A/N: Wicked was inspiring me and then Chess feels and then this happened so yeah, um, I'm in need of a serious caffeine fix so I apologize if this turns out really shitty but I could care less now. My uncle just died. I need to angst. Love you all.

Disclaimer: Chess sure as hell ain't mine.

No Good Deed

"Mommy, my book bag broke open! It's ripped! See?"

"Mommy, will you pour me some juice?"

"Guess what happened at school today, Mommy!"

Svetlana supposes that when it comes right down to it, being a single mother is a lot more difficult than she had anticipated. She hadn't expected it so soon, anyways. Anatoly may have been her love, but she knew that eventually he would leave her; the problem was that he'd done it far too early. While she had seen it coming miles away, she had still been several miles off.

He wasn't there for Natalia's first day of secondary school, or for Emilia's first visit from the tooth fairy. She had had to handle Christmases, Easters, everything, all on her own.

Weren't parents supposed to act as a team, whether or not they were getting along?

No matter how much she moped over it, though, he wasn't going to come back for her now. He had run off with that chess-whore, Florence Vassy- or was it the Trumper man? One of them, anyways, and either way he wasn't going to come back to her now. She had no control over the matter. The only thing Svetlana could do, and she was going to make damn sure she did it right, was care for the children until their father came to his senses and, hopefully, returned to his homeland and his family.

It was wishful thinking. Anatoly had never been family-oriented and it was doubtful that he would start anytime soon.

With a sigh, Svetlana held out her hands for the torn book bag in her older daughter's hands. Natalia, she knew, could sew- after all, it was a useful skill to be taught- but she wasn't allowed to do it on her own yet. What good mother trusted their eleven year old with needles? No.

The way that Natalia anxiously frowned reminded her that she needed to start smiling more. Put an effort into it. She didn't need the girls to see how tired she really was, how unhappy she could be when she dwelled on Anatoly and the way he had deserted her.

This was what life had become for her. She had known way back when their affair had still been passionate and exciting and new that she and Anatoly would one day hit a bump in the road. She had known, too, that having children would only make it harder when it happened. Anatoly had always been a difficult sort, too involved in the game, in himself, to be thinking about a family. About her. But she had ignored it- and look what had happened!

She should never have been so kind to him, she thought to herself bitterly as she looped the thread through the eye of the needle. She should have rejected his proposal, should have escaped this sham of a marriage before it even began.

But his eyes, so large and dark and persuasive as he spoke the words… His voice, so soft and husky… The grin on his face when she had breathlessly accepted…

In the long run, she supposed, neither of them had really won. Anatoly was not a bad person, he was just confused on his priorities. He would figure that out, as he matured. And the guilt for leaving her, and of course for leaving the children, would eat at him soon. There would be calls. There would be heated arguments in hushed tones so as not to alert the girls to their debate. There would be custody battles and tears and Svetlana would return each night to an empty bed.

Well- not an empty one, per se. Natalia gave her a dimpled grin as she handed her the finished product, snapping the thread as she tied it off. "Good as new," she murmured, standing and pressing a soft kiss to her daughter's forehead.

Natalia threw her arms around her mother's waist, hugging her tightly. "Spa-si-ba, mama!"

"You're very welcome." Her younger daughter came shyly forward, holding the empty cup in her hands.

"Mommy… Could you-?"

"Of course." She nodded, patting Natalia on the head and abandoning the book she had been reading before the girls had come back from school on the coffee table to stride into the kitchen and pour her daughter some juice. She would get back to it later.

Indeed, Anatoly had left a scar on her heart for no good reason. He had been selfish, he had stolen her youth from her and burdened her with a hectic life as a single parent under an oppressive regime- all because she hadn't the nerve to say no. It was her own softness that had done this to her. Softness was something to be punished- softness could get you killed in Russia. If she thought of it that way, she reasoned, she would not hate him quite so much when next they spoke and perhaps they could work out an arrangement.

Besides- her children were her life. Without them, where would she be?

Emilia giggled as she hopped up on a chair and sipped at her juice, listening as her sister spun some story from her time at school that day, and Svetlana sat beside her smiling softly, listening absently.

Perhaps Anatoly wasn't in the picture, but they were making the most of it. The girls were happy. She, as downtrodden and exhausted as she was, was mostly happy. And moments like these were what she woke up in the morning for these days.

If this moment right here was her punishment, then Svetlana was certain she could still find it in her to smile.