Sorry this is short, but the muse is still struggling with me.

Chapter 31

2017 still…

"Okay, Aunt Tara will be here in an hour. I want you girls on your best behavior while we're gone, alright?"

"Yes, Mom," Ana replied.

"Good. I love you." Kara kissed the twins on the cheek as she hugged them. "Call Yavanna if something happens, okay? She'll find me right away in Ossiriand."

"Yes, Mom…we know the drill. Go deal with your royalty crap," Lillian responded.

"Don't scoff too much, young lady. These will be your duties one day," Kara reminded them, eyes twinkling.

"Luv? We need to go, or we're going to be late," Spike reminded her. He handed Kara the bag with their clothes, then took his turn saying goodbye to his little girls. "Be good, Bits. Glinda will report on any mischief you two get up to this weekend…"

"We know the rules, Dad," Ana proclaimed, rolling her eyes. "Would you two just go? All this mushiness is embarrassing!"

The parents chuckled, then turned towards the room with the portal. The two teens went back upstairs, happy to finally be alone.

"Do you think Tara has anything fun planned for us?" Ana asked.

"No clue. Do you really need a babysitter to plan things for you?"

"Hey, you don't have to get catty. It was just a question," the elder twin pouted.

"Well, personally, now that Mom and Da' are gone, I'm going to redecorate my room. I've had the paint for a month!"

"Why do you need Mom and Dad gone? Are you doing something weird, Lilli?"

Lillian just rolled her eyes and went upstairs. It was hard to believe they were twins, when her sister was so boring. With time alone over the weekend, she could finally recreate the look of her room. Her allowance had been going towards paint supplies since she'd gotten the idea over summer vacation. She and Jake had brain-stormed over sketches until she had it just right, and now the wall was finally going to get its mural. She couldn't wait to get started!

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"Brianna!"

"Yes, Mommy?" the seven-year-old called from her room.

"Come help me set the table, sweetie. Daddy will be up for dinner in ten minutes," Buffy called.

"Okay!" Brianna tossed her Barbies back in the toy bin, then ran out of her room. Buffy doted on her daughter, still the only child, so her room was fit for a princess. Of course, this indulgence had created a bit of a spoiled nature in the little girl. The only adults she immediately obeyed were her father, and Grandma Joyce. They were the only ones who weren't swayed by her pouts or tantrums. Auntie Dawn was so cool, though, that she didn't want to misbehave over there. Aunt Dawn brought neat stuff from all over the world every time she went on a trip!

"I'm here, Mommy!"

"Okay, can you get the silverware out of the drawer an place it on the table? I need to finish getting this stuff off the stove."

"I guess…can I have a soda with dinner?"

"No, Brianna. Soda's not good for little girls."

"But you drink it all the time, Mommy!"

"And see how Mommy's the shortest in the family?"

"Ohhhh…"

"Uh-huh. Now set the table, or I'll tell Daddy you were being difficult," Buffy warned.

Brianna let out a little 'eep' and hurried over to the silverware drawer to complete her task. Daddy didn't let her have dessert when she was bad.

Buffy smiled to herself as she stirred the pasta sauce. She and Sebastian had talked about their daughter's attitude lately, and she had to admit she had been letting her get away with stuff. It wasn't exactly the best policy to use Sebastian as the threat for punishment, but she had to congratulate herself on avoiding a tantrum so far today. It was just…hard, to see her only baby unhappy. They had tried several times since to have another baby, but it just wouldn't take. She'd get as far as a week late for her period, and then it would start, ruining her hopes for another month. Now, it had been long enough that they just weren't focusing on it anymore. Brianna was a precious gift, and more than she'd ever thought to have while she was an active Slayer.

"There are my two beautiful girls! How was your day, poppet?" Sebastian ruffled Brianna's long brown hair, then kissed his wife hello.

"We painted pictures, Daddy. Mine's on the fridge!"

"And a lovely…horse it is, sweetheart."

"It's a puppy, Daddy!"

He made an 'oops' face while still facing Buffy, who tried not to laugh.

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"Angel Investigations. We help the helpless."

"Hey, gorgeous. I'm just calling to see what you wanted me to pick up from the store," Wesley replied.

Fred giggled. "You could have called my cell, silly."

"Yeah, but that would just add to our minutes, and as Spike says, I'm a 'cheap bastard'," he quipped. "Seriously, though, I've picked up the children from school, and we're going to pass the grocery store on our way home, anyways…"

"Okay. I'll make up a list and send it to your palm-held. How do tacos sound tonight? I could pick up some on my way home?"

"I won't argue with you if you have a craving, darling. See you soon."

"Okay. Love you!" Fred hung up and went to the computer to start forming a list.

"I hope you don't tell all our clients you love them," Cordelia teased, entering the lobby.

"Nah," Fred replied, blushing. "That was just Wes. I'm going to be taking off as soon as I finish sending him a grocery list."

"That's fine. It's been a slow day, anyway. Angel and Connor are going to a hockey game."

"Do you want to join us? You don't have to eat here all alone…"

"Nah, I'm good. Gunn will be here soon for the night shift, so I'll have company. Go! Be with your way too adorable family," Cordelia insisted.

"Okay. Good night, Cordy."

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"Lillian? It's Tara. I was going to start dinner soon…do you have a preference?" she called through the closed door.

