Chapter 26: Lucid

Okay, so, my dad got a new laptop, meaning I can use his old one to write for you guys. Yay! So, I still can't promise much as far as a schedule, me being in 5 Pre-AP/AP classes and all, but I will update as often as I can.

You may have noticed that I changed this story's rating to M. I just thought this was better, with the way I talked about the rape and all and the way I think these next chapters will go. But no worries, there WILL NOT be any lemons in this story; the sex will be nothing more than in the prologue. I might change the rating back to T, I'm just going to see.

Disclaimer: Even after all this time, I do not own Maximum Ride.

Fang POV:

It had been a little over a month since Max had been put into the mental hospital. She had been moved to an official mental institution under heavy sedative. I visited her twice a week after work. Of course, they weren't really visits, as Max had no idea what was going on, but I would step in and watch her for about fifteen minutes before heading home to Lexi. I'd like to think that when Max gets better she'll appreciate the fact that I was always there for her. She would probably say it was a little obsessive, but I think deep down she would find it sweet.

Jeb and Valencia had heard about Max and insisted on paying for the medical bill. I tried to say no thanks, because Max and I had never been comfortable with charity, but they had insisted. They said they felt that, since they had put Max in the School, that her insanity was their fault. I can't argue with that kind of logic.

Alexis and Tyler always went to daycare together after preschool. She often asked to come with me to see Max, but I always said no. I didn't want to scare her, and seeing Max was terrifying no matter which mood she was in. Sometimes she would be thrashing, screaming, and pounding the wall. Sometimes she just sat against the wall, looking dejected. Once she had been crying, and I turned on the screen's volume, just loud enough to hear her calling out for me. I had to leave immediately. That was the only time I had actually cried since Max had first been put in the crazy shack.

My biggest rock throughout all of this had been Ella. She came by at least once week to check on Lexi, and she would always take her to get ice cream or buy her something cute. It was a big help, having Ella to distract Lexi occasionally. I knew I was reverting back to old Fang, closed off and stoic. Ella told me that Lexi had told her that I was scaring her; she didn't like it when I was "a grumpy gills". I tried to be more relaxed around her, but it was hard to remember to smile and be relaxed when I was so tense inside.

Anyway, back to Max. She is our main character, after all. They had been infusing her food with different schizophrenic medicines for about two weeks, but there was yet to be any progress. After hearing her story, the psychologists had determined that Max had an extreme form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That seemed fairly obvious after they said it, but it was nice to know she had an official diagnosis.

The real problem? We had gotten the results of her pregnancy test back. It was positive. The doctors asked if I wanted to get her an abortion. Since Max was in no mental condition to make her own decisions, that responsibility fell to me and Dr. Martinez, but Dr. M said it was my decision. I said not yet. I didn't want Dylan's kid, of course not, but I wasn't going to kill it in cold blood. Also, I wanted to keep hope that Max would get better so she could decide on her own. If she woke up and heard that I had gotten her an abortion without her knowing...well, I didn't know what her reaction would be, but I didn't want to find out.

It was a Wednesday night when things first changed. I got a call from the hospital while I was making raviolis for Lexi. I heard the phone ring as I pulled the bowl of raviolis out of the microwave, so I set the bowl down in front of her and picked up the call. "Hello?"

"Hello, this is Dr. Johnson from the William Mansen Mental Institution. Is this Nicholas Ride?"

My heart sped up. Something about Max had changed. It took all of my self-control to stay professional. "Yes, this is him. Can I help you?"

"There has been a change in Maxine's condition. As of fifteen minutes ago, she is lucid. I was told to alert you immediately."

My heartbeat practically stopped all together. "Lucid…as in sane? Can I come see her?"

The doctor muttered something to someone else before responding, "Yes, you can come see her, but keep in mind that she is still unstable."

"Okay. Thank you." I hung up.

"Daddy, who was that?" Alexis asked.

"Just somebody," I responded. "I'll be back in a minute, okay baby? I'll have Miss Meredith come over and check on you."

"Why? Where you going?" she asked.

