Quality Time

BY : Trillhouse
Category: +G through L > The Loud House
Dragon prints: 1231
Disclaimer: I do not own The Loud House, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Quality Time


 

Lincoln sighed as he lay in bed in his underwear, reading an issue of Ace Savvy for what felt like the hundredth time. He was bored. It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon; perpetually overcast, as if even the rain couldn't be bothered to fall. And it was February, so that meant there were no new video games to hold Lincoln's interest.

Suddenly, a there was a knock at his door. "C'mon in," He mumbled half-heartedly.

"Hey, twerp." It was Lori. "What're you- oh. Nice." She drawled sarcastically at his current state of undress. Lincoln huffed; she just didn't understand the simple pleasures in life. "Anyway, are you busy?"

"Uh," Lincoln began, flicking his eyes to the old comic in his hands. "…No?"

"You wanna go out?" Lori asked.

"Go out…?" Lincoln cocked an eyebrow. "Where?"

"I dunno…" Lori sighed. "Just out."

"Who else is going?"

"Just us." Lori responded.

"Just us?"

"Is that a problem?" She asked flatly, before adding, "…It'll be fun. I promise."

Lincoln chewed his bottom lip. He'd learned to be skeptical of Lori's offers to hang out; usually they would end up with him acting as a glorified servant, struggling to carry his weight in shopping bags. But, she sounded sincere enough, and he was bored. "Sure, why not," he said with a shrug.

"Great, get dressed. I'll be downstairs." She turned to leave, before glancing over her shoulder at him. Her gaze lingered just a little too long for Lincoln's liking, and there was something about her expression that seemed… off.

"What?" Lincoln asked.

"…Nothing." Lori muttered quickly, turning away. "Don't keep me waiting, twerp." And with that she was gone. Lincoln sighed softly. That was weird, he thought. Then again, Lori always was a bit hard to read.


"So, where are we going?" Lincoln asked as he hopped into the passenger seat of Vanzilla.

"How 'bout the movies?" Lori said as she buckled her seatbelt. "Your choice."

Lincoln's heart soared. His choice?! He never got to choose. "W-well," He began, "Could we see Ace Savvy v. Crimson Chin: Dawn of Revengeance?" He was supposed to see it with Clyde the previous weekend, but a sudden cold had dashed those plans. He'd spent the past week dodging spoilers, refusing to even read a single review until he'd seen it for himself.

"Sure." To his surprise, Lori agreed without hesitation. She turned the key in the ignition and the engine chugged to life. "Buckle up, twerp." She said, and he did. Then, she adjusted the rear view mirror.

And then the side mirrors.

…And then the rear view mirror again, until she felt it was just right. Finally, she reached over and gave Lincoln's seatbelt a tug to ensure it was secure. Odd, thought Lincoln. Lori had always been a careful driver, but this was… a bit much.

She pulled out carefully, and then they were on their way. "So," She began, "How's school?"

"Fine," Lincoln muttered in response. "How's yours?"

"Literally the worst," Lori sighed. "Everyone's getting all stressed out for the finals."

That's right, thought Lincoln. It wouldn't be long before the semester was over, and then Lori would be off to college. The thought saddened him somewhat; Lori could be rough at times, but he still loved her. "Well, are you ready?" He asked.

"I think so." Lori said confidently. "I mean, I've been studying…" Lori coughed. "…and if worst comes to worst… I'll figure something out."

"You'll cheat, you mean?" Lincoln asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No, no…" Lori said with a sly grin. "I'll just use… unconventional means to get ahead."

"…So, you'll cheat."

"Oh, Lincoln…" She sighed. "Sometimes to succeed you need to bend the rules a bit."

"You sound like a businesswoman already," Lincoln chuckled.

