23

23.

Author: Maiyri

Rating: PG-13

Category: Nudgecentric future one-shot

Warnings: are for language, implied Fax (which I sincerely apologise for), implied Maggy, two-timing, teenage pregnancies, more language, minor religious mudslinging (you'd think I'd got over that with Genesis…) and a fair bit of Nudgethoughts. They waffle on and on and on.

(A/N:) Hi, tis me back from examming and cramming and all other things nastiness. This is the next one…

Cybercookies to whoever gets the title. And the reference to "The Kill Fic".

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Ever since she was eleven years old and had stepped into that Church in New York, she'd known that something inside her had changed. It wasn't like she didn't know herself, even back then, not even a teenager. It wasn't that she was set in her ways, definitely not, that would be dangerous. You couldn't afford to be inflexible living the life that she did, running away from everything, because anything at all could be a plot by the School.

But you really couldn't afford to change too much, and it wasn't like there was ever the time to really think about it, and how she could change. She was who she was and damn them all for trying to change that, although, really, they already had. No-one could ever say that Nudge/Monique/Tiffany-Krystal/Kadee/Marie and whatever else she was using this week just to get by had ever been normal by any stretch of the imagination, except maybe her conception, but she didn't really want to think about the shadowy figures of unknown parentals getting hinky. That was just wrong.

At sweet sixteen she'd never been kissed, and some things were just out of her league. She couldn't get close enough. She had nobody to experience that with, and that was okay, because she'd known ever since she was seven and Jeb had read her fairytales that she had no knight in shining armour, and that she wasn't going to be swept off her feet by some cute, blond, blue-eyed boy who wanted her and only her, and all that fairytale bullshit.

She'd probably go crazy if she had to live a normal life. Something always seemed to jump out at them all, the flock, and if something didn't jump out at her then she'd probably think that something was going to jump out at her. Although that wasn't really crazy, because it wasn't paranoia if they were out to get you.

And they were. They always had been, ever since she could remember, hence the running and the hiding and the pretending that they could be like normal kids. Worrying about normal teenage things like pimples and periods and clothes and money. Going to school, even though she still couldn't spell worth a damn.

Not quite. Because those were mutant-bird-kid facial eruptions, and mutant bird-kid six-week menstrual cycles, and jackets with wing slits cut into the back, and…well, actually the money was pretty much the same. You never had enough, you needed wanted more, you never had enough to buy what you wanted, and everything you could buy was crap.

And it had been the same old thing since seven years of age, when she'd been birdkidnapped by the nicest-guy-on-earth-wish-he-was-my-father-turned-traitorous-scheming-manipulative-dirtbag. When she was let out of her cage. When they'd stopped taking her blood every three days. When they'd stopped shoving the most foul tasting stuff imaginable down her throat.

She was different.

That would always set her apart from everyone else but her flock. They'd grown up with her, been a part of her life for almost as long as she had lived. They accepted her.

There was Max. Nineteen, beautiful, smart, strong, fearless. The leader of the Flock. Fang, still tall, dark and handsome, as silent as the grave. Iggy the redhead, freckles, pyromania, echolocation and all. Gazzy, blond, blue eyed, and a teenager with the annoying ability to shape shift. Angel, at ten (nearly eleven!) was still as cute as ever, and her abilities had finally stabilized, with a telepathic range of nearly fifty metres and the useful gift of universal translation.

And the baby that Max was pregnant with. Though she wasn't supposed to know about that until Max had decided whether it was Fang or Iggy she really wanted to be with for the rest of her life, and she made the announcement. Sometimes Nudge just wished that Max would make up her damned mind and stop toying with the pair of them. She didn't even know which was the father, and vouched that Max probably didn't either. Angel, too old for her age through what she'd seen (though weren't they all) had confirmed that uncertainty.

