Warning no.1: I just wrote this with a patchwork of various courtroom scenes from both US and UK shows in mind. Please don't hurt me if you recognize how much I've butchered the legal systems of both countries.
Warning no. 2: ABUNDANT FLUFF. Sugar. The works, with plenty of crack thrown in. I'm not taking this seriously.
Probably the last of this series. It's been fun. :D
A Legal Affair
The entire courtroom immediately hushed, whispered gossip from the public gallery abruptly ceasing as all eyes turned to the dark haired clerk glaring at the crowd by the witness stand. "Please rise, the court is now in session. Her Honour, Tsunade, presiding. Inuzuka vs Inuzuka."
The blonde haired judge swept into the room slowly, eliciting a few raised eyebrows at the bottle of cheap wine hanging loosely between her fingers.
"Thank you, Shizune," she sighed, slamming the drink onto her desk before seating herself down and facing the assembly with a bored expression. A pause. "So. What's this shit all about?"
"Your Honour!" Shizune looked scandalized at the judge's cavalier attitude. "The protocol says – you must not –"
"To hell with the goddamn protocol," Tsunade interrupted irritably, shifting through the notes before her with evident distaste. "A divorce case, huh. Details for the splitting of possessions all worked out already – shouldn't you two just be finishing the paperwork for an annulment with a legal officer, then, instead of bothering me with a trial? Oh, wait – grounds for divorce disputed. So you two want to split, but can't agree on the official reason that's going to be printed on the divorce certificate." She gave a disbelieving snort. "Prosecution – Mrs Inuzuka...maiden name Miss Yamanaka?" She glanced down towards the blonde woman sitting by her attorney. "Accuses the defendant, Mr. Inuzuka here –" Her amber gaze slid onto the defendant. "-Of the use of fraudulent means during the inducement of consent of marriage. Fraudulent means? What, did he drug you up or something before you said yes?" She snorted again. "Counsel for defendant, Mr. Neji Hyuuga. Counsel for prosecution...Mrs. Hyuuga? You two are married?"
"Miss Tenten will be fine," the brunette spoke up frostily, before ripping a sheet from the open notebook before her with a noticeably ring-less hand, scrunching it up into a tight ball and carelessly tossing it into the wastebasket twenty feet across the courtroom. Neji directed a glare at his wife from where he sat next to Kiba but she merely stared straight forwards, a stony expression on her face.
Tsunade examined the younger woman with faint interest before shrugging. She hammered the gavel twice; the session was officially begun. "Call the first witness, damn it."
"So tell me, Miss Haruno." Tenten leaned an elbow against the witness stand and looked the pink haired young woman steadily in the eye. "Did you ever feel that Mr Inuzuka displayed any...shall we say...insincerity, during his courtship of the current Mrs Inuzuka?
"Um... ..." Sakura blushed, clearly uncomfortable with her current position. She bit her lip when Ino shot her a meaningful look. "Well...I used to get the impression that Kiba liked Ino for reasons other than...well, the better reasons why you'd want to marry someone."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, Ino-pig – I mean – Ino...is a very attractive woman, as you can obviously see," Sakura hurried on, attempting to cover her slip-up before Ino melted her into a puddle of pink goo with her now scorching glare. "And when they were still going out, Kiba... ...Kiba liked to show her off to his friends. As if Ino was only a trophy, like a new sports car, or... ..."
"What's wrong with a guy wanting to show off his hot girlfriend?" Kiba interrupted angrily, banging his fist on the table. Neji frowned.
"Mr Inuzuka, let me handle this," he murmured smoothly, putting a placating hand on the man's elbow and standing up. He coughed. "Objection, your Honour."
"What?" Tsunade snapped, looking up from where she had been tracing lazy circles onto her paperwork with a laquered fingernail. "Get on with it!"
"The prosecution is making grossly generalized queries into the nature of Mr and the current Mrs Inuzuka's early relationship, using word games to bully Ms Sakura into giving an unfairly negative testimony towards Mr Inuzuka and-"
"Oh, shut up." Tsunade rolled her eyes. "Are you physically incapable of being concise, Mr Hyuuga?"
"Mrs Hyuuga's question was expressed in an unfair manner," Neji grit out.
