--cracks up--

I'm so sorry...that's so mean...Sasy-chan's in the closet right now plotting my death out in his head as he waits for Christmas morning.

"He was really sick, then?"

"He must have been..."

"What's on your face, Sakura?"


"Please, don't cry–"

"Just leftover all."

The silence that settled was awkward, and pierced by the sound of the door opening and Kakashi's calm, even voice.

"Is he still out?"

"Y-yes," Sakura replied quite the opposite, wavering and gentle. A sniffle.

"He should be fine. His fever is going down and he should awaken anytime matter what he does, he needs to rest. Can I ask you to convince him of this?"

"Yes, Kakashi-Sensei," she whispered, sniffling again. She would try her best...the poor idiot.

The door shut quietly; Kakashi had left.

"A little higher, Sasuke," his mother ordered gently as she held him around the waist; her son stretched to reach the one ornament-less space on the pine. Once his task had been done she lowered him to the chilly wooden floor, smiling, and he stared up delightedly at his accomplishment.

Sakura jumped and stared wide-eyed at the lifeless body that had uttered a low chuckle to himself, the sick body that was tucked in from every side and had been motionless for the past few hours. Placing her palm to his forehead she swallowed noticeably; his head was too warm for comfort and she could do nothing but wait, watching him toss and turn in his fitful sleep. Once in a while he would cry out as if in pain, but being unconscious...what could she do?

"Damn..." Sasuke muttered, gritting his teeth, his expression contorted into one of pain as he slid his elbows to raise himself on them.

"Lay down!" Sakura snapped fiercely, scaring him and he jumped in response. Blinking, he surveyed his surroundings but did as he was told...his body was sore from sickness and the trying mission he had endured on limited sleep these past nights. She immediately busied herself with something while he scowled slightly at his incapacitation and stared up at the ceiling with dark eyes, trying to remember what had happened earlier.

"Take this," she said quietly, crawling toward him on her knees; he gingerly raised himself upon shaking elbows again and with surprising strength, the girl put an arm around him and steadied him. Together they choked the medicine down. Despite her glares, he remained sitting up, clutching the covers around him with shaking hands, deathly pale.

" I..."

"You passed out," Sakura told him, still holding him. Her face bore stains...stains from so many tears shed. Without thinking, Sasuke awkwardly swept fingers across her cheek, as if to brush the reddened rivets away, and Sakura flinched under his touch.

"You're still so need to go by the fire...that's the best thing," she convinced herself, and without waiting for an answer she put his arm around her neck and heaved him to his feet, taking most of his weight.

As they limped toward the family room she continued to talk, piecing together the problem.

"When was the last night you had a decent night of sleep?"

A pause. "Three nights ago," he muttered. She nodded as though this made sense.

"You didn't stop at the house at all after returning from the mission, did you?" She knew the answer was no.

"You were sitting out there in the cold, trying to think, trying to forget about the day. Now you've gotten extremely sick. Last year you didn't even emerge from your room for a day before and two after. Because you don't want to see everyone else happy...when all you have is memories."

"Well I'll say this," Sakura continued; releasing his weight, she lowered him slowly to the couch...a fire roared in the fireplace close and she sat next to him. "I know you have lost a lot...but you know that we–Kakashi-Sensei and Naruto and I–are always here. Always willing to help you. I know you don't really care...but I just wanted to let you know."

Sasuke did not answer but she did not need one, and instead felt his forehead once more.

"Still so cold..."

She sat on the couch next to him and tucked the large blanket around them both like a mother, making sure it was tucked around his neck before taking his hands and covering them with her own; she was warm...Sasuke was grateful for that, and let his head fall back into the couch. He opened his mouth as if to say something –perhaps a thank you–but clenched it shut and instead stared into the dancing flames. Dare he look at her? For what he'd done? The guilt sort of could she have understood his pain unless she felt it herself? He had not even told her the horrors he saw when he rested alone.

"Sakura," he said quietly, turning back to look at her and was startled to find her eyes full of tears for the nth time that evening. "Why are you...please–don't," he hissed, closing his eyes as though her crying was indecent. " about I..."

So difficult for him to speak. Taking back his hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the gift that she had handed him earlier...she leaned her head on his shoulder but did not say a word. He opened it without ceremony and stared at the contents for a very tense moment, in a long and blissful silence; abruptly, he snapped it shut, staring once again at the fire.

