A/N: Just so you know, this is not my 'world', if you will. This wonderful little idea belongs to WhyMustIWrite, in her story "Not Over Till The Paperwork Is In". She simply gave me permission to expand on it. So don't bother asking me about the trial. If you haven't read her story - GO. Read it. NOW. Not only will this make more sense, the story is just worth reading.

Disclaimers: I've already said I don't own.

Rating: K+ for mild violence and non-curse swearing.

Lastly, / this means memory. / You'll see.


She simmered, she steamed. She fidgeted and she fumed. Tsume practically stalked the streets of the Inuzuka compound, frequently growling low in her throat. Umino, Iruka was on trial today, and she wasn't there! The brat was practically family, had been ever since he had braved the growls of the clan's nin-dogs in order to help her then-six-year-old son with his reading. Tsume paused, dipping her head and smiling slightly at the memory.

/ The opening of the door was mostly ignored – Kuromaru would have told her if it was someone who shouldn't be there. "Um, mom…?" The hesitant voice of her son, however, caught her attention immediately. Kiba was only hesitant when he was guilty or injured. Either possibility warranted Tsume's full attention. The little boy paused in the doorway to her room, teeth latched on his lip and his new puppy in his arms. She ran the experienced eye of a Chunin over the boy, relaxing slightly when sight and scent told her that he was unharmed.

She tipped her head curiously to one side as the child held out a piece of folded paper in one small hand. Taking the paper, still slightly worried over her energetic son's disturbingly subdued behavior, she quickly read the neatly printed script. "Another report card? Hm, you've gotten bad grades again, but that's not unusual." She didn't mean to be cruel, and there was no anger in her voice. How could there be; most of her clan did badly at bookwork and Kiba knew it. The Inuzuka simply weren't known for their patience.

But Kiba only ducked his head, leaving his mother looking at his messy dark hair. "Keep reading." was all he said. And so she did.

After a moment, Tsume spoke again, trying to keep her voice gentle. "Kiba, I'm not mad. If your teacher wants to come tutor you that's fine. But Kiba, he won't show up. We live in the middle of the compound, and too many of the dogs run free here. No one gets this far in without an escort, they all get scared of the dogs and turn back."

Surprisingly, the boy had snapped his eyes back to hers, anger and certainty burning in his gaze. "You don't know Iruka-sensei, mom. He'll be here, you watch!" She hadn't bothered to argue with him, but after twenty-eight years, she knew better. No one ever came all the way in.

So it utterly shocked her to answer a knock on her door that evening, only to find a wide-eyed, pale-faced sixteen year old teacher standing on her front step. The boy had given her a rather sickly smile, greeted her politely, and asked – in a voice that was only slightly shaky – if Kiba-kun was available. /

The brat had instantly won the respect of the entire clan for that, and it wasn't long before he had their affection as well. And when they had found out that he had no family, well… the young teacher suddenly found himself dragged to holiday gatherings or out to lunch. If there was one thing that was sacred to the Inuzuka clan, it was family, and Iruka had been essentially adopted.

'Hm,' she thought, grinning. 'That's probably where he got his little tendency to take in strays – we taught it to him.' But Tsume's grin faded as she once again realized that none of Iruka's 'family' were allowed with him during this first day of his trial. Not his kids, not her clan, no one. Finally she snarled, unable to simply wait anymore. "I'm going out – maybe the gossip-mongers have heard something!"

Hana looked up sharply. "If they have, come tell us quickly, okay?"

"Of course."

-

She growled again, softly. The rumor mill was usually more accurate than this. It seemed like no one knew what was going on with this case, and the more she listened the wilder the stories became. Finally she heaved a sigh, a quick tap signaling Kuromaru that it was time to go. Someone, unfortunately, heard the sound and mistook its cause. "I know. Simply disgusting, isn't it? The way the entire village is coming to a stop over one Chunin instructor…"

Tsume stiffened, instinctively bristling at the sheer arrogance in the man's smooth voice. She knew even before she turned what she would find – only the Hyuuga had such a cultured manner of speaking, and only Hiashi, the clan head, would dare to speak so disdainfully to the Inuzuka clan leader. But turn she did, glaring furiously at the older man. "It is not disgusting! Iruka-kun is worth fighting for. He does an incredible amount of things that no one ever thanks him for, and he is one of the best teachers the Academy has ever had!"

