Author's Note: This has now turned into a multi-chapter story.


Awkward Questions

Chapter 1


Ibiki and Anko lounged in the break room after a typical morning. They both needed the break. Physically intimidating and psychologically outwitting prisoners was a tough job. To stay fresh, one needed to take breaks at regular intervals.

It was just him and Anko right now. Usually, he'd be having lunch right now, but he'd had a late breakfast, so all he was having was coffee.

Anko raised an eyebrow. "So…did you cover all the mirrors and stuff when you came back from that…mission thingy?"

"What?" Ibiki said, bemused. He'd been trying to read the paper. It was obviously impossible when Anko shared the break room with him. So he folded the paper and picked up a stale sugar cookie instead. He took a bite to assess its toughness, then dunked it in his coffee before continuing. It was salvageable. And food. Sort of.

Anko gestured to her own face in a vague kind of way, eyes wide with curiosity. "When you came back with your face…you know." She bounced slightly in her seat. Sitting never sat well with Anko. She was a get up and go kind of girl. Ibiki had to admire her energy.

Ibiki raised an eyebrow humorously at her way of mincing words. Usually she was as blunt as a bulldozer. "You mean, when I came back with my face scarred up."

"Yeah." Anko looked at him brightly.

"I never did that." Ibiki shook his head and glanced down at his coffee. Little pale crumbs floated in it. He took a sip and gazed down at the folded paper, considering picking it back up and reading the article headed 'Apartment Costs Rising for Tokubetsu Jonin'. Either that was a mistake, since shinobi didn't have individual housing rates, or the article had to do with the pay grade of tokubetsu jonin changing. The newspaper was run by civilians; he had no idea what went on in their heads.

"What did you do?"

At the question, Ibiki glanced up at her again. Trust Anko to be bold. "What did I do when I came back with my face all scarred up?"

"Yeah."

Ibiki shrugged. "Nothing. My career doesn't rely on my face, anyway."

"But…um…" She chewed her lip and then leaned forward, cupping her chin in her hand.

Ibiki had to chuckle. "It's not like I was part of the Seduction Squad or anything. I'm an interrogator. Scars just make me scarier." He grinned.

"What about…your personal life?" Anko asked. Her expression was hovering dangerously close to sympathy.

"I didn't have one," Ibiki said.

Anko straightened in apparent outrage. "What? No wife? No kids? No girlfriends hanging on every word to be horrified when you return looking like you've been fed through a meat grinder? That's so boring!"

Ibiki snorted. "Sorry to disappoint you."

Anko gestured to herself, laying her hand on her chest. "I had people who cared about me." She looked proud of that fact.

Ibiki raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?"

Anko nodded. "Mm-hmm. A mommy and a daddy and a kid brother, and an aunt and an uncle and a cousin – no, two cousins – and a teammate from school, and – and a next door neighbor!" She puffed out her chest tomboyishly, oblivious to the fact that her chest was a lot more womanly than it had been when she was little.

Ibiki couldn't fake the small, fond smile that tugged at his lips. "That's really nice."

Anko pointed at him. "You need someone to care about you!"

Now this was getting a little less fun. Ibiki hid behind the newspaper. "Mm," he grunted.

"I would've cared, if I'd known you," Anko declared. "But we didn't meet until after this crazy stuff happened."

Ibiki didn't doubt it. Anko was actually a pretty sweet girl. One reason why she'd made such a terrible apprentice for Orochimaru. He still didn't put down his newspaper and engage her. He wanted this conversation to go away.

"Biki…"

Now she was using her sing-song tone against him. Ibiki ignored her. Rising housing costs, huh…? He couldn't concentrate with the feeling of her eyes boring holes through the newspaper to get to him.

"Biki," Anko said again, sweetly, as if she were trying to coax a stray cat.

Biki sighed and put the newspaper down. "What?"

"What did you do?" Anko asked.

Ibiki's eyebrow twitched. So it was back to this again. "Everyone reacts differently."

"So, what did you do?" Anko asked. "You didn't cover up the mirror, and you didn't have a girlfriend or a wife to disappoint, and you didn't think of it as affecting your job. I got all that. You still didn't tell me what you did react like."

