Chapter 10


Anko came at just the right moment. "It's time to leave for your appointment in twenty minutes, Biki-chan," she chirped. "Don't be late." She grinned at him and sat down on his desk.

"Get off," Ibiki said mildly. "You know you're not allowed to do that."

Anko gracefully stood up without losing her grin.

"I swear you're like a cat," Ibiki said. "Always going where you're not wanted."

Anko giggled. "Meow." She made a gesture with her hand, like the waving motion of a cat's paw.

Ibiki rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"Does that mean if I purr loudly enough, I get dango?" Anko asked.

Ibiki looked at her incredulously. He didn't know whether that was meant to be sexual or not, and he didn't want to know.

"No," Iruka answered for him, jumping into the game. "Only dango for good behavior."

Anko giggled. "Darn."

"That's right," Ibiki said. "You better behave while I'm gone."

"Or what?" Anko asked. "No dango?"

Ibiki nodded. "Uh-huh."

Her eyes twinkled. "That means that if I do good, you owe me dango when you get back."

Ibiki rolled his eyes. He'd been too distracted to catch the nuances of her trap. "Fine."

"I like dango," Iruka said.

Of course you do, Ibiki muttered internally.

"Let's all go get dango together," Iruka suggested. "After work."

Anko squealed happily and jumped into Iruka's lap. "Oh, Ruru-chan, I love you." She rubbed their noses together.

Ibiki groaned. "Hands off."

Iruka's eyebrows rose. "Ooh, possessive, are we?"

"Very," Ibiki said dryly. He gave Iruka and Anko a look.

Anko carefully climbed off of Iruka's lap.

Ibiki sighed. "As long as you don't make out in the closet, it's fine, Anko."

Anko smiled and climbed onto Iruka's lap again.

Iruka didn't seem to know what to do with that.

"Well, I'm off to get my head shrinked," Ibiki said cheerfully. He rose from his chair.

Anko giggled. "It's not 'shrinked', it's shrunk."

Ibiki ignored that and walked to the door. "Babysit the teacher until I come back, alright, Anko? Don't let anyone eat him."

"That's like leaving a rabbit with a crocodile," Iruka said. That was a reference to a classic folk tale.

Ibiki laughed. "I'm sure Anko won't skin you alive, Taichou."

Iruka flushed at the use of his new title.

"Oh!" Anko lit up, waving to get Ibiki's attention. "I know how to make a real shrunken head."

"Is that so?" Ibiki said tolerantly. He opened the door. "I've got to go. Bye."

"But – But –"

Ibiki grinned. "Why don't you tell it to the teacher?"

Anko turned upon Iruka enthusiastically. "Well, the first thing you do is remove the skull! That's how the head gets so tiny when you tan it. It's really cool."

The look on Iruka's face was priceless.

Ibiki walked down the hall, chuckling to himself at that last glance of Iruka's dismay before he closed the door.

xXx

Years ago, when he'd first been recovered from Amegakure, Ibiki had seen a therapist named Yamashiro Tatsuki; an aunt of Aoba's, he believed. Now, he was relieved to find that his appointment was with someone new altogether. He hated to come crawling back to the same person like a failure. Maybe someone who hadn't seen him at his worst would give him a little respect.

Not that Tatsuki-san hadn't been respectful at the time, but he distrusted anyone to keep respecting him after the things that had happened to him.

If he didn't have a trust issue like that, he wouldn't need therapy.

No, at the reception desk he found out that his appointment was with Wannai Kujira. Dr. Wannai. A psychologist, apparently. Anko had called out the big guns on him.

He sat down in the moderately comfortable, square-frame chair and shifted until he was in a position he could sit in for a while. He was ten minutes early, and from what he remembered, most people in this facility ran ten to fifteen minutes late. It was the kind of place where Kakashi would fit in.

So this Dr. Wannai Kujira is going to try to put me together out of the handful of puzzle pieces I'm going to hand him today, after only having had a few hours at the most to review my file. Lovely.

He wondered what Kujira would think of his rape experience. Most men couldn't imagine it. Didn't want to. Kujira might not be able to stomach it.

Probably won't. Ibiki could foresee himself fishing for therapists for a while. He'd had to do that before settling on Yamashiro Tatsuki in the end. It was a shame to throw away a good therapist who had worked for him, but he was too afraid to face her.

Maybe this Kujira guy is going to be alright. Ibiki tried to convince himself of that fact. Yeah. Give him a chance.

At that, the door to the offices opened right on time, and a mild male voice said softly: "Morino Ibiki."

