A/N: Written for the August round of Naruto flashfics. Covers the time Suigetsu spent in Orochimaru's camp. No spoilers for recent manga canon.

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Faith

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On the fifth day of his imprisonment, Suigetsu pressed his fingers against the glass walls of his prison and smiled.

He had kept a journal, back home. Its cover had been black leather and its pages the finest quality of paper. Buying it had meant stealing spare change from the teachers for three months and faking a wound in order to skip class. Every concealing jutsu he knew had gone into hiding it. He had only ever written in it during dead of night, when everyone else in his dorm was asleep, with a pen he'd stolen from Sasaki-sensei which drew in an ink so black it hurt the eyes to look at it. To its silent pages, he spoke all his secrets and ambitions and listed all his hatreds. It was his one rebellion, his only companion among a crowd of classmates whom he would eventually have to kill and thus could not risk caring for.

Mist genin were not supposed to treasure possessions. Treasuring things could lead to treasuring people, after all, and that would only be a weakness. Their lives were spartan so that they could focus better on learning their business: death. Suigetsu knew that being caught with the journal was an offense punishable by having his chakra completely drained and a thorough beating once he was beyond self-healing.

It was the fifth day of his imprisonment, and the latent jutsu he'd placed into in the event of his unexpected departure would have taken effect an hour ago.

His journal, his one silent objection to the hell they had made his life, was now a fine pile of ashes in a dark hole in the wall of a dormitory room he would never see again.

There were many things he would never forgive his village for, and many things he would never forgive the man who had kidnapped him for, and many of those things coincided, but for making him lose his journal he would put out their eyes first before letting them die.

It was an effort to stay materialized in this heavy, flat soup the serpent-faced man had somehow known to put him in, but Suigetsu gritted his teeth and held his form long enough to slam his fist into the glass. His knuckles split, flesh gaping wide, and only water poured out. The pain was immediate but unsatisfying. The glass didn't even tremble.

"Heh," he said, and melted into nothing.

xxxxx

There were others, he learned soon. Right now they were all crammed into this tiny building, but he'd heard them talking and gathered that there were other 'camps' in construction right now that they would eventually be split up across.

No one knew why they were there, or who the man with the strange eyes and inhuman tongue was. All that seemed evident was that every child in the room had their own special talents that had set them apart from their peers.

That one could fly. The one over there had an affinity for stealth jutsu which made him practically undetectable when he chose to be unseen. That one could do transformation jutsus beyond the level of any teacher Suigetsu had ever had, and had nearly crushed them all turning himself into a giant dragon on his first day, until the snake-man came with a boy wearing glasses who did something funny to him that turned him right back. The boy bound with iron in the corner was apparently prone to berserker rages of unimaginable power. The girl was good at sensing chakra even from extreme distances.

There was one boy whom their kidnapper seemed especially fond of. Whenever he came into the room, Suigetsu always found himself wishing he hide. Suigetsu wasn't afraid of anything, but the boy with white hair and dead green eyes...

His name was Kimimaro, Suigetsu learned on the eighth day, and he had come here willingly. Orochimaru-- the snake man-- treated him almost like a favoured pet, and Kimimaro only ever looked passably happy when he was around.

As the days passed, he learned more. Flying-boy's name was Atsurou. Invisible-boy was Shin. Chameleon-boy was Yuki, the berserker was Juugo, the girl was Karin. Most of the time they were left to their own devices so-- after trying their hardest to escape and finding it unsurprisingly impossible-- they turned to learning about each other since they had nothing better to do.

Most of the time Suigetsu ignored them. They were children, whiny and pathetic and afraid of their own shadows. They clung to each other for comfort because they didn't have the guts to stand up to the darkness by themselves. They made him sick.

Juugo especially disgusted him. The boy obviously had power coming out his ass, but all he could seem to do was cry about it and beg forgiveness from people who weren't even there since they were dead and gone and thus not even worth thinking about. The only time he was even remotely interesting was when he lost it, which happened usually about once every two days. When that happened, his form got all twisted and warped and he strained against his iron shackles while shouting gutturally at top volume. It was especially amusing if he did it in the middle of the night when everyone else was trying to sleep. Suigetsu didn't have to sleep, not in this form, so it didn't bother him in the least. On the contrary, watching all the other kids yell and bitch because Juugo was interrupting their beauty sleep was paramount to high entertainment in this shitty place. Eventually, however, Juugo would get over it and go back to bawling like an infant in his corner and Suigetsu would be annoyed and bored all over again.

