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31 Days of December. Or, shinobi gift exchange.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

“Has anyone else heard of this?”

“No, maybe she made it up?”

“I think I read about it once, in a magazine in a dentist’s office a few years ago?”

“I don’t know, this seems like a lot of pressure.”

There was much mumbling and murmuring in the room in Hokage tower. Genin, chunin, and jonin alike were sitting and standing nervously. Well, as nervously as a room full of ninja could be. Which wasn’t saying much, or was it?

The door opened and Tsunade entered, with Shizune trailing.

Everyone grew quiet. Someone coughed.

Tsunade sat at the head chair and looked around, her eyes glistening mischievously.

“I’m sure you’ve all heard of why I asked you to be here,” she stated. “I made my intentions clear enough already, so by being here I assume you’re all choosing to participate.”

“Not like we had much of a choice,” someone said near the back of the room.

“What was that?” Tsunade barked, head swiveling around.

“Nothing, m’lady,” a voice called out.

Tsunade smiled, and the temperature in the room dropped a few degrees.

“Honestly, it’s a festive time of year in many other lands. Some celebrate a number of holidays this time of year besides new year’s, we’ll celebrate it too. The nature of giving, generosity, showing others you care, that you think of them. To celebrate the friends we have, those we love. And it’s a season with a lot of parties, so there’s that too.”

Shizune rolled her eyes. Parties meant alcohol, so naturally Tsunade wanted to partake in increased celebrations.

“There’s religious aspects too, in some countries, but let’s focus on a more generalized approach, since I know you may believe in different things. However, to have an end-date in mind, let’s go with the common day of December 25th, as it’s a focal point for many other countries. Actually, that day is Christmas, so we’ll really focus on Christmas Eve, December 24th.”

“Focus on what, Lady Hokage?” someone asked.

“The gift exchange! That’s what you’re all here for! It’s a well-known tradition in other lands. You’ll all put your names in a pot and will draw at random, and you’ll give a gift to the person you draw on the 24th. Genin in one pot, chunin and jonin in the other, just to keep things a bit tidier and age-appropriate. It should be a surprise, but you’re all shinobi so do what you want in terms of snooping or not. And let’s say a 25 ryo limit, though of course you could make something, or do something for them. I’ve read that sometimes in these exchanges people are allowed to write down ideas on their slips of paper, but let’s make it challenging, and you can only write your name down. But, feel free to use your peers for gift ideas and help. Oh, and keep in mind you’ll be exchanging gifts in front of everyone, genin included, so if it’s R-rated be prepared! Any questions?”

She looked around, and was satisfied no one raised a hand.

Shizune began to pass around paper, and set up two bowls on a table.

As the shinobi wrote their names and waited to draw new papers, they began to talk amongst themselves again.

The older Ino-Shika-Cho were talking in one corner, while the younger trio talked amongst themselves, trying to keep Choji’s crumbs off their papers. Shikamaru had decided to stick with his genin teammates and friends for this, even though he was now chunin, because it was too troublesome otherwise.

Kiba was with his team and talking to his sister and mother, while Kuromaru was sniffing and licking a slightly terrified Hinata.

“I’m surprised to see you here,” Asuma said to Kakashi, who shrugged.

“I challenged my hip rival to participate!” boomed Gai, striking a signature pose and giving a thumbs up. Yamato shielded his eyes from the blinding smile.

“So noble!” Lee shouted, eyes quivering. “Neji, Tenten, are you not most honored and excited to participate as well?”

His teammates rolled their eyes.

“I feel bad for whoever Lee draws,” Sakura whispered, and Ino agreed. Naruto was too busy trying to figure out if he could find a way to draw Sakura’s name.

“I hope you draw someone good, little brother,” Itachi said to Sasuke, who frowned.

“Big turn out,” Iruka commented to Kotetsu and Izumo.

“Yeah, some hot shots here,” Izumo said. “Whoever gets Hiashi Hyuga is in for trouble!”

“Some people will definitely be easier to gift,” Kotetsu said, looking around. “Anko, easy. Genma, not bad.”

“Ibiki, a nightmare,” Raidou whispered, passing them to deposit his name.

“I hear Lady Tsunade is also participating,” Ebisu said, joining the chunin. “That would be a breeze. But, I hear the Three Sand Siblings will also be here, I don’t envy the genin that get them.”

A fly passed him and continued around the room, landing back on Shino, who received the information studiously. He debated telling his teammates, who were nearby, but decided to hold onto that information himself.

“Alright, that’s everyone,” Tsunade announced. “There are some people participating who are out of town at the moment, but I’ll add their names and will draw for them as well.”

And so the shinobi formed two lines in front of their respective bowls and began to draw names. Some looked thrilled at who they chose. Others, confused. Still others, saddened, embarrassed, or even frightened.

Once all the names were gone, Tsunade clapped. “Good work, now go and get ready for the 24th! Short of being on missions I’ll see you all then, but I expect only supremely high rank missions and long-term ones will be happening then.” She paused briefly. “So in other words, everyone will likely be here. Dismissed.”

The ninja began to file out of the room, and Shizune collected the bowls and followed Tsunade back to her office.

“That went well,” Tsunade said, pulling out a bottle of sake.

Shizune raised her eyebrows at her.

“What?” Tsunade asked.

“I feel like it went too well. Did you happen to….tell me you didn’t….” Shizune sighed. “Did you mess with who anyone drew, by any chance?”

Tsunade stood and looked out the window over the village. “I helped some things along, if that’s what you’re asking.” She turned to Shizune. “It’s a mysterious time of year, rumored to have many miracles and happy endings, new beginnings. I’ve watched a lot of holiday movies that say so. Some people just needed….a push. And I made that happen.”

Shizune frowned. “You’re terrible.”

Tsunade shrugged. “Just call me Tsunade Claus?”

Silence.

“No? We’ll just have to watch some more movies so you get it…”

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

The shinobi gift exchange was hot news around the village. The other big news was that the whole village was celebrating this year, and stores and merchants had been rushing to decorate and restock.

“Who’d you get?” was heard often, and some shared, some didn’t.

“So, who did you get?” Genma asked Asuma, Kakashi, and Gai, as they lazed in the jonin break room in Hokage Tower.

“It’s supposed to be a most honored secret!” Gai said, horrified.

Asuma laughed as he lit a cigarette. “Yeah, what he said.”

“I bet you got Kurenai,” Genma said, leaning towards him.

Asuma didn’t reply, and Kakashi snorted.

“You did!” Kakashi accused. Asuma became very interested in his lighter suddenly.

Genma rubbed his hands in glee and turned to his next victim.

“Gai? You won’t tell…hmm…I think you want to get Anko…but I hope you got someone like…Hiashi Hyuga!”

“Ouch!” Asuma said. “That’d be rough.”

“It would be an honor to get him, he’s a noble shinobi,” Gai said, his eyes watering with tears of pride. “Anyone I get will be an honor!”

Genma rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, until you start to shop for them.” He turned. “What about you, Hatake?”

Kakashi looked over his book at him. “What about me?”

“Who’d you get?”

“Ah, didn’t you hear Gai? It’s a secret.” He turned back to his book.

Genma rolled the senbon around his mouth. “I think all the ladies hope you’ll get them…”

Asuma laughed. “And some of the men. Not that you’d mind though!”

Gai sighed. “My hip rival, in the springtime of his youth! Maybe this gift exchange will lead to joyful, beautiful love springing up between people!”

Kakashi sighed. “I’d be surprised, but sure, Gai, whatever you say. I’m terrible to shop for anyway, I pity whoever gets me.”

__________

In a small café in the village, several people were bemoaning their selections.

“It’s terrible, dreadful, horrible!” Izumo said, slumping in his seat. “I just don’t even know what to get my person!”

“You have almost a whole month,” Iruka offered. “But I hear you, it’s going to be hard for me, too.”

Kotetsu smiled broadly. “I got a good one, it’s going to be a piece of cake. Sweet, sweet cake!”

Anko joined them. “Did I hear cake?”

Iruka laughed. “Tetsu said his person will be a piece of cake to shop for. Izumo and I are striking out already. What about you?”

Anko sipped her tea and shrugged. “Not a difficult person, but kinda boring. It’ll be a bit of a chore, really. Ru, we should shop together!”

Iruka smiled. “Sure!”

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

Team 10 was wrapping up some training and discussing an upcoming D-rank mission that none were looking forward to, but a mission is a mission is a mission.

“I’m hungry,” Choji said as they packed up their equipment.

“What else is new,” Ino laughed. “You’re always hungry, Choji!”

“I know,” he said. “I hope whoever drew my name gets me something edible, that’d be amazing!”

“And expected,” Asuma laughed. “It’s an easy gift to shop for, I don’t doubt it. Speaking of food, let’s go to lunch, my treat!”

His team cheered, including Shikamaru.

On their way over, Shikamaru grumbled about who he drew.

“Stupid gift exchange. I wish I had drawn someone else,” he sighed.

“Like Temari?” Ino asked in a sing-song.

Shikamaru blushed slightly but rolled his eyes. “No…”

“I bet you’re bummed you didn’t get her name, aren’t you?” Ino pushed. “I don’t even need to tap into your mind to tell!” She flipped her ponytail in satisfaction.

“Aww, really?” Choji asked, pulling out a bag of chips. “You didn’t get her? That sucks.”

“Choji!” Ino whined. “We’re literally eating lunch soon, you couldn’t wait?”

Choji reached into the bag of chips and shrugged. “We just trained, I need my energy!”

Ino rolled her eyes this time and turned to her sensei to comment on her teammates, when she saw him looking at the storefronts as they passed. She matched pace with him.

“Need gift ideas, sensei?” she asked.

Asuma startled, embarrassingly. “What? No! Not at all!”

He scratched his beard, and she pierced him with a look.

He looked, the boys were up a bit ahead.

“Well…..maybe…” Asuma said sheepishly. “She’s a little hard to shop for. No, not hard! Not, like, hard. I just want to find the right gift…”

Ino patted his arm. “I understand. It’s like all the magazines say!”

Asuma looked at her questioningly.

“They’re all talking about gift ideas for this time of year, apparently it’s a big deal. ‘What you get says a lot to that special someone.’ So you have to really put thought into it, more than like birthdays and Valentine’s Day.”

Asuma nodded. “Makes sense, I suppose.”

“Anyway, I’ll help you out,” Ino said. “Don’t even think twice about it! We’ll get her the best gift ever!”

She reflected as they walked. “Hmm…female…chuunin or jonin….so that’s not many, at least. It narrows it down.” She looked at him slyly. “Unless you want to tell me, sensei?”

They reached the café and entered, the boys had already grabbed a table.

“I’ll think about it,” Asuma said gruffly before they sat. He was glad for a change in conversation.

But secretly, he was also glad to have some help shopping for Kurenai…

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

The ANBU were known for many things. Stealth. Tactics. Dependability.

What they were not known for, to many, was their tendency to stick their noses into everyone’s business. Outside of what they needed to, of course.

The ANBU locker room, training ground, offices, and missions, were already full of gossip and news.

“We could just spy on everyone….”

“We could, but that takes the fun out of it?”

“What’s fun about stressing about what to get people?”

“I don’t even like who I got!”