"Sakura," he muttered, staring straight ahead, as she continued to sob: Not quiet in any way...chest heaving as she let tears spill from her jade eyes, blood vessels flooding to give her whites a bloody tinge of sorrow.

"Sakura," he repeated, looking at her out of the corner of his eye, raising a brow as she continued to cry loudly.

"SA–KUR–A!" he yelled, becoming angry, he took her roughly by the shoulders and shook her furiously.

"That is not the way to handle it," a firm voice said in his ear; Sasuke jumped and looked over his shoulder, but of course his helpful mentor was nowhere to be found, not with a crying female around. The avenger was immune to emotion usually, but not this...this girl, the teammate that would die to save him, now crying over him, pretty much on his lap, and he did not possess the strength, or frankly heart, to up and leave.

So his mind was pretty much BLANK.

" can...stop now...please?" he stuttered, grimacing at his own stupidity. Her cries began to subside a bit, and her lip was trembling out of control like a child's.

"Why–me?" Sasuke asked himself, wishing he had a nearby wall to slam his head into.

"Sorry," Sakura muttered, uncharacteristically harsh, throwing the blanket off her. "I'll go."

"Did I say you could go?" Sasuke asked her, tilting his head slightly at her defiance.

"What's making me stay?" she asked, getting up completely, but when she turned away he grabbed her wrist so furiously that he jerked her around and on top of him.

"Hey Sasuke!" Naruto yelled obnoxiously, making them jump: He had his messy blonde head between the wooden bars of the railing of the stairs, and he had decided to yell in Sasuke's ear.

"You're an idiot, you be quiet," Sasuke said coldly, reaching behind him and elbowing Naruto in the face; he turned to Sakura, who was now comfortably resting on his lap, still wary. "And you stay here."

"Haven't you said enough?" Sakura choked out, picking up his present and clenching the little box in her fist.

"I was trying to–WHAT WAS THAT FOR?" he yelled as the box bounced off his forehead with a loud sound; she had flung it at him.

"For being...for!" Sakura burst out, putting her hands over her face; angrily, he took them and held her wrists, getting in her face.

"For being so what? And if you start crying again I swear I will–"

"I think I deserve to shed a few tears for the way you treated me," she whispered, shoving his hands away from her as though it disgusted her to touch them.

These words hit him as effectively as if she had slapped him. Humbled and taken slightly aback, he clenched and unclenched his fingers, and it was finally sinking in, all of this. She took time and effort and unconditional love and gave it all to him. And this was what he was doing to her. The pain he felt in his heart mirrored the pain he remembered from so long ago, when it was confirmed in his mind that he was alone in this world. Why was he making more? Did anyone deserve that? It hurt to see her hurt this way.

But what definitely hurt the most was when he raised a hand, for what, he did not know, maybe to brush that annoying strand of hair from her face...and she flinched and recoiled away from his touch. She was afraid.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly; slowly and awkwardly, he took her hand; she flinched again.

"Stop," he muttered, his shaking hand taking her other one.

"You're still sick, you're shaking," she told him, motherly instinct showing through.

"Stop worrying about me so I can say something."

She fell silent.

"Hey Sasuke–"

"Go away, Naruto."

"But Sasuke–"

"Shut up, Naruto."

Naruto huffed and fell silent also. Sasuke took a deep breath and let it out slowly, steeling himself for the words he was about to say.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have tried to ruin your Christmas because I was upset about my own life, about things I couldn't control. I appreciate your present and I'm sorry for...being...stubborn."

Sakura raised an eyebrow. "That sounded so heartfelt," she said sarcastically.

"Look, I'm not a poet," Sasuke snapped.

"I'm kidding," Sakura said quietly; in the dim light her eyes seemed to sparkle a bit. "That means a lot. Even if it sounded like it came off a cheesy soap opera."



An awkward silence fell, and both were suddenly aware that Sakura was still sitting comfortably on his lap.

" I'll–"

"No, it's okay...I guess–"


"Yeah, it's fine. I don't care."

"Okay," Sakura finished, turning away, cheeks reddening considerably; Sasuke coughed and turned his head away also.

"Hey Sasuke–"

"WHAT?" Sasuke yelled, looking over his shoulder at his friend, who still had his head between the bars; his and Sakura's gazes went up to the hand that was dangling mistletoe over their heads.


"Naruto!" Sakura screamed, leaning forward on Sasuke to rap him upside the skull. "Gross."

"No, not for me, for you two," Naruto said, still shaking the little branch back and forth above Sasuke's head. There was a long pause, and Sakura froze, still pressing her torso into Sasuke's face as she held onto a bar of the railing and was silent.

