Back On Her Feet

BY : Trillhouse
Category: +G through L > The Loud House
Dragon prints: 2079
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.

Another nice night gone to waste.

Lisa Loud shifted in place, hugging her slender frame as she stared through the window. It was a gloomy sort of evening… it had been raining most of the day, and though it had let up some time ago there were still tiny droplets on the window, streaking across and flying off as they sped down a lonely stretch of road.

"It's not wise to drive so fast when the road's still wet," Lisa said quietly, receiving no response from the man in the drivers' seat. She waited a moment, then let out a sigh; clearly he was in no mood to listen to basic common sense, and quite frankly she was in no mood to try and force the issue. Instead she simply shook her head and turned down the AC… only for her boyfriend to turn it right back up. Lisa shot the man a nasty look.

"...I'm cold, Daniel." She huffed.

"Should have brought a sweater like I said," Daniel shot back in a dismissive tone. "But hey, you're the genius, right?"

"Oh, for… do we really need to start this again, Daniel?" Lisa snapped. "Wasn't making a scene in public enough for you? How petty can you be?" No response; the man kept his eyes locked on the road ahead, hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. Lisa scoffed and reached towards the AC again, only for Daniel to grab her by the wrist. "Ow!"

"Don't. Touch." Her boyfriend snarled. He shot the woman a harsh glare before loosening his grip, and Lisa yanked her hand away with a scowl. She huffed and rubbed her wrist before looking out the window again; there was no sense in pushing the man's buttons any further. She simply shut her eyes and took a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before exhaling.

These little episodes were far from uncommon, unfortunately, and had only grown more frequent over time. Things had been different, once. When they'd started dating, Daniel had been a downright gentleman. Polite, caring, accommodating towards her… particular needs. Hell, he was the one that pushed the university to hire her; they'd been reluctant to accept such a young woman as a professor, regardless of her qualifications. But Daniel had made a case for her, and ultimately convinced them that she was more than fit for the job. She was a prodigy, after all… by sixteen she'd already earned her Ph.D in astronomy, and in the span of three years she'd already established herself as one of the top professors in the state, with a lucrative salary to match.

Which, unfortunately, came as a rather severe blow to Daniel's pride.

Rather than celebrate her accomplishments, he'd grown resentful. Overshadowed by a nineteen-year-old of all things… a girl ten years his junior. A girl who only held her position because he'd assured the university she was up to the task. A girl who, despite her frail condition, emasculated him on a daily basis. He'd known of her unnatural intellect beforehand, of course, and he'd been certain that she would far exceed the university's expectations. But he'd sure as hell never expected her to become the primary breadwinner of their household while he struggled to get even a modicum of recognition at all. It was infuriating, and every time he looked at his girlfriend's inexpressive face, or heard her monotone voice, all he felt was her silent mockery. And what had triggered tonight's outburst? Why, she'd dared to correct his pronunciation of 'blanquette de veau', right in front of the waiter no less, as if the man hadn't understood what he was trying to order. To most, this would be an astoundingly petty thing to get mad about. But to Daniel, it was just another subtle display of her superiority. A reminder that she was the genius, and that for all his efforts, his years of study, his Ph.D, he could never hope to live up to her example.

"...Sick of it…"

"What was that?"

"I said I'm sick of it," The man spat. "Everywhere we go you find it necessary to flaunt how smart you are."

"God, are we really back on this, now?!" Lisa snapped. "I wasn't flaunting, Daniel! I was simply pointing out-"

"That you're better than me. As always," Daniel scoffed. "Just can't leave well enough alone, huh? You just have to open your fucking mouth, every damn time."

"Oh, yes, pardon me for daring to speak during a dinner date," The prodigy shot back with a roll of her eyes. "And when have I ever said I was better than you, Daniel?"

"Just last week you said you were smarter than-"

"Because I am smarter than you," Lisa cut in; she couldn't help but feel a small measure of satisfaction as the man's eye twitched in agitation. "That's not a boast, it's an objective fact. And for the record-"

"You-"

"For the record," She pressed on. "That does not mean I am better than you, Daniel. Intelligence has no bearing on an individual's worth, as I've explained time and again. Quite frankly, the only one that seems to think that is you, so if you want to see who's really making you look like an idiot I suggest you look in a mirror." Daniel's face scrunched up in quiet rage, his eyes narrowing into tiny slits. Lisa knew she was getting under his skin… not that it was a particularly difficult thing to do. "I corrected your pronunciation. That's it. The only embarrassment you suffered was due to your own childish temper tantrum."

"A teenager calling me childish. That's rich," The man grunted. Lisa cocked an eyebrow.

