CHAPTER II

Chocolate is made of Women's hopes and dreams.

Sunday, February 14th, 1216 Franklin Ave, Lincoln's Room, 9:03 AM

*Snrkt* "Huh, buh?" A groggy boy opened his bleary eyes, blinded by the sun rays from his window. With a groan, he managed to set his feet on the floor and fling himself to a standing position. Scratching his side with a yawn and grabbing a toiletry set, the shuffling mass trekked to the opposite end of the hallway with the enthusiasm of a zombie. Taking his place in line behind Lucy and Lynn, the boy passed the time regaining higher brain function while waiting for his turn at the porcelain throne.

"Good morning, Lincoln." Said the younger sibling, apparently conscient enough to form full sentences in the morning, despite her nocturnal habits. The older girl contrasted the younger siblings by jogging in place, flaunting her early bird status. "G'mornin'…" Was all the sole male could gurgle. Lincoln was more drained than usual due to the eight hours he clocked in intense focus the other day, like a chess player spending twice the normal calories for brain function through concentration.

"Hey, Lincoln. Got any plans later?" The athlete asked during some wall push-ups. "Nothin' big. Just- *Huah* Just chocolate and comics." Lincoln managed to answer between yawns. Lynn's face broke out in a smirk. "That's right! Romeo's got lots of little fillies to charm today." "Remember to brood when you confess your undying love. Girls love a man with a dark side they can't share with anyone." Lucy had the bookmarked page ready to support her theory if needed.

The bathroom door swung open, letting out steam as Lori walked out in her clothes, still drying her hair with a towel. "Guys, don't forget, we're doing our chocolate exchange as soon as everyone's done with their morning routine." Lincoln was lucid enough to catch his sister's message, lighting a small spark in his dulled mind. 'I hope they like them.' Was the only thought he had while waiting his turn.

Lincoln shut the door and stripped out of his orange pajamas. A quick twist of the knobs and the shower sprang to life as the boy pulled the curtains and got to work. Squeezing two spurts of coconut shampoo from the family size bottle and working a lather, he scrubbed his snowy peak. With suds blocking his vision, his muscle memory picked up the body wash and squirted a dollop on his chest. A complete rubdown cleaning his nooks and crannies later, he let the rainfall of the showerhead wash all the loosened grime off his young body, leaving a watery sheen on his skin.

Stepping out of the shower and rubbing the moisture out of his hair with a towel, he moved to the sink for the next step in his grooming session. Lincoln rolled the towel over his shoulders and looked at his reflection. Standing on the footstool to get a better view of his four-foot-six frame, Lincoln combs his hair into a side part from right to left. He smiled, pleased at the handsome result, until his cowlick decided to make its debut, turning his frown right side up.

Moving on from that, Lincoln looked at his body. He didn't know why, yet he had the urge to take stock of himself this morning. He had a scrawny build with almost no fat, but no muscle definition either. His ribs framed a slim chest and a flat stomach, below a visible collarbone. He traced his finger on his shoulders, making constellations with his freckles. He tried flexing his arms, there was a bicep in there somewhere he just had to find the right angle.

He twisted his hips to see his back and marveled at the odd way his shoulder blades moved. An errant glance caught sight of his rear; small, rounded, and boyish. Not very manly though when compared to the chiseled butts of his illustrated heroes. He peered down his front at his chicken legs. His calves were at least defined from all the running away from danger he does. The lack of body hair, aside from a lone soldier on his sternum, reminded Lincoln of how much of a kid he still was. Compared to his silverback of a Grandpa anyway, the epitome of manliness in Lincoln's opinion.

Normally he was very comfortable with his body and thought his looks were perfectly acceptable. 'Why am I thinking about this today?' Insecurity was creeping into his mind. Various self-doubts like 'Would other girls laugh if they saw me without clothes?' 'Would they be creeped out?' 'Will I ever have intimate moments with someone else in the first place?' All questions that made no sense to a boy without much knowledge of sexuality and puberty. The only answer was to sigh. He clapped his face with both hands to shock him out of his self-deprecation, got his clothes on, and put on another smile before walking out. He had more important things to do.

Lincoln trotted down the stairs to the scene of his sisters already digging into the gifts traded between roommates. Chocolate for breakfast was another perk of this holiday for the Loud girls. The sisters noticed him and said a round of good mornings before Lori spoke up. "Sorry we started without you, Lincoln. We kind of couldn't hold back. But, we've all got gifts for you too, now that you're here." Lincoln was fine with it since this was a holiday for them more than him anyway. "No problem, guys. In fact, I'd like to hand out your gifts first today. Be right back." He said as he dashed into the kitchen.

Returning moments later with a wicker basket filled with clear cellophane bags of brown, black, and white jewels. The female siblings, excluding Lola and Lisa, didn't know what to make of this, their earlier assumptions contradicting with implications laid before them. "Uh, Lincoln? Didn't you make those for some girls at school?" Lynn asked hoping for confirmation of her original premise. The premise she used to tease her little brother with earlier. The teasing that would come back to her if she was wrong.