The rest of the drive was fairly quiet, and soon they arrived at the Royal Woods Cinema. Lincoln was trembling with excitement as he sat down, popcorn in hand; strangely for a Saturday afternoon, the theater was mostly empty. But Lincoln wasn't one to question good fortune… this meant that he and Lori got the best seats in the house. He couldn't wait. The moment was here at last; two of the world's greatest heroes finally together on the silver screen. As the house lights dimmed, he settled into his seat, ready to be blown away.

…The next two and a half hours were the worst cinematic experience of his young life.

When One-Eyed Jack was unceremoniously killed off in the opening scene, Lincoln was shocked… and not in a good way. When the Crimson Chin inexplicably had a dream sequence within a dream sequence within a flashback, he was baffled. And when Ace Savvy started 'heroically' mowing down goons with an uzi, he was livid. By the time the end credits rolled, Lincoln was staring slack-jawed at the screen. What was that?

"Yo, twerp. Earth to Lincoln," Said Lori, snapping her fingers. "It's over."

"R-right…" Lincoln stammered, hopping out of his seat. After a quick trip to the bathroom, the two siblings returned to the lobby with an uneasy silence hanging over them.

"W-well…" Lori said, clearing her throat. "That was… something…"

"It sucked," Lincoln stated plainly.

"Yeah… it really did, didn't it?" Lori snickered into her palm. "R-remember when… remember when both their mommies were named Clara?"

"How do you know that naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame?!" Lincoln growled in his best Ace Savvy voice. This made Lori snort with laughter, and he found himself joining in.

"O-okay… let's get out of here. You hungry?" She asked, wiping a mirthful tear from the corner of her eye.

"Yeah," Lincoln said, now realizing he had yet to eat a proper meal today. "Starving." As they headed for the exit, Lincoln glanced over at the small arcade tucked away in the corner. "Hey, Lori," he began, "Think we could stop in the ar-"

"No." Lori cut him off bluntly. He frowned, but decided not to press the issue; he knew better than to press his luck with her. Besides, he figured, he should be grateful for what he got.

"So… where are we going to eat?" Lincoln asked as he got into the car.

"You'll see," Lori replied with a smirk.


Lincoln couldn't believe it. So this was why she'd said no… they were going to Gus' Games & Grub.

"Thank you!" He cried out, giving Lori a big hug as soon as they got out of the car.

"No problem, twerp." Lori said, giving him a quick hug in return.

"Really, thanks Lori… the movies and Gus' on the same- wait…" Lincoln said. "You're being… really nice today. What's the catch?"

Lori scoffed. "There's no catch. Is it that weird to want to spend some time with my little brother?"

Lincoln rubbed his chin in thought. "I… guess not." He mumbled. Guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

"Now come on. Pizza first, games later." Lori said, and they headed inside.


Gus' pizza, admittedly, was nothing special. But Lincoln had learned an unspoken fact of life over the years: the only thing better than good pizza was bad pizza. The imitation cheese, the undoubtedly frozen tomato sauce, the questionable meat discs that passed as pepperoni… to Lincoln, the satisfaction of Gus' pizza was only enhanced by the deep sense of personal shame that came along with it.

As Lincoln glanced up from his food, he realized that Lori was looking at him again. Her expression, as before, was… hard to read. Melancholy, maybe. Or… wistful? Lincoln swallowed the chunk of pizza sitting in his mouth. "Are you okay, Lori?"

Lori's eyes widened just a bit before settling back into a disinterested, neutral gaze. "I'm fine," She said simply, diverting her attention towards the window and passively nibbling at a breadstick. "Eat."

Lincoln frowned. Now that he took a closer look at her, he noticed that her makeup was applied just a bit heavier than usual, especially around the eyes; though faint, he could make out the telltale creases of a sleepless night. Something was definitely up with her.

Lincoln chewed at his pizza. He knew better than to outright ask her; she never did like to be up front about things like that. Whether that was due to teenage stubbornness or if that was just how she was, he didn't know. He noticed her idly drumming her fingers against the table… wait. Her phone, he realized. He hadn't seen her on her phone all day… of course!

