What She'd Been Missing

BY : Trillhouse
Category: +G through L > The Loud House
Dragon prints: 426
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.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Back again with another brand new fic instead of the shit I was supposed to be doing! For everyone waiting for the next chapter of 'More Than a Sister', I promise it's coming up next... just wanted to get this one started first.

So, for those not in the know, Loan Loud is one of the fan-made 'sin kids', AKA 'abominations'. For the most part, I am not particularly fond of them... with one exception. Perhaps it's because I enjoy writing troubled characters, I dunno. But either way, Loan struck me as a character with a lot of squandered potential, and I wanted to do her justice and make an interesting story around her. Loan is not my character nor do I claim her to be; to my knowledge her character was brought about through a collaborative effort, with the most notable figure being the artist 'Patanu'.

This is not a harem fic. This is not a ship fic. There are no other 'sin kids' within the story besides Loan. This will be a story with dark themes including angst, depression, mental illness, suicide, rape, and a whole lot of other shit. But more than anything, this story is about family, and is meant to be uplifting. If you do not like the 'sin kids', I implore you to give it a chance.

Please enjoy!

 

 

What She'd Been Missing

Chapter 1 - Getting Away


 

 

 

It was gray, dreary day in central Michigan. To most, that would be a bad thing, but to a certain nervous young woman it was extremely soothing, even as tiny droplets of rain pitter-pattered against the window. It wasn't necessarily that she disliked sunlight, it just hurt her eyes... though she assumed that was mostly her own doing.

She watched the scenery go by with muted interest, occasionally flicking her eyes towards the rotund man in the driver's seat. She couldn't remember his name. She rarely could remember people's names when she was off her meds, but she couldn't bring herself to take them today… not when her lucidity had brought her this far. Unfortunately, this also left her extremely anxious; granted, she was always anxious, but at least the pills made it manageable. Right now, however, all she could think about was how far away from home she was, how unfamiliar her surroundings were, and how she was in a car with a stranger.

She flicked her eyes towards the man again. He'd been nice enough thus far, and thankfully had given up on trying to make small talk with her when it became clear she wouldn't say much. She wished she could be a bit friendlier towards him, but she didn't know him… and quite frankly, even among the few people she did know there were maybe two or three that she trusted. Normally she'd be listening to music right now, but she didn't want to distract herself too much. Besides, between the gentle beating of the rain against the window and the rapid tapping of her finger on the armrest, she could kind of make out a rhythm, a tune that only she could hear.

The man shifted slightly. Had he noticed?

Of course he noticed. Could you be any more obvious? Just act normal. For once in your life at least PRETEND to be a normal fucking human being.

She forced herself to look out the window again. It's not like he could do anything while driving, right?

Who the hell would touch you anyway? You're disgusting.

She did her best to shake off the intrusive thoughts. They always came out in full force when she was off her medication.

She knew she had no reason to fear the man, but she did anyway. She feared most things. Still, this was a big step for her… the biggest she'd ever taken. Hiring a driver for such a long drive had been expensive, but it was worth it. Granted, it wasn't technically her money, but she had to get away. She had to leave.

She felt her phone vibrate again, for the fifteenth time in an hour. She didn't need to look at it to know it was her. She wouldn't answer. Maybe someday she would, but not now. Not that there wasn't a part of her that wanted to, but she couldn't… otherwise, there would be no point to any of this.

As she watched the passing scenery, she found her eyelids growing heavy. She tried to force herself to stay awake, but it was no use… as the dark creases under her eyes would attest to, she rarely got much sleep. Before long, she found herself drifting off into a dreamless slumber.

"…iss... Miss? We've arrived." Someone was speaking to her. She scrunched up her face in annoyance, trying to wave off the intruder; she'd finally been able to get some sleep, after all. "Miss?" The voice said again.

She felt someone touch her shoulder.

Her eyes shot open instantly. The girl shrieked, recoiling in panic and frightening the man, who let out a small yelp as he fell back onto his rear. The young woman's chest heaved rapidly, staring at him with wide, frantic eyes; as the shock began to wear off, she realized that they had stopped, and the car door was open… he'd just been trying to wake her.

"O-oh… oh my God, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" The girl sputtered, but the man just chuckled softly, holding up a hand to reassure her.

"It's alright, it was my fault. I didn't mean to frighten you, Miss." The man said in a polite tone as he got to his feet, dusting himself off. He offered a hand to help the young woman out, but she just stared at it in uncomfortable silence. The man withdrew his hand, using it to stifle a cough. "R-right. Well, we've arrived. Welcome to Hazeltucky."

"O-oh… yes. A-alright." She grabbed her bag and got out, noticeably walking past the driver as quickly as possible. Her face was bright red with embarrassment. "U-um… thank you." She said quietly. "For the drive, I mean."

"No need to thank me, Miss. It's my job, after all." The man replied with a jovial voice. "I do hope the trip was pleasant for you." The girl bit her lip and nodded silently. She supposed it had been a comfortable drive, despite her nervousness. "Well then, thank you for your patronage, Miss Loud," The man said, tipping his cap to her. "Do feel free to request my services again should the need arise."

"O-oh… I will, um…"

"Kirby, Miss."

"Right... Kirby." She muttered, scratching her cheek nervously. "T-thank you. A-and I'm sorry for the trouble…"

"No trouble at all, I assure you." Kirby said with a gentle laugh. "You have yourself a wonderful day." He started to get into his car, only to stop and turn towards her again. "By the way… do I… know you from somewhere?"

The young woman frowned, thinking a moment before shaking her head. "No… no, I don't think so…"

"…Huh. I see." Kirby shrugged. "My mistake. Well, Goodbye, Miss Loud." With another tip of his hat, the chauffer got back into his car and drove off. The girl gave an awkward wave as he left, and by the time he turned the corner, she had already forgotten his name.

With a small sigh, she turned back towards the house before her. It was a nice, modest suburban home, one of many lining the residential street. The lawn was neatly trimmed, dotted with fallen leaves and a few decorative elements; a pinwheel spun in the Autumn breeze, and off to the side were a few garden gnomes that she could swear were staring at her. She shook the thought away, knowing fully well how stupid it was. All in all, it was just a suburban neighborhood like any other… or, she assumed so at least. It was all somewhat foreign to the girl… in her twenty-one years of life, she'd left the city maybe five times total, if not less.

A chilly breeze made the girl shudder slightly. She was glad she'd worn her sweater, but then again, she rarely went without it. The young woman clutched at her sleeve nervously as she stood before her destination; now that she was actually here, her anxiety was returning in full force. She felt her chest tightening, her breaths growing short and ragged… what was she doing here? What was she thinking? Maybe there was still time to call the driver back…

That's right. Run back home with your tail between your legs, coward. Same as always.

The girl grit her teeth and strode forward. She'd prove herself wrong. She could do this. She was an adult, for crying out loud.

However, as she stood at the door with her hand raised to push the doorbell, she found herself hesitating once again. What if he turned her away? Why wouldn't he? She was little more than a stranger to the man…

…And he was a stranger to her.

A lump began to form in the girl's throat. That's right… he was a stranger. She'd only met him twice in her life, and one of those times she'd been too young to even remember it. She didn't know him. So what the hell had brought her here, of all places?

Perhaps it was because he had been so nice to her when they'd last met. They only spoke briefly but, well… she spoke to him. She wasn't sure why, but something about him had just loosened her up a bit… hell, he'd even managed to get a laugh out of her, though she couldn't for the life of her remember what he had said.

Or perhaps because she knew this was the one place her mother would never look for her.

Still, she couldn't bring herself to ring the bell. She just stood there trembling, beads of sweat forming on her forehead despite the chill in the air. She was far away from home, in a town she'd never been to before, about to ring a stranger's doorbell. About to just… barge into his life. And that's only assuming the address she'd found was correct… for all she knew, this could be some murderous psychopath.

Go ahead. Turn back. Run back home to mommy, like you always do.

The young woman clutched her chest, suddenly finding it very hard to breathe. No… not here, she thought. Not now. She braced herself against the doorframe, hunching over as the panic set in… the other side effect of not taking her medication, unfortunately. Stay calm, she thought. She counted from one to ten, then back from ten to one. Stay lucid. Breathe. You can do this.

Don't lie. You can't do anything.

"SHUT UP!" The girl screamed at herself. Without further hesitation, she pushed the button… several times in fact, the loud chiming sound cutting itself short with each press. She froze, her breath catching in her throat. Well, she'd done it now. No turning back.

