Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, or the song lyrics of this two-shot, nor Sasuke's bloody past.

I forced myself to make a Christmas one, but with the work I'm putting into SDLIN Part I and now Loving The Faraway Angel My first AU, plus that thing called life, which includes a research paper and finals, I just don't have the energy to make a full-length story. I wish I could stop time and make all the-shots I wanted, but sadly I cannot.

Yes, I know it's only December 14th.

I don't feel like telling you the song, but this is definitely Sasuke/Sakura. If you know me, you should have seen it coming.

And it's pretty sad. This is Part I of the two-shot.


Killing Pretty Ribbons

The night before Christmas

Trudging home in the dark

I refuse to help

On this task you embark.

This day that you love

that you cherish and adore

Is just another to me

It means nothing more.

"Sakura..."

Obnoxiousness is calling...bring her back from her mind's deepest recesses that she dwells among as if lost in a library of short-term memories.

"So what do you plan to do tonight...when we get home?"

"...Is that really your business?"

"I just wondered...it is Christmas, after all–"

"I didn't even realize."

His sarcasm is just as painful as a slap in the face.

"Sakura!"

"What?!" She screamed a bit harsher than intended; her teammate cringed as though she had brought one of her painful punches upon him; blue eyes were full of concern as he watched her sway a bit on the ladder.

"You were spacing out again," he told her quietly, afraid of the wrath she might inflict.

Sakura opened her mouth for a witty retort, but after sighing and rolling her eyes thought better of it and curbed her tongue. It certainly was not his fault she could not hold attention for the little time that was necessary to hang the garland, and besides, it was Christmas Eve.

"I didn't even realize..."

She cursed under her breath and shook her head vigorously as Naruto continued to watch her with concern; she attempted a grim smile and climbed another step to stretch her short arms to reach the rafter. Pinning a strand of garland to the beam she sighed again and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand as she felt, without looking, for the ladder step below. Slowly she made her way down and still her friend watched her; she gave a start when she turned around to find him right in front of her, eyes still surveying her intently. He knew what was wrong, but it was not a subject that was for conversation, so instead he said, "You seem really tired...I can finish, you know, you should go–"

"No, no, I volunteered, and besides, I like helping and being busy," she interjected, running a hand through her hair and stifling a yawn. She needed to be busy...it kept her mind–for the most part–, occupied, and it was true, she had volunteered for this way back when in autumn when they'd asked for help...of course, how would she have known that a mission would come up around the Holidays, and on Christmas Eve night, nonetheless? Cursing her kindhearted soul and effectively stifling another yawn, she surveyed the room and the task she had been devoting her time to ever since they had returned from their mission, exhausted. Although Naruto was not very dexterous with handling tools or tape, together they had managed to decorate the large room to the best of their ability.

"Where is everybody else?" Sakura huffed, beginning to pace. "I know that more people volunteered for this–"

"They probably went home to sleep, like you should," Naruto said, trying to fold up the ladder with little success; before Sakura could assist he had closed the metal ladder...with his fingers inside.

"OW! Stupid ladder!" Naruto said loudly, punching it with his fist and leaving a decent sized dent. Sakura took pity on him and opened it, freeing his fingers, and then folding it up.

"Thanks," he said, nursing his index finger.

"Anytime...hey, would you go in the other room and bring more strands of garland...we still have a corner to do," she asked, putting the ladder over her shoulder and carrying it to the other corner, which as stated was untouched with any sort of decoration.

"Gotcha," Naruto said and ran out.

Leaning the ladder against the wall, Sakura sighed for the third time and folded her arms. She was exhausted, but until some more people arrived and took over she would have to stay; this party was turning out to be more of a pain than she had realized. Typically they had left everything until the last possible minute, and she could bet that the stores in town were swarming with idiots who had left their shopping for this hectic day. Although she could not wait for the party later, the fact remained she could do with a nap, or maybe just some fresh air...yes, that might work.

"It's just another day to me." He'd said this in his quiet yet snide tone, shrugging. As if it were nothing. He let affection and caring roll off his back so easily it was impossible to watch, terrible for the mind to comprehend. Crossing to the window the saddened girl stared out into the dark; swirling torrents of snow fell from the roofs of all the buildings nearby including the one she was in and obscured paths that normally were visible. Distant lights flickered and swayed in the howling wind that he was in right now, most likely, sitting there...freezing the block of ice that was his hardened heart. Damn him...she pitied anyone out there right now braving that terrible storm, so she definitely pitied him.

Why couldn't he ever enjoy himself...just once?

"There's no more!"

"Hm?" Sakura asked, jumping guiltily for her lack of attention once more.

"I said there's no more," Naruto repeated, showing her an empty box that had once held decorations; nothing but a few pins and wrappers were within. Sakura slapped her forehead.

"Just great...we have to go get more," she groaned, walking toward a pile of jackets on the floor; searching through them, she said, "I'll be back...if anyone else comes just tell them to set up whatever they brought."

"Sakura, I'll go!" Naruto said, bounding toward her, face lit up by a devilish grin that the holidays made brighter. "It's too cold...I don't want you out there," he added.

