By Dee Bradfield

e-qui·nox n. [L. æquus, equal, and nox, night.]
Either of the two occasions during a year when the sun crosses the equator, making the day and night everywhere of equal length.

SUMMARY: Life in the Grey household takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of a new Slayer.
TIMELINE: Set five years after True Colors. (It's not vitally important that you've read the Linkverse Trilogy first, but it helps!)
DISCLAIMER: The usual claptrap.
DEDICATION: For everyone who asked.



The last person Lydia Sherwood expected to answer her knock at the door was a bright-eyed, fair-haired imp of a child who looked barely tall enough to reach the handle.

"Oh, hello," she said, taken aback. "Are, um, are your m-mother or your father at home?"

The boy stared at her for a long moment, before he opened his mouth and yelled, "Spike!" at the top of his lungs.

Another child materialized at his shoulder. This one, though of equal height, was as dark as the first was fair. "Whoosit?" he whispered.

"Dunno," the other hissed back. "Go get Spike, 'kay?"

He had still not dropped his gaze from Lydia's face. Such piercing scrutiny was disconcerting coming from one so young and she began to feel uncomfortable. Fighting the undignified urge to fidget, she gave him a tentative smile instead.

Save for the arching of one finely etched brow, his expression didn't alter in the slightest. "Butt's just gonna get my Dad," he told her.

Lydia's polite smile crumpled into an involuntary grimace.

'Spike'? 'Butt'? Just what class of people was this Slayer associating with? They sounded like a group of ruffians. Although, when one thought about it, 'Buffy' wasn't really the most prosaic of names either…

There was a muffled noise from behind the tiny sentry and when her eyes rose to meet the source, her knees almost gave out.

Oh… my…

He was the most glorious specimen of manhood she had ever laid eyes on, graceful and lean of limb in a long-sleeved grey shirt that clung to his well-defined muscles and black dress pants over incongruously bare feet. White gold curls formed a halo above his angelic face, with its scimitar sharp cheekbones and beautifully carved lower lip, and there was a soft inquiring light behind eyes the color of faded denim.

"Can I help you, love?"

She ducked her head, trying to compose herself as his voice sent shivers down her spine. It was smoother than the finest caramel, but just as rich and quite unmistakably British as well. Help me, oh please help me!

Lydia looked back up to answer, but halfway there she met the curious gaze of the child who had answered the door. His eyes were the same shade as… Oh! Now that she was taking better notice it was quite obvious that the boy was a miniaturized version of the man, the picture perfect son.

"She don't say much, huh?" the boy asked, tipping his head back to seek confirmation from his father.

The gorgeous man frowned at her, even as one large square hand came up to rest reassuringly amid the golden tumble of the boy's hair. "Go out back and play with Butt," he said.

"Don't wanna."

That earned him a reproachful look. "Mind me, Nip!"

The child scowled, but obeyed without any further argument, even if he did drag his feet the entire length of the hallway. He was met by the little dark-haired chap and they both stood whispering conspiracies for a moment before finally disappearing through the door.

'Nip', Lydia mused silently. Did anyone in this household answer to a normal name? She plastered the polite smile on a little more firmly, mustering together enough courage to meet that heart-stopping gaze.

"Sorry to impose upon your time, but I was wondering if this was the Summers residence?"

Faded blue turned guarded. "Not anymore."

"Buffy Summers is no longer living here?"

"Didn't say that."

Lydia nibbled at her lower lip. Really, this man was being entirely too evasive for her liking. Something wasn't adding up. "I'm sorry, Mr. -?"

"Grey," the blonde man supplied, sticking his hand out abruptly, as though he had been prompted in some invisible way. "Liam Grey."

Liam, Lydia delighted as he pressed his callused palm against hers, the name bringing to mind a certain British bad boy rocker. Was this one a bad boy too? One could only dream…

His next words dashed those dreams to smithereens.

"Buffy's my wife."

His wife? Now here was a fine kettle of fish. The Slayer was married and, if one processed the given information logically, a mother as well. Why hadn't the Council known about this?

