Sure Thing Falling by tanyart

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Angst, Drama
Published:2007-01-27 22:50:27
Updated:2007-11-25 21:54:10
Packaged:2021-04-21 22:45:32
Summary:Fang’s mother wasn’t the crack addict he’d thought she would be. To him, she was the perfect mom… but he wasn’t the perfect son. In fact, he never got the chance to try until now. clone!fang

Table of Contents

1. Deception
2. Intuition
3. Opposition
4. Destruction
5. Attention
6. Devotion

1. Deception

A/N: Damn plot bunnies. If this gets enough interest I might actually start taking it seriously. And yes, I'm implying that you should review. 8D

"Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi."

-Horace, Ars Poetica

If you want me to feel an emotion, you must first feel that emotion yourself.

Dr. Damon entered the small hospital room. Nurses clothed in light blue scrubs gathered around the operating bed, very calm and intent with their individual tasks. In the bed was a very young lady… so young that she couldn't possibly be in her twenties yet. The doctor raised his eyes to view her beautiful, yet slightly perspiring face. Her expression was frightened and strained, but defiantly under control. The nurses already had her anesthetized from the chest down, getting ready for the cesarean section- abdominal delivery birth.

The young lady was Hester Leander, a seventeen year old highschool student who was known as the school's whore ever since her belly began to swell with the baby. Of course, she transferred out to another school specifically for other pregnant girls to finish her highschool education. Yet after that, the problems would not go away. Obviously, her parents were none too thrilled about their daughter's early pregnancy… in fact… they hardly cared at all. The father of the still unborn baby had not come forth either, nor would Hester speak of it.

It was one of the reasons why the School had specifically chosen her. No father, no parental support… she was sure to abandon her child (if she survived the birthing process). Months earlier, the School injected avian DNA within her uterus and into the fetus of the baby. Hester didn't know all that, of course. For all she knew, she was going to give birth to a living, breathing personification of her sin… not some mutant winged freak.

Ironic, wasn't it?

Dr. Damon went over to Hester, taking one last look at his clipboard before setting it down on the table. Hester looked up at him nervously, gripping the bedrails tightly. Putting a comforting hand of hers, Dr. Damon smiled gently.

"We're all set to begin, Miss Leander," he said, "Are you ready?"

"Yes," she answered faintly, but the nod she gave was curt and determined. Hester's knuckles shown white for a moment before she let go of the bedrails. However, she let Dr. Damon hold her hand. The girl was all alone and the doctor couldn't help but feel a tinge of pity for her. She was strong… and that wasn't what the School expected.

No, the School expected her to go so far as the abort the baby or put it up immediately for adoption. Hester did none of those. She wanted the baby and it was as simple as that. Well, the School couldn't have that. Little did she know that the baby she was carrying would be the second successfully made avian recombinant. She could certainly not keep the baby she was about to deliver.

"Very well," Dr. Damon replied, giving her hand a final pat. He glanced at the nurses and nodded. They responded silently, triple checking everything. Lifting the face mask over his mouth and nose and pulling on his clean latex gloves, Dr. Damon pulled Hester's blanket down to reveal her large and swollen stomach. The nurses bustled about to clean the area and one of them handed the doctor an incision knife.

"You won't feel a thing, Hester," he intoned soothingly, noting how the girl tensed at the sight of the blade. The girl had been numbed chest down, but it was rare to put a person to sleep during a c-section. The School wanted everything to appear as normal as possible. He made the first cut and started. Hester shut her eyes fast and did not open them.

Dr. Damon did the c-section cut as efficiently as any professional. Soon, he saw the prize. A baby's head, eyes screwed shut like its mother's. A nurse gently pushed against Hester's stomach and the doctor gingerly lifted the newborn out. He could feel a collective breath being held by everyone in the room, save for Hester. She had no idea the baby was out yet.

However, Dr. Damon could only stare at the baby, covered with bright red fluids and its umbilical cord still connected to its mother. Yes, he had delivered countless babies this way, but this one was special. It was ugly, as most babies were when just entering the world… but even uglier were its limp and sodden wings. They were formless and looked like broken limbs protruding out from the baby's back.

My god, thought the doctor, it's beautiful. Wings, the child was born with wings.

And then the breath was released. The nurses moved quickly, cutting off the umbilical cord and stitching up the incision cut on Hester. The absence of a cry was deathly eerie. The baby was utterly silent and Dr. Damon was suddenly scared. Did he fail? Was the baby dead? It couldn't be, for it was moving its arms feebly... as if it knew that it was going to be separated from his mother for good.

Too true. Dr. Damon motioned with his head and a nurse came into the room, carrying another baby. This one was perfectly normal and it was even brawling, an expected reaction after birth. Turning to the new nurse, he looked at both babies, marveling at them.

All babies looked the same, but these two were exactly identical in every way. The same chubby cheeks, round heads, weight, height… everything. Dr. Damon was sure that if he checked the fingerprints, they would have been the same as well. It was flawless, save for the fact that one had wings while the other's back was bare.

The nurse held out the baby in her arms and Dr. Damon held out Hester's. They switched. Bing, bam, boom. It was just too easy. As quickly as she had came, the nurse left with Hester's winged baby. Dr. Damon turned around, finding that the nurses had finished stitching up Hester. Aroused by the squalling clone baby, she had her eyes fixed on the baby the doctor was carrying. She hadn't seen the exchange.

"Doctor?" she asked, her voice soft and almost timid.

Dr. Damon walked over and placed the crying baby in her arms. Hester took up the baby, her eyes misting over. She smiled.

"Congratulations, Hester. It's a healthy baby boy," Dr. Damon said distantly.

Hester did not look up. The baby became quiet, opening its dark eyes.

"Isaiah…" Hester murmured happily.

End Chapter.

2. Intuition

AN: I apologize for the delay. Thank you those who have reviewed! You guys rock... hard.

Chapter Two: Intuition

Golden Gate Park, fourteen years later…


He turned to Max, almost wincing as she started to wave a pair of scissors in his face. She scowled, tugging at an uneven tuff of his black hair and snipping it off.

"Hold still! I can't cut your hair if you keep on turning your head like that," she said, "Jeez Fang, I didn't know you were this twitchy."

"Well, I'm sure anyone would be uncomfortable if you standing less than three feet away with a pair of scissors," Fang retorted with a faint hint of a smirk. Max only rolled her eyes and resumed her butchering. Fang only hoped that he didn't end up bald within the next few seconds…like Gazzy.

… Poor Gazzy.

He never knew what was coming. His lumpy haircut was the sad result of being Max's first victim. He was lucky to still have hair on his head, but just... barely. Nevertheless, all the boys needed a trim. Iggy's hair had grown so long that he could practically tie it with a ponytail holder. Lucky for him, that's what he did. Anything was better than facing Max with a pair of scissors. Iggy took the coward's way and opted out on the haircut. …Not that Fang could blame him.

"Bye bye, highlights," Max grinned and Fang could feel pieces of his unnaturally colored brown hair fall on his shoulders.

"Hopefully that's the only thing I'll have to say bye-bye too," he answered, brushing off the hair.

"Wise ass," Max sighed, "Lay off, will ya?"

"Sorry," Fang said shortly, "I guess I find getting a haircut in the middle of Golden Gate Park kind of awkward."

Max pursed her lips together, looking ready to smack him silly. Fang flashed a grin and she instantly dropped her frown.

The flock was taking a quick stop in San Francisco where food was aplenty and there were lots of high trees to hide and sleep in. After purchasing bags full of food from a local connivance store, they took of to the park to have a feast of sorts. Initially, it had been Iggy who suggested getting their hair cut when Gazzy started to constantly run into the blind flock member on account of his long bangs flopping over his eyes. Fang even admitted that he could do for a trim as well.

Of course, none of them thought that Max would play the barber. The location being San Francisco, salons were outrageously overpriced and frankly, weren't worth the money.

"There," Max said, giving Fang's newly cropped hair a rough tousle, "All done."

The two youngest members of the flock suddenly appeared, sharing a large bag of Doritos. They skeptically inspected Fang. The dark haired boy's face revealed nothing, just careless ease. After a quiet moment, Angel spoke up.

"Don't worry, Fang," Angel chimed, shamelessly probing his mind, "It doesn't look bad at all."

"Hey, no fair!" Gazzy complained to Max, "You did a better job on Fang than me!"

Fang's lips tugged into a small smile, though he looked suspiciously relieved. Max caught his look with disdain but she proceeded to give Gazzy a tight hug.

"Aw, Gazzy.. I'm sorry," she said with a sigh, "But you look just like a soldier now... with a marine cut and everything. It looks cool."

