Disclaimer: the Naruto characters are property of Masashi Kishimoto and Shonen Jump. This is purely a fan-based work.
Hey babies :) I'm making a holiday-themed fic, just for you~! PS The temperature is given in celcius, but for those of us from the states, the equivalent is "around 30 degrees farenheit."
In all her years, Haruno Sakura had never seen it snow.
She grew up in Suna, a country notorious for being warm year-round. The temperature occasionally hit 0 degrees, but it never coincided with rain. The weather was only crisp and cold whenever a cold front decided to roll in, and this only happened around the week before Christmas or so. When Sakura was accepted to Konoha University with a full ride, she was thrilled. She would finally be able to experience snow! She excitedly bought winter garb on clearance before moving into her dorm her first semester there. But that first semester rolled by with not a single day below 5 degrees.
Sakura packed her winter clothes away and moved into an apartment with her friends, hoping for the next holiday season to be colder.
Today was Christmas Eve. It was cold, but the forecast proudly proclaimed a measly 10% chance of rain.
Another white Christmas without the white.
Sakura inwardly sighed, reaching up towards a can of green beans. She lived with three other girls, and they were currently preparing Christmas dinner. But, of course, Ino-pig had forgotten to pick up groceries the other day, and Sakura, being the only one of them with no knowledge of how to prepare a turkey, had been selected to go buy their last-minute ingredients. Her cart currently held potatoes, apples for pie, ginger for wassail, a spatula to replace the one Tenten had broken earlier, and various seasonings and spices, along with creamer and an assortment of coffee and tea for Hinata's and Ino's late-night caffeine fixes.
She picked up a few more green bean cans and placed them in her cart, eyes already falling onto her shopping list to glance over it. She'd just gotten the last item she needed, so she began angling her way towards the dismally-long check-out lines.
Then, something happened that she could never have imagined.
"Oi, Sakura, is that you?"
Eyes widening, Sakura wheeled around to see familiar, excited blue eyes boring into her own startled green ones.
"N-Naruto?" she asked.
"Sakura!" She found herself enveloped in a warm embrace, and forgetting her cart, she laughed and warmly hugged the blonde. Naruto's build was ideal for sports, but as she had heard it, he wanted to become a general in the Konoha Army.
She and Naruto went way back. Lazy summer days spent at a camp in Konoha flooded her memory, and she smiled brightly as she pulled away to face the boy.
"I can't believe this!" she said. "I thought you were off at that military boot camp in Kumo!"
"Oh, I already got moved up! I got re-located here just a few weeks ago! I'm staying with Sasuke until I can find my own place!"
She stiffened a bit upon hearing Sasuke's name, but nonetheless nodded her head.
"I see. You should check out the apartment complex I live in. It's pretty affordable, especially if you're splitting rent."
"Oh, you're living with Ino, right?"
Sakura nodded again, hand waving at her cart.
"Yeah, along with a few others. Maybe you know them?" She thought carefully. "You were at... Sarutobi's school, right?"
"Yeah,Hokage High School," he laughed, raising his arms and waving them back and forth. "The Hidden Leaf Whirlwinds!"
They shared a laugh, and Sakura's heart was a lot lighter suddenly, like all the responsibilities she'd had since becoming an adult had faded away. Naruto had that effect on people.
"Did you know Tenten and Hinata?" she asked.
"Yeah!" he said happily. "I graduated with Hinata. We were... Well, it's a long story, but I was actually gonna try and hang out with her sometime."
Sakura blinked, then grinned widely. So NARUTO was the secret crush the other girls had teased Hinata about. The "golden soldier boy" she'd confessed to. And if his goofy grin was any indication...
"Why don't you come over for dinner?" she offered. "There's plenty of food, and I'll bet there's some ramen lying around."
Naruto's eyes lit up.
"Whoa, really?!" he asked excitedly. "Man, Sasuke and I were just gonna have some lame T.V. dinner things! This is great! Lemme call him and let him - Oh." He stopped abruptly, phone already half-way to his ear. "Uhh... Is Sasuke invited?"
Sakura smiled sincerely, even if her long-time crush's name made her heart throb painfully.
"Mistletoe~~~!" sang Sakura, pointing above Naruto's head. He and Hinata had been talking softly in the kitchen, and Ino had taken the opportunity to tape the festively-decorated mistletoe above their place on the couch, ignoring Sasuke's chastising comments and Tenten's mock-horrified gasp. Sakura shushed them as soon as the two came back in carrying pies. They put them on the table, and Ino quickly hopped up to serve, insisting they sit on the couch.
And they naively complied.
"Whaaaat?!" cried Naruto, mouth wide as he looked up. Hinata covered her face with her hands, already turning pink, and Naruto flailed. "How could you DO this to me, Sakura, Sasuke?" he whined. "Mistletoe's a dirty trick!"
With a quick glower in Ino's way, he leaned over and lightly kissed Hinata's cheek, then stood.
"Now get me a piece of app-"
Naruto turned in time to see the girl collapse onto the couch. In typical Naruto fashion, he dramatically freaked out until she woke up.
