Authors Note: I'm going to be honest, I forgot to write the epilogue. An epilogue was originally planned but for some reason it got lost along the way and I just never wrote it. I am terribly sorry that it happened.
This is not Beta'd. There wasn't enough time, and it's the holiday season. So please excuse the errors.
It Wasn't Me, It was the Voice
Chapter 12 Epilogue
A few years later
Hinata stood nervously in front of the imposing doors her hands clasped in front of her. Fearfully, she stared up at the institution looming before her, it's great mass blocking out the sun. Suddenly a gust of wind blew through, sending billows of snow up into her face. Cold, she clutched the collar of her thick black winter coat close in hopes of blocking out the biting wind.
"I know you'll do great today." A cautious voice spoke from behind her.
"I don't want to fail him." Hinata spoke, her voice gentle. She didn't bother to turn around, even as he stepped closer.
"You've been working for this for years...ever since..." He cleared his throat and the sound of keys clinking traveled in the wind. "You won't fail him Hinata. Naruto would be proud."
At that, she turned around, a small smile ghosting her lips. "Thank you Kiba." She whispered and tucked a strand of her long hair behind one ear. "For everything."
Relieved at her smile, Kiba grinned and nodded. "Just do your best okay? That's all you can do." He stepped closer and leaned down to match her height.
"I know." She offered him another smile then wrapped her arms around him in a cautious hug. "First day jitters."
Immediately Kiba hugged back. "I'll pick you up around six then we'll order from your favorite Italian restaurant and you can tell me all about your day okay?" He pressed a kiss to her temple.
Relieved, Hinata nodded and leaned up to press a quick kiss to his lips. "I'd love that. Thank you." She whispered before stepping away and walking up to the front doors.
"I love you, Mrs. Inuzuka." He called after her, his heart swelling with pride as he watched his wife walk into the building.
At that Hinata beamed as her heart swelled with love and turned around and waved. "I love you too Mr. Inuzuka!" She grinned and marched through the front doors with her head held high.
Jiraya sat in a high backed chair in front of the roaring fireplace in his living room with his gaze locked onto the embers. He was entranced by the flames and watched as they danced, each and everyone burning bright and strong. He didn't blink when Sebastian covered his legs with a blanket, he didn't even acknowledge the maids presence when she brought in the tea trolley, he didn't even flick his gaze when one of the servants stoked the fire. He just sat there and stared at the flames.
"You know old man, it's almost Christmas." Kyuubi began, his voice soft. "Naruto never got to experience Christmas. Well...not a proper one anyway."
Jiraiya didn't respond. He just sat there and blinked.
"I miss him." Kiba sighed, and for once he genuinely seemed sad. "He was one of my favorites you know. Bright young thing. Too bad he had to go and kill himself."
Jiraiya's breathing hitched slightly at the mention of Naruto.
"That was never in my plans." Kyuubi sighed. "I miss him. I was planning on us marrying Hinata one day you know. And impregnating her so that our kids would be half demons. Can you imagine that? Cute little demon babes with Naruto's blue eyes and Hinata's dark hair..." He sounded almost wistful at the thought.
Slowly, Jiraiya's eyes glazed over as he focused on Kyuubi's voice in his head.
"You're not nearly as fun as Naruto old man." Kyuubi muttered darkly. "You don't even speak. You just sit there. Day after day staring at whatever those fools put you in front of. Naruto was better. I wish he didn't kill himself then I'd still be in him instead of locked inside your decrepit old form. Can't leave till you die, can't take over your body-shit this is worse than being locked in that fucking box."
A ghost of a smile tugged at Jiraiya's chapped lips.
"Did you know Naruto use to talk to me?" Kyuubi continued, his voice lightening to a happy note. "We use to stay up all night sometimes just talking...about EVERYTHING." He chuckled. "I was the one he turned to for advice you know. Me. He would ask me about everything-girls, friends, foods-hell even-"
Just then the door opened and Kakashi walked into the room and knelt beside Jiraiya who only blinked and shed a single tear. Slowly, he grabbed a Kleenex from the table beside him and dabbed at the tear streak. "I'm sorry Jiraya." Kakashi apologized for the thousandth time. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry doesn't change much does it?" Kyuubi asked, a sad lit to his voice. "Sorry doesn't bring Naruto back."
