The Breaking Point by Skye Maxwell

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Adventure, Drama
Published:2008-08-17 19:11:14
Updated:2010-01-31 15:46:03
Packaged:2021-05-07 02:16:18
Summary:Everyone has their breaking point. Fighting among flock members leads to huge problems, and Max reaches the point where she won't take it anymore. Bones, buildings, hearts, and faces are broken, among other things. Picks up after MR4.

Table of Contents

1. Stores Have Lots of Colors
2. Just a Joke
3. As Long As the Flock is All Together
4. Breaking a Promise
5. Panic
6. The Thunder of an Angel
7. Go Ahead and Hate Me
8. An Open Book
9. Missing
10. I Don't Want It to End Like This
11. A Litter of Puppies and an Elephant
12. I'll Have a Ted, Hold the Ice
13. Fly On: Keep Your Eyes to the Sky
14. Pain
15. The Truth, Lies, Confusion, and Denial
16. Taking First Watch
17. You Can't Kill Me
18. Bad Dreams and Worse Reality
19. Headfirst
20. Cue Lightning
21. Stranger Than Sympathy
22. It'll Make Sense Later
23. Sirens
24. Dissolve and Disappear
25. Interception
26. Delirious and Seeing Double
27. Dropped

1. Stores Have Lots of Colors

Hello people of FanFiction! This MR story picks up where James Patterson left off in MR4. It may not exactly fit, but I'll try my best. Some exceptions: Angel has not fully recovered yet, the Voice isn't giving up the coordinates just yet, and Max still wants to lay low. It's going to have a good amount of chapters, so look out for updates! This story is more than just a cushy romance, especially here towards the beginning, just to let you know. But let's hope that's not all you're looking for. Hope you like it!

Chapter 1

"Where are we going?" Nudge asked.

Good question, I thought. I had no idea where we were going. We were flying through the air, somewhere over northern Virginia. My heart was unusually light as I moved my wings powerfully through the afternoon air. The voice in my head normally would have told me where to go, but it had been pretty quiet lately, which I didn't exactly mind. I was more than capable of figuring things out for myself.

"I think we should lay low again for awhile until we can figure out the next step in the whole 'saving-the-world' mess," I told Nudge and the rest of the flock.

"Wait," Gazzy said, "So you don't know exactly where we're going?"

I admitted, "Well, no-"

The flood of suggestions suddenly came at me.

"Ooh, let's go back to New York!" Nudge squealed, "It's so pretty and stylish! Ooh, and shopping! We have to do lots of shopping! And food! We have to eat lots of food! I want like, three footlongs from the hot dog vender!"

Her eyes sparkled at the thought of tasting a hot dog again.

"I always wanted to see Barcelona," Total added from his spot inside my jacket.

"No, we aren't going all the way back to Europe. It's too long of a flight, and it's too far away from my mom and Ella." My heart gave a little pang. I missed them already. A lot. Forgive my sap.

"Why don't we go to your mom's house and wait for her to come back?" Angel suggested, reading my thoughts, knowing how happy it would make me to be in the house with Mom and Ella again, watching Mom baking those sinfully amazing chocolate chip cookies.

"No. We can't, Angel, it's too soon. We've already put them in enough danger."

But thanks for thinking of me, I thought at her, you really are an angel.

She smiled weakly and sent her thoughts to me, saying, I know I'm not. Thanks, anyway.

Angel frowned and moved sideways away from me. I hated seeing her like that. I knew she was still feeling bad about what had happened in Antarctica. I could never hold it against her, though. She's just a six-year-old, and I can't stay mad at her for wanting to check out the penguins up close. Even if it did almost cause the death of her, Fang, Total, Akila, and myself from hypothermia. Whatever. No big deal. Not our first brush with death. I would have to talk to her later.

"I wanna go to Hawaii!" Gazzy exclaimed, putting on his sweetest smile, "I hear it's warm, and the beaches are amazing, and there's huge volcanoes and pineapples and pig roasts and hula dancers and-"

"I would not mind hula dancers," Iggy said wistfully.

"You wouldn't even be able to see them!" Nudge said.

Iggy shrugged. "I would have Fang describe them to me."

That didn't make me happy. I'm not completely sure why. Fang, who was carrying Akila, just kept flying, ignoring Iggy. Whatever.

"I'm still on board for Hawaii," Total said, having suggested Hawaii back in Antarctica. He could get pretty annoying sometimes, but it would break Angel's heart if we just dumped him somewhere like I had wanted to do ever since he had shown up. Nudge squealed, "And we could swing by that air balloon festival that you wanted to see, Max!"

"We already missed that. It was a couple of weeks ago, I think," I told her. Again, whatever. Just a tiny disappointment on my life-long list of disappointments.

I know everyone wanted to be somewhere warm and pretty and interesting, but I just didn't feel like Hawaii was the right place.

"Guys, we're not going to Hawaii. We would still have to cross part of the ocean."

"But I wanna go to Hawaii!" Total whined. Akila was far enough away that he didn't have to put on his 'macho' act like he usually did in front of her.

"No, Total."

"Don't be such a stiff! Hey, maybe if we go there, you can do a little limbo-ing and loosen up a bit," he said.

That was it. In case you couldn't guess, the whole 'lighthearted' feeling was gone by now. "Total, say one more thing like that, and I will unzip this jacket and let you fall through that cloud and down to the ground, which I'm guessing would be unpleasant for one of us. And no, it wouldn't be me. And don't even think those baby wings will save you."

Heh, I pride myself on being such a nice person.

Total backed off, scooting a bit farther down into my jacket, mumbling something that I didn't even want to try to understand.

"Ooh, let's go back to Texas!" Nudge cried, unable to focus on one destination, "They have the best cheerleaders ever!"

Why on earth does she want to go back to New York and Texas? Because things just went so well there the first time...

Iggy whistled. "Cheerleaders," he said simply. I knew what he was thinking.

"I'm rolling my eyes, Iggy," I said.

I don't always understand Nudge. She's almost always talking, and when she gets older, she wants to be a cheerleader and an actress and a marine biologist and own a chocolate factory like Willy Wonka's. Well, that's the list at the moment, anyway. I think it's nice that somehow she still has the ability to dream, though. Unrealistic, but refreshing.

I need to land, Max. Now.

It was Angel. Her arm was still in a sling from when Gozen broke it, and her sprained ankle was wrapped up, making it ten times harder to fly. Plus she was still weak from the whole almost-froze-to-death-in-Antarctica situation.

"Heading down, guys," I said. I looked for a safe place to land and picked a bunch of trees not too far from a little strip mall. We all touched down gracefully, hardly making a sound, except for Angel. She hovered over the ground for a moment, not wanting to land on her ankle. She finally landed on the ground, not-so-gracefully, balancing on one foot.

I quickly scoured the area for possible danger, then went over to check out Angel. "What's wrong?" She was on the ground, leaning up against a tree.

"I'm just really tired. And hungry. I can't keep going right now, Max. I'm sorry." She looked like she was holding back tears.

I dropped onto my knees and gave her a quick, gentle hug, smoothing the hair out of her face. "It's okay, Angel. We'll find somewhere safe to rest for a while after I go find some food. Okay?"

She nodded and closed her eyes. Total came up and licked her hand, followed by Akila. As soon as I let go, Gazzy came over and hugged his sister, and it was almost like one of those little Precious Moments figurine things my mom has or a Hallmark card… Except for the winged dog, of course. And the dirt and the sweat and the injuries...

I stood up, feeling Fang's eyes on my back.

I turned to him and said, "Stay here and keep her safe. I'll be right back."

He nodded silently, not looking at me. We had been getting on each other's nerves lately. I turned away, ready to take flight, not wanting to deal with Fang and his problems.

"I'm coming with you," Nudge said.

"Me too," Iggy said, "Stores have lots of colors."

"Fine, let's go," I said, walking through the trees toward the strip mall.

There's Chapter 1 for you. Reviews, especially ones with constructive criticism, are loved and adored. If you make a suggestion, I will be sure to consider it. Also, ask questions about anything unclear, and I'll do my best to answer them. Thank you!

-Skye Maxwell

2. Just a Joke

Thanks to everyone who added this to their story alerts and reviewed. Much love to you! Here's Chapter 2.

Chapter 2

We came back with a bunch of food. Iggy had gone all around the little store, up and down the aisles, feeling everything and marveling at the amount of different colors. If it was to make me laugh or that he was actually fascinated by the colors of the marshmallows on the Lucky Charms box, I'm not sure, but it was pretty funny.

There was only one worker there, the cashier, and the place was too small and run-down to have a security camera. Nudge had distracted the young woman at the register by pulling her to the back of the store and asking her about all the different types of alcohol in the refrigerator, outraged at why she wasn't allowed to have any. The woman was dumbfounded. She was obviously really shy and looked like she was going to jump off a building if Nudge didn't leave her alone. Too bad for her, I guess.

Anyway, while she was distracted, I got the stuff we needed and got out of there, with Iggy right behind me. I'm not completely above stealing, considering how I've been raised and such, but I only took what we needed. And some chocolate.

We returned to find Gazzy, Angel, Akila, and Total all in the same spot. Angel was asleep with her head on Gazzy's shoulder. I approached them and realized that I didn't see Fang anywhere.

I walked over to Gazzy and said, "Gazzy, where's Fang?"

"Um, I don't know?" he said, his angelic little eyes looking up at me in surprise. He looked around, obviously unaware of Fang's location. "He was here earlier-"

"Where the heck did he have to go that was so important that he couldn't say anything?" I asked no one in particular. "I told him to stay here." I was angry now. I absentmindedly began pacing back and forth, growing more and more irritated. How could he just leave the kids alone like that? I was going to give him a nice kick in the face as soon as he came back.

Nudge, who was behind me with Iggy, giggled suddenly. She clapped her hand over mouth, but it was too late.

I walked back to Nudge and looked at her suspiciously, and then without taking my gaze off her, I punched the air to the right of her. Hard.

"Ow!" Fang said, appearing there where I had punched, falling back a step. A flood of relief and renewed anger went through my mind. I was relieved that he hadn't left Angel and them alone, and I was also relieved that he was standing right there, because I would have looked really stupid if I actually just punched the air.

And assuming you have a brain, you can guess why I was angry.

"That wasn't nice," Fang said shortly.

"That wasn't funny," I said back.

Nudge said timidly, "He didn't leave. He just wanted to see your reaction. It was just a little joke."

"Well, he should have known better than to sacrifice my trust with leaving him in charge for a joke," I said to her, mad that she had tried to hide it from me. Mad because she didn't say anything despite the fact that my rage and uneasiness had been visible.

I turned back to Fang. "You are so stupid sometimes!" I said, raising my voice.

Nothing. His face was completely blank. Nothing was more obnoxious, and I'm pretty sure he knew that. My fist automatically clenched at my side, ready to punch him again if necessary.

"Why would you do that? What am I supposed to think when I come back and I think you're gone? What kind of right-hand man are you, making me worry like that?"

Darn it. I just admitted to worrying.

"I didn't actually leave, Max."

"You wanted me to think you left, which is just as bad!"

"Not really."

What kind of argument is this? How can he act so calm?

"Have a sense of humor," he said.

"You don't have any sense at all! I am not going to put up with you being an aggravating moron all the time. Don't mess with me, Fang, because next time I hit you, I won't hold back." He gave a quick glance at my fist, knowing it had the ability to cause serious injury. And I mean serious injury.

"You wouldn't."

I hated how casually he said that, how sure he was.

"That's what you would think, isn't it? Well, think again."

I finished with a long, icy glare. He showed no sign of repentance, so I turned away from him and left him there.

"Sorry," Nudge whispered to Fang, feeling bad for having given away his position.

Iggy snickered. "That was probably the stupidest argument they've had so far," he said quietly to Nudge as they followed behind me, thinking I couldn't hear him.

Nudge replied, "It's guess it's kinda funny. But more than funny, it's sad."

I pretended to not hear them. I didn't care about the flock saying things behind my back (literally!). Whatever. That was becoming my word lately. I wonder if there's someone you can call so you can claim a word for yourself. I would totally do that.

Angel had been awakened by the noise, and she looked at me with half-opened eyes. As soon as Iggy put down his bag full of food that he was carrying at Angel's feet, everyone started eating. Everyone except for Fang. I heard him walking off somewhere, and right now I didn't care where he was going. It seemed that everything he did lately bothered me and caused a fight, and it wasn't fun.

I did set some food apart from the pile for him, though, so the kids wouldn't tear through it and leave him nothing.

I know. I'm a saint.

After we all shoved the food in our faces, I decided it was time to move on, but Fang still wasn't back. I put Iggy in charge and flew into the air to look for Fang.

I used my raptor vision to spot him way high up in the air, doing graceful arcs, stroking with his long, dark wings. He caught sight of me and started swiftly upward, already above the clouds.

You are so immature, I thought bitterly. I sped up to him and yelled, "Come back down and get Akila! We're leaving to find somewhere for Angel to rest!"

He just kept going up, and every foot higher he went, the angrier I got.

I shouted up to him, "Fine! I left you food down there. You better get it before some animal does! We're heading west, toward those hills!" I pointed, but he didn't look.

"Whatever, you'll find us," I said, almost to myself. I returned to the ground at super speed. I picked up my pack and Angel's, then helped Angel up off the ground.

"We only have to fly a little bit more, and then you can sleep for a long time and get better, okay?" I said to Angel, "Do you think you can do it?"

She nodded. I was proud of her.

Iggy took Total, and I scooped up Akila.

"Where's Fang?" Nudge asked nervously as we were about to take off.

"He'll meet up with us later," I responded, not answering her question.

She didn't question any further. She knew better.

We then all rose up into the air together, the ever-cheerful band of mutants, minus one, plus an annoyingly heavy Malamute.

That's Chapter 2, hope you liked it. Please review, and tell the truth! I can take it! Hopefully...


3. As Long As the Flock is All Together

Hey! Thanks again to everyone who has added this to their story alerts and favorites. This next chapter is a bit shorter than the last two, but the length of the chapter just depends on the flow of the story. Here it is:

Chapter 3

After about ten minutes of slow flying, Angel couldn't go any further. We found a place on the side of one of the hills to rest. There was a river close by and a bunch of tall rocks and trees for protection. Angel quickly went to sleep, this time with her head in Iggy's lap. He held her shoulder gently, watching her intently as if somehow he could transfer his strength into her body through his touch.

Total and Akila trotted off to do some exploring, and Nudge followed them after a strict warning from me to look out for herself and to not stay away long.

Gazzy found his way to the top of one of the big rocks, and I flew up and sat next to him.

He hesitated for a minute before saying, "Angel's gonna be fine, isn't she, Max?"

"Of course, Gazzy," I said automatically, not used to hearing him worried. "As long as the flock is all together, it'll always be fine." I ruffled his hair a little and smiled when he tried to escape from my hand. He smiled back, but it faded almost instantly.

"But…" he started to say, hesitating again.

"What, Gazzy?"

"But we're not all together."


"He's coming to meet us soon, Gaz."

"What if he doesn't?"

"What makes you think that he wouldn't come find us?"

"I don't know… You guys are always fighting. And not in the way you used to. It's way worse. What if he wants to leave for good and splits us all up again?"

Gazzy looked down, avoiding my eyes.

This sucked.

Fang was like his big brother, and Gazzy didn't want to be separated from him. My teeth clenched painfully as I began to think of my own brother, or half-brother, Ari. We didn't exactly have the greatest relationship in the beginning, but in the end, I understood him. I risked the trust of everyone around me by trusting him, and in turn he risked his life for me. Then he reached his expiration date. It was so wrong. It was so freaking unfair… I missed him now, missed him terribly. Just knowing that he was gone, that I would never see him again, killed me inside.

I realized Gazzy was looking at me curiously, and I came back from the awful place I had just gone to.

"He wouldn't do that," I said, hoping it was true. "He promised he wouldn't leave the flock again."

No. I wasn't going to lose another brother. Not again.

"I hope not," he said quietly.

My heartbeat started pounding painfully in my head, and I hugged him hard. I breathed into his messy blond hair, "Gazzy, if I have my way, Fang and the rest of the flock will be sticking together for a long time."

"You're pretty good at getting your way, Max," he said.


We sat by each other for a long time in silence. I watched Iggy fall asleep, with his hand still rooted firmly on Angel's shoulder. Nudge, Total, and Akila returned just as the sun was starting to set, and they were all dripping wet, probably from going in the river. Nudge went to change into dry clothes as the dogs just shook the moisture off. When Nudge returned, she looked up at me. I really didn't feel like going down to her and talking, so I just gave her a half-hearted smile, and she seemed to be content with it. The three of them fell asleep soon after that, curled up next to Iggy and Angel.

Gazzy and I watched the sun slowly set together from our place on the rock. Fang still hadn't come and found us by the time Gazzy nodded off, which did nothing to suppress my anger. For a second I thought he might not be able to find us, but knowing Fang, the thought was quickly dismissed. I gently picked Gazzy up and carried him down to where the others were, placing him carefully near Angel.

I stood there for a moment, gazing down at my flock, feeling that overwhelming sense of duty that always hits me.

Your real duty is to save the world, Maximum.

The Voice. I groaned.

Making a comeback after your little hiatus, I see? Golly gee, I missed you oodles while you were gone.

There it was: my undeniable, first-rate sarcasm. It's a gift.

Don't forget your real mission, Maximum. The whole world needs protection, not just them.

Shut up, Voice. I am not in the mood for you right now.

Are you ever?


I returned to the top of the rock, and my head was still pounding mercilessly. It looked like I would have to take Fang's watch tonight.

That's Chapter 3. Please review! And make suggestions! If you want to see something happen, tell me. I don't care how stupid it is. Hey, even if I don't use it, it's good to know. And even if it is stupid, everyone needs a good laugh now and then. Haha. Thanks!

-Skye Maxwell

4. Breaking a Promise

Hey. I just spent over four hours trying to get this chapter right. Aye. Here's Chapter 4 for you:

Chapter 4

I was sitting across from Jeb, at a little white table. He looked troubled, but serious. I didn't wanna be there.

"Maximum, we need to talk."

"What do you mean we need to talk? I don't have anything to say to you."

"It's about your mission…"

I woke up with a start. I sat upright and looked down at my flock frantically to see if they were okay, feeling so stupid for letting myself fall asleep.

"They're all fine."

Fang appeared, sitting a few feet away from me. He had been invisible, and I jumped a little.

"What?" I mumbled.

"Everyone is fine. I've been watching them."

I was relieved, but I wasn't about to admit that to him.

"Why'd you fall asleep?" he asked, knowing I normally would have stayed awake, not taking my eyes off the flock.

"Well, I had to take my watch, plus someone else's watch." I glared at him accusingly, not mentioning the throbbing headache I'd had or the dream I'd just had, sitting there with Jeb for what seemed like hours and hours, discussing certain things. Hoping Jeb, the Voice, would hear me, I thought, So now you're invading my dreams, too?

No answer.

Fang shook his head, still watching the flock. The moon was bright overhead, and the faintest breeze was blowing through the trees. I figured I had been out for about an hour, and it was around two or three in the morning.

He said, "We-"

"Need to talk," I finished for him. "We need to stop fighting," I stated.

"We've always fought."

"Not like this."

He frowned slightly, still not looking my way. I could tell he was thinking through something. He finally said, "Why?"

That was a stupid question. Weren't there a bunch of obvious reasons? I started with the not-so-obvious reason. "I talked to Gazzy earlier, and he's really upset about it. I think everyone is. He's worried that-"

"So you don't actually want to stop fighting?" he interrupted, "You just think we need to because of something the Gasman said-"

"Don't be a jerk!" I interrupted back, not knowing why he insisted on being so ridiculous, "You know the answer to that, Fang."

"Maybe. I don't know a lot of things, Max. I don't even know you anymore."

No, he didn't speak much, but the few words he'd just spoken managed to pierce me like a knife.

I wanted to scream at him right then and maybe throw him off the rock, but I didn't want to wake everyone else up. I took off quickly, flying through the trees, hoping he would follow. He did.

I landed after we had flown far enough that the sound of my voice wouldn't carry to the flock's ears. As soon as he landed next to me, I shoved him backwards forcefully, into a tree. "Do you really think that I'm that stupid?" I yelled, "Do you think that after we fight, I go and have a barrel of laughs with myself? Is that what you really think? You think I enjoy the fact that the person who is supposed to have my back is looking straight through it every time I turn around?"

A bit of surprise played across his face, which almost never happened. But I was more than angry now. He had just made a huge mistake, and I was not going to let him get away with it.

"You were supposed to be my best friend, the person I could count on for anything! You were supposed to be the person I trusted with my life. You were the person who knew me better than anyone, and now you can just say with a straight face that you don't know me at all?" I paused, feeling venom starting to circulate through my body. I was giving him a chance to speak up, to tell me I was wrong, to say that he was still that person, to do something...

No response. He just stood there.

Just when I thought I couldn't get any angrier at him.

"We are not dividing those kids again, but we don't have to be friends or mean anything to each other if you want to be like that."

I paused again, thinking.

"You know what? The flock doesn't need to split. I just don't have to be a part of it. The Voice always told me saving the world was my job, so I guess I'll just do it myself!"

Glad to hear you actually listen once in a while, the Voice popped in for a second to say.

Still no response from Fang. He was sure choosing a heck of a time to stay silent. Here I was, threatening to leave him behind, threatening to leave the flock, saying I was going to save the world without them, and he still somehow found a way of not saying anything. I couldn't believe him. His blind cruelty was astonishingly terrible.

I found myself thinking, Who the heck is this person standing in front of me? Where the heck did Fang go?

"If you can stand there and tell me you don't know me, after all we've been through, while my blood is flowing through your veins… if you hate me that much, then you're not the Fang I've known all my life, and I don't want to know you!"

Stupid hot tears that felt like lava suddenly welled up in my eyes, and I cursed them in my mind. I had to get out of there. I spread my wings open and leaped upward. In the split second of my escape, he caught my right leg powerfully as I was rising in the air, nearly detaching it from my body.

"We promised we would never leave each other again," he reminded me, using his immense strength to hold me back.

Now you choose to say something?

What was that in his voice? I didn't recognize it. Hatred?

"Yeah? Well I guess I'm a liar, then. Let go," I said, rage filling my voice and choking me. I was resisting the urge to kick him in the face.


"I don't belong to your flock. I don't know you," I said, giving his words back to him, staring straight into his dark eyes that I had once seen something in, and to my surprise, he let go. I bolted off into the night, never wanting to see him again. I hated that he got to see those stupid tears in my eyes. Now they were streaming down my face as fury consumed my insides like acid.

I know they're acting different than usual, but know that I'm doing that on purpose.
Questions, comments, or suggestions? Submit a review or message me.



5. Panic

Hello, faithful reader. Here's a small excerpt from the last chapter to make this first part easier to understand:

(Max POV)

"We promised we would never leave each other again," he reminded me.

What was that in his voice? I didn't recognize it. Hatred?

Okay, here we go:

Chapter 5

Fang hated everything. He hated Max, he hated the world, and most of all... he hated himself.


Sheer, real panic. He had heard it in his own voice when he reminded her of their promise. He hardly recognized it, because it had never passed his lips before.


Not even Max could pick up on that previously unthought-of sound.

He'd had to watch her fly away again. It wasn't the first time, or even the second time, but this time, it burned him even worse than before, which he hadn't thought was possible.

He had considered trying to fly after her, but he knew he would never be able to catch up when she was going at super speed. Besides, even if he could catch up, she would probably roundhouse kick him out of the sky.

He began walking uphill, leaving the sleeping flock to fend for themselves. He couldn't face them now. He couldn't face anyone now, including himself, but he didn't really have a choice with that.

Max's screaming voice was echoing through his head. Every word came back and replayed like a broken record that he just couldn't stop. Brazen bursts of pain worse than any headache ruptured his brain, in a firework-display of explosions. It got suddenly hot, then suddenly cold in an endless loop. His fingernails dug into his palms, but he didn't notice.

After about half an hour, he dropped to his knees. He couldn't go on. Everything in his past that he had put behind him came back and hit him in the face. Every physical pain that he had fought through in the past few weeks returned to his weakened system. The pain was unbearable. He sat down and threw up.

It was excruciating, and Max wouldn't even care if she saw him like this. He tried to get up and walk again, but the pain he felt overrode his desire to keep going. It was like the air had just been pulled out of him. It was taking all he had to keep his head up.

He suddenly punched a tree so hard that pieces of bark flew off, scattering onto the ground. His knuckles were splintered and bleeding. That used up the last of his energy.

The worst part was that the only person that could make things better hated his guts. He personally drove away the person that could make everything better. He might never see that person again.

That was his last thought as he closed his eyes.

No, he's not dead. He just... lost consciousness. Extreme distress and physical pain, you know? Sorry if you didn't like that I made him barf. Just be glad I didn't describe that part in excruciating detail, because I could have.

Yup, the thing that Max thought was hatred in Fang's voice was actually panic. "Sheer, real panic." Fang has never heard himself panicked before, so that's a hint to how he feels.


6. The Thunder of an Angel

Chapter 6

"Fang?" she cried as she shook him violently. Nudge, along with Total and Akila, found Fang, lying on the ground, looking almost lifeless. Iggy had woken up around six, wondering why Max hadn't made him take his watch, only to find that she was missing. The flock had split up and had been searching for Max for at least an hour now. Nudge had been surprised to find Fang.

She closed her eyes and put both hands on him, trying to feel what he had been feeling before he blacked out.