"Honestly, it wasn't the scars that bothered me all that much," Ibiki mumbled. He was suddenly self-conscious. He'd never discussed his reactions with anyone. Not even a therapist. Plenty of therapists had been thrown at him to try to get him back on his feet, but he'd never confided in any of them. Nothing that hadn't been strictly need to know so he could get the right medication and process the right set of feelings to go back on active duty.

He shifted uncomfortably in the armchair. "Is that shallow?"

Anko looked shocked. "Shallow? That's the opposite of shallow!" She spread her hands. "You're way not shallow, not to think of the scars." She tilted her head and poked him in the arm. "So what did bother you, Biki?"

"Coming back alone," Ibiki mumbled.

Anko looked stricken, and then she cringed. "Oops. My bad."

Ibiki sighed. "You sure make this hard on yourself, don't you? Asking difficult questions and then being upset by the answers. It's not good investigative technique."

"Biki, I want to know you better," Anko said.

Ibiki sighed. "I noticed." He kept wanting to call her 'sweetie' or 'honey'. For all he knew, those were secret attack words for a girl like Anko, and he'd end up holding his own spleen, bleeding out all over the floor, and not even Tsunade or her apprentice would be able to reach him before Anko tore his throat out.

He really didn't know her all that well. Nothing past the obvious.

"Biki, how come you wear a bandanna?" Anko asked. "If you're not worried about the scars…"

"It's because my head gets cold," Ibiki said, smiling ruefully. "I never got used to that part. It's really cold, being bald. I didn't expect it."

Anko giggled, surprised, and that bloomed into full-fledged laughter. "I never thought of that!"

"I know," Ibiki said, amused. "No one does. They're all preoccupied with the scars, and the holes, and things, and they never stop to think about the fact that not having hair could be damn cold."

Anko flopped back in her chair, relaxed. "Hey, Biki-chan, what do you do after work?"

"Go home?" Ibiki said, feeling as though this might be a trick question.

Anko rolled her eyes and grinned at the ceiling. "And…?"

"Take a shower," Ibiki said.

"And then…?"

"Eat a meal," Ibiki said. "Usually a frozen dinner. You know the ones with the frozen vegetables and the pasta and the sauce all rolled into one, and all you have to do is put it in a skillet for like seven minutes? I love those. They're so easy. And they don't take any brains to cook right, which is good, because I don't have any brains left after outwitting prisoners all day."

Anko glanced at him. "What happens then?"

"I watch TV," Ibiki said. "Or if I get home too late for that, because someone decided it was a good idea to shut off the cable at midnight around here, I pop in a movie."

"Okay," Anko said. "What happens then, Biki? What do you do after you watch TV?"

"I go to bed," Ibiki said.

"Wow." Anko popped upright in her chair.

"What?" Ibiki asked.

"That's boring."

He should have expected that. "I know. I'm a very boring guy."

Anko rubbed her chin, shaking her head. "You're not a boring guy, Biki, you do boring things. There's a difference."

Ibiki found himself flattered, just a little bit, that she could make the distinction. So many people couldn't.

"So what did you do?" Anko asked.

Ibiki felt like he was stuck in a time loop. "What do you mean?"

"About the scars," Anko said. She traced lines on her face where his scars would go if she had them. "You said you didn't hide from them. So…what did you do?"

"I put shea butter on them," Ibiki said dryly.

"Shea butter." Anko looked at him blankly.

"Because that was what the med nin directed," Ibiki said. "Shea butter."

She blinked.

"And vitamin E," Ibiki said.

Anko squinted and rubbed her chin. "Biki, man…"

"It didn't help," Ibiki said.

"Huh?" Anko tilted her head, surprised. "No, I think it probably did. What I was going to say was…" She hopped to her feet. "You're a pretty interesting guy." She gave him a dazzling smile.

Ibiki smiled back, feeling a slight warmth in his cheeks. Oh, he knew that a cute, young girl like Anko would definitely never have a thing for him – except to bother him and generally come in at all the wrong times and interrupt his work – but it was nice. It was nice to be talked to this way by a pretty girl. Or, you know, by a nice girl. A nice, pretty girl was a bonus.

Anko leaned forward, far into his personal space. He didn't mind it. He was used to it. "Biki-chan, can I touch 'em?"

