A/N: I had this idea while plummeting down a roller coaster called Boulder Dash (Lake Compounce, located in a town in Connecticut). I figured, wouldn't it be funny... :) So, here it is! Enjoy.
Dedicated to my beta and best friend, kayinay
I swallowed as I held out the credit card, praying we hadn't run out of cash. Behind me, my flock waited patiently, eyeing everyone who passed us with a hawk's instincts. I turned my attention back to the woman, who handed the card back and smiled sweetly at me, "Here are six tickets for your siblings, dear," she stated, handing the little paper pieces over. I took them and grinned weakly.
"Not at all," she reached into her drawer and pulled out six blue strips, handing them to me, "Here are your wristbands. Just put them on, and you'll be able to get into every ride in the park."
I took those as well, "Okay. Thanks," I said again. Satisfied that I was done, I turned away and led the flock over to the side, out of the long line of people waiting to get in. Everyone crowded around me in excitement as I passed out the papers and wristbands.
"Thanks, Max!" Nudge exclaimed, holding out her arm for Angel to get the wristband on for her, "I'm so excited! This is supposed to be the biggest and best amusement park in the world!"
Gazzy nodded in agreement, "I want to ride everything!"
Iggy shook his head at his best friend, "You'll be here all week. There are over 70 rides in this park. We'll be lucky to hit ten of them."
"He right, you know," I said, "But we'll each pick a ride that we want to go on, and that'll make things easier. Once we get inside, I'll buy a map."
Fang put my wristband on for me, and I did his. Then I ran a quick scan on my flock, making sure that they all had their paper tickets and plastic wristbands before leading them to the ticket-checking place. I headed the group, with Fang taking the rear, in a single file line. We pushed through the metal rotating bars that made sure only one person could enter at a time, and attendants took our paper tickets. I regrouped us once we were inside.
We were finally here. The park that the younger kids had raved about for at least a week (which is a long time, for six bird kids on the run). Six Flags Great Adventure theme park. Home of the fastest and tallest steel roller coaster in the world. Other great roller coasters also took up residence here, including a wooden roller coaster that held the record for the steepest drop (on a wooden one) in the world. One steel coaster was full of spins, twirls, and loop-de-loops. Another was the world's first floorless roller coaster. And yet one more was the fastest/tallest steel roller coaster in the world, second only to the afore-mentioned one.
And I knew that we would end up riding all of those. I swallowed and wiped my sweaty hands on my jeans, turning around to flash a smile at the flock, "Hang here for a minute. I'm going into the closest shop to buy a map."
Fang nodded once, showing that he knew he was in charge, and I walked off. There was an information booth maybe twenty feet away from them, and I decided that was as good a place as any to start. The man glanced up at me and flashed a smile. Jeez. Was everyone in this park overly optimistic? Just being surrounded by hundreds of people made my skin crawl.
"Hello, can I help you with something?" he asked.
No, dim-bat. I just decided to wander up and talk. I plastered a smile on my face and nodded, "Can you sell me a map to this place?"
He returned my nod, "They're free, actually. Here," he handed me one, and I thanked him, "Have fun in the park."
"Oh, I will," I muttered sarcastically, making my way back to the flock, map in hand. Just until an Eraser morphs in the middle of a ride.
"There's a table over there, Max," Angel stated, nodding towards a table that a family was just leaving. I led them over to it and flashed Angel a thankful smile. She beamed back at me, clicking her tongue to Total, who was once again assuming the role of 'guide dog'. Iggy took hold of the metal railing on the dog's back, even though he could follow the rest of us without Total's help.
I spread the map on the table, and everyone stood around it, taking in the sheer size of the park. I looked at everyone, "Okay. Let's each pick one ride to go on today, and if we still feel like it after those are done, we'll see what else we can try."
The flock agreed with okay, and everyone hunched over the map, scanning for a ride that looked fun.
"I want to go on this one!" Gazzy exclaimed, pointing to a tall roller coaster called Kingda Ka. Of course. I glanced at him wryly and pointed to a column on the far right of the map.
"It says you have to be over 54 inches to ride," I pointed out. Gazzy made a face.
