There was no breath at first, only confusion, the feeling of something magnificent lost, and a dully aching pain in his chest.
The dirt was not easy to claw through. Everywhere he pushed, it was packed hard and solid. It was beyond frustrating, but his composure was not so easily lost. He picked on place, and drilled all of his strength into pushing at it. The unfamiliarity with not breathing was starting to become maddening. He needed air, he needed to breathe before he died, he needed to escape from — from wherever he was before he—
Haku reached the surface of the ground and sucked in countless breaths of air as he groped his way out of the ground.
Once free from its clutches, Haku stumbled a foot or two away from the hole he had made, almost afraid of being swallowed up again, then fell to the ground once again. The boy curled up on his side, noticing only then that he was trembling. He clenched a fist to try to make the tremors stops, then squeezed his eyes shut so he wouldn't have to see the dirt and filth under his nails and on his skin — it probably caked his hair, too.
The pain in his chest was harder to ignore that it was moving with every longed-for breath. Haku brought a hand to his chest, right to the site of pain. He gasped softly when he felt a gaping hole and rapidly blinked his eyes open in order to inspect by peering down the collar of his turtleneck sweater. The once green fabric was torn in places, making it easier to stretch.
Though most of his other senses felt wildly confused, Haku had not been wrong in identifying what he had felt. There was an ugly wound on his chest in the form of a hole about the size of a fist. The surrounding area was devoid of blood. However, the entire front of his clothing was crusted with something dark, but in the moonlight, Haku could not tell what the dried substance was — just that it was not all dirt.
Haku started to move a hand toward the wound to inspect it further, but he stopped and watched in utter amazement as the flesh knitted itself back together, effectively closing the wound leaving behind a morbid network of scars.
Through the hole in the front of his sweater, Haku brushed his fingers against his skin, flinched in surprise, then tried again. Curiously caressing the pale, raised flesh did not hurt. The pain had faded entirely, leaving the young shinobi to ponder over what exactly had just happened: clawing his way out of the hard-packed ground, watching as a gaping wound closed itself before his eyes— Where was—
Haku stopped breathing.
A flood of memories hit Haku hard. Traveling out of Kirigakure, taking jobs as hit men wherever Zabuza deemed the pay was good, arriving in the Land of Waves and meeting up with Gato, running into Hatake Kakashi and his three Konoha genin… Then the fight on the bridge. Being alive suddenly seemed very, very wrong — but at the same time, the ugly scarring on his chest was a reminder that he had stepped up and saved Zabuza's life when he got in the way of Kakashi's Chidoi.
Haku came to the conclusion that he had died; there was no doubt about it. The last living memory he could come up with was feeling Kakashi's fist sending a powerful shock of lightning chakra through his chest — hence the wound, then the scar. Haku wondered briefly how his master had fared in the remainder of the fight; he had only got the Uchiha out of the way. The kunoichi shouldn't have been a problem, and the bridge-builder was not a shinobi. Kakashi had put a lot of power into conjuring up his Chidori, so Haku assumed that Zabuza's only trouble would have come from Naruto — the kid had had a lot of hidden power.
But Zabuza was strong; Haku never had doubts about his master.
It then occurred to Haku that he had failed Zabuza by dying, and he started to wonder where he had gone to find a replacement tool. Maybe if he could find him, then Zabuza would take him back. Being replaced felt like being betrayed, but Zabuza had every right to... But that wasn't going to stop Haku from trying to hunt him down.
Haku stood shakily — it was hard to remember how to make his legs work. He looked out at the town below. It was nighttime, and there weren't many lights to signal that anyone was out and about. It he could just slip into a house and paralyze the owners long enough so that he could bathe himself and clean and repair his clothes, then he could be on his way to searching for Zabuza by morning. But he had to do something about the grave he had climbed out of. He did not know if any of the villagers came up on this hill, but if they did, and open grave would have them on high alert.
Haku's hands were already dirtied from clawing his way out of the grave, so he could simply push the dirt back into place and hope no one came up to inspect before the grass had time to grow back.
Haku turned to his grave to get to work, but froze in his tracks. There was a spot next to his own grave that was mark by the same wooden cross that he had knocked over as he had climbed out of the hole. "Oh. … Oh. Please, no…" Haku stumbled over his own grave to the one beside it and, without hesitation, started tearing into the ground with his hands. His breath stuttered nervously, because he knew that this grave was more likely to belong to Zabuza than anyone else, despite the fact that moments ago, Haku had been mulling over Zabuza's victory.
As he dug, the ground beneath him started to move as well, and an arm shot up from a surprisingly soft spot in the dirt, gripping Haku's upper arm. He had no time to be surprised or scared; Haku dug around the arm, then pulled carefully so he would not dislocate bones when he spotted a torso and shoulder in the moonlight. It was rough work, and Haku could feel sweat sliding down his face, mixing with the dirt. Still, he resisted the urge to wipe it away until he had Zabuza's upper body free and in his arms.