The scrumptious Mr. Grey had apparently decided to take pity on her and motioned her forward. "You wanna come in?"

"Yes, thank you."

She trailed after him into the living room, absently noting that the view from the back was as enticing as the front, and perched on the very edge of the shabby green armchair she was offered. He sprawled in a decorative heap on the sofa across from her and gestured around the room with a dismissive air. "'Scuse the mess."

Lydia hadn't noticed any mess, but now that he mentioned it, there were boxes and toys strewn about in careless abandon, their colorful presence broken here and there by wads of torn wrapping paper.

She glanced up to take in the festive strings of homemade streamers, clusters of balloons and the large printed banner tacked along one wall. There was apparently some sort of party underway, a birthday no less, and she felt mortified at having intruded at such an inopportune time.

"Oh dear, you're having a social function! Perhaps it would be better if I..."

Mr. Grey snorted in the most inelegant way. "What's one more amid the rabble?" he asked. "You came to chat something out, so let's... chat."

The last word was punctuated with a wag of his brows and an enchantingly crooked little smile that knocked the air from her lungs. She'd just recovered her nerve for the second time and was set to plunge into her prepared spiel, when all his attention converged on a point beyond her left shoulder.

"Hey there, sunshine!" he saluted cheerfully. "Got ourselves a visitor of the non-Scooby variety."

"And aren't you just loving it?"

The young woman that the voice belonged to edged into Lydia's peripheral vision as she spoke, and then crossed to join the man on the sofa. Once seated, she too stuck out a hand in friendly greeting. "Hi. Buffy Grey."

Lydia had seen photographs, of course, but she hadn't been prepared for just how tiny this woman was. At twenty-six, the oldest Slayer in recorded history was small and slim and quite stunningly beautiful, with cascades of honey colored hair and enormous green eyes that gleamed with an indomitable inner spirit. She was regarding Lydia now with frank appraisal, taking in the tightly wound bun, the unflattering glasses and sensible business attire.

She suddenly withdrew her proffered hand. "You're from the Council."

Her husband tensed at this, priming himself for attack in a cold, reflexive manner that was not unlike a coiled snake, those incendiary blue eyes going flat and hostile.

Buffy barely glanced at him, but something in the brief flicker of her gaze caused him to back down slightly. She murmured one word in low caution, "Spike..."

Spike. Spike? All the pieces fell into place. Oh dear Lord, why had she not recognized the name sooner?

As inconceivable a notion as it was, as incredible, it seemed that she was sitting adjacent from one of the most infamous vampires ever to walk the planet: William the Bloody, Scourge of Europe, Slayer of Slayers. Except, he'd apparently married this one... and somehow managed to father a child? What on earth had she stumbled across here?

After an awkward pause, she cleared her throat. "Um, yes. Indeed, how very perceptive. My name is Lydia Sherwood. I have a proposition for you."

"Please tell me it has nothing to do with the new Slayer." Buffy's hands twisted into a white-knuckled knot on her lap.

Spike reached out and clasped one hand over both of hers, a comforting gesture that Lydia couldn't help but envy. "We've not quite grieved proper for the last one," he confided.

Lydia belatedly recalled that her charge's unfortunate predecessor had worked side by side with this girl a number of times, and had in fact been killed while in the employ of her former beau. Yet another vampire.

"Ah, yes. Faith." Lydia smoothed an errant strand of hair back behind her ear with nervous fingers, uncertain of how to proceed. "Faith was..."

"Yeah, Faith was." Buffy echoed dully. "Let's just move on, huh?"

After one final squeeze, Spike released his hold on her hands and slumped back against the sofa cushions. "So," he said archly, "You Watchers sending in some fresh meat then?" The tip of his tongue prodded suggestively at one of his incisors.

Lydia was shocked by the implication. Her eyes darted to Buffy's neck, widening when she noticed the over-lapping scars of at least two vampire bites. "Certainly not!" she protested, reaching for the simple gold cross hanging around her throat in a curiously old-fashioned gesture. "My Slayer is nothing of the kind!"

