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It was another bright, sunny day in Konoha. The time for mourning had finally passed, and life really had been wonderful since the end of the war.

Naruto stood on the balcony of his bedroom, his grin as wide and bright as the village around him. Honestly, he had felt the move to the Hokage mansion to be a little excessive, especially considering the tiny apartment where he had previously spent his entire life. It was a lot of space, but he found that his family was often able to fill it up. Speaking of…

A shrill scream pierced the stillness of the morning. Suddenly alert, Naruto raced down to his son's room. He met Hinata there. The two shared a look, prepared to break through the door if needed, but they didn't get a chance before Boruto threw it open himself.

Their son raced past them with his head down. "Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad! See ya later!"

Another look passed between his parents as he ran out of the house. Naruto shrugged. Hinata said quietly, "He's not even late yet…"

"He's probably got something planned with his friends before class."

His wife sighed. "I hope he doesn't get caught again."

Naruto snickered. How quickly their outlook on their son had changed from 'I hope he's not misbehaving' to 'I hope he doesn't get in trouble for misbehaving.' The village leader had been called down to the Academy to discuss his first-born's actions more times than he could count, often leaving the instructors he didn't know very well feeling frustrated and embarrassed. They expected better out of the Hokage's son.

"What's going on?" Himawari had made it to the scene at last. She yawned, and her father scooped her up with a grin.

"Oh, nothing. Boruto was just in a rush this morning. Probably to pull another prank on Sarada or something."

"You better hope not," Hinata warned. "Sasuke's home again."

Naruto looked like he would like nothing better than for his old rival and best friend to show up at his door in a rage over something his son had done. Himawari just tucked her head a little deeper into her father's neck. Her family could be so strange sometimes.

Boruto ran through the streets of his home, heart still racing. He had to let his subconscious guide him and hope he would end up in the right place.

He tried to keep his eyes down or shut completely, afraid of what he might see. Boruto ran until his chest hurt. He slowed to a stop and looked up to find himself in the schoolyard. He looked at all the familiar sights with uncharacteristically cautious eyes, waiting to see something… deeper.

"What's wrong with you today?"

He jumped and whirled around to see Sarada Uchiha scrutinizing him. She pushed up her glasses and gave him another head-to-toe look. Boruto tried not to shiver and plastered on a grin instead. He hated to admit it, but this girl could be intimidating.

"Sarada!" he exclaimed as if he was pleased to see the most annoying girl in his class. "You're here early!"

"Yes," she answered stiffly, clearly suspicious. "I always am. I come in early to study."

"That's cool," he replied cheekily. "I came in early today, too. To study."

"Yeah, sure," she said, backing away warily. "I don't believe you for a second. Whatever you're up to, just don't bother me."

She walked away haughtily, and Boruto made a face at her back. He hadn't been planning anything… today. But now he might cook up something special just for her.

Little did Boruto know, he and Sarada weren't the only two who decided to show up at school early that day. Hiding up in the trees, listening to every word, were Shikadai and Inojin.

The young Nara yawned, leaning back against the tree trunk, eyes towards the sky. He sighed, and his companion glanced up at him from his own perch, disgruntled.

"You should be a little more focused," he scolded. "Remember what Shino sensei said the other day? You're missing opportunities."

"Yeah, yeah, I remember." Shikadai rolled his eyes and crouched down to get a better look. Inojin was his best friend, but he could be a little too… driven sometimes. Shikadai was starting to regret agreeing to come along for some extra training.

"Okay, what are we eavesdropping on today?"

"An interesting exchange," Inojin answered, pointing out Boruto and Sarada below. A little annoyed, he added, "And I've told you before. We're not eavesdropping; it's surveillance."

The two refocused and Inojin continued, "Sarada's here early."

"As always."

"And so is Boruto. He's getting on her nerves."

"Again, what else is new?"

"It's new that he's not rushing into class at the last second. And you should have seen how panicked he looked earlier."

"Really…" A glint of interest had appeared in Shikadai's eyes. A glint that made Inojin grimace. His best friend had a habit of choosing the worst times to get motivated. What was supposed to be a simple undercover exercise would now turn into an ordeal.

