Saving the World is a Pain in the You Know What by Showers' Inc

Category:Maximum Ride
Published:2007-09-08 01:12:03
Updated:2010-08-01 15:23:28
Packaged:2021-04-21 22:24:25
Summary:Three years after the takedown of Itex, Max and the flock seem to be safe and free ... until some old friends reappear. And Max is forced to save the world ... again. Warning: FAXNESS and possible CHARACTER DEATH! Sorry, story's better than the summary.

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. Saving the World Returns IMPORTANT INFO
14. Chapter 13
15. Chapter 14

1. Chapter 1

A/N: Hey, guys! I'm a huge Maximum Ride fan, so I thought I would give a fic a shot! You're welcome to check it out, review, and tell me what you think! Enjoy!

I was having the dream again. It was one of those times that you know you're dreaming, but you can't seem to wake yourself up. I hated those the worst. It was a reoccurring dream, the one I hadn't had since we were in our old cabin in the forest, after Jeb disappeared the first time after we got out of the School.

I running through the forest, same as always. I heard the distant barking of dogs, but I knew they would be on me before I knew it. I continued running, ignoring the dull pain in my lungs, and the scrapes and cuts my feet were suffering. All of that was minor, I just had to get away, just like always. I skidded to a halt in the small clearing, the cliff stretching in front of me, a sheer drop. I looked back and saw that the Erasers and dogs after me had yet to get close.

I took a breath and ran for the cliff, just like I always did. I was just about to the edge when claws dug deep into my shoulder and threw me backwards. I landed heavily on the rocky ground, feeling the air leave my lungs in one big whoosh. I coughed forcefully, feeling panic grip me. I was trying to stand up when the rough, clawed hand clenched the front of my shirt and lifted me up.

I was still disoriented, but I started beating at the hand holding me with my own hands, but its grip was too strong. My feet kicked at the air in front of me, useless since the Eraser held me out of reach to the rest of his body. I felt like a little kid throwing a hissy fit. It was extremely pathetic.

"Where are you off to, little birdie?" a dark voice chuckled.

I finally looked into the face of the Eraser, his breath hitting my face in a rant-smelling puff. I was staring into the eyes of a little boy (or what used to be a little boy), but no more of his kindness and innocense remained in those eyes.

"Ari," I said quietly, feeling tears come to my eyes. I was looking at my little half-brother. The one that died right in front of my eyes.

"You got that right," he chuckled in a foreign voice. A not-Ari voice. "I finally caught you. We'll see who's the better child now, won't we?"

He walked over to the edge of the cliff, his eyes never leaving mine. I weakly fought against him, but I was still so shocked. I didn't know what was going on.

"But . . ." I started. "But you're dead."

He laughed again, sending shivers down my spine. He shook his head. "Not anymore. But you are."

He threw me over the cliff-side. Immediately, I went to bring out my wings to catch the air . . . but they didn't snap out like they always did. I tried again and again, but nothing happened. I was plummeting head first toward the rocks below, but I couldn't see them, only darkness. I looked down toward my feet and saw Ari's huge figure becoming smaller and smaller.

"Ari!" I screamed.

His laughed reached me again, just as loud as it was when he was right beside me. "No wings!" he shouted.

This was it, I was going to die . . .


"Max, Max," a voice said.

Arms were shaking me forcefully. My eyes snapped open and I shot upwards. I started hyperventilating and immediately reached behind me to feel the feathers of my wings. I sighed heavily, relieved, but found it hard to calm my breath and my racing heart (Well, racing on our avian hybrid standards). I looked over to see Fang kneeling by where I was laying. He moved a short distance away because I apparently snapped out my wings.

After I finally calmed myself down, I pressed my wings back against my back. Fang still had his serious face on, but his eyes showed every form of worry. I shook my head and held it in my heads, bringing my knees up to my chest.

"Are you okay?" Fang asked. "You were having a nightmare or something."

"I'm fine," I lied, taking deep, calming breaths, trying to myself back together.

"Liar. What did you dream?"

I shook my head forcefully, trying to shake the dream away from my head. "Nothing. Is my turn to keep watch?"

"Yeah, but, Max . . ."

I stood up abruptly, nearly falling over again from the light-headed feeling again. "Get some sleep. I'm going to fly out make sure nothing is around. See you in the morning."

I rushed over to the mouth of the cave and dropped over the edge. I brought out my wings and sighed as the wind caught them and kept me in the air. They were still there. I flew around the top of the mountain that Nudge managed to pick out for us.

I was glad I didn't wake the rest of the flock. They always worried when I had dreams, or brain attacks, or anything along that nature. I was supposed to protect them, not worry them . . . I felt my stomach turned heavily in my body and then shift all different directions.

I slowed my speed, I was using my super-speed around the mountain as I was lost in thought. I stopped and landed rather roughly in a grove of trees. I tripped as I went to walk and hit the ground with a thud. I threw up all of my dinner on the forest floor, feeling my stomach clench again. I dry-heaved for a few minutes before my stomach finally calmed down.

I stood up slowly and started to walk away from the puddle I left behind. My head felt lighter than usual and my sense of balance was obviously off because I bumped into trees every ten seconds. I stopped to lean against, focusing on my breathing. I closed my eyes to keep everything around me from spinning.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" I asked out loud to the silent forest.

"I dunno, but I think it just got a lot worse for you," a dark voice laughed.

I whirled around, which I shouldn't have, because I felt vertigo overtake my senses. I leaned against the tree again and squinted to focus on the approaching figures. They were obviously too big to be human, and their furry muzzles prodding from their face was kind of a dead giveaway.

"Shit," I grumbled.

2. Chapter 2

DISCLAIMER: As I hope all of you have figured out, I AM NOT JAMES PATTERSON. I do not own the Maximum Ride series or any of the characters within, just this story line (With the exception of flashback situations from the books). But the characters and his story are AWESOME!! Which is why I'm writing a fic about it, of course. So, continuing on . . . Enjoy!

Chapter Two

Maybe I should catch you guys up a little bit. See, it's been three years since the last time you heard from me. I know what you're thinking, "Three years, Max?! What the heck happened all that time?" Absolutely nothing, and that's the complete truth. Well, I was now 17 and so was Fang, Iggy was 17, too, Gazzy was 15, Nudge was 14, and Angel was nine, but besides that, nothing much happened. We traveled around for a while, me and the flock, just seeing everything we wanted to see.

We stayed in the North and South American continents, though. We decided planes were more of a hassle than they were worth and there was no way we would make it across the oceans on our own. I could tell Gazzy and Iggy were a disappointed, though. Both of them were completely obsessed with Chinese fireworks after they read how powerful some of them were.

We flew down into the Grand Canyon and actually played in the Colorado River on Angel's suggestion. We flew over Las Vegas and actually stayed there a few days. Of course, none of us were legal to gamble, but it was an amazing place to stay. Nudge begged and pleaded for us to go to Seattle, so we could go to the highest point of the Space Needle. Fang had us fly over to Yellowstone National Park, which kind of surprised me. We stayed for a few days in one of the huge redwoods, and all of us loved every second of it.

We went back to see Ella and Mom on more than one occasion. After much arguing from me, Mom convinced us to come back and stay there for all of the holidays. It was so strange, all of us got gifts for Christmas. It shocked all of us. We never celebrated Christmas. Well, we usually knew when it was, but we never exchanged gifts or ate so much food we were worried we would explode (And that's saying something). It was just another day to survive, hoping the Erasers would stop.

And they did. For those three years we traveled, we didn't sight a single one. No Flyboys, either, believe it or not. But we kept ourselves on guard. We trained together, physically fighting each other and trying to hone in on our abilities. Fang and I kept watches as always, we didn't stay in one place for too long, just in case we were being followed or ran the risk of being sighted. It was our usual routine.

But I think we were all more at ease then. Even Fang started to laugh and joke around with us a lot more than he used to. I started letting us stay in hotel rooms, rather than in the wilderness all the time. Not on a regular basis, but I thought we need the luxury for a couple of days a week, even if it was just a cheap, run-down motel. It was luxury to us.

I was still over-protective of the flock, but I let them trail off on their own more and more. Gazzy and Iggy usually went off to theorize about their pyro-tactics and sometimes test them. Nudge and Angel (usually with Total being drug along) went off just to explore, learn everything they could. They often went into the towns we were near and sat in the libraries for hours, just reading. Fang and I usually stuck together, debating about where to travel to next, going out to buy food for all of us, that sort of thing.

And Fang. That was another issue, let me tell ya. Even after three years, we had yet to really establish what was going on between us. Of course, the rest of the flock figured it out and thought it was the greatest thing. They never let us hear the end of it, either. Iggy always jokingly said he would sure to be extra loud when they got back from whatever we were doing.

There were often times when Fang would casually have his arm around my waist when we were sitting together or he would take my hand when the others weren't paying attention. At the nights in the hotel rooms, the others always conveniently let the two of us have our own room, so we shared a bed and slept in it together. Fang always rubbed the spot between my wings or sometimes massaged both of my wings. I would curl up beside him and sleep with my head on his chest. I normally always woke up to him staring at me silently with his dark eyes. I would smile at him and he would smile back.

We did kiss . . . a lot. But never around the younger ones. We made sure of that. And we took special care to block those portions of our thoughts from our nosy little mind-reader, Angel. I suppose you could say we were dating, but I don't think either of us really knew what to do about it. Wow, two teenage avian hybrids going out a date. That would be interesting.

But either seemed to go back to normal, at least as normal as it could be for us. My Voice (AKA Jeb, for anyone who might have forgotten) still came back occasionally, usually just to check up on us. I was still finding it difficult to accept Jeb as my father, but I felt myself letting down my usual wall against him just a little bit.

There were no more brain attacks, no more nightmares, no more Erasers, Flyboys, Whitecoats, Suits, Bloods, Crips . . . Well, I'm sure those last two still exist, but you get my drift. Nothing was around to disturb us. We seemed like we were out of danger. I'll be the first to admit, I really liked it. I wanted more than anything in the world for all of us to go and live and just be happy.

Maybe all of us could go to school. Probably not me, it just wasn't my thing, but the rest of them would be great there. Fang would be Mr. Dark and Handsome, the one every girl fell for, just like last time. Nudge would be the social butterfly, making friends anywhere and everywhere. Iggy would be a genius, having no problem in chemistry, or anything else, for that matter. Gasman would be the lovable trouble-maker, the one the teachers dreaded having, but they liked him, anyway, and all of the kids would love him. Angel would be just that, an angel. She would be perfect in everything, a nice little teacher's pet, but a popular girl at the same time. All of them would do great things.

I was thinking about suggesting the idea of going to stay with Ella and my mother on a more permanent basis, go to school with Ella and live there in the backwoods, so we could still fly and everything. It was a nice thought, a perfect ending to a shitty story, overall. But, of course, that was impossible for us.

So, that's where you came here, more or less. I think you're caught up.

A/N: Hey, guys, just letting you know that the chapters will kind of be varying in length throughout this story. Happy shout-out to Mr. James Patterson for usually having the chapters in the books only about two or three pages! It makes me feel less bad. :)

3. Chapter 3

Chapter Three

A/N: Hey, guys. I'm just apologizing in advance for any errors in these chapters as I write them, especially the last two. It was painful when I noticed how many mistakes I made! I have a nasty habit of leaving out words when I'm typing late at night, so bear with me. Late is about the only time I can actually write for my fics. So, sorry again, and thanks for the reviews already! Enjoy the next chappie!

I started breathing quickly, in and out, in an attempt to make my body calm down. I stayed leaned against the tree, panic clutching my insides and my head. Perfect timing for Erasers to reappear, right when there's no way in hell I could defend myself. Of course.

My eyes slowly began to focus. I quickly took inventory. About twenty Erasers were walking up out of the darkness of the trees. Luckily, none of resembled little Ari. It felt like most of my body was back into order. My blood was boiling; I was itching to get my hands back on those ugly excuses for mutts. My muscles were tensing, ready for anything. But I kept myself leaned against the tree, acting like I didn't have the energy to move.

The Eraser that spoke before was the closest to me. He walked up slowly, as if to savor the moment that they finally caught one of us. Fat chance. I waited a bit longer, timing his approach with the others, trying to measure my options here . . .

"Well, little birdie," the leader laughed. "I don't think you'll be going far now. Does your stomach hurt? Aw, that's a shame. I'll help it hurt a bit more . . ."

He reached his arm out to touch my face. I grabbed him by the wrist with my left hand and brought down my right arm as hard as I could on his. I heard and felt the snap of his bone. Whoops, I didn't really mean to do that. Oh, well, it didn't hurt. I grabbed him as he went to drop to the ground and chucked his body into about five other Erasers who were starting to advance quicker.

With that, I whirled around and sprinted off through the trees, trying to find a clear spot. I raced and nearly tripped on a root that was prodding from the ground. I stumbled and kept going, cursing the entire time over my amazing grace. I heard the branches snapping behind me as the Erasers pounded after me. I tried running in a zig zag, random pattern, in the hopes of shaking some of them.

After what seemed like an eternity, the trees thinned out and a clearing stretched out in front of me. I put on some extra speed and leaped into the air as soon as I was far enough away from the trees. I felt a weight tug at my foot. I felt my shoe slip off and the Erasers slammed into the ground below me as I went upwards. Great, now I was missing a shoe. Just perfect!

I continued gaining altitude as the remaining Erasers, 18 I was pretty sure, launched themselves upwards with their own wings. Each one of them got off the ground easily and flew after me as if they knew what they were doing. Uh oh. I put on the speed and flew upwards toward the cave. I had to get Fang and the others . . .

I glanced behind me and saw . . . all of the Erasers right behind me. What the hell? Now they were able to keep up with my super speed, even with their size! Wow, I guess Itex was able to figure out the kinks during those three years. Which made no sense because everything they had was destroyed, right? Well, I guess that was something to worry about later.

I flew upwards near the cave. Knowing better than to land there or fly straight to it, I whistled as loud as I could as I zipped past with all of the Erasers right behind me. I turned around and started to fly straight at the Erasers. I was about to crash head-on with the ones in front, when I dropped down beneath them at the last second. I waited until I was sure all of them were on my tail again, then went straight down toward the ground.

