"Don't hit your sister!" Pulling Brady's muddy hands away from Riona's hair, Angel sighed.
"She put my truck in the mud!" Brady looked ready to duke it out with his sister over the Tonka Truck.
Turning to his daughter, he crossed her arms over his chest. "That wasn't very nice Riona." He only used her full name when she was in trouble.
The not so contrite looking three year old just stared at her father with a look that meant she was not ever going to be sorry for the mourned over Tonka truck. Sighing at her, he ruffled her hair and sent her inside to Buffy to get cleaned up.
Looking down at his five year old son, he sighed. "Brady, she's younger than you. She's only three. You can't hit her when she touches your stuff."
"You always say that! She's stupid and I hate her!" Throwing himself into the wet grass, he ripped angrily at the green lawn, throwing tufts of it in front of him.
"You don't hate her. She's a little girl…and most girls are stupid. She'll get over it. In twenty years, you guys will be friends."
"No we won't. She's even stupider than most girls. She's a gross stupid girl."
Heaving a great sigh, he turned from his son and started into the house. Riona was sitting on the kitchen counter as Buffy tried to clean her face and brush dried mud from her hair at the same time.
"You had to let them play outside after that downpour yesterday."
"A little dirt never hurt anyone."
Turning to Angel, she scowled at him before turning back to her daughter. Brady started kindergarten the next day along with Allie. Apparently, Buffy thought wryly, Allie was the only girl on the planet that Brady didn't hate. Fred was already planning their wedding.
Turning at the sound of the front door opening, Buffy smiled as Catherine ran through the living room and into the kitchen. Riona immediately fought to get away from Buffy to play with her cousin. Kitty, as everyone called Catherine, was only a few months older than Riona and they had played together constantly for the past three years.
Yelling already, the two girls ran upstairs. Buffy cringed as she thought of what they were going to get into. They had covered the walls of the play room in holes last weekend. That had lead to a very long talk about super powers and sparring only in the gym. Raising a gaggle of super strong little people was tough, Buffy thought.
Hugging her sister, she watched Dawn sit tiredly and put her head in her hands. "Can she start kindergarten early? Like, an all day kindergarten?"
Will looked a little better, but then again, he had the super stamina to chase after their slayer power toddler.
It had been apparent after Brady was born that he was gifted with his parent's abilities. He was stronger than Kitty and Riona, but Buffy thought the girls would grow into themselves. Kitty had all her father's powers but had displayed some of her mother's already. The doctor who had delivered her had almost had a stroke when she had been born glowing green.
No one really knew what Kittys' powers would turn into, for now they were worried about keeping their homes and children intact. The kids were rough on furniture.
Riona had been a handful to carry for nine months, and Buffy had sworn up and down that she wasn't going to have another child for a long time. Rubbing her swollen belly, she thought wryly that hadn't lasted as long as she thought it would have. Each pregnancy seemed to get harder as the births got easier, she thought. As least, she hoped this birth would go easy. Riona's had gone very smoothly. Much more so than Brady's'.
Looking at her sister, she smiled. "You're stuck with her a little longer. What about preschool?"
"She was kicked out last week. Apparently, the school has a little thing about three year olds using spinning jump kicks to defend themselves against four year olds."
Buffy winced. "Was the kid hurt?"
Shaking her head, Dawn sighed. "Kitty knows not to hit hard. He had a red mark on his face; it didn't even turn into a bruise. She didn't hit him with her heel."
Will leaned back as Angel handed him a beer. "Can't help that she defends herself. That little punk stole her lunch for a week until she did something about it."
"She can't hit people, Will!" Dawn was appalled that Will was so calm about it.
Angel shook his head and held up a hand to stop the soon to be fight. When those two got going, they didn't stop. He knew it was better to distract them before they started throwing things. Geese, he thought to himself, no wonder Kitty hit the kid. Her parents were passionate people.
"Brady starts school tomorrow," Angel said.
Buffy was beaming. "He's so excited. I'm excited. Just me and Ronny all by our selves." Smiling, she tried to swallow the fear that was in her gut. It was exciting and scary at the same time that she was going to send her little boy away all day for five days a week.
