A belated Christmas present written for kimi no vanilla, who requested Kakashi's Christmases, past and present. She's already seen it, but I figured I should post it up here anyway before it gets time for next Christmas…
In the ANBU passage, there are a few original characters gleamed from the RPG Scarlet Spiral: Tsubuki Shunsuke, Saibu Yuushin, Kobayashi Taisei. They are all love, and if you check out scarlet(underscore)spiral on greatestjournal you'll see more of them.
The first Christmas Kakashi remembered clearly was the one he spent coughing up blood in the hospital, pinned to the too-big bed by a broken leg and a shattered collarbone. He was six months a chuunin, seven years old and not quite four feet tall, and when his father breezed past the protesting nurse at the hospital room door, Kakashi was still young enough to sit up—carefully, because of his collarbone—and beam. The movement set him coughing again, but he closed his hand quickly to hide the blood spotting his palm and grinned at his father.
"Tou-san! Did they tell you? I got 'em! Tanto to the kidneys, just like you showed me—" He mimed the strike with his good hand, and Sakumo's eyes crinkled in a smile.
"I passed your sensei in the hall," he said, setting the long thin parcel he carried down on the table by the bed. "He said I was lucky to have a son like you."
Kakashi didn't quite manage not to blush. Sensei was generous with his praise, but Sakumo was less so, and hearing Sensei's praise from his father's lips was almost better than hearing it first-hand. "Sensei's always spouting nonsense," he muttered to mask his embarrassed pride.
His father laughed and reached out a big hand to muss his hair. "You're lucky to have a sensei like him all to yourself," he chided. "When I was your age—"
He paused, his eyes darkening a little. Kakashi didn't ask about the shadow passing over his father's face, just as Sakumo didn't ask a moment later when coughs wracked Kakashi's thin, bandaged shoulders and blood stained his palm. He waited until Kakashi had wiped his hand discretely against the bedclothes and rinsed his mouth with a sip of water from the class on the bedstand, and then he nudged the package on the table with a gloved fingertip.
"I've got another mission this afternoon," he said, "and I'll be gone for several days, so I won't be able to bring you home. Your sensei said you can stay with him for a few days if you want. I brought your present now, in any case."
"Present?" Kakashi's eyes darted to the package sitting innocently on the table, wrapped in dark blue cloth that looked suspiciously like an old jounin shirt torn and stained beyond the point of recovery. His father's presents were always last-minute, spur-of-the-moment; when Kakashi turned seven, Sakumo gave him a dog-eared coupon for a Buy one get one free shuriken sale that he'd fished out of his pocket after nearly thirty seconds of searching. The coupon had expired the week before, but Kakashi never mentioned it.
"Hey," he said suddenly, guilt-stricken at the thought. "I didn't get you anything!" Not that he'd had any time, between the mission and getting his leg broken and his collarbone smashed and his lungs torn up with some kind of air-borne poison, but still—
Sakumo waved a casual hand and shoved the other into his pocket. "Don't worry about it. We'll celebrate when I get back. Happy Christmas, Kakashi-kun." He tousled his son's hair once more, then slipped out of the room before Kakashi can say a word. A nurse squealed down the hall; Sakumo's laugh echoed faintly back.
Kakashi's eyes slid to the present on the table. A moment later the box was in his lap, torn wrapping—it was a shirt, and from the looks and the smell of it, it was bloodstained far too badly for any cleaning service to save—draped over his thin knees, cardboard top tossed to the side.
The bone-handled tanto inside glittered back at him with all the cold menace of a weapon forged to kill. Kakashi couldn't quite let himself breathe, but his fingers stole out without his permission to stroke the fine, keen edge of the blade, the round hilt, the sheathe with its attached harness. It was a little big for him, an exact replica of the one he'd almost never seen leave his father's back, and it was perfect.
When the nurse came in to give him his next dose of pain medication thirty minutes later, Kakashi was asleep again, twisted around his heavily casted leg and splinted shoulder to lie on his stomach, with his new tanto resting proudly between his shoulderblades.
Just like his father's.
He didn't realize until weeks later, when he came back from training with sensei to find that Sakumo had borrowed back his Christmas present to clean up the aftermath of his last mission, that the tanto had never really been Kakashi's to start with.
Kakashi was nine years old before anyone gave him another Christmas present. His sensei tried the year Kakashi was eight, but the boy managed to finagle himself a solo mission for the whole of December and January, and by the time he got back they were in the middle of the bloodiest battle of the past three years and not even Konoha's Yellow Flash remembered about Christmas anymore. Just as well, Kakashi might have thought, if he let himself think about that anymore. He'd been two weeks' travel away from Konoha on That Day, and that was all that mattered.
