AN: Been a while since I did one of these, figured it was about time.
I might as well put this here, since I don't want to be one of those guys who keeps getting reader's hopes up by posting updates to a story that has been shelved for whatever reason, making them think there's a new legitimate update, only to find out that its just further explanation for why the story won't be updated or something. But since I know fans of Archetypal read this story, I can feel pretty confident I can put this here without causing too much of a stir.
Basically, Archetypal might not be shelved for as long as I'd thought it'd be. There's a lot of logistics that need to be figured out, particularly what the direction of the story would be without Auto contributing, but things are moving on that front. I don't want to say more than that until I have things a little more finalized, but Archetypal might still be kicking. I'll leave it at that before I end up promising too much.
Anyway, now for the thing people actually came here to read.
"And that's game," Lincoln announced, folding his hand of cards into a small pile so he could begin stacking the rest of his scattered deck on top. He just needed to move quickly before—
"Oh come on!" Lori roared, throwing her own cards down in irritation. The small pile of cardboard hit the tabletop with a loud smack, and enough force that it caused the entire table to began wobbling erratically. The first couple of times this had happened, the group had immediately been forced to play an impromptu round of 52 Pickup afterward, but this time Lincoln had been ready. He'd leaned over as he started making his announcement, intent on using his body to block any cards that went flying while scooping up the ones that didn't. It turned out to be unnecessary, the table was jarred sufficiently as to make his card jump, but not so much that they could escape his reach, which made retrieving his cards fairly easy. Giving his companions a sidelong glance, he saw that they had similarly prepared themselves. Stella's hands were three times their normal size and tightly clutched around something, undoubtedly her own card. Lynn, on the other hand, merely lounged in her seat, smirking at Lori. Her area of the table was a mess, certainly, but everything seemed to be there. Suspicious, Lincoln leaned over and tried to discretely look under the table. What he saw was Lynn's large, powerful hand wrapped around the center table leg. Which explained why the table didn't flip over this time. Clever girl.
"This is ridiculous!" Lori ranted, flinging her hands up in frustration. "He does so much damage! He resists everything we throw at him! And he gets to play a million different things before the game even starts! It's stupid for one person to have so many different powers!"
"Right?" Lynn agreed snidely. "Can you imagine what it'd be like to deal with someone like that? They'd probably be a real tool."
Lori whirled around and pointed at Lynn, nodding emphatically. "Exaaaaaa..." She trailed off, her eyes widening in realization.
"Hey!" Lori yelled indignantly, her gesture of acknowledgment now turning to one of accusation.
"I'm just agreeing with what you said." Lynn's smugness was palpable. Lincoln was seriously beginning to worry that he might catch secondhand smug just by being in her vicinity.
"I have one power that just happens to function as a few different powers! It's totally different!"
"Fly back to space and cry me a river!"
"Am I supposed to say something at this point, or can I just sit here and keep watching my idols bicker like the loving family they clearly are?"
The three Louds turned their heads in near synchronicity, their collective attention now fully on the fourth member of their group.
"And now everyone's looking at me. And I've...been saying all this out loud...haven't I?" Stella asked, sheepishly.
Three heads nodded slowly.
"Please look away!" Stella pleaded, literally shrinking in her seat. After she'd lost about three inches of height, Lincoln decided to step in.
"It's late, and most of us have things to do tomorrow." He said, rising from his seat. "I think its probably time we pack up and call it a night."
His sisters turned their attention back to him. Then to each other, small scowls forming on their faces. It wasn't exactly what he was hoping for, but it did free Stella from their scrutiny.
"Thank you." She mouthed silently to him, returning to her original height. Stretching her arms like silly putty, Stella deftly picked up the scattered components of their game and put them back in the box, her superior dexterity and range of motion allowing her complete the job in record time. Returning to her natural proportions, she gave the now empty table a satisfied nod.
"You mind if I go out the window, Linc?" Stella asked, inching her way towards the portal in question. "I'm already going that way, and it's a bit quicker than going back downstairs."
"Just be careful about your exit." Lincoln replied, nodding. Shooting him a grateful smile, Stella opened the window and gingerly put one leg outside, then the other, looking for all the world like she was stepping into a pool rather than stepping off the second story of a building.
"See you guys tomorrow!" Stella called back, waving to the group. "Or...ya know, later. Not necessarily tomorrow. Um...bye!"
