A/N: I wrote MR fic way back in 2005 (under a different name, of course), back when Heelys were still big, there were under one hundred fics on this page, and Myrah's "A Little Place Called Home" swept the first-ever Maximum Ride Fanfiction Awards. I remember seeing TAE at Walmart just after it had come out, asking my mother to buy it for me, and instantly falling in love with the characters. As I got older and the books got crappier, I stopped reading after MAX came out in 2009. About a month ago, I realized James Patterson had written FOUR MORE BOOKS. I binge read them and, overall, remain unhappy with his plot development and where the story went in the end.
I remain absolutely in love with his six main characters.
Twelve years later, I am wiser, college-educated, and probably too old to be writing fanfiction, but I have a lot of extra time on my hands, and will forever ship Fang and Max as my OTP (as well as love Iggy as the protective brother type).
This story will take place after MAX and will not include Total, Akila, or the Martinezes in the story arc. This is for a number of reasons: one being that the only thing more absurd than a talking Scottie is a talking Scottie with wings in love with an Alaskan malamute; the second being the girl Max impulsively saved from bullies in the Arizona desert happening to be her half-sister is possibly even more absurd than the aforementioned. I apologize to my Iggy/Ella fans.
I do not write in advance of posting - I write and post my chapters in real time, so you may wait longer for updates.
In the Woods Somewhere
What caused the wound? How large the teeth?
I saw new eyes were watching me
The creature lunged, I turned and ran
To save a life I didn't have
Deer in the chase, there as I flew
I forgot all prayers of joining you
In a panic, I burst through the tree line. My wings were bound tightly to my back beneath my long sleeve thermal, fifteen feet of speckled tan and white forced painfully against strained muscles by spandex. I couldn't remember the last time I had run this fast, the last time I had breathed fresh air. I was catatonic. I was on autopilot.
I was almost free.
A shower of gunfire screamed from behind me, and I tripped painfully over my own exhausted legs in an attempt to force myself forward, reaching fruitlessly for a speed faster than possible for even somebody two percent inhuman. I righted myself at the last moment. My heart rate had to be approaching three hundred. My chest ached as if I hadn't breathed in years. Go, go, go!
The forest was wide before me, a brilliant kaleidoscope of hunter green and emerald. A naïve sense of excitement burst through my veins as I took in the new landscape. I welcomed the surge of adrenaline, pouring it into my stride as my muscles warmed up from the years of agony they'd been subjected to. I had never made it this far before. This is your chance. This is it.
More gunshots. I needed to throw them off.
Without thinking, I launched myself into the underbrush, grimacing as thorns and twigs shredded my fragile skin. I tumbled into a thick patch of pine trees, the tall, straight trunks occasionally broken up by a massive oak, branches open like arms in prayer towards the sky. I shoved myself back to my feet, ignoring the jolt of pain to my triceps and the grit of dirt in the cuts from the briars.
I stole a glance over my shoulder, strips of sweaty ash blond hair sticking to my chapped lips – a trigger squeezed, followed by a sequence of pop-pop-pops – an explosion of orange somewhere to my right –
My breath was quickening, panic rising high in my chest and grabbing at my trachea. Quick gasps wheezed from me as I continued to tear a path through the woods, moonlight blazing through the gaps in the foliage.
Behind me – how far I couldn't tell – I heard Mallory's voice ring out, deep and angry through the crisp air. "Find her!" His cronies responded with more splashes of gunfire.
I could feel the anxiety forcing its way into my mind, the implication of what a failed escape could mean for my already broken self pushing dark clouds around the edges of my vision. How long had I been free for? Seconds? Minutes?
My mind was racing – their voices were fading, I was actually doing it, I was outrunning them, I was escaping – I needed to calm down, I couldn't let the thoughts in, couldn't allow the terror and panic to take over – especially not now, after busting free, after –
I barreled through another tree line, startling to a stop as I nearly pitched over the face of a cliff. My bare feet grabbed at the stone earth, sending pebbles over the edge. A body of water warred what must've been three hundred feet below.
Their voices were approaching again – my split second of hesitance had granted them another couple of yards on me – so without planning, without breathing, I backed up to the tree line and hurdled over the edge of the drop.
Idly, my mind took me back to that nightmare a million years ago, the morning that Angel was taken from the E-house and everything changed for us. This time, though, there was no snapping open of wings, no startling awake; this was reality, cold and harsh, inescapable and messy.