Hiashi's blue eyes narrowed, his lips pressing into a thin line for an instant before he spoke again. "One of the best? Nonsense. He is soft, babying the children and teaching them ridiculous things like 'each person is strong in their own way' and 'spare lives where you can'. It would most likely be best for the Academy, and Konoha as a whole, if that man were removed from his position."

Tsume grit her teeth, reminding herself that she was the clan Head and could not curse the man as she wanted to. Instead, she forced her voice to remain at an acceptable level. "The children adore him. Kiba, and every other rambunctious child in his classes, respect and are loyal to him. My entire clan would have adopted him if we had met him while he was still a minor. What does that tell you?"

The Hyuuga head simply made a disdainful sound, casually replying as he turned away. "That the boy is good at taming savages."

In the heartbeat following those words, Tsume felt a half-dozen different things all in rapid succession. Shock first, then disbelief. Outrage followed quickly. Everything she had been feeling all day crashed inside of her. Anger, protectiveness, frustration and – though she would never admit it –fear for the scarred instructor boiled up, hitting the flash point in an instant.

Tsume snapped. Her fisted hand flashed out, and not even the Hyuuga's best defensive move was fast enough to stop the rage-filled blow. It was with vicious satisfaction that she watched the man's head snap back, stumbling a step from the force of her punch.

Straightening, Hiashi brought one hand to his face, his expression one of shocked wonder as he gingerly touched the blood welling up from his nose and lip. "You hit me." he murmured, as if to himself. And then his blue eyes flashed with anger, his voice coming out strong, accusing. "You hit me!"

"And I'll do it again if you don't take that back!" she snarled, stepping closer with an almost predatory grace. By now people were moving quickly away from the pair, ninjas nearly dragging civilians who moved too slowly. But no one left, and from the corner of her eye, Tsume was pretty sure that she saw a few heads nod at her words.

Hiashi's face hardened, his weight shifting to a stance that he could move freely from. "No." Tsume growled, her fury driving her on to lash out again, but he was ready for her this time. A sharp movement, a quick push and a blurred gesture was all she registered before pain bloomed in her side. 'That's going to bruise' a part of her registered even as she spun back to face her opponent.

The crowd shifted restlessly, and as Tsume stepped in only to be blocked, she heard several voices cry out in distinct encouragement. "Get him, Inuzuka-san!" one voice cried.

Another agreed. "Yeah, he can't talk about Iruka-sensei like that!"

She grinned, buoyed by the crowd's support, and darted in again, this time delivering a punishing blow to the chest.

It was rather unprofessional, a bare-handed brawl really, but both fighters were too angry to use gen- or nin-jutsu. They just met in a violent dance, trading blocks and blows with all the skill of two war-veteran Jounins. Neither combatant paid any attention when the Hokage's assistant showed up and demanded that they 'stop this at once'.

-

Five members of Konoha's ANBU stood atop one of the buildings closest to the fight, all watching the pair below. One member, the newest of the group, fidgeted slightly. "Shouldn't we stop them?" he asked.

"Probably." a teammate replied.

The newbie hesitated for a moment. "Are we going to stop them?"

"No." The squad leader's voice was cool, decisive. "Not unless we're ordered to." And then she blew it, her voice rising in excitement. "Yes! Come on, Tsume, nail him again!"

When the Hokage's assistant arrived, all five masked shinobi noted her presence. When Shizune noticed them, she signaled them down after failing to stop the now-heated brawl herself. "Well, blast" another comrade griped. "I wanted to see that pompous prick get taken down a few pegs." Three of the four others agreed, but they jumped down to break it up anyway.

Though when Shizune had her back turned, more than one of the team quickly clapped Tsume on the shoulder.