I sped up again, watching as the rocks began to come toward me faster and faster. Please, please, please, don't let this be a stupid idea, I thought to myself. I was about to hit the ground when I went back up, flying parallel with the ground only inches below me. I breathed a sigh of relief. I glanced behind me and watched as about ten of the Erasers crashed into the ground, unable to turn as quickly as I did. That left about eight to take care of. I looked back in front of again in time to see a large pine tree spring in front of me as if out of nowhere. I swerved to avoid it, my wingtips brushing against the bark of it.

I started weaving through the trees, trying to put on my super speed, but being more cautious to keep from slamming into the many trees that were whizzing by me. About two more Erasers went down, both face-planting into a huge stump of a tree I had went by. I shot straight up into the air, back out of the trees again. I hovered above them, waiting for the other Erasers to shoot up after me . . . Nothing happened.

"Well," I said out loud, searching the trees below me for any movement. Absolutely nothing. "What the hell?"

I was still searching the forest when I heard Fang shout in front of me. I snapped my head in time to see his boot coming straight at me. I ducked out of the way, hearing it cut the air as it went by, barely missing my ear.

"Fang!" I screamed. "What the hell do you–!?"

I stopped when I saw his boot making contact with an Eraser's jaw. Apparently, it was right behind me. Wow, I didn't even hear it . . . We watched its limp body drop down into the trees, crashing branches down along with it.

"What happened!?" Fang demanded. "What was that?"

"An Eraser, obviously," I answered, trying not to roll my eyes, but I did anyway.

Fang's eyes bulged out of their sockets. "What!? I thought they were all gone!"

"I guess n–"

His boot went by my head again and another Eraser dropped down below us.

"Will you stop that!?" I shouted. "I keep thinking you're going to hit me!"

"Well, excuse me for trying to save your life!" Fang snapped back. "Where are they coming from!?"

"I don't know. There should only be about six left . . ."

"Where are they, then, Max?"

"I obviously would've had it taken care of by now if I knew, Fang."

"Get down!"

Another one dropped down. Fang grabbed my arm and tugged me upwards. We flew up away from the forest, going toward the cave again. I felt another weight on my foot, but it didn't slip like the last one. The Eraser pulled me down with a hard yank. My hand broke away from Fang's as I fell down. The Eraser went to grab for me, but Fang slammed both of his feet down on its back in between its wings. I tried to straighten back out as it dropped past me.

Fang came down and pulled me up to face him. "Are you okay?" he asked.

I nodded, still a little shaken. After all of the times I've been caught before, I never had that close of a call from dropping out of the sky. Fang nodded, too, his eyes showing every which emotion, most of it being angry. He pushed me upwards slightly.

"Fly above me," he ordered. "Get to the cave. We'll wake the others up and then we're out of here."

For once, I didn't argue. I flew above him, getting closer to the cave. Then, out of thin air, an Eraser appeared in front of me, its teeth flashing in an evil grin. I stopped suddenly as it went to grab my throat. Fang shoved me aside and took the Eraser head-on. They became entwined as Fang went to punch its snort repeatedly and it was trying to throw him to the side. In horror, I watched as they struggling ball of fur and wings started to plummet down toward the earth.

"Fang!" was all I managed before a heavy body landed on top of me and I dropped, too.

4. Chapter 4

Chapter Four

It took me a second to register what happened. Okay, I was plummeting to my death with a massive Eraser on my back. Fang was falling down below me and I was trying my hardest to get to him. I threw my elbow into the nose of the Eraser on me. It broke his hold and now I was nose-diving after Fang and the other Eraser, who were still trying to beat the crap out of each other. I was almost to them when rough hands caught my feet, its claws digging deep into my skin, making me wince.

I was pulled outwards and held at arm's length away from an Eraser, forced to stare at him upside down. I looked down and saw Fang and his Eraser disappear into the trees, branches snapping and crashing loudly after them. I felt my tears come instantly.

"Fang," I said quietly.

"Oh, your little friend hurt?" the Eraser holding me chuckled, looking down into the trees. "Isn't that a shame."

I swung and punched him . . . right in between his legs. He winced and immediately started to drop. Unfortunately, one of his hands didn't release my foot. I started to fall with him. I flapped my wings desperately, hoping to either hold both of our weights or shake him loose, but it was useless. I clawed at the air as we started down at a steady speed. I was trying to kick him away as I saw the treetops coming toward us quickly.

I tucked my wings in, knowing there was no way I could keep them out, unless I wanted them ripped off, basically. At the last second, the Eraser grabbed me and pressed me against its body, as if in a bone-crushing hug. I was shoving him away when it squeezed me even tighter. Then, he smacked into the ground with a dull thud. I had my eyes closed tightly, expecting to be dead or at least seriously injured.

After a few seconds, I slowly opened my eyes and looked around. I felt no pain, which was definitely a shock. I sat up and moved away from the Eraser. Obviously, he was dead, a small line of blood trickling down the side of his mouth. I stared at him, dumbfounded. Did he just . . . save me? I stood up and moved away from the body, remembering Fang somewhere in this forest.

"Fang!" I called. "Fang, where are you?"

I walked through the forest cautiously. I knew I should have gone and got the others. I should've woke them up and had them help me look. But there was no way I was going to put them through finding Fang if the worst happened. I wasn't sure if I wanted to . . . but I had to know. I stopped when I heard movement to my left. I froze, trying to figure out who it was.

Instinctively, I ducked. Massive claws whipped past my head, gouging nasty cuts out of the tree trunk I was standing by. I punched the Eraser in the stomach as hard as I could, then jumped up and round-house kicked him across the jaw, again hearing the hard snap of the bone. It fell backwards, knocked out. I mentally tried to make a count of the Erasers I had encountered. Okay, there was 18 when I took off into the air the first time. Then six were left when Fang popped up, he took out two more and then dropped with another one . . . One grabbed me, but I knocked it out before the other caught me and fell with me. I just took out one more. I was pretty sure all of them were taken care of. All of them that came, anyway. I was sure more would be appearing before we even knew what was happening.

"Fang!" I called again, more desperately. "Fang, say something, please!"

"Something please."

I heard it just a bit to my right. I sprinted over and stopped short. I looked up to see the gapping hole in the canopy, afraid to look down. I finally forced myself to and saw Fang down on the ground, the large frame of an Eraser laying beside him. He looked up at me painfully, but he seemed okay. Only minor cuts and scratches, bruises were already forming on his face, but he was okay.

"Are you all right?" he asked immediately.

"I should be asking you that," I answered weakly, tears already streaking down my cheeks. "I'm not the one that dropped out of the sky with an Eraser like an idiot."

He started to laugh, but stopped immediately, inhaling painfully. "Don't make me laugh. I thought I heard some more dropping. Are all of them taken care of?"

"Yeah, I think so." I walked over to him and knelt down. I reached out to touch him, but stopped short. "Oh my God, Fang."

I noticed his jet-black wing stretched out to his side . . . disappearing underneath the body of the Eraser. Fang looked to where I was staring. He winced as he tried to laugh again.

"Oh, yeah. I thought maybe you could help me out with that . . ."

"Oh, God, Fang . . . Oh, God . . ."

I walked over to the other side of him and pushed the Eraser away slowly. Fang cried out every inch I moved the body, but I eventually managed to get it away from his mangled wing. It was broken . . . about everywhere.

"Oh, God, Fang," I said again, unable to say anything else.

He held out his hand and I gently helped him up. He winced painfully, his wing fall useless, limp to his side. I started crying harder, just looking at him.

"Why did you do that?" I cried quietly. "It should have been me . . ."

He shrugged and then hissed in pain. "That's exactly why I did it."

"You're an idiot, Fang. A complete frickin' idiot."

He forced a smile. "Yeah, I know."

"What happened?"

"Well, we were fighting and I managed to get him under me before we landed. But I couldn't get my wing out before he hit."

"Oh, God, Fang. How could you? Your wing is totally . . ." I stopped, looking away from his wing with a fresh wave of tears coming on.

"Demolished?" he finished.

He turned my face to face him, which I almost couldn't handle. He kept his face blank, but his eyes showed all of the pain. I leaned forward and kissed him quickly, barely brushing his lips because his lower one was starting to swell to no ends. He tried to smile again, but only one side of his lips would move.

"I'm going to go get the others, okay?" I said. "I don't think I'll be able to carry you on my own, so I'll have Iggy help me. All of the Erasers should be gone. Will you be okay for just a few minutes?"

He nodded. I kissed his forehead and straightened up. I was still crying as I launched myself into the air through the hole Fang and the Eraser had left. I flew as fast as I possibly could up to the cave, landing heavily. The others jumped awake, Iggy first and then the others.

"Iggy, you have to come with me," I ordered. "Gasman, watch Nudge and Angel. We'll be back in a minute."

"Max, what's wrong?" Nudge asked. "You're bleeding . . ."

Angel brought her knees to her chest, squeezing them against her tightly. She already saw what was wrong as she read my thoughts. Iggy, Gazzy, and Nudge starting exclaiming in unison, demanding to know what happened..

"We'll deal with it later!" I shouted over their continuing exclamations. "Iggy, you have to come with me right now. The rest of you stay here."

Gasman and Nudge immediately stood up with Iggy, defiant looks on their faces.

"You said we always stick together," Gasman said seriously. "We're coming, too."

I shook my head. "No, you two stay here with Angel. We'll be back in a minute."

"Where's Fang?" Nudge wondered out loud. "Are you going to get him? We're coming, too!"

"No, you're staying here . . ."

Nudge shook her head stubbornly. Damn, I hated it when they used my own attitude against me. "No, we are–"

"JUST STAY HERE WITH ANGEL!!" I screamed, silencing her and Gasman.

I almost never yelled at them, even when I was in a rage about something they did. But this time, I wasn't going to let them see what happened. Nudge and Gazzy immediately sat down beside Angel, unsure of how to react to my outburst. I sighed heavily, feeling my tears coming back once again. I tried to keep my voice from shaking as I spoke again.

"Just stay here with Angel, please," I said quietly. "We'll fly back by the cave and tell you when to follow us. Get the packs ready for me, okay? Iggy, come on, just follow me."

I went off with Iggy behind me. I didn't speed up, knowing it would be almost impossible for Iggy to even hear me, let alone follow me. He flew up so he was flying beside me. I knew he was burning to know what happened, but I couldn't talk about it. Not right now. I just had to get Fang help and fast.

I told Iggy to drop down with me into the hole I at first launched out of before. Fang was still slumped forward, his wing hanging limply at his side. His eyes were closed tightly. I was worried he had passed out, but he snapped his head up when he heard us land. I took Iggy's hand and led him over to where Fang was sitting.

"Be careful, okay?" I said quietly as I guided Iggy's hands to just barely touch Fang's wing.

Fang twitched from a shot of pain, but didn't make a sound. All of us were quiet as Iggy ran his hands lightly over all of the broken bones and bent feathers. I took Fang's hand worriedly. He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it quickly, which almost made me cry again, feeling his swollen lips on my skin. Iggy shook his head sadly.

"Wow, Fang," he said. "Every bone is broken in your wing, except where it meets your shoulder. What happened?"

"I was fighting an Eraser and he landed on top of it," Fang explained.

Iggy's clouded eyes widened. "You fell out of the sky? You're lucky you're alive!"

"Well, he broke my fall, I guess."

"We have to get him to Arizona, back to my mother's," I explained to Iggy. "She's the only one that can heal it right . . ."

Fang shook his head. "It'll heal fine on its own. We're quick healers, remember?"

"If you want to be able to use that wing again, you have to go get it mended, Fang," Iggy said. "The bones won't set right if you just leave it. You have to have all of them put back into place and splinted . . ."

"Do you think the two of us can carry him, Iggy?" I asked before Fang could start arguing again.

"We should be able to. We'll have to take more breaks than we usually do and you'll have to be really careful guiding me so we don't hurt him more."

"Okay, can you stand, Fang?"

Fang got up on his own stubbornly, tears welling in his eyes. I could tell any movement would hurt him . . . Iggy and I each took one of his arms over our shoulders and launched up together. We flew up by the cave and called out Angel, Nudge, and Gasman. As soon as they saw what Fang looked like, they were completely silent, not even bothering to ask what had happened. They all knew.

"We're off to Arizona to Dr. Martinez's, okay?" I explained. "We're gonna try to take as few breaks as we can, so eat while we fly if you can and we'll try to stop occasionally for rest."

"We can make it that far without sleep," Gasman said. Angel, Nudge, and Iggy all nodded in agreement. "We can make it."

I nodded solemnly, doubting it was possible, but hoping not to waste time arguing with them. We took off, Iggy and I especially carefully with Fang dangling between us. Fang's head was lolling to the side. He was ready to pass out.

"Go to sleep, sweetheart," I said quietly. "We'll get you better before you know it."

Fang smiled weakly, going in and out of consciousness. "Sweetheart? You never . . . called me that . . . before. I . . . kinda like it."

With that, he passed out, his head dropping to his shoulder.

5. Chapter 5

Chapter Five

We flew straight on for two days and a night. At the end of the second day, I ordered everyone to land. All of us were exhausted. Iggy and I were flying slower and lower than ever. Angel, Gasman, and Nudge hardly said a word while we went on, which was shocking.

Plus, Fang was worrying me. He would wake up every once in a while, muttering something incoherently and then pass out again. I had Angel keep prodding him in his thoughts, making sure he didn't go into a coma or something. I didn't ask her what he was saying back, but tears came to her eyes every time she did speak to him.

We landed in a small city that had a hotel with a grocery store right across the street. Iggy and I placed Fang down on the ground carefully as the others landed around us. I knelt down next to Fang and tapped his bruised cheek lightly.

"Fang, wake up," I said.

He didn't move. Angel went into his mind again and concentrated for a moment. Fang opened his good eye slowly, looking around at all of us hovering over him. He sat up slowly and stiffened for a moment. I knew he felt pain again, but he wasn't about to show it on his face.

"How long was I out?" he asked.

"About two days," I answered.

He shot an angry look at me. "You guys went that long without stopping?"

"It was our idea," Gazzy cut in. "One of the few times we didn't listen to what Max had to say."

"We wanted to make sure we got you to Dr. Martinez's faster," Nudge said. "We're fine. We'll be there in another couple of days."

