Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and Co. and therefore I do not make money from playing with them like they are my own personal and rather naughty action figures.
Summary: Naruto, you are standing in the middle of a Christmas miracle. It doesn't matter who the miracle belongs to. All that matters is that you don't miss it.
Author's Note: For Ash365, as I am her Secret Santa. (glomps her)
But, this is also my Christmas gift to everyone. Thanks for all the love and encouragement. Thanks for reading and reviewing. It means the world, even if I'm not always the best replier. So, yeah, I love you all. Merry Christmas! (or happy holiday of your choice)
Warning: Right, so no naughtiness this time. But, there is mildly angsty but totally redeemed fluff… shocker, I know.
Like all small children, Naruto Uzumaki had believed that a four-hundred pound man in a red suit could fit down his chimney, that hot chocolate was the only beverage allowed at the North Pole, and that Christmas miracles, however rare, were real.
As an adult, he knew better about Santa, was still undecided about the cocoa, and still very much a believer in Christmas miracles. He believed because he had lived through his very own at the tender age of six.
It was Naruto's mother and father who introduced him to the idea of Christmas miracles. The three of them would sit together on their couch, Naruto tucked lovingly between his grinning father and his smiling mother, and watch all manner of Christmas specials. Throughout them all, one theme remained constant. Whether it was a new family, a true love, or that one special gift (that may or may not shoot your eye out), Christmas miracles were the shiny, red bow on each shows' happy ending.
When Naruto was five, after the last show ended and their empty cocoa mugs were taken to the kitchen, Naruto's father, Minato, put Naruto to bed and told him how it was because of his own Christmas miracle that he met Naruto's mother, Kushina. Naruto begged for the story and Minato leaned against his son's headboard and told an impossible story of howling blizzards and lost puppies and, mostly importantly, beautiful, fiery redheads. Naruto, mesmerized by the story, asked his father if he had ever had another Christmas miracle. Minato shook his head while sliding off the bed and pulling Naruto's warm blankets up to the little boy's chin. Running his fingers through Naruto's blond hair, he explained that Christmas miracles were special and a once in a lifetime honor that made them all the more precious.
Kushina came up behind her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist, and smiled tenderly down at her sleepy-eyed son. "Someday, Naruto, when you least expect it and most need it, a Christmas miracle will happen to you, too."
Naruto giggled and snuggled deeper into his blankets, listening to his parents' soft whispers fade as sleep fell silently around him.
That would be the last Christmas Naruto shared with his parents. His mother and father were killed hardly two months later in a car accident and the lost little boy was placed in an orphanage. Devastated and alone, Naruto refused to talk to anyone except a kind-hearted young man named Iruka Umino. Iruka volunteered his time by offering to tutor the children of the orphanage. Naruto wouldn't let anyone touch him but, when Iruka came, he crawled willingly into the teacher's waiting arms and held on tight while listening to Iruka's promises that he wasn't alone and that things would be okay.
After ten months in the home, Christmas time had come around again. Snowflakes fell like feathers from the sky outside of Naruto's frost-kissed window and Naruto huddled deeper into his thin blankets, clutching a box close to his chest.
At the sound of the door opening, Naruto watched Iruka come into the room with Naruto's jacket in his arms and a soft smile on his face. Naruto thought that might be how angels smiled. Looking down at the abysmally wrapped package in his hands, he looked up once more and thrust it in Iruka's direction.
"I made this for you, Iruka-sensei!"
Iruka stepped forward and Naruto waited in anticipation for him to take the package. He was all the more surprised when Iruka bypassed the package and, instead, wrapped Naruto in his arms, picking him up, and spinning him around. Iruka laughed into his ear and Naruto couldn't help but laugh along before dropping the forgotten gift and cupping Iruka's smiling cheeks in his tiny hands.
"What's going on?!" Iruka smiled and Naruto gasped when he saw tears in his friend's eyes. "What's the matter? Are you okay?" he asked and felt his bottom lip start to tremble while his little fingers wiped anxiously at Iruka's tears.
Iruka pulled Naruto even closer and spoke into the soft hair on his head. "Nothing is wrong. Everything is right, Naruto. They said yes." The last was said with a warm sigh that sent a tingle of warmth racing up Naruto's spine.
Naruto didn't lift his head and instead whispered into Iruka's shoulder. "Yes? To what?"
Suddenly, Iruka moved and they were sitting on the bed. Iruka situated Naruto until they were looking eye to eye. "I can take you home with me. Forever, Naruto. We can be each other's family from now on."
Naruto blinked and squirmed out of Iruka's arms. Iruka let him go willingly, but his fingers curled into fists and his eyes crinkled in alarm. "But only if that's okay with you."
A sniffle echoed through the room and Naruto nodded. This was it. This was his Christmas miracle. The thought made him miss his mother and father so terribly it was like a physical pain in his little chest. Then he opened his eyes and saw Iruka, framed against the window and the snowflakes, and the pain changed into something precious. He would always, always love his mommy and daddy, but now, he had a new family. He wouldn't be alone.
"What will I call you?" he asked, and Iruka slid off the bed to kneel in front of him, his discarded present in his hands.
"Whatever you want, Naruto." Naruto's eyes widen when he noticed how Iruka's hand trembled as it reached up to ruffle his hair. "Someday, when you are ready, I'd like to call you my son."
Naruto nuzzled into Iruka's hand for the briefest moment and then grabbed his jacket off the bed. Stuffing his arms into the bulky, orange garment, Naruto grinned at a confused-looking Iruka. "Come on, come on!" Naruto chimed, but then stopped with an exaggerated huff when Iruka didn't move. With wide, blue eyes filled with excitement, happiness, and love, he said, "Come on, D-dad," a deep blush covered his chubby, round cheeks, "I want to get home and tell you the story of my once-in-a-life-time Christmas miracle!"
Now, at age twenty-three, Naruto wouldn't exchange his Christmas miracle all those years ago for anything. Having Iruka, and later Kakashi Hatake, as his parental units was the best thing he could imagine aside from his mother and father. When he had gotten older, Naruto learned how hard Iruka had fought to have him and Naruto knew he couldn't have asked for a truer or more precious miracle.
Just thinking about it brought a smile to Naruto's face and the urge to sip hot cocoa was strong. He leaned back in his office chair and turned enough that he could look out the huge, reflective window. The lights were dim in his office, allowing him to see out the nearly black surface. He worked in the Uchiha Corp. building near the top floor. This gave him a gorgeous view of the city of Konoha at night. Snow fell in large, fluffy flakes, blanketing the city in a soft, shimmering white. Christmas lights blinked merrily on the street below and Naruto sighed softly to himself before glancing at the clock.
The time read nearly eleven o'clock at night and Naruto cursed loudly. He glanced out the door and saw that nearly everyone else on the floor was gone. Lucky bastards…and speaking of bastards. He leaned forward and pressed a silver intercom button on his phone.
"Mr. Uchiha," he said pleasantly, "it is nearly eleven o'clock… at night."
Several seconds ticked by and then, "I can tell time, idiot," came the snapped response.
Naruto grinned and pressed the button again. "Yes, of course, you can, sir. Let me try again. It's time to go home, bastard, and don't think I'm not going to add overtime to my check."
More silence and then, "You're on salary, dumbass."
"I do the payroll, jerk."
"I sign your check, moron."
"I've been forging your candy-assed signature since my second week here." Naruto smiled. "Princess."
Naruto wasn't sure that he could actually hear it, but he knew Sasuke slammed the button down. "Just go home, Uzumaki."
The smile slid from Naruto's face and he ran his fingers through his hair, sending blond strands in every direction. "Yes, sir."
And then, silence.
"Fuck," Naruto sighed and turned back around until he could watch the snow.
Sasuke Uchiha was his immediate boss, his personal pain in the ass, and his secret crush of untold and probably unhealthy proportions. When he first took the job as Sasuke's executive assistant, he hadn't been sure that he'd make it to the end of the week. Sasuke was rude under the best of circumstances and cruel under the worst. Asshole, bastard, sadistic fucker… all were words Naruto had heard, and probably personally used, to describe the dark-haired CEO.
In fact, on his fourth day of work, after reporting at seven in the morning and looking up from his piles of 'it's your job, Uzumaki. If you can't handle it, then leave' to see that it was just shy of one in the morning, Naruto had had enough. He yanked off his tie while stalking angrily toward the bastard's office. He grumbled under his breath, preparing his 'I fucking quit, you asshole' speech. He pushed open the door to see Sasuke holding his head in one hand while the other cupped the phone to his ear.