Zabuza was heavy and thick, and it didn't seem like he could move his arms very well at first. Haku desperately repeated apologies against Zabuza's ear as they both struggled to get the rest of him out of the ground. The only sound he got from Zabuza was a grunt as the man pushed one more time, then climbed the rest of the way out. A wall of dirt gave way as they took refuge between the two graves. Zabuza brought Haku on top of himself; the space was far too limited for them to both lay out. They were both panting at the exertion, and Haku rose and fell with each movement of Zabuza's chest.
The younger looked from his own grave to Zabuza's. Whereas his only consisted of a hole big enough for himself to fit through, they had both made a mess of Zabuza's. Dirt was strewn everywhere, and there looked to be no way to fix up his grave to make it seem remotely normal anymore.
Zabuza didn't care. All that mattered was that he was out now, and somehow alive. Haku, too.
"My sword?" Zabuza twisted his neck, searching for the gleam of the Kubikiribocho.
"It's not here, Zabuza-san," Haku replied hesitantly. Zabuza did not travel without his sword — ever. "I'm sorry."
A curse tumbled past his lips, so close to Haku's ear, it almost made him tremble. He said no more and they did not move for awhile. Zabuza was flexing his arms carefully, and Haku wondered what could have previous happened to make them hard for him to move. He did not know how Zabuza had died, and he was not going to ask, but he was tempted to tell him that his own wound had fixed itself, and that perhaps Zabuza's would too.
However, he didn't get the chance, for in that few moments time, Zabuza seemed to regain his ability to move them, and briefly wound them around Haku's middle to stand them both up.
Zabuza was figuring things out faster than Haku had. "We're in the Land of Waves," he confirmed, looking down at the town as he let go of Haku. "And alive again, somehow… Come, Haku." Zabuza turned to a path that led down from the hill, and his tool followed him loyally, forgetting about fixing their graves. "Is this a jutsu?" Zabuza asked, glancing back at Haku.
It was only then that Haku realized that Zabuza was missing the bandages from his face. They were still wound around his neck, though were dirty and torn. Haku could easily look past the dirt and peer at Zabuza's face and confirm that he was the most handsome man he had ever seen. "I don't know, sir," was Haku's distracted response.
Zabuza picked the first house they saw. It was slightly father back from the rest of the village, close to the bay. Not minding how much noise he made, Zabuza kicked in the door. He slipped a hand into his pocket, finding a dirtied, rusted kunai knife, and slipped into the bedroom to slash the throat of the lone man that lived here before Haku could stop him and suggest something less violent.
"Haku," Zabuza called for him from the bedroom. Haku followed his voice hesitantly, keeping his eyes straight ahead to not see the bloodied, now dead body on the bed. Zabuza was in the bathroom, tearing at the bandages around his neck and letting them drop to the floor, followed by his forehead protector, that clattered noisily after the silent strips of cloth.
Haku watched him a moment, then swallowed when Zabuza shot him an expectant look and quickly followed his master's example. Haku removed his forehead protector and set it on the sink, then untied the cloth holding his bun together, letting his hand fall around his shoulders. He had a plethora of senbon hidden along his person, and carefully picked each of them out and set them aside with his forehead protector. Zabuza had a couple more kunai, but he uncaringly let those clatter to the ground with everything else of his.
Haku stilled in place when Zabuza started removing clothes.
Was he supposed to too...?
Haku got his answer when Zabuza shot him another look. Swallowing again, Haku turned to give Zabuza privacy as they both stripped down to nothing but their undergarments. Zabuza stopped there, and Haku breathed a silent sigh of relief. He already felt exposed enough, especially with the garish scars marring his chest.
Regardless, Haku was glad to slip into the shower when with him when Zabuza beckoned for him.
Showering with Zabuza was perhaps the most breathtakingly erotic thing Haku had ever experienced. They did not take turns with the spray of the water; rather, Zabuza held Haku close and they attempted to share it. Zabuza's wide shoulders blocked a good portion of it from Haku, but he didn't mind, as long as Zabuza's big hands didn't leave his waist…
They did not speak as the scorching hot water washed over them, taking with it dirt and leaving behind streaks of clean skin. Not all of it was so easily washed off, though, and Haku took the initiative to help scrub Zabuza's skin, despite the fact that Zabuza was not yet returning the favor. He was happy just to be given a chance to touch him, to glide his slender fingers across his chest and over the hard muscles in Zabuza's arms. Sometimes his fingers lingered, and he would catch Zabuza watching him curiously.