"Nope, these are all for you." Smile beaming on his face. "Surprise! Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!" Lincoln happily revealed. The girls could only say their second 'aww' in twenty-four hours and give their only brother another group hug, nearly flooring the boy. "Guys, one at a time. Let me hand them out first before you decide they're any good." The cramped child relayed this while keeping the basket of goods from being crushed. Lincoln handed each of his sisters their bags from oldest to youngest, saying their names before they said their thanks, finishing with a boop on the nose for the baby, Lily, who gave what sounded like an 'Anky' in return. Lincoln took it as a thank you.

Lori untied the bow around her gift and pulled out a dark square with lines of brown drizzled on top. She smiled at the thought of her kid brother being able to make something of this quality, it looked just like something she could buy at a farmer's market or a candy shop. 'He's really amazing when he applies himself.' This was going through her mind as she sank her teeth into the dark chocolate rectangle. Her eyes widened at the change in texture and soft resistance, increasing her jaw pressure to cut through the confection. Chewing slowly, savoring the flavor, checking her memory for the taste, watching past experiences in the movie theater of her mind's eye.

The venue was showing "First Date", a short romance starring two teens as they enjoy themselves at a Michigan Carnival on a summer night. The pair were laughing as they spun the wheel of a Tilt-a-whirl, trying to make the other as dizzy as possible. The young man had his face scrunched in concentration, taking careful aim before throwing a baseball. A pyramid of milk bottles collapsing elicited a giggling squeal from the girl as she clapped her hands, the boy flexing his golden arm for his audience while a carny bequeathed a stuffed cartoon bear as their reward. The couple screamed in delight during a drop on a roller coaster, the girl clinging to his left arm.

They were sitting next to each other at a picnic table, talking and laughing while snacking on carnival food. The boy showing off by performing trick shots with his popcorn, the girl enjoying the show and her candy. A moment of calm came as they were thinking about how great the night was. The blonde girl in a blue tank top grabbed another brown cube peppered with opaque crystals and popped it into her mouth to suckle. The tall, dark, handsome young man in a plaid over-shirt glanced nervously toward her hand on the table, surreptitiously sliding his own towards it. The errant appendage stopped when it felt eyes upon it. The seventeen-year-olds looked at each other.

"I… I was trying to get one of those! They look really good." Bobby covered his tracks while pointing at her bag. Lori saw through it, a grin forming as her eyelids lowered, she had a naughty idea. "Sure." Bobby thanked his lucky stars that he didn't blow it, barely noticing a feminine face suddenly blocking his view. A firework went off near the Ferris wheel, silhouetting the new lovers. The girl returned to her original position, acting completely natural, while the boy was stock still with red on his face. "Take it as a thank you for the wonderful night, Boo Boo Bear."

She was holding up the soft plush he won for her and waving its little arm, revealing the source of his new pet name. He stared for a moment, unable to hold back a wide smile. "Anytime, babe." It wasn't until he spoke that he noticed the presence of a foreign object in his cheek. He prodded it with his tongue and turned redder, they both added to memory the flavor of their first kiss. 'Sea salt caramel'.

'The End' projected on the imaginary silver screen. The Lori in the center row drying the happy tears from her eyes with a pocket tissue. She stood up and exited through the double doors on her left, returning to her family living room where time stopped. "Oh. My. Gosh! Lincoln! This is literally my favorite! How did you know?" "I know what all my sisters like." He replied with a smile. Lori didn't question it, she just wanted to keep revisiting her treasured memories with each chew of the salty sweet treat.

Leni was taking photos of the ivory orbs with her phone, wanting to preserve the treats in digital space for eternity. The little balls not bothering to pose, but not resisting her precise arrangements. After the right filter application, and uploading for posterity (and likes), she gleefully popped one of the pearls in her mouth. The sweet taste of white chocolate and coconut danced on her tongue, eliciting a giggling moan from the bubbly blonde. "These are soOo good! What's your secret?"

"Effort mostly. And maybe a little brotherly love." He said that last part a bit sheepishly. It was still embarrassing to say even if it seemed like an appropriate response to the most feminine member of the family. His reward was a spine straightening embrace from the beauty for his daring, along with more doting and head rubs from the others. Leni was absolutely thrilled to hear the word love come from her little brother's mouth, especially on Valentine's. Leni liked hearing all the 'I love you's strewn about during this season. She followed the flight path of each one in the air with her eyes as they traveled from one schoolmate to the next. Seeing the blushes and smiles as they reached their destination warmed her enough to forget there was still some winter left outside.

But, even within the swirling nexus of hormones known as high school, not one of those flights came to her, leaving her a little sad each year. She was pretty enough to attract attention, no question, it just came anonymously through notes and packages slipped into her locker and desk. The downside of being sixteen is most of the boys interested in you are more likely to be younger, and consequently less confident in their chances of success. Leni appreciated it nonetheless, but was always hoping that one year someone would come to her in person and confess their feelings in a sincere gesture.