She shrieked loudly as a terrible amount of pain hit her, and she threw her hands off his body. Her nervous breaths became short and painful as tears began to fill her eyes.

"Total, Akila, stay here," she instructed apprehensively, "I'll be right back. Don't move."

Total, who could talk almost as much as Nudge, kept his mouth shut and just nodded grimly as he stared at Fang's body.

Frantically flying in the direction opposite from where she came, she found Iggy, the Gasman, and Angel searching around the river.

She landed in front of them and told them breathlessly, "We found Fang."

Iggy said in disbelief, "You found Fang?"

Nudge shifted anxiously from one foot to another with her eyes wide and said, "Yeah. Found Fang."

Gazzy asked,"What about Max? Was she with him?"

She shook her head, not saying anything. That told them that something was really wrong.

The only thought Angel could read from Nudge was, Gotta get back to Fang. Gotta get back to Fang.

Angel sent the thoughts to Iggy and Gazzy, realizing Nudge's urgency.

Simultaneously, the three of them said, "Let's go."

They immediately took off, with Nudge leading, and a few minutes later they were all there, standing around Fang. Iggy placed his hand on Fang's chest. His heartbeat was quiet and slow, but it was there. He touched Fang's face and was worried when he felt an almost pasty white.

"He barfed," Gazzy mentioned, quickly stepping away from the mess he'd found.

Nudge made a face, trying to hold back her tears. "Gross."

"Wow, he's really out of it," Iggy said in wonder, grabbing Fang by the shirt and shaking his limp body.

"STOP IT!" Angel roared deafeningly, clutching Celeste, her little angel bear.

Nudge shrieked in return, Gazzy covered his ears as if he'd set off a bomb, Akila scurried away to hide, and Total, who had been striding back and forth mumbling to himself, stopped in his tracks and turned to Angel with wide eyes.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that was thunder, Angel heard Total think.

Her thunderous cry caused Iggy let go of Fang suddenly, letting him fall to the ground.

"IGGY!" Angel yelled, giving him a death glare that he was lucky enough to not be able to see.

They all just stopped and stared at her, not knowing how a six-year-old child could produce such a sound.

Ignoring them, Angel dropped to her knees carefully beside Fang. Iggy, who was kneeling on Fang's other side, backed up a couple of feet, not wanting Angel to leap over and try to throttle him.

She sat next to Fang and placed Celeste on his chest. She picked up his hand and grew uneasy seeing that his knuckles were torn up and his palms were scarred over where his nails had broken the skin. After silently wrapping his hand around her tiny one and getting his dried blood on herself, she closed her eyes nervously.

Fang, she sent into his head, wake up. The flock is here. We want you to wake up. We need you.

There was no reply; there were no thoughts to read. She squeezed his hand more tightly as Akila slowly made her way back and the rest of the flock just watched silently.

Fang! You have to wake up! We need to go find Max. We haven't seen her since last night, and we think she might be in trouble. Please, Fang. I know you can hear me! Wake up!

A single tear escaped her eye and traced a line through the dirt on her face. She gathered all her power and strength to try to reach him, and she felt like her head might explode.

I want you to wake up right now! You can't leave us! We need you. I need you! Max needs you...

"No she doesn't," Fang whispered, barely audible.

"Fang!" Angel squealed faintly, before collapsing onto him in sobs. He sat up and looked around, momentarily confused. He looked down at the top of Angel's head, moving up and down as she cried into his chest. He patted her on the back awkwardly, not knowing what else to do.

What happened? Why is Angel crying all over me? Fang thought.

"I thought you were going to tell us what happened," Angel said, her voice muffled.

Nudge could no longer contain herself. "Fang! Where have you been? Why did you leave us? How long have you been here? Where's Max? Have you seen her? Is she alright? Why did you leave us? We were looking for Max! It's weird that we found you. Are you alright? Why are you so pale? What happened to your hands? Why did you throw up? Was it because of that chocolate that Max got from the store? It upset my stomach, too. Probably because I had too much… Are you okay? Why did you scare us like that? What-"

Fang was relieved when the Gasman grabbed Nudge's hand and made her put it over her own mouth.

The pieces of the puzzle finally all linked together in his mind again.

He said, "Um, sorry for leaving. I needed to… be alone."

His head still hurt a lot, and he didn't feel like thinking.

My head hurts too, Fang. I had to go so far into your mind to reach you. It was scary, Angel confided in him. He picked up Celeste, who had fallen to the ground, and handed her to Angel. Moving off his chest, she reached out with her good arm and grasped the grimy bear. She hugged it to her chest, her tears slowing.

Iggy grabbed Fang's shoulder, getting his attention. Somehow his blind eyes managed to focus directly on Fang's face.

"Fang," he said in all seriousness, "What happened to you? And have you seen Max?"

"Yeah, I saw her," Fang admitted, avoiding the other question.

"Where is she?"

"I don't know."

"But I thought you saw her…" Nudge said.

"I saw her, and then she… went somewhere."

"When is she coming back?" Gazzy piped in.

"She's not coming back."

"WHAT?" along with unusually large amounts of disbelief seemed to come from every mouth that could speak English, and if Akila and Celeste could talk, heaven knows they would have said it, too.

"Wha- why- bu- she- wha- huh?" Nudge managed to get out.

"Fang, spill, NOW," Iggy said dangerously, just daring Fang to test his patience.

Fang didn't know how to tell them what happened. Any way he told them, they would be upset and hurt, plus they would get mad at him for causing it.

"Just get it over with," Angel said knowingly, "If it's going to hurt us no matter how you say it, then just tell us, so we don't have to be tortured with not knowing."

Fang knew he had no choice, because even if he didn't tell them what happened, Angel would break into his mind and find the answers, which would make him look even worse for not telling them himself.

He started, "I came back last night around two, I guess. Max woke up-"

Nudge interrupted, "Woke up? She was supposed to be on watch."

"She took my watch, and then she accidentally fell asleep."

"Keep going," Angel said calmly.

"She woke up, and then she got mad at me."

"Why did she get mad at you?" Nudge asked.

"For leaving, plus I said something she didn't like, and-"

"What did you say to her?" Nudge interrupted once again.

"Nudge, stop interrupting," Iggy said as nicely as he could manage. "Fang, keep going."

Fang didn't like having to speak so much and having all the attention on him. He continued, "She didn't like what I said and how we've been fighting. She yelled at me for a while, and then she took off."

"That's it?" Iggy asked.

"Yeah," Fang said. He hadn't given them the whole story, but he thought that he had told them enough. They, on the other hand, still had a thousand questions.

Angel, looking back down at his scars, said quietly, "How did you get those? Did she do this to you?"

"N- no. Th- those were m-my fau-" he said, his voice fading.

"Fang!" Angel screamed as he began to fall backwards. She tried to catch him, forgetting she couldn't use one arm, and just ended up hurting herself.

Iggy just managed to catch him before his head collided with the dirt. He put him down carefully as Fang closed his eyes. Everything started replaying painfully in his head again, out of his control. Watching Max wake up, flying through the trees after her, listening to her yell, grabbing her leg as she tried to escape, watching her fly away- everything that had happened showed on the backs of his eyelids, making him feel sick all over again.

The reel of memories ended, and his eyes snapped open.

Angel had a complex look on her face. It was a mixture of despair, anger, and confusion, among other things.

Fang's heart skipped a beat. She had seen everything. She had felt everything.

The hurt was clear in her voice. "I- I can't believe it. This can't be happening," she said, feeling as if her world was truly coming to an end.

Please review. Reviews are amazing. After reading over this so many times, I can't tell if it's good or not. Thanks!


7. Go Ahead and Hate Me

Chapter 7

I had been flying for five hours straight now, without a glance backwards. The sun had broken the horizon not too long ago, and the sky was growing lighter by the minute.

My aching ribs sent another shot of pain through my system, making me fall a few feet through the air before catching myself. I looked down at the earth, spotted a clump of trees, and glided down to them. I landed, keeping my wings outstretched comfortably. I put my back against a tall tree and closed my eyes. My ribs had been in constant pain since Gozen, the jerk that broke Angel's arm, nearly kicked them in. I was glad he was out of the picture, having been thrown to his death from the wall of the eye of a hurricane back down in Florida.

Oops, was I forgetting to be compassionate again? My bad.

I crossed my arms over my ribs, as if to keep them from falling apart. I guess flying for an hour at 240 miles per hour and four more hours at a constant speed of 100 miles per hour and the, er, crying-my-bird-kid-eyes-out thing didn't exactly help my ribs feel any better. I had felt so pathetic. Yeah, I know. I'm supposed to be Maximum Ride, built to save the world from destruction, blah, blah, blah.


"What?" I snarled out loud.

You're doing the right thing.

"I'm so glad I have your approval," I said with fake reassurance.

Maximum, I hope you know that things are only going to get harder.

I rolled my eyes. As if things hadn't already been hard enough lately… and by lately, I mean my entire life.

I changed the subject. "So you can infiltrate my dreams now?"

I can project simple images into your mind when you aren't awake.

"Wow, you actually answered a direct question."

The room I showed you that we were sitting in doesn't really exist, just like how we weren't really sitting there. But the conversation we had was real. You were still asleep, but your mind could communicate to mine.

He answered a direct question and gave me an explanation. Weird.

The room we had been in was small, and the floor, ceiling, and windowless walls were plain white. The room's contents had just been the table, the two chairs, and the two of us. "I would suggest a bit of interior decoration," I told him.

What you saw in your head was the extent of projection abilities at the moment.

"Well, I never really gave you permission to invade my head anyway, which includes my dreams. So don't bother furthering your 'projection abilities,' okay?" I said in a mockingly friendly voice.

No answer. The Voice was gone.


The guilt of leaving the flock paid me another unpleasant visit. I knew they would all be upset and confused when they found out I had left. I wondered how each of them would react, and then I wondered how exactly Fang would tell them about how everything happened.


I didn't want to think about Fang. I focused on the rest of the flock in my mind.

At the moment, I felt most guilty for leaving Gazzy. I had told him just hours before I left that the flock would stick together for a long time. Then again, like I told you-know-who, I was no longer part of the flock, so technically the flock was still all together. I was no longer part of the flock. I knew that line would hurt them all the most, but I was doing this for them! They… just wouldn't know it until after I single-handedly destroyed Itex. They would just have to hate me until after I wiped Itex off the face of the planet, until I could come back and explain. I had to hurt them to save them.

So, contrary to popular belief, leaving Fang in the dust was not the only reason for leaving. Okay, maybe I hadn't known what I was going to do yet when we were sitting up there on the rock. He helped me make my decision, in a way. I guess he just drove me to make the decision I would be forced to make later.


The dream I had of Jeb and I in the little white room (if you can still call it a dream) replayed in my head.

"Maximum, we need to talk."

"What do you mean we need to talk? I don't have anything to say to you."

"It's about your mission…"

"I know my stupid mission, Jeb. Destroy Itex. Save the world. Fly off into the sunset. See? We don't need to talk about it."

"So you know it's your mission?"

"What kind of stupid question is that? I know it's my mission."

"Exactly. It's your mission and no one else's. You have to save the world."

"Jeb, don't play this game with me. Get to the point."

"Leave the flock."


"Leave the flock. You must complete your mission."

"Wha- are you high? Have you gotten even crazier since the last time I saw you? Why would I leave my flock?"

"You need to save the world, Max, and they're just slowing you down."

"You have gotten crazier! I wouldn't be alive today if I didn't have them!"

"So haven't they done enough?"

"We've all done enough! We're all sick of fighting for our lives. We're all sick of being on the run. We're all sick of jerks like you-"

"Maximum, calm down. You've all done a lot, but you can't get rid of the fact that the world still isn't saved. You can't get rid of the fact that in the end, it all comes down to you, Max."

"I am not leaving them."

"You're not listening to me. You've gotten this far with them, but you're destined to finish this whether or not they're there. With the two dogs, Angel being sick and injured, and you fighting with Fang, you're just being slowed down."

"Putting down my flock isn't going to help you in persuading me to do anything."

"Do you really want to protect them that badly?"

"What do you think?"

"Then leave them for now, and do what you have to do. If you drag them along, you're just putting them into danger they don't need to be in. You're endangering their lives by forcing them to take part in your mission when they don't need to, when it's your job. If you go alone, then you can complete your mission more quickly, and the sooner you do that, the sooner the flock's lives will truly be safe. The sooner you do that, the sooner Dr. Martinez and Ella will be safe. The sooner you do that, the sooner the world will be safe."

"Shut up."

"Only you can save the world."

"Who are you, freaking Smoky the Bear?"

"Drop the sarcasm, Maximum. I know you see my point."

"They aren't going to let me leave them."

"You don't need their permission."

"What am I supposed to do? 'Hey guys, I'm gonna go save the world real quick, and I'm not taking you with me because you slow me down.' Is that what I'm supposed to tell them?"

"More or less."

"What? You can't be serious. They would never forgive me!"

"If they got the chance to forgive you, they would have to. You would have left them to save them. They can't hate you for something like that."

"They need me."

"You know as well as I do that they can take care of themselves just fine."

"Shut up, Jeb."

"You can't hide from this, Maximum. You need to make a decision."

"Even if I did leave, I wouldn't even know where to go or who to look for or what I was supposed to do!"

"I'll give you the coordinates when you're ready. I'll be there to guide you."

"Wow, Mr. Voice, that's reassuring."

"I know you'll make the right decision, Maximum."

"No you don't. You just hope I'll make the decision you want me to make."

"You'll make the right decision."

"Go jump in a volcano."

"I'll see you later, Maximum."

The white room had faded out of my mind, and that's when my eyes had flown open and I found myself still on top of the big rock.

Now I just stared through the canopy overhead, as the sky lightened to the shade of blue it would be for the rest of the day. I pushed my tongue against the backs of my teeth, still feeling guilty. I wasn't supposed to feel guilty. I was protecting them… wasn't I? I had left, angry, not saying if I would ever come back, not saying goodbye to the part of the flock whose guts I didn't hate. Sure, there might have been a better way to do it, but it was already done now.

Maybe it was better this way. If I had tried to explain or even tried to say goodbye, they would have tried to stop me. There was no way they could understand any of this. I had to do this, and if they had to hate me so I could save their lives, then they could go ahead and hate me.

I suddenly shouted to the sky in anger, making a group of birds sitting in a nearby tree scatter. The sudden outburst made a stabbing pain in my ribs, and I clutched them tightly, trying hard to breathe at the same time. I tried to calm down after that.

Saving the world was a one-person job, and it just happened to be mine. It didn't matter how unfair anything was. I had to do it. I could not fail.

For them, I cannot fail.

Yum. Please review. Questions and suggestions are more than welcome. Thanks!


8. An Open Book

We're back to the rest of the flock, picking up from where they were at the end of Chapter 6.

Chapter 8

Angel held Celeste tightly, feeling as if someone had broken her wings. She didn't cry, already having cried all over the place. Plus, she wasn't sure how to feel about any of this. She did know that she had to tell the flock about what she had seen in Fang's head.

Fang looked at her from his position on the ground, and fear that was barely recognizable passed through his eyes at the thought of her seeing everything.

"What, Angel?" Iggy asked, alarmed by her words and sensing her deep unease.

She wasn't ready to say anything back to him just yet.


His voice sounded weak even in her head as he replied to her.

Angel… I'm sorry about-

I have to tell everyone else, Fang. I have to.

But Angel-

I think it's time to use my new ability.

What new ability?!

If you're thinking about a memory, I can see it and record it in my mind, and then I can show it to other people in their heads.

How do you know other people can see it?

I've been experimenting with Total whenever we were alone. He likes it; he says it's like watching a home movie or something.

Angel, I-

I'm going to show them, Fang, but I promise I'll take some parts out, okay?

Okay, he answered wearily. He didn't have the energy to argue.

The flock had just watched the two of them patiently throughout the conversation, knowing what was happening and not wanting to interrupt.

"Everyone, close your eyes," Angel instructed.

Total, already knowing what she was going to do, squeezed his eyes shut, but everyone else hesitated.

"Why, Angel? What's wrong?" the Gasman asked.

She looked at him sadly and said, "I need to show you something. Please, just close your eyes. You too, Fang."

They all closed their eyes obediently, and Angel thrust Fang's memories into all of their heads at the same time. There was a simultaneous sharp intake of breath as the scenes flooded into their heads and replaced the dark surface of the backs of their eyelids. It was as if they had traveled back in time and they were in Fang's body, seeing through Fang's eyes.

Fang, still lying on the ground, watched the edited version of his memories that Angel was sending him. So far, to his great relief, she had removed all of the emotion from him that she had felt when she had first viewed his memories. He noticed that she took out the part of his and Max's argument that mentioned Gazzy, probably so he wouldn't feel like any of this was his fault.

The flock listened intently to every word that Max yelled into his face.

"You know what? The flock doesn't need to split. I just don't have to be a part of it. The Voice always told me saving the world was my job, so I guess I'll just do it myself!"

Everyone remained completely silent and unmoving.

"If you can stand there and tell me you don't know me, after all we've been through, while my blood is flowing through your veins… if you hate me that much, then you're not the Fang I've known all my life, and I don't want to know you!"

They watched in surprise as tears began forming in Max's eyes.

Fang listened to his own pathetic voice.

"We promised we would never leave each other again."

Even though this had all replayed in his mind tens of times already, it still disturbed him.

"I don't belong to your flock. I don't know you."

Fang felt Iggy shift slightly as he listened to Max and watched her fly off into the night in a blur of fury. Angel fast-forwarded to him staggering around and falling to his knees, letting the slightest amount of Fang's emotions be felt by the others. She showed a second of him barfing and then ended with him breathing heavily and passing out.

The images faded out of their heads, and they opened their eyes. Fang gathered his strength and sat up. He could see the flock better, and to his dismay, the others were all looking at him in shock.

His insides were writhing as he looked from person to person and felt as if a wall had been put up between them. He turned to Total, but his eyes held anything but sympathy. Even Akila looked upset with him, and she didn't even really know what was going on. He couldn't stand this. Their piercing gazes remained on him, and he was an open book.

They were all so taken aback by what they had seen that they didn't even take the time to marvel at Angel's new ability. Iggy didn't even take the time to be glad that he could see these images that Angel sent him in his head. None of that seemed to matter right then. None of them knew what to say or how to feel or how they should react. They just stared at Fang as thousands of conflicting thoughts swirled around in their heads.

Angel suddenly collapsed forward, knocking the breath out of Fang as she landed on his stomach.

"Angel!" the Gasman screeched as he rushed to her side. He pulled her off of Fang into the upright position, and she fell sideways into his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair as she breathed, "That… that used up... all… all my stre- st- strength."

He tried to be comforting as he said, "It- it's going to be fi-"

His voice broke, and he just cradled her there silently.

The attention immediately left Angel and fell back upon Fang.

"We have to go after her," Nudge finally said, her throat burning.

"No," Fang said quickly.

Glares shot at him from all around.

"I mean-" he said, trying to sound less harsh, "She could be anywhere by now."

"We have to at least try," Nudge said. She tried to silence the voice in her head that told her that they would never be able to find Max and that Max didn't want them to find her anyway.

"Not now," Angel said tiredly.

Nudge crossed her arms anxiously. "Well, as soon as Angel can fly, we should go and look for her."

No one said anything in agreement or disagreement. Fang took in the silence, knowing that everyone was choosing sides in their minds.

Iggy chose to direct his anger and confusion at Fang, because he knew him so well and couldn't believe his incredible stupidity. Fang didn't understand how a blind guy could possibly stare him down so viciously, but somehow Iggy pulled it off.

Iggy couldn't handle being near Fang anymore. He stood up heavily and began walking away rapidly. Feeling the same way as Iggy about the matter, Total trotted after him, followed by Akila.

Nudge looked restlessly between Fang and Iggy, not knowing what to do.

Fang saw the dilemma in her eyes and told her, "Follow them, Nudge. Keep an eye out."

They both knew that even though Iggy was blind, he didn't need anyone to keep an eye out for him.

She nodded gratefully and ran to catch up with them.

The three of them were left there. Fang looked at the Gasman, waiting for him to return his gaze. When he returned it, it wasn't as angry as Iggy's furious blind gaze, but it held no reassurance, either.

Fang laid back down, holding his hands to his forehead.

The Gasman looked around, feeling suddenly insecure. Max was gone. Iggy, Nudge, Total, and Akila had run off somewhere. Fang and Angel were exhausted and beaten up, and they were not ready to defend themselves if they needed to. Everything he had been afraid of was happening, just maybe not exactly in the way he had imagined it might be.

He felt unprotected. He was the strongest one around at the moment, which had never happened before. His heart fluttered with panic along with every other thing he was feeling. If something happened at that moment, he would have to make the quick decisions, he would have to spring into action, and he would have to watch out for Angel and Fang.

It was a new feeling, and he didn't like it at all.

Hm, I have a special place in my heart for Gazzy. Poor kid.
In the next chapter, we'll still be with the flock. Please tell me if there is any part you liked specifically or have any suggestions. Thanks!


9. Missing

Thanks for all the support, guys! I really don't know how long this story will end up being, but I have so much of it planned already, so it's gonna keep going for a while. Haha, hope you don't mind.
Here's the next chapter, and (hint, hint) it may have some romance in it:

Chapter 9

"Igs! Wait up!" Nudge yelled as she ran toward him.

Total and Akila stopped and waited for her, but Iggy just kept walking, pretending to not hear her.

I need to keep moving. I need to punch somebody. I need to… I need to make something explode! Iggy thought hotly.

Nudge caught up and grabbed his elbow, shaking him.

"Iggy, where are we going?" she asked, sounding worried.

"Who cares where we're going?" Total spat, "As long as we're gettin' away from that guy back there, I'm good with anywhere."

Nudge could feel Iggy's pounding pulse as she squeezed his arm. "Iggy, calm down, please?"

"I will not calm down."

"Bu- bu- but Iggy!" Nudge stammered.

Crap, Iggy thought, She's going to cry again.

Iggy couldn't stand anyone in the flock crying, especially Angel and Nudge. He had already endured Angel's bawling, and he really didn't want to have to go through that again with Nudge.

"Nudge, don't cry," he said with practiced patience.

She tried to respond, but she couldn't.

"You're tougher than that, Nudge," he said, stopping and pulling her hand off his arm.

"Iggy, where are we going?" she repeated.

"Er, somewhere. Nowhere. I don't know!"

He readjusted his volume, realizing that she wasn't responding because he had upset her.

"You don't have to come with me."

Follow them, Nudge. Keep an eye out.

She told him, "Yes I do."

"Fine, then let's go," he said, switching roles with her and pulling her along by the arm. He thought about just flying off somewhere in the hills, but then he decided against it. He didn't want to be near Fang, but he wasn't about to completely desert the Gasman and Angel.

"We'll go back to them later, okay? Just… not now."

Nudge nodded and let him pull her along more easily.

Fang felt almost paralyzed. Everyone knew what he had done, and they were all mad at him on different levels. He knew they were mad at Max, too. He wondered who they were most angry with. She was the one that deserted them. She was the one who had promised to never leave him again and then deliberately broke her promise. Max was the one who said she didn't want to be part of the flock anymore. He thought they should be angrier with her than him. He wanted them to be angrier at her than him, because he didn't know if he could handle it.

After the sound of Nudge's footfalls left his ears, he said, "We should try to catch up with them as soon as Angel can fly."

We have to go after them, he thought, because they might not being coming back on their own.

"They're coming back," Angel said from her place in the Gasman's arms.


"They're coming back. Iggy just needs to get away for a while. If he was thinking of not coming back, I would have told you."

"Oh," Fang said, wondering why he hadn't thought of that.

Nudge silently paced back and forth. They had all stopped after about fifteen minutes of walking, not wanting to go too far. Iggy was on the ground, concentrating hard on adjusting the wiring to one of his homemade bombs. He normally wouldn't let anyone but the Gasman see him working on one of his explosive creations, but he didn't care now.

Nudge's pacing somehow managed to cut through his iron concentration.

He put his array of mismatched tools down and said, "Wow, I can't believe it. You're even more annoying when you're not talking."

She stopped pacing long enough to make a face at him.

"I may not be able to see it, but I know you're making a face at me," he remarked.

How does he do that? Nudge asked herself. "Iggy, don't make me mad. My nerves are already all messed up from all of this. There are enough problems in the flock without you picking on me."

After a moment of silence, Iggy said, "You're not the only one with messed-up nerves. Earlier, Total was so stressed out that he completely missed the tree he was trying to pee on."

Nudge couldn't help but laugh at that.

Iggy's temper had been flaring on and off, and he kept accidentally taking it out on Nudge.

He continued, "I'm not mad at you, Nudge. I'm just kind of annoyed with everything that's happening. Don't take it too seriously."

Ha, Honest Iggy, she thought. She breathed a long sigh of acceptance, glad that he had said that.

Total and Akila appeared, having just walked off some of their own nerves. Akila lay down next to Iggy, weary. She may have not been able to understand everything that was going on, but she could understand the waves of uneasiness from these three and the empty feeling caused by the absence of the others.

Total walked over to Nudge, hoping for some pointless conversation to ease his mind.

"So you missed the tree, huh, Total?"

If dogs could blush, Total would have been blushing right then.

He turned on Iggy. "You promised you wouldn't tell anyone!"

"She threatened my life. There was nothing I could do about it," Iggy lied.

So much for Honest Iggy, Nudge thought.

"This never happened," Total said, turning back to Nudge.

"Your secret is safe with me," she said, "Unless Angel reads my mind. Then everyone will probably know."

"Great," Total said, defeated.