The sudden switch of perspective appealed to Gazzy and his bright blue eyes widened. "Really?" he asked excitedly, "Awesome!"

Eventually Iggy and Nudge joined the little admiring fest with the blind boy running his hands deliberately through Fang's hair. Fang growled in protest and immediately swatted Iggy's prying hands away.

"It feels uneven. You sure it looks okay?" Iggy laughed, only getting his gold earring pulled by Max in warning, "Ah! Jeez! Sorry, Max… it's not my fault that you're artistically challenged!"

Fang sat back, watching the little semi-violent event unfold with mild interest. Angel started a game that involved throwing Doritos at Total and Gazzy as Nudge started to chat up a storm with Max. Meanwhile, Max was both half-listening to Nudge as she proceeded to pester Iggy by tugging on his ears.

It was all very fun to watch.

… that is, until he started to get pelted by nacho flavored tortilla chips.

"Hey!" Fang muttered, getting to his feet. He glared at Gazzy, who smiled innocently and licked an orange-powered finger. Fang was about to join in the fray but dark movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned to see the two men that had been sitting on a park bench together had stood up and was heading towards the flock. It was funny how he hadn't noticed them before. The whole park area had been empty when they arrived.

"Max," he said simply and that instantly got her attention. Eyes narrowing, he kept his gaze on the approaching figures.

In one swift moment, Max appraised the situation and even before the two Erasers could start morphing, the flock was running.

Fang grabbed Gazzy's hand and made sure everyone was somehow together. Max had Angel and Nudge in tow while Iggy had his hand on her shoulder. Following Max, the flock leader led them out of the park and onto a busy sidewalk. Soon the pressed bodies of people gave them coverage from the two pursuing Erasers. Fang held on tightly to Gazzy, unwilling to let the boy out of his sight. He couldn't even see Max anymore and that worried him. Occasionally he could catch a glimpse of Iggy's blond hair before it was obscured by a walking stranger.

It wasn't before long that Fang heard Max's voice calling out. He couldn't see her, but she could see him.

"Gazzy, Fang, come on!"

"Hold my hand, Gazzy!" Nudge suddenly materialized in front of them, holding out her hand. The little boy took it but had let go of Fang's hand instead. He was instantly dragged off.

"But-," Gazzy began, glancing back at Fang. However, he was swallowed by the crowd before Fang could hear the rest.

The raven-haired boy did not slow his pace. Unable to see anyone of the flock, he tried to push through the crowd. It was easy enough but mumbling sorry to every single person he bumped into became increasingly irritating. Apparently someone was fed up as well. Fang caught sight of Iggy again, not more than twenty feet away. He jolted forward, accidentally ramming his shoulder against a man.

… and a particularly sour faced man, Fang noted as he was grabbed roughly by the arm and jerked back. The man had an iron grip and he was staring at Fang with extreme distaste.

"Watch it, kid," he growled.

Fang looked at him evenly, but bit back a scathing retort. If he got into a fight now then Max and the others would be even further away. He didn't have time for this.

"Sorry… sir," he said smoothly, letting the precious seconds drift by as he awaited the man's judgment. So far it had only been two seconds, but Fang was ready.

However, the man apparently thought along the same lines since he merely growled again and ambled off. As soon as he was released, Fang swiveled away. His dark eyes scanned the crowd, heart beating unnaturally fast when he couldn't remember which direction he had last seen Gazzy and Nudge. With an exasperated, but soft sigh, he navigated by instincts.

C'mon, c'mon… bird blood, don't fail me now, he thought, weaving in and out through people. Max was technically the 'mother chick'. Some part of him would always find a way to be with her.

Sure enough Fang saw Max herding the flock down a busy crosswalk. She looked mildly alarmed after counting heads. He could see her mouth his name in question and Gazzy quickly explaining their separation. Max frowned, obviously worried.

"Max!" Fang shouted, still quite a ways from the crosswalk himself. He saw her look up in a mixture of relief and annoyance. By then the flock had gotten across and the timer for the traffic light was running out. Watching where his family was waiting for him, he hurried forward but collided fully on with another person.

There was a startled yelp and a woman's voice.

"Oh honey, are you alright?"

"Yeah, mom," came the reply. "I'm… fine."

Fang glanced back and saw that his latest 'crash victim' was another boy. He was with a lady that suggested that she was his mother. The woman looked like she was in her mid-thirties and was very, very pretty. Fang couldn't help but notice that in a sort of detached way. Currently, she was fussing around her son and that jolted Fang back to reality.

"Sorry," Fang quickly said and darted on to the street without waiting for a reply. The cross light turned red and Fang dashed out of the way before any oncoming cars could hit him. Yeah. That would suck.

"Did we lose them?" he asked Max once he had reached them. By 'them' he clearly meant the Erasers.

"I think so," Max said, brushing her blond strands of hair from her face. She turned to him and grinned. "Almost lost you in the process though. What a shame."

Fang rolled his eyes at her joke. "I'm like the mold in public bathrooms, you can't get rid on me."

Max allowed herself a laugh and a smile. She wouldn't have wanted it any other way.


The boy wheezed slightly, having to lean on his mother's arm while fumbling around his pockets for his inhaler.

"Isaiah," Hester said worriedly, "That boy did give you quite a scare. You're all pale. Did he hurt you anywhere?"

Isaiah finally found his inhaler and put in to his mouth. Issuing two quick puffs, he felt his chest tighten and then loosen. The sharp pain ebbed away and color flushed back to his cheeks. He gulped down deep breaths before answering with a small smile to calm his mother.

"No, no," he began, dark eyes trailing after the boy that had bumped into him. He recapped the inhaler and absently slipped it back into his pocket. "I was just… surprised. That's all. He came out of nowhere." He watched the other boy meet up with his friends and then the whole group melted out of sight.

Hester regarded her son doubtfully but didn't press on. With a sigh, she took hold of Isaiah's hand and they began walking. Her son was unlike any other fourteen year old boy, who would've pulled away from holding hands with his own mother. Isaiah was physically frail but more loving than other boy she had met. He was content to walk with her on one of her many shopping trips.

"Mom…" Isaiah began, unconsciously rubbing his thumb against her hand. It was a nervous habit when he wanted something. However, Isaiah rarely asked for anything so Hester was always obliged to give him what he wanted. Her son glanced up at her, a cheery smile gracing his lips. So beautiful his smile was that Hester failed to see that his dark eyes had been somber and wistful.

"Yes, hun?"

"Can... can I get a haircut?"

End Chapter.

3. Opposition

Disclaimer: These things are silly. I'm not going to waste word counts by inserting these in every chapter. Once is enough. Obviously, I don't own MR, so please refrain from messaging me about it. Don't sue either. Thank you.

A/N: As usual, thank you for your reviews!

Chapter Three: Opposition

"I am not caused by my history - my parents, my childhood and development.
These are mirrors in which I may catch glimpses of my image."
--James Hillman

San Francisco was a miniature world within itself. It had basically everything to sell from all around the globe. Fang privately marveled at the dirty streets of Chinatown, wondering if this was how a Chinese city would really look like. Probably not.

He sat on a bench between Max and Iggy. The three were eating hot steamed pork buns, sharing the two dozen that they bought. Nudge, Angel, Gazzy, and Total were playing on the playground in front of them, careful to keep the older flock members within sight at all times. The playground was built over an underground parking garage for tourists. There were a lot of other small children playing around and the area was surrounded by adults and the elderly who busied themselves by gambling or playing mahjong on the grubby cement. Pigeons also made their home here and many waddled through the playground. Unsurprisingly, they kept their distance away from the avian hybrids. Fang knew that any Erasers would be easy to spot in this crowd.

"How long are we going to stay here?" Iggy asked Max, sounding like he was still in the process of swallowing.

"Not long," Max replied, reaching over to grab another bun from the styrofoam case that was resting in Fang's lap. She was on her sixth one. "Maybe a couple more days. We haven't seen any Erasers."

"Not since two days ago," Fang corrected, putting a pork bun in Iggy's hand when the blond boy held it out.

"Which is a near record by my book."

Iggy sighed, brows furrowing in anxiety. Max gave him a questioning glance then seemed to remember that he couldn't see it. She leaned forward in her seat to get a better look at her friend.

"What's wrong, Ig?"

"Nothing," Iggy answered, a little too quickly for comfort. There was a little pause as he seemed to reconsider his options. In the end, he gave in. "Well, it's the city. It's loud, too loud. And confusing. I can't seem to focus."

Fang couldn't imagine himself blind but Iggy's plight was understandable to some degree.

"It couldn't have been as bad as New York," he commented, remembering the tunnels and subways. San Francisco didn't have those.