Just run. Run now. You know you want to.

But the girl did not run. Quite frankly, she wasn't sure if she could even if she wanted to… her legs were completely frozen in place. So, she waited.

And waited.

See? He's not even home. Just go back. Go back n-

Then, she heard the telltale click of someone unlocking the front door. She could have sworn that her heart stopped for a brief moment, time seemingly moving in slow motion as the door opened.

Run run run run run run run run run run run run run

And then, there he was. Standing before her in an orange collared shirt and beige slacks, his stark white hair unmistakable.

Her Uncle, Lincoln Loud.

In the seven years since she'd seen him last, he hadn't changed much. He had a few more wrinkles under his eyes, and a faint scruff on his chin, his white hair making it almost impossible to notice unless you looked closely. He'd also developed the slightest hint of paunch around his midsection, but even at thirty-three he still looked fairly young.

As he laid eyes on the girl standing before him, whatever greeting he'd been about to give had died on his lips. For a brief moment, he looked as though he'd seen a ghost. "L-Lor-" He began, but then his brow furrowed as he realized that, no… this was not Lori. She was too young, too thin, too… disheveled. With no makeup to speak of, the heavy bags under her eyes were apparent, and her hair, while undeniably similar, was longer and unkempt. But… he knew her. "Hang on… Loan?"

Loan gave a small wave, a tiny, nervous smile creeping across her face. "H-hi, Uncle Lincoln…" She mumbled. She could only bear to look him in the eye for a brief moment before staring at the ground, fidgeting awkwardly. "It's, um… it's been a while…"

"Yeah…" Lincoln muttered. He shook his head slightly to clear his mind and put on a warm smile for the girl. "How have you been?"

"I'm… good…" Loan said quietly.

There was a heavy, tense atmosphere between the two; Lincoln averted his eyes for a moment, lightly drumming his fingers against his arm. "Sooo… what brings you here?" He glanced behind her, noticing no car in the driveway, nor bike, nor… anything really. How had she even gotten here?

"I-I, um…" The nervous girl stuttered, shrinking back a bit. She opened her mouth to speak, then quickly shut it tightly. She hadn't actually thought about what she was going to say when she got here… conversation did not come easy to Loan. She swallowed. "I… I…"

Go on. Tell him. Use your words you idiot.

"…I don't know."

You're a real fucking piece of work, you know that?

For his part, Lincoln could only stare perplexed at his niece. He scanned her body briefly; her ragged appearance, her withdrawn posture, the way she fitfully rolled her forefoot against the ground.

The duffle bag over her shoulder.

Quite frankly, even a casual observer would be able to tell that something was wrong here… the girl's troubled demeanor was anything but subtle, after all. But the bag she carried with her told a deeper story. "Loan…" He began with a gentle voice. "Did you… come here alone?"

Loan let out a quiet whimper. She couldn't look at the man before her… he didn't want her here, she knew it. This was his home, his life. She didn't belong here.

You don't belong anywhere.

Loan could feel her chest tightening up again. She began noticeably trembling in apprehension, and Lincoln's brow furrowed with concern.

"Loan, are you-"

"I-I'm sorry!" She blurted out suddenly, squeezing her eyes shut. "I'll go…!"

"W-wait!" Lincoln said, reaching out and gently grasping her wrist as she turned away.

"Ah!" Loan yelped and quickly yanked her arm free, as though his touch had burned her. Lincoln looked at the frightened girl with a mixture of confusion and sympathy on his face; Loan simply stood trembling, her pupils contracted into tiny pinpricks. She swallowed and took a deep breath to calm herself.

Good job. You freaked out again, and now he thinks you're crazy. Of course… you ARE crazy, aren't you…?

Loan straightened herself as best as she could, staring at the ground as she clutched her wrist. "…I'm sorry," She said softly.

"N-no… don't apologize." Her Uncle sighed softly, scratching the back of his head. He mentally cursed himself for being so forceful with the girl… she was clearly on edge, after all. "Listen, um… would you like to come inside?" He offered. Loan opened her mouth to speak, but once again nothing came out; she bit her lip and looked off to the side in consideration.

Just run. He's just being nice, he doesn't want you here. Run. Your mother will forgive you as long as you turn back now. Run. RUN.

"I-I, ah…" Loan forced herself to look up at her Uncle. Her refusal died on her lips as her gaze met his blue eyes… so kind. So accepting. He wasn't telling her to come in… he was inviting her. Loan took a deep breath and forced down her doubts. Enough, she told herself. I'm here. I'm not going back. Not yet. "Y-yes. Thank you."

A small smile crossed Lincoln's face and he stepped aside to let her in. Loan hesitated a brief moment, taking one last look over her shoulder…

…And then she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket again.

Loan steeled herself and strode past her Uncle into the house.

The first thing that struck Loan was just how spacious the house was. Not that her home was small, mind you, but even a luxury apartment like the one she shared with her mother would naturally be a bit compact. As she glanced around the living room, wringing her hands, she couldn't help but feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. The high ceiling dwarfed her, and yet… there was something distinctly homey about the place. The house was well-lit, the walls a pleasant beige color, the furnishings simple yet inviting. It was a far cry from the sterile, dark grey-and-blue modern décor that her mother was so fond of.

The room held a dark brown L-shaped sofa that looked quite soft, compared to the stiff and boxy design of the couch at her apartment. Sitting before that was a glass-topped coffee table, and on the opposite wall was an entertainment center topped with a nicely-sized flatscreen TV. On the right side of the room was an opening that Loan figured must lead to a dining room or kitchen, and about five feet or so past that was a stairway leading up to a balcony overlooking the living room.

"So, uh… welcome." Lincoln said, snapping the girl out of her daze; she jumped slightly, as though she had forgotten he was there. "It's not much, but…"

"N-no… it's really nice." Loan muttered, earning a small smile from her Uncle. "I, um… I'm sorry about just showing up like this..."

"No worries," Lincoln assured her, waving his hand dismissively. "My home's always open to family." Somehow, that settled the girl's nerves slightly. That's right, she thought. He's not a stranger. He's my Uncle. I can trust him, right?

"Lincoln?" Loan heard a female voice from the adjacent room, and a moment later a tall Hispanic woman entered, sporting an apron. She was somehow both slightly masculine and strikingly pretty, with freckled olive skin and her black hair pulled into a ponytail. "Who was-" The woman's eyes widened in shock as she laid eyes on Loan, and she seemed to freeze in place for a moment. And then, her face contorted in anger… no, pure, blistering rage. "You…" She hissed, making the young woman shrink back in fright.

"I-I, uh…" Loan stammered.

"How dare you-"

"Whoa! Ronnie, stop!" Lincoln interjected, grabbing her by the arm as she began to take a step towards Loan. "E-excuse us for a second…" He muttered to Loan before dragging the furious woman back into the dining room. Loan just watched in silent confusion, her heart pounding slightly. She was sure she'd never met that woman in her life, and yet… it was unabashedly clear that she hated her.

See? You're not welcome here.

Shut up, Loan told herself.

 


 

"Let go of me!" Ronnie snapped, pulling her arm free from her husband's grip.

"Ronnie, please, calm-"

"I will not calm down!" She snarled, pointing toward the living room. "What the hell is that whore doing in my home?!"

"Ronnie!" Lincoln said, raising his voice slightly as he grabbed his wife by the shoulders. "That's not Lori!" Ronnie's brow furrowed slightly.

"What do you-"

"It's not Lori," Lincoln repeated, gently squeezing her shoulders. "She's my niece, Loan." Ronnie blinked in confusion, and then leaned over to peer out from the doorway. Thankfully, the girl was staring down at the floor and didn't notice her; however, taking a closer look, it was indeed not Lori. Ronnie frowned and turned back to her husband.

"She's…"

"Lori's, yeah." Lincoln sighed. Ronnie's scowl returned, though far lesser than before. Given the depth of her hatred for his oldest sister, Lincoln was hardly surprised that she'd be a bit apprehensive about the sudden visitor.

"She looks just like her," Ronnie muttered quietly, a note of sadness in her voice. Lincoln's expression softened and he pulled his wife close.

"I know, honey. But she's not her." He said softly. Ronnie still looked conflicted, but nonetheless her expression relaxed slightly.

"What's she doing here?" She asked under her breath.