"Are you absolutely sure?" she asked, not wanting him to brave the snow either, not to mention all those crowds.

"Positive...ahm...what am I looking for?"

Sakura shook her head. "I'll go. It'll take a half hour, if that." She pursed her lips as she continued to pull out coat after coat and not finding her own; there were only two people here yet so many coats...

Her fingers instinctively wrapped around a black one that looked very familiar to her; she pulled it from the pile and shook it out and held it up in front of her; Naruto looked at her as she fell abruptly silent.

"Sakura–"

"It's fine," she interrupted, slipping one arm through and then the other and fumbling with the zipper...it fell nearly to her knees, but it was warm and that was what mattered. Stepping over the threshold, she glanced over shoulder at the symbol adorning the back and it nearly brought tears to her eyes, but she blinked them away as she pulled the door shut behind her and walked through the cold.

She stopped and stood for a second staring up at a bright star...even while the snow swirled past her vision and tried to obscure it shone through and provided the only light in the cloudy sky...she shook her head at the myriad of wavering lights that represented the hellish place she would brave...all for some stupid decorations...

"Is it really so hard to understand, Sakura?"

"I guess...that just makes me stupid, huh?" she said harshly in response, kicking a pile of snow out of her way as she trudged toward the stores.


Pretty paper...

Pretty ribbons of blue...

Wrap your presents...

To your darlin' from you...

"Spoon?"

He laughed a child's laugh and took the spoon in his eager little fist; his mother smiled down at him as he touched the utensil to his nose, leaving batter on the very tip and his delight was utterly contagious. Laughing softly his mother directed the spoon into his mouth and he ate the mixture off completely, leaving it clean.

"I nearly forgot," his mother said in a hushed voice. Crossing the kitchen quietly, she stretched to reach a high shelf, and after moving a few things around she came back to her son with a large wrapped present tied with blue ribbon in her arms: His eyes lit up and he abandoned the dishes and bounded down from the chair, grinning his handsome grin at her.

"Who's it for?" he asked in awe, fingering the blue ribbon with careful and dexterous fingers as his skin slid smoothly across it.

"Your father," she giggled, like a child herself, and handed him the present; he looked up, puzzled and honored. "Go on, put it under the tree."

Carefully he took the box and hurried out into the family room where the tree stood in the corner in all it's decorations...he crouched low and his mother laughed at her son again as he wormed his way beneath the branches and gently placed the present in an empty space. Emerging from beneath the pine he grinned and ran into his mother's waiting arms. He stifled a yawn.

"When do we get to open them?" he murmured, pressing his face into his mother's breast and yawning again. His little rambunctious self had been running around since the crack of dawn in excitement, but he would never admit his fatigue.

"In the morning, you know that...and I believe that it is time for somebody to get some sleep...the sooner you sleep the sooner morning comes."

His quiet protests were lost in the sound of the crackling fire and she cradled his messy head as she carried him up the stairs. In a few minutes he was curling up beneath the sheets, and his mother kissing his forehead gently.

"Don't stay up too late, dear," his mother said softly to her eldest, who nodded in response and continued to stare out the window at the swirling snow.

"Mom," the youngest said as she turned away. "Can I...you know that ribbon? The soft blue ribbon?"

She nodded, smiling.

"Is there any more of it?"

"I'm sure there is."

Her footsteps echoed softly in the nearly silent house as she went downstairs, during which time the youngest chose to speak to his older brother, who remained still as his eyes watched nothing outside.

"Brother," the youngest began, staring at him. "What are you looking at?"

"Oh...nothing...I'm not looking, I'm thinking," he said monotonously, not turning at all to acknowledge his sibling.

Their mother came into the room and handed her youngest son a long ribbon of blue; his eyes lit up in the dimness and he rubbed it gently between his little fingers, fascinated.

"Thank you," he said, burrowing himself under the blankets once more.

"You're welcome...good night you two." One last smile, and the beam of light disappeared from the floor as the door was shut.

"You should go to sleep," the youngest murmured to his brother, twisting the pretty blue ribbon between his fingers in comfort. His brother did not answer, but he was too tired to say any more and instead let himself drift off to sleep. Hopefully he would enjoy the next morning...Christmas Day...

Little did he know it would be his last.

Pretty pencils to write–

"I love you"...

Oh, oh, pretty paper...

Pretty ribbons of blue...


"EXCUSE YOU!" Sakura screeched, turning completely around in the middle of the sidewalk to yell at the back of a man that had shoved her nearly clear into the street; he did not turn around and her efforts earned her a few more jostles. Sighing, she shook her head and trudged forth through the slush that was spilled on the path, peering into each shop to look for those damn blue ribbons...she was stupid not to even remember where she had gone the first time. Head aching and nose mostly numb, she sighed again; abruptly her foot slipped on a path of ice. Crying out she threw out her arms to balance herself–

"Whoa, there!" a stranger said, catching her arm and holding her upright. "Careful now...young girl like you out so late on this night?"

