one for sorrow
(prologue)

It starts with a nightmare. She doesn't recall all of the details of it, but she does remember cradling her dead brother in her arms, and she starts violently, tripping out of bed and getting tangled in the sheets as she falls to the floor, and stumbles to her feet in a disoriented mess, desperate to find and hold her little brother, to remind herself that he is alive.

He isn't pleased to be woken from an apparently cheerful dream by his incoherent and terrified older sister, nor to be gathered into her arms and hugged so tightly that something must have gone horribly wrong, because only Mother and Svetlana ever hold him like this. She's crying into his shoulder -- why? -- and she keeps rubbing his back and his head like she's memorizing his shape.

"What's wrong?" he asks, in a startled whimper. "What's happened?"

"Nothing, baby," she whispers, her voice catching on her own nightmares, "just... a bad dream. I'm sorry for -- just go back to bed, okay? I'll stay right here and keep you safe."

And she does.


A/N: After considerable internal debate, I decided to begin posting this here, in the hope that it might make me finish it. This was originally started for NaNoWriMo 2010, but I failed to reach 50k then -- however, I quite like what I have, and, if all goes well, I would love to make this something worth publishing. Let me know what you think.