I kissed her head but didn't say anything. I knocked on Meredith's door and quietly explained what the doctor had said. She agreed to check in on Lexi and wished me good luck with Max. My phone gave a beep to tell me I had a new text message. I looked down to see that it was from Ella.

Just got the call about Max, and I'm assuming you got it too. Want me to pick you up?

I responded with a simple Sure. I looked up at Meredith. "Ella is going to come pick me up in just a minute. I'll let you know how it goes."

"Okay. Do you want Lexi to come over here?" she asked.

I shrugged, suddenly feeling embarrassed. I hated this. Alexis was over at Meredith's house almost more than she was at home. I hated asking Meredith to take care of her, because Meredith was in school and had Tyler to watch. This was why Max and I hated charity. It had shifted from a lack of trust to a normal sense of not wanting to burden others.

"Fang," she sighed and put a hand on my shoulder. "You want to know a secret?" I raised one eyebrow. "I like it when Alexis is over. Tyler is actually quieter because he has her to entertain him. I just set out some snacks and turn on the TV or set up the Wii and they're good until you show up," she said.

"But I hate…I just hate this," I muttered.

"I know," she whispered. "That's another reason I don't mind. I want things to be as easy as possible for you."

"Oh," someone said from our left. We turned and saw Ella. "You're all ready to go. I was coming to knock."

"Yeah, I was…dropping Lexi off." I frowned while I said this.

"And I was assuring him that it's no trouble," Meredith added.

Ella gave me a sympathetic look. "I know this is tough on you Fang. But hey, now we get to go see Max, and you should be able to talk to her."

"Yeah," I said, "Maybe."

"Come on," Ella said, punching me lightly in the shoulder, "Lighten up. Be positive. This is progress! Now let's go, before it gets late."

I nodded. Meredith went into my apartment to get Alexis as Ella and I headed downstairs. I was quiet for the whole drive over there, trying to keep things realistic. I wanted to be excited-for the first time in almost five weeks I would be able to talk to my Max again-but there was a chance that she would have collapsed back into her psycho-world by the time we arrived. I would rather expect the worst.

It was about seven o'clock when we arrived at the mental place. Normal visiting hours were over, but the secretary allowed us in anyway since this was an exception. Dr. Johnson, a nice woman with brown hair always pulled into a bun, led us to Max's room. My heartbeat was always fast by human standards-part of the whole bird thing-and I was pretty sure that it was going to explode from the way it kept speeding up.

Even without the sound, Max looked different. She was pacing in circles around the room, pressing her fingers and toes to the padded walls as if she didn't understand them. She was looking around, her big brown eyes calculating everything about the room, looking for an escape. Good thing there wasn't one. Even the bathroom, a separate padded room with only a toilet, wouldn't provide any help.

I didn't care about the reasons or theories or stats about Max being sane. I needed to talk to her, or I would be locked in here with her. I asked Dr. Johnson to turn the sound on. She did, and I pushed the intercom button that would allow me to talk to Max.

"Max, honey, can you hear me?" I asked gently. On the screen, I saw Max's head snap up, looking for the source of my voice.

"…Fang?" she said hesitantly.

"Yeah," I said, with a relieved half-laugh, "Yeah, it's me."

"Fang, what's going on? I swear, if this padded cell is some sort of joke, I'm going tear your dick off," she threatened.

"Oh, Max, I wish I could tell you this was a joke," I said.

"Did you not explain to her what happened?" Ella asked the doctor.

On the screen, I saw Max's eyes narrow slightly. "Who's with you?"

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "My new wife, Max. I ditched you immediately and moved on."

"Fang, stop it," Ella said, leaning closer to the mike. "It's Ella, Max."

"Hey," Max replied. "Tell Fang he's an idiot."

"Fang can hear you," I said.

"Oh. Fang, you're an idiot," she said.

I took my finger off of the button and turned to Dr. Johnson. "Anyway, you didn't explain?"

Dr. Johnson shook her head. "We weren't sure if bringing up the incident would set her off again, and we wanted to give you a chance to talk to her."

I nodded. "Well, then thank you." I turned to the monitor and bit my lip, then asked, "Can I go in and see her? I want to explain it face-to-face."