"So how are you and Akila doing?" Nudge asked Total as she walked away from where Iggy was. She was trying to get Total's mind off his tree-pee incident and trying to get her own mind off of… well, everything.

"She probably thinks I'm a total doof."

Nudge laughed halfheartedly. He looked up at her quizzically as they continued walking through the trees. She explained, "You said total doof, and your name is Total, and it was kind of ironic and funny and-"

"I got it," Total said sourly, knowing she would go on forever if he didn't cut in. "I just can't tell if she's into me or not, ya know?"

"Are you kidding? She's nuts about you."

"How do you know?" Total asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.

"She follows every step you take, Total."

He frowned. "She isn't now."

Nudge smirked. "That's what you think."

Total stopped in his tracks. "What?"

Without waiting for an answer, he turned around. Akila's gorgeous coat was just visible in the distance, her head bobbing up and down as she trotted toward them.

"She's so beautiful," Total said in awe of her.

"Total! Turn back around! Don't look so eager!"

"Right," he said, getting himself in line, "Gotta play it cool."

Akila caught up, and she was content with continuing forward at their pace alongside Total.

He gave Nudge a quick wink, and she gave one back, even though she thought the fact that he could wink was sort of creepy.

They're so cute, Nudge thought. That's what love should be like: simple, being content with just having each other around. Wow. I can't believe the most useful thing I've done today was give a talking, flying dog help with his love life. I need a hobby or something. I wonder if Iggy would let me help him with his bombs. Wait, what am I saying?

Nudge's train of thought was interrupted as a shadow passed over her head suddenly. She ducked instinctively, shooing the dogs away. Her wings tensed, ready to lift her into the sky and kick whatever butt needed to be kicked.

"Calm down, it's just me," Iggy said, landing in front of Nudge.

She gave him a light shove. He grinned, knowing she was embarrassed.

"What was that you were saying about messed-up nerves again?" she asked, flushed. "Total! Akila! Come out! It's just Iggy!"

Iggy raised an eyebrow. "Just Iggy?"

"That's your name, don't wear it out," Nudge said teasingly.

Akila and Total returned to Nudge's side. Iggy looked down, or moved his face in the direction of, rather, Akila.

"Traitor," he said at her, "You can't just leave the blind guy alone like that. I'm totally inept!"

"Back off, bub," Total growled.

Nudge went to say something, but she knew as well as he did he was completely the opposite of inept.

Another shadow passed overhead, but Nudge didn't take it seriously.

"Nice try, Ig, but that's not going to scare me twice."

"What are you talking about?"

"Casting your flying shadow down on me just to scare me... again."

"Nudge," he said slowly, "If I'm down here, then I can't be up there."

"I guess that's true…"

This time, a group of huge shadows passed overhead. Nudge finally understood.

A lump grew in her throat as she thought, Uh-oh.

Lol, you probably weren't expecting doggy romance when I gave you that hint at the beginning. Sorry. I couldn't resist. For all you people who enjoy name-combining, what would it be? Akotal? Akilotal? Totila? Tokila? Wow that sounds like tortilla and tekila... Never mind.
The name of the chapter is "Missing" because Max is gone, because the flock separates (for a while), and because of... Total. Haha! I feel comical right now for some reason...


10. I Don't Want It to End Like This

Chapter 10

"Total! Take Akila! Run!" Nudge yelled.

The two dashed away, Akila right behind Total.

"What's happening?" Iggy asked tensely.

She said hurriedly, "Flyboys, but new ones. Different, smaller than before, around your size, maybe bigger. Look better at flying."

"How many?" he asked, opening his wings.

"Er, twenty maybe?"

"You go left, I'll go right. Let's go."

Nudge squeezed his elbow and then rocketed into the air alongside him, veering to the left as soon as they were in the new and improved Flyboys' line of vision. Just as they planned, half went after Nudge, and half went after Iggy.

Dread circled through Nudge's mind. It was two against twenty. She didn't like the odds. The new Flyboys were almost as fast as her, and she needed a plan to get rid of them.

She dove back down into the trees. She tipped her wings so she could weave through them, hoping the Flyboys wouldn't be able to dodge the trees as well as her. She increased her speed, doing sharp turns every few seconds, but the Flyboys were always a few feet behind.

After what felt like a hundred turns, Nudge was beginning to tire, and her turns were getting sloppier, while the Flyboys' turns were still quick and precise. They were steadily catching up to her.

What am I going to do? They're catching up! What would Max do? What would she do? Why isn't she here to help me? Augh! I gotta throw 'em off, gotta throw 'em off, gotta throw 'em off, she thought, beginning to panic.

She entered a dense section of trees, where she barely had flying room, going as fast as she could. She abruptly did an extremely tight hairpin turn, smashing her left wing into a tree. Zooming up through the canopy and back up into the sky, she heard a series of violent crashes as some of the Flyboys smacked into the trees and into each other.

Three Flyboys managed to avoid the accident and flew up after her. A current of lightning-like pain spider-webbed its way through her left wing, but she tried to block the pain out of her mind. She rocketed straight up with the three in pursuit.

She was gaining altitude fast, and she went straight through a puffy-looking white cloud, out of the Flyboys' vision for a precious second. Drenched in cloud moisture, she dropped back down through the cloud, smashing both feet into one of the Flyboys' faces.

He began to fall toward the ground past the other two, but Nudge wasn't ready to let him go yet. Avoiding the other two, she swooped toward the down-falling body and powerfully caught it under the arms. One of the Flyboys had been about to dive-bomb Nudge when she swung the first Flyboy up at him and swiftly dodged their tangled, falling masses.

The last Flyboy came at her, ready to claw her insides out. Moisture from the cloud beaded with the sweat on her forehead as she tried to formulate another plan of attack while shooting across the sky.

She quickly turned to face him, looking as if she were about to surrender. The Flyboy lunged ferociously at her torso, but she did a quick arc over his head and grabbed his wings, smashing them together behind his back painfully. He began to drop rapidly, but she gave a crushing blow to his head for good measure.

She breathed a strained sigh of relief as she watched the body crumple when it came into the contact with the ground. She turned around, wanting to go check and see if the others were okay, but an ominous dark cloud was rising up out of the trees.

It was the other seven Flyboys she had thought she had gotten rid of.

They were coming at her at full speed, looking even more vicious than before.

A sudden giant explosion went off nearby, temporarily blinding Nudge and shocking her eardrums. She threw her hands over her ears as she fell a few feet through the air yelling, "OH MY FREAKING GOSH!"

She caught herself and rose back up in the air, knowing that the explosion would have shattered the brain of a normal person.

Iggy, she thought, looking around but not seeing him.

He had set off another one of his bombs. She hoped he was okay and had gotten rid of all his Flyboys, because she didn't know if she could take on these seven, especially with her hurt wing. She flew in confusing crisscross patterns, taking an occasional dive through the trees or bursting up through a wet cloud, but she couldn't keep it up much longer.

Where the heck is Iggy? she thought worriedly.

Nudge then caught sight of a small black figure rising in the air above the trees, and at first she didn't recognize it. It staggered through the air toward her, advancing a few feet, then falling a few feet again and again in a pitiful cycle.

It was Total.

Not now, Total, Nudge thought, frustrated. She was happy that he could finally fly, but she knew he wasn't going to be any help against the seven Flyboys. You're going to get hurt! she thought angrily, as if he could hear her. She turned, wanting to draw the Flyboys as far away from Total as possible.

Her turn was too slow, and one of the Flyboys took a swipe at her leg. She bit her lip, stifling a yell. She could feel the warm blood surfacing and spilling onto her skin as she tried to speed up.

I'm not going to make it, she thought as the sound of the Flyboys' wings seemed to grow nearer and nearer. She closed her eyes for a brief moment. There has to be a way out of this mess. But as she opened her eyes, she realized that she couldn't beat the seven Flyboys by herself with an injured wing and a bleeding leg.

I don't want it to end like this, she thought, a small cry escaping her lips.

Tears blurred her vision, and she couldn't see where she was going. She tore blindly through the air, still making a feeble attempt once in a while to throw the Flyboys off.


Iggy's voice had never sounded sweeter in her ears. She followed his instruction without question, speeding away with a new kick of adrenaline.

Seconds later, she was huddled on the ground, bracing herself against another explosion, her eyes shut and ears covered. A sudden wave of heat broke over her. Hot pieces of metal began raining down, and she hopped up to avoid them. She immediately toppled over, her bleeding leg giving out from under her.

She heard the steady beat of wings behind her and two feet hit the ground.

"Iggy, I can't move!" she cried.

Iggy didn't respond. She turned to face him, only to find a Flyboy who had avoided the blast coming at her.


She looked up and saw him fighting another Flyboy who avoided the blast in the air.

Nudge helplessly sat there, wondering what she had done to deserve such a cruel death, when the Flyboy made an odd struggling sound.

She turned back toward him. Total was viciously attacking the Flyboy's face. He wasn't doing much real damage, but it was enough to confuse the Flyboy so Nudge could attempt to escape. She began to crawl away awkwardly, flapping her good wing to try and move faster.

A strained squeal came from behind her, and there was a sickening thud as the Flyboy batted Total down to the ground. He landed a few feet from Nudge, not moving.

The Iggy-sized Flyboy advanced toward Nudge, ready to exterminate her like a bug. He reached down, picked her up by the front of the shirt, and held her up in the air, taunting her before he let her have it.

He let out a deafening howl and dropped her in a crumpled heap to the ground as Iggy, seemingly out of nowhere, smashed into the back of his head. She scooted back away as Iggy gave the Flyboy a kick to the stomach.

The Flyboy gave Iggy a hard right punch in the eye, followed by a punch to the ribs. Iggy fell back onto the ground, but he sprung back up as if he hadn't been touched. They continued like this, seeming to be evenly matched, as Nudge edged over to Total.

Iggy threw a revenge-punch at the Flyboy's eye. The Flyboy retaliated with an uppercut to Iggy's jaw. Nudge winced at each blow, hating herself for getting injured.

She saw Iggy reach into his pocket with an impatient yet devious look on his face. As the Flyboy took another swing at him, he dodged it and pierced the Flyboy's face with a screwdriver, lodging it into its eye. Iggy's screwdriver went easily through the flesh and then hit hard metal and wires. With a look of disgust on his face, he harshly yanked the screwdriver downwards as if he were pulling down a fire alarm. The Flyboy made unearthly noises as it fell and tried to pull the screwdriver out, failing to do so before its body stopped moving and completely shut down. Iggy kicked it to make sure it was dead, and as soon as he was sure he ran over to Nudge and Total.

When she didn't say anything, he dropped down to her level.


She looked at his face and took him forcefully into a hug, crying out loud near his ear.

"Iggy!" she sobbed.

He didn't have to ask.

He hugged her back, glad that she was okay. Well, maybe not okay, but definitely not dead.

As he pulled away, she noticed the area around one of his eyes was becoming discolored and a large jagged burn was on his cheek.

"Oh, Iggy," she breathed sadly, lightly touching the burn.

He reached up and felt it, too, saying, "A piece of Flyboy hit me in the face."

"Gross," Nudge said. She looked back down at Total, who was just out of her reach, watching as his tiny chest moved laboriously up and down.

"Iggy, Total was trying to help me, and he was attacking the Flyboy's face, and he was doing really good, but then the Flyboy hit him, and now he's unconscious, and I don't know if he's going to be okay, and I'm scared-"

He silenced her by holding out his arms. She moved over to Total, picked him up gently, and placed him in Iggy's arms. He carefully went over Total's body, and after a few moments of evaluation, casually said, "He'll be fine. He's just being a wimp."

"I'm no wimp," Total said faintly.

Nudge laughed in relief. Iggy smirked and said to Total, "So you can fly now?"

"Darn right I can."

"Thanks for helping me, Total," Nudge said, feeling guilty for doubting him. "You're definitely not a wimp."

"Thanks kid," he said, coughing. "Where's Akila?"

"Shouldn't you know that?" Iggy asked.

"I left her by Nudge's pack. Told her to stay put while I saved the day."

Nudge laughed again, trying not to grimace at the accompanying pain.

Iggy started, "I could go find her and bring her back here-"

"No! We're staying together, no matter what. We need to get back to the rest of the flock as soon as we can, and we have to stick together. Just help me up, and I can get there on one leg."

"Yes, ma'am," Iggy mocked.

He helped her up slowly. With Total in one arm and Nudge holding onto his opposite shoulder for support, he started the long walk to where they had left Akila.

I've never really written an action scene like that before. Honestly, how was it?
Thanks for reading!


Oh, and if you want to, check out the one-shot songfic I wrote recently called "A Wish to Heal Immortal Wounds." It's not too bad. ;)

11. A Litter of Puppies and an Elephant

Hello darling reader peoples! It's been a while, huh?
Let's do this thing, here's chapter 11:

Chapter 11

The Gasman was on watch. Angel and Fang were asleep. Angel had fallen asleep easily, but Fang had tried to fight it. He didn't want the stupid memories filling his dreams again, but his resistance was useless as consciousness was forcibly pulled from his eyes.

It was almost noon, and Iggy, Nudge, Total, and Akila were still gone. The Gasman was starving and had a headache, among other problems. He wished that Iggy was there so he could make bombs with him. He wished that Nudge was there so he could get lost in her endless talking. He wished that Total was there so he could watch him attempt to use his wings or that Akila was there so he could marvel at how she was the only truly normal one around but somehow still managed to be the odd-man-out of the group.

He wished that Max was there.

He wished that Max was there so that everything wouldn't completely suck.

Why, Max? he asked in his head for the thousandth time. He knew there had to be more to why she left. His gut wouldn't let him believe anything else.

He absentmindedly played with a stone in his hand as he switched between watching Fang's hand clench and unclench and watching Angel's eyelids twitch as she breathed in and out.

His hand automatically tightened around the stone when he heard footsteps. He stood up slowly, tensing at the rustle of leaves a way behind him.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Angel shoot up, and the next thing he knew she was running past him.

"Angel!" he yelled. His heart started beating faster as he turned to run after her.

By the time he caught up to her, she had already thrown herself around Iggy's legs. His heart lifted at seeing the rest of the flock, but it just as soon fell as he noticed how worn and beat up they looked. Iggy gave Gazzy a small smile as he touched the top of Angel's blonde head. The area around his eye was a sickly purple color and a large burn mark stretched up and down the side of his face. Nudge was leaning on Iggy, and one of her wings drooped in a limp-noodle sort of way. Total looked completely terrible, his fur matted and eyes staring around dully as he rested in Iggy's arm. Akila wasn't injured, but she looked profoundly stressed and exhausted, as if she had just given birth to a whole litter of puppies. A litter of puppies and an elephant.

I heard them thinking, Angel thought to Gazzy as she detached herself from Iggy and moved to hug Nudge. That explained why she woke up and ran past him before he'd even had time to react to hearing their footsteps.

Angel finished her hug with Nudge and took Total from Iggy. She held him closely like a baby, and he licked her hand affectionately.

Is he okay? the Gasman thought to his sister.

He says he'll be fine, Angel thought back. He says he has to stay strong for Akila.

The two siblings shared a faint smile, agreeing on how sappy Total was and also both glad that he was going to be okay.

"What happened to you guys?" the Gasman asked Iggy and Nudge, remembering that he was supposed to be completely miserable.

"We were attacked by Flyboys," Iggy started. Gazzy's eyes widened.

"But they were smaller and faster, and they were a lot better at remembering to flap," Nudge added in.

"Yeah, I guess they're the latest batch of weirdos with wings," Iggy said with a slight anxiousness in his voice, "Anyway, long story short, they hurt us some, but we destroyed them all in the end." Iggy cut the story down, wanting to sit down and just rest.

"Oh my gosh," Angel said, having watched the Flyboy scene as Iggy talked about it. "That was so terrible," she said in a tiny voice, "I'm sorry we weren't there to help-"

"Shh, it's fine, Angel. It's not your fault," Iggy said.

Angel, can you show me what happened? Gazzy asked her.

Not now. I don't think I can right now.

Okay, don't push yourself. But you promise you'll show me later?

I promise.

Just then, Fang came up behind them.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked, no hint to how he felt about their reunion or seeing them bruised and battered evident in his voice.

"We're fine," Iggy said fiercely.

"Nudge, we're gonna have to wrap your leg up again; it looks pretty bad."

Iggy had wrapped her leg in an old t-shirt of his, but blood had already soaked through half of it.

"Yeah," Nudge said shortly. She was feeling slightly dizzy. She hesitantly let go of Iggy's shoulder as Fang helped her into a sitting position on the ground. He set to re-wrapping her leg with one of his own dark shirts from his pack, not asking any questions or saying anything.

The rest of the flock sat down near them, silently thinking to themselves.

When Fang was about done, Angel thought to Iggy, Are you okay now?

Yeah, the burn stopped hurting a while ago. I walked off most of the pain, and the black eye is no big deal. It's not like I was using it anyway.

He knew what she was really asking as well as she did.

No, Iggy, she thought seriously, Are you okay now? She put extra emphasis on "okay", already knowing a few minor injuries weren't going to slow him down.

I won't leave again, Angel. I just needed to get away for a little, blow off some steam, blow up a few Erasers, you know?

I know you won't leave again. We all need each other. Now, are you okay?

Max is gone. We're all falling apart. Fang is… never mind. Angel, I'm not okay. Honestly, I'm not. But none of us are. I'm okay enough to deal with everything and tough this out, okay? Is that answer good enough for you?

I guess so, she said after a long sigh, signaling that his answer was good enough at the moment.


Fang finished with Nudge. He sat there, looking around at them, wondering what was next until he thought, I guess it's my job to decide what's next now, isn't it?

Yes, it's your job, Angel thought to him.

He immediately remembered to throw up the barrier around his mind so that Angel couldn't read it.

"When are we gonna be ready for takeoff, guys?" he asked the group.

"I think I could fly for a while right now," Angel offered, wanting to be tough and wanting to get to Max as soon as possible.

"I'm not injured. I'm ready when you are," the Gasman said.

Total moaned quietly, "I'll be ready next month. If you really need to contact me before then, call my agent."

"I think I'll be okay in a little while, after we get some food," Nudge said, fingering the shirt wrapped around her leg. Iggy remained silent.

Fang suddenly realized how hungry he was; he hadn't eaten for over twenty-four hours, which was especially bad for someone that could finish off a couple pizzas by himself in a matter of minutes. He didn't know if he would be able to get anything down yet, but he knew had to find something for everyone else.

"Dumpster diving?" he offered.

"Heck no," Total said. "Unless you find a nice, juicy steak in a dumpster, then we're not ordering grub from the Trash and Garbage 'R' Us catalogue."

Akila gave him a look that said, 'You're so eloquent, Total.'

"Well?" Fang said, wanting suggestions.

"I say we go to a buffet," Nudge said, a hungry smile on her face.

"A buffet?"

Sure, let's take six, er- five, kids with wings and two dogs who are depressed, bloody, bruised, and dirty to a buffet. That won't look suspicious at all. It's not like anyone will recognize us. It's not like the government, Itex, and who-knows-who-else is looking for us.

"Yeah, a buffet," she explained, "It's a restaurant where they have a bunch of food set out on counters and you get a hot plate and go around to all the food and take as much as you can because it's all-you-can-eat-"

"I know what a buffet is," Fang said dryly.

She looked back at him expectantly.

"What?" he said.

"This is where you give an answer, and if it's yes, you tell us the plan. If it's no, you explain why," she said matter-of-factly.

"Someone's feeling better already," Iggy said, venturing to speak without getting angry and saying anything he wanted to say to Fang.

A plan? An explanation? That's Max's freaking job, Fang thought, dreading his new position as leader. It was more than having to decide what to do. It was more than having to deal with a hurt and torn flock. He could handle that. It was that he had to lead them because Max was gone.

"I guess- buffet it is, then," he said, formulating an elaborate plan in his head, knowing Max would never go along with this. He closed his eyes angrily for a moment, wishing he could go at least one second without thinking of Max. Wishing he could go a moment without wanting to hunt her down and punch some sense into her, to show her how much pain she had already caused everyone.

Wishing he could go a moment without her voice mercilessly resounding off the walls of his mind, breaking him apart piece by piece.

I know. It's sad.
I'm thinking about doing a Fang blog entry next chapter, or getting back to Max. Or I could just do the buffet scene, lol. Preferences, anyone?
At least I sprinkled in some more Tokila! (Haha, don't hurt me!)
I'm trying to write whenever I get time, but I'm really scarce on time these days, so thanks for the patience.
5 reviews before the next chapter, please.


Oh, and a VERY special thank you goes out to kashiena, who has read and reviewed every stinkin' chapter of this story. Yes, I do notice my reviewers! Much love to you!
And thanks to everyone else! Love ya'll! (No, I'm not from the south, what are you talking about?)

12. I'll Have a Ted, Hold the Ice

Here's the new winner of the longest chapter contest, lol. This chapter is some much-needed comical relief for both the flock and you, the reader. And me.
Please don't be mean to waiters if you don't have to, though.

Chapter 12

After adjusting his overly baggy navy blue sweatshirt one last time, Iggy took Angel by the hand and put on a sappy, carefree look. The Gasman walked in front of them. Iggy noticed how grimy Angel's previously white sling was and in turn realized how dirty their little group must have looked. Oh well. The sign on the door said, 'Shirt and shoes required,' not 'Clean shirt and shoes required'.

The Gasman pushed open the front door, and a little bell dangled and clinked above their heads.

How charming, Iggy thought sarcastically.

A young man, looking to be about twenty and dressed in black and white, began to walk robotically toward the sound of the bell while looking down at his notepad. He looked up to see the new customers, and his pace began to slow.

Iggy could practically feel the waiter's eyes crawling over them suspiciously. He felt the eyes going over himself, stopping for a long moment on his face, his burn and his darkened eye. He sensed an odd nervousness coming from the waiter.

This was going to be fun.

The waiter finally said, "How many?"

Iggy blinked and asked with fake, syrupy innocence, "How many what?"

The waiter shifted his weight from his left foot to his right foot. "Um, how many people?"

"Do you really need to ask? Geez, even a blind person could see how many people are standing here. I know you don't have to be a professor to wait on tables, but you seriously can't count?"

Iggy loved how deliciously ironic he was. This dingbat couldn't even tell that he was blind.

Iggy snickered in his head as the waiter stuttered, "Uh, no- I mean, yes- I mean- uh- I- you- I'm-"

Angel figured out Iggy's game. She raised three fingers in the most adorable way she could manage that were directed at the waiter, as if he needed help with his counting from a six-year-old.

The waiter's face reddened. He quickly turned and starting walking away, saying, "Follow me to a table."

Iggy said pointedly, "You forgot to ask if we would prefer a booth."

"Oh," the waiter scrambled, "I'm sorry. Would you prefer a booth?"

"No, we'd like a table," Iggy said, an evil smile appearing on his face. The Gasman stifled a laugh as Angel squeezed Iggy's hand and giggled lightly.

Flushed and confused, the waiter walked the group swiftly to a table. Angel read his thoughts, feeling only a tiny bit bad that he felt really stupid and wanted to get away from them as soon as he could.

"What would you like to drink?" he asked as they all sat down.

Angel said sweetly, "I'll have two chocolate milkshakes, a large cola, hold the ice, and some apple juice, if you have some."

Huh? he thought, dumbfounded. Are you serious?

"Seriously," she added.

The waiter was visibly starting to get freaked out. He looked frantically toward Iggy, waiting for him to tell her she couldn't have all that, but he said nothing.

"You got all that?" Angel asked, peering at the notepad he was supposed to be writing on.

He anxiously began scribbling the order on the pad.

"And you- uh, sir?" he said awkwardly, turning to the Gasman.

"I'll have the same thing," Gazzy told him.

The waiter scribbled that down, turning to the Iggy, excited that he was allowed to scurry away as soon as Iggy ordered his drink.

"I'll have a sweet tea."

He wrote it down and turned on his heel to leave.

"Wait!" Iggy called after him.

Dang, the waiter thought, reluctantly turning back to them.

Angel smiled brightly up at him, trying her hardest to hold in her laughter.

I'm not going to let you off that easy, Angel heard Iggy think.

"Make that non-sweet tea. Or is it called unsweetened tea? Or is it just called tea?" Iggy pondered aloud.

The waiter marked through the first line hastily, not answering Iggy's question. Angel showed Iggy the waiter's nervous face, which made Iggy just want to keep going.

"Hey, answer my question! This is a very important matter! Lives are at stake here, man," Iggy prodded.

"Er- it's whatever you want to call it?"

Iggy's eyebrows rose. "Whatever I wanna call it? Wow, this is one of the greatest moments of my life," he declared triumphantly. "You know what? Unsweetened and non-sweet sound boring. I'm going to call it 'Ted'. See that? I named it after you."

"Gee, thanks," the waiter said, wondering what was wrong with this kid.

"And when you bring me the Ted, bring me about ten of those little sugar packets."

"Okay…" he said uncertainly. Why doesn't he just get sweet tea if he's going to add sugar into the Ted- er- I mean, into the unsweetened tea?

Iggy continued, "And only fill a quarter of the glass with ice."

"Can do, sir."

"And could you put a lemon slice on the rim?"


"But don't get any lemon juice in the tea, I hate lemons."

"Got it," the waiter said, hiding, or trying to hide, that he was ready to scream and run away. He looked at the boy, waiting for another command, but he just stared back at him with blank eyes.

"You can go now," the boy said after a long, awkward moment.

The waiter gave a loud sigh and turned away, going as quickly back to the kitchen as he could without running over any of the customers.

