Notes at the bottom - so glad to see you back, friends!

The Mechanics of Law
Chapter One: Nemo Judex In Sua Causa

nemo judex in sua causa: no one shall be a judge in his own case Prevents conflict of interest in courts. Often invoked when there is really no conflict, but when there is even the appearance of one.

-Part One: Inter se-
'Amongst themselves.' Refers to obligations between members of the same group or party, differentiated from the whole party's obligations to another party.

Neji had an excellent concept of time.

He had an uncanny understanding of how long things took, the kind of effort he would need to expend, and how much time had gone by. He always knew roughly what time it was, with or without checking his watch or his phone.

That being said, he was fairly certain the time for his current lecture to have ended had come and gone several times over. The two times he had allowed himself to surreptitiously glance at his watch, he had been sorely disappointed with how little time had passed. Resolving to simply endure, he kept his eyes trained on the professor at the front of the room. When the lecture finally did reach its inevitable yet horribly delayed close, Neji wasted no time gathering his things and proceeding directly for the door.

He strode through the halls with determination, never breaking his gait or allowing any emotion to even so much as flicker across his face. Thus, no one approached or tried to interrupt his progress as he pretended not to notice the occasional wide eyed glances cast his way. Pressing through the doors and all but marching down the steps, he particularly ignored the small group of girls darting glances up at him from the benches outside.

Neji put purpose into each of his long strides, which was enough to carry him quickly from the building as well as well as prevent any further attempts at interruption.

He didn't break stride until he was at the top of the stairs on the fifth floor of the library, when he felt that tension coiled between his shoulders begin to slip away.

Absently, he noted an appreciation for both the legal and poetic concepts of "sanctuary."

And the strongest inspiration for that notion was currently reading through an accounting textbook while weaving a pencil through her fingers.

"So?" she finished reading a line of text before looking up at him. "What's the verdict?"

Sometimes he hardly recognized himself with Tenten.

Before taking his customary seat, he leaned over the table for a chaste-enough-for-being-in-public-even-though-no-one-else-was-around kiss. "You're beautiful," he murmured.

He felt her lips curve into a smile. "Isn't that leading the witness?"

"Simple statement of fact," he shrugged, allowing himself to indulge in one more kiss before pulling away. "To answer your question," he began to organize his things, "if this first class was anything to go by, the rumors vis a vis the third year of law school are far too accurate."

"That bad, huh?"

"I checked the time," he said flatly. "Twice."

"Ouch," her wince was sympathetic even if her eyes were amused. "And I thought this stuff was bad," she motioned to the textbook in front of her. "Well," she cocked her head to the side. "Look at the bright side."

He waited patiently for whatever optimistic or teasing thing she was about to say.

"Studying will seem that much more entertaining."

Warmth spread through his chest as he gave a light grunt of amusement. He had always been a dedicated and disciplined student with a strict studying regime. When he entered his second year of law school, he was already prepared to face the year the professors were said to "work you to death." He hadn't known then that he'd spend his first semester studying the woman across the table from him, and the second semester dating her.

"Well," her smile was playful and crooked. "If you start to get 'bored to death,' you can always work on my accounting projects. I bet they'd be a party by comparison!"

"Nice try," he opened his laptop.

"Just looking out for you," she picked her book back up, a smile twitching her lips.

Neji knew that Tenten wasn't trying to get out of her work, just as she knew he'd study and work no matter how mind-numbing he felt the work to be. It was a large part of who she was and what he truly admired about her.

She checked her watch and gave a start. She had class in thirty minutes. "I didn't get to tell you last night," she began to pack her books up. "I got a call from the dean's office asking me to come by. I have an appointment on Wednesday."

Neji cocked an eyebrow. "The dean's office? Which dean?"

"Engineering," she zipped her bag closed. "Although I can't imagine why – I'm not officially part of any of the colleges, really."

"You did take a class last semester," he mused. "And wasn't that one on GPS systems and automotive electronics technically through them?"

