One day, when Rin was young, her sister disappeared.
She watched her leave in a car full of shadows from the window of her room, where she slept in a canopied bed that night and dreamed of a thousand hands that pulled her away from her home screaming and crying. Every night for weeks would she be haunted by that nightmare, and she would wake up crying into her pillow. Sometimes her mother would hear her and come in, nightdress in disarray, and sing a small lullaby until she was able to fall asleep. That would stave the hands away for a little while. It took a long while for the nightmares to abandon her completely. Then the memories of her sister felt distant, like a dream she could faintly recollect but not quite grasp the details of. All she knew of what happened to her was that she was adopted by another family, that she would be better off there. She let that lie act as a veil for those memories, further obscuring them from her until she could almost forget she had a sister at all.
Then came the Grail War. She kissed her father goodbye, made mean faces at the weird priest he brought with him, and left Fuyuki with her mother. She went on vacation from school for a little bit. It was almost pleasant.
She never learned what happened in the city while she had been away. One day, a couple weeks into their vacation, her mother received a letter and kissed her goodbye, saying that her father needed her company back in the city. She was entrusted in the care of a single butler who she rarely saw and heard even less of. She failed at studying some gemcraft, tried to keep up with her school studies, and maybe wandered around the grounds a little bit.
It only took a few more days for her father to return home. He no longer stood tall with his back straight, looking to be as elegant as he meant for the Tohsakas to be. He hobbled with a black ivory cane, and had a persistent cough. But the biggest change impressed upon her was his emotional state.
When he first saw her after coming home, he moved as fast as the cane allowed him before falling to his knees and hugging her. She heard her father cry for the first time in her life, and it shook her to the core. He wouldn't let go of her for minutes, and when he did... he had trouble leaving her out of his sight.
He became overprotective, but in a way that felt... she felt needed. It was a strange feeling to know at such a young age, but she felt it.
Very soon after that did he explain what happened to her sister. Sakura, the name she hadn't remembered in so long. She was being hurt, hurt badly, at the Matou house, and she needed to be rescued. He said that he was going to call someone (they got a telephone, another new word and new contraption to learn) and make some arrangements, and soon they would be a family again.
He refrained from mentioning her mother. She was never able to bring it up.
He disappeared for one day, and then returned in the company of a man in a trench coat with a cigarette in mouth, spiky black hair framing dead eyes that reminded her of the priest. But she couldn't find it within herself to be mean to him. He scared her and made her sad without even saying a word to her.
Her father then presented a young girl with purple hair and violet eyes, glassed over with a gaze that dug into their floorboards.
"Welcome home, Sakura," he had said.
"Welcome home," she repeated.
The little girl, the Sakura that didn't match her faint memories, didn't respond. She kept her gaze down. When her father attempted to give her a light touch on the back to help her inside, she flinched, and he rapidly drew his hand back, apologies murmured under his breath.
Some words were exchanged between her father and the man in the trench coat, perhaps some money too, and then the other man left. She never saw him again.
The first night that Sakura was back, she had one of those nightmares again. The hands that scrambled at her and pulled at her skin and ripped her family apart. But when she woke up, it wasn't to a lullaby from her mother, it was the sounds of screaming coming from the nearby bedroom.
She'd sprinted out of her bedroom and into the next, only to find her father backed against the wall, and her sister violently crying under her blanket, coughing screams hurled out of her throat. Every time he took a step closer, looking for all the world like he only wanted to hold her and comfort her, she would retreat further under the blanket. Another first for her father - he had never looked so stunned and unsure of himself before.
Rin took slow steps towards the bed and came as close to Sakura as she could without getting on the bed. There was no more screaming, but the crying was unceasing.
"Sakura...?" She said quietly. A hiccup interrupted the cries.
"N-No! I'm not going back! I'm not going back!"
"You will never have to go back there," her father said shakily.
"You can't make me go back!"
Rin did the only thing she could. She climbed onto the bed and into the covers.
"Sakura, I'm here," she said. "I won't let anyone take you again."
Small arms hit her, making her cry out in pain.
"No! You'll let me go again! You're going to forget me again!"
It hurt to hear her say that, because there was a small voice in Rin's head that reminded her of how much she had forgotten. How much she didn't even remember.
"I..." she spoke after a few moments, "I won't forget you again. Ever."
A pause, a sniffle.
"Yes you will," was the quiet, choked reply. "You'll forget me like everyone did. Like tou-san and kaa-san and nee-san did."
"Sakura, it's me," she shuffled a little closer. "It's nee-san. I won't forget you ever again. I promise."
In the small light that she had underneath the covers, in the moonlit bedroom, she could see her little sister move a little closer. Her violet eyes pierced through her, told her endless stories of suffering.
Another inch, and another, and then those small arms wrapped around her. She held her sister tightly, the smell of memories in her hair.
She eventually heard the soft footsteps of her father leaving the room as her sister cried herself to sleep in her arms. The door started to close, creaking on its hinges, and then stopped.
"Good night, girls," her father said in the most hurt voice she had ever heard. Sakura was already sleeping, and she decided it would be better to pretend to sleep. He sighed, and then the door closed all the way.
There was no nightmares that night. She never had those kind of nightmares again. Instead, she would become the comfort pillow for her sister when she woke up from her nightmares, something the purple-haired girl wouldn't get over for years.
Rin sighed and put the pen down, her hand shaking from the tension of scribbling in the notebook. Her wrist was hurting from how hard she had been pressing the quill into the paper, inkblots dotted and obscured what felt like every other word, with teardrops staining the margins.
She held her forehead in her hands and wiped away some tears, sniffling some. It didn't matter how long it had been, she viscerally remembered that night.
"Well, that's why I have you, isn't it?" She gave a self-deprecating smile to the bottle of bourbon, pouring out another glass. She had lost track a long time ago. All she needed to know was that the burn of the alcohol was the only thing that allowed her to put the words on the page.
Ah… so this is how Father died so young.