"A teenager perhaps, but your peer nonetheless." Lisa countered. "As well as your romantic partner-against my better judgement, might I add-and the primary reason we can afford such a high-end apartment." For a moment, Daniel didn't reply; Lisa heard a sharp intake of air through his nose, and took note of his tightening grip on the wheel.

"...Against your better judgement. And yet here you are," He sneered. "By all means, then, feel free to walk away… oh, right. You can't." Lisa's frown deepened and she reflexively drew her unusually thin legs closer to herself. That had been a low blow, not to mention irrelevant to the matter at hand. "You can talk big all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you need me."

"I need you...?" Lisa said, before letting out a derisive snort of laughter that made Daniel's blood boil. "Get over yourself, Daniel. There is nothing, absolutely nothing you do for me that I couldn't manage on my own. Your 'assistance' is for the sake of convenience, nothing mo-" The young woman was cut short as her boyfriend stomped down on the brakes; she screamed in terror and held on for dear life as the tires screeched against the road, the van swerving wildly on the rain-slick concrete before coming to a bumpy stop along the embankment. Lisa was shaking and breathing heavily, and as her heartbeat stabilized she shot Daniel the most furious glare of her life. "Are you out of your mind?!" She barked, but the man didn't seem to care as he pulled the parking brake with noticeable aggression.

"Everything I've done for you, and this is the fucking thanks I get?! Fine. Have it your way" Daniel sputtered in indignant rage, fumbling with his seatbelt before finally managing to get it off and throwing open the door.

"What are you-" Lisa began, but Daniel paid her no mind. He stepped out of the car, and Lisa felt a growing sense of apprehension as he stormed his way around to the passenger side. Her gut instinct was to lock the door, but before she could manage Daniel angrily yanked it open. "Daniel!" She shouted, withdrawing from the man as best she could.

"Out."

"Excuse me?"

"Out," He repeated. "You don't need me? Well, good. Find your own fucking way back home, then."

"Daniel, for God's sakes! You're acting like a lunatic," Lisa spat. "Will you just get back in-"

"I said out!" The man roared; he reached in and undid Lisa's seatbelt, despite her vain attempts to fight him off. Try as she may, it was simply impossible for someone so weak to resist the much larger and stronger man.

"Daniel, stop! You're hurting me!" She shrieked as he pulled her from her seat. She tried to wrap her arm around the seatbelt to hold on, only to let out a cry of pain as a strong tug made it dig into her shoulder. She didn't stop struggling even as she was dragged out of the car and, as Daniel shifted his grip, she lashed out and scratched the man across the cheek hard enough to break the skin. He let out a cry and recoiled, releasing her to clutch his bleeding face. Unfortunately, there was little Lisa could do to actually remedy the situation at hand; her legs gave out the moment he released her and she was barely able to grab onto the door to keep herself from falling. She tried to pull herself back inside but Daniel wasn't about to give her that chance… with a furious growl he grabbed the woman by the arm and yanked her away from the car. The uneven footing combined with the wet grass was enough to make him stumble and, as the momentum caused Lisa to swing around, he lost his grip. Lisa's eyes went wide, time seeming to slow as she found herself falling before a sharp blow to her back knocked the wind from her lungs. She tumbled down the ditch before landing in the mud with a splat, her glasses flying off along the way.

For a few moments Daniel simply stood there, little more than the shocked and confused cries of his now former girlfriend breaking the silence as he stared down at her in horror. Unfortunately, the man's moment of lucidity did not last long… his expression grew resolute and his hands balled into fists as he stomped around the van to open the trunk. He'd already crossed the line, after all… no backing out now. For her part, Lisa was still stunned and struggling to comprehend what had happened. She coughed and sputtered, spitting out mud and dirt as she tried to get her bearings. Thankfully she didn't seem to be harmed, outside of the bumps she'd taken on the way down. Even after wiping the mud from her eyes, between the darkness and her missing glasses she could barely make out a thing.

"D-Daniel!" She screamed in a mixture of rage and desperate pleading. "Get me out of here, you psycho!" Then, something popped into view… something shiny and silvery in appearance, and Lisa barely even had enough time to register that it was falling right towards her before rolling out of the way with a yelp. Her wheelchair splattered into the mud a few feet away from her, sending another splash of gunk into her eyes. "UGH! DANIEL!"

"Need a hand?" Lisa wiped away the mud again and looked up to see the blurry image of her former boyfriend looking down at her from atop the incline. She clenched her teeth in anger.

"Get. Me. Out." She received little more than a scoff in response.

"Funny. I thought you didn't need my help," Daniel shot back. "And you know what? You're right. It may not be convenient for you, but I'm sure you can drag yourself out of there eventually. That's what you wanted, right?"

