I own nothing.


When he was newly captured by Sound, when he was still living half of his life in that tank, Suigetsu was pretty much determined to wholly despise everyone he came across. Ignominious defeat and capture does not a happy killing machine make, after all, even if Orochimaru did occasionally remember to feed him.

What, he was supposed to be grateful for that? The giant creep certainly acted as though Suigetsu was supposed to be grateful for anything he gave him or let him do, but Suigetsu was never big on gratitude. Or Stockholm Syndrome, for that matter. Getting pumped full of drugs and venom to test his reactions before he got stuck in the tank wasn't doing anything on either of those fronts.

The others he met in there? He didn't much care for them either.

Sasuke would occasionally come and talk to him when he was in his tank. He was much the same as Orochimaru, arrogantly believing that Suigetsu ought to fall all over himself in gratitude over the fact that Sasuke deigned to talk to him at all. His arrogance wasn't nearly as flamboyant, and sometimes could even be hidden behind flat eyes and a toneless voice, but Suigetsu could still see it. People like Sasuke were so arrogant that they themselves couldn't see it, but anyone else with eyes could.

But he was powerful. Anyone with eyes could see that too. And if there was one thing Suigetsu respected, it was power.

He still didn't like him.

When Suigetsu met Karin… When he met her… Well, Suigetsu's still pretty ashamed to own up to this, but he'd thought she was kinda pretty. In a cold, sneering, man-eater kind of way, of course. Suigetsu's got a thing for red hair, and God knows Karin's got plenty of bright red hair. But what he also noticed pretty quick was that Karin was a total bitch. The scars were pretty hard to miss too.

One thing everybody who's not named Orochimaru, Yakushi Kabuto or Uchiha Sasuke figures out pretty quick about Karin is simply: ask about the scars and Karin kicks your ass six ways to Sunday. Ask about them snidely and she tries her very best to put you in traction. The only thing that saved Suigetsu's spleen was dissolving into water before she could deal too much in the way of "put him in the hospital" damage.

Things he decided about Karin that day:

#1: She wasn't nearly pretty enough for that to make up for her bitchiness.

#2: He really liked pissing her off. Even if she did beat him up for it.

And Juugo…

Juugo was just plain nuts. Psychotic to the core and unstoppable in his berserker rage. Suigetsu knew this for a fact—he'd been pitted against Juugo in staged fights (for 'observation', Orochimaru always said) often enough to know that. Juugo was not someone Suigetsu wanted to be in the same room with. No. Scratch that. Juugo wasn't someone Suigetsu particularly wanted to be on the same continent with.

But when Sasuke got the band together, he still joined in a heartbeat. It was only for convenience's sake. Sasuke was aiming to kill his brother Itachi, and Itachi's partner in the Akatsuki was Hoshigaki Kisame, wielder of the great Samehada. With Zabuza and Kisame's swords, he'd have two of the Seven Swordsman's swords under his possession, and be well on his way to reforming the Seven Swordsman of the Mist. If Sasuke was using them all as a means to an end, well, Suigetsu was using them too. Fair. He didn't have to like any of them. And he didn't.

And yet, now…

They're still recovering after their bout with the Hachibi and its host. It's a horrible strain just to maintain solid form, so here Suigetsu finds himself, stuck in another tank. A tank filled with dirty water, at that. One can only hope this isn't a permanent arrangement. Oh, and he's fighting with Karin again.

"Why'd you leave my sword behind?!" he demands crossly. He narrows his eyes at Karin. "And what's up with that ponytail, huh?"

"Be glad we brought you with us at all!" Karin snaps. "And shut up about my hair!"

"Yeah, and what about you? You were out cold too!"

"That's 'cause I was covering for you three bags of bones!"

"Hush," Juugo calls out unexpectedly. He's still trapped in that weird child form, perched atop a large iron pipe. He stares out from under his eyelids at the two of them, frowning. "We all got hurt protecting each other. We need each other. So please, don't fight." There's an oddly wheedling tone in his voice and that, more than anything, more than the words or Sasuke's unmistakably disapproving silence, is what makes Karin and Suigetsu fall silent. Karin goes back to studying the controls in the tank, and Suigetsu floats around, suspended in water, frowning pensively.

'We need each other.'

He wouldn't have believed that a couple of weeks ago—and it's amazing that they've really only been banded together for a few weeks; it feels more like a lifetime and a half. Part of that, he guesses, is because of the things he's learned since then.

One: Karin's not a complete and total bitch. She's just sort-of a bitch.

Two: Apparently, Juugo's only psychotic half the time, and he doesn't want to be psychotic, and he's actually pretty mild when he isn't psychotic.

Three: Sasuke is a human being, and not a concentrated mass of arrogance and superiority.

When they'd finally tracked down Sasuke to that beach after his fight with Itachi, Karin and Juugo had been unable to hide their joy and relief. Karin was glad he was alive, because he was the boy she had a hugely obnoxious crush on. Juugo was glad he was alive, because he was the only one who could stop him from going into the berserker rages. They'd been glad to see Sasuke alive. And Suigetsu had been glad that they were glad.

He cringed when Juugo got sliced by the Hachibi jinchuuriki. He flinched despite himself when he saw the damage from Amaterasu on Karin, even if she did heal from her burns outrageously fast; something about her clan having a ridiculous healing factor, or thereabouts. He rushed forward to protect Sasuke when he got skewered by the jinchuuriki. He'd protected all three of them from the Hachibi when they were vulnerable. Who'd have thought I'd end up risking my hide to protect them so often?

He stares down that black ball of light rushing towards him, teeth gritted and fists clenched, and only one thought crosses his mind. That's not getting past me.

And Suigetsu is unwilling, completely and totally unwilling, that he gets some gratification from hearing Karin scream his name.

And when Karin woke up…

Suigetsu's eyes narrow as he watches hers open, slowly, painstakingly. Karin looks around at her surroundings. It takes her a few moments to realize that, A) she's not dead, and B) she's no longer in any danger.

Long enough.

"Hey, Karin. Where's my Executioner's Blade?"

Karin's croak of a response doesn't bear repeating.

Suigetsu grins.

And, just a little bit, from the other end of the room, Sasuke smiles.

He's not with these people for convenience anymore, he's realized. If he got everything he wanted tomorrow, he wouldn't leave them, he's realized.

Suigetsu decides that he cares too much.

Way too much.

And then he decides that it doesn't bother him at all.