A/N: I just realized that for some reason I referred to Mrs. Yushina as 'Mrs. Yuya'. Big error on my part and I apologize for any confusion. I was thinking about her original name for some reason…? Anyway- won't happen again- I got a sticky note posted on my computer.

I also couldn't help but use the name 'Mifune' as a tribute to a great actor.

I have taken leeway as to rank within ANBU. I have likened Ibiki's rank as being like that of an Army Warrant Officer, in that they fall outside commissioned and non-commissioned officers, who are technical leaders and specialists. As such, and in the case of the Military Police, they are able to arrest, detain, interrogate, etc. anyone from the rank of Private to General. They answer to no one but their superior officer.

I have formulated some of my plot from an article by Don Compos of the CIA from a paper that he wrote entitled "The Interrogation of subjects under arrest." (CIA Historical Review Program. 7/2/96)


Truth

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad."

Aldous Huxley

ANBU Sub-Basement

Ibiki walked down the hallway toward the first holding cell. He was not surprised to see the small knot of people waiting there silently. First and foremost was Yushina Furo standing guard in front of the door. The battle-scarred old Nin stood with his arms folded over his chest and staring impassively at the man standing directly in front of him. Commander Mifune was an imposing man, and rightly so. He commanded a score of Nin teams, and was considered a tough but fair bastard. He himself had put in a dozen or so years out in the field before taking a desk job as field coordinator. He most probably would still be out in the field if he wasn't so valuable as a director. His mind was sharp, his temper was short, and he could hold his own against most. Except Morino Ibiki, of course. When Ibiki had left his office after their talk earlier about placing his men in solitary confinement Ibiki knew that he hadn't seen or heard the last from him. Which was fine because it was expected. He would do the same thing. He would demand his rights as a Commander too.

Mifune was mimicking Furo's stance, but where there was a barely controlled aura of anger to Mifune's the older man looked relaxed and even slightly amused. Ibiki knew that the men had certainly had words, but true to Ibiki's orders it was obvious that Furo had let no one in to see the waiting Nins.

Standing in a casual group off to the side stood Anko and three junior interrogators. They said nothing but watch impassively.

When they all caught sight of Ibiki they turned as if one to watch his approach.

Ibiki stopped just short of the two men, and nodded slightly to Mifune.

"Commander Mifune, what a pleasant surprise to find you here."

"Cut the shit, Morino," Mifune said with a sneer. "I don't have the time or the patience to put up with your bullshit. I might be blocked from seeing my men but that doesn't mean that I am going to hand them over to you on a silver platter. Even the Hokage can't deny me my rights on such a matter. I intend to stick around for all interrogations."

Mifune glared at Ibiki as if daring him to deny his words.

Ibiki raised a brow and shrugged. "You can stick around all you want, but in no way shall you interfere. That is something that the Hokage made very clear, and to both of us, I am sure."

Ibiki knew that this confrontation would happen, and even though he knew that he had full autonomy he made doubly sure by telling Tsunade that he would brook no outside interference from Mifune. And she had agreed. But he also knew that pissing off Mifune would help no one, but more so the man just didn't deserve it. But in the end a job had to be done, and he didn't care whose toes he stepped on to do it.

"I don't like this any more than you do, Commander," Ibiki said quietly. "If I had my way it wouldn't have come to this in the first place. But it has and now we have to deal with it. Agreed?"

Mifune gave out a long sigh, and uncrossing his arms he placed his hands in his pockets. "Agreed. Let's just get this over with and as quickly as possible."

Ibiki narrowed his eyes. "It will get over and done with as fast or as slow as I deem necessary, Commander. I don't tell you how to do your job, so don't try to tell me how to do mine."

Turning to Furo, and dismissing the fuming commander, Ibiki's eyes slide to the door at the older man's back.

"Which one is in here, Furo?"

"I put Nishi in here, Ibiki. He was the Nin that was first on the scene."

Ibiki nodded and walking to the door Furo opened it for him, and then shut it immediately after he had crossed the threshold.

The man sitting at the table was relaxed yet alert. His mask was on the desk along with some of his armor. All weapons had been taken from him, but just as a matter of protocol. They would be given back afterwards.

Nishi rose and gave a slight bow.