"Miss Tenten," the brunette hissed across the courtroom, and then, louder: "Your Honour, I object to Mr Hyuuga's objection on the grounds that –"
Unfortunately Kiba had stood up and was now shouting earnestly at his wife, drowning out Tenten's attempt at a legal comeback. "I can't believe you're angry at me for showing you off to the guys! I did it because you're hot, and any man in his right mind would have been a fool not to do it!"
"You're such a smooth talker when you want to be, Kiba Inuzuka," Ino spat out, standing up and raising her voice to match his. "But you're nothing but a filthy liar!"
"When did I ever lie to you, for goodness' sake?"
"All the time, and I actually stupidly believed you! I only agreed to marry you in the first place because you had somehow managed to convince me that you meant it when you said that I was the only woman you wanted!" Ino wailed.
"But you are!"
"You're lying! What about all those... ...those other sluts of yours that you saw in private after we married? You think I don't know about them, but I do, you bastard!"
"Miss Yamanaka, Mr Inuzuka, both of you will demonstrate order in my courtroom. Now sit down. Miss Tenten, you may proceed."
There was a predatory glint in Tenten's eyes as she stood up slowly and stalked over to the Inuzuka. "Permission requested to ask the defendant a few questions."
"Mr Inuzuka." Tenten crossed her arms and smiled sweetly down at the poor man, completely ignoring the way Neji stiffened at her proximity. "Do you maintain that you had not lied to Ms Yamanaka when, during the marriage proposal, you professed that she was the only woman you'd ever be interested in romantically?"
"But do you admit that after your marriage to Ms Yamanaka, you saw certain women in private quite regularly for purposes outside of business?"
"I admit it," he said simply, never taking his eyes off Ino.
The blonde threw her hands up in exasperation; Tenten merely nodded coldly. "Thank you, Mr Inuzuka, that is enough."
"I met with those women, Ino," Kiba continued quietly, "Because they needed my help. With Hana."
Ino snorted. "Like I'm going to be believe you."
"Could Mr Inuzuka please elaborate?" Neji cut in immediately, glancing over at Tsunade for permission to speak and assuming her approval from the bored expression on her face. "Perhaps you could tell us in what way these women – whom you saw in private and with whom your wife obviously believes you to have had carried on various affairs – required your help?"
"Well." Kiba squirmed a little in his seat. "I'd rather not discuss her private life in public, but well, you see...Hana – my older sister – who, by the way, is a lesbian - has a lot of ex-girlfriends, like the women I met up with, who want to get back with her. My sister is quite popular, you see, and –"
"Excuses, excuses." Ino curled her lip in disgust. "Don't drag Hana into your own incapacity for fidelity, Kiba. I discussed this issue with her last Christmas and she said she could deal with her ex-girlfriends just fine on her own, you know that."
"Miss Yamanaka, if you cannot resist disrupting the court, I will order the marshall to bind and gag you."
"It's true!" Kiba insisted, ignoring Tsunade's warning. "They approached me first because they thought I could put in a good word for them –"
"Unfortunately, Mr Inuzuka," Tenten interrupted smoothly (though her voice was beginning to strain a little), "You have to admit that your... ...excuse... ...is rather implausible, and that you can hardly expect us to believe you without further proof. And so–" She turned towards Tsunade, then to the audience in the gallery. "And so, I must ask all present: could any of you, in your heart of hearts, expect Ms Yamanaka to continue being a wife to a man of such doubtful reliability? Could any of you expect her to continue being a wife despite having been duped into marriage in the first place by the charming – yet sadly hollow- talk of this man here?"
"Like you know anything about being a wife," Neji muttered quietly. Tenten stiffened, fingers gripping onto the edge of the defendant's table so tightly her knuckles drained white.
"Ladies and gentlemen... ...your Honour," she continued to address the courtroom, albeit in a shakier voice: "I must further ask... ...could any of you present, witness to Ms Yamanaka's humiliation and emotional suffering, deny her acknowledgement of all that she has gone through? Could any of you deny her the painful satisfaction of knowing that the public recognizes her, through an official statement on the divorce certificate, as having been dishonourably swindled into her current marriage by the devious man sitting before me, who, quite frankly, knows nothing of what it is to be a husband?"
Tsunade wondered with vague amusement towards which of the two men sitting before her – the Hyuuga, or the Inuzuka – that last comment had been directed.
