AN: This chapter is mostly descriptions and actions rather than dialogue. I was going to end the story here, but figured it needs at least one more chapter to end properly. I have a sequel where Lily learns of her true parentage nearly finished, and most of the rest of this storyline finishes in the sequel. Most of my future Loud House stories will take place in this AU, where Lily is Leni's daughter, even if it isn't really pertinent to the plot. Working on the prequel at the moment.
On the ride home the next day, Leni was still tired and hadn't lost all of her baby belly yet, so she wore a loose poncho she had designed herself. One that would hide the weight, and she felt she could explain the tiredness by claiming she had stayed up with mom all night, watching the baby. She glanced down. Lily was swaddled comfortably in a blanket and sleeping peacefully in a baby seat, the belt making sure she was secure.
Leni was leaning against Lori and watching Lily at the same time. Lori was stroking her little sister's soft hair and murmuring words of comfort, but whatever she was saying, it didn't penetrate Leni's knowledge that as soon as they were home, Lily wouldn't be hers anymore. Not really. She would be Leni's little sister, not her precious daughter, the life she'd carried inside her for nearly nine months.
Leaning into Lori's arms, Leni drifted off to sleep. Lori squeezed her little sister softly. She had no idea what Leni must be going through, but it had to be nerve-wracking and tiring. Little Lily was in a baby seat next to Leni, and Lucy was on the other side, tightly grasping the seat, not daring to let her little niece so much as bump, since Lily's seat seemed to be on the springy seat.
Lynn was driving, since Rita supposedly just had a baby, and Lisa, at the least, would know that just giving birth (even though it was a day or so ago) makes the mother quite tired. Rita kept glancing to the mirror at Leni, and Lily. Making sure her daughters were okay. She loved Lily so much already, she couldn't imagine anything happening to her, and Leni was precious as well. Her second girl. Leni seemed to be curled up in the seat, laying against her elder sister, snoring peacefully. Rita smiled. At least everything seemed to be going okay.
After dropping Aunt Ruth off at her house, and picking up the little black kitten she'd given them, they headed home. Lori held Cliff, since she wasn't sure it was safe for Lily to be so close to an animal, since she was barely two days old. Cliff found a spot on her lap and curled up in a tiny, fuzzy black ball. One hand on Leni and one on Cliff, Lori felt very much the big sister at the moment. She didn't want either of her precious family members to wake up until they had to. Leaning her head against Leni's, Lori closed her eyes, stroking Cliff's soft black fur and Leni's silky silvery-blonde hair.
After what seemed like a rather long ride, they finally arrived back at the Loud house. Lori and Leni's first time seeing it in months. It truly felt like they were home at last, that things were normal again...at least to Lori. Leni probably felt different...still, Lori noticed she plastered a dim smile on her face as they exited the car. Lucy stepped out, grabbed Lily's seat and offered it to Leni. Leni shook her head and gestured toward her mother. Rita took Lily out of the seat and wrapped her tighter in the swaddling, holding her close to her chest. Lori noticed a small flash of pain cross Leni's face, but she kept her smile.
The entire Loud house was waiting on the porch to greet their new 'sister', as well as the McBride family, who had agreed to make sure the house wasn't burned to the ground. Both men, and their son Clyde, looked beyond tired. Not everyone could handle so many children, of course, but the men had tried their best, and from the looks of the house, succeeded. Probably because the kids were so eager for their new sister that all their energy was put into welcoming her home.
Luna was singing a soft song of welcome and strumming her guitar, Luan was giggling uncontrollably and bouncing off the walls, so to speak, Lynn was bouncing a hacky sack ball in place, barely missing a beat until she noticed the van, and her ball immediately fell to the ground. Lincoln and Clyde were whispering to each other, grinning, and pointing at Rita. Or rather, pointing at Lily. Clyde took one look at Lori, stuttered something, and passed out in a gush of blood.
Lori sighed. When would that boy get it? He just wasn't her type. At least not now. Maybe in the future, but...if he really wanted to impress her, he could just be himself. At least, that's what Lori thought. Trying to be something he wasn't just wasn't flattering at all.
Lola and Lana were both in different states of their favorite past times. A large mud puddle from the rain had collected a few feet from the porch, and it seemed Lana had rolled in it several times. She was also holding Hops and Izzy in her hands, looking back and forth between them, as if unable to decide which one to show Lily first.
Lola was dressed in her pinkest, sparkliest, fanciest pageant gown she owned, along with a glittering, jewel encrusted tiara on her head. She was waving at them elegantly, as if in a parade, but not even Lola could keep the giddy smile off her face when she saw Lily. She and Lana both started jumping up and down, holding hands and screaming something.