“You don’t like anyone!”

“True, that’s why I joined ANBU….”

“It’d be real easy to spy…I mean guess. We just watch…take inventory….gather information….casually look…”

“Ok, that’s still spying.”

“Who’s got the Hokage shift tonight? Who’s been on it? That’s probably a good place to get info.”

“I think you all just can’t shop for your people, that’s why you’re acting like chickens.”

“We’re ANBU, we don’t know how to be chickens?”

“Bak-bak-bak! Cluck cluck cluck!”

“Those are terrible chicken noises.”

“Whatever, you get my point.”

“The last person to call me a chicken got a broken nose.”

“Good thing my ANBU mask is reinforced. Besides, my nose got broken last year when a missing nin sucker punched me on a regular mission. I took his head off for it, literally.”

“So, can we use ANBU codes for all of this? Like for gift ideas?”

“I’ll probably just pick up something random when I’m sent on a mission in another country.”

“That’s a good idea, me too!”

“Won’t it be obvious? Like, hey, I was randomly in a very far country and got this…what, no, I’m a regular shinobi like you, la de da….”

“Way to take the fun out.”

“Could have been an A-rank or S-rank, not many would know?”

“If I get one of you, I’m just giving a voucher for a training day or something.”

“That’s stupid."

“You’re stupid.”

Yes, ANBU were also not known for being the most mature….but that’s another story for another day….

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

Gai was called away on a mission, so Kurenai volunteered to help his team for the day. She had intended to merge her team with his and have a big sparring session, but Shino needed to tend to his bugs that day, something about the temperature and incoming frost, and Kiba was doing special training with his clan.

So Hinata joined Kurenai, looking forward to training with Tenten, only to join Neji and Lee and learn that Tenten was sick today.

What a day, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

Since Hinata and Neji were more evenly matched with skill, it was decided that they would spar against Lee, with Kurenai supervising to share observations and feedback later.

They went one on one, and two against one. Lee loved every minute of it.

“Thank you for this opportunity, Kurenai-sensei,” he said, blocking a blow from Neji and leaping. “Gai-sensei will be most pleased to know I am training with such formidable foes.”

“Can we just get on with it,” muttered Neji.

“Ah, Neji, I know you are irate in Tenten’s absence,” Lee continued, and Neji looked at him blankly. Hinata blushed, and Kurenai laughed.

“L-lee, that’s not nice,” Hinata said, feeling bad for her cousin.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about, anyway,” Neji said.

“But,” Lee continued, “this training is exactly what our Hokage is trying to have us do with the gift exchange. Gai-sensei says she is working to teach us to be better comrades and more well-rounded, especially those of us in the springtime of our youth!” He flipped over and tried to take Neji’s feet out with a kick, but was dodged.

“It m-might just be a fun thing to do,” Hinata suggested. “J-just for fun?”

“Either way, Gai-sensei and I will shine in this mission and find the best gifts for our precious people!” Lee gave a thumbs up, which Neji tried to break. Literally.

He failed.

This time.

“Ah, Hinata, in our female team member’s absence, perhaps you can give us some perspective on what we should get if we drew a kunoichi’s name?” Lee asked.

Hinata paused from sharpening a kunai and looked at Kurenai with wide eyes. Kurenai shrugged.

“Kurenai-sensei! I did not mean any disrespect! Surely you can help too! Please forgive me!” Lee cried, and Kurenai laughed.

“It’s fine, Lee, I’m happy to help,” she said. “Though, you’re not very good at hiding your motivation. Neither of you.”

The boys stopped, fists raised, and paused to look at Kurenai.

Hinata blushed.

“W-what Kurenai-sensei means, I’m sure, is that it’s clear you both drew female’s names. And there’s only so many genin kunoichi.” Hinata wrinkled her nose in thought. “W weapons are probably a nice gift, if you don’t know them well…”

Lee put his hands on his hips. “A wonderful idea! Neji, let us break to learn more!”

Before Neji could respond, Lee had sat to listen more. Or, more accurately, was doing sit-ups.

“Gai-sensei says any rest time could be a meaningful training opportunity! But please, do not let me distract! Any more ideas?”

Neji sighed and joined them.

“If it’s Tenten, probably weapons for sure. Though, she may like something more thoughtful. Hmm…Sakura and Ino, probably something pretty,” Hinata offered.

“What about you, Hinata?” Kurenai asked.

“Oh!” Hinata said softly. “I, I don’t know. Maybe some sweets. Or something warm to wear, now that it’s getting colder.”

“Wonderful ideas, indeed!” Lee said, jumping up. “Such inspiration!”

“Nobody asked me what I want,” Neji said morosely, and Hinata laughed.

“You’re always saying you want to be left alone,” she said, and he didn’t argue.

“Ok, let’s do some more training before the sun goes down, then we can talk about presents more,” Kurenai said, standing and stretching.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

"I just don't get why Kakashi-sensei had to go off on another mission," Naruto whined as his team headed back to the village.

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Naruto! Stop whining! Besides, it's disrespectul to Yamato-sensei," she added. Inner-Sakura punched the air victoriously. Sasuke probably appreciates her being respectful of others!

She glanced at her dark-haired teammate but he looked as stoic as ever.

"But he left us to do a stupid C-rank. Anyone could have done it! It's like he doesn't like us anymore!"

"As if he ever liked you," Sasuke said.

"Hey!" Naruto began, but he was cut off by their captain.

"Alright, that's enough. Sasuke, play nice. Naruto, grow up. Sakura, stop whatever you're doing."

The genin stopped to look at him.

"Sensei, you don't work with younger people, do you?" Sakura asked.

Yamato shrugged. "No, why do you ask?"

She smiled nervously at him. "Heh, no reason!"

He looked at them, and they looked at him. It was all rather awkward.

"Tell you what," he said. "Let's stop by the next village before we get to Konoha, I bet you guys need to look around for your gift exchange people, huh?"

"That's true," Sakura admitted.

"Hn," said Sasuke.

"Believe it!" exclaimed Naruto.

_________

As they walked around town, Yamato was relieved that they had grown a bit quieter. Of course, him paying for lunch probably helped.

"I just don't know what to get my person," Sakura sighed. "I mean, I know...them...but not what to get...them..."

"If it's me, Sakura-chan, you could just get me ramen coupons!" Naruto shouted. Everyone rolled their eyes.

"It's not you, Naruto! For the last time!" she shouted.

Still, he smiled and put his hands behind his head. "As long as it's not Sasuke, I'll take it!"

Sakura sighed, again. "I wish! That would be great," she said, with hearts coming out of her eyes towards their teammate.

Sasuke frowned, well, almost. Had they really stooped so low as to talk about him like he wasn't there?

"Who did you get?" Naruto asked him, catching him by surprise.

"Hn, what are you, dumb? It's a surprise, idiot."

Naruto waved him off. "Yeah, yeah, but still! Who?"

"NARUTO!" the other three shouted at him.

"What?"

Yamato sighed. Kakashi was never allowed to leave the village without these three again. Ever.

A short time later, Sasuke did lose his cool.

"Loser, what are you doing now?" he asked Naruto.

"What?"

"Stop following me. This is a large store, go somewhere else."

"Ah, you're no fun! I'm just seeing what catches your eye, what you're thinking of for your person. Is it Sakura?" He asked, trying to lower his voice. But, it being Naruto, it was not quiet, and Sakura's head whipped in their direction in a hopeful blur of pink.

"No, it's not her. And it's not you," Sasuke added. "Besides, if I'm shopping for my person what good will it do you to follow me?"

Naruto shrugged. "Makes sense in my head."

"That's the only place it ever does," Sasuke mumbled.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

The elder Ino/Shika/Cho were sat together at lunch having a cup of tea, reminiscing about their past.

"I'm not sorry we didn't have this gift exchange when we were younger," Inoichi said.

"Hmm," Shikaku replied. "It would have been interesting. We could have swung it in our favor?"

“I think our friends were all crabby,” Chouza said.

“They still are?” Shikaku commented.

“Only because we’ve all gotten older,” Inoichi laughed.

Shikaku sighed. “Now I have to get something for my wife too, not just the person I drew. I might make Shikamaru get it instead, he’d love that.”

The other men laughed.

“Poor kid,” Chouza said. “Choji’s excited, at least. And the clan is planning a big feast for the 25th. You and your families should stop by.”

“Definitely!” Inoichi said. “Though, when isn’t your clan planning a feast?”

“We need our food –”

“For our energy!” the other men cut in, clearly familiar with the phrase, drawing attention from other patrons.

Inoichi sighed. “I have to say, this is all definitely keeping us busy at the shop. We’ve gotten in orders for a new flower, a poinsettia. And people are ordering wreaths left and right.”

“That reminds me,” Chouza said. “I was asked to talk to you about something about holly and garlands?”

Inoichi nodded. “Also popular. We can head to the shop and see what you need?”

“Sure,” Chouza said, the three men standing. “You’re familiar with where the clan is decorating, at least, so that will help.”

“Might as well tag along,” Shikaku said. “Maybe order a bouquet or something for the wife, in case Shikamaru’s gift…my gift…for my wife bombs.”

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

Since Torture and Interrogation's specialty was gathering, processing, and utilizing information, there was much debate about what to do about this gift exchange.

Some wanted to use their...skills...to their advantage.

Others argued this was likely going against the rules, and/or no fun.

It was giving Ibiki a headache. He needed to do something about it, and fast. He still had about two more weeks until the reveal and would not survive this much longer.

Though, a small part of him was pleasantly surprised at how good his staff were that they could unknowingly also torture him.

He called a mandatory meeting.

"I know you're all....curious...about the Hokage's gift exchange. Or what I'm calling 'holiday torture.' And you're all unsure about how to handle it. I'm proud that you all want to uphold this department's calling, but we need to play along all in good fun. So I'm officially forbidding anyone from torturing in any way to get information about who has who for this event. If you want to gather this information you'll have to find new and less exciting and messy ways to do it. And if you want to torture yourself, just wait for the 24th. Any questions?"

A hand raised in the back of the room.

"What if we don't care about all of this?"

Ibiki sighed. "Then I believe you're what's known as 'a grinch.' "

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

Sakura and Ino, were, surprisingly, going shopping together. Ino wanted help looking for a gift for her person, as did Sakura.

"I just can't believe I had to draw Shikamaru," Ino practically wailed as they walked.

"I think you're supposed to keep it a secret, Ino-pig," Sakura said.

Ino sighed. "As if I care." She flipped her ponytail. "My own teammate, of all the people I could have gotten!"

"At least he'll be easy to shop for?" Sakura ventured.

"As if!" Ino said. "Choji is easy to shop for. Shikamaru? All he does it sleep, outbrain us all, and complain. What do you even get someone like that?"

"He has to have some interests," Sakura said. She sighed. "My person isn't easy to shop for either. I should know what to get them, but I just can't think of anything."

They both sighed.

"If only I had drawn Sasuke's name instead," Sakura said.

"No, if only I had! I'd get him the best gift ever!"

"No, I would have!"

"Me!"

"Me!"

They glared at each other before huffing and entering a shop.

"Well neither of us got him, so it doesn't matter," Sakura said.

"Unless you're bluffing," Ino suggested, squinting at her.