Sebastian slowly walked up the snow covered path of the cemetery, his body working on automatic as his mind replayed memories of the past. He remembered the first time he met Naruto, he remembered the late night tutoring sessions and the sheer amount of frustration the blonde teenager brought him. And then he remembered why. Why he put up with the the job, why he didn't quit. He remembered that it was the most fun he had in a long time. He remembered waking up at five in the morning to find his charge half way down the guttering, he remembered all the weird, half-assed text messages of apology Naruto would send him at all hours.
Before he knew it he was standing in front of the large, impressive grave marker. Kakashi had asked him to help choose an appropriate grave marker, together they selected a large monument with angel wings and had Naruto's name, date of birth and death followed by his parents names carved into the stone.
"Hey." A deep voice to his right spoke.
Surprised, Sebastian stared wide eyed at the man beside him before nodding in acknowledgement. "Asuma. Hello." His voice was rough, he was on the verge of tears.
"Hello to you too Sebastian." Kurenai greeted from Asuma's other side. From head to toe she was bundled up in winter clothes to ward off the cold winter air.
"Kurenai." He nodded but only glanced at her. He was too focused on the grave marker in front of him. Even after all these years he still missed Naruto.
"It's been years and it's still hard to believe he's really gone." Asuma murmured. Sebastian looked at the man beside him, really looked, and for the first time saw just how old Asuma had gotten. The years hadn't been kind to the man, his skin sagged and he had wrinkles around his eyes, his beard had splotches of grey showing through and his hair, which was hidden under a hat, looked a great deal thinner. Quietly, Asuma dug around in his pockets to fish out a beaten up cartridge of cigarettes and lighter. Wordlessly he gave one to Kurenai then lit one up himself. Sebastian stared at his worn hands which, over the years grew scared and wrinkled.
"Sometimes I still think I'll find him in bed sleeping when I clean his room." Sebastian spoke up his voice shaky.
"Nothing's changed." Kurenai asked as she took a drag, filling her lungs with nicotine.
Sebastian kneeled down in front if the grave marker and placed the flowers on the ground. "Not a single thing." He closed his eyes and placed one hand on the grave marker. "Everything in the house is almost the exact same ever since Naruto died."
No one said anything for a few seconds, they all just listened to the silence and let the snowfall, covering their heads and coats in snow. Slowly, Sebastian stood up when the snow began to seep into his knees and chill his bones. With a sigh, he dusted off his coat and slacks before looking at the two people standing beside him.
He had heard that Kurenai wasn't faring well, but he didn't really believe it. It's been years since he actually saw her, and even longer since he actually looked at her. From what Asuma told him, she had gotten lung cancer, and from the looks of her it was true. Her pallor was frighteningly pale, lips chapped and all around, she didn't look healthy. And still she carried on smoking.
Morbidly fascinated, Sebastian stared as she slowly, hand shaking, brought the cigarette to her chapped lips and took a deep drag, hallowing her pale, frost bitten cheeks. He watched as she slowly exhaled, the smoke slowly streaming out of her nostrils and between her parted lips.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp jab in his ribs. "Don't stare, butler boy." Asuma admonished half heartedly before turning and slowly walking back down the path.
"I'm no longer a boy." Sebastian retorted halfheartedly.
"That you aren't." Asuma mumbled and turned his head to blow the smoke out of his mouth as he led the way down, Kurenai and Sebastian following.
"How's Jiraya holding up?" Kurenai asked, her voice raspy.
Wordlessly Sebastian held out his arm for Kurenai to take and brace herself on as they walked down the slick path. "He hasn't changed."
"Still has that...demon...in him?"
Sebastian nodded. "Apparently they've sealed it inside him...can't come out till he dies."
"You know what I never understood?" Asuma turned to look at Sebastian, hands shoved inside his pant pockets, cigarette balanced on one side of his mouth. "Why, of all people, did that demon choose Jiraya to go inside?"
