A nine year-old Ryuko jolted awake, gasping softly. She glanced around at her dark bedroom as she heard the sound of rain pounding against her bedside window. "Satsuki?" she called out into the darkness, but then she remembered. Their mother had insisted on separating the two sisters days before, claiming that since they were both getting older they didn't need to sleep together anymore. At the time Ryuko screamed and cried, not wanting to be away from her big sister. The always obedient Satsuki had different views...
"I don't wanna!"
"Why don't you just listen to Mother, Ryuko?"
"Stop acting like a spoiled brat!"
The little girl recoiled from her older sister like her words had slapped her in the face. Her vision blurred with building tears and before she could think about what she was doing she roughly shoved Satsuki. Ryuko was strong for a nine year-old and Satsuki hit the floor hard.
"I HATE YOU!"
It had been a week since that had happened and neither of the siblings had spoken to each other since then. Here Ryuko was, in her own room and she had liked it at first, saying things like: "At least I won't be with, stupid Satsuki!" or "I'm glad I'm not sleeping with caterpillar brows!" But when the night came she was lonely and scared, seeing monsters in the shadows of her closet or hearing sounds that frightened her. She could always go to her mother, but she was a prideful child and too stubborn to go to Satsuki.
What if she's still angry?
Another lightningbolt lit up Ryuko's room and the little girl tried to jump out of her bed, but her legs got tangled up in her sheets. She ended up faceplanting onto the floor so hard that it made her eyes water.
"O-Ow...," she whimpered as she sat up, holding her nose as it smarted in pain. She realized that something was dripping from her nostrils and she pulled her hands back to look. She could barely see in the dark, but saw that there was a red substance on her hands. Her eyes widened in horror.
As if to accentuate her panic her room was set alight once more by the merciless lightning and Ryuko was on her feet again when the thunder followed. She burst out of her room and towards Satsuki's, practically throwing open her sister's door.
Alarmed the 10 year-old sat up in her own bed, her long hair whipping around her as she turned towards the door. "Ryuko...? What-?"
"Satsuki!" the little girl cried and she ran towards her older sister's bed, scrambling to get up onto it. Satsuki's eyes grew wide with shock and concern as she helped Ryuko onto the bed. Her younger sister looked quite the mess: hair all over the place, tears running down her face, snot coming from her- wait...
Was that... blood...?
"What happened?" Her thick eyebrows furrowed as she waited anxiously for her sister's answer.
"I-I g-got scared... A-And I f-fell," she mumbled as she tried in vain to wipe away the tears that were cascading down her cheeks. "I-I-I didn't... know wh-what to do." Ryuko looked up at her, the nine year-old's large, wet eyes portraying her absolute fear. "I-I'm s-s-sorry... Si-Sis..."
Satsuki's expession softened at Ryuko's shaky apology and she cupped her younger sister's face gently as the smaller child continued to sniffle and cry. "For what, dear sister?"
"I-I got mad... And I pushed you... A-Aren't you still m-mad at m-me?"
Satsuki suddenly giggled softly before wrapping her arms around the smaller girl. "I couldn't stay mad at you, Ryuko. You're my little sister," she reassured as she stroked Ryuko's hair. Ryuko looked up at her older sister once more, still sniffling.
"You're not mad anymore?"
"No, I'm not mad," she replied simply.
"What is it?"
"My nose hurts...," Ryuko mumbled quietly and Satsuki frowned, finding the little confession worrying.
"C'mon, let's you cleaned up." She climbed down from the bed and helped her younger sister climb down next. When the thunder made its noise once more Ryuko clutched the sleeve of her sister's blouse. "It's alright. It's just thunder," Satsuki said confidently as she held Ryuko's hand, leading her out into the dark hallway and bravely guiding the way to the bathroom.
Soon enough Satsuki had everything they would need to treat Ryuko and she sat on the floor across from her younger sister. "Hm, shirt's gonna have to come off, little sister. There's blood all over it."
