Memory of Ice

Disclaimer: I don't own. So don't sue.

Author's Note: Written for the Naruto flashfic community on livejournal. Thus, the time restraint may make it seem rushed. These characters aren't really ones I would write, but I had fun writing it.

"Who's that?" Suigetsu asks immediately, finger jabbing in the direction of the black-haired girl sitting beneath the tree, legs folded neatly, blue sundress covering her knees.

"That's none of your business, you nosy little brat." The deep-throat growl coming from the man perched opposite him on the limb of a tree irks Suigetsu, who shoots him a look of annoyance.

"I'm not training with some girl around," the chuunin replies, folding his arms across his chest. "She might get hurt." He doesn't seem very concerned about that; more irritated that there's some girl watching them in the first place.

Were he a tad more observant, Suigetsu might have seen the shift of bandages over Zabuza's face that indicated he was smirking. As it was, he is too busy staring at the large, lethal-looking zanbatō resting against his sensei's back. His gaze lingers, as it always does, and he's only brought back to the present when Zabuza snaps his fingers.

"Like this sword?" Zabuza asks, grabbing a hold of the hilt and pulling it into view. "I'll give it to you."

Suigetsu's mouth drops open in shock. "Wh-What?!"

"If you can beat that girl over there," Zabuza adds, pointing the sword at the curled up figure on the ground. The girl raises her head, eyes meeting Zabuza's, and she rises without a word, brushing off her dress.

Suigetsu's in too much shock to register their silent exchange. "Are you kidding me?! All I have to do is beat some girl and you'll give me the sword?" Turning his head, the blue-haired boy takes a long, good look at the girl, sizing her up. Skinny. Small. This is going to be easy.

Zabuza rests the edge of the blade against the ground and leans on the hilt, looking calm. "I've been meaning to train Haku against someone besides myself. You'll do as much as the next person."

Suigetsu may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but he's not dumb. He knows when he smells something fishy, and this situation is definitely making him wary. He's only been two weeks into training under Zabuza's watchful eye, and the guy's more mysterious than Suigetsu thinks he can put up with. He guesses it's only natural for Kirigakure's Demon of the Hidden Mist, but there's something secretive about Zabuza that he can't put his finger on.

And now this girl. Haku. Showing up one day out of nowhere, hanging around Zabuza like she belongs there. He can't peg her age, but he bets she's younger than him, and as she approaches him she offers him a pleasant smile.

What the hell.

"What're you smiling at!" Suigetsu bristles, though before he can yell anything else Haku is suddenly making hand seals so quickly he can barely see the movements of her hand. "What – "

Now. Suigetsu's no pushover. He'd already killed more than ten people before he was even five years old, was number one in his class when he graduated to genin at age eleven, and became chuunin less than a year later. These are the only reasons he's even able to train with Zabuza, one of the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen of the Mist. When he passes villagers on the street, they whisper about him, and he knows he's considered a potential candidate: the next Momochi Zabuza, should he continue on the path he is now.

But that's never going to happen if he gets beaten by a little girl, like he is now.

"Ahhhhh!!" Suigetsu yells, as needles rain down upon him, striking from every direction. He covers his head with his arms and instantly becomes a puddle, melting into the ground.

Where did those needles come from? he thinks, frantically, reshaping his form a few feet away, his body molding itself back into its regular contours and becoming solid. Checking himself over, Suigetsu raises his eyes back to Haku's, trying to determine the origin of those needles.She couldn't be hiding them all underneath that dress of hers. Earth chakra? But no; they were cold. Ice cold.


"How are you making ice?!" Suigetsu demands, annoyed that this girl has a technique like that when there's not a water source in sight. Zabuza never lets them train around water, much to Suigetsu's dismay. Just to make it harder on him, of course. "There's no water!"

Haku only smiles and starts making hand seals again, and before Suigetsu knows it he's surrounded by mirrors, Haku's smiling reflection in each one. Angry now because she ignored his question, he decides it's about time he shows her he can pack a punch. Literally.

