"Second Chances in the Mist"

Chapter 3: "The Serpent and the Demon"

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, not me.

Author's note: Sorry I took so long. I've just been trying to figure out how to work this third chapter, which will be the last chapter of this story. Don't worry. Nobody dies . . . except for . . . ah, ah, ah. That's telling.

If you're wondering how Zabuza does his water ninjutsu without being in the presence of water, that's because water is everywhere. It's just often in the form of vapor. Zabuza can manipulate the vapor in the air whenever he's not in the Land of Waves.

Now let's start this overdue story.

Momochi Zabuza, alias the Demon of the Hidden Mist, returned to his home extremely pissed.

That Orochimaru fucker isn't getting his hands on Haku! he vowed silently. I'll kill him first.

The assassin undid the bandages that disguised his face, discarding them and removing his Hidden Mist headband. He shed his leather attire and crawled into the shower, letting the cold water cool his body. He'd see Haku tomorrow . . . hopefully.

The next morning, Zabuza swiftly dressed himself and exited his apartment, racing down the steps at a speed that would have killed a less coordinated person. He made it out of his apartment complex and into his car. He started it and drove out of the parking lot, heading for the school.

Once he arrived, he brusquely passed by Kakashi, muttering "Fuck off" when the patch-wearing teacher greeted him. He had just entered the school building when he was confronted by Asuma.

"The principal wants to see you," he said.

"What the hell does she want?" Zabuza asked.

"I don't know," Asuma replied. "She just told me she needed to see you."

Zabuza growled lowly and stalked into the principal's office.

"Tsunade," he greeted tersely, not bothering to add any kind of honorific to her name.

The woman who looked back at him seemed to be only in her early twenties, with long blonde hair partially restrained and a diamond tattoo on her forehead. The most notable aspect of her physically was her more-than-generous bosom, which was presently being restrained by a tightly closed business jacket.

The assassin-slash-teacher knew the woman's appearance was just a transformation technique to disguise her real age, which was somewhere around fifty. He also knew that she was strong enough to send him through a wall with one punch if he wasn't careful.

"What brings me to your attention?" Zabuza asked.

"You pummeled three students to the edge of death," Tsunade replied.

"They were harassing Haku," Zabuza said. "They deserved what they got."

"As admirable as your protective impulses are, I'd rather not deal with the headache of parents who act as though their kids are perfectly innocent when they're worse than some devils," Tsunade groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Been drinking much?" Zabuza asked tauntingly.

"Shut up, Zabuza-san," Tsunade answered irritably.

"So am I suspended or can I go?" Zabuza inquired.

"Knowing what kind of assholes those kids are, I'm inclined to go easy on you," Tsunade responded. "Go teach your class. I'm sure they're waiting for you."

Zabuza exited Tsunade's office without another word.

The assassin watched his students very closely, his eyes landing momentarily on a black-haired girl with a sour expression on her face. Something about the girl – Tsuchi Kin, was it? – made him suspicious, but he would wait until later to figure her out.

Right now, he was concerned about Haku. A quick but detailed glance at him ensured Zabuza that the younger male hadn't come to any harm between yesterday and today.

"Your entrance exams are coming," Zabuza spoke. "I hope you've been preparing."

"Yeah," Kin grumbled.

"Good," Zabuza said, "because we're just about to wrap up the history of the shinobi."

After class was over, Zabuza went to talk to Haku.

"Haku," he spoke, his voice almost preternaturally soft.

"Yes, Momochi-sensei?" Haku asked.

"Are you all right?" Zabuza asked.

"If you're still worried about yesterday, I'm fine," Haku replied. "Those boys haven't tried to harass me since. I guess you scared them a lot."

Zabuza grinned, carefully keeping all traces of malevolence out of the expression. He didn't want to scare Haku, after all.

"I . . . found this," the young teacher said, pulling out the refolded piece of paper from his pocket and handing it to Haku.