"Fang, listen," I muttered, regretting what I had to say. I dug through his pack and found his jacket. I pulled it out and looked at him again. "We're going to go to a hotel for the night, so we have to, um . . . we have to tuck your wing in. We can put your jacket over it, but we need to . . ."

He nodded, understanding what I was saying. He stood up and went to hold on to Iggy's arms. I went behind him and got ready. He nodded at me, closing his eyes. I pressed his broken wing against his body. He cried out in pain this time. I was on the brink of crying, too, feeling all of the broken bones and feathers. I saw tears in his eyes as he put his coat on. I had to hold his wing in place and tuck it into his coat. When Fang let go of Iggy's arms, he swayed slightly, as if he was going to pass out again.

I put a hand on his back lightly. He straightened up again and cleared his throat. We all walked together toward the hotel quietly. Angel took Fang's hand, squeezing it lightly. Fang was never one to take to touching much (with the exception of me, but that's beside the point), but he squeezed Angel's hand back and smiled at her, or at least the best he could. Only one side of his lips was lifting up.

We made it to the hotel lobby. We walked up together to the desk. The clerk gave us in the weirdest looks in the world, probably because Fang and I were both pretty beaten up and all of us were dirty. I smiled at him and asked for a single room with two beds. I knew everyone wanted to stay in the same room to make sure Fang was okay. I paid with my cash card and received the room key cards.

I offered a room key card and my cash card to Iggy. "I want you guys to go to the grocery store across the street," I explained. "Grab whatever you guys want to. Fang and I will go up to the room so he can rest. Make sure you guys all stay together, got it?"

They all agreed and went off. Fang and I slowly went up to the room. I had all of our packs, so I tossed them in the corner of the room while Fang was slowly trying to pull his coat away. I came over and helped him. For once, he didn't argue. He leaned against me as I pulled him over to one of the beds. He plopped down on it immediately, laying on his stomach.

I walked over to the bathroom, found a washcloth, and wet it with warm water. When I came back to sit down on the floor beside the bed, I saw tears falling down Fang's face, over his nose and down on to the comforter he was laying on top of.

"Oh, Fang, I'm so sorry," I said quietly as I began to wipe away all of the dirt and dried blood from his face.

"You need to quit saying that," he answered. "It's not your fault."

"It should have been me, damn you. I thought you were dead. I could never live with myself if you did, Fang, do you realize that? It would've been my fault you were dead. I should've handled them. I could have taken them on my own."

"You didn't know they were back, Max. None of us did. Besides, they were a lot faster and stronger. Plus, that one in front of you came out of nowhere. I just got pissed off and went for him. It was the Eraser's fault, plain and simple."


"Max." His dark eyes stared at me seriously. "It was their fault, not yours. Don't you ever think it was. If anything, I would want you to feel grateful for what I did for you."

That got me mad. "What!? What you did!? If anything, I should beat you up for what you did! You almost got yourself killed because of me!"

He smiled lazily as I finished cleaning his face. "You know, you're cute even when you're mad. And don't say you're not cute. You aren't allowed to argue."

I shook my head, blushing despite myself. I hated when he managed to make me turn red. I wanted to slap him, but knew better to. I moved down to his wing. Very carefully, I cleaned and straightened out his feathers. It took me about ten minutes. I looked up once I finished and saw his eyes closed. I kissed his forehead lightly before I stood up.

I walked back to the bathroom and placed the washcloth on the towel rack. I looked into a mirror and grimaced. There was a reason why I didn't carry one with me on a regular basis. Thin lines of dried blood were randomly across my face, probably from falling through the trees. There was a bruise on my temple, no idea where that came from. My face was covered in dirt and grime, aside from two thin tracks from my eyes where my tears ran. I thought I saw some bug guts or something on my cheek. Gross, how did I not feel that?

I scrubbed my face thoroughly and towel-dried it. After a moment of studying my tired eyes, I stepped out of the bathroom to get a clear view of Fang. His arm and broken wing hung over the side of the bed, his back was raising and falling slowly. I leaned against the doorway and watched him sleep for a while.

How is he holding up? Jeb asked in my head.

Beat up. Where have you been?

Busy trying to figure out what's going on. I think you noticed the Erasers' differences.

Yeah, I did. What happened? I thought Itex was finished.

So did I.

That wasn't very reassuring at all. So, who made them?

No idea. Oh, even better. But it looks like they definitely improved them. They can match your super speed, they're so quiet even Iggy couldn't hear them on a clear day, they also have mind blocks so Angel can't control them.

What about when that one appeared in front of me out of nowhere? He literally came from thin air.

Invisibility chips in their skin. All they have to do is think of being invisible and they disappear. Not all of them have it yet, but some of the more advanced Erasers have them.

So basically, we're fighting something that's impossible to beat.

Not impossible, just . . . very difficult.

That's even better. Jeb, I need to ask you something.

Go ahead.

I sighed out loud. Fang moved slightly, his eyebrows furrowing and then slowly relaxing again. I think moving at all hurt him.

Is . . . Is Ari really dead?

Jeb's voice didn't come back. I waited a couple of minutes and sighed again. Of course, he would never answer when the answer actually mattered! Typical! I sat down next to the bed beside Fang. I stared off into space, the dream still playing through my head. He had to be dead. I watched him die, I was right next to him. He had to be dead. There was no way around it. Besides, even if he was alive, there was no way he would go back to being bad . . . would he?

I snapped back from my thoughts when I saw a hand slowly waving in my field of vision. I jumped despite myself and looked over to see Fang laughing quietly. He smiled on the one side again. Apparently, he had been watching me for a while.

"You okay?" he asked. "You looked a little gone for a while."

"Yeah, I'm fine," I answered.


"I'm fine compared to you, Fang."

He took my hand and weaved his fingers with mine. "Well, you know what's hurting me. Tell me what's hurting you."


He tugged my hand gently, coaxing me toward him. He lifted his head up and kissed me softly. I put a hand in his hair. I had an obsession with doing that. I just liked the feel of his hair. He put his hand on the back of my neck and adjusted slightly. He broke away from me instantly, hissing from the pain. I went from pseudo-girlfriend to concerned mother in a nano-second.

"Are you okay? Did I hurt you? I'm sorry!"

He laughed, pulling me back to him as I tried to move away. "You're the best thing I've felt in three days, if anything."

I smiled and went to kiss him again. Before I even met his lips, the door swung open and Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel all came in, chatting excitedly about their spoils from their journey across the street. They dumped the bags on the other bed and Iggy immediately started to make sandwiches for everyone. Gasman and Nudge were arguing about getting the first shower.

Angel walked over and offered Fang a bottle of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. "It should help a little bit," she said. "Just don't take too many at once or too close together."

"Thanks, Angel," Fang said. He took four right away, drinking some water to follow them. He downed the bottle in record time.

While Gasman and Nudge were still arguing about the shower situation, Angel walked by them quietly, slipped into the bathroom, and locked the door behind her. Fang saw it, too. The two of us laughed as Iggy did, too. He must have heard her, despite all of the arguing. It took Nudge and Gasman a second to realize why we older ones were laughing. They immediately went to the door to start yelling at her. She simply turned on the shower to tune them out. That made all of us laugh harder. Soon, Nudge and Gazzy joined us in laughing, knowing she had them beat.

After all of us had full stomachs and clean bodies, even Fang who was determined to get cleaned up, we all claimed spots. Nudge and Angel got the extra bed while Iggy and Gazzy took the floor. I laid down next to Fang, but didn't huddle next to him, afraid I would hurt him again. Fang reached over and held my hand lightly, smiling at me.

I scooted over just enough to kiss his lips. He smiled again and began to doze off. I moved as close to him as I could without touching him. I watched him sleep for a few minutes before feeling my eyes droop and close. I was just glad to be here for now. But I knew in the morning, we would be going back out. Hopefully to get Fang better, but I felt that something worse was coming. It was just a matter of time.

A/N: Thanks to those of you that have been reviewing for me, it's greatly appreciate it. But, come on, guys, just drop a line if you like it! It makes me feel loved and like someone actually cares that I write these things! You can go ahead and review, it won't hurt, I promise! ;) More comin' up later, guys, but we'll have to see how many reviews I get before I decide ... Please and thank you!

6. Chapter 6

Chapter Six

I woke up when it was still dark outside. I looked over to see Fang sleeping soundly, his fingers still laced with mine. I gently pulled my hand away from his and sat up. I stretched, glad to sleep for a little while. I figured I would leave the others alone for a bit. Hell, none of us had slept for two days. They needed it.

After finishing my business in the bathroom, I wandered back out to the room. I stopped outside of the doorway, just smiling at the scene in front of me. Iggy was spread eagle on the floor, his arms and legs sticking out from underneath his blanket and snoring lightly. Gazzy was curled up into a ball, which was difficult because he was well over six feet tall now, and his wings were held up in the air lazily, twitching as he was having a dream. Angel and Nudge were curled up next to each other, sleeping quietly. Fang was sprawled out on the bed, his wing still draped over the side of the bed.

I opened the door quietly and slipped out into the hallway. My wing muscles were twitching, which also irritated me. I needed to go off and do a morning stretch. I walked outside, giving an innocent smile to the desk clerk, a young woman maybe a few years older than I was. I continued out to an alley. I was guessing it was only about five in the morning, so not many people were about yet, but it was better to be safe.

I took off and pulled my wings out to catch the gentle breeze. I flew around for a while. I did my own aerial acrobatics, flipping lazily and then turning over again. I smiled to myself. During those three years, I had learned a lot of random tricks in the air. All of us had fun testing our abilities, just learning to be extraordinary. I swooped low near the roof of the building and shot up again. I was feeling relaxed when I noticed some movement in the air to my right.

It seemed like a flock of birds or something, flying easily in formation. I watched them for a moment, noticing they were moving a lot faster than any normal flock of birds . . . I froze up, realizing what it was. A massive group of Erasers, at least 50 or more, was flying together with alarming speed and without making hardly any sound.

"Shit," I said to myself.

I zipped down toward the ground and landed in an alleyway. I immediately sprinted off in the direction of the hotel, muttering a curse word every time my foot hit the hard pavement. That was one thing that I had managed to lose as we got older. I began to swear a lot more for no apparent reason. Well, at least this time it had a purpose. I kept running and skidded to a halt in the lobby. The woman looked a little startled to see me come in so quickly. I tried to calm my breathing as I walked over to the desk. I forced an innocent smile again and looked at her.

"Hi there, sorry to disturb you," I said with my super-sappy polite voice. "But I was just wondering if you could do me a huge favor."

She nodded. "Sure, Miss," she answered. "What would you like?"

"Um, could you please make sure that my room gets no disturbances today? It's room 242. We're just hoping to relax for the day, so no calls or visitors or anything, if we could please."

"That shouldn't be a problem at all. Were you expecting anybody?"

I shrugged. "Not that I know of. But we can never seem to get a break when we try, you know? We just want to be left only for today."

"Oh, I understand. That'll be no problem, Miss."

"Thank you very much. It's greatly appreciated."

I walked calmly until I got to the stairwell. I never made it up stairs so fast in my life. I swiped my key card through and went into the room. I slammed it shut, forgetting the others were still asleep. All of them jumped awake as I bolted the door and then went over to close the blinds to the window.

"Max, what's the matter?" Fang asked, trying to sit up, but stopping as his wing made him hurt again.

"What is it?" Iggy said, looking around, hearing all of my frantic movements.

"Do we have enough stuff to stay here in the hotel room for another day?" I whirled around, looking at Iggy, Gasman, Nudge, and Angel. "Like food and stuff?"

"I think we do, why?" Nudge answered slowly.

"There's more of 'em coming. I went out to fly this morning and saw them all coming this way. There's at least 50 this time, no way we can fight all of them. I thought if we stayed low and didn't leave the room today, they might think we kept going. They don't know how far we went before we decided to land . . ."

"Calm down, Max," Fang said, finally sitting up. "You're talking too fast. But okay, we'll stay in here today, then. You're sure we have enough food, though, Nudge?"

"Iggy made dinner," Nudge muttered.

"I think we'll be okay," he answered, running his hand through his hair. "We do have a pretty good amount, otherwise I know there's a vending machine room downstairs to the right side of the lobby."

"Or we could just run across the street to the grocery store," Nudge suggested. "You guys know junk food doesn't help us out as much as actual food."

I nodded, knowing she was right. I sighed, trying to think up a plan. "We have to go get more food, one way or another. If the Erasers are desperate enough, they'll search every inch of the city for us. I asked the clerk for our room not to be disturbed, so hopefully she doesn't say we're actually here . . ."

I stopped, clutching my head in frustration. "Okay, Angel, you stay here with Fang. Gazzy, Iggy, Nudge, you three come with me and we'll go get more food. Fang, keep your butt in the bed and let Angel get you whatever you need, otherwise you'll have me to answer to."

Fang saluted smartly as Iggy, Gazzy, and Nudge threw on clothes to go with me. We speed-walked across the lobby, smiling innocently at the desk clerk as we went out the door. We started crossing the street and went into the store. Nudge grabbed a cart and looked to me.

"Okay, guys, get what you think we need," I said. "Get enough for a few days. Anything microwaveable and sandwich stuff, whatever. I'll stay up here by the doors and make sure I don't see anything suspicious. I'll whistle if there's anyone I spot. Keep your eyes open, too. They might already be in here. Got it?"

The three nodded and went off to the aisles. I watched them for a moment before scanning the grocery store. 24 aisles, people in every aisle. Luckily, no one really looked Eraser-ish, so I thought we would be okay for a little bit. I slipped a little bit further away from the door. The pharmacy counter was on the right side of me. I walked over to it and pretended to inspect the racks of magazines beside it. Instead, my peripherals were watching people enter the store, measuring all of them up for any signs of Eraser.

"Excuse me, Miss," an old voice asked.

I jumped and looked around, not sure if I was the one being addressed or not. I spotted the older man at the pharmacy desk waving at me. He gestured me forward, which I obeyed reluctantly, being cautious. I eased up once I realized that his body was too worn to actually be an Eraser. They were always young. I smiled at him weakly.

"Sorry to startle you," he smiled. "I just wanted to tell you that you're friends were you looking for you."