"Specialist Morino Ibiki," Nishi said quietly.

Ibiki nodded to the chair the man had just vacated. "Nishi, please have a seat."

Ibiki had dressed very casual for his interviews. He chose not to wear either his coat or his jacket, and instead opted for just a plain black t-shirt and BDU pants. He wanted as little of his rank to infiltrate the interviews with the two Nin. He wanted them to be as relaxed around him as possible.

Ibiki sat in the other chair across the table from Nishi and crossing his ankle over his knee folded his hands over his abdomen.

"Please tell me what happened the other night, Nishi."

The other man nodded. "I was coming back from a scouting mission with Hojo and Sen when I noticed a woman and man being accosted by two men and another woman outside Hiraku."

"Why were you so far up north?"

"Sen and I live in the area."

Ibiki nodded as he already knew the fact. "Continue."

"I saw that the man was already down and that the woman stood over him. The female attacker was wrestling with the female victim, and I was in a position to pull the female attacker away. It was then that I saw two more ANBU coming from the opposite direction, a cat and a wolf, and one of them threw a kunai to bring down the male attacker who was preparing to slit the throat of the female victim. I then incapacitated the female attacker and put her under restraints."

Ibiki shuddered internally at the idea that Ayumu's throat was almost slit.

"What did your other two team mates do?"

"Hojo proceeded with crowd control."

Ibiki nodded. "And Sen?"

"Sen took the woman to ANBU Headquarters."

"And then you did what?"

"I had to eliminate the second male attacker as he was also in the position to bring bodily harm to the female victim. After that I was told by the cat ANBU that crowd control needed to be done, and as he was senior to me I complied. The wolf ANBU was with the female victim who had by this time moved off to the side and was on the ground."

Ibiki knew that the two senior ANBU were Gai and Kakashi, and that it was Gai who had taken over at the scene. Kakashi had however made a beeline for Ayumu. Fucking wolf….

"The KMP then showed up as I was getting the bodies together for transport and the cat ANBU had taken control of the scene after helping with crowd control and had directed the KMP away."

Ibiki nodded and scratched his chest thoughtfully. "No KMP involvement of any kind?"

"None that I saw. Since crowd control was relatively easy I cannot help but think that the KMP helped peripherally with that, but nothing within or close to the crime scene."

"So what did you do after that?"

"As I was getting the bodies ready for transport the cat ANBU was triaging the fallen male victim. Seeing that there was not an emergency associated with him I can only assume that the man was only knocked out and not in any danger."

No, Idate's head is pretty hard after all, Ibiki thought with a chuckle.

"How did the bodies get to ANBU?"

"Hojo and I took them. It was as we were about to leave that the cat ANBU told us that once the bodies were dropped off one of us was to find you and relay the news as soon as possible."

Ibiki nodded and motioned for the man to continue.

"I bagged and tagged the bodies here, and then asked Furo where you were. He called up to your office and found that you were at the Hokage's residence. As I was still filling out paper work for the bodies it was Hojo that went to find you."

"And I appreciate the speed," Ibiki said. "But what happened to Sen? Did he not come back to the scene?"

Nishi shook his head. "No, Sir, he never returned. It came out later that the woman was dead, and a possible suicide."

Ibiki straightened and sat up. "Ah yes, the suicide…What happened there do you suppose?"

Nishi frowned heavily and shook his head. "I don't really understand it, Sir…The woman had been placed in a cell, and that was the last that I knew. We all had to write our reports so after Hojo came back he and I went looking for Sen. We found him down in the basements finally and coming out of the woman's cell, and before the door could close I saw that the woman was lying in a position that didn't seem natural. When I ran into the cell to see what was the matter it was then that I found her dead."

Ibiki nodded. It had already been determined that the suicide ampoule that she had been given was a new drug that had just been put into use. The old prescription was made up of potassium cyanide, but it had been discovered that a mixture of certain neurotoxins from shellfish, also known as saxitoxin, was much faster and a hundred times deadlier. It was a much cleaner and neater way to die, but since it was made from natural pharmaceuticals it was much harder to trace. Anyone could easily make it up that had access to certain shellfish and marine fish. It made it more difficult to trace but not impossible.

"What did you do, Nishi, when you found the woman dead?"