"I really didn't like New York either," Iggy stated flatly, briefly abandoning his half-eaten bun. However, before either Max or Fang could reply, Gazzy came running up to them. With a cheeky grin, the eight-year old plucked Iggy's pork bun away and crammed the rest in his mouth.


"C'mon, Iggy," Gazzy interrupted, taking the older boy by the hand. "Me an' Angel taught Total a new trick on the monkey bars. I wanna show you! Max, Fang, you guys wanna see too?"

"How can you show me anything when I can't see?" Iggy asked humorously, getting up. He smiled with a little bitter undertone to it. Fang glanced at Max and he could tell that she hadn't missed it.

"Later, okay Gaz?" Max said with a smile that was more strained than cheerful, "Fang and I are still hungry."

We are? Fang thought sarcastically but he nodded anyway. It wasn't like he didn't want to spend some time alone with Max.

"Well, alright!" Gazzy had been too excited to pick up on that and dragged Iggy off to the playground. The blind boy stepped into the pebble pit, never once tripping or stumbling over anything.

"He seems fine," Max said, looking after Iggy.

"But he's not," Fang retorted, bumping his shoulder affectionately against Max's.

"I know."

They continued to eat in comfortable silence. Fang's watchful gaze drifted over the playground. He saw a mildly interesting scene where a baby girl had stood too quickly and bumped her head against a brightly colored rail. She started crying and immediately her mother scooped her up and rocked the baby in her arms. The mother placed a sloppy kiss on the little girl's head and started cooing.

Oh honey, are you alright?

Fang slowly sat back on the bench. That's what he could imagine the mother saying to her daughter. He was inwardly puzzled why that alien voice stuck out in his mind. Taking another bite of food, he abruptly shifted his gaze elsewhere. He was feeling a little uneasy and didn't want to direct his thoughts in that… direction. Instead, he found himself staring at a boy who looked a little out of place in the children's playground.

For one thing, he looked tall and much older than the rest of the playground's occupants. He was wearing a white hoodie with some designer brand etched in a grungy pattern. His hood was up, hiding his face in darkness and Fang felt his suspicions rise. However, what was odd about the boy was that he was sitting cross legged on the edge of the playground, lining up pebbles from biggest to smallest. Fang could see his lips move constantly as if he was talking to someone, but no one was around to listen. Everything about the strange boy said Eraser.

"Max-" he began.


"What?" Fang glanced back at her, startled.

"The boy you're looking at. He has autism. That's why he keeps lining up those rocks and talking to himself. People with autism often develop imaginary friends and drift off. They tend to think on a different plane than most people too," Max said, almost droning. Her nose wrinkled distastefully and she rubbed her forehead. Fang frowned.

"Did the Voice tell you that?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"…Y-yes. I don't know why though. It was totally random."

Fang turned his attention back to the boy, slightly fascinated. Max joined him looking curious. After a while, she started turning her head, searching for something.

"That's weird. He shouldn't be left alone like that."

Before Fang could answer, the boy stiffened, as if he could feel their eyes on him. He glanced up, dark eyes directly falling on Max… then Fang. He blinked, shocked, dropping the pebble he had been holding. However, a sunny smile made way to his face and Fang was struck by a horribly eerie feeling. It was the boy he bumped into two days ago. For what it was worth, Fang didn't believe in coincidences. He was still holding his breath after the boy picked his fallen pebble and went back to work lining then up. He apparently forgot about Max and Fang.

"Oh god…" he heard Max breathed beside him. Fang straightened, alarmed to see that her face was suddenly pale.

"What?" he asked, taking her by the arm and giving it a squeeze. Max's gaze was still fixed on the boy.

"Fang, didn't you see? He looked exactly like you!" She turned to him, eyes wide.

Fang blinked, mirroring the exact same way the boy had. His shocked expression mimicked every little detail and he could see that Max was even further upset by it. He looked back at the boy, studying him intently.

"You sure?" he asked, doubtfully. The boy raised his head again, giving Fang a confused look. "I don't think…oh. Oh." He stared back.

Max was getting up, clearing debating whether or not she should confront the look-alike or get the hell away. She might have been talking with the Voice as well for she kept on shaking her head and muttering under her breath.

"Is that all you can say? 'Oh'?" Max asked, sounding exasperated, "Fang, he's freakin'- oh, nevermind! I need to get the others."

'Oh', was right. Fang might have said it out loud, by his head just did a somersault along with his stomach. He held on to Max's arm, keeping her still.

"Fang, let go!" she said, brown eyes flickering from him to the strange boy.

"Wait, what makes you think he's dangerous?" Fang asked, struggling to get the right words out. He didn't know what to do. Max wanted to get away, but he wanted to stay. He didn't know why, but his gut instinct urged him to meet the boy. Focusing his thoughts, a sudden feeling came up. The more he thought about it, the more it became clear… and as it became clear, Fang became scared.

"What makes you think he isn't?" Max shot back.

"I-I saw him before," Fang explained quietly, screwing his eyes shut, trying to recall everything. "Two days ago when we separated I bumped into him and there was a woman with him… Max... that might've been his mother. My mom." He opened his eyes, only finding Max staring at him with a slightly pained expression.

"You saw him before…" Max echoed skeptically but her tone was gentler, "How come you didn't notice then? Fang, it's... so obvious."

Fang shrugged; though he was jumpy enough to make it looked like he twitched instead. His could feel his usual nonchalance ebb away, giving into something like… silent hysteria. Frankly, he was a stranger to that particular emotion.

"I don't know. Maybe because I don't usually spend a lot of time looking at myself," Fang said with a thin smile. He was glad that his voice didn't sound as shaky as he felt. Max did not smile back though. He let go of her arm and stood up, trying to tell himself that this was the right thing to do. If they ran away now, then it would just bug him for the rest of his life… and some life that was, always running away. He started walking towards his mirror copy.

"Fang…" Max called.

He stopped, not wanting to turn around. He put his hand behind his back and crossed his fingers. Wait.

"Trust me, Max," he said and kept on walking with every intention that she would follow him.

"Just be careful," Max answered with a sigh. She sat back down on the bench and Fang knew that she was also signaling the others to do the same. He felt a guilty stab of conscious since he expected her to go with him. Of course, the flock came first. She trusted him to be able to deal on his own.

When he finally reached the boy, Fang stopped in front of him. The boy hadn't looked up yet, seemingly concentrated in rearranging the pebbles in neat rows. Fang shifted, his long shadow falling over his look-alike. Pausing, the boy tilted his head upwards, an expression of disbelief marring his face. His hood slipped back, revealing newly trimmed black hair. Fang was stuck by the resemblance now that he was up close. It was like looking at himself in the mirror.

"You-" Fang began but the boy cut him off by putting his hands up and grabbing on to Fang's.

"You," the boy mimicked with a playful grin and gave a tug, "You wanna see our mom, right?"

End Chapter.

Please review, thanks.

4. Destruction

A/N: Thank you for being patient and reviewing. I hope this chapter is worth the time. Rawr.

Chapter Four: Destruction

"The giant Grof was hit in one eye by a stone.

That eye turned inward so that it looked into his mind.

He died of what he saw there."

-The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

Fang's heart leaped to his throat and he was unable to speak for several seconds. Obviously, the boy looked like him but he didn't quite expect their voices to sound the same too. It was ridiculous. Of course the boy had to sound like him, but thinking it in oppose to hearing it weren't quite the same. Well, there were slight differences aside from their twin pitches. Fang had never heard himself sound so… naïve, cheerful, and… loud. He yanked his hand from the boy's grasp as a reflexive defense, face twisting into a scowl.

"Oh…" said the boy, suddenly appearing crestfallen and embarrassed, "Sorry. Your mom. Not ours. Or mine. Sometimes I think about your mom being my mom. It makes me feel better since I don't have one, but I think you already know that. It would be weird if you didn't because then I'll have to explain everything and mom says… sorry—your mom says I'm not good at explaining things. I'm glad you came though. I didn't think I'd get to meet you ever, but then I saw you the other day and I thought to myself, it had to be Isaiah!"

Fang's lower jaw dropped, just a millimeter. It was like him and Nudge's mouth put together. Incessant chatter that didn't make sense. It was unnerving.

"Wait… what?" he fumbled, trying to piece things in order, "What about my mom? And Isaiah? Is that my… No. I wanted to talk to you. We're related, right? We have to be. Unless-"

"Huh? Say all that again, please."

"Like brothers or twins-"

"Oh! Wouldn't that be awesome?"

"So we're not?" Fang asked sullenly before lapsing into a brooding and slightly confused silence. He threw himself down on the ground and sat, looking dejectedly at his twin, look-alike thing… or…

"Then you're a clone."


