It was Christmas Eve, and the Kazekage was still in his office at 10:30 PM. He'd filled out paperwork until his hand cramped and his eyes grew unfocused. A half-empty cup of peppermint tea stood at his elbow, and he sighed in exhaustion.

A knock at the door made him straighten his back and smooth his messy crimson locks. He'd developed a habit of absently pulling on his hair when the workload was too much for him to handle. "Come in."

"Excuse me, Gaara-sama, but-"

"No more for tonight, Baki. It's Christmas Eve, and I deserve a break. There's a festival tonight in the streets, and I'd like to get there before midnight. I have something special planned."

"I was going to send in your secretary to say the same thing."

"It's fine if she comes in to clean up. I was just leaving anyways." And I haven't given her 'that' yet.

A young teenage girl walked in, her dress swinging like a bell over her shapely form.


She stopped.

"You..." He searched for a polite and chaste phrase. Telling her she was absolutely stunning was accurate enough, but against protocol. "You look pretty, as usual."

She blushed and bowed respectfully. "Thank you, Lord Kazekage."

"Another thing. Please don't bother with my title tonight, It's Christmas Eve. You don't need to be so formal when we're..." He paused awkwardly. "-alone." He got up from his desk and pulled something from his pocket. "I went shopping last week for presents, and I thought of you. So... here. Merry Christmas." He handed her a small black velvet jewelry box.

Matsuri's blush deepened, and she nearly dropped the box when she looked inside.

Eight tiny diamonds ran down one side of a heart-shaped white gold pendant hung on a thin chain. Matching stud earrings perched delicately on the dark background.

"Oh, Gaara-sama... I... it's beautiful... I shouldn't accept things like this... but it's so pretty..." Her black pearly eyes shone in wonder.

One corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smile. "I knew you'd like it."

"I love it! It's so... intricate, and yet so simple. Thank you, sir."

His face turned the faintest of pinks. "There's something else as well, but it'll have to wait until after we're done here. I'll help you clear all of this away, and then... " He left the sentence unfinished, afraid he would give his secret away.

It didn't take long to file the rest of the paperwork.

"That's the last one, sir."

"Didn't I tell you not to bother with honorifics?"

"Well, what do you want me to call you?"

"Just Gaara is fine."

"Gaara..." She caught herself admiring his tall, lean figure and trained her eyes on his face.

I knew I'd like the way she said it. "Come here." He held out a hand invitingly.

She stepped closer.

"I don't mean 'edge towards me'. I mean 'come here'."

The color rushed to her face as she realized he was standing under a sprig of...

Mistletoe? Oh, gosh, I'm starting to get butterflies in my stomach! She came and stood in front of him. His fingers laced through hers, but she didn't seem to notice. Her eyes were glued to his.

"Why are you trembling? There's nothing to be afraid of."

"You mean you didn't see?"

"See what?" he asked mock-innocently.

"The-... plant up there."

"It's hard to miss, with that strange odor."


They stood in thick, bashful silence, their eyes never leaving each-other.

"I feel like there's something I forgot to do..." His brow creased in thought.

She closed her eyes in annoyance. "If you and someone you care for step under a mistletoe at the same time, you must show physical affection. Don't tell me you've never heard of that tradition."

"Does that include... kissing?" He bit his lower lip nervously.

"Absolutely. In fact, it's highly encouraged."

He had been shy about being overly romantic with her before. They embraced every now and then, but that was just her way of saying hello, and his way of saying how much he cared. But he didn't want to upset her by refusing to follow tradition. So he settled for placing a chaste kiss on her cheek.

She frowned. "That's it?"

"You know I'm not good at being... intimate with you, Matsuri." He looked away shyly, but his arms remained closed around her waist.

"Just try it, and I'll tell you if you were good or not."

He remained awkwardly silent.

"Damn it, Gaara. Kiss me." Her eyes shut tightly. Frankly, you should have done this a long time ago.

He leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers. She pulled away, only to begin another kiss, this one deeper, and more passionate.

"Wait - *gasp* - you can't so suddenly! - mmn - it's too fast -"

Her tongue flicked gently over his, coaxing a response.

When they stopped, she leaned back against the wall and took deep breaths to calm her pounding heart.

"Gaara..." she managed to gasp.


"I'm impressed. You're better than I expected. Where'd you learn that?"

He reverted to his usual shy self. "I used to watch people at night when I couldn't sleep. You learn a lot of things peeking through windows."

"Hentai! You do know you just gave me my first kiss, don't you?"

He nodded and went to the wardrobe to find his kimono. "We should get going if we're gonna make it to the festival on time."

"All right."