The shower floor was quickly dirtied by the filth the two shinobi had collected from their graves. Haku could not help but wonder how long they had been buried in the earth, but did not voice his question; it was unlikely Zabuza knew, either, if he had been killed shortly after Haku had.
"Turn around." It was the first thing Zabuza had said since Haku had joined him in the bathroom, and the gruffness and suddenness of his voice was almost startling. The only sounds lately had been the water hitting skin and the floor. It took a moment for Haku to register the command, but when it did, he obeyed, turning his back to Zabuza.
He had to bite his lip to suppress a groan of disappointment when the warm hands slipped from his slick waist, but he had to bite down even harder when a hand brushed his hip and brought him closer. Haku's eyelids fluttered when the strong hands slipping into his hair. The long, inky strands were given the full attention of the spray of water. Zabuza's hands helping by softening it out was unbelievably soothing — but the poor man didn't know what to do with so much hair once it was clean enough to untangle it before washing.
"I can do it, Zabuza-san," Haku offered, waiting as Zabuza's hands retreated gratefully, brushing against Haku's shoulders. "Thank you."
Haku turned back around just as Zabuza stepped fully under the water to scrub his hands through his short mess of hair a few times. He watched, almost mesmerized, then didn't realize Zabuza was speaking to him until he slid the glass door of the shower open. "…and come out when you're finished," he heard before the door shut.
By the time Haku was finally able to slip into the living room where Zabuza was, he felt exhausted. Cleaning his hair had taken nearly as much time as cleaning their clothes had, and he was fairly certain Zabuza looked like he had been waiting around for more than an hour for him to finish. The man was spread across the couch, arms behind his head, frowning curiously into the distance. His face contorted slightly at the same time Haku heard a far-off voice in his head.
"Itachi, Sasori, Deidara, Kakuzu, and Nagato."
Haku, too, frowned; he did not recognize any of the names. "Zabuza-san—" Haku started, but was cut off as more names were rattled off.
"Former Akatsuki members. Then, former Jinchuriki. Not to mention, a collection of other exceptional shinobi. Sarutobi Asuma — formerly a Konoha nin, defeated by the immortal partnered with Kakuzu that we couldn't get back. Chiyo — from Sunagakure, holding some relation to Sasori. She was useful in the Second Shinobi War. Kimimaro — one of Orochimaru-sama's old playthings. It's a shame we could not locate Jiraiya's body..."
"Do you hear that?" Haku gasped, bringing a hand to his forehead. The sound of the voice was sending chills along his body.
"Ignore it," Zabuza retorted, taking his clothes as Haku handed them to him. He dressed quickly, still looking off.
Haku felt faintly ill at the idea that something was very, very wrong, and Zabuza's expression did not help. "You hear it, too, then?" Haku asked for confirmation.
"I said just ignore it," he warned once again, then surprised Haku by drawing him close with a thick arm.
"Edo Tensei — it's a reanimation jutsu. He said it earlier." Zabuza's expression was grim. "A war is about to start. Reanimated corpses are what he's making an army of." Haku's misunderstanding expression told Zabuza that he had not started hearing the voices until now — but Zabuza's words were turning the expression.
As Haku peered up at Zabuza, he could see the whites of his eyes starting to darken, and his heart leapt.
"There's no stopping it. Don't try," Zabuza said, reading the expression in Haku's eyes as his, too, starting to turn black, like ink had spilled into them. The older shinobi let out a slow breath that stirred single, strays hairs on Haku's forehead. His expression took a painful turn. "I wanted to have more time— Haku—"
The words he needed to say were straining to get past the fogginess that was suddenly filling his mind and clouding his vision, even though there was physically nothing in front of his face but Haku. His arm slipped from around Haku, falling heavily to his side, but he continued pressing against the force so he could lean in and just barely brush his lips against Haku's softly parted ones.
"I love you."
Haku was rigid, his eyes fully black and brown. He was unable to respond, and the final wave of clouds covered Zabuza's mind completely.
Two wooden boxes sprouted from the floor, capturing each shinobi individually, then the fourth wall slammed shut, and everything went completely black for a few seconds. Zabuza and Haku did not come to as they were lined up alongside hundreds of other blank-faced shinobi.
"Momochi Zabuza, the Demon of Kirigakure. And Haku, a brat with an ice kekkei genkai."
A/N: This didn't come out as great and depressing and beautiful as I had imagined in my head, but. Whatever. Nothing ever does. D;
This is a present for one of my best friends that I met nearly a year ago because of this pairing. We watched the newest Naruto Shippuden episode Thursday night just for Zabuza and Haku, and that's what brought this on, although I didn't start on it until today. ;; Anyway, I hope she at least enjoys it! But if other people do, too, that's great too. o3o
The italized words are obviously Kabuto talking. I skimmed volume 52 as I wrote his parts, and I am completely aware that not much of it is similar at all. And it's not supposed to be.