Lincoln shook his head in bemusement as the girl jogged off. As she got further away from the window, he could see that she'd elongated her legs like a pair of shapely stilts, the added length allowing them to carry her away with surprising speed, but also with considerably less potential for property damage than if she'd gone full Girl-Zilla. It felt like Stella never ceased to amaze Lincoln with just how creative she could be with her abilities.
"She is...definitely one of the stranger metas I've met," Lori murmured, staring at the departing heroine in bewilderment. "And I'm only partly talking about her power."
"At least her power doesn't run up the electric bill."
"You know I've been solar-powered for years!" Lori snapped, rounding on the still smirking Lynn. She looked like she had more to say, but in a surprising moment of restraint, she simply clenched her fists, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. After a few moments, she opened her eyes again, now looking considerably calmer.
"So, Lincoln," She said, pointedly ignoring Lynn. "Where's your guest room?"
"I don't have one," Lincoln replied, puzzled. "It's an apartment. I'm lucky it has a bedroom at all."
"So Lynn's been crashing on your couch?" Lori asked, looking past him and squinting her eyes. "No wonder its so beat up. I guess I can make do with that for tonight, but I'll have to get you something better tomorrow. Maybe one of those new couches with an Unobtanium frame, those are nice and sturdy. I once saw one survive an asteroid crash, barely a scratch on it."
"Hey!" Lynn shouted. She came very close to smashing one fist into the table but managed to catch herself at the last second. Instead, she just sat there, fuming, her clenched fist trembling with barely contained fury. "Was that a crack about my weight?"
"More importantly," Lincoln interjected, "What was that about taking the couch?"
"Obviously I'm staying over tonight," Lori replied, matter of factly. She jerked her thumb towards the gaping hole where Lincoln's front wall used to be. "You don't think I'm going to leave Lincoln alone when literally anyone could just walk in here, do you?"
"First off, yes, that's exactly what I think you're going to do." Said Lynn, flexing her arms. "I'm already staying here, and I'm all the protection Linc needs. Especially since you were the one who knocked down the wall to begin with!"
"And you couldn't stop me." Lori shot Lynn a smirk of her own as she floated up out of her seat and into a standing position. "Next time, an invader might not knock like I did. Face it, he needs me."
"He doesn't need you, he has me!" Lynn snarled, leaping to her feet.
"Guys!" Lincoln pleaded, trying to placate his sisters. "Not again! Things were going so well!"
Lincoln looked back and forth between the two girls, feeling very much like a rabbit caught between two large predators. Neither girl moved a muscle, each fully focusing their attention on the other. However, several moments passed, and the situation didn't escalate any further. Nobody threw a punch, and nobody was thrown into the sun. That was a good sign in his book. Moving as slowly and deliberately as possible, Lincoln rose from his chair and gently placed one hand on Lynn's arm. It was barely perceptible, but his mountainous sister untensed ever so slightly at his touch.
"Lori?" He asked, deciding to stay where he was, choosing to believe that Lynn was less likely to launch an attack if it meant throwing him across the room in the process. "Weren't you going to do something about the wall?"
"I tried. Put in a call while you were getting the pizza." Lincoln was taken aback, both by the curt reply and by the very prominent frown that now adorned Lori's face, but chose to stay silent on the matter, unwilling to risk the girl's ire. "We normally handle this stuff in-house, it usually makes for less paperwork. Unfortunately, Damage Control has its hands full right now. They won't be able to get anyone out here any sooner than tomorrow, and I had to call in a few favors to get even that much."
"Kind of thought you were going to fix the wall," Lynn grunted, the barest hint of mirth in her tone. "Like a, you break it you buy it sort of thing."
"With what, the super wall repair power I don't have?" Lori scoffed, crossing her arms with an exasperated huff. "Maybe shoot it back together with energy blasts? Get real, Lynn."
They were bantering. It was almost like having a conversation. He could work with this.
"If Lori wants to stay the night, I'm fine with it," Lincoln said, wincing at the hangdog expression that briefly flashed across Lynn's face. It seemed like Lynn was still sore over their fight. "However..."
Lincoln jumped in surprise as Lori was suddenly behind him. Apparently, she'd gotten much faster in the years since they'd separated.
"I'm just not really sure where we'd put you." He said, apologetically. "Space is kind of at a premium here."
"Aw, come on, Linky." Lori cooed, leaning forward and batting her eyes at him. There was an intense strain on Lincoln's neck as he attempted to maintain eye contact with Lori, and not the veritable valley of cleavage that briefly dipped down into, and then past his line of sight. "You could find room for jumbo over there, but not for little old me?"
