Iggy didn't know what to do with himself some days. Yeah, the flock was a big happy family, and they all loved each other, but some members were obviously more important than others. Iggy had accepted that he was one of the least important. He did his part, kept the flock alive and helped when he could, but that was the extent of it. He had heard that when he had gone to live with his parents, everyone was upset and depressed. He didn't get why. They had the important people, Max and Fang to take care of them. He was their age but defiantly not as important. He would say he was more of a liability than anything.
He was blind for gods sake! If it weren't for the flock he'd be screwed beyond belief. They always had to give him instructions for where he was going. A code they had come up with to help Iggy get around.
"Okay guys, here's a place to rest for the night. Gazzy, Ig you can start the fire, and Fang and I will go get some grub." Max said, smiling at them, giving them a thumbs up.
"I'm giving you a thumbs up, Ig." She said, tapping the back of his hand twice.
Iggy put on his best fake smile, and gave a thumbs up in her general direction. He was good but not perfect. They flew away and he was in charge of the younger kids. So with that, him and the Gasman got cracking on the fire, which wasn't that hard since they always something they could make explosives from. Being pyromaniacs, it was kind of necessary. They finally got the fire going and sat around it.
Iggy listened to the lively chatter amongst his family. He'd interject from time to time, but mostly he was lost in his thoughts. Why did they keep him around? He wasn't that important.
Angel crawled over to him and sat in his lap, making him jump. He ran a hand through her hair to confirm it was indeed Angel and not something to attack. He smiled at her and stroked her hair. He was about to ask what was up but she beat him to it,
"You know that none of that is true, right? We love you, Iggy. You are not useless. Everyone in the flock is important and we'd be lost without you. Don't think like this, Iggy." She looked up at him with her sad, dark blue eyes.
Damn. He kept forgetting that this innocent looking six year old girl could read his mind. He could only dip his head back, up at the sky he couldn't see. He looked back at Angel and patted her hair. She curled up and rested her head on his shoulder. Usually Angel stayed with Max. Max called Angel her baby, since she was the one who had taken care of her whole life. Angel and Iggy didn't get much bonding, but he was best friends with her brother, the Gasman.
But the tide was changing. Ever since Fang and Max had gotten 'closer,', Max had become more distant from the rest of them. He noticed this when Angel would try talking, she'd get cut off. Or when Gasman needed to say something. Or when Nudge tried talking to her. Max was getting caught up in the moment. And Iggy couldn't blame her. One thing in her life has gone right and she was gonna soak it up for all it was worth, so she'd get to enjoy. He just hoped they wouldn't separate because of it.
"Max wouldn't do that to us, Iggy. I don't know why you're so sad, but I want you to be okay. We're going to need you to take over." Angel replied to him. She glanced at him, looking tired. She wasn't going to be awake when the food got here. If it got here, knowing Fang and Max on a mission. But he knew Angel agreed with him, about Max becoming distant. And he would take care of them if it came down to that.
He adjusted Angel on his lap, so she could sleep.
Smiling, he whispered to her,
"I'm fine, Angel. Try and get some sleep. I'll be here in the morning." He absent mindedly stroked her hair. He felt Gazzy come from the other side lay next to him, and Nudge got on the other side of Gazzy. He took on first watch. Well, first listen. It made him nervous when he took watch. He couldn't see. He had to watch with his ears, and feel things. Vibrations, sounds were what told him if they were in danger. He freaked out every time. Max and Fang weren't back and that was making him more nervous. He rested his back against a tree, on arm around Angel, the other around Gazzy.
Then he heard them return. Max and Fang were laughing quietly, to themselves and he heard them kiss again. Iggy was angry. They left hours ago to find food for all of them, and turns out they were flirting the whole time. These kids waited for them, relied on them.
But his anger receded. How can you blame them? They've taken care of everyone, without thinking for themselves. And it was ok to be selfish sometimes. Iggy sat quietly, listening them whisper.
"Iggy, how long have you been on first watch?" He heard Fang ask. He glanced in his general direction and shrugged, "I'm guessing a half an hour? Not too long. You guys can sleep. I'll stay up." He told them, calmly.
"Were the kids cold?" Max asked, looking at how the kids crowded around Iggy.
"Nah, they just came over here. But it makes it easier for me to keep track." Iggy replied, looking down at where Angel lay in his lap, to Gazzy and then to Nudge. He smiled softly, and ruffled Gazzy's hair gently.
"Okay. Hey thanks Ig for taking over for me for a while. I'm smiling at you Iggy." She said to him, and he felt her pat his head. He smiled back, and nodded.
"Not a problem. I don't mind." He said. He felt a pang in his chest, and his sightless eyes must've shown. He let a crack show in his façade.