"Did you look at it?" Haku asked softly, somewhat timidly.

"Yes," Zabuza admitted. "It was a great drawing. You have a talent."

"Thank you, Momochi-sensei," Haku whispered. "I based it on a dream I had . . . of you."

"What was the dream about?" Zabuza asked, curious.

"You were a proud and beautiful ninja," Haku replied. "You answered to no one and you lived your own way."

If Zabuza wasn't so hardened, he might have blushed at the sheer admiration he heard in Haku's voice.

"Thanks for the compliment," he said. "But you have a class to get to and you don't want to be late."

"Um, sure," Haku said, pocketing the picture and hurrying away to his next class.

"'A proud and beautiful ninja,' eh?" Kakashi remarked.

"Got tired of spying on Sakura-chan?" Zabuza retorted.

Kakashi narrowed his visible eye, the tightening of his lips signaling that he was not amused. Zabuza merely smirked at him, delighting in the silver-haired teacher's discomfort.

"Apparently, your situation is not quite as hopeless as I thought," Kakashi observed. "He clearly returns your feelings."

"Yeah," Zabuza agreed. "Kinda like how you wish Sakura-chan would return yours." He scoffed. "Won't happen, Hatake. Not as long as she's obsessed with 'Sasuke-kun.' Stupid brat. Has girls practically begging him to deflower them and he ignores them. Idiot."

Kakashi didn't answer that at all.

The two teachers went their separate ways and didn't see each other until the lunch period. Kakashi, as usual, was reading Make-Out Paradise. Zabuza, as usual, was insulting his taste in literature. Gai, as usual, was trying to distract Kakashi with some kind of challenge. Iruka, as usual, was trying to pull Kakashi away from the book. Asuma and Kurenai, as usual, were trying to ignore the madness that centered around Kakashi whenever he had that "damnable" book out.

"That book sucks," Zabuza stated. "Amateurish shit."

"Do I insult your reading choices?" Kakashi asked calmly.

"If I let you know what I like to read, I'd have to kill you," Zabuza answered.

"Kakashi, my eternal rival, I challenge you to a race on the track!" Gai exclaimed.

"You're on," Kakashi answered, pocketing Make-Out Paradise and exiting the teacher's lounge with Gai. Zabuza exited as well, but he wasn't following the rivals.

As soon as the three men exited, Zabuza went to find Haku. He succeeded, spotting the boy eating with Gaara, Hinata, and Naruto. The blond boy was a surprise, as he usually hung around Sasuke and Sakura. Zabuza noted to his immense amusement that Naruto's very presence was causing Hinata's face to turn very, very red. Again, the missing-nin couldn't divine what the Hyuga heir saw in Naruto.

Zabuza looked around and spotted Kin somewhere nearby, doing the same thing as him. Next to her were two boys, one with wild bluish hair and the other with close-cropped black hair. He recognized the one with bluish hair as Zaku and the one with black hair as Dosu.

He got a bad feeling from those three. They were troublemakers, but that wasn't why he had the bad feeling. He got the impression that they were up to something, something not very good, and something including Haku.

He sent them a warning stare, albeit one full of killing intent. He smirked in satisfaction when he saw the three shiver, but none of them were quite backing down.

"Want me to scare them off for you?" Kakashi whispered.

Zabuza barely acknowledged the silver-haired teacher.

"I don't need your help, bastard."

"Yes, I see you're handling them nicely," Kakashi answered coolly.

The assassin didn't even need to look to know that his fellow instructor had left.

That night, Zabuza was garbed as the Demon of the Hidden Mist and riding his hellish beast of a motorcycle. It was a Kawasaki Ninja, only modified to go twice as fast as allowed and with a chassis that screamed at everyone that saw it to stay away or die. It helped that the thing had an intimidating roar when he was riding it.

He was going to stake out the house where Haku lived with Anko and other outcasts like him. If Orochimaru thought to strike there, it would be the last thing the serpentine bastard ever did. The Demon would make sure of that.

