Just a week after updating my main fic, I humbly present to you a little One-Shot that I've been meaning to write for a while. It's a very simple idea that inspired a drawing that I did a while back, and after explaining my thought process behind that scene to some people, I decided that it was maybe worth writing it. It's nothing spectacular, just something that I wanted to write without too many worries.
I hope you like this. If you can, read the A/N at the end of the chapter. I shared something a little interesting.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Loud House. It is the property of Nickelodeon, Viacom and their rightful owners.
A valuable lesson.
"I'm glad you're here, lame-o," his friend said, swinging her arms to the rhythm of her steps in a way that their fingers would clash to each other's. "Life in the city is wonderful, but the Sun doesn't shine as bright when you're not here."
Lincoln didn't know if that observation was true or not. Maybe all the pollution inherent to the big cities could create an atmosphere where the sunlight was sifted, reaching the street much softer and weakened. If that was the case, he was certainly not noticing it. Walking right besides Ronnie Anne, Phoebus was sitting proud and radiant on the bright blue sky, bathing the urban space with warm tones, lifting people's spirits up.
His face was as bright as the star above, because life was beautiful. The Great Lakes city was as pretty as ever, with its boulevards and green squares inviting him to experience it next to the girl he loved the most in the world. Feeling confident and full of vitality in a way that only nature could make him feel, he intertwined his fingers with Ronnie Anne's. He turned slightly into her direction, smiling at her, and he found himself facing the softly blushed face of the girl, whom tenderly squeezed his hand in an unmistakable sign of affection.
"Hey, Lincoln, there's something I want to tell you," she said, stopping her march to smile at him. He stopped as well and looked at her with loving eyes, appreciating her beauty now that she stood under a rainbow.
"Of course! You know you can tell me anything," he assured her, as a cheesy eighties song began playing somewhere around them.
Ronnie Anne stood on the tip of her toes, her delicate freckles nearing his face, her fingers wrapping tighter around his. They were so close to each other that they breathed the same air, filling his lungs with more life and happiness. The whole cosmos was reduced to the two tiles they were standing on, and the moment they shared stretched out for an eternity, until her lips parted and words floated through the air into Lincoln's ears.
"I have a girlfriend!"
The power ballad abruptly ended with the sound of a scratched record. The boy with ashen hair blinked, stupefied.
"Yeah! Sid Chang!" She explained, super excited, releasing his hand to pull into her an asian girl that suddenly materialized in the air next to them. "I met her yesterday and she's amazing!"
"Hey, Lincoln Loud", the newcomer greeted him, having some difficulties to talk as her best friend squeezed the breath out of her.
"She's super funny, and friendly, and very, very pretty! She reminds me of you!" Ronnie Anne laughed, giving her new girlfriend a chaste kiss on the cheek.
Lincoln's world began shattering away. The Sun wasn't shining as bright, the music stopped, the temperature dropped. He couldn't move anymore, he was paralyzed where he was, unable to react to the outside stimuli that attacked him.
"What do you think, lame-o?" Asked his friend, his love one, held tight by Sid's embrace. "Aren't we the perfect couple?"
"I… I… Uh…"
"Hey, Ronnie Anne, why is Lincoln in his undies?"
He gasped, and upon looking down, he was horrorized to notice that his pants were gone, leaving him in nothing but his lucky red undies. The two girls began to chuckle at him, and he tried to cover himself, sweating cold and not knowing where to run.
"Hahahah! This is why I would never be your girlfriend!" Ronnie Anne said, to his immense pain.
"I always knew you were a weirdo," Christina told him, nearing him from the right, laughing at him along with Girl Jordan and Mollie.
"No girl could ever love you!" Paige viciously added, dancing on a Dance Dance Revolution machine.
Lincoln began to run, trying to escape from the street that was filled with his classmates and former love interests, but no matter where he looked, the whole place was crowded by people laughing at him. The cars stopped to make fun of him, a cop began to run after him, a dog tried to pee on his leg, and the whole world began to spin around and around, and he fell down into a bottomless pit, going towards the endless void…
When he opened his eyes, sweat had accumulated on his brow, and he sat to try to calm himself down. He looked around him, finding himself at the security of his own room. With a sigh, he fell back onto his pillow, looking straight up at the ceiling.