"I… I don't know. I'm going to find out." He assured his wife. "Just… please, be nice to her. She's… a bit on edge." Ronnie raised an eyebrow before taking another glance at the girl. Now, she noticed the tense posture, the awkward shuffling, the occasional twitch of her eye… quite frankly, 'on edge' was a huge understatement.

"Lincoln…" She began, "Is there… something wrong with her…?" Lincoln opened his mouth to respond, but in truth, he had no idea. Really, he didn't know much about the girl at all.

"…Look, just let me worry about it, okay?" He said, giving Ronnie a reassuring smile. "Now, come on. I'll introduce you." Ronnie sucked her teeth in consideration, then let out a small sigh.

"…Fine. I guess… I should apologize, at least." Lincoln grinned, but Ronnie just shot him a stern look. "But I swear, if you just brought a junkie into the house…"

"Ronnie, she's not a junkie." Her husband groaned. At least, I hope not. Taking her by the hand, he led his reluctant wife back into the living room. "Loan?"

"IDIDN'TTOUCHANYTHING!" The girl yelped, jumping back from the picture she'd been examining, only to back into a tall vase, making it wobble. She discretely grabbed it to steady it before tucking her hands behind her back and giving a sheepish grin.

Smooth, Loan. Smooth.

Lincoln shared an aside glance with Ronnie before clearing his throat. "R-right… well, I wanted to introduce you to my wife."

"Ronalda," Ronnie said, forcing a smile as she extended her hand in greeting. "Call me Ronnie."

Loan looked at the outstretched hand as though it were some sort of space alien; her eyes flicked from Ronnie's hand to her face, then back to her hand, then to her face once more before finally settling on her hand.

For fuck's sake Loan you know how to shake a hand. What's wrong with you?

Slowly, awkwardly, Loan raised a trembling hand and lightly grasped the ends of her Aunt's fingers, giving her hand what could only charitably be referred to as a shake. "L-Loan," She mumbled. "Call me, um… Loan." Ronnie cocked an eyebrow and Loan quickly withdrew her hand. "O-or not! Call me whatever you want…!" She said with a nervous, forced laugh.

"Oooookay…" Ronnie murmured under her breath, only for Lincoln to elbow her slightly. "W-well, nice to meet you Loan. And, um…" Ronnie coughed, her cheeks flushing slightly. "…Sorry about earlier. I, uh… I thought you were somebody else."

"It's… it's fine…" Loan muttered, scratching her cheek. "That… happens a lot." Ronnie took a moment to examine the young woman standing before her. It really was uncanny… were she to clean herself up a bit, she would nearly be a dead ringer for a young Lori Loud. She felt the anger boiling up inside her again and took a deep breath to force it down. She's not Lori, she reminded herself.

"Anyway… I was just about to put on some tea. Would you like some?" Loan seemed to perk up a bit at that; she did like tea, after all. It was one of the few things that could calm her nerves.

"U-um…" The nervous girl stammered. "Do you… have chamomile?"

"Of course," Ronnie replied. "You take honey or sugar?"

"Oh, um… honey, please. Sugar makes me jittery."

"You don't say…" Lincoln shot his wife a mildly annoyed glance, and she simply rolled her eyes. "Alright, I'll be back in a bit. Make yourself at home, Loan." Ronnie said with a smirk before heading back to the kitchen.

"Sorry…" Lincoln said with a small chuckle. "Ronnie can be a bit rough around the edges, but she means well."

"N-no… she's nice." Loan had a tiny, yet genuine smile on her face; clearly, she hadn't picked up on her Aunt's sarcasm.

"So… would you like to sit down?" Lincoln asked, gesturing towards the sofa. Loan looked over at the sofa for several seconds, then back to her Uncle with a somewhat uncertain expression on her face.

"Is… is that alright?" She mumbled as she fiddled with the strap on her duffle bag.

"Well… yeah. Like Ronnie said, make yourself at home." For some reason, her Uncle's kind smile calmed Loan somewhat… she gave a small nod and shuffled around to the front of the sofa.

To her delight, she found that the couch was exactly as soft and comfortable as it looked. The moment her rear end touched the cushion, she couldn't help but give a blissful sigh and settle back against it, sprawling out slightly. She knew it was rude to get so comfortable in a stranger's house, but…

…No… this wasn't a stranger's house, was it? It was her Uncle's.

Lincoln made sure to sit on the opposite end of the couch so as not to disturb her… it was clear that she didn't like to be too close to others, let alone be touched. For some time, neither said anything, and Lincoln took a moment to study the girl… he was absolutely perplexed as to what have possibly brought her here, of all places. He'd only ever met Loan twice… once when she was four, and again when she was fourteen. They had been the only two times Lori had saw fit to join in the family's annual Christmas get-together.

When he'd first met her, she seemed like a normal girl. A bit shy perhaps, but normal enough. He hadn't really gotten to know her then, however… Lori had kept the girl on a tight leash, and in fact seemed to take issue with Lincoln trying to speak to her.

The second time he met her, however, it became clear that something was off about the girl. While the rest of the family socialized and celebrated with one another, Loan had sat alone… completely withdrawn. Aside from her mother, only Luna and Sam seemed to be on friendly terms with her. Few bothered to speak to her, and those that did make the attempt would soon give up trying. But Lincoln was a patient sort, and quite frankly he felt bad for the girl. It took some doing, but once he started talking about video games she'd finally started to open up a bit. She'd proven to be surprisingly easy to talk to after that, and it turned out they shared a lot of interests… games, comics, anime. Quite frankly, he'd enjoyed talking to her.

That is, until Lori suddenly decided that they needed to be going.

Lincoln frowned. Lori. What had happened, there? Once, they had been so close… but as soon as she left for college, everything changed. The first blow had been the sudden news of her pregnancy, barely even a month after she had left. It was something they'd all expected would happen someday, but not so soon. Not at eighteen.

And not with someone besides Bobby.

Quite frankly, that had been the biggest shocker of all. That Lori would cheat on the man that had been working his ass off so they could be together, the man she'd said was her soul mate, it just made no sense. To this day, the details were unclear… all she would say was that she had gotten too drunk at a party and ended up hooking up with some guy. That was it. Just some… random guy.

And even then, Bobby had been willing to forgive her. He'd been willing to chalk the whole incident up to a drunken mistake, a one-time thing that she would have taken back if she could. He'd been willing to raise Lori's baby as if it had been his own. But no… instead, Lori left him. To this day, Lincoln couldn't imagine why… there was no other man. As far as Lincoln could tell, she had still loved him. And yet, just like that… she left him.

Poor Bobby was heartbroken, of course. Beyond heartbroken. It had been easy to forget just how devoted Bobby was to the girl… every job he'd worked, every sacrifice he'd ever made, it had all been for Lori's sake. For two months, he'd tried to win her back… he did everything he possibly could to show her just how much she meant to him. And again and again, Lori snubbed him, until he just couldn't take the heartache anymore.

Ronnie Anne had been the one to find him.

After that, Lori became a different person. She distanced herself from most of the family, focusing the entirety of her efforts on her education and her child. To Lincoln's understanding, she'd had several boyfriends that had never lasted long… not that he would know. While Lori maintained contact with the others in some capacity, she'd pretty much entirely cut out Lincoln from her life. He'd made several attempts to reconnect with her, but to no avail; even when he'd seen her in person, she was curt and standoffish. It had hurt. It still hurt, to some extent… though he'd come to except that that was just how things would be from now on. Besides, Ronnie had never forgiven her for what happened to Bobby.

And yet… for some reason, Lori's daughter had come here. Lincoln wasn't even sure how she'd gotten his address at all, let alone what could have driven her to seek him out in the first place. But what troubled him the most was that, as bad as she had been at fourteen… she now seemed to be a complete nervous wreck.

Just what had happened over there?

"So, Loan…" Lincoln began. "How's your mom…?"

"Oh, she's… she's good..." Lincoln could see the girl's relaxed expression fade slightly as soon as he mentioned her mother. He could see her hand tense up slightly before releasing, her leg beginning to bounce anxiously… little things that most wouldn't take note of. But Lincoln's line of work had made him incredibly perceptive of small details.

"It's been a while since I've talked to her-"

"I know."

Lincoln raised his eyebrows slightly. That had been an incredibly fast response, especially for Loan… and also very enlightening. Clearly, she knew that Lincoln's relationship with her mother was… strained, to say the least. Lincoln let out a small sigh, leaning forward and folding his hands together between his knees. "Loan… Lori doesn't know you're here, does she?" Loan didn't even need to speak for his suspicions to be confirmed… her expression said enough. She looked downcast, biting her lip so hard that Lincoln could swear that she would draw blood. Her hands were balled tightly into fists in her lap, and it looked like her shoulders were trembling.

