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Carol Likes Luna

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“Please… Please just shut up…” Carol Pingrey thinks.

But it would appear she shan’t get her hopes up, because, as expected, stupid Luna Loud raises her hand to answer stupid Mr. Sunderland’s stupid question.

“Ughhhhh…”

He calls on her. “Luna?”

She smiles and lowers her hand. “Emma Stone?”

The teacher smiles. “Excellent. Great work today, Luna. You’re on fire!” he compliments.

“Oh my god she’s such a kiss up…”

It’s always the same thing with this class. Carol honestly only took journalism because it’s a perquisite for yearbook committee class, and because her friends said it would be an easy A. What they failed to tell her was that- stupid Lori Loud’s baby sister would be in the class too, and she’d be that one girl that has to answer every question and just be an all-around annoying teacher’s pet.

Ugh indeed.

She tries just playing with her phone and tuning the dork out for the next ten minutes, but her phone’s almost dead, and she just now realizes she left her charger at home.

“I seriously cannot catch a break.”

She could ask one of the other losers in this class to borrow theirs until after lunch at least, but- ehhh, that would mean she’d have to talk to one of them…

So she grins and bears it, or bears it at least, and hopes- prays that Mr. Sunderland doesn’t ask another…

“Okay, now how about somebody surprise me on this Thursday morning. Who can tell me how social media sites perpetuate yellow journalism… Come on, anyone? Anybody?”

Yeah, so not only does she not know what this creep is talking about, but she also knows that a certain someone will, and she’ll be all skittish about raising her hand and answering- as if she’s really that unsure of herself.

“Spare us the drama! Just answer the stupid question already so I can move on with my life!”

Sure enough, Luna Loud timidly raises her hand…

“Okay… Luna. Go ahead.”

“Uhh… I think we see this with like, YouTube thumbnails and things like that. They’ll say something bad about someone without really having the full story, because they want to be the first to cover it. Like all these scandals happening right now,” she answers.

“I swear everyday with this girl oh em gee why do I have class with her she’s so cringey I am literally going to punch someone if I have to hear her stupid raspy voice answer one more of this ugly jerk-”

“Right again!”

“UGHHHH!”

She just leans back in her chair, accepting her defeat. If she had more energy, or cared enough about this chick to sacrifice yearbook class next year, she would call her out on being such a spaz. “It’s so annoying! Nobody likes you, so just stop!”

“You’re really smart, Luna!” one tool says.

“Yeah! Great job!” another adds.

And Carol just frowns.

But finally, it would appear that this torture is ending, as Mr. Sunderland checks the clock, and lets out a tired little sigh.

“Finally!”

“Okay everyone, I’m going to wrap up just a few minutes early today because I have an announcement.”

“This better be good…”

“Alright, so normally we write a paper for midterm, but I think I want to try something different this go ‘round. It’s not enough to be a good writer to be a good reporter. You also have to have this crazy thing called people skills, and it helps to know your way around a camera.”

This peeks Carol’s curiosity. Not like she’s interested or anything- just, it wasn’t expected. That’s all.

“…And I know a lot of you are interested in joining the yearbook committee next year.”

“Doy! Get a clue, old man!”

“…So, I’m going to be assigning you all a midterm project instead.”

Some of the students groan, and some of them just nod in approval. Luna actually turns and smiles at the idiot sitting next to her- because of course she would…

Carol just rolls her eyes and crosses her arms.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” Mr. Sunderland begins. “I’m going to assign each of you a partner, and I want you both to come up with an idea for an article. You’ll need to write a summary for the article, and take a cover photo. Then you will present it to the class in a couple weeks. And, as always, I want to see effort! I can give passing grades to passable submissions, but if you want to be considered for the committee, you need to impress me. So take this seriously.”

Carol takes a moment to digest it.

“Well, I guess this won’t be so bad. I mean, what the heck? Take a picture, write a couple paragraphs, do a dumb presentation. That beats a stupid essay…”

“Wait a minute… did he say partner?”

“Oh no… No… Please, no…”

“Alright, here’s who you’re going to be working with, so pay attention!” Mr. Sunderland starts.

It’s so obvious where this is going. The writing is on the wall. This cruel, sick, twisted joke just turned into a slap- no, a giant middle finger directly in her flawless face.

“If anybody’s listening… Please… PLEASE don’t let it be her!”

“Ash, you’ll be working with Tabby.”

“Anybody but her!”

“Kirk, you’ll be working with Lora.”

“I will do anything… Please!”

“Daryl, you’ll be working with Dwight.”

“Okay, not anything, but-”

“Carol…”

She freezes. Her heart is pounding. It’s like the words he’s about to say will come out of his mouth in slow motion.

“There’s still hope! I could be teamed with Greg, or Dex! That wouldn’t be so bad. No big. Whatever! Anyone would be better than stinkin’-”

“…You’ll be working with Luna.”

Her face- is like- wow. She literally can’t even. He did not just say that. This cannot be happening.

Wearing the dumbfoundedness on her face like the newest brand of contour, she slowly turns to look…

Luna meets her with a little smile, a chin raise, and an inaudible: “Sup.”

Then Carol’s head bursts into a mushroom cloud.

Okay, so it doesn’t, but she really wishes it would.

Her worst nightmare has come true. Not only does she have to put up with even more of this loser, but she has to actually work with her? Like- as partners?

That means they’ll have to talk and stuff! And set up time outside of class to do more talking and stuff! And, “Oh my gosh,” she’ll have to pretend to like it if she wants to get into yearbook next year!

“This can’t be happening…” she thinks as she lets her face fall into her hands.

-----------------------

All the other losers begin filing out of the journalism room, including cringey Luna Loud and her dumb paperclip earrings.

“I can’t work with her- I LITERALLY can’t. I WON’T!”

Carol wants be sure everyone has left before she complains to Mr. Sunderland, but four rejects decide they want to take up her precious time and make her wait her turn. As if what they have to say is important.

She slowly stands up, stalling as she methodically grabs all her things, just kind of sneaking glances at the gaggle as she eavesdrops.

“Please Mr. Sunderland! We all agreed on it! We’ll just trade partners!” a chunky girl with freckles begs.

He crosses his arms and unapologetically meets her with indifference. “I’m sorry, but no. The whole point of me assigning you a partner is to make you get out of your comfort zone a little bit. Trust me, when you get out in the real world, it makes you look good to be able to handle whatever gets thrown your way. I have a feeling you’ll all be thanking me for this later.”

Carols heart sinks. One: she’ll get the same spiel if she complains about being paired with Luna.

Two: …He’s right.

“I’m Carol Pingrey! I don’t back down to anything or anyone! I can handle this stupid project! I’ll ACE it! Psh, I’ll probably even end up doing all the work! What was I even worried about? I can do this!”

In the hallway…

“Ugh! I can’t do this!” Carol whines to her friend Whitney, who just wears this discomfited face as Carol vents about how horrible being paired with Luna will be.

“Uhm… Don’t take this the wrong way, Carol… But, I think you’re kind of making a big deal about nothing…” she nervously tells the queen bee.

And Carol scowls. “Ugh- no! You don’t understand!... For one, Luna is Lori’s sister. Uh huh, yeah! That Lori!...”

“I’m friends with Lori, too, you know?” Whitney says after rolling her eyes.

“Whatever! So you know what I mean! That Loud blood is in her just like her stupid sister… And then there’s the constant talk about rock and roll and the dorky punk clothes! Like, we get it, Luna! You’re a rocker! Big deal! Nobody cares. Get over yourself…”

“You’re one to talk,” Whitney mutters, just quietly enough that she doesn’t hear her.

They get to Carol’s locker, and as she opens it to reorganize her belongings, she continues listing off her grievances, and Whitney just tries not to look totally unimpressed.

“Like, seriously… I really don’t care that we have to do a project, it’s nothing I can’t handle,” she says with an arrogant little scoff. “But why did he have to team me up with Luna?”

Finally, Whitney relents from biting her tongue. “I don’t understand what your thing is with Luna? She’s actually pretty cool, I think.”

Carol looks at her- shocked. “Please do not tell me you just said Luna is cool?”

Whitney shrugs. “I just don’t see why you don’t like her so much.”

“Pffft! What?! I mean- there’s just like- so much not to like?”

“Like what?” Whitney says with a challenging gaze.

Carol frowns. “…Just- ugh… Do you ever just meet someone and just- don’t like them? Like, they just make your skin crawl even thinking about them?! Cause that’s me with Luna,” she says, shutting her locker door.

And lo and behold, Luna Loud herself is leaning up against the locker next to hers, and she looks ticked off.

Carol grows wide-eyed as a dreadful feeling overcomes her.

“Luna!”

Luna takes a step forward, and Carol takes a step back. Whitney just watches on with wide eyes of her own, knowing full well that the proverbial “it” is about to hit the fan.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, dude… I was just coming by to talk about getting started on our project~” Luna begins with a snarl.

“The project! RIGHT! Aheh heh! Uhm… It’s uhh… You know?” Carol nervously says, backing up more.

And Luna keeps stepping forward until they’re face to face. Carol literally gulps, and starts sweating.

“So it’s not enough to be a jerk to my sister; you’ve gotta throw shade at me, too? Is that how it’s gonna be?”

Carol smiles a pathetically desperate smile as her face begins paling.

“Oh, I was just kidding about all that stuff! You know- aheh, tell her Whitney…”

“Hey! Don’t bring me in this!” the other girl says, defensively backing away.

Luna just keeps burning a hole through Carol with her fiery brown eyes.

“Something about ‘Loud blood?’ Yeah, I think can work with that,” Luna threateningly says, and she clenches her fists as she backs Carol into the wall.

And for the first time in a long time, Carol isn’t getting her way… And she knows it.

“Uhm, could you please not hit me in the face?” she asks, which just makes Luna growl.

She cocks her fist…

“Hey!” a deep, firm voice calls out.

The ladies turn to see a very burly looking teacher frowning at them, crossing his arms.

Luna deflates, and Carol brightens up.

“Oh thank goodness you’re here, sir! This- miscreant was about to assault me!”

“Save it, Pingrey. I saw the whole thing…” he callously barks, and she sinks.

“Detention! Both of you!” the man orders.

Luna scornfully looks to Carol, but says nothing.

And Carol just nervously smiles. “Heh heh… Maybe we can start on our project?”

 

Chapter Text

Carol wasn’t sure what to expect from detention, considering she’s never done anything wrong over her long career as a student.

Well, she was never caught for anything anyway… at least, not until now.

She thought the room would be in a dark, cold, dungeon of a basement, and there would be all these scary ne’er-do-wells wearing greaser jackets and facial piercings and stuff like that that Luna would probably think is cool- because she’s just a dork like that.

Nope, instead it’s just her and Luna sitting quietly in an empty classroom with Ms. Clifford, who probably should’ve retired a very long time ago. The old grey haired woman just sits at her desk, wheezing from years of smoking and other extrinsic aging inhibitors, as she tries to keep her head up and her eyes open.

Then there’s her… The reason she’s here in the first place.

Luna just sits at her desk looking bored and shooting dirty looks at Carol here and there, until she decides Ms. Clifford is in too much of a daze to really notice her. So she quietly pulls out her smartphone and her earbuds, and starts watching- whatever, probably some stupid rock thing, as a smile creeps on her face.

Carol just can’t help but stare at her. “I mean, isn’t she still angry? Shouldn’t she still be upset with me? Is she trying to ignore me?”

It’s the first time Carol’s ever really gotten a good look at her. She never really realized just how many freckles she has, like, on her shoulders and stuff- not just her face. Not so many that you’d think she’s little orphan Annie or something, but a considerable amount of speckles on her skin.

And she actually looks a lot like Lori, except for the stupid freckles and the brown, auburn- whatever, hair.

“I mean, she’s not ugly, I guess… But she’s still annoying.”

Then there’s those abysmal earrings of hers. They look so much like paperclips that, heck, maybe they are actual, literal paperclips.

“I wouldn’t put it past her… She seems like the type who’d be into that weird stuff… I wonder if she’s got a tattoo? I bet she does. Probably something lame like Mick Swagger’s face on her butt or something… Pffft… Weirdo…”

She apparently doesn’t realize Carol scrutinizing her so profoundly, because she just watches her video and smiles like an idiot. Either she’s getting into something really good, or she just doesn’t care…

“She should care… I mean, everybody cares what I think. Isn’t that obvious? And anybody who doesn’t is a troll… Whatever. I don’t care. Does she think I care what she thinks? Because I DON’T!”

“ERGHH! SHE’S SO ANNOYING!”

It’s unbearable to even look at her anymore. She literally cannot take it. She has to do something to block her out. It’s only a few more minutes until detention’s over, and then she can get on with her life.

So she forces herself to stop watching her, and pulls out her smartphone.

“What?!”

It is literally dead.

She frowns. “Ugghhhh! Stupid charger!”

She imagines just banging her head on the desk until it’s all over, but she’s Carol Pingrey. She’s a little more sophisticated than some people.

Whatever. Phones’ dead. No big. She can just look at… the walls…

Or the ceiling…

Or outside the door pane…

Or at Ms. Clifford… Who is falling asleep…

“I will never get detention again as long as I live.”

With the boring, dreadful silence, it becomes impossible not to overhear the noise coming from Luna’s earbuds. It starts as just the fainted little mumbling, but gradually turns into this super loud, super nerve wracking ear pollution that brings goosebumps to the skin.

“I am going to go to prison for the things I do to her…”

She tries just taking deep, relaxing breaths, but it’s still too much for her. The noise from the earbuds, the way she’s smiling, the way she’s not paying any attention to her, the way she just- looks!... Ugh! It’s maddening!

She visualizes shooting her an inescapable fiery eyed glare, and Luna looks up to her with a   stupid “Oh no” face. Then she literally gets up and grabs her desk- Luna still in it, and tosses it out the window with freak strength.

But… “She’s not worth it…”

Instead, she settles for pulling out her notebook, being careful not to beg the attention of Ms. Clifford- who’s all but asleep at this point, and then gets a pencil.

She starts just drawing Luna with her big stupid face and her big stupid freckles and her big stupid earrings and her big stupid skully tee…

Halfway through, she realizes she’s unhappy with her doodle. It’s too over-the-top, it’s too… cliché…

So she starts over, and makes her head a little less big, and her freckles a little more sporadic, and her earrings a little smaller, and her skully shirt a little more realistic.

Ehh… This one’s no good either.

She flips to a fresh page, and takes deep breath, feeling herself calming down just a little bit.

Doing her best to be nonchalant about it, she peeks another look at Luna, just enough to look without being obvious about it.

She’s resting her face on her free hand, her smile having waned now. She just looks normal, like- how people are supposed to look in detention.

Carol shakes it off as she realizes she’s staring again, and she returns to her drawing.

She’s much more focused this time, making sure to get a good shape for the head, and putting careful consideration into how her bangs look. She makes sure to get the nose just right, and freckles in the right places where they belong. The earrings turn out realistic, if just a little disproportionate.

All the while, she sneaks little looks at her, just to be sure she’s doing a good job.

One of these little looks ends up turning into another stare. For a spaz, Luna does her makeup very well, with all the right shades and coatings in all the right places. Her eyebrows are naturally groomed, not clownishly drawn on like other girls. Her hair’s actually kind of okay too. It’s nothing Carol would ever try to pull off, but Luna actually wears it well considering what genes she has to work with.

And she’s got… brown eyes.

“What the heck am I doing?! Why are you staring at her?! Why are you drawing her?! STOP BEING SUCH A CREEP!”

She rips the sheet of paper off the bind, violently wads it into a ball, and tosses it like she’s pitching a softball.

And it hits Ms. Clifford right in the head.

Carol just looks up to the old woman as her heart practically stops, and Luna looks up just in time to see it all happen.

They both don fearful expressions as they anticipate what’s sure to be the ferocious backlash from a woman scorned.

But it doesn’t come.

Upon hitting the old broad, she just sort of flinches, because she’s in too deep a sleep to even realize what hit her.

Literally.

Stunned, Carol thoughtlessly looks over to Luna.

And she is dying. Her face is turning red from trying to hold in the laughter, and little tears are sweating from her eyes as she clenches with all her will to keep it in.

But it’s no use. It was too funny. She has to let these awkwardly stifled chortles escape her nose as she uses her one hand to cover her mouth, and her other to pound on the desk.

“What the heck just happened?”

She keeps looking back and forth at Luna losing it and Ms. Clifford leaning further back in her chair as drool starts to fall from her lip.

“Just when this day couldn’t get any stupider…”

Finally, Luna calms herself enough to meet Carol with some composure, but the smile doesn’t escape her face.

Oh, and her teeth are actually really white, but that’s not the point…

Luna quietly clears her throat and glances at the teacher, who’s actually snoring now, and then back to Carol with this deviously eager look on her face.

She makes a beckoning gesture to Carol, who fails to read it. Luna does it again, this time pointing to the notebook.

Carol raises a brow. “You want a piece of paper?” she asks with her eyes.

Luna excitedly nods her head, affirming this.

After a moment to consider it, Carol cautiously rips a clean sheet out of her notebook, and tepidly hands it to Luna, all while maintaining the curious look on her face.

Luna accepts it, and takes a breath before wadding it up into a ball. She checks to see that Ms. Clifford is still asleep, and well, she’s dead to the world.

With the same devious little grin as before, Luna cocks her hand back, and tosses the paper wad right at the woman’s head. It slightly jars her, making her twitch and let out a little moan, but she doesn’t wake up.

Luna’s mouth charmingly forms an O shape as she starts to grow hysterical again, this time banging her head back and forth as she bites her lip and clings onto her desk to try and retain some control.

It’s such an odd thing to watch for Ms. Carol Pingrey. In the course of just a few hours, she’s seen Luna Loud at her very worst, and at her very best. It’s not like she wanted to get to know this girl so well today, but in a way, this really isn’t so bad- watching her just enjoy herself and not try to pretend like she’s not. It’s fascinating actually.

It’s… kind of fun.

Without even really taking time to consider it, Carol just gives in to the temptation- goes with the flow, and rips another sheet of paper out of the notebook, all while making sure Ms. Clifford won’t suddenly wake up and start shaking her veiny fist at them.

Before she can wad it up into another ball though, Luna is whispering “Hey,” to her, and then making the same beckoning gesture for another sheet of paper with this brightness in her eyes.

It’s… kind of nice.

Carol actually feels her lips curving into a small little smile, and she takes the paper and rips it in half, handing part of it to Luna and keeping one for herself.

In tandem, they wad their papers up, and look to one another. Luna counts to three with her fingers, then gives the signal to fire away.

And they do, each hitting Ms. Clifford in the face, this time prompting her to let out an even louder moan and flail one her arms up- but still not waking her.

It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Luna has to burst into full-on laughter now, not even trying to contain herself. She even snorts.

And it just- it just makes Carol smile a little wider, and wider, and so wide that she’s finally laughing too. It’s awesome. She just lets it out without a care in the world. It feels so good to laugh, and she can’t even remember the last time she enjoyed herself like this. It’s just… wow.

And it’s all because of her.

-----------------------

The laughs continue as the girls make their way out of the classroom and into the hallway. They’re so carefree and full of mirth, just letting themselves get it all out of their system as they lose their breath, as their ribs begin hurting. Luna even has to wipe a tear from her eye.

They get to the end of the hall, and just look at one another for a moment with the laughing smiles on their faces.

But it gets old, and reality sinks in.

She’s Luna Loud, and she’s Carol Pingrey. They are not friends. Maybe still partners for a ridiculous class project, but definitely not friends.

Carol comes back to form as she snootily raises her chin up and crosses her arms, and Luna just sighs as she puts her hands in her pockets.

“I guess I’ll see ya later,” she says with very little enthusiasm, and she turns away and walks to the left.

Carol just watches her for a moment, narrowing her eyes and sort of grinding her teeth.

“Hmph… Yes you will, Luna Loud. Yes you will.”

With that, she turns away and walks to the right.

Chapter Text

After a long day of putting up with everyone else’s crap, particularly that of a certain someone who shall not be named; Carol makes it to her lovely home at 0312 West Sanford Street.

She lets out a tired sigh as she opens the front door of her luxurious home and flicks the lights on.

“Mom? Dad? I’m home,” She calls out.

No answer, shocker.

It’s not like she expected them to be home, they never are. But she always checks just in case.

“Pffft… Whatever.”

She makes her way through the foyer and into the kitchen. There’s a teal sticky note on the counter by some fresh dollar bills.

It reads:

Won’t be home til late, honey. Sorry! Here’s some money for take-out.

Love you, Mom and Dad xoxo

“Pshhh,” she scoffs as she discards the note in the nearest waste bin.

-----------------------

No new messages.

“What? Seriously?!”

After almost seven hours of her phone being dead, she expected to turn the thing on and be bombarded with notifications. Something from Whitney, Dana, Becky, somebody! Nope, not even a stupid email alert from Bold Navy.

“Maybe my phone’s just messed up. Dang it…”

She decides to test her theory by sending her mother a text…

Carol: Thanks for the money.

…And before she can even lock her screen, it buzzes with a response.

Mom: :D

She frowns as she puts the phone back on her end table, then she lies down in her cozy queen sized bed to just relax for a minute.

She’s used to nights alone; but normally one of the girls would call and she would just go hang out or something. But apparently they can’t be bothered to check in on her, even after serving an excruciating fifteen minute sentence in after school detention.

It didn’t help that during the drive home, she didn’t have the luxury of being able to plug her phone into the aux and jam out to songs in her playlist, and she ended up having to switch back and forth between annoying DJ’s, commercials and… Ugh… rock music.

Rock music. Luna…

“Nope! I am NOT thinking about her! She has ruined my night enough as is, and I won’t let her inconvenience me any further!”

She sits up, and takes a look outside. It’s starting to rain, despite the sun still shining bright. Then she looks her clock, and it reads 4:30.

“Okay… I’ve still got a whole day left! There’s still time to get something productive done!... Maybe one of the girls will call, or maybe Mom or Dad will even come home! Okay, they probably won’t, but whatever.”

She looks to her phone, but there are still no notifications, and the thing’s barely charged at all.

“Well… Either way… This isn’t so bad. I’ll just get caught up on homework, take a nice bath, maybe sneak in some violin practice, and then pop in a movie or something. By then someone will call, right?…”

She takes all of her things out of her book bag, and runs through her homework checklist.

“Okay, I’m caught up in World Lit and Civics, no Psyc and Soc until Andrews comes back from vacation, so that just leaves… Ugh… Trig and…”

Journalism.

She thinks back to that horrific moment in class when Mr. Sunderland announced that she’d be stuck working with… her. It was almost like her was taunting her! He knew this would all happen!

“He’s just a big fat jerk who’s jealous because he knows I’m too good for his class, and that I should just be on yearbook committee now, and he just wants to give me a hard time! That’s exactly what it is!”

Then he told those other kids about being able to embrace challenges in the real world…

“I can handle your stupid little project- I can ace it with flying colors! Heck, I’ll probably end up doing all the work, because that dorky, poser rock wannabe GOON~”

She stops, and takes deep breath.

“Okay… Maybe I’ve earned a break from homework.”

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She draws herself a nice hot bath, throwing in some rose petals and lighting a “Relaxing Aromas” candle for good measure.

She dips her toes inside, shuttering with the feeling instant nirvana, and then lets the rest of herself gracefully slip inside. She lies back and smiles.

“Yeah… This is more like it… I’ve really earned this. I put too much pressure on myself. Between always being there for my friends, and always putting my everything into my school work… Man, you really are a saint, Carol…”

She opens her eyes, and skims her fingers across the water, graciously motioning the petals around, just the loveliest little speckles on this wonderful little canvas… Not at all like Luna’s freckles~

“Ahhh!” she gasps, quickly drawing her hand back.

When she looks back down to the water, it just doesn’t seem so nice anymore. It’s been tainted by its association with…

“Ughhh…”

-----------------------

 “So much for that,” she thinks as she puts on her coziest PJ’s and heads back upstairs. She decided long ago to start rehearsing in her father’s study, since it offers a better view of the garden outside, and he’s never home anyway. So, no harm, no foul.

She takes her black case with her carefully crafted violin inside of it, and makes her way inside, getting a whiff of leather chair meets musk smell.

She deflates a bit thinking about how nice things were before Mom and Dad started working so much, but quickly snuffs those feelings to focus on her progress with her latest minuet piece: a rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime.”

She feels herself really getting into it, closing her eyes and imagining playing in front of a black tie audience in a beautiful, golden auditorium for a solo. It’s so extravagant, so- perfect.

That is, until she accidently hits this ugly C sharp note, really throwing her off. I mean, god, it was just the most awful, cringey sound… All scratchy and sudden, like Luna’s unregulated laughter after connecting with that paper wad to Ms. Clifford’s~

Frowny face.

“Nope… I’m done.”

-----------------------

“Okay, Carol… You seriously need to get a grip. You’ve had a long day, you’ve earned some R&R… Just find a movie to watch, turn your brain off a while, and forget about… Right.”

She pulls up Fletnix on her smart TV, and looks through some of the featured films and shows.

There’s a lot of crap she just doesn’t care for: stand-up from washed up comedians, that one prison show with all the lesbians, whatever the heck Weirder Things is, and stupid Princess Pony: The Magic of Acquaintances.

She’d like to check out some of the new anime, but has this childish fear that somebody will walk in on her and catch her watching cartoons.

And then there’s all the movies she’s watched a billion times before, like Mean Girls, that will bore her to actual death if she tries to watch them again.

“Ugh… Come on… Give me something good!”

As she scrolls through, she sees the thumbnail for the newest Mick Swagger documentary. The guy’s like, seventy years-oldest-old, and still acts like he’s a drunken college student. What’s even more sad, is that there are people out there that actually still buy into his crap: the head banging, the throwing up the goats, the duck walking, the sticking out the tongue, and worst of all, dressing up like it’s still 1969…

People like…

She quickly moves along, and comes across the timeless classic: The Most Important Meal of The Day Club. She’s never actually watched it, despite lying to some guy named Michael about it last week to try and impress him.

“Hmmm… Maybe I’ll give it a try.”

She selects the thumbnail, and sees a new image of the cast. There’s the stereotypical 80’s jock, bad boy, pretty girl…

“I’d so be her.”

…geeky boy, and girl that wears punk clothes and has short hair and freckles and wait a minute, er mah gerd, what are those, paperclip earrings?

She shakes her head, hoping it’s just her imagination, and it is, thank god. This punk girl’s just wearing regular loser earrings. It’s just everything else that makes her a spitting image of Lun- uh… Lord Voldemort.

She backs out, and see a romantic comedy about a lesbian couple. The reviews are almost all good, and the stars are pretty good actresses; but she feels weird about the idea of watching it by herself. Like, it’d be one thing if she was watching with someone else, because then she could feel comfortable enough with her sexuality to recognize that she’s straight, and she’d have someone there to reassure her. But watching it by herself just feels… Not right.

“The heck with it,” she says, despondently tossing the remote to the side, calling it quits.

-----------------------

She returns to her cell phone to see that it is almost fully charged, which is great. She also sees that everyone is apparently too busy to talk to her, because she still has no new notifications.

Which is not great.

She just grits her teeth as she imagines all the colorful words she’ll say to her friends tomorrow, but then realizes: it’s the 21st century!

She can just creep on them!

She hurries over to her laptop and boots it up, impatiently grumbling to herself some of those colorful words because the stupid thing won’t work fast enough. But, slowly enough, she’s able to get on all of her social media profiles, and puts her forensic creeping skills to work.

Becky’s been absent from anything since posting that one selfie with the girls, where Carol looked better than everyone else with her bright, lovely smile as the others must’ve gotten the sun in their eyes or something- because they all looked a little uncomfortable.

Dana’s threads are full of pictures of clothes that aren’t all that slimming or even cute, and childish memes that are the definition of cringey. But, they’re all from earlier in the day, so she must be working…

Then there’s Whitney… Oh yeah, that Whitney… It wasn’t enough for her to basically sic Luna on her tail this morning, but then she had the audacity to act like she had no part in the conversation? Like it was only Carol saying those things?!...

And that’s not even the worst part. Of course she’s not hanging out with Carol tonight, because she’s too busy hanging out with Lori!

“Traitor…”

She considers sending her an angry text message about how she could have been a decent enough human being to apologize for her involvement in Luna’s attack, or at the very least, checked to see how detention went. Heck, she could even be a big enough person to just forget about all that, and just text her to say “Hey.”

“Nope. No way. I am not going to make myself seem desperate by texting her first. She can text me! And the same goes for Becky and Dana and everybody else!”

Despite her proclamation, she decides to travel further down the creeper hole, and looks at Lori’s profile… for reasons. After all, it’s been two days since the last time she checked, and a lot can change in forty-eight hours.

She clicks on her profile thumbnail, and finds that the only thing different between now and Tuesday is that: “Lynn makes SPICY subs. #TooSpicy #WooLordy #HotHotHot #LoudHouse.”

“How boring! Who cares about that stuff?!”

Said post has twenty-seven likes. Which is twenty-seven more than Carol’s last post. But who’s counting?

She lets her eyes wander to the “people you may know” section, just for the heck of it.

There’s Flip, the creepy old dude from the gas station, one of Bobby Santiago’s eight-dozen cousins, Carlota, and then…

“But of course! (Slaps hand on head)”

Luna… Loud…

Grumpy face.

Apparently, Luna Loud is just meant to ruin her whole day. No matter how hard she tries, she just can’t escape this chick…

She sighs. “Well… Since I’m here…”

She clicks on Luna’s thumbnail, opening up her profile page.

Just livin’ a crazy Rock n’ Roll dream! :)

Luna Loud

15

Royal Woods High School

Nothing under relationship status- shocker.

As expected, there’s tons of useless information about all things British and Mick Swagger. There’s also a bunch of crap for some band named Butthead, guitars, more grody memes, tattoo ideas- “I knew it,” a link to a fan fiction story of all things, and dry, cliché attempts at outdoor photography.

“Let’s see what other pictures you’ve got, little Ms.- Uhm… Ms… Ms. Freckle Face! HA!”

“Oh wow. She really does have a lot of sisters.”

Nine to be exact… She counts. And one creepy little brother with white hair. Yeah, she remembers him.

“That kid was weird… But I guess he’s got good taste. Even he realized I’m better than Lori.”

Pictures of weirdo family, pictures of instruments and albums, videos of song covers, more god awful memes, a few pictures with losers she calls friends…

“Crap, crap, crap, mega crap, crap… Hell-o!”

A recent selfie with a boy.

“Oooooo! Now we’re getting somewhere!”

There’s nothing in the description, so there’s no name or page to go by. She does however, recognize him from school, even vaguely remembering him walking with Luna once before.

“Huh… So maybe this is Luna’s boy toy. I’m kind of surprised. He’s not all that. I mean, she could do better. She’s not ugly, and you’d think Lori could maybe introduce her to some~”

She takes a moment to really think about what she’s doing… Which is, going through Luna Loud’s pictures on a Thursday night, alone, in her room, by herself…

“Oh my god. New low, Carol.”

She decides she’s surfed the internet enough for one night, and decides to spend the rest of her ruined evening just doing whatever.

But she knows deep down someone is bound to text, or call, or something!

So she timidly pussyfoots over to her phone, just sort of staring at it before actually picking it up and unlocking it…

And…

No new notifications.

She dejectedly sighs. This is the moment of truth: today has been a bad day.

And it makes her feel… Sad… Lonely…

While all of her other friends are out probably having fun, or enjoying time with their families, she’s standing her all alone, staring at her stupid phone…

But as she reflects upon, it wasn’t all bad.

Because, for a little while, she got have some laughs at Ms. Clifford’s expense, with Luna Loud there to enjoy it with her.

And really, she made it all possible.

“Huh…”

Then, it finally happens.

Her phones buzzes, dings, and lights up- revealing a brand new notification.

And she practically runs to it, and grabs hold of it. Realizing she’s being a total spaz though, she shakes her head, and takes a breath.

Then, slowly, she turns the phone to face her, and unlocks it.

Bold Navy Email Alert: 10% Off Shipping For Online Orders! Act Fast!

Carol tosses her phone.

“Dang it!”

 

Chapter Text

It’s dark.

Like, an empty, pitch-black dark. All around. Carol can’t see anything.

“Where am I?”

She can feel this odd mist at her feet, and suddenly, a big, bright light kicks on before her.

She shields her eyes from the sudden attack of illumination, but slowly moves her hand away as she looks to whatever beholds her.

It’s a stage, and the lights are coming from the rafters above. The mist at her feet is a white fog.

A humming sound gradually gains volume, until it’s generating a steady buzz all around her.

Then, the blackness around her dissipates, revealing a starry night.

“What the balls?”

She looks back to the stage, and finds that there is a platform rising up from the center of the stage.

On the platform is none other than Luna Loud.

She’s wearing this 80s metal-chic outfit, complete with spiked black shoulder pads and boots, and heavy black eyeliner under her eyes. She’s also equipped with a purple and white double neck guitar.

She deviously smiles, and sticks her tongue out as she throws up the goats, all while looking at Carol.

Who just meets her with the most dumbfounded of faces.

A microphone magically appears in front of Luna, and she takes it.

“Carol Pingrey!… Are you ready to ROCK?!”

“Uhm…” Carol simply utters, her jaw stupidly hanging and her pupils pathetically dilating.

Luna power strums the strings of her guitar, emitting a powerful wave of sound at Carol, cartoonishly blowing her hair and cheeks back.

Luna, still wearing that smile, waits for Carol to convalesce- which sort of happens as she regains her posture and dumbfounded expression.

Apparently it’s good enough, because she then proceeds to shred.

And, oh em gee, it’s the most horrible thing ever. Carol literally has to cover her ears to block out the abysmal sounds of the cranked-up-to-110 amplifiers ringing out their distorted sounds of bat-chick crazy Luna Loud getting bat-chick crazy Luna Loud loud.

“For cryin’ out loud! Please make it stop!”

And suddenly, it does.

Carol looks up to Luna, who meets her with a concerned wince. Somehow, she’s managed to go back to her normal looking self- free of spikes and black.

She lets out a thoughtful little “Hmmm,” placing her finger to her chin. Then, she brightens up as she snaps her fingers and smiles.

She extends her hand out to Carol, inviting her to take it.

She cringes. “Ah! What?” she cries, not even realizing she’s flailed her hands out.

Luna grabs one, and pulls her up. “Hey! Wait a-!”

Once Carol’s feet touch the floor of the stage, everything literally changes.

No, seriously.

Gone are the stage and the starry night. In their place is a gorgeous neoclassical ballroom with gold plated columns and tiles and trusses and… Ahhhh… It’s just beautiful.

She then realizes she’s wound up in a fancy light blue dress and heels, and her hair is coiffed up magnificently, like a princess. “What the-?”

Luna clears her throat, begging for her attention.

Carol grants it to her, and wakefully perks up upon seeing the rocker.

She’s wearing a stunning purple dress with sparkles, and her paperclip earrings have been replaced by amethysts. She bats her eyes at Carol, and again holds out her hand for her to take it.

Stunned, Carol presses the fingertips of her left hand to her chest, feeling the rate of her heart increasing, and a long, hitched breath entering her lungs.

Luna just keeps smiling at her, in a way that’s so sinisterly wicked and dirty and full of intent…

But all the while, sweet and endearing, warm and inviting, charming…

Timidly, Carol offers her right hand.

And before she realizes it, she’s being whisked away onto the dance floor- into Luna’s arms.

They waltz along to a mesmerizing minuet, harmonizing with the melody.

The only perturbing comes from Luna pulling a wad of paper out of who knows where, and tossing it at Ms. Clifford, who’s sleeping at her desk in the distance. And of course, the old broad doesn’t even flinch.

Carol can feel her fluttering heart relaxing, and her breaths becoming heavier. Luna’s fingers are smooth and nimble enough that, at first, she doesn’t even notice them against her hip.

But she comes to realize just how warm and comforting they are, just like the soft hand she’s joined with her own.

And then, they meet eyes.

Luna’s smile now pleas for absolute trust, conveying the sincerest of intentions. Her cheeks are just a little rosy with the chiaroscuro of the ballroom, and her brown eyes are glossy and full of mirth.

They actually, seriously, literally are twinkling.

And it makes Carol feel this swelling in her chest, like her heart might drop. But it’s not at all a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite a wonderful sensation, one she realizes she’s always secretly hoped for, but couldn’t possibly fathom until this very moment.

But then, Luna breaks away. She averts her eyes, and lets go.

And yet, she still smiles.

It’s not as lively as before, but it’s still there, softly resting on her face as she flows toward an outside balcony.

“Wait!” Carol almost desperately blurts out, but these conflicting feelings in her chest won’t let her voice it.

She follows Luna out, and sees her lean up against the railing of the balcony, looking out to the white full moon.

She leans her face against her hand, and lets out a sigh, still wearing this soft smile.

She looks back to Carol for a moment, just enough to show her she won’t forget about her, but then returns her focus to the moon.

Carol doesn’t know why, but she feels- empathy for her. Not really a sorrowful feeling, but- something else. Something that makes her want to talk to her, laugh with her, comfort her…

Be close to her…

She doesn’t fight it. She doesn’t want to. She just lets herself give in to this feeling, and without really thinking about it, carefully steps over to Luna.

Gently, she spoons her arms around her waist, and gives her a soft little squeeze as she rests her face on her back.

It’s so comfortable and easy, like this is just how things are supposed to be. Carol, Luna…

Luna tilts her head back just a bit, cocking an amorous little grin. She raises her left hand up, and delicately wraps it behind Carol’s neck, her palm warmly pressing against her skin.

Carol raises her head up from her back to look to her face. Luna slowly turns her head back just enough to meet her gaze, her smile waning with the vehement sharing of euphoria.

And slowly, ever so slowly, Carol feels her eyelids heavying, and her lips quivering. She realizes too that, Luna’s doing just the same.

She leans in, and…

-----------------------

She wakes up to the dreadful buzzing of her morning alarm. The thing goes off maybe six or seven times before it finally registers that she’s supposed to get her fat butt out of bed and start her Friday.

She lets out a graceless, zombie like groan, “Bruuuuuhhh…” before finally slapping the snooze button. She just lays there for a minute, trying to convalesce, trying to remember what wonderful dream she was having.

Sadly, it’s lost as she begins thinking about her morning routine.

First, there’s brushing her teeth. Next, there’s showering. Then, there’s getting dressed. Then, there’s breakfast: a veggie wrap. Sporadically through the process, there’s checking her phone for new notifications, but there’s nothing but stupid alerts from Bold Navy- which apparently won’t let her unsubscribe, and a text from Dad.

Sorry I missed you last night, Care Bear. Have a great day!

Slanted frown face.

“Oh well, life goes on,” she tells herself as she grabs the keys to her BMW and makes her way out.

She gets about halfway through her commute before finally coming to red light long enough to hook some music up to the aux, a little Chain Algorithm.

About three seconds into the song, she remembers. The image of her slow dancing with Luna Loud violently flashes before her eyes, all leading up to her joining her on the balcony, and-

“…Oh my god… Ewwwwwww!”

HONK HONK

Green light.

But she still can’t move. She’s frozen. By some sick and twisted twist of sick fate, she actually had a dream about getting all romantic with her, and she was really enjoying it too! As if she had a choice to?!

The disgusted look on her face remains as her playlist shuffles into 2Cello’s version of Thunderstruck.

HOOONK HOOONK

Light’s still green, jerk behind her’s still honking his or her horn.

She finally snaps out of it long enough to resume driving, and does so in dumb shock until she’s made it to Royal Woods High School.

Rather than pulling into the parking lot and meeting with her friends as she normally would, she finds a place along one of the side streets, and parks there.

For a moment, she just sits there in silence, really thinking this thing over, really stewing on and attempting to make some sense of it…

Which…

“AHHHHHHHHHH!” she screams, ala the Edvard Munch painting.

She frantically leans back against her seat, clutching onto her chest as her heart races a hundred miles an hour.

“NO! No, no, no, no, no!... That did not happen! That did not mean anything!... So what if I had a dream about her? One like that?... It’s just a stupid dream?! IT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING!” she tries to explain to herself.

Outside, a man walking his terrier meets her with a concerned eyebrow raise.

So does the dog.

She scowls at them, and they both quickly look away.

And she returns to her monologue.

“I can’t do this… I can’t be partners with her… Even if it means risking yearbook committee, I have to tell Sunderland I’m backing out. I’m not going to be able to survive this thing…”

She despondently rests her face in her hand, the frantic excitement waning into a feeling of shameful sorrow.

“Oh my god… It’s bad enough I had a dream about a girl… But it had to be about her?”

 

Chapter Text

With a heavy heart, Carol makes her way through the halls of Royal Woods High, uncharacteristically hanging her head low the whole way and pretending not to see all the people meeting her with dubious eyes.

As they raise their eyebrows at her, she can almost feel their judgement. “That’s the girl who dreams about Luna Loud…”

She runs into Becky and Dana, who are all smiles until she comes along. At first, they look at her with discomfort, maybe because of gastrointestinal distress or something, and then concern.

“Hey Carol,” Becky weakly greets.

“Everything okay?” Dana asks.

She almost doesn’t respond, but she knows she has a reputation as a leader and an all-around upstanding citizen to uphold. So, she puts her metaphorical big girl panties on, straightens up, and shakes off the doubt.

“I am fine, thank you Dana,” she dogmatically states, holding her chin up high with a dignified expression.

Neither girl says anything in return, but whatevs. She said something, and she’s happy with it, so she continues along while Becky and Dana just shrug to one another.

-----------------------

Her heart begins pounding as she approaches the journalism room. She stops outside, seeing that she’s alone, and just takes another moment to walk through the scenario in her mind.

She’ll go in, and that trashy Luna Loud will be leaning her feet up on the table and chewing on a toothpick while she snidely laughs with the other losers. Carol will shoot her a dirty look, and then she’ll confidently make her way over to Mr. Sunderland, who’s had way too much Burpin’ Burger lately from the looks of his ungroomed face and his gut falling out of his polo.

She’ll slam her books down on his desk, catching everyone by surprise.

And fearlessly, she will tell him: “Mr. Sunderland, I refuse to work with Luna any longer! She is a troublemaker, and she will only hold me and everyone else in the journalism program back.”

He’ll stupidly think it over, and the lightbulb will eventually go off.

“You are absolutely right, Ms. Pingrey! Luna is holding this program back, and it is in everyone’s best interest that she be dropped from the course, and Royal Woods High, immediately!”

Then Luna will meet him with a stupefied guffaw. “You can’t be serious, dude?!”

“Oh, I am,” Mr. Sunderland will reply. “Security!”

They’ll instantly arrive, and hover over trashy Luna.

“Escort this scalawag out of the building at once!”

They’ll take her by the arms, and proceed to drag her out by her feet.

“Nerrrr! Please! I know I’m really stupid and annoying, but my weirdo family already puts up with me enough! NOOOOO!”

Then, everyone will smile at Carol.

“Ms. Pingrey, I am deeply sorry for having put you through all of this nonsensicalness. Henceforth, I am proclaiming that you shall be transferred into the yearbook program, starting right now!” Mr. Sunderland will announce.

And everyone will cheer, and pile around Carol, and hip and hooray…

That’s how it should go, anyway, but there’s only one way to find out.

So, with one last deep breath, Carol makes her way inside.

First, she looks to Mr. Sunderland, who’s actually just shaved and trimmed his hair, and is free from perspiration.

Then, she looks to Luna. Her feet are on the floor, and she’s sitting quietly at her desk with several papers laid out before here.

Nonchalantly, Carol wanders her eyes over for a peek.

She’s got her journalism textbook open, with several passages highlighted, some blue, some yellow. In her notes, she’s got ideas written down for article topics, some scratched out, others circled. She’s even printed out some articles to use as templates, and one on “how to take the perfect picture with your cell phone.”

It’s… A lot more than Carol expected.

Luna finally notices her, and looks up from her notes to meet her with a brief, apathetic gaze, just enough to acknowledge her presence.

Carol just stands there for a moment, running through that scenario in her head once more. With these unforeseen discrepancies, she decides to wait a bit before asking Mr. Sunderland to back out of her pairing with Luna.

And with that, she takes her seat.

“Alright class, it’s 8:00. I know you’re eager for your weekend to get started, but we’ve still got all day to get all sorts of work done, and I’m feeling particularly antsy today- so let’s get to it,” Mr. Sunderland declares as he walks to the front of the class.

“Now, I’m hoping that by now you’ve at least had a conversation with your project partner about getting started on your work,” he continues, and Carol glances over to Luna. She just indifferently glances back with her arms crossed, then returns her attention to the teacher.

And it makes Carol feel… weird. Bad, almost.

“That’s my hope anyway, but I know how students think, believe it or not… So, that being said, I’ve decided to give you guys today to get started on your projects. We’ll put off the next lecture until Monday- I know, boo hoo; and you guys can feel free to use the computers to get some ideas put together and maybe even begin researching your topic…”

The other students exchange looks at one another, then coyly start to get up and get seated with their partners.

Everyone, except for Luna and Carol.

“Now remember, I want to see APA style citations, I don’t care what Miss Go and those nerds in the English department tell you,” he quips. “And feel free to ask me questions. That’s why we’re doing this today, so that you can ask me for help if you get stuck or just need my super valuable opinion… Alright, get to work!”

Carol just looks to Luna, and she just looks back.

There’s something different about her today. She’s not annoyingly chipper, trying too hard to make everybody pay attention to her. No, she’s just here to get something done, here to do what she’s supposed to do.

“I guess she wears her big girl panties too…”

While getting lost in her monologue, Carol fails to realize the impatient look coming to Luna’s face, and the eye roll and sigh that accompany it.

She stands up, and starts collecting all of her things- the notebooks, the articles, the textbook; and makes her way to Carol.

Carol just aloofly watches on as she occupies the seat beside her, and carefully places her supplies on the desk.

For a moment, Luna just looks at her with more apathy.

Then, she softly sighs through her nostrils, and starts laying her notes out for Carol to see.

“Okay, so, I sat down after detention last night and looked at some things we could do for our article,” she begins.

Carol continues looking at her with the same puzzled, stunned, dumb expression. Luna just disregards it and keeps going, being sure to maintain some eye contact as she does.

“So, the first thing I was thinking was, we could do something on school lunches and how they compare to prison food. Like, I guess that’s a hot topic right now or something. Another thing I looked at was about all these YouTube challenges that get kids hurt. Like, I could even interview some of my sisters about it, because they’re in elementary and middle school, ya know?”

The last twenty-four hours have been chock-full of surprises, most involving Luna. See, Carol was under the impression that her head was full of bad music and references to English culture, but apparently, she’s smart. At least, smart enough to put some work in and help her get an A on this project.

So she decides to hear her out.

“Go ooooon…” she simply says, relaxing a little bit.

Luna just meets her incredulous gaze for a moment, then gets back to business. “Well, I think we could make those topics work, but I had one more I wanted to run by you…” she says, somewhat steeling herself.

She puts forward a printout of an article about some famous photographers, including Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Richard Avedon- who just happens to be a personal hero of Carol’s. She does her very best not to just totally spaz out about it, but she can’t help but let her eyes widen at the pleasant surprise.

“I thought maybe we could look at some famous photographers, and sort of do a commemorative piece on their styles and how they all compared with one another. You know Sunderland would eat it up, but it might be a little tougher than the other ones.”

“It’s brilliant! Oh my god, Luna- why didn’t you say so sooner?” she’s tempted to say.

But… she remembers who she’s talking to. And more importantly, she remembers who she isn’t compared to Carol Pingrey.

So she dramaturgically hides her excitement, putting on a well enough poker face that says: “I’m going to need more than that, freshman.”

“Hmmm… It might work. But we’d have to be careful with how we approach it. We don’t want to come off as kiss-ups, or like we know more than we really do,” she says with poise.

“That was really good! Yeah!” Carol congratulates herself.

Luna seems to accept her criticism, as she softly nods. “Alright, I hear ya,” she simply says.

“Alright… I hear ya…” Carol repeats in her head.

“Oh my god seriously what the crap you imbecile that’s all you’ve got? I was actually starting to think you were capable of forming coherent thoughts! GRRRR!”

Most people would snap on this buffoon right here, right now, and run down all the reasons why she should never speak again.

But most people are not Carol Pingrey. She’s got more decorum than that; she’s more mature and well-educated than the average Jane or John Doe.

So, she takes a deep breath through her nostrils, and carefully considers how she’ll respond to such an imprudent statement.

“What even made you think of that topic idea?” she asks.

There. It’s not quite condescending, but enough to elicit some critical thinking.

Luna dons a somewhat somber expression.

“Actually, uh… I remember hearing you say something about how much you liked Avedon’s work at the beginning of the year, so I thought I’d try something we’d both be interested in,” she answers, almost guiltily.

“You like Avedon too?” Carol all but blurts out.

It catches Luna off guard, and she perks up a bit at Carol’s gawking. Upon realizing just how uncool and dorky her “You like Avedon too?” was, she quickly bucks up.

“Uhm, I mean- you like his work as well?” she reiterates. “Nice save, Pingrey.”

“Uhh, actually, I didn’t really know who he was until I looked him up… But he does have some cool portraits of the Beats,” Luna answers, a little smile curving on her lips.

Again, Carol finds herself experiencing a debilitating amount of cognitive dissonance. It’s like, deep down, this Loud chick has some potential. She seems to appreciate photography to a degree, and, perhaps more importantly, putting the work in to get the best grade possible.

But, then she says stuff like “The Beats.” Or, “I hear ya.” And then there’s her clothes, and those ridiculous earrings. She’s like the personification of a really bad tattoo on someone beautiful; “Just why?”

“I… see…” Carol utters, and she lets her eyes wander to the various notes scattered in front of her.

“Best to accentuate the positives…”

On Luna’s list of topic proposals, which is actually written with above average legible handwriting, there are the three ideas she’s already expressed aloud, and one scratched out option.

Carol raises a brow. “What’s this one?” she asks, pointing to it.

Luna lets out a “Huh?” before it registers just what Carol’s pointing at. When it finally does, she grows visibly tense.

“That? Oh, it’s nothing, dude. Don’t worry about it…”

Which of course translates in stereotypical high school girl to “Worry about it.”

“No, seriously. What is it?” Carol assertively eggs on.

And Luna deflates, letting a despondent expression come to her face. “I was thinking we could do something on guitarists, but I figured you’d probably say no, so I didn’t bother.”

Carol’s eye begins twitching. It’s like she’s been possessed.

Luna picks up on her change on demeanor, feeling herself tense up again.

“Uhm… Carol? You good?” she asks.

And it’s like her concern only creates more cause for it, because Carol’s whole face is peevishly quivering, like she’s about to literally explode.

Or maybe just figuratively.

“THAT’S IT! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” she madly hollers, earning her looks from everyone in the classroom.

It’s about to get real.

...

“I cannot work under these conditions! I won’t!... Mr. Sunderland!” she calls out, and he’s quick to make his way over.

“Is everything alright, Carol?” he asks with sincerity.

“No- everything is not alright. I’ve been trying my absolute hardest to be mature and patient about this whole thing, but I am at my wit’s end!” she proclaims.

Luna just watches on with great trepidation.

“Okay… What’s the matter?” Mr. Sunderland calmly asks.

Carol can’t help but snarl. It is literally beyond her control at this point to not hold back just a little bit of her pent up frustration.

“I can’t work with Luna!… Not in here!”

She looks at her with a gaze of intent, one that practically burns. Then, she shifts it their teacher, and he feels its smoldering too.

“May we please go to the library to work?”

Everyone looks at her with genuine surprise. That’s certainly not what they expected to hear, perhaps Luna most of all.

Mr. Sunderland is no exception though. “Uhm… Okay? I suppose that would be alright… But, we do have computers readily available in here. And you might need to run something by me… Are you sure about this?”

Carol continues glowering at him, but then crosses her arms and huffily sticks her chin up. “Yes, Mr. Sunderland. I am sure. This room is just too stressful for me right now, and I need somewhere more spacious to focus on my work.”

The teacher looks to Luna. “Is… this okay with you, Luna?”

She meets him with doe eyes, feeling all sorts of conflicted. She glances back and forth at him, his eyes almost begging for permission to rescue her from some sort of imminent danger, and Carol, who just scowls at her while crossing her arms.

Finally, she answers him. “Uh huh,” she simply utters with a little nod.

It almost saddens him- like he failed to save her. “Well, then I guess you guys are free to go… Just- I hope you’ll use this time to actually get some work done…”

“Yeah, me too…” Luna quietly says.

Sunderland walks away, leaving Luna to bear Carol’s judging gaze.

When she looks up to meet her blue eyes, something changes, but she isn’t sure what. It’s like she maybe scored some sort of victory with the way she proudly sits up straight, but then she’s still morosely crossing her arms.

Carol starts collecting her things, shooting a glare at Luna as she does that says “let’s GO.”

Luna snaps out of her daze, and follows Carol’s lead, grabbing all of her notes and making her way out the door just behind her.

-----------------------

Once out in the hallway, Carol is sure to keep a steady pace that’s just fast enough to keep ahead of Luna. God forbid people think they’re walking together.

But she doesn’t make it easy. “Hey, wait!” she calls out, hurrying to catch up.

Groan.

“What?” Carol sternly responds, refusing to unfix her forward gaze.

“What was that about?” Luna asks.

“It’s nothing to worry about now. I’d just rather work somewhere quieter, that’s all,” she tartly answers, picking up the pace again to outrace Luna, who distressfully shakes her head to herself before following along.

And it would appear Carol has some time to breathe.

“Okay, good… This gives me a little break from her at least…”

“I’ll work with her, fine… But only because she has half a brain compared to all the other dillholes I could get stuck with. It isn’t because we’re friends, and it isn’t because I like her. Not in any way, shape, or form. This is strictly business…”

She neurotically glances back to see Luna has fallen behind a comfortable distance, far enough to let her feel safe in her own little bubble.

But she’s quick to turn back around like she didn’t.

“I SO better get an A for this.”

Chapter Text

 

Carol is first to step into the library, not even stopping to have a look around at the entrance like a normal person would.

Not that Carol isn’t a normal person… I mean, obviously she is. It’s just… Luna’s behind her, being geeky and creepy and all and well, you know.

So she just sort of plants herself at the first available computer she can find, taking a deep breath as she sits down in the chair.

“Okay, Carol… You can do this. You survived owning that really mean Corgi for two weeks, so you can handle anything! Especially this silly old project… I mean, yes, Luna is pretty dreadful company- but she’s capable. So, like I said before… Accentuate the positives.”

Almost as soon as she finishes this relaxing little mental pep talk to herself, Luna is sitting her grody butt down in the seat beside of her, her chair making an awful screeching sound against the floor as she pulls it out.

She turns to look at her, and she’s got this dumb, embarrassed look on her face; but she eventually manages to complete the would-be simple task of sitting down in a flippin’ chair.

And it makes Carol’s blood pressure rise right back up.

Luna just nervously, sickly half-grins as she turns on her computer. As she waits for it to boot up, she readies all of the notes and articles from before, focusing on her monitor, and trying- but failing to not make it obvious that she keeps glancing at Carol out of the corner of her eye.

It’s bothersome, yes, but the sooner this project gets done, the sooner she can get on with her life.

So, Carol grins (as if) and bears it, doing her best to do the same.

“Uhm… so, what topic did you want to do? The photographers’ one?” Luna coyly asks.

“Oh my god if you’re going to ask a question don’t be such a dweeb about it. Just ask! It’s not like I’ll bite your head off!”

Carol shoots her an unenthused glare, one that earns her a confused look back.

But she eases up, reminding herself of her little mantra. “Accentuate the positives.”

“…Yes, but I have an idea on how to go about it,” Carol says with a forced calm demeanor.

“Uhm… Okay?” Luna utters.

“Since you don’t know as much about these people as me, I was thinking you could work on getting PointerPoint slides ready and a bibliography while I find interesting data. You can do that, can’t you?” Carol explains.

It rubs Luna the wrong way. “Dude…”

“What?” Carol rebuts, already annoyed again.

“That means you’ll basically be doing all the work?” Luna follows up with chagrin.

“Duh,” Carol wants to say… but she holds her tongue.

“It does not? Look, you said you saw some of Avedon’s shots of- uh- The Beatles, or whatever. Maybe you can find some portraits for us to reference, or something.”

Luna just shakes her head with disgust. “Why are we even in here?”

“Uhm, to work on the project?”

“No, I mean- why did we have to leave class for you tell me this crap?”

Carol scoffs. “It isn’t crap. I know photography, okay? My parents own a studio…”

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Luna retorts, crossing her arms and leaning her chair back with her foot against the wall.

Grumpy face.

“Because- ugh- I needed time to think?”

“…You could have done that back there,” Luna coolly responds.

Carol’s scowling now. “Look- I just, was getting distracted by everything in there. And what does it matter?!”

“Shhhh!”

The girls look to see the librarian, Ms. Valentine, frowning at them with a book in her hands.

They just kind of accept the warning, and return to their friendly conversation.

“Can we please get to work now?” Carol sardonically asks

Luna just shrugs and rolls her eyes as she gets back to work.

For a little while, Carol’s able to lose herself in finding some interesting database entries on some of her favorite photographers, like Avedon and Robert Capa.

“You know, for a schmo, Luna did come up with a good topic… Not that I’ll tell her that…”

“Huh… She says she remembers me saying something about Avedon at the beginning of the year… I wonder what else she remembers about me, or stuff she knows I know that I don’t realize she knows, no?”

She can’t help it, she has to creep.

She just barely glances at Luna from the corner of her eye, not really able to see what she’s looking at on her monitor, but seeing that- whatever it is, it must be interesting enough that she’s managed to stop looking at her like some sort of weirdo.

But just how interesting? Carol has to know.

And what do you know? Luna’s actually doing what she was told- looking at some of Avedon’s old portraits.

“Heh… I half expected her to be looking at some guitars or something. Or pictures of MICK SWAGGER TEE HEE HEE!...”

“Or something else that’s stupid… Like tattoo ideas…”

Grrrr. The temptation is too real. “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Carol actually turns her head now, fully looking at Luna. It takes her a second to notice, but when she does, she looks back with an estranged expression.

“What?”

“Do you have a tattoo?” Carol bluntly asks.

“Uhh… No?” Luna responds with a look.

“Don’t patronize me,” Carol bluntly follows up.

“Dude?!” is all Luna can really think to say. Like Carol stepped over a boundary or something.

“I was just asking… You didn’t have to be snippy about it…” she reasons, returning her focus to her research.

And Luna actually has the audacity to grin as she shakes her head. Like Carol’s her clown or something!

“What?” she barks.

“Nothing.”

“No- it’s not nothing. Tell me!” Carol demands.

Luna just keeps grinning as she meets her with another look.

“…You’ve seriously got to ease up, dude. You’ve got a major stick up your butt.”

What… The actual… Heck…

“Did she just say what I THINK she said?”

“Uhm… excuse me?!”

And she keeps stupidly grinning like this is some sort of stupid game, when it’s not!

“Forget it…”

“No! You just said-”

“SHHHH!” Ms. Valentine shushes again, this time with an even less enthusiastic glower.

But whatever. This girl just said Carol’s got a stick up her butt, and she’s gonna let her have it.

“I do not have a stick up my butt,” she harshly whispers.

And Luna actually chuckles. She chuckles?!

“…Uhh, I hate to break it to you, dude… But you really do. Everybody thinks so.”

Blank expression of total disbelief (all while a blazing inferno rises in the chest).

“What’s that supposed to mean? Who’s everybody?!” Carol bites back, doing her best to be quiet and aggressive.

“I thought you wanted to get to work?” Luna responds, still smirking like an idiot. She’s just toying with her now.

“Not until you tell me who all says I have a stick up my butt!”

Luna’s smile finally wanes, and she rubs her forehead. “Look man, my bad. Don’t worry about it. Nobody said you have a stick up your butt. I was just messing around… So can we please just work on our project now?”

“Oh… I see right through you, DUDE! You’re just saying nobody said I have a stick up my butt so I’ll drop it! Well fine! I’ll drop it! But not because I’m over it, and NOT because you want me to! The sooner we finish this ridiculous project, the sooner I never have to work with your stupid freckled face EVER AGAIN!”

With that, Carol just wrathfully squints her eyes, burning Luna with her gaze just to show that this discussion is far from over, then reluctantly turns to her screen and preservers.

She’s just the bigger person like that.

And while she’d really like to think about what makes the black and white portraiture of Richard Avedon so unique compared to the gritting World War II work of Robert Capa, she just can’t.

“Who is everybody?”

“…Okay, so obviously Lori. I mean, she acted like we could be friends after that stuff with the selfies… and then she went back to being a total baby just because I told her she could lose a little weight? Like, I’d want someone to tell me if my butt looked big in cargo shorts? Not that I’d ever wear cargo shorts…”

“But who else? Who has she gotten to besides Luna? Does she talk about me with Whitney? And what about Becky and Dana, and all the other girls?”

“HUAH! And what if she’s got her whole family in on it?! What if they all go around saying things about me to everyone they know? Like that I have a stick up my-?!”

...

Skin to skin contact. Luna touches Carol’s arm.

“Dude.”

It’s just the tiniest little tap- just to get her attention. But it was her hand on her arm.

Like- what the heck?! She touched her?!

With the inferno inside of her now blazing into a tornado of hellfire, Carol slowly turns to face her.

And she’s just trying so hard to look sooo innocent. Like nooothing’s wrong.

“Look at this,” she says, pointing her fatty finger at her computer screen to show her some stupid Lookipedia article.

“I found a cool article on the history of portraiture. Like, maybe we could work some history into our article?”

If there was ever a time to just literally make someone spontaneously combust-

“Uh, Carol?” she says, still trying to act like she’s such a goody-goody do-no-wrong.

Well, Carol Pingrey knows better than anyone…

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.