"Note to self: never eat spicy food before going to sleep ever again," he said out loud, looking for an explanation to his weird nightmare.
Turning his head to look at his Muscle Fish clock on the wall, he groaned when he noticed it was almost one in the morning. Great. Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night on a school day. It was even more complicated considering that Lincoln wasn't someone that could fall asleep easily, especially not after a nightmare. These bad dreams would keep him awake for a long while during which he tried his best to forget about them, distracting himself with positive thoughts that took him on an imagination spiral that wouldn't let his brain rest. This particular nightmare had him almost shaking. To think of Ronnie Anne and her new friend… To think that maybe she wouldn't love him the way he loves her…
"Ugh! Why do you have to be like this, brain?" He complained, grabbing his pillow and pressing it hard against his face.
He tried to calm down, but after half a minute with no results, he lost his patience. He gave up on this battle. He knew he wouldn't be able to fall asleep again, so he decided to do something to distract himself and maybe get his brain tired to go back to sleep. He stood up and stretched his body, cracking his knuckles and the bones on his lower back. He stretched his neck too, trying to get rid of the numbness on his muscles. He grabbed his phone to light up the way, and he walked into the hall.
He was thinking of making a quick stop at the bathroom to wash his face and finish the process of waking up before he went down to the living room to watch a movie on the TV. No plan survives contact with the enemy, however, and his ideas were completely shattered when, halfway into the hall, he noticed a light creeping from the dining room.
He stopped at the edge of the stair, raising an eyebrow at the soft glimmer that reached the door and the foyer. It was the light of the lamp they kept next to the shelf where they stored all their boardgames. He wondered if one of his little sisters had left it on. Maybe Lola or Lana had gone to the kitchen for something and they left it on because they were scared of walking up the stairs in the dark. Leni was also a possibility, since she didn't like being alone in the dark.
Curiosity got the best of him, and he slowly walked down the stairs, careful not to accidentally press on the creaky steps. How his sisters didn't have a problem snoring like german war planes but would wake up to the tiniest sound was beyond him, but it didn't matter right then. He slithered his way down, as silent as a fox infiltrating a hutch, until he reached the previous to last step. With a dexterous jump that made him feel like a master ninja (even though he almost sprained his ankle), he turned his gaze towards the dining room, finding himself before such an oniric scenario, so unexpected and odd that made him question whether he was still dreaming or not.
Sitting next to the table, under the soft light, with her school notebooks splayed open across the wood surface, with a textbook she was carefully reading, and an open bottle of soda standing next to an empty glass, was the one and only, the athletic, unmatched número uno Lynn Loud Jr.
Although right then she didn't look very athletic, nor like a number one. For starters, the big red number one that she usually wore on her jersey was replaced by a red five on her pajamas. That was normal, however, since she often slept on those. What wasn't normal and definitely wasn't nice to see were the heavy eyebags she was carrying. Her eyelids looked very heavy, struggling not to fall shut. Her body was lopsided, almost slipping to the floor, her head supported only by the hand that pressed under her right cheek. She was frowning, with her lips pursed and the tip of her tongue coming out of the side of her mouth. She was so focused on her reading that she didn't even notice Lincoln approaching her.
"Lynn?" He whispered out, not wanting to wake their parents up.
Her reflexes seemed to be intact, since she looked up almost immediately. When she noticed him there, nearing the table, she sat straight, blinking fast before rubbing her eyes with her forearm.
"Oh, hey Lincoln," she said, her throat sounding dry. "What are you doing up? It's like… one a.m."
"I was going to the bathroom," he lied, not wanting to admit or talk about his nightmare, "but then I saw the light on. Are you okay?"
She sighed and looked away.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just studying."
"Yeah… I have a test tomorrow. I'm pulling an all-nighter."
He grimaced at her words. "Ouch. Aren't you going to get any sleep at all?"
"No. I can't."
"'Cause I have to study, Stinkoln," she replied, starting to sound annoyed by his interruption. "Go to the bathroom already. I really need to study, okay? It's important."
