A/N: Hey everyone, it's been a long time. Well here's another chapter and I am going to give a small warning that there is lot more fluff this chapter, so have fun!

Chapter 28

Maximum knew the exact instant that the strange shield over her disappeared. Firstly, the pain returned with a vengeance and set her teeth gritting against each other. And secondly, there was no longer a strange charge within the air around her. The force field had been real; when she moved her hand against the space around her, it came in contact with resistance. The minute she touched it, the shield blazed to life and resembled liquid electricity the while it flowed harmlessly around her fingers, it didn't allow her to pass through. It kept her in and everything else out.

She didn't know if its disappearance meant happiness or ill for the battle happening above her. Was Derringer okay? What had happened to Ari? She sat within the dark room utterly defenseless, quietly wondering who would be coming through the door and whether she would ever see sunlight again. She swore to herself, that if she ever got out of this alive, she would never go into another cave again for as long as she lived.

In fact, after this nightmare, she would have to do a lot of searching and contemplating about her life. Her life as she had known it had ended this night. Ari had done a job on her, and he had done it thoroughly. It might not have been the job that he had sought out to do, but had shattered her all the same.

Never had she been so unsure, she had been rocked right down to the core, and it scared her. She was floating alone without a boat or a paddle, almost too tired to stop herself from drowning. Laying her head against the stone floor, she did her best not to jostle any of her broken bones and wounds. Despite the cold and the pain, it was not but one second later before she fell out of consciousness.

Max's eyelids fluttered as she felt a soft kiss upon her brow. She struggled to raise herself out of her blessedly uneventful unconscious state, which had suddenly fallen upon her. It took her quite some time to bring everything back into focus, for it was at least half a minute before she realized that the arm that was held beneath her, was quite real.

Panic closed in around her and she immediately began to struggle, forgetting about her many wounds. It was so dark and she didn't trust her eyes anymore. She didn't want to see the face, she just wanted to get away. However, against her wishes, the arms simply enfolded her closer and all she could do was blindly beat her ravaged hands against the torso. She felt utter shame as tears fell down her cheeks unwanted. How could she cry? She, Maximum Ride, who had never truly cried for herself a day in her life? How could her body betray her like this?

When her fists did nothing to move her attacker, her instinct called for her to try to kick out at him, but the minute she moved to do so, her body excruciatingly reminded her that her tibia and fibula had been snapped in half like twigs, not only causing more of those traitorous watery droplets to flow from her eyes, but pulling a scream from throat.

The feathery touch of her attacker's fingers wiped away at her tears as soothing sounds came from out of the darkness. "Shhh, It's okay chérie, I'm here…it's me."

Max felt as if the whole world had shuttered to a halt without her grabbing on to anything, sending her floundering and skidding a kilter. She knew that voice, and she knew that term of endearment. But it couldn't be…could it? Was this nightmare truly over?

She paused in her movements and looked up into the darkness in disbelief. Her eyes, which could see perfectly in the dark, actually looked for the first time. She began to assemble the features of the person who held her. Her hand trembled as she reached forward, not sure if what she beheld was real or a mirage. "D-Derringer?"

However, her sudden loss of adrenalin and the jarring of her dislocated fingers caused her to hiss at the sudden pain. His hand took hold of hers and he lightly caressed her palm before lowering her hand back to her side. "You shouldn't move, chère. Not until I can get ya outta here and to safety."

Max watched his golden eyes glow in the dark like twin coals. But it wasn't like before, it was more earthly this time, as if his eyes reflected the smallest bit of light like that of a great hunting cat. She had noticed it before, when she had caught glimpses of him at night around the campfire, after he had removed his shades. However, this was the first time she had really looked at them before in this way. Ari couldn't know something like that about Derrin, could he? He couldn't be scrambling with her brain again…or was he? How could she know for sure?

She looked at him closely, her voice quiet. "H-How do I know you're real? That you're you?"