Inojin sighed, taking in the smirk on Shikadai's face. "What did you have in mind?"

A loud yawn made Shikadai roll his eyes and groan mentally. Usually, their class clown was a little more entertaining. Of course, Boruto would pick the day he'd been coerced into surveillance to sleep through their lessons. He could tell Inojin was getting a little frustrated, too, but they would see this through until they uncovered the reason for his unusual behavior this morning. …Or until they found something better to do, if things didn't pick up soon.

Recess was its usual flurry of chaos. Neither Shikadai nor Inojin missed the fact that their 'target' was the first to rush from the room, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. They were the last two to leave, and they made their way to a secluded edge of the schoolyard to discuss their observations.

"Really, Inojin?" Shikadai said, gesturing to the paper in his hands. "You took notes? You're the one who's always lecturing me on the rules. Shinobi never leave a paper trail." He tapped his forehead for emphasis.

His friend flushed. "I know that… I just figured… While I was taking notes in class…"

"Whatever," Shikadai interrupted, not really concerned with his friend's lack of judgment. "What've you got?"

Inojin cleared his throat. "A few things. You saw how he looked when he left for recess? That's how he's looked all day—head down, everywhere he went."

Shikadai nodded. "Right. And I think he's been 'sleeping' through class on purpose. He hasn't looked anyone in the eyes all day either."

"Speaking of, do we have eyes on him now?"

Shikadai nodded to the patch of trees beside the building. "He's just been watching, I guess, since we were let out."

"Focusing, more like," Inojin amended, turning and catching sight of him. He huffed. "It's too bad we haven't gone over chakra sensory techniques yet. If we had, we might be able to tell what he was doing just by getting closer. I'll have to ask Dad about that later…"

A slow grin worked its way across Shikadai's face. "We haven't gone over it, but you know who probably has?"

It took less than a second for his friend to catch on. "No."

Shikadai rolled his eyes. "You know I'm right."

"I don't want her help," Inojin whined, sounding very childish.

The young Nara was quiet. Granted, there were other ways to get answers, but Inojin was right. If they could pull this off, it would definitely speed up the process. Still… No one wanted to owe Sarada Uchiha any favors…

Chapter Text

Sarada huffed impatiently for the umpteenth time that day. Usually, she was in her element at school, but today her last class couldn't come fast enough. She didn't even try to justify it to herself with a less vulnerable excuse. Her papa was home, and every hour spent at school was one less hour spent with her completed family.

So needless to say, she wasn't in the best of moods when she looked up to see Inojin and Shikadai making their way over. Well, correction. It was more like Shikadai was dragging Inojin over.

Sarada sighed irritatedly and tapped her fingers on her open textbook. She hadn't really been able to study anyway, but she didn't want to be interrupted all the same. She didn't particularly dislike either boy, though she knew Inojin wasn't all that fond of her. They were both actually pretty smart; they just weren't usually on her radar. One was too lazy, and the other was kind of a pushover.

Her scowl did nothing to stop their advance. They reached a spot just a few feet away and stopped. Her scowl had turned into a glare. The boys stood awkwardly before her.

"Morning, Sarada," Shikadai said at last. Inojin mumbled something under his breath that she assumed was supposed to be a greeting. She quickly deduced that they must want something from her. Shikadai had never tried to be diplomatic like this a single day in his life.

"It's afternoon," she answered.

"Right. So, we had a question for you."

She raised an eyebrow, and the Nara glanced at his friend, who still wasn't speaking. Clearly he would have to do all the work.

"We were wondering… Have you learned to sense chakra yet?"

She was quiet for a second… Two… Three.

"Do I look like a teacher to you?" she said at last, sounding like she was hedging, even to herself. "If you're looking for a tutor, go hire someone who has time."

She saw Inojin's posture relax ever so slightly, the beginning of a smirk on his face. She turned her glare up a few notches, but she knew they had seen through her lie.

"Never mind, then," Shikadai sighed.

