This story is going to be a little different. Basically, Max and Fang are going to switch rolls… Well, actually, they are switching genders. Everyone else will be pretty much the same. But when it comes to the later books, you'll see a few changes again.

I won't give too much detail and ruin the story, but it's going to follow the original storyline of the books, but with a few changes. I'll probably some-up half a book in each chapter, and I don't think I'm going to go any farther than The Final Warning; but we will see! And I'll probably cut out a few minor things and add some ideas of my own.

Also, Max and Fang will have slightly different personalities, being that they are now opposite genders from the books.

Her we go!

Title: Maximus Ride

Rated: T (subject to change)

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the original Maximum Ride characters. But I think I own the new and…switched, characters. (I'm not really sure how that works.)

Chapter One: Oops, Got Side Tracked

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

Max

"Aah!"

I bolted up in bed panting. My heart was beating hundred miles a minute, a thin layer of sweat coated my forehead and the back of my neck. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes then ran I hand through my dirty blonde hair.

'…I had that dream again… Weird.'

It's always the same: I'm running through the woods being chased my 'monsters', and when I come to this cliff…I jump. Sometimes I'm being shot at, though the bullets never land a hit, and sometimes There's dogs running after me, too. But it always ends with the cliff.

After a couple of deep breaths, I forced myself out of bed and patted over to the open window. I stretched out my muscles and leaned against the window pane, enjoying the view of the mountain side. A nice breeze came through the mountains and for a minute it was peaceful. Life has been hard for us bird-kids, but fresh air always seems to help clear my mind.

My name is Maximus Ride—but my family calls me Max. I'm about 14-years-old and I have wings. We all do. My family and I were all genetically designed. We have bird DNA grafted with our human DNA and— Bam! You've got a bird-kid with wings. We also have lighter bone and air sack so we can fly at high altitudes. (The wings aren't just for show, people.) We've been living on the run for the past few years. It's been…quiet. Maybe too quiet…?

I sighed and closed the window. "Better wake the troops."

I grabbed my pants from the floor and ruffled through the dresser until I came across one of my shirts and pulled it over my head.

The room next to mine was the one Iggy and The Gasman shared. I stopped in there first, pushing the door open.

"Iggy, wake up. We need breakfast." I walked over to his bed and kicked the mattress roughly, making it jolt.

The strawberry blonde pulled his head from the pillow and squinted 'at me' through one eye.

"…M'kay," he mumbled and flopped back down, snoring lightly.

I rolled my eyes and walked to the other bed. "Gasman. Up and at 'em, bud."

He jerked his head up, drool hanging from the corner of his mouth, looking around wildly like a spooked animal. "H-Huh…? What? I'm…awake…!" he said between a yawn, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. "'Morning, Max. What's for breakfast?"

A small smile tugged at my lips. 'Always thinking with his stomach.' I ruffled his already messy golden-blonde hair. "Well, if you can get Iggy up, I'll be both impressed and grateful."

He smiled brightly and gave me a salute. "I'm on it!" he promised, suddenly wide awake. He hobbled off his bed to Iggy's and without hesitation—or remorse—he took a small leap in the air and came straight down on Iggy.

I chuckled and quickly crept out as yelling and wrestling ensued.

Those boys went together like peanut butter and jelly; completely inseparable. Iggy is fourteen like me, and The Gasman—Gazzy—is eigth. Even though Iggy's blind and Gazzy is still a young kid, they manage to find dangerous 'hobbies' to bond over. Those hobbies involving any sort of chemical they can find to create bombs and explosives.

The next door across the hall was Fang's. She's also fourteen like me and Iggy. I'm technically the oldest and or leader. The next oldest is Fang, and then Iggy. She's also, in a way, mute. We rarely heard her talk, and she moved like a freaking ninja when she walked: silent and deadly. Everything about Fang was 'dark'. Tanned olive skin, jet black hair that reached her lower back, dark eyes, and—get this!—she wears black clothes. Strictly black clothes. To top if off, she wears all black clothing. (Iggy called her 'Emo-Girl' one time last year, and she almost tied his wings together and threw him out the window that faced a 200 foot drop into the forest below.) Who would have thought, right?