"Thanks, and yes, just some last-minute shopping," she said, smiling at the middle-aged stranger, so different from all the others that would have shoved her in the street without a backward glance. He tipped his hat to her and flashed a genuine smile; she noticed his arms were laden with shopping bags.

"An early Merry Christmas," he said, turning and walking the opposite way.

"And to you too, sir," Sakura called politely, now a bit more awake. After walking a few more feet she spotted a small shop, and after putting her face against the glass she discovered a large shelf of garland in the back. Grinning and grateful to get out of the cold, she hurried through the door, which opened and shut with a bell's tune.

While finding it had taken precious time, she was in and out of the store in minutes and now, clutching her purchase close, she huddled against the wind and every step was terribly trying as she made her way down the slippery sidewalks. The crowd was a bit less thick but not too much, for while it became dark sooner, it was only early evening. Snow swirled and danced in the glare cast by the streetlights and some small family shops were now closing for the night: Lights went off but the lights above the store would flare on, families coming together for this holiday.

But there was one that had nowhere to go...

All alone now...

And every time I am forced to endure this time of year...no one seems to realize how badly it hurts...he's always like this, they say, why is it different today than any other day of his life? He doesn't feel...he doesn't feel sad, not him...so when everybody else is dancing and home with their families, what am I doing?

Does it even matter? I don't have a home to go to nor people to be with so let them enjoy themselves.

Don't get upset now, Sasuke...it doesn't really matter...

His breath is caught in his throat as he stares out at the people that walk the streets.

Crowded streets...

Busy feet...

Hustle by him...

Downtown shoppers...

Christmas is nigh...

The parents, the children, the couples: They walk arm in arm and hand in hand, most are not alone. And even if they were, they would be going home to those people that would normally with them.

Sakura closed her eyes against the wind and tried to feel her way down the sidewalk...she did not dare open them, not until she heard a strange noise...a sort of snuffle that was so quiet that perhaps the one who had uttered it did not think it would have been heard...but she knew him too well...

Stopping, she saw him on the park bench, jacket-less and brooding in his own painful silence, ignoring what went on around him.

There he sits...all alone on the sidewalk...

Hopin'...that you won't pass him by...

Not being able to help it, she called out his name softly in the dark. He glanced at her out of his peripheral vision, dark eyes hating her for everything she had and what he did not with no other reason than a want for love...love that he had so sadly lost. Christmas reminded others of different things; unity and family, love and being together...

No...all he remembered was blood...a snow angel he'd made from the day before with blood spattered across the imprint like a sick painting, and the remains of his blue ribbon...the blue ribbon that had been torn apart by violent, insane hands. His brother's hands.

His mother had always told him not to taste the snow, but in the dark the color was unrecognizable...throat dry he'd scooped a bit of the white substance of peace, hoping to quench the thirst and quell the rising sobs...the bitter taste of loss stung his chapped lips, coppery and warm...the thought made his stomach churn...

Should you stop?

Better not...much too busy...

"Sasuke-kun?" Her voice was so quiet and distant, so terribly full of pain and pity for him.

"Don't call me that," he snapped at her, closing his eyes as if that would make her leave.

"Sorry, Sasuke. Um...why are you here by yourself...in the cold?"

She stepped back as he turned his dangerously intense gaze on her and glared more fiercely than she could ever remember.

"Where else am I going to go?"

"You could come back home," Sakura whispered, reaching a placating hand toward him, bottom lip trembling. He put out a hand to stop her.

"That is not home to me. Merely a house in which I must sleep, sleep because my body needs it to survive. Home is for people who are a family...I do not have one."

"Please, don't do this," Sakura whimpered, hanging her head in sorrow. "I can't let you sit out here...in the cold."

"I'm fine."

"No, you're not! Why can't you tell me what's wrong with you? Ever since this morning during the mission, you've been quiet...more than usual."

"And I told you the reason before," Sasuke muttered clearly but quietly; he put his heel on the bench and rested his chin on his knee, staring out into the dark. "I don't feel the need to spend time explaining something so simple to you. But it's not your fault," he continued; Sakura hesitantly sat next to him on the bench; he stiffened. "Nobody else understands...I certainly didn't expect you to."

His insult cut through her like a knife; did he ever realize how much she took his words to heart? Everything he said, good or bad, was stored in the back of her mind to dwell on later and wonder about what it meant, tumbling over one another and causing her sleepless nights on end. They sat in silence in the howling wind, and she reached out to perhaps take his forearm, to reassure–

He caught her wrist and shoved it away, teeth gritted as if it hurt him to touch her; she whimpered again and he let her go and put his hands over his face, voice cracking as he yelled:

"STOP! JUST GET AWAY FROM ME!"

"Now, Sasuke, I promise it's almost your turn..."

Any sane person would have left him be. Sakura could not. She could only watch, his poor frozen body wrack with sobs that he would never show to anyone, the tears he cried only when sure he was alone. Pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes, all he saw was swirling torrents of crimson, illusions visible within...illusions and now the shocked look on Sakura's pretty face, her jade eyes like beacons against the dazzling red.

"Just go," he said, still shaking violently and now bringing his other knee to his chest; she watched in horror as he rocked like a patient in a mental hospital, tugging on his own ebony locks with pale fingers; this would just never go away...