Dr. Johnson frowned. "I don't think that's a good idea. As I said, hearing about what happened may set her off again, and any physical contact, especially in a romantic sense…you understand?"

"Please," I insisted, "I promise I won't touch her, and I'm stronger than her. I'll be careful, and I can handle it if she loses it." Dr. Johnson pursed her lips. "Please?" I asked again.

She looked around. "Okay. But I'll get in a lot of trouble if anyone finds out, so keep it quiet, okay?"

I nodded and she unlocked the door. I stepped inside and it shut behind me.

There she was. Max. My beautiful, strong, warrior princess Max. She looked thin and pale, but not malnourished. It looked more like she sometimes refused to eat, rather than wasn't being fed. The second her chocolate-colored eyes locked on me, she started to run towards me. It took everything I had to hold up my hands and stop her. I wanted so badly to catch her and pin her to the wall as we kissed every inch of each other. I wanted to pull that thin hospital gown off of her and just have my way with her. This room was like a giant mattress, after all….

Max stopped, giving me a look that was both confused and hurt. "Fang? What's wrong?"

I gave her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry Max. I'm just being careful. The doctor says you're still unstable."

She frowned. "Doctor? Fang, what's going on? How long have I been in this cell? I don't know why I'm here." She sat down, looking at me expectantly for an explanation.

I pushed my hand through my hair. "You've been in here for about five weeks. You haven't been yourself, Max. Well, not the recent you. You thought you were in the School. You yelled at Ella and called her a whitecoat. Angel said your thoughts sounded like static. The psychologists say it's PTSD."

"PTSD?" she asked.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder," I said.

She nodded sadly. "Five weeks. That's not so bad. Okay…so, if I'm so bad I need to be put in here, why don't I have a straightjacket or anything?"

"I told them not to bother," I said, "I figured you would just tear it off."

"Ah…so, wait, they know about my wings then!" she said, panicking.

"Yes," I began, "But it's okay. They promised to keep quiet. A lot of the doctors remembered us from when we were in the news all those years ago. Ella figured that the skin suit was a bad idea. She didn't want you thinking that the school had cut your wings off."

"Oh…I guess that makes sense," Max said. "How's Lexi doing?"

I looked at her. "She's doing okay. She misses you, and she doesn't understand why I won't let her come with me to see you."

Max wrinkled her eyebrows. "Why don't you?"

I took a moment to formulate my answer. "Because…because you're scary Max. Sometimes you scream and attack the walls, but what are really scary to me are the times where you just sit there and look sad. It's heartbreaking."

"How often did you come to see me?"

I shrugged. "Two, maybe three times a week. I would just pop in for a few minutes before heading home to Alexis."

Max smiled. "You just stood there and watched me on that monitor? Creeper."

I grinned back. "I had a feeling you'd say that."

"You know me so well," she said happily. Then her mood dampened. She was quiet for a moment before she softly asked, "Fang…am I pregnant?"

"Yes," I answered just as softly.

Max looked like several tons of extra weight had suddenly been dropped onto her shoulders. "I know. I knew as soon as I woke up. My mouth tastes like old vomit and the baby is already moving."

"It's okay-" I started.

"No," Max cut in fiercely, "No, it isn't okay. I can't do this Fang. I can't live in this shack with a baby that I'll never be able to care for! It's them! It's these stupid whitecoats!"

Uh-oh, I thought. "Max-"

"You have to get me out of here, Fang," Max continued. Her eyes had become slightly unfocused, and the effect was startling. "Hurry, they'll catch us!" She started to move towards me.

"I-no Max, I can't," I said, stepping out of the room and shutting the door before I could do anything stupid, like agree.

"Fang!" I heard her cry from the monitor, "Fang, how could you? No…no, that wasn't even him, was it you sick bastards! Why would you do that, send in a clone, get my hopes up? You horrid monsters, what good does that serve, letting me-" I turned off the sound.

Dr. Johnson shook her head. "That's what I was afraid of."

"I'm sorry," I whispered, my voice barely responding. Ella put a gentle hand on my back.

Dr. Johnson just looked at me. "No, I think it would have happened again eventually. Max would have tried to remember what had happened and probably set herself off again."