"Your Slayer?" Buffy asked, frowning distractedly in the direction of the dining room. "That's kinda big with the possessive, isn't it? Doesn't she have a proper name?"

Spike followed her gaze, his own brows dipping in concentration. Seconds later, a crash was heard coming from that very room.

"Nip!" he bellowed without warning, causing Lydia to jump.

The little boy appeared at the doorway in a flash. "What?" he shot back defensively. "Wasn't doin' nothing." He hesitated for a beat, and then blurted, "Butt did it!"

The blonde vampire pursed his lips. "Hey now, what've I told you 'bout fibbing?"

Nip sighed. "'Don't lie unless you can do it convincingly'," he recited.

Buffy gasped in horror. "Spike! What are you teaching him?" She looked sternly at the lad. "You will always be honest with us, Seth Grey. Are you understanding me?"

"Yeah." He shuffled from one foot to the other, hands shoved into the back pockets of his jeans. "Butt broke one of Grandma Joyce's fancy old thingies," he disclosed.

"Butt did? Really?" Buffy gave Lydia an apologetic glance. "I'll be right back."

She hesitated for a moment on standing, palms rubbing nervously at her jean-clad thighs, as though wanting to say something further,. Surprisingly, Spike nodded as though she actually had. Buffy smiled cordially, and shooed her son back into the dining room.

In the odd, uncomfortably silent void that came next, Lydia turned back to the vampire of the house, only to find him watching her with a contemplative expression.

Her curiosity finally got the better of her. "Your son has a playmate named Butt?"

Spike chuckled, genuinely amused by the question. "Friend of the family's kid. Buck Harris. Nip couldn't get it said straight when he was a toddler an' even when he finally did, the other handle had already stuck."

"I see," Lydia murmured, though she didn't at all. Nothing here was what it appeared on the surface. And who in their right mind would even call their child 'Buck' in the first place?

Buffy suddenly rushed back into the room. "Spike, you take care of it," she ordered in exasperation. "I swear that kid is so much like you sometimes I just wanna… Grr! Aargh!" This last was accompanied by the mock strangling of an invisible victim.

Spike didn't so much rise from the sofa as flow upward in an impressively effortless flex of muscle. He gave Lydia a wink. "Give us a sec, pet."

Lydia watched with dreamy eyes as he exited, only to startle with guilt when the Slayer intercepted her trailing gaze.

"Bet that's a first," the young woman remarked, folding her arms across her chest. "A Watcher making goo-goo eyes at a vamp. My vamp."

"I'm sorry," Lydia said, wondering if she hadn't reached her quota on that particular phrase today. "I'm just…"

"Checking out my husband's ass?"

Lydia blushed. "Finding myself somewhat at a loss," she confessed. "He's really rather... human, isn't he?"

"He is human," Buffy stated. "For all intents and purposes anyway. Fully functioning. Hence the cute little mini-me clone in the other room." She shrugged. "Spike's vampire parts are just kinda like... a special edition feature."

Lydia blinked at her, nonplussed.

"Look," Buffy continued. "I know that you Council types have been out of the loop for a while now, so I'm gonna cut you a break on the whole not-knowing-what-the-hell-is-going-on thing, but I will tell you this. I have no interest whatsoever in rejoining your stuffy little regime, so you can just forget it."

Lydia blinked again. "I don't really…"

"Crap," Buffy said succinctly. "Let me fill in the blanks here. The new Slayer is kinda green, am I right? Kinda new to the slayage? And you guys want me to pick up her slack."

"No, that's not it at all. She's perfectly capable of taking care of herself. It's just that the Council Academics have uncovered a pro-"

Buffy jabbed a finger at her. "Say 'prophecy' and I'll kick your ass."

"A portent, then," Lydia continued primly. "An omen."

Spike returned right when Buffy looked ready to pop her one.

"Butt says to tell you sorry," he reported, slouching against the doorframe. "Not that he should. I've wanted to smash that African totem doohickey for years." He ignored the Slayer's outraged look. "I sent 'em both outside so that the whelp and his missus can keep tabs."

