Written By: ickle18
Summary: Set during The Angel Experiment. A parrody, as a what would happen if the rescue went wrong.
Max stood gazing over the canyon she had looked over so many times, not staring at anything in particular, but being here felt…kind of right. She pulled the sleeves of Fang’s jumper down over her hands and folded her arms, jamming her now covered hands into her elbows to keep them warm. It could be pouring with rain or so hot she would pass out, but Max would still be standing here. Right now, for as long as she felt she needed to.
It felt right.
Behind her, Fang sat on a burned chair. The stuffing was escaping from the slightly charred cover, and it looked seriously unloved, but the framework was holding together so far. Not that Fang was very heavy, but it did the job just fine. He was leaning slightly forwards, his chin balanced on his hands and elbows propped up on his knees as he watched Max’s back.
His fingers tentatively stroked a healing bruise on his jaw. It wasn’t so bad, was fading to a very pale blue already, even though he’d only gotten the thing a day or so ago. Maybe more. He made a mental note to get a watch after Max was done and continued to watch her carefully, her hair whipping about as it was now just past her shoulder blades.
He bet himself a beef burger the first thing she’d do was hack it off. She always did, with kitchen scissors and once even a knife. It was a shame, he liked it longer.
He was cold, but he didn’t really mind. Max probably needed that jumper more than he did. Her’s were scratched to shreds after all, his was still mainly in tact. He absentmindedly rubber his arm with his other hand, not showing a hint of emotion as he agitated healing cuts on his arm. They would be healed soon too, like it really mattered.
He was more worried about Max.
Max herself had taken quite a beating recently. She had cuts and bruises all over her face, though they were healing as quickly as Fangs. Her arms were riddled with deep wounds, like someone had tried to play naughts and crosses on her bare arm. Beneath Fang’s slightly over sided jumper was Max’s own tattered fleece. She hadn’t got round to removing it when Fang bunged his jumper on top. She’d looked him in the eyes, but as usual he looked cool as a cucumber. They’d flown the whole way back to their old house in silence. What he’d said as she’d shrugged her arms into his jumper had broken almost a day of silence.
“Take all the time you need.”
She was pretty sure Fang was pretty broken up too. She knew he’d never show it, he’d bottle it up until he wanted to explode, then maybe take it out on the next Eraser that happened to get in the way of his fists. She personally wanted to smack something, but she certainly couldn’t hit Fang. Nothing had been his fault.
She took a long shaky breath, unsure if it was because she was cold or her emotions were getting the better of her again, and pulled her arms tighter around herself. Her eyes were red still, made worse by the wind in her eyes as they’d flown home. Back to where they had once belonged. The whole flock belonged.
She could still hear them laughing.
Fang was having a hard time himself. He was letting the events of the day play behind his now closed eyes, but he didn’t act upon them. His fists tightened as the image of an Eraser punching Angel passed behind his eyes, but his face showed serenity at its finest. Max had always been strong for the Flock, because she felt she needed to. She was the eldest, the leader. But she couldn’t do it all.
But it was so hard.
He wanted to walk up behind her and hold her tight, to try and reassure her. Of what, he wasn’t sure, but he really wanted to try. Opening his eyes he looked at her back once again. He watched her slowly extend her beautiful wings in the half light. The sun was setting, burnt orange added the most gorgeous tinge to her feathers. He wanted to protect her, but he knew all too well that she’d never let him. If he openly went to try and protect her, even from herself, there would be such a rebellion it wouldn’t even be worth it.
He sighed, hoping she’d let him help eventually.
Max herself was mulling over the events too. It had started roughly two months ago, according to the paper Fang had grabbed from the city when he went to find food. They had been living so peacefully, without too many worries. Of course there were some background ones, especially for Max. Keeping the Flock running had been her reason to get up in the morning, keeping them fed and safe a close second.
Images of their smiling faces passed in front of her eyes, and memories made her smile. Iggy and his incredibly knack of cooking despite being blind. It reminded her he owed her an alarm clock, which he’d briefly admitted to on their flight out to find Angel.
As the wind whistled in her ears, she realised how much she missed Nudge’s incessant chattering. Even if it was nonsense and plain gibberish half of the time, until the actual reason for the outburst finally came to light, it was something that was now missing. Max didn’t like the change at all. She felt her eyes grow how and sniffed, blinking back tears as images of the Gasman joined those of Nudge. His adorable fluffy hair, his innocence. How he and Iggy had protected themselves when she left them alone.