Today, it finally came, the word love was directed at her and her sisters, and it came from the one boy who was never afraid to approach her. She squeezed a little tighter while thinking about it and her nose pressed against the crown of her sibling. She breathed in a scent agitated by the earlier scalp scratches, activating her olfactory senses and making her mouth water. The smell causing her tongue to reminisce about the taste it experienced just moments before. Her body must have thought it was holding a large version of the white spheres, as her mouth parted slightly, wanting another taste, only to gently kiss a platinum down covered cranium lightly.

"Leni? Could you let me down now? My back's starting to hurt." The voice of a young boy kick-starting the stalled engine, restarting the release mechanism. "Oh! Sorry, Lincoln." He rubbed away the soreness in his lower back. "It's fine, Leni. I always like your hugs." He gave a reassuring nod as he turned to the other siblings to get their reactions. Leni picked up another white chocolate and held it out between her thumb and forefinger, comparing the color to the back of her brother's head. She smiled as she found another reason that made these the best chocolates ever.

"Blimey!" Luna's English accent kicking in at the sight of the contents of her bag. Broken shards of mahogany and sepia jutted every which way. Each piece embedded with slivered and crushed bits of brown and white. Certain edges lined up with each other, showing traces of the mosaic tile it once was before being smashed to pieces. The Rebel's soul within her lighting up at the thought of the destructive act.

"English toffee! This is blinding!" Luna didn't hold back when she sank her teeth into the jagged sugar glass, snapping it with a tug of her hand. Humming a satisfied tune while crunching the sweet bark between her molars, her pitch and smile rising whenever she bit into a large piece of almond. "Glad you like it, Luna." Lincoln remarked, taking his sister's good vibrations as a sign of approval. "I don't just like it, I love it, bro. You're a top-notch bloke." She said while ruffling his hair in appreciation of his appeal to her Anglophilia. Lincoln pondered if all this head pawing was responsible for his unruly turkey tail as he adjusted his hair.

Despite having done a few gigs around town, Luna didn't have anyone she could refer to as a superfan, or even regular fans. Kinda tough to get a following at fifteen. Open mics and bar mitzvahs aren't exactly fast tracks to Rock & Roll stardom. But, it didn't matter because at home were twelve of the best groupies, coaches, critics, and bandmates the Rockstar could ask for. The support of her family was truly indispensable to Luna, the career choice of musician notorious for not being easily achieved. Having a big family as a support network would improve the odds.

Out of the whole unit though, Luna noticed one that stuck out a little more than the rest. The one that she went to for first impressions of new songs first before anyone else. The one that helped move her gear more often than the others. The one that requested songs as the backdrop of his life. Luna had already given the title of number one fan away to the most deserving candidate long ago. The grin getting wider thinking of how her Valentine was from her biggest supporter. The grin disappearing when she realized what she did yesterday. When her number one was putting in effort on something of his own, her first instinct was to double over and laugh. 'Uh oh…' A hard swallow ending her melody.

Luan took a moment to admire the molding of her circular desserts. Ridges around the circumference surrounded a dent in the center filled by a cute button of white. It was like a miniature version of their Aunt's green gelatin at Thanksgiving, which she admired as one of life's naturally occurring jokes, along with fruitcake. Nobody ate it, yet it was there every year, prompting curious prods and shakes from young children, who became captivated by the hypnotic jiggles in return. The adults would look at it and have the urge to reminisce about and share funny stories about past holidays and childhood, laughing with nostalgia over their tales of mischief. The dessert was a prop that brought families together for a laugh through a comedy with no name or genre. Luan liked these oddities showing that even everyday things have a sense of humor.

She chuckled. "They really broke the mold when they made you, Lincoln." She took a bite, taking care not to touch the sweet with her braces, and pressed the morsel against the roof of her mouth with her tongue, enjoying the taste as the chocolate softened and the filling spread. Luan had to do a double-take after inspecting the half-eaten piece in her hand. The filling was a familiar yellow color, bright but not artificial. A heavy cream was present at the top layer, while a flaky pastry lined the bottom. Luan got the joke.

"Banana Cream Pie! That's the funniest of pies!" Voted funniest pie in 1973 by the Loony Appraisal of Fun Federation, or LAFF for short. It narrowly beat out coconut and Boston cream due to its versatility in scenes with chimpanzees. Luan had to laugh, a bright, sunny laugh the color of her skirt. A laugh she's experienced many times in her fourteen years of life. A single thought painting the radiant smile on her face. 'He gets it!'

Lynn was holding the bag and looked like she was caught doing it too. The compliments and slight ribbing she dished out coming back to bite her after the reveal, taking her attention away from the sack of gold in her hand. 'I egged on my brother to romance my sisters.' She groaned in embarrassment at the misunderstanding, and in slight irritation at her little bro's insistence on surprises. Lincoln stepped over to Lynn wanting to see her reaction. He couldn't hold back a smug look while asking, "So, how am I doing in the charm department right now?" Crooking his eyebrow in triumph. Lynn could only roll her eyes and scoff, relieved at Lincoln's initiation of their competitive banter.