But the next year he had a team for the first time, a clumsy dark-haired boy and a quiet bright-eyed girl, and he couldn't get solo missions anymore even if there'd been one available for a silver-haired boy with dead dark eyes. They'd just come back from a C-rank mission providing backup for a caravan carrying supplies to the front line, and Sensei had decided it was time for some team training. Perhaps he had reason; Kakashi and Obito had spent nearly the entire mission sniping at each other with words and shuriken, and although Obito's aim was improving, their relationship was not.
None of the children particularly welcomed his announcement that they would spend the next week on a survival training mission in the forest east of Konoha. But they all showed up when he told them to—or within twenty minutes of the meeting time, as Obito ran into an old lady carrying her Christmas shopping and had to help her home—and they made it off without more than two attempts at homicide, and although Obito did lose his temper on the way and try to fry Kakashi with a Katon Goukakyu, there was enough snow frosting the ground and the trees for the Yellow Flash to quickly quench the resulting fire with a water jutsu.
They woke Christmas morning to Rin's delighted cry. "Sensei, you didn't—"
Kakashi rolled out of the tent he shared (grudgingly, and not without many muttered insults and sleepy kicks) with Obito to find Rin standing in the little circle of clear ground she'd begun to sweep free of the night's snow before laying the morning's fire. Their sensei was sitting on a fallen log, grinning, his yellow hair bright against the snow. He had a brown paper bag in each hand and another resting between his feet, and the bags steamed in the cold air.
Obito stumbled out of the tent, rubbing his eyes. "S'too early," he said accusingly to no one in particular, and then: "Sensei? What're you doing?"
"It is not for nothing," the Yellow Flash said grandly, "that you have as your sensei the fastest man in Konoha. Or anywhere on the continent, for that matter."
"You cheat," Kakashi muttered.
"I exercise consummate shinobi skills," the jounin corrected him, "in order to bring some small measure of cheer into my students' lives." He tossed them each a bag. "As I believe it was Obito's turn to make breakfast, this should be a double present to you all. Happy Christmas!"
In a blur of smoke and snow, he was gone. Kakashi unfolded the top of his bag and stared dubiously down at the large steaming carton inside with its neatly-printed Ichiraku Ramen label. "He ran all the way to Konoha for this?"
"Would you rather have burned fish and acorn pancakes?" Rin asked, taking their sensei's seat on the log and prying the lid off her ramen carton. "I think it's sweet of him."
"I think it's food," Obito said, either choosing to ignore the insult or else not quite picking up on it. He snapped his chopsticks open happily. "Itadakimasu!"
Kakashi watched his teammates devouring their breakfast and wondered if Sensei had spared any time for his own. Probably not, if he'd made it to Konoha and back so quickly, and if he'd disappeared so soon after delivering theirs. He twitched one shoulder back in an old bad habit, just far enough to feel the firmness of the tanto he'd strapped into its place between his shoulderblades even before he'd left the tent, and supposed that maybe he could eat this time after all.
When Kakashi was eighteen, Genma threw a Christmas party in the ANBU lounge. A small party, he'd said, for a few close friends, with plenty of food and booze and no blood unless both parties consented and took it somewhere private. Somehow Kakashi wasn't surprised to see Asuma and Raidou show up, but he did blink once when Kurenai slipped in behind Anko's boisterous entrance, and by the time Kobayashi paused in the doorway to hold a long one-sided conversation with the mistletoe Yuushin was trying to rig for a trap, Kakashi had given up wondering at Genma's idea of a few close friends. He wandered over to join Shunsuke at the makeshift bar, figuring that the evening's memories would probably come across better on a reasonably smashed mind than on a sober one.
"Nice night," Asuma remarked at his right shoulder, picking up a beer. "Good booze, good company, good food—you tried the little green things yet?—good times watching Kobayashi try to get a rise out of that plant…whatever it is."
"Mistletoe," Raidou said, nudging Shunsuke amiably out of the way in his quest to fill each hand with a beer. "I wouldn't try cornering anyone under it, though, it's likely to end up painfully. Yuushin's been at it all evening."
Asuma snorted. "You tried?"
Raidou's lip twitched in what might have been either an embarrassed laugh, a snarl, or a proud smirk. "Got cornered. Hey, what's life without a little blood?" He switched both beers to one hand, rubbed his shoulder with the other, and drifted off to join Anko in a corner.
"He lives dangerously," Shunsuke remarked, watching the scarred man.
Asuma shrugged. "Never tried safe, but I don't think it'd be much fun. Punch, Kakashi?"
He eyed the large, frothy bowl. "What'd you put in it?"
"Kobayashi hasn't been near it," Asuma assured him. "But I can't vouch for it otherwise."
"It's got vodka," Kurenai said quietly from behind them. "Quite a lot of it. If you're serving, Asuma—" She held out her empty glass. Her crimson eyes were suspiciously bright, and the narrow strap of her slim red dress had slipped dangerously low on one shoulder, but Kakashi couldn't see any other signs of inebriation.
"You'll have a hell of a hangover in the morning," Asuma warned. "What is this, your third?" He handed back the full glass anyway.
