A VERY NARUTO CHRISTMAS (2012)
I I I
All the ninjas in Konoha loved Christmas a lot.
But Danzo, who lived under Konoha... did NOT.
"I hate Christmas", he said, resting his face on the palm of his hand.
In his underground lair he seethed and he sputtered.
"The whole holiday season". He added, for the sake of his indoctrinated band.
Slumped in his chair he groaned and he muttered.
"Kind emotions and good cheer," He seethed, "Are a distraction for ninjas who should only cause fear."
Some said the count of his eyes was one too few;
But actually the count was too many; it's true!
Other said his war-wounds just ached from the cold.
But his jutsus could warm him even if he was old.
"A distraction that makes us all fools." He darkly added, "For the sake of the village, ninjas are tools."
But for good little ninjas with Sharingans turning,
Their eyes would show them with instant learning:
The reason Danzo was off on this hating Christmas lark,
Was because his chakra was two shades too dark.
"If only we could remove this unnecessary thing," He wished with a sigh, "Think of all the revenue another workday would bring."
With with eye on the goal, Danzo began planning a plan he thought most cunning.
"For the sake of Konoha..." He planned with malice, "I must stop Christmas from coming!"
But if you asked Naruto he'd say it was so dumb it was stunning.
I I I
Naruto pasted a sick smile on his face with an act of will, even as he suppressed a flinch running up his spine.
"So you want to be Hokage, huh?" The guy beside him asked, with a neutral voice.
Naruto desperately wished he could remember this guy's name. They had been introduced once, and he'd forgotten, and there was no-one he could ask without causing trouble.
Across from him, smiling serenely as her father continued to grill Naruto, Tenten merely looked on, saying nothing.
"Yes." Naruto said. "That's my dream."
"Hmm." The guy dragged out his grunt out. "Won't that take up so much time you won't be able to do anything else?"
Under the table, Naruto clenched his fist around his thigh to stop himself from jumping.
Because, there was a foot brushing along the inside of his knee, having worked up his calf, rubbing against his legs.
Naruto shot Tenten a black look, and although she didn't say anything, although she didn't admit anything, the light blush across her cheeks already told Naruto that yes, it was definitely on purpose.
"I don't think so." Naruto said, forcing himself to pick the thread of the conversation up again. "I'm pretty good at delegating."
"Hey Naruto!" With that announcement, another Naruto walked up.
"Yeah?" The seated Naruto gave the man beside him an apologizing look before turning to address the Naruto that spoke to him. "What's up? You couldn't cancel?"
Naruto shook his head. "Nah, it's just... you know how we were trying to get Sai drunk?"
"Yes." Naruto said, even as Tenten muttered "what" behind him.
"Well, he's definitely hiding something, so I thought I'd let you know."
"Cool." Naruto nodded. "Keep me posted, okay?"
"Sure." The other Naruto said, before turning to walk off.
The man beside him nodded solemnly. "So by delegating you meant that you were good at Kage Bunshin, huh?"
"...Yeah, that's also true." Naruto finally decided on, his smile freezing for a moment, before shooting a black look at Tenten.
"Sounds good!" The man cheerfully announced, before standing up and dropping his napkin on the empty plate. "Well, I'm gonna go catch up with the other guys from the metal-working district."
Naruto blinked at the sudden change in the man's demeanor, now that the interrogation had apparently ended.
"Just-" He paused, and Tenten quizzically met his eye. "Make sure you use protection, alright?"
While Tenten sputtered, Naruto smoothly responded. "Since Kage Bunshin completely disappear when they cancel, it's only necessary that the real body-"
"N-Naruto!" Tenten demanded, completely red in the face. "Don't, that's not something you should be talking to my father about!"
But the man in question just laughed, before slapping Naruto on the back. With a hearty grin, he added, "My daughter's a healthy girl!" With a more sober expression, he continued, "But you'll take care of her, right?"
"Yes!" Naruto swore, raising a fist before himself.
"Good man." With a nod, he added, "Well, you two kids have fun. See you tomorrow, honey." After saying goodbye to his daughter, he left.
"Naruto." Tenten demanded.
"You started it!" Naruto immediately counterattacked. "Ambushing me like that with your dad at the Christmas party! I was supposed to be drinking with Kiba and Shino!"
"What were you even saying to my dad, huh?" Tenten stared. "He doesn't need to know about... that!"
"This is where he puts his dick in, right?" Sai loudly asked, causing the two to swivel, startled.
The Root operative was barely able to stay upright, his eyes somewhat glazed, as he swayed back and forth, repeatedly knocking against the Naruto standing beside him.
"Sai!" Naruto greeted. "You've had a few, huh?"
"More than five." Sai agreed. "I ran out of fingers to count on."
"Huh." Naruto said.
"How is this suspicious?" Tenten whispered to he Naruto beside her.
