Deck the halls with boughs of holly… (Falalalala la lala la)
Tis the season to be jolly… (Falalalala la lala la)
Don we now our gay apparel… (Falala lalala lala la)
Sakura tiptoes down the hallway, her sock-covered feet quiet on the plush carpeting. Her gaze darts back and forth, carefully peeking into each of the open doorways, but her eyes can’t track any movement. Whether it’s because there’s none to be seen or if it’s just well camouflaged, she is unsure. Shadows flicker as the pervading darkness dances around bright spots of flashing color, dulling her senses. She curses softly at her opponent’s cleverness – the bastard used her own decorations against her – then closes her eyes, refocuses her mind, and retreats.
Two can play at that game.
In a few stealthy strides, Sakura reaches the room at the south end of the corridor. It’s pitch black inside, but her eyes adjust quickly, aided greatly by her familiarity with the surroundings. The room boasts a small, intricately carved table – a housewarming gift from her one-time martial arts teacher turned friend – with a tacky stuffed elf as the centerpiece. The thing is atrocious, with its exaggerated female curves, flirty animatronic lips and eyelashes, and skimpy red dress, and she detests it. In fact, if Sakura could somehow destroy the monstrosity and not get blamed for the deed she would do so in a heartbeat. Less than a heartbeat, even. She grins wickedly as her hands curl around the doll’s neck.
Sakura removes her socks and climbs onto the nearby kitchen countertop. The cool surface sends a chill up her spine, covering her skin in gooseflesh, but she simply shrugs it off and continues with her plan. It takes a few more maneuvers to get into position – hefting herself onto the top of the refrigerator, wiggling into the space between the upper cabinetry and the ceiling, and then rearranging the foliage garland to act as cover – but once there, Sakura grins again, this time from satisfaction. She presses the red button in the center of the elf’s cleavage and, as a merry tune sounds through the apartment, she waits.
Even though she can’t see or hear him, master of sneakiness that he is, Sakura immediately senses his presence when he enters the kitchen. Something in the atmosphere changes, sending ripples of electricity through the air, and her pulse races in anticipation. But she can’t locate him and without that vital piece of information her plan is useless. So she waits and waits and, with a barely restrained growl, she waits some more. Then, just as her patience begins to break, Kakashi passes in front of the microwave, his body blocking out the digital display for a brief second as he moves past her hiding place. It’s a tiny mistake, but it’s all she needs. Now that she’s locked onto his position, she can easily track his movements.
Who’s the stealth master now, hmm?
Sakura pushes the button again, holding it down with her thumb to keep the elf from singing out. Stuck on the back of her other hand is a small piece of tape, leftover from wrapping presents earlier – she’d meant to remove it long ago, but Kakashi’s villainy proved too great a distraction – and she peels it up with a determined kind of glee. The strength of the tape’s adhesive powers is nearly gone, but the context in which she plans to use it makes a weaker hold more desirable anyway. Carefully, she replaces her thumb with the tape, pressing the edges down firmly. Then, after a second to admire her handiwork, Sakura silently tosses the homemade sound-bomb to the opposite side of the room.
It lands with a dull thud and after a moment of hesitation, Kakashi creeps towards it, his bearing fully alert. He pauses in front of the cabinets, standing tall, and he is so close that she can touch him if she extends her arm. Instead, she tenses, doing her best to lie still while her veins throb under the heady influence of adrenaline. Kakashi cocks his head to the side, as though he is straining to hear a pin drop, and Sakura feels tiny tendrils of panic take root in her mind.
Come on, Elfvira, don’t fail me now, she mentally pleads as she holds her breath. I can’t let him win again – I‘ll never live it down.
Kakashi reaches out, his fingers sliding over the fabric leaves, and it takes every ounce of her willpower not to flinch. His hand moves past the garland barrier and she realizes her ruse has been foiled. He knows her location – though how he figured it out, she can’t even begin to guess – and all it’ll take is another inch of his blind groping before he has physical confirmation. Resignation settles in her gut for a fleeting moment, but then her innate stubbornness rises up to kick her attitude in the ass.
Like hell I’m going down without a fight.
His hand brushes the edge of her poinsettia-bedazzled sweater. “Sakura, I know you’re there. Why don’t you–”
“I really can’t stay… Baby, it’s cold outside…”
A song resounds through the small room, startling Kakashi. He takes a defensive stance, crouched low, facing the corner where Sakura had thrown the impromptu weapon of mass distraction. Quickly, before the music stops, Sakura rolls off of the top cabinets, twisting lithely through the air to land on one palm and the balls of her feet directly behind Kakashi. Her soles sting, but she ignores the pain – it’s really not bad; no worse than after a double ER shift, anyway – and drives her shoulder into his back, sending them both sprawling through the ajar door and into the next room. He grunts, the oxygen from his lungs releasing in one sudden whoosh, and Sakura takes advantage his compromised state. Less than a minute passes before she has him properly pinned down, her weight straddled across his stomach, constricting his movement.