Lisa was her usual stoic self, pushing her glasses up and examining the new baby from afar, muttering something the others couldn't hear. Her lips were trembling, and as soon as Rita reached the sidewalk with Lily, Lisa broke and started sobbing like Lynn Sr. did when he lost a dance contest or the sports channel during a storm: uncontrollably.
"Finally! A little thister for me! So many thingth I have to teach her. Hopefully she will be a geniuth like me and I will finally have an intelligent lab partner." Lisa, hands shaking, stood on her tiptoes to try and get a better look at her baby sister.
"Guys, we're all really tired, especially little Lily! That's the name we chose, Lily! Lucy was the one who gave us the idea. Some of Aunt Ruth's special flowers were called Surprise Lily, and that's what my sweet little Lily is, a surprise!" Rita stroked the baby's head softly, holding back her tears.
For three years she had lived with knowing she would never have another child, and now, she did, even if the child hadn't come from her body. She was her grandmother, and that was enough. She was a Loud. Leni still had the fake smile plastered on her face, Lori was holding Leni's hand in what seemed to be a death grip, and Lucy was smiling softly, to everyone's shock. The gloomy girl took Leni's other hand and helped her up the steps.
"Guys, Leni is literally really, really tired, okay? She stayed up with mom until Lily was born, so please let her have her rest! If you need something, literally just ask me, okay? I promise I won't pound you or yell at you. Unless you bother Leni. Then you'll literally have to answer to my fist!" Lori growled, narrowing her eyes at her siblings.
Rita laughed, "Yes, Leni was an amazing help. I honestly don't think Lily would be here now if it weren't for her! She took such good care of me, and her. Howard, Harold, and Clyde? You guys are welcome to head home now. You don't need to stay anymore."
Howard sighed heavily, "Thank you, Rita. Can we look at the baby first?" He leaned over and whispered to Rita, "We're in the process of adopting a little sister for Clyde, but it takes forever! It took us over a year to finally adopt Clyde! Don't tell him about his future sister! I don't have much experience with girls...obviously, right?...so if you need any help with little Lily, Harold and I will be glad to baby sit. For a short time, of course. I think a week was a little too long. We're bushed."
"It was only two days, Howard, dear, but with my kids, I can see why you would think otherwise!" Rita said, smiling, "We'll keep you in mind if we need a babysitter...and congratulations on the future adoption. Little girls are the best!" Rita had whispered the last part so Clyde wouldn't hear.
"Clyde, Hare-bear, come look at this little sweetie! She's just the cutest little thing," Howard made sing-songy noises and shook Lily's tiny hand.
"She's sweet! You got yet another cool sister, Lincoln! Man, you are the luckiest guy on Earth," Clyde said, a slight hint longing in his voice, as he finally came around from his fainting spell since Lori was gone.
He yearned for a family like Lincoln's, with lots of sisters, despite loving his super amazing dads and the fact that they were very wealthy and he could have pretty much anything he wanted. Except Lori, it seemed. And lots of sisters. He knew his dads had trouble with babysitting the Loud children when they did it, the very few times they did it, but Clyde would have been happy with just one sister!
"Oh, Howie! She's so beautiful. Look at those bright green eyes!" Harold said, grinning and tickling Lily a little. She waved a small arm in the air, blinking at Harold, "Come on, Howie, I'm sure they don't want us interfering with their new family just yet!"
Harold put an arm around Howard's shoulder and pulled him to the car. Tears were brimming in Howard's eyes as he and Clyde entered the car and started their journey to the other side of town, home. Despite Doctor Lopez trying to get Howard to control his sensitive nature, he still cried easily, as did Clyde.
Harold loved his son and his husband, regardless of how sensitive they were. In fact, Howard's sensitivity was what made him fall in love with his husband in the first place, and now, look at them. Wealthy, healthy, happy, and a wonderful son who was just as amazing as any child could be.
"Dad, Lincoln is sooo lucky. Can we get a little sister for me? Being a big brother would be the most important job ever! Well, besides being Lori's soulmate," Clyde let out a big sigh, "I'm going to have to see Doctor Lopez this week, dad...I just keeping thinking about Lori...and now Lily...about how much I want to be with Lori and how much I want a sister."
Howard and Harold exchanged smiles and knowing looks. It might take a year or two, but Clyde would get his sister. Maybe even get Lori, some day, unless it was just as Doctor Lopez said, nothing more than a childhood crush that would disappear with age. Harold pulled out of the driveway and headed home, affirming that Clyde could, indeed, book an appointment with their therapist. She was on-call for the McBrides permanently, after all. They made sure she got her money's worth.
