Disclaimer: I own Naruto like I own Masashi Kishimoto's massive lips. Both are his property, not mine. Olive the Other Reindeer is owned by a few people...Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Siebold, who wrote the book, and Matt Groening, who worked on the movie. The unnamed shopkeeper, however, is mine.
VERY IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was originally written as a present for my wonderful friend, Blue Pajama Girl. It was written with her tastes in mind--lots of Kiba/Hinata fluff, Naruto bashing, Akamaru's personality, etc. There's a good chance you won't enjoy this story if you aren't Blue Pajama Girl. But she insisted I post it under pain of being called a loser (lylas, my 'jama friend.) If you do get some pleasure out of it, fantastic. But I don't want to hear a peep of complaint. Not on OOCness, comments on Japan's weather/customs/thoughts on Christmas. Nada. Everything else I write on I am completely open to criticism on. Not this.
Thank you for the understanding.
Now my ligaments are toast
But here it comes, more parcel post
Why not splurge? Send it priority!
What's one more pain in my posteriority?
Mocha and ink eyes cracked open wearily as the loud, bouncing song struck a lance through the sleeping mind of their owner. Lying prone on the couch, his cheek mashed into a comfortable pillow while one hand dangled to the floor, the first thing Kiba became aware of was a furry weight on his backside.
The second was the notion that the song playing on the TV was very, very familiar.
"Akamaru?" He inquired in a voice muffled by the pillow. "You're not watching that stupid movie again, are you?"
"Kiba!" Yipped the little dog in their shared language. He temporarily gave up his seat to pounce up near Kiba's head, tail running like a motor and beating them both with its motions of puppy excitement. "You're awake! Now you can watch it with me!"
Kiba groaned. "I already watched it five times with you. Besides, it's so annoying."
He instantly knew he'd said the wrong thing. Akamaru couldn't have sounded more offended if it had been his own mother that was insulted...or the rawhide bone he kept carefully hidden somewhere in the walls of the house. "Olive is not stupid! She's nice and she knows how to fly! And I think she's pretty!"
Indignant, he jumped off his friend and turned back to the TV, letting colorful animated Christmas goodness (and one puppy-crush best left unnamed) soothe his angry soul.
Kiba, meanwhile, rolled over onto his back with a sigh, trying while sleep was still fresh to recall the wonderful dream he'd been shaken out of. He couldn't quite pinpoint where it had taken place, but the snow had been falling outside, a soothing red glow had softened the darkness around him, and he was staring into the eyes of the one he thought was pretty. Best of all, she'd been staring right back. Dressed in the casual, coatless style that so few people appreciated but Kiba adored, she had taken his hand in her own and smiled. Ooh boy, you get a Hinata smile, a genuinely happy one still framed with that cute little blush, and life instantly gets better. The girl could probably stop the Apocalypse in its tracks and make it turn into a rainbow, just with that look. That look that had been directed right at him.
And then, leaning forward, arms hooking around his neck, she'd kissed him. Somewhere along the line she must have had some hot chocolate, because its sweetness was dancing magically with her own. He could have lived on that moment forever, just kissing Hinata, with no need to press forward into something more intimate and no desire to go back to the outside world.
That's the cruelty of life, though.
As Olive was beginning the first leg of her journey and Akamaru was hanging on her every word, Kiba sat up.
'I need some hot chocolate.'
Down in the shopping district of Konoha, Hinata was finding a different way to spend her time.
Growing up and realizing the fates they inherited in their separate houses, her and Neji's relationship was both damaged beyond measure and untouched. Certain little traditions between them stayed strong. Twice a year--once on his birthday and once on Christmas--the elder boy would insist that "Whatever present you have squirreled away isn't necessary." He didn't want anything, need anything. Especially not wrapped up in pity from a Main Branch member. Every year he said it. And every year Hinata would find him some little trinket that he'd end up secretly treasuring.
It was mischief like only Hinata Hyuuga could come up with.
And so Hinata found herself wandering down the paths of the market, the little bag dangling from one hand.
For a December evening, it wasn't bitingly cold, only a slight sharpness to the air being felt as she sighed contentedly. Her breath warmed it into winter smoke, which wreathed her delicate face on the exhale. Smiling gently, she turned her flowered-milk eyes to the sky above. Swaths of blue, purple, and just a touch of pink streaked across the sky, spotted with an early star here and there.
The only thing missing was some snow to frame it.
Swinging open the cabinet door, it occurred to Kiba how much you can tell about a person just by viewing their snack stocks.