"Hey, Ted, come back a sec!" Iggy called.

Why? Why me?

"Yes, sir?"

"I forgot that I hated tea. Give me the same thing the kids are having."

Ted's jaw dropped for a second, but he quickly shut his trap and scribbled on the almost full page of his notepad once again. I can't believe he made me go through all that for nothing! Weird, why do I feel insulted that he didn't get a Ted? I mean, an unsweetened tea! I did NOT just call it a Ted! I'm Ted!

"Yes, right away, sir," he said, turning and crossing his fingers in hopes that he would not be called back again.

Iggy and the kids remained quiet, smirking as the waiter practically ran into the silver double doors that led into the kitchen.

Ted was relieved. He was the only one in the kitchen at the moment, and it was quiet and peaceful. He reached out and grabbed yet another one of the clear glasses. His hand stopped short in the air when he realized something: the boy had called him Ted. He hadn't told any of them his name. He brought his fingers to his shirt pocket and felt the empty space where his nametag should have been. His nervous hand shook, and the glass dropped to the ground, shattering into hundreds of gleaming fragments. Gripping the counter, he tried to reason things out.

It's nothing. I'm just getting worked up and imagining things. My nametag probably just fell off when I was rushing in here.

The thing was- he didn't remember putting his nametag on that morning.

He rushed back to his locker, threw it open, and looked in horror at his nametag in the same place he had left it the night before.

Bringing both hands to the top of his head, he blinked in silent surprise, wondering if he should have gone with his mother's suggestion of going to see a psychiatrist.

They waited, making sure he was all the way through the double doors before they broke out laughing. Tears filled their eyes as they clutched their ribs and did imitations of Ted's goofy facial expressions. The Gasman laughed so hard that he- well, you can guess what he did. It wasn't a mushroom cloud, but it wasn't a field of flowers, either. The tears in their eyes multiplied, but they couldn't stop laughing.

Several of the customers looked around suspiciously, wondering what the smell was. Then, in a domino effect, the customers all began running out the door, clutching their noses.

The unmistakable sound of crashing glass reached their ears as the people all ran out, some of the woman (and one of the men) were shrieking loudly, waving their hands in surrender. They all squeezed out the door, one after the other, in a hurried frenzy.

The laughter began to die down, and they wiped the tears from their eyes.

"Gazzy, you cleared out the restaurant," Iggy said, feeling the silence and emptiness surrounding him.

"Good," Gazzy said with a smile, "More food for us."

Angel looked over the huge buffet. "I think there's enough food to get us all half-full," she said, figuring the math out in her head.

"Well, I'm starving," Iggy said, "Let's get some food."

They all jumped up, heading toward the food with eagerness in their eyes.

"Hey," the Gasman said quietly when they were all grabbing their plates, "Thanks, Ig."

"Anytime, little man," Iggy smiled, glad he had lightened the mood, if only for a little while.

"Little man?" Gazzy said, punching Iggy in the arm.

"Ow," Iggy said dully, knowing the name would get on the Gasman's nerves.

Fang pulled Nudge out of the way as a crowd rushed out of the door, all looking sick and holding their noses.

Nudge giggled. "I bet you a hundred bucks I know what happened in there."

Releasing Nudge as soon as the crowd passed, Fang replied, "We both know, Nudge."

Way to stay inconspicuous, guys, Fang thought. He swung the door open, the obvious smell hitting him in the face.

"That's just wrong," Total said from inside Nudge's jacket. "That smell should not be legal. Someone needs to get arrested for that."

Nudge shushed him, which Fang thought was ironic.

He had sent the other three ahead of himself and Nudge thinking that they wouldn't be as easily recognizable if they weren't in their usual big group. He thought that Iggy could pass as Angel and the Gasman's older brother, plus, it put some space between himself and Iggy, which seemed to be a good idea at the time.

He realized he didn't look like he was related to Nudge, but if anyone asked, he would just give them that special look he had that had the tendency to make normal people want to cry and run for the hills.

He knew going here maybe wasn't the wisest choice, but the flock wanted it, and he needed to get back on their good sides if he wanted survive the search for Max. Plus, the large amounts of food would be enough to cover all of them and get their strength back up.

And he was the leader now, so it didn't matter that Max would have never done this. She was gone, so he called the shots.

As the door swung open and shut, a golden bell jingled happily above their heads. He didn't like it. It sounded too happy.

He surveyed the restaurant, noticing a couple of overturned chairs and several tables with half-finished plates sitting on them. He spotted the others filling up their plates, their eyes watering and cheeks pink.

A waiter came out of the kitchen and strode purposefully toward them. Fang gave him a quick glance, deciding that he wasn't dangerous and also deciding that he didn't like him. Too weak, too- twitchy.

"Your nametag is upside-down," Nudge told him as soon as he was within a few feet of them.

"Dang crappit flab," he said, taking the tag off and flipping it over.

"Are you the only waiter here?" Nudge questioned.

"No, the others are on their break."

"You mean the ones that were smoking in the parking lot?" Nudge asked innocently.

"Um, yeah," he said, looking at his feet.

"Where did all your customers go?"

"What?" he asked, completely unaware that the majority of the customers had cleared out of the place.

He looked around, noticing the emptiness. "Today is not my day," he said sadly.

Fang couldn't stand this guy. He was so weak and oblivious and emotional. It was almost sickening.

"You can leave now," Fang told him, waving a dismissing hand toward the kitchen.

"Oh, thank you," the waiter said with a squeaky, pathetic voice. He returned to the kitchen, not looking back.

The others were back at their table. Fang chose a table far away from them, in a dark corner near the back.

"Sit with them if you want," he said, plopping down onto a chair and taking out his laptop.

"Um, no, this is fine," Nudge said. She let Total out of her jacket, guessing that it wasn't really necessary to hide him anymore.

"Seriously, that smell needs to be outlawed," Total said, hopping onto a chair.

Akila was waiting outside in a hidden area. Total had argued fiercely that she should be allowed in with them, but she didn't exactly fit in a sweatshirt as easily as he did. Nudge promised to bring her a doggy bag when they finished, which led to more fierce argument and a long discussion on animal rights. But in the end, Akila was made to stay outside and wait.

"Hey, this joint is empty," Total observed wisely. "I want Akila," he huffed, glaring at Nudge and Fang.

Fang ignored him, typing in his password as the screen lit his face with a blue glow.

"Fine, we'll go get her," Nudge sighed, heading back out with Total behind her.

Fang blinked when his desktop came up with a Lisa Frank unicorn prancing around on a pink background.

Not funny, Max, he thought, knowing she had done it because she was the only one who knew the password to his user account. He changed it back to a plain black screen and proceeded to change his password. He began typing a new password several times, but would immediately hit the backspace key and think of something else. He finally decided on a long password that he knew none of the others, not even Max, would guess.

He looked down at the keyboard, realizing it had been a few days since he had used the computer. He hadn't used it since Max had lef-

He hit the keyboard angrily, and an error message appeared on the screen. She wouldn't get out of his head. Iggy, Gazzy, and Angel turned toward him simultaneously. He just stared at the screen, pretending that he hadn't noticed them and that he didn't just ram his fist into a defenseless machine. They turned back around, returning to their plates.

He opened a blank document and discovered that he had broken some of the keys. Tab, Q, W, Caps Lock, A, and the left shift key were now all useless.


Now, the last chapter only got ONE review. I know 23 of you get an email whenever I update this, so have a heart and drop a comment for the downtrodden writer. Please?
Next chapter is a blog entry. Gotta love getting in Fang's head, right?
Please review, whether you love it or hate it. Thanks so much.


13. Fly On: Keep Your Eyes to the Sky

Hey! Thanks for all the reviews for the last chapter. This chapter's a shorty. Enjoy!

Chapter 13

You are reading Fang's Blog. Welcome!

You are visitor number: 2

First of all, you're not visitor number 2. The stupid counter has decided it doesn't like Avian-Americans (for some strange reason) and has decided that every visitor is visitor number 2.

So hello, visitor number 2.

Time to get serious. You guys have already helped us out a lot, and we need you again.

Max is gone.

She left after midnight this morning. I'll spare you the details, but we need to find her as soon as possible. We have no clue where she's headed. We were near Strasburg, Virginia when she left, if that helps. She can travel more than 200 miles per hour, so she could be anywhere by now.

So if you just happen to look up in the sky and see a flying girl with messy brown hair and an angry look on her face, then tell me. Seriously. This is urgent, and your very life could depend on it.

If you even think you see her, then TELL ME. Proof would also be awesome, but it'll be pretty hard to catch her. Then again, a lot of things can be found if you look hard enough.


Oh, and by the way, some of the keys on my laptop mysteriously stopped working. All the a's, w's, and q's you see? I had to copy and paste them. Not fun.

And before you comment, realize that I'm not in the greatest of moods right now.

CandyApple from Buffalo writes:

Aww!! Where'd Max go?? Did you guys break up or something? O.o


I obviously don't know where Max went. Please think before you write next time.


UrFrIeNdBoB from Wichita writes:

i think i might hav seen her last week eating at this one diner i hang out at, u shud come around here n check it outt.


She left us early this morning, BoB. Last week, she was with us. Last week, everything was normal. Normal-ish.


Kayla993 from Strasburg writes:

Hey Fang! I live in Strasburg. I'm sorry to say I haven't seen her, but you can bet I'll keep an eye out. I'm so sorry, and I hope you find her. You all should be together. You're the Flock. It's just wrong any other way, ya'know?


I know. Thanks for keeping an eye out.


Carrieeee! from Portland writes:

Omg! I gots a serius pic of Max I swear! Look its her here in Portland, up in the sky! Shes waring a white shirt an she has brown winngs that's her right?


No. That's a picture of an actual bird. There are a lot of differences between a girl and a bird, even if the girl is two percent bird. This picture is fuzzy. Don't become a photographer.


Fang shut his laptop, not bothering to shut down properly. The first four comments he got didn't make him too optimistic. Then again, optimism was never really his thing. He put his hand to his forehead in frustration. It was unnaturally warm and covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

Nudge was up at the buffet, forming a mountainous pile on her plate.

He didn't move from his spot. He didn't feel like eating right then.

Maybe later, he thought. Maybe things will be better later.

No! Not another emo ending to a chapter!
Alas, this is what you have received.
Next chapter is when we get back to Max, which I'm sure you are itching to get to.
At least 5 reviews please?


14. Pain

I have a good feeling about this chapter… Fourteen is a good number. :)
So you know how this story is adventure/drama? Well here's the drama for you, heavily concentrated into our little solution. (Science? Gross! XD)
Here it is:

Chapter 14

You think you know what pain is?

You have no idea

Pain is the only thing that is always there

My one constant

I know pain

Pain is freaking explosions in my head

Pain is bleeding half to freaking death

Because I didn't want to have to watch my back so freaking closely

Pain is being raised in a box

Being treated as an animal or some object

I know pain

Pain is having the air kicked out of you

And white lights going off in the back of your head

Pain is seeing a little boy turned into a monster

A little boy who is your brother

Pain is hating him and killing him

And then trusting him and watching him die again

Pain is aching hunger and stress and confusion

Pain is leaving the people you love

Pain is having those people hate you

Pain is always there

It sucks

It really freaking sucks

Another poem by the lovely and talented Maximum Ride a.k.a. me. I made that one up in my head while I was flying. So, I still may not be Shakespeare, but I'm getting there, right?

It was late afternoon, and I was looking for a place to crash. I was exhausted from the early morning getaway flight and from all the aimless wandering I had done since then. I was somewhere in western Tennessee. I must say that the flight over the state was stunning. I usually don't describe things with the word 'stunning', but man, you should see this place. I'm not really the skip-around-and-dance-in the-field-of-pink-flowers type of mutant, in case you couldn't tell, but some things in this world are undeniably awesome and are just meant to be appreciated, like the scenic overhead views of the Tennessee countryside… and chocolate chip cookies.

It was too bad that I couldn't really enjoy it. Maybe one day after I destroy Itex and all is right in the world, I'll fly back over the area and really take it in.

Psh, fat chance of that happening.

I was over a very rural area, already having flown past the noisy city area a while back. I looked down at a particularly large field of corn. Ha, maybe I could make some crop circles and freak some people out. Why not? I had nothing better to do. I didn't know where I was going or exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

I decided against the crop circles, though, landing in between two tall rows of corn. Everything was quiet except for the faint rustle of a light breeze through the tall stalks of corn and the trees in the distance. The sun was blindingly bright overhead, but I could just barely feel its warmth.

I felt like I could just lose myself there. Standing there alone, with only the soft sounds of nature going through the motions around me, I could pretend that nothing was wrong. No one was there to tell me I had to save the world. No one was there to try and capture me. No one was there to hurt me like I'd been hurt so many times. It was weird and unfamiliar to me, but it was calming. Almost dream-like.

And of course, like always, this moment had to come to an end.

A single bullet of lightning coursed through my brain. I fell on my back, opening my eyes to the cloudless plain of blue above me. A loud throbbing started up in my ears, magnifying the pain. I felt suddenly fatigued, and my eyes involuntarily began to flutter shut. I struggled against the sudden onslaught of exhaustion, but my eyes snapped shut, and I was no longer in control.

"You seriously suck," I told Jeb, who was sitting at the little white table.

"Have a seat, Maximum," he urged.

"No," I said defiantly, crossing my arms. My eyes flicked over to the corner. There was a window there that I hadn't seen the first time. I immediately crossed the little room to look at it, completely ignoring Jeb.

Looking past the spotless glass, I looked down and saw treetops and tops of mountains smaller than the one we appeared to be situated on. The view seemed strikingly familiar. My breath caught for a moment, realizing it was the view from the window of the E-shaped house, the house hidden in the mountains that the flock and I had lived in before Jeb betrayed us. Hatred arose in my throat.

"Do you like it?" his voice said softly from behind.

I turned to him in disbelief. I actually didn't know what to say. I didn't know what was keeping me from bounding over and knocking his lights out.

"You wanted some interior decoration," he said.

"Man, this guy wouldn't understand sarcasm if it walked up to him in a red dress and hit him in the face with a frying pan," I said out loud. Wait, I had meant to just think that in my head, not say it. Then I realized that we were already in my head. My thoughts and what I wanted to come out of my mouth were getting mixed up. Let me tell you, that's a creepy thing to realize. Creepy and super-inconvenient.

I looked back toward the view out the window. "Wouldn't that be classified as exterior decoration?"

Jeb frowned. "I did it for you, Maximum. Don't you recognize it?"

"Of course I recognize it!" I yelled, the sound bouncing off the white walls.

"What's wrong, then?"

"Holy crap, did you really just ask me what's wrong? Everything in my life is wrong! Why the heck would I want to be reminded of the house where I had to live with the likes of you, where I was living in false security and being betrayed and lied to every second of every day? Why would I want that, Jeb? Huh? Answer me!" I screamed, getting in his face, nearly causing him to fall out of his chair.

"Max, stop," he said pitifully, and to my own surprise, I backed off. His eyes were concentrated with sadness. I had never bothered to notice before, but his eyes were a lot like Ari's. Well, that was going to make destroying him slightly harder.

I didn't know what was going on with him. I went and took a seat, avoiding the weirdness that was in his eyes.

"It hurts, Max," he said. I continued to stare at the floor. I noticed he had called me Max twice, instead of Maximum. Something was seriously wrong with him.

Whoa. There's the understatement of the century, folks. Made by yours truly.

"Why were you okay with leaving your flock, Max? In your mind, what justified abandoning them?"

I didn't scream and tell him that I never would have left them if it weren't for him. I didn't pick up my chair and throw it at him. I didn't sit there silently just to annoy him.

I told him the truth, the truth that he already knew.

I said it to him exactly the way I had thought it before, "I have to do this, and if they have to hate me so I can save their lives, then they can go ahead and hate me."

I wanted so badly to cry right then. No, I don't cry often. There are only a few things in this world that could make me cry, and this was one of them. In this little white room, I couldn't pretend that I didn't care. I couldn't be as tough as I usually was. It hurt.

Holding back the screaming pain inside, I turned my eyes to Jeb. The pain that I was trying to keep from playing across my face went unnoticed by him. He looked almost as torn as I felt.

The thoughts I wanted to keep to myself started to spill out. "Why are you so sad? You don't have to save the world. You didn't have to leave your family to save their lives at the risk of them hating you forever…"

"Shut up, Max. You don't know what the heck you're talking about," he said loudly, his eyes flashing wildly. Then he turned his head so that I couldn't see his face.

I was momentarily taken aback. He had always put on this formal politeness, no matter what the situation was, even if he was doing something completely terrible. If he was going to kill me, I would expect him to say, "I'm sorry, Maximum, but I have concluded that now is the right time for me to end your life," and not, "Hey Max, I think you suck, and I'm gonna kill you. You're gonna die now. Got it?"

Yet here he was, telling me, Max, and not Maximum, to shut up. I noticed his breathing had changed. It was much more laborious. The small portion of his face that I could see was contorted into some unidentifiable emotion.

"Stop it," I commanded, but the smallest individual bit of uncertainty had inched its way into my voice.

"That's exactly what I did, Max, and you don't even see it," Jeb said, his voice sounding weak and strangled.

"What's exactly what you did? What are you talking about?"

"I had to leave my family to save them. I had to leave because I loved them, and I knew, or I hoped, that it would be better for them if I went and took care of my business while they figured things out on their own. I had taught them everything they needed to know to survive. I had watched them grow and had laughed with them and had risked my life for them. I wanted what was best for them, even if they didn't understand that. I had to leave them. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but in the end, I know it will be one of the best, even if they hate me for the rest of their lives, even if their hate for me is the fuel to keep them going, at least they are okay. Maybe not great, but okay, and alive."

He was referring to my flock. My flock and me. He was calling us his family. He was saying that he had left us for our own good. He was saying that we were the same.

Once again, the supposed-to-be unspoken words came flowing past my lips. "No, Jeb. This is different. I'm not you! You can't compare us. You betrayed us. We trusted you, and you betrayed us. I thought of you as my father, and you left me. You left me, and you left everyone else. You betrayed me. You betrayed your son, who is dead now because of you. You didn't protect him, and you didn't protect me or my flock. Everything about you is a lie." I paused to gather my breath. I could see my words slicing through him. I didn't care. I wanted him to feel as much pain as I did. "I hate you, Jeb. DNA doesn't matter. No matter what science says, you will never be my father."

My voice was shaking. It was shaking worse than I had ever heard it before, worse than when I told Fang I wasn't part of the flock and that I didn't know him. I couldn't stop it. I didn't want to even think of why it shook worst when I said that he betrayed me or didn't protect me. Jeb, who had been turned away the whole time, looked at me. The look in his eyes stunned the breath out of my lungs. Pure rage and one hundred percent genuine misery shone in them, melded into one. I didn't look away this time. I couldn't. From the pit of my stomach arose a deep fear.

Is this what's going to happen to me? I was already comparing our situations, even though I had outwardly denied they had any resemblance. I was fighting myself. He didn't leave me because he wanted to save me. If he wanted to save me, he would have never let this be done to me. He would have never let them mess with my DNA and turn me into this winged freak. He would have never put me though all these 'tests' that nearly killed me. If he really "loved" us, if we were really his "family", he wouldn't be using us all as instruments in his little game. He wouldn't be using me as his little world-saving puppet that he could just discard after I did what he wanted me to do. He would have stayed out of my head. He wouldn't have done all those terrible things…

His eyes were shining with tears, but I didn't take the chance to jump down his throat at this sign of weakness. The tension, confined in such a small place with no escape, grew tremendously, stiffening my spine and suffocating my brain. I hated this. It was too far out of my control. Nothing was making sense.

The confusion was overwhelming.

The pain was unbearable.

Ouch. This is heavy.
Now this scene isn't over yet, so hold your horses. I wanted to fit the scene all in one chapter, but it was getting too long. So Chapter 15 will finish this scene up, and then we can all stop living in wonder, lol.
I'm liking all the reviews I've been getting, so keep it up. Please? :D Thank you!


15. The Truth, Lies, Confusion, and Denial

A tribute to all the countries that have shown up so far on my story traffic: Australia, Canada, China, Croatia, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and of course, the US of A. Love you all.

Chapter 15

He finally spoke again, through clenched teeth.

"Maximum," he said, his voice more rigid, "How much easier would it be right now if you knew the flock wasn't mad at you?"

God, I thought, it would be so much easier. I would be able to sleep and breathe and eat…You have no idea- I would love that so much. I could focus on my mission instead of worrying about them never wanting to see my face again.

Oh geez, since when was I so gung-ho about focusing on my mission? Stupid Voice was starting to get to me.

"A lot easier," I responded simply.

"How much does it hurt, Max?"

I don't know what was happening with me. The room was making me act so weird. It was affecting Jeb, too, but I don't think he realized this was going to happen before he came into it.

"It's ripping me apart, Jeb." No! What was I doing? That was exactly what he was looking for. Why was I helping him prove his point? Why was I telling the truth?

"It's ripping me apart," I repeated. "It's all I can think about. I don't know if I'll ever be able to be happy again. I can't really blame them if they hate me, even though everything inside me wants to reject the possibility; the possibility that scares me because it's so real, because it's more than a possibility. Even if they ever took me back, there would still be that doubt separating us. It hurts worse than anything. It makes me want to shut down. It makes me want to shut down and give up, but I can't."

This was so freaking frustrating. I didn't like having all these stupid emotions, and I absolutely hated talking about them. I hated this room, and I hated Jeb. What was I doing?

My speech did nothing to stop his haunting Ari-esque eyes from gradually becoming shinier with tears. He didn't let them spill, though. I don't know what I would do if he did. He didn't take his eyes off of me, his face a painting of sympathy and recognition.

He leaned forward with his elbows on the table, finally ready to make his point.

"It hasn't even been twenty four hours since you left, Max. You realize that, don't you?"

It felt like years of torture had passed, but I knew that it had been less than a day since I had last seen my flock.

He went on, "It hasn't even been twenty-fours, and it's already killing you. Now think about if you don't talk to them for a few years. Do you think the hurt will have died down by then?"

I shook my head slowly.

"That's right, Max. It's unrelenting. It never goes away. It eats at you, and instead of fading into the past, it grows and grows until you feel almost paralyzed. It makes it a lot harder to say that you're doing it for their benefit. It makes it a lot harder to say that you're doing it for them when they don't want your help, when they don't want you to be alive."

Just stop it! I wanted to cry out. Leave me alone! As if this isn't already bad enough without you prying into it!

"Max, if you could just forgive me-" his voice faded, and my eyes widened.

My ears went into shock. Was he seriously asking me for forgiveness? My brain couldn't process this.

"If you could just trust me, Max- I swear to you, everything I've done, I did it for your good. You're still beautiful and important and amazing, Max, and you always have been. That will never change. And that's what makes it hurt even more- that the most amazing person on earth, my person, my Maximum, can't stand me. If you would just believe that I think the world of you and that I risk my life everyday to save yours, then it would be so much easier. If you knew the flock forgave you and trusted you, it would be such an enormous weight off your shoulders, and you would be able to go on. If you could just do that for me, Maximum, if you would just look at me with something in your eyes other than hate-"

Stop! We're not the same! I hate you! Don't say all those things about me; don't try to make me feel like I matter to you. I'm not your Maximum, I don't belong to anyone. I may be strong, but I'm not going to lift that enormous weight off your shoulders!

"Jeb, you know what the answer is," I said, turning him down, visibly crushing him once again.

Then I imagined sitting in his place, looking across the table at my flock- having them reject me just like I was doing to Jeb now.

I shot him another glance of hatred, but it was like that fiery glance was being shot at me.

"I don't want to be here. I don't want to be near you," I told him.

It was like the flock was spitting the exact same words in my face.

"Max," Jeb said feebly, trying to ignore the brutality housed in my words and in my eyes. "Max, I- I love you," he squeezed out breathlessly.

"STOP IT!" I yelled, standing up so forcefully that my chair flew back and clattered onto the floor. My wings automatically snapped open defensively. Jeb looked absolutely bewildered. "You don't love me. You don't even know what love is!"

I pictured the flock yelling at me, "You don't love us! You left us! You never loved us!"

The tips of my wings brushed opposite walls as I stood there with my nails dug into my palms. Jeb stood, and I braced myself for whatever he was going to do.

Don't try and attack me, Jeb, I managed to think. You know that that's not going to end up well for you.

He pushed back his chair, walked over to me, and stopped right in front of me. His eyes bore into mine. Sorry Angel, but Bambi eyes are nothing compared to this. My fist was ready to collide with his face any second…

Then he wrapped his arms around me. Ho-ly crap. He was trembling like a scared little kid.

Horrified, I started to pull away. "Jeb-"

He hugged me closer, almost hard enough to hurt a little. My mind was completely freaking out, and all I wanted was to get as far away from that stupid white room as possible.

I gently pushed him away, backing up a few steps and letting my wings relax.

I watched a single tear roll down his face as the barrier I worked so hard to build broke. I quietly said, "I trust you, Jeb."

The room faded away, and my eyes eased open. I was back in the corn field, and night had fallen. I was on my back, looking up at an almost-full moon and millions of stars.

Wait, did I just tell Jeb what I think I told him?

Yeah, you did. The Voice/Jeb informed me.

Well, I hope you got that the first time, because I sure as heck am not saying it again.

I felt the Voice leave, and I breathed in and out deeply. No, I didn't trust Jeb. I couldn't trust him. After what he did, I could never in my life trust him one hundred percent. But right now, to my sad admission, he was all I had.