Sakura glared at her. "If I did, don't you think I'd be gloating?"

Ino stared again before relaxing and shrugging. "I guess."

They shopped in silence for a few minutes.

"What do you want your person to get you?" Sakura asked.

"Hmm? Oh, I don't know. I guess something fun, and useful. What about you?"

Saukra thought about it for a moment. "I guess the same. Though that's pretty broad." She paused. "What's fun and useful for Shikamaru?"

Ino reflected on it. "Hmmm...I don't know."

She was silent for a moment.

"I know!" Ino said. "Maybe a new shogi set?

Sakura smiled. "That's a great idea, Ino!"

"Of course it is, billboard brow, I thought of it!"

Sakura sighed. This was going to be a long afternoon.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

"I don't understand."

Temari sighed.

"What don't you get?"

Gaara looked at her blankly. "Why are we doing this?"

"Because the Hokage invited us to," Kankuro added from the sofa he was lounging on.

"Why?"

"Because she likes us and we have friends there," Temari said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Wh-"

"No! No more why! Or what or who!"

"Well, who is an appropriate question for this," Kankuro said. His siblings turned towards him.

"I mean, you only know who you got, not who other people got or who got you."

"I shouldn't tell you I got Neji?" Gaara asked, and his siblings sighed. Kankura laughed, and Temari groaned.

"No, Gaara, you shouldn't. Don't tell anyone else," Temari warned.

"Why?"

"It's a surprise!" she shouted, standing to pace. "It's fun, part of the game. It's something you do sometimes. So no more questions or anything!"

The room was silent for a moment.

"What do I get him?" Gaara asked.

Temari left in frustration.

He looked at Kankuro, who shrugged.

"You'll figure it out. Something he likes or needs or you think he'd like or need. I have an idea of what to get my person, but it'll take some time and I have to go out of town for it. Want to join me?"

Gaara almost asked "why" again but thought better of it.

"Ok."

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

"Kami, am I beat!" Kotetsu said, falling into a booth next to Iruka.

"Long day?" Iruka asked.

"The longest! Tsunade is up my ass about getting everything in order for these holiday events!"

"I thought Shizune was helping her?" Izumo asked, joining them with drinks.

Kotetsu shrugged. "She is, but all hands on board and that sort of thing. Tsunade's become like a holiday tyrant. Good thing I already got my gift for my person, I don't even want to do anything holiday related outside of work hours!"

His friends stared at him open-mouthed.

"Already?" Iruka asked.

"Really?" Izumo said.

Kotetsu nodded and took a drink. "Yeah, why is that a surprise?"

"You're, like, never on top of things like that, so early," Izumo said.

"Well, they're easy to shop for, and it was fun, before it became so consuming at work." Kotetsu looked at his friends. "You guys are still struggling?"

His friends blushed.

"I go between too many options and no options," Izumo admitted.

"And I just can't think of something good enough for them," Iruka said. "Anko wasn't much help, partly because I couldn't trust her to actually tell her who it is."

"True," Izumo agreed.

The men leaned in towards Iruka.

"So?" Kotetsu asked. "Who is it?"

"You can trust us," Izumo said.

Iruka leaned in as well, and dropped his voice. "I know I can, but there's prying ears here," he said, motioning around the establishment they were at. He sat back and resumed his normal volume. "I can say, it's a jonin. So I feel like the pressure is on."

His friends nodded.

Iruka sighed. "Do I get something fun? Practical? Deadly?"

Izumo scratched his head. "I don't know...jonin are a crazy bunch."

"And you don't want to risk offending them," Kotetsu added.

Iruka sighed. "Either of you want to swap names? No one would know..."

Kotetsu and Izumo exchanged looks.

"No..."

"I don't know who Tetsu got..."

"And I don't know who Zu got..."

"But I'm happy with my person...."

"Me too..."

"Plus, you know, the whole crazy jonin thing..."

"Don't want them more upset than they usually are with us..."

"And I think it's against the rules..."

"Tsunade would probably kill us..."

Iruka rolled his eyes. "She never said anything about that, and you guys are wimps." He finished his drink and stood.

"Thanks, guys, when I offend a jonin and/or embarass myself spectacularly in front of them and the whole village, I hope you'll come to my funeral. Or wish me well when I become a missing nin."

His friends raised their glasses in toast.

"Of course!"

Iruka rolled his eyes again and flipped them off, leaving grumbling to himself.

Chapter Text

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Shizune entered the Hokage's office with a new armful of scrolls. She deposited them on the desk and began to sort through another pile.

Tsunade finished signing a scroll, rolled it up, and sighed as she looked at the new pile. She rummaged in a drawer and pulled out a bottle of sake and a glass.

"Break time," she said as Shizune raised an eyebrow silently.

It was quiet for a moment as Tsunade drank and Shizune sorted.

"How do you think things are going?" Tsunade broke the silence.

"Hmm?"

"The gift exchange, the big event!" Tsunade said, gesturing around with a glass. "What have you been hearing?"

Shizune put the scrolls down and looked out the window.

"Some excitement, some annoyance, lots of business for merchants."

"Exactly!" Tsunade said, eyes shining. "Isn't it great?"

"Great? You've managed to quite possibly annoy the whole village in one way or another!"

"You say annoyed," Tsunade huffed, pouring another drink. "I say enraptured."

"Bothered."

"Enthralled."

"Terrorized!"

"Brought some goddamn holiday cheer!"

The two women glared at each other for a moment before laughing.

"No one ever said the holidays are all fun and games," Tsunade said. "Some countries report they're also full of stress, arguments, financial ruin."

They looked at each other awkwardly.

"So....let's keep an eye on things. But hey, all in good fun!"

Chapter Text

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"Behold, Lee, a most amazing time of the year is upon us!"

"Yes, Gai-sensei!"

The crowd turned to look, watching Maito Gai and his young protege strolling about.

At times on their hands, or one-handed.

In a way, it was not entirely unusual for them.

"Lee, let us go into these wondrous shops and search for the most special gifts for our gift exchangees!

"Great idea, sensei! I have been racking my brain for ideas, but spending time searching will be most helpful! I also got wonderful help from teammates last week!"

As they entered a shop, the surrounding people started to talk amongst themselves.

"Who do you think they drew?"

"More importantly, who drew them?"

"I know, are they easy to shop for? Or hard?"

Genma nudged Raidou.

"Think they're buying green jumpsuits for whoever they got?"

Raidou shuddered.

"I hope not. And I hope Gai didn't get me!"

"I hope he got Hatake," Genma said, laughing. "Can you imagine the manly tears Gai'll cry? Getting to shop for his most precious person?"

“In that case,” Raidou said. “I definitely hope he buys a green jumpsuit!”

Chapter Text

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Yamato and Kakashi were heading back from a two-day mission. Which was successful, naturally.

They were ahead of schedule and it had been a simple mission, so they were not rushing back per se.

Kakashi noticed that his kohai was turning his neck slightly here and there.

He sighed, slightly annoyed.

"What is it?"

Yamato turned his face towards him, surprised. "What?"

Kakashi sighed again. "You're occupied, pre-occupied rather. What's going on? We're not being followed, no one's around."

"Oh! Uh...ah...."

Kakashi rolled his eye. "So eloquent."

Yamato blushed slightly. "I'm looking for something?"

"Let me guess, you dropped it on our way out?"

Yamato laughed. "No, not quite."

He paused.

"I'm looking for the right wood."

Kakashi's visible eyebrow raised in a delicate arch.

"Wood?"

Yamato nodded as they ran from tree to tree.

"You?"

"Mm-hmm."

"The wood style justsu guy? Looking for wood? In a forest?"

Yamato sighed in frustration.

"I know, I know. But I'd like a particular type or style or feel...I don't know how to explain it..."

"And why would you need it, prey tell?"

"Uh...."

Kakashi raised a hand. "You know what? Don't care."

They were silent for a moment.

"For my person," Yamato said. "I want a certain wood to use to make a gift."

Kakashi snorted.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," Yamato replied, more confident in himself and resuming looking around. "You know what, senpai? I don't care. I'm going to keep an eye out and find it and make a great gift."

"Looks like someone's trying to impress someone. Looking for something out of it?"

It was Yamato's turn to roll his eyes.

"It's called being a considerate person and making effort. And what are you doing for your person? Waiting until the day of and getting them something on your way to the event?"

Kakashi shrugged. "I hadn't thought that far ahead, but great idea!"

Yamato groaned. "That's not what I meant."

Kakashi sped up.

"Senpai! It's not in the holiday spirit! Be more thoughtful!" Yamato shouted after him.

Chapter Text

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Raidou sneezed as a dusty scroll was placed into his arms.

"Sorry!" Shizune apologized. "Some of these haven't been moved in a while, I guess."

Raidou sneezed again. "Remind me why we're doing this?"

"Lady Tsunade wants to see if there's anything useful for decorating," Ebisu sighed.

"Seasonal things," Shizune sighed as well.

"What does that even mean?" Raidou asked as Shizune and Ebisu rummaged around.

"I don't know!" Shizune sputtered. "Every time I ask, she gives me no direct answer. I suggest things, it's 'not enough.' She keeps telling me to 'make it like in the holiday movies and magazines' but I don't have time to go through those, and she won't entrust civilians with it. And there's no real shinobi decorating department."

"Though I suspect the missions desk workers will become that soon enough," Ebisu suggested.

"Genma and Asuma keep trying to get me to watch those movies, I can't believe they watch it! They're so predictable and fluffy!" Raidou said.

Shizune turned to him. "Genma? Asuma? What?"

Raidou shrugged. "Genma's too into the holidays and Asuma is a softy, what can I say? I think he's looking for inspiration."

"Must be related to Gai-sense's proclamations of 'the joyful wondrousness of the holidays' and his expectations of 'holiday miracles for one and all.' " Ebisu commented.

Shizune shook her head. "I'm just ready for this to be over and to have a nice, relaxing day off."

"You and me both!" Ebisu and Raidou said.

Chapter Text

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Deidara wiped clay off his hands and ran a hand through his hair. He surveyed his studio, where his most recent art was complete and drying.

"Good for now, hn."

He stretched and worked a kink out of his neck before looking at the calendar on his wall.

Taking a scroll out, he spent time writing on it while drinking a cup of tea.

Having completed that, he took off his Akatsuki cloak and ran through a few hand seals.

Forming a henge that disguised himself perfectly, he put on a plain cloak, rolled up the scroll and tucked it away, and grabbed a small pouch, placing that in a hidden pocket.

A few more hand seals and he was slightly outside of a nearby town.

Whistling as he walked, he strolled into and around the town, nodding at villagers in polite greeting.

In turn they greeted him back, and he took in their "merry" conversations, talking about the weather, holidays, shopping, and parties.

He found he appreciated the decorations, everything from the delicate tempered glass ornaments to the glitzy tinsel to the weird nutcrackers.

Deidara as not Deidara spent a surprisingly pleasant few hours walking around, popping into stores, and eventually carrying several bags from different merchants and stores.

He left the village sucking on a candy cane, to his delight.

A few hand seals later and he was back in his studio. A few more he was back to his regular self.

Hanging up the cloak, he began to sort through the bags before gathering it all together and hiding them securely.

Deidara pulled out another candy cane and sat down to review his scroll.

