Standard Disclaimer: Naruto and all belong to Masashi Kishimoto
A/N: -sighs- My own personal Trifecta from Hell's Seventh Circle managed to wheedle another one out of me. So this one is a gift for Saro, Porc, and Sintari. I wasn't even intending to post it in a public forum, but they've been whining. In their way at least… Not to mention their sneaky attempts to convince me that my personal favorite "pair" deserves attention that is sadly lacking. But… they are right. And I am weak. This really is the last time though. -shakes fist at Trifecta- You hear me? The LAST time!
There were two of them.
A man hiding his face with bandages and a young girl. Or… no, that was wrong. It was man and a boy. A quick search located the metal plate tucked safely into the boy's obi and verified both carried the same mark. Kirigakure. One dark brow slowly arched in recognition. Zabuza, the Devil of the Hidden Mist. Mildly curious now, scarlet eyes turned to more thoroughly peruse the boy sitting calm and still beside the criminal.
Whoever this boy was, he was far too pretty. Dark, glossy hair framed a porcelain face and emphasized the delicate, even aristocratic features. His wide eyes were disconcertingly luminous, with lashes thick enough to almost be mistaken for kohl makeup.
They were expressive eyes; filled with adoration that wavered between childish dedication and something deeper. When the boy looked at Zabuza's face, they seemed to take on a sort of glow. One that was easy for a man like him to recognize.
Pure, unadulterated devotion.
Zabuza seemed content to sit with his back to a tree, not even looking towards the boy. There was a distant look in his eyes. And every so often he would reach out, stroking his fingers along the hilt of his sword. Most likely Zabuza still dreamed of his vengeance against the village that had exiled him. Itachi could feel his lip attempting to curl in distaste.
The so-called Devil was trapped in his past. Trapped and clinging desperately to those shallow feelings and his need for retribution with astounding tenacity. Itachi might have respected his drive and ambition. If he wasn't so revolted by Zabuza's weakness, his failure to carry out the destruction he so obviously craved.
Itachi tilted his head ever so slightly to one side, stoically observing the scene below. What a waste.
"The night's turned cold, Haku. Go and change."
Haku. Itachi turned the name over in his mind, filing it away with meticulous precision. The boy had smiled when Zabuza gave him that command. A soft smile that made him even more feminine, and even more clearly showed the depth of his feelings. Itachi allowed himself a silent chuckle, watching Zabuza pretend not to stare after the smaller boy.
There was a guarded sort of possessiveness in Zabuza's gaze. But it was the confidence that gave Itachi a mild pause. Zabuza's arrogance was practically infamous, but even so… As an exile and a criminal, there was no explanation for having that kind of trust in someone else. That implicitly trusting stare mingled with a sort of pride, as though the exiled ninja had personally created this Haku. There was no way Zabuza was old enough to have fathered a boy that age. And to men like them, blood might as well have been water. There was no loyalty.
So what could Zabuza have done to make him feel he had that kind of power over his pretty companion?
Boredom and curiosity created a dangerous combination under the best of circumstances. Now, with Kisame late returning from whatever the hell it was he was doing in town. Itachi was in the mood for a distraction. And picking through the memories of yet another of the Mist's former-elite swordsmen seemed an acceptable way to pass the time. It would be the most effective way to get all the information he wanted on this little Haku. How and why there was such a look of ease in Zabuza's eyes despite his cold expression.
Itachi dropped silently from the tree and maneuvered around behind the resting man. For a moment, he felt the same flash of disappointment. The annoyance that even an assassin with Zabuza's reputation and nearly a decade his senior was so easy for him to surprise. It was dismissed just as quickly as it came. The displeasure banished as inconsequential and unnecessary for his current goal.
It was too easy, catching Zabuza's throat in a crushing grip. Barely a gurgle escaping the assassin as Itachi slammed his hard against the tree. Zabuza's eyes locked onto his on pure reflex and rapidly widened in alarm. Recognition washed through him like ice when the Sharingan captured his gaze and began to spin.