I pulled myself into as small of a ball as possible, willing myself away from the jagged slope of the cliff face and into the depths of the water.
After plunging into the darkness, I yanked my tight spandex thermal off. In a panic, I forced my aching wings out from behind my sports bra, nearly shrieking from the discomfort I felt at expanding them for the first time in what must've been months.
I was running on pure epinephrine and terror, but I flung myself from the water (with an incredible amount of difficulty) and streaked through the sky, covered in blood and barely clothed in the frigid atmosphere.
There isn't much that I remember about the hours after the cliff dive. Call it mutant freak instinct, call it luck, call it an act of God, whatever – but somehow, someway, my inherent sense of direction pointed me toward the home the Flock had made our own years ago in the mountains of New England.
This is adrenaline, I thought, pumping another kink out of my wings to surge a little higher in the chilly troposphere. The cool breeze through my primaries was a foreign sensation. How long had it been? I ached, I was shivering, I was terrified, and yet I was still managing to streak across the sky at a respectable speed. How long until it wears off?
It truly could've been one hour or four – at some point, just before the break of dawn over the horizon, I spotted the lone lightpost in the backyard. My two percent avian genes, responsible for so much pain and torture at the hands of scientists, had steered me home.
The sight of that singular light was all it took: any energy that remained in my spent body left me, and I descended sloppily to the ground. A pained shriek escaped my crumpled form – I heard the snap of bone and felt a rush of heart-stopping pain – and then my eyes were closing, erasing the image of the moonlit sky.
Fang had just felt himself slinking into the comfortable abyss of unconsciousness when he heard the scream from the backyard. He was to his feet and pounding down the long hall toward the back door before he'd even wiped the sleep from his eyes. Iggy had already streaked out the door, fresh off of work and still wearing his scrubs. Fang stole a glance to his watch. 3:45. Nothing good happens after midnight, he thought tersely.
He wondered if he should turn around and wake the kids. They had gotten comfortable. It had been months – years – since they'd been threatened. In fact, the flock hadn't heard so much as a peep from the School ever since they took –
Fifty yards in front of him, Iggy had dropped to his knees beside a still form on the outskirts of the yard, just beside the giant lightpost that illuminated the garden at night ("What if I want to make stir fry at midnight?" he had said). His hands fluttered over the shadow, but with a tenderness typically not reserved for Erasers, mad scientists, or cyborgs.
Fang slowed to a jog and allowed himself to shed the sense of impending doom. If Iggy wasn't concerned, neither was he. "What is it?" he called softly, squinting against the glare of the light at whatever Iggy was fretting over.
Before Fang even reached him, Iggy lifted the shape into his arms and started at a hurried pace towards the house, his face paler than Fang had ever seen it before.
"Ig...?" Fang breathed, feeling that impending doom creep back, pulsing through his blood stream with each dreadful beat of his heart.
Iggy paused beside Fang, positioning himself in the glow of the waxing gibbous to show the bloodied, ashen, and skeletal body he held tightly to his chest. Fang might not have believed it if it weren't for the fifteen feet of ivory and brown feathers hanging limply over Iggy's elbow, brushing softly against the wet grass.
The woman he loved was cradled in Iggy's arms.
Fang felt the world around him slam to a stop, the pulls of gravity cease to exist. It couldn't be. They had searched to the ends of the earth for her. They had uprooted every square inch of the universe and had called every favor to try to uncover wherever they'd locked her away. It had been four years since she'd disappeared from her bed without a sound, the only indication that she'd been taken by force the pool of blood on her down comforter. He had searched, he had scoured, he had beat his fists against trees, walls, and floors in frustration.
And then he had given up. He had mourned.
Slowly, delicately, the world began to spin again. The back door was open, Nudge's pajama-clad figure beckoning him forward with a shaking arm and throwing panicked glances toward the living room, where Iggy's form was retreating toward the sofa. "Fang!" she called, shifting her weight nervously from one long leg to the other. A note of urgency transposed her voice higher than he'd ever heard it.
She's alive. The thought trickled through his brain like a marquee as he sank slowly to the dewy grass. The door slammed shut and he could hear Nudge join Iggy in the living room. He clenched fistfuls of earth in his hands, trying to ground himself and battle the nausea that rose in the back of his throat.
Max is alive.