Chapter 24

But If I Told You I Cared You Would Think I Was Crazy

Zabuza ended up not going to his "work trip to Berlin" after all. He even found the perfect excuse for it, which would have involved him having a very heated argument on the phone with someone. It would have been fun. Not that his pet asked for any explanation. Or reacted in any way to the news.

Honestly, Zabuza could have shit on the floor and the boy probably would not have raised an eyebrow. The neko had been like this for a few days now, ever since their argument and the older man could not stand it. The silence, the skittish look, his toy fucking not being with him in the afternoons. Haku even ruined sparring for the other man, just standing there, useless, his attempts at it even more pathetic than the first time he held the stick. And Zabuza knew he could do better, just last week the kitty had come this close to hitting him.

At least Haku had decided to show up today. Zabuza chose to believe it was because the kitty had missed spending time with him, and how could he not, and not because of the older man's threatening words.

Well, to be fair, they hadn't even been that threatening. He had just noted that Haku was being very forgetful these past few days and it would be a shame if the same happened with Zabuza, himself. It was more like a kindergarten squabble than anything else, at least for Zabuza's standards.

But it had given results because here was Haku, sitting quietly on the armchair next to him, and that was all that mattered. Except... There was still the heavy silence, hanging like lead in the air and if Zabuza didn't know any better he would have thought his pet was sulking. Just the thought of that was enough to get his blood boiling but he held it together. No point in getting angry now, when it could only lead to more silence and more... sulking.

No, there was only one thing he could do, despite how dreadful it was. He sighed, mentally preparing himself, then turned to the boy.

"So, what were you parents like?"

What had become of him, he wondered idly, to seek conversation with the boy. With his toy for God's sake. There was nothing Haku could tell him that he already didn't know or cared to know.

Wide black eyes stared at him, filled with surprise, certainly, but not an ounce of fear.

"I thought it was customary to return the question," Zabuza explained. When even that did not warrant a response, he cleared his throat.

Maybe it had been a stupid plan. What had he thought, that one question would fix everything that had happened that night. Not that he thought for one second he had done the wrong thing, he had had every right to be angry- seeing HIS toy in the company of another man, at night, fucking smiling and yes... He was getting angry again, and it was not the time.

His kitty didn't respond to anger as well as he used to.

"But you never did answer the question, sir," Haku finally answered, the corners of his mouth puling just slightly.

"Cheeky brat." Zabuza smirked and the tiny smile on the other's lips grew, a laughter escaping his full lips.

Zabuza tracked the movement, something strange burning in his chests, before the expectant look in those twinkling eyes told him the boys was waiting for him to answer the question. He found himself surprised that he didn't mind obliging.

"They were pretty normal. Mom was a doctor, dad- a teacher. Can't say I inherited any of their good qualities. Both of them died when I was 20, you know, just long enough for them to have already given up on their sadistic brat. But, hey, can you blame them?"

It was more than he had told anyone else and it was a weird sensation. Zabuza had never doubted himself, he knew just the kind of person he was and he was fine with it. But saying all of this, knowing that he would never be able to take it all back if he wanted to and there will always be someone who knew. It made him feel a vulnerability he had never experienced.

"How about yours, kitty?" He was scared the boy will ask for more, even more, that he will inevitably give it to him. So he chose to change the subject. When Haku didn't answer, Zabuza forced himself to smirk and tease, "I showed you mine. It's only fair."

The twinkle of amusement was gone, he realized. Had he pushed too far? But then the boy started talking, describing the cell that had been his life for so many years, the woman that had helped and nurtured him, the guards the older man wanted to track down and kill, one by one. Haku spoke of the tests that had been performed on him and Zabuza realized, would be performed on him, if his plan worked.

Haku told him about escaping, what it had cost him, living on the street for months before Sasuke found him. The years he had spent in the shop, how it had not been much better but, in a way it had been, at least someone had cared for him.

By the time he finished, Haku was crying, his face flushed and breath ragged.

"I'm sorry," the boy started to say. Zabuza just shook his head, wordlessly. Sasuke had filled him in about some things, mainly concerning the kitty's later years. But he had always assumed that Haku had spent his childhood running around in some forest or some shit with his whole clan. The way the boy made it sound, he had been a prisoner from a very young age. Only to end up here with Zabuza, a fate no better than everything else that had happened to him.

Zabuza shook his head again, more to himself than anything else. He couldn't deal with this now. He wanted to reach forward and grab one of those hands, bailed into tiny fists, to bury his fingers inside that soft wall of hair, to make him... better. So, of course, instead of that he left.