He looked down at her in surprise for a minute, before the look changed to one of sympathy and compassion. "Do you feel alone anymore?"

Her eyes lifted in astonishment at the words. The same words she had asked Derrin—the real Derrin—on the night that she and the flock had initiated the man into their fold!

Those two-timing tears began to fill the corners of her eyes once again, but this time she didn't hate them or try to brush them away. Beaming, she deftly lifted her arms towards him, "No."

Delicately gathering her in his arms, Derringer lifted her up as he stood upright, letting her circle her limbs loosely around his neck. He leaned down and kissed her tears away tenderly. "Neither do I."

Shifting as much as she could without jostling her leg, she huddled against him, making sure she had contact at all times. If he was a dream, she didn't care to ever wake up again. She would stay with this man, human or fiction, as long as he took her away from this place.

"Get me outta here, Cajun. Please…take me out of this place." Max pleaded softly against his chest.

The redhead took a moment to cast an eye over her, his mouth pressed in a firm line as he took in the bruises, cuts, and many injuries that his girl had suffered. Once again his anger towards the wolf boy rose up and burned once again, only to be quickly extinguished when he remembered that the boy had received his punishment and would never hurt Max or any of the flock again. What was done was done, and those who had sent the boy would pay. He was surprised that she hadn't asked about what had happened or about his unearthly transformation, but then again, he had no idea what to tell her if she did ask. Right now he had to take care of his girl, and find his family. It had been a long night. It was time to go home.

"Come on chère, I'm gonna get ya outta here. Tell me if I jolt ya at all, okay darlin'?"

He waited till she nodded before clutching her closer and then, using his strength and speed he sped through the mine shaft's twist and turns, careful to keep her broken leg steady. He knew he should have put a splint on it, but he had no supplies and he was hoping that he could get her to Gaz before that became necessary.

It wasn't long before he had found his way back to the entrance, and out into the crisp mountain air. He felt Max shiver in his arms and looking down at her, he felt his face flush as he realized the condition of her clothes. He instead did his best to ignore her near naked form and looked only at her face. "I'm sorry that you feel a chill, love. I would in any other situation offer you my jacket, but it's so shredded and stained with blood. It's not even worthy of a mangy dog. Will you be okay?"

Maximum was beyond the point of embarrassment, and simply snuggled closer to her rescuer's chest, letting him warm her chilled flesh. "I'll be alright. Let's just go."

Easier said than done, Derrin thought uncomfortably as he tried to overcome his base nature, but his girl wasn't making it simple. He finally just let a little bit of the pain he had mentally been keeping out, seep in to cure the problem. Oh Mon Dieu, well that did the trick.

Max looked up at Derringer when he suddenly let out a pained hiss. "Are you okay?"

He looked down at her and she saw a slight sheen of perspiration line his forehead as he crookedly smiled at her. "I am now. Let's get going."

She crooked an eyebrow at him in confusion before letting it go. "Yes."

Hurtling up the mountain face, Derringer came to a halt on an outcropping as he was trying to get an idea of what path he should take. However, his breath was suddenly taken away at the panorama that lay out before him. "Chère! You've gotta look at this. It is so trés magnifique!"

At his words and slight shaking to get her attention, Max turned slightly around and looked at what had gotten him so excited. Staring out into the darkness, she could only gasp at the beauty that was revealed to her. For what seemed like the first time in forever, she grinned widely at the wonder before her eyes.

The moon was full and had risen high in the night sky, bathing the earth in its silver glow. The world was spread out beneath it, unspoiled by cities or towns, just a wash of nature crisp and alive, beauty incarnate. The mountainside was spread before her, followed by the forests and hills, land spread out as God had created it. The clouds had cleared and stars blazed in the sky like minuscule torches, and the air was so invigorating and alive that it made her human side want to cry and laugh with joy. The animal side of her also heard the call of the wilderness and instinctively she began to unfurl her wings to soar out into the night sky and take in the beauty. The agony that raked her body stopped her in mid-transformation, and her smile froze on her face as reality crashed once more around her.