She'd wished that Max had been decent enough to stop stringing them along before it had got this far, because now the both of those hormonal, mentally-retarded boys were going to be out for the other. There was not going to be an 'everyone lived happily ever after' ending for this story. And to be blunt, maybe, just maybe she would have had a chance to get Fang or Iggy to look at her as something other than a little sister. But now they were both definitely Max's boys, and even if there was a decision made then she probably wouldn't give them a chance. She wasn't going to be second best to anyone.

And that was practically the sum of it.

Six mutant bird kids, one baby on the way, one talking dog who just wouldn't shut up! and as always, the Erasers after them.

Nudge Monique Laraine Rodriguez, this is your life.

She hadn't ever had anything constant in her life, that she didn't know what would happen tomorrow was her constant. She had no control over her next meal, or where she'd sleep tonight. She only had her belief.

Her belief in something more. And she'd known it ever since she'd stepped into that massive building in New York, the beautiful cathedral where everyone was quiet, and reverent, where He could be spoken to, where no-one was different in the eyes of the Lord, and every one of His children was loved unconditionally. He'd given his son for mankind so that we might know the truth, there was no more proof needed. All she'd ever wanted was for someone else to love her unconditionally. Not her flock. They weren't…enough. This was. This was everything.

And she believed.

Nudge gingerly and quietly knelt by her bed, loosely clasping her hands, and carefully minding the broken fingers of her left hand. The latest fight with the Erasers had left a few wounds that would be nothing but memories in a month. She glanced around at the forms of her sleeping friends, before closing her eyes, and exhaling gently. She smiled faintly as she began to whisper the words that were now so familiar to her, if not completely appropriate, then good enough for her life as it was…wings and all.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."

And she didn't. Nothing else was really important, not really. Parents would be nice, money would be nice, somewhere safe to live would be nice…but she didn't really need it, she had all she needed to live. She had people who loved her, even if the didn't love her, she had food, and water, and a roof over her head, which was more than some people had. She wasn't unhappy with her life, not happy either…but content.

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters."

Her life couldn't be any more chaotic, but then, it would always be, and had always been. She had Max and Angel, a big sister and a little sister who were always there to talk. Fang's shoulder to cry on, even if he tried to pretend that he wasn't the huggy type. She knew better. Iggy was calm headed enough to talk her down in any situation. Gazzy could always make her laugh if she needed it. She loved her family, her flock, with everything she had, even as she still wanted something more from life

"He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Max had promised that they'd get through this, even if the Eraser Version 9 was stronger, smarter (which wasn't saying much) and faster than ever. Even though they'd been chased from one side of the States to the other. Even though Gazzy was flying with a broken arm and Iggy looked like he'd been thrown through a mulcher. Even though Total, now eight years old from their best guesses was looking older and frailer by the day, and it was clear now that he had few enough left, if you knew to look. She knew that the rest didn't, except Angel, hand curled around her beloved pooch's side.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

She was kind of afraid of what would happen when the poor thing would finally give up the ghost. Not for him, she'd be…glad…in a way, that he was no longer hurting. She knew that he'd definitely go to a better place, he was Total after all. She'd feel sad too, she'd grieve for a friend that was no longer here. But she'd know, when it happened, that in doggie-heaven there'd be enough food, and rabbits, and new smells and maybe even a lady-talking-dog. He'd be in paradise, and when it happened, when she finally died and went to Heaven too, he'd be there waiting for her. Nudge smiled faintly. Really comforting.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."

Enemies. She'd always disliked that word. Sometimes it was too hard to make distinctions between friend and foe. Ari, now dead and gone had always hated the Flock, had hated her. She had the scars to prove it. But every time they'd fought until the day that the new EraserCommander had told them of his death, Angel, upset and confused, had come to Nudge and told her what she knew; the Ari had loved Max, and that he hated her, and that he couldn't decide which was more important. And Jeb. Well, she'd almost forgiven him. Almost. He'd done a lot to try and redeem himself, after all, and she knew that he had reasons, even if she didn't get them.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

And besides, she was still alive wasn't she?