And that brought to mind the real problem with letting Lori stay over. "Well, see the thing about that is..."
"I literally can't believe this," Lori said flatly, trying to glare sternly at Lincoln, Lynn, and his bed all at the same time. Her subjects wildly different heights made it challenging, if not outright impossible, but Lori seemed determined to pull it off regardless.
"I know." Lynn nodded. "How the heck did you go from your, admittedly pretty cool superhero costume, to that."
It was an attempt at skirting around the very prominent elephant in the room, i.e. his and Lynn's sleeping arrangement, but it wasn't entirely unwarranted. Upon receiving Lincoln's tentative approval to stay over, Lori had announced she needed to first pick up a few things from home, having apparently flown directly from her last mission to Lincoln's place. When she'd returned only minutes later she had changed from her iconic superhero outfit to a set of comparatively drab, flannel pajamas. To say her siblings were shocked, was a bit of an understatement.
"Excuse you? This is how I sleep." Lori replied, tugging at the fabric of her pajama top. "They're nice and comfy. And sleeping is one of the few times I don't have to worry about my appearance."
"Well, mission accomplished." Lynn chuckled. "You definitely don't care how you look."
"I think what Lynn's trying to say, is that it's just really different from your usual style." Lincoln cut in, discretely sliding his body in between Lynn and Lori, the latter shooting a death glare at the former. Could Lori actually shoot energy from her eyes? He honestly couldn't remember, but if she could, that's probably how she'd look before she did it. Better to be safe than sorry.
"Even so," He continued. "It definitely works for you."
He wasn't lying. Lori's current getup was infinitely more conservative than her hero-wear, not an inch of skin exposed below the neck, save for her hands and feet. However, much like when you gift wrap a vase, being unable to see the thing, doesn't do a whole lot when you can still see the shape of the thing. And shapes were something that Lori had in spades.
"Thank you, Linky," Lori replied, shooting the young man a grateful smile. Then her eyes narrowed as she turned her attention back to Lynn. "And when are you going to finish changing?"
"What do you mean, finish?" Lynn asked, gesturing to the sports bra and panties ensemble that had become her default sleepwear, each pulled absurdly taut against her amazonian frame. "This is how I sleep."
"In that tiny bed?" Lori incredulously jabbed one finger at the bed in question. "With our brother?"
"Nothing weird about that," Lynn replied, her expression the pinnacle of innocence. "Linc and I slept together all the time when we were kids."
"There was a lot less of you back then." Lori hissed, poking at Lynn's ample bosom, causing the former athlete to beam with pride. "And you wore clothes back then!"
"Nothing to get bent out of shape, over, sis," Lynn said, leaning down so she was at eye level with the elder girl. "Unless you're worried about Lincoln having naughty thoughts about his sister of all people."
Lincoln decided to refrain from mentioning that Lynn had slept completely naked their first couple of nights together. Or that when she was in the depths of slumber, Lynn had a tendency to commandeer Lincoln's body for snuggling, treating Lincoln like he was her own personal teddy bear, which turned out to be strangely relaxing. Or that he'd started having a weird, recurring dream where Lynn would nuzzle her face into his neck while whispering sweet things in his ears. At least, he was pretty sure that was a dream. It always just kind of...stopped, and he'd wake up feeling incredibly refreshed the next day.
"Let's just go to bed now," Lori grunted through gritted teeth, mercifully pulling Lincoln away from that uncomfortable bit of introspection.
"Although..." She frowned, looking between Lynn and the bed. "No clue how I'm going to manage to get to sleep with the three of us crammed in there. Especially with you taking up most of the space."
"You could always sleep on the couch," Lynn suggested, a challenging smirk on her face. "Like you were already planning to do."
"Or I could just sleep on the couch." Lincoln offered, raising one hand in the air. "Seems like that'd probably be the easiest solution."
Neither girl acknowledged his words. Without breaking eye contact, Lori and Lynn each hooked one of their arms around his, and hoisted Lincoln a little way into the air. Lincoln suddenly found himself feeling like the world's biggest wishbone.
"Somehow, I'll manage," Lori growled, at her younger sister.