"Loan, look…" Lincoln said in a quiet, gentle tone. "You don't need to tell me anything you don't want to. But you're family, and I'd like to help you if I can." Loan hesitated for a few moments, running her tongue across her dry lips; she really wished she'd remembered to grab her chapstick.

"I, um…" Loan choked out, barely louder than a whisper. She forced herself to look up, her blue eyes meeting her Uncle's. "I had to get away. At… at least for a little bit." The young woman shut her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm… I'm sorry I just turned up like this."

You're not sorry. You're just a coward.

Lincoln pursed his lips, giving a small nod of understanding. "You don't need to apologize. But, if you don't mind me asking… why here?" Loan tensed up again and looked away, her face scrunching up slightly in regret.

"I-I can go-"

"N-no… I didn't mean it like that," Lincoln sighed. "I don't mind you being here, but… why here of all places? Aren't you closer with your Aunts?" Loan frowned, nervously rubbing at her arm. He wasn't wrong, of course…

…But.

"I… needed to go somewhere mom wouldn't look for me." She said simply. Before Lincoln could press his niece further, she glanced up at the second floor, raising her eyebrows slightly in surprise. He followed her gaze to see a young boy peeking out from between the balusters. Lincoln smiled warmly.

"Bobby! Come down here for a second, will you?" Lincoln beckoned the child. Bobby gave a small, sheepish nod and slowly made his way down the stairs, before running to his father's side. He seemed to be hiding behind the armrest slightly as he stared at the unfamiliar woman. "Loan, this is my son Robert. We call him Bobby. Bobby, this is Loan… your cousin."

Loan's face seemed to light up slightly. "Hello, Bobby." She greeted the young boy, smiling sweetly. "It's nice to meet you."

"H-hello." Bobby replied quietly, tucking himself a little further behind his father. The resemblance was easy to see… his skin was maybe half a shade darker than Lincoln's, with freckles dotting his cheeks and a small yet noticeable overbite. He shared his father's baby blue eyes, but his nose was smaller like Ronnie's. Topping all that was a messy head of black hair.

"You're very cute." Said Loan; Lincoln was surprised at the complete shift in demeanor. Her nervousness seemed to all but disappear, and the smile on her face was steady and unwavering. Bobby, however, withdrew further, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks.

"…Thank you…" He muttered before turning to his father and tugging his sleeve. "Where's mommy?"

"In the kitchen-" Before Lincoln could finish, the boy had already dashed off. Lincoln could only give a small laugh. "Well, that's Bobby… he's, uh, a bit shy."

"That's okay," Loan giggled. "He's adorable. How, um… how old is he?"

"Seven," Lincoln replied, leaning back into the sofa a bit. "You like kids, huh?"

"I do," Loan admitted. "I always used to want a little brother or sister, but…" Loan trailed off, her expression growing somewhat wistful. "…You know."

Lincoln looked at his niece with a sympathetic expression. "I'm sorry. It… must have been lonely." Loan nodded slowly, fiddling with her sleeve a bit.

"Mom… works a lot…" She mumbled under her breath. "B-but… she tries. She really does…" Loan bit her lip and swallowed. "It's just… I-I don't make it easy for her, you know…?"

"What do you-" Just then, a loud whistling noise rang out from the kitchen; Loan jumped, letting out a small yelp before realizing it was just the tea kettle. With a small groan of shame, she buried her face in her palm.

"…That." She said quietly. "That's what I mean."

A moment later, Ronnie returned with a tray; two steaming cups of tea sat upon it, as well as a small plate of biscotti. Granted, chamomile tea wasn't really the best accompaniment for biscotti, but quite frankly she figured the girl could use something to eat… she looked borderline emaciated. "Here you go," She said as she set the tray down on the coffee table. "Careful… it's still hot."

"T-thank you, Mrs. Loud…"

"I told you, Ronnie's fine." Ronnie corrected her, waving her hand dismissively. "Anyway, I need to get started on dinner… is it safe to say you'll be joining us, Loan?"

"Um…" Loan glanced at her Uncle in uncertainty, and he gave her a warm smile in return.

"She will."

"I-if it's not too much trouble, that is." The girl added, wringing her hands slightly. Ronnie simply nodded, smirking slightly.

"It's not. You okay with chicken cacciatore?" Loan opened her mouth, only for the words to die on her lips; she actually had no idea what that was. Ronnie seemed to pick up on this, and simply chuckled softly. "You'll like it." Loan gave a small nod of approval. "Good. I'll leave you two to it, then." Ronnie exchanged a brief glance with her husband before returning to the kitchen, her expression hard to read even for him.

"Ronnie's an amazing cook," Lincoln explained as he picked up one of the steaming mugs. "It's what she does for a living, actually."

"I-I see…" Loan muttered as she also took one of the cups, blowing on it a few times before taking a small sip. It was good, with just the right amount of honey to not overpower the chamomile. She shut her eyes and let out a small sigh as the warmth spread through her body, comforting her somewhat.

For some time there was silence between the two, though not as tense as it had been before. In fact, Loan felt strangely peaceful, even in such unfamiliar surroundings.

Perhaps more peaceful than her own home.

"Um… Uncle Lincoln?"

"Yeah?"

"I, uh…" Loan stammered. "Thank you. For… for putting up with me, I mean."

Lincoln smiled softly. "You don't need to thank me for anything."

"I do." Loan said with a small shake of her head. "I know I'm kind of… you know. A mess. It's not usually this bad. I uh… I didn't take my medication today."

Go on. Tell him you're crazy. Drive him away, just like everyone else.

Lincoln frowned slightly before taking a sip of his own tea. "Why not?"

Loan bit her lip slightly and averted her eyes. "It… helps with a lot of things. A lot." She emphasized. "But it makes me…" She took a moment to find the right words. "I just needed to be in my right mind today."

'Right mind'. That's the funniest fucking thing I've ever heard.

"Stop it," Loan hissed under her breath.

"What was that?" Lincoln asked, cocking an eyebrow slightly. Loan coughed into her hand, her cheeks turning slightly pink.

"N-nothing…" She lied. "Anyway, my meds make me more… compliant. And I needed to leave. So… I didn't take them."

Lincoln drummed his fingers against his knees in thought. He'd been trying not to press the girl too hard, but now she seemed to be more receptive. "Why did you need to leave?" He asked. Loan hesitated a moment, her eyes focused on nothing in particular.

"I… love my mother." Loan sighed. "But sometimes she's just... she…" The young woman trailed off.

"Does she, um…" Lincoln began a bit hesitantly. "Does she hit you?"

Loan's eyes shot wide open. "NO!" She snapped louder than she intended. "I-I mean… no… no, not any-" Loan caught herself before finishing that thought. She hunkered down slightly, suddenly looking very small. "…She hasn't. She doesn't. She… she's good to me."

Better than you deserve.

Needless to say, Lincoln was far from convinced. He looked at his niece with a furrowed brow and narrowed eyes, trying to read her expression, but she wouldn't look at him. He remembered when he'd grasped her wrist earlier, the way she'd panicked at even the slightest touch… the look of utter fear in her eyes. He couldn't be sure, of course, but it was definitely troubling. He may not know the girl well, but she was still family… and nothing was more important to him than family.

Lincoln exhaled through his nose as he set down his mug and got to his feet. "Sit tight, Loan. I… have to take care of something real quick."

"O-oh… um, alright." Loan muttered as her Uncle headed towards the kitchen.

 


 

"…And were you planning to discuss this with me at any point?!"

"Ronnie…" Lincoln sighed. "She just needs a place to stay for a few days, at least. We have a guest room-"

"What do you mean 'at least'?!" Ronnie snapped. "Lincoln, we know nothing about this girl! For God's sake, you still don't even know why she's here!"

"She's family. That's enough for me." Her husband shot back. Ronnie just clicked her tongue in frustration. "Honey, look… you see how she is. I think something bad has been going on, and I'm not just going to turn my back on her. And she's your niece too, you know… regardless of who her mother is."

"I know, I know…" Ronnie sighed.

"Besides… I've been talking to her. She's a good person, Ronnie. She's just a little… mixed up right now."

"Alright, fine." Ronnie groaned. "Fine. She can stay, for now. But you'd better get to the bottom of this soon," She said, poking Lincoln in the chest for emphasis. "Adult or not, she ran away from home."

