It was quite a while before anyone came up to get us. I could hear footsteps and voices downstairs, presumably… cleaning up.

Eventually, Max's mother appeared with her usual timid knock on the door. Max and I were still sitting in the same spots, not having spoken at all. I could see tear streaks on her face, but surprisingly, her makeup had barely smeared. Must be waterproof.

"The detectives would like to speak with you two now." she said softly, then quickly disappeared, apparently not in the mood to chat.

Max got up easily and started for the door, then turned when she realized I wasn't beside her.

"Come on, the sooner we do this the sooner it's done."

Somehow, I got to my feet and followed her out. As we made our way downstairs, I heard a stranger's voice speaking.

"So far, Mr. Batchelder, it seems like an unfortunate accident. Strange it followed so close to the last one, but not unheard of. Still, we have a few more people to interview."

Jeb didn't respond, but that silence was full of meaning.

When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Max and I were separated. She was taken into the living room, and I into the dining room. At the far end of the table was Max's elder brother, also being interviewed by a cop in a blue uniform. He looked shaken, but he was trying his best not to let it show.

The smell still lingered in the air, and I struggled not to gag.

The officer who was to interrogate me sat down at the end of the dining table and gestured to the chair opposite. I sat down obediently.

This one must have been a detective, because he was dressed in normal clothes, like an office worker. He looked fairly grizzled, like one of the detectives from the movies who drank and smoked too much and slept too little. As soon as he spoke, I recognized him at the one who had been talking to Jeb a second ago.

"So, what's your name kid?" he asked brusquely, flipping open his little notepad.

"F-" I started automatically, then stopped myself. "Nick."

He raised a greying eyebrow. "Nick?"

"Nick Martinez."

"Hm." he muttered, scribbling it down in his notes. "And do you live here, Nick?"

I shook my head. "I'm just Max's friend." I murmured, barely audible even to myself. Somehow he understood.

"That would be Max Batchelder, right?"

I nodded silently.

"Alright, and what were you doing here today?"

"She invited me over."

"Why don't you tell me what you saw?"

My fists clenched, driving my nails back into the small cuts that had just started to close. The sting helped to keep me from completely freaking out.

The detective looked up from his notebook, and his eyes softened.

"Look, kid, just do your best, ok? You're not gonna get in trouble."

I breathed deep to calm myself down.

"Max and I were in her room, talking. Then suddenly someone was screaming. We ran out to the balcony, and then someone rushed into the room, and he was on fire."

He leaned in a little closer. "And what did you do?"

"N-nothing." I stuttered nervously. "We just stood there and stared. Max could tell I was freaking out and dragged me into her room to calm me down. And that's where we've been since."

"Did you know the deceased?"

I shook my head again. "Max said she thought it might be David, but I had never met him, and I couldn't tell who it was."

"She was right." he said quietly. "It was David, her father's campaign manager and best friend of twenty years."

I didn't respond, unsure of what he expected me to say. I directed my gaze down to the shiny wood table so I wouldn't have to look at him.

"Ok, kid, you're free to go. Try not to think about it too much, it won't do any good."

I didn't respond, and continued avoiding his gaze as I left the room. Max was also wrapping up her interview, a few feet away from her little brother. I went past them and plopped myself down on the bottom step of the staircase. I wasn't sure what to do now. Should I go home? Should I wait until the police leave? Should I talk to Max?

I was broken out of my reverie by the sound of tears. It was Gazzy, breaking down while the officer talking to him looked on helplessly. Anne hovered nearby, wringing her hands in distress, but not moving forward.

I looked back at Max. Her face scrunched up in some expression of… something. Anger? Before I could puzzle it out, the expression was gone, and she was scooping her brother into her lap, whispering to him and stroking his hair.

His sobs quieted as he buried his face in Max's shoulder. Poor kid. Hope he didn't see too much of it.

The cop left his seat, gathering with the others and the detective in the doorway to the dining room. They spoke quietly to each other, too quietly for me to hear. Gazzy had stopped crying, and the whole house was silent. We were all waiting for the cops to confirm what we knew: that it was an accident, nothing to be done.

I could hear Jeb's footsteps as he paced in front of his study door, the sound echoing across the entryway. It was a foreboding noise, one that got into my head and bounced around until I couldn't think about anything else. I shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears. I wanted to scream at him to stop, but of course I didn't, that would have been idiotic.

The footsteps got louder, and louder. I thought it was just my brain screwing with me and screwed my eyes shut tighter. But it wasn't, it was Max coming over to sit next to me. I didn't notice her at first, until she poked me. I was snapped back to reality in the most jarring way possible, with Max suddenly next to me, Iggy now in the living room with Gazzy, and the detective talking to Jeb. The pacing had finally stopped.

"Well, Mr. Batchelder," the detective said. "In my opinion this was just another accident, caused by a gas leak in your kitchen. Now, nothing is final, and there'll be people in and out for the next few days to finish gathering the evidence, but I wouldn't be concerned about that. If I were you, I would have some words with the handyman and make sure he's keeping the place put together, so that this doesn't happen again."

"Thank you, Detective." was all Jeb said. I couldn't see his face from where I sat, but his voice was frigid. My gut twisted up. I needed to get out of here, before he lost it.

The police officers began to leave, one by one. The detective was the last to go, casting one last glance around the room before closing the front door behind him.

The whole house was silent as a crypt. The minutes ticked by, all of us waiting for Jeb to make a move. My heart pounded in my ears. Max was dead serious, free from that weird mania she had been in earlier.

We all suddenly flinched when Jeb twisted around, his shoes making a loud squeak against the wooden floor.

"James." he said, sounding like the Reaper himself. "Zephyr. Come here."

