AN: Finally done with this one. It took a while, but it was a bit of a milestone chapter, and it's longer than I normally write because of that. I could go on, but I think I'd rather just let the chapter speak for itself.

Paperman0: Never feel bad about liking something, hehe. Honestly I'm flattered that you binge read my story, hearing that sort of thing helps motivate me to write more frequently. So thank you for that.

JRC1700: You're welcome. Here's another one.

Mr. Haziq: Nineteen. Story is set eight years after some nebulous period following Seasons 1-3, but Seasons 4 and 5 didn't happen because of where the timeline diverged.

nobodyreallyimportant: In the grand scheme of things, missing that lecture will probably be worth it.

simm36: Gracias.

Jeff: Lincoln hasn't needed any villains, or would-be villains in his life to make things difficult. There's plenty of other things that can go wrong with just the heroes/heroines in his life.

redandready45: I can't say when its gonna happen exactly, since I'll probably be taking a break from this story pretty soon so I can work on other stuff, but Luna will definitely be making an appearance sooner than later.

qazse: Time will tell.

wollyworld: I'm glad you liked it enough to do a full read through. Here's another chapter :)

TigerJacob: Happy to provide!

Lynn and Lori sat side by side in companionable silence, each girl lost in her own thoughts. The air was significantly less tense than it had been earlier, but the conversation the pair had shared was clearly weighing on their minds. Lori, for her part, had tried to break the silence more than once, but try as she might, she could never find something that felt...appropriate. All she'd been trying to do was give Lynn some perspective on the life that she'd so carelessly tried to blunder into. And while it seemed like she'd finally managed to get through to the younger girl, at least to some degree, the truth bombs she'd dropped had fallen just a little too close to home.

"Try to help out your siblings and depress the heck out of yourself," Lori thought, scornfully. "Classic Lori."


Lori jerked in surprise. The utterance had been so soft, she'd been inclined to think that she'd imagined it. But a cautious, sideways glance revealed that Lynn was now looking her way

"Hey," She repeated, her tone implying a question was forthcoming. "You...uh, you remember that Paige girl?"

Lori frowned thoughtfully, trying to recall the name. "She was a girl from Lincoln's school, right? Redhead?"

"That was Christina," Lynn corrected her, turning her attention back to the still deactivated television and slumping back in her seat. "He had a thing for her. Both of them, really, but the Christina thing sort of took care of itself."

"The thing with that video contest," Lori muttered, "Lincoln trying to win that stupid trophy, right. Paige was...that one Valentine's Day, right? The one with the love letter?"

"Yeah," Lynn nodded. "She's the one he gave his love letter to. I hated that. Never understood what he saw in her."

"He was a kid, Lynn," Lori replied, with a slight roll of her eyes. "And it clearly didn't go anywhere because we literally never heard another thing about her."

"And you were okay with it?" Lynn rounded on Lori once again, one eyebrow raised suspiciously. "No problem at all with little bro telling us out of the blue he liked someone?"

"I was...concerned," Lori admitted, grudgingly. "But in a sisterly way."

"Uh uh." Lynn looked unconvinced.

"I didn't know how I felt at the time. Bobby and I were still together...and besides, everyone had someone to write a letter to." Now Lori's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Even you, if I remember right."

Lynn pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, pulling them tightly against her. It was a strangely childish gesture to see performed by a grown woman, especially for a woman as grown as Lynn was.

"I was bluffing." She said, softly. "Just going through the motions because the others all were. All I cared about was whether or not that original letter we found was for Linc. And I was...really relieved, when it wasn't." She leaned forward, resting her head on her knees.

"Well, you're not alone there, at least." Hesitating only slightly, Lori reached over and gently placed one hand on Lynn's massive shoulder, giving her little sister an affectionate rub. "Given how things played out later, I'm pretty sure a lot of us felt the same way. Aside from Luna, obviously."

Lynn let out a small chuckle. "It's funny you say that. You know I found Sam in his room once?"