The Demon parked his motorcycle near the house, only hiding it from view, and ran the rest of the way with chakra-enhanced speed. When he reached it, he spotted the Copy Ninja and his three genin brats – Uzumaki Naruto, in orange and black; Haruno Sakura, in scarlet; Uchiha Sasuke, in blue and khaki – waiting.

"What the hell are you doing here, Demon?" Naruto asked, ready to attack. "You working for Orochimaru?"

The Demon grabbed Naruto by the throat, pulling him so close that they were nose to nose.

"He's after someone very precious to me. Don't ever accuse me of working for him."

He dumped Naruto on his rear.

"What was that for?" Sakura asked.

The Demon didn't even regard her.

"Relax, Demon," the Copy Ninja said. "If you're not working for Orochimaru, then you know what they say, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'"

The Demon snorted in derision.

"You must suspect the same thing we do, that Orochimaru has spies here," the Copy Ninja went on. "You wouldn't be here otherwise."

"I wouldn't trust him," Sasuke said.

"I don't recall asking any of you to trust me," the Demon spat.

"For once, I'm with the bastard," Naruto said.

"You're both wrong," the Copy Ninja said. "There is something in there very precious to him. Orochimaru is threatening it. Therefore, the Demon wants him taken down. Isn't that right . . . Zabuza?"

The Demon growled under his breath. "Am I that transparent . . . Kakashi?"

Kakashi just smirked under his mask. "No, you told Naruto in an outburst of rage when he accused you of working for Orochimaru."

"You think you're so smart, don't you, Kakashi?" Zabuza sneered.

"I like to think so, yes," Kakashi answered amiably.

"Can't we stop talking already?" Naruto asked. "Those Sound bastards might be trying to get at Haku already!"

Indeed, the sounds of a fight had broken out inside the house.

Zabuza kicked down the door and ran inside, Kakashi and his team following. He ran up the stairs, looking for Haku. Along the way, he saw Zaku tumble down the steps in agony. He kept going up the stairs, finding Anko in the middle of a fight with Dosu and Kin, the former assaulting the specialized jonin with sound waves from his Melody Arm. Both were dressed in gray-and-white-and-black camouflage outfits.

Kin took notice of the assassin and threw needles at him. He knew that the bells on her needles were meant to distract him so that he didn't see her following attack until it was too late. He didn't fall for it, catching all her needles and throwing them back at her. He wasn't as precise as the Haku he'd known in his first life was, but he was good enough to strike her in a pressure point or two.

Anko shot her Shadow Snakes at Dosu, striking him in the face and hand.

"Where's Haku?" Zabuza snarled.

Downstairs, he heard the sound of combat and he knew that Kakashi and his brats were occupied.

"Still in his room," Anko replied.

Zabuza grabbed Dosu by the throat as the Shadow Snakes' poison began to work on him.

"I knew something wasn't right about you punks," he growled. "Now what the fuck do you want with Haku?"

"Why the fuck should I tell you?" Dosu asked.

"You'll tell me because if you don't, I'll just rip the water out of your body," Zabuza replied. "And since your body is about 80 percent composed of that, you'll end up quite dead, won't you? And it'll be very painful the whole way through. You don't wanna go out like that, do you?"

Dosu glared at Zabuza.

"Do your worst."

"As you wish."

Zabuza concentrated his chakra into the Sound ninja's body, focusing it in the water that composed so much of it, and used it to push the water out through his pores in one violent deluge. It was pure agony, but only for the few seconds it took for him to die.

"You're a sick motherfucker, you know that?" Anko remarked, but she didn't sound that horrified. Hell, it almost sounded like a compliment.

"Yeah," Zabuza answered, going to Haku's room. To his horror, he found Orochimaru in there, with a sleeping Haku in his arms. He drew upon the water he had just extracted from Dosu and shaped it into a sphere. "Let him go."