"I don't fucking care, Father," Sasuke hissed and Naruto's resolve hardened. The jackass talked like that to his father?? Naruto would work at Mc Donald's before working for… "I will not lay off any of my employees just to increase your precious bottom line." Naruto stopped, his fingers wrapped tightly around the door handle, and focused on what Sasuke was saying. "Yes, I suppose you could look at it as a threat. I wouldn't be the first son in history to launch a hostile takeover against his father. And you know I'll succeed. Goodbye, Father."
Naruto watched Sasuke calmly settle the phone in its cradle and then knock it off his desk with an angry sweep of his arm and a dark snarl. The silver and black device shattered against the wall and Naruto let the door close softly.
Ten minutes later, he stepped into Sasuke's office with two cups of coffee and several files under his arm. He studiously ignored the evidence of Sasuke's angry backlash that littered the floor.
"What do you want, Uzumaki," Sasuke growled, but for the first time, Naruto noticed Sasuke's posture was rigid and his eyes pinched and tired.
Naruto shrugged and awkwardly waved the cups. "Coffee." Sasuke stared at him with narrowed eyes. "And it's my job to assist you, bastard. Maybe avoid these late nights. I've finished all the grunt work you gave me. Maybe now you'd like to see just why I graduated with honors?"
Sasuke glared harshly for a moment but then gave a curt nod and motioned toward the desk. "Idiot." He probably didn't mean to let it show, and had Naruto not been looking for it, he would have missed it, but Sasuke leaned back into his chair, the tension easing from his face. "Alright, let's see what you have."
Nearly two years later, Naruto was still working for Sasuke, still calling him derogatory names behind his back and most often to his face, and silently watching the quiet man navigate from under the shadow of his brother and father to become a powerful man in his own right. Naruto began to understand Sasuke. He read more in Sasuke's glare and grunts than he ever got from the man's clipped, sparsely worded responses. It wasn't long before Naruto served as an assistant, an interpreter, and the first and last line of defense between the youngest Uchiha and the idiots of the world. More than once, Sasuke explained that if he had to handle Naruto, the blond should have to keep out the rest.
And through it all, Naruto found himself watching Sasuke less as an egotistical boss and someone it was impossible to go a whole day without wanting to throttle, and more like someone he wanted to see on a Sunday morning, in his t-shirt and sweats, or on a late Friday night in nothing but a sheen of sweat on pale, perfect skin. He wanted Sasuke's face to relax at the sight of Naruto, like Naruto reveled in the warm feeling he got when he was around Sasuke.
Naruto worried about Sasuke's goals and ambitions. Sasuke followed them with a single-mindedness that cut out everything else and he did it with cool, detached efficiency. And yet, at the same time, Naruto wanted Sasuke to meet his goals because he wanted Sasuke to be happy.
So he worked hard to help shoulder the burden Sasuke labored under tirelessly. Naruto egged Sasuke on when he knew he could do more and bullied him back when he knew Sasuke was at his breaking point. He stayed every night until Sasuke went home and was waiting with coffee every morning when Sasuke arrived. He smiled and teased and gloated and yelled and every word silently said that Sasuke was priceless and precious in Naruto's eyes, that he was everything, and Naruto would follow him everywhere… forever… until Sasuke slowed down enough to take Naruto's hand so they could walk together.
"Fuck," Naruto repeated into the silence of his office. There was no telling how long Sasuke would be tonight. He turned his chair until he once more faced his desk and groaned when he saw the innocent white card lying in the middle of his organized chaos. In bright red letters, the title read 'Secret Santa Wish List'.
Each year, the 'underlings' of Uchiha Corp. participated in a Secret Santa Exchange. Each day of the week before Christmas they would bring a gift, and then reveal themselves at the Christmas party. The gifts were never anything extravagant, but the tradition was fun, and who was Naruto to complain about presents?
The first year Naruto participated, he didn't know anyone very well and instead of listing anything personal, simply wrote 'RAMEN'. His wish had been granted and his enthusiastic appreciation ensured that every holiday and gift giving opportunity that arose since saw Naruto with packets of ramen tossed onto his desk. He had every intention of writing ramen again this year, but instead of scrawling it across the card, he wrote it neatly at the top. He chewed absently at the tip of the pen and then wrote, 'Sleep in on a weekday… damn bastard.'
He chuckled and then looked around his desk until he eyes fell on a picture of him, Iruka, and Kakashi on a ski trip they'd taken not long after the silver-haired man silently entered into their lives and turned them both upside-down. Kakashi grinned comically at the camera while ruffling a pouting Naruto's hair and Iruka looked at the taller man with exasperation and amusement clear in his brown eyes.
Since taking his job, Naruto had offered on many, many occasions to send Kakashi and Iruka on a vacation. They had given Naruto everything and he wanted to return even a morsel of their kindness and love. Both men laughed him off, refusing to accept his gift. Without another thought, Naruto wrote, 'A surprise getaway for Iruka and his porn-reading fool'.
A noise from behind Sasuke's door drew his attention and Naruto turned guiltily. When nothing else happened, he turned back to the card and scribbled, 'A kiss from my boss.'
With a heavy sigh, Naruto ran his thumb over the words, slightly smearing the letters before writing slowly, 'I don't want to be alone for Christmas'.
Naruto read through the list several times before laughing out loud. "These would take Christmas miracles and mine is all used up." He picked the card up and crumbled it in his fingers before lobbing it over his desk and toward the trashcan near the door. It pinged softly off the metal rim and fell onto the floor. "Dammit."
Scratching his cheek, Naruto grabbed a blank index card and with wild letters, scrawled 'RAMEN' over the card. He stood and worked his way through the empty office floor to the wrapped present sitting on the edge of Hinata's desk. He shoved the card into the cutout slit and made his way back to his desk. Rubbing his face briskly, he turned back to the computer and began shifting through the next project on his desk.
Naruto drifted awake to the feeling of fingers running through his hair. The sensation was so foreign, and yet so wonderful, Naruto didn't want to wake up for fear it would leave. Without permission, a purr of contentment rumbled deep in his chest and he blinked open his eyes.
The feeling disappeared, maybe it hadn't been there at all, and as his mind started catching up with his other senses, he recognized Sasuke standing over him. "Ummm," he began and sat up, flushing red when a piece of paper stayed connected to his cheek.
"I told you to go home, idiot." The words should have been harsh and not nearly as soft as Naruto took them to be.
"Right," Naruto said, and stretched his arms high over his head until a series of cracks echoed through the office. "Where I have a bed and blankets and pillows…" Naruto stood and moved around, grabbing his coat and wallet. "Where normal and sane people are at," his sleep-filled mind struggled to make out the numbers on his watch. "Jesus, Sasuke, it's two in the fucking morning!"
Sasuke didn't respond and instead turned on his heel and walked out of the office. Naruto scrambled after him. "I'll have my driver drop you at home and pick you up in the morning."
"I can drive," Naruto said, but the words were muffled by a loud yawn that caused him to close his eyes and then trip over his own feet. "Shit…"
"Hn," Sasuke said with a smirk. As the elevator began its decent, Naruto leaned against the cool metal with his eyes closed and just made out Sasuke's, "Idiot."
The week of the Secret Santa Exchange arrived. Early Monday morning, Naruto slid into the backseat of Sasuke's car and nodded his hello to Juugo, Sasuke's driver. Once those pleasantries were over, he turned his attention to his boss.
"Good morning, bastard," Naruto said when Sasuke didn't even look up from the newspaper he was holding to acknowledge his presence.
"Hn," Sasuke said, and after presumably finishing his article, folded his newspaper to look at Naruto. His lips immediately twisted into a sneer. "What the fuck is that?"
Naruto looked down at his lap and then shot Sasuke the cheekiest grin he could muster. He held up the platter of what looked like squares of clear Jello with various unknown and rather disturbing bits of color floating throughout. "This is a traditional Suna holiday appetizer. I can't pronounce it, but it sounds like a sneeze. Come to think of it, it looks like a sneeze." He shrugged. "Apparently, it is delicious." Even as he said the words, though, Naruto's lip curled in his show of disbelief.
Sasuke watched nearly mesmerized as the bars giggled ominously with the motion of the car. "Why?"
Naruto settled the wiggly treats beside him. "Secret Santa week. Guess who I got?"
"Hn," Sasuke said and then looked back at Naruto. "You didn't cook them, did you?"
"Oh, fuck no. I picked them up at this imported food market a few blocks from the house. Trust me when I say, you should be thankful that they are sealed under this wrap."
The rest of the trip was spent in relative silence, both men equally drawn to and repulsed by Gaara's first gift.
As soon as they arrived, Naruto sat the platter at Gaara's desk and met Sasuke in his office to go over the day's schedule. When he emerged forty-five minutes later, he found a cup of ramen with a shiny orange ribbon on top waiting on his desk.
