We can pretend this didn't take me 3 years to update...right? Right.

The Mechanics of Law
Chapter Five: Lacunae

lacunae: 'void, gap.' A situation arising that is not covered by any law. Generally used in International Law, as all countries codify according to their own systems of law.

-Part One: Fumus boni iuris-
'smoke of a good right.' "Refers to having a sufficient legal basis to bring legal action."

The news that Tenten was coming on the trip eclipsed any and all of Neji's musings about said trip.

Well, almost all of them.

After all, he had already been genuinely looking forward to the conference, as he intended to speak with several different leads for internships. Many people knew of him - he was the next generation of Hyūga, after all - but he needed them to put a face to the name. He was well aware that his connections afforded him an advantage, but it was his own skill and hard work that would keep it. He was determined to do his part.

All of that and knowing he would have time with Tenten as well, made things pretty much perfect in his book.

"You are so lucky," Hanabi sighed, crossing her arms on the back of his desk chair. "I wish I could leave early with you."

"Wouldn't be much point," he inspected his suit for any flaws. "The first few days are very business specific. You'd be bored to tears."

"That's why they have hot springs," Hanabi muttered. "Or did you forget I actually know how to have fun?"

"The hot springs will be there when you arrive," Neji said dryly, setting aside one suit and inspecting another. "Luckily for you, by then, Chikara will not."

"Uggggh," she shuddered. "That I don't envy you even a little bit. You warned Tenten, right? Like she knows he essentially thinks he is Elvis-suave-incarnate, and to steer clear, right?"

"I mentioned," he chuckled. "I am hoping that by then Hinata will have arrived and they can keep each other company."

"Fair," Hanabi shrugged, "If not a bit cowardly. By the way, I went shopping with her and Ino, and you have your work cut out for you if you think anyone is going to be not-noticing your girlfriend."

Neji stiffened with indignation.

"I never said she would not be noticed," he retorted haughtily.

"Um, yeah," Hanabi rolled her eyes. "Because you aren't dumb. But you are beyond dumb if you don't appreciate the level to which she is about to be not unnoticed."

"Double negatives aside, you don't have to worry. I am well aware of how attractive Tenten is, regardless of what she does or doesn't wear."

"Are you, now?" Hanabi's eyes glinted and her grin curved sharply. "Do tell!"

"Don't read into that," he muttered, flushing. "I simply meant she is beautiful whether or not Ino has had a hand in her wardrobe choices. "

"Wow," she leaned her chin in her hand. "You've got it really bad."

"Observant as ever." Hanabi's eyes went impossibly wide, earning a chuckle from her cousin. "Were you expecting me to deny it?"

"Kinda?" she blinked, stunned. "I assumed you would put me off until I hounded you into admitting it. Huh," she pouted. "That throws off my whole game."

"Don't worry," he carefully draped a tie over one of the suits. "Hinata will be at the conference; I am sure you can still fluster her."

"That's not as fun anymore," she grumbled. "Besides, she will be meeting Tenten for the first time, and she will be focused on that entirely." Hanabi stood and snatched the tie Neji had picked off of the suit, and tossed it on his bed, before choosing a different tie and handing it to him. "How long has it been since we even saw Hinata? For more than a weekend in Konoha, I mean."

"I saw her for four days in June," he allowed, "but that was because I went with your Father to visit the property he acquired in Iwa."

"Doesn't count," Hanabi sat on his bed and began sorting his ties and belts. "That was for work."

"So is this conference."

"Yes, but this is more social. We have some actual time to spend with each other."

"Hinata is designing the new YOUTH center – she will be in Konoha for that project."

"I guess," Hanabi wrinkled her nose at one of Neji's ties and stuffed it under his pillow. "But by the time she gets here and settles in, you will graduate and start traveling all of the time. Or you'll take an internship in Kumo or somewhere a million miles away and we'll see you twice a year. So, it will be the same, but Hinata will be here, and you will be gone."

"Not forever," he took the tie she handed to him. "Ultimately I will work for our company, so I will always have ties in Konoha."

