An Uchiha Christmas Carol
Bits of of powder-white began to fall while the dimming of the sun fell beneath the distant edge of the west. Slowly, the world around him was gradually engulfed in a methodical plethora of darkness, of blue black inky skies flitting with crystal specs.
Scraggly, leafless trees surrounded the lone wolf on the white covered path. The cold air, the night breeze, which disarrayed his ebony strands did not appear to outwardly bother him. His features were flat and unfeeling. His eyes were cold, hard and calculating. He looked at one with the element and yet wholly oblivious to it all at once.
The moon began to shine a dim light across the countryside. Shadows caressed across his features and the sounds of the night seemed the fade into the background. He blocked it all out.
His booted footsteps crunched the snow beneath his feet as he made his way towards the entrance of a dim, underground facility. Everything from the outdoor world was immediately quieted and replaced by the dimming drops of water condensation across stone within.
He stopped walking as the air around him felt colder, icier. His coal orbs narrowed as he watched the hot air from his mouth become cloudier in the night air which seeped in. Barely, his head turned to look behind him as he readied himself for a defensive. However, the moment he did so, everything seemed to lessen.
There was nothing behind him save the light from the entrance many paces and the blinking torchlight along the walls.
He continued his trek onward as he deactivated his Sharingan. There was no genjustsu.. no chakra signature.. The feeling of the night air becoming colder was a matter of nature he cared little about, nothing more.
He stopped again just before rounding a corner. Faintly, from the corner of his eye, he saw a figure. The moment was quick and made the calculating Avenger's eyes widen in what some might liken to disbelief. But, the moment he blinked, the figure was gone and nothing remained.
He stared at the space where the figure stood, eyes narrowing as he gripped the corner wall. It took him another moment before he reactivated the Sharingan and scanned the area for any signs of intrusion, of genjutsu. He looked long and hard, as if trying to prove to himself that something was going on here beyond his own mind toying with him.
And yet... nothing.
A growl escaped him this time as he turned on his heel and began to move with more direction down the hall to wards his sleeping quarters.
He snapped around, withdrawing Kusanagi and held the edge of the blade mere inches from the perpetrator's throat. Sasuke could feel his own blood, heartbeat, ringing in his ears.
"Are you alright... Sauske-kun?" the malicious voice of Kabuto echoed smoothly as he held his hands up, mockingly, to show he wasn't there to harm Orochimaru's little 'pet'.
Another moment passed before Sasuke closed his eyes and withdrew his blade with a, 'hn' in response. He sheathed Kusanagi and turned to continue on at a much slower pace than before.
"The holiday season getting to you, dear Sasuke-kun?"
He ignored the grating direction of Kabuto's words and disappeared into the shadows. The echoes of screams and chains rattling in the background could be attributed to all the experiments further below ground. Still, for once, they seemed to only heighten his nerves and he couldn't block them out. As he opened the door to his room, he couldn't stop himself from slamming it to shut out, to muffle the cries and anguish.
Kusanagi and the rope ties about his waist were removed. Both set against the wall and on the floor next to a small fireplace before he sat down in a worn chair in front of it. Despite the heat he knew to be present, however, he just couldn't get warm enough. The chill coursed his veins and pricked his flesh like small senbons.
"I hate Christmas..." he whispered in the dark to no one in particular as he stared into the flames, leaning his cheek on his open hand, elbow on an armrest. He hated the cold, the white everywhere. He hated the music, the songs, the way people acted. He hated the smells and the colors.
There many things Uchiha Sasuke disliked; however, Christmas was something he hated. It wasn't a holiday for him. It was another day in life, another tick to scratch off in his endless search for his brother. He had more important things to do than bother with it or anyone else who liked it for that matter. He supposed it was a blessing that it would be far from ridiculous for any of his current comrades to want to celebrate it. It would be silly to even allow it to cross his mind.
Having just come from a mission for Orochimaru which forced him to travel through congested areas festered with bells, wreathes, songs and promotion of good cheer did nothing more than blacken his mood to a point that wasn't normal for even him.
It reminded him of things he could not get back, things he could not change and of things he had to do or was better off forgetting about completely.
His eyes narrowed suddenly as the flames of the fire flickered violently for a moment and a gust of something unholy spanned the room, causing icy air to run tiny pricks across his flesh. He somehow refrained from jumping as the click of a door was heard. His head snapped towards the door and he stared at it. Who would dare--.
No one was there...
He swallowed as the chill in the room increased and slowly turned his head back towards--.
The cold in the room was no longer the cause of his body temperature. He felt frigid. For once in a long time, he couldn't find the will to move. It hadn't been since the fight with Orochimaru in the Forest of Death he felt this afraid or too without thought to to even barely breathe.
