Liam stood patiently at the door, or at least as patiently as a five-year-old boy can. He was nearly jumping up and down with impatience, but at least he hadn't decided to run out the door yet. His new shirt was already coming untucked from his pants. In one hand he carried his plastic lunch box, in the other he dragged his brand new bookbag, both decorated with his favorite cartoon characters. He kept looking out the window, then back at his mother.
On the other hand, Mira at age eight was much more relaxed then her brother. She sat on the living room couch, distractedly picking at the decorations on her shirt. Every once in a while she looked up at Buffy to see how close they were to being ready to leave, then went back to the last seconds of her summer vacation.
"We're going to be late," Liam said suddenly and very loudly. "I don't want to be late on my first day."
Buffy smiled at him easily from where she stood in the kitchen. "You won't be late," she promised. "Besides, do you want your sister to go hungry? We'll leave just as soon as I'm done making her lunch."
"No pickles, Mom," Mira reminded her for the fifteenth time.
"I remember, honey," Buffy sighed patiently. She knew her daughter hated pickles on her sandwiches. Quickly she put the sandwich in a ziplock bag and tucked it into the Dragon Lunch Box next to the box of apple juice and the bag of carrot sticks.
When Mira had first started school, Buffy and Angel had decided that the best school would be the private school on the edge of Sunnydale, The Ravenwood School, which was Pre-school through Eighth Grade, and offered many more challenges and better teachers than the local elementary schools. Of course, Ravenwood didn't have school buses, so Buffy drove over their every morning during the school year.
As she finished her daughter's lunch, the Slayer watched her two school aged children. Mira was obviously not thrilled about going back, or about the idea of being in the Third Grade.
Liam on the other hand couldn't have been more excited about Kindergarten. Every few seconds he would glance up at her, pleading with his dark eyes to be on their way.
Kathy had gone with her Father to work that morning, so that Buffy wouldn't have to deal with all three of the kids on the most hectic morning of the school year.
Seeing the pleading look return to her son's eyes, Buffy chuckled. "Alright, we're going," she said with a grin. "You have everything?"
"Yes!" Liam said quickly, followed by a less enthusiastic affirmative from his older sister.
"Into the car then, both of you," Buffy directed.
Liam was out the door before Buffy had even left the kitchen.
The grounds of The Ravenwood School were crowded with children and parents hurrying from office to check in to classroom to auditorium. There were all sorts of parents from all walks of life, but the most obvious were those of the upper classes shepherding their precious children around like sheep to make sure that they weren't too affected by the goings on, and didn't do anything childish that might embarrass their parents by making them seem just like all the other children.
Buffy ignored these over-dressed, overprotective peacocks and easily made her way through the crowds and lines, dropping Mira at her new classroom in the Third and Fourth Grade building before taking Liam to meet his new teacher and classmates. As they approached the Kindergarten through Second Grade building, Buffy recognized a few of the other mothers with whom she had become friends in the four years since Mira had first begun attending Ravenwood.
One of the mothers stopped for a moment and waved at Buffy. "Mrs. Summers!" she said brightly. "And who is this adorable little one?"
Liam was suddenly shy, and Buffy smiled reassuringly at him. "Liam starts Kindergarten today," she said back.
"Good luck, Liam," the woman said with a grin.
"Thank you," the little boy said quietly, averting his eyes shyly.
The woman laughed brightly. "I have a son your age, and he's a little scared today because he's never been here before either. Would you like to meet him?"
Liam shook his head emphatically. "Yes!" he smiled.
"Then come with me and I'll introduce you," she smiled warmly. Becca Wright had been one of the first people Buffy had met at Ravenwood, since she had a daughter Mira's age, one two years older than that, and her younger son -Toby- being Liam's age.
They entered one of the kindergarten classrooms together and saw Toby waiting patiently for his mother right next to the door. There weren't many children there yet, and there was more than one parent in the room helping thier little ones get situated.
Toby looked relieved when his mother entered, then a bit warily at Buffy and Liam right behind her. Mrs. Wright smiled at her son and Liam. "This is Toby," she said, putting an arm around his shoulder. "Toby, this is Liam. He's in your class."
The two boys looked at each other, like two puppies of different breeds meeting for the first time; both silently saying "what are you?"
Then Toby spoke. "Do you like Pokemon?" he asked. The show was still on...much to the dismay of over a decade of confused parents.
