A/N: So... This takes place during the third book, at Itex's castle in Germany. Personally, I've always wondered what Angel was doing when Max and Nudge were busy questioning the Director, so here it is:
Sometimes Max really sucked at the whole leader thing. I watched as she and Nudge flew off with the Director with a soft half-sigh. They'd forgotten about me again, easy as remembering the only other five bird kids in the world sounded.
At least I still had Total, right? I looked down to ask him what he wanted to do about our current situation: standing in the middle of a furious mutant versus whitecoat battle didn't sound that appealing to me.
He wasn't there. For a moment, I frowned, checking the hard-packed dirt ground around me. I must've looked stupid, spinning around like that, but I really, really didn't want to be alone right now.
"Total?" I called, echoing the cry with a mental one. Several people glanced around, puzzled as to why the word had suddenly popped into their minds, but I ignored them. Where would the dog have gone?
Suddenly, I heard a resounding thwack directly above me. I flinched down, my arms flying up to block my face. Quivering in the air a hairsbreadth away from where the back of my neck had been was a viciously clawed paw, held firmly in place by a pale, human-looking hand.
Feeling distinctly shell-shocked, I stared open-mouthed at my savior. She wasn't returning my gaze; she was too intent on the battle at hand. Her mouth was open in a savage snarl, and as soon as I saw her razor-like fangs, I recognized her.
She was Mara, one of the experiments the Director had trotted out proudly less than an hour ago. Apparently she lived up to her potential as a soldier, judging from the way she kneed her opponent, a failed mix between an Eraser and something with thick, leathery skin, in the stomach and easily disabled him.
In what had been perhaps ten seconds she had defeated and knocked out another wolfish mutant. Somewhat in awe of her fighting skills, and thinking to take advantage of her protection, I followed closely in her wake. It was like having a full-grown combination of Max and Fang unknowingly taking out my enemies for me. Plus, it gave me time to search the crowd for Total without being attacked.
I suppose that I should've known it could only last for so long. Still, it was disappointing when Mara turned around and eyed me suspiciously. I could only think of it as my cue to leave and fend for myself. She hardly seemed like the most charitable of people. Head down, I trudged away, kicking a dusty rock ahead of me.
"Hold on," she said commandingly, and I turned enough to look at her hopefully. "You been following me all this time, kid?"
I nodded wordlessly, meekly. Part of me was surprised she spoke English. This was, after all, Germany.
"You're one of them winged kids, ain't you?"
I nodded again.
"Others up and left, then?"
I hesitated. They probably hadn't left, at least not for good. I settled for a shrug. Max would come back, right? She always did.
"Can you talk?" Mara asked, practically emitting I-can't-believe-I-have-to-deal-with-this feelings.
After starting to nod for the third time, I stopped, alarmed, and opened my mouth. "Yes, ma'am."
She snorted, evidently amused. "Mara's fine, kid."
Another nod, and she rolled her eyes, dodging a poorly aimed punch from a scrawny whitecoat. A flurry of powerful blows resulted, and he slumped to the ground.
"Got a name?"
"Angel," I said, making an effort to keep my voice above a subdued whisper.
"I suppose you can stick with me." Despite her words, she didn't sound reluctant. "Think of me as a… Guardian, of sorts."
I grinned. That made me the Guardian's Angel. It was a considerably fresher than guardian angel. Fang was a guardian angel. Mara definitely wasn't an angel; just an angel's guardian.
And so I followed her, this time not bothering to skulk or pretend not to. She kept up a stream of idle chatter as she batted away mutants and pulverized scientists, asking me questions I'd answer with varying degrees of eagerness. Eventually, she even coaxed me into asking some of my own.
"Where did you come from?" I asked, clambering over the smoking hulk of a shorted-out flyboy. "Have you always had those fangs?"
She snorted, one of her favorite ways to express amusement. "Came from Itex, kid. Never been outside this here castle. And as for the fangs… well, haven't you lost teeth before? One day my old normal 'uns were knocked clean out in a fight; couple o' months later these here fangs grew in."
Mara was full of stories, strange experiments she'd seen, tricks she'd played on whitecoats before they snapped the electrical silver collar on her. She sounded sad about that, and I felt that same sadness reflected in her thoughts.
Well, I wouldn't exactly describe them as thoughts, or at least not as normal thoughts. Occasionally words in English and German would float across her mind, but mostly she seemed to live by feeling, kind of like Iggy. It was strange, the way she'd see an attack coming and react to it thoughtlessly, as if not even noticing it was there. The only times she seemed to know I was there were when we were talking.
After what felt like hours, time seemed to slow. Surrounded by thousands of people, I didn't feel the bloodthirsty Eraser behind me until it was too late. Without time to scream, to stunned and scared to move, I just stood there as one of his clawed paws swiped for my throat.
Suddenly, Mara was on top of him, shoving him to the ground. His claws raked across her skin too many times to count, enough for all that I could feel of her thoughts and emotions were pure pain and withering agony.
She didn't give up, not even as her own warm blood dripped down on him, and her clothes were turned to shreds that barely clung to her body. Mara rained down attack after attack, even as they rolled in the dirt, too entangled and absorbed in causing the other harm to stand. Eventually, realizing that blows that should have been paralyzing were having no effect, Mara resorted to her fangs.
As surely as the stabs she couldn't block tore through her, so her fangs tore through the Eraser. With a brutal bite, she ripped into his neck, and struggled out of his reach as crimson liquid spurted out of his ruptured veins. He gasped soundlessly as she staggered to her feet, unable to force enough blood into his brain to live for more than a few seconds.
Letting out a sigh that might have been relief and trying not to grimace, Mara grinned arrogantly at me.
"Takes more than an Eraser to kill me," she reassured me, letting all the words out in one breath, not having enough to spare.
I didn't believe her. No one could survive those injuries long; not even a mutant with the world's finest surgeon. I sniffed involuntarily, and realized I was crying.
She must have realized the same thing, because she reached down and wiped tears off one cheek, inadvertently smearing bright red where crystal had been. Her cocky grin faded; replaced by an expression and feeling of concern.
"You take care of yourself, kid," she said through gritted fangs, falling heavily to her knees. "Don't let Itex take you, not now, not ever."
I shook my head wordlessly, drawing a shuddering breath. "Don't die, Mara. I need you."
She gave a chuckle that nearly turned into an anguished shriek. "You don't need me. You need you."
"That doesn't make any sense!" I protested, easing her down into a comfortable position.
Mara ignored the protest. "Scram, kid. You don't need to see this."
I opened my mouth, prepared that insist that I wouldn't leave her, but she didn't give me a chance to speak.
"I said scram!" She was almost shouting, and I could tell without my powers that she meant it. "I'm not going to die for nothing!"
Choking back sobs, I ran. Later on, when Max asked me where I'd been, and what had happened to me, I couldn't help but feel that there should've been a "Guardian" in front of the "Angel."
A/N: Huh. Well, I'd really appreciate it if you could review. Particularly if you cried. I'm not sure if this story was crying-worthy, but I've always wondered whether anything I've written made anyone cry.
So, review, and if you liked it, check out my fic The Rebirth of Itex: Omega's Story.