The entity before him was tall and retained a perpetual frown. His eyes were chilling in the harshness. His entire form was wisping a blue-electric energy that Sasuke knew to not to be chakra. He didn't know how he knew, he just did.
"Sasuke..." the voice from the entity he stared on at with wide eyes echoed in the room.
He swallowed and blinked a few times. Somehow, he managed to stand and rub his eyes. "My eyes are playing tricks," he whispered in disbelieve as he tried to gain clarity.
"You will listen to me!" the dark haired male bellowed loudly enough to make the walls of the room shake.
Sasuke stepped back, which ended him falling into his seat as he stared up at the figure before him wide eyed and unsure. It just couldn't be real! He was not staring at the man he once called his Otosan.
"You're not real," he whispered in speculation. "You can't be... you're..."
"Dead?" he said with cold eyes while rattling the chains hanging off his form.
Sasuke said nothing.
He was staring at a ghost...? Ghost weren't real.. He suddenly tried to pinch himself, thinking he was asleep. Perhaps he'd dozed off in his chair.
"That won't work, Sasuke."
Go away, he told him mind. Wake up, he shouted. If he only willed it away he would wake up. Surely he would. "Why have you come?" he asked instead, voice even. He tried to keep it even and remain looking as though he were calm.
"I am here about you," he said calmly. "About the path you have taken and what you plan to do with your brother..."
Sasuke wasn't entirely sure if he should be relieved or not. "Then you know what I am trying to do, what I am trying to make right. For you and Okasan. For all of the Uchiha."
"I am here to tell you to stop! If you continue on this path, my son, you will find yourself unhappy and lost in a web of despair... alienated and unloved or remembered..." As he spoke, waving about his hands, the chains rattled about his body.
"But, I'm doing this for you!" he couldn't help but snap out loudly in disbelief with feelings of betrayal coursing his veins. "What he did--!"
"Silence!" he shouted, his face twisted in rage and frustration. "Do you see these chains, Sasuke? These binds that tie me? Do you know why I have them?"
He said nothing.
"They are the result of my life and my misdeeds against those around me. Against your mother, you and your brother."
"I don't... understand..." he said slowly, confused.
His father sighed. "Your brother was trying to save Konoha from the Uchiha, Sasuke... I was trying to help end the village. Myself and the elders were more concerned with power and control than we were with loyalty and our loved ones. And for that I am forever tied, bound, with these chains,"he motion to them,"for the rest of eternity. You would do well to heed my warning and redirect your choices... your life!"
That knowledge weighed heavily on him, causing him to take pause. However, he didn't feel it should change who he was; especially not for some dream version gone ghost of his father!
"Even if what you say is true, what Itachi did to the clan, those who were innocent in the plot of the elders... children... cannot be overlooked."
"And those who are responsible for ordering him into such a drastic coarse will eventually face punishment, my son. Can you not see where you have already lost part of yourself on this journey, this path bent of revenge and death? Can you not see those you have hurt and left behind in tears?"
He looked away from his father. "Nothing matters but the goal. I accepted that when I left Konoha..."
"There is no convincing you, is there?"
Silence was met with his father's question.
"Very well, my son... but know this... tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts at three separate times, who will take you on a journey of Christmas Past, Present and Future. I pray, for your sake, my son, that by morning, you are not the man I see before me..."
Before he could formulate a response, a reply, a great gust of wind blew throughout the room, rattling many things and then left. His door slammed shut and it all stopped. Sasuke opened his eyes and lowered his hands and realized... the room was empty.
He wasn't sure just then if what he had seen was real, or a result of some side effect in the underground facility. He couldn't say with certainty that he'd been hallucinating the entire time. However, as the chill fully left the room he felt he needed sleep.
"Hn.." he muttered as he stood and moved across the room to his bed. It didn't matter, by morning his life would go on as it was. It was a mute point to try an rationalize it.
He tossed and turned in his sleep, feeling restless. Chin-length strands of ebony caressed his features, looking mussed and upset by all his tossing and turning. He muttered softly in his deepened state, dark eyes jerking beneath long lashes. An arm was placed over his forehead and he turned with a groan.
For a few hours he'd been an out of it. He supposed it didn't help much that he was normally up late and got little sleep on a regular basis. His mouth felt dry. Eventually after a few more minutes passed, after a few more times turning in bed and some small curses, Sasuke decided to get up and get a drink.
When he went to go pull his legs to the side and sit up, he found he couldn't move them. He tried again and frowned as he opened his eyes to stare up at the ceiling. but instead of being face with stone above him, the last Uchiha found himself staring at two black eyes similar to his own shielded by... orange goggles?