Her room was dark—of course—and the door was cracked open a few inches.

I raised my hand to rap my knuckle against the door when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. I felt the muscles in my body stiffen and snapped around, glaring at the girl in front of me.

"Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!" I yelled, trying to calm my heart rate.

She looked up at me, her dark, almost black eyes meeting mine before she shrugged and walked past me into her room. She smelled of shampoo and her long black hair was combed back and slick.

'Must have been in the shower,' I thought, and then immediately shook my head, stopping my train of thought before it de-railed.

She pulled her black combat boots from her closet, slipped her feet into them and then laced them up.

"I've got Gazzy and Iggy up," I stated, taking a look around her dark room.

She finished with her boots and grabbed her worn, [black] leather jacket from her bed. Then she turned to me and tapped her ear twice, which meant that she could hear that. If she was in one of her 'moods' that motion would have translated to 'I'm not deaf', or something else along those lines.

I tried not to smile. "So, you want to get the girls up, or should I?"

She gave a wave of her hand, as if to brush me off as she walked by toward their room. That meant she was going to get them up. I couldn't resist.

I put my hand to my ear and said, "I'm sorry what was that? Speak up. I can't hear you."

She made a very rude gesture with one of her fingers. I laughed and followed her to the end of the hall.

The last room at the end of the hallway belonged to the other members of our family—Nudge and Angel. Nudge is our motor-mouth; as in when she starts talking, it's hard to get her to stop. She and Angel are close, despite the age difference; Nudge is twelve and Angel is six. Angel sits and listens to Nudge talk and talk until the girl is blue in the face, whereas the rest of us would have stopped her long before then.

I followed Fang to the room and leaned against the doorframe as she shook Nudge awake, who grumbled something along the lines of 'what time is it?', and hoisted her up from the bed. From the other end of the room, the curtains grew back slightly from Angel's bed canopy and her golden-blonde head popped out from between them.

"I'm already up, Fang!" she said cheerfully, and without missing a beat, and smiled at me. "Good morning, Max!"

I couldn't help but smile a little. "Good morning, Ang."

Angel was… Well, an angel. Being so young and going through what we went through as kids, I'm glad she wasn't old enough to remember anything. I couldn't bare knowing what we know and thinking that Angel would have gone through that too if Jeb, our sudo-father, hadn't broken us out.

Angel bounded from her bed and ran up to me. I quickly knelt down and grabbed her in a hug. She small arms wrapped around my neck and squeezed as she gave my cheek a quick peck. She was so sweet; and since I practically raised her since she was a baby she was like my own kid.

"I love you, too, Max," she whispered, smiling.

I pulled back from our hug and gave a small chuckle. "Oops. You read my mind again." I put my finger to my lips in a 'shh' motion. "That's going to be our little secret, okay?"

"Okay!"

Down stairs, Iggy was cooking what was left of our stash of food that we bought with the last of our money. Gazzy poured everyone a glass of juice, which there wasn't a lot of, while Fang waited for Iggy to dish food out on plates for everyone. Nudge's motor-mouth was going on about her hair and clothes, and Angel was playing with her doll next to Nudge.

While everyone talked and ate, I thought about what our next move will be. We are completely out of food, and our money situation was laughable. If Jeb hadn't disappeared, I bet we would be in better shape, but…that's not the case. He just up and disappeared one day two years ago. There was a large about of food and supplies left for us and enough cash for more food when we needed it. However, I don't think factored in that we eat almost 3-times as the average adult and don't do well with sitting still. (At least I do; I hate being still for too long.)

"Max?"

Nudge's voice broke me from my thoughts. "Y-Yeah? Sorry, was just thinking. What did you say?"

She looked like she wanted to say something smart, but must have decided it wasn't worth it. Good girl.

"Max, I want to pick strawberries today!" Angel announced. "They're ripe now, right?"

Before I could get a word in, Angel's suggestion to go strawberry picking got everyone else fired up. Especially Gazzy.

"I'll go with you, Angel!"