“Did you just touch me?” she asks, her eye almost twitching.

“…Uhhh?”

“Why did you just touch me?!” Carol asks again, her voice getting louder.

“Uh, sorry dude. Can you keep it down?” Luna pleas.

“She’s such a faker.”

“What is your problem with me?!” Carol finally snaps.

And Luna… “What?! I should be asking you that?”

“Oh, don’t turn this around on me!”

“Dude- I literally heard you talking smack about me at your locker the other day! And I didn’t even do anything to you!”

“Oh, grow up! As if you’ve never talked bad about me behind my back. I bet you and Lori and all the rest of your cliché gimmick Loud family siblings just love telling everyone how much you don’t like me! Well, it’s only because you’re all jealous!”

Luna just guffaws. “Do you even hear yourself right now? I barely even know you?!”

“Ha ha! Don’t play dumb with me, Luna Loud! I know exactly who you are and exactly what you’re up to! You just know I’m the smartest and prettiest girl in school, and it eats you up! So you go out of your way to answer all of Mr. Sunderland’s question and kiss his fat butt, and play the little miss sweet, and the poser wannabe rock star- all just so you can feel like you’re better than me!”

Luna is pretty good at acting like she’s shocked, because she actually looks like she’s stunned.

“Carol- none of that is true at all. Why would I bother?”

And never in her life has Carol been on the verge of going full-on Jack Torrance on someone like she is now.

“That’s the part I’m trying to figure out!- Why you would be so cruel?! Like, okay, I said some mean things about you- but whatever! That’s no reason to like- have this vendetta against me!”

And Luna is speechless to that. “I’ve got her now.”

“So tell me right now Luna… What is your problem with me, why did you touch me, and WHY DO YOU THINK THAT I HAVE A STICK UP MY BUTT?!”

“Ahem,” Ms. Valentine clears her throat, now behind the two girls.

Carol brings herself back down to Earth for a moment to give the librarian her attention.

She just holds her hands to her hips, with a very, very unhappy look on her face.

Kind of like that one burly teacher with the deep voice who gave them…

Detention… Again.

“Dang it.”

 

Chapter Text

Apparently, after school detention never changes. It’s the same boring four walls, artificial white lighting, and uncomfortable silence as the last excruciating fifteen minutes spent in here.

Which was literally yesterday!

“See, this is what happens when you try to be a nice person… People like Luna take advantage of you and make you end up having detention two days in a row. What are college recruiters going to say when they find out I’ve had so much detention?!”

Carol sharply glares at Luna, who has turned to her smartphone for- ugh… whatever who cares? It’s annoying whatever it is.

What’s even more annoying, she’s not glaring back!

“What?! You think you’re better than me because you’re ignoring me like some seven year-old? REAL MATURE LUNA!”

And then the stupid earbuds start blaring like last time, and Ms. Clifford starts snoring, and it’s all like some big stupid joke.

“I should’ve just backed out of the project when I had the chance… I let her stupid notes about Avedon make me think she’d make for a decent partner, and now I’m paying for it.”

“Hmph… I do NOT have a stick up my butt…”

And for a little while, she just sits there with her arms crossed all huffy and puffy, as the blaring from Luna and the snoring from Clifford just grows louder and more obnoxious.

And with it, all sorts of images of these miserable twenty-four hours flood her mind. Mr. Sunderland announcing their partnership, Luna backing her into that wall, that horrible, horrible dream, and…

Throwing paper at the sleeping teacher.

And you know, that one actually wasn’t so bad. It sure was better than sitting in uncomfortable silence, or arguing about how Carol has- doesn’t have a stick up her butt.

It was actually, fun…

Carol ebbs a bit, uncrossing her arms and letting them fall to her desk. Or, her notebook, actually.

A sly little smile comes to her face. “You know… We are still partners…”

She slightly rips a sheet of paper from the rungs, and looks to Luna.

Luna actually looks back to her with those brown eyes, finally breaking her focus from the screen of her phone.

But she doesn’t smile back.

No, she just meets her with the cold shoulder, then looks back to… whatever it is…

And, it’s weird… It makes Carol feel… bad.

Rejected, almost.

-----------------------

Luna and Carol quietly file out of the room, a cold comforted distance between the two of them.

Halfway down the hall, Luna stops and turns around, facing Carol with a dissatisfied frown.

Which, makes whatever this feeling is worse.

She just looks at her for a moment before beginning.

“Dude… I don’t know if I can do this… I don’t think I can be partners with you.”

Ironically enough, this would’ve been the best news ever this morning. A proverbial load off the chest.

But now, it makes her heart flutter as this unpleasant swelling takes over her chest. Like, she can kiss a really good thing goodbye.

“So, like- what? Are you gonna tell Mr. Sunderland?” Carol gets out. It’s all she can really think to say.

Luna sighs and shrugs. “I don’t know… I mean, I really don’t want to. But it’s obvious we’re not gonna be able to get along…”

Those words… Something about them reminds Carol of some things Lori Loud once said to her.

“You win, Carol.”

Yeah, Lori admitted she was wrong, and then she forgave her. I mean, it was good, it was really good. For a little while, she and Carol had a good thing going.

It didn’t last, but maybe… Just maybe… Part of that was her own fault.

And maybe… just maybe… She’s partly to blame for the way this partnership has similarly plunged into a downward spiral.

“Luna…” she starts, just to get ahead before she can say anything else to make her feel even worse.

She carefully considers how to approach this. Yes, she’s feeling some remorse, but she still isn’t… wrong.

Like, Luna said she had a stick up her butt! And that everyone else says the same thing about her! Add that to the list of things already uncool about her, and it leaves Ms. Carol Pingrey in a very delicate position.

She doesn’t need to apologize. No way… But she’s gotta say… something?

She settles for the following.

“…Look, we’ve gotten off to a rocky start. And, maybe I shouldn’t have said those things about you to Whitney. But that’s behind us!”

Luna rolls her eyes and crosses her arms, but she doesn’t leave either.

“Look, I’m willing to start over here. Like, maybe we can still try to make this partners thing work? You know I’m gonna put my all into this project, and… Well… You did take a lot of good notes.”

Luna raises a brow, easing up on the McKayla Maroney face a bit.

“So, I mean… What do you say? Still partners?” Carol asks, nervously rubbing the back of her neck with one hand, and inviting a handshake with the other.

Luna just stares at it for a moment, clearly experiencing some internal conflict.

But she uncrosses her arms, and lets out a little sigh as a small smile comes to her face.

“Alright… I guess we can still make this thing work. But you’ve gotta be cool, okay? No more saying stuff about me and my sister, and no more arguing about stuff… And I get to do some research too!”

She drives a hard bargain… But…

“Accentuate the positives.”

“Fine,” Carol says, not even realizing her own mouth has curved into a bit of a grin, too.

And with that, they shake hands, cementing their truce.

“Hmm. Her hand’s pretty soft, actually. I wonder what kind of lotion she uses…”

When they let go, they find themselves sort of just awkwardly standing there for a moment, not really looking at one another or anything in particular, just kind of thinking about where to go from here.

Luckily, Luna breaks the silence first.

“So… I should probably get your cell number so we can keep in touch with this thing. Like, if we have questions about stuff.”

It takes another awkward moment to register, but it makes its way inside of Carol’s cerebral cortex soon enough.

“Oh! Uh, right…”

Luna takes out her phone, punches in some digits, and reaches it out to Carol- displaying a blank contact page.

Carefully, ever so carefully- Carol takes it. “Okay, I know we’re good and all now, but this is like- woah.”

When she holds it up to look into it, seeing that bright empty contact screen, all these other ideas and thoughts come to mind.

“How many contacts does she have? How many friends? Is that guy her boyfriend? Has she had boyfriends? A lot? A little? Would she notice if I peeked? Probably- I mean you’d think she’d notice. But then again, she’s probably not that intuitive. Wait! Yes she is! She’s smart, that’s right! That’s why we’re here now! Because she’s smart and we can probably~”

“Uhm, Carol?” Luna says, interrupting her monologue.

She just looks up to her with nebulous expression. “Huh?”

“Are you good?” she asks, maybe with a little connotative suspicion.

“What? Oh, yeah… The screen just got laggy, heh heh,” Carol fibs with a nervous laugh.

“Smooth thinkin’ Carol.”

And she finally punches in all the characters for her name, and all the digits for her number- even double checking to make sure they’re correct. They are.

She almost freezes again though, contemplating whether or not she should put an emoji by her name, and if so- what kind. She decides it’s probably not worth it though, so she hands the phone back to Luna.

“Alright, cool. I’ll text you in a bit,” Luna says with another little smile.

And again, awkwardness.

“So, I guess I’m gonna head out of here now…” Luna says. “I’ll check ya later, C.”

It’s not the most sophisticated of farewells, but it’s well enough. Even Carol knows when to let petty things go.

“Au revoir,” she responds with a soft little wave.

And, apparently, Luna doesn’t understand what that means. Her face says so, anyway.

“Uh… Ah rey what?”

Carol very subtly scoffs through her nose, not enough to make it seem flat out condescending.

“It’s French. It means good-bye,” she says, maintaining her smile.

And Luna smiles back with an affirming nod. “Oh… I gotcha. Well, see ya later,” she says with a wave, and she turns to leave.

…Leaving Carol standing alone in the hallway, just sort of thinking about things for a moment.

“Hmmm…”

-----------------------

“Finally! I thought I’d die in there… Oh well… Thank god it’s Friday!” Carol thinks as she pulls out her phone to go through some of her notifications. No text messages, surprisingly, but a couple likes for Bookface posts and things of that nature. And Bold Navy of course. “I really need to figure out how to block them.”

As she makes her way outside and into the front lawn of Royal Woods High, she overhears some familiar voices speaking: Dana, Whitney, and Becky. She looks to seem them hanging out on the steps of the main entrance, smiling and laughing at something.

“Hmph. Too good to text me now, guys? Well, we’ll just see about that,” she huffs, but she keeps cool as she begins to walk over. They are her best friends after all.

She nearly reaches the steps, and is about to make herself known with a “Hey guys;” but is cut off by a really excited Becky.

“…I know! I mean, just think if it was like this everyday? I almost feel bad for feeling so good!” she says with a laugh.

“Pshhh, don’t. It’s not like any of us are gonna disagree…” Dana chimes in.

“Yeah, it’s actually been pretty nice not having Carol around,” Whitney adds.

Sad face.

Carol just hides by the brick wall of the school, making sure her friends won’t see her listening in as they… talk about her…

“I know! I mean, ever since she and Lori started fighting again, it’s like- she’s been unbearable!”

“Yeah, I totes agree. Like, I haven’t even texted her. It’s not like she has anything important to say.”

“Yeah, she always talks about herself! Like, we get it Carol, you really like yourself!”

“She has a serious stick up her butt…”

Shared mean girl laughter.

And… the worst feeling ever as you realize your so-called friends really don’t like you.

She considers just going up and telling them all off, like, what makes them so much better?

But, she doesn’t. She probably couldn’t, not with this feeling…

Instead, she just hurries away to her BMW before they can even know she was there.

And once she’s inside her car, it all really gets to her, and she just freezes.

She starts to cry.

“Whatever… Stupid jerks…”

“Why would they act like they like me? Like, okay, if you’ve got a problem with me, say something! Don’t sneak around saying mean things about me behind my back…”

“…So, Luna was right… People really don’t like me… But why? I mean, it’s not like- It’s not like I’m mean to anybody? Am I?...”

“Okay, maybe I was a little harsh to Lori about the shorts thing… And maybe I was a little nasty about those things I said about Luna… But I’m not like that all the time?...”

“Right?”

She wipes away some falling tears, trying to just make them stop all together. Then she looks down to her stupid phone…

“Screw this…” she thinks as she carelessly flings it to the side.

“Whatever… I don’t need them… If they don’t want me hanging around, then I won’t. No big deal… I have plenty of other friends! Like- like… Uhm… Oh…”

Just, for whatever reason, she happens to look out her window.

And wouldn’t you know it; she sees Luna Loud walking with that one guy she posted that picture with, all smiles and laughs like those stupid snakes on the steps.

Whatever they’re laughing about… It must be good… “And it better not be about me!”

Discreetly, she rolls her window down just a crack- just enough to hear what they’re saying in the distance.

“…Hahaha! No way! You can’t honestly tell me you don’t think Whitney’s cute?” the boy says.

Luna shrugs. “I didn’t say she’s not cute, I’m just saying Dana’s cuter.”

“Did she just say Dana’s cute?”

“Well if you think she’s so cute, why don’t you ask her out?” the boy rebuts with a playful nudge.

“Ask her out?”

“Nah… I kind of have my eye on this other girl…” Luna admits.

Time out.

Luna Loud just said she has her eye on a girl. As in, she likes a girl.

“Huh?”

“Oh yeah? Who?” the guy eggs on.

“I’ll tell you, but I swear dude, if you squeal, I’ll tell Luan! And you know she’s like, really into April Fools’…”

“Ha ha, alright, alright! Seriously though, who is she? Are you gonna ask her out?” he continues, easing up on the teasing.

Luna takes a breath, looking at her phone for a moment before responding.

“Well, I don’t know if I’ll ask her out… I mean, I just don’t about that yet… But… I will tell you, that it’s-”

VERY OBNOXIOUS BUZZING AND DINGING THAT MEANS CAROL HAS A NEW TEXT MESSAGE

Seriously, it makes her jump because it startles the heck out of her.

But she quickly pulls herself together, eagerly awaiting Luna’s revelation.

But apparently, she’s missed it, because doofus is already smiling right from ear to ear about it.

“No way!” he says.

“Shut up,” Luna simply says back, trying to hide her blushing.

“No dude, I mean that’s cool! I mean… She is hot.”

Luna gives him the stink eye. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just say my crush is hot.”

“Well, either way, I hope it works out, for you dude. I gotta get goin’. Try to stay out of detention!” he quips with a wave.

“Alright… Au revoir!” Luna says back with a wave of her own.

“Huh?”

“It’s French!”

“Oh! See ya!”

Carol can’t help but just watch as she walks away, leaving her line of sight.

Then, she just sits there, taking it all in.

“Oh- Em- Gee… Luna likes girls?!... I mean, I can’t really say I’m THAT surprised… She kind of fits the type… But still! She’s…”

“She’s my partner…”

And that’s when the realization sets in that, Carol Pingrey had a dream about a girl, that kind of dream about a girl… and it turns out, that girl actually like girls!

“Uck!...” she shutters aloud, literally quivering. “Disgusting!”

“I can’t believe I dreamed about- Oh, I can’t even say it!”

“It didn’t mean anything, Carol… I mean, it’s not like I knew she likes girls?! And, I know I don’t like girls- so that’s like, all that matters, right?!...”

“But she’s my partner! We have this project to do together! I mean… We’re gonna have to do a lot of talking and stuff to get this thing done! And after that talk we just had…”

She remembers that her phone went off, and in attempt to break herself of this trance, she checks to see who it was.

Hey, it’s Luna.

This weird, indescribable feeling comes over her. It’s kind of like she just stepped out of Plato’s cave; the world she knows really isn’t as it seems. It was all an illusion, and she’s just now coming to terms with the reality that has always existed around her.

“Does Luna like me?”

 

Chapter Text

 

Carol’s drive home is a thoughtful one.

Like, it was one thing to hear her friends say those mean things about her, or to finally come to some sort of agreement with Luna about their project.

But then she heard all those things she said outside her car, and now… Now she just can’t stop thinking about it.

“She could’ve been talking about someone else? I mean, let’s be real Carol- even if you are the most desirable person in school, you haven’t exactly given Luna a reason to like you…”

“I mean, I’m pretty sure I called her trash, or something like that? And then she’s probably blaming me for getting detention- which is just as much her fault as it is mine!... But still…”

“I just can’t believe this! I mean, what does this mean? Does she think I like her just because I told her I wanted to still be partners? Because I DON’T! I just want to get an A on this thing!”

“Oh god… She sent me that text… I have to respond to it if I want her to think I wanna keep working with her. Just keep it cool. Keep it casual. Just say something simple to let her know you got the message, and that you have her number in case you need to get a hold of her- FOR PROJECT PURPOSES!”

Once she pulls into the driveway of her house, she quickly shuts off the engine and grabs her phone, disregarding yet another Bold Navy alert, “Dang it, Bold Navy!” and pulls up Luna’s message.

Hey, it’s Luna.

It might as well say: “I’m so madly in love with you, Carol Pingrey.”

She shutters, but puts those big girl panties on. “Let’s get this over with.”

Got it.

Send.

“Oh my god, what have I done?! She’s totes gonna think I hate her now! I can’t let her think that! She’ll drop me as her partner!”

Thanks.

Send.

“Eww oh my gosh she’s gonna think I love her now! I don’t love her! I don’t even like her! Not like that anyway?! Ugh! Why do I have to be so loveable?!”

She desperately thinks of something to salvage this already calamitous conversation, but it’s not working! She’s darned if she does, and darned if she doesn’t!

Darn!

But then, her phone buzzes that obnoxious buzz, dings that abysmal ding, and it would appear the moment of truth has come.

It truly is quite the challenge to be Ms. Carol Pingrey.

She braces herself for the nasty “How could you do this to me, I’ll never forgive you!” as well as the heart wrenching “And I can’t fight this feeling anymore! I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for!”

She opens up the message…

Cool, thanks.

“What does that even mean?!”

-----------------------

“Mom? Dad?” she calls out as she enters.

No response.

It stings a little as she walks over to the kitchen counter for her nightly sticky note and pile of greenbacks, but not as much as it usually does. Not with Luna Loud on her mind.

It reads:

We love you, sweetie. We promise we’ll make more time for home!

-Mom and Dad xoxo

“So not the drama…” she thinks aloud, now free to talk herself in the comfort and privacy of her own home.

Which is perfectly normal.

“What am I gonna do? I mean, she had to be talking about me, right? Who else would it be?”

“So, she likes me. Or I’m just going to assume she does… Okay, just be cool, Carol. Don’t worry about it. Make the most of your night, don’t even think about it! Just relax…” she tells herself as she takes a deep, soothing breath. She can already feel some of the tension alleviating.

“See? It’s that easy. I think I’ll just try to get caught up on some Trig, since it’s obvious I won’t be hanging out with any of the girls tonight…” she sharply voices, allowing more of these negative chakras into her body.

But she stops herself before she can get started. “Relax…”

She goes over to the radio and turns it on, settling for a 70’s and 80’s hits station. Not that she’s gonna really listen to it, but it helps her feel somewhat less like she’s in an empty house all by herself.

Then she tries getting into some SOH CAH TOA, which is pretty darn difficult. Luckily it would seem she’s a lot more caught up with assignment than she initially believed, since it turns out she only has one learning module this week as opposed to two, and she diligently busts it out in a little less than thirty minutes.

“Well, that was quick. It pays to have good genes,” she thinks aloud with a smile.

“Hmm… I guess I should keep up the good work while I’m motivated… Okay, there’s- wait, never mind, Andrews still isn’t back from vacation… Oh! I think maybe I have some readings for Lit. Wait, I finished that already…”

“Dang it! What else do I have to do?...”

She eyes her school supplies slung out over the kitchen table, seeing her various notebooks, folders, and textbooks. Including one Journalism book.

“Right…” she utters, feeling those chakras sneaking up again.

“No! This is not how I’m spending my Friday night! I am going to relax, even if it kills me!”

-----------------------

Feeling the warm water against her skin, and smelling the relaxing aroma from her Relaxing Aromas candle; it’s very easy to forget all about whatever it was that had her so excited to begin with.

She can’t help but smile as she daydreams about warm summer days, playing her violin in front of large audiences, and someday getting a new puppy- one that doesn’t bite like a certain white Corgi.

It’s all so relaxing…

She opens her eyes, and lets herself drag her fingertips through the rose petals in her bath.

Triggered.

They’re like Luna’s stupid freckles.

“Ugh…” she groans, sinking down until her nose is below the water.

Another ruined bath.

-----------------------

What was it that had her so anxious? Why, she’s forgotten! How can she focus on anything else when she has her beautifully crafted violin in her arm, raking her bow across its strings to produce the loveliest of melodies?

Again, she daydreams, really getting into the idea of doing this sort of thing for a living one day. No drama, no worries, just her and her violin in front of thousands of people across the world, swaying along with the music of-

Super ugly C sharp notes that are so easy to make.

She cringes, as the memory of Luna’s raspy, unregulated laughter comes to mind.

She sighs.

“Dang it…”

-----------------------

As she puts her violin back in its case, she haphazardly looks out the window. It’s a nice day out, and it sure would be nice to maybe go to the park, or a coffee shop, or even just for a drive.

Unfortunately, no normal teenager does any of those things alone, and everyone she associates herself turns out to be a big ol’ two-faced faker.

And while the last thing she wants to do is focus on the stressors in her life, she comes to the conclusion that her Friday night won’t be much fun no matter what she tries, so she may as well work through some of the stress.

And hey, it’s better than thinking about a certain someone.

So, she goes over to her laptop, and hits the web for some bonafide creepin’.

Dana’s got her stupid memes and her stupid job, “Jerk.”

Becky’s posted a selfie with a ridiculously vibrant filter, “Wench.”

And Whitney’s hanging out with Lori Loud…

She has some choice words for the two of them, but her feelings of resentment are soon overshadowed by more of those weird, bad feelings she felt earlier around Luna.

Because- she never heard Lori say anything about her behind her back. No, she had the decency to call her choice words of her own to her face.

And that was only after things got messed up again…

She lets out a heavy sigh as she clicks on the thumbnail for Lori’s profile. She browses her way into her photo album, coming across the selfie they took together in the arts and crafts store after their reconciliation.

“Post!”

With these bad feelings swirling around her chest, she returns to her main page. There are no recent posts, which means either, A) She’s doing something really fun with her Friday night, or B)…

She’s a big ol’ loser like Carol.

She looks back to her phone resting on her end table, biting her thumb.

“Maybe two weeks has been long enough? Maybe I should just… Text her. See what she’s up to? Maybe she’ll even apologize first, and then I can just go from there. Maybe she’ll even want to get into something together…”

With trepidation, she pussyfoots her way over to the end table, and picks up the phone.

She doesn’t unlock it though.

“What if she’s still mad at me? I mean, the last time we hated each other, it was YEARS before we talked to each other…”

But then she looks back outside, seeing how the day is gradually falling into sundown. If she’s going to save her Friday night, it really is now or never.

So, she takes a deep breath, and…

Her phone buzzes.

She dumbly looks to it, seeing that she has a new text message.

A message from Luna Loud.

Her heart begins fluttering. “What could she possibly want? Is she angry that I didn’t text her back? Is she gonna tell me she doesn’t want to work together anymore?... Or, oh man, what if she’s gonna confess her feelings? I am so not ready to let her down. I mean, I’ve rejected people before, but never a girl! How do I even do that?...”

She just stares at the phone for a few seconds, practically chomping on the end of her thumb.

But finally, she musters the courage to unlock it, and look at Luna’s text.

Hey, what’s up?

“Oh my god, she is so in love with me…” she despondently thinks as she slaps her forehead.

Worst… Friday night… Ever.

She thinks about how to approach this.

“Okay, don’t panic. Panic is the enemy. You can handle this Carol. Just- play it cool. Act casual- like you don’t even know how she feels about you. Yeah! Just act natural!”

Considerately, she replies with the following:

Not much.

Send.

About forty seconds pass before she starts to worry.

“What if she thinks I’m being snooty? She already thinks I have a stick up my- Ugh! Why is it so hard to talk to her?”

“Just send something else real quick before she thinks you’re self-centered turd!”

You?

Send.

It calms her… for about forty more seconds.

“Dang it! Now she’s gonna think I like her back! Oh, why, why, why?! HUH! Or worse!... She’ll think I’m a total weirdo for sending her two texts! Oh man, how could this day get any worse?!”

Sitting on her bed, she nervously cowers into the corner against the wall, using one arm to hug her legs tightly, and the other to bite her fingertips as she waits for the little purple phone to ding and buzz with a response.

A looooong three minutes pass before Luna finally texts back, and Carol grabs the phone, unlocks it, and reads the message in near record time.

Just hanging out. Actually, I was wondering if you were free tomorrow? I was thinking maybe we could meet up somewhere and get some work done on the project.

Another buzz, another ding, another message.

It’s cool if you can’t or whatever.

“Oh… my… GOD… SHE KNOWS! She KNOWS I have nothing better to do, and she’s TOYING with me!”

“Oh man, this is bad… This is SO bad!... What do I say? I mean, I can’t say no?! She’ll hate me forever! And we have to get this project done! But if I say yes, then that’s- like, leading her on? Isn’t it?! Should I just tell her I’m not interested?”

“But what if she DOESN’T like me? What if she was talking about someone else?...”

Another new, weird feeling comes over her. Like, if Luna was talking about another girl, and not Carol… It would hurt.

“Oh my god… What do I do?!”

Finally, she begins to compose a response.

Listen Luna, I don’t know how you feel about me or whatever, but I’m not infatuated with you. I just don’t like you that way. I’m glad we talked things out today, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. And, just so you know, I like boys. I mean, I won’t judge you for liking girls, but I just don’t feel that way. I’m flattered you like me and all, I just

Backspace Backspace Backspace

“Okay, let’s try this again…”

I think we should get started on the project, but I feel like I need to clear the air here. I’m straight. It’s not that I don’t like you, because I actually think you’re pretty cool. I just don’t think of you romantically or anything. Please don’t hate me.

Press that Backspace button, girl.

“Ugh!”

Do you really think I have a stick up my butt? Or were you just saying that because you like me and want to

It’s like Carol is Oprah Winfrey giving away Backspaces for everybody.

She just sits there for a moment, holding her phone in one hand while the caret blinks, and miserably holding her forehead with the other.

“It’s like the universe is testing me.”

“I just can’t text her back. Literally anything I say will come back against me… But maybe… Oh my gosh… I can’t even believe I’m thinking about this…”

“No, I can’t! She’ll totally think I’m hot for her! Or she’ll think I’m a creep…”

“But I can’t text her either! And maybe if I just- hear her…”

She finally comes to a decision, feeling her heart practically exploding all the while.

“I can’t believe I’m actually doing this…”

She dials Luna’s phone number, presses the call key, and places the phone to her ear as it begins to ring.

“This is so stupid… She’s going to think I-”

“Hello?”

It’s like time has stopped. Carol’s been sucked into the Matrix.

Upon hearing Luna’s raspy, overly calm “Hello,” she just grows dumb. She might actually die.

“Hello?” Luna repeats, some uncertainty resonating from her voice.

“Pull yourself together, Carol! You’re in charge here! This is YOUR time, and YOUR project, and she’s just along for the ride! Just tell her how it is, and you can get on with your freaking life!”

She actually speaks now, after clearing her throat.

“Uhm, yes. Hello, Luna.”

“Uhhh… What’s up?” Luna belatedly responds.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Carol says with the utmost confidence, until she realizes she’s made the fatal mistake of confusing a What’s Up with a How’s It Going, and then she just hopes to fall over and die.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t, and she actually has to go through with this awful phone call.

“…Uh, I mean- Nothing! Nothing much,” she clears her throat again.

“You?!” she adds, super casually.

“Uhh, good. I mean- same, same…” Luna says with a little amusement in her tone.

Carol isn’t sure if that’s the best thing ever, or if she should walk off a cliff. Or, somehow, both.

But whatever, Luna’s still on the other line.

And, thank god, she’s not done talking.

“So, uh, about getting together tomorrow- it’s cool if you’ve got other stuff going on. I just thought maybe we could, you know- get some stuff done since we, uhm, didn’t get around to it today…”

“It’s not my fault! You said I had a stick up my-!”

“…But, I mean, I’ll understand if you just don’t want to or whatever. I can probably think of some-” Luna continues.

But like some sort of forsaken fool, Carol interrupts her, blurting out like a big fat idiot:

“NO!”

Silence.

“Please, PLEASE, if anyone can hear me, just put me out of my misery. Literally- shoot me…”

Realizing Luna still hasn’t said anything, be it because she’s about to cry, scream, laugh, sing, or is just waiting for some elaboration on Carol’s part; Pingrey uses what little brain capacity she has to come up with something to keep this from getting any more painful.

“Heh heh, I mean… No, it’s fine. I’d love to get together tomorrow…”

“HOLY EFFING ESS DID YOU JUST SAY YOU’D ‘LOVE’ TO?! YOU GOON!”

But before she can burst into tears, or flames maybe, Luna is letting out a coy little laugh.

“Heh heh, alright. Cool.”

She imagines letting out a long, shuttering, zombie like “UHHHHHH,” but is able to restrain herself with some very much-needed fortune.

She just attentively listens as Luna speaks, carefully analyzing every word like she’s Bruce Wayne and this is a life or death situation.

And, really, it might as well be.

“Well, I was thinking we could maybe go to the library and use some of their computers. I would say we could work at my place, but it’s- Ow! Dang it, Lana!... Uh, sorry. It’s a madhouse over here…”

The only thing Carol really takes away from that: “Library.”

Like, eww. Who the heck goes to the library on a Saturday? It’s bad enough it smells like old people and pee, and the lights flicker like some B-level horror movie, and the internet connection is dreadfully slow during the week; but on a Saturday? Shyeah. So not happening.

“Uhm, we’re not going to the library,” she bluntly states, even rolling her eyes.

“Oh, okay… So, where else could we go?” Luna timidly asks.

“Well, I mean, my Wi-Fi is killer, and my parents are never home. So I guess you could just come to my place. We could probably even get our picture done, too,” Carol answers, with very little conscious thought.

Luna thinks it over for a moment. “…Alright, I guess that could work. What time should I come over?”

“Uh, let’s say noon. I’m not really a morning person,” Carol answers again, with even less conscious thought.

Luna chuckles. “Ha! I hear that! Alright, uhh, I guess just text me the address, and I’ll get a ride over there in the morning. I’ll see you, tomorrow, dude- uh, Carol.”

“Right… I’ll see you tomorrow, Luna. Bye,” she says with a little smile coming to her.

“Bye,” Luna says, in a way that makes it obvious she too has a little smile creeping up on her.

Carol hangs up the phone, and just takes a breath.

“There, that went well. What was I even worried about?... Gosh, I feel pretty silly now!” she says, slightly slapping her head.

She takes a seat on her bed, and turns on the TV to pull up Fletnix. “Everything’s gonna be fine… Luna’s gonna come over tomorrow, we’ll get some work done on the project- maybe even finish it, and life will go on as normal…”

She smiles, and lets out a long sigh of relief.

But that smiles goes away real quick.

“Oh my god… Luna’s coming over tomorrow… To my house…”

“AHHHHHHHHHH!”

 

Chapter Text

Saturday, 11:50 AM. Ten minutes until Luna Loud’s arrival.

After a long, tumultuous night of overthinking everything, it would seem that the time has finally come for Carol Pingrey to accept her fate.

She’s doomed to spend her day working on the stupid Sunderland project with a girl who’s madly in love with her- probably.

As horrible as it all is, she keeps repeating her new favorite mantra: “Accentuate the positives.”

Luna’s smart, and willing to work hard on a topic Carol actually cares about. Positive. She seems to have forgiven her for the drama from Thursday and Friday. Positive. Her house sure as heck beats the smelly old Public Library. Very positive.

Still… There’s always the possibility this weekend could get even worse.

Luna could make a move, and Carol would have to be a jerk and turn her down. It would either break her heart and make her cry, which is just awful; or she could totally freak out and get all angry about it, which is just scary.

It’s never been so hard to be loved for Carol as it is now.

She stops pacing around her kitchen to sigh. “…Oh man, I don’t know if I can go through with this! I was so stupid to invite her over!... Maybe I should tell her I have a cat and it got ran over, everyone likes cats, right? Or maybe I should say I have a cyst in my back? Do people get back cysts?...”

She sadly face palms. “Ugh, it’s no use… I can’t back out now. I have to do good- well on this project, and we’re already behind enough as it is…”

She looks up to the clock, and it’s 11:51.

“I just wish she would hurry up and get here already though!”

DING DONG!

Doorbell. Luna.

“Oh.”

She gulps, her heart begins pounding, and, it’s a good thing she put on antiperspirant deodorant, because she’s even sweating.

“I can do this… I can do this…”

She steps over to the front door, and looks through the pane. Sure enough, Luna is standing outside, holding a backpack presumably full of school supplies.

“I can’t do this!” she nervously thinks aloud, fretfully grabbing her cheeks.

She looks back out the pane, still seeing Luna there, who looks like maybe she’s getting a little worried.

Then, she vaguely sees her own reflection in the glass, and realizes just how foolish she’s being.

“No, you can, Carol. You have to. So, just- just-”

She puts her hand on the doorknob, and…

Just as she opens it, the doorbell ringer goes off again. DING DONG!

“I’M COMING!” she shouts, pretty much in Luna’s face, failing to remember she’s already come.

Embarrassed at her outburst, she covers her mouth, looking to Luna with sorrow.

Luna just meets her with stunned doe eyes.

“Uhm, sorry, heh heh… I uh, uhm…” Carol babbles.

Luna softly, skittishly smiles, “It’s cool. Can I come in?” she asks.

“Huh? Oh! Oh, yeah, sure. Come on in!” Carol gets out.

Luna turns back to this- brown van with a yellow King Cobra painted on the side of it, and waves at the driver: a cringey old dude with a purple hat and a rose ring. He salutes her, and takes off.

Carol tries not to make it obvious that she looks like she’s going to upchuck, and Luna laughs.

“That’s Chunk… My roadie,” she says, really stressing her rocker-dude drawl.

Carol just imperturbably nods, and gestures Luna to follow her inside.

When her purple boots meet the linoleum, her jaw practically drops from the splendor. “Duuuude…”

Carol just raises her brow, until Luna looks to her with those big brown eyes of hers.

Nice place!” she compliments with a grin.

It takes her by surprise. She hardly expected Luna to appreciate just how lovely her home is, considering none of her other guests have ever really said anything of the sort.

“Uhm, thanks,” she responds with a little skittish smile of her own, nervously rubbing her arm. “I mean, I’m sure your house is nice, too…”

“Yeah, it’s big; but man… Your house is just… Wow…”

Unsure how else to respond, Carol just keeps standing there like some shy schoolgirl, rubbing her arm as her smile wanes.

Luna catches on, and ebbs a bit with a nervous laugh. “Heh heh, sorry to be a spaz…”

It helps Carol come back to form just a hair. “No, uh- you’re fine- It’s fine… Uhm… So should we get started now?” she asks.

“Alright,” Luna casually responds. “I guess. Lead the way,” she says with another smile.

“Alright,” Carol simply says, and she begins walking to the kitchen, sort of looking back at Luna from the corner of her eye as she follows.

“What did I get myself into?”

-----------------------

They head into the kitchen, and Carol motions Luna to set her things on the table. “Make yourself at home,” she casually says, really dramatizing it- because she feels the opposite of casual right now. Verge of having an aneurism, is more like it.

Luna complies, quietly getting all of her notes ready as she gawks at the amenities of the Pingrey residence.

Carol makes her way to the refrigerator, realizing there’s a forgotten sticky note message on the door from her parents.

Happy Saturday! Enjoy your weekend, and if you have company over, please don’t make a mess like last time. Love you!

-Mom and Dad.

She wads up the paper, and throws in the waste bin. She hears Luna giggling from behind her, and looks back.

“Heh heh, it’s a good thing Ms. Clifford isn’t here,” she quips with a smile.

“Oh god… She’s FLIRTING…”

“Uh, yeah…” Carol just says, not trying to come across as a total jerk, but probably sounding like one.

She opens the fridge, and reaches inside for some iced tea. As she begins to pour herself a glass, she realizes she’s actually shaking, and spills some on the counter… and herself.

“For god’s sake, Carol! Pull yourself together!”

She actually manages to get the pitcher of tea back in the fridge without any further catastrophe, and hastily uses a washcloth to clean her spills before Luna can notice. Fortunately for her, Luna’s checking her phone, and she’s able to succeed.

“That’s all I need, her realizing I’m on edge… Then she’d REALLY think I like her back… Last thing I need…”

She walks over to the table holding her glass of tea, wearing a perfectly normal- no way discomfited expression as she takes a seat on the other side of the table a comfortable distance from her partner.

Luna glances at her, then her drink, then back to her phone before setting it on the table and looking back to Carol. “So, how’s it going?” she asks.

“How’s it going?...” It could mean so many things! Like, “How’s it going, wanna make-out?” or “How’s it going, do you hate me and want to work with someone else?” or “How’s it going? Thanks for offering me some tea, you capital B-”

“THAT’S IT! She wants me to offer her a drink! Jeez, Carol… Get with the program!”

“Do you want something to drink?” she asks with a smile that is in no way, shape, or form nightmare inducing. And her eye only twitches because of the lighting.

“Uhm… Sure?” Luna answers.

Carol almost jumps out of her seat, nearly tripping over her own feet. “Is tea fine? Do you want water? I have room temp if you want it? Or I can get you ice?!”

“…Tea is fine,” Luna answers, in a way that Carol interprets as, “I guess tea’s okay. You’ve already made me feel like an insignificant waste of space, but sure. Let’s do tea…”

“I’m blowing this!”

She hurries over to the fridge, and takes the pitcher by the handle. She realizes she’s shaking again, and takes a deep breath to calm herself. She then uses both hands to steady the pitcher, and pours Luna a glass.

But it’s not quite full enough, and she pours a little more.

And a little more.

And a teensy bit more.

“Perfect!” she thinks, and she’s able to once again get the pitcher of tea back into the refrigerator without planet Earth plunging into the sun.

She glances back to Luna, who is watching this time. As if she wasn’t under enough pressure.

She refrains from letting out a shuttering hitched breath, instead just choosing to stop breathing for a little bit. That should help.

She takes Luna’s tea, and…

“I did a little research last night-” Luna says out of nowhere.

And Carol drops the glass, shattering it on the floor and watching the contents flow through the cracks of the tile like it was all in slow motion.

Then, she visualizes just falling down with it and waiting to die. Yezzir. The sweet embrace of death.

But she doesn’t, and probably couldn’t, because she just sort of freezes.

And like a big ol’ idiot, she just stands there for a moment, until she remembers a certain someone is watching, and she turns back to look at her.

Luna Loud: the girl whose face she sees more than any other anymore. Not just in this moment; but at school, in detention, and worst of all- her thoughts… Her dreams!

The hair, the eyes, the paperclip earrings… The freckles

It’s the face staring at her now, sending all of these conflicting signals with a look that’s just too calm and unflinching too not be full of the anguish and hopelessness of unrequited love, and the shame and disappointment of feeling it for a girl as ridiculously maladroit as herself.

She wants to cry.

“Yeash! You good?” Luna asks, standing up and meeting her with a convincing look of concern.

“NO I’M NOT GOOD! YOU’VE BEEN HERE FOR THREE MINUTES AND I’M ALREADY ABOUT TO HAVE A CORONARY!” Carol wants to exclaim.

But again, she doesn’t, and she probably couldn’t.

Like some sort of divine intervention, she feels tea creeping against her sock, and snaps out of her stupor. With what cognizant capability she has left, she’s able to address this, and even make a plan of action. She even comes up with some words!

“I’m- fine,” she awkwardly utters with an equally awkward look on her face, and she grabs another washcloth to start cleaning up the spilt tea.

Many, many colorful words come to mind as she begins scolding herself. Luckily enough, it just comes out as some incoherent, troll-like, under-breath mumbling.

“Here, let me help,” Luna says, and she makes her way over.

As she starts picking up pieces of glass and discarding them in the waste bin, Carol can’t help but watch. She can’t help but stare.

She didn’t have to help. She could’ve just sat back and chuckled to herself about how embarrassing this has to be, which- in all honesty, is probably what Carol would do if their roles were reversed.

But for whatever reason, be it because she’s mega obviously in love, or just feeling sorry, or because she’s just a nice person… She’s helping.

All the glass is almost picked up, and all the tea is almost cleaned.

“…Heh, uh… I guess that’s one way to break the ice…” Luna coyly says with a devious little smirk.

At first, it’s pretty darn confusing. Like, what the duck did she just say?

But then, the lightbulb finally comes on. It was a joke.

Normal people laugh at jokes.

Carol is a normal person.

“So LAUGH!”

“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!” she cackles. It’s all crackly and hoarse and downright cringey, like the everyday loser laughing at the joke way too late after everyone else has already gotten it and moved on cringey.

Sad face.

Luna sort of raises her eyebrow, but her smile doesn’t fade. Actually, she starts to laugh a little.

It helps Carol finally calm down, and she just laughs too. Normal laughs, not cringey laughs.

-----------------------

“Yeah, then there’s Luan… She’s the funny one,” Luna explains with air-quotes. “So I guess some of her stupid jokes have actually rubbed off on me by now.”

“Heh heh… The break the ice thing was pretty stupid,” Carol quips with a little laugh, and Luna joins in.

After the tea incident, the girls were able to finally sit down and get started with their project. With just a little bit of small talk about dogs and school, and discussing their shared project, Carol has reached a level of zen she hardly imagined would be possible this evening.

Heck, they’ve actually gotten a lot of work done, and have even had some laughs along the way.

“I can only imagine what it would be like living with so many people. You have ten sisters right? Or- nine?”

“Nine, and a brother,” Luna clarifies, clearly having gone through this many times before. “You met him, right?” she asks, recalling a certain family photo that was quite a hassle.

“Yeah, he wanted me to fill in for Lori? I don’t know what that was about,” Carol semi-nervously responds.

“Right,” Luna simply says with a cool little nod before returning to her notes. People tend to do that when they feel uncomfortable talking about a person they know the other person doesn’t favor very well.

Carol knows all too well.

“So… How is Lori?” she timidly asks, being careful not to sound too interested.

Luna doesn’t get too excited either. “She’s good…” she simply answers.

And poor Carol. “Good” could mean so many things.

As she’s contemplating how to follow up in a way that beseeches for more without sounding too interested, Luna just keeps looking down to her notes. But, by some second act of divine intervention, she actually goes on to elaborate.

“…She hasn’t said anything about you, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh my gosh… That IS what I mean!” Carol realizes. It’s almost like- she could’ve just asked!

But thank god she didn’t have to. Positive.

“Oh…” she simply says. Fair enough.

For a moment, things get quiet again, like before all the busy-bodying got started. Carol takes the opportunity to try and finish up her paragraph on how Avedon’s style was quote-unquote “the catalyst for a new generation,” because Sunderland hates “revolutionary.”

But those chakras start creeping up again. Quiet isn’t good. It’s bad.

“Did I sound mean asking about Lori- like I wanted the answer to be bad?... Should I say something? But then what if she starts interrogating me about it? What if she says something to her about it? Like I’m missing her and asking about her?!”

“I… am asking about her… Do I miss her?”

Just as she’s about to open her mouth and blurt out some sort of amendment for her question, Luna speaks up again.

“Is it always like this?” she asks.

Which… is confusing.

“What?”

Luna looks to her now. “I mean, is it always so quiet? Like… Just you here?”

It’s weird… Like, yeah, it’s unexpected, but also kind of hurtful. Like, maybe she didn’t even mean it to be- because she’s still very likely super into her, but, it still feels weird.

“Uh… Not all the time. I mean, I’m usually out of the house,” Carol answers, which is true, even with the recent revelation that the people she spends her time with out of the house are big fat plastic liars. “I mean, like I said, Mom and Dad own a studio… So they’re usually pretty busy.”

Luna just nods. “Right, I hear ya.”

There it is again. “I hear ya.”

The last time Carol heard that, it sent literal shivers down her spine. It was like the clanging of silverware, or nails against a chalkboard. Her subsequent thoughts became impure, to say the least.

But now… It’s different. Maybe it’s just easier to empathize with Luna now knowing how she feels. Or maybe it’s part of this weird feeling thinking about how quiet her house can be. Or maybe it’s just some weird chemical imbalance going on in the brain after all that excitement she’s getting over.

Maybe… It’s just nice to have someone hear her.

 

Chapter Text

With their article about “The Influence of Richard Avedon on 21st Century Photography” virtually done, it gets very easy for Carol’s mind to wander to other places.

Like, how Luna must have a crush on her, right?

Or does she?

Because, she’s been around people who like her before, and that act a lot differently. They tease, and nudge, and force conversation about trivial things for the sake of getting just a little attention. They make excuses to get closer and smell your hair, which is the price you pay for buying the best dry shampoo.

They act like idiots, not like… how Luna’s been acting.

But those were all boys. Maybe it’s different for girls. Maybe they just aren’t that way.

Carol thinks about how she acts around boys. She may preen her hair a little more, or bat her eyes just a bit. Luna hasn’t done that. She might drop a pencil on purpose, just so so-and-so will pick it up. Luna hasn’t done that. She might laugh at a bad joke, just to butter them up. Luna hasn’t done that. Luna just says: “I hear ya.”

She did help with the spilt tea, though! Aha!

“Yes, she has to like me… But why isn’t she acting like it?”

“Well, shoot. We’re pretty much done, aren’t we?” Luna says after conspicuously leaning back in her chair and stretching.

Nothing flirty about that.

“Yeah… Pretty much,” Carol says.

“I mean, we still have the presentation to do. But that won’t be for a little bit. We should probably wait until Sunderland says more about it,” Luna adds, peeking at her phone.

Nothing flirty about that either.

In fact, it’s almost like she’s implying that she’s done. As in, “Adios, Carol! Bye bye! Sayonara! See ya later!”

“What the heck?! Does she like me or not?!”

It’s so annoying! It’s not like Carol really wants her to like her. It might be flattering, especially with the sensitive situation with her friends right now; but it isn’t like she’s at all interested.

But for Blarney’s sake, it would be really nice to just have some proof- some sign that she really does like her! For peace of mind, obviously.

Carol puts her very healthy brain to work. “Okay, maybe she’s just the shy type. Maybe underneath all that Loud loudness, there’s a sensitive little girl who’s scared of her feelings! Awww…”

“So, maybe I just need to… test her a bit. It’s not like leading her on? I’m just- checking!”

So, Carol preens her hair a bit, and straightens herself up, and looks at Luna with the cutesy eye.

“Well… I’m sure we can get a little more work done,” she says with that unquestionable Pingrey charm.

Luna looks to her with doe eyes. “Uhm…”

“Oh yeah, I got her.”

Then, she perks up, and smiles. “Yeah! I totally forgot, dude! We still have to have a picture for our article!”

That… was also not flirty.

“Huh?”

Luna puts on her thinking face, totally oblivious to Carol’s internal torment.

“So, like- what should we do for our picture? Should we just find someone to take a portrait of Avedon-style?” she thinks aloud with that raspy voice of hers.

“It’s like she’s only here to work on the project?!”

Even so, Luna does bring up a point. There is still the matter of getting the stupid picture for the stupid project.

But just imagining walking around campus asking sheople to “Please take a quick picture for our journalism project!” feels like a Vaseline-less colonoscopy.

No way, not happening. If there’s one thing Carol has learned in her seventeen years, it’s that the best way to get something done right is to do it yourself.

Or pay someone who is licensed to do it, but that’s not the case here.

“Uhm… No. We’re not going around school asking people to take a picture for us. I have higher standards than that,” Carol bluntly states, checking her nails.

Luna winces. “Alright, well what should we do then, artsy fartsy?” Luna quips.

“Name calling! That’s flirting!... Right?!”

“Well… We do have a nice little home studio. Sometimes my parents will bring clients over for photoshoots. I could get my Canon and just, take pictures of each other?”

“I’ll take a better picture than anyone we could con anyway.”

Luna thinks it over for a moment. “Alright, sounds good to me. But you think Sunderland will be cool with us using ourselves?”

“When he sees how much effort we’ve put into our article- I’m confident that will be the last thing he’ll be worried about,” Carol answers, still being a little flirtatious.

And Luna smiles. “Cool.”

“Cool?… That’s kind of flirty I guess.”

-----------------------

As Carol leads Luna to the home studio, she can’t help but wonder about one thing.

“Is she looking at my butt?”

That’d certainly be one way to know if she likes her.

So, ever so casually, Carol glances back at Luna from the corner of her eye, trying to see if her eyes have wandered to the dark side of the moon or not.

And- she ends up hitting the wall.

“Ow!” she moans as she rubs her tender forehead.

“Hey, you good?” Luna asks, keeping a comfortable distance between the two of them.

“Yes- I’m fine,” Carol indifferently answers. Normally she’d be more concerned with showing imperfection around someone like Luna, but she’s more interested in why there was no comforting hand on the shoulder or something.

“Do you like me or not, Loud?!” she really wants to yell out, but that’s not what civilized people do. No, civilized people work these things out with critical thinking and patience.

Even when it starts bringing physical pain.

They get inside the large, white photo lab, and, of course, Luna has to gawk.

“Woah… Sick, dude.”

Carol has to think the “sick” over a moment, remembering that’s what people like Luna say when something is cool. Not everyone can be as sophisticated as herself.

“Thanks,” she simply utters as she prepares her equipment. She gets her camera set up on a tripod, and a stool for the girls to sit on. A plain white backdrop is already serendipitously set up, so it would appear this photoshoot will be ready to go very shortly.

But, of course, Luna Loud makes it really easy to wonder just what’s going on inside of her little rock n’ roll filled head as she just watches on with an eager little grin.

“Why isn’t she offering to help now? Is it because she thinks I can handle it- and doesn’t want to overstep boundaries? Or is it because she’s just too shy to say anything? Or maybe she really DOESN’T like me the way I think she does, and this is just her sitting back and trying to look pretty while I get my hands dirty?!”

“Uh, you got everything, C?” Luna asks.

“Oh, now you ask!”

“I’m fine.”

“I can’t even believe I’m doing this right now. I’m about to take pictures in my parents studio with freakin’ Luna Loud… Like, why did it have to be her? Why couldn’t I get lucky and get a partner who would just let me do all the work? Or a partner who doesn’t get me detention? Or someone who doesn’t make me worry about whether or not they’re checking me out every five minutes?”

“And why did I have to have that stupid DREAM about her?”

“Uh… Just so you know, I’ve never like- taken a professional picture or anything… So you might not get the best shots of me,” Luna says as she nervously rubs the back of her neck.

“Pshhh… If all I had to worry about was making sure these pictures turned out okay…”

“Just- don’t worry about it,” Carol says as she finishes getting her high-dollar camera booted up.

She meets Luna with an apathetic gaze. These grueling last three days have officially worn her out.

“So… You want me to go first? Like, I don’t wanna mess anything up on the camera or something,” Luna coyly says, rubbing her neck again.

“It’s not very hard. I’ll walk you through it in a bit… But yeah, go ahead and take a seat- and don’t smile,” Carol instructs, actually feeling some serenity in just assuming the role of a simple photographer.

Luna takes a seat on the stool, crossing her legs and straightening herself up.

“So, how do you want me to look?” she asks.

Carol studies her for a moment.

In another life, this really wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. Luna is a good-looking girl, for the most part. She grooms herself well, despite choosing to dress like an idiot. She’s also more mature and level-headed than her skully tee and paperclip earrings would lead a person to believe, and has the potential to do well with a real job- maybe even in the journalism field, should she choose to grow out of her ridiculous Mick Swagger wannabe shtick.

Maybe she could even be a friend, if things were just… different.

But it doesn’t matter. What does matter is taking these pictures, and moving one step closer to putting a pretty red bow on this project, passing Journalism, and moving on to Yearbook next year before graduating and starting her adult life.

“Hmmm… Okay. Why don’t you sit- like this,” Carol says, lying her left arm across her lap, and tucking her right hand under her chin.

“Okay,” Luna says, following her example.

“This all just feels… Kind of stupid now. I mean, what was I so excited about? She really isn’t so bad. It’s not like she’s been obnoxious or anything. She’s actually been pretty nice to me…”

“Mmm… Not bad. But maybe just look to the right a bit. No! Wait! Actually- go ahead and look into the camera,” Carol adds.

Luna works with it. “Like this?”

“And whether she likes me or not, she hasn’t said anything. And, really, she probably knows I’m not into girls. So she probably WON’T say anything.”

“Try looking up just a little bit.”

She does.

“I guess I just got carried away. Maybe she was right… Maybe I do need to loosen up a bit. This has been a pretty fun day, I guess. And detention was actually pretty hilarious.”

“I guess I was wrong about her.”

She looks through the lens of the camera.

The face that looks back to her… is perfect.

Her deep brown eyes are full of thought and vigor, almost twinkling like in her dream. Her hair is practically shining, and her lips and cheeks are the right amount of rosy. Her normally atrocious paperclip earrings actually seem like something of a statement for who she is, as opposed to some idiotic way to get attention.

And her freckles, those dastardly freckles, complete the package.

She’s beautiful.

Carol just freezes, staring in awe.

“Is- something wrong?” Luna timidly asks.

“No… It’s- you’re fine… Don’t move…” Carol stammers, before finally coming to and taking the picture.

FLASH!

Once the deed has been finished, she reluctantly removes herself from the lens, knowing that reality won’t be so kind when she rests her eyes upon Luna Loud again.

She’ll be back to her cringey, trashy self. The combination of the chiaroscuro of the room, the convex of the camera lens, and mental exhaustion have all created this delusion that Luna could actually be desirable to the human eye.

But she’s wrong. So wrong.

Luna is still beautiful, and now she’s giddily smiling as she steps her way over. It’s…

“Wow.”

“How’d it turn out, boss?” she asks, coming to Carol’s side to get a look at the picture, still smiling.

It makes Carol’s heart beat a lot faster, and she can feel her cheeks becoming flushed.

“Uhm… Well…”

Her awkward “Uhm well” makes Luna deflate. And for some reason, it makes Carol feel like she’s the stupidest person to ever breathe oxygen, and she has to remedy this fast.

“It’s- good! Really good! Aheh…” she says with a forced smile. “Uhh… See for yourself,” she adds, stepping to the side and gesturing Luna to have a look at the screen of the digital camera.

Luna does with a little hesitation, but jovially brightens up upon seeing her Avedon-esque portrait.

“Wooooow! Oh my gosh, dude! Like, this is really good!” She shamelessly tells Carol with a wide smile.

“Heh, well, I do know my stuff,” Carol nervously says, rubbing the back of her neck now.

Luna gawks at her photo some more, settling into a cool little gait and grin.

“You know- I think I might just make this my album cover when I hit the big time.”

And she turns to face her partner now with those daunting brown eyes.

It’s takes all Carol has not to reduce to a puddle. For whatever reason, her eyes are terrifying now.

So she has to look away, still childishly rubbing the back of her neck and blushing.

“We uh… Still need to do mine, you know…” she musters out, almost instinctively.

Luna nods, somewhat ebbing her enthusiasm. “Alright… Uh, so you wanna show me how this thing works?” she asks.

Carol freezes. This means she has to get closer.

She gulps, and points her shaky finger to the camera.

“You mean- the- camera?” she sputters.

“Yeah. I mean, you’re cool with me using it right?” Luna responds.

“I- I…”

“What the heck is wrong with me?! Why can’t I just talk to her? Why do I feel like I’m gonna throw up? It’s just Luna!”

She stops breathing, forcing herself to buck up and preserver.

“I’ve gotten this far. I’m NOT going to let some stupid freckles throw me off now!” she tells herself, and she takes in a deep breath now, straightening up, looking Luna in the eyes.

“Cool? Me? HA! If I was any cooler, they’d have to thaw me out! Get it! It was like a joke? Like break the ice? Haha?!...”

Luna winces. “Uhm, yeah?”

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAROL! STOP ACTING LIKE AN IDIOT!”

She takes another deep breath, and tiptoes closer to Luna and the Canon. Her heart feels like it could explode with every step she takes, and it doesn’t help that Luna’s started smiling at her again with those pretty thin lips of hers.

“Oh my god. Her lips are pretty?!”

She finally makes it over, and forces a weak little smile of her own before turning her focus to the camera.

And it turns out, having Luna hovering this close- not looking at her, is much worse. Add the fact that she has to provide intricate instructions on how to use this rather expensive piece of equipment to this equation, and the now obvious smell of lavender perfume…

“I am going to have a heart attack.”

With what small amount of mental and bodily functioning she has left, she’s able to work through this, and do what she needs to do.

“So, uhhh, first you need to re-adjust the focus,” Carol points out, doing her best not to look at the other girl.

“Focus. FOCUS.”

“Right,” Luna simply says. It almost makes her shiver.

“…Then you need to make sure the flash is on,” she continues.

“Why is it so hot in here?”

“Okay.”

“And then, when you’re ready…” Carol begins, but she has to pause to swallow the spit she’s choking on, as well as catch her breath.

“It’s just Luna… It’s just Luna…”

“…You push this big button,” she says while pointing to said button, “…and take the picture”

Luna shrugs. “Alright, sounds simple enough.”

But Carol just stands there for a minute, looking back at Luna- completely, literally dumb.

“It’s just… Luna…”

“So… Wanna have a seat?” Luna says with an inviting smile, motioning Carol to do as she did before.

Carol says nothing. She decides that it’s just best to stop speaking all together, and maybe even thinking.

“Take a seat… Even I can do that…”

And so she does, making herself comfortable on the stool, superfluously brushing herself off and looking to Luna with doe eyes as she diligently follows Carol’s instructions for taking the picture.

“Uh, I just push all the buttons, right?” Luna says with a confused look.

“What?! No!” Carol blurts out.

Luna just laughs. “Relax, dude. Just messin’ with ya.”

Carol takes another deep breath.

“Will this torture ever end?”

Luna takes turns measuring up her subject and her camera. As she does, Carol can’t help but lose herself in her own heartbeat. She begins to worry that she may literally have a heart attack.

“I don’t know about this, Luna…” she admits.

Luna looks to her with concern. “What’s the matter, dude?”

Carol’s sorrowful eyes look back to her. “I just- I don’t think now’s the best time.”

Luna softly half-smiles. “Hey, if you’re worried about taking a bad picture- don’t be. I mean, you took a killer pic of me, and, well…” she says with a little chuckle, gesturing at herself as if to say “Look at ME.”

“…Seriously, you look great, C.”

Those horrible, awful, no good feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, and indigestion are all seemingly absolved with Luna’s one compliment.

“I look… great?”

Carol can’t help but blush, and smile. It feels great.

Luna happily smiles upon seeing her brightening face, and quickly takes the shot.

FLASH!

It takes Carol by surprise. “Did you take the picture?”

“Yeah, sorry, I know you said no smiling, but…”

“No,” Carol says, standing up. “It’s fine.”

It couldn’t be any more fine. She doesn’t even have to see this picture. Really, she doesn’t even care.

Luna says she looks great. That’s good enough for her. Anything to make her feel like… this.

She watches Luna take a look at the picture, and she smiles again. Her smiles are really starting to grow on her.

“Dang, girl. I might make you my album cover instead,” she says, working her eyes up to meet her.

And her heart flutters. “Oh, come on,” Carol simply says, really loving how these blushy smiles feel.

“Come see!” Luna says, waving her over.

Carol shyly steels herself for a moment, clasping her hands together and raising her heel up all nervous like.

“Alright,” she simply says, and she begins to make her way over, looking to the floor because it’d be too embarrassing to look at Luna.

But she gets close to her again. And this time, it really isn’t so bad. It’s pretty nice actually.

So she looks up to her stupid freckled face and her stupid brown eyes…

And wow.

“You gonna look?” Luna happily quips, pointing to the camera.

“Oh! Right,” Carol says with a little apprehension. She looks at her portrait, but only really as a formality. She can’t focus on anything else but the way she’s feeling right now, all bright and happy and just all-around wonderful.

She’s quick to look back to Luna with this big stupid grin on her face.

But she doesn’t care. Luna’s face is nice to look at.

And she smiles back.

For a moment, they just smile at each other. It just makes all these colorful feelings in Carol’s chest intensify, like this brand new rush of sensations she’s only dreamed of having.

She’s… dreamed, of having.

“Oh my god…”

Suddenly, Luna’s cell phone rings, and it’s a friendly reminder to come back down to a little place called Earth.

Luna looks to the screen, and squints her eyes. “Oh, it’s my pop. I better answer it,” she says, just briefly glancing back into Carol’s eyes before taking the call.

It was a nice brief glance.

“Hey, Dad. What’s up?” Luna answers. All the while, Carol just sort of watches on, sort of spacing out too, just trying to work through these strange feelings, trying to understand what they all mean…

And what the heck they have to do with Luna Loud.

“Alright, yeah, hang on,” Luna tells her father. Then, she muffles the phone with her hand, and turns back to Carol.

“Hey, my dad says he got off work early, and he can come pick me up if you want. I mean, it’s whatever,” Luna tells her.

And it… kind of sucks. Like, she’s going to be leaving? Already?

But she can’t tell her that either. No way. She’s Carol Pingrey. She doesn’t spaz out for anyone.

Even… If it is tempting right now.

“Uhm, yeah, that’s fine,” she dramatizingly says with a little scoff and hand wave. “Saves me the gas.”

“That’s kind of what I was thinkin’,” Luna says with a little grin, and she removes her hand from the phone.

 And Carol realizes, she kind of wishes she had said something different.

“Yeah, alright. It’s West Sanford street. Yeah, nice house. Can’t miss it,” Luna explains to her father. “Alright, see you in a bit.”

She hangs up, puts the phone away, and looks at Carol with another little half-smile. “Well, he says he’ll be about ten minutes.”

“Yeah? Alright,” Carol simply responds.

Then, it gets quiet. And, they don’t look at each other.

“Ten minutes? That’s still a little bit of time. Yeah! I still have her to myself for a bit, so… Say something, dummy!”

“So…” she gets out.

“Anything but that!”

“So…” Luna responds, rubbing her arm. After a few more seconds, she speaks up again. “Uhh, so you just gonna print these off or download them or what?” she inquires.

“Oh, yeah… I’ll probably just- put them on my laptop,” Carol answers.