The surprise quickly left him as the intruder laughed softly. In return Sasuke scowled and moved to push whoever it was off of him; but, he his hands quickly met with air when he sat up.
"You know, you shouldn't push people," the brat said just before he stuck out his tongue.
It... it was a kid... a little runt of a kid no older than maybe 12? 13? He couldn't tell. Why in the hell was a kid sitting on his legs? Was this Kabuto's idea of a joke? Had Orochimaru sent him in some perverse idea of a game?
"I don't know who you are," he whispered in cool indifference, "but, I advise you leave."
"Didn't you get the memo?" he brat asked, brow raised and his lips pursed in half confusion.
Sasuke glared at him. The kid was pushing his patience.
"You know what I'm talking about. From Fugaku-sama? He was suppose to tell ya I'd be coming." The kid frowned now, scratching his head in a way that reminded him of Naruto.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed and he looked at the kid a bit more carefully. His top was dark blue, the collar lined in orange. Bit of it were also trimmed in that same outrageous color Naruto preferred. His shorts were a dull, earthy brown and a shinobi standard pouch rested on his hip. Bandages covered his calves and loose collared sandals booted his feet. His brown strands were just as spiky as his former rival's. If he didn't know any better he's say he was related to Naruto... but, the red and white Uchiha fan on his breast had him taking pause.
"Who are you?" the older asked, forgetting his anger a moment.
The kid saluted and gave a brash grin that made his eyes close. "Uchiha Obito at your service! And..!" he edged on with a charismatic smirk as he pointed at Sasuke, "Your guide to the past! Ghost number one, Ghost of Christmas Past! You ready, Uchiha Sasuke?"
"I don't have time for this," he muttered, finally dislodging his legs so he could stand.
"Phhhffft!" he boy let out a sound to his back as Sasuke heard him stand on his bed, bouncing. His keen senses picked up that his hands were on his hips in a matter-o-fact sorta manner. "Time is all you have, Sasuke. Time lost and time to gain. Now, if you're done thinking you have a choice in this, I'd be happy for you to take my hand so we can get this started. I do have other people to visit tonight, ya know. And my old excuses don't hold as well with the guys up stairs as they use to for Kakashi, ok?"
This was ludicrous, he surmised as he moved to grab Kusanagi and leave the room. He was going to break Kabuto's legs this time. Orochimaru might have a screw loose; but, he wouldn't be stupid enough to do something like this. Kabuto, on the other hand, had no sense of self preservation.
Sasuke opened the door and shut it behind him as soon as he exited into the hall. However, once closed, and once he looked around, he realized he hadn't gone anywhere. Sasuke had entered right back into his own. And the little brat was staring at him, frowning.
"I can do this all night; but, I'd rather not. Now please," he said as he held out his hand from atop his bed, "your hand."
"This has to be a nightmare," he muttered.
"It's not; but, if it is, what do you have to lose over it? Sleep?" Obito smirked. "Take my hand, grumpy Gus."
Sasuke resisted him one more time by activating his Sharingan; but, like earlier in the evening, it revealed no resulting genjutsu. His eyes were flawless. They revealing any slight of hand. If they weren't showing the truth of this scheme... then he really was dreaming... or it was real.
"Are you afraid... Sasuke?" the kid suddenly egged on with a wry, telling smirk.
His eyes flashed suddenly.
"You must be."
"I am not," he snapped, "afraid of anything. Much less a runt who claims he's a ghost sent here to make me a better person."
"Then take my hand, Sasuke... if you're really not." He wiggled his fingers in a silly manner. "I bet Naruto would do it. He's a much better shinobi, after all."
That did it, he decided. An instant later, he found his hand closing around Obito's open one. "Then show me, spirit. And I'll show you if I can handle it or not."
"Indeed," the kid laughed out was he waved his hand as the room became engulfed in a flood of blinding white... light....
~"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour."~
When the cloud of white light faded like a pulling of wave from a sandy shore Sasuke blinked his eyes open and stared at the scene before him. Snow, like before, fell freely. Lights were strung and gathered everywhere about him from house to house. Hundreds of people bearing the clan symbol on their clothing somewhere moved about the streets and laughed. They smiled. In front of a market store a group caroled in unison. A handful of people stood before them, enjoying the music. Somewhere, not far away, a large wreathe hung about a red and white fan painted on a stone wall. Children threw snowballs at one another while garbed in warm clothing associated with the season.
"Wow, those were the days," the spirit, Obito, suddenly said as he came to stand next to him along a street corner next to an open store front.
"Where are we..?"
"Where? It'd be better to ask when, actually. You don't recognize it? Not even a little?"
No, he knew, he just wanted to make sure he wasn't seeing things.
"This is the main shopping district of the Uchiha compound about...hm..." he counted on his fingers. "..eleven years ago."
