River can't sleep. She finishes reading a travelogue, starts a novel, then tosses it aside on page 349 when the love triangle doesn't turn out how she wanted.
She still can't sleep.
So she composes a sonata for violin and piano, sings through a few operas, solves some logic puzzles, practices her solo for the upcoming holiday recital, eats three pieces of raspberry-filled dark chocolate- and now she's more awake than ever, her every synapse buzzing with excitement.
Because Simon is coming home tomorrow. Simon is coming home, and she has so much to tell him.
I've taken up ice skating. I wrote a novel. I learned how to embroider.
I missed you.
She hasn't seen him in a year, hasn't held his hand or messed up his hair or even hugged him.
How could she reasonably be expected to sleep?
River reads two more books, composes a handful of haikus, tries on all her party dresses, and brushes her hair until it's perfectly straight.
The hovertram drops Simon off just after sunrise. His eyes feel like they have sand in them, and all he wants to do is sleep for a week. So he'll greet the servants, stumble to his room, and then revel in the glory of uninterrupted peacefulness-
Only it's River who opens the door, wearing a dress the color of cherry blossom leaves. She looks like a fairy, and her smile is dazzling.
"Wow, I hope this is the right house," Simon jokes.
"I'm your sister, you moron." With that, she hugs him.
"Little brat," Simon says affectionately, unable to keep himself from smiling. River smells like peonies and apricots, same as always.
"I waited up all night for you, you know," River points out, leading him into the kitchen.
Does Simon smell what he thinks he smells? Then he sees the pot brewing. "Oh, wow, real coffee!" He's practically running on caffeine-driven autopilot as he pours himself a cup.
River sits on top of the counter, swinging her bare feet. "They didn't have coffee at the MedAcad?"
"They did, but it was usually cold by the time I could access it."
She clicks her tongue disapprovingly. "Cruel and unusual punishment."
Chuckling, Simon produces a tiny, gift-wrapped box from his vest pocket. "I got you a present." It's a crystal necklace- he'd planned to get her something better, ballet tickets or a set of digital encyclopedias or something, but there hadn't been time.
Picking up on his discomfort, River rolls her eyes. "Dummy. Holidays are a societal construct invented to sell trashy objects- and you can't say I'm just saying that because I didn't get you anything. I made you a gift. It's a still life painting, and I fully expect you to hang it somewhere where you can admire the brilliance of my artwork every day." She pulls the bow from the box and sticks it onto Simon's vest. "You're my present."