River stepped into the door and slammed it shut, she couldn't believe the awful day that she was having. How could Julie do this to her? She thought they were best friends and she went and told everyone that she liked David. Angry tears began to flow down her face as she stomped up the stairs and into the flat. She went into her room, slamming the door behind her again and flopped herself on the bed, not bothering to kick off her boots. River wiped her nose with her jumper's sleeve as the tears continued to drip onto her lavender covers. She stared up at the white ceiling, glancing at the butterfly border that still wound around her room. She had thought about taking the border down, but it still made her smile to think about picking it out with her dads.
It seemed a lifetime ago, moving into this room from the one she had shared with Indie upstairs. She missed her sister more than anyone could ever imagine. Sometimes she would have dreams where her and Indie were together again. She had one just last night. She and Indie were running around the flat, ribbons grasped in their hands and flowing behind them. River could still hear the giggles and Indie telling her that she loved her. She was happy about that, that she hadn't lost Indie's voice after all these years.
And then there were times like these, when River's heart was hurting and people at school were mean, that she wished so terribly that Indie was here with her, laying next to her on the bed and holding her hand, letting her pour out all of her troubles to her. That was the thing with having a twin, you always had a friend.
But she was alone now, Papa and Daddy out on another case until at least dinner they had texted her. She sighed and rolled over on her bed, taking her phone out. She smiled at her lock screen, it was her favorite picture of her and Indie. They were in Nana Hudson's kitchen sitting on the table with their arms around each other, their matching blue jeans and pink long sleeved tops covered in splotches of flour. Little fingerprints of flour were smudged across their face and their smiles were as wide as could be. They had been making cookies for Papa's birthday, she remembered. She had iced all of her peanut butter cookies with huge globs of pink icing. She laughed thinking about it now, they must've been terribly sweet. But, Papa had eaten them all.
A text popped up on the screen from Julie, a half hearted apology for what she had done earlier. River shook her head and rolled her eyes. She turned her phone off and pulled her blankets over her. She was so tired. She closed her eyes and thought about running around the flat with ribbons in her hands, Indie's laugh washing over her as she drifted into sleep.
The frantic shout shook her awake, making her head pop up from the pillow and her heart race in her chest. What on earth was wrong? She thought, quickly getting out of bed and running to the front room.
She found her Papa and Daddy standing there, panic apparent on their faces. When they saw her, their shoulders visibly relaxed.
"River, love, why isn't your phone on? We were trying to text and call you all the way back here." John said, sinking into Sherlock's chair.
"You know you have to keep your phone on, River Grace, it's too dangerous not to. Especially with this case going on," Sherlock said, his hand running through his slightly graying mop of hair.
"I just turned it off before I fell asleep. It won't happen again."
"That's what you said the last time it happened, River," Sherlock said with a huff.
River had inherited a great deal of her Daddy's intelligence and talent. But she had also inherited her Papa's capacity for emotion and empathy. She looked closely at her dads. Anxiety, frustration, disappointment, irresponsible were the words that kept flashing in her head.
Anger lit up inside of her and the disappointment they felt towards her stung like a slap in the face. She knew they had told her this many times before. And most of the time, the phone was on. She just slipped up and this is what she got, the disapproval of both of her dads. It was too much, between school and coming home to be just another disappointment. They didn't have to say it to her, she could see it written clearly on their faces. The anger grew and grew and bubbled over, words spilling out of her mouth before she could catch them.
"Well if I'm such a disappointment, maybe I should've been the one that died, not Indie."
She regretted those words as soon as she said them. Both of her dads looked like they had been slapped. Tears welled up in her eyes and she turned and ran back to her room. She threw herself on the bed, sobbing in earnest into her pillow. She heard the door creak open and the soft footsteps come into the room. The bed sank down next to her, a gentle hand running through her hair, and she sobbed even harder. She turned her head toward her Papa, her curls partially covering her eyes. She crawled into his lap and threw her arms around his neck, and he held her, as he used to do all those years ago. He rocked her back and forth, shushing her as he ran his hand through her hair.
"I'm sorry, Papa, I didn't mean it," she wailed.
"I know, lovebug, I know. What else is going on? I know what Daddy said wasn't the only thing that made you upset today."
River told her Papa about what her friend had done and how her entire year was now laughing at her. Papa smiled his wonderful, soft smile at her. She was always amazed at how just his smile could make her feel better.
"I remember being your age, love, and let me tell you the kids were just as mean back then. I made some dopey attempt to ask a popular girl out in Year 8 and I was known as 'Lovey' Watson for the rest of the year," John smiled down at her, "cheer up, lovebug, this too shall pass."