"She certainly managed." Lincoln thought to himself as he stared up at the ceiling, crammed between his two sisters. He had little doubt that both girls were well into slumber at this point, given they sounded like they were trying to outdo the other at sawing logs. He was used to this from Lynn, the girl had always been prone to doing some light lumberjacking in her sleep, and her time at his apartment had handily demonstrated that she'd never kicked the habit. But Lori sharing that habit was a bit of a surprise. The eldest Loud sibling had always been among the most sophisticated of the bunch, so it was very strange to see her in such a state. Then again, he vaguely recalled that Lucy also shared that habit, during the brief time she and Lynn had cohabitated in his childhood room. So, it must just run in the family. However, as annoying as his sisters' snoring was, it was hardly the cause of his newfound insomnia. No, that particular culprit was close proximity that the trio had been forced into.
Lori hadn't been wrong to worry about the capacity of his bed. It was a double, an impulse purchase he'd made when furnishing his apartment, fantasizing that he might need the extra for the occasional...guest, as it were. Unfortunately, reality had quickly proven his concerns to be unfounded. At least, until Lynn had come crashing her way back into his life. Even then, however, it was a bed that was sized for normal humans. A bed that accommodated Lynn's unique stature would need to be considerably larger and sturdier, so even with just the two of them, space had been at a premium. With Lori joining in the mix, the only way to fit all three in was for Lynn to set herself up against the wall, and for the other two to squeeze in as best they could, Lincoln sandwiched between the two girls. His two sisters. His two, extremely shapely, absurdly soft, and inviting sisters' bodies. It had been bad enough when Lincoln had just spent his nights clutched tightly in Lynn's grasp, her powerful muscles doing nothing to distract from the pleasant cushioning of her womanly curves. But now with Lori flanking him as well, a girl who's super empowering had taken her body from "gorgeous", to just shy of literally divine, well...there was a reason Lincoln was forcing himself to lay ramrod straight, and flat on his back. Lest his body's entirely instinctive reaction to this overdose of stimulus lead to him violating what little boundaries remained between him and his sisters. Still, he was able to take some small modicum of solace in the fact that it was literally impossible for things to get more uncomfortable than they already were.
And then, Lori began to stir.
Lincoln held his breath and closed his eyes as the duet going on around him abruptly transitioned into a solo act, trying not to focus on all the...rustling, that was going on against the side of his body. If Lori was waking up, seeing that he was still awake would only worry her, so he'd just pretend to be asleep while she went about her business. Hopefully, something that would take her to another room, if he was lucky. Something that might give him a chance to stretch his poor, cramped limbs a bit. Maybe something that would occupy her long enough for Lincoln to legitimately fall asleep.
And yet, the omnipresent, entirely too enjoyable feeling of his arm wrapped in the delectable bundle of curves known as Lori Loud, refused to abate. Laying there with his eyes closed, Lincoln began to wonder if it'd been a false alarm. Or if Lori had inexplicably managed to drift back to sleep, in spite of how incredibly uncomfortable she might be, crammed against her little brother as she was.
Just as Lincoln was about to abandon his charade, he felt an entirely new sensation. A gentle tickling against his face, and the sweet scent of...toothpaste?
"Liiiiiiiiiinkyyyyyyy..." Lori mumbled, her words thick and slurred to the point where it became difficult to pick out individual sounds. "Waz wrong...Liiiiinkyyy? Did joo has a nightmare?"
It seemed...unwise, to respond, so Lincoln continued to lay there, silently. However, it seemed like his participation in this strange play was entirely unnecessary.
"Dun worry, Linky," Lori murmured, planting a gentle kiss on his cheek. "Big sis ziz here. Not gunna let anythung happen to you."
It was comforting. It was reassuring. But it was also decidedly not Lori...ing. Lori Loud did not condone nighttime visitors, she'd made that abundantly clear when they were kids. It was why, during those early, insomnia-ridden nights that followed him receiving his own room, that he'd been forced to seek solace in Lynn's bed.
Lincoln opened his eyes the most minimal amount required for him to see what was going on, and turned to his surprisingly chatty sibling. He wasn't entirely certain what he was expecting to accomplish by doing this. What he was expecting to see. But what he did see was Lori's sweet, slumbering face, her lips still moving, half uttered words spilling from them in a torrent of vaguely intelligible nonsense, coming increasingly close to his own face. And then, those lips were upon his.
It only lasted for an instant. Perhaps even a fraction of that. The sensation was there, and gone. An exchange of heartbeats was all that was needed to measure the act in its entirety. And yet, even as Lori pulled away, her expression entirely unchanged, he could still taste her.
"Such a naughty boy, Linky." Lori let out a breathy giggle, before diving back in, nuzzling her cheek against his.
And now as he sat there, desperately trying to process what had just happened, the act of falling asleep suddenly seemed so...much...harder.