"…Chop Goh Meh, the highlight of which is the throwing of mandarin oranges into the sea by local ladies for would-be suitors to retrieve."
-
Transforming Landscapes Changing Lives by Marianne Chong

Who knew geography textbooks were so inspirational?

Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine.
Note: OOC and some weird jokes

Guess the pairings! :)


Love is Orange

The young ninja of Konoha village were skilled and fearsome foes, but they had a lighter side to them as well. They knew the meaning of fun, of merry-making, but most of all…love. And if they didn't? Well, Maito Gai was going to make sure that they DID.

"HELLLOOOOOO EVERYONEEEEEEEEEE!!!!" Gai hollered. "Welcome to the Festival of Love! I'm glad to see you all burning with youthful passion and enthusiasm!"

Everyone stared silently at Gai.

"Okay, now to celebrate the Maito Gai-sanctioned Festival of Love, we'll be playing the Festival of Love game…Love is Orange!"

Everyone blinked at him.

"The rules are really simple. Each girl slices a tiny piece of skin off her orange and pockets it. The boys, under Kakashi's guidance, will go out to the sea in a boat. On my count, the girls will toss their oranges into the sea and the boys will have to swim and retrieve the oranges of the lady they love. The girls will then test their orange skin to see if it matches and-"

"What if we don't love anybody?" Shikamaru asked. The girls all looked scandalised at that question.

Gai smiled broadly. "I'm sure you'll find you do."

"But –"

"If you don't bring back an orange, you'll have to suffer a forfeit!"

"Doesn't that mean-"

"Yes! Five of you boys will have to suffer forfeits. So you should fight for the one you love!"

"Aren't you contradicting-"

"Okay! I guess we're all clear! Let's go, chop chop!"

-

"I don't see why Gai made us carry so many oranges," Kurenai complained as she and Asuma hefted the box across the beach. "I mean, they're only four girls after all."

"Nngh," Asuma grunted through his cigarette, trying to balance his side of the box on one hand and wipe his forehead with the other.

Kurenai, peeking into the box, picked out an orange. "Ew, I think this one is rotten," she said. "What do you think?"

She held it out for Asuma to see, but he tripped as he leaned to see the orange and jolted into the box, knocking the orange out of her hands.

"Wow, isn't that a coincidence," Kurenai said as she looked at the orange, perched elegantly atop a pile of dog faeces. "Do you think that's Akamaru's?"

"I don't think we'll be needing that anymore," Asuma said.

"Yeah," Kurenai agreed as she picked up the tip of the orange gingerly and tossed it out into the sea.

"What was that for?" Asuma asked.

"Just because," Kurenai shrugged as she lifted up the box again.

"Woman, you're not young anymore," Asuma said, grinning as they began to carry the box again.

"Shut up," Kurenai said, rolling her eyes.

-

From his seat in the boat, Neji trained his eyes on Hinata, watching her twiddle her fingers in her usual nervous behaviour. The corners of his mouth rose in a small smile, a small but diabolical smile. This was his perfect chance. He would scare her to death with the subtle sinister meaning of retrieving her orange. It would be a great statement in his offensive against…Neji blinked, suddenly remembering that he had already settled his differences with the Main House. He sighed regretfully. It was hard to remember that sometimes, he was too used to tormenting…that is, asserting his Branch House prowess to his cousin.

Hinata, having felt Neji's piercing gaze on her for a while, was trying to pluck up the courage to stare back at him. After all, they were no longer enemies, and she should have no reason to be afraid of him, right? Right?? Taking a deep breath, Hinata looked resolutely into Neji's face…and stared forcefully back at the ground, breathing heavily and kneading her fingers maniacally. Oops, Neji thought, wiping the evil grin off his face. It wasn't his fault, really, he couldn't help it.

"I'M GOING TO GET SAKURA'S ORANGE!" Lee hollered at the top of his voice.

"NO, I AM!" Naruto yelled back with equal vigour, jumping onto the seat of the boat to prove his determination.

"YOU CAN'T BEAT ME!" Lee screamed, leaping onto the rim of the boat and rocking the boat dangerously. "I AM FUELED BY THE POWER OF LOVE!"

"GOOD FOR YOU, LEE! YOU HAVE MY SUPPORT" Gai shouted from on shore, performing his obligatory ping!-and-wink routine.

