Re-edited as of 1/2013

Art in the Age of Risk

Art is a form communication that insinuates. We expect the artist to have more to say than what he communicated and suspect that what he said was a subterfuge for hiding something.

Nicholas Calas

"Art in the Age of Risk"

Hiraku

Ibiki stood under the pounding spray and let the hot water beat him back into some semblance of order. He never thought for a moment that he was over the hill or past his prime, but right now he felt that he was taking a brief look into the future. His muscles were so weak that they felt dilapidated and shaky. His mind was still so foggy and jumbled that he could barely remember his name.

Ayumu had put him through the wringer.

They had fallen asleep, and somewhere two hours into his slumber he had awoken to find her crawling all over him. She was moving sinuously against him with her hands and body, and her mouth was leaving hot trails of lust in its wake. She wasn't just sexually excited and eager, but rather she had turned voracious and dominant, and in such a way that he had been momentarily startled. There had been a few times previously when she had almost gotten out of hand on him, but that had been right before she had peaked and her body had been overloaded with stimulus. Then she had been riding waves of pleasure that were all-consuming. Last night however…From the very beginning and before he had even entered her she had been all over him and almost hard to control.

Not that he was complaining. Never that. Neither had she been too much for him to manage. Never that as well. He was a big man who was strong enough to physically as well as mentally keep in stride with her. It was just that for the majority of the time she was one step ahead of him, and that meant that he had to continually adapt and improvise in order to not be left behind. He liked that. She had just gotten a little rough with him here and there. And not that he minded that either. Again, he was a large man and he could certainly handle any roughness that she decided to throw at him. It was just that the combination of raw lust and power that she exuded took his breath away here and there.

Especially when she dragged him down and told him to take her as if they were on the lobby floor of ANBU, and he needed to show everyone how it was really done. He still shivered at the memory of what emotions burst forth at those words… He became unstoppable.

She certainly put him through his paces, he thought as he hissed slightly under the beating spray. Looking down at his body he could clearly see the outlines of bite marks and even rose-tinted love hickeys all up and down his torso. He knew that when he looked into the mirror to shave he would see plenty of marks of his neck as well. Her nibbling knew no bounds last night he thought with a tired chuckle. She had tossed and turned him about in a frenzy of hunger and need. When he had looked into her eyes he saw the amber there glowing, and he had at one point sucked in his breath in wonder at what he was met with. She watched him with the loving look of a predator. Her growls and purrs only heightened the sensation. For the first time ever he felt a fleetingly sensation of being the submissive one. As she sat on his lap and looked down at him hungrily he couldn't help but shiver in anticipation.

Turning the spray of water off he shook himself like a giant bear emerging from the river, and took a towel from the wrack. Stepping from the shower he finished drying himself, and tossing the towel aside he stood before the sink's mirror to see if the top half of him in any way matched the bottom half. The bite marks and love hickies did indeed find places on his neck, and looking closer he saw that there was even one below his right ear. He gave a snort, shook his head, and smirked at his reflection in the mirror. He was eternally happy that he didn't have to see Tsunade today because she would certainly zoom in on that and never let him live it down.

"Oh, Ibiki! You are covered in nibbles! And all over…"

Ibiki turned to see Ayumu standing in the doorway and wearing only his black t-shirt. Her hair was mussed and her body was still softly warm from sleep. She looked him up and down, and her smile was filled with a feminine guile loaded with arrogance.

Ibiki smirked back and put his hand under the shirt so that it rode on her warm hip. "Yes, it appears so," he said nodding knowingly. "Now who looks as if they had been covered in bar-b-que sauce and eaten alive?"

"You do," she said giggling and crinkling her nose cutely.

With a deep laugh he pulled her closer and nuzzled his face into her hair. Closing his eyes he felt as if he could fall asleep and stay here just like this for the rest of his life. But duty called, and he had to get to ANBU. He started to pull himself away but was stopped by two small, insistent hands on his buttocks, and looking down he saw topaz eyes burning up at him. Ayumu shook her head and the tip of her pink tongue unconsciously snicked out to wet her lips.