"No, I did not," Lori replied, frowning as she withdrew her hand. "We're talking about Luna's girlfriend, right? Where the heck was she?"

"Pretty sure she was fighting with you about something. It was a few days before know." A momentary grimace flashed across Lynn's face. "I could hear you guys yelling from my room, and figured I'd go for a jog or something. But then I realized that since you two were busy, that meant Lincoln was probably free—"

"Real classy, Lynn," Lori deadpanned.

"Like you wouldn't have done the same thing." Lynn scoffed. "Besides, taking him with me seemed to be the best thing to do at the time. With Luna's powers, the last place you want to be is anywhere near her while she's screaming her head off, right?"

"I suppose so," Lori reluctantly conceded, still miffed.

"Right. So I went to Lincoln's room to invite him along, and I found Sam there. Pretty sure I didn't even know she was over that day."

"Yeah," Lori nodded thoughtfully. "Luna and I were at each other's throats a lot in those days, but its weird that she'd just abandon her girlfriend to go yell at me."

Lori paused, trying to pick her words delicately. "What were they...doing."

"You worried that Lincoln was putting the moves on Luna's gal while she was off getting into it with you?" Lynn asked, smiling wryly.

"You know that's not what I'm worried about." Lori retorted. She could feel a familiar tingling sensation beginning to build up behind her eyes and took a deep breath, forcing it to harmlessly disperse back into her body. "I think it's weird that you found Sam in Lincoln's room while I was off being kept busy by Luna. Both of them got weirdly...protective, of Lincoln after we got our powers."

"Hello, pot! My name's Lori!"

"Shut up!" Lori yelled, involuntarily blushing. "You know what I mean! And stop doing that impression of me! It doesn't sound anything like me!"

"Just keep telling yourself that. But to be honest, I don't know what they were up to." Lynn's good cheer diminished somewhat, her smug smile flattening into a thin line. "Lincoln was sitting on his bed, Sam was standing nearby, it looked like they'd been talking about something before I let myself in. I asked what the heck was going on, which I thought was a pretty reasonable thing to do when I found my little bro alone with an older woman."

"What did they say?"

"Nothing." Lynn frowned. "Before Linc could say anything, Sam stepped between us and held out her arms. Like she was...protecting him. From me."

"Probably not the smartest thing she's ever done." Lori offered.

"Right? Even back then I had at least a foot on her, and I could pop her stupid head like a grape. I don't even know what she was planning on doing, but something about the way she just really ticked me off."

"So what did you do?"

Lynn's lips quirked upward, halfway between a smirk and a smile. "I threw her out the window."

"Lynn Loud!" Lori shouted, aghast at what she'd just heard.

"Calm down," Lynn replied shrugging indifferently. "I opened it first."

"That's not the point! Sam wasn't a meta! You can't do things like that just because someone ticks you off!"

"See, that kind of stuff? That's why you always got on Luna's nerves." Lynn retorted, stretching out her limbs as she sunk back into the couch. "And for your information, I threw her at that stupid trampoline Luan always kept set up in the back yard. She bounced a few times and then landed in the grass. It was fine, I watched the whole thing."

"Honestly," Lori groaned, "This. This is why I had to spend all my time worrying about Lincoln's safety back then. You guys were out of control!"

"Are you talking about my wild, unchecked use of my awesome superpowers, or older girls randomly showing up in Lincoln's room?"

"I guess a little of both, actually," Lori admitted, looking up at Lynn. "It really got to you, didn't it? The way she reacted?"

Lynn's smile turned slightly melancholic. "I overreacted, but the thought that someone saw me that hurt. I'd never hurt Lincoln. Not on purpose. And I was training my butt off so I could learn to control my strength and prevent that exact kind of thing from happening. Seeing her react like just hit really close to home, and I snapped."

Lynn sighed and shook her head. "All joking aside, I'm not proud of that."

"Well, that's something, I guess." Lori conceded. "To be fair, I'm not sure I would have reacted much better."

"That's actually kind of nice to hear," Lynn admitted. "Coming from you, I mean. Little miss perfect."