"Y-you can't… Daniel!" Lisa shouted as the man disappeared from view. To her horror, she heard the slam of a car door followed by the screech of tires as her sole means of aid sped off. "You… you PIECE OF SHIT!" She screamed at the top of her lungs; normally she wouldn't indulge in such vulgarity, especially of such pedestrian terminology, but quite frankly she was too pissed off to care. She continued to curse under her breath as she tried to struggle to her feet, but there was simply no way her feeble legs could gain purchase on such slippery terrain and after face-planting into the mud for the fourth time in a row, she simply gave up trying. She tried calling out as she heard another car passing by, but it simply sped on; she even tried to crawl her way back up the ditch, but the grass simply tore free in her grasp and sent her sliding back down to the mud below. Lisa let out an almost childish growl of frustration and pounded the dirt with a wet splat. With a sigh of resignation, she settled for pulling herself to a seated position. Her lip was trembling, and she sniffled as tears formed in her eyes, but she knew now wasn't the time for that… right now, she had to focus on how she was going to get out of there.

For several minutes Lisa simply sat there, letting her heart rate return to normal… or as normal as it could be, at least. She took deep breaths to calm herself, but the truth of the situation was not lost on her; for now she was safe, but she certainly had no desire to stay at the bottom of the ditch for any longer than was necessary. That said, her options were certainly limited. She could wait for Daniel to come back for her… surely he wouldn't actually leave her to fend for herself, right? Then again, given the severity of what he'd just done, chances were he had no intention of sticking around for long. Quite frankly, he was the last person she wanted to see right now anyway. But then what? She could scream for help, but she was more likely to lose her voice well before anyone was likely to hear her, if at all. For now, it seemed her best bet was to keep trying to climb-

...Wait.

Lisa desperately patted at her pockets, letting out a sigh of relief as she felt her phone. She withdrew it and found that, while a bit dirty, it wasn't damaged in the fall and even had a few bars of signal. She had her way out. She quickly entered 911, but as she was about to make the call she hesitated.

She frowned, glancing over at the blurry shape of her wheelchair nearby. Lisa was a proud woman… proud to a fault one might say, not to mention notoriously stubborn regarding her disability. There was nothing she hated more than to be seen as a victim, even in a justified case such as this; and while calling 911 would certainly be the correct course of action, the issues that would undoubtedly arise gave the young woman pause. It didn't take much for word to get out, and even if she refused to give details regarding what happened she could only assume it wouldn't be hard to put two and two together. She knew Daniel… even if tonight's incident had been far worse than she could ever have expected, she knew he wasn't stupid enough to risk further action against her. But if word got out, she'd be expected to press charges. If she didn't, she'd be seen as a weak, passive victim of abuse. Either way it was sure to bring drama to her life that, quite frankly, she'd much rather avoid.

Lisa pursed her lips as she weighed her options. Deep down, she knew her reservations were illogical at best, and outright stupid at worst… but unfortunately, in this case her pride trumped her common sense. There were other options, after all.

...Right?

Lisa squinted, her phone mere inches from her face as she scrolled through her contacts. Despite her overwhelming reputation amongst her peers, Lisa Loud was not what one might call a 'social' sort. In fact, she had no friends at all outside of Darcy, who was currently out of state. That essentially just left her family… though if she were to be completely honest, reaching out to them for help was barely any better than calling 911. However, as she scrolled down the list one name in particular brought her to a halt.

Lisa chewed her lip in apprehension. It had been quite some time since they'd spoken… over a year in fact, and even that had been little more than a brief catch-up. Calling him out of the blue like this, especially given the circumstances, was far from the most appealing prospect. However, desperate times called for desperate measures, and he lived close enough that he could likely reach her in half an hour at most.

And, most important of all… she trusted him.

 


 

"Jesus, Marv, have some damn mercy…" Lincoln grumbled as he set down his stylus, his wrist and fingers sore from hours of drawing. He leaned back in his chair and stretched, wincing at the stiffness in his neck and shoulders, not to mention his hand; one by one he popped his knuckles to release the pressure, then his wrist, each giving him a brief moment of pain followed by glorious relief. He supposed now was as good a time for a break as any... Lincoln double-checked that his progress was saved and got up with a grunt. All in all he figured he was making good progress.

...Until he checked his phone, finding that it was already nearly 8 PM.

The man rubbed his tired eyes, strained from hours of staring at his screen, before glancing back at his work in progress with a sigh. He'd spent the past two days lining the background for the cover of Ace Savvy # 364, and still wasn't even halfway completed. Marvin DeLange was one of the best artists in the industry bar none, but it was pretty clear that he gave little thought to how much of a burden his complex backgrounds placed on those who had to line his work. And while Lincoln was under no obligation to perfectly preserve DeLange's fine attention to detail, he wanted to make a name for himself damn it… if he were to have hope of being brought on full time, he needed to give every job his all. Hell, just having the chance to work with such an industry legend was a huge honor, and he wasn't about to waste it no matter how tired he was. There were plenty of hungry artists out there, after all.