"He's been sticking to me all evening." Naruto whispered back. "You know how some of the more traditional nin are about matching appearances with the Hokage... so usually they avoid sitting down with Tsunade so they don't have to drink with her, right? Sai is one of those kinds, so he always comes up with some excuse and flees so he doesn't get plastered." Naruto nodded conclusively. "And that hasn't happened tonight, he's been sticking to me like glue."
"Sticking together with Naruto is my mission!" Sai agreed.
"You mission, huh." Tenten said, eyeing him speculatively. "How gave you that mission? Sakura?" Tenten hadn't had much to do with the pink-haired girl, but apparently Naruto actively meddled in her relationship with Sasuke, so she retaliated in kind.
"Yes." Sai nodded happily.
Tenten's eyes narrowed.
"Her too." Sai continued, unaware that he had everyone's attention.
"Her too, huh?" Naruto murmured.
Tenten frowned. "Who else would be telling Sai to stick around Naruto all evening long?"
Sai happily responded, saying, "That's a secret!"
However, at the same time, the Naruto supporting him said, "Danzo, obviously."
After a pause, Sai amended his statement. "That's not a secret!"
"But why?" Naruto asked, somewhat rhetorically.
Tenten sighed. "Sai? Why?"
"I don't know." Sai announced. "Danzo never tells anyone why, especially when Naruto could ask them."
"Yeah." Naruto muttered. "I dunno why he wants you to tag along with a Kage Bunshin all evening though."
"Not a Kage Bunshin!" Sai drunkenly replied. "Keep the real one busy!"
Naruto and Naruto made eye contact.
"You wanna tell him?" The one supporting Sai asked.
"It's your mission, and I'm still busy." Naruto shot back, jerking his head sideways to indicate Tenten.
Tenten rolled her eyes at Naruto's cowardice. "That's not the real Naruto, Sai." She informed the soused Root operative. "The real one has been with me all evening."
The two Narutos made eye contact, and a great deal of wordless communication happened.
"On second thought..." Naruto-with-Tenten said.
"Oh no! You're busy!" Naruto-with-Sai replied, quickly bringing his hands up and forming the cross-seal, dissipating himself.
"You coward!" Naruto shouted.
Sai groaned. "I failed!"
"...aren't you right here, Naruto?" Tenten asked, with a flat voice.
Naruto flinched. "I am, yes."
"So why would a Kage Bunshin have to cancel to tell the real one when he just told him in words to his face?" Tenten pressed.
Naruto sighed. "Not this fight again..."
With keen insight despite his drunken state, even Sai observed, "that was the wrong thing to say."
I I I
Clad in red jumpsuit, lined with fur and a hat like a sock,
Stood a jolly old man on a roof above the tenement block.
Beside him eight reindeer, all harnessed to a sleigh,
Before them the ninth, who's eyes teleported the way.
And slung over his shoulder, was the ultimate reason:
A bag full of toys to reward all good children this season.
"Whew." Old Nicholas said, wiping his forehead. "How are we doing for time?"
"On schedule." Rudolph announced. "We really had to push."
Santa grunted, before gingerly stepping over towards the chimney. "I wanted to push ahead of normal, because we've had some crazy delay for the last few years."
"That's reasonable." Cupid supported. "We need to deliver the presents to all the good children, after all."
"You can just rely on our speed." Comet boasted. "This much challenge isn't impossible."
"You guys..." Santa began, "Thanks. I really appreciate that." He grunted, stepping over the rim of the chimney. "Well... time to work."
With a flash and a swirl, he activated the Chimney Shunshin, transporting himself down and out into the living room where the Christmas tree waited.
"That felt kind of long..." Santa muttered, before turning, and glancing about himself.
"Oh no." He muttered.
It was not a living room. There was no Christmas tree, there were no stockings or lights.
The whole space was empty and lit only by dim fluorescent bulbs. The bunker-like walls of bare concrete had a surreal flat look from the incomplete illumination.
This space looked more like an abandoned warehouse than a part of someone's home.
So, why had the chimney gone down here from the house above?
With a flicker and glance, Santa saw the reason: the hastily-extended construction that reached up from the hole-like fireplace through the roof, where it probably connected to the "real" fire place.
With a casual sneer, Santa's hand whipped out, claw-like, to bat aside the sword that pierced out of the darkness behind him.
He turned. "So... you are the one to stand in my way this time?"
Danzo simply grunted, re-gripping the sword in his good hand, before bringing it back up to guard before him.
Santa sighed. "At least Jiraiya and Orochimaru wanted my power for something... you just want to erase anything that doesn't agree with you."
Danzou scowled. "This is not what a ninja should be. A ninja should erase their ego, waiting silently for the right moment, when they act and return to the darkness." He raised the sword, and lunged foRward.
Santa lashed out with his left hand, smacking the blade aside with his palm, before it shot forward for Danzo's chest.
But a snap kick up to his belly forced him to stop, blocking and catching the rising foot with his right hand.