"I've never been perfect, Lynn." Lori scoffed. "I just try to set an example, when I can. But that doesn't mean I'd be okay with finding my little brother alone with a strange woman."

"Seems a little unfair to call Sam 'strange', given what we can do," Lynn replied, chuckling slightly. "But that kind of thing did happen weirdly often."

"Tell me about it." Lori rolled her eyes. "You know Becky still asks me about Lincoln sometimes?"

"I didn't even know you guys still talked," Lynn replied, frowning thoughtfully. "But...wait. She got size-changing powers, right? Goes by Mountainess, or something?"

"Yes, actually." Lori blinked in surprise. "I'm kind of surprised you knew that."

"We were stationed in the same sector for a lot of the Incursion. There wasn't exactly time to socialize, but yeah, I know of her." Lynn's expression turned dour. "From what I remember, she was really bad about watching where she was going, nearly stomped me by accident more than a few times. Please tell me you haven't told her where Linc lives."

"Obviously not." Lori snorted in bemusement. "It only comes up when she's on the rebound anyway, and I don't want Lincoln anywhere near that."

"You don't want him anywhere near the busty red-head superheroine who was weirdly affectionate to him as a kid?"

"You're making it sound weirder than it was." Lori retorted. "They both liked comic books, and that stupid ghost show, and other nerd stuff like that. It was cute back then. Mostly."

"And what about now?"

Lori glanced around Lincoln's living room, her enhanced vision picking out the video game consoles, the sci-fi memorabilia, and the tabletop gaming paraphernalia, that characterized her little brother's living space.

"You know those convention appearances we're contractually obligated to make on occasion? Becky does those for fun. They have to limit the amount she can do, because she volunteers for them."

"Ah." Lynn nodded sagely. "So you're worried he might propose to her."

"Or her to him." Lori nodded affirmatively. "Literally the second they lay eyes on one another."


"I told you I'm not miss perfect." Lori muttered, her cheeks turning slightly pink.

"Point taken." Lynn chuckled, scooching over towards Lori and wrapping one arm around her shoulder. "I guess you're human after all."

Lori bit down the retort that lept to the tip of her tongue, and instead returned the gesture, leaning into the side hug with her not so little sister. It was a strangely companionable moment between the pair.

"Hey," Lynn said, after a few moments of companionable silence. "You think he and Ronnie Anne ever—"

"No," Lori said, flatly.

"I mean, yeah, they basically broke up when she moved to the city." Lynn conceded. " But it's been a long time since then. Don't you think it's possible that at some point he'd try to get back in contact with her and—

"No, Lynn," Lori repeated, her tone emphatically certain. "Trust me. I'd know."

"...Is this because of your Big Sister stuff you've been getting up to?" Lynn's eyes widened as realization dawned. "Speaking of—"

"I called off the surveillance team when I decided to stay the night," Lori replied, waving dismissively. "I didn't want that to get recorded. So don't worry, everything we've talked about has been strictly off record."

"Ah." Lynn sighed in relief. "Good."

"But to answer your question, no, I didn't have to do anything about that. Ronnie became a meta a little after she got into high school, which means she's on the national meta registry. She was assigned to a team in Great Lakes City and has been operating out of there for years. She hasn't been within miles of Lincoln for a long time now."

"That makes sense," Lynn nodded. "As far as the information being available goes. The real question is, why are you so up to date on Ronnie's situation? You and Bobby broke up a million years ago."

"I was concerned for the same reason you are, obviously," Lori grumbled. "And also because Bobby's on her team. The break up was mutual, but it's kind of just...easier, to know I won't have to be running into my ex, you know?"

"I do not." Lynn gave Lori a squeeze. "But I definitely like this Lori more than the tightwad I had to grow up with."

"Shut up, Lynn," Lori muttered. Nevertheless, she didn't break the hug. It was exhausting to keep all her crazy bundled up the way she had for all these years. As abrasive as she could be, Lynn understood her, at least on some level. And there was something strangely comforting about that.

