Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto!

A/N: This is the first of my The 12 days of Christmas Cookie Challenge (cookie = Drabble! ;p)

The challenge is to write a drabble in the time it takes to bake a batch of cookies... 20 minutes. Hope you enjoy them!


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LONELINESS
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Long ago, on a frigid winter night, a shrill, deafening whistle had been ringing through the trees, as a lonely little boy sat crying silently in a dark and desolate playground. Though most would have been terrified of the almost scream-like noise, to the boy it had been a welcome sound, for it had served to drown out the haunting thumping of his shattered heart. A heart that broke every winter at the memory of times forgotten and empty, lonely nights.

He hadn't always been that sad.

He hadn't always been that alone.

Though the boy, who had been little more than six years old at the time, had, in his short life, already experienced so much pain, so much anguish, so much bitter loneliness. Every year, as the nights grew longer and the days grew colder, he was reminded of the times when that wasn't so. Of times spent in cheerful peace and blessed merriment. And while one would think that memories of such happy times would help ease the loneliness, it did in fact do quite the opposite. Instead of filling his heart with joy, the boy had only ever grown more sullen and alone.

He would remember when he still had his mother and his father. The only two people he had ever loved. He would be reminded of the times in which he was surrounded by love and laughter. Of times when bitterness had yet to touch his pure and innocent heart.

But those days did not last long.

In the winter of his third year, he had lost his mother.

She had been taken by disease. A long drawn out battle that had poisoned his father. Made him angry, made him hate the world and all that was in it. A hatred that had later been directed at his fate, and at his position in their clan. A hatred that had consumed him and eventually led to his downfall.

In the end, his father died as well.

It was a sacrifice they said, but in reality, it had been so much simpler than that. His father, though brave and honorable as he may have been, did not die in the line of duty. He did not die as a pawn. He did not die as a loving brother, though some would argue that may have play some part. What he died of it, was so much worse, for he died of a broken heart.

A broken heart and bitterness, which the lonely little boy had then inherited. And it was such a shame, for the boy had once been a sweet and gentle soul.

No purer heart existed, except of course, for the one that had reached out to him that night.

"Why are you crying?" the pigtailed little girl had questioningly smiled at the little boy as sat alone in the darkness, gently rocking back and forth on a rusted old swing.

The boy had looked up, with terror in his eyes. Never had he expected to see anyone in the playground that had long since been covered over by the forest.

In years to come, the memory of that little girl, with the brightly smiling face, had seemed more like a dream to him, then an actual true event. But as the years went by, and the day of fate arrived, he came upon that same smiling face at age eleven and he knew then, his loneliness had finally ended.

"What are you smiling at Neji?" Tenten furrowed her brow curiously, smiling at him with that same cheerful grin he'd come to love.

"Nothing," the now grown boy shook his head as he handed her another berry for her to string into the needle she was holding. "Nothing," he repeated, smiling back at her as he thought of just how truly lucky he was to have found love like hers.