Buffy just went on glaring at him, hands on hips. "Mom loved that African doohickey!"

"And now she can have it with her in that great big recycling depot in the sky," he returned. "C'mon, Buff, it was uglier than Peaches." He waggled a finger at her. "You know, come to think of it, the damned thing bore an uncanny resemblance to me old Sire. That whole brooding block of wood mystique. No wonder it always struck me funny."

The Slayer wrinkled her nose in a way that should have been unattractive but wasn't. Her mouth compressed into a firm line, and she stormed over and got right up into his face, her narrowed eyes locked onto his.

He stared right back; his own face impassive but for the demonic sparks of yellow that burst to life in his eyes. His nostrils flared and a low, animalistic growl rumbled up in his throat.

Lydiafound herself gawking at them in a terribly undignified fashion. It was as though they were speaking without words, she realized with shock, communicating via some kind of telepathic bond. There were no means to adequately explain this in her report; she really should be taking notes. Her fingers twitched, craving her favorite fountain pen.

Spike pushed off from the doorframe, but instead of attacking, he merely stood toe-to-toe with the Slayer, arms hanging loosely by his sides, presenting an open target. He angled his chin; his upper lip pulling back in a sneer that exposed the sharp points of his fangs and the serpentine tongue curling behind. Astonishingly, he had not yet made the full transition into his vampiric form.

With only an inch of space between the two now, the air around them changed, taking on a different sort of tension altogether.

Buffy's breathing quickened, her lips parting as she pressed both palms flat against his chest, kneading at the material of his shirt like a cat. She let out a crackling little purr that only reinforced the image.

Spike's hands slid up over her hips, fingers clutching convulsively, tugging her closer. He growled again, raw and hungry.

Lydia squirmed in her chair; disturbed on a level she couldn't even begin to fathom. She tugged at the collar of her blouse. Was it hot in here?

Just as the Slayer's head lolled back, golden hair spilling to her waist as she bared her throat to the vampire in total submission, a new voice broke in.

"Oh, for crying out loud!"

A tall chap with shaggy dark hair stood inside the kitchen doorway. He gestured at the couple with the hotdog in his hand. "Do you guys have to do that where people can see you? It's embarrassing."

Spike shuddered as he pulled away from the Slayer, as though the separation pained him, but recovered quickly enough to flip a two-fingered salute at the latest arrival.

"Stuff it, monkey boy," he retorted. "You're just jealous."

"Darn tootin'," the other man replied with good grace, biting into the hotdog. "So," he continued around the mouthful. "Who's the chic chick?"

Buffy sighed, glancing back at him over her shoulder. "Xander Harris, meet Lydia Sherwood."

He grinned infectiously and stuck out a hand, only to pull it back when he realized that he had mustard smeared on his fingers. He wiped it off on his pants leg. "Sorry."

"She's a Watcher," Spike filled in. "Surprised all that tweed didn't give her away."

"Oh." Xander's ready grin faltered. He swallowed. "That can't be of the good."

"We're thinking no," Buffy agreed.

"Pardon me!" Lydia snapped. "But I am still in the room!"

"O-o-o-h!" Xander crooned in appreciation. "She sounded like Giles just then, all snarky and British. Definitely a Watcher." He nodded sagely and shoveled the remainder of his hotdog into his mouth.

Spike grimaced at the gluttonous display, shaking his head. "And you lot still get squeamish when I have my daily dose of the red stuff. Can't figure the difference."

"At least he didn't blow bubbles in it through a curly straw," Buffy said, leaning her back against his chest and settling in with a little hip wiggle.

"Do something one time and it keeps comin' back to haunt you," the vampire muttered, looping his arms around her waist. He tipped his chin at Xander. "Aren't you supposed to be keeping tabs on the terrible twosome?"

"Anya's on it," Xander said. "And if she gets sidetracked, Willow and Tara are still out there."

"Uh huh." A beat and then Buffy's eyes widened in apprehension. "They're not… showing them any spells, are they?"

Xander looked troubled. "I hope not. Not after last time."