Ryuko slipped off the shirt, looking a little sef-conscious as she did so and waited for further instruction. "Do you think Mom will be mad?" she asked as she looked down at her lap, hearing Satsuki turning on the sink as she wetted a towel for her younger sister.
"If we explain what happened she won't be mad. I promise." The ten year-old sat down again and began gently cleaning Ryuko's face of the blood and tears (she remembered to wash her little sister's hands as well). She handed her younger sibling the towel. "Hold that against your nose, okay?"
"Okay... O-Ow!" she exclaimed when Satsuki suddenly pinched the bridge of her nose. "Wh-Whaddya doin'?"
"It'll stop the bleeding."
"I can do it myself," Ryuko muttered stubbornly, her voice sounding a bit nasally due to Satsuki pinching her nose closed, but her sister continued to hold her nose regardless.
"How did you hurt yourself like this anyway?" Satsuki asked to pass the five minutes that she would need to stop Ryuko's bleeding. Maybe she should wait an additional ten just in case...
"H-Huh? I-I told ya, already...," she replied softly, looking a bit bashful. "I, uh... I tripped when I was getting out of bed..."
"You should be more careful then. The new carpet hasn't been put in yet so the floors are still hard..."
"I-I know! It was... It was justa accident."
It was quiet between the two for a while with the occasional rumble of thunder that made Ryuko twitch with unease.
"Do you hate thunderstorms?"
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
Silence feel among the sisters for a few minutes more before Satsuki pulled away the towel and checked Ryuko's nose. She smiled in satisfaction as she saw that the bleeding had stopped.
"Looks like you'll be okay."
Ryuko grinned. "I'm tough as nails! Just like Dad used to say, right?"
Satsuki smiled at her sister fondly before standing up. "Let's get you a new shirt."
She led her younger sister back to her own room and sorted through her clothes. Ryuko stood beside her and watched as she dug through her drawers and finally found a shirt. "This should match nicely," Satsuki said approvingly as she held up a new clean shirt to Ryuko. "Alright, little sister. I'm going to go back to my room." Her younger sister looked up at her sharply after she had pulled on the shirt. "If you need anything just come and get me, okay?"
"W-Wait!" Ryuko called out, grabbing the sleeve of her sister's blouse as she turned to leave.
"Hm? What is it?" the thick-browed child asked as she turned to look at her little sister once more and saw that the smaller girl was trembling ever so slightly.
"I-I'm, uh...," she mumbled, not looking at her sister as her face grew red. "I-I... um, I'm still kinda... scared. C-Can I... sleep with you tonight? Please?"
Satsuki's expression seemed to go soft once more at her sister's pleadng. "I guess one night together wouldn't hurt," she consented after a moment or two. Her younger sister's expression brightened considerably and she gave her that big grin that Satsuki loved to see.
"Thanks, Sis! I owe y-"
"AH!" Ryuko yelped as she covered her ears and her happy expression morphed into one of fear. Satsuki seemed to look worried and then thoughtful before she grabbed Ryuko's hand again, giving the little one a gentle smile.
"Come. Let's run back to my room before the thunder catches us, okay?"
The nine year-old looked thoroughly confused, but nodded nonetheless. They then proceeded to run out of Ryuko's room and make a dash towards Satsuki's. Ryuko flinched when the lightning flashed outside and Satsuki pulled her along faster. When they finally reached Satsuki's room she shut the dor behind them and made a run to her bed, climbing up it effortlessly before pulling her younger sister up after her. When the thunder boomed once again Satsuki hugged her sister close as Ryuko cried out again, trembling harder.
"Shh, it's okay. The thunder can't get us as long as we're in bed, okay?"
"H-How do ya know that?"
"Father told me that when I used to be scared of thunerstorms."
Ryuko was quiet, looking as though she was thinking hard about something. "So... Is thunder scared of beds or somethin'?"