Speaking of which, now that he wasn't focused on his work Lincoln realized that he hadn't eaten since breakfast. With that in mind he made his way to the kitchen, or at least what could charitably be considered a kitchen in his tiny studio apartment. The life of a freelance comic artist was not a glamorous one, but Lincoln didn't particularly mind as long as he had the essentials. Unfortunately, one of those 'essentials' was food… which was very much in short supply at the moment. He browsed his mostly-empty refrigerator with a frown. There wasn't much there, let alone much that could be considered food; there was a package of hot dogs that he was pretty sure were spoiled, a carton of milk that was definitely spoiled, a few beers, an open bag of chips that he could only assume he carelessly put there while drunk, a bottle of orange juice with barely a single sip's worth remaining, a pickle jar with one lone pickle left and the leftovers of a Burpin' Burger meal.

...From two nights ago.

Lincoln pursed his lips, considering his options for a moment before snatching the grease-stained bag and shutting the refrigerator. Two-day-old junk food was far from ideal, but he'd made do with worse in the past. Besides, after a minute in the microwave the partially-eaten cheeseburger and half-carton of fries were almost palatable, by his standards anyway. Lincoln stood by the kitchen counter, idly flipping through the mail as he munched away at his burger. Bills, bills, reminder from his landlord that rent was due… same old, same old. But hey, at least he got a coupon book. Lincoln had lived on his own long enough to know just how valuable they could be. Hopefully there'd be something to help with his grocery situation, but either way he was sure he'd be able to make use of it. One couldn't be too picky on a tight budget.

While Lincoln had known fully well that it would be hard to make a living as a comic artist, admittedly he'd never imagined that he'd be living like this at this point in his life. He supposed he'd been overly optimistic throughout college; he'd been determined to follow his dream to the end, telling himself that he was going to do everything it took to prove himself and become a stand-out figure in the industry. But, as always, reality had quickly reared its ugly head and shown him things weren't going to be that easy. Regardless, he still had no intention of giving up on his goals… he'd sooner go hungry than reconsider his career choice. Besides, if worse came to worst he could always move back in with his parents.

God forbid.

Lincoln popped the last of his burger into his mouth before shoving the wrapper and empty fry carton into the bag. He balled it up, lined up his shot and tossed it into the wastebin… or, at least, almost into the wastebin. The makeshift ball hit the lip, bouncing around the rim for a moment before dropping to the floor. Close, but no cigar... Lincoln let out a small sigh and shuffled over to pick up the bag and dispose of it properly.

His hunger sated, Lincoln yawned and stretched again before glancing at the clock. The man sucked his teeth in thought; he'd intended to take a short break and get right back to work, but he had been plugging away at it all day. While still a relative newcomer to the industry Lincoln knew his limits, and he understood that straining himself too far would only come back to bite him in the ass in the long run. He figured it was best to take the rest of the night off, unwind, and get back to it the next day refreshed and energized. Besides, he had a few movies he'd been meaning to watch. So with that in mind, Lincoln got a cold beer from the fridge and headed out to the living room… or, rather, the only room if you didn't count the kitchen and bathroom. He flopped down on his worn-out sofa and fired up Netflix. Browsing through his watch list, it dawned on him just how many films and shows he'd been procrastinating on… he stopped on the most recent X-Men flick for a moment, then shook his head and moved on. The last thing he wanted right now was more superheroes. Instead, he kept browsing until one film in particular caught his eye: Upgrade. He'd heard good things about it, and had always intended to watch it, but even 10 years later he just hadn't managed to get around to it. Well, no time like the present he supposed. Lincoln selected the movie and settled back in his seat, making himself comfortable. He popped the tab of his beer and got ready to enjoy his evening.

VRRRRRR. Before he'd even managed to raise the can to his lips, a loud buzzing sound made the man yelp and jump in surprise. He looked over to the source to find his phone lying on the coffee table and vibrating loudly. Lincoln set down his beer and groaned; his phone was quite a few years old by this point, and over the past few months the vibration feature had become startlingly loud, which may not have been an issue were the silent mode switch not stuck in place. From what he'd been able to gather, the problem was likely due to an internal component coming loose… and unfortunately the only options were to send it in for a pricey repair or replace the phone outright. Quite frankly he could afford neither, so for the time being he was stuck with a jackhammer in the form of a smartphone. Lincoln grumbled as he picked up the faulty device, only to be met with an unfamiliar number. He rolled his eyes and was about to dismiss the call, but he found himself hesitating. Usually, Lincoln would simply ignore unknown callers… more often than not they were solicitors, or bill collectors pestering him for being late with his payment by a single day, or any other type of unwanted caller. This time, however, something gave him pause… perhaps it was the familiar area code, or simply a feeling deep in his gut. Whatever the case, Lincoln found himself answering the mysterious call.