"Lori," he asked, hesitantly. "Did something happen between you and Bobby?"

"What?" Lori seemed confused. "No."

"Oh…" Lincoln coughed. "It's just, I haven't seen you texting him today."

"Because I told him I was with you today, Lincoln." Lori said with a dreamy sigh. "Me and my Bobby Boo Boo Bear have literally never been happier~"

Lincoln cringed. Well, so much for that, he thought.

"But, since you're apparently so interested in my love life," Lori began with a sly smirk. "What about you and Ronnie-Anne?"

"U-uh…" Lincoln stammered, red-faced. Though they still weren't officially a couple, there was no denying he and Ronnie-Anne had a bit of a thing going on. On his last trip to visit her, unbeknownst to Lori, things had even gotten a bit… experimental. "We're good," He said quickly. "Although…"

"Although…?"

Lincoln sighed. Things were good between him, and they were certainly close, but… "…I do… worry a bit, sometimes."

Lori frowned. "About what?"

"It's just… I like Ronnie-Anne a lot, you know? And I'm pretty sure she likes me too, but…" Lincoln began, chewing his cheap pizza. "…Sometimes I worry that she's just kinda messing with me." He admitted.

"What makes you say that?" Lori asked, her voice low and comforting.

"It's like… I don't really mind when she picks on me," Lincoln muttered, red-faced. "In fact, I kinda… like it. But sometimes it's just kinda… too much. And then I feel like, I don't know…"

"Like she's toying with you?"

Lincoln gave a small nod.

"And… have you told her this?"

"Well, no…" Lincoln replied. "I don't want her to get mad at me."

Lori mulled this over for a few moments, taking a sip of her soda. "Lincoln," She said at last, "You like Ronnie-Anne, right?"

"O-of course!" Lincoln stammered.

"You want this to work?"

"I do," He agreed.

"Then you need to sit her down and explain to her how you feel." Lori said matter-of-factly, gesturing towards him with her breadstick for emphasis. "If she likes you as much as you like her, then she'll understand."

"But what if she gets mad…?"

"Let me tell you something, Lincoln." Lori spoke softly. "If she gets mad about something like that, you literally never had anything in the first place. Relationships are take compromise and effort on both sides… the second it becomes a struggle, it's not worth it."

Lincoln chewed his lip. He figured she had a point.

"Besides," She added. "Even if it doesn't work out… you've still got your whole life ahead of you. Don't be in such a rush to grow up."

"…Thanks, Lori." He said with a smile. "You're right. I'll talk to her-"

"I mean that, by the way." Lori suddenly interjected, a hint of sternness to her voice. "You're still a kid. No more getting handsy till you're older, capiche?"

Lincoln gulped, his face going white. Clearly, he had underestimated just how thin the walls were at the Casagrande's place.


Lincoln strolled happily through the arcade, pockets jingling with tokens. "Oh, man… what should we play first, Lori?" He asked, glancing over his shoulder. "…Lori?" She was staring at him again, lost in her own world. "Earth to Lori…?"

"Huh…?" She said as she snapped out of her daze. "Oh, right. What do you want to play, Lincoln?" She coughed, trying to act natural.

Lincoln frowned. He had nearly forgotten how out of sorts Lori was; still, he was determined to get to the bottom of it. But how to go about it…? Lincoln glanced around the arcade before his eyes landed on one game in particular. Super Mega Brawlers Turbo Fighter XXIV Arcade Edition Xrd Rev.20 Re-Act Cadenza Coded: Third Strike. Perfect, Lincoln thought.

"Hey Lori," he said slyly. "What would you say to a little wager…?"

Lori bristled slightly. He knew he had her… Lori never could turn down a direct challenge. "…What kind of wager?"

"Turbo Fighter. Best three out of five." Lincoln grinned. "If I win… you tell me what's been bothering you."

Lori's face fell. She sighed, crossing her arms. "…You're not going to let this go, are you…?"

"Nope."

