A/N: (Literally exactly the same except for the author's note at the end, sorry.)


"You don't fight with your dad very often, do you?" Sakura asked, and pushed a bottle of chocolate sauce towards Hinata.

Sasuke didn't say anything, serenely sucking the dessert off of his spoon and watching the Hyuuga. This was supposed to be an afternoon crashed on Sakura's couch watching a documentary of natural poisons, but they'd sacrificed it for the heiress' boy problems.

Hinata huffed her bangs out of her eyes, "I didn't know what to do! I understand where he's coming from, but it's a chance to actually talk to Naruto." A weird, itchy feeling was bothering her. She tucked her face into her hands like she was rubbing it tiredly and silently activated her bloodline. There! A spy outside the house, in the tree in the far corner of Sakura's yard.

"So you gave the seal to your father, anyway?" Sasuke asked, just to make sure. Before she could get it, he snatched the bag of chocolate chips off the table and poured it into his bowl.

"He turned it in to the Council right after we found it, so that there wouldn't have been any time for us to even look at it." Hinata said. She tapped the table idly, waiting for her turn for chocolate.

'Location being watched.'

Sasuke paused in helping himself, then gave himself about another fourth of a cup before passing the bag off to Hinata and rapped his knuckles on the underside of the wood while waiting for Sakura to finish with the whipped cream.

'Fox home?'

Hinata gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head.


"Whipped cream?" Sakura asked, closing the fridge quietly and turning around with a tub.

"Yes," Hinata said with emphasis, not looking away from the avenger. "Anyway, it's interesting about those new laws Councilman Danzo's backing, isn't it?"

Sasuke shrugged, "I can't remember," His stance was laid back, and he was chewing two maraschino cherries lackadaisically, but his black eyes were intent on Hinata's white ones.

"The ones about confiscation of jutsu? It's a shame. I found a great medical text about cell deterioration and chakra affinity, but I had to submit it for a scan through the new Academy division before I could read them." Sakura said.

"I heard that they're going to section off people by rank and give them passes to material that way."

"That's...annoying." Sasuke said, breathing out through his nose.

An awkward silence descended in which Sakura and Hinata both wanted to agree, but felt like their observer might get them in trouble for 'going against their glorious state', whoever he was. It was likely that, if they could hear them, the game was up already, but Hinata guessed that from the distance - their spy was watching them through a window - they couldn't do much but lipread and attempt to decipher the seemingly random knocks they made against the wood.

"How do you feel about a movie?" Sakura asked.

"Does a documentary count as a movie?" Sasuke asked.

"Eh, I think anything that can be watched on a screen counts," Hinata said, and quickly moved to draw the curtains on the windows that looked outside from the kitchen and living room. As soon as their watcher's view was blocked, the trio eyed each other uncertainly, not really sure of what to say that wasn't obvious. They were under suspicion of communicating with Naruto, and if Hinata's comment about wanting to talk to him had been caught, they were already in deep trouble.

Sakura sighed, "Alright, I'm not pretending - I actually am interested in seeing this documentary."

The girls huffed and went about finding quilts and pillows for an afternoon viewing.


"But why did you have to hand it over?" Hinata said with a put out gesture, then crossed her arms over her chest defensively against her father's icy glare. "We have plenty of seals that only Hyuuga can activate, we even have hiding places in the house!" Not that they were used often, since anyone with a Byakugan could see inside them. There were one or two meant for storing scrolls and valuables, and a few chambers underneath some of the Branch housing that were compact but large enough to hold the Hyuuga children should disaster (such as another Tailed Beast attack) strike.

"Do you have any idea what is going on in the politics of this village?" Her father asked, looking angrier than she'd ever seen him. He was pacing.

"Councilman Danzo is considering taking the Hokage position and the Council is making decisions in the Hokage's stead for now," she said. "And that new decree about searches without warrant of any citizen being acceptable."

Her father breathed out slowly through his nose. "You are...woefully ignorant."

Hinata shifted nervously, "What's going on, otou-sama?"

Hiashi's face remained hard as he met her eyes, "Not just searches without warrant: confiscation of any material not explicitly permitted by the Council."

"Well, yes, I knew that," Hinata said, "It's inconvenient, but how bad could it…?"

"All clans have jutsu specifically tailored to them, and each one reserves the right to keep them a secret. If the Hyuuga wished, we could cease teaching our style and techniques, and the Gentle Fist would die with us," the Hyuuga head said. "The same goes for the Yamanaka mind jutsu and the Nara shadow manipulations.

"Councilman Danzo wishes to be in control of where these jutsu go. Now that this decree is being enforced, it is only a matter of time until the compound is searched for documentation of our technique and it is taught to ninja outside our clan."

"Without the Byakugan…" Hinata murmured, thinking back to spars where Naruto had impeded her vision. "...it's difficult to find the chakra pathways, but with practice, it's not impossible."

Hiashi nodded, "An opponent would be slowed down much better than with standard taijutsu using Gentle Fist."

"But…" Hinata floundered, "Gentle Fist uses a specific type of chakra! Our chakra! Hyuuga are suited to the Gentle Fist!" Even she, who was a black sheep in regards to her family's affinity for blocking chakra pathways, would be infinitely better at it than, say, Ino or Sasuke. Her chakra was meant for sneaking in and dealing damage. Ino's was meant for flying in and manipulating. Sasuke's for burning (or electrocuting, as his personal case may be).

Hiashi didn't comment, so she knew she was right. No-one would ever perform the Hyuuga's technique better than the Hyuuga.

But even more importantly, "It's ours."

It was her ancestors who had developed it, her white-eyed grandparents, great-grandparents who'd struck down enemies to Konoha with painful pressure on organs and blockages of vital energy - yes, it was a bloody history, ninja histories usually were, but it was hers.

