Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. Unless Kishimoto decides to give it to me as a Christmas present. I'll keep you posted.
Kakashi waited until the next day to turn in that particular mission report, despite it technically being due that same evening. He just wasn't eager to review that miserable experience. But at least it was over- and as the civilian kids took him for the genuine Santa, he could rightly claim the mission a success.
Moments ago, the jounin had finally dismissed his team after their long training session. Naruto and Sakura had called him a "grinch" for not giving them the day off. Really, he saw no reason to slack in their regiment just because it was Christmas Eve.
Kakashi made sure he reminded them to meet him at the bridge at nine the next morning. Ignoring their groans of protest, he strolled to the Mission Room, pondering what sort of character this "grinch" might be and fervently hoping no one ever asked for one at their holiday party.
Just as he entered the Mission Room, the jounin was forced to sidestep to avoid being barreled down by an angry woman. He raised an eyebrow as he noticed said angry woman was Lady Ishi. She didn't even spare him a second glance, as she furiously stalked away.
Huh. Kakashi shrugged and continued inside to submit his report.
Iruka was at the coffee machine, knocking back a mug of the dark liquid. Upon seeing Kakashi, he slammed the cup down. "You!" he growled, stalking up to the jounin.
Iruka- angry and on a caffeine high. Kakashi instinctively knew he had to diffuse the situation quickly. "Ah, I apologize for the lateness of my report, sensei. I've got it right here." He smoothed out the only slightly wrinkled and thankfully stain-free pages.
"You ruined everything!" Iruka roared, not even bothering to look at the report. "Lady Ishi was just here! All the nobles are furious! They threatened to sue us for traumatizing their children!" His ranting became increasingly louder, drawing the fearful attention of the other ninja in Mission Room. A few cast pitying looks toward the Copy Ninja. "How in the world- in just one afternoon- did you manage to create a generation of Santaphobes? What the hell were you thinking?"
"But," Kakashi seized a moment now that Iruka had paused to catch his breath. "I just did what I assumed the subject would have done, based on the information I received."
"You have the children thinking that Santa is a stalking, murdering ex-ninja! How in the world does that match up with the dossier I gave you?"
"Actually, that stalking part is tru-"
"I don't want to hear it!" Iruka interrupted, snatching Kakashi's report and forcefully stamping the word "FAIL" across the top in bright red ink.
"Maah…Sensei, I technically didn't fail the mission," Kakashi protested cautiously. Yelling he could take, but that bright red stamp… "The objective was to make the children believe I was really Santa. You never said that they had to like me."
A vein bulged in Iruka's forehead, but before he could launch into another tirade, Kotetsu appeared and seized the chunin from behind, one hand planted firmly over his coworker's mouth.
"Break time, Iruka!" Kotetsu chirped as he forcibly led his colleague away.
A smiling Izumo quickly assumed the vacated spot. "I'm sorry, but Iruka's on break at the moment," he professionally chimed, as though the jounin didn't just see him being kidnapped. "Can I help you with that report, Kakashi?"
"Uh…sure…" the jounin responded uncertainly as he watched Kotetsu physically lob the sensei into the break room and slam the door shut. The bandaged chunin proceeded to perform handseals, causing the door to glow green with a reinforced chakra barrier.
"He'll be all right," Izumo assured. "Iruka's just feeling a little…"
"Homicidally enraged?" Kakashi helpfully supplied.
"Disappointed," Izumo corrected. "We convinced Lady Ishi to drop her lawsuit, but ended up waiving the mission fee. So no one's getting paid for that particular assignment."
"And what concern is it of Iruka's whether or not I get paid?" The jounin queried skeptically. "It's not like I've never taken a pro bono mission before." He paused. "Oh…he must be worried about Naruto's salary, right?"
"It's a long story, Kakashi. Don't worry about it," Izumo shrugged. "What's done is done."
The desk ninja shuffled together the pages of the Santa mission report, preparing them for processing. He paused to stare thoughtfully at the objective line. After quickly looking around, Izumo blotted out the "FAIL" stamp and scribbled in the word "Pass" followed by his own initials.