“Think, think, THINK!”

More awkward silence.

“Come on, Carol! You’re blowing it here! She’s gonna think you’re a total yuts if you don’t find something to talk about!...”

“Alright, uhm, photography? No, we’ve talked enough about that. Normal people don’t talk about school work unless they have to… Her plans for the weekend? Wait- heck no! Then she’ll ask what I’M doing this weekend, and… Ugh!...”

Luna just barely whistles one little whistle. Just something that probably wasn’t meant to mean anything or even really required a lot of conscious thought. Just- the littlest of little whistles.

“MUSIC!... DUH!”

“So…” Carol begins. “You play guitar, right?”

“Oh em gee, much wow genius. She’s really gonna appreciate your smarts, now.”

Luna smiles. “Dude, I play everything. Like, music is literally my life,” she proudly says, evidently happy she asked.

“There’s hope!”

“Everything, huh?” Carol follows up, smiling a little sweet smile.

“Oh yeah. Guitar, drums, piano, clarinet, didgeridoo, balalaika-” Luna lists off, but Carol cuts her off as she epiphanically comes up with the perfect topic.

“Violin?”

Luna chuckles a little. “Oh yeah. And fiddle.”

Carol chuckles too. “That’s another joke, right?”

“Yeah,” Luna simply responds, her drawl heavy. “Why? That your thing?”

“Here goes nothing…”

“Well… I mean, I’ve had some lessons…” she casually answers, only a little nervous.

And Luna’s eyes widen, like she just opened a really nice birthday present. “Cool! So like, you play?”

Again, casually, maybe just a little more nervous now, Carol answers “I mean, I do make time to practice. Like, well… Every day.”

Watching Luna’s illuminating face get all spazzingly excited is the type of thing Carol’s had to condition herself not to snap at. Like, get a hold of yourself losers.

But now, it’s almost contagious. Even with the butterflies, it’s a nice feeling knowing her affinity for violin can be shared with someone. And it helps that that someone is…

“Dude! Why didn’t you say so?” Luna blurts out.

“Well, you know…” Carol coyly responds. “It’s no big deal...”

“Says you!” Luna rebuts. She calms herself a little as she prepares her next response. “So… Like, do you wanna maybe play a little? Like, it’s been a while since I’ve had any practice. Maybe we could run some stuff by each other?”

“Oh god…” Carol thinks. This isn’t quite what she expected to happen, and it just throws her off even more than she’s already been thrown off on a weekend full of being thrown off.

Yet, by some sort of divine intervention, or maybe just random act of human stupidity, she finds herself uttering the following.

“Sure?...”

More smiles from Luna. OMG. “Al-riiight,” she coolly draws out.

And then they both just stand there, Carol feeling all these weird conflicting emotions, Luna just slowly donning a confused expression.

“Oh… I should probably go get my violin. Doy!”

Carol just nervously laughs a little laugh, “It’s- in my bedroom, heh heh.”

With that, she makes her way out of the bright white room, Luna Loud dutifully following behind her, still smiling.

And, despite some lingering negative chakras, combined with all these new unadulterated and wild sensations…

She smiles too.

 

Chapter Text

 

Carol flicks on the lights to her bedroom, and Luna follows her inside. Like everything else on 0312 West Sanford Street, she has to gawk. She’s not so spazzy this time though- but rather just coolly nodding at things. Like the debonair amethyst bedclothes, expensive skirts and shirts neatly hung in the closet, and pictures of Neil Degrasse Tyson and David Foster Wallace pinned to a corkboard.

It makes Carol feel even better than she already does to know that Luna approves of her amenities. Why, she doesn’t know. But it’s welcome.

It doesn’t stop her heart from fluttering as she remembers just why they’re here, though.

It’s one thing to play for a stranger, or a teacher, or even the occasional audition.

But another teenage girl? Like, who wouldn’t be nervous?

Nevertheless, she puts her big girl panties on, because if she can’t do something as simple as play her violin for stinkin’ Luna Loud, she may as well find a nice U-Haul box to live in for the rest of her life.

She skittishly smiles at Luna, who smiles back, and then she reaches under her bed for a black case.

“Uhh, that is your violin, right?” Luna jokingly asks.

Carol just chortles. She really wants to come up with a cute and quirky little comeback, something to make Luna laugh a little too, but she just can’t. The best she could do is maybe stupidly blow a raspberry right now.

So she just sits down on her bed, opens her case, and takes out her violin and bow.

Then, she freezes. Her heart is really pounding now.

“Oh god… I’m not gonna be able to do this… If I try, I’ll just keep messing up. Or worse…”

She glances back up to her partner, who’s still just smiling this sweet, soft little smile. She wants it to feel reassuring, she really does. But it’s more intimidating than anything.

“Maybe we can play together?” she recalls Luna saying. “We.” “Together.”

Lightbulb.

Very giddily, she raises her apparatuses up, and holds them out to Luna.

“Hey! Why don’t you give it a go first!” she proposes. “You said you haven’t practiced in a while!”

Luan puts on her thinking face, hesitantly accepting the bow and violin. “Are you sure? Like, it’s cool?”

Carol plays it off like it is cool, internally feeling overwhelming relief come to her. “Sure… Show me what you’ve got, and maybe I can give you some pointers.”

Luna smiles. “Alright, here goes nothin’…”

She resumes her thinking face as she eases into a simple little melody. It’s like she’s now really playing anything in particular, but more so just listening for things that sound alright.

It amuses Carol. “Aww… Look at her trying. Good for you, Luna.”

Luna picks up the pace a bit, smoothly transitioning into an excerpt of a Bach partita. She hits all the right notes, and even gets away with looking away from the instrument some.

It impresses Carol. “Alright… I guess the girl’s got some game.”

Then, Luna kicks a foot up on the desk chair, and even sticks her tongue out as she focuses on playing the solo for The Devil Went Down To Georgia. Every slide and transition is flawless, and she’s even able to improvise some wicked new notes halfway through, like she’s too good to strictly follow the original composition.

It makes Carol’s jaw drop.

“Dang.”

Luna finishes, and shrugs. “Ehh, I know. Like, I said, I haven’t practiced in a while.”

She holds the instrument out to Carol, who just looks at her with disbelief.

“Let’s see what you got,” Luna invites with a playfully challenging tone.

Slowly, feeling great trepidation, Carol takes the violin, and forcefully shakes off the bewilderment. She just looks to it for a moment.

“How the heck do I follow THAT?”

“Uhm… Okay… Just… Heh heh…” she stammers as she tucks it under her chin, and presses her fingers on its strings. “You may have loosened her up a bit. So if I sound a little off-”

“Don’t worry about it, dude. My main man Mick Swagger always says it’s about having fun. I’m just glad to be here,” Luna happily tells her.

“She’s happy to be here?... With me?”

Luna’s phone goes off again. She pulls it out of her pocket and looks at it with the same alertness as before, and before she can even say anything, Carol already knows.

She won’t be here with her much longer.

“It’s the old man,” Luna says, and she answers it. While she talks with him, Carol lets herself sink, placing the violin to the side, and practically frowning.

“I should’ve told her to tell him no…”

Luna hangs up, and looks to Carol with a bit of a somber smile.

“Well, he’s here.”

Carol looks up to her, not even realizing she’s conveying so much disappointment. “Oh… Okay.”

For a moment, Luna just stands there, nervously rubbing her arm. But soon enough, she speaks up.

“…This was- pretty fun, Carol. I liked hanging out,” she says, letting another smile come to her lips.

It doesn’t change how she has to be going, or how Carol’s Saturday night will likely be a total bummer…

But knowing she had fun, and that she liked hanging out… It brings a warm feeling to her chest, and she smiles too.

“We should- do it again some time?” Carol suggests.

And Luna keeps smiling. “Yeah, totally dude.”

Slowly, she begins to make her way out into the hall.

“Uh, I’ll walk you out!” Carol blurts out, pretty much jumping up to be beside her.

“Alright,” Luna gladly agrees, and she’s escorted down by her partner.

It’s the super awkward silence that accompanies them on their way, but there’s no fighting it. There really isn’t much to say, and even if there was, it would be… hard.

These past forty-eight plus hours have been a roller coaster ride. It’d be hard for Carol to imagine on Thursday morning that she’d actually be sad to see Luna leaving her home- let alone coming here in the first place. But here they are, walking quietly side by side, and Carol really wants to ask her to stay. She’d bear the embarrassment of being outshined on the violin. She’d gladly listen to more stories about her tenteen siblings. Heck, she’d even listen to some ghastly rock n’ roll music if it just meant they could spend just a little more together.

They get to the front door, and just sort of stop. Luna looks to Carol, and Carol looks back to her. They both exchange somber smiles.

“Well, I guess I’ll see ya later, Carol. I’ll text you later?” Luna says a little skittishly.

“I’d like that,” Carol simply says.

And they still smile.

Luna hesitantly opens the door, and waves goodbye. “Au revoir.”

While watching her go makes her want to just curl up into a pouty little ball and mope, it melts her heart to hear her say those familiar departing words.

“Bye,” she softly says with a little wave of her own.

And Luna looks away. She walks her way down to the driveway and to her father’s cooky old van, never looking back, and putting on another happy face as she greets the balding man who is to drive her home.

But Carol can’t look away. She’s almost afraid that if she does, it could be the last time she’ll ever see her. So she watches her making her way into the passenger side of the van, pressing her hand to the glass of the pane, as if to reach out for her.

“Don’t go…”

But, she does. The van starts up, and before long, it’s heading off into the distance, and disappearing from her sight.

She lets out a heavy sigh, letting her hand slide down the glass, letting herself just deflate.

“Au revoir…”

-----------------------

In an effort to make her empty house a little less… depressing… Carol turns on the radio, settling for the 70s and 80s hits station. “Hello” by Lionel Richie starts playing.

*I’ve been alone with you inside my mind…*

She goes through the motions…

*And in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips… A thousand times…*

The attempt at some homework…

*Sometimes I see you pass outside my door…*

A hot bath…

*Hello… Is it me you’re looking for?*

Lethargic violin practice…

*I can see it in your eyes… I can see it in your smile…*

But it’s all pointless. She just feels… sad.

*You’re all I’ve ever wanted… And my arms are open wide…*

So she just lies in bed, moping…

*Cause you know just what to say… And you know just what to do…*

Thinking about Luna…

*And I want to tell you so much…*

But it eventually gets old, and she attempts to play on her phone a bit. Her rabbit hole leads her to Bookface, where she sees posts from all her so-called “friends” having fun together at a coffee shop.

“Jerks…”

It doesn’t help much, so she’s about to just toss the phone and return to sulking.

But… She sees something.

The newest selfie from Lori Loud.

She’s sitting in what is likely the same van Carol just watched her younger sister drive off in, sweetly smiling while resting her finger against one of her dimples.

Just, for reasons, Carol begins scrolling through the rest of her photo album. Lots of selfies, pictures with some wenches who shall not be named, foodie pics…

And a BFF selfie with Carol Pingrey in the crafts store at Royal Woods mall.

“Admit it, Carol… You miss her. Just like you miss-”

She sighs. “Are you really going to spend the rest of your Saturday just brooding around?” she thinks aloud.

She sits up on the edge of her bed. “No. No I’m not! Luna was right. I- I have a stick up my butt!… And… It’s about time I got it out of there…”

She gets her cell, and apprehensively looks to it.

There’s many ways this could go, and most of the scenarios don’t end well. Some of them could even lead to violence…

But, there is the chance that maybe Lori misses her too, and maybe she’ll be willing to forgive her.

It’s a chance she’s willing to take to save her Saturday night.

“I will NOT end up watching Princess Pony again.”

Big girl panties- On.

She unlocks the phone, and works up the nerve to call Lori Loud.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIING… RIIIIIIIIIIIIING…

Her racing heart begins to grow heavy. “She’s not going to answer…”

But just as she’s about to hang up…

“Hello?”

Upon hearing Lori’s voice, Carol’s breath nearly escapes her. “This is gonna be tough.”

She’s able to muster some more gumption though, and proceeds.

“Uh, hey Lori. What’s up?” she casually asks. “Keep it cool.”

Belatedly, Lori answers. “Uhm, I’m actually kind of in the middle of something…” she indifferently says.

“Oh… Okay…” Carol bemoans.

Then, there’s a palpable silence. The kind of silence that means: conversation over.

Friendship over…

“Uhm… I guess I’ll talk to you later…” she adds, hanging her head low.

But Lori doesn’t hang up. She doesn’t say anything right away, but after some thought, she sighs.

“Carol… Is everything alright?”

It’s the billion dollar question she didn’t even realize she needed to hear; because, frankly, she’s not alright. Everything she thought was okay isn’t okay. Things she didn’t want anything to do with make her happy… just to make her sad.

And she could really use a friend now.

She heavily sighs. “Lori… I’m sorry…” she remorsefully begins. “I said some nasty things to you, and- I really wish I didn’t… You deserve better than that…”

As she hangs her head low again, Lori is silent, and it’s only a matter of waiting to hear just what this apology will mean to her, if anything at all.

Another sigh on Lori’s part. “…Carol, I’m sorry too. I was really- immature. You had every right to be mad at me.”

Carol slightly perks up. “No, I didn’t. I was immature… I just…”

She very carefully considers just how to say this in the most Carol Pingrey of ways possible. She could just say she forgives her, and maybe ask her “What’s up?” or even “How have you been?” in the most overly done, let’s forgive and forget way imaginable.

Or she could be diplomatic, and maybe revisit the day that the great cargo shorts debate began, and try to just work things out now that they’ve had a couple weeks to cool off.

But… She realizes that, in this moment, she doesn’t have anything to prove sitting all alone in her sad, empty house. Even if she did, it’s just too much to bear this weight any longer.

If Lori Loud was woman enough to say “You win,” then she’s willing to return the favor.

It’s just what friends do.

“…I miss you,” she finishes.

“I miss you too,” Lori softly admits, and Carol imagines she’s cracking a little smile- just like the way she is right now.

And it gets quiet. A good quiet. Like, calm after the storm.

“…So, how have you been?” Lori asks.

It’s not so bad the way she says it.

Carol silently sighs to herself. She wants to be able to fake it for her friend’s sake, but she’s not going to be able to pretend she’s okay.

As nice as it is to have this exchange of forgiveness, it unfortunately isn’t enough to make her forget about this sadness.

“Well… I’ve been okay… Uhm… I just finished working on my project with Luna… She just left my house,” she answers, laying back on her cozy amethyst bed sheets.

“What? My sister?” Lori dubiously responds.

“Oh… I guess she didn’t tell you…” Carol says back. It hurts a little to know.

“Well… I guess she thought it would best, heh heh,” Lori coyly quips.

“So… How’d that go? You guys didn’t badmouth me too much, did you?” she adds with a slightly more confident joking tone.

Normally, it’d be fun. It’d be nice to just wisecrack back until they start laughing and get off on sharing the latest, juiciest new gossip. There’s plenty to catch up on, after all.

But the sadness just won’t go away… Not until she talks this out… Not until she accepts the truth.

She doesn’t say anything back.

“Carol?...”

“Lori...” she finally says.

“I think I like her.”

Chapter Text

 

“I think I like her…”

After Carol’s confession, there’s an expected, tense silence. It’s not everyday your BFF calls to say they have a crush on your sister, after all.

But eventually, Lori’s able to muster out something.

“You… like Luna? Like, like like her?”

She does. It’s so obvious now.

Maybe it’s something that’s just been building up inside her all along. Maybe all those times she was desperate for Luna to stop answering Mr. Sunderland’s questions, she was really just angry with herself for not being able to shamelessly feel happy for her.

Maybe when she was trying to find a good reason to convince Whitney why she’s so bad, she was really trying to convince herself. Like, she knew Luna was smart, and pretty. So she was just trying to find something wrong with her, so she wouldn’t have to admit it.

And maybe when they shared those laughs at Ms. Clifford’s expense in afternoon detention, she was laughing because she liked how it felt to be free from all the pressure of being Carol Pingrey. Not because she didn’t care what Luna thought about her, but because she wanted to feel what it’s like to share something true with someone else.

“I don’t know…” Carol answers, face palming with her free hand. “I mean… I’ve never felt this was about a girl before…”

Which was completely true. She always thought that she was comfortable enough with her sexuality to recognize how other females could be attractive, sure. But Luna’s different. The way she met her eyes while taking that picture, and the way she can’t stop thinking about it, and her smile, and how nice it was to be close to her…

It makes her think of how she felt experiencing that dream. It’s almost the exact same excitement, except, this is real. She feels it in her chest, she recognizes it- but she’s aware just what it is now.

It’s… attraction. Infatuation. A wonderful new sensation she’s only been told about in the movies and the fairy tales where people get to live happily ever after.

And at the same time, it’s confusing as hell.

“Wow…” Lori says after a pause.

Which… makes Carol feel even stupider than she already does.

“Nice going, idiot. You shouldn’t have even told her! How can she begin to understand what this is like when I can’t even figure it out?!”

She involuntarily lets out a long groan “Ughhh…”

“I mean, that’s not a bad thing! I just- Oh-” Lori defends.

“What’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to like boys! And here I am thinking about… Luna…” Carol bemoans.

It’s pretty much the worst feeling in the world: longing and pining for Luna to come back, and wanting to recapture the magic of that amazing dream, all while having to be ashamed of it.

Lori takes an audible breath. “Carol, listen to me,” she says, and she pauses like maybe she’s checking to make sure no one else can hear her. “You can’t help who you like! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with liking a girl… It might be- hard, at first. I mean, like, trying to find out how you really feel and all… But, if you’re happy…”

Carol thinks it over. Despite all the life changing consequences that would come with- coming out… It’s very easy to just smile when she remembers all the fun she had today with Luna.

And fun they could have together… later…

She contently sighs, and softly slaps her forehead. “I had a dream about her…” she reveals with an almost amused, kind of embarrassed tone.

Lori pauses again. “Uhm… Okay… Uh, I didn’t need to know that…” she says, evidently taking this out of context.

Carol perks up. “What? No! Not that kind of dream, you pervert!”

“Ohhhh! Ha ha… Pheeew! I mean, I wouldn’t like- judge you or anything. Just- she’s my sister,” Lori responds with relief.

For a moment, neither of them says anything, just sort of thinking to themselves.

“She was right about one thing… This having a crush on a girl thing is gonna be a huge adjustment. I mean- assuming it really is a crush. But it has to be, right? I mean, I like her the way I’m supposed to like boys…”

“You still there, Lori?” she asks.

Belatedly, she replies with the following.

“Awwwwwh!”

“Ugh, Lori…”

“Sorry, it’s just- it’s so cute!”

“Insert groan here.”

“Lori, seriously, please don’t say anything to anybody! At least let me figure this out first…”

“Carol, I wouldn’t do that to you… You’re… My best friend,” she responds.

She sighs, and lets a smile come to her face. “Thanks for- everything, Lori. I’m really glad I called you.”

“I’m glad you called, too,” Lori says, probably smiling too. “But uhm, I actually am kind of in the middle of something. I’m visiting Bobby in the city, so I’m gonna have to get off of here.”

“Of course…”

“Oh! Okay… Uhm, can I text you later?” Carol asks.

“Well, duh,” Lori bluntly says. “We are so not done talking about this. You’re gonna give me all the details!”

“Heh… Good. There’s plenty to tell,” Carol tells her.

“Text me. I’ll see you Monday,” Lori finishes.

“I will. Bye,” Carol says back, and they both hang up.

She lets the phone fall onto her bed, and stretches out.

“Well… That’s one problem in my life solved… Now I just have to… Sigh… figure out everything else.”

She looks out her window, and sees how the sun is beginning to set.

It’s very likely that her Saturday night will be another long one.

But then, her phone buzzes.

She curiously picks it up, seeing the blue notification light blinking.

“Is it Lori?... One of the girls?... Mom? Dad?...”

“Luna?...”

She unlocks it.

Bold Navy Alert: Deals, deals, deals all Saturday and Sunday!

“Dang it, Bold Navy!”

-----------------------

Indeed, it was a long Saturday night. She waited an appropriate fifteen- okay, ten minutes to text Lori, who of course took two hours to respond with:

I’m sorry I took so long! Just been super busy! I promise I’ll text you tomorrow!

So Carol ended up watching Fletnix and gritting her teeth through the whole ordeal, because of course Mom and Dad weren’t coming home, and of course her friends/maybe not friends are too good to hang out with someone as snooty as herself.

She considered texting Luna. But… What was there to say?

Hello… Is it me you’re looking for?

Pshhh… As if.

And she’s still not even sure just what to think about her, and about all of this.

“She has to like me, right? I mean, she said she likes a girl, and who else is there?...”

The thought made her actually, literally wonder just who else she could’ve been talking about, but she quickly snuffs the notion that anyone could be more desirable than her, because- well, she’s Carol. Who wouldn’t be smitten?

Regardless, there’s still so much to consider. If Luna does like her back, and if they decide to maybe actually act on these feelings, then everything changes. People start labeling. People start judging. As much as she likes people talking about her, she isn’t so sure she wants to be known as a… lesbian.

But then she can’t help but return to the notion that maybe Luna doesn’t like her that way. Or maybe she did, and somehow she’s turned her off, or will turn her off, and then… Ugh!

“Dang it, Lori! I need to talk to someone about this!”

Sunday didn’t fare any better. She didn’t wake up to any texts from Lori, or any other Loud siblings that she may or may not have wished she could have had a nice dream about that just didn’t come because of course it wouldn’t when she actually wanted one to.

“I need to get out of the house,” she told herself, so she decided to head for the mall and actually take Bold Navy up on some of those deals, deals, deals.

Which was bologna! There were no deals!

“Of course!”

But she wouldn’t let it her ruin her outing. Daddy’s credit card had never let her down before, and it wouldn’t today. So she went down every aisle looking at shoes, shirts, skirts, pants, socks, and even dresses.

She saw a lovely purple one that reminded her of homecoming, and becoming the first junior to win the crown of homecoming queen in Royal Woods history. It was really awesome, easily the best moment of her life.

She took it off the rack and held it up in front of the mirror for size. People can say whatever they want about her, but they can’t take away how good she looks.

But there’s something else about the dress… That… Reminds her of Luna…

Of course.

As great as it would look on her, it’d look even better on Luna. And if she’d maybe put on some lipstick and gussy herself up a bit, she’d be a knockout.

She couldn’t help but imagine how great they would together, hand in hand, taking on next year’s homecoming as a couple. Sure, people would stare, but maybe there’d be more good stares than bad. Like, look at those two, they’re so hot, omigod Beckay, Carol and Luna are totes both homecoming queens.

Her reverie was interrupted by some freckled girl with dark hair and bangs.

“Will you move? I need to see how this Bullet For A Friend of Mine T-Shirt will look on me if I die my hair purple!” the goth girl said with a thick emo drawl. “I swear…”

She got home with some nice new clothes and some Chinese food for what was looking to be another night of Fletnixing One Punch Girl and Dessert Storm, and, of freaking course, still nothing from Lori!

Normally she’d just be patient and wait her out with the understanding that her and her Boo Boo Bear don’t get nearly enough time for one another. But this is like, literally driving her crazy, and she’s tired of having only herself to run all of this Luna Loud lunacy by.

So she actually texts her first, even if it does totally make her seem desperate.

Hey, what’s up? She texts at 3:19.

Which may as well say: Listen here, bitch. I was there for you when you farted during the varsity golf regionals, so you need to be here for me now!

Lori took way too long to reply. Carol could’ve read every Bamazon review on Sharebo Gummy Bears in the time it took for her to respond.

About to head home:p Sorry again for not texting! I promise we’ll catch up tomorrow! Sit with me at lunch and I’ll let you tell me everything! She said at 3:31.

Sit with me at lunch. So like, tell her all of this stuff in person? Where Whitney, Dana, and Becky could come and mess everything up? Or worse… Luna herself?!

“She’s so lucky I’m feeling vulnerable right now…”

“Fine, I’ll sit with you at lunch tomorrow. Even if it is literally the most awkward thing ever, and it will make everybody just ask a bunch of questions about stuff… but whatever. If it will make me feel better about my- problem… I will be the bigger person and say yes…”

“But I’m not happy about it!”

Alright, thanks Lori:)

“Butthole.”

Which leaves her now with only one last issue…

Just what the heck does she Fletnix tonight?

She scrolls through the various streaming possibilities, most of which make her cringe or roll her eyes.

But one show catches her eye.

It’s the movie she’s heard so many great things about, “L is for Love.” It’s a movie about two women who find that they feel something special between them.

It’s critically acclaimed, having nearly the whole internet community raving for more, especially the ending.

But… Should she watch it? Alone by herself? Knowing full well that it’s about… two girls?

That’s weird isn’t it?

But, like her life right now, and the way she’s feeling about a certain girl…

The only way to find out is to give it a try.

Chapter Text

Monday afternoon.

It’s been somewhat of an uneventful day for Carol Pingrey. Unsurprisingly, she hasn’t seen her parents, and none of her so-called friends have texted her. Lori did text her shortly after arriving to school though, making sure their plans to meet at lunch today hadn’t changed. Carol was sure to remind her that they haven’t, despite the knot in her stomach she’s felt about it all day.

It doesn’t help that her morning began with journalism class either. It was hard enough focusing on Mr. Sunderland’s tacky lectures without being attracted to Luna Loud, but things are a lot different now than they were on Friday morning.

She would gladly dream of Luna again, and she’d be more than willing to spend some time working on their project together. She might be a nervous wreck the entire time, but if it could be anything like their date- or, time spent together over the weekend, she’d ease up around her new love interest.

The worst part of it all though, is how Luna would occasionally glance over to her with these soft little smiles, or nods, or just little facial nuances to remind her that she’s recognized her presence. Yes, that’d be great and all, but she can’t tell if it’s because she feels all these crazy feelings too, or if she’s just being polite because they’re partners.

It’s quite odd. At the same time she wants to kiss her pretty pink lips, she also just kind of wants to smack her. Hard.

Finally, lunch comes, and she’s braced herself as well as possible for her talk with Lori.

She arrives a little early, making sure to get in before Whitney, Dana, Becky, or any of her other friends can see her. If all goes well, they won’t even realize she’s here today, and she can just speak to Lori without anyone asking a billion questions about them making up again.

That, and it would be super awkward if she happened to run into Luna. Like, okay, here’s a nice place to lie down and wait for the sun to explode awkward.

She doesn’t even eat her non-dairy, non-gluten, non-GMO “quesadilla.” She just sort of places it to the side, anxiously waiting for Lori at the island of the table in the farthest back corner of the cafeteria.

After what seems like a lifetime, Lori makes herself known, pacing around and scanning the cafeteria for her self-proclaimed BFF. Fortunately, she’s alone, so this may actually go well… For once.

“Pssst! PSSST! Lori!” Carol unsuspiciously pssts, trying to grab her attention.

It thankfully works too, and Lori finally finds her and takes the seat across from her, all while wearing this confused look on her face.

“Uhm… Hi Carol.”

“Shhhh! Don’t say my name! I don’t want anyone else to know I’m here,” she reveals with a hushed tone.

More confusion from Lori. “Uhm, okay?... Uh, why are you wearing that?” she asks, referring to her clever disguise consisting of a floral hooded shaw and sunglasses.

“Because I don’t want to be seen, okay?!” she blurts out, still hushing herself.

Lori furrows her brow. “If this is because of me, I’m literally going to-”

“No, it’s not because of you… I just don’t want everyone bothering me about us making up, or well… You know…” Carol insinuates.

And the confusion returns.

Carol groan-sighs, “I don’t want to be exposed,” she explains.

Lori just nods. “Right… Uhm, you do realize that the shaw’s not helping, right? Like, I knew that was you as soon as I saw you.”

“What?! You must be joking. I’m totally low-key right now,” Carol argues.

“Ms. Pingrey, please remove your headwear. You know the rules,” Miss Go promptly instructs as she just happens to pass by.

Lori amusingly grins to herself as Carol huffs and reluctantly removes her shaw and glasses.

“Okay, Carol. Now that I’m all ears, why don’t you tell me what’s up with you and Luna. Start from the beginning, and tell me all the details. I’m literally dying to hear them.”

“If you’re dying to hear them so much why couldn’t you text me this weekend?!” Carol wants to shout out.

But Lori says she’s all ears, and she’s dying even more to tell her said details. So she wastes little time getting to it.

She takes a deep breath, and begins.

“Okay, so, she’s in my journalism class, right? And it’s a prereq for Yearbook next year- which I’m like- totally gonna be a part of. It’s happening, okay?... But, Mr. Sunderland decides out of nowhere that instead of a midterm essay, we’re gonna do this big project about a topic making an article and doing a presentation, blah blah blah blah blah. You with me?”

Lori simply nods, and Carol continues.

“Okay, so like, in the most cliché irony way possible, I friggin’ get paired with your sister. And like, I was in the hallway saying these- things about her to Whitney-”

“Wait. What kind of things?” Lori interrupts.

A little nervously, Carol responds with “Uhm, just- well… I thought I hated her okay! The way she was always answering every question and rubbing Mick Swagger in everybody’s face?! It was annoying! Or well… I thought it was…”

She takes a moment to catch her breath, and Lori just attentively listens.

“So, we get detention, because Luna was about to try and fight me!”

Lori snickers.

“It’s not funny!”

“Okay, okay… Just keep going.”

Carol refrains from letting the unjust snickering faze her, and does just that.

“So, we started throwing paper at Ms. Clifford- I know it sounds horrible but just bear with me, and it was really funny! Like, we were both laughing really hard…”

“Aww…” Lori teases, folding her hands and resting them to hear cheek.

Carol just disregards it with a roll of the eyes.

“Anyway… Then I had the dream about her…”

She pauses enough for Lori to carefully interject. “So, don’t tell me if it’s- you know… But what happened in the dream?”

Carol softly sighs, happily reliving the reverie. “…We danced, and we- almost kissed.”

“Awww!” Lori says again, this time with sincerity.

“Shut up,” Carol playfully rebuts with a little blush. “This is when I still hated her though- so yeah…”

“Anyway, the next day I go into Sunderland’s thinking I’m gonna tell him I’m dropping her as my partner, right? Well, I walk in, and I see she’s got all these really good notes and is like, actually prepared to work on the project! So, I mean, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll give this a try’… But then we went to the library, and she said I have a stick up my butt-”

More snickers from Lori.

“…And we got detention again.”

“No way!”

“I know! But she totally gave me the cold shoulder the whole time!... So like, we get out of there, and she pretty much was gonna drop me before I- sort of apologized…”

“Sort of?” Lori questions with an eyebrow raise.

“Well, I mean, I didn’t outright say sorry… But it was good enough! Anyway-” Carol continues before she can be sidetracked once more. “…She asked me for my number-”

“Okay- hold up,” Lori interrupts again, much more assertively.

Sidetracked.

“She asked you for your number?”

“Well, I mean, yeah… But it was just because of the project?”

Lori steels herself a moment, carefully choosing her next words, visibly conflicted.

“What?” Carol anxiously asks.

“Uhm… You so know Luna likes girls, right? Like, she like likes girls?”

“Yes, I know she likes girls!” Carol blurts out. She takes a moment to calm herself immediately after, doing a double take to make sure no unwanted eavesdroppers are listening in. Lori rolls her eyes at this.

“…I- overheard her talking to this guy… She said- she said she has a crush on a girl, and wants to maybe ask her out,” she recalls, intentionally leaving out the part where certain jerks said certain things, for certain reasons.

Lori grows wide-eyed, the anticipation for the follow up becoming more and more obvious.

Carol sighs. “But my stupid phone went off right as she said who, so I didn’t hear her.”

Lori deflates. “Dang…”

Carol rubs her forehead, the tension starting to take its toll on her. “I mean- has she said anything? About any girls, or me?” she asks.

Lori somberly sighs. “She hasn’t. Sorry… I mean, she’s usually really talkative, but not when it comes to crushes. She’s actually kind of shy when it comes to that kind of stuff.”

This makes Carol perk up. She’s not only learning something new about Luna, but something about her intimate side.

“Okay, like- how?” she follows up.

“She just- I mean, she never talked much about the boys she’s talked to, and with girls- she’s even more nervous. She didn’t even really make a big deal when she came out. She just had a crush on this one girl, and she just kind of told us without really saying anything else about it.”

“Hmm… Interesting…” Carol thinks, not making it very secretive that this is what she’s thinking with the thoughtful look on her face.

Lori sharply sighs before cautiously continuing. “So, like… I mean… I guess what I’m saying is… It’s possible she could-”

“Okay- okay!” Carol interrupts while raising her hand up. “Don’t say it! You’ll give me a heart attack,” she says, deflating and grabbing her chest.

Lori thoughtfully winces. “So… What? You like her, but you don’t want her to like you back?”

“Of course I want her to like me back!” Carol argues with a hushed tone. “I just… I don’t know… This has all been so sudden! And I mean- if she does like me, and we do- you know… date or whatever… It’s gonna change everything…” she sorrowfully states, hanging her head low and resting it on her hand.

Lori takes a moment to digest her words, then intently looks to her.

“Carol, listen to me. Stop beating yourself up about this,” she says with care, and Carol looks back up to meet her eyes.

“…You can’t help who you like. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, all that matters is that you do what makes you happy,” she asserts with a soft smile.

It’s nice gesture, it really is. But sadly, it doesn’t make this any easier.

“You don’t understand Lori… My whole life I’ve only thought about boys. This is the first time I’ve even considered feeling this way about a girl. I mean…”

She pauses, trying to find the right words to say.

“…Have you ever- you know… Thought about it?” she asks her friend.

It takes a moment for it fully register just what she’s being asked, but it does, and Lori perks up a bit.

“Uhm… Well…” she starts, clearly taken back. It takes her another few seconds to compose a full response, but she comes up with something.

“…I mean, I think everybody thinks about it. Like, at least once…”

“I’ve never had a dream about a girl, or anything like that though… I guess what I’m trying to say is: yeah, I’ve asked myself if maybe I could be gay or whatever, but I’m just not. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with people who are, it’s just, that’s who they are. Do you know what I mean?” Lori asks, truly trying to convey that she’s trying to be empathetic.

And it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Carol sighs. “I do,” she says.

They take a breather, just collecting their thoughts before continuing their heart-to-heart.

It’s Lori to break the silence first.

“So… What made you change your mind about her? That dream? Hearing her say she likes girls? Or what?”

“Huh.”

Huh, indeed. Was it just one thing? It couldn’t have been. So, then what all was it? Where did it start? What was the one thing that made this whole snowball effect come into fruition?

And she did dream about her… So maybe this thing has always been deep down inside of her, and it just needed a little push. But what was the push?!

Seeing Luna as prepared as she was that day in class was a good start maybe, or maybe even tossing paper at the sleeping detention sitter. And yes, discovering that she might have a crush on her maybe piqued her curiosity to an extent.

But really, when she thinks about it, it was that stupid joke about breaking the glass of tea, and offering to help clean it up. It was just talking to her about things when she had no one else to talk to on her lonely Saturday.

It was that picture. Those stupid-

No, those adorable freckles.

“She’s… Always been beautiful, I guess.”

“Uhm… Carol?” Lori questions.

But Carol is pretty much zoned out daydreaming about her lovely lady friend, and all the things she’s failed to appreciate about her all this time. The freckles, the hair, the smiles, even the stinkin’ paperclip earrings.

She doesn’t notice Lori nervously perk up as something catches her eye in across the cafeteria.

“Carol!” she says with a sense of urgency, now jostling her wrist to try and break her out of her daze.

Ugh, it works.

“What?!” Carol blurts out. She was enjoying herself!

“Hey guys,” a familiar raspy voice says to them.

They look up to see Luna Loud, with this perfect little smile on her face.

Carol just meets her with a petrified, blank stare.

“Poo.”

 

Chapter Text

 

It’s literally the worst case scenario.

Carol just poured her heart out to Lori about how she has a crush on Luna, and now the beautiful devil herself has shown up to just absolutely ruin everything.

Cringe.

“Sup dudes?” Luna innocently asks, taking a seat by her older sister. It’s not like she knows they were talking about her, right?

“Uhm… Not much, heh heh… Just talking about stuff,” Lori awkwardly answers back with this constipated looking face that Carol could just reach over and smack if she wasn’t just wholeheartedly flabbergasted.

Like, it’s one thing to talk about Luna, that’s easy. And thinking about her is actually really nice after some getting used to.

But being around her? Seeing her face for real? Acknowledging that she’s been acknowledged and having to come up with a verbal response?!

Crying face.

Just as well as she was able to hide behind her sunglasses and hooded shaw, Carol sits there with this idiotic forced smile that she would smack herself for if she could only see it.

Luna meets the older girls with skepticism. “So… Are you guys like- friends again?” she asks with trepidation.

Lori glances at Carol, and Sherlocks the deduction that she won’t be speaking proper English for a while. Being the friend she is, she takes it upon herself to answer Luna’s fair question.

“Yep, heh heh… We decided to just let bygones be bygones. Life’s too short, nobody’s perfect, all that stuff!”

Oh, if only Carol could be perfect. As close as she is, she still feels like a total goof around her crush. If she says anything, she’s messing up. If she says nothing, she’s messing up!

“So say something you moron!”

Luna just looks at her with the same concerned expression, and Lori has this sickly, pitiful look on her face, like she just wants to wrap her friend up in a woobie and rock her wike a wittle baby.

“Uhh… I… Uhm…” Carol stammers.

“J'aime ton visage?!”

(I like your face)

Cringe. Cringe. Cringe.

Many, many colorful words run through her mind about just how idiotic and humiliating her response was. It’s even worse that Lori’s woobie face has curled into an actual, literal cringe, and that Luna just looks at her like maybe she needs her urine tested for certain substances.

“French? How STUPID are you?!” Carol thinks to herself.

“Oh god, oh god! She totally thinks I’m a spaz! A loser! A lonely, miserable excuse for a human being! If she didn’t NOT like me before…”

“Uhm, you good, C?” Luna asks.

Lori widens her eyes like she might faint. The mortification from Carol is so great, it’s actually seething its way into her.

And she just freezes. Her cheeks become flushed, her pores profusely perspire, her heart starts beating like a drum in her weak, weary little chest.

It’s too much. She can’t do this. Not here, not now. Bail, bail, bail!

“Uhm… aheh… I uh- I have to go- uhm, oh…” she dumbly babbles, trying to come up with an excuse to smoothly make her way out of this horrendous situation.

It’s no use. Seeing Luna look at her with those deep brown eyes sends a chill down her spine. She must be so ashamed to even be around her, so disgusted with herself to catch cupid’s arrow over such a stupid nub like Carol Pingrey!

So, she doesn’t even bother. She just gets up, and hurriedly walks away without looking back.

Leaving her best friend and the girl of her dreams in disbelief.

Luna turns to Lori with a dumbfounded expression, and her sister just nervously shrugs with a corny fake smile.

“What was that about?” Luna asks.

-----------------------

“It just isn’t fair!”

Carol makes her way through the hallways of Royal Woods High, shamefully hanging her head low, avoiding the eyes of all those she passes on her way to sanctuary.

They’d all fail to understand the pain she’s going through. They’re not used to being labeled the miss perfect, principal’s list making, homecoming queen winning figure that she is.

But she has issues too! Like, she works really hard to maintain that image! It doesn’t help that her parents are never home either, or that her supposed “friends” all talk trash about her behind her back.

And now she’s got this stupid crush to deal with, and all the baggage that comes with it!

She finally makes it to the one place she knows a teenage girl can be safe from the judgment and noise pollution of a high school:

The bathroom.

Thankfully, it’s empty, and she makes her way into the nearest stall- because she really just can’t hold it anymore.

She gets inside, sits down on the seat, and muffles her face with her hands.

“MMMMMMMM!”

Good, some of the anger is out.

But now she just feels… Really sad. Sad enough to cry.

So she does. Not loudly, not hysterically, but just… enough.

“You’re so stupid, Carol… What makes you think you can actually be with another girl? Especially freakin’ Luna Loud…” she curses to herself.

She pulls out her phone, sort of maybe hoping for a text or a call from Mom or Dad, just to ask how she’s doing, or maybe even an “I love you.” Or maybe Becky or Dana will message her. Even if they said those things, she still wants them to like her, she still wants to them to be her friends…

But no one does.

She daydreams of Luna coming in, and she’ll knock on the stall door and ask if she’s okay, and she’ll come out, and they’ll just hug and hold each other and everything will turn out just fine.

She hears the restroom door open.

She feels her heart begin to race, and she quickly snuffs the waterworks to pay attention to the feet walking in from under the stall.

Oh man… They’re hers… They’re Luna’s!

She panics, feeling herself tense up.

“Oh my god… Please don’t actually come in here to hold me. It’s really gross in here, and I’m sweaty, and I am SO not prepared for that!”

But Luna doesn’t come to the door, she just makes her way to the sink and turns it on.

As Carol listens to the water running, Luna is silent, simply standing before the sink doing who knows what. Maybe she’s checking her make-up in the mirror, or just washing her hands. Maybe she’s even having a little breakdown of her own because of her crush on Carol, because she has to have a crush on her too, and it’s just eating and gnawing away at her just like-

CLACK!

Carol… drops… her phone.

For whatever reason, life decided that her predicament just wasn’t dreadful enough. So it made her nerves fail her and make her drop her friggin’ phone like some neanderthal, and it didn’t just fall by her feet or whatever- no… It practically tumbles out of the stall and across the tiles, landing by the purple boot of a certain someone.

She watches as Luna steps to the side, clearly noticing the abnormality.

“Oh god- she’ll see me! She’ll look down and see my feet, and she’ll think I’m an even bigger idiot than she already does!”

She quickly brings her legs up to the rim of the toilet lid, hugging them tightly as she makes herself into a little ball safe from Luna’s eyes.

Now, as expected, she watches as Luna’s hand picks up her phone. After she does, she just sort of stands there for a moment.

“Oh man, I hope she doesn’t know that’s MY phone!”

“Uhhh… Is someone in there?” Luna calls out.

“Dang it, dang it, dang it.”

“Okay, Pingrey. Think! There’s got to be a way to get my phone back without her knowing it’s me!”

Cringe worthy awkward silence ensues as she tries to think of some sort of solution to her new dilemma, leaving Luna just standing there with some “stranger’s” phone in her hand, probably disgusted.

“I’ve got it!”

She clears her throat. “Uhh, yeah. Sorry about that,” she says with a very scratchy voice to disguise herself.

But Luna’s quiet. Like, bad quiet.

“She’s not buying it, she knows it’s me! Game over, man! Game over!”

“Ms. Clifford?” Luna questions.

Carol perks up.

“She’s buying it!”

“Yes- ahem, uhh… Thank you, darlin’. Uhh… about my phone…” Carol continues.

“…Yeah. Uhm, you want me to like- hold on to it till you finish up?” Luna politely, uncertainly offers.

“No!” Carol blurts out, almost breaking character. But Luna doesn’t respond, so maybe she’s still got a chance here.

“O-kay?... I could- I’ll just sit it on the counter?” Luna suggests.

“That won’t work! Who knows how long she’ll be out there, and if I take too long to get out, she’ll get on to me!”

“Uhm, no, no thank you… Uhm, why don’t you just- maybe- slide it under the stall, dear?” Carol requests, still keeping up the charade that she’s their elderly teacher.

It seems to make Luna uneasy. “Uhm… You want me to just- reach down and-?”

“Yes! Just slide it under! Or throw it! I don’t care! Just- don’t look under here!”

Carol imagines this must all be very confusing for the poor girl. But frankly, her confusion is nothing compared to how she’s feeling, so she’ll just have to deal with it.

“Okay… Here I go,” Luna timidly states, and slowly, she bends over to take the phone- and slide it across the tiles, and it meets the base of the commode.

It relieves a lot of the tension in Carol’s shoulders, and she ebbs. “Thank you…”

But Luna still stands there. “Like, okay, I got it… You can leave now!”

Carol peeks out the thin crevice between the stall door and wall, seeing just the faintest bit of her beautiful face, and it makes her imagine the rest of her face, and… “Ahhh…”

Finally, Luna steps away.

“Uhm, I’ll see you later Ms. Clifford… Take it easy…”

“You’re so pretty my dear,” Carol softly thinks aloud, forgetting that she’s literally trying not to get her attention.

Doh.

“Uhm- what?” Luna says, obviously taken back, as she should be.

Carol nervously bites the tips of her fingers. “You were so close! For cryin’ out loud, girl- do something- fast!”

With the adrenaline pumping through her nerves and synapses, she’s able to conjure up something better than nothing, and desperately throws it out for the world- or, Luna at least, to hear.

“I SAID IT SMELLS SHITTY IN HERE!”

Anxiously, she waits. “Oh man… There’s no way she’s buying it. She heard me. She’s putting the pieces together. She totally knows it’s me now… I might as well just come clean… That’s what a normal person would do, right? Just fess up, barge out of the stall, and explain everything?...”

“Wait a second… I am a normal person! What are you saying Carol?! AAAGGGHHH! Just tell her how you feel and end this misery!”

She braces herself, taking quick breaths to try and psyche herself into a sense of confidence.

“Alright, here it goes. I’m just gonna go out there, and tell her how I feel. I’ll just say I’m sorry for being such a jackass, and then I’ll say: ‘Luna, I like you.’ Easy enough, right? RIGHT?!”

She’s just about to stand up from her little ball…

“Alright, Ms. Clifford. Deuces,” Luna says, and she finally leaves the restroom.

Carol just sits in nebulous for a moment.

She allows herself to uncurl from her ball, letting her feet touch the floor and she peeks out the crack again to be sure she’s really gone.

It would appear she is, and she takes a deep breath.

“I wouldn’t have done it anyway…” she admits to herself, defeated.

Her phone- which still lies on the cold floor, buzzes, breaking her silent trance.

She picks it up and unlocks it, seeing a new message from Lori.

Lori: Are you okay? Where are you?

She sighs. “For Blarney’s sake, at least don’t say you’re in the bathroom.”

Carol: I just had to get away. I can’t believe I was so stupid.

Lori: You’re not stupid. Everybody gets nervous around their crush! Don’t feel bad!

Lori: Do you want to talk some more? Maybe we could go outside and walk the track or something?

Carol sighs again. She’s had enough excitement for one day.

Carol: Thanks for everything Lori. I really mean that. But I think I just want to be left alone for a little while.

She sends the message, and leans back. All these bad feelings just won’t let her enjoy herself, and she knows it’s going to be yet another long and lonely night.

“I should’ve told her… I need to tell her… It’s the only way I’ll be able to get on with my life…”

“But not today. Heck no.”

She feels herself relaxing some as she realizes the worst of it is over for now, and she’ll return to her mundane Monday to face simple things like school work, driving home, eating take-out, and watching mind-numbing television.

“Yeah… I’ve really got it made, huh?”

Then, she realizes she’s been in the bathroom for a long time.

“Uhm… Eww.”

So she picks herself up and gets the heck out.

Because she’s had enough of this crap.

 

Chapter Text

 

Monday night was one of restless thought. As exhausted as she was, Carol couldn’t help but go over her awkward ordeal with Luna over and over again, trying to pinpoint just what triggered her to behave so… So…

“Stupid!”

She paces from her kitchen to her bedroom, making her way to her mirror to get a good look at herself.

Even under pressure, she’s easy on the eyes.

“Okay, I think I know what the problem is,” she thinks aloud, free to talk to herself in the comfort of her own home. It’s not weird, everybody does it. Totes.

“She just caught me off guard! Like, I was totally worked up because of all the stuff I said to Lori, and then she just had to come by then and there. It’s not the end of the world. I can still play it off like I had a phone call or something…”

She again looks at her reflection, and raises her heel up for a little pose.

“Hmmm… Maybe if I doll myself up a little tomorrow… I can turn the tables,” she says with a little grin.

“Yeah! I’ll put on a nice outfit, put on some of my best- ehh, second best make-up, and then I’ll feel really good about myself! And Luna won’t expect it, so even if I made an idiot out of myself today, it won’t matter!”

“Plus… I’ll be ready for her this time. I’ll have time to prepare myself for when I see her in class… I might still be able to pull this off!” she happily proclaims.

…                                                               

She lets herself fall onto her bed, now eager for tomorrow to get started.

She sighs of relief, and just begins playing it all out in her head. She’ll sit down with Luna, who will be all doe eyes at her for looking so exquisite, and some casual conversation will turn to Luna asking her to maybe get some coffee after school.

And coffee will become a regular thing. They’ll start spending more and more time together- in and out of school, and things will just escalate until Luna musters the courage to ask her out. And Carol will muster the courage to say yes.

Then there will be hand holding, teasing, flirting, laughs… serenading… slow dancing… kissing…

Her phone buzzes, interrupting her fantasy.

“If that’s Bold Navy-”

She gets up and grabs her phone, which she’s pretty much left alone this evening. It’s not like anybody texts her anymore.

Except…

Lori: Hey, what’s up?

She carefully considers how she wants to respond. Would it be too spazzy to tell her everything she’s thinking about right now? But that’s why she’s texting, right?

Then again, since their making up, it’s been… all about her. Maybe Lori’s checking in, yeah, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be there for her too. It might even help her with this Luna thing in the long-run to have some distractions.

She smiles.

Carol: Oh, just enjoying this lovely night. And you?:)

She made a good call, too. The two friends had a nice little talk about Bobby and how Lori’s latest trip to the city went, and Lori maybe getting her own car soon. But, of course, it didn’t stop Carol from filling her BFF on her foolproof plan to win Luna’s heart at Lori’s inquiry.

Lori: Awww!:) I hope you figure it out!

Lori: I told her you love her btw;p

Carol’s heart skips a beat.

Carol: You didn’t

Lori: Nah just messin;) But you better make a move soon. The temptation is literally real;p

Carol takes a deep breath as she thinks about tomorrow.

Carol: Don’t worry. I will.

“I will…”

-----------------------

Tuesday morning comes. Carol takes another deep breath as she stands outside the journalism lab, feeling all the weird, nervous, excited feelings inside her little chest.

She decided to put on her best make-up after all, and to wear a purple top with white jeans. As much as she’s prepared though, there’s still some trepidation.

“I can do this… I can do this…”

She makes her way inside the class.

Everyone’s doing their usual thing. Greg’s playing some stupid Simpsons game on his computer, Ash is doodling some dragons or something, Lora’s jotting down notes like some jonesing addict…

And Luna’s listening to, or watching, something on her phone in a way that would be downright boring from anyone else. She makes it look statuesque.

Carol has to refrain some sighing all awestruck like as she makes her way to her seat with perfect posture. Luna looks up to her by happenstance, and softly smiles with a little “sup” nod. Carol just smiles back.

“Oh I have SO got this. She’s pretty much mine already.”

As she gets out her supplies to take notes for today’s lecture, she notices that Mr. Sunderland hasn’t arrived. He’s usually here by now talking to the nerds about Star Wars, super hero movies, or some other stupid nerdy stuff she doesn’t really care about.

To her surprise, Ms. DiMartino makes her way into the classroom, holding a copy of their journalism textbook in her arms.

“Buenos dias, class,” the teacher greets as she makes her way over to Sunderland’s desk. “Mr. Sunderland has taken a sick day, so we’ll be spending the morning together,” she happily explains.

Luna pulls out her earbuds with a sly grin on her face. “Yeah, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the Flu Fighters playing in Detroit today,” she teases.

“Or he’s just making time for that fluffy pillow,” Tabby speculates.

Ms. DiMartino clears her throat to regain everyone’s attention. “Nevertheless, you all still have your midterm projects to work on. So, he has asked that you all take today to pair up and work on them. I’ll be here if you need any assistance,” she tells them all. The girls all affirmatively nod, the boys just drool on themselves because of how hot she is.

Carol rolls her eyes. “Boys are so dumb.”

Twenty minutes into “working” on their project, Carol finds herself just gazing at Luna, all but drooling.

Luckily, Freckles didn’t bring up their awkward encounter at lunch yesterday, so apparently, it wasn’t that big a deal. It didn’t stop Carol from explaining that she had a very important phone call to make for an esteemed college in Singapore though, and Luna simply nodded with a smile and said “Cool.”

“Oh poor Luna… You do realize there’s no getting out of this now, right?” she thought to herself.

Then Luna just kind of started working on some homework for another class, since they were pretty much done with their project except for the presentation stuff- which could wait until later.

Awkward silence ensued, which gave Carol this time to just think… And stare…

“She is so cute, trying to act like she’s not nervous around me. That’s why she’s ‘focusing’ on her homework. She’s just worried she’ll say something stupid and that I’ll think less of her.”

“Oh, if only she knew… It’s okay, Luna. You make me nervous too…”

“Eww, don’t tell her that. That’s weird.”

Her reverie is disturbed by Luna practically growling as she face palms.

“Ooo! Here’s your chance Carol! Get some conversation going!”

“What’s wrong?” she sweetly asks, maybe batting her eyes a little.

Luna looks her with a bit of a dejected expression. “This stupid trig homework, dude… We don’t need no education!”

“Alright, follow it up with some concern, girl. Butter her up.”

“I thought your little sister- the smart one, helped you with your homework?”

“Genius! Hook, line, and sinker!”

Luna sighs as she leans back in her chair and rests her hands behind her neck. “Yeah, she normally does, but she’s been working on this one thing all week and hasn’t had time to help me.”

“Oh this is too easy.”

“Well… I’m pretty good with trig. And just math, really. Maybe I could help you out a little,” Carol says, leaning closer to her partner with an alluring look in her eyes.

Luna just smiles. “Really? That’d be awesome!”

“Time to go in for the kill.”

She dons a phony look of concern. “Oh, but I don’t have my notes… I think I left my textbook in my car… Darn…”

Luna thinks it over for a moment, just as Carol had anticipated.

“It’s about time something went right! Now… Here’s the part where you say…”

“Well… Uhm… If you want… Maybe we could just meet up after school? Like, work on it a bit and then maybe just- hang out?” she says as she nervously rubs her neck. “Or we can get started on the presentation stuff! Like, whatever you wanna do!”

Carol smiles. “Perfect… Perfect, perfect, perfect!”

“That works,” she coolly says with a nonchalant little shrug. “Wanna just ride with me back to my house?”

“Hmmm… Will we be Mrs. and Mrs. Loud? Or Mrs. and Mrs. Pingrey?...”

And… Luna doesn’t smile back.

She actually tenses up again.

“Well… About that…”

Which makes Carol tense up.

“She’s not supposed to say that!”

“See, my dad’s making his special vegetable soup tonight. Like, I’ve actually really been looking forward to it. I mean, I know it sounds stupid, but it’s really good soup,” she begins.

Carol just listens, failing to hide her annoyed-bitch-face.

“So… I was thinking… Maybe you could come over to my house? Like, if you don’t want to or can’t or whatever, I understand… But I think it could be fun. Maybe we could even have a little jam sesh with my violin?” she invites, letting a little smile come to her lips.

It sounds… meh.

Vegetable soup made from that bald guy who drives that prehistoric van? Ten other kids screaming all around? Homework? Violin?- Which, actually wouldn’t be so bad, if Carol wasn’t petrified by the thought of playing for Luna, especially after seeing how good she is.

But… It’s still kind of… sort of… “coffee.”

It may not be what she had in mind for their second date, or first, or whatever this is until they take things to the next level… but it’s better than nothing. And really, she’d probably even go to the public library to spend time with her girl crush at this point, she’s got the bug that bad.

Plus, her monthly data allowance is up, so she can’t watch any more Fletnix tonight.

So, after taking a moment to think it over, Carol forces a hokey smile. “Sure Luna… That sounds- great!”

Luna just smiles. “Alright, awesome dude! Uhh… You wanna just drive me home or do you need to stop by your house first?” she asks.

The temptation to stop home and maybe freshen up (more like dread meeting Luna’s fifty other siblings) is there, but it isn’t as strong as her desire to just be close to her. Even now, talking about the most trivial of matters, she feels like her companionship is something that has been missing all of her life.

And it’s stupid! She’s only really known her for like, not even a week!

But she can’t deny that, whatever this feeling is, be it attraction, infatuation, or something more- it’s addicting, and she needs more Luna in her life in a bad way.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll just give you a ride.”

Again, Luna smiles. “Cool,” she simply says, looking into Carol’s eyes.

This “Cool” is different. It’s like… Maybe she feels it too.

And all of this built up confidence and poise in Carol crumbles. She feels like the stupid little girl in the cafeteria and the bathroom yesterday all over again.

“Oh no…”

She can feel her heart racing, and her face paling, and her pupils dilating, and her armpits starting to sweat, and-

“Hey,” Luna softly, sweetly says, catching her way off guard.

“Oh man, oh man! What is she gonna say now? Is she gonna ask me if this is a date? Is she gonna tell me I look hot? Oh my gosh- what would I say to that! To either of those!... Oh god, if she asks if I’ve seen L is for Love, I might actually, literally, spontaneously combust!”

“Wanna listen to some tunes?” Luna asks, holding up one of her earbuds for Carol to have.

It isn’t anywhere near as scary or life changing as some of the things she could have said, but it kind of disappoints her in a way. It almost annoys her.

But whatever. Maybe Luna’s got her own plan she’s sticking to, and maybe this is part of it.

Or something.

“Uhm… sure…” Carol simply says, ebbing a bit as she skeptically takes the earbud. As Luna scrolls through her phone to select a song, she checks to make sure it isn’t all ear-waxy, and “Thank god,” it isn’t.

Luna amusingly nods to herself. “Ahhh, this is a good one. Kind of fits the moment too,” she says, returning her deep brown eyes to Carol.

They just gaze at one another as the instrumentals kick in, and then the vocals.

*Who's gonna tell you when… it's too late?*

*Who's gonna tell you things… aren't so great?*

*You can't go on- thinking… nothing's wrong…*

*Who's gonna drive you home… tonight?*

Carol looks up to Luna again. She just looks back with this… look in her eye. The kind that says, “I know just what you’re thinking Carol Pingrey, and TWO can play at this game.”

Or… She just really likes this song.

She doesn’t say anything though, she just smirks before returning to her homework.

It takes everything Carol has to finally stop staring at her like some pining moron, but she can’t help but blush… and smile a little.

Whatever her look meant, whatever their plans for tonight are called: coffee, a date, hanging out, whatever!...

Two things are for certain.

Carol likes Luna.

And she’s gonna drive her home tonight.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hello?” Lori Loud says as she answers her phone.

“Did you say something to Luna?” Carol barks with a hushed voice from the other line. She made sure to get to the bottom of this as soon as she got out of journalism class, and literally dialed her up as soon as Luna waved goodbye.

“What? No?... Why?”

Carol does a double take, eyeing the perimeter with vulture eyes to make sure no one’s rudely listening in.

“She invited me to your house!”

“What?! Shut up- no way!”

“Yes way! I’m giving her a ride home, and she says we’re having special soup? What’s special about the soup?!” Carol neurotically asks.

“Hang on,” Lori says. She then proceeds to “EEEEEEEK!” away from the phone. “Sorry about that…”

“THE SOUP, LORI!”

“Forget the soup! Carol- Luna invited you over! That’s like- oh my gosh, I literally can’t even!”

Carol takes a breath as she looks around again. Still clear.

“So, like, you think maybe she likes me too? She has too, right?!” she asks, making sure to speak for only Lori to hear.

“Well,” Lori says with an amused little huff, “I mean, this is a step in the right direction. But you seriously better figure it out before you end up in the friend zone.”

A sharp pain comes to Carol’s chest with those dreadful two words. She’s friend-zoned plenty of people to know that: it’s lame. Like, might as well head to Belize Saul Goodman style lame.

“That is NOT going to happen,” Carol sharply retorts, mostly to convince Lori, but maybe to reassure herself a bit. “Listen to me, Lori; if she says anything to you, please tell me. I like, seriously don’t know what I’ll do if-”

“Hey Carol.”

She freezes, just hardly holding back from jumping out of her Jimmy Choo’s. She looks back to see Whitney, Dana, and Becky all standing there all casual, like they didn’t say those appalling things about her on Friday.

Carol scowls. “I’ll call you back,” she simply says to Lori, and she hangs up.

She stands her ground and folds her arms as her so-called “friends” look to her with some apprehension.

“Hello, Whitney… Dana… Becky,” she says, leaning in and widening her one eye as she enunciates the latter’s name.

They just raise their brows.

“Uh, how’s it going? We haven’t heard from you all weekend,” Dana asks.

“Yeah, we were starting to think something was wrong,” Whitney elaborates.

Carol squints her eyes even more as she keeps her arms crossed. “I don’t know Whitney… Is something wrong?”

Again, more confusion from the girls. “Uhm… No?” Whitney answers.

“Hey, we were gonna head to Starbean’s after this and get some triple mocha beano cream lattes. Wanna come?” Becky asks, clearly trying to ease some of the tension.

Carol sneers. Did these skunk-bags just ask her to go get coffee with them like they never said any of those things about her? “Ha!”

Well, it’s not happening. It’s going to take more butt kissing than that to make things right, and even then, she’s got better things to do.

“Sorry,” Carol mock-apologizes, making it pretty obvious. “I have plans tonight,” she proudly states.

The three girls just exchange some more uncertain looks, and shrug.

“Okay… Uhm… See ya later?” Whitney says, and the three of them timidly walk past her.

Carol just stands there for a moment, her pride exuberating. “Hmm,” she huffs with a wicked little half smile. “Sayonara skunk-bags.”

She feels her phone buzz.

Lori: What was that about?

She smiles to herself.

Carol: Let’s just say I’ve got all the friends I need;)

-----------------------

Finally, the clock strikes 3:15, and the last bell rings for today.

If she was a dork- and she’s not, Carol would jump up and rush out the door. Instead, she calmly stands up, taking yoga breaths as she heads through the hall and out to the backlot.

She checks her phone, seeing four new messages.

