounding bewildered. "Ari. He's gonna come in from a door on the far side of the room."

My jaw dropped and I exchanged a glance with Fang. This is too weird. Iggy had never actually seen Ari in since he was Eraserfied - and more than that, there was no way that he could have known about the door on the opposite side of the room. He had entered through one closer to us. "Jeez, Ig," I said. "Looks like you have a new skill."

If Iggy was right, Ari could burst in at any moment. Personally, I didn't want to wait to find out. "Let's get out of here."

Everyone else prepared to leave, but Fang was still glued to the computer. I saw that he was typing now and realized he was updating his blog. At a time like this. "Fang, let's go! You can update your stupid blog later!" I snarled. Note to self: never tell a hardcore blogger that his blog is stupid.

Fang spared a moment to glare at me, then typed a little more and hit submit. I was growing frantic. "Fang!" I hissed. He could hate me for it later, I didn't care. My main goal was to get the flock out of here in one piece, and right now Fang was putting all of us in danger.

"I'm finding our island," he said calmly.

I swore at him under my breath. He was looking at a map of an island shaped vaguely like a seahorse's head. Yep, you read that right: a seahorse's head. Well, the cartoony TV kind anyway.

He placidly clicked the print button and stood up to walk to the printer.

"Fang, come on!" I said, exasperated. And you know what? He completely ignored me. Furious, I reached out to smack him, but he caught my wrist before I made contact.

"Save it, Max," he growled.

"Yeah, save it Max," said Ari mockingly.

Fang snatched up his precious papers from the printer and let go of my wrist. I remained motionless, staring at Ari.

"I thought we had to go, Max," Fang said. He stuffed the papers into his pocket and started to walk away.

I shook my head quickly, breaking away from Ari's gaze, and hurried after him. Ari seemed to come back to his senses too and was gaining on us, mouth halfway to muzzle.

"The window!" I yelled at the flock.

Fang, now actually determined to leave it seemed, reached it first and smashed it with a chair. The younger kids piled through, snapping open their wings. Iggy went next, clutching Total to his chest.

I motioned to Fang and he leapt out, barely looking at me. As soon as he had cleared the window's frame, I sprang for it, my wings stretching out fast, catching the air, bearing me away from - ouch!

I looked back to see Ari holding my left ankle. I beat my wings harder, but it had no effect. "Let. Go," I said through gritted teeth, trying to kick him with my free foot. But those dang Erasers just don't listen. Ari started dragging me back through the window. I still couldn't get a good kick in. Jagged shards of glass still remained in the frame, cutting me as I was dragged over them. I screamed, hoping someone from the flock could hear me. I was completely inside now, blood dripping from my stomach, arms, face, legs. Ari still clutched my ankle, leaving the rest of me in an odd position on the floor.

"We're gonna be friends, Max," he said amiably.

I shook my head as best I could while it was being ground into the floor. "No, Ari, we're not going to be friends.

I couldn't see his face from this angle but his grip on my ankle tensed. "Yes we will. We'll have fun together. You'll see." And with that, he swung me up by the ankle and slammed me head-first into a table. I saw fireworks, heard Ari yell something incoherent…and everything went black.

Author's note: Hope you enjoyed this chapter, please PLEASE review whether you did or not. Constructive criticism can be really helpful. I haven't started writing chapter 3 yet but I will in a little bit, so if it's not up today it should be up tomorrow.

3. Chapter 3

Disclaimer: Still don't own any of the characters.

Chapter 3

When I opened my eyes, the first thing I noticed was darkness. What did you do to me, Ari? The back of my head was throbbing painfully, and seemed as though it might be wet. I remembered a guy on TV once commenting that his head felt wet after he fell off a building. When another guy on the show had looked, the back of the first guy's head was a bunch of bloody mush. I wondered if that was what I would feel if I touched my head. I swallowed. Am I dying?

My vision seemed to be getting better now - or maybe worse? I couldn't tell. Little pinpricks of light were appearing above me, except in one large area where they were blotted out. The shape there wasn't quite as dark as everything else. The darkest part was at the top, which was kind of scraggily and irregular in shape. There were some rims of white around small dark circles below that. Wait. Eyes? It was someone's face, too human-looking to be Ar- "FANG!"

If he had been walking, he probably would have jumped. But he was flying, and apparently I startled him so much that I felt him almost drop me. Yep, that's right, Fang was startled.

I burst into tears, completely forgetting I was mad at him. Actually, I was anything but mad at him. He was carrying me again, one arm underneath my shoulders, the other under my knees. I realized I should have been embarrassed that he was doing this for the second time - but I wasn't. In fact, it felt kind of -

"Fang, what's going on?" I heard Iggy say, his voice full of alarm.

Now I was embarrassed. Here I was, crying like a baby while the flock got more and more worried. Painfully, I lifted my head slightly so that Fang's body stifled my sobs.

Fang looked towards where Iggy must have been and said, "Max just woke up. I think it'll be okay." I was surprised to hear the note of worry in his voice. Then I realized that he hadn't even attempted to make a joke like the last time we'd been in this situation.

He let me cry like the demented, babyish little freak that I am for the longest time. Finally, he broke the silence with, "Jeez, Max, I don't know if this shirt was made to absorb an entire ocean."

By this time only a few slow tears were leaking out. I untucked my head from his warm, solid, safe - Get a grip, Max - well, from his body, and looked blearily up at him. "Sorry," I said, giving him a tiny smile. My eyes felt all swollen up from crying, like I had severe allergies or something. My head was still hurting a lot. "Thanks," I said quietly. "For…for rescuing me."

He made a little sound in his throat and then said gruffly, "You okay?"

From pretty much anyone else I probably would have thought that response rude, but I knew it was Fang's way of saying, "I know I screwed up big time and I'm really, really sorry."

"I don't know," I said truthfully. He was staring down at my face, and for once his emotions where there, plain to see. He had been terrified. Fang was never terrified - except now that I thought about it, he was sometimes. Like the time I almost killed myself cutting my arm open with a shell. I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to hug him, even though the angle would be awkward. No. I can't do that.

Why not? chimed my ever helpful Voice. Remember, Max, go with the flow.

No! He'd kill me!

Why? the Voice asked. It's just a hug.

You know it would mean more than that, I snapped at it, almost out loud. You said yourself that I have feelings for him!

Then it hit me. Oh my God. I do. No, this is so wrong…

You can't stay children forever, the Voice said.

And image of Fang and the Red-Haired Wonder stuck together like glue sprang into my mind, and I swear I almost barfed. Voice, I thought, you better not have put that there.

No answer. Of course.

I returned to the real world from those most lovely internal musings only to see Fang still staring into my eyes. Insert choice swear here, Fang, why are you doing this to me?

Before my brain had even registered it, I had my arms around his neck. But did I hug him? Oh no, because that would have been much too small a mistake for Maximum Ride. Nope, I kissed him, full-on on the lips, again.

Feeling him tense up, I stopped, withdrawing my face from his slowly, feeling utterly humiliated. He just started at me, those dark eyes probing deep into my own as my cheeks got hotter and hotter, and I couldn't look away. I wondered if he was going to drop me or something. I opened my mouth to say something, then -

WHAM. Faster than a speeding bullet - do bullets speed, though? - Fang closed the distance between our faces, pressing his lips against mine in a kiss that was so unlike Sam's had been that the two could have been mistaken for completely different things. It was as if he was dying of thirst and the only way to quench it was to kiss me. I briefly wondered if he had ever kissed the Red-Haired Wonder like this, but I was soon lost in the kiss, holding him tight around the neck, wanting this to last forever. We were falling, falling, falling into a world where nothing mattered except us, falling into the glorious -

Holy crap. We really were falling. I broke away from Fang, feeling like I was pulling two very strong magnets apart. If magnets could get romantic in any way.

It took a moment for Fang to realize what was wrong. Don't ask me how it is possible to not notice that you are rapidly falling from the sky to a very gory death below, but it is, because it had happened to both of us just then. Fang started pumping his wings again just in time - I heard a small splash has his shoes hit water, and then we started to rise again.

When we were far enough up for the shock to have worn off, I broke the silence by saying, "Forgot how to fly for a bit there, eh Romeo?"

Fang didn't say anything. His face was impassive, but he seemed to be having a hard time swallowing.

I looked up to see the rest of the flock wheeling overhead, probably incredibly relieved to see that Fang wasn't having some weird moi-esque brain attack and could still fly. Mortified, I wondered: had they seen what we had done?

"I can't do this, Max." Fang's quiet voice cut in on my thoughts. "I shouldn't have - We can't." I could see that he was at a loss for words.

I swallowed, my mouth dry. "I'm sorry," I whispered.

He was silent, every muscle on his slim, solid form tense. He wanted to say something, I could feel it, but he wasn't going to. We had almost reached the flock.

"I think I can fly on my own if you want," I said. He nodded and carefully let go of me, giving me time to stretch out my wings. I winced at first, but then everything was fine.

The flock gladly welcomed us back, but I hardly noticed. Fang veered off so that he was farther away from me, alone, impossible to decipher.

I am so stupid, I thought. Why did I have to kiss him?

But you enjoyed it, said another part of me. And no, it was not the Voice.

Heck yes! But that's not the point. Things can never be the same. And nothing else like that will happen again. Fang said he couldn't do it.

He's probably thinking the same thing right now and wishing he hadn't.

Yeah right. You just keep on dreaming.

Fang flew to the side, away from Max, barely acknowledging the flock's greetings. He couldn't believe what had just happened. Max was like his sister.

I am so stupid, he thought. What in the world was I thinking when I kissed her?

But you loved every moment of it, said another part of him.

You think? he thought sarcastically. But now things will never be like the used to be, and nothing like what just happened will ever happen again. I told her myself that we can't do it.

She's probably thinking the same thing right now and wishing you hadn't.

Yeah, and I'm the king of Happy Pony Rainbow Land.

Author's note: Okay, sorry to any of you who aren't fans of Faxness, but other stuff is going to be happening besides that so please don't stop reading. Also, please review everyone! So far this story has gotten more reviews than any of my other ones, and it's making me really happy inside. And when I'm happy inside, I write more. :) I will try to get chapter 4 up soon.

4. Chapter 4

Disclaimer: Still don't own any of the characters.

Chapter 4

After I started flying by myself again, we flew for about another half hour. I found out from Nudge that I had been out for nearly an hour.

The flight was virtually silent for the last 15 minutes, just the sound of our wings pushing the air up and then down, up and then down. It was beautifully rhythmic, and I would have enjoyed it if my head hadn't still been pulsing harshly and if I hadn't been so preoccupied with Fang.

Had he really kissed me back there? Fang. He was like my brother. And yes, I know I kissed him first. I'm still trying to square with that one. With everything.

I felt rather than saw someone sit down next to me. We were camped out for the rest of the night on a beach somewhere in the northern part of the Bahamas. Not too bad, huh?

"Hey, Ig," I said, picking at the bark on the log we were sitting on. "What's up?"

He didn't say anything for a moment, then, "Max, what's going on with Fang? He's been all moody ever since you guys fell."

I was glad Iggy couldn't see me blush. I looked over at Fang, who was sitting several yards away from the rest of the flock, a motionless shadow. "I don't know," I answered, lying through my teeth.

"You must have some idea. You've been acting kind of weird too."

I tensed up. I have? "Well gee, Iggy, what do you think?" I snapped. "First I got my head bashed in by a seven-year-old, and then I fell a couple thousand feet and couldn't control it! Maybe I might not be acting completely normal!" I immediately regretted how rude I'd been. Iggy just wanted to help. My heart ached as I saw his expressive face turn to a frown. I put my head in my hands and sucked in a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that. I'm just so messed up right now…" I couldn't believe I was saying this to Iggy. Normally I would only admit things like that to Fang.

'Normal' is different now, Max, said the Voice.

I didn't even bother telling it to shut up, which might give you an idea of how upset I was.

Iggy put an awkward arm around my shoulders. "I wish I could help you. I mean, both of you."

"Yeah, well, I wish a lot of things," I said, sniffling a little as I felt a couple of tears spring up in my eyes. I was not going to cry, no matter how confused and upset I felt.

We stared into the darkness for a while, or I did anyway, since it's always dark for Iggy, and I watched the younger kids sleep. They had been completely tuckered out when we landed. Angel was curled up like a cat, one arm thrown over Total. Gazzy was near her, his arms up over his head as if he was reaching for his sister's feet. A small smile on her face, Nudge had just turned over and was facing us.

I sighed, turning to look at Iggy again. His face was full of concern.

"Max, are you sure nothing else is wrong?"

I laughed dryly. "Like the reasons I gave aren't enough? I'm just really tired, okay?"

Iggy just looked at me, his eyes moving so that I could have sworn he was searching my face. Except that, well, duh, he's blind.

"You're lying."

"No I'm not," I protested.

"Yes you are. I can hear it in your voice."

"Okay, look, Ig, I don't know what you think you hear, but it's not there."

He scoffed, then gave a little disbelieving smile while shaking his head. "Max, I've known you practically my whole life and I've been relying on sound and touch for most of that. You think I don't know you well enough to tell when you're lying about something like this?" His face was only a few inches from mine now, making every word hit home.

I knew he was right, but I couldn't tell him what was wrong, so I lied. Again. "I'm not saying you don't know me well enough, I'm just saying you happen to be wrong this time." I looked away.

I'm not sure how Iggy knew I wasn't facing him, but he did. He reached out with the hand that wasn't around my shoulders and gently turned my head.

"I really don't think I am, Max," he said. He was so close to me that I could feel his warm breath on my cheek. "Because I know you. I - " He paused, and I searched his face for a sign of what he was going to say.

That was when he kissed me.

Fang was sitting on the beach away from the rest of the flock, knees drawn up to his chest, absorbed in thought. He had been thinking nonstop since - the kiss, actually. That was the thing that he didn't think people understood about him a lot of the time. He didn't talk much - but he was always, always thinking about something.

He still felt incredibly confused regarding his feelings for Max, which he hadn't known about until that split second before he kissed her. How could he possibly feel that way about someone he'd grown up with as a sister? Though Max had probably thought of him as a brother, at least until recently.

Fang hated how rude he was being to the flock. He really did. But the thing was, he was scared. And he was afraid that if he talked to them, especially Max, it would show. He didn't want them to know. He was Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected, right?

He wanted so badly to kiss her again, though. It was driving him insane. Sure, he'd enjoyed kissing Lissa. But Max…Max was different. During the few moments that that kiss had lasted, Fang had been really, truly happy. Can I really go the rest of my life - however long that is - without ever feeling that again? He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut, burying his face in his knees. At the moment it sure didn't feel like he could. But we can't do that. We just can't. He'd told himself that same thing over and over again, and always part of him asked "Why?" But he had no explanation. It was jus the truth - right?

Maybe it's not. He looked up, and if someone had been nearby, they might have seen his eyes gleaming with wetness. But no one was there, so no one saw.

Maybe it's not, he thought again, swallowing hard. What if…what if we can What if it would work? He stood up quickly. It has to. I'll go to Max right now, I'll go to her and I'll kiss her again and I'll tell her: we can make it work.

He turned towards where the rest of the flock was. There she was, sitting on a log and talking to Iggy. He felt a little embarrassed about the fact that he was about to do this with Iggy right there, but he had to do it now - before he had a chance to back out.

Fang walked slowly and purposefully towards Max, trying not to appear too hurried.

And froze in shock about ten feet away from her.

In terms of kissing, if Fang was the guy dying of thirst and desperately seeking to quench it, then Iggy was the guy dying of thirst who knew he wasn't going to make it, and thus was taking in and savoring the last few moments left to him. His kiss was so incredibly gentle, like light rain on fresh spring grass. It was slow and addictive, making me want it never to end. But after a few moments Iggy pulled away ever so slightly, so that our lips were just a fraction of an inch apart.

"Iggy…" I breathed, wanting more and yet still totally surprised. I never, never in a million years, would have guessed that he felt this way. And…I never would have guessed that I would like it. I moved closer so that our lips were just barely touching, but as I was about to kiss him again I saw something that made my stomach jolt painfully.

Fang. Oh crap. He was standing there look completely astonished, and I'm not talking Fang-astonished, I'm talking real astonished - and incredibly, incredibly, incredibly hurt.

He realized that I was looking at him now and just shook his head, opened his mouth to say something - and, wheeling around, leapt into the air, snapping out his dark wings and flying away faster than I'd ever seen him fly before.

Tears came pouring out of my eyes and I didn't bother trying to stop them. "Fang, come back, please!" I yelled as loudly as I could. "Please, Fang, it's not - I still - please!" I was sobbing and sobbing now, terrified of what I'd done. But it didn't matter that I was crying too much to yell anymore - Fang was long gone, and far out of hearing.

Author's note: Gah, this chapter hurt to write. Poor Fang. But it had to be done to move the story along.