She was so proud of them. They had done so well…
Finally, Angel. The youngest and cutest of her Flock, and the scariest. Children who could read minds were a pretty scary thing to Max. She smiled slightly, remembering thinking she was her little girl, and Angel picking it up. Telling her she was her favourite. She’d been so proud of them all, right to the end. None of them broke. None of them fractured.
They just…didn’t come back one day.
Her wings were now fully stretched out, all thirteen and a half feet of them bathing I the last of the sunlight. Fang was sat just out of reach of her shadow, watching her carefully. He had no idea what was running through her mind, and was hoping she wouldn’t do anything drastic.
But he trusted her.
He himself let the events run though his mind, his face staying impassive as they smothered his thoughts. Angel, bruised and scared, being shoved into a bag. Being knocked out to find Max a heap on the floor, the rest of the flock so injured and fragile.
He’d felt sick to his stomach as he did a headcount, realising the bouncy curls were missing. He counted twice, three times. Panic had risen, but he kept his face stony as the others looked at him. Instead he helped rouse Max, and put all his effort into catching up to the hummer she was now in. He couldn’t describe how good it felt to smash a branch down on its windscreen.
Damn guns he though to himself, now moving massage his temples. If they hadn't had guns, we’d have got her back then and there…
It had then become a rescue mission. Fang had been a little surprised at how organised Max had been despite her distress. He could see it in her eyes, even if she tried to hide it. She’d lost her baby. Her Angel. It had ripped her heart out and impaled it on a spike, but she’d held it together to organise the Flock enough to get a rescue plan. At least a basic one, even if everyone hadn’t agreed with it.
Fang let a half smile onto his face as he remembered Max’s little excursion to help that little girl. She was awesome. She really was. He snap decisions weren’t always the best, and that one had got her into a lot of trouble. But he adored her for it. That in built sense of right and wrong, and of helping the others that needed others.
The smirk stayed as he recalled flying with the hawks with Nudge, leaning to bank and all their cool maneuvers. He twitched his wings absentmindedly, still pulled tight against his back. Ari and visiting Nudge’s apparent mother had been a huge let down, though painting him a luminous colour was a highlight of the experience. Then they’d all been reunited, the whole gang. Max finally made it back, with cookies, then Gasman and Iggy found them, telling of the experience they’d had back at home.
He lifted his head to survey where their house had once stood. It certainly had met a sticky end. The thing had been burned to the ground. Random lumps of rubble scattered the charred grass. You could still see where the kitchen once was, the tiles having melted into a strange grey-looking goop, singed at the edges.
They really did a number on this place… Fang looked back up at Max. She was still standing dead still, staring out over the canyon. It had been the perfect place for them to live. Covered and high up, plenty of room to fly around. They couldn’t stay here too much longer. If that chip Max mentioned was a tracer they needed to stay on the move.
But he didn’t have the heart to tell her so. Surely she’d realise anyway. She hadn’t lost her common sense, after all. He did a quick three-sixty of the area and rested his chin back on his hands, studying her back.
Max was still blinking back tears, memories of the last few months trapped in the School flashing through her mind. They had gone to save her, they were going to grab her and get the hell out of there as fast as possible, giving anyone or anything in their way a hard time. That idea had been cut short when the remained of her flock had been picked up by Ari and taken to the School as prisoners.
That was one way of getting inside. Not a brilliant one though.
Angel had looked so fragile, so weak. She felt ashamed she’d stopped to help Ella when her own baby was in danger, in such mortal danger. She didn’t want to think about what might have happened to Ella had she not stopped, but at the same time the guilt continued to consume her. She’d been too late. Angel had been removed from their room the next day, and her dog crate came back empty.
Angel was gone.
Nudge had been in tears for hours, Gazzy smashing his fists uselessly against the dog crate, bruising his knuckles and causing his hands to bleed to no avail. The next to go was Iggy. She guessed they were just picking them off one by one. Shameful to pick on the youngest, and then the blind guy, as your first victims. Max was itching to sink her teeth into someone’s hand.
Jeb had made an appearance, tried to win her over with hot chocolate. As god-damn yummy as it smelt, she hadn’t touched a drop of it, ignoring her parched throat to concentrate on her hatred for him. He told her something that made her want to break his neck then and there.
“You have to save the World, Max.”
Max has almost lost it, had she not been taking lessons from Fang and his silent expressionless-ness that only portrayed what he was thinking if you knew what you were looking for Jeb would have noticed. He was probably looking for the wrong emotion though, because she showed confusion before he lead her back to her dog crate. Max was numb. She’d tried to save the world. The Flock were her world.
And now they were being picked off one at a time.