"U-Uchiha?" Zabuza whispered with incredulity. The sound seemed to echo strangely in his head. All the colors of the forest slowly leeched away. The blood-red of those eyes spread through the sky. Everything else was left stark black and white, hard edges and jagged lines.
"Good," Itachi purred out. "This won't take long then."
"Won't-?" Zabuza started to repeat, choking off when a sword was casually shoved through his stomach.
"Tell me about him."
The command slid through his mind like warm honey. Wrapping around him and disorienting his senses. Zabuza gritted his teeth, fighting to ignore the feel of his own blood rapidly soaking into his pants. Swallowing a wave of nausea at the combined sensations, he opened his mouth to demand clarification.
Zabuza instantly forgot the pain. "Haku."
"You have… the same eyes."
Itachi arched an eyebrow curiously, watching as their surroundings dipped and shifted. The shapes and shadows bled together. Steadily reforming until Itachi was staring at a young, filthy boy in a dark alley. Those dark eyes were enormous, hungry…
Itachi calmly watched the memory his command had ripped from Zabuza's mind. He ignored the strangled sounds of pain from the captive man behind him. Itachi studied the interaction, searching for what about Haku had the exile behaving as he was.
"I am Zabuza-san's weapon… Please keep me by your side as your tool."
It would take a fool to miss the weakness in the dark eyes of this boy, the need just begging to be exploited.
"Interesting," Itachi murmured as the scenes continued to flash by, each more rapidly than the last. "A child of the Kirigakure's advanced bloodlines."
"Haku is my weapon," Zabuza growled out with effort, reinforcing the words of the replayed memories.
Itachi said nothing.
Arms folded inside his jacket as he continued to rip the memories from Zabuza's mind. Critically examining the sight of that diminutive boy's fighting style through the eyes of his "mentor." Itachi turned in profile, casting a sly look up at Zabuza's face. He took in the clear signs of strain and the drained weakness with a sense of satisfaction.
Waiting for the tired eyes to focus on his face, Itachi reached up and pressed his palm on the hilt of the sword. He leaned enough weight against it to sink deeper into Zabuza's stomach. Smiling darkly, he bent to put his lips directly beside Zabuza's ear. "A powerful weapon belongs in the hands of a powerful master."
Zabuza felt a pulse run through his body. M-my… my energy is being drained?
"Such things are not meant to be in the hands of visionless fools." Itachi's voice dropped to an ominous whisper. "When the weapon exceeds the wielder, it is misused and becomes dull. Its full potential is wasted in weaker hands."
Itachi frowned suddenly, looking down at the needle sticking out of his forearm. He blinked and stepped back, allowing the effects of the Tsukiyomi to fade. Zabuza slumped back weakly against the tree. His shoulders shook, chest heaving with the force of his panting breaths. Zabuza splayed his fingers, searching his stomach for some hint of the injury the Uchiha had inflicted.
"If you would step away from him, please?" Haku's voice was calm and even civil despite the underlying threat in his words. He lifted his hand, the needles between his fingers glinting in the fading light.
At the sight of the hunter's mask covering Haku's face, the corner of Itachi's lips quirked up. He took a step back, sliding his hand along his arm until he could lightly pinch the needle between two fingers. Easing it out of his skin with care as he remarked, "You are a remarkably clever boy."
"We are only passing through." Haku ignored the compliment, lifting his other hand diagonally across his chest. He curled his fingers in preparation to make a seal if it became necessary. "We would prefer doing so peacefully. But if you insist on threatening Zabuza-san, I will not hesitate to kill you."
Itachi slipped the needle out of his hand, glancing down to admire the precision behind that aim. It had been quite some time since he'd been so entertained. And he was in no hurry to put an end to it. "If I had intended to kill either of you, I would have already done it. I was merely curious."