Suigetsu's unique ability to turn his body into water itself is the key to his techniques. Like many ninja in Kirigakure, he can use water-based ninjutsu, from the most basic water clone jutsu to some much more complex for his age, but his ability to become liquid is his alone; and he's known for it.

It's only a matter of a few seconds before his right arm has grown three times its size, and without moving an inch, Suigetsu elongates it, drawing it back and swinging it, shoving a great deal of chakra into his fist as it connects solidly with one of the mirrors.

It cracks under the impact, but it doesn't break, and a moment later something sharp pierces his neck. Suigetsu spins, catching a glimpse of Haku before she's gone from the mirror, her image flowing across another.

"Why you -- !!" Suigetsu lunges at the mirror containing her image, chakra surging into his left fist this time, swinging it hard and fast. A nasty grin spreads across his lips, sharp teeth showing amply, as the image cracks right over the girl's face. "Got you!"

That's why he finds it odd when Haku only smiles, and more needles suddenly imbed themselves into his legs and arms.

Eyes wide, Suigetsu falls to his knees, wondering why he's lost feeling in his hands and feet.

"My mirrors take on my reflection at my will. I have the freedom to move about any one I please," Haku is explaining, and Suigetsu tries to listen, but he's feeling woozy. "That image you saw was only an illusion of me."

Suigetsu growls and reaches for the ice needle he can feel in the back of his neck, yanking it out. Scrunching his face up in pain, he throws the needle angrily at one of the mirrors. "What did you … do?" he manages, slumping forward onto the ground, his entire body feeling numb.

"I hit a nerve in your neck that causes temporary paralysis of your entire body," Haku replies.

Struggling to move, Suigetsu lifts his head just enough to see Haku step out of the mirror. He's quick enough to note the crack in the mirror has disappeared like it was never there at all, just before they all wink out of existence at once.

To his intense dismay, Suigetsu knows he's been defeated. The realization is quite a blow to his pride, and he refuses to bow out respectfully. "I'm not done yet! Don't put those mirrors away! I'm going to smash every one of them and smash your face into them next!"

He's aware Haku is stepping over to him, her soft footfalls crunching the grass as she nears. Suigetsu suddenly starts to fret. Zabuza never said to have a fight to the death, but in Kirigakure anything goes, and Suigetsu doesn't know Haku's intentions. Just as he's starting to get seriously worried, however, the girl kneels beside him gracefully, face tilted and eyes on his.

"Hyoton," she says.

"What?" Suigetsu asks; annoyed.

"I use a combination of wind and water-based chakra to create ice. Hyoton. It's the ability of my clan."

Suigetsu gets it now. It's a bloodline limit. "Why are you telling me this?"

Haku smiles. "Because you asked."

Suigetsu thinks she's crazy.

Haku moves to stand, brushing off her dress. She pauses, looking down at Suigetsu.

"By the way. I'm a boy."

"Arrrgghhh!" Suigetsu groans, stretching his arms above his head to lessen the ache as he and Zabuza walk through the village streets. As if being beaten by a feminine boy weren't enough, after his sensei sent Haku on errands of some kind, he had to beat Suigetsu into the ground, too. While calling it training, of course. "I feel like drinking a gallon of fresh, cold, spring water."

"You get thirsty too often," Zabuza intones in his usual gruff pitch. "You need to work on your endurance."

"Yeah, yeah," Suigetsu replies, in no mood to listen to Zabuza lecture him. He's grumpy enough about the day's proceedings, especially the part where Zabuza made a fool out of him purposely by letting him fight Haku. "You could've told me, you know. That she was a he."

Zabuza says nothing, but Suigetsu gets the distinct impression he's chuckling to himself. On the inside.

"And you never really intended on giving me your sword!" he continues, pointing an accusing finger at his sensei.

Zabuza glances at him momentarily. "I'm surprised you didn't realize that from the start. A Kiri Swordsman would never give his sword to anyone, much less a runt like you. You'll never get a sword like this unless you earn it."

