Microfic for Kitty
Lunch-hour microfic for Kitty 'cause she needs one... and she mentioned a santa-nin and it kinda took off in my head from there...
InoShikaChou, NaruSasu, KakaIru
PG-13 (beware of tooth-rotting sugar overload, and that's before the candy canes come into it...)
ETA 2: Couple tweaks just 'cause I wrote it in an hour and some of my convoluted sentences got a little TOO convoluted...
Ino stretched up on tiptoe to fiddle with Chouji's hat. "Don't worry," she said. "They're little kids. How awful can they be? You'll do fine."
From the other side of the room, Shikamaru snorted.
"You shut up."
"Schoolteacher here," Shikamaru reminded her, gloomily adjusting his own headgear so the plastic of the headband would stop poking him in the ears.
"That's why I said you shut up. Ignore him," Ino said, and adjusted the drape of her skirt one more time. "Does this outfit make my butt look fat?"
"No," Chouji said immediately, because there was always only one answer to those types of questions, and it didn't even require thought. He must have done something wrong, though, because Ino glared at him.
"You didn't even look!"
"That's because nothing makes your butt look fat?" he tried, scrambling for verbal duck-and-cover territory. Ino's eyes narrowed, and then she sighed and chuckled and stretched up to kiss his cheek.
"I need to learn to stop asking you those types of questions. You've got a skewed perspective about weight, cuddlebear."
"Promise?" Shikamaru asked from across the room, and got a pointed shoe thrown at him. It probably would have degenerated from there if it hadn't been for a tap on the door.
"Oh look, that's our cue!" Chouji said too brightly, and threw the bag over his shoulder and headed for the prospect of escape. He pulled it open a little too vigorously -- the doorknob might never be the same -- and launched into his trained mini-speech.
"Ho, ho, ho -- Merry Christmas!"
The room full of Academy children erupted into ear-piercing squeals. Beaming from ear to ear, Iruka-sensei took Chouji's arm as he guided their class's personal Santa over to his instructor's chair and helped him settle into it -- some caretaking instincts died harder than others. By the other door, Kakashi was wearing a crown of mistletoe perched atop the shaggy thatch of hair and a pair of glossy pink wax lips... over the mask. Shikamaru slunk over next to him and tried to stand behind his shoulder; Ino was having none of it, and grabbed him by the ear to drag him out in front of the class to help herd the squealing kids into a semblance of a line.
"Soooo whipped," Kiba muttered to his old teammates with a grin. "Has Chouji been getting fatter?"
"He's an Akimichi," Shino said, as unreadable as ever.
"Still... the way Ino cooks, I can't figure how anybody would manage to gain weight-- ouch!" Kiba swatted at a sting by pure reflex, then froze at a distinct glare through the sunglasses. "Er. Right. Shutting up now..."
Several of the kids waiting in line for their turn at Santa's lap were demanding the opportunity to get a reindeer ride. Ino was all for it, of course; she was the elf, skimpy green skirt and pointed ears and all, so it was her job to keep them happy. Shikamaru, scratching at the antlers-headband again, had nothing to say but "Troublesome." Still, he hoisted the kids onto his shoulders and trotted back and forth around the room dutifully, because the elf was also a crack shot with blackboard erasers and chalk bits.
Once all the squealing kids had gotten a seat on Santa's lap and a present from his bag and had been set free for the day, the adult teachers and their friends and family took the chance to have their own end-of-school party. Iruka had set up a bowl of hot spiced cider and snacks, and knowing the group, he kept a hawk's eye on it to make sure the cider bowl itself stayed unmedicated. Ino, on the other hand, had stashed several bottles of sake in the bottom of that Santa-bag, and Asuma's flak-jacket pockets held a couple more just in case. Lee had brought his own supply of orange juice, because it was less sugary than cider as well as guaranteed un-doctored. Neji quietly tasted the cider before he handed it to Hinata, just in case. It didn't take all that long for Ino to end up curled up happily on Santa's knee with a sizable cup of Iruka's cider that she'd doctored a bit, though Chouji's cup stayed as innocuous as Hinata's.
Kiba didn't actually need the alcohol to launch into party festivities, but it didn't hurt either. Naruto certainly didn't, when he and Sasuke arrived with the triplets in tow and a few slightly frazzled apologies about the trouble with getting out of Council meetings in time to get three squirmy ninja babies into warm snow-clothes followed by carrier-slings in the winter. Shino took it upon himself to make sure the classroom furniture didn't suffer too much as a result of Kiba and Naruto both feeling festive in a small and enclosed space; Sasuke took up a post propping up the wall with a shoulder and glaring at nothing in particular, although he made an exception by glaring quite emphatically at Kakashi when he came over with the mistletoe and the wax lips.
Hinata looked like a fish out of water; Shikamaru took shameless advantage of that to drag her over to chat with Iruka-sensei -- and to stash the antlers and hooves and fluffy white tail under the table holding the punch, where the tablecloth would keep it nicely hidden from Ino and her costuming impulses for a while. Hinata surprised him, though, by catching his elbow before he could slink toward the supply closet (and its convenient back window) again.