"It doesn't count as charming when it's your sisters, dork." Her own smirk punctuating the statement. "How come you aren't giving chocolate to other girls this year?" Said in a lightly mocking tone, to goad the younger sibling. "I could say the same about you. Expecting chocolate from anyone other than me and Lucy?" Lincoln said casually, comfortable with his comeback. Lynn couldn't come up with a response, she was beaten after two rounds and cursed herself internally. 'Already losing your edge at thirteen? Come on, Loud!' "Fair enough. But don't get cocky until after your chocolate has gotten my thumbs up." She said taking a piece out of her bag, only to pause at the sight.

It was normal milk chocolate, decorated with drips of black and white overlapping each other in a crisscross pattern. What wasn't normal was the patch of green. A bright stem stood proudly from the top before being swallowed by the brown, and from it, the shape tapered its way down a curved length ending in a rounded point, like a finger. Lynn bit all the way to the stem and ripped it away, taking the two-inch pepper in one bite. Grinding the veggie between her teeth, trying to extract all the succulent juices and crush the seeds so they could release their essence. The bitterness of the Jalapeño flesh complimented the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly, highlighting their best aspects, with the heat stimulating her taste buds beyond their limits, enriching the flavor. After an audible swallow, Lynn opened her eyes and saw her brother. In a single heartbeat, she had him in a one-armed headlock, applying a power noogie mussing up his hair for the third time that day. The roughhousing ended shortly, but the headlock remained and morphed into a side hug. "You're a goofball most of the time, but you definitely have your moments, bro." She let him loose to fix himself again, a grin adorning both their faces.

Lucy had one question while she was looking at her bag of black bats; where do you find bat molds in February? The answer was the attic, along with all the other Halloween paraphernalia stored away until October. She picked out one of the dark chocolate rodents by its wing and held it in front of her, gazing at it from behind her thick bangs.

"Chocolate, my favorite treat.
Your flavor bittersweet.
A holiday devoted solely to you,
could be called a dream come true.
But what I cannot comprehend,
is how my brother could not have a lady friend.
Why would he spend all that time,
to make me a Valentine?"

"Sigh." Spoken aloud to punctuate her limerick. Feeling better after venting her feelings, she resumed organizing her thoughts. Of course, Lucy was happy to get homemade chocolates from her big brother, but she was feeling a bit guilty. Romance has been one of Lucy's biggest interests, combined with Victorian-era Gothicism, the supernatural and occult, and, of course, ponies… She's eight. Looking at her hobbies, despite trying very hard to promote the appearance of being dark, the common thread linking all her interests is pretty noticeable.

Old Turn of the century novels about women committing infidelity because they're in love; young adult books with dreary monsters moaning about how their love can never be; short stories where rainbow-colored foals save the day the with love and friendship; are you sensing a theme here? Yes, Lucy is a girl in love with love, or the idea of love, and enjoys whenever she can witness it in any form. Which is why she was ecstatic, even if she didn't show it, when it looked like her brother was about to begin courting other girls. The opportunity to teach the ways of wooing fair ladies to the one boy who needed it most excited her.

Yet, here she was, holding a delicious confection surely suited more for another girl. Why? 'Is it because of us? Because of me?' A hamster wheel running off the rails in her brain. 'Do I cling to him too much? Am I stealing his attention and time from other girls? Does he ever think I'm too needy?' The negative spiral draining her glucose reserves, her hand unconsciously drew closer to her mouth. 'Will he always be around when I need him? Will I be able to rely on another boy the way I do with him? Will I still cling to him like a little girl when I'm an old woman with ten ca-' Her runaway train hit resistance when her teeth felt a lack of it. What was assumed to be solid turned out to be hollow, and filled with a sweet, tart sensation.

As her lips parted from the masticated mammal, taking its flesh behind her fangs, a string of glossy red ichor connected them for a moment before snapping, the ends landing on her chin and the back of her thumb. She wiped the sticky fluid past her bottom lip into her mouth with her index finger. Corn syrup, molasses, red dye No.5, she knew this recipe, but there was something else added. She looked closer at the pit of gore in the bat's stomach, amidst the dark red syrupy jam where bits of pulp, preserved in her faux-blood like mangled organs. the dark chocolate and black cherry held a ceremony in her mouth, sealing their vows with a kiss of sour, sweet, and bitter sensations. The lovers absconded to her stomach to consummate their union in a warm embrace.

"A chocolate made just for me,
with all its spooky glory.
Not surprising that he,
could make it so cute and gory.
My thoughts earlier so pitiful,
all doubt settled with this."

"Because even if you try to be invisible," Lucy jumped and gasped at the surprise contribution, thinking no one was listening. "I'll always notice my little sis." He paused. "…Most of the time." A caveat to acknowledge the mini heart palpitations caused by his lack of perception in the past. Lucy's lips curled upward ever so slightly, before giving him a short, light hug. "Thanks for the Valentine, Lincoln." She said sincerely. "Anytime Luce." Giving her his own smile.

