Drabble-type deal. Not sure where it came from.

WARNING: This contains Max II/Jeb one-sided. IDK I have a thing for weird pairings? D: But the point is that I don't want to hear any flames about the pairing itself. Get over it or get out.

Oh lord. I don't even really expect reviews. But I had the idea and had to get it out there. I'm sorry, world.

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There was no web of love more intricate than that of their world. Likewise, there was none sicker.

Max II wasn't blind, nor was she dumb. She had the original's genes, after all, and could be just as clever and strong. The difference was that she had the buzzing of many voices in her ear rather than just one. It was misguidance and anger that made her the fool.

Jealousy also had its fair contribution. There were none who loved her.

Jeb loved Max. Ari loved Max. Fang loved Max. That dinky little human boy in the Virginia ice cream parlor had probably loved Max. There were so many silken ties in the web that led to the pretentious avian hybrid, but only a few that led outward to other people.

She held on by a single tie, a tie unrequited and likely unknown. And it was latched onto a man who should, by all rights, care for her just as he cared for Maximum Ride. And yet he looked upon her with an almost dismissive air when disapproval did not radiate from his every pore.

Jeb Batchelder couldn't stand the sight of her. It wasn't fair. She was the spitting image of that self-assured and arrogant biogenetic mistake he called perfect. The love with which he gazed upon her face was unearned. She, Max II, had more right to his affections. She was improved. She had as much of him in her as the original, didn't she?

He didn't seem to think so.

The lunch lounge was small and bright. A single round table sat in the center with a ring of countertops lining the walls. Jeb set his mug down and sat in a metal chair, tapping the left earpiece of his glasses as he skimmed over the pages in a manila folder.

"Hey," Max II addressed. His glance was fleeting. An ephemeral indignation ignited in her, quickly snuffed by the memory of the question she'd intended to ask. "Batchelder, who's Saint Nick?"

His mouth quirked into a frown.

"As in Santa Claus?" he asked. She nodded. "He's a fairy tale. An icon of the Christmas holiday."

Max II waited for more, but merely felt a rapidly growing disappointment when he made no indication to offer more information. The name 'Saint Nick' had come across her hearing by the mouth of another Whitecoat. Upon asking Jeb about him she had expected more of an explanation and maybe even a touch of amusement like the sort he regarded Maximum with when she expressed naivety of basic human culture.

She took the seat next to him.

"What about Cupid?" Max II persisted, even though she knew very well who the arrow-shooting babe was.

"The icon of Valentine's Day," Jeb muttered distractedly.

"Have you ever celebrated it?"

"When I was younger."

Max II tapped her fingers on the tabletop and contemplated a choice of questions. All she wanted was his attention.

His love.

"What about now?"

Jeb's answering sigh had an impatient edge.

"I have no reason to," he told her. A silence passed between them. When she made no move to leave, he shifted his papers pointedly and cleared his throat.

In response she placed her hand over his. His eyes finally shot to her face.

There was surprise. Confusion.

"I could give you one," she offered hesitantly. Jeb's lips fell apart in what appeared to be stunned disbelief, perhaps even horror, yet she was painfully aware of the silvery thread that connected them and twanged impatiently for her to act.

Max II leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his without warning. Immediate elation lifted her spirit into a euphoric cloud. His lips were soft and a slight gasp of his drew her awareness to the mixture of peppermint and coffee on the scientist's breath.

Then he jumped back. His chair fell with a noisy clatter, a hand clasped over his mouth, eyes wide and angry behind rectangular lenses. She was left in surprise by the suddenness of his recoil and the disgust in his watery blue stare. Surpriseā€¦

And anguish.

Jeb pushed by her in flight from the lounge without even bothering to gather his file together. The only sound left was the pounding of her own heart and the buzzing of the fluorescent bulbs overhead.

Ari passed by the doorway. He looked inward at her, his face passive, though she swore she saw a smug satisfaction in the way he turned and sauntered off shortly afterward.

Something within snapped. Max II suspected it was Love cutting her from its web. She wasn't good enough; just an unnecessary line that had no purpose, no strength, no reason to be there.

Her thread fell away while the others remained strong.

And no one seemed to notice that it had gone.