Lillian opened the door to her room a crack. "Nah, anything's good. I'm kinda working on a project, so could you bring it up here when it's done?"

Tara smelled the classic scent of paint. "Oh, are you working on another canvas? I have to tell you, all of us teachers have been really impressed with your paintings so far."

"Um, kind of…Look, if I show you, do you promise not to blab to anybody? I don't want it seen until it's done, which it will be this weekend…"

"Sure, sweetie. You know you can share anything with me," Tara replied sincerely. Lillian debated internally for a moment, then opened the door wider so Tara could step through.

All of Lillian's furniture had been pushed away from the largest wall. On the wall, a sketch had been drawn in pencil, and was now being filled in with paint.

"Oh, my…"

"Yeah, I know it's ambitious, and Mom and Dad might make me get rid of it, but I've had the idea in mind for months, and I just had to paint it once I had some peace around here. You're never intrusive, and Ana's gonna be doing her preppy crap all weekend, so…"

Tara laid a calming hand on the taller girl's shoulder. "Hey, you don't have justify your inspiration, Lilli. I think it will turn out beautifully, though a bit dark for my tastes," she teased.

Lillian smirked. "Everything about me is a bit dark for your tastes, Tara. You listen to folk rock, I love thrash metal. I've had to start buying my own punk CDs, though, since Dad kept complaining he couldn't find the one he wanted to listen to. Of course, I don't know who's taste is more tragic – Buffy's, or my sister's. Is there anything more useless than modern adult contemporary? Bleedin' tragic lack of creativity in that mess."

Tara chuckled. "You really are Spike's little girl. Well, I'll leave you to your work. If you feel like taking a break, we'd love to have you eat with us."

"Maybe…" she said with a shrug. Lillian really didn't think she'd be coming up for air all weekend, until this was done. It was the way, whenever she was painting – it had to be worked on until it was done.

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A few strokes on the wall developed into a scene from one of her dreams. A princess stood; wearing all black and an iridescent crystal at her throat, ready to bestow favor on a futuristic knight. He was down on one knee, offering up a glass ball with a swirling view of some land inside. Offering her the world. Her eyes glowed to match the jewel dangling from her neck, and one hand was reached out to alight on his dark hair. Gothic fantasy come to life. When Lillian had first broached the idea to Jake, he had teased her about reading too many Ravenloft books. Little did he know, that she'd been seeing this scene since she was 10. It had only taken her this long to paint it because she had been honing her skills. Once she started on the wall, there was no way to erase it and do a do-over.

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It was finished by Sunday afternoon. Lillian pointed a fan at the wall, set on 'low', and left her room to stretch out the kinks.

"She surfaces!" Tara teased, upon seeing the girl walk into the kitchen. "All done, or just taking a break?"

"All done. It helps that I don't require much sleep. I think I'll go for a jog once the sun goes down, okay?"

"Sure, sweetie…just take your cellphone. And be back before your parents get home."

"I know…I just got off being grounded. Believe me, I don't want Dad mad at me again." Lillian grabbed a shaker of pre-made strawberry smoothie, and walked off towards the music room. Tara heard piano music drift through the house a few minutes later.

The counselor sighed in relief that the girl was choosing constructive ways to amuse herself this weekend. She had worried, when she agreed to come stay over, that Lillian would use the excuse of her parents not being around to resume her sneaking out and searching for mischief, but it seemed the talk Spike and Kara had had with her had sunk in. The teen hadn't tested a single boundary since being grounded, but they all wondered how long it would last. Even the most disobedient children tended to behave right before Christmas. Only time would tell.

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"Hey, we're back!" Kara called, being the first to come up to the kitchen.

Tara walked in from the living room. "Hi. Did you have a good visit?"

"Pretty much. Just some minor disputes to settle. The usual stuff in a growing civilization. Did the girls give you any trouble?"

"Nope. Lillian painted all weekend, and Ana's been chatting on the phone with her friends. The football team won again, so…"

"She has to give everybody she knows a bloody play-by-play…right. It's like we never left, luv," Spike added.

"Ha, ha, Daddy. I only called Tiffany, Mara, and Jade. That's not everybody," Ana informed him, shaking her head in that teen sign for 'parents are so lame'.

"My mistake, princess. Did we not give you enough time?" he teased.

"Dad! Keeping up with my friends is important!"

"Yeah, Dad. Don't you know the world will end if Ana misses one weekend of gossip?" Lillian quipped.

"Well, at least people actually call me," Ana snapped back.

"Whoa, whoa! Anastasia, there's no reason to get nasty. Lillian was just teasing. Now, we've been back for at least five minutes, and I haven't gotten a hug," Kara broke in.

"Sorry, Mommy," Ana said, crossing over to her mother. "How was your weekend?"

"Busy, but good. Everyone says hello. Lillian, I brought you a book on Ossirian sculptures."

"Cool," she replied indifferently.

"Glinda mentioned you've been painting all weekend, Bit. What's the subject, this time?"

"Uh, just something I sketched…a while ago. It's not ready for viewing, yet," she said awkwardly.

Thankfully, her father understood not wanting to show your work until it was ready. "That's alright. You can show us later. So, how about dinner? I'm bloody starving, personally."

Lillian was relieved. She wasn't sure whether they'd flip over her painting her wall, or not, but she wanted to delay finding out as long as possible. Besides, this painting felt so…personal.