The girl from Leaf knocks him down and spares his life and all Haku can think to himself is,
Later on he’ll come to the conclusion that this was the beginning.
It’s a cliche, he knows, but he thinks of people in terms of water. Zabuza-sama, for all that it’s Haku with the blood limit, is ice: sharp and deadly, but almost beautiful for it. Haku himself is more like snow–seemingly soft and corruptible, yet the cold and damp easily drawing the unwary into the gentle embrace of hypothermia.
The Leaf team, too, he thinks in water metaphors. The teacher a lake, placid on the surface but deep and teeming with secrets beneath. Naruto-kun the ocean, wide and encompassing and unstoppable. The other boy a waterfall, predictable yet powerful and compelling.
The girl a river, branching far and wide; life and movement and connections.
The girl from Leaf knocks him down and spares his life and then Gatou shows up and unsurprisingly betrays them, but that’s okay, Zabuza-sama didn’t like him anyway.
Haku doesn’t say I told you so, but he thinks it very quietly and doesn’t argue at all when Zabuza-sama decides to hang around the Leaf team and the bridge builder like stray cats once fed.
Now that they aren’t on opposing sides, Haku finds he likes the Leaf team–all of them, not just Naruto–likes what they represent.
He’ll never regret being Zabuza-sama’s tool–his apprentice, his friend or the closest thing he’ll allow himself to have–but seeing the Leaf team together makes him yearn. Makes him wish that Kiri were the kind of place where he could’ve had something like that, too. Wish it were the kind of place where survival wasn’t about being the meanest and toughest person around, where an existence wasn’t about survival so much as it was about living.
Having friends you would die for, and a teacher who acknowledges you and indulges in water fights of all things as if there were no dangers or hardships or sadness. Or as if to say yes, there are dangers and hardships and sadness in the world, but for now let us have safety and fun and happiness.
Haku wants that, too.
The girl from Leaf–Shikako–smiles at him and Haku thinks that maybe it’s not so impossible at all.
The bridge builder’s daughter really does treat them like stray cats once fed–which is a better reception than could be expected considering he and Zabuza-sama were hired to kill her father–and while she watches them warily, she doesn’t ask the team from Leaf to run them off.
Zabuza-sama and he have slept in worse places than in the quiet forest of a newly peaceful country.
Naruto-kun shakily carries them a tray from the bridge builder’s house, and dutifully relays that Tsunami-san told him to tell them that she had cooked extra and it would be a waste of food and that wouldn’t he be a dear and bring this to them?
Zabuza-sama scoffs at the blatant lie, but Haku has always been more practical than that. Isn’t too prideful to turn away even this minimal charity.
He wouldn’t be here with Zabuza-sama if he did.
Naruto and Shikako switch off on bringing out dinner–not that he and Zabuza-sama are actually dependent on the meals, but it’s nice and reminds him of that life he appreciates but doesn’t have–for obvious reasons. The other boy–Sasuke–is still recovering, for all that Haku’s attack wasn’t fatal, and it’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to be alone with the person who did that to him.
Not that Naruto and Shikako are alone, really, their teacher’s chakra not so much threatening as it is obviously present.
Naruto brings conversation along with the food: a continuous stream of chatter about training and the work on the bridge and the bridge builder’s grandson and tales of the Leaf village and nearly every little observation and thought that went through his mind in the day. Zabuza-sama finds it annoying, Haku thinks it’s hilarious.
Shikako brings secrets–not for charity, but for trade.
“In theory,” Shikako says one night, “if Hoshigaki Kisame were to work with a partner–”
“Not likely,” Zaubza-sama scoffs, dismissive.
“Of course,” she says, agreeable veneer over her argument, “Just as you wouldn’t.”
Haku would never smile at Zabuza-sama getting put in his place by a girl practically half his height and a third his weight.
“Theoretically,” she resumes, “he’d have a partner just as strong as him, who specializes in opposing skills.”
Haku tilts his head, “Do you have a specific person in mind?”
Shikako smiles brightly at him, before going onto a complete non sequitur. “Sasuke is naturally skilled in genjutsu.” She frowns, then adds, “The Uchiha used to be one of our village’s strongest bloodlines. Now Sasuke is the only one left in Konoha.”
He exchanges glances with Zabuza-sama, who nods in understanding and proceeds to tell a completely unrelated story about how a particular fellow former swordsman once fought and nearly lost against a Cloud nin with the strange ability to magnetize his shuriken.
The hour turns late and the Leaf teacher’s chakra flares once–protective and admonishing both–calling Shikako back inside to the bridge builder’s house.
“Thank you for the story,” she says, smile on her face.
Zabuza-sama shrugs, looks away. Haku smiles back.
The bridge is finished and both groups are ready to depart. The Leaf team back to their village, he and Zabuza-sama to an undisclosed island which may or may not be the headquarters of a number of unaffiliated Kiri nin, no really.
For all that their mission to kill the bridge builder was a failure, the two of them will join with more money and resources–both still from Gatou–than promised. And valuable intel on top of all that.
Though how a girl from Leaf would know the reason behind the Yondaime Mizukage’s bizarre shift from decent leadership to reign of terror is beyond Haku’s guess.
But since Zabuza-sama doesn’t care, Haku doesn’t need to know and neither does the Rebellion.
Besides, she knocked him down and spared his life. All beginnings lead somewhere; eventually the snow will melt and join the river.
A/N: Long long ago, anonymous asked for Haku/Shikako with Zabuza and Kakashi chaperoning and I thought I had an idea for it but couldn’t articulate it and so here’s this hot mess instead.
This is more like pre-relationship than actual relationship (I mean, even more so than my usual) but I just couldn’t come up with something that wouldn’t have been a rehash of Chances Gone By or Dreaming of S(omething) but Mist Edition instead. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Title from Lykke Li’s song “Follow Rivers”