Obviously she was not done with him yet.

With a nod of beleaguered acceptance he turned her around, and patting her bare backside he pushed her back into their bedroom. It wasn't until she turned around where she saw that the stoic look of acceptance had quickly morphed into one a lascivious greed. His dark eyes danced and his hands soon followed. If he couldn't be late then no one could.


Walking slowly through the village Ibiki saw that the late afternoon activity buzzing around him, but he was only partially aware of the things that transpired around him. He was still in a post-coital haze that moved him along as if in a fog. He knew that he sported a smug look; his eyes were partially closed and his mouth was raised imperceptibly at the corners. His hands were in his pockets and he walked with not his usual purposeful stride. Though he didn't shuffle like a moon-calf he did swagger a bit. It was probably apparent to anyone that looked at him that he had just gotten laid, and well.

As he left Hiraku and entered the Hidden Village Proper he moved easily through the throngs of people going about their business. Most people afforded him a wide birth, and that was fine by him. He had many things to occupy his time, and having to interact with anyone was not something high on his priority list at the moment. He was thinking about what he was going to do once he reached his office. He had started to formulate a plan about which technique he would use for his upcoming interrogation when his gut instincts jerked hm back to reality with such a start that it was only through years of discipline and instinct that he didn't stop dead in his tracks and look around like he wanted to.

He was being watched, and with serious intent.

Walking casually over to a nearby ramen stand he ordered a bowl of noodles, and with his hands placed in full view on the counter waited for his order to arrive. He looked neither left nor right, and even hummed a low tune that he had heard Ayu sing the other day. His fingers tapped carelessly to the rhythm of the beat and for all practical purposes he appeared to be a man only slightly impatient for his food to be delivered. Out of the corner of his right eye he saw a man in his middle age move to the counter and order some soba. The man was wearing loose clothing but it was easy to tell that the frame underneath was firm and solid as the man's stance was spread wide enough to accommodate such a weight. The man also sported a few facial scars to accentuate the deceptively casual stance that only a man of Ibiki's experience knew was a front for a coiled intensity that was just beneath the surface.

Ibiki could always spot the land sharks because he was one himself. Standing next to him was a predator's predator, and Ibiki knew without a doubt that the man was there for him for some as of yet unknown reason.

As his food came Ibiki took his time enjoying it. He savored the aroma of the beefy broth and gave the noodles a small stir as if to test their consistency. Taking a slow, slurpy bite he semi-closed his eyes and grunted at the fine flavor. Allowing himself another and yet another bite he patiently waited to see what the man would want from him.

Years of training, vigilance, and dead-on gut instinct Ibiki knew that he was in no immediate physical danger. At least not yet. But he did know that the man did want his attention for some reason, and whatever the reason was it was most assuredly for professional reasons. Rarely did people stop him on the street for personal reasons. He was generally given a wide berth by people, and never unless it was by accident did people try and move into his personal space or send off such vibrations of intense interest. Most people left him alone to move about as he pleased, but this man wanted something specific from him. Ibiki just wondered who would make the first comment. He was a patient man by nature, but today he just didn't have the time.

Just as he was about to look over and raise a brow the man, who by this time had also gotten his food, placed his bowl back down on the counter and gave a deep sigh of satisfaction. Not looking over at Ibiki he began to talk.

"Morino-san is a very clever man," the Stranger said in a deep, soft, and yet gravelly voice. It held the texture of someone who spoke as little as possible, and only when necessary. Or, possibly one who had at one time suffered a severe throat injury.

"I guess that would all depend on whom you asked," Ibiki said wryly.

The man shook his head and took a sip of the broth from his bowl. "No, your reputation is well deserved. I myself have seen first-hand evidence to support such a theory."

Ibiki did raise his eyebrow and offered the man no response. He learned many years ago as an investigator that his silence psychologically always caused people to want to fill in the gap. Nature abhorred a vacuum, and people were no different. So with a negligent shrug he went back to his bowl as if that was all that really mattered to him right then.