"Chouji looks so happy," she murmured.
Taken aback --damn those eyeball bloodline limits, do I assume she knows or she doesn't know?-- he managed, "Er, ah, yeah." ...Smooth, real smooth.
His noncomittal response seemed to have stymied whatever she was trying to say; she pushed her fingertips together, not sure what to do next, and Iruka took pity on them both and said brightly, "We haven't had our secret santa exchange yet, have we? Come on, everyone, Santa's still here and everything -- I'll go get the adults' collections; Shikamaru-kun, will you give me a hand?"
In the supply closet, Shikamaru managed to find a spare pair of clothes while Iruka was putting the secret-santa gifts into the bag; spare clothes around ninja classes were an essential, between chalk, blood, and exploding paint-dust prank bombs, and Iruka was waiting for him with a faint smile as he finished pulling the shirt over his head.
"...Thanks," Shikamaru muttered, embarrassed about being grateful for the excuse to ditch the rest of the deer costume.
"Cover for me when Kakashi tries to drag me back here with that mistletoe on his head, and we'll call it even," Iruka replied wryly.
"Do I stop him or not?"
Iruka laughed and scratched behind an ear, which Shikamaru decided was answer enough by itself, and he snorted. "Right."
Kiba was the first one whose present was drawn out of the bag, and he and Ino got into a tipsy argument about whether or not the teachers had to sit on Santa's lap too. While they were cuffing each other over the head and squabbling, Chouji pulled the next present out of the bag; it was Kakashi's, and Ino immediately turned on him: "Go on! Everybody sits on Santa's lap..."
If she thought she was going to get a fight, she was going to be surprised; Kakashi happily perched himself on Chouji's knee to open his present, and squealed in delight when it turned out to be another volume of Icha Icha Violence.
"You know me so well, Santa!" He planted a wax-lipped kiss on a ferociously-blushing Chouji's cheek before skipping off to show off his present (and his mistletoe).
"Everybody knows that about you," Sakura pointed out tartly. "Who's next, Chouji-kun? --I mean Santa?"
The women generally submitted with cheerful grace to sitting on Santa's lap in order to receive their presents; the men were a little touchier. Asuma probably wasn't considered to be sitting, with all his weight perched on the balls of his feet and a rigid grin on his face that said he really wanted to get Ino's camera away from her and shove it somewhere with a lot less exposure. Iruka blushed fiercely and tried not to lean. After Lee's exuberant proclamations of how sharing in the Christmas spirit with beloved friends and family showed a true demonstration of masculine confidence, there was nothing Neji could do but sit gingerly on Chouji's knee with his best stoic expression on. Chouji was just as embarrassed as his lap-guests, if not more, but he knew better than to try arguing with Ino when she was in one of her moods; so he hid behind the Santa face, cheerful and enthusiastic, despite the suspiciously pink cheeks.
Naruto hugged 'Santa' around the shoulders tightly enough to make him squeak and went bounding across the room in glee when his present turned out to be a packet of family meal vouchers to Ichiraku. Sasuke surprised everyone by not glaring or complaining; he sat lightly on Chouji's knee, accepted his gift quietly, and took it over to where Naruto and Iruka were watching the children in order to open it.
Shikamaru found himself doing all the muttering and grumping that Sasuke hadn't done; he couldn't have explained why, it seemed to be an autonomic reflex, like breathing. He couldn't not glare at the floor and grumble when Ino nagged him into sitting on Chouji's lap in front of everyone, and then took pictures of it. Chouji's hand against his back was quiet and supportive, and his eyes said everything for them both; Shikamaru took his present and fled.
Hinata's present was the last one in the bag; she settled herself carefully in Chouji's lap, and patted his round belly with shy fingertips. Chouji smiled at her and gave her a one-armed hug, ruffling her hair a little; watching them from the corner of the room, Shikamaru thought, well, that settles that, then; she knows. Fortunately, both she and her cousin were quiet people who weren't inclined to shoot their mouths off about other people's business, especially other people's private sexual business, but it still made him a little uneasy to wonder who else might have figured it out.
By the time the party wound down and Iruka and Shikamaru were walking through the rows of desks gathering up wrapping paper and paper plates and cups to shove into Santa's newly emptied bag, the loud and boisterous part of the crew had gone outside to see who could do the best job of not falling off the playground equipment when staggeringly drunk. Sasuke and the triplets were curled up in the corner, all four soundly asleep; exposure to Naruto in a party mood had to be pretty exhausting. Kakashi was sitting beside him with his nose in the Icha Icha book, but he glanced up at the slightest unexpected noise, and Chouji realized that he was guarding Sasuke and the children while Naruto was outside. It ached a little to think about the necessity of that kind of constant vigil, but they were the Rokudaime Hokage and the last of the Uchiha bloodline, and with the psychotic brother and the psychotic ex-teacher and their assortment of variously psychotic cohorts, it made a depressing amount of sense.
