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Growing Bonds

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Billie turns to the sound of knocking outside the tree house door. With a slight gasps, she jumps up and down before making a break for the wooden entrance.

"They're here!" She said. "Finally!"

She takes a hold of the doorknob and opens the door, waving at the sight of her guests.

"Hi, guys!"

"Hey, Billie." Lou said, scratching his turtleneck gently.

"H-hi, Billie." Lily said, shyly waving from behind Lou.

"Come in, come in!"

Billie runs away from the two goat kids, plopping her entire body onto the old couch. Lily and Lou follow behind, watching their friend pull her body up with her arms on the cushions.

"So, what do you want to do?" Billie asked.

"I thought you wanted to do something" said Lou. "Anything to stop me from hearing my brother nag about my height."

Billie inhales through her teeth. She never had a big brother before. But since she's been friends with Lou and Lily for years, she can probably imagine what it feels like to be

"Doesn't h-he playfully tease you?" Lily asks Lou. "I thought you guys get along very well?"

"Yes, and I don't like being an embarrassment."

"Guys, guys," Billie interrupted. "Let's not talk about that right now. Let's talk about the positive things we did!"

"Like?"

"Liiiiiike..."

Billie puts a hoof under her chin, pondering about what to do. She looks around the room for a little bit.

"...Oh!" She finally says as a light bulb appeared above her head.

Billie hops off the fluffy cushion she sat on before and climbs upstairs from the ladder next to the window. Lily and Lou watch the overactive goat curiously, with the glasses-wearing goat patting his shirt down.

"It's gotta be here, come on..." Billie said, talking to herself and sticking her tongue out. "Mmmm.... Aha! There it is! Look out, guys! Billie's coming down!"

At an alarming rate, Billie jumps three feet off the upstairs balcony, nearly falling onto Lily and Lou until they jumped out of the way. Billie raises her arms up in the air to reveal a lavender colored stone in the palm of her hands. Lou and Lily walk toward her with starry eyes as the light bounce off the item from the small cracks in the walls leading outside.

"I got this bad boy from Aristotle a few days ago!" The purple goat explained. "He said it was some kind of, uh, healing crystal? I didn't pay attention."

Her friends' eyes return to normal as Billie puts her arms down. The three goat children crowd into a circle as they stare at the shiny gem in front of them.

"But, aren't healing crystals... well, antiques." asked Lou.

"Nah, this one's special, and Aristotle told me to take good care of it!"

"It looks so rare..." Lily said in awe.

"That's why I'm keeping it safe! So that no one will touch!"

Billie pats the firm side of the item where there aren't any pointy edges. She holds it over her palm with her other hand.

"Or break it." Billie continued.

Suddenly, the same sound of the door knocking echoes in the room. But this one was more like an angry neighbor just walked at the front door and demanded the owner of someone's house to answer it. The loud noise startled Billie, Lou, and Lily to the point where Billie dropped the crystal. But luckily, she caught the valuable treasure before it could touch the ground. A sigh of relief escaped her lips, but it didn't stop the banging from erupting.

"W-w-w-who's at the door?" Lily stammered.

"Billie, did you do something reckless again?" Lou asked.

"I-I didn't!" said Billie. "...I may have accidentally ran into a few people on the way here, but..."

The booming noise continued to surface. Lily yelps in fear and runs behind Lou, ducking on the floor like her life depends on it. Billie backs up until her body hits the ladder. Then, she bolts back upstairs and puts the crystal back where it belongs. She jumps back down to the first floor and rushes to the entrance as the knocking gets louder and louder.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" She yelled. "Jeez!"

Billie just hoping and praying at this point that it wouldn't actually be the neighbor. But she was in a rush, what else was she gonna do?

---

The goat closes her eyes shut, expecting for the worse. But, when she slowly opened the door... no sound emerge. No yelling, no scolding, no nothing. Billie slowly opens one of her eyes until she sees an unfamiliar person standing at the front door. A cow with glasses and a red hat and sweatshirt. What was a stranger doing at her door?

"Uhh... hello?" Billie said slowly. "Can IIIIII help you?"

"Took you long enough!"