With a shrug of his own the Stranger went back to eating his own meal as if not getting any more information from Ibiki was to be expected. For almost ten minutes both men ate their meals in silence and ignored one another. It was as if a battle of wills was being fought, and in no way was Ibiki about to let the other man win.

However, he did have to admit that his curiosity had been piqued.

"So what is it that you want with me? I can't see how we could have anything in common," Ibiki said sighing and turning slightly to face the other man. His tone and posture portrayed a man with little patience left.

The other man nodded as if in understanding.

"Maybe, maybe not. Men like us do no not- cannot- always judge things by appearance alone. Such an amateur endeavor has proven the downfall of many a man."

Now Ibiki turned to fully face his dining companion, and with a harsh look in his eyes.

"Or, maybe things are exactly as they seem," Ibiki said placing a large hand on the table and tapping a finger slowly. "Why don't you stop dancing about like a moth around a flame and speak your true intentions, as I am sure that your reason for being here is far from having a simple repast of noodles."

The man now turned to squarely face Ibiki, and cold, grey eyes met black, hot ones.

"I think that Morino-san knows exactly who I am and what I want."

Without a change on his face or in his eyes Ibiki let a corner of his mouth turn up in a smile and a flash of canine was shown as a warning.

"I was wondering when you would finally show your face. I must say though, that you have made an appearance much faster than I would have thought. I was thinking that I would have had to put a bit more effort forward in order to flush you out. So that means one of either two things: you are changing your plans mid-stream or, you have no plans and are doing this all on the fly and hoping for the best. Now, you don't seem like the kind of man who never has a plan. I bet you plan out every piss that you take, and weeks in advance. If you are changing your strategy at this late date that means that things are slipping out of your control and you are starting to panic, or at least panic as much as a piece of stone can panic. Either way things are not as how you originally planned them to be. So what is it? Have you lost control or are you incompetent? Or, maybe a bit of both?"

Ibiki gave a rough chuckle and watched with a small amount of amusement as the only show that the man gave at the insults hitting home was a miniscule tightening at the outer corners of his cold eyes. Ibiki knew without a doubt who this man was, and he knew that the danger surrounding this man was greater than many, if not most, of the nins that he knew. This was a man that if he had been in ANBU he would have been one of the few at the very top.

Unfortunately for him he was squaring up with one of those, and Ibiki would have been a liar if he said that a certain thrill didn't go through him. Yes, this man was a supreme threat to Konoha and everything and everyone that he loved. But he was also a man that was going to put Ibiki to the supreme test professionally, and both mentally as well as physically. It was the kind of thing that he had been training to do literally his entire life: to eradicate any and all dangers to his village. As angry as he was at the man's audacity (and his need for personal revenge against a man who had caused such harm to his beloved, and even if it was only indirectly)to make his presence known to him in such a way he couldn't help but theoretically raise a toast to him. It was something he himself would do if given the chance.

It was a brilliant move.

There was nothing that Ibiki could do. If Ibiki arrested him (and there was nothing that he could charge him with, or at least anything that would stick) Ibiki would know nothing more than he knew right now. If he let him go (as he most probably would have to) there was a very good chance that their next meeting wouldn't be anytime soon.

Well, he would have to make the best out of a shitty situation. Life, after all, wasn't about getting dealt a good hand, but more about playing a bad one well. And he was a Master at playing poor hands out well to the end.

"I would love to chat with you longer," Ibiki said laying money down on the counter for his meal, "but I have a date with an engaging young lady who has recently decided to try her hand at accosting people on the street. Imagine that? Now she waits for me in a comfortable, subterranean accommodation that only a man like myself can offer," he said smoothly.

The Stranger nodded and sighed as if beleaguered and saddened by such news.

"Yes, I find that the youth of today are so impatient with their plans and ideas. No forethought or attention to detail. Never thinking things through and weighing the possibilities or probabilities. How dreadful, wouldn't you say? Or, maybe it is just because experienced men like ourselves have left the trappings of such youth so far behind us? Thank the Heavens that we left all of that on the way side so many years ago. A costly burden, wouldn't you say?"