Lana was ready to tear into her confectionary present right when she saw it, the contents looking like one of her favorite snacks, just with chocolate added. "Cool! Dog food! Thanks, Lincoln!" She ripped open the top with her canines and gulped down a mouthful of kibbles before Lincoln could interject. She chewed with her mouth open before noticing a lack of riboflavin in her meal. Unfortunately, the snack was not a chocolate version of Charles's dry mix, but Chex mix. "Lana, that's not dog food; it's Puppy Chow."

AKA: Reindeer Chow, Muddy Buddies, and Monkey Munch. A treat made of cereal, chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar that delights young children all over. Lana was not an exception, as this was her favorite dessert. Any food that made a mess was destined to bring a smile to her face, accentuated by the white dust around her mouth. Every pseudonym described Lana to a tee. Whether it was her love of animals and pets, her affinity for wallowing and frolicking in all kinds of muck and sludge, or her desire to trap one of Santa's magical steeds, every trait of the munchies screamed 'Lana Loud'. Said six-year-old girl face planted into her brother's stomach for a hug, letting out a muffled "Thanks Lincoln!" into his shirt before parting, leaving behind a white death shroud in the boy's polo. He brushed it off without complaint, knowing his little sister's messiness was inseparable from herself.

Lola was expecting to be more amused by the presentation from her normally awkward brother, but another feeling gradually eclipsed her thoughts as clear displays of satisfaction beamed from each of their faces. Lola didn't want to admit it, but she was growing more impressed by the amount of effort and personality Lincoln put into each of his gifts. She knew her brother could make eggs ten different ways from Sunday, but frying an egg, making a sandwich, or reheating food was surely yards away from chocolate making in terms of skill, right? Yet, again, when the jack of all trades put his mind to something, it exceeded the quality hardly anyone would think an eleven-year-old boy was capable of.

Lola chuckled over remembering how much of a pageant Mom he turned into one week; how he completely threw himself into the role of princess maker, remembering every expert quote and building every training routine to make her unbeatable. Him going that far back then made sense to her though, there were DairyLand tickets at stake. What did he gain this time? Not much from her, that's for sure. She only bought him a one-dollar four-piece sampler of Waldorff's cheaper competitor this year; Lichtenstein's. Even with her high-class tastes, chocolate is chocolate. His offerings were good enough every other year, why start going all out now? 'Good enough', there was that phrase again. However, in stark contradiction to these thoughts, Lola was always prepared with a much less pleasant backup should Lincoln ever cheap out on her. There was a chocolate laxative with his name on it, hidden away for any needed disciplinary action. 'Every prince needs to be trained to be a king.' was her motto.

"You know Lincoln, I have to admit you're doing pretty well so far." The crinkle of the plastic wrap punctuating her remarks. "But my standards are a bit higher compared to these lowbrow girls. Don't worry though, I'll gladly accept these in recognition of your hard wo-" A high pitched, gasping inhale, followed by the ear piercing scream of a valley girl getting a car for her sweet sixteen dispelled the prickly act of patronizing thanks. Lola picked out a red jewel and rotated it, watching the sparkles shimmer in the natural light coming through the family room windows. "Is this edible glitter!" She exclaimed in the direction of her brother, still smiling while soothing the ringing in his ears. "You bet! I thought that might get you excited." Giving a glance to the eldest sister who imparted this knowledge upon him.

There were multiple gems of pink, red, and white representing Lola's three favorite precious stones. The ruby piece held in her hand was stolen by her mouth like a phantom thief. Her teeth split the colored rock like a geode, a thick paste escaping from the hollow center and slowly melting from the heat. The flavor of hazelnut hit Lola, adding another layer of regality to the confections. To the little queen, the word 'Truffle' was the highest grade associated with chocolates, beating out the illustrious Bonbon even with its association with actresses and socialites. 'Chocolate is for girls, Truffles are for princesses' another of her mottos. Lola sprinted to hug Lincoln's side, a girly squeal and three 'thank you's with no spaces shooting rapid fire from her lips. Gone was the haughty aristocrat from half a minute ago, replaced by a six-year-old girl gushing over candy. Lincoln could only laugh and say, "You're very welcome, sunshine." Before patting her head.

Lisa was thankful for the break from her experiments to refuel her glucose reserves with her greatest vice, melted Theobroma Cacao and Cocos Nucifera Oil mixed with lactose, Vanilla Planifolia extract, and sucrose; Street Name: Milk Chocolate. Yes, even the logical, intelligent, practical scientist was a card-carrying member of chocoholics anonymous. Being four years old may also be a contributing factor to her addiction, though one tends to forget this whenever conversing with the little biochemist and experiencing her esoteric vocabulary first hand.

Accompanying her pragmatic nature, Lisa lived her life cutting off emotional thinking from her cognitive functions as much and as often as possible to see things objectively. However, unless she was willing to remove part of her amygdala, this was easier said than done. Despite how much she might wish otherwise, Lisa was still human, and still capable of having feelings. Her thoughts of Valentine's Day were quote, "I personally don't see the point in centering a holiday around the mating rituals of Homo Sapiens caused by biochemical hormones meant to induce pair bonding for the better reproductive success of the species. But, different strokes for different folks, I suppose." She says while picking up a pack of cards for school and a bag of candy for her brother every single year. Lisa may have a genius level IQ, but her poker face was kindergarten grade at best. Even if she didn't pursue romance, she wouldn't pass it up if it passed by her radar, the incidents with her brother and his former bully, and with the anonymous love letters being examples.