Maximum Ride stood over them, arms crossed and looking angry. Fang suspected that she wasn't angry at them, but at the School… or more specifically, Jeb. She herself had a clone that tried to replace her when Max failed to meet 'certain standards'. However, they haven't heard from Max II in a long time. Fang clasped his hands together, finding them to be shaky. So what was this creation in front of him? Fang II?

"That's right," the clone said, looking relieved, "That's what they called me… a prototype or whatever."

"Well, tell stupid Jeb or the School or whoever the hell sent you that I don't ever want Fang replaced and I certainly don't want you two fighting to see 'who's the best' either," Max said hotly.

The clone's bright smile faltered and he blinked, clearly bewildered.

"Don't… understand," he stuttered, "I'm not Fang's replacement. I'm Isaiah's." And then he gestured to Fang. "His replacement… Oh, but don't tell mom, I have to keep it a secret from her. She'll be happy that way, that's what they said."

Max stared, baffled. Fang could see why. Bright, happy, talkative, and with a demeanor of a six-year old… his clone turned out to be his polar opposite in personality.

"So let me get this straight," Max began after a moment of hard thinking. She squatted down to meet the clone's eye level, "You're Fang's clone-"

"Isaiah's," the boy interrupted, unable to draw two and two together.

Max's eyes slid sadly towards Fang. Isaiah was his real name, not Fang.

"My mistake," she conceded, "You're Isaiah's clone…but how…?"

"The doctors switched us," said the clone, going back to his pebbles. He tapped Max's shoe, politely urging her to move out of the way since she had stepped all over his play area. Max scooted, too shocked to do anything else. "Right when Isaiah was born. I don't know why though. Is it because mom doesn't like wings? Uh, I mean... Isaiah's mom."

Fang's eyes had never left his clone, but he leaned back in sudden realization.

"You don't have wings?" he asked, lowering his voice unconsciously.

"No, but I heard that you do," the clone whispered back with a smile, delighted that Fang was telling him a 'secret'.

Fang exchanged worried looks with Max. Either his clone had a trick up his sleeve or he really did have autism. Fang was inclined to believe the latter though he seriously couldn't consider why the school made a kid with mental disabilities. Maybe the clone was some sort of reject the School gave to his mother.

And speaking of his mother, did she know? Some part of Fang childishly hoped not. Because of that, he felt that something inside him might break and shatter. A vulnerable sense of numbness was worming its way through his head. The thought that he was avoiding came in full realization.

He just didn't want to be hurt.

It was disgusting. He got hurt all the time from fighting. Physically hurt. He never bothered to deal with the ones that stabbed his heart. It suddenly made him feel weak and afraid and Fang didn't like that.

Not one bit of it.

Like most of his fears, Fang knew how to put a stop to it or manipulate it into something he could build his strength on. This kind of unknown fear couldn't be contained, so he simply sealed it and cut it off entirely before it had the chance to grow.

"Your face is how I look like when I'm feeling sick," the artificial boy chimed out of nowhere, "Kinda pale and my pupils dilate real fast. Are you feeling okay, Isaiah?"

Fang felt the clone and Max look at him. The raven-winged boy hadn't said anything and his face was schooled into an emotionless façade… same as always. He didn't think the clone could read him like that. That little thing that threatened to break inside him started to crack.

"Don't call me Isaiah. If anything, that should be your name," he said coldly, voice as brittle as chipped ice.

"I can have your name?" the clone asked in delight.

Fang threw his living reflection a shrug.

"It was never mine to begin with," he said and stood up, "Bye, Isaiah."

His sudden movement startled Max into grabbing his wrist.

"What are you doing?" she asked, also getting to her feet.

"Getting out of here," Fang answered smoothly, his unreasonable anger desperately trying to hide behind his nonchalant words. "I think Iggy's right. We should leave San Francisco."

He didn't have to look, but Fang could image Max's frown and her mouth opening to protest. He started to walk away before she could say anything but Isaiah grabbed on to Fang's ankle and held him back. Fang had no choice but to turn to Isaiah with an annoyed look.

"Wait!" Isaiah nearly shouted, "Don't you want to see your mom? I took good care of her for you!"

His last sentence was a desperate wail. Whether it was the chilling sound of his own voice or the mention of his mother, Fang had guilt shooting him in the back.

Dark eyes glaring at Isaiah, he responded stiffly, "I don't want to see her. Now let go."

Surprisingly enough, Isaiah stared back at Fang with his mouth hanging open and released his ankle. However, his stunned silence didn't last long. In fact, Fang thought the clone suddenly had amnesia since he continued talking as if nothing happened.

"Come to the Golden Gate Park playground tomorrow at noon. Mom's going to be there," he grinned happily.

Fang's frustration bubbled but he didn't want to give Isaiah the satisfaction of losing it. He didn't want to do it in front of Max either. He said nothing and walked away. Max's hand lightly grazed his but Fang quickened his pace to edge away from her touch.

"Don't tell me you actually want me to meet my mom," Fang said, avoiding eye contact.

"I want you to chose whatever makes you happy," Max answered back quietly, sounding a little shy about her choice of words but firm about her decision to let him do whatever he wanted… which meant she expected him to go to Golden Gate Park. Fang became irritated.

"Sentimental shit is weak," he muttered, unable to get fully angry with Max, "I happy now. So goddamn freakin' happy."

They neared the bench where the rest of the flock was waiting patiently for them. Uncharacteristically quiet, the look in their eyes asked questions that Fang didn't feel like answering. Involuntarily, his gaze lingered on his blind friend… that scared feeling slinking back in.

"It might not turn out like that," Max said, almost as if she had read his mind, "…Like Iggy's parents."

Might not.

Fang didn't bother responding.

"Who was that?" Nudge asked, breaking the silence as soon as Fang and Max reached them. Her large brown eyes blinked curiously, switching back and forth to Fang and then across the playground to Isaiah.

"Fang's clone," Max supplied briskly, her tone suggesting that the flock would refrain from asking any more questions until later. Of course, her sharp voice wasn't enough to put a hold the talkative Nudge.

"Oh my god! What does he want? Is he going to fight Fang? What's he doing here?"

Angel had been sitting quietly as the flock erupted into furious chatter. She was staring at the silent Fang intently when her face suddenly crumpled and her blue eyes welled up with tears. She rushed forward, wrapping her arms around Fang's waist and giving him a hug. "You're not going to leave us, are you?"

Fang's furrowed brow raised slightly and he gently hugged her back. "What makes you think that?" he asked, puzzled.

Angel buried her face into his shirt and simply shook her head. She had the power to read minds, but Fang was pretty sure that he hadn't specifically thought about leaving the flock.

Apparently the tears were infectious. Nudge and Gazzy's eyes started to look a little wet. Max was quietly whispering to a thoughtful looking Iggy and Fang couldn't help but feel irritated that she was discussion something that was rightly not any of Iggy's business. However, he supposed he should turn off the water works before they got out of hand.

"Look, I'm not going anywhere," he explained to the younger flock members. He tried for a smile, but even he could feel that it was barely visible which, in his case, undetectable. "I'm not interested in my mother. I'm satisfied with knowing that she's… here."

Fang trailed off, not knowing what else to say. It was all so crystal clear now. He knew that his mother was alive and that should be it. His clone had been made for the sole purpose of deceiving his mother. Logically, that was what Fang was aiming for. He didn't think he could stomach the idea that his own mother was working with the School. Reason number one, he didn't need her like how Iggy thought he needed his parents.

Angel's blond head shifted slightly. Her face tilted to the side and suddenly the weight was off his arms. She was looking past him, back at the playground. Max and Iggy weren't whispering anymore and their gazes were locked on a spot behind him.

"Wow…" breathed Nudge, her expression one of wordless awe.

Fang fully expected Isaiah to be coming at them with a pack of Erasers at his wake. The raven-winged boy turned around, protectively putting a hand on Angel's shoulder. At his touch, the little girl glanced up at him, bright blue eyes sparkling.

"Your mom's so pretty…" Angel whispered.

It was like a physical slap of realization from the moment Fang saw her. She was young, probably in her mid to early thirties. Her long black hair hung freely down her back like curled streamers and her skin had the same olive tint as his, a perfect match. With a slim figure and confident walk, she looked like she had come straight out of a fashion magazine cover. Fang was struck by their resemblance, even more so than with his clone.

His mother came from the opposite end of the park, walking with careless grace towards Isaiah. She called out his name, a voice with a sassy alto ring. Isaiah responded quickly, lifting his head and breaking out into a wide grin. He waved and she came. They gave each other a quick hug and Fang noticed that she did not seem to mind the dirt Isaiah transferred over to her designer cashmere coat. Oddly enough, something about that made his chest heave and breath come short.

