Disclaimer: I don't own Maximum Ride.

[Takes place after Chapter 48 of Nevermore...

(Dylan) "...you're putting everyone in danger. Don't you even care?"

"My Voice said to be with Max," answered Fang. "I'm never leaving her again."]


Fang roughly shoved his fingers though his hair as he glared relentlessly down the hallway at Dylan's retreating back. His midnight locks immediately flopped back into his eyes and Fang gave a grunt of annoyance in response. Once he was sure Dylan was out of both seeing and hearing range, Fang kicked the door with unrepressed strength, stopping it just before it slammed shut and closing it with a soft click. Fang didn't need the entire house of bird-kids knowing he was angry or thinking he was under attack.

He paced around his room restlessly, unable to get his brain to stop replaying his argument with Dylan. Who did the kid think he was, sleeping in Max's room and following Max around like a freaking lovesick puppy? Max didn't need protection, and even if she did, she wouldn't receive it from a newborn idiot who could barely remain upright in air. But what had Dylan meant when he'd said Fang was endangering Max, and possibly the entire flock? How could Dylan, of all people, know anything at all about Fang's DNA? Who was he getting this information from? Why was he telling Fang now?

Fang flipped onto the bed, his stomach landing on a cold, metallic object. He pulled his laptop out from underneath him, and Fang hesitated, caught at an impasse. Should he post something on his blog about Dylan's newfound information about his DNA? If Dylan really was right about this, if Fang was actually luring the flock's enemies closer to Max, he could get more information from his readers, find out what was really going on. His mouth twisted into a grim line. This situation could end up like- like when they'd lost Angel… or when he'd lost Maya. Fang could be saving one of the flock's lives if he posted Dylan's news on his blog…

Just then, there was a loud thump on his door that sounded far from a knock, followed immediately by a yell of pain. The person on the other end paused for a moment before Fang, who lay still on the bed, heard a very familiar voice utter a mouthful of curses and begin a hasty retreat away from his room. But the damage was done and Fang was up and flinging open his door in an flash, coming face-to-back with an escaping Max. Having heard the door open, Max froze in her footsteps, nearly at the end of the hallway and ready to disappear around a conveniently placed corner, but knowing she had been caught.

Max stayed motionless in her position, hands still suspended in the air from their previous motion. Fang stared at her with mild amusement, but quickly wiped the smirk off his face in case Max decided to turn around in the next century; she would kill Fang for laughing at her.

Max's hands fell to her sides and Fang saw her shoulders rise and fall methodically as she inhaled and exhaled. She took a moment to regain her composure before promptly spinning around and nearly losing her balance.

"Agh!" A strangled noise of surprise escaped Max's throat and Max started to tip backwards before she snapped her wings out hurriedly and caught herself. Fang winced as he saw the tips of her thirteen-foot wide wings hit the edges of the cramped hallway. The rebound on the walls pushed her back, undoing the work Max had done to catch her balance. She landed in a crumpled heap on the floor, legs splayed out awkwardly and wings only halfway unfurled.

Fang turned his face away from Max, trying desperately to stifle the grin that had crept up on his features and snickering softly into the confines of his room. This did no good to deter Max, however; her enhanced hearing and overwhelming humiliation proved to be a deadly combination.

Max's jaw dropped. "You're laughing at me!" she hissed indignantly.

The blatant shock on her face only encouraged Fang's chuckles, until he was leaning on the door for support. Max narrowed her eyes and slowly peeled herself off of the ground, zeroing in on Fang's face. Fang froze; he'd been in this situation once before, and knew that this reaction was only the calm before the storm.

Max stomped over to Fang and made as if to punch him, but Fang easily dodged and grabbed her fist, twisting her wrist painfully. Max gasped slightly and moved her body to follow her wrist's movements- she would break it otherwise- dragging a foot across Fang's legs. Fang, who had been watching Max's face carefully, grunted and fell to the floor, keeping a tight grip on Max's wrist regardless of her attempts at yanking her wrist out of Fang's grasp. As a result, her entire right arm landed underneath Fang's body and the rest of her landed splayed across Fang's back.

Fang barely had time to say anything before Max scrambled to her feet and promptly slipped on a nonexistent piece of dust. She landed once more in an ungraceful heap above Fang. Her knee knocked painfully into Fang's head and his face, which hovered a mere centimeter above the uncarpeted ground, smashed painfully into the ground. He gritted his teeth and tightened his grip around Max's wrist, eliciting a yelp of pain from her and forcing her to stop squirming.

They lay still and silent for a moment, until Max kicked his shoulder and demanded, "Well? Get off my arm!"

Fang rolled his eyes at Max's stubbornness. "Who should be getting off of who, Max?"