"Technically, you did fulfill the mission objective." Izumo rationalized with a wink. "Thanks for your hard work. And Merry Christmas, Kakashi."
That evening, Kakashi stopped by the bank and withdrew enough cash to give Sakura and Naruto their normal cut of a C-ranked mission salary. After all, if Iruka was that concerned over the kid's salary, then perhaps the genin were in a financial strait of which Kakashi wasn't aware.
That, and it was easier than explaining why they hadn't gotten paid in the first place.
After delivering the money, Kakashi then went through his normal nightly routine of training and showered before settling in for bed. Staring up at the ceiling, the jounin mentally reviewed his mission, picking over what had gone wrong and considering how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Not that he was ever going to play Santa again. Absolutely not.
Kakashi wasn't sure at what point he'd fallen asleep, but he in the middle of night he silently awoke, certain of one thing: 'Someone is in my house.'
How this person got in without setting off a trap, the jounin didn't know. Regardless, Kakashi determined it was not going to be nearly as smooth for them to get out.
Shrouded in darkness, the jounin stalked his prey. The figure in his living room didn't even have a moment to gasp before the kunai was drawn to its throat. Kakashi growled as he pressed the blade dangerously close to the rotund person's jugular. Was this…an Akimichi?
"Ho-ho-ho," the plump invader chuckled. "Now you know why I don't visit ninja homes on Christmas Eve!"
The figure in his grip vanished and reappeared before him, a moment later. The intruder flicked the light switch on and smiled. "Good evening, Kakashi."
The jounin glared at the Santa impersonator before him. "What do you think you're doing in my house? Who are you?"
With a twinkle in his eye, the intruder laid his finger on the side of his nose. With a nod, he vanished away.
On the roof, Kakashi's senses screamed. Performing the signs for a transportation jutsu, he followed.
The jounin blinked. There was the Santa impersonator, standing by a large red sleigh and nine live reindeer. This man must be certifiably insane.
"Now, now Kakashi…I'm not insane." Santa chided reprovingly.
The jounin growled again, taking a step toward the man. The lead reindeer snorted right back at him, rearing up its hooves threateningly. It nose glared light right into Kakashi's eye.
"Whoa there, Rudolph!" Santa commanded, placing a soothing hand on the creature's flank. "I'm sorry about that, Kakashi, but my reindeer summons can be a bit overprotective. Especially old Rudolph here!"
"His nose shorted out." Naruto had said.
Kakashi scanned the scene with his Sharingan, but found no trace of illusion. It…couldn't be. Could it?
"It sure can, Kakashi," the man exclaimed jovially. With a short bow he introduced himself, "Kris Kringle. More commonly known as Santa Claus."
Kakashi stared dubiously at the overweight stranger. It was clear that he, at least, believed he was the real Santa. "What exactly are you doing in my house?" the jounin demanded, wanting answers.
"Why, I'm bringing you a present, of course!" Santa chuckled, talking as he riffled through his sack. "Now, I don't normally visit ninja villages…far too risky…but after all that hard work you put in to impersonate me, why I couldn't resist! I almost cried, it was that funny. Ho-ho-ho I haven't laughed so hard in ages!"
Finally, Santa withdrew a scroll. Kakashi tensed as the old man performed some hand seals. From the scroll, Kris summoned a stocking with something stuck in its toe. "For you, Kakashi."
The jounin took the proffered item cautiously, scanning it for jutsu, traps, and explosives.
Santa gave him an encouraging nod, and finally he reached in the stocking. Closing his fingers around the small, round object inside, he pulled out the gift.
Santa nodded sagely. "Yes, Kakashi, a yo-yo."
The shinobi stared at the round plastic object in his palm. "Why…?"
"Because," the old man smiled. "I know you've wanted one ever since you were five…when you saw those other kids doing cool tricks with theirs. But you never told a soul about your wish because, even though you were just a child, you were still a ninja and ninja don't play with toys."
Kakashi's eye widened. How could he have known that? Could this old man really be…?"