He grinned before grabbing the cup and stepping out of his office. He held the cup over his head and whistled. When the room's occupants turned in his direction, he waved the cup and said, "Thank you, Secret Santa! I love you!"
His enthusiastic appreciation was met with chuckles and numerous 'you're welcomes', and a few 'don't you have a job?'
Naruto saluted the room with his cup and went back to his desk. When lunch came around, Naruto had just reached to grab the cup, and take it with him to the break room, when Sakura stuck her head into his office. "You ordered out for lunch? Why didn't you ask the rest of us if we wanted something?"
"Huh?" Naruto asked, and Sakura stepped out of the way to let a young woman with long, brown hair pulled back by a white handkerchief enter the room. That was all he noticed because then his eyes fell on the insulated red bag she held in her hands that read 'Ichiraku Ramen'. "Oh, oh, oh…" he said, standing from his desk. The woman smiled brightly.
"Hello, Mr. Uzumaki. I have a deluxe order of Miso ramen for you." She smiled and set the bag on the desk before beginning to pull out individual containers that held an assortment of fresh toppings. She pulled out a huge, covered bowl and after putting it down gently, removed the covering. Steam billowed out and soon the delicious aroma of fresh, homemade ramen filled the office.
Naruto liked ramen in all shapes and sizes, but Ichiraku's ramen was by far the best and also from a very high end restaurant, one Naruto only went to on special occasions. It wasn't something he ever would have asked from his Secret Santa.
The young woman finished her setup and waved off Naruto's offer of a tip, stating it had already been taken care of. Naruto stood for a moment after she left and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He was just going to thank someone, everyone, for his amazing lunch when the door to Sasuke's office was yanked open.
"Uzumaki," Sasuke said and pinned Naruto mid-stride between his desk and the door. "Research just called me about the Tanimoto acquisition. I need you to pull the file so we can go over…"
"No," Naruto said, shaking his head, and turned wide, adoring eyes to the white bowl on his desk, "Lunch."
Sasuke blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Lunch," Naruto said again, but this time the word held a shadow of desperation. "It just came and I…"
Sasuke made a disgusted sound, cutting Naruto off. "Then bring it to my office as well. It's called a working lunch, moron."
"Bastard," Naruto said, already moving to pull the file and gather his precious gift. "Fine, but I'm not sharing."
"Hn," Sasuke responded and closed the door behind him, leaving Naruto to curse when he nearly spilt his ramen twisting the handle.
Wednesday morning dawned early and Naruto's hand shot out of the mountains of blankets he was hidden under to slap fruitlessly at the alarm. The infernal noise refused to stop. With a biting curse, Naruto flung off the blankets and gasp at the cold air against his bare chest. "Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck-fuck!" He yanked the blankets back up to his chin, huddling under their masses.
A glance at the alarm showed it was a quarter to five. Fifteen minutes before his alarm should have gone off and only four hours since he'd crawled into bed. The noise still echoed through his room and he finally recognized the racket as his phone.
"Who the fuck is this?" he growled into the phone and then cursed and turned the phone over, repeating his question into the correct end.
"Good morning, sir," a hesitant voice answered. "I apologize for the early morning call."
Naruto blinked, shaking his head. "Juugo? Is that you?"
"Yes, sir," the chauffeur answered in his soft voice.
Naruto fell backward onto the bed, pulling his toes under the disordered blankets. "Did you need something?" His eyes slid closed. "Because I still have fifteen more minutes…"
"Actually, sir, that's why I'm calling. The garage where the car is kept overnight is having a malfunction with its doors."
"Um-hmmm," Naruto sighed, pulling the blankets over his face. "That's nice."
"Sir? Sir? Are you still there?"
"Yes," Naruto whined. "So take a different car. I'll see you soon."
"Mr. Uzumaki, sir, we keep all the cars in the same garage. I won't be able to pick you up until ten this morning."
Naruto slowly pulled the blankets away from his face and sat up. "Wait… TEN? Like five hours from this moment?"
"Yes. Five hours." The amusement was clear in the driver's voice.
"Oh, thank fucking god. It's like a snow day!" Naruto kicked his legs up and down in celebration and then yanked the blankets around him once more. Still smiling, Naruto prepared to say goodbye and roll over to go back to sleep when a thought slammed into his mind like a freight train. "Wait, wait, wait… what did Sasuke say about this?"
A long stretch of silence echoed over the phone.
"Juugo?" Nothing. "Hey, are you still there?"
"Actually, sir, I was hoping you could call Mr. Uchiha."
Suddenly, Naruto was wide awake and cold, even under all his layers of blankets. "You gotta be shitting me."
There was a shuffling noise on the other end of the phone and Naruto bit his lip. "Fine. Fine. I'll call. Ten o' clock you say? No chance of earlier?"
"And it will not be later?"
"No. No, sir."
"Alright. Enjoy your morning off, Juugo."
"Yes, sir. Goodbye."
Naruto laid back down and stared at the ceiling for a moment. It was only when his alarm went off fifteen minutes later that he realized he had fallen back to sleep. "Damn, Uzumaki, make the fucking call and then go back to sleep!"
Positioning the phone ridiculously close to his face, Naruto pressed and held the '1' and then listened for the ringing. After seven rings, the line picked up.
"Fire, uncontrollable arterial bleeding, or death. These are the only acceptable excuses."
Naruto chuckled at the sleepiness in his boss' voice and then immediately stopped when his mind presented him with a fetching image of Sasuke lying in his silk sheets, his pale skin warm, and dark hair tousled from sleep. It wasn't sleepiness he heard in Sasuke's smooth voice and instead something more wicked. Blessedly so… oh god.
"Who the fuck is this?" A pause where Naruto imagined Sasuke trying to make out the name on the caller ID. "Naruto?!" Bingo.
Naruto blinked himself back from his dreams and focused on the angry voice in his ear. He pulled the blankets up over his head. "Good morning, sir."
"The fuck?" Sasuke said painfully slow, as if he intended each word to cut and maim… horribly.
"Juugo just called. The car is apparently stuck in the garage. Along with every other car you own. And since my car is still at the office, where you routinely insist I leave it because you keep me there until all hours of the night, I won't be driving us. He'll be around to get you by nine forty-five." Naruto yawned. "Anyway, good night… morning… whatever."
"Wait," Sasuke said, his voice still soft and lightly complacent. "Where are you? It sounds like you're in a tunnel."
"No, blankets. Lots of warm, inviting, lovely blankets. See you in a few hours, bastard."
"You're in bed? Hmmmm… how interesting."
Naruto blinked and popped his head out of his covers. There was something in Sasuke's voice that made a shiver race up his spine. "Um… yes."
Naruto waited for a reply and then heard a woman's voice. "Oh, Sasuke, I thought you were asleep."
"Oh, you're busy," Naruto whispered into the phone and sputtered his 'goodbye, sir, see you soon'. He snapped the phone shut, but not before Sasuke said, "Naruto! Wait!"
His heart beat painfully in his chest and he ignored the ringing of his phone before setting it on silent. Instead of pulling up the blankets, he ripped a pillow from under his head and smashed it over his face.
How could he not know Sasuke was with someone? Even if the bastard didn't tell him, he had never seen Sasuke with anyone at business gatherings or parties. And a woman…
He blindly shot out his hand for another pillow and added it to the first. He cursed violently and then took several deep, muffled breaths. Well, that was that. And at least he got to sleep in on a work day.
His mind clutched desperately to that thought, trying to reason its sudden importance, but exhaustion won out and Naruto fell asleep.
The ride to work was painfully awkward. Naruto had tried to act as though nothing had changed- because nothing had changed… there was nothing to change- but Sasuke responded with grunts, if he responded at all. They pulled into the U-shaped entrance and Naruto had just reached out to open his door when he felt Sasuke's hand on his shoulder.
He turned slowly and nearly gasped when he saw Sasuke's dark eyes inches from his own and swirling with pain.
"It was my mother."
"What?" Naruto whispered, distracted by the overwhelming urge to pull Sasuke into his arms and tell him everything would be okay, like Iruka had to him all those years ago.
A flash of irritation streaked across Sasuke's face and he released Naruto's shoulder and leaned back into his seat. He ran his fingers over his face and looked out the window. "This morning, when you called, the voice you heard was my mother."
"Oh," Naruto said and shifted nervously. "I... you didn't have to explain… it doesn't mat…"
"She is sick." Sasuke turned his head until their eyes met and Naruto watched him try to swallow down his emotion. "She doesn't sleep well, the treatments are…"
"Sasuke," Naruto said softly.
"My brother and I are living back at the mansion." His fingers curled so tightly into fists that they shook. "The doctors say that this is the last Christmas…" Black lashes fell against Sasuke's pale cheeks and Naruto moved across the car and wrapped his fingers around Sasuke's lower arm, squeezing gently.
