I don't own Naruto.
A/N: yosh! Fluffy Xmas angst! Yes, I know, fluffy Xmas angst in June is a tad off… sue me! I don't even celebrate the holiday! I blame my Xmas muse for this one… and my Naruto muse… and my Sakura muse… Sasuke wasn't really a part of this… and those blasted elephants… *rants on*
Under the Falling Snow
It was the last day before Christmas. The forest was covered in a thin blanket of snow, and the air was peaceful, even for a small usually loud group.
"I can't believe this stupid mission took us so long to accomplish."
Uzumaki Naruto whined, his hands crossed behind his head as he walked next to his team back to their village.
"And on the day before Christmas. What a day."
Sakura sighed, trying not to drag her feet lazily in the snow.
"Oh, sounds like someone's got plans for tonight."
Hatake Kakashi said, glancing over his shoulders at the only female in his Team 7. The girl's face brightened, as did her eyes.
"Well, let's hear it!"
Naruto's eyes wondered to the pink haired ninja, as did Sasuke's.
"Ok! We're gonna have a really big dinner, but before it we're all going to decorate the tree and wrap the presents for each other, and sing Christmas carols, and drink eggnogs, and it's gonna be so much fun and mom's gonna bake fruit cakes and dad'll be home and I haven't seen him in ages and…"
"That really sounds great, Sakura-chan!"
She turned to Naruto, all happiness, only to see that the small smile on his face never reached his eyes. Sasuke was just brooding quietly.
"I remember Christmas."
All eyes were now to the last known member of the Uchiha clan.
"It really was fun, back then…"
And that's all they got.
As the three men walked on, Sakura stayed a bit behind, watching their backs.
'I, I didn't even think… I was so happy about my Christmas, but… they have no one to celebrate Christmas with…'
Getting closer, she heard a piece of Naruto's little speech to Kakashi about his Christmas.
"…And then, we'll go for Ramen. Iruka-sensei promised to take me out this Christmas!"
"Like hell you're going for ramen!"
Stomping her foot down, Sakura caused her three teammates to turn to her.
Her face softened and she took several steps towards them, trying to smile.
"Listen, I… why don't you come over for dinner?"
The two boys couldn't help but stare.
"You too, Kakashi-sensei."
The man's shown eye widened before he smiled.
"I'd love that, Sakura. But are you sure your mom'll agree?"
"She's the one who always makes too much food anyways. It'll be ok! What do you say, Naruto, Sasuke-kun?"
"Come on, Sasuke, she asks nicely."
Sasuke side glanced at Kakashi before throwing Sakura half a smile.
"Sure, I'll come. Not like I'll miss on anything if I'll be there."
"YOSH! What about you, Naruto?"
The boy stared at his friend, utterly dumbfounded. He had never experienced a true Christmas before, and he meant no disrespect of ingratitude to his old sensei, but the offer of a real, genuine Christmas dinner made ramen with Iruka just seem so… lonely.
"Am, am I…"
Sakura tilted her head at him, and he gulped.
"Am I really invited?"
She couldn't understand the look in his eyes, but it was nothing she has ever seen before, at least on Naruto.
The two stared at each other for a while before the blond boy jumped up, cheering.
"YATTA! I'M INVITED TO SAKURA-CHAN'S HOUSE! This is going to sooo be the best Christmas ever!"
And as Naruto started blabbering about how to break the news to Iruka, and asked if he could come too, to which Sakura absentmindedly responded with a 'hai', the girl got lost in her own little thoughts feeling better than she had in a while.
"Sakura! What took you so long?"
Sakura's mother asked from the kitchen. Sakura took off her coat and shoes and settled next to the living room fire.
"The snow covered the tracks. We had a hard time catching that blasted pet mouse."
"Oh, the hard life of a young ninja. I'm gonna start feeling for you soon."
The warmth almost lulled her to sleep, but upon noticing the decorations for the tree, Sakura snapped back to awareness.
Her mother walked into the room and picked several ornaments, choosing the better to be put up.
"Can I have some guests over?"