"Oh?" I asked innocently, panic freezing my insides.

"Yes, your sister was looking for you, too."

"My sister?"

He chuckled. "Of course. You two look everything alike. Identical twins, I take it?"

My mouth dropped open despite myself. "I–I, um . . ."

"They came in a few minutes ago, I'm surprised you didn't run into each other. They said to give them a call if I saw you."

I nodded, staring blankly at the man for a moment. I snapped out of it and whipped around to sprint off down the aisles, trying to find the others. This was going to get bad . . .


"Fang, Max said for you to stay put," Angel said seriously, attempting to copy Max's clucking hen voice.

"I can sit up and walk around," Fang answered with a sigh, shaking his head. "I'm fine, Angel. I'm just going to the window."

He got up slowly and fought to keep the pain off of his face. Damn it, his wing hurt. Everything hurt, but there was no way he was going to show it. He was never one to let his weaknesses, including excruciating pain, get the best of him and he wasn't about to start now. He walked slowly over to the window and looked out to the street below. It was nothing amazing.

Fang jumped when the phone rang. Angel looked at him and then to the telephone. She reached down and held it to her ear.

"Hello?" she asked.

She was quiet, listening to the voice on the other line for a moment. Soon, she nodded, said thank you, and hung up. She looked over at Fang.

"The lady at the desk said Max was downstairs," she explained. "She came back and forgot the key."

"Where are the others?" Fang asked, feeling something strange raise in his stomach.

"Still at the store, I guess. I'll run down and let her in, okay?"

Fang nodded absently, looking down. Angel took the other card key, went to the door, and left quietly. Fang walked back to the bed and sank down on to the mattress. Something didn't feel right. Max wouldn't leave the flock unattended like that, she would be paranoid, if anything. He was still debating this when the door opened again.

He glanced up to see Max come in alone and close the door behind her. She turned to look at him and froze, her eyes bulging in her sockets. He held his hands out, as if getting ready to be inspected.

"What?" he asked.

"Your wing . . ." she said quietly.

He looked over to his limp wing splayed out on the bed behind me. "It hasn't really changed since you left."

She nodded, clearing her throat and composing herself again. That was weird, Fang thought to himself. I know she still feels guilty about my wing, but she never acted like that before. She walked over and sat down beside him, smiling.

"Why didn't you stay with the others?" Fang asked.

"Oh, I thought I should stay with you instead of Angel," she explained. "I sent her to go with the others. I thought we should have some alone time."

"Alone time, huh?"

Max looked away, reddening slightly. She looked back at him. Normally, he would have to fight the urge to put his hands all over her, but, for some reason, it felt like he was staring into the eyes of a stranger. She leaned forward, as if going to kiss him. Fang tilted his head away slightly, still examining her face. She must have noticed the movement, because she raised an eyebrow questioningly.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Are you?" he asked.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Fang rolled his eyes. "Huh, I seem to remember you coming in this morning saying you sighted at least 50 Erasers coming this way and panicking about staying in this room for a few days until we thought they moved on. Then we're going to your mom's . . ."

She leaned forward again. "We can worry about all of that later. All I see is you right now."

This time, he allowed her lips to meet his. But he didn't feel the way he always did. The one that made him feel weak in the knees, even though he would never tell Max that. The one that made everything else fade away when their lips met. It felt like he wasn't kissing the girl he loved . . . just a cheap look-alike. He pushed her away gently, feeling pain in his body again, but he ignored it. Max looked at him with a pouty look, one Max would never make in her life.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"You're what's the matter," Fang answered. "You're not Max."

The attempt-at-seductive face melted away and was immediately replaced by a dark smile. She sat up and moved away from him, inspecting the hotel room. Fang cursed violently in his mind, trying to think of something to do.

"Wow, you are sharper than I thought," she laughed wickedly. "I would have thought we would be half-undressed by the time you realized it. I'm impressed."

"What the hell do you want?" Fang asked, anger welling up in his insides. He burned to launch himself at her, but knew better than to try.

Max II waved her hand in the air casually. "Don't worry, none of your little flock friends will be hurt." She turned to look at him. "We just need Max. The rest of you can go off and do whatever you want." She held a hand up as he opened his mouth. "I know what you're going to say. Why not grab her and get it over with, right? Well, simple answer, really. It seems like every time we try that, she manages to slip through our fingers. So this time, we're making an exchange."

"What's that?" he asked, knowing the answer.

"You, of course. There's no way Max would be able to live knowing that her precious little Fang was in danger. She'll do anything we say if we have you."

"She won't do a damn thing you say."

Max II shook her head. "You underestimate how much she really cares for you. She would give her right arm for you, no questions asked. It won't be long, I promise. Just long enough for us to get out we need out of her."

She walked over to Fang, leaning her face close to his. "I'll give Max that much, she can pick the good-looking ones."

"Why, thank you."

Fang swung and struck her face forcefully. He immediately regretted the action as pain screamed through every cell of his body. Max II stumbled back, shocked by the hit. Fang shot up despite his pain and threw himself at her. They fell back together on to the floor, struggling. He struck her repeatedly, his anger causing his adrenaline to take over. Max II kicked at him, striking him in the kidneys. He shouted and went to hit her again. She grabbed his arm and forced him down, moving her head out of the way so his head would strike the floor with a hard crack.

She then managed to flip him over as he was dazed by the strike. She pinned his body down with hers, holding his arms above his head with impressive force. Fang panted heavily, feeling a lump forming on his forehead. Max II laughed victoriously.

"Well, I guess you are worth it," she giggled. Her nose was bleeding steadily, the blood starting to drip on the front of Fang's shirt. "It really will be a shame when I have to kill you later."

Fang spit forcefully, saliva and blood striking Max II's face. She laughed again, unfazed by his gesture. She brought up a leg slowly, still smiling at him. Fang was about to make his move to get out from underneath her when her boot stepped on his broken wing. He made a small noise as the pain volted through him, making him immobile.

"Time to go to sleep, Fang," she said. Slowly, she began grinding her boot into his broken bones and feathers. "Just go to sleep, it's okay."

More pain shot through him, enough to make tears start to roll down his cheeks. His mind screamed for the real Max, for Iggy, for Gasman, for Nudge, for Angel . . . But his mouth didn't move, at least not that he could tell. He couldn't figure out who was screaming . . . There was some movement around him, but he couldn't really see it because his eyes were going blurry. Soon, everything was black.

A/N: Hey, guys! Sorry about the delay, seriously! I just had a hectic week, four tests and a paper due. You can guess what I've been doing the whole time! Anyways, one of my favorite chapters so far, despite my obvious torment of Fang. Which I feel extremely guilty for because I love Fang. Forgive me! But hope you liked it and reviewing never hurt anyone!! hint, hint! Until next time!

7. Chapter 7

Chapter Seven

I was sure I looked like a crazy person to all of the other shoppers in the store. I would sprint down an aisle, skid to a halt as I noticed people with carts going by, waiting until they moved on, then go off again. It took a couple of minutes to find the others. Nudge and Iggy were in an aisle arguing about which jelly they should get when I ran up.

"Where's Gasman?" I panted.

"The dairy section," Nudge replied.

"You two go to the front of the store and wait for us. Leave the food. Whistle or yell if anything happens."

"What's wrong?" Iggy asked, sensing my tension. Of course, it probably wasn't that hard.

"Just go!" I ordered as I took off again.

The dairy section was near the back of the store. I nearly ran into a half-full cart a mother was pushing by. I said a rushed excuse me and made it to Gasman, he was looking through the variety of cheeses when I grabbed his arm. Before I even said anything, he dropped the cheese he was holding to follow me.

"Jeez, I know cheese doesn't help me live to my name, but it's not that bad," he attempted to joke as we ran down the aisles.

We ran back to the front of the store. As Iggy and Nudge came into view, my heart sank. Angel was with them, gesturing wildly about something. Nudge and Iggy shook their heads rapidly. Nudge pointed to me as Gazzy and I stopped beside them. Tears immediately flooded Angel's blue eyes.

"Where's Fang?" I asked, looking at her. "Angel, where's Fang?"

"I should have checked," she said, putting a hand unconsciously in her hair. "I knew I should have checked."

"Checked what?"

"Max II is back, Max. I thought she was you. She said she left the key with the others and wanted me to come and finish the shopping. She wanted to be with Fang. I'm so sorry."

Before the others could even really react, I rushed out of the store. I was half-way across the street when a small band of Erasers appeared out of thin air in front of the hotel doors. I screamed in anger and launched myself at them. I didn't really think that through, though. 10 of them were on top of me. I punched and kicked everything I could reach, but they seemed to be merely crushing my smaller body. I thought I was starting to suffocate, still kicking and punching as much as I could.. I had to get to Fang . . .

Soon, Eraser bodies were being thrown aside. Nudge, Iggy, Gasman, and Angel were already starting to beat up various Erasers. Gasman threw an Eraser over his shoulder and spent him flying across the street, which surprised me because I never saw him do anything like it before. Iggy did a really impressive round-house kick to one's jaw, dropping to the ground and taking out the feet of another that was coming at him from behind. Nudge was simply stepping out of the way as Erasers ran at her, ducking occasionally. She clothes-lined one, watching him drop to the ground with a smirk. Then, she swung and took out another that was coming her direction. Angel was obviously trying to control their minds, but she made a frustrated face when it wasn't working. So she simply jumped in the air and kicked one across the face. It kind of shocked me. Angel was never that violent. That was usually the rest of us . . .

"They have mental blocks," I shouted to Angel as I threw a knee into an Eraser's stomach and then punched his face. "It won't work. Iggy, they're pretty quiet when they want to be, so listen carefully. They're faster and stronger than before, so be ready!"

It seemed like I didn't even have to tell them that. They kept fighting, taking more and more out around them. I ducked down as one came at me. I kicked and took out the backs of his knees. He dropped to the ground, his head striking the pavement hard. I heard a movement behind me and watched as Gazzy tackled down an Eraser that was about to claw my back. He started punching it mercilessly.

"Go up to the room and get Fang!" he barked. "We can take care of them!"

"Don't argue, go!" Iggy shouted as he was fighting two Erasers.

Reluctantly, I went through the doors and ran through the lobby. The desk clerk was on the phone, probably talking to the police or something. They had never really attacked us in such a public place. We were definitely causing a commotion. I took the stairs three at a time and stumbled when I reached the top and found the key card for our room.

I scanned it and kicked the door in. Max II was half-sitting on Fang, digging her boot into Fang's broken wing, grinding against the broken bones. I screamed and threw myself at him, careful to avoid hitting Fang's now limp body.

"You BITCH!" I screamed, punching at her face, my vision literally going red.

Apparently, Fang had given her a good beating himself before she used his weak point. I was thinking I broke her nose as it started bleeding worse than it did before. She punched me across the mouth. I tasted blood, but I shoved her down to the ground, her head thunking as it hit the floor. She hissed and went to hit me again. I grabbed her arms and held her down.

She laughed, her teeth red from her own blood. "Wow, Max, I never knew he was that important to you. He did the same thing. Oh, freak love. It's a beautiful thing."

"Shut . . . the . . . hell . . . UP!!" I punched her as each word came out of my mouth.

I then put my hands around her throat and squeezed. For some reason, I felt tears come to my eyes as Max II blacked out. I let go of her and sat staring at her for a minute or two, my tears running down my face. I moved away after I was sure that she wouldn't be getting up. I moved over to Fang and started crying even harder. I touched his face lightly, new cuts and bruises already forming over his older ones that hadn't healed yet. His wing was starting to bleed again, I think I saw the small cream-white of a bone prodding through his jet-black feathers. I moved the bone carefully to hide it underneath some feathers.


I looked up to see the rest of my flock standing outside the door, looking at the scene around them. Max II was sprawled out on the floor beside the far bed, knocked out and bleeding. I was bleeding and crying. Fang was on the floor beside the other bed, his wing more mangled than ever, his face blank, his nose bleeding and other cuts oozing from his face.

They were all in one piece, which was reassuring. Gasman had a swollen eye and some cuts on his arms. Nudge was mostly scuffed up. Angel had a bruised cheek and a thin line of blood was running down her cheek from a lone cut. Iggy was probably the worst out of all of them. He had multiple bruises and cuts on his face, both eyes swelling, and his arms were scraped up.

"You guys okay?" I asked.

They all nodded. "All of them are taken care of," Gasman said. "What happened?"

"Max II . . . she was . . ." I stopped, unsure if I should tell them.

"We aren't kids anymore, Max," Nudge said. "Tell us what happened."

I nodded and slowly explained everything. "She . . . dug her foot into his wing. Twisted it in and everything. I think she broke more bones. He's blacked out for now."

"Poor Fang," Angel sighed. She knelt down beside me and focused on Fang for a moment. "He said everything's okay now. He doesn't really feel anything when he blacks out. He said he has some things to tell you."

"Tell him he can save it for now. Iggy, you okay to fly with him?"

"Always," Iggy answered instantly.

"All right, guys, let's go."

Iggy, Gasman, and I all picked Fang up and carefully carried him down the stairs. I was shocked to see the bodies of almost 25 Erasers spread out in front of the hotel, some of them twitching slightly, but all of them out cold. I looked to my flock, the ones that had grown from those scared little kids forced into cages. Even Angel, who was with us when she was a mere baby. All of them were standing, cut and beat up, but stronger than ever. Nudge was right. They weren't kids anymore.

Figuring there was no need to really attempt to be discreet, I called an up and away and we all went up into the air in front of the hotel. Fang's head was hanging limp, his chin on his chest. I sniffed, forcing my tears away. I looked to the others, who were flying in formation around me.

"Okay, guys, we'll go as far as we can now, okay?" I said.

"We'll make it," Iggy answered. The others nodded with serious expressions. "We can make it in one go."

"Guys . . ."

"You know, you should really learn to stop arguing with us," Nudge sighed, rolling her eyes. "You aren't the only one with wings or something."

I laughed despite myself. Since when had they decided to act against me? Of course, with all of them being older, our decisions were made together, at least they should be. That could take some getting used to . . .