I'm really sorry about the lack of action these past 2 chapters, but please bear with me. There WILL be action coming up.

Please review! As I've said before, constructive criticism is appreciated as much as any other comments.

5. Chapter 5

Disclaimer: Yet again, I don't own any of the characters. Etc.

Chapter 5

Of course, by the time that time the rest of the flock had woken up, and I can only imagine how scared they must have been - Fang was a tiny dot in the pink-splashed sunrise, I had tears pouring down my face, and Iggy looked absolutely horrified. Immediately, questions started spilling out.

"What's going on?"

"What's wrong?"

"Where is Fang?"

"Why are you crying, Max?"

"Why is Fang leaving? Is he coming back?"

I ignored all of them, leaving Iggy to do the answering, but he didn't. Instead, he asked his own question. "Max - why - what?" He couldn't seem to find the words he was looking for.

"I have to go after him," I said thickly, tears still streaming silently down my face. I stretched out my wings and was about to take off when I felt Iggy put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

"Max, no. He'll come back on his own. You have to stay here. We don't even really know what's wrong."

"Damn it, Iggy, don't you get it?" I shouted, my voice still wet-sounding, and I realized this was the first time I had ever sworn at him to his face. I looked at the others, who were now standing wide-eyed and silent. Oh heck. They'll find out eventually anyway. Right now for Angel, if she doesn't know already. "You wanna know why Fang fell earlier? It was because he was kissing me! Yeah, that's right, just like you were doing right now!"

A look of dismayed realization spread across his face. "Holy crap."

I gave him one last look even though he couldn't see it, pushed his hand off my shoulder, and took off south with the sunrise on my left. Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it. I'll let you fill in more of my thoughts along those lines with your imagination. It can't be too hard.

I wasn't crying anymore - that's kind of hard to do when you're going, oh, about 90 miles per hour - but I could feel the tears on my face evaporating off my skin. Part of me was furious with Iggy - but deep down I knew this mess wasn't really his fault. It was mine. He hadn't known about the kiss. I could have told him about it when he sensed something was wrong. I wouldn't have and I didn't, but I could have. And - I hated myself because of this - I could have stopped him when he started kissing me. But did I? No. 'Cause that's the stupid loser/idiot/moron/blockhead/jerk/insert names here/heartless jackass that I am. No, I didn't stop him. I tried to kiss him again. With Fang right there. Damn it.

I swallowed. I know this is really cliché, but I felt like my heart had been broken into a million pieces. And I couldn't even imagine what Fang was feeling right now if I was feeling this bad, because I wasn't the one who saw him kissing someone else. Sure I'd seen him kissing the Red-Haired Wonder that one time and that had hurt, but this was different - back then, we hadn't kissed yet.

I choked back a sob. You see, what I had realized back at the camp was this: Iggy is really, really nice, and a pretty good kisser. But Fang is the one who makes me feel safe, the one I can tell anything to, the one who understands everything about me and I understand everything back: the one. Not "a one," not "one of two," not anything else but THE one. The one and only. And maybe I had just lost him forever. And it was completely, utterly, totally, altogether my fault.

Thinking these thoughts, I was even more determined to catch up with him. I just had to hope that he was holding to the direction he had taken off in. Because otherwise, there was no way I was going to find him. He was nowhere in sight. You have hyperspeed, you idiot! I sped up, shooting forward. Suddenly, there were a bunch of blurry forms. I slowed down as fast as I could, but that wasn't very fast. Yeah, the downside of hyperspeed.

I was in the middle of flying back to where I had been when it hit me: those blurry shapes? They had been Erasers. All but one of them. Crap. How many had there been? 10? 15? 20? Maybe even more. And the one non-Eraser blurry shape had been - yep, you guessed it - Fang. Alone. Against all of them. And, I couldn't help thinking again, it was all my fault. Fang was probably the best fighter in the flock, but even he couldn't take that many Erasers. Heck, even both of us put together probably couldn't. But I still had to go help him.

I could see them now. Well, the Erasers anyway. They were all swarming around something in the center of their group, a.k.a. Fang. I paused about a hundred feet away from the fight, hovering, assessing the situation. A single Eraser tumbled downwards - score one for Fang, but -

"Hello, Max. Something wrong?" said a voice behind me. Ari. I wheeled around, aiming a hard kick into his stomach.

"You know, this is…just like…you, Ari," I said, punching him every few words. "You need - " I slammed my foot into his face, snapping his head around with a nasty crack. " - about a million - " He caught me off guard with a blow to my stomach, and I wheezed for air for a moment. "friends to do your job!" I ducked as his fist flew over my head, then glanced back to see how Fang was holding up. BIG mistake. The two Erasers who had been waiting on the sidelines took their cue from Ari and darted in, grabbing my wrists and ankles. I struggled as hard as I could, biting anything that came into reach, trying to just keep moving, wincing as I took a blow to the nose and blood spurted out. Luckily, I didn't think it was broken. Then Ari grabbed my wings and pulled them straight back, and tears of pain started streaming out of my eyes.

"What do you want?" I asked through clenched teeth as the pain began to make me sweat.

"First you can stay still," Ari said.

"Give me one reason why I should, wolf boy."

"Hmm," said Ari, pretending to ponder. "I dunno…might help Fang if you did."

Immediately, I looked towards where Fang had been fighting. He wasn't fighting anymore - several Erasers were now restraining him in the same manner in which I was being held down. And one had a gun to his head. I went limp, completely stopping my struggle.

"I thought you'd want to," Ari said knowingly.

"Look who showed up," Fang spat. "Little Miss Seductress herself." Blood was dripping from several cuts on his body and a black eye was already beginning to form on one side of his face. His expression was set, determined, and something else that I couldn't name.

If possible, my heart sank even lower than it had been. I shook my head silently, more tears than ever coursing down my cheeks as the ones from pain mingled with the ones from grief.

"I see we have a problem here," Ari said. He sounded delighted at that fact. He turned my head forcefully so that my gaze was ripped from Fang, and his big, ugly, wolfy face filled my vision. He was grinning. "Now tell me…should I give the order to shoot?"

Author's note: evil grin Cliff hanger. Please review!

6. Chapter 6

Disclaimer: Oh come on, you know none of these characters belong to me. In fact, I'm just going to say that this goes for the whole rest of the story.

Author's note: This is the longest chapter yet!

Chapter 6

The thing about that kind of situation is that the person who is asking whether or not they should kill someone isn't really asking you. They're just tantalizing you, seeing what you'll do. But it can never hurt to answer anyway. It was all I could do to shake my head fervently. If Fang died right now, it was because of me. I was pretty sure I was going to barf soon. At least it would be on the Erasers. Not that that would be much consolation if…if…

"Huh," Ari said. "She doesn't seem to care much about you, Fangy boy."

What! Ari couldn't be that stupid. First of all, what was the point of pitting Fang against me right now, when we were both prisoners? And second of all, surely Fang could see - No. He couldn't. I realized that an Eraser was now blocking his view of me - so that it would have appeared that I had been completely silent in the face of Ari's question.

I heard a gun cock behind me, from about the place where Fang was. "NO!" I screamed, the loudest sound that I could possibly muster. "Ari I am begging you, please, don't do this!" I couldn't believe I was actually begging Ari for anything. But this was Fang's life we were talking about.

"I'll have to think about that one," Ari taunted, and he turned my head so I was facing Fang again.

His jaw was tight, and I could tell that he didn't want to die even though he was so dejected right now. And even if he had, I couldn't have let him. Because I think I would probably die. Like, spontaneously combust or something.

"What the hell do you want, Ari?" I said calmly. If the definition of calmly is 'with tears choking my shrill voice and my heart beating so fast it was about to explode and sweat dripping off my body.'

"Just a bit of cooperation," he replied.

"Well I swear to you if you do anything to hurt him you will have everything but that," I said coldly. Ow. I wished he would just let go of my wings. There was definitely a reason that I had forbidden the flock from doing this to each other.

Ari snapped his fingers and I heard Fang stifle a yell as the Eraser holding his wings tugged them back hard. "Oops," Ari said casually. "Too late."

I glared daggers at him but that was all I could do, because I knew if I tried anything Fang would be dead in less than a heartbeat. Damn it. Wow, I really needed to get this swearing under control. If we ever made it out of here. I wished I could punch Ari so hard that his wolf DNA would separate from the human stuff. And after that I would tell Fang just how sorry I was. But that wasn't gonna happen.

"What I want is for you to come with me," Ari said. "Now. Without a fuss."

I nodded, not saying anything, wondering what the heck he had in store for me.

The two Erasers holding my wrists and ankles pulled out ropes and began tying their respective charges. Then they tied the two bundles that were my arms and legs together, and finally, while Ari kept me from dropping out of the sky, they forced my wings in and wound a bunch of rope around my torso to keep me from opening them. And then they put a dark sack over my head and everything was black.


We were on a plane. Yeah, you read that right, not a chopper, a plane. A small private plane. How the whitecoats got their hands on things like this for the Erasers I had no idea.

After I had been tied up, there had been a short flight and then I had been thrown unceremoniously into a crate in the cargo hold. Lucky me. We were in the air now.

Where was Fang? I had no idea if he was down here with me - or, now that I thought about it, if they had even brought him along. I gulped. Had Ari had him killed after all? I had to get this sack off my head so that I could see.

I tried to scoot along the bottom of the crate on my side but it didn't help at all. Okay, what next? With an incredibly huge effort, I rolled over onto my back, wincing as the still tender back of my head came into contact with the crate's bottom. Then, rocking back and forth several times, I rolled into a hunched-over sitting position. Trust me, that whole process was about a million times harder than it sounds. From there, I angled my head downwards as much as I could and shook it vigorously until finally, finally the sack came off my head. It took a few moments for me to get oriented. It was fairly dark, but I could see all right. Directly across from where I was sitting in my crate was another crate. And Fang was in it, very much alive. I couldn't help feeling relieved, even though we weren't nearly safe yet.

He was already sitting up like I was, with the sack off his head, his strong, lean back facing me. As he does every time we're in a situation like this - pretty sad that I can say that, huh? - he was withdrawing into the only place left to withdraw to - himself.

"Fang," I whispered, after a quick glanced around showed that there were no Erasers down here with us. I tried to scoot closer to him but didn't accomplish much without the full use of my limbs.

"I don't need you to save my butt, Max," he said icily, not bothering to turn towards me at all. "You should've just stayed with your precious Iggy."

"Stop it," I protested. "Iggy's not the one I went after. Why do you think I followed you?"

He shrugged slightly. "Beats me."

"I went to find you because I - " I hesitated, then continued on in a small voice, "I need you, Fang."

"You have a nice way of showing that."

I felt a single tear run down my cheek. Jeez, I was doing a lot of crying recently. "I'm sorry, all right? I didn't mean for that to happen. I swear it."

"But it did happen."

"Damn it, Fang! Iggy's not the one I chased after and risked getting killed by Erasers for! Iggy's not the one who saved me from Ari yesterday! Iggy's not the one who I tell practically everything to! And he's not the one who I kissed when his mouth was all bloody and he had just spat out a tooth, and he's also not the one who almost made me barf my guts out when he kissed another girl!" My heart was shattering all over again.

When Fang spoke, his voice was steady and low. "Iggy didn't fly off on his own. Iggy was too far away to get to you when Ari had you. Iggy hands out with the Gasman most of the time, so you don't have a chance to talk to him. Iggy hasn't had his mouth all bloody and spat out a tooth. And Iggy hasn't kissed another girl."

"You know what? You're acting like a two-year-old."

"Woe is you. Googoo gaga." That last part would have been absolutely hilarious if Fang had said it at any other time. But right now it just made me want to cry in frustration. What the heck could I do to make him understand how desperately I wanted everything to be okay between us again?

"Fang, what do you need me to do to prove that I'm sorry?"

"Hmm…going back in time and - "

THUD. Both of us were jolted around in our crates as the plane touched down. Apparently, the School wasn't very good with the Erasers' education in piloting. I fell onto my side, crushing my arm painfully against the bottom of the crate. I couldn't see Fang anymore, and I knew the Erasers would be in the cargo hold before I had a chance to complete the long process of sitting up again.

I was right. Moments later, Ari and a bunch of his cronies came loping in, stooping to avoid the low ceiling. They hauled our crates out into the open air. We were on a deserted strip of paved road, but that was all I could pick up about our location.

To my surprise, the Erasers hauled Fang out of his crate but left me in mine. Then they began to untie the rope that held his legs and arms together. What?


Angel, Iggy, Nudge, and the Gasman sat forlornly around their small campfire. It was now light out, but they kept the fire going anyway. Just to have something to do, really.

Angel sighed. Total was off taking a potty break. It had been what seemed like forever since Fang and Max had taken off, and they still weren't back yet. She was getting really worried, and she could tell from their thoughts that everyone else was too.

Suddenly, she saw Iggy's sightless eyes widen a fraction of an inch, so she focused on his thoughts. She gasped. He was having another one of those weird visions again: Max and Fang were all tied up somewhere. But unlike last time, they were the only things visible. There was just a blank white background around them.

"Holy crap," Iggy said as soon as it was over. "They've been captured. Or are going to be. I don't know which."


When the Erasers were done with Fang, his wrists were still tied. But as for his legs, they had put a tight loop of rope around each ankle, then attached the ropes that trailed off of those to a single master rope behind him where an Eraser was holding like a leash. Okay, strange much?

Ari pulled me out of my cage and started carrying me. Apparently I didn't get the Fang treatment. "Ew, Ari, you smell really bad," I said just to annoy him. Not that it wasn't true.

"Shut up, Max."

We were headed towards a patch of long, overgrown grass. When we got there, Ari growled, "You know what to do." And I found out why they had tied Fang so weirdly. The Eraser holding his "leash" jerked it so hard that Fang's feet flew out from under him and he ended up sprawled on his stomach on the ground. He lifted his head up slightly so that I could see his face. He was staring with disgust at Ari, blood trickling from his nose and his split lower lip. Then an Eraser put his booted foot on Fang back to keep him down - and put a gun to his head.

Oh my God. Ari was going to have Fang shot in front of me right here, right now. I started crying again, babbling nonsense, struggling weakly against the ropes and Ari's hold on me. I heard the gun cock. I looked at Fang, trying my hardest to make eye contact with him. When I did, I almost wished I hadn't. Because his beautiful, wonderful, dark eyes were filled now with one thing and one thing alone: acceptance. Bitter, horrible acceptance. He knew he was going to die and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

More tears poured out of my eyes. "I love you Fang," I said softly. And I really, truly meant it.

For one terrible, horrific, drawn out, suspenseful moment, I thought he was going to ignore what I had just said. But then he responded, "I love you too, Max." And, the most unforeseen thing of all that had ever happened to me, I saw a single tear slide down his olive-colored face.

I felt Ari dig his claws angrily into my skin but I didn't care.


Author's note: Please don't hate me too much for yet another cliffhanger! #dodges flying objects# Remember, reviews make me all warm and fuzzy inside. I already have a good portion of the next chapter written so…it might possibly even be up later today.

Also, just want to let everyone know that I'm #gag# starting school really soon, officially on Tuesday but I have freshmen orientation day tomorrow, so unfortunately for all of us I probably won't be able to update as often. #cries#

And finally, funny story: I added the line "Trust me, that whole process was about a million times harder than it sounds" after I actually tried it myself, and let me tell you, that it is HARD. (Yes, I did tie my ankles together. No, I didn't tie my hands together. That's a little bit hard to do to yourself. But I did hold my ankles with my hands so that I was in the same position that Max was in.) I had thought that getting onto my back would be the easy part and sitting up would be the hard part, but it was completely the opposite. Seriously, it took me like 10 minutes with my cat staring at me like I was crazy before I finally got it. On the other hand, once I got a little momentum going it was really easy to sit up. I guess it all would have been even harder for Max, though, since she had rope around her torso as well.

7. Chapter 7

Author's note: This is a mini chapter. It was going to be longer but I really wanted to finish it tonight for you all since you've been so awesome.

Chapter 7

I squeezed my eyes shut, terrified of what I would see when I finally had to open them. I was sobbing uncontrollably and I didn't care. I was positive I was going to implode any moment now anyway.

Then I heard another shot and heard a bullet whiz past. Were they trying to kill me now, too? Another shot, this time from behind. And suddenly, Ari began to fall. What? I landed hard in the grass, and against my will my eyes flicked open. I shut them as fast as I could. Then I felt someone loosening my ropes and risked cracking one eye open.

"Oh my gosh, Gazzy!" I wanted to throw my arms around him. But, you know, I was still kind of tied up.

He nodded distractedly and kept working at the knots.