"Got something for everyone on my list, hn," he said to himself. "If the other villages do this winter gift exchange holiday thing, no reason I can't do it for the Akatsuki too..."

Chapter Text

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Kabuto tentatively knocked on the heavy wooden door. Behind him, other henchmen scurried about, whispering nervously.

He could hear some papers rustle before a voice told him to enter.

Enter he did, and watched as Orochimaru looked up, smiling deviously.

“Ah, Kabuto, just the man I wanted.”

“Yes?”

“Come here. I need your fingers.”

Kabuto walked closer, taking in a variety of papers on his desk and some unique objects.

“Something you need cared for? Which medical jutsu do you need?”

“No, no, none of that,” Orochimaru said. “Put a finger here,” he said, guiding the nin’s hand to a box.

Kabuto watched curiously as Orochimaru pulled out…

“Ribbon?”

“Mm-hmm.”

Looking around, Kabuto realized it was wrapping paper on the desk.

“You’re wrapping…gifts?”

“Why not?”

“Uh…” Kabuto found he didn’t have a good reason. But…Orochimaru, wrapping gifts? Thinking of someone besides himself?

“Surely these are….traps? Like, poisonous gifts? Sabotaged?” Kabuto asked, his hand now free. Orochimaru placed the wrapped package next to another.

“No,” he said simply. “Just surprises.”

"...deadly surprises?"

"No."

“Uh…why?”

“Haven’t you heard? Lots of countries are doing a holiday celebration this year. So I thought I’d join in.” Orochimaru waved at a collection of small gifts. “Those are for all my men.” He pointed at two larger gifts. “My old team. And yours, well that’s hidden.” Another evil smile. “Can’t risk prying eyes.”

“Your old team? Tsunade and Jiraiya? Are you serious? Are you ill? Should I check you out?”

Orochimaru waved him off. “I can do something nice, like once every lifetime. Just a token gift to let them know I’m thinking about them. Still planning against them, that type of thing.” His tone grew stern. “You’ll have them out for delivery tomorrow. They need to get to them by the 25th. No excuses, Kabuto.”

The other man nodded and left, his head reeling from the news.

“Orochimaru? Gifts? Kind?” he shook his head. “What is the world coming to…”

Chapter Text

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"This is a lame idea," Kiba grumbled, scratching Akamaru's chin as they lounged at their home. "Giving a gift to just anyone?"

"It's kind of sweet," Hana said, bringing in a plate of snacks and setting it down. "You get to do something nice for someone."

"Someone you may not even want to do something nice for!" Kiba growled. Akamaru barked in agreement.

"They're not enemy nin," Shino pointed out. "Just comrades."

"It's no one's fault but your own if you don't like them," Hana said.

"You're probably only saying that because you got someone cool, like Asuma-sensei, or Kakashi-sensei or the Hokage," Kiba whined. "I drew someone lame."

"That was a risk you took in participating," his mother admonished, passing through the room. "Don't be a naughty pup, Kiba. This might end up surprising you."

"How? I have to spend money on someone I don't know much about and don't like," he called after her, turning back to his teammate and sister. "To quote Shikamaru, this is a drag."

"I suspect that's part of the point," Shino said, thoughtfully. "To have to take time to reflect on another person and what you know about them, or thought you know. Like, seeing things from a new perspective."

"Exactly," Hana said. "If everyone liked each other we'd all be boring. And if we only got the people we liked, it would be no fun."

"You're on my side, aren't you?" Kiba asked Akamaru, who barked and wagged his tail. "Exactly!" He sighed again. "We only have a few more days to find something good..."

Chapter Text

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Jiraiya yawned. It had been a good sleep, and he was ready to start the day. He changed and bemoaned that had slept alone last night, no pretty girl for his bed. Still, today was another day of “research,” so who knew.

He reviewed his notebook and saw the date, his eyes widening slightly.

“Crap! Almost forgot!” he said to himself.

He jumped out of bed and rummaged through the dresser in his room and pulled something out, checking the wrapping paper was not damaged.

Running through a few hand seals, Gamakichi appeared on top of the dresser and greeted him.

“Yo.”

Jiraiya nodded and scribbled a note. He held up both to the toad. “I need this taken to Naruto, who needs to give it to Tsunade. The note explains it to him, just in case.”

The toad nodded and Jiraiya secured it to him under his vest.

He poofed out of the room, and Jiraiya sighed. “Almost lost track of the date! Tsunade would have killed me if I didn’t get my gift in for the exchange in time.”

He looked out the window of his room. “Hope he likes it…”

___________

Naruto was heating up instant ramen in his apartment when Gamakichi appeared.

“Hi!” Naruto said. “Want ramen?”

Gamakichi looked but shook his head. “Nah, I don’t feel like having a heart attack today.”

Naruto looked confused, but shook his head. “What’s up?”

“Jiraiya sent me to give this to you,” the toad said, delivering the package onto the counter. “I think it’s important.”

Naruto looked at it and read the note. “I have to give it to Grandma Tsunade? Geez, can’t Pervy Sage do anything for himself? Why is he dragging me into this?”

Gamakichi sighed. “Stop being a brat.”

“First Pervy Sage gives me work to do, now a toad is calling me a brat. Geez!”

Naruto continued to moan until his ramen was ready, at which point he noticed the toad had left and he had been talking to himself.

“Oh well.” He grabbed the pot and sat on his counter. “Ramen first, Granny Tsunade after!”

__________

As it would have it, Tsunade was in meetings all day, so Naruto left the gift with Shizune to pass on.

Tsunade read the note and smiled.

“Excellent! I knew Jiraiya would come through. Shizune, put this somewhere safe until the 24th.”

Shizune left, and Tsunade poured a drink and sat back in her chair.

“Everyone is getting into the gift exchange!”

Chapter Text

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"Christmas!" Genma said, picking up his glass. "Bah!"

"Christmas!" Anko cheered. "It's great!"

Genma waved around at the bar they were at. "Look at this, it's a Friday night and we're surrounded by red glittery decorations, fake snow, tinsel."

"I know!" Anko said, waving at others. "So cheery!"

"And gifts!" Genma slurred. "Gifts, gifts, gifts! It's like no one talks about anything else."

Anko nudged his shoulder. "Having trouble shopping for your person?"

Genma shook his head. "Nah, that's done. Been done. But I want to get for other people, and it's not as easy."

"You're telling me! I drew a terrible name, I don't know what to get. Something stupid, probably. I don't even really like the person." Anko sighed. "I'm not sure too many people do." She drained her glass.

"You," Genma said, taking the senbo from his mouth and pointing it at her. "Should give a prank gift. Like..." he looked around. "A lump of coal....an ugly hat....smelly perfume..."

Anko frowned. "I don't think he wears perfume. And he'd probably like an ugly hat."

Genma snapped his fingers and leaned towards her. "Ladies underwear!" he whispered.

Anko frowned. Then pursed her lips in thought. Then grinned.

"Let's go shopping!"

Chapter Text

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“What’s gotten you so sad?” Itachi asked his younger brother.

“Nothing.”

Itachi played along. “It doesn’t seem like nothing.”

Silence.

“I’m an Uchiha, aren’t we supposed to not be all smiles and laughter?”

Itachi sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Perhaps. Perhaps that’s just some of our clan. Perhaps some Uchiha are quite pleasant and happy.” He glanced at Sasuke.

No change, no response.

He decided to go a different route.

“We should go shopping.”

Sasuke quirked an eyebrow at him, in disdain or surprise. It was hard to tell. Maybe both.

“Spruce our place up a bit. Get into the holiday spirit. Some garland, some red bows. Maybe hot chocolate.” He leaned towards his brother. “Or something stronger, I won’t tell,” he whispered conspiratorially.

Sasuke frowned.

“It is the holidays, and the ‘big day’ is coming. I could also do with getting something to wrap my gift in," Itachi said nonchalantly.

“Hn. I suppose I could go with, if only to make sure you don’t buy anything stupid for me to look at.”"

Itachi ruffled Sasuke’s hair. “That’s the spirit! Kind of. I’ll take it.”

They left and began to walk around the village.

“How are you doing with your gift, by the way?” Itachi asked him.

Sasuke sighed. “I don’t know what to get him.”

“Hmm” was the only response.

It piqued Sasuke’s curiousity.

“You’re not curious who it is?”

Itachi shrugged. “Should I be?”

It was Sasuke’s turn to shrug. “Lots of people wonder who other people got.”

“I suppose so,” Itachi said, stopping to look at gift bags. “It’s expected, after all.”

"He's loud, and annoying, and just...so over the top."

"So, Naruto then," Itachi said, laughing.

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "No!"

They were silent a moment as Itachi bought some decorations.

"Hmm, what do you get a loud, annoying person," Itachi said thoughtfully. He glanced at Sasuke. "Perhaps the opposite of what you would want?"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "That makes no sense."

Itach shrugged and steered them to another store. "Says you."

"What are you getting your person?"

"The question is 'what did I get,' remember? I took care of it, and didn't dally like some people."

Sasuke rolled his eyes again. "Fine," he sighed. "What did you get?"

"A gift!" Itachi said. "A good gift."

Sasuke groaned. "This is punishment, isn't it? What did I do to deserve this torture? I'm going home."

Itach pulled him in for a side hug and laughed while Sasuke struggled to get away. "It's the holidays, and we're spending time together like we're supposed to! If you must know, I got my person something useful. Now, let's keep going, and I'll buy you something pretty."

Chapter Text

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“Reds, greens, golds, silvers,” Izumo called out.

“Snowflakes, round ornaments, bells, nutcrackers,” Kotetsu added.

“Garlands, wreaths, bows, mistletoe,” Iruka checked off.

“Paper kunai, shuriken, seal, toy ninjas,” Shizune murmured, reviewing her list. “I think that’s everything Lady Tsunade wants."

“Plus holly and poinsettias,” Ebisu added, showing delivery people from the Yamanaka Flower Shop where to place their goods.

Kurenai entered the room with her team, along with Sakura and Naruto, and followed shortly by Yamato, Anko, and Raidou.

“Help has arrived!” Anko called out, and the room’s previous sole inhabitants smiled.

“Just in time!” Iruka said, hugging Naruto.

“We were worried it would just be us,” Izumo agreed.

They set about decorating the main room for the gift exchange in two days, stringing garlands, snowflakes, and wreaths. Yamato grew fir trees, which were promptly decorated, including with lights Kakashi dropped off.

“My contribution,” he said blandly. “Also, I told Gai I was helping so I’d get out of a challenge. I’m going to go read, see you later.”

He left before anyone could argue, but hey, he did bring some décor, so who could blame him.

As they also decorated the entry doors and hallway, someone turned on music, and what they assumed was holiday music began to play.

“This is pretty festive,” Shizune said, smiling.

“Really gets you in the holiday mood,” Kurenai said, stealing a glance at Asuma, who was walking to help Ino arrange holly.

"Haul out the holly," Ino directed other Yamanaka Flower Shop workers. "And put up those smaller trees."

"Fill up the stockings," Kotetsu said, pulling out stockings from a box.

"Candles in the windows," Shizune called out, checking her list, and Sakura and Hinata grabbed armfuls of candles.