"Still finding feathers about the place," Spike commented, nestling contentedly against Buffy's hair. "Never seen a bird that big before. Not even that great yellow Muppety one on the telly."

"Oh man, you're telling me," Xander seconded. "That thing was seriously scary. I mean, it had teeth. What kind of bird has teeth?"

"The mutant monstery kind?" Buffy suggested.

Spike grinned. "Got to admit though, usin' birdseed to grow the bugger was a stroke of pure bloody genius on Nipper's part."

"I'll admit to a definite maybe," Xander conceded. "But only prior to the egg-hatching incident, for which all credit goes to the big Buckaroo."

"Yeah, hey, I almost forgot about that part. With the…" Buffy made an abstractedly violent hand gesture. "Squish! And then with the..." Several further, even more vicious movements. "Ugh! Major EWW!" Spike was barely managing to choke back his laughter and she slapped at the forearm banded around her waist. "Shut up! We don't have a good track record when it comes to eggs. Eggs are evil."

"The evilest," Xander emphasized, and made a face. "I hate eggs. Mere words cannot express the extent of my hatred."

Lydia was enthralled by the conversation. The way they all took such bizarre events in their stride was astonishing. She needed to know more. "Excuse me, what manner of spell was this?"

They all stared at her, having forgotten by this point that she was even in the room. How nice that she was so easily dismissed.

"Uh," Buffy floundered for a response that didn't incriminate any of them. "It was a - a…"

"Bird spell," Spike provided smoothly. "Whatever else?"

Lydia was unconvinced. She straightened her glasses and took a deep breath. "So, am I permitted to convey the reason for my presence yet?"

"No." Buffy and Spike spoke in unison.

"Reckon it's best to wait for the main event to arrive," the vampire finished.

"The main event?"

"Poppy G!"

The delighted squeal was accompanied by what sounded like hundreds of tiny footfalls as Nip and Butt charged at, then through, the front door, almost falling over each other in their haste.

"And the G-man makes an entrance," Xander observed with a wry amusement.

"The main event," Spike repeated meaningfully.

A slender, redheaded woman had followed the two youngsters indoors. "It's kinda creepy how they just know when he's here," she remarked, then blinked wide green eyes at Lydia. "Oh. There's someone…" She made a scrunchy face that might have been a smile and peered anxiously around at the others, awaiting an explanation.

"Willow Rosenberg-Maclay, Lydia Sherwood of the Watcher's Council." Buffy waved an apathetic hand back and forth between the two and then sighed. "You know, I'm getting kinda bored with the whole introduction thing," she declared. "Just spread the word among yourselves from now on." She hesitated for a moment, brow furrowing. "Or not." She looked at Xander. "Do we tell Ahn?"

He appeared to think twice, maybe even thrice before answering. "Good question. Last time they were mentioned she almost had conniptions. And right now, in the state she's in…? I dunno." He spread his hands in appeal to the others. "The Xander-booth is open for suggestions."

"I vote 'yea'," Willow said, still casting suspicious glances at the gatecrasher in their midst.

"Double that," Spike concurred. "Keep it secret and she's likely to pop when the truth finally comes out in the wash."

"Ixnay on the Anya-popping-vay," Buffy hissed suddenly, her hands making frantic shushing motions.

The reason for her alarm, though not her mutilated pidgin, became apparent when a very pregnant woman lumbered into the room. She regarded them with something like disgust, russet strands of hair curling around her sharp-featured face, cheeks flushed and whiskey-colored eyes over-bright as if with fever.

"You could have told me you were all in the house," she complained. "I was roasting like a pig on a spit out there and not just because of my close proximity to the barbecue." She came to a dead stop in the centre of the room and just out-and-out stared at Lydia. "Why is there a Council person sitting in Spike's chair?"

Xander gaped. "How did you -? I mean, oh my God, she's with the Council?" He widened his eyes in a vain attempt to appear horrified by the revelation.

Spike snorted. "Oh, that's marvelously convincing."

"Oscar material," Buffy confirmed, deadpan.

