Before we begin, let me give you a little insight on kids that some of you may not know.
To start, I've read many fanfics, including some of my own, that involve young children. In these fics, the children are almost always these angelic little bundles of joy who say and do the most adorable and heartwarming things and everyone can't help but love them. And their parents always seem to know exactly what to do and how to deal with any little, trivial problems that come their way.
Wanna know something?
That's NOT how it really works.
Fang: Sure, you do have those sweet, lovely moments. But you also have those frustrating, pulling out your hair, 'what the heck is with this child?' moments.
Me: After being a nanny to a kindergarten-aged little girl, Zia, for almost a year, I wanted to write about a young child who was more... Real.
Fang: I'm sure we can explain some more at the end. People probably wanna just know what you came up with this time.
Me: Fine, fine. But one more thing; a lot of the incidents here are based on real little issues Zia and I have had... As well as just... Life. Adulthood, welcome to it.
Fang: Blasted maturity.
Me: Too true... Oh, before I forget!
I Claim Nothing, Therefore I Diss Nothing: I do not own Maximum Ride. If you don't believe me... Why not? Do you think J.P. hangs ot writing fanfic on his off days? ...Actually, I could believe that, but it's not me...
And now, read away!
It started with a couple juice boxes left on the floor.
Then Barbie clothes left unattended by the closet.
The closet door, by the way, was left open because there was too much stuff pouring out of it to stay closed. Stuff that had no business in a closet.
Stuffed animals and dirty socks, together, tried to escape the impending carnage, only to become part of it, laid waste together across the carpeted floor.
Papers, colored pencils, markers, and crayons joined the warzone.
Items of questionable origin.
It wasn't long before there was no place to step without piercing your foot on a random doll shoe or errant pen. Even the curtains hung at odd angles. Only a small spot was left on the bed that was habitable for one small person to sleep.
"I don't want to clean it!"
"It's MY room!"
"I need help!"
Those were just a couple phrases heard being screamed through the halls of the tiny apartment on that fateful day that daddy had had enough.
"Calista, I swear, if you don't get started on that room in five minutes, your toys are trash! You got that?"
"Noooo!" Was the little girl's screeching reply. She stomped her foot, dark, mottled feathers flapping angrily, glaring at her father. "No you will NOT!"
"Try me!" Fang snapped. He stomped into the kitchen and reached under the sink for a trash bag.
"NO!" Calista screamed, latching herself onto Fang's arm. "Don't do it, Daddy! Daddy, NO!"
"Then get in your room and clean!" Fang shot back. He lifted the screaming girl up and carried her to her room, placing her on the floor.
"But I don't wanna! I don't wanna! I can't! I need help! I NEED HELP, DADDY!"
"You didn't need help making the mess, so you don't need help cleaning it!" Fang snapped at her. "Now stay in there and clean. Daddy needs some space right now."
Calista began to sob and stomped her foot again, but she didn't try to follow her father when he walked away. When Daddy said he needed space, he meant it.
After going through the kitchen to snatch up a couple things that had been knocked over during his daughter's tantrum, Fang stalked off to his room, slamming the door behind him. He took one look at his still-unmade bed and threw himself into it. He yanked a pillow over his head and let out a muffled yell out of frustration.
Fang had been through scientific experimentation, explosions, and Eraser attacks. He'd helped to save the world. Yet this battle, a battle he'd been fighting with a five-year-old for almost a week was the hardest and most draining fight he'd ever been through.
This was certainly not how Fang had pictured himself at twenty-one.
When he was fifteen, his group and Max's Flock were able to bring down a group of corporations that had come together with the idea of playing God. They were going to cause an apocolypse to sort of press the reboot key on the planet and start over with a race of mutated young people. With the help of the CSM, these people were brought down, proven wrong, and people they had experimented on and used were freed and the CSM had helped to find homes for many mutants who were without families.
The older teens in the two "Flocks" were given the rights of "emancipated minors", basically giving them many of the rights of legal adults. The younger Flock members were put into the older teen's care. Max and her Flock chose to stay with Dr. Martinez. They went to school, trying to get as close to normal life as possible.
Fang's Gang went their seperate ways, though most of them stayed in touch, meeting up and contacting each other often.