Back to the matter at hand, however; Lisa opened her gift and took out one of the chocolatey rectangles inside. 'Fairly simple dipped chocolates. Possibly a caramel or a nougat. Nothing that stands out, other than the cold temperature. He must have stored these in the crisper drawer instead of the fresh.' Analyzing the confections for abnormalities and deeming them harmless, Lisa took a bite. A blast of cold air and a refreshing scent escaped the cracked carapace, chilling her core and making her mouth water. The green ice melted into a cream as she chewed, adding in the soft crunches of cold shale to create the perfect mix of flavors.

Lisa didn't know what to expect when she lent her brother her Liquid Nitrogen the other day, but homemade ice cream wasn't it. 'He couldn't just buy mint chip at the store, could he.' She chuckled as this was one of her favorite, if misguided, traits about her brother; his ability to take a simple task and turn it into a complex mission rivaling international espionage. He'll simplify as he gets older for sure. But, for now, Lisa enjoyed seeing his highly detailed, childish adventures… so long as they don't interfere with her research at least.

"So, when did you learn how to use chemistry ingredients in frozen dairy creation?" Lisa asked her sole male sibling. "Well, it just came to me when you mentioned your experiments yesterday. I remembered seeing ice cream made that way and after looking it up, there it was. I used the ice cube tray to make those by the way." Lincoln explained. "I've been trying to flash freeze all sorts of things and they either become solid as a rock or shatter to pieces. What did you do differently?" Lisa incredulously inquired. Lincoln had to think for a bit. "Um… I don't know. I used a lot of tinfoil. Does that help?" Lisa pondered for a moment, her mind constructing an image to illustrate her theory.

A wall of capsule doors lined a cold storage facility. Two men in full medical gear had just loaded a gurney and were proceeding to the medical examination room. After transferring the covered object to the operating table, the sheet was removed to reveal a mass of crinkled silver metal. One man took a pair of sterilized surgical scissors from the instrument tray and began to cut the protective wrapping. Slowly, carefully, the layers were peeled away. The visage of a young girl with a mop of brown hair and glasses, wearing a black full-body unitard, was revealed. The second man gave her an injection, slowly bringing the lass out of her cryogenic stasis. The examiners tested her reflexes and once she was deemed suitably cognizant began to speak.

"Lisa Loud? Your intelligence is needed, for we have made contact with extraterrestrial life forms and you are to be assigned as a representative of earth on the intergalactic space Council." Lisa was snapped out of her daydream by what sounded like the bathroom door opening. She turned her head up the stairs just in time to see a wet naked man run to her room, shouting in Greek. It all clicked. "Eureka!" She shouted before giving her brother a hug and chasing after the apparition to test her new hypothesis. Lincoln yelled after her, "Glad I could help!"

At last, we come to Lily, the youngest member of the Loud household, sitting on the couch with her little bag waiting for access to her prizes. Lincoln walked over and sat down next to her. "Let me help with those, Lily." Eliciting a giggle as he picked the baby up and set her in his lap. He untied the ribbon around the package and let Lily reach in to grab the little milk chocolate hearts by herself. Being an infant, Lily did not have a defined personality yet, unless you can call 'being a baby' a distinguishing characteristic. Simple bite-sized chocolate hearts would have to do since they were least likely to be a choking hazard. Lily certainly didn't mind as she gladly sank in her one tooth. Love would have to do as the secret filling, and if her pleased coos were anything to go by, it was exactly what she wanted.

"So, what do you think? Any good?" Lincoln asked rhetorically. Lily may not be old enough to know the exact ins and outs of how the world works, but she was oddly perceptive for a fifteen-month-old. She could grasp that Valentine's Day was a day where you gave chocolates to people you love, and she always knew to give some to Lisa and Lincoln. She also knew that the chocolates Lincoln gave her this year were unique and that he spent a lot of time on them. She reached her hands out towards Lincoln, giving him the signal she wants upsies. He obliged, and was treated to a kiss is his reward making both laugh and leaving a pair of chocolatey lips printed on his cheek. "Guess they were good, then?" Lincoln jokingly responded with a small tickle.

The sound effect of a camera shutter followed by the collective gushing of eight girls, overdosing on cuteness, the adorable scene immortalized forever on Lori's social media feed. Lincoln got off the couch with Lily, wiping the smooch off his face, and handed her off to Leni. "Okay, okay. So, what did you guys think?" The million-dollar question.

"These are so awesome!" "I love them, Lincoln!" "You did alright this year." "These are the first fruit-filled chocolates I've ever liked." "They totally rock dude!" "I can heart-ly restrain myself from these!" "These are fit for a queen!" "Anky!" "Oh, Lincoln! This was so sweet of you." Lori pulled her little brother into another hug. "You really didn't have to do this. But thanks. We all love them, right girls?" The other sisters formed a huddle around the two with a simultaneous, "Right!" and a big squeeze.