"Please come with me, you don't have to go to the party, just come home and get warm, just– "

"STOP, DAMN IT, STOP!" he yelled again, now not bearing to look at her.

"Go on...put it under the tree..."

"Please—go," he said slowly, mustering all his patience to not scream at her again; her expression was terrified, and walked backward, watching him retreat further into himself in both mind and body. Now people were staring, gawking in awe, keeping safe distances.

You'd better hurry...my how time does fly...

Sakura unzipped the jacket with shaking fingers and shrugged it off; holding it by the collar she placed it on his shaking shoulders and pulled it around him as much as she could. She tried one more time:

"Please...come home..."

"I have no home."

Sakura swallowed and swept her tears away from her pale face, turning and hurrying home in the dark, jacket-less, hurt, and fearful of the state she had left him in to brood in loneliness.

Eventually the world stopped staring and went on with their lives, minds full of their own pasts and new memories to come. And everyone left the young boy on the bench...not a single one asking him whether he had somewhere to go...not one even wishing him a Merry Christmas.

And in the distance...the ringing of laughter...

And in the midst of the laughter...he cries.


What am I not understanding? Sakura thought to herself, knocking on the door of the main building for someone to let her in from the cold. The door opened and light flooded the threshold; she stood looking up at the face of her Sensei.

"It's freezing out there," he scolded, immediately noticing her lack of attire. She pushed past him and threw the package at Naruto, who caught it and stared at her with concern.

"Where'd the jacket go?" Naruto asked; Sakura ignored them and made her escape to a back room, where more people had piled their coats...she heard voices buzzing around her in other areas of the building...good...now she had time to try to think. She had to understand, she had to know what he thought.

Sakura hovered in the doorway, leaning against the frame, lost once again in painful thought; people passed, laughing and talking excitedly and the world went around her and she revisited the conversation of that morning...

"I didn't even realize..."

"Don't do that, Sasuke," Sakura scolded, shaking her head at his callousness toward the spirit. "It's unnecessary," she added, remaining still in the bush.

His silence was worse than a witty retaliation, for it had silenced him and stung like a slap; this was what made her look around at him; Naruto looked wary and Kakashi, normal. He stared at her with a cold fury that told her she had said something offensive and very stupid.

"Well," she continued, folding her arms defensively, "Why can't you just try to enjoy the holidays...lately all you've been doing is moping, and every time we want you to do something you turn us down..."

"Just shut up," he snapped, shaking his head at her stupidity and narrowing his eyes, fixating them upon the unsuspecting target ahead. While he was angry as ever, which she had seen before, there was something else...hurt...the hurt she had often felt when he did this to her. A small part of her was satisfied, but most of her felt terrible guilt...that made her as bad as him.

"Sakura?"

Sakura blinked and stared up at her towering Kakashi-sensei with wide, emotional eyes and felt embarrassed that he had caught her crying; hurriedly wiping her tears away she tried to get past him, but he did not move for her.

"Where's Sasuke?"

The mere mention of his name made her grasp the door frame and she felt a new wave of tears burst forth. "Downtown...somewhere...and he's not coming home."

"Are you so sure about that?" Kakashi asked his student, lifting her chin gently, and she faltered from his gaze.

"He said he wasn't...I tried...to make him come..."

"He'll get cold eventually," Kakashi told her, smiling slightly, and he let her be, greeting Asuma at the door, who had just crossed the threshold with a pink-faced Kurenai. It seemed that the party was starting; everything had been done in her absence except for the one corner that was garland-less. It surprised her to see all these people that had come while she had been gone...in the corner by Naruto was a small group of people her age...Shikamaru was struggling to help Naruto pin the garland to the rafter to no avail.

"Naruto," Shikamaru snapped as held the ladder, "You're too short! Just let Ino get up there and do it!"

"I am not too short!"the obnoxious boy protested, swaying from the ladder step, arms out for balance. "Just give me a minute."

"You're going to fall," Ino told him, while Hinata stared up at the boy she admired with fearful eyes as he continued to shake the ladder.

"You guys won't believe the food they have here!" Chouji exclaimed, rushing forward with a tray of finger snacks in his hand. "It's delicious."

"You pig! The party hasn't even started yet and you're stuffing your face!"

Naruto stepped up onto the very top of the ladder and the crowd around him erupted into warnings:

"You're troublesome, you know that?"

"These cucumber things!"

"N-Naruto!"

"Naruto, you idiot."

"GOT IT!" Naruto yelled, and he punched the air with a gleam in his eye. "BELIEVE I-OH NO!"

Shikamaru jumped out of the way and Hinata squealed as Naruto fell from the top of the ladder and on his back, knocking the wind out of him. Sakura pushed through Ino and Hinata to lend him a hand

"Oh, Naruto," Sakura breathed, shaking her head at him. After pulling him to his feet, they all looked around at each other.

"Merry Christmas," Shikamaru said to the group at large, and a chorus of 'Merry Christmas's echoed in the corner, finishing with Chouji bursting out his sentiment and spraying cucumber all over Ino's face. Wiping her hand across her face, she grimaced.

