README: I never finished this- I was never happy with it. So here's the plot. Iggy and his mini-flock go home. Jeb's waiting for them. They get all settled in, and then Jeb explains a few things and reconciles with Ari. He then goes and does... stuff. I think the original plan involved him busting out a few hybrids and they join up with the new-flock. Max, Fang and Gazzy show up. There is confrontation etc. I always liked the scenes between Max and Iggy, then Fang and Iggy, and they were written quite early on.

The moral of the story was that Max didn't learn from any of it. Sorry. This was always Max/Fang bashing. Deal.

Any scene breaks in the text '00' usually indicate where I was supposed to write something and didn't.

And of course, Terry Pratchett's 'Carpe Jugulum' is the story Nudge is reading.

Part Six

Iggy remembered the way home. He'd never ever forgotten the way. It was almost ingrained in his memory, traced in with the bright colours that he remembered from when he was little. He knew when he was getting close. It was something in the air.

Nudge and Ari talked quietly. Angel sang to herself, stopping occasionally to remark on something to Celeste. Iggy would have felt content, only there were three bird-kid sized holes.

A thermal picked them up, he felt the warm air ruffle his feathers. He loved the feeling of soaring blind. It was his own kind of freedom. It was a beautiful and terrible thing, placing so much trust in his own skills to fly, and the skills of those around him. Trusting that they'd lead him safely, and not into a building or a cliff or something.

Truth was, he'd never known anything different, so he couldn't be jealous. Just like cliff-diving.

He knew this valley. He knew the smells. They were close.

Nudge gasped behind him. "We're home," she whispered. Then she and Angel shot towards the cliff where they'd always landed. Iggy found that it was overgrown with weeds when he touched down.

"Iggy," Ari barked softly, as he neared the door. Iggy stopped where he was and half turned towards Ari's voice. "There's someone here." The Eraser explained.

00

Taking pity on Ari, he decided that he'd clear away Fang's things from his half of the room, moving them into the clear space on Max's floor. He doubted that she'd mind. Unfortunately Gazzy's room was just too small, and the smell was ingrained into the walls from four years of abuse.

00

"Iggy!" barked Ari for the second time in three days. "There's someone here."

Ari had been looking out the balcony door, and Nudge rushed over to join him. "Oh... Oh!" She breathed, torn between excitement and sadness.

He knew who it had to be then.

Ari cleared his throat. "I'll...yeah." he said quietly, and left the room. Iggy bit his lip. Angel's hand slipped into his, as the sound of wingbeats got ever closer.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!"

It was Max.

00

This reunion was never going to be joyous. Too much had happened, too much had changed. They had changed, for better or for worse.

Gazzy he'd been truly happy to see. Although not in that condition, sad, lonely, tired and hungry. He'd been fed, clothed, and put straight into bed, while Max and Fang re-established themselves in her room.

He'd just managed to explain that Jeb would be back in a couple of days before she slammed the door. Maybe she heard him, maybe she didn't. Either way she'd find out in a couple of days.

Jeb returned the day after Max did.

00

The confrontation between them would happen eventually, but Iggy thought it would be less than three stressful days. She cornered him in the cupboard.

"I get it, Max!" Iggy said calmly, trying again, maybe, just maybe he'd get through to her. "I do, I really do. You need him."

"I need you, all of you too!" She cried back. "My Flock!"

He snorted. "You say you do, "he hissed, anger and pain getting the better of him, "Well, if it's true, then you need to give us something, Max. You can't order us around and that's it. We, me and Nudge and Angel and Gazzy, we need you to talk to us, bandage those scraped knees and tell stories and be the only mom we've ever had. We need you. But if you're not there, if you ignore us and yell, leave for hours at a time, then we'll help ourselves. We'll leave. And next time you won't find us again. We're not going to let you hurt us again."

Iggy stopped speaking to draw breath, stunned with what he'd said. That was the most he'd said to her in so long, he couldn't even remember. Max sounded as stunned as he was, she didn't say anything for what seemed to be a whole minute.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Max burst out, accusing, angry.

Iggy chuckled darkly. "We couldn't talk to you, Max. None of us. We haven't been able to in months. If we tried, you'd get angry, say we were wasting your time. You'd yell, and then you'd run away. With Fang."

"And Ari!" She yelled. "You think I wouldn't have done something if I'd known about him being around!"

Iggy shrugged. "I'd got into the habit of not talking to you. And I'm kinda glad, you know. He's okay, Ari. He's angry, doesn't really like us because of what Jeb did, but he's okay now that he's here and he can see what we're really like. He's free now, he knows that the School did they same to us as it did to him. He kinda gets that." He explained. It was hard to understand, let alone explain to somebody else why you were buddying up to an old enemy.

Max just rolled her eyes, her body set into that hostile, defensive pose that she always had now. "Well I don't want him to come anywhere near me or Fang!" she hissed. "I don't want to be in the same house as him."

"Then you can leave." Iggy said firmly.

Max gaped. "What did you say to me?"

Iggy set his teeth, and plunged in. "Ari's staying here, with Jeb. I'm staying too."

"What!" Max hissed. "This is my house, and you can't make me do anything."

"No, I can't," Iggy admitted easily. "But you're wrong. This is Jeb's house, not yours. He's staying, once he gets back, and he's letting Ari stay. He's letting all of us stay. You can go if you want. The kids can go with you, if they want. But you're not making anyone leave."