"Hel-"

'...incoln?' His brow furrowed as a youthful, slightly nasally voice spoke from the other end. It sounded… familiar, but he couldn't quite place it due to the dodgy reception.

"Er… yes, this is Lincoln Loud. Who am I sp-"

'It...Lisa,' The voice spoke through crackling static. 'Your si...ter.'

"Lisa… Lisa?" Lincoln's eyes went wide, a small smirk crossing his face. "Wow, it's been a long time… how've you been-"

'Liste….as….tance...eded.' His sister cut in. Lincoln winced slightly at the unpleasant crackling.

"Sorry, what was that? You're kinda breaking up." He heard a faint groan followed by a strange wet, sloshing noise and what sounded like a grunt of effort.

'..an you...ear me?'

"That's… a bit better, yeah," Lincoln replied. "Anyway, how're you-"

'Lincoln, please,' Lisa said in a somewhat forceful tone. 'Are…at home…ight now?' The man blinked, the smile quickly fading from his face. Lisa had always been a monotone girl, and now was no different… but even through the poor signal he could tell that something was up. There was a nervous warble to her voice, one that he hadn't heard since she was a child. Granted, he hadn't heard much of her at all as of late.

Which made this unexpected call all the more troubling.

"Yeah, I'm… Lisa, what's going on?" He asked. "Is everything okay?" For a moment, he didn't hear a response… just as he was about to ask again, however, he heard a deep sigh from the other end.

'Right, well….fraid...have….fallen in….ditch, and-'

"Wait… you fell into a ditch?!" Lincoln's eyes widened and his grip tightened on his phone. "W-what happened?!"

'I'm-'

"Shit… shit." Lincoln hissed as he sprung to his feet, the panic rising in his voice. "God, are you okay?! Is anything broken?!"

'Lincoln-'

"L-look, just try to stay calm… do you know where you are? How did you even-"

'LINCOLN!' The woman snapped, silencing her panicked brother. 'I…..uninjured…..just stuck. I hoped tha…ou could assist me...'

"I-I… right," Lincoln muttered, taking a deep breath to settle his nerves. "Sorry, I just... I-I'll be there. Where are you right now?"

'Not… not far,' Lisa muttered. 'I can message…..location.'

"Right… o-okay." Lincoln held his phone between his chin and shoulder as he struggled to pull on a pair of jeans over his 'work pants'... or, rather, pajama bottoms. No time to put on boxers, he figured. "And you're not hurt? Are you sure?!"

'...a bit bruised from...fall…' The woman quietly admitted.

"Dammit-"

'But nothing severe,' She assured him. 'Now plea…..efore I…battery…'

"I… o-okay. Sorry, just send me your location and I'll be there as soon as I can. Just… stay safe, okay? A-and call me if anything happens!"

'...will...ank you,' Lisa said with a soft sigh of relief. '...ease hurry.' With that, the call ended, leaving Lincoln to frantically get his things together.

Okay, Linc… relax. Don't panic, he told himself as he hopped in place, struggling to pull his ill-fitting jeans over his loose pajama bottoms. He'd just managed to pull them up when a strong vibration rattled his jaw, making him drop his phone with a gasp. He cursed under his breath and buttoned his jeans before snatching the phone off the ground. As expected, he'd gotten a text from Lisa showing her current coordinates. He quickly slid his feet into his pre-tied sneakers and rushed to the kitchen to grab his keys. He only paused briefly at the door to throw on his jacket, and for a brief moment his eyes fell on the untouched can of beer on the coffee table. Perfect timing, I guess, he thought.

It wasn't until Lincoln was in his car that he finally checked Lisa's message… thankfully, he only needed to tap the coordinates and the map automatically set it as his destination. However, before starting the route he couldn't help but stare at the location with a furrowed brow. Something seemed off… very off. Assuming the coordinates were correct, she was right beside a road… a rather lonely stretch of road at that, and one he'd driven down enough times to know that it wasn't exactly intended for pedestrian traffic. There were no sidewalks, no streetlights, and not even so much as a bike lane along that road.

So what the hell was his wheelchair-bound sister doing there? In fact… what was she doing out alone at all?

Lincoln shook his concerns aside and started the route. There would be time for that later… right now he needed to get to Lisa ASAP. He practically sped out of the parking lot, barely checking that the road was clear before peeling out and setting off towards his destination. Right now, the speed limit was little more than an afterthought; despite Lisa's assurances, he couldn't help but worry that she was in worse shape than she let on. Given her body's frail condition, surely a fall like that would have been dangerous, right? She could very well need medical attention, and-

Wait… why hadn't she called 911? Why call him?