Fang found himself staring for a stretched amount of time, watching the woman that was suppose to be his mother interact with a boy that was suppose to be him. It wasn't until Isaiah briefly snuck a bashful glance over that he was able to break free from the spell. Their dark eyes met of a moment and Fang instantly flicked his gaze away.

"Fang?" Max's voice sounded far away, but he knew she had seen his expression change slightly.

"Let's go," he answered shortly. His jaw was set firmly and his stance looked as if he was ready to run. Objecting to him was no use.

Max regarded him for a moment and then nodded.

"If that's what you want," she sighed.


The flock had made their way to a small park that was located in the outskirts of the city. Fang flat out refused to camp out in the Golden Gate Park. Since the silent boy never asked for much, the flock felt that it was fair to let him have what he wanted…no matter how childish it appeared. Fang also knew his actions were unreasonable, but matters didn't improve once everyone started to offer some form of advice that he clearly did not want to take. The last straw came from Iggy as they were finishing the last of their meager lunchbox dinners.

"You know… running away isn't exactly going to make the problem go away."

"I'm not running away. Unlike you, I just want to avoid getting my whole life's story made into a book by my own parents," Fang snapped at Iggy before he could stop himself.

The whole flock went deathly silent. In the dim glow of the city lights, he could see that Iggy's face had turned white with anger. The younger boy opened his mouth, throat almost growling out a furious retort. However, he quickly pressed his lips together before the insult could come out.

Max was the first to recover from Fang's outburst. She simply collected her trash and got up to dump it in a nearby trashcan. Angel and Gazzy followed closely after her as Nudge took a sudden special interest in staring up at the hazy stars.

"…I didn't deserve that," Iggy said eventually, shrugging a dismissal towards Fang.

What he had said to Iggy was low and Iggy made it clear that he knew it was. Fang wasn't in the mood for apologizing and Iggy probably knew that as well. Now the whole flock was uneasy so Fang decided to spare them the awkwardness and turn in early. He got up without preamble and left the group.

Two solid oak trees stood not too far away from where the rest of the flock was. Fang easily hefted himself up, choosing the smaller tree of the two. The rest of the flock can rest in the other one. For now, he just wanted to be alone. He climbed until the branches became too thin for support and stayed there. Leaning his back against the slimming trunk, he unfocused his gaze and started… thinking.

What was he going to do?

When no immediate answer came, Fang's dark eyes rolled upwards to the sky in mild exasperation. He was a mess and the flock was on the receiving end of his frustration. It wasn't fair for them, but a simple apology could fix things up in the morning.

"Hey Fang, you up there?"

Fang glanced downwards, finding that Iggy was wandering around on the ground below. The blind boy occasionally paused, tilting his head to the side to listen for any movement. As a reflex, Fang whistled softly to show where he was. Moments later, Iggy was sitting quite comfortably a few branches below him.

The two sat in silence and Fang thought that Iggy had fallen asleep. However, the blond-haired boy was slightly fidgeting. He had something to say and he wasn't going to leave Fang alone until he did.

"Look, I know I'm not the best example to use, but it's alright to be scared… and stuff," he began.

Fang knew something was up when Iggy was acting as his counselor. However, he did see something that he could almost relate with him. After the dinner incident, Fang felt obligated to let Iggy speak.

"Yeah?" he prompted, surprising Iggy by actually showing that he was going to listen.

"Well… uh, think of it this way," Iggy turned his sightless eyes towards him, "You have nothing to loose, right? Meet with your mom, if you don't like her, then jet out."

Fang almost let out a sigh of frustration.

"There's still my clone to deal with. I can't just go up to my mom and say that she's been living with the fake version of me."

Iggy blinked.

"He was the one who offered, right?"

"That's what I don't like about it," Fang replied with a frown. He was quickly running out of patience, despite his private promise to be tolerant with Iggy. "Ig, thanks, but-"

Iggy cut him off with a furious shake of his head.

"Dude, but this is your family. How could you just pass it up? Everyone else in the flock is jealous! You\re mom-"

Fang went livid. This time he was the one doing to interrupting.

"My mom. You saw her, Ig! She looked like a effin' slut, right? Make-up painted two feet deep, glitter lipstick, and a freakin' manicure with bright pink nail polish? Short skirt and tank top? Well, she had a coat over it but still... Her hair was even cut like a teenager's. Three inch high heels. Hooker boots, practically. I mean, what kind of mother would dress like that? She came off like a ditz and irresponsible woma- why the hell are you looking at me like that?"

Iggy sat quite still as Fang ranted, a wide smile starting to spread across his face. Something about that smile eventually caused Fang to pause and stiffen. It wasn't Iggy's usual smirk but one of kind amusement. He wasn't at all sure if it was a good sign.

"You took in every detail of her," Iggy stated with a tilt of his head, "…must mean something, you think?"

Fang stared down at Iggy, suddenly exhausted by the sheer amount of words that just poured from his mouth. He turned away, his stoic expression crumbling into nothing. Slowly, he let his head sink into his hands. Fang shut his eyes.

"I'm… going to sleep" he muffled tiredly, "Wake me up when it's my watch."

Fang heard Iggy shift from the branch and land softly on the ground. There was a muted rustle of feathers brushing together and then the gentle brush of footsteps over grass.

"I don't regret meeting my parents," Iggy said, voice slowly fading as the blind teen walked away, "Now I know for sure that I would rather stay with the flock than anyone else. Don't brush this chance off, Fang."

A chance for what? Getting hurt? Becoming disappointed?

Being happy?

Fang asked, but Iggy was already gone.

End chapter.

5. Attention

A/N: MR3 will not be taken in consideration. I'll continue this story as if I hadn't read it. Thanks for the reviews, sorry for the wait. I know it kinda died, but I'm giving STF some needed CPR!

Chapter Five: Attention

"I will do this. Nothing in my life matters except this. No moment in my life exists except this moment. I am born in this moment, and if I fail, I will die in this moment."

-Raistlin Majere, The Soulforge.

Fang woke up to the lingering smell of pancakes and sausages. He slowly opened his eyes and blinked rapidly in the hazy sun that shone through the branches of the tree. It was morning and judging by the cool air, it was still pretty early. But still… it was morning. Fang steadied himself by gripping the branch he was sitting on and let out a soft growl. Glancing down, he saw Iggy under him with four full bags of breakfast from McDonalds. From far away he could see Max and the younger kids head towards the park's public restrooms.

"Ah… so the beast awakens from his deep slumber," commented Iggy as Fang jumped down from the tree.

The raven-haired boy frowned, though the downward curve of his lips failed to show any real hostility. He took a seat on the ground while his dark eyes stayed on Iggy to give the blind boy a rather ineffective glare. However, Iggy merely tossed him two wrapped sausage McMuffins with a cheeky grin.

"You didn't wake me last night," Fang said indifferently, catching his food. He quickly removed the wrapper and took a bite.

"Well, today's a big day for ya," Iggy replied, leaning forward as if he could see Fang's expression if he did, "I figured that you needed a few extra hours of sleep."

Fang chewed slowly, savoring the taste of the greasy fast-food sausage. He swallowed, lowering the McMuffin from his mouth as well as his eyes from Iggy.

"And what's that suppose to mean?"

"I think you know very well what I mean."

"No," Fang said, deliberately transferring each word slowly to get his point across, "I don't."

Iggy, sensing that his friend wasn't in the mood for talking or hearing advice, sighed. "If you say so," he muttered. The blond-haired boy busied himself with large bites of pancakes as Fang brooded in silence. He felt as if he was going around in circles. The idea was tempting, but the consequences just spelled out a big unknown into his future.

Not like he had much of a future to worry about.

And there he went again, talking himself in and out of things.

"It's going to hurt either way," he said quietly.

Iggy had that blank look that suggested he didn't hear Fang. However, the blind boy stopped chewing for a moment. After swallowing, Iggy spoke up, nearly causing Fang to twitch in surprise.

"Of course it is," he grunted, "When Ari beat the living crap of you, did that hurt?"

Fang couldn't see where Iggy was going at, but he decided to humor his friend anyway.

"…Yes," he answered tersely.

"But does it hurt still?" Iggy pressed on.

"No," Fang sighed, realizing that Iggy was trying to sneak in some philosophical garbage into his mind, "Iggy, that's different from… this. It was only physical damage, so I healed." Fang's curt tone dipped below zero degrees.

"The bruises did, but you still got the scars, right?" Iggy said, looking rather proud of himself for creating and instilling such a deep metaphor. The effect was almost lost on Fang.

Fang's lower jaw twitched, as if he could still feel the three parallel scratch marks from Ari. The scars were fine and light. They faded over time. He didn't know of it was his avian DNA, but the marks were barely visible unless he leaned up against a clean mirror and inspected it closely. "Scars don't hurt, Ig."