I looked up at the sky, eyes fully open now. Iggy, Angel, and Nudge were up there - and Iggy had a gun. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: why did the blind guy have the gun? To tell you the truth, I was wondering the same thing - until I saw that Angel seemed to be using her mind control powers on him. Of course. The gun, a large rifle, was too big and heavy for the younger kids to use - but Angel could tell Iggy where to aim it. If I hadn't already been crying from the knowledge of Fang's death, tears probably would have come to my eyes as I marveled at their ingenuity.

Then I realized something: the way I had landed, my head was on Ari's chest. Ew. But the fact that it was totally gross wasn't what I was noticing. It was the fact that he wasn't moving. Had Iggy killed him? By now Gazzy had managed to free my hands, so I swiveled my torso around to look. It seemed as though the bullet had just barely clipped Ari's right temple. Not enough to kill him, but he'd be out for a while.

There. I was free. I leapt up from the ground ready to fight. Sort of. I really, really wanted to kick some Eraser butt for - I stifled a loud sob - Fang, but I felt weak and just completely worn out, drained of all energy.

Gazzy had run off now and I realized I needed to do something. Come on, Max, focus! My brain was sluggish. I slowly wondered if this was what happened before you spontaneously combusted. I almost wished it was. Then I could be rid of all this - everything. It would be so nice to -

Suddenly I saw a bullet speeding straight towards me, in slow motion. I snapped out my wings to fly out of the way - only I didn't because I couldn't. Gazzy had forgotten to untie the ropes that held my wings in. I felt a huge pain in my left hand and heard a scream. That's me, I thought, as if I was watching it on TV or something. And then the brain explosion came.

The last thing I saw before I passed out from the pain was a face with olive skin, dark eyes, and black, longish hair. Oh, I thought serenely. Guess that wasn't a brain explosion. I must have combusted because now I'm in Heaven. With Fang.

And then the face said, from far off, "I love you, Max. I forgive you. I should have done it sooner. Please just hang in there, okay?" I wondered why I needed to "hang in there" in Heaven and would've asked, but the face leaned down over me and kissed me hard for the longest time. Like a guy dying of thirst and desperately quenching it before it's too late, I thought. And then I wondered where the heck I'd ever heard such a silly thing.

8. Chapter 8

Chapter 8

"You know what? You're acting like a two-year-old," Max said.

If Fang had been a more expressive person, he would have been yelling at her long ago. As it was, he was almost shaking from the enormity of his anger and sense of betrayal. "Woe is you. Googoo gaga," he said sarcastically. He shifted his position slightly in the crate but purposely avoided turning even the slightest bit towards Max. How could she do this to me? he thought for the millionth time.

"Fang, what do you need me to do to prove that I'm sorry?"

I was going to kiss you! he thought. I was about to tell you it could work! But out loud he said, "Hmm…going back in time and - "

CLUNK. He got cut off as the plane's wheels hit the ground, mercilessly tossing his crate around the cargo hold. Swearing under his breath, he struggled on his side. AT first he had only fallen onto his back, but with his arms and legs in the air his balance was so off that it was impossible to stay that way. Great. The whitecoats invest millions of dollars in these stupid Erasers yet they can't even teach them to land a plane right. He strained every muscle in his body to sit up again. There was no way he was going to give the Erasers the pleasure of seeing him like this.

With a soft grunt he finally managed to flip onto his back. Now all he needed to do was get up enough momentum to sit up. He began rocking back and forth. Jeez, it's like I'm a freaking roly poly or something.

Fang was almost upright again when Ari and the other Erasers bumbled their way into the hold. Seeing Fang's situation, one of them grinned and shoved his crate so that he fell hard onto his arm. Fang carefully rearranged his fingers so that he was shooting the bird. Idiot.

Then the Erasers roughly hoisted his crate out into the sunlight. The plane was on an open stretch of pavement that was surrounded by grass. It wasn't the fertilizer-green kind of grass that covered most lawns. It was lighter green with a few shades of brown mixed in, overgrown and coarse-looking. And far off, he thought he could see a line of blue that was darker than the sky. Water? Where the heck are we?

Just then, Ari stuck his big, ugly face into Fang's view. "Listen up," he growled softly. "We're gonna take you out of the crate now and if you ever want to see Max again you won't try anything."

Fang just looked at him, giving no sign that he'd even heard. For a split second he thought he should take any chance he could get to escape, because Max didn't even care about him anyway so what did it matter if he saw her again? But he knew right away that he did want to see her again. No matter what. So he let the Erasers drag him out of the crate without putting up any kind of a fight. Not that he could have done much, tied up as he was. They had done their work well on that.

Which was why he was utterly dumbfounded when they started untying the rope that held his wrists and ankles together. Are they nuts? As soon as that was done, one of the Erasers pushed him down so that he was lying on his back and put a heavy foot on his chest in the v that his arms made. He felt most of the air rush out of his lungs and had to start breathing shallow and fast. Meanwhile, another Eraser was at work untying Fang's ankles. This is insane.

It turned out that they weren't just going to leave his legs free. The Eraser tied a very tight loop of rope around each of his ankles - "Mind leaving a little circulation?" he muttered - and then connected each of the ends of those two ropes to one main rope. Okay then….what is the point of this? The Eraser whose foot was still on his chest removed it and pulled him to his feet, taking hold of the rope in back like it was a leash. Dude, I think you've got your mutants mixed up. You're the dog, and I'm the hawk who's gonna rip you to shreds first chance he gets.

"Walk," the Eraser growled in his ear. Ari was now back somewhere by Max's crate. Fang stole a glance backwards to see how she was doing. He hoped she wouldn't notice. She didn't - Ari was in the middle of the picking her up. I'm going to kill him if he does anything to her. Then he realized that Max wasn't getting tied up like he was - Ari was just carrying her. For some reason, it felt like a weight had just fallen into his stomach.

They were walking now, off the pavement and into the grass. Behind him, Fang heard Max say, "Ew, Ari, you smell really bad." If he hadn't been so upset with her, he probably would have smiled just the tiniest bit at that. But he was upset with her. She'd betrayed him just when he had been about to spill feelings out to her like he'd never done before to anyone except himself, in the safety of his own mind. Maybe she still cared about him but it was Iggy she wanted to be with, Iggy whose arms she wanted to be in, Iggy and not him. Even if she denied it.

"You know what to do," he heard Ari say.

Without warning, Fang felt the Eraser holding the rope yank it back so hard that his feet went up in the air for a moment and he landed with a thud on his stomach, splitting his lower lip and smashing his nose into the ground. Both started to bleed. He glared up in disgust at Ari, who was now standing in front of him several feet away with Max still in his arms, grinning like he'd never seen anything funnier than what had just happened.

Fang realized that Max was watching him, but he tried to ignore it. Then he felt an Eraser's foot on his back and the air left his lungs again. And something made of cold metal was touching his head. A gun. He's going to shoot me. The feeling of dread that had entered his stomach intensified.

Max was crying, he realized. His heart ached for her, seeing her struggling feebly against her ropes, tears streaming down her beautiful face, words he couldn't understand flowing out of her mouth. He was so mad at her, but the thing was, he still cared about her more than anything else in the world. Maybe they're just doing this to scare her, he thought. Get her to do what they want.

Then he heard the gun cock loudly and he knew for certain that he really was going to die. Right now. And no one could stop it. I'm not ready, I'm not ready, I'm NOT READY! he thought.

That doesn't really matter, said another part of him. He swallowed hard, forcing the huge, painful lump in his throat down.

Guess not. He raised his eyes slightly, and without trying to met Max's eyes.

"I love you, Fang," she said, her voice choked with tears. And at that moment he knew she really meant it, really loved him, and really hadn't meant to kiss Iggy. All his resentment melted away. But it doesn't matter.

"I love you too, Max," he said, his voice raspy. And he felt a tear, just one tear, escape his vigil and slide down his face. It didn't matter anymore, though, he told himself again, because he was about to die anyway.

BANG. A gunshot rang out. There was no pain at all. Am I dead? Then he realized that the Eraser's foot wasn't on his back anymore. He glanced back. It was lying on the ground, dead. Holy shit. I'm alive, he realized with amazement.

He glanced towards Max. She was still crying while Ari held her and her eyes were scrunched shut.

There was another bang and a bullet went speeding towards Ari but missed. Fang looked up at the sky to see Iggy holding a rifle. Angel seemed to be using her mind control powers to direct his aim. Ingenious. Nudge and Gazzy were hovering nervously nearby, dodging the bullets that the Erasers were now busy sending up at them.

Iggy fired again and Fang held his breath as he watched the bullet fly towards Ari's head. And this time it hit him, grazing his temple. A shocked look appeared on his face, and he went down with a crash. Max fell with him. I have to get to her.

Then he saw Gazzy swoop down towards Max, trying to untie her ropes. Fang struggled to his feet, but as soon as he was upright he had to throw himself back down to avoid an Eraser's bullet. It seemed that it was probably safer to inch his way along the ground. But before he did, he would get a weapon. He labored back to the body of the Eraser who had almost killed him and grabbed its handgun between his palms. Eraser feet, beware.

He saw Nudge dive down into the fray out of the corner of his eye. Iggy and Angel were still busy with the rifle - where had they gotten that thing, anyway? - and Gazzy was now working on untying Max's legs. Her arms were free already and she was half sitting up, looking behind her at Ari's unconscious body.

Fang shot an unwary Eraser in the ankle and kept pulling himself along as fast as he could, which wasn't very fast. He was surprised that none of the Erasers had shot at him yet.

He saw Max leap up, completely free of her ropes now, and then Gazzy spotted him and ran over, beginning to work on the rope around his wrists without hesitation.

"Nice job, Gaz."

"Yeah." For being only eight years old, the Gasman could concentrate really well on whatever he was doing.

Fang watched Max while he waited. What in the world is she doing? She was just standing there completely upright and still, a perfect target. She looked dazed and dirty and she was still crying. Come on, Max, get with the program! Someone's going to -

And then he saw it. Ari's hand was reaching for his gun. The Eraser's eyes were only half open, but he was definitely awake again. And capable of shooting someone. He had the gun in his hand now. And it was pointed towards Max's head.

"Gazzy, MOVE!" Fang shouted. He grabbed his gun from where he had let it fall when the Gasman had come to help him. The rope around his wrists was loose enough now to give him plenty of motion for what he had in mind. He heard Ari's gun cock and then his own. I'm going to kill him! And that was exactly what happened a moment later. The bullet hit Ari right in the center of his forehead.

But not soon enough. The Eraser's gun fired with a bang, misaimed now but still too true. Fang saw blood suddenly spurt from Max's hand. An instant later she crumpled to the ground.

He tore the rope from his wrists, springing to his feet. All that mattered now was getting to Max as fast as possible. As if in a dream, he sprinted the last few feet, dodging bullets all the while.

Her face was contorted in pain but she was still conscious. Fang slammed himself down onto the ground next to her. He would definitely have bruises from that later but he didn't care. Max's eyes were flickering open and shut.

"I love you, Max. I forgive you. I should have done it sooner. Just hang in there, okay?" He put a hand on her cheek and stared into her eyes, but she didn't say anything, just looked peaceful and confused. Oh Max, I can't believe I almost lost you, he thought. Then he remembered what he had been planning to do what seemed so long ago and leaned over her, kissing her until she finally lost the battle to stay awake and drifted off into unconsciousness.

"I love you," Fang whispered again, and gave her a light kiss on the forehead. He rearranged himself so that he was sitting cross-legged behind her and pulled her head into his lap, stroking her hair as the last shot rang out and the final Eraser fell to the ground.

Author's note: I'm sorry it took so long to get this up. I have relatives visiting currently, plus I had school yesterday (Thursday). PLEASE, please review. I only got 2 last chapter!

9. Chapter 9

Chapter 9

I was flying. It felt so good to be up in the air again, swooping, soaring, gliding, diving. The pleasure built up inside my chest until I couldn't help it: I screamed out loud in exhilaration. I felt completely weightless. On a whim I decided to try something, doing a somersault in the air while I dropped for a few moments before pushing myself back up again with my wings. It was so juvenile that I would never, ever have done it in front of the flock. But they weren't here right now, and since I knew that they were safe I didn't have to worry about them.

I was over a city now, a large one, but I didn't know quite what city it was. It was pretty big with a lot of tall, grey skyscrapers that blended in perfectly with the dim sky. It wasn't cloudy, exactly, but the sun didn't light up the world below quite like it should. That fact didn't bother me, though, because I somehow knew that it was normal for this place.

After a while I noticed a building that seemed to stand out from all the others. Instead of grey it seemed to be dark, dark blue in color. For several floors it rose up from the ground in a wide rectangle, the stone around its dark windows carved with swirling baroque shapes. But the floor above those was roofed on the left half by a huge, solid dome that rose above everything else around it, and the other half had a perfectly flat roof. The thing that was most intriguing to me, though, was that under the place where the two roofs converged there was an arched…doorway? Was that the word for it? The arch seemed to go all the way through the building, since I could see what was beyond it, but the shadows inside it prevented me from seeing what was within. And that was something I knew I had to find out.

I swooped down towards the arch, angling myself so that I would land inside it. When I was still a couple hundred feet away, I heard a clunking noise and pulled up fast, my heard speeding up with anticipation.

Suddenly a dark shadow shot out of the arch, seeming human-sized at first but then abruptly much bigger. A light turned on near the figure, casting its shadow over the entire building, and I knew who it was.

It was Fang. The light was raking his cheekbones like it had done seemingly so long ago in that old abandoned house, and just like then with his wings fully spread he looked like the Angel of Death. He opened his mouth slowly, and a voice that was his but even deeper boomed out from it:

"Ever once and ever there

Nod but once to trip the snare

Meet your doom inside the arch

The door therein unlocks the key."

Okay, thanks, but what the heck was that supposed to mean? Before I could ask, Fang suddenly diminished in stature and flew back into the arch, turning off his light as he did.

I heard a gunshot and felt sick to my stomach, and then I was falling, falling, falling and my wings wouldn't work. I knew I was going to hit the ground and go splat any moment now. Falling, falling, falling…

I woke up with a start, my heart racing and sweat beading on my forehead. Fang was leaning over me, and so was the rest of the flock. Oh my God. He's alive. We're alive. There was something kind of uncomfortable under my head and neck. I shifted a little, trying to find a better position, and then blushed slightly as I realized that my head was in Fang's lap, his long legs folded pretzel style.

Then I noticed that my hand hurt. Like hell. Only worse. I started to move it to a position where I could see it, but Fang pressed down lightly on my elbow to stop me.

"Just let it stay still for now, Max," he said. I could see the others nodding in agreement.

"Why?" I asked, starting to panic. "What's wrong with it?"

"Fang's right," Gazzy said. "Take our word for it, please?" His sweet little face looked tired and worried.

"What's wrong?" I demanded, not able to stand their sympathetic faces. I tried to move my arm again, but Fang exerted more strength on it.

"Max, don't," he pleaded. Fang doesn't plead. He just doesn't. Which meant this had to be really bad. Like, ah-the-world-is-about-to-explode bad. Or almost, anyway.

"Tell me."

"You really need to - "

I yanked my arm up, not waiting for Fang to finish his sentence. I guess if he'd really wanted to he might have been able to stop me, but that would have hurt me. As soon as I saw my hand, I knew exactly why the flock hadn't wanted me to.

"Oh my God," I groaned, letting my poor hand fall back down and wincing as it hit the ground. "Oh my God…" You want to know why? You really shouldn't want to know, but I'm betting that you have some sort of sickly morbid curiosity, right? So I'll tell you. My entire hand was swathed in a red bandage, only it used to be white. The bandage wrapped around my thumb, my index finger, my middle finger - and then a short little stub, followed by my pinky. You see that? A stub. Not a ring finger. A freaking stub. Because my finger was gone. And that was the pain I had felt before I blacked out.

I felt sick. "Oh my God," I moaned once again.

Fang looked like he wished he could take the pain away with a word. Total had his paws over his eyes. Nudge and Angel had started crying, and Gazzy was trying to hide the fact that he was too but it wasn't working because he had snot dripping out of his nose. And Iggy…

"Where's Ig?" I asked, taking a break from my pity party.

Fang raised his eyes from my own and silently motioned his head over to the left. I turned my head a little and saw Iggy hugging his knees a little way off, and my heart broke for him. Because you see, I knew now that Fang kissing me had been real, not some weird heavenly dream vision, and Iggy must've somehow found out about it even though he couldn't see, and now he was in the position that Fang had been in before. Except in his case, I wasn't choosing him like I had chosen Fang. So even though he would have been more likely to listen to me than Fang had been, I had nothing to say to make him feel better. Oh jeez, Iggy...I'm so sorry.

Iggy doesn't matter, my Voice said at the most perfect moment. You need to focus on saving the world, Max.

How can you say something like that! I shot at it.

I'm only trying to help you.