At her sister's seemingly innocent question Satsuki giggled softly. "Mm, it's something like that I suppose..." She took a look at her bedside clock and realized it was rather late. "I think it's time for both of us to go to bed."
"Huh?" Ryuko pulled away from Satsuki and crossed her arms. "It's a Friday though! That means no school tomorrow. Can't we stay up as long as we wanna?"
Satsuki sat back and seemed to copy her younger sister's posture, sitting up almost ramrod straight. "Oh? What do you want to do then, little sister?" She chuckled softly as she saw Ryuko looking dumbfounded.
"Uh... I dunno. I guess... talk?"
"I-I don't know! You think of something," Ryuko replied as she gave her sister one of her signature scowls.
Satsuki looked thoughtful for a moment before finally deciding on asking Ryuko a question. "Were you scared when you realized your nose was bleeding?"
Her younger sister took on a rather smug look as she responded. "Nuh-uh. I was just... surprised. You looked pretty scared though," she replied teasingly and grinned when a blush blossomed across her older sister's cheeks.
"W-Well, anyone would be scared if they saw their sister bleeding, don't you think?" she replied, closing her eyes indignantly.
"Heh, heh. I guess you're right. But I'm a tough kid. You know that don't you, Sats?" She'd only just recently come up with the nickname for her sister.
"Yes, but tough or not you're still a kid and it's my responsibility to make sure you don't get hurt."
"Whuh-?," Ryuko was speechless for a moment before responding heatedly, "Y-You're a kid too! You need looking after as much as I do..."
Satsuki looked amused at this. "Oh? And I suppose you'll look after me then?"
"Of course!" she replied with conviction. "If anyone messes with you I'll kick their ass!"
The ten year-old's eyes widened in surprise. "Ryuko!"
"Ah! Uh... s-sorry," she said, offering a sheepish smile to her older sister as she scratched the back of her head in embarrassment.
"Where did you learn language like that and who did you learn it from?"
Ryuko giggled and winked at her older sister. "Not tellin'."
Satsuki sighed. As flattered as she was to hear such a comment she was also a bit horrified at the possible origins of her nine year-old sister's new vocabulary. "Just... don't talk that way around Mother, alright?"
"You got it, Sats."
The bedroom was once again lit of by lightning once more and the thunder raged outside, yet Ryuko seemed oddly at ease at the moment.
"You don't seem to be frightened of the thunder anymore, litte sister," she commented.
"Huh?" Satsuki almsot snorted at Ryuko's bewildered expression as she looked towards the window. "W-Well, ya said we're safe here, right? Besides, I...," the smaller girl looked down at her lap as her face visibly reddened and she twiddled her thumbs, "I feel safer when I'm with you..."
Satsuki gave her younger sister a soft smile and stroked her hair gently. "Is that why you were so adamant about wanting to stay with me?"
She frowned when the only response she got from Ryuko was silence. "Ryuko...," she murmured before attempting to look at her sister's face, but the stubborn child continued to avoid her gaze.
Satsuki sighed in resignation before suddenly wrapping her arms around Ryuko in a tight embrace. She seemed to revel in the little squeak of surprise that the smaller child emitted. She'd forgotten how small Ryuko was for her age and it was only when she held her like this that she remembered.
"Satsukiiii!" she whined as she struggled in her older sister's grip, attempting to use her arms to push her away. "L-Let go!"
"If I do, will you tell me what's wrong?"
At the question Ryuko seemed to stop struggling all together. Silence fell between the two with exception of the rain and thunder outside.
"I... I don't want you to... to go away too...," Ryuko said in a small voice.
Satsuki blinked in confusion pulling back a little to look down at her sister, but the little girl had buried her face into Satsuki's chest. "What do you mean, Ryuko?"
"I-I don't want you to go away like Dad did!" she suddenly wailed, gripping Satsuki's blouse with her small hands and before the older girl could register what was happening her little sister was crying into her chest. "W-We g-got... separated too.. before he," she hiccuped, "before h-he... before..." She was struggling to get the words out and her voice seemed to crack at almost every word.