"So…there's no hope? Even if she becomes lucid she'll eventually fall back into her nightmare?" I asked, suddenly feeling even worse.

"We don't know that. We'll continue to watch her, of course. This may mean that the medicines are working. We'll try a few different things and we'll make sure you stay informed," Dr. Johnson assured me.

I nodded. "Okay. I guess that's all we can do."

"Thank you," Ella said. "We'll be in again soon."

"I'll keep an eye out," the doctor said. Ella and I left.

As we were driving home, Ella looked over at me and asked, "Have you eaten yet?"

I looked at her, confused. "No, but I'm not hungry."

She raised one eyebrow and turned into a restaurant parking lot. "Well, too bad. We're eating dinner anyway. It will be a nice distraction."

"But I have to get back!" I protested as she parked. "Lexi is waiting for me!"

"Oh Fang, she'll be fine. Now come on, I'm paying."

"I definitely can't ask you to do that," I said.

"You're not asking, I'm telling," Ella said matter-of-factly.

I sighed. "You Martinez girls. There's no arguing with any of you."

"Now you're getting it," she grinned. "How many years of dating Max did it take you to figure that out?"

"About two weeks of just living with her, way back when we were twelve," I said. We walked in and sat down.

"Tell me about that time…what does Iggy call it…the time in the E-house?"

"Yeah, it was…well, a house shaped like an E," I said. "Has Iggy not told you about it?"

Ella shrugged. "Yeah, some, but you can tell me different things. And you can tell me how it looked."

"Well, it overlooked a huge valley, filled with lush green trees in the summer and pure white snow in the winter. It was on the opposite side of the mountain from the nearest ski town, so no one ever saw us," I described. "There were cliffs and stuff for us to stretch our wings and clear hills for us to sled on in the winter." The waiter came by to drop off some menus and get our drink orders. I continued.

"It was fun at first when Jeb was there. He would bring us treats from the store and take us fun places and teach us to fly. Max and I were really competitive right off the bat. We always raced each other during flying practice. Sometimes she won, sometimes I won, and I think our competitiveness helped us become good really quickly.

"Then we'd have to slow down for Iggy. In order to teach him techniques we had to actually take his wings and hold them in the positions so he could get the muscle memory. Then, when he flew, we'd hover over him and adjust his wings if we needed to. After he learned to fly well enough, Jeb had him learn how to turn using clock positions, so he or Max could coach him in a fight," I explained.

Ella made a sad puppy look. "Poor Iggy. I'll bet he hated being treated differently like that. He hates when people act differently about his blindness."

I shrugged. "I think he was okay with it, seeing as the alternative was not really being able to fly."

Ella nodded. "So when did you teach the other kids?"

"Nudge started learning around the same time we did," I said. Then the waiter came back with drinks and we ordered our food. I took a sip of my iced tea and continued. "She just had to go a little slower than us, build up her stamina. Gazzy and Angel started learning just before Jeb left. He taught us to take them high up and drop them into open air so they would spread their wings. Having done it before really helped when it came time to teach Alexis," I said.

"How did you train her?" Ella asked.

I blushed lightly. "I threw her off of the training cliff."

Ella gaped at me for a second before she burst out laughing. "And Max was okay with that?" she asked as she giggled. She had a really pretty laugh….

"Uh, I didn't run it by her first," I admitted. "I figured she'd say no."

Ella giggled again, "Well no doubt. But I'm assuming it worked, seeing as Lexi isn't a pancake."

I shrugged, "I did what I had to."

Ella made a skeptical face, "Well, I doubt that's what you had to do…."

"Okay, okay, I get it, I'm a terrible dad," I said.

Ella reached across the table and pushed my shoulder. "Hey, you're a great dad," she said. "You should see the way Lexi looks at you. You're her hero. And you're kind of like a dad to Tyler too."

I shrugged, suddenly embarrassed. "A dad that leaves his daughter with the neighbors most of the time." Then something hit me. "Oh, that reminds me, I have to tell Meredith I'll be a little late."

"Don't worry, I already told her," Ella assured me.

"Oh, thanks," I said.

"No problem," she said. After a moment of silence, Ella asked, "When did you fall in love with Max?"