"I'm over 54 inches. That's what," he thought for a moment, "four feet?"
Iggy stood back, being as he couldn't see the map anyway, "Four feet, six inches," he corrected.
I took in the Gasman. He was tall for his age; we all were. I was willing to bet even Angel was over 4' 6". So much for that theory. "Okay, we can go on that one. I doubt Total will be able to get on, though."
"What?" the dog exclaimed, and I shot him a glare to shut him up. He hopped onto the table and met my gaze, talking in a lowered voice, "That's not fair, I want to ride the roller coaster too!"
I rolled my eyes, "You're a dog, like it or not. Just be glad that you're in the park, and no one's complaining."
He huffed indignantly, walking over to Angel and peering at her, "You'll get me on, won't you?"
I subtly shook my head over Total, and Angel caught it. She sighed sadly, "I would, Total, but even if you could get on, it wouldn't be safe. They don't have dog-straps to hold you in the car."
Atta girl! I thought, pleased that she had caught on my meaning. Of course, when one could read minds, that probably wasn't too hard to do. Total looked positively miserable, and slightly angry, as he jumped off the table and curled up beside her feet. I almost felt sorry for him.
"What do I want to ride, Gazzy?" Iggy asked, staring at the map with unseeing blue eyes.
The Gasman searched the map thoroughly, before cracking a grin, "You want to ride the Nitro. It's huge."
"What is it?" Iggy demanded, irritation lacing his voice.
Gazzy grinned further, "A roller coaster, of course. I'll bet it's fast, with a drop like that."
"Sweet," Iggy glanced at me, "That's my ride, then."
"Okay," I mentally documented it, "So Gazzy and Iggy have chosen. Angel? Do you have any clue what you want to do?"
Angel stared at the map with curious eyes, and she pointed to the Golden Kingdom, "Let's go there. I read online that they have 7 tigers, and I really want to see them!"
Finally, someone who didn't want to ride a roller coaster. I smiled at her, "Okay, sweetie. Nudge, how about you?"
"I want to try the Log Flume," Nudge pointed to a swirly mess of waterways in the top left-hand corner, "I love water rides."
I silently checked that ride off too, then glanced at my right hand man, "Fang?"
He said nothing, taking in every detail of the map. Then, slowly, he put his finger down on a roller coaster called El Toro, "This one looks interesting."
"Okay," I replied, and felt the stare of five bird-kids. I knew they were waiting for me to pick my ride, "I guess I'll choose the Skyride." It was a long cable that stretched from the Fantasy Forest section of the park to the Frontier Adventure section, or visa versa. I figured that if we did my ride last, everyone would appreciate it because they would have time to rest their feet for a few minutes.
"Let's go, then!" Nudge exclaimed, totally psyched. I planned where to go first before rolling up the map.
"Okay," I stood, meeting the gaze of every member in my flock, "We're doing Angel's thing first, and then we'll hit Gazzy's. Stick together, and keep alert for Erasers. If you see one, run somewhere secretive if you can and do an Up and Away. Got it?"
My flock nodded as one. They knew I was dead serious about this. I put the map in my back pocket and motioned for us to get going.
We had a long day ahead of us.
First, we had to walk through this place called Main Street before we could reach any of the rides. And, as was predictable, Nudge and Angel were astounded. They wanted to stop in every store, buy every little thing, and it broke my heart to remind them that we had no room to carry it. Gazzy and Iggy were more interested in going on the roller coasters, and Fang and I were impassive about it all.
Finally, we managed to get Angel and Nudge off of Main street, where we promptly hung a left and headed for the place called the Golden Kingdom. Sounded holy, right?
The park was big, that's for sure. It took us about ten minutes of walking just to get there from the edge of Main Street. That map didn't do the park's size justice. I found the place where the tigers were supposed to be and herded everyone into the small arena, where the animals were apparently performing.
We sat down, Iggy and Gazzy on the far left, Nudge and Angel in the middle, and Fang and I on the far right. Our seat was dead center, as we arrived pretty early for the showing. The stage was maybe two rows away from us. Thankfully, there was no roof, so if the need should arise we could do an Up and Away.