"I guess?" she shrugged. "I just take what Ibiki needs me to take, so I don't normally have to deal with advisors and all of that jazz. They did have me do some testing when I first enrolled – aptitude stuff in lieu of math prerequisites. But that was a while back."

"Clearly you did well," he sat back and folded his hands. "Or they wouldn't have enrolled you."

"I was always good at math," she shrugged. "Either way, I have to go – sadly, accounting class awaits."

She slung her bag over her shoulder.

"I go to the shop after this. Do you want to catch up for dinner?"

"Yes," he stood, reflexively. "Shall I pick you up at work?"

"Sure," she grinned.

They stood awkwardly for about three seconds, not because of discomfort, but because of awareness of being in a public place. She stepped in to his space and leaned up far enough to press a gentle kiss to his cheek. She could almost have smirked to herself when he intercepted her trajectory and countered with a 'slightly-less-chaste-than-last-time' kiss.

"See you tonight," he murmured.

Tenten stepped away, but she was smiling. "Definitely."

He watched her glide away and jog down the stairs with something akin to wonder.

He suspected that whatever his third and final year of law school had in store for him, being 'bored to death' was the least of his problems.

But he might be in very serious jeopardy of being incredibly happy.

And that was a peril he was willing to risk.

-Part Two: Torque-
Torque, moment, or moment of force is the tendency of a force to rotate an object around an axis, fulcrum, or pivot. Just as a force is a push or a pull, a torque can be thought of as a twist to an object.

It was only the first week of the fall term, and Tenten had already been called to the Dean's office.

She'd laughingly told Lee and Gai about her upcoming appointment, partly because she found it to be so funny, and partly because she was at least a smidgeon nervous.

For the life of her, she couldn't come up with a single reason any dean would want to see her, much less the one of the Engineering Department.

She worked her backside off for her 4.0 GPA, and she was a conscientious student, so she knew it wasn't an academic or behavior problem. But she also wasn't a full time student, or on any particular degree course, so she wasn't attached to any college.

"I haven't even taken that many classes," she mumbled to herself as she walked through the halls, checking the names and numbers on the doors to make sure she was headed the right direction. She let several scenarios play out in her mind while she waited for the department secretary to give her the all clear to head in to the appointment. They were still tumbling through her mind even as she was instructed to go ahead into the last office on the right, but they came to a screeching halt as 'click' of the door closing behind her prompted the dean to look up from his desk.

The name engraved on the door hadn't been familiar to her - she'd never met Nara Shikaku.

But she did know his son, and immediately recognized him in his father's face.

"You're Shikamaru's dad," she blurted out.

He arched an eyebrow at her.

"Not the usual way these appointments start, but still a fact," he said dryly.

"Sorry," Tenten gave a wry grin. "I just hadn't made the connection beforehand. I'm a friend of Temari's. We got to know each other through a mutual friend."

"Ah," the man gave an understanding nod. "Please. Sit," he gestured to the chair in front of his desk, watching as she took a seat. "Do you know why I asked you to come by my office?" he asked.

"Well, I'm guessing it wasn't actually to talk about your son – although I hear he is adjusting to life in Suna alright," Tenten's smile was impish.

"Says it's troublesome," Shikaku smirked, "which is par for the course."

They shared a knowing look; everything was troublesome to Shikamaru, especially Temari. It appeared he had met his match in the formidable woman, and seemed more than content with his fate.

"It is about your placement tests," he said, flicking open a file.

Tenten frowned.

"The ones from last year? Was there something wrong with them?" she asked.

"On the contrary," he folded his hands. "They were exceptional. You did particularly well with the math, logic, and spatial relations portions of the testing process. Despite only having basic classes in physics some years ago, you also did well on that test."

"I did study," she admitted, coloring slightly. "I borrowed some old books from a former teacher to help me brush up. I was okay at math in high school, but it had been a while."