Max turned beet red from what Fang could see of her, whether from anger or embarrassment he was unsure. "I'm trying to get off, but my wrist is stuck under your huge butt, Fang!"

"Actually, it's under my stomach," he corrected her, "And you're not exactly a feather either."

Max's jaw dropped and Fang prepared himself for a kick in his nether regions- he shouldn't have taunted her while she was in such a position of power- but all Max did was give another hopeless yank on her wrist and mumble, "Fang. Give me my arm back. Now."

He obliged her, albeit confusedly, and released her wrist. Max pulled it out from under him and rolled off of Fang's back. She got to her feet and turned to leave when Fang called, "Wait, Max."

Max stopped at the threshold of Fang's room, massaging her wrist busily. Her back still turned to him, she muttered, "What?"

Fang cringed. He knew this part of Max all too well. She was trying very hard to act nonchalant, as if nothing were bothering her, but her tone of voice gave her away. It was slightly closed off and more bitter than it had been just seconds ago.

Fang lifted himself off of the floor, careful of the bruise that was sure to appear at his waist, where he had initially fallen. He took his time with his answer, choosing his words carefully. Fang took too long, however, and Max whirled around, a frown painting her features.

"What do you want, Fang?" she snapped.

Fang stared at her. How had things gotten from throwing witty comebacks and sparring like they'd always done to a hostile, angry Max? He was beginning to think he would never understand this girl, and that maybe he'd never fully understood in the first place.

"What were you doing outside my room before?" Fang asked. It wasn't the question he had wanted to ask, but it was the question that would least likely get him punched at the moment.

Max's eyes widened slightly, though she tried to hide it, and Fang raised an eyebrow in question.

"I, uh, I was… examining the, um, the heat vent?" Max coughed and seemed to be looking everywhere but at Fang. "Because I was, you know, just checking for bombs. Gazzy and Iggy were, uh, acting suspiciously."

Fang crossed his arms and spoke, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Never noticed the vent; must've missed it. And I assume the noise was you hitting your head on top of the vent?"

Max, who was scratching the back of her head uncomfortably as Fang said this, began to rub her head vigorously as if in agony, trying to play her obvious lie off.

"Um, yeah. Ah- ow. Really hurts, so I'm just gonna go and get Iggy to help me with it, so yeah, okay bye!"

She turned on her heel and sped out of the room, nearly making it to the corner again before Fang caught up with her and grabbed the back of her shirt, preventing her from escaping just yet.

"Let me go!" Max jabbed Fang in his stomach with her elbow.

"I can help you, Max," he whispered. "Besides, I'm right here."

Max shivered slightly and squirmed away from Fang's hand, which had moved from the back of her shirt to her shoulder and was now creeping to her hair.

"Wh- what are you…?" she murmured, all traces of anger gone. "I'm not…"

Fang only smirked and his hand came to a rest on the top of her head. He turned her until she was facing his chest.

"You're short, Max," Fang said idly, "Let's go."

Max gaped at him. Of all things, it seemed, she did not expect to hear Fang say something like that, and to her of all people.

"What do you mean, I'm short?" Max shoved Fang's arm as he led her, struggling into his room. "I was taller than you until very recently!"

"Three years isn't very recently," Fang chuckled, closing the door behind him. He was glad that the tense atmosphere seemed to have dissipated, and that Max was yelling at him again. It was a huge step up from the silent anger, at least, and getting Max to open up was like pulling teeth.

Max collapsed onto his sofa, letting her feet dangle off the arm. "If you're so tall, then why do you have a couch that I can't even fit on?"

"Couches are for sitting on," Fang said pointedly, leaning against the wall near Max's head, "If you wanted to lie down, you should've done it on the bed."

Max snorted. "Yeah, that'll be the day," she yawned sleepily and slung her arm across her forehead, "What do you want, Fang?"

Fang hesitated. He could ask her why she had been acting so weirdly before, and then tell her what Dylan had told him, or he could just get to the heart of the matter and figure out what the circumstances of their relationship were. Or he could just wing it.

"What were you really doing outside my room?" Fang finally asked, "And don't lie; there isn't even a vent outside my room."

A blush slowly crept up the side of Max's neck and Fang watched as it filled her cheeks with a flushed, rosy red.

"I was trying to check if you were gone," she said quietly, "After your argument with Dylan… well, the last time you and him talked, you left not long after."

Fang clenched his teeth and swallowed the lump that had overtaken his throat. He was angry at Dylan for insinuating that he would be leaving after their conversation- the idiot had probably stomped downstairs and vented to Max- and felt guilty for leaving, though he still thought his decision had been best for both he and Max at the time.

"And the noise?" Fang continued. The atmosphere in the room seemed calmer and more quiet now, and Fang lowered his voice to match Max's instinctively.