When he stood up, the sound of the chair scraping against the floor when he pushed it backwards mostly masked the sound of his fart…but couldn't possibly mask the smell.

"…Done…" Fang said quickly, but I almost didn't catch it amongst the groans and hacking coming from everyone else. I doubt the others knew she said anything at all.

"Good God…" Nudge groaned, hacking lightly.

"Gas…mask…!" Iggy choked, covering his sensitive nose.

Angel just made a face of disgust and stayed quiet.

And now you know why we call him The Gasman.

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

Upon arriving at the fields in a clearing about a mile from the house, Gazzy and Angel ran out to the closest pack of wild strawberries and started picking. Nudge led Iggy over to a patch farther up, taking his hand and showing him where the strawberries were. Fang and I watched for a moment before finding our own wild fruit to pick.

I munched on a few strawberries and wondered over to each kid to check their progress. Angel, Gazzy and Nudge seemed to be having the most fun, making it a contest to see who could fill their baskets the most. Fang stood idly by, once in a while popping a small strawberry in her mouth. Eventually she was helping Nudge will up her basket.

"Max? Do you think you can make a cake and we can eat our strawberries with it?" Angel asked, rifling through her large batch of berries.

My mind immediately went to our mostly empty pantry with barely anything to bake with. Before I could answer, I heard our designated cook/chef say:

"Yeah, right! Don't worry, Angel, I'll make a cake for you."

I turned and glared daggers at Iggy, who automatically held his hands up in surrender. "Alright! We get it! I'm not fantastic cook. You don't have to rub it in."

Iggy looked confused, and was suspiciously innocent. Then I heard giggles coming from where Gazzy was—on his knees a few feet behind Iggy.

Before he knew what was happening, I had him in a headlock, rubbing my fist into his hair. "What did I say about mimicking people?"

"Ow, ow! Okay!" he cried, but didn't wipe the smirk off his face.

As soon as I released the blonde brat, he scrabbled away, nursing the wound on top of his head.

"They're glad you care," Angel said, that small bright smile from earlier this morning on her face. "They hadn't had anyone who cares for them like you do, Max."

I knelt down and poked her small nose with the end of my index finger, smiling right along with her. "You're too sweet for your own good, Angel."

After a few seconds, her smile slowly vanished and she stopping in the middle of picking a berry.

"Max, do you love us?"

I almost fell backwards from my crouched position. I looked at her, completely taken off guard by her question. I felt my brows pull together. "Of course I do, Angel. Why would you ask that all of a sudden?"

She was staring down at the basket of berries of various sizes that lay in her lap, suddenly finding them very fascinating. "So…you won't leave us? Not like…?" A small tear formed in her eye, threatening to fall down her pink cheeks.

'…Like Jeb.'

Jeb was a mystery to us. We don't fully know why he took us from The School brought us the E-shaped house, especially since he would there as a scientist himself. He always just told us that we were special, and that he would take care of us. When he disappeared without a trace, it broke our hearts. Six kids thrown into a world they barely understand; no one would expect good results from that. But we're alive. For now.

"Oh, Ang…" I pulled her in my lap, strawberries and all, and enveloped her in a hug. "I…I don't get why Jeb left us like he did, either, but I would never leave you behind."

She sniffled and wiped her eyes. "…Okay."

That's where the peaceful day came to an end.

"How sweet…"

I immediately tensed. A voice that didn't belong to any of us came from behind me. I slowly turned and looked over my shoulder, but I already knew what I would find when I did look up.

"…Erasers!"

One of the hybrid-wolfs leered down at me, claws ready to attack and kill. Erasers are the bane of our existence—the reason they were created with to hunt and kill kids like us, or to just keep up in line. And we rarely win in a fare fight against them.

The Eraser behind me took a swipe at my head. Abandoning the basket of berries we painstakingly collected, I held Angel close and rolled farther down the hill, making her yelp in fear. Three more came at us, and before I could get my bearings again, one reached out and grabbed Angel, yanking her from my arms.

"Max!"

"Angel—" Quick as lightning, one of the heels of a large boot connected with my cheek and knocked me aside, sending me down to the base of the hill.