Liam grinned. "It's my favorite."
In a moment mothers were forgotten as the two little boys wandered off, animatedly chattering about strange creatures that Buffy just didn't understand. Who wanted a chinchilla that shot lightening bolts? Of course, it might be useful in battle. And if a Squirtle could spray holy water....
Buffy smiled at her son, who seemed to now be quite happy to be there. In fact, he seemed to have forgotten his mom was still there at all. "Liam," Buffy called gently. When he didn't reply at first she touched him on the shoulder and called his name again.
"Yeah?" the little boy asked distractedly.
"Is it okay if I leave now?" Buffy asked reluctantly. "Are you going to be okay?"
Liam looked up at her. "You'll be back?"
His mother smiled. "Of course I will. I'll be back to get you and Mira after school."
"When does school end?" he asked cautiously.
"Before dinner," Buffy told him. "Okay?"
Liam nodded and his face brightened again. "Okay. Bye, Mommy!"
Still, Buffy was reluctant to leave the classroom. She stood in the doorway, watching her only son eager to begin his day with his new friends. It wasn't as hard to part with him this time as it was the first time she'd brought Mira to school. She'd almost been in tears that time. Still, it was never easy to leave your baby in someone else's care, no matter how much of a 'big kid' they insisted they were.
"Miss Summers come back here!" Giles called, pausing to catch his breath, leaning over and placing his hands against his legs.
Kathy giggled and ran behind the book table in the center of the shop. "Catch me! You're it!"
"Your father will be very put out if you do not take a nap!" The Brit panted.
"Yes I will."
"Daddy!" Kathy bolted from her hiding place and attached herself to Angel's legs with a squeal.
The former watcher stood upright as Angel stepped further into the shop, carrying a paper bag no doubt containing their lunch from the deli down the street.
"Out of shape?" Angel asked, a mischievous in his eyes. "Turkey."
"I am not a-" Giles looked down at the sandwich Angel was holding below his nose. "Oh. Thank you."
Angel chuckled, then looked at his new appendage. "Are you giving Grandpa Giles a hard time?" he asked. He tried to be serious about it, but looking at her mischievous smile made him grin right back.
"Yes," she announced, her eyes sparkling.
Angel pried her off his legs and lifted her into his arms. "Come on, pumpkin," he said affectionately. "You were supposed to take a nap before lunch, remember?"
Kathy stuck out her lower lip in a pout. "Do I have to?" she whined.
Yes, her father said firmly. If you dont then you have to go to bed early tonight.
No! the little girl grabbed her father around the neck. Not early!
Then its nap time, Angel smiled. He carried her into the back room and tucked her in on the bed they kept in the back, for catching naps at odd hours and taking care of the demon-wounded. As she drifted off, Angel kissed her petal-soft cheek and returned to the shop to eat lunch before they reopened the store at Two.
Giles was sitting behind the counter eating his sandwich when Angel returned to the main part of the shop. "She's quite a handful," he said. "She finally going to rest?"
Angel nodded. "Yeah. So maybe we can get some work done while she's sleeping."
Wonderful, the Brit sighed. Ive been looking over the Oshar Chronicles looking for mention of that Poisonous drooling demon Willow and Oz came across last night. Willow said it was speaking in some archaic cross between demon and Arabic, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
"I dont speak Arabic, Angel reminded him. And I am not going to be the one left cleaning up because I dont speak a language. It was something that had happened far too often of late. Fortunately Angel had picked up a few new languages since he and Giles had begun working together.
Giles smiled at him tolerantly. "Then you can start looking in the Chronicon Compendium," he said.
Angel tried not to chuckle at Giles' tone. He sounded like he used to when he spoke to Buffy's friends - usually Xander - when they were all in high school. It was moments like this that they happily forgot that the age difference ran drastically in the other direction. Still, Angel may have had 250 plus years of experience just being in this world, but when it came to researching demons, Giles was definitely the elder.
Angel settled down with the Compendium and tried not to wonder what his son was doing on his first day of school. Or what Buffy was feeling on her first day without a child in the house while she worked.
Buffy sighed and stared at the blank computer screen in front of her. She just didn't seem to be getting anywhere. It wasn't like it was that hard to create fictional tales out of her own experiences. They sounded like fiction to most of the world, anyway. She just didn't know where to get started today.