Max swallowed hard, annoyed that the tears were winning over her battle of wills. Gazzy and Nudge went over the following four weeks, they just got taken away one day, not testing prior to it, and never came back. The assumption was easy, they were ‘extinguishing’ them, as she’d heard one whitecoat say. Ending their lives prematurely. A question hung in her head all the next few weeks, waiting to be finished off.
Who’ll go first. Me or Fang?
Fang himself remembered all too well when they’d decided he was due to be decommissioned. It was a bad idea to attempt removing him from a dog crate without knocking him out first. Of course, the rookie whitecoat soon learned that.
The painful way.
His anger, seething inside him yet waiting for the best outlet, had all exploded on that one whitecoat. As unfair is it may seem, he was still in league with the big guns. With Jeb. That meant he was being punished for what he would inflict in the future, even if he hadn’t done anything yet. With no backup or erasers to call alarms to fend him off, the whitecoat was down for the count in minutes.
It took seconds to kick in the lock on Max’s dog crate, even if it hurt like hell.
He’d looked into her eyes at that second, before he pulled her from the dog crate and encouraged her to move. Her eyes were red from un-shed tears, she was shaking, possibly in anger or from the lack of nourishment. She looked so pale, so fragile. So small. He’d never seen her so frightened and scared before, it kind of took him aback.
As soon as they started making their escape and oppositions came their way, Max was kicking and breaking bones with the best of them. Her sorrow, her anger, anything she felt pent up inside being taken out on those who got in their way. There was just one thing left to fight for.
Max sighed, remembering the details of how they got out of that awful place again. So many erasers. Without Fang by her side she would have been sunk. She almost felt like she could say the same for him. They’d had each others backs the whole way out, taking or blocking blows for the other that could have been near fatal, or very disabling.
Now here they were, in the remains of Iggy and Gazzy’s big stand off, the charred remnants of the life they’d once had almost representative of what had happened to her flock. It had been torn apart bit by bit and ripped from her.
Just her and Fang.
Fang watched as she pulled her wings in and dropped her arms to her sides, the wind still whipping her battered trousers about her legs, her hair getting whisked to one side in a dramatic, heroine type fashion as she stared at the now dark blue sky. She held her arms out wide and held her head back, causing Fang to raise an eyebrow.
Then she fell off the cliff.
Max had her eyes closed as she fell, feeling the wind fly past her face at such a tremendous speed was thrilling. She felt her hair being whipped straight up, Fang’s baggy jumper being filled with the excess air that enveloped her. It made her feel relaxed. At home. This used to make er feel alive. Now she just felt dead inside.
It was what she had been born to do, and keep doing.
Opening her wings, she hid the flinch that came from sudden unfurling and beat her wings, letting the air carry her up as her shoulders moved powerfully to keep her in flight. She opened her eyes as she once again cleared the top of the cliff, looking down to find Fang now close to the edge and watching her. She was surprised to see a look of relief wash over Fang before he returned to his old, impassive state. Then she realised something.
She wasn’t alone. More importantly, she didn’t have to be.
Flying down and landing awkwardly, still having not bothered Fang to teach her what her learned from the hawks, she landed as close as she could to him without whipping him with her wings. Pulling her wings in tight to her back, she looked him in the eyes. He looked in-compassionate to the untrained eye, but he was watching her carefully, and she knew it.
She gave an out of place laugh, just the one outburst that made her look mad before she bit her lip, her mouth quivering. Fang finally closed the distance between them to just a few feet, now looking down to keep contact with her eyes.
Max gave in. Tears fell down her cheeks as she struggled to speak.
“Th- They’re gone, Fang. I couldn’t protect them…couldn’t save them…”
His eyes softened as he closed the last of the distance between them, wrapping his arms tightly around her and pulling her to his chest, ignoring the stinging of the scratches as she buried her head in his shirt. He sunk to the floor with her as she sobbed, never loosening his hold on her as she curled against him. Hot tears soaked his shirt as she gripped his arm. Silent tears fell from Fang’s own eyes, dampening her hair as she shook against him as he hushed her softly.
Time passed, and Max’s shaking and crying became nothing more than the occasional whimper. Fang refused to let go, holding her so tightly, never wanting to let her go.
She was thirteen.
She’d been like a prisoner, a mother, a leader.
She’d loved, she’d lost.
She’d been through so much.
And as she slept against him, her face finally softened and serene as it had been while Jeb cared for them, Fang whispered ever so softly into her ear, almost inaudible:
“I’ll protect you, Maximum ride. Until the day I die”