I heard the others fighting their hardest to get Angel as she cried for help, but the Erasers were too fast and too strong, and there were at least twenty of them. Fang was charging down the hill toward us. She was going to rush him, but others intercepted her, slowing her descent down the hill.

I tasted blood on my tongue from where the Eraser kicked me. That same one stood over me, snickering as he shover a crying Angel in a sack and tossed her over his shoulder.

Before I could get up, the Eraser held his boot to my throat. I pushed against his weight and relieved a tiny bit of the pressure, but not enough. As I struggled for the upper hand, I remembered I had a knife tucked in my boot. If I could just reach that, then maybe…

"I can't believe you didn't put up more of a fight," he snarled, tossing Angel to another Eraser nearby.

"Max!" Angel screamed, her panicked cries getting father and farther away as the Erasers left.

"This was too easy. Jeb would be disappointed in you. And here I though you were his favorite son, Max?"

I squinted and peered up at him, and suddenly an image of a kid—Jeb's biological son—flashed in my mind.

"A-Ari…?" I choked up, barely able to get the words past my lips.

He smirked and removed his boot from my throat. I immediately started gasping for breath and coughing, turning away from him as a feeble attempt to get away. "You're all pathetic. Until next time, Maxy!"

All I could do was struggle to stand and try and catch my breath. It felt like my lungs were on fire.

"Max! Fang!" I barely registered Nudge's voice from her airborne position. When I looked up I saw what was left of my Flock in the air. All except…

I caught a flash of her black out of the corner of my eye.

"Fang, don't!"

But it was too late.

With all the speed she could muster in her legs she rushed Ari and jumped in the air, swinging her leg out. At first it looked like he hadn't noticed her, what with her being extremely quiet when she runs or moves. Without looking and with one swift movement of his arm, Ari had Fang's ankle tightly clenched in his claws. And half a second later, he spin and threw Fang through the air and right at me. I got up just in time for her back to crash hard into my chest.

"Oof!"

She grunted upon impact, and with sheer force that Ari threw her body knocked what little air there was from my lungs as we tumbled over again. I felt my head connect with the ground—hard. Everything started to blur, and I couldn't keep my eyes open. I felt Fang shaking me, but I couldn't respond.

'Angel…' I thought, before completely blacking out.

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

Back at the E-house, no one spoke.

No one had said one word since we got back a half hour ago. I already saw to everyone's injuries. The others just had fat lips, a couple of bruises and a black eye or two. Nothing that wouldn't heal in about a day. It looks like Fang and I took the brunt of their force; we were the worst off. I had a splitting headache and possibly a bruised rib where Fang hit me in the chest, and a bruise on my neck (according to Nudge). Fang had a split lip and a gash on her cheek. She wasn't flying too well on our way back to the house, so something must have happened to her wing when she crashed into me.

From the silence, Iggy suddenly started shouting. "This sucks!" He clenched his fist and whipped the clean dishes off the counted and they went right to the floor. All expect an empty cup, which hurdled right toward Fang, who was busy massaging her forehead with her left hand.

Nudge gasped. "Fang! Watch out!"

Without showing any sign of surprise, she snatched the up out of the air with her right hand.

She glared at Iggy, which was wasted on him. "Watch it, idiot."

But he just raised his voice more. "You watch it! What the hell happened out there?! Why couldn't we get Angel back?"

"There were too many of them," Gazzy said, wiping a tear from his eye. "And they took off in a chopper."

I growled in annoyance. "So what?! We can fly, can't we? Why didn't we go after them?"

No one answered.

I knew what he wanted to say, what he was thinking; I was thinking the same thing myself.

This was all my fault.

If I hadn't let my guard down so much—if I hadn't thought we were safe—Angel would still be here. I was weak. Some leader I was. I was completely useless to Angel and the others…

When they finally got me to wake up, everyone looked scared and confused, but more broken than anything. I didn't even have to ask what happened. I knew the Erasers had gotten away; they had taken my baby from me. All because I couldn't take a few punches and got knocked out.

Ari was right… I was pathetic.

But I was done. I was done being tossed around like a rag doll. I was done with scientists and Erasers and whatever else they send to hurt my Flock—my family. And I was done being weak and pathetic.