Derringer could feel the animal within him growl in its want to stretch its legs, even though he could also feel the Guardian simply "roll over" in exhaustion within his subconscious. But then he felt a slight shudder against his chest, and at once all of his attention went back to the woman within his arms. She was his top priority; he and everyone inside him seemed to at least agree on that.

She was crying again, yet this despair seemed so much worse as it was contrasted by the picturesque setting framing her. He could not wipe away her tears with her in his arms, so he did the next best thing. Nuzzling her cheek, he held her as close as he possible could without hurting her. "What's wrong, chère?"

Max hated appearing weak in front of anyone, but she was beyond that point now. She had hit rock bottom, and the bad guys had struck a devastating blow this night. Using her undamaged hand she ran her fingers lightly along the slit that hid her wing. She could feel Derringer's gaze on her, watching her movements but she didn't have to courage to meet his eyes. She instead looked back up at the moon, the celestial body looking more like a lifeless, barren chunk of rock than the enchanting vision it had been a moment ago.

"It's so strange," She said half to herself, the despair evident in her voice, "that I was put through so much pain in just giving me superhuman abilities, for it to be all taken away in an instant. And it wasn't even that painful…"

Fresh tears filled her eyes, "At least physically…"

He pulled her closer and burrowed his face against her cheek in sympathy and supplication; a behavioral instinct that came from his feline DNA. "Please don't cry chère. It's tearing me apart."

She tried to wipe them away, but they just kept coming. In fact they seem to increase at such a rate that she eventually covered her face with hands and simply wept. "My wings, Derrin! H-He took my wings from me."

Derringer could feel his heart being strangled by his girl's cries. He didn't know what to do in order to comfort her, or even if he would be able to. "Ma chérie, you have your wings, they have not been taken from you."

She sat up and pushed her wings out ever so slightly so that he could see the ravaged area where her pinion feathers had once been. She could tell by the continuing silence that he had seen and understood her plight and doom. "He might as well have. He broke my leg to prevent me from running away. He crippled my wings to keep me from flying out of his cage. He might as well have killed me for all the use I am to anyone!"

Harsh hands flipped her over so that she had no choice but to face him, their faces were so close there was but a hairsbreadth between them. His angry stare hit her unswervingly and she could not avoid its punishing gaze.

His voice was low but severe, "Now ya listen ta me, mah mademoiselle. I didn't save ya jus' so ya can go all suicidal on me. Dying ain't gonna get rid of your problems, and believe me, we still got problems. So ya can't walk? So ya can't fly? Broken bones heal all the time, they was made that way. Feathers can regrow."

Derrin saw the uncertainty in her eyes and he leaned his forehead against so that she would see the conviction in his own. "They can grow again. And even if they didn't, ya still an essential part of the flock, ya're a necessary part o' my life, and if ya forgot, you still got a few jobs to do yet, mah darlin'. Gazé and Nudge still have some growin' up ta do, and in case ya 'aven't noticed, they got a bit of a crush on each other."

She looked at him in surprise, "But they're only kids!"

"They're preteens, and their hormones have been ragin' for awhile now, chère. And there's petite Ange, she needs ya like any baby chick need its mother. She got power, but she still a little girl. And Izzy, he beginnin' to find 'imself now; tryin' ta become a man for his family. He need ya ta guide him in the right direction. And did ya forget all about Fang?"

Max froze at the name and her heart felt the shame pierce her heart like a knife. How had she let despair grab her like this? How had she let Ari…win?

To her horror, even more tears fell and she looked away from Derrin and buried her face within his already soaked garments. "I'm sorry I'm being so weak a-a-and pathetic! It's just that I–"

He again brought her closer in comfort, his voice soft and cooing with solace and reassurance. "I know, chèrie…I know he hurt ya. But ya know what? No one ever gonna hurt ya again. He ain't ever gonna touch ya as long as I live, ya got that? Ya got me, chère?"