"I went to Sen and asked him what had happened. All he said was: it had to be done."

Ibiki scratched his chin and raised an eye brow. "Why didn't you report him right away? Maybe even detain him? Instead both you and Hojo beat the living shit out of him."

Nishi looked away briefly as if ashamed, but when he looked back to Ibiki his eyes were hard.

"Hojo and I were pissed, Sir. You know how that looks? You know what that means?"

Ibiki just stared at Nishi silently.

Yeah, it looks like one, two, or all of you are guilty of something. Looks like she was a mess that needed to be cleaned up and as fast as possible, and many times there was a domino effect in that the silencers also had to get silenced in one way or another… Yes, something did have to be done, but by whom?

But Ibiki gave none of his thoughts away.

"It certainly muddied up the water, and for everyone. I won't bullshit you and say that it puts you in the best of light, but I won't say that it has cost you either your job or your life. There are still too many questions that need to be asked before I make that decision."

"Certainly, Sir."

Nishi looked mad but understanding. He knew the drill. He knew that as of now his shift would end in one of two ways: he would either go home to live another day, or he would die down here in the basement somewhere.

"I know it wasn't the most prudent thing that we did…but I was so pissed off that Sen would fuck me and Hojo over like that! He broke the faith with his team. He put his team in jeopardy. I have a wife and small child at home! Hojo is due to get married next summer! Our families know what we do as Nin, but that? We walk the razor's edge as it is, but to jump off a cliff, and like that? No," Nishi said shaking his head emphatically, "killing a witness would only bring us here," he said looking around at the cell in which he was in. "It would be a one-way ticket to ride. Nothing more."

Ibiki gave a short laugh and nodded. "Yes, yes it would appear so."

Ibiki smiled slightly. Standing up he looked down at the other man. "You need anything? Food? Water? A pillow?"

Nishi shook his head. "No, Sir, just do what you have to do so I can get my name cleared and go home to my family."

Ibiki nodded and walked out.

Outside the room Ibiki was met with silent questions. They had watched and listened to the interview through hidden speakers and video streamed from the room onto a tv in the hallway. Furo looked pleased. Mifune looked smug. Anko and the junior interrogators knew that not enough time had gone by or sufficient questions asked to give a firm evaluation. He agreed with them all, but unlike them only he knew the real answer.

"Looks like he is on the up and up, Morino," Mifune said self-righteously. "He has too much to lose to have been in on such a plot. Wife and kids are too much to put on the line for so little gain."

"Most times," Ibiki said absently.

"If you had such a thing you would know that it was all the time, Morino," Mifune said with disdain.

I do have such a thing, you arrogant asshole, Ibiki thought caustically. And you can go fuck yourself too.

Anko looked like she was going to say something but Ibiki shut her up with a sharp look.

"I will leave my final decision for later, much later, Mifune. If you knew anything about this then you would know that it is way too early to formulate such a verdict."

Before the commander could say anything Ibiki turned to Furo and asked to be taken to the waiting Hojo.

Furo led the party down the hallway to another interrogation room. It was the same as the last and without saying anything to anyone Ibiki walked in. The Nin Hojo was leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets and looking tense but alert. When he saw Ibiki he straightened and gave a slight but still respectful bow. He too knew the meaning off all this and what could or could not happen.

"Specialist Morino," Hojo said quietly.

"Hojo, please, have a seat."

Hojo nodded and walked over to the waiting seat at the table. He sat with his hands on the table and waited patiently.

"I spoke to Nishi and got his side of the story. I just need to get yours now."

Ibiki noted that Hojo gave a relative account to match Nishi's story. Not everything could be matched up, but that could easily be explained as that they were both occupied with different matters at the time. Hojo too seemed very disturbed by the idea of the woman's death and the fallout that would occur. Leaving the Nin with the same sentiments as his predecessor Ibiki walked back into the corridor.

"Again, there seems to be no questions or holes in their stories," Mifune said. "I think that they should be remanded into my custody now," he said firmly.

Ibiki looked at the man impatiently. "Do you really want that, Commander? You don't even know if they are guilty or innocent. Do you really want to take such a chance, and so early into the game? If I give them over to you and they prove to be at fault, and do more damage or run, then it will be you who will be left holding the bag."