"Look how many people are here," Ino commented, watching people step over the threshold, some that had never been seen, some they had recognized around the Academy. Now that the corner was decorated, people began to migrate near the free space and the group of Genin moved to give them room, shoving through the crowd to a different corner.

"Hey, is Sasuke–"

"He's not coming," Sakura interjected; Naruto looked a bit crestfallen and concerned at her swift answer, but recovered instantly and grinned.

"Oh...guess he can't help me then...Shikamaru, will you?"

"Help you with what?" the lazy boy asked, looking hesitant.

"You'll see, I've got a plan," Naruto said, and dragged a protesting Shikamaru off through the crowd, leaving the girls to stare after them and Chouji to continue eating.

"Try these cookies!" Chouji said, waving it in Ino's face; she shoved his hand away.

"I don't need that...it's full of sugar..." she replied, rolling her eyes.

"One cookie isn't going to hurt you," Chouji whined, putting on a pathetic face. "It's Christmas, Ino."

Ino groaned and tried to make her way through the crowd, but Chouji followed, taunting her about not eating; her blonde hair was visible as she shoved people aside to get away. Now Sakura and Hinata were left together.

"Um...do you know where Naruto went?" Hinata asked, pressing her fingertips together. Sakura shrugged in response, and Hinata also left, pushing through the crowd. Sighing, Sakura grabbed a drink off a nearby table and went in search of someone to talk to.

And all in all it went on smoothly: Children chased each other through a field of adult legs while the Genin laughed amongst themselves, and while it was all talk there was a beautiful air of bonding, of caring, a festive air of love that only the winter days bring. Sakura was leaning against the wall with Hinata and Kiba, staring out at some of the jounin; Kakashi and Gai in particular were laughing up a storm for some obscure reason, and it made Sakura smile to see her teacher laugh so happily, for it was rare to see. Kiba stood between the girls and nudged both their elbows; they looked at him and then followed his gaze as he smirked at the sight of Kurenai and Asuma. Asuma handed Kurenai a drink which she took, watching him over the rim of her glass with a small smile that he returned with a raised eyebrow. Hinata giggled, and then stared up at the ceiling. A strange thumping...but it wasn't heard over the chatter of the adults.

"Naruto, why are we doing this?" Shikamaru asked, ducking under a pipe; they were crawling in the attic above the festivities for Naruto's latest plan that he decided not to inform Shikamaru about. Naruto put his ear to the floor and grinned.

"Right here!" he hissed. "This is where the first one will go."

"The first what?" Shikamaru hissed back, thrusting the paper bag that he had carried for the blonde toward him. Naruto stuck his arm into the bag and dangled something in front of Shikamaru; while intelligent, it took him a moment to realize what was going on.

"Naruto...you must be joking..."

"This is foolproof! It makes everything interesting," Naruto said, still grinning madly.

"Is it that difficult to justlet things happen on their own?"

"But what's a Christmas party without mistletoe?" Naruto asked maddeningly. Shikamaru was not sure whether he expected an answer or not.

"Erm..."

"Well, it's not...now help me–never mind! I got it! Now come look," Naruto demanded, beckoning to Shikamaru, who crawled cautiously and found a small round hole to look through. Impressed, he shook his head.

"Naruto..."

"Who's under there right now?" Naruto asked eagerly.

"Erm..." Shikamaru put his to the floor to look and spotted the red hair of Kurenai directly below, standing face to face with Asuma; he grinned.

"Where did that mistletoe come from?" Kiba wondered aloud and pointed at it, where it hung directly over the two jounin's heads, who seemed to have noticed it as well; movements became awkward and a nervous silence fell between them, small talk was attempted that did not take. Kurenai rubbed her arm opposite and looked up at Asuma shyly.

"Come on!" Naruto hissed, tugging on Shikamaru's sleeve. "We have more to put up!" Shikamaru nodded and waved him away, grinning as he watched the jounin come together for what they tried to make a very chaste touch of the lips...

Ino had made her way to the wall where Sakura and the others stood, grinning at each other at the scene unfolding, Chouji still hot on her heels.

"Well who didn't expect that?" Ino drawled, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder and surveying the crowd once again as if looking for someone; Chouji tugged on her sleeve.

"D'you see that? Ugh," he groaned, stuffing more cucumber in his mouth, while Ino rolled her eyes once more and replied, sounding annoyed.

"You're just jealous because no one's ever gonna get you under the mistletoe," she accused, assuming her superior air and poking him in the forehead. Chouji shrugged and turned away.

"I don't see you with anybody," he replied rudely, waddling off, and Ino turned a bit red out of embarrassment before huffing and stalking off in a different direction; Sakura, Kiba and Hinata laughed quietly and then fell into silence once again, watching mistletoe seem to appear in random places around the large room and people noticing it dangling above their heads. It provided entertainment.

"Hey, is that Sasuke?" Naruto said, peering down through another hole he had made in the ceiling that was near the front door; Shikamaru shoved him over and looked also.