"We've got to get her back!" Gazzy announced, slamming his small but powerful fists on the table, startling Nudge and Iggy.

Nudge had tears in her eyes. "But how? We don't even know where they took her."

At some point, Fang had disappeared and reappeared with a fold. "Yes, we do." She threw the file on the table; papers, documents and a map scattered across the worn-out wood.

I took a deep breath, and spoke for the first time in an hour. "The School." I nodded, agreeing with Fang. "That's where they took her. Where else would they go but back to the place we were created. To them, we are their property. Jeb wasn't supposed to take us away, and they what they think is theirs."

Timidly, Nudge said, "But…why just Angel? Why not take all of us?"

I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest. "I don't know, Nudge. But we aren't letting Angel go through the crap experiments they did to us."

They all nodded in agreement, a new fire of determination lit in their expressions.

I felt a grin tug at my lips. "Good. Now that we are all on board." I shuffled through the papers from Jeb's office. I pulled out a folded map and spread it on the table. In the center of the map was a circled location: Death Valley, a.k.a. The School.

"Let's go get Angel back. We leave in an hour."

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

Through the hour that we spent looking at the documents, we routed the best way to get to Death Valley, and the best places to stop for breaks and food. We weren't even in the sky for a few house and I heard:

"Are we there yet?"

I rolled my eyes. "It's been an hour, Gaz. We still have a long way to go."

"So, what are we going to do when we get there?" Iggy asked, flying closer. "It's not like we can walk up to the front door and say we're delving a pizza."

I scratched the back of my head. "Well, I don't know about the pizza part, but we could do that. Theoretically."

I heard a snort of disapproval from somewhere behind me.

I looked back to glare at our dark mistress. "Excuse me for not having a fantastic plan on the fly! No pun intended."

She shrugged, unaffected by my glare.

After a few minutes of flying in silence, I tapped the end of Iggy's feathers with mine. "On the bright side, not many people can say they can soar through the sky without using a plane or something. Flying is pretty freaking cool!"

The younger ones cheered in agreement, and much to Nudge's dismay, Iggy and Gasman decided to start wrestling in the sky. If we weren't on the run for our lives and on our way to rescue our youngest Flock member, I would say this was pretty peaceful.

Not long after that, I heard shouting coming from far below, thanks to my sharp senses. With my raptor eye sight, I saw what looked like a couple of guys roughing up a young girl about Nudge's age.

"Fang." I motioned down below us where the girl was being cornered in an unfair fight.

She took one glance and shot me a look. "No."

I glanced down again. One of the guys started advancing on the girl.

"It'll be quick," I insisted, already prepping myself for the drop down.

"Max…" Fang warned, but since when do I do as I'm told.

"Keep going without me!" I called to the others ahead of us, ignoring Fang's heated glare. They looked back, confused. "I've got something to take care of."

I angled down and started a nose dive for the ground.

"Max!"

"Where are you going?"

"I'll meet you guys at Lake Mead. Wait for me there!"I called back.

When I made it to the ground, I looked up and saw that they were continuing on without me. Good. Even though I don't take orders from them, I'm sure glad they listen to me.

I tucked my light brown wings behind my back and zipped my jacket closed again.

"Can't even tell I'm a mutant freak."

"Hey! Knock it off, you jerks!"

I peered over the top of the building where I stood. There was that girl, and it looked like she wasn't gaining any ground on whatever they were arguing about.

"What are you going to do, Ella?" one of them sneered, taking another step toward her. "Blab to someone again. Why did you have to go and tell someone about my situation with Ortiz? That was my business, and look what happened. I had to teach him a lesson."

She took a step back as he advanced, but her back hit the wall of the building I was on.

'It's only about 20 feet,' I thought, weighting my options. 'That'll be nothing for me.'

"By beating him up?" she countered. "He looks like he got hit by a car! And he didn't do anything to you, José!"

Something in the guy's self-control snapped. "I told you to shit it!"

Before I could change my mind, I loomed over the edge and stepped off. When my feet touched the ground with a loud THUD,everyone jumped in surprise.