And here was that anger, again. That same flickering rage she'd felt when Naruto left, only now it wasn't her love who this was directed at, and she didn't care about the reasons behind the Council's actions. This was a stupid attempt to grab power away from her clan - power that wasn't even suited to others! Councilman Danzo was not a good man.

"It is ours. But the Konoha's leaders have decided otherwise." Her father fixed her with a more familial but no less serious glance, "Hinata, we must be careful. We must not give Councilman Danzo any reason to believe the Hyuuga are an enemy. This is why the seal had to be submitted to the Council."

"If he thought that I knew where Naruto was…" Hinata met her father's pupil-less eyes fearfully.

"I would not be heading the Hyuuga any longer. Not as the father to a traitor."

"That's…" Horrible. The clan was already inching towards a steep cliff in regards to Main-Branch House relations, but the displacement of her father would hurl the whole thing into chaos. She didn't even want to think about how twisted everything could get should Danzo begin dipping his fingers into the Hyuuga's affairs. Visions of the Caged Bird seal being given to younger and younger children at the Academy to ensure there would be no more spilling of Konoha secrets - one hand seal, and that missing-nin was dead before they ever left Fire Country's border.

"Imagine Konoha at war."

She didn't want to. But she could. With the Caged Bird seal on her forehead, she would march into battle against whomever the Council pointed her towards, and would die an unknown soldier's death trying to claim more land for her 'glorious state'.

"These are peaceful times," she tried.

"The calm before the storm," her father corrected.

Storm. Did Naruto know any of this would happen? Oh, she prayed he did. She prayed he'd only keyed the seal in to her, and that the hospital no longer had any of the blood she'd donated the last time there had been a blood drive in the village. Surely, it would have been kept anonymously - no-one needed to know who the previous owner of whatever samples the hospital collected was?

So much had been left up to chance! She willed her heart to slow down. Tried not to think about how, at this very moment, there were likely to be unknown hands pawing through her and Naruto's belongings at their apartment.


"Do you know who this is?"

She swallowed. The coffee she'd had this morning was curdling in her stomach, she was sure of it.

"It's a frog."

The orange skin had dulled down to a brown, grainy red around deep lacerations in nerve-rich areas of his limbs. Metal stakes had crudely pinned the joints to the table, like the former summon was only a biology specimen. He was missing the dark blue vest that he always wore - she'd wondered what the purpose of it was, since it couldn't possibly have kept the frog warm, and it hadn't any pockets to hold anything. But maybe he'd been within his rights to want to wear a vest. She hadn't seen Naruto in over a year, and wasn't looking to start dating anyone, but she'd been experimenting with makeup lately (partly for undercover mission purposes, partly out of interest). Oh, gods, one of his eyes was open.

"Oh, wait, no, it has warts; it's a toad. It's huge - a summon? Why would you kill a toad summon? I thought they were loyal to Konoha."

It was secreting a filmy, clear fluid, and the world was particularly cruel for making it look like a tear. There was not expression of pain on the toad's face, he looked nothing less than serene, but that one tear - it was like it was there for her. Why did she have to turn in the seal? She could've lied the moment her father discovered it and played it off as Naruto not having looked for scratch paper when he'd come up with the design and quickly scribbling the idea down on the photograph. She wouldn't have needed to turn the damn thing in. No-one would've had to die for something this goddamn stupid.

"I never met any of Naruto's summons. I actually forgot he had a contract."

Gamakichi had liked fried crackers. He liked corny jokes and games.

"Did you find anything out about Naruto's whereabouts from him?"

"No, but if we do, we'll keep you posted, Hyuuga-san."

"Thank you."


She hadn't cried like this since Naruto had left, only now it wasn't Naruto's teammates baring witness, but her father.

"Why?" she croaked, "He was an agent of Konoha, he wouldn't even have disobeyed orders had a Konoha-nin told him to look for Naruto."

"Not openly, but since he was killed we can conclude that when he was questioned about Uzumaki's whereabouts, he refused to give them up."

"No-one even would've known about the seal if you hadn't turned it in!" she rounded on him. "I could've hidden it just fine! He didn't have to die!"

"Where would you have hidden it? Where in the village can you hide something that even the Byakugan can't find it?" Hiashi asked calmly.

She swallowed, blinking back another wave of tears, unwilling to keep weeping in the face of his cool.

"Hinata, the clan is in danger."

Oh, everyone was in danger. The village was in danger from outside forces, so they had to obey the ninja. The ninja were in danger of having their rights taken away from them by the Council. The Council was in danger of being called out on their blatant tyranny, and the clan was in danger from all of the above, because Naruto had decided he needed to leave to fulfill his secret, too-risky-to-include-anyone-else mission and taken off.

She closed her eyes and remembered the feel of his steady frame behind her. The gentle press of his chin on her shoulder, the salt of ramen broth on his lips. Remembered the feel of being pressed into the roof underneath him, how he'd kissed her and promised he'd never leave.

"Now is not the time for tears," her father's voice interrupted.

No. Definitely not. Refreshed by the memory of her hero - even if he was a lousy one, he was the only person she knew who had an idea of what the hell he was doing - she looked at her father again.

"In these times of change, the Hyuuga clan needs to remain strong. United. Hinata, you've been building a close relationship between the Main and Branch in the last year. Continue to do so."

She licked her lips, "Does this mean…?"

"Yes," Hiashi looked weary. Not ready to bestow this on her, but having to do it out of necessity. "Tomorrow, I will make the announcement, and Hanabi will receive the Caged Bird seal. You will be the next Hyuuga head."