Suigetsu fumes silently, turning his eyes from Zabuza and staring unhappily at the ground. Despite his "potential," Zabuza (and the rest of the Swordsmen) treat him no better than something they might scrape off the bottom of their shoe. To say that it irks him is to say the least.

"You'll see," he mutters quietly, underneath his breath. "One day I'll have all your swords."

"Come," Zabuza says, interrupting his thoughts, turning down a street and waving Suigetsu after him.

"Where're we going?" Suigetsu asks, too tired and thirsty to put up much of a fuss, but definitely wanting some water.

"The springs. To bathe."

"I don't want to bathe!" Suigetsu whines.

"Come," Zabuza growls, and it's not a request.

Pouting silently, Suigetsu follows, dragging his feet as best he can.

"Why do you keep him around you, anyway?" Suigetsu asks, after some time, the dirt road before them no longer littered with other people, becoming more rural the closer they get to the hot springs. "He your student or something?"

Suigetsu doesn't consider himself a very jealous person, but thinking about Haku as another one of Zabuza's students makes him a little irritated. He's the only one that's supposed to have that role. Not some girly-boy in a dress. (Even if that girly-boy just kicked his ass this morning).

"He is my tool." Zabuza's reply surprises Suigetsu. He wasn't expecting any reply, really, since Zabuza's about as talkative as a rock on a good day.

"Your tool?" Suigetsu answers, curiously. "Tool for what?"

"For battle."

Suigetsu considers this, tongue running over the edges of his sharp teeth thoughtfully. "Did you capture him?"

It's easy to see Haku doesn't come from Kirigakure. For one thing, there's no one here with a bloodline limit like his, and his appearance alone is different than any of its citizens. Where Zabuza found him, however, Suigetsu can't guess.

This time, Suigetsu isn't surprised when Zabuza doesn't answer. "You ask too many questions, kid," he says instead, and Suigetsu frowns, kicking a rock. He knows that's the end of the conversation.

The bathhouse is empty when they enter, and Suigetsu wastes no time in undressing and heading over to the basin to fill a bucket of water, snagging a bar of soap and a washcloth off the shelf. He scrubs himself down rigorously, trying to get the day's sweat and grim off of his skin. In the corner of his eye he sees a flash of dark black on pale white and when he turns his head he spots Haku, standing behind a sitting Zabuza, soap in hand. His hair, tied up in a tight bun when Suigetsu first met him earlier, is now loose and flowing down his back, and as Suigetsu watches he very intently scrubs Zabuza's back for him, not paying any mind to Suigetsu at all.

There's something strange about the entire scene. Though Suigetsu, in all his twelve years, can't put a finger on it. It bothers him, but instead of staring he forces his eyes away and continues washing himself, rinsing his skin and sighing in happiness at the feel of the cool water running over his shoulders and down his back. Suigetsu has a fond love of water, any kind of water, and while he hates the act of scrubbing and cleaning himself, the feel of water washing over him is about the best feeling in the world. Not to mention it rehydrates him, and keeps him able to use his technique.

Suigetsu finishes before the other two, and snags a towel on the way into the hot spring, folding it and placing it atop his head as he begins to wade into the steaming water. A sigh of contentment escapes him, and he sinks down until the water laps at his chin, closing his eyes briefly.

The soft sound of water rippling is the only indicator he's given that another person is joining him, and he cracks one eye open to take note of Zabuza settling in, water lapping at his waist. This is nothing new; Suigetsu has taken many baths with Zabuza before, after their training. He was a little intimidated the first time, as any young boy might be, but Zabuza merely sat away from him and kept to himself, and Suigetsu is happy to do the same.

Haku, however, is a new addition to the ritual, and Suigetsu isn't sure what to think about that. He spends a good minute trying to decide whether he should just look at the boy, or keep his eyes off of him, and then another good minute wondering why the hell this is such a dilemma in the first place.

So, he looks.