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Lincoln hissed as a red light forced him to a stop. He hit the steering wheel in frustration and leaned back in his seat with a sigh. Now that he had time to think, this entire situation was incredibly unusual… well, more so than it already had been at least. Hell, it had been what… one, two years since they'd spoken last? And not for lack of trying on his part, either; she'd simply fallen out of contact from the family, and her old number had stopped working shortly after their last conversation. She'd always been a somewhat distant girl, but to simply cut off contact the way she had… quite frankly, it had stung. But he supposed it had been a long time coming; as the years went on Lisa had changed significantly, and her involvement with the rest of her family had noticeably diminished over time. In fact, thinking back, Lincoln was almost certain it had all started when she was only eight years old.

The day that, without warning, Lisa gave up on her scientific pursuits.

He could still remember it clearly. Hell, he was certain the same was true for all of his siblings. The sudden CRASH from Lisa's room… the tear-stricken face of Lily as she ran to them for help… the screams of rage and that mad look in the prodigy's eyes as she tore their room apart, smashing her equipment to pieces with whatever she could get her hands on. They'd never seen the normally stoic little girl in such a unhinged state, nor had they since, and to this day she simply refused to discuss the matter in the slightest. Years of research, gone in the blink of an eye without the slightest hint of regret on Lisa's part. Lincoln could only imagine what potential scientific breakthroughs had been lost in the destruction. This was a girl who could have changed the world; hell, she had done so numerous times in her eight years of life. Lisa Loud could have been the greatest scientific mind of all time, and in fact as far as Lincoln was concerned she still was. But the girl had simply thrown it all away. She'd even burned all of her notes, documents and records, essentially washing her hands of that entire aspect of her life. The biggest aspect of her life.

Her family had been disappointed of course, but it was her life and she was free to pursue whatever path she chose for herself. Lincoln, however, had found the situation to be incredibly frustrating. Here was a genius, a prodigy unlike the world had ever seen, and yet instead of putting that brilliant mind to use she chose to waste it. Even as her body was wracked by a degenerative disease, she'd refused to even try to find a cure… willingly letting her body deteriorate to the point where she could barely move more than a few steps without a cane. It was maddening. Lincoln had tried to break through that shell, to find out why she had done what she did, but the girl had remained resolute in her silence. The most he'd ever gotten out of her was "Some things just aren't worth it, brother."

That had been when they'd last spoke. She ended the conversation shortly thereafter.

Lincoln took a deep breath, then exhaled. He couldn't worry about this right now… there would be time to dwell on the past later. Right now Lisa needed his help, and the second the light turned green he stomped on the gas pedal and sped off.

 


 

[You have arrived at your destination,] an automated female voice spoke as Lincoln pulled to a stop along the embankment. He put the car in park and stepped out. Lincoln rushed to the edge of the ditch… however, his sister was nowhere to be seen. "Lisa?!" He called out, frantically scanning the area for some sign of the woman. "LISA!"

"I'm here, Lincoln," A voice called back from a bit further along the ditch. Lincoln breathed a sigh of relief as he heard his sister's response, her tone surprisingly flat considering the situation.

In other words, a good sign.

"I-I'm coming!" Lincoln hurried along the embankment towards the source of the voice. He kept his gaze focused on the ditch, but with the trees blocking out the moonlight he could barely see anything down there at all. He fished his phone out of his pocket and turned on the flashlight, shining it down into the ditch as he walked. Granted, it didn't do much to help, but even a weak light was better than no light all. "Lisa…?"

"Down here." Lincoln followed the voice, his brow knitting in confusion as he saw nothing of note, let alone a young woman… then, he noticed something shiny stuck in the mud, catching the light of his phone. A wheelchair. He leaned over slightly to get a better look, but it wasn't until his sister cleared her throat that he noticed something moving about amongst the dirt: it was Lisa, covered head-to-toe with mud and wearing a very disgruntled look upon her face. Were it not for the seriousness of the situation, Lincoln may have broken into laughter at the sight.

"H-hang on, I'm coming down…"

"Be careful, it's-" Lisa began as her brother started to make his way down the incline, only to quickly slip on the rain-slick grass; he cried out in surprise as he fell, rolling the rest of the way down before landing in the mud with a splash. Lisa managed to shut her eyes just before a cup's worth of mud splattered across her face. She took a deep breath, wiping the mud away with her sleeve before continuing. "...Slippery."

"Ow… n-no kidding…" Lincoln wheezed. Lisa simply rolled her eyes and scooted a bit closer.

"Are you alright?" She asked as the man unsteadily pushed himself up to a seated position.