"Ig, is there something wrong?" He heard her kneel next to him, and she turned his face to look at her.
Max looked into his eyes, and saw something she didn't like to see in any of her flock. It looked sad, like he was thinking too much.
"Nah, nothing's wrong. Just kinda tired from all the flying we did today. Come to think of it, my wings and back are sore as all hell." Was the answer given to her, as he flexed his wings slowly. He didn't want to wake up the kids laying around him. But this answer didn't take that lingering look out of his eyes.
Max sent a look to Fang, who nodded, glancing at their friend.
"Okay…. Don't be afraid to tell us anything, Ig. We're family. Don't forget it." And for the first time since they were younger, she placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. His eyes down cast, he nodded weakly. Then he put on his smile and gave a thumbs up.
"Get some rest, you guys. I'm guessing there will be more flying tomorrow, right? We'll need our rest." He said, leaning back up against the tree. Max nodded,
"Yep, you got it, kiddo. Alright, I'll take next watch then. I'll tap your shoulder so you can sleep. Night Ig." She said laying down somewhere not far from him, and next to Fang he guessed.
That was when the rain came over him. He let a tear fall down his pale face, once he heard their breaths slow. He didn't bother to wipe them away. He let down his walls and levees, and slumped. He made sure to be quiet. He wasn't sobbing, but he did let those stupid tears fall. This was so it would never happen in the middle of the day.
Finally, hours later, he felt the tap on his shoulder, signaling him to get some rest. He closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
Max had taken over, took a glance at her flock, Her family. The kids were all huddled near Iggy, or on him. Then there was her and Fang next to him. So she sat and kept an eye out. And what do you do when your alone? That's right you think. You think about a lot of stuff you don't want to think about. And right now she was feeling pretty guilty. Had they gotten the food? Yea, but not enough for all of them. Fang and her had had a fantastic night, but the flock was depending on them and they failed. So when she was sure Iggy was asleep, she woke Fang up and sent him out for more food. It was the best they could do for now. And it was going to be bad when Fang had to stay up, but was falling asleep.
She heard something stir. She looked over to see Iggy waking up. He had probably heard Fang's take off. His hearing was better than everyone else's since his other senses had to take over for his lost eyes sight
"Did you hear that?" She saw him tense up, eyes moving around, though he could see nothing.
"Sorry Ig, that was just me stretching my wings. I got a cramp. I didn't mean to wake you." She had lying to an art.
"No that's a lie," He started. Okay, maybe she didn't.
"It came from over there." He pointed in the exact direction where Fang had taken off.
"It was nothing Ig. I was walking around, so I stay awake." Bam! Master of lying on the spot winner is: Max!
He shook his head, and said, "If you say so." And with that he closed his eyes again.
She didn't know how she was going to explain Fang coming back down, or how she could tell fang to be more quiet about it. She was gonna have to see how it goes.
Fang did eventually return, Max signaling him to be extra quiet as to not wake Iggy this time around. Fang landed quietly, and tucked his wings in silently. He put the food in the tree with the little they had grabbed on their food run earlier. Then Fang laid nest to Max, kissing her one last time before going back to sleep. This left Max alone with her racing thoughts again.
A lot of things were on her mind. Things like, being in love with Fang, the lingering worrying that her relationship change will break up the flock, that look in Iggy's blind eyes, the look she got from Angel and Gasman when she was leaving, and other things that weren't exactly as important as these right now. She was their leader. She took care of them. She was getting way to caught up. And it was going to be her downfall.
There was no mention yet just how bad Maximum Ride's luck was. Well, let's say it was pretty bad. Right then, as she was lost in her thought, no paying attention to her surroundings, there was a rustle, and some footsteps. Iggy stirred and woke up immediately. He woke up the kids and they were tense, ready to fight. Angel glanced over to Max, who hadn't even noticed that they were in danger. Nudge was already waking up Fang. Fang shook Max out of her thought coma and she finally realized what was going on. Iggy stood up, pulling Angel and Gasman up with him. He had his arms on their shoulders, tense and ready for what was coming. Max saw the looks of determination on Gazzy and Angel's faces. She swelled with pride when they were ready like that, but she was guilty because she wasn't the one who had warned them. She had been to busy thinking and they could've been captured. Her and Fang got on the ready, listening for what was coming their way. Fang watched as Angel and Gasman pulled Iggy closer to the rest of the flock.
Fang was the first to lash out. He laid a round house kick to one of many attackers. These robot Erasers were what they called Flyboys. They were vicious and not exactly what they considered fun.
"What just happened? What's going on?" Iggy said, feeling anxious not knowing his surroundings.
"It's the Flyboys again. I think their also sending in M-Geeks too. We're surrounded." Fang relayed to him quickly.