"What the—?"

"How about you pick on someone your own size?" I cut in, standing up to my full height and crossing my arms over my chest. The bruised rib from earlier screamed at me, but I ignored it.

"Who is this guy, Ella?" the guy with the big mouth asked. "Another friend you go crying to?"

"Hm. Three guys against one. Seems about even," I mocked.

The other two guys flanked their friend, ready to take me on.

"You better watch your mouth if you know what's good for you!" the José guy said, and ran at me, his fist cocked behind him.

His form and movements were sloppy and easy to read. Without missing a beat, I grabbed his arm, twisted it behind his back, hard enough to make yelp in pain and then through him into the nearby fence. His friends hesitated, taking timid steps back.

"What's up with you, dude?"

"You've got nothing to do with this!"

I huffed, annoyed with these guys. "Picking on innocent girls isn't something I'd write in my resumé, if I were you guys."

"Grab that guy," José growled, standing to his feet, his back to me. "You'll regret butting into other people's business."

I smirked. "Bet I won't."

"Oh, I'm sure you'd loose that bet…" When José turned around, I saw he was holding a gun, and he looked like he had no idea how to use it, which made him all the more dangerous.

My smirk immediately vanished.

"Shit." I turned to the girl, Ella. "Run! Get out of here!"

Frightened, she took off toward the street, and just as José started toward me, I ran in the opposite direction toward the woods.

"Get him!" I heard feet pounding the ground behind me as I dodged around a tree. They were nowhere near as fast as I was, but I didn't want them to backtrack and go after Ella again. Especially with José waving that damn gun around like an idiot.

Just as I put my back to the tree, attempting to hide, I heard a shot fire off and the bullet nicked the tree right by my face.

"This ain't a toy, idiot! I'll have to teach you a lesson now that you've interfered with my business."

"That damn gun… This guy's crazy!" I pushed off the tree and darted farther into the trees.

"There he is!" one of José's buddies called, and another shot rang in my ears.

That one missed, but just barely.

A few meter later, I came to a cliff edge. My wings twitched instinctively, but I hesitated. "I can't fly in front of them…!"

I looked down. 'it's not a long fall. If I slide down the edge of the cliffside I should be good. Maybe…'

I hear their food steps start to run by. As I turned to run a different direction, my foot slipped and I caught the tree before I fell backwards over the cliffside. The sound, however, alerted José to my location.

The blonde idiot ran out from behind a tree, aimed the gun, and fired…

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

Fang

'Stupid Max and his stupid ideas.' I sighed. 'I guess I can't be too mad. He's doing what he thinks is right. But that wasn't our business to get involved in. He better make it quick, or I'll kick his ass.'

I looked back at the others. They looked tired, but we were almost to Lake Mead.

I gave a loud, short whistle, getting their attention, and then motioned ahead.

Gazzy and Nudge cheered.

"Someone wanna clue me in?" Iggy asked, looking confused.

"Where almost there!" Gazzy told him. "I can almost see the lake."

Iggy sighed. "Thank God. I'm exhausted."

I nodded, even though he couldn't see it. I was also tired, and my wing has been bothering me since our encounter with Ari. Its worse now that'd we've been flying for over almost a little over two hours.

When we finally made it to the caves that overlooked the Lake Mead, we touched down and if the others weren't here, I would have collapsed right then and there. My body was sore and beaten, and I wanted nothing more then a nap.

"Phew! I'm tired!" Gazzy did exactly what I wanted to do. His arms cradled his head as he laid back and sighed.

"Fang, I'm hungry, you know?" Nudge said, looking around the cave.

I slipped my pack off my back, rummaged through it, and pulled out a few chocolate bars. "Here."

The squeal of excitement that came from Nudge's mouth was almost unbearable. "Is this chocolate? Yum! Where did you get this? Have you been hiding it?" Nudge asked, quickly taking a bite of her chocolate bar.

Iggy looked like he was in pain, holding his sensitive ears. Gazzy and I both cringed.

I tossed one to Gazzy, and then to Iggy. His chocolate bar hit him in the back of the head, which he did not appreciate.