Being completely honest, it wasn't that odd to see Lynn studying. Everyone in the family were generally good students. Leni and Lynn were probably the ones that struggled the most, but even they would do their homework and study for tests. Leni had Lori, however, whom helped her with all her work and would get her ready for tests. Lynn, on the other hand… Lisa sometimes tutored her in math, and her parents were seldom there for her to explain something in particular, but she was generally responsible to take care of her studies on her own. She knew that in order to play in as many teams as she did she had to keep her grades on an acceptable level, so she tried her best not to fail any class.
Even so… staying up all night wasn't normal for any of them. It sounded really tough. He couldn't remember ever doing it, and he wasn't planning on changing that. He knew that his older sister had a tremendous willpower, certainly more than him, but why would she try this hard all of a sudden? Was she about to fail a class?
"What's the test about?" He asked, pacing around the table and getting near her to take a look at her notes.
Lynn sighed and rolled her eyes, leaning back against her chair. He was positive she would insult him or shove him back to his room, but oddly enough, her expression transitioned towards a sad grimace. Beneath the lonely light of the lamp, her hazel eyes, now tinted with tones of red from the lack of sleep, didn't seem to shine as they usually did.
"History," she admitted, her head still up towards the ceiling, resting over the chair, only turning to look at him in the eye. "I hate it. It's… just soooooooooooo boring. And I don't understand a thing. So many names, so many dates, so much… ugh! I hate it, but I need to get a good grade."
Ever so slowly, measuring her space, he dragged the nearby free chair next to his sister and sat right besides her. He spared the textbook a quick glance. He was surprised to not see any line of bold text, nor pictures that would take a quarter of the pages.
"I didn't know it was that hard for you," he said, trying to sound compassionate. "Why don't you ask Lisa for help?"
"Pfft. I already did."
"And what did she say?"
"Hishtory ish a shubject that can only be learned by memorishing textbooksh," she said, doing a very angry but surprisingly accurate imitation of the little genius. "She says she can't teach me. I just need to sit down, read, and learn."
"That doesn't sound very helpful."
"I know, right? But fine, if she doesn't want to help me, I'll do it on my own."
"And why do you need a good grade? I don't remember mom and dad nagging you for failing a test or anything."
He immediately regretted having said those words. His sister's shoulders dropped, just like her mood and attitude. She didn't look tired or worried anymore. She looked… sad. Very sad.
"Hey… if you kept a grade from mom and dad, I swear I'm not telling," he quickly reassured her. "You can trust me."
"I know, I know, but I didn't hide anything. I'm not gonna fail this class."
"Ok… Then why do you need such a good grade?" He asked, somewhat confused. Not really understanding where she was coming from.
She leaned forward, placing both elbows and forearms on the table to create an improvised cushion to rest her chin on. She blew air to her bangs, swinging them in the air without looking at Lincoln. Her lips were pursed in a thin line, and the boy quickly recognized the kind of look she had on her face. He drew closer to her and softly rested a hand on her back, gently stroking it for her.
"Are you okay? Do you want to talk about this? It can stay between us two, no one else has to find out," he assured her, massaging her shoulder blades, noticing how tense she was.
She remained in silence for a couple of long seconds, before closing her eyes and whispering her answer. "I'm just tired of being the dumb jock."
He was taken aback, his caressing stopping at once. Her voice sounded incredibly pained, as if it took all her strength to pronounce it. He could feel the huge despondency in her words, and he suddenly felt a sense of sorrow in his chest because of the way she had said it.
"What are you talking about? Lynn, you're not a dumb jock. Don't say that."
"But I am. I always get B's and C's. I never get an A, except in gym class. I study and study, but I always get something wrong, and I can never get a perfect score in anything," she explained, still not looking at him, her eyes fixed on the open text book in front of her. "And it's even worse with History. I try, and I try, and I try, but I just don't get this stuff. The teacher explains it over and over to me, but I just can't get it. I study for hours, but I can't get past a C. And my last two tests were stupid D's."
"That's still a passing grade," he said, trying to lift her spirits up a little.
"Barely! It's not a grade mom and dad will hang on the fridge, or one they like to hear about. They always congratulate Luna when she gets an A on physics, or Luan when she passes math with a B. You know, good grades. But they pretend to be happy when I bring in a D. 'Nice work, champ! We're proud of you!'" She said, imitating her parents' voices. "Proud? Of a D?"
"Well, they know it's not easy for you, and they're happy that you try your best."