She took a bite out of her sandwich, leaned back in her chair, and sighed. Usually, she'd practically have to fight to get a minute to herself to get her writing done. Today she had all the time in the world, and she just wasn't getting started. It was like she needed to only have bits and pieces of time to get things done.
Frustrated, Buffy began to pace the back room where she and her computer spent most of her days communing. Little thoughts kept intruding on her creative genius. The laundry that needed doing. The dishes that needed washing. Mira's dentist appointment. When was Mira's dentist appointment? Buffy returned to her chair and grabbed the monthly calendar she kept hanging by the computer. A week. Mira's appointment was next week.
The word week struck something in Buffy's brain. Was there something else? Something she had forgotten to write down? Staring down at the calendar, she realized that there were several days not marked that should have been. Probably late, the Slayer thought. It was only the beginning of the month. Flipping back a page, she was startled to find her usual markings not on any of the weeks previous either. It was odd, since she always kept careful track. She flipped back another page. There we go. Six days marked with circles instead of crossed off. It's been two months?
Buffy thought back for a moment. Two months... Would that have been right after our trip to Florida? She chuckled slightly to herself.
That evening, Angel pulled up to the Summers' Residence and turned off the car. "Let's go see how your brother and sister enjoyed the first day of school," he grinned, opening the door so Kathy could scramble out of the back seat. The little girl darted up to the door while Angel pulled the groceries he had picked up after work out of the back.
Kathy, tired of waiting for her dad with the groceries and the key, stretched as tall as she could to ring the doorbell. Coming up behind her, Angel could clearly hear the cacophony that resulted.
"Liam, stop that!" sounded through the doorway. Then, a second later, "Mira, could you please answer the door?"
Several moments later the door finally opened, cautiously at first as Mira peeked around the doorway to see who it was. Kathy gave her a brief "Hi!" of greeting before pushing past her and running into the house.
Angel followed behind her, laden down with bags. "Hey Mira, how was your first day?"
"Pretty good," his eldest daughter shrugged nonchalantly as she took the bag with the vegetables from him. It was obvious to him that there was something on her mind. "Elizabeth invited me to spend the night on Friday. Can I go, daddy?"
Angel smiled. "What did your mother say?"
Mira shifted uncomfortably on her feet. "Well..."
Buffy appeared in the living room. "I said that we'll talk about it, okay?" She and Angel shared a brief kiss, then Buffy took a couple of bags and led the way into the kitchen.
By the time Angel had put the groceries away, Buffy had dinner on the table and there were three hungry children drooling around it. "Are all hands clean?" he asked, looking around in mock suspicion. Six small hands were held up for inspection. For once they all passed. Even Liam, much to his father's pleasant surprise.
The first time Buffy had cooked for him, Angel had been more than a little dubious. But he had been amazed to find that she actually had a talent for it. Coming home to a good dinner with his family made Angel's sort-of normal life all that much more dreamlike, even if it did threaten his waistline at times. Tonight was no exception.
As usual, no one spoke much until firsts were finished. It was only when any needed seconds were served that family discussion ever began.
"So," Angel turned to his son. "How do you like school?"
That began the evening's babble-fest. "It was so great!" Liam started. "Mrs. Cooper is the coolest teacher in the world! And Toby says that he thinks..."
Angel glanced at Buffy, who was grinning from ear to ear. They took a second to share a smile as they listened.
"Sounds very exciting," Angel commented when his son stopped to breathe several minutes later. "So, who's up for dessert?"
"Me! Me!" Kathy raised her hand, in an imitation of students she had seen on a television show the day before. Liam was just as enthusiastic.
"What about Friday?" Mira asked in a slightly whining tone.
"If you aren't patient there won't be any discussion of Friday," Buffy warned.
"Yes, Mom," she sighed.
After Angel had served the ice cream he'd brought home, the kids scattered in various directions, leaving him alone with Buffy for the first time since they'd crawled out of bed that morning.
Cleaning the dishes from dinner, Angel was watching Buffy. She kept glancing at the three children, then Angel, and smiling slightly. Angel couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking, but couldn't think of how to ask her. So he went for small talk instead.
"How was your day?" he asked lightly.
Buffy grinned at him. "Quiet," was her first response.
"Well I knew that," Angel smiled back, slipping up behind her and wrapping his arms gently around her waist. "I think Giles will be glad to have things quiet tomorrow."
