Chance burst through the kitchen door and hid behind it. Head bopping to the beat of her favorite song, she slung off her overnight bag, snapped a band out of her hair, re-tied one of her knotty pigtails, checked her Happy Bunny watch, rolled her eyes and waited, absently twirling her practice drumsticks.
When the rotten egg trailing her finally caught up, she pounced, knocking him face-first to the granite floor. "That was pathetic!"
"Cha-ance!" He wheezed. "Get off of me! You're hurting my neck!"
"'Waaah, you're hurting my neck!' Quit being such a baby or I'll tell Staaaceeey!"
"Shut up, I don't like her! She's tall and stupid!"
"And you're a tiny nerd. It's perfect!"
"You don't know anything!" He struggled futilely beneath her. "You and all your hare-brained friends are morons!"
"Least I have friends." She drummed a double paradiddle on his head and turned it into a song. "I have friends and you do not. I have friends and you do not. All your friends are on the in-ter-net. And they're old! So they don't count!"
"Get off of me, you... fatass!"
She gasped. "You know all those big words and that's the best you could come up with?"
"I try to use words you can understand. Fatass fatass fatass!"
"Nerd nerdy nerd nerd nerd nerd NERD!"
"Tapioca pudding, raspberry syrup and... a noose. Yeah, I'll see what I can do, babe." Xander closed his cell phone and paused at the door. "Hey, hey, ease up on Peanut."
"My name is not--"
"Sorry, Ian. My bad. Chance, nobody likes a bully."
"Who's bullying?" She grinned winsomely, braces glinting in the sunshine. "We're just playing around. Right, Peanut?"
She scoffed. "Traitor."
"All right, come on. His face is turning purple."
With a 'you're no fun' sigh, she stood up and let her brother go.
"You almost broke my glasses!"
"Good! They make you look like a geek!" She ducked as he threw his worn copy of The War of the Worlds. "Oo-ooh, he threw a whole book at me! That's like, at least an ounce!"
"I hope you die!" He stormed away to his room.
"I hope you grow!"
The slam of his door reverberated throughout the house.
"Fucking hell," Spike said through grit teeth, "they're bloody back already?"
"Didn't I say?" Buffy bounced faster and said, breathless, "Hurry up and come."
He sneered. "Make me."
"Oh, but that would be so easy," she teased.
"Think so, do you?"
"Know so." With a minxy smile, she slid her hands up her torso and pushed her breasts together. "Month seven. Porn tits."
That made him laugh, but it also made his cock throb. She knew him so well.
"Month eight?" Hips churning, interior muscles clenching, she tongued one of her nipples, then bent forward to tease it over his mouth. "Alll the milk you can drink."
He tried to catch it, but she pulled away and whipped her head up and around. Her hair stung his face.
"Month nine." She moved from one ear to the other as she whispered so seductively that the word sounded obscene, "Fecund. Fecund. Fecund."
With a tormented squeak, he jerked at his manacles.
"Wanna live to see all that?" She tightened the lace around his neck until he choked, then licked her lips and said, "Come in me."
"Oh, god I fucking love you...!"
"I'll go tell Mom and Dad we're--" Chance froze and shuddered, face screwed in disgust. "Oh! Ew! Ew! Ew!"
"What? What is it?"
"Can you believe those two? God!"
"Believe what? Where?"
She shouted at the ceiling, "We're back and we can hear you up there! Stop doing it!" She looked at Xander. "Surprise, my folks are at it like rabbits -- again! It's not normal, you know. I checked around."
"Rabbits, huh?" Did she know how fitting that description was? "Guess I'm lucky hearing dulls with age."
Wincing, she stuck her drumsticks in her ears. "Okay, you had to have heard that. It was deafening!" She sang out, "And GROSS!"
All Xander heard was silence, then some creaking, followed by waterflow in the pipes. "Again, no complaints."
"You really didn't hear that? Maybe it's just me." Wedging the sticks into her back pocket and raiding the fridge, she tossed him a bottle of Crystal Springs and opened a zip-loc of baby carrots. "My ears have been kinda wonky for a few days now. Ever since my birthday party."
"You mean ever since the night you wore out your new drumkit while my son rocked out on the same three non-chords at full volume? Can't see how that could affect your hearing."
"Go on, make fun. But by junior year, Jesse's gonna rip on guitar and Fighting Chance is gonna play the Bronze." She flashed him a pair of devil-horn fingers.
"Sure, as long as you don't both go deaf before the big show."
"Except I can hear better than ever. Like, last night, I could hear the dog breathing in the yard. From the guest room. And then I heard you and Anya figh- Talking."
Xander choked on his water, and quickly recovered. "That's okay, we fightalk a lot."
"I swear I wasn't eavesdropping -- I just couldn't turn your voices off. It was like you were right there next to me." She munched on a carrot. "What's up with that teacher, anyway? The twins aren't short bus, they're just quirky. And six."
"I know, right? They're -- Wait." He pointed at her. "That was a whisper-fightalk. With the shower running."
"Told you. Wonky."
If she could hear that... Did they talk about her history the night before? About demons, vampires, slayers... bunny rabbits? "Just... out of curiosity... What else did you hear?"
"Not much. It comes and goes. Oh, the other day at track practice Grant Lorman called me a dumb see-you-en-tee, only he didn't spell it, and I heard it all the way across the field." She concluded proudly, "So I jumped over seven hurdles in like, two seconds and beat the snot out of him."