"I'm so sorry…"
"This morning she heard me talking and she worries for me," Sasuke's chuckle was humorless. "My brother, father, and I are…" Again Sasuke swallowed as though he were holding back a scream. "She's dying and she worries for me."
Naruto reached his free hand up to brush aside Sasuke's bangs from his face but stilled when Sasuke opened his eyes. Any emotion that might have been there was gone, carefully and ruthlessly locked away. "Never hang up on me again." His words were hard and bitter and so cold Naruto shivered.
With that, Sasuke pulled his hand from Naruto's and pushed open his door.
By Thursday night, Naruto had accumulated several cups of instant ramen and had eaten Ichiraku ramen every day for lunch. Naruto was pretty sure that Gaara knew he was his Secret Santa after he'd opened the fake bushy eyebrows, a la Bert, from Sesame Street. As death glares went, Naruto couldn't help but be impressed, or to avoid being alone with the red-haired man.
The entire week, Sasuke insisted that Naruto work through lunch in his office. Even Wednesday, when Naruto could hardly swallow over his need to run away from Sasuke's pain or gather the bastard into his arms and hold him until… well, honestly, Naruto wouldn't want it to end.
They didn't talk about Sasuke's mother again and Sasuke had gone home promptly at six since then. Naruto refused to lie to himself and say he didn't miss the drive to work with Sasuke each morning.
Dressed in his candy cane sleep pants and a white t-shirt, Naruto mindlessly flipped through the channels on the television. It had been such a long time since he'd been able to watch TV, he didn't even know what there was to watch anymore.
He was saved from the horrifying spectacle that was 'Dance Your Ass Off' by the ringing of the phone. He blinding reached for the receiver while frantically hitting the off button on his remote and moaning, 'my eyes, my eyes'.
"What's wrong with your eyes, Naruto?" a concerned, disembodied voice sounded next to his ear.
"Oh, hey, Dad," Naruto said with a smile, glad to hear his Dad's voice and happy the TV screen was finally blank. "Nothing, just watching something scary. What's up?"
"Not that I need a specific reason to call you, but, actually, something interesting has come up, and I wanted to talk to you about it."
Naruto's eyebrows came together in suspicion. "Why are you using the 'Naruto, Gamabunta went to toady heaven, but, look! I made ramen' voice on me?"
"I am not using any sort of 'voice' on you," Iruka sighed and Naruto knew he was rubbing the bridge of his nose.
In the background, Naruto heard, 'it's the same voice you used when you ran over Naruto's frog and then made us eat ramen for two weeks'.
"WHAT?!" Naruto screeched. "You said he was old!"
"It wasn't a frog, you ass!" Iruka hissed away from the phone and then he was back. "And I didn't run over Gamabunta. He was old. He died peacefully in his favorite soup can."
Naruto heard laughing and then a painful sounding thud followed by a muted groan.
"Anyway, Naruto," Iruka continued. "Something exciting happened today. Kakashi and I have won a vacation to Snow Country for the holidays."
Naruto blinked and then his mouth fell open. "Wait, what?"
"Kakashi was at the bookstore today and he was the 1000th person to purchase…" Iruka continued to speak but the words were fast and mumbled. "And, well, the publisher was giving away a ski holiday."
Naruto's face paled and he whispered, "A surprise vacation for my father and his porn-reading fool."
"What did you say, Naruto?" Iruka said and in the background he heard, 'Now you've told Naruto what his gift is…'
"Let me talk to Kakashi."
"Naruto, are you okay?" Iruka said, focused solely on Naruto once more.
"Yes," he said and ran his fingers through his hair anxiously. The ramen and sleeping in and now… "Tell me again how this happened?"
Iruka repeated the publisher 'special vacation' story and by the end, Naruto had leaned over, his head between his knees.
"Someone got my list."
"Naruto," Iruka said cautiously. "You are confusing me, but more than that, you aren't letting me tell you the 'dead toad' part."
Naruto's free hand wound into the hair at the back of his neck and he tugged harshly. "Sorry, dead toad part… go."
"We leave tomorrow."
Naruto sat straight up. "But tomorrow is Christmas Eve."
He heard Iruka sigh. "Yes, it is, which is why I told Kakashi that we couldn't go."
Naruto closed his eyes and leaned back into the couch. Shaking his head, he said, "No. You are going. It's going to be awesome. You guys love skiing, it's been years since you've gone, and the trip sounds… amazing." And it really had. Whoever had done this had made sure everything was taken care of. Even if Iruka and Kakashi had let him, he'd never have been able to give them this kind of vacation.
Of course, the first person he thought of was Sasuke… but even though it made perfect sense at first, he couldn't answer the simple 'why'? Sasuke was busy with his own family and Naruto was nothing to him. Right?
And, by 'granting' his wish for his fathers, his second Secret Santa… who he was sure had nothing to do with the white cups of instant ramen he'd been receiving… had ensured he would be alone for Christmas.
"Naruto, I don't like it. Kakashi doesn't either. We shouldn't have told you, but you're a grown man now and…"
"You're going. I'll be over in twenty minutes and we can do Christmas tonight. With presents and cocoa. It's going to be great. Okay?" After several long moments of silence, Naruto said, "Dad?"
"Naruto," Iruka said softly, but Naruto could hear the ribbon of happiness curl through the word. "Yes, okay. Drive carefully."
The Uchiha mansion sat a quarter of a mile off of the main road, hidden from the eyes of anyone without a specific purpose for being there. Naruto thought it was a pity really because, at Christmas time, the large home, with its turn of the 20th century architecture, was simply breathtaking. White lights lined every window and adorned every tree and bush. Snow sparkled in the glow of the building, creating the image of a million crystals scattered as far as the eye could see.
After the valet took his keys, Naruto took the stone steps two at a time and rubbed his hands together to fight off the dropping temperature. Once inside, the doorman welcomed him with a smile, and a 'Happy Holidays, sir', and took his coat. Giving himself this last moment of quiet, Naruto stood in the decorated entryway, admiring the vaulted ceiling and marble floors as the sounds of the Uchiha Christmas party floated out from the ballroom.
Naruto snapped his head around at the intrusion and smiled. Sasuke stood behind him wearing a black suit with a white shirt and a blood red, silk tie. A red handkerchief was impeccably positioned in his breast pocket and his shoes were shiny enough that Naruto could see the crystals from the chandelier reflect off of them. His hands were carelessly shoved into his pockets, but Naruto knew if anyone else were present, he'd never be so crass.
"Hey, thank you for inviting me."
Sasuke nodded with a smirk and moved toward the sounds of the party. Naruto immediately fell into step beside him. "I didn't really have a choice. If the company pays you, you get an invitation."
"Suddenly," Naruto said with an amused glare, "I feel so loved." As the word came out of his mouth, Naruto watched Sasuke closely. He'd spent most of his evening and the day reviewing everything that had happened this week. Every word, every moment he'd spent with Sasuke, trying to determine if the man was his second Secret Santa or not. In the end, he'd mostly just gone in circles and become frustrated. Who else could it be, he reasoned, and then immediately shot back with the ever helpful, but why?
He was known for being able to read Sasuke, to know and anticipate his needs, so how could he have ever missed that Sasuke was interested in him? Not bloody likely. That's how. And Sasuke wasn't giving him anything tonight. He just continued that devilishly wicked smirk and led them toward the ballroom.
As they moved through the doorway, the room exploded in cheers and laughter. Sasuke and Naruto froze mid-step, startled and surprised by the robust welcome.
Not knowing what else to do, Naruto gave a little wave and fumbled with the maroon gingerbread tie around his neck. "Hello…um, everybody."
More hysterical laughter and a majority of his co-workers and their dates pointed to the top of the door jam. As one unit, Sasuke and Naruto slowly tipped their heads back only to see a bunch of mistletoe, tied with a velvety, red ribbon and bells, hanging innocently above them.
"Oh," Naruto squawked and looked at Sasuke. His dark eyes were narrowed at the sprig of greenery as if it had personally offended him.
At that one word, Naruto didn't know if he felt an overwhelming sense of relief or devastating disappointment, but whichever it was made his knees feel weak and he shut his eyes to block out Sasuke's face.
Turning, he moved to run, run as fast as he could, when a gentle voice stopped him.
"Sasuke, it is tradition."
It could have been the voice of god for how quickly Sasuke's hand was on his shoulder preventing him from leaving. Naruto was forced to open his eyes and search for the person who had single-handedly condemned him to hell.
The most beautiful woman Naruto had ever seen, save his own mother, sat in a wheelchair with the rest of the crowd spread behind her. Her delicate hands lay clasped in her lap, ghostly white against the forest green gown she wore. Her long, black hair was pinned in loose curls around her head and Naruto swallowed sadly when he thought it might be a wig.