"Your Honour." Neji stood up and addressed the judge. "Surely the breakdown of this marriage cannot be fully blamed upon Mr Inuzuka. A divorce certificate vilifying him and declaring the marriage annulled due to his having – apparently - persuaded Ms Yamanaka into being his wife through fraudulent means would, surely, only address half the problem, half the reason as to why this couple has decided to go their separate ways."
Tsunade leaned back into her chair, a small smile now playing on her lips as she watched the scene unfolding before her.
"Your Honour," Neji continued quietly, turning to face the trembling brunette across the table with his pale, intense gaze, "It is easy to talk of knowing, or not knowing, how to be a husband – but I assure you that actually being one is a much more difficult task entirely. Imagine –" He turned towards the gallery. "-Imagine, if you will, being married to a woman who cannot understand that her husband has duties not only towards her, but towards his family."
Tenten's eyes widened; her lips parted softly. "What-"
"Imagine being married to a woman who constantly leaves her husband torn between herself and his family – both of whom are held in high affection and respect in his heart." Neji was speaking with his back turned towards Tenten now and she suddenly found herself tearing up a little, staring at the neat ponytail trailing over his shoulder.
"And what about how it feels to be wife to a man held prisoner by his family – a man whom she has tried to free from his bonds time and time again, a man whom she married anyway despite knowing that she failed – and a man who does not even try to make time from his family to be with her?"
"What if you were married to a woman who, despite complaining that you do not spend enough time with her, refuses to start a family of your own? A woman who does not want your child? A woman who then –" Neji's voice cracked uncharacteristically. "- Leaves you after one particularly bad fight?"
It was becoming rather clear to those assembled within the courtroom that the argument had veered slightly off the originally intended course.
Ino was staring at Neji with undisguised confusion. "But... ...I do want Kiba's children," she admitted in a small voice.
"You do?" Kiba sounded torn between incredulity and joy. Then he frowned: "By the way, Mrs Hyuuga... ...my uh, family obligations aren't that bad, really. I mean, my folks are pretty easy going people in general."
"And Kiba definitely spent more time with me than with his family," Ino told them, smiling faintly. "Rushed home from work every night... ...he never agreed to work overtime even when money was tight."
"I liked catching you cooking in your lacy apron." Kiba grinned at her. Ino blushed.
"Really. And Ino," Kiba gazed imploringly at her. "I never lied to you. About anything. You can ask Hana about the women yourself, honestly. What kind of crazy fool would I be to carry on with other chicks when I got you, baby? Look at you, still hot stuff six years down the line."
"Oh, you." Ino smiled coquettishly at her husband. She hesitated slightly, then: "Want to watch me cook in my apron tonight?"
"You bet I do. 'Scuse me, bro."
A surprised Neji stood to the side as Kiba abruptly sprang up, strode past him and joined his wife in the middle of the courtroom floor, reaching out to claim her hand in his before the two of them strolled cheerfully out, the doors clicking smartly shut after them.
"Well." Tsunade picked herself up off her chair and took a deep breath, stretching luxuriously. "Guess that's all for today, then."
"Um... ...your Honour," Shizune began dubiously, gazing after the apparently happily reconciled couple, "What about the documentation?"
"Just tear the damn things up. No one's getting divorced today... ...not those two, at any rate," Tsunade chuckled, taking a generous swig from her wine. "Good evening, everyone. I'll see you all tomorrow... ...unfortunately."
Within five minutes of the judge's exit the remaining audience in viewing galleries had all trickled out, leaving the courtroom completely empty save for the two attorneys still standing by the defendant's table.
Tenten sighed and rubbed tiredly at her temples. "This can't be happening to me."
Neji – who had fiddled intently with a few pieces of paper on his table while everyone filed out of the room – now glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. He opened his mouth, as if about to speak – then closed it again, turning away. The seconds ticked by slowly, awkwardly. Tenten sighed again.
"I'm going," she announced wearily, making her way back to her desk and sliding her paperwork into a slick black briefcase. "See you next case, I suppose."
Her heels rapped smartly on the ground as she walked past her estranged husband, struggling to keep a neutral expression on her face.
She paused down the middle of the walkway at the sound of his voice but didn't look back, merely biting her lip and staring glumly down at the wooden floor.