"Iggy! They're coming at you, four o' clock!" Max shouted. This was there method for Iggy. Shouting orders to him. Iggy whipped around and laid a punch to the robot, splitting his knuckles open. He gave it a quick wince, then pulled out something from his pocket. He had pulled out a fist sized contraption.
"Everybody duck!" Iggy shouted tossing the small thing into the herd of machines. He jumped back, and heard the mass explosions of robots. He was hit with debris, and chunks but he turned out ok.
Max grabbed their food and shouted,
"Up and away you guys!"
And with that statement they all unfurled their wings and leaped into the air. Gazzy grabbed Iggy and they stayed low. They knew what to do. They ripped out some more bombs they could spare, and let them fall. They heard the string of bombs and smacked a high five. Iggy felt the hem of Gazzy's jacket and made it to the rest of them.
"Iggy, I'm giving you a look. Now I'm rolling my eyes." Max shouted to him. Iggy grinned childishly, and shrugged it off.
But of course they couldn't get off that easy. Iggy heard it before everyone else. It was the roaring of a plane. The only problem was telling where these planes were coming from. Iggy had no idea where to go. He was in a stand still, and no one had called out orders to him. The plane was only getting louder.
The flock had veered over and went higher. Max was too busy thinking. Nudge let out a scream as she saw Iggy, helpless as the plane was heading directly for him. Angel gasped and shouted to him at the top of her lungs,
"Iggy go way up! Then three o' clock!! Move, move, move!!" Her eyes were wide with fear, he hadn't heard her. She dashed down, zooming pass Max. Who woke up just in time to see her baby grab Iggy's hand, just as a plane flew by. The plane wasn't going as fast as it could've been. Angel had time to grab Iggy and get him out. She worked her wings, pulling Iggy, who seemed to be frozen with fear.
The fact that Angel was the one who had to move in and grab Iggy was shocking because that was usually Max's job. She put hand over her mouth and stared at them. Angel hugged him, Nudge was clinging to him and Gasman had a fistful of his shirt. They were all white in the face. Fang shot Max a look of surprise. Why hadn't she told Iggy to move? She had never cut it so close before. Angel looked at her, tears of fear spilling over and staining her cheeks. Iggy still had Angel's hand, trembling. His eyes were wide as he stared into nothing, as his worst fears in his mind had been finally confirmed. He hung is head as he was lead to the rest of the group.
"Iggy…" Max had no idea what to say. And Iggy didn't want to discuss it.
"Drop it. It's fine." He said solemnly.
Max touched his shoulder and he pulled away. She flinched at his reaction. He would usually hang on to Fang's belt loop, or would brush her hand. This time, he brushed Angel hand, or Nudges foot.
Fang flew closer to Max and asked,
"What the hell happened back there?" He was looking at her sternly.
"I have no idea. I've never forgotten to tell him. I've never let that happen before. Fang… He could've died back there. And it would've been my fault." Max staring out into the endless blue sky. Fang only stared, obviously not concerned with her. She continued,
"I already had gotten the feeling he was beginning not to trust me, now I'm sure he doesn't. I almost killed him." And that was the most she had ever said about her feelings. Max wasn't one to talk for hours about how she felt. All she wanted Fang to know was that she didn't trust herself to take good care of the flock anymore. That didn't mean that she wanted to take a back seat either. She wasn't good with taking orders. She looked back at Iggy, who seemed to be in a stupor of his own.
Iggy flew, the others around him. He was staring, thinking. Whatever just happened, proved what a problem he was to lug around. He was dead weight, and if it weren't for the flock he'd be lost. The flock had to go to extra lengths to take care of him. They carried him along for the ride only because they couldn't leave him in a ditch.
The only thing that brought him out of his self inflicted torture was Angel grabbing his hand and giving him a reassuring squeeze. He shot her a smile in her general a direction. Angel hung her head, glad that Iggy wouldn't see her tears fall.
The flock just seemed to be falling apart. Max continued thinking to herself. Just a few months ago, wasn't she the one that made Iggy come with them, when he was ready to give up? After she had dragged him along, tears running down his cheeks, she had flown with him. She made sure that her wings brushed his on every down stroke and promised that his new family would be his eyes. And now, she had almost let him get hit by a plane. Something had to be wrong with her. That wasn't how Max did things. She was better than that. She had to get this under control. Fang could sit there lost in thought. His eyes drifting over to Iggy. Fang couldn't take his mind off him, as if noticing him for the first time. Max noticed this, and hung her head. She looked at the boy she loved, and had a feeling. She flew off.
Fang flew back to Iggy, taking his hand and leading him carefully. Angel and Gazzy stayed with them, Nudge could only look between Max and the rest of the flock.
Things were only starting to change.