Sakura laughed, but even so, she couldn't shake the nervous butterflies in her stomach.
Because on the chair beside hers sat Sasuke, the boy she'd fervently loved since a young age.
A boy who'd rejected her feelings a few years ago, but who she still loved.
She glanced over at him now. He was nonchalantly leaning back in his chair, cup of steaming coffee virtually untouched. His eyes carefully watched over Naruto and Hinata. He cared, but he showed it through actions. It had taken years before she had recognized his taunts and insults had been compliments (or at least acknowledgements, in Naruto's case). For instance, right now he was watching over his friend, the way Sakura knew she would watch Naruto when they were younger and she had to make sure he didn't get them into trouble at camp. (Which never worked out, by the way.)
Sasuke had changed, just like Naruto had said. She smiled at the thought.
Then his eyes snapped to meet hers, and her heart nearly exploded from all the emotions that immediately poured through her veins. Affection, bitterness, rebellion, hopelessness, helplessness, strength, longing, sadness, hopefulness - all these emotions flooded her mind and soul, and it was all she could do to look away, to try her best to stopper them before he noticed.
But it didn't help. He always noticed, no matter how hard she tried to hide her feelings. She saw him shift in her peripheral, leaning as if to speak to her, and she felt suddenly panicked. She stood abruptly. Her friends all looked expectantly at her, and concern immediately covered Ino's face.
"I'm sorry," she said (somewhat breathlessly), unable to meet anyone's eyes. Especially the dark-haired boy's trained on her back. "I-It's... It's hot, I need to step outside."
"Well, okay..." Ino's voice drifted into the other room as Sakura practically ran to the door. "Do you want company?"
"No!" she called over her shoulder. "I mean... No." She closed the door behind her and hurried down the apartment stairs, and then she did break into a run, dashing outside the complex and to the park a few blocks down. Her feet crunched against the wood chips as she finally slowed to catch her breath.
She plopped down on the swing set and cupped her face in her hands. The temperature had dropped significantly, and she couldn't help but shiver. She hadn't thought to bring a jacket in her frantic rush to get away from the whirlwind of emotions Sasuke brought out in her.
She sighed, running her hands along her arms as she began kicking her feet. The swing slowly rocked up and down and back and down again, and she held onto the sides and swung her legs more. Up, up, up she went, until her anxiety had been replaced by childish glee, and she happily laughed aloud and squealed as she soared ever higher.
Sasuke had changed, but she hadn't, not much. She was the same girl who gave in to whimsy and preferred following her heart rather than rules. The truth was, she hadn't seen Sasuke in months, not since the last time they'd awkwardly had lunch together. It wasn't that he hadn't tried - as awkward as it had felt, spending time together even with Sakura's rejected feelings still on the table - Sasuke knew as well as she did that they needed to keep their relationship (or whatever semblance of "friendship" it still contained) alive. They had known each other just as long as they'd both known Naruto. Their bonds were for a lifetime, and then some. And they needed to mend it, or at least maintain it.
But she had made excuses. "Oh, I have to work late at the hospital tonight!" or "Ino and I have plans to go out-of-town this weekend" or "I already ate, maybe next time!" She'd turned Sasuke down a million times, and then some. Because it had gotten to the point where even seeing him briefly made her insane, made her experience every emotion she'd had ten times stronger than ever before, made it hard to breathe without a thousand words trying to force their way out - words about vulnerability and heartbreak and hope and tears and two words, two words and an unspoken rejection, but she needed to HEAR IT, not just ASSUME IT, and-
-and suddenly her nose was wet.
She stopped swinging her legs and looked up.
Raindrops hit her eyelashes.
Her eyes widened as she started slowing down, her legs no longer swinging.
It wasn't raining.
It was snowing.
She let out a squeal of mirth and hopped off the swing, flying before landing ungracefully and giggling. Hands outstretched, Sakura's wide green eyes delighted in seeing real snow. It melted to the touch, but it stuck to the ground, and she began childishly stomping on any gathered snow she could. The cold and Sasuke suddenly didn't matter anymore. She twirled and released her tension and anger and sadness, no longer needing to vent it. She immersed herself in the dream she'd had since being a young girl, of spinning in swirling snowflakes and not caring about anything else, of running with her arms out, yelling happily, flinging her arms in a wild dance around her, of seeing white drift and flow all around her, of being kissed by frozen raindrops and sticking her tongue out to taste the fresh, startlingly cold snow as it melted in her mouth.
She must have been outside for a while, because by the time Sasuke got there, the snow had blanketed the entire playground in a thin sheet of powdery white. Sakura heard him approaching and knew who it was before she saw him because of the way his feet crunched softly on the snow and wood chips. He always sounded so careful with his footfalls. Not scared, but meticulous - every step was planned, had a purpose behind it, and was for a higher goal. Everything he did and said - it always had an ulterior motive behind it. That was part of who Sasuke was, something she couldn't change and something she loved about him.
"Sakura," he said, and she turned to face him. Her cheeks were red from the cold, and she was shivering, her little long-sleeved sweater and warm-up pants not nearly enough to keep her warm in the cold. Sasuke continued approaching until he was only a meter or so away from her. He tossed something at her; she caught it. It was warm and big.