"I know. Don't worry, I'll take care of it." Lincoln smiled and gave his wife a deep kiss, flustering her somewhat. "Thanks, baby… I knew you'd understand." Ronnie may have retained much of her bluster from when they were kids, but deep down inside she was a sweetheart.

"A-alright…" Ronnie coughed, quickly turning back to the countertop. "Now go on, before I change my mind." But before leaving, a devious smirk crossed Lincoln's face; while his wife was distracted, he reached over and gave her an open-handed slap across the rear. Ronnie yelped in surprise, her face going bright red.

"Seeya later, sweetcheeks~" Lincoln teased before bolting out of the room, narrowly avoiding a saucepan aimed straight for his head. One of these days, he knew she'd actually manage to hit him… but he supposed that fiery nature was one of the things that made him fall for Ronnie in the first place.

"Hey, Lo-" He began as he returned to the living room, only to cut himself short; his niece lay slumped over on the couch, snoring softly with her head resting on her arm. A small chuckle escaped his lips as he took the afghan that lay draped over the back of the sofa and carefully covered the sleeping girl with it. She fidgeted slightly, but thankfully did not wake.

Lincoln couldn't help but linger for a bit, watching Loan sleep peacefully. It was hard to believe this was the same girl that had shown up at his doorstep a nervous wreck. He'd admittedly been a bit uncertain of her at first, but after talking to her for a bit, there was no denying that she was a sweet person.

That said, she was clearly unstable… though he figured that was at least partly due to her not taking her medication. When he'd met her seven years prior she'd been nowhere near this bad, at any rate. Still… something gave him the feeling that, meds or not, she was far worse off than she had been. In any case, something was very wrong.

Admittedly, he hadn't so much as thought about her since he'd seen her last. Even then there had unmistakably been something off about her, and seeing her in this state made him regret not looking into things further. He hoped that his hunch wasn't right, that Lori hadn't been abusing the poor girl. Lori had always been bossy, but abusive? That wasn't the Lori he knew.

Then again… he supposed he didn't know Lori at all, anymore.

Lincoln's brow furrowed as he looked down at his niece's face. Despite her haggard appearance, she definitely was a pretty girl… not too surprising, given her resemblance to Lori. The degree to which she looked like her mother was genuinely startling; none of his other nieces or nephews resembled their parents even half as much, but Loan may as well have been a carbon copy of his sister. From the shape of her face, to the color of her hair, to her button nose, to her freckles-

…Wait. Freckles?

Lincoln's eyes narrowed slightly. They were barely noticeable, but they were definitely there… given her pale skin, he assumed that she didn't get a whole lot of sun, otherwise they might be more apparent. But that wasn't too odd, right? After all, freckles did run in the family. Lori didn't have them, but whatever gene caused them was probably in there somewhere. That, or Loan's father had them. Either way, it wasn't particularly unusual.

Lots of people have freckles, after all.

What was a bit unusual was the strange feeling that she gave him. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on, nor could he explain. It was as though he knew her better than he actually did, or, rather, that he should. What he did understand, however, was that for whatever reason… he wanted to protect this girl. Lincoln wasn't sure what compelled him to do so, but he found himself reaching out and gently stroking the sleeping girl's hair.

In her sleep, Loan shifted slightly before a faint smile crossed her face.

 


 

"Ohhh yeah, this room is bitchin'!" Luna Loud-Sharp exclaimed cheerfully as she and her wife stepped into the luxury suite they'd be sharing for the next several nights. With their torn jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets, the two rockers looked strikingly out of place amongst the lavish décor… but with fame came fortune, and with fortune came excess.

"Yes, well, don't get too comfortable." A thin, gaudy-looking man with greased-back hair, a bright yellow suit with sunglasses to match, and a money-print tie of all things said as he followed them in. "Quite frankly, we're lucky the Chez Royale was even willing to take you, given your reputations."

"Comes with the territory, Jerry." Sam grunted to her manager with a shrug before nonchalantly chucking her suitcase into a nearby chair. "We're rockers. We trash shit."

"Sammy, baby, you're beautiful, but you gotta understand that I'm the guy that has to deal with the fallout." Jerry sighed. "At least promise me you'll keep the damage to a minimum? Under five-thousand dollars?"

"Ten." Luna counter-offered.

"The things I do for you two..." The manager groaned. "Alright fine. Now, tomorrow-"

"We know, we know, dude. Don't get your panties in a bunch." Luna said, waving the man off. "Up by ten for tech rehearsal. We got this."

"And no… funny business either." Jerry made air-quotes as he spoke. "You know what I mean."

"No worries, man. We'll be on our best behavior, scout's honor." Sam promised with an exaggerated grin, crossing her fingers behind her back. Her manager simply sighed.

"Alright. Rest up, you two. Big day tomorrow… and again, best behavior!" Jerry reminded them before exiting. Luna and Sam merely exchanged sly grins.

"We're gonna fuck in the pool, aren't we."

"Damn straight." Sam replied before pulling her lover in for a kiss.

As a band fronted by a lesbian couple, it was hardly surprising that they'd managed to draw attention both good and bad… let alone with a name like 'The Velvet Lips'. But it wasn't until their third album that their careers really started to take off. Since then their lives had been a whirlwind of recording, touring, and controversy… but, as Jerry would say, there was no such thing as bad publicity. In any case, through it all they had each other.

"I'm pretty beat," Sam said as they broke the kiss. "Mind if I get the shower first?"

"Go for it, babe." Luna stretched, feeling her back pop in several places. "I need to take a load off anyway." As Sam headed for the bathroom, Luna flopped down on the king-sized bed and let out a long sigh of comfort. As rad as their tour bus was, being cooped up in there for days on end could get pretty exhausting. She kicked off her boots and threw them to the far end of the room, only to hear the telltale shattering of a lamp being knocked over. Eh, she figured, how much could a lamp cost anyway?

'TAKE MY ADVICE AND DON'T BE A MOOCH! GRAB LIFE BY THE LIPS AND GIVE IT A SMOOCH!'

Luna didn't even need to check the caller ID to know who it was; she'd set custom ringtones for everyone on her contact list, even people she barely knew. She answered without hesitation. "Yo, bro! What's the haps?"

'Hey, Luna. How's it going?' Came the voice of Lincoln. Luna couldn't help but notice that he sounded slightly less chipper than usual.

"Can't complain. We're in St. Louis now… just got to our room."

'Nice. Gonna trash it?'

"You know it," Luna replied with a smirk. "So what's up with you?"

'Well…' Lincoln began. 'You're still close with Lori, right?'

Luna frowned slightly. 'Close' was definitely an overstatement. "…We still keep in touch, if that's what you mean. Why?"

'It's just… Loan's here.'

Luna raised an eyebrow in confusion. "What does Luan have to do with anything?"

'No, Loan.' Lincoln clarified. '…Lori's daughter.'

Luna froze, her eyes going wide. "…What…?" She gasped quietly.

'Yeah… she just kind of showed up on my doorstep,' Lincoln continued. 'She's sleeping on the couch right now.'

A cold sweat began to form on Luna's forehead, her brow furrowed in confusion. "U-um…" She stammered. "What… what's she doing there, Lincoln?"

'Well, I was hoping you might have an idea…' Lincoln sighed. 'I think she had some kind of fight with Lori, but I'm not sure. All she would say was that she needed to leave, and that she figured her mom wouldn't look for her here.'

"Oh…" Luna murmured. "I-I see."

'Look… do you know if anything's been going on between her and Lori?'

"Like… going on how?"

'I don't know... any problems between them, I guess.' Her brother said, the concern in his voice evident. 'Like… she just seems really nervous and jumpy.'

"Well, that's kinda how she is, dude." The rocker said with a frown. "She's a bit… out of tune, y'know?"

'I guess, but I think it might be more than that.' Lincoln said softly. 'I mean, she seems scared of her mother. I just… I'm worried about her.'

Luna bit her lip and looked off to the side. "L-look, bro… I can give you Lori's number-"

'No! I… I'd rather not get her involved, yet.'

"But she's… she's Lori's daughter, Lincoln."

'Luna, she came here to get away from Lori. I can't just… give her over.' Lincoln muttered. 'Not until I figure out what's going on here. Besides… she's an adult. If she doesn't want to see Lori, nobody can make her.'

Luna took a deep breath and buried her face in her palm. Why did this have to be happening? Why, of all places, did Loan have to go there? "I… um…" Luna swallowed. "What do you want from me, Lincoln?"