By tearing up my flock? You're the whole reason I kissed Fang last night, you provoked me with that stupid image of that stupid Red-Haired Wonder, and now that Iggy's all messed up because of that you're saying he doesn't matter!

Maximum, you would have come to realize your feelings for Fang with or without me. It's part of growing up.

What if I don't want to grow up? I thought defiantly. Just to bug the Voice.

There's no such thing as Neverland.

I didn't ask you if there was. Just shut up okay?

"Max? You okay?" Fang's deep voice cut into my nice little conversation, reminding me of what dream-him had told me. It didn't make any more sense now than it had then.

"Should be eventually," I said sheepishly. "Listen, we shouldn't stay here much longer. Still up for that island…what is it called, again?" I glanced around at all the Eraser bodies, wondering how many more of those things the whitecoats had right now.

"Rum Cay," Fang answered.

I almost grinned, using his shoulder as a support for my good hand as I pushed myself up to a sitting position. "Drink up me hearties, yo ho." Yes, I still remembered the song that the stupid little robot pirates in Disney World sang. And I'm not likely to forget something like that very soon.

"You sure you're up for flying?" Fang asked. "You lost a ton of blood."

"No, I wanna keep playing the poor little damsel in distress," I said sarcastically. Only the thing is, I was acting a lot more cheerful than I felt. Like, a million times more cheerful. Like some demented doll with a fake smile plastered to its plastic face that just keeps smiling even if you throw it off a building or something. I mean, I had just lost a freaking finger, you know? I was pretty attached to it. Literally.

The flock started getting ready to go, getting Iggy up to speed on the plan and all that, and Fang pulled me to my feet by my unhurt hand.

"Any idea where we are?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Nope."

"That's my rogue buccaneer," I said. He flashed me one of those rare, beautiful, heavenly, handsome, hot, sexy - WOAH there, Max! - smiles of his, lighting up my world.

My eyes darted around, checking to see if the others were looking - especially Iggy. They weren't. I quickly gave Fang a peck on the lips, but before I could draw away he put his hand on the back of my neck and pulled me closer, kissing me less desperately than usual for just a few moments.

"And what are you…the girl stowaway who falls for the pirate?" he whispered.

"Something like that."

I felt his hand drop from my neck as the others came closer. "It's gonna be okay, Max. Let's go."

Author's note: So sorry it took so long to finish this! Please review. I'm not so sure I like how this chapter turned out so…please let me know what you think.

10. Chapter 10

Chapter 10

This might be surprising to you, but flying when you've just had a finger shot off and are still bleeding with no end in sight isn't that easy. The first time I tried to take off, I hit the ground again after being airborne for only a few feet.

Fang gave me a look that said, "You sure you can do this?" He and the rest of the flock were already in the air, hovering above me. Or in Iggy's case, way off to the right of me.

I gritted my teeth and tried again, and this time I made it. I was not going to weigh the flock down anymore.

"Okay…Gazzy, Nudge, Angel, Iggy? Any of you remember which direction we came from?" I asked. I knew that Iggy would without a doubt remember, what with our natural feeling for direction and the fact that feelings, whether mental or physical, were completely what he lived by, but he remained silent.

"I think we flew north-northwest to get here," Nudge said. "What island do you think this is? We could tell it was an island from the air. I don't think there are many buildings. I guess that means there isn't any shopping. We're still going to that island Fang found, right?"

Sometimes - no, all the time - I have no idea where that girl gets all her energy from. I mean, yeah she eats a lot, but Fang eats more and you sure don't see him bouncing off the walls and then practically shattering said walls with the sheer amount of talking he's doing. Actually, if Fang ever did that I would know that the world was about to end. Sort of like if the Wicked Witch of the West knitted herself a pink sweater with hearts all over it and went skipping down the road from house to house with an entourage of fuzzy woodland creatures, giving out gifts and singing "If You're Happy And You Know It." I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty darn scared if I witnessed that.

"Max, why do you keep kissing people?" Angel asked, flying up beside me. "Isn't it icky?"

I almost cracked up. It's times like these when I remember she's only six years old.

"Hey, six isn't that little!" she protested. "Stop laughing at me. I can tell you're laughing inside."

Once again, sometimes I hate that power of hers. "It isn't icky, sweetie. When you're a little older I bet you'll think so too."

"Maybe…" she pondered. "I guess if you don't think kissing is gross then that guy from school might be okay, but Fang and Iggy are like…your brothers! What if I kissed Gazzy?"

"Um…Angel, that's kind of different. You and Gazzy are related by blood. That would be gross. Anyway, where did you guys get that gun?" I quickly changed the subject, feeling uncomfortable. And besides, I really did want to know where they'd gotten it.

Angel grinned, well…angelically. "I asked a hunter if we could have it and he said yes."

"You mean you used your mind to make him give it to you."

She shrugged. "Yep."

Okay, was this the time to give her the ethics lecture? Whatever. She saved my life. And Fang's. I'll give her a break for now. "I wonder what he was hunting," I said out loud, mainly just trying to distract myself from the fact that I was feeling woozy.

Gazzy zoomed up next to me on the other side. "I wanted to blow the guy up to make sure he wouldn't remember us, but Angel said we shouldn't." Yep, that's the Gasman for you. And Iggy when he's himself.

"Gaz, you can't just go arou - " Woah. I put my hand to my head as a wave of darkness rolled over me, then passed. I had broken out in a cold sweat and felt weak all over.

"Are you okay, Max?" Gazzy asked.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I'm probably just tired," I lied. I glanced at Fang, who was slightly ahead of us having his ears talked off by Nudge. He seemed to be coping fine, his face as impassive as ever. No, Max, you are not going to worry him right now. If anything actually happens, it'll be the time. But you're gonna be fine.

Great, now I was even lying to myself. Bad habit much? Okay, if you answered no to that question you should be on a funny farm. Then again, this is coming from the girl who hears a Voice in her head. So I should probably be right there with you.

Just then another wave of darkness came, and this time it lasted longer than before. There is no way I'm going to pass out. I don't have time for that right now. Like that really mattered. Damn it! Stupid Ari with his stupid gun!

"Max, you're lucky Ari hit your finger," Angel said quietly, reading my mind.

I wanted to scream at her but I didn't, 'cause she's Angel. How the heck could she possibly think I was lucky?

"He would've killed you but Fang shot him and the bullet wasn't aimed right anymore," she explained.

"Oh." Wow. Okay. Fang saved my life? Again?

Angel veered off, and then it was just me and Gazzy. Well, I mean, the rest of the flock was there too, but Gazzy was the only one in my immediate vicinity.

"So how'd you guys know that we were captured and all that, anyway?" I asked. My vision was fading slightly, greyness creeping in from the edges, and I still felt sick. But I was not going to create a problem for the flock.

"Iggy had another one of those vision things," the Gasman began, "and he saw you all tied up so we - "

I listened to him ramble on about how they had figured out where we were as my vision got darker and darker, the cold sweat covered me even more, breathing became slightly hard, and I kept feeling weaker. His voice faded out and I k new then that I was about to black out.

"Get Fang," I mumbled. I wasn't even sure if I was coherent.

Gazzy stopped talking. "What?"

"Get…Fang." And with that my wings folded and I started to fall.


"FANG! FANG!" Gazzy's panicked voice cut in on whatever Nudge was telling Fang. Truth be told, he'd started tuning her out a while back. Fang whipped around as fast as he could in the midmorning air to see the Gasman hovering several yards back, pointing down urgently at an object that was swiftly losing altitude. Max! He shot down in a steep dive, calculating the exact angle he would need to fly at to intercept her body. I knew it was a bad idea for her to fly! I should have made her let me carry her! He opened his dark wings fully again with a whoosh, preparing for the extra weight that he was about to acquire. He snatched Max out of the air, falling slightly before he quickly regained the lost altitude.

She was completely unconscious, limp and covered in sticky sweat. Her hair was sticking to her beautiful face and blood was dripping from the soaked bandage around her hand.

"Flock! Land now!" he yelled up at them. He let himself drop more slowly now, ready to scan the horizon for any sign of land. But he didn't need to, because directly below him was the coast of a good-sized island. He could see boats out in the water in some places, but there was a stretch of beach that looked clear. Please be okay, Max, please.

Fang touched down hard on the sand, stumbling a little because he hadn't slowed down enough. The rest of the flock dropped down around him. He carefully laid Max on the sand, then set to work peeling away the useless bandage. If he'd been the squeamish type, he probably would've thrown up. But luckily, he wasn't. The stub of Max's ring finger was still bleeding freely, bone and muscle clearly visible. There was no way this was going to take care of itself.

"She needs stitches," he noted.

Max's eyes opened slightly. "Not…hospi'l…"

"We can't go to the hospital," said Nudge. "We don't even know where one is."

"They'd ask questions," Iggy said quietly - the first words Fang had heard him speak since before Fang had come upon him kissing Max. If Iggy had said anything else since then, he hadn't been there to hear it.

They were right about the hospital. But… "Never said anything about a hospital, just stitches. There's a bunch of boats anchored north of here. I need you guys to find a sewing kit or something." He heard Nudge gasp but didn't look up. This was the only way. "Go!" He heard the rustle of wings as they took off.

Max was limp again, her eyes closed. He gently pushed the strands of hair off her face and used a spare t-shirt from his backpack to wipe off the sweat.

"You have to be okay." He leaned down and kissed her forehead.


"There's a bunch of boats anchored north of here," Fang said. "I need you guys to find a sewing kit or something."

Iggy heard Nudge gasp beside him as she realized what Fang meant to do. Because of course Fang got to do it because Fang was the hero. Fang was the important one.

The rest of the flock was motionless around them until Fang said, "Go!" Iggy heard Gazzy, Nudge, and Angel take off but stayed put himself, settling down onto the sand. He didn't feel like going on a treasure hunt while Fang stayed here with Max. He, Iggy, should be the one doing that.

Except he wasn't good enough. He wasn't good enough for Max, who had chosen Fang over him, and who he'd heard ask Gazzy to get Fang when she'd been about to faint. He wasn't good enough for Gazzy, who had immediately called for Fang to rescue Max. He wasn't good enough for his own parents, who had wanted to take advantage of him to get money. He hadn't even been good enough for the whitecoats, who had made him blind while trying to improve him. He was just Iggy, the stupid sightless mutant freak who was always overshadowed by Fang. Fang the fighter, Fang the keen-eyed, Fang the island finder, Fang the oh-so-romantic.

Iggy realized with disgust that Fang was now crooning, "You have to be okay," to Max. And then he picked up the soft sound of Fang's lips kissing Max somewhere on the face and wanted to throw up. That should be him, not Fang.

"Get a room," he said.

He heard Fang move in a startled way. Fang probably hadn't even realized he was still here.

"What are you doing here, Ig?" Yep.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Iggy asked bitterly.

"I told you to go find a sewing kit," Fang said impassively.

"Three people plus Total is more than enough for that," he said matter-of-factly. "I'm staying here with Max. Besides, I'm probably not good enough to find a sewing kit, " he added on sulkily.

"What are you talking about?" Fang demanded. "You know you could be helping."

"Oh no, I'm blind remember? I'm not as good as Fang The Almighty."

When Fang answered, there was a definite edge to his voice. "What is your problem? This is Max's life we're talking about. If you have issues with me, save it 'til later. You're not helping her by doing this."

"Sorry, Your Highness."

With some satisfaction, he heard Fang's fingers dig angrily into the ground. There was a little part of him that was telling him to quit being such an idiot, but he ignored it. What did it matter if he was being stupid if he wasn't good enough for anyone anyway?


Stressed out as he was about Max's condition, Fang was about one more sarcastic statement away from punching Iggy in the face. Sure, he knew how Ig must be feeling right now, but Max could die.

Luckily he was saved by the sound of wings beating as Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel landed on the beach. Nudge let Total spring out of her arms, and he trotted over to Fang and spit out a slobbery sewing kit. Fang made a face. Blood and gore was one thing, but dog slobber? Yuck.

He opened the little kit as fast as he could, pulling out a needle and a spool of blue thread. He snapped off a long piece of thread and tied a small knot at the end. Sewing 101, here I come. He'd never sewn anything in his life and here he was about to stitch up human flesh. He squinted to get the thread through the tiny hole in the needle and took a deep breath.

"Nudge, take Angel and Gazzy over there," he said, pointing to the left. No one needed to see this who didn't have to. He didn't bother saying anything to Iggy because he would probably just get another sarcastic comment.

When the younger kids were far enough away, he stuck the needle into Max's finger, thankful that she wasn't awake to feel this. This is gonna hurt…

Author's note: Sorry it took so long to get this chapter up! School and writer's block and all that…please review if you want more! Seriously, I am way more motivated to write when I know that people are actually enjoying my story. Or if you find something wrong about it or something you don't like, I'd appreciate knowing about that as well.

11. Chapter 11

Author's note: I would like to begin this chapter by responding to a review. I would have responded to the reviewer personally but it was anonymous, so here we go. You (whoever you are) said, "But you know they use a different kind of thread for stitches? It's kinda plasticky. I can't remember much, the last time I had them I was 4-6." Though I have never had stitches myself, I do know that they do that in hospitals. Key word "hospitals." The thing is, if you're on some random island in the Caribbean and you can't get to a hospital and/or don't want to go to one, you're going to close up that wound using any means possible if you want to live. If you want to know, I got the idea for that from the TV show Lost in which a character has another character assist him after the plane crash by sewing up his wound using a needle and thread from a sewing kit.

To everyone else: I am SO sorry it has been so long since I updated.

Chapter 11

I woke up feeling like someone had jabbed about a million needles into the stub of my left ring finger. I was lying on something soft but hard at the same time - sand? It felt like someone was moving my hand - either that or it was moving independently of my brain - and I raised my head to see Fang wrapping my fingers in a clean bandage. And that needle feeling? Someone had jabbed a needle into my hand a bunch of times, and the thread that it had been trailing was still in there.

Fang noticed that I was awake and said, "Just relax, Max. At a hospital they'd have given you blood but I can't do that."

I noticed that Iggy was sitting silently nearby and felt a pang of guilt before I wearily put my head back down. Jeez, I hated being so weak. And I had been doing it so much recently. It seemed like I'd spent the past two days either crying, being unconscious, being carried by Fang, or a combination. And frankly, it sucked. In case you haven't noticed, I'm more the kick-those-Erasers'-sorry-wolfy-asses-into-the-next-millenium than oh-poor-me-someone-please-come-rescue-me-'cause-I-have-a-booboo. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. If I'd been the second one, there's no way I would ever have lived long enough to be taken out of the School in the first place, because there ain't no one in there who's gonna help you up when you fall down. All we had there was each other, the flock, and that's pretty much all we have now. Plus Total, of course. But even though the flock does help me when I'm down and out, I hate making them do it.

I looked up at the sky, trying to ignore the intense pain in my hand and failing so miserably that I could almost swear it backfired and hurt more. The sun was directly overhead more or less, but even though the sky had been clear when the flock rescued us, there were now several dark clouds. Great. Just what we need. Rain on a beach. In case you didn't know, after rain finishes soaking sand it collects in huge puddles all over the place. And stepping in those things, besides being wet, is like stepping in quicksand. Not exactly fun. Plus, it's kind of hard to fly when all your feathers are wet, you know? Oh…I guess you probably don't. Whatever. You can imagine well enough.

Fang finished wrapping my hand in the bandage and stood up. "Rain," he said, nodding up at the sky.

"You should get the others," I suggested, trying and failing to sit up slightly. To tell you the truth, having someone tower over you while you're stuck lying on the ground isn't very pleasant.

"Yeah," he said distractedly, and I noticed him glance from me to Iggy.

Oh God, Fang, please don't tell me you think…"They'll be worried. Please get them," I said.

"Yeah, okay." This time he actually unfurled his dark wings and took off with a running start. I was left alone with Iggy for the moment, the world quiet except for the crash of waves a few yards away. I couldn't stand it.

"Sorry," I said quietly, turning my head to face Iggy.

He snorted in disbelief. "I'm sure."

"Ig…I'd do anything right now to be able to tell you something that would make you happy. But…I just…I don't feel that way about you, okay?" I said eloquently.

"Didn't seem like that when you kissed me," he said sullenly. He was idly drawing patterns in the sand with his finger.

I wanted to snap that he had kissed me, but thought better of it when I remembered that I had been about to kiss him back when Fang had showed up. Was it possible to feel more terrible than I did at the moment? More guilty? Maybe. But not by much. "I-I guess I was…caught up in the moment. I'm so sorry…please, Iggy, be happy again and go blow stuff up like you used to. Heck, pick some locks. I need you to be your normal self," I said awkwardly, realizing it was true.

He scoffed and almost smiled, but not in a happy way. "Oh yeah, that's right. I'm jus the blind guy who likes to blow things up. Happy-go-lucky good-old-fun-time Iggy. Leave everything else to Fang."