And then he knew. Not because of of Obito's response, no, but because of the voice that suddenly shouted to his right as the little boy exited the store. His eyes suddenly softened in a way they hadn't in many, many years...
"Aniki! Aniki!" the voice laughed out. "Do you think she'll like it?" the little child asked with glee in his voice. His face was broadened by a smile, his eyes hidden by his large grin. He was wrapped in a warm, thick, blue coat and his legs were swathed in black pants. Black shinobi sandals were replaced by whole, covering boots. His short, black hair was a crazy mess and half covered in white flecks from the snow falling.
The much taller boy, one Sasuke knew to be no older than ten, knelt before him with a small smile as he placed his hand on his shoulder, looking down at the red and white wrapped box. "She'll love it, Sasuke. We should get home though. She'll be worried."
The boy smiled again and nodded. When the older stood he took his hand and both moved to walk down the strip.
Sasuke stood, staring, unable to say anything. He didn't see the small Obito staring at him with a curious look before he said, "Come on, we're not done yet." He gave his back a small pat and urged him forward to follow the duo.
He did so, without argument, his eyes transfixed. He didn't think he'd be able to argue even if he wanted to. The vision of a much kinder version of his bother and himself felt like an odd drug permeating his senses. He wasn't sure how much he could take if this was just the start of his long journey tonight.
"Can we stop by the park?" the younger asked.
Itachi sighed. "Okasan will be worried if we take too long, Sasuke."
The little boy pouted and looked down, but, he did not argue.
Itachi frowned and raised his brows at him as they trudged along. He looked to be thinking and finally sighed. "Alright. One game. Then we go home, alright?"
The little boy's face immediately brightened. "Only one! I promise!"
"Race you," Itachi smarted off, breaking into a run.
"No fair, Aniki!" he called out and he held tight to his gift and ran after his brother.
Laughter echoed from both children as they raced down the path. Sasuke, the one watching these event transpire, needed little urging to race after them with Obito. Moments later they found themselves at a small playground. Already, both children were were grabbing fistfulls of white flakes and rolling them into a ball. They laughed and cried out as they threw them back and forth, dodging and trying to hit the other while avoiding being hit.
It was quite obvious from the structure of the event that Itachi could have beaten the little Sasuke with little problem at all; but, he didn't try to. Many times, without the smaller boy noticing, he allowed himself to be hit, faking pain and smiling at the joviality of the game. In the end there was no determined winner and two children were left laughing together in the snow, exhausted but happy.
"Who do you think won?" Obito suddenly asked, half breaking Sasuke's trance.
"It didn't really matter.. the winner," he whispered, trying to hide his pain.
"Looks like a silly game, though. Who'd wanna waste their time doing that, anyway?" Obito asked with well falsified distaste. "Snowballs... you get all wet and cold...Bleah."
Sasuke, not really realizing it, allowed the tiniest of smiles. "We didn't care. We didn't care who won or how cold we got. It was just about enjoying the moment. He and I didn't get many of them..."
Obito smiled, leaving it at that as he turned his eyes back to the two boys now resting in the snow.
"Time to go, Otouto."
"Alright," the little boy agreed, trying to hide his disappointment as he stood and dusted snow off his legs and coat. His present was picked up off the edge of a slide before he took his brother's hand again and followed him out of the park and back home.
Obito didn't have to urge him this time as he went after the two. Both unseen watchers carefully trailed after the Uchiha brothers silently.
He watched as the two headed up the walk and up the stairs into the traditional Japanese style house he once called home. Laughter echoed from the smaller version of himself as Itachi helped him onto his shoulders and carried him through the threshold, present in hand. Both Obito and Sasuke were right on their heels, following slowly behind about two paces in distance.
"Okasan!" the little one called out. "Okasan!" the little boy frowned when no one answered him. "Maybe they're upstairs, Aniki," the boy said as he looked down at the top of Itachi's head.
"Maybe," he whispered in reply before setting the child down and taking his hand. "Let's go see."
Quietly, the duo made their way up the wooden stairs and onto the second floor.
Sasuke followed behind, a sense of foreboding slowly starting to build. He and Obito remained at the top of the stairs, watching on as yelling was heard not but one door down where the two brothers stopped. Itachi, he watched, held up a finger to his lips as he faced little Sasuke, urging him to be silent.
"But, Nee anata, it's Christmas...!"
"I don't give a damn if it's his birthday, Mikoto! He has responsibilities to this clan and I will see to it that he is fit and ready when the time comes for him to execute them."
"Please.. what about Sasuke..? He sees him so little... can't you see this night means so much to him..? To me, my husband?"
"I am doing this for all of us. Itachi understands his place. Sasuke should learn that duty comes before pleasure."