"Yeah…" He winced. "Thanks, Lis… Lisa!" Lincoln scrambled to his sister's side. "Thank God… are you okay? Where are your glasses?"

"As I said, brother… I am uninjured." She repeated. "As for my glasses… your assistance would be appreciated in locating them, if possible."

"Right, lemme just… oh, goddamn it," Lincoln muttered as he noticed his phone lying face-down in the mud, practically invisible were it not for the flashlight shining like a beacon. He gingerly picked it up; thankfully the screen wasn't cracked, but cleaning the mud out of the various nooks and crannies was sure to be a nightmare. As if it weren't in bad enough shape already. "Ah well," Lincoln huffed as he carefully got to his feet. "Sit tight, I'll take a look."

"Trust me, I won't be going anywhere," His sister assured him. "They shouldn't be far." Lincoln gave a nod and began scanning the area around them; thankfully, it didn't take long to spot something glinting in the light of his flashlight a few feet away.

"I think I… yep, got it!" Lincoln gingerly plucked her glasses from the mud, wiping them off on his shirt before handing them to his sister.

"Thank you." Lisa said as she put them on; she'd have to give them a more thorough cleaning later. "Now then… I suppose there's the matter of how we are to get out of here."

"Yeah…" Lincoln scratched the back of his head as he studied the incline. "I could probably carry you out…"

"Unlikely," Lisa said, adjusting her glasses. "Considering you could not descend without falling-"

"Yeah, yeah... fair enough," Lincoln huffed. He pursed his lips in thought; considering how slippery the ground was, walking up was certainly out of the question, especially while carrying another person. He could, however, likely climb out... there looked to be plenty of roots that he could use for support. "Hey, Lisa… think you'd be able to hold onto my back?" Lisa cocked an eyebrow.

"What do you… ah. I see." The young woman thought for a moment, then gave a nod. "Yes… I believe I could manage that."

"You sure?"

"...I'm not completely helpless, Lincoln." Lisa grumbled, earning a nervous laugh from her brother.

"I-I didn't mean… er, sorry." He muttered. He walked to his sister's side and kneeled with his back facing her. "Let's… give this a try, then." Lincoln heard a small grunt of effort as Lisa pushed herself up, then the light pressure of her arms looping around his neck. "Ready?"

"As much as I could be, I suppose…" She said quietly; Lincoln couldn't help but notice there was a flustered note to her voice, and despite the situation a small smirk crossed the man's face. It was somewhat nostalgic… as a child, Lisa had always been a bit embarrassed when she needed help from a taller sibling. Not that this had been a rare occurrence; even as she grew older Lisa remained short in stature, and by the time she was 7, even Lily had several inches on the petite girl. It had been cute back then, especially when the young prodigy would get childishly indignant over g. Once the reason for her small body became clear, however, the humor of the situation had faded in an instant.

The thin, underdeveloped arms around her neck served as a stark reminder of that fact.

"...Lincoln?"

"Oh, er… sorry," The man mumbled. He shook aside his thoughts. "Hang on tight," He said, and carefully got to his feet. Thankfully, his younger sister was very light… far more so than he had expected in fact. He heard a small gasp as Lisa was lifted off her feet. "You okay?"

"I-I'm fine… just be careful, please." Lincoln gave a small nod and with slow, careful steps, made his way over to the incline. He took a moment to get his bearings, looking up the incline with bated breath. It was only about seven feet up, but right now it may as well have been twice that. Still, there was no use overthinking things… he was a young, spry man. He could do this. Lincoln took a deep breath and reached out to feel for a root. He gripped one tightly, gave it a tug to test it, and then exhaled.

"Alright… here we go," He said. He dug his foot into the soft dirt and, carefully, pulled himself and his sister upwards. He could feel her arms tightening around his neck, but she was so light that it barely made a difference. Lincoln moved slow, being sure to get a good foothold before even trying to ascend further, though that didn't stop him from nearly slipping a little over halfway up; Lisa let out a small cry at the sudden jolt, but thankfully Lincoln's grip was strong enough to keep the pair from falling. "W-whoa… you good, Lis'?"

"I-I said be careful!" The girl sputtered with a noticeable crack in her voice. Lincoln bit his lip to suppress a chuckle before moving on with increased caution, and before long they reached solid ground. Lisa barely even gave him time to pull them all the way off before scrambling off the man's back. "Oh, thank God," She said quietly between heavy breaths; Lincoln let out a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"Told you I got it," Lincoln said with a short, tired laugh.

"...Barely…" The young woman grumbled, then shook her head and sighed. "In any case, thank you."

"You don't need to thank me, Lisa. We're family."