"Mrs. Uchiha," he said and bowed his head at the same time Sasuke replied with 'mother' and did the same. A soft smile lit her face and Naruto couldn't help but return it. It was only then that he noticed Itachi and Fugaku Uchiha standing behind her like deadly and unsmiling bodyguards.
The rest of the room was silent.
"Mother," Sasuke started again, but Mikoto shook her head.
"It would please me, Sasuke."
It could have been the way that Sasuke's father and brother took a half step forward, as though to force them, that convinced Sasuke, but Naruto knew that wasn't what made him wrap his right arm around Naruto's waist, turning him until they faced each other. It wasn't what made him cup the side of Naruto's neck with his other hand, and it wasn't what made him lean forward and stop just a hair's breath away from Naruto's face. It was his mother's wish.
Naruto frantically tried to find a way out. He wanted this… god, it was his wish, but Sasuke didn't want this… didn't want him.
"Naruto," Sasuke breathed and Naruto wasn't sure he heard the sound as much as he felt his name on Sasuke's mouth as their lips touched. And then, Naruto didn't care 'why'.
At first, it was just the gentle pressing of lips but Naruto wouldn't settle for that. He wanted to remember this… have something to remember… but more than that, he wanted Sasuke to remember. He growled softly against Sasuke's mouth, reaching up with one hand to squeeze Sasuke's upper arm, and darted his tongue out to run along the seam of his lips.
Naruto's growl bled into a low whimper when Sasuke's arm around his waist pulled him even closer and Sasuke's tongue rubbed hesitantly against his own before gaining confidence. Sasuke tasted like cinnamon and had Naruto's eyes not already been closed, they would have rolled back in his head.
It felt like it was over before it had begun and as Sasuke pulled away, Naruto registered the cheering and catcalls. Sasuke stepped away from him but kept a hand on Naruto's lower back. He hardly noticed, the blush on his face burning so hotly that it hurt.
"When I find out who did this…" Sasuke's voice was hardly above a whisper and nothing short of a threat.
Naruto looked away as he felt his heart sink.
"Naruto," a soft voice said and Naruto looked back to see Sasuke's mother smiling up at him. He stepped forward, forcing down his blush, and returning her smile.
"Mrs. Uchiha," he said and knelt, taking her hand and kissing it. She laughed and it filled the hall like a choir of bells. He pretended to ignore the three sets of coal black eyes that watched him as though he might spontaneously run off with the dark-haired woman.
"You always were so charming." She twisted her hand and latched onto Naruto's fast enough that his eyes widened in surprise. "But, please, as I've told you before, call me Mikoto."
"Yes, ma'am," he began and then changed mid-sentence to 'Mikoto' when her eyes narrowed. So, that's where Sasuke got it then. Who knew?
She gently pulled him to his feet and then moved his hand over her shoulder until it fell on the back of her chair. "It is time for dinner. Would you do me the honor of sitting next to me tonight?"
Naruto blinked and instantly looked up for Sasuke. He stood next to his father and brother, all three Uchihas standing with their hands clasped in front of their bodies and their faces devoid of any emotion. It was just eerie. But where Itachi and Fugaku's glares sent chills down his spine… bat shit crazy, that's what they were… Sasuke's felt different. And when Sasuke made eye contact, his black eyes were softer and the glare melted into a lazy smirk.
It was the closest thing to a 'yes, idiot, we are waiting' that Naruto was going to get.
Itachi and Fugaku nodded to Mikoto and Naruto was surprised when, as he walked by, Fugaku paused and touched his wife briefly on the shoulder until she looked up and smiled. This woman meant so much to her husband and sons. Once again, Naruto found himself seeking out Sasuke. He stood beside Naruto, his dark eyes pinned to his father's face, where pain and sadness swirled in both of their eyes. Naruto swore his heart broke.
Naruto pushed Mikoto toward the dining room and Sasuke fell into step beside him. Together, they helped Mikoto into her chair and as Sasuke pushed her chair in, he leaned down from behind her and lightly kissed the side of her head. Naruto, seated in his own chair, turned away, unwilling to eavesdrop on their quiet conversation.
As a result, he was surprised when he felt Sasuke lean over his own chair. His breath was warm against the side of his face and Naruto had to consciously will himself not to turn toward him.
"When I find out who put that mistletoe over the door," he whispered, low and silky, and then his lips were moving against Naruto's temple. "I'll be sure to thank them."
Naruto blinked and Sasuke was gone, working his way to the other side of the table where he sat next to Itachi and across from his mother. Naruto was sure his face looked like a fish out of water but his embarrassment and confusion were easily eclipsed by his irritation when he realized that Sasuke didn't look like anything had happened at all. In fact, his face was devoid of anything as he unfolded his napkin and talked curtly to his brother.
But then he turned slightly, giving Naruto a sideways glance, and winked. Naruto choked on his drink of water.
He was startled again when a napkin was held in front of his face. He turned and smiled his thanks at Mikoto between coughs. She nodded, her dark eyes bright with something Naruto assumed was amusement, and then turned back to her meal.
Naruto had just put his dessert fork down when he felt a gentle brush against his arm. He turned to his dinner companion and glanced at Mikoto's plate. The rich dessert was barely touched, much like the rest of her meal.
"Oh dear," she said with a chuckle. "I know that look." Her fingers still curled around the sleeve of his suit jacket. "But, on you, it seems less sinister."
Naruto moved his free arm until his hand rested over hers on his sleeve. "I would imagine that worry is unbecoming of an Uchiha, ma'am… um… Mikoto."
The dark-haired woman gave a dismissive noise and then brought her napkin to her mouth to catch a delicate but painful cough. Naruto knew Sasuke, Itachi, and Fugaku were instantly aware but didn't take his eyes from Mikoto.
"Would you like some more water?" he asked and lifted his head to call over a server when Mikoto shook her head.
"No," she insisted and Naruto anxiously looked at her. "Oh, Naruto, worry is unbecoming of you, as well. I am fine." He nodded, albeit unsure, and she continued, "Would you help me upstairs? I don't want to bother my boys."
"Are you sure I can't call someone?"
"No, you'll do."
Not sure exactly what else he could do, Naruto pushed back his seat and slowly pulled out Mikoto's. Itachi immediately stood.
Mikoto settled in her wheelchair and shook her head. Sasuke stood beside his brother and she lifted an exasperated brow. "Please sit and enjoy the rest of the party, everyone," she said, but she addressed it at Sasuke and Itachi.
Itachi sat slowly but Sasuke still stood and Naruto hated the look in Sasuke's eyes. In that moment, he didn't see the grown man who ran one of the largest companies in the Hidden Villages. All he saw was a lost little boy, caught up in things beyond his control, but that threatened his very existence. Naruto ducked his head and pushed Mikoto out of the room.
When they were alone in the hall, Mikoto directed him to the elevator. As the doors slid closed, she said softly, "Do you believe in Christmas miracles, Naruto?"
Naruto's breath caught, but he couldn't stop the slow smile that came to his face. "Yes, I do."
Mikoto returned the smile. "Will you have a cup of tea with me before returning to the party?"
The doors slid open and Naruto carefully maneuvered her wheelchair toward the end of the hallway and two ornate double doors. "Mrs. Uchiha… Mikoto, I don't think I…"
"Naruto," she said softly, "you don't smile like that and not have a story to tell."
He nodded and pushed her into what must be her sitting room. The room was cozy and immediately made Naruto relax. The burgundy-colored carpet was a thick weave and so soft Naruto was tempted to kneel down just to run his fingers over it. Instead, he pushed Mikoto toward three large, cream-colored armchairs that circled a gold and glass coffee table. A pretty nurse came out and helped Mikoto into one of the chairs.
After a quick conversation, the nurse left them alone once more. Mikoto looked up at him and with a heavy sigh, totally at odds with the lively woman he remembered from meeting several times before, said, "Recently, I find myself appreciating stories. You wouldn't deny me, would you?"
Naruto's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. Had she just…
Mikoto chuckled and her eyes nearly shut in her merriment. "Naruto, I have been an Uchiha for a long time. I use every advantage available to me to get what I want. Now, please, sit down and tell a dying woman the story of your Christmas miracle."
Naruto grinned widely and sat. "I just can't say no to that." As if on cue, the nurse came into the room holding a tray with tea, cookies, and several bottles of medication. While Mikoto took her medicine, Naruto sipped his peppermint tea and looked around the room. Gold, glass, and cream served as accents all around the room, but Naruto was drawn to the fireplace mantel where several picture frames of all different shapes and sizes took up the hard surface.