The sliding door to the patio opened as Will was about to say something. Brady stood in the doorway, his arms across his chest. It was almost comical to see a five year old with Angel's brooding face.
"Ronny gets to have a friend over. I want Allie."
Going to kneel in front of her son, Buffy smoothed his hair, "Aunt Dawn and Uncle Will came to visit and they brought Kitty. It wasn't a play date, Brady."
"Then have Aunt Fred and Uncle Wes come over and bring Allie! Please, mommy, please!" Grabbing onto her arm, he dragged himself to her and gave her a puppy eyed look that she herself had practiced in the mirror as a kid to use against her own parents. Karma sucks, she thought.
Sighing, she stood and reached for the phone on the wall. Handing it to Brady, she said, "Call your aunt and uncle and ask them if Allie can come over. You're going to be with her all day tomorrow, you know."
Grinning ear to ear, he dialed the number he knew by heart. Angel was frowning. Buffy spoiled them, he thought. Maybe they would get the third kid right. Definitely, the third kid wouldn't be spoiled, he told himself.
"Do you think Gunn and Faith are ever going to get married?" All heads turned to Dawn's sudden question. "I mean, they're practically common law. They bought a house together. Shouldn't they get married?"
"I think that's up to them, Dawn. I don't think they're in any great hurry to change their arrangement." Angel sipped his coke and watched as Brady canoodled his way to convincing Fred to bring Allie over.
Brady hung up the phone with a triumphant look on his face and handed the phone to his mom. "Thanks mom!" Hugging her leg, he turned and ran for the stairs. He knew that Buffy was about to tell him to pick up his room if he was going to have a friend over. He liked to cut her off at the drop before she could order him around.
Leaning against Angel, she felt him rub her stomach. "You spoil him." Her husband told her.
"You spoil Ronny. Get over it, they're spoiled brats. Lovable, adorable spoiled brats."
Sighing, he shook his head as she took her seat again. The house erupted in noise not long after as Fred and Wesley arrived, Allie in tow. It took two seconds for the two children to start begging Angel to make them sandwiches. It was another two seconds until he was actually doing it. Spoiled rotten, he thought.
The six adults had dinner together. The four children ate at the breakfast bar. It was easier to separate the two groups, there was less yelling. By the time everyone had left, Ronny was falling asleep in Angels' arms and Brady was whining. He whined when he was overly tired, Buffy knew.
Leading both children upstairs, Angel helped them bathe and dress for bed. Ronny was asleep in his arms before he had even finished getting her night shirt over her head. Tucking her in and kissing her forehead, he whispered a good night to her before going to find Brady.
He was fighting to stay awake by practicing a punch combination Angel had shown him. Lifting his son into his arms, he sat on the small bed and pulled a book from the nightstand. Brady interrupted him before he could start reading.
"Is kindergarten hard?"
"Not really. It'll be fun. There'll be kids your own age and you'll get to finger paint and learn your alphabet. You'll like it."
"I already know my alphabet."
He smiled. Brady had been fighting to stay home with Buffy for a few weeks. Buffy had started to work from home after Brady had been born; being that she had telecommuted often anyway. When her job took her to the Slayer Academy, she normally brought the children. They hadn't been away from her since they had been born.
"You have to go. You'll like it. Allie will be there, so you already have a friend. You'll be okay, little man."
He shook his head and buried his face in Angel's chest. "Why can't I go to the half day kindergarten?"
Angel breathed deeply. This had been a common conversation lately. "Because the private school your mom and I decided on has an all day kindergarten. Brady, we've talked about this. Your mom and I looked for schools for a year. This is the best one for you. Its fun, the teachers are nice. The curriculum is excellent in the higher grades."
"What's curriculum?" It sounded more like cricket kingdom when he said it and Angel had to smile.
"It means the classes will make you really smart."
"I'm already smart."
"They'll make you smarter."
Extricating himself from Brady's grasp, he watched as the boy's eyes closed against his will. Brady mumbled something about school being stupid but his eyes closed anyway. Smiling, Angel tucked him in and turned out the bedside lamp. Both children demanded a nightlight, and Angel made sure that was turned on as he left.