Naruto, for example, had a drawer filled with ramen. All kinds of ramen. Packed and cupped. Hand-stretched noodle, oiled and stick-stretched noodle, cut noodle, pushed noodle and rice noodle ramen; chicken, pork, beef, soy.
Shino kept a sparse supply of pretzels and sugared, cherry flavored water. Kami-sama, the boy even ate like a bug.
Choji had three snack drawers. 'Nuff said.
And himself? Kiba's shelves looked something out of a shack in the woods. A variety of dried meats were lined up, salted and cured from any number of different animals. He always had a ready excuse for anyone who called him on it, truthfully saying that he needed a lot--Akamaru liked meat, too.
Taking a stick of jerky out to gnaw, he held it in his mouth so as to free his hands and shift the rest (as well as a few other inevitable food items) out of the way. It didn't take too much hunting to find the plastic container sitting in the back, sky blue with a chibi Ninja happily sipping from a steaming mug on the front. Kiba had long since learned not to question his mother's choice of brands.
Just for caution's sake, he pulled off the lid and peeked inside. A year without use hadn't hurt the chocolate powder at all; it looked perfectly clean, and the rich scent still took complete control of Kiba's nose.
'I don't know why you can't just eat the stuff right out of the can,' Kiba wondered. Then he noticed that a few specks had fallen from the lid to his hand and, ever open to test a theory, dragged his tongue roughly over them.
That answered his question.
Dilemmas are like that. Standing on the side of the street, Hinata watched the one who had once been her respected sensei fight the inevitable.
"I said no, Temari! No! I don't want to see Santa with you!"
Temari tightened her grasp around her captive's arm, pulling on him with a little more force. He in turn dug his heels into the snow. "Oh c'mooon, Iruka. Don't you want to make me happy?"
But Temari had the strength of a Sand ninja, and on top of this she was having fun. Iruka didn't stand a chance. In the end, though, he would have done anything to oblige her.
Like most of the other marketgoers who had been watching their scene, Hinata laughed a little inwardly before going on her way.
When she first saw the shop, it was hard to believe she'd missed it. It had none of the comforting, just-a-little-too-bright invitation that the other stores had; on the contrary, it was so dark inside that one could be forgiven for wondering if it was closed. But a few candles flicking inside (and a sign on the window) made it clear that the door was open. Hinata hesitated at the doorway, but a strange urge to look at the unknown mingled with the fact that she still hadn't found a few items on her Christmas list yet, pushing her in.
Instantly she was awash in the smell of incense with just a touch of mustiness underneath, as if someone had lit the sticks to cover the tang of unused shop. A faded carpet was strewn across the floor. But it wasn't the floor Hinata was looking at. She gazed at the shop in wonder, surprised by the startling assortment of items she was seeing. Colors struck other colors hard on fabrics soft and rough and satin and beads. From the ceiling, on the walls, stuffed animals, exotic wood. All of it a surreal dream.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
She spun around. This was the kind of shop right out of a storybook, and it made sense for it to have a fitting owner; a hunched over old hag with nails as long as her hands, or a slick looking man with a foreign accent and quick eyes. Yet the person who had spoken was a boy only a few years older than Hinata herself.
His hair was a rich, mahogany brown, tinted purple by the candlelight. It cascaded down his back and covered his right eye, one in a matching pair of emerald. The indigo kimono seemed to flow with him in some places but clung to his body in others, highlighting narrow muscles and wrapping his slender hips in a silky, erotic embrace.
He looked like pure sex, and his voice was warm cream.
Hinata blinked in surprise. "Er, yes. I mean, nothing in particular...I just came in to look around."
"I understand. I'm sure you shall find something you desire tonight." He took himself off to the other side of the shop, seeming to be doing something to a fiery red pelt of fur, while Hinata started her browsing.
It would have been easy to look at the commodities all day, for they were almost hypnotically exotic, each one appearing to tell a story while leaving something unsaid. Bottles that smelled fantastic, weapons designed to cause horrible damage, paintings of otherworldly beauty, and--for some bizarre reason--genin level kunai. She decided it was better not to ask.
But it was a small wooden box sitting on the shelf, hidden almost behind a carved marble owl, that caught her eye and held it. It had been left wide open (what kept people from stealing it was the young shopkeeper's business), revealing an inner lining of pale pink silk and a two inch stone resting on it. It was stunning, not too ornate but rich in a mixture of violet, amethyst purple, and royal blue, and deep inside, at the very heart, was the clear silhouette of a wolf.
