Okay, here's the first chapter of my submission for the 2007 Kakairu LJcommunity 25 Days of Christmas Challenge! And, being the ambitious-at-the-wrong-time dork that I am . . . all 25 chapters are part of the same story, and the overall theme is the song "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
The Challenge consisted of a list of many themes. For the 25 Days challenge, we had to pick 25 themes and write on each, one each day. The themes I chose are the chapter titles, and are worked in, somehow (sometimes, a little abstractly, or in the details).
Um, I did post a Prologue for this fic called "Reaping the Harvest", but it's not essential to have read that, though it'll give you a bit more detail about Shikamaru's unexpected drunken past-times. . .
This starts out pretty light and fluffy, but parts will get darker before fluffing up again. . . some angst, you know, to make the fluff that much sweeter, ne?
I am currently at work on a sequel, called Konoha Advent: Shadows in the Stars. You might be interested when you're done with this. *shrugs*
Disclaimer: Insert small print regarding lack of ownership and profits here
Pairings: Established Kaka/Iru, working towards some pretty Naru/Sasu/Gaara, hints at others
Warnings: A load of WAFF (er, warm and fuzzy feelings), assumed character growth and development, shonen-ai and yaoi, overall rating of, eh, we'll call it PG-13, although some chapters might get higher ratings.
Summary: Naruto and Kakashi are on an ANBU mission before Christmas. Iruka, Gaara, and Sasuke have their own mission back at the village.
Chapter 1: Gingerbread
Iruka watched over his class as they set about trying to apply architectural principles to brown cake, frosting and fondant. It was a standard, annual exercise in planning, dexterity, creative thinking and, hopefully, teamwork. It also allowed students to start seeing the gifts of some of the less aggressive of their classmates, for often the most successful with the gingerbread houses were those who fell behind in the other drills, while many of the usual leaders had trouble with the patience and delicacy needed to accomplish the goal. Well, that's what usually happened.
Naruto hadn't done so well, but then, neither had Sasuke. Naruto's house kept falling in on itself, and Sasuke had actually lost his temper and threw his to the floor. The winners that year had been Hinata and Ino, followed closely by Sakura and Shikamaru. It was Hinata's patience and Ino's expertise with colors and precise placement that had made them so successful, while Sakura's use of frosting as glue and Shikamaru's extensive planning had contributed to their success.
He wondered what his current crop of students were up to, though, since they were all huddled together in the middle of the room, whispering. Iruka grew more intrigued as he saw that they'd included their special guests – Sasuke and the former Kazekage, Gaara-- into their discussion as well. Well, more Gaara-- Sasuke was standing just outside the group, listening but not contributing as the discussion wound down and a flurry of activity commenced.
Typical, Iruka thought. Although he supposed he should give the ever-aloof Uchiha some credit for even accompanying Gaara for the first of the latter's Christmas lessons. The two—and in fact, most of the ninja in the village-- were planning a surprise for Naruto when he came back from his current mission, and to that end Gaara was insistent on learning everything he could of the holiday, since they didn't celebrate it in Suna. Thus, the first lesson—Gingerbread houses. Sasuke really didn't need to have come, but Iruka grudgingly gave the younger man credit for coming to be with his soon-to-be-lover (or, one of them at least) instead of staying away and being pensive, or brooding, or whatever it was he did when not giving Kakashi ulcers.
Iruka sighed at the thought of his beloved. Kakashi had just left that morning with Naruto on a month-long mission. Since it was an ANBU something-or-other, no one aside from them and the Hokage knew much of anything about it. Kakashi had promised to be home for Christmas, and while Iruka very much hoped he would be, he was much more concerned that both he and Naruto came back at all, and preferably in one piece. Even if they were delayed a few days or even weeks. . .
He frowned as Sasuke approached his desk, looking at the teacher intently and then shifting his gaze to something he was fiddling with in his hand.
"I do hope the children are doing some of the work." Iruka said calmly.
Sasuke smirked. "You should know that the entire idea was theirs, and they're doing the bulk of the actual construction. Gaara and I are just helping with some of the detail work." He gave a glance to the Sand nin that could be interpreted as fond. "I had forgotten how well he gets on with the little ones. . ."
Iruka smiled, remembering the times Gaara had helped at the Academy. "I think because they don't know to be afraid of him, and they see how fond all of us are of him. . . perhaps, in their own way, they're helping to heal some of those wounds from so long ago. . ."
Sasuke did smile this time. "Hn. I hope so. I think he's determined that no kid end up like he did. . . one more thing he and Naruto have in common. . ." Sasuke took one last look at whatever was in his hand, then walked back to the rest of the group, apparently satisfied with whatever he had been doing.
Iruka sighed again, his thoughts drifting to the young man who was, he had to admit, his favorite former student. He knew how much Naruto hated the entire Christmas season, and knew very well that, as he had in every year previous, he'd gone to Tsunade to specifically request a long mission at this time, hoping to be away the entire month, and not return until the new year had started. In previous years, he had been out searching for Sasuke, and after that mess was sorted out, he took diplomatic missions to Suna. But Gaara was retired from the post of Kazekage, serving as ambassador to Konoha, so Naruto couldn't flee to the desert this year. So instead he was out with Kakashi, and would likely be dragging his feet to return-- something both Tsunade and Kakashi had likely factored in when planning the mission. In the meantime, Gaara and Sasuke had a self-appointed mission of their own, had recruited most of the other ninja for help, and the hoped for result was that Naruto would no longer hate Christmas anymore. Well, and a few other things beside. . .
His musing was interrupted as the group gave a loud cheer.
Sasuke turned toward Iruka with a smirk. "Sensei, you'll want to bring your camera over. . ."
