AN: Takes place near the end of "Brawl In The Family", the night when Lori and Leni make up while Lincoln is at Clyde's. This is AU as it is part of my "Blooming-verse" where Lily is Leni's daughter. That's the only difference. I don't own Leni's song. It's from My Little Pony. Oh, and Lori is furious. That's why she's using such words to refer to Leni. Continuity is...weird, as Lincoln sits at the grown up table, but this is a S2 episode. Not sure when exactly this takes place, so if you see continuity errors, just remember, AU.
Wanted And Needed
Lori was still fuming. All the things Leni had said. The fact that her sister had had the very nerve to buy the same dress as her and not take it back! Lori wanted to scream. She'd called Bobby and told him all about Leni's treachery.
Her outright refusal to give her elder sister what she had honestly bought first. Bobby's only reply was a simple-minded "why do you care about dresses being the same color?" much like Lincoln's earlier reply that he also didn't mind wearing the same stuff as someone else. It was a man thing, apparently. Or just a Bobby and Lincoln thing. She didn't know.
The dress was beautiful, perfect, and so meant for her, at least that's what Bobby had said when she'd tried it on for him. She should have been more careful. Should have looked to see if her dress really was one of a kind, and if it wasn't, she should have hid the other one so that little bitch Leni wouldn't have been able to steal her style. Leni was always wearing Lori's clothes.
She claimed it was because she wanted to look like Lori, that she loved her style, that imitation was supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery (something that only Lori knew Leni could even say), etc. Maybe she hadn't got over the time Lori had stolen and hid her floral pumps when she went to that party. The one where she was ultra-stupid.
Lori snarled angrily and kicked the wall. She was staying alone in Lincoln's room, while Leni was sleeping in Lisa's room since the four year old had gone to an overnight science convention. One of Lincoln's stupid Starship Groupers posters fell from the wall and landed on her head.
She angrily tore it to pieces and threw the trash in the floor. Lincoln had made this worse, after all. Why do anything for him? He was nearly as bad as Leni, the girl who went out of her way to piss Lori off.
Lori took a few deep, calming breaths and sent Bobby a late-night text. He would answer, since he was an overnight pizza delivery boy. At least she thought that was his job this week. He had a new one every other week or so, it seemed. He had delivered pizza earlier, but Lori had no idea if he'd been fired yet, even though it had only been a few hours.
Bobby did not reply, so apparently he was busy working or asleep after having been fired, otherwise he would have text her back. Lori ran a hand through her tangled, messy hair, gritting her teeth and holding the beautiful blue dress that was HERS, and no one else's, to her chest. A few sobs escaped her. It was her dress. It was hers first. First was all she had. She was nothing, nothing but a bossy, snotty, mean girl without the title of being the oldest.
That was her only role in the Loud family. The oldest. Lori sobbed and grabbed one of the tissues on Lincoln's desk. She blew her nose and wiped away the tears, putting the dirty tissue in Lincoln's trash can. She needed to take a walk. Even if it was just down the hallway. She had to use the bathroom anyway. Hopefully she wouldn't run into Leni.
If her stupid little sister knew better, she would stay put in Lisa's room. Or just tear up her 'copy' of the dress and end all this. That's all Leni had to do. Get rid of the dress, and Lori would forgive her for stealing her style again. Lori took a deep breathe again and opened the door to the hallway. She wrinkled her nose slightly at the sight of several mud patches mixed with pink glitter near Lana and Lola's room.
Lori slid on a pair of soft, blue house shoes, ones that went well with her blue sleeping gown, and closed the door behind her. She shuffled silently down the hall, listening for any signs of movement from the damn traitors that believed Leni over her. She was here first. Born first. Should have everything first, but no, Leni always tried to be first!
Lori's head throbbed from her rising blood pressure, so much so that she almost didn't hear the soft singing coming from Lisa's room. Leni was in there, so Lori was tempted to go in and punch her in her stupid face, but something told her not to.
The elder girl narrowed her eyes slightly and looked through a small crack in the door that Leni had left open. Lori's eyes widened a bit. Leni was sitting on the floor next to Lily's crib, a silky white nightgown making her look ethereal in the soft light from the hall, holding Lily carefully in her arms and running a hand gently over her soft blonde hair, crooning a beautiful lullaby Lori had never heard before. Lori stood outside the door and closed her eyes, listening to what Leni was singing to the baby.