Billie almost lost her footing as she hears a loud raspy voice from below her. It didn't come from the cow, obviously. She looks down at her feet to find that a wooden puppet with a poncho and hat, tapping his foot on the ground with an angry glare. Billie's surprise died down.

"Oh, hey, Fantoccio."

"Don't 'hey, Fantoccio', me, peasant!" The wooden puppet said. "You better speak to me when spoken to, got it?!"

"Fanto."

Fantoccio stopped talking when he heard the cow finally speak. He looks over his shoulder to see him, crossing his arms with his tail wagging side to side. Fantoccio sighs annoyingly. Billie was confused. Knowing Fantoccio for quite some time, he would never lose to an argument. But, this time is different, all because this stranger is at her front door."

"And that is...?"

The cow chuckles nervously, understanding the situation he was in.

"Alex." He says with a reassuring smile. "My name is Alex. You're Billie, right?"

"Yes."

"Fanto told me a lot about you. Like... a lot."

Billie inhales through her teeth. She bets that Fantoccio said some nasty things about her to Alex. But then again, why would he show up at her front door and not complain to her about it? Maybe he was trying to be friendly with the purple goat.

"Anyways," Fantoccio interrupted. "let me be specific, Billie. Your help is needed, it seems."

"What are you talking about?" Billie asks, cocking her head.

Fantoccio jumps off the ground and floats in the air with his arms crossed.

"You see, Alex and I are going out."

"...On a date?"

Fantoccio and Alex's faces turned pink. They look at each other and then back at Billie. Alex lowers his cap down in sheer embarrassment.

"NO!" Fantoccio yelled as his pink on his face fades. "No no no, it's not like that at all! He's not my boyfriend! We're more than that!"

"More?" Billie said. "Like...?"

"Ugh! He's my brother, you dummy!"

Silence filled the air. It was like Fantoccio was telling a bad joke and nobody finds that funny. At first, Billie was just staring at Fantoccio. A few seconds after he blurted out what did said...

"...WHAT?!" She screamed.

Billie looked back and forth at the cow and marionette, trying to comprehend what Fantoccio just talked about.

"What?! I—! Uh—! Brother?! Wha—?! But you're a —! He's a—!"

Alex shakes his hands as his face turns back to normal, too.

"I know, I know." He said. "You're probably confused. Fanto's not really my brother."

Billie stopped and looked in Alex's direction when the cow spoke.

"I-I adopted him, sorta. I didn't want to at first. But, the more I got to know him, the more I accepted him as my brother."

Billie is still trying to piece everything together. When did Fantoccio get adopted? How long was he adopted? And most of all, was it even possible to adopt a moving, living object made of wood by a cow with fur, skin, and flesh?

"We're just going to hang out today, that's all." Alex continued. "Go out to places."

"Ooooooooh." Billie finally said. "Hanging out. Got it!"

Fantoccio puts his hand to his forehead, growling under his breath.

"But, wait." The goat continued. "Why are you telling me this? If it's just you two going out today, then what brought you over to my tree house?"

That's when from she spot something poking out from behind Alex's legs. It look like fur at first, but it was longer and much fluffier than cow fur. There was even black feet sticking out. Alex looks behind him as he felt his jacket getting tugged by tiny hands.

"Hey, it's okay." He said. "She's not going to hurt you, I promise."

Fantoccio also turns around, looking at the fluff and feet from behind the cow. He floats over Alex's head and then behind him.

"I know you're still not in good terms with that... thing." Fantoccio said to the mysterious figure behind Alex. "I feel the same way you do. But, this time is different! I'm asking that you would behave and wait here until I get back."

"...But, sir." The figure spoke quietly. Her voice sounded gentle and more feminine. "Why can't I come with you? I'm old enough to go out on my own, aren't I?"

"Of course you are. But I'm telling you that you can't today. I need some time to myself with Alex right now, nothing more."

Billie watches the whole thing unfold. She watches Fantoccio's expression change from serious to worry. He puts his hand over the figure with a small grin on his face.

"Aww, come on! Don't give me that look! If anything happens, I'll come back in a jiffy! Okay?"

Alex looks at the figure with the same smile as Fantoccio. The figure stood there for a long while until she steps away from him. It was another wooden puppet, but she had long white hair with pigtails and teal pupils. She even has a fang poking out of her mouth.