"Hmm?" He met her eyes. "Touch what?"

"Your scars," Anko said, as if that were obvious. "I want to know what they feel like."

Ibiki laughed. Anko's forwardness was refreshing after being treated for years like some kind of delicate, not-quite-leper-like person. "Yeah, sure, go ahead. You can touch them."

"Sweet!" Anko leaned in almost within kissing distance and felt up his cheeks with both hands, petting. After a few moments, she zeroed in on his scars, tracing them. "They feel kind of slick. Shiny. Soft." She tickled his chin, seeming to feel around just for the fun of it. "You've got stubble here. Does that mean you still have to shave?"

Ibiki chuckled at the warm, tickling touches and grinned. "Yup. Every day."

Anko grinned in return and scratched him underneath the chin like a cat. "You like that."

Ibiki flushed, heat suddenly crashing into his cheeks. "Uh…"

Anko sat down in his lap. "Poor precious. You don't get many cuddles, do you?"

"Now, wait a minute," Ibiki protested. "Who told you that you could sit here?"

Anko wrapped her arms around him and squeezed, snuggling her head against his shoulder. "Me, neither. Let's cuddle each other."

"Anko…" Ibiki poked the side of her head.

Anko giggled. "Biki."

Ibiki wondered if he could squirm out from under her. Probably not. And he didn't want to tempt Anko's predatory side to emerge by acting like a mouse. "This isn't a very nice joke…"

"What isn't?" Anko asked, raising her head and peering at him. "What joke?"

Ibiki was caught. No matter what had happened to him, he always tried to appear confident. Confidence was part of his stock and trade. Without it, he would be a lousy interrogator. But on the other hand, Anko had to know that this was all part of some silly joke, some innocent flirting mixed with girlish curiosity. After all, she knew what was going on in her own mind. She wasn't actually a little girl, and there was no such thing as plain, old, non-sexual cuddling between an affection-deprived man and a full-grown woman.

"You're coming onto me," Ibiki said carefully. "And you have no intention of going through with it."

Anko tilted her head, studied him for a moment, and then smiled an absolutely beautiful, easygoing, boyish smile. "I'll ride your love stick."

"Anko!" Ibiki was tempted to shove her off right now, but he knew how sensitive to rejection she actually was. He didn't want her to hang herself or something, and he didn't want to have to order suicide watch for her because he couldn't handle the situation.

"Is that what you're worried about?" Anko asked. "I'll do it. Is it scarred like the rest of you? Or – Oh! I never asked if you could have children. That could be important. Do you have all your baby-making equipment in working order?"

Ibiki stammered and choked. "N-No," he said finally, thankful that there was no one else in the break room with them.

Anko relaxed against him, curling up on him as if he were a big pillow. "Oh, good. I'd hate to be the only one with busted equipment." She patted her abdomen. "All gone. I'm totally busted. Barren as a rock. Orochimaru did that to me when he experimented on me. Not that I think he meant to. He was a little clumsy, that's all."

Ibiki didn't know whether to be horrified or not. That kind of information was not entrusted to him as part of his job. He suddenly appreciated that this situation might be crazy, but she was serious.

"Ne, Biki?" Anko poked his temple.

"Yes?" Ibiki asked, dutifully focusing on her instead of on his insides, which were threatening to panic.

"Will you love me?"

Now this is exactly the kind of question that makes this a terrible idea. I can't be responsible for hurting you. I – I – "I think I already do," Ibiki said.

"I know that," Anko said. Her expression was serious. "I mean…will you still love me tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?"

"In the morning?" Anko watched him closely.

Ibiki swallowed. "In the morning…after…what?"

Anko snorted and rolled her eyes. "After we have sex, silly. Are you going to love me, still, or are you going to be one of those guys who throws his conquests away like used tissues? Cause I'm not a masturbation tool."

"I know that," Ibiki protested, shocked. "I would never – I could never treat another human being…that way." He blurted it out without thinking. That might have been his only way out of this situation, and he blew it with honesty.

Anko smiled and cupped his face with her hands, leaning in until their noses touched. "You're sweet."

"But…uh…what if I'm not…attracted to you?" Ibiki asked feebly. It was a slim chance, but he had to take it.