With his delicate tea cup still held in his fingers, Naruto stood and walked toward the pictures. He wasn't surprised that they were all pictures of Mikoto and 'her boys'. There were pictures of a young Fugaku and Mikoto at their wedding, vacation pictures in exotic locations, and a smiling Mikoto, glowing and pregnant, with a proud Fugaku behind her. Soon he saw newborn baby pictures of an angry-faced Itachi and then an even angrier-faced Sasuke. There were Christmas pictures of Itachi and Sasuke surrounded by wrapping paper, the Christmas lights reflecting in their wide, excited eyes. Their whole lives were chronicled, showing a side of the Uchiha men that less than a handful of people would ever see.
Mikoto spoke behind him. "I'm ready now, Naruto. Tell me about your smile."
Naruto nodded and took a drink of his tea. He didn't sit back down and instead continued to watch Sasuke grow from a small giggling toddler into the perfect Uchiha he was today.
"When I was young, my mother and father used to tell me the story of how they met. My father called it his Christmas miracle. He said everyone gets one and because of that, they are precious." He turned to look at Mikoto. "When I was five, they passed away and I was sent to an orphanage."
"Oh, Naruto," she said softly but Naruto just smiled.
"But, when I was six, my own Christmas miracle happened. Iruka Umino fought tooth and nail to adopt me and, on Christmas Eve, he became my Dad." Naruto's smile turned into a grin. "It's a really simple story. No twists and turns, but my father was right, it is one of the most precious things that has ever happened to me."
Naruto turned back toward the mantel and ran his finger over a homemade frame made of colorful macaroni. The frame was obviously a Christmas present because the picture inside showed a perhaps six year old Sasuke with paper reindeer antlers and his small nose painted bright red.
"Thank you for sharing your story, but I can't help but wondering why you think that Christmas miracle was yours."
Naruto started and nearly tipped over the frame. He turned around. "It was my wish. I was alone, scared, and I wanted a family so badly."
Mikoto nodded, her black eyes soft. "But so did Iruka. I think if you asked him, he'd say that night was a Christmas miracle for him, as well."
Naruto walked forward and set his empty cup on the table, but didn't sit. He loosened his tie and ran his fingers through his hair, blond spikes more chaotic than ever.
"Naruto, I'm not trying to make you nervous." She sighed and motioned toward the chair next to her. "Please, sit." Naruto finally did and sat with his hands on the arms, looking at the dark-haired woman. "Honey, Christmas miracles don't just happen to one person. They affect everyone around them. Yes, they are precious and rare, but if you are looking for them, they happen all of the time."
Mikoto's dark eyes were moist and suddenly she looked so tired. Naruto reached out and gathered her hand in his. "If I could, I'd give you my Christmas miracle," he whispered.
Mikoto smiled sadly but nodded, patting Naruto's hand with her free one. "But, you see, even if you did… would it be my Christmas miracle or Fugaku's? Or maybe it would be Itachi's or even Sasuke's."
Naruto swallowed back a painful lump in his throat when he remembered Sasuke in the car telling Naruto that his mother was sick or how he kissed his mother's hair at dinner. "It would be Sasuke's," he whispered.
"You care for him so much," she whispered soft enough that Naruto wasn't sure he actually heard it, but when he looked up to confirm, she continued with a gentle shake of her head, "But, no, it would just be a miracle that all of us were a part of."
Naruto squeezed her hand but was prevented from saying anything else when the nurse came back in.
"Madame, it's getting late."
Mikoto nodded and Naruto let go of her hand and stood. "Thank you for the tea, Mikoto. Please, sleep well."
Mikoto snatched his hand as he walked by and stopped him in his steps. "Do you know why I wanted to talk to you tonight?"
Naruto shook his head, aware that the nurse was watching them both carefully. "No."
"Naruto, you are standing in the middle of a Christmas miracle," she whispered and like all those years ago, when his father used to tell him of the story of his miracle, Naruto stared transfixed. "It doesn't matter who the miracle belongs to." Her eyes sparkled in the light of the room. "All that matters is that you don't miss it."
His mouth was desperately dry and he nodded, licking his lips. "O-Okay, I won't."
"Good. Merry Christmas, Naruto." Mikoto released his hand and Naruto smiled shakily before turning and walking out of the room. As he was leaving, he heard Mikoto ask the nurse to fetch Sasuke for her.
Naruto skipped the elevator and took the main stairs that lead directly into the entryway. The party had moved from the dining room back into the ballroom and laughter and music echoed throughout the lower level. Naruto hurried down the stairs, absently running his fingers through his hair, and decided he was not in the party mood.
He was exhausted and his emotions felt raw and sensitive. He didn't think he could go and smile and laugh with the rest of his co-workers when all he could think about were Christmas miracles and how we wished more than anything that the Uchihas could have theirs.
He walked swiftly past the large open doors of the ballroom and glanced to the side only to see the decorative bunch of mistletoe that had started his night. The light from the room cast the branch in a golden glow and Naruto felt a blush come to his face when he immediately tasted cinnamon on his tongue. He could still feel Sasuke's arms around him and hear him whisper in his ear that he would thank the person responsible. It was only when his eyes shifted slightly, and he was trapped in the deep black eyes of the man he was just remembering, that Naruto realized he had stopped moving.
Sasuke stood across the room next to his brother and Kisame Hoshigaki. His black jacket was unbuttoned and in one hand he held a glass of white wine. His free hand was in his pocket and he looked like a bored prince standing among the masses. He nodded at Naruto and Naruto quickly looked behind him to the front door before looking back.
Sasuke's face slipped into confusion for a moment before something like anger took over. He blindly shoved his glass into Kisame's chest and began walking swiftly across the room. Naruto stood frozen in his spot, desperately wanting to leave and yet not able to break free of Sasuke's intense glare.
He was saved when Mikoto's nurse stopped Sasuke halfway across the room. Naruto immediately turned and slipped out the front door.
He didn't hear Sasuke call out his name or see him take two steps toward the front door before the nurse quickly relayed his mother's request. He wouldn't know how Sasuke stared at the door intensely for several seconds before he nodded curtly and shoved his hands in his pockets, following the nurse out of the room.
Pakkun sniffed at the stubby bush and then turned around and around. Naruto held his breath. Maybe this was it… perhaps this time. Then the small dog ambled along to the next bush, tugging at his leash.
"Come on, P-man," Naruto whined. "Pick a damn bush!"
The dog simply looked up at him with his perpetually bored expression and moved onto the next shrub.
Naruto rubbed his gloved hands together, bringing them to his mouth, before blowing on them. He tugged at his orange stocking hat, trying to keep his head, ears, and neck warm. Snow fell all around them and Naruto watched it glitter in the light of a tall street lamp across the way.
Somewhere, he could hear laughter and, glancing in the windows as he walked, he saw families snug in their homes, smiling and cheery, surrounded by loved ones. Completely the opposite of what he had waiting for him at home.
After the party, he had driven home, singing heart-wrenching Christmas carols along with the radio, and trying damn hard not to think of anything else. He didn't want to think about Mikoto saying he was living a Christmas miracle and he didn't want to think about Sasuke's face, just before he'd walked out. It was wrong. He should have said goodbye and, in between 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Silent Night', he figured he'd lied to Mikoto because, if he was living the miracle, that look alone should have had him nearly running across the room to hear what Sasuke had to say.
A gentle hissing noise drug him out of his pitiful thoughts and a yellow stain on the ground nearly made him cry in joy. "It's a Christmas miracle!" he laughed and Pakkun barked and tugged at his leash as if saying 'honestly, I am waiting'. Naruto nodded, praising the stupid dog as they walked home.
When they reached the driveway to his quite two bedroom home, he kneeled down and unleashed Pakkun. The dog ran a crazy zigzag pattern through the snow before stopping in front of the shadowed doorway. Standing at attention, he growled and barked angrily.
"Hey, stop that. What's the matter?" Naruto said before standing and walking toward the small dog.
Pakkun looked at Naruto before something drew his attention again and he started barking and jumping around.
"What the hell…" Naruto began but stopped when a tall, dark figure immerged from the shadows. "Who…"
The figure stepped into the light and Naruto immediately recognized his visitor. Capitalizing on anything that would let him postpone the awkward exchange that he knew was coming, Naruto bent down and picked the still barking Pakkun up. "Shhh, you're fine," he whispered.
"Naruto," an irritated voice bit out and Naruto was forced to meet midnight black eyes. He smiled.
"Sasuke! I didn't see you there."
Holding a squirming Pakkun in his arms, Naruto stepped closer and saw that Sasuke's pale cheeks and nose were a shocking red color and that his tall frame vibrated with barely suppressed shivers.