"But they do remind you of why Ari is such a bastard."

"What does that have to do with-"

"And where Max gave you that kiss."

Fang stood up, feeling his face turn a bit pinker than he would have liked it to be. "Now you're just going off track," he growled.

Iggy only grinned and shrugged. "Am I?"

Fang was about to give back a scathing retort, but he caught Max and the younger flock members come within hearing distance. He didn't know what else stopped him from saying anything to Iggy. Instead, he bit his tongue and pretended that he didn't hear.

"So… where to now?" Max asked, looking from Iggy to Fang and trying to play it nonchalant and utterly failing.

Max was the flock leader. It was totally not necessary to ask him or Iggy to their next location. She wanted him to stay in San Francisco, that much was obvious. Fang threw her a dark look, refusing to answer her question.

Unfortunately for him, Iggy stepped in and slung an arm around his shoulders.

"I'd like to go to the Golden Gate Park," Iggy grinned, "I'm sure Fang could use some fresh air."

Max smiled.

"Golden Gate Park it is."

Fang groaned but much to everyone's surprise, he did not protest.


"Mom! The therapist doesn't help at all! I don't need him. I don't want to go!"

Hester gazed into the eyes of her six year old son. His dark eyes were bright with intelligence, but shiny with panicked tears of rebellion and protest. His chest was heaving, not from his contained sobs, but from exhaustion. After all, they had climbed a single flight of stairs. Isaiah had never been physically energetic like most toddlers. She stopped him in the middle of the hallway, acutely aware that her son was causing a big scene in the solemn clinical building. She took his hand and brushed his black hair from his forehead.

"Isa, what makes you say that?"

The young boy appeared instantly frustrated instead of upset. His small hands balled into fists and his opened and closed his mouth several times before he could get the right words out. Isaiah was smart for his age, but there were some things even he could not explain.

"Doctor Sang. He's an evil scientist," Isaiah whispered, glancing around nervously.

Hester did not laugh at her son's antics. Isaiah sounded frightfully sincere, but Hester couldn't blame any child who was afraid of doctors. "I'll have a word with him then," she assured and got up. Keeping a firm grip on his hand, she continued walking.

Isaiah did not seem convinced. He slowed his pace so much that Hester felt as if she was dragging him.

"You said all he would do is talk to me and give me exercises," Isaiah tried to explain, but he sounded more accusatory than contrite, "He just sits there and measures and stares at me!"

Hester's steps faltered. She was paying a great deal of her meager earnings to get her son to be physically healthy. If the doctors weren't doing their job, she was going to have a serious discussion with them. She trusted Isaiah. Her son wouldn't lie to her, even to get away from the doctor he was so scared of.

"All right. I'll go talk with him," Hester promised and started walking again.

Isaiah did not respond. His eyes seemed to be fixed on a nearby security camera. He obediently followed his mother without another word.


The park's playground was empty. Disturbingly empty, Fang couldn't help but noticed.

He and the flock were sitting at a distance from said playground. Far enough not to be out in the open but close enough to have a good view of it. They had waited since nine in the morning and now it was three quarters past eleven. Fang couldn't help but feel jittery. He hoped it didn't show, but evidently it did since Max or Iggy would place a comforting hand on his shoulder periodically. Eventually, Fang moved aside, clearly showing that he could handle himself.

The small cluster of trees they were in provided shade and a nice hiding spot too. Angel, Max, and Gazzy were sitting in one of the larger trees and Fang, Nudge, and Iggy stayed sitting next to its trunk. Occasionally Fang would get up and pace softly, needing to burn off his anxious feelings. The rest of the flock chatted casually, always avoiding the subject of why they were even here. Even Nudge knew that Fang's level of sensitivity wasn't as serious as he made it out to be. His mind could change any moment and none of them wanted to be the reason for it.

"There he is!" Angel's voice called out, excited.

Fang turned in mid-step, dark eyes towards the playground in an instant. His clone was walking quickly around the area, obviously puzzled and looking for him. After a silent moment, the boy glanced up, exactly in Fang's direction. Even from this distance, Fang could see his clone's happy smile. He almost felt nauseated by it.

The clone waved towards him, using both arms.

"I think he wants you to wave back, Fang," Max said dryly, "Either that, or he wants you to go over there."

Fang scowled, "Obviously. That happy to get rid of me, huh?"

"Curses. You have discovered our plan," Iggy drawled.

However, Max abandoned her sarcastic expression and dropped down from the tree. She gave him a fierce and quick hug. "It'll be okay," she said, taking a tone that she often used with Gazzy or Angel.

"I… I'm not going to leave," Fang said, slightly bewildered from the embrace. He cleared his throat and said in a stronger voice, "I'm not leaving you guys."

"Fang. You're going to see a woman that's really your mom for the first time in your life," Iggy said, "You need a hug, regardless if you're going to leave us or not."


"You're not going to hug me, are you?" Fang asked skeptically.

Iggy snorted and gave Fang a fond punch to the shoulder, "Of course not."

"Good," Fang said and started walking towards Isaiah.


Isaiah sat uneasily in the playroom. All around him there were toys of all different kinds. Racing cars, stuffed animals, a TV, dolls, and even a train set were all in his line of vision and grasp. At any other time, Isaiah would have been happy to play with every single one of them. However, mom was talking with the evil scientist in the doctor's mini office. Isaiah couldn't see what was happening. He couldn't even hear anything when he had pressed his ear against the door.

He fidgeted in his chair. The chair was made for his size, so he missed being able to dangle his feet and swing them back and forth. His arms rested uselessly on the child-sized table. There was a coloring book in front of him, but Isaiah didn't feel like doing anything.

The door creaked open and Isaiah jumped out of his seat. Maybe he wouldn't have to come to this awful place ever again. He looked towards the office, but the door was still closed. Isaiah suddenly felt cold and he turned his head slightly to face the second door that lead to the room's exit.

A tall man came inside, looked around, and headed towards Isaiah. He had alert blue eyes, a bald head, and a fuzzy brown goatee that Isaiah might have found funny if he wasn't so… big and intimidating.

"Is your name Isaiah?" asked the man. His baritone voice was surprisingly smooth and even gentle. For a moment, Isaiah was scared that the large man was actually going to sit down in one of the mini chairs and break it. However, he only sat down on the floor so that he was closer to Isaiah's eye level. Even when he was sitting down, the man was still taller than the boy.

"Yes," Isaiah answered with a shy smile, curiously drawn to the man.

"My name's Nicholas, but you can call me Nick."

"Oh… okay," Isaiah said, still partly in awe of the man's size. A second later, the little boy held out his hand. Mother always reminded him to be polite when meeting new people. "Hi Nick," Isaiah said solemnly

Nick paused, something of a startled expression crossing his face before he resumed his friendly manner. His hand engulfed Isaiah's and they shook. "Nice to meet you," he replied, equally as polite.

"Me too," Isaiah said, getting nervous again. He was running out of polite things to say for a greeting. However, Nick seemed to be thinking about other things and started to talk.

"Good. Well. Isaiah, I have a few questions to ask you. Please answer them truthfully. From what your mother says, you're not a bad kid who tells lies."

Isaiah blushed slightly, "Telling the truth is always better. That's what mom says."

There was a flash of teeth and it took Isaiah a second to realize that Nick was grinning. Isaiah swallowed involuntarily. He really didn't like that grin. Fumbling for a crayon, Isaiah distracted himself from the grin by scribbling in the coloring book. He knew he was being a little rude, but he couldn't help it. Isaiah glanced up, hopefully conveying that he was still listening.

"Indeed," Nick's voice rumbled, "So… question one… do you like this place?"

"No," Isaiah answered quickly. He looked down at the coloring book. "I'm sorry… I don't." He thought that maybe apologizing to the man might not make it sound so hurtful, but Nick just continued on.

"Hm… why?"

For some reason, Isaiah felt more open to speak his thoughts to Nick than with his mother.

"Um… the doctor… Doctor Sang," Isaiah began carefully, "I don't like him. He doesn't act like… a doctor. Not the ones I had before. He's not mean, but he doesn't… treat me like… a-" Isaiah struggled for the right word, "…patient. When he says stuff, he sounds like a scientist. I tell mom, but…" Isaiah shrugged.

So it went on.

Nick would ask questions that were totally random in Isaiah's head. Do you have any pets? What are your hobbies? What are your favorite toys? Then again, some questions Nick asked were very hard for Isaiah to answer.

Let's say there was a railroad that leads to two places. One place has your mother tied to the tracks while the other has ten people you don't know, also tied down. You can make the train take one way or the other. Who would you save?

