If ever Satsuki needed a reminder of how much her life had changed, Movie Night more than served that purpose.

Of course, just about every night was Movie Night nowadays: after yet another endless day of business meetings and hard negotiations and conference calls, Satsuki wanted nothing more than to turn off her brain for a while, and sitting on a sofa watching films with Ryuko and Mako was just what the doctor ordered. Tea, good company, and welcome distractions.

Some of the distractions were more welcome than others, however. Ryuko and Mako were obviously still in something of a honeymoon phase, and most nights could barely keep their hands off of one another. They didn't even seem conscious of it, either: it just sort of happened on its own over the course of the movie. On nights when the movie was particularly bad, Satsuki would often have difficulty keeping her eyes on the screen.

Tonight's movie was particularly abysmal, and while the two lovebirds were having a great time laughing at it and mocking it, Satsuki found that she could not engage herself enough to do even that. She kept finding herself making sidelong glances at Ryuko's hand slowly rubbing up and down along Mako's thigh, or Mako's hand slipping under Ryuko's pyjama top. On the one hand, it was nice to know that they felt comfortable enough around her to be affectionate with one another, but on the other hand...

"Satsuki-sama?" said Mako suddenly. Satsuki blinked and looked up at the former no-star, only to see that both of the other girls were looking intently at her, and only then did Satsuki realize that she had been staring.

"I'm... sorry," she said, turning to focus her eyes on the nonsensical images flitting across the screen. She felt her face heat up, and wondered how deeply she might be blushing.

"Are we embarrassing you, nee-chan?" Ryuko asked teasingly.

"Ryuko-chan, that's not nice," Mako chided her girlfriend. "Um, but I guess it's a good question. Does it bug you that we're all cuddly, Satsuki-sama?"

"You've earned the right to be happy with one another," Satsuki said levelly. "By all means, enjoy yourselves."

"But... if it makes Satsuki-sama uncomfortable, we can enjoy ourselves later," Mako said in reply.

"I'm not uncomfortable," Satsuki said, even though it was a flat-out lie.

"Then why are you blushing?" Ryuko asked, though at least it was in a less teasing tone.

Satsuki felt herself frowning tightly. "I'm not uncomfortable," she insisted. "If anything, I'm jealous."

"Satsuki-sama?" Mako gasped, and Satsuki realized that she had said too much.

"I only wish closeness came as easily to me as it does to you," Satsuki explained, hoping that this would be enough.

"I think I get it," said Ryuko. "You don't like being touched because of..." She did not finish the sentence, but she didn't have to. Satsuki knew enough to realize that Ryuko had also had a brief taste of their mother's abuse.

Mako's eyes widened. "You- you don't like being touched?" she asked Satsuki. "You mean all the times I've hugged you and played with your hair and held onto your arm and leaned on you? You don't like it? I'm so sorry, Satsuki-sama!"

"It's not that, Mako," Satsuki smiled thinly. "It was a little strange at first, maybe, but I don't mind your hugs." Her face darkened. "Friendly contact has actually been very welcome. What I envy about the two of you is... your intimacy."

"You mean like sexy touching?" Mako asked.

"You could call it that," Satsuki agreed. She wondered how much Mako knew, and wondered whether Ryuko might have told her anything about Ragyo's abominable tendencies. "In my life," she said slowly, "that kind of touching has never been 'sexy,' however. It has instead been used only for power and manipulation." She closed her eyes. "I wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to experience that sort of intimacy without thinking of it as..."

"You think letting someone touch you means giving them power over you," Mako nodded.

Both Satsuki and Ryuko gave Mako a look of surprise at this observation. "That- that's it exactly," Satsuki stammered. "Right now, I don't know if I can trust anyone enough to get close to me without worrying about whether or not I'll be giving them power."

Mako brightened. "Then you just need to find someone you CAN trust!"

Satsuki closed her eyes. "Mako, I just said..."

"Oh, I didn't mean someone else," Mako said with a shake of her head. "Um... hold on a second, please?"

The former no-star leaned in to whisper something into Ryuko's ear, and the two of them had a brief, almost silent exchange before Ryuko nodded and gave a half-smile.

"Satsuki-sama, I have an idea," said Mako, turning back to the older girl. "You don't have to do it, and I won't push if you get uncomfortable, but I really just want to help. Can I try?"

"What did you have in mind?" Satsuki asked, baffled at the possibilities.

Mako shifted on the couch so that she was kneeling and facing Satsuki. "Okay. Do you ever do self-exams, Satsuki-sama?"

"Self-exams?" Satsuki repeated, knitting her eyebrows together.

"You know, checking for lumps and stuff," Mako explained. "Mom taught me how. It's super important for girls to do that, you know!"

The light dawned. "Oh! Well, no, I've never really..."

Mako frowned. "Well, we can worry about teaching you that later, then. This is kind of like that, only different."