Ibiki stood and turned to face the man at the door directly. He was nothing special, physically. He was average height and weight, which meant far punier than Ibiki, and he had inoffensive brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. His hair was straight, parted in the center, and his face was framed by long forelocks. His eyes were a light brown. Straight nose, firm lips, small chin.

He finished memorizing the man's face and nodded. "I'm me."

Dr. Wannai bowed. "I am also me. My name is Wannai Kujira. Pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Save it for after the appointment," Ibiki said mildly.

The psychologist straightened and gestured. "Please follow me."

Ibiki noted how he'd failed to get a rise out of the man. Not so much as a comment. Hmm. Nor a facial expression change.

He followed the man down the hall, around a corner, and into an office that was completely nondescript. They were all painted indeterminable shades of off-white, blue, or green, all of them with the same kind of sort of comfortable furniture, and staid pictures on the walls. Snore-fests designed to make you concentrate.

Kujira sat down in the chair furthest into the room.

Ibiki had a choice of three chairs: one beside Kujira's, one in the middle area of the room, and the last by the door. He avoided the one by the door. That seat signaled anxiety and insecurity. He wasn't going to be that easy to crack. He chose the chair in the middle. The close seat was for clingy types. He wasn't that, either.

Kujira didn't have a clipboard, nor did he appear to have any forms for Ibiki to fill out, like self-assessments.

Ibiki was warily relieved.

"Please tell me your issues," Kujira said.

"That'd take too long," Ibiki said.

Kujira tilted his head. "Then tell me why you are here today."

"I've got a pushy guy following me around," Ibiki said. "He's officially my boyfriend now. I want to do him justice. Bastard. Straightening me out. I was comfortably broken. So. How are you going to fix me?"

"Depends," Kujira said.

"I mean, what are your methods?" Ibiki asked.

"Talk therapy and hypnosis," Kujira said. "Mostly. You need to say things that are on your mind and don't know how. Perhaps you also need to remember things and don't know how. That's what hypnotherapy is for."

"Talk therapy and hypnotherapy, huh?" Ibiki asked.

Kujira nodded. "Hai."

"Okay," Ibiki said. "Where do we start with me?"

"What do you want to fix first?" Kujira asked.

"My sex life," Ibiki said. "I want to have sex with Iruka without feeling like a fool. I also don't want to freak out, feel useless, helpless, or demeaned. Those are your criteria. I have shame problems and trust problems. Tell me how to get over that. I want a sex life and I want Iruka to have one, too."

"Why?" Kujira asked.

"Because I don't want him to leave me," Ibiki said. "I want to be worthy, of someone like him. I want to be…" He didn't have words for it. "Good enough." He settled for that description as a blanket covering all of the aspects of what he was trying to say.

"Are you sure that he finds you not good enough in the first place?" Kujira asked.

Ibiki shook his head. "He's not a judge of that. I am. I want someone better for him, and I want to be that someone."

"Very well," Kujira said. "What do you feel about yourself is harmful to Iruka right now?"

"My closed-offed-ness," Ibiki said. "My power and control issues, my trust issues, my inability to take him in my space without snapping at him. My resistance to him. My skittishness. My weakness to him. Whenever I'm around him I cry or I collapse all over him with some issue I haven't thought about in years."

"It sounds like you're decompressing," Kujira said.

"Yeah, maybe." Ibiki didn't consider that, and didn't want to.

"That's normal," Kujira said.

"I don't want to decompress all over him," Ibiki said. "It's not fair. He's a man. A good man. An important man. I'm just a –"

"Nationally renowned and important man," Kujira said. "Whom he happens to care for."

"Yeah." Ibiki was disgruntled. He looked at the psychologist with half-hooded eyes. "Please tell me you're not going to take his side."

"Which side is that?" Kujira asked.

"The side of 'oh, I'm going to be fine and I'm not that bad'," Ibiki said.

"Are you?" Kujira asked. "How do you feel that side to be different from your own?"

"They told me I might never get better," Ibiki said bluntly. "I probably wasn't. Ever. Going to be the same. And that's okay. I'm alive. I can live with that, as long as I get to be alive. But I can't live with someone overestimating me and thinking that someday, I can be normal, 'just like everybody else'." He was angry about it and hadn't even realized it. "To think that I can just get on with my life after what happened? It's absurd." He stared hard at the man. "No, I can't. Of course I can't. I'm a goddamned person! Not a machine. It's bullshit that I had to go back to work. Bullshit!"

He hadn't even known part of him felt this way. It scared him.

"What do you think will happen if you don't go to work?" Kujira asked gently.

"I think I'll be discharged," Ibiki said. "Killed."

"What makes you think so?" Kujira asked in that same gentle voice.