Sarada watched them retreat back to their little corner of the recess yard and felt the first inklings of curiosity. What could the boys possibly be up to that required the ability to sense chakra? It was probably a whole lot of trouble she didn't need, but agreeing to join in on their little adventure for once might have helped make the day pass by a little quicker.

She was left to her textbook once more, thinking back ruefully on all the times her parents had lectured her on the virtues of patience. They would probably still take her assistance, if she offered it. But there was no way she would allow herself to show defeat to Inojin Yamanaka.

"Ha! I knew she wouldn't know it either."

Shikadai took in the look on his friend's face and rolled his eyes. "Why are you so smug? We're no closer to figuring out what Boruto's up to than we were before."

"Where are we now?"

The two looked up to the spot where they'd last seen their classmate. Boruto wasn't there. Suddenly alert, the two looked around, appearing rather wild, until they spotted a disturbance. The teacher who was supposed to be watching the exit had been called away to tend to a fight. Inojin and Shikadai caught sight of Boruto sneaking out while he was distracted.

"Come on! After him!"

The three were about as stealthy as three Academy students could possibly be. Inojin and Shikadai followed as far behind as they could without losing him.

Inojin narrowed his eyes as they ducked behind yet another building. "Where in the world could he be going?"

They had long since left the Academy behind. Shikadai muttered, "Maybe he just wanted to get out for a while. I swear, if this whole thing turns out to be some sort of wild goose chase…"

But they weren't about to turn back now. Class would have restarted, and they would have been marked down as missing. Neither boy wanted to face the interrogation that was sure to be waiting for them back at school. They would probably be questioned by Shino sensei himself, who was daunting on his most relaxed days. Or maybe he would call in one of the higher administrators. Or worse… Their mothers.

The thought made Shikadai shiver. Oh, no… They'd come this far; they would be seeing the mission through.

Just as their patience was starting to reach its breaking point, they seemed to have reached their destination. This journey had taken them off the streets and into the woods. Now they watched, hidden a few yards away, as Boruto stopped outside a wall of some sort and started poking around. Searching for a secret entrance, maybe?

"Hey, aren't we just outside the Hyuga compound?" Inojin realized, observing their surroundings a little more closely. "Why would he come here? I thought his mother was disowned years ago."

Shikadai shrugged. "I don't think she was really kicked out. I think she just isn't involved with any of the politics anymore."

They both groaned with dismay when Boruto found the passage he'd been looking for and slipped inside.

"Great," said Inojin. "Now what? There's no way we could sneak in there without getting caught."

But Shikadai's eyes had already lit up with that spark Inojin had come to associate with trouble. "We need advice from someone who's spent a lot of time around the Byakugan. Maybe enough to know a way around it. And I know just who to ask."

The members of the Hyuga estate expertly ignored the young boy as he snuck through their halls. Boruto Uzumaki may have been a bit of a nuisance, but he was also Lord Hiashi's grandson and Lord Hokage's son. No one wanted to be caught in that crossfire. So they let him pass.

Boruto knew these halls well. His mother may have been the 'disgraced' Hyuga daughter, but she was still on good terms with everyone here. His parents had wanted him and his sister to grow up surrounded by a family, and his father didn't really have that to offer. Not a biological one, anyway.

He made his way to the main chambers and heard the call to "Enter" before he even reached the door.

"So, Boruto, what brings you here today?"

"Aunt Hanabi, I need your help."

Chapter Text

Boruto had never seen his aunt lose her composure, and today was no exception. She took in his clouded expression and frazzled appearance calmly.

"What do you need my help with?" she asked after what felt like an eternity.

Boruto took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and focused his chakra. Hanabi leaned forward a little when he reopened his eyes.

"Well… This is a surprise." The Byakugan looked a little strange with regular pupils and the blue tinge of his irises, but she would recognize her own kekkei genkai anywhere. She knew there had been some talk of "tainting the bloodline" when her older sister had first married the "outsider." Evidently, her nephew's Hyuga genes had carried through enough.

"Yeah…" Boruto was still uncharacteristically serious. "So… will you train me?"

Hanabi masked her puzzlement. "You want me to train you? Why not ask your mother?"

"You can't tell them!" he burst out immediately. "Please, Aunt Hanabi, I don't want anyone else to know."