"THANK YOU GAI-SENSEI!" Lee yelled back, mirroring his teacher's actions and once more causing the boat to teeter precariously.

"CAN YOU STOP YELLING?" Naruto shouted. "YOU'RE RUINING MY EARDRUMS!"

"Why don't you try that too, dobe?" Sasuke muttered from where he was sitting with Shikamaru, Chouji, Shino, Neji and Kiba. A.k.a. as far away from the two nutcases as possible. They were staring resolutely towards land, conscientiously trying to pretend not to know Naruto and Lee.

"Calm down, calm down," Kakashi said in a placating voice, pushing the two boys back onto their seats. "We'll have time enough for you two to show your devotion once the game starts."

"Game?" Lee gasped, aghast. "This is no game! As Gai-sensei said, this is an arduous and symbolic test of the strength of our love for the Love of our Life! We must bring out the true tradition of the Festival of Love!"

"Um…yeah, that," Kakashi agreed unconvincingly, scratching his head. What tradition? He thought. This was the first time Gai had ever had this ridiculous idea. Not that Gai never had ridiculous ideas, he probably broke the record for the number of ridiculous ideas in a nanosecond, but this ridiculous idea was still a first.

Back on the shore, it seemed the girls were thinking along the same line of thought as Lee.

"I hope Sasuke picks my orange!" Ino said anxiously as she slit a strip from her orange and pocketed it carefully. She stared hard at her orange, willing it to reach Sasuke on the wings of love.

Sakura, glancing sideways at her love rival, bit her lip. This was a symbolic battle, and she couldn't lose, even if it meant she played cheat. She knew it was highly unlikely that Sasuke would willingly retrieve any orange, and furthermore she had Lee and Naruto to fend off. She had a plan, though. She would make sure Sasuke got her orange.

Tenten, taking in the apprehensive looks of Ino and Sakura, sighed as she easily flicked off a corner of her orange with a kunai. She guessed she was part of the batch of lovelorn as well. She wondered if Hinata was one as well, seeing as to how anxious she was.

Indeed, Hinata was. As she rubbed her thumbs aggressively over the small depression on her orange where she'd removed some of the skin, she was mulling over the impossibility of Naruto taking her orange. He'd already proclaimed with such boisterous confidence his procuring of Sakura's orange. Then there was that scary smile Neji had given her. She hoped it didn't mean anything…

"Okay, are we ready?" Gai hollered.

"YEAH!" Lee and Naruto shouted, pumping their hands in the air. Sasuke quickly moved behind Chouji, hoping that Sakura and Ino's aim didn't stretch as far as the boat.

Gai cleared his throat and began shouting the final instructions. "Okay, girls, when I say 'now', toss the oranges as far as you can into the sea! Then turn around so you can't see who's taken your orange. Don't peek now! The competition ends when every orange is back on shore. NOW!"

Four oranges whistled into the air as Kakashi pushed the eight boys into the water. The oranges plunked noisily into the ocean, that is, all except one. Kakashi raised his eyes as he stretched back onto a seat. "That desperate, huh," he murmured.

"SAKURA! THERE'S SAKURA'S ORANGE!" Naruto screamed, pointing and swimming frenziedly through the water. Sasuke shook his head at Naruto's stupidity as he skirted out of his teammate's warpath, debating between forfeiting the game and retrieving Hinata's orange. Having a devoted crush on Naruto, he doubted she would misconstrue his intentions.

"SAKURA'S ORANGE IS MINE!" Lee hollered as he zipped through the water. He was further than Naruto from where Sakura's orange floated on the surface of the sea, but he would get there first, by the grace of his unbeatable speed and the strength of his love.

"Cool, it's an orange!" Chouji said as he reached for the orange that was bobbing by him.

"Oi, Chouji, get away…move now!" Shikamaru yelled, trying to pull Chouji away from the orange.

It was too late.

"THAT'S SAKURA'S ORANGE!" screeched Naruto and Lee as they whammed into Chouji, grappling for the orange. "Aha!" Lee yelled in triumph as his fingers closed around the orange…which promptly disappeared.