Awkwardly, Danzo swung the sword, attempting to bury it hatchet-like in Santa's head.
But the left hand, from it's aborted palm-spear, simply lashed sideways and caught Danzo's wrist.
"Christmas is a time of giving, for families and friends."
"Ninja cannot afford such things." Danzo growled. "If a human heart is torn between friends and the mission, then it will agonize and suffer. It's better, more reliable, for a ninja to forsake such feelings, and finish the mission. The one moving forward has no need for guilt, and the one abandoned is simply a lost tool, without any betrayal."
"Those are human hearts you're talking about!" Santa shouted.
"No." Danzo replied, meeting Santa's gaze. "Those are ninjas."
With an unnatural squirm like writhing snakes, his cloak and kimono were forced open, and a misshapen arm shot out from his robes.
It was alien-colored, with flesh the color of pine wood; and set in it, like knots in a board, were many sharingan eyes.
That alien hand in that bizarre arm lashed out with unnatural speed, and reached Santa's throat, gripping it like a band of iron.
With a fierce scowl, Santa released the leg and the blade, and his hands smashed into Danzo's body, into his shoulder and ribs.
"Fool." Santa rasped, even as the grip around his throat tightened.
The grip released.
In a spray of blood, that twisted arm was ripped from the body. But the arm itself did not bleed; it was like smashed clay, while the bones and vessels of Danzo's human core had ejected it like a splinter forced out of his flesh.
Danzo collapsed, snarling. "Even you... would use such an evil thing, huh?"
Santa sighed. "I was not always the kindly old man who rewards goodness for goodness' sake; in the old days, I was a fierce judge of those that take. You... you are the one that made it a contest of such skills, with your arm so fake."
Danzo laughed hollowly. "It's not over yet."
"Yes." Santa replied. "Yes, it is."
In that arm, ripped away like a tree limb pulled off by a winter storm, one of those eyes spun wildly. The tomoe melded together, and spun, before melting into a cataract of blindness.
Danzo faded away like an illusion; reality was revised according to the name of the god of the creation.
Santa gargled as the hand clenched his throat like a board pressing into his neck. The fake arm was reattached and Danzo was unharmed.
"As long as I can use Izanagi's revision, it's not over." Danzo explained.
Pushing against the swordarm gripped by his left hand, Santa had no space to use his deadly taijutsu. He was trapped.
With a howl of warning, the storm-howl of the famous A-rank assault technique slammed into Danzo's artificial shoulder, gripping his whole body in a spiral wind and flinging him away from Kris Kringle.
Santa stumbled as his enemy was wrenched away, and grimaced at his savior. "You really cut it close there, kiddo."
Danzo grunted, forcing himself up. "So Sai failed."
Naruto chuckled. "He failed before he even began. I'm on watch duty. All of the Narutos that are out and about were shadow fakes, while the real one erased his ego and hid, waiting silently for the right moment."
With a fierce smile, Naruto stared down at the crumpled Danzo, who was gathering himself to stand up. "It's not that Sai's distraction failed, Danzo." Naruto pronounced. "From the beginning, it was you that failed to contain me."
"Boy." Danzo glowered. "Say that... once the fight has ended!"
I I I
Danzo gathered himself up. "If I have to fight both of you, then I should make it two on two."
With a quick series of seals, he slammed his hands on the ground, performing his summoning technique.
The orange body of a tiger and the head of an elephant, it was-
"What the hell is that?" Naruto demanded.
With a sweep of his hand, Danzo proudly announced. "This is Baku, my personal summons."
"Is it some kind of tapir?" Naruto asked, before pausing. "Do you have the tapir summoning contract?"
"What?" Danzo asked. "No, this is the Baku, the creature that eats drea-"
"Did you fail the Tapir Sage training?" Naruto wondered. "Is that why your nose is so big?"
"Stop interrupting me you whippersnapper!" Danzo shouted, punctuating by thumping his sword-cane on the floor. "Back in my day shinobis had respect for their elders! This is what's wrong with your generation, they lack respect for the heritage of ninja!"
"But hitting you with a rasengen was okay, huh?" Naruto asked.
"We're getting off track." The giant orange monster behind Danzo said, gently reminding his contractor.
With a huff of offended dignity, Danzo drew himself up. "Right, this is the Baku, the eater of dreams."
Naruto narrowed his eyes. "So..."
Santa harrumphed. "So if I use my Ghosts of Christmas jutsus it will devour them."
Danzo smiled. "Yes, the trump card you use to end fights by trapping enemies in an inescapable genjutsu. I can reverse your taijutsu with my implanted Sharingans and inside this dry bunker there's no supply for your snow jutsu."
Stepping forward, Danzo sneered. "As much as possible, I've prepared everything needed to seal all your abilities."
Naruto delicately coughed. He held his hand out, palm up; and with a bloom of chakra, he was cupping a Rasengan.