After seeing it, nothing else in the world would do for Kiba.
"Ah, you like that?" said the boy in the kimono when she came to him, fearing to touch the stone too freely. "It's the heart of a tanuki. When one tanuki wants to spend his life with another, he gives his lover two things--a bowl of sake and this, for a rich life and unending love."
"No. But it's a nice thought."
Hinata's eyes dropped a little sadly. "Yes, it is. I'm giving it to a...friend. So I just thought..."
She trailed off then, but what she left unsaid was crystalline clear. Snapping to attention, she reached into her pocket.
"I'm sorry! Er, how much do I owe you?"
Smiling, the boy gave his price. To say it was low would have been a gross understatement. The bag that Hinata held her money in cost more than that treasure.
"Are you serious?" she asked, stunned.
He gave a little nod, smile never fading. As she handed the money over, Hinata was still hesitant.
"Very sure. Maybe it's because I recognize the way your eyes sparkle whenever you talk about your friend." And for a moment, Hinata was sure she saw
what he was talking about, some private memory causing his eyes to shine like snow in the sun. It only lasted a moment, however, as he tented his fingers and went on. "But it's also possible that I'm quite utterly insane. So you'd do best to run away from me now, back to your own tanuki."
Though she got out of that store in record time, she wasn't really convinced that he was.
Akamaru turned away from the TV at the curse, a grumpy little scowl plastered across his furry face. The sound of water running was instantly followed by a loud hiss of agony. Kiba was having some kind of trouble for sure..torture and maybe even imminent death. Torn between ever warring love and friendship, romance and destiny, Akamaru kneaded the cushion between his paws for a moment. Finally he gave the screen a sorrowful glance.
"I'll be back soon, Olive."
Then he hopped off the couch and trotted towards the kitchen, ever the loyal nin-dog.
Kiba was not being tortured and he was very much alive. However, he was hunched over the sink, gritting his teeth as the cold stream battered a rapidly blushing patch of a burn on his left forearm. There was a steaming pot sitting on the stove, and a mug on the counter not far away was surrounded by several splashes.
"Need help?" Akamaru piped up.
"Kill the bastard who invented boiling water," his companion spat.
The little dog helpfully went to lap up what hot chocolate had fallen on the floor. When that was finished, he licked his lips and sat down near Kiba. "Hinata will be home soon. Want me to drink the rest of that stuff so it won't burn her too?"
Kiba gave him a Look.
"Hinata would be sad if she got burned," he added.
"Chocolate isn't good for dogs." The water was easing the pain a little, but the boy's mood remained tender. Sensing he was no longer needed there,
Akamaru left the room, grumbling a little under his breath.
"Well, being burned isn't good for you."
Hinata was cheerful. The path home was moonlit, half-way cleared, and would soon take her to Kiba and Akamaru. Her shopping list had been completed. Even if there was no snow falling to complete the mood, it seemed her spirits had been lifted to just a few feet below Heaven, and there was nothing that could bring her down.
Yanked from her train of thought, she looked around for the source of the squawking voice, knowing who it was even before the blonde hair and neon orange jumpsuit caught her eye.
"Oh, hey Naruto," she replied politely.
Naruto folded his hands behind his head, eyes shut and grinning even as he complained. "You're out late. Don't you hate that we hate to go out in the stupid cold?"
"It's not so bad tonight," Hinata countered quietly. "Besides, I sort of like the cold."
If he only knew. From the time she was three and Neji had helped her build her first snowman, to Kiba barreling them both into a snowdrift as he used his own body to shield her from the inevitable frosty bite, to quiet walks on nights like this, winter held little but happiness for Hinata. Naruto frowned.
"You really are weird sometimes, y'know that?" He plowed on without waiting for a response. "ANYway, I'm gonna go down to the pond and throw rocks through the ice. Wanna come?"
For the first time, Hinata's smile diminished. "Oh, I'm sorry, Naruto. I really need to get home, because--"
"Hey, what's that in your bag? I wanna see!"
With great hesitance, Hinata pulled out the black box she'd bought, opening it to reveal the beautiful stone resting on its bed of pink silk. She didn't even
have time to gasp as Naruto jerked it from her hands, roughly holding it up to his eye.
"What's it do?"
"It...it's for Kiba," stammered Hinata, who was flustered and silently praying he'd give it back unharmed. For someone with dreams of being Hokage, the boy's hands were thick and clumsy by ninja standards. He had what some would call "stupid fingers." To her relief, he thrust the box back into her tentative, reaching hand.