"Oh, that," Max said, "I hit my head on your doorknob. It's hard and pretty freaking sturdy in case you wanted to know."

Fang cracked a grin at that. "Since when did you become so uncoordinated?" he asked, "You fell in the hallway, too."

Her eyes opened lazily to glare halfheartedly at him. "Watch it, Fang, or I'll leak those photos of you falling out the window, wings out and everything. See if anyone's following your blog after that."

His smile disappeared. "I was eleven," he growled, "and you pushed me."

Max shrugged. "Well you surprised me, but it doesn't change a thing, does it?"

Fang remained silent and shut his eyes for a moment. There was still one more question that he wanted- needed - to ask Max, but he didn't know if he even had the right to ask anymore. He was, after all, the reason for why he was contemplating asking the question anyway.

"Anything else?" Max prompted. "If you bother me later, you won't get off as easy."

Fang cleared his throat and sighed. "No."

Max had flipped onto her stomach in a second and was peering up at Fang quizzically.

"So we're keeping secrets from each other, now?" she asked. "What, is it too personal for you to tell me what's wrong with you? This is the person you've only known for all your life, you know. But I guess that's not enough to keep us going anymore, is it?"

Fang's eyes snapped to Max's, and the simmering anger he saw there shocked him. Her chocolate brown eyes, always so familiar to him, were narrowed into slits and seemed to be trying to burn holes into Fang's face.

"Why are you so- what is your problem?" Great, Fang, go ahead and offend her. This would be a nice time to pull out her hair, too. "I'm not keeping any secrets from you." None that you need to know, anyway.

"Oh, yeah, that's what you said to me when you left last time!" Max had jumped to her feet in her anger, hands clenched in fists at her side. "Do you think I'm an idiot?" Her voice assumed a deep timbre, which Fang presumed was her imitation of his voice. "'I'm going home, Max, but stay here because I'm just tired and you should have fun! I'll see you at home, 'cause you know, I'm not planning to LEAVE or anything!'"

At this point, Max was shouting and she had stomped right into Fang's face, backing him against the wall. But Fang was equally as angry and shoved Max back a few feet.

"I left so that you wouldn't have to!" he shouted, "It was the best decision for the flock, and you know it, but you're just too stubborn and hardheaded to admit it!"

"Me? If I'm stubborn and hardheaded than you're completely unmanageable! No one can even get into your head, and whenever we try, we just get shut out!" Max yelled, trembling with rage.

"You're unbelievable! I told you exactly why we needed to split up for a while, but you refuse to believe anything stops you from throwing your little pity party with Dylan! Being together put the rest of the flock in danger, Max; you act as if I wanted to leave!"

"Didn't you? Isn't that why you replaced me with me? Did you tell my clone that too? Or did you just have cheese whiz fights while you complimented her about her hair?" Max's face was so red and she was shaking so violently that Fang thought she might literally explode. "'Maya, you're so wonderful! Maya, you're so nice! Maya, you're so much better than Max ever was!'"

Fang went stiff and stared unblinkingly at Max. Even Max, in all her stubbornness, had never used this against him, not when she'd heard what exactly had happened to her clone.

"She was different from you, Max," Fang said quietly, "Maya was your clone, but she was different from you, and all she really wanted was her own identity."

Max paused for a moment; even she looked shocked at the lengths she had gone through, but her stance told Fang that this argument was far from over.

"Really? Because last time I checked, she was still my clone. You can't just take a person and replace her with her clone because she's version 2.0!" Max shook her head. "I thought you of all people would understand that."

"This is exactly why I liked Maya!" Fang yelled, his anger rekindled, "Because even though she's dead, you still hold a grudge against her! You just can't forgive anyone, can you? Maya was nice, and she actually listened to me when I spoke! And- she would have made a better leader than you've ever been!"

Max looked to the point of screaming, but her entire body stiffened when she heard Fang's scathing words.

"If you love her so much…" she was at a loss for words, "…just leave, Fang. Go back and form your little group. You wouldn't be here if she hadn't died, right?" Max swallowed and gave a bitter chuckle. "Besides, I don't want to be anyone's second choice."

But Fang wasn't finished. Max had made him beyond angry and he was done listening to his inner voice of reason.

"Get real, Max. I'm no stranger to second choices. Weren't you the one who replaced me with Dylan?" Fang's voice was twisted beyond recognition and his snarl came out even nastier in comparison to Max's defeated tone.

"What did you expect me to do? I died when Angel-" she choked and Fang winced "-when we didn't find her, and Dylan helped, Fang! He helped, and he didn't leave! That's more than what you did!" she screeched.

There was a broad silence and Fang and Max breathed heavily, each angry beyond belief.

"What happened to us, Max?" Fang asked quietly.

Max shook her head, hair swinging in sweaty clumps around her face. "It's over, Fang. We're not… we've both changed. There's no more 'Max and Fang.'"