Danzo scowled. "Yes, there is that." He slid into a stance, pulling his sword free of the cane-sheathe one more time. "However, Baku can keep you busy without compromising his ability to eat genjutsu."
Danzo shot forward, swinging his sword.
Santa whipped his hands around, rolling his limbs to prepare for a taijutsu exchange.
Naruto jumped up and around, swinging his Rasengan around so he would slam it into Danzo like the spinning tip of a drill.
But he was diverted as the trunk of the Baku slammed into him, forcing him into a fight with that monster.
Sword and palms clashed in an exchange of taijutsu.
"Hmph." Santa grunted, blocking the sword aside. "It's true that you've prepared some impressive measures to prevent losing, but I didn't hear even one plan to win."
Danzo sneered, even as Santa caught the blade with his armored glove.
With an strike like an iron pole, his other hand slammed into Danzo's body, sending him spinning away.
"Even if you have a strong power, the Yuletide chakra is my potent weapon." Santa announced. "You cannot defeat the spirit of giving with talk of darkness."
Danzo coughed, splitting up blood.
"Didn't I say..." Danzo said, raising his fake arm, "That I would reverse you?"
Another implanted sharingan whirled around, as the tomoe bled together into the Mangekyo, only to dissolve into darkness as the Izanagi was activated.
Santa gasped wetly, choking around the iron grip on his throat.
The artificial arm was once again extended, and that hand was once again hooked around his throat; and he hung like an ornament from the branch of a tree.
The fingers dug into his flesh.
Spiritual chakra seeped into him, combating against the Yuletide chakra, even as the hand combated his body.
But this time the spiraling sphere was intercepted, the lunging Naruto was forced off course by the Baku.
It was a contradiction, a reversal of time, possessing the same lack of logic as a dream. So it was no problem for things to happen out-of-order, even if it was something like when a summoning appeared.
Inside Santa, something responded to the seeking chakra.
Exploding out of the floor between them, another Naruto emerged, the deadly wind gripped in his hand all over again.
"What!" Danzo shouted.
"Hey!" Naruto shouted back. "I already gave that speech about how the one you thought was the real me was a Kage Bunshin all along!" He pointed an accusing finger at Danzo. "Are you so senile you need to hear it again!"
Danzo pointed with his sword, his human arm trembling slightly from rage, or exertion, or both. "You miserable twit! I don't know why Sarutobi let you get away with that kind of disrespect! Why back in my day, we-"
"Can it!" Naruto interrupted, relying on his greater loudness. "I don't want to hear it you old coot!"
"You!" Santa rasped, hunched over, shaking and pale. "What did you do!?"
Naruto blinked, before scowling. "Whatta you mean what did I do, I hid underground and saved your butt!"
"Not you!" Santa snapped, before looking up, casting a shaking glare onto Danzo. "What did you do to my chakra?"
Danzo sneered, lifting his artificial hand. "To your chakra...? Nothing."
Naruto took a shaky step back, raising an accusing finger.
"All I did... was pull out something you were wrapped around." Danzo finished.
Gripped in that hand grown of synthetic flesh, a pale, translucent figure, an outline of someone that was dead and gone.
"Hello... Naruto-kun." A condescending smile.
Hanging from Danzo's grip, was the ghost of Orochimaru.
I I I
Naruto blinked, lowering his arm. "So, uh... how have you been?"
"I've been better." Orochimaru frankly admitted. "But on the other hand, it was surprisingly restful. I was sealed into a state akin hibernation, so my inevitable escape will have to be achieved by-"
"Orochimaru-kun." Danzou said. "I need you to focus a little bit, here."
Orochimaru's head turned unnaturally, his neck rotating 180 degrees until he could face Danzou directly. "Aren't you the one always carrying on about respect, Danzo-san?"
"Yeah." Naruto agreed. "I'd really prefer to talk about that 'inevitable escape' bit, that sounds like it could be really important. You know, in the future."
Danzo grit his teeth.
"What's the matter?" Naruto asked, concerned. "Hemorrhoids flaring up?"
"No!" Danzo barked. "That is not important right now!"
"There's no need to be so sensitive." Orochimaru chided. "It's only natural that when a body gets older functionality starts to break down."
"What about you?" Naruto asked.
Orochimaru laughed. "I used so many kinjutsu, Naruto-kun, that I don't have to worry about such things."
"Mn, I guess." Naruto muttered, rubbing his chin. "I've got this regeneration thing from being a jinchuuriki, so-"
"Stop ignoring me!" Danzo demanded. "Didn't you learn any respect in the Academy!? Or from your jounin-sensei? Kids these days!"
"And you!" Danzo said, turning to Orochimaru. "I know that Sarutobi taught you better than that, I was there! You used to be such a good kid, but you let it all go to your head! When I was your age we used to pay attention when an old man was in the middle of unveiling his scheme, but no, you have to gossip with your teenager friends!"