Two days later, despite having only a little bit of food or water, the familiar land around my mother's house came into view. I sighed with relief and turned to look at the others. Gasman was actually carrying her sister, who was obviously worn out. Nudge flew slowly beside Iggy, who was struggling not to show his struggles keeping a hold of Fang. I was feeling on the verge of fainting, but seeing the one place I would love to call home cheered me up immensely.

"We're almost there, guys," I announced. "You all did an amazing job. Thanks for your help, Iggy."

He nodded, smiling weakly. "All of us would do the same for you. We're a family, remember?"

I leaned near Fang's ear. "We're almost there, I promise you'll be okay, Fang. I'm so sorry for all of this."

He looked so young without that usual dark scowl on his face. He hadn't woken up since we took off, not even to mutter incoherently and pass out again like the last time. Angel kept prodding his mind, telling him to stay with us. She said he told her he wanted to, but the pain was too much when he was awake. He just had to sleep for now.

Iggy and I landed heavily in the backyard of the Martinez's, both of us practically collapsing next to Fang. Iggy dropped down to his knees and started coughing forcefully. Nudge put an arm around his shoulder as Gasman landed with an awake, but still drowsy Angel. I stumbled over to the house and hit the back door with an open hand.

The door swung open instantly and my mother stood in front of me in the doorway. Her face lit up at the sight of me (which I was sure wasn't very pretty). She looked past me to the rest of the flock, Iggy on the ground beside unconscious Fang with Nudge leaning against and Gasman laying on the ground, trying to catch his breath with Angel sitting with her legs sprawled out beside him.

"Oh my God," she said quietly.

"Worse than usual, huh?" I asked with a weak smile. "Just take of Fang. The rest of us will be all right. Just help him."

She nodded and walked by me quickly. I walked back down the three steps slowly. My mother was already at Fang's side, inspecting his wing with a serious face. She looked over at me as I walked up and sank to the ground beside Iggy. She shook her head and looked back to Fang, tears coming to her eyes.

"Oh, Fang," she whispered. Her eyes looked back in my direction. "What happened to you?"

I knew she was directing the question to all of us. I wanted to answer, but sitting down felt so nice. I was so worried about Fang, but I now found it hard to keep my eyes open. I slumped to the side, leaning against Iggy. He fell back with my weight, so both of us dropped to lay out on the lawn. Wow, I was fainting . . . My vision blurred and then went black. I was sure I heard more movement around me and I was maybe even being picked up, but I was too tired to focus.

It's okay, Max, Jeb's voice said in my head. Everythingwill be okay.

Yeah, right.

8. Chapter 8

Chapter Eight

I shot up from my sleep, which definitely wasn't a smart decision. I felt my head swim, nearly making me sick. I clutched my head with my hands, trying to get my focus back. After a few minutes, my vision came back, but it was still dark. It took me a second to register that I was in a bed. I pulled the covers away and swung my legs over the side, immediately smacking into a wing.

"Ow!" I heard Nudge's voice in the darkness.

"Nudge?" I asked.

"Yeah, hang on a second."

A light flipped on beside the bed, making my eyes hurt. After they adjusted to the sudden light, I saw Nudge next to my bed on the floor on her hands and knees, pulling her hand away from a lamp she turned on on the bedside table. She smiled at me, her face cleaned up from her small scratches, hugging me quickly. I looked around and saw all of the familiar objects in my little sister Ella's room.

We were all arranged the way we always were when the flock came back for holidays. I was in one bed, while Ella was in the other one across the room. Nudge and Angel were on the air mattress that took up pretty much all of the open space in the room between the two beds. We always said one of us would step on them someday.

Angel was up next to Nudge instantly, smiling. She reached over and hugged me, too. "You're okay!" she said happily. "Thank goodness! You and Iggy both passed out when we got here."

Ella was up out of her bed and next to mine. She squeezed her arms around my neck. I hugged her tightly, glad to see my sister again. She smiled happily and sat on top of my bed, folding her legs underneath her. A little black furball hopped up on the bed beside her, shaking his fur then plopping down on top of my comforter.

"Obviously you've had more than exciting adventures without me," Total grumbled. "Oh, the dog gets in the way." He scoffed. "I bet you just wanted to get rid of me."

I forgot to explain what happened to Total, didn't I? Well, he was still alive and kicking, that was for sure. But after talking to the flock, we asked my mother and sister to take care of him for a while. We planned on doing a lot of traveling and I probably would have dropped him off sooner, but there was nowhere for him to go. All of us were slightly sad to leave him, especially Angel, but we knew it was for the best and easier for us in the end. So, rather than complaining about sleeping on rocks or having wind-blown fur, he complained about living in the lap of luxury with Ella and my mother.

Angel stroked his fur lovingly. "No, we didn't, Total. We just figured you were tired of flying everywhere and us having to carry you. Besides, Ella takes great care of you."

He sighed heavily. "But still . . ."

"How long have I been out?" I asked, rubbing my head again.

"Well, we got here around six in the morning," Nudge explained. "And it's two in the morning now. So, about 20 hours. You probably feel a bit better."

"I guess so. Where are the boys? And Mom? All of you are okay, right? What about Fang? Did Mom operate on him or something? Where is he?"

Nudge rolled her eyes and sighed. "Iggy and Gasman are asleep in the spare bedroom. Iggy woke up again about six hours ago, but he fell asleep again. Dr. Martinez is in her own bedroom. We're all fine. Fang is in the living room. He's still sleeping, but your mom mended his wing and cleaned him up. She said he'll be fine tomorrow. He just can't use his wing or do anything extreme for a while. Was that everything?"

Ella laughed. Her face turned serious and looked to me. "Wow, Max, I never saw any of you beat up that bad before. What happened?"

With the help of Angel and Nudge, we explained everything that happened in the past week. Ella made a lot of faces, from anger with the reappearance of the Erasers, to sadness hearing about exactly everything that happened to Fang.

"Erasers, I would love to bite all of their ankles off," Total growled. "The taste is horrid, but I would do it in a heartbeat."

Ella laughed and patted his head before standing up.

"Well, since you just woke up, I think you need something to eat, Max," she said. "I can make something for you. Early breakfast, if you want. Go ahead and go see the boys, maybe wake up Iggy and Gasman to have them come eat, too. Fang is in the living room, but he might not wake up. I know you need to check on all of them. Angel, Nudge, and me will cover breakfast. See you in the kitchen?"

I laughed and nodded as Angel and Nudge stood up to follow Ella, Total trotting after them, still chatting away. I stood up myself, stretching my stiff limbs. I extended my wings slowly, which were sore and tense from all of the flying we did. I walked out of the room and stopped, realizing I had new clothes on, a pair of comfy pajama pants and a T-shirt. Huh, the stuff you don't notice sometimes . . .

I walked down the hall to the spare bedroom where the boys usually slept. I looked in and could make out Gasman curled up on a smaller air mattress. Iggy was asleep on one of the beds. The other, usually Fang's bed, was empty. I smiled weakly and flicked on the ceiling light. Gasman's face scrunched up and he threw the blanket over his head, muttering something. Iggy sat up, rubbing his eyes. He was always sensitive to light.

"What was that for?" he snapped.

"Early breakfast, of course," I said. "I think we could use your help, Ig."

He smiled, looking to the doorway. "Max? You're okay?"

"Yep, good as new."

I walked into the room and tapped Gazzy's covered butt with my foot. "Wake up, Gazzy. I know you'll eat."

He muttered something underneath his blanket, but threw it aside and sat up on the mattress. He made a face and looked at me. "You know, you were incapacitated forever and now you wake up and act like the boss again," he said huffily.

I messed up his hair playfully, smiling. "I know, but I've always done that. Go ahead to the kitchen. I'll meet you guys in there."

Gasman stood up and hugged me quickly. He left the room, heading in the direction of the bathroom. Iggy got up from his bed and stopped in front of me. He wrapped his arms around me and held me a little bit longer than the others had.

"I'm glad you're okay," he said. "I don't really know what I would do if both of our leaders ended up not able to do it."

I hugged him back and laughed weakly. "I'm sorry, Iggy, but you can't get rid of us that easily. You did a great job. Thank you so much. If it wasn't for you, Fang wouldn't have even made it here. Thank you, Iggy."

He let me go, grinning. "Like I said before, you would do it for any of us. I'll see you in the kitchen."

He walked out. I followed behind him, flipping off the light. Further down the hall, I turned the opposite direction Iggy did to get to the kitchen. I walked into the dark living room. I walked over to the corner and turned on a standing lamp there. Mom had never changed anything about this place, so all of us knew where everything was every time we came here. I looked down to the floor. Fang was slightly paler than usual, but a lot better looking than he was before. Mom cleaned his face up and bandaged his forehead. His wing stuck out from beneath the blanket, properly splinted and wrapped up. He slept hard, his breathing deep and relaxed. I was glad to see he was comfortable.

I came closer and laid down on the floor beside him. I watched him sleep, feeling an enormous relief wash over me. He was okay, all of us were for now. I moved closer to him and kissed each of his cheeks. I then met his lips lightly, smiling. He stirred slightly, his eyebrows lifting. I kissed him again, holding it for a bit longer. Soon, his lips moved against mine, kissing me back. My hand went to his hair again, feeling it with my fingers. I pulled away slowly, putting my arms on either side of his head to look at his face.

Fang slowly opened his eyelids, his dark eyes looking at me. He smiled weakly as he saw me. He reached up and touched my face. He traced my lips with his finger, something he always did. I felt tears instantly. I was getting so emotional around him now. I brought my head back down and kissed him again. His hand moved to the back of my neck, urging me closer to him. I felt a chuckle in my throat. Fang soon started to laugh, too, kind of ruining the moment. Once our giggling fit was aside, he searched my face thoroughly.

"Wow, that was some wake-up call," he said.

I laughed weakly. "Do you realize I haven't been able to kiss you in three days?"

"I know. I was thinking of you the entire time."

I blushed and leaned closer to him. I was about to kiss him again when I remembered what Angel had said before. "Angel said you had some things to tell me. What did that mean?"

He shook his head, lifting his head so his lips were a fraction of an inch from mine. "Tomorrow, please. I just want you right now."

We started kissing again and heard a little chuckle came from the doorway. Fang's hand left my neck and I whipped around to see Total sitting in the doorway, wagging his tail. Fang sighed heavily and dropped his head down on to his pillow. I shook my head at him and glared at Total.

"Did I interrupt?" he asked. "Sorry about that. Ella and Angel said for me to check on you. Hello, Fang! Good to see you awake."

"Thanks, Total," Fang groaned. "Now, do you mind?"

He trotted away, still chuckling. Fang sighed again and put a hand on his bandaged forehead.

"Now I remember why we got rid of him."

I laughed and kissed him again for a long moment. I pulled away and kept staring at him, worried that if I looked away he would be gone. He reached up and touched my cheek where tears were falling yet again. He brushed them with his thumb.

"I was never going anywhere," he said softly. "You know I would never leave you, not a day in your life . . . Well, except that time three years ago, but I regretted it the minute me and the guys and I flew off, I swear. And I think my pain killers are doing the talking because there is no way I would consciously mean to tell you that ever."

"Fang, shut up," I laughed. "Seeing you okay is good enough for me. Knowing you and the flock are okay, at least for a little while. That's all I need to know."

"I love you."

I think I jumped slightly when he said it, physically startled. I searched his face, holding my gaze on his eyes. He stared back at me quietly, his eyes searching mine equally. I leaned down to the point where our lips were almost meeting. I stopped short, looking at his lips. The lips that I loved. Hell, who was I kidding? When he made me laugh, when he pissed me off, when he fought beside me, when we fought each other . . . I loved everything about him.

"Something tells me that wasn't the drugs talking," I said softly.

He smiled. "Like the first time you said it? 'I llloooove you!'"

That made both of us burst out laughing, remembering the episode of the soap opera that was our lives where I confessed my love to Fang loudly before going under for my surgery to remove the chip from my arm, performed by my mother. It was pretty much drug-induced, but I knew even then I meant it.

I smiled, shaking my head at him. "I love you, too, Fang. I llloooove you."

He laughed again as he lifted his head to meet my lips. We were quickly interrupted again, this time by the rest of the flock barreling through the door at once, followed by Total and Ella. I moved away from Fang, blushing. Fang grinned at the others as they all spoke at once. Ella came over and sat down beside me, smiling at Fang and then me.

"Guys, calm down," I ordered over the chattering flock. "One at a time, he just woke up."

"And you didn't tell us," Nudge accused, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, they were preoccupied," Total laughed as he curled up in Ella's lap.

Fang and I shot glares at him, which he just huffed at. The rest of the flock smiled. I rolled my eyes as if to shrug it off, cursing inwardly my face for continuing to blush. Fang winked at me when no one was looking. I laughed quietly as the flock went back to bombarding him with talking. Nudge and Angel hugged his good side at least three times each; Gazzy clapped him on the good shoulder, a huge smile on his face. Iggy was quiet, sitting by Fang's bad side, just listening to the others and smiling.

I looked to Ella. "You think it's okay if we eat in here?" I asked.

"Sure, I think Mom wouldn't mind this as an exception," she answered with a smile. "You want to go get plates ready for everyone?"

We both stood up and went to the kitchen, practically unnoticed by the others. Ella and Iggy had prepared massive amounts of food for all of us. I stood next to Ella as she dug out plates and forks, looking out the doorway and listening to the laughter and chatting in the other room. I took some plates from her, scooping eggs, pancakes, and bacon on to them.

"I'm glad you're okay," Ella said quietly.

"I am, too," I attempted to joke.

Ella laughed. "Mom was so worried about you. And Fang and Iggy. She really didn't think it was as bad as Jeb told her. She said every one of Fang's bones were broken, except for his main joint from his shoulder. We aren't sure how long it will take to heal or when he'll be able to fly again."

"We're fast healers, I think he'll be okay. He will be."

She nodded absently. "She worries about you guys. We both do. I always wonder if it'll be the last time I ever see any of you when you fly off after Christmas or Thanksgiving . . . I always think I'm going to lose my brothers and sisters."

I attempted to smile easily, but found it hard looking at my little sister's face. That was another reason why I had the overwhelming urge to stay and call this place home. Ella and Mom were the family I always wanted, what all of the flock always wanted. It felt like we belonged here, despite everything we had gone through. It seemed like no matter what happened to us, this home and this family would always be here for us . . .