"Well, this is fun," Fang muttered sarcastically to me.
I chuckled dryly, "It's what Angel wants to do. We'll all get our turn."
Fang nodded slowly, staring at me with his dark eyes, "What's up with your ride? It's like, the wimpiest one here."
"It is not," I retorted, "the Ferris Wheel is."
He smirked at that. Who needed a Ferris Wheel (most of which brag that you can see everything for miles around!) when you could fly and really see everything for miles? "Seriously, though. I know that you're not enthusiastic about coming here, but you should try to have fun too, you know."
"You're sounding just like my Voice," I complained, although the Voice hadn't spoken up once today.
"Well, think about it, anyway," Fang replied smoothly, and just then a man paraded onto the stage. Behind him trailed two baby tiger cubs. He held up a hoop, and they both jumped through it, looking horribly adorable, so much so that I wanted to run up and cuddle one. Female instincts shining through, right there.
The crowd (including us) ooohed and aaahed at all the right times, gasping when two of the tigers started wrestling on the ground. A half hour later, we had seen all seven tigers and I wanted to gag from the sheer cuteness of it all. I eyed Fang, and he had a horrified look on his face as one of the baby tiger cubs licked the trainer's outstretched hand. I grinned. I could take cuteness; it was my nature as a girl. Fang, not so much. One quick glance showed that Gazzy was having similar issues. Iggy could only cock his head in confusion at his friend's disgusted gags.
The trainers bowed, and the tigers all nodded their heads at us in unison. Even I had to admit, that was way cool. They left the stage, and we were caught in the hustle of the crowds leaving the arena. "Stay together!" I called to my flock.
We managed to get outside without anyone bowling us over, and I counted heads. Five, six if you counted the furry brown one that came up to my ankle. Total opened his mouth to say something, but I shot him a warning glare, and he wisely shut up.
"Okay, Gazzy's choice is right over there," I motioned with my right hand, "So let's go get in line."
Eagerly my youngest male flock member took off running, with Iggy close at his heels. I would have taken off after him, but Iggy was there, and I had confidence in the third oldest of our group. We arrived at the roller coaster and joined the two boys in the line, telling Total to go and wait in the brush by the exit. Sending us all little doggy glares, he stalked off, earning a few stares from some of the people in line.
I glanced up at the roller coaster, impending doom settling in my gut. It was huge, at least 3,000 feet long. It started at the beginning of the large loop, went up a small hill and back down to pick up momentum, then went straight up. Yes, that's right, up at a 90 degree angle. Then, about 430 odd feet high, the track did a complete 180 and dropped the cars straight back towards the ground. At the last minute, the cars pulled up and completed the loop, pausing to unload before having another go.
I began chewing my lower lip nervously. Angel glanced at me and sent me a reassuring stare, smiling at me.
Don't worry, Max. It'll be okay.
I smirked back at her and tried to keep my mind blank so she wouldn't know one of my biggest fears. Fang glanced sideways at me, but stayed silent, although I knew he realized something was up.
Standing in line was the longest torture I'd had to endure since we left the School. After about an hour of waiting, we managed to get into the little cubby-holes that separated us into different rows in the cars. Gazzy and Iggy got in front, Nudge and Angel were behind them. Fang let me get in the car first, before sliding in cleanly beside me.
"You okay?" he muttered, keeping his eyes on the back of Nudge's head.
I swallowed, trying to force down the lump of dread in my throat, "Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?"
Fang rolled his dark eyes, "Don't act innocent. I can see you practically twitching. What's up?"
I looked at my hands, fiddling with my fingers, "Okay. I have a slight problem with roller coasters."
That got him to look at me sharply, "What?"
"Yeah," I took a deep breath, "I know it's stupid, that we dive bomb faster than this, from a higher standpoint. But still, the thought of careening downward while strapped in to a car that's being held on by steel, without even bringing my wings out to slow my fall…" I shuddered.
Fang frowned, "Then why are you on this ride, Max?"
I didn't know anymore. I brought up the best thing I could, "Gazzy really wanted to ride it," I glanced at the said person, two rows in front of me, talking to Iggy in a low, excited tone.