She wasn't sure exactly how long she sat there with Lynn. Something about the cozy, companionable atmosphere made it easy for her to just turn her brain off. And for the first time in far longer than she could remember, she did exactly that, just sat there and allowed her thoughts to wander, her brain to unwind. Eventually, however, her attention was brought back to the present by the telltale sound of a lock clicking. Lori's eyes snapped to the front door just in time to see Lincoln walking through it."

"Hey guys," He said, closing the door behind him. "I...think we need to have a talk about something."

"I see the wall got fixed." Said Lincoln as he grabbed a chair from the kitchen and brought it into the living room, situating himself near the girls. "Was actually pretty happy I had to use the door to get in."

"Oh, yeah," Lori replied, nodding absentmindedly. "The crew came down and took care of it, no questions asked. No need to worry about the bill, it'll be covered by their operating expenses."

"Huh. How long ago did that happen?"

"Um..." Lori and Lynn exchanged questioning glances before the elder sibling continued. "A couple of hours ago, I guess? Why?"

"I was just surprised that you were still here." Lori's eyes widened in surprise, and Lincoln instantly regretted his careless choice of words. "Not that I wanted you to leave! I just meant that I know you're busy with hero stuff. I'm happy you're still around, I'm just surprised you can be, that's all." He cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed.

Lori, for her part, seemed to take the correction in good humor. "I'd already taken the day off." She said, cooly. "Figured there wasn't much point in taking off so soon. Lynn and I were having a nice chat. That said..."

Lori glanced warily between her two siblings and made as if she was about to get up. "You said you needed to talk about something? Is this a, you and Lynn thing? S-should I leave?"

Lincoln very much wanted to say yes. Not because he actually wanted Lori to leave, but because this was going to be awkward as it was, and Lori leaving would give him an excuse to avoid the most touchy subject on the agenda. Much as he wanted to, however, his conscience wouldn't let him. Better to just rip the band-aid off and deal with the consequences.

"No, it's fine." He replied, nodding at Lori. "Some of it's about Lynn, but you're involved too."

Lori's lips quirked upward into a small smile, and she sank back down into the couch. Lincoln looked to Lynn, expecting her to have something to add, but the older girl just silently nodded at him, indicating he should go on.

"Right then." Lincoln cleared his throat again. He briefly considered running back to the kitchen and grabbing something to drink, but his nerves were already shot. If he didn't push on and get this over with, he might never. So he mustered his courage, looked Lynn straight in the eye, and did his best to continue.

"Lynn," He began, "I know you just...kind of showed up in my life again, after years of not hearing a peep from you—" The tiniest hint of a wince rippled through Lynn's mighty frame. There was a very, very tiny part of Lincoln that felt some satisfaction in seeing that, but he quickly stamped that feeling out. This wasn't about him, it was about them.

"—but in spite of that," He continued. "It's been...really great having you around again." A bit of the tension in Lynn's posture vanished at that, and a smile began working its way onto her face. Lincoln realized his heart was already starting to beat a little quicker, and he tried to force himself to focus on the task at hand.

"We don't always see eye to eye. Sometimes we clash pretty violently over certain things—"

"The toilet paper roll works best when it's facing up." She interjected, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

"And that's why people think you're a savage," He quipped, flashing a grin her way to show he was kidding. "But all in all, it's been great, having you in my life again. I know there are a million other things you could be doing. I know that, even though you're suspended, there are probably a million other places you could be, every one cooler and more exciting than my dinky apartment. But I'm really glad you chose to stay here."

"That goes for you too, Lori." He added, deliberately turning his attention away from Lynn. In lieu of a verbal reply, his biggest sister had simply bowed her head, and was now very intently looking down at the floor. But he could tell by her body language that she was pleased. Even so, Lynn wasn't much for sentiment, better to take the spotlight off her for a bit and let her regain her composure.