Maximum felt his words soak in and the confidence that came with them. She let them calm her and let him be his support. For the first time in her life, she totally gave up control and leaned upon another. Her weeping began to let up and she settled once again in his arms.

Derringer waited in silent patience for her cries to end completely and her shudders to still before he leaned forward and kissed her forehead and then continued on. "Until ya are back on your feet chère, I will be your legs for you to walk and run anywhere you wish to go, and I may not be as good as a pair of wings, but I'll try my best to fly you through the night."

Feeling the wind rushing past her again, Max used her sleeve to wipe her face before looking up at the redhead. Her smile was warm as she commented softly, "Once you calm down, your strange dialect goes back into hiding, Cajun."

He gave a small laugh and grinned roguishly, "Yeah, I've been told that quite a few times. As you know, I usually speak the King's English, but when I get tired or angry I just can't be bothered. It doesn't bother you, does it?"

"No, not at all." She answered quietly before leaning back against him. "I think it adds to your character."

In the silence that followed, Max gave a sigh and unintentionally breathed in Derringer's scent. While it had traces of sweat and blood, there was a deeper undercurrent of pinewood and spice. It was something she had never really noticed before. Well, that made sense as she had never been this close to him before. She could the feel the steady thump of his heart against her, strong and relentless in its duty.

As she listened to the beats, Max remembered a night where she had fallen asleep within Derrin's arms after he had finished singing a lullaby to the kids. He had always sung for the children and she was glad for it. But she, and the slightly selfish child that was within her heart, was drawn to his voice and always wanted him to sing just for her. She wished…she wondered if…


Her voice was so soft that he actually had to slow down in order to hear her. "Yes, chère?"

Her voice stayed low and her eyes never looked at his face. "Would…would you mind singing…to me?"

He smiled as her face flushed in embarrassment, "Maxiée, look at me."

She waited for a little before doing as he asked. When he was gazing into those striking brown orbs, he warmly responded. "Mon chèrie, tonight, your every desire is my command. Never be afraid to ask me for anything."

"Thank you" she said with a voice a little higher than a whisper.

Derrin gave a mental sigh even as he kept his face the same. Oh chère, where did my spitfire go? What song can I possibly—

But then, his mind thought of the perfect melody that would suit his scathed girl, and hopefully give her the reassurance that everything would be alright.

Although she had heard Derrin sing before, Maximum was once again astounded by the rich tone, clarity, and beauty of his voice. But her eyes went wide as she listened to the lyrics and realized that he was indeed singing the song to her:

"Let me be your wings.

Let me be your only love.

Let me take you, far beyond the stars."

Lifting her up higher in his arms, he nodded for her to look around. Deciding to risk it again, Max turned away from his chest only to gasp in shock and grab onto his arm. He was running across a giant lake, no land in site and only the moon and stars accompanied them as they speed through. He only grinned widely before continuing to explain the truth to his wounded "fair maiden".

"Let me be your wings.

Let me lift you high above.

Everything we´re dreaming of, will soon be ours."

Max held on tightly as he began to run faster, the water's spray dancing on her face. The air filled her lungs and pure elation began to rise up within her chest. Up ahead, she watched what she had thought to be a lake and actually was a wide river, end suddenly! She knew it to be a waterfall and turned to warn Derringer, only for him to give her that knowing, daring smirk that she knew so well. His grip tightened and his speed increased with the current, all the while, his voice was steady and sure.

"Anything that you desire,

Anything at all,

Every day I´ll take you higher,

And I´ll never let you fall."

She could not even gather enough breath to scream as he vaulted from off of the water's edge! For a moment, they were in midair and nothing existed except for the two of them. Their eyes met, and for a single moment, they were actually flying…but then gravity seized them again and she clutched tightly to the redhead's neck as she gritted her teeth and waited for the impact.