"Fuck, Sasuke, how long have you been standing out here?" Naruto asked and gripped Sasuke's jacket. It was then that he noticed Sasuke wasn't wearing a jacket and stood outside in just his suit from that evening. "What the hell were you thinking? Where's your car?" While questioning the silent man, Naruto unlocked his door and gently tossed Pakkun inside before pushing Sasuke inside a little less than gently.
After kicking off his shoes, Naruto moved down the hallway and stopped at the thermostat, kicking up the heat. When the furnace hummed on, Naruto glared back toward the door at Sasuke who hadn't moved. "So?" he snapped.
Sasuke licked his lips and another shiver ran through him. "About thirty minutes. I want… needed to see you. I sent Juugo home." Anger flashed in his eyes. "It is fucking Christmas, you know, and when the fuck did you get a dog?"
Naruto shook his head and made a motion for Sasuke to follow him. Without looking to see if he did, Naruto moved through the house to the laundry room. "Yes, I am aware that it is Christmas and I'm dog-sitting for my fathers." The dryer was still running, but Naruto opened the door and stuck his arm in, rummaging through until he pulled out an oversized sweatshirt, sweats, and a pair of wool socks.
Gathering them into his arms, he herded Sasuke into his bathroom and shoved the warm clothes into his arms. "Change."
Sasuke made to say something, but Naruto shoved him with a hand to the chest and closed the door in his face. When the door didn't open again, Naruto went back into the laundry room and closed the dryer, sending the blanket inside spinning.
Working his way to the kitchen, Naruto set the pot on the stove to boil. He pulled down two mugs and got out the hot cocoa and tea bags… not sure Sasuke was one for chocolate.
While he waited for the water, he placed both hands on the edge of the counter and let his head fall forward. Sasuke Uchiha was in his bathroom. Naked –changing!- in his bathroom. One hand came up and ran through his hair, tugging harshly on the strands as they snagged on his fingers.
A soft shuffle alerted him to Sasuke's presence and he turned around slowly. The sweats were a couple of inches too short on his long legs and the sweatshirt, which Naruto had loved for its looseness, fit Sasuke perfectly. Naruto cleared his throat and grinned. "The socks suit you."
Sasuke wiggled his rainbow-colored toes and smirked. "They remind me of you."
The pot started whistling loudly and Naruto jerked it off the heat, hissing when the hot metal brushed his wrist.
"Idiot," Sasuke whispered and suddenly he was at Naruto's side. Sasuke waited for him to set the kettle down and then grabbed his hand, turning his wrist over in the light above the sink.
"I'm fine," Naruto whispered, strangely reluctant to break whatever atmosphere they had created. Sasuke turned his head slowly until he was looking right at Naruto and lifted his wrist to his mouth before brushing his lips over the slightly pink skin.
Naruto didn't remember holding his breath, but as he gasped for air, he yanked his wrist free. Sasuke's eyebrow furrowed in annoyance and he slowly lowered his hands.
"You're still freezing," Naruto said lamely and Sasuke leaned against the counter and shrugged.
"Would you like cocoa or tea?" Naruto mumbled, scooping up the cocoa. What the fuck was he doing acting like a damn maid? He thought angrily. Cursing under his breath, he spun around and stalked toward Sasuke. "Why are you here?" he demanded.
"Do you have a pen?" Sasuke asked calmly and Naruto blinked, taken aback by the seemingly random question.
"Do you have a pen that I could borrow," Sasuke said slowly and then added, "Idiot."
"Fuck you, answer my question!"
"I need a pen, Naruto," Sasuke repeated and then stepped closer until Naruto could feel the chill of Sasuke's body against his own. "Please."
Naruto moved ungracefully backward and yanked open a drawer, grabbing the first pen he could find, and tossing it to Sasuke.
"I'll be back," he said and walked quickly out of the kitchen and back to the laundry room. He gathered the toasty, orange blanket in his arms and returned to the kitchen. Sasuke hadn't moved, still holding the pen loosely in his hand. "You need to warm up, Sasuke." He walked forward and pressed the bundle of warmth into Sasuke's arms. "Go sit on the couch. Tea or cocoa?"
Sasuke stared at him for a moment and then said, "Tea," before walking out of the kitchen.
Naruto followed behind a moment later with two steaming cups. Sasuke was sitting on his couch with his head leaned back and his eyes closed. The orange blanket was pulled up to his chest and tucked under his toes.
The mug made a soft clunking noise against the side table and Sasuke opened his eyes, leaning forward slightly until the blanket fell to his waist. He shifted and his hands were free of the blanket. In one hand was Naruto's pen, in the other, a small slip of white paper.
"You asked me why I was here," Sasuke said and Naruto nodded, before setting his mug on the other table. Sasuke turned the paper over and Naruto's eyes widened. Sasuke stared at Naruto and then looked down and drew a heavy check mark next to the last item on the list. Tossing the pen next to his tea and holding the paper out to Naruto, he said, "This is why."
Naruto took the paper in his hands, already knowing exactly what it was, and traced his fingers over each item. Ramen, sleeping in, special vacation… he hesitated over the next, a kiss from his boss, and looked up at Sasuke who simply stared back at him.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, and looked back at the list. Sasuke's check mark next to 'I don't want to be alone for Christmas' was crisp and black and pressed into the paper. The other four checks were delicate, like they were made with a feather soft touch.
"My mother," Sasuke said.
Naruto's eyes widened. His hands fell to his sides and his face wrinkled in confusion.
"Why?" he asked and then shook his head. "No, how… I don't understand how that's possible. I threw this away."
Sasuke ran a hand through his hair and pulled the blanket higher up his waist. "She said she found it in the car, one morning, on the way to an appointment." He shrugged. "Maybe it got caught on your shoe, maybe it got caught on mine, or maybe it was a Christmas miracle." Sasuke's lip curled up at the end and his eyes held Naruto's with a fierce intensity. Naruto couldn't tell if it was because he was mocking Naruto or embarrassed because Naruto might mock him.
"Don't you believe in Christmas miracles, Sasuke?"
With a dark glare and an aggravated sigh, Sasuke flung off the blanket and stood. He walked over to the window and pushed aside the curtains so he could look out. Naruto watched his reflection in the glass. His black eyes pierced the darkness and Naruto wished he knew what was going through his mind. When he didn't speak again, Naruto walked around him just enough that his own reflection appeared beside Sasuke's in the glass.
"Why would she grant my Christmas wishes?"
Sasuke's eyes closed and, in the window, his eyelashes looked inky black against his pale skin. "Tonight she called me to her room after talking with you…" Sasuke's eyes opened and held his in the glass. There was no mistaking the anger reflected in his face. "After you left me…" He swallowed and shook his head angrily. "The fucking party without a word."
"Sasuke," Naruto started but the glare stopped him. Sasuke turned around and stuck his hand in the pocket of his borrowed sweat pants. He pulled out another slip of paper and held it out to Naruto.
Stepping closer, Naruto took it and Sasuke immediately turned back around to the window. Looking down at the paper, Naruto saw what he imagined was Mikoto's handwriting. Beautiful and effortlessly graceful, just like the woman herself. The note said, 'I want you to be happy'.
"Sasuke," Naruto asked slowly, not looking up from the paper. "Why would fulfilling my wishes make you happy?"
Sasuke crossed his arms over his chest and still didn't look directly at him. "Naruto," he sighed and Naruto eyes widened slightly. Sasuke's voice was low and sad and Naruto had never heard his name sound so… precious. "If I made a list of the things I wanted, I'd ask for my mother…"
Sasuke's head dipped forward and his arms wrapped around his torso like he was hugging himself, or maybe keeping himself together. When a shiver shook Sasuke's body, Naruto didn't wait a second more and stepped up behind him, pressing himself against Sasuke's back and wrapping him in his arms. "I know, I'm so sorry."
For a moment, Sasuke stood completely rigid and Naruto worried that he'd made a terrible mistake. He closed his eyes so tightly they hurt and turned his face into Sasuke's back. He smelled like Naruto. He was secretly disappointed by that but then, he caught the briefest scent of something spicy and warm. Sasuke. Taking a deep breath, Naruto forced himself to step back.
He wasn't given the chance. As soon as his hold loosened, Sasuke turned around and wrapped his arms around Naruto, pulling him close. He bowed his head and nuzzled his face in the junction between Naruto's neck and shoulder. Naruto held him back, rubbing his hands up and down his back, and resting his cheek against Sasuke's head.
"And I'd ask for you."
Naruto's hands froze on the small of Sasuke's back and he turned his face until he was looking at Sasuke, who had lifted his head and was looking right back. Their bodies still pressed tightly together and Naruto could feel the gentle vibrations of Sasuke's body. "Why?" he asked and pulled away. Sasuke's mouth tightened but, before he could completely misunderstand Naruto's action as rejection, Naruto dragged him back to the couch. Naruto sat sideways with his back against the arm of the couch and tugged Sasuke's wrist until the taller man sat between his legs. With his chest warm against Sasuke's back, Naruto leaned forward slightly and yanked the forgotten blanket up and over them both.