Neji, hearing the thud of bodies, looked behind him to see Naruto, Lee and Chouji entangled in each other. He shook his head. He'd have to make sure to tell Gai later about how dangerous his little Festival of Love was. Looking beyond them, he saw Sasuke making his way towards Hinata's orange. He frowned, feeling the urge to double back and snag Hinata's orange, then shove it in her fearful face while wearing a wicked grin. Branch House pwnz j00, kekekekeke! He could say, and…he shook his head forcefully, clearing his thoughts. No, the days of his evil scheming were over. Resolutely, he carried on his original path.

"IT'S GONE!" Lee hollered, thrashing the waves where the orange used to be floating upon.

"WHAT?" Naruto shrieked. "WHERE IS IT?"

"GONE!"

"WHERE?"

"DO YOU THINK I KNOW? AND IF I KNEW DO YOU THINK I'D TELL YOU?"

"TELL ME!"

Sakura cursed herself inwardly as she heard the yells of bewilderment coming from the sea. She shouldn't have dawdled so long that Naruto and Lee found out her orange was a genjutsu, but Sasuke just wouldn't come within throwing range. Now would have to do, though. Taking aim, she tossed the orange in his direction. She hoped that he would be so shocked by the oncoming orange he would catch it by reflex.

"Sasuke!"

"THERE IT IS!" Lee yelled, pointing wildly towards the orange flying through the air.

"MINE!" Naruto yelled, crashing blindly through the water.

Sasuke, hearing Sakura call his name, turned around slowly to see an orange looming larger and larger in his face. He sighed at Sakura's antics, preparing to duck. Then he saw Naruto and Lee coming up close behind it, deranged looks of determination on their faces. Sasuke shrieked and began paddling desperately away.

"Sakura, you're not supposed to turn around!" Ino said, whirling around angrily and stopping short at the scene before her.

"I GOT IT!" yelled Naruto as he sailed out of the water and snatched at the orange.

"NEVER!" Lee rallied as he leaped into the air and tried to shove Naruto's hands away. Both of them seized onto the orange, crashed into each other and careened into Sasuke, socking the side of his face with the fisted orange. The orange burst under their combined pressure and orange pulp squirted all over Naruto, Lee and Sasuke.

"Oh. My. Gosh…BBQ." Ino said. "Sakura, what have you done?"

Sakura shook her head, speechless at the severity of the crime she had committed. She and Ino gripped each other's hands tightly for support as they prayed the orange juice would not soak permanently into Sasuke's face.

Shino and Kiba, who were treading water aimlessly, looked on at the catastrophe. Akamaru, paddling beside him, woofed disapprovingly at the destruction. Kiba petted him distractedly. Since Sasuke was now out of action, he could do it with relatively legitimate reason.

"Um, so Shino, are you going to get any oranges?" Kiba asked.

Shino gave him a piercing look, though with the glasses Kiba couldn't really tell. "I don't…do oranges," he said finally.

"Uh, okay…" Kiba said, trying not to raise his eyebrows. He prevented himself from asking Shino if he did apples or some other fruit, and instead said with some difficulty, "Then I guess I'll just go get that one over there, since you know no one is taking it or anything and um what if I get a horrible forfeit! Haha!"

Shino stared silently at him.

"Um…do you want that orange?" Kiba asked, grinning embarrassedly.

Shino shook his head.

"Yeah well haha okay! See ya!" Kiba turned and paddled away quickly. Shino's reticence and soul-searching stares were getting to him, though he was doing nothing wrong! Come on, he was just getting that orange because it was there, and no one else was taking it! It did not make any difference to him that the orange was Hinata's, no of course not.

Shino stared silently after Kiba's back.

"Chouji, I told you that observation is possibly the single most important skill of being a ninja," Shikamaru lectured Chouji's unconscious body, which was bobbing dismally along with the waves. "If you had been observing the owner of the oranges instead of stuffing the last of your chips down your throat, then you could have escaped this fate."

He shook his head regretfully. "You see, there are some 'safe' oranges, and then there are some 'not safe' ones. The one you tried to pick up was Sakura's, and though it was an illusion, it was targeted by Naruto and Lee, and therefore 'not safe'. Now this here," and he indicated an orange floating somewhere to his left, "is also 'not safe'. It belongs to Ino, and only Sasuke can claim it without fear of permanent disembowelment. Therefore, I am going to retrieve that orange over there which is…no longer there." Shikamaru stared at the empty spot where the orange was only a short while before. It now held Neji, whom Shikamaru decided was the most evil thing on the earth right now, right up there with stupid Festivals of Love and Ino. Shikamaru turned to see the last 'safe' orange in Kiba's hands. The only remaining orange was Ino's.