"He's but a child, Fugaku..."
"And I was a child when my hands first became coated in the blood of my enemies in the Great Third War. My children will not be weak, wife. You will do well to learn that now."
Silence echoed on after this.
"Very well, husband..."
Both brothers stepped back a good many paces on the stairs to make it look as though they'd just come home when they're father exited the room and came into the hall.
Both Sasuke and Obito were forced to move back as well.
"Good, your home. Let's go," the clan leader ordered Itachi as he passed both siblings to move down the stairs. Sasuke, the older, didn't have time to move, and felt the odd sensation of his father passing through him.
He watched on, trying to regain himself, as the smaller, younger version of himself looked up at his older brother with a sadness in his eyes. He watched as Itachi knelt and spoke softly to him. "Go on and keep Okasan company... I'll be home soon. Ok?"
"I want to come with you," he whispered back.
"I know," he said and smiled in return, looking to be forcing it. He ruffled his hair. "I promise I'll wake you up when I get back. Then we can have fun waiting up for Santa-sama, alright?"
"Now, Itachi!" his father bellowed from downstairs.
"Be good, Otouto. I'll be back." In a blink, Itachi poked his forehead and moved down the stairs, through both onlookers as his father had done before him. This time, though, the older Sasuke didn't allow himself to be bothered by it. No, all he could see was that small boy before him, on the top of the stairs, with tears daring to fall from his eyes as he tried to be strong and not hate a man who'd sired him.
"Bye... Aniki..." the child whispered before tightening his hold on the gift for his mother and turning to go down the hall.
"Poor kid," Obito whispered with a sigh. "Terrible shame, ya know? No family should be broken up on such a holiday. Really kills the spirit..."
"He grew from it, though," Sasuke replied distantly, strongly. "It made him a better person."
Faintly, they both heard crying in the other room. The crying of a very weather worn woman and the soft comforting murmurs of a boy trying to ease his mother's grief by giving her something.
The sound silenced him as he followed Obito toward the room slowly, somehow willing his feet to go even though he didn't want to. "Can we leave now, spirit? Are we done?"
"No," the child replied as both stood at the entrance to the room and looked on.
"Don't cry, Okasan. Look, I got you something." The small child no older than five held out the box laced with a red ribbon.
She looked surprised to see him, and forced a smile as she took the gift. "Sasuke... Thank you," she whispered wiping her eyes. "I'm ah..." she paused, obviously trying to regain herself, black eyes filled with sadness. "I'm sorry your Aniki couldn't stay..."
Little Sasuke forced a smile. "It's ok..."
Her smile was wane in return. "Your father loves you, Sasuke... he doesn't mean..."
The little boy looked down as she took the gift, still trying to contain his emotions. "It's alright... it's for the clan... and that's important... I just..."
Her eyes softened on him as she sat there, looking at her child. All watched as a small tear hit the floor from the little boy.
"I just wish..." his voice trembled.
In a moment Mikoto had her little boy wrapped in a tight embrace while he cried on her shoulder. "I know, Sasuke... I know...It's ok...I'm here..." The little child wouldn't see her quiet tears falling as she held him to her chest. Nor would he hear her whisper, "It's not fair..."
Dark, coal orbs, of a much older male, turned away as he couldn't look on anymore.
"Sometimes people just don't understand the terrible weight they leave on a kid... it sucks... I tell ya..." Obito muttered, frowning.
"I wish to go, spirit. Let me leave this place..."
Obito nodded. "Next stop... coming up," he whispered as he took Sasuke hand and waved his free one. Once again, the world around the duo became a haze of light and Sasuke could help but giving one more lingering look on the scene before him, pain quietly hidden in his dark orbs.
~"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"~
The moment faded as quickly as the first. Again, the presence of white was everywhere; but, this time there were no falling flakes. People walked about in the middle of Konoha below. He realized quickly, this time, both he and his guide stood on top of a roof.
He began to ask where they were this time, but, realized the silliness of that question. "When are we, spirit?"
Obito grinned next to him, hands in his pockets. "Hey there, fly boy, you're catching on." When Sasuke raised a brow he chuckled. "Man, you're exactly like, Kakashi, you know that?"
He wasn't sure if he should take that as an insult or a compliment. "How do you know him?" he asked instead.
"Old partner. Back in the day. Anyway, though, we're not here about my past, we're here about yours. So! Let's get started!" He grabbed onto Sasuke's sleeve and laughed at the shock which crossed his features when they fell through the roof and onto the floor inside of the building.
He laughed still. "I love doing that to people."
Sasuke scowled as he regained his composure. He opened his mouth to rattle off a remark when a familiar voice cut him off.