Haku didn't move from the defensive position. "Please step away from Zabuza-san."
Itachi folded his hands back into his sleeves and took a step towards Haku. His smile taking on a dark edge at the way Haku mirrored with a step back. Zabuza fell heavily to his knees behind him, followed by the sound of gagging. At the noise, the masked face turned just enough to show the boy's attention had shifted to Zabuza. Itachi took advantage of the distraction to dart forward. Reaching out, he managed to clip the edge of Haku's mask with the edge of his hand.
The speed of the small boy was impressive, even taken by surprise. Itachi pivoted, dodging Haku's counter-attack and returning a half-strength punch to test the boy's reflexes. This young and he's already moving so quickly.
Haku ducked beneath Itachi's next punch. Sliding back out of range, once he'd maneuvered around to stand between Zabuza and the Uchiha. Haku readjusted into a more defensive stance, warily observing this deadly opponent.
"You aren't going to attack me?" Itachi questioned.
"It would be foolish," Haku returned. "You are not a weak opponent and rushing into battle would serve no purpose."
"Walk away and you'll live."
Haku shook his head once to deny that offer. "I will not leave Zabuza-san."
Loyalty in the face of death.
The mask ripped off Haku's face. Eyes wide in naked shock, he'd barely lifted his hand to counter the attack when his wrist was seized in an iron grip. Itachi grabbed the boy's chin with his other hand from his new position behind Haku. Jerking the startled shinobi's head up, he effortlessly captured those wide eyes.
Haku's body slowly relaxed, his hands falling slack at his sides. The needles fell out of lax fingers. Light melodic pings filled the tense air as they brushed against each other and landed in the grass at his feet. The Sharingan whirled again and Itachi drew Haku meticulously into the Tsukiyomi technique.
Itachi exerted more control over the mindscape he constructed this time. His lips pulled back in a wicked smirk as Haku's mind sunk deeper into his control. Sliding both hands up across those slim shoulders and higher until he was cupping Haku's face between his hands. Lightly pulling the boy back until their bodies touched. Itachi held him still for the memories to play out in front of them.
Haku's heart skipped a beat. Pupils rapidly constricting under the flood of old pain that filled him as one scene solidified in the stark mindscape. He wrapped his arms around himself. Grotesquely transfixed by the sight of his younger self and his dead mother… Watching as he faced his father.
"You learned early." Itachi slowly bent down, resting his lips against Haku's ear. He carefully pitched his voice lower, playing it like liquid silk across the young boy's raw senses. "I killed my father too."
A shiver rippled down Haku's spine. Subconsciously, he pressed into the warmth at his back at the sight of such long-ago memories. "He… would have killed me. I had to do it."
"Was he jealous?" Itachi squeezed his chin, encouraging Haku to keep watching as the silhouette of his father crumbled to the ground. "Jealous of your blood? He knew that you were more powerful, didn't he? Even then, he knew what you were capable of."
"My mother said-"
"He was afraid," Itachi finished, easily reading the answer from Haku's thoughts. "And you were alone."
"Zabuza-san found me." Haku's posture stiffened as the years blurred by in front of him. He could see the slums, the alleys, flashes of the forgotten pain… old aching memories of that brutal hand-to-mouth existence that still haunted his darkest nightmares. He could taste the biting hunger, the mind-numbing chill.
But the hands holding his face were warm.
"What was it about him?" Itachi slowly trailed the tips of his fingers down Haku's throat. "What stopped you from killing him when he came to you?"
"Eyes," Haku's expression softened when the memory changed. Watching his younger self meet the assassin, Haku's lashes slowly lowered. An almost dreamy look chased across his face at the warmth seeping into his body. "I… recognized those eyes. They felt safe."
"Safe," Itachi repeated, drawing out the word much longer than necessary.
The Zabuza in front of them reached and touched the Haku's face. Itachi could feel the confusion rising from his captive audience. Taking care to tighten his grip and keep Haku's gaze riveted to the scene.