"Or you'll do what, Demon of the Hidden Mist?" Orochimaru asked. "As strong as you are, you simply are not a match for me."

"We'll see about that, you son of a bitch," Zabuza snarled, using his free hand to draw his sword. He charged Orochimaru, who simply darted out of the way like a snake and bounded out the window. Zabuza leaped after him, both of them running at tremendous, chakra-enhanced speeds.

As the two streaked through Konoha, Zabuza saw Orochimaru suddenly thrown back by a powerful blow. To his rage, Orochimaru still had a firm grip on Haku.

Time to remedy that, Zabuza thought, jumping up to retrieve Haku from Orochimaru's grip. Upon grabbing Haku, the assassin used his water sphere to trap the serpentine fiend.

"Haku," he whispered. "You ok?"

"Momochi-sensei?" Haku asked, only half-conscious. His eyes finally opened and he looked into the assassin's eyes. "It's you . . ."

"Don't talk right now," Zabuza whispered.

They heard the sound of water splashing and Zabuza knew that Orochimaru had freed himself. He drew his sword and stood in front of Haku.

"You won't claim this one, Orochimaru," the voice of Tsunade spoke.

Orochimaru turned to Tsunade with an evil expression.

"And you think you can stop me?"

"I can," Tsunade answered icily.

The snake and the slug of the Legendary Three began to attack each other with swift, powerful blows. Orochimaru was every bit as quick as the serpents he could summon, which made hitting him very difficult. Not that Tsunade wasn't putting any effort into her blows; to the contrary, she probably would kill him if she could land a direct blow on him. Instead, he was moving too quickly for that, so she had to settle for glancing strikes.

Tsunade jumped back from Orochimaru and stomped the ground, triggering a small earthquake in an attempt to shake the serpentine ninja. Unfortunately, Orochimaru's chakra control was fine enough that he remained firmly rooted to where he stood. It took everything Zabuza had to keep himself and Haku standing.

"Watch it!" he growled.

Orochimaru spat a snake out of his mouth and it opened its jaws to reveal a sword hilt. Orochimaru grasped the hilt and pulled the sword out of the snake's mouth.

"Kusanagi," Tsunade uttered in realization.

Orochimaru just smirked at her before slashing with Kusanagi. Tsunade parried the slash with her bare hand and threw a kick at Orochimaru, but the serpent was just too quick.

"Bored, Demon of the Hidden Mist?" Orochimaru asked with an evil smirk. He pulled out a scroll and slashed himself across the torso with Kusanagi. He then threw Kusanagi into the air and smeared his blood on the scroll.

"Hell," the Demon muttered. "A summoning technique."

The Demon was indeed correct, as a giant snake soon emerged. He extended his sword as the snake attacked, jumping out of the way while holding onto Haku and slashing the monstrous creature. Unfortunately, the slash didn't make a single lick of difference; the snake was still coming.

In the meantime, Orochimaru had caught Kusanagi and was now using it to duel Tsunade.

Zabuza let go of Haku, but only to perform his water replication technique, summoning about twenty water doppelgangers. All twenty Zabuza attacked the giant snake, slashing at it with their swords. As hard as they fought, they were no match for the snake and ultimately were vanquished, dissolving into water.

"Let's try something else," he growled, performing the hand signs and chant required for the water dragon technique, forming it out of the water that used to be his clones. The water dragon attacked the snake, the two creatures tangling together in a ferocious struggle.

It was at this point that Kakashi and his team arrived, along with Anko.

"What's the matter, Hokage?" Orochimaru asked mockingly. "Can't fight me on your own?"

"Sasuke, keep the hell away from him," Kakashi ordered. "Anko, you and I will help Zabuza."

"Why are we helping him?" Anko wondered curiously.

"Because he'll die a horrible, ugly death if we don't and I don't wish to break any hearts," Kakashi answered.

"Sure," Anko mumbled, smirking slightly.

Kakashi pulled back his forehead protector, revealing his Sharingan eye.