Mom: Hey pookie, sorry but we have to work late again tonight:(

“Really?” Carol sarcastically thinks with a roll of the eyes, moving on to her next message.

Daddy: Haha. Your mom still calls you pookie.

It makes her smile, and she sighs. “At least they check in…”

She sends them both “I love you:),” and they message back the same.

Her next message is from Lori.

Lori: See you soon Mrs. Luna;)

Carol amusingly huffs.

Carol: If she ever sees that I’ll find that corgi… Just sayin’.

And finally, her date tonight… Or, yeah.

Luna: Still driving me home?

She just smiles, feeling a warm feeling in her chest from knowing Luna was thinking about her.

Carol: Meet me in the back parking lot:)

-----------------------

She’s all nerve until she steps out the double doors of the school; then she just gets nervous.

“Oh man… Not again… Come on, Carol. You can do this! It’s gonna be fine- more than fine!... This could be the night that changes my whole life. Woman up!”

She heads to her BMW, and sees Luna Loud standing by it with her phone in her hand. She looks a little lost until she looks up and sees Carol walking over, and then she smiles.

“Oh man… This is gonna be… awesome.”

She smiles back, preening her hair behind her ear. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Luna simply says back, putting her phone away. She sizes Carol up a bit, and meets her with an impressed look. “I really like your outfit! New clothes?”

It almost reduces poor Carol Pingrey to a puddle. “Awwww!”

“Thank you! Yeah, I just got them over the weekend,” she says, making her over to the driver’s side. Luna follows suit and invites herself into the passenger side seat.

The former does her best not to make it obvious she’s sneaking little glances at her crush as she starts the car. The engine hums to life, and she turns to face her.

“So, uhm, Franklin Avenue, right?” Carol recalls.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Luna simply answers.

Carol pulls out of the lot, and the girls hit the road.

And… it gets way too quiet. Like, the super awkward quiet.

“Oh man… Should I say something? No- don’t make it weirder than it already is! Just, find something to talk about! Think Carol, anything!... Oh… But what?”

She can feel herself getting really warm, and probably blushing as they come to the first red light of the commute.

She sneaks another glance at Luna, who just leans against the car door like she’s bored, tired… Unimpressed.

“You’re blowing this!”

The light turns green, and Carol snaps out of her stupor to return her foot to the gas pedal, still sneaking looks at the girl she desperately wants to talk to. But just like yesterday at lunch, her heart won’t tell her mind to tell her mouth what it should say.

“Come on, Carol. You did fine earlier in class… So just, uhm… Oh…”

Luna surprises her by speaking up.

“Hey, can I turn on the radio?” she asks.

Carol looks to her with this dumb expression. “Uhm, the radio?”

“Yeah, I mean, if it’s cool?” Luna follows up, somewhat guiltily.

So like, she’s not the only one who realizes this is super weird, and it would probably be best to just turn on some music and pretend to listen to it as they actually dwell on how stupid this whole thing is- when it shouldn’t be!

Sadly, it’s the lesser of two evils in Carol’s eyes, and she decides it’s better to do that rather than say something stupid now and ruin the whole evening.

“Uh, sure. Go for it,” she tells Luna, forcing herself to pay attention to the road.

Luna clicks it on, and one of the preset classical music stations becomes sound with “The Barber of Seville.” Carol glances over to her again, and sees the way her eyes widen, like only freaks listen to this kind of stuff in the car.

Quickly, she changes over to the next preset, another orchestral station, playing “Ride of the Valkyries.” How apropos- considering she feels like there is an apocalypse now.

Another quick shuffle, this time to a variety station, and “Con te Partiro” is blaring loudly. With every change, Luna’s eyes get a little wider, and her wincing gets a little more sickish.

“Will you give me a break?!” Carol mentally cries to anyone who can possibly hear her.

Another flick of a button. She realizes her fatal mistake as soon as her finger touches the plastic.

“No… NO!… Not the COUNTRY MUSIC STATION! Now she’ll hate me forever!”

Too late.

*Down by the river on a Friday night!... Pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight…*

*Talkin’ ‘bout cars an’ dreamin’ ‘bout women… Never had a plan we’re just livin’ for the minute!*

Yes, it’s true… Carol Pingrey loves Alan Jackson. And Dierks Bentely. And Brooks and Dunn. And all of the greatest country hits of the 90s and 2000s before things got all poppy and stupid.

She’s laughed with Toby Keith, and she’s cried with the Dixie Chicks. She didn’t take that tractor selfie all those weeks ago for nothing; she was making a statement.

Deep, deep down… She’s a country girl.

Which, in this moment, is the worst thing ever. Why? Because Luna Loud is a rocker. She’s Mick Swagger, not George Strait.

If she can’t bear to listen to Rossini or Bocelli, she’ll have a hissy fit over Alan Jackson.

Frantically, Carol shoots her finger to the dashboard once more…

And Luna stops her.

Yes, she reached her hand out, gently inching against her wrist, and Carol can’t help but look to her with these weak little puppy eyes that make it way too obvious how she feels about her- them- this.

Luna just smiles.

“Hey! This is a good one!”

It’s a good thing there’s another red light to stop at, or Carol would be libel to crash into a blazing inferno.

“Did she just say-?”

She shakes her head.

“Huh?”

Luna just chuckles…

And starts singing along.

“Yeah, way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, never knew how much that muddy water meant to me-“

“But I learned how to swim and I learned who I was, a lot about livin' and a little 'bout love… A lot about livin’ and a little ‘bout love…”

She plays her air guitar and does a little boogie with the rhythm, all with that bright bubbly smile on her face. It’s the most charming thing Carol’s ever seen. This girl is so free-spirited, so spontaneous and ever ready for the finer things in life.

Carol smiles with disbelief. “You’re perfect…”

She realizes she just embarrassingly voiced this aloud, when it was supposed to stay in her silly little head where cringey things like that belong.

But Luna hardly notices, still moving with the beat of Carol’s guilty pleasure song.

“Huh?” she casually questions.

Thinking fast, Carol responds with: “Uhm, you’re perfect? Like, you’re perfectly in tune?”

Luna just nods, “Ohhhh… Yeah, I had a little country phase. Didn’t last long, but dang… I do like this one…”

The light turns green, and Carol starts driving again as she allows this warm little smile to beam on her face. She tries as hard as she can to be a dutiful driver and not become distracted by Luna’s contagious energy, but she fails miserably with every glance.

She even laughs a little.

Luna picks up on this, and stops boogieing to look straight at her. “What? You too good to sing along? You know you want to!” she teases.

Carol guffaws. “Uhm, what? No. That’s not gonna happen…” she playfully says, not even trying to fight just how smitten she is with her shotgun rider. She doesn’t even want to at this point.

Luna just keeps singing along, and even grabs onto Carol’s arm with her soft hands. It doesn’t even cause her any anxiety this time. It just sends these happy little tingles all up and down her body, and this warm, comforting feeling to her chest. Like, this is how people are supposed to feel.

She’s not going to sing. She just isn’t. But it’s not out of spite, or anything of the sort. Heck no. She’d just rather hear Luna’s beautiful voice echo the vehicle, and keep smiling like this all the while.

And the day’s not even over yet.

-----------------------

The girls turn off 13th street and onto Franklin Avenue. A quaint three-story home with white siding and blue shingles comes into view. The same various toys and playthings are scattered around the lawn, almost as if the kids play with the same things they did in 2016 when Carol last visited.

Something noticeably different though is the whole pizza on the roof.

“Dad had a bad day at work,” Luna simply tells her regarding the pie.

Carol’s met Lincoln. He was awfully direct about how he wanted her to fill in for Lori with the picture or whatever, but that kind of eccentric behavior is to be expected from an eleven year-old boy, she tells herself.

Obviously, she’s known Lori her whole life, and she’s had a few interactions with Leni. The other seven Louds, and their parents, are all strangers. Luna’s told her pretty much everything about them though: one’s funny, one’s sporty, one’s spooky, one’s dirty, one’s prissy, one’s smart, and the last one poops in diapers.

Their life is like a cartoon or something.

With every inch closer to 1216, the pounding in Carol’s chest becomes harder and harder. Things could go well tonight, maybe even best case scenario with a little luck.

But with one boy and ten girls all under one roof, there’s a lot of ways things could go really wrong.

Carol steers the BMW up the driveway, and pulls it into park. She takes a breath that comes out louder than she means for it to, and she shuts the engine off.

Then she turns to face Luna. She has this weak little smile face, like she knows all too well just how Carol is feeling… Like there have been other girls in her position…

Luckily enough, Luna addresses this before she can become too frazzled.

“Uhh, I bet you’re probably a little nervous about my family,” she speculates, trying to play it cool.

“Nervous? Why would I be nervous?” Carol responds, doing the same.

“You’re really not nervous?” Luna asks, seeming to maybe buy it.

“Pffft,” Carol scoffs with a matching gesture and grin, “I’m sure it’ll be fine…”

Luna just looks to her with a sweet smile, like she’s pleasantly surprised. The way her deep brown eyes look to her makes Carol almost shiver. She’s worked up the nerve to make it this far, and has somewhat indoctrinated herself on how to relax and enjoy herself around her crush.

But every time she looks to her like this- the same way she did after taking each other’s pictures, the same way she did when they shared earbuds this morning…

She feels like she could just fall into her arms, and tell her in the most cliché, big-eyed Disney princess manner possible: “Where have you been all my life?”

This time, she seriously, literally considers doing it… Until Luna lets out this sad little sigh.

She lets her brown eyes wander down to the floorboard, and starts fidgeting her hands together like maybe she’s the one who’s nervous.

Which, makes Carol nervous.

“Woah… Okay? What did I say? Does she think I’m lying? Is she really this worried about me meeting her family? Is that a good thing? A bad thing? She’s talked about this with other girls before, hasn’t she? Or, has she? Am I the first? Oh god- what does this mean?!”

Luna doesn’t quite look up to Carol, but enough to show she’s about to speak.

“C… Listen… I- I talked to Lori.”

Carol freezes. This horrible feeling comes over her, like maybe the sun is about to explode.

“Lori?... She didn’t…”

Now Luna meets her eyes.

Is this really how she’s going to do this? Now, granted, Carol was thinking about maybe getting spontaneous and romantic herself just a minute ago, but this is like- so sudden.

And if she talked to Lori earlier, why not say something before? Did she do this just to put her in this position? Where she’s stuck and has no choice but to hear what she has to say,  this being her home and all?

The worst part is, she hasn’t truly prepared for this conversation. Not like how she’s prepared for the other things.

She wants to be with Luna. She knows this now. But maybe it’s too soon? Maybe she needs more time to really think about this, to see if there’s more to these feelings, or if she’s just confused because of propinquity and the lack of support from other people she’s supposed to be able to rely on.

But what if she takes too long, like Lori said? And what if none of those things matter?

It’s all just too much!

“I’m sorry,” Luna says.

Not what she expected.

“You’re sorry?... For what?”

Luna sighs. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell her about us being partners… I guess I was worried that she’d freak out on me. I don’t know why, but I feel bad about it now, you know?”

“Oh,” Carol simply utters.

She feels herself calming down a bit as she realizes, she’s probably in the clear. But, Luna does seem to be genuinely remorseful for what she’s apologizing for.

“It’s really not that big a deal. I mean I can’t blame her… But, if this is important to her, then I guess it’s important to me, too.”

“It’s okay, Luna. I get it,” Carol says, trying not to sound sullen.

Luna just sighs again, and smiles a soft little smile as she looks back to Carol.

“Well, she’s cool with us hanging out, just so you know. Like, she told me you guys are friends again.”

Carol smiles back. “Well, I’m glad we’re hanging out.”

She immediately regrets saying this. It just feels so spazzy and weird, like this is not at all how normal people talk to each other.

That, and it might as well be saying how she really feels.

But it’s out, and she can’t take it back. So she just anticipates the dirty look Luna’s sure to give her for acting so petulant.

She just keeps smiling that sweet smile of hers though.

“I’m glad we’re hanging out too, C. You’re pretty cool.”

“Awwwww!”

She just finds herself looking into her brown eyes again, feeling all those familiar warm feelings coming to her just like their first date.

Or, whatever it was.

Luna skittishly laughs. “Heh heh, uhm… Well, we should probably head in,” she says as she nervously rubs the back of her neck.

Carol breaks out of her daze. “Oh… Right,” she says, trying to hide how she’s blushing.

Luna steps out first, and Carol takes a moment to inhale a deep breath.

“That was so close…”

She then grabs her book bag and follows her up to the front porch of the house.

Luna stops her at the door. “My sisters can be kind of nosy, just so you know. So… Be prepared.”

“Aheh… Like I said- it’ll be fine!” Carol insists with more dramaturgy.

Another smile from Luna, another smile from her in return.

Luna opens the door…

“WELL IT’S NOT LIKE I KNEW I’D STEP IN HIS POOP!”

The girls just stop as soon as they see and hear the tot in the worn out red hat blurt out her obscenity, and Luna face palms with embarrassment.

Carol cringes.

“Is it too late to go home?”

 

Chapter Text

 

Luna opens the door…

“WELL IT’S NOT LIKE I KNEW I’D STEP IN HIS POOP!”

The girls just stop as soon as they see and hear the tot in the worn out red hat blurt out her obscenity, and Luna face palms with embarrassment.

Carol cringes.

“Is it too late to go home?”

Maybe it is, because Luna closes the door behind her. Well, she tries to anyway, as her younger brother Lincoln and one of his little friends comes barging through the door.

“Sorry, sorry!” Lincoln repeats as he nervously makes his way around his scornful older sister and her friend.

His friend stops and looks to her with a frightful expression, like maybe she’s something out of ARGGH!

“L- L- L- Lori?”

Carol just meets the little boy with an eyebrow raise. Lincoln nudges the boy with his elbow, and eyes Carol in a way that says “look.”

The boy does, and sighs of relief as he wipes sweat off his forehead.

Carol looks to Luna with skepticism, and she just meets her with the same grimace.

“Sorry… You kind of looked like Lori for a second,” the boy apologizes.

Everyone exchanges peculiar looks, then Luna breaks the ice.

“Uh, Carol… This is Lincoln, and this is Clyde,” she says.

“Hey,” both boys say together with little smiles and waves.

“Hello,” Carol simply says with a weak little wave of her own, trying to smile.

For the sake of preventing further awkwardness, she plays along with the pretense that she’s never met Lincoln- coincidentally because of her resemblance to Lori.

She also disregards the established resemblance, because it makes her feel weird, because that’s Luna’s sister.

Luckily, Luna seems intent on ending this encounter with the boys.

“Uh, we’ve got stuff to do Linc. Try to be chill, alright?” she requests.

The boys just smile. “Yeah, no problem. We’ll be cool,” Lincoln assures her.

“Yeah, we’re cooler than… than… uhm…” Clyde adds, trying to think of something they’re actually cooler than.

Then Lori and Leni come into the room. Of course, Clyde gets weird about it.

“L- L- L-” he stutters, having a fit like Plankton just told him he puts too much sauce on the Krabby Patty.

Lori face palms and shakes her head while the others just watch on with concern. Lincoln frowns as he pulls Clyde outside. “Come on… Let’s go get your inhaler…”

The boys disappear, leaving the teenage girls in the foyer.

Lori just smiles at the duo of Luna and Carol as she sizes them up. “Heeey Luna… Heeey Carol…” she says. She’s clearly having fun with this.

Carol just rolls her eyes. “Hi, Lori…”

Luna just smiles. “Sup dudes?”

Leni leans in closer to Carol. “Oh my gosh- your outfit is totes cute!” she tells her.

“It is, isn’t it?” Lori deviously agrees. “Don’t you think so, Luna?”

She nervously rubs her neck. “Uhm, yeah… Saaaay… We should probably get up to my room now, huh C?”

Lori gets wide-eyed. Carol snarls at her.

“Hey! It's kind of funny you're here with Luna! Like, aren't you Lori’s friend?” Leni bluntly thinks aloud.

The words just linger in the air for a moment as the other three girls exchange more awkward looks, including more devious grinning from Lori.

“Oh, they're not just friends…”

“I may actually murder you,” Carol thinks.

“…They’re partners!” The eldest blonde finishes, winking at her BFF.

She just deflates a bit with a beseeching look in her eyes.

“Please stop…” they say.

Lori smiles again, but with sincerity now.

“I’m done. Good luck!” her eyes say back.

“Okay, bye guys! I ain't missing you at all!” Luna bluntly says to her sisters, and she pulls Carol over to the stairs.

Just as it would appear they’ll finally get to Trigonometry homework, the twins return- the cringey one chasing after the prissy one with a shoe that has some foreign gunk on its sole.

“Look at it! LOOK AT IT!... I WANT YOU TO LOOK AT IT!” the girl in the hat shouts.

“Gross Lana! Show some respect!” Lola- she realizes now, cries.

They race around the two girls, nearly making Carol spin.

“Dudes! What have I told you?! Be careful running by the stairs!” Luna scolds at them as they disappear from sight.

She sadly sighs before looking to Carol. “Are you okay? I'm sorry… I know my family’s-” she apologizes, too ashamed to finish the sentence.

It brings a sadness to Carol to see her crush so… crushed. She can't let her feel this way, and she'll do what she can to help remedy it.

She carefully places her hand on her shoulder, and they meet one another’s eyes.

“It’s alright, Luna. Seriously… This is fun,” she tells her with a smile.

Luna smiles back. She just looks at her for a moment before she coolly brushes her hand off, and then playfully nudges her.

“Glad you think so… Let's get upstairs before someone else can be a beast of burden,” she tells Carol with another little smile.

Carol just keeps smiling too, and follows her upstairs.

She can't help but notice Luna’s… assets…

But she promptly feels her phone buzz. Regaining decorum, she checks the stupid thing.

Lori: Heading upstairs, huh?;)

...

She just rolls her eyes… and certainly doesn’t allow them to wander anywhere in particular.

-----------------------

She makes it to the top of the stairs with Luna. She holds her hand out to stop her guest, pressing against her chest. It makes Carol blush, but Luna doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Okay, it’s too quiet…” Luna cautiously says as she lowers her hand.

“Uhm… Heh heh… Maybe everyone’s playing Bingo?” Carol quips.

Luna says nothing, just listening for any potential unwelcome disturbances. It would seem she eases up a bit though, and she looks back to Carol. “Alright dude, my room’s this way,” she says, turning left and gesturing her to follow.

Carol complies.

They enter the bedroom, and…

“And the sign says: ‘Beat it, we’re closed!’ Hahaha! Get it?!”

The creepy one, the sporty one, and the smart one are all watching the funny one- Luan she remembers, doing stand-up on a jerry-rigged stage. Sporty and Smart laugh normally, but Creepy just lets out these weak little: “Aheh, aheh’s,” and everyone meets her with chagrin.

She sighs.

Luan notices the new patrons. “Hey Luna! You’re just in time for my next joke! You could say it rocks. Hahaha!”

Luna pinches the bridge of her nose. “Luan-”

Disregarding her blatant contempt, Luan proceeds.

“Why did the guitar teacher get arrested?”

Luna looks to Carol with apathy, then back to Luan. “Why?”

“For fingering a minor! Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

Carol cringes. “That’s the most repulsive thing I’ve ever heard!”

But, of course, the three spectators laugh, and even Luna can’t help but join in.

“Alright, that’s pretty funny,” she says, wiping a tear from her eye.

Not one to be the odd girl out, Carol forces small little chuckles of her own, until everyone else has cooled off.

“Alright dudes, I need you to scram so I can get my Trig homework done,” Luna tells everyone.

“Ahh come on! I was getting soh into it! Haha!” Luan jokes. This one doesn’t go as well. The girls just meet her with indifference.

“Stick to the dirty stuff,” Sporty tells her.

“Lisa?” Luan says to the smart girl, practically begging for approval with her nervous grin.

She shrugs. “What can I say? The vulgarity works for you,” she responds with a lisp.

Luan just waves her off with a grin as she makes her way off the stage. The other girls stand up, and all look to Carol like she’s a newborn baby.

She feels herself tense up a little, and Luna just shrugs.

“Guys, this is Carol. She’s gonna help me with my homework.”

“Salutations Carol,” Lisa says to her. “I do apologize for having inconvenienced you with the encumbrance of assisting Luna with her mathematics. I trust that your comprehension of quote-unquote ‘trig’ is distinguished enough even to teach her something, though.”

Luna scowls, and Carol just raises a brow.

“Thank you?”

“Hey! I recognize you! You won the varsity golf tournament last year!” Sporty proclaims.

“Someone has good taste,” Carol brashly thinks aloud as she lets a proudly fixes her posture. “Thank you,” she says again. “You’re…?”

“Lynn,” she says with a smile.

“Right, so… that must mean you’re Lucy?” she correctly guesses as she points her out.

“She smells like my favorite embalming fluid,” Lucy states. The others take a step away from her.

“Thank you?” Carol responds, trying to accentuate the positives as Luna face palms again.

“Hey! Speaking of embalming fluid, I’ve got a joke about a body that I’ve preserved for-”

“OUT!” Luna shouts, cutting Luan off, and pointing to the door.

Carol just timidly watches as the others groan and mumble to themselves on the way out.

Luna runs her hand down her face, letting out a groan of her own.

It fascinates Carol.

“Dang… Either she just really wants to get her homework done… Or she really does like me.”

It makes her smile.

But then Luna looks to her with piteous eyes like she did downstairs.

“I’m so sorry about that! I swear they’re all like- the karma police or something!...”

Despite the schadenfreude she feels over Luna stressing so much about what she might think, she’d much rather see her smile that cute little smile of hers.

“Luna, I’ve already told you- it’s fine!”

Luna sighs, and nervously smiles as she rests her hand on her weary forehead.

“Alright. Sorry to be a spaz… I just…”

She doesn’t finish. Heck, she won’t even look at her.

Carol’s eyes widen as she feels her heart begin to flutter.

“It’s just what?”

Luna shakes her head. “It’s nothing. Let’s just get to homework!”

She drops her backpack onto her bed, clearly avoiding eye contact.

“Oh my god… Was she just about to say she likes me?!”

Carol pussyfoots over to her, and reaches out to rest her hand on her shoulder before stopping herself- deciding that’s just too much.

“Luna?...”

Luna takes a deep breath, then turns around to face her. She timidly takes a seat on her bed, taking turns looking at her and… well… anything else.

“This is gonna sound so lame, dude… But, I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of- loser!… Like, you’re really cool! I guess- I don’t know…”

The fluttering has turned to pounding. Carol takes one step forward.

“I don’t,” she pretty much blurts out. She didn’t even really premeditate it. It just came out. But she realizes what she’s said, and she realizes she needs to say more.

“I don’t- think you’re a loser…”

Luna blushes. “Really?”

And so does she. “Really.”

They both turn away to smile to themselves, nervously rubbing their arms. They eventually return their eyes to one another though, and Luna’s smile wanes a bit.

“It’s just… I know it was before- you know… But after all that stuff you said to Whitney… I just…”

This horrible, awful, no good feeling comes to Carol. It’s the realization that she hurt Luna, and that she’s done nothing to make up for it. Yeah, maybe she’s done well enough to pretend it never happened, or make nice with all the little gestures like sharing earbuds and indulging her sibling stories over iced tea; but she hasn’t apologized.

It’s even worse now that, she knows what it’s like. Her best friends, the girls she thought she could trust to be on her side… They said she’s got a stick up her butt…

Thinking back to that fateful day out in the school hallway, where Luna was about to rearrange her face, compared to now, where she sits before hee in her bedroom- admitting she cares about what she thinks…

“Oh my gosh… I DO have a stick up my butt!”

“Luna… Listen to me… I- I’m sorry.”

Still sitting on her bed, Luna raises her brow. “For what?”

Carol sighs, and takes another careful step toward her crush.

“I’m sorry for saying all those things about you to her. It was so mean and- stupid!...” She sighs again. “I was talking out of my butt. If I knew just how smart, and cool, and funny you are before then… I just- I want you to know that, you didn’t deserve that…”

She frowns, lowering her head in shame.

But Luna just smiles.

“Dude… You’re totally fine!”

Carol looks to her again, still feeling somewhat guilty- disbelieved that she could truly forgive her.

She gets up from her bed, and wraps her arm around Carol’s shoulder. Again, her heart begins pounding.

“…It’s all good dude! Like, I get it!”

“You do?” Carol follows up.

“Yeah… I mean, it’s not like either one of us really gave the other a chance before… Ugh! I’m over it, dude! Can we just like, say everything’s cool? Are we good?” Luna asks with that familiar bubbly smile, pulling her tighter into her embrace.

Despite the pounding in her chest, and the lingering no good feeling of guilt… She has to smile back. Being this close to Luna, and hearing that she wants to just move forward- it’s amazing.

“Yeah, we’re good Luna.”

They just sort of stand there for a moment, Carol letting Luna warmly wrap her arm around her, both just smiling at each other without a whole lot of care for anything else right now except for…

“Whatever this is?...”

A knock comes to the door, and Luna breaks the embrace. Carol only dies inside a teeny bit.

“Yo?!” Luna calls out.

Her mother comes to the door, holding an adorable tiny person in her arms.

“Hey guys, dinner’s gonna be ready in a bit,” she says while looking to Luna, and she shifts her focus to Carol. “Hi Carol, I’m Rita. Nice to meet you!”

“Nice to meet you Mrs. Loud,” Carol gets out, and then she notices the adorable tiny person.

She loudly gasps. “Huaaaah! Oh my gosh! She’s so cute!” she blurts out, moving over to see baby Lily.

She just smiles and coos, and the teenagers “Awwwwh!”

“Heh, I think she likes you, C,” Luna says, stepping to them.

“Would you like to hold her?” Mrs. Loud invites.

Another gasp. “Huah! Would I?!”

Carol gently takes the little angel, who just smiles and coos some more all the while. It makes her feel all giddy.

“Oh my gosh… She’s such a doll baby! I’m keeping her,” she jokes with a sharp little laugh, and the other ladies laugh too.

“Just be easy, she’s been a little gassy today-”

Just as Mrs. Loud finishes her sentence, Lily lets out a revolting stinker… which may or may not be packing a little something extra.

Carol cringes. “Don’t drop the baby. Pretty sure you’d go to hell for that.”

And, just because of course she would, she sneezes all over her pretty purple Bold Navy top.

Her eye twitches as she hands the smiling, laughing tot back to her mother. “Here you go…”

“Sorry about that…” Rita nervously responds. “Poor baby…” she utters as she makes her way out.

Carol looks over to Luna, who just nervously smiles and shrugs. “That just means she likes you?”

Carol forces a smile, trying her very best to ignore the smell of flatulence and the awareness of having baby snot on her new shirt.

“The special soup better be good.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Just what's so special about the special soup?” Carol Pingrey thinks as she follows Luna into the Loud house kitchen.

All thirteen Louds, and their apparent regular guest in Clyde, ritualistically huddle around and converse amongst each other as they get servings of the so-called “special soup.”

While the others are all engaging in casual conversation about miscellaneous topics, Carol and her beloved Luna are silent. Despite the nice, fairly intimate moment they shared a short while ago, the former can't help but feel like anything she could possibly say now would be forced and awkward.

So she decides it's probably best to say nothing… which gives her ample opportunity to overthink the soup.

...

Yes, she's about to have a home cooked meal, and the prospect would make her joyful in a normal setting. Given her lack of one since Mom and Dad opened the studio, however, and it’s bittersweet.

On top of that, there are fourteen of them, and one little her. Sure, they're all smiling (except for creepy Lucy), but just why are they so happy? Is the soup really that great? So great that Luna would use it as her excuse to invite Carol over?

But what about the way her family is getting to her, and the way she kept apologizing? Surely she anticipated that to a degree- she even said so in the car. So, the soup must be worth the trouble of hanging out here as opposed to casa Pingrey.

“But why?!”

...

She is finally next in line, just after Luna, to get a helping. Luna briefly turns and smiles to her, then goes about her way in getting a seat at the dining table.

She looks to the pot full of what she’s hoping is non-GMO hamburger and hopefully organic cooked vegetables, and the tantalizing aroma lingers its way into her nostrils.

“Oh man… That smells… Good…” she thinks as she disregards her antipathy and scoops up a hardy helping.

“Okay Carol, lighten up. It's just soup? And I'm sure it IS worth whatever trouble for Luna to invite me over. It has to be! She likes me too, right?” she tells herself as she goes to have a seat at the table by her inamorata.

As she sits, Luna meets her with another little smile, and Carol smiles back.

“Right.”

She sees all the other Louds sitting and getting settled in, all with little grins of their own as they continue conversation. The mother and father are talking to one another- almost whispering, and then they look to their new guest.

“That’s Carol,” Mrs. Rita Loud tells him with a smile.

“Ahhhh…” Mr. Lynn Loud, Sr. responds with a wide smile of his own, likes he's heard about her before. “Well hello, Carol.”

She can't help but glance to Luna, maybe just for a little comfort. Again, she smiles for her, and again, she smiles back.

“Hello Mr. Loud. Thank you for having me,” well-mannered Carol tells him back.

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all…” he follows.

“Yeah! We’ve heard everything about you from Lori!” Leni excitedly proclaims. Then she leans over to whisper for only her to hear. “Sorry to hear you got that stick stuck up your butt. It had to hurt being up there for so long, huh?…”

Despite her efforts, everyone hears her.

....

Carol furrows her brow. “Excuse me?”

Luna nervously cringes, and so does Lori. “Heh heh… how about them Roosters?”

Lynn is ready to jump up and share her two cents on the sporting matter, but Lisa stops her. “It’s a manner of speaking,” she informs her older sister, who promptly sits back down.

Luna leans in from her other side, “That was before you called her and apologized,” she whispers.

“What?! I- heh heh, I didn't call her and apologize?” Carol stammers, feeling totally, unfairly caught off guard.

“Huh? But Lori said you’d need an operation to get the big stick out of your-” Leni starts up, but Lori smacks a hand over her mouth.

“Let’s not dwell on the past… We’ve got this- beautiful meal to look forward to!... Right, Carol?” she contends, really just checking to see if Carol hates her now.

Under different circumstances, ones where gorgeous Luna and her lovely family aren’t present, Carol may take exception to the new information.

But, she decides that Lori’s right. The past is the past…

Plus, she’s kind of weirded out about how everyone’s so interested in the soup. “It’s just soup?”

It smells good, yeah, and it looks decent enough. But it’s nothing you’d find at Bobby Flay’s restaurant in New York, or even freakin’ Olive Garden here in town.

And yet, all the Louds are practically drooling over their supper, like it’s a delicacy or something.

“I love your soup, Daddy,” the twin with the hat, Lana sweetly says to her father with puppy eyes.

He just smiles and rubs her head. “And I love you, honey. Now everybody eat your soup before it gets cold!” he joyfully tells them, and they all dig in.

Carol just sort of watches them all for a moment as they eat with smiles on their faces, careless to everything else going on right now. Even Luna is nebulous over the stuff.

“She wasn’t kidding about liking the soup…” she recalls, just kind of leaving her spoon hanging in her own with an unimpressed look on her face.

She shrugs, and has a bite. She lets it just swim around her mouth a little as she chews, savoring the blends of flavors, before actually swallowing the stuff.

And… it’s okay. It’s not the best thing she’s ever had, but it’s alright. Sure beats eating take out Chinese for the fourth night in a row.

“This is the special soup? Huh… Kind of expected more.”

Even so, she decides the nice thing to do is to tell her hosts it’s good, mostly because that’s the proper thing to do, but also maybe to conform to the group. Just a little.

“This is good soup, Mr. Loud,” she compliments the chef.

He just lazily nods with a cheek full of the stuff. “Nom. Thank you.”

Again, she looks around, and the casual conversation has fallen down in favor of focusing on dinner. As she lets her eyes graze over Luna and her family members, she lets them wander to the walls around her. The Loud house isn’t tacky or anything, it’s actually fairly nice compared to some of the other friends’ home she’s visited over the years.

It’s not her house though. There’s spots, stains, dust, and probably even cobwebs if she wanted to look hard enough. There’s probably more power tools and cardboard boxes full of old toys in the garage than the almost new, top dollar golf clubs, kayaks, and bicycles Carol knows.

But… They don’t seem to mind. They’re just happy to be here with each other and eating their special soup.

The minutes go by, and it allows Carol some more time to just observe what it’s like to be a member of the Loud family for an evening. Everyone takes turns talking about their day, sharing stories about friends, extracurricular activities, and showing genuine interest in each other’s lives with comments and questions. There’s a lot of smiling, and quite a few laughs from every chair, including both her and Luna.

But as Carol reaches the bottom of her bowl, this sullen feeling comes to her. Even though Lynn, Sr. and Lynn, Jr. have both done well to acknowledge her presence with some questions about golf and the two girls’ journalism project, she feels like something is missing.

Her eyes make their way over to Lily being fed by her mother from her high chair. The way the child brightly smiles, and the way Mrs. Loud smiles back at her with this rosiness in her cheeks…

It makes her miss having a family of her own…

She checks her phone, just to see if maybe Mom or Dad has tried to call or text. Unsurprisingly, neither one could be bothered.

She quietly sighs to herself, accepting that things won’t be like they were before- probably ever again.

But when she sees that baby’s smile, the way all these people love each other, and the stupid- beautiful freckled face of the girl she likes…

She smiles at the thought that, it can be better.                                     

-----------------------

It’s a miracle… Carol finally helps Luna finish her Trigonometry homework.

The two teenagers stole away to the garage after finishing their special soup- without incident. After some awkward small talk about the weather of all things, Carol got busy helping Luna work through her cosines and tangents, thankful that she could focus on math and not… other things…

After completing the final exercise for the assignment, both girls stand up from their padded spot on the floor and stretch.

“Dude… Thanks so much for helping me. I mean, the numbers I understand- it’s all the other crazy stuff that bugs me out,” Luna tells Carol.

“Hey, it’s no big. It’d help if we didn’t have such a crappy teacher,” Carol quips with a snarky scoff.

“Right,” Luna simply agrees, and they share a weak little laugh before the infamous awkward silence makes itself known.

Carol rubs her arm, Luna rubs her neck. They look anywhere but to each other.

Luckily for Carol, it’s Luna to speak first.

“So…”

“So…” Carol repeats with a little shrug.

Luna rubs her neck again, and paces around a little before following up.

“Uhm… So what are you gonna do for the rest of the night?... I mean, are you like- heading out soon?”

“Oh…” Carol voices, just sort of letting it out.

“Do I have to go home?”

No matter how hard she tries, she just can’t meet her brown eyes. It just makes her too nervous.

“Well…” she begins, rubbing the back of her neck now. “I actually hadn’t thought about it…”

Why would she? This was the only thing she had to look forward to: soup and Luna. And now… just like their- whatever it was on Saturday, this too is coming to an end. No more Alan Jackson, no more being weirded out by Clyde, no more mushy apologies that lead to skin-to-skin contact…

No more Luna… Just Carol alone with her thoughts in her big empty house.

But, as much as it sucks, she tells herself that she should just try to enjoy what time she has left this evening with her new favorite person.

“I guess I’ll probably just- go home and watch a movie or something… Maybe get caught up on homework…” she tells Luna, trying to stay strong.

“Oh…” Luna simply responds with… not very much excitement.

Carol waits for more, but she says nothing else. Luna just looks to the floor, fidgeting her hands together like… like maybe she wishes she could say something else, but she can’t.

It makes Carol feel like she needs to say something else, something perfect to just let Luna know how she feels- everything she feels.

But she knows she can’t. It’s all so sudden, and if she tried, she’d likely just say something stupid and ruin the image Luna has of her.

Still, she knows she has to say more, even if she’s falling apart at the seams.

“I uh- doubt my Mom and Dad will come home. So I’ll have time for that stuff… And… I don’t think any of my friends will wanna see me… So…”

Luna just nervously winces what’s supposed to be a smile.

“I’m blowing this… Why the heck did I even bring that up?... She doesn’t wanna hear about my problems…”

“Why- Why do you say that?” Luna says with a stutter. “I mean, did something happen, or what?”

Carol looks to her, despite the trepidation. “Or… does she?”

She thinks it over for a moment. “Maybe she’s just asking to be nice. Or she wants to know me better… Maybe she doesn’t really want me to go either, and this is just her way of keeping conversation going… Ugh, I don’t know… But I honestly don’t even care. She’s asking, and that’s good enough for me…”

“Man… This is gonna be hard. I’ll come off as some kind of hypocrite or something. And what if she gets- turned off? Like, I don’t want her to think I’m asking for a pity party…”

And because of these thoughts, she decides she’s going to keep her woes to herself.

She starts gathering up her things. “It’s nothing…”

As she puts her books and notes inside of her backpack, she feels Luna’s eyes upon her. She pretends it doesn’t bother her, but she just wants to explode.

“I’m sorry Luna… I wish I could just tell you I like you, but I just can’t…”

“Too bad I’m out of data- it’s gonna be a long night without Fletnix…”

“Hey, C,” Luna says, looking at her with contagious nervous energy. Carol stops herself, and looks up to meet her dauntingly beautiful brown eyes.

“…You know, you don’t have to go just yet if you don’t want to,” she continues. “I mean, if you’ve got stuff to do or like, you just don’t want to- I understand…”

It takes everything the Bold Navy clad girl has not to smile the stupidest, widest smile of all smiledom. The “Hallelujah” chorus plays in her head.

But she plays it cool. “Uhm… sure…” she says, and she hurriedly finishes getting her things together before standing up straight and dusting off her pants. “That sounds cool. I mean- yeah, yeah!... I like hanging out with you!...”

Luna smiles. “Hey, cool… Actually, if you want to, you could just- stay the night if you wanted? I’m sure the ‘rents won’t mind…”

Stupidest smile of all smiledom. “Hall-elujah!”

Luna giggles, and Carol realizes she’s failed to contain her enthusiasm.

But she honestly doesn’t care. This is a best-case scenario: no lonely house, no time for sad thoughts… Just Luna, Luna, Luna!

“You want me to stay the night?” she all but blurts out.

Luna keeps smiling. “Well- yeah. Yeah I do… It’ll totally be cool. We can watch a movie or something, I can see if Lori will let you borrow some PJ’s… Saaay… We could maybe even have a little jam sesh with the violin! I never got to see you play…”

“Yeah, that last one’s not happening,” Carol thinks, but all that comes out is a happy little giggle of her own.

All those bad feelings have just wooshed out the window! If she was any better, Lisa might try to clone her.

Looking at Luna’s pretty smiling face just makes it all the better.

“She’s so amazing… I swear, it’s like- just when I think maybe I’ve seen the best of her, she surprises me again…”

“If only I knew that when I said those things about her…”

“Luna… Thanks.”

She winces. “Heh… For what?”

“…Just, for everything. I mean, this is gonna sound so lame, but you’re so cool… Like, even after all that crap I said to Whitney, you’ve still been so nice to me.”

“Hey, I already told you I’m over that, man.”

“I know, and I appreciate it,” Carol says, skittishly clasping her hands together before her. “But, you don’t get it…” she says, and she sighs.

Luna raises her brow, and Carol has to look away for a moment to work up more nerve.

“Here we go…”

“The other day when we had detention- the second time,” she’s sure to clarify, and Luna coolly nods. “…When I got outside the school, I heard my- friends talking about me,” she begins, her smile faded.

“…They said that they didn’t really like me anymore, and that they didn’t miss hanging out with me…”

Luna waits a moment to be sure she’s finished, then she reaches out to put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Dude… The heck with them. Who cares what they think?” she says.

Carol’s smile returns, and she rests her hand on top of Luna’s. It feels really nice.

“I know… I just, I realize now that- that I’ve been needing to make changes in my life.”

She looks to Luna’s eyes, and she smiles back.

“I’m not so good with mushy stuff,” she quips with a little chuckle.

Carol chuckles too. “I’m not either… I guess I’m just trying to say that- you know…”

“I rock?” Luna finishes for her with a devious little grin.

Carol just smiles.

“Yeah… You rock.”

They just look at one another for a moment, sharing these warm, lovely smiles…

But, as Luna said, she doesn’t do too well with “mushy stuff.” So she breaks her hand away from Carol.

“Heh heh… So, you’re staying?”

Carol pretends like she’s reconsidering as she dons a playful thinking face, but she’s wholly decided that she’s leaving her BMW parked in the Loud house driveway tonight.

“Hmm… What the heck? I’ll stay the night.”

“Cool,” Luna simply says, and the girls happily make their way out of the garage to kick-off their sleepover.

 

Chapter Text

“Sure, I don’t see why not,” Mrs. Rita Loud answers her daughter.

And with this, Carol Pingrey has officially been given permission to stay the night with Luna Loud.

The girls excitedly smile to one another. “Sick!” Luna exclaims, which is a good thing- Carol remembers.

“Thanks, Mom!” Luna tells Rita as she gives her a quick hug.

“Well, it’s not like I have to drive her home, ha ha,” Rita responds. “Besides, she seems like she’s a good kid… Even if Lori said she had a stick up her butt,” she says, mumbling the last part to herself.

Carol blushes a little at the compliment, but says nothing. Only weirdos address compliments like that.

Rita leaves the kitchen, leaving eager Luna and an even keener Carol to gawk at each other like Dale and Brennan preparing to build bunk beds.

“This is gonna be totally rockin’, dude!” Luna proclaims.

“Totally! Like, I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty pumped,” Carol admits to her.

“Trust me, dude. I won’t let you get bored… Come on, let’s see if Lori can spare you some duds.”

Carol meets her with an eyebrow raise.

“Duds?”

Luna looks at her like she might be from Mars, but then eases up as she remembers Carol likes Bach and not rock.

“Duds, dude. Like, clothes.”

“Ohhhh…”

Luna smiles to herself as she shakes her head. Then, like a bolt right out of the blue, she grabs Carol my the hand. The hand.

“Come on!” she says, and she whisks her away.

Smiley face.

“Is this really happening? Am I actually staying the night with Luna?... It’s so crazy. Like, I literally wouldn’t have imagined.”

“Who knows what will happen? Makeovers, gossiping, slow dancing? Man… if she keeps smiling at me like that, she might even be able to get me to play violin for her…”

“Honestly though, I don’t care what we do. All I care about- is that I’m doing it with her.”

Somehow, they made it through the hall, up the stairs, and to Lori and Leni’s room during the interim. They come to their doorway, and sadly, Luna releases Carol from her grip that she’s really grown fond of in this short while.

Inside the room, the two eldest Loud sisters are casually discussing the latest episode of Dessert Storm. Lori’s on her bed playing on her phone, and Leni’s on her bed painting her toenails.

Luna knocks on the doorframe. “Knock, knock, knockin’ on Leni’s door,” she tells her sisters, and they look up from their toes and thumbs respectively to meet the other girls.

“Hey! It’s Lori’s door too!” Leni is sure to remind her. Because, reasons.

Lori and Luna meet her apathy before disregarding the comment. Then Lori looks to the visitors.

“Hey guys. What’s up?” she says, smiling a wide-eyed smile at Carol that translates to “OMG Are you guys having a Summer wedding?”

“Not much,” Luna responds on their behalf while Carol just forces a nervous little smile of her own. “We came up to see if-”

“Could I maybe borrow some clothes?” Carol finishes for her. She’s a big girl. She can ask for herself.

“Even if Luna’s clothes could probably fit me just fine…”

“…I’m staying the night.”

Lori smiles this big stupid grin upon hearing the news, but quickly regains some decorum when she sees Carol sneering at her in a way that says: “Don’t ruin this for me you idiot.”

She shrugs, playing it cool. “Yeah, sure.”

She rises from her bed, still toying with her phone as she walks over to the closet. Luna and Carol follow her.

Carol feels her phone buzz in her pocket, and checks it.

Lori: You wench I swear you’re literally going to give me a heart attack you two are too adorable.

She just gives her the stink-eye before putting the phone back in her pocket.

“Okay, so how about these?” Lori says as she rummages through her closet.

“Ooo! Give her the vertical stripes one! Totes perfect for her!” Leni excitedly suggests from her bed.

Lori just rolls her eyes and ignores her as she pulls out a sky blue pair of sweatpants and matching shirt.

Soooo tacky. Like, what even is she thinking? Blue was Carol’s color, but like- now? Ewww.

She really does try to hide the way she cringes as Lori shows it to her, but not to much avail.

Which, displeases Lori.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, not trying to hide the way she’s offended by Carol’s display.

Carol just keeps looking at the outfit with her Yuck-face. “Nothing… Nothing. Just…” She stops to face Luna, who meets her with a worried, kind of sickly looking expression. Then she looks to Leni, who attempts to meet her eyes while continuing to paint her nails… She just gets polish on the bed.

She looks back to Lori, who places her free hand on her hip as she frowns. Translation: “Well?”

“…Do you have anything else?” Carol asks.

Luna face palms.

Leni looks to her tootsies to realize she’s painting the bed, and quickly gets up, grabs a bottle of polish remover, and methodically pours some on the painted spot a little at a time.

Carol just stands there waiting for a response.

And Lori scowls. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Carol doesn’t like the tone of ‘tude, so she reciprocates it.

“I just don’t like that one.”

-----------------------

Elsewhere in the house, Lincoln and Clyde are reading comic books. Suddenly, Lincoln looks up from his issue of Ace Savvy with a look of terror.

“Uhm, you alright, Buddy?” Clyde asks.

“No! It’s- ugh,” he whimpers, grasping his chest. “It’s like a sister-nado, but so powerful! It’s- unlike anything I’ve ever felt before!”

“So what do we do?” Clyde worriedly asks.

Lincoln falls to his knees, still grasping his chest.

“Lincoln!” Clyde cries, coming to his side.

Slowly, Lincoln raises his head.

“I’m afraid- there’s nothing we can do…”

-----------------------

“I should’ve known better…” Luna mumbles to herself as she continues face-palming.

“Don’t feel bad, Luna… I tried to tell her to go with the stripes. Lori’s just having a hard time adjusting to pre-post-spring wardrobes,” Leni consoles.

They’re both sure to stand a comfortable distance from the rivals turned BFFs turned rivals again turned BFFs again.

Carol and Lori are practically nose-to-nose now, gritting their teeth at one another.

“Just admit the reason you stopped wearing blue is because it’s my color!” Lori barks, her soup breath getting in Carol’s acne free face. Unlike Lori, she didn’t have an “awkward stage” in middle school.

She scoffs. “Ah! Please… You really think I need to worry about what you wear? I switched to purple schemes because it’s the color of royalty.”

...

“Did you know that?” Leni whispers to Luna.

“Mhm. Right. Sure. Just in time for homecoming too,” Lori says, crossing her arms and looking away.

“Oh, will you let that go, already?” Carol ripostes. “Every girl wants to be homecoming queen! I didn’t run specifically just to make sure you’d lose…”

“But you did wear the purple dress!” Lori snaps back, once again turning to grit her teeth at her so-called BFF.

“I deserved to win! I spent eight hours getting ready for that dance, and my date didn’t even dance during the stupid thing! He just stood there looking like a nub while I did the Cha Cha Slide with Big Bertha!” Carol cries.

“I spent nine hours getting ready! And Bobby came down with food poisoning because of the salmon tenders!”

Carol gasps. “I brought those salmon tenders!”

Lori narrows her eyes into a scornful glare. “Shocker. You’re the reason I had a horrible night.”

“Guys,” Luna nervously says as she steps forward in an attempt to intervene. “That was so long ago. The past is the past, right Lori?”

They both ignore her.

“You know what the real problem is, Lori?” Carol follows up.

“Oh, and just what is that?” Lori says with a snarky tone.

“…You’re not over what I said about your cargo shorts.”

All three of the other girls gasp. She did not just go there.

But she did, and she stands firm with her arms folded as Lori tries to recover from the stunning blow.

She does, and recomposes her posture to match Carol’s.

“How dare you…”

“You know it’s true,” Carol asserts. “Ever since I said you can’t pull off blue jeans, you’ve been holding it against me.”

-----------------------

Little do they all know that Lincoln, Clyde, and the others Louds have gathered in the adjacent room to eavesdrop.

Lincoln stands against the wall with an empty glass to his ear, and Lisa with some strange contraption to listen in.

Luan snickers to herself, and Lynn raises a brow. “What’s so funny?”

The fourth oldest Loud gets a hold of herself. “Lori… The reason she’s so mad about denim- is because- it’s in her genes!”

Everyone groans.

-----------------------

“That is not true! I already told you I was over it! But you just have to keep bringing it up, don’t you!”

“Yeah, it’s annoying when people bring up things over and over again, huh?” Carol retorts.

*That girl’s like a plunger! All she does is bring up old crap!* The four girls in the bedroom hear someone joke in the distance, and they swear they hear some groaning afterward. They disregard it though.

“You know what, Carol? I thought I could be the bigger person and forgive you for what you said… But I guess I was wrong…” Lori finishes as she crosses her arms again and turns away, exchanging anger for sadness with the way she looks to the floor.

Carol eases up on the scowling herself upon seeing her despondence. She looks to Leni and Luna, both of whom just look on with the same somberness.

She looks back to Lori. This… crummy feeling comes over her. Like, she feels bad for making things this way with her again. Like, maybe she’s doing something wrong.

“Man… Is it really my fault that Lori and I always end up hating each other? I mean, yeah, she doesn’t pull off blue jeans well, but I didn’t have to be a butthead about it…”

“And she’s being nice enough to let it go and help me with Luna, and even let me borrow some of her freakin’ clothes. Jeez Carol… Get over yourself…”

She sighs, letting herself deflate as her arms fall to her sides. “Lori… I’m sorry.”

Lori perks up a bit upon hearing this, but still doesn’t look to her as she pouts skyward and keeps her arms folded.

Carol continues. “You’re right, you have been the bigger person. You were always the bigger person. I’ve been really mean about some of the things I’ve said and done to you in the past…”

She glances at Luna, who attentively looks back.

“…And you’re not the only one I’ve hurt.”

Luna just softly smiles, and Carol looks back to Lori, who still has her back turned.

“I- I don’t want to screw things up between us again… I don’t care how lame and awkward this sounds but- you’re literally my best friend. And, I want to make things right. Please give me one more chance…”

Lori just barely turns her head back, still huffy and puffy. “There’s nothing you can do…”

The words cut like a knife, and Carol slouches a sad little slouch.

But Lori smiles, and turns back around with the outfit Leni mentioned in her hand. “I really can’t pull off jeans.”

Carol looks up and sees her gesture, and brightens up. She takes a careful step forward, and accepts the outfit from Lori with a smile on her face.

But, she winces. “Ehhh… You really don’t have anything else?”

Luna, Leni, and Lori all meet her with disbelief. Like, really?
But Carol just smiles a nice little smile, one that lets her BFF know she’s just having fun.

And Lori smiles back. “Just take the freakin’ clothes!” she jokingly says as she playfully shoves them against Carol.

They just share a little laugh, and Luna and Leni watch on with smiles of their own.

*Awwww!* They hear in the distance.

They all stop being so mushy to address the disturbance. “Are you guys eavesdropping?” Lori calls out.

Coincidentally, they hear the shuffling of feet in the room over, and some nonchalant whistling.

Again, they let it be, and all go back to smiling at each other.

“Well… You should probably get changed… If you need any help, maybe Luna could stay behind and-” Lori starts to say before she’s cut off by Carol.

“Yeah, no, I’m fine, I’ll just go to the bathroom real quick,” she sharply tells her, and she turns to make her way out the door.

Luna meets her with a devious little grin. “Well… If you change your mind, I’m not far,” she quips, and she playfully nudges Carol with her elbow.

Carol’s eyes widen and her cheeks become flushed as Lori and Luna just giggle to themselves.

“Oh my god… That’s flirting!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hmmm… Stripes work…” Carol Pingrey thinks as she gets a look at herself in the mirror. The mirror of the Loud house family restroom no less.

“I guess Lori’s taste really isn’t so bad.”

She does a little twirl and pose, checking herself out, remembering Lori teasing her about Luna “helping her out.”

“If there weren't children around…”

“Bad Carol,” she teases herself, and takes a deep breath. “Alrighty… Let’s do this.”

She exits the restroom, and finds Luna waiting across the hall just outside of Lori and Leni’s room. She looks up from the floor to see Carol, and smiles.

“Looky looky at this cookie,” she quips as Carol paces toward her.

She does a little curtsy. “I clean up nice, don't I?”

They snicker at their playful banter, and proceed downstairs.

...

“That was kind of intense,” Luna says, referring to the conflict between Carol and Lori. “You guys gonna be cool?”

Carol just coolly waves it off. “Yeah… I think we needed that. Trust me, we’ve been through worse.”

Luna just nods.

...

Suddenly, the twins come rushing around the banister, Lana still wielding the same tainted gunky shoe from before.

“Stop being a baby! I eat stuff off the bottom of shoes all the time, and look how well I’ve turned out!” the resident roughneck tells her persnickety sister.

“I’m telling mom!” Lola simply responds, triggering more ire from Lana as they rush into the kitchen.

Luna and Carol just watch, and laugh a little. “Didn’t I tell them to stop running around the stairs?” Luna recalls- defeated, but clearly conditioned to shake off such disobedience.

...

The two girls keep descending the stairs. Luna just carelessly rants about the amusing altercation between the tots, while Carol is still in a bit of a reverie over actually being here with her instead of at her big lonely house by herself.

It’s the weird kind of daze where you’re so caught up in the excitement around you, that you are actually able to focus very clearly on just what’s in front of you, like driving in the rain.

In this case, she’s able to quite literally focus on what’s before her: a novelty princess shoe that’s been abandoned on the forthcoming step- likely by Lola, probably because of Lana.

And Luna’s dangerously close to stepping on it.

Apparently, she doesn’t notice the stupid thing, because she just keeps chattering away about how funny it is that her younger siblings always end up getting in trouble for things she tries to warn them about.

But Carol notices, and almost like an oracle, she foresees Luna’s foot stepping on it, and then her falling through the railing and ruining what’s supposed to be a perfect evening… And probably seriously hurting herself, worst of all.

She can’t let that happen. She won’t.

So, she calls upon her inner everyday hero, grabbing Luna and pulling her in close.

“Look out!”

“Dude- What the-?”

Once Luna’s safely in her embrace, they share an awkward little gaze before turning their attention to the perilous plastic plaything.

Carol’s primal instincts take over, and she kicks the shoe off the steps “Yah!” where it lands safely on the floor below without causing any misfortune…

Other than, you know, making things totally awkward for the two teenagers.

Carol nervously smiles at Luna, who she still hasn't let go of, and Luna meets her with a discomfited, annoyed expression.

It’s all the indication Carol needs to “let go of her dummy!”

So she does.

And she just stands there, her heart beating a hundred miles per hour as she anticipates how Luna will react to her tomfoolery.

The other girl just brushes herself off, then looks to Carol with an intentful stare.

“I was so close…” Carol thinks to herself as the feeling of defeat overwhelms her.

But then, Luna smiles.

“Dude… Nice reflexes.”

“Huh?” Carol dumbly gets out. “You’re not mad?”

Luna chuckles. “Man… Thanks for looking out. One more step and I’da been buying a stairway to heaven!”

Carol just nervously forces a little laugh of her own, rubbing the back of her neck. “Yeah… Heh heh… No mention it…”

Of course, now that Luna’s smiling about it, she can’t help but feel like she should have an MCU movie made in her honor. “Captain Carol maybe?”

And Luna just keeps smiling at her.

“You know… If you wanted to snuggle, you could've just asked?” she says.

All sorts of colorful words race through Carol’s mind as she turns beat red. Most of which simply meaning: “That’s flirting!”

Luna sees her obvious distress, and laughs.

“Relax, C… I’m just messin’ with ya!” she asserts with a playful elbow nudge to her arm.

It snaps C out of her daze, and she laughs it off, trying to remember that she’s a normal person and not a total hopelessly romantic weirdo. “Heh heh… I knew that,” she tells Luna as she rubs the tender spot on her arm.

Another smile from Luna, and more fluttering of the heart. It still feels wonderful and new every time though.

“Alright, I got a few ideas on what we can do. I told you I wouldn’t let you get bored,” Luna confidently tells her, and she finally makes her way down the stairs.

And Carol just dutifully follows her.

“If I don’t have a heart attack first.”

-----------------------

“Trust me dude. I won’t let you get bored,” Carol recalls Luna telling her the first time.

And boy, was she telling the truth.

Shortly after the incident on the stairs, Luna and Carol joined Lynn Sr., Lynn Jr., Clyde, and Lincoln in a game of Monopoly, which Carol won after buying all the green and blue properties. It was cute watching Luna just buy things willy nilly without really knowing what to do.

After that, the girls drew doodles together. Luna of course went the route of drawing Gibsons and Fenders, and a surprisingly decent drawing of Cosmo and Wanda. Carol drew a couple silly pictures of Ms. Clifford and the mean corgi she happily put up for adoption, but then had to play it off cool when she showed Luna the caricature she drew of her. Luna smiled upon seeing it, and they shared a laugh.

Then they indulged Lincoln and his VR headset, where Carol got a little shaken up by a haunted house simulation, and she thoughtlessly grabbed on to Luna as she shrieked with fear. She removed the headset to see Luna just nervously smiling at her and blushing a little, and Carol returned the favor.

Then they played a game of Whose Line is it Anyway?, with Luan being the game master and Luna providing musical accompaniment. Carol mostly spectated as the other siblings pretended to be everything from Mr. Grouse to demonic girl scouts, but actually got some laughs from everyone when she nailed a Rick Grimes impression. Most importantly, Luna laughed.

After all the merriment, and Clyde having to go home for a biannual tick bath, Carol, Luna, and the other Loud children all got settled in to watch the newest family comedy, Daddy’s House. They each got sleeping bags to camp out in the living room for the evening, telling one another that they could stay up longer than the other.

It wasn’t quite how Carol anticipated her evening with Luna going, but she actually was having fun getting to know all of the other Loud kids. Even Clyde was starting to grow on her a little before his disappearance. She especially liked how Leni kept calling him “Clod.”

No, she didn’t have Luna to herself, but she still had her here beside her as they shared popcorn and laughs over a movie.

And, of course, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Carol and Luna both reach into the bowl at the same time, serendipitously touching each other’s hands in the process.

They look up to one another, nervously laughing about it.

“You go ahead,” Luna says.

“You’re fine,” Carol tells her. “Really.”

Luna just smiles as she averts her eyes back to the television. But Carol… She doesn’t look away.

Because maybe… Maybe life is supposed to be like the movies sometimes. Maybe you’re supposed to touch hands in the popcorn bowl and then lose each other in each other’s eyes, just like how it happens for the actors pretending on the TV.

So, she just keeps looking at her, hoping she’ll turn and face her too. They’ll just gaze into each other’s eyes, and Luna’s will twinkle like that wonderful dream that Carol dreamt what seems like a lifetime ago- before she knew how good things can be. Then, the smiles will wane- just enough… And slowly, ever so slowly, they’ll lean in, pucker their lips, and share a passionate first kiss.

Or at the very least, she’ll smile that sweet smile.

Finally, Luna turns back to Carol, still smiling, sort of moving her eyes back and forth as if to make sure she isn’t mistaken.

But then, she the corners of her lips curve even more as she settles into the gaze Carol waited for.

Carol thought she always got everything she wanted. She really did.

That was before she knew what she really wanted all along.

This.

Luna’s brown eyes just keep looking into hers, the smile from her face waning- just enough.

“Oh my god…” Carol thinks as her heart rate increases. “It might actually happen!”

Then, unlike the movies, Luna narrows her eyes, really studying Carol for a moment.

“Oh no… What now?!”

Luna just barely raises her hand up, hesitating slightly. “You’ve got- something in your hair…” she tells Carol.

And she says nothing as Luna proceeds to take her hand and run just her fingertips through a strand of her hair, removing a faint piece of lint.

“Heh heh,” Carol very softly laughs, refusing to look away from her.

Thankfully, Luna doesn’t look away either.

Just as Carol thinks she might finally be able to muster the gumption to finally make a move on this girl she cares so much about, she feels her phone vibrating in her pocket.

She might even be able to ignore it, if it wasn't so loud and obnoxious that everyone looks to her, like, hey, your phone’s going off.

Then, whatever spark had formed in the moment is lost as Luna just kind of winces, like, yeah, your phone’s going off.

“F you…” Carol mentally curses to the phone.

“That’s right… Forget you…”

She reluctantly breaks the special, eagerly anticipated gaze to pull the stupid thing out of her pocket and check it.

She sort of glances at it, then sort of glances back up to Luna- only to find that she’s returned her attention to the TV, her smile now having waned too much.

Sad face.

She looks back to the phone.

Lori: Kitchen now

She looks up from the screen and around the room to find Lori. All the other Louds are here, but Lori’s left the room… Apparently for the kitchen.

She can’t help but let out an unamused sigh, and she glances at Luna one last time before she gets up to go see what’s the matter.

Of course… Luna’s doesn’t look back this time.

And with that, Carol stands up to make her way into the kitchen.

“This better freakin’ be important…”

-----------------------

Confused, annoyed, excited, disappointed- these are all just a few of the things that Carol Pingrey feels as she steps in the casa Loud kitchen.

And a slight bit of halitosis, but that’s what breath mints are for.

As expected, she finds Lori Loud inside, who neurotically looks up from her phone to meet Carol’s gaze.

“What’s up?” she stoically asks the oldest Loud sister.

And like the drop of a hat, she cranks the spazitude up to eleven.

“What’s up with you guys? Have you made a move? Has she?”

Carol rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. “Well, I was kind of trying to when I was rudely interrupted by a text message…”

Lori just looks at her crossly before realizing she was the rude interrupter.

“Well why are you letting me stop you?! Get back in there!” she declares as she points to the hallway.

....

Carol just deflates. She knows it won’t be happening so soon.

