Ibiki worked in agony, running to keep up with the flow of information, to sort through the chaos. The reports from the front were his enemies, enemies on paper that he had to defeat by wits alone. Even as he worked to organize his people, to extract information from prisoners, to build bulletin boards filled with coordinated mosaics making sense of what was going on out there, he sifted through the reports he received for any hint of hope. Where is she?

He found himself standing over his desk with a cup of cold coffee in one hand at four in the morning, wild-eyed, the day at his back a blur. Every detail of the wood grain stood out in sharp relief. And then he slammed his fist into the desk. The loud bang echoed in his office, bouncing off the cement block walls. That noise released something inside of him, and he pounded on the desk again and again until he was panting, his ears ringing, his heart beating, and his cup of coffee long forgotten, tossed to the floor, cup broken against polished concrete, pale ceramic shards lying in a puddle of bitter brown.

Ibiki dropped into his chair, panting and sweating, his heart beating in his ears, palpitating in his temples. He flexed his fingers. So this is what it feels like to be alive. The thought was formless, pervasive.

A deep helplessness swept through him at the realization of what she had done to him. Made him feel, awoken him from his slumber in which only his job mattered, given him personal meaning, meaning in conjunction with hers. A 'them'. An 'us'. How was he supposed to be an 'us' without part of 'them'?

He steepled his fingers and rested his mouth against them, elbows resting on his desk. Anko, come back safe.

It wasn't a prayer. It was a demand. Morino Ibiki didn't do prayers.