"Perhaps, but regardless… I am grateful," Lisa said. Lincoln noticed the faintest hint of a smile before the girl looked away and pushed up her glasses. "That said, I'd highly appreciate a hasty departure, if possible."

"Right. Car's right over there." Lincoln got to his feet and stooped down to help his sister. "Here, I'll carr-"

"I don't need you to carry me, Lincoln," She huffed. "As I said, I'm not helpless. Just… help me to my feet, if you would."

"But-"

"Lincoln." Lisa snapped, shooting the man a harsh glare. "I assure you, I am well aware of what I am and am not capable of." Lincoln opened his mouth to respond before thinking better of it; instead, he simply frowned and gave a small nod. She gladly took his hand as he offered it, unsteadily getting to her feet. "Thank you. Now…"

"Yeah, uh… yeah. Let's go…" The two slowly walked to his car, the younger Loud using his arm for support as she shuffled along on her frail legs. "Look, I'm… sorry. I didn't mean to imply-"

"It's fine, Lincoln," She assured him with a small shake of her head. "I'm merely… testy at the moment, as I'm sure you could understand." The man nodded. As they reached his used, beat-up sedan, Lincoln clicked the unlock button on his key and opened the passenger door for his sister. "Thank you," She said as she uneasily got into the car, letting out a contented sigh as she settled back in her seat. The car may have been an old piece of junk, but right now it felt like the most comfortable thing in the world.

"Don't mention it. Now let's get out-"

"Wait… my wheelchair!" Lisa gasped. Lincoln groaned and hung his head; he'd completely forgotten about that. "I… hate to send you back down there, but-"

"No, it's… it's fine. Here…" Lincoln handed Lisa his keys. "Go ahead and fire up the car. I'll be right back."

"...Thank you." She said. The two exchanged a smirk before Lincoln headed off. "It folds up!" She called after him.

"Got it!" The man called back. She watched as he returned to the spot he had found her, and cautiously began to descend… only to immediately fall forward with a yelp, once again tumbling down to the mud below. Lisa buried her face in her palm.

"...Some things never change, I suppose…"

 


 

"Alright… where are we going?" Lincoln asked once everything was situated, his car pulling back onto the road. "I don't know your address, so-"

"No."

"...No?" Lincoln asked, raising his eyebrow; he glanced over at his sister, finding her looking out the window with an impassive expression

"No. Not… not tonight," She said softly. "Just… bring me to your home, if you're willing."

"...Alright…" The man said, a frown crossing his face. "But I really think we should get you looked at-"

"I'm fine," Lisa stated plainly. "Please, just-"

"Alright, alright… if you insist," Lincoln muttered. He saw little reason to argue with her… especially not after what she'd been through. For a few minutes, neither said anything; were this a normal situation, the silence may have been peaceful. Right now, however, it just felt deafening. "...Sooo…" Lincoln said, clearing his throat. "...You gonna tell me what's really going on?"

"...I told you," The woman said. "I fell."

"Lisa-"

"Lincoln, please," She said with a faint edge to her voice. "Just leave it at that." Lincoln's brow furrowed in frustration, and he struggled to find the right words to respond. Finally he took a deep breath, forcing down his anger for the time being.

"Fine…" He huffed. "I'll drop it. For now. We're going to be talking about this later, though." Lincoln waited for his sister's response, but received none beyond a noncommittal grunt under her breath. After a few moments, he spoke again. "Anyway, I'm just glad you're okay. And, for what it's worth… it's good to see you again, Lis'." He heard Lisa shift slightly, peeling her eyes from the passing scenery to look at him with a small smile.

"...Likewise, brother." She said, the harshness fading from her voice. "I suppose we have some catching up to do." Lincoln smirked and nodded in agreement. With that, the two once again fell silent; there was much that he wanted to ask the girl, but right now he figured she needed some peace and quiet.

After some time the desolate highway gave way to more urban surroundings. As Lincoln pulled to a stop at a red light, he took a moment to glance at his passenger. Now, lit by the surrounding streetlights, he could get a better look at her. She didn't seem to have changed much since they'd last seen each other... at least, not physically speaking. But right now, disheveled and covered in mud and dirt, she seemed so much more frail than he'd ever seen her before. Vulnerable in a way that was uncharacteristic of the stoic young woman. And, now that he had a closer look… he noticed she was hugging her torso and shivering slightly. Lincoln felt a pang of guilt and mentally kicked himself for not noticing. Of course she was cold… she was practically soaked through to the bone, and with Summer coming to an end the warm nights have given way to a brisk, crisp Autumn chill. He'd been in such a rush that he hadn't even thought to bring towels… the poor girl must have been freezing. Lincoln reached over and turned up the heat, and within seconds Lisa noticed the difference. She shut her eyes and smiled, a contented sigh escaping her lips.

"...Thank you."



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