"Sakura-chan! Look! Look at the tree!"
"Haven't you ever seen a Christmas tree before, Naruto?"
"Well, yeah," the voice replied sheepishly, "Just not one that big! Hokage-sama went all out, eh?"
"Hn..." another muttered not long after. "Waste of money..."
"Heh... you'd say that, bastard."
"And only a child would think a oversized, overpriced and over decorated atrocity of nature was something to be amazed by, dropout."
"Eash, who killed your Christmas spirit?"
Sasuke looked on at three from the second floor balcony where he stood with them and Obito. Both looker-ons were perhaps ten feet from the troop.
He recalled this moment with instant clarity. It was the first Christmas party he celebrated in Konoha with his team. Every year, the Hokage rented out every space in the village surrounding the middle center square and invited all that wanted to come and enjoy the festivities of the holiday. Outside and inside would be overflowing with people. Those few Shinobi who volunteered, and some rookies, took shifts with others to guard the outer walls.
Everyone dressed for the occasion, he noted, as he looked on at his team, himself from many years ago. His eyes drifted to Sakura. He couldn't quite help it really. Her hair was up and stuck with decorative sticks. Her dress, short and pink with hints of red trim, suited her perfectly.
"Do you like my dress, Sasuke-kun?" she asked softly, smiling.
The younger boy, made no expression and shrugged.
Naruto, however, smiled brightly. "I think you looked lovely, Sakura-chan."
"Thanks, Naruto," she replied, her eyes still on Sasuke as she kept her smile in place, serene and unwavering.
Below, music started and distracted the children easily as all three looked below. A few handfuls of dancers began the motions in the large ballroom. Kimonos and skirts shimmered in the twinkling lights.
Sasuke looked over as Sakura sighed between her teammates in a longing manner. "I wish someone would ask me to dance," she breathed wistfully.
"I'll dance with you, Sakura-chan," Naruto offered with a grin.
Younger Sasuke rolled his eyes. "You'll step all over her toes, dropout."
"Ha! Bet I can dance better than you!"
Sakura's mouth opened and closed as she tried to speak, but the boys wouldn't let her, she was all but ignored.
Naruto grinned, foxily, whisker marks enhancing his deviousness. "Care to put it to the test?" He looked over at Sakura.
Sasuke frowned. "Why would I waste my time?"
Naruto laughed. "I knew it! I am better than you, bastard! You're just too chicken to admit it!"
Sasuke's jaw set. "Fine, let's go."
"Good! Then Sakura can be the judge. We'll each dance with her one song."
The pink haired shinobi's mouth opened to argue. Anyone could tell this is not what she had in mind when she said she wanted to dance with someone tonight.
"I'll go first," Naruto offered as he took Sakura's hand and led her towards the stairs, drug her actually, Sasuke quick on their heels.
Both Obito and the older stepped out of the way as the three passed.
"Quite competitive, weren't you?" Obito commented idly as they followed the trio.
The older Uchiha rolled his eyes in response. "He was an idiot."
"And you hate losing," he rebutted with a grin. "Or maybe you just hate losing to Naruto?"
Nothing else was said as both watched on while Naruto led Sakura onto the dance floor for the next song and younger Sasuke stood on the sidelines with the ghostly duo behind him.
Sadly, for the blond, the younger version of himself had been right. Naruto had no real talent for dancing. Through the coarse of the dance he stepped on his female partner's feet at least fifteen times. It couldn't be helped really. The demon container danced like he fought, rash, quickly and without too much thought. But, for her credit, Sakura smiled through the pain and encouraged him---even if her eyes looked ready to kill.
"Wow, he really does have two left feet... what a moron..." Obito muttered, eyes blinking.
"Naruto was never afraid to try, even if he failed. Challenging himself was the important part," he murmured, voice lost in the moment. It was more like he was talking to himself and not the ghost.
"Still, that's self abuse. I'm surprised she hasn't hit him yet."
Sasuke chuckled, not really noticing he did it. "I was too."
"Alright, my turn," the Uchiha muttered as Naruto handed Sakura off to him. When the next song started everything faded for the elder watcher. All he could see and hear was them.
"I ah... I'm sorry Naruto roped you into this... I ah... wasn't trying to.. ya know... trick you into dancing with me..." she fumbled over her words, trying to come up with excuses as he fluidly moved around the floor with her. She wouldn't even meet his eyes. Especially when he didn't say anything. Her sigh must have bothered him, because he replied, eventually.
"If you could endure that idiot stepping all over your feet without hitting him then I suppose you deserve at least one decent dance..."
The blush that crept along her downcast features wasn't lost on either.
"You have to look up at me. You'll trip if you watch my feet," he muttered, sounding irritated as usual.