He knew that my words weren't all the way true. He may be crazy, but there's some sense buried in there somewhere. We both knew that I didn't completely mean it the moment I said it. But just the fact that I said it at all, I think that was enough for him. Besides, it got me out of there.

Plus, I would rather tell him I trusted him a billion times before I would tell him I loved him too. I shuddered at the memory of him saying he loved me. (Gross. Where did that even come from?) I shuddered again at the thought of me returning the words. No, I would never say that. Maximum Ride will never go that soft (or that stupid), no matter how nuts the stupid white room makes me.

Everything in my life that was supposed to be impossible was happening lately, and it made me uneasy. I had no idea what to expect next, no idea about what was actually possible or not.

Trying to push the whole embarrassing incident out of my mind, I tried to let my mind just wander idly, which of course made me more stressed.

You know, you better be freaking grateful that I'm going through all this to save your helpless butt, because it's seriously annoying.

There I go again. Hey folks, it seems that we already have the understatement of the century lined up for 2100!

Sorry about the slow updates. School and whatnot. Yeah, yeah, that's what everybody says.
What up with all the emotions, yo? Well, Jeb is the only one Max has at the moment, so I thought I would set that up for you. They both leaked some info and some -cough- feelings that they didn't want to. Yes, I did feel that this was extremely necessary. They're both pretty confused right now. If you have questions about anything in the story, please ask.
Next chapter we get back to the flock, and I'm considering getting back into the adventure part of this adventure/drama. What say you?
Looking for at least 6 reviews please.

-Skye :)

16. Taking First Watch

There's one new country on my traffic: Turkey! Hi Turkey!

Chapter 16

Fang typed a bored response that would put an end to the stupid conversation. He had been talking to someone through his blog for half an hour. He had thought he had a lead on Max's location, but it just turned out to be a dead end. It was disappointing, but he knew, or really hoped, that his blog would come through for him eventually. It always had before. He looked down at his scarred-over knuckles as he typed.

Idiot, he thought to himself, turning his hand over so that he couldn't see his knuckles, only to see the crescent moon scars on his palm.

He was about an hour into his watch. He had offered to take first watch, and he was considering not waking Iggy up when it was his turn. He wanted to avoid sleeping, if possible. He looked down at the flock, all scattered around in nearby trees. He was in the tallest tree he could find so that he could see the entire flock and any possible threats from the air.

He was sitting on a fairly wide branch, but he had to really focus on not falling off. Beads of sweat trickled from his heated forehead down the side of his face. He had been sweating bullets all day and getting dizzy if he moved too quickly or suddenly, but he tried to hide it from the others. He refused to admit to himself that it was a fever, let alone tell the people who were depending on him (even if some of them were doing so reluctantly) that he was sick.

The flock had spent a good half hour at the buffet, eating as much as they could fit in themselves without throwing up and making sure to get plenty of extras for dinner. Fang hadn't eaten anything until Nudge made him eat a dinner roll. It had taken a bit of coaxing and a bit of, well, forcefully shoving it in his mouth to get him to eat it, but Nudge managed to get the job done without too much hurt caused. She seemed to be the most concerned about him. Angel seemed pretty concerned too, but she had been a lot quieter lately. He didn't like having the two younger girls worrying about him, when he was supposed to be worried about them.

They had left the buffet in a hurry, hearing sirens. Fang wasn't impressed with the speed of the authorities in the area, even if it was kind of run-down. Then again, he also wondered why someone had called the police. What? Little boys who can't control their bodily functions aren't allowed to be themselves in public anymore? Maybe they thought that it was a poisonous gas leak or something.

After Iggy set off about twenty loud sparklers in the kitchen, which Fang still didn't understand, they got as far away as they could. The flight hadn't been pretty, though. Nudge's wing wasn't cooperating, and Fang had been forced to carry her after dealing with her impaired flying for only ten minutes. They hadn't been able to go much longer after that. Angel had been growing paler by the minute, and even though Iggy wanted to appear to be fully recovered from his Flyboy encounter, Fang could see him struggling under Akila's weight. Fang had found a forest that didn't look like a potential death trap, and they had landed there for the night.

Before they went to bed- or their respective trees, actually- Angel had showed Fang and the Gasman the Flyboy fight. It had been hard to watch, especially seeing the fear on Nudge's face. While he was glad that the three of them (Iggy, Nudge, and Total) could defend themselves, Fang knew that he had to keep everyone together at all times from now on.

After that, Fang had pulled himself together and held his fist out toward the rest of the group. Angel, who had heard him struggling in his mind over whether or not he should try to do the ritual, was the first to throw her fist on top of his while giving him a bright, encouraging smile. Nudge followed suit, making sure her hand was touching both Angel's and Fang's. She could feel his gratitude when she touched him. Gazzy stacked his fist next, trusting the girls' judgment.

Iggy didn't move. The others looked at him expectantly, wondering if he didn't know what was going on. Then Angel had slipped her free hand into his, making him feel guilty. He'd known what was going on. He'd released her hand and placed it on top of the stack. Total flew up and placed his paw on top of Iggy's hand. And then Akila, perhaps the sanest of them all, gracefully raised a paw and completed the stack.

The stack broke, and they had all gone off to sleep- all except Fang, of course.

He submitted his message and wondered what he should do next.

He immediately froze, hearing something moving. He looked down and relaxed; it was just Angel adjusting her head on Celeste, who she was using as a pillow. He looked at her little face now, weary with the effort of showing the Flyboy fight to the Gasman and himself. The new Flyboys were a major improvement over the last ones, but Fang was confident that the flock could handle them.

Total and Akila were close to Angel. Fang didn't know what was going on between them, and he didn't really want to know. Dealing with people's feelings was already a problem; he preferred to keep dog feelings as an uncharted territory.

The Gasman and Nudge were in a tree right beside Angel's. The Gasman was turned in Angel's direction, always wanting to protect her. Fang could always tell how proud Max was of the Gasman when she smiled at him or ruffled his hair. He had grown up a lot, but he still had that evil kid cackle that always seemed to make everyone but Iggy suspicious.

Nudge was lying sideways in a position where her damaged wing could stretch out comfortably. Her mouth was opened slightly, and if he looked really close, Fang could see her eyes moving beneath her eyelids as she dreamed of whatever eleven year-old girls on the run dream of.

Iggy was the farthest away from Fang. He had been distancing himself from Fang as often as the opportunity came up. Iggy had always had some issues with controlling his anger, but Fang was getting tired of it. His flock member wasn't supposed to distrust him. His brother wasn't supposed to hate him. Fang remembered how Iggy had given him blood when he had been in the hospital when Max had reached and passed the donation limit. Iggy was a good guy, and Fang definitely didn't ever want to be on the side opposite of Iggy in a real battle. He was going to end the animosity between them soon, because it wasn't doing any good for either of them.

Fang's stomach squeezed painfully. He held on to it, waiting for the pain to pass. The dinner roll Nudge had force-fed him had definitely not been enough. He was going to have to start eating again soon. He needed to get his act together, and he needed to get used to being the leader.

They had all decided that the search for Max would have to wait another day, which had been a hard decision because they wanted her back. They wanted her presence, they wanted her protection, and they wanted answers. The plan was to take Angel's arm out of the sling and ankle out of its wrapping in the morning and see if she could survive the day without them. They would all rest during the day and get their strength up, maybe formulate some kind of plan that actually made sense. After sunset, Fang would go on a short test-flight with Nudge to see if her rested wing was okay enough to travel with. He was guessing it would be fine because of their super-fast healing powers.

If the test-flight was successful, they would start traveling under the cover of night, going back to the time when they were 'cautious' and 'trying not to be seen'. The plan was to travel as far as they could before sunrise, despite the current fact that none of them, including their humble new leader, had any idea of where they would be going.

Fang looked around, trying to clear his mind. The sky was that deep shade of blue that everyone mistakes for black. The stars were shown in abundance since there weren't any big cities too close by. The leaves on the trees were changing. Some of them were still green and hanging on, some of them were rich reds and oranges and yellows, and some were a crispy light brown, ready to fall off as soon as they found a good enough reason to. The wind was harsh and slicing, doing nothing to improve Fang's balance problem. Its chilling abrasiveness did feel good on his face and on his arms, though, as it pushed away the constant reminder of the warm sickness that was winding its way through his body. The wind was picking up more and more as the night progressed.

Again, he froze immediately. This time, he didn't hear anything below him. He had been thinking about the wind and breathing in its coldness when he just felt a disturbance in the air. There were no sounds that were out of place, no eerie shifting shadows on the ground, no threat that could be seen or heard. But he could feel it, in his core. There was some slight shift in the air that made him know that something was wrong, and not just the usual wrong, either. He did consider the possibility that he might just be paranoid, but he wasn't going to take any chances.

He casually shut his laptop and slipped it into his pack.

Angel? he thought loudly to her.

Fang? she responded almost immediately, What's wrong?

Don't open your eyes. I think something's coming. Wake up everyone in their heads. Tell them to be ready to fight. And tell them not to speak, not to even move until I give the go-ahead. Got it?

What's coming, Fang?

I don't know. But I can feel it. Do it now, Angel.

Okay... And Fang?


Be careful.

I will.

Just then, long fingers closed around Fang's neck, choking the air out of him.

Fang! Do we have the go-ahead now?! Angel yelled, hearing the alarms going off in Fang's head but not seeing what was actually happening.

Fang didn't answer Angel. He couldn't. He looked into the wide, vicious eyes of his attacker. What he saw there sent his entire mind and body into shock.

Gasp! Who is it? Do you know? Because I don't even know yet. Okay, I might...
NEW: At the top of my profile, I'll have news including when the next update will be or if I just updated.
Please review. Finding writing time is getting harder and harder, so give me something to keep me going! Thanks as always.


17. You Can't Kill Me

Woo! FOUR new countries! I love countries! Hello to Cyprus, France, Ireland, and Malaysia. :)

If you looked at my profile, you would have known I was updating today, so yeah… look at the profile if you wanna know what's happening.

Just then, long fingers closed around Fang's neck, choking the air out of him.

Fang! Do we have the go-ahead now?! Angel yelled, hearing the alarms going off in Fang's head but not seeing what was actually happening.

Fang didn't answer Angel. He couldn't. He looked into the wide, vicious eyes of his attacker. What he saw there sent his entire mind and body into shock.

Chapter 17

He stared up at the familiar face, which was twisted in anger.

"Hello, Fang," her saccharine voice hissed as the grip around his neck tightened. The two words oozed with a venomous thirst for revenge.

"Max?" he mouthed, unable to actually speak the name.

"One of the only," she said, smirking.

Fang realized it wasn't Max, but it was the clone of her that the School had conjured up to get rid of the real Max. She was an exact copy, hair and eyes and scars and everything. She had even been trained to act like Max and had taken her place in the flock once. But Max, the real Max, had fought the clone and proven that she was the only Maximum Ride the world needed. She beat her (affectionately known as Max II) in an all-out brawl and then spared Max II's life- showing that she wasn't- and never would be- some puppet or some soulless assassin.

Max II went on, "How have you been doing, darling? I've missed you terribly. It's a shame we lost touch." She even had the sarcasm down.

Fang struggled against her and opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn't. If it was because she was cutting off his air supply or if he was truly in a state of disbelief, he wasn't sure.

She stared down at him, grinning evilly like a cat about to destroy her prey. Fang's head began to swirl, making his vision fuzzy around the edges.

Fang! Come on! Don't crap out on me now, Fang, Angel said urgently in his head.

Angel, he thought hazily, Max would kill you if she heard you say that…

And I'm gonna kill you if you crap out on me! she countered.

He forced his eyes open, pulling his fading consciousness back to the surface.

Okay, he thought quickly, It's Max II. She's alone. We can take her easily.

Just then a dark cloud of shadows rose into his vision. Tall, lean bodies, held aloft by gorgeous outstretched wings, appeared behind Max II.

Scratch that, Angel. Iggy II, Nudge II, Gasman II, and you II just popped in.

Max II just stared at him, watching him struggle, imagining how nice it was going to be to rip his throat out.

Fang stared back- back into her cold eyes that looked so much like Max's. But they weren't exact copies. Max's eyes were brighter, more real, more… Max. Max's eyes had an undeniable soul behind them, while Max II's eyes were hollow, painted over with a sheen of hatred and vengeance.

The other copies hovered behind Max II, waiting for her order. Fang couldn't help but wonder where his clone was and why Max II wasn't trying to play Max again.

"Hmm," Max II thought aloud, "How should I finish you off? I could keep choking you until your heart just stops beating, or I could break your wings and throw you off a cliff, or I could tie you to a tree and find a few wolverines..."

While she eagerly listed all the ways she would love to kill him, Fang took the opportunity to tell the flock the plan. Okay, Angel. Make sure everyone's ready. I'm gonna break Max II's arm. As soon as you hear her scream, go straight up twenty feet and then northwest. Tell everyone to fight their own clone so there are no mix-ups. You guys take care of them while I take care of Max II. He took a quick second to consider if the original Max would do the same, but the thought diminished.

Got it, Angel said, being the tough six year-old soldier she had always been forced to be.

Max II rambled on, "…or maybe I could borrow one of blind boy's bombs and blow you into little freak fragments. That would be nice…"

Her grip on his neck slackened for a fraction of a second, but that was enough for Fang to do what he had to do. In the span of two- maybe three- seconds, he gripped the arm of hers that was making his lungs burn with the need for oxygen, snapped his huge wings out, pulled her arm taut, and powerfully smashed her elbow in from the outside, breaking the bone with a sickening, stomach-turning CRRRRACK!

Unspeakable curses in the form of earsplitting shrieks nearly deafened him as she unintentionally crashed into him, throwing punches to his torso with her good arm.

"GO!" Fang yelled to the awaiting flock, as if her horrific screams weren't enough of a signal. The members of the flock all shot off like rockets through the night to fight their own look-a-likes. They brushed past Fang as he elbowed Max II in the face and she began to hurtle toward the ground.

Her wings weren't opening to save her as Fang dove after her falling body. Fang saw a look of terrified acceptance flash in her eyes before she closed them, bracing herself for the impact that had the definite possibility of killing her.

Cold panic struck Fang. No. No, you can't die!

Before he had time to think, he dove beneath her, catching her. They were then both pulled toward the ground, taken by the force her body had acquired during the fall. Fang ignored the momentarily weak and confused look on her face as he used all his strength to keep them from smashing into the ground.

With great effort, he stopped a foot above the earth. He rose back up a few feet and hovered there for good measure, just in case gravity got mad at him for stealing its victim.

Max II looked cautiously at the ground while cradling her broken arm.

She began to say, "Why did you just-"

Fang pulled his arms out from under her, letting her fall the few feet left to the ground with a satisfying thud and an accompanying scream of rage. Pained tears filled Max II's eyes as she pulled herself into a sitting position. Her face was now a deep red-purple, and her lower lip was bleeding from biting into it.

Fang wouldn't have been able to watch her die. It would be like watching Max herself die, and he couldn't handle that, even if this was just some evil twin that wanted to kill him. He couldn't. Besides, Max had spared Max II's life before, with good reason. Max wasn't a murderer, and Fang wasn't about to be either.

Even though he knew he couldn't kill her, he was still faced with the slight problem of figuring out what to do with her.

He pondered the possibilities, just vaguely aware of the flock's vicious battles going on high above the trees.

"Why?" she asked, her face emotionless.

"Maybe I'm just a nice guy," he muttered.

Suddenly, the evil confidence she had shown before crept back onto her face.

"You can't kill me, can you?" she said, a wicked smile reaching her eyes. "Always the gentleman, aren't you? I can see why she likes you." She snorted as she tried to stifle her laughter.

Fang's blood heated angrily. You are so not helping the me-not-killing-you thing.

"She's lucky to have such a nice little monkey like you to boss around. And how does she repay you? She runs off and leaves you with her little band of useless brats." Her fake smile faded. "I don't know what you ever saw in that little slut."

A switch went off in Fang's brain, like a spark to the ignition of his full rage. He delivered a staggering kick to her face, cracking her nose and causing a profuse stream of blood to pour out of it. He landed, knocking her over with a punch to the back of the skull.

Max II wasn't about to give up, though. She opened her wings and up-righted herself in a flash of sudden movement. She winced, trying to ignore the hellacious pain in her broken arm. She prepared herself to take Fang on.

They stood there for a moment before Max II went on the offensive, lunging at him for a tackle. He anticipated the action, lowering his head into her stomach and flipping her over his head.

"This is better than pro wrestling," he seethed as she brought herself to her feet once again.

"Anything is better than pro wrestling," she said, spitting her blood out on the ground.

They started throwing punches at each other.

"When are the flyboys coming?" Fang asked, dodging an uppercut.

"Flyboys?" She snorted again, aiming a right hook at Fang's face "Those lards with wings stapled on? Those oafs can hardly fly a few feet without falling. They were never any help."

Fang caught her right hook and delivered one to her ribs while he thought about that statement.

She obviously hadn't seen the new flyboys, the agile ones that could probably beat the snot out of her and remember to flap. But why?

She continued with heavy breaths, "I'm not with the School anymore. Me and my little flock there broke out of that hole months ago, and now we're playing the game our way." She took two more stinging punches from Fang before shoving him backwards into a tree.

"If you're free, why are you still trying to kill us?" Fang asked, shaking the splintered tree bark from his wings and avoiding a kick to the gut.

"One word- revenge," she said icily, snapping his head back as she said the word 'revenge'.

"Revenge?" Fang said, giving a painful kick to her shin. She yelped in pain and then rose into the air. Fang rose also, letting his brain register his madness before the pain. "Max let you live. She could have killed you, but she let you live."

"That was her mistake," Max II snarled. "It's not my fault she's weak."

Max is not weak. She just has a soul, unlike you, Fang thought. He spun Max II around and kicked her into a tree, increasing the blood flow from her nose and making red, ugly scratches on her pretty face.

She retaliated, flying backwards into him and smashing him up against yet another defenseless tree. She completed her right hook this time and flipped upside-down, kicking him in the mouth and hitting his skull on the tree's trunk.

He was dazed for a moment, but only a single moment. No one seemed to be winning, and their blows seemed to be covering no ground. They continued fighting like this in determined silence until she backed away, breathless and worn.

"Giving up?" he said, feeling his own energy lagging but trying not to show it.

"Never," she breathed. "You either get revenge or revenge gets you, and it's not getting me, Fangy."

"Max saved your life! How can you try to kill her after that?"

"Does it look like I'm trying to kill her? I'm trying to kill you."

"Wait, so you're not going to try and kill Max?" Fang asked, with a fraction of an ounce of hope in his mind.

"Nope," she said, a devious gleam in her eye. "That's why I sent you to do it."

Fang's heart dropped a million miles, and he could hardly keep it from showing on his face.

"You sent my clone to kill Max?" he said quietly, the words falling from his lips with the false hope that they weren't true.

"Yesterday," she said with a smug grin, "And he's way tougher than you, in case you were wondering."

No. God, no. I have to save Max. I have to find her and save her...

Any anger he held towards Max dissipated instantly at that moment. It didn't matter what anyone wanted It didn't matter if she didn't love him; if she hated him. It didn't matter that they had fought and split up- nothing mattered.

The only thing that mattered was finding her and saving her.

"Aww, are you worried?" Max II mocked. "It's okay. I made sure to tell Fangy II to make her death slow and painful."

Fang held his breath, letting his mind tell him that maybe murder wasn't so evil of a thing…

Yay! I finally updated! Sorry for the wait. You know I love you guys.
Sorry if I offended anyone with those few kinda not-nice words.
Good guess, kashiena. You were right… kind of.
Please vote in my poll on my profile. Please? :D
And of course, please review! I need to know what you think!

-Skye :)

18. Bad Dreams and Worse Reality

I begin this chapter with exactly 100 reviews. Thank you all so much. I will never get tired of what you have to say.

This chapter is very long, very dynamic, and very… well, you can read it for yourself.

Dreams are often symbolic, taking bits and pieces of reality and throwing them together with fantasies and impossibilities. Yes, let us ponder that for a moment…

Okay, let's move on:

Chapter 18

Nudge was running. She was running away from Fang, who was about to beat her with a giant dinner roll. She began to yell for help as Fang began to gain on her. She tried to whip out her wings for a quick escape, but they didn't budge.


Iggy appeared out of nowhere, holding a huge piece of fried chicken- a drumstick, to be exact. She ran past him, looking back to see him hit Fang in the face with it like it was a baseball bat. Fang fell backwards and landed with a thump! Then Iggy tried to make Fang eat the chicken, and Fang kicked Iggy in the leg, refusing to eat the giant chicken leg. They began to fight, with Iggy using the chicken as a shield.

Nudge didn't watch the rest of the fight, because for some reason, her legs wouldn't let her stop running. The Gasman appeared beside her, and her legs allowed her to stop. He looked green, and his hands were placed on his stomach. He grimaced and said something about how he had just gotten into the Guinness Book of World Records for most refried beans eaten in ten minutes. Nudge began running again, pouring on the speed in fear of the gross and inevitable.

The Gasman disappeared from sight, but she kept going, just to be safe. Akila and Total appeared above her. They both had giant hot pink wings that didn't fit their bodies. Total swooped down over her, hitting her in the head with every down stroke.

"Ow! Ow! Stop- ow- it- ow!"

Total paid no attention and continued to whack her in the head every two seconds.

"Akila, do something!" Nudge cried.

Akila looked down and said, "Why?"

Nudge almost tripped over her own feet. Did Akila just talk?! Nudge looked around as she continued to sprint and get hit in the head, searching for Gazzy and his devious mimicry skills, but the Gasman was nowhere to be seen.

Nudge decided to pretend she wasn't going crazy and formed a plan. "Hey Akila, do you love Total?"

"Well duh," Akila scoffed.

Total stopped hitting Nudge in the head. He tilted his head in a doggy-like manner, as if to say, 'Really?' and Akila nodded. Total gave a happy woof and let his tongue dangle from his mouth with happiness.

A beautiful orange and pink sunset appeared in the sunset. "Look! A sunset!" Nudge said excitedly, pointing at it. The two dogs left Nudge in their wake, flying happily off into the magnificent and conveniently-placed sunset.

Nudge didn't have to time to figure out if that was cute or creepy before Angel showed up, running alongside Nudge. Her blond curls had been replaced by… angel hair pasta. That's just ironic, Nudge thought.

"Why are you running, Nudge?"

"Because I can't stop."


Nudge immediately stopped at Angel's command.

"Now run again," Angel said with a smile. Nudge followed her instruction.

"You're the one who's been making me run all this time?"

"Who else would it be?"

Good point.

"Have fun running, Nudge," Angel said, and then she and her pasta-hair vanished.

Nudge kept going, bewildered, until she ran into something and fell like a brick. Rubbing her forehead, she looked up to see Max towering above her. Stifling a cry, Nudge scrambled to her feet and hugged Max hard. Max stood stiff, not returning the hug.

Nudge heard angry male voices a little ways away and realized she had arrived back where she had started from.



Nudge let go of Max, disturbed at how she was unable to feel Max's emotions by touching her. Trying to make Max feel happy, or at least feel something, Nudge pointed at Fang and Iggy's strange battle, thinking Max would be entertained by it. But Max wouldn't turn and look. She just stared down at Nudge with some sort of restraint and pain in her eyes.

Nudge took Max's hand and sniffed, "Talk to me, Max."

Max didn't say a word. Her emotions were completely blocked off from Nudge's power, and she was as still as a statue.

"Max, please, just say something. Anything. Please?"

Warm tears slipped out of Nudge's eyes, and she did nothing to hide them.

"Where are you, Max? What are you doing? Are you in trouble? Why did you leave so suddenly? It can't have just been because of Fang. No, I can't believe that. I won't. We need you, Max. And you need us, Max. We're your family."

Max's gaze averted from Nudge, turning to the ground. She was still silent. Terribly and heartbreakingly silent.

Nudge's stomach rose into her throat as she resentfully uttered, "You don't want us to find you, do you?" She squeezed Max's hand hard, hoping it would help contain the sobs and keep them from spilling over.

"Nudge. Wake up. Don't move. This is serious," said the pasta-haired version of Angel, appearing suddenly at Nudge's left.

Nudge turned back to Max, but she saw that the hand of hers that had just clasped Max's was empty. She looked back at Angel, but she hadn't seen Max.

Had Max even really been there?

Nudge let a single sob escape her lips, but Angel didn't seem to care. "Wake up, Nudge. Right now!"

"No… I can't, she was just here-" Nudge sputtered.


Nudge's mind was thrown violently into full consciousness, but she knew better than to move or make a sound. She took a second to remember where she was, feeling the wind tousling her hair and the hard bark of the tree beneath her.

Angel? Nudge sent out timidly, struggling with that waking sequence where it's hard to distinguish the reality of the past and recent dreams. It was just a dream, Nudge, just a strange little dream that your mind made up, Nudge told herself while she tried not to shake inside.

Okay, everyone, Angel said, not taking the time to send Nudge a personal reply. Something's coming. I don't know what. Just be ready to fight, but don't move until Fang gives the say-so.

Angel paused, listening to something that Nudge couldn't hear. Nudge waited another second, and through the 'open connection' she could feel Angel's worry and Fang's struggle.

Nudge was immediately disconcerted. Fang was really in trouble. Why weren't they helping him? Angel, can we go now? Nudge asked, antsy and unwilling to be an actionless bystander while Fang was in trouble.

Not yet, guys, Angel said nervously, the unhappiness evident in her tone. Nudge was about to scream, not knowing what was happening. This is so annoying! Is this how Iggy feels all the time?