So Iruka picked up his camera, walked over to the center of the room, and gasped. There, in exquisite detail was what looked like a snow covered Konoha. Five faces carved from gingerbread gazed out protectively over the little village covered in frosting made to look like snow. He looked closer, recognizing Ichiraku (and an orange figure sitting on a stool), the grocer, the bookstore, and the florist. He reflexively looked to where his house was represented, and gave a little gasp as he saw a himself and Kakashi made from fondant, the latter with his arm around Iruka as they shared a blanket while sitting on his front porch, watching what looked to be a younger Naruto make a snowman with Konahamaru. Now that he thought about it, there looked to be quite a few Naruto's running around the fake Konoha.
"Kage Bunshins. . ." he muttered with a smile, but his smile grew as he realized which one had to be the real Naruto. He was in the Uchiha compound, down by the lake (which someone had used a fire jutsu to melt the sugar for thateffect). The roof had been cut away to show the inside with a tree, mistletoe, and Naruto, Gaara, and Sasuke all cuddled up on a sofa in front of a blazing fire. The fondant Sasuke was poking at the fire, the little Gaara was sipping a mug of what might have been hot cocoa, and Naruto was asleep between them, a smile on his face, while a puppy played at their feet.
How very. . . domestic. Iruka thought with a grin, allowing himself to see the rest of the details in the village. There was Kiba on a sled pulled by eight dogs, up on the roof of the Hyuuga estate, watching as Hinata pelted Neji with snowballs. . . There were Chouji and Shikamaru making snow angels. . . There was Rock Lee serenading a polite-faced Sakura. . . there were Genma, Raidou, Kotetsu and Izumo staggering arm in arm through the streets wassailing, if the weaving "tracks" were a clue . . . Gai was apparently running around the village many times, wearing a rather deep trench in the "snow" . . . Jiraiya, Tsunade, Shizune and Ton-ton were all gazing out from Hokage Tower at the scene below. . .
Iruka was staggered by the detail, and immediately started snapping pictures. He focused in on the little Ino hanging little clumps of holly and mistletoe from convenient lampposts.
"This is amazing!" he breathed. "Who's idea was this?"
Twenty-five cherubic faces lit up at the praise, and little Yamamaru spoke first, eyes alight with excitement. "Well, it was Ringo who said we should do the home we all have, since some people don't have homes like some others, and Umeko said that it wasn't a proper home if there weren't people in it, so we split up what people did and combined all the gingerbread and frosting and fondant and sugar you gave us, and Sasuke-san and Gaara-san said they'd help make the people and then. . . " Here Yamamaru's eyes grew wide. "And then, Sasuke-san used a fire-jutsu to melt some sugar to make it shiny like ice or glass, and that was awesomeand Gaara-san made the sugar blow through the town just like a blizzard so it made drifts right, although he said it was like a sand-storm, but I don't know about that because sand isn't white and pretty like snow and sugar and--"
"Thank you, Yamamaru." Iruka smiled gently, knowing that Yamamaru would keep talking until he passed out from lack of oxygen. He turned back to address the rest of the class.
"You know," he said. "this is the first time in all my years of teaching that the entire class has worked together. I'm very pleased, and will tell the Hogake herself when we take this to the Tower."
"It's gonna go to the Tower?" Umeko asked in her near-whisper voice.
"Of course!" Iruka replied with a grin. "The winners every year get placed in display in the lobby at the Tower's entrance, so that everyone can see how talented the next generation of Leaf Ninjas are!"
Several hours later, the class had been dismissed, and Iruka was gingerly moving the massive construction from the Academy to the Tower. Sasuke walked in front, to watch for obstacles, Iruka pushed the cart with the sweet-smelling scuplture, and Gaara came behind and to the side to lend extra assistance when needed. Tsunade was waiting for them in the lobby, having already heard from some Jounin who'd seen it coming, and had ordered that a bigger table be brought for the display.
She was appropriately delighted, oohing and ahhing over the design and detail-work as Iruka privately exulted with pride in his students. Speaking of which, Gaara was frowning and approaching him with a serious look in his eye. Although, if the Sand-nin had a look that wasn'tserious, Iruka didn't know.
"I don't understand."
Iruka raised an eyebrow. "What don't you understand?"
Gaara's frown deepened. "What is the significance of building . . . sculptures with spice 'cookies'" he gave a slight stress to the still unfamiliar word. "and confections?"
Iruka was actually stumped. No one had ever asked the significance of Gingerbread houses before. He was saved by Sasuke's timely intervention.
"There isn't one, as far as I know." They both saw Gaara's immediate internal rejection of such an art having no significance. "However," Sasuke continued, "they do sort of. . . combine the ideas of a lot of other traditions that do have significance, and so help set the mood and get people thinking of the season. For you, you can get a sort of preview of what's coming up. And, people find them fun. . .which is reason enough, I've learned."
Iruka nodded in agreement, hoping his surprise at Sasuke – of all people-- saying that last bit didn't show.
Gaara thought on Sasuke's words for a few moments. "So, it's like. . . training for the month ahead. Or, warming up one's muscles before sparring."
Again, Iruka couldn't think of what to say, and he looked across to see Sasuke's warm, but wry smile. "I suppose it is, Gaara. A warm up to what's coming next."
There was another pause as they watched the crowd delighting in the creation. "Did I do well, Iruka-sensei?"
Now that, Iruka could answer. "Well, everyone seems to be able to recognize the people you made, and everything else you did, so I'd say yes, you did quite well. Consider day one of holiday training successful!"
A few feet away, Tzunade rolled her eyes. "I did not just overhear that," she muttered to herself. "Holidaytraining?! I need a drink." She looked around. "Hey, Shizune!" she raised her voice to be heard. "You got that special egg-nog out yet?"
It was going to be an interesting Advent in Konoha this year. She just hoped it didn't get too interesting.