"The rudeness matters more than the missing-nin thing, huh?" Naruto muttered.
"Danzo." The baku gently inserted. "Focus."
"Right, right." Danzo said. With a grunt, he held the ghost up, and the Baku delicately grapped it with its trunk.
Then it jammed the ghost in it's mouth, pushing it against its cheek, pressing its lips together to hold the ghost in while it withdrew it's trunk.
"What?" Naruto asked.
Danzo began handseals.
Santa's eyes widened. "That's-" He twitched, unable to stand up. "Naruto! Stop him!"
"You used it so many times." Danzo said, as he finished the jutsu. "For someone hiding properly in the shadows, it's only natural they would-"
"Rasengan!" Naruto shouted, thrusting it forward as he lunged.
"Ghost of Christmas Past!" Danzo interrupted himself to finish the jutsu.
I I I
An old classroom, lit by the slanting evening sunlight. A peaceful autumn day.
In such a peaceful place, Naruto felt kind of stupid holding the rasengan out in an attack thrust, with no enemies.
Naruto, age eight, stood trembling with his head down, while he was lectured by his favorite teacher.
"Honestly, Naruto, I'm disappointed." Iruka lectured. "You should know by now that you should let people finish talking without interrupting. Don't you hate it when other people don't let you talk? So why can't you ever let them finish? You need to respect other people. Why..."
"This has to have been on purpose." Naruto growled at the illusion in general.
I I I
"Ghost of Christmas Present!"
I I I
Danzo and Santa Claus floated in the sky.
Soft snowflakes drifted down around them, heading towards the twinkling lights of Konoha spread out in a tableau beneath them.
"It's an incredible set of jutsu." Danzo praised. "Perfectly recreating any memory, showing someone what's happening anywhere else in the world, even pulling back a scene from a possible future." His smile was twisted by the bandage on his face. "Past, present and future; I'm far more impressed by the omniscience of them, then by some feature that makes them inescapable."
Santa glared. "So, are you like Jiraiya, that you want to use it for your own self-serving intelligence purposes."
Danzo laughed. "Oh, if only! But no, it's too tied up with that Yuletide chakra. It's impossible to use them without staining yourself with the colors of Christmas, even if it's only a little bit."
Santa frowned. "Isn't that exactly what you're doing?"
Danzo shrugged expressively. "Speaking of Jiraiya... it was he that showed me these jutsu could be subverted against you. And don't you remember what you told him?"
"It's entirely different when it's anchored to a ghost."
Santa smiled harshly. "So... what?"
Danzo popped his neck. "My plan had four steps.
"First, use the wraith of Orochimaru, who has already been stained by your Yuletide chakra, as the foundation of the Ghosts of Christmas Genjutsu."
"Second, use the dream-synchronization ability of my Baku to spread the Ghost of Christmas Present across every living human. This requires a great deal of chakra but between myself, Orochimaru, and the Baku, it's possible to extend it that far."
"Third, expand the mass-hypnosis backwards and forwards with the Ghosts of Past and Future."
"Fourth... sacrifice one more Mangekyo Sharingan to activate the Izanagi."
"Ho ho ho." Santa laughed. "So you'll use your genjutsu to revise everyone's memories?"
"Yes." Danzo agreed. "I will erase the idea of Christmas from all human minds."
"That is impossible." Santa said, with absolute conviction. "Strike me down, and another will arise in my place. The spirit of kindness and giving cannot be erased from human hearts."
"Hmph." Danzo closed his eyes, with a bitter smile. "Human hearts are more fickle than that. The heart capable of love is also a heart capable of hate. It's a much better thing for ninjas to kill their emotions."
"You are wrong." Santa plainly stated. "Go. Use your genjutsu. You will see."
Danzo ignored him, raising his arm.
For the third time, the tomoe of a sharingan swirled and bled together, spinning until they transformed into the higher Kaleidoscope shape.
"Izanagi!" Danzo triumphantly shouted.
Twas the night before Christmas, and in the village throughout,
Not a ninja was stirring, not even an ANBU about;
The stockings were hung by the chimeny with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
Twas [OOOO] before [OOOO], and in [OOOO] throughout,
Not a [OOOO] was stirring, not even [OOOO] about;
[OOOO] were hung by the [OOOO] with care,
In [OOOO] that [OOOO] soon would be there.
Danzo collapsed, panting, heaving, sweating from exertion.
In the silence, broken only by his own breathing, the dull, steady hum of the fluorescent lights could be seen, casting an off-yellow glow flatly across the concrete.
Danzo was alone. The floor was unmarked. There was no evidence that Naruto had torn it up with a Rasengan.
There was no jury-rigged false chimney on the far wall.
"I did it!" Danzo gasped, smiling darkly to himself. "I unmade Christmas!"
I I I
Danzo slowly walked up the stairs, feeling exhausted from his exertion.
When he opened the door and walked out into the street, he was pleased to see that Sai was waiting for him.