She sighs and leans against the counter by Lori. “It’s no use… The moment’s ruined…”

Lori looks to her with a concerned eyebrow raise, and she sighs now. “Carol… Don’t sweat it. I’m sure you’ll get another chance…” she tells her with a soft voice.

“I hope so,” Carol simply replies.

It’s moments like these she’s glad to have a BFF like Lori.

“Hey, are we cool? Like, you’re not mad at me after what I said before, right?” Carol remorsefully asks.

“Pshhh, I’m so over it,” Lori says with a smile. “All I care about right now is helping you with your ‘Moon’ problem.”

“Thanks,” Carol says with a smile back. “I just wish I could tell Luna how I feel! It’s like, every time I think I can work up the nerve to tell her, something stupid comes along and makes it-”

The faintest crinkling of a chip bag turns into loud, obnoxious ruffling.

Lori and Carol turn to the pantry, and find Lincoln standing there with his hand in the metaphorical cookie jar.

He looks to them, they look to him, but not a word is spoken, not until Carol realizes- he heard her.

And it becomes her turn to crank up the spazitude.

She trudges over to him, and he cowers like a turtle escaping into its shell.

“How much did you hear?!” she bluntly asks.

“Carol-” Lori bemoans.

“Just… a little…” Lincoln nervously answers.

Carol gives him the stink eye, and he wises up.

“Okay, okay… All of it…” Lincoln confesses, and Carol’s face pales. “I wasn’t trying to listen! I just wanted to get some food, and you guys just happened to be in here-”

“It’s fine, Lincoln,” Lori intervenes, taking a step towards the two.

“It’s not fine!” Carol sharply retorts. “What if he says something to her? It has to be me, or it’s not the same!”

“I won't say anything, I swear!” Lincoln cries in a way that shows he’s done this kind of begging before.

“Calm down, Carol… It’s gonna be alright,” Lori says as she places her hands on her shoulders to comfort her.

Carol glances to her, then to the petrified eleven year-old in front of her.

Two things enter her mind. One:

“Why is his hair white, anyway?”

And two:

“Fine… I guess I believe him…”

She sighs. “Sorry- for being a spaz. Just- please don’t let anyone else find out. I want things to be just perfect when I do tell her- or she tells me- or whatever?!”

Lincoln raises a brow. “She likes you too?”

She thinks it over for a moment, but then remembers she doesn’t have to explain herself to a kid, and proceeds to tell him just that.

“I don’t have to explain myself!”

“It’s okay. I’ve been dealt with unrequited love over seven centuries throughout my past lives,” a brooding voice suddenly says from behind Carol.

She turns to see Lucy standing there, and she, Lori, and Lincoln all promptly jump with fear.

She just sighs. “Sigh…”

“You’d think we’d be used to that by now,” Lori says to Lincoln as they ease up.

Carol grabs her chest, fighting to catch her breath after the surprise attack from the spooky adolescent.

“What do you mean, ‘unrequited?’ Luna likes me too… We just- haven’t said anything yet,” she rationalizes.

Then she sees the way Lucy looks at her. Even though her eyes are concealed by her long black bangs, she knows she’s judging her.

She scoffs. “Ugh, why am I telling you this?

“If I were you, I’d write her a poem… She likes that kind of thing,” Lucy suggests.

It actually isn’t too stupid of an idea. “Really? You think she’d like a poem?” Carol follows up.

“She does like song lyrics,” Lincoln chimes in.

Carol contemplates it for a moment, but decides to dwell on it later when she has less distractions.

“Okay, just- you have to promise not to say anything to her. Both of you!” she asserts to Lincoln and Lucy.

Then, Lisa comes in to discard a juice box.

“What are you all yammering on about?” she asks.

“Carol likes Luna,” Lucy casually answers.

“Lucy!” Lori, Lincoln, and Carol all cry in unison.

“Sigh… I’m sorry. I just can’t help myself. I’m a hopeless romantic…” she apologizes.

“Hmm… I regrettably was curious about Luna inviting you over tonight. While I normally am impervious to caring about such trivial matters, I must admit, the prospect of you two becoming an item is… cute,” Lisa says through her lisp, visibly struggling through the “cute” part.

“Well, thanks,” Carol says, smiling a little. “Okay, seriously guys. Nobody else can know about this!”

“Know about what?” Luan asks, making her presence felt now.

“Oh, Carol likes Luna,” Lynn answers. She apparently made her to the fridge during the commotion and overheard everything too. “Way to go, Pingrey,” she adds with a finger gun.

“Oh come on!” Carol cries.

“Hey… Don’t worry. We won’t let the cat out of the bag,” Luan assures her.

“Huah!” Leni gasps as she makes her way in now. “There’s a poor kitty trapped in a bag?!”

“Hahaha! No Len… But speaking of pussy-”

“Don’t finish that joke if you know what’s good for you,” Lori orders Luan with scorn.

“This isn’t happening,” Carol bemoans with a face palm.

“Existentialism is something else I know about,” Lucy shares.

“Why is everybody in here? The movie’s still on, you know?” Lola addresses as she enters alongside Lana.

“Yeah, some guy just barfed!” she exclaims.

“She worries me,” Carol thinks to herself.

“Heeeey…” Lola says with a pout. “Are you guys telling secrets without me again? That’s not fair! I wanna know what it is!” she whines.

“Oh, Carol likes Luna,” Lori carelessly tells her as she plays on her phone.

“Lori!” Carol petulantly moans.

“What? She would’ve found out from Lisa,” she argues.

“She’s got dirt on me. I give her what she wants,” Lisa plainly states with a shrug after she bites into a cookie.

...

“Okay, fine. Everybody knows I like Luna now. Now please guys… PLEASE don’t say anything to her! Or anybody!” Carol begs.

...

“Real quick Carol, what do you call a girl who’s only attracted to hand waves?... Bye sexual! Hahaha! Get it?!” Luan jokes.

“Please Luan, she doesn’t care about your stupid jokes!” Lola barks. “She’d much rather tell me about it while I do her nails!”

“Pffft, you wish. Let’s talk about dirty stuff!” Lana happily cries out.

“Eww, what? Aren’t you like- five?” Carol rebuts.

“Six… And something tells me your idea of dirty is less family friendly than mine,” Lana retorts.

“You know, Carol… When I try to impress the guys, I talk about my sports stats… The same could probably work with girls and golf.” Lynn suggests.

“Does she like golf?” Carol asks.

“I don’t understand golf…” Leni sadly admits.

“Take it from me, Carol. Don’t listen to any of them if you want things to work out,” Lincoln bluntly states.

And all of his sisters meet him with chagrin.

“Shut up Lincoln!” they all yell.

“Is it always like this?” Carol asks Lori.

She just nods as she continues playing with her phone.

It gets to where they’re all talking over one another about how Carol should go about wooing Luna, and she gets dizzy trying to follow along.

Then, one more voice joins the fray, distinctly rising above the rest.

“Uhm guys,” Luna says as she appears before them all.

They just stop and look at her like a couple of dunderheads, then force hokey little smiles.

“Sup, dog?” Lana says to break the ice.

“Uhh… I paused the movie. Is there a reason you’re all in here?” she asks, clearly unamused.

Looks are exchanged between all eleven people. For Carol, it feels like she’s about to be outed in the worst possible way: with a bunch of kids hollering over one another about how she likes Luna.

She braces herself for the humiliation… “Let’s just get this over with…”

But…

No one says anything. And when they do, it’s not at all what Carol anticipates.

“I have to be honest- I couldn’t really follow the plot,” Leni confesses. “But the barfing part was funny.”

Carol just blinks a few times with disbelief as she eyes all of the Loud siblings. They all look back to her with little smiles that say: We’ve got your back.

Except Lucy. She’s not a smiler.

But the gesture brings a warm feeling to Carol. Like, she can trust these people.

Like family, almost.

...

And she smiles back.

“Well, if you’re all done in here… Maybe you could leave my guest alone for five minutes,” Luna scolds them all with a frown.

They all groan and grumble as they begin filing out of the kitchen, except Lori.

“You got this,” she whispers with a smile.

And Luan.

“One more: two lesbians walk into a bar. The first one says-”

“Hilarious, wonderful, great- now leave,” Luna dictates with a serious look in her eye.

Luan abides, and takes her leave.

And for a moment, Luna and Carol just stand there, this weird tension forming between them.

“Okay?... She didn’t hear all of that did she? Oh man… I hope not. If she finds out I like her this way, that’s so lame! Like, even if she does like me, I wanted it to be special! Like in the movies!...”

“And if she doesn’t like me…”

Luna sighs, breaking her monologue. “Dude, I’m so sorry about that. I don’t know why they have to be so annoying,” she apologizes to Carol, clearly exhausted from the toll worrying about them has taken on her.

It doesn’t quite answer whether or not she heard everything said, but then again, she’d probably say something if she did. That’s what Carol would do anyway.

It does, however, make Carol realize something.

She has friends in Luna’s siblings.

She smiles at Luna, and rests a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Not even, Luna. I actually think they’re really cool,” she says.

Luna just sort of half-smiles.

“Okay… You can do better than that, Carol… Now bring it on home.”

“Of course- they’re not as cool as you though.”

That gets Luna to smile.

“Heh heh… Well, I’m glad you’re having fun, dude… You might just be a keeper,” she teases, and she playfully brushes Carol’s hand off her shoulder.

Carol just smiles, knowing she won this one.

“Come on, let’s go finish that stupid movie.”

-----------------------

Finish that stupid movie they did.

Sure, it had its moments, and Carol even got a couple laughs. But really, she couldn’t fully invest in the film. Not with Luna so close.

It was much easier to daydream about how they could finally have their cliché movie moment, and all the wonderful things that would happen in the days to follow… Holding hands, sharing music, nights like these with the Louds- not having to worry about keeping secrets…

Dancing… Kissing…

While she spaces out, Luna takes it upon herself to turn the TV down and clean up some of the mess made by all of her siblings. She lets out a hardy yawn that brings Carol back to reality, and she looks around to see that they’re the only two left awake.

“I’m not even tired…” She thinks as she lets out a little yawn herself.

Luna takes a seat back down beside her, and amusingly huffs at the situation.

“Awww… Look at ‘em all. Poor babies…” she quips.

Carol smiles. “Oh, come on. Don’t you think they’re cuter asleep?” she playfully responds.

They just share a little laugh.

A brief silence goes by, and Luna lays back in her sleeping bag. “I know I’ve already said it, like, fifty times- but sorry if they’re a little much. It’s- pretty hard to get alone time here,” she apologizes for what may actually be the fiftieth time.

Carol meets her with an incredulous look. “Luna, it’s fine… Besides… We have alone time now…” she says a little skittishly, like she’s sending a risky text.

Fortunately, Luna just smiles that familiar smile of hers back.

“So…” she says.

“So…” Carol simply says back.

“You think we’ll do good on our presentation?” Luna asks.

“Huh?” Carol gets out, forgetting all about the thing until now.

“For Sunderland,” Luna clarifies.

“Oh… Yeah, no. I’m not worried about it. I’m pretty good with that stuff. I might even major in communications when I go to college,” she reveals.

“That’d be really cool, dude. I’m gonna major in music. I know, shocker right?” Luna says.

“That’s cool… I’d like to do more stuff with my violin, but… I don’t know,” Carol tells her with a little somberness.

“Speaking of, you totally have to play for me sometime,” Luna reminds her with a sardonic little smile.

Carol sighs. “I’d like to Luna, I really would,” she says. “I just… I don’t know, I get nervous playing in front of other people,” she admits. Which, is sort of true. Not so much the idea of people, but definitely Luna.

Luna still smiles. “Try picturing them in their underwear,” she jokes.

Carol just glares at her with a smile of her own. “Smarty pants,” she quips while she jostles her a bit.

She just laughs. “Hey, you’ve seen the company I keep.”

“Yeah, well… They’re not so bad,” Carol belatedly tells her. “At least your family’s around,” she adds as she checks her phone. Unsurprisingly, there are no messages.

Luna deflates a bit. “I’m sorry,” she simply says.

Carol sighs again. “No, it’s fine…” her smile comes back to her. “I’m just glad I’m here with you.”

Luna sweetly smiles back… Then…

“Awwww,” she says in the most smartassy way possible.

“Shut up…” Carol says with a grin as she jostles her a second time.

Their laughter dies down, but their smiles don’t.

“For real C- Carol… I’m glad you’re here too… You’re… Pretty cool,” Luna tells her.

“Thanks, L… You’re pretty cool, too…” Carol tells her back.

It all just makes her feel like the luckiest girl in the world to share this moment with Luna. The nice words, the joking around, the smiles; it’s all wonderful.

Amongst the euphoria she feels, Luna lets out another hardy yawn. Carol looks over to her, and sees her tired, watery eyes growing heavier and heavier.

Which means… The night will be over soon.

“Sigh…” Carol thinks, ala Lucy Loud.

It gets quiet. She finds herself letting out another little yawn of her own. “Excuse me, heh heh…”

Luna doesn’t say anything. She just lies back with her pretty eyes closed.

So, tonight won’t be the night. There won’t be a first kiss, there won’t be any dancing when the stars go blue, nothing of the sort.

But that’s okay. Because tonight was still really great. Really, it was the best night Carol’s had in a very long time.

And it’s all thanks to Luna.

“Hey, Luna? You awake?” Carol asks.

“Yeah…” Luna weakly lets out, her eyes still closed.

“I just… I wanted to say thanks…”

“For what?”

“For everything…”

“It’s cool, C…” she simply says.

And that’s it, the show’s over. What more is there to say? There couldn’t possibly be a better way to end the evening.

And yet… It’s hard for Carol to accept. Not when she has all of these lingering emotions swimming around her poor little chest.

She literally can’t stop thinking about her, whether she’s far away, or right beside her. She can’t stop reliving throwing paper at Ms. Clifford, or listening to country music in the car, or taking those pictures in her parents’ studio.

Heck, she’s already cherishing tonight’s memories.

The best of them all though, is that dream. The dream of dancing with her in that beautiful ballroom, and seeing her in that dress under the moonlight. What seemed like a nightmare at the time is now a moment she guiltily, desperately clings to, even though she knows it wasn’t real.

No matter how bad she wants it to be.

She glances back over to Luna, and is surprised to see her looking back with a faint little smile. Her eyes are still tired, but her smile is just as endearing as ever. It’s a reminder that, it could all be possible someday: a dream come true.

But she looks away again, once more closing her beautiful brown eyes. It’s like a boxer’s blow to the chest.

And… She realizes- she can’t take it anymore. Forget her sweet little thank you, she has to say something more. She has to.

Even if it’s not perfect.

“Hey, Luna?”

“Mmm?”

She pauses, trying to think of just how to say what she knows she needs to say.

But it’s harder than she’d hoped.

“I- had this dream… About… You…”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I mean… Not about you… I mean, it was… But... It was about us…”

She stops again, staring skyward as she fights this pounding in her heart.

“I have to do this… I need to do this…”

“So… You were on this stage, playing your guitar. Only, it was just me in the audience… You started playing this song, only, it was really loud and, well, obnoxious…”

“Heh heh,” Luna lethargically chuckles.

“Yeah…” Carol responds. “But then you stopped…”

...

She takes a deep breath, and continues.

“You offered me your hand, and I just sort of took it… So I get up on stage with you, only, it turns into this big, beautiful ballroom. With gold and stuff,” Carol explains. “...You were wearing this- cute purple dress, and it was sparkling… And, we just started dancing. Nice and slow… Like the movies…”

Luna says nothing. The room is dead silent.

But she’s gotten this far.

“After a little while, you stop, and you step outside to this balcony. You look out to the stars and the moon, and, I don’t know… You kind of looked sad… It just… It made me feel weird… A good weird though. Like, I just… I didn’t want you to feel that way… Not after… Not after we were so happy together…”

And here it is. The moment of truth. It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s not going to be like the movies.

But dang it, it’s coming from the heart. She likes Luna a whole huggy bunch, and every second forward that she doesn’t know this will be torture.

So she puts the big girl panties on.

“You looked back to me, and your eyes- they were literally twinkling. I swear to god, I know it sounds stupid but… They were…”

“I… I stepped closer to you, because I wanted to just, be with you. I wanted to make you happy again. I wanted to be happy again…”

“And you looked at me, and I looked at you, and I felt my heart racing… Like it is now…”

“And…”

Just as she’s about to put it all on the line and tell Luna how she dreamed of kissing her, and how she liked it, and just what that means about how she feels about her…

The bitch starts snoring.

Like, she’s asleep.

Carol looks over to her, and sure enough, she is. Luna is asleep, she fell asleep as Carol was pouring her heart out to her.

And, it's actually a relief.

“Thank god…” she thinks.

Because, even with everything she was feeling going into it, she now realizes, she really wasn’t ready.

Who knows how she would’ve taken the news in their current setting? There’s a whole lot of ways it would’ve just been really awkward, even if she does take it well.

No, it needs to be perfect. When she finally makes a move on Luna, or if she ever decides to make the first move on Carol, it needs to be just right. It needs to be perfect.

So, she just sighs through a smile, admiring the girl she likes so much one last time before she goes to sleep herself.

“Good night, Luna.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s a beautiful new day outside.

The view inside is pretty nice too, at least for Carol Pingrey, because the first thing she sees when she wakes up is Luna Loud resting just a few inches over.

...

It’s true what they say, people are cuter when they’re asleep. It’s especially true for Luna, considering she just always looks cute.

She considers nudging her shoulder to wake her up, and saying something adorable like, “Morning, Sleepy head,” or “Wakey wakey, you,” but she decides to just let her be, at least for a little longer.

She rolls over, and lets out a happy little sigh. Even after sleeping in a measly bag on the floor for the past eight hours, Carol couldn’t feel any sweeter. Yeah, maybe nothing romantic or spontaneous happened with Luna last night, but it doesn’t stop her from smiling like an idiot as she thinks about all the fun they had together.

In fact, she could get used to mornings like this.

That is, until every alarm set by every Loud goes off at once. There are literally ten freaking phones going off at once, all with a noisier, more obnoxious alarm than the last. The worst ones are Lori’s annoying ass rooster crowing, and Luan’s John Cena theme song, which is probably supposed to be funny in some ironic way.

And of course, Luna’s phone blares some heavy metal, “Metallica” or whatever…

...

All of the Loud children groggily rise up from their bags, except for Luna. She shoots straight up like she’s in need of an exorcism.

“Yep, she’s up,” Carol mentally quips.

Lynn Loud, Sr. and Rita both come in, wearing their night robes.

Mr. Loud speaks up. “Alright everybody, time to get going. Now can we please just have one morning where everyone isn’t ducking, dodging, pushing, and shoving just to reach the bathroom on ti-”

Like wild animals, they all jump out of their beds at once, and stampede past their parents to get up the stairs.

“I don’t have enough coffee,” Rita simply moans before turning around and heading into the kitchen.

Carol just flabbergastingly watches on as they all charge up the steps, like it’s some sort of ultra violent car crash or a monster tornado- one where everything is destroyed and no one survives.

“That thought got dark,” she realizes.

During the kerfuffle, Luna stops straight-arming Lucy in the face to look back down at the living room, apparently remembering Carol is still here. She looks to her, and Carol looks back, and oddly enough- Luna isn’t as attractive with a face full of Lincoln’s foot.

But that’s probably beside the point.

Luna breaks free from her struggling, and uses her window of opportunity to whistle as loud as she can. “Hey!” she follows with a yell, and everyone stops behaving like miscreants.

“Dudes, Carol’s our guest. She should be allowed to get the restroom first,” she insists.

...

Carol just nervously sits there as all the other siblings groan.

“Fine! Whatever! But she better not take forever!” Lola shouts.

“Yeah, I need at least twenty minutes to take care of my morning ritual,” Lynn adds.

“Oh, what? Do you have a game tonight?” Leni asks.

“Uh, not that kind of ritual,” Lynn responds.

“Yeah, I’d give you the details, but I don’t wanna be a potty mouth! Hahaha! Get it?” Luan comments.

...

Once their bathroom talk is finished, they all look over to Carol, as if to say, “Well? What are you waiting for?”

She just stupidly grins before standing herself up, and pussyfoots her way to Luna while facing the growling grimaces of her siblings.

Luna just rolls her eyes at their morning grouchiness, and then smiles at Carol. “Come on, C.”

“She's gonna make a good wifey someday… If she'd ever make a move on me…”

“If I'd ever make a move on HER…”

...

She dutifully follows Luna on the way to the restroom, stopping briefly to grab some things from her bag out of her and Luan’s room

“Hey,” Luna hollers from outside.

“Yeah?” Carol simply responds as she gets her toothbrush and special eight dollar toothpaste.

“Sorry I passed out on you last night. I was beat,” Luna apologizes.

“As long as you didn’t hear me babbling on like an idiot about my feewings, all can be forgiven,” Carol thinks about replying. Of course, she wouldn’t actually tell her that though.

“It’s fine! I was pretty tuckered out myself,” Carol sweetly tells her.

Just as she finishes collecting her things, Luna makes her way inside with a somewhat discomfited expression.

“Uh, I’d ask Lori if you could borrow one of her outfits for school… But after last night-” Luna begins, but Carol cuts her off.

“What? You don’t think I can pull of stripes?” Carol nervously asks.

“Uhm, no, stripes work for you,” Luna tells her, to which Carol internally squeals like a giddy little girl.

Luna makes her way over to the closet, and starts rummaging through it. She pulls out a purple plaid shirt and some matching black jeans, both with stylish rips in the right places to accentuate the punk look.

“But… I think you’d look killer in this,” she says with a smile, handing the clothes to Carol. She studies them for a moment, and realizes she needs to take Luna shopping sometime, but again- beside the point.

She doesn’t want to cause a scene like last night by denying the clothes, especially not with her sweet Luna. Plus, “It could be fun to do some Luna cosplay for a day,” she tells herself.

“Thanks,” she says with a soft grin as she accepts the clothes. “Uhm, why now though? You didn’t offer me your clothes last night?”

Luna nervously rubs her neck, and shrugs. “Well, I thought you wouldn’t like any of mine, honestly,” she admits.

“Fair enough,” Carol simply says. “These are cool though,” she adds, with conviction.

“Well, unless you wanna go back downstairs and tell my sisters to wait, you’re stuck with these,” Luna playfully quips, and Carol just smiles a little, feeling herself starting to blush.

“Whatever,” she simply ripostes, the cutesy butterflies in her tummy making it too hard to come up with anything wittier.

Carol begins to make her way out of the room, but feels Luna just watching her. She turns around to face her, and she’s wearing that familiar devious smile of hers.

“What?” Carol asks with a little happy huff.

“I think maybe I’m starting to be a good bad influence on you,” she tells Carol with this sure look in her eyes.

And, oh my… It suddenly gets really hot in here.

The was she just leans back all cooly like nothing can touch her, and the way she’s always smiling about things she knows she can handle…

“Yeah, I could get used to mornings like this,” Carol tells herself.

“WILL YOU GUYS HURRY UP?! I GOT THREE SPICY TUNA SUBS TALKING BACK AT ME, AND THEY AIN’T IN THE MOOD FOR WAITING!” Lynn Jr. elegantly informs them from the hallway.

“I’ll get Big Bertha…” Lana says shortly after.

Carol and Luna just look at one another, sharing the same look of indifference.

Until Carol breaks the ice with another smile.

“Still awesome, though.”

-----------------------

It’s not the first night Carol stays with Luna. In fact, she stays the next night, and the night after too.

And each night is better than the last. Carol helps Luna with homework, and then they proceed to share more laughs and smiles with the rest of Luna’s family.

When they’re not eating Lynn Sr.’s home cooked meals, they’re doing each other’s makeup with help from Lola, Leni, and Lori. When they’re not doing that, they’re indulging Luan’s comedy routine, or Lucy’s “Vampires of Melancholia.” Carol gets to change baby Lily, who’s super adorable when she’s not expelling things out of her orifices. Lynn’s glad to tell Carol about her love of all things sports, and Carol’s more than happy to tell her about her love of varsity golf.

Even Lincoln and Clyde are okay, when they’re not doing stupid boy stuff. And Lisa is polite enough to leave Carol out of her peculiar experiments. Lana’s still disgusting, but she’s a little sweetie when she wants to be.

...

Yup, the Louds are one big happy family. And, honestly, they’re really nice to be around. They’ve made Carol feel more at home than she has in months.

Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Pingrey are scarce, as they normally are. They send out their usual “I love you” texts to Carol throughout the week, and she sends one back, but that’s about it.

Then there’s the girls: Becky, Whitney, and Dana. They’ll smile and wave at Carol in the halls, but that’s about the extent of their interactions. Especially since Carol started sitting with Lori and Luna at lunch.

But really, the best parts of life are when she has Luna all to herself. Lori will steal away to sit with the wenches, leaving Luna and Carol to get to know each other even better.

Carol will tell L about Bach, and Luna will tell C about Swagger.

They get their trig done together, and their Pointerpoint slides for their upcoming journalism presentation finished as well. Of course, Luna always tries to get Carol to play violin afterwards, but she comes up with some pretty good excuses not to…

“I chipped a nail,” was her best work, so far.

Even so, no matter what they end up doing together, they're sure to be smiling, laughing, or- at least in Carol’s case, blushing all the while.

It's nothing short of wonderful.

-----------------------

Sunday night comes, and Carol once again finds herself sleeping over. At this point, her, Luna, and Luan have arranged a “who has to sleep on the floor tonight?” schedule, and she just wears whatever's in Luna’s closet.

...

Luckily, with thirteen people all living under one roof, it's easy to find participants for their last presentation rehearsal.

“And that's how Richard Avedon was able to change what it means to be a photographer for you and me,” Carol finishes, as aplomb as ever. If there's one thing she can do well, it's make herself the center of attention.

That is… when she only has to worry about herself.

She waits a few seconds, then glares at Luna. Luna looks back with a dumb expression, then perks up upon realizing she's missed her cue.

“Oh!... Uhh… Any questions?” she reads off of her note card, looking out to her audience with a nervous smile.

Her audience being Lola and her stuffed animals, as well as Lana and her real animals. They all smile and clap.

“You did fabulous, Carol! I give you a ten!” Lola proclaims, holding up an actual “10” sign.

“Aww shucks, Lola. You're too nice,” Carol brazenly responds.

Then Lola glowers at Luna, who looks to her with same nervous smile, not at all desperate for approval.

“I give you a five. A generous five,” Lola states, not even privileging her with a sign.

“Wicked harsh, dude. I'll remember that next time you wanna play tea party,” Luna says with a look of scorn.

“Well, what did you think, Lana?” Carol asks the girl in the red hat.

She doesn't answer, because she's too busy looking for something she appears to have lost.

“Lana!” Luna hollers, and she snaps out of it.

“Huh? Oh, terrible, yeah,” she thoughtlessly answers. “Say, have you guys seen Becky anywhere?”

“Becky?” Luna asks.

“Yeah, my new python,” she explains.

Carol and Lola are both out the door more scared than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Luna face palms. “How do you lose a python? And what kind of name is Becky?”

“Carol said Becky was a snake in the grass, so I thought it worked!” Lana tells her.

Luna just sighs. “Well good luck with Becky… I gotta go make sure those two haven't keeled over.

She goes out to the hallway, where Lola and Carol are cowering over the snake.

“Eww, eww! So gross!” Carol expresses.

“I know! I'm telling my daddy!” Lola declares, and she goes to do just that, yelling “DADDY!” on her way down the stairs.

Luna sneaks up on Carol and places a hand on her shoulder, to which the girl jumps a bit with fear.

She quickly realizes it’s just her though, and calms her tits. “Jeez, Luna. At least wait until after the presentation to scare me to death,” she quips.

“Sorry, dude,” Luna apologizes with her usual drawl. “For real though, I don't get it. How do you keep so calm talking in front of people?” she asks.

Carol amusingly huffs. “Well, I mean, when you're good at something…” she arrogantly answers.

“Dude!” Luna bemoans.

“Okay, okay,” Carol responds, easing up on the flair. “It's like when you perform in front of people. I just know I’ll do well, so I don't get nervous.”

“Dang, I wish I didn't. I mean, I can rock out on stage like nobody's business! But this stupid presentation has got me all out of whack.”

...

Carol rests a comforting hand on her shoulder. “It'll be fine, Luna. Just follow my lead, and stick to the note cards. You do that, and we'll ace this bad boy and be on our way to the yearbook committee next year!”

“You really think so?” Luna questions with these adorably piteous puppy eyes.

“I know so,” Carol states with a smile. “Worst case scenario, picture everyone in their underwear,” she jokingly adds.

Luna smiles at her goofy statement.

“You're such a turd,” she quips, playfully jostling her.

“Says you, stinky,” Carol says back, jostling her in return.

...

She likes flirting with Luna. She likes it a lot.

But Luna always stops flirting after a couple awkward, nervous laughs. Like, every time Carol thinks she can maybe work one of these conversations into making a move, Luna just halts the momentum. Like, maybe she's just too nervous, or she doesn't know what else to say, or...

“No… She likes me… She has to…”

But this time is different. Luna doesn't stop. In fact, she keeps smiling her devious little smile, and even jostles Carol a second time!

“Stinky? That's just your breath going back in your face,” she jokes.

“Oh my gosh! It's happening!” Carol giddily thinks.

“Nope. It's definitely you. You smell like Charles’ butt,” she ripostes, walking backwards.

Luna just keeps smiling that smile that's become Carol’s favorite, and she can't help but smile back.

“You would know what my dog’s butt smells like,” Luna fires back.

“You're dumb,” Carol simply retorts.

“You're rubbish,” Luna jokes with her British accent.

Then, they break. They can't help but burst into laughter. It's all so fluffy and cute, and so…

“Perfect!” Carol excitedly thinks.

“If there was EVER a more perfect time to say something romantic, it would be right flipping-”

...

“CAROL!” Luna shouts, a fearful expression coming to her face.

In an instant, Luna is grabbing her by her arm, and pulling her in close. At first she thinks maybe it's time for some sweet stuff, but the way she yelled her name, and the panicked expression she wears makes it obvious she was getting her out of harm’s way.

Carol turns back, and sees an enormous snake on the ground, looking up to her with pitiful eyes.

“Stupid Becky,” Luna utters.

...

Carol, on the other hand…

“AHHHHHHHH! Oh my god! Oh my god! Get it away! Get it a-way-hay!!!” she screams as she clings on to Luna for dear life.

Luna is unimpressed, but allows Carol this gesture. Meanwhile, Lana is running into the hall, and Lola is escorting her “Daddy” up the stairs to witness the buffoonery.

“Daddy, you have to see this! Lana brought a big nasty snake into our home!” Lola tells him.

“Now honey, I know your sister likes to bring some interesting animals into the house, but what harm could a little old snake do?-” Lynn Sr. says, until he lays on the titanic python on his floor.

“What is going on up here?” Rita Loud inquires as she makes her way up as well.

And of course, her husband shrieks like a girl, “AHHHHHHH!” before jumping into her arms all Scooby Doo like.

Needless to say, she's unimpressed.

Lana rushes over to the poor snake, and coddles it in her embrace.

“Guys! You're scaring her!” she cries.

Rita just sighs. “Lana, please find somewhere else for your new friend to stay. Frogs are one thing, but a four foot long python is a little much,” she assertively tells her daughter.

“Come on, Becky…” Lana sadly tells her newest pet as she carries it back into her bedroom.

Then everyone goes back to their business as Lola follows her parents downstairs, leaving Carol and Luna in the hall as before.

And yes, Carol is still totally glued onto Luna like she’ll literally die if she lets go.

Luna clears her throat, and Carol looks to her with a nervous grin.

“Sorry,” she utters as she pulls herself off, and she dusts off her britches.

Luna just rolls her eyes as she smiles again.

“I swear, it's always something in this house,” she says.

Carol just smiles back, as this warm, fuzzy feeling comes over her.

“Luna, thank you. You saved my life,” she says, wholeheartedly believing this.

Luna raises her brow and chuckles. “Heh heh, if you say so? I think you would be been alright.”

But Carol sees this much differently, and places her hand back on Luna’s shoulder to let her know this.

“No, Luna. That monster could’ve swallowed me whole! Or I could've tripped and fell down the stairs! For real, I owe you big,” she asserts.

Luna just keeps sweetly smiling. “Alright, C. If you really feel that way, then I guess that’s just my way of saying thanks for not letting me fall to my death a couple days ago.”

They just laugh it off, and then… It gets quiet.

And there's really only one of two ways this can go.

Luna will start flirting again, and Carol will flirt back, and she will finally get the chance to make a move on this girl she's pined for so hard…

Or, she'll just stop.

“Carol…” Luna begins, this bright look in her eyes.

And Carol gets all bubbly inside. “Yes?” she eagerly responds.

...

“Wanna go watch TV?”

As cute as Luna Loud is, sometimes Carol wants to just smack her.

But she refrains, because good things come to those who wait.

At least, that's what she hopes.

-----------------------

“This show is so stupid… I mean, it’s like, eleven minutes of the same crap every episode?”

“Then again… It IS a kids’ show…” Carol thinks to herself as her and Luna attempt to watch some Nickelodeon cartoon on TV. That’s what happens when Luan gets the TV.

“Dude, can we please watch something else?” Luna asks her younger sister with chagrin.

Luan meets her with just as much enthusiasm. “Well, it’s either this or the news. I got the remote first.”

Luna and Carol just roll their eyes together.

“Hey, you don’t like it, go to your house. Don’t you have your own place?” Luan asks Carol.

“Don’t even joke about that,” she quips back. “I’ll watch your cartoons before I go back there…” Carol says, practically shivering at the thought.

Luan winces, then smiles at her. “Alright, Care Bear. I gotta get caught up on homework anyway. I almost ate it before I realized what my teacher meant about it being a piece of cake… Hahaha!” she jokes as she tosses them the remote.

She stands and makes her leave, and alluringly raises her brows at Carol as if to say: “Getchu some.”

...

Carol just rolls her eyes again as Luna takes the remote. She eyes Carol up and down, then decides to place her head on her lap. It obviously catches her by surprise, like, hello?

She tenses up, and acts as if she’s going to scoot over. “You’re good,” Luna simply says, making herself comfortable on Carol’s thighs as she surfs the channels.

...

Maybe she is good, maybe she’s even better with Luna getting as close as she is. But it doesn’t stop her heart from racing, or her cheeks from reddening, or her mind from thinking.

“Okay… This is good, right? She wouldn’t just plop herself down on my lap like this unless she thought I’d be cool with it, right?...”

She looks down at her, and she just shoots her a little smile before returning her eyes to the TV.

“No… This IS good! She’s treading the waters!... Seeing how I’ll react... “

“Just be cool, Carol.”

Slowly, easily, she rests her arms down on Luna. She takes a deep breath, and just enjoys the warmth of having her like this.

“Hey! Dessert storm! Are you caught up?” Luna suddenly asks Carol, breaking her reverie.

It takes a second for the question to fully register, but it does.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I can watch the next one,” Carol tells her, ignoring her inner conflict.

...

Luna flicks it on, and the episode shows Bruce trying to work up the courage to ask Diana on a date.

In his confessional, he tells the interviewer: “I know how much I like her, and I’m pretty sure she likes me… I just- I know it sounds stupid, but I want it to be perfect when I do make a move, you know?”

“It’s not stupid at all… Actually,” Carol thinks, feeling her heart beat faster by the second.

“Poor dude. We’ve all been there…” Luna comments.

“Heh heh… Yeah…” Carol mutters. In actuality, many colorful, (some incomprehensible) words run through her mind about the irony of her statement.

...

“So, can I… Can I ask you something kind of dumb?” Luna asks, her usual aura of confidence waning.

Carol deduces that, it probably doesn't have anything to do with Dessert Storm. But, if may have something to do with Luna resting herself on her lap like this.

“Uhm… Sure?” she responds, a little lump forming in her throat.

...

Luna doesn’t follow up right away. She steels herself a moment before saying anything more.

“So… Like… After the presentation… You’re still gonna come around, right? I know I’m lame for asking, but, you know…”

Carol thinks it over, surprised by her sudden display of apprehension.

“Luna… Of course I’ll still come around! I mean… I know I’m lame for saying it, but you’re not getting rid of me so easily,” she says with a wide smile.

Luna just smiles back, but she doesn’t say anything more about it. She doesn't have to. Unlike the Stones song, she can get some satisfaction.

Instead, she just goes back to looking at the screen.

“I will be glad when the presentation’s over, though. I’ll have more time to rehearse my act for the talent show,” she says.

And Carol raises a brow at this. “Talent show?”

“Yeah. School talent show’s coming up in a couple days. I’m totally gonna shred for it!” Luna announces.

Carol smiles. “Well, of course you’d take the opportunity to show off,” Carol quips, playfully raising her knee to jolt Luna up. She just laughs at this.

“Ha ha… I’d say something about your violin… But…” she snidely says.

Carol just looks at her with a wince, and Luna just smiles before the other girl rolls her eyes yet again.

“I’m just playin’, C…” Luna sweetly says before contently leaving it be.

Carol smiles, and she leaves it be too.

...

“I have to ask her out, already.”

 

Chapter Text

 

It's a rainy Monday morning in Royal Woods, Michigan. Fortunately, Carol Pingrey is safe and dry inside the hallways of Royal Woods High.

Unfortunately however, she must deal with another predicament entirely.

...

“How am I going to ask her out?”

After their super cutesy couch moment, Carol decided it was time to make a move. What better time to do it than after their presentation, after all? Any time before could make things weird, awkward, or distracting; and too long after would certainly be a one way street to the dreaded… gasp!... friendzone.

So, today at 9:15, right after journalism class, right after the stupid presentation, she’s gonna march right up to Luna Loud, look her straight in the eye, lay it on the line, and...

“I can’t do this!”

She stops just outside the journalism lab, and turns right back around to do a little more arbitrary hall walking to wrack her brain.

“What if she doesn't really like me?... I mean, the more I think about it, SHE should’ve made a move by now!...”

“Yes, she flirts, and she's touchy… But what if that's just who she is? People who are just friends do that stuff all the time!...”

“Oh man… What if she wasn't talking about me to that one skeevy guy? What if it's another girl? A girl who has a tattoo, or blue hair, or- or-?!”

“Oof!” she blurts out as she bumps into Lori Loud.

“Hey, watch it, dillweed!” they both holler at one another.

But then they recover, and realize who they're talking to.

“Shoot. Sorry, Lori. I wasn't paying attention…” Carol apologizes.

“I’ll say… I didn't think you'd be so nervous about this presentation,” Lori states.

Carol sighs. “It's not the presentation. It's… something else…”

Lori gets wide-eyed. “What? Did something happen with Luna? Are you guys okay?”

“We’re- fine…” Carol unconvincingly replies. “I just… Oh…” she groans.

Lori gets all “Ohhh…” Literally.

“I see…” she says.

“You do?” Carol nervously replies.

“Yeah… You’re worried about what she’ll wear. Well, don’t worry. Me and Leni sat down with her all morning and helped her pick something out,” Lori confidently states.

“Yep! She totally loved the outfit I picked out for her!” Leni comments as she just so happens to walk by, all smiles.

“Nobody asked you!” Lori barks as she shakes her fist at her. But, being Leni, she just happily strolls along without a care.

Carol sighs again. “No… It’s not that…”

Lori raises a brow. “Oh? Then what is it?”

Carol thinks about telling her the truth, but her inner Regina George gets the better of her.

“Wait… She is sticking with the purple scheme, right? Because, that was, like- our whole plan. And I swear to Blarney she better stick with the straight colors. If I see one stripe I will literally-”

“Focus, Pingrey! What’s got you so freaked out?” Lori interrupts.

Carol returns to form.

“Oh… Well… Ugh… I wanna tell you!... But then I’m gonna get your hopes up, and this might not work out the way I want it to, and I didn’t get my coffee this morning because Starbeans was packed, so I had to go to Burpin’ Burger instead, and their coffee tastes like someone put their foot in-”

“Carol!” Lori hollers again.

Another sigh. “Okay… I’ll tell you,” Carol says. She does a little double take to make sure no one is listening in, then pulls Lori in closer to make sure only she will hear.

“I’m gonna ask Luna on a date after class…” she whispers as quietly as she can without being mute.

“EEEEEEEEK!” Lori giddily shrieks, shaking her hands all excitedly.

“Shhh!” Carol shushes. “This is why I didn’t wanna say anything!”

“Oh my gosh. How are you gonna do it? Are you gonna just ask her? Did you write a poem? Oh my gosh, Carol, if you wrote a poem-!”

“I didn’t write a stupid poem… I’m just gonna be cool about it…” she pitifully retorts.

“What does that even mean?!” Lori blurts out.

“I don’t know!... I’ve never asked someone out before! Boys always come to me…” Carol professes.

...

“Awwwww!” Lori simply cries. “Carol…”

“Shut up…” she groans.

“Okay, real talk; you can do this, girl. You’re Carol freakin’ Pingrey! You can have anyone in this school you want, and nobody is gonna stop you!” Lori declares.

She takes Carol and pulls her in by the shoulder, putting on her best game face. “Now, what are you gonna do?” she asks.

Slightly taken back by Lori’s energy, but also slipping into a sense of contagious security, Carol responds, “After class…”

“Yeah?” Lori eggs on.

“Right after the stupid presentation…”

“Yeah!”

“I’m gonna march up to Luna Loud…”

“Keep goin’!”

“I’m gonna look her straight in the eye…”

“You go girl!”

“And I’m gonna lay it on the line…!”

“What are you gonna tell her?!”

“I’m gonna tell her that I can’t do it! I can’t do it, Lori! I’m too scared! What if she doesn’t like me?! Oh man… I should’ve left the house ten minutes earlier! I would’ve beat that soccer mom, and I’d have my Starbeans coffee, and I’d be able to-”

...

“Carol, look at me,” Lori firmly states, coercing her into doing so by grabbing her by the arms.

Carol just does as she’s told, with this fretful expression that would put Carl Wheezer to shame.

“You need tough love, and that’s what BFF’s are for! If there’s even the slightest chance that that girl feels the same way about you that you do about her… You need to say something!”

Carol slowly feels some of the tension alleviating as Lori lets her go.

“You’re right…” she says to her, somewhat defeated. But then, she straightens up, proudly holding her chin high.

“I’m going to ask her out. I don’t care how I do it, but I need to let her know how I feel. This pretense has gone on far enough! I’m going to ask her out already… Or my name isn’t Carol Pin-!”

“Oh. You’re gonna be late for class,” Lori stoically informs her after checking her phone.

“Oh fart,” Carol curses, and she hurries over to the journalism room. “Thanks, Lori!”

Lori just watches her with a smile.

“It’s about time.”

-----------------------

Mr. Sunderland looks at his SpongeBob watch, seeing that it’s almost 8:00. Just as he looks up, he sees Ms. Carol Pingrey arriving in his classroom.

She’s not very graceful about it, but hey, she makes it.

“Good morning everyone,” she says, trying to play it off cool like she didn’t just run here, even though she’s clinging to both sides of the door frame to keep herself from falling over.

“Ah, Ms. Pingrey. We were almost worried you weren’t going to show. Now if we could just get the other half of your team, we can get started…” he says.

“What? Luna? Huh?” Carol stammers, looking all around to see where she is.

“Sorry, dude. I almost didn’t make it,” Luna announces, making her presence known. Carol turns around to see her.

...

She’s wearing a purple blazer with a matching amethyst skirt, and heels. Like, Carol gets to see all that leg she normally hides behind her favorite boots.

It suddenly gets very warm in here.

...

“I’m not used to wearing… Stupid heels…” Luna cusses, trying to get herself comfortable as she steps inside the classroom. She smiles and nods at Carol, as if to say, “Let’s do this.”

Carol just tries not to look like a complete idiot as she stares.

“Alright,” Sunderland says as he claps his hands together. “We’ve got our presenters, so let’s get to the presentation. Lora, will you get the Pointerpoint ready for them?” he asks the tall, blonde haired girl in the back of the class.

She’s neurotically taking notes on her phone, and her eye even twitches because she’s been at it so hard for so long.

Needless to say, she doesn't even respond.

“O-kay… Uhm, Greg?” Sunderland calls out next.

He stops picking his nose long enough to pay attention. “Huh? What?”

Sunderland face palms. “I’m getting too old for this crap,” he curses to himself.

“Uhm, that’s alright, Mr. Sunderland… I’ll go ahead and get it ready,” Carol volunteers, maybe because she wants to distract herself from a certain attractive someone.

She nervously smiles at Luna, “Heh heh,” who just smiles back, before going over to the computer to boot up Pointerpoint.

“Are you sure, Carol? You could use the time for last minute preparations,” Sunderland suggests.

...

“No, it’s fine, heh heh,” she feignedly laughs. “I’m… prepared…” she mutters to herself, not at all glancing back at Luna because she makes her feel all warm and fuzzy inside with the gams and the freckles and the-

“Nyeah! Pull yourself together, Carol! You STILL have this presentation to do… Which you have to do good- WELL on… Or you won’t make the yearbook committee next year!...”

...

“STOP THINKING!”

...

Carol takes a deep breath after finishing. “Okay…”

She makes her way over to Luna, who wipes a little something off her skirt in the most elegant way imaginable.

“Oh lord…” she thinks as she takes her place beside her partner, her crush…

Luna smiles, Carol smiles- despite the urge to spontaneously combust, and Mr. Sunderland smiles.

“Alright ladies. The floor is all yours,” he tells them.

Carol uses the clicker to begin the Pointerpoint slides.

“The Influence of Richard Avedon on 21st Century Photography” it reads.

“Okay,” Carol utters once again to herself with an accompanying deep breath, then she perks up.

“Thank you, Mr. Sunderland… As most of you know, my name is Carol Pingrey,” she starts.

“And I’m Luna Loud,” Luna promptly says.

Carol glances at her, and Luna winks.

She winks.

Gulp.

“Uhm… So… So today… We’re uhm… We’re going to talk to you guys about… Uhm… We’re gonna talk to you guys about Richard Avelon- Avedon! Richard Avedon!” Carol stammers.

“Mental note: end Mom and Dad for teaching me how to talk.”

“...We’re also going to explain just how… Uhm… How he influenced twentieth- sorry, twenty first century photography… Heh heh… Like the slide says…” she jokingly adds, nervously smiling like an idiot.

The attempt at white collar humor falls short. Mr. Sunderland sickly winces, Tabby looks eight different kinds of unimpressed, so does Jesse, and Lora’s just taking her notes about whatever while Greg resumes picking his nose.

She then makes the mistake of looking back over to Luna, maybe just out of instinct or something because she’s conditioned to feel safe in her. But, yeah, Luna just kind of winces, like “meh.”

If there was ever a reason to become worried, it would be Luna Loud just kind of wincing like meh.

“Oh man… Oh man! I’m totally bombing here! And I haven’t even started!”

She snaps back to reality to try and maybe salvage what’s left of this deplorable presentation, and flicks on over to the next slide using her clicker. Her stupid fat thumb presses the dang thing too hard though, and it skips over a slide, causing everyone in the classroom to snicker.

She quickly corrects this, but the damage is done. There’s more snickers in here than a candy store.

She looks to Mr. Sunderland, who skeptically raises his brow.

If there was ever a second reason to become worried…

“Uhm… Okay… So, to get started, I should explain- Well, me and Luna- Luna and I, should explain just who- just who Richard Avelon- AVEDON is…”

As if everyone’s judgment wasn’t bad enough, now she’s starting to get sweaty. Like, actual sweat. Eww.

“This sweater cost eighty dollars!”

It gets to the point where the poor girl can’t even get out a word of proper English. She just incoherently babbles like a dang fool as perspiration makes its way down her forehead, trying not to think about the yearbook committee, trying not to think about how she’ll let down Lori, trying not to think about how Luna will now almost certainly reject her advances, trying not to think about Greg and his nose picking, trying not to-

“Uhm, is everything alright, Carol?” Mr. Sunderland asks her out of concern.

She realizes he’s asked her the question, but she is literally dumbstruck. She’s more likely to wear white after Labor day than she is to get an A on this project now.

“Actually, Mr. S,” Luna interrupts, stepping forward a bit. “I think Carol just lost her place because I forgot to give her these notecards,” she tells him, offering her cards to Carol right after with that familiar perfect smile of hers.

Carol dumbly looks into her eyes, then to the cards, then to Sunderland, then his fluffy pillow, and then finally back to Luna and her deep brown eyes.

Two things come to mind that put her restless mind at ease.

One: “That really is a fluffy pillow…”

And two…

“Where would I be without you, Luna Loud?...”

In fact, it’s such a lovely thought…

“Where would I be without you, Luna Loud?” she voices aloud with a smile.

Luna just smiles back as Carol accepts the cards. She studies them over for a minute, figures out where she needs to be, and takes one more deep breath. “Okay…”

From there, she doesn’t miss a beat. Through sweat, blood, and tears- or sweat anyway; she perseveres. She educates the whole class on Richard Avedon like a preacher giving a sermon. Hell, she even gives Luna back the note cards halfway through. Everyone gives her their undivided attention, looking on with awed expressions as Carol Pingrey does what she does better than anyone in Royal Woods…

Putting the spotlight on herself.

Of course, Luna is a close contender for second place. She hardly stutters, and she even throws in a “Jessie’s Girl” reference that knocks the crowd dead. Except for Jesse.

“And that's how Richard Avedon was able to change what it means to be a photographer for you and me. Thank you,” Carol finishes.

And everyone applauds. Even Lora stops looking at her phone to give the girls some love.

Carol looks to Luna, and Luna looks to her.

And yes, they smile.

“What would I do?...”

-----------------------

The dismissal bell rings. Everyone gets all of their things together, and makes their way to the door before Sunderland can even be a cheesehead about something.

Luna hurries over to Carol. “Dude! You totally nailed that!” she proclaims.

Carol just brazenly scoffs. “Well… Yeah,” she says with a smile.

“For real dude… I wish I would’ve brought my guitar. I could’ve started just playing in the background, and maybe even brought in the fog machine, and then a little ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni-nuh!” she noises with accompanying air guitar.

Carol just laughs. “Stop!” she playfully retorts, even bumping into her a little bit.

“Uhm, girls?” Mr. Sunderland says, rudely interrupting what was supposed to be a cute moment…

They simply look to him.

“Could I talk to you guys?” he asks, sitting on his desk.

They look at each other for a second, then do as the man says and approach his desk.

He stoically measures them up for a moment, and Carol feels her heart grow a little heavy.

“I wanted to make sure the others were out of the room before I said anything to you two,” he tells them.

She looks to Luna, and she seems a little nervous herself.

“Oh no…”

“I have to be honest… That shattered my expectations,” Mr. Sunderland begins. “I… absolutely loved it,” he reveals.

Carol and Luna share another look, and they both ease up as he continues singing their praises.

“I mean, just wow. You guys started off a little slow, but when you got going, you really got going. I didn't even feel like your teacher watching you guys. I felt like I was at a seminar or something, you did so well. You took a simple project and made it into- that! And the professional attire, the slick Pointerpoint slides; it was all just, wow…”

Carol and Luna both blush. “Gosh, Mr. Sunderland… Thank you,” the former simply says.

“No. Thank you guys. I really needed this after my wife ragged on me all night about never taking her back to Quiet Hill, and- oh, never mind that… I just really appreciate the work you two put into this.”

He pauses.

“That being said, I think it's obvious you to will receive the maximum points for the assignment.”

Both girls smile at one another upon hearing this.

“And… I think it's safe to say, I'll reserve two spots on next year’s yearbook committee for you.”

They can't help it, they both “EEEK!” with excitement.

“Ha ha… Oh wow. Well, I don't know if I should say any more now…” Sunderland adds.

“More? You mean there's more?” Carol sheepishly follows.

Belatedly, their teacher tells them:

“Well… How would you girls like to be the editors for the committee?”

Carol’s jaw literally drops. “Eh… Eh… Editor?!”

“Yep. I can't think of two better candidates,” he proclaims.

Carol’s soul deserts her body for cloud nine. Her pupils become wide like saucers, and she just smiles the brightest, happiest smile it has ever been her privilege to smile.

But she gets a hold of herself enough to at least join the little people on earth again, at least long enough to properly accept his proposal.

“Yes! Yes, Mr. Sunderland! I… I would love to!” she states, practically forcing him into a handshake.

“Ha ha… Alright then. And what about you, Luna? You guys do make a great team…” he tells her.

She rubs the back of her neck, still sort of smiling as she considers it.

“Mmm… I don't know, big guy… I'm flattered, but really- Carol did most of the work. I just came up with the idea and did what she told me to do,” she confesses.

...

“Uhm, shut up!” Carol blurts out. “You did so much more than that! You literally saved my butt up there, and if it weren't for you… Ahhh…” she guffaws, nearly slipping into some confessions she isn't quite ready for.

She takes a breath, and continues though.

“Luna... Please…” she simply says, shifting into a little puppy pout that's totes adorbs; too much for the faint of heart to ignore.

Luna rolls her eyes. “Oh, alright. Sign me up, teach,” she happily tells Sunderland.

“Excellent. I'll be sure to make preparations for it as soon as I get my wife off my back- I mean… As soon as possible…” he tells them.

The statement boggles Luna a bit, but she disregards it as Carol wraps her arms around her a tight squeeze.

“Ahhh! This is amazing! We're gonna be editors together!” Carol shamelessly cheers.

Luna nervously smiles.

“Heh heh… Yeah… Amazing…”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“That was literally the best thing ever! I seriously cannot wait until next year. We’re gonna have so much fun!” Carol exuberantly announces as she and Luna walk down the hall on the journalism wing. She hasn’t been able to wipe the shiitake eating grin off her face since getting the news about the yearbook committee, and it’s even better that she has Luna to share it with.

“It is pretty wicked,” Luna simply responds, a little less chipper than little miss Pingrey.

They fall into silence.

It gives Carol all the time she needs to switch gears.

She glances at the nearest clock. 9:15. It’s time.

She’s played it out so many times in her head, considering scenarios of the super cliche B movie variety, and those of the so casual it’s almost not even a big deal persuasion. And she knows the risk. Luna could say no, and it would suck, yeah. But she also knows that she is the last person who would chastise her, and she’s too good a person to push her away because of… this…

But there’s also the chance she could say yes, and that’s worth all the sweating, all the blood curdling, or the awkward, cringey, embarrassing things that have happened leading up to this moment.

“Okay…” she thinks as she takes a deep breath, and she readies herself…

“Carol?...” Luna softly says, stopping in her tracks.

“Oh?...” Carol thinks to herself. “That wasn’t supposed to happen. Okay, no big deal. I can still ask her… Just- see what’s up first.”

“Luna?” she simply responds with a little smile.

But Luna doesn’t smile back. In fact, she looks… nervous. Scared, even.

“I have to tell you something. Something… important…”

Carol’s heart skips a beat… almost literally. “No… She can’t be…”

“I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while now… I just… I’m so scared of what you’ll say back. With the presentation and all, and how- close we’ve gotten… I just… I’m sorry…” Luna says, visibly becoming shaken.

It takes everything Carol has not to become shaken herself. “She is!”

“It’s- okay, Luna… I’m here for you. Just tell me…” she softly says, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

She tries smiling at Luna again, but Luna still doesn’t smile back.

Luna takes a deep breath, and carefully removes Carol’s hand from her shoulder. Carol meets the gesture with some reservation, but she does her best to just prepare for whatever important thing Luna is about to say to her… The important thing…

“Carol… I… I like girls…”

Her pink little heart becomes cascaded by this wonderfully warm swelling. It’s almost like having an out of body experience, one where she’s able to look down on herself and Luna, seeing the way her pupils dilate, and the way her cheeks redden with the anticipation of what’s going to be the beginning of her new life as something more than Luna’s partner… Something magical…

She knows Luna likes girls. Duh. But apparently, Luna sees this as the best way to open the floodgates. Maybe she really thought Carol didn’t know, or maybe, and probably- this is just her way of moving past the pretense.

And Carol’s more than willing to play along.

 “I like girls,” Luna repeats, the shame in her voice now bleeding through. “I mean, I like boys too... Sort of… I just, I notice girls more. It’s been like this for a while, and… I just… I feel so bad for not saying anything sooner. You’ve been so great these last few weeks, and- I’m so lucky to have you in my life. Please don’t be mad at me, dude… I don’t- I can’t take it if you… Ugh…” she frustratingly stops.

Carol just watches on with the most sincere concern, and Luna takes another breath to regain composure.

“I understand if you hate me now. I shouldn’t have kept this from you… But this is me, C. This is who I am…”

Carol just looks into her deep brown eyes. She’s never wanted so badly to just hold her close, and make her feel loved. And she will… She’s going to...  But she needs to show her that things will be okay first.

“Luna… I could never hate you…” she begins. She pauses a moment, just letting the words linger in the air before really committing to this. “You have no idea just how important you are to me… You have literally- literally changed my life. I can’t thank you enough for letting me into your home, and letting me be with your family, and spending so much time with me when I was… alone… God, Luna, I was so alone. I didn’t even realize it until you came along…”

Now Luna smiles, and Carol can’t help but smile back.

And she places that hand back on her shoulder.

“You rock, Luna Loud… And I…”

Her heart’s racing, her eyes are practically watering, and her brain feels like it could swim out of her ear and onto the floor. But it’s an amazing sensation she never realized she needed to feel until now, and it’s even better to reach this self-actualization when looking into the eyes of this girl she cares so much about.

“I… I…”

Luna grabs her, and pulls her into a great big hug. She squeezes her tightly, and she sniffles like she could cry. It lasts several seconds before she finally breaks away to meet Carol with the brightest smile she’s ever privileged her with.

“Thank you, C… You have no idea how much this means to me… And everything you just said… I feel the exact same way.”

It’s almost to much for poor Carol Pingrey. The feels…

She smiles back. “Luna…”

And Luna just keeps smiling right back.

“I’m really happy to have you as my best friend.”

The wonderful whirly feeling in Carol’s chest begins to feel more like drowning.

“Friend? Did she just say… FRIEND?”

She did.

She hugs Carol again. “I’m glad you understand, man… I mean, after staying the night with you and stuff- I thought, like, I can’t tell her now? She’ll get the wrong idea!”

The wrong idea.

“Ha ha, pheeeewww…” Luna laughs as she wipes her brow, still wearing what Carol almost interprets as a mocking smile on her face. “I’m glad I finally told you though. You’re a really good friend to be there for me like you have been. I just didn’t wanna do anything to screw that up, ya know?” she adds, and she begins walking again.

Carol is just frozen though. Her eyes are still glossy, but for an entirely different reason now.

This was supposed to be it! This was supposed to be the moment that changed everything, and made all the pain worth while!

But now it just feels like a stupid joke… She’s never felt more foolish in her life.

Of course Luna Loud doesn’t like her back? Why would she… She’s all that… And Carol is all… this…

Luna keeps walking, but Carol just can't move. If she could, she would reduce to a puddle, or spontaneously combust, or just fade away like dust in the wind. It hurts to even feel.

But eventually, Luna turns back around, and sees her standing there with this piteous look on her face.

She ebbs the enthusiasm, and paces back a bit. “Hey… You alright?” she asks.

No, she’s not. Why would she be? The one and only thing she had to look forward to is now shambles to be shipped in an ugly little box to the friendzone... Population: Carol.

But… It’s still Luna Loud… Even if she doesn’t feel the same way, Carol can't help but still want to reach out and hold her, and show her things can be okay, and make her feel loved…

The way she wanted back…

So, more than ever before, she has to be a big girl. She can’t let her ever know how she truly feels, and it’s just something she’ll have to snuff out. It’s for the best, apparently. Even if it hurts.

She forces a smile. “I’m fine, L... Really.”

Luna winces, but she apparently buys it, because she smiles again.

“Alright. Well, are you coming back to the house tonight? Dad’s ordering pizza, and I doubt he’ll throw it on the roof this time,” she says.

“Uhm… Actually, I had some homework I really need to get caught up on,” Carol fibs, rubbing her arm with a sickly expression. “Sorry…”

Luna frowns. “Dude… I knew this would make things weird. I shouldn’t have said anything…” she bemoans.

“No, it’s not you, Luna. Seriously,” Carol defends. “It’s really not…” she thinks to herself.

Luna looks to her with these saddening eyes, and Carol musters the strength to show her that this is true with another warm smile.

“I swear, Luna; this doesn’t change anything between us. I just have to take care of some things and… I’ll come over tomorrow night. I promise,” she insists.

Luna still isn’t quite sold though, making it evident with the way she still pitifully pouts.

Even so, Carol makes a point to be there for her. Even when it hurts…

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

Luna likes the sound of that, and she finally smiles again. “Okay… You promise?” she practically begs with those irresistible puppy eyes of hers.

“I promise.”

She finally lets Luna go, and the girl picks herself and her fancy new heels up to be on her merry way.

“I’ll text you, okay?” she sweetly says.

“I’ll text you first,” Carol quips.

They just smile at one another, until Luna turns her back, and disappears off into the distance of the long bright hallway.

Leaving Carol uniquely, completely, imperially alone.

She just stands there for a moment, hugging her books tightly against her chest, leaning against the white wall as she takes in everything that just happened.

Eventually, she caves. As sadly as she can, she slides down the wall, and lets some tears fall.

Not many, just... some. Enough to alleviate a little of the pain.

“I can’t believe I was so stupid…”

And she just sits there for a while, careless to everything going on around her. If the earth slipped into the sun right now, she really wouldn’t mind.

“Seppuku wouldn’t be so bad either, I guess…”

Well, yes it would. Because then she wouldn’t get to see Luna anymore, and that would be… just the worst.

So, she just contemplates the fact that, she’s just going to have to move on. It’s going to be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do- next to getting braces back in middle school, but it’s just the way it has to be.

And she’s willing to do that for Luna. Because, really, having her as a best friend is a fairly nice alternative. It won't be very cute going to this year’s homecoming as just friends; but, if it’s anything like these last few weeks have been, then she’s perfectly fine with that. Yeah.

