.

.

He blinked; the image came into focus, darkness edging around the corners of his eyes.

Zabuza coughed, then tried to sit up; a hand pressed against his chest and forced him down. "You're not well," the man said.

Zabuza struggled to focus on the man's face. A medic nin, Zabuza thought, dizzily. But how...?

His mind skidded to a stop when he remembered Haku lying half-dead on the ground.

"Haku--" Zabuza struggled; the medic-nin shoved him back.

"Easy," the man said. "Take it easy, you're still healing."

"Haku," Zabuza said. His voice was hoarse. He craned his neck, struggling to see. "Haku, Haku, where is he?"

"She's fine," the medic-nin said. "She's resting comfortably. She's quite the resilient young woman. She should be awake, soon."

....she?

Zabuza turned his head and saw Haku lying on the bed beside him, his chest rising and falling with the tide of his breath. Who was this man talking about? And what about Haku...?

"The boy," Zabuza croaked. "What...about...the boy?"

The medic-nin stared.

"There is no boy," the medic-nin said. "Only the young woman is here."

Haku stirred, his eyelids fluttering. The medic-nin frowned and went to his bedside. "She's starting to wake," the medic said. Zabuza watched confused and completely lost as the medic began to press a damp cloth against Haku's forehead.

Zabuza passed out again, the blood loss still too great and the confusion too much to handle.

xXx

.

It was dark when Zabuza woke again, the only light from a single candle flickering in the corner.

Haku's face was pale and feverish; Zabuza could see strands of long damp hair sticking to his forehead. Slowly, Zabuza pushed himself upright, grunting slightly as he stood. "Haku..."

Haku's breathing was shallow, labored; Zabuza could just make out the thin film of sweat on Haku's forehead. He moved closer; Haku moaned, and turned his head. As he did, the opening to his robe fell open, slightly; Zabuza's eyes widened.

Haku had always worn thick robes and thick undergarments before, which obscured the shape of Haku's body. But the robe he was wearing now was thin, little more than a diaphanous gauze clinging to his body.

And Zabuza stared, open-mouthed, at the stiff, pert nipples peaking out from Haku's breasts.

xXx
.

It took a while for Zabuza to get his wits back. Haku moaned again, turning fitfully. Each movement pulled the robe that much tighter around his body, and Zabuza was suddenly privy to every curve, every mound, every rounded softness that Haku had so carefully concealed.

The medic nin stepped up behind him. "She's still feverish," he said. Zabuza gaped at him, unsure of what to say. "The chidori nearly killed her. It will be a while before she heals."

Zabuza nodded, wordlessly. He knelt beside Haku, pressing a hand against his (her) forehead.

"Haku," Zabuza said. And in her fever dream, Haku turned to him and smiled.

xXx

.

On the seventh day, Haku woke, sitting upright with difficulty and blinking her eyes.

Zabuza crouched in the corner and glared, unsure of what to say. It was still difficult to process--Haku wasn't a boy. Haku was a woman. A woman who had deceived him for years.

"Zabuza-san," Haku said. There was something on her face, something between fear and relief, and Zabuza was suddenly reminded of that moment on the bridge, where he had crawled beside her body and cradled her face in his hands. "Zabuza-san, you're...."

"Yes," Zabuza said. "We're alive."

Relief flooded the girl's face. She started to smile, but then she stopped. She always knew Zabuza's moods better than Zabuza knew himself. "What's wrong?"

Zabuza grunted. "Nothing." He tried to ignore the little flash of hurt on the girl's face, concentrating instead on the callouses on his hands.

"Have I...have I displeased you?"

Zabuza's head snapped up. Haku was staring at him, eyes wide with hurt and uncertainty. "Idiot, what do you think?" Zabuza said. "My most prized possession, and you go throwing yourself in front of that man's chidori. Baka. I have no use for broken tools."

Haku stared, her hands clutched to her lap. "Zabuza-san," she said.

"Baka," Zabuza said. Haku hung her head, a tear slipping down her cheek.

Zabuza stood swiftly, his silence serving as a rebuke.

He tried to push away that insane urge to scoop up Haku in his arms.

xXx

.

They left the medic-nin's tent in silence. Neither Haku nor Zabuza spoke. Haku followed him, head hung low and wisps of hair falling loosely around her face. She was dressed as a man again, and it was almost easy to forget the body that was covered underneath. They walked for almost a full day before Zabuza spoke.

"Why must you dress like a woman, Haku?"

Haku raised her eyes. "Zabuza-san?"

"That pink robe," Zabuza said. "The way you wear your hair. When you're not in battle you dress much more...effeminate."

"Oh." Haku smiled, her eyes making darling little half moons as she did. "I suppose it is my gentle nature, Zabuza-san."

"Huh."

They walk in silenced. The road stretched toward the east, black shadows falling on the ground. Haku was troubled; Zabuza could see it in her eyes. She glanced up at him once, twice, until finally Zabuza barked, "What is it? Spit it out already."

"I--" Haku jumped. Her hands fluttered nervously about her throat. "Zabuza-san, I..."

A blush crept up her cheeks. Zabuza's eyes narrowed. "What?" Zabuza said. Haku flushed harder.

"I...I was just remembering...that moment on the bridge," Haku said. She glanced back up at him, shyly. Zabuza grunted.

"I was emotional from the blood loss," Zabuza said.

"...Oh. I see."

Zabuza watched silently as Haku tried to swallow the hurt, focusing her eyes on the ground. "Zabuza-san?"