"No, Lincoln, it's because they know I'm a moron and they can't expect any better from me."
"That's not true. It's not true at all. That's way off."
"No it's not."
"Of course it is."
"But it's not just them!" She complained, her voice roaring loud before she stopped herself, sighed, and continued the conversation in whispers. "Lincoln, everyone knows I'm not smart. I know that, ok? I'm not smart. I'm just the dumb girl who's only good at sports, and I'm tired of that."
She hid her face within her arms, letting out what started as a sigh and ended up as a sorrow-filled groan. Lincoln stared at her, worrying about his sister's mental health and self esteem. She was a walking trophy, everyone knew that. No one would ever doubt Lynn's success, her willpower, her high self esteem and her radiant personality, always so positive and cheerful. That's why it was so shocking to see her like this, her head hanging low, depressed, doubting herself.
"Come on, Lynn, don't say that," he told her, putting an arm around her shoulders and resting his head on her back, embracing her tightly. "School grades don't mean anything, really. I think there are much more important things than passing or failing one class. Besides, you said it yourself, you're not even going to fail it. Luna and Luan have failed some classes before. Even Lori failed Literature last year! Remember when they wouldn't let her go to her seven weeks anniversary date with Bobby?"
He heard her giggle a bit, probably as she remembered the dramatic scenes Lori pulled in front of everyone, complaining about having to miss out on the literally most important night of her life just to study for a stupid test. He felt her tensing up a little bit, though, and Lincoln let go of her to allow her to sit up. She didn't seem upset or annoyed by the demonstration of affection that he had pulled on her, and even though her eyes were still exhausted, she was wearing a kind smile.
"I just want to get a good grade," she said with a touch of almost childish obstination. "I wanna show that if I study hard enough, I can be a good student too."
"Always going for the gold, huh?" He joked, earning himself a smile and a gentle elbow to his ribs.
"Yeah, yeah. Well, I, uh, I should probably focus on this. Go back to bed, Lincoln, it's a school day tomorrow."
She was right, he was still supposed to get up in about five hours to go to school. But going back to his room so soon… the nightmare was still present in his mind. He would rather stay right there with Lynn. Being around her calmed him down. When he was younger, he would go to his older sister's room whenever he had a nightmare. Staying there with her until he was tired again sounded really nice.
Besides, he could easily make it look like he was doing her a favor and not the other way around.
"Sleep is for the weak," he said, getting comfortable on his chair and flashing her a smile. "I'm gonna give you logistical support."
She let out a funny snort, rubbing her tired eyes for a moment.
"Unless you know about the Renaissance, I don't think you can help me."
"Maybe I can't help you study… but I can keep you company. Staying here so you're not alone. I promise I won't distract you."
Lynn glanced at him with curiosity for a while before closing her eyes, raising her eyebrows, putting on an ironic smile and shaking her head a little. She then grabbed the soda bottle, filled her glass with it, and offered it to her little brother.
"Make yourself comfortable, then," she told him, and after he grabbed the glass, she want back to focus on her book and notes, her eyes scanning the pages from left to right.
Lincoln fidgeted around on his chair, and after enjoying the delicious taste of Pepsi running down his throat, he remained there, silently watching his sister studying.
It should have been an extremely boring experience, but his mind was too busy to worry about the lack of banal entertainment. He carefully studied how Lynn's delighted face, probably because she found his moral support charming (or maybe ridiculous), transformed into a stony mask of concentration. He knew what she looked like when she was focused on something, like before she kicked a penalty or took a shot at a hoop. In those cases, though, her concentration and focus were born from the desire of having fun by doing what she knew best. Now, she was tense, worried, her knuckles white with how tight she was clenching her fists. It was obvious that she was overworking herself, and that didn't make him happy at all.
He would have loved to be able to say something to her, but he didn't want to interrupt her, and on the other hand, he didn't really know what he was supposed to say. He didn't like that she thought of her as a moron. He didn't think she was. She wasn't an academically outstanding student, but he had never heard his parents scolding her for failing a test or a class. And all of them needed Lisa to tutor them with something anyway. None of them was brilliant at school. He assumed that her frustration came from her competitive nature. Lynn was a girl that always wanted to be the best at everything, from regional soccer tournaments to Friday night board games. Maybe it affected her to not be the best one at school. As the minutes passed, sleepiness returned to him, ever so slowly, but he wasn't going to let it win.
