Hey, guys. I know I've been off the radar for quite a while, but it's summer and I'm getting back into my writing, so look out for it in the coming weeks. Here's a oneshot I wrote for a contest. The flock is a bit older than they are in the first three books, and Fang and Max are somewhat more mature on the emotional side. They're all currently living in a safehouse where they've been hiding out for a while. This was definitely a challenge for me, but I hope I did well enough and that you all enjoy it.

Now I Know

I had always wondered why we couldn't be together… why it was so complicated…why she wouldn't just let me love her…

Now I know.

Now I know all too well.

She tried to set me straight when it was still Daytime.

Now it's too late, and I am consumed by more darkness than ever.

This is the story of how my life ended.

Daytime is over.

Nighttime is my time.

October 27th, 1:38 PM

I walked down the hallway to the kitchen, wondering what was cooking. I could smell something from my room upstairs, and I was hungry since I hadn't eaten in at least an hour.

As I got closer to the kitchen, I saw Gazzy standing over a bowl of frosting with a greedy look on his face. Iggy was peering into the oven, as if he could actually tell that whatever he was baking was done by directing his blind eyes at it.

Maybe he could. I don't know.

"No, the frosting is not for lunch!" I heard a third person say, as Max appeared in the kitchen through the other door and swatted the Gasman's hand away from the bowl.

The Gasman frowned. "Iggy said I could!"

"No, I didn't," Iggy said, carefully pulling out a tray of cookies as I watched the scene from the doorway. "Don't make me an accomplice in your juvenile crimes."

The Gasman glared at Iggy. "Juvenile crimes? You're the one who blew up that cigar place just for fun!"

Closing the oven door, Iggy said, "I would hardly call that a juvenile crime." He smiled, reminiscing. "But, you know, it was a crime for the good of the world. There was no one inside who got hurt, and I saved people's lungs. I'm practically a hero," he claimed.

"I know you're my hero," I said dryly, informally announcing my presence from the doorway.

"Thank you, Fang," he said with a grin, "I can always count on my number one fan."

Before Max could assert her authority over the situation, Nudge and Angel came in through the back door, laughing breathlessly, pushing their wind-blown hair out of their faces. Their jackets were damp and had little twigs and crushed leaves stuck to them.

Total followed, covered from nose to tail in mud and leaves, looking less than enthusiastic.

"Don't ask," Total said tightly, seeing the questioning looks. "Just help me get this gunk off."

Suppressing a laugh, the Gasman said, "Hey Igs, Total looks like a muddy piglet who got in a fight with a leaf-blower and lost."

It was deathly quiet for a second as they all stared at Total in his pathetic state, and then the flock erupted into a fit of laughter. Total huffed, and Gazzy snorted, doubling everyone's laughter. Even Max was letting herself laugh with everyone else. I wasn't, but that's just because I'm me.

Total stalked off past me angrily, muttering, "I am too good for this. I cannot believe these birdkids. I treat them as if they're my equals, and this is what I get?"

"We heard that," Iggy said.

"Good," Total said, sticking his nose in the air and climbing up the stairs, getting his filth everywhere.

"Someone's being a snarky poodle today," Gazzy said. Angel and Nudge giggled, and Max smiled at them.

"You mean Fang?" Iggy asked casually as he spread frosting precisely on top of the cookies.

I stuck my hands in my pockets and said, "Says Mother Hen as he bakes her- I mean, his cookies."

Iggy stopped dead in his frosting-spreading tracks. "Don't make me beat you with Nudge's favorite spoon." He took it out of the frosting bowl and held it up threateningly.

"Oh, the Spoon. I love the Spoon," Nudge said, not bothering to tell Iggy not to use her favorite spoon as a weapon.

"Sporks are better," Angel added from the side, as if it was a scientific fact that we all needed to be aware of in the midst of the tense situation.

Max gave me a warning look, and I raised an eyebrow at her. Then I told Iggy, "Try me."

"Fang!" Max reproached.

What? Oh, did she want me to not provoke him? My bad.

"You're going down, Superman," Iggy said, approaching me with 'the Spoon.'

"Thought you were the hero," I said, not moving.

He was about an inch and a half away from giving me a frosted slap to the face when Nudge finally squeaked, "Wait! You might break the Spoon!"