"Fifth," Kurenai said. "Thanks." She took a small sip, paused, and held the glass out to Kakashi. "You look like you need it."
He took the glass almost without realizing it. "Thanks," he murmured in return. "I do."
Kurenai nudged Shunsuke's shoulder. He started, looking surprised, then seemed to catch on and deliberately turned his back. "Bet you can't down more of these in a row than I can!" he challenged the kunoichi. She turned as well, reaching for another glass.
Asuma shifted slightly, blocking Kakashi's view of the rest of the room. "Ten seconds," he said.
Kakashi's mask flashed down and then up again before anyone in the crowded room could notice. He set the empty glass down on the makeshift bar and leaned his hip against the table, savoring the spreading warmth inside that he told himself came only from the alcohol.
The year Kakashi turned twenty-six was the first year he ever gave anyone else a Christmas present. His…comrades (their generation seldom dared to breathe the word friends) were usually content to get thoroughly smashed this one night of the year, when a night without memories was the most precious gift anyone could offer. The year Kurenai left the ANBU she had knitted them all scarves, but that had been in early October, and he hadn't seen her much since then. He didn't wear his scarf very often, anyway. It'd be a shame to get blood on that soft scrap of scarlet.
To tell the truth, he'd never really thought of giving a present. Those dimly remembered years of what could barely be called a childhood didn't count, and since then Christmas had been less a holiday to be celebrated and more a day of memories to be shunned. Why spend a day with family and friends when you had neither family nor friends to spend it with? Wasn't every day of life and breathe his sweat and blood and protection bought enough of a gift?
But this year he had a team of his own, and in the jounin lounge Kurenai was talking almost excitedly about the gifts she'd given her team that morning and the set of jeweled hairpins they'd pooled their cash to buy her in return. When Asuma showed up it was nearly noon; he'd been having Christmas breakfast with his team and their families. Gai, who'd talked loudly and happily of the wonderful day he was planning for his team—none of whom had families to celebrate with—never showed up at all.
Kakashi'd given his team the day off. But he was starting to wonder, now, what they'd do with it.
He found Sakura at home, cleaning up the mess of wrapping paper and ribbons the morning had left in her front room. "Sensei?" she asked, puzzled, as he lounged in the doorway and politely ignored her crumpled handfuls of paper. "Did we have training today?"
"Not really." He scratched under the knot of his forehead protector and shrugged a little, sheepishly. "Just thought…make sure Sasuke and Naruto aren't spending the day alone…"
The girl's eyes lit up. "I'll be back in a minute, sensei!" She tore off up the stairs and pattered down a moment later, tugging on a warm coat and cradling a large, brightly wrapped box under one arm. "I was going to give this to Sasuke tomorrow," she confided, "but today's even better. Where are we meeting them, sensei?"
Kakashi began to wonder if this was a mistake. "We're picking them up," he said, closing the door behind her and heading down the street. Sakura hesitated a moment before he heard her sandals pattering after him, lengthening her strides to keep up with his longer legs. She ran, he noticed vaguely, on his right side.
Sasuke and Naruto were both at home: Naruto a bouncing bright ball of ill-concealed exuberant joy that they'd thought of him (and that Sakura-chan and Kakashi-sensei had come to get him before fetching that jerk Sasuke!), Sasuke quiet and slightly scornful as always. Sakura shoved her gift at Sasuke almost as soon as he opened the door. Kakashi turned away slightly, a little embarrassed by Sasuke's embarrassment, and caught one glimpse of Naruto's face. It was still, wounded, and dreadfully open in that moment before he pasted his bright grin back on and opened his mouth--probably to boast about how he hadn't bothered getting that jerk anything.
Kakashi said quietly, "Here," and flipped a cloth-wrapped package at him.
The boy caught it almost by instinct, too shocked to think. Kakashi leaned against the doorframe and tugged Icha Icha out of his beltpouch. He wasn't hiding behind its familiar orange cover, he told himself, just--
Naruto pulled the spare hitai'ate bandana away from the pair of shiny new kunai (Kakashi'd bought them on sale the day before, and his subsequent practice hadn't put more than a few almost invisible scratches on the blades). His mouth dropped open; for a moment he stared in silence. Kakashi lifted the book up a little higher. "Your forehead protector's fraying," he said. "You should change it before it brea--"
Naruto's tackle caught even Kakashi by surprise. One hand snapped Icha Icha shut and the other was diving for another kunai before he'd realized that the arms wrapped around his waist were hugging him, not trying to kill him; and then he tensed even more. Naruto didn't seem particularly keen on letting go, though; his face was buried in Kakashi's stomach, and he muttered something unintelligible into the thick fabric of the vest.
Kakashi lifted his hand from his kunai pouch and let it slide once across the boy's tangled hair, bright as gold, bright as sensei's. "Happy Christmas," he murmured.