Shikamaru ground his teeth. Just his luck, he thought, casting around him for a magical fifth orange. It wasn't there. Shino was, though, and he was staring at him. Shikamaru tried to ignore the creepy penetrating feeling the guy was giving him.

"Hey, Shino, do you want this orange? It's the last one," Shikamaru offered.

Shino stared at him.

"I don't…do oranges," he said.

Shikamaru blinked. Okay then…he picked up the orange and looked at it, sighing. It couldn't be that bad. After all, he was on her team and maybe by that merit he wouldn't get ragged so much. He was just returning the stupid orange to her, anyway. No big deal.

"OKAY!" Gai's voice suddenly rang out across the water, and Shikamaru jumped. "It seems everyone has gotten hold of an orange, or parts of one, anyway. Can everyone please return to the shore so we can match the orange to its owner?"

Sighing, Shikamaru stuffed the orange in his pocket and started dragging Chouji to shore.

"Thanks Shino," he called over his shoulder. "I hope the forfeit isn't too bad."

Shino said nothing in reply, but underneath his collar he was smiling slightly. Sometimes, when you didn't do anything but observe, you could see things others couldn't.

-

"You two…are…are…" Sasuke was speechless with anger as he clambered out onto the shore, dripping saltwater and orange juice.

"Um…haha?" Naruto suggested weakly, rubbing his throbbing head. He and Lee seemed to be rather dazed by their prior collision. Lee kept blinking and shaking his head.

"Sasuke! I'm so sorry!" Sakura cried, rushing towards him, still hand in hand with Ino.

Sasuke turned on her the death glares to beat all death glares, and Sakura froze in her tracks, her heart speared by the hatred of her one true love. His cheek was bright red underneath the orange and looked like it was swelling up. Sakura mentally crucified herself a hundred times over for the heinous atrocity she had committed.

"Haruno-san, Yamanaka-san, you're not supposed to move from your positions," Gai ordered bombastically, shooing them back to where Tenten and Hinata were observing the boys swimming back to shore.

"Poor Sakura eh," Kiba said, tossing his orange from one hand to the other. He was standing with the other relatively unscathed people in the drama, that is, Neji and Shino. They both turned to stare soundlessly at him. Kiba squeezed his orange in fear. Why were they looking at him like that? Could they tell? THERE WAS NOTHING TO TELL!

"Ah, Shikamaru! Do you need help?" Spotting the boy tugging Chouji's prone body away from the waves, he quickly scooted to render some aid and get far away from Shino and Neji.

"Well, Gai, everyone's here now, I think we should wrap this up and get some people to the hospital," Asuma said, surveying the kids on the shore.

"Well, it seems the Festival of Love wasn't such a great success after all," Kakashi said, popping up suddenly beside Gai. "Another one to add to your list of perennial failures?"

"And making Asuma and I cart so many oranges for nothing?" Kurenai added irritably.

"Hey, hey, we're not done with the game yet, don't judge so quickly!" Gai said defensively. "Besides, anything the great Maito Gai does cannot be a failure!" He struck a pose.

"Just get on with it!" Kurenai groused.

Gai pouted. "Okay, people! It's time for the returning of the oranges! Will all you gentlemen please line up facing the ladies?"

When that had been accomplished, the unconscious Chouji being propped up by Shikamaru, Gai continued.

"Gentlemen, please offer the orange to the lady to whom it belongs to and see if the slip of skin fits the one missing from the orange!"

The girls collectively sucked in their breath. None of them knew who had their orange, except Sakura, who sucked in her breath because she was fighting an urge to cry when she looked at Sasuke's annoyed, orange face.

Tenten gaped as Neji approached her. "Neji?" she said. "You…you…"

"Can't you say anything else?" Neji said.

Tenten took a deep breath. "……You..."

"Oh, come on, stop looking at me like that," Neji said irritably. "It's only because you're on my team, plus I don't think anyone would have taken your orange otherwise."

"Oh, thanks," Tenten snapped, snatching the orange from his grasp, testing the slice of peel against the orange. It really fit. Tenten gripped the orange. "Nice to have your sympathy, Neji."

