Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. I'm just taking them for a spin.

A/N: I'm about halfway through book three, but I've skipped ahead to reading the end of it, and that's where this is going to take place. End of book three.

MAx POV

Chapter 1

It felt so right to have the flock back together again.

I caught myself watching Fang as he talked with Iggy, and quickly looked away before he could catch me. It was wonderful and strange to have him back.

"He missed you too," Angel's sing-song voice came from behind me.

"Everyone missed each other," I pointed out. "Have you got everything you wanted?"

We'd stopped in the market to pick up some supplies, and now I was glad for the distraction.

"Just about. Total wanted a cupcake from the bakery and then we're good to go," Angel skipped towards the bakery. Nudge, Gazzy and Iggy followed after her, leaving me standing with Fang.

I shoved my hands in my pockets. It was that or reach out and touch him, just to reassure myself he was staying.

"Where to from here?" Fang grunted. His dark gaze was scanning the crowds, the stores, looking everywhere but at me.

I'm not going to lie, that hurt, particularly since I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. "I, uh, there's a plan," I mumbled.

Fang's eyes shot to me. "Yeah?"

I clenched my jaw, "Yeah. We're going to save the world."

"We, huh?"

I dropped my eyes, unable to hold Fang's pointed look. "Yeah, we. Unless you're planning on taking off again."

"No. I told you I wouldn't," Fang said. He took a few steps closer but then the other kids came running out of the bakery,

I knew we'd have to talk, but I was pretty happy to delay it indefinitely

In minutes, we'd headed off to a nice secluded launch point in the nearby park. We set off for our campsite, while I tried to figure out a game plan.

Chapter 2

"Look guys, I think we should take a little vacation," I announced, while everyone was scarfing down dinner that night.

"A vacation?" Nudge squealed. "I've always wanted to-"

I interrupted before she could pick up steam. "Not a huge one, just a few days to bond, rest up, while I try to figure out where we're headed next."

"You mean we'll stay here?" Iggy clarified.

"Yeah," I said.

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Fang said. He was leaning against a tree, arms crossed in front of his chest. The light from the fire flickered across his dark features, and I had to force myself to look somewhere else.

"Great," I nodded. That was all I needed to say before everyone went into planning mode, discussing what they wanted to do over the next few days. Total was a particularly vocal advocate of going *somewhere*, but everyone else was content to enjoy the National Park, go swimming, fishing, all those normal camping activities that we'd never had the time for.

I watched the group for a few minutes. Everyone was so happy to be back together, fit so easily into our old patterns. It was all I could do not to scream. Didn't they see how things had changed, couldn't they feel this tension?

I backed away from them silently, wincing as I realized that no, no, the tension was all in my head. I was the one who couldn't look at Fang without...

I left them then so Angel wouldn't pick up on my thoughts.

I headed through the forest on foot, picking my way to where the ground dropped away. The view was spectacular - trees and river spread out for miles ahead of me. Untouched, unspoiled. I sat on the edge of it, kicking my feet out. My head fell forward, my hair providing a curtain between me and all that natural beauty. It was going to be so hard to act like everything was the same. Like I didn't feel anything... anything *more*. But I wouldn't ruin this for anyone.

I needed everyone here with me, the flock intact.

Chapter 3

I sat there for maybe ten minutes with my thoughts before I realized I wasn't alone.

"Max," Fang said, taking a seat next to me on the edge of the cliff.

"I'm fine, it's all good," I said, brushing my hands over my cheeks. Just in case. Not because I'd been crying or anything.

Right.

It was stupid anyways.

"Come here," Fang said, trying to convince me to lean against him. When I sat stiffly, he frowned. "Don't you trust me?"

"With my life, sure," I huffed.

Fang was silent for a minute before he said quietly, "But not with your heart?"

I closed my eyes, as though I could shut his words out. We kept avoiding the touchy-feely conversations, and I really thought it had been working until... well... until it hadn't worked. That didn't make me any more eager to have it out with him. "How can I? I mean, sure, there haven't been any grand declarations," I bite the inside of my mouth and then admitted, "Unless you acknowledge my Valium-induced moment of truth."

Fang's eyes flashed with something, and he said lightly, "That you looooove me?"

I glared at him. "Okay, it wasn't the most romantic moment. If I'd gotten to choose the time to make my, ah, confession, it wouldn't have been while having my chip removed."

He looked out over the woods below us, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from prattling on. Strong, stoic Max. That was me. At least I wasn't speeding off.

"Confession, huh?"

Fang was staring at me now, an expression on his face that I didn't recognize. As I tried to decipher it, his gaze dropped from my eyes to my mouth, which I had pursed in confusion. "It was," I said, nervously licking my lips.

Fang's nostrils flared, and his eyes smouldered, zeroing in on my mouth, and suddenly the butterflies in my stomach ignited. I felt hot and restless, but somehow I sat perfectly still as he reached over to tuck a few strands of hair behind my ear. "I assumed it was the drugs talking."

My eyes widened as he let the back of his fingers trail over my cheek. Then he ran the pad of his thumb over my pouting lower lip and I let my tongue dart out to touch it, and he hissed in a breath. "I should never have left," he said so quietly I barely heard him.

"You needed to stretch your wings," I quipped, trying to aim for understanding. Hadn't someone questioned why he let me lead, once? Maybe now that we were growing up, he was questioning it too.

One of his hands cupped my lower back, while the other framed my face, gently preventing me from looking away. Not that I would. To avoid seeing all that intensity in his eyes. Nope.

Okay, I totally tried; one final, last ditch effort at avoidance, I guess.

"I need to be with you more," Fang said. His tone was so definite, a shiver ran up my spine. A good shiver. I leaned ever so slightly towards him, and saw his lips quirk up on one side.

"Well, you're here now," I said, shakily. I rubbed my palms on my thighs. "With me, I mean."

"That I am," Fang agreed before drawing closer, his lips coming within an inch of mine. He hesitated then, and whispered, "If you don't want this, now's the time to speak up."

I mentally winced - sure, I had run away the last time he kissed me. But that was because I was so confused, and frightened and... Who was I kidding, I felt all that now. But I wasn't going to run this time. Fang must have seen something of my decision in my eyes, because he smiled and then his lips brushed against mine, feather light. I sighed softly, and then he angled his mouth to meet mine more firmly and the rest of the world slide away as I focused on the feel of him, the taste of him as his tongue ran along the seam of my mouth.

And then the world literally slid away as he pulled me gently over the edge of the cliff.