Zabuza's eyes flashed in the darkness, his face contorting to something feral and wild. The back of his hand connected with the younger Haku's cheek, sending him to the ground hard. Itachi's smirk deepened at the alarmed gasp, feeling the boy walk another step back against him.
It was an instinctive search for comfort, a need for reassurance at the sudden change. Haku's back pressed flush against the taller shinobi, shaking his head to deny the images. "No. No, that's not right! That's not how it happened!"
"Are you sure?"
Itachi's soft question sent a stab of doubt through his mind. Confusion and fear rose up inside Haku like a black shroud. Sucking the warmth from his limbs and dragging his body down towards something infinitely darker. Desperate to escape the sensation, Haku's hands gripped Itachi's arms. "I-I-! No, it can't-! He was kind!" Wasn't he?
"Pathetic," the shadowed Zabusa's voice rang out, piercing and cold. Haku winced and visibly shied away from the sound. He shook his head harder as though that action alone would dislodge the nightmare images. Taking one hand away from Itachi, he gripped the side of his head, fighting the growing disorientation. "Living in filth… not good enough to fight anything but hungry dogs for table scraps. You're worthless to me. Nothing."
"No!" Haku yelled back at the images. "You're wrong!"
Itachi slowly slid one hand down that smooth chest. Turning his face until his lips brushed over Haku's ear like a kiss. "You were very young then. Freezing and hungry. Can you trust your own memory of what happened that night?"
Something warm and wet splashed onto Itachi's hand. Encouraging him to discreetly look at Haku's face and identify it. Tears were streaming steadily down the boy's face, those dark eyes huge and terrified.
Itachi delved deeper into the unraveling mind. Manipulating the "memories" to reflect exactly what he wanted the boy to see. Haku started to shake even harder under the force of the trauma running through his mind. The vicious scene flickered across the surface of his eyes like a mirror.
He could feel every strike Zabusa made against the cowering little body. Hands slowly clenching into fists at his sides until it all simply became too much. Haku strained against Itachi's hold, reaching out towards his younger self with a scream of fury. "Stop it! Stop it!"
Itachi easily restrained him, pulling Haku down to his knees. "You can't stop what has already passed, Haku. All you can do is watch yourself remember."
"No!" Haku struggled in earnest. "I would have remembered this! This never happened!"
"Unless you wanted to forget." Itachi expertly latched onto the uncertainty threading just below the surface of Haku's passionate denial. Impressed at the fortitude of the mind playing through his fingers, he was even more careful. Tracing back the strings of his psyche and reweaving them for his own liking. "I saw your eyes too, Haku. He took advantage of your hunger."
"Wanted-?" Haku's voice trailed off in confusion, not noticing the hand sinking down through his clothes. Is... is this person right? No. No, I wouldn't- couldn't have… Did I-? Did I want to forget?
Itachi's hand came to rest on bare skin, and he chuckled when Haku went rigid. Kneeling down, Itachi dragged him backwards until he could rest his chin on the boy's shoulder. He surrounded the small, cold body with warmth and protection when the memory took a darker twist.
"Zabuza cared nothing for you," Itachi whispered, his voice steady and hypnotic.
Haku forgot all about the hand against his skin. His head tilting with child-like bemusement as Zabuza ripped off the younger Haku's kimono. I-it wasn't-
"Zabuza was afraid of your blood too." Itachi tempered the shock pouring through Haku's senses. Numbing or heightening here and there. Until he was certain his words and the manipulated memories would have the most devastating effect on the deepest part of Haku's soul. "Jealous of a child who held more strength than he could ever hope to have."
Haku slumped back against Itachi with a cry of denial. His hands pressed down hard on the thighs flanking his hips, not even questioning how he'd come to be between them. Zabuza-san?
"A weapon." Itachi's hand traced a line down to Haku's stomach. "He wanted such a powerful weapon in his hands. Clumsy hands. Can't you remember how they hurt you?"