I didn't know what to say but was spared answering by the rush of wings overhead. The rest of the flock landed one by one around us.

"Oh my gosh, Max, did that hurt?" Nudge asked, running over to look at my hand. "I mean, I know it already hurt but did the needle make it hurt more? I hope I never have to get stitches."

"Oh, it was fine," I said, trying to smile. "I was asleep."

"Good," said Angel in that sweet little six-year-old way she has, "I don't like it when you hurt." Total barked in agreement and was about to lick me when I sent him a death glare.

Thunder rumbled in the distance and I noticed that the sky was even darker than it had been a couple of minutes ago.

"It's gonna rain soon," the Gasman noted, as if we couldn't all tell already. "Can we find a cave or something?"

Fang had been silent up until then, no trace of his thoughts showing on his face. "There's a big arch of rock a little bit that way. Let's go." The flock nodded and jumped up, hovering in there air. Without looking at them, Fang said, "No, we're walking." He got down on one knee and carefully slid his strong arms under my body, standing up with an effort.

"What? Why?" I asked. Notice that I didn't bother to pick a fight about walking on my own. I knew there was no way I could do it, even though I hated that fact.

"Because you, oh injured one, weight more than a ton of bricks. I can't take off with this load. It's not far," he said, with a hint of humor in his voice. The rest of the flock landed again and we (minus me, of course) started walking, with Fang leading the way.

Much as I despised looking weak, I had to admit that the feeling of leaning my head against Fang's lean, muscular chest while he carried me was wonderful. Feeling his warmth, listening to his steady but fast heartbeat…Snap out of it, Max. I noticed that Iggy, who was walking with one hand lightly brushing Gazzy's arm to stay on track, was focusing all of his attention (well, most of it I guess) on Fang and me. Don't ask me how I could tell that since he, as always, wasn't actually looking at us, but I could. I felt so bad for him. What if I had had to see Fang carrying the Red-Haired Wonder like this, with her all cuddled up to him? It wouldn't be quite the same situation, but somehow I don't see puny little Reddy carrying Fang, you know?

We arrived at the arch Fang had talked about, a big rock formation sort of up on a little hill, looking totally out of place surrounded by sand and various forms of tropical plant life. The ground under it was made of the same grey stone, but had a lot of sand and stuff on it.

As Fang was setting me down and Nudge was putting a folded-up windbreaker under my head, it suddenly started pouring. And I mean suddenly and also pouring. One moment it was dreary but not even sprinkling, and the next it was as if a dam had very suddenly been taken away and the river of the sky was coming down all at once. Poetic, eh? Not really. Just wet. Because you see, rain pretty much never just goes straight down. It was driving diagonally into the arch, leaving absolutely nothing dry. We huddled together, or actually the flock huddled around me. Lightning cut through the sky every so often on either side of the arch, followed by thunder so loud that everything shook. Everyone was silent and miserable, hoping that this thing was going to pass quickly.

Without warning, the arch suddenly shuddered violently, even though there was no thunder at the moment. Everything around us was lit up with a light so pure white that it seemed unreal, and then I felt a piece of rock hit my good hand. My eyes widened as I saw more chunks falling. Angel was screaming something. At least one other person was moaning, and Total was whining like a puppy.

"Fang! We have to get out of here!" I yelled above the noise. No answer. Adrenaline shot through my veins and I was able to sit up. Though the light was gone now, I could see him lying face down on the ground, blood trickling from the back of his head. A large chunk of rock was near him. They were still falling, and suddenly Angel's screams were cut off. I muffled a yell as something very hard and heavy landed on my right leg, pinning me to the ground. Then I felt another rock collide with my head and saw stars before collapsing into darkness.

12. Chapter 12

Chapter 12

When I woke up, it was slowly and peacefully. No Erasers jumping out to attack us. No one tapping my shoulder impatiently to wake me up for the next watch. Not even the sun shining brightly in my eyes, saying, "Hey, I'm here now, enjoy me or die!" Yes, I am sane enough to know that the sun doesn't talk. But sometimes when it wakes you up like that, it seems like it would say something like that if it was alive. Or maybe it's just me. Whatever.

I felt totally refreshed. That had probably been the best night of sleep I've had since…every, actually. Even though my "bed" was currently some very, very hard - hold on a second. Where the heck am I?

Then it all came back to me. My finger. The arch. The storm. The huge bolt of lightning that lit up the world - in a different way than Fang's smiles do, I might add - and sent the rock of the arch tumbling down on top of us. Logically, I should be in massive amounts of pain right about now. So why wasn't I? Where was the rest of the flock? The leader in me took hold and I decided to focus on the second question.

I peered around and realized with a shock that although at first glance it hard seemed like I was still in the ruins of the arch, this bare slab of rock I was on was not the same place. The sky was still kind of dark, but…not with night or with clouds. I didn't understand how that could be, but it was pretty low priority at the moment. I could see a sprawled-out body nearby, and the dark hair told me it was Fang's. He was completely still. I felt a twinge of panic spread through my limbs. Was he okay? As in…alive? The blood I'd seen on his head before I'd been knocked out was now dry and caked into his hair, and there didn't seem to be any fresh stuff - but that didn't mean much.

I crawled over to Fang, not trusting my legs enough to stand. I could not lose him. I think I've gotten that idea across at least once already but…losing Fang would be like losing part of myself, plus more. I would die if anything happened to any other member of the flock, but I had come to realize over the past couple of days that I would die twice - at least - if anything happened to Fang. Please be okay, Fang…please be okay.

I slid my fingers around his wrist, feeling for a pulse.

There wasn't one.


Iggy groaned and rolled over. Jeez, talk about a violent storm…

"Iggy?" said the Gasman's voice uncertainly from somewhere directly above him.

"You okay, Gaz?" he asked. That was when he noticed that the hard surface underneath his body wasn't rock - it was concrete. And that there were a ton of very non-tropical-island-like sounds all around. He picked out some cars, trucks, voices…like in…New York City? Yeah, that was what it smelled like, too.

And then he noticed the sun. Not the warmth of it on his skin. The bright light that was shining through his eyelids. Shocked, he opened his eyes. And opened them wider as he took in his first view of the sky since way before leaving the School.

"Holy crap! Gazzy, this is gonna sound stupid but pinch me as hard as you can."

The Gasman looked at him - I can see his face! I can SEE! - like he was insane but did as he was told.

And it hurt.

"Okay…what was that for?" Gazzy asked, puzzled.

"I think I can see again. Gaz, I can see!" He leapt up, feeling so happy that he was about to burst. "I can see!"

Gazzy just stood there with his mouth hanging open, watching Iggy run around the roof of the building they were on like a little kid on Christmas morning. Finally he said one word: "Woah." Then, a few moments later, he yelled, "That's so awesome! Now you can see stuff when we blow it up!"

Iggy was at the edge of the roof now, gazing over. "Do you recognize this place? It feels like New York. Where the heck are we?" Then he felt a sinking feeling as he realized something. "Wait…where are Max and Angel and Nudge and…Fang?" He said the last name with some resentment, remembering his bitterness despite his excitement over what was seemingly a miracle.

Gazzy came up next to him, his little face turning solemn. "I don't know. I just woke up here and then you woke up. That's all. But I think I know where we are," he said, looking up at Iggy's bright, no-longer-milky eyes. "Well I think so. This looks kinda like where we…umm…wait….well, I'm pretty sure it's New York." He frowned.

"You're positive no one else was here?" Iggy asked. How did we get here? What the hell is going on? Holy crap, I can see

Gazzy nodded. "No one."

"Jeez." Iggy pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to prevent the headache that was coming on as a result of all this emotion. "Uh…you wanna get someth-" He stopped suddenly as he noticed something moving toward them. Through the air. Fast. With wings.

"Uh-oh," Gazzy said. They had company.


Angel snapped into alertness. She panicked as she realized she had no idea where she was. There was a kind of hard red mat thing underneath her and lots of thoughts floating around. Lots.

Gotta rest. Gotta rest.

No more maze please! No more!

I have to try to get out of here.

They're coming. Find somewhere to hide.

Change is bad make them go away away away…

I'm going to die if they don't feed us soon.

I'm so tired of sitting on this stupid mat!

Gotta rest.


No more!



Where am I? Where's Max? Where's the rest of the flock?

Angel focused on whoever had been the owner of that last thought. She scanned the huge, gymnasium-like room until her eyes came to rest on Nudge, who was sitting on another red mat, her knees drawn up to her chin. There were people sitting on mats all over. They all had the same terrified expression on their faces.

Angel stood up and walked towards Nudge. A girl with whiskers sprouting from her cheeks and tufted ears on the top of her head hissed, "What do you think you're doing? You'll get everyone in trouble!"

Angel paused. "I want to see my sister. What will happen?"

The girl snarled in disgust. "You're obviously new here. We do what the scientists say, when they say it. And right now they say stay on your mat.

Angel frowned. Scientists? Whitecoats. But this wasn't the School or the Institute or anything. And there weren't any Erasers in sight. "I'm just seeing my sister, okay? I don't know how we got here." She started walking again when the girl shot out a hand with amazing speed and grabbed her leg, tripping her.

"I said no."

Angel was about to respond when a door creaked open and footsteps began to echo throughout the room.

"Experiment 11 is awake," said a low female voice. "We can run the tests now."

A broad set of very masculine arms grabbed Angel around the waist, picking her up.

Don't expect to she her again, she heard the cat girl think.

Please review!

13. Chapter 13

Author's note: Woot! I reached 101 written pages and 36 typed pages with this chapter! I'm pretty sure this is the longest story I have ever written already, and there's A LOT more to come.

Chapter 13

Angel was, to say the least, incredibly surprised when the whitecoat set her down next to Nudge instead of taking her back to a smelly lab. Even more astonishing, both of the whitecoats then promptly left the room. Their minds had been like Jeb's - dead, blank. No thoughts to explain their actions.

"Oh my gosh Angel! Where are we? How did we get here? What did they do with everyone else?" Nudge blurted.

Angel felt the back of her head gingerly. There was dried blood in her usually golden curls. "I don't know. The last thing I remember is all those rocks falling and stuff. I was scared."

Nudge nodded. "I remember that too. You were screaming. Max's finger was gone. That must be really weird for her. I hope everyone else is okay." She opened her mouth to take a breath and was interrupted by a voice booming over some sort of loudspeaker system.

"Attention!" the tinny male voice said, as if its announcement was going to be the most important one ever made. "You have permission to go on holiday routine until further notice. That is all."

Immediately, a hundred or more voices babbled away. The previously uptight mutants stood up (in whatever way they had of doing that - it varied) and milled around the huge room.

"What's holiday routine?" Angel whispered.

"I dunno. Can't you find out from someone's m - oh wait! Remember when we still had a house and Iggy and Gazzy would watch all those weirdo war movies with, like, ships and stuff? I remember once there was this guy and he said something about holiday routine and all the sailors got really happy and started having fun. Maybe we get to have fun now. But being here doesn't seem like fun, especially since we don't know where Max and Fang and Gazzy and Iggy are. At least they haven't done any tests or anything yet like at the School," Nudge said in little more than a breath.

"I think - " Angel began, but stopped when she heard a noise. Most of the other kids in the room were looking in the direction of the loud yelling, which seemed to be coming from behind a closed door in the wall on Angel's left, Nudge's right.

"Help! Help, we're locked in! Please get us out, we're so scared! Help!" It seemed like there were two voices, both belonging to kids, but one a boy's and one a girl's.

Angel went over to where a group of people was crowding around the door. Nudge followed her. The yelling was still going on, but even though they were all near the door, the other mutants seemed reluctant to do anything. Angel elbowed her way up to the front. There weren't any whitecoats here, so it was only right to do whatever was possible to help whoever was behind that door. It was what Max would do, and to Angel, Max was one of the smartest, best people in the world.

She knew everyone was staring at her, and she could hear more and more thoughts as the talking died down. She took a breath and reached up to the high doorknob. It turned easily in her had - unlocked? The other mutants gasped in amazement as they saw what was on the other side.


There was no use trying to hide. Iggy could easily tell that their visitor knew exactly where he and Gazzy were. And flying away? Well, it was the completely logical thing to do, but then again the fact that they were randomly on a building, possibly in New York City, and Iggy could see again wasn't exactly logical. He couldn't explain it, but he had a feeling they should stand and fight this opponent. If all else failed, he still had some explosives stashed away. And it would be pretty awesome to actually see what those babies can do…he thought mischievously.

It was getting closer now. "It" actually seemed to be a she, from what Iggy could see of her slim frame which couldn't possibly be a guy's. Oh, and there was the long brown hair streaming out behind her. That was a clue. Her wingspan was slightly shorter than his, the mostly white feathers speckled with small black splotches. Female Eraser, version 7.0?

Iggy put a hand on Gazzy's shoulder, tensing up for fight or flight. "Ready, Gasman?"

Gazzy nodded eagerly.

"Remember, don't use it unless I give the signal." It would be so easy to blow this joint - literally - without a second thought, but something was stopping him.

The visitor whooshed over their heads. Obviously not too experience in combat. She could've kicked both our heads back right then and that would've been it. She was landing in the middle of the roof now, turning around. Her eyes snapped straight to Iggy's.

Surprised, he said to Gazzy, "U and A now! Los fall division treinta." The feral gleam usually present in Eraser eyes wasn't there in the girl's - but the second she had made eye contact with him, he'd felt like he'd just been run over by a truck. No way that was good. The code he'd spoken to Gazzy meant to drop the bombs thirty seconds after they were both in the air. Strangely, the girl was making no attempt to go after them. 20…19…18…

"Wait! Please don't leave!" the girl yelled.

Iggy froze. I know that voice but…who? He hesitated. Ten seconds now until it was time to release the bombs. Nine. Eight. "Gazzy, no fall. Espera."

Gazzy looked at him quizzically but slowly withdrew his empty hand from his pocket.

"Why, do you need another chance to kill us?" Iggy shot at the girl. "No thanks, I think we'll be going."

"Jeff, it's me. Don't you remember me?" She was practically pleading now.

Iggy's eyes widened. He did know that voice. He dropped swiftly down, motioning to Gazzy to do the same. Now that they were on the same level, she was a couple of inches shorter than him and looked to be about the same age. "Tess?" he asked, unable to believe his eyes. Or his ears, for that matter.

She nodded, approaching cautiously. "After you guys left school that day, I thought I'd never see you again. Isn't it strange that we met here?"

Iggy realized his mouth was hanging open and promptly shut it. "But you…you have…?" He gestured at her wings.

"I told you I didn't stick out as much once you joined the class. I meant it."

Okay…jeez…I was being sarcastic when I thought about her being a fellow mutant freak when we met, but…jeez…"How did you know we had them too?" he asked, still failing to really comprehend this whole situation. Oh, and there was also the fact that he still felt like he had been run over by a truck. Which he now remembered feeling when he had first spoken to Tess on the field trip. So that was what that was.

Tess shrugged. "I just knew. Sorry I didn't tell you." She paused, looking inquisitively at him. "There's something different…your eyes! Jeff, what happened to your eyes?"

Gazzy seemed to have caught onto what was going on and spoke up. "His name is Iggy, and he's not blind anymore."


Tears were pouring out of my eyes and I didn't care. Because nothing, and I mean nothing mattered anymore. Not with Fang's cold body lying on the hard rock next to me and the rest of the flock dead too for all I knew.

It felt like years since I had first reached him, first felt for a pulse and found nothing. Years of such emptiness that I couldn't even remember what had happened from minute to minute, even second to second. I was sitting cross-legged next to him, his left hand in mine, brushing the dark hair back from his beautiful face with my other hand as the tears leaked out of my swollen eyes. I had thought he'd been saved when we got away from the Erasers, but now he was dead and it was all my fault. If I hadn't fainted, he wouldn't have had to land us on that stupid island and the arch wouldn't have collapsed on us. Fang was dead and it was all my fault.

Nonsense, said the Voice. You didn't shoot yourself.

Who cares? I could have hung in there longer. He would have.

The last time Fang tried to "hang in there" you had to take him to the hospital.

Don't you dare imply he ever did anything wrong! I snapped. This whole mess was my fault for letting Iggy kiss me in the first place!

Don't play the blame game, Maximum. You don't have time for that. You need to focus.

On what? That saving the world crap? I'm sorry, Voice, but my world has already been shattered. There's nothing left to save.

Now you're just being selfish.

I don't care! I screamed at it internally. Then, "I DON'T CARE!" I screamed out loud at the top of my lungs. "I don't give a crap!" Though my crying had become silent long before, I started sobbing again, shaking with the effort and crescendoing into high-pitched wails like a little kid. I'm only 14! What did I ever do to deserve this? If there really is a God out there then why does He let this stuff happen?

