Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Naruto.
Ino was curious. She had known Tenten since before they were genin, and she had never seen her without her signature buns. Never. Not even once. Ino knew that Tenten cared