Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: Merry Christmas! This is my take on the holidays for our favorite ninja; this will feature the Rookie Nine and Team Gai, though will focus on Shikamaru and Temari. Hope you enjoy and I hope your holidays are wonderful!
He had noticed the change in late October, as the leaves turned gold and red. It had become slightly colder, many of the ninja shedding their net-like clothing in favor of warmer cloth. By mid-November the change in atmosphere had become significant. Now, at the end of December, the overwhelming transition from formal kindness to sheer season joy was coming to an end. Once the new year started, he knew it would no longer be common place to see everyone on the street grinning for no reason other than because they could.
This did not stop Shikamaru from wearing his own frown, though all in good reason. He, Ino and Chouji usually had their own small Christmas celebration and Shikamaru had been elected to retrieve the last minute groceries. Ino's reasoning was that she was going to be the one to cook (though they usually wound up going out to eat as a result, and he had to wonder why they bothered); Chouji would eat the food before it reached the house. That left Shikamaru. Typically, he would be his usual lazy self and refuse, but upon deciding that it was Christmas and not worth the effort of arguing in the first place, he'd agreed.
Now, as his time in line grew to be exactly fifty-six minutes and twelve seconds, he was beginning to thoroughly regret such a decision.
As the line slowly inched forward, Shikamaru wished for the umpteenth time that there were clouds to watch. The sky had been overcast for the past several days, though to everyone's general disappointment there hadn't been snow all winter. Admittedly, he was among the disappointed, though now he wouldn't mind a bit of sunshine, if only to see a bit of blue sky patched among the clouds. He let out an annoyed sigh as his eyes drifted from the window. Everyone around him seemed to be in a similar, irritated mood; so much for a jolly Christmas Eve.
"I never thought I'd see you out buying groceries on Christmas Eve."
Shikamaru turned, eyebrows raised in surprise, to see who had spoken. His answer was nearly as shocking as meeting someone he knew to begin with. Temari stood before him, a carton of egg nog clutched in one hand. She looked tired, her hair and clothes a mess as if she hadn't bothered to make herself presentable. Maybe she, like him, hadn't expected to run into anyone he knew so late on a holiday.
"I could say the same thing," he replied, cocking his head to the side. "Why aren't you in Suna, anyway?" She sighed.
"Our schedules got screwed up," she told him, joining him in line and ignoring the protests of those behind them. "The negotiations for the next exams ended yesterday, but I wouldn't have made it to Suna in time for the holidays. Gaara suggested I take the day off and relax." She shrugged. "I guess I can't complain." Temari smirked and looked up at him. "What about you? You live here; why aren't you at home?"
"I was," Shikamaru explained, his voice sounding worn and tired. "Ino sent me out for groceries. I've been waiting in line for an hour."
"Sounds like a real walk in the park."
"You have no idea."
A comfortable silence settled between them, disrupted only by the occasional beeping the register produced with every purchase. She said she was all right, but Shikamaru couldn't help but feel sorry for Temari. It wasn't fair to be stuck in Konoha on the holidays, especially with family and friends waiting back home. But what could he do about it? It wasn't his fault; he didn't make the schedules. Still, the idea of her being alone for Christmas bothered him.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but... "Temari, d'you want to come home with me?" He paused, blinked, and tinged with pink as he realized what he just said. "I mean, do you want to celebrate with Ino, Chouji and I? Usually it's just us three, but they won't mind one more." Temari smirked up at him, noting for the first time that he had to look up at him to see eye to eye.
"Why not," she said at last, breaking her gaze and glancing to the egg nog in her hands. "I don't have anything better to do." Shikamaru managed a wry smile; if Ino didn't make at least one mocking comment of his 'bringing home a woman', the apocalypse would have been there and gone already. For a moment he considered the idea of warning her, but decided against it. There was nothing wrong with a little holiday fun.
At last they managed to get away from the horrors of check-out lines and bag boys and made their way down the deserted street. The ground was stiff and cold, coated in a light layer of frost. Their breath came out in small clouds, reminding Shikamaru of the smoking habit he hadn't been quite able to kick. For her Christmas present, Ino had made him promise to quit. He sighed; she always did like to choose troublesome things.
"How far are we going?" Temari asked, pulling her coat tight around her shoulders.
"One right turn, a left and another right," Shikamaru grunted, nodding his head to a street leading off to the right. They turned, the glow of Christmas lights slowly fading away. The only light here was the occasional porch light, the people who lived in the buildings quite well known for being grumpy old men and women that wanted nothing to do with the holidays.
"So what does this Christmas party of yours usually entail?" Temari asked playfully as they made their way down the dark street. Shikamaru didn't answer at first, too busy attempting to balance the numerous shopping bags he held in his arms. With a light smirk, she took three of the backs. He sighed in relief, able to stand up straight.
"I usually go out for groceries, which takes a few hours, depending on the lines," he began. It was as if they had an unofficial routine, a tradition of sorts, last-minute shopping included. Though, considering it was Shikamaru, she wasn't the least bit surprised a bit of procrastination was involved. "Ino attempts to cook a holiday dinner, Chouji and I watch Christmas movies. When the stove catches on fire the third time we decorate the tree together and then go out to the restaurant of Chouji's choosing for Christmas dinner." He paused, replaying last year's festivities in head. "Afterward we usually head back to my place and see how many fruitcakes Chouji can eat before he gets sick. The record is six, I think," he added absently. Temari remained silent; now that she knew about their 'traditions', she felt almost intrusive.
"Are you sure it's a good idea for me to come with you?" she asked hesitantly.