I reached over and hugged Ella quickly. "I'm sorry, Ella, really. If there was any way, I would have us stay here in a heartbeat. Mom has offered so many times, but we can't, especially now that the Erasers are back. We aren't going to risk putting you guys in danger."

"I know, I know," she sighed. "It would just be a lot easier knowing where you are, Max. You're my sister, I'm allowed to worry."

I laughed and pulled away. I brushed her cheeks where the tears were running down. "Hey, don't you worry about me. I always come back, right? We always will."

She nodded and took three plates with her, balancing them on her arms. I followed her with three of my own. We handed out the plates to the other five members of my flock. Ella set her extra down for Total to enjoy on his own. I walked back and made two more plates, giving one to Ella and taking the other for myself. All of us sat on the floor in a circle amid Fang's make-shift bed.

Fang was on my right and Ella was on my left. Iggy was on her other side. The two of them talked and laughed quietly together. If I wasn't sure I was wrong, I would think Iggy was falling for her . . . Fang took my waist and pulled me toward him. I slowly moved over and leaned against his good side, the smile on my face growing. Everything seemed okay for now, and that was all I wanted.

"It's good to see you smile so much," he muttered against my ear.

I shivered, feeling his warm breath against my skin. I nudged him away with my shoulder, laughing. He grinned, keeping his arm around me. Nudge and Angel giggled together while Gazzy shook his head, watching us. Normally I would have made a big deal about my and Fang's relationship not being their real life soap opera for them to watch, but I was too happy to really care. We all talked and laughed together, even Fang, who was unusually social with everyone. I chalked it up to his being knocked out for days on end . . . and maybe his painkillers.

We were still talking when my mother entered the doorway, her hair puffed out on one side and matted on the other. We went quiet, smiling at her. She was quiet, too, looking around at her two real daughters, two adopted ones, threes adopted sons, and the talking dog. She smiled and shook her head. She walked in and hugged Gasman, who was the closest to the doorway. He reddened instantly, but hugged her back. She went around the circle, hugging each one of the flock (Iggy extra long) and Ella before reaching me and Fang. She kissed the top of my head and hugged me tightly. She just smiled at Fang, rustling his hair lovingly.

"I'm so glad all of you are okay," she said as she went to sit down next to Angel and Nudge. "I was especially worried about you three, Iggy, Fang, and Max." She looked at each of us in turn, but was smiling the whole time.

"Yeah, three unconscious bird kids on your lawn," Iggy scoffed. "That wouldn't draw attention at all."

We all burst out laughing and started joking around again. Fang's hand moved to start rubbing my back between my wings, making me lean further against his shoulder. He grinned down at me and kissed my forehead lightly. I made a face at him, but broke into a smile despite myself. Gasman was telling a joke when the doorbell rang. None of the younger ones noticed at first, but Fang instantly stiffened next to me. I tensed, too, feeling a sense of dread wash over me. Iggy was quiet sitting next to Ella, I noticed his fists clench and unclench repeatedly. Ella moved slightly closer to him, probably unconsciously. Mom stood up and went to answer the door.

"Who do you think it is?" Nudge whispered, barely audible.

"Don't know, but be ready," Fang muttered back. He moved his hands away from me, putting them to his sides.

Total growled softly from Ella's lap, his black head popping out over her thigh. We were quiet and tense for a moment. There was hushed conversation outside the doorway of the living room, Mom and a deep voice I couldn't quite register yet. Then, some footsteps, Mom walked in looking paler than usual and behind her came . . . Jeb.

A/N: Hey, guys! Sorry for the delay, guys, three tests to study for! Hope you enjoyed and more to come!

9. Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

Not a single one of us eased up from our fighting positions. It wasn't very hard to calculate after a while: Jeb plus the flock equals a lot of trouble for us. Fang's body leaned slightly in my direction, as if getting ready for Jeb to leap out and try to grab me. I knew Jeb wouldn't do anything, though he was a big part of Itex, he never did any of the actual dirty work. He had hordes of Erasers at his disposal. That was what I was worried about. Jeb looked at each of the flock in turn. His eyes looked at Fang's bandaged and splinted wing with a slight look of pain. He glanced in my direction, not meeting my eyes. He looked away instantly.

He looked at his feet and back up in our direction. He cleared his throat and attempted a weak smile. "Hello all," he said quietly.

His smile faltered and disappeared as we stared at him in silence. He was obviously becoming uncomfortable, shifting his weight from foot to foot. Mom finally offered him a seat, looking as she didn't know why he was here. He eased himself down into a seat, thanking Mom before she sat down next to us again. Jeb looked older and more stressed than ever. There would have been some sympathy, but after all we had been through with the man, it was impossible.

"What are you doing here?" I finally asked.

"I actually would like to speak to you and Fang alone," Jeb said, looking to Fang. He glanced in my direction again, still not meeting my eyes.

I shook my head. "No. We decided a long time ago that anything someone has to say to one of us, you can say to the rest of us. They aren't going anywhere."


"We can handle it, Jeb," Gasman cut him off, practically spitting venom at his name. "We're not kids anymore."

"We stopped being kids a long time ago," Iggy said, nodding.

Nudge and Angel held their stares, glaring at him. I heard Fang exhale awkwardly, knowing he was trying to keep from laughing. Our flock, once young followers, were now standing their ground. I had a feeling that even if I had agreed to talking to Jeb with just me and Fang, the others wouldn't have moved. Jeb sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes tightly.

"What's going on?" Fang asked.

"Well, I'm sure all of you have figured out that the Erasers are back . . ." he began.

"Well, no shit," Gasman said sarcastically. "I was wondering what attacked us outside of the hotel and what messed up Fang's wing. Thank you so much for enlightening me."

"Gasman," I said pointedly.

He looked at me and crossed his arms in front of him, continuing to glare at Jeb. Wow, that surprised me. I never knew Gasman to be so blunt about anything, let alone say a curse word along with it. I shook my head and looked to Fang. The corner of his mouth was turned upward just slightly, which was surprising, too. Fang wasn't a smiler, not even when most of us were laughing. Wow, he had changed, just like the others.

"But they seem to be more aggressive than last time," Jeb explained. "They attacked you in the middle of a town street, well in the open and at the risk of several bystanders. It seems like their purpose have been magnified, and they aren't going to be taken down as easily. They've been equipped with multiple things that have been altered to the best of your abilities."

"Like what?" Nudge asked.

"They have invisibility chips embedded in their skin. That was why they appeared out of thin air in front of you. They have guard plates in their heads so Angel can't read their thoughts or control them. Their flight skill and speed has been heightened to be nearly equal to Max when she uses her 'super speed,' as you all call it. They're almost completely silent, so Iggy can't detect them from far distances. And these aren't your 'Flyboys' anymore. They're back to morphing people."

"Kinda figured that out when I broke bones," I sighed.

"Me, too," Gazzy answered with a slight grin.

I smiled weakly at Gasman, then returned my look to Jeb. "Why are they back, then?"

"They're after you," Fang said as Jeb opened his mouth.

All of us turned to look at him. I inhaled sharply and looked to his mended wing.

"Max II," I whispered.

He nodded, looking at me. "She said all they needed was you. They were going to use me as a kind of collateral, I guess. I would be okay as long as you did what they said. She didn't say much else. Well, I didn't let her because I got mad and went after her."

"Then she did that to your wing. You big idiot."

His eyes flashed in my direction. "I wasn't about to go down easy. She said she was going to take me, so I figured I better make her work for it."

"Why would they use you?"

"Uh, duh," Nudge sighed, rolling her eyes. "Please, Max, it's obvious you and Fang are in love with each other. You would give up anything for each other."

I looked at her, shocked. "I would do that for any of you."

"Well, yeah," Iggy said. "We know that and so do they, but Fang is different. He seriously is your other half. Knowing he was in danger would be even more painful to you. Even more than if one of us was in trouble."

"Guys, I could never choose one over the other with you. I never could . . ."

"Weknow that, Max," Angel said sweetly, smiling at me. "We just know you and Fang love each other. It's okay."

I shook my head again, unsure of what to say. It was true, I did love Fang, more than most of them knew, but to actually have the kids think I could choose him over them . . . It actually pained me knowing my flock thought that. I held my head on my hands, rubbing my temples with my fingers slowly.

"Okay, so they want Max," Nudge concluded. "That's not a big shock. So why are they suddenly so desperate then?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out," Jeb sighed, pinching his nose again. "The next problem is it doesn't even seem to be Itex after you this time."

"There's another mass company making human gene experiments?" I asked, feeling anger surge up my throat.

"It doesn't seem to be a company. They're off the radar. I have yet to find traces of mass purchasing."

"So you're saying it's an independent buyer," Mom said.

Jeb nodded, looking at her. "Somebody wants this all to themselves. They're either extremely rich with a large plot of land or siphoning money from somewhere and using an abandoned location. There's a lot of places they could be and a lot of ways they could be using those Erasers."

"What about Max II?" I asked. "I thought she was taken care of when Itex was taken down."

He didn't even look my direction as he answered. "Apparently not. Though she wasn't as strong as you are, she did seem to cause a lot of problems for all of you, so they may have thought she would be a good asset to keep around."

"So we're back to running again," Angel said quietly. She looked on the brink of tears as Total came over and curled up in her lap.

"Yes, you're going to have to," Jeb muttered. "You can't stay in one spot for long."

"Because they'd find us in no time," Iggy grumbled. Ella put a hand on his arm gently.

"What about Fang?" Nudge suddenly burst out loudly. "He can't fly yet. We have to wait until he's better to get any good distance . . ."

"He could stay here until he's healed," Mom offered. "I can keep an eye on him to make sure the wing heals properly. The rest of you can go and come back after a while . . ."

"No way," I said immediately. "We aren't leaving until Fang can come with us."

"Max, you realize how irrational that is," Jeb shook his head. Again, he didn't meet my eyes, which got me even madder.

"How is it irrational? We decided we were never going to break the flock up and we aren'tgoing to."

He focused on his feet intently. "So you would rather risk your mother and sister and all of the flock then leave Fang here so he can heal in peace?"

"So you would rather have this house attacked by hordes of Erasers with only Fang, Mom, and Ella here to defend themselves with Fang's wing messed up and Mom and Ella being cut down in a matter of seconds by an Eraser?"

Still no eye contact. "You know that wouldn't happen if you and the others left. The Erasers would go wherever you went. To them, the rest of the flock are just gnats."

Now I was pissed off. "They probably have orders to take every one of them out and then keep me. Plus, if Fang is their means of making me work for them, wouldn't it make more sense to keep him with us so they can't just grab him and go on their merry way? We're staying together until Fang is better. We can leave the house so Mom and Ella aren't in danger, but there's no way we're leaving Fang behind."

"You can stay here as long as you need to," Mom answered. "Besides, I would like to stay close to Fang to make sure his wing is okay."

"You have to leave," Jeb muttered, shaking his head. He looked at his feet like his shoes were going to slip off and walk away on their own or something.

"Why won't you look at me?" I demanded, fed up.

The room was quiet. Jeb dipped his head lower.

"Jeb, why won't you look at me?" I asked slowly.

He didn't answer, or look in my direction. I sighed heavily.

"Fine. But the flock stays here until Fang is better. That's not going to change. If anything comes this way, we'll take care of it so Mom and Ella aren't in any danger. We stay until Fang can go with us. Guys?"

Iggy, Gasman, Nudge, and Angel all answered in unison while Fang nodded. I could tell he didn't like the idea, but he knew better than to argue with me for right now. Ella and Mom looked relieved and happy while Jeb seemed to pale more than he already had.

"I don't think . . ." he began.

"If you aren't even going to look at me, I don't really give a damn what you think, Jeb," I snapped. "You can go whenever you feel like it. You know where we'll be if you need us or hear anything."

Jeb stood up and looked around, still not looking at my face.

"Well, I guess the matter is settled for now," he said quietly. "I'll leave you to your breakfast and I'll contact you if I hear anything. Goodbye, all."

Mom got up and walked him out of the living room. The rest of the flock looked at me.

"What?" I asked after a long moment of silence.

"You're such a bitch," Nudge answered, braking into a full smile.

Soon, the rest of us were laughing hard. Ella and Iggy were practically leaning against each other while Gasman almost squirted milk from his nose. After we all settled down, Mom came back and sat with us, laughing and smiling. Gazzy immediately started imitating my voice and kept repeating "If you aren't even going to look at me, I don't really give a damn what you think, Jeb," making everyone laugh again. As we went back to our little happy band again, Fang squeezed my side gently. I looked up at him and could tell what he was trying to say by his eyebrows.

We're going to talk about this later.

I made a face back at him to try and say, Why? There's nothing to talk about.

Fang shook his head and left it alone for the time being. But I knew later today was going to be rough. Ah well, for now, I was just happy to be home.

A/N: Hey, guys, sorry for the long delay! Hope you like the new chapter and hopefully I'll have my butt back in gear to write the next ones a bit faster! Reviews are greatly appreciated and thanks to those of you that already have! Until next time, y'all!

10. Chapter 10

Chapter Ten

It was a nice relaxing day at my mother's. After all of us got showers again, I sat out on the steps of the backyard to watch Angel and Total play. Nudge was fussing over my hair, saying that she wanted to put it up and do something nice with it. Gasman was in Mom's study, looking at all of her books and asking her questions. He had a lot of interest in how we were exactly created. Ella and Iggy were in the kitchen together, making food for dinner and talking quietly. I noticed when I walked by that Ella was blushing a lot . . . Fang stayed in the living room, working his good wing since he hadn't flown in over a week.

"You know, Max, even if you wear your hair in a ponytail or something, it would look so cute," Nudge suggested, pulling my long stubborn hair back with her hands. "What do you think, Angel?"

Angel and Total stopped running around the yard to look in our direction.

"Max looks pretty no matter what she does," Angel answered with a smile. "But you're right. It would look pretty good."

"Ha! Two to one, Max. I get to do your hair."

"For what?" I sighed, letting her run her fingers through it.

"I dunno, to show Fang you aren't a guy or something."

Total chuckled. "I think he already knows that."

I clenched my teeth. "You know, in some countries they eat dog! And I'll bet a talking one would be a delicacy!"