"It's pretty OK," he pronounced. "It doesn't do much, though. I doubt Kiba'll like it, know what I mean?"
"We'll see," Hinata said, her tone heavy with sadness. Naruto was oblivious to this.
"Just make sure you get me something better, OK?"
She nodded, still clutching Kiba's gift in her hands, protecting it. It wasn't until Naruto had left, loudly proclaiming he "had stuff to do," that she finally allowed its indent to fade on the flesh of her palm.
"...So merry Christmas...
Akamaru tossed his head back, howling joyously as the song came to an end. Kiba covered his face with a pillow.
"You have an obsession, Akamaru," he muffled, and was chosen to be ignored. He let his arm flop down, and realized he was in much the same position as earlier that evening. Only this time there was no dream to bask in the memory of, just the stinging of his arm. Suddenly, a cold nose touched his neck, moving him to shift the pillow from his face. He found himself nose to nose with his puppy friend.
"Smile," Akamaru offered. "Or Santa won't come."
No one could resist the little dog's charms. Rolling his eyes through chuckling, Kiba gave him a scratch behind the ears.
Out of the blue, sometimes things just get better.
The door creaked open.
And sometimes they get a lot better.
Both Kiba and Akamaru sprang up like pups who had just heard their master coming. Kiba watched as his dog went sailing off his lap, hit the floor, stumbled, staggered up, and vanished around the corner before he himself had the chance to get up and follow. When he did, it was to be greeted by the sight of Hinata standing in the doorway trying to cope with several pounds of squirming, licking Akamaru.
"See? See? I told Kiba you'd come home! Now he can smile again!" he was reporting to her, and though she couldn't understand a single yip, she hugged and petted him more than enough to make up for a five hour absence. Or at least she did until finding herself lifted up off the ground from behind, strong arms encircling her waist.
"Welcome home," the familiar voice said into her ear.
"Kiba!" she protested halfheartedly, her soft little laugh shooting right to the owner of that name's heart. He let her down willingly, but did not slide his arms away just yet, choosing to keep up a loose hug as as she released Akamaru. Happy that his pack was back together, the pup headed into the other room and left the two to themselves. Kiba nuzzled Hinata's neck, dropping a soft kiss on her hairline.
Hinata leaned back against his solid form and covered his rough, scarred hands with her own--smaller and more delicate, but no less battle-marked. "I've missed you too," she said. Suddenly, gentle fangs nipped her behind the ear, and she squeaked.
"My Hinata," Kiba rumbled, soothing the barely there pink mark with a quick flicker of his tongue. "All mine."
"Mmhmm..." she agreed. Her grasp on his hands turned a little tighter.
"Let's go upstairs. I've had you on my mind all day...something I've wanted to show you."
Call it youthful passion, say it would fade the longer they knew each other. Kiba didn't care. He knew that even if the two of them lived to be two-hundred, he would never get tired of looking at Hinata like this.
Face to face they sat on the bed, him on his knees, her sitting with her legs folded and bent to one side, shy and beautiful and perfect. Jacket cast
somewhere else, her usual fishnet shirt would not allow him to forget a single curve. The streetlights glow was filtered through the curtain to tinge the whole room in red; it complimented the blush on her cheeks, but did not hide her smile in the least, and her eyes were glowing.
Hinata's eyes never lied.
She wanted this as much as he did.
Together, sharing the moment as they should and always would do...
Each licked up the spot of hot chocolate mix dotted on the tops of their hands.
Hinata jumped as the powder tickled the roof of her mouth, and cupped a hand over her lips with wide eyes. Kiba couldn't help but laugh at her reaction.
"It's good though, right?"
She nodded, having since learned a long time ago to not question the things her friend discovered when he had lots of free time. He was right this time, though; the instant powder was surprisingly tasty, not unlike something you'd find on top of a cake. Kiba looked adorably proud to have found this out, and she lightly kissed his nose, letting him know that she found him sweeter than anything else by far.
Mindful of his nails, he reached up to stroke her cheek, and she would have liked to take his hand in return. But already her arms had linked around his neck, and they were bound to stay there.
"I love you too, Hinata."
Then no more words were needed as they met in a kiss. Tender, lingering, chaste. Warm, loving, flavored with chocolate. They lost themselves in one another, knowing that whatever existed outside their little sanctuary could be as comforting and rosy as this red-tinged room, as long as they had each other.
And outside, it started to snow.