'I dunno… I guess nothing, if you don't know anything.' Lincoln huffed. 'Just… please don't tell Lori.'

Luna opened her mouth to speak, but the words died on her lips. She wanted to tell him the truth. She wanted to confess everything to him, but it wasn't her place to do so.

'Luna? You there?'

"U-um… yeah." She croaked. "Yeah… I won't, dude." She could hear her brother sigh in relief; it only made her feel worse.

'Thanks, Luna. I promise, I'll get this figured out.'

"Yeah… I know you will." Luna muttered.

'Well, talk to you later, then. Good luck at the show!'

"Thanks, Lincoln…" Luna sighed softly. "And… I'm sorry." Lincoln couldn't help but find the way she said that to be slightly off, but before he could question her on it she had already hung up. Luna took a deep breath and held it for several seconds before releasing it. Her mind was swimming with questions… why had Loan run away? How did she get there? How did she even find out where Lincoln lived?

Whatever the case, Loan had made her way to the one place she was never supposed to be. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was karma. Maybe it was just dumb, blind chance. As much as part of her wanted to let things play out… she just couldn't. If the truth came out, her brother may never be the same. And Loan… the poor girl was damaged enough as it was. The truth could very well destroy her.

She had to get Loan out of there.

Luna opened her contacts list. She hesitated briefly, considering her options… could she really betray her brother's trust so easily?

Then again… she'd been betraying her brother for twenty-one years.

Luna squeezed her eyes shut, silently apologizing to Lincoln one more time. And then, she called Lori.

 


 

Unsurprisingly, dinner was something of an awkward affair that night. Bobby was completely silent, the presence of a stranger clearly making him uncomfortable. Meanwhile, it took Loan over ten minutes to even begin eating… she'd found it necessary to separate every component of the dish into its own corner of the plate. As much as Lincoln would have liked to ask her why she did that, he had a feeling she wouldn't have much of an answer for him. In any case, her face lit up upon taking the first bite, so she clearly enjoyed it.

"S-so, Loan…" Ronnie began. "Are you in college?"

"Huh…?" Loan looked up from her plate. "O-oh… no. I was, but… not anymore." She muttered, looking slightly downcast.

Tell them. Tell them you gave up, just like you always do.

"So… what do you do then?" Ronnie asked, earning her another elbow from her husband. Thankfully, Loan didn't seem offended by the question.

"I… I like games. Older ones, mostly. And… anime, and stuff…" She answered, a small smile on her face. "And… I like to draw..."

"Oh, you're an artist?"

"W-well, I don't know if I'd say that…" Loan stammered, giving a nervous laugh. "I… I just do it for fun…"

You'll never be anything.

"Everyone starts somewhere," Lincoln said. "I used to just draw for fun too."

"You draw…?" Loan asked, perking up slightly.

"He's a professional illustrator," Ronnie smirked slightly. "For comic books."

Loan simply stared at her Uncle in silence for a few moments. Then, her pupils nearly doubled in size, her eyes sparkling in awe. "That's… that's so cool…"

"W-well… Ronnie gives me too much credit…" Lincoln gave a humble laugh. "I'm just an inker. The pencillers are the ones who-"

"N-no!" Loan gasped, suddenly leaning forward excitedly. "Inkers are really, really important! Th-the pencillers make the groundwork, but the inkers give it life! It's awesome! You're…" Loan suddenly clammed up, her face going bright red as she shrank back in her seat. "S-sorry. I, um… I like comics."

Lincoln and his wife simply exchanged an aside glace. Quite frankly, that was the most animated the girl had been all night; they both chuckled softly. "I can't blame you," Lincoln said. "Comics are awesome."

Loan gave a small, sheepish nod, a tiny smile creeping back along her face. "They are."

"…I'm done." Bobby said suddenly, the first words he had spoken the entire meal. "Can I go back upstairs?" Lincoln looked at his wife, who simply shrugged in response.

"Sure, buddy. You can go." Bobby gave a small nod and hopped down from his chair, silently hurrying out of the room. "Sorry…" Lincoln sighed softly, turning towards his niece. "Like I said… shy."

"It's… it's okay. I am, too." She muttered.

Yeah, no shit.

"He, um… he looks a lot like you. Both of you, I mean." Loan continued, pushing her thoughts aside.

"Yeah, but he takes more after his father… he's a little dork." Ronnie sighed. "That boy needs to toughen up a bit or he's never gonna survive out there." Lincoln just rolled his eyes; Ronnie may have mellowed out as she got older, but some things would just never change.

"Give him time, Ronnie." Lincoln chastised his wife.

"Just saying, you coddle him too much." Ronnie huffed. "You know how kids are… he's going to get bullied, I'm telling you."

"Well…" Lincoln began with a coy smirk. "Who knows? Maybe he'll end up marrying one of them." That made a faint blush creep along Ronnie's cheeks.

"Oh, stop." She mumbled, giving her husband a playful punch on the arm, and he grabbed his arm and groaned in exaggerated, mock pain.

"Ow! I've been wounded! How will I draw now?" Lincoln whined. "See, Loan? She's downright wicked…" Lincoln trailed off as he noticed Loan was staring at them with a half-lidded, wistful expression. "Uh… Loan?"

"Huh… oh!" Loan suddenly shot up straight and stared down at her lap, her face turning bright red. "S-sorry… I was just thinking, Bobby's a lucky kid." Loan bit her lip slightly. "It… must be nice."

Lincoln's expression grew sympathetic. He opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly the doorbell rang, making Loan jump.

Lincoln sighed, getting to his feet. "I'll get it… be back in a sec." As Lincoln left the room, Ronnie noticed that Loan had begun rapidly tapping her finger against the table, an anxious look crossing her face.

"Loan?" Ronnie asked, raising an eyebrow. "Everything okay…?"

"Y-yeah…" Loan mumbled quietly. "Yeah, I'm fine…"

Lincoln grumbled under his breath as he approached the door. It was 8:30… who would be disrupting them at this hour? Probably a late delivery, he figured. After all, Ronnie was always ordering God-knows-what off Amazon. Lincoln unlocked the door and swung it open. "Hel-"

"Hello, Lincoln."

Lincoln's heart plummeted into his stomach. There she was, standing before him with her arms crossed over her chest, her lips pursed tightly in irritation, her blue eyes fixed directly on him in a cold glare. Her large perm was long gone, her hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. She was smartly dressed in a white blouse collared with a string tie, a straight black skirt that stopped a few inches above her knees, and black stockings ending in a pair of expensive-looking black heels. Even though she was pushing forty, she was still a very attractive woman… clearly, she took very good care of herself. And yet, all of that was completely negated by the icy, no-nonsense demeanor that seemed to radiate from her very being.

"L-Lori." Lincoln gasped. "Um… what brings you here…?"

"Spare me the bullshit, Lincoln." Lori scoffed, pushing her way past him. "Where is she?"

"How did you-"

"Luna." She answered plainly. Lincoln clicked his tongue in frustration; he couldn't believe Luna had gone behind his back like this, though at some level he couldn't really blame her. "Now, I'm not going to ask again. Where is she?"

"Long time no see, murderer." Lincoln buried his face in his palm. Not this. Not now.

Ronnie stood in the dining room doorway, glaring at the woman before her with palpable hatred in her eyes.

"…Ronnie." Lori replied with a curt nod. "You look well."

"As do you," Ronnie said, making no attempt to hide the venom in her voice. "I guess you're not losing any sleep, huh?"

Lori noticeably bristled at her sister-in-law's comment, but nonetheless remained stoic. "I'm just here for my daughter, Ronnie."

"It's Ronalda to you." Ronnie snapped. "You have some nerve-"

"Honey, please." Lincoln pleaded with his wife. "Not now." Ronnie locked eyes with her husband, before glaring at Lori once more. Finally, she turned away with a huff.

"The only reason you're not picking your fucking teeth off the ground is because your daughter's here, puta." She hissed, then without another word she stormed off. Lori watched her leave with a look in her eyes that Lincoln couldn't quite place.

"Lori, listen-"

"Save it, Lincoln. Where- ah. There you are." Lori said as she spotted her daughter in the dining room.

"M-mom…" Loan shrunk back, a low whine escaping her throat. Lori strode into the room, making her daughter back up against the table.

I told you to turn back.