"I don't know...I wasn't there." Sebastian glanced around at the empty cemetery. "But...I have been doing some...research." He looked up at the arch as they walked under it and onto the sidewalk. "Apparently there are signs you can get to ward off demon possession. My guess is Kakashi and that stranger had them."
"And what about Asuma and me? Why didn't it choose us?" Kurenai tightened her grip on his forearm as they walked towards where they parked as they walked through an icy patch.
"I don't know. I don't know why any of it happened." He took a deep breath. "Maybe it was maliciousness. Maybe because Jiraiya was already losing it? I don't know." He stopped at the rear of their SUV while she walked on, taking the key's from Asuma's outstretched hand.
Asuma nudged Sebastian's shoulder as he leaned against the body of the SUV. "Maybe it was just plain luck." He offered a smile.
Sebastian glanced over Asuma's shoulder to see Kurenai climbing inside the passenger seat of a black SUV. "Or maybe it just knew all of us better than we thought." He sighed and shook his head, scattering the bits of snow. "I should get going." He offered a handshake and nodded at Kurenai. "Take care."
"Yeah." Asuma clasped his hand in a strong grip and shook. "You too...and don't blame yourself kid. There was nothing you could have done." Asuma gave him a leveled look then nodded. "Don't be a stranger. You have our numbers." He offered Sebastian a warm smile then hopped in the drivers side of the SUV.
Sakura and Ino sat on the floor in front of the large Christmas tree with the fireplace lit warming their sides. They wore the dorkiest sweaters they owned, complete with Christmas trees and reindeer. All around them were piles and piles of presents, some wrapped some halfway wrapped. The entire living room was a mess, it looked like Christmas threw up with the wrapping paper, tinsel, bows and stockings thrown about.
"You know...the boys are taking an awfully long time to buy eggnog." Sakura commented and she leaned back on one arm and sipped at her wine. Absently she flexed her toes, staring at her holiday themed wool socks.
In front of her, just out of her reach sat Ino. "You know they'll at the liquor shop." She scowled and tied her long blonde hair up into a messy bun. "Besides, it's not like they're much help anyways. Here, help me wrap this one." She pulled over a sweater box and grabbed a bright red tube of wrapping paper. Wordlessly, Sakura set down her glass of wine and began to systematically wrap the box.
After a few seconds, she spoke. "Do you still miss him?" She asked quietly.
Ino looked up at her best friend through her fringe. She took in the sad, green eyes, messy pink hair and slim features. "Of course I do, Sakura." Absently, she stuck a piece of tape onto the box. "We didn't know him long but...Naruto was a good friend you know? An amazing guy. You don't just forget people like that you know?"
Sakura nodded and sighed. "I just wish there was something I could have done...I mean he hid it from us. We could have helped h-"
"Could we have?" Ino cut her off, her voice level. "Think about what you're saying Sakura. We were in highschool. He had a fucking demon trapped inside him. He was hearing a voice in his head-do you really think we could have helped him?"
Sakura stared down at the neatly wrapped gift in front of her. The paper had Happy Christmas scrawled all over it with little baubles and specks. "The initiates will have their final test after the holiday season is over." She mumbled, twisting her fingers. "They are all so young...they are all Naruto's age when he..."
"You trained them Sakura." Ino spoke, her voice reassuring. "You know everything about demons and spells and-God Sakura you taught them everything you possibly could. It's up to them now."
Sadly, Sakura nodded. "Do you ever think that if something like this was around before Naruto could have been saved?"
"Sakura...it's because of Naruto that we created this organization." Ino smiled down at her best friend. "If it wasn't for him none of us would have even known about all of this...this..." She waved her free hand in the air. "Supernatural, bat-shit-crazy stuff existed."
"I know its just-to think that he died because of a demon...something that we know all about now. How many people have we saved since his death? Why couldn't he be the first one we saved?"