"Hn," Sasuke muttered, gently taking the girl's sides and pushing her back down to sit upon his lap; she stared at him in disbelief.

"You know, you don't have t-to, if you don't want–"

"I sort of owe you...I mean, I did cut the last one short," he murmured, gently cradling her head and pulling her closer, feeling her warm breaths on his own frozen lips...just begging for him to take them in his own. Sakura seemed a bit self-conscious and lowered her head, blushing a little, so all he could see was the top of her pink head.

"You don't have to."

"What I want," he growled; daring he did not anticipate overtook him and he yanked her head back up, her lips brushing his, "I get."

He crashed his lips against hers, still holding the back of her head, and he waited for her to comply.

She did so with a fierceness he did not expect; her fingers wove themselves within his locks and pulled him down and closer as he now tasted her beautiful tongue and it burned in a way so utterly satisfying that he chuckled in his throat. Now that she was into the rhythm she was a bit more aggressive and pressed him into the couch, tugging on his locks in desperate want–

"Sasuke, you look like you're eating her face!"

"Shut–up," Sasuke choked out, barely able to pull himself away from her; her face was flushed and excited and she nearly whimpered out of distress when his lips left hers.

"Maybe–" Sakura began, but Sasuke grabbed her again and, determined to dominate, played with her tongue again, tasting every sweet inch of what was Sakura and relying on his other senses. Mine.


"Naruto, get out!" Sasuke groaned, letting his head fall back on the couch as Sakura took his lips and fiercely kissed him, silently begging him to reply to her. Gladly he obliged and pulled away only to breathe, and when he did it was nothing but her.

"Okay, geez, Sasuke–OH!"

Naruto's head was stuck between the wooden bars. Sasuke opened one eye a slit and glanced behind him to see his friend trying to pull himself out to no avail.

"A little help here?" Naruto demanded, pointing at himself–Sasuke was busy tongue-wrestling with Sakura to notice, or perhaps he was ignoring him, and he shrugged half-heartedly in response and wrested his lips from Sakura's, only to suck on her neck and jawline as she whimpered in delight; Naruto's grunting went unnoticed as Sakura buried her face into ebony locks and continued to sound like a mewling kitten.

"Sasuke, seriously!" Naruto yelled angrily, red in the face and still struggling to free his thick skull; Sakura's eyes closed in ecstasy as Sasuke continued to bite her neck, growling every so often as if in protection and ownership. Reaching behind him, Sasuke bent an arm back and placed the heel of his hand on Naruto's forehead; with a great shove, his head came free and he was slammed into the opposite side of the stairwell.

Without thanking him, Naruto thundered up the stairs, yelling for Kakashi.

"You–were–sick," Sakura stuttered, pushing Sasuke down onto the couch.

"I am sick," Sasuke corrected, laughing a bit; Sakura paused, trying to quell her heavy breathing, and saw him shaking beneath her. Shaking her head, she reached behind her and yanked the heavy blanket over them both, laying down on his shaking chest.

"Then we'll have to let you get some rest...and warm up, for that matter," she whispered, nuzzling her face into his chest. Her pillow had a heartbeat that eventually lulled her them both to sleep, with nothing but the sounds of the crackling fire existing.

"But...where are we going?"

The snow did not swirl and the wind did not howl, but shops were open and bustling two days later.

"You'll see."

She had her arm linked loosely through his as they braved the frigid air of the city.

"But you could still be ill," she fussed, peering at him. He shrugged nonchalantly.

"I'll live. Besides...I wanted to do something for you."

"Why for me?" she asked, genuine selflessness and confusion in her sparkling eyes.

" sort of deserve it. After all that..."

"True. But you didn't have to. So tell me," she begged, hanging on his arm and giving him a pathetic look.

Sasuke shook his head slowly, but then snickered.



Sakura huffed and unconsciously scratched at her neck, remembering what had happened Christmas morning.

"What's this? Naruto, you already got me a really shouldn't have–What the hell?"

In her hand she held a bottle of coverup. Her deadly glare reduced Naruto to a deer in the headlights.

" wasn't me?"


The bottle collided with his skull and the feminine product seeped over his eyes. Naruto got up and ran with Sakura chasing after him, berating him. Sasuke raised an eyebrow and watched his teammates chase each other over the house, and Kakashi came strolling by too innocently with his new book (a gift) in his hand. And if the grin hadn't been enough, the suggestive wink he gave Sasuke was proof enough.