Hush now, quiet it now, it's time to lay your sleepy head.
Hush now, quiet now, it's time to go to bed.
Hush now, quiet now, close your sleepy eyes.
Hush now, quiet now, my how time sure flies.
Lori's eyes widened. She'd never heard Leni sing. The girl had a soft, beautiful voice, and the lullaby was just...beautiful. Tears welled in Lori's eyes as she listened to her sister sing.
Drifting, drifting off to sleep
The days excitement behind you.
Drifting drifting off to sleep
Let the joy of dreamland find you.
Such a beautiful song...She wondered where Leni had learned it. Or had she just made it up? Maybe it was one of Lucy's poems or something, but...happy. The song was definitely meant as a lullaby to put a baby to sleep, which Lucy rarely wrote. A few tears trickled down Lori's face as Leni neared the end of the song.
Hush now, quiet now, time to lay your sleepy head.
Hush now, quiet now, it's time to go to bed...
Oh, sweet darling, how time sure flies
Lori couldn't help herself anymore. She opened the door slowly. Leni didn't notice Lori standing in the doorway. All her attention was on Lily. The sleeping baby twisted a little in Leni's arms. Leni was holding her tightly and pressing her to her body, as if she never wanted to let her go. As Lori slowly walked closer, she noticed that tears were streaming down Leni's face.
Lori knew, somehow, that it was definitely not about the dress, which Lori had been crying about minutes ago. The dress seemed so stupid, so petty compared to...to this. A mother singing to her daughter, crying because she would never know her as her mother...everything else looked small, compared to that.
Lori stepped into the room quietly, not wanting to interrupt Leni's bonding with her daughter. Leni, seemingly either ignoring Lori or not noticing her, stood up and gently put Lily in her crib, leaning down and giving her a kiss.
"Momma loves you, Lily. Always," Leni whispered and stroked Lily's soft cheek. A tear slid down her face and landed on Lily's purple blankie, which had been a present from Leni. Leni's old blankie.
Leni turned and walked back to Lisa's bed, which was a bit too small for the taller girl. Lori momentarily wondered why Leni had chosen this room, of all the rooms she could have slept in, but remembered that it was because of Lily. She didn't care about Lisa's small bed, she just cared about being with her daughter, even if it were only for one night.
Leni sat on the side of Lisa's bed and lifted her head to face Lori.
"Please come sit," the younger girl said softly, a very small, tremulous smile wandering across her lips, "Don't just stand there."
Lori hesitated before quietly padding across the room, narrowly missing some glass test tubes and other science crap Lisa had forgotten to put away. She sat down toward the end of the bed, as far from Leni as she could get. She didn't want Leni to start yelling. She didn't want anything to break the beautiful silence that Leni's lullaby had brought about. Still, Leni wanted to talk, or she wouldn't have called Lori in.
"We can talk. Lily's asleep and won't wake until morning," Leni softly said, her pale blue eyes glinting slightly in the pale yellow of the nightlight near the crib, "Just be quiet. If you want to scream at me, we can go back to Lincoln's room."
The pale girl ran a hand through her silky hair and leaned back on the bed, staring at Lily in her crib, biting her lip hard, as if to keep herself from crying.
"I don't want to scream. I just...I'm..." Lori blinked back tears and a quiet sob escaped her, "I'm stupid. I'm so petty. So angry. Literally all the time. You don't deserve it. You've literally done nothing but be the perfect, sweet little sister."
Leni leaned over and wrapped Lori in a hug, "I haven't been the perfect sister. I yelled, too. When you insulted the way I looked in that dress. It's such a beautiful dress. I just once wanted to look as pretty as you are, so I got mad. I truly am sorry. I...you can have the dress. It seems so silly to be upset over a dress. I already have what I love more than anything."
Leni nodded toward Lily and squeezed Lori tightly, "My...my precious daughter...and you, my great big sister. And the rest of the family. All of them. Why get upset over a dress when family is more important than anything else?" Leni asked no one in particular.
Lori shook her head, her tears wet on Leni's white nightgown, "No, Leni. I can't just...you...just stop! Stop it, Leni. Just literally stop!" Lori's voice shook with emotion.