Pretty much, Angel sighed. Now be quiet, Nudge, okay?

Nudge threw up a mental block so she could think to herself. Man, I'm even too talkative in my own mind. What is going on? Why can't we help? What's happening to Fang? Who's hurting him? Did I have that crazy dream because of all the food I ate? Why did I eat so much? How are we supposed to be ready to fight if we don't know what we're up against? How are we supposed to fight without Max? What if Fang gets hurt? What if I can't fight? What if I can't fly with my wing all messed up? What if-"

Her million-mile-an-hour thought train was disrupted (more like derailed) when she heard Max's voice. She felt the same sob from her dream rising up in her throat. She willed it back down forcefully, knowing that the sound could compromise the entire plan. That is, if there was a plan... a plan that she had no clue about.

This doesn't make any sense. Why would we have to fight Max? Maybe I heard wrong. Maybe I just imagined it was Max.

Nudge didn't put imagining voices past herself. Then, the voice spoke again, and it was definitely, unmistakably Max.

She couldn't make out Max's words, but they sounded foreign and sinister. She opened one eye a fraction of an inch to look at Angel. She could tell by Angel's face that she was communicating with Fang and was really scared. Nudge tried to look at Max, but she was at a bad angle and could only see part of Fang.

Nudge took down her mental block, and Angel's small voice flooded back into her brain, quickly rattling off the information she was being given. It's Max II. She's alone. Fang says that we can take her… What?! But- Fang! Fine, okay. Never mind guys, all of our clones are here. When you hear Max II scream, go straight up twenty feet and then northwest. Fight your own clone. Don't get each other mixed up.

Max II? Nudge's heart rose and fell at the same time. She couldn't process all of this major information this quickly. She couldn't even-

Simultaneously, a giant, sickening CRRRRACK, hysterical screams accompanying curses, and Fang yelling "GO!" at the top of his lungs split the night air in an explosion of sudden noise. Before Nudge had time to finish thinking about how she didn't have time to think about anything, she was propelling herself through the steely night air with Angel in front of her and Gazzy and Iggy behind. She brushed her wing tip against Fang's as she shot past him, hoping he would make it out okay; that they would all make it out okay. The last thing she saw before engaging in a fight with her clone was Max II, a disturbing replica of her fearless Max, being elbowed in the face by Fang and falling rapidly toward the ground.

Nudge found her clone immediately, still as impressed as she was at their last encounter at the striking similarity. Nudge II didn't hesitate to make the first move. She flew at Nudge, as if they were playing an extreme version of a game Gazzy and Iggy used to get in trouble for playing called chicken. Nudge dodged out of the way, seeing that the second Nudge wasn't going to stop for anything. She would rather move out of the way and be the chicken for a second than get her ribs smashed in.

Nudge rolled her shoulder, trying to ignore the pain ebbing in her injured wing. She was flying crooked, and she knew she would never be able to win this thing in the air. Avoiding another potential tackle, Nudge flew low to the ground, flying a mere ten feet above its surface. Nudge II followed quickly at an uncomfortably close distance until they broke out of the trees into a wide, open field.

Nudge lowered, coming to a running stop on the ground. Nudge II imitated the maneuver and then raised her fists, showing that she was ready for combat. If Nudge hadn't been so incredibly scared of what might happen to her, she would have laughed at the clone's silly superhero stance (or super-villain stance, whichever you prefer).

Nudge's wing fell limply by her side, not willing to let her fly another foot. Summing up the odds, she found that they were not in her favor.

Not again, she thought bitterly.

The two began to grapple. Without much effort, Nudge II threw Nudge backwards onto the ground. Nudge bit her lip as she landed on her bad wing. Ignore the pain, Nudge. Ignore it. Focus.

Nudge II didn't wait to make her next move, kicking Nudge in the stomach. Nudge yelped as angry tears began to fill her vision. She tried to jump up, but Nudge II put her foot in the middle of Nudge's chest and slammed her back down.

How is this happening? Nudge thought. She isn't going to beat me that easily, is she?

Nudge knew she couldn't beat the other Nudge on strength alone, since she was definitely not in the best shape after the flyboy fight. She would have to be smarter than the other Nudge.

"Gazzy! Help!" Nudge yelled, sending a frantic, wild-eyed look behind Nudge II.

"Nice try," Nudge II said quietly, kicking Nudge in the head.

Nudge used one of the swear words she'd learned from Max in her head as the kick made her world turn black for a second. Gazzy hadn't been behind Nudge II, but Nudge had thought that the fake cry for help would be just enough of a distraction to make time to throw Nudge II off of her.

"You know what?" Nudge said, feeling slightly dazed, "You're just like that one movie. What was it called? Oh yeah, it was called Grease 2."

The clone was oddly silent. She raised an eyebrow, though, as if she was asking, 'How do you figure?'

"You're like Grease 2, because you'll never be as good as the original," Nudge seethed with a small smile on her face.

Nudge II tried not to look furious, but she couldn't hide it. She kicked Nudge in the head again, reintroducing Nudge to the sudden blackness.

Nudge's fury rose in her chest and circulated through her body. Do that one more time and see what happens.

Her head felt heavy, and her thoughts seem to slur together. Her 'outsmart-the-clone' plan wasn't going as well as she had hoped.

"Tell me one thing," she said in a voice just above a whisper, "Are you angry like this because your parents didn't love you?"


Nudge let the adrenaline spill over into her bloodstream and threw her wings open, propelling her fist into Nudge II's ribs. Nudge II quickly regained her composure, punching Nudge in the cheekbone. Nudge shot back up into the air, willing to welcome the pain in her wing if it was going to save her. Nudge II followed, grabbing onto Nudge's sneakers as she ascended. Nudge tried to shake her off, but Nudge II didn't let go.

Nudge couldn't keep herself up with the extra weight, so she closed her wings and sent them both plummeting toward the earth. Nudge II caught herself seconds before Nudge did, which gave Nudge the opportunity to let gravity pull her past the clone and snap some of the bones in Nudge II's wing.

Now this is a tiny bit fairer, Nudge thought.

Fire coursed underneath Nudge's skin as she went to air-tackle the other Nudge. Nudge II dodged nimbly, somehow still able to fly straight.

So not fair! Nudge protested in her mind.

She threw a punch at Nudge II's jaw, which made Nudge II let out a satisfying shriek. Nudge II flew straight up, giving Nudge a mind-shattering uppercut on the way. Nudge spit out some blood, flying up after Nudge II.

Nudge II went for another kick to Nudge's face, but Nudge caught the kick with one hand. She grinned smugly, but Nudge II just used her other foot to deliver the oh-so-degrading face-kick.

Crap, forgot she had two feet, Nudge thought hazily.

She felt air rushing past her, and Nudge II seemed to be moving away at a great speed. Then she realized that it wasn't Nudge II that was flying up and away from her. She, the original Nudge in the flesh, was falling fast toward the ground. She had no mind to react or to try and save herself. She figured out that she was falling too late, and by then there was no time to do anything.

The collision with the ground was more painful than she had thought it was going to be, and she definitely hadn't thought it was going to be soft and cushy. She could hear multiple bones breaking, and she heard a distant voice sending out bloodcurdling screams. She felt sorry for the owner of the voice, and then she realized the voice was her own. The physical stress was tremendous, possibly more than she had ever experienced before. And that was saying something. Nudge turned over onto her stomach, feeling like jagged rocks in her throat were restraining her breathing.

She clenched her fists and pushed her forehead against the ground, no longer able to ignore the pain. Ice ran through her core, only to be replaced seconds later with lightning-like hotness. Her thoughts were incoherent, jumbled fragments of confusion and anger and a couple of hundreds of thousands of other feelings.

She felt Nudge II land softly beside her. She turned her head to look at her, but all she saw was a tall, winged, and blurry blob.

"Have any last wishes, Nudge?"

Nudge frowned in thought. "Yeah, I do, actually…"

Just speaking rattled her brain and magnified the pain a hundred times. "I just want you to know…"

She paused for a long moment, trying to find the right words.

"I just want you to know that you're a rotten, soulless piece of nothing, and for the sake of all things non-repulsive in the world, I hope Fang or somebody kicks your butt so bad that you'll be beyond recognition. Not that anyone would want to admit to recognizing you, anyway."

Nudge II's brown eyes widened to twice their normal size. Were those tears that Nudge saw in them?

Nudge just stared at Nudge II, not afraid to look death in the face. She didn't want to be remembered as a coward. She was a fighter, always had been. There was no point in changing now.

"Bye, Nudge."

All of the astonishing pain vanished in an instant as Nudge II sent a last kick to the side of Nudge's head.

The world turned into complete darkness as Nudge's eyelids slipped over her glossy eyes. The pain melted into the ground beneath her, no longer plaguing her body. The brutally strong wind whooshing past her was the last thing she heard, the last thing she felt, before she stopped breathing.

All I can say now is- review. I know you have something to say about that.

Thanks for reading, guys.


(Lol, Grease 2. I know that was cheesy.)

19. Headfirst

¡Hola a México y España! And Hi to Thailand!
I'm sorry I haven't updated in a while, and I know I left you guys hanging at a bad place.
But have no fear! To make it up to you, I have two chapters today for you for your Christmas present! Yay, right? And they're long, too. They were actually supposed to be one chapter, but it got too long!
There's a lot of new questions raised in these two chapters and a lot of POVs!
Please enjoy:

Chapter 19

Gasman II punched Gazzy square in the stomach, hard, and Gazzy flew backwards through the air.

"Ow! I think you hit me in the potato salad," Gazzy said, perhaps regretting those last few plates at the buffet.

"You are inferior," droned Gasman II.

Gazzy said, "You are inferior," in an attempt to mimic the clone's voice, but the only voice that came out was his own.

No! Where'd my mimicking ability go?

"Soon, I will be the only Gasman," Gazzy II said, swinging wildly at Gazzy.

The Gasman almost laughed, despite everything, realizing his mimicking ability wasn't working because they had the same voice.

"What's so funny?" Gasman II asked angrily as they continued to spar.

"What's so funny? Why, it's you dah-ling!" Gazzy said in a high-pitched British woman's voice.

"I will destroy you."

Gazzy decided to go for a Southern woman this time. "Ya'll ain't gotta be so serious, now. Ya'll uh gonna get some frightful frown lines up yonder on that pretty lil' forehead uh ya'll's."

Gasman II swung at him again, but the attempt was dodged as Gazzy flew over Gasman II's head, cackling all the way.

If I have to fight for my life, I might as well have fun, Gazzy assured himself.

Gasman II cocked his head and stared. "You're insane," he said bluntly.

This time Gazzy couldn't resist letting out a huge laugh. "Probably!" he yelled, flying around like a maniac.

Suddenly, the Gasman's stomach dropped, and it wasn't because of the potato salad. Unexpected dread filled his mind, and he could only think of one word.


Something had gone wrong. He could feel it. Something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. Feeling guilty for even having a second of fun while Nudge was in trouble, the Gasman zipped back to Gasman II.

"Nighty, night, R2-me-2," Gazzy said in a serious tone that wasn't characteristic of him.

"What are you talking abou-"

The Gasman silenced Gasman II by sending a single raging punch to his cranium that made him black out immediately and fall to the ground.

Gazzy didn't have time to mess around. He needed to get to Nudge.

Fang groaned out loud as a sharp pain in his head made him grit his teeth. He held the side of his head as he looked at Max II.

"Aw, are you okay, sweetie? Do you have a headache?" Max II said, screwing up her face in an attempt to look sympathetic.

I need to go to Nudge, Fang thought. He didn't know how he knew that, but he didn't question it.

"Sorry, but I gotta go now, sweetie," Fang said sarcastically, knowing he had to put away his rage for another time.

Dealing with Max II could wait. Even saving Max, wherever the heck she was, could wait. Nudge needed him. To Fang, Max was somewhere out there in space and time, but Nudge was here and now.

"What, you think I'm just going to let you fly away?" Max II spat.

"I don't need your permission," he said darkly.

He threw his fist at her broken arm, with enough force to break through a wall. Her eyes widened as she let out a shrill, unearthly scream that almost deafened him. He tried to not get sick over the familiar scream. Her knees buckled, and she fell, cursing him and everything on earth that she could think of to curse. She buried her forehead in the ground, unable to focus on anything but her arm, which felt like someone had run over it with an eighteen-wheeler, shoved it in an incinerator, and fed it to a giant, blood-sucking leech.

Not caring about her further disposal, Fang took off, going toward Nudge, trying to fight off the ominous feeling that was rising up in the back of his mind.

Why don't I have a clone? Total thought, offended. He was running through the woods with Akila, going towards Nudge. It had been pretty tricky getting Akila out of the tree, but they had managed. Total was trying to think of anything but Nudge, but he couldn't help it. What if something was wrong with her? What if something was more than wrong?

What will I do without her? Who's going to give me Akila advice and drown out all of my problems with insistent talking and make me seem less annoying and pet me when Angel's not around and…?

He was dying inside, but he couldn't let Akila see.

Don't assume the worst happened, Total, old boy. You're probably just overreacting. Nudge is probably fine and will be happy to see you.

Total tried to convince himself that it was all okay. He was having trouble breathing, but he pretended it was because of the running.

Man, Total, you're so good at lying to yourself.

Angel tried to control the second Angel's mind, but her mental block was the strongest Angel had ever encountered. She got absolutely nothing, and it didn't feel good not to have control. She felt a pressure at the edge of her mind, and she recognized it as Angel II trying to push her way into her own mind. It felt odd, knowing that this might be how some of her victims felt before she broke into their minds and forced them to throw themselves into lakes or run into canyon walls or whatever. She blocked Angel II out, and Angel II frowned angrily.

Man, I'm adorable, Angel thought while looking at Angel II, more fully realizing what power she held over other people. It was scary, really.

She looked down at her wrapped injuries, recognizing them as hindrances. She threw off her sling and ripped off her ankle wrap, thinking that they were healed enough to fight with.

Something collided with her back, pitching her forward.

Iggy had tossed Iggy II, accidentally throwing him at Angel.

She was about to yell, 'Watch it!' but she bit her tongue. She punched Iggy II in the back of the head. Seemingly unharmed, he turned and looked down at her venomously.

Iggy II can see? Angel cried.

Why are you asking me? How would I know that? Iggy replied.

That's so not fair!

Tell me about it, Iggy sighed.

Igs, I have an idea. I can't control Angel II's mind, but I think I can control Iggy II. You take her, and I'll take him.


About four seconds south-southwest of you.

Got it.

He flew at Angel II with exact precision, while Angel reached into Iggy II's mind.

She thought, I will punch myself in the face.

His hand began to twitch, and he looked down at it in horror. It clenched into a fist slowly as he tried to fight Angel's control. It was useless, though, and he punched himself right in the jaw.

Again, harder this time.

He punched himself once again, bruising his face in the process.

I will fall…

"No!" he shouted.


He turned away and pulled into a dive, with his head aimed at the ground. Angel didn't watch the impact, not sure if her stomach could handle seeing the destruction she caused.

Now I will promise to leave Angel and her flock alone, and if I break my promise, Angel will not spare me again, and I give her permission to give me what I deserve.

He rolled over onto his side. His neck was obviously broken. Angel could hear the blood-curling screams in his mind, but he was so incredibly strong that he didn't even let out a single noise. He looked at her with a frightening ferocity, and she felt like crying all over again.

I will promise not to hurt them, but I won't say it out loud right now. I won't hurt them, because we're all in the same boat. We all were messed around with by evil scientists, we all broke out of our prisons, and we all just want to be free.

"I promise," he breathed weakly, but Angel cringed, knowing that he had done it on his own will.

Another piece of Angel's heart broke as she looked at him. What were the chances of survival with a broken neck and no medical attention?

Cold realization struck Angel as he closed his eyes. She landed and ran over to him. She checked his breathing and his pulse, both of which seemed to be okay.

"Just don't move, um, Iggy…" Angel said softly, smoothing his hair off of his forehead.

He looked at her funny, but he didn't speak.

"Whatever you do, just don't move your neck. I'm- I'm sorry. Just don't try to move at all, I'll make sure you're okay."

She sent calm feelings into his mind and made sure that he kept breathing. And then she remembered the real Iggy. She looked up into the sky, just in time to see Iggy handing Angel II a small, round object. Angel II looked confused as Iggy turned and flew away as fast as he could.

"IGGY! NO!" Angel cried, but it was too late.

"Angel! What are you doing?" he shouted as she whipped past him.

"Go down to Iggy II and make sure he keeps breathing! Don't move him! If you love me at all, you'll just go down there and do it, right now!" she yelled back to him.

He went without another word. Angel flew up to Angel II and snatched the mini-bomb out of her hands.

"DUCK!" she screamed in Angel II's face.

Angel II ducked her head, and Angel pitched the bomb as far as she could. It exploded in the air not far behind Angel II, sending her body flying into Angel's. Angel wrapped her arms around Angel II's body and landed them as safely as she could near Iggy and Iggy II.

Angel set the girl down and ran back over to Iggy II's side.

"Still breathing?" she asked Iggy.

"Yeah, he's still breathing," Iggy said. "Now… why do I care?"

"Think about it, Igs. They're free now. No one is controlling them. All they've ever known is anger and violence, and now they're just acting on what they've been trained to act on. The fact that they broke out shows that they can think for themselves, and they just need someone to show them that they don't have to be like this."

She turned to Angel II. "Do you hear me? If you keep acting like spineless mercenaries, you're just doing what the evil people who caused this mess want you to do. You broke out of their facility, but you haven't broken free of the hold they've made in your lives. What good will killing us do? We're trying to save the world that you're trying to be free in! Think for yourself. Don't do what they taught you to do, do what you think you should, what feels right."

Angel closed her eyes and shook her head, feeling that her words were pointless.

But Iggy II and Angel II exchanged a glance, both having heard her words crystal-clearly.


Iggy and Angel exchanged a different glance, both knowing that something was up.

Angel turned back to Angel II. "We have to go, but I swear we'll come back for you. Send him soothing thoughts, like a tropical beach or a mountain stream or something. If he stops breathing, resuscitate, but don't tilt his head back or push on his chest or anything. Just hold his jaw and breathe in. If you move him, you could paralyze him. We'll be back."

She made sure she got eye contact with Iggy II. "We'll be back."

And as soon as Angel II took Iggy II's wrist to monitor him, Angel and Iggy took off into the air.

"What's wrong with Nudge?" Iggy asked as he flew close to Angel.

"I don't know," Angel admitted. They had both felt that something was wrong at the same time, which had happened a couple of times before, so they were fairly sure it wasn't a false alarm.

Iggy frowned, hearing the sadness in her voice. "We can survive anything together, Angel. We have each other, and Nudge has all of us, so she'll be fine."

Angel appreciated the effort, but she wasn't buying it.

Iggy couldn't deal with anything happening to Nudge. She had almost been killed earlier, and he had a sick feeling that her situation now was less-than-glamorous. He was still surprised that Angel was taking so kindly to the clones that were trying to kill them.

"I told you, Iggy," Angel said, having read his thoughts, "They're in the same boat as us… kind of. Trust me."

"I did what you told me to, didn't I? You know I trust you, Angel even if you are a six-year-old little blonde girl."

"You always have to try and be the funny-man when it gets rough, don't you?"

"I would have died by now if I wasn't," he said.

Probably, Angel thought truthfully.

You're way too old for your age, Angel. You sort of reminded me of Max back there.

That's the best compliment anyone has ever given me, she thought bravely, despite the doubt in her heart. She kept this thought to herself, though, for reasons that she couldn't even understand.

They didn't speak any after that. They both just flew and thought, Be okay, Nudge. Please just be okay.

What is going to happen to the anti-flock, and why does anyone care?
And what up with Nudge, yo? (laughs)
Review this chapter (please?) and then head on to Chapter 20.

-Skye :D

20. Cue Lightning

Here's Chapter 20, as promised. I hope it's good. Then again, I was up at 5AM this morning writing it, and I get pretty goofy around that time...

Chapter 20

Nudge II flew through the trees, looking for stray members of her flock. A smug sense of triumph reigned in her brain as she silently rejoiced in her victory over the other Nudge. Now she was the only Nudge, the way it should have been before if those good-for-nothing scientists would have done their jobs and eliminated the original flock.

She had rather enjoyed killing the other Nudge, though. It was exhilarating and so much more personal.

Her triumph faded as her eyes set upon her leader, who was on the ground, clutching her arm and breathing raggedly. Nudge II landed without her usual grace, almost toppling over to get to her fallen leader. She dropped to her knees in front of Max II, whose eyes were fixed on the ground.

It took Max II a minute to even realize that Nudge II was there, since she was absorbed in her own anguish. Nudge II tried not to gasp as her leader lifted her head, showing a twisted, bloody mess. Her lower lip was cut open by teeth marks, covered in dry blood. Fresh blood streamed from her broken nose, making red stripes down her face and onto the ground. Red, irritated-looking scratches marred the rest of her face, which was pale and cold. As Nudge II surveyed her leader's arm, she almost puked, seeing how badly it was broken. It bent in places it definitely wasn't supposed to be bending at.

She felt the urge to hug Max II, to tell her she would get help and it would be okay, but she couldn't. She had been trained to avoid showing emotion, because showing emotion showed weakness. That's what she had always been told. Besides, it would probably just agitate the injuries further.

"Report," Max II said wearily.

"Nudge has been eliminated."

"Good. And the others?"

"We have not had any communication since the initial separation. I am not aware of their current locations or statuses." Then, Nudge II couldn't help herself. She dropped the formalities for a moment, saying, "Are you gonna be okay, Max?"

Max II looked at her again strangely, as if to say, 'I don't understand what you just said. Were you speaking English?'

Nudge II's heart dropped. She couldn't believe she was actually jealous of what the first Nudge had had. The other Nudge had a real family who she could… love. What did that stupid word even mean? Why was she so weak? Why was she so stupid to want something so idiotic and imaginary?

Even though she knew it wasn't stupid, she stood up and shook off the thoughts she was having. She had to be strong and do things the way she had been shown. She stood there and waited for her next order.

Nudge II clenched her fist as she looked over her leader again, wanting to get back at Fang, who had done all this damage. Where was he, anyway?

Angel saw a blond head in the distance, and she immediately recognized that it belonged to her older brother.

"I can see Gazzy, Iggy. Start slowing down," she said.

As they got closer, Angel regretted to see that Gazzy was huddled on the ground, crying. She couldn't tell why, though.

Iggy's hearing picked up on the Gasman's cries, and he went stiff. The Gasman was saying something over and over again through his tears.

"Nudge! No! Nudge! Wake up, Nudge! Come on! NUDGE!"

Angel heard the last shout of Nudge's name, and as she and Iggy landed, she could just make out the form of a skinny, sprawled-out body near Gazzy.

They ran over to him and their suspicions were confirmed. He was clutching Nudge's hand and sobbing uncontrollably. "NUDGE!"

Angel and Iggy fell beside Nudge's body, trying to ignore the cold fear inside themselves.

"Is she breathing?"

"No," Gazzy sobbed.

"How long have you been here?"

"I don't know, less than a minute?"

"Did you see anyone else?"

"I saw Nudge II on the way here, but she didn't see me."

Angel tried to swallow the situation and choke back her fears, but she couldn't help but start crying, seeing her brother so torn up. She let the tears spill, even though she had been trying so hard to stay strong. Still, she wasn't ready to believe that Nudge was gone. If the damage had been done only minutes before, it could still be reversed. She prayed to God, even though she didn't know if He was real, that it could be reversed.

Iggy was already cataloguing Nudge's injuries, appalled at the number of broken bones she had. He took her other hand and squeezed it, trying to get a reaction. Nothing.

Angel tried to probe her mind. Nothing.

Gazzy screamed her name repeatedly, but it bounced off into the night. Nothing.

"She's dead!" Gazzy shouted as his furious tears spilled over more violently.

"No she's not!" Iggy yelled back. She can't be!

He placed his free hand over Nudge's heart and closed his eyes. Even though closing his eyes didn't affect whether or not he saw anything, it still helped him focus somehow. He was going to try and make his strength go into her, like he had done the previous night for Angel. He hadn't told anyone about his new ability yet, because he wasn't sure if it was legit, but he told Angel and the Gasman then. It was the only thing he could think of to do.

Meanwhile, Angel continued to try and reach into Nudge's mind, and the Gasman just tried to keep his sharp intakes of breath quiet enough not to disturb them.

Gazzy hardly noticed when Total, Akila, and Fang arrived. Total ran over to Nudge and licked her face as Akila watched from a distance. Fang kneeled and checked her pulse. He lifted her eyelids and then placed his ear near her mouth to check for breathing. He almost fell over when each test failed.

Nudge, oh God, Nudge…

Fang looked over Iggy and Angel, who both had their hands on Nudge and had their eyes shut tight. Gazzy quietly told Fang about Iggy's new power and that Angel was trying to get into Nudge's mind.

Angel started to get dizzy with her efforts. It had been scary when she'd had to reach into Fang's mind, but at least there was something there. Angel became faint and had to catch herself with one arm to stop her from hitting the ground.

Concerned by the look in her eyes, Fang pulled her into him with one arm.

"I'm sorry, Nudge. I couldn't help you. I'm so sorry, Nudge," she whispered as she pounded weakly on Fang's chest.

"No, it's okay, Angel. It's not your fault," Fang told her, grabbing her fist and holding it still.

"Fang?" Gazzy said, tears still going down his young-looking face, "It's not really okay, is it?"

Fang saw that the distrust from earlier had gone away, because the Gasman needed him. They all needed him to be their leader.