Ino remained silent for a minute before pushing the wrapped package away. "I honestly dont know Sakura...why does anything happen? Why didn't he tell us he had a demon in him? Why didn't we push him to confide in us? Why did he even touch the box in the first place?" She wiped the tears streaming down her face. "But thanks to him we now know all that we do. We can now save so many people because of him-how many kids have we saved from becoming possessed? How many demons have we gotten out of people? How many kids no longer live in fear of the monster in their closet, Sakura? Yes. Naruto's gone. But it's because of him that we now save so many people from living the life that he did."
"But was it worth his death?" Sakura whispered and stared down at the half empty wine glass in her hands. "How many people do we have to save before my heart stops feeling guilty?"
"That's the thing about life Sakura." Ino sighed and rubbed at her face. "The guilt doesn't stop. It just becomes easier to deal with over time."
After a few seconds of silence, they heard the front door open and two men walk in. Quickly, Ino jumped up and leaned against the doorframe, watching as Shikamaru and Sasuke shed their winter coats, boots, hats and gloves in the foyer.
"And where have you boys been?" Ino asked , her voice slightly rough as soon as they finished hanging up their coats.
"Got a call about a possible cursed kettle." Shikamaru answered as he leaned down and kissed her cheek before walking into the kitchen. "Hey Sakura." He greeted as he went about making coffee.
"And what? Couldn't call?" Ino persisted, trailing after Shikamaru to lean against the countertop.
"Didn't feel like calling." Sasuke as he brushed past her and sat beside Sakura to warm by the fireplace.
"So you're just going to let me sit here and worry?" Sakura asked as she leaned up and kissed his cheek before hugging him.
"You've got nothing to worry about." He murmured and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her to his chest. "I'm always coming back."
Shikamaru clicked the 'on' switch on the coffee percolator then turned to face Ino. "Were you crying?" Shikamaru asked and gently cupped Ino's face, his thumb gently rubbing under her swollen eye.
"No...yes. A little." She chuckled and blinked then pressed her cheek into his cold palm. "We were talking about Naruto."
At that he let out a long sigh and pulled her into his chest. "Not the best idea you two have had all night is it?" He asked as he pressed a kiss onto the top of her head. With practiced ease he rubbed long, soothing circles into her back and slid his other hand to massage the back of her neck.
Ino inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent she knew so well. He smelled of the cold wind and the faint lingering scent of their soap. "Just thinking that if we-"
"Don't." He cut her off. "Don't play the 'what if' or 'maybe' or 'if we could have' game. It won't do any good." He pulled away and pressed a quick kiss to her lips. "Now come on, help me with the coffee. Sasuke and I are half frozen from out there."
In the livingroom, Sakura had settled herself comfortably against Sasuke's chest while he leaned against the ottoman and finished off the remainder of her wine. "So was the kettle cursed?" She asked as he wrapped one arm around her stomach, his fingers fiddling with the hem of her sweater.
"No. Just a paranoid old woman." Sasuke rolled his eyes and accepted the mug of hot coffee Ino held out to him. "But there was a cursed ruby."
"Did you take care of it?" Ino asked as she took her seat beside Shikamaru, who opted to lay on the ground, his head propped up on a pile of cushions with his coffee balancing on his stomach.
"Yup. Dropped it off at HQ for them to lock it in the vault." Sasuke answered as he kicked aside some tubes of wrapping paper.
"Kakashi was there...sometimes I think he never leaves." Shikamaru said before yawning. Absently, he looked around the room before settling his gaze on the Christmas tree. "Maybe we should buy him a tree."
On the other side of town, in a small quaint house with the living room television on and lighting dim, sat Hinata and Kiba. They sat cuddled together on the couch, lost in a pile of blankets and pillows with Hinata's head on his chest and his head propped up. In front of them on the coffee table sat discarded dishes and boxes of take-out. That evening Kiba had let Hinata decided what movie to watch, so of course it was a Hallmark, holiday movie.
Suddenly, Kiba's mobile blared to life. He fumbled for a few seconds before Hinata sat up, allowing him room to move.
With a sigh, he answered. "Hello? Investigative Corp, Inuzuka speaking how may I help you?"
After a few tense moments he rolled his eyes and Hinata stretched her arms over head before settling back against the couch and watching the film. After years of being married she was use to this exact situation.