"Put up the brightest string of lights!" Naruto shouted to Kiba, working on decorating a tree together.

"And hang some tinsel on that evergreen bough," Anko suggested.

"If only we had snow, what do they call it?" Ebisu said.

"White Christmas," Iruka offered, passing him. "It hasn't snowed a single flurry," he sighed.

"Watch out, we're in a hurry!" Naruto shouted, running past with decorations and Akamaru.

Iruka shook his head. "That boy," he laughed.

"Looks great, everyone!" Tsunade said, popping her head in. "We needed a little Christmas this very minute! Gets us in the spirit!"

Chapter Text

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Hinata was sat in her home, gifts surrounding her as she wrapped them in lovely papers and ribbons.

She was enjoying herself, until the peaceful silence was broken.

She could hear her father and cousin arguing, and she sighed.

"We have one, one day until the gift exchange. Couldn't they be in the holiday spirit?" she grumbled to herself.

Sighing again, she continued what she was doing, as the voices approached.

The door to the room she was in slid open.

"Neji, don't be ridiculous," her father said.

"I understand, but you have to admit I have a fair point as well," Neji replied.

The men grew silent as they saw Hinata, and greeted her.

She politely returned the greeting, but continued wrapping gifts, hoping if she did not ask about their...debate...she would not be pulled into it.

She would not be so lucky.

"Hinata, tell your cousin he is wrong."

"Hinata, you know I always have logical, well thought out fights. Arguments."

She huffed and put the wrapping paper and tape down.

"What are you both even talking about?"

Her father and Neji exchanged a glance.

"The gift exchange..." Neji began.

"And the merit of utilizing the byakugan..." her father continued.

Before either could finish their thought, she glared at them.

"You're considering using the byakugan for the gift exchange? Are you kidding me?" she yelled, surprising them both.

Hinata coughed and returned to her more demure voice.

"No one is using the byakugan for this. The point is for it to be a surprise, a fair surprise. Besides," she said, pulling ribbon towards her and smoothing her clothing. "You couldn't do anything about what you would learn anyway, since someone shopped for you."

She shot her relatives a stern look. "End of discussion."

And she continued to wrap gifts without waiting for a response.

She felt her father shrug and leave the room, and to her surprise, Neji sat on the floor near her, studying her technique.

He began to play with some ribbon, and glanced at her once, twice.

"Uh...Hinata..."

"Yes, Neji?"

"You do this," he said, motioning to the gifts she had wrapped already, "very well."

"Thank you, Neji."

He paused, and coughed.

"Do you think you could help me wrap mine?"

She paused and looked at her cousin, and smiled.

"O-of course!"

Chapter Text

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It was early evening, and shinobi were spilling into the venue Tsunade had chosen for the gift exchange, a large hall in the heart of Konoha. Almost everyone was there, anyone who was anyone.

As they came in, Tsunade greeted them with raising her drink, and Shizune showed them where to place their gifts. Designated tables began to be covered with colorful, misshapen gifts of all sizes, weights, and colors.

“Byakugan or no, after all?” Hinata whispered to Neji, who shook his head but looked longingly at the gift table.

“I'm surprised! But we said no. Of course,” he said, “we could use it on the non-genin gifts…”

However, before they could discuss it further, their friends called them over.

Food was eaten, alcohol and cocoa were drank, and the party was off to a good start.

“A most wondrous time of year!” Gai was heard to boom.

“Yes, sensei!” Lee would reply, from wherever in the room he was.

Many eyes were rolled.

“I hope I get something good,” Ino said, flipping her ponytail.

Sakura sighed. “I don’t think that’s the point of this, Ino-pig.”

“Sakura’s right,” Tenten said. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“You sound like a holiday card,” Kiba said, laughing, and Akamaru barked in agreement.

“Kiba, be nice,” his mother growled as she passed him to refill her drink, Hana in tow.

Hana agreed. “Inuzuka are not Debbie-downers,” she said. “Good luck, girls!”

They continued walking, passing Gaara, who was sat at a table with his siblings.

“And this is supposed to be good? Not a weapon?”

Kankuro sighed. “A candy cane they said. Candy. Not a weapon."

“But it breaks into points, it could be sharp.”

“Just eat a piece,” Temari said, glancing around.

“Looking for anyone in particular?” Kankuro asked, grinning.

“No, why would you ask that?” she answered, about to change the topic.

Elsewhere in the room, Anko and Kurenai were huddled near a bottle of sake.

“I want dango,” Anko whined.

“It’s over there,” Kurenai said, nodding to the buffet table.

“Nooo, I mean for a gift!”

“Of course you do,” Kurenai offered, reaching for more sake.

“I know what you want!” Anko slurred, and Kurenai raised an eyebrow. “For a certain bearded jounin to draw your name and give you a lovey dovey gift!”

Kurenai kicked Anko under the table. “Shut it, you.”

“That’s not a no!”

Before they could argue further, Tsunade clapped her hands. Powerfully.

“Welcome, everyone, formally, to our party!”

The crowd cheered as they settled into seats around the room.

“It’s time for the main event, the gifts! We’ll start with the genin. Someone will start, and give their gift, and that person will open it, I assume thank or kill the other person. Then the person who opened the gift will give their gift, and it will repeat. Once the genin are done we’ll move onto the adults.”

And so, it began…

Ino’s name was drawn first. She approached the tables and drew a purple wrapped gift, making several people laugh. She ignored them and approached Shikamaru, who sighed.

“You drew your own teammate, how troublesome,” he said.

“Manners!” his father called out, making others laugh.

Shikamaru sighed again and opened the gift to find a new shogi set.

Ino laughed. “That’s what I told Sakura. Anyway, I’ll take that as a thank you. And an even bigger thank you will be not asking me to play with you!”

That drew more laughs from the crowd, and more than a few people agreed with her.

“I’ll help you break it in,” Asuma offered, and Shikamaru accepted it.

Shikamaru gifted Kiba and Akamaru matching sweaters, much to their delight. Kiba, in turn, gifted a bemused Kankuro a puppet of a dog. He expected Kankuro to roll his eyes but was surprised to find his gift was warmly accepted.

Kankuro revealed he had drawn Shino’s name, and presented him with a book about the bugs of Suna, which Shino thanked him profusely for, before giving a gift himself to Sakura. He gave her a lovely red scarf, red hat, and plush black gloves, and she blushed as she thanked him.

Sakura felt, rather than saw, Ino narrowing her eyes at her as she approached the table to grab her gift, no doubt checking to see if she had in fact been bluffing about having not drawn Sasuke’s name.

However, Ino’s eyes comically widened when Sakura presented a beautifully decorated envelope to her.

“For me?”

Sakura smiled and nodded.

“You drew me?”

Another nod, and people laughed.

Ino blushed. “Aww, billboard brow!” She opened the envelope to find a gorgeous holiday card, and a gift card for a store they used to visit together often.

“You remembered,” she said softly to Sakura, who blushed and smiled. Ino stood to hug her.

“Thank you!”

“You’re welcome, Ino-pig! Let’s go shopping together soon, yeah?”

“Yeah!”

As Ino carefully put the gift and card back in the envelope, the room buzzed.

“She went first, now what?”

Tsunade chimed in. “Someone else goes.” She scanned the genin with her glass of alcohol, stopping on two familiar buns.

“Ah, Tenten! You’re up!”

Tenten scrunched up her nose but approached the table, and presented Temari with a purple and black decorative fan.

Temari cooed over it, as she appreciated fans in a number of styles and manners, but when Tenten reached over and pressed a hidden button and a spike jutted out, she jumped up and hugged Tenten.

“No messing with either one of them,” someone called out.

Temari gave Choji snacks. Lots and lots of snacks from Suna, and he near cried.

Gaara’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch when Choji approached him with a gift. He pulled a ribbon and wrapping paper fell away to reveal a cactus, and Gaara was floored.

“How did you know?” he asked.

Choji smiled and shrugged. “It’s a Christmas surprise? Also, if you and your siblings are still here tomorrow, you should join my clan for dinner!”

The Sand Siblings gratefully accepted, and Gaara stood to retrieve a gift.

He passed Neji an oblong package, and Neji unwrapped it to find a shakuhachi flute.

Neji was similarly speechless for a moment, before bowing to Gaara and thanking him.

Neji continued to be quiet as he picked a gift from the table and blushed slightly as he gave it to Tenten, who was also surprised and blushed.

“Yosh!” Lee cried in the background, though neither paid attention to him.

Their eyes were locked together.

“Thank you,” Tenten said, softly.

“You haven’t opened it yet,” Neji pointed out.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said, looking at it. “You got it for me.”

“Open it, Tenten!” Ino shouted, breaking the spell.

Tenten opened her gift to find stylized but practical kunai, shuriken, and exploding tags.

“Nothing extravagant, but they reminded me of you,” Neji commented.

“Beautiful,” she said, picking the kunai up, and noticing how perfectly balanced it was, and seeing characters for “adoration” and “admiration” carved into it. Before she could say anything further, someone called out.

“We did it again, ended the cycle.”

“Naruto,” Tsunade called out.

“Sheesh, Granny Tsunade, hold your horses!” he called out, but ran to the table.

He drew a small box, naturally it was wrapped in orange, and passed it to Sasuke.

Ino and Sakura groaned and muttered about “of course” and “soooo jealous.”

Sasuke stared at Naruto, who grinned.

“Just open it already, will ya?”

Sasuke gingerly opened it, and pulled out a collection of papers.

“What ---?” Sasuke began, but Naruto interrupted him.

“Coupons! For yours truly! You can cash those in with me for training, dinner, lunch, at home ramen, laundry,” he counted off on his fingers as he recited them.

Sasuke smiled softly but replaced it with a scowl.

“Thanks, dobe,” he said.

“That’s Naruto for you,” Iruka said, laughing.

Naruto grinned. “You’re welcome! Let’s start to use it tomorrow, we can go training, and eat cookies, and play games!”

“Let me give my gift before you run your mouth for the rest of the night,” Sasuke said, and approached the table.

He passed a wooden box to Lee, who looked at him with shining eyes and bowed deeply.

“This is a most amazing box! I am truly grateful and appreciative that you saw fit to get me such a useful item!”

The room laughed as Sasuke pointed out the that gift was inside the box, and laughed even more when Lee opened it to reveal an assortment of decaffeinated teas.

“A most joyous gift!” Gai and Lee cried out at the same time.

“We should start a Gai drinking game,” someone called out.

“We’ll be trashed in like ten minutes,” another answered.

Lee continued to sniffle and offer his thanks as he grabbed one of two remaining gifts from the genin table and approached Hinata.

“Thank you for your advice when we trained!” he exclaimed.

She blushed. “W-what?”

“You do not remember? You said you might want something warm, now that it is getting colder!”

“Such youthful memory!” Gai cried.

“Drink!” someone called out, and the adults laughed.

Hinata opened her gift to find a light green scarf. While it was not her usual color, it was beautiful, and would keep her warm, and she shared these thoughts with Lee, thanking him.

She felt the room watching her as she handed Naruto the last gift. She hadn’t in her wildest dreams thought she’d be lucky enough to draw his name, but she had been.

“Thanks, Hinata!” Naruto said, showing the room a warm orange robe she got him. “I can’t wait to put it on after my next shower!”