Lori thought it over. Finally, she shrugged in resignation. "And if I win?"

Lincoln groaned. He hadn't considered that part. "If you win… I'll do you a favor. No questions asked, whatever you want."

"And you'll drop it?"

"If that was the favor."

"No deal."

"Fine," Lincoln sighed. "And I'll drop it."

Lori chewed her thumb in thought, then smirked and nodded. "Alright twerp. You're on."

Lincoln smirked confidently. This will be a cakewalk, he thought as Lori joined him at the cabinet.

And so began the most epic blowout of Lincoln's life. For every move he made, Lori had an answer. Every super was blocked, every hasty action was punished; Lincoln was completely dominated. The matches ended 3-0… Lincoln hadn't even managed to get a round in.

"H-how…?" He stammered in disbelief. Lincoln didn't understand. He'd been practicing and everything.

"Sorry, lil' bro," said a very smug Lori. "I grew up with Turbo Fighter on the original GameStation… old habits die hard, I guess."

"Yeah, great…" Lincoln sulked. It wasn't so much that he was upset about losing… rather, it was the fact that he wasn't going to get an answer out of his sister. Lori smiled gently and ruffled his hair.

"Hey… don't worry about it. It's literally nothing you need to worry about." Lori assured him.

"You're sure…?"

"Totally."

In all honesty, Lincoln wasn't convinced, but he smiled nonetheless. "Guess I owe you a favor, huh?"

"Oh yeah," Lori smirked. "But I'll figure that out later. What do you say we play a few more games before we head out?"

Lincoln nodded in approval. "Well," he began, glancing back at the Turbo Fighter cabinet, "Can you maybe… teach me a few things?"

Lori laughed. "Come, grasshopper. You have much to learn."


The sun was just starting to set as Lori and Lincoln pulled in to the driveway.

"Thanks for today, Lori." Lincoln said, giving her a big hug before they stepped inside. "I had a lot of fun."

"Don't mention it, twerp," She replied, returning the hug before adding, "Literally, don't mention it. I've got a reputation to uphold, y'know?" The two shared a laugh before heading inside.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful. During dinner Lincoln had almost choked on a meatball, but a swift kick to the gut from Lynn had fixed that… granted, she hadn't known he was choking, but he still appreciated it enough to promise to help her train in the morning. This meant he'd have to go to bed a bit earlier than usual, but it was just as well; he was pretty tired from his day out.

By 9:00, Lincoln had already drifted off to sleep. Living with ten nosy sisters had made Lincoln something of a light sleeper; heck, Luan's constant pranks would be enough to make anyone sleep with one eye open. Proverbially, of course.

Which is why he awoke four hours later, roused from his slumber by the sound of an opening door. His door. Dang it, Luan, he thought, but he remained still and silent, facing the wall… pretending to be asleep. He'd wait for her to try something before catching her in the act.

But it never came. The intruder, whoever they may be, was just… standing there. He could hear their faint breathing, feel their eyes on the back of his head… it was unnerving, to say the least. He shifted slightly, and he heard their breath catch in their throat; a few moments later, they left, closing the door just as quietly as they had come.

That was weird, he thought. It couldn't have been Luan… there's no way she would pass up the opportunity for a prank. Lucy, maybe? She had mentioned once that she liked watching people sleep… creepy, but not all that weird for her. Lincoln groaned; in any case, he was certainly awake now.

Lincoln turned and glanced at the clock… 1:34 AM. "Great," he grumbled, flopping back against his pillow. He stared at the ceiling in silence for a bit, hoping for sleep to take him, but it was no use. With a heavy sigh, Lincoln sat up. Warm milk oughta do the trick, he figured.


Lincoln descended the stairs slowly so as not to wake anyone, stifling a yawn. His brow furrowed as he noticed the living room was bathed in a dim glow; who could be watching TV at this hour, he wondered? Then, he spotted her on the couch, her large blonde perm unmistakable even from behind. "Lori…?"