Yet, instead of crashing on the rocks, Derringer changed direction in midcourse, preforming a full in-half out somersault outwards towards the water's surface further downriver, out of the way of the jagged stones, all the while still holding her in her arms! He began moving in a continuous, rapid circle as they neared the water's surface, so that instead of plunging through it, he swirled across the river and his legs instantly began to pick up the pace once again. He beamed in joy at the rush, but when he looked down, he saw Max had as of yet to take her hands from over her eyes. Well that wouldn't do.

He bent close enough to blow against her ear, causing her to jump in surprise. She looked around them in surprise, and he smiled at her speechless shock as he raced and weaved backwards and forwards across the waterway, lifting a faint spray into the air of dazzling water droplets.

"Let me be your wings.

Leave behind the world you know,

For another world of wondrous things.

We´ll see the universe and dance on Saturn´s rings.

Fly with me and I will be your wings."

With spectacular dexterity, he picked up his speed and leaped, spinning into a double axel before landing and taking off, intertwining across the river as if it was made of ice.

Once she knew that his recklessness wasn't going to get her killed, the joy of his intrepid moves finally hit Max's heart, and she laughed at the rush and energy of the movement. She kicked up her uninjured leg and let one hand release its grip and wave through the air in her building excitement. "How are you doing this? You can go across the water as if it was solid."

He spun around in figure eights and spinning spirals, his soles barely skimming the surface giving her a feeling of weightlessness that was both similar and different from what she was used to.

He answered thoughtfully, "I have no idea in truth. When I run across the water at a certain speed, I have to vibrate my body a certain way. Somehow, this creates enough surface tension at that point, that I can skate across as if it's rock-solid. I can't do it in a storm or anything, but every other time is fair game. Now, if I stop pulsating at that rate and don't begin running immediately afterward, I will sink. But enough of that."

Bringing her back up straight, he grinned at her with a desire that made her blush, and for the first time truly realize how close they had gotten.

"Sing with me, chère."

Max's eyes shot open in disbelief at the unexpected demand. "But I-I don't sing! And I don't know any songs, let alone this one."

He shook his head, "This is my song to you, darlin'. You know it, as sure as you know my voice."

She looked at him in dismay, but before she could argue further, he began again, his voice fervent and expecting.

"Anything that you desire,

Anything at all."

For the first time, Max seemed to truly hear and understand his words, and without consciously making a decision, answered back, her voice enervated but still willing…

"Anything at all."

His look of pleasure this time, was different than both his boyish grin and his charming smirk. There was such a heat to it, that she knew that if he was looking at the water rather than her, it would crackle and steam. No one had ever looked at her like that before.

And despite the way he was longingly regarding at her, his voice continued without a hitch—with more ardor than ever.

"Every day I´ll take you higher,

And I´ll never let you fall."

A strange feeling was rising up inside her, a feeling as if she was being drawn. Raising her free hand to his shoulder, she looked up at her rescuer with new eyes. She knew Derringer to be handsome, but that wasn't what captivated her. She knew, from more than his words, but from the strength of his gaze and spark in his eyes, that he would do exactly as he said. That he would be there to support her and to keep her from falling; that he would stand by her till the very end.

In her heart she felt a heat that seemed to spread like wildfire, and her voice shot out into the night, almost of its own free will.

"You will be my wings."

Derringer's scarlet locks seemed to mix with her flaxen ones, as he twirled them around the unoccupied tributary like it was a grand dance floor. And likewise, his voice began to meld with hers.

"Let me be your wings."

She raised her hand to the side of his face, and the next line came out without thought. Yet, even as she said it, she had to wonder if it wasn't true? A thought of Fang came to her mind, and a twinge of uncertainty arose, but she banished it quickly. For right now, at this time and at this place, she was with Derringer, and nothing else mattered.

"You will be my only love."