"Santa Claus?" he finished patiently. "Yes. Yes, I am." He chuckled, his belly jiggling as he did so. "You're not exactly the epitome of a good boy, but you mean well. And I thought you deserved some kind of reward for the fine show you put on at Lady Ishi's party. Really… Iruka shouldn't have been so hard on you. You tried your best!"
Waving a hand toward Kakashi, he urged, "Now go ahead- give that yo-yo a spin."
Feeling incredibly foolish, Kakashi reluctantly slipped the plastic ring over his finger. 'A perfect fit,' he noted. With a flick of a wrist, the toy spun down the string…flashing brilliant colors along the way.
The jounin well remembered how amazing those lights had seemed to his five-year-old self and couldn't help but smile grudgingly. However, when the yo-yo reached the bottom of the line, it did not come back up.
"Huh. You need a little practice," Santa noted with amusement, watching the toy twirl lazily at the end of the string. A few more hand seals and a thin manual appeared in his hand. "Here you go, an instruction guide. You'll learn all the tricks with this."
The jounin accepted the manual, trying not to look eager about it. "Ah…thanks," he stated lazily as he slipped the pamphlet into an inside pocket- right beside his Icha Icha.
"So…" Kakashi stuck his hands into the pockets of his pajama pants wondering if he should try to apprehend the trespasser. He fingered the yo-yo in his pocket. Somehow, he felt strangely unwilling to turn the man in. "You're supposed to be going around the world delivering presents," he said finally. "Aren't you in a hurry?"
"Nah," Santa shrugged. "Come on, how many kids out there do you think are actually good all year long? I don't have all that many visits to make. And besides, I use clones to help me out."
"So you are an ex-ninja," the jounin stated, feeling vindicated.
"Indeed I am," Kris acknowleged. "The last surviving member of the Kringle Clan. My family's bloodline limit grants me powerful psychic abilities. We were once feared for our psychic talents. But as you guessed, I grew tired of the violence and ninja lifestyle. I didn't want to befeared. So I left my village and joined my mother's kinfolk. She was an elf, you see…but that's a whole other story."
"And you actually live in the North Pole?" Kakashi was beginning to wonder if perhaps he'd lost his tenuous hold on sanity. He was, after all, up on a housetop chit chatting with an imaginary being.
"Of course not! Ho, ho- the North Pole," he snorted with amusement. "That's just the story to keep those darn Hunter Ninja off my trail!"
Santa had a good laugh over that, before suddenly growing serious. "Actually, Kakashi, I didn't only come to give you a present. I need your help."
He knew there had to be a catch. Kakashi waited for the man to continue.
"You see, I had a few special stops planned this year in Konoha. I just finished dropping something off at Iruka's home- no big deal, since he's still working at the Mission Desk. But my next stop is the Konoha orphanage." Kris sighed. "I can get past traps, but as you can tell I'm not the best at hiding my presence from guards. I need someone of your skill. Would you help me deliver the gifts to the orphans?"
"And why would you suddenly want to do that?"
Santa proceeded to divulge the story of the overcharged mission, and how the excess money was supposed to fund a Christmas surprise for the children. A twinkle appeared in Santa's eye as he finished. "I, for one, believe that your hilarious performance was deserving of the recompense offered."
"So wattaya say, Kakashi?" The old man hopped into his sleigh and stretched his hand out to the jounin. "I can't do it without you."
Iruka groaned when the rays of sunrise finally filtered through his curtains and glared into his bleary eyes. Rolling over, he whined and buried his head in his pillow. After all, he'd only gone to bed three hours ago.
He'd had the most miserable day at work yesterday…er…today. Now it was Christmas morning, the Mission Room was closed, and he was not getting out of bed this early. Not for anything.
His alarm clock suddenly blared in his ears and the chunin stretched out an arm from beneath the covers to blindly search for the offending object. Within moments the room was in silence again.
Except for the flock of birds who apparently decided that right in front of his window was the ideal spot to sing. He pressed the pillow more tightly over his head, vainly hoping to either block them out or smother himself and finally get some rest.