Sighing, he help Buffy put the last of the dishes in the dishwasher before they dragged themselves to bed. Falling asleep in each other's arms, Buffy sighed. She didn't want to admit it, but she was scared to death of letting Brady leave her all day. Kindergarten started at nine in the morning and went until three in the afternoon. She didn't know if she could handle being away from him for that long.
The next morning was a blur as she made lunch for Brady and Angel tried to get both children dressed before leaving for work. Buffy bundled Ronny and Brady in the car and said a tearful goodbye to Brady. He was about to cry before he saw Allie and took off like a rocket was under his butt.
Sighing, she waved to Fred and talked about their fears concerning letting their babies go off by themselves for the day. Hugging, they parted ways. Fred had to get to the office. Fred had been sending Allie to preschool for two years. Although it was only for half a day, she had been able to go to work for a few hours. The rest of the time she had been working from home as Buffy had done.
Brady almost let himself have a good time for the first few hours. Daddy had been right, they did finger paint, but not until after lunch. He and Allie sat next to each other. Two other kids sat across from them. The desks were arranged so that every four desks made a little pod.
Before lunch, they had introductions and everyone said something about themselves. The teacher started. Brady immediately hated her. She looked nice and talked nice, but he thought there was definitely something weird about her. Allie liked her, but Brady knew that she was stupid girl. She was cooler than most stupid girls, but she was a stupid girl none the less. And Allie didn't have any special senses or anything. She was just a human. Brady didn't trust her assessment of Mrs. Murphy.
They had recess before lunch time. He played with Allie, but watched Mrs. Murphy at the same time. Uncle Will had taught him how to track people without them knowing it. They were supposed to have a nap after lunch, before finger painting. Brady lay down but didn't close his eyes. He watched Mrs. Murphy instead.
She sat at her desk and watched them until she thought everyone was asleep. Nap time was half an hour and after ten minutes, she stood from her desk. Brady bit his bottom lip and opened his eyes just a sliver. This was not good. She was definitely evil. Keeping his breathing normal, he watched as she crouched next to one of the children.
He thought he had amazing self control. Daddy would be proud of himself, he thought. A white wispy thing that looked like smoke drifted from the little girl Mrs. Murphy crouched over, the girl stirred a little but didn't wake up. After ten minutes or so, Mrs. Murphy stood up and looked around the room. Brady bit his lip so hard he thought it would bleed when he saw her eyes. They were red. Like, really red, he thought.
He tried to lie still until she started waking them. Immediately, he asked to go to the bathroom. She politely told him everyone would go, in pairs of two. Wracking his brain, he tried to think of how to get out of there sooner. He had to tell his mom and dad! They would kill her for sure.
Holding his tongue through their bathroom break, finger painting and sing along, he grabbed his coat and ran as fast as he could when the bell rang. He was twice as fast as the other kids and Allie stared after him with wide eyes. She knew he wasn't supposed to show off like that. Bypassing all the other children, he ran into his mom's arms. Her belly prevented him from getting as close to her as he wanted.
"She's evil! She's a demon! Mommy, she's evil!"
Glancing in the rear view mirror, she frowned at her son. Ronny was playing with Barbie doll quietly, apparently not disturbed by her brother's ranting about his demon teacher.
"Miss Collins seemed very nice to me."
Brady's confusion was obvious on his face. "That's not her name! Her name is Mrs. Murphy and she's evil!"
Convincing herself that Brady was trying to get out of going to school again, she warned him to stop spreading rumors and that it wasn't nice to talk about his teacher that way. Just to make sure, though, she called the school when they got home.
Miss Collins had gotten married and wouldn't be back until October, Mrs. Murphy explained. She was subbing until then. Shrugging her shoulders, Buffy sighed as she hung up. The woman seemed very nice on the phone.
Angel was less concerned about the evil teacher than Buffy had been. They listened throughout dinner as Brady described the incident and a nagging sense started to make Buffy nervous. No, she thought, she was just looking for a reason to keep him home with her.
Calling Fred, she listened while Fred explained that Allie loved the teacher. She had raved about how nice she was. Fred seemed more comfortable than ever with letting Allie go to school all day. Buffy hung up feeling confident that she and Brady were having separation anxiety. It was their connection, she told herself.