"Yeah, whatever," Neji retorted, his attention wavering as he heard a voice stuttering beside him. Kiba? The loud-mouthed dog kid? Now this was interesting, he thought, turning to listen.

"Um, uh, Hina-Hinata, hi," Kiba laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head. "I mean, of course it's hi, haha, but um, this-this is yours!" He thrust the orange at Hinata.

"Um, tha-thank you, Kiba-kun," Hinata said shyly, trying not to feel crestfallen that Naruto hadn't chosen her orange, after all. She had known, hadn't she, Naruto and Lee's voices had been so loud.

Oh gosh, Neji thought. This was so amusing. Maybe even more than his Branch House pwnz j00 kekekekeke idea.

"Uh Hinata, maybe um you wanna check whether it's the um right orange, you know, jus-just in case," Kiba said quickly, his words tripping over each other.

"O-okay," Hinata said. She took the skin out from her pocket and tested it. Kiba heaved a small sigh as he saw it slide in easily.

"Yeah uh, I hope you don't mind I took yours. Um actually I think Sasuke was swimming after it, but then that uh he had an accident with Naruto and Lee and so well I thought I might as well just take the orange, yeah, because, you know, haha, so I hope you don't mind, yeah." Kiba rambled, as Akamaru, now inside his jacket, whined softly.

Hinata smiled softly. She wondered why Kiba was acting so unlike his brash self. She supposed it must be because this was the first time he'd been forced to do anything remotely romantic. Sometimes he seemed so much like Naruto-kun, noisy and boisterous, and at others he was entirely different, like now, but it was quite endearing how he seemed so unsure of himself. "It-It's okay, Kiba-kun," she said softly. "I don't mind. I'm glad you took it, thank you."

Kiba blinked hard and began playing with his fingers rapidly. "Haha, really?"

Shikamaru stared. Kiba was twiddling his fingers. He shook his head, sighing. Kiba was so far gone. He turned to look at Ino, who was still standing placidly, a nervous expression on her face as she stared at Sasuke. Sheesh, he was the only one still with an (intact) orange, couldn't she tell?

"Oi, Ino," he called. "Come over here. I can't walk very well carrying Chouji."

Ino glanced at him, a fearful glance on her face. What, was he a worm? Shikamaru glared at her.

"What?" Ino asked.

"What else? I have your orange!" Shikamaru snapped, waving the said item.

"Not really?" Ino cried, rushing over and practically slamming her piece of orange skin into the hole.

"No…no!" Ino wailed, sinking to the ground and clutching the orange to her heart.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes. "What's your problem?"

Ino's head snapped in his direction, and she jumped up, eyes blazing. Shikamaru regretted his question immediately.

"You!" she hissed. "You! How dare you take the orange!"

"Well it was the only one left!" Shikamaru defended himself. "Besides, I'm on your team so it was a friendly –"

"All the more!" Ino yelled, waving her arms about. "You should understand this orange is meant for Sasuke and Sasuke only! How could you betray my heart like this!"

Shikamaru's jaw dropped. Talk about drama. "What's the big deal with it, anyway? It's just an orange!" Shikamaru snapped. Geez, he shouldn't have bothered taking the stupid orange. He knew very well that Ino would cause a ruckus. Why the heck had he taken it?

Meanwhile, someone else was lamenting her idiocy. Why? Why had she thrown the orange at Sasuke? She should have thrown it at Lee or Naruto and watch it splat satisfactorily on their faces!

"Sakura, what are we going to do since there's no orange?" Naruto asked confusedly.

"You idiot!" Sakura screamed, tossing her slice of skin in his face.

"No need for violence!" Gai said, sliding smoothly in between Naruto and Sakura. "It appears all the oranges have been returned to their rightful owner! Now it's time for the prize!"

"Prize?" everyone asked in confusion. Kakashi, Kurenai and Asuma looked on in interest as well. They hadn't heard about this. Kakashi surmised that it was Gai's last-minute attempt to make this game a success.

"What about the forfeit?" Lee asked.

"Non-existent!" Gai said perkily. "This is a happy event! Now, ladies, please give the gentlemen who gallantly retrieved your orange a little kiss!"

"EH?" everyone shouted, except Neji, Sasuke and Shino, who merely stared stolidly at Gai.