He took Gazzy's shaking shoulder in one hand, not knowing if it was to steady the Gasman or to steady himself.

Iggy didn't move or listen to anything around him. Everything in him was completely focused on transferring his strength to Nudge. When he had used the new power with Angel, small bits of his strength had leaked through his fingertips into her throughout the night. Now, he was forcibly pushing his strength out through both of his hands, going from slow leak to bursting dam. He could almost actually feel himself getting weaker as the strength was pulled from him. Still, Nudge remained cold and unmoving. As he felt his pulse slow down dangerously, he reluctantly removed his hands from her.

"No! You can't give up, Iggy, you can't!" Gazzy bawled.

"It's actually physically killing me, Gasman. I- I'm not strong enough. She's not responding. She's-"

Then Iggy started to cry silently, with his face in his hand, and everyone else just broke. No, Iggy didn't cry. If Iggy was crying, everyone knew whatever it was had to be bad.

The only one with dry eyes was Fang, who was furiously thinking, What would Max do? What would Max do? What would Max do?

He refused to believe that Nudge was dead. Maybe he was being a stubborn moron again, but he wasn't going to let a retrievable Nudge just slip through his fingers.

Think, think, think…

Fang, she's freaking dead! Stop it! Angel cried in his mind, not wanting him to give them false hope so that their hearts could all be ripped out a little farther.

Fang shook his head as he got an idea. He jumped and placed Angel in her brother's arms as he stepped over to Iggy. He blocked his thoughts from Angel and spoke at such a low volume that even Iggy's advanced hearing could hardly pick it up.

"Can you absorb strength, Iggy?"

"Well, yeah, I think so…"

"Take my strength and give it to Nudge."

"Fang, no-"

"Shut up, Iggy," Fang said with dead seriousness, "I'm the leader. Do what I freaking say."

Iggy nodded, feeling Fang's stare pinpricking his sightless eyes.

"Iggy," Fang said, lowering his voice even further, "Kill me if you have to."

Iggy wanted to protest, but he couldn't.

"Do you understand, Iggy? Do you understand?" Fang grasped Iggy's forearm tightly, cutting off the circulation.

Iggy nodded gravely, putting one hand back over Nudge's heart and the other hand around hers.

"Please come back to us, Nudge," he said with what little voice he had left.

Fang placed his hand on Iggy's shoulder, and Iggy began draining Fang of what strength he had. Iggy struggled at first, not having done this before, but he got the hang of it rather quickly. As more precious seconds ticked by, Fang could feel his breaths getting shallower, could feel his heat disappearing, could feel his thoughts getting fuzzier…

"Fang! No! Stop it, you're going to die!" Angel screamed, realizing what Fang was willing to do for Nudge. "It's too late, Fang!"

"Gaz, hold 'er back," Fang slurred.

Gazzy's tears just kept coming. First Max, then Nudge, and now Fang, too? Did he trust Fang that much?

Yes, he surprised himself to discover, he did.

He held onto Angel, who was struggling under his grip.

"Lemme go, Gasman, he's gonna kill himself!"

"No," was all Gazzy could manage to say as he shut off his mind to her and watched in terrified silence as Iggy and Fang did what they had to do.

Angel stopped her pointless struggle as Total jumped into her arms and Akila nuzzled her arm.

"Fang, it's not working," Iggy said, trying to clear his voice.

"Jus' keep going, Igs," Fang said softly as his vision blurred into a haze.

"Fang, I can't ki-"

"DO IT!" Fang yelled with ferocious determination, trying to be the fearless leader, trying to be a rock and not show what he was going through inside.

Iggy bared his teeth into his tongue in concentration, feeling oddly like a jumper cable. A defective jumper cable, apparently, because Nudge didn't show even the smallest sign of life.

Angel had her own idea then. "Fang, think of the School!"


"Listen to me, think of the School! Think of how they shoved you in a dog crate when you were just a little, defenseless kid. Think of how they stuck needles in you and made you run for hours and shocked you when you didn't do what they wanted."

Iggy felt new angry, energy coming from Fang. "Keep going, Angel, it's working!"

"Um, okay, Fang- think about Jeb. Think about how you trusted him until he betrayed us all. Think about all the pain he caused when you thought he was dead, and then how much you wanted to kill him when you found out he was alive."

"Angel, keep going!" Iggy urged.

"Think about how Ari almost killed you, and think of how you felt when Max chose him over you. Think of how hurt you were when your best friend chose a monster over you, her right-hand man. Think of how mad you were when you told Max it was you or him. Think about how angry you were when you took Iggy and Gazzy away."

"We need something more, Angel, quick!"

Fang's eyelids were threatening to slip shut.


"Er- what?" he said, sounding nauseous and like he didn't know where he was or what was happening.

"Fang, think about Max," Angel said, stepping into dangerous territory, "Just think about Max, Fang. Think about how mad you are that she left us… think about how mad you are at yourself for letting her get away."

Iggy yelled hoarsely, "Angel, keep it up, I think I- I don't know, just keep going. Don't stop!"

Cue lightning, Angel thought.

"Think about how stubborn she is and how angry she makes you. Think about all the times you were right and she was wrong. Think about how badly you wish she was here right now. Think about how much you l-"

"Igs?" followed by a weak cough sounded like a freaking chorus of angels doing Handel's Messiah.

Nudge's brown eyes opened, with unquestionable life in them. She looked up into Iggy's sky-blue eyes, which were swimming with tears.

"What's wrong, Iggy?" she asked, wondering where she was and what could possibly make someone as strong as Iggy cry.

He laughed out loud at the ludicrous thought of her asking him what was wrong.

Iggy's laugh stopped abruptly as Fang's hand slid off his shoulder and Fang collapsed backwards.

Nudge looked in confusion, but was too weak to ask what was happening with Fang. She looked over to see Gazzy and Angel.

They were both sobbing hysterically for some reason, but Nudge didn't know why.

Angel was buried in Gazzy's arms, taking a glance at Nudge every once in a while, each time, her sobs growing louder.

Gazzy's tears slipped out quietly as he just stared at Nudge, unable to believe the miracle they'd just been given.

But at what price?

Fang's skin was clammy and pale, and each breath came slowly and painfully.

Nudge looked around at all of them, needing to know what was going on. She tried to sit up, but instead, she shrieked in pain, feeling like she was a teddy bear that just got the stuffing ripped out of it.

"Don't move, Nudge, honey," Total said in a sad, syrupy voice, "You're gonna hurt yourself even more."

Even more? When did I get hurt?

Iggy pulled Fang into a sitting position, and Fang tried to shake off the dizziness.

"Nudge?" Fang said, directing his last bit of focus into her eyes.


"Are you okay?"

"Um- no? I don't know. Maybe? Probably not. No?"

"Are you alive?" he asked, as his energy level visibly fell and depleted.

"Yes," Nudge replied, not knowing how on earth that was a valid question.

"Good," Fang breathed. That was enough assurance for him. "Your watch, Iggy," he said, before collapsing backwards again.

"Crap," Iggy said.

"He'll be fine, Iggy," Angel assured him while trying to dry her face off, which didn't work since she couldn't stop new tears from coming. "He just needs to rest."

"Seriously guys, where are we?" Nudge summoned up the energy to say, wondering why she hurt so much all over.

"The middle of nowhere, like usual," Gazzy offered, also trying to dry his face off.

"Yeah, but how did we get here, and why do I feel like somebody just stabbed a sword between my ribs?"

"You don't remember?" Angel asked timidly.

"Remember what? And where's Max?"

Have I ever told you all how much fun writing is? Gotta love it.
So there's 19 and 20 for you.
So no, Nudge is not dead. You didn't really think I'd just kill off the adorable little chatterbox, did you? I love her, and I don't have the heart to do that. So stop threatening to drown me in your eternal hate, please? Love, people. Learn to love.
Nudge was not 'brought back from the dead,' by the way. Not literally. She was dying, and she had stopped breathing, but she wasn't clinically "dead". The time lapse from the end of Chapter 18 to the end of this chapter is mere minutes, even though it doesn't seem like it.
If the flock hadn't all gone to her, though, she would have died.
So there you have it.

Merry Christmas! I love you all, and I hope you're having a wonderful holiday.


21. Stranger Than Sympathy

Hi, guys. I have no idea what I was originally going to do with this chapter, because as some of you know, I haven't updated this story since Christmas. A million apologies to all of you. I started writing a Christmas fic and then got extremely busy with school. But it's back now, so yay. :)

Chapter 21

Nudge II and Max II walked through the trees, looking for the rest of their group. They traveled in silence, except for the occasional pained noise from Max II as she switched between wiping blood away from her nose and cradling her broken arm.

Seeing her leader's struggle, Nudge II fought off another wave of sympathy and the urge to offer assistance. She had no idea where the sympathy was coming from. She had been trained to be everything but sympathetic, even toward her leader. She had just killed someone, and rather enjoyed doing it. Sympathy shouldn't have even been in her vocabulary.

Nearing the edge of the trees, they both spotted two bodies a ways off. Angel II was kneeling over Iggy II, who was sprawled out on the ground. Nudge II and Max II walked over while keeping their pace with no particular sense of urgency.

Angel II was holding Iggy II's hand with her eyes squeezed shut, and Iggy II just lay there, staring straight up.

"Report," Max II commanded.

Angel II didn't open her eyes. "Iggy II has sustained a serious neck injury needing immediate medical attention. I am still at a hundred percent. Gasman's location and status are unknown."

"And the flock?"

"They… escaped."

Max II's jaw tightened angrily. "Let's go, Angel." She turned and started walking away, with Nudge II tailing her.

"What?" Angel II hissed in disbelief to Max II's back, finally having opened her eyes.

Max II halted and turned back around, revealing how much of a bloody, beaten mess she was. What little patience she had was quickly disappearing.

"We can't help him. He is no longer of use to us. Now let's go," she said, giving Angel II a look that just dared her to disobey her orders.

Angel II glanced down at Iggy II's face. He didn't look back at her, afraid of what she would do and at the same time not wanting to influence her decision.

"No," Angel said quietly.

Iggy II closed his eyes, not wanting to reveal his feelings or see what Max II was going to do to her for saying that.

Max II advanced toward Angel II, leaving a fearful Nudge II behind her to watch.

Max II reached down with her good arm and wrapped a hand around Angel II's neck, using pure brute strength to lift her up in the air and let her dangle there as she struggled to get free.

Max II tightened her grip and repeated, "Let's. Go."

Angel tried to swallow but couldn't. She struggled as much as she could, but it got her nowhere, and she knew she couldn't control Max II no matter how hard she tried. She stopped the struggle and simply stated for the second time, "No."

A red fury flashed in Max II's eyes. She yelled, "Fine!" as she lifted her victim higher and then slammed her to the ground.

Iggy II cringed as Angel II shrieked in pain. She immediately crawled on her knees back to him, hesitantly taking his hand again and holding in her desire to scream and beat her former leader into the next century.

Max II looked at her with disgust, appalled that she would disobey her orders for a useless piece of nothing.

"You're not going to last on your own, you little rodent. But have fun playing patty cake with a dead man," she said to Angel II, who closed her eyes and ignored her. "Oh, and here's a parting gift." She raised her steel-toed boot and struck Angel II in the side of the head with it. She crumpled sideways, her hand slipping out of Iggy II's.

Max II gave the two of them a sick, smug grin as she wiped her boot on the ground, as if touching the traitor with it made it dirty.

The Gasman II suddenly appeared at her side, looking slightly dazed.

"Report," Max II barked at him, once again cradling her broken arm.

"Was knocked unconscious. The Gasman escaped."

"Of course he did," she muttered. "Whatever. Let's get out of here." She noticed him looking at the two on the ground and said, "They are no longer of use to us."

He nodded and turned with her to leave without a second thought. Nudge II followed, stopping once to glance back, only to deny her conscious and catch up with her leader and the Gasman.

Angel II struggled to her knees once again, on the verge of tears.

"Stay with me, don't give up now. I won't leave you. You're going to be fine. They promised they would come back and help. They promised," she said, wondering if her faith in her former enemies would end up in Iggy's death.

He moved his fingers a bit, and she took his hand once more, still slightly hesitant to make the affectionate gesture. She started sending him calm thoughts again and monitoring his pulse.

As the two sides of her heart conflicted with each other, she thought, You better come back, Angel.

Please review?
I'm hoping my writing has improved since I started this story. I'll be going back and editing the first 20 chapters so they're not so newbish.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you soon. Figuratively.


22. It'll Make Sense Later

Chapter 22

"You… don't remember?" Gazzy asked timidly.

"Remember what? Someone please tell me what's happening!"

"You just almost died, that's what happened!" Iggy said, exhausted and exasperated.

"Calm down, big guy. You done good, just pull yourself together," Total said, swallowing sniffles and effectively hiding the nervous twitch in his back left paw.

Iggy swiped the tear trails off of his face quickly. He turned his face toward each member of the flock, finally landing on passed-out Fang, whose guts he had personally wanted to wrench out just hours before. How could he hate him now, after what he just did, after what he was just willing to do?

He turned back to the conscious members of the group. "Angel, do you think you could help Nudge get her memory back?"

Angel frowned uncertainly and looked at Nudge. "What's the last thing you remember, Nudge?"

"I remember… I remember being at a store, distracting the cashier lady by the beer while Max and Iggy stole supplies…"

"You don't remember the flyboy fight or the anti-flock or Max leaving or anything that happened in the last day?" Iggy asked.

"No!" Nudge cried, wincing at the pain that came with raising her voice.

"Okay, okay, it's okay. Just… don't speak anymore, okay? I know you're confused right now, but you need to just stay still until we can get some help. Trust us. We're going to take care of everything. Everything will make more sense later," Iggy whispered gently, wishing he could guarantee his words.

Nudge said, "Fine, but I'm only gonna stop talking 'cause I feel like crap, and all this thinking is making my brain feel all explosion-y."

"Do you think it's permanent?" Gazzy asked, as if Nudge wasn't right there, still not sure if any of this was real or not.

Nudge blocked out the sound of their voices, not wanting to become any more confused.

"Her forgetting stuff, I mean?" Gazzy clarified.

"Probably not. Hopefully not. She only forgot one day," Iggy said, trying to be optimistic and logical at the same time.

"Which only happened to be one of the longest, most eventful, most stressful days of my life," Total added in.

"Well, I can probably help her remember, then," Angel said, reaching toward Nudge.

"But medical attention is most important right now," Iggy said, "and we don't need you passing out on us, too, by pushing yourself too hard, Angel."

Angel regretfully pulled her hand back, knowing that Iggy was right and that recovering Nudge's memory and putting herself in danger weren't exactly top priority at the moment.

"Medical attention? So we have to go back to the hospital again?" Gazzy asked, remembering when Fang had to go to the hospital and they all had to stay there until he got better.

"This is serious, Gaz. I don't think we have any other choice."

"Well, then we need to go get help now," Angel said, leaving the Gasman's side and standing up to take off.

"But I'm fine," Nudge protested, not having been able to not listen to them talking and wanting to avoid a hospital visit at all costs.

"You are not fine, Nudge. You're hurt really badly," Angel said to her, sounding too way old once again. "You know we hate hospitals just as much as you do."

Nudge didn't respond.

"Iggy, we need to hurry if we want to get help for Nudge and save Iggy II," Angel said.

"Save Iggy II? What?" Gazzy asked.

"Long story," Angel said.

"Gaz, do you think you could watch over Fang and Nudge while we go get help? It shouldn't take too long," Iggy asked, already knowing the answer.

Gazzy looked at them nervously, not wanting to be in this position again but knowing what he had to do.

It's gonna be fine, Gazzy. We'll be right back. You can handle it, his sister told him in his head.

"Yeah, I'll watch over 'em," he told Iggy, "but you guys hurry back, okay?"

"We will," Iggy assured him. "Nudge? You stay awake and don't move an inch. Make sure she doesn't move, Gaz. And make sure she doesn't fall asleep."

"Got it."

"And check Fang every once in a while, too."

"Got it. Go."

Iggy gave Nudge's hand a good squeeze and then stood. Angel bent down to give Nudge a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to leave.

"Wait!" Nudge called out weakly. She balled her hand into a fist, and the others hastily built a stack of fists and paws on top of her hand. A corner of Nudge's mouth quirked up into a half-smile.

The stack broke, and Angel took a running start and leapt into the air, followed immediately by Iggy.

"Oh geez, does this mean I'm second in command now?" Total asked as he watched them speed off into the night. "Normally, I'd be honored, but in this case, it's just a shame."

"Tell me about it," Gazzy said sadly.

"Gazzy, where did Max go?" Nudge asked quietly, feeling that that question was more important than any of the others she had, more important than finding out why she couldn't move or why Fang was passed out or why, why, why…

"We're not sure. We just know that we have to find her as soon as we can."

"Did someone take her? Did you see who it was?"

"No, no one took her," he answered, not wanting to tell her everything, thinking that her current trauma was already enough for her to deal with. "Please, Nudge. Don't talk. Save your strength. We don't know how long they'll take to get back. Like Iggy said, it'll all make more sense later."

"If you say so," she said with a sigh. She doubted she would be able to stay awake if she wasn't talking. Then again, she had doubted that she had almost died, and that hadn't seemed to be particularly correct.

See? That didn't take six months.
Please review.


23. Sirens

New countries! Barbados, Belgium, Indonesia, and Peru! :)

Chapter 23

Angel dug a few coins out of the bottom of her pack and thrust them into the payphone's coin slot. She kept looking around cautiously as Iggy listened for anyone coming. She dialed a number hastily, fingers shaking.

As she and Iggy had flown toward the city to find the phone, they had formulated the rough outline of some sort of plan-like scheme.

After the fifth ring, a sleepy voice answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Dr. Martinez, this is Angel."

"Angel…" Dr. Martinez's voice immediately lost all traces of tiredness. "Angel?! Angel, sweetie, where-"

"Is Jeb with you?"

"No, he should be headed to the airport soon if he's not already on his way there. Ella and I have a later flight home in the afternoon. Where-"

"I need you to call Jeb's cell right now and three-way us. It's really important," she said, masking the pleading in her voice and hoping that Dr. Martinez would be smart enough to have developed a sense of urgency for whenever someone in the flock said something was important.

"Okay. Hold on a second," Dr. Martinez said, and there was a small click-like noise as she put Angel on hold to call Jeb.

Angel breathed a strained sigh of relief. Iggy stepped closer, and Angel said, "She-"

"I know," he interrupted, "I could hear her."

Angel heard another click. The other line only allowed half a ring before it was answered, as if the other person had been expecting the call.

"Valencia?" Jeb's voice said, as the noise from what sounded like a lot of people around him carried to Angel's ears.

"And Angel," Angel informed him. He was about to respond, but she said, "Don't talk, just listen. We don't have time. The address of the store we're in front of is 312-"

"I know where you are. I already traced your call," Jeb cut in.

"Okay, good. We need a couple of ambulances sent here. Right now."

Jeb quickly responded, "Give me a second."

There was a click, several seconds of silence, and then another click. "Done," Jeb's voice said.

Angel didn't ask how he did it. She knew he had his ways and was just fine with unquestioning acceptance at the moment.

Dr. Martinez finally spoke up again, saying, "Now what's going on, Angel? Who's hurt? Are you okay? Where's Max?"

Angel took a deep breath.

"We met up with the clone flock. Iggy's clone and Nudge- regular Nudge- are hurt really badly. We'll guide the ambulances from here. We need both of you to get to whatever hospital the ambulances are taking us to as soon as you can. Make sure the doctors or whoever don't pull anything funny on us. And don't you think of pulling anything funny on us, because I'll know."

She made sure to say the end, which was mostly directed at Jeb, in her so-not-a-six-year-old voice. She didn't want him to think that they trusted him all the way just because they were asking for help.

Iggy touched her sleeve, signaling for her to listen. She could just hear the approaching whine of sirens.

"That was fast," she said to no one in particular.

"You're welcome," Jeb said.

Angel caught sight of the flashing red lights, and she started to get nervous, not liking the squealing noise or the uncertainty that was inside the two vehicles.

"See you later," she said, abruptly hanging up the phone as the ambulances came to a stop, trying not to be surprised at how well the call seemed to have gone.

Iggy and Angel tapped fists before parting, Iggy jumping into the nearest ambulance and Angel running to the other one.

Iggy slammed the door shut, immediately taking note of the breathing of three different men: the driver and two men in the back.

"You've been briefed, right?" Iggy said to the driver as he heard Angel's ambulance speed off in one direction.

"Er- uh, very briefly," the driver responded, trying not to stare at Iggy's wings, even though he was supposed to be a professional and had known he was picking up a birdkid.

"Stop looking at my wings, and let's go," Iggy said, still staring straight ahead.

"Oh, um, right…" the driver said, turning back to the steering wheel and looking at it like it was as alien as Iggy's wings.

"Get us there, kid," one of the men in the back said, who was obviously more skilled at containing himself.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Iggy said, "It's twent-"

"Wait!" the driver interrupted, "Are you blind?"

Iggy gritted his teeth and stayed quiet, but then decided it would be more effective to lose his patience. His arm shot out, reaching over and violently grabbing the driver by the collar. The man in the back who hadn't spoken yet started to move forward to stop Iggy, but the other man whispered something and held him back. The driver's foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator, and the ambulance lurched forward. Iggy pulled the driver's collar tighter, not reacting to the sudden movement as the driver's foot stumbled to find the brake again. He hit the brake, making himself collide clumsily with the steering wheel as the two in the back held on for dear life.

Iggy, seemingly unaffected by being tossed around, hissed, "Yeah, I am. Do you have a problem with that?" He tightened his hold on the driver's collar.

The driver shook his head wildly, but then remembered that Iggy was blind and said, "N-no!"

Iggy let go, tossing the driver back into his seat. "Now just keep your mouth shut and drive, and I won't have to call the hospital and tell them to bring out another stretcher for you."

The driver eased off the brake, rubbing his bruised, sweaty neck and nodding obediently.

"Good. Now, it's twenty points southeast…"

Yay! I didn't take six months again! Score. Review, please? Something constructive is always appreciated.


24. Dissolve and Disappear

Hello to Greece and the UAE. :)

Chapter 24

I fall to my knees at Nudge's side, immediately checking for her pulse.

I don't find it.

I lift her eyelids and then check for breathing, but there is no sign of life coming from her. I start feeling like I'm going to throw up again.

Nudge, oh God, Nudge…

I look at Iggy and Angel, who are both touching Nudge with their eyes squeezed shut. Angel's mouth is moving as she speaks frantic, silent words.

"Iggy has a new power. He can transfer his strength through touch. He's trying to wake her up," Gazzy whispers to me. "Angel is trying to go into Nudge's mind."

New power? Trying to go into her mind? This is too much to think about.

Angel suddenly pulls away from Nudge, weakly falling over sideways and barely catching herself. I immediately pull her into me with one arm, scared for her.

She angrily pounds on my chest, showing her grief and frustration. She says, "I'm sorry, Nudge. I couldn't help you. I'm so sorry, Nudge."

"No, it's okay, Angel. It's not your fault," I tell her, but she doesn't respond. Her fist has stopped hitting me, and her sobs have quieted.

I pull her away from me, and as soon as I see her face, it hits me.

Angel is dead.

In terror, I let go of her, and she falls away from me. As soon as she hits the ground, she seems to dissolve and then completely disappears.

I don't have time to react before the Gasman speaks.

"Fang?" he says, his face shiny with tears, making him look younger than ever. "It's not really okay, is it?"

"No," I say, feeling dread rise up in my throat.

"My sister is dead. Nudge is dead. Max is gone. I don't want to live anymore," he says.

"Come on, guys," he says emotionlessly, motioning to Total and Akila, who come to him.

"Gazzy, what are you saying?" I say weakly.

"I'm saying goodbye."

He puts his hands on the two dogs, and before I can stop him, they all dissolve and disappear.

I can feel it aching in my bones. They're all dead.

I look at Iggy, who is so focused on transferring his strength to Nudge that he doesn't even realize that the others have all disappeared. He is turning more pale by the second, and when he doesn't get any results, he pulls his hands off of her, gasping for breath.

"It's actually physically killing me," he says bitterly. "She's not responding. She's-"

His hand slips over his face, and he starts to cry.

Dead, I think, finishing his unfinished sentence.

I think the word, but I don't believe it. Something in the back of my mind tells me that she's still in there somewhere, that she still has a chance.

"Don't give up, Iggy," I tell him, hanging on tightly to what the back of my mind is insisting on. "Trust me."

"Please come back to us, Nudge," Iggy says in a small voice. He touches her again and sets to work, pouring himself out through his hands.

He starts sweating profusely, and then he starts screaming. He doesn't take his hands off of her, though, and I don't tell him to. I just watch. I don't know what else to do. I'm desperate.

As I stare at them, the tears that cover Iggy's hands turn into blood.

He screams one last time, throwing himself backwards away from her. I look at Nudge expectantly, but she doesn't move. Iggy knows she's not moving, too.

Iggy turns to me, and I see scarlet tears running down his face. She's dead. He's still alive… but somehow… he's not…

His blue eyes turn black, and I realize with a start that they look a lot like my eyes. I try to get a better look, but my vision becomes blurred. I squint, but my vision just becomes more faded, eventually fading into black.

"You look like heck, Fang," Iggy seethes.

He can see me, but I can't see him? What's going on?

"I trusted you," he fumes.

I don't see him dissolve and disappear, but I somehow know that he does.

Another one.



"Fang?" I hear Nudge's voice say. She coughs, and my blind eyes widen in surprise.