The Hyuga Head sighed, now thoroughly confused. Her niece and nephew had always been a little odd, but that shouldn't have come as much of a surprise given who their parents were. Still, whatever the problem was, it clearly went deeper than simple mischievousness. Boruto looked far too stressed for all this secrecy to be for the sake of some prank.

There was a knock on her door. "Lady Hanabi? It's almost time."

"Yes, I'll be along in a minute," she called back, dismissing her attendant.

She turned back to her nephew, whose eyes had returned to normal. "I really think you should talk with your parents. But," she continued at the look on his face, "I won't say anything. I'd be happy to help with your training, but right now there's an important clan meeting I have to attend. It shouldn't take too long. Just stay put until I come back, okay?"

Boruto nodded and Hanabi rose. She felt a little guilty as she walked out. She didn't bother to tell him that the clan meeting was with the Hokage.

A look passed between the two boys and then a swift nod before Shikadai pushed open the door to the shop. The woman behind the counter raised an eyebrow when she realized who her 'customers' were.

"Inojin? Shikadai? Shouldn't you two be in school?" Tenten asked.

"We're here for… research purposes," Inojin replied, though it didn't come out as smoothly as he'd intended.

"Research, huh?" This visit was becoming more amusing by the second. "Something to do with ninja tools?"

"No…" Shikadai answered slowly. The two exchanged another look, and Tenten leaned forward behind the counter, intrigued. "We were wondering… Is there any way around the Byakugan?"

"The Byakugan?" she repeated, resisting the urge to laugh. These two never failed to take her by surprise. "Why do you want to know?"

"Just… wondering…" Inojin answered lamely. Both pairs of eyes were suddenly glued to the floor.

"You're asking because I was Neji's team mate, right?" She got a wistful look on her face, and the boys cringed. This was the part they'd really been dreading. The ever-present grief for a lost loved one. It dulled over time but was never truly extinguished. It was the same look their parents got whenever they brought up their grandfathers. Luckily, the moment didn't last too long.

As quickly as the nostalgia had taken over her features, it vanished. Tenten smirked. "Actually, the Byakugan does have a blind spot…"

"Really?" The two perked up immediately.

"And I'd be more than happy to help out two of my favorite surrogate nephews… If you two will do me a favor first."

"Are you sure it's worth this?"

"Oh, don't start on that now!" Inojin snapped at his best friend. "You were the one pushing this all day!"

Shikadai grimaced. The gene he'd inherited for laziness was starting to get the better of him. "Yeah, but… It wasn't any actual work up to this point. I don't like where this is going."

He watched Inojin literally grit his teeth and sighed. There was no backing out now. The two dropped down from their spot in the trees above the training field. They were greeted by Lee's beaming face.

"Good afternoon!" he boomed. "It's wonderful to see your youthful faces again! It has truly been too long!"

Shikadai and Inojin mumbled back two much less enthusiastic greetings. Inojin thrust out the package in his hand. "Um, here. This is what Tenten wanted us to deliver to you."

The two were ready to get out of here as soon as possible. Of all their 'surrogate aunts and uncles', to use the term Tenten had, Lee was definitely the loudest… And the most unpredictable.

"Excellent!" Lee said, taking the package from him. "Are you ready to begin?"

The two shared a wary look. "Begin…?"

Lee didn't seem to notice the dread in Shikadai's tone. "Yes! Tenten sent ahead a message. You two are out of the Academy today on an assignment. You were to shadow an accomplished ninja for the day and get a feel for their training regimen. I am honored that you would choose to shadow me! Now let's go!"

Halfway into their twelfth lap around the training field later, Shikadai groaned breathlessly. "I told you so!"

"Shut up!" Inojin panted back.

"Only 38 laps to go!" Lee called back gleefully. "And then we can begin the push-ups!"

Both boys groaned in unison.

The sun was setting as Inojin and Shikadai pushed open the door to Tenten's shop.

"My mom always said to watch out for Tenten," Inojin muttered. They were both thoroughly exhausted.