Something inside him cringed at the censure in that voice. The thought that he had somehow disappointed the beautiful man made Haku sick to his stomach. He twisted around enough to find the scarlet eyes, wanting- needing to see approval in them. "I… I don't- I can't remember that."
Itachi carefully schooled his expression with inquiry, sinking his hands deeper into the rapidly opening mind. "Can't you? You seemed content living in your dream and letting those hands abuse your skills." He cupped Haku's chin and forced his head down again. Imprinting the sight of Zabuza assaulting his unresponsive body, Itachi echoed pain through Haku to make the memory real. "You can't even remember what he stole from you."
Haku threw his head back and screamed at the sudden, tearing pain. Fingers convulsively dug into Itachi's thighs and eyes clenched shut. Everything was spinning. Reverberating through his head so loudly Haku thought his skull might crack. He tried to open his eyes, freezing at the sight of a wild-eyed Zabuza looming over him.
Desperately, Haku shook his head and tried to jerk himself away from this nightmare vision. But his body stayed trapped in place, helpless against Zabuza's hands, the violent intrusion. Haku screamed again, staring up at the blood-stained sky. The wave of despair and loneliness crashed through him so heavily he thought his chest might collapse under the weight. Some part of him even prayed for it, for anything to put a stop to this helplessness and bone-chilling pain. Yet his heart continued to pound, his lungs continued to struggle for a proper breath, and that pain continued to increase.
S-someone! Haku squeezed his eyes shut, new tears spilling down his cheeks at every forced thrust against his freezing body. Help me!
Haku's eyes snapped open again when he heard the unmistakable sound of metal grating over bone. He stared up at Zabuza's face, and the pain slowly filling the wild eyes. They slowly rolled back in his head and the assassin slumped to the side. But Haku's focus stayed riveted to the same spot, locked onto the stoic man standing over him. Transfixed and hypnotized by those scarlet eyes that seemed to burn against the darkness of the mindscape.
Itachi watched the boy's face fill with that same hungry need that had once been turned to Zabuza. And Haku was too lost in his trauma to see the satisfaction filling those eyes in response. Instead, he saw only the hand stretched out towards him. The sense of safety seemed to pour over him when he looked at that composed expression.
"Come. You will see how a weapon is meant to be used."
Haku lifted his hand without hesitation, gripping Itachi like a lifeline. His eyes closed and he breathed out a sigh as the sleeves of that dark robe enveloped him. The cool silk caressed his burning skin, making Haku shiver and press closer to Itachi's warmth instinctively. "I was afraid. I thought-"
"Thought what?" Itachi pressed when Haku cut himself off.
"I thought you were gone… that you'd left."
"No." A malevolent smile crossed Itachi's face when Haku's trembling arms slid around his waist. Lifting one hand to rest on the top of the boy's head, he slid his fingers through that impossibly soft hair. Itachi closed his eyes and let the Tsukiyomi melt away little by little until the grove came back into focus around them. "If you become a weapon in my hands, Haku, I will keep you close by my side."
Haku swayed on his feet at the odd tingling sensation. Tired and aching, he leaned his head back against the man behind him for a moment. Finally opening his eyes, Haku stared up at that comforting scarlet and smiled softly. Itachi inclined his head to acknowledge the silent adoration and glanced at Zabuza's crumpled form.
Lightly resting his hand on Haku's head, Itachi patted him once before walking to Zabuza's side. Sliding his toe under the assassin's shoulder, he flipped the panting man over. Itachi waited for the bleary eyes to open and focus on his face before pressing his foot against Zabuza's sternum. "A child of Kirigakure's advanced blood belongs in the hands of another advanced bloodline. One with the proper ability to hone his power to its full potential. One who will not waste it on foolish things or weaken it through misuse. This weapon belongs in the hands of Uchiha Itachi."