Sasuke hung his head, rubbing the back of it in embarrassment. "My family."

My family.

He had come to accept this slowly.

"You like sleighs, right?" He asked this carefully and tried to hide his smirk as Sakura's face lit up.


" told me that a while ago..."

"But what does that have to do with..." her voice trailed off in surprise as he stopped walking and she did the same.

"Oh Sasuke..." she murmured, reaching out to gentle pat the nose of a reindeer; it nuzzled her gloved hand playfully and pawed at the snowy road. It's companion eyed Sasuke with wide eyes. He left her side and climbed in, turning around and putting out a hand for her. She did not move.

"Well come on," he said; slowly, she took the proffered hand and he pulled her onto the sleigh. Both taking a seat, Sasuke nodded to the driver, who tipped his hat and response and the sleigh glided across the snow, bells on the collars of the reindeer jingling merrily and letting the whole world know who was out.

"Thank much," Sakura whispered, leaning on him and closing her eyes to take in all the sounds that she loved, the sounds that she had told him she had loved a very long time ago when he had been attempting to ignore her silly wants.

"Well...that's what..."

"Families do."

He nodded in agreement, and tried to let himself enjoy the sounds too...the sight of her delighted smile was just too distracting. "And what I did last night...I...I'm sorry for that too. I had no right to...and that...I was just–"

"Stop stuttering," Sakura said, giggling, but turning a bit red, remembering her own actions from that night. "It's okay."


Sakura screamed and the reindeer stopped in their tracks and gazed around with wide eyes. Naruto seemed to appear out of thin air as he grinned and hopped in the sleigh, planting himself directly between Sasuke and Sakura.

"What are you doing here?" Sasuke asked, grinding his teeth and glaring at the blonde in a way so angry that if the boy had cared enough about his life, he would have been running in the other direction.

"I thought you guys would be lonely all by yourselves in the cold, in the snow!" Naruto exclaimed, throwing an arm around each of his teammates and smiling. "Giddyup!"

The driver raised an eyebrow but did as he was told; the reindeer rose to a fast trot once again and Sakura shook her head at her friend. "Oh Naruto," she sighed, hugging him tightly; Sasuke rolled his eyes and tried to ignore them, but he found himself face to face with his Sensei.

"Hello," Kakashi said calmly, and for once his nose was not buried in a book, but rather turned up as his lazy gaze surveyed the calm serenity of the snow. He looked down at Sasuke with a grin from his perch on the raised side of the sleigh, and the Uchiha glared at him. Kakashi pulled a small bottle of coverup from his pocket and gave Sasuke another suggestive wink.


"Hm?" She leaned forward to see him better while Naruto told the driver to go faster.

"Where'd you find that..."

"Your gift? Well...I had to ask took a while was worth it..." she trailed off, smiling shyly.

"I... liked the ribbon," he added, and she smiled wider, but leaned back so he couldn't see her blush.

Sasuke looked from his teacher to Naruto, who still had his arm around each of them and his feet up as if he owned the seat, babbling to Sakura about something.

He looked up to the sky and muttered, " my family." He closed his eyes and let the fresh snowflakes settle on his face, wondering just how he had ended up in this sleigh anyway.

In his pocket, curled, was the blue ribbon from the small box that had been her present, and somehow, now, he realized what it meant to him. The good and the bad. And looking again at these people he was with on a regular basis, he realized that this was his life, and for now there was no changing that.

And for one moment in his tragic life, he was grateful for it.

Pretty paper...

Pretty ribbons of blue...


Naruto cracks me up.

First of all, the song was "Pretty Paper" by Randy Travis. I am NOT a country fan, but his Christmas CD is just SO depressing and sad, so that's where I developed this idea for poor Sasuke since he obviously wouldn't enjoy family stuff very much. And for the first time, I've made it end happy. Okay? And I probably won't do it again! So there you go.

And as for what was in the box...

I ain't tellin'. :P Maybe I'll make a wrap-up later and tell you. Maybe.

So anyway, review, check out my other stories, but mostly, enjoy your holidays, Christmas or whatever you choose to celebrate. Because if you don't, I'll have to bring Sasuke over. He won't have fun. He'll rip all your mistletoe down and drink all the punch and then cry.

Just kidding...I'm sort of wired, with it being Christmas Eve and all.

Again, enjoy yourselves! No drinking, now, children! 3 3 Much Love.