Here's another little scene I wrote up that just didn't make the cut into the main storyline/couldn't be properly placed into a chapter. It's yours to decide whether it actually happens in the "~canon~" of Laterality or not. Takes place while Namie is still in her healing period, before the Progression interlude. Written around January.


Namie didn't often get the chance to interact with other kunoichi aside from those she considered her immediate family, like Taji and Kushina, mainly because her life as a genin had largely revolved around her male-dominated team, and before that even her Academy class was filled with boys and only one other girl. Then again, she didn't particularly go out of her way to strike up any conversations with other females, much less anyone.

But that was what made her relationship with Suzume so dear.

"Ow, jeez, do you have to pull so hard, you demon?!" Namie griped out after hissing through her clenched teeth in pain when the spines of the comb were once again raked ruthlessly through her unruly and tangle-prone hair. It was of her own making—if only she paid as much attention to her haircare as her training, then fixing up the mess wouldn't have been so painful. Or, alternatively, if she didn't go for days at a time without brushing her hair just because she remained shut up inside her home, out of the public eye, while her injured limbs continued to heal.

"Do you want this done anytime soon, or not?" the brunette with hair that was just as wily—but actually well cared-for—sniped back tartly. "It'll only get worse, the more you leave it alone." In response to the insult, she gave another sharp tug of the comb and the girl gave a jolt, fidgeting in pain as she sat half-turned on the living room couch before her.

"I feel like you haven't gotten any nicer since you became a genin, Suzu-chan…" Her shoulders hunched as she leaned forward, away from her friend, in defense. She'd taken it upon herself to disentangle that yellow mess, but it was hard to believe there was even a scarce ounce of kindness in the action.

"And I feel like you haven't gotten any better at taking care of yourself, Namie." The blonde still smelled of dog from Toboe and Kurocha's visit much earlier that day, and if Suzume wasn't already used to the odor—and slightly fond of it—she would have been offended. Immaculate personal hygiene just wasn't among her friend's top priorities, it seemed, but that was just like her. She probably smelled and looked as dirty as a stray animal when she returned from missions.

The other girl rolled her eyes and gestured to her present physical state. "Well, it's kind of hard to when I'm like this." Leg aside, having only one available arm to use was highly inconvenient. She'd gained infinite sympathy and respect for people who had lost permanent usage of any of their limbs but managed to go about their lives regardless.

"Excuses, excuses. You wouldn't do it anyway."

Namie had no response and the two remained in a comfortable—if not slightly antagonistic—silence until the task was complete.

Admittedly, even after a good brush, her hair looked no different than it usually did. Back up into the favored high ponytail and good to go.

"Thanks," the blonde grinned boldly, having rendered the hard work practically invisible, but at the same time proud of accomplishing the feat one-handed, as she turned around on the couch cushion to fully face the other girl who sat beside her.

Suzume shook her head in disappointment. "Honestly, I don't even know why I bothered."

"Because you're my best friend who actually cares about my physical appearance?"

"Well, someone has to."

"I'll return the favor someday."

"I think I'd rather you not."

Namie quirked a brow. "Aw, come on; remember when your mom told us to 'graciously accept the goodwill of others,' or whatever it was?"

"I'm surprised you remembered that."

"Heh, right?"

Suzume fell quiet, lips pursed. She breathed out a sigh through her nose before fixing the other girl with a stern stare and imparting a few words that were less biting than usual. "What I meant is I'd rather you start taking care of yourself so you don't have to be in that position."

Two-and-a-half months had passed since Team One's tragedy and, while Namie appeared to be past the worst of her mourning, there was still a subdued sadness about her, despite the cheeky responses. It was a drastic improvement from the last time she'd seen the girl—then, she'd been nothing short of an emotional wreck, and it was…jarring.

She much preferred seeing her in her usual high spirits, happy and healthy. As much as the situation could allow, at least.

Their relationship wasn't always so amiable. Even now, it was difficult to pin down and "best friends" was a term to be used loosely, and somewhat jokingly. But there was a certain measure of care and concern present between them that usually accompanied friendships, because they helped and supported each other, not only as fellow kunoichi but as friends.

What made things difficult between them was an external factor that came in the form of Inuzuka Toboe.

But perhaps that was only one-sided.

The brunette studied her fair-haired friend silently as she yammered on animatedly about something or other in response to the previous comment, only half listening because sometimes it was better to just let the other girl run out of steam before she said something sensible again.

She knew it was foolish and petty, but she couldn't completely quell the faint bitterness that arose from her jealousy.

Toboe was interested in Namie. That much was clear to her, even if neither of them realized the extent of that—and she was almost positive he didn't. His attention was fixated on her whether she was or wasn't in sight and when he was bored, more often than not, he had something to say about the blonde. Mostly about training or sparring, but call it what it was.

He wanted her attention.

Suzume knew this because she watched Toboe more than anyone else even thought to, and his head was always turned in Namie's direction. When they'd received the news of the kidnapping and subsequent return involving the girl, his first reaction was to rush to the hospital and of course she followed, but they'd been denied as visitors each time they tried to see her, which finally devolved into sending flower baskets and well-wishes until she was discharged. He wasn't so callous or shallow to only want to assess his classmate's health because of their status as rivals, because despite his slight air-headedness and tunnel vision, he did care for those close to him.

But that didn't stop him from challenging her to a match the first moment he was able, much to everyone's chagrin.

Whatever the case, he was always looking away from her, when she wanted exactly the opposite. But not even helping him through his studies and training or just being at his side for so long could grant her that. It was something that was out of her control.

It wasn't Namie's fault and there was no reason to feel ire towards her. She knew that and she didn't blame her, but logic and matters of the heart were just incompatible at times and the annoyance remained.

Namie could care less about things like that. She did humor Toboe when it was convenient or amusing for her, but she could care less about his hazy crush. As far as Suzume noticed, the blonde wasn't particularly interested in any of their classmates and her eyes never trailed after anyone's back, even though her gaze was always aimed somewhere. Somewhere far away, somewhere she couldn't see and probably couldn't understand. Like now—that melancholy surrounding the girl was something she couldn't reach.

But even if she did notice his feelings and felt the same, Suzume wouldn't be able to hold that against her, either.

Toboe and Namie were both very dear to her. That was what made it so complicated. She couldn't pick one over the other even if that meant she may end up getting hurt somewhere along the way for the sake of someone else's happiness. There would always be a sense of reluctance and the gnawing insecurity that she would have to face that and be willing to accept it one day, however.

She just hoped she would be strong enough to, because speculating and facing a situation head-on were two very different things.

"Are you even listening, Suzu-chan?"

"Honestly, you lost me somewhere at 'I'm not a kid, you know,'" Suzume replied knowingly, sometimes giving in to the desire to tease her friend.

The blonde's expression soured as she realized those were the first words she'd spoken and that most of her reply had gone unheard. Then, it evened out into something a little smug and airy as she bumped her shoulder against the other girl's arm. "Ah, got your thoughts on something else, hm? Or maybe someone else?"

Naturally, she was well aware of her crush on the Inuzuka. Always hinted at it, but never outright. Probably, with her luck, everyone noticed it except the one person who should have. She adjusted her glasses briefly. "I guess you caught me."

Namie's lips split into a grin. "Knew it."

Suzume allowed a small smirk in return. What she didn'tknow was that she was also among those thoughts.