"Oh?" Buffy leaned back into his chest, putting the dish she was holding back down in the sink. "Too much excitement for him?"
"Too much tag," her husband laughed. "Kathy didn't want to take her nap. Pretty soon its going to take a track star to keep up with her."
"And you're not up to the task?" Buffy asked playfully, twisting her head to smirk up at him.
Angel grinned back. "I have enough trouble keeping up with her mother," he said.
Buffy laughed. "Well, that's what you get for marrying the Slayer."
Angel kissed her upturned lips briefly. "What can I say; I like strong women."
"Strong willed, strong stomached, or physically strong?" she asked, turning around in his arms.
"All of the above," Angel replied easily, his eyes shining with affection and amusement.
"Good to know," Buffy smiled cryptically, pulling out of his embrace and going back to washing the dishes. "Dry," she pointed at the pile of clean plates. "It wasn't a suggestion," she smirked when he hesitated.
Angel chuckled lightly. "Yes, ma'am," he said, grabbing a dish towel.
Buffy giggled. "Ma'am huh? Makes me sound like ah old westerny saloon entertainer, or a mom."
"Well you are a mom," Angel replied. "And I wouldn't mind seeing you in that old western get-up, with the low-cut necklines, and all that leg showing," he leaned over and nibbled on her ear.
Buffy gasped in surprise, then laughed. "Angel!" she admonished. "Stop it. The kids are in the next room." She turned and looked at him again. "And can you really picture me dressed like that? Do you remember what happened the last time I wore old fashioned clothing to impress you?"
Angel smiled back sincerely. "I love you no matter what you're wearing."
"Which is what keeps getting you into trouble," his petite wife replied glibly. "You seem to have a preference of clothing that is best summed up as nothing."
Angel chuckled. "Trouble, huh? Mmm, I like that sort of trouble."
Buffy turned slowly, and stood up on tiptoe so that she was nose to nose with her husband, who had a perfect view of her sparkling green eyes. "Thats good to know," she murmured huskily into his ear. "Because youre already in it." With a quick kiss on his nose, Buffy turned and left the room.
"Err, umm...." Angel replied, flustered. He ran after her, spun her around, and looked her in the eyes, a bit wary. "Exactly what sort of trouble are we talking about here?" he asked slowly, no longer sure if she was teasing him or not.
Buffy shrugged. "Just the usual."
"Buffy..." Angel whined, sounding for the world like one of their children.
The Slayer laughed, then sobered at the hurt look on her husbands face. "Guess," she teased him gently. "If you cant then Ill tell you. But I bet you can figure it out."
Angel let go of Buffy's arm and looked at her seriously. Well, it was obvious from her teasing that this wasn't a bad sort of trouble, but... "Aren't you even going to give me a hint?"
"Ive already given you several," his wife admonished. "You said you like the sort of trouble you keep getting into. Or rather, you keep getting me into, and youre in it again. That makes it fairly usual for this family." Her eyes danced with amusement as she waited for him to respond.
A long silence stretched between them. "You're pregnant?" Angel finally blurted, then felt silly for it. "I'm sorry, I mean..."
"Exactly what you just said," Buffy finished for him. "Or you wouldn't have said it."
Angel was completely flabbergasted. "You are?" he said in shock. "I mean, you are?!" And, grinning from ear to ear, he gave her a quick kiss before smiling at her again.
"Yes," Buffy giggled at the ecstatic look on her husband's face. "I am. AGAIN."
Before Angel had a chance to recover his tongue, a yell erupted from the next room. "Liam!" Mira was screaming. "Give that back!"
"Disaster control," Buffy sighed. "Mira! Liam! What's going on?" she called into the living room.
"Liam took my green marker and I need it!" Mira whined, coming through the doorway. "I have to draw photosyn...photosynthesis for school."
"Liam...." Buffy called warningly.
The boy of the family poked his head nervously around the door jam. "Yes Mommy?"
"Give Mira back her green marker, please?"
"But I'm drawing a dinosaur!" he protested quite loudly.
"Is it for school?" Angel asked.
"Well....no," Liam looked down at the carpet, avoiding his fathers eyes.
"Then you can finish it after Mira is done," Buffy told him. "Give back the marker and apologize."
Liam shuffled over to where Mira was standing. "Sorry, Mira," he said softly, holding out the green marker.
