"Were you flirting?!" Sakura sounded completely exasperated as she shot her blond teammate a dirty look.

Said blond blushed and laughed nervously as he scratched the back of his head. "Aw geez, Sakura-chan, why are you so angry at me all a sudden?" He peeked at her hopefully. "I did good, right?"

Said pinkette sighed loudly, unable to hold up the aggressive stance and adopting a soft smile instead. "You did good." Unable to resist giving him a hard time, she held her hands up and mostly pinched her fingers together while leaving a small space between. "By a little bit. Just a bit."

Unhampered by her verbal jab, he jumped up into the air with a boisterous "yatta!" He nudged Sasuke harshly with a teasing grin. "Did'ja hear that?! I did good! Booya!" He did a couple hip pops and then gave a beaming thumbs up to the other Genin crowded in their area.

Shikamaru groaned. "You're too energetic. Chill out." He slouched down, secretly startled he'd been so invested in watching the fight he'd actually straightened his posture.

Ino was squinting suspiciously at Naruto, trying to pretend her cheeks weren't faintly flushed. Naruto had always been such a goofball with the oddest taste, she hadn't been prepared for his sudden transformation into someone worth looking twice at. And despite the fact he was trying to play it off, he had done a rather impressive job flirting with that Suna chick. Just as she decided to confront him, someone barreled past and nearly knocked her off her feet.

"Dude! What gives!" Kiba lightly punched Naruto's shoulder. "That was wicked, man! You've been holding out on me!" His smile was in its typical wild feral state, a bit of awe in his tone.

Naruto punched him back with a laugh. "I told you I was awesome! Too bad ya'll didn't believe it!" Naruto pivoted and carefully tapped Shino on the shoulder. "Go kick some ass!"

Shino paused, startled Naruto had even noticed him heading down to the arena, let alone taking care to try and avoid accidentally squishing an unseen kikaichu. He gave a faint nod, a little flustered to suddenly be the center of attention of the genin. He felt a thrill of excitement curl inside him when the others also voiced their support. Shino nodded a second time, bemused. When had Naruto gotten so good at socializing? Shino had no doubt in his mind that Naruto had completely controlled that entire interaction so that none of the attention was on him for long.

It was odd. It was…fascinating. Shino would have to keep a closer eye on Naruto. He truly was full of surprises.

Shino entered the arena with a tingling sense of excitement. He wasn't used to being the center of attention, but somehow, after the short interaction with his fellow genin, he felt more prepared for it.

The proctor looked at him before scanning the arena with a faint frown. Shino was surprised to find his opponent had yet to arrive. From all observation, the Suna genin would have already been down here waiting, likely too impatient to take the stairs as Shino had.

"Genin Gaara, proceed to the arena immediately for your fight!" Bellowed the proctor, looking disgruntled he had to say anything at all.

There were a few odd squawks from the area the genin were all huddled before there was an audible smack.

"Hey! What was that for?!" Kankuro' s dark figure was very easy to spot as he jerked suddenly backwards and holding one cheek.

"You were supposed to wake him!" Reprimanded the blond teen Naruto had fought.

"I tried!" Protested Kankuro. "He didn't budge!"

"Did you even-" started Temari.

"Of course not! I don't have a death wish!" Barked Kankuro, looking horrified.

Shino faintly cocked his head, wondering if this was somehow important information.

"I've got it!" Naruto's distinct voice called out above the ruckus.

Shino blinked as Naruto bodily hauled something off the floor next to the two bickering siblings and chucked it willy nilly towards the arena floor in Shino's direction.

"Heads up!" Called the boisterous blond, earning two terrified shrieks from the Suna siblings.

"What are you doing?!" Both of the siblings yelled, plastering themselves up against the wall away from the arena as the lumpy mass started to look suspiciously like a figure.

The proctor ground out a sigh, muttering something unintelligible under his breath as a distinct head of red hair came careening towards them.

Shino watched the proctor adjust himself to catch the clearly limp figure as it drew closer, only to pause mid motion when sand came pouring out of the gourd on the teen's back and caught him effortlessly. Both Konoha ninja watched mutely as the sand gently deposited the redhead on the ground, his snores drifting to their ears as they stared at him blankly.

"Huh, guy sleeps like a rock."

Shino almost snorted at Naruto's casual remark, the silence of the audience making said comment easily heard by all.

A second smack fills the air and Naruto yelps.

"Ouch! Sakura-chan! I was only trying to help!"

Sakura wagged a finger in his face. "That was uncalled for. You could have hurt him."

Naruto pouted, crossing his arms mulishly. "I thought it would wake him up." He hunched a little further at Sakura's dark look. "Proctor-san would've caught him just fine."

Shino was amused to see said proctor closing his eyes and inhaling slowly, clearly counting to try and calm himself.

The proctor moved to shake the sleeping Gaara's shoulder. "Gaara of Suna, get up. Your fight is about to start."