"What the hell are we supposed to do?" Naruto asked.

"Be ready to help," Kakashi replied.

The water dragon, as strong a technique as that was, was ultimately no match for Orochimaru's snake and collapsed into water.

"Haku," Zabuza said, looking him in the eyes. "I'll be back. In the meantime, don't get yourself killed."

Haku had no answer for that, as Zabuza whirled and attacked the giant snake with chakra-fueled super-speed, slashing multiple times in the space of mere seconds. The giant snake refused to be felled, though, and remained upright. It was at that moment that the assassin got an idea.

This is crazy, he thought, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

He jumped and dived into the giant snake's mouth.

"What the hell did he just do?" Naruto asked.

"He's crazy!" Sakura exclaimed.

"Yes, but this has nothing to do with it," Kakashi said calmly.

A familiar sword blade suddenly punched through the giant snake's scales from the inside. The blade moved upward and downward, cutting the snake completely open, and Zabuza stepped out of it, covered in the guts of the snake he had just killed.

"Heh, impressive," Anko remarked. "Gotta love a man willing to dive into his work."

"Now for Orochimaru," Zabuza snarled. Before anyone could stop him, the assassin charged at the S-class missing-nin, ready to attack. However, Orochimaru was not felled by Zabuza's attack but rather by a rain of water needles.

"What the hell?" Tsunade wondered, looking over Orochimaru's needle-pierced body.

Orochimaru managed a weak snicker. "I see my choice was correct."

The assembled ninja looked at Haku.

"He would have killed Momochi-sensei" was the boy's only answer.

"Your Kekkei Genkai – it's water manipulation, isn't it?" Kakashi deduced.

"Kekkei Genkai?" Haku wondered. "Is that what it's called?"

"Yeah," Anko replied. "A bloodline limit, meaning that those specific abilities are limited to your biological family."

"And here I thought I was just a freak," Haku remarked ironically.

Zabuza stared him down and gruffly stated, "You have a gift, kid. Given some time and actual training, you could do something great with it."

"Long time no see, Orochimaru," a voice, low and cold, spoke.

Everyone present turned to see a black-robed young man who could have passed for an older Sasuke.

"Itachi," Sasuke growled, immediately beginning the hand signs to summon the Chidori. Kakashi raised a hand to halt him.

"Relax, little brother," Itachi said. "I'm not here for you. I'm here for him." He then addressed Orochimaru directly. "You've had this coming for a long time, snake." He activated the Mangekyo Sharingan. "Amaterasu."

Orochimaru screamed as he was engulfed in black flames, reduced to ash.

"What are you doing here, Itachi?" Kakashi asked.

"Why should I tell you . . . old friend?" Itachi asked. "My quarrel is not with you."

Sasuke was barely able to swallow his rage. There was the killer of his family right in front of him and Kakashi wouldn't let him take the son of a bitch out! What the hell could he have to say that was worth letting him live a moment longer?

"Hey, bastard!" Naruto shouted at Itachi. "I don't know what you're doing here, but you better go back where you came from because there's nothing good waiting for you here!"

"The Nine-Tailed Fox's jailer," Itachi addressed him. "I'll deal with you when the time comes."

He turned and walked away.

"Are we going to just stand there and let him walk out of here?" Naruto asked angrily.

"For now, that is all we can do," Tsunade replied. "The only way we'd be able to stop him is if we killed him and we need him alive, to find out what Akatsuki is planning."

Zabuza walked up to Naruto and punched him in the head.

"Owww!" Naruto yelled, whirling to face Zabuza. "What the fuck was that for, you son of a bitch?"

"For not realizing that Hinata likes you," Zabuza answered. "For Kami's sake, everybody but you knows."

"Hinata . . . likes me?" Naruto wondered, absolutely stunned by the fact that somebody had romantic feelings for him.

"I don't know why," Zabuza said.