Fang had thought about going back to the Flock, but he couldn't seem to work up the nerve to just go. He'd heard Max and Dylan were together, and that was the last thing he wanted to see. He e-mailed back and forth with a couple other Flock members a few times, but the conversations didn't last long. He slowly let his thoughts of reuniting with the Flock go. He focused, instead, on schoolwork, another gift from the government. As long as he was working in some way to get a Diploma or G.E.D., they'd pay his rent, bills, etc until he was 18. It was too good of a deal to pass up.
Though studying kept him busy, it didn't quite erase the horrible new feeling that he had begun to slowly sink into.
It was on a particularily lonely night, during a raging thunderstorm that had knocked out the electricity, that an old friend had shown up on his doorstep.
She stayed just the one night, just to get out of the rain. It was a cold night, the kind that made you want to curl up next to the warmest thing you could find. Even if that warm thing happened to be alive.
And Fang, merely enjoying the idea of having someone around, let her curl up with him in his bed.
Maya was gone before Fang woke up that morning, leaving him feeling more lonely than ever.
But nothing would turn his world upside-down more than the day, a little over nine months later, that Maya showed up on his doorstep again, this time to shove a small bundle into his arms.
"She's yours." Maya told him. "Not mine. I just can't. It's not for me. I can't, I'm sorry."
Before Fang could say a word, she was gone. She raced down the stairs, onto the road, and out of Fang's life. He was never able to contact her after that day.
But now he had a brand-new distraction.
Fang was lucky that there was a lot of help out there for people with new babies. And grateful that his landlady had a couple older nieces whose mothers were willing to donate old clothes. With each feeding, diaper change, late-night, play date, and bathtime, Fang began to piece this new life he had together.
Then, he managed to get his G.E.D.
He was expecting it, but it was still a shock. He was 18, raising a two-year-old girl, and now he had to pay his own rent and bills. He had to buy his own groceries and supplies. Fang was on his own.
But he survived. He got a job at a restaurant and hotel where he did everything from busing tables to making beds. He got enough in scholarships and grants to attend a nearby community college part-time. His landlady babysat Calista whenever he had to work or go to class.
Then, a few short months ago, Cally started Kindergarten. Fang rearranged his schedule as best he could so he could be home when she was as much as possible. But in the chaos that had become his life, some things just began to fall by the wayside, such as making sure his daughter picked up her room regularily.
And so came to be his current predicament.
Years of always having something to do had made it hard for Fang to sit still for very long. He pulled himself out from under his pillow, got up, and began going through his closet, trying to find something decent to wear. It was his day off from work and he wanted to be able to get something done today, even if it was just going across the street to do laundry at the laundromat.
He threw on yet another one of his famous basic black ensembles and shoved the rest of his laundry into the hamper.
"Oh, sorry, Freddy." Fang said, pulling the large ball of gray fluff out of the hamper. "I don't know why you sleep in there, anyway."
Freddy just stretched and hopped up on the bed, curling up on Fang's pillow. Freddy, named after Freddy Krueger for the insanely sharp claws he used to tear up a pillowcase on his first night inside, showed up outside Fang's apartment eight months ago. He followed Fang and Cally up the stairs, into the house, and made himself at home. Despite his half-hearted protests and threats, Fang never really had the heart to make the furball leave. He knew what it was like to be homeless and out in the cold.
"So... Gonna try and do laundry today, Fred." Fang said. Though he'd never admit it, he'd gotten into a habit of talking to the cat. "You know what that means. Someone will have to brave Cally's room to find her dirty laundry. So, you feeling brave, Krueger?"
Freddy just blinked, yawning, then turned over and closed his eyes.
Fang shook his head. "Guess it's just me then. Lazy bum."
Taking a deep breath, Fang opened the door to his room and took the couple steps across the hall into Calista's room, hoping he could just lean around the corner to grab her laundry basket.
If Fang had been looking for clothes, he'd come to the right place. There were clothes everywhere. Clothes hung from bedposts, curtain rods, a closet door, and an easel. Clothes were draped over chairs, a couch, and the bed. Some had been pinned to the windowsill. There were even clothes draped over the TV. The best place, though, was the dresser, the place that was supposed to hold clothes. The clothes were hanging out of the drawers as well as draped over the top of the dresser, making it look like a clothing waterfall.