"...Hey, Billie." She finally spoke.

Billie crouches onto the ground as she smiles a little at the girl.

"Takaratoccio?" She finally said. "I didn't know you were with them. I almost forgot that you existed until now. My bad!"

Takaratoccio looks down at the ground. No words came out of her mouth. She didn't even look happy to see her.

"To sum it up!" said Fantoccio. "I need you to watch over Fanta while we're away! She doesn't want to be alone, so that's why I'm asking you to babysit her."

This sounded a little farfetch'd. Fantoccio is asking a fifteen year old girl to babysit someone's little sister. Takaratoccio may be younger than Fantoccio, but she's still an adult. That's a fact that makes the situation much more awkward.

"But why do I have to?" Billie asked.

"Because I have nobody else to turn to other than you! Take it or leave it!"

"Do I have to?"

"Does it look like you have a choice?"

Billie looks at her friends from behind her and then back at the three standing outside. She grits her teeth a little, squinting her eyes nervously.

"You know, Fanto." said Alex. "She doesn't have to do this if she doesn't want to."

"Of course I will!" Billie said, trying to give a good impression. "I-I can take care of your baby sister, no problem!"

Fantoccio jumps in the air and pokes Billie's nose hard, catching the goat off guard. She glares a little at the wooden puppet as she rubs the tip of her nose.

"Hey!" He complained. "Only I can call her my baby sister!"

Fantoccio walks up to Takaratoccio and gives her the biggest hug she will ever get for the rest of her days.

"She's very sweet! Such a ray of sunshine that I love to have around!"

"Milooooord," whined Takaratoccio. "You're embarrassing me."

Fantoccio raises his hands up in the air, letting go of the white haired puppet close to him.

"We'll be back in an hour or two." continued Fantoccio. "And if you mess up, you won't see the light of day again... ever! You got that?!"

Billie grabs a hold of Takaratoccio and puts her next to her. She doesn't want to feel the wrath of this little marionette's anger after last time she encountered him.

"Right, got it!" She says, waving her hand up and down. "You can count on me!"

Fantoccio turns away from the purple goat with a "hmph" leaving his mouth before walking to the ladder that leads to the grassy area. But instead of climbing down, he jumps off the ledge like he was doing a dive at the local pool. But nobody freaked out at this point. Knowing Fantoccio, he probably saved himself from falling because, well, he has magic powers, and he can fly.

"Well, I should get going, too." said Alex. "Take care, Takaratoccio."

"Okay, Alex!" Takaratoccio said cheerfully. "Tell milord I say 'have a good time!'"

"Don't worry, I will! I know how much you'll miss him."

Alex walks to the ladder with his tail wagging in motion. As he steps foot onto the ladder and walks down three stairs of it, he looks at Takaratoccio with a smile and waves his hoof.

"See you in a while, Fanta!" He said.

"ALEX!" Fantoccio yelled from below, almost making the poor cow fall. "You're not allowed to call her, 'Fanta'! What did I just say?!"

"But you call her that all the time!"

"That's because we're related! Now get down here or suffer the consequences!"

Alex lets out a long, deep sigh as he slowly climbs down the ladder.

"You can't call her Fanta because we're related." He mocked under his breath. "Pssh! Yeah, okay."

Billie and Takaratoccio stood there for a long while, watching Alex and Fantoccio walks into the forest where they came from. Billie gently grabs Takaratoccio by the hand and takes her inside the tree house.

---

"Why don't you take a seat on the couch, Takaratoccio?" Billie said, pointing to where she sat earlier.

Takaratoccio did as she was told and puts her rear on the cushions. Lou and Lily looked confused with the sight of someone they don't know coming inside the tree house. Billie shuts the door in front of her and turns her back away with a long sigh. She looked like she was about to turn into smile and be all over the floor from exhaustion.

"Why me?" Billie said to herself. "I just want to spend some time with my friends. Whyyyyy me?"

Lily walks toward Takaratoccio curiously. As soon as she was in Takaratoccio's peripheral vision, she looks at the ribbon-wearing goat with a blank stare. But as soon as Takaratoccio started showing a toothy grin, Lily jumps away from the little puppet and runs behind Lou's back.