"Oh.. ah, sorry, Sasuke-kun." Her eyes drifted up slowly, landing on his chest, her face red as a cherry.
"My face, Sakura." When she didn't the hand on her waist quickly moved her chin up so her eyes met his, wide and worried. Quickly, before the next turn though, he placed it back on her waist, moving it behind to her lower back when he had to force her into a tighter turn because she wasn't paying attention. She would have stepped on his toes, but he saved it quickly with that.
Oddly... his hand didn't move. He told himself he couldn't be bothered to do so.
"Th...thank you," she breathed, looking stiff and cloistered. Her grip was tight on his shoulder and he felt the barest of a shake emanate off her body as she blushed to the tips of her ears. Suddenly, the image struck him as adorable and he smirked.
"Relax, or you'll fall all over me. That and I'm getting tired of forcing you into the movements, Sakura."
"And quit apologizing. It doesn't suit you. Just do it."
"I... I'm trying..." she whispered, obviously out of her element. Quickly, he realized, perhaps pushing her wasn't going to help. He didn't know why he opted to change his tactics. Beating Naruto was the farthest from his mind that moment.
"Close your eyes, Sakura..."
"Close them. Trust me and I'll do the rest."
"...O..ok." And just like that, she did.
He'd been right. When she stopped seeing him, stopped seeing everything, she had to trust him and allowed him to help lead her through the steps swiftly, gracefully and fluidly. He felt a sense of unexpected joy burst in his chest as the tiniest of smiles crept along her face.
"Open your eyes." When she started to, he said, "Slowly... but focus on me. Nothing else." When she did, her smile was infectious. Her fear and nervousness was gone. She continued to move with him.
"You're smiling..." she whispered in disbelief.
Was he? He couldn't force himself to scowl. Even as he tried to the song came to an end.
"Thank you... for that," she said kindly. "You didn't have to... but, it made my night..."
He didn't reply as he led her off the floor and back to Naruto with a few other dancers taking a break.
"So, Sakura-chan! Who won?" Naruto bounced in anticipation.
She hesitated a moment and looked over at Sasuke as if he held the answer. "Well.. um..." She paused, and smiled. "You know... it was pretty close. I'd say a tie." Sasuke, behind Naruto, rolled his eyes. But, a small smirk told the pinkette he knew the truth.
"Aw, man, that blows," the blond muttered, totally missing the wink she gave his male teammate or the nod Sasuke gave in return. "Ties suck!"
"N-Naruto-k-kun..." a vague voice whispered close by the group. All three looked to see Hyuuga Hinata blushing profusely as a grinning Kiba pushed her towards them. She was dressed prettily in a white formal Kimono and her short strands were decorated with crystal clips.
Naruto blinked and, like usual, his mouth opened before he thought; but, for once, for the better. "Wow, Hinata... you look really... pretty."
Naturally, this sent the bashful Hyuuga into a series of blushes and her fingers poking together frequently in her shyness. "W-w-wo-would y-y-you like t-to... um.."
"What she wants to ask you, Naruto, is if you'd dance with her," Kiba burst out for his teammate.
Grinning, Naruto replied quickly. "Sure! Come on!" He grabbed her hand and tugged her onto the floor. As a result Sasuke and Sakura were left to themselves.
"God he's dense..." Sasuke muttered, for once starting a conversation, not really knowing why.
Sakura smiled at the two on the floor. "Yeah, a little... But, someday he'll realize it."
Sasuke snorted. "When hell freezes."
"Probably..." A pause. "Thanks... again."
He smirked. "I wasn't doing you a favor. It was just a dance, Sakura."
"Yes... but..." she hesitated, unsure if she should continue, "...it was everything... to me."
She smiled, and that was enough.
"Hey, would ya lookah that? You're not such an asshole after all, Sasuke," Obito smarted out. "I'm a little surprised."
"Shut up," he snapped, not liking one of the better parts of his time with his team, with Sakura, being turned into some mushy moment he didn't care to watch. He didn't know why he'd acted like such an idiot that night. Maybe it was because for once, Sakura wasn't acting like a gushy school girl fawning over him... but an unsure young woman instead. Perhaps it had been the night, the holiday, when things were once fonder for him and his brother. He never really knew. After that, things sorta went back to normal; but, he always remembered... and he doubted she forgot.
"Well, time to go... we have other places to be!"
Sasuke hesitated, watching closely as his younger self stood rather close to Sakura, close enough that he could recall in that moment what she smelled like... what her warmth felt like...
"Sasuke..." Obito edged. "Come on..."
The light came and again his gaze lingered.. lingered long enough to watch his smile as she met his younger version's gaze...
"Lead on!" said Scrooge. "Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!"