The snow was gently falling, and the air had the cold crisp smell from it. The night was dark, and the sky was opaque and black from the winter clouds.
Sai shifted, and Danzo looked at him. "Yes?" He asked.
Sai stood, glanced to the side, and finally held out a package.
It was a rectangle, an oblong box. Danzo reflexively reached out to take it.
It was heavy, solid, and thick, with a firm texture. Probably a book.
But Danzo wasn't sure, because it was wrapped in colored paper.
Neatly folded, and taped to the flat sides, the bright yellow paper, with that waxy texture, completely obscured the contents of that package.
There was a bright red bow taped to the top.
He was holding a present.
Even though he'd erased Christmas-
"Naruto helped me pick it out for you." Sai said. He controlled his face well, but Danzo realized that the boy was nervous. He probably thought that Danzo was judging the, the present harshly. It frustrated Danzo that Naruto could so easily undo all the careful training that he'd given Sai.
"So," Sai continued, "have a joyous Kwanzaa, Danzo-sama."
"What?" Danzo said, dully, giving speech to the thought that rose up from within him.
"Joyous Kwanzaa." Sai repeated, louder, with more precise pronunciation. "Danzo-sama."
"Yes, yes." Danzo murmured, looking down at the present. "Joyous... Kwanzaa."
"You can go now." Danzo said, absently.
"Yes." With a bow, Sai disappeared into the shunshin.
Danzo wandered in a daze.
There were no Christmas trees. There were no wreaths, there was no tinsel, there was no mistletoe.
But there were candle displays, and there were still strings of light, and brightly-colored cloth streamers hung from walls.
People strode around smiling. Even the shinobi, still carrying on, exchanging greetings and gifts, soaking themselves in the indolent holiday.
Even if he did not hear even one person utter "Merry Christmas", the way that people said "Joyous Kwanzaa" to one another was exactly the same.
Danzo didn't understand.
"What..." He began, not sure how to continue.
"What did you do!?" A voice roared behind him, and Danzo stiffened, turning about.
"Naruto?" He asked, half-unsure. It was Naruto, in his stupid orange jumpsuit, with those whisker marks on his recognizable face; but his eyes were dark, narrow slits, and killing intent was radiating from him like a bonfire.
"Well who were you expecting!?" Naruto demanded. "Santa Claus!?" He formed a Rasengan.
Danzo frowned at that. "That's impossible. I..." He gestured around himself. "Even like this, Santa Claus doesn't exist!"
Naruto paused, and the Rasengan's furious whine sputtered down as he relaxed the chakra inside it. "Danzo," he began, "I uh, you know you were just fighting him like twenty minutes ago, right?"
Danzo frowned. "Yes, and I used my Izanagi to erase him!"
Naruto pursued his lips. "Are you going senile?"
"No!" Danzo growled. "No I am not." He paused, thinking. "And why were you so angry anyway?"
"How dare you! Naruto!" Neji announced, before his vacuum-palm slammed into the ground where Naruto had been standing.
"Cripes!" Naruto shouted, before diving into a roll, dodging as three kunai slammed into the ground where he'd dodged Neji's attack.
"Even though you have Hinata!" Neji shouted. "You go after Tenten!"
Naruto glanced from Neji, who was fuming furiously, to Tenten, who was blushing, but also fuming.
Danzo looked across the three teens. "Oh, that makes sense." He realized.
Naruto's head snapped to him. "What makes sense!?"
"Without Christmas, you two didn't get together." Danzo mused.
Naruto's pupils shrank as his mind raced through that. "So I'm dating Hinata!?" He demanded.
"Don't think you can bluff your way out of this!" Neji roared, shooting forward with his jyuken blazing. "I'll get you for making Hinata cry!"
"You damn tsundere!" Naruto shouted, desperately throwing himself out of the way. "It's Danzo's fault! He used genjutsu on me!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Danzo calmly bluffed.
"Traitor!" Naruto roared, even as he leaned aside, shoving the blazing palm away from his body, planting his foot on Neji's thigh, and jumping to create distance.
He twisted mid-air, barely knocking two kunai down before they could bury themselves in him.
"I don't need Neji to avenge my honor." Tenten primly informed him. "I can do that for myself."
Naruto landed next to Danzo, and grabbed him by the lapels. "Fix this." He demanded, before twisting, spinning about to put Danzo between himself and Neji.
With much greater dignity than Naruto would have thought possible, Danzo ignored being used as a human shield against Neji, who wasn't quite willing to attack through a senior councilman to get Naruto.
"Why should I?" Danzo demanded. "Even if there was an unexpected side effect, I removed the Christmas holiday. I have achieved my goal."
"You can't escape me forever! Naruto!" Neji swore.
"He's so furious." Naruto muttered. "That friggin' sis-con."
"I'm not!" Neji roared. "And she's my cousin, not my sister!"
Danzo took the opportunity to deck Naruto, sending him sprawling.