He noticed her stiffen up at his voice, before settling back into the couch. "…What are you doing up, twerp?" She said quietly without turning to look at him… a little too quietly, even considering the late hour.

"I was gonna ask you the same thing," Lincoln replied with a frown as he walked over to the couch. She was sitting with her knees pulled up against her chest, and even in the faint glow of the television she looked terrible. Free from makeup, the bags under her eyes were evident. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she snapped quickly. "I just… couldn't sleep." Lincoln glanced at the television; it was some fishing program, the volume turned low enough to be little more than a faint murmur. Clearly, she wasn't actually watching it.

"Lori…" Lincoln began, sitting down next to her. "What's going on?"

Lori sucked her teeth. "…You said you'd drop it." Lincoln winced; he had promised her, but still…

"Were you just in my room?"

Lori's breath hitched and she seemed to draw in her knees a little closer to herself. "Lincoln," she muttered, barely above a whisper, "Drop it."

Lincoln huffed. Fine. If that's how it's going to be… Without another word he got to his feet and walked out, leaving Lori to sulk.

Several minutes later he returned, two mugs of warm milk in hand. He set one on the coffee table for Lori as he sat down. "What's going on," he said again, more forcefully this time.

For a few moments, Lori didn't respond. "It's stupid." She muttered under her breath. "You'll laugh."

"I won't." Lincoln assured her.

Lori frowned, looking at the steaming mug in front of her. Slowly, she reached out and took hold of it, carefully taking a sip. She shut her eyes as the warmth spread throughout her body. Finally, she took a deep breath. "I had a dream." Lori said softly. "A… nightmare, I mean." She clarified. "…Last night."

"About what?"

Lori chewed her lip apprehensively. "…About you." She admitted finally. "I, uh… was in college, and I got… I got a call."

"Go on." Lincoln said, putting a hand on her back. She shook her head.

"No."

"Lori, please." He said gently. The pieces were starting to fall into place, but he needed to hear it for himself.

Lori took another sip of milk before continuing. "T-there'd been an accident. You…" Lori's voice cracked. "…you were gone." She sniffed, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Y-you were gone, and... and there was nothing I could do."

Lincoln frowned. Now it all made sense… the staring, her extra-cautious driving. He knew firsthand how a bad nightmare could stick with you, but even he'd never had one like that. He scooted closer and embraced his sister; he could feel her trembling beneath his arms, "It's okay, Lori… it's' okay. I'm here."

"N-no, it's not okay…" Lori whimpered softly, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him tightly against her chest. "I remember I just… I just fell to my knees, and then I was just there, and I…" Lori's chest began heaving with sobs. "I-I looked down, and you were in my arms and you were all bloody and twisted around and… and..."

"L-Lori, easy… breathe…" Lincon gasped as his sister clutched him tightly against her. He winced in pain as he felt Lori's nails digging into his skin.

"I-I just started screaming, and screaming, and begging you to wake up, a-and your eyes were…" Lori choked, "T-they were open, but you were… oooohh God…" She buried her face in his shoulder and began to sob freely, soaking his pajamas with snot and tears.

Lincoln simply held her and let her cry until her tears ran out. Seeing his oldest sister in such a state was heartbreaking. He'd seen he cry many times in the past, of course, usually after a fight with Bobby… but not like this. She was in a near-panic, clinging to him as though she were afraid he might disappear before her eyes. Lincoln stroked the back of her head gently as her sobs finally began to subside.

"Lori, are you okay?" He asked in a near-whisper. She hiccupped softly before giving a small nod. Lincoln reached over and grabbed her mug. "Here," he said as he offered it to her, "Drink."

Lori hiccupped again before slowly drawing back from him and taking the mug. She gave him a small, forced smile of gratitude and took a sip. "Thank you…" she murmured.

Lincoln returned the smile. He put his arm around her and let her lean into him. "Lori," He said softly. "You don't need to worry. It was just a dream... I'm here, aren't I? I'm fine."

