A/N: Small changes here, clearer, little more detail, grammar and some spelling fixed, a bit of a disconnect between the beginning and the end but I like it better.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.


Brigitta (Age 9)

Liesl was crying by the water, Brigitta could hear her weeping even though her sister was trying to keep quiet. She wasn't sure what to do because she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Liesl cry. Was it their mother's funeral? She honestly couldn't say. She'd seen Friedrich cry more recently than her sister; he had broken down in tears just last month. She was at a loss for what to do for her favorite sibling. It wasn't that she didn't like the others, she loved them, but everyone had their favorite relative.

In fact, Brigitta could tell you who almost everyone's favorite sibling was if you just took the time and asked her. Some of them were unlikely, like Kurt's. His favorite person was Marta whose smile, he had secretly confided to Liesl not knowing Brigitta was reading nearby, was the best reward anyone could ask for because they were so few. Marta's favorite was Kurt for that very reason; he could always make her smile even on a bad day. Friedrich loved to spend time with Gretl. Louisa's was Kurt, although few would ever be able to tell because of how much she picked on him. Gretl's everyone always seemed to assume was Liesl, but Brigitta could tell you that it was not true because to Gretl, Liesl was her mother figure. Gretl's was really Marta, Brigitta didn't know why, perhaps it was that she was closet in age or because Marta was now taking the time to pay attention to their youngest member. And her favorite was Liesl, she could tell anyone that confidently.

Liesl though, had her stumped. Her elder sister tried very hard not to have a favorite, and despite all the observations Brigitta had made, she had no way of knowing who was Liesl's favorite or even if she had one because Liesl had a way of showing she loved each of them differently. And now she was crying, by herself, not letting anyone give her comfort. And despite all the reading that Brigitta did, she had no idea how to console anyone because that was what Liesl did. It wasn't what Friedrich or Louisa did, it wasn't the governesses that pass through their house, it wasn't the people that her father hired, even if they tried Brigitta doubted that any of them would come close to the comfort Liesl gave. Liesl who held them close when they cried, it didn't matter if it was a scrapped knee or their mother's funeral. Brigitta couldn't understand why Liesl was crying on her own since Liesl had told her that it was ok to cry and share it with someone.

She had been told this a week after their mother's funeral when Louisa grabbed her by the arm and dragged her over to their older sister. Louisa had turned to her and practically demanded that Brigitta tell Liesl that she was alright. She wanted to; she desperately wanted to lie because Liesl looked worse than she had ever seen her. Her hair wasn't kept and her dress looked like it hadn't been changed for days. But the moment she opened her mouth to try to lie, the pit in her stomach grew, her hands began to shake, and not a sound escaped past her constricting throat. Liesl just closed the space and hugged her giving the comfort she didn't know she had desperately needed. That was one thing they had in common, Liesl just couldn't lie, unless it was to protect her siblings. That was the day that Liesl had told her it was ok to cry, and not to worry. Somehow, Brigitta knew, having Liesl around made not having their parents there bearable for all of them.

There were times when Brigitta envied Marta and Gretl because they couldn't really remember their mother. They didn't remember that they had a father that didn't treat them coldly, one that once encouraged them to have fun, learn, sing, and never stop trying to find a dream to follow. It was cruel to remember what it was like before, but at the same time there was nothing in the world that could make her give up the few memories she had. She wouldn't even trade the one of the worst day of her life for anything, the day her family broke into pieces, she wouldn't give that one up because it would be the last time she saw her mothers face.

When their mother had died, they had all put on a brave face for their father, for each other. That day her two younger siblings were being watched at home by Frau Schmidt, who even though she had been given the day off had volunteered to watch them. She barely remembered the service but it was no doubt the best money could buy. Her father that they all adored stony faced, the only clue that he was crying was the tear stains that were leaving trails down his face. Friedrich stood next to him sniffling, trying to be like their father but failing miserably. Liesl had held her, Kurt and Louisa while they all grieved in their own way. It was in that moment, that reality truly hit Brigitta, there was no doubt in her mind that everything she knew was going to change, she just didn't realize how soon.

The next day when their father called them together Brigitta knew something was wrong. Her father was not smiling; in fact he looked, if Brigitta had to describe it now she would say stern, but at age five, she only knew that he was scary. He scared her, their father never scared her before, and he was always quietly happy and smiling whenever they were around, but no more. He pulled out his whistle and told them that they would answer to this instead of their names, and he drilled it into them, if they messed up he yelled. Father had never yelled at them before, not for any kind of infraction. Now, Brigitta could plainly tell even then, that this was a different story. Over the next week, he tested and tested them making sure they answered to and only to the whistle. As soon as he could call any of them with a whistle he was gone, replaced by a woman that they didn't know. He didn't even introduce her, Frau Schmidt had done that, she wasn't the worst governess they would have, she wasn't the best either but she just couldn't cope with seven children. Especially since it was so soon after the loss of their mother and there were also two which required near constant attention due to their age. It's not like Brigitta tried to cause trouble for the governesses, sometimes the things she noticed just spilled out. It didn't help that she just couldn't lie not even if she wanted to.

Too many children and not enough time caused their studies to fall behind. It was evident that the governess couldn't handle all of the problems that come with watching seven children, and slowly Liesl began to pick up the slack. Friedrich could learn on his own but there were still times when he went to Liesl with questions about certain subjects he didn't quite understand. Louisa was fine as long as she had someone to keep her on track, Liesl did that through bribery. Kurt had some trouble with math and history, and the other two were too young to begin their studies properly. The one that was the most trouble was her. He mother was going to teach her how to read and they had just started lessons but when their mother had died, the lessons stopped, and she hadn't made much progress in that area since then.

She didn't want to be a bother so she would pick up a book and stare at it hard, willing the letters to make sense. Liesl had caught her at it one day and asked her if she was having trouble. She wanted to lie, she wanted to say that she could handle this on her own but when she opened her mouth nothing came out. Brigitta tried again, was it hot in the room or was it just her? Liesl said nothing as she came down and looked at the book she had been gazing blankly at. Liesl picked up the book she was staring at Die Waffen nieder! and picked it up. She had shook her head at it and told that she had picked one of the most complicated books in the library to read. Brigitta watched as Liesl made her way over to another shelf to pick a book. Her sister had made her way back with Gerlachs Jugendb├╝cherei and had settled down next to her opening it. By the time the bell had tolled noon, they had gone through not only that book but two more. They would have read more than the three if Brigitta hadn't kept asking question after question. She would return to read Die Waffen nieder! years later on the day Maria would arrive and it would be the book she secretly took with them when they fled Austria.