Soon, the din of children's laughter and shouting announced that the youth of Konoha had already taken outdoors to play with their brand new toys. Which only reminded Iruka of the orphans who, yet again, weren't going to receive any.
With a defeated sigh, he got up and groggily weaved his way toward his kitchen. Sleep was beyond his reach at the moment.
He had started to prepare a pot of tea (no more coffee. Hopefully he'll stop twitching by New Year) when something caught his eye. There, lying on the kitchen table, was a dark red stocking.
Iruka didn't decorate his house for Christmas. Sure, he had some handmade cards lining his counter and the occasional Christmas art project lay around. He even had some ornaments he'd received as gifts from his students on the last day of school. But he didn't have a tree on which to hang them. Iruka was certain he would have remembered buying or accepting a stocking.
Carefully picking up the suspicious object, the chunin realized there was something inside. He reached in and closed his fingers around a small, round object, slowly pulling out…
A lump of coal.
A note fluttered out, landing on the wooden tabletop.
I know that, in your heart, you really are a good boy.
But until you control that temper of yours, you'll stay on my naughty list.
Try to relax, and don't yell at people so much.
The chunin burst out laughing. That Kotetsu- he'd do just about anything to emphasize a point.
Shaking his head, Iruka poured himself a cup of tea and thought about his plans for the day. Originally, he was going to show up at the orphanage, wearing that silly Santa hat Anko had bought him and bearing gifts for all the kids. The orphanage director was told ahead of time to expect him, and in his rage Iruka never got a chance to explain otherwise.
He supposed he should still go over and spend time with the children. After all, Christmas wasn't just about things. They could work on some Christmas art projects. He'll teach them how to make paper snowflakes. They'd enjoy that.
Iruka sighed as he took a sip of his tea. He really had overreacted last night. It's not as though Kakashi purposely-
An obnoxious bang on the door interrupted his thoughts. Iruka opened it just in time to see Izumo slap the back of Kotetsu's head for knocking so rudely. The bandaged chunin didn't let that bother him. Instead he grinned widely, holding up large shopping bags as he proclaimed, "Merry Christmas!"
"What's this about?" Iruka queried.
His coworkers gave him sympathetic smiles. "We know how disappointed you were about the disastrous Santa mission and not having the money for the orphans" Izumo began, "So we…"
"You know, I did warn you both that it wasn't a good idea," Kotetsu interrupted.
"So," his friend pressed on, "the Mission Desk workers got together and pitched in a little cash…"
"Still wasn't enough to buy all those brats toys," Kotetsu cut in, "Since Tsunade shafted us by not paying overtime. Just because Konoha suffered some structural damage during the chunin exams doesn't mean…"
"But," Izumo continued, drowning out his friends complaints, "We picked up some hot chocolate, toffee covered popcorn, candy canes, and a few other snacks. There's only a few more things to pick up…"
"Which you're paying for," Kotetsu stated sternly, "Since we already spent everyone else's money…"
"And Genma loaned us his Christmas music collection," Izumo added. "So I think we can pull off a decent Christmas party at the orphanage, don't you?"
Iruka stared, stunned by their thoughtfulness. "Wow. This is…Thank you…I don't know what to say…"
"Don't mention it," Kotetsu slapped him on the back. "This way, I still get my Christmas party, ne?"
The sensei chuckled, before staring suspiciously at the packages they'd brought. "You're not smuggling saké in there, are you?"
The bandaged ninja grinned nervously. "Uh…no?"
"Lady Hokage donated it," Izumo admitted sheepishly, before hastily adding. "But we weren't going to give any to the kids!"
"Adults need to party too," Kotetsu affirmed sagaciously.
The three chunin, wearing their silly red Santa hats, picked up some additional supplies. They were making their way to the orphanage when an unusual sight gave all of them pause.
There was the Copy Ninja, strolling down the path, flicking a yo-yo from his hand.
"Hey, Kakashi," Iruka called politely, feeling guilty about his rage yesterday. "Merry Christmas!"
The jounin paused and looked up from the thin pamphlet he'd been reading.