Mifune narrowed his eyes. "Guilty or innocent? I would say that they are both innocent. They did their jobs. I don't condone what they did to Sen, but that is something that they will have to deal with me, and as their Commander."

"You can say whatever you want, Mifune, but that has no bearing on my investigation," Ibiki said tightly. He was getting annoyed at the man's attitude. He was getting annoyed enough to try and pressure Tsunade to have the man barred from being anywhere near the three Nins until the whole investigation was done.

"They stay where they are until I clear them. Got that, Commander?"

Mifune knew that Ibiki had the muscle and the nerve to push the issue, and most probably it wouldn't go in his favor. And being the smart man that he was he also knew when to back off and keep his dignity.

He had never particularly liked Morino, but he did have a certain professional respect for the Specialist. The man was good at what he did. He had proven it time and time again. However, the man was also an arrogant jerk about it most times, and that just rubbed him the wrong way. Morino still did field work, but as an expert in one particular area he was deficient in others. It was hard not to be when a person honed only one or two specific skills. Other skills naturally fell to the wayside or just became rusty from lack of use. It also rankled him slightly, and he was man enough to accept the fact, that Morino had the Hokage's ear. And though their disagreements were legendary the Hokage never really punished Morino for his insubordinations. If anything she tolerated Morino as one would a recalcitrant but beloved child. He never understood that, but it was something that he had to take into account none the less.

"Fine, Morino, have it your way. But I want to be kept apprised of things, and at all times."

Ibiki gave Mifune a cold glare. "I owe you no such courtesies, Mifune. My investigation is my investigation, and unless you fall into the category of witness or suspect I don't have to have anything to do with you. It is probably better off for everyone if you don't have anything to do with any of this. Much safer all the way around, don't you think?"

"I am just watching over my men. I want to make sure that they get a fair chance to clear their names."

Ibiki growled lowly and barred a few teeth."I think that we have said enough, Mifune. I have things to do, and I am sure that you do too," Ibiki said.

Turning as if dismissing him Ibiki motioned Anko and the junior interrogators to follow him. He walked down the hallway a way and then stopped. He wouldn't go into one of the cells for fear of being over-heard, and out in the hallway he could keep an eye on who was or wasn't around. He noted that Mifune had given a low curse and then walked away. Most probably to go back upstairs to his office, but he wouldn't put it past the other man to make one final plea to the Hokage.

"Well, he seems like such a dick," Anko said watching Mifune stride purposefully away.

Ibiki shrugged. "He is the way he is. He isn't anyone to worry about."

"Ibiki, do you think that their stories jive?" Anko had a slight frown on her pretty face.

Ibiki leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. "The times in their stories are slightly different, and enough to make them both simultaneously believable as well as suspect. Their stories are believable in the aspect that they were both involved with different things, and as such unable to really see what the other was actually doing. Suspect in that they had to think fast and on the fly, and in doing so their stories have certain discrepancies. I saw that they had all worked together for a few years so they were comfortable working together, and that makes for a deep level of trust."

"But they are trained to work off the cuff, Ibiki," Anko said. "However, their stories do seem plausible. There were no gaping holes; everything was done within a reasonable amount of time and in a reasonable way. They also both stand to lose a lot by pulling such a stunt. Sen, on the other hand, has no known family, ties, or close associates."

"However," Ibiki asked with a smirk and a raise of an eyebrow.

Anko smiled widely at her boss. "However, neither man asked if Sen even killed her or not. According to their stories they both assumed that he did."

Ibiki nodded as if pleased. "More importantly they want us to assume that as well."

One of the students stepped forward as if to be noticed. Ibiki nodded for him to speak.

"Morino-san, I noticed that they both said that they had 'heard that the woman was dead' and that they 'went in to the cell and found her dead'. That strikes me as odd as because if they had heard she was dead why would they find it surprising that she was dead? If anything, a Nin knows if something is dead or not. There shouldn't be any question about the matter."

"Also," said the second student, "they never mentioned who or where they heard the fact from."

"Yes," Ibiki said to both in agreement. "That part of their timeline doesn't make any sense. Why didn't they just say that they went down to the cells and found Sen with a dead suspect? And if she had been reported dead why wasn't an alert put out? No, their stories are believable but for that slight hiccup."

