disclaimer: i don't own maximum ride.

Ella

I didn't find Zack inside the barn so I closed the door behind me and went outside.

Ahhhh, the sun was so hot.

I almost didn't want to come if not for the opportunity to see Zack again.

Zack, who was the most handsomest, dreamiest guy I had ever seen. With that perfect hair and that perfect smile. And also really good fashion sense.

I mean, I've seen cute guys before, and there were certainly those that came close, but Zack? He was just dreamy.

I've told this to Max before, but I don't think she was interested. That wasn't surprising for her. Usually she didn't care what guys looked liked; someone could have a crush on her and she wouldn't give them the time of day.

Some would say she was stuck up, but that's just how Max was. If you weren't a threat to her, then you were just background noise, unless you were like, really close.

Hmmmm, I hummed to myself as I circled around the building. If I was a hot, emo kid, where would I go?

I'm not a stalker or anything if that's what you're thinking. I was just... very excited to see him. It's been exactly a month since my Mom last made a visit to Miss Montoya's ranch. Most of her appointments were taken inside the city where her office was located, so house calls were rare. But due to the nature of the care the horse my Mom was looking after needed—

Wait. I stopped. Is that Max? And, oh! There's Zack! I had to force myself not to run as I made my way over to them. Despite being out in the open, neither of them seem to notice me. In fact, they didn't seem to be talking, either, staring hard at one another and looking... incredulous? Inexplicably, my stomach started doing flips but ignoring the feeling, I raised my hand to shout.

Max

Fang and I stood there for what felt like hours. I just didn't know what to say. At least, I did. But there was so much going through my mind that I didn't know where to start. Somehow I don't think "long time no see" or "funny bumping into you here" would go over pretty well. Luckily, I didn't have to. Ella came practically bouncing up to us.

"Hey, guys! What's going on?" She looked at Fang. "Hey, Zack," she said breathily with a bat of her eyelashes.

"Hey, Ella," he responded with just as much enthusiasm.

Note the sarcasm?

Wait, wait, hold up a sec. "This is Zack?" I asked Ella with surprise, pointing. I turned to Fang. "You're Zack?"

"Uh, yeah, Max. Didn't I tell you?" Ella said in a duh tone.

"You told me about him, not how he looks."

Pretty sure she did, but I don't think I was really listening since Ella spoke about boys all the time.

"Pretty sure I did," she said, unknowingly reading my thoughts. "You just weren't listening."

I didn't say anything, too busy having a meltdown in my head.

"What's the matter with you?" Ella demanded with a frown.

"Oh. Nothing. Nothing at all." Nothing… except that I'd called Fang cute earlier! I didn't know who he was at the time, granted, but all the same I could only be glad that Fang wasn't the one that could read minds. As it was, I was having a hard time looking him in the eyes.

Naturally, I wasn't convincing. That's why I was thankful when Mom and Nadie came out of the stable. Nadie was the old woman I'd mentioned earlier. Beside my Mom, she was tiny. Honestly. Mom wasn't taller than I was.

"Oh, good, so you've met already," Mom said as she walked up to us.

Define "met," Mom. If you mean met him when we were just lab babies locked up in cages to be experimented on by crazy scientists with a lack of morality for human life...

"Great, then we can jump straight into refreshments. Who wants lemonade?"

"I do!" I threw my hand in the air. I was sure Fang had raised his brow at me, but I didn't look at him.

I was glad for the distraction. I practically ran inside ahead of them while Fang went away to put the horse he was riding on in the stable, or something, but I could have sworn I felt his eyes on me the whole way.

When he reached the kitchen, he took his drink with him up the stairs without a word. As soon as he disappeared, everyone's eyes fell on me. The urge to hide behind my glass was a strong one. I managed to ignore the feeling and gave them all a look in return. "What?"

"Did I miss something?" Mom was the one to ask, squinting.

"Not that I could think of," I said innocently which to her wasn't so innocent. Mom by now could see through my innocent act. Her look only became more suspicious. She seemed to finally drop the subject altogether as she and Nadie left the room, leaving just Ella and I. Taking a sip of lemonade, I looked around the kitchen that looked to have an old western feel to it. It also looked traditional with a mix of reds, browns, and off-whites. The only thing missing were two swinging open doors. There were a lot of plants, though. I think I remember seeing a garden earlier.

I was so into my thoughts I didn't notice that Ella had left. When I looked up she wasn't there. One guess could tell me where she had gone to.

I no longer wanted to be in the house so I went outside to sit on the porch. Wind swept loose strands of my hair from its ponytail across my face. I brushed them aside as I looked off into the distance. There were more houses along the horizon. Far enough to not be so invasive but too far to be of any use to someone screaming for help.

But my mind wasn't so much on the houses as they were in my thoughts. There were so many questions running through my head. Most important of all: what was Fang doing here?

The last time I had seen him was when I'd left him with his mother. The rest of the flock had found their own family by then. They'd each went off after scouring most of the country for them. I mean, we'd always be a family and nothing could ever change us being the flock, but they wanted something a little more secure. To put it simply, they'd reached the end of their rope. They were tired of always running and fighting the School. I myself thought that the safest place would be with each other but you could probably guess how that went down. I was the only one with the chip in my arm so it wasn't like they were going to be found.