"S-s-she has f-f-f-fangs!" Lily whimpered.

Lou looks at Takaratoccio with her grin still showing and flinches at the sight of Takaratoccio's creepy-looking smile. Takaratoccio notices the fear in the two children and immediately stops smiling. She looks at Billie and points at Lou and Lily.

"Are those your siblings?" She asks.

Billie walks up to Takaratoccio and puts her hoof over the marionette's glove.

"No, they're friends I grew up with." She explained. "Best friends, to be exact.

"...I didn't know you had friends. With how you made a mockery of my brother, I thought it was because you didn't have any."

The serious tone in Takaratoccio's voice was also enough to make Billie flinch. Takaratoccio stared at the three terrified goats for a few seconds before showing a soft, gentle smile.

"But it's okay!" She continued in a cheery tone. "I forgive you! It's all in the past now!"

But that didn't really brighten anyone's day. Billie forgot how terrifying Takaratoccio is, not after how she and Oscar tried to get out of Fantoccio's theatre and how upset it made Takaratoccio's older brother. Her fangs looked more terrifying than that shark Fantoccio always keeps around with him.

"Um, Billie." Lou finally spoke. "W-who's that?"

Billie turns towards Lou and Lily, still feeling petrified. So, continuing to be the show off she is, she clears her throat and smiles.

"Well..." She says. "Do you remember when I tried to get those magical gems my dad lost a while back?

"Y-yes I do." said Lou. "But that was months ago."

"Yes, well... this is Takaratoccio, the little sister of... someone I know."

"W-what does it have to do with the gems?" Lily asked.

"Oh, you know. Some jerk was keeping one of those gems to himself, yada yada yada. It was attached to his body or something, I don't know. But it's all cool now! We're not enemies anymore, he's not a threat to me, or anyone else! He's got a roof to live under now, has company with him, etcetera, etcetera."

Lou and Lily was trying to comprehend what Billie just said. But, Billie was a fast talker and her friends didn't know anything about magic like she did. A sweat drop forms over Billie's head as she nervously chuckles.

"B-but to make things clear!" Billie continued. "I have to babysit this little ankle biter for an hour or two while her brother... brothers, plural, are out."

Lou and Lily look at Takaratoccio again, who is still giving off that blank expression. Billie reads the situation for a while just to understand the white haired puppet's behavior.

"IIII'm guessing you're not happy to see your brother leave."

Takaratoccio turns to Billie and shakes her head. Billie sighs as she scratches her hair.

"Look, I know you don't fully trust me, and I may have been a bully to you guys." Billie continued. "But this is for one day! One day, without causing a scene, and you'll see your big brother again! So you better act your age."

Takaratoccio kept staring at Billie blankly. She didn't even bop her head or shake it. She just makes a poker face. Now the poor lavender-furred goat felt like a loser.

"Sooooo," said Lou. "Should we go, or...?"

"No!" Billie yelled. "Don't leave! You just got here! And and and—!"

Billie puts her front hooves over her face and whines under her breath.

"I don't know how to take care of a kid. I'm fifteen, I'm practically old enough to be in charge. But I don't know what to do. So please guys, I need your help."

Lily and Lou look at Takaratoccio, who is now looking at the floor. Billie look in the same direction as they are, seeing the sad look under Takaratoccio's hat. The two glasses-wearing goats look at each other. Then, their expressions got serious. They nod their heads and look at their best friend.

"Billie, we get you." Lou said. "It's hard to do this on your own. That's why we're going to shoulder this burden with you."

Billie looks up at them with wide eyes.

"A-are you sure?" She asks

"We're sure!" said Lily. "We're your friends. We're always there for you."

"...Aww, guys! Come here!"

Billie rushes up to Lou and Lily and gives them a big hug, shaking their bodies back and forth.

"Um..."

The familiar sound of that fragile, feminine voice stopped Billie from hugging. The three goats turn their gazes at the blank-staring Takaratoccio.

"I'm hungry." She says.

Billie, Lou, and Lily look at each other quickly before huddling closely together.

"It won't be long." Billie whispered. "Just two hours, let's make this day count."

"Right." Lou said.

"Got it." Lily said.

"...Wait, what do puppets eat? Do they eat at all?"