For your reading pleasures. :)


Max POV:

Tonight was one of those rare nights, where the moon was full, the air was warm…and I was in a good mood.

It had been days since our last Eraser attack. We were holed up in a cave somewhere in Arizona, recuperating from the last encounter with the ugly wolf freaks. Everyone was getting along—well, okay, there weren't any death threats today.
Right now, we were all seated around the fire enjoying the last few roasted desert rats-on-a-stick. I watch silently, as Nudge and Angel giggle silently across the fire from me. The dancing flames cast shadows over their young, worn out faces. I feel the familiar pang of guilt that usually comes with looking at any of my flock. I want more than anything in this world for them to have a normal life, even if it meant I couldn't have one. Right now, they should be in a house, with their own bedrooms, enrolled in nice schools, and having lots of sleepovers. Not sleeping in a dirty cave, eating rodents cooked over a barely-there fire, on the run from mutant mistakes who wants them dead, and crazy, evil scientists who want to torture them.

I sigh longingly, flicking a piece of rock off of my pants.

"Max, that isn't your fault." I hear Angel say.

I shrug impassively. It may not be my fault, but I'm sure there was something I could be doing that would change things.

There is, Max. It's saving the world. Once you do that, you and the flock will be able to have the lives you've always wanted.

Oh, wonderful, the Voice is back. There goes my somewhat good mood.

I look over to where Gazzy had already fallen asleep, after our meal of roasted rodent, and smile. I could tell Iggy wasn't too far behind him, seeing as he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.

I snuck a glance over at Fang, whose face was turned slightly away from me, gazing outside the cave. The moon lit up the only side of his face that I could see, casting shadows over his sharp features. It's too dark to see them, but I know bruises from our last Eraser battle, a light purple from healing, cover his tanned and dirty face. I can't help but wonder what he's thinking. Does he wish to provide a normal life for the flock, like me?

I quickly scold myself for even having to wonder that. Of course he does. Fang cares for them as much as I do.

"Angel and Nudge, it's time for bed." I say with a sigh. I'm grateful that they go quietly. There's no way I'm in the mood to battle those two tonight.

"Fang, you go ahead and sleep. I'll stay up for a while, and watch over things."

He doesn't say a word as he gets up and puts out the fire. I watch him as he settles down a little ways away from Iggy and Gazzy, rubbing his wings on the rock wall, before finally closing his eyes.

Turning away from them, I walk to the mouth of the cave, and sit down while letting my feet dangle over the edge. I unfold my wings for the first time in hours, shivering in delight.

Voice?

Yes, Max?

I was shocked. The Voice never answers me back, unless there's some scheme behind it.

Will we ever stop running? Will things ever come easily for us? What's really my purpose? It can't be to save the world. That's too much of a job for me, a kid.

Maximum, you're going to save the world. You aren't alone, either.

But I am alone. Sure I have the flock, but they're all I have.

How can you expect me to be able to do that, Voice? I can't even keep my own family safe.

I'm pretty sure I just heard it mentally sigh.

It's what you were made for, Max. It is the sole reason you were created. There is a purpose for everything that happens to you and your family. It is all part of your training; your test. If it was going to be easy, you would have never been created.

It just doesn't seem worth it to me. What have the people of the world done for me? Nothing. Why should I save them? The majority of them would want me dead anyway. I'm a freak, remember? Maybe they all deserve to be destroyed. It's what they've done to the Earth so far. They don't give a rat's tail, so why should I?

It goes into this big lecture about something, but I hardly hear any of it. I see no point. Save the world. What a load of bull. How could it expect me, Maximum Ride: mutant freak, to save the world?

Be that as it may, Max, it doesn't change anything.

Yeah, well I just don't think risking my family's lives is worth it. Nothing is worth putting my family in danger. Do you hear me? Nothing.

The sky is beginning to turn pink, as the sun begins to rise. Had time really gone by that fast?

I walked back into the cave, to wake Fang for his watch. He was going to be mad that I hadn't woken him earlier, but he'd get over it.

I was just leaning down to shake him, when the most surprising thing happened.

His hands began to twitch, like they usually do, but then ever so slowly a smile appeared.

Fang was…smiling…in his sleep. I found myself surprised at the warm, happy feeling that gave me. God, I wished more than anything, that I could read his mind. What could he possibly be dreaming about that could make him smile? Maybe if I knew, I could do something to make him do it more often.

Fang's smiles were rare. But when you saw one, well, it's like the whole world tilts on its axis. A world with a smiling Fang makes me think there's hope for a world without everything bad.

I suddenly hear a scraping noise on the rock floor of the cave. Someone's getting up. I quickly move away from Fang, not wanting to look like a creeper, standing over him and watching him sleep. I turn to find Angel watching me, a secret smile on her lips.

"He's dreaming about you." She whispers. I stare back in shock, barely registering in my mind, what she has said. "His dream interrupted mine. That's how I woke up."

I shake my head, still shocked.

Why would Fang dream about me?

"Because he loves you, silly." Angel says, her tone implying that I should have already known that.

"All right Angel, go back to sleep." I hiss. I'm annoyed now. The googly-eyed look she's giving me is making my stomach churn uneasily.

I hear her giggle quietly, before she lies back down.

I don't believe her; not at all. What could a six year old know about love? Sure, she knows that she loves the flock, but what else could she possibly know?

Of course Fang loves me. He loves the whole flock, as do I.

I walk back out to the ledge, deciding that there was no way I was going to disturb him. He never smiled, and even though he wasn't awake or aware that he was doing it, I was not going to ruin it.

Seeing him smile, in such rotten times, was a something totally mind-blowing. I real mood changer.

Who would have thought that a simple smile, from the boy who never spoke, could completely warm my heart?


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