Naruto's head snapped back, but he recovered and landed in a crouch, rather than on his back.
His gaze met Danzo's. "What did you do!?" He demanded.
Danzo glanced over his shoulder, at the fuming and advancing Neji.
Naruto slammed his hands into the ground, and a gigantic toad appeared between him and the infuriated Hyuuga.
Gamakichi blinked down, before his eyes swiveled to look at Naruto.
"What did you do this time!?" The huge toad demanded.
"It wasn't me! It was Danzo!" Naruto shouted.
Gamakichi rolled his eyes. "Yeah, again, right?"
"For crying out loud!" Naruto threw his hands up, before lunging, grabbing Danzo by the shoulder, and dragging him towards the toad. "Just teleport us somewhere we won't get interrupted!"
"Don't think you can escape that easily!" Neji shouted.
But, in a swirl of alien light, Gamakichi disappeared, dragging Naruto and Danzo with him.
He had escaped.
"Naruto!" Neji swore at the heavens.
I I I
The waterfall burbled, as the water cascaded down, flowing out under the sheet of ice that grew out from the riverbanks and approached the falls.
The air was frigid, and slightly wet, loaded with the tiny amount of humidity that could be absorbed by cold air.
Statues of toads stood as silent sentinels, covered in frost and ice in the December night.
In the land of the Toads, two human men sat on the riverbank.
Slowly, the Elder named Danzo explained his plan, and the younger named Naruto listened-with only a tiny amount of interruption.
When the tale was finished, Naruto nodded. "Oh, I get it."
Danzo raised his eyebrow. "Oh? What is it, Naruto-kun?"
Naruto considered, crossing his arms, before finally he began to speak. "Okay, it's like this: what's so special about Christmas?"
Danzo snorted. "It's a time of fools, when we abandon all of our training to harden our hearts in exchange for lukewarm feelings."
Naruto sighed. "That's... I guess that's true, but what I mean is, what makes Christmas special, not compared to regular days, but compared to other holidays?"
Danzo frowned, taking the question seriously. "It's associated with thanks, but especially, giving presents."
Naruto nodded. "Yeah, let's work with that. Maybe there's some religious stuff going on, but within the broad secular society, that's not so important. What's important is the idea of thinking about others enough that you come up with something they'd want to have, and give it to them. Giving gifts is like an exercise in developing compassion."
"But it's not like that's something uniquely special to Christmas, it's just that this idea of a 'season for giving' got associated with Christmas." Naruto nodded decisively. "So, when Santa said that another will arise in my place..."
"He wasn't talking about another Santa Claus." Naruto revealed. "He meant that if you took away Christmas, some other holiday would naturally fill the same role, because it's something that humans naturally want to do; even if there isn't specifically Christmas, there's still a gift-giving holiday somewhere in every culture."
Danzo snorted. "Even if I accept that, there's no reason for me to do anything." Danzo serenely folded his arms. "There's no reason for me to help you restore Christmas."
"Kwanzaa is seven days long." Naruto pointed out.
"What." Danzo replied.
"It's just what I said." Naruto replied, with an insufferable smile. "You exchanged a holiday that was one day long, with one that lasts the whole week."
Danzo frowned. "Why should I believe you."
Naruto raised his hands. "I traveled all over with Jiraiya; I'm just repeating an observation, I'm not trying to deceive you."
"But," Naruto began. "I spent a lot of time with Tenten, you know? And whatever you did unmade that." He looked Danzo straight in the eye. "Do you know how much free time I'd have, all of a sudden? And how much resentment?"
Danzo considered that.
He thought about Naruto's personality, and strengths as a ninja.
And especially the saying: "Idle hands do the devil's work."
Danzo sighed. "I guess... we're going to..."
"Say it." Naruto cajoled.
Danzo grit his teeth and spat it out. "Let's go save Christmas."
I I I
Far, far to the North, across hills of ice and fields of snow, lay a secret village, hidden from all, marked only by a great pole with a twisting red-and-white stripe pattern.
In that village, far to the north, is where a secret hidden bloodline lives, of industrious and short ninjas, called the elves.
It was their village that was pierced by a spatial ninjutsu, as a great void opened and a toad hopped through, bearing two men.
The village was abandoned.
Crystal spires rose from the ground in great caverns, illuminated by moonlight that refracted through and between them.
With frost on his breath, Naruto made eye contact with Danzo, who grudgingly nodded.
Naruto placed his hand on his shoulder, and fed chakra into the other man.
The baku was summoned, and the jutsu was reversed.
I I I
All across the elemental countries, while children slept snug in their beds, Santa crept out, while visions of cool jutsu played in their heads.
He snuck past guards, and snuck under trees, leaving presents among them, for all the good children as neat as you please.
For girls and for boys, the most marvelous toys, a change from the weapons and tools of their trade. A chance for pure enjoyment, without having to hold a single blade.