His ears went back and he hid behind Angel's legs. "Threatening to let me be eaten. That is just wrong!"

"Then shut it, furball."

Nudge went back to messing with my hair while Angel picked up Total to take him for a short flight. I ordered her to stay low to the tree line and try not to draw attention to herself. She flew off, her pretty wings spread out behind her. Nudge was combing my hair for what felt like the millionth time when she sighed heavily.

"Don't you wish it could just stay like this?" she said softly. "Just having all of us together at your mom's house. All of us just being a real family, kind of like what we did with Anne all those years ago . . ."

"Anne lied to us the whole time," I snorted, remembering the woman. "I wouldn't trust her as far as she could throw me."

"Isn't it 'I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her'?"

"Nudge, we have super strength, remember? I could throw her a lot further than she could throw me. So that's my analogy."

She laughed. "True."

I inhaled sharply as her fingers caught a knot in my hair. "Jeez, Nudge, why don't you just rip my hair out or something?"

"Well, it's not my fault you haven't tamed it."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Nudge, when did you become such a girl?"

"Well, seeing that I am a girl, it kind of makes sense. It would make a lot of sense for you to be one, too."

"Too much work."

Nudge giggled, then went quiet.

"What's the matter, Nudge?" I asked. "You're never quiet."

"Do you think it's okay we stay here?" she muttered.

"What do you mean?"

"I just . . . don't want Dr. Martinez or Ella to be hurt. They do so much for us. I just keep thinking that we're going to get them into trouble."

"Well, we usually always do have trouble, don't we? But we can't leave them alone here with Fang."

"I know that and there's no way we're leaving Fang behind on his own. I guess I just worry."

"We'll protect them, Nudge. If worse comes to worst, we can lead them away from the house before they find us. I'll go back to keeping watches. Everything will be fine."


I sighed and stood up. "All right, that's enough playing with my hair. I say we follow Angel and mess around in the sky for a while. What do you say?"

Nudge stayed sitting on the stairs, looking at me questioningly. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"You're actually suggesting we go out and play when there could be danger? That's a first."

I made a face at her and unfurled my wings, flexing them behind me. "Fine, then don't come."

She stood up instantly and stretched her own wings. "Oh, no, I'm in. Just one thing."

"What's that?"

She hit my arm lightly before launching herself up into the air. "You're it!" she called behind her, laughing.

I shook my head and smiled. I gave her a few seconds, watching her fly gracefully over the line of trees. Nudge was right. It would be so great just to stay like this, to live with Mom and Ella. To be able to play and mess around, rather than training because we were afraid for our lives. I turned back to look at the house, hearing Gazzy's voice coming from an open window with my mom, both of them laughing together. I closed my eyes, wishing to whoever would listen for all of this to be real, for everything else messed up in our lives to disappear . . .

"Max, are you coming?"

I looked up to see Nudge and Angel hovering beside one another, Total's dark head peeking over Angel's arms. I smiled weakly at my girls.

"I was just giving you a head-start. Ready or not!"

The two squealed and took off flying as I jumped up into the air after them.


We ate a hefty dinner, made by Iggy, Ella, and Mom. We sat around in the living room again, so we could be around Fang. After we finished and talked for a while, Iggy, Ella, Nudge, and Gasman decided to go out and walk Total together. Angel volunteered to help Mom with the dishes. That left Fang and me alone for the first time during the day. Shortly after the others left the living room, he stood up and stretched, careful of his wing.

"I've sat around all day," he said. "Do you want to go walk around outside for a while? I could use the movement."

"Sure," I answered.

I stood up and together we walked out the back door. Ella told us about some old trails that stretched out over the land behind their house. They were a little hard to find in the dark, but Fang and I found a relatively clear path to walk. We were quiet for a while. Fang kept his distance from me, which was very frustrating. I felt like nothing was wrong when I was near Fang. Even when we were arguing, being around him made everything better. With the way we were, Fang keeping his distance meant that one of those arguments was about to start.

"What's the matter?" I finally asked, caving.

"I've been thinking a lot today," he started.

I laughed weakly. "That's a first."

He looked at me with his serious face. "Max, we can't avoid this forever."

"Avoid what?"

"I know you like staying here with your mom and Ella. The rest of the flock likes it and I do, too, but . . . but you know Jeb is right."

"Don't tell me you're actually agreeing with him."

"Well, think about it, Max. You know the Erasers can find us. The last thing we want to do is lead them to the only place we can actually go to. We can't risk it."

"But your wing isn't any better than it was 14 hours ago when Jeb was here. We're staying until you're better."

He shook his head. "I'm not going to risk you or the flock or Dr. Martinez or Ella. All of you are too important. You should do the same thing."

"What do you mean?"

"You and the flock should go ahead without me."

"What?! No way!"

"Max . . ."

"Fang, there is not a chance in hell I'm going to do that! Don't you remember the last time all of us were separated? You and the boys were attacked by Flyboys and we were taken to the Itex headquarters so I could be tested. All of us are weaker when we're apart, you know that. I'm not going to let it happen again."

"But you really think I'm useful with a messed up wing? I can't fight, Max."

"Which is exactly why we need to stay! You said yourself that they want to use you as collateral to get me to cooperate. We need to stay with you to protect you."

"Protect me?"

"Yes, protect you. Fang, I'm not going to leave you behind."

Fang raised an eyebrow at me. "Then I'll be gone when you wake up in the morning."


"That doesn't give you any reason to stay here, then. I'll hide out and come to see Dr. Martinez once in a while, then find all of you again after my wing's healed."

"That's just stupid, they could get you so easily."

"Then Iggy and Gasman can stay with me. We'll find you, Angel, and Nud—"

"NO!!" I shouted over him. I didn't really mean to yell, but I was so angry. My body was shaking as I clenched my fists at my sides. "Fang, we're not breaking up the flock."

"We don't have another option, Max. We have to."

"No, we don't. We can stay here and wait until you're better, then we'll leave."

"So you'd rather risk everyone, including your mother and sister and the flock, because you want to stick to some rule that you knew was never going to stick in the first place?"

I punched his chest as hard as I could. "Damn it, you sound just like Jeb! What is the matter with you?! We have to stay together!"

Fang shook his head, looking away from me. "Not if it means the others being hurt. Or you, for that matter. If I go, then you have no reason to stay. You and the flock can keep moving and I can find you later . . ."

"No, no, this isn't happening."

He glanced up at me. I shook my head repeatedly, not sure what to say for a second. I felt tears welling up again. I sniffed angrily, not letting them fall. God, I hated that he could make me cry so easily. He reached out his hand. I moved away, still shaking my head.

"Where did this come from?" I asked. "What, did Jeb get inside your head, too? At least I had sense enough to ignore his bullshit advice."

"Max . . ."

"No, Fang, not this time. I am not going to let you 'calm me down' from this and let me make a 'rational' decision that's just going to end up being a dumb idea! I'm not! We're staying, you're staying, Jeb's an asshole, and my family will be safe, one way or another. Period, end of sentence, let it go."

He met my eyes. "I'm not staying."

"Yes, you are!" I shouted again. I hated how he was able to be so calm. That made me even angrier. "If you leave, don't bother coming back, because there's no way I'll take you back!"

He shrugged, but I could tell by his eyes that that hurt him. Good. "If that's really how you want to end it."

"It is! And if they get you, fat chance you'll see me doing anything about it!"


"Okay! Then you have to explain it to the others because I'm not going to!"


"Fine! Have a good life, Fang! Hope I never see you again!"

I ran off and launched myself into the air before he could see me cry. I flew up out of the trail cover and into the night sky. A thick line of clouds were slowly moving in the direction of the house, probably a big thunder storm. I used my super speed and flew toward the wall of clouds. I just had to get away. Fang, the one person I had been able to count on for almost my entire life, was abandoning me again.

"Traitor!" I yelled out loud to the sky, still crying.

I flew until I was hit by soft drops of rain. It was a gentle rainfall, which was kind of surprising because how menacing the clouds looked. I finally dropped down into a grassy field. I slumped down on my knees and just started beating my fists into the ground, my tears blending in with the rain running down my face.

"Damn him!" I said loudly, pounding the ground hard. "I hate him! I hate him!"

I kept punching until my hands were numb. I cried until I started dry-heaving, almost to the point where my dinner was about to come out the wrong end. I dropped to my stomach and rolled over onto my back, letting the rain fall down over me. I laid spread eagle, my arms and legs out with my wings stretched behind me, panting hard. I closed my eyes and just felt the rain, hoping with everything in me that it would just wash away this bad dream . . .

A/N: Sorry about the wait, guys. Thanks for being patient. It's been a long time for me to just be able to sit and write for a while. Hope you liked it and thanks for the reviews so far. They make my day. Hopefully, I'll have another chapter up later this weekend. Until next time!

11. Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven

Fang sat in the shadows of the old oak tree. He was glad his broken wing didn't alter his ability to run, which was something he had to do tonight. Max's body lay motionless in the middle of the grassy pasture. He debated for a long time with himself whether he should go down there or not. He wanted to be close to her, to hold her . . . but he knew better. She would have far better plans for him than letting him hold her.

He had made Max angry. Hated the fact that he did, but he knew he did it, nonetheless. He had heard her scream "Traitor!" and her voice struck through him like lightening . . . or acid that ate away all of his insides. As soon as he heard it, he started running. Max was nearly impossible to catch when she jumped into super-speed, but he knew he could find her eventually. She wouldn't stray too far from her family.

After what seemed like a decade of walking, he heard a steady thump sound, dull, but loud, resonating throughout the trees. He panicked momentarily, thinking that maybe the Erasers were one step ahead of them and they had caught Max. But, instead, he found her on her hands and knees in the middle of that field. Her right fist made a small crater as she punched the same spot over and over.

Her sobs became dry-heaves, choking her. Her hand continued with as much force as ever. Fang stayed in the shadows for a long time, glad for the rain, which darkened his hair and his clothing even more than normal. Max's blonde hair was darkened from the water, too, long hunks covering her face from his view.

Part of him was happy for that. He hated to see her hurting. He hated himself even more for being the cause of it. Max needed him, the flock needed him . . . He needed all of them more than they would ever know. But he knew, right now, he was nothing but a sitting duck (no flying pun intended), more of a danger than a help to any of them.

He would do as he said, stick around Dr. Martinez, so she could keep track of his wing's condition. But, for now, he sat watching Max sleep, knowing that still more tears were mixing in with the rainwater that ran down her face. She had exhausted herself, as she tended to sometimes. All of her physical and mental energy was spent for the time being. And Fang knew it was all his fault. Finally, despite his best logic, he walked out into the rain and knelt beside Max. He didn't dare to touch her, worried that she may cause him just as much physical damage as he had emotionally to her.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "But, you understand why I'm doing it, right? All I want to do is be with you. Be with you and the rest of the flock and live a normal life. Well, as normal as genetic mutations can be, I guess." He sighed heavily, not seeing any reaction in Max's face. "Max, I know you're meant for a lot more. I can feel it every time I look at you. You have a duty and right now . . . I'm just a liability. I'll just hold all of you back. So, go and figure out you need to, okay? And stop worrying about me."

He reached out, his fingers barely short of her cheek before he changed his mind and drew his hand back. Fang stood up and turned his back to her. He wanted to move her from the rain, take inside and make sure she was warm and safe, to be her protector. But he knew better than anyone that Max would kill him if he ever said that, or even acted like it. So damn stubborn and so damn independent. That was the way she was, always had been. And that was why he loved her . . .

He slowly walked back into the shadows and sat down on the wet ground. In the morning, he would slip off into the forest and keep out of her sight. But, for now, he would stay and watch her sleep, hoping silently that she could someday forgive him.


And after a LONG hiatus, Saving the World is a Pain in the You-Know-What is back!! -cue party blower sound!- Sorry for the long disappearance, guys. Again, a lot of problems beyond my control, but I promise I will start updating as regularly as I can from here on in. Thanks everyone for support and I hope I didn't lose any of you guys because of my apparent laziness. Reviews appreciated! And another chapter is coming up sooner than you think! See you then!

12. Chapter 12

Chapter Twelve

I woke up in the spot I had been laying in. My clothes were plastered to my body and my hair was soaking wet, but I didn't feel any better. I stood up and shook my wings out, feeling more water splash against my clothes. My eyes were on fire and my throat was sore, but I already felt like crying again.

I took off and flew as low to the ground as I could. After a pretty long flight (I went a lot further than I thought), I landed in the backyard. I stumbled a little as a wave of sickness came over me. It felt like the time on the mountain when I saw the Erasers again . . . I hurried away from the house and threw up heavily in some bushes a ways away. I dropped down to my knees, panting heavily.

Angel, I know you've been reading my thoughts, I said in my head.

Sorry, I felt something was wrong, Angel's innocent voice answered.

For once, I was really glad she was able to. Is he gone?

Yes . . . We could use you, all mighty leader.

I sat up, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand and catching my breath. Of course, he wouldn't wait to say goodbye to me. Fang was just a selfish little brat who was more worried about what he wanted than what was best for the rest of us . . . I stood up and walked in slowly. I walked down the hall to see the rest of the flock in the kitchen at the table. They were picking at plates of food in front of them, all of their faces sad. Mom looked up at me and stood up quickly.

"Max, where have you been?" she asked worriedly. "You didn't come back with Fang last night and now . . ."

She stopped, looking to the younger ones. Nudge stood up silently and walked over to hug me. Angel joined her, the three of us holding each other for a long moment. Gasman stood up to hug me after the girls stood aside. Even Iggy came over and wrapped his long arms around me. I looked at my flock, seemingly already crushed in defeat. I fought back another wave of tears and forced a smile. It was physically painful.

"Come on, guys," I said. "I know it's hard, but you gotta eat some time. I know you haven't lost your appetites."

Reluctantly, the younger ones walked back to their chairs and sat down. They started picking aimlessly at their food, not really planning on eating it. I inhaled and suddenly felt the sweeping urge to throw up again. I fought to hold it down, the smell of food making me nauseous. I turned around and walked out of the room quickly. I went to the living room and plopped down on the couch, leaning my head down to rest between my knees.

"Max, are you okay?" I heard Mom say.

