Bitter Sweet

For Ami-soh (because you asked so nicely)

Chapter 1: Weakness

"Haku."

The boy looked up from his book, meeting Zabuza's eyes immediately.

"Come to my room tonight."

Haku nodded and turned back to his book after a quick glance out the window to check the time. The days when that command had any power to shock him were long gone… and yet, his heart still sped up, if only a little. The thought of what he would be doing- of what would be done to him- had never lost the power to send a shiver down his spine.

Zabuza had never been rough with him. No, in the months since the older nin had begun to bed him, Zabuza had been amazingly gentle- even playful sometimes. But no matter how playful he might get, the swordsman had never once kissed him on the mouth. It was some sort of taboo; without a word passing between the pair, Haku knew it wasn't allowed. The one time he'd tried, Zabuza had simply turned his head away. Haku hadn't made a second attempt.

As Zabuza's tool, he didn't mind the sex. As a human being, he rather enjoyed it. He only wished that he was allowed that simple gesture… but he wasn't really surprised that it was denied him. While he was quite truly in love with his master, Haku was certain that Zabuza's attentions were based more on carnal desire and need than any sort of finer emotion. And he was fine with that, because it was Zabuza and what Zabuza wanted, he was obligated to give. He enjoyed giving himself up to Zabuza, in any case, so no one was really loosing anything.

Marking his place in the book, Haku took in the last of the fading light from out the window before sliding from his chair. A small smile lit his face and another shiver of anticipation laced down his spine as he headed for his master's room.

Brushing the front of his yukata, he knocked softly at Zabuza's door. It opened almost immediately, and Zabuza stepped aside to let the boy in without a word. Haku stepped into the middle of the room and stopped, waiting in silence.

Strong arms wrapped around him, holding him tightly to that familiar broad chest. He could feel Zabuza's breath against his scalp as the older man pressed his nose into his hair, and he trembled in response.

Lips caressed his ear, nipping at the lobes before moving on to his neck. Hands wandered to push away his hair, his robe, baring his shoulder for that questing mouth. After one last kiss was pressed to the smooth flesh of his shoulder, Haku felt himself directed to the bed, and allowed himself to be moved. Zabuza pressed him to the bed, and as he lay on his back the swordsman stood over him, looking down. As always, he felt a blush creep over his face as he watched Zabuza untie and open his yukata with deft fingers. Skin rippling in goose flesh as hands trailed over his now bare chest, Haku did his best to remain silent.

But those hands were like fire to his flesh, sending little ribbons of pleasure through his spine. Zabuza knew just where to go, what to press to bring those soft keens to the youth's lips, and soon enough Haku was gasping and arching toward his master. Lying there with his nakedness framed by his own silken robe, Haku felt the warmth spread from his face to his stomach.

One hand moved to cup his face, thumb lightly stroking his cheek, and the young tracker looked up into eyes that were sparked, not with lust (as was expected) but something akin to affection. Zabuza was smiling, and although the expression was a stranger to his face, it looked nice there. Even Haku, who knew this face more intemately than anyone alive, rarely saw such a look. He could hardly resist smiling back as he leaned against that hand.

"I didn't know boys could be so beautiful."

Haku's blush deepened. His master had often compared his looks to women, had even gone so far once as to call him effeminate. He had never outright called him even pretty, much less beautiful. He floundered for something to say, and whatever look crossed is face must have been very amusing indeed, because suddenly Zabuza was chuckling, pressing soft kisses down his neck to his clavicle.

"Does such acknowledgement make you nervous, Haku?" The older nin whispered, his rough voice muffled by the skin pressed so close. His lips trailed lower over the youth's chest, pausing to tease the raised flesh of one nipple. Encouraged by the low hiss of breath from his student, he lingered for a moment. When he looked up to see the boy gasping for breath from his ministrations, the smile that curved his lips was full of more honest affection than he ever could have imagined.

Finally, Haku made an attempt at responding, his voice near a whisper. "Zabuza-san, I…I…" Yet words still failed; he was at a loss for what to say. He knew what he wanted to say… but it seemed almost as if saying what he felt was as great a taboo as the kiss he so desperately wanted.

"You what?" Zabuza asked, his eyes narrowing slightly, smile fading as quickly as it appeared. "You love me?"

His bitter, nearly mocking tone stung worse than any of the cuts or broken bones Haku had yet to suffer in his life. His breath caught in his throat- he had no more expected to be cut to the quick like this than he had expected Zabuza to call him beautiful- and he found his voice was lost again. His eyes stung, so he shut them, and for the first time since he was very young, he wished that Zabuza would go away.