Sometimes, Leni really was stupid. Why would she ever want to be Lori? Lori had nothing...nothing except the fact that she'd been born first. And Bobby. She loved Bobby and wouldn't give him up for anything, but Leni...Leni was an amazing person. Why she would want to change it, she didn't know.
"You're literally the perfect one, Leni. You're the beautiful one, not me. You don't know how much I envy you. You never need to use blemish cream, even though you do anyway, your skin never turns an ugly orange when you try to tan, you have a voice like...like an angel...and...you... literally have Lily. How could you ever want to give that up just so you could be the bossy, snotty, mean oldest sister?" Lori shook her head in stunned disbelief.
Leni laid her head on Lori's shoulder, "None of that is true, except my Lily, Lori. Not at all. We love you. We all do. All ten of us. You're the best. The oldest, the truly special one. The only one who can drive. I mean, how would I get to the mall without you?" Leni gave a soft chuckle.
"You would just get your own license. You could have last time, when Lincoln used that weird 'Leni-speak' to teach you, even though you can drive just fine. You just...you knew how badly I wanted to be special. How badly I wanted to be the only one with car keys. How bad I needed to be...needed. Wanted. Loved. You're literally already loved and wanted. Everyone loves sweet, loving, friendly Leni, no matter what you say," Lori's lips trembled and a few tears slid down her cheeks.
"We need you, Lori. We all do. You're the only one who can keep everyone in line when mom and dad are away, after all. You look after all your siblings, by yourself. I'm too...well, stupid, to yell at anyone or stop them from doing what they shouldn't. You keep us sane, and safe," Leni smiled.
"Stop it, Leni, just stop," Lori whispered, "You literally know you aren't stupid and so do I. I'll just give up the dress. You're right, it isn't important when the only other option is having you mad at me. You probably look better in it anyway. I was too mad to look at you, really look, when you had it on before."
Leni put a pale, slender hand on Lori's, "No, I already told you, I don't want it anymore. We can...make a compromise," Leni grinned her 'Leni-smile', "I get to wear it every day that doesn't end in 'Y' and you can wear it every day that DOES end in 'Y'!"
Lori shook her head, "That is so stupid, Leni. You know that every day ends in 'Y'."
"I know, which is why it's perfect. They won't think I just gave in, they'll just think I came up with a stupid compromise," Leni looked thoughtfully at Lori and smiled a real smile, "Or we could always change it to the days that end in 'I'"
"Leni, not a single day ends in that letter!" Lori laughed softly, not wanting to wake Lily.
"Of course they do. In French. Every day but Sunday ends in 'I'," Leni giggled, "I'm sure you actually want to wear your dress on more than just Sundays, though. I stick by the original compromise."
Lori shook her head, eyes filled with tears, "Why? You literally loved that dress as much as I did. I saw how truly happy you looked and I heard how happy you were when you brought it home from Luan. Or was it Luna? I'm literally so scatterbrained right now I can't even remember which sister I talked to."
"How about this, then? We'll just tell them about the 'Y' days compromise...after all, it's a Leni thing to say...and I'll change it. It won't look like your dress anymore. It'll look like something completely different. Maybe I'll even change it into pajamas! Or a pantsuit! The possibilities are endless, when it comes to fashion design," Leni's gaze grew unfocused as she stared off into the distance, imagining what she could make her new piece of 'fabric' into.
Lori's lips trembled, "It's so dumb. We almost literally disowned each other for a dress. A dress that, honestly, isn't even that pretty," She laughed softly, "I literally have found better looking dresses at thrift stores and garage sales."
"Don't worry. It looks great on you, Lori, I promise," Leni wrapped her slender fingers around Lori's hand, squeezing it.
"You didn't even see me in it, Leni. You're literally so dumb sometimes," Lori laughed, tears streaming from her eyes, "God, I don't mean that. You're not stupid at all. You're amazing, special, awesome. We all love you. Need you. Without you, Leni, we would all tear each other's heads off. You're more or less the peacekeeper. You say I'm the peacemaker...with my orders and such, but you keep the peace with your kindness and willingness to help anyone, no matter how stupid the request is."