"I-" Lori hiccupped again. "I know. But it… it felt real, Lincoln." She took another sip of milk before continuing. "I know it's stupid… but it felt real. And I… I don't know..." Lori sniffled. "I'd literally never… even thought about it before. The fact that something could just… take you away from me. Just like that."

"Lori, nothing's-"

"But it could." She interjected. "And it did. Even… even if it was just a dream… at that moment, it was real. At that moment, I lost you. You were just… gone from my life. A-and there was nothing I could do. I couldn't…" Lori choked back another sob. "...I couldn't even say goodbye. I couldn't even tell you… tell you how much you mean to me."

Lincoln gently nudged her mug, urging her to take another sip. She does so.

"I just… I just started thinking, you know? About you… about how I've treated you." Lori bit her lip. "I've been awful to you."

"No you haven't!"

"I have. All I do is boss you around and push you away, and I never…" Lori swallows. "Lincoln, I need you to understand… I love you. I really do. Even… even if I don't always show it. You're my only brother, and you're literally more precious to me than I could ever say." She gripped her mug a little tighter. "If anything were to happen to you… I don't know what I'd do. I don't know if I could go on."

"Don't…" Lincoln choked out, feeling his own eyes growing wet. "Don't say that."

"It's true." Lori mumbled.

"Stop it," He chided her. "Lori, listen… you don't need to tell me all that. You're wonderful."

"I'm not, though." She whimpered. "All I do is treat you like a pest…"

"Well, I am a pest." Lincoln said with a gentle smile; Lori couldn't help but smirk slightly herself. "Look… maybe you can get a bit moody, and sure, sometimes we may not even get along. But I've never thought for a second that you didn't love me."

"But-"

"No buts," Lincoln scolded gently. "We're family, Lori… you've been there for me since the day I was born. You're my big sister… my biggest sister. Even if we get on each other's nerves, I wouldn't change anything about you for the world."

Lori smiled, wiping away a tear. "Do you mean that?"

"Of course I do." Lincoln replied honestly. "And don't you worry about that dream. You're right… anything can happen, and sure… someday, I'll be gone. But so will you, and mom, and Luna, and everyone else on Earth! Right now, I'm here, and I don't plan on going anywhere for a long time."

Lori grinned sweetly, setting down her mug before giving her brother a big hug. "Thank you, Linky." She said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I… I'm okay now, I think."

"You don't need to thank me," He said, returning the hug. "You'd do the same for me."

"Will you stay with me tonight…?"

"Do you really need to ask?"

Lori chuckled as she readjusted herself. She laid on the couch with Lincoln snuggled against her side, hugging him against her like a giant teddy bear. They lay in silence for a while before Lori spoke again. "You know I was the one holding you when you said your first words?"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling at the memory. "I'll never forget it. You looked up at me with that big dorky grin and…" Lori giggled, "You called me 'Mama'."

"O-oh." Lincoln blushed. He supposed Lori was like a second mom to him in a lot of ways.

"And then you pulled my hair," Lori added. "You always were a little twerp, even then."

"Sorry," Lincoln apologized, snickering softly.

"It's fine," Lori said as she hugged him a little tighter. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Lincoln smiled contently. "I know," He said.

"Li-" Lori yawned, "Lincoln…?"

"Yeah?"

"About that favor you owe me…" Lori began, feeling her eyelids growing heavy. "Can you promise me something…?"

"Anything."

"When I go to college… just don't forget about your big sister, okay?" She asked. "Call me sometimes."

"I will." He said smiling gently. "Can you promise me something?"

"U'huh…" Lori mumbled drowsily.

"Let's have more days like today, okay?" He asked. "It was fun."

No response.

"Lori…?" Lincoln asked, looking up at her; but she was already out cold, a thin line of drool trickling from the corner of her mouth as she snored softly. Lincoln let out a small chuckle. I'll take that as a yes, he thought as he settled comfortably against her side.

 

 

 

THE END



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