Gee, thanks, Nudge.

She grabbed his hand at the last second, saving my face and her precious spoon. I didn't flinch, and I smirked, knowing that Iggy would know I was smirking. Nudge tried to pry the Spoon from Iggy's grip, but she couldn't.

"Ig," Max said in that tone of hers that didn't need more than one syllable, and Nudge was slowly able to unwrap each of his fingers from around the Spoon.

"You really like that spoon too much," Iggy said to Nudge decidedly, turning away from me and returning silently to his work, sans la cuchara.

Nudge shrugged. She took a big handful of cookies and handed some to Angel and the Gasman while Max crossed the room and hit me in the arm.

"No violence in front of the children," I said, getting a well-deserved glare.

"Let's go help Total clean up," Angel said, already done with her cookies.

Max started telling me off in a hushed voice.

"M'kay," Nudge replied, stuffing her last cookie in her mouth.

"You're not listening!" Max said, grabbing my arm to get my attention. I looked down at her hand.

"I wanna bother him some more," Gazzy said, taking three more cookies on his way out.

Nudge was the last one out of the kitchen, and she glanced at Max's hold on my arm and flashed us the biggest, most annoying smile she could manage.

Max immediately let go of me as Nudge skipped to the staircase and hummed some obnoxious bubbly song.

11:45 PM

I was using the ledge of the open window as a seat as I typed up a new blog entry. The cool October air felt good on my wings and my back as I sat there and informed the world on the basics of our situation.

Max threw open the door, took a deep breath, and then closed it behind her gently.

She was about to start a rant when she saw the pile of curtains at my feet.

"You ripped down the curtains?"

"They're annoying."

"Fang, why're you sitting there? You're going to fall out of the window."

"If I fall outta the window, it's my own fault," I said, putting the laptop on standby and placing it on top of the curtain pile on the floor.

"And if I let you fall out of the window, it's my fault."

"Oh, good. I can blame you now."

She rolled her eyes. "That's not what I meant."

"What'd you want?" I asked.

"I- well- dang it, Fang, you made me forget."

As if that were my fault.

"Have a seat," I said, scooting over.

"So we can both fall out of the window?"

"Yep. Then we can blame each other."

"Whatever," she said, coming and sitting beside me.

Suddenly, she punched me in the arm. I could have blocked it, but I let her have her violence.

"And that was for?"

"I just remembered why I came in here."

"And that deserved punching?"

"Yes. That was for provoking Iggy into almost impaling you with a spoon."

"That? Come on, Max…"

"Don't 'Come on, Max' me!"

"Like I couldn't have stopped him…"

"You weren't moving! If Nudge hadn't stopped him, he would have smacked you into tomorrow with that thing!"

"I wasn't moving because I knew Nudge would stop him."

"You didn't know she would do that; you were just hoping, and you got lucky," she accused, obviously a little worked up.

"So sue me."

"You don't need to start stupid fights between the flock!"

"Like the one you're trying to start now?" I said calmly.

Max looked flustered. "No!"

"You can't stand living here in this stupid safe house, can you?" I asked gently.

Max gave me a weird look for the sudden change of subject, but we both knew it was bothering her.

"Well… yeah- but-"

"It's okay, Max. We won't be here forever. The world can't wait forever. But it'll have to wait for now until we know where to go next."

"I know," she said, sounding aggravated.

"Just hold on," I said, knowing that I didn't need to say anything else.

She was looking at the ground, thinking hard, when a small smile appeared on her face.

"You jerk…"

"What?" I said, wondering how comforting her made me a jerk.

"You changed the subject so that I would forget I was mad at you!"

Oh, that's how.

"I was just-"

Before I could make an excuse, she hit me again, but this time it was harder, and the abrupt force messed up my balance…

A few curses flew around as I realized I was falling and as she realized that she just pushed me out of a window. I threw my wings out to catch myself, but they hardly helped any as I crashed to the ground. The impact made my body feel like it was exploding as my vision went black for a long second. I coughed violently, trying to suck air back into my lungs at the same time.

"Fang!" Max shrieked in a whisper from somewhere beside me. "Fang! Are you okay? Er- sorry? Fang? Fang… Say something, you idiot!"