Fang said nothing, only continued to watch me with concerned eyes.
"It'll be fine," I assured him, "It's only a few seconds. Don't worry about me."
"I'm right here, you know that?" he said, reaching over and taking my hand in his, "Don't be scared."
I felt better almost instantly, "Okay," I whispered. Just then, the attendants pushed down the bar over my head, and I grabbed it with my free hand, preparing myself. The car pushed forward with a cheery goodbye from the person running the ride, and we were on our way.
At first the car only inched forward, but then a low hissing was heard. I glanced around in alarm, wondering if it was some sort of malfunction. Suddenly, I was pushed back into my seat with astounding force. We were going a little slower than normal cruising speed (for us flock kids when we flew, not car cruising speed, for all those slow people out there) and I saw my worst nightmare approaching.
The car rocketed towards the tower, and went vertical, following the tracks. I wanted to close my eyes but didn't want to look like a wimp in front of Fang, so I forced them open. The ascent felt painfully slow, inching upward, all the while broadcasting the drop to come. I looked to the left and saw the whole park dropping below us. We were already 300 feet in the air, and still climbing!
Fang squeezed my hand comfortingly, reminding me that he was still there. I glanced over at him and he met my gaze, flashing me a reassuring smile, "It'll all be over in a few seconds."
"That doesn't help me now," I whispered, trying to smirk but only managing a tight grimace. He nodded in understanding, and suddenly we were at the top.
We perched there for a precarious minute, and I felt as if a lifetime passed me by. Then the car moved forward again, and we were dropping. Flat out falling. I didn't scream, unlike most of the humans on the ride—I hadn't been brought up that way. I didn't close my eyes, but that had more to do with me being mortified than me impressing Fang.
The ground was fast (and I mean fast) approaching, and our car turned from facing out to facing the tracks. I sat in sheer fear, feeling myself being practically lifted out of the seat. The only thing holding me in was the bar over my shoulders, and you have no idea how badly I wanted to lift it up, jump off of the car, unfurl my wings, and fly away. But I couldn't.
If the car jumped off of the tracks now, there would be nothing I could do.
And then it was over. We were still moving very fast, but I was no longer dropping. Another hill approached us, but it was like a walk in the park compared to that fall. I was shaking, and I'm sure my palm was sweaty in Fang's hand.
"Breath," Fang ordered, and I obeyed, silently gasping in air. I realized that I had been holding my breath for that whole drop.
I turned to look at Fang once more, trying to smile as the car went over the final drop and started to slow, "That wasn't so bad…"
He chuckled, "You're white as a ghost."
Groaning, I took more deep breaths, trying to calm myself so I would look normal when we got off and I had to face the rest of my flock. As the car pulled to a stop in the station, I had managed to stop shaking, "Still pale?"
"Not so much," Fang assured me, "And you're still alive."
"Barely," I mumbled, "I don't think my heart could take another one of those drops…"
He said nothing, only climbed out of the car as the attendant in the front lifted the safety harness from our shoulders. I followed him, and we all walked out of the station, through the marked path. We pulled to the side, and Total trotted out from underneath a bush as we approached.
"Finally!" he exclaimed, "Took you long enough."
Angel bent down to consol him, and I did a quick head count to make sure everyone was there. Iggy and Gazzy looked thrilled from the drop, but Nudge was bored.
"That was pretty dull," she stated, "I mean, we can drop from five times that height, and we don't have to wait a minute to do it."
I smiled at her, "I know. But now you can say that you've ridden on the fastest and highest roller coaster in the world," I reminded her. She liked that idea.
"What's next, Max?" Iggy inquired. I pulled out the map.
"Fang wanted to go on this one," I pointed to a large wooden roller coaster, "El Toro. It's pretty close to here, so we'll go on that one. Then we'll head over to Nudge's ride."
Everyone agreed, and we made our way towards El Toro. I noticed Fang casting sideways looks at me every once in a while, but I ignored them. I was tough; I didn't need anyone babying me because they thought I would be too scared to ride another roller coaster.
El Toro's entrance loomed above us when Fang stopped. I halted the flock and turned to face him, hands on my hips, "What's wrong?"