In the end, it was just Fang and I. He didn't seem to mind, but by then I was on a roll. I wanted him to find his family. There was no reason why he shouldn't be happy like the others.

It was harder to find his Mom. She was thought to be dead but a lucky break in Oklahoma told us different. We found her in Utah and that's where things got a little awkward.

Fang wanted me to stay, his Mom didn't.

I mean, she didn't say it out loud but I could tell. She wanted to bond with him since she hadn't seen him in years and I was in the way. Fang didn't think so, but I didn't want to be the reason for the rift that was forming between them both. After all the side-eyes and frowns, I did him the favor of going off on my own. Now that I think back on it, Fang's name should have tipped me off. But really, how was I to know that the Zack Ella was talking about and the Fang were the same guy?

So, ah, yeah, that's the gist of it. More things happened after that but that's not really important.

I almost didn't notice the door opening up behind me until I heard footsteps. I looked up in time as Ella sat beside me on the step. Together, we were quiet as the wind swept through the front yard, bringing with it the scent of manure and rosemary, but I could tell there was something on her mind. The nervous ticks in her hands were beginning to annoy me. I knew she had something to say and I knew she knew that, too. Just as she turned to me the door opened again.

Ella shot to her feet while I on the other hand remained sitting. What's up with her? She wouldn't meet my gaze so I looked up and was greeted by the dark of Fang's eyes.

Boy, who knew time could fly so quickly (pun unintentional). It almost didn't seem like that many years had passed. It felt longer, but it was, in fact, three. And it showed. Fang looked older. We always did look grown for our age but he looked, how do i say this? More mature? His eyes were sharper, jaw more square, he was taller, almost impossibly, and... And...

Why was I staring at him like this? I turned away from him before he noticed but I don't think I was very successful. Sure enough, when I looked up at him again there was a knowing smirk on his face.

"Ready to go?" He asked.

I was Momentarily distracted as I forced out the words that had inexplicably lodged themselves in my throat. "Ready? For what?"

I shouldn't have asked.

The door behind me closed with a soft click as I entered my apartment. I dropped my keys on the table beside me before leaning against the door, resting my head back on the wood to close my eyes. The day had went by pretty quickly and guess what? It didn't suck.

For one thing, Fang made the suggestion for us to go horseback riding. Okay, so it was Ella's idea but I didn't think he would readily agree.

I always thought of horse riding as some prepubescent girl's dream or hobby. I mean, I'd seen him earlier on his horse but at the time I was more distracted by the fact that the guy my sister had been obsessing about all summer was Fang.

Anyway, it wasn't too bad. I was a little annoyed that I didn't get to pick my own horse. It had looked like something I would ride if I had ever been raised on a ranch, but Fang wouldn't have it. Something about "wild and untamed" or some other. Anyway, as soon as we got on the field I'd near completely forgotten the reason why I was mad. On the field, it felt like I was flying. It felt free. My spirits felt lifted. Of course, it could never come close to the real thing, but it was invigorating all the same, and I didn't want it to stop. I almost didn't, if not for Ella snapping me out of it on the phone. Couldn't really talk to someone who was halfway across the field.

Fang hadn't joined us but that was because he'd already had his fill earlier and didn't want to do so again. After finally getting off the saddle, I found out why.

Fang was the one to drop us home since Mom had left earlier with the promise that I'd watch over my sister. And now here we were.

Somehow as I looked around at my apartment, it felt even emptier than before despite all the furniture filling it and the numerous pictures on the wall. I lived on my own, having moved out from my Mom's almost a year ago. The apartment wasn't big, it was a one bedroom with all the necessities a simple bird kid needed, including a kitchen even though I couldn't use it.

I tried not to dwell on the feeling as I went to the bathroom to get the scent of horse and manure off of me before heading to the kitchen. I was starving. I got some leftovers out of the fridge and popped it into the microwave. That was the extent of my cooking ability. You would think over the years I would have gotten better but in fact, I'd gotten worse. This was the food leftover from having dinner at my Mom's. I wouldn't want to risk burning the place down because I decided boiling water wouldn't be too hard an accomplishment.

I could always just live with Ella and Mom; it would be so much easier, right? But I also wanted to be independent. I'd always been the leader of my flock. Now, without them being around anymore, there wasn't anyone to boss around but myself. And Mom wasn't exactly the type to be bossed around, though I would never think to do so. She was the reason I was living here on my own in the first place. She had connections with the landlord and as long as Mom regularly checked up on me and the rent was in her name, then I didn't run the risk of getting social services involved. It wouldn't be long before I was able to legally put it in my name anyway.

The other reason... Well, if the School ever decided to come for me again then my Mom and Ella would be out of harm's way.

That is, if the School could ever pick up their pieces again.

The microwave beeped. I pulled out the bowl that had a big block of cheesy lasagna in it, grabbed a fork and two cans of soda, and brought them with me to the living room where i turned on my laptop to watch season two of Dexter.