Max looked stunned for a while at his defiance, but then, the last year, she'd always got her way, turning into more and more of a tyrant. Now she wasn't getting her way, and it was going to be a hard lesson. "I hate you!" She screamed, "I hate you!"

Iggy sighed, as Max's stomping footsteps retreated. That went better than he'd thought it would.

He still wanted to curl up into a corner and cry. Only Max could make him feel like he was four years old again. He'd gone through a crying stage when he was four. He'd gotten over it quickly.

There was no point in crying. Somebody had to cook lunch, and to be perfectly honest, even his cooking when he was having a bad day was better than anyone else's on a good day.

He made lunch, and tried not to think. The others hadn't returned yet, so he'd have to go call them...

Someone was there...

What was it about the damned cupboard?

Iggy's back contacted the wall so hard it would probably cause bruises, but there was no point in fighting, because Fang could kick his ass into next week. The fist in his shirt tightened uncomfortably, and so he just waited.

"Don't you ever, ever, ever upset her, ever again!" Fang hissed, voice dangerously low, a tone usually reserved for Erasers.

"Alright," Iggy agreed, trying to be reasonable, "I can promise to try, but I can't promise that I won't. I won't promise the impossible."

Fang dropped him, digusted. Iggy sagged against the wall, trying to ignore the fight-reflex adrenaline. "You've changed, Iggy. You used to be a good guy, a good friend." Fang snorted in disgust. "Now you're just a scheming, betraying Eraser lover."

Iggy shrugged. He was doing that a lot, now. "Sticks and Stones, Fang." He retorted, "I never picked Ari over you. You and Max just excluded everyone else, forced us into the same corner. We could kill each other, or we could do what we did. Band together to survive."

Fang looked stunned for a second, before the anger came back. "Don't you turn this around so it's my fault!" he yelled, and then stormed off.

People were doing that around him a lot.

"Go find Max and cry her a river." Iggy yelled back, before walking out to the balcony and calling for the others to come and get lunch before he ate it all.

Lunch was good. It had been like this before, when they'd lived here with Jeb the first time. Except most of the food got eaten before the foodfight started this time 'round.

Before Gazzy started the foodfight. Iggy had nothing to do with it. Of course.

He also hadn't laughed that hard in years.

Until they all piled into the bathroom and someone started a water fight.

And then he laughed harder, and he was reminded of just how much he hate-loved his family, and then Nudge shoved foam in his face and he had to get her back.

They cleaned up like responsible young bird-freaks who knew that Jeb was coming home soon and would probably freak out and ground them forever.

They were dried and clean-clothed, the washing was on, the floors were mopped, the walls wiped sparkly-spotless, and the spaghetti peeled off the roof. According to Ari, at least, who hadn't figured out about dishonesty when it came to household chores.

They'd done the dishes, and put everything away, and Iggy had even had Nudge write up some ingredient requests for the next shopping trip. Jeb arrived home, and that had meant the excitement of sorting through everything and then the eventual wrestle with Nudge to get the chocolate back. Jeb had even bought 'presents' – miscellany for Iggy's bomb-building, a few magazines for Nudge, games for Gazzy and Ari and some new robes for Celeste.

There was nothing for Max and Fang. Nobody knew where they were anyway, and leaving the house seemed like a bad idea with those two on a hair-trigger and Jeb present, so they had an inside afternoon. It wasn't like the weather was all that nice either.

Nudge sat in the armchair, reading aloud, while Iggy was on the couch with Angel and Gazzy tucked under each arm. Ari lay on the floor, wings outstretched, head pillowed on his arms.

"Magrat's expression froze.
'Oh, no...' she began.

'Don't think it! Don't think it!' said Nanny urgently. 'Pink elephants! Pink elephants!'" Nudge read.

Max and Fang landed outside with a rustle of feathers and the whoosh of displaced air. They entered the room, Fang's arm around Max's waist, and Max giggling. Nudge paused in her reading.

"Want to join us, guys?" Iggy asked politely, hoping they would, just once. Hoping they'd listened to what he'd said. Hoping that they cared enough to do something to repair the damage they'd done.

"No!" Max almost-snarled, before she checked herself. "We're...busy." she explained sweetly.

"Okay." Iggy said, making sure he had that right tone of bored with them. He'd almost perfected it over the last few days. Nudge had her own version, almost as good, while Ari, Gazzy and Angel avoided the pair altogether – not that either of them had noticed. "Have fun." He turned back to Nudge and nodded.

She started reading again, "'She wouldn't—'

'Lalalala! Ee-ie-ee-ie-oh!' shouted Nanny, dragging Magrat towards the kitchen door. 'Come on, let's go! Agnes, it's up to you two!'"

Max and Fang disappeared down the corridor to her bedroom, whispering the whole way. Jeb had come out of his office at the noise, and he leaned against the doorframe, the disapproval radiating off him. Iggy knew what he was thinking – 'she was his biggest success, and now his worst failure. She wouldn't save the world, she didn't care about it'.

That argument would be another day, soon, but not now. Iggy would make sure that he and the others were out of the house when it finally happened.

Jeb sighed, and joined them, taking the other armchair, listening to Nudge talk. Iggy wished he could see it, a not-quite-picture-postcard of his family.

His family.

Almost.

00

FiN