"I see you're upholding the family tradition." He winked at Buffy, who was coming down the steps, freshened up and casually dressed.
"Who'd she beat up this time?" Buffy said as she entered the kitchen, "It better not be Peanut."
"Don't get mad when you're the one who taught me how." Chance straightened out her Summers Self-Defense for Girls baby tee for emphasis.
"For self-defense," Buffy said, underlining the words. "Not for pummeling innocent children."
"Innocent? Ha! Grant Lorman is the meanest boy at school."
"Oh-hoh," Buffy drew out meaningfully. "That family tradition."
"Ew! I don't like him or anything! He's totally gross."
"Oh, sweetie." She pet her daughter's head. Chance was nearly her height and was developing faster than she had. With her robust, athletic frame, she was already looking older than her actual age. Spike was going to go berserk when he finally noticed. "That's how it starts."
"Hey, just because you met Dad by kicking his butt at judo or whatever doesn't mean the rest of us are aggro freaks."
"Kendo," Buffy said. "With the wooden sticks? And we're not... aggro freaks, we're your loving parents."
"Yeah. Could you try not to love so loud? I still feel a little sick. Uncle Xan does too."
"Didn't hear a thing," Xander said, pleading Innocent Bystander.
Buffy blinked, unsure of how to proceed. "Is that what you thought? No, honey, we were just sparring."
"Mom?" Chance leveled with her. "I stopped buying that when I was seven."
Face frozen, Buffy stared at her daughter, then at Xander.
Xander's phone made a whipcrack sound. "Saved by the ball and chain." He opened it. "Best timing ever. Yes, An, I'm on my-- Garlic cloves and vinegar? For what? ...Of course." He glanced at them and explained, "The twins are baking a cake."
"There's my beautiful little brat!" Spike made a beeline for Chance, arms open wide. "Give your old Pop a snuggle."
"Don't come any closer," Chance warned, backing up and forming a cross with two baby carrots. "I mean it!"
"Yeah, that never did work on me. Right, Harris?" He grabbed her wrist, crunched into one of the carrots and pulled her up into a stifling hug.
Xander, who'd come off the phone, covered his mouth and asked Buffy furtively, "Are we talking about that now?"
"No, Spike's just an idiot." They'd agreed to tell her everything when she turned twelve. And then twelve became thirteen, and thirteen became fourteen... "I'm thinking sixteen. Or thirty-five. Whatever comes second."
"Mom!" Chance recoiled from the kisses Spike was relentlessly planting all over her face. "Dad's embarrassing me again!"
"Join the club, sweetie," Buffy breezed, unconcerned. "Is Peanut in his room?"
"He's always in his room," Chance said, "Sulking. Or worse, reading."
"Pffft. Reading," Spike commiserated, then compared his mouthful of minced carrot to Chance's.
"I just couldn't be more proud right now," Buffy told Xander with a sarcastic grin.
The whip cracked again. "Gotta run, kids. See you at two?"
"Uh-huh," Buffy said and kissed his cheek. "Thanks again."
"Yeah, thanks mate," Spike said, trading stunt blows with Chance. "I owe you one."
"Hold on, hold on." He pressed record on his phone, pointed it Spike's way and covered his ear as if they were in a studio. "A little louder?"
"And that, my friends, is my new Spike ring tone." He played it back, saluted and took his leave. "Later, turkeys."
"See ya Uncle Xan!" Chance said, and then, "Hyah!"
Spike staggered dramatically across the kitchen in reaction to a stage kick, and Buffy smiled. How could she second-guess their decision to have another child when he so clearly lived for this? In every way?
Chance bounded over to him and pretended to double-punch him in the gut, then elbowed him in the back with a, "Huuh!"
He sagged to his knees and crumpled to the floor. "Ohhggghh... You got me."
Fists in the air, Chance jumped up and down like a prize fighter. "Mess with the best, get punk-slapped like the rest!"
"She really is a little you," Spike observed from his vantage point on the floor. "Bloody awful puns and all."
"Hey!" Buffy and Chance said together, "Okay, first of all--"
Mirrored fingers in the air, they looked at each other.
"I rest my case. And speaking of chips off the old block," he stood upright, dusted himself off and called out, "Where's my boy genius?"
"Bwah," Buffy and Chance laughed in harmony. "Hahahahaha."
"Nasty little hens." He strutted up to his wife. "I'll have you know I'm a bit more than just a pretty face."
"You're right." She pinched and patted his cheek. "You're also a delusional narcissist in dire need of a shave."
He yanked her close. "I don't know what you just said but by god it made me hot."
"Hello?" Chance interjected, appalled. "Not in front of the children?"
"Sorry, Bunny." He sighed, gazing at Buffy's smiling lips. "Your Mum just looks so beautiful this morning."
"Whatever." She made for the steps. "You guys are acting so weird. Weird even for you."
Buffy gave him guilt eyes, and he freed his hold on her lower back. "I'll go round Ian up."
"I'll go," Buffy said. "He needs--"
"He doesn't need your mollycoddling. Trust me."
"Yeah, you know he threw a book at me?" Chance said. "Like, hard! It almost hurt."
"And you did nothing to deserve it, I'm sure," Spike said, sardonic.
"Nothing at all! I mean, I mighta sat on his neck and played his head like a tom." Off of their looks, she said, "What? He's a little runt with a girlie voice. Someone's gotta toughen him up."
As the fruit of their loins hopped up the staircase, Buffy sighed. "So she's evil after all."
Spike put a comforting arm around her and said, "Rotten to the bloody core."