The shock of her statement almost sent them both cold river's depths, but he picked up speed and vaulted forward, spinning once again into another axel jump. When they landed, he turned to see her watching him with a wide grin of happy excitement. His heart filled with amusement, and he couldn't remember a time when he had been happier, or more content.

"Get ready for a world of wondrous things."

This time there was no hesitation when she answered back.

"Wondrous things are sure to happen."

Together, their voices fused as one, with the same thought and the same purpose.

"We´ll see the universe and dance on Saturn´s rings."

Bringing her closer, Derrin tilted his head and gazed at the once-fragile treasure that lay in his arms, and was satisfied to see the life back within those dark hazel eyes once again.

"Heaven isn´t too far."

Lightly touching his face, Max felt herself pull in closer to him. Remarkably enough, her wings had ceased to hurt, and his constant intertwining lulled her into a sense of peace and bliss she had rarely felt before. So, she felt she had to correct him.

"Heaven is where you are."

Their melodies melded together one last time, as their eyes stayed fixed on each other.

"Stay with me and let me be your wings..."

Silence followed as their last note hung in midair when the Cajun gave a soft chuckle, "You're going to take me flyin'?"

Laying her hand against his chest, she went up close and whispered in his ear. "When my wings heal, I'll do it first thing. I'm no "fair maiden" you know."

She went to lie back against his shoulder, but his hand stopped her. Keeping her still in one arm, he stood still on the water while tilting her head up to meet his. This time, the hunger and heat were unmistakable, even to the most blind eye.

"Now that's where you're wrong. You happen to be the fairest maiden I have ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on."

Her cheeks stained red, but she could not divert her gaze from his magnetic orbs. Her voice was a breathless whisper. "How do I know that I'm not the only maiden you've ever laid eyes on? At least within age range."

"Well, then you'd know that you are beyond compare then, don't you?" he answered, his voice long ago had gained a husky tone.

Before she could think of an answer to this, his lips touched hers and she felt a shocking spark race up her spine in response!

After a second or two, she silently answered back, kissing him in return. The moment she responded, he took the opening and deepened their kiss, stealing her breath away at the same time. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, if that could be possible.

Though this wasn't her first kiss, she had to admit that she had never been kissed like this. The boy that she had kissed that night so long ago, was nothing compared to fierceness and thoroughness that was Derringer. She remembered when they had first met and he had been giving her mouth-to-mouth, and she had accused him of kissing her. Now, she knew how wrong she was. How had she ever confused that, with this?

After a few more moments, they both came up for air and Max was a little jealous that her partner seemed to be no worse for wear and ravenous for more, all the while she was gasping for breath.

However, instead of kissing her again, Derringer gave her a questing look before asking her a question, "Did you mean what you said, chère? Do you love me?"

She curled her uninjured fingers into his long hair before kissing his cheek and lying on his shoulder. "I've loved you for quite some time, Derringer. It's the kind of love I have for you that has changed."

He raised an eyebrow, "Changed into what?"

She looked at him and hesitated for a few moments before simply answering, "I don't know."

"That's a pretty vague answer, chère." He said with slight disappointment.

She took his face into her hands and kissed his lips lightly as more of a reassurance than a proclamation. "It's the only answer I can give you right now. You have given me a lot to think about."

He moved her hand from his cheek to his lips, brushing them against her fingertips with a tenderness that made her want to sigh.

"Then that's all I can ask of you, ma bienaimée." He grinned before simultaneously continuing on while gifting her with another searing kiss.

She kept her head this time—barely—before settling in against his chest. "'Ma bienaimée'? What happened to 'chère'?"

"'Chère' is for the everyday. 'Chérie' and 'darlin'' are for the more pleasant times. And 'bienaimée', that shall be your warning that I am about to kiss you."

Her face flushed once again she pursed her lips in mock exasperation. "Is that all you think about? And how many women have you used that kiss on anyway?"

He weaved through some protruding rocks before responding to her accusation. "You would be the first, chérie."