“Yeah…”

She hears footsteps, and realizes that she needs to pull herself together. She quickly stops sniffling and wipes her puffy eyes, which is well enough, because she decides she’s just going to ignore whoever the heck this is coming to make her feel even more like an idiot than she already does. If she can’t see them, can they really see her?

Right?

Something like that…

The footsteps stop. She doesn’t see any feet before her, but, she ever so slightly wanders her eyeballs to the right, just enough so that her peripheral vision can pick up on the footwear of the intruder.

And she sees some familiar purple boots.

“Luna?!” she thinks as she pops her head up to look at the rest of the person.

But no, it’s not Luna.

It’s some girl with blue hair, and she meets Carol with a look of concern

“Are you okay?” she asks.

-----------------------

“Who the heck are you, and why do you care?” Carol thinks as this skeevy chick eyeballs her.

She's got short blonde hair with a blue streak running through it. Like, really? Why would you do that to yourself?

She's wearing a blue jacket with red jeans, ugh, and a T-shirt for some band from another century.

In short: she's a poser, and she probably has a tattoo.

...

Not at all like Luna though. She's a cutie.

But she just keeps looking at Carol with this sympathetic gaze, like the girl is begging for spare change or something. Which she's not! She doesn't beg for anything! Especially not for the pity of random peons at her school…

“Let’s just get this over with,” Carol tells herself. …

“I’m fine, really…” she insists, sniffling one last time as she fixes her posture. She makes a point not to look at the poser chick, either.

...

But skeevy doesn't go away. Like, take the hint!...

“Uhm… Okay…” she simply says, slouching all pathetically to the point she may as well curl up into a ball.

Then, finally, she gets to walking.

Carol takes the opportunity to steal another look at her.

“Weirdo…” she mentally curses.

And almost as if she heard her, the girl turns back around, scrutinizing her with this judging expression like she knows anything about anything.

Carol quickly looks away, of course.

But the girl starts walking over again, which is just flipping perfect.

“Oh god… I swear, you better just turn back around. I am inclined to straight up punch you in the-”

...

“Are you Carol?” the girl asks.

Who the heck does that? Walk up to some girl you don't know that you think you might know, just to see if you know what you think you know?! Ugh!

“Whatever… Just play along. The sooner she leaves, the sooner I can get back to… sulking…”

“Uhm… Yeah?” she replies with an uninviting tone.

“Sorry, I know this is kind of creeperish,” the girl admits with a nervous smile.

“Got that right…”

“...It’s just, I’m friends with Luna.”

“What in the actual heck you hecking hecker?! Why would you not say that before?!”

Like, this changes everything. Luna's involved. She's concerned because of Luna. Luna apparently has said things about her. Good things. Things she must know immediately.

“Oh…” Carol coyly responds, playing it cool. “Uhm… Who are you?”

...

“Oh, I'm Sam. We're in a band together. The Italians?” the girl, Sam apparently, answers.

...

Carol winces. “She hasn't said anything about it.”

And so does Sam. “Ehh, we haven't played much lately because of school. And she's doing her own thing for the talent show this year, and she’s been hanging out with this one girl, so…”

“Right, the stupid talent show…”

“Wait... ‘This one girl’?”

“Okay, Carol. Be cool… Just because she’s willing to come off like a total spaz doesn’t mean I have to. She could always run and tell Luna, after all…”

She carefully chooses her next words as she remains seated along the wall.

“This one girl, huh?” she simply responds.

Sam smiles. “I think you know her.”

Carol half smiles back. “Fair enough…”

Sam just smiles at her for a moment before wandering her eyes elsewhere. “Well… It was nice talking to you, Carol. I’ve gotta be getting to class now,” she says, apparently deciding she’s had enough of this conversation.

Which, no. Just no. This tells her nothing about Luna’s true feelings, feelings that she may have buried deep down for some reason that maybe this blue haired bimbo just might know.

Carol must know too, dang it!

“Wait!” she blurts out, practically jumping up from the floor.

Sam just meets her with indifference. Of course the girl who’d ask someone their name all awkward like would act like this isn’t a big deal.

“Has… Luna said anything about me?” Carol asks, immediately regretting it. Like, go ahead and make it obvious you’re crushing on her, stupid.

...

But… Sam smiles. She actually laughs a little to herself.

“Heh heh… Uhm…” she begins, and she stops to think about it, her eyes meeting the floor.

After a bit of consideration, she looks back to Carol now.

...

“Well, I will say… She really wants to see you play your violin…”

Carol just blinks. “My violin?”

Sam just stands there for a minute, softly grinning a little, before she speaks up again.

“I really gotta go, dude. See ya,” she warmly tells her before turning away.

Carol just stands there, watching her walk away.

“So… Luna really wants to see me play my violin… What does that mean?”

“What has she told Sam? She had to know we were hanging out a lot to make that ‘I think you know’ quip…”

“She was smiling. Like Lori almost… So, Luna’s said good things? She had to, right? Why else would she be smiling?”

As she wracks her brain, she decides it’s time to get going herself. Her eyes meet the white walls, the bright lights, the clock that now reads 9:27, a yellow poster for the upcoming talent show…

She stops, and studies the poster.

Royal Woods High Variety Show! This Friday!

Have a special talent: Art, Music, Comedy, Something Crazy? Come show all your friends and fellow students just what makes you… You!

“Oh my god… That’s it!” she thinks aloud.

...

Yes, it is. The perfect way to finally win Luna over…

“My stupid violin!...”

...

“Yes! I’ll perform a piece at the talent show, and I won’t even tell her about it! I’ll make it out to be some big surprise, and when she finally sees just how good I am, she’ll be putty in my hands!”

Thankfully she’s alone in the hallway, because, she just can’t contain her excitement. Not that she cares anymore. After everything she’s been through, there’s finally a silver lining in sight, and she’s damn sure going to go for it.

“I’m gonna have to practice day and night… I’ll play until my fingers bleed if I have to. I’m going perfect my act by Friday, and make sure I can play just as good as- no, better than Luna!”

“But that won’t be enough… No, I have to look good. I have to feel good. I have to be my absolute best! It’s what Luna deserves, and damn it! I’m gonna give it to her!”

...

With the sun shining down on her perfectly from the school’s skylights, she stands triumphantly in the middle of the main hallway, her chin held high, her posture perfect.

“Forget the stupid friendzone! I’m going to perform at the stupid variety show, and I’m going to win Luna over, or my name isn’t Carol freakin’ Pingrey!

 

Chapter Text

 

No one said it would be easy. Then again, no one told her she’d end up falling for Luna.

With only four nights to prepare for the variety show, Carol realizes that she’s going to have eat, sleep, and breathe violin until Friday afternoon. When she’s not able to practice, she’s going to have to listen. Literally.

She approaches Mr. Sunderland in the hallway with a filled out talent show application. With the utmost confidence, she hands him the paper, looking him dead in the eye. With a surprised expression, he simply takes it, and she goes on her way, leaving him to wonder as he looks it over.

...

In class, she hides one of her earbuds in the palm of her hand so she can listen to The Beatles while mulling through trig.

...

When she gets home, she reads the latest sticky note from her mother and father. It simply reads: “We love you, Care Bear.” She hugs it tight against her chest, taking a deep breath. Then, she makes her way upstairs, and gets to work.

In her father’s study, she plays from sunset to moonlight; reciting everything from Tartini to Paganini, ranging from the keys of A minor to E major.

The following Tuesday morning, she does all of her yoga poses, falling over a few times. She then attempts to swallow down a Kale shake, but gets sick halfway through. Her cheeks turn as green as the… whatever Kale’s supposed to be.

She then goes into the bathroom, and does her hair. Six cans of dry shampoo later, she looks okay. And that’s after she accidentally sprays her eyes.

Picking out an outfit for the day is simple enough. She just wears something she “borrowed” from Luna. But planning an outfit for Friday? Yeah… Not so much. She rummages through her entire wardrobe, burying her bedroom under piles of clothes, and still finds nothing suitable to wear.

The drive to school? She listens. She pulls up the “Orchestra Music” channel on SpotidoraTube, and loses herself in the work of Massenet and Apocalyptica, all while reliving the dream she had of slow dancing with Luna.

...

When she arrives to first period journalism, and gets through the doorway, she sees her. Luna looks up to meet her gaze, and after a moment of some silent reservation, Carol smiles at her. Of course, Luna smiles back. Mr. Sunderland looks to the two with a thoughtful expression, and amusingly huffs to himself.

...

The drive to Luna’s? More listening. Carol pulls up SpotidoraTube and resumes her station, but looks to Luna with a bit of a worried expression- as if to ask her if it’s okay. Luna just smiles and nods. Carol softly smiles back, and she makes like the Rihanna song, shutting up and driving.

While Luna does her own rehearsing for the talent show in the garage, Carol makes her way to the living room. All the other Louds: Lori, Leni, Luan, Lynn Jr., Lincoln, Lucy, Lana, Lola, Lisa, and Lily, look to her. She meets them with stoicism as she simply takes out a variety show pamphlet for them to have a gander at, and then she smiles. Once they come to understand her gesture, they all smile and nod to one another.

...

First, Lynn and Lisa put their knowledge of dietary goods to use, helping Carol blend together a decent health drink that doesn’t look and taste like dirt. With some hesitation, she downs the thing in one gulp as they watch. Once she’s finished, she wipes off her lip, satisfied. Lisa and Lynn just cooly slap five to celebrate.

Next, she takes another whack at getting her hair done right. With the twins at her side, and Lola’s seemingly endless supply of hairspray, detangler, conditioner, and- of course, dry shampoo; they make her look- as Lola would say, beeeeautiful.

Then, she does yoga with Lori, and the two ladies move with nothing but grace and poise. As Carol attempts a Vrikshasana, she nearly fumbles, but she catches herself, and successfully pulls it off. Of course, Lori farts to ruin the moment, and she nervously smiles with embarrassment as she holds her own pose. Carol just raises a brow and sneers, then lets one rip herself. They share a laugh about it.

...

After that, she sits down with Lincoln, Luan, and Lucy to pick a song to play at the show. The first song she suggests, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” impresses Luan, but not Lincoln, Lucy, or Mr. Coconuts. Lincoln gives Julien Ando’s rendition of “Zombie” a thumbs-up, but the others give it a thumbs-down. After listening to “Sad Romance,” Lucy is the first to look up- her way of showing her approval. The others just wince with discomfort before getting to the next song.

The song that does play is so beautiful, and all parts emotionally turning as it is structurally impressive. Carol smiles, Lincoln smiles, Luan smiles, and Lucy doesn’t look totally miserable upon hearing it… They look to Mr. Coconuts for his approval, and belatedly, he gives a thumbs up.

...

Finally, with the help of Lily and Leni, she goes closet surfing. Upon seeing the daunting amount of clothes available, Carol’s jaw drops, and she looks back to the two girls as if to say: “Help.”

Leni puts on her thinking face, and Lily is quick to imitate. Then, the proverbial light bulb goes off for Leni, and she rushes out into the hall. A moment later, she returns with all of the other Loud siblings, minus Luna, and they look eager to get to work.

Carol smiles at this, and they all charge into the closet.

While flinging everything from T-shirts to toe shoes out of the closet, Lincoln catches eye of Luna leaving the garage via the window. He jumps up and down in an attempt to get everyone’s attention, but just ends up getting inadvertently kicked where no boy ever wants to be kicked. The girls realize his discomfort, and stop to look at him. Through the cringing, Lincoln is able to muster the strength to point outside, and show everyone just what’s wrong.

They all gasp and panic, and shift into metaphorical overdrive in an attempt to find the perfect freakin’ outfit for Carol freakin’ Pingrey. Lincoln just crawls to the door, fighting the pain, to keep a lookout.

After some accidental bruising and bludgeoning, Carol sees the most magnificent dress she’s ever laid eyes upon.

It’s a quaint, sky blue dress. Just like the one from her dream.

...

Her eyes become wide as the moon, and she hurriedly grabs ahold of it to show off for all her friends. They stop their ransacking, and all smile and cheer as Carol proudly displays it.

Lincoln tries to look up, but he’s still too weak to fully sit up. During his struggle, he catches eye of Luna making her way up the hall.

It's enough to make him get over it, and he shoots up like he’s been reanimated. He frantically waves his hands around to get the girls’ attention, and when they see him, they immediately know they're on borrowed time.

So, they all toss the dress to one another, trying to think of somewhere to hide it, because Luna cannot see it before Friday. It ends up with Lana, then Lucy, then Lori, then…

Leni.

As Luna steadily approaches the entry point, the others meet Leni with desperate eyes, all praying she'll have a stroke of genius.

Miraculously, the lightbulb goes off again for her.

Lincoln tries to stall Luna as he blocks the doorway using his “cool guy” pose, but she just meets him with apathy before simply walking past him.

When she gets inside, she and her brother look to see everyone all huddled together with big hokey smiles on their faces, Carol’s being the hokiest of all.

Luna just incredulously studies them for a moment, but them smiles and shrugs before making her way back out.

Once she’s gone, everyone sighs of relief. Then, Leni pulls the dress out of the butt of Carol’s jeans, promptly causing her to blush with embarrassment.

Of course, Luna comes back for some reason, and she's quick to stuff it up Carol’s shirt now- right against her bra.

Luna just meets them with confusion as they resume their hokey smiling.

...

And it's like this for the next two days: practicing and preparing like her livelihood depends on it. As far as Carol’s concerned, it pretty much does.

...

On Wednesday night, after all the rigorous rehearsal; she has to break down and cry. It's just so much stress.

But when she gets to first period journalism on Thursday morning, she remembers why it's all worth it as Luna meets her with another warm smile.

...

Later that day when she passes Mr. Sunderland in the hallway, he meets her with a concerned expression. But she just proudly smiles with perfect posture. As she walks past him, he can't help but smile and shake his head.

That night, Carol is just so tired from it all. She sits with Luna on the couch to watch some TV, and after a moment of some hesitation, she decides to lie her head down on Luna’s lap, just as she did to her before.

When Luna looks down to her lap a moment later, she sees that Carol has fallen fast asleep.

And she just smiles.

-----------------------

Finally, Friday comes.

Carol’s hair is perfect, her outfit is stellar, and she’s well nourished and well exercised.

“You can do this, you can do this,” she mentally repeats to herself in front of the mirror as she takes a deep breath.

The door opens, catching her a bit off guard. Luckily, it’s just Lori.

She softly smiles at Carol, who tries to smile back- but she’s just too worked up.

“Hey,” she simply greets.

Lori walks over to her, still considerately smiling. “Are you ready to get the girl?” she asks.

“I really hope so, Lori… I really do,” Carol answers as she studies her reflection. She then turns to face her BFF, doing her best to remain calm. “You’re sure she doesn’t know about this, right? Nobody said anything to her? Luan?” she asks.

“Relax… Even she’s not that evil,” Lori responds. “She doesn’t have a clue. But she might start getting a little suspicious if we don’t get to the auditorium soon,” Lori reasons.

Carol turns away to get one last look herself, and lets out a heavy sigh.

Lori comes behind her, and places her hands on her shoulder. “You’re gonna do great. She’ll be all over you when you finish- even more than she already is,” she quips.

Carol smiles at the thought of having so much Luna, and then at the thought of having a friend like Lori.

“Lori, thank you so much for everything. These last few weeks I’ve been all about me and Luna, and you’ve been so cool about the whole thing… I promise to make it up to you,” she tells her as she turns to face her again.

“You’re darn right you will. And you can start by making me your bridesmaid,” she jokes as she lets go of Carol.

But Carol grabs her by the wrist, and then pulls her into a hug. “You can count on it,” she tells her.

It catches Lori by surprise, but she relaxes, and squeezes Carol back.

And of course, this would be the time for cringey Tanya to come in to the girls restroom.

She just stands at the doorway for a moment with this disgruntled grimace on her face, and Carol and Lori just look back with dumbness as they keep hugging.

The other girl doesn’t say a word, she just ever so slowly makes her way out of the restroom.

...

“Nothing good ever happens in the bathroom,” Lori jokes to break the tension.

Carol laughs, and Lori joins her.

“...Alright. Well, are you ready to get going?” Lori asks with a keen expression.

Carol takes one more deep breath.

“I guess so.”

-----------------------

Carol and Lori make their way into the auditorium, and then to their seats.

Mr. Sunderland makes his way up onto the stage, much to the delight of the audience.

“We love you, Sunderland!” someone hollers above the rest.

He just smiles and nods before picking up a microphone.

“Thank you all very much for coming to today’s variety show,” he begins, and everyone applauds some more.

“...We’ve got a lot of great acts from a lot of talented students here today, including musical performances, skits from our very own theatre troupe, and some comedy from- Luan Loud?” he announces, evidently confused about the last part.

“She doesn’t even go here!” a portly boy in a blue hoodie with sunglasses shouts.

“Well, uhm… Nevertheless, it’s time to get the show started!” he declares, and there’s more cheers. “...To get things going with a bang, I’m happy to call to the stage at this time- the most rockin’ chick at Royal Woods High: Luna Loud!”

Carol’s heart flutters upon hearing her name, but she joins Lori and everyone else in the applause.

Sunderland exits the stage, and the curtains are drawn open to reveal Luna, who is wielding a new black Les Paul.

It’s one thing for Carol to hear her name; it’s another thing entirely to see Luna like this.

Luna just stands in silence for a moment as the applause continues, and a spotlight shines down on her. She cooly throws up the proverbial goats, smiling a devious little smile as she readies to do what she does best.

And the crowd eats it up for a little while before slowly dying down, the buzz in the air becoming more palpable with every passing second.

But she doesn’t keep them waiting long.

“Hit it!” Luna yells. All sorts of colorful lights flicker on, and she proceeds to shred. Needless to say, the crowd loves it.

And yes, that most certainly includes Carol.

Luna keeps strumming her chords, and even does a little Angus duck walk before she breaks into song.

“Rocking out loud for my favorite high school… Everyone’s smiling cause they all know I rule…”

“Got a new guitar just this last weekend… She looks so good I named her after my best friend…”

Carol’s eyes widen upon hearing that.

“My favorite carol’s the song of the moon, that’s a why I’m a singin’ this tune…”

“My life is a dream… A crazy rock and roll dream…”

By now, Lori is literally gushing. She grabs Carol by her arm. “She’s talking about you!” she giddily cries.

Carol just slowly slips into warm, fuzzy smile as she realizes this is true.

Luna busts out an impressive little solo, and then proceeds singing.

“Got a mean bug for playing up on stage… But when I get home I’m gonna turn the page…”

“Gonna rest with my girl, if you know what I’m sayin’... And I’m not talkin’ ‘bout this guitar I’m playin’...”

“She’s got me singin’ like I’m a fool, smilin’ because she just rules…”

“My life is a dream… A crazy rock and roll dre-am!”

“Yeah!...” she finishes with one last powerful strum of her guitar strings, and everyone loses their collective heads.

And she makes a point to smile at Carol before she leaves the stage.

Lori keeps smiling like an idiot at Carol, who is still nebulous about what just happened. But she finally looks back to her, and Lori grabs her again.

“Carol, you have literally got to go talk to her!”

“What? I- I just- huh?” she stammers.

“GO!” Lori blurts out, practically shoving Carol. The other girl slowly makes her way back to reality, then looks to the side stage with contemplation.

It doesn’t take her long to come to a decision.

She stands up and brushes herself off before taking a deep breath, and then she hurries her way out of the row of seats and into the aisle.

Lori just watches on like a total spaz. “Go get her, Carol!” she happily cries.

-----------------------

Carol makes her way up the steps to the backstage area, and scans for Luna. She sees her coming back from the front stage, where some of her rocker friends- including the one skeevy dude and Sam, are waiting for her. They all smile and and slap fives, totally geeking out over the sick shredding from Luna.

Of course, she’s humble about it, as she just grins and shrugs.

It makes Carol smile seeing her like this. She’s almost invincible, in a way that Carol thought she was for so many years. She’s always got a certain shine to her that’s irresistible, but here in her element, her comfort zone? Luna Loud is literally perfect.

And that gives Carol all the motivation she needs to approach her, and finally tell her just how she feels.

She begins walking over, her heart pounding against her chest in the best way imaginable. It’s almost like she’s walking on air, just like that wonderful dream she had so many nights ago, the one she’s privately cherished, the one she secretly longs to become a reality, the one where she felt free and alive and more ready to take on the world than ever-

“Carol!” Mr. Sunderland says, popping out in front of her all of a sudden.

Not only does it kind of spoil the awesomeness of what is supposed to become her “L is for Love” moment, but it kind of startles her too.

“Huh!” she gasps. “Mr. Sunderland!”

“Sorry to sneak up on you,” he begins. “Listen, there’s been a change in the schedule. We’re going to go ahead and have you go on next. It turns out that Luan girl really doesn’t go here,” he says, pointing over to her. She pouts while sitting on the steps, dressed like a clown of course.

“What? But Mr. Sunderland- There’s something I have to do first!” Carol cries.

“Carol, I’m sorry to cut into your rehearsal time, but please. If you don’t go next, then we have to let Joey go up there and start doing impressions, and I’d hate for Luna’s awesome performance to be tainted by a bad follow up… Please Carol…” he all but begs with piteous eyes.

She looks at him, then past him for Luna. Apparently, she hasn’t even noticed the two of them, because she’s just lollygagging with her poser friends.

She looks back to Sunderland, who’s smiling that smile someone smiles when they’re desperate for something.

She sighs with defeat. “Okay…”

“Great!” he replies. “Uhm, just hang out back here for a bit, and when Mr. Johnny calls for you, go out there and do your thing!” he explains before beginning to walk away.

“Wait, where are you going?” she asks.

“I’ll be back in time to watch it! I just have to take care of something first,” he explains. His legs are practically shaking, and he rushes down the stairs, letting out a groan once he reaches the bottom. “Oh god, I should not have had that nutrition drink!”

She just stands there with a discomfited expression for a moment before turning her attention back to Luna and her friends.

Through the people passing by, she can see that they’re all packing up, and making their way down the opposite stairs.

Luna follows them, but then, she looks Carol’s way. And she sees her… standing there in her fancy blue dress, her hair done perfectly, her blue eyes just looking back to her with this beseeching gaze.

And for a moment, the two of them are just frozen in time, looking to one another with what feels like a million miles between them.

Ironically enough, for Carol at least, she’s never felt more connected to Luna than she does now. There’s a new science of understanding…

There’s hope.

She’s first to smile, and waves a little wave.

Luna follows with a soft little smile her own, but her reverie is broken by one of her bandmates. “C’mon, Luna!” they shout.

She deflates a bit, but smiles another smile at Carol as she returns a wave.

Then, just like that, she’s gone away.

Carol is beside herself for a moment, adjusting to this bitterness in her gut. But she takes yet another deep breath, and focuses on what she has to do.

She looks to the curtains, and then the black case off to the side that contains her violin. She walks over to it, opens it, and takes out the beautifully crafted instrument inside. She just sort of admires it for a moment as she feels the endorphins of adrenaline racing through her now.

The school theatre professor, Mr. Johnny, arrives, and he makes his way over to her. “Are you almost ready, Carol?” he politely asks.

“I’m ready,” she simply tells him, and he nods before making his way through the curtains.

There is a sole black chair in the middle of the stage, and a stand for her sheet music. She makes her way over to them, and takes a seat, admiring her violin and bow one last time before looking to the curtains.

“It’s show time…”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Okay… I gotta pick up my ointment on the way home, get something for dinner, grade these stupid articles… Ehh, that can wait til tomorrow… Respond to all my reviews and messages, bust out another chapter of my fic… As long as Mary doesn't get on to me for something stupid. I swear, sometimes I could just smother her with a pillow…” Mr. Sunderland quietly mumbles as he relieves himself in the privacy of a bathroom stall, his eyes glued to his smartphone.

“Well, at least I still have my dignity,” he voices as he finishes up, and he reaches out to flush the toilet.

Just as he presses down on the flusher, he drops his phone… inside.

All he can do is hopelessly watch on as it's whisked down into the porcelain point of no return, his ginger face growing mortified.

“No, no, no, no, no!” he cries. Nearly reaching into grab it before stopping himself.

With a heavy heart, he just waits for the flush to finish, and it does.

...

Somehow, someway, the phone manages to get lodged into the water seal.

He just stares at it for a little while, contemplating this delicate new situation.

On one hand, getting a new phone will cost time and money he doesn’t have…

On the other hand…

“Oh god…” he miserably groans.

He checks over his shoulder- even though he’s isolated from everyone else in the one place no one would bother him, just to be sure no one is around. He even does that weird little “lean and check under the bathroom stall” to be sure he’s completely alone.

Thankfully, he is.

He closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath.

“Am I really doing this?”

Very, very hesitantly… he carefully places his hand inside the toilet- the cold, unforgiving water breaking his skin.

“Ugh…” he moans as he pinches the phone with his fingertips, and he gives it a forceful tug.

Nothing. It’s stuck.

He tries again, a little harder this time.

Still… Nothing happens.

He braces himself, clenching and cringing all serious like, and he sticks his other hand in.

With both hands, he grabs on to the phone, and begins pulling with all the strength his skinny arms can muster.

“Come on… You stupid-”

CRACK!

With a hardy tug, he is able free the phone from the villainous crapper, sending himself crashing out of the stall. Unfortunately, he manages to completely destroy the potty in the process, shattering the porcelain, and causing water to spew everywhere.

He simply watches on as it begins cascading the floor, slowly and surely rising with every second.

“Oh poo…”

-----------------------

“It’s show time…”

“Alright, Ladies and germs… I can’t think of a better way to follow up that fantastic performance, then by introducing you to our next musical guest…” Carol hears Mr. Johnny tell the audience from behind the safety of her curtain.

She readies her violin and her bow, and shuts her eyes. “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.”

“Please welcome… Carol Pingrey, and her violin!” he announces, and shortly after, the curtains open wide for all the patrons to see her.

Luna hears Carol’s name being called out as she’s about to take a seat by her sister Lori, and stops. “What?” she utters.

Lori just gently pulls her down into the seat as she beams from ear to ear. “Just watch,” she whispers.

Luna looks to her, sees the keen expression on her face, and smiles. “You knew…”

Lori doesn’t say anything. She just keeps smiling as she turns her attention to the stage, and Luna does the same.

Carol can’t help it; she has to open her eyes.

When she does, she can feel the spotlight down on her, but the crowd is so dark. She can hardly make out any of their faces.

But somehow, she’s quickly able to spot Lori, then Luna. She sees the warm smile on her face. It’s timid, but all the while full of wonder.

Kind of how Carol feels, right now.

She really should be nervous. There’s over one hundred people in this auditorium, all waiting to watch her do something as impressive as play a whole song on the violin without screwing up.

More importantly, her crush: Luna Loud- the girl who lives and breathes music, the girl who’s seldom seen Carol vulnerable, is out there. The girl who was never supposed to be her friend, the girl she thought was just a wannabe poser like the rest. The girl with the stupid freckles and the stupid paperclip earrings…

The girl she can’t live without.

For a moment, she can just feel her looking back with those beautiful brown eyes… Maybe in the same way Carol looked at her when she was up here.

That’s how she realizes… there’s no need to be nervous. Not here, not now.

Because, if Luna had the courage to work on that stupid project even after Carol got her detention- twice… Or had it in her to confess her most sensitive secret, pour her heart out to her about who she is…

Then Carol can play a song for her.

Not all those other faces in the crowd. Her.

Slowly, she raises her bow, and ever so gently rakes it against her strings…

*Attention students and faculty. This is an emergency warning. Several areas of the building are flooding. We need you all to vacate the building in an orderly fashion until we can resolve this issue. This is not a drill. I repeat: please vacate the building until further notice,* a voice over the intercom calls out.

“What?!” Carol thinks, goosebumps coming over her.

In the crowd, Luna and Lori conflictingly look to one another.

“We have to go everybody. Come on, line up. Single file. You heard the man, let’s move,” Miss Go tells all the students with her usual dissatisfaction, and they begin doing just that.

Except for Luna.

“Come on, Lune,” Lori somberly tells her sister as she stands up.

“But-?! What about Carol?!” Luna cries.

Lori just meets her with sadness. “I’m sorry…”

Luna can’t even say anything. She just looks up to the stage at Carol, who looks back at her with the same heartbroken expression.

 It’s easily the most it’s pained either one of them to share one of these gazes.

Eventually though, Luna realizes she can’t stay. Reluctantly, depressingly, she stands up, and begins making her way out into the aisle. Lori follows behind, glancing back at Carol on stage.

Still, all she knows to do is watch, her heart growing heavier by the second.

Before long, the students and teachers have all made their way out of the auditorium. Then Lori…

Then Luna…

Leaving her alone on the stage… Hopelessly... alone.

She just looks out at the empty seats, letting her arms fall to her sides, letting her jaw drop with dejected disbelief.

“Wait… Luna…”

“Don’t go…”

“Please…”

She can feel her eyes welling up, but before she can let any tears fall, Mr. Johnny is making his on stage.

“Carol?” he calls out.

She belatedly looks to him, not even trying to hide just how horrible she feels.

“We need to leave,” he simply tells her.

It takes some time for her to find the strength to stand, but she does, and she slowly puts her violin and bow back into their little black case.

...

The hardest part is actually closing it.

-----------------------

All the occupants of Royal Woods High have safely made their way out of the building. Mr. Sunderland sits in the back of ambulance with a woobie and warm coco- his right hand taped up. Luan sneaks off into the clown car she drove in to get here.

Luna finds herself waiting with Lori along the sidewalk, looking around to see if a certain someone is out here too.

She sadly doesn’t find her though, and hangs her head low with defeat.

...

Mr. Johnny leads Carol out to the back parking lot, where she looks all around for the one and only person that could make any of this better.

She sees Lora, and Greg, and Ash and Tabby, and Leni and Chaz…

She sees Whitney, and Dana, and Becky even…

But no Luna.

She too hangs her head low, looking down to the pavement, thinking about how unfair it all is.

She didn’t ask to get a crush on Luna. She didn’t ask for stupid Mr. Sunderland to make her her stupid partner either.

The more she thinks about it, the angrier she becomes. She hasn’t done a damn thing for this to happen to her! First her parents decide to basically just leave her all alone, and then everything just had to go to crap after that? Her stupid family, then her stupid friends, and now this stupid talent show?!

“I didn’t even do anything to deserve th-!”

She stops.

Because, she realizes, she did.

This is what she gets for years of snubbing Lori. This is what she gets for always putting herself and her selfies over others. For as long as she’s been alive, it’s always been about stupid Carol…

And the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes… She really does deserve this…

...

But she really doesn’t deserve Luna.

Luna is kind, and caring. She’s a little rough around the edges, maybe quick to anger sometimes, but she almost always puts her family and friends before herself. She even takes the time to write songs about the people she cares about…

People that are terrible project partners, who say mean things about people behind their backs…

People who throw paper wads at helpless old ladies, or judge others just because of the clothes they wear, the food they eat, or the cars they drive...

People who are all around mean, and spoiled, and inconsiderate, and generally make for all around bad company...

...

People that are just… stupid…

“Like me…”

-----------------------

A few hours later, virtually everyone has left campus. The local fire department was called in to fix the plumbing issue, and they had to call in Flipp of all people to work something out. He was willing to offer his plumbing know-how, of course, but everyone had to buy Flippees for double the normal price afterwards.

Students and faculty were dismissed for the day, which really didn’t bother anyone too much. The variety show was indefinitely postponed with the beginning of an investigation regarding Mr. Sunderland’s involvement in the flooding.

Things didn’t end perfectly, but for the time being, things are okay for Royal Woods High.

...

Except for one girl.

...

Carol stays behind a while, just to think about things. She’s turned her phone off, because she knows mom and dad won’t be calling, and the only two people who would call, Luna or Lori, will want to talk about things.

Which, she really doesn’t feel like right now.

She makes her way into the empty auditorium, which was ironically unfazed by any of the flooding.

Unsurprisingly, there’s nobody else here… Which is just fine.

She heads up to the stage, where the light is still shining down, because apparently no one cared enough to shut the thing off before vacating the premises.

“Pshhh… Fire hazard…” she quips in a snide attempt to make herself feel better.

It fails.

She sort of kicks her feet against the hardwood floor for a moment, before making her way to the backstage area. All the things students had prepared for their various acts: a Goldin’s box, a certain wooden dummy, and instruments of all sorts, have all seemingly been packed and taken away. All except for a small black case.

Carol sadly sighs as she walks over to it.

“Well… It’s not like I wasn’t gonna try,” Carol tells herself.

She picks the case up, and takes a seat as she sets it on her lap.

“I guess it’s just a sign… I’m not meant to be with Luna…” she bemoans.

“Well… At least she’s my friend. I mean, I guess that’s better than nothing at all…”

“No, don’t say it like that… I’m happy she’s my friend. These last few weeks have been… amazing…”

She smiles to herself as she thinks about all the fun they’ve had together. Throwing paper at Ms. Clifford, her acting so foolish in the library, taking each other’s pictures at the house, all the crazy things they did together her first night at Luna’s house, their heart-to-hearts about everything…

Playing her violin tonight for Luna would’ve really been the best way to cap off such a great experience.

“Well… Variety show or not, I’m gonna play for her the next chance I get. I might have a heart attack trying, but she’s worth it…” she quips.

She looks down to her case, and sighs another heavy sigh. Then, she looks all around her, and just takes in the bittersweet splendor of the auditorium. Without everyone else around, it’s actually quite peaceful.

She looks down to her case again, and smiles a little.

“Well… The show must go on…”

She takes the case and opens it, and collects the violin and bow from inside. She then makes her way back out to the front stage, and to the solitary black chair that was set up for her.

She takes a seat, and rests the violin under her chin. She readies the bow, just letting it hover above the strings.

Finally, she takes a deep breath, and begins.

She plays the first note for “My Immortal,” a song she learned when her parents first started working at the studio. She found Lindsey Stirling's rendition because of a friend, and couldn’t help but cry her first time hearing it, it was so beautiful.

If only she knew how well she can play it herself. With every slide and transition, there’s perfection. It comes so naturally, because she just forgets about everything and everyone else. There’s her, the violin, and Luna. That’s all that matters right now. Not Mr. Sunderland, not Lori, not Becky- no one.

Maybe she can’t have what she briefly got to hold on to in that one night’s sleep, in the dream where she got to hold Luna so close. But it’s fine. She’ll learn to move on. She’ll overcome. She’ll be Luna’s best friend, and Luna will be hers, and it will be perfectly okay.

...

It still doesn’t make it hurt any less now, though. She tried. She tried so, so hard…

She cares so much. No, she hasn’t been the best kind of person all her life, but she does care about Luna. She’ll do anything for her, and nothing will change that.

Friend, lover, or otherwise; Carol wants the best for Luna.

Until she can forget what this is like, the unrequited love she’s denied so easily for so long, she’ll play her violin. She can do that much. There are no yearbook committees to worry about, or dates that aren’t really dates where millions of things can go wrong.

And right now, in this moment…

She just wants to forget.

She plays her final note, really drawing it out as the endorphins surge through her veins, and her heart hammers in her chest, and her eyes well ever so slightly…

It’s the perfect release for everything she’s felt. The pain, the sadness, the hopelessness; but also the good things. The happy feelings she felt all those times getting lost in Luna’s eyes, or when their skin would touch.

But then there’s the silence, and the feeling of release is complete.

For the first time in a long time… She is calm… relaxed… at peace...

“Woo! Yeah!” she hears a familiar voice call out in the distance.

She perks up, and looks out to the dark empty seats to see a vaguely recognizable silhouette standing out.

She squints her eyes, doing her best to make out the shape.

“Luna?”

“Yeah! Go Carol! Woooooo!” freakin’ Luna Loud cheers, clapping and whistling like a total fangirl.

Carol blushes, defensively tensing up as she realizes Luna just saw her play. She can’t even say anything. She’s hopelessly mute.

“That was awesome!” Luna happily cries, and then she rushes from the aisle up to the stage to join Carol.

“Dude…” she starts again, panting as she tries to catch her breath.

Carol still doesn’t say anything. She’s still stunned just to see Luna here.

The two girls just look at one another for a moment, Luna wearing that eager smile in her favorite punk garb, Carol looking to her all flabbergastingly in this sky blue dress.

Luna finally speaks up again once she’s caught her breath. “C… That was amazing!... What are you doing here all by yourself? I texted you like, five times!” she explains, smiling all the while.

Carol finally regains some composure, enough to respond anyway.

“I- uhm… What are you doing here?” she cleverly retorts.

Luna walks backstage, and picks something small off of a shelf. “I forgot my lucky pick,” she explains as she paces back over to Carol. “Everything was so sudden, I kind of just forgot it,” she adds as she shows off the small purple guitar pick.

Carol just dumbly studies it for a moment, then shakes herself. “Yeah, that was all pretty sudden wasn’t it?…” she almost thoughtlessly says, nervously rubbing her arm.

“Yeah, I guess Sunderland broke a toilet…” Luna tells her with some nervousness of her own.

“Huh… Sounds like something he would do, heh heh…” Carol replies.

“Yeah… heh heh…” Luna simply laughs.

Then, they get quiet, looking anywhere but to each other.

“So…” Luna belatedly starts again. “How did you like my song?” she asks, her smile somewhat waning.

Carol just looks into her eyes for a moment. In them, it becomes perfectly clear…

That song really was for her.

“I loved it,” she simply says, a soft smile coming to her face.

Luna’s smile comes back, and her cheeks get rosy. “Great! I mean, cool…”

Carol pussyfoots a little circle around Luna, and thinks of a perfect follow up.

“So… you named your guitar after your best friend, huh?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah… heh heh,” Luna says with a nervous little laugh. “I uh, named her ‘Moonsong.”

“Moonsong?” Carol repeats with a playful eyebrow raise.

“Yeah… Kind of like… Luna… Carol… Moonsong.”

Carol just playfully sneers at her for a minute, but lets her smile come back to her.

“Well… You two were wonderful tonight.”

Luna perks up a bit. “Heh, like the Clapton song?”

“I actually know that one,” Carol happily informs her.

And they share another smile.

As they do, the tension dissipates. All those familiar, warm feelings come back to Carol- the swelling in the chest, the buzz in her brain, the weightlessness that comes with being so close to the person she likes so much…

She almost forgets she’s still holding onto her violin.

Luna looks down to it. “You were pretty great yourself… Is that the song you were gonna play for the show?” she asks.

Carol realizes just what she’s asking, and snaps out of her brief reverie. “Oh! Uhm… No… I just, felt like playing that one… I had another song for the show planned but- you know… Things just happen…”

“Yeah, things just happen,” Luna simply repeats.

She makes her way to the back again, and scoots up another steel chair.

“Uhm, what are you doing?” Carol asks.

“Oh, don’t let me stop you,” Luna answers. “You can keep playing if you want.”

Carol’s eyes widen. “What? Uhm, heh heh… I mean, I can, I guess. Just… It’s not really the best place, you know? The acoustics and all… And my fingers are a little sore, so there’s that. And I wasn’t even really ready for that one, you know? I just played for the heck of it, so it’s not like I was even really trying…”

Luna places a hand on her shoulder, and Carol stops spazzing to look into those wonderful brown eyes of hers. And yes… she smiles.

“You were perfect.”

Carol smiles back. “You really think so?”

“Totally…” Luna warmly assures her.

With that, Carol takes a seat in her chair, and Luna takes a seat in hers.

Carol gets her violin ready, tucking it under her chin.

...

“Hey… Wait…” Luna says.

Carol just looks to her, and she holds her pick out.

“I think you should have this,” she says, inviting Carol to take it.

Carol untucks her violin, and incredulously reaches out for the pick. She stops herself midway though.

“Wait… Why?”

“Just ‘cuz,” Luna simply answers with a smile.

It’s good enough for Carol, and she happily accepts the gift. She places it safely to the side, and then tucks her violin under her chin again.

“Are you ready?” she asks Luna.

With a smile, she answers:

“Rock on, C.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Oh em gosh! That is totes adorbs!” Leni giddily proclaims.

“It literally is,” Lori agrees.

Carol just looks at the two with some judgmental scorn for a moment as they spaz over what she just told them.

But then…

“It really is, isn’t it?” she says as she eases into a smile of her own.

The three girls are sitting in the oldest Louds’ room, “doing their nails,” as they told the others. Really, they’ve just gushed over how Luna sang a song for Carol, and more importantly, how Carol played a song for her.

“She gave you her lucky pick! That is like- Oh my gosh! I can’t even!” Lori exuberantly blurts out.

“I know!... You guys have no idea,” Carol responds before heavenly sighing. “Just when I was about to give up hope, she shows up and makes me remember why I like her so much…”

“Okay; so you’re not at all concerned about her calling you her friend a couple days ago?” Lori reminds her.

“I mean, I was at first… But maybe she just, wasn’t sure about things, you know? Maybe she just really wants to take things slow?” Carol reasons.

“I can understand that. I have to take things slow quite a bit,” Leni shares.

“Well, for real, Carol. I’m not trying to bust your bubble, but how long can you drag this thing out? If one of you doesn’t make a move soon-”

“I know,” Carol says to cut off Lori. “...Which is why I’ve decided to ask her out.”

“Yay!” Leni giddily reacts, but Lori just raises a brow.

“That’s what you said last time…” she states.

“I know…” Carol says again. “But I’m for real this time. I’m just gonna ask her out tomorrow at school,” she explains.

“Why can’t you just do it tonight?” Leni inquires.

“Because, it’ll be too awkward… I’m staying the night, remember?” Carol answers.

“I guess I understand that,” Leni shrugs.

“Okay, so have you thought about what you’ll say to her? I mean, chances are she won’t drop a bombshell on you like she did last time, so you should be prepared to just say what you need to say,” Lori asserts.

“I’m… trying a new approach…” Carol responds. “I’m going to try to think about it as little as possible, and hope soccer mom isn’t at Starbeans that morning…”

“Uhm, not to be rude, Carol… But that plan is a little D U M…” Leni spells out.

Lori furrows her brow. “Leni… There’s a B…”

To which, her younger sister fretfully jumps out of her bed. “Bee?! Where?! I’m allergic to bees!” she cries.

“No Leni, not- Oh never mind…” Lori simply says.

“Come on, Lori. Don’t be like that, aha ha ha ha ha!” Luan jokes as she makes her way into the bedroom.

“Hey! We’re doing our nails!” Leni hollers.

“Guess what? I’ve already fingered out what that means,” Luan retorts. “Now, onto more pressing matters, like a certain someone with the best roommate in the world.”

“Oh gee, whoever could you be talking about?” Carol quips.

Luan takes a seat on the bed beside her. “Your soon to be girlfriend, with my assistance,” she proudly states.

“Oh please. What are you gonna do, give her a flower to squirt her with?” Lori snidely says.

...

“I’m going to refrain from listing off any of the many dirty jokes that come to mind, because this is important,” Luan responds, then she turns her attention back to Carol. “Okay, listen. I know from experience that-”

“Ha!” Lori mockingly interrupts.

“I know from experience that humor isn’t always your friend when you ask someone out… And for Blarney’s sake, do not use pick-up lines. Wait until you guys are on a date to tell jokes. And that’s only if you’ve managed to lighten the mood first,” Luan explains.

“...How do I do that?” Carol belatedly asks.

“I haven’t gotten that far,” Luan says with a shrug.

Lori rolls her eyes. “Will you get out of here?” she bluntly tells Luan.

“Oh, buzz off,” Luan simply retorts.

“Guys! I am like, seriously allergic to bees!” Leni reminds them all.

“You’re actually allergic to wasps, Leni,” Lori reminds her in turn.

“Guys, can we focus here? Luna will be getting out of the shower any minute! I need to figure this out before tomorrow!” Carol pleas.

“Why don’t you just ask her out tonight?” Luan asks.

“We’ve already established how that’s a terrible idea!” Carol barks.

The others just look at her with concern, and she lets out a peeved sigh as she lies back on the bed.

“What am I gonna do?”

The other three girls put their proverbial thinking caps on, really stewing it over for a moment.

“Ooo! I know!” Leni blurts out. “You should write her a letter!”

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever-” Lori is about to tell her, but then she perks up. “Heeeey! That’s actually a good idea!” she agrees.

“It is?” the other three girls, including Leni, follow up.

“Yes!” Lori replies as she stands up. “It’s super romantic, and it takes a lot of the pressure off of you! Plus, you can figure out everything you want to say, write it down, and make sure she gets it all without getting nervous and messing up in person!” Lori furthers.

“Hey! That might just be the write idea! Hahaha!” Luan jokes. “But seriously; I like it. You can put it in her locker, and, you know… Just letter have it! Haha!”

Carol thinks it over. “I don’t know… I feel like I should just ask her in person…”

“Hey, this works!” Lori assures her. “It’s not like a text message. This is something you’d see in the movies!”

...

Carol perks up. “In the movies, you say?”

“Yup. If Bobby sent me a love letter, I would fall over dead,” Lori tells her.

“What? Would you be on the receiving end of a heart attack? Hahahaha!” Luan jokes.

...

Lori frustratingly rubs the bridge of her nose.“It takes everything I have not to smother you with a pillow sometimes…”

“Ahh don’t be so rough… We’re supposed to be having pillow talk!”

“I’LL SHOW YOU PILLOW TALK!” Lori growls as she grabs the nearest pillow in the most menacing way imaginable.

“Well… I can see you two are in need of some alone time… I’m gonna go get started on my letter,” Carol says as she anxiously starts making her way out of the room. She gets to the doorway, and starts snickering to herself. “Uhm… Thank you guys for being so comforting… Haha! Get it? Like, pillows are comforting?”

Lori just scowls at her, then at Luan. “YAAAAAH!” she cries as she charges at her with the pillow.

Before she can bear witness to such violence, Carol gets out of the room. Out in the hallway, she hears the commotion, and cringes. But she realizes she can’t write her letter standing out here sympathizing over Luan, so she makes her way downstairs.

Back in the bedroom, everything is covered in feathers, Lori having completely obliterated her pillow using it as an instrument of pun punishment.

She catches her breath as she towers over a groggy, beaten Luan.

...

“Wait… Maybe it was feathers I was allergic too…” Leni remembers.

Lori looks over to her, and sees that she is swelling up like a balloon.

Luan recovers enough to lift her head up.

“Ha… Now that’s funny…”

-----------------------

Lori has to drive Leni to the hospital. Luan has to go lay down after her pillow beating. Luna is singing “Take On Me” in the shower. Mom and Dad haven't made it home from work yet.

All the others have occupied the living room, where they are watching a rerun of the live action Kate Plausible reboot movie.

Meanwhile, Carol sits down at the kitchen table, hovering over a piece of the finest stationery. With a pretty purple pen she borrowed from Lola, she’s done her best to write down everything she wants to say to Luna, but it hasn't been easy. There are still several rough drafts tattered and torn in the nearest waste bin.

Even so, she manages to finish this one...

...

Luna,

            I like you, a lot. I have for a while now, but I’ve just been so afraid to say anything. I know I should’ve said something a lot sooner, but like I said, I was too scared. At first, I was just afraid you’d shoot me down. I’ve never been rejected before, actually. But, now I’m afraid that if I say something, things will change between us. I don’t want to push you away.

            I was just about to tell you how I felt when you told me you like girls. Maybe I still should’ve said something, but I just didn’t feel like you liked me back after that. I don’t know, I know it sounds stupid, but maybe it’s not stupid, because maybe you just want to be friends?

            I would like to be something more though. I had this dream a couple weeks ago, I tried to tell you about it, but you fell asleep on me! (Jerk…) But seriously, I dreamt that we danced together, and we were just about to kiss before I woke up. And then the next day you showed up to class with all that stuff for the project, and then we talked after detention, and we took each other’s pictures, and that’s when I realized how I really felt about you.

            Like I said though, and like you said when you told me about your “secret” (I totally knew, just saying;p) I don’t want things to change between us. I mean, I don’t want to lose my best friend, is what I’m trying to say. If you don’t feel the same way about me, I’ll understand.

            But if you like me too, the same way that I like you I mean… Then we should do something about it. I think we’d make great homecoming queens:)

            Luna, thank you for these amazing last few weeks. No matter what happens, I’ll always cherish the times we shared together.

                        -C.

She reads over her finished letter, and decides she’s happy with it. After all, it sums up how she feels a lot better than a caffeine induced, “spur of the moment” date proposal.

She folds it up, and places it neatly inside of an envelope. Using the purple pen, she writes: L with a little heart beside it on the back of the envelope. Then, she seals it up before storing it safely inside of her backpack.

“There…” she thinks aloud. “Until tomorrow…”

...

Coincidentally, Luna just happens to make her way downstairs shortly after. Carol feels her heart flutter just a bit as she turns to face her, but Luna just meets her with a familiar sweet smile.

“Hey,” Carol casually says to her.

“How do ya do, love?” Luna greets with her British accent, and she makes her way over to her proclaimed best friend.

Carol just smiles. “Oh… Just finished up something I’ve been meaning to take care of.”

Luna just nods. “Alright. So, I was thinking… Maybe we could go have a little jam sesh? I’ll play my guitar, you play your violin?... What do ya say?” she keenly suggests.

“I’d love to,” Carol simply says, and the girls get up to make their way out of the kitchen.

Carol glances back at her backpack, knowing that her letter is safe inside.

“Until tomorrow.”

 

Chapter Text

Another Monday morning comes, and just like last week, Carol is on a mission. She got up early to make sure she’d get her morning Starbeans before that dastardly soccer mom, and has thought long and hard about how to get Luna her letter without incident.

“Okay, so just wait until after journalism, walk with her to her locker, and when I'm sure she won't be back, slip the thing inside. Easy peasy.”

Sure, that's the easy part. It's what happens after that she can't plan for.

“Surely she'll say something in person, right? I mean, I hope so… It'll be kind of crummy if she just texts me ‘Awww’ or something…”

“You know what? I don't care anymore. So what if it's not like the movies? Luna makes everything perfect.”

“And there just has to be something between us. There just has to. After everything we've been through… How could she not feel the same way?”

She arrives at the journalism room, where Luna is waiting at her desk. Carol makes her way over, and they exchange their usual smiles.

“Finally decide to come to class?” Luna quips.

“Shut up, I'm like- four minutes early,” Carol playfully retorts as she takes a seat next to her.

“Only nerds show up early,” Luna ripostes.

Carol guffaws. “Okay, that makes no sense? You're always here before me?”

But Luna just keeps smiling as she coolly leans back in her chair. “Cool kids don't have to explain themselves to nerds.”

“Yeah, you'd know all about cool with your Mick Swagger wallpaper,” Carol jokes, slipping into a British accent.

“Quite so, love,” Luna simply responds with an accent of her own.

“I love it when she calls me that.”

...

Their banter is cut short when Ms. DiMartino enters the classroom.

“Buenos dias class,” she greets as she makes her way to Mr. Sunderland’s desk.

“Sup Ms. D?” Luna casually replies.

Ms. DiMartino meets her with a little despondency. “What’s up is that I will be fulfilling Mr. Sunderland’s duties for the foreseeable future,” she explains.

“Oh, he totally went to jail didn't he?” Tabby blurts out.

“I heard he skipped town and started a new life as a Cinnabon clerk,” Lora speculates.

“Nah, he's going to get his plumbing license,” Greg jokes.

Everyone laughs, and Ms. DiMartino just amusingly rolls her eyes.

“Mr. Sunderland is taking a vacation to Quiet Hill with his wife while things are worked out. Until then, we’re all lucky enough to enjoy each other's company,” she happily tells everyone.

...

She makes her way to the whiteboard, and gets started on her lecture.

As Carol pulls out her notebook to take notes like a good little noodle, she feels Luna nudge against her hand.

She looks at her, and Luna eyes her to look down to her own hand.

In between her fingers is a single earbud, and Carol can faintly hear some music blaring from it.

She looks back up, and sees Luna cleverly hiding the other earbud with her other hand as she listens to it.

Carol just smiles as she accepts the other end, and places it in her ear to share with Luna.

-----------------------

The bell rings, dismissing everyone from their first period classes.

“Here we go…” Carol thinks as everyone begins packing up. She can feel her nerves becoming shot, and her heart beating faster with every passing second. She looks over to Luna, who is rolling up her earbuds in an intricate manner. While she’s her usual calm, collected self, she’s also oblivious to the racious whirlwind of emotions going on inside of her classmate.

She looks up to Carol, who shoots a forced hokey smile. Luna just smiles a weak smile in return, then goes back to packing up.

Carol peeks inside her backpack, where she sees the special confession letter safely tucked inside. “Well… I guess this is really happening.”

She collects her things, and follows all the others as they file out of the journalism lab. Luna waits for her at the door. “Man, kind of sucks about Sunderland, huh?” she quietly utters.

Truth be told, Carol could care less about Mr. Sunderland right now. It’s his fault the variety show was cancelled, and not only that, but she has more important things to focus on right now.

Still, she has to play it cool, at least until after Luna gets the letter.

“Heh heh, it is what it is,” she simply replies.

They head to the halls, and walk alongside one another. Luna still seems like her usual self, but it’s all Carol can do not to shake at the knees.

“So… Have you talked to Whitney or anybody lately?” Luna coyly asks as they continue on.

“Uhm… No. I haven’t bothered…” Carol answers. “I’m not in any hurry to make nice after what they said about me.”

“Well… In all fairness, I gave you a second chance,” Luna reasons.

...

Carol considers her statement for a moment. “Hmmm… I guess that’s a good point…”

“I’m usually right about things,” Luna playfully asserts.

Carol mock sneers at her. “You’re so conceited, Claire,” she jokes.

“Aww! ‘Most Important Meal of The Day Club’ reference!” Luna exclaims. “We should totally watch that next time you come over.”

“Totes,” Carol simply replies as they make their way around the bend.

Amazingly, they’ve already made it to the freshman lockers. In just a matter of minutes, seconds maybe, Carol will take this letter out of her backpack, and she’ll slip it into Luna’s locker. After that, she’ll have nothing to do but wait for her response. Will it be good? Bad? Something weird in between?

For all the stupidity Carol deals with on a daily basis, the mistress most cruel of all is certainly uncertainty.

...

“Well, we can watch it tonight, if you’re coming over,” Luna suggests.

“Uhm, I doubt I’ll find something better to do…” Carol indifferently responds.

...

Luna mock sneers just as Carol did before. “Well, don’t let me twist your arm or anything,” she quips.

Carol playfully rolls her eyes. Then, she takes it a step further as she clasps her hands together, and sarcastically pleas for forgiveness.

“Oh, pleeease, Luna… Won’t you invite me to your lovely home tonight? I would be so amiss without you…”

Luna just chuckles to herself as she opens her locker. “Heh heh, fine… I guess you can come,” she ripostes before getting all of her things in order.

And despite Carol’s commendable efforts at dramaturgy, this moment makes it all too real. Once Luna leaves this spot, it’s go time.

She shuts her locker door, and appears to have all of her things ready for her next class. She looks to Carol with a soft little smile, and sighs a little sigh.

“Well… I guess I’ll check you later, C,” she says.

Belatedly, she responds, “Yes you will.”

Luna doesn’t leave though. She just keeps looking at her for a moment, concern growing on her face.

“Uh oh…” Carol thinks.

“Is everything okay?” Luna sincerely asks.

It makes Carol almost have a serious heart attack, but hey- she’s made it this far.

“I’m cool. Why do you ask?” she lies. It’s not even a fib, it’s a big fat flippin’ lie. Maybe the biggest and fattest she’s ever told.

Because, she is not cool. Not even.

Luna just nods though, the concern waning from her expression just a little bit.

“I guess I just have the Mondays. You know?” she rebuts.

“Totally… I need more coffee,” Carol quips. Which is also a lie. She has enough caffeine in her to maybe have an actual heart attack.

Luna just smiles another soft little smile. “Okay. Well… Text me during Trig, alright?”

“Sure thing,” Carol simply responds with a smile of her own.

Luna just looks at her for a moment longer, then turns away. Carol acts like she’s going to turn away too, just in case Luna would happen to turn around. She nonchalantly watches Luna, and it would appear she’s really on her way.

Which means… It’s time.

She takes a very deep breath. “Show time…”

She sets her backpack on the ground, and does a double take to make sure no one is watching her. For once, the boys can keep their eyes to themselves, and she’s seemingly in the clear.

So, she unzips the bag, and reaches in for her precious cargo. She pinches it with her fingertips, and pulls out the white envelope with L scribed on it in pretty purple ink.

This is it, the moment that will change everything. No matter how Luna reacts, it takes the two to a new, undiscovered country. No more pretense, no more hiding; Luna will know just how Carol feels, and there will be no turning back.

She just looks down to the letter in her hands, practically frozen.

“No turning back…”

She takes one more deep breath, and puts on the biggest pair of big girl panties she has as she steps to Luna’s locker.

With the tiniest amount of exertion- a mere flick of the wrist, the letter will slip through the crack of the door and into the locker. No turning back. Waiting for something in return: rejection, unrequited love?...

Or happily ever after...

She gets the nerve to raise the pretty little envelope up to the locker door, and it’s almost like she isn’t even in control. Some other divine force is at work, giving her the gumption to take this chance for herself.

The paper is just barley dangling now, her fingertips just ever so slightly keeping it from falling.

She takes one last deep breath, and…

“Hey… Carol?”

With Barry Allen speed and Mike Wazowski finesse, she quickly puts that thing back where it came from… Or, behind her back, at least. Donning a smile that is not at all suspicious, she then turns to face whoever it is that’s going to be responsible for her coronary.

Of course, it’s Luna. She meets Carol with somber, trepidatious energy as she nervously rubs her arm.

Carol does her best to just pay it cool, as usual.

“Luna! Wh- What are you doing here? I mean, what are you- why are you back?” she stammers.

Luna doesn’t answer right away. Apparently, she’s too concerned with other matters to recognize Carol’s peculiar behavior.

Which… is worrisome.

Finally, Luna speaks up.

“Hey… Listen… About tonight…”

“Oh fart… What now?!” Carol wants to exclaim. But, for once, she’s lucky to have constipation of the mouth.

So, she just attentively looks at Luna, anxiously anticipating what’s sure to be the worst news since Rey found out who her parents are.

“Would you maybe wanna go do something with me?” Luna asks.

Carol becomes confused. “Uhm, didn’t we already make plans? Movie night?” she sort of just blurts out. It’s hard to consider what you really want to say to people when you’re as disoriented as one overly caffeinated Carol Pingrey hopelessly trying to find love.

Luna gets this sickly look on her face, like she might throw up- or cry…

Or have a heart attack…

“Wait a minute…”

“Well, I mean… We can…” Luna follows up. “But, I was thinking… Maybe we could go do something together? Like… Maybe go out and do something?”

Go out.

As in, it already happened. Carol must’ve died from a sudden massive heart attack, and now she’s gone to heaven, where Luna actually asks her to go out. Like, out out.

Or, Carol’s still alive, and she’s just finally getting a freakin’ break.

Either way, she realizes that Luna just asked her out, and all she’s doing is staring at her like some dang old fool.

“For the love of Blarney, Carol Pingrey… SAY SOMETHING!”

“Yeees…” she awkwardly gets out, but it’s not good enough! She must show vigor! Confidence! Poise!

Or at least stop looking like such an idiot!

She perks up, and clears her throat. Take two.

“Yes! We should totally go do something! Yeah! Aheh heh,” she says with a giddy little giggle.

And Luna brightens up in a big way. “Really?” she asks.

“Definitely! I uh… I’d love to go do something with you tonight,” Carol reiterates as she amorously plays with a strand of her hair.

The way Luna smiles at her, and looks at her with those beautiful brown eyes; it makes Carol realize that this real. She’s not dead, far from it as a matter of fact. She couldn’t be any more alive.

“Uhm… Well, cool. Cool…” Luna simply gets out as she nervously rubs the back of her neck. Her cheeks even redden a bit.

“Oh my gosh! This is really happening!”

The only question is… What exactly is happening? As in, what is Luna’s idea of going out? She hasn’t elaborated, and from the looks of things, she’s come down with a case of the mouth constipation as well.

So, Carol meets her half way.

“Uhm… So, what did you have in mind?” she sweetly asks.

...

“Well, I’m not exactly sure. What would you like to do?” Luna responds.

“Are you for real?” Carol thinks, almost blurting out.

“Okay, don’t fret. She’s obviously nervous about this too… So she doesn’t know what she wants to do for a date? That’s fine. I’ll help her out a little…”

“Wait… Has she never asked someone out? Has she ever been asked on a date? Has she ever been on a DATE?!”

“Uhm, Carol?” Luna says, and Carol stops torturing herself long enough to come back down to her level.

“Huh? Oh… Uhm…” she thoughtfully says as she rubs the back of her neck now, wandering her eyes skyward. Then she happens to just notice that all of the other students have disappeared, so it’s just the two of them now. That doesn’t create any more pressure at all.

She returns her eyes to Luna and straightens up again, as the proverbial light bulb flickers above her noggin.

“I know! How about we go out for something to eat?” she suggests.

“Excellent work, Double-Oh-Carol.”

...

Luna smiles at that. “Sure! Uh… What do you feel like having?” she asks.

“Boy, you really stink at this,” Carol thinks. “Oh well. At least this is finally happening!”

“But I can’t do ALL the work here… She’s asking ME out… Maybe I need to just push her a bit. Yeah!”

“Hmmm… I mean, I’m cool with whatever,” Carol casually says back.

Luna thinks it over, doing all sorts of nervous neck and arm rubbing, and “Uhh”-ing of course.

“Uhm… How do tacos sound? We could go to Jean Juan’s French Mex?”

“Did I say I’m cool with whatever?”

“Well… Okay,” Carol says with a sickly grimace.

Luckily, Luna picks up on her lack of enthusiasm.