"I am very disappointed in you, Loan." Lori spoke in a stern, harsh tone, causing the girl to hunker down even further. It was a far cry from the simple bossiness she had exhibited as a teen… now, she seemed downright domineering. "What on earth were you thinking?! Do you have any idea how worried I've been?! God, look at you… you haven't even taken your medication, have you?"

"I-I… I, um…" Loan stammered, finding herself unable to look her mother in the eye. Her hands gripped the lip of the table so hard that her knuckles turned white.

"Lori, please-"

"I said save it, Lincoln!" Lori snapped, before turning back to the frightened girl before her. "Grab your things, Loan. We're leaving. And suffice to say, we are going to have a very long talk when we get home."

"I… I… um… I…" Loan whimpered; even without looking at her, she could feel her mother's icy glare piercing right through her soul.

Do it, Loan. Run to mommy. Beg for forgiveness.

Give up.

Loan swallowed, clenching her teeth. "…No."

Lori's brow furrowed. "Excuse me?"

"N-no." Loan repeated, forcing herself to meet her mother's gaze. "I'm not… I'm not going."

Well now… look at you.

Lori narrowed her eyes. "…You don't have a choice in the matter."

"I'm not going…!" Loan snapped. "I don't want to!"

"It doesn't matter if you want to or not, Loan. We are leaving. End of discussion."

"NO!"

"Lori-"

"Stay out of it, Lincoln!" Lori shouted, striding towards her daughter and grabbing her roughly by the arm. "We. Are. Leaving!"

Loan froze, her breaths becoming short and ragged. She let out a weak, shuddering whimper as tears began to pool in her eyes. "L-let go… LET GO!" She shrieked, struggling in vain against her mother's grip. She desperately looked to her Uncle, the panic evident on her face.

Silently begging him to save her.

"Let her go!" Lincoln roared, grabbing his sister by the wrist and pulling her off of Loan. She gasped, whether from shock or pain, he did not know… quite frankly, he didn't care. He glared at Lori with fury in his eyes, his teeth clenched together in anger. Lori returned his glare for a brief moment before shrinking down under his gaze; this was no longer the little boy she had known. He seemed to tower above her now, dominant and unyielding. "If you so much as lay a single finger on her, I swear to God I will lay you right the fuck out myself."

"…This doesn't concern you, Lincoln." Lori said in as assertive of a tone as she could muster. "Stay out of it."

"I will not stay out of it. Not anymore." Lincoln spat, his grip on his sister's wrist tightening and making her wince.

"Y-you're hurting me…"

"Like you hurt her?!"

Any resolve left in Lori seemed to fade away in an instant. Her face fell, her brow furrowing slightly. "I… I don't…"

"U-Uncle Lincoln…" Loan whimpered. "Please…"

"It's okay, Loan." Lincoln assured her, his tone even and gentle. "It's going to be okay. Just… give us a bit, okay…?" Loan opened her mouth to speak, then quickly shut it. She gave a small, almost imperceptible nod before shuffling out of the room. Lincoln fixed his harsh gaze back on Lori before letting go of her wrist. "You and I need to talk."

Lori frowned, rubbing her sore wrist. "…Yes. Yes, I suppose we do."

 


 

The night air was crisp, yet not uncomfortably so. There was an uncomfortable silence as Lincoln and his estranged sister sat at a table on the back porch, both faced straight ahead; out of the corner of his eye, Lincoln could see that Lori was still rubbing her wrist. He let out a small sigh, mentally cursing himself for his concern… even now, she was still his sister. "…Sorry." He grumbled.

"It's… fine." Lori said curtly. Again, there were several moments of silence before Lori spoke. "…You had no right trying to keep her from me."

"Yes, I did." Lincoln replied in a serious tone.

"She's my daughter."

"She's an adult." Lincoln countered. "If she doesn't want to leave, you can't force her."

"Yes, I can." His sister scoffed. "As I'm sure you've noticed, Loan is a very… troubled girl. She can't make her own decisions."

Lincoln frowned, grasping his hands together between his knees. There was no doubt that Loan was a bit… uneven. But even so… "…Lori." He began. "Why does she flinch?"

A deep frown crossed Lori's face. "As I said… Loan is very troubled-"

"Cut the bullshit, Lori!" Lincoln shouted, pounding on the table in anger. "Why does she flinch?!" Lori visibly tensed up, but he pressed on. "If you've been hitting her-"

"I haven't!" Lori snapped. "Not… not anymore." She added, barely above a whisper.

Lincoln's eyes narrowed as he glared at his sister. "Explain." Lori took a deep breath, shutting her eyes.

"I… I used to drink." His sister admitted. "Sometimes… I would lash out."

"You-"

"I stopped." She insisted. "That was ages ago. I… haven't had a drop of alcohol in over eight years."

"You think that makes it better?!" Lincoln hissed. Lori simply bit her lip, shaking her head sadly.

"No… no, of course not." She said quietly. "I can never excuse myself for what I did. But I swear to you… I haven't laid a hand on her since. I love her, regardless of what you may think."

Lincoln sucked his teeth in thought; he had to admit, she did sound sincere. She'd been strict and forceful with her daughter, but he wouldn't go so far as to say she'd actively hurt her. And if she'd stopped drinking eight years ago… that would have been before he'd seen Loan last. Thinking back, he could vaguely recall Lori turning down a drink at the party.

"What happened to her, then?" He asked. "She wasn't like this before." Lori's face contorted in pain, and she hunched forward, resting her elbows on her knees.

"I…" Lori's voice caught in her throat, and she took a moment to calm herself. "Do you remember Chester?"

"Chester…?" Lincoln wracked his brain for a few moments. He remembered that there had been a man with Lori at the party… a large, barrel-chested man with blonde hair and a booming laugh. They'd only recently started dating, and he seemed nice enough… though Lincoln barely spoke to him beyond a simple introduction. "Yeah… yeah, I think so."

"He... um…" Lori swallowed, glancing off to the side. She shut her eyes, taking a deep breath before continuing. "He would go to Loan's room at night."

Lincoln's blood ran cold. "…What?" He managed to gasp out; Lori bit her lip and gave a small nod.

"I didn't know… I swear to God I didn't know. To this day, I've never forgiven myself for not noticing how she'd changed… the way she'd act around him. The way she'd act around me. It had been going on for nearly two years before I caught him in the act, and even that was just by chance."

"Oh, God, Lori…"

"We couldn't even have the son of a bitch put away. There was no evidence… it was our word against his. And Loan… Loan wouldn't talk." Lori said quietly. "She was broken. That man broke my daughter, and he just… he just walked."

Lincoln clenched his jaw shut, taking in everything Lori had just said. He regretted jumping to conclusions so quickly… talking to her now, it was clear that Lori loved her daughter. "…I'm sorry."

"Since then, I've done all I can to protect her," Lori explained. "I know I can be overbearing, but… she just can't function on her own. I tried, Lincoln." Lori looked to her brother, and he couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy as he noticed the tears in her eyes. "I tried. I tried to get her help, I tried to bring her out of her shell… I even got her into the best university I could manage. But she… she just couldn't."

Lincoln drummed his fingers against the table in thought. "I've… been talking to her, Lori. I don't think she's broken… I think she can get better. I think she wants to get better."

"Of course she wants to, Lincoln." Lori sighed. "But it's not that easy. Those kinds of scars… they don't go away…" Lori looked at her brother with an expression that he couldn't quite place… as though she were searching his eyes for something. After a moment, she turned away with her hand clenched over her mouth.

Lincoln chewed his lip, averting his eyes. There was still something about all this that wasn't clear. "Why did she run away, then?"

"We had a disagreement." Lori said, wiping the tears from her eyes. "I was offered a… a position overseas. At my company's Tokyo branch."

"Tokyo… Japan?!"

"…Do you know any others?" Lori asked, shooting her brother an unimpressed glance. Lincoln coughed, sheepishly scratching his cheek.

"I-I guess not…"

"But, as you can imagine, Loan… she's not fond of the idea." Lori muttered. "So we had a bit of an… exchange, as it were."

"Can you blame her?" Lincoln asked. "Do you really expect her to be okay with just… leaving the country?"

"Well what am I supposed to do, Lincoln?!" Lori snapped. "I have to think of my career too! And what more can I do for her here?!" Lincoln opened his mouth to retort, but Lori continued. "She can't be on her own, Lincoln. She needs to be with me. And she likes all that… cartoon crap anyway… she could be happy there."

"You really think that?" Lincoln asked in an accusatory tone.