Ibiki turned to the three students. "I was told by my own teacher that a good interrogator is born, and not made. Heavy helpings of natural intuition and skill along with a dash of experience was the perfect recipe for making a good investigator. It is intuition and experience that can see through any and all bullshit. You use what you feel to sift through what you hear."

"But why didn't you ask them about whether Sen did it or not," one of the students asked. "And why was the questioning so short?"

"Good question," Ibiki said nodding. "I didn't ask either of them because if I tried to make it seem as if they were lying they would stick to the lie. When I question them a second time I plan on giving them a few avenues of escape in order to change or break-apart their original story. I also didn't have Sen's side of the story. Unlike Nishi's and Hojo's account Sen's story will be the whole truth because he will have no mental or physical barriers as an impediment. Right now I have only what they want me to know, and it is very obvious that either one or both is holding out on me. It is when I question them a second time that I plan on getting more in-depth. I learned nothing from them, really. I learned only what they wanted to tell me. Next time I will learn what I want to know."

"If you had to make a guess at things Ibiki what would they be? You think that they are guilty or innocent?" Anko crossed her arms over her chest in an imitation of her boss.

"Too early to really tell," Ibiki said scratching his chin.

Anko rolled her eyes. She knew Ibiki well enough to know that he knew exactly what was or what wasn't. "What does your gut tell you?"

"My gut? My gut tells me that at the very least they are both guilty, and most probably Sen as well. Now whether he was aware or not is another matter. Unfortunately for Sen he drew the short straw and most probably had to be the fall guy."


Hiraku School

Ayumu had a splitting headache. It took all she had to jam her books in her bag and get herself ready to go home. All she could think about was going home, taking a long bath, and then crawling into bed. She knew that Ibiki wouldn't be home tonight and she didn't know if that was a blessing or a curse. She so wanted to fall asleep with him wrapped around her, but at the same time she knew that as fragile as she felt at the moment that having him around would only cause problems. Because he would know without a doubt that something happened to her today, and as such he wouldn't rest until she had spilled it, and she wasn't too sure that she wanted to say anything. Yet. Or, maybe not at all.

If she told him about what Kakashi had done he would come unglued. He would also become distant as he played scenario after scenario in his devil-minded brain. She had no doubt what so ever that he would plan a retaliatory attack on Kakashi, and that plain scared her. It scared her because if she knew anything about Nin it was that they rarely, if ever, played nice. The thought of Ibiki and Kakashi going at it sent a chill down her back. If Kakashi was as adamant as he seemed then there was no telling what either man would do to each other in order to assert their dominance. And the bottom line of it all was that she just wasn't worth it.

One question that kept stabbing her in her brain was the question that Ibiki would most probably ask, and one that she had no answer to. He would ask her if she had at any point told Kakashi about their upcoming marriage and her pregnancy. And she would have to answer in the negative. The next obvious question would be: why? And she would have no answer for that.

Why didn't she?

She had no idea. In all fairness she could say that everything just happened too fast. One minute they were walking to school and the next they were in a lip-lock. That would look real good, and would send Ibiki into the stratosphere. He wouldn't blame her in any way, but he would put a hit out on Kakashi, and that she couldn't live with. It wasn't like he threatened her or anything like that. He wasn't even obsessed over her. He was just…He was just being Kakashi, she guessed. Of course, it might have helped if she had actually heard what he had been trying to tell her. No telling what he had actually said as soon as he had started talking because she had panicked for some reason and had tuned him out.

What a mess.

Taking a drink of water she looked around for anything that she might have missed when she heard a commotion outside her office. Just as she was starting to go to the door to see what was happening Toshi and Masahiro burst in. Ayumu opened her eyes in surprise as she saw who was accompanying them.

It was Gai.

Gai was trailing behind them and looking around as if he was a kid in a candy store and had been given the green light to buy whatever he wanted, and with no limit. His eyes were sparkling and his mouth was in such a wide grin that Ayumu now knew why Ibiki made the snarky comments that he did about Gai's smile. It was like looking at a snow storm it was almost blinding. But she couldn't help but still like the loveable goof anyway, and no matter what Ibiki thought of him.

"Oh, Gai! What a surprise to see you here, and of all places. How on earth did you end up here?"