He glared at her harshly. "What?"

"I just..." She hesitated, her voice thick in her throat. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I know you have no use for a broken tool."

"Hmph." Zabuza's face was a mask. "We'll see how you'll redeem yourself."

"Yes, Zabuza-san."

They lapsed into silence again, Zabuza watching the haze covering the moon.

xXx

.

That night, Zabuza could hear Haku crying.

They were in a wooden lodge, sharing a room because of a lack of money. Zabuza had retired to one corner of the room, turning his back on Haku, who had laid down, silently. Now, in the darkness, he could hear the muffled sounds of Haku crying softly, each jagged breath piercing the night air.

Zabuza moved and lit a lamp.

Haku took a breath; her eyes were red and swollen from crying. Orange light bounced off her pale skin, and pieces of hair stuck to her forehead. Zabuza's eyes narrowed. "What's wrong?" Zabuza said. Haku shook her head.

"Nothing," Haku said. "I'm sorry to have wakened you."

She started to move, pulling her blanket tight around her shoulders, when Zabuza grasped her by the arm.

Haku turned, and in the orange lamplight Zabuza was struck just how small she looked, and delicate. This was his Haku, his weapon, small and frail and tiny as a little bird.

Something in him compelled him to say, "Haku. Take off your robe."

Haku's eyes widened, just a little. She took a step back, clutching her blanket around her. "Why?"

"I want to see your wounds," Zabuza said. He stepped forward. "I want to see the state of my tool." And even in the dim lamplight, Zabuza could see Haku flush.

"You know, something has occurred to me," Zabuza said. He stepped forward, making Haku shrink back. "I've never seen your chest. Most men have no qualms about these things, but I've noticed, you've always been careful never to be shirtless. Why is that?"

"Zabuza-san, please," Haku said. Zabuza stepped closer.

"Take off your robe, Haku," Zabuza said.

"Zabuza..."

"Now."

Haku stared, stricken. Slowly, she shrugged off the blanket; it fell over the crooks of her arms. The blanket fell at her feet. Haku's eyes flicked upward, uncertainly, before she looked down again and started untying her sash. "Zabuza-san," Haku said. One side of the robe fell, baring one perfect bare shoulder. "Please. Forgive me."

The robe fell. Zabuza stared, impassive, as Haku stood naked from the waist up, her chest marred by the ugly burn at the center.

Zabuza stepped forward. Haku flinched. Not more than a finger's breadth away, his hand fell onto the curve of her shoulder, tracing a line down to the perfect mound of her left breast. The edge of his thumb scraped roughly against her nipple and she breathed hard through her nose, cheeks flushed and staring at the ground.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Zabuza said. He kneaded Haku's breast roughly, standing close and making her squirm. "Why?"

"Zabuza-san--"

But before Haku can choke out the words, Zabuza crushed her against his arms. He kissed her violently, aggressively, shoving her against the wall. "You are mine," Zabuza says. "My tool. My weapon. You had no right to hide this from me."

"I didn't think I would be of any use..." Haku pulled at him desperately, fingers digging into his bicep. "I didn't think a shinobi like you would have any use for a girl..."

"Baka," Zabuza growled, and he shoved her against the ground.

xXx

.

The first time was not so much about love as it was claiming his piece, marking his ownership as if he were carving his name. Haku was his. His. Didn't stop to think when he tore into her, didn't stop to ask when she cried out in pain. She forced herself to submit, like the way they first trained.

The second time she was lying naked beside him, eyes closed and panting softly. He pressed his hand between her legs, her flesh still sticky and swollen. His thumb ghosted across her clit and she moaned softly, hair damp and stuck to her face as he eased himself inside her.

They shared a kiss that was deeper this time, and it was less about who was using whom.

xXx

.

He remembered the time at the bridge; Haku's bruised and battered body flung on the ground, blood seeping through her chest and her face.

Zabuza didn't know then; didn't know who Haku was when he cupped her face and fondled her chin in his hand. He thought about the watery light that poured on them then, and the single tear that slipped down Haku's face.

Now Haku was crying again. "Did I hurt you?" Zabuza said. Haku shook her head, her cheeks red and her arms crossed against her breasts.

"I'm sorry, Zabuza-san," Haku said, and she choked a sob. "It's just...it's just I'm so happy."

"Baka," Zabuza said, and he pulled Haku close, letting her nestle against his chest. "My idiot pupil is always crying."

Haku made a sound, her voice muffled against Zabuza's neck, and he grunted, holding her close. They held each other like that for the rest of the night, Haku crying softly in Zabuza's arms.

xXx

.

It rained as they slept, the rain and moonlight making streaks of shadows on the floor. Beside him, Haku stirred, and Zabuza frowned, silently. It was funny, Zabuza thought. How rain and moonlight seemed more personal than tears, more intimate than the naked revelation of two souls converging in the dark.

Naruto was right; Zabuza cared more for his tool than he ever knew. And when she curled herself up against him, he swore to himself that he would never hurt her, he would never use her or abuse her again.

He didn't tell Haku this, of course. He brushed back the hair from her face. There were limits to what a self-respecting man would do.


A/N: You know, when I first started writing this, I had no intention of doing a Haku/Zabuza gender!swap. This actually started out being Epic Crack, more of a "what if Zabuza finds out Haku is a girl?" - Zabuza finding Haku's underthings and whatnot and being all flustered. But, uh, it took a turn for the angsty side, lol :)