“Or Italian! Chinese? We could do Giovanni Chang’s!” Luna suggests now.

“Yeah, because I need all those carbs,” Carol thoughtlessly utters.

“What?”

“Huh? Nothing… I just… Not feeling it,” Carol smoothly recovers.

She can see the blended look of desperation, anxiety, and maybe indigestion on her soon-to-be suitor’s face, and it’s really quite pitiful. Not quite a bad pitiful… Just…

“Holy moly… Is that how I acted all those times?”

It’s that very thought that leads Carol to think her next very thought, the very thought that will put an end to such unpleasant thoughts, because it’s good thought.

She needs to do what she does best- besides making herself the center of attention, playing violin, playing golf, being fashionable, and cutting carbs out of her diet.

She needs to take charge.

“Okay, how about this,” she begins, burying down the awkwardness in favor of more vigor, confidence, and poise. “Why don’t we make reservations at Le Odorous Clam? I’ll call here in a bit, and text you with a time and what not.”

It’s only the best idea since rebooting Kate Plausible, but Luna doesn’t seem too enthused about it. Carol expected her to beam from ear to ear, but she just looks more confused than anything.

Belatedly, Luna responds:

“Isn’t that like, the fanciest place in town?”

Carol amusingly scoffs. “Pshhh… No big. It’s Monday night, and my dad knows the manager. Last time I went there, I only spent seventy dollars…”

Luna gets wide eyed. “Uhm… Well… Okay…” she stammers. “Uhm, I don’t think I can afford that,” she states.

“Again, no big… I’ll put it on his credit card,” Carol gleefully explains.

“Well, okay,” Luna says with a satisfied little shrug. “So… About my clothes…” she simply says.

Carol measures her up, and then herself. “Oh my god, you’re right…” she bluntly states. She thinks it over for a moment, but it doesn’t prove to be too much of a deterrence. “Okay, I know. I’ll get something from home, and you can surprise me with something from Leni. Please don’t ask Lori for something; she is way too obsessed with teal…”

Luna raises her brow, but then actually chuckles a little. “Heh heh, alright? That sounds good,” she agrees.

“Splendid,” Carol proudly responds. But all that vigor and confidence and poise is thrown right out the window as she fails to contain her inner wannabe happily ever after Disney princess.

Overjoyed, she cries, “EEEK! This is gonna be so much fun!”

Luna just smiles some more though. “Totally, dude… But you’re buyin’ right?” she quips.

“Shut up,” Carol retorts as she playfully jabs Luna’s arm. Then, they just sort of gaze into one another’s eyes for a moment.

“Huah! We’re one step closer to our first kiss! EEEEEEEK!” Carol thinks.

“Carol…” Luna softly says, still smiling.

“Mmmm?” Carol simply hums.

“This kind of sounds like a date…” Luna says.

...

“Silly me… This isn’t heaven? This is HELL! A miserable fiery inferno where hopes and dreams go to DIE with all of Lori’s favorite COLOR SCHEMES!”

Yes. This is the only logical conclusion. That mysterious stranger out there who was supposed to give her the gumption to make her dreams realities is actually just a big troll who loves putting her through constant humiliation, and making people wait forever for the things they want more than anything.

No wonder Luna didn’t know what she was doing asking Carol on a date… Because she wasn’t asking her on a date! She meant going out as friends!... To the only place worse than the blazing sepulcher of H.E. Double Hockey Sticks... The nefarious friendzone!

“Uhm… What?” is all Carol can manage to get out.

“I mean; dressing up all fancy to go to a frou-frou restaurant with reservations? It just sounds… You know… Kind of like a date,” Luna reasons with an awkward smile.

“Holy effing ess this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening…” Carol tells herself as a flurry of panic rises up inside of her. “She just wanted to get tacos, and now I’m taking her to The Stinky Clam for oysters a la mode!”

“Okay… There’s still time to fix this… She doesn’t know what it’s like to eat out like a Pingrey. I can play this off like it’s nothing but a thing? Or, not a thing! NOTHING at all! She won’t have a clue I like her like that, and I won’t seem like a total idiot!”

“Wait… WHAT?! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE ASKING HER OUT YOU STUPID-!”

“Carol?”

Again, Luna is looking at Carol all confused and such, catching her caught in her own internal torment. Luckily, Carol still has some of those three trusty feelings of collectiveness left, and she uses them to pull her head out of her ass.

“Uhm… No?” she tells Luna.

“No?! You idiot! WHY DID YOU SAY NO?!”

Luna just chuckles again. Because this is soooo humorous.

“Well… Alright…” she says through a somewhat nervous smile.

“It isn't!” Carol retorts.

“But it should be! Oh my god, why can't I just tell you how I feel?... Give her the letter! Say something!”

Despite Carol’s now apparent turmoil, Luna still seems amused. “Okay, C… It’s not a date.”

“Right… It’s just dinner,” Carol nervously agrees.

Luna amusingly nods. “Mhm, just dinner.”

“Exactly!” Carol neurotically responds.

“Dinner at the fanciest place in town…” Luna sardonically adds as she crosses her arms and deviously smiles.

Carol has to just take pause for a minute to recover from this sudden onslaught. One minute, she's in complete control. The next, well…

“There's nothing wrong with that!” she blurts out. “People go to fancy restaurants all the time!”

“Mhm… When they’re going on dates,” Luna rebuts.

“What is even happening right now?!...”

“Okay, no. People go to dinner as just friends too. They do it all the time,” Carol argues.

By now, Luna has to laugh. “Okay, okay. I get it, C. I'm just having some fun…” she insists.

Carol feels her face getting red, she is so flustered. It's bad enough she was foolish enough to believe Luna was asking her on an actual date, but now she's laughing about it. On top of that, she doesn't even have the nerve to tell her the truth; that she wants this to be a date. She wants Luna to know how she feels, and she wants it to be absolutely perfect!

But now? Fat chance she's telling her now. It would literally be the most awkward and embarrassing thing ever! Even more so than it already is!

So here she is, making plans for a date that's not even really a date, all while holding a stupid envelope that has her secret, most intimate feelings written down inside, and the girl it's meant for is standing here laughing about it.

Needless to say, she has to vent some of this frustration.

“It’s not funny, Luna,” Carol asserts. “I am trying to do something really nice for you by inviting you to my favorite restaurant, and you have to make me feel like a goon about it.”

“Ahhh, c’mon…” Luna bemoans, still trying to ebb her amusement.

“No. I don't think you understand just how- hurt my feelings are…” she petulantly pouts.

Luna’s smile wanes, and her laughter stops. “Carol…”

“No! Don't worry about it! I guess it was stupid of me to think we could just- go have a nice dinner together! A strictly platonic, no strings attached, perfectly normal social outing as two good friends… Just friends…” Carol convincingly retorts, despite not wanting any of this to be true.

Luna sighs. “...Dude, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to be a turd about it.”

Carol raises a brow, just barely easing up on the pouting.

Luna takes a breath, and straightens herself up. “Carol, I would gladly go to dinner with you tonight at Le Odorous Clam,” she tells her.

Carol eases up a little more now. “A strictly platonic social outing?”

Luna softly smiles. “A strictly platonic social outing… As just friends.”

Carol can feel the tension slowly leaving her body, and she looks Luna in the eyes now. She can see that she’s bought the act. “Okay. I will go ahead and make reservations then… But it's not a date!” she's sure to remind her, uncrossing her arms so she can shoot her bony index finger at her…

Forgetting she still has her letter in hand.

Luna still smiles though. “Thank you,” she tells her. “And Carol?”

“Hmm?”

“What's that in your hand?”

Carol dumbly looks to her, then to the envelope.

It takes all she has not to gasp and grab her chest all cartoony like as she realizes just what the heck Luna has asked her.

“This? Oh, hahahaha! It's nothing! It's just- I don't even know, honestly? Maybe it's my cell phone bill… Yeah! Yeah, that's what it is!”

Luna raises her brow as she looks at the envelope.

“Why does it say L?”

“Oh! That?! That's the name of my provider. Stupid L and their stupid contracts, heh heh heh… But that's the price you pay for the best coverage!” Carol furthers.

Luna just keeps brow raising. “Huh… Never heard of ‘em…”

“Well, don't worry about It! I don't even think I'm going to pay this thing. Yeah! The heck with those jerks! I'm switching providers as soon as I finish making those reservations!” Carol fibs, perspiring more and more with every passing second.

Luna just nods as she eases up, and that familiar soft smile returns to her face once again.

“Well… You do that, C. And you get those reservations- uh... reserved,” she says.

“Don't worry, I will,” Carol says with the hokiest smile she's ever put on her face. “And it's not a date!” she's sure to remind Luna once more.

“Note a date. Got it,” Luna simply says. “I'll see you tonight, either way.”

With that, she smiles and waves, “See ya later, dude,” and makes her way back down the hall once again…

Leaving Carol to resume torturing herself in peace.

She gasps, holding the infernal letter up so she can scowl at it properly.

“You!...” She snarls. “This is all your fault! I shouldn't have ever written you. I shouldn't have listened to Lori, or Leni, or any of your eleventy seven sisters, Luna!...”

She violently crams the letter in her backpack, then zips it up and kicks it.

“Stupid feelings! Now because of you, I'm stuck taking Luna out to the most expensive place in town, wearing out my best clothes, stressing myself out to the point of almost having an aneurysm, all for some stupid-!”

She stops, as reality dawns on her.

“Wait a second… I have a date with Luna!” she excitedly blurts out.

She looks around to see if anyone is watching, but she's alone in the hall.

...

“Okay, so it's not technically a date… But it's totally a date! Oh my god, I'm a genius! Lori’s a genius! Ha ha!” She continues.

She unzips her backpack, and takes the letter back out with the warmest, most affectionate look she's ever had on her face.

“Thank you!” she tells the piece of paper. “Because of you, I have a date with Luna!” she exclaims.

As she is admiring the paper, she remembers just what this thing is: the super compromising letter that has all those feelings written on them.

Now, it's practically contraband.

She stuffs it back in her backpack, doing another double take to make sure no one is around.

“Okay, I have to do something with this stupid thing… I don't wanna throw it away, it's too cute! But I can't let her see it yet… At least not until AFTER our date. Or- whatever it is we’re doing tonight…”

She wracks her brain, focusing all of her caffeine induced energy on devising a solution for this issue.

Light bulb.

...

With an epiphanic snap of the fingers, she smiles wide.

“Lori!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“I know, Boo Boo Bear… I know,” Lori says over the phone as she eats a non-GMO veggie wrap in her van. “I keep telling him he needs to just accept his feelings for Ronnie Anne, but he insists on wasting his time with other girls… I know! It’s like every week he comes in talking about some new girl, and I’m like- what new girl?”

Just as she finishes her statement, Carol suddenly starts pounding on the passenger side window, causing her jump and shriek. “AHH!”

She recovers from the excitement to see it’s her BFF- who has this estranged, almost crazy look in her eyes.

Something to do with Luna, probably.

“I’ll call you back,” she simply tells Bobby, and she hangs up. Then she opens the passenger side door for Carol, who darts in with more Barry Allen speed and Mike Wazowski finesse.

“Lori!...” she begins, panting as she tries to catch her breath. “I need you to-”

“Hello, Lori. How are you today? Oh, I’m fine, Carol. Thanks for asking,” Lori quips as she crosses her arms.

Carol just furrows her brow. “This is important!” she barks.

Lori rolls her eyes. “Okay… What’s up? Did you have any luck with Luna?” she asks, dropping the ‘tude.

“Okay, get this,” Carol begins. “So, I was walking with Luna…”

“And?” Lori asks, visibly becoming invested.

“We get to her locker, and she invites me over to your house…”

“And?” Lori interrupts again, with even more enthusiasm.

“I say yes, we’re both on our way, right? Then I take out my letter, and I’m about to put it in her locker…”

“And?” Lori interrupts a third time, her eyes practically bugging out of her skull.

Carol furrows her brow again. “Please stop that.”

“Sorry,” Lori nervously apologizes.

Carol resumes. “Just as I’m putting the thing in there, Luna comes back.”

“No!” Lori blurts out. “Shut up!”

“She did,” Carol affirms. “And you will not believe what happened next…”

She turns to Lori, who is looking at her phone.

“Lori!” she petulantly moans.

“I’m listening! I just had to clear this stupid Bold Navy notification,” Lori explains as she meets her gaze again. “So what happened?”

Carol takes a breath.

“She asked me out.”

“What?!” Lori blurts out. “No freakin’ way!”

Carol sighs now. “Yeah, she did…”

“Oh my god!” That is like- literally- Oh my gosh! I can’t even!” Lori spazzes, failing to pick up on Carol’s anguish.

“Yeah, but the thing is-”

“What are you guys doing?! Are you going dancing? Horseback riding?! Huah!.. Are you having a lakeside picnic at sunset?!... Awwwwww!”

Carol sighs again. “No… We’re going to Le Odorous Clam for dinner.”

Lori gets quiet, as she closes her eyes and starts taking yoga breaths. Carol raises a brow at this.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“...I am literally going to die of cuteness overload. I need to realign my chakras,” Lori explains.

Carol rolls her eyes, and takes Lori’s hand to snap her out of her yogi daze.

“Lori, listen to me…” she says, looking her in the eyes. “It’s not a date…”

Carol releases her hand, and she just meets her with a conflicted grimace.

“What? What do you mean it’s not a date? It’s The Stinky Clam?”

“I know…” Carol responds with another roll of the eyes, before dejectly slouching over.

More confusion on Lori’s part. “Okay, back up. I thought you said she asked you out?”

“She did- sort of,” Carol answers. “She asked me if I wanted to do something tonight, and of course, I said yes, thinking she was asking me on an actual date. Well, then she didn’t know what she wanted to do, so I just said, ‘Let’s go to the Clam.’ Well, I told her to dress nice, and that I’d pay for it all-”

“Good. I’d like to have some money for college,” Lori jokes.

“Lori…”

“Sorry, go on.”

“...Okay, well, then she said… Oh god…” she pauses, clearly distraught to relive the memory.

...

“Carol?” Lori worriedly utters.

Carol meets her with nothing but sadness as she again looks into her eyes.

“She said, ‘that sounds like a date’...”

Lori saddens herself. “Oh, Carol…”

...

“Ugh, it was so embarrassing! I stood there like an idiot and yammered on about how it wasn’t a date, and how I was just trying to be nice, and I feel so stupid- because I really should have just told her I like her!” she bemoans.

“What? Yes! You literally should’ve!” Lori retorts. “...Why didn't you?” she disappointedly adds.

“Because it would've made me look even stupider than I already did!” Carol answers. Then, she slouches over again. “Besides… She probably doesn't like me anyway…”

Lori sighs. “Carol, listen to me,” she starts. “You have to tell her how you feel. You really do. I honestly don't know if Luna likes you too, and believe me, it's taken everything I have not to just out and ask her,” she tells her BFF.

Carol looks up to her again, still feeling somewhat defeated.

Lori makes a point to look right back at her. “But you can't keep doing this to yourself. Life is too short not to try and live for the things you love, and- well… There's a chance you and Luna could be really happy together as more than just friends.”

Carol considers her words.

“But what if I ruin everything? What if I tell her, and then-?”

“Carol,” Lori firmly interjects, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You know deep down that Luna wouldn't do that to you.”

Carol just looks at her for a moment, then takes a deep breath.

“You're right… I know you're right…”

She reaches into her purse, and pulls out the “L” labeled envelope.

“That's why I wrote this.”

She just looks at her letter, and Lori just watches for a moment as she forms a response.

“So… Are you still gonna give it to her?” she eventually asks.

Carol turns to face her, and wearily nods. “I am…”

Then, she holds it out for Lori to take.

“...But not yet.”

Lori meets her gesture with visible uncertainty and concern.

“Well… When, then?” she belatedly asks.

Carol takes another breath, then puts on a serious face.

“After tonight. After our date,” she states.

“I thought it wasn’t-?” Lori tries to interrupt.

“It's not a date, but it will be by the time tonight is over,” Carol asserts. Then, she makes a point to look at Lori. “I am telling her how I feel tonight, one way or another; in person, face to face, like I should have a long time ago.”

Lori softly sighs to herself, then accepts the letter.

“Are you sure about this? You can always still give her this before,” she assures her.

“No, I have to do this…” Carol solemnly responds. “Besides, I already made the reservations, and it'll be awkward if I have to cancel them…”

Lori softly smiles.

“Okay.”

And Carol softly smiles back.

After their pause, Lori speaks up.

“So, what do you want me to do with this?” she asks.

Carol winces. “Well, I've thought about it… If for some reason I don't tell her tonight, I want you to give it to her. No matter what I say or do, just do it,” Carol insists. “But I will tell her!” she’s sure to add.

Lori winces herself. “I don't know… It wouldn't feel right if you didn't want me to…”

“Listen to me, Lori,” Carol firmly tells her. “I am telling you now; you have to do this for me- if I don't have the courage to do it myself. You said yourself I need to do this, and you're absolutely right.”

She ebbs on the seriousness a bit, and gives Lori’s knee a couple little taps.

“Just think of this as a backup plan.”

Lori studies the envelope for a moment as she digests everything Carol has told her.

Finally, she lets out another sigh.

“Okay, I'll do it. But you seriously better make a move at dinner tonight. That's a lot more romantic than me giving her this letter.”

Carol softly smiles again.

“Thank you, Lori.”

They just smile at one another for a moment, and then share a hug.

They release one another, and look back into each other’s eyes.

“I've got your back, girl,” Lori tells her.

Then, she eyes her phone.

“Now get out of my van and go think over tonight or something. I have to call Bobby back before that skunk-bag with the nylon hose gets to the bodega and starts trying to dip her chocolate in my peanut butter,” she informs her.

“Heh, fair enough,” Carol simply says, and she begins to make her way out.

“Wait! Carol?...” Lori hollers.

She just looks back to her.

“Good luck tonight,” she finishes.

Carol just smiles. “Thanks.”

With that, she makes her way out of the van, and starts walking her way back to the school building...

Leaving Lori to contemplate the little white envelope in her hand.

“Hmm…”

-----------------------

Carol arrives at her lovely 0312 West Sanford Street home at exactly 4:00, giving her just two and a half hours until her dinner date with Luna.

Or, whatever it is.

...

“There isn’t time to be messing around. I need to shower, do my hair, get dressed, and get the heck out of here in time to get to the restaurant,” she thinks to herself.

She sets her purse down on the kitchen table, and checks her phone. She has one new text message.

Lori: Just wanted to say I love you. Not to be awkward or anything, just… You know;p

She smiles at this.

Carol: I love you too. You’re the best BFF ever:)

Lori: Next to you:)

Lori: Seriously, good luck tonight. I hope everything works out.

...

Carol: Thanks again for everything:)

With that, she puts her phone on the charger, and goes into the fridge to grab a bottle of smartwater.

“Okay, now should I wear the black dress or the purple dress? And should I wear my hair up? I think maybe I should,” she thinks aloud as she shuts the fridge door.

That’s when she sees the piece of notebook paper taped on it.

She takes it, and she reads what it says.

Carol,

            It’s Dad. Seems like forever since we’ve seen each other, huh? Well, that’s going to change soon. Me and your mom talked about it, and we’ve decided we’re going to stop working nights. It won’t be right away, we still have a few clients we need to finish things up with. But as soon as we’re done with them, we’re going to do some serious catching up, kiddo.

            I’m tired of never seeing your face, or hearing your laugh, or your horrible violining. (Lighten up, it was a joke.) Seriously though, I hope you realize that everything we do, we do for you. We love you so much. It doesn’t excuse us for never being around, but we’re going to make things right. Here soon, we’re gonna make plans to go to Disneyland, just like you’ve always wanted. After that, clear your schedule for lots of golfing and fishing, because I’ve been dying to go fishing with my little girl like all my other lame dad friends do.

            I love you very, very much Care Bear. See you soon.

She smiles wide as a warm feeling comes over her. For a little while, she’s in a bliss as she just reads over the letter a couple more times, and she hugs it tightly to her chest.

As she does, she sees the clock now reads 4:11, and it reminds her just what she has to do tonight.

But before she gets to work, she heads over to her phone once again.

She unlocks it, and brings up the messaging app. She finds Dad in her contacts, and composes something short and sweet.

I got your letter. I love you Daddy.

She sends it, and just stands there to relish in the surrealness of the moment.

Then, her phone buzzes with a new notification.

She checks it, and her heart flutters upon seeing who it is.

Luna: Hey you. Just wanted to make sure you haven’t forgotten about our platonic social outing. 7:00 right?:)

Carol raises a brow. “She never uses emojis?…”

Even so, it can’t be so bad that she’s smiley about their- as she has remembered to call it, “Platonic social outing.”

Definitely haven’t. Be there at 6:30 she types, but she doesn’t send it just yet.

Because, she has to decide if sending a smiley face back is too much.

“Ehh… If I do, she might think I’m being dorky...  But, then again, she sent one, and she didn’t really have to… So it’s probably rude not to send one back, right?”

“The heck with it, I’m sending one. What's the worst that could happen?”

...

Definitely haven’t. Be there at 6:30:) she sends.

“I shouldn’t have sent it. I should NOT have sent it. What the heck was I thinking? Now she’s going to know I really wanted this to be a date, and that I really thought she was gonna ask me out, and now she’s gonna think I’m a total dweeb!... Oh my god… Why can’t I just go ONE DAY without having a freakin’ anxiety attack?!”

Phone buzz.

Luna: Cheerio, love. See you soon!!

“I do love it when she calls me that,” Carol sighs, disregarding everything she just started stressing over.

She decides to leave the conversation at that, because she has to make haste.

“See you soon, love,” she voices aloud, and she shuts her phone off to go get ready.

-----------------------

Carol stands in front of her bedroom mirror. She decided on the black dress, and coiffed her hair up into a fancy little bun. One can of dry shampoo did the trick tonight.

She’s shaved her legs, plucked her eyebrows and even some potentially distracting nose hairs, and made sure to spritz herself with just the perfect amount of her mom’s special one-hundred-twenty dollar perfume. Nails is did, teeth’re brushed…

She’s ready for tonight.

Well… for the most part.

 

She checks the clock, and it reads 5:35.

“Well… I have a little time to kill…” she thinks aloud as she takes a seat on her bed. She gets halfway through lying down before she realizes her might mess her hair up, and she quickly jolts back up into a seated position.

...

Now that she’s all gussied up, there’s nothing left to distract herself from playing out all the ways tonight could go- the good, the bad, the cringey.

“Just relax, Carol… You know Luna. No matter what happens tonight, she’ll still be here for you. No matter what…” she tells herself.

It hardly eases her nerves though, so she stands back up and begins pacing around her room, anxiously biting on the tip of her thumb.

She thinks of what Luna could wear, or what she’ll say about her own outfit. She’s noticed her great taste in clothes before, so that’s a good thing.

She thinks of what else they could talk about besides clothes and the weather. It’s one thing one they’re just casually hanging out, there isn’t pressure. But when it’s expected, it’s exasperating trying to force conversation that isn’t small talk.

Then again, it was like that the very first time Luna came over to Carol’s house, and they found plenty to discuss. Luna’s a decent conversationalist.

Really, Luna is just the coolest. She can get a little carried away with her love of all things British, or her ranting about today’s music compared to the classics; but overall, there really isn’t much not to like about Luna.

And Carol was foolish enough not to see it. Back before Sunderland, back before the project, back when… back when she was alone.

She half smiles. “Man… If I would’ve known then what I know now.”

She decides to take one last look at herself in the mirror, and she’s glad she does, because she realizes she wants to change earrings.

She makes her way over to her dresser, and takes out her black pair, making way for a pair of purple.

As she does, something catches her eye…

...

Luna’s lucky pick.

She puts her new earrings in, then picks up the pick Luna gifted her. She smiles as she admires it, and then she affectionately squeezes it in her embrace.

“I have nothing to worry about… It’s Luna. And tonight, she’s all mine.”

A little while later, the clock reads 5:46, and she’s collecting her purse and her car keys in the foyer.

“Okay, I have everything. Breath mints, keys?! Keys… Phew… Okay…”

She looks to the door. Once she leaves, there can’t be any turning back. Not in the literal sense, because, like, she could actually forget something and have to come back for it.

No, in the sense that, tonight has to be the night. She’s taken so much time to get this far, and it can’t all be for nothing. She has to tell Luna the truth about how she feels.

And, unfortunately, there’s the possibility that Luna could shoot her down. She could say that the girl she was talking about all those weeks back is someone else. She could say that she just wants to be friends, and that she doesn’t want to change the way things are.

But, there’s also the chance that- everything Carol feels: the nervousness, the tension, the worry, the warm fuzzies, the feelings of being careless and free when they’re together… Everything…

There's the chance that Luna feels the same way.

Carol takes a deep breath, and unlocks her phone. She pulls up Luna in her messaging app, and simply sends:

I’m on my way.

With that, she places her phone in her bag, and makes her way out the door.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Le Odorous Clam. The fanciest restaurant in all of Royal Woods. For a Friday night, one might have to make reservations weeks in advance. And Saturday? Unless you’ve got bottomless pockets, forget about it.

Luckily, it’s Monday night, and the establishment isn’t as crowded as it could be on a weekend. It also helps that Carol Pingrey’s father knows people around town, including the manager of the place high schoolers have to come to affectionately call: “The Stinky Clam.”

So, making reservations was the easy part.

It’s everything else that stresses her out.

She walks through the entrance, and checks herself out via her compact to make sure she still looks gorge. No shocker, she does.

“Bonjour,” a white collar usher with a pencil ‘stache greets.

She stops checking herself out to acknowledge the French gentleman. “Uhm, hi. Reservations for Pingrey, please,” she simply tells him.

He checks the log, and nods.

“Right this way, mademoiselle,” the usher says, and he escorts her to a quaint table in the middle of the restaurant. She takes a seat, and she begins preparing herself to anxiously await the arrival of her date.

Or, whatever Luna is to her tonight.

...

“May I start you off with a cold bev-er-age?” the waiter asks with a very thick accent.

Carol winces at him. “Uhm… Smartwater please. Preferably Fiji if you have it. Room temperature. But put ice in it,” she instructs.

He nasally sighs. “Would you like me to fetch some directly from the springs of Fiji?”

“No, bottled is fine,” Carol answers, failing to pick up on his cynical sarcasm.

He half-liddedly rolls his eyes, then makes his way into the kitchen, leaving her to become lost in sapphic hopelessness as she tends to do.

“Well… Here I am. Finally about to have a date with Luna. It has to go well. It just has to.”

“It just has to…”

Frenchy returns with her water, prepared exactly to her specifications. “Your bev-er-age,” he says as he sets it on the table.

“Thanks,” Carol simply replies, and she waits for him to be on his way.

However…

“Did you not have res-ar-vations for two?” he snidely asks.

Carol furrows her brow. “My companion will be here shortly,” she asserts.

“Hmph,” Frenchy scoffs, and he takes his snarky butt back to the kitchen.

Carol checks her phone. No new notifications, and it’s exactly 6:30.

“Where is she?” she mutters to herself.

Just then, she hears some commotion coming from the foyer, like someone has just made their way inside.

Shortly after…

“Come on! You can’t be serious?!” she hears a familiar raspy voice shout.

“Oh no…” she thinks with a facepalm, and she stands up to make her way there. She only takes a few steps though before seeing a wall of people all laughing at something.

She hurries over, and makes her way through them.

She discovers Luna, and she looks amazing. She’s actually wearing lipstick, and has exchanged her usual paperclip earrings for amethysts. Of course, her dress is purple, and- of course… Carol can see her one leg exposed through the seams of it, revealing more of her thigh than she’s ever seen before.

“Woo lordy…”

She’s also smiling- guffawing really, at the French waiter’s expense.

“Come on, dude… If you’re gonna sing ‘Hello,’ at least make sure it’s the right one first!” she teases, referring to the music faintly playing over the PA system: “Hello” by Adele.

Everyone else shares a laugh at the spectacle, and Carol just dumbly watches on with the conflicting blend of relief, confusion, and hormones…

“I thought it was the Lionel Richie one…” Frenchy stoically defends.

“Well, Hello! It’s not,” Luna jokes as she playfully nudges the guy with her elbow. More laughter from the other patrons.

Frenchy scowls. “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this-”

Before he can finish his “french” statement, Luna gets bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as she sees Carol.

“Carol!” she blurts out, and she paces over to her as fast as she can. She’s settled for flats instead of heels, which is well enough for Carol, because she still gets to see a pleasantly surprising amount of leg.

Luna makes it to her companion for tonight’s strictly platonic social outing, and meets her with a smile. She just kind of measures her up for a moment before preening her hair behind her hair, and simply saying to her, “Hey.”

Carol just gawks back at her, taking in how astonishing she looks. “Hi,” she simply says back to her.

“You look really nice,” Luna bashfully comments.

And Carol can’t help but smile at that. “Thanks… You do too.”

They just stand there gazing at one another for a moment before Carol comes to, and realizes this could be getting awkward.

“Uhm, so, our table’s this way,” she nervously says..

“Alright. Lead the way,” Luna simply responds, and she follows her there.

They get halfway to the table, and Carol has an epiphany. There is a comfortable enough distance between herself, Luna, and the table- that she can pull Luna’s chair out for her.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to overthink whether or not it will be too much. And tonight’s supposed to be the night!

So, she just takes the risk, jumping right in to proverbial shark pool.

“Let me get that for you!” she basically blurts out, hasting her way to the chair and pulling it out for Luna.

She meets the gesture with pleasant surprise. “Why thank you,” she says with a smile, and she takes a seat. She glances back up to Carol, still smiling. Carol nervously smiles back, feeling her cheeks warming up.

“That was awesome,” she thinks.

She then makes her way to her own seat. Once seated, she looks back up to Luna, who’s smile has comfortably waned a little.

...

“Here we are,” she thinks to herself.

It’s so weird, too. There isn’t time to really think about how she’s feeling, because now she’s just here with Luna. There isn’t the pressure of some stupid presentation to worry about, or yearbook committees, or meeting parents and sisters and white-haired brothers she has to pretend she hasn’t already met. No violins, no guitars, no Alan Jackson.

Just Luna, and Carol.

And it’s wonderful.

So she smiles back.

“How are you?” she coolly asks.

“I’m fine. It took me forever to find a decent outfit, I won’t lie,” Luna responds, looking down to the table as she blushes a little.

“Well, you definitely clean up nicely,” Carol flirts, not even really steeling herself over it.

“Thanks,” Luna bashfully replies. “It’s Lori’s actually… She actually has pretty good taste,” she quips with a little eyebrow raise, recalling what Carol told her about teal.

She doesn’t take any offense, though.

“I guess she does,” Carol simply agrees, and they share a little laugh.

Suddenly, Carol’s tummy growls... Loudly.

“Oh man… I hope she didn’t hear that,” she thinks, tensing up a little.

But Luna looks at her with raised eyebrows, which can only mean that she did.

...

“Sorry…” Carol says through her embarrassment.

“It’s fine, heh heh,” Luna says with a cute little laugh. “I didn’t wanna be rude and say anything.”

“I was really hoping you just didn’t hear it,” Carol confesses as her smile comes back to her.

“Nah, you’re fine. It’s not the weirdest noise you’ve ever made,” Luna teases with a familiar grin.

“Shut up. You’re such a jerk,” Carol plays along.

“Says you,” Luna cleverly retorts, and then they break into a little laughter.

All the flirting makes Carol a little flustered, so she decides to have a drink of water. She picks up her glass, and…

“So… I talked to Lori,” Luna says out of nowhere.

Carol does a legitimate spit take, getting her smartwater all over the table, and a little on herself.

Luna just indifferently leans back before settling into a frozen, wide eyed gaze, and Carol can’t help but feel like the biggest idiot in the world.

“Oh my gosh… I’m so sorry!” she apologizes as feelings of panic begin to overwhelm her.

But Luna relaxes her posture. “It’s alright… Uh, tap water?” she quips.

...

“I didn’t get any on you, did I?” Carol neurotcially asks as she stands up and begins collecting napkins to clean up the table. She even steals some from the neighboring table.

Luna stands up too, and wipes her hands on her dress. “No, you’re fine. Here, let me help you,” she offers, and Carol complies as she hands her some napkins.

Together, they begin wiping off the table. “So… Anyway… As I was saying…” Luna begins.

“Yeah?” Carol simply responds, feeling a little more panicky as she remembers just what Luna was saying involving her BFF. The same BFF she entrusted with a certain incriminating love letter.

...

“I was talking to Lori earlier, and, she had some interesting things to say…” she states, not looking at Carol as she continues cleaning up.

“Oh?” is all Carol can come up with to say to that.

They diligently keep wiping the table, finishing up on their respective ends before making their way to the middle. Coincidentally, they do so at the same time…

And they end up serendipitously touching hands, just like with popcorn bowl those many nights ago.

They just stop- slowly, apprehensively drawing their hands back before looking to one another’s eyes.

“Uhm… Sorry…” Luna nervously says.

“No- you’re fine…” Carol nervously says back.

“Oh man… This world is trying to kill me…”

They finish cleaning up, and put their soggy napkins to the side as they retake their seats.

“So… You were saying?” Carol recalls, opting Luna to reveal what Lori said that was so interesting.

“Oh! Right…” Luna says as she nervously rubs the back of her neck.

“Carol?” the blonde hears her name called out from a familiar voice.

Her and Luna look to see who it was, and find none other than her old friend Becky, with a dapper young beau at her side.

“You’ve gotta be-”

“Carol! What are you doing here?!” Becky follows, making it seem to be that she’s overjoyed to see the girl she once said had a stick up her butt… behind her back.

“Skunk-bag” Carol thinks, but unfortunately, normal people pretend to like people they don’t actually like for the sake of… well… reasons.

“Becky!” she greets back, returning the pretense.

Even worse, Becky comes in like she’s going to give her a hug, which means she has to hug her back.

“Dang it…”

But she stands up, and she returns the gesture with a squeeze of her own as they chuckle about it. Luna just watches on with a raised eyebrow.

The girls break the hug and look to one another with hokey smiles.

“Heh… You’re a little wet…” Becky remarks.

“Oh! About that…” Carol replies as she coyly rubs the back of her head.

Becky wanders her eyes over to Luna, who just nervously, awkwardly smiles at her.

“Uhm… Hi Luna,” she simply says to her.

“Hi Becky…” Luna replies with little vigor.

The primadonna’s hokey smile shifts into an almost sickly expression. “So… What are you guys doing here?” she asks, her suitor just watching on with a confused expression of his own.

Carol and Luna look to one another, as if to beg the other to please explain just what exactly is going on.

“Well… you see…” they both begin in unison, both displaying very little confidence.

...

They both ramble on for a moment over top of each other about how it’s just dinner, and how it was spur of the moment, and the dresses are just because it’s a nice place, and…

“It’s not a date or anything?” they both finish at the same time.

...

Becky and boyfriend just look at the two with uncertainty for a little while before the latter forces another hokey smile.

“Well… That’s nice. Friends do that all the time?” she says.

“Exactly!” Carol responds, very convincingly.

...

“Yeah, me and Becky are real good friends,” the boyfriend quips with a wink as he playfully nudges his date with an elbow.

Becky giggles into her hand. “Well… It was nice seeing you, Carol. You too, Luna,” she says in a way that could almost be interpreted as mocking before she waves adieu.

“Bye,” Carol weakly says back with a wave of her own, and then she’s gone.

Leaving her and Luna to deal with the lingering awkwardness on their own.

They just look to one another with evident discomfort, sharing all the feelings of embarrassment and discomfort with just one gaze.

But the more they look into each other’s eyes, the less they feel so weird, and the more they feel at ease.

So much so, that Luna’s lips actually curve into a smile.

Seeing this makes Carol’s lips do the same thing, and before long, they’re actually laughing about it, kind of like how they were able to just laugh about Ms. Clifford during their first afternoon in detention.

It feels really nice.

Once they’ve settled down, they just quietly smile to themselves for a moment.

“Okay, Carol… If there was ever a time to say something, it would be now. Golden opportunity. So… just tell her how you feel. Say something to her. Maybe like, right now, even?”

“Okay, here I go…”

...

“So… I still didn’t tell you about what Lori said earlier,” Luna begins just as she’s about to speak…

“Oh yeah...” Carol responds. In her mind, she keeps to herself: “Did she tell Luna everything?”

In a way, she’d like to be upset at the prospect. It’s Carol’s job to say something!

But really, it wouldn’t be so unsettling. Really, it just makes this easier, especially if Luna feels the same way.

Which, she just has to? Right?

Luna takes a breath. “Well, you see-” she starts again.

And just then, Frenchy has brought his snarky butt back to the table where people aren’t allowed to finish sentences, menus in hand.

“I hope the Fiji water is to your liking?” he snootily inquires.

“I’m tempted to punch you,” Carol thinks. And Luna looks like she may be thinking the same thing with the look on her face.

“It is, thank you,” Carol tartly answers. “We’re not ready to order yet,” she adds. And of course, her stomach growls again afterward, making her look like a jackass.

Frenchy rolls his eyes again. “I ap-ol-ogize, but I’m afraid there has been a kerfuffle,” he informs them with his thick accent.

“A kerfuffle?” Luna questionably repeats.

“A kerfuffle,” the waiter restates. “I regret to inform you that we already reserved this table for another party, and we failed to re-a-lize this.”

Carol and Luna look to another, the latter just kind of deflating, the former rolling her eyes now.

“So, what? Are you saying we need to move now? My father is Carl Pingrey in case you didn’t know,” she reminds him.

He furrows his brow. “Oh, I do,” he snidely states. “However, this other party has… How do you say? ‘Greater clout’ in the community…”

He looks over to the aforementioned other party, and Carol and Luna follow his gaze.

At the foyer of the restaurant, a beautiful woman with red hair, pale skin, green eyes, and perfect freckled cheeks stands at the side of…

“Mr. Sunderland?” Carol and Luna both blurt out.

Yes, the gorgeous woman is beside their journalism teacher, who is wearing dark sunglasses, has gotten his hair cut, and has exchanged his polo for a sport coat.

He lowers his shades to meet them with a look of surprise, then walks over to them with a nervous smile.

“Heeeey guys…” he greets.

“What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Quiet Hill with your-” Carol speaks before being cut off by Sunderland.

“Quiet Hill? You kids and your crazy rumors, hahahaha…” he awkwardly laughs as he looks out the corner of his eye to make sure his special lady friend isn’t upset. She raises a brow, but doesn’t seem too disgruntled.

The persnickety waiter clears his throat. “Ahem…”

Carol and Luna share a look of discontent, but decide to just do as their told and make way.

Mr. Sunderland leans in and hides his mouth with his hand, “Sorry guys. I’ve been waiting a long time for this date,” he whispers for only them to hear. Then, he uncovers his mouth. “Haha! Great stuff, girls. Can’t wait for Yearbook next year!”

“Please don’t tell my wife I was here,” he makes sure to add, hiding his mouth again.

...

Carol and Luna just frown.

Frenchy takes the glass of iced smartwater from the table.

“What are you doing?” Carol irritatedly asks.

“I am taking care of your wat-air?!” he retorts.

“I can handle it myself,” Carol sharply tells him with a scowl.

“Carol-” Luna tries to intervene.

“I will get you a new one,” Frenchy asserts.

“I want this one,” Carol argues.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sunderland pulls a chair out for his lady friend, and she prepares to have seat. However, he miscalculates the trajectory of her tushy, and she falls onto the floor.

Which takes him back, and causes him to bump into the waiter.

Which… causes him to spill Fiji everywhere.

He just dumbly looks to Carol, who luckily hasn’t been soaked in water. Thankfully, Luna was here to pull her out of the way.

However, as Carol tries to make sense of the whole thing, all she can think about is how Luna’s basically groped her boob during the confusion.

She looks to her, and Luna looks back, failing to realize where her mitts are. It takes a second, but it finally registers, and she looks to her hand on Carol’s tata before meeting her with a very nervous, blushing smile.

“Uhm… Honk honk?” she quips before quickly shaping up and removing her hand from Carol’s bosom.

She just stands there with another dumb look on her face, still trying to fully convalesce after all the nonsensicalness.

She gets around to it eventually.

“Sorry…” Luna apologizes with a defensive shrug.

“It’s… okay,” Carol belatedly responds. “It’s not like you meant to grab my-”

“Would you two please follow me,” the French waiter tells them with a sour tone.

The girls just look at his fuming French face for a moment before rolling their eyes to one another, then they proceed to follow him to their new table.

They get seated, and Frenchy just glowers at them before taking his leave once more.

“Yeesh… What crawled up his butt and died?” Luna jokes shortly after.

Carol gets a chuckle from it, which makes Luna smile.

“Uhm… Thanks for not letting me get all wet…” Carol starts.

“...Again!” her and Luna finish together before sharing another laugh.

“Uhm- you’re a little wet,” Luna jokingly says, imitating Becky.

“Haha! Yeah, we’re really good friends,” Carol adds, imitating her nameless tool of a boyfriend.

And they share another laugh.

Then, things get quiet. Carol and Luna just smile to themselves as they let their eyes meet the table.

“You know what’s fascinating?” Luna speaks up.

“What?” Carol replies.

“Not a dull moment goes by when you’re around,” Luna answers with a soft smile,

Carol just smiles a bashful little smile of her own. “Yeah… If fascinating had another meaning, maybe…” she jokes.

“Or fascinating like jean shorts,” Luna adds, prompting a sharp laugh from the other girl.

“Hahaha! Oh…” she says as she wipes a tear from her eye.

She straightens up though. “For real, I know what you’re saying…” Carol assures her.

Luna narrows her eyes and rests her chin on her thumbs as she leans on the table. “Do you?” she asks.

Carol just meets her with a bit of an incredulous look, and Luna just keeps smiling at her.

“Okay… She has DEFINITELY been flirting with me.”

“I… I think I do,” she answers, finding herself getting lost in her favorite pair of brown eyes.

Luna lowers her hands, and just meets her gaze. Refusing to look away, this saccharine aura comes to her, and it makes Carol feel very warm inside.

A lot of things come to mind for Miss Carol Pingrey but none of them are bad. All those feelings of self doubt and insecurity have been buried down deep. All that matters now is that- she’s always happy around Luna. They’re always smiling and laughing, and not only does she realize it, but Luna does too.

Slowly, Carol takes her hand, and places it over Luna’s. She’s sure to keep looking into her eyes, too.

“Luna… There’s something I need to tell you…”

Luna’s eyes widen, and just as Carol is about to follow through with her proclamation…

“Becky,” she utters.

Carol raises a brow. “What?”

“Becky,” Luna simply repeats, her face basically frozen.

Carol’s brow raising turns into a full on cringe. “Becky? What? Is she back?” she asks as she begins turning her head around.

“Becky!” Luna hollers now, and she points towards the back of the restaurant.

Carol finishes turning her head, and, she sees her.

But it’s not people Becky…

It’s snake Becky.

Yep, snake Becky. The stray python Lana brought home all those days ago has somehow found itself in Le Odorous Clam, and is creeping up on Mr. Sunderland and his date while Frenchy stands back- wielding a wooden spoon.

Sunderland and his date just fearfully stand there for a moment, then he lets out a high pitched scream, “AHHHHHHH!” and jumps into the woman’s arms.

A chef runs out of the kitchen with an “Oh crap” look on his face, and Frenchy scowls at him.

“I told you to keep that thing in a cage!” he scolds. “You never know when the health inspector will show up!”

All Luna and Carol can do is watch as the workers size up the snake, then pounce towards it. Fortunately for Becky, she is able to evade them, and the workers end up hitting heads.

The python simply slithers away as other workers trying grabbing her, trapping her with barstools, and even throwing knives at her. She makes it to the door though, and makes her way out just as a portly lady makes her way inside.

“Ohh!” she gasps before fainting.

Carol and Luna look to one another, both sharing the same dumbfounded expression.

“What the-”

“Get off me!” Sunderlands’ date hollers, sending him back on his feet with a sour look on her face.

He nervously smiles and dusts himself off. “I was- uh… shielding you?” he defends.

The gorgeous woman shakes her head, then grabs her purse and prepares to leave.

“Wait!” Sunderland cries as she begins walking away. He frantically looks around, then steals a plate of spaghetti from another patron. “Hey!” they cry.

“Have some spaghetti before you leave!” Sunderland desperately hollers with a nervous smile.

His date just turns and glowers at him, then shakes her head before resuming her departure.

Sunderland angrily frowns. “I was gonna leave my wife for you!” he shouts, and then he tosses the plate of pasta.

Be it because of his skinny bitch arms, or the lighting of the room getting into his eyes, or just the mistress so cruel known as Bad Luck…

The spaghetti ends up flying right at Carol, hitting her smack dab in the chest, and covering her in the stuff. All she can do is watch as the meat sauce and noodles slide down her two-hundred dollar dress, ruining it.

Among other things…

She looks up to see everyone staring. Luna, Frenchy, Becky, her boyfriend, the staff, the customers…

Stupid Sunderland...

...

He nervously laughs, “Aheh… Aheh…”

Then, he bolts. He runs to the back exit, and disappears.

Carol looks to Luna with the most pitiful look on her face, and Luna returns it with one of her own.

“Carol…”

Carol’s eyes begin welling up with tears.

And with very little thought, she runs past Luna, heading out the entrance with her face in her hands.

 

Chapter Text

 

Luna makes her way out into the parking lot of Le Odorous Clam with a fistful of paper towels. She scans the area for Carol, and finds her trudging her way over to her BMW.

“Carol!” she calls out, and she picks up the pace to catch up with her.

Carol ignores her, trying to fight back the tears as she makes it to her car.

It's not that she doesn't hear her. Oh no, she certainly does. But after what is literally the most humiliating night of her life, she just can't bear to face this girl right now.

She grabs the handle of the driver’s side door, and, well, it won’t open.

She pulls and she pulls and she pulls, but it's apparently locked.

“Urgggh! What the heck?!” she cusses.

Luna catches up, and stops to take a breath.

“Carol…” she says again, this time with the same piteous demeanor she displayed back in the restaurant.

Again, Carol disregards her, instead focusing on rummaging through her purse for her car keys.

There's gum, breath mints, and lip gloss (she was totes ready for some kissing should the occasion arise). There's her wallet, pepper spray, and everything else a young woman would need for a night out in the town…

All except her keys.

“What the- huh?” she bemoans as she tries opening the door again.

She presses her hands to the glass to have a look inside the car.

Of course, she left her keys inside of it.

Meaning… she's locked herself out.

“No, no, no!” she repeats, and she tries the back door. Locked.

“Carol?” Luna tries a third time.

Ignored. She rushes to the other side to try both passenger side doors, and as expected, they’re locked too.

She melancholily makes her way to the driver’s side again, trying to just pretend Luna isn't staring at her with such sadness.

She literally can't even right now. She decides it's time to just accept the fact that she is doomed to be defeated in all of her Luna related endeavors.

She slides down the side of the car into a sad little ball, and proceeds to begin crying again.

Luna watches on with a heavy heart.

“Carol,” she starts again, this time kneeling down and resting a comforting hand on her knee. “Don't cry, dude… It’s gonna be alright…”

“No it isn’t,” Carol retorts through her tears. “My dress is ruined, I'm covered in spaghetti… And I screwed everything up. Again.”

Luna sighs, then removes her hand from her knee before taking a seat beside her against the car.

“You didn't screw anything up. Stuff just happens sometimes. It's not your fault…” she assures Carol.

Carol sniffles, trying to come up with the right things to say, without giving away too much.

“No, Luna. You don't understand,” she begins, ebbing the tears enough to wipe her face and look to her out of the corner of her eye. “I just- I wanted tonight to be special…”

Luna takes a moment herself.

“I know you did…”

...

She wraps her arm around Carol.

“Well, for now, all I have for you are these stupid paper towels,” she says, showing them to her. “But if anyone can get a stain out, it's Leni. And if she can’t, then I'm sure Lisa can figure something out,” she adds with a weak little smile.

Carol wipes another tear from her eye, and dons a little grin of her own, even letting out a little chuckle.

Which makes Luna smile more.

“Come on,” she says, standing up now. She then reaches her hand out for Carol to take it.

Carol just looks to her for a moment, but smiles as she accepts it, and Luna helps her to her feet.

Once off the pavement, Luna hands Carol the aforementioned stupid paper towels.

“Here, get yourself cleaned up a little bit, and we'll have dinner back at my place. We don't need this bogus joint,” she asserts.

Carol accepts the towels, and begins wiping what sauce she can off of her dress.

“Well, what about my car? I can't just leave it here,” Carol responds.

“Eh, don't worry about it. It's a nice place, nice neighborhood. You can deal with it in the morning,” Luna vouches. “Besides…”

She wraps her arm around Carol’s, who has just finished cleaning herself off. She just looks on with doe eyes as Luna smiles at her.

“It’s a nice night for a walk,” she tells her.

Belatedly, Carol smiles back.

And with that, they leave this stupid place behind them.

-----------------------

Side by side, arms adorably hooked together, Carol and Luna walk under the moonlight on their way to Franklin Avenue.

Things have gotten quiet since the restaurant, but eventually, Luna speaks up.

“I love this time of night,” she comments in a soft tone.

...

“Are you okay?” she then asks Carol with a sweet little smile.

“Yeah…” Carol simply responds. “I think I just- I don’t know…”

“What?” Luna eggs on.

...

Carol steels herself a bit, but decides this just isn’t the time and place to be her own worst enemy. Not with Luna at her side.

“I guess I just have a habit of setting my expectations way too high. Like, I tell myself things have to go a certain way, and I always end up disappointed when they don’t…”

Luna wearily nods. “Yeah… I guess I understand,” she replies. She takes a moment, and decides she has a better follow up than that.

“There’s nothing wrong with having high expectations. Just…” she pauses again. “John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. You know what I mean?”

Carol amusingly huffs. “Okay, mom. Thanks,” she quips with a weak smile.

And Luna smiles back.

“He also said… ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’…”

“...But I’m not the only one,” Carol finishes for her.

“So you know that one?” Luna asks.

“I do…” Carol simply answers.

It gets quiet again. Somewhere along the line, it became easy to do this. Sure, her heart still flutters, and her tummy still gets butterflies; but being around Luna has become so much more comfortable for Miss Carol Pingrey.

Luna’s just made it so easy for her, after all.

Again, it’s Luna to break the silence.

“So… Uhm… I think you were about to tell me something back at the Clam. You know- before Becky and Becky showed up,” she recalls.

Without really looking to her, Carol just readies herself for a proper response.

“Well, yeah. Yeah I was actually.”

Big girl panties, on.

“Actually, I think you should hear what I have to say first,” Luna tells her, also avoiding eye contact.

Slowly, she releases her arm from Carol’s. She takes a few steps back, turning around to work her nerve up before proceeding.

And all Carol can think about, are two very striking thoughts.

One: this night is either about to get a whole heck of a lot worse, or a whole heck of a lot better.

And two: Luna has never looked more beautiful than she does right now, under these street lights and the night sky.

Luna turns back to face Carol, her gait so skittish and timid. As much as Luna has made herself out to be invincible, she’s really just another person- with fears just like everyone else.

“Carol…”

“I like you.”

Needless to say, Carol Pingrey’s eyes widen, and her heart begins pounding in her chest. She’s practically frozen in time.

“I like you, Carol.... I have for a long time,” Luna begins. “I guess I was just- too afraid to say anything because- we’ve become such good friends. But… Oh man…”

Unbelievably, Luna is standing here trying to tell Carol how she feels, getting flustered and losing herself just as she would all those times before.

“I wanted so bad to just tell you this morning. But then things just kind of happened the way they did, and well…”

“Wait- so you really were asking me out?!” Carol blurts out.

“Uh huh,” Luna simply answers. She pauses for a moment, and preens her hair before continuing.

...

“I guess I just didn’t want to come out and say it like that because- I didn’t know how you’d react. I mean, I didn’t want to make things weird…”

She laughs to herself.

“Listen to me… I’m starting to sound like your letter…”

Carol’s eyes get even wider, and her heart starts pounding even harder.

She just sputters some incomprehensible babble, trying to get out some words about how Luna apparently got hold of what was supposed to be a secret love letter.

Luna just smiles at her, and slowly steps forward.

“Yeah… Lori showed it to me. She said you wouldn’t have it in you to tell me in person…”

“That is so not true! I was totally gonna say something!” Carol retorts, her mouth helplessly beaming now.

“I know you were…” Luna simply says with a smile of her own.

For a moment, Carol is just lost in wondrous bliss. Not only goes Luna know the truth, but...

“You like me, too?”

Luna just keeps smiling.

And poor Carol, she just can’t help it.

She has to cry some more.

This time, it’s because she’s so damn happy. It might just actually be the happiest she’s ever been in her life.

“Oh my god…” she utters into her hands.

But Luna still smiles, just watching on and likely feeling all the same wonderful, warm, fuzzy feelings in her chest that Carol does now.

“Come here, you big crybaby,” she playfully tells Carol, opening her arms wide to invite her into her embrace.

And needless to say, Carol’s more than happy to wrap her arms around the girl she likes, tightly squeezing her back just as Luna does to her.

For a little while, they just get lost in one another, finally free and open to feel complete together. No more secrets, no more pretense; just the shared feelings of warmth and acceptance.

Carol steps back to look into Luna’s eyes. “You rock, Luna Loud.”

“You’re pretty rockin’ yourself, C,” she simply says, gazing intimately into her baby blues.

“I love it when you call me that...” Carol admits.

The smiles comfortably wane. Their pupils both dilate. They can feel each other’s pulses racing.

Right here, right now, under the street lights…

For once, things really are perfect.

Slowly, both girls close their eyes, and they lean in close.

And finally, they share a kiss.

They break away, and smile to one another.

“Wow…” Luna says.

Carol doesn’t even say anything to that. She just pulls her in for one more kiss.

And again, it’s perfect.

Once they stop sucking face, Carol invites Luna to hold hands, and she gladly accepts.

They continue walking their way down the street, smiling the happiest smiles they’ve ever had the privilege of smiling.

“So… We’re totally going to homecoming together, just so you know,” Carol is sure to let her know.

As expected, Luna keeps smiling.

“Cool. As long as I don’t have to wear heels.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It must suck being a lonely old man. Well, Mr. Grouse at least; because for the past two hours, his tinnitus has been agitated by the racket of a certain pair of whippersnappers playing their loud music in the garage next door.

“Dang Louds…” he curses as turns the volume on his TV up even louder.

-----------------------

Next door, his fifteen year-old neighbor Luna Loud is shredding on the strings of her black guitar affectionately called “Moonsong,” finishing up her riff with the thing behind her head.

As she hits her final note, her best friend Sam Sharp powerslides across the floor, finishing up an impressive chord progression of her own. She gets so into it as a matter of fact, that she stands up, and smashes her guitar on the ground just like they do in the movies.

She and Luna dumbly look down to the shambles of what used to be a Telecaster, then to each other.

“I guess I got a little carried away, huh?” Sam says with a smile and shrug.

“Eh, we’ve all been there,” Luna simply responds.

With that, she unplugs her axe from the amplifier, and carefully places it in her case while Sam does the same with the remains of her own guitar.

Once they’ve finished up, Luna can feel Sam just eyeing her with the keenest of smiles, and she has to roll her eyes, because she knows this is the part where Sam asks about-

“So….” she begins.

Luna just looks to her, and sighs. “Alright, sit down and I’ll give you the deets,” she says as she pulls up a chair.

Sam quietly “eeks” to herself, then takes a seat on the large Sterrett amplifier to her right.

“Okay, I want you to tell me everything. Like, literally everything! I wanna know how you guys got together, what all was said; start from the beginning!” she spazzes.

“Alright, alright… Take a chill, B,” Luna replies with a grin.

She sits backwards in the chair, blissfully leaning her arms on its back, and then her head on her arms. It’s like she’s getting lost in all of her happy, lovely thoughts before she can even express them, and Sam picks up on it.

“Dude!” she blurts out.

“Oh, right,” Luna says. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry; be sappy!” Sam demands.

“Okay, okay… Well I guess I should start with dinner,” Luna begins.

Sam just gives her her undivided attention, and Luna proceeds to the storytelling.

“So, I show up to the Clam, and there’s this frou-frou dude with a pencil ‘stache, and he’s all, ‘I’m French, Oui Oui!’... He starts singing Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ during Adele’s ‘Hello-”

“What a nub!” Sam amusingly interjects.

“Total nub,” Luna agrees. “Anyway, I’m busting his chops for it, thanking god I didn’t wear heels, and here comes Carol through this crowd of people all watching me roast the guy…”

...

“You should be more sensitive to other people’s feelings,” Sam quips as she takes a drink of water.

...

Luna disregards it to continue her story.

“She looked totally smokin’. Tight black dress, hair done all fancy, looking all curvy…”

“Hey, stay with me, Lune,” Sam says with a snap of the fingers.

“Heh, sorry…” Luna apologizes again. “She tells me I look good, I tell her she looks good-”

“Awh!” Sam comments.

“Yeah,” Luna happily agrees. “And that’s where stuff started getting crazy…”

-----------------------

As Luna details the tale of two Beckys, Mr. Grouse is struggling to get the television set in his house turned down, because his stupid newfangled remote won’t work.

-----------------------

“Oh man, I’m gonna have Lucy cast a spell on that Sunderland creep to make it to where he always feels like he just got a haircut, even after he showers,” Sam jokingly threatens upon hearing how he threw pasta at Luna’s date.

“You’re an idiot,” Luna laughs. “...Yeah, It was really intense. I hated seeing her cry,” she adds, deflating a bit.

“Awh…” Sam bemoans.

But Luna still smiles. “Nah, dude… It worked out perfectly in the end. I walked her home with me, and I just decided it was finally time to make a move.”

“Finally is right!” Sam remarks.

“Shut up,” Luna playfully retorts.

“I mean, jeez! It’s been like- a month since you guys started talking! I thought I was gonna have to find the Lasso of Truth to make you say something to her!”

“Heh, I’m just glad you didn’t say something to her when you saw her in the hallway that one day,” Luna admits.

“You mean besides implying that she play her violin for you? You’re welcome for that by the way,” Sam ripostes. “Trust me, it took everything I had not to spill the beans.”

“Don’t let Lana hear you say that. You know how she feels about beans,” Luna reminds her regarding a certain incident involving Leni and some spilt beans.

...

“Okay, you’re losing focus,” Sam states. “Tell me about when you came onto her.”

“Right,” Luna agrees.

-----------------------

In the process of trying to turn the volume down on his TV, Mr. Grouse messed up his antenna reception. So now he’s doing his best to get the thing adjusted just right, all while his tinnitus is further agitated by the static of his archaic box set.

-----------------------

“Then… we kissed,” Luna reveals to Sam, blushing.

“Eeeeeee!” Sam gushes. “That is so awesome! I’m so happy for you, dude!”

“Thanks,” Luna bashfully responds.

“For real, you have no idea. When George told me you had a crush on Carol, I was like, no way. But then you told me how you guys were gonna start working together at her house, and I was like… Oh my gosh, I can’t even!” Sam continues.

“Alright Lori Marie…” Luna quips. “Get this; she heard me talking to him!”

Sam does a legitimate spit take after taking another drink of water. “What?!”

“Yeah! I guess she was in her car, and she overheard me saying I liked a girl. She just didn’t hear me tell him it was her because of Bold Navy or something…” Luna explains.

“Pffft, Bold Navy…” Sam simply says with a roll of the eyes.

“So, I mean, I gotta ask... Even after she said all that crap about you to Whitney, you still liked her? How does that work?” Sam asks now.

Luna sighs.

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know…”

“What do you mean ‘you don’t know?!” Sam retorts.

...

“Well, like, at first I just thought she was really cute,” Luna confesses. “I hate to say it, but I was kind of into the whole mean girl thing she had going on. I didn’t think we could actually end up together… But then I went to her house, and I saw just how cool she is. That’s when I guess the feelings became real…”

She smiles to herself.

“Not to mention, she is really cute.”

She stretches, and takes a breath before thinking it over some more.

“Ehh… You know what really did it for me? You know really made me realize this had to happen like some big poetic type thing?”

Sam steels herself a moment. “Uhm… Are you really asking, or is that rhetorical?” she asks.

...

Luna disregards her brief buffoonery to continue.

“It was that day… Man, looking back at it now, she was totally pining for me…”

Sam mockingly sticks her tongue out, but Luna again ignores her.

“Yeah, we went upstairs to take these pictures for our project. And she just… I don’t know man, I know it sounds stupid; but she just smiled this smile, and that’s what got me. It was even better that I got a picture of her…” she reminisces, blushing now.

Sam smiles.

“That’s pretty awesome, dude. Seriously.”

But, Sam Sharp isn’t one to let mushiness linger for long.

“I’m just glad you guys are finally together. I don’t mind hearing you go on about how cute she is when you’re not all: ‘I wish I could just teww her how I feew,” she teases.

“Yeah, yeah…” Luna brushes her off. “I’m just surprised it took Lori so long to finally say something. I guess she knew for like, ever, and even all my sisters did too! Like, I’m wondering what Carol did to make ‘em stay quiet all this time.”

“Hmm… What if- and bear with me here… What if your siblings actually have some humility? Huah!” Sam jokes with a pretend gasp.

“Are you ever not a turd?” Luna snaps back.

“I’d argue it’s my best quality,” Sam rebuts.

The girls take a moment to collect their thoughts.

“So, I gotta ask. Were you just completely oblivious to the fact she was crushin’ on you, or were you just too big a wuss to ask her out?” Sam asks.

“Well, I mean, she gave so many mixed signals!” Luna defends. “Like, okay- so did I tell you about the time she freaked out at lunch?”

“Probably,” Sam admits. “I don’t know. Hard to keep up with everything with my super busy schedule.”