At that last thought I suddenly had a flashback to that time in New York when we had taken refuge in a church. My sobs slowed as I remembered it. How safe I had felt inside there even though Erasers could have walked in just as easily as we had. How Angel had led us up to the front to pray. How I had heard each member of the flock except Fang whisper their first actual prayers. How I myself had whispered my own prayer to the air, feeling awkward at first but then good, safe, if not eloquent. Fang had had his eyes closed as he knelt, and at the time I'd thought he was just resting. But now I realized he had been praying like the rest of us, only Fang style - silently. I was suddenly overcome with the urge to try it. So I did.

Uhh…hi God. I guess I'm not very good at this. Well the thing is I…I don't know…how am I supposed to go on without him? He's my everything. I love him. Is he up in Heaven or wherever with You? If he is please tell him Max loves him more than anything in the world and misses him like heck. I know that probably sounds stupid but I need him to know. Please. Or actually I've heard that You can do miracles and please…I need him. I need Fang. Please, God, if You do nothing else for me ever again, please just bring him back somehow. I guess You probably get lots of people asking for this kind of thing but You have to understand, I have nothing else. I don't even have a house or parents or anything. So umm…thanks for listening I guess. Yeah. Bye.

I opened my eyes slowly and felt like I had just been transported back from like…another world or something. A warm world. One I wouldn't mind going back to. Or maybe it was that I felt like someone had just taken a warm blanket off of me and now I was back in the cold, cruel world.

I looked at Fang again, caressing his still face. This was all so - hold it. The skin beneath my fingers seemed just the slightest bit warm. But I was probably imagining it, wasn't I? I took my heavily bandaged left hand out of his and replaced it with my right hand. My eyes widened. His hand seemed warm too. Holding my breath, I put two fingers on Fang's wrist. There was a pulse. Weaker than it should have been, but there. Then I noticed the strangest thing of all - or maybe not, there were a heck of a lot of strange things to choose from. Every bruise, every cut, every drop of blood that had been on his body just moments before…was gone.

Just then Fang's eyes fluttered opened the tiniest bit. "Hey," he said, sounding bleary and like he was half asleep.

I burst into tears all over again even though I had never really stopped crying in the first place and laid on the ground next to him, burying my face in the side of his shoulder and letting his black shirt soak up the tears.

Please review. They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. And an author who feels warm and fuzzy inside is an author who feels like writing more of her story.

14. Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Fang blinked. Which is, as you may recall, his version of complete astonishment. "What?"

"You were dead," I repeated, my voice still wobbly. We were sitting on the slab of rock that we had somehow ended up on after the collapse of the arch, me no longer crying and Fang his normal self. Like so many other times recently, I had no idea how long I had cried. At one point Fang had carefully sat up, pulling me with him and holding me close with a protective arm. 'Cause, you know, the guy who had just been dead was in so much better shape than me. That makes perfect sense. When I had finally sort of gotten a hold of myself, Fang had asked the inevitable questions: why the heck I was crying and where the hell we were. So I had told him. Which I guess pretty much brings you up to speed.

He shook his head. "That's not possible."

"What, you think I don't know how to tell when someone's dead? You were - " I shuddered inwardly, not wanting to describe it. I looked into his dark eyes, trying to convey my meaning without the use of words. Suddenly I had a huge urge, one of those things where you feel like you'll go kablooey if you don't act on it - so I did. I threw my arms around Fang's neck, pulling him close and just kissing him, kissing him, letting the pure bliss drown out all the other feelings that were clamoring in my head. He tensed up at first, surprised, but then I felt his strong hands on the back of my head and neck and his lips moving against mine. Then I felt his tongue run lightly over my lips and I opened them, letting him enter in. Though I had begun this, Fang was now the leader, the director, the…aggressor really, because as I believe I have said before his kisses are just so incredibly desperate.

Several dizzy moments - possibly minutes, I wouldn't really know - later, I rolled off of Fang, panting for breath. Somehow we had ended up lying on the ground with me on top. I figured Fang had pulled us down, but I didn't actually remember it happening.

After a pause, Fang said, "Man…Okay, I think I believe you now."

I turned my head towards him. He was stretched out on the slab of rock in the darkness-that-wasn't-from-clouds-or-night, his reaching up over his head, his chest moving up and down slightly faster than usual under his dark shirt. Dang, he is so ho-


"Oh God, I missed you," I said, which was probably kind of dumb since he'd never actually been gone. I scooted a little closer to him.

"I know," he whispered. He slid his arm under my head and around my shoulders, pulling me right up next to him. I put my hand on his chest, feeling his very-much-alive heartbeat. And we just stayed there like that for a while. It could have been so perfect. Too bad nothing works out like that for us.

You know how some people have recurring nightmares where they keep dreaming about the same horrible thing over and over again? Well, that was kind of like what happened next. Except without the dreaming part.

All of a sudden several huge shadows loomed over us, blotting out what little light there was.

"What a cute couple," Ari said, his voice full of menace. 'Cause yeah, one of those shadows was him. Apparently death means nada these days. That had turned out well once, but definitely not this time.

There was no time to react. The Erasers were already fully morphed, their fangs dripping with not-very-hygienic-looking saliva. Ari growled something about me being his and lunged forward, ripping me away from Fang and putting several parallel gashes in Fang's arm and chest all in the same movement. I was screaming and yelling, clawing and biting, but it had no effect on Ari. The rest of the Erasers were on Fang in the blink of an eye, punching him in the stomach and kicking his head. He fought back but it was only a matter of seconds before he went limp. The Erasers had found us in way too vulnerable a position, and anything we might have done standing up or flying had been impossible.

"It's time to sleep now, Max," Ari said, and I swear he almost said it lovingly. Sick. He clamped a furry, wolf-like hand across my throat, pushing down on the hollow at its base. My eyes widened as my air supply was cut off and I panicked. I tried to pry his hand away but he was too strong, not giving way at all. Little black dots started crawling into my vision, and then everything went dark.


The other mutants gasped as they saw what was on the other side of the door. Nudge gasped with them.

The room itself was so weirdly…ordinary that it was hard to comprehend. It was probably about eight feet in depth and thirteen or fourteen in width, with a ceiling much lower than that of the huge room outside it but still more than tall enough for someone to stand in. The floor was covered in off-white carpet that needed a good vacuuming and the walls were painted light purple, with white trim around the edges. The only piece of furniture was a metal bunk bed the same color as the walls. Both of its bunks were made up with sheets and blankets. That was what Nudge noticed at first glance, anyway. She then realized that what had appeared to be a window was actually just a painting of one. And that there were two dirty, disheveled kids handcuffed to the bed. They had stopped yelling now but were staring wide-eyed at the mutants, quietly pleading for help.

"Come on guys, we have to help them get out of there!" Nudge said. She was now standing next to Angel, having pushed her way through the crowd. No one moved, not even Angel. Okay… Nudge stepped forward, placing a foot on the carpet in the other room. She jumped back with a start as, out of nowhere, a big, bubble-like wall of energy appeared between her and the two kids. It crackled slightly, then was silent.

"Okay, does anyone here know what this is? 'Cause it's really freaky. This whole thing is freaky. Don't you guys think so?" Nudge looked around at all the unfamiliar faces, hoping someone would say something.

"I-I think I've seen this before," said a small boy who looked a little older than Gazzy. He seemed to have some weird scaly shell-like thing covering most of his body. Human-armadillo? That's an…interesting one…

"Yeah, okay, well what do we do about it?" Nudge asked.

The armadillo boy hesitated, absently chewing on a fingernail. "Umm…well I think…uh…if you put enough force on it, it'll go away. I think." He frowned. "Or it might vaporize you. I'm not sure."

"Okay, uh, thanks," Nudge said, not exactly happy with the odds. "Maybe we should try sticking something in it to see. Does anyone have something we could use?" She saw the rude cat girl who had tripped Angel earlier exchange glances with a boy who had deer antlers growing out of his head. He shook his head vehemently at first but after another look from the cat girl walked over to a mat a few feet away and came back with a blanket.

"This was my friend's," he said blankly. "He doesn't really need it anymore." He motioned for Nudge to move aside and lightly tossed the blanket at the bubble of energy. It slid off without a sound, neither affecting nor being affected by the wall. "Well, I guess the vaporization thing was wrong, Scute," he said, directing his words at the armadillo boy.

"Okay, let's just say…Scute's…theory about putting force on it was right," Nudge said. "I'm gonna need a few people to help me to start off with. Uhh…Angel, and Scute, and…umm…you, what's your name? And your friend, the one with the whiskers."

"The name's Stag," said the boy with antlers. "And she's Whisker." He pointed his thumb back at the cat girl, who was now walking towards them.

"I'm Nudge," Nudge said. She, Scute, Stag, and Whisker braced themselves against the energy bubble, which surprisingly didn't give way at all despite its flimsy appearance. "Angel?" Nudge asked. The six-year-old was staring into space, moving her mouth as if she was speaking. "Earth to An-gel! Hello-o?" There was no reply. Nudge sighed. Okay, apparently Angel wasn't going to be helping. She counted to three and the four of them pushed as hard as they could. Nothing happened.

Whisker motioned a few other people over and they tried again, but still with no result. Nudge was starting to think Scute had been wrong.

Just then, Stag stood up. "Watch out, guys."

Nudge saw the others quickly move away and followed suit. Stag shut his eyes, and before Nudge knew it the brown-haired boy had transformed fully into a deer. He's like an Eraser, only not bloodthirsty. And not mean. And not half wolf. Oh, whatever. Stag reared up, preparing to slam his front hooves into the energy bubble.

"Wait!" Angel yelled completely out of the blue. Nudge turned to her in surprise as Stag put his hooves back on the ground, head turned to the side in confusion.

"It's not real. None of this is real," Angel insisted. "Remember Itex, Nudge?"

"Right. None of this is real yet we can touch and feel all of it. Sure," scoffed Whisker.

Nudge saw Angel glancing at the area around the door as if she was looking for something.

The six-year-old finally pointed at a slightly flickering red light encased in some kind of clear plastic which was mounted on the wall just to the left of the door. "Try smashing that thing. I dunno if it will do anything, though."

Whisker rolled her eyes and Stag, having morphed back to human-with-antlers form, looked incredibly skeptical, but Scute's eyes brightened with curiosity. "What do you think it's gonna do?"

Angel was looking straight at Stag. "Turn into a deer again and smash that thing," she said in a normal voice. Of course, Nudge wasn't at all surprised when Stag did exactly what he was told after looking confused for a moment. Stag's powerful hooves crashed down on the light's casing, shattering it and the light. Nudge quickly turned to the small room. Her mouth dropped open: the carpet, the bed, the painting, the kids, the energy bubble - everything was gone, leaving only an empty concrete room.


Iggy pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stem off a headache. "Okay, okay. So we're randomly on top of a building in New York City, the rest of our flock is God knows where, I can see again, and I just almost blew you to smithereens. And you have wings."

Tess nodded gravely. "I'm just as confused as you are."

Gazzy poked a finger distractedly into a small indent in the concrete. "I think we get that now, can we please try to do something about it? I miss Max and Angel and everyone else."

Iggy felt his heart jolt at the mention of Max. Maybe, just maybe when she found out that he could see again she would realize that he was at least as good as Fang. If he ever saw her or anyone else in the flock again. This is so freaking screwed up! Then he glanced up and saw Tess looking at him with her bright brown eyes and felt once again like he had been hit by a truck. Damn it! Make that doubly screwed up. This wasn't supposed to be happening. Max wasn't supposed to like Fang better than him. He and Gazzy weren't supposed to be here, separated from the rest of the flock. Tess wasn't supposed to be here either. And he definitely, definitely was not supposed to be feeling this way about two girls at once. "Working on it, Gaz," he said, resisting the urge to groan in frustration.

"Nah-uh," Gazzy replied.

Iggy was about to respond angrily when Tess stopped him with a light hand on his arm.

"How about we go to the library? Maybe we can…I don't know, figure something out once we're there."

Iggy nodded. "Yeah, sounds good. There has to be something there."


A few minutes later they were standing outside the New York Public Library of Humanities and Social Sciences, the very same library that the flock had unsuccessfully used to try to find the Institute. Once they had figured out what part of the city they were in, it had been a simple matter to fly to the library and drop down inconspicuously into a nearby alley. Now they were next to a statue of a lion figuring out what to do next. There were people all around, and Iggy was going insane trying to listen for Erasers. Though his other senses didn't seem to have been dimmed now that he could see, he had forgotten how many distractions sight could add to the world. He didn't trust his eyes to pick out Erasers at this point in time because it had been such an incredibly long time since he'd actually seen one - and according to the rest of the flock, they were getting harder to identify anyway. He would use his eyes, yes, but he wouldn't rely on them for this kind of thing. Not yet, anyway.

"Let's go use a computer like last time we were here," Gazzy suggested.

Iggy nodded and they walked into the stone building, getting into one of the dreaded elevators. Iggy felt sweat beading on his forehead as he began to panic in the confined space. Gazzy seemed to be having a similar reaction. He glanced at Tess. She seemed more composed, but her face was slightly flushed. Had she lived most of her life in a cage too?

They sprang out of the elevator the second the doors opened on the fourth floor. Okay, we're out of there now. Get it together. Iggy remembered that Max had had to sign in at a desk in order to use a computer, so he headed towards it and picked up the pen. But what to write? He had his alias, Jeff, but what about a last name? If any Erasers were looking for him, they would pick up on "Ride," "Batchelder," or "Walker." He noticed that Tess was hovering near his shoulder and whispered, "Are they after you, too?"

"Who? The whitecoats? Yeah, if that's what you mean. Ever since their dumb wolf boys sniffed me out that day at school," she answered, just barely audible to anyone who didn't have Iggy's hearing.

Iggy nodded, deciding to save questions for later since the guy behind the counter was giving them a look. He wrote J-E-F-F B-A-U-E-R, borrowing the surname of a television character. They headed over to one of the computers.

"Maybe it would help to find a map of where you guys were or something," Tess suggested, crossing her legs as she sat down in a chair next to Iggy.

"Yeah. Okay." He hadn't really used a computer in this manner before since he hadn't been able to see it, but it wasn't very hard to find the Internet, which luckily opened up to a search engine. He looked down at the keyboard, trying to make sense of the order in which the letters had been arranged, and slowly typed out "Caribbean map." He was a little embarrassed at his lack of typing skills, but what could he do?

He pulled up a picture that showed a bunch of Caribbean islands. So…there's Florida…we flew about this much southeast…then kind of north to get Max…east and a little south… He traced the route with his finger.

"This isn't anywhere near exact, but I think we were about here," he said, pointing to the east side of an island. "Look about right, Gaz?"

The Gasman moved closer to the monitor and frowned as he studied it. After a few moments he said, "Yeah. Hey, what's that dotted triangle thing?"

Iggy looked at the outline of a triangle that was dotted around part of the map. "I think it must be the Bermuda Triangle. Supposedly a ton of really weird stuff happens there. Disappearances, plane crashes." He exchanged glances with Tess, then mentally swore at himself as he felt his cheeks heat up slightly. Damn it, you like Max! You can't go around falling for another girl!

"Do you think the Triangle has anything to do with this?" Tess asked.

Iggy shrugged. "It's supposed to be something about the magnetic forces down there. I don't see how that could get us here. Hey…why are you here?"

Tess bit her lip. "After the Erasers came to school I had to get out of there. I just started wandering around, I guess, and…somehow ended up here."

Iggy thought he heard something in her voice but didn't push it. He glanced out the window at the sky, reveling in the sensation of sight. "Woah. When did it get so dark?" he asked with a start. The sun was sinking to the horizon, its last rays turning the sparse clouds pink and purple in the few places they could be seen between all the buildings of the city. He glanced down at his watch and did a double take as he saw its face. "Uh guys…take a look at this."

Author's note: Ok, a just a few things here. One, I'm so sorry it took so long to get this up. I wrote it in three parts so it took a while. Plus there's always the fact that I have tons of homework. But never mind about that. As I said there were three parts to this chapter for the different sets of characters. I'd really like some feedback on the new characters in Angel and Nudge's storyline. Be honest 'cause if you guys like them they might just stick around a while, but if you don't they won't. Also, I really don't like how the Iggy/Gazzy/Tess part of this chapter turned out so please let me know if you think it was OOC or if it's just me. And also just a note which is not very important but I'd like you to know, Iggy's emotional storyline at this point is taken completely from personal experience.

Hope you enjoyed and please REVIEW! I'll try to get chapter 15 up faster than it took for 14.