Haku's not like any other boy he's ever seen. His body is slender, and delicate-looking, and that shiny mane of hair doesn't help the image. Or helps it too much, really, because the only real proof that Haku is not a girl is between his legs, and Suigetsu definitely looks, because part of him is still convinced Haku was lying.

He wasn't.

He watches Haku kneel behind Zabuza and begin to undo the bandages covering his mouth and neck. Again, Suigetsu is struck with the strangeness of it. Zabuza always unravels his bandages himself. Suigetsu can't even imagine Zabuza letting anyone else touch him in such a way. Intimate, he might call it, if Suigetsu knew such a word. As it is, he can only watch, and tuck away the information for processing at a later date when he's older, and understands these things with greater depth.

Then Haku is sinking into the water beside Zabuza, and Suigetsu doesn't know whether to be grateful or disappointed that he can no longer see most of the boy's lithe body.

And did he seriously just think that?

"May I have your name?" Haku asks, and Suigetsu starts a little, not having expected to be spoken to so directly.

"Hozuki Suigetsu," he supplies, frowning.

"Suigetsu-kun," Haku smiles. "Nice to meet you. You remember my name, right?" he teases.

"Haku," Suigetsu replies, folding his arms over his chest.

"You're blushing, Suigetsu-kun." Haku grins, just a bit.

"I am not!" Suigetsu denies, looking miffed. "It's just the steam!"

Zabuza, surprisingly, doesn't rebuff them, only watching calmly. There's something different about him. Something so … relaxed. As Haku teases Suigetsu lightly, and Suigetsu defends himself, a thought occurs to him that this boy is going to change a lot of things. He doesn't know why he thinks this. But the gut feeling has never failed him before.

Even though Haku is Zabuza's consort, Suigetsu sees surprisingly little of him in the months to come. Sometimes he accompanies Zabuza when the older ninja trains Suigetsu, and sometimes Suigetsu will catch a glimpse of him in the village, by Zabuza's side, but Zabuza keeps him out of view for much of the time, and the other half Zabuza's not around either.

It doesn't bother Suigetsu so much, because he has other willing and capable ninja to train him, but he does have a good deal of respect for Zabuza, and looks forward to his training sessions whenever they come. The two never grow close, not that anyone could grow close to a man like Zabuza, but sometimes Suigetsu will be invited on a couple days' journey with Zabuza whenever the shinobi has a mission tame enough that he can use it to further Suigetsu's training while giving him field experience. Haku is always with him on these.

Suigetsu doesn't feel he has much in common with Haku, and it's not because of their separation in age. Even though it chagrins him to admit it, Haku acts more mature than he does half the time, and Haku usually knows the answer to a question he doesn't. He can understand why Zabuza chose him to become his tool, because the boy is bright, skilled, and a fast learner, and every time they spar he's always one step ahead of Suigetsu.

Suigetsu holds a grudge, but he's old enough to know that there's no reason to get frustrated over it, and he knows someday he will beat the boy, because one day he has to defeat Zabuza, and he's already decided Haku will be his test. He wonders what the boy would say if he told him all of this, but he imagines Haku would just smile.

Suigetsu snorts.

One week mid-July, Zabuza informs him he's going to accompany him on a scouting mission. While this might have excited him when he was ten, he's thirteen now and uninterested.

"What's the point of this? I should be working assassinations," Suigetsu whines, folding his arms in annoyance.

"You need to work on your espionage skills. You're severely lacking in stealth," Zabuza informs him. "You still can't detect me in time when I use my Muon Satsujin Jutsu."

"That mist's too thick," Suigetsu grumbles. "How am I supposed to detect you if I can't see you?"

"That is precisely what you're going to learn."

He's blind-folded every day during the journey. At first, this drives Suigetsu batshit crazy, but eventually he learns to use his senses a little better. And, on the fifth day, when they finally make it to their destination, he's not even running into anything anymore.

