What Dreams May Come
It was over.
But Zabuza had known that, known since he lunged blindly into those men, known since Haku had gone so terribly still, known since Haku whispered his name in a voice that told him it was time to go.
There was a tear on Haku's face, as though the boy was crying for him, for them, even though Haku was beyond able to do anything anymore. Zabuza wanted to believe.
He cupped Haku's cheek.
It was night.
The pale light of the moon reached in through the window and caressed the face of the sleeping boy beside him, much as his hand was thoughtlessly lingering on the softness and firmness of Haku's youth. The boy was only eight or nine, very much a child and yet shockingly mature in his actions and words. Zabuza inched closer, the scent of the sea engrained into the boy's very being. The salty bite of the ocean, the clean, crisp scent of snow, and the warm, sweet fragrance of the forest. All three belonged to Haku.
Zabuza brushed his lips against the child's temple.
He opened his eyes, unsure of when he closed them, momentarily blinded as the curtains were thrown open. Bringing up one hand to block out the sun, Zabuza squinted into the light. A familiar silhouette leaned against the window sill, gazing out cheerfully at the world. Then, he turned, smiling brighter than the day.
"Zabuza-san, you have to get up," laughed Haku as he moved back toward the bed, a light chide in his voice, "I've made you breakfast, but you won't have time to eat it if you sleep any longer." Taking Zabuza's hand, Haku lead him over to the table where breakfast had been set out, still hot. The chair was pulled out for him. He sat down.
He could feel the ropes on his wrists, his ankles, around his torso. His own hitai-ate had been turned into a blindfold, the metal digging into his skin. The gag in his mouth tasted of dust and earth and grease, the cloth too thick and unforgiving for even his teeth. He gripped the arms of the chair, feeling the splainters of wood bite into his tough hands. His face was contorted into an enraged grimace as he strained against his restraints.
Haku was dead--he had to be, he had taken all the worst hits for his master. There was no one left, just him. They would torture him until he gave away his employer, and then they would kill him. The dark, coppery taste of blood filled his mouth as they struck him across the face. He waited for their questions, their demands. He would tell them nothing. It was all he could do for Haku.
He heard was the sound of bodies hitting the ground.
A pair of warm, earnest brown eyes peered into his from mere inches away. Two small hands cupped his cheeks.
"Are you okay, Zabuza-san?"
Zabuza touched the split on his lip--an errant club had managed to clip him in the civilian scuffle he had been sent to put down. It was nothing, really. He had been nearly gutted more than once before--his lips had seen worse wear during the dry winter he spent outside of Mizu no Kuni. Still, Haku's concern made him almost smile. He reached out to ruffle the boy's hair.
The alarm went off and Zabuza slowly opened his eyes, one hand reaching to turn off the jarring noise while the other was already finding its way around the neck of a bottle of cheap, hard liquor. It was several days after the bridge battle, Haku long since buried on a small cliff overlooking the sea. Haku's summer yukata was folded on the chair beside Zabuza's head. He glanced at it impassively, took a swig of his drink, and looked back. It was gone. Zabuza covered his mouth with his hand as though he felt ill. He looked around. It was all gone. The battle-worn senbon, the fragments of the ANBU mask, the basket Haku used to collect herbs--it was all gone, as though Haku had never been. Zabuza sat up. A patch of teal caught his eyes and he blinked blearily towards the door. Haku was standing there, a child again, his long, black hair unbound. He was covered in blood. He was a child again, but there was blood all down his front, tracing a familiar path down from his heart.
Shaking, Zabuza staggered to his feet, stumbling over to his boy. His arms reached around Haku's small body and he felt those thin, infinitely comforting arms slip around his neck in return.
"Zabuza-san," Haku whispered in his child's voice, "I'm sorry I wasn't good enough."
Zabuza only smiled as though he would never stop, burying his face into Haku's neck, inhaling deeply. Haku did not smell like blood. He smelled of sea and snow and sun. He smelled like home to Zabuza. He was home to Zabuza. He held on, never intending to let go.
Zabuza looked up from the papers on his desk, casting his attendant a dry look. Haku smiled shyly at that, closing the door behind him. He looked sharp in his gray Jounin vest, something Zabuza had always wanted to see him in.
"I'm sorry, Zabuza-san," Haku laughed quietly, "It's just too tempting. Anyway, I've brought the final drafts of the negotiations with Otogakure and new trade routes to the remote villages in Mizu no Kuni. There's also a highly confidential request memo from Orochimaru-sama for an alliance during the Chuunin exam, and a request memo from Kimimaro-san for a temporary travel visa to Kirigakure. Lastly, there's a copy of all the new ANBU-level missions given to the mission desk for you to review. Where should I put them?" Zabuza sighed and wiped the back of his neck with an old rag.
It had been a long day tilling the fields, trying to make the cold, hard ground of their sorry spit of a village arable. Zabuza's shoulders and neck were sore, his hands and face dusted with earth. It still never ceased to amaze him how much dust the frozen ground could produce. Wiping his bare forehead with the back of his hand, Zabuza turned his back on the fields for the day and headed down the well-worn path back through the thin forest, toward the small, candle-lit cottage at the end. It was getting colder.
When he turned the last corner, he felt exhausted, as though he could fall asleep where he stood, but he knew he had to keep going. There was someone waiting for him. He could see him already, waiting just outside the door despite the bitter cold, ever smiling. Haku opened his arms when Zabuza neared and he gratefully fell into them.
"Welcome home," a soft, warm breath whispered into Zabuza's ear.
Zabuza's face felt wet with tears. He could hear the ocean. A voice.
"...go, Zabuza. The two of you, together."
They buried him that evening, on a small cliff overlooking the sea, next to the only home he had ever known.