"Because I know state secrets and it's stupid to keep me alive," Ibiki said. "They should kill me if they can't make me work. I can't work…but if I can't…"

"Konoha's policy is not to kill its interrogators," Kujira said.

"What do you know?" Ibiki asked.

"I am a specialist in dealing with interrogators' trauma," Kujira said. "My specialty is the trauma of war, torture, and interrogation. Read my degree." He nodded at the wall.

Ibiki looked. The psychologist's certificate was hanging on the wall in a blue frame, the gold seal of approval plain as day. He blinked. Fancy lettering spelled out just what the psychologist said. Wannai Kujira, with all the appropriate titles surrounding the psychologist's name. Doctorate in Psychology, and in smaller letters, the psychologist's specialty.

"Anko really sent me to the top," Ibiki whispered, overcome. He should have trusted her to do something like this. She knew he was hurting.

Kujira nodded slowly. "I can't say that I'm the best psychologist in the country. I can, however, guarantee that I have a specialty in treating interrogators for their wounds."

Ibiki swallowed. "Okay." He didn't bother to ask why Kujira hadn't come out and said so at the beginning of their session. He'd been far too confrontational and closed off. The information wouldn't have had any impact.

Now that he'd started to let go, he could absorb his surroundings.

"The classic solution to the problem of what to do with wounded interrogators is to retire them with full benefits," Kujira said softly. "Would you like to do this? It would be a relatively simple matter."

Ibiki swallowed a lump in his throat. "N-No. My people need me."

"They would not be ashamed of your decision to retire," Kujira said.

"I-I'm only twenty…nine." The word almost died in Ibiki's throat.

"That is irrelevant," Kujira said. "Wounded ninjas get to retire at any time they please. You know this."

Ibiki did know this.

He had to take stock of his feelings. "I don't want to retire."

"Why not?" Kujira asked gently.

A lump rose to Ibiki's throat in spite of himself. "I'd miss them."

"Them?"

Anko. Iruka. He was just starting to fit in around here. He took the miserable job, the 'promotion', just to give me some help. It would be unfair to quit. "My co-workers," Ibiki said.

"Wouldn't they visit you?" Kujira asked.

Ibiki sighed. "No."

"Why not?"

"Because…" Ibiki wondered if he should even bother explaining. "No one's as close to me as I am to them. They don't even know."

"Then tell them," Kujira said.

"I'm still not retiring." Ibiki stared him down.

"Okay." Kujira didn't seem bothered.

"I'm here to talk about my intimacy issues," Ibiki said pointedly.

"You are welcome to talk about whatever you want to talk about with me," Kujira said.

Ibiki deflated, his irritation ebbing away. "I just want to be able to please my boyfriend without getting scared half out of my skull."

"Why are you scared?" Kujira asked.

"Because I think it's gonna hurt if I penetrate him," Ibiki said. No sense mincing words.

"Hurt you, or hurt him?" Kujira asked quietly.

"Both," Ibiki said.

"Why is that?"

Ibiki looked away. "Because it might."

Kujira pursued the topic in a gentle voice. "Why might it?"

"Because he's – because I love him," Ibiki said.

"And?"

"I always hurt the people I love." Ibiki hurt just saying it.

Kujira gestured. "Ah. There is the lie. That. Mark it down so you can examine it."

"What?" Ibiki was taken aback.

"You believe a certain series of lies, because you have been led to believe them," Kujira said. "You are also trained not to examine them too closely. The first step to fighting the lies is to pinpoint what they are. The second step is to write them down. The third is to examine them and understand the ways in which these ideas are lies. The final, fourth step is letting go of those lies, so that you can live a more fulfilled life."

Ibiki took this in. "So I need to write down that I hurt the people I love? Where?"

"In a journal," Kujira said. "Someplace safe. But that you have easy access to. We are going to be compiling this list of lies as we go along."

That left only one question. "How did this happen?" Ibiki asked.

"You're an interrogator," Kujira said softly. "I'm sure you know. Moreover…you're an interrogator who has been interrogated."

A heavy weight sank into the pit of Ibiki's stomach. "Oh." Programming. Programming he could hardly remember…because that was the point. To imbed hurtful things into his subconscious, where they could continue to break him down. And the lie about hurting my loved ones was triggered by Gekkou's death. That's why I'm sure it's my fault. Because he died, and I was there… He realized suddenly that by saying 'I was there' he was missing the point that he wasn't there when Gekkou was attacked. There was no way for him to do anything because he wasn't there. It was just self-blaming language.

Kujira watched him silently, nodding at his understanding.

"We have a lot of work to do," Ibiki said finally.

"Yes," Kujira agreed softly. "We do."