Gaara's snoring seemed to inexplicably get louder.

The proctor's eye twitched. "I hate this job," he muttered so low Shino barely heard him.

There was far more venom in that comment than Shino would have expected.

…It did not make it any less amusing.

"Gaara." The proctor shook his shoulder again. "Gaara!"

"Grnn…" Gaara rolled over, jerking his shoulder out of the proctor's grip.

The proctor inhaled sharply, "GAAR-!"


Shino took a healthy step back as the proctor was enveloped in sand. Shino stared wide eyed as the sand swirled around the older ninja before solidifying into a large ball, entrapping the man from ankles to just below his nose. The man looked properly pissed, eye twitching frantically as the ball drifted until he was nearly upside down and left to teeter precariously close to his head being wedged beneath the ball of sand and the ground.

It took everything Shino had not to snicker.

Naruto, however, was laughing uproariously.

Gaara kept snoring contentedly.

Temari grit her teeth while Kankuro looked torn between laughing and slowly backing away further in fear.

Shino shifted until he was looking at the Hokage's box, uncertain what he was supposed to do.

Hiruzen's own eye was twitching, trying very hard not to glare at the Kazekage. "It seems we have an issue."

Kazekage was staring blankly at his son. He hadn't moved since discovering his youngest child was sleeping. What in the actual fu-

"I've got it!" Naruto, despite his first failure to be appropriately helpful, decided a second go was needed.

Hiruzen almost choked on his own spit, hand lifting to shout a rebuke but knowing it was already too late.

A volley of water balloons rained down in seeming slow motion. Shino leapt back until he was safely perched on the arena wall and felt only a smidgen guilty leaving the proctor unprotected as the colorful barrage exploded in one large messy spray of water.

"Seriously?!" Naruto groaned loudly.

Shino blinked at the umbrella of sand hovering protectively over the still slumbering Suna genin. The proctor looked murderous, exposed face and hair sopping wet.

Shino "coughed" softly. He just had a tickle in his throat. That wasn't a smothered chuckle at all.

At all.

He straightened and calmly walked down the wall to stand on the arena floor again. He turned once again to the Hokage's box.

Until an irritating ring split the air like an obnoxious siren. Shino faintly flinched and spun sharply to find Naruto had decided to chuck an alarm clock at the slumbering redhead.

It was promptly smashed violently via a mini sand coffin, nothing but a small clatter of broken and crumpled metal parts hitting the ground when the sand retreated.

"Oh, come on!" Naruto threw his hands wide in disbelief. He grit his teeth and started to climb over the railing. "Time to get serious!"

Sakura looked alarmed as she lunged forward and grabbed him by the waist. "Don't be stupid! Sit down!"

Sasuke scoffed as Naruto struggled in her grip and shook a fist at Gaara's prone form.

"I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna wake that bastard up! Stupid sand ain't got nothin' on me! I got this!" The blond was wriggingly all over the place and shaking a fist at Gaara.

The kicker was, Sasuke was apparently taking it as a challenge as he turned towards the arena and started making hand signs.

Hiruzen spluttered while Kakashi secretly preened at the ensuing chaos. His little monsters were so adorable! Look at how well they played the crowd!

A rather impressive fireball flew towards Gaara, but the sand created yet another protective barrier that the flames crashed against harmlessly.

Sakura was gaping at Sasuke in something akin to betrayal while Ino was cheering him on. Shikamaru groaned and layed down for a nap of his own while Kiba was howling with laughter.

"Let me try my hand!" Called a familiar voice. Lee came barreling out of nowhere to deliver an earth shaking kick to Gaara.

The air reverberated with the backlash as Lee hopped back with a frown, staring at the undamaged sand wall that had risen up to meet him.

"It seems I have failed this endeavor! My strikes are not strong enough! I shall proceed to do six hundred squats while balancing two buckets of water!" Lee held up a fist before disappearing just as quickly as he appeared.

Naruto used the distraction to escape. He and Sasuke shared a look before they leapt into the air.

Sakura groaned when she realized they were teaming up. Instead of trying to dissuade them, she pulled out her hot pink book and grumbled something about "idiots" and ignored the whole mess with aplomb.

That was when Kakashi caught onto what hand signs his genin were making and frantically stashed his own book to shunshin to his students, grab their wrists, and toss them straight up into the air.

Hiruzen groaned as the entire sky above the arena lit up in a crackling blaze of glory as a terrifying amount of gunpowder and an overpowered fire jutsu set off an eye searing explosion that had many of the audience shouting in shock or terror.

Hiruzen shot Kakashi a glare before clearing his throat. "I will step in as proctor and declare Shino as winner by default, as Gaara of Suna has failed to…properly show for his fight."

The Kazekage still sat frozen, not even blinking at the announcement or contesting it.

Hiruzen smothered another sigh before gesturing to some of his other ninja to clear out the arena for the next fight.

Team 7 was still a curse. Damn them! He was never going to live this down.