I crawl over to her, following the sound of her voice. Everything is louder now. I don't like it.

"Nudge?" I say, unable to see if I have her attention.


"Are you okay?"

"Um- no? I don't know. Maybe? Probably not. No?"

"Are you alive?" I ask desperately, sounding insane even to myself.

"No," Nudge replies coldly.

And then her words become truth.

She dies.



As I sit there, I only hear my own breathing.

I am alive, but I feel dead.

I am blind with no one to lead me.

I am alone.

I open my eyes.

I take in a sharp breath.

I can see!

I can see again, and I am looking down at Max. I am kneeling beside her. She looks like she's asleep. She also looks like she's had the crap beaten out of her.

Fang II must have done this to her. I vow to destroy him for what he has done.

"Max?" I yell, sounding too loud. I shake her arm, feeling an urgent need for her to be awake. I silently beg her to open her eyes.

Her eyes defensively snap open, and my heart jumps. I'm not alone anymore.

She looks at me, and without hesitation, she punches me square in the face.

"It's me!" I yell at her almost angrily, assuming that she has confused me with my clone.

But then I survey her eyes, and I somehow know that she knows that I'm not Fang II.

She says quietly, "You're not the Fang I've known all my life, and I don't want to know you."

She doesn't dissolve or disappear. She just stares at me, blaming me, as the life flies out of her eyes.

This is all my fault.

This is all my fault.

This is all my fault.

"Fang!" the Gasman shrieked tearfully in Fang's face.

Fang bolted upright. He looked around, tried to remember where he was, and said, "Is everyone still alive?"

"As far as I know," the Gasman said with wild eyes.

"Are you alive, Nudge?" he asked, feeling like he was still in the dream.

"Yes," she groaned. "Now stop asking that, because it's making me feel like I'm not supposed to be."

He apologized and turned back to Gazzy, who was sniffling back tears.

Gazzy looked up at Fang miserably. "We didn't know if you were gonna wake up."

"I didn't either," Fang replied. Total and Akila were on the other side of Nudge, staring at him, eyes full of emotions that Fang didn't even want to try to understand.

"Where are Iggy and Angel?"

"They went to get help."

"Okay," Fang said, not asking for details, feeling another wave of fatigue traveling up through his body and lingering around the edges of his brain.

"Don't go back to sleep, Fang. Please," Gazzy pleaded, seeing how Fang's eyelids were getting heavy.

Fang shook his head as if to shake the fatigue away, saying, "I'll try not to, Gaz."



"Thank you. For saving her, I mean. For almost killing- for being willing to-"

Fang nodded, and the Gasman knew he understood.

Gazzy bit back more tears, saying, "I'm glad you're not dead."

The words sounded obvious and stupid to the Gasman as soon as he heard himself say them, but Fang nodded again and held an arm out. Gazzy hesitated, but then inched over into Fang's arm.

I don't want to live anymore. I'm saying goodbye.

Remembering the Gasman's defeated words in his dream, Fang squeezed the Gasman as hard as he could manage before releasing him. He almost said, I'm glad you're not dead, too. I am so freaking glad that you're not dead.

Instead he went with, "Don't you ever give up, you understand me, Gasman?"

"I won't," Gazzy said immediately, wondering afterwards if it was a promise he would keep. "And it's not all your fault," he whispered, turning his head away.

It's all my fault…

"I'm sooo confused!" Nudge sang humorlessly.

The fog in Fang's mind cleared a little at hearing her voice. Even if she didn't have any clue what was going on, even if she couldn't move, even if she couldn't do anything but lay there, she was still alive. They were alive. And they would stay alive, because they weren't going to give up.

"Shh," Nudge said, even though no one was saying anything.

They all listened, and they could just barely hear sirens…

Thanks to Serenity for giving me the idea for this chapter.
Fang's dream sequence at the beginning of this chapter partially parallels the scene at the end of Chapter 20, in case you were wondering.
Please review. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


25. Interception

Hi! If you haven't submitted your nominations for the Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards: 2 yet, go forth and do so! There's a link on my page, or you could just search it.

Chapter 25

"Hey, I see them!" the driver, whose name had been established as Mark, called out, seeing three kids and two dogs appear in the line of his headlights.

Thankfully, Mark had not taken another sidelong glance at Iggy's wings, and due to some very persuasive threatening, he was sure not to make a big deal about the rest of the flock's wings, or the talking dog, or anything for that matter.

The two in the back, who had paused in their shuffling around of things in preparation according to Iggy's description of Nudge's injuries, wordlessly peered through the windshield to see if Iggy had truly led them to the right place without being able to see.

The sensible older one, whose voice sounded oddly similar to Sammy Davis Junior's and whose name had been established as Roy, gave a small grin, silently congratulating Iggy on getting them there.

The other one, whose name had been established as Anthony and nickname had been established as Tony, didn't say anything, being smarter than the average jerkish ambulance driver named Mark. He hadn't said anything the whole time except for his name when questioned and didn't seem like he intended on changing that trend anytime soon.

As the stray members of the flock's outlines became increasingly visible, a slightly baffled Mark said, "I can't believe it! You were spot on, kid!"

As the speeding ambulance bumped over the grass and jarred the men, Iggy thought, Why on earth did you expect anything less?

He sighed and shook his head disapprovingly. He said in a loud mutter that was obviously meant to be heard, "Assuming that all blind people can't see. How stereotypical."

Mark frowned in thought, not understanding Iggy's sarcasm.

As the ambulance slowed, Iggy threw the door open and hopped out, letting the ambulance pass him and then running over to Nudge and the others.

He asked a string of questions, gratefully finding that Nudge hadn't passed out and that Fang was sitting up and looking slightly less dead, according to Total.

Iggy said, "You're all alive and awake. Good."

"Yeah, good," Fang said under his breath, with a tug of subdued fear at remembering his dream where everyone was definitely not awake or alive. Of course irony had to show up in Iggy's words for a visit right then. Of course.

As Mark brought the ambulance to an abrupt stop, Roy and Tony jumped out of the back, carrying a stretcher between them and rushing over to Nudge. Gazzy went behind them and quietly shepherded Total and Akila up into the vehicle. It had been decided that everyone would squeeze into the ambulance rather than part of the flock flying and part of the flock riding.

Roy and Tony carefully moved Nudge onto the stretcher as Iggy whispered hasty words of comfort to her. Fang stood apart from them with his black wings slightly spread out, looking ominous and staring the two men down, making sure they were frightened to make a move that he might not approve of.

Tony looked Fang's way and quickly looked back away again, getting the message and placing his full attention on Nudge. Roy also glanced at Fang, but he took the extra second to return the hard stare in a way that told Fang he knew what he was doing.

As Nudge moaned and the men carried her to the ambulance, Fang resisted the urge to knock Tony aside and carry one side of the stretcher himself. He probably would have if he wasn't having trouble just staying standing.

Iggy motioned to Fang as they lifted Nudge up into the ambulance. Fang took Iggy's place at Nudge's side as Iggy jumped back into the passenger's seat, slammed the door, and yelled, "Hit it, Mark!"

Mark was apparently caught up in a conversation with Gazzy.

"You've had these problems with your digestive system all of your life? You should see the doctor while we're at the hospital. That was some serious haze you just made."

"I don't need to see a doctor! I just can't control it when I get nervous!" Gazzy said defensively.

Iggy slapped Mark in the back of the head. "Drive this darn thing, you imbecile! Or next time I hit you, I'll make sure your head doesn't stay attached to your body!"

Mark turned away from Gazzy and his emissions and said to Roy and Tony, "We ready, boys?"

"Go!" Fang snapped before they could answer.

Fang left the room where they had drawn his blood to be given to Nudge, pulling his sleeve down over his new bandage. The nurse had been about to give him one of the generic skin-colored band-aids, but seeing how terribly stressed he seemed to be, she opted for a band-aid covered in happy little Dalmatians, not giving him a choice on what he got.

"Izzy?" the nurse said, sticking her head out of the door.

"It's Iggy," Angel said, getting up off the couch with Iggy.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Thank you, sweetie. Iggy?"

Iggy started toward the sound of the nurse's voice, but he paused beside Fang, tapping him on the arm in a minuscule show of respect before heading into the room.

As soon as Angel was sure the nurse wasn't listening, she said, "I met up with Gazzy and Akila on the second floor outside of where they have Nudge. I left Angel II with Gazzy. Iggy II's not far from them. I found a couple of walkie-talkies. Total has the other one on the first floor. He just told me that Jeb was in the parking lot before you came out of the room."

"Do we still have time to intercept him?"

"If we hurry."

"Let's go," Fang said decidedly, taking Angel's hand and moving swiftly toward the elevator.

"Cinderella?" Total's voice crackled.

"Go, Don Juan," Angel said into her walkie-talkie, using Total's established codename.

"Doctor Crackhead is approaching the first floor elevator."

"Right, left, or middle?"


"Roger that, Don Juan. Sir Nicholas and I are heading toward the fifth floor elevator. Stand by."

When they arrived at the elevator, they hurried in and pushed the button to close the door.

Angel pushed the button for the first floor and Fang couldn't help but ask, "Sir Nicholas?"

"Like Nearly Headless Nick from Harry Potter," she said, as if that should have been obvious.

He would have requested a different codename if they weren't in the middle of a small situation.

"Fang, somebody is about to push the elevator button on the second floor."

"Can you hold them back?" he asked, usually not one to encourage her to use her questionable powers.

She nodded. He didn't need to ask if she'd done it because in no time, they had arrived at the first floor without stopping.

The elevator door slipped open, revealing none other than Doctor Crackhead himself. Fang, trying not to be overcome by rage, only glanced at Jeb and then looked away, formulating the next stage in the plan.

Jeb looked over them emotionlessly and then turned to press the button for the second floor.

"Hold it," Angel said.

Jeb obediently stuck a hand out to keep the door from closing, not saying anything.

Angel called, "Total!"

Total trotted into the elevator, with the walkie-talkie that was attached to a makeshift collar bobbing up and down.

Jeb put his arm down, and the door slid closed. The small, closed space seemed even smaller than it had before, nearly suffocating. No one spoke, and no one moved. The air was thick with unspoken words, with the desire to not think, but just react. There was a distinct anticipation for the reopening of the door, as if time would continue moving after they escaped the elevator's confines.

It felt like they had traveled up a thousand floors when they stepped out of the elevator, when in fact it had only been one. Fang stepped past Jeb, followed by Angel and Total, with Jeb in tow.

"I got here as soon as I could," Jeb said as they walked, breaking the silence and jarring Angel's and Fang's insides with just his voice.

Total began to growl by instinct, but Angel told him in his head to stop. Fang was leading them in the opposite direction of where the others were. Most likely, Jeb was already very much aware of that, but the fact that he wasn't questioning their direction, while raising Fang's and Angel's suspicions, did make things easier for the moment.

Fang led them down a short side hallway that had a couple of water fountains on one side and a closet door at the end. Jeb was the last one to round the corner, and just as he did, Fang grabbed him by the shirt and threw him against the closet door.

Jeb didn't make a sound or fight back as Fang grabbed him by the shirt again and pinned him to the door. Jeb's eyes widened ever-so-slightly, as if he were surprised, but just barely.

"Where's Max?" Fang asked, tightening his grip.

Jeb looked at Angel, but her expression was just as hard and unyielding, almost as if she wanted to be in Fang's place, bringing Jeb's collar just a bit more tightly around his neck.

The look on Jeb's face was torn and contemplative, something they usually couldn't pick up on from him. Fang impatiently rammed Jeb's back into the closet door again.

"Tell me where she is or I'll make you tell me," Fang said, fully prepared to hurl Jeb through the closet door. And through the back wall of the closet. And through the side of the building.

Angel used her powers to force Jeb to turn his face to her and added in a dark voice, "Or I'll make you tell me."

I'm (thankfully) not very familiar with ambulances and hospitals, so sorry if anything is inaccurate.
So, my friend, RainbowSpawn, just got an FF account not too long ago. It took some persuasion to get him to post something, but he's really a very good writer who just needs some more reviews and some encouragement. If you could look him up and read and review anything of his, it would mean a lot to me and hopefully to him, too. I guarantee it'll be worth your time, or your money back. ;) Thanks a million.


26. Delirious and Seeing Double

Hello, lovelies. I'd like to give a big thanks to those of you who went and checked out RainbowSpawn and left him reviews. You guys are the best. :)
Now, here's what a lot of you have been waiting for...

Chapter 26

How did he find me?

Who sent him?

And why is he winning?

As he punched me in the face again, I stumbled backwards and then tripped over my own feet.

On the way down, my hazy mind took the time to notice that the orangey sun was about halfway risen over the trees in the distance, casting long shadows onto the ground.

Ooh, pretty, I thought deliriously as I hit the ground, having been beaten almost senseless. Pretty, pretty sunrise. Ow. Why am I in pain? Wait, was I doing something? What was I doing? Oh, I was fighting for my life, wasn't I? I should probably get back to that… or something…

I had fallen asleep in the same spot in the middle of the corn field, not having moved since my little 'encounter' with that one guy who I would really prefer not to talk about at the moment. Long nightmare-filled story short, I woke up to Mr. Fang-Wannabe choking me out of my sleep. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the dog crate.

We had been fighting for who-knows-how-long, and as much as I hate to admit it, this kid was strong. And I think he had some serious rage issues. And he definitely had no problem hitting a girl. It looked like he kind of enjoyed it, actually. How un-gentlemanly.

He was at his best, and I… I was at my not-so-best, as you already know.

As I wiped some blood off my face and braced myself for the next blow, I struggled between the overwhelming instinct to get up and fight and the overwhelming urge to just… fall asleep. The pain was starting to numb a little… everything could wait while I took a nap for just a minute or two…

My eyes slipped closed comfortably, and I suddenly didn't care if he just wiped me out right then and there. I'd had enough. My brain wasn't willing to acknowledge any more pain, not willing to think another thought, not willing to do anything but just shut down.

That was how badly he had me beat. After all I'd been through, after all of my training and all of Jeb's fun little tests to make me stronger and smarter and better… I never thought I would be in this position. I never thought the Maximum could truly get maxed out. I had always secretly pretended that I was invincible…

But I was just so tired…

A sudden blow to my torso shocked me awake, along with my good old survival instinct.

I swiftly scissored my legs through his and flipped myself over, throwing him down, all the while wondering what the heck was wrong with me.

I can't believe I was about to let him win...

He kicked at me and then untangled himself, looking slightly amused that I actually got him down. We both jumped to our feet and continued our battle, with me throwing hard, energy-consuming punches that hardly ever landed where I wanted them to and taking more hits than I could count.

He spun around and thrust an elbow into my eye, making me involuntarily yell out. I found myself on the ground again, completely vulnerable to my enraged attacker. My eye felt tender and was most likely black. The rest of my body just felt like one big, throbbing mass of pain-ridden uselessness.

He just stared down at me, willing me to get up again and make a pathetic show out of trying to defend myself. And of course I got up again. I had to.

My eye started burning hideously, making both of my exhausted eyes well up and blurring my vision. As if I needed another handicap.

I took yet another mind-blowing hit to the head, and I fell forward onto Fang II for support. Falling onto my attacker? Definitely not in the kick-butt handbook. Oops.

He took the opportunity to hold me up and use my aching ribs as a punching bag, probably having seen me guarding them carefully throughout our fight.

Each time he hit me, a white flash went off in front of eyes, as if someone had taken a picture of me with a flash on their camera that was as bright as the high-beams on a car. Every hit made my teeth bite harder into my lip, though I was completely unaware that I was painting my front teeth red with my own blood. The only thing my mind could handle was reaction. Feeling the pain and lurching forward, then coughing and sputtering for air.

I don't remember how many times he hit me like that, just that it felt like my ribs were about to cave in and crush my already ready-to-burst lungs. After helplessly leaning into him as he brought me that much closer to an early death, he wrapped a calloused hand around my neck and peeled me off of him. Then he let go of me, making me fall like a sack of potatoes, reacquainting me with my new best friend, the ground.

Suddenly, for reasons unknown to me, Fang II yelled my name, but it seemed like he was far away. Still, his voice hurt my brain, and I squeezed my eyes shut as if it would make his voice go away. He yelled my name again, sounding not so far off this time. This time, his abrupt calling of my name produced a red flash on the backs of my eyelids, causing my ever-present headache to pound that much harder against the walls of my battered skull.

I thought, Dude, I'm right here! What do you want? Shut up!

I decided it would be okay to open my eyes just long enough to see what was going on, only to find that I was seeing double. I brought my hands in front of my face, seeing way too many fingers. I counted them, wondering when I got twenty fingers or if I'd had twenty this whole time…

I looked to the left and thought, Whoa, double the corn! Enough to stop world hunger! Oh, and look over there, there's two suns. Uh-oh. Global warming! Augh! I knew Congress wasn't listening to me!

I looked past my feet, and when I saw four Fangs there fighting each other, my overloaded brain decided that it would be a good time to pass out.

This scene continues next chapter, just so you know.
Please review?


27. Dropped

Hello. Yes, finally, an update! If you want excuses, please see the top of my profile page. If not, well, here you go:

Chapter 27

His stomach dropped.

He'd finally found her.

But he wasn't relieved.

A tall, dark figure had her by the throat.

And then that tall, dark figure let go, letting her drop to the ground.

She didn't resist. She didn't jump back up. She didn't curse at him. She just lay there, clutching her ribcage and struggling to breathe.

There was no time to be relieved.

"Max!" Fang yelled.

He could just make out her brow furrowing and then her eyes closing as he rapidly approached from the air.

His stomach dropped again as he prayed that he hadn't gotten there too late.

Fang II turned and looked up at Fang, his face expressionless, not moving to attack Fang or do otherwise.

"Max!" Fang yelled again.

A look of annoyance crossed her face as she kept her eyes squeezed shut, looking pained.

Fang touched the ground soundlessly, resolving to take care of Fang II first. Seeing that Fang II wasn't taking the offensive, Fang approached him calmly, standing a few feet away from him.

Fang II spoke first. "I'm trying to execute a slow and painful death here. I don't need you interrupting me."

"Too bad," Fang replied, feeling too sick to come up with something witty. He didn't say anything else because he couldn't.

"You're no fun. Unlike Maximum over there," Fang II said, jerking his head toward her. "She's loads of fun."

Fang immediately punched Fang II in the jaw, catching him off guard and knocking him on his butt.

Fang II looked up and half-grinned, saying, "Was it something I said?"

He then sprang to his feet quicker than Fang had thought possible and punched Fang back, right in the face. Fang staggered a half-step backwards, but he didn't fall. The adrenaline began to flow faster as he almost eagerly greeted the chance to knock the clone freak into the next millennium.

He quickly took a glance back at Max. Her eyes were open wide, and she had her hands in front of her face, looking at them as if she'd sprouted hooves or something.

What the heck is wrong with her?

He made the mistake of letting his glance last a nanosecond too long, and Fang II jumped at the opportunity, aiming a chop at Fang's windpipe to cut off his air supply. Fang caught his arm in mid-air, but the other free hand grabbed hold of his neck, just as it had done with Max's. Fang kicked Fang II in the knee and thrust Fang II's arm into his own face, making the hold on his neck slide off.

Fang sucked in a bunch of air, trying to get his breath back, when Max made a pained noise and then went silent. He looked at her again, and she had passed out. Fang II was looking at her too.

He looked back at Fang with that same half-grin and said, "Oops."

With another kick of adrenaline, Fang snapped his wings out and powerfully leapt into the air, feeling a new wave of anger coursing through him. Fang II followed suit, saying, "On second thought, this might actually be fun."

Fang lunged at Fang II, but Fang II quickly dodged him, ascending above Fang's head.

"Like my boots? They're steel toe." Fang II brought a boot to the back of Fang's skull, sending him lurching forward. As Fang II began to ascend higher, Fang gathered himself and followed. Fang reached up and grabbed Fang II's boot, trying to twist his ankle, but the force of Fang II's upward flight just left Fang in midair with a boot in his hands.

"Did you really just resort to stealing my shoes?" Fang II yelled down.

Without reply, Fang flew up and let Fang II deliver a punch to his face that sent him sideways. He gathered momentum, spun around, and rammed the steel toe into Fang II's teeth. He then brought the steel toe down on top of Fang II's head and then into his eye and then his nose, causing several satisfying streams of blood to start flowing, spilling onto his shirt where Max's blood had already dried.

"Yeah, your boots are fabulous," Fang said as Fang II began to fall.

Fang II caught himself and began to rise again, but Fang threw the boot down at his head, making him fall again. He yelled a couple curses up at Fang before catching himself again and gaining altitude.

Seeing that Max still wasn't moving, Fang decided that he had to finish Fang II off fast. Fang decided to fly straight up as fast and as far as he could, with Fang II in pursuit. Within seconds, they were so high up that Max seemed like a little dot on the ground, even with raptor vision. Fang II was mere meters behind Fang and was about half a second away from being within reach.

Suddenly Fang folded his wings in, falling toward a surprised-looking Fang II who didn't have time to dodge out of the way. Fang aimed his feet at one of Fang II's wings, hitting it right at the point where it connected to his back. Fang II let out an enraged yell as Fang dropped behind him, wrapping an arm around his neck.

"So, you like to strangle people?" Fang hissed as they fell and Fang II struggled against him, trying to flap his wings but unable to fight gravity and their combined weight. Fang made sure to keep his own wings tucked in tightly.

"Leh… go!" Fang II choked out as the ground got closer and closer.

"What? Legos? Yeah, my little brother loves those things."

As soon as Fang II's face showed the slightest tinge of blue, Fang released his neck and threw his wings out, reaching to catch Fang II by the hair.

A chunk of black hair came off in Fang's hand as Fang II continued to fall, trying to yell but only making strange, muted noises.

"Oops," Fang said.

Fang II began to flap his wings again, slowing his fall but barely getting any higher in the air.

Fang let go of the hair and flew down to Fang II, catching him around the torso this time and flying up again. He then let go and flew over to Fang II's left wing and grabbed the end of it. He began to fly up and down, making large circles in the air, twisting the wing around over and over again, creating a series of sickening snaps accompanied by strangled screaming. Fang kept going until he heard a huge CRAAACK and the wing went limp in his hand.

He let go, not wincing a bit at the curses or screams or the vibration of the cracking noise that was still traveling up his arms. Fang II tried to fly with one wing, but he ended up with his one wing sticking straight up in the air and with him falling even faster in an awkward spiral.

Fang watched him struggle to stay in the air like an animal struggling to escape from a cage.

Except an animal trying to escape from a cage has better odds, Fang thought.

Fang II crashed into the ground, right in the middle of a corn field, making a Fang-shaped indent in the crops. Fang flew down to see if Fang II was still moving, and he was, writhing around on the ground in pain.

"Payback's a kicker, ain't it?" Fang said as he landed beside Fang II.

And with that, Fang kicked him in the head one last time, causing the writhing to stop.

He wasn't dead. Fang knew that. He didn't want him to be. He didn't kill Max II, and he wasn't about to kill this freak either. He just made sure that by the time Fang II woke up, he and Max would be long gone, and Fang II wouldn't be able to catch up.

Fang then leapt into the air, not looking back. He made his way back to Max, making an abrupt landing by her side. He fell to his knees and checked her pulse. It was there. He then checked her neck, and it thankfully wasn't broken.

He shook her arm a little, saying, "Come on, Max. Wake up. We don't have freaking time for this."

Of course, being her stubborn self, Max didn't move a muscle.

She was bruised all over, and as he moved the hair out of her face, he could see that her eye was purple too.

"Wake up, you jerk," he said, shaking her arm again.

Her lips were red with blood that had spilled onto her chin and down to her neck, and her bottom lip had deep tooth marks in it.

He removed his hand from her arm, backed away a bit, and shook his head. "What happened, Max? You look like he-"

Before he even heard anything coming, Fang was knocked forward. A combat boot had delivered a hard blow to the back of his skull, and his head collided with the bottom of Max's ribcage. The pain in his head that by now had become all-too-familiar didn't even compare to the dread he felt in his guts.

As Fang silently apologized and pushed himself up off of Max, she stirred, letting out a short groan before turning onto her side, her back to Fang, and coughing blood onto the ground.

"Oh look, you've awakened the princess," the voice behind Fang said.

As soon as he heard the voice, he thought, That's not possible.

Fang knew the voice. He hated it. He'd never really liked his own voice, but now just the sound of it made him sick.

"You thought you could beat me that easily? I recover fast. Faster than you, my friend."

Before Fang could respond, Max's eyes filled with tears, and she coughed up more blood, the red liquid spraying all over the dirt. She clutched her ribs again as tears spilled out of her closed eyes.

Fang's temper boiled over. All traces of any patience he may have had left swiftly and quietly disappeared.

He made a decision.

"I'm going to kill you," Fang stated barely audibly to the voice behind him, still staring at Max, letting Fang II know that he wouldn't make the same mistake again and let Fang II continue to have a pulse.

Max passed out again, her body going limp.

Fang stood up, turning to face his enemy. He looked Fang II over, surveying the useless wing, the patch of visible scalp, the blood-covered face that was beaten so badly that it looked like it came straight out of a horror movie…

Looking him straight in the eyes, Fang repeated slowly, "I'm going to kill you."

Somehow still able to contort his face up into a stolen smirk, Fang II replied, "Let's see you try."

Wow, Fang II sure recovered quickly. Fascinating.
Sorry if anything in there was scientifically incorrect/impossible. My bad.
I hope this chapter is decent. Please review? It'll make my day. :)