"No it isn't. Xander couldn't lie if his life depended on it. Which it does, believe me." Anya advanced on Lydia. "Who are you, why are you here, and why is Xander trying to lie about it?"

"I – I… Er, th-that is…" Lydia could do little but hem and haw in the face of the onslaught. Who was this relentless harpy?

"What's wrong with her?" Anya's gaze turned appraising. "Is she broken?" She poked inquisitively at the Watcher's cheek. "She's not another robot is she?"

"I am most definitely not!"

Lydia recoiled, herhorror completely genuine, but then paused as the other woman's words registered. "I - Uh… I beg your pardon, did you say another robot?"

Anya scoffed. "See, she's asking questions about us already. You just watch, they'll have us locked up and tortured for information before you can blink. They hate demons, you know. It doesn't matter if you've been a useful member of society for years and years, all they care about is how many men you eviscerated way back when and how they really were innocent and how they didn't deserve it, blah-de-blah-de-blah." She glared at Lydia. "They all deserved what they got and I don't feel bad about it. Write that in your little report."

Right, that's quite enough of this sort of behavior. You're a Watcher, Lydia Sherwood, these people should be treating you with the utmost respect.

"Oh do shut up, you horrid woman," she said icily. "What makes you think that the Council would be interested in you in the slightest? Who are you?"


Lydia sat ramrod straight, still in shock from the completely unprovoked attack. Her glasses were askew, her hair disheveled, tufts of it sticking out like stalks of wheat from its customary confinement. How a woman so heavy with child had moved that swiftly remained beyond her comprehension. It had taken both Spike and Xander to drag her away.

Willow smiled at her self-consciously from her spot on the sofa. "Not to keep repeating myself, but we are really sorry about that," she said. "Anya gets kinda paranoid when she's near her due date." She munched pensively on the sole pretzel she'd selected from a dish on the coffee table and avoided Lydia's gaze.

The fair-haired woman at her side picked up the conversation.

"Um, yeah. Like, when she was getting close with Buck? She locked Xander out of their apartment for a week 'cause she thought he was cheating. S-so don't take it personally."

Tara Rosenberg-Maclay was a softly spoken, unassuming girl. On first meeting, Lydia had supposed from her name that she was Willow's sister. They'd soon cleared up that particular misconception, informing her that they were powerful witches who considered themselves just as married as the other couples in the group and had the photographs to prove it.

Not that those other couples were the most conventional pairings either.

A Slayer and a vampire she could almost understand. Being so close in their origins a certain degree of affinity was plausible, however misguided. But a human and a thousand-year-old vengeance demon, even one "of the 'ex' variety" as Buffy had phrased it, well... that just defied logic. Especially Watcher logic. It had been drilled into her for years, over and over - people did not mix with demons, it simply wasn't done.

She fussed with the portfolio that she'd brought along, trying to regain some of the sense of purpose she'd originally had in coming to this madhouse on Revello Drive. She was reluctant to raise the topic now, unsure as to the response she would get, especially from Buffy. The Slayer had grown very agitated and was currently circling the periphery of the room like a shark, just waiting for the scent of fresh blood to dive in for the kill.

When a more mature gentleman finally strolled into the room, Lydia found the lack of fanfare at his arrival almost anti-climactic, just a feeble, "Hey, P.G." from Willow.

He nodded to the witches and then settled into the armchair next to Lydia's; the much nicer one that was considerably less battered and wasn't the least bit redolent of stale cigarette smoke.

This, she surmised, was the notorious 'Poppy G' that the children had been so excited about, the so-called 'main event'? How disappointing.

But then he smiled at her. A smile as devastatingly charismatic as the vampire's had been. "Hello there," he greeted in a beautifully cultured baritone. "You must be Lydia. I'm Rupert Giles, Buffy's Watcher. I believe you have a proposition for my Slayer."

Rupert. How delectably mundane. She stared breathlessly into his blue-grey eyes, lost for words. "I do?"

His smile widened, deepened, found purchase in that otherwise steely gaze. "It's perfectly understandable that you're shaken by what has transpired. Anya can be rather… uninhibited on occasion. But we Watchers are nothing if not stoic." He leant over and gave her an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "So, stiff upper lip my dear, and on with the exposition."