She snapped her head back to look at him in disbelief. "You can't tell me that was your first kiss!"

He shrugged, "That was stolen from me by that piece of work, Viper, earlier tonight (or last night I guess it is now). But it was nothing compared to what we just shared a moment ago, chérie."

"Viper got to you too? That girl is scary—but wait, so minus the homicidal nutcase, you've never kissed another girl other than me?"

Derrin lifted up his golden eyes in thought, "Well, I think there was that time Ange was—"

She hit him playfully on the arm, "You know what kind of kiss I mean! Are you seriously saying I was your first?"

He raised an eyebrow at her astonishment. "Why are you so surprised? As you well know, there aren't really many opportunities for the 'freaks' like us to be in any kind of relationship. I told you I was a pretty much a lone wolf before I met you."

Her forehead creased in thought, but she guessed that it did make sense. She and the flock had never had time for anything serious with anyone but themselves. It would have raised too many questions. So she guessed it would be the same for him. But still!

"It's just that you seem like you've had a lot more experience, and I just thought…" Her voice trailed off as she realized the implications of what she was saying, and once again, heat rose to her cheeks as she tried to look in any direction but his.

But she couldn't help but feel and hear his amused laughter at her statement resulting predicament. "Well merci, ma chérie. You're not that bad of a kisser yourself. And your jealousy is unfounded, but nonetheless appreciated."

She frowned and hit him again, but this time it was thoughtlessly and she jarred one of her dislocated finger, making her hiss out in pain.

Derrin looked down at her in concern. "We'd better get you to the hideout before you break something else, chère."

She groaned and hit her forehead against his chest. "It's all your fault, Cajun. I am not jealous. I was just wondering that's all."

Derringer simply glanced at her before shaking his head. "Hmm, they say curiosity kills the cat, but I think for a bird it just makes them more beautiful. And I think you are quite la belle alouette, my darlin'. You have nothing to be jealous of, ma bienaimée. I've never felt for anyone the way I feel about you. You know I love you, d'accord?"

Her eyes snapped open at his bold statement, one that he had alluded to, but had never quite said so firmly aloud until now.

Max turned to look at him, but was met halfway as he again led her into another vehement kiss. This one wasn't as reckless with abandon as the first two, but the passion was still well ablaze.

After what had felt like an eternity wrapped into a mere few seconds, he finally released her and she sighed before looking up at him with expectation. He blew a tendril of honey blond hair from out of her eyes, "I gave you warning, darlin'. And if you don't get that sultry look from off your face in the next few seconds, I'm going to warn you again."

She looked at him with mock daring, and not a bit of innocence. "You forgot to say 'please', Cajun."

His eyes went wide at her teasing, before his smile became rapacious. "Not on your life, bienaimée."

They had been traveling a ways now, alternating between the roads and the waterways. He knew they would soon be close to the house, which was a good thing. While he had improved his beloved's spirit, he knew her body was still deceptively broken.

It was only the fact that she could heal faster than the norm that was keeping her from going unconscious from her many injuries. He wanted to get her to Gazé before a complication occurred that the boy wouldn't be able to heal. Also, there was the question of his own wounds…

The Guardian's magic was slowly wearing off, and while he could use his training to keep the pain muted, eventually his wounds would open again. But it wasn't far now. Hopefully he could there in plenty of time.

He looked down at the precious treasure that had fallen asleep within his arms, and a sense of wonderment came over him.

So much had happened this night, it was almost as if he had become another person. He couldn't believe that this morning he had simply been wondering on how to stay on Max's good side. And now…he had never intentionally meant to go as far as he did, but things had quickly progressed out of his control. He had never thought he would be fortunate enough that a girl like Max would even consider him, much less allow him kiss her.