Luna meets her with a judging eyebrow raise. “Yeah, because writing fanfiction and playing Horizon Zero Whatever must be sooo strenuous.”

“Hey! I do stuff…” Sam defends.

Luna rolls her eyes. “Anyway… So I get to lunch the Monday after I went to her house, and she’s sitting with Lori…”

-----------------------

On top of the loud rasping of his staticy old piece of crap TV, Mr. Grouse’s oven timer starts dinging very obnoxiously… And the phone starts ringing.

“Make it stop! Make it stop!” he cries as he covers his ears.

-----------------------

Sam nods after Luna concludes her latest story.

“Okay, so at that point, you should’ve realized she was totally in love with you, and you should’ve been asking me to plan your summer wedding,” she jokes.

“I asked Lori what her deal was, but she just told me she didn’t get her morning Starbeans. Which, trust me; you think Carol’s a tsun now, check her out when she hasn’t had her coffee,” Luna explains.

“Awh, I love how you guys are all girlfriend and girlfriend now,” Sam gushes.

Luna just rolls her eyes again.

She checks her phone.

“Speaking of which, she should be here soon. You gonna hang or do you have stuff to do?” Luna teases.

“Nah, I don’t wanna be a third wheel,” Sam says as she stands up to collect her things. “Besides, I really do have to get caught up on homework. I put off my essay for Miss Go, and- yeah.”

“Yeah, don’t make her mad,” Luna solemnly states.

A black BMW pulls into the driveway, and Miss Carol Pingrey steps out with a little black case in tow.

“Hey guys,” she greets.

“Hey Carol,” Sam simply responds as she gets her things in order.

Carol smiles at Luna, who obviously smiles back.

“Hey you,” she sweetly says.

“Hey,” Carol replies, and she leans in to give her a peck on the lips.

Which, is totes adorbs, so Sam has to turn around and “eek” to herself without them noticing.

She does, then turns back around like nothing happened.

“Well, I’d love to stay and hang out, but I gotta-”

Her phone dings, and she pulls it out of her pocket to check it.

“Let me guess. Bold Navy?” Carol jokes.

“Nope. FFN review. I can’t tell you how many of these things I get in a day,” Sam humbly says as she crams her phone back in her pocket.

She smiles at the new happy couple. “Well, I best be on my way. And remember! Always practice safe-”

“Don’t make me hurt you,” Luna interrupts.

“Heh heh, see you guys,” Sam says as she waves adieu and heads out of the garage.

“Au revoir,” Carol tells her, and she and Luna wave goodbye as well.

They wait until she’s at the end of the driveway…

“She’s totally gonna go home and play videogames,” Carol speculates.

“Oh, definitely,” Luna agrees.

She stands up from her chair, and goes back over to her gig bag to get her guitar back out.

“So, what’dya got for me today, baby doll?” Luna asks her girlfriend.

Carol unpacks her black case, taking her violin and bow out. “Well, I saw this one girl play ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ a few weeks back, and I thought, ‘Eh, I can do better,” she quips with a smile.

And Luna just smiles back.

“We’ll see about that,” she simply says.

-----------------------

Finally, Mr. Grouse has gotten his TV fixed, gotten its volume turned down, and has eliminated all the other noise pollution from his home.

“Ahh… Finally. All that ruckus wore me out. I think I’ll just sit back, relax, and maybe take a little nap.”

Just as he lies back in his recliner, the obnoxiously loud blaring of music from next door returns.

He stuffs his face in a pillow, and groans.

“I’m booking a vacation to Quiet Hill.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“How did I get so lucky?” Carol thinks to herself as she makes her way to her girlfriend’s locker.

She gets there, and unlike that fateful Thursday morning when it was announced the two ladies would be partners for a class project, Luna meets her with nothing but happiness as she approaches.

“Hey gorgeous,” she flirtatiously greets as she shuts her locker door.

“Hello beautiful,” Carol greets back, and she kisses her on the cheek before inviting her to hold hands.

And, duh. Luna accepts.

Yes, Luna and Carol are now a couple. Other students and even some teachers gave them looks at first, but it didn’t take long before everyone got used to the idea of “Caroluna.” In fact, there are even rumors circulating around campus that they’re already favored to win homecoming queen and queen next year.

...

As they walk down the hall hand in hand, Luna and Carol both receive text messages at the same time.

“How much you wanna bet that’s Sam with another tattoo idea?” Luna quips.

“I almost bet my varsity golf trophy,” Carol responds.

They both check their phones.

For Carol, she gets the following message from one Lori Loud:

Lori: Clear your schedule this weekend. You and Luna are totes coming to the city with me so we can all double date;)

She just smiles, and sends the following in return:

Carol: Tell Boo Boo Bear I said hi;p

She puts her phone away, and glances at Luna as she finishes reading her own message.

“Lori?” she simply asks her.

Luna just smiles, and without a word, shows her the message she received from a certain someone:

Mrs. Pingrey: Hey Luna. Just talked to your mom. Everything's set for Disneyland, you and Carol behave yourselves until then lol.

Carol smiles wide as she shakes her head. “I’m starting to think my mom likes you more than me.”

As both girls expected, their parents were totes progressive and understanding regarding the nature of their relationship. Some embarrassing questions may or may not have been asked, but overall, everyone welcomed the news with arms wide open. Literally.

In the case of the Loud family, Luan made jokes, then made sure to explain the difference between thespians and lesbians to Leni. And Lana and Lola didn’t care about anything except fighting over who would be the flower girl at their wedding. Mom and Dad were just happy no longer having to worry about at one of their ten daughters getting preggers.

...

Mr. and Mrs. Pingrey made good on their promise to be home more often, and Carol’s first order of business was getting them acquainted with her special friend. They even invited them to Casa Loud for special soup, and it actually went without incident.

Yup, things are just about perfect for the happy couple. Almost heaven, Royal Woods. Mhm. Life’s good. Life’s great. If they were any happier, Lisa would try and clone them.

Until…

“So, I was thinking we could go try out the new mini golf course tonight. Lincoln and Clyde told me it’s really fun,” Luna suggests to Carol.

“Alright. Should I bring my trophy winning nine-iron or what?” Carol flirts with some playful shoulder nudging.

“You’re such a nub,” Luna jokes in return.

They come around the bend as they make their way to what is now officially Mr. Rowe’s journalism class following the unusual departure of Mr. Sunderland, and there are these three skeevy skater dudes hanging out along the wall. Whether or not they’ll actually be going to their classes today is questionable, to say the least.

Suddenly, they start snickering. Like, something must be funny.

Carol disregards their amusement, even if it is the most annoying thing in the world, because she assumes they’re just laughing about how inebriated they are or something.

But, then they snicker some more.

“Wait a second… Are they laughing at me? At US?...” she thinks.

She abruptly stops, and removes her hand from Luna’s to sharply glare at the ne'er-do-wells. Upon seeing her scornful gaze, they’re quick to clam up like nothing happened.

“That’s what I thought.”

“Babe?” Luna asks, but Carol says nothing as she just takes her hand again to continue walking.

Then, more snickering.

Carol quickly turns back around, and meets them with an even angrier look than before. Again, the boys pipe down, but they can’t keep up the charade this time. They have to break.

So they bust out into full blown laughter now, their faces turning red they’re laughing so hard.

Of course, it’s enough to make the vein in Carol’s forehead stick out, and Luna herself isn’t very enthused either.

“Dude… Wait until I-”

“No. I got this,” Carol interrupts, and she takes a step forward.

“Uhm, excuse me. Dillholes?” she begins.

The boys give her their undivided attention.

“Do you have something to say to us?” she adds.

They stoically look at her for a moment, then…

More laughter.

Carol rigidly frowns.

“Come on, C… Let’s just go…” Luna sullenly tells her, but she isn’t having it.

“No! Listen here you stupid sweat drenched jerks!” Carol barks. “I don’t think you idiots realize who you’re laughing at. I’m Carol Pingrey! I own this place! I could have plaques hung up in my honor in every hallway of this school if I wanted!”

And boy, she doesn’t slow down even a little.

“Not to mention it’s freakin’ 2018… What are you, twelve? ‘Huh huh huh, I remember my first beer’,” she says in a mocking tone.

...

“Uhm… Carol…” Luna tries to interrupt, but the girl’s too fired up to hear her.

...

“I shouldn’t even be wasting my breath on you losers. The fact that you’re so close-minded to be laughing at a lesbian couple shows just how worthless you are to the community anyway. I mean, what next? Are you gonna try and tell me you’re NoiseCloud rappers?” she continues.

“Carol,” Luna tries again, this time with a little more bravado.

“You know, the only reason you’re laughing at us is because none of you dorks have a clue what it’s like to have a hot girlfriend like we do! What we have is more special than anything any of you will ever have with your imaginary, fake, online, catfishing girlfriends that are probably actually guys!”

“Dude!” Luna tries once again, but still to no avail.

She and the skeevy guys just watch as Carol enters her final form of roast master, flame practically spitting from her mouth.

“And furthermore! Not only is Luna- my girlfriend, the most attractive and all around desirable girl in Royal Woods High School… But she’s also the best catch any man or woman could ever hope to have! She’s smart, talented, funny, beautiful, and hardly ever sweats!” Carol declares.

Luna doesn’t know whether to be embarrassed or to start gushing, so she does a little of both inside.

“But you know what? I don’t give a flying fart what the three of you think, because I LOVE Luna, and that’s all that matters!”

“Dude, you’ve got TP on your shoe,” one of the boys makes sure to tell her before she can start yelling again.

And, what do you know? Carol looks down to see that she does have a couple squares of toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

“Heh heh… How embarrassing…” she utters as her cheeks turn red.

Humiliation settles in, and the three boys slowly, carefully pack up and leave.

“Uhm… Sorry guys,” Carol tells them as they walk away, each glancing back at her with not so friendly looks.

Then, she turns to Luna, who is sure to have this sickly look on her face like she’s embarrassed too.

Except, she finds that she has a big ol’ glossy eyed smile on her face, and is clasping her hands together all cutesy like.

“What?” Carol asks.

“You said you-”

Before Luna can finish her statement, she’s interrupted by some big scruffy dude clearing his throat, the very same big scruffy dude who gave them detention on that fateful Thursday morning.

Carol just looks to the man with doe eyes, and he just folds his arms and taps his foot with a cross look on his face.

“Oh poo…” Carol curses.

-----------------------

Detention. Again…

“Seriously?”

No, afternoon detention at Royal Woods High never changes. There’s the same depressing white four walls, the same unforgiving artificial lighting, and the same Ms. Clifford snoring at her desk all loud and annoying like.

Then again, literally everything else has changed since Luna and Carol’s last evening in detention, like how the two girls are now a happy couple.

Luna’s apparently really happy, because she just keeps smiling the same mushy smile at Carol that she was out in the hallway.

It’s starting to get a little weird, so Carol decides to call her out on it.

“Okay, you’ve been grinning like an idiot all day. What’s your deal?” Carol finally asks.

“Mmm… You really wanna know?” Luna asks.

They pause for a moment to acknowledge Ms. Clifford’s snoring, but then Luna goes right back to smiling like a fool.

“You said you looove me,” she says, almost teasing.

Carol raises a brow with her arms crossed. “Uhm, what are you talking about?”

More smiles from Luna than a box of Goldfish. “This morning. When you were tearing into those goons. You said you love me.”

Carol takes a moment to think back to this morning, but she was so into the moment, it’s hard to tell what all she said.

So, it is possible that maybe she let a certain L word slip without realizing it, and without being ready. Because, when she finally does tell Luna, she wants it to be perfect!

Which, can’t happen now if she already did?!

“Did I?” Carol voices aloud. “Uhm- I mean- what? No I didn’t…” she stammers, totally convincingly.

“Pretty sure you said- and I quote, ‘I LOVE Luna,” her girlfriend recalls.

Oh no. “And I quote” she says.

As in, Carol did say it.

Which means, as per usual, everything is ruined, and she may as well find a nice U-Haul box to live in because life hates her.

“Uhm… Well…” she begins with apprehension, but she decides to snuff it down and put those now notorious big girl panties on.

“Okay, so maybe I said it. But I was caught in the moment! I thought those guys were laughing at me, and you, and if anyone has anything to say about you, I’ll totally end them, because you know how much I care about you, and I would want you to do the same for me, because things have been so perfect lately, and- well…”

Luna just smiles some more.

Carol sighs.

“Oh, what’s the use…”

She takes a deep breath, and scoots her chair in closer to Luna’s so that she can take her hand.

And she smiles back.

“Luna, it’s true. I… I love you,” she tells her, feelings all those familiar warm fuzzy feelings that Luna makes her feel.

But, Luna doesn’t say anything back. She just keeps smiling at her, almost mockingly now.

“Uhm, don’t you have something you’d like to say to me?” Carol morosely asks.

...

“Nope,” Luna brashly states as she folds her arms and turns to the side, still smiling.

Like, what the actual heck?

“What?!” Carol barks. “I literally just told you I love you, and you have nothing to say about it? Nothing?!”

“Nah,” Luna coolly responds.

Many colorful words come to mind for Carol, some of which she didn’t even think she was capable of associating with the girl she now admittedly loves.

Luna picks up on how she’s practically fuming, and starts easing on the teasing.

“Carol, seriously now… I… I’m really happy you love me,” she begins, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Carol relaxes a little as Luna removes it, and finally lets her stupid smirk wane. “The thing is… I just… I’m not ready to say that yet.”

On that fateful Thursday morning, Carol visualized being able to muster the strength to toss Luna out a window.

Today, she wants to toss herself out of one.

“It’s not that I don’t… I don’t… Uhm…” Luna starts again, but she stops herself as she becomes visibly frustrated.

“Let me put it this way. You remember how you told me after our first date that you set your expectations really high sometimes?” she asks Carol.

“Yeah…” she simply responds, still trying to work through everything she’s feeling.

“Well… I want it to be special when I do say it. I want it to be like, the coolest, awesomest way possible. I want you to be blown away, like… like...”

Luna struggles for a moment, but her face makes it obvious when she happily finds the right way to put it.

“I want it to be perfect… Like you.”

Just like that, with one little blurb, Carol does a complete 180 from ready to jump out a window, to ready to melt in her girlfriend’s arms like low-fat butter.

“Awwww… Luna!” she spazzes.

And Luna blushes. “I just need a little more time, okay?”

Carol just keeps gawking at her for a little while, trying to wrap her head around how she got lucky enough to find a girl like Luna.

But, she eases up on the gawking, and she contently nods her head before pulling out her spiral notebook of college ruled paper.

She looks to Ms. Clifford, who’s still napping, and then back to Luna, who rolls her her eyes.

“Come on, dude…”

Carol just smiles that same devious smile Luna is known for, and rips a sheet of paper from the bind before wadding it up into a ball.

Luna shakes her head. “Man, she’s like a hundred years-old. It’s not cool to keep doing this every time we get-”

Before she can finish, she gets a paper wad to the face, courtesy of Carol.

Luna just dumbfoundedly looks to her for a moment, waiting for things to get clicking up in her noggin.

“What? What were you gonna say? Every time we get what, poser?” Carol playfully says, basically challenging Luna to make a move.

She sneers, and grabs her own notebook. “Oh… It’s on.”

They proceed to keep ripping and tearing paper from their books, and bombarding one another with paper until the floor is almost covered with little white paper balls. And, of course, they’re laughing and smiling all the while.

During the commotion, something truly historic happens.

Ms. Clifford wakes up.

“Hey!” she hollers, catching the girls by surprise. They just freeze as they await what is sure to be the ferocious backlash of a woman scorned.

“Keep it down,” Ms. Clifford simply tells them, and then she falls back asleep almost as quickly as she woke up.

Luna and Carol just meet each other with the same look of confusion. But then…

“I’ve still got half a book left,” Luna says as another smile creeps on her face.

...

Carol just returns one of her own, and they get right back to their fun.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Ah, Bold Navy… Where a teenage girl can use her daddy’s credit card to just forget about this crazy world for a while and focus on the finer things in life, like…

“Huah! It can’t be!” Carol Pingrey gasps upon seeing the most marvelous thing since like, ever.

She rushes over to a white and grey striped sweater, but it’s not just any striped sweater, it’s a sweater with…

“Three-holed buttons! Ah! What a find!” she giddily exclaims, hugging the shirt tightly in her embrace.

Then, her phone buzzes.

She checks it, and it’s just stupid Becky asking for the answer to a stupid trig question for class.

It kind of spoils the moment. Not because stupid Becky, but because…

“Luna still hasn’t texted me today…” she bemoans.

She decides to finally cave in and just text her first, even if she makes it a rule not to be the person to text first two days in a row. And actually, because Luna is so special, she decides to just call her.

But almost immediately after pressing the green “call” button, she’s sent to voicemail.

“The heck?!”

*Hey, you’ve reached Luna Loud, dude. If this is a job offer or Gran Gran, then please leave your name, number, and a message, and I’ll be sure to get back to you. If this is for an Italians booking though… WE WILL ROCK YOU!*

“What the balls? Why does she have her phone off? Is she ignoring me?!” Carol thinks aloud.

Then, she feels it. That feeling when you know someone is staring at you.

She looks up from her phone to see a vaguely familiar girl with black hair and pale skin looking back to her with a morose expression.

They just look at one another for a moment, and Carol does a little double take before finally addressing her.

“Uhm… Can I help you?”

The girl sighs.

“What did the green grape say to the purple grape?” she asks in the least enthusiastic way imaginable.

Such confusion. Much wow.

“Uhm… What?!” is all Carol can think to say.

The girl sighs again, even more surly than the first time.

“Breathe.”

Carol just looks at her with the most flabbergasted of faces, and the girl just meets her with cold apathy, like even she’s annoyed.

“No!” a familiar voice calls out from behind Carol. She turns back to see none other than Luan Loud, who is apparently frustrated as she trudges over all hoity toity.

“You were supposed to say: ‘breathe, stupid!’ The whole point of the punchline is the ‘stupid’ part! That’s what makes it funny!... Get it?” she scolds the emo girl.

“Mmm, it’s stupid. Got it,” Vampire of Melancholia retorts.

Luan sharply glares at her, then smiles at Carol, “Hi, Carol.”

She doesn’t smile back, because this whole thing just feels too weird.

“Uhm… Hey Luan.”

She decides to disregard spooky to get to the bottom of things regarding Luna. Who better to ask what’s up with her than her roommate?

“Listen Luan, I’ve been trying to get a hold of Luna, I haven’t heard from her all day. I was wondering if maybe you talked to her? I don’t think she had a gig today, or if she did, she didn’t tell me about it. Which, if she did, and she didn’t, then I’m really gonna let her know just how I feel about it by acquainting my foot with her-”

Before she can finish, she’s struck in the head with a cartoonishly big mallet, which Luan was somehow able to hide on her person. She just smiles as Carol gets all dizzy, then faints into the emo girls arms.

“Ha ha ha! Sorry to put the hammer down, Carol; but don’t worry! I don’t think you’ll be sore with me when you wake up!” Luan jokes with a smile.

Spooky doesn’t flinch. It’s like she’s incapable of feeling anything.

“Load her up, Maggie,” Luan instructs as she proudly flings her ridiculously large mallet over her shoulder.

“Stop calling me,” Maggie bluntly states.

-----------------------

Carol comes to, and finds herself in what would appear to be the shotgun seat of a moving vehicle.

“Nuhh… What happened?” she thinks aloud as she tries to convalesce.

She looks to her left, and sees Luan driving.

She does a double take to make sure this is really real, and, well… She doesn’t see any pigs flying in the rearview mirror.

“Luan? What the heck is going on?! Why do you have me tied up in this van, where did you get a van, and why are you driving a van?!”

“First, you’re not tied up,” Luan imperturbably points out.

“You know what I mean,” Carol retorts, petulantly crossing her arms.

“Second, don’t ask scary questions; you’ll get scary answers,” Luan continues. “And third, I can’t get into it… I have avandonment issues, hahaha! Oh I kill me…”

Carol raises her brow. “Uhm… You’re not planning on doing anything like that to me are you?”

“What? Come on… Just because I’d force a person into my van doesn’t mean I’d hurt them,” Luan asserts with a smile. This is all just another joke to her, apparently.

“You hit me in the head with a mallet!” Carol reminds her.

“Oh. Well you really hammered me on that one, hahaha!” Luan jokes.

“You even used that same pun when you did it!” Carol complains.

“I did? Oh… Dang. I guess I need to work on my act. And here I thought I was a pundit. Ha! Zing!”

Carol rolls her eyes and leans against the car door. “You know what? Go ahead and kill me,” she quips.

...

“For real though. Where are you taking me? Is this part of one of your stupid pranks? April Fool’s is a little ways off,” Carol inquires.

“I can’t say anything, or it will spoil the surprise. Believe me, there are a lot more jokes I could make right now, and I’m doing the best I can to be cool about it,” Luan solemnly states.

But then she allows her lips to curve into another devious grin.

“Ah, but lucky me. We’re almost here!” she says.

“Okay, where’s here? And who was that chick with the black hair? And, you know what- I’m pretty sure this whole thing is illegal,” Carol points out.

Just then, her cranium is reintroduced to Mr. Mallet, and like before, she’s knocked out colder than a leftover hushpuppy.

“Ooo… That’s gotta hurt,” Luan winces. “I gotta say though; is that mall-et takes to shut you up? Hahaha!”

She looks at her reflection in the rearview.

“Wow I am one messed up cookie... Oh well. At least I’m using my powers for good instead of evil this time… Or something like that.”

“...Also, I should really stop talking to myself so much.”

-----------------------

It’s dark.

Like, an empty, pitch-black dark. All around. Carol can’t see anything.

“Ugh… Where am I?” she thinks aloud.

She can feel this odd mist at her feet, and suddenly, a big, bright light kicks on before her.

She shields her eyes from the sudden attack of illumination, but slowly moves her hand away as she looks to whatever beholds her.

It’s a stage, and the lights are coming from the rafters above. The mist at her feet is a white fog.

Apparently, she’s seated in the front row of what would seem to be the Royal Woods High auditorium. There are all these lights speckled across the place, almost like stars in a night sky.

“O...kay?”

...

A humming sound gradually gains volume, until it’s generating a steady buzz all around her.

She looks back to the stage, and finds that there is a platform rising up from the center of the stage.

...

On the platform is none other than Luna Loud, wielding an acoustic guitar.

Carol just looks at her with this dumbfounded expression, and rubs her eyes to make sure she’s really seeing this.

Luna just smiles at her though, and lightly strums the strings of her guitar to make sure they’re in tune. It would seem they are, and she straightens herself up on the stool she’s sitting on.

Carol can’t help but just watch on with all of these conflicting, confusing feelings swirling around in her head and chest. Her mind wants to be concerned, but seeing Luna smile the way she does…

Her heart tells her she’s in for something special.

The silence is broken as Luna begins strumming along to a B chord, and she begins to sing in a soothing voice.

“You’re the star to my moon, the girl I adore… The reason I smile, I just can’t ignore…”

“A comfortable distance, but too far away… I’ll reach out my hand, and ask you to stay…”

“‘l’ll say it loud for the whole world to hear, I want to make it perfectly clear…”

“She’s the girl of my dreams… My crazy rock and roll dreams…”

...

And Carol, poor Carol… It’s the most amazing thing she’s ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Luna Loud, the girl she loves, up on stage singing a song just for her.

And she looks so beautiful as she does it. Her smile, her hair, her freckles, her eyes… Those dastardly brown eyes…

“You’re the song that I sing, the rhythm and rhyme… The reason I smile, all of the time…”

“Detention and midterms, and snakes in the grass… None of that matters, we’re still gonna last…”

“You’re the best thing to happen to me, and I just want the whole world to see…”

“You’re the girl of my dreams… My crazy rock and roll dreams…”

Luna puts her guitar to the side, and the song picks up over the PA system. She then stands up, and makes her way to the edge of the stage.

And she reaches her hand out.

Carol just watches on, frozen, until she hears some “pssting” from behind her.

She turns back, and sees Lori, Leni, Luan, Lynn, Lincoln, Lucy, Lana, Lola, Lisa, and even Lily Loud all smiling at her.

“Go to her,” Lori, her BFF, whispers.

Carol just smiles back, disregarding the unusual circumstances that brought them all here to this very moment.

She doesn’t care anymore. She’s finally made all of her dreams come true.

Well… Almost…

So, she looks back up to Luna, and, with just the slightest hesitation, takes her hand.

 Luna gently helps her up on the stage, and they just smile at one another. Without a word, Luna reaches her hand out again, this time inviting Carol to dance with her.

She doesn’t hesitate to accept.

They waltz along to a the music around them, harmonizing with the melody. Carol can feel her fluttering heart relaxing, and her breaths becoming heavier. Luna’s fingers are smooth and nimble enough that, at first, she doesn’t even notice them against her hip.

But she comes to realize just how warm and comforting they are, just like the soft hand she’s joined with her own.

And then, they meet eyes.

...

Luna’s smile now pleas for absolute trust, conveying the sincerest of intentions. Her cheeks are just a little rosy with the chiaroscuro of the stage, and her brown eyes are glossy and full of mirth.

They actually, seriously, literally are twinkling.

It’s all so perfect, just like that dream she had on that night that seems like a lifetime ago.

And, just like that dream, it makes Carol feel this swelling in her chest, the same wonderful sensation she didn’t understand then she always wanted, but realizes now she’s always needed.

In fact, it’s almost exactly like the dream. No, this isn’t some golden fancy schmancy ballroom. No, these aren’t real stars they dance under. And no, there weren’t ten other people watching with almost cringey shipping smiles.

Carol’s in jeans, Luna’s in her favorite skully tee. And yes, she’s wearing those ridiculous paperclip earrings.

But, here and now, Carol realizes that she wouldn't have it any other way.

After letting herself rest her head on Luna’s warm collar for a little while, Carol looks back into her eyes.

Luna meets them with that same trust, that same wonder, that same twinkling.

“I love you, Carol.”

And, that’s it.

Things are officially perfect.

“I love you too, Luna,” she answers, and they lean in for a passionate kiss.

There was a time that Carol Pingrey thought she could have anything she wanted. That was before Luna came along.

Now, only one thing matters.

Carol loves Luna, and Luna loves Carol.

THE END.

 

Chapter Text

Well true believers, here we are. The Final Farewell Fic Address for Carol Likes Luna. Words can hardly describe how great it was to share this story with all of you, but I’ll try with some of my notoriously long winded author’s notes.

This is especially long winded, so if you don't want to read, I won't hate you. But I'll hopefully answer all of your burning questions with this puppy, so it might be fruitful to give it a skim.

...

Before we even get started with actually addressing things, let’s get the mushy stuff out of the way. I want to say, from the bottom of my heart: thank you all so much for reading this story. If there was no internet, I’d write pen and paper fiction like I did back before discovering this site, because I love expressing myself through creative writing and storytelling. But, I have to say, it feels very, very good to share what you love to do with people who are passionate about the same things. I love you all for reading, and I love you all for writing your own stories. ‘Specially you Luaggie and Saluna shippers;)

(Except now I’ve gone Caroluna, and I can't go back. We'll get to that later though.)

I also want to thank everyone over at Nickelodeon for making this all possible (not that anybody there’s reading this, but if you are, PLEASE HIRE ME!) Get ahold of yourself, Pillow Man.

For reals, I love The Loud House. It’s become such a huge part of my life, and I honestly don’t know how I could go without it at this point. It means so much to me.

And uh, yeah… I do not own The Loud House. I do not wish to seek any profit for my cringey fanfiction, just comments and reviews from other people so I feel cool.

Also, I want to thank all the artists’ whose music I referenced in this story. If writing is my bread, music is my butter, and I love putting the two together. Just like above, I do not own any of the songs referenced in this story, and I only used them for entertainment purposes. No money was made here.

Okay, I have a quick blurb to make about the last chapter. I originally intended for Luna to serenade “When The Stars Go Blue” by Tim McGraw (which is an awesome song), but, after some reconsideration, I decided to nix that and go with another rendition of “Crazy Rock and Roll Dream,” this one being a slower acoustic version. I actually play it on my guitar in the same key as “The Only Exception” by Paramore, so, yeah. There’s two more bonus song suggestions for you guys;p

Let’s move on to the juicy stuff that makes a SOFTA worthwhile (You know, the stuff you guys actually might care about). I think the best place to start would be with the thing you all brought up throughout the story in your reviews and comments.

Sam Sharp. Yeah, I knew what I was doing making ya’ll think there’d be a love triangle, or having Luna like Sam instead of Carol;) But, ultimately, I’m happy with how this bad boy turned out. Was it perfect? No. Will some people wish I would’ve done something along those lines? Maybe. But again, I’m happy with how things worked out for Caroluna. Of course, feel free to let me know what you think with a comment or review.

Also, you're all probably wondering what the nature of Sam and Luna’s relationship is in this story. Are they just friends? Ex girlfriends? Did they ever even take a step forward after Luna sent that letter?

Well, guess what? It's up to you to decide. No seriously. Some of you may hate me for that, but hear me out. I spent hours trying to think of what the best scenario would be for Luna and Sam to end up where they are now, probably some of the very same scenarios you all thought of too. But at the end of the day, I decided it would be best to leave it as ambiguous as possible- going as far as not to even reference the events of “L is For Love” (the TLH episode, not the Fletnix movie). I did this because it allows you, the reader, to decide for yourself what happened between Sam and Luna. This way, you can't be wrong.

That being said, I’d love to hear your guys’ take on the matter. It could make for some fun discussion:)

Now, let’s talk Mr. and Mrs. Pingrey. Basically, what I feel is important to say, is that I never intended for either of them to have an actual “appearance” in this story. Why? Because A), I don’t wanna be jossed by a future TLH episode, and B) because I wanted Carol’s life to pretty much revolve around Luna. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had good reasons for mentioning them and blah blah blah, but I know some of you may be disappointed that I didn’t make a “coming out talk scene” with either them or Luna’s parents.

The thing is, there are so many stories on this site that do that already, and I did scenes like that in “Luna is Strange,” I think maybe three or four in total XD. So, sorry to say, the reason I didn’t do one in this story is because, my heart wouldn’t be into it. So that’s why I basically just summarized how all that stuff happened with that one paragraph in Chapter 32.

Now, I know some of you may be wondering what’s next for the Pillow franchise. Well, let me start by saying, the next time I write something that’s longer than 50k words, I’m publishing it and making tons of moneys. That way I can retire early and spend the rest of my days writing until I go nuts like Jack Torrance.

Until then, for the time being, I would like to start taking on “smaller” projects. One shots, short stories, things like that. I might even work with suggestions/requests, but know that it has to be something that “speaks to me.” So don’t be butthurt if I turn you down, it’s nothing personal.

Also, I am done with this story. I’m really happy with how it turned out, if I’m being totally honest, and I just don’t think there’s any point in going any further with it. Luna and Carol are happy, what else is there to say? (Plus, I just don’t have any more ideas for the thing XD).

I would like to definitely include Carol in my future works, and maybe even Caroluna, and I'll elaborate on that point in a moment. However, I would love to see someone else come up with some Caroluny goodness, whether it’s some sort of “spin” on this story, or something else with the two being an item. I know I ain’t the only one who loves the Moonsong;)

...

That all being said, I got some decent feedback for “Switching Teams.” So, I’m pleased to announce that I am making a second chapter for it. (“I'll hang here with Jesse’s girl” is my greatest writing feat to date). I think I’d like to turn it into a series of one-shots, kind of like what The gamemann and LoudAutomata16 are doing right now with their (wonderful) stories.

 I’ve got a couple ideas for it, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’m leaning towards integrating my love of pro wrestling into it at some point though, just sayin’, and maybe borrowing from fellow authors who were generous enough to share their ideas with me;)

I also think that, if I do turn this into a multi-chapter thing, it will fit into the same canon as Carol Likes Luna, and Luna would be with Carol as opposed to Sam. Let me know how that makes you guys feel. I’d like to do this because Paulynn and Caroluna probably won’t ever be part of the show IRL, and I love these pairings. But, if you’d rather see Saluna than Caroluna, that’s cool too. I aim to please:)

In other words, Switching Teams could also SORT OF become a successor to Carol Likes Luna. I might even have Izzy from “The Gift” make an appearance since she’s become so popular;)

Anyway, feel free to tell me what you’d like to see from this story. Maybe you guys can motivate me to take the ball and run with (haha, get it?:D)

...

I also have a few surprises in store for the future, which basically translates to: “I have story ideas written down, but I might not get to them because they’re a lot more work than I realize.” I will say though, I’ve taken what you guys said about the story ideas I listed in my last SOFTA into consideration, so it’s not like that was totally pointless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: just stay tuned for more. I still got some fight left in me:)

On a somewhat related note, I had considered posting a forum on here (not a story, a forum. FFN actually has those, in case you didn’t know) where people can post story ideas that they would like to see adopted, kind of like I’ve done in the past with these SOFTAs. However, I checked out what TLH forums there are, and the place is more desolate and miserable than the reviews page for my Rick/Negan drabble we’re going to pretend didn’t happen.

So, basically, if this is something you guys might actually be interested in, let me know, but if nobody cares, I’m not gonna bother.

Anyway, let’s move on to the next thing.

I gotta give another shout out to my boy Heitomos. He beta read this puppy, and is just an all around G. For every success this story achieved, I have to thank him for his encouragement and support, because it was invaluable. Thanks, homie.

So… I bet you all probably think Mr. Sunderland was a self insert, don’t you? Hahaha, WRONG.

Okay, so he was. But, I will say, I’ve never stuck my hand down a toilet, and I haven’t cheated on my wife. I don’t even have a wife… Still holding out for Emma;p

I also kind of integrated characteristics of James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2 (what? no way) and Mr. Jefferson from Life is Strange into the character. I wanted you to really like him in the beginning, then really hate him when it was all over. My guess is I accomplished this.

And I swear I’m not really so egotistical in real life, people. I’m kind of trying a Stephen Colbert type thing. (Yeah right, Pillow. You’re such a nub).

Now, I’m gonna sort of reflect on some things, but before I get too far, let me say that, I’d love to hear what some of your favorite parts of this story were. I can also handle hearing things you wish would have been better, or things you downright hated. Again, I can handle it.

Let me start by saying, of all the characters I’ve written about over the years, Carol Pingrey has become my favorite. With Luan and Luna (Wanderers and Luna is Strange), I was basically just being myself, throwing in puns and references to classic rock when I could. But with Carol, I was turning myself into the one thing I could probably never be: a stereotypical popular teenage white girl who could get anything she wants. It was a lot of fun starting off as just being this total bitch and having her hate on everyone, then just become this totally neurotic mess about whether a girl likes her or not. And I’d like to think I did a good job of having her find some redemption through her love of Luna.

As far as favorite parts of the story, there are literally too many to name. But, if I have to give you one moment, I’ll say it has to be when Carol finally admits to herself, and Lori, that she likes Luna. Those three or four chapters where Luna was at her house were just too fun to write, and I hope you guys liked them as well. Other than that, I basically liked writing everything fluffy between her and Lunes. I know, shocker, right?

The scene with all the siblings coming into the kitchen and finding out one-by-one how Carol likes Luna (I love title drops) was another favorite, because I just love writing scenes where I can give every Loud sibling a moment to shine. I really do like all the characters in the show, and I like exploring the dynamics of X and X relationships amongst them. (How many times do I have to say I hate Loudcest? Don’t make me explain myself again, you know what I mean).

I will admit I wish I could’ve wrote the violin/talent show scenes better, but I just couldn’t find the magic, so to speak. I don’t know, sometimes things play out so well in my head, but I just can’t seem to make them work on paper. Sometimes I think I’d make a better screenplay writer than an author.  I’m sure my fellow writers understand though.

Okay, I’m rambling now, so I should stop and move on to the next thing. Again, if there’s something you really wanna know and I overlooked it, hit me up;p

...

Finally, I have to confess, a big influence for this story is my all-time favorite fic, “Saving Victoria Chase (Over and Over Again)” by cinnamonsnaps over on Archive of Our Own. Go read it, it’s super freaking cute and funny. If you don’t know anything about Life is Strange, that’s what Google’s for. Google is your friend.

...

Well, that’s it for Carol Likes Luna, folks. It was so much fun to share this with you all, and I’m super happy that you seemed to enjoy it. Carol Pingrey may not mean much to most of the world, but she sure means a heck of a lot to me:)

Before I mark this thing “complete,” I will be reposting the first SOFTA, just for the sake of posterity. I will also be posting an alternate version of Chapter 18, and you’ll just have to wait and see what that’s about;) After that, this thing is getting a green checkmark.

If you’re really aching to get some more of the Pillow Man, feel free to check out my other TLH works: “Luna is Strange” and it’s sister story “Lynn Loud: Unplugged,” “Wanderers: The Loud House/Silent Hill Crossover,” “Switching Teams,” and “The Gift.” You can find them all on FFN and Archive of Our Own.

As always, I definitely appreciate feedback of all kinds. Constructive criticism, praise, words of encouragement, telling me I’m the biggest POS to ever write fiction- it all helps me in the long run. Feel free to PM me on FFN, or ask questions in a comment or review. I tend to always respond.

Thanks again, guys and girls. Hopefully we’ll all see each other again sooner than later, and hopefully you won’t have to endure forty years of slow burn just for a stupid kiss next time;D

...

Until then, au revoir.

-Cody.

 

Chapter Text

UPDATE: As of this writing, Carol Likes Luna is a complete story. This fic address was written during the publishing of the story, and really, a lot of it is no longer relevant. However, I have decided to repost it anyway, because some questions you may have you could answered here, or at the very least, you’ll get a quiet snort-laugh out of some of my wit.

 

Hey guys, I’ve got kind of a lot to say, so I decided to post an official State of the Fic Address today. Basically, for those of you new to this, I’m gonna share some updates regarding the future of the JamesSunderlandsPillow brand and this story.

Before I get into it though, I feel like I should say IT’S A GOOD THING. No bad news today. Just have a lot I wanna discuss with you guys. So don’t go freaking out and having a heart attack on me, because then you’d be dead, and you’re no good to me dead. And I’d miss you guys:(

...

Also, about the end of the last chapter, it took everything I had not to put “Good night, Moon.” I can appreciate a good pun ending.

...

Okay, so first of all, something I think you would all benefit from knowing is that, for the first time in a long time, I have a story where I’m almost caught up with my buffer. In other words, throughout writing this story, I had several chapters finished before posting, so I was writing ahead of what you guys were reading. That make sense?

That might not the case anymore here soon though, because I’ve been so stupid busy. So I’d be where you guys are at, and you’d be where I’m at. This means updates could be slower and less consistent, unless I start doing cocaine and stop sleeping. But I’m poor, so that’s unlikely.

Don’t fret though. I will finish this thing, or my name isn’t James! (It’s funny because my name’s not really James;p)

But seriously, be patient with me, and you’ll be rewarded with creamy, fluffy goodness. Thing’s are gonna get good here in the upcoming weeks.

Now, this doesn’t really have anything to do with this story, but my Paula/Lynn fic got some decent feedback. A couple people asked for a sequel, and I can tell you that, I am considering one. However, I really don’t want to write anything else until I make some progress on this story, so if or when I do make a follow up to “Switching Teams,” it won’t be for a little while.

Of course, nothing is stopping any of you from writing your own Paulynn fics;)

Another thing, I have a story idea that I really like, but I don’t think I can pull it off. I don’t know why I bother sharing, no one ever writes anything I suggest, so I just end up doing it myself or letting it sink into oblivion with all of Lucy’s hopes and dreams, but I digress…

Okay, so I had the idea to write a story from the perspective of the Loud parents, because I find it amazing that two people with full time jobs and tenteen kids can still love each other. Relationship goals, amirite?

But, then I decided to take the idea a step further. What if every chapter focused on their relationship throughout different milestones of the Loud family’s anthology? Like, the first chapter focuses on the two falling in love, the second focuses on Lori’s birth, the third Leni’s, the fourth Luna’s, and so on and so forth. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, all that happy horse could be explored in chapters. I don’t know, just an idea I’d like to see someone work with, and it probably won’t happen, but at least I’m trying to sell the idea, right?

I also still wanna see a Loud House version of Snakes on a Plane. You people all know it’s money.

Now, this next bit is just me thinking out loud (pun sort of intended). What’s next after I finish this Carol Likes Luna thing?

Well, I have some ideas. As I’ve stated, I don’t know that I’ll write another “novel” work. A lot could happen between now and the end of this story. Right now, my plan is to start taking on smaller projects, like one-shots and maybe even taking requests. I had a lot of fun working with Invader Johnny on “Too Close For Comfort,” and I’d like to try something like that again when I have less work on my plate.

But… I do have one “big” idea that goes back to Paula/Lynn, that would probably end up being novel sized. Basically, it would be about Lynn being a WWE Superstar, and her life behind the scenes, and maybe falling in love with a certain blonde haired girl in the process of trying to become a champion;p But, if nobody gives a hoot about that idea, it’s kind of hard for me to give a hoot too. But that’s why I’m throwing it out there, to see what you guys think.

Speaking of that, here are some one-shot/short story ideas I am considering for you all to think about. Let me know if any interest you, please.

  1. Sixteen year-old Lola competing in the Junior Miss Royal Woods pageant against her rival Lindsay Sweetwater. And yes, it would be similar to this story:) I don’t know that I’d make it a yuri fic or not, but we’ll see. That’s IF I do it.
  2. Luan and Maggie decide to “trade places” so to speak. Luan goes goth, Maggie tries comedy. Maybe as a bet, maybe some other 80s sitcom plot device. Not sure yet.
  3. A Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends/Loud House crossover. Nuff said, and this one is basically already a work in progress.
  4. Leni starts dating someone online, then the Louds take a road trip to go meet the fella. (What? Pillow doing a boy/girl story?! Preposterous!) And no, it would NOT be a self-insert OC. I’m better than that, people. I actually almost wrote this over CLL, and even have an outline for it, but I dunno.
  5. “Dinosaur Crisis” Dinosaurs come to Royal Woods and tear it up after Lisa does science. An idea loosely based off of “Dino Crisis,” which is like, the best game ever. If I do this, don’t take it too seriously XD.

That’s all. Again, please let me know if any interest you. If not, then down to the abyss they go:)

Now, this next topic I am a little apprehensive to discuss, because then I might get peoples hopes up, and then they'll expect more from me (me in a nutshell). But whatevs.

How would guys feel about a “Loud House fiction awards” so to speak? I've been thinking of ideas on how I could start something like this, but I wouldn't want to be solely responsible for it either. The Kim Possible fandom has “The Fannies,” and that's where I got this idea to try something similar. I don't know, just thought I'd throw it out there and see what you guys think.

...

Finally, I have to give a shoutout to my good friend, Heitomos. You guys seriously have no idea just how important he has been to the development of this story, and really everything I’ve been doing since Wanderers. He’s my beta reader, which means that you should be thanking him for everything good about this story, and blaming him for everything bad. Something like that;)

Seriously though, he rocks. Thanks, H.

...

That’s really all I have for you guys at the moment. Hopefully you took something valuable away from this, otherwise, I’m just some jerk with a keyboard who thinks people give a hoot what I think.

I’m gonna wait a week to update again, even though I do have Chapter 21 done. I’m waiting because I want to make sure everyone who wants to read this gets a chance before I delete it, and maybe I can beef up the buffer a bit in the interim, hopefully anyway.

Two final quick blurbs, feel free to share violin music suggestions, and if you haven’t read the Loud House graphic novels, get on Amazon and buy that shiz. Show the show some love by throwing your money its way;p

 ...

Thanks for your continued support guys. Please stay tuned, and god bless you.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Just what's so special about the special soup?” Carol Pingrey thinks as she follows Luna into the Loud house kitchen.

All thirteen Louds, and their apparent regular guest in Clyde, ritualistically huddle around and converse amongst each other as they get servings of the so-called “special soup.” The labeling of “special soup” from Luna threw Carol off the first time she heard it, and she hasn't been able to shake off her suspicion since then.

While the others are all engaging in casual conversation about miscellaneous topics, Carol and her beloved Luna are silent. Despite the nice, fairly intimate moment they shared a short while ago, the former can't help but feel like anything she could possibly say would be forced and awkward.

So she decides it's probably best to say nothing… which gives her ample opportunity to overthink the soup.

...

Yes, she's about to have a home cooked meal, and the prospect would make her joyful in a normal setting. Given her lack of one since Mom and Dad opened the studio, however, and it’s bittersweet.

On top of that, there are fourteen of them, and one little her. Sure, they're all smiling (except for creepy Lucy), but just why are they so happy? Is the soup really that great? So great that Luna would use it as her excuse to invite Carol over?

But what about the way her family is getting to her, and the way she kept apologizing? Surely she anticipated that to a degree- she even said so in the car. So, the soup must be worth the trouble of hanging out here as opposed to casa Pingrey.

“But why?!”

...

She is finally next in line, just after Luna, to get a helping. Luna briefly turns and smiles to her, then goes about her way in getting a seat at the dining table.

She looks to the pot full of what she’s hoping is non-GMO hamburger and hopefully organic cooked vegetables, and the tantalizing aroma glides its way into her nostrils.

“Oh man… That smells… Good…” she thinks as she disregards her antipathy and scoops up a hardy helping.

“Okay Carol, lighten up. It's just soup? And I'm sure it IS worth whatever trouble for Luna to invite me over. It has to be! She likes me too, right?” she tells herself as she goes to have a seat at the table by her inamorata.

As she sits, Luna meets her with another little smile, and Carol smiles back.

“Right.”

She sees all the other Louds sitting and getting settled in, all with little grins of their own as they continue conversation. The mother and father are talking to one another- almost whispering, and then they look to their new guest.

“That’s Carol,” Mrs. Rita Loud tells him with a smile.

“Ahhhh…” Mr. Lynn Loud, Sr. responds with a wide smile of his own, likes he's heard about her before. “Well hello, Carol.”

She can't help but glance to Luna, maybe just for a little comfort. Again, she smiles for her, and again, she smiles back.

“Hello Mr. Loud. Thank you for having me,” well-mannered Carol tells him back.

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all…” he follows.

“Yeah! We’ve heard everything about you from Lori!” Leni excitedly proclaims. Then she leans over to whisper for only her to hear. “Sorry to hear you got that stick up your butt. It had to hurt being up there for so long, huh?…”

Despite her efforts, everyone hears her.

....

Carol furrows her brow. “Excuse me?”

Luna nervously cringes, and so does Lori. “Heh heh… how about them Roosters?”

Lynn is ready to jump up and share her two cents on the sporting matter, but Lisa stops her. “It’s a manner of speaking,” she informs her older sister, who promptly sits back down.

Luna leans in from her other side, “That was before you called her and apologized,” she whispers.

“What?! I- heh heh, I didn't call her and apologize?” Carol stammers, feeling totally, unfairly caught off guard.

“Huh? But Lori said you’d need an operation to get the big stick out of your-” Leni starts up, but Lori smacks a hand over her mouth.

“Let’s not dwell on the past… We’ve got this- beautiful meal to look forward to!... Right, Carol?” she contends, really just checking to see if Carol hates her now.

Under different circumstances, ones where gorgeous Luna and her lovely family aren’t present, Carol may take exception to the new information.

But, she decides that Lori’s right. The past is the past…

Plus, she’s kind weirded out about how everyone’s so interested in the soup. Like, really interested.

It’d be fine if maybe they’d stop staring at her and dig in… but, they don’t. They just… keep… staring… smiling these creepy wide-eyed smiles like they’re waiting for a black hole sun to wash away the rain.

Carol tenses up. “O-kay… This is awkward…”

She turns to Luna, who’s smiling the same weird smile. “Well?”

“Well what?” Carol simply utters.

“Aren’t you gonna eat?”

She looks down to her soup, and feels the warmth rising up to ghost her face.

“Uhm… Yeah…”

She takes hold of her spoon, and sees everyone still looking at her. She suddenly feels very uncomfortable sitting here with all of them.

Especially Clyde. Clyde weirds her out.

“Your soup’s going to get cold, Carol. You really should take a bite!” Mr. Loud giddily tells her.

“Pleeeeease!” Both twins say, even clasping their hands together as they beg…

 

Carol feels her hand quivering as she picks up the spoon and eases it to the rim of her bowl. Despite the warmth from the dish, she feels cold and clammy.

“Maybe I should just go home…”

“Uhm… I think maybe I left the oven on,” Carol fibs, trying to think of an escape.

Before she can make too much haste, Luna Loud rests her soft hand on her thigh.

Her breath hitches, and she almost drops her spoon.

She wanders her eyes down to see if the hand is really there, and it really is.

“Holy…”

Luna leans in, and with an alluring smile, whispers:

“Come on, babe… For me?”

“Babe?”

She forces herself to come back to reality to meet her deep brown eyes looking back to her with this irresistibly striking gaze. It’s almost too much for poor Ms. Pingrey.

“Anything for you, Luna…” she wants to say, but she’s literally dumbed by the gesture.

So, instead she dips her spoon into the soup, and scoops up a nice chunk of the stuff. As she does, Luna leans over and blows on it, all while fixing her eyes on Carol.

If there weren’t children in the room~

Finally, the girl takes a bite of the soup. It tastes as good as it smells.

“Mmmmm…” she happily hums, looking up to see all the Louds still smiling.

Only… something’s changed.

Where they were just creepily eager with their beaming smiles, now they’re sinisterly sneering.

“Uh oh,” Carol thinks. Uh oh indeed.

She turns to face Luna, and she looks just as devious. She chuckles to herself. “Sorry, dude… I should’ve told you it’s Dad’s special sleepy soup…”

She feels her heart begin to race, and actually drops the spoon now as she realizes just what this means for her.

She stands up from her chair, and grasps her chest as the others begin evilly laughing.

“Nighty night, Carol!” Lori taunts.

“Poo… Poo!” baby Lily says with a demonic voice.

The room begins spinning and turns black, and her head grows heavy and hazy. All the faces around her are so mean and scary, and she feels sick with betrayal and fear. “No… Please no…”

She looks to Luna again, who actually meets her with a look of concern, maybe even confusion.

“Dude? Dude…”

-----------------------

She comes to, and realizes that she literally just imagined all of that weird Texas Chainsaw stuff.

“Dude?” she hears Luna say again, and she looks to her. It’s the real Luna, with real concern on her face. “Are you okay?”

She takes a moment to look around at everyone, and they’re all minding their own and engaging in further casual conversation as they chow down on the special soup that evidently doesn’t make people go crazy.

Even weird ol’ Clyde seems well enough.

She fully convalesces now, and returns her focus to Luna.

“Uhm… Yeah… I’m fine…” she simply says, and she looks back down to her soup. It’s still warm.

“What was I thinking?... I should trust Luna enough to know she wouldn’t do anything to hurt me… God, Carol… Get over yourself!…”

She bucks up, and grabs hold of her spoon for real now. She glances over at Luna, who’s casually eating her dinner.

It’s all the motivation she needs to actually take a bite of what is almost certainly a normal and delicious family meal. So she does. And lo and behold, it’s some pretty darn good soup.

“Mmmm…” she hums for real now, “This is very good, Mr. Loud.”

“Nmm, why thank you,” he reciprocates with a cheek full of the stuff.

She looks once more to Luna, who just looks back with another sweet little smile.

“The part where she called me babe was nice though…”

She just smiles back before relaxing enough to enjoy her meal.

The minutes go by, and it allows Carol some time to just observe what it’s like to be a member of the Loud family for an evening. Everyone takes turns talking about their day, sharing stories about friends, extracurricular activities, and showing genuine interest in each other’s lives with comments and questions. There’s a lot of smiling, and quite a few laughs from every chair, including both Carol’s and Luna’s.

But as their guest reaches the bottom of her bowl, this sullen feeling comes to her. Even though Lynn, Sr. and Lynn, Jr. have both done well to acknowledge her presence with some questions about golf and the two girls’ journalism project, she feels like something is missing.

Her eyes make their way over to Lily being fed by her mother from her high chair. The way the child brightly smiles, and the way Mrs. Loud smiles back at her with this rosiness in her cheeks…

It makes her miss having a family of her own…

She checks her phone, just to see if maybe Mom or Dad has tried to call or text. Unsurprisingly, neither one could be bothered.

She quietly sighs to herself, accepting that things won’t be like they were before- probably ever again.

But when she sees that baby’s smile, the way all these people love each other, and the stup- beautiful freckled face of the girl she likes…

She smiles at the thought that, it can be better.

-----------------------

It’s a miracle… Carol finally helps Luna finish her Trigonometry homework.

The two teenagers stole away to the garage after finishing their special soup- without incident. After some awkward small talk about the weather of all things, Carol got busy helping Luna work through her cosines and tangents, thankful that she could focus on math and not… other things…

After completing the final exercise for the assignment, both girls stand up from their padded spot on the floor and stretch.

“Dude… Thanks so much for helping me. I mean, the numbers I understand- it’s all the other crazy stuff that bugs me out,” Luna tells Carol.

“Hey, it’s no big. It’d help if we didn’t have such a crappy teacher,” Carol quips with a snarky scoff.

“Right,” Luna simply agrees, and they share a weak little laugh before the infamous awkward silence makes itself known.

Carol rubs her arm, Luna rubs her neck. They look anywhere but to each other.

Luckily for Carol, it’s Luna to speak first.

“So…”

“So…” Carol repeats with a little shrug.

Luna rubs her neck again, and paces around a little before following up.

“Uhm… So what are you gonna do for the rest of the night?... I mean, are you like- heading out soon?”

“Oh…” Carol voices, just sort of letting it out.

“Do I have to go home?”

No matter how hard she tries, she just can’t meet her brown eyes. It just makes her too nervous.

“Well…” she begins, rubbing the back of her neck now. “I actually hadn’t thought about it…”

Why would she? This was the only thing she had to look forward to: soup and Luna. And now… just like their- whatever it was on Saturday, this too is coming to an end. No more Alan Jackson, no more being weirded out by Clyde, no more mushy apologies that lead to skin-to-skin contact…

No more Luna… Just Carol alone with her thoughts in her big empty house.

But, as much as it sucks, she tells herself that she should just try to enjoy what time she has left this evening with her new favorite person.

“I guess I’ll probably just- go home and watch a movie or something… Maybe get caught up on homework…” she tells Luna, trying to stay strong.

“Oh…” Luna simply responds with… not very much excitement.

Carol waits for more, but she says nothing else. Luna just looks to the floor, fidgeting her hands together like… like maybe she wishes she could say something else, but she can’t.

It makes Carol feel like she needs to say something else, something perfect to just let Luna know how she feels- everything she feels.

But she knows she can’t. It’s all so sudden, and if she tried, she’d likely just say something stupid and ruin the image Luna has of her.

Still, she knows she has to say more, even if she’s falling apart at the seams.

“I uh- doubt my Mom and Dad will come home. So I’ll have time for that stuff… And… I don’t think any of my friends will wanna see me… So…”

Luna just nervously winces what’s supposed to be a smile.

“I’m blowing this… Why the heck did I even bring that up?... She doesn’t wanna hear about my problems…”

“Why- Why do you say that?” Luna says with a stutter. “I mean, did something happen, or what?”

Carol looks to her, despite the trepidation. “Or… does she?”

She thinks it over for a moment. “Maybe she’s just asking to be nice. Or she wants to know me better… Maybe she doesn’t really want me to go either, and this is just her way of keeping conversation going… Ugh, I don’t know… But I honestly don’t even care. She’s asking, and that’s good enough for me…”

“Man… This is gonna be hard. I’ll come off as some kind of hypocrite or something. And what if she gets- turned off? Like, I don’t want her to think I’m asking for a pity party…”

And because of these thoughts, she decides she’s going to keep her woes to herself.

She starts gathering up her things. “It’s nothing…”

As she puts her books and notes inside of her backpack, she feels Luna’s eyes upon her. She pretends it doesn’t bother her, but she just wants to explode.

“I’m sorry Luna… I wish I could just tell you I like you, but I just can’t…”

“Too bad I’m out of data- it’s gonna be a long night without Fletnix…”

“Hey, C,” Luna says, looking at her with contagious nervous energy. Carol stops herself, and looks up to meet her dauntingly beautiful brown eyes.

“…You know, you don’t have to go just yet if you don’t want to,” she continues. “I mean, if you’ve got stuff to do or like, you just don’t want to- I understand…”

It takes everything the Bold Navy clad girl has not to smile the stupidest, widest smile of all smiledom. The “Hallelujah” chorus plays in her head.

But she plays it cool. “Uhm… sure…” she says, and she hurriedly finishes getting her things together before standing up straight and dusting off her pants. “That sounds cool. I mean- yeah, yeah!... I like hanging out with you!...”

Luna smiles. “Hey, cool… Actually, if you want to, you could just- stay the night if you wanted? I’m sure the ‘rents won’t mind…”

Stupidest smile of all smiledom. “Hall-elujah!”

Luna giggles, and Carol realizes she’s failed to contain her enthusiasm.

But she honestly doesn’t care. This is a best-case scenario: no lonely house, no time for sad thoughts… Just Luna, Luna, Luna!

“You want me to stay the night?” she all but blurts out.

Luna keeps smiling. “Well- yeah. Yeah I do… It’ll totally be cool. We can watch a movie or something, I can see if Lori will let you borrow some PJ’s… Saaay… We could maybe even have a little jam sesh with the violin! I never got to see you play…”

“Yeah, that last one’s not happening,” Carol thinks, but all that comes out is a happy little giggle of her own.

All those bad feelings have just wooshed out the window! If she was any better, Lisa might try to clone her.

Looking at Luna’s pretty smiling face just makes it all the better.

“She’s so amazing… I swear, it’s like- just when I think maybe I’ve seen the best of her, she surprises me again…”

“If only I knew that when I said those things about her…”

“Luna… Thanks.”

She winces. “Heh… For what?”

“…Just, for everything. I mean, this is gonna sound so lame, but you’re so cool… Like, even after all that crap I said to Whitney, you’ve still been so nice to me.”

“Hey, I already told you I’m over that, man.”

“I know, and I appreciate it,” Carol says, skittishly clasping her hands together before her. “But, you don’t get it…” she says, and she sighs.

Luna raises her brow, and Carol has to look away for a moment to work up more nerve.

“Here we go…”

“The other day when we had detention- the second time,” she’s sure to clarify, and Luna coolly nods. “…When I got outside the school, I heard my- friends talking about me,” she begins, her smile faded.

“…They said that they didn’t really like me anymore, and that they didn’t miss hanging out with me…”

Luna waits a moment to be sure she’s finished, then she reaches out to put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Dude… The heck with them. Who cares what they think?” she says.

Carol’s smile returns, and she rests her hand on top of Luna’s. It feels really nice.

“I know… I just, I realize now that- that I’ve been needing to make changes in my life.”

She looks to Luna’s eyes, and she smiles back.

“I’m not so good with mushy stuff,” she quips with a little chuckle.

Carol chuckles too. “I’m not either… I guess I’m just trying to say that- you know…”

“I rock?” Luna finishes for her with a devious little grin.

Carol just smiles.

“Yeah… You rock.”

They just look at one another for a moment, sharing these warm, lovely smiles…

But, as Luna said, she doesn’t do too well with “mushy stuff.” So she breaks her hand away from Carol.

“Heh heh… So, you’re staying?”

Carol pretends like she’s reconsidering as she dons a playful thinking face, but she’s wholly decided that she’s leaving her BMW parked in the Loud house driveway tonight.

“Hmm… What the heck? I’ll stay the night.”

“Cool,” Luna happily says, and the girls make their way to the door.

 

Chapter Text

Hey everyone, I hope you’ve all been well. It’s been a while. How’s the wife and kids? Oh. Sorry to hear it…

Real talk, this isn’t an actual story update, so sorry to make you squee like an idiot in the bathroom stall of your work for nothing.

But… It’s NOT FOR NOTHING! LE GASP!

Because, as the clever “title” of this “chapter” suggests… I have an announcement to make…

Carol’s back birches.

Yup. After a long time of missing Carol and Luna, and after rereading a certain series of one shots by everyone's second favorite Lynn author, I decided it was time to do something about all of that. I need to go back to my roots.

So, I am officially announcing that, I have posted the next chapter in the Caroluna saga, “Carol Loves Luna” :D

It’s just a one shot, but hey! Who cares?! If I know my readers like I think I do, then I'm fairly certain you all miss reading about Carol Pingrey. And gosh dang it... I miss writing about her. A lot.

Go find it on my profile page, or the archive, or wherever it is you can get your grubby mits on the thing. (If you follow me, and I know you do, you should already have gotten a notification;D)

So, I can't promise I'll make a habit of updating this new story, but for now, I can promise one thing, and that’s that you have over 6,000 words of new fluffy, pillowy goodness to enjoy about your favorite Loud House crack pairing since sock hat kid/Cristina.

As for everyone keeping up with my current projects, here’s another little memo since I don’t know how else to get the word out until I set up a Patreon to get money from all of you groveling peasants.

For The Love Of Raven WILL BE FINISHED. I just haven’t been in the right mind to work on it lately with work and other projects. But with the new movie coming out, and the possibility of recruiting a new co-author for it, that will be my next thing to get on.

(My next project for this profile anyway. Tee hee.)

Also, I think to celebrate my one year anniversary for Wanderers, I’ll go back and “remaster it.” I’ll clear all those ugly ellipses that I thought were cool at the time, make sure the gramerz and werdz is gud, and move it over to the actual Loud House archive instead of the crossovers section since a certain b~ n~ who complains about that stuff kind of disappeared from the site haha. I’ll probably do that with Luna is Strange and Carol Likes Luna too when the time comes. So keep those peepers peeled.

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for indulging my crap and reading my drek fiction, as always. I really do love you guys for all of your support over the last nine-ish months, and hopefully we’ll all see a lot more of each other before it’s all said and done.

Look outside your window ;-;

Thanks again, and please stay tuned for more.

-UnderratedPillow