And, in the middle of it all, stood Calista, smiling as she draped a pair of pants over her bookcase.
"Calista... What is this?" Fang asked, gesturing to the room around him.
"I had apple juice on my dresser." Calista said. "And I spilled it and the drawers were open and it got on all my clothes! So, I hanged them up to dry!"
Fang sighed, taking a moment to bury his face in his hands before surveying the room again. "Calista, take all of this stuff down-"
"But I'm drying it!" Calista protested.
"Drying it isn't going to help, they need the apple juice washed out." Fang explained. "And don't interrupt me. Anyway, take all these clothes down and just... Put them and your dirty clothes in the laundry bag in my room." Fang told her, trying not to think about how many quarters it was going to take to wash all of Calista's clothes. "And no more food in your room."
"Don't even start." Fang said, his tone warning. He went back to his bedroom to find his wallet, hoping he had the cash for this laudry trip. Fang had to be thankful for tips, or he'd never survive with his job. He'd learned quickly that having a personality was everything. The workers in both the restaurant and hotel who were the friendliest and most welcoming always got the best tips. Sometimes, it didn't matter if they'd done their job well, as long as the customers were entertained, they'd think anything this particular person did was worthy of a higher-than-average tip. Fang soon learned the art of conversation, of joking, even light flirting, if that's what the customers responded to. Adding a bit of personality to his image made Fang a package deal. Combined with his looks, his energy, and his work ethic, Fang had collected some of the highest tip percentages at his job.
And after groceries and school supplies, he had just enough to do laundry.
Calista brought the clothes in, bit by bit, stuffing them into the large, green laundry bag. She shuffled her feet and crossed her arms as she left the room, but Fang ignored her mini-tantrum, trying to find a jacket to wear that didn't need to be washed. He'd put off this laundry trip for a bit too long.
Dressed and laundry packed away, Fang had Calista grab a coloring book and crayons (at least, what she could find in that mess of hers) and the two headed out for the laundromat.
It was a short walk across the road, but somehow, it always seemed to take forever. Getting two bags of laundry down the stairs, assuring Calista that there were no bees so she would step out the door, trying to remind her to hold onto his hand while they crossed the road, telling her to look both ways, remembering to stop and look both ways himself so as to set a good example, reminding Calista not to slow down or stop in the middle of the road, then dragging her up the front steps as she started to whine about wanting to stay outside and play on the sidewalk.
As soon as Fang was through those glass doors, he breathed a sigh of short-lived relief.
Fang got Calista settled in the children play area with her coloring things, then dragged his laundry bags over to the closest set of washers. He soon settled into the repetitive motions of sorting clothing and loading up three of the washing machines. It had taken Fang a couple failed attempts to learn how important it actually was to seperate darks and lights, an issue that hadn't really cropped up until he started doing Calista's laundry. She'd ended up with orange and blue dresses that used to be red and he'd owned a pair of pink socks that used to be white. He didn't make those mistakes anymore.
As he was stuffing the last of his clothing into the machine, he heard the familiar sound of coins falling to the floor. He turned to see a girl about his age with dark hair scrambling to pick up a handfull of quarters that had tumbled to the ground.
Fang rushed over picking up the quarters that had rolled farther away. They both stood at the same time, catching each other's eyes. She smiled, showing off a set of perfect white teeth.
"Thanks for the help." She said, holding out her hand for the coins.
"No problem." Fang answered, dropping the quarters into her hand. "Hate it when that happens."
"Yeah, I know. I need a coin purse or something." She replied. "I just started doing laundry here since the laundromat across town upped its prices. I'm used to just swiping a card there."
"Yeah, we're a little more low-tech." Fang said, returning her smile.
"So, what's your name?" The girl asked. "Or are you going to be all mysterious?"
Fang managed a short laugh. "Nah, I ditched the 'mysterious' thing a while ago. Name's Fang."
The girl raised an eyebrow. "Fang?"
"Yeah, Fang." Fang had given up on aliases like 'Nick' after awhile. He got sick of people never really knowing his name. Besides, he and the others had been able to keep enough anonimity that barely anyone ever recognized them, anyway. "It's a long story. So, how about yours? Or is this a one-sided relationship?"