"No." Buffy had stopped her incessant prowling to stand in front of the fireplace, her back to the room. She reached up to adjust the position of a pair of fairy statuettes on the mantle, her hand lingering a moment to trace the familiar features of the masculine one. "We have to wait until Spike's here."

Giles peered at her. "There is no need to…"

Buffy whirled. "We. Wait." Her tone brooked no discussion.

Lydia tried not to gape at her insolence. Slayers did not talk to their Watchers this way; they took orders, they did not give them. Her jaw dropped despite her attempts to restrain it when Mr. Giles simply nodded in acquiescence.

"If you think it best." He glanced at Lydia, seeming to read her thoughts with alarming clarity. "You will learn that being their Watcher comes secondary to being their friend," he said.

"God Giles, 'friend'?" Buffy questioned. "That doesn't... It's not even..." She turned to Lydia. "Giles is the nearest thing to a father I've ever had. Only better. He even gave me away at my wedding."

Lydia stared at him, this time more appalled than awed. "Good Lord, man, even with your level of knowledge and training, you actually condone a union between a vampire and a Slayer?"

"Egad, how awful!" Giles gasped and held up his hands in mock horror. "Whatever shall we do? Oh, the humanity!" He dropped the act and gave Buffy an indulgent smile. "In the end, it was more a case of how could I not."

"Buffy and Spike are kinda special," Willow said. "They were all prophesized and ordained and stuff."

Lydia was reduced to a dazed stammer. This was informational overload. "B-but our Academics have given no indication…"

"Oh, I'm quite sure they haven't." Giles chuckled to himself, removing his glasses and cleaning the lenses with his handkerchief. "Not in this dimension at least."

There was a tremendous crashing noise from the rear of the house and Spike came bounding into the room, Seth clinging to his shoulders like a limpet.

Buffy regarded them despairingly. "How many times have I told you guys not to storm the back door like that?"

"Seven hundred million?" Seth guessed.

"Pretty darn close."

"But it's really cool!" the boy bubbled on enthusiastically. "Spike can run s-o-o-o fast!" He pushed the skin of his cheeks back with both hands to indicate the G-force. "Like 'whoosh'! Uncle Xan can't run that fast. Him and Butt can bloody eat our dust!"

"Language, Nip," Spike chided softly, letting the boy slide off his back.

"Oh right," Seth nodded. "Not in frunna the m-o-m."

"Not ever," Buffy corrected. "Spike, how are we supposed to teach him anything when you keep…?" She sighed. "Never mind. I'm not getting into this with you now. Did Xander take Anya and Buck home?"

"After a fashion," Spike said enigmatically. He quirked a brow at Buffy, who stared at him for a moment, before giggling hysterically.

"Oh God," she wheezed. "I wish I could have seen that!"

"Just did." Spike draped a companionable arm over Nip's shoulder. "Appears that the party's over, mate. Ready for a lie down?"

"No naps," Seth said. "'Member? You said I was too big now." He held up one hand, all the fingers splayed out. "Five," he stressed, as though speaking to someone incredibly dim-witted.

"Well, how about we start that rule tomorrow?" Buffy asked.

"How 'bout 'no'?" Seth folded his arms and glared up at her, something much more than mere stubbornness sparking deep in his gaze.

Spike suddenly slapped his hand across his son's eyes. He gave Buffy a long, meaning-laden look and then hoisted the protesting boy up under his arm, carrying him from the room.

"Everything alright?" Giles inquired smoothly.

"Fine," Buffy answered quickly. Too quickly. "Everything's fine. Fine and good, normal as ever." She gazed after her son. "Normal as ever," she repeated under her breath.


Well, I'm off again. Don't expect the updates to be all that regular 'cause I'm still fleshing out the plotlines, but this chapter has been sitting around finished for almost three months, so I figured it should put it out there and see what you guys think (cough REVIEW cough).
There's more coming, though, I promise.
Cheers all, Dee.