"Listen… this is a lucrative position. Highly lucrative," Lori emphasized. "She won't want for anything. She barely even leaves her room as it is… she can only be happier, Lincoln. There's no other option."

Lincoln sighed, resting his face in his palm. "…It's not right." He muttered quietly. "You can't just… force her to leave like that, Lori. She's not a child. She's a woman."

Lori scoffed, looking away from her brother. "…Stop acting like you know her."

"Well maybe I could have, if you hadn't shut me out!" Lincoln snapped, making his sister wince slightly. "I just… I don't get you, Lori! What happened to us? What the hell did I ever do to make you hate me?!" For some time, Lori didn't answer. She kept her eyes firmly planted on a bird house hanging from a nearby tree, her hands trembling slightly in her lap.

"I… I never hated you, Lincoln."

 


 

Loan sat on the couch, nervously wringing her hands. Quite frankly, she didn't know what Lincoln hoped to gain from talking to her mom… she knew that no matter what, she would be forced to leave.

Not that they wanted you here at all.

Still, the way her Uncle had stood up for her… it made her happy. Nobody had ever stood up for her like that except Aunt Luna… and never to that extent. She was worried that he may attack her mother. She didn't want him to do that, but the fact that he would have been willing to for her sake… made her feel something she hadn't felt in years.

Safe.

Loan loved her mother… she really did. She knew that everything her mother did was for her sake. Her mother gave her so much, provided her with a roof over her head, given her everything she ever wanted. Well… almost everything, anyway.

But leaving her home… moving to another country… that was something Loan couldn't bear. She barely even managed as it was… she could barely even walk to the corner store without psyching herself up for several minutes beforehand. As much as she'd love to visit Japan someday, she couldn't live there.

Too fucking bad. You're going to.

"You alright?" Loan jumped as Ronnie's voice snapped her from her thoughts; Ronnie wore a sympathetic frown as she looked at the troubled girl before her.

Loan took a deep breath to calm herself down before answering. "As… as well as I could be, I guess…" Ronnie simply nodded in understanding.

"Look… let me tell you something about my husband," Ronnie began, taking a seat beside her niece. Loan shifted over slightly. "There's nothing that matters to him as much as family. I guarantee you that he's doing everything he can to fight for your sake." Loan simply bit her lip and gave a small nod; she believed Ronnie, of course.

You know damn well it won't amount to anything.

"Hey…" Ronnie said with a mischievous smirk. "You wanna listen in on them?"

"Huh…?" Loan hunkered down slightly, sheepishly twiddling her thumbs. "I-I, uh… I don't think we should…"

"Ah, lighten up," Ronnie said as she gave her niece a light slap on the back. Loan tensed up, but managed to keep from crying out; her Aunt seemed nice enough, after all. "C'mon. There's a window we could hear them through."

Loan chewed her lip and looked off to the side. In truth, she was curious… and hell, she was already in hot water with her mom. It's not like it could get any worse. "A-alright…" She muttered under her breath.

"C'mon, then," Ronnie said. "Over here." Her Aunt got up and beckoned the girl to follow her, which she did somewhat reluctantly. As she followed Ronnie into the master bedroom, she couldn't help but feel slightly unusual being in someone else's room. Hell, she'd never even been in her mother's bedroom.

"Over here." Ronnie gestured to a window along the back wall. It looked out onto the patio, and if they stood off to the side they wouldn't be spotted. Loan shuffled to her aunt's side uncomfortably, and Ronnie put a finger in front of her lips to signal her to keep quiet… not that she needed to be told. As quietly as she could, Ronnie slid open the window halfway.

"…ever hated you, Lincoln," They heard Lori say.

 


 

"Then why?" Lincoln asked quietly. "Why did you just turn your back on me…?" Lori's brow furrowed and she clenched her jaw as she heard the pain in his voice. He'd only been twelve when she'd cut off contact with him… just a child.

…Just a child.

"I…" Lori began, her voice cracking slightly. "…I can't say…"

"Why not, Lori?!"

"I just can't, Lincoln." Lori whispered. "Please… just let me take my daughter and go." Lincoln heard no anger in her voice… no frustration. It sounded as though she were begging him to drop this.

He wouldn't.

With a small sigh, Lincoln got to his feet and paced a few steps away, his hands jammed into his pockets. "I loved you, you know." He said. "I still do, even now. Even after… you just kicked me aside."

"I wasn't-"

"I came to terms with it. I accepted it. But… it never stopped hurting." Lincoln paused a moment, taking a deep breath through his nose, and then turned around to look at his sister with a serious expression. "I want to know why, Lori. You owe me that much, at least."

Lori's face scrunched up in turmoil. For over a minute, she didn't say anything… nor did her brother look away from her. Those blue eyes, begging her for an answer. "I…" She began, her voice hitching in her throat. "I love you too. I loved you then, I love you now… more than I could ever say. That's… that's why I had to keep away from you. I… needed to protect you." Her voice was quiet, wavering… weak, as though merely speaking the words caused her physical pain. "I needed to protect both of you."

For a moment, the heartache in his sister's voice almost made him consider dropping the subject. He wasn't sure why, but that last bit had pierced right through to his very soul. He was almost afraid to push forward, but… something pressed him onward. He swallowed the lump in his throat. "What, um…" Lincoln paused, running his tongue across his lips. "What do you mean, both of you…?"

"Lincoln, please-"

"What do you mean, Lori?!" Lincoln snapped.

Lori's face twisted up in a mess of fear, sorrow, and regret. Her brother could see the tears welling up in her eyes, her nostril's flaring with heavy breaths, her lower lip trembling as she bit down on it… but he had to know. He needed to know.

And close nearby… Loan felt she needed to know, too.

"D-do you…" Lori shut her eyes, trying in vain to force back the tears. "Do you remember the night before I went to college…?"

Lincoln frowned slightly as he thought back. "You… went to a party." He realized then that that must have been the party where she'd cheated on Bobby.

"A-after that."

After that? He'd been asleep. He couldn't have-

…Wait.

 

"Heeey, Linkyyy~!"

"Nnn… Lori… what're you…?"

 

"You… came into my room…" He muttered. "You were drunk, right?"

Lori's face scrunched up even further, the tears beginning to flow freely from her cheeks. All she could do was give a small nod. Lincoln furrowed his brow, his mouth hanging open slightly as he struggled to remember more. He could vaguely recall her crying to him about something…

 

"Move overrr Linky…"

"Alright, alright… geeze."

 

Lincoln could feel something squeezing down on his heart. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

 

"You're literally shooo undershtanding, Linky… why can't aaaalll guys be like you…?"

"Lori, knock it off… just go to sleep, okay?"

"C'mooon... yer my shpeshul lil' guy...

 

"L-Lori…" Lincoln wheezed, his throat suddenly feeling very dry.

"I… I didn't mean for it to happen, Lincoln…" She whimpered, half her face hidden in her palm.

 

"Lori… what're you doing…?"

"Sssshhhh… don't woooorry about it, little bro…"

 

"I swear to God Lincoln, I don't even remember doing it…" Lincoln wasn't listening. His breaths were growing short, his heart beating in his chest as it started to come back to him.

"Lori… Lori, t-that was just a dream. It… it didn't happen."

 

"Ohhh fuck, Lincoln~!"

"L-Lori… Lori, stop...!"

 

"Lori… that was a dream. It was a fucking dream, right?!" Lincoln asked, or, rather, begged his sister. She simply shook her head, her body rattling with sobs.

 

"There, see~? That's right… that's right, you love it…!"

"O-oh my God…"

 

"I'm sorry… I-I'm so sorry, Lincoln…"

Lincoln couldn't breathe. He could barely think. It was all returning to him, now… the memory that had been buried within him for so long. He'd chalked it up to a dream at the time… some strange fantasy that had popped into his mind at the cusp of puberty. But now, he could see it clearly. He could see Lori coming into his room, slurring her speech. He could smell the alcohol on her breath. He could feel her tears on his face, then her warmth as she got into bed beside him.

Her soft, slender fingers tracing their way down his stomach.

His nude sister, writhing in ecstasy above him.

Lincoln clamped a hand over his mouth. He felt like he was going to be sick. That had been right before his sister had left for college… just over twenty-one years ago.

Roughly a month before they'd received the news that she was pregnant.

"O-oh. Oh my God… what the fuck…" He stammered, his eyes wide and full of horror. "What the fuck, Lori…"

"She's yours, Lincoln." Lori choked. "Loan… she's yours."



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