"Guests?! My, since you and Ino-chan became 'rivals', you hadn't had many guests."
The girl chose not to respond as she picked up a small reindeer like piece.
"Three. No, four."
"Kakashi-sensei, and maybe Iruka-sensei."
The mother shook her head.
"That ain't no way to get extra credit, you know."
"I know, he he, I know. Who else?"
A faint blush crept to Sakura's cheeks.
"Well, um, Sasuke-kun agreed to come…"
"I KNEW IT! SUCCESS!"
The woman glomped her daughter tightly, almost squeezing the life out of her.
"That girl never had anything on you!"
Fire blazing in her eyes, the mother marched to the tree again and picked up the most shining decoration, the star to be placed on the top.
"We're gonna have extra decorations for this special event!"
"Oh, um, mom?"
"There's, there's another guest."
"All the more better! Another cute boy?"
"I guess you could say that, yes."
"Goody! Who, who?!"
The star dropped to the floor and shattered.
Sakura turned to see her mother shaking, her fists clenched at her sides.
"He will not come into this house!"
"This is final, Sakura! Call to cancel it!"
"But why, mom, why?!"
Sakura's eyes pleaded for a reason, but that seemed to refuse to come.
"That boy will not come into my house."
"Just for tonight! Please, for me?!"
The girl clenched her fists as the tears began stinging her eyes.
"Well, just ruin my Christmas, why don't you?"
"Don't be foolish."
"If he won't come…"
"He won't, Sakura."
Sakura's face changed into that of grim determination as she stared into her mother's eyes.
The door slammed shut behind her.
"Going to Sakura-chan's place for Christmas, going to Sakura-chan's place tonight, going to Sakura-chan's place to Christmas dinner!"
Naruto happily sang to himself as he got dressed in front of the mirror. He was wearing a pair of jeans with a black shirt. He didn't have such fancy clothes, and he usually didn't need 'em, but that night was a special occasion. A Christmas tree-designed tie hung from a hanger next to him.
"Tonight's gonna be so cool… huh?"
The doorbell rang and his hear started pounding. He had called Iruka earlier, and it turned out the teacher had had last minute plans, and was quite happy that Naruto did too, so neither stayed alone. So, of course, he was being too lucky.
He reached a shaking hand to the handle and gulped. For a moment the boy thought about not answering, when a soft whisper cam to his ears.
"Naruto? You there?"
The door flew open faster than he could realize it was Sakura and the grin pasted itself to his face automatically.
"Come in, come in!"
As she did, Naruto cursed himself for not tidying the place at least a bit, as it was a total mess.
"Eh he, sorry for the mess. I got so excited about tonight I forgot to clean up."
The girl looked at him blankly, but he just decided it was his imagination.
"I'll be right back! Don't go anywhere!"
Taking the tie with him, Naruto sped to the bathroom and the girl surveyed the small apartment.
Empty instant ramen boxes were scattered in the kitchen area. The bed was messy, and several scrolls, along with some shurikans were in another corner of the place. Looking around as many times as she could, Sakura found no Christmas tree whatsoever.
'So, this… this is how he lives? Day in, day out… alone…'
"Ok, all set! …almost…"
Stepping out of the bathroom, Naruto was trying to align the tie, grinning sheepishly all along.
"I hate those things… stupid, evil things… But I have no choice, right? Gotta make a good impression, ne?"
He froze when Sakura reached for his tie and began wrestling with it in his stead, causing the boy to blush lightly.
"Bother to make a good impression."
He blinked again, but she just smiled.
"Ready to go?"
Stepping out, she noticed him take several fancy wrapped boxes and throwing them into his bag before joining her and locking the door.
"Naruto, is it ok if we go for a walk?"
The blush deepened as his heart began beating faster.
"Su, sure! Where to? The village square? The market? The…"
"Wherever will do."
Naruto shrugged, not wanting to do anything that'd make the girl snap at him.
"Ok. Lead the way."
The two ended in the village square where a huge, decorated Christmas tree stood next to the fountain. Naruto was happily blabbering away, Sakura occasionally nodding her head or laughing lightly.
