A/N: I thought of this after seeing the last bit of "Happy New School Year." I do not own LWD and please enjoy!
"Smerek, I'm scared."
Derek Venturi looked down at the little girl propped up on her bike – training wheel free. The bike wobbled back and forth and Derek quickly ran over to balance it. After balancing her bike, Derek smiled down at his little sister. Here she was, grade three and learning how to ride her bike for the first time without training wheels. For some reason, an indescribable unfamiliar feeling of melancholy rose up into his throat.
"Don't worry, Smarti, I won't let you fall."
"Are you positive?" She asked, dragging out the last word.
"And you won't let go?"
"I won't unless you tell me to."
"Never let go, Smerek."
"Smarti, someday I'm gonna have to if you wanna learn how to ride on your own."
"But I don't want you to let go."
"Don't worry, I'll be close by."
"Promise," Derek nodded, "Now I'll hold on and run along behind you. All you have to do is pedal like normal."
On that note, Marti Venturi began to pedal the bike, slowly at first to get the hang of it, but then faster. Soon, Derek found himself running behind the bike instead of just jogging. He had to admit, it was a hard to keep up with his Smarti but he wouldn't let go. After a few minutes, Marti stopped her bike.
"Why'd ya stop?" Derek asked, "You were doing great!"
"Thanks, Smerek but I think I'm ready to try it on my own."
Wow, Derek hadn't expected that. He thought that they'd practice together for the first day or two. He had never expected that she'd be ready that quickly to ride on her own.
"You sure about this, Smarti?" Derek asked uncertainly.
"Yeah. Let me try on my own."
"Alright, here's what I'll do," Derek cleared the lump from his throat, "I'll hold on and you pedal to start off then I'll let go after a few seconds. Don't worry if you fall. You have on a helmet and pads so I'm sure you'll be fine and just keep straight. Don't let the bike wobble and…"
"Smerek, I've got it!" Marti looked up at her older brother, "I gotta try sometime!"
"Alright," Derek laughed, "I've got ya. Start pedaling."
Marti took off as Derek jogged along side of her. He contemplating letting go but he couldn't, at least not yet.
"Smerek!" Marti whined, "Let go!"
"I'm sorry, Smarti, I just don't think you're ready…"
"But I am!"
"Smarti, maybe tomorrow…"
"Smerek, I want to do it on my own!"
"Yeah well tomorrow ya can. Not today."
"Don't argue with me, Marti!" Derek snapped.
Marti was taken back. Never before had he called her by her real name. Ever since she could remember, he had always called her Smarti. His words stung like a slap in the face and she hopped off the bike, crossed her arms over her chest, and marched home.
"Marti! Where are ya going? The car's this way…"
"I don't want to ride with you, Derek!"
"How are you gonna get home?" Derek demanded.
Marti sulked the rest of the way home. She could hear the Prince not far behind her, keeping an eye on her and she hated it. She hated the way Derek still treated her like she was six, she hated the way he never let her do anything on her own, she hated the way he never let her grow up.
When she got home, she slammed the door shut and stormed up to her bedroom and slammed the door. Derek wasn't far behind after parking the Prince. When he entered, Casey was standing by the door, a worried expression plastered on her face.
"Derek, what did you do?"
"Derek, what did you do?"
"Casey, shut up right now!"
"Derek, talk to me…"
"I don't have to say anything to you!" Derek snapped.
"She's in her room," Casey's voice lowered, "What happened?"
"She didn't do it right."
"What do you mean she didn't do it right?" Casey demanded.
"I went to teach her how to ride her bike without training wheels," Derek threw himself into his recliner as Casey took a seat next to him on the couch, "And she wanted to ride by herself, without me holding on to the bike. I-I wouldn't let her because she wasn't ready yet and now she's throwing a temper tantrum about it!"
"Derek, did you ever stop to think that maybe she wasn't the one who wasn't ready?"
"What are you talking about?" Derek demanded, his voice like frozen stone.
"I'm just saying, maybe she's ready for you to let go but you aren't."
"She's only eight, Case!"
"Don't you remember when you were eight? What kind of things were you doing?"
"I was skateboarding and Sam and I would go to the Paint Ball field."