15. Chapter 15

A/N: Sorry it's been so long since I last update. Due to mountains of homework and writer's block, I haven't been getting much done in the way of writing. This is only the first of 3 parts of chapter 15, but I thought I would put it up now just because it's been so long. Unfortunately, you should probably expect future updates to take a while like this one has…

Chapter 15 Part 1

Iggy felt Tess and Gazzy leaning towards him as he stared, astonished, at his beat-up watch. The numbers on its face were rapidly changing, jumping from 10:23 AM to midnight to 3:15 PM, on and on, never repeating the same time twice. No one said anything for - well, since time was apparently so whacked out, Iggy had no idea. Finally, he tore his eyes away and looked around for another clock. Maybe it was just some weird thing with his watch. Actually….maybe it did this all the time for all he knew. Before today the watch had been useless to him except when it beeped on the hour, but he'd always worn it anyway for some reason. Though the beeps had seemed accurate enough, maybe the rest of the watch had gotten screwed up somehow.

Unfortunately, that theory was immediately proved wrong by the crazily spinning hands of a clock mounted on the wall. Crap. Okay. Weird. Very weird.

"Can we leave this place?" Gazzy asked nervously.

"Let's," Tess said, standing up.

Iggy stood up too. "Could this situation get any weirder?" It turned out to be the wrong question to ask. Out of nowhere, the entire building lurched sideways. Iggy was thrown the opposite way from the force of it, slamming his side into the edge of the desk. Then the movement stopped suddenly, forcing him the other way. He fell over, landing on something somewhat softer than the floor would have been. Recovering, he turned his head to see what he was on top of and was mortified to discover that he had landed on Tess, whose face was less than an inch from his own. "Sorry," he mumbled vaguely, getting up quickly as he felt his face heat up.

"Not your fault," she said. Iggy's sharp ears picked up the embarrassed tone in her voice.

"A little help here?" Gazzy's voice was muffled by the floor. It sounded like he was in pain.

Iggy turned quickly to see that the computer desk had fallen on the eight-year-old, pinning him face down to the carpet. I certainly had a better fall…Then he realized what he was thinking and felt his cheeks color again. He tried to ignore it as he heaved the desk upright.

"Ow," the Gasman said once he was standing, trying to rub the spot on his back where the edge of the desk had hit. "They need sturdier furniture in this place."

Seemingly without thinking, Tess started rubbing Gazzy's back where he couldn't reach. Iggy watched awkwardly, unable to prevent himself from thinking that Tess was a lot like Max in some ways. He looked at the floor, shuffling his feet. I'm so sorry, Max. I can't believe I'm thinking about her like that. I'm so disloyal. I guess that's just another reason why I don't deserve you.

He cleared his throat. "So…umm…what the heck just happened?"

He saw something flicker across Tess's face, but her expression was unreadable when she answered, "Maybe it was an…earthquake? I've never felt one before, but I think it's safe to say the ground was moving."

Iggy shook his head. "I haven't felt one either that I can remember, but Gazzy and I have read some stuff about them," he explained. He was slightly embarrassed to have to include Gazzy's name there. It was a mark of dependency. Of a lack of self-sufficiency. "I think an earthquake would have lasted longer. That was really only one movement and then some effects of inertia."

Tess shrugged. "I don't know then," she said, looking out the window as she did.

Iggy nodded towards the window. "Let's get out of here. With what just happened, people will be too preoccupied to look up. And anyway I don't feel like taking my chances with the elevator.

Tess continued staring out the window, looking distracted. Gazzy was looking expectantly at him.

Iggy inspected the window. It didn't look like it would open very far. What the heck? They'll think it was caused by the…whatever that was. Wordlessly, he picked up a chair and used it to shatter the glass. He swept the chair's legs around the edges of the frame to clear it of jagged shards and turned to Tess. "Ladies first."

She seemed to break out of her reverie. "No way," she said, laughing. "Youngest first." She inclined her head towards Gazzy.

"Fine," Gazzy said, vocally rolling his eyes at both of them. He hopped agilely onto the large windowsill, snapping out his wings as he began to fall from the building.

Iggy waited for Tess to go. And waited. Finally, he turned his head towards her. She was smirking good-naturedly. "What?" he asked.

"You're next. I'm older than you."

"What? How do you know that?"

She rolled her eyes. "There was a bulletin board at school with everyone's birthdays. I'm a month and four days older than you."

"But that's not - I don't now my real birthday. Anyway, haven't you ever heard of chiv-" He stopped in surprise as she put a single finger on his lips. He felt his heart rate skyrocket.

"Just go, okay?" she laughed.

He nodded, not trusting his voice at the moment. It was a few seconds before he realized that her finger was gone and she was looking at him patiently.

"Oh. Right," he said, feeling stupid. He leapt out of the window and felt the rush of air meeting the feathers of his wings. He turned to make sure Tess was on her way.

Suddenly, he heard a small yell from Gazzy. Before he could react, something sharp hit his neck and stuck. A wave of nausea rolled over him and he broke out in a cold sweat. And then he was falling.

The last thing he heard before he lost consciousness completely was Tess screaming his name.

A/N: As always please, please review! Constructive criticism is just as awesome as anything else. I just want to know what you guys are thinking.

16. Chapter 16

A/N: It's been awhile. Again. Sorry. This has been done for a couple of days but the site wasn't letting me upload it. Here's chapter 16. (Yes, I know it was supposed to be chapter 15 part 2, but it ended up so long that I felt it was better to make it it's own chapter).

Chapter 16

You know those dreams that end with you falling and falling until you suddenly wake up, heart racing, in your own bed? Of course you do. And sometimes, those dreams are also the recurring kind I mentioned earlier.

Yeah, well, story of my life: dream-like events minus the dreaming part.

It was the wind that woke me up. I would have had to be dead for it not to. Air rushed past me, whistling through the small square holes of - yeah, again - a dog crate that I was somehow in. I guess under different circumstances I might have woken up slowly, unable to figure out where I was - but that's pretty hard to manage when gravity is speeding up your descent towards the hard ground below every second, probably in my case right towards a nice garbage dump grave or something like that. And yes, I do recall that garbage dumps have kept my flock from starving more than once, but that's not the point of this beautiful pre-death pessimism. The point is I was heading straight towards the ground with no hope of stopping in sight. So…this was it. Of all the ways I ever thought I might die, dropping out of the sky in a metal crate wasn't exactly at the top of my probability list. Then again, since when has anything in my life been probable? I'm a freaking mutant who can fly, was raised in a lab most of my life, is only 14 yet a mother to a bunch of other kids who aren't mine, and is possibly the sister of a guy who's part wolf, part bird, part human. And I have a voice in my head that isn't schizophrenia. Umm…I think. Just your average life, no? What does it matter now? I'm about to die anyway.

You won't die, Maximum, said the Voice.

No? Then what's your plan for saving me, oh brilliant one? I asked, not expecting an answer. I didn't get one.

I swallowed the lump that was forming in my throat. How could I be so calm right now? Why wasn't I screaming? Is Fang falling right now too? I decided it would probably be best to shut my eyes now so that I wouldn't see the ground when I hit, or right before that. I took a deep breath. Oh my God! No! I don't want this to happen! The panic was finally starting to set in. Please no, please no no no, not yet, please! I begged whatever or whoever was out there silently. Better to be alive and in the clutches of Ari's filthy paws than splattered on the ground. At least there was a chance of escape from the first option.

Suddenly there was a sharp tug on the crate from above and inertia pressed me hard against the bottom bars. My descent continued more slowly for a few moments and then the cage was moving upwards. What?! I dared to life my face off the bottom of the crate and opened my eyes a crack. Ari was holding the crate, laboring to get his wings to bring us back up. And for once I was almost glad to see him.


When Fang woke up the light was still the exact same grey it had been when the Erasers attacked. As he had noticed then, it was not because of fog or clouds - though at this point he had no idea what time it was, so it could have been because of that.

Orienting himself, he realized with horror that he was in a dog crate. He swore inwardly. The view through the bars that made up the bottom was not that of a floor, but that of the ground far below. And hairy Eraser arms were all that was keeping him from his death. Maybe I can make him drop it, he thought, then internally slapped himself. What the hell are you thinking?! You don't want to die! He sat up slowly, then peered around the Eraser's arm. Where did they have Max? She had to be okay. She just had to. Maybe she'd even escaped. Yeah right.

His many bruises and cuts were starting to bring themselves to this attention, but he ignored them as usual. There were more important things to focus on. Like Max.

It was at that moment that Ari noticed he was awake. Flying into Fang's view, he taunted, "Look, the lovebird is back where he belongs. In a cage. Get it?" He laughed as if something had been funny about his lame attempt at a joke.

Fang made sure his features remained impassive. "Haha, hilarious. Where's Max?"

Ari looked slightly annoyed but held up the crate he was carrying. Max was sprawled on her side, unconscious. "Safe and sound. By my book, anyway."

Fang suddenly realized that he had moved so that he was up against one side of the crate, fingers gripping tightly onto the bars in anger. And his face was no longer impassive. The dam had burst. "What is your problem? Daddy didn't hug you enough? You're just a demented little kid! It's not us you should be attacking, it's those idiots who made you this way. Let Max go, damn it! Let her go!" he roared, pressing himself against the crate as if it would help him get closer to killing Ari. "I freaking shot you in the head, Max broke your neck - why can't you just fucking die already?" He was startling even himself with his behavior. What was he going to accomplish with this?

Ari seemed startled too. He was silent for the moment, and somehow Fang's voice seemed to hang in the air. "You would really want me to let her go but not you?" he asked finally.

Fang clenched his teeth. "Yes," he answered. "It's not as if you'd ever be generous enough to let both of us go."

Ari seemed to muse for a moment. "You do know that I only keep you alive for Max, right?"

"Yes," Fang said tensely. He couldn't believe the conversation had gotten this far.

"And you still want this?"

"Definitely," he said, leaving no room for doubt.

Ari looked bemused. "Okay then…" And he let go of Max's cage.

Fang's eyes widened in horror as his fingers clung harder to the crate. "Ari, you bastard!" he yelled. He leaned back slightly and then slammed himself back into the bars, not caring about the pain or the fact that it might cause the Eraser to drop him. "No! NO!" He kept up his slamming motion, wishing he could be beating Ari to a bloody pulp. "I swear I am going to kill you as slowly and painfully as possible and then do it again! You killed her, Ari! She's going to die because of you!" A deafening roar had filled his mind, drowning out all else. He realized that his voice had cracked hysterically on the word 'die' but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered. Nothing -

Ari smiled at him, winked, and pulled into a steep dive.


I was relieved to see that Fang was still with the Erasers. In case you'd forgotten, they came very, very close to killing him during our last little encounter. And then he had killed Ari. Not that that had been anywhere near permanent, as was becoming all too usual, but still.

What I wasn't relieved to see was that he looked so openly angry that I almost wondered if he was actually a Fang clone. What did Ari do to you?

"Just messin' with ya, Fangy boy," Ari said. Though I wasn't looking at him, I knew from his voice that he had a big, stupid grin plastered across his face.

Fang gave no sign visible to the Erasers that he had heard the remark, but I saw his jaw tense. Then all of a sudden he was Fang the Impassive again, as if he had never gotten as angry as I knew he still was in his life. I wanted so badly to talk to him, but we couldn't really do so properly with all the Erasers around. I sighed and pulled my knees up to my chest, wishing I shared some kind of sci-fi telepathic link with Fang.

I can't really say how long we flew in silence. The half-light of wherever the heck we were remained the same until everything suddenly went dark, as if someone had turned off the sun. There wasn't even a sunset.

I think I must have fallen asleep sometime after that, because the next thing I knew I was opening my eyes from sleep. I was still in the crate but there was grass sticking up through the holes between the bottom bars. The sky was dark but I thought I could detect some faint, somehow blurry stars out of the corner of my eye.

That was when I felt a warm finger on my cheek. It lightly brushed some hair out of my face and then moved softly back and forth across my skin. I felt a chill run up my spine. It was Ari's finger, I could tell. He must not know I'm awake. I was debating turning over as fast as I could and biting his finger when he started to sing. I froze, disgusted both by and for him. His voice sounded small the childish in the dark, the way it was supposed to sound.

"Lavender's blue, dilly dilly,

Lavender's green,

When I am king, dilly dilly,

You shall be queen…"

Behind the wolfy macho-ness and hardcore warrior mask, he really was just a little kid. How could you do this to your own son, Jeb? I thought. It could still remember little pre-Eraser Ari, the kid who ran eagerly around the School after his dad, always curious about everything. He didn't understand what went on with us - not really - except that we were different from him because of our wings. And then Jeb had taken us away, leaving Ari alone. I couldn't help feeling bad for him.

I no longer had the heart to bite him, but I couldn't stand letting him continue to do this. Fortunately, I was saved the trouble when the sky suddenly returned to its former half-light. Ari started and withdrew his fingers from the crate. I heard him yelling at the other Erasers to get up and waited a few moments before pretending to wake up.

I could see now that we had stayed the night in some kind of park, which was surrounded by the tall buildings of a city. The park wasn't nearly as big as New York's Central Park - it only took up the space of maybe two large blocks.

Just then Ari picked up my crate again, and I could see another Eraser doing the same for Fang. I expected them to take off but they didn't, instead sticking to the sidewalk. The streets of the city were completely deserted - not a single person walking down them, not even one car driving or parked. There weren't even any lights on in any of the buildings. It was eerily quiet.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Shut up," Ari grunted. Thanks, Mr. Helpful.

The Erasers marched on for God only knows how many hours. It seemed as if they were looking for something. I wondered if they had any idea where we were.

Suddenly I heard feet pounding on the sidewalk and three people ran around the corner. I had no idea where they had come from. The first was a guy holding a can of soda or something like that. He kept glancing back at the girl behind him and grinning.

"David, give me my Vault back!" the girl yelled. She was holding a jar or bottle of some sort in her hand and looked angry.

"Never! You have to update first!" the guy yelled back.

"Give me my freaking jar of dirt, Hillary!" yelled the last person, another girl. "It was supposed to be us against the Update Nazi!"

They were getting very close to us now and the Erasers, Ari included, seemed absolutely stunned. I didn't blame them. Ari and stopped dead in his tracks and was staring stupidly. I exchanged a glance with Fang. Under any other circumstances I would have been rolling on the ground laughing, but even if I had been in a laughing mood there wasn't exactly room to roll around.

Just then the guy, David, looked back at the wrong time and ran smack dab into an Eraser. I winced inwardly. Oh man, you are about to get hurt.

Surprisingly, the Erasers just kept staring. The guy recovered quickly despite the fact that he'd just run into a group of what looked like male models carrying two kids in dog crates, I'll give him that. He started laughing like something funny had happened and then noticed his pursuers were catching up to him and ducked into a building marked 'public restroom,' yelling, "Insanity Squad forever!" as he did so.

Completely ignoring us, the two girls entered the building one after the other. We could hear someone pounding on a door inside and then the first girl yelled, "Curse the boys' bathroom!"

I sent another glance in Fang's direction. Then there was a shriek and the sound of another door opening and closing. "Damn it!" the second girl's voce came. "Curse the girls' bathroom!"

"You are a girl, smart one!" David yelled. From the faintness of his voice it seemed he was still safe behind the door of the men's bathroom.

Apparently the Erasers snapped out of their stupor right then, because at a motion from Ari they began walking again. Okay, that was weird. We don't see any people the whole day until now, and then…dang, can you say insane

The Erasers walked a few more blocks and then without warning Ari stopped. "That's it. It's almost night. We won't find it this way. We'll stay right here for the night, do a flyover tomorrow."

As he set my crate down on the concrete, I wondered how he could possibly know it was almost night. Just then it became dark again, exactly as it had the night before - without any sort of prelude.

The Eraser carrying Fang's crate put him down only a foot away from me, surprising me. I met Fang's eyes, hoping the Erasers would all go to sleep so we could talk. And for once, things worked out.

I waited until heavy breathing surrounded me, then cautiously began to scoot my crate towards where what little light there was gleamed off of Fang's eyes. He got the idea and began working his way in my direction. Soon the sides of the crates were touching, the square holes nearly perfectly lined up. I stuck my fingers through to his crate and he slid his into the row of holes above so that his hands were on mine.

"What did Ari do to you when we were flying?" I whispered.

He leaned his forehead against the bars, not meeting my eyes. "Nothing. It was no big deal." He was lying, that was easy to see.

I slid my right hand out from under his fingers and gently pushed his chin up with my index finger so that he had to look into my eyes. "Fang, I have never, ever seen you so openly furious. It wasn't nothing."

He took my finger in the hand that I had left hanging and brought it to his lips, kissing it softly. "I wish these bars weren't between us."

I agreed. I more than agreed. But… "Don't change the subject."

He acted as if I hadn't spoken. "We're getting out of here, Max. I don't know how yet, but we are. Both of us are going to escape and we're going to find the rest of the flock."

It was my turn not to meet his eyes. I had been thinking about this, of course. I thought I had something. But…I bit my lip. Fang wasn't going to like what I was about to say. "What if I told you that I have a plan?" I asked.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. I don't know how long it will be before the next update.