"I don't feel like riding that," Fang stated calmly. "I think I'll just wait at those tables with Total until you guys get back."
"What?" Gazzy asked, incredulous, "Why?"
I knew what he was doing, and I narrowed my eyes. If he thought he'd get me to come with him just because I was terrified of roller coasters, he had another thing coming.
Angel stifled a giggle, and I turned my gaze to her. She smiled at me, "It's pretty funny, to hear what's going on in the two of your heads. He's thinking exactly what you think he's thinking, and you're totally rebelling against it."
"Sounds like a soap opera," Nudge said thoughtfully.
Fang shot me a glare, "I think it'd be wise if you came with me, Max."
"I think it'd be wiser if I went with the younger members of my flock, Fang," I seethed. Maybe other girls needed protecting, but I didn't.
He continued to glare at me with his dark eyes. Iggy looked between us, "Are we missing something?"
"No," I said, too quickly.
"Angel?" the blind boy turned to our youngest member.
She folded her arms, "Max is afraid of roller coasters. Fang knows that and is trying to get her to stay off of this one by telling her that he doesn't want to ride it."
"Max is afraid of roller coasters?!" Nudge repeated.
"No way!" Gazzy shook his head, "We do worse drops that these all the time! That's impossible."
Total cocked his head, "Huh. Who'd of thought."
I narrowed my eyes at Angel. Of course she knew. She'd known since the minute we'd set foot in this place that I hated roller coasters. I was honestly surprised it took her this long to say it, "I'm fine. Let's just ride this thing."
"I'm not going to," Fang said seriously.
"Fine," I told him, "Stay here, then. We'll be out in about an hour."
Iggy frowned, "Max, if you're scared of roller coasters, then we don't want you torturing yourself because of us."
I turned my deathly glare on him, angry that yet another facial expression was wasted on his blind eyes, "I don't need you telling me what I should and should not do. Just because I have a slight fear of roller coasters doesn't mean I'm too much of a chicken to go on one."
"She's glaring at you, in case you couldn't tell," Gazzy muttered to his friend.
Iggy held up his hands, "I'm just saying. None of us would think any less of you if you turned this one down."
"Yeah," Angel agreed. Nudge and Gazzy nodded.
"No one thinks you're a chicken, Max," Gaz told me, "You're the strongest girl I know. Everyone gets afraid sometime, though."
I stared in disbelief at him. Give the guy a prize for knowing exactly what to say! He's only eight, people!
"There's an empty seat at that table, Max," Fang said, nodding towards a vacant table, "Remember that you don't have to show off to any of us."
I closed my eyes, trying to decide which one I wanted to do. Choice A: Go with Fang and Total, sit for an hour, possibly get something to eat, and hang out. Choice B: Sit in a line for an hour, pretending to be brave when only the six-year-old mind reader in my family knew what I was really thinking, and then undergo self-inflicted torture in the form of a family fun ride. To anyone else, it would be a no-brainer, but there's my pride to add into the equation too.
"Okay," I muttered, giving in, "You win. I'll sit this one out."
My flock, with the exception of Fang, waved goodbye to me and entered the ride line, flashing me smiles. I miserably followed Fang and Total to the empty table, taking a seat and burying my head in my arms.
"Why did it have to be me who was afraid of those things?" I demanded.
Fang smirked, "Because you have to be afraid of something. I was actually beginning to wonder about that."
"Haha," I muttered, depressed. We sat for a few moments in silence before Total snorted.
"I liked it better when you weren't here," he informed us, "At least then there weren't all these awkward silences."
I lifted my head just enough to see him, sitting on the chair beside me, "This isn't awkward."
Total rolled his doggy eyes at me, "Call it what you want, it's boring. I'm going to go to the bathroom," and he trotted off. I watched him go before turning to Fang.
"Have you ever met a dog that's so stuck up?" I asked, incredulous.
"Nope," Fang responded.
I lifted my head to stare into his dark eyes. He met my gaze, and I frowned slightly in apology, "Sorry you're stuck here with me, instead of riding that awesome thing," I jerked a thumb backwards, towards El Toro.