Karin pissed him off, too. Her way of dealing with her capture seemed to be sucking up to Orochimaru at every possible opportunity. The other kids at least had some degree of backbone-- whenever their captor came in, they glared their loser heads off and made stupid threats. Karin hadn't even tried to escape. She'd just... given up, right away. Suigetsu didn't know how she'd grown up to make her so twisted and really didn't care. Watching her bow and scrape and fawn made him ill. He told her so, and that had at least spawned a fairly entertaining shouting match after which she had refused to speak to him ever again. 'Ever again' had lasted about ten minutes, and then she'd started in on him again. He loathed her.

The other kids didn't irritate him quite as much, but neither were they really interesting. They stuck to each other like grains of overcooked rice and were about as tough. Despite all their bravado, the minute Orochimaru left they dissolved into tears and couldn't sleep without holding hands after the first day together.

It was a relief for him when the camps were completed and he learned that Karin and Juugo would be sent to different camps. A tiny, childish part of him which refused to die cried out in protest at losing the things he was familiar with yet again, but he ruthlessly quashed it until it stopped its caterwauling and he felt comfortably numb.

All things considered, it was hell, but Suigetsu was used to hell and at least this one wasn't as painful. There were no classmates to fight to the death, no vicious beatings, nothing left he cared about to be stripped away. There was just him, naked and formless in the dark water with nothing to do and nothing to live for. It was the closest thing to peace he'd ever known.

Most of the time he was left alone, and Orochimaru's experiments were no worse than experiences he had already lived through back in school, and they rarely took longer than a day or so. After they were finished they put him back in his tube and let him sleep the days away.

For years Suigetsu floated through his half-life. He never smiled, but neither did he cry, and there wasn't much point to getting angry. Without sunlight or any rhyme or reason to the timing for experiments, days passed unmarked and unremembered.

He didn't start counting time again until a boy with dark hair and cold eyes full of death found him in his watery prison-- half-forgotten in a dusty backroom-- and told him that should he win against Orochimaru, Suigetsu would be needed for his plans after that.

The idea of someone defeating Orochimaru was so patently ridiculous that for a long time-- hours, probably-- all he could do was laugh. He had legions of the most talented children of the generation held captive, and not a single one of them had ever been able to do anything about it. Those that escaped always came back, thinner and with dead eyes. Orochimaru was invicible and seemed able to see everywhere at once. Defeat him? The very concept was laughable.

The dark-haired boy left and Suigetsu just laughed, endlessly, madly on and on.

Days later the boy came back and said it again, quiety, with the same bewildering self-confidence as last time.

Again, Suigetsu only laughed. The boy left.

The next time he came back, he told Suigetsu his name.

Ninja school was very far away through the trackless ocean of time, but the name of Uchiha was not easily forgotten. That name had been smeared across Suigetsu's history textbooks, along with the dread word 'sharingan,' those terrible eyes which could unveil the future and make one see horrors which were not there but still had teeth.

Orochimaru was strong. Suigetsu knew that beyond doubt. He had abilities far beyond any jounin Suigetsu had ever met and a cruel intellect to match them. He was undeniably a great shinobi. However, he was also arrogant, and that would be the crack which would let the flood in. He would never believe that a mere pet, a conveniently talented animate chunk of flesh he planned to occupy one day, could possibly offer him any sort of threat. He would see Sasuke coming, and he would not react, but not quickly enough. He would not be nearly as afraid as he would need to be to survive against this warrior child. He had brought him into his inner sanctum, and like a cancer, Sasuke was going to destroy him from the inside out. Sasuke was someone Orochimaru could lose to, and Sasuke clearly expected to win.

Suigetsu began to believe.

XxxxxX

A/N: I always like characters more after I write about them, and this is no exception. I'm a lot warmer towards Team Taka now than I was before I started writing this. :)