Brady refused to let them read him a story. He went to bed pouting and slamming doors. Giving up for the time being, they let him be angry. Angel said that he was going to have to separate from Buffy's hip some time.
He was silent the next day in the car on the way there. He didn't even hug her goodbye as he left to meet Allie at the door of the school. Fighting back tears the whole way home, Ronny frowned at her mom when they finally got out of the car.
"What's wrong, mommy?"
"Mommy's sad, honey. That's all."
"What made you sad?"
She took a deep breath and lifted her daughter into her arms. "Brady doesn't want to go to school and he's mad that I'm making him go. I'm sad because he's mad at me."
"He's a poop head."
Her ultra serious face made Buffy laugh. Ronny was completely convinced that her brother was the worst kid on the planet. "Don't call your brother names, honey."
It was half way through the day when Buffy gasped and grabbed at her chest. A pain, a need, was coursing through her. Grabbing her car keys, she called frantically to Ronny as she hurried to get her daughter in the car.
Brady was watching again when nap time came around. He had been sneaking around at recess, watching her. She had frowned at him a few times. In the morning, the little girl that she had sucked the smoke from wasn't there. When Brady asked where she was, Mrs. Murphy explained sadly that she had a cold and wasn't going to be there for a few days. Their art project turned into get well soon cards that they did before lunch.
When nap time came around, he was careful to get a spot at the end of the room so he could see the whole class. He tried to look like he was sleeping when he saw her coming towards him. Closing his eyes, he felt her presence above him. He was hyperventilating as he felt a strange pull in his body and a sudden fatigue. Opening his eyes a crack, he saw a white smoke around him.
Without thinking, he brought his leg up hard into her head. She was close enough that he could reach. As she fell back, he got up and ran around his sleeping classmates and was out the door before his evil teacher had picked herself up. Dashing into the boy's bathroom, he breathed hard. He knew he had been right! Climbing onto the top of the toilet, he jumped to reach the drop ceiling.
The first jump pushed the ceiling block away. The second jump allowed him to grab the metal railing and pull himself up. He had just replaced the ceiling block when he heard his demon teacher come in and call his name sweetly. Her voice made him want to throw up.
He listened as she looked under all the stalls before opening them. He almost yelped when he heard her growl in frustration. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he started to crawl very carefully. He knew he could fall through the ceiling below him, it didn't seem too sturdy.
Finding that the drop ceiling ended and a series of metal piping and ducts began, he chose a vent and started to crawl through it as quietly as possible. Swallowing, he looked down when he came to a grate in the wall. The principal was at her desk. There was a phone on her desk. He could call mom with the phone! Congratulating himself on his brilliance, he was about to figure out how to distract the principal when Mrs. Murphy came into the room.
He almost yelped again. Covering his mouth with his hand, he watched them in the room.
"Mrs. Langdon, I need your help."
"Yes, Mrs. Murphy?"
"One of my students had a bad dream during nap time. He ran out of the room before I could grab him and I can't find him."
The alarm on Mrs. Langdon's face was apparent. "I'll lock down the school and help you look." Standing, she immediately went to her secretary and told her to activate the security locks on the doors.
Breathing a sigh of release, he jimmied the grate enough to squeeze through the opening and drop to the floor. Grabbing the phone, he dragged it across the desk and under it and dialed his mom's cell phone number. He was good with numbers.
"Come on, mom…" No one was answering. The entire world was against him.
Buffy's cell phone was in the car. Ronny looked at it and scowled. Mom had told her to stay put and had taken off like a crazy woman out of the car. Sighing, she tried to unhook the belt that kept her in her booster seat. The dumb thing always got stuck when she wanted out of it. Of course, daddy had made sure she couldn't get out of it herself after the tenth time she had escaped and left the car when they were parked somewhere. They didn't like it when she left without telling them.
Buffy was racing to the doors, which were locked. Fighting the urge to scream in frustration, she pressed the buzzer on the wall and waited for someone to let her in.
"Can I help you?" A voice came from the speaker at the wall.