"If I ever catch you outside without a coat," Naruto muttered. "Who's the fucking idiot…"
"I didn't know you…" Sasuke shrugged and Naruto could hear him grind his teeth. "That you felt…"
Sasuke's head fell back against his shoulder and Naruto didn't even try to stop himself from rubbing his face against his soft black hair.
"Do you remember that night you fell asleep at your desk?" Sasuke asked and Naruto smiled when he felt Sasuke relax against him.
With a chuckle, he answered, "I fall asleep a lot…" Sasuke made a disgruntled noise and Naruto continued, "Yes, that was the night I wrote my list."
"I came out of my office and, even though I told you to leave, I knew you'd be there. You're always there," Sasuke trailed off distractedly. Silence fell around them. Naruto took the time to listen to Sasuke's breathing, so he was aware when it hitched slightly. Sasuke's hand shifted, hovering over Naruto's that rested palm down on the blanket. He never lowered it and Naruto looked sideways to see that Sasuke was just staring at their hands. Finally, Naruto grinned and turned his hand over, palm up and welcoming. Sasuke's pale hand lowered just a fraction and Naruto snatched his unsure hand in his own, threading their fingers. "That night," Sasuke said, "I realized that you are always there."
"It's my job," Naruto began instinctively, but Sasuke squeezed his fingers to a point just shy of pain.
"I know, and that is what I told myself when I just wanted to call you into my office and… have you, over my desk, against the window, in my arms. Just have you, as mine."
Naruto tried to pull his fingers away so that he could run his hand over the back of his neck as embarrassment and something much… naughtier made him shift behind Sasuke.
"I realize now that my mother knew that you had feelings for me from your list." Naruto felt the blush cover his face and he squirmed again. Sasuke's free hand slipped under the blanket and gripped his thigh. "Stop," he whispered darkly, "You asked why and I'm going to tell you, but I can't think when you do that."
"Oh," Naruto croaked and then buried his face in Sasuke's hair.
Sasuke chuckled and his hand rubbed against Naruto's thigh, down to his knee and then up until Naruto's breath caught. "Bastard!"
Naruto didn't see, but certainly heard the smirk in Sasuke's 'hn'.
"This last week my mother was answering both of our wishes. She was the one who suggested that I have working lunches. She said it was so I could get home earlier. She had that ridiculous lunch delivered to you and she wanted me to watch you enjoy it. That morning when you called, there was something in your voice and I told myself it couldn't be possible, but I hoped, fuck, I hoped it was jealousy."
Naruto nodded, unwilling or unable to respond, and rested his chin on Sasuke's shoulder.
"Then tonight, the mistletoe…" Sasuke's voice trailed off and Naruto lifted his head. Black piercing eyes locked on his own. "I thanked her. Over and over…"
"Sasuke," Naruto breathed into his ear and then slowly, cautiously pressed a kiss to his pulse point.
"She was already in bed when I got there, tucked in and so pale. She asked me if I believed in Christmas miracles. I was short with her, angry because you had left and I started thinking that I had misread your reactions earlier." Naruto squeezed his fingers, silently apologizing, Sasuke just continued. "I said no."
Sasuke sat forward, moving to the other end of the couch, and rested his head on the back of the couch. "She told me that she knew my feelings for you. She asked why I wasn't doing anything about it." Sasuke turned his head slightly and looked at Naruto who hadn't moved. "I just told her that I didn't know if you returned my feelings but that really shouldn't have mattered. I go after what I want… tenaciously if the situation calls for it." Sasuke's eyes turned hot, like liquid fire, and raked over Naruto's body. Naruto didn't need the words to know that Sasuke thought the situation called for it.
"Fuck," Sasuke growled and broke eye contact. "Every time I think about you and I want to take you, own you, make you mine… I know you could make me happy." Sasuke swallowed painfully. "And I hope I could… Dammit, Naruto." Sasuke turned to look at him and all the fire was gone, replaced by raw, desperate pain. However, his words came out like stinging blows of anger. "I know I could be happy with you, but I shouldn't be happy while she is dying."
"You stop right fucking there, Uchiha," Naruto growled and stood. Shoving his hand into his pocket, he took out Mikoto's wish and thrust it at Sasuke's face. "What does it say?"
Sasuke echoed his growl and slapped Naruto's hand away. "I know what it says."
Naruto stood in front of him and glared. "Say it."
Sasuke glare darkly and grit his teeth. "She wants me to be happy."
"And what did your mother say when you spewed all this shit at her?"
"She told me I was an Uchiha, that I better start acting like one, and that I always made her proud." Sasuke broke eye contact with Naruto and shoved a hand through his hair. "Then she told me she had proof that Christmas miracles were real and she handed me your list."
Sasuke looked up at Naruto and his lips curled into a slow smirk. "A kiss from your boss, Uzumaki? Is that what nice boys ask for from Santa?"
Naruto blushed lightly but continued to glare. "Again… fuck you. Why are you here, bastard? Because I swear that if you are only here because your mommy told you to…"
The rest of his words were lost when Sasuke's hand snaked out to grab his wrist, yanking him hard into Sasuke's lap. Naruto's face was centimeters from Sasuke's and he could feel his gentle breaths ghost over his mouth.
"I won't lie to you, Naruto," Sasuke spoke softly. His fingers moved down Naruto's thighs that straddled his waist, and around to his back. "I love my mother and I want to make her happy. But this," Sasuke's fingers gripped into his back, pulling Naruto forward, forcing their hips to rub deliciously, "has nothing to do with my mother's happiness and everything to do with mine."
With that, he leaned forward and pressed their lips together, lazily running his tongue over Naruto's lower lip and growling lowly until Naruto opened his mouth, welcoming him in. After a minute, where the soft sound of their moans was all that was heard, Sasuke pulled back. "And, if you'll let it… let me… this can have everything to do with your happiness, too."
Naruto settled back on Sasuke's thighs, looking down at his serious eyes and his swollen lips. He lifted his hand and cupped the side of Sasuke's face. "And the last item on my list?" he whispered softly.
"I'm here because I want to be, because I don't want you to be alone, and I'll stay until you make me leave."
Naruto smiled and ran his thumb over Sasuke's bottom lip. "This," Naruto said as he leaned forward once more, "is why I believe in Christmas miracles." He cupped Sasuke's face in both hands and tilted it to the side, sweeping down to suck and lick the pale skin of Sasuke's neck. Sasuke's fingers dug into his back but he didn't stop until a lusty moan filled his ears and Sasuke's body quivered beneath him.
Lifting his head, Naruto grinned down at Sasuke, and with an exaggerated concern said, "You aren't still cold, are you?"
Sasuke smiled and ran his fingers over Naruto's chest. "Maybe…" No word had ever sounded as wickedly delicious and Naruto felt a shiver race through his own body at the sound.
With a breathy laugh, Naruto wrapped his arms around Sasuke's neck and pressed his body over Sasuke's, rocking gently. "Liar," he hissed and then bit playfully on Sasuke's earlobe. "Is that how nice boys behave?"
Suddenly Naruto was pressed into the couch on his back, Sasuke looming above him, nestled between Naruto's legs. "Who wants nice?" he asked and dipped his head forward, stopping any other words his Christmas miracle might have to say.
A Christmas in the future…
Muttering under his breath, Naruto walked into the living room dressed in his Christmas suit. He didn't look up, still working to fasten his cuffs, but once the final button adhered to his wishes, he stopped and scanned the room for Sasuke.
All the lights had been dimmed, save the Christmas tree, and it lit the corner of the room in a golden glow that reflected off the frost covered windows. Sasuke stood near the fireplace, one hand on the mantel and the other held in front of him holding a golden picture frame.
Naruto walked quietly to his side and wrapped his arm around his waist. Laying his head on Sasuke's shoulder, he looked at the precious frame. Inside was the slip of paper with Mikoto's Christmas wish for Sasuke held safely behind the glass.
'I want you to be happy.'
"Are you happy, Sasuke?" Naruto asked in a voice hardly above a whisper. Sasuke carefully replaced the frame on the mantel, next to a picture of a smiling Sasuke, Naruto, and Mikoto sitting together in her garden taken just weeks before... It was the only picture he had of the three of them. He turned slowly until they stood face to face. Sasuke's arms circled Naruto, pulling him closer, and he nodded.
Naruto smiled and lifted his arms until they wrapped around Sasuke's neck and he pulled him down into a soft, chaste kiss. "Then she got her Christmas miracle."
Beta'd by the amazing and brilliant MasterofRebels! *bows down at her feet*