Me: It's so weird. I have two chapters for other fics sitting around, half-finished because I hit writer's block with them. I decide to try and start writing for this one, just to see. I have it finished in a day.
Me: Surprising. But good for all of you, lovely readers. You get a chapter!
Fang: Lovely... Was really hoping the sequel to the fic where you have me locking lips with a dog would die.
Me: Sorry, Fang. Not all Christmas wishes come true.
To say the atmosphere of the household was uncomfortable would be like saying Antarctica was 'a little on the cool side'.
For a full week, it was like constantly walking on eggshells. Embry and Fang weren't on speaking terms. I had to jump between reminding Fang that he wasn't an extra anything, but a valued part of our family and telling Embry not to feel bad as Fang would be speaking to him again soon. I had to admit, I could see why Fang had been so upset by the comments. It really did make him look like he was just sort of a spare part in the relationship. And, after living the life of an unwanted experiment, followed by becoming second-best to his ex-girlfriend's 'save the world' cause, I doubted that was a place Fang was comfortable with being in. But he wasn't just an extra. Bry and I needed him. The three of us were family.
How dare Max try to take that away from us.
And, yes, then there was the Flock. We didn't actually see them much. Bry, Fang, and I would go off to our jobs or school each day. The Flock would do their own thing. When we got home, we'd hear them down in the apartment, but they never actually came up. And we didn't dare go down.
Poor Nudge and Seth ended up being the middlemen around the house. They relayed information between the Flock and us and, sometimes, between Fang and Embry, if need be. Nudge had told me she had tried again to explain to Max how our relationship worked and how she needed to leave things be, but she refused to listen.
It was getting to the point where I was uncomfortable being in my own house. I hadn't felt like this since I lived with my aunt.
I decided, at the end of this stressful week, that it was time to call a family meeting.
"I will have order! Wolf-people and bird-people alike!"
"I'm all ears, Risa. I swear, I'll be quiet. Promise. Not a peep. Not a word. Quiet as a mouse. You just go ahead and say what you need to say and-" Then, Nudge was silenced. Seth had caught my subtle nod and put a hand over her mouth.
It was just the five of us at the family meeting around the kitchen table. Me, Nudge, Seth, Embry, and Fang. I hadn't bothered inviting the Flock. Like they'd show up, anyway.
"I can't live like this anymore." I announced, deciding to get right to the point. "I'm uncomfortable in my own house! I need Max and her followers to leave and stop trying to disrupt my family's life!"
Embry, I noticed, was nodding in agreement, while Nudge and Seth were watching me, Seth's hand still clasped over his girlfriend's mouth. Fang, though, was looking down at the table, arms crossed, his wings sort of wrapped around his shoulders, like he was trying to ignore the world.
"Fang?" I asked gently. I didn't know how he was going to react to anything lately, and I was hoping to finally get something positive, to start getting my old Fang back. Because this new, sullen Fang was starting to scare me.
What if what Max had said had really gotten to him?
Fang sighed, looking up a bit, but still not really meeting my eyes. "I'd love to get them out. But Max isn't going to just stop bothering me. She wants me back, and not just as her boyfriend. I was her second-in-command. She wants me for publicity. She wants me to help her handle things. She wants me to swoop in and fix all of her problems for her. I know Max, she's not that hard to read."
"Yeah, neither are you. Something else is bothering you." I told him. "Did you really let her words get to you? Do you really think you're the 'spare boyfriend' around here?"
All eyes were on Fang now, nervous, I could tell. Nudge's were wide, Seth's eyebrow was raised. Embry, who had his arms crossed, his hands were gripping his arms tightly, fearful of the answer. I knew the attention would make Fang uncomfortable, but it couldn't be helped.
Finally, Fang looked up, locking his dark eyes with mine. "You tell me."
I nodded once. "I have, and I'll tell you again. I love you, Fang. I love you and Embry equally. We work as a family and I need you here for it to feel like a family."
"You really think the three of us work?" Fang asked. He was only looking at me. I think he knew how much Embry wouldn't want to hear this, how much he'd want to say something, but by ignoring him, Fang was sending him a strong 'butt out' signal. Bry would know that he wanted to hear this from me.
And he doesn't think we work together?
"Yes. I do. We get along great. Embry has the things he's good at, but so do you. You're one of only a few people who can match my sarcastic wit. The only guy I've ever known who gets my tastes in music. You're the only person, when I ask you to taste test my cooking, who will be honest if it sucks or not. Yes, Bry, I know you lie." I said, turning to Embry for only a second before locking eyes again with Fang. "You've got this tough exterior, but you can be so surprisingly caring. You're quiet when I need peace, you listen when I need to talk, you never judge or fly off the handle, no matter what the problem may be. You keep me centered, Fang. You keep this whole household centered. Without you, it'd be chaos. Face it, if it was just Embry and I, things would be a mess here. He brings out a more chaotic side to me, which is good, but it needs to be reigned in at times. It needs your calm, your logic." I took a deep breath before continued, surprised at what I was blurting out of my mouth. I wasn't even thinking it, the words just came straight from my mind. Or maybe my heart. "I can't believe that Embry's imprinting on you was just for me. It was meant to be this way, Fang. We wouldn't work without you. If I hadn't been on a date with you that night, Embry and I would've never met. You're a part of this family, not an extra. An essential."
The room was silent. Even Bo, sitting nearby on the floor, didn't so much as breathe heavily. I didn't dare break eye contact with Fang. I couldn't look at anyone else right now. I needed to see my words sink in. I needed him to believe.
Fang eyes searched mine for what seemed like forever before he finally broke contact with me, looking down at the table again. His arms uncrossed and he ran a hand through his hair, sighing again. I watched his every move, hoping that this reaction meant what I thought it did.