"Exactly. Would you ever let Marti near those things?"
"No way!" Derek was quick to answer, "Not in a million years!"
"My point exactly. Why is it different?"
"Because she's a girl."
"Derek, maybe she wants to grow up, maybe she wants to do grown up things."
"Don't say too young, Derek, because you and I both know that is a pitiful excuse."
"Case, I just don't want to let go…"
"Derek, you don't have to let go completely. Just let go a little but be close by in case she falls, to help pick her up."
"I-I just wish she still needed me."
"Derek, is that what this is about?" Casey asked, "Feeling unneeded?"
"She doesn't need me anymore, Case. She's growing up and wants to do things on her own. She doesn't need me."
"You are an idiot!" Casey rolled her eyes.
"She needs you, Derek, she always needs you but she also needs to stand on her own two feet. You can't be there for her twenty-four seven but you can be there to help her up when she falls."
"Why do I get the feeling we aren't just talking about riding a bike here?" Derek smirked at her.
"Derek, she's a girl whose becoming more and more a young lady each day. She'll make friends, loose friends, have her heart broken, and break hearts. You can't be there for her each time she gets a skinned knee but you can be there to help pick up the pieces and let her know that when she needs you, you'll be there."
"Case, this is just a bike! Imagine what I'll be like when she starts…dating!"
"You'll be fine," Casey placed her hand on his and for once, he didn't move or flinch.
"I can't promise you something like that, Derek and you know it."
"I wish you could."
"Me too. But I am sure you'll do fine. Now, I know a little girl who's locked up in her room who really needs a hug."
"Case, I was a real jerk…"
"When aren't you?" Casey smiled at him, "She'll forgive you."
"How do you know?" Derek asked.
"Because," Casey shrugged, "I always do and you do way worse than just yell at me."
"Thanks, Case," Derek nodded to her, "You always know just what to say."
"You're welcome!" Casey called after him as he ran up the stairs taking two at a time.
Derek hurried down the hall to the door with the name MARTI written on it in purple paint. It was Casey's idea. Sighing, Derek lifted his fist to the door and knocked.
"Smarti? Smarti, it's me…Smerek."
"Smarti, open the door."
"Alright, fine. It's just, I'm really sad."
"Why?" Asked a little voice from within the room.
"Because, I was kinda a jerk to my best friend and I don't think she'll ever forgive me for it."
"Why were you a jerk?" She asked.
"Because I didn't want to let her grow up."
"Because I-I'm scared."
"Yeah, me. See, I don't want to let her go. I want to keep her my little Smarti forever but I know I can't. She's growing up into a young lady each day and instead of treating her like a little kid, I need to start treating her like the beautiful, talented, smart, awesome young lady that she is."
The door opened and there stood a puffy-eyed, red-nosed Marti Venturi. Tears visible on her cheeks.
"You-you think I-I am beautiful, talented, smart, and awesome?"
"Of course I do," Derek squatted down on her level and brushed a tear away with his thumb, "And I really wish she'd forgive me because if she doesn't, my heart just might break," he said honestly.
"Then she'll forgive you…on one condition."
"You let her ride by herself."
"I-I think I can handle that. Or at least try to."
"Good," Marti nodded.
"Hey Smarti, you know what'd seal the deal?"
"A Special Smarti Smug!"
Derek grabbed Marti into his arms and gave her the hugest hug possible.
"Wait," he quickly released her, "You aren't too old for Special Smarti Smugs are you?" He asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Of course not!" Marti threw her arms around him.
"Well if you aren't too old for Special Smarti Smugs, then you aren't too old for…the tickle monster!" Derek grinned as he began to tickle her. When he thought she had all she could take and then some, he held her in his arms and kissed her on the forehead, "Promise me something, Smarti?"
"What's that, Smerek?"
"Don't grow up without me."
"I won't Smerek. So are we gonna go back to the park or what?"
"You bet!" Derek grabbed Marti and lifted her up on his shoulders.
As they bounded down the stairs, Casey looked up at them and smiled. Derek had taken off Marti's training wheels and now they'd both have to learn how to ride without them.
A/N: So the ending's a little cheesy but oh well. I hope you liked it.