And Kiba and Sakura caught Hinata as she promptly passed out.

Tsunade clapped her hands.

“Great job so far! Everyone get new food and drink, hit the bathroom, we’ll start with the adults in ten!”

As people stood and did as suggested, Shizune sidled up to her.

“I can already see where you meddled,” she muttered to Tsunade, smiling and nodding as peers passed her.

“What do you mean?” Tsunade asked.

Shizune rolled her eyes. “Hinata drawing the name of her crush? And the same for Neji? Sakura being forced to be nice to Ino? So obvious.”

“To you, perhaps,” Tsunade murmured. “But not to others. All part of the magic of the holiday season. Besides, if you think that was good, wait til you see what happens with the adults!”

Shizune sighed.

__________

After some food and drink, and more drink, Tsunade announced the adults would be exchanging gifts.

"Genin, you're free to go. If you stay, don't blame me for seeing anything inappropriate," was the only warning she gave.

"Who's up first?" someone called out.

She frowned and looked around. Some adults made eye contact, some found the floor, ceiling, or their table cloth very interesting.

"Shizune?"

"Yes, Lady Tsunade?"

"Why don't you start?"

There was a collective sigh around the room, and Shizune pursed her lips but shrugged.

"Yes, Lady Tsunade." She approached the gift table and grabbed a gift bag, passing it to Raidou. He thanked her and opened it, to reveal a new sake set.

"You sure that wasn't for the Hokage?" someone called out, and the room laughed.

"I'm sure," Shizune responded.

Raidou thanked her again, and passed a gift to Ibiki. The room grew quiet, other than whispers of how glad others were to not have drawn the interrogation expert.

"A stress relief kit," Ibiki read aloud, looking at the items. "A stress ball, and chocolate?"

The room laughed. Ibiki held up something flat and plastic, and shot Raidou a questioning look.

"It's this thing I picked up one weekend in another village, you blow it up and it's this like inflatable figure that you can punch and it bounces and comes back for more...it sounds stupid, but when you see it I think you'll like it," Raidou said. "Plus I put Orochimaru's face on it."

The room laughed again, as Ibiki looked in the box and began to pull something out, before putting it back.

"Well?" someone called out.

Ibiki cleared his throat. "It's...not for other eyes to see. Another....form of stress relief...."

The room howled with laughter and Genma clapped Raidou on the back.

Ibiki put the other items back and sternly thanked Raidou, before grabbing his own gift. To Genma's surprise, Ibiki passed it to him.

"For me? You shouldn't have!"

Genma opened the gift. "New senbon, naturally," he said, before pulling out a mug. It was a garish red and had a candy cane on it. It also read "his."

"Suits you," Anko called out.

"A very thoughtful gift from Ibiki," Iruka commented to his table.

"There's something else in there," Ibiki said, watching Genma pull out...a matching mug.

"I don't get it," Genma said, blankly.

"His and his mugs," Ibiki said, smirking. "For you and Raidou."

The room lost it. Genma scowled, Raidou blushed.

"And the candy canes form a heart when you put the mugs together!" Asuma shouted, laughing even harder.

"I mean..." Genma said. "What are you getting at...."

"I like it," Raidou commented, making people laugh more. "Gen, why don't you give your gift?"

Genma grumbled but followed the suggestion. To Anko's surprise, he passed her a medium box, wrapped in shiny red paper.

"Gift! Gift! Gift!" she shouted as she tore it open. "Dango! Dango! And more dango!"

"No surprise there," Kakashi called out.

"More dango?" she said, rummaging around. She pulled up a small green Santa hat and put it on.

"There's more," Genma said, and Anko looked again.

Only to pull out....santa-themed lingerie, and got some wolf-whistles.

"Matches the hat," Genma said, smirking. Anko tried to stuff the lingerie back, but Genma grabbed it and showed the room. "A lovely shade of green, no? Matches something in here, but I can't put my finger on it...."

"Not a something, a someone," Kurenai commented.

"I'm not drunk enough for this," Anko said, snatching the lingerie back. "You're mean," she said to Genma.

"You'll thank me later, I'm sure," he grinned around the senbon in his mouth.

She scowled and grabbed a gift, giving it to Ebisu. He pushed his glasses up his nose and opened it to reveal...red Santa lingerie.

"What!?" he yelled, and the room died in laughter.

"It was someone's silly idea, and he apparently decided to get me something similar," Anko said.

Ebisu put the lingerie back and approached to get a gift, while Naruto was heard making comments about him. He grabbed a box and bowed to Tsunade, before presenting it to her.

"Cough cough suck up cough cough," someone said, making others laugh.

She opened the box to reveal an assortment of mini bottles of various alcohols, and thanked Ebisu.

"Who wants to bet it's gone in five minutes?" someone called out.

"I'm in!"

"Five? I say eight!"

"Silence!" Tsunade roared. "Be quiet if you're not going to give me a chance to bet, too." She turned back to Ebisu and thanked him, then grabbed a gift from the table.

She passed it to Hiashi Hyuga.

"I'm glad she drew him," Yamato commented to his table.

The room watched as Hiashi opened his gift to reveal...a pickle ornament.

"Thank you," he said, admittedly a little confused.

"Don't thank me yet," she said, as the room began to laugh and murmur. Their laughter increased when she pressed a button and the pickle began to yodel.

It terrified and enamored the crowd, who debated if it was a gift or a torture device.

Hiashi couldn't keep the frown off his face as the pickle continued its terrifying serenade, but also saw a handwritten note of appreciation from Tsunade, and nodded at her in thanks.

Hiashi then approached the table and gave a gift to Inoichi Yamanaka, a set of seeds and a tutorial of how to care for this new plant, for which he was thanked.

Inoichi gave Itachi gift cards for the movies, which Itachi was happy about. He then approached the table and gave a smartly wrapped gift to Yamato, who was flattered to have received anything.

It was a book of architecture, including with blueprints for many things, from birdhouses to sheds, gazebos to cabins.

"This is great! I can't wait to start using it!" Yamato said in thanks.

He approached the gift table himself, and shyly gave a medium sized blue wrapped box to Hana. She opened it to reveal a wood sculpture of her dogs, and she thanked him as she turned it this way and that to study it.

"There's also a blueprint for a nice dog house in there," Itachi commented.

"Really? That would be something, the pack would love it I'm sure," Hana said.

"Uh, I could give it a go," Yamato said, blushing.

"He's free tomorrow," Kakashi offered, and Hana smiled.

"Are you? I'll see you at noon then!" And she walked to the gift table before he could respond.

"I think my kohai has a date," Kakashi said, swinging an arm over his shoulder and leading him away. "Congrats!"

The room gossiped about this as Hana passed a gift to Asuma, a beard care set.

As he went to the gift table himself, she passed Kurenai, who looked slightly saddened.

"Don't worry," Hana whispered. "I have a date with Yamato, remember? And look who's coming this way," she nodded towards Asuma as she sat at the next table over.

Asuma approached Kurena and handed her a medium sized red and white box. She thanked him softly and opened it to reveal a new sake set, and a bottle of sake.

"Nice choice, it's a good brand," Tsunade said as she passed by.

Kurenai smiled. "We could try it sometime?"

"Ah, sure," Asuma said. She smiled again and stood to get a gift to give, and Asuma could see Ino giving him a thumbs up from across the room, which he briefly returned.
She turned to whisper to Sakura, Tenten, and Hinata.

Kurenai approached Tsume Inuzuka with a large flat box, and Tsume opened it to reveal a framed picture of Hana and Kiba, and all their dogs.

"This is great, thank you! Can't wait to hang it up!" Tsume said. She then stood and retrieved a gift, pasing it to Shikaku.

It was a gift card for a bookstore, as well as a book called "How to Train Your Lazy Pup," and the room laughed. Shikamaru sighed.

Shikaku thanked her as he wiped a tear of laughter from his eye, standing to get a gift himself. He approached Gai and passed a large green box.

"Thank you! A most generous gift, no doubt!" Gai cried, as he opened it. The room strained to see, as he pulled out decaffeinated coffee, a resistance band, and three matching winter hats.

"Three hats?" Ebisu asked.

"Yeah, not like Gai loses things," Inoichi commented.

Shikaku grinned. "Not just for Gai. One for Gai, one for Lee, and one for his rival."

Gai and Lee burst out crying, as Kakashi frowned.

"Gai, the three of you should wear those tomorrow, you guys could go training, all day," Genma said, grinning widely.

"A most glorious idea!" Gai cried, giving a thumbs up, and Kakashi crossed his arms.

"I'll get you back," he told Genma, who laughed and gave him a thumbs up of his own.

Gai stood and approached Chouza Akimichi with a box, containing various new grilling utensils, for which he was thanked.

Chouza appraoched the gift table, but frowned. "I'm afraid I drew Master Jiraiya, but it doesn't look like he's here?"

Tsunade approached. "Yes, no, he couldn't be with us tonight. I'll make sure your gift gets to him."

The room quieted down.

"Now what?"

Everyone turned to the table, which by now only had a few gifts left.

Tsunade paused. "Hmm, let's keep it going. Jiraiya sent me his gift to give, since he wouldn't be here." She called Iruka up, to many catcalls, and motioned to a large box. "It's too much for me to bring over."

Iruka opened it to find....a full set of Icha Icha. He blushed and shook his head as the room continued to catcall him.

"Too bad you're training tomorrow, Kakashi," Anko said. "Or you and Iruka could stay in and read all day."

Kakashi didn't respond, and Iruka blushed as he headed back to his seat.

"Oi, Iruka! Who did you get?"

The room laughed as Iruka jumped back up and ran to the table.

"Sorry! I was so caught off guard by the books!" He grabbed a moderately sized delicately wrapped box and approached Kakashi.

"Happy holidays," he said, giving Kakashi the box.

Kakashi studied him with his visible eye before opening the box, to reveal....gloves.

"Practical, sensei, thank you," Kakashi said.

"Not just any gloves," Iruka said. "They're designed to help your flow of chakra when you wear them, as it gets colder. So you can keep your hands warm, but it won't interfere with anything."

Others began to talk, complaining they wanted them, and would Kakashi trade?

"Very thoughtful, thank you," Kakashi said. Iruka blushed and sat, and watched Kakashi approach the gift table.

"Just your luck," Kotetsu said to Iruka. "Getting Hatake! I'm glad it wasn't me!"

"I think he liked it," Izumo said.

They watched Kakashi pass a gift to Shizune, some nice teas.

Tsunade stood and looked at the two remaining gifts. "Who's left?"

The room looked around, until Kotetsu and Izumo stood, then they laughed.

"You guys drew each other?" Iruka said, laughing.

"That's too funny!" Shizune agreed.

Kotetsu and Izumo blushed and mumbled as they approached the table and passed similarly sized gifts to each other. They opened it only to reveal...the exact same gift, a scarf and a gift card for food.

"You..."

"And you..."

"Alright everyone," Tsunade said, while the men stuttered at each other and their peers laughed. "I think that wraps the gifts up! Happy holidays, eat some food, keep drinking, the party's not over!"

The room cheered and continued the event.

After some time, Shizune sat next to Tsunade at a table by themselves, bringing drinks.

"Good party," Shizune said, with a smile.

