A/N: Just watched the subbed version of episode 22 and absolutely loved it. There will be a full fic soon enough but until then there is this thing I wrote in less than an hour. There is OOC, at least a little bit, or what I would guess is OOC, but there is also fluff and family and friendship, and Ryuko being kind of smart. It happens! Really! Please enjoy and let me know what you think! Advance apologies for the tense changes.

Between the fighting, during the reconciliation and the understanding, Ryuko catches Satsuki crying.

It's not the crying that bubbles out and boils over loudly, but the one that goes silent and is not allowed to be heard and can't just be wiped away with bruised hands and tissues. These tears are years and years old and they don't make a sound or a puddle but they make a tall and powerful figure fragile and lacking the light of the sun.

Ryuko wants to say a harsh word or two, make her stop and give the stern look that she knows Satsuki can give even with horrid wounds and bloodshot eyes. She wants to shake her or laugh and force her to her full height of domineering 'I-am-the-alpha-older-sister' mode so it doesn't feel quite so awkward and wrong and pitying. It's not pathetic, Ryuko doesn't cry too much because she hasn't had too many reasons (in her opinion) to really need more than a loud sobfest behind a door once in a while.

But Satsuki is crying, and it's a set of tears so close to being heard and yet so far away from everyone else. Like a childish hope that someone will hear her through a veil of mystique and disbelief and important matters and come hold her and say everything will be all right, that you can drop what you're doing for a little while and just be a girl who isn't trying to save the world.

The Mankanshoku, her father, even a few strangers now and then, had offered her that.

Had anyone offered that to Satsuki?

Was that why they were sisters?

Her hand was over her mouth, Ryuko realized. Satsuki had covered her mouth and was muffling noises and hiding the pain in her face even though the only one who could see was Ryuko, and there was no way she could have noticed her by now.

A part of her was irritated. That was the part of her that didn't know what side of the world Kiryuin Satsuki stood at, and the part that didn't forgive the lies and manipulations and years-long revolution in secret.

But another part was moving her feet forward, was making sure Senketsu did not speak, was kneeling down and hugging the sister who had her head now against her knees and was vacantly staring at a place that Ryuko had once heard her father refer to as 'a thousand worlds away'. From her back ran tears of blood and they pooled beneath the black overcoat like rain.

Satsuki didn't speak when her hand was pulled to rest limply at her side. When she does it, Ryuko feels fading scars, darkening bruises, a shivering cringe as the other body falls limp, obedient.

She decided to never forgive Ryugo then, because she knew Satsuki's mind is suddenly out the window and waiting, waiting for the thing that everyone calls pleasing but her mind probably thinks of as hell. And even though they had tried to kill each other so many times moments before, this is her sister and her sister gave more craps about the world than most people and had gone into battle knowing she was outmatched, knowing that she was likely going to die... to save Ryuko. To save her, and they only knew each other through swords.

Maybe Satsuki understood something she could not.

Or maybe Ryuko was as fragile as she thought, to be giving up and being a fool so damn often and that instinct that must have existed in the other's brain for years and had suddenly burst out for no damn reason.

It hurt, she realized, to see that blank expression there, past resignation just to non-existence, and it was probably not even because they were related, but because a powerful person giving up struck her as utterly wrong.

She had been sewn up by their parents, many times, some good, some bad, all painful. She had been sewn up by Mako and Senketsu.

But not even the Elite Four knew how to sew up Satsuki, and it was clear now.

She quietly wondered if there are plastic needles and warm thread or maybe if that was why her arms were empty at this moment, to hold her sister together before the end.

Ryuko decided to take care of her sister without really deciding it, and was never so comfortable in a hug than now.

She heard a light, bubbly set of steps, the obvious Mako steps forward, and prepared to blush red and spout things as incomprehensible as the moment she was in right now.

But Mako did not spout anything, just skipped over and leaned her head on Satsuki like they had always been close and this person had never been a lady to her, just her best friend's sister who was hurting.

When the glazed look started going and the expression still did not return, Mako regaled them with stories that might have been true or simply weren't real until Satsuki laughed out loud with glistening eyes and Ryuko thought a battle might have been won.

You aren't ever taking my family from me again, Ragyo.