"Why wouldn't I? It's...silly when you can do something but don't," Leni looked toward the table by Lily's crib, "I've been working on a puzzle with Lily for a long time. I pretend not to know where it goes so she can 'teach' me...and feel happy. It's what I do in my free time when I'm not designing clothes or when I can't afford a trip to the mall. That's the reason I said it was my life's work. Helping Lily, not the puzzle."
"That's so sweet. So much stuff, phones, clothes, shoes, and a baby puzzle is far more important to you, just because your...sister...has wanted your help," Lori hugged Leni, "Thank you for everything. What you say, what you do...you're literally the best sister ever."
"Lori? I...just want you to know something," Leni said, leaning her head on Lori's shoulder, "When I said you sometimes look like Aunt Ruth. I wasn't joking. It was a compliment."
Leni pulled away and dug around for something under the pillow she was using in Lisa's room. She pulled out what appeared to be a thick book of photos. She opened it to the middle. Lori noticed some familiar scenes of their family together, but it was mostly photos of Lily by herself, giggling, smiling, or sleeping, or Leni holding Lily in her arms or playing with her. Leni turned to the back of the book.
There was a black and white photograph of a very beautiful young woman in a floral print dress. She had wavy, shoulder length, dark hair and a slender, but curvy, body. Her huge eyes made her face look almost like Leni's, elven. Leni took the picture out and handed it to Lori.
Lori turned it over and frowned slightly. Aunt Ruth's name was written on it, along with a date from many years ago. This beautiful young lady was Aunt Ruth when she was younger. It was very hard to believe that someone so beautiful was their crotchety old aunt.
"She's...beautiful. I had no idea. She wasn't kidding when she told us that all the women in her family were beauties," Lori handed the photo back and Leni put it back in it's sheath, "Leni...last night, I...I almost did something bad. Literally the worst thing ever."
Lori bit back tears. She didn't want to tell Leni what she'd said, and what she'd almost said, but she felt the air between them should be completely clear, free of secrets.
"I called you a whore, to Luna. She asked me why I would use that word of all words for you, and I literally almost told her about Lily. It was halfway out of my mouth before I realized how horrible I was being," Lori pulled her knees to her chest and leaned against the wall, pressing her feet into Lisa's mattress, "You're not a whore. I don't think that. I was just so mad. And I will never ever say anything like that again, ever. Literally not a word. Luna got mad when I wouldn't tell her why I said that about you, but I started ranting about the dress again, and I said that I literally meant you were an attention whore, not...like that."
"I said some pretty nasty things about you to Luan...mostly about how stupid Bobby is and how you only like him because you can get him to do whatever you want...I know that isn't true, but I was mad, just like you. I said that Bobby was your little bitch," Leni looked at the floor in shame. She rarely said anything bad about anyone, "Luan actually agreed with that...so I think you might want to beat her sometime, for no reason at all. Or claim it's for all those bad jokes. I think she really believes that...I don't. I know how much you and Bobby love each other."
Lori looked at Leni in shock. She'd never heard the younger girl use a swear word, ever, not even when she'd found out she was going to have a baby. Not even during Lily's birth, when she was in agony. But she had used a swear word over a dress. Once again, Lori realized how stupid the fight was and how stupid it was that they'd gotten so mad over something so dumb.
"It's over, Leni. It's...literally water under the bridge now, okay? I'll get Luan back, some day, but...right now, I just feel like forgetting all about the stupid fight, the things we said and did. I just want us to be sisters again. Can we?" Lori's eyes sparkled with unshed tears as she locked eyes with Leni.
"Always, Lori. No matter what we say about each other. If you had told Luna...I think it would have been okay. She can keep a secret...well, unless she sings about it," Leni laughed, "I think this secret would be one she would keep forever, though. If...you do tell her, some day, for whatever reason, I trust Luna. I trust you. If you trust Luna, I trust her," Leni put a hand on Lori's shoulder and gave her a slightly tearful smile.
"So...I guess. Uhm. Can we literally hug it out now? Please?" Lori asked, almost begging.
"Always, my awesome big sister. You are wanted. You are needed. Even if no one else needs you, know that I do. Know that Lily does," Leni held Lori away from her and looked her in the eyes, tears streaming down both girls' faces.
Leni finally wrapped her arms tightly around Lori and they hugged for a long time on Lisa's bed, Lily sleeping quietly in her crib. Sister, daughter, niece, all loved and needed. Wanted.