"Agreed!" Tsunade said.

"I can see more of your work though," Shizune smiled again.

"Hmm?"

Shizune rolled her eyes. "Look around."

Kurenai and Asuma were standing near each other talking to some of their genin teams.

"I'm joining the Akimichi for dinner tomorrow," Asuma said to Kurenai. "Perhaps you'd like to join me?"

"That would be nice," she said, smiling. "Maybe after we could go somewhere to try the sake?"

Shizue and Tsunade laughed to themselves as Asuma stuttered slightly.

They looked around more. Genma and Raidou were admiring their mugs, sitting as close to each other as the mugs were. Tsume was admiring her picture, and looking between it and her children.

Hana was shooting Yamato glances when he wasn't looking, and he was doing the same.

Itachi was sat smiling next to his brother, who was looking morose, but flipping through his coupon book.

"I'm totally kicking Sasuke's butt in training tomorrow," Naruto was saying to Kiba and Shikamaru. Tenten and Temari were discussing weapons strategies and making plans to train as well.

Hinata and Lee posed for a picture with their new gifts, the scarf and hat, respectively, then Lee posed with Gai for their hats. Shizune and Tsunade watched Gai wrestle Kakashi into the picture as well, pulling his hat on his unruly hair.

As soon as the picture was over, Kakashi yanked the hat off. "Oh! I should go thank Iruka again, gotta go, Gai!"

He ran away as he heard Gai's proclamations.

Iruka was sat at a table with Anko, who looked up as Kakashi approached.

"I should go see who wants to make plans with me and my new gift," she said, grabbing her semi-wrapped lingerie and leaving, shooting Kakashi a look.

"Bye Anko," Iruka said. He looked at Kakashi, unsure of what to say.

"So, the whole collection, hmm?" Kakashi said, lightly touching the books he revered.

Iruka sighed. Of course that's why he came over. "Looks like it. I guess I have no excuses anymore of why I haven't read them."

Tsunade passed by and stopped at their table. "Iruka, Jiraiya also sent this, I forgot to put it with the others." She glanced at Kakashi, who was leaning against the table. "He took extra steps to make sure this was here on time." She gave Iruka a smaller wrapped item, and left.

Kakashi watched Iruka unwrap something, and Iruka frowned. "Uh..."

Kakashi's visible eye widened. "Is that? That is! It's his latests work! It doesn't come out for at least a month!" he whispered. "I don't think anyone has it!"

Iruka looked at the book, then Kakashi, then the book. He shrugged. "Nice, I suppose. Thoughtful, really. Um, would you like to read it?"

Kakashi reverently looked at the book. "Maa, I'd love to, but he gave it to you...."

Iruka opened the book to where a piece of paper was sticking out, a note.

He read it aloud. "To Iruka-sensei, this is an exclusive gift, hot off the press. I hope it finds you well, and helps. And maybe in turn you can share and help with my future research."

Iruka frowned. "What does that even mean?"

Kakashi shrugged. "No clue, but could I read it when you're done?"

Iruka held it out. "You could take it first, it's probably wasted on me."

Kakashi looked longingly at the book.

Tsunade passed again. "Just read it together, brats. You're both free tomorrow, remember? Unless you're training with Gai all day, Kakashi..."

"Come over for dinner," Kakashi blurted to Iruka.

"What?"

"Or, I could come to you. Let's read it together?"

Iruka blushed. "Um, okay, sure. You could come over..."

Yamato passed by. "Looks like I'm not the only one with a date, senpai." He grinned, but one look at Kakashi and he fled.

"Have to go teach some manners, see you tomorrow," Kakashi said, and left.

"Some of you get dates, and I get ladies' underwear," Ebisu sighed.

"Some also got improved friendships," Shizune added. "Anyway, I'm throwing a get together tomorrow, including a gift swap, for unwanted gifts." She laughed. "Stop by, and bring your lingerie. Maybe we can get you something better."

Tsunade smiled as she looked around, seeing friends, family, generations, and potential.

"Happy holidays, indeed."

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

Christmas dawned bright and chilly in Konoha. Businesses were largely closed, except for a few food vendors who were open for a few hours in the morning.

Lee and Gai spent the day training in their new hats, running into Temari, Tenten, and Gaara and joining them. Tenten and Lee decided to see if their third teammate was free, and at one point went to the Hyuga compound to search for Neji, and were invited to join Hinata and himself for tea.

----

Iruka and Naruto had spent the morning together, eating breakfast and decorating a tree, exchanging small gifts.

"I have to go meet Sasuke and show how much better I am," Naruto said after a few hours, wrapping a new scarf from Iruka around his neck. "Is Kakashi-sensei really coming over later?"

Iruka shrugged. "Maybe? I think he was just being polite, but I suppose I'd better have something to make for dinner just in case. Have fun!"

---

Yamato warmed his hands on a hot mug of tea Hana brought him, before flexing his fingers and starting work on dog houses, supervised by various Inuzuka clan members, people and dogs, who passed by here and there.

"You're staying for dinner," Tsume told Yamato as she passed at one point, and Kuromaru growled to make it clear it was not a question.

---

Many of the shinobi spent the second half of the day with the Akimichi Clan, eating too much and enjoying every bite of it.

Both generations of Ino-Shika-Cho laughed and told stories of their training days, and various mishaps.

Genma and Raidou strolled over to Shizune's party, where they joined a number of others, including Ebisu, who was poking around the gift table to see what he could try to draw later.

Iruka was suprised when there was a knock on his door at about five in the evening. He opened it to find Kakashi, who entered the apartment and began to help Iruka in the kitchen, as he had brought a side dish and dessert.

"To make sure we have enough energy to get through the book in one sitting!"
_______________

As the night continued, Asuma and Kurenai slipped out of the party they were at and headed to Kurenai's apartment to celebrate the holiday more quietly.

Tsunade left Shizune's party and headed to her office for a nightcap, and saw a small gift on her desk she didn't remember seeing before.

"From an old teammate, just to say I'm thinking of you even with everything. No hard feelings."

"I'd better wait to open this," she said, putting it in a sealed drawer.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

"I want, no, need, another day off," Tsunade sighed as she sat at her Hokage desk.

Shizune frowned. "Hokage's don't really get time off like that."

"Sure we do!"

"Then you should have scheduled it like everyone else, instead of focusing on the other activities," Shizune said.

"It was worth it, I suppose. Everyone had fun, and the village was so calm and festive yesterday."

"We've been festive all month," Shizune muttered. "I don't think everyone realizes the decorations have to come down eventually."

"Don't be a spoilsport," Tsunade cautioned. "Hokage decree, all decorations must remain up until at least January 2nd!"

"Don't abuse your power like that," Shizune warned, but wrote it down all the same. She pushed a glass of water towards Tsunade. "Now drink up, if you sober up now maybe you'll be in good shape for new year's eve."

"Yes!" Tsunade clapped her hands excitedly, feeling less tired. "We need to start planning it!"

"Here we go again," Shizune sighed.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

"Hello!" Iruka greeted the genin of Team 7 as they approached his desk in the missions office.

"Good morning, Iruka-sensei," Sakura greeted, and Sasuke gave a nod.

"Great morning!" Naruto shouted. "We're here for a mission!"

"Without your sensei?" Iruka frowned.

All three genin rolled their eyes.

"Kakashi-sensei is late," Sakura sighed.

"Again!" Naruto whined.

"But he's on his way," Sakura added.

"Well, let me start looking for you, so when he gets here you're all ready to go." Iruka started to rifle through some scrolls. "How were your holidays, by the way?"

"Naruto got friendly with the cold, hard ground," Sasuke intoned.

"I did not! I was great! The best! Better than you!" Naruto shouted, and some shinobi turned briefly to look, then returned to what they were doing. The blond being loud was no surprise.

"My family just had a small get-together," Sakura said, smiling. "How was yours, Iruka-sensei?"

Before Iruka could answer, Naruto chimed in.

"It was great! We spent the morning together and had fun and ate and ate and ate!" He paused and looked at Iruka.

"Did Kakashi-sensei really come over later?"

Iruka could feel more than just Naruto's eyes on him at the sound of that question. More than just Team 7's eyes, actually. And when had the room grown a bit quieter?

"Ah, yes," Iruka said, continuing to look through scrolls. He pulled one out. "What about a nice, simple gardening job? To help an older couple get ready for a new year?"

Naruto's eyes narrowed and he leaned in towards Iruka, looking carefully at him.

"What?" Iruka asked.

"Just looking," Naruto said, and Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"Looking for what?" Iruka asked again.

"To see if he made you into a pervert too," Naruto said, returning to his original spot. The room laughed, and Iruka blushed, then laughed.

"Ah, yes, the infamous pervert no justu, courtesy of the Sharingan," Iruka said, and the room laughed again. "Maybe you'd like to chase down the daimyo's wife's cat? Again?"

"Naruto!" Sakura warned. "Hush! Don't make us get a bad mission!"

"There's no such thing as a bad mission, only a bad attitude," Iruka taught. "Anyway, what are you all getting up to for new year's eve?"

"We're not sure," Naruto said.

"There's a lot of options this year," Sakura added. "Especially now that we're genin!"

"There's always just staying in and going to sleep early," Sasuke muttered.

"No, teme! We're going out!" Naruto said, then turned to Iruka. "What about you?"

"Like you said, lots of options," Iruka said.

"Maa, you'll have to keep me posted of where you decide to go," a voice called out, and they turned to look.

"Kakashi-sensei," Iruka greeted, with a nod of his head. He handed him a scroll. "A suggested mission for your team, if you approve?"

Kakashi unrolled and glanced at it, then tucked it away and gave a salute. "Let's go," he said to his genin, who said goodbye to Iruka.

Iruka thought he was safe, until Kakashi turned back just as they were at the door.

"I didn't know about the jutsu you told Naruto about, sensei, you'll have to teach it to me sometime."

Iruka blushed and laid his head on the desk, to the deep laughter of his peers.

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

"A mission! Outside of the village! For two days!" Ino yelled as she stood with her team at the west gate. "We'll miss new year's eve!"

"It is a little tiring," Shikamaru yawned.

Choji just pulled out a snack and ate in silence.

Asuma lit another cigarette. "It's a short delivery mission, we'll be back in plenty of time. Besides, it's tradition."

His team looked at him curiously.

"Didn't you know?" He was met with silence and wary looks. "Your fathers' team usually does a similar mission at this time of year."

More wary looks.

"They take a short mission out of the village, and pick up something from wherever they end up, to bring back to the big new year's eve party they throw. Now it's your turn. We'll get something easily carried between the four of us, tea, or another drink or snack. Something like that."

The younger members exchanged looks.

"Now that you mention it, there is always a new addition that changes every year," Choji said, naturally taking note of foods available.

"And dad is usually away this time of year, I guess I never put it together each year," Ino added.

"I don't think we have a choice anyway," Shikamaru sighed.

Asuma tightened the straps on his pack. "That's the spirit! Now let's get going, this package isn't delivering itself!"

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

"You're all coming to my party, right?" Anko asked, as they sat at dinner at a bar.

"At least stopping by," Izumo said.

"You're throwing another party?" Iruka asked.

"Yeah, but this is my usual one, the Christmas one was new. I expect to see you at some point," she nudged Iruka.