"What are you doing?" Kotetsu asked bluntly, wrinkling his nose.
Kakashi tilted his chin toward the direction he'd been walking. "Just on my way to meet with the genin."
"Oh, are you celebrating Christmas with Naruto and Sakura?" Iruka inquired, pleased by the display of unity.
"If by 'celebrating Christmas' you mean 'training,' then yes," the jounin replied, getting ready to move on.
"But why are you carrying a yo-yo?" Kotetsu burst out.
Kakashi shrugged. "Why not?"
The chunin opened his mouth to give a response, but found that he had none, and shrugged instead.
Izumo stepped forward his eyes lighting up in nostalgia, "Hey, I had something similar when I was a kid. Remember all those tricks we used to do?" He looked to his two chunin companions.
"Yeah... I wonder if we still remember how," Iruka laughed.
Kotetsu brightened, "Hey, Kakashi, could I see that for a minute? I want to try something."
Reluctantly, the man relinquished his yo-yo. It turned out that, after a few practice runs, all three chunin were still able to perform their flashy moves.
Kotetsu impulsively decided that it was his job to mentor the jounin in the art of yo-yoing. Kakashi took to the skill as quickly as his genius mind picked up any other talent. Duly impressed, they demonstrated progressively more difficult tricks, cheering on their jounin comrade when he finally executed them. For the next twenty five minutes, the four Leaf shinobi talked, joked, and laughed over the toy.
"Hey, we better get going," Iruka remarked suddenly. "We've got a party to throw, remember? Give Kakashi his yo-yo back, Kotetsu."
The chunin frowned, giving the object one last spin. He was about to hand it over, when he noticed the small logo on the edge. "SW?" Kotetsu read aloud. "My old yo-yo was a Sky-Flyer- you know with the SF imprinted on the side. I've never heard of SW. What's it stand for?"
"Probably 'Santa's Workshop,'" Kakashi shrugged. "That's where it came from."
The strange looks he received only confirmed the jounin's decision not to mention last night's encounter. He doubted anyone would believe him, and he really didn't need to have the administration thinking he'd finally cracked.
"Right," Kotetsu returned the toy to its rightful owner and turned back to his packages. "Well, guess we'll see you around."
"YOU'RE LATE!" Sakura and Naruto yelled as Kakashi approached the bridge.
"Sorry," the Copy Ninja replied apologetically. "The Mission Desk workers and I were just playing with the yo-yo Santa brought me last night and-"
The chunin finally arrived at the orphanage. The moment they got through the gates, the director came out to greet them.
Iruka opened his mouth to explain that he'd been unable to bring the toys, but the woman spoke up first. "Iruka, you're amazing! You said you were going to bring them gifts…but to sneak them in, in the middle of the night- I never expected that!" She chuckled. "You should have seen those children's faces when they woke up this morning. You've made them all so happy."
"But…but…" the chunin floundered, glancing at his companions, who shrugged. "I didn't do it."
"Sure you didn't," the director winked. "It was Santa Claus, right?"
"No, I'm serious…"
But she was no longer listening, exclaiming instead over the bags of treats they'd brought. "You guys are just so thoughtful. This will definitely be the best Christmas ever."
The ninja followed her in, and could scarcely believe their eyes at the sight of all the children, playing with their new toys. "But who…?"
Kotetsu frowned and snatched up an orphan by the ankle, taking a close look at the roller skate on his foot.
"Kotetsu!" Iruka yelled "Put that boy down!"
"Aha!" the bandaged chunin exclaimed triumphantly swinging the child closer to his companions. "Look at the brand on these skates: SW."
Momentarily forgetting his outrage, Iruka took a glance. "Hey…you're right."
"An elite jounin just might be able to afford all these toys," Izumo pointed out significantly. "Especially one who lives alone and has no family to take of."
The sensei finally freed the boy from Kotetsu's grasp and sent him on his way. Looking around at all the happy children, Iruka grinned. "Well what do you know? Kakashi's not such a bad Santa after all."
Merry Christmas to all!