"Thanks, guys. I wanted to show how much I appreciate you this year, and I'm glad I got the message across." "Message received, bro." Chimed Lynn. In a moment of synchronicity, all the girls got a devilish grin as they imitated their youngest sibling and proceeded to pepper the lad with exaggerated light pecks, making the most obnoxious kissy sounds. "Augh! Come on, stop!" Cried the boy as he squirmed and flailed the giggling swarm off his person, wiping his head between 'Blech's, never able to wipe away the constant grin beneath the bluster off his face. "I'd rather have chocolate instead of that, thank you very much!" The good mood making him chuckle. The laughter in the room petered out.

The mood began to die down at his remark. The gaps in laughs becoming wider, morphing into coughs and ums. The girls beginning to fidget and show signs of nervousness; arm scratching, kicking feet, bit lower lips, all looking for reassurance in each other's faces. "Guys?" Lincoln queried. "-Uh. Yes! Chocolates!" Lori was the first to resuscitate. "We have Valentines for you too, of course! Just like every year!" She said a bit over enthused. "Just like every… year…" Her voice trailing to a whisper, finding another implication in her phrasing. "Um… great! I'll just take them off your hands and then-" Lincoln was cut off by the sound of his parent's bedroom door opening, Mom's perfume wafting out.

Rita and Lynn Sr. stepped out in their casual best, the type of clothes you wear for a special occasion that spans a few locations and a lot of time. The Father wearing a white leisure suit with rolled up sleeves, with a pink button up shirt patterned with vertical pinstripes underneath the jacket, and white loafers, completing the atrocity. The Mother in white flats and cream dress pants with a sleeveless pink blouse, wrapped in a white shawl.

It should come as no surprise, but yes, the Loud couple had a date planned on the most romantic day of the year. An all-day date to be exact, filled with events like bowling, dancing, karaoke, dinner, walks in the park, the package deal. No, really, it was a package deal. A local event planner was holding a special for groups of eight. The tour started at Gutterballs in half an hour.

"Alright kids, we're heading out. Lori, you're in charge." The Patriarch announced as they made their way to the coat rack. "Now, I know we've never left you alone for this long before. So, I expect all of you to be on your best behavior." Lynn Sr. emphasized by pointing his prayer positioned hands toward the group. "But, I'm guessing most of you have plans, so it's not like you'll be here all day. Just remember to get home before seven." He looked to his wife to see if she had anything to add.

"And Just because we'll be out late tonight doesn't mean you can stay up past your bedtimes. I expect everyone to be asleep by eleven o'clock sharp. It's still a school night." The Matriarch reminded in her sweet but commanding voice. "Oh, wait! Perfect timing." Lincoln paused their escape as he rushed back to the fridge. He bounced back with two more bags of candy, handing them to his parents. "I wanted you guys to have these for your V-Day celebration."

The bags were filled with a mixture of all the different chocolates made for the family daughters. Lynn Sr. got a mix of chocolate made for Luna, Luan, Lynn, Lana, and Lisa while Rita's was filled with ones given to Lori, Leni, Lucy, Lola, and Lily. Lincoln didn't have enough time or knowledge of his parent's interest to make personalized treats as he did for his sisters. Instead, he relied on Lisa's talks about personality and genetics and made gifts based on the girls they resembled the most, hoping for the best.

"Wow! Thanks, Son! These look great. Is that English toffee?" The boy's Dad said, genuinely impressed with the presentation. "Oh, these are so thoughtful sweetie. Thank you!" Momma Loud praised while pinching Lincoln's cheek. The girls could only give worried looks to each other, making faces that seemed to say, 'Oh man, he thought of that too!?' Lynn Sr. caught a glance at his wristwatch while tugging at the package bow.

"Uh oh. Better wrap it up, Dear. We don't want to miss out on putting our power couple name on the scorecard." He reminded, scrambling to get his coat on. "Honey, I just don't think 'Ritalynn' is an appropriate combination." The wife mentioned on the way out the door. "Come on, it'll be fine. No one uses that stuff anymore." Rita could only respond with one of her patented 'If you say so' hurms.

"Bye, kids! Remember to keep the doors locked, and don't call about anything below 'the house is on fire'." The Dad reminded. "What about if one of us gets hurt?" Leni asked. "Sweetie, that's above house fire; the house is replaceable, you guys aren't." That earned him an 'aww' of his own. "Love you, have fun!" *kerchunk* And with that, the parents had officially left the building, as the sound of a car engine and tires signaled their departure.

The girls waved goodbye absentmindedly to the closed front door, still thinking about the raised expectations brought about by their brother's increasingly heavy gifts. Lincoln could feel the tension in the room, filling him with anxiety. He was not concerned about getting chocolate in return. He honestly forgot about it until Lori mentioned them when he first walked down that morning, and it immediately slipped his mind again while watching his sister's reactions. No, something else was filling him with dread.