The girl giggled. "Name's Natasha." She said.
"Nice to meet you, Natasha." Fang said, holding out his hand.
"Nice to meet you, Fang." Natasha replied, taking his hand and giving it a shake.
And then, the inevitable. "Daddy, my crayon broke."
Fang froze, fighting back an annoyed eye twitch. "You can still use it, Cally."
"It's too short." Calista replied, pulling on her dad's jacket. "I need a new one."
"You're not getting new crayons today." Fang said, looking down at her. "How about you go play?"
He felt Natasha's hand leave his.
Calista stomped her foot. "I can't color with a broken crayon."
"Yes, you can."
"But I can't-"
"Then use a different color."
"But I need-"
"Calista, just go, please."
"Don't interrupt me!" Calista said loudly, sounding much like her father earlier.
Father and daughter traded near-identical glares before Fang merely pointed towards the play area and Calista stomped off, arms crossed tightly over her chest.
Fang turned back to Natasha, who was folding up the last of her clothes. "Kids." He said awkwardly, shrugging.
"Uh, yeah." Natasha replied, picking up her laundry basket. "Well, I've gotta get home, but it was nice meeting you. And thanks again for the help."
"No problem, you're welcome." Fang said, giving her a short wave as she hurried out the door.
As soon as she was gone, Fang stomped over to the washing machines and began angrily shoving quarters into the slots.
Fang loved Calista and wouldn't give her up for anything, but he was beginning to find out that maternal instincts did not develop overnight. Most girls he met didn't seem interested in a guy with a kid. Most just automatically assumed he already had a girlfriend because he had a kid. Others made some snap judgements about a guy his age having a five-year-old and decided he wasn't their type. And then there were the girls who just didn't want anything to do with kids, especially someone else's kid.
Fang was beginning to wonder why he even bothered anymore.
The rest of their stay at the laundromat was near-uneventful. Calista colored almost all the pictures in her book and proceeded to draw on a wall, which Fang quickly stopped. He watched a couple episodes of NCIS on the TV. No one else came in. Just Fang and Calista.
He and Calista packed up the laundry and went home, Fang trying to ignore the slight pain starting to throb in his right temple. He let Calista help him fold laundry before sending her back to her room to continue cleaning while he made dinner.
Learning how to make meals hadn't been an easy task, and Fang still didn't trust himself with anything too complicated, but he knew how to keep himself and Calista alive and fed. He managed to cook up some hot dogs and mac and cheese, with celery sticks on the side to serve as a veggie.
"Dinner's ready." Fang said, poking his head into Calista's room. He automatically regretted it.
Calista's idea of cleaning her room didn't exactly coincide with her dad's. She had obviously figured that, as long as the toys were away from the middle of the floor, it was clean. So instead, the little girl had piled all of her things onto her bed, her couch, and a chair and was busy shoving the rest of the stuff into a corner.
"See, Daddy!" Calista said, pointing to the bare spot in the middle of the room. "This whole spot is clean now!"
Fang crossed his arms. "Yes, but now you have nowhere to sleep or sit. You can't just push everything aside. All this stuff has a place where it belongs. And if they don't get put away soon, that place will be the trash."
"No!" Calista screeched. She ran forward and latched onto Fang's leg. "No no no! It's my stuff, no!"
"Then take care of it." Fang told her. "Now come on, dinner's ready." He gently pried the little girl off his leg and led her down the hall to the kitchen.
The moment Calista's plate was put in front of her, she went at it like a true bird-kid, scarfing down as much as her small mouth could hold, only stopping to take sips of juice once in a while. As she slowed down, though, her cut-up hot dog pieces began to look like eyes, her macaroni like little mouths, and her celery like funny big, green noses. Soon food became a toy and, using her plate as an easel, she was creating works of art.
Normally, Fang would have something to say to her about playing with her food, but that slight twinge in his temple now felt like it was trying to split his skull in two. He picked at the food on his plate halfheartedly before finally putting his fork down and picking up his plate. He scooped the leftovers into a container and stuck them in the fridge.