"Yeah, that's him...he doesn't look very thrilled to be here, either."

"Does he look sick to you?"

Shikamaru tilted his head as though to view the quiet man in a different light, then nodded. "Pale...really pale..."

Sakura's back left the wall as her eyes widened and she knew...he was here...she caught a glimpse of his perfect hair moving through a crowd Genin that were probably a couple years younger than herself, and his expression had been predictably stoic. Darting between her Kakashi-Sensei and Gai she excused herself as she elbowed through couples, following his bobbing head the best she could through the thick crowd, her mind racing. I have to understand...I have to know, Sasuke...even if I have to pull it out of you.

Unsure of whether to yell his name or not the kunoichi tried to go faster, the only thing in her gaze his hair; abruptly he stopped as though he knew someone was following and turned, and as Kurenai and Asuma, arm in arm, walked away she caught a clear view and their gazes locked. Soft jade on hardened, icy onyx, narrowed to vicious slits that were holding up a sign telling her to beware, or no regrets left. Ignoring the danger she rushed forward, dodging arms and children as she went and he did not move or blink, but merely stood in front of the table of drinks, silent. Now she grasped the front of his shirt and stared up at him, eyes nearly overflowing with tears before she had even begun. Gently he took her wrists and pushed them away, solemn, and turned away from her and walked to the wall...leaning against it, she followed, standing in front of him.

"You look...ill," she told him quietly, putting a hand to his pale and freezing cheek; he did not jerk away but something twitched; she was pushing it.

"I'm fine," he spat, pushing her away once again, roughly, but she was not to be ignored now.

"Why are you here then?" she demanded, stepping right back to face him.

Eyes narrowing...was it even possible for him to look angrier?

"I had nothing else to do," he replied slowly and clearly.

"You should have gone home," she said forcefully, voice heavy with pity. "You're probably fighting pneumonia...why did you stay out?"

"When are you going to let it go?" he snapped, catching the attention of a few Genin around them who looked around warily. Sakura tugged on the front of his shirt again and shook him a bit as if to knock sense into him that he was obviously ignoring.

"Tell me why you're so upset!"

"I'm not," Sasuke hissed, removing her hands from him again by outright shoving her; she most likely would have stumbled and fallen onto her back had he not grabbed the front of her shirt and straightened her again, furious. Puzzled she stared at him...she just could not understand...if he had wanted to hurt her she would have fallen and embarrassed herself and that would have satisfied him. Now Sasuke stalked off, the back of his neck frighteningly white; Sakura went after him again.

"Sasuke! Explain this to me!" she yelled, fighting through the crowd and shoving aside surprised adults to reach him; he too was elbowing and storming between couples to get away from her. He had reached the door and wrenched it open, facing the storm once more but Sakura screamed:

"STOP!"

The festive din and chatter quieted to an awkward silence as he looked at her over his shoulder; she stood apart from the crowd, tears running silently down her face as she had her hand out, trying to pull him back.

"Don't leave...not until–"

"UNTIL WHAT?" Sasuke exploded; the anger he had been suppressing had burst through as his words echoed in the silence; partygoers were staring, openmouthed, almost frightened at the...evil, it seemed like, that had pierced the joy of the holiday.

"Until what? Until I pour out my heart for all these damn people to hear? For you to hear? I don't think so," he said loudly; Sakura was becoming steadily redder out of anger and embarrassment, and in contrast his skin seemed to fade whiter than ever.

"Tell me what your problem is," Sakura whispered, still so terribly embarrassed and distressed; her knees bent slightly in as if she could shrink into nothing and hide herself from the crowd behind her that was staring and whispering...

"My problem," Sasuke started, "is that I'm so sick and tired of you trying to rope me into this festive holiday cheer." He spat the words at her as if they made him sick to even let his lips form them. "When are you going to understand that this is just a day to me and nothing more? That I DON'T CARE?"

"Rope you into–" Sakura closed her mouth, appalled.

"Haven't you taken the hint by now?" he asked her, fingers clenched into fists.

"But you still haven't told me WHY!" she screeched, immediately clapping her hands over her mouth, surprised at herself. The boy staring at her was dangerously silent for a moment, and then he took a step toward her. A slow, heavy step that caused a hurried shuffling behind her as they moved back...she stood her ground and bit her bottom lip as he moved closer, arms tensed as though he might punch her, and he too bit his lip...so hard that it was wet with coppery blood...bringing back those memories of Christmas past...

"You want to know why?" he asked innocently, now standing face to face, ghost white, and Sakura nodded.

"You do?" he asked, as though she were hesitant. He chuckled; it was unnerving. "Fine then."

His demeanor changed...it was as though they were having a friendly interview or a polite conversation. "Sakura...what does Christmas remind you of?"

Silence. As though the room held it's breath as one.

"Erm...ah–"

"Don't be stupid," he snapped, himself in a heartbeat. "Think." Sakura shook her head in desperation and wrung her hands.

"Food...friends...family–"

And then it hit her, an abrupt and painful gunshot in the chest. Family. Family.

