Flight Path

Summary: What if the School never existed? What if the Flock were just normal kids? If you want to know, read on…

Fandom: Maximum Ride

Pairings: None as of yet - I'm working on it. I'm still unsure if I should take the slashy path…

Warnings: Bad language, underage drinking and smoking, sex drugs and rock 'n' roll

Disclaimer: See that word back there? It says 'disclaimer'. If I owned these characters, it would not be a disclaimer. Do we see the connection here, dear readers?

Author's Note: And finally a chapter with Nudge!

Chapter 5 – Home

And I thank you

For bringing me here

For showing me home

For singing these tears

Finally I've found that I

Belong here

from Home by Depeche Mode

Andrew walked lazily along the street, sisters in tow. It was quite a long walk from the nicer part of town where the Millers lived to Andrew's neighbourhood – which, he was perfectly willing to admit, was a slum. It was supposedly a dangerous part of town, full of criminal types, but that had never bothered him. Hell, most of them knew him. They were more likely to start a conversation with him than try to rob him.

And sure enough, he got a cheery 'hello' from a homeless guy huddled in an alleyway, and perfectly friendly waves from two drug dealers standing on a street corner. A cheap-looking whore stopped to comment on how big the girls were getting, how old is it they are now, my how time flies. It was so weird it was almost funny.

"I'm home!" he yelled as he unlocked the front door of their apartment. His mom came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her skirt.

"Jamie called," she said; "You want to go over?"

"Yeah, sure," he replied. He ushered Laura and Lisa through to their bedroom; "On you go, leave mom to do…whatever she's doing. I'll see you later."

It wasn't very far to Jamie's house, and he made better time without two small people to shepherd. Jamie lived in a nice house set back a little from a busy street, a rather old-fashioned brick building with bay windows. Andrew knocked on the back door, and Jamie's little brother Colin answered.

"Hey," Colin said, "Jamie's upstairs."

"Thanks," Andrew replied, walking in through the kitchen. There was a delighted squeal behind him: "Andrew, I haven't seen you in ages! How are you, honey? Are your little sisters okay? I was talking to Gary Miller, and he said that-"

"Hi, Mo," Andrew cut her off with a grin. Interrupting was the only way of getting a word in edgeways when you were talking to Monique Delacroix. She was a pretty dark-skinned girl, and she'd been dating Colin for almost two years now. She was very popular. Although Andrew despised most of the popular kids on general principle, it was impossible not to like Monique. She knew absolutely everyone, and she was just the nicest, friendliest person he had ever met.

"I'll see you round, okay? We really have got to talk more, I hardly ever see you any more-"

"Sure thing, Mo," Andrew said with a grin, making his way upstairs. Jamie's room was the second door on the right, overlooking the street. Andrew could have found his way to it blindfolded.

"You look like shit," Jamie said bluntly as Andrew walked in, glancing up from the sketch he was doing.

"Gee, I hadn't noticed," Andrew replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes; "Thank you so much for pointing that out to me."

"There's no need to be like that about it…"

"Y'know, there really is."

Andrew flopped down onto the bed beside his best friend. Jamie's bedroom was small, although rather larger than Andrew's, and the walls were barely visible behind a thick covering of posters. It as unusually tidy for a teenage boy's bedroom, owing to the fact that Jamie's mom tended to come in and tidy it up when it got to untidy. There were things in Jamie's room that he really didn't want his mom finding, so he kept it tidy just so she wouldn't do it for him.

Jamie flipped on his TV and connected it to his Xbox. He tossed a controller to Andrew; "Name the game, man."

Andrew browsed through Jamie's extensive collection of video games, most of them pirate copies. Jamie had an unaccountable prejudice against paying for things when he didn't have to, a view Andrew entirely agreed with. "No…no…no…ah!" he pulled a CD labeled 'Rollcage: Stage II' out of the pile; "Haven't played this in a while."

He tossed the CD to Jamie, who read the label; "Excellent choice," he approved, sliding it into the machine.

The game in question was a futuristic racing game featuring gravity-defying cars with guns, and it had been one of their favourite games for years because it was one of the few they were evenly matched in. Most multiplayer console games were either racing games or fighting games; Jamie tended to win at the former and Andrew the latter. Since this one combined elements of both, a race could go either way.

As it happened, Jamie was winning when his mom shouted up that dinner was ready – they always ate quite late as Jamie's dad didn't finish work until half past eight, and his mom had a thing about the whole family eating together. Andrew and Monique were considered 'honorary family', since both of them – especially Andrew – spent more time there than in their own homes.

Dinner was spaghetti bolognas, and Jamie's mom was a fantastic cook. Andrew had known them too long to worry about appearances, and he shovelled as much as he could onto his plate. Jamie's mom smiled at him as he thanked her incoherently around a mouthful of spaghetti. Monique was, somehow, managing to eat and talk coherently at the same time, and kept up a constant flow of conversation throughout the entire meal. Colin just sat watching her with a faint smile on his lips – he was too used to her constant talking to even try and get a word in edgewise. He knew it wasn't going to happen.

Colin had the same strawberry-blonde hair as Jamie, but he had inherited his father's blue eyes and strong jaw-line…unlike Jamie, who was the spitting image of his mother. Andrew found himself wishing wistfully – as he always did when he spent any length of time at Jamie's house – that his family could be this happy and together. That his dad was still around, that his mom didn't have to work constantly. That they always had enough money to eat regularly. It wasn't going to happen, but it was a nice thought.

But the odd thing was that no matter how much he wanted a life like that, he wasn't jealous of Jamie or his family. They were happy. And if occasionally they had enough happiness to spare a little for Andrew, then that was fine by him.

TO BE CONTINUED

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