Hinata saw it too; she was sitting on the edge of Iruka's desk, watching them with wise, sad eyes, and Chouji reached over and offered her one of his candy canes because he wasn't sure what else he could do. Hinata blinked at him in surprise.
"Oh -- thank you, Chouji-kun. How are you feeling? ...Would you like some more cider, or something more to eat?"
"I'm fine," he said, a little embarrassed. "We're fine. Just a little tired, that's all."
Her brows crooked together. "Neji-san and I can help you home if you'd like to rest-- or there are spare cots in the supply room; I can set one of them up for you if--"
"No, no, that's okay!" Chouji said quickly, waving both hands. "I just mean a little tired, but I'm fine, really."
She rubbed her fingertips together for a moment, debating, and then whispered, "Byakugan."
Chouji understood, really; he was like that with friends too, more careful about them than they were about themselves, especially when they were stubborn people like Ino or Shikamaru or Sasuke -- or Naruto -- or Neji -- or Lee -- or, well, actually, most of Konoha, when it came down to it. So he sat patiently while she examined his chakra pathways, and smiled up at her encouragingly when she released the Byakugan with a blushing and embarrassed apology.
"It's all right," he said. "Sasuke's definition of 'being all right' was kind of pushing it a lot, so I know why you girls worry -- there's only been two of us so far, and the first one was spending most of his time trying to be a man about it, which, er, kind of doesn't work well, considering."
"No, it doesn't," Hinata agreed in a small voice, biting her lip to try to hide a smile, even though Sasuke was safely asleep in the corner. Still, she reached over and patted his belly again, a gentle affection from an almost-aunt of sorts. "You're so much softer than I was," she said.
Chouji laughed and scratched behind his ear. "Lots more padding," he said cheerfully. "You're such a tiny little thing, your poor tummy must've been stretched tight to bursting. I've got plenty of room in here, though. --Which is good because I think this one wants to be an acrobat!"
Hinata giggled, and then put a hand over her mouth hastily, with a guilty glance up at Sasuke; Kakashi waved a hand at her idly, so she let her hand fall, but still kept her giggles swallowed back behind a smile. "Really?"
"I get kicked everywhere. Shikamaru says it's a nuisance. But then Shikamaru says that about everything."
"It's going to be worth it, though," she said.
"Oh, yeah. Definitely worth it."
Ino came staggering back in the door with an arm slung around Naruto's neck and a sake bottle in the other hand. "Oi, Santa, fluffy-ass, let's haul already! --Shikamaru, what did you do with that adorable little reindeer outfit?"
Shikamaru looked up from where he was studying the mostly-erased chalk swirls on the blackboard in the process of 'cleaning,' and groaned. "Yeah, yeah, whatever..."
"I mean it! Go get that outfit. You're wearing it tonight."
Shikamaru did an astoundingly good deer-in-the-headlights impression some days. "I'm what?"
"You're the reindeer," she explained hazily. "I'm the elf. He's Santa. And Santa hasn't given us the chance to unwrap our biggest present yet, now has he?"
...And she stumbled over toward Chouji, plumped herself down on his knee, and started unbuttoning the Santa suit.
"Not right here!" Chouji yelped, his face turning red enough to match the suit.
Iruka was nearly the same color; he'd scooped up all three of the children in one go and shoved a groggy Sasuke into Kakashi's arms, stammering something frantic about "That's all for tonight -- party's over -- time to go home--"
Kakashi took his time carrying the mostly-asleep Sasuke down the stairs, watching Ino curiously. Iruka let out a half-strangled scream, handed all three of the babies to Naruto, and latched on to his lover's ear and pulled to get him moving faster. "Naruto, move your ass now! I mean, Hokage-sama, move your ass-- I mean-- oh, hell--"
Ino giggled, and started nibbling on the pompon on the tip of Chouji's hat.
"What a nuisance," Shikamaru muttered. "I'll take care of these two, Iruka-sensei." He stretched the desk-shadow enough to grab Ino's ankle and Chouji's boot, then shaped the seals for a quick teleportation.
Iruka heaved a huge sigh of relief when they were gone, and then smacked Kakashi over the head. "I can't believe you were going to stand there and embarrass poor Ino--"
"Oh, I don't think Ino was embarrassed at all."
"--Poor Chouji, then!"
"I certainly wouldn't be feeling sorry for him in that situation. Envious maybe..."
Naruto had finally gotten the three babies' slings arranged across his back, and he leaned in and scooped Sasuke out of Kakashi's arms before the pervert could use his groggy husband as a shield. "Well-gotta-go-see-you-later-Iruka-sensei-bye!" And he vanished too.
Iruka cracked his knuckles.
Kakashi grinned like a cat with a full bowl of cream. "Yep, this is shaping up to be quite a Merry Christmas."