Fang shrugged, "No big deal. It's probably pretty lame anyway, compared to flying."
I knew he was making excuses, and still felt bad about it, but neither of us said any more on the subject. I put my chin on my folded arms, eyeing the people bustling around us.
"So I'll bet that jerk that you went on a date with wouldn't have waited with you," Fang stated. I looked up at him in surprise, and noticed that he was grinning with satisfaction of being one higher on my meter than Sam.
"You are so jealous of him," I remarked.
Fang looked indignant, "I am not. What would I have to be jealous of? He's just some human. No special qualities or anything."
"He kissed me," I reminded my best friend, enjoying the momentary look of envy that crossed Fang's face before his calm stature took over once more.
"So what?" he replied smoothly, "I'm not jealous of that."
I rolled my eyes, "It's obvious that you are. You were totally upset when I came back from the date."
Fang paused, then launched an attack on me. Clearly he couldn't handle being on defense, "Well you flipped out when Lissa kissed me. You're jealous too."
Ohh. Good one, Fang. Kudos to that one. I couldn't deny it; I still got angry whenever I pictured that red-haired girl pushing Fang against the wall and making out. Her and her short, stupid human body, trying to be all seductive and—
"See?" Fang chortled, "You're fuming up at the memory."
I realized that I had clenched my fists unconsciously, and quickly put my hands under the table, blushing slightly, "That doesn't prove anything."
"Even so," Fang remarked casually, comfortable with teasing me now that I wasn't drilling him anymore, "the fact that you still remember it tells me that you're jealous, if just a tiny bit."
I rolled my eyes, "Puh-lease. I'm acting like this because I had thought that she was attacking you. That memory is only there to serve as a reminder that I need to be more careful with protecting my flock."
Fang stared at me, "That is the lamest excuse in the history of the world, Max."
"Whatever," I looked away. So what if it was? I had to protect my dignity here!
"Well, I don't worry too much about your kiss anymore," he continued, "that guy's out of the picture now, and you'll never see him again. You're single as the day is long, as far as I'm concerned."
I narrowed my eyes, "So?"
He shrugged, "Well, you're available for dating, am I right?"
"What are you getting at, Fang?"
"Maybe you'd be interested in dating me sometime," he refused to meet my gaze.
Which was probably as well, being as my jaw had dropped and I was staring at him like a lunatic. Did he seriously just suggest that? Don't get me wrong, it's not like I hadn't fantasized about it. Dating my best friend, who hasn't? It'd be great, and I'd love to, but if things ended badly… "I don't think I could handle it…" I said quietly.
"I see," Fang tried to look nonchalant, but I could see the distress and anger in his eyes.
"It'd be great, don't get me wrong," I replied quickly, "but what happens when one of us gets tired of the other? If we get into a fight? I don't think I could manage the flock without your help, Fang."
He scoffed, "You'd do fine, I'm sure."
I shook my head, "No, I wouldn't. I couldn't survive without my right hand man. Maybe later, when we're not on the run, and we don't have to worry about Erasers popping up everywhere. When we can actually enjoy it."
Fang took heart in that. He nodded, "I can wait."
I smiled at him, and he pulled up the right side of his mouth in a smirk. Total walked back at that moment, hopping back up on the chair. The dog took one look at the two of us, smiling like idiots at each other, and frowned.
"Did I miss something?"
We laughed, and just then I noticed my flock running out of the ride, looking exhilarated, "Max, Fang!"
I jumped up and counted heads, "How was it?"
"Awesome!" Gazzy exclaimed.
"Let's go on my ride now!" Nudge started pulling my arm towards the water ride she had chosen. I nodded and we all started walking. I glanced over at Fang, and he sent me a special look over the heads of the younger children. I blushed slightly and looked straight ahead. Because that's how it should always be; looking ahead. Towards the future. Towards a relationship with a boy I cared about deeply.
Because now there's something wonderful to wait for, something to look forward to once this was all over.
And that's what would get me through tomorrow.
A/N: And we're done! This is a oneshot, people, so please don't ask for another chapter, or a sequel. Some things are better left alone. :)