"Yeah, but not a reason to come back," she snorted. "Well thank goodness Tenten isn't going anywhere," she stuffed another tie under his pillow, "or I'd give up all hope of ever seeing you again."

Neji shook his head at his cousin, but her next question stilled him.

"Have you told her yet?"

"Told her?"

"That you've always planned to leave Konoha? To travel?"

"Hasn't really come up," he shrugged. "I don't even know what my placement options are yet."

"Still seems like something you should talk about together," she watched him carefully. "Assuming you want to stay together after graduation."

Neji looked at her sharply, and Hanabi was quick to put up her hands.

"Not something I've heard her comment on. I'm just saying – you've been together almost a year now. Seems like a smart conversation to have."

"Mm," Neji hummed, eying his younger cousin. "When did you become an expert on relationships?"

"Please," Hanabi snorted. "I'm the closest thing this family has to a person with normal experiences because I'm not painfully shy or a workaholic recluse."

"And because you started dating long before your father knew what you were up to?"

"There's that, too," she waved a hand dismissively. "With the two of you being so perfect, someone had to be the wild child."

"Says the girl with a 4.0 grade average?"

"I have the ability to prioritize," she shrugged. "Also, I'm technically a genius so that helps." Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she fished it out. "That's Konohamaru," she typed off a quick reply and then stuffed her phone back in her pocket. "Don't bother looking for that ugly pinstripe shirt you love, I threw it out last week. There are three new ones hanging in their place."

"You do manage to stay busy," Neji said dryly. "Are you ever in your dorm?"

"Of course," she sniffed. "I just like to come back to the house to visit with my wonderful cousin!"

"You mean meddle with."

"That too," she grinned, and waggled her fingers at him. "See ya!"

Neji shook his head at his cousin with a small, fond smile. There really was only one Hanabi, and he felt the world should be relieved she had not been a twin.

"Still," he retrieved the ties from under his pillow and put them away. "She usually has a point." He decided he had probably been avoiding those longer term conversations, because he was so focused on his immediate work.

And probably because his crystal clear vision of his professional trajectory had always been of a solo flight.

But if he allowed himself to envision his future now – Tenten was definitely and prominently in the picture.

And he was bringing her to a family event – or at least the kind of event to which he never brought a guest, much less a date. That alone would be enough to pique the interest and raise certain expectations from some relatives. (Other than Hanabi who already had theories on what their children would look like, as well as several favorite names picked out.)

Neji sat down on his bed, and allowed himself to consider the ramifications. He found that the potential awkwardness aside, he had no reason to deny there was good cause for those kinds of questions to be asked. But Hanabi had a point – he had always intended to travel and work abroad. What did that mean for he and Tenten? Would she want to continue their relationship? Would she want him to stay? Would she want to go with him? His mind instantly created a deluge of implications and ramifcations and consequences and contrasting scenarios .

His phone buzzed in his pocket.

"Don't overthink it. Tell her what you think your goals are and go from there."

"Right," he sighed, closing Hanabi's message. "Don't overthink. Just focus on your goals."

Neji frowned.

"This calls for a list."

-Part Two: Firing order-
'The firing order of an internal combustion engine is the sequence of ignition for the cylinders. In a spark ignition (e.g. gasoline/petrol) engine, the firing order corresponds to the order in which the spark plugs are operated

"The sequence the cylinders ignite or 'fire' in. This can be botched if the spark plug wires are not installed on the correct plugs, and without the correct firing order, your vehicle isn't going anywhere." - driverside . com

Tenten's mother died when she was only four years old, and her father had never been in the best of health. From an early age, she learned the benefits of preparedness, and although she didn't have a badge or a beret to her name, she could put any scout to shame. Her father had taught her things like always having an emergency roadside kit in her car, and a first aid kit in her home. He taught her to consider eventualities, but to be efficient in what she decided to store.

The lessons he didn't teach her, she learned from growing up too fast and navigating the dangers of Uncle's world.