Leni watched the excitement, half happy and half sad. She sighed tiredly, it was hard to keep her eyes open. She guessed it was good that Rita would be the one getting up at three am to care for a crying Lily...still, part of her wanted to be the one that Lily would call 'mom' when she said her first words. The thought of the beautiful piece of life she had created calling someone else 'mom' would hurt. Maybe...when Lily was an adult...she could know the truth. She could know Leni as her mother.
Lori grabbed the tired new mother by the arm and pulled her into a hug, "Leni, sis, you need to literally sleep. I know you're literally worried or sad, but Lily will be perfect. Our family will take care of her, so will I. You just need to get some literal sleep! If you pass out, I will turn you into a human pretzel!" Lori's flower-wilting glare caused Leni to cringe slightly and nod.
"Mom! I'm taking Leni upstairs. She's like literally super ultra tired!" Lori called out the door, and put an arm around her sister and led her upstairs.
With a massive sigh that almost rivaled Lucy's sighs, Leni fell back on the bed and was nearly asleep instantly, her soft snores calming Lori a bit. Her sister was okay. She was finally getting the sleep she needed while the rest of the family gushed over Lily. Lori pulled the blankets out from under Leni and covered her up, taking her soft tennis-shoes off first.
Lori climbed into the bed and cuddled up next to Leni. Leni turned over on her side and put an arm around Lori, her soft breath sweet and gentle against Lori's neck. Lori hugged her sister and put her head down on the pillow as well, tiredness overcoming her as well. Lori and Leni fell asleep in each other's arms, the sisters showing their ultimate love for each other, despite the arguing at times.
Rita smiled when she looked in at her eldest daughters, asleep and cuddling each other, as they had when they'd been little girls needing comfort in the dark, and down at Lily in her arms. Sleeping peacefully. Her family. Her daughters. A tear slid down Rita's cheek. All this pain, all this...everything.
It was worth it, to have her daughters safe, home, and happy. Someday, Rita would make sure Lily knew the truth. She wouldn't dare keep the little girl from knowing her real mother, the sweet, innocent, beautiful Leni, Rita's beloved second-born. So sweet, but so naive. Rita sometimes wondered if Leni had lied. If she really HAD been taken advantage of, but had been ashamed to tell her parents. It was something Leni would do. Too many people took advantage of Leni and her kindness. Her willingness to do whatever it took to make someone happy.
Even Rita. She felt a pang in her chest as she felt little Lily squirm a bit in her arms. She took something worse from Leni. Something she could never get back, not really. A beautiful daughter to raise, to hear her say 'mom', to take her to school on Parent's Day...Rita felt, looking at Lily right now, that her own desire for a child had taken something special away from Leni. She was sure Leni would have been a great mother, with some pointers from Rita. She had experience with her little sisters, after all. It wasn't the same as being a mother, but it was a start.
Lynn Sr. walked up behind Rita and wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her neck.
"Honey? Is everything okay?" Lynn whispered, "You've been crying."
"Just...all this. I feel so terrible for taking Lily, but...I wanted her so badly as well. It's so hard, darling. I don't know if I did the right thing. Taking something so precious from my daughter...I can't even imagine what she's going through," Rita closed Leni and Lori's door and wrapped an arm around Lynn, pulling him into her embrace with Lily, "Maybe…maybe we can ask Clyde's parents if Doctor Lopez could talk to Leni. She...well, I'm sure she would appreciate talking to someone, and a doctor can't say anything. It's confidential."
The baby opened her green eyes, blinking peacefully at her new parents. Lynn tickled her softly, cooing a bit at her.
"She is so beautiful. She looks just like Leni, except for the eyes. Her father must have been very attractive. Everything about Lily is just perfect," Lynn sighed as he admired the tiny girl in Rita's arms.
"I would have thought Lily was perfect if she had four eyes and a tail, honey," said Rita, forcing a laugh, "All children are perfect in the eyes of their parents. Or their grandparents," Rita said softly, so the children inevitably eavesdropping wouldn't hear her.
Lynn put his head on Rita's shoulder and gazed down at Lily, opening the door a crack and looking at Leni and Lori, sleeping together on the same bed for the first time since childhood.
"We have a wonderful family, darling. It can't get much better than this," Lynn leaned over and kissed Rita, pulling she and Lily into another warm embrace.
Together, Lynn and Rita watched their three daughters sleep. Lori, Leni, and their surprise Lily.