"Okay, calm down. Do not touch the chest. Do you hear me Sir? Don't touch the chest." As he spoke, he pulled out another mobile and began texting. "Yes. Just leave the room. What's your address? Right, okay. In about half an hour two people will be around to take care of it. Okay? Relax. As long as you don't touch the chest everything will be fine." He glanced at Hinata to see her motioning for the mobile.
Wordlessly he handed it to her and she continued texting where he left off.
The man is distraught. Best send a female along with the guys just in case. She added in before sending the message just as Kiba stood up.
"Like I said Sir, please be calm. They are on their way. They know what they are doing." He gestured to the phone and stuck out his tongue. "Right-right-yes, okay. Goodnight Sir. You're welcome." He hung up. "We really need those initiates to hurry up and get initiated already." Kiba grumbled, tossing both mobiles onto the couch. "I'm sick of playing secretary."
At his remark Hinata laughed and strolled into the kitchen to grab the bottle of wine. "I know, so am I but it's good that we're getting calls though."
"And emails, and messages, post, and text messages-hell I'm fairly certain there are carrier pigeons coming our way." Kiba drawled as he sank back down into the couch and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table.
"At least we know the website is reaching our target audience now."
"Now?" He repeated as wrapped his arm around her shoulders as she settled in against his side with the bottle of wine between them. "We've known it's been working since...well since it was launched how many years ago." He kissed the top of her head affectionately. "So how was it? Going back?"
She didn't answer immediately, but when she did her voice was soft. "It was...diffrent. Things changed...there was more regulations than last time...staff changed...and yet things were the same. It still had that comforting, healing, everything will be alright sort of feel to the place."
"And your patents?"
"Doctor patient confidentiality." She murmured but smiled nevertheless. "Some are difficult...but I feel like I can really help them you know?"
"I know." Kiba smiled. "Doctor Inuzuka." He grinned and nuzzle her neck. "I love calling you that. You earned the title."
Hinata smiled contentedly and let out a soft sigh. "Last time I was there was because of Naruto." She stated quietly.
Beside her Kiba stiffened, but nodded, encouraging her to talk. He knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time.
"They had him locked away. Away from all the other patients." She twisted her fingers around the neck of the wine bottle. "They had him so ignorant...because he heard a voice-because he was, in their eyes, severely mentally ill. So they treated him like-like-they treated him like he wasn't even human, Kiba." She looked up at him, tears brimming in her eyes. "God I hated that. I hated that they did that him, made him feel so-did you know he didnt even know what school was?" She babbled, the tears flowing freely down her face. "I never want anyone to feel like that again, to be that ignorant. Not if I can help it."
Kiba didn't say anything, instead he pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head and rubbed soothing circles and murmured sweet nothings into her ear. He knew Naruto's death hit Hinata the hardest. But he also knew that she would take her pain and try to make a good out of it. While everyone else decided to create Investigative Corp to save as many lives as possible from the supernatural world, Hinata focused on becoming a Psychologist and vowed to do everything she could to change the way people with psychotic disorders were treated. She was going to do everything in her power to make sure that no one would have to grow up like Naruto because of something they couldn't control.
Kakashi answered the phone. "Hello?
"Yes, one moment." He placed the person on hold then turned around to face the vast, sprawling library behind him. Casually he strolled to one of the many bookcases, looked over the shelves then selected an old, leatherbound book. He then flipped it open and began to read while walking back to the large desk.
"Yes, hello? Okay you are going to want to make sure you have a pen and paper for this one. You don't want to mess up the spell alright?"
He paused for a moment while he waited for the person on the other end to grab a pen and paper while he settled back down into his large, high backed, leather swivel chair. Absently he flicked on the readling light on the desk. "You ready? Okay good, you'll need, at minimum, a gallon of holy water..." And so he read off the list of ingredients and how to use them to the operative nervously scribbling.
As soon as he hung up, the front doors burst open and in walked a large, snow covered pine tree.
"The hell?" Kakashi scowled from behind the desk as he closed the old book.
"We brought you a tree." Sakura smiled as she shook off its of snow clinging to her coat.
"I can see that."
"And decorations." She held up some bags bursting with bright bits and baubles peaking out of the top.
