Gaara stood on the balcony outside his office. He wished he wanted to join the rest of the village, but he still enjoyed solitude more. The cold desert rushed across the silent village; Gaara closed his eyes and remembered the desert.

Then resignedly he moved himself to the grand tier seats outside the village, to play the role of Kazekage.


Kiba sighed as he waited for Ino to get dressed again. "We don't have time, Ino. Just go as you are!"

Ino stuck her head out of her room. "If you want me to hurry, stop hurrying me!"

They both saw the first explosion of colored lights from the room. Ino sighed and grabbed a towel to wrap around herself. All three of them – Ino, Kiba and Akamaru – went silently to the balcony.

As the soft pops and brilliant scatters of flame lit up the sky, Ino leaned against Kiba's shoulder. They stood there, neither moving a muscle.

Akamaru sniggered softly.


They could see the endless stretch of horizon before them. Gaara materialized beside Kakashi, and the two recently promoted elders sat side by side with the two kages.

Jiraiya wished he could still dance.

He held his fiancée's hand, wishing again they had done this years earlier. Except her heart had been too full of Dan at the time, so, maybe, this was the right moment. Besides, he had her for the rest of his life – and she had a heart large enough to contain the world.

As green light and red light washed over his face, Tsunade, sitting beside her old teammate and future spouse, leaned over and gave him a lingering kiss.

Jiraiya smiled pensively. Dancing was overrated anyway.


"Iruka, is it time?" Shizune used water to slick her chignon back into place. The restroom was, thankfully, deserted.

"What's the rush?We have all night." Iruka pulled her back towards himself, his lips brushing the back of her neck. It was her special spot, and she sighed with remembered pleasure before tugging her husband to the doors. Iruka followed half-heartedly, somewhat wishing his wife was less dedicated to her job.


Neji rejoined his team in time to get a knuckle to his forehead. "What was that for, Lee?"

"Nothing." His two teammates chorused and turned to admire the fireworks sparkling in the velvet night.


Hinata slumped against a pillar, the same pillar she had been hiding behind earlier. It was useless; he had always been able to avoid detection even when she had her byakugan at full power.

"Shino-kun, where are you?" she sighed. She closed her eyes and sank to the floor. Her indigo dress was already rumpled from the unexpected nap in Gaara's office; it was pointless trying to maintain it now.

Someone faded out of the shadows into the foreground.

Hinata got to her feet. "Shino-kun?"

"Hey." He was there, the shades still perched on his nose. The large coat he wore added bulk to the imposing figure he already cut, but there was a tentativeness in his voice that surprised Hinata.

Now that she had found him, she didn't know what to say.

"Shall we watch the fireworks from the roof?" asked Shino, still with the same tone. He held out a hand to Hinata.

She was stunned. He had never offered physical contact before. She took his proffered hand shyly, a little alarmed by the slight buzzing she could feel beneath his skin but also a little surprised by the warmth of his grip.


Most of the villagers returned home after the long night of dances and music, leaving only Kakashi and Gaara standing on the raised platform.

"What will happen next, I wonder?" Gaara asked. He could feel the scars beneath the land he loved, the terrible damage wrought by Akatsuki in the final battle.

Kakashi shrugged. "In the shinobi world? Nothing is impossible." He looked at the young Kazekage beside him and patted his shoulder. "But it's a new year, Gaara-kun. Welcome the opportunities."