It wasn't the smartest option but it was the only one. Zabuza didn't do feeling. Not someone else's and certainly not his own. It did work, though, his plan to ease the tension between himself and the kitty. The next day the boy was smiling at him, cooking for him, and, God, he hadn't realized how much he missed the neko's cooking. If he could he would fire all of his servants and just ask Haku to do everything. Then again, that would probably lead to his kitty moving permanently in the kitchen, which was not something Zabuza saw as acceptable.

What he hadn't planned, however, was for Haku to decide that this heart-to-heart bullshit would become a part of their afternoon tradition. Not even an hour had passed in blissful, relaxed silence and Haku was laying down his book and Zabuza knew what that meant even before the boy opened his mouth.

"So did you love your parents?"

"Why the fuck are you so obsessed with my parents?" Zabuza growled. He remembered how yesterday's conversation had ended, the last thing he wanted was a replay.

His eyes narrowed when Haku quickly shook his head. He wasn't phased by the other man's anger, eyes shining with determination and that irked Zabuza. The only way he knew how to control people was through fear. Fear and power, they walked hand in hand in the man's life. After all, no one could harm you when they were cowering at your feet.

"I'm sorry, sir," Haku must have seen something because the words slipped through his lips almost as a reflex. He was quiet for a while, just enough for Zabuza to think he had dropped the subject, before he mumbled.

"I just never had parents, real parents. And I wanted to know if what I had with Miwa was something every child has with their mom and dad. Just, so I can prove to myself that she was really a mother to me, even if she didn't give birth to me. That probably sounds strange. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I bothered you, sir."

That could have been the end to the conversation. It should have been the end to the conversation. But Haku was staring at him, eyes so wide and expressive, so damn vulnerable. He looked like a child and Zabuza's mind was suddenly filled with a million ways he could try to make it all better.

Instead, he scoffed.

"Of course she was your mother. She is the reason you are alive, isn't she? She took care of you for years, still would if she hadn't sacrificed herself for you."

The words were crude, his voice cold. Haku's eyes looked dangerously watery, nonetheless. The boy started to nod, opened his mouth to no doubt say something that would make this moment more meaningful than Zabuza cared for it to be.

"Just so you know," Zabuza cut him off, "this sharing and caring shit? Not my kind of thing."

The boy hurried to nod, the tears gathered in his eyes spilling, before he laughed. It sounded more like a huff than anything but Zabuza could hear the relief in it, the sheer happiness that radiated from that small sound.

And he hated himself for how that made him feel.

"So, how does your whole master-slave thing work?" Zabuza asked suddenly. It turned out small talk was becoming a part of their tradition, sneaking into it quietly while Zabuza was not looking, and by that time the man had already dropped any pretence he was not curious about certain aspects of his kitty's life.

Most of the things they shared were innocuous, though, like the book Haku was reading or how Zabuza's day had been. Rarely, they delved into the past, and even then the older man was conscious not to touch anything that might turn his kitty into a wailing mess on the floor. Not that this had ever happened, but you couldn't be too precautious when it came to feelings, at least in Zabuza's mind. And it wasn't that he cared about the other's feelings, he just really didn't want to see his breakdown.

It mostly left them with Zabuza retelling some funny childhood memory.

What Zabuza had in his defence for starting today's conversation was only his curiosity. A certain question had preoccupied his mind these past few days and he was not a man who liked not knowing things.

"Did you love me, then?" he asked, when the boy just stared at him. It was a weird question, certainly not one he had ever asked before but he told himself he didn't care for the answer. He just wanted to understand.

"I don't think I loved you," Haku answered automatically, before freezing, probably afraid the other man would react poorly. Zabuza just waved at him to continue, his face as blank as before, a mask that guarded him from the world. Or was it the other way around? "I was made to serve you. I had to follow your every order, blindly, no care for what I wanted. I could never disobey you. When you wanted to hurt me, I was only allowed to cry if you wanted me to." Haku's breath shuddered. "Perhaps..." Perhaps, if you cared enough it could have been love. Instead, Haku said, "I don't think this is love. I don't think it was supposed to be love."

Haku lifted his eyes and just for a moment Zabuza thought that maybe he knew.

"I don't think anyone could have made me love you."

A chuckle escaped Zabuza's mouth. His lips stretched into a smile, sharp as a razor.

"I wouldn't worry about that if I were you."

A/N Anyone else happy that Haku finally found his spine? 'Cause, seriously, this is insanely satisfying to write.