"Put it on or you'll get sick."
After a moment of hesitation, she did as he had asked, sliding the coat on. It was big, and warm, and smelled like coffee beans and ash.
"So whose is that?" she asked, smiling softly, indicating the coat he wore.
"Tch. It's the dobe's."
She giggled. She put his coat on, immediately drinking in his scent in spite of herself. He looked expectantly at her, and she stood, sliding off the steps to the jungle gym and taking slow steps towards him. His eyes immediately fell upon her hands, which were cupped behind her.
"Sakura," he said suspiciously, "What-"
The snowball hit him square in the chest.
Sakura grinned as Sasuke's eyes narrowed. He turned around and her smile fell.
"Sasuke... I just-"
"Come on," he said sharply, turning to walk behind the slides. For a moment, she thought she might cry - and how many times had that happened before - but then a smile curled her lips up and she ducked to dodge Sasuke's snowball. Laughing, she ran around, cold hands gathering loose snow from the playground equipment as she and Sasuke exchanged blows. She gasped in delight when she managed to land a hit on his face and he let out a yell of surprise. It hadn't hit hard enough to leave a bruise, but she had caught him off-guard. The bombardment she was hit with afterwards was well worth it. And when they'd used all the immediate snow, Sasuke proceeded to chase her all the way back to the apartment complex.
They finally stopped when they'd reached the door and there was nowhere else to run.
"Sakura," gasped Sasuke. They were both out of breath, leaning over, exhausted, and the snow was falling more heavily now, twirling gracefully in the wind. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head.
"It doesn't matter anymore."
She knew he wouldn't pry, so she was surprised when he did.
"Then you can tell me."
She sighed, then met his eyes.
"I think you can figure it out."
Sasuke looked out at the buildings across the way, leaning forwards against the railing.
"I'm sorry. You know I am. I wasn't in my right mind. You know that."
She laughed bitterly.
"You think this is about that?" She shook her head and leaned her back against the railing, facing the wall and the window looking into her apartment. The blinds were drawn, but you could still see the faint glow of warm, welcome lighting and hear voices and laughter ringing from inside. The door was decorated with Christmas lights, which someone (probably Hinata, since she was most excited about decorating and keeping up the holiday festivities) had plugged in. Inside, there was a beautifully-decorated tree with presents littering the floor around it. "I never blamed you for that."
"Then what IS it about?"
She couldn't look at him.
A lull in the conversation followed.
"I'm sorry for that, too."
"It's not you," she said. "I just never could... Throw those feelings away."
She felt his eyes on her then.
She nodded, unable to verbalize her feelings. A simple "yes" couldn't possibly begin to encompass the ways her love for him had grown and morphed.
They shared a few moments of silence together then, and Sakura felt they had never understood each other more than in those few seconds.
Then Sakura stepped away from the railing, away from him, and smiled.
"Let's not let this get in the way tonight. We can talk about it another time."
"Another time?" His tone was dark, and the moment was shattered. She wheeled around in time for their eyes to meet, startled green and intense black. "You mean like all the times we've met these past few months?"
"You don't have to RUN from me, Sakura. Not anymore." She hadn't noticed she was backpedaling to the wall until she hit it. He took a step forward.
"I know I've done things... I've hurt you, and that will never go away. We can't erase those things, and I'm sorry, I really am, and I would change everything if I could."
"But I can't. I just want to change what we have NOW. I don't want to keep screwing things over."
And he stopped.
"But I need you," he said slowly, "to meet me halfway."
He didn't stretch out his hands. His words weren't elegant, and he wasn't promising anything.
But neither had the weather.
She hesitantly reached her own hand forward, and THEN he did as well. Her hand in his. Equal. Finally.
"I'm just so scared," she admitted. "I don't want to be... You have no idea how hard it was, and-"
He tugged her forward, and suddenly she found herself in his arms, wrapped tightly around her.
"I probably will hurt you again. I can't... Say that I won't."
She slowly hugged him back.
"You'll try not to, though, right?"
That was all she needed to hear.
He released her first, and she let go as well. She lightly grabbed one of his hands and gently squeezed. For a moment, he seemed unsure of himself. Then he tentatively squeezed back. She grinned and let go of his hand, tuning around to open the door. He followed her in.
They both knew they were in trouble when they heard snickering and found everyone hanging about the doorway.
"Well, well, well," purred Ino as Sasuke closed the door behind them. "Have a nice time?"
Sasuke glared at her and Naruto burst into laughter.
"Your faces are priceless!"
Sakura met Ino's bright blue mischievous eyes, then Tenten's honey-colored amused ones (she winked) and finally Hinata's guilty pearl ones.
Guilty pearl eyes that trailed up above them to the top of the doorway-
Sakura looked up.
"Pucker up, you two!"
Outside, the snow still fell, and Sakura could live with a White Christmas Eve.
happy holidays, everyone!
I don't ever get snow where I live, but I hope that whether you do or don't, you have a safe and splendid Christmas (or your equivalent this season) and an even better New Year!