A/N: Just an idea that popped into my head - what if Ari really had managed to take down one of the flock's members like he was ordered to?

I do not own MR or any of its characters.

Summary: "Max...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to." But he knew she would never forgive him. The death of a flock member…as seen through the eyes of someone you least expected.


Regret


"I will never forgive you."

"…I know."

Jamal and Salim Malik, Slumdog Millionaire


That day, when the wind was blowing hard around him and the roiling sky was filled with the threat of rain, was the worst day of Ari's short life.

On that day, he forgot what it meant to hope. To hope for an enemy's forgiveness, to hope for the clock to rewind as fast as it could, to hope for a mutant's frail heart to start beating again, against all odds and realities.

On that day, standing in the city limits with a gun in his hand and hatred in his heart, Ari shot a bird-kid and watched helplessly as the light trickled from his world like the tears from Max's eyes. With the bird-kid's life went the forgiveness and hope he so desperately craved.

The bird-kid was supposed to dodge the bullet. It wasn't Ari's fault he hadn't been fast enough. The freaks were always faster than him, dodging hits and swings like hawks against snails. He'd really expected the bird-kid to move in time.

But he forgot the boy was blind. Ari forgot that he couldn't see him lift the gun, and it was already too late, for both of them, by the time he pulled the trigger.

Bang.

Ari loved that sound. It meant he was one step closer to Dad's approval, one slaughtered enemy closer to winning the Director's admiration. If the Director admired him, Dad would admire him. And if Dad admired him, then Ari knew he could make Max like him again.

But on that day, the sound of a gunshot ripping through the rain-choked air to take a bird-kid's life made Ari's long ears cringe. He saw the mutant's sightless eyes go wide, his mouth dropping open in shock. Long white hands wandered down to the fatal wound in his chest and pressed against the torn flesh, staining his skin bright crimson.

"No."

It wasn't Max or any of the other worthless bird-freaks who said it. The word stumbled from Ari's lips in a haze of confusion and horror, but it was drowned out by the littlest bird's shriek of grief.

"Iggy!"

Max was the first one there. She caught the boy as he fell, wrapping her arms around him tightly, staring through anguish and disbelief at his slack-jawed face. Her knees sank into the soaked grass and her thick hair fell around them like a dripping curtain, shielding their misery from the weeping world. Pleading words spilled from her lips like the rain in the sky, endless, nonsensical, begging her brother to stay with her.

As the rest of the children stood helplessly in their spots, Ari knew that that he had crossed the line. The smoking pistol slipped through his fingers and landed wetly in the grass.

He hated that bird-kid. When Ari had been little, Max had been his idol. He'd looked up to her, followed her around, trying every day to get him to notice her, to make her realize that he wasn't just some dumb kid. And then she'd left him. She'd left him behind, because to her he was just a dumb kid, an annoying little boy who wasn't good enough to take with her.

But the other bird-kid was good enough, even though Ari thought he was completely useless. He couldn't see or fight properly and he wasn't especially fast or strong or anything. But Max still let him follow her around. So why not Ari? Why didn't she like him?

Resentment swelled up in him, almost overwhelming the hatred and smug feelings warming his stomach. That freak deserved it, he told himself. He'd never deserved Max's devotion. And now that he was out of the way, Max would be all his. She had to be.

Max was tracing the bird-kid's lifeless face with trembling fingers, brushing the soaked strawberry-blond hair away from his eyes with a tenderness that made Ari's stomach feel bad. He made a face and raised a hand to his gut. He didn't feel so good.

And then Max looked up, tearing her grief-stricken eyes away from her brother's glassy eyes, and met his gaze. The fury and hatred in her brown orbs was enough to send him reeling back on his heels, his head whirling.

No. This was wrong. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She wasn't supposed to…hate him!

"What have you done?"

Ari winced. The question was hoarse, harsh, not at all like the confident, smooth voice he knew and loved so well.

"Max…I'm sorry," he blubbered. Suddenly, he wished he could take the shot back. This was a mistake, a stupid, childish mistake, and he wanted to take it all back. "I didn't mean to."

"Didn't…didn't mean to!" She repeated. Her eyes blazed furiously. "You killed him! Ari, you killed my brother! How the hell can you call that an accident?"

Ari flinched away from her eyes, her agony burning his skin, his hopes, his dreams. Everywhere he looked, he was confronted with grief and fury. The bird-kids stared at him with monster-faces, and Ari actually found himself trembling in anxiety. Even the sky wept for the bird-child lying dead in Max's arms.

"It's not supposed to be like this," he muttered, eyes darting from one picture of hate to another. "Max…don't hate me. Please. I said I was sorry!"

Her shoulders shuddered and she turned back to the body in her hands. Ari tried one more time.

"Max, I did it for you!"

She flinched so hard it looked like she was about to be sick. The blond boy let out a wretched scream and launched himself at Ari, his small eight-year-old fists pounding at the Eraser's chest. Ari blinked and stepped back, barely trying to shield himself. The boy wore himself out and crumpled in a heap on the ground, shaking and sobbing.

Max spoke. "Get out of here, Ari."

Ari shivered and shook his head stubbornly, even though she couldn't see it. "Max, I —"

"Now, Ari! Before you make me do something I'm really gonna regret!"

Ari hesitated. The other children weren't paying any more attention to him anymore. They'd all gathered around Max, their heads bowed down as if praying at an altar. Only the small boy huddled at Ari's feet, curled into a ball of his own convulsive sorrow, didn't join them.

Ari couldn't stay anymore. He unfurled his patchwork wings with a whoosh and a snap and lifted himself into the air, gun lying forgotten in the grass next to the crying blond boy.

As he flapped away into the night, rain driving mercilessly on his shoulders, he heard Max murmur one more thing.

"I'll never forgive you…"

He knew. And he would never stop regretting it.


A/N: Please review.