"Go on," Satsuki said slowly.

"Okay. Start by taking your right hand, slipping it into your robe, and using it to cup your..." Mako paused in thought. "It doesn't feel right to say 'boob' to you, Satsuki-sama, so hold your left breast with it."

"Very well," Satsuki nodded doubtfully, sliding her hand through the gap in her robe. She could tell that she was starting to blush again, and she shot a desperate look to Ryuko, who was watching the proceedings with a thoughtful expression.

"That's perfect," Mako smiled. "Now cross your other arm over, and put your left hand in the other side of your robe to hold your right breast."

Satsuki complied, shifting her arms slightly to allow her hands to get in place. "Very well," she repeated. "What next?"

"Well, that's it, for now," Mako beamed. "There you go, Satsuki-sama! Now you're being touched by someone you know you can trust. It's kind of like giving yourself a hug, isn't it? Now you can relax and enjoy the movie!"

Still smiling happily, Mako leaned over to carefully hug Satsuki, then returned to cuddling against Ryuko, leaving Satsuki nothing short of stunned.

Lacking much alternative, Satsuki turned her attention back to the screen. As before, she found herself unable to concentrate on the movie, but this time it was for different reasons.

She had to admit that she liked the metaphor Mako had used: it really DID feel like she was giving herself a hug. It seemed strange to be holding her own breasts in her hands, though. Why this, rather than just crossing her arms more tightly across herself? It wasn't as though she had never touched them before, after all.

The more she thought about it, though, the more she realized that she had never touched them quite like this. This wasn't bathing, or adjusting herself to better fit into her bra: this was contact simply for the sake of contact.

As a consequence, it was a feeling quite unlike anything she had ever experienced. She had always been aware of her breasts, at least as long as she had had them, but she could not recall a time that she had paid this kind of attention to them.

She had to admit that she liked the way they felt in her hands, and she liked the way her hands felt on them. It was comforting, somehow, and she realized that Mako had been right. These were HER hands. No one was trying to take anything from her, or dominate her, or discomfort her. These were her hands, and this was her body, and she belonged to no one but herself.

The last thought came with such clarity that Satsuki nearly gasped.

With something as simple as this, she was taking another step toward reclaiming herself.

Suddenly aware that her heart was beating faster, Satsuki slowly adjusted her hands around her breasts, testing their weight, their fullness, and their texture. The smooth curves along the undersides, and the tiny raised bumps around the nipples. A warmth and a softness that were part of her, and belonged to her.

It felt marvelous. Not in an erotic sense- at least, she didn't think so- but in the sense that this was something to be enjoyed instead of feared.

But then she thought of other hands touching her in this way, and felt herself shiver. She instinctively tightened her hands around herself, intensifying the self-hug and trying to take comfort in her own warmth. To her surprise, the darker thoughts passed quickly, leaving her to once again focus on the sensations of holding and of being held.

Somewhere a thousand miles away, the movie came to an end, and Ryuko picked up the remote control to switch off the television, leaving the room in welcome silence.

"Mako..." Satsuki whispered.

"Yes, Satsuki-sama?"

"Why did you ask me to try this?"

Mako paused for a moment before answering. "So that you could get used to how it feels to be held," the younger girl then said. "Do you like it?"

Satsuki considered this carefully. "Honestly? I do... but only because I know it's me. I doubt I could trust anyone else this much yet."

"Not even your Elite Four?" Ryuko asked, her voice unusually gentle. "I bet any one of them would jump at the opportunity. They'd do anything you asked."

"No," Satsuki said, shaking her head. "While I would trust them with my life, I... do not believe I could trust them with my body. Gamagori would place me on a pedestal to be admired like a marble statue. Inumuta would study me like a new specimen, more concerned with gathering data. Sanageyama would likely see me as the ultimate conquest, and Nonon..." She closed her eyes, wishing with all her heart that she felt otherwise. "Nonon loves me, but she has always been possessive of me, and I fear that she would treat me as just that: a possession."

Ryuko gave a low whistle. "Damn," she whispered.

"It's okay, Satsuki-sama," Mako said softly. "I guess you've been living your whole life with people who wanted to use you for something, huh?"

"You could say that," Satsuki replied, once again surprised at the girl's observations, not to mention her tendency to get right to the heart of the matter.

"Well, then from now on, this is going to be a safe place for you," Mako nodded, a determined look on her face. "Ryuko-chan and I won't use you for anything or take anything away from you. Right, Ryuko-chan?"

"Yeah, sure," Ryuko agreed, though she didn't look like she quite knew what Mako was talking about.

"You may not believe it yet," Mako added, "but you can trust us, too."

Satsuki looked into Mako's eyes for a while, studying the earnestness in her expression. "I would... I would like for that to be true."

"Then we can keep working on it until you realize it is," Mako shrugged, smiling softly at her senior.