The mission goes smoothly at first, since it's mostly a reconnaissance mission. Haku, as always when Zabuza goes out into the field, accompanies them. As usual, he stays hidden in the trees around them, never joining the two, there for Zabuza's sake only. Suigetsu can detect him every once in awhile; in the rustle of branches or the occasional whisper of air. But he's good; much better than Suigetsu, and most of the time Suigetsu even forgets he's there until he's dropping down beside them when they retire for the night.

He wonders how it is Haku can do this so well. Constantly check himself and stay in the cover of the trees so that he's not much more than a shadow. All day, every day. He doesn't even eat with them when they take their breaks for breakfast and lunch. He only dines with them during dinner, and only if Zabuza gives the signal it's alright for him to join them. Otherwise, he is alone the entire day.

Suigetsu almost feels badly for him.

Which is probably why he's more friendly toward him than usual this trip, chatting with him while they eat, cracking a few jokes, attentive to Haku's soft replies. He tells himself it's only because he feels sorry for him. Not because he enjoys Haku's company or anything. Definitely not.

The sixth day, when Suigetsu's split up from Zabuza and crouched low, spying on the party of shinobi they were sent to bring back information about (the shinobi part of a rebel group posing a threat to Kirigakure's stability), he shifts a bit in his position and startles a bird he didn't know perched beside him.

The ninja are more skilled than Suigetsu previously thought, and in a few moments he's surrounded on all sides, trying to determine how he got himself into this situation and why none of Zabuza's training paid off in the end.

Fighting five elite shinobi who are also skilled in water techniques isn't working – and Suigetsu is keeping his body liquid constantly just to avoid getting a kunai or shuriken embedded in his skull, when needles fly from the trees in every direction, pegging three of the enemy ninja, Suigetsu included.

His liquid body protects him, but not the three others, who drop like flies. Suigetsu detects a blur in the corner of his eye and then an explosion knocks his body into a thousand droplets of water, flying every which way.

He redraws his form behind a tree slowly, out of sight, and just as every bit is back in place, a voice from above nearly startles him into giving away his position again.

"Follow me."

Haku's familiar tones soothe him, and without questioning he is darting up the tree and through the branches, eyes pinned on the black-haired boy ahead of him. Haku floats so gracefully, and with such speed, that Suigetsu almost doesn't notice the slight pause in Haku's movements as he lands on another branch. But as it is, Suigetsu doesn't think another thing of it until they are far away from the site of the entrapment, traveling along a shallow brook to keep their scent from being picked up, in the case of nin-animals.

Suigetsu finally falls in line with Haku, exhausted from using his liquid form for so long, kneeling momentarily to drink water thirstily.

"We must continue," Haku stresses, his voice more strained than usual.

Suigetsu looks up, brow raised. "You alright?"

"I'm fine," Haku assures him, touching his side quickly.

Too quickly.

Suigetsu nods slowly, and stands up, forgetting his thirst for now. He continues, moving at a fast jog over the water, chakra in his feet keeping it from so much as rippling as he flies over its surface.

Haku slowly falls behind, until Suigetsu is finally forced to slow his pace, glancing behind him.

"You're hurt," he observes. Haku grips his side, and when Suigetsu forces his hand away he sees blood soaked through the boy's clothing. "Badly." Suigetsu looks around, brows knit in frustration. "Where the hell is Zabuza-sensei, anyway?"

"Safe," Haku assures him. "I came from our rendezvous point to get you."

Suigetsu stares openly at Haku, the shock momentarily making him forget their dire situation. "You came for me? But – you're only supposed to protect Zabuza-sensei, right?"

"We need to continue," Haku replies, ignoring Suigetsu's question. "I have ten more minutes before blood loss will make me too much a burden for you to stay with me."

Leave it to Haku to make a calculation like that while suffering blood loss, Suigetsu thinks, and after a pause he nods, reaching for Haku's hand. Haku looks at him confusedly for a moment, but at Suigetsu's insistence he accepts his hand, and soon Suigetsu is pulling him along, racing over the water.

Suigetsu feels almost surreal. For once, he's the leader, his senses sharpened and peaked for signs of pursuit, choosing which path they take and keeping his eye on Haku, increasingly aware of the boy's labored breathing. Haku stumbles and trips once, and then twice. The third time, he falls to his knees and struggles to get up.