I took a deep breath and blew it out. "Oh, that's a tough one. Well, it started when we were about, oh, thirteen or so. It started small. It was just a crush at the beginning. I found myself admiring her strength and mothering skills. I was always thinking about her, and I realized I was crushing on my best friend. Believe me, when I first realized it, I was horrified."

"I'll bet," Ella said.

"But then I just accepted it. I hoped that maybe if I just ignored it I would move on."

Ella smiled. "Well, obviously not."

"Yeah, it didn't go away. It got worse. When I was fourteen I started having dreams about kissing her. Just kissing her," I added when Ella gave me a suggestive look. "Then the whole ordeal with Angel started and I fell head over heels. I saw her freak out about Angel and something about that intensity was magical. I couldn't help but wonder if she would act that way if I was taken," I said. It suddenly occurred to me that I was pouring myself out to Ella, and I didn't know why. I never talked this much. But she made me fell so at ease.

I was interrupted from my thoughts and my story by the arrival of our food. I finished telling Ella about how the Fax relationship evolved. Then she told me about how she was interested in Iggy as soon as she saw him when we landed at their house the first time. She explained how impressed she always was with how he could do things so well that you wouldn't even know he was blind. She talked about him asking her out after I told them to get a move on. Then I heard all about their breakup and the douche-bag boyfriend she had during the break before they got back together.

After we paid, Ella insisted we walk across the street to get frozen yogurt. "Come on, Fang. Nothing finishes off a nice evening like fro-yo. And we've got time-"

"I wasn't protesting," I said, smiling.

"Oh," Ella said. "Well…"

I laughed as we walked. I had the sudden urge to grab her hand or put my arm around her as we walked, but I didn't. It suddenly occurred to me that this felt a lot like a date. I pushed that feeling away. I mean, it wasn't. We both had a significant other already. After all, we had just spent our entire dinner talking about them.

Ella and I filled up our ice cream cups and sat down, stuffing our mouths with hot fudge and cherries and frozen delights. We were quiet for a while, just enjoying our treat while we listened to the stir of other people and the bass-heavy pop music from the speakers. I looked sideways at Ella to see her watching me with a look I was plenty used to (not to be vain). I felt the corner of my lips curve into a smirk.

"What are you looking at?" I asked, alerting her to the fact that I knew she was checking me out.

"Oh, I, uh, nothing!" Ella stammered, blushing. Then she caught the look on my face.

I decided to tease her. "Really?" I asked, cocking an eyebrow and flipping my hair slightly.

"R-really," she said, blushing harder.

My smirk widened and I leaned over, putting my arm on the back of her chair. "Are you sure?"

"Okay, you win!" she exclaimed, pushing me away, "You're hot, okay?"

"I know," I said, still smirking.

Ella rolled her eyes at me. "Well, you don't have to be such an asshole about it." Her blush was still fading.

I bumped her with my elbow. "I'm just teasing, Ella."

We finished our frozen yogurt and got in the car to head home. When we arrived, Ella stepped out of the car to tell me goodbye. I smiled at her. "Thank you Ella. I had a nice time."

"Me too," she said, holding out her arms for a hug. I obliged, wrapping my arms around her waist as she looped her arms around my shoulders. Then there was a strange moment of hesitation, where we began to let go but we both stopped. Our hug lasted a little longer than just a friendly hug. Once did pull away, Ella gave a small, nervous laugh. "Well…uh, I'll see you soon Fang."

"Bye," I said, as she hurriedly got into her car. I knew she had felt it too. I shook my head, going upstairs to get Lexi and go to bed. It was nothing. We had just spent so much time talking about our girlfriend/boyfriend that we were feeling a little romantic.

That had to be it.

So, yeah, I'm updating again! A big thanks to all of you still following my stories. As I said, I can't promise any regularity on updates, as I have school and stuff, but no worries. I will be updating, that's for sure. So review, let me know what you think! And check out An Enchanted Curse, my other story.

Actually, on that note, my stories are winding down. Don't worry, I'm going to finish them, but this is the last major plot point in this story. However I will be making you all very angry again before this story is done. I can promise that. :)

Thanks guys! If you're still reading, make sure to review!