He had no delusions that it would be an easy road from here. He knew that Max's feelings were confused and divided. His rival for her heart was not here to challenge him, but that didn't make Fang any less of a challenge. He had her time now, but Fang had built up a relationship since the two had been children. Well, it mattered not to him. He had known for some time that he had fallen for the lovely spitfire, and tonight had finally admitted so to her. Now the choice was hers, and he would let her make a decision. However, that didn't mean he was going to release the ground that he had gained tonight. He was a man after all, with all that ridiculous, yet somehow essential male ego.

He scanned ahead and breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted the safe house in the distance surrounded by the forest pine. Putting in that extra burst of speed, he was at the porch steps in half a second.


He looked down at his half-sleep girl who had just been jostled awake. Max looked at him through tired eyelids, the result of everything crashing down on her at once.

"We're here, chère. Just rest while I find everyone else." He reassured her, before starting up the stairs.

She sighed and went back to sleep as he looked through the dusty windows. He kicked open the door, revealing a darkened room full of dusty rotten furniture. His night vision revealed that there was no one about…odd. Iggy would have known to post a—


He froze at the sound of a gun being cocked, and his eyes swiveled to the right towards the source of the sound.

A voice came out of the darkness, "Don't move if you want to live."

He piqued an eyebrow, "Mon frère, I have come through way too much for you to shoot me in the back now."

A female voice cried out happily, "Derringer!"

Immediately, a gas lamp was lit and the door was slammed shut behind him. Angel and Nudge came running towards him from behind a nearby wall. While Gasman, who had been positioned behind the door, dropped the stick he would have used for a weapon before crowding around him too.

Iggy unprimed the revolver he had found in the house's safe, before placing it in his pocket. It had been a long restless watch, and his powers had all suffered for it. He was back to being mostly blind again.

"Derringer! Are you alright? What happened?"

The redhead bypassed the concerned children and walked into the inner living room, placing Max on the threadbare and dusty, but still sturdy sofa.

Angel appeared by his side, "How is she? Is she going to be okay?"

He smiled reassuringly, "Sure she is, petite. She's only sleep right now. She was awake the entire way here."

He turned to Gaz who was on his other side, Nudge not far behind, her hand clutched in his. It seemed that the sight of her sister in such a condition caused the girl to become understandably speechless.

"Gazé, I know you're tired and this maybe new territory for you, but chère needs your talents desperately."

The boy nodded, "Tell me what you know."

"She has a concussion, her ribs are fractured, her leg is broken, some of her fingers have been dislocated…

He recounted to the boy all of the injuries he had noted, before stepping out of the way for him to go to work. Gasman didn't even blink at the idea of the large task, and instead cracked his knuckles and went at it, his hands glowing a bright green as he started from the head down.

Seeing that Max was well on her way to being taken care of, Derrin let the rest of the Flock gather around their fallen sister as he slipped back into the entrance parlor.

He had taken only a few steps before he stumbled and had to lean against the wall for support. Raising his hand, he wiped away the sweat that had begun to gather on his brow.

His legs, suddenly gone weak, caused Derringer to have to walk the wall in order to get to a chair that looked sturdy enough to hold his weight. Feeling warm moisture on his chest and legs, he placed a hand inside his jacket, only for it to come out dripping crimson…

So, time's up.

It was his last thought before he lost his grip and fell to the floor. His eyes rolled back into his head as he could no longer hold back the pain that he had been successful thus far in keeping at bay. Blood quickly spread out along the wood planks from his many newly reopened wounds.

The claret liquid spilled from out of the side of his mouth and joined the ever enlarging pool that was collecting beneath him. Yet, his face was relaxed, as if content that he had achieved his goals, despite the cost. His bienaimée—his beloved—was going to be fine, and that was enough for him.

And that was how Nudge found him, not a minute later.

A/N: So that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed this chapter (and any flamers can go elsewhere, cause I don't care). If there so happens to be a person who HASN'T heard The song "Let Me Be Your Wings", look on youtube or google and I assure you you'll find it. Here's hoping for the next chapter coming out in less than a year! :P