She turned around and eyed him warily. Neji was leaning against his desk with his arms folded, watching her with an unreadable expression on his face. "Yes?"
"What you said earlier... ...about trying to free a husband from his bonds, and failing," he began slowly. Tenten flushed.
"That was pretty silly of me, I know." She winced, wondering why, after all these years, an experienced lawyer like herself could still feel like a schoolgirl before this man.
"Is that what you really think about us? That you failed? That I still feel trapped by my family?"
Tenten looked away. "Don't you?"
"Of course not." She was surprised by the sudden gentleness in his tone. "Tenten... ...I haven't felt trapped by anyone since I met and married you."
"Don't fool around with me, Neji. Everything is still all about the Hyuuga to you. You made plans around your family, you changed our plans for them. How many times had you refused me when I asked you to go away with me for a weekend, because Hinata was sick or because you had some obscure Hyuuga gathering to attend? They took your childhood and – and despite what I had hoped I could do for you – they're still such a big part of your life," Tenten pointed out miserably.
"Because I chose to let them be. I chose to honour my familial obligations. They haven't been able to force themselves upon me for a long while now."
"Well then," she replied dully, "That's it, right? You made your choice." Then, quieter: "And you chose them over me."
"That's not true." His voice was firm, but she shook her head.
"And what you said about not wanting to have children, Neji? How was I supposed to make that big of a commitment for you when...when it seemed like you were concerned about anything but me?" To her mortification she was starting to cry again; her vision was going blurry and she looked down, trying to wipe away the tears discreetly.
"Don't, Tenten... ..."
She didn't move away when she felt his fingers trailing down from her temple, a thumb wiping away the wet tracks tracing down her cheek; somehow he had crossed the walkway and was now right beside her, barely an inch away. She closed her eyes briefly. Perhaps it was the familiar warmth of his skin on hers, or perhaps it was because Tenten simply felt too tired to do anything else; whatever the case, she found herself resting her forehead against his shoulder and murmuring quietly into his crisp white shirt: "I missed you, you bastard." So damn much.
His other hand came up to rest against the small of her back. "You know. ...I never realized that you felt like I was neglecting you until it was too late. It wasn't intentional. I'm sorry." He stroked her back soothingly once, twice, before sighing. "This husband thing... ...I'm not very good at it, am I? It's difficult."
"It's not easy being a wife, either," she muttered thickly. "Especially being yours." She poked his shoulder.
"And now that we've both established how hopeless we are at matrimony," Neji murmured into her hair, "Do you think it's time to try again?"
She pulled away slightly. "What?"
"You know they say practice makes perfect." He smiled for her, albeit uncertainly. "I've missed you around the house."
Tenten couldn't restrain her lips from curving up in return. "Well, I suppose... ..." she trailed off indecisively, playing with a strand of his hair. She wanted desperately to make things this damn thing called her marriage work with Neji... ...but it was terrifying and she couldn't help but remember how hurt she had been, how much she had hurt him while they had fumbled and argued their way through the first year together. "Maybe we should continue living separately for a while, think things through a bit, try meeting some new people... ..."
He looked a little sheepish when Tenten stared up at him, incredulous.
"You really suck at making jokes, you know."
"I know." Neji looked resigned. "But I meant it."
"At least come home for dinner tonight. I'll cook."
She couldn't help but smirk. "In a lacy apron?"
"If that would please you, yes." He nodded solemnly.
Mmmmmm... ...Tenten shook her head to clear the very appealing mental image from her mind and scrutinized him suspiciously. "And since when have you learned to cook, anyway?"
"Since you moved out," he replied frankly. She chuckled.
"Bet you had a hard time coping without me there to take care of you," she teased, tugging lightly at his hair.
"I did," he admitted, and her smirk faded a little. Then she straightened herself, pulled away, and faced her husband with a stern expression.
"Well then, Mr Hyuuga."
"Yes, Mrs Hyuuga?"
"I want Chinese tonight. Authentic Chinese, mind you."
"And authentic Chinese you shall have." He made a mock bow.
Tenten giggled. And when Neji turned away to tidy up his desk, she quietly slipped a long, thin chain from around her neck, removed the ring dangling in the middle, and slid it securely onto her finger with a faint, satisfied smile.
After all, she mused to herself, eyeing the diamond sparkling prettily against her skin: she was a married woman, and this was where it belonged.