He said he had no home...because what was home without someone to call family in it? His home was nothing but ashes and empty, dilapidated buildings, stained with the blood of what had been the source of love on his Christmases. His mother and father...the ones who raised him and were the ones to cradle him and smile at his wide-eyed gaze as he learned like a child...he didn't have that. The only relative alive was one he had sworn to kill...that was not the love of a family he needed nor deserved. Because holidays were for spending time with the people you cared for and loved...but he didn't love anybody and there was nobody to love him. All he was left with were painful and distant memories of what he remembered...and now did not have.

So he was right...it was just another day...another day he was just grateful to be alive and breathing and still on the path of revenge.

Pretty paper...pretty ribbons of blue...

Pity of man hung heavy in the atmosphere...the happiness seemed selfish to possess in the presence of those who had none. Denying the homeless man food...refusing treatment of the ill...

Sakura hung her head in embarrassment as it slowly flooded her veins like ice...how could I have not...understood? She was not the only one; they shifted guiltily behind her, sharing the feeling as if it was their personal fault.

For when the children went home to be greeted with open arms and warm embraces...when they decorated and sat in front of the fire and simply reflected on what they had...what did he have? Nothing but the memories...and those were haunts...far from happiness.

"I..." Words would never help, only hurt, and as his heart bled slowly he stared at her with an empty gaze that disguised so much. And Sakura felt so stupid.

"Like I said earlier," he hissed, eyes flickering toward the ceiling, "I didn't expect you to understand."

Sakura wrapped one hand around the other and held them together against her chest, aware of the room staring at her, as if praying. "But I–"

"I bet you're sorry."

"I didn't think–"

"Guess not...and here was me thinking you were smarter than Naruto," Sasuke said quietly, eyes flickering to the ceiling to find the source of the annoying thumping sound. Ignoring the curiosity, he unsuccessfully stifled his wracking cough and prepared to turn away from her, in finality.

"SASUKE PLEASE!" she cried, rushing forward and throwing her arms around him; his knees locked and he clutched the back of her dress, breath stolen from her embrace; his coughing began again and she pulled away with tears in her eyes, looking him up and down with pity.

"You're so ill..."

Sasuke shook his head and drew breath to say more, but no...the cold was taking it's deadly toll, poisoning him with illness and fatigue from his stubbornness. Grimacing, he turned away and prepared to leave again, but Sakura wrapped her fingers around his forearm with an iron grip. She did not falter this time from his gaze...his gaze that was tearing her to pieces.

"I have to take you home."

"Where is that?"

Sakura opened her mouth and was going to ask him why once again, but stopped. She now realized the 'why', now she had to convince him otherwise.

"With your teammates," she whispered quietly; the room was silent for her as she threw herself under the blinding spotlight. "With your teacher, and your rival, at home enjoying this day instead of beating yourself up over what you have lost...home...with..."

She swallowed, her gaze hardening.

"With me."

So much admitted in two little words, things that had only been reiterated in so many forms until now, and it hit him painfully. But no...every time you got close...you were only ripped away. That was how it always worked. Sasuke turned away and Sakura let him do that, but all he did was stand, arms folded, staring at the door and listening to her speak–

"I am sorry for you...but why not embrace and love what you have now? Isn't that better, Sasuke? Better than...nothing?"

"Stop," he hissed, expression hidden behind the curtain of ebony locks.

"I always say this...I will never stand by and let your tear yourself apart...you will have to accept the fact that no matter what you do, there are going to be people that care about you!"

Sasuke closed his eyes.

"And...I am one of them," she whispered, hugging him from behind, gently, as she had done not too long ago, another time where the only thing that brought him back was her. Breathing in unison, they listened to the comfortable silence of each other...while the banging continued above.

The creaking became louder–

Sasuke turned and faced Sakura, his expression almost apologetic.

"It's easier to feel nothing...than to feel pain."

Sakura bit her lip at his words. This poor boy.

A few people glanced at the ceiling–

"I wish I could take away that pain," she murmured, wrapping her arms around him once more and he stiffened but she ignored it; he was freezing...the stupid poor boy. She looked up at him and surveyed him with a pitiful gaze, and he could only stare back, so many thoughts racing across his mind.

SNAP!

The room echoed with piercing screams and children were swept off their feet and into arms as the ceiling fell in, raining dust upon the guests and knocking Sakura into Sasuke and both to the floor. Two boys emerged from the wreckage, groaning and rubbing their heads, staring up at the beam that had snapped under their weight.

"Shikamaru!" Ino screeched, running to the front of the crowd, her tone scolding. Shikamaru stood up slowly and kicked Naruto in the ribs, glaring.

"Brilliant idea."

Naruto was red-faced as he pulled himself to his feet, staring around at the crowd of people that was goggling at them as though they had literally fallen from the sky. Not quite knowing what to say, he grinned and gave a thumbs up to the guests. "Erm...Merry Christmas?"

"Shikamaru, what were you two doing up there?" Ino demanded; Hinata had pushed herself to the front also, expression torn between amusement and horror as she stared at the obnoxious boy, who was still slightly embarrassed. "You two almost killed Sasuke and Sakura!"