"My son goes here, I need to see him."
She could feel the woman hesitating. "We're in lock down, ma'am. No one is supposed to enter right now."
Her worst fears confirmed, she growled into the speaker box, "Let me in or I will break this door down before I break your face."
The door opened. Rushing in, she closed her eyes and focused on where her baby was. Before she could go in the direction she thought he was in, a voice called out to her. Trying to smile at the principal and a woman she didn't know, she shook the hand offered to her. Immediately, she knew she didn't like the woman standing next to Mrs. Langdon.
Gasping a little when the woman introduced herself and Buffy shook her hand, she immediately kicked herself for doubting Brady. This woman was a demon, she thought wryly. Buffy knew immediately that she was going to kill this woman and get her son out of that school immediately. Killing her without getting arrested wasn't going to be easy.
"Mrs. O'Connor, I'm very sorry, but Brady wandered off. We've been looking for him. Did he…call you somehow?" The principal was obviously a little confused as to what Buffy was doing there.
"Oh, he told me he wasn't feeling very well this morning. I was going past and I thought I'd get him early. You know, don't want a contagious kid in school."
"Yes, one of his classmates is already out sick. A bad cold, I think."
Nodding, she quickly put two and two together. Remembering what Brady had described, she kicked herself again. The demon teacher had sucked the energy from the kid that was out sick. Great, an energy sucking demon was looking for her son.
"I think I know where he'd go. I'm sure Mrs. Murphy can help me find him. You must have a lot of work to do, Mrs. Langdon."
"Oh, I want to find him. I'm very concerned for his safety."
Smiling, Buffy nodded. "I'm sure he's fine. He's a wanderer. Really, Mrs. Murphy and I can find him."
Nodding, she excused herself to relieve the teacher that had been pulled from the second grade to watch Mrs. Murphy's class. Smiling at the demon teacher, Buffy asked if the school had a basement. Making their way to the janitor's closet and through the door that led downstairs, Buffy felt the hair on the back of her neck start to rise.
Turning just as Mrs. Murphy was about to hit her with the handle of a broom, Buffy kicked the offending object from the demon's hands. Looking at eyes that were now red, Buffy kicked the demon in the face. Not holding back, she was careful to avoid being hit in her stomach, but was not about to let this teacher go.
She was thrown into the concrete wall none to gently. Wincing a little, she grabbed the nearby broom and drove the handle into the teacher's eye as hard as she could. To minimize the screaming, she pulled it out and stabbed her in the heart quickly. She didn't need people to know she was killing the kindergarten substitute teacher. It would look bad.
Throwing the broom handle away, she looked at the dead teacher before her. The blood oozing from her eye and chest was not red. Making a disgusted face, Buffy grabbed one arm and dragged the demon behind the boiler. She would tell Angel everything and they would dispose of the body later, after sunset. First, she had to find Brady.
Walking back up the hall, she breathed a sigh of relief as her son ran down the hall to her. Scooping him up, she kissed his face a dozen times before leaving without telling the principal. Shouting that Brady was found to the office secretary, she bundled her son into the car.
"What took so long, mommy?"
"Sorry, Ronny. I had to take care of something really quick."
Promising ice cream, she breathed a sigh of relief. Even kindergarten wasn't safe for her kids.
Angel seemed flabbergasted and little ashamed that night at dinner.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you kiddo."
Nodding, Brady dug into his fried chicken with not a care in the world. Saving the class from an ugly red eyed soul sucking demon meant he got ice cream on the way home and his favorite dinner ever that night, which was fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Wiping his hand across his nose, he left a trail of gravy from one side of his face to the other.
Buffy sighed and reached over to wipe his face with her napkin. "School isn't for the weak at heart, huh buddy?"
"Only the strong survive." Angel said wryly. Brady was in no condition to talk. Fried chicken filled his mouth and it looked like there were potatoes in his nose. Ronny looked disgusted with him but happy with her dinner.
Buffy nodded and sighed. She wasn't sure it was only kindergarten that was going to be hard. "Only the strong survive," she agreed.
Only the strong could survive her life, she thought. She hoped she was up for the next twenty years. With her kids, they were going to be interesting.