Ayumu went up to the green Nin and gave hm a hearty hug. She went to introduce him to Masahiro and Toshi but the words caught in her throat at the look on their faces. Masahiro looked ready to bust a gut as he was trying to hide his laughter, and Toshiro seemed mesmerized by Gai's pearly whites.

"I surmise that you already met two of my students, Gai?"

"Yes! And they thoughtfully showed me up here to you," he said unabashedly looking around her office. "What a spectacularly beautiful office you have here, Ayumu! But how come only half of it is decorated? You share with someone else?"

Ayumu laughed at his interpretation of decorating. Ibiki just called it a mess. She couldn't wait to tell him about Gai's good taste.

"Yes, I share with a math teacher. She won't let me decorate her side of the room though."

"What a pity," Gai said shaking his head sadly.

"Is he for real," Toshi asked Ayumu.

"Toshi! Behave," she said giving him the stink eye.

Toshi seemed to not pay any attention to the look thrown at him."Does Ibiki know about him? Better yet, does Ibiki like him?"

Ayumu and Gai laughed together.

Gai nodded and patted Toshi on the head, and which caused the boy to pull his head away with a grimace.

"Yes, Ibiki does know me as I work with him occasionally at ANBU, and he and I are close friends."

Ayumu sniggered.

Toshi looked at the two adults with narrowed eyes. "I take that to mean that Ibiki barely knows him and that he only just tolerates him…"

That caused Gai and Ayumu to laugh uproariously.

"He is a Nin just like Ibiki, Toshi," Masahiro said grinning at his friend. "So of course Ibiki knows and likes him, otherwise no way would Maito-san be here."

Toshi looked at Masahiro askance. "If he is a Nin like Ibiki then he could have snuck over here, idjit! Maybe I should send a message over to ANBU to have him checked out," Toshi said suspiciously at Gai.

Masahiro rolled his eyes and playfully smacked his friend. "Now who is the idjit? You are too suspicious sometimes."

Gai nodded in a pleased way at Toshiro. "Very astute of you, young man, to be so suspicious, and all in the name of guarding your Sensei. But your friend is right; Ibiki does know me, and in fact he asked me to stop over to escort her home. I so long to look around Hiraku! It is a most splendiferous place!"

Gai's teeth beamed at Toshiro like a beacon in the night, and causing the youngster to lean back with a look of horror on his face.

"If you ask me can't see Ibiki being friends with a whack-job like yourself…"

"Toshi!" Ayumu said in horror, and cuffing him upside the head."Watch your manners. I know that I brought you up better than that!"

Toshi took the smack in stride and leveled Ayumu a look of his own. "I am just being careful here! And Ibiki never said anything to us that he was sending in a replacement or a second-string."

Ayumu groaned and placed a hand over her face as Gai and Masahiro laughed at Toshi's boldness.

"I can see Ibiki's influence on the young man," Gai said shaking his head.

Toshi smirked and waggled his eyebrows at Ayumu.

"May the God's help us all," Ayumu mumbled. "Well, since all that is out of the way let's get going, shall we Gai?"

As Masahiro helped Ayumu get her things together Toshi stood glaring at Gai suspiciously. As Gai went and continued his perusal of her office Toshi made sure to keep a close eye on him the entire time.

Moving from her office and through the school Masahiro walked with Gai and pointed out things or people that Gai might find interesting. Ayumu watched with pleasure as her youngest and shyest student seemed a bit more outgoing and sure of himself. It startled her slightly that Masahiro, though not as placid as her gentle giant Daichi, appeared much more animated and at ease. What she really found interesting was that Masahiro felt so secure around dangerous men like Ibiki, Iruka, and now Gai. The two acted as if they had been friends their entire lives.

Right before they left the school grounds Ayumu gave the boys a few final words, and asked them to gather the others together for dinner at her house tomorrow night. She owed them for all the work that they had done in helping her move, and as such she wanted to give them a feast worth all their efforts. With a kiss and a hug she watched the two run back to the school proper in search of their brothers.

"They are good boys, Ayumu. You have much to be proud of."

Gai looked after the two with a wistful look on his face.

"They are good boys- all of them. I really got lucky. But I hear that you have students as well?"

Gai looked at Ayumu with a slight tinge of sadness marring his normally ebullient features.