"So then... What are the plans to get her off my back?" He asked, finally looking up. I doubted that my little impromptu speech had chased away all of his doubts so easily, but it had convinced him enough to decide to give the three of us a chance and get Max out of our hair. That was all I needed.
"Well, she doesn't seem to want to be convinced that Fang's not interested." Nudge said, Seth finally allowing her to speak. "No matter what anyone says, she fights it."
"Perfect picture of denial." Seth added.
"Fang, do you have any ideas?" Embry asked Fang gently. Fang had barely even acknowledged Bry's existence all week. Answering a question from him would be a huge step right now.
Fang seemed to hesitate for a moment, but ultimately decided to take that one big step. "Maybe... I could try talking to her again. Just Max and I this time. I mean, we used to be best friends. Maybe she'll listen to me."
"You'll definitely be better at explaining things than I was." Embry said. He didn't have to explain for all of us to know what he was referring to.
And then, for the first time in a week, Fang looked right at him. "Ya think, Bry?" It was a sarcastic comment, but not a cruel one. Just Fang, calling Bry out for stating the obvious, as usual.
There was hope for my boys yet.
We wrapped up our conversation quickly after that. Not much more to say except that, if this plan didn't work, we'd just have to talk again. Seth and Nudge announced they were heading to bed as soon as we were done. I headed off to catch the evening news and was pleased to have both Fang and Embry join me on the couch, one on each side of me. For the first time in a week, I felt perfectly comfortable again.
Things were really beginning to look good for us.
"Looks like your favorite weatherman got a new bad toupee." Fang commented. The weatherman on this station was constantly changing his wigs, making it painfully obvious that he wore one. The three of us had ongoing jokes about the poor man.
"I see he's gone blonde again." Embry added. "I rather liked him as a ginger."
Fang shook his head. "Nah. Can't trust a redhead, they're trouble." He shot me a small smirk and I smiled back, remembering his stories of Lissa and Brigid.
"You would say that." I replied, giving him a playful shove.
Just then, the TV cut to a new 'Breaking News' story. We all went quiet, wondering if it would actually be 'breaking news' or if the news station was just announcing something that would be trivial to us, like the President giving a small speech or a new law passed in another country. Breaking news to one was barely news to another.
"Just a few hours ago, the Coalition to Stop the Madness, or CSM, welcomed a rogue group of the hybrids known as 'Erasers' into their headquarters. These Erasers, human-wolf hybrids, have claimed to want to assist the CSM and Flock with bringing down their creators. They have agreed to peace talks with CSM officials as well as the hybrids known as 'The Flock' to see if such an alliance is possible. We'll have more news on this turn of events as it comes in."
The three of us stared silently at the screen, even after it switched back to our formally ginger weatherman.
"That's what she wants me for." Fang said quietly. "She wants me to help make nice with these Erasers."
I started yelling as I made my way down the stairs. Risa and Embry had been following me, trying to stop me, right up until I screamed out her name. From there, the two of them just stood at the top of the stairs, watching, realizing there was no turning back now.
She knew I was coming.
"Finally, took you a whole week." Max said when I reached the bottom of the stairs. She was sitting on the couch, legs crossed, eyes on the small TV we kept in the apartment. The other Flock members were behind me, in the small kitchen area. I'd barely even glanced at them. My eyes were locked on the she-witch herself.
"When were you going to tell me?!" I demanded.
"I thought I already told you that you're a complete jerk." She muttered, glancing at me only for a second before returning her attention to the TV.
I stormed over and stood right in front of that distraction, arms crossed. "I mean about the Erasers."
She gave me this completely worn-out look for a moment before grabbing the remote and reaching around me to turn the TV off. "So, guess they finally announced it on the news, huh? Tell me, have they officially arrived yet? Mom was supposed to call me when they did, but she's been having trouble reaching me lately. You get crappy service around here, Fang."
Like I cared about our cell phone service right now.
"I don't want to be part of this anymore, Max. I don't want to be a member of your little 'save the world brigade. I just want to be left alone." I told her. "I'm not having peace talks with freaking Erasers. This is your problem, you handle it."
"Do you really not care about us anymore at all?" Max asked. "We were- Are your family. We grew up in cages together, escaped together, raised each other. But lately, that means nothing to you. You can't even crawl out of hiding long enough to help us deal with a few Erasers?"
"You guys have been dealing with your own problems just fine." I informed her. "I case you haven't noticed. And when I get involved, I always seem to get dragged in farther than I want to go."
"We need you." Max said, her voice demanding. That same take-charge tone I'd heard nearly every day growing up.
But I wasn't a kid anymore. And neither was she. "No, you don't." I turned, heading back for the stairs, figuring I could tell Risa and Embry they were free to kick them out in the morning and get our house back.
"Jeb's gonna be there, too."
I stopped, finally noticing the rest of the Flock in the kitchen. Mainly Angel, perched on top of the counter, blue eyes locked on me.
"Jeb's gonna be there." She said again. "And he's said he wants to see you."
Me: Oooo... And the plot... Well, it wasn't very thick to begin with. At least we're getting somewhere.
Fang: You're just making this up again, aren't you?
Me: No! Not exactly! I know how it's gonna end, how the three of them end up! It's just all the middle stuff that gets muddled and sometimes I have better ideas...
Fang: Yep. Just making it up as you go along...
Me: I'd like to see you do better.
Fang: There'd be a lot less lip-locking, first of all.
Me: It's already worse.
Fang: -eyeroll- Says you, Ms. St. Marie.
Me: I love being called that. :P
Me: That? Not so much.