Ibiki nodded. "I agree, and whole heartedly. That is one of the things that makes my job so pleasant for me. No such encumbrances. I am my own man, and no one can interfere with my dealings."

"You and I are very much alike, Morino-san. We set goals and we allow nothing, and no one, to stop us. A single-mindedness that those of weaker constitution would erroneously label as narrow-mindedness. How sadly pathetic!"

"Again, I concur with your thinking," Ibiki said smiling darkly. "When it comes to fulfilling my job I have very little if any constraints. I am free to explore all kinds of possibilities, and ones that I enjoy immensely."

"Just be careful that you do not over-tax yourself and spend too much time on pursuing avenues that offer no hope of satisfaction or salvation. Be careful of making the mistake of youthfulness…"

Ibiki gave a grunt and tapped at the coins sitting on the table in front of him. He moved them about as if carefully digesting the freely proffered advice.

"You yourself should also take care. Take care that you do not over-step your reach or your boundaries. Greed is just a fault of the experienced as well as the green. Remember: it is usually the best swimmers who drown."

The Stranger took a final sip of his bowl and hummed in pleasure. He looked over at Ibiki with something akin to admiration.

"You would make a very excellent adversary, Morino-san. Better yet, I think that as an ally your strengths would be peerless. I think that having a man such as yourself alongside a man such as myself there would be no telling the things that could be accomplished."

The Stranger turned his cool gaze fully upon Ibiki as he let the silent offer hang in the air between them. It was like an ethereal question that shimmered between them.

It was a question that Ibiki threw right back in his face.

"As amusing as the concept might seem to you I find it nothing short of contemptible. To align myself with someone that has done nothing but show themselves to be nothing more than a clear and present danger to all that I hold close to me would go against every fiber of who I am."

Ibiki leaned in and any shred of civility that he had slowly started to strip away. His eyes became as chilly as death and his voice became grim with suppressed violence.

"Let me make myself crystal in regards to a few, pertinent points. I know what your plans are. Why you want them to come to fruition is of no concern of mine. Maybe you never could make the cut. Maybe you got tired of the view never changing. Maybe you are just a stupid fuck with delusions of something better. I don't rightly care. What I do care about is the fact that you are trying to piss in my pond. But I can understand that. I honestly can. Everyone probably thinks at one time or another that there has to be more to existence than what their little life is currently about. It must be frustrating to think that you deserve better, and most probably won't ever get it. Even little men deserve a big dream or two.

"But you and your half-assed proletarians stepped way over the line by making a personal play at my life. When you decided to set your sights on me-and especially to those that belong to me- you signed your own death warrant. There is no turning back, and for that there shall be serious repercussions and reciprocity. One thing that you need to focus on now is the fact that no matter how hard-hitting you think you are I am a hundred times more dangerous, and certainly much more ruthless. I will painfully eradicate you and yours without a thought, and go to bed every night with a smile on my face."

"Of that I have no doubt," the Stranger said quietly. "I will say, and though I doubt that it will mean too much to you at this late point of time, I am sorry about any collateral damage that might have occurred. The young lady from Hiraku was never intended to become a part of anything, even peripherally. That was nothing more than a sad by-product of knowing a man such as ourselves."

Ibiki's gazed became inflamed.

"Collateral damage? And from knowing a man such as ourselves? No, she was a prime target, and from the very beginning," he ground out. "Two of your stray dogs went after her even before knowing that I was her protector."

The Stranger shook his head and casually took a sip of his broth.

"They acted on their own, and not in any way on orders from me. They were on their own side-show in those instances. As I said before: impetuous youths. However, in regards to protecting her? I believe that Morino-san was not as diligent as he professes to be."

The sting hurt, and Ibiki knew that the other man was right. He hadn't been as diligent as he should have been, and those were things that he would always feel deep shame about. However, he also didn't believe that Ayumu was not a target somehow, and since the very beginning. Maybe not prime, but rather something else. The more he thought about it the more he was starting to believe that she had been a very handy tool to start things rolling.