Isaiah had answered that he would save his mother first and then find some way to save the other ten people. Nick only smiled at that. Isaiah decided to give the questions more thought next time.

After thirty minutes of other hard questions, Nick looked straight into Isaiah's dark eyes.

"Last question."

Isaiah blinked and then nodded eagerly. He was getting a bit tired and he realized that his mother still hadn't come out of the doctor's office yet.

"How do you feel?"

Isaiah pressed his lips together. This question was different. It was simple. Too simple. Or was it simple? Isaiah forced his sleepy mind to concentrate. He had a feeling that this question was important. The boy thought for a full minute in silence. He had abandoned his coloring book long ago.

How did he feel?

Right now? Tired, but that wasn't the right answer he wanted to say.

There was a word for it, what he felt about himself. It made him think of candy.

"I feel… artificial."

Nick smiled, showing a bit of that scary grin he had displayed earlier on.

"You're absolutely correct, Isaiah."


Fang approached Isaiah with every thought on turning away at the last moment. He didn't see his mother and that worried him. Maybe he was wrong. This was a bad idea. It was a trap. He reached the playground, the crunch of small pebbles sounding loud to his ears.

"Where's… my mom?" Fang asked without preamble.

Isaiah gave a doglike tilt of his head and then unceremoniously shoved Fang into a giant play tube. Shocked, Fang fell right in, almost bumping his head inside the small tunnel. He instinctively crouched low, aiming a kick at the opening where he was outside moments ago. However, his foot fell short and Isaiah merely took hold of it and pushed Fang further in before crawling inside himself.

"What the hell are you doing?" Fang snarled, carefully but quickly turning to Isaiah. The play tunnel was cramped and Fang couldn't see why Isaiah would find this a good fighting spot. His clone could barely move around as well.

"Shh!" Isaiah said, "Mom might come over and see you."

"Where is she?"

"Waiting for you," Isaiah whispered, sounding giddy and childish.

"If she was really waiting for me, then why did you push me in-" said Fang, angrily.

"I… can see your wings," Isaiah replied softly.

Fang blinked in the dark tunnel, instinctively reaching for his sweater to tug it down. However, his hand collided with the tunnel's wall with a sharp sound of plastic against knuckle.

"Ow…" Isaiah winced in sympathy.

"You mean she doesn't know?" Fang asked, ignoring the dull pain, "About the wings?"

"…Noooo…" Isaiah said, "But you need to hide them better so she can't see."

Fang was unexpectedly delighted by this. It was awkward, but he was relieved. If his mother didn't know about the wings, then she wasn't in league with the School.

"You can wear my hoodie. It's bigger," Isaiah continued, wrestling with his jacket.

"Why are you doing this?"

Isaiah lifted the jacket from his body, head still buried beneath thick cloth.

"Because I think you'll like her," said the muffled voice in the hoodie.

Fang frowned and was about to argue when the hoodie was tossed into his face.

"Hurry up!"

Fang didn't know why, but that's what he did. With some difficulty with the limited space, he got his sweater off and Isaiah's jacket on. The hoodie was very large, either for style or… Isaiah just liked wearing baggy clothes. Fang brushed off a few loose feathers.

"So… I'm just going to meet her, right? She isn't going to try and… take me back, is she?"

"Um… I dunno," Isaiah said carelessly and crawled out of the tunnel.

"What?" Fang exclaimed softly. Climbing out after Isaiah, he reached over to take hold of his clone's shoulder, "What are you saying?"

Isaiah blinked and took hold of the hand that rested on his shoulder. He started to quickly walk out of the playground… in the opposite direction of where the rest of the flock waited. There was nothing strong about Isaiah's gripe on his hand. Fang was sure he could rip himself away at any time. However, he felt as if Isaiah had a stronger hold over him anyways… nothing physical… just a sort of mental hold. Fang had little choice but to follow.

"It's really a surprise for both you and mom," Isaiah finally explained.

That stopped Fang in his tracks. Isaiah kept on walking with pure determination on his face. Fang recognized that look. He used it often whenever he fought Erasers. He allowed himself to be dragged.

"You said that she was waiting for me!" he snapped, "Are you saying that she has no idea I exist?"

"No, she knows you exist. I'm the one who isn't supposed to."

Fang went silent for a second. "That's not what I meant…"

Isaiah giggled. It was slightly disturbing since Fang knew that's what he would sound like when he giggled. "Look, there's mom!"

Fang looked up, feeling himself turn hot then cold. What was it? Fear? It was the same feeling that he had felt when he caught up with Max on the beach with her wrist dripping blood of a self-inflicted wound. It was definitely fear. This time, however, he gave up into a silent panic.

"I… I don't want to do this anymore," he said softly, in case his mom could hear. It was unlikely that she could. The beautiful woman was sitting in a small grove of trees on a bench. It looked like she was reading a magazine.

Isaiah stopped walking all together. His naïve eyes widened in what Fang could describe as stunned astonishment.

"You're lying!" Isaiah exclaimed, utterly confused.

"I already told you yesterday that I didn't want to meet her."

"Yeah. Your mouth said it," Isaiah said, brows furrowing, "But your eyes told me something else."


Isaiah gave him a fleeting smile and gave him an encouraging push towards the woman. Fang stayed put, but instantly jumped forward when Isaiah started shouting.

"Mom! I want to go home now!"

Fang turned around quickly, stunned to find that Isaiah had disappeared. He heard the soft rustle of grass and found his clone hiding behind a thick tree with a large grin. It was stupid. Fang could clearly see him…

… but his mother couldn't.

"Isa? Home already?"

Fang froze in his spot. He was tempted to run behind the tree with Isaiah, but he found that his feet had other plans. They turned him right around to face the woman.

"M-mom…?" he asked weakly.

The woman regarded him carefully, alarm spreading across her face.

That's it. She knows I'm not Isaiah…

"Oh, Isaiah!" cried Hester, getting up from her seat and running over to him. She put both hands on his shoulders. He was just as tall as she was. "I told you not to run around too much! You're all pale. Are you all right? Where's your inhaler?"

Fang blinked as she started to pat down his hoodie (or rather, Isaiah's hoodie). Reaching into his front pocket, she drew out said inhaler. She held it up, looking ready.

"H-hey! Look… I'm f-fine!" Fang said, feeling very flustered. He felt the heat rise up in his cheeks.

His mother started, slowly lowering down the inhaler. She laughed, sounding relieved and even… hopeful to Fang.

"False alarm then," she said, handing back the inhaler.

Fang took it and slipped it back into his pocket. He had a feeling that there weren't very many 'false alarms' when it came to his clone.

"Are you sure you're fine?"

Fang made a little sound that he hoped wasn't a squeak. He had been staring at his mother unabashed. He swallowed and nodded, not wanting to say anything. Though, if he thought about it more, it was because of his unusual silence that made his mother anxious.

"So… Isa," she said with a smirk that seemed to be perfect for her, "Do you still want to go home or should we stop by for ice cream first?"

"Home," was her son's instant reply.

Hester's lower jaw dropped by a centimeter. The boy glanced up, looking uncomfortable.

"Unless you want some ice cream," he said hurriedly.

Hester grinned and shook her head. Reaching over, she affectionately ruffled Fang's hair and then took him by the hand.

"Nah," she said in good humor, "Home it is."

End Chapter.

Please review!

6. Devotion

A/N: Four months, I'm positively dreadful. Well, dreadful or not, thank you for the reviews. They really push me forward! (Very slowly, but that's entirely my fault, lol.)

Chapter Six: Devotion

"…Lying's bad. It's not right."
Sometimes it is. Isaiah, you're a good person, right?
"Yes. I think so."
You are. But you're also just one whole lie. Does that make you a bad person?
"I don't understand."
Please, answer the question.
"…Yeah. It does."

Fang found himself being tugged along by his mother's hand. It wasn't all that unpleasant either. He glanced back at the tree where he knew Isaiah was hiding behind. Confused but excited, he was torn between beating the shit out of his clone or falling to his knees and thanking him.

What that it?

It all happened so suddenly. Was this Isaiah's plan all along? Switch them, simple as that? There were so many things that could go wrong. He didn't even say good-bye to the flock. Where was Isaiah going to go? Was he more crafty than he let on?

Too much, too fast.

Fang felt his legs jerk beneath him. He wobbled, but kept up. This wasn't like him.

"You feeling sick, hun?"

Fang couldn't look at his mother. Not yet.

"Um… No. But I think I need to sit down. Please."

She looked at him, a stubborn line creasing her brow. For a fleeting moment, Fang could see Max wearing that same expression. He let out a breathy laugh that sounded more like a sigh. His mother steered him to another bench and he sat down gratefully.