"Yes, but I don't think that I did them any good, though they certainly make me proud."

Ayumu placed a gentle hand on Gai's arm. "I might not know them, but I know you, and I can't see you doing anyone a bad turn," she said quietly.

Gai smiled sadly and shook his head. "No, I paid one too much attention and pretty much ignored the other two…" Sighing loudly he looked at the ground. "They teach us how to kill, infiltrate, and lie, but they never teach us how to teach, and yet how else is one to pass on the knowledge?"

"But from what I hear, and see in Iruka, the Academy has some very fine teachers, Gai. And knowing you," she said placing a hand consolingly on his arm, "you are probably much harder on yourself then is warranted, I suspect."

Ayumu gave Gai such a sweet smile that he couldn't resist smiling back.

"Funny," she said cocking her head to the side, "I think that Kakashi told me the same thing once about his own students…"

Gai shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. "I am sure that many do it, but not you, of course," he said quickly. "I am sure that you give all your students equal time," he finished apologetically.

"I do give them equal time, but I pay attention to them in different ways, because they all need different things from me. The two that you met- Masahiro and Toshiro-they don't need me so much in an educational way as much as in a social way. Yes, I do teach them my craft, but it is liberally coated with me teaching them social skills. With Masahiro I help to build his confidence in himself and with the world around him, and with Toshi I try and get him to see that there are people that he can trust and feel safe with."

"What about the others," Gai asked with interest.

"Well, with Daichi I try and get him to take more interest in himself and his needs as he always puts others before himself. That in itself is admirable, but sometimes you do have to think of yourself. With my twins I try and show them that sometimes it is better to be nice than it is to be right. You see, they are sinfully smart, but there are times when you just have to let someone else come out on top once in a while. My eldest, Akira, is too studious and too much into following rules. I am deathly afraid that he will get so set in his ways that he will forget to live and enjoy the world around him. My second oldest, Ryou, is so into feeding his senses that I don't want him to turn into a hedonist and not become a viable member of society. Though I think that I am making things out to be harsher than they seem as in reality they really are all pretty well adjusted."

"That is a big order that you have to fill, and every day," Gai said shaking his head. "I barely made do with three!"

Ayumu laughed and pulled Gai over to a shop that was selling colorful, long-tailed kites. As Ayumu seemed to peruse a few Gai watched Ayumu out of the corner of his eyes. She would gently run her fingers over the material or exclaim over the finished product, and he couldn't blame both Ibiki and Kakashi for taking such an interest in her.

Ibiki and Kakashi… Now there was an epic battle waiting to happen, and not of the physical kind. No, it would be one of supreme espionage, infiltration, and sabotage. He had tried so hard to talk sense into Kakashi, but in the end they had agreed to disagree.

Leaving the shop Ayumu looped her arm through Gai's and looked up at him questioningly.

"Why is Gai so pensive all of sudden?"

Gai didn't know how to respond. He wanted to talk to her about Kakashi, but he also didn't want to start something that he didn't know how to finish. Maybe she had no idea, and if so, then it was best to keep her ignorant. But what if she did know? He had no idea as Kakashi had never expounded when asked about how involved she was.

"Is it maybe because you talked to Kakashi today?" she asked timidly.

Gai looked at Ayumu with surprise. So she knew? Just as he was about to respond Ayumu beat him to it, and spoke hurriedly as if apologetic for some reason.

"I don't know what to say about it all," she said with a worried frown. "I had no idea he would do that, Gai, I swear! And now I don't know what I should do about telling Ibiki or not…It might just be a phase or something for Kakashi…"

Oh, Dear Gods, Kakashi, what did you do, Gai thought with growing dread.

Gai cleared his throat and rubbed his nose nervously. Taking Ayumu off to the side and out of the main stream he positioned them under a tree and away from prying eyes.

"What did Kakashi do, Ayumu? And when? I just saw him earlier this morning for breakfast."

"He stopped over at the house after Ibiki left and walked me to school. Then, before we entered the school grounds he…"

Ayumu's sentence drifted off, and she looked guilty and even slightly nauseous. Gai put a hand to her arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"You can tell me anything, Ayumu, and what is said between us stays between us. I promise."