Itachi turned away from Zabuza without another thought. Returning to Haku's side and cupping his face. He stroked his thumb over Haku's cheek and down to graze the corner of his lips. Itachi lingered there, tracing that soft mouth and letting his thoughts wander for just a moment.
He shook off the distraction when Haku turned his face into the stroke. There would be ample time for all aspects of his acquisition to be explored before morning. Now, however, Itachi had other plans for the boy. "Kill him."
Not a question, not even a hint of hesitation. Itachi brushed his knuckles lightly along Haku's jaw as reward for such quick obedience. Stepping to one side to indicate he wanted it done now. Haku nodded easily, crouching to gather up his fallen needles and make his way silently to Zabuza's side.
The pain and disbelief radiating off Zabuza was palpable, bringing a sadistically gratified light to Itachi's eyes. Zabuza whispered Haku's name like a prayer, but it failed to halt the boy or the order driving him. There was no remorse or attack of conscience for either shinobi. In Itachi's eyes, Zabusa had been too weak to defend and keep such a valuable thing. And a stronger master had seen fit to take it away.
Now Itachi watched.
Haku's skills were even more precise than they had seemed through Zabuza's memories. The pin-point accuracy of meridian points he applied with such easy grace enough to earn a raised brow. Four needles in rapid succession, and Zabuza's body went limp. Four more and it began to shake.
Slowly, Zabuza's skin began to pale. His eyes glazed over, chest heaving in a struggle to draw air into his lungs. Painfully, Zabuza forced his head to turn. Staring up at Haku's cold expression as desolation deepened to lines of his face. "H-Haku! My-! What did he do to you… in there…?"
"Itachi-san helped me to remember the way it really happened." Haku answered easily, his voice once more calm and melodic. "His hands were gentle when they touched me. His eyes chased away the nightmare."
"His eyes created the nightmare, Haku!" Zabuza choked out. "Haku! You promised to stay beside me! Haku, you-!"
"Itachi-san showed me that I was tricked," Haku cut him off with a disapproving frown. "It was your eyes that deceived me. You were the one that hurt me." Haku's gaze turned inward, soft with the emotions that filled his voice, "But he saved me from you. Itachi-san is… someone I want to become precious to me." Haku slipped a needle into a point on Zabuza's throat to silence the assassin before he could speak again.
Itachi didn't bother to turn his gaze when he felt Kisame approach. But when Haku paused, he was mildly annoyed that his partner had chosen this moment to return. Still, Itachi was pleased enough at the boy's sensitivity to a foreign chakra that he merely shook his head to indicate the lack of threat. Haku nodded and pressed two more needles into central points, deep enough to pierce muscle and organs. The next needle sent a spray of blood into the air, catching Haku across the cheek. Each weakening beat of the assassin's heart in smaller spurts until Zabuza's clothing was visibly soaked through. His heart barely pumping enough for the wound to do more than ooze away more of his life's blood.
Even when Kisame came to stand beside him, radiating his curiosity over the scene he had wandered into, Itachi still waited. Patient and still, his entire focus remained on Haku until Zabuza's ki faded completely from the evening air. The empty feeling left behind by blood and death signifying his obedience.
The boy was on his feet instantly, each needle removed from Zabuza's body. Itachi held out his hand in summons, only then acknowledging Kisame's presence. "The sun set over an hour ago."
Kisame shrugged off his tardiness, gesturing towards Haku with his head. "Who the fuck is this kid? Just cause I'm a little late, you wanna-?" he choked off and stumbled back a step. Staring down in alarm, his eyes widened at the needles sticking out of his chest. Weakness spread through his body until even the Samehade became too heavy, falling to the ground with a dull thud.
Haku reached up with the back of his hand, wiping Zabuza's blood from his cheek. He turned to stand between Kisame and Itachi, more needles held ready between his fingers before he answered the stunned man.
"I am the weapon of Itachi-san."
Elsewhere, Tazuna's bridge was completed with ease under the protection of Team 7.