I fought back a smile when he glared in my direction.

She munched for a minute and the spoke up again. "Hey, Fang?"

I raised a brow in question, gnawing on my candy bar.

"Where'd Max go? Why'd he go down there?"

"Yeah, why did we split up?" Gazzy asked.

"I doubt this was planned, Gazzers," Iggy offered as an answer.

"He saw someone in trouble. Went to help," I answered.

Nudge looked thoughtful. "Yeah, that sounds like something Max would do."

She walked to the cave entrance, still muting happily on her candy bar. There was a few moments of peaceful silence, the only sound that could be heard was crinkling wrappers and moans of delight from Gazzy. Then:

"Um…Fang…?"

Curious, I got up to see what she was looking at, my chocolate bar now gone. When I saw what she saw, I froze right next to her. Iggy and Gazzy were ready to get up and follow.

"Stay there."

The Gasman and Iggy stopped, both now on their feet.

"They're Ferruginous Hawks. Largest raptors in the states," I told them. "Don't move, or we're all bird food."

That statement could have been laughable, if it wasn't for the very serious situation we were in. These birds responded to movement; they're predators. There's no telling what could set them off and attack. Especially with baby chicks in their nest.

Slowly, I unfurled one of my wings, letting the wind graze my feathers.

"Fang? What are you…?" Nudged asked in a hushed tone.

"Letting them catch my scent."

It was along shot, but if they knew that we were like them—sort of—they won't feel like they have to attack unless truly threatened. For a long minute, we waited. Then one of the Hawks spread it's wings wide, startling Nudge. I was ready to shove her into the cave if it was going to attack us. But instead, it took to the air and flew out over the lake. It was almost like it knew we didn't know everything about flying, and was trying to show us some moves.

"Wow…" Nudge said in awe.

"I think they like us," Gazzy said with a smile.

A grin tugged at my lips. "Let's go for fly, too."

We flew around with the hawks until the sun went down. I shouldn't have gone out because of my wing, but it wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to learn something new and improve my flying.

We each pulled a small blanket from our packs. Gazzy was already passed out, curled up against the wall of the cave. Iggy yawned. Nudge was standing dazed at the mouth of the cave, looking up at the hawks.

I gave a low, soft whistle. "Nudge. Come sleep."

She turned and walked over to where the rest of us were laying. Still in a daze, she almost bionically grabbed her blanket I held out to her and laid down. I sat with my back against the cave wall. My whole body sighed with relief.

Another second of silence.

"Fang… These birds…" She sniffled. "These dumb birds have more of another than I ever had."

'Well, she's not wrong,' I thought.

With a quick glance at Iggy, it looked like he already passed out next to Gazzy. I scooted closer to Nudge, still leaning against the wall. I rested my hand on her head, smoothing her hair back soothingly. I knew the guys were aware that I favored the girls over them, but they had Max to be their rock. Sometimes…girls need comfort from other girls.

"The parents are taking of and protecting their babies. No one has ever done that for me." She paused. "Well, except Max. But he's not a dad, you know?"

I nodded, reaching down and taking her hand, giving it a light squeeze.

"I know, Nudge," I said quietly. I lightly pulled her to my side; her head fell into my lap. "But…you don't need parents. You've got us."

She just signed. Soon, she was relaxed, and her tears stopped falling.

"Fang. You have a pretty voice… Why don't you…talk anymore?" Her voice was fading slowly as she drifted asleep.

"Shh…" I ran my fingers through her dark hair, and soon enough she was asleep.

I looked out at the moon, wondering if Max was already on his way here. I hoped so. I don't know what I would do—what we would do—if we didn't have Max.

"You better come back…jerk," I said to the night sky. The only response I got was silence and the gleaming twinkle from the stars.

-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-

I think we will stop it there for now.

Holy Sheep! 20 pages later… lol I guess I lost myself and just kept going. Probably a good place to stop, though.

What do you think so far? Kinda weird? Good? Bad? I'd like to know so I can get the next chapter posted.

I kind of like how it's going so far. There's a back story to Fang's silence in this story. But that comes in the later chapters!

Until then!

—RFC