“Give it to me, Kakashi,” she demands through her panting breaths.
The lights on the Christmas tree – red and green and warm gold – flash in steady rhythm, playing with the lines of his predatory grin. “If you want it, take it.”
Sakura leans forward, chest to chest with her captive, and grabs at the contents of his hand. Kakashi deftly switches the twig from one hand to the other, and stretches his arm out to its full length, putting the object out of her reach. Her mood, previously bolstered by her victory, instantly sours. He’s got her at an impasse; shifting far enough that she could claim her prize would give him the opening he needs to escape with it. So she sits up, roughly digging her knees into his sides as she reasserts her dominant position, and speaks through tightly clenched teeth. “You promised.”
“No, what I actually said was–”
Sakura shoves her index finger into his sternum, right between the eyes of the Santa-hat clad puppy on his sweatshirt. “You promised.”
“Always so quick to violence.” Kakashi clucks his tongue in mild rebuke. Her eyes narrow warningly and she can see the bob of his Adam’s apple when he gulps. “You wouldn’t want to ruin this lovely Christmas sweater, would you? Just look at that face. It’s so ugly it’s–”
“Cute. Yeah, I know. I’m the one who picked it out, remember?”
“Okay, now hand it over,” Sakura says, pointing to his hand. She’s not about to let him worm his way out of this, not with such a weak-ass distraction. “Do that and Pakkun doesn’t get hurt.”
“Yep. I named him.” Sakura crosses her arms. “Give it to me.”
“But Pakkun? Really?”
“Now, Kakashi. Before I’m tempted to do something drastic.”
“Fine.” He concedes with a smile utterly too bright for someone admitting defeat. Sakura watches him carefully, suspiciously, as he lifts himself onto one elbow and dangles the twig in front of her face. “There. You win.”
She grabs it before he can change his mind. “Yes!” Sakura exclaims softly, the word falling from her lips as her chest swells with pride. She did it. She beat him, and at his own game no less. But then, as she contemplates what she’s going to do with it, she realizes that something is wrong. What should be glossy red is white instead.
He used the old bait and switch routine.
“Where’s my holly, you jerk!” Angry red dusts her cheeks as she fumes. “I’m the one who drove fourteen blocks out of her way after a long day in the pediatric ward to find a store with fresh springs of it – during rush hour traffic, I might add – while you had the day off to sleep and laze about. We agreed that meant that I would get to put up the last–”
Kakashi sits up, ignoring her tirade, and grabs the twig back from her. He holds it above their heads and, before she can switch tact and protest, he kisses her. It’s quick, chaste even, but it throws her off balance nonetheless. She’s weak against the power of his lips and he knows it all too well, the dirty cheater.
“What the hell, Kakashi?” she asks, but it comes out far less wrathful than she had hoped.
“Mistletoe.” He rolls the plant between his thumb and fingers, making it twirl around. “I picked it up earlier. You know, when I was lazing about. And I wasn’t lying, by the way.”
“You winning. See there,” – he points to a spot over the mantle where their stockings are hung – “is the last piece of holly. If I remember correctly, you were the one that put it up.”
“You idiot!” she shouts, smacking his shoulder. “That was before you even started this little game!”
Sakura sputters, incredulous. “Then what was the point of all this?”
“Well,” Kakashi drawls, wrapping a strong arm around the small of her back. He pulls her close, his warm breath heating up the skin of her cheeks – her neck, and her jaw – as he trails his lips up to her ear. “I like it when you chase me.”
“Hmm. I see. ” Sakura nods, biting her lip to hold back her giggles as Kakashi nuzzles her neck. She’s ticklish – another weakness he likes to exploit – but she needs to remain stoic for a few more seconds to enact one final ploy. She can’t just let him get away with this without some kind of retribution, after all.
“And,” she continues, her fingers walking playfully over his shoulder and down his arm, “how do you feel about doing the chasing?”
Sakura is running down the hallway, mistletoe in hand, before Kakashi even gets to his feet. She pauses at their bedroom door to take in his dumbfounded expression, and calls out, “If you want it, Kakashi, come get it.”
He is by her side in a flash, picking her up and tossing her onto the bed before she can make a run for it. She lands in an awkward sprawl, a tangle of pillows and sheets and limbs, and it sets her laughter to overflow. Kakashi joins her, both in the bed and in her mirth, stripping off his Pakkun sweatshirt as he settles in beside her.
The heat from his body half-draped over her own sends delicious tingles down Sakura’s spine, which become magnified as he positions himself more fully on top of her. He runs his hands over the length of her arms – slowly, inch by tiny inch – and when he reaches her wrists, Kakashi stops. His eyes, dark and suddenly serious, capture her bright green gaze and without turning away he lifts the mistletoe out of her hand, holding it over their heads once again. “Give it to me, Sakura.”
“Of course,” she whispers. The illumination from the Christmas lights causes the newly-wrought gold from their matching rings to shine merrily and Sakura’s heart swells with love for her husband. “I promised, didn’t I?”