"Aww…" Sakura muttered sadly. "If only I'd got Sasuke to catch the orange…"

"No worries!" Gai said dramatically, putting an arm around Sakura, who quickly shook it off. "We wouldn't want anyone to feel upset on such a successful festival, would we?" Gai looked meaningfully at Kakashi, who shrugged. "Technically your orange was obtained by Naruto, Lee and Sasuke, so you get to give all of them a kiss!"

"WHAT?"

"YAHOO!" cheered Lee and Naruto. "C'mon, Sakura, gimme a kiss!" They pucked up their lips and advanced on Sakura, who backed away, looking like she was about to die of fright.

"On the cheeks!" Kurenai added hurriedly. "On the cheeks only!"

Lee and Naruto sighed, looking crestfallen. "Must I really?" Sakura squeaked at Gai, who smiled benignly at her. "Of course, Haruno-san. This is your lucky day! Three eligible young men, you know! Especially, not to be biased or anything, but Lee is the best of all!"

Lee winked and blew a kiss at Sakura, who cringed. For some reason, she really didn't think so. "Come on, Sakura, give me a kiss!" he smiled widely at her.

"No!" Naruto yelled. "I want to go first!"

"No, I should!"

"Argh, it doesn't matter!" Sakura yelled as she stalked over and pecked both their cheeks as quickly as she could.

Naruto and Lee froze, blinking rapidly.

"SAKURA KISSED ME!!!" they whooped in unison, linking their arms and doing a dance of victory.

Sakura looked askance at them, then quickly walked over to way Sasuke was standing, arms folded.

"Um, Sasuke-kun," she said nervously. "I'm really very sorry about the orange…may I kiss you?"

Sasuke glared at her, sniffed, and jerked his head once.

"Thank you, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura chirped, clapping her hands together. She tilted her head towards him.

"Wait," Sasuke said suddenly, putting a hand up to her face. He deftly rearranged the orange pulp and bits of peel on his face to the centre of his cheek. "Kiss here," he ordered, indicating the spot on his cheek.

"Yes…" Sakura said, looking like she was about to start crying. She leaned in towards Sasuke and obediently gave him a kiss on the soggy bits of pulp. Sakura blushed furiously as Sasuke pulled away from her quickly, casting a shy glance at him. She didn't know if her mind was playing tricks on her, but Sasuke's cheeks seemed slightly pink under all the orange.

"That is so unfair!" Ino whined, glaring at Sakura. "I should be the one who gets to kiss Sasuke!"

"Is he blushing?" Shikamaru asked in wonder, putting his hands in his pockets.

"You're not helping!" she shouted crossly at Shikamaru. "This is all your fault! If you hadn't taken that orange, I would be in Sakura's place now!"

Shikamaru looked coldly at her. "You know, if I hadn't taken that orange, you would be the only girl here who did not have her orange returned to her. I thought you would at least appreciate the gesture that I chose to take your orange instead of leaving it in the sea."

Ino flushed in anger, balling her fists. "Why, you..."

"Now now, no fighting," Gai said merrily, rushing towards Shikamaru and Ino. "Yamanaka-san, why don't you give Nara-san his reward now? Sakura's already done it!"

This seemed to make Ino even more angry. "Whatever!" she snapped, bruising her lips violently against Shikamaru's jaw line.

"Ouch," Shikamaru muttered, rubbing the sore spot. "You women are not only troublesome, but extremely painful, in more ways than one."

Ino sniffed defiantly and turned her back on him, watching Kiba and Hinata's much less violent exchange.

"Um, uh, haha!" Kiba said, scratching the back of his head violently and looking at the floor. "I didn't realise that would come up with such a silly prize! How-how silly!"

Hinata blushed profusely. "Ye-yeah, it was unexpected to me as well…" she clutched her fingers together, wishing it was Naruto in front of her. But it wasn't. He was six seas from her, celebrating his kiss from Sakura. She was glad though, that Kiba had bothered about her, and thought enough of her to take her orange. Although she still wanted Naruto to be here before her, she thought it was very nice of Kiba to do what he did.

"Ki-Kiba-kun?" Hinata said.

Kiba looked up quickly, blinking very fast. "Ye-" He stopped as he felt the gentle pressure of her lips on his cheek, died and was reborn as a new man, one that was very much in love. Hinata stepped away from him, staring shyly to her side.