Ayumu bit her bottom lip, took a gulp of air, and nodded. "Well, he kissed me. And it must have been a doozey because for some reason I can't stop thinking about it…"

Inside Gai grimaced, but on the outside his face remained calm and imperturbable. "Well…that seems like something Kakashi would do," he said softly. "Kakashi can be impetuous like that at times, I am afraid.I wouldn't worry over it too much."

Ayumu nodded and took a few quick intakes of air through her open mouth. She also started to look a little green around the gills. Gai knew what that meant as he was no stranger to such actions. Of course, he usually saw it after putting his students through an unusually hard training session, and not just while having a placid conversation.

"Ayumu-"

"One moment Gai," Ayumu said frantically as she ran behind the tree.

Gai could hear sounds of retching going on, and without thinking twice he ran to the nearest food vendor, bought something cool to drink, and ran back to Ayumu behind the tree. She was leaning against it looking ashen as she was wiping her mouth with a handkerchief. He gave her the drink, and after taking it gratefully drank it down quickly.

"Hey, not so fast, or it will just all come back up again," Gai said gently as he tried to slow her consumption. Putting a hand to her forehead he tried to see if she had a fever. She was clammy and cool to the touch.

"Ayumu, are you coming down with something?"

Ayumu looked at Gai with a slight smile and shook her head. "No, but you could say that I have already 'caught' something though," she said shyly.

"Does Ibiki know?"

Ayumu nodded. "Yeah, he was the one that gave it to me, in fact."

Gai looked at Ayumu with confusion. "What?"

"I'm pregnant, Gai. I just found out the night of the attack."

Gai's eyes went as wide as saucers. Silently he helped her right herself, and leading her back to a bench sat her down. With a bit of the water and her handkerchief he placed the cool cloth to the back of her neck, where she sighed gratefully. As she bent over slightly to let the cloth reach as much of her neck as possible Gai closed his eyes and let a deep frown mar his normally cheerful visage.

Oh, Kakashi…now what are you going to do? This will either all die an early death, or things are about to get even more complicated than even you could foresee. What will you do now, I wonder? I do not envy you, my friend, he thought solemnly.


ANBU

Ibiki had a particular bag that he took in with him for only the most out of the ordinary interrogations. It was a bag that he had amassed over a long period of time. In it were things that had been with him from the beginning, while others were brand new. Some were variations on a theme that constantly changed or transformed due to medical and scientific knowledge always being upgraded. It was a bag that few had looked in but everyone knew by sight. It was a bag that everyone hoped would never be opened for them.

Taking Anko and the students with him he opened the door to the last holding cell and smiled grimly at what awaited him. A man lay still as death on a table with iv lines running from both arms. Electronic leads lead from machines to the man's chest and head, and the soft hums and beeps could be heard as they monitored and displayed particular bodily functions. A line even ran from under the sheet to the end of the bed with a bag collecting golden fluid. There was no movement or sound coming from the room that was not machine-made.

The medics who were in the room and watching over the patient nodded and left as Ibiki gave a swift jerk with his chin, and dismissing them. Turning to Anko he let his eyes slide to the students and then back to her.

Anko nodded and smiled slightly.

Ibiki shrugged and walked over to a table that had been cleared specifically for him. Opening his bag he took out a clean but well-worn black velvet cloth, and smoothing it almost lovingly he prepared to place what was needed on it. There was a method to what was taken out and how it was arranged on the cloth. With neat precision he placed items 'just so' and with a certain purpose to one another. There were even times when he moved items about as if not satisfied with their placement. It was only after a few moments of careful positioning that he felt that all was ready.

Turning he walked to the monitors and their displays and carefully and thoroughly read all their outputs. He next went and read the medical logs to be sure that his directions had been followed to the letter, and to see if he had to make any alterations to his plans due to the past few hours' medical history. Finally he went to the patient and slowly but surely, and without ever touching the man, walked around him. He did nothing but study the patient before him. He never once touched him. After reaching his beginning point he nodded as if satisfied and looked over at Anko and the students with satisfaction.

"Well now, are we ready for our true trade craft to begin?"

Anko gave a wide, excited smile.

The students nodded seriously.

"Good, then let us begin," Ibiki said as he walked to the nearest monitor and hit a few switches.

With a slight jerk the man on the table started to come back to life.