"Finish up your dinner, Cally, then you need to put on some pajamas and... Find somewhere to sleep in that mess of yours." Fang told her.
"No!" Calista whined. "It's too early for bed!"
"Little girls with messy rooms don't get to stay up late." Fang told her. "Now finish up dinner. I'll just be in my room for a minute. My head hurts and I need a break."
Fang hurried off to his room before his little girl could protest anymore. He crawled into his still-unmade bed, pulling a sheet up over his head. Fang hadn't had a headache like this in a while. He held back the urge to let out a whine of his own. He was tired, frustrated, and now his head hurt. Could it get any worse?
Fang closed his eyes, trying to lessen the pain in his head, just for a little bit. He was only going to close them for a moment, but his body needed more rest than even he realized. Before he could stop himself, he'd drifted off to sleep.
"Yeah, he's still being a sleepyhead."
Fang thought it was odd to hear Calista's voice in his room. Hadn't he sent her to bed? Wait, how long had he been asleep? What time was it? Fang rolled over to look at his clock, but came face-to-face with something else entirely.
A large, purple hippo.
Fang pushed that out of the way to find a stuffed lion sitting near his head. There were a couple dolls leaning up against his stomach and a family of puppies plus a duck had made a cozy bed on his wings.
"You didn't look like you feeled good, so I brought them all in to make you feel better."
Fang turned around to find Calista sitting on his bed in her pajamas. "Do you feel good now, Daddy?"
Fang started to sit up, a million things going through his mind. What was she doing in his room without permission? Why did she think it was ok to put her mess in his room? Did she sleep in here?
Fang looked at her, ready to tell her to pick up her things, but took one look at her smiling face and stopped. She had wanted to make him feel better. That was all. She was just trying to help.
And he had been ready to shoot her down again.
He smiled back. "Yeah, I'm good."
Calista's smile broadened. "Yay! It worked! You wanna talk to Beth now?"
"Beth?" Fang asked, confused.
"Yeah, Beth." Calista said, holding up his cell phone. "She called, and I didn't want it to wake you, so I answered it."
Fang sighed, figuring he could talk to Cally about answering his phone later. He quickly took the phone, wondering what his coworker could be calling him for. "Hi, Beth?"
"Hey, Fang! Sleeping in?"
"Yeah, it was a long day yesterday... Hope Cally didn't bug you."
"Oh, no way! We were just discussing the weather outside. It's beautiful out, by the way."
"Good to know... So, anything up?"
"Yeah, you're only working a short shift today, right?"
Startled Fang quickly looked at the clock. 8:45. He still had time. "Yeah, 10 to 3."
"Awesome. So, my niece and I are going to be flying kites outside this afternoon and then we're doing a little barbecue. I was wondering if you and Calista would like to come by after you get out of work."
Fang was nearly caught off guard by the request. Beth was probably the sweetest girl at his work, and was always kind to him, but... Heck, he didn't even know she had his number!
"Wow, yeah, sure! That'd be cool." He heard Calista next to him say 'yes!' and realized Beth must've already told her.
She gave Fang directions to her place before wishing him a good day at work and hanging up. Fang fell back on the bed, holding his phone to his chest, still not completely sure what had just happened.
"You ok, Daddy?" Calista asked, crawling next to him.
Fang smiled, reaching up and pulling her into a hug. Calista giggled, curling up at her dad's side. He wrapped his wings around them both.
"Yeah, Cally. I'm doing fine."
Fang: A little angelic moment at the end...
Me: To further explain my ideas for this fic, it started out being Fang and Angel, but that didn't work, so I created Calista and her background. Then, I was gonna make it all Faxness and have Max show up, but... That didn't work, either. So, stumped, I showed what I'd written so far to my friend, Skits, who began thinking up all these different funny things Cally could do to not clean her room and drive poor Fang crazy.
And so, the idea for this fic was born. I think it's the most real and relatable thing I've ever written for fanfic. Yeah, not a lot of romance and fluff and blah blah blah, but... Heck, I hope someone likes it.
Fang: As long as all the major Fax fans get past me and Maya creating life, you should be fine.
Me: Yeah, heh, that just... Worked.
Fang: Good luck.
Me: Yeah, yeah... Well, for better or worse...