Max got to her feet.

Oh, Jesus Christ.

"If I were you, Fang, I would hide."


Both of my brothers were dead pale when they stepped up in front of my father. Gazzy cowered behind Iggy, who held him there protectively. Jeb stood there, a million feet tall in his rage, while my mother stood behind him, watching in terror. I stayed where I was, for now, fists clenched tightly.

"I'm only going to ask you this once." Jeb said slowly. "Did you two start the fire?"

Crap.

That whole time I was setting things up, contemplating killing David, it never occurred to me that they might get blamed for it. But of course they would, it was fire.

Was this part of your plan? I demanded from the voice.

"Every action has a consequence, Max. It's up to you how you handle those consequences."

Ice leaked down my spine. I couldn't let this happen, I couldn't let them get hurt because of what I did.

"Think carefully, Max."

Iggy gulped, and answered, "No."

Without a second thought, Jeb reared back and punched him, a glancing blow to the cheek bone. Iggy stumbled sideways from the force of it and fell. I heard a low gasp, and turned to see my uncle and grandfather watching from the doorway to the dining room. Uncle Daniel looked absolutely horrified, while my grandfather just watched with steely eyes.

"Zephyr?"

Gazzy was trembling in fear. Slowly, weighing his options, he shook his head. Jeb's fist clenched again, and I snapped.

Sprinting in between them, I caught the blow on my temple before it could connect with my brother. My vision went blurry, and just like Iggy, I fell, but I managed to catch myself on my hands and knees.

"Max!" Jeb raged above me, but I didn't move. I took deep breaths. That hurt a surprising amount, and even just thinking was proving to be difficult with my head throbbing.

"It wasn't them." I heard myself say. "It's like the cops said, it was just an accident, like Claudia."

"Oh I don't think so." He spat. While his attention was on me, Iggy scrambled over and grabbed Gazzy, pulling him away from the fight. "David was burned alive. How is that not them?"

"They've never hurt anybody!" Slowly, I sat back on my knees and looked up at him. His face was getting redder by the minute as he grew more and more consumed by his rage. I took another deep breath and braced myself. I was going to take a risk, and it was going to hurt.

"Look, I get it. You're angry, and you want to hurt somebody. So hurt me, not them."

Jeb's face twisted. I thought he was going to bluster some more, but to my surprise, he didn't. All he said was,

"You asked for it."

Before I could blink, his shoe was driving into my stomach, knocking all of the breath out of me. I dropped myself to the floor and curled into a ball, squeezing my eyes shut while he drove his foot into me over and over. The only sound in the room besides the sickening smack of the kicks was Gazzy, crying. He was trying to be quiet, but he couldn't help it.

I clenched my jaw, refusing to cry out. He just kept going, and going, and going. These bruises were going to suck. My mother stood in the background, hand over her mouth and looking away. I couldn't see anybody else.

Eventually, when I was beginning to think Jeb was never going to stop, an echo of a footstep bounced around the room as my grandfather stepped forward and into my line of vision. He put his hand on Jeb's shoulder and he finally stopped, leaving me to gasp like a fish on the floor and try not to cry from the burning in my gut.

"Jebediah." he said in a grave voice. "Enough. This is unbecoming."

I looked up at my father's face, and after a long moment of staring I realized he had tears dripping down his cheeks. His face reddened when he noticed me looking and spun on his heel, tearing away from his father, away from everyone, and stomped up the stairs. Red hot fury was coiling in my chest.

Good. I thought to myself a little hysterically. Good. Suffer.

Everyone else just stood and looked at me, curled up pathetically on the floor. I breathed in deep and made no move to rise, knowing I would just fall flat on my face again. One by one people began to leave; first the maids, then my mother, scurrying away with a hidden face. Iggy and Gazzy were the last, though Iggy's eyes shone with something like gratitude when he shot a backwards glance at me, a bruise purpling on his cheek.

I took another deep breath before realizing I wasn't alone in the room yet. I'd forgotten about Fang.

Unlike everyone else he scooted forward, a dark shadow against the polished wood of the house, and knelt down beside me. He looked absolutely terrified.

"Hey." I managed to say before coughing. "You're still here."

He nodded. His fingers hovered over my shoulder, a silent question, and I forced a smile.

"Mind helping me up to my room?"

He still didn't say anything, but leaned down to let me loop an arm around his neck, and he helped me stand. As predicted it hurt like a bitch, but it was easier with Fang there.

We were both silent as we made our way up the stairs to my bedroom, and Fang left the door open just a bit, as though remembering how I didn't like it closed. I collapsed on my bed with a relieved sigh and tried not to aggravate the bruises I could feel forming.

Fang perched himself on the foot of the bed, looking at the floor and not at me. Poor kid had gone completely non-verbal on me.

"You can go home, if you want." I found myself saying. "I'll be ok."

Fang hesitated, as though he was considering it, but ultimately shook his head. The voice in the back of my mind stirred to life at that.

"Hmmmm. We may be getting somewhere."

(A/N Heyyyyyy guys. It's been a hot minute. So I talked about this on my last oneshot, but I've been writing a lot for the Voltron fandom lately, and I've decided I'm going to post what I've written. My plan is to have a story for oneshots like I do with Max Ride and a separate story that I've already finished, and both of those will update weekly. I'm also gonna revamp my profile and have the upload schedule there. Maximum Ride fics will probably still be slow, but hey, I'm getting somewhere. I've also been considering getting an AO3 to post Voltron stuff on, so if I do I'll have it in my profile as well.

Here's to hoping the next chapter of this fic doesn't take forever. Also, RLS should be updating soonish.

UNC-

Silence)