That Time Of Year

By Sabishii-sama

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

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In the midst of winter, the coldest temperature that the Konohagakure had seen in years set in during the dark of night. It had been what seemed like forever since the village had last seen snowfall, but with the constantly dropping temperatures and the weather forecasts, all of Konaha was eagerly awaiting their blizzard.

It was the time of year when all of the female so-dubbed 'rookie genins' (though they were all now chunnin, and at least sixteen years old) gathered around a fireplace and chatted and drank hot chocolate; and that the 'Konaha's Hottest Couple' three years running could be seen cuddled up near the heaters and the blankets at the recently expanded Ichiraku Ramen Bar, both the blond and the black-haired boy the envy of half of the town. Everyone loved winter in Konaha, because it brought breaks from training, celebration, and family-- and obviously even Sasuke and Naruto had figured that last part out. Even in the freezing cold, it was still the warmest time of year.

Yamanaka Ino loved winter.

As she made her way home from Sakura's Christmas party on the chilly village streets, her boots sliding every once and a while on the slick of ice and her scarf wrapped tightly around her neck, she smiled. Street-lamps glowed brightly, illuminating the heavy snow-clouds that floated above and all of the buildings around her, and the brisk wind blew her long, heavy coat. All of the house lights had been off as she walked by, as it was late at night; but suddenly she stopped walking and backtracked a little as something caught her eye. A small but significant light was flickering by the windowpane of one Nara Shikamaru, and she grinned.

'Just like him. He's probably home, playing Go by himself, or something stupid like that. On Christmas Eve.'

Her last thought made her stop completely, and think. He probably was alone on Christmas Eve. He claimed to hate parties, and never made any plans in advance aside when in battle, so he wouldn't be out. She sighed, smiled softly, and picked up a small rock and gently tossed it up and down in her palm before lightly chucking it at his window. Sure enough, the window opened up, and the extremely familiar head of Shikamaru appeared. He looked kind of annoyed, and Ino giggled, before calling up to him. "Hey! You wouldn't be alone on Christmas Eve, would you, Shika-kun?"

He looked down at her boredly. "Is that all you made me open this window for? Christmas is just too troublesome." And with that, her turned away and began to close the window. Only to get hit on the head with a stone.

"You think you're going to get away with it that easily?! No way. You're going to have a nice Christmas whether you want it or not, Nara Shikamaru! Now get your lazy ass down here!" Ino crossed her eyes at him and tossed another rock.

"Oww! Fine, you troublesome girl, I'll be down in a second! Just stop throwing your stupid rocks!" Rubbing his head in despair, the seventeen-year-old boy shut the window completely and headed for the stairs, smiling to himself.

Ino stood at the bottom of the steps to his porch, grinning to herself. As Shikamaru reached the door and got to the edge of the porch with a question in his eyes, Ino launched herself up the stairs and into his arms, kissing him lightly on the lips while simultaneously shoving a gift into his hands. As she broke away, her arms still around his neck, grinning at the look on his face, she laughed. "Spending Christmas Eve alone is a sin. It's one of those unspoken rule things."

He looked at her, and found himself grinning back. "Rules are so troublesome, silly girl.. But for this one I think I'll make an exception." He dislodged himself from her arms, and raced back into the house to slip on a coat and scarf; scribbling a note to his mom before he was dragged back out to the porch by a suddenly awestruck Ino. When he looked to see just what had caught her attention, he saw snowflakes falling gently from the sky to the ground. Ino laughed and grabbed his scarf, pulling him into the first snow-fall of the year as she raced him toward her house. He laughed with her; and anyone fortunate enough to look out the window as they passed by could see them playfully running around and shoving each other, kissing and laughing.

It was that time of year again.

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