"You're such a pain," Suigetsu complains, but a moment later he scoops a silent Haku into his oversized arms, and continues along his way, keeping his mind blank to all the questions and protests it wants to throw at him.

It's dusk by the time he returns to camp, and Zabuza swoops down on him before he can so much as utter a word. Suigetsu doesn't care. Happily, he lets his arms shrink down to their normal size, and collapses right there on the ground, crawling over to his pack and digging out a bottle of water. He drains the entire thing in one swig, and rolls over onto his back, closing his eyes.

"Any pursuers?" Zabuza asks, in his low growl.

"Negative," Suigetsu mutters, forcing himself into a sitting position, eyes on Zabuza as the man undoes Haku's garments and begins working on the wound. "I lost them on the way back here. Is he gonna be alright?"

"Yes," Zabuza replies, cupping his hands over Haku's wound. His hands glow, his face set with a look of intensity. "This is an emergency medical jutsu you should also learn. It will keep him alive until we can make it to a town."

Suigetsu raises a brow. "I thought you're supposed to never be seen with Haku."

Zabuza doesn't reply. Suigetsu doesn't ask again. Sometimes he's smart enough that he can figure out the answer all on his own.

The nearest town, they find, is more than a two-days' journey away. Still, it's closer than going to their own village, and Haku's a tough kid, so neither of them worry too much.

Not that Suigetsu would worry anyway, of course.

They take turns carrying Haku, who insists it's unnecessary at first, but falls quiet when Zabuza shushes him, not resisting again. When they arrive, Suigetsu purchases a stay at an inn while Zabuza brings Haku to the medics. Left with a little time on his own, Suigetsu wanders the town – which isn't much to look at – and spends the time wondering why in hell Haku risked his life to get him. His pondering comes up with no conclusions.

When he arrives back at the inn, he hears voices in the room, and pauses outside the door just in case. Once detecting it's definitely Zabuza's growl and Haku's melodic tones, he reaches out to twist the knob. But something catches his attention, and he stops himself. Leaning in close, he presses his ear to the door, listening intently. For once, he's thankful Zabuza spent so much time forcing him to "hone his senses." He doubts he could hear their quiet conversation otherwise.

" … strictly forbidden," Zabuza's saying, and he sounds angry.

"I am very sorry, Zabuza-san," Haku replies quietly.

"You will not do anything without first consulting me. You are not to make these decisions on your own."

"I understand. I will only follow Zabuza-san's orders."

"Good," Zabuza replies, but something in his tone makes Suigetsu think he's not satisfied. "You can come in now, Suigetsu."

"Tch," Suigetsu mutters, annoyed (and a little embarrassed) at being caught. Pushing open the door, he heads inside, glancing first to Zabuza before settling his eyes on Haku. All at once, he's tongue-tied; unsure what to say, where to look. He averts his eyes, a frown on his lips.

"So, you're not going to die on us?" He asks, finally, looking back at Haku.

"Not today," Haku replies, mouth curving into a warm smile.

Suigetsu can't help it. He smirks back.

Suigetsu never considers Haku a friend. Not even when he saves his life (not that he'd admit Haku saved his life, either). But he may be the closest thing Suigetsu ever has to real human interaction. Because Haku's not like the rest of the people in Kirigakure. He's not from Kirigakure; he doesn't look like the shinobi there, and he doesn't have the fierce, violent nature, the self-induced solitude.

He's kind. And Suigetsu only becomes aware of that word and its connotation when Haku shows up in his life and teaches it to him by example.

Less than a year.

That's all the time and memories Suigetsu has of Haku before Zabuza reveals his true intentions and attempts his coup d'état on the Mizukage, before Orochimaru shows up and captures Suigetsu to add him to his collection of experiments. This is the only period in Suigetsu's life that he gets a chance, a reprieve, to understand that he is human and that there is much more to humanity than being on top, and killing to get what one wants.