"I told you once before: there will always be a 'Max and Fang.' There will always be an 'us,'" Fang said.

Fang saw it before it even happened. He shot forward and caught Max just as she crumbled and fell to the floor, utterly exhausted.

"Max?" Fang shook her uncertainly, "What's wrong with you?"

"You're asking me that again," Max muttered, shoving Fang's arm away to no avail, "Haven't you learned by now that you don't ask anyone that unless you want to start a fight?"

"We needed that fight," said Fang as he held Max and leaned against the wall.

Max stopped struggling, apparently having realized that it would do no good against Fang when he was acting like this. "You suck, Fang."

Fang blinked. Of all the things to say, this was… well, actually now that he thought about it, not an uncommon reaction for Max.

"So what's our next move?" Fang muttered.

Max shook her head incredulously. "You're asking me? You just insulted my leadership skills, and you're asking me?" she repeated. "Bad move, Fang."

"I didn't mean it like that." Fang sighed. "It's just… you know Maya wasn't just a clone. She looked like you, but her personality was different."

He inwardly cursed. Way to make Max think she's only good for looks, Fang.

"You're right," Max said curtly, "She wasn't just a clone; she was my clone." Max paused before continuing. "So that's it then? You replaced me with her because of who I am. You're a charmer, Fang. Like I said before, I don't want to be anyone's second choice."

"You're not my second choice, Max," Fang started.

"You're saying you would've come back if Maya hadn't died?" Max challenged him. "Because I have a hard time believing that. 20 years, huh? So you would've flown to that cliff, hand in hand with Maya for our little reunion? Would've broken it to me that after waiting for you for a freaking long time, you'd moved on?"

Fang glanced down at his hand, which rested beside Max's on the floor. "I think… I think even if Maya hadn't died, I would've come back for you anyway. And once we saved the world, we could have been happy together."

We can still be happy together, he wanted to say, If you'd just let us…

"I don't believe you," Max said. She stood up. "I have to go check on the Flock. I'll see you down later."

"Max-" Fang grabbed her wrist and pulled her down. She stumbled and threw out her other hand, and Fang caught it in his free hand. Her face landed right in front of his, and she blushed to her blondish/brown roots. This was Max, the girl he'd loved since forever, and she was so, so close…

Fang leaned in, and was mildly surprised when Max didn't immediately rear back. Her eyes, though slightly uncertain, fluttered shut and he had nearly reached her soft lips…

"MAX! FANG! Iggy made pie, and he says I can eat your slices if you guys don't come down!" Gazzy yelled from downstairs.

Fang's eyes shot open. You'd better hope they find your body when I kill you, Gaz.

Max had already broken free from Fang's hold and was hastily scrambling backward with a shocked expression. She shot to her feet and tucked strands of hair behind her ears.

They couldn't have interrupted us during our screaming match, huh?

"I'm just gonna go and uh, get my pie. You coming?" Max asked, trying for a casual approach.

Fang shot a strained smile at her. "No, but I'll be down later so save me a slice."

Max visibly relaxed and she nodded with a portion of her usual manner.

"I might eat it," she said with an eyebrow raised, "But don't worry, I'll eat it slowly."

Fang snorted. Max? Eating slowly? Yeah, right, that was about as likely as Fang trusting Dylan.

She cast another look over her shoulder before walking out of his room. He heard her voice yelling faintly, "Gazzy, I swear, if you ate my pie..!"

Fang sighed, thoroughly exhausted. Max was a handful, a handful with anger management and trust issues, and yet…

He loved her.

Fang loved Maximum Ride, and it just felt so right. It felt realer than when he'd been with Maya. He had to admit- it had been a nice change; Fang had finally gotten to experience a relationship with someone other than the girl he'd known his entire life. And Maya had been so… cute and pleasant to be around. There was a time when Fang had seriously considered moving on, and maybe he could have with Maya…

But Max would always be the one who he loved the most. They'd been through so much from the very beginning, and Fang had thought maybe it was too much, maybe he knew her too well. But if his time with Maya meant anything- and it did- it showed that what he and Max had was for forever. No matter what they did, no matter how badly they hurt each other, Fang would always stay with Max, and he believed she would do the same. He wasn't going to leave her ever again.

Fang glanced at his laptop. He wouldn't post Dylan's news on his blog; it was too dangerous. If he really did pose a threat to the flock, posting that online would only drag in more enemies and make him even more confused. Fang was going to be selfish for just this once; he was going to stay with Max no matter what anyone did or said.

Fang tried to ignore the tiny voice in the back of his brain that told him he was only delaying the inevitable.

A/N: I'd originally had a different outcome for this story, but then the characters just kept on going and I didn't know how to stop them. Please review.