Mira took the marker, still obviously upset with him.
"What do you say?" Buffy eyed her eldest daughter.
"Apology accepted," Mira sighed.
Liam smiled and scampered out of the room, and Mira turned to follow.
"Mira," Buffy called her back.
The girl turned. "Yes, Mom?"
"If you do all of your homework on Friday afternoon, you can spend the night at your friends house."
Mira let out a whoop of joy and ran over to her mom. "Thanks!" she said happily, give both Buffy and Angel quick kisses on the cheek before running to work on her homework some more.
Angel laughed. "Well, that's one way to keep her motivated."
"And it gets one child out of our hair Friday night," Buffy grinned, leaning against his shoulder.
"But not the other two...three," Angel replied, slipping one arm tenderly around her waist.
"Maybe Mom wants to baby sit," the Slayer sighed wistfully.
"You were saying something about being in trouble?" Angel reminded her lightly.
Buffy smiled. "Mmm hmm. What about it?"
"Nothing, really," Angel said. "I just find it amusing that after that little family squabble you're still wanting to...be in that trouble again." Angel grinned. "And I'm making no sense at all, am I?"
"Sure you are," his wife smiled up at him. "All I could think about today was how lonely I was going to be when Kathy starts school and I didn't have them under my feet while I was trying to work. It was too quiet. Now I don't have to worry about that for a while."
Angel grinned happily. "So you're happy about this?"
Buffy smiled back. "Didn't I just say that?"
"Oh yeah." Angel did not release Buffy, but went to give her another kiss.
"Mommy?" they were interrupted. It was Kathy who stood in the doorway this time, making her presence known. "What's going on?"
Angel and Buffy shared a look. "What do you mean, sweetie?" Angel asked.
"What's Mommy happy about?" the little girl asked.
Buffy and Angel looked at each other, as if to say, do we tell her now? Instead, Buffy smiled and said, "Wait until Mira's done with her homework and I'll tell you all before bed, okay?"
"Okay," Kathy agreed reluctantly. "Promise to read the Puppy story tonight?"
Angel grinned. "I promise."
Kathy ran back out of the room. "Bedtime!" she squealed at her siblings as she vanished into the other room again.
"How do we do this?" Buffy asked him when they were alone, and Angel could tell what she was thinking, mostly because he was thinking the very same thing. It had been so long since theyd had to try and explain Liams impending arrival to Mira, and Liam didnt remember the birth of Kathy. Older children asked older questions too.
He finished drying the last dish and put it away. "I guess well just have to wing it, and be totally honest."
Buffy sighed. "I was afraid youd say that."
"And the fluffy puppy and his friend the silly duck lived happily ever after. The End." Angel put down the book, and shifted Kathy in his lap. "And now its bedtime." He sat in the rocking chair in the corner of the room that the girls shared. Mira and Liam were perched on her bed. Liam had been intent on the trials of the puppy and the duck, while Mira had pretended to be disinterested... and failed. Buffy stood in the doorway, smiling peacefully.
"Tell the secret!" Kathy replied, refusing to budge.
"What secret?" Mira looked up suddenly at her father. She hated not knowing everything that was going on.
Angel looked at Buffy, who was grinning at him. Oh no! He was not going to be the one to explain this, and he made it clear in his expression. Buffy chuckled and nodded, sitting down on the bed between Liam and Mira. "Well, your father and I have some good news for Mira."
"What?" their eldest daughter asked, sitting up eagerly. Angel knew she was hoping for a new bike, but that was a surprise that she wouldnt get until Christmas, and that was fairly far off yet.
Buffy seemed to know what Mira was thinking too, and smiled. "Your birthday wish is coming true."
Liam and Kathy looked confused, but Miras eyes were as big around as tea cups. "Really?"
"Really," Angel replied, chuckling. Then he looked down into Kathys lost expression. "Confused, pumpkin?"
"What was Miras wish?" Liam asked, bouncing up and down impatiently on the bed.
"Stop bouncing," Buffy scolded. "Youre going to have another brother or sister."
Liam stopped. "A baby?"
Angel nodded. "Thats right."
Liams face screwed up in a funny expression that meant he was thinking really hard. "Mommy.... Where do you get babies?"
Angel had a bad feeling about what was coming next.
Buffy smiled sweetly. "Why dont you ask Daddy while he puts you to bed?"