"…and then Konohamaru says 'hey, that's not a duck!'"
Another elegant yet distant giggle was the reply.
"And then we were surrounded by a horde of pink elephants."
"Ok, you really are listening."
"Why wouldn't I be?"
The boy began to stutter, but resolved to looking away, rather embarrassed.
"No, no reason."
An awkward silence settled upon them, in which Sakura looked her friend over. A suit really wasn't Naruto's thing, but she couldn't help but think the effort was rather endearing. After all, he didn't want to shame her in front of her family. But even though he was smiling, his blue eyes were missing their spark. All for her family…
"Listen, Sakura-chan…" "Um, Naruto…"
The tow laughed lightly.
"You go first."
"No, no, you're the smarter one, Sakura-chan, you go first."
"No, I insist!"
"Well, I do too!"
"Well, I insist to infinity! There!"
Another weak laughter marked yet another silence, which was this time broken by a child's laughter.
"Daddy, daddy, look! Look at the tree!"
Parents and child stopped to adore the tree, and the female ninja felt a tug at seeing the longing look in her friend's eyes.
"We should head back…"
"Was it always like this?"
Naruto confusion was enhanced by the girl's sudden seriousness.
"Christmas. Was it always like this for you?"
It was either he was so innocent he really didn't know, or Sakura was about to open one old would that's yet to have closed.
"This, this, THIS!"
She waved her hands around rather fanatically.
"This! Not having a Christmas tree, buying small gifts 'cause you can't afford more, the highlight of Christmas eve being a bowl or ramen, and generally being all alone during the holidays! Has it always been that bad?!"
"And if it was…"
His eyes were hidden from her, but the shaking of his voice told her she should've kept her mouth shut.
"…what're you going to do about it?"
He looked at her, and she almost wished he's have yelled. Screamed, shouted. Thrown stuff at her. Just not look at her with hollow eyes… and cry.
"You what? Think you can change it? Think that with a few words it'll all go away? It won't. Now come on, I don't wanna ruin your Christmas."
"Ruin my… Christmas…"
She touched her lips at the sound of the words, trying to grip the full meaning of it. And as Naruto's last tear fell to the snow below, hers were only beginning to gather.
"Don't worry over it. I'm ok. Has been for the past 12 years."
"I have to worry… because…"
Snow began to fall gently as the boy patiently waited her response.
"Because… you don't have anyone else… who will."
The shock in his eyes was so evident, it almost killed her.
Neither turned at the voice.
"Looking for you?"
For some reason, she felt too ashamed to meet his gaze.
"You… ran away?"
She laughed, trying to sound casual.
"Well, I wouldn't call one night running away…"
She didn't know towards him his anger was directed.
"Why… why?! Because she's a stupid jerk who doesn't understand me."
"She's your mother."
"She's against whatever I want."
"She's your mother."
"She thinks I'm a kid…"
"…who can't decide for herself…"
"…she rejected a friend I invited over tonight…"
"SHE HATES YOU!"
Deep down, Sakura expected him to be mad. Hoped at least to see a tad of shock. Not that awful, sad knowing smile.
It took her quite a while before she managed to find the words to voice herself.
"Then why? Why stand up for her?!"
"Because I never had anyone to worry over me. I never got to argue with my mother… because I never had a… mother… The last thing I want is for Sakura-chan to fight with her mother over me!"
His fists clenched, his eyes shutting tightly, though a few tears still managed to get through.
"Go ahead. Just go! Leave me and laugh at me with Sasuke! That's what everyone else does every freaking year! Well, go ahead! What're you waiting for?!"
For a moment no sound was heard, save Sakura's mother's. And then, he heard it. The footsteps in the snow that he knew he'd hear.
'Just like everyone else… just… go away…'
But a moment too late did he realize, as gentle arms wrapped around him, that the footsteps were coming towards him.
"Now… why on Earth… would I do that?"
He felt his shirt get wet with her tears, but he couldn't care much less as he hugged her back.
And the two stood there, hugging, next to the Christmas tree, under the falling snow.