Good children don't disobey their parents.
Simon was never sure where River found the bottle and she didn't say. Just showed up in his room that evening, grinning like the cat that caught the canary, and interrupted his studying. Their parents were throwing a huge dinner party that night and had told the children to be on their best behavior.
River tiptoed over to where Simon lay on his bed, textbook in hand, and smiled widely, hands hidden behind her back. "Got a secret," she whispered, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Simon rolled his eyes and gave her the kind of look that only a big brother can. "I'm trying to work, River."
She pouted at him. "Got a secret."
Simon made a big show of putting his book away. "Fine, tell me. What's this secret, meimei?"
She pulled the bottle out from behind her back. It was only a third full, its amber colored contents sloshing back and forth as she turned it around for him to see.
His eyes were wide. "River! Where did you get this? We can't have this! Go and put it back right now!"
Of course, within half an hour, she'd not only convinced him to drink some with her, she'd also gotten him to finish most of the bottle himself. He never could refuse his baby sister anything.
A game of tag turned into trouble when they strayed into the foyer and ran into one of their parents' guests, sending them all sprawling to the ground. The disappointment in his father's voice alone was enough to send Simon's spirits crashing into the toes of his shoes. Back then, his father's opinion was still one of the most important things in the world to him. Second only to his sister.
River, of course, had been nowhere to be found during the incident. For one who caused so much trouble, she had an uncanny knack of knowing just when and where to hide to avoid it herself. If Simon didn't love her so much, he would've been mad.
Good doctors don't disobey the rules.
Simon should have known that things would end up going bad. His luck, as usual, wasn't stellar.
Sitting in a police cruiser afterwards, wrapped in a large blanket and not much else, he hoped that, if nothing else, he'd managed to convince the officers not to call his parents. Having them woken up at three in the morning to learn that their only son had been found standing atop the statue of Hippocrates, naked as the day he was born, bellowing the National Anthem into the early morning sky with a bottle of sake in hand, would not be a good thing. His father would come, of course, and he would look at his son with that look of disappointment that cut clean through to Simons's gut.
He sighed, resting his chin on his knees and trying not to move too much. The world still had that fuzzy feel to it, like everything was just a bit unreal. His limbs felt loose and strangely unattached, like he might loose them if he wasn't very, very careful.
Simon could just imagine his sister's face if she were here. Mildly exasperated at him, not for the stunt, but for getting caught. She never got caught.
"Simple Simon," she'd whisper, running gentle fingers through his hair and making soothing noises in the back of her throat. "Never was good at keeping things secret."
Simon sighed. No, he wasn't. Never had been. River was the secret keeper.
Good brothers don't disobey their sisters.
Simon hated to see his sister cry. But he lived for her smiles, rare as they were sometimes. The smiles made him remember her as she used to be. Before. The tears reminded him of how she was now, of how he couldn't fix her.
She hadn't wanted to go into the infirmary today. When he persisted, telling her that he knew what was best, she threw a fit. It took him forever to calm her down.
They wouldn't go into the infirmary that day, he told her.
"Promise?" she asked, tears glistening in her eyes.
"Promise," he affirmed, touching her shoulder lightly.
She smiled at him then, and everything was alright again.
River had many different kinds of smiles, but Simon's favorite was the slow, secret smile that she only gave to him. It spoke of past adventures and sunny memories that only the two of them were privy to. It reminded him of games of tag, laughter and sunlight, and a time when he still believed that his father could always make the 'verse right, no matter what.
Simon didn't know where they were headed. He didn't know what was in store. For the first time in his life, he didn't have a plan beyond the now. But when River smiled at him, he felt all his worries melt away.
Simon didn't need alcohol to be intoxicated. He just needed one of his sister's secret, brother-only smiles.
River had always been the secret keeper and he had always been the one to get caught. But Simon liked it best when she shared her secrets with him anyway.