I caught my breath and looked at her worried face. "I can blame you for that, right?"

"You- wha- no! Can you move? Any broken bones?"

"I'm fine. I just feel like a potato that got thrown into a dryer."

Max sighed with relief and scooted back away from me a little, realizing how close she was. "That's good. Well, not exactly. Wait, does that make you a mashed potato?"

I gave her the best oh-my-Itex-you're-on-crack look I could give her, and she started laughing uneasily.

"Are you okay?" I asked, showing my usual concern for her sanity.

"Yeah, fine, just glad I didn't kill you," she said, still laughing erratically through her nerves.

I closed my hand around hers and said, "Shh, I have a headache."

Normally, I wouldn't admit to being in pain, but if it made her stop that creepy nervous laughing, it was worth it. I closed my eyes and focused on ignoring the pain. And because that makes no sense, it didn't exactly work.

I could feel her pulse throbbing in my hand, and I listened to her funny breathing for a minute or two while I mustered up the will to open my eyes and move again.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked lightly.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine!"

"Well, so am I."

When I opened my eyes, she was looking away, and I stared at her for a second. Or four. I loved just looking at her, just being there with her, even if I was a mashed potato.

I let go of her hand and sat up, pathetically only able to wait half a second after establishing eye contact between us to kiss her softly.

I pulled away just as soon as my mouth touched hers, but she had one of her temporary sanity lapses… and she kissed me back.

It lasted just slightly longer than the first, and I had to use all of my ounces of self-control to not fall over and just die. A happy death, but a death nonetheless.

As she pulled away from me, I turned my face away, just wanting to revel in the amazing and staggering impossibility of the moment and not wanting to see the look of regret that I knew would be on her face.

"Fang, I-" came her voice, sounding strangely helpless.

Just like before, she would tell me about how we just couldn't be together, not now, not the way things were. How we had to focus and fight the evil people and save the world. How an 'us' would make things too complicated and put us all in more danger.

Then, I would not be buying any of it, because I loved her and knew she loved me. Well… I hoped, anyway.

And then I would try to persuade her, and then she would stubbornly turn me down and then leave. It was a vicious cycle… but I couldn't stop myself from putting the two of us through it, and apparently for the first time, she couldn't either.

I waited for her to start the inevitable speech that I knew too well by now.

"Fang, I- I give up."

Um… what?

"Fang-" she reached out and turned my face to her, looking frantically into my eyes. She found confusion, and doubt… and love, and hurt- things I was never supposed to display, things she never should have seen in me.

She kissed me again, and I understood. She had given up on fighting me. Our brains finally synchronized as I brought her closer to me.

October 29th, 10:19 AM

We were sitting in the yard, concealed from the house by a big tree. Max was in my arm, with her head lying on my chest. She was twirling a brown leaf around and around between her fingers, taking in every one of its details as I took in every detail of her.

I kissed her forehead, childishly thrilled at the fact that she let me do so.

"What changed your mind?" I felt the sudden need to ask.

She stopped twirling the leaf and looked up at me. "I loved you before, you know that, right?"

"No," I said, my face turning stiff.

"Oh," she said, looking down. "Well, um, now you know." She paused and thought for a second. "Fang, I could only say no to you so many times before giving in. That's what you wanted, isn't it? You kept trying until I couldn't say no anymore, didn't you?"

"Not exactly. Kinda. I don't know," I said, summing up my thought pattern.

"You really like me that much, huh?" she said, a teasing note in her voice.

"Kinda," I said with a small smile, still not believing she was there, not caring about how surreal it all was or how stupid I sounded.

November 18th, 11:03 PM

The Erasers had blown up the safe house, but we had all escaped intact.

Now we were fighting for our lives against an army of bloodthirsty Erasers. Again.

It had been going on for what seemed like hours. I had no idea where the rest of the flock was. All I knew was that I had to save my own butt before I could even think about trying to help them. I was getting blows from every side, just barely avoiding hits that would have killed me.

I felt a sudden staggering blow to the back of my head, and before I knew what had happened, I had crumpled to the ground. The pain felt like a spear being stabbed straight through the back of my skull. I'm not sure if I yelled or what I did, but I know my only two thoughts were 'Where is Max?' and 'I'm actually going to die this time.'