"Maybe next time you'll listen." The two jumped at the sound of Temari's voice. Tenten didn't appear to have moved since they'd last seen her, but now Ino and Temari were leaning against the outside of the counter. All three were smirking at them. Shikadai decided their grins were all rather sadistic.


"What are you doing here?"

"Shino let us know when the two of you didn't go back to class," Ino answered. "And then Tenten was kind enough to inform us that you wouldn't be showing up to your Ino-Shika-Cho training session."

The two looked on wearily. Inojin asked at last, "Are we in trouble?"

"I think you've learned your lesson," Temari decided.

"Besides," Ino added, "today was nothing compared to the hell Chocho is going to put you through tomorrow for making her train alone."

All three women laughed as Inojin and Shikadai slumped to the floor in exhaustion.

Boruto had begun tapping his fingers against the floor. Evidently, his idea of 'not long' and his aunt's idea of 'not long' didn't match up very well. The sun was already starting to set.

He perked up a little at the sound of footsteps. But he wasn't expecting the knock on the door.

"Yes?" he called hesitantly. Why would his aunt knock? It wasn't like she needed permission to enter her own room. Still, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw when the door slid open.

"Dad?!" Boruto exclaimed. He would have jumped up, but he was rooted to the spot in shock.

The Hokage grinned. "Hey, kid."

"Wh-what are you doing here?! Aunt Hanabi said she wouldn't tell!"

Naruto seated himself in front of his son. "She didn't say anything, actually. One of the other clan members said they'd seen you running through the halls earlier. Hanabi just told me where to find you. So, what was it she wasn't supposed to tell me? Now you've got me curious."

Silence. Boruto had suddenly found the floor to be fascinating. Naruto waited. And waited. And waited. Until finally, his impatience got the better of him. "Seriously, what is it? You've been acting weird ever since this morning. You know you can tell me anything, right? What's wrong?"

"I don't… want people to… see me… differently," he mumbled.

Naruto stared. "What do you mean by different? Different bad?"

"No. I don't know. Just… different."

Naruto felt his heart clench as his son refused to look at him. He knew he wasn't around as much as either of them would like him to be, but he'd still thought they were closer than this.

"How much does it matter?" he asked. Boruto finally looked up, confused. "I'll love you no matter how the world sees you."

The Hokage watched as his son admitted defeat. Boruto took a deep breath and concentrated, successfully activating his Byakugan for the third time that day. Boruto waited for a reaction, and his father didn't disappoint.

Naruto's eyes had widened comically. "Boruto, that's… That's amazing!"

Boruto grimaced. He really should have been expecting the enthusiasm. "No. It's not."

Now it was Naruto's turn to look confused. "Why do you look so bummed? This is awesome! No one thought you or your sister would inherit anything from the Hyuga side of the family."

"Exactly," Boruto persisted. "I don't want people to look at me differently now."

Naruto couldn't help it. He started to laugh. Boruto scowled at him. "It's not funny!"

"Sorry," Naruto apologized, continuing to snicker. "I was just picturing the look on Hiashi's face if he heard this. Here you are, a descendant of the esteemed Hyuga Clan, and you're ashamed of it!"

"That's not it," Boruto snapped, frustrated.

"Then what is it?"

"I want people to think I'm like you!"

There was silence. Boruto had clamped down on his lip and averted his eyes again. Naruto was dumbstruck, to say the least. Was he aware that his son seemed to puff up with pride whenever they were in public together? Well sure, but he'd never taken too much notice of it.

"I didn't know any better when I was younger…" Boruto continued quietly. "I thought I was just being me. But people kept saying how I was so much like you and… I liked that. Then… I don't know."

With a start, Naruto realized that he did know. Because he had noticed his son actively trying to emulate him. He'd just never thought it was anything too serious. He felt a stab of guilt now. It hadn't occurred to him that Boruto felt pressured to act this way.

"Boruto…" His son didn't have time to react before he was pulled into a hug. "I just want you to be yourself, okay? You don't have to try to be me. Trust me. You're gonna turn out pretty amazing without pretending to be someone else."

Everything was still for a moment. After what felt like an eternity, Naruto felt his son lean into him and hug him back.