It was getting harder to hear her. Blood was pounding in my ears, so hard that I couldn't really understand what she was saying. I kept breathing hard, attempting to settle my stomach. Mom reached down and touched my forehead; her hand felt cool against my skin, which was suddenly on fire. She sat me up, inspecting me with worried eyes. I was still breathing heavily, not sure what was wrong with me.

I slumped against her and closed my eyes. I just had to rest . . .


I opened my eyes again slowly, light burning through my eyelids. I had to blink multiple times, tears coming to protect my eyes. I kept my eyes closed for a long moment before finally trying again. I was in Ella's room in my bed, the light of the lamp on the bedside table causing me a lot of pain. I flipped it off and hissed as I rubbed my eyes, wiping away tears that weren't stopping.

None of the other girls were in the room, which I was kind of happy about because now the tears were back for another reason. I kept wiping my cheeks with the edge of my blanket as I looked around. The blinds of the windows were shut, but I could see the orange haze of the sky. That meant the sun was setting. I noticed a plate on the table next to the lamp, now teetering on the edge because I almost knocked it over trying to turn off the light. I grabbed it before the weight of the sandwich sent it to the carpet.

I took a chomp out of it, taking nearly half of it in one bite. I sat up slowly as I chewed. I wondered where the flock was. Probably messing around out in the forest, laughing while Total complained his paws hurting. They were probably out just being normal kids, not caring about anything. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I didn't know why I was having these swimmy nausea spells and now I was apparently passing out for long periods of time because of them. And lastly, despite myself, I wondered where Fang was. I just wanted to know that he was okay. I was still mad at him, that definitely wasn't going to change for a while, but I didn't want anything to happen to him while he was away from us . . .

As I went to reach for the sandwich again, I stopped. I looked at my arm where the chip was embedded in me. Nasty, pale scars rose around a smooth incision cut. The incision cut was from when Mom removed it for me. The other ragged, deep scars were from me. I remembered my lapse of judgment out on the beach and grabbing the seashell, gouging it into my skin in hopes of finding the chip, hoping I could help the flock. I remembered Fang's face when they found me, that pure fear that I was going to die because I wanted to help.

Fang and I talked about it about six months ago when both of us were still up after the others had fallen asleep. We were sitting next to the fire together, watching a full moon peek over the tops of the Rocky Mountains, the cool air blowing snow gently around outside of the cave entrance. Fang held my hand for a bit, but let it go and started tracing the lines of the scars carefully, a pained look on his face.

"Imagine how it felt," I attempted to joke.

He glanced up at me, then back down to the jagged lines raised on my skin. "I thought you were going to die that day. I thought you were dead when we found you."

"I thought you were going to die that day Ari attacked you. I guess us and beaches are just a bad idea, huh?"

"At least my injuries were for a reason. I still don't understand how you could do this to yourself." He ran his index finger over the lines again, making me shiver.

"I thought it would help. I thought the chip was the reason why we were getting attacked. I thought if I got rid of it, everything would stop. We could be safe."

He looked at me with his dark eyes. "That obviously didn't help."

"Thanks for reminding me that my valiant effort was for nothing. Glad to know it's appreciated."

"Appreciated? Max, you could've killed yourself."

I looked at Iggy, Nudge, Angel, and Gasman all curled up near one another, Iggy twitching occasionally and Nudge snoring lightly while Gasman had his arms around his sister protectively. "If it would help all of you, I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Fang let go of my arm and sighed. "It wouldn't help us if you were dead, Max. We wouldn't know what to do with ourselves if that happened."

I made a face at him. "Aw, you would miss me."

He made a face back. "And you would miss me. Don't deny it."

"Fine, I promise I'll try not to die again."

He laughed before he leaned in to kiss me. "I guess I'll just have to take it."

I sighed and shook my head, coming back to the present. Fang was right, I did miss him. A lot more than I wanted to. I was still so mad at him for walking out on us, but it felt like I had lost my right wing. The rest of the flock was heart-broken because of it; I was heart-broken . . . It just wasn't a good idea.

I jumped when a light tap came from the door. It eased open and my mom's head popped in, probably just to check on her unconscious daughter. Her eyes widened in relief and she smiled. I attempted to smile back as the last of the sandwich was jammed in my mouth. I chewed hurriedly and swallowed as she came to sit on the edge of my bed. She felt my forehead with the back of her hand.

"Oh, sweetie," she sighed. "How are you feeling?"

"Miserable," I answered, sadness weighing down the sandwich I just ate in my stomach. "Why did he leave, Mom?"

She looked into my eyes. "He's trying to protect you, Max. He's trying to help you and all of the others. He wanted to protect you, even me and Ella."

"It didn't help that he left."

"I know, baby, I know. But you know that Fang would be no good to all of you hurt. He promised he would come back and find you as soon as he could."

"You mean he's not even coming back to have you check his wing?"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure."

"That idiot."

"Max, he'll come back someday."

I sniffed and shook my head. "I told him I never wanted him to come back. I said if he left, he wouldn't have anything to come back to. I hated him so much for it. I'm still mad at him now, but I . . . I want him to come back someday. I don't know what we would do if we didn't have Fang."

"I know, sweetie. All of you have a tough time when you're apart. But he did it for reason. He'll be back before you know it."

She hugged me close to her and rubbed my back comfortingly. I rested my head on her shoulder. Mom and Fang were the only ones that managed to calm me down when I got worked up. That must have meant I was definitely her kid. She patted my hair before pulling away, looking at me questioningly.

"When was the last time you took a shower?"

"Uh . . ." I answered, trying to remember.

"All right, bathroom, pronto, missy. I don't want to hear any arguments."

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "I'm going, I'm going. Thanks, Mom."

"Of course, dear."

13. Saving the World Returns IMPORTANT INFO

Author's Note/Update Information

Hey, gang! It's been a while, eh?


Almost two years? o_O

I am a terrible person, but I promise there have been reasons. Namely, I haven't had the internet in that long of time.

I wanted to post this as a chapter to give the people that were cool enough to put this story on their alerts a heads' up. I am officially back to working on Saving the World and my other fics I've had to abandon like a loser.

Typing up some chapters is my latest goal, but I just wanted everyone to know that I will do the best I can to have a chapter up in two weeks and keep them at regular intervals as best I can.

Thanks to everyone supporting this fic so much and I am SO EXCITED to be working on it again!

So, two weeks! Look out for an update!

-Showers' Inc

14. Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen

The next morning, everyone seemed to be cautious around me. It had been a long time since any sort of physically-hindering attack happened to me, so I wasn't really surprised to see my flock on full alert, ready to take action. I tried my best to smile and keep everyone moving around. Being the leader is kind of a big deal.

We drudged through the day slowly, especially after I told them we would be taking off after nightfall. None of them were excited about it. But we were out of options. If we stayed in one place for too long, the Erasers would find us that much quicker. It didn't take us long to pack up our possessions. Each of us had two full outfits and a little food we kept for emergencies. Granted, most of our clothes were stained and torn up, but hey. What can a group of flying bird kids do?

Mom and Ella left for a little bit after we ate lunch, saying they had to run a few errands before we left. It made me anxious to let them go by themselves, but I couldn't risk leaving the flock, either. My mother reassured me several times that she and my sister would be perfectly fine on their own, but I never really believed those words out of anyone's mouth.

I was putting our clothes in the dryer (Mom taught me basic laundry care. I kind of knew it from our days at the Colorado house, but I didn't learn about the wonders of fabric softener until she showed me.) when Angel practically floated into the room. She was humming happily, which was never a good sign. It was an evil-incarnate sign. I raised an eyebrow at her as I turned the dial on the dryer and checked the lint trap.

"So we're leaving tonight for sure?" she asked nonchalantly.

"That's the plan," I answered, trying to hide the edge of suspicion out of my voice. "It's easier for us to not be noticed at night."

"I know. Because we can see and the Erasers can't. Well, they used to not be able to. I guess I don't know about the new ones."

"Yeah, who knows? They're some kind of souped-up version. I plan on having Nudge try to dig up some stuff on them from the laptop. Maybe we can figure out who's making the new and improved Eraser hordes."

Angel nodded. "What are you gonna do after we find out who's behind it?"

I forced my thoughts down as I shrugged. "I'll figure that part out after we find out. One step at a time."

"Where are we headed to, then?"


"DC or the state?"

"The state."

"What for?"

"For coffee."

My little girl wrinkled her nose then broke into a shining smile. "We're not allowed caffeine, boss's orders."

"Well, at least not Nudge. That motormouth is thirty-fold when she's had any kind of caffeine . . . or sugar . . . or food . . ."

"Or air."

That made me crack up. "Good point. Ah well, she's a teenager. She should be able to gossip."

"You're a teenager, too, ya know. You should act like one once in a while."

"How do you propose I do that, Angel? Take our falcon friends to the mall for a shopping trip? Bring a hair dryer to use while we're flying? Ooh, I could ask an Eraser out on a date. That's what teenagers do, right?"

She rolled her eyes. "Typical Max sarcasm."

I shook my head as we walked out of the laundry room and up the stairs to the kitchen. "Besides, I'm too busy taking care of you guys to be able to act like a teenager. You take up enough of my time."

"Is she complaining about being 'responsible' for us again?" Gasman sighed from the table. He was focusing on creating a house of cards and was currently up to card number 74. The house took up the entire table.

"I don't complain about it," I snapped. "I'm just telling the truth."

"We talked about this, like, nine thousand times now. We're old enough to take care of ourselves, Max."

"Says the kid that still finds ways to blow up buildings with a firecracker and a toothpick."

He giggled maniacally while he placed another card. "Hey, it was an abandoned factory building. No harm, no foul."

I shook my head with a smile. The Gasman is the MacGuyver of explosives . . . and Iggy is his faithful sidekick. So I guess it would be more of Iggy is MacGuyver and Gasman is MacGuyver, Jr. Like the two of them claim, no one is on the same playing field as MacGuyver, so it'd be hard to branch him with anyone else. Wow, I must like to say "MacGuyver" a lot.

Not in much of a mood for arguing, I walked out of the room to go to Ella's bedroom. Angel continued to follow me. Nudge was sitting on the floor of Ella's room, flipping through a magazine my mom bought her. She looked up and smiled at me and Angel before going back to her reading. Angel hopped on to Ella's bed while I started to make mine.

"So we're leaving tonight for Washington?" she asked.

I sighed. "For the eighth time, yes, Angel. We're leaving after it gets dark to head for Washington."


"Why do you keep making me repeat myself?"

She shrugged innocently. "I don't know. Just making sure you have everything straight."

"Well, thanks for the concern. Nudge, I have a favor to ask."

"What's up?" she asked.

"I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but we're gonna have to do some research. Do you mind helping me out with the laptop later?"

"Sure, we can do it now, if you want."

"I'm not exactly sure what I want to look into yet, but I'll let you know."

"All right."

I nodded thankfully then looked to see Angel still looking at me with a small smile on her face. The "I'm just bidding my time until I need to ask you an Earth-shattering question" smile.

"What?" I said. "What is it already?"

15. Chapter 14

Chapter Fourteen

In typical Angel fashion, she blinked and shook her head just slightly, as if she was startled by the question I had just asked. I sat down on my bed and looked at her intently, waiting for the fatal question.

"What do you mean, what?" Angel said sweetly.

"What are you going to ask me?" I sighed. "Just spit it out already."

"I wasn't going to ask anything . . ."


"What do you think about Total—"

I shook my head, cutting her off. "No."

"But he's just—"


"Max, come on, Total's—"

"Not coming. That's final."

Angel crossed her arms and slouched on the bed. "Why not?"

"Don't pout. He doesn't need to come and you know he doesn't."

"Why can't Total come?" Nudge asked, sitting up. "He said he wanted to come with us again."

"So he can whine about not having good food, or a pillow to sleep on, or having to be carried everywhere, or how his paws hurt when he walks?" I sighed. "No thank you. He's fine here with Mom and Ella."

"My ears are burning," a voice below me said.

Total trotted in and hopped up on Ella's bed next to Angel. I pointed to him.

"You, quit putting ideas in the girls' heads. And you," I pointed to Angel, "stop begging for him to come because he is not coming."

"But Max, I feel as if my life is being wasted here as an intelligent other species," Total said dramatically. "I just feel as though this life of leisure is hurting me more than it is helping. I am meant to travel the world, to see what is out there . . ."

"You were able to do that with us for at least two years, but you never stopped whining. Why the change of heart now?"

"I am meant for more than being a house pet, Max. You know that, I know that, the rest of the flock knows that. Upon my own life, I promise to be quiet and obedient, a silent traveller with no intentions other than taking in the world for what it is."

"So you're saying if you bother me or go against anything I say, I can drop you?"

Total chuckled uncomfortably. "Well, I wouldn't go that far, Max, I mean, honestly, would you be so cruel as to drop me off the side of you? I think you have more compassion than that."

I smiled. "True . . . I'd just drop you off at the nearest tree and wish you the best of luck."

"Max, don't be mean," Angel said, pulling Total into her lap. "Total went through a lot with us. And, to tell you the truth, I miss having him around. He's my best friend."

Watching her pet him and look down at him with her sad smile, I knew she was telling the truth. That girl knew how to play me like a violin. I sighed and leaned forward.

"You will carry him at all times," I said, pointing to Angel. "You are responsible for Total at all times, and that means you make sure he's fed, bathed, and anything else I expect out of him. Total, if you start complaining too much, I stand by what I said before. I am not afraid to leave you at the top of a nearby tree and hope you find your way down. Is that understood?"

Total nodded.

"You are going to sleep where we sleep, eat when we eat, fly when we fly, and I will not hear any problems, correct?"

"Of course not," he said.

"Then you have to tell Mom and Ella you're coming with us."

"So Total can come?" Angel asked, practically beaming.

"Just don't make me regret it."

Angel leapt up from the bed and tackled me on my own, hugging me. Total managed to climb on my bed and tried licking my face before I pushed both of them away with a laugh. Nudge smiled from the floor.

"All right, all right, don't get all excited," I said. "I said he could come, not that he's the new leader or something. Talk to Mom and Ella when they get home and we'll figure out details with the rest of the flock this afternoon."

It was about four hours before I had us timed to leave. We had to start getting ready sooner than later.