River nodded her head. "Yeah, she already apologized. But I don't know what to do about David."
"Well, I'm sure your father has a few ideas," John laughed.
"Papaaaa, don't let Daddy know," River whined.
"Oh, lovebug, he already knows. You know you can't get much past him."
River groaned, "I know, but he doesn't have to worry about him now."
"Just give it some time love, you're so young too, only 14. Plenty of time for boys and all that nonsense," John said, smiling at his daughter.
They sat like that for a time, before River sat up and brushed her hand through her long, raven hair.
"It always amazes me how much you look like him, River. And you get more and more like him as you grow," John said, "my little girl, getting so big." He had a sad look on his face then and River knew he was thinking about Indie.
"She'd look like you, Papa, she always did look like you," River said.
"Except those cheekbones, I don't know how she got Daddy's cheekbones, but she did. And those eyes, those brilliant hazel eyes."
River sighed, her poor Daddy, he hadn't even come into her room, that's how much her words had stung.
"Where's Daddy, I need to apologize," River said, picking at a thread on her blanket.
"He went upstairs," John said softly.
Upstairs. River's heart ached even more, she had hurt him even more with her words than she thought. He never went upstairs anymore. None of them did.
"I'll go talk to him," she said.
"You do that, lovebug, I'll get dinner ready," her Papa said, kissing her on the forehead and smiling at her again before getting up and leaving.
She slid off her bed and made her way past the clanking of dishes in the kitchen and to the bottom of the stairs that she hadn't gone up since Indie had died. She looked down and saw a small, glittering sticker stuck to the very last step. It was the shape of a star. Indie had put it there during one of their games, she said it was a lucky star and we all needed to step on it going up and down these stairs. River smiled at the thought. She tapped her foot lightly against the faded surface and went upstairs.
She went to the door that was once hers and Indie's and opened it, peeking around the door as she did. Daddy sat on Indie's bed, his hands steepled under his chin.
"Come in, River," he said, his eyes never opening.
"Daddy," she saw his mouth quirk up ever so slightly, "I shouldn't have said what I did earlier. I'm sorry. I had a bad day at school and then I left my phone off, and I just didn't want to be a disappointment to you." By the time River had reached the last word, she was in tears again.
He opened his eyes, a gentle smile crossing his face. He held his arms out to his daughter, "Come here, darling."
River went over to him and sat next him, putting her arms around his middle. He draped his long arm around her shoulders and wiped her tears with his other thumb.
"I know you didn't mean it, darling. I just want to keep you safe, you know that. You aren't a disappointment to me or your Papa, River Grace, you are our greatest and most precious girl. The most important person in our lives. You are everything to us, darling, and nothing in this whole world could ever change that."
River nodded, "You and Papa are everything to me too. The best dads a girl could ask for."
Daddy smiled and chuckled to himself. He hugged River tight to him and kissed the top of her head.
They looked around at the room they once both loved. River remembered how the room looked like it was exploding with sunlight as the sun rose and reflected off the walls. She remembered how the floor creaked when her and Indie danced to music and she remembered how her Daddy's voice echoed throughout the room when he read them bedtime stories, all of them snuggled in bed together. She remembered how utterly lonely it felt that night she had to sleep all alone for the first time without her best friend. How utterly alone she felt when she didn't have her on this Earth anymore.
She could feel her Daddy looking at her, his brilliant blue eyes turning sad.
"She was our Sunshine, wasn't she, my darling," he said, sorrow filling his voice.
"I miss her, Daddy, more than anything. I dream about her sometimes," River said to him, "we're usually playing and I can hear her laugh and say things to me. But, then I wake up and she's gone. And then there's days like today where I just wish it was me instead of her. She was too good to cause all these problems."
Sherlock put his hand under River's chin and turned her face up towards him.
"Darling, you are never a problem. Never, in a million years will you be a problem for your Papa or me. Don't say such things."
River nodded, kicking her feet against the floor.
"The last time we were up here, your feet weren't near the floor," he mused, "how tall you've gotten."
"Grew an inch since Christmas," River said.
"You'll be taller than Papa soon," Sherlock laughed.
"Most people are," River laughed.
They sat and laughed together, the laughter brightening the walls for just a moment.
"Sherlock! River! Can you set the table please, dinner is almost ready!"
"I suppose we should head down and help your Papa," Sherlock said, standing up. He took River's hands and pulled her up off the bed and into a hug.
"I love you, darling."
"I love you too, Daddy."
She took his hand as they walked out of the room, River smiling at the sunflowers on the wall before shutting the door behind them.