It was safe to say that Tenten knew a thing or two about being prepared, and she was a master packer.

So when Lee found her in her room, glaring at the items neatly spread on her made bed, he was taken aback.

"Problem?" he ventured.

"I don't know what to pack for this stupid thing," she waved a hand over everything, irritated. "We won't even be gone that long, but Ino apparently contacted the coordinator of the event, and got a list of events and local destinations, and the name of hot springs and then she made me go shopping and…" she raked a hand down her face and shook her head, muttering to herself. "I'm doomed."

"Doomed seems a bit strong," Lee offered, not unkindly. "You do love a good hot spring."

"Yeah," she snorted. "By myself or when it is just us."

Lee's eyes landed on the folder she'd been reviewing and made the leap of logic.

"Not with the Hyūgas."

"Yeah," she deflated, sinking onto the bed.

"Tenten," Lee sat opposite her. "The one Hyūga you care about isn't going to be bothered by anything you wear. He will simply be glad you are with him."

"I know," she sighed, lying back on the bed. The fan made a few lazy rotations before she offered. "His family means everything to him, Lee. I don't want him to have any reason to feel embarrassed by me. Or worse, ashamed of me."

"You really think he would?"

"No," she half smiled. "No, I trust Neji completely. But I don't know what the rest of his family will think of me, and I don't want that burden to be on him," she turned her head to meet Lee's eyes, swallowing hard. "He's really important to me, Lee."

Lee reached over and took her hand.

"And you are important to him. He cares about you as you, and will probably be just as happy if you showed up in your coveralls. Now. Show me what Ino made you buy, and your itinerary. If I can't get you packed inside of the next hour, I will do 500 pushups with one hand!"

Tenten let him pull her up, and hugged him tightly. "You're the best, Lee. What would I do without you."

"Now that," he hugged her back, "I can promise you will never have to find out."

-Part Three: Juncture-
In architechture - how different materials intersect, which ultimately influences how the building will age or if any maintenance issues will come up. If the juncture between the building siding and a window isn't correct, it'll cause leaking.

Hinata stepped off the plane with a small sigh of satisfaction. The threats of a storm near her origin flight had never materialized, so they'd left on time and arrived ahead of schedule. Because her turn time had been so tight on this trip, Hinata had shipped her luggage separately, so she only had herself and her carry-on to worry about. Ko met her at the airport with a travel tumbler of green tea and whisked her away to the hotel as fast as the traffic would allow.

Another Hyūga met them at the curb to park the vehicle, while Ko walked Hinata to her room – because of course he had checked her in already.

"Your luggage is inside," he said, handing over her room keys. "The cocktail reception will start around five. Shall I collect you at six?"

"Might as well," her smile was shy. "I hear my flight wasn't coming in for another hour or two anyway."

"That is what I heard," he winked at her.

A few messages to her family to let them know she was safe, a shower, unpacking later and a catnap later, Ko knocked on her door to fetch her down to the reception.

"The room is open," he assured her as they stepped into the elevator. "Not too crowded. Your father and uncle are speaking with clients, but your cousin is waiting for you.

"Mm," she slid her eyes to him. "Is he alone?"

Ko's smile was smug. "He is not."

In moments, she had her name tag on, a glass of sparkling water, and was following Ko toward her father.

"Ah, Hinata," he nodded to her with a warmth that so many might miss. "I trust your flight was pleasant?"

"It was," she inclined her head. "Thank you, Father."

"Gentlemen," he turned to the men standing with him. "You remember my daughter, Hinata." A few choruses of "of course," and rounds of inquiring about her health and remarking that she looked well followed before her Uncle appeared to rescue her.

"Excuse me, Hiashi," he put a hand on Hinata's elbow. "But I'd like Hinata to meet one of the representatives of the YOUTH programs from Konoha."

A few more pleasantries and Hinata was following her Uncle with a smile to where her cousin waited. Thankfully, the small lounge connected to the larger room was quieter, and the seating was limited.

"Here we are," Hizashi motioned to the small, round table and the oversized chairs. "We saved you a seat."