He spent the next half hour thinking about his sister, on the level of demand that she put on herself to be constantly trying to be the very best at everything. He was making a mental balance between the pros and cons, trying to determine if all that stress was worth it to, effectively, be the best at almost everything she set her mind into doing, but his thoughts were interrupted by a long sigh and his sister turning around to look at him, exhaustion still present on her face.
"Hey, Stinkoln… thank you," she said, looking slightly uncomfortable. Personal talks had never been her strong suit. "I appreciate that you're here. Even if you're not really doing anything to help me, you're keeping me company, and that kinda makes me feel better."
"It's not a big deal, Lynn," he replied, trying to keep a yawn from escaping his throat. "We're siblings. We have each other's back."
He accompanied his words by raising a fist, offering it to his sister, who rolled her eyes with a tiny smile before bumping it with her own.
"I know I don't tell you this enough… and if this gets over your head or you tell anyone else I'm going to beat you up until you forget it… but you're really cool. You're so caring, and smart," she added, her smile hesitating a bit. "I wish I could be as smart as you."
He couldn't lie: the compliment felt nice. He wanted to puff his chest out, widen his shoulders, take the compliment and nod reassuringly, but looking at the context, he didn't think it was fair for his sister to feel so insecure.
"Well, thanks for that, but I also think you're really smart when you set yourself to do something. There's a reason why you always beat us all every time we play a game."
"That's nothing," she rebuked, "that doesn't count. I mean as… smart in things that actually matter. Like… like you, ok? I wish I wasn't so bad at school. That way you guys wouldn't make fun of me or call me 'dumb as a rock'."
After those words, the conversation took a dramatic turn, and all the sleepiness seemed to fade away from his body. He sat straight, giving her a worried look.
"Hey, don't say that," he complained, frowning. "I never said that to you. Maybe one of the girls did once, but they don't really mean it. We all poke fun at each other, don't let that affect you. How many times have you guys made fun of my Ace Savvy costumes? And I still wear them proudly!"
"But that's different," Lynn said, looking at him with puppy eyes and her lower lip standing out, pouting like a little kid. "Because you know that deep down we all think it's adorable and we support you. We pretend to laugh, we don't really think that… but…"
"And we don't think you're dumb."
"Yes you do."
"No we don't!"
"Yes, Lincoln!" She roared, before calming herself down. "Or maybe you don't. I don't know. But I don't care if you guys think that or not. I know I do. If I was normal, I could sit down, read this stupid book and get an A+. But I can't. I always forget stuff during my tests, no matter how hard I try. Doesn't that mean I'm a moron?"
It was almost painful to see her like that. Tears weren't falling, but Lincoln was convinced that if she weren't Lynn Loud, the toughest girl of the known universe, she would have probably manifested her tension and self critique through crying. He tried to think on how to help her, but it was hard to figure out the right words to say. The problem seemed to be that she didn't give herself enough credit. She didn't have enough faith in herself.
"Hey, Lynn," he began, once again placing a hand on her right shoulder, "look, I know you're used to being the best and have everything work out for you. So I can understand that you're frustrated because you don't have the best grades…"
"I don't want the best grades," she interrupted him. "I just want good grades. I'm not trying to become the new class nerd."
"Alright, gotchu. But look, no matter how cool you are, you'll never gonna be the best at everything. None of us is. Look at Lola: she's super great at her ribbon dance, but she barely knows how to read. Luna is great at music, but she can't even bounce a basketball. And I'm very attractive and charming, but even I have some flaws."
His ridiculous joke was enough to get a chuckle out of her.
"We're never gonna be the best at everything. That doesn't mean we're bad, or dumb. And let me tell you something: honestly, your History grades aren't really that bad. Seriously. I'm sure that with all this effort you're doing you're going to get a better grade. But what's the problem if you don't? It only means you're not gonna do all that great in History. So what? At least you try. I think that's what really counts. The fact that you don't give up is what makes you so cool. What's that thing you always say to me about running a marathon?"
"You gotta eat a lot of carbs the night before?"
"No, the other thing."