"Doesn't matter if they were acting on your orders or not. You should have had them on shorter leashes. Their mistakes were two-fold; they harmed her and they brought you to light. You should have picked your people better."

The Stranger nodded. "Yes, I whole-heartedly agree. But sometimes we work with what we have. Or, rather, we sacrifice what we need to."

Ibiki growled low in his throat.

"All that makes no matter to me anymore. The game has now changed. I am in control, and I intend to finish it."

It was as if the vibrancy of the village life around them hung in suspended animation. For a brief moment in time nothing mattered but the two of them.

The Stranger in no way took Ibiki lightly. He knew Ibiki's words were anything but hollow. He knew that in being like Ibiki himself that the man was always primed, and without even a moment's notice he wouldn't hesitate to kill him on the spot.

More than once he thought about doing just that.

This conversation was not going exactly as planned, and yet it was going exactly as he thought that it might. Luckily he was a man who could think fast on the fly.

"Morino-san's position is understandable. However, he might not be in possession of the whole truth." He kept his voice free of any tension that he might be feeling. In fact, he was not afraid. He knew what danger he was in, but he also knew that things never got interesting until you let the predators get in real close.

Ibiki smiled a death's head grin and gave a genuine laugh.

"Oh, that is the truth, but such a truth is not something that I seek. At this moment I seek only balance and revenge. Two things that I plan on getting very soon. So as such I must cut our conversation short and bid you farewell. There is a young woman who is awaiting my appearance. Maybe not eagerly, but waiting none the less, and I never keep a woman waiting if I can help it."

The Stranger nodded. "Yes. About that young lady… I think that you will find that she has found other arraignments. She is no longer available to meet with you… What a pity."

Ibiki's eyes narrowed.

"Oh? How so? I don't think that her circumstances have changed since our last meeting."

The Stranger paid his bill and stood. He straightened his clothing and gave a nod of his head to Ibiki.

"Once you have had some time to digest your new situation, and come to realize that things might not be as they seem we will meet again. Then I hope that we will be able to come to some sort of settlement that benefits us all."

Without another word the Stranger seemed to melt into the surrounding crowd, and almost without a trace disappear.

With nothing more than a dark look Ibiki turned away and walked with a cold fury toward ANBU.


ANBU

The minute he walked into ANBU Ibiki knew that something horribly was wrong. The normally hushed atmosphere was still hushed, but an undercurrent of anger, incredulity, and expectancy permeated the environment. People moved about with purpose, and the purpose was to stay out of his way and not make eye contact. Ibiki moved unheedingly through the crowd like a shark on the scent of fresh blood. He was simultaneously infuriated and afraid. He knew that when he went downstairs his worst fear would be realized. And for that reason alone the pain and blood that he would exact would know no limits.

Blasting past everyone without regard he strode like an angry bruin to the special elevator that went to only the subterranean levels. Getting in he pressed the button for the lowest level. Even if anyone wanted to follow him he knew that no one would as the aura surrounding hm was anything but accommodating. With barely controlled patience he waited as level after level passed him by. Finally, five stories down he reached his destination. He was at the very bottom level, and the moment that the door opened he knew.

It was utter pandemonium. Guards and Nins were yelling and scuffling. Accusations as well as blows were being traded back and forth. All commotion stopped though as his presence became known. He walked slowly and with purpose toward the knot of people that gathered half way down the hall. Most stepped aside while two ANBU guards stood before him with their heads hung forward and their eyes trained to the floor.

Ibiki didn't even have to ask what had happened.

"Morino-sama, there has been a tragic breach," said one of the guards. He was a middle-aged, scarred veteran who had worked this floor for many years. It was said that he never left this level, and that Tsunade herself had picked him many years ago due to his deep loyalty and invaluable experience.

Ibiki knew him as a valuable asset because in many ways this man had started Ibiki on the path that he was now on. Ibiki had learned much about human nature down in this deep cavern from a man who dealt with the worst of the worst, and the hardest of souls. This man was said to be unbreakable, and as such he knew all the tricks of the trade. If he himself hadn't done it he had seen it done. He was almost like a father-figure in Hell to Ibiki.