"Uh, um, I, uh Hinata, uh um…thanks," Kiba said weakly, his face red.

"He is…so far gone," Neji commented, watching Kiba.

"Gai-sensei is such an idiot," Tenten said irritably.

"What?" Neji asked, focusing his attention back on her.

"Giving us this kind of stupid 'prize'! I'd say it sounds more like a forfeit!" Tenten ranted. "I can't believe I'm supposed to kiss you!"

"Stop acting so crabby about it," Neji snapped back. He couldn't help feeling hurt. What, he wasn't good enough for her to kiss? "I should have known, you wanted Sasuke as well, right?"

Tenten blinked. "Goodness, no, he's one year younger than me, for goodness's sake!"

"How would I know? So many girls seem to be clawing after him. He was after all the number one student in his year," Neji retorted. He was thinking he should have taken Hinata's orange after all. Ah, imagine the look on her face as she kissed him. He bet she would have been going crazy with all the connotations of what that meant.

"But you are the number one student in our year! If I were to like someone-" Tenten stopped abruptly. "Argh, whatever!" she said quickly, stepping towards him and kissing him briefly on the cheek. Neji blinked, suddenly realising that it was much better he let Kiba have the orange. After all, he had no more enmities with Hinata.

"Yes! It appears all the 'prizes' have been given out!" Gai's eyes looked like they were sparkling with joy. "I declare this festival now over! Enjoy the rest of your day!"

Neji looked at Tenten. "Finally, this stupid event is over."

"Yeah, I'd say," Tenten said fervently. "Guess I'll be going home now. No need to waste anymore time out here. Bye." Turning, she began walking away quickly.

Was she in that much of a hurry to get home? Neji wondered. It was no wonder though, it was getting quite dark out already. She was probably afraid for her safety. "Tenten! Do you want me to walk you home?"

Tenten turned around, surprised. He had never made such a gentlemanly offer before. "No, it's all right, thanks!" she said.

"Are you sure? It's getting late," Neji said.

Tenten considered. "Okay, fine," she said, grinning.

Shikamaru looked around as the people on the beach dispersed. Ino was still standing and tapping her feet. "Oi, Ino," Shikamaru said.

"What?" she asked.

"Chouji's being brought to the hospital now. I'm going with him, so I'll make a move first," Shikamaru said, and taking a breath, continued. "Sorry about taking your orange. I should have known better than that."

Ino looked at Shikamaru. "I'll come too," she said. "Chouji's my team-mate too, after all."

Shikamaru shrugged and started walking towards where the teachers were. Ino fell into step beside him. "Shikamaru," she said.

"Yeah?"

She smiled shyly at him. "Actually, after Sasuke, I'd like you to have picked my orange. Thanks."

Shikamaru blinked. "Um…no problem. Anytime," he said gruffly, picking up his pace.

-

"Hey, Kurenai."

"Hmm?" Kurenai turned to see Asuma, an orange in his hand.

"For you," he said, grinning as he proffered it.

Kurenai's mouth opened in surprise and she snorted. "Goodness me, I can't believe you actually did something sweet."

Smiling, she took it from him, a small blush on her face. "You do know, though, that it doesn't really have meaning unless you retrieved an orange I've thrown into the sea?" she asked coyly.

"Of course," Asuma said, still smiling broadly.

Kurenai's smile faltered. "Do you mean…?"

Asuma nodded happily.

"YOU…!" Kurenai shouted.

-

"Today's festival has been a success!" Gai exclaimed happily.

Kakashi raised his eyebrows, not-so-subtly raising his Icha Icha Paradise to obscure Gai's gleaming teeth. "How would you know?"

He grinned mysteriously. "You always know."

-

"Oof," Asuma muttered, curling in foetal position on the ground and clutching his abdomen. "Love hurts."

Walking away, Kurenai shook her head and smiled to herself.

-The End-


Writing this fic was like a dream come true for me, because I got to squash all my favourite pairings into one fic.

I'm sure you caught onto all of them, but just in case, these are the (hinted at) pairings:

ShikaIno
NejiTen
KibaHina
SasuSaku (very slight)
AsumaKurenai.

I hope you enjoyed this fic as much as I did writing it! :D

& Snooza

Look out for Love is White written by Kaka-C, acompanion (sort-of) ShikaIno fic coming tomorrow!