"I've got two beau—f-famous, superheroes hanging out at my apartment" Lincoln winced internally, kicking himself for that impossibly stupid slip up. "Most people would kill to be where I'm at right now. But it's mainly just great to have you guys here, with me. You've only been here a day, but it already feels...well, it kind of feels like, before. You know? And I guess," He paused to take a breath, trying to work through a sudden onset of jitters that threatened to render him speechless. "I guess I'd never fully realized just how much I missed us being together. All of us." He made a point of including Lynn this time, who was apparently able to look at him again. Lori's only response was a small nod, but the slight tinge of pink in her cheeks told him she was happier than she was letting on. He was counting on that, because he was hoping it was going to save him from this next part.

"That said..." He trailed off, trying to muster his courage. This was the important part, he couldn't afford to screw it up. "That said, I don't think we can move forward unless we're being honest with each other. And that's why I need to tell you...both of you, that—" He took a deep breath, desperately hoping the authorities wouldn't be retroactively declaring the next words out of his mouth as proof that his untimely demise was clearly by suicide.

"IkissedLorilastnight." He'd been hoping to phrase that a little more delicately, but the words had all just kind of rushed out of his mouth at once. And, much as he really wanted to add a clarification or three to that confession, he managed to resist the urge, knowing that there wasn't any possible way to make that sound any less terrible than it was. Best to just get it out there, and deal with the consequences.

"Really!?" Lori squeaked, looking strangely elated as she clasped her hands to her generous bosom. That...wasn't what he was expecting. At all. Not even on the opposite day.

"WHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAT!?" Lynn roared, her massive hand clamping down on the armrest of the couch with such force that it tore the chunk of wood and fabric straight off the piece of furniture, and crushed the mass of couch now clutched within her hands an unrecognizable pile of finely pulverized pulp, all within a single motion. That. That was exactly what he'd been expecting. He would have been pleased with his prediction, but now Lynn was glaring at him with multiple angry veins pulsating on her face, and he was suddenly having a very hard time remembering why he'd thought this was a good idea in the first place.

"Lynn," Lincoln began, hurriedly, working his brain as hard as possible, desperately trying to figure out what he could possibly say to try and calm her down. "I—EEEEEEEEE"

Not his finest work by any stretch of the imagination. But before he'd been able to form a proper sentence, Lynn had lept from her seat, scooped him up, and pinned him against his freshly repaired wall. Somewhere along the way, everything he'd been planning on saying had turned into an incoherent, high-pitched shriek. Which, given the angry superheroine, whose face was now only inches from his own, didn't at all feel unwarranted.

"How could you?" She hissed, visibly seething. It was her eyes, that look of betrayal, that Lincoln found most disconcerting. She probably thought he was scum for taking advantage of one of his sisters. And even though he hadn't actually been in control of the situation, to any degree, he agreed with her. It was bad enough that he'd kissed Lori, albeit unintentionally. But liking it as much as he did? That was all him.

"How could you kiss her?" Lynn yelled, pointing one shaking finger at Lori, who hadn't moved from her spot on the couch. She was just sitting there, frozen, her face as red as those jerseys Lynn loved so much. "How could you kiss her, WHEN I'VE BEEN LIVING HERE FOR WEEKS!"

The entire world went black as Lincoln's brain abruptly shut down, then rebooted, in the hopes that the world would start making sense again after a fresh start. But as his vision returned to him, he could still see Lori sitting on the couch, lost in her own little world—

"Linky kissed me," She murmured to herself, giggling softly.

—And Lynn was still glaring at him like the proverbial woman who had been scorned.

"I—" He began, only to choke on his words as a brief increase in the pressure on his chest forced the air from his lungs.

"Do you not see, this?" Lynn asked, indicating her amazingly proportioned body with her free hand, which was no less delectable looking even as it was poised to destroy him in a very literal fashion. "Have you not been paying attention to this?"

Of course, he had. Lynn was gorgeous. She always had been. There were many nights when he'd lain in the bed given to him by his grandparents, and memories of her lean, slumbering form snuggled against his were the only comfort he could find in his desperate search for sleep. And since then, against all odds, she'd only gotten more beautiful! Of course, he'd noticed! That was the crux of the problem!