"We thought you could use some cheering up." Ino said with a smile as she placed her bags on the nearest table. "So we bought a tree, decorations, and eggnog."
"We brought the tree." Sasuke repeated, struggling with which direction he was suppose to go. "You girls didn't even open the door." He scowled as he and Shikamaru gave up and just hefted the tree and leaned it against the corner while Sakura and Ino ran back out the front doors to get the rest of the supplies from the car.
Kakashi watched the two young men shrug off their winter coats and haphazardly toss them onto the coat rock before speaking. "What do you all seriously think you're doing? It's snowing and-you all should be at home. Watching a movie or something."
Sasuke didn't answer but instead made his way over to the roll cart filled with various types of alcohol.
"It's the holiday season." Shikamaru answered vaguely as he slowly stoked the fire, making it roar and produce more heat. "We thought we should all come down, give you a hand with the holiday rush, and decorate the place a little."
Before Kakashi could answer, in stumbled Ino and Sakura with their arms filled with more bags. "Well don't give us a hand or anything." Ino quipped, kicking the door closed behind them.
"Consider it payback for not helping with the damn tree." Sasuke muttered before taking a shot of whiskey then grabbing a few of the bags. "Geez...did you two clean out the store or something?" He asked as he nosed through a few of the bags. "I'm not an expert, but isn't there suppose to be a color theme?"
"We wanted options." Ino answered cryptically before she snatched the packages of multicolored baubles out of Shikamaru's hands. "Besides, this place has like a thousand rooms. Each one can be a different theme!"
At her words Shikamaru met Sasuke's gaze in horror. Each room! He mouthed in fear.
Fuck no! Sasuke mouthed back and glanced at Kakashi who only shook his head and pretend to work on something important.
In actuality he was watching the scene with amusement. Both Sakura and Ino had emptied the contents of several of the bags out onto a few of the wooden tables and were enthusiastically going through the mess. Meanwhile, Sasuke and Shikamaru had resigned themselves to fighting with the tree again, they had decided on putting the ridiculously large tree near the fire.
"Go left, LEFT!" Sasuke shouted before getting hit in the face with a branch poking out of the plastic netting.
"THIS IS LEFT!" Shikamaru shouted back and stopped. "Do you mean fucking RIGHT?!"
"Maybe-just-NOT closer to the damn FIRE!" Sasuke roared and took a step back while Shikamaru readjusted his grip. Wearily he eyed the dancing flames near his left.
"Please do not burn each other to death over a tree." Kakashi said from behind the desk, eyes glued to the computer screen as he typed. "The paper work would be astronomical. Not to mention incredibly difficult to explain to the police."
"Nice to know you care." Sasuke quipped.
"Where's the damn pot?" Shikamaru asked as he moved right and slowly put the tree down, once again giving Sasuke a mouth full of pine tree.
"You damn bastard." Sasuke grumbled and glared at Sakura who merely waved at them in amusement in amusement.
"You boy's mean this?" She held up the dark green tree base. "Probably should have gotten this ready before hand, no?"
"Don't be cute." He scowled and held out his hand for the tree base. "Let's just put this thing up already."
After five minutes of swearing, several mouthfulls of tree, and only one dramatic outburst, the tree was finally standing tall near the fireplace. "Okay, where's the scissors?" Sasuke held out his hand. "I'm doing the honours."
"Want a drink?" Shikamaru asked as Ino handed Sasuke the scissors and wandered over to the roll cart.
"Love one." He said as he cut loose the plastic wrapping and watched as the branches expanded. As soon as he stepped back, Shikamaru handed him his drink. "Thanks. And now, we are done." He smiled and stepped back.
"What do you mean?" Ino emptied out another bag onto the pile of decorations, this time white fairy lights tumbled out. "You two are going to help decorate the tree."
"Yeah, no." Shikamaru shook his head. "You said help with the tree. We did. Job done."
"Key words being: help, with, tree. Job not done." Ino held up a pack of white and blue fairy lights. "I think white and blue would look nice."
"But red and gold is classic." Sakura held up red and gold baubles. "You can't go wrong with a classic."