These lessons stay with him, but they stay hidden. Suigetsu finds no reason to become a totally new person just because of a single period in his life; a single individual stepping in and nudging his theories to reshape themselves on the human condition.

And even in that period of time, Suigetsu never quite understands what it is that gives Haku his inner light. Not even when, during their last conversation, Haku explains it to him very clearly.

"Don't you resent it?" Suigetsu prods, watching Haku carefully pack his weapons away, preparing for another long trip with Zabuza away from Kirigakure. (Suigetsu doesn't know it then, but it's really a veil for their preparations to attack the village and overthrow the current Mizukage. Later on, when he's fighting Haku once again, the stakes much higher this time, he'll wonder if he really ever knew anything about Zabuza or Haku at all).

"Resent what?" Haku asks.

"You know," Suigetsu replies, resting his chin on his bent knee, sharp upper teeth jutting out over his lower lip almost comically. "You're nothing but a tool to him. He even calls you that to your face. Doesn't it piss you off?"

Haku smiles. "Why would it? Zabuza-san saved me. I'm honored to be that much for him."

"How did he save you?" Suigetsu asks, interest piqued. His mind fills with fantastical images of Zabuza flitting into a burning building and retrieving Haku, a bundle in his arms; Zabuza killing off a hundred ninja, standing tall and protective, in front of a crouched Haku. Others; countless possibilities, all ridiculous, all making him want to laugh.

"He saved me from loneliness." Haku smiles, and this time, it reaches his eyes.

Suigetsu might have understood, then. He has years to think it over in Orochimaru's underground lab, locked inside his own head with no one to converse with. Oh, he understands then. But there, in that moment, all Suigetsu can think is: "Loneliness? Are you kidding? That guy never talks at all!"

Haku just chuckles, softly, and finishes packing his weapons.

"I'd kill somebody if they called me their tool," Suigetsu continues, after a pause. "Nobody's gonna use me like that. Hell no. I'll become the best shinobi, better than the Seven Swordsmen, and nobody will mess with me."

"What will you live for?" Haku asks.

"Myself," Suigetsu replies, staring at the sky. "I'll live for myself. And I'll make sure no one can touch me."

"I hope, one day, you find someone too," Haku murmurs, and it's so quiet Suigetsu almost doesn't catch it.


Haku smiles. "Zabuza-san is waiting for me. I mustn't keep him." Adjusting his weapons' pouch on his waist, Haku slips his mask on. "Take care, Suigetsu-kun."

Suigetsu watches him disappear into the trees, brows furrowed in puzzlement. He wants to shout that he doesn't want some one, but some thing; namely the seven swords, and preferably before anyone else gets the brilliant idea and he has competition. But as usual, Haku's gone before he even has time to get the point across, and he's left to scowl and cross his arms with annoyance, grumbling about stupid little boys and their weird sense of priorities.

And later, much, much later, when he finds himself following another boy with dark hair, this one much different than Haku, with eyes so impassive they're impossible to read and a nostalgic melancholy Suigetsu can't quite pinpoint, he'll yank Zabuza's zanbatō out of the ground and grin from ear-to-ear, finally on his way to his life's goal, basking in the glory of that moment.

"Hell yes! One down, six to go!"

Sasuke's not listening, of course, his eyes faraway, gaze on the bridge in the distance.

Suigetsu sighs, and leans on the handle, opening his mouth to get Sasuke's attention – because someone needs to witness his moment of glory, damn it! – but then the smaller marker next to Zabuza's grave catches his eye, and he turns to it instead. Leaving the sword, Suigetsu moves closer, reaching out to touch the cross. And he knows, suddenly, even if there is no engraving to tell him the story.

"Done gloating already?" A voice captures his attention, and Suigetsu yanks his gaze away from the grave, looking back to Sasuke. The boy is peering at him, looking almost curious.

Suigetsu slips away from the marker, reaching for his sword, slinging it over his shoulder.

"Yeah," he says softly. "Let's go."