Exception

AN: This takes place after Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. And wow, I can't believe I'm actually remembering this, but DISCLAIMER: I don't own Maximum Ride or any of the characters associated with the books. All right, here it is:

It's kind of a funny story, really. When I look back on this, I'll laugh. But I'll also probably shout, too. And maybe at some parts I'll ram my fist into the wall, or smack my face with my hand. But that's what makes it a good story, in the end. At least, that's what I always kept telling myself.

Chapter One

It all started with ice cream. I know; you were hoping for something more intense. But that's just how it started. A place called Benji's, somewhere in Colorado. At least, I think that's where we were. We could never be quite sure.

We'd been flying for hours, and Nudge and Gazzy had finally convinced Max to let us stop. Well, Angel probably had something to do with it, too, but that's irrelevant.

"Fine," Max sighed, exasperated. "We'll stop."

The gravel crunched beneath my feet as we landed behind the building. I heard random snippets of conversations as we made our way around to the front, but I tried to tune them out. It was mostly just over-excited teens or obnoxious children.

I ordered a jumbo cookie-dough with a waffle cone—my absolute, hands-down favorite. Despite the fact that I couldn't see it, I'd never dropped an ice cream cone in my life. I guess I'm just that skilled. Until today, that is, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Just as I took the first lick of my ice cream, I saw something. A hand. The hand was clutching something, but I couldn't see what. But why on earth was I seeing a random hand?

I blinked a few times, but it was still there. It was mesmerizing, the first thing I'd seen in how many years? I'm not the most spontaneous guy on the planet, but if you were blind and saw a random hand, wouldn't you follow it, too?

Something moved, and suddenly, an arm appeared, connected to the hand. It was cut off just above the elbow, wearing a purple long-sleeved shirt. Okay…? I kept moving forward, intrigued. What was going on?

"Iggy," Fang called, but it was just an echo in the back of my head. "Where are you going, man?"

Suddenly, it disappeared. That's about when I realized that I had, indeed, imagined it. I think I sort of knew the whole time, though—stuff like that just doesn't happen, you know? I shook my head and found my way back to the flock.

"What was that?" Nudge asked. "A trance, or whatever it's called?"

"I don't know." I took another lick of my ice cream, which was dripping onto my hand. Mmmmm.

"Let's find a place to sit," Max said. I kept my eyes on the floor as we walked, listening to Gazzy's easily distinguished steps. He took big steps, but dragged his feet, which not many people did. Usually it was one or the other.

"Are you okay, Iggy?" Max wondered as we took a seat at a booth. I looked up instinctively, ready to say 'yeah, I'm fine' but stopped dead in my tracks.

I saw a girl.

Let me repeat myself, in case you didn't read that clearly: I freaking saw a girl.

She was a little ways in front of me, her mouth caked in chocolate ice cream. Her hair was strawberry blonde, like mine, and pulled into two long, tight braids. From this distance, I couldn't tell what color her eyes were, but they seemed to be either blue or green. Freckles were scattered around her nose, and she was laughing hysterically at something. Below her stomach, though, she was invisible to me.

I think that's when I dropped the ice cream, but I'm not positive. I don't think it mattered much.

Quickly, I stood up, tipping the table over on Max, Fang, and Angel. I tuned out their 'what the hell?'s and walked forward in a zombie-like manner. It was like the world just abruptly halted—all that existed anymore was this one girl.

All logic and common sense went out the window. This was too distracting for me to wonder why I could see her, and only her. It was just so…so mind boggling.

I just stood there, baffled, when I got to her table. She stared up at me, sort of scared-looking. Because I'm so intimidating, right?

Without thinking, I gripped her by the arms and thrust her out of her seat. I simply stared in awe as she screamed and tried to get away from me. The hand that I'd seen belonged to her, I noted in the back of my head, the part that was still functioning.

Absently, I felt several people trying to pry me away. Keyword: trying. Because honestly, they weren't getting anywhere. My hands were like vices, locked onto her arms. I could see little spots of invisibility that had to be my thumbs.

The girl, who'd stopped screaming by now, narrowed her eyes.

"Let go of me now, or I swear to God you'll regret this," she warned in a cold, angry voice. At that point, I snapped out of my revelry and released her immediately, realizing how unconventional my behavior was.

"I'm sorry," I murmured when I could find my voice. Where the invisible dots used to be, there were now little red marks.

"What the fuck is your problem?" She snapped. It was the weirdest thing in the world—her, completely clear and visible, standing in great contrast to the nothingness around her. I heard the flock coming up behind me.

"Don't mind him," Fang said. "He's on drugs."

"No I'm not." My voice didn't even have any fight in it. It just came out flat and lifeless.

"We'll just be going now," Max muttered, and I felt her take hold of my hand, trying to yank me away, but I held my ground.

"What's going on?" I wondered out loud.

"I was about to ask you the same thing," the girl said.

"I can…Dude. Guys. I can see her."

This was followed by an extremely awkward silence. The girl in front of me had her face twisted weirdly, and I tried to figure out what that face meant. She was biting her lip, and her eyebrows were pulled together as she looked anywhere but me.

Uncomfortable, I realized. I hadn't seen a face in much too long, but I could see that she was clearly very uncomfortable. And confused. Hey, I didn't blame her.

"Can someone please explain what's going on before I kick his ass?"

"I'm blind," I explained slowly. "But…for some reason…I can see you." The look she was giving me told me that she wasn't convinced. Before I had time to comprehend what was happening, she punched me square in the jaw.

It's not like it hurt; she clearly didn't have genetically enhanced muscles. But for a human girl, she had a pretty mean right hook.

"Don't mess with me," she snarled.

"I'm not messing with you," I growled back, just as fierce. Looks are deceiving, I supposed. She just looked so…innocent.

I was still getting used to thinking the word 'looked'.

"He's not," Nudge insisted from behind me. "Well, not about the blind part, anyway. He's been blind since he was, like…I don't know. Really little. Max, do you remember how old he was? I don't. But that doesn't matter, because he'd blind now, right? He might just be hitting on you with the whole 'I can see you' bit, but I wouldn't know." I made a face. Leave it to Nudge.

The girl—I'm really going to have to learn her name pretty soon, because I'm sick of calling her The Girl—looked me in the eye, studying me. I stared back, swallowing my chaotic emotions for the time being.

She waved a hand in front of my face, and I followed it with my eyes. It hurt my head, though, so I looked away.

"You sure you're blind?" She asked skeptically.

"No. I'm not sure, actually. It's just a hunch," I uttered sarcastically. She put her hands on her hips.

"Well. That's weird. But just because you can see me doesn't mean I owe you anything, okay? Nice meeting you…sort of. Can you please leave me to finish my ice cream with my friends now?"

I don't think I ever quite knew what I was getting myself into. Not then, not for a while. But, see, this here was just too much to give up on. I wouldn't let this miracle, or whatever it was, slip through my fingers.

So, guess what I did? In one swift motion, I slung her over my shoulder, popped out my wings, and took off, ignoring the angry, screaming protests from her and everybody below us.

Well now. Nothing strange about that.