"What is it, Furo-domo?" Ibiki laid a large hand on the older man's shoulder as if to convey some form of comfort, and to indirectly tell that man that he was not to blame.

"The woman is dead, and this one," he said pointing to a battered to a pulp but still alive ANBU warrior, "is the cause. He gave the woman a poison pill," he said accusingly.

Ibiki nodded and walked over to the ANBU who was being held up by two guards. Other masked, armored ANBU were gathering around the trio. The fact that one of theirs had turned not only against ANBU in whole, but his team-mates in particular, was a serious breach of not only protocol, but faith as well. His team-mates were being held back by other members, but not before they had gotten their share of hands-on reciprocity. As professionals they knew that the traitor would have to be questioned, but they also knew that Ibiki was more than talented enough to gather information from a body that was less than fully healthy.

But it was still a horrendous blow for all. They all knew without even voicing their concerns that everyone and everything would fall under close scrutiny, and from Ibiki in particular. No one looked forward to that.

Ibiki looked down coldly at the man, and put his hands in his pockets. He had to otherwise he would finish the job and beat the man to death himself.

"Put him in a cell, but not before you strip him down, pull out any false or hollow teeth that he might have, and perform a full body and cavity search. I want him as naked as he was the day he was born. Also, give him an injection of my newest chemical restraint. I want him almost comatose for now."

Without waiting for a response he moved through people and went to the open door of the cell. Without walking in he surveyed the damage. The woman was on her back and looking as peaceful as if she was taking a nap. There were no signs of either struggle or distress. The slightly acrid smell in the air was enough to confirm his anger.

"Fuck…"

Ibiki could hear people moving briskly behind him, but the talking was at a minimum. Harsh whispers were all that he could hear as people went about their duties.

Turning he motioned for Furo to come over to him.

"Furo-domo, how did this happen," he asked quietly.

Furo shook his grizzled head. "A team had just come in to drop off a prisoner when all of a sudden one of them broke away and entered the cell. He was in there long enough to give her something, and before I knew it the job was done and his team-mates had started beating on him. I alone am to blame, Morino-san. I should have been more watchful."

"No, having access to this level is only given to those who we trust the most. The team is to blame, and I for one intend to question the remaining members. Have your men waylay them from leaving the building. Place them in separate interrogation room. Do whatever you have to do," Ibiki said with a knowing look.

Nodding, the older man walked away and caught the eye of some of his men. Through years of working closely together they nodded imperceptibly and did as they had silently been instructed.

Knowing that there was nothing that he could do for now Ibiki made his way back up to his office. As he went he mentally re-adjusted his schedule and planned what he would do next.

Inside he was seething. He was furious at not just being bested, but in the fact that it had been done in his own house. It reminded him of the time when Ayumu and Hiroshi had been accosted in their own home. It was an intrusion that could not -would not- be forgiven. If Ibiki had been motivated before, his inspiration now was almost inhuman. There would be no stopping him.

As he entered his office he was met by a grim faced Mrs. Yuya. Leave it to her to know what was going on even before he did. She even had a cup of tea ready for him, and knew enough to keep any missives not pertaining to the present situation away. As if she was more than a secretary (which she was) she followed him into his office and shut the door behind them.

"Well, this is a fine mess. What do you need me to do," she asked ready to follow any order that he might give.

Ibiki smiled and took a sip of the tea. It was chamomile. Only she knew how much he liked the soothing effects that it had. She also knew that he enjoyed a specific brand, and as such always made sure to have it on hand.

"The first thing that I have to do is ensure the safety of Ayumu. I plan to call in a few favors," he said quietly.

He looked over at Mrs. Yuya and a gentle smile drifted swiftly across his face.

"Ayumu is pregnant, and I can't allow anything to happen to either of them…"

Mrs. Yuya face broke out into a wide smile and she quickly and heartily gave her boss a firm hug. "Oh, Morino-an," she said fondly as if Ibiki was one of her own children. "You will make a spectacular father," she said proudly.