"Well it must've paid off," he flipped through her files. "Going forward, you performed remarkably well in your engineering classes, as well as your accounting ones, showing a strong aptitude for mathematics." He paused, considering her. "I'd like you to take a couple of other tests," he ventured. "I think you are a viable candidate for one of our fast-track programs that combines undergraduate and graduate work."

"Graduate work?" Tenten asked, taken aback. "In engineering?"

He nodded once.

She continued to look confused. "Is this normal?" she waved a hand between them.

"Highly unusual," he said with a chuckle. "We normally identify promising students while they are still in high school, but we are always looking for strong students to join our department. Particularly strong female students."

"Why female students?"

"Recently, because of a grant the University was awarded," he admitted, "but moreso because many girls are put off of engineering early on in their schooling. You show a high aptitude for it, and I think you would be an excellent candidate for our program."

"Because I'm a girl," she said flatly.

"No," he shook his head. "I looked at your results under a student number; I didn't know you were a girl until I pulled your file. You are a good candidate because you are a good candidate. Simple as that."

Tenten continued to look at him warily.

"I'm not really looking to become a full-time student," she said slowly. "I am just taking classes because my boss needed me to, and I don't really have time to take on a full load."

Shikaku gave a lazy shrug that was so reminiscent of his son that it was oddly reassuring.

"Schedules can be flexible, especially for the non-traditional student." He considered her for the space of several seconds before leaning back in his chair. "Take the tests," he suggested. "You lose nothing in doing so, and it is an excused absence from any classes you may have. Once we have your results, we can discuss options. If nothing else," he continued, "you will most likely qualify for partial tuition waivers for your engineering and mathematic classes. That could even carry over to some of the technical classes that are housed under our department that you have expressed an interest in." He gave another lazy shrug. "You are under no obligation either way."

Tenten considered this. While she had little to no interest to taking up any kind of academic course of study, Ibiki was the one paying for her classes. If she had the chance to shave a few ryo off of the bill, shouldn't she take it?

"Alright," she said reluctantly. "I guess I can do that."

"Excellent," he gave a sharp nod of approval before handing her a slim folder. "Here is the paperwork you need, as well the dates and times of the exam."

"Wow," she scanned them over. "Two weeks from today. And on my lightest class load day. What are the odds?" she smiled, joking.

But the glint in the man's eyes told her differently.

"You planned this," she realized. "You knew I'd say yes."

"I expected you to take advantage of an opportunity," he corrected. "But other than being certain that you will do well on the test, that is as far as my expectations go."

Tenten narrowed her eyes at him, suspiciously.

"Temari warned me that Naras are smart and tricky. Guess I should've listened."

His rusty chuckle was genuine, as was the smile that followed it.

"So, no obligations, right?" Tenten held up the folder. "Take the test, maybe get a break on tuition, but if nothing else changes no harm, no foul?"

"Yes," he assured her. "I have no doubt you will qualify for that much. Anything beyond that is up to you."

"Alright," she agreed. "I can go with that."

"Then we will see you ((on the seventh)) in two weeks," he stood and offered his hand.

"Two weeks," she shook his hand.

She was only about three steps out of the door when Temari called her.

"So were you in on this?" Tenten answered.

"Just got the text that you're going to take the tests," she said bluntly. "Good for you. Now let's talk about getting the world's most orange wearing person ever moved to Konoha before I kill him."

Tenten laughed.

"And what has he done now?"

Temari scoffed on the other end of the line.

"How much time to you have?"

Tenten thought about her friend and particularly the fact her friend was dealing with her sort-of-foster brother and gave the only answer she could give when she was needed by those that she loved.

"As much time as you need."

And we're back! I had hoped to finish authoring this story before I began posting, but, you know what? I needed a bit of happy in my week, and writing and sharing this story always makes me happy. I am dividing my time like crazy, so I will only ask this once that you let me know you are reading. It will go a long way in keeping me up on my updates.

See you next Tuesday!

With a little heart full of gratitude,