Three years later

Yukikaze Haku – garbed in a dark blue robe over black clothes, his hair bound with pins, and his head bearing a Konoha forehead protector – stood in the center of ten water clones of Momochi Zabuza.

"Give it your best shot, Haku," one clone ordered.

The clones attacked Haku and the young man drew a senbon needle, stabbing one of the clones with it. The clone dissolved into water and Haku impaled another one while swinging back to kick a third. The third clone blocked his kick, but Haku flipped back and threw his needle at him, piercing him squarely in the throat. This clone dissolved as well.

Now there were seven clones left.

Haku moved like an angelic demon, beauty and deadly efficiency mixed into one graceful package. Soon enough there were no water clones left.

The young man heard the sound of clapping and turned. "Zabuza-sensei . . ."

"It's ok, Haku," Zabuza whispered, also wearing a Konoha forehead protector. "You did great. And there's no need to call me sensei when we're alone."

After Orochimaru's attempt to target any young person with a bloodline limit, the Council of Konoha had decided it was best if Haku was trained as a ninja. Zabuza, having been instated as a citizen and ninja of Konoha in exchange for a pardon for his various crimes, offered to take Haku as his apprentice. It took some work, but Kakashi and Tsunade had managed to sway them, something that left the ex-assassin in their debt . . . which Kakashi mercifully did not use for mockery. He knew better than to toy with Zabuza's feelings regarding Haku.

Speaking of feelings, one year ago, Kakashi had grown a spine and confessed to Sakura that he was in love with her. To his surprise and relief, Sakura had confessed to harboring similar feelings, although nobody actually knew what went down between them until Zabuza paid an impromptu visit to Kakashi's place.

He'd run away barely five minutes later, muttering something about needing to wash his eyes out. He wouldn't tell anyone what he saw, except that "it was something out of that perverted book he's always reading."

Fortunately, Sakura had by then become a specialized jonin, so she wasn't necessarily Kakashi's student anymore, which prevented a scandal.

In the present, Haku leaned up on his tiptoes to lay a chaste kiss on Zabuza's lips, which the former missing-nin returned in full, silently thanking whoever had brought them here for this second chance.

In a higher plane, a blond man in a dull red coat over a jonin uniform watched over Zabuza and Haku.

"Are you sure this was a good idea?" an older man in white robes asked him.

"Sarutobi, you know it was," the blond responded. "Can't you see how happy they are now?"

"I suppose you have a point . . . Kazuma," Sarutobi replied. He changed the view, this time of what looked like a younger version of the blond man sharing ramen with a dark-haired, pale-eyed girl.

Kazuma smiled. "And helping Zabuza has also helped Naruto." He chuckled as Naruto and Hinata accidentally ate the same strand of ramen, ending up just a millimeter away from kissing. "Maybe, in time, the village will forgive him for the Nine-Tailed Fox's actions."

"Maybe," Sarutobi said.

The two former Hokage departed from their observation of the earthly plane and to greener pastures . . . such as those inhabited by their wives.

End Notes: All right, I'm done. Now I concede that this might have been somewhat rushed, but I really couldn't see anywhere else to go with this. Sorry it was so short, but hey, Zabuza and Haku are together now and that's what you came for, right?

Itachi killing Orochimaru was something out of left field, I'll admit, but Orochimaru had it coming. Also, he's one of the few people Orochimaru actually fears, so I figured it'd be somewhat fitting if Itachi did him in.

If you're wondering where Jiraiya was, I couldn't figure out how to insert him, so I had to leave him out. Sorry, Jiraiya fans.

As you might be able to guess, that was the Third and Fourth Hokage in that last scene. A lot of people have speculated that the Fourth is Naruto's father for three main reasons. First, the Fourth looks like he could be Naruto's older brother. Second, Naruto is referred to as the Fourth's legacy, which is kind of a fancy way of referring to someone's child. Third, what the hell kind of Kage would seal a Tailed Beast inside someone else's kid?

That's that. Hope you liked it or hated it enough to leave a review.