"So…" A prolonged syllable to end the silence. "I, uh… I went a little overboard this year, huh?" He said apprehensively, trying to gauge their reactions. A gaggle of placating 'no's and 'of course not's tried to assure him that wasn't true. Their denial was confirmation for him. "You did nothing wrong, Lincoln." Luan spoke up. 'Oh no.' Lincoln knew when they were hiding something. "We were just surprised is all." Said Luna. "So surprised that… we forgot that we left your chocolates in our rooms!" Lori said unconvincingly. 'No, no, no no no.' He recognized the tells and ticks in their faces. "Wait, weren't they behind the cou-" Lori's hand cut off Leni's question rudely. "We'll just go get them and call you when they're ready. BRB!" Said through a much too wide grin on Lori's face, almost like a grimace. 'This is escalating out of control.' The boy had to set things straight. The girls all ran up the stairs to their bedrooms before Lincoln could tell them not to bother, he was left alone at the bottom steps with his hand on the banister.

'My plan backfired.' His thoughts were tinged with guilt. After the dust had settled, and the results were laid bare, Lincoln concluded that his overactive child's imagination had gotten the best of him again. Instead of making things even, he wound up raising the bar. The feelings of disparity he had yesterday were not resolved, he just transferred them to his sisters. In turn, he got a taste of their perspective, realizing that just like him now, the girls would have been happy to receive anything from him. The third of an hour spent yesterday mulling over the differences in candy quality was a wasted effort.

"I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I didn't think about what they wanted." Lincoln addressed the audience. "And because of that, now they feel pressured to do something big for me." He walked up the stairs and rubbed his right shoulder on the wall corner while turning toward his room. "Not only that, but I probably weirded them out too. What girl would want homemade chocolate from their brother on a romantic holiday?" Apparently, the endless spiral of negativity he was tumbling down drove the beaming smiles and shows of gratitude they gave him from his memory. Head hanging with a sigh, he closed his bedroom door and slumped onto his bed, limbs splayed out in resignation. "Guess I'll just think about how to apologize to them while I wait." He stared at the ceiling and wondered how he could fix the mess he made this week.


Author's notes:

Second chapter finally done, woo!

Hello everyone. First of, I want to extend a big thank you to everyone who read and reviewed this story. I didn't expect so many positive reviews for my first fanfiction ever. I've never written fanfiction before, but I have written a lot of short stories and essays for assignments and such, and I read a lot too. Still, I am an amateur at this as evidenced by the fact I didn't proof read the first chapter before submitting it just to get it out on Valentines. I am going to update it to fix those right now by the by.

Second, why did it take so long for me to update? I wanted to update this within a week, but I sort of got writer's block. Here's the story: Each girl's reaction to the chocolates was planned to be one paragraph, but when I got to Luan, it just spiraled into something way longer than intended. I thought it would be ok if just one was a little longer, but then I did it again with Lynn, Lucy, Lola and the entire thing became unbalanced. So, instead of doing the smart thing and trimming back, I went and added more to the previous girls. And then I hit Luna, oh god Luna, it took me another week to think of what to add to Luna. Things kind of slowed down from there as I trudged through Lana and Lisa. Then I hit some roadblocks with setting up the ending of this chapter and making sure it transitions to the next. Add to that the overtime I've been putting in at work (12 hour shifts and weekends) and here we are a month later.

I can't say I'll update regularly, but with this chapter out of the way it shouldn't take as long for the rest as a litany of ideas have been buzzing in my brain for the rest. If you want to know, this story is looking to be about 12 chapters + an Epilogue. The scenarios, settings and key points are set, I just need to write the tracks from point A to point B, so this isn't made up entirely on the fly.

So, yeah, updates are going to be a little unpredictable, but I will try to make the content worth the wait. Thank you very much for reading and I look forward to any reviews on how to improve the writing quality.

P.S.

I've also backed up my work on Pastebin and adultfanfiction. Thanks Again!

10/1/2018: Fixed a major typo thanks to DoctorYNot's detailed review and took some of his advice on Lynn's characterization. Also switched Lynn Sr.'s wording around a bit but didn't want to completely rip off YNot's suggestion, though I do agree about the quote right after another quote comment. Will have to think about this one, since I want Lynn Sr. to maintain his authority as the Father while keeping true to the character he's presented as in the show. The way he was in season 1 was way closer to what an actual Dad is like than he is now, though I do like his friendly and comical demeanor that was added on in later seasons. I just think that sternness he has is still there and applicable to certain situations like setting the rules. I think Lori might get that from him, now that I think about it? Oh well, food for thought.

10/7/2018: Fixed some more punctuation and repetitive word use. Also got around to fixing some dialogue in my own way, and added a new line here and there. Many thanks to everyone who left reviews.

10/9/2018: Changed Lynn Sr.'s lines again after getting a new perspective on their thoughts of leaving their kids alone for such a long time. Thanks again to DoctorYNot.

12/16/2018: Did some looking through the wiki for some research and came across an article on the mobile game that says Lincolns height is 4'6''. Had to subtract three inches from the national average that I used before.

Next chapter preview:

CHAPTER III

"Lingerie" is a code word for "Mobile Suits"