Ibiki gave her a slightly worried look. "Do you think so? I certainly hope so. I know that Ayumu will make a wonderful mother. I just hope that I will be able to…"

"Of course you will," she said soundly. "You are a good man, and even if you don't allow yourself to think that."

Ibiki shrugged and gently disengaged himself from his secretary. Throwing his coat on the couch he started to pace around the room a bit as thoughts cogitated in his head.

"This day started out so well, and now it has turned to absolute shit," he said shaking his head.

He heard a snicker from Mrs. Yuya, and looking over at her he saw that her eye brow was raised as she pointedly looked at the love bite below his ear that previously his coat collar had hid.

Ibiki could feel a slight blush start to spread. He changed the subject in order to move the topic away from anything sensitive.

"Did you know that I had lunch with the bastard that orchestrated all this bullshit? Not even an hour ago, and right there on the streets."

Mrs. Yuya narrowed her eyes as if peeved. "And you didn't kill him?"

Ibiki smirked and took a sip of his tea. "I had no justification. I also had no proof, just gut instinct."

"Which is what most Nin live off of. You have to in order to stay alive." She shook her head as if extremely disappointed in her employer. "Next time you just kill him, and no messing around," she said taking his empty cup. "I hope that you aren't getting soft now that you are procreating."

Ibiki gave a genuine laugh. He shook his head and cracked his neck. As he paced the room he filled Mrs. Yuya on specific details that she might not have heard. Perching on his couch she listened silently. When he was done she tapped a finger against her chin.

"Yes, this does complicate things terribly. Not only do we have a very dangerous threat freely roaming our streets, but it appears that his influence goes deeper than anticipated. I don't like that, and not one bit. To think that one of our own ANBU teams had been turned… That is a horrible wake-up call to get. It appears that we aren't as invincible as we always thought?"

Ibiki grunted and crossed his arms over his chest. "I plan to take not only that man apart but his team-mates as well. I can't think that he acted alone. His mates went after him so quickly and with such intention that it makes me think that maybe they were trying to silence him."

"Who is in charge of them now?"

Ibiki raised a brow and gave a nasty smirk. "Your husband is."

Mrs. Yuya met his smirk with a devious smile of her own. "My husband is a competent Nin, and have no fears about him. However, he must be beating himself up right now for letting even any of that happen…"

She looked over at Ibiki with sad consternation.

Ibiki waived a hand in the air. "Not his fault at all. It could have happened to any one of us. I don't blame him in the least. If anything he stopped it from getting any worse.

As he looked over at her his gaze softened. "I have been very lucky to have the two of you around me," he said softly. "I have been well taken care of by the two of you."

It was now Mrs. Yuya's turn to waive her hand in the air. "Psst. Like I have always said: you are a good man and an even better Nin. Furo and I have been lucky to be here with you at ANBU."

Getting up she gathered a few things to take with her, and before she opened the door she paused. "I have blocked off your calendar for the next few days. I will make sure that you won't be disturbed. Shall I make arraignments for you having a prolonged stay here?"

Mrs. Yuya was used to Ibiki occasionally getting so involved in his work that he would not leave ANBU for days at a time. And as his assistant she would make sure that he had hot food and clean clothes if he needed them.

"Yes. But before I immerse myself I have a few messages to go out. Would you make sure that they get delivered right away?"

She nodded and went back out to her office.

Ibiki went to his own desk and started to write messages for various individuals. One in particular galled him to have to write, but he knew that the person was his best option. This wasn't a time for personal feelings to get in the way, and what was at stake was more important than any masculine misgivings that he might have.

With the notes in hand he left his office and gave a few directions to Mrs. Yuya before leaving. He had a few stops to make before going back down to the lower levels. He was still furious at the turn of events, but he was also primed. The thrill of the chase was coursing through his veins and he was starting to chomp at the proverbial bit. Pushing aside all personal feelings and thoughts that he might have he moved swiftly but silently through the halls of ANBU.


AN: well, that ends the re-writes and now the story begins again fresh.