"What do you two think?" Ino asked, her eyes landing on Shikamaru. "Red and gold, or white and blue?"
"How about you two leave us out of this?" Shikamaru asked and slunk down into the nearest chair, away from Ino who was emptying yet another bag onto the table.
"I like that idea." Sasuke muttered, picking up a pack of green fairy lights and twiddling with the box. "Besides, does it really matter? It's a tree."
Before anyone could say anything, Kakashi spoke. "I hate to burst your bubble, but you're suppose to let the branches drop before you decorate the tree." He pointed out from behind the safety of the desk.
No one said anything for a full five seconds.
Then they all shouted at once.
"See Ino! I told you, you couldn't do it immediately!"
"Don't you blame me, Shikamaru!" Ino stuck her finger in his face. "I told you we should have bought the tree days ago!"
"I said we should have bought a fake tree." Sasuke said as he pulled out a chair and sat down. "It would have solved all of the problems."
"Fake trees aren't festive." Sakura sighed and fiddled with a silver bauble. "But so what? Who's going to stop us decorating? The Christmas Police?"
Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her, then shrugged. "I suppose nothing is really stopping you."
"You?" She repeated and smiled. "You mean us." Her smile grew into a grin as she grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the chair. "Come on!" She shoved a box of red baubles into his hand then grabbed a pack of multi coloured fairy lights.
"Kakashi." She smiled and walked up to the desk. "You know you're itching to help." She pushed the box of fairy lights in front of him.
He smiled down at her, but shook his head. "You go ahea-"
"Come on Kakashi, we didn't do this for us-we miss you and want you to, you know, feel the spirit." She nodded at the tree. "If you join us you can put the tree topper on."
It was a pathetic bribe, but he nodded and opened the box. "For the tree topper." He smiled.
"For the tree topper." She agreed, smiling.
Within minutes the place came alive, everyone grabbed a bag and started decorating the tree. There was green baubles and white fairy lights, silver garland and gold tinsel, multicolored lights, all meshed together on the tree. There wasn't any order or pattern for the color, it was simply wherever there was an empty place, someone stuck some tinsel or lights in it.
It was the ugliest tree ever decorated.
"What the hell happened…?" Ino asked as she took a step back to stare up at the colorful monstrosity before her. It was a mess of lights, baubles, and garland. "I thought...who-oh my God guys...you're suppose to remove the sale tags before putting the decorations on!" She snatched up a star shaped bauble and ripped the tag off. "Shikamaru!"
"Hey, why do you assume it's me?"
"Because! It's always you!"
"It wasn't me this time!"
"My fault! Sorry about that." Sakura piped up and handed Kakashi one end of a string of lights and the other to Sasuke. "I must've absentmindedly done it. That was was pissing me off actually."
"See? Not me."
"How can a bauble piss you off?" Kakashi asked as he began walking backward to stretch the cord.
"I don't know...it kept falling and it was so blue-and I just slapped it on the tree and moved on."
Before Ino could retort, the phone started ringing. "Sorry about that, here." Kakashi handed Sakura his end of fairy lights then jogged to answer the phone. "Hello, Investigative Corp. Kakashi speaking. How may I help you?" Kakashi glanced up and caught Ino's eye. "Yes. Hold on one moment let-" Suddenly the phone was yanked from his grasp.
"My apologies." Sakura spoke into the receiver and waved Kakashi away while she casually walked towards the bookcases. "This is Sakura. Now, what may I help you with? Ah yes-is the spirit evil or just can't move on?" She strolled to the far left corner of one of the bookshelves and glanced over her shoulder to see Sasuke handing Kakashi a drink. "Yes. There is a difference between a regular spirit and an evil one Ma'am."
Kakashi sipped his drink and looked around at them all mulling about, warming by the fire, decorating the tree, and smiled. It hurt his heart that Naruto wasn't there, but he also knew that if it weren't for Naruto being gone, none of this would have happened. They wouldn't have known about this side of the world, they wouldn't have created this enterprise that helped people. They wouldn't have saved as many lives as they did.
It Wasn't Me, It was the Voice ~ End