Date: December 21, 2015
After Suzu comes back from an escort mission she went on while sick, both she and her parents reconsider how they interact.
"Family (Post-Mission, That Night, Good Night)"
All she'd really told her friends about her relationship with her parents was that it was… Strained. That they didn't approve of her being a ninja. Possibly because of all that they fought for to ensure children wouldn't have to fight and die pointlessly. She could understand that view point, but their overbearing protectiveness had stifled her growth and left her unsure of herself and yet simultaneously wishing to rebel in order to prove she could be a splendid ninja too.
But after coming back from an escort mission in which she had been mostly useless because of how sick she was, and yet had been fully equipped with medicine and tissues when she set out, courtesy of her mother… She began to realize… While she couldn't be held back constantly by her mother and father, they still had wisdom to give her. And while a ninja must be able to endure hardship, going out on a C-Rank mission while sick was not prudent.
Now here she was, home again, sicker than when she set out, and her mother was fussing over her. And darn it, Suzu WANTED to be fussed over. That part of her that was still a child wanted to be coddled, cared for, to be wrapped up in warm blankets, and have her head petted until she drifted off to sleep.
"I told you this would happen, Suzu!" her mother chastised her instead, an elegance to her features that Suzu had yet to manifest. Her mother had been a splendid ninja, and given it up to raise a daughter. She should be grateful for everything. But instead she…
"Why don't you listen to me anymore? You should stay closer to home. You aren't ready for high-level missions yet!" her mother continued on. And yet even as she lectured, she was helping Suzu out of her backpack.
Suzu trembled, wishing that instead of this lecture, she was receiving sympathy for how miserable she felt. On many levels. She allowed herself to be aided, and then to be guided down the hall by her arm.
"Going out on an escort mission while you're sick? What childish foolishness!" Uchiha Tsugumi continued to rant as she led Suzu to the bathroom… Where a hot bath already waited.
Suzu shivered again, her eyes feeling hot. Did she want to be an adult or a child? And why did her attempts to be an adult just make her look even more childish and incompetent? Tears started to fall and she didn't even know why she was crying. Just like a baby.
Tsugumi stood in the hall, her hands on her hips, her dress and apron showing the figure that Suzu could expect to get as she grew older, but the slenderness unlike the stocky muscles of Suzu's father. Tsugumi was looking down at her daughter with disapproval. Or an attempt at it. But when Suzu lifted her head enough to meet her gaze, she didn't need the Sharingan to see what had always been there. Not disapproval, but concern.
Wiping her eyes quickly with the back of her arm and trying to disguise it as wiping her nose by sniffling deeply, Suzu replied, "You're right, mother. I'm sorry."
As Suzu looked away again, Tsugumi shifted her weight slightly, almost uncertain at this change in the dialogue they'd been having for the past several years, though her false sterness didn't move from her face at first. She just nodded her head curtly, and then said, "I'll have a change of clothes ready for you. Dinner's almost ready too." Then she turned to leave.
Suzu called out quickly as she stood in the threshold of the next room, "Mother?"
Tsugumi paused and turned back, an eyebrow raised questioningly. "Yes?"
Suzu hesitated only a moment, and then said, "Thank you for raising me. I appreciate it."
Tsugumi's expression was puzzled but also softened. A faint smile touched her lips as she said, "Your bath will get cold. Hurry up."
Suzu muttered, "Hai." and went to wash off the muck of travel on the road.
The night that Suzu returned home from the escort mission, still terribly sick, uncertain of her own body, let alone her own thoughts and feelings, she went to bed and lay there, wheezing and occasionally coughing right when she was about to fall asleep, and just reconsidering the past few years and her interactions with her parents. Hizumu Arashi had said she wasn't a child, and that no one was treating her like one.
But that wasn't true. And she knew there was one way in particular to signify her growth from a child to a woman. To prove her independence. She would need to work hard at it. But she didn't want to cut her parents out of the process as she had been trying to. She realized now, that family was also important. They were a bond that would strengthen her, as long as she did not allow herself to be tied down by them as well.
But her thoughts went in circles, and every line of reasoning she started to pursue eventually faded into fever dreams. Eventually, she found her way to sleep. But it was not a restful one.
Meanwhile, in the living room, Uchiha Tsugumi and Uchiha Ken were talking about Suzu.
"I just don't know what to do with her anymore. She doesn't take care of herself properly, but she doesn't seem to want my help." Tsugumi complained to her husband, even as she remembered her interaction with Suzu in the hallway earlier.
The tan-skinned Ken hmmmmed deeply as he folded his arms and gazed off towards a corner of the room in thought. Eventually, he said, "I think that perhaps we are being too stringent in protecting her."
Tsugumi glowered at Ken, waves of menace radiating off of her that darkened the room. "Nani? Are you suggesting I abandon my only child to the cruelties of the world?" she asked, eyes narrowed and glowing red with her Sharingan.
Ken waved his hands urgently, sweating a bit and stammered out, "N-not at all, Tsu-chan! That isn't what I meant!" Holding his chin in one hand and supporting his elbow in the other, he returned his gaze to the corner of the room, and explained himself. "I just meant that… She's going to need to take care of herself someday. And not just as an adult or as a woman, but as a ninja. We've tried to dissuade her, but her heart's set on it. And we both know where she gets her stubbornness."
Tsugumi frowned and leaned on her elbows on the table, cheeks in her palms, eyebrows down, but no longer looking like she was ready to kill someone. "So? If she doesn't learn when I tell her how to do things right, how am I supposed to help her? What should we do?"
Ken turned his eyes back on his lovely wife, and smiled lopsidedly. "Maybe what we should be doing is actually teaching her what it means to be a ninja… Instructing her. Training her. Not just lecturing her. We both agreed she shouldn't live the life that we did, but the Village is a new system, with new possibilities. She won't be sent on missions she can't handle. No more children need to die pointlessly at the behest of adults."
Seeing Tsugumi looking down at the table, not quite convinced of what was being said, but considering it, Ken reached across and took her hands in his. He pulled Tsugumi's hands away from her face and held them in his own. Both of their hands were rough from years of battle, though Tsugumi's were less so. Ken waited until Tsugumi looked him in the eyes, and then said, "We're the adults now. So we get to decide what the ninja world is like, for the sake of our daughter, and for other children as well. Let's try supporting her. Teaching her what we know. She'll fare a lot better out there with our experience to guide her."
A little while later, Tsugumi stood in the door way of Suzu's bedroom, watching her sleep. She moved to seat herself by the bed, to watch over her as she had when Suzu was younger, but… Instead she just leaned down and stroked Suzu's spikey black hair she'd inherited from her father. Petting Suzu's head, until the young kunoichi's wheezing breaths evened out.
She whispered, "Oyasumi." Planting a kiss atop Suzu's head, she left the room, closing the door behind her… But not all the way. Just incase Suzu needed her.
After her mother left, Suzu smiled in her sleep.