Anko chuckled, grinning. "I see the way you watch me."

Ibiki's eyebrows rose involuntarily in surprise. He strove to look innocent. That was hard, considering his face felt as hot as if he were looking into an oven. "How is that?"

Anko pressed a little, playful kiss to his lips he could feel her smiling through and pulled away. "You like me."

"Maybe I look at everyone like that," Ibiki challenged. At the same time, he was instantly cataloguing how it felt to be kissed, and his heart was beating harder. He hadn't been kissed before his capture, and he sure hadn't been kissed after. Until now.

Anko giggled, squirming with restless amusement as if she really enjoyed this game. Again, she reminded Ibiki of a twelve-year-old boy. That comparison wasn't flattering for his sanity.

What am I, a pedophile? Ibiki inwardly sighed at himself. I shouldn't be attracted to her. I can't.

"You don't," Anko said, poking the tip of his nose. "It's just me." She grinned proudly. "You look at me like you want to pounce."

"I do not!" Ibiki protested.

Anko burst into more giggles. "No, but it was fun to see your face change when I said that."

Ibiki felt cheated and manipulated, and, well, like he was on the wrong end of one of his own interrogations. "I have never wanted to pounce. I have wanted to be gentle and take your hand and ask you out to a restaurant like a gentleman."

Anko melted, blushing, and snuggled against him. "Awww. You're sweet. I could tell. I could tell you would be sweet. I just didn't know you were this sweet." She petted his head.

Ibiki knew he was probably doomed after that kind of confession. "Okay, let's move this somewhere private, at least. I don't want anyone to come in on this." He stood and helped her to her feet at the same time.

"Aww, Biki, why not?" Anko looked up at him with wide eyes.

Ibiki sighed. "Because they would think badly of you. Worse than they already do. And they think I'm a sadist, so…"

"A sadist?" Anko's expression drained of all cheer. She looked horrified. "You?"

"Some pop psychology crap about pent up aggression and revenge," Ibiki muttered, looking away. "I don't really get it any better than you do." It was one thing for Hatake Kakashi to believe it. The man was a porn addict with no sex life of his own, so he needlessly speculated about everyone else's. But everyone in his own workplace believed he was a sadist, too.

He glanced at her. "Wait. Haven't you heard the rumors?"

"They spread rumors about me, too, Biki," Anko said seriously, taking his arm and smoothing her thumb over it. "I don't think they let me in on their little gossip circles. They're afraid I'll find out what they've said about me."

"Or, they're afraid of you, period," Ibiki said.

Anko made a face at him. "Aren't you afraid of me, Biki?"

"No," Ibiki said firmly. He took her chin, cupping it gently. "Not even a little bit."

Anko seemed frozen for a moment. Then she let out a squeal and wrapped her arms around his neck, jumping up on him and clinging. "You're perfect!"

Ibiki had never been called perfect before. Not even before he was a hulking, scarred interrogator.

Anko kissed his cheek repeatedly and gushed. "That was so romantic. Oh, that was so perfect. With the chin hold and everything. You're a romantic, Biki, and I love it." She wrapped her legs around his waist "Now carry me into the sunset."

"Don't be ridiculous," Ibiki said. He gave her a stern look, trying his best not to let his lips twitch upwards in a smile that would betray him. "If I carried you into the sunset, it would burn you to a cinder."

Anko burst out laughing and jumped down, letting go of him.

"Laugh if you like," Ibiki said, turning towards the door. "I don't need Anko-death on my hands, after everything else that's happened."

Anko slipped her fingers through his, holding his gloved hand. "I'm not gonna die, Biki. I'm invincible. If Orochimaru couldn't kill me, no one can."

Ibiki glanced at her. "It's not that he couldn't, Anko. He just didn't feel like it."

Anko made a face. "You obviously don't know my teacher. He's never 'just felt like' sparing someone in his entire life. His entire snakey life is filled with nothing but merciless cruelty."

"I'm sorry," Ibiki said softly. "I can't imagine that people say that to you often, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the things he did, and I wished I could have stopped it."

Anko clung to his arm, pressing against his side. Her face was vulnerable like a little kid's again, and Ibiki found himself vowing to himself that he would do anything to keep her from harm.

Now that was a job.