"Shh...," Satsuki murmured quietly, once again stroking Ryuko's hair. "Hush, it's okay. I'm not going anywhere, Ryuko."
She could remember that horrifying day their father had with more clarity than she was willing to admit. Ryuko had been at the impressionable age of 5 and Satsuki had recently turned 6. Their father had taken them into town to buy ice cream, but Ryuko had wandered off somehow. Satsuki and her searched frantically for her until they saw her, running carelessly across the street and into the path of a speeding car. Their father made it in time to push Ryuko out of harm's way, but he failed to save himself. Later that day he died in the hospital from his injuries.
Satsuki hadn't realized that the incident had traumatized the smaller girl so much and she wondered with growing concern how long she'd been hiding these insecurities from her. A sniffle from Ryuko brought her back to reality and she rubbed her younger sister's back comfortingly. "It's okay, Ryuko. Nothing will separate us. Not even the distance between our rooms."
"Y-You... think s-so?"
"Of course. It's my responsibility to look after you, right? That means I have to make sure I know where you are at all times. And you have to do the same, okay?"
Ryuko looked up at her sister with watery eyes and nodded. "O-Okay...," she replied as she wiped at her eyes.
"Now, stop all of that sniffling before your nose starts bleeding again," Satsuki said teasingly as she squeezed Ryuko into another hug and the smaller girl giggled quietly. They stayed like that for a little while and Satsuki was content with stroking her sister's hair for the next few minutes. She didn't realize she was dozng off until she heard a small yawn from Ryuko.
She looked down at her younger sister and saw that the younger girl was beginning to nod off as well, her eyelids drooping with fatigue. Satsuki laughed quietly. "I thought you were the one who wanted to stay up, but you're already falling asleep," she chided her as she smiled.
"Mm...?" Ryuko blinked slowly as she looked up at Satsuki. The nine year-old did her best to sit up straight. "I... I wasn't... falling asleep," she argued in a rather unconvincing way, rubbing her eyes.
"Come here." Satsuki decided it was best not to argue with her and patted the spot next to her before getting under the blankets. She almost snorted in amusement again as she saw Ryuko contemplating following her request. The nine year-old looked adorably tired, if one could say such a thing. Her eyes could barely keep themselves open and she was swaying slightly looking as though she wouldn't be able to keep herself upright much longer though a sleepy scowl still managed color her features.
"I'm not... tired...," she mumbled.
"I didn't say you were."
Satsuki giggled softly as she saw Ryuko considering her options before finally crawling under the blankets next to her. She didn't say a word as she lay down on her pillow and waited for her sister to do the same. When she did Satsuki turned to face her, supporting her own head with her hand and stared for a moment.
"Nothing...," Satsuki replied quietly as she reached over and began twirling the single red lock in Ryuko's hair around her finger. A sound of protest came from Ryuko at the action and she pushed her hand away.
"Why do you do that?"
"Run your fingers through my hair," she answered, looking grumpy for whatever reason.
Satsuki shrugged in response. "Does it bother you?"
"Ah, um... N-Not really, but...," Ryuko trailed off, seeming to look for the right words to say. Her expression suddenly became forlorn. "Dad used to do it a lot..."
Satsuki looked unhappy at her little sister's words and seemed to withdraw her hand bit more. "I'm sorry..."
Ryuko's hand suddenly shot out and grabbed hers. "N-No, I don't mind, really." She quiet for another minute before speaking once more. "I... I like when you mess with my hair..."
The ten year-old smiled before continuing, this time running her fingers through her sister's soft, dark hair. Ryuko's eyes closed quietly and she hummed happily.
Just like a little cat... Satsuki thought to herself as she looked upon her sister fondly. Soon enough her actions had successfully lulled her younger sister into a deep sleep. Despite that fact she continued to stroke Ryuko's hair until she grew tired herself.