The problem was not having the swordsman know his feelings- that they had gone unspoken between the pair didn't lessen the fact that both were aware of them. It wasn't even that Zabuza didn't return his emotion; Haku had never expected that he would. The problem was the out right rejection, the mockery and bitterness to Zabuza's tone. It was the loss of a newly sweet and almost romantic moment to something frigid and uncomfortable.

Unbidden, tears came to his eyes, and though he didn't make a sound, they slipped down his cheeks anyway. This was not how he wanted to spend the night, not how he ever wanted to appear before Zabuza.

Those strong arms slid beneath him, holding him, and slowly, his eyes wide open and serious, the older man began pressing soft kisses to Haku's cheeks. So desperate was the boy to cease this display of weakness, so focused was he on the gentle way he was being held, that it took Haku several moments to realize what Zabuza was doing- that he was kissing away his tears. Then, he gripped the boy's shoulders, pulling away so he could look him in the eye as he spoke.

"Don't think you love me," Zabuza said softly, as gently as he ever had. "Such a thing could make you weak. If you feel anything for me, until our goal is met, then fight for me. Train for me; kill for me if the time comes for that. But do not love me. Not now."

It seemed the world spun around him as he began to make sense of what Zabuza was saying, of what their actions had meant until now and the promises lying unspoken between the words Zabuza had chosen. Do not love me. Not now. As the earth tilted and he finally understood, Haku opened his eyes, a new sort of ache waking in his breast. If he allowed love and the compassion that came with it, their objective could never be reached. Such emotions would lead him to do dangerous things, stupid things that would ruin all their careful plans. So he couldn't love, he would have to harden his heart, if only for a little while.

Not now…

So he nodded, and he tried for a smile that would communicate such understanding.

The swordsman inclined his head and pressed another kiss to the boy's cheek, just below his ear, and Haku shivered, some small warmth restored to their moment. When Zabuza looked back to Haku's face, the young tracker had his hands locked around the back of his neck, arching to push their hips together.

Something passed between them, communication in a language that predated speech, and then his lips were pressed to Haku's. It was something the boy would never forget, that first kiss- the tender tilt of their heads, the feeling of Zabuza's teeth beneath his lips; the scent of his skin so close, the roughness of the hairs caught beneath his fingers as he pressed his hands harder to the back of Zabuza's neck.

Heat flared in his stomach, his groin now as well, and he pressed further against his master. The kiss, which was closed mouthed and not quite chaste, blossomed like a flower: became slow and open and humid. Zabuza's tongue touched his lower lip, hesitantly, and he shyly met it; the kiss finding a natural rhythm that seemed to defy the need for either of them to breathe.

As the elder shinobi pressed closer, his tongue delving deep into his partner's mouth, Haku could feel the stone hardness between his master's legs, and understood the urgency of the hips grinding to his own. It was as if there had been no pause in their love-play, so insistent was the heat between them, and Haku let their whispered words leave his mind, basking in this new display of lust.

His hands slid to Zabuza's waist, easily unsnapping the clasps to his pants. The low moan breathed into his mouth as his hand slid lower was sweet to his ears, and he let his fingers wander for a little longer before pulling them away.

He helped Zabuza with what was left of his clothes, and for a moment they only lay naked together in the quiet of the room. They lay in each other's arms, and when Zabuza found his way inside, Haku felt pain melt away almost instantly into sweetness. They made love in the sterile, lifeless home they had always shared, putting questions of love and servitude aside; promising forever and forgetting that forever was always shorter than lovers imagine. As the end swept over both of them, Haku felt Zabuza's lips on his face, kissing him over and over. So were the lovers joined for the last time, in the country of waves, near the end of their lives. So were the lovers joined, a sweet tint to so bitter an ending.

When it was over, and they simply lay together, a tangled mess made of their legs, sharing kisses beneath the mild gaze of the moon, Zabuza felt himself drowsing. It was not surprising; after the fight only a day behind them, and another soon to come, there had been much to stress him. He had slept badly, and (though he did not know it) this night would be the last real sleep he'd ever have.

"Zabuza-san?" Haku's voice was distant, sweet. "When you have all it is you want, will you leave?"

The older man snorted, turning on his side to look at the boy. "For us to seperate, you would have to leave."

Haku smiled, contented, and as he drifted off to sleep beside his master, he mumbled just once more. "Never," Zabuza heard him say, and then he too was sleeping.

...TBC...