"I've been waltzing around here, basically in my underwear for weeks, Lincoln!" Lynn continued, a slight edge of hysteria entering her voice. "I sleep with you every friggin night! Just there, yours for the taking! She's only here for a night, and she's the one you kiss?"

What words Lincoln had managed to assemble abruptly fled his mind as Lynn's grip on him slackened, and he suddenly started plummeting towards the ground. Thankfully, before he could embarrass himself again, Lynn's fists tightened around his badly abused t-shirt and arrested his fall one more.

"What's wrong with me?" She asked, looking down at him. There were tears forming in her eyes. La Furiosa was counted among the strongest beings in the entire world, and here, in this moment, Lincoln was struck by how uncharacteristically...weak, she looked. Helpless. Scared. He didn't like seeing those emotions on anyone, but seeing them on Lynn? His big sister, who'd been impossibly brave and strong, even before she got her powers, it tore him up inside.

"Why don't you" Lynn uttered, so softly that if he hadn't seen her physically forming the words with her lips, he would have been doubtful she'd said anything at all. Lincoln Loud was many things, and at this moment, many of those things were terrified beyond belief. But seeing his sister in such a state caused things to..crystalize. Whatever happened next was immaterial compared to the sorrowful sister standing before him.

"I do, Lynn." He said, his throat feeling like gravel as he sucked in raggedy gasps of air. "I always—EEP"

Lincoln's stomach lurched as he was swept back into the air, and now he was face to face with Lynn once more. Her cheeks were still stained with tears, but there was a certain...manic glint in her eyes, that hadn't been there before.

"Say...that...again..." She hissed, pulling him closer.

"I w-want you, Lynn" he stammered, babbling. "I always have. How could I not? You've always—MRFPH!"

Lincoln was confused, frazzled beyond belief by how frequently and abruptly the tone of this conversation had shifted over the last couple of minutes. To such an extent, that he was scarcely aware of what he was actually saying. So it came as a mercy when he'd sufficiently articulated his feelings enough for Lynn to close the remaining distance between them, and press her lips against his. And then they kissed.

Time lost all meaning, space no longer seemed to matter. The apartment around Lincoln faded away until there was nothing left but Lynn's intoxicating scent, and the sensation of her tongue eagerly exploring his mouth. He tried his best to respond in kind but was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer passion of his big sister. Slowly, but surely, he ceded control to her, and let Lynn take the lead. It was Lynn. His big sister. He trusted her implicitly, and it was quickly made very apparent, that he'd made the right decision.

Much to their mutual displeasure, however, those unfathomable seconds all too quickly became fathomable once more. Time reasserted itself upon the pair, and with it, the all too limited lung capacity of the human respiratory system. They finally parted, though not without fighting to every inch of ground they were forced to give, their lips crashing together again and again, even as their rapidly dwindling air supplies demanded their surrenders. As Lynn finally pulled away, chest heaving, lungs desperate for sustenance, Lincon was struck, equal parts by severe oxygen deficiency, but also by just how beautiful she looked in that moment. Sweaty, embarrassed, and joyous, all at the same time. That was the Lynn Loud he'd always known. And loved.


The very audible clearing of someone's throat reminded Lincoln that, contrary to what the previous eternity had felt like, he and Lynn were not, in fact, alone. Turning his head, he saw Lori hovering right next to them, her face very nearly as close to his and Lynn's just was. To his surprise, however, she didn't look angry. Just...curious.

"Now," Lynn gasped, her chest undulating in a very distracting manner as she continued to suck in lungfuls of air. "Who was better. Me, or her?"

Lori didn't say, anything, but he could nevertheless hear her as she silently floated next to him, undoubtedly waiting for a response.

"I..." He paused to cough, trying to grant his much-abused lungs some reprieve. "I honestly couldn't say."

He looked between them, and shrugged, helplessly. Completely uncertain how one was even supposed to answer a question like that.