The two people sitting at the table stood to greet her, but Hinata motioned for them to sit back down.

"Don't stand on my account," she laughed lightly, taking her seat. "It is nice in here."

"True," Hizashi grinned. "Sadly, I've used up all of my hiding time and must go mingle. Neji, are you going to introduce your guest to your cousin? I swear," he sighed, hand to heart, looking between Hinata and Tenten. "I did rase him better."

Neji narrowed his eyes at his father, but Hinata was quick to smooth things over.

"There is no need," she said, meeting Tenten's eyes without hesitation. "I have been looking forward to meeting Ms. Nakano for quite some time."

"Tenten," she smiled and held out a hand.

"Hinata," she replied simply, and clasped the offered hand warmly. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you."

"Likewise," Tenten's smile bloomed naturally. "I have heard so much about you."

"Another thing we have in common," Hinata's smile tipped to playful. "But I suppose that is to be expected."

"Hanabi did warn me," Tenten sighed wryly. "Guess I have her to thank."

"In part." Hinata slid her cousin a glance that made him clear his throat.

"I'll leave you all to get acquainted," Hizashi pushed his chair in. "I hear," he leaned closer and lowered his voice, "that Chikara will arrive close to eight. Coincidentally, that is a lovely time of night to visit the hot springs!" With a final wave, he exited back into the fray.

"I like your dad," Tenten smiled happily.

"Don't let him hear you say that," Neji scoffed. "They'll be no living with him."

They shared a smile, and at that moment, Hinata got to see what Hanabi had been telling her.

Neji was happy.

The depth of their closeness warmed her heart to bursting, and she basked in her joy for them both.

"So, Hinata," Tenten shifted in her set to face her better, "I saw the preliminary designs for the new YOUTH center – they look amazing!"

"Thank you," Hinata dipped her head. "If it meets with your approval, then I am certain we are on the right track.

"Oh, no question," Tenten beamed. "I love that you included…"

Neji watched as Tenten went through so many details in her authentic, animated way, drawing his cousin into comfortable, intelligent conversation. Although Hinata was not the same shy child she had been, she generally did take time to feel comfortable around people, and yet, she had seemed immediately at home in Tenten's presence.

Something resonated in his chest as two people, for whom he cared deeply, bonded before his eyes. With fifteen minutes before Chikara's imminent arrival, they conspired in girlish giggles to slip off to the hot springs, and Neji allowed them the pretext of convincing him to attend.

Although both women drew him into the conversation, he was more than happy to allow the two of them to do most of the talking – and loved that Tenten coaxed Hinata into being an equal partner in the discussion.

It was late when they finally dismissed to their own rooms – Hinata down the hall, and Tenten to the one adjoining his – to prepare for bed.

The soft knock on the adjoining door was no surprise, despite the late hour.

They'd made the habit of having a before-bed cup of green tea together, and it was possibly his new favorite ritual. The hotspring had worked its magic, and Tenten fell asleep snuggled into his side and looking impossibly beautiful in sleep. He had quietly turned off the lights, content to sleep while holding her, and even more than content to wake to her the next morning, basking in her slow-blink-early-morning-delerium that blossume into a smile when she murmured. "Good morning."

It was the third morning he had woken up that way, and he was fairly certain he would like to wake up that way for the rest of his life…. But Hanabi's words echoed in his mind.

"Did you tell her you are leaving?"

It gnawed at him, but he managed to ignore it for the duration of the trip (which had been amazing) only to have it resurface unexpectedly during his advisement session with Professor Sarutobi.

"You're sure?" he asked, leaning forward in his chair. "About the scholarship, I mean?"

"Quite sure."

"And the connection?"

"I see no reason it couldn't be arranged, " he shrugged easily. "The merit is there regardless – the connection would simply be a conduit for the extant talent."

"Thank you," he breathed, his eyes brimming with hope.

With so many possibilities laid out before him, Neji had no idea, that he had just plotted the course for disaster, and was sailing directly into the storm.