I felt something huge grab me, but I wasn't conscious of who or what it was.

"You're the only one we want, Max," the thing that had me said.

'Max' was the only word that registered in my mind, and I looked up to see her standing a ways off, covered in sweat and bloody cuts and bruises.

I looked at her. I loved her. I would die for her.

If only I knew what was going on, knew why I couldn't move.

"It's you or him, Max. You love him, don't you?"

"Shut up!"

"Don't you?" that voice yelled back, smashing a hard, metal object against the side of my head.

As I choked and spit out my own blood, the only thing I understood was the sound of Max's voice screaming indecipherable words.

I didn't understand what was happening. The noise of the fighting going on all around mixed with the pain in my head, making me unable to hold myself up, struggling to keep spitting the blood out of my mouth and just breathe.

The thing that had hold of me jerked me upright, and I realized Max was right in front of me now. She was crying, but I didn't know why. She held my head up, and when she took her hands away, they were covered in my blood. I couldn't feel the blood coming from my head, and I barely felt her touch.

She held my head up again, getting my blood on my neck.

I read her lips as she said, "You know I love you, don't you?"

I was conscious enough to nod feebly.

"Then you'll understand why I have to do this." She wrapped a bloody hand around mine and said through a stream of tears, "Remember what you told me? Just hold on."

"My orders are only for you, Maximum," the thing said.

"Then carry them out!" Max screamed at him.

Right then, it clicked. I finally understood what was happening. "MAX! DON'T-"

A deafening gunshot went off near my ear, making me yell out and crash to the ground.

I couldn't hear anything but a loud ringing as I clutched the hand that was still in mine.

Am I dead?

I dragged myself to my knees, slowly moving my eyes down my arm and up Max's. She was lying there in front of me, breathing heavily and sweating profusely. My mind started to panic when I realized that I wasn't dead.

"Max? Max!" I yelled deafly.

"Just hold on," she rasped, failing to hold in sobs and dying right before my eyes. She closed her eyes as her breathing got more fitful and desperate.

She… she let them kill her so that the fight would stop… she had forsaken her good judgment and gone against everything she had been trained to do… she let them kill her so that I wouldn't die, because she loved me…

She was bleeding so much…

"Max, no, this is all my fault. I shouldn't have made you… I'm sorry… Max, you need to live, the world doesn't need me. Max, please-"

The fitful breathing stopped, her tears stopped, her pulse in my hand stopped, everything stopped. Everything except for the bleeding, the spilt sacrifice of her blood poured out on the ground before me, drowning me as I helplessly watched it mix with the dirt.

She was dead.

November 23rd, 4:16 AM

I hadn't said one word since she died.

Now I was alone with Nudge and unable to stop the stupid words from coming. "I had always wondered why we couldn't be together… why it was so complicated… why she wouldn't just let me…"

My voice broke, and my vision grew blurry with tears, but I kept my face straight. Tears were streaming silently down Nudge's face, as she was clearly terrified at my words, at seeing me like… this.

But I couldn't stop. Not now.

A single tear slid slowly down my face. I ignored it.

"…why she wouldn't just- just let me love her…"

Nudge's face was screwed up with heartbreak, and she dove across the room, wrapping me in her arms so tightly that it made me want to hurl. She sobbed hysterically into my shoulder, while my own involuntary tears soaked my face like acid.

Still, I kept my face as straight as I could, and I said, "Now I know. She knew it would cloud her judgment. She tried to stop it from happening when it was still Daytime. And now… and now it's too late…"

My straight face broke. Everything in me broke. I pulled Nudge into my arms. I cried into her as she cried into me, and everything that I was just broke into a million blood-stained pieces.

Daytime is over.

She was Daytime.

Max was the world's only hope. She was my only hope.

This is the story of how my life ended.

Because she was my life.


Now I know.

This was written for a contest, so here were the guidelines:
- Theme: The slow, tragic death.
- No Flyboys or anything related to the last two books.
- The following quotes must be used: "Sporks are better." "Oh, the Spoon. I love the Spoon." "No, The frosting is not for lunch!" "Iggy said I could." "Nighttime is my time."
- The following words must also be included: Snarky, Poodle, Hen, Cookie
- Must be a oneshot in Max or Fang's POV.

Please review. Thanks!