His mother didn't say anything else. Fang suspected that it wasn't from lack of concern, but from how frequent these type of occurrences happened to Isaiah. Was his clone really that weak?

"Inhaler out, Isaiah."

Fang obediently took it out, not realizing that his breath was coming out shallow. It wasn't for the reasons his mother thought though. Fang inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. He wasn't sure what he'd do if his mother asked him to take a puff of unnecessary medicine. Fang turned the inhaler in his hands, trying to read the chemicals inside. It was gibberish to him, but there was something that caught his eye.

Take in the morning every two days.

Fang didn't know what was so strange about it, but it was highlighted and circled. Of course, it'd be eye-catching. However, a handwritten scribble was next to it. Fang peered at it closer, trying to figure out if it was just random whirls or actual words.

See ya then!

It became clear as day. Two days. Fang was going to spend two days in Isaiah's place. They were going to meet back here in the morning. It made sense.

Or maybe he was totally off and Isaiah's message was just a weird scribble after all. Fang hoped not, but it was too late to do anything about it now. There was no time to think, his mind refused to do so. He put the inhaler back in his pocket.

"Mom," he said, tasting how the word felt. It was nice, just like her hand on his. He lifted his gaze to focus on her worried face. "…I'm feeling better now."


He was confused. It hurt. He started screaming and shouting. He wasn't even sure for what reason, other than the words Nick said hurt a lot.

"Why did you tell me? Why?" he was screaming. It didn't make sense. He had no reason to throw a tantrum when the facts were just sitting there in front of him. Isaiah's vocabulary did not understand anything about 'denial'. "You're lying. I'm real!"

Nick appeared unfazed by Isaiah's outburst. If anything, he seemed to expect it.

"Of course you're real,"" he said patiently, "but you're not Isaiah."

It was like saying cats weren't cats or blue was orange. The ground was the sky. Up was down. If he wasn't Isaiah, then what was he?

"I'm me! My name's Isaiah!"

"You are clone four-six-one. You don't have a name."

Isaiah froze, staring hard at the images the TV flashed. After Nick was finished with his questions, he had carried the TV all the way over to the mini table they were sitting at. Then he started saying things Isaiah couldn't and wouldn't comprehend.

"I don't understand," the young boy repeated, though there was no conviction in his voice, "Why do I have wings?"

The TV showed him inside a white room. His hair was cut shorter and he was dressed in a gray tunic. He was inside the room with two other kids his age, a girl and another boy, both with blond hair. They all had wings.

"That's not you. That's Isaiah. The real one."

"Why?" Isaiah whispered, not knowing what else to say.

"You were made to keep his mother happy and safe."

"She's my mom."

"Not your biological mother, but I suppose you're right."

Again, Isaiah did not understand. He felt unbelievably sad, as if some inner part of him understood everything that was going on.

"But your mother isn't happy, nor is she safe anymore."

That made Isaiah turn his head to Nick. He was still a little scared of the man, not just because he was huge. The man knew things. He knew things that made Isaiah fearful to hear them.

"Is it because of me?" Isaiah asked. There was a small whimper to his soft question.

Sensing that a connection point had been reached, Nick leaned forward. His large hands rested on Isaiah's arms and his bright blue eyes were fixed on Isaiah's pale face. The clone made no move. His mother was in danger and he loved her too much to let her happiness and safety dwindle away. Nick determined that much and used it to his advantage. Isaiah was a multi-million dollar cover-up for Hester. He would do his job.

"Yes," Nick said simply, "You've been telling your mother things. Dangerous things that could get her killed."

Isaiah's brow furrowed. His shoulders quivered.

"I haven't been lying to mom."

"And that is precisely what could get her killed."

The shaking stopped. Nick could see the boy's face flush hot. The clone was weak and it began to waver. Nick pursed his lips. The clone's mental capacity was higher than the average child. There was no way it was being overwhelmed with this new information. However, if he took in emotional needs, then yes… the clone was genuinely distressed. Nick hesitated, but he started to squeeze the boy's shoulders.

"Listen to me," he said sternly. However, the clone's eyes started to water and he was struggling to breathe. Nick tightened his grip and gently shook the boy. "You. Clone. … I… Isaiah, listen. Are you listening to me?"

The boy gave a tiny nod. His dark eyes blinked rapidly, struggling to focus on the big man.

"You love her, don't you? You want to keep your mother safe. Am I right?"

"Yes," Isaiah said, his voice cracking, "I want her safe."

"You would do anything for her, yes?" Nick asked quietly.

"Anything," the clone repeated.

Nick let his piercing blue eyes fall heavily on four-six-one.

"Then you're going to have to lie to her."


The walk back to the playground was far. He had been in such a hurry leaving it; he wasted most of his energy getting his original to his mother. Isaiah stopped in mid-step, feeling very torn between crying and laughing. He knew he was doing the right thing. He had waited years to do this, but there were bits and pieces missing from the bigger plan. No matter how hard he tried, couldn't remember all the exact details of it. His mind was a complete jumble.

The sweater his original left him was still in the play tunnel. Isaiah half-jogged over to it, reaching inside and pulling it out. Despite the day being sunny, it was getting cold and his t-shirt wasn't doing a good job of keeping him warm. Slipping it on over his head, Isaiah felt something poke him at the base of his neck. He yelped, all sorts of images popping up in his mind. Growling dogs, claws, knives, needles…

He gingerly touched his neck, feeling spongy bristles against his hand. Puzzled, he took hold of it and stared. It was a black feather. Angling it, he saw that it sort of shimmered violet if the light hit it right. It was very pretty.

It was hard to believe that the real him had wings like a bird. He stared at the feather a while longer before slipping into the pocket of his jeans. Feeling a little bit better, Isaiah fisted his hands and took in a deep breath. His lungs expanded on cue, which was a very good sign. He probably wouldn't need his inhaler anytime soon. In any case, it was going to be worth it.

Now where was he?

Isaiah glanced around him. Funny. He didn't remember seeing that blond girl running up to him before. He had a feeling he should haveve seen her earlier since she was coming real fast in front of him. There was also two other girls, though none of them as old or tall as the first one. A little boy was pulling on another tall boy's hand, looking a little angry. Actually, they all did. Angry. That was something Isaiah could recognize fairly easily.

"Hi," he said politely. Isaiah would've waved, but the older girl had silently grabbed him by the front of his sweater with a cold look.

"Where's Fang?" she demanded. Her hands shook and so did Isaiah.

"You aren't fooling anybody," said a little girl with a teddy bear in her arms. Isaiah's eyes flickered to her for a moment, feeling a little lightheaded as he was pulled down to the older girl's eyelevel.

"Fang?" he stammered.

Max snarled and shook the clone again. Did he honestly think that putting on Fang's sweater and posing as him was going to fool anyone? Now Fang was nowhere to be seen. It was a stupid mistake to let him go with the clone. She glanced at Angel, who was frowning slightly, as if she was solving a delicate puzzle and wasn't sure what to do next.

"Tell me where you took Fang!"

The clone only continued to stammer out apologies and unintelligible explanations. He went deathly quiet as Angel laid a hand on his shoulder and stared at her with bewildered eyes. Even Max couldn't keep her fury for long. The clone looked terrified. She allowed her grip to slacken, but only just.

"Where's Isaiah?" Angel asked, her voice growing gentle and coaxing.

The clone's breath became nonexistent, but he opened his mouth with a small look of surprise.

"Right here," he whispered quietly as if it was the simplest answer in the world, "I'm Isaiah."

Max pulled him lower again, but she was wasting her energy. The clone's body went limp as he gave a tiny moan and folded to the ground. Startled, Max held on, making sure he didn't fall too fast. Kneeling and holding her hand to his nose mouth, she felt the clone's breath tickle her fingers and she pulled away.

"Is he okay?" Nudge asked, sounding giddy with excitement and worry.

Iggy had knelt down beside Max and was softly pressing his hand over the clone's chest, "Not really, but he's alive, if that's what you meant. I… I don't think he'll be waking up anytime soon. You scared him, Max." He smiled half-heartedly, but didn't seem particularly pleased with his own humor.

"If that's what it's going to take for him to tell us the truth, then I can't really say I'm sorry," the flock leader replied.

Angel fingered Celeste's paws, a thoughtful look on her face.

"But he wasn't lying to us. Or, at least, he doesn't think so."

Max turned to Angel, her hard expression softening, "What do you mean?"

Angel threw an anxious glance at the unconscious clone. Max wondered if she was trying to read him. Angel bit her lip, but ended up shrugging and shaking her head.

"He thinks a lot, like his mind's a maze. I'm lost... and so is he."

End Chapter.