Quickly enough, he found himself removed from the light and placed in the shadow of darkness. He found himself staring at a room, dimly lit and solely occupied by one person. Her hair was cut short and cropped. Her uniform had changed only a little. But, the look in her eyes had changed much. And the grief that raced across her features... silent tears falling on the image of a team he knew well.
That... given with what he had already seem this night, tugged at him in a way he hadn't expected. Memories did that to a man. Especially when that man was watching them from a third party perspective while they played out. It was something he wasn't use to.
"Oh, Sasuke..." the voice of the girl whispered, now a year older, perhaps two, "I'm sorry... I wish... I wish you were here... " She wiped her eyes, but her tears did not lessen. She tried to smile, as she spoke from where she sat on her bed, the pale light of the moon casting a glow across her snowy pink skin.
"We're all trying hard for you. Naruto, he left, you know. Went off to work on becoming strong enough to help you beat Itachi and bring you back. I'm... trying to... Tsunade, she's teaching me medical ninjutsu... Kakashi... I don't see him much... I think..." her words broke off a moment as another series of tears took over her beautiful face. She inhaled deeply, trying to contain herself. "I think he blames himself," she spoke to the frame of team seven. "He won't say it, naturally... but, I know he does. We all do. Even Tsunade-sama remarked on it offhandedly after she gave him a mission."
She tightened her lips and relaxed them, as if trying to control her emotions physically. "Christmas really isn't the same without you. It's the second one in a row since you left I haven't been to the annual party. Do you remember the last one we went to as a team? Probably not," she rambled on in a trembling voice. "I do though.... I know... I know I use to say I loved you like a stupid idiot all the time. I don't think I ever really meant it. You were just so..." she sighed, shakily. "I wanted you to know though... I fell in love with you that night... You weren't the same boy...I still recall that one smile you gave me..."
Her voice trailed off, cracking the shell he'd gradually erected around his heart over the years. He was surprised how easily she did that, by just being herself, quiet and alone in her room.
"It's a pity..." Obito whispered. "Pretty girl like that... pining after someone for so long... avoiding going out because of how much she loves one man... pitiful, don't you think? She deserves better."
Sasuke swallowed and hardened his voice, pain made him do so. "It is. She'd be better off training than crying in her room..."
"And what of her friends? The party? Her family?"
"If she's going to waste her time in her room, alone, she'd be better off working towards her goal."
"Ah... I see... But, she isn't alone, Sasuke... "
"As far as she's concerned... she's spending her night, a night that holds such precious memories for her out of any other... with a man she loves..."
The only sound in the room were the quiet, stifled cries of of a girl he'd thought he long ago had abandoned all feeling for... all care... Someone he tried to forget once made him smile. A knife is what this all was, this mockery of his life, jamming a pain into his chest.
"I want to go home, spirit. Take me home. Now. I'll see no more..." he breathed in half anger, half anguish.
"Hard to watch what you have sewn, Uchiha? Painful to watch the ache you've brought on others, is it?" he half snapped in genuine punishment.
"I did what I did for my people! You have no right to judge me!" he barked out, seething now. "No right..!"
"I don't, do I?" the boy asked, brows raised.
Sasuke ignored the obvious, the reality that the child was once a clansmen. He turned swiftly and leaned into a wall. "Take me home, spirit. Leave me!"
And just like that, the moment he opened his eyes, he was back in his room... The fire crackling in the background as he stared up as his ceiling, heart hammering in his chest. He exhaled, trying to catch the forward momentum of the pain coiling about his system, the rush of emotions he wasn't use to dealing with.
He barely had time to catch his breath when the clock on his night stand clicked soundlessly. He looked over, startled, as a voice shouted in the room.
"U-chi-ha Sa-su-ke! Yo! Are you ready to face the youthful enlightenment of Christmas present?!"
A/N: Soooooo... I promise I haven't forgotten about Mona. and you can't complain because I just updated Torn, the more popular of the two. But, it's Christmas, and this idea hit me like a ton of bricks. It's going to be a short, total, four chapter story. Basically three parts for three ghosts ending in an epilogue showing what Sasuke's ultimate choice is. Anyway, should only take me a couple days to finish. Then I'll go straight back to work on Mona and Torn. I'll update KMI after the new year. Promise. In case your wondering, also, this is shortly after the second part of the series when they're about 16-17 years old. Sasuke hasn't met up with Sakura and Naruto yet. Nor has he seen Sai.
I realize some people might be wondering why Sasuke seems... a bit out of character at points. But, for those if you that come to this conclusion, remember, he's seeing things no man ever does. His past is being slammed right back into his face. So, it's making him a tinsy bit more open. He's out of his element. But, if you don't like it, ah well. ^,^ Thanks for reading otherwise.