"We're already half-way there," Shikamaru replied as they took a left turn. "It would be too troublesome for you to go anywhere else." She shrugged and continued to follow him. As they rounded the last corner, they were met by a brilliant display of Christmas lights. There wasn't a single building on the street that wasn't sporting some sort of holiday cheer. Spotting the look of surprise on her face as he came to a stop before his apartment, he shook his head. "Chouji did it, not me. Too troublesome."
He swung the door open, sliding his keys back into his pocket, and was met with a blast of sound.
"What are you doing in my house?"
Shikamaru could just spot a flash of yellow that was Naruto's hair, identifiable only by the obnoxious voice that accompanied it. Sasuke sat beside him, arguing over the remote as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was rewound and fast-forwarded enough to make anyone go cross-eyed. Sakura sat nearby, snapping at the two to stop bickering. Chouji sat on their other side, munching away from a bag of chips that could only come from the supply Shikamaru knew his friend kept under his couch. Tenten, Neji and Lee were decorating the tree. Hinata stood nearby, looking impatient as she attempted to cool down the one-sided argument between Kiba and Shino over Hokage-knows-what.
"You know, when you told me about your little shindig, I pictured something a bit... quieter," Temari teased as Shikamaru managed to maintain some of his dignity by snapping shut his jaw. Ino rushed over and removed their bags, shuffling off to the kitchen with Sakura on the arm without another word.
"Ino-chan said you wouldn't mind the company," Hinata explained when Shikamaru asked her, flushing red in embarrassment. "I-I can leave if you-"
"No," Shikamaru grumbled. "Don't leave." Muttering under his breath about parties and the assumptions of women, he made his way to the kitchen and left Temari to fend for herself among Konoha's strangest.
"This is my house."
"Out! Dinner isn't ready yet! Get your finger out of that pie!" Ino thumped him with the wooden spatula clutched tightly in her fist (since when did he have a wooden spatula?). He retreated back to the chaos of the living room, absently wondering where his quiet Christmas Eve had gone.
By the time plates were emptied and everyone had watched Frosty the Snowman at least twice, Shikamaru had long forgotten his troubles over having such a loud Christmas. The Christmas tree was haphazardly decorated; everyone had pitched in to help at one point or another. There were dishes to be done that lay stacked in the sink, as everyone had chosen that particular time to pull a Shikamaru and be lazy, lounging about the chairs and sofa, the buzz of chatter significantly softer than it had been hours before.
"Hey, it's snowing!"
Naruto's face was pressed against the window, his grin invisible to the rest of the room. His eyes were wide as he watched fat snowflakes slowly drift from the sky. It had been at it for some time, he assumed, as the ground was already covered in a blanket of white. For a moment the conversation continued before coming to a sudden halt as everyone stared at the ninja in the window. He pulled away from the glass, blinking owlishly at his companions.
"Well, it is..."
In a sudden flurry to rival the worst of blizzards, the group was tugging on their caps, scarves and mittens, pushing out the door into the street. Although it was late and the sky resembled a blot of ink, the young ninja paid no heed to the lack of light as they frolicked in the snow, their shrieks and laughs loud enough to wake even the most impaired of hearing. Temari hovered in the doorway, watching her friends of sorts as they wrestled in the snow.
"You all right?" Shikamaru had ceased his relentless assault of pelting Chouji with snowballs long enough to show some concern for the ninja of the sand.
"I'm fine," Temari smirked. She held her bare wrist to his forehead, frowning in concentration. "Well, no fever; are you sure you're feeling all right?"
"What are you talking about?" He grabbed her wrist and pulled it away from his forehead.
"You sure are putting an awful lot of effort into that snowball fight." Shikamaru scowled.
"I'm not always lazy, you know." They paused. "You sure you're ok, then?"
"If you would let go of my wrist, I'd be just dandy." Shikamaru blinked once, looked down at his hand, flushed pink and released her hand as ordered. A moment of awkward silence passed and Temari spoke again. "I've just... never seen the snow before."
"It won't bite, you know," Shikamaru teased. He stooped down, gathered a ball of snow in his fist and chucked it at the back of Ino's head. "That's really all there is to it. For a snowball fight, anyway." He shrugged, watching Ino attack whom she assumed had thrown the snowball; in this case it was Shino, thus he was surprised when a chunk of snow caught him in the face. Sputtering, he wiped his face of snow, looking to see who could have possibly hit him. His eyes landed on Temari who stood off to the side, smirking, a second snowball clutched in her hand. "It's on," he growled, quickly making his own snowball.
Before long there was an all-out war on the streets of Konoha, their small group migrating to areas of thicker snowfall. Chakra was wasted, jutsu were used and all in all it was a reign of madness. When at last they managed to find themselves back before Shikamaru's apartment, no one had energy enough to clean the mess they'd left for later. One by one they trudged back inside, weary smiles plastered to their faces at the memory of their night in the snow.
"I suppose I should head back home," Temari said as she and Shikamaru paused in the doorway. "You have enough on your hands as it is."
"Sadistic as it sounds, I'm glad you stayed in Konoha," Shikamaru admitted.
"Thank you," Temari said quietly. "I had a great time."
"Hey, look up!" Naruto shouted from his lazy position on the couch. Temari and Shikamaru glanced up and soon spotted the small cluster of mistletoe hung lopsided above their heads. "You know what that means!" Shikamaru tinged with pink, though did not have time to contemplate the situation as Temari had followed tradition without a second thought.
"Merry Christmas, Shikamaru," she said as they pulled apart. Shikamaru kissed her again, ignoring Naruto's catcalls and what could only be Ino's shrieks of delight.
Merry Christmas indeed.