"If he's not on a hot date," Ebisu said, and the table laughed.

Iruka looked around. "What?"

"Word is you had company on Christmas," Kotetsu said.

"What?" Iruka asked again.

"Everyone knows," Ibiki said, passing by. "Hatake?"

"Oh, geez," Iruka said, hiding his face in his hands. "It was nothing!"

"He came over and it was nothing?" Izumo asked.

"He came over, we had dinner, and read. That was it!"

"Did he have you for dinner?" Anko asked, a huge grin on her face, making the table laugh.

"No! He was polite, and no, I didn't see his face. Or anything else," Iruka said, before his friends could.

"What did we miss?" Shizune asked, as she and Kurenai joined the table.

"Trying to get dirt on Iruka and Kakashi," Kotetsu informed them.

Kurenai raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Nothing happened!" Iruka protested. "He came over to read the latest Icha Icha Jiraiya gifted me in the present exchange."

"Sets the mood," Izumo suggested, and the table laughed.

"I had no intention of reading it," Iruka said. "I tried to tell him to just take the book and return it when he was done. Instead, he came over, we ate, he read it, and I read another book." He paused and looked at his friends. "And no, not another of the Icha Icha."

"You sat," Anko said.

"And read?" Shizune asked.

"All night?" Kotetsu added.

"Yeah, he was on a chair, I was on the sofa. I'm not sure about all night, last time I saw was like one in the morning, I guess I fell asleep then."

"You guess?" Kurenai asked.

Iruka shrugged. "I woke up and it was morning, he was gone, the book was there, and a blanket was on me."

"That you didn't put on yourself," Kurenai said, smiling. Iruka blushed and didn't answer.

His friends howled.

"I guess I'll see you both at my party, together," Anko said, stressing the last word. She turned towards Kurenai. "And you and Asuma, don't think we're excluding you from our interrogation!"

"Sorry," Iruka mouthed to Kurenai, who smiled and shrugged.

"I should've known our friends are too into gossip to let it go," she said, and took a drink before it was her turn for questioning.

"Well, Asuma and I did have a nice night, he's such a gentleman...."

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

"The Inuzukas let you go after all?" Kakashi asked Yamato as they met for a drink.

Yamato blushed. "Yes, senpai. What did you think would happen?"

Genma joined them, slinging an arm around Yamato. "That they'd keep you forever and ever, to make doghouses galore!"

Kakashi snorted, Yamata blushed.

"They were very appreciative," he said. "They've invited me to join them tomorrow as well."

"Well, that makes one of us with solid plans," Raidou said, joining them, Asuma, Itachi, and Gai trickling in shortly.

Genma sighed. "You know I told you I made us dinner reservations, then we'll bounce around a few parties."

Raidou laughed. "I know, just teasing. Anyone else?"

Itachi smirked. "I told Sasuke if he stayed in I'd smother him in his bed, and share embarrassing childhood picture of him with his fan club. Needless to say, he's going out, and I'm free to find a party."

"The wonders of youth! I'm sure he would not mind such delightful pictures being shared!" Gai boomed.

"Tell him that," Itachi said.

"Asuma?" Raidou asked. "Big plans with a certain someone?"

Asuma cleared his throat. "Maybe. Kurenai and I are planning on stopping by a few places."

"My ears are burning," Kurenai said, joining the table with Anko, Shizune, and Tsunade in tow.

"I'm so glad you got together!" Anko said, clapping.

"Yes, how curious that the gift exchange helped," Shizune said, shooting Tsunade a look, who shrugged.

"Not just us, from what I hear," Kurenai said with a smile, glancing at Kakashi, who maintained his bored look.

"Rival! Is there something you have not told me?" Gai shrieked.

"I don't know, Gai, is there?" Kakashi drawled.

"Word is, you and Iruka are an item now," Anko said.

A snicker could be heard, and Kakashi sighed.

"Just because you're ANBU doesn't mean I can't see you," he said. "Shouldn't you be keeping an eye on the Hokage and not on my private life?" He turned his gaze back to the table. "Does he say we are?"

"No," Shizune said.

"He assured us nothing happened," Kurenai said. "We're just teasing."

The conversation moved on, and soon Tsunade stood to leave.

As she passed Kakashi, she leaned towards his ear.

"If you want something to happen, brat, make a move."

He nodded slightly, but had no other reaction, and fortunately no one asked about the exchange.

A few minutes later, Kakashi stood to get a drink, and returned, sitting next to Anko. He nudged her to get her attention. "Did Iruka happen to mention any plans for tomorrow night...?"

Chapter Text

(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

"Come on in," Kiba said, greeting Naruto and Sasuke as they entered his home in the evening. "Let's see if we can sneak some alcohol when the adults get a little looser."

"Are those Kakashi-sensei's ninken?" Naruto asked, seeing a number of dogs huddled together.

"Yeah, they stop by sometimes," Hana said, passing them, carrying two drinks, one of which she passed to Yamato, who nodded at the boys. Sasuke nodded back, and turned away to hide a small smile.

_______

Hinata and Neji said their goodbyes at their own homes and left to join other genin. They parted ways briefly, Hinata joining other kunoichi to make a few rounds at Sakura and Tenten's family homes before moving to the Ino-Shika-Cho party, which was in full swing. Many family members of the three clans were there, along with what seemed like half the shinobi in the village.

As the party continued, Tenten was seen trying to get Neji to dance, and Sakura had, against her better judgement, agreed to dance with Lee.

If what he was doing could be called dancing.

Ino was also trying to get Shikamaru to dance, and when he wouldn't, found a new partner. Shikamaru sighed, pleased to be left alone again, and sat next to Choji near the food.

Iruka entered with Shizune, Izumo, and Kotetsu later in the evening, and made rounds talking to various shinobi. He later gave a small thumbs up to Kurenai, who was standing with Asuma, quite close indeed, and she smiled back.

"Gai is probably coming here soon," she said to him in passing. "And with him, likely Kakashi."

Iruka's eyes widened and he thanked her and ran, grabbing Kotetsu.

"I have to get out of here, I'm going to head to Anko's!" And he left before Kotetsu could ask anything.

He shrugged, and turned back to Izumo and the party. It was, after all, about an hour and a half til midnight.

Gai and Kakashi did in fact arrive later, with Tsunade and Ibiki, and made their rounds. Or, rather, Tsunade made rounds with her shinobi and alcohol, Ibiki talked to several people, and Kakashi allowed Gai to drag him around to mingle.

____________

Far, far away, the Akatsuki were setting out their own food and drink to celebrate, and Deidara was putting finishing touches on the decorations he had set up.

Elsewhere, also far away, Orochimaru was deep in thought and in privacy, as his henchmen began to party.

Somewhere in the middle, distance-wise, Jiraiya was buying rounds of drinks for the pretty ladies surrounding him, gathering more information for his research and next book.

______________

 

Anko's was in full swing when Iruka entered. Ebisu was dancing with another academy teacher, and a lot of Anko's jounin neighbors were there, along with other shinobi and some civilians she was friendly with. Including a dango vendor, unsurprisingly.

Iruka mingled and danced, enjoying being at a smaller gathering.

"Twenty minutes til midnight!" Anko shouted, walking around, passing out new year's hats and noisemakers. She linked arms with Iruka and began to dance.

"Great party!" he shouted, to be heard over the music.

"I know!" she shouted back. "Just need to find me a midnight kiss."

He winked. "Are you fishing for me?"

She looked around and smiled. "Nah, I think ours just came in!"

"Ours?" he asked, looking around.

His heart dropped, Gai and Kakashi had arrived at her party, Genma and Raidou entering just after.

"Please tell me you're choosing Kakashi," he murmured in her ear.

She gave him an evil smile and he tried to pull away to run, but she held him firm.

"No leaving a party so close to midnight, you'll miss ringing in the new year!" she said.

He twisted away. "Uh, not leaving, just....getting another drink...bye!" And with that, Iruka darted away.

"Ten minutes!" she called out. "Find your midnight kiss!" she said, slinking over to Gai.

______________

All across Konoha, and its neighbors, people were doing the same, looking for their midnight kiss, or hug, or shot of alcohol.

Established couples linked arms, new couples blushed as they talked about it being their first new year's eve together.

Hinata was watching Sakura and Ino whisper argue about who would "get" Sasuke, who looked bored as always, having just arrived with Naruto, who was already clowning around with Shikamaru, Choji, and Shino. She noticed Shikamaru say something to Naruto, who blushed.

Shizune and Tsunade left, it being custom for the Hokage to ring in the new year in their office, overlooking Konoha.

"Two minutes!" was shouted around the village. Many people had spilled into the streets to see fireworks that would be set off.

Asuma and Kurenai stood next to each other, arms around each other's waists.

Hana and Yamato lightly touched hands.

Genma pulled Raidou into a big, hardy hug.

Iruka was in Anko's kitchen, trying to hide...get a drink...when he felt a presence near him. He turned around.

"K-Kakashi-sensei!"

"Maa, just Kakashi is fine, sensei."

Iruka's eyes widened. Kakashi was standing between him and the door, aka freedom.

"Uh, are you having a good time?" he asked the older man, who was standing slouched, with his hands in his pockets. As usual.

"I am. I thought I saw you at another party earlier?"

Iruka tried to figure out how to escape. "I was, I left to come here not long ago. I told Anko I'd be here, so here I am."

"Yes, here you are."

"We should probably get out there and not miss midnight," Iruka said, lamely.

Kakashi shrugged. "Midnight will be in the kitchen too..."

Iruka ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I know people are...saying things...and I hope it hasn't offended you. I didn't contribute to it or egg it on, you know?"

Kakashi, to Iruka's surprise, advanced, and Iruka backed up. Unfortunately, the wall was right behind him before long.

"I've heard things too, but I haven't disliked it," Kakashi said.

"You haven't?"

"Have you?"

Before Iruka could answer, the countdown began.

"Ten, nine!" people chanted, and moves were made.

Tenten moved closer to Neji, Sakura and Ino to Sasuke.

"Eight, seven!"

Asuma pulled Kurenai tight, as did Anko with Gai, and Ino-Shika-Cho with their partners.

"Six, five!"

Genma pulled Raidou close with both hands, to his delight. Tsunade and Shizune raised their glasses to Konoha.

"Four, three!"

Jiraiya had no less than four lovely ladies in his arms, giggling. The Akatsuki raised their glasses.

Iruka, who had not answered, watched silently and in surprise as Kakashi pulled his mask down, as it was just the two of them in the kitchen, and his back was to the doorway.

"Two, one! Happy New Year!"

Everyone cheered, toasted, sang. Established couples kissed. Kurenai and Asuma, Hana and Yamato, Gai and Anko, Genma and Raidou kissed. Ebisu pecked the cute teacher on the cheek.

Sakura and Ino kissed Sasuke, one on either side of him, and everyone laughed at his shocked expression.

Naruto gave Hinata a quick peck on the cheek, and blushed himself.

Tenten also kissed Neji's cheek, and laughed at his blush.

Kiba swung Akamaru around, shouting.

Kakashi kissed Iruka.

"To a great holiday season, and an even better new year," Tsunade said, raising her glass to Konoha. "Happy new year!"