If you enjoyed the Insanity Squad, you can read about more of their…adventures…in KWSN's The Twilight Incident and EdwardAddict's The Prank Wars. The Squad was originally created by KWSN.

PLEASE review. They make me happy. Constructive criticism included. Happy author more story.

17. Chapter 17

A/N: I'm so incredibly sorry I haven't updated in…jeez, how long has it been? Well, suffice to say, it's been too long. School has been keeping me really busy, but the past two days I got off because it's been so cold. Yeah, you read that right, they weren't snow days, they were cold days. Anyway, I cut this chapter off sooner than I had originally planned just to give you guys something, so it's shorter than usual. It's also what you might call a filler chapter, I suppose…sorry about that, but I promise action in the next chapter.

IMPORTANT: Before you read this chapter, make sure you remember the dream that Max had in chapter 9. If you have to go back and reread it, it would be well worth your while because that dream is going to be incredibly important in the next few chapters.

Chapter 19

"No," Fang said, not even pausing to think. I sighed quietly. Of course he was rejecting my plan - he wouldn't be Fang otherwise. I guess I might have found that trait admirable except that right now there was nothing else I could think of to do.

"Please think about it," I said softly. The Erasers still seemed to be sleeping, but we were being cautious anyway.

"Max, I'm not leaving without you," he said fiercely. "I don't care if we can't think of another plan now. There'll be something later."

"Don't you get it, Fang? Ari's ready to kill you, we both know it. He wants me alive. I'll have plenty of time to escape." I was pretty much begging now.

"How will you find me? How do you know they won't take you far away from here once I'm gone? We don't even know why we're here or where here is." His jaw was set, determined, which told me as much as someone else yelling it that he was not giving in anytime soon.

"Well, I…don't," I said carefully, resisting the urge to bite my lip. Truth be told, I hadn't thought that far ahead in my plan yet. What mattered was getting Fang out and soon. For all we knew, Ari could crack at any moment and go through with the plan the flock had previously ruined.

He shot me a glare that said, "Yeah. And you think I'd even consider going along with this why?"

"I've already almost lost you twice recently," I said, trying to infuse my voice with as much emotion as possible.

Fang's face was unreadable, as was his voice, as he calmly reminded me, "I might say the same of you." He held me eyes with his own, and I could feel a burning intensity passing between us. I looked away with an effort.

"Okay, so if we could find somewhere to meet would you do it?" I asked. He was silent so I continued. "You heard Ari: we'll be flying in the morning. We can pick out a building to meet at from the air, start the plan from there. You know I could find it again after I get away. I will find it again," I assured, purposely choosing to use 'will' instead of 'would' to make it clear to him that we were going through with this. After all, I am technically the leader of the flock, right? Gotta show my leadership skills sometimes. It wasn't as if this was one of my snap decisions. I'd had time to think about this one. It would work. It had to.

I could tell that Fang's resolve was wavering. He was running out of ways to support his refusal of my plan. Most of his expression was impassive, but his dark, troubled eyes revealed that he was torn. I hated seeing him this way. I hated seeing him unhappy period, and most of the time he seemed to be just that. I averted my eyes from his face.

Where was the rest of the flock right now? Were they together, or…I shuddered inwardly at the thought that Angel, my little baby, might be all alone somewhere out there. Or poor Iggy, already miserable, blind in unfamiliar surroundings with no one to help him. Brave Gazzy, trying to make sense of whatever had happened to us on his own. Nudge the motormouth with only herself to talk to. Total. Were they safe, or had other Erasers found them? How in the world were Fang and I going to get back to them when we didn't even know where we were?

Fang's voice broke through my reverie. "Fine. We'll do it," he said. His voice sounded strained, as if he was trying to block all emotion from it, but it softened slightly as he added, "But you have to promise me one thing."

I met his eyes, and the way the faint light of the stars was glinting in their brown depths took my breath away. "Okay." Forcing the single word out of my mouth took much more effort than it should have. I realized how pathetic it was that simply looking at him was having this effect on me.

Fang was hesitant at first. "If…when we do it…if something - goes wrong…if you have a chance to get away, Max, you have to -" We both jumped as the sky suddenly lit up and the Erasers snapped awake as if at an alarm. "- take it," Fang finished in a hurried whisper. My stomach did a fancy little back flip that probably could have made a pretty penny in the circus. He hadn't said the words, but he meant if something happened to him during the plan. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but the thought of leaving without Fang filled me with dread.

I felt an Eraser - probably Ari - lift my crate from behind as I watched another lift Fang's. "Promise," Fang mouthed. I hesitated at first, but as Ari began to turn me in another direction, my mouth formed the words "I promise."

The Erasers took off clumsily. I have to say, though, that I grudgingly admired their ability to become airborne with so much extra weight. Fang couldn't take off carrying me, let alone me in a fairly heavy dog crate, and he was arguably the strongest member of the flock.

I settled back in my crate, ready to enjoy - if enjoy means despise every moment of - the flight for a while. We couldn't start the Plan until we found a fairly conspicuous building at which to meet once I was able to escape, and besides, some of the credibility we would need could only be achieved after some time in the air.

I watched the buildings below, glad that the Erasers were flying much slower than they could have been. I still had no idea where we were. None of the buildings or streets looked anything close to familiar, and the complete lack of cars and people - what was up with that? Well, aside from the so-called "Insanity Squad," of course. I smiled a little at the memory which had actually, believe it or not, been the inspiration for my plan. Oh great, I know what you're thinking now: Fang was totally right to be skeptical, right? Well, I'd like to see you come up with a better plan under the same circumstances. Not that I wish those circumstances on anyone.

Just then I saw a dark blue building looming up in the strange grey light that was day in this place. Well, I shouldn't really say looming - we were above it. But it definitely seemed to stick out. For one thing, it was the only building we'd seen that wasn't grey or black.

I caught Fang's eye and nodded towards the building. By chance, the Erasers made a turn that put both it and him directly in my line of vision.

That was when I saw the building more closely, and I felt my heart speed up nervously. The building's roof, which was a dome over half and a flat area over the other half, seemed…familiar. But why on earth…? I've never been here before. Never. I know it. It's just a silly feeling.

"Max!" Fang hissed. I realized I was gaping for no apparent reason. The Eraser holding Fang's crate shook it slightly and growled.

"Are you sure about this?" Fang mouthed silently, and I became conscious of the fact that it wasn't the first time he'd done so. I took a deep breath and nodded, just once, but clearly enough that he would see. He seemed to deflate a little, as if he'd been holding out hope that I would change my mind.

I closed my eyes for a moment in preparation and then put the Plan into action.

A/N: Please review and let me know what you thought. I'm a little worried about this chapter because at the beginning it felt too much like I was writing for Twilight and the rest…I don't know…I guess my own usual writing style for non-fanfic writing. I'll try to get up chapter 18 fairly soon, but it all depends on how much schoolwork I have. Today is a half day which is why I have time to put up this chapter this morning, so I may not have much homework. We'll see.

18. Chapter 18

A/N: Oh my gosh. I'm actually - and I know it's hard to believe this, but it's true - alive. I am so, so sorry about the lack of updates. I was busy with school, but also I've moved on a bit from Maximum Ride and now I'm more into Twilight. Actually, I kind of hated most of MR3, but let's not get into that. Here is, finally, chapter 18. And I only have 2 days of school left, so hopefully the updates will be coming at you faster after that. Oh wait, before I begin I just want to address someone who left an anonymous review…

Crow Ridde: I'm glad you seem to like my fic so much, but no, I will not put in any love scenes between Max and Fang. They're 14. I'm sorry, but that's just creepy. Besides the fact that I have no experience whatsoever to go off of in terms of writing it.

Chapter 18

"Ari," I whined. Yeah, just like some little kid. Obviously I'm too old to be acting like that, but I was counting on Ari - who was half as old as me - to sympathize regardless of my age.

"Shut up, Max, I'm concentrating," he growled. Okay then, not enough time for me? Time to pull out the proverbial big guns.

"But Ari, I have to go," I said, whining again. I was going for a kind of Angel-gone-bad persona. Well, not bad exactly - more like spoiled little brat. Which is bad, but not the way I meant it. Whatever.

"You know you're going with me," Ari replied distractedly, and I knew that he really must be concentrating on whatever the heck he was doing of his seven-year-old male brain had missed my inflection. Or actually, maybe not so much. Erasers aren't exactly known for their amazing multitasking minds, if you know what I mean.

"No, I mean I have to go," I reemphasized. I lowered my voice so that it was little more than a whisper. "Like, to the bathroom."

Ari's nose wrinkled. Oh yeah, flaw in the plan there, old buddy, old pal? 'Cause last time I checked, even mutant bird kid prisoners still had bodily functions. Yes, I know, huuuge surprise there. Certainly threw me for a loop, anyway.

"You're gonna have to hold it," Ari said gruffly. Heck, at least they taught them some form of machoness at the School.

I frowned. "What do you think I've been doing for the past couple of days?" The annoyance in my voice was definitely not fake, I can tell you that: I really did need to go, but that wasn't why I was asking. I mean, duh. What kind of crappy plan would that be?

Indecision flitted across his face. He was wavering. Perfect. I made my face look as pathetic as possible and twitched around a bit where I sat.

"Please, Ari?" I asked again.

His eyes flashed down to the city below, and then…he gave in. "Fine. There's one of those public bathrooms coming up. We'll stop there. But you have to be really fast, Max, okay?" He saw my grateful nod and then raised his voice to give orders to the other Erasers. I allowed myself a triumphant grin at the ground before turning my attention to Fang. The next part of my plan relied on him.

"Max!" he hissed, just loud enough for me to hear. Our eyes locked. I sent him a glare as if to shush him and mouthed, What? After all, why on earth was he talking to me when all the Erasers were right there, easily able to hear us? But of course, Fang didn't realize how good their hearing was. Or perhaps the wind blowing past his ears was causing him to speak louder than he thought he was. At any rate, he ignored my warning.

"Warp speed at the bathroom," Fang continued to whisper loudly. "Don't worry about me."

I nodded, watching with satisfaction as the Erasers' ears perked up. I could see them looking curiously at Ari, waiting for their commander to tell them what to do. They had heard, and, as I had predicted, would wait to act, but I felt no relief. When you've lived the kind of life that I have, you learn not to count your chickens before they hatch - or, maybe more relevantly, not to call birds free while they're still in the cage. Did I just make up my own very literal saying? Oh yeah.

I bit my lip as if I were deliberating, and then nodded slowly. And then all that was to be done was wait.

We descended once more into the silent city. Yep, no more Insanity Squad. Pity. They were actually pretty darn inspirational.

The landing was bumpy - of course - but we had arrived at a public restroom. The Erasers set down our cages and I saw Ari signal to his minions silently. Then he ripped open the door of my crate and growled, "No funny business, you hear me?" I'm sure it was his way of trying to show me that he didn't suspect a thing. Uh-huh. Right.

As soon as I was out in the open, I was surrounded by Erasers like a swarm of flies around rotting food. Except I was way more awesome than any decomposing lump of edible matter could ever be, and the Erasers were way uglier than flies. At least flies are supposed to have wings.

So I didn't see when the few remaining Erasers hauled Fang out of his crate. But I definitely heard it, because he came out swearing like a sailor. What can I say; the boy's got a few issues with authority. Especially the big hairy Eraser kind. I just hoped his potty mouth wouldn't encourage some of my guards to switch over to him.

My little entourage had already begun to walk towards the women's restroom when there was a disturbance behind us. The Erasers in the back of the group shouted in alarm, and I whirled around to face them. Fang was punching, kicking, and shoving his way through them - fighting them, even though it completely went against the plan, even though we were totally outnumbered. I admit it: I panicked. My eyes widened, and although my lips moved, no sound escaped my mouth. "What are you doing?"

Just then he reached me. He grabbed my shoulders, ignoring the blows the Erasers were beginning to throw at him left and right now that they were getting over their surprise. To my horror, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

"I love you," Fang said fiercely. I started into his dark eyes, and then he pressed his lips to mine even as the Erasers yanked his arms behind his back and pulled him away. I felt myself leaning forward without thinking about it, not wanting the kiss to end so quickly. But then something in him seemed to change, and he stopped fighting the Erasers and let them lead him in the other direction. I realized I was still staring stupidly after him.

Ari was positively growling in anger. He stalked over to Fang. One wolfy, half-morphed hand flashed out across Fang's face, leaving trails of fresh blood where the claws had raked across. Fang was silent, but his death glare was practically strong enough to live up to its name. Ari gave him another cuff to the back of the head, then stomped back over to me. He barked orders, and I was glad to see that he wasn't changing plans - probably taking Fang's temporary rebellion as a goodbye before my escape attempt.

Ari held open the bathroom door as I walked in. I stopped dead in front of him. "Hey, you can't come in here! It says 'women' on the door, and I'm sorry, Ari, but you ain't no woman."

His eyes narrowed. "Do you want to go to the bathroom or not?"

"Well, yeah," I said, "but I need actual privacy. I don't know if you ever get that back in little old home-sweet-School, but it's pretty necessary."

He grabbed my shoulder roughly and pulled me into the dingy room, letting the door swing shut. Pointing one wolfy finger at a stall, he growled, "Now or never."

And I burst into tears. Very loud tears.

Because frankly, I'm just super mature like that. Let me tell you, I put every two-year-old on the planet to shame right about then with my mad tantrum-throwing skills. And more importantly, a dang foghorn would have been disgraced by the sheer level of noise I was making. Which pretty much covered up the sound of fighting, and hopefully Erasers getting their ugly butts kicked, that was coming from the men's bathroom across the way.

The Erasers didn't seem to know what to do with little toddler-like me. Apparently their childrearing training is seriously lacking at the School. Who woulda thunk it?

Just when I thought my lungs were going to give out from all the screaming I was doing, the door burst open - hitting Ari in the shoulder, I might add - and a small group of very disheveled and pathetic-looking Erasers appeared in the opening. Ari took one look at their faces before he yanked my wings out from their place next to my spine and pulled them straight back. I had stopped throwing my fit, but now real tears filled my eyes at the sharp pain. Ari pushed me outside and both of us looked up. Fang was a small dark dot in the hazy sky, speeding away from us. I smiled through the pain, and Ari noticed. He kicked the back of my knees hard, and I fell to the ground.

"Damn it!" he shouted, tugging back on my wings for emphasis. "They tricked us!" He went on like that for a while, then suddenly went calm. Not good clam, but dangerous calm. And then he leaned down until I could feel his warm, stinky breath on the side of my face and snarled, "I will kill him. You will see it happen. That's a promise."

I couldn't help the ominous sinking feeling that suddenly filled my stomach.

A/N: So I'm hoping that even though I've been so terrible with the wait, people will actually still be reading this. Please review - constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. I actually wrote 3 different versions of the first part of this chapter and it was pretty hard to choose which to use.

19. She's Alive!

A/N: Ok, so much as I hate to disappoint anyone who got excited thinking Uherenye had finally, finally updated her fic…this is not a new chapter. Yet. Basically I want to let you all know that I am an awful person, had not written a thing since I last updated despite my promise to finish this story, and would like to hopefully fulfill that promise now. I have written a paragraph and a sentence so far - yes, go me! - and plan to write more soon, except that (oh, does this sound bad) it's been so long since I wrote that I don't even fully remember what has already happened (though I do still know where I am going with the plot), and so I need to reread everything I've written first. Please feel free to heckle me with messages or whatever at any time - I dare say it would push me along. Oh, and many thanks to Emmy-loo for guilt-tripping me out of 7 months of no writing whatsoever. I really do love to write but sometimes if I go for a long time without it I forget that fact.

EDIT 6/20/08: See my profile for the latest on the status of this story.

20. An Offer

Hello, dear readers.

Wow, has it been a while. I started writing Maximum Ride: Warp nearly four years ago, when I was about to be a freshman in high school. I'm writing this 24 days before I move into my dorm for my freshman year of college.

I've toyed with the idea of finishing this story from time to time, but I've known in my heart for quite a while now that it simply isn't going to happen. I'm not particularly a MR fan anymore, I don't remember the characters well enough to write them at the moment, and with college starting I certainly won't have time to reread the books.

I still get a review on this story every now and then, or a notice that someone has added it to their alerts. Frankly, I feel bad for leaving my readers hanging as long as I have - incredibly bad. But as I already stated, finishing the story doesn't seem like a truly plausible option at this time.

So I've decided to offer you all something. I know it's not nearly as good as the finished product, but if even a few people show interest via a review of this chapter or a PM, I would be willing to type up an explanation of where I envisioned this story going, along with several pages of the story that I have had written for ages but needed to write other parts of the story before I could post them.

Apologies again for leaving you all hanging, and thanks for the kind reviews I've received despite that.