Shikamaru winced and turned completely around to apologize to the ninja that had previously been the entertainment. "Wow, sorry g–"

His voice was lost out of utter shock, and as his apology faded the attention was ruthlessly directed to the couple on the floor, both of whom were too lost, too close, beyond caring. She now rested on top of the Uchiha's chest, her face embarrassed, his, a bit surprised and he struggled to act as though this were an everyday ordeal. But their lips were too close, their minds too lost, and now, despite the crowd around them, who really cared?

So nervous...as if moving in a desperate dream that was struggling to be faster, but met only resistance; as if afraid to break her, as if afraid to be wrong, the boy leaned forward, awkwardly, and pressed his lips to hers...hopefully it would make sense. As with everything he did, he liked to control; she uttered a little squeak as he pulled away only a bit and then took her lips again, now an expert.

It didn't take her long to comply.

The boy felt no pain...if only for a blissful moment.

The silence that settled upon the room was normal and expectant; their friends were frozen with a stunned silence...

But it was fighting...

With a strangled cry as though burned he pulled away, leaving Sakura to stare at him in confusion...and hurt. The calm love was shattered into pieces as he bit his lip, breathing hard, and shoved her roughly off him and stood...her lip was bleeding...

He tasted the blood from his lips in disgusted horror; was it his? Hers? His mothers?

This isn't then...this is now, Sasuke. Now is different, you know this.

For the torture was fighting for a way out...fighting to break free...the coppery taste that made his stomach churn...the blood made him remember those terrible memories...what he clung to in twilight moments...

I have to get out...I'll lose it again...I don't want to remember...not again...

"Sasuke!" Sakura cried, latching onto his arm again, tears in her eyes as the room held it's breath in united confusion. But oh god, that morbid taste...the memories he fought away as the invisible terror that haunted him so. Maybe it would subside...somehow.

Without a word, ignoring the faces around him, confused and shocked –they're spinning...god...– he lunged for the doorknob, the coughs wracking him like a swaying tree once again. But she was not letting go, and the dizziness only felt worse and he jerked away, but she held him fast–

"Before you go...I have something for you."

Light pierced his cerebellum and he gritted his teeth in agony, while the room still danced in a distorting waltz. In his hand he felt a small box; she closed his fingers around it and he tried to quell his coughing fit to listen:

"It's a present. But you don't have to open it...I guess...if you don't..." her voice cracked and broke out of embarrassment. If only he was able to apologize...

"Who's it for?"

"Your father..."

He was lost. In memories that were relentless and too painful to bear. Everyone felt pity and Sakura was devastated as she cried. Like a wounded animal he whimpered, ashamed...the pain was just too much.

Swaying, he scooped an object off the ground and slapped it in her hand, trying to focus but the stupid dizziness...the conversation from the day before rose from within as if a movie, playing...

"You haven't been sleeping again...it's been 3 days, at least, and I just don't think you're up for this mission..." His teacher rarely expressed concern like this.

"I'll be fine, Kakashi."

"Sasuke, what is wrong with you?" she screamed; around him the low murmurs began and his breathing began to slow...he would have, might have been, probably been fine...

Had it not been for the

Pretty paper...pretty ribbons of blue...

There it was; a gift for him that he did not need wrapped delicately in a blue box, with the voluminous blue bow perched on top, and that was it. If anything could have made him lose it right then and there, it was that dangerous reminder of his last Christmas; without thinking his fingers ripped the ribbon off and shoved the box into the depths of his pocket...Sakura's gaze was frightened, tearstained, utterly confused, and he held the long ribbon out as though it were diseased.

"Please, Sasuke, go home, you're so sick," she reiterated once again, utterly pleading and if she could have she would have been down on her knees. But the muttering, the blood, the memories, the shaking, the cold...grabbing each end of the decoration, he made sure Sakura watched his fingers as he tore it, over and over, into uneven pieces that fluttered to the floor. He watched her face fall, he watched the tears build once again...

He watched her hope die.

Killing ribbons.

He coughed...her face was even more horrified as his blood left patterns of drops around the remains of the blue ribbon, now on the floor.

He leaned his forehead against the door with his back to the people now so horrified, now so confused, and muttered:

"The one kiss...was only because of that." He said this with distaste and hatred that he did not mean, and flinging the door open, stumbled through the snowdrifts into the freezing night, making sure it was shut securely behind him.

Sakura opened her fingers to see the object resting in her hand...the little branch of mistletoe. Viciously she threw it to the floor, stomping her boot on it and crushing it into pieces, before turning on her heel and running through the crowd of stunned people, wretchedly sobbing out of embarrassment and pain.

Sasuke only made it a few feet before collapsing, body sinking at least a few feet. Snow fell over him, burying, obscuring the emblem on his back, and he rested in easy silence.

Pretty paper...pretty ribbons of blue...


I will probably never leave this couple in peace. Excuse mistakes, review and whatnot :P And try to figure out the song this is...hint, something I usually don't listen to.

And for the record I know Sasuke's past, but I sort of manipulated it to work better with this.

An early Happy Holidays to all of you.

Haha...it's not doooone.