"Oohh…" she said, blushing when she realized her mistake, before a smile crept on her face as she understood what he meant. "That it's not about being there first, it's about not giving up and crossing the line."
He nodded and affectively squeezed her shoulder.
"Exactly. If you ask me, the only dumb thing would be for you to give up and not study at all. The fact that you're sitting here means that you're trying to become a better person, and morons don't do that."
Lynn softly nodded, her ponytail bouncing up with every movement, swinging like a chestnut pendulum. She stared at him with a glimmer of joy in her eyes, tilting her her slightly to the left.
"Do you really think I'm not dumb?" She asked him, her voice so soft and tender that it looked weird coming from such a rude and aggressive girl.
"Of course I don't think that. Lynn, I know History's hard for you, but we all have some weakness. I mean, come on! You have to have one thing you're not the best at. It would be very unfair for everyone else if you were perfect at everything."
His joyful, joking tone and the smile he gave her were enough to brighten up her features. He could see the confident fire in her look, and along with the corners of her lips moving up into a cheshire smile, her whole body lift up, radiating confidence and a good mood. Lincoln loved seeing her like that. Happy, determined, excited.
His usual Lynn.
She took a quick glance at the living room and the stairs, and after making sure that no one was about to walk in on them, she leaned forward and gave him a strong hug that squeezed his breath away.
"Thanks, bro," she told him, moving away from him to give him a punch on his shoulder. Ah, nothing like a bruise to commemorate a great moment of fraternal union.
"No worries sis…. ouch…"
"I think you've done enough for tonight. Why don't you go back to bed?"
He considered her proposal. To be honest, he was tired again. And he was still going to wake up early to go to school. Resting and catching some Z's was a tempting offer. But having gotten this far, he didn't find it fair to leave his sister alone.
"Don't worry, I'm fine," he assured her, stretching his arms to get rid of the numbness of his muscles. "Hey, why don't you repeat to me out loud what you know? Maybe it'll be easier for you to remember stuff if you say it out loud."
"Alright, I'm game!" She replied, much more cheerful than just a few minutes ago.
And thus, Lynn began to read him her notes, explaining the context of the Renaissance and the changes that this implied in the worldview of the medieval men. She talked about Copernicus, and the humanists, and the patrons, and the creation of perspective drawings, and Brunelleschi and Michelangelo. She explained all of this in whispers, not wanting to wake up her parents or their sisters, and he remained silent, listening to her talk and trying to learn for himself everything that she was telling him. But Lynn's soft, raspy voice caressed his ears, and soon his eyelids were heavy. Before he knew it, he was sliding forward on the table, resting his head on his arm, and at some point as Lynn was narrating the life of the Medici family, Morpheus visited him to send him gently into the dream world.
Lynn didn't notice it at first. She kept explaining briefly everything she knew about the Sack of Rome in 1527, until she turned around to look at him and found herself staring at the sleepyhead. She stopped her explanation and smiled to herself. She thought about it for a few moments, before stealthily going up into his room to grab his pillow and blanket. Ever so carefully, she returned to the dining room and gently lifted his head to put a pillow underneath it, and then he covered his back and arms with the blanket.
He shifted on his sleep before returning to a comfortable position. Lynn stared at him for a few seconds, before brushing a lock of his hair behind his ear, and focusing back on his History textbook, much more relaxed than during the first hours of the night.
Lincoln had mentioned how unfair it would be for everyone else if she was perfect at everything. Lynn found herself wondering how unfair it was for the rest of the world that she was the one that had the best brother of all.
Thank you everyone for having read this far. I'm not gonna ask you for reviews or favs or anything like that, but I will take this publicitary space to ask you to go to Twitter or Facebook and check out Studio Apollo. It's a game developing studio that right now it's working on creating a Loud House visual novel! It's a community project that's not looking to make money, and it gathers the best talents of the Latin American fandom. You have writers that I love (like Slash Torrence, fuck, I wish you guys could read his stuff!), and also artists of GREAT skills such as my great friends JaviSuzumiya, PepeMay, Julex93, Arokham, Aleuz91 and many, many more! I also may be adding very little things here and there for them… But yeah, stay tuned to that, because I can guarantee you that this project is amazing and the result will be spectacular.
See ya later guys!