With a clap and a clatter, his sleigh leapt into the sky, and then dissipated in a flash of that glowing red eye.
But before he left in that flash of alien light-
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
I I I
With a contented sigh, the sleigh set down at the end of the Christmas season. Santa waved away the elves offering to help him down, and lowered himself to the ground.
With a twinkle of cheer in his eye, he turned his gaze upon the two Konoha ninjas waiting among his followers.
His gaze honed in on Danzo, and became all together more gleeful. "Ho ho ho," he said with a laugh, "so you realized your gaffe?"
"Naruto already rubbed it in." Danzo growled.
"Even an old man can learn the spirit of Christmas." Santa wisely intoned. "This is a tale passed down for decades among us."
"I haven't." Danzo disagreed.
"We'll see." Santa said with a superior smirk.
"You're taking this pretty well." Naruto said.
"Ho ho ho," Santa laughed in deep pitch, "in the end, Christmas went off without a hitch."
Naruto paused. "That, that wasn't entirely what I was talking about."
Santa blinked. "What?"
Naruto glanced uneasily at Danzo, or rather, at the shoulder covered by the loose-hanging kimono. "Well, it's just, with Orochimaru gone, apparently, we needed to use something else as a substrate for your body..."
Danzo grinned, patting the stump of his shoulder where his synthetic arm was once attached.
Santa pursued his lips, and then did philosophically speak, "Well, at least I'm not trapped in Jiraiya, that freak."
I I I
Christmas morning! A time of happiness and cheer.
Neji solemnly ignored the voice next to him.
"Hey! Neji! Don't ignore me!"
There was something in the petulance and fury of that sentence that reminded Neji of someone else, so Neji thought it would be good to respond.
"Yes?" He asked, turning to face the other man.
"Why am I here?" Konohamaru demanded.
Neji considered. "You should feel honored to be spending an important holiday with the main house of the prestigious Hyuuga clan."
"Yeah and I spend every day with the main house of the prestigious Sarutobi clan no matter what!" Konohamaru said, swatting that line of reasoning aside. "What I mean is why did you kidnap me!?"
Neji nodded with grace. "You were invited for Hanabi-sama's sake."
"Why did you kidnap me!?" Konohamaru repeated, savagely tugging on the ropes that held him in place.
"Just think of it as training." Neji sniffed. "Apparently you need it."
"I'll get you." Konohamaru swore. "I don't know how but I'll get you, and good."
"It's Christmas!" Hanabi cheered, pulling her father along into the open living room, where Neji and the captive Konohamaru were waiting, pulling her father along by the hand.
"Hanabi-sama." Neji said, bowing. He reached over, and pushed Konohamaru's seating pillow forward, sliding the other boy towards the staring girl. "Merry Christmas."
"Eeee!" Hanabi said, clapping her hands together. "Thank you thank you thank you!"
She darted forward, and Konohamaru let out a strangled gasp as she shoulder-planted right into his stomach, before levering him up onto her shoulder and taking off back towards her room.
Hiashi and Neji made eye contact.
Slowly, Hiashi turned and shuffled away.
Neji nodded in satisfaction.
I I I
Naruto sighed, lowering himself into the chair in his apartment. Somehow, he always used up a lot of chakra on Christmas, and now he was very tired.
There was a clatter in his kitchen, and he looked up.
"Oh, you're back." Tenten said, with a spatula in her hand, and an apron tied on.
Naruto blinked. "Good morning."
Tenten shifted. "Good morning to you too."
Naruto waved his hand vaguely. "This..."
Tenten shifted, slightly uncertain. "Well, I just... wanted to make you breakfast."
For the space of a breath, Naruto didn't move, he was still, he was motionless.
"Tenten," he said, "You are precious to me. And thank you."
Tenten blushed, looking aside. "Y-you're welcome. And, thank you, too." She turned, and walked back towards the kitchen. "Ah, since I haven't gotten the chance yet, I want to say it before anyone else:
Naruto smiled, so broadly it felt like his cheeks were stretching. "Merry Christmas." He said back.
I I I
Danzo slumped in his chair, exhausted and annoyed. He would have been even more annoyed if he'd known how closely his body language matched Naruto's at that exact moment.
There was something solid digging into his back.
Danzo reached behind himself, and pulled out an oblong present.
The wrapping paper was now bright green, with that same red bow, but, it was still certainly the present that Sai had given him. With Naruto's advice.
With a grunt, Danzo unwrapped it, and gazed at the contents within.
A book. Danzo thought about Sai, and then thought, of course.
He checked the title.
How to Win Friends and Influence People.
'That Damn Naruto!' He thought, feeling the urge to throw the book against the wall.
But he did not.
And for a ninja with a sharingan, were to inspect his chakra for color,
And to look past the exhaustion that made it look slightly duller,
Such a ninja would see that it was not two shades to dark,
But just a shade-and-a-half, for his spirit did grow on this lark.
I I I