Still holding Lincoln aloft, Lynn turned to Lori, and the girls just stared at one another. Some, still functional part of Lincoln's brain realized they were probably communicating, but he wasn't at a proper angle to see this point, he wasn't even sure he had the mental faculties to even follow the conversation.

"Deal," Lori said, finally speaking aloud. She and Lynn shook hands. There was a bright, blinding flash of brilliant blue light, and when it was over, Lori was gone. But the streak of light that persisted in her wake, leaving a trail that led right to his bedroom, suggested she wasn't far. Letting out a satisfied grunt, Lynn slung Lincoln over her shoulder and began making her way further into the apartment.

"Lynn?" Lincoln asked, incapable of tearing his gaze from Lynn's barely clad, impossibly shapely rear. "Where are we going?"

"Lori and I decided that you clearly have...issues, we need to talk about. So, being the wonderful big sisters we are, we're gonna stay here and talk with you, for as long as it takes." Without warning, Lynn unshouldered Lincoln and gave him another brief, but very emphatic kiss, one that left little ambiguity to her words. "Even if it takes all night."

"I think I"m...scaroused?" Lincoln uttered, rendered cross-eyed by the burst of affection. "Is that a thing?"

"I'll take it." Lynn chuckled. Reaching their destination, she ducked down so she could squeeze through the doorway, and closed the door behind her. The door making a very satisfying click at the lock snapped into place.

Haiku had just settled into her little hideaway from home, barely having cracked open the book she'd selected for that night when her attention was drawn by the telltale sound of flapping wings. To her surprise, Lucy touched down only a few feet away, looking even more despondent than usual. The mood wasn't the issue, Lucy's string of luck with intruding upon her brother had been...lackluster, to say the least, as of late. It was how quickly they'd gotten to this point on this particular night that piqued her curiosity.

"Lucy, what happened?" She asked, frowning in confusion. "I'm certain you literally just left."

"I did," Lucy said, sourly, fishing around in her cloak and pulling out her phone. "We just got a call. Zombie uprising somewhere in Romania, we're being asked to deal with it."

"Not that we can't handle it, but..." Haiku shook her head in annoyance, "Isn't this kind of thing usually reserved for mystically inclined metas? Why do we keep getting stuck with these jobs?"

"Maybe people would stop presuming we were magic if you stopped pretending to be a vampire." Lucy deadpanned as she quickly began tossing their belongings into her cloak, where they were quickly absorbed into its extra-dimensional storage. Haiku shrugged, ceding the point, but offering no apologies. She knew Lucy well enough to know that her friend expected none.

"Do you...think there's a chance that an actual vampire might be behind this one?" She asked instead, trying to change the subject.

"Literally anything is possible," Lucy replied. "Though, are you even sure you can be turned at this point? I've seen you regrow entire arms."

"I'm still willing to give it a try," Haiku replied, shouldering her parasol as she waited for Lucy to open them a portal home. "Sorry you ended up inadvertently striking out again tonight."

"It's fine," Lucy sighed, her sagging shoulders indicating that she wasn't as indifferent to her night's interruption as she was pretending to be. With a wave of her hand, her cloak slid itself off her shoulders and contorted itself into a large circle. There was a brief sound, not unlike the hull breaching in some variety of airtight cabin, and suddenly the inside of the circle displayed the familiar starry sky of Royal Woods.

"We're going to stop by Flips on the way," Lucy continued, motioning for Haiku to proceed. "I need to gather more shadows for the trip, and this time of night the area around his store is as dark as you can get. Plenty of high-quality material for me to work with."

"And we can pick up snacks while we're there," Haiku added. As she passed Lucy, she gave her friend a quick sympathetic side hug, then pushed on through, crossing the boundary between space and time.

Lucy gave one last lingering look in the direction of her island. The spot where she chose to perform her little ritual each night. The place where she hoped she might one day be able to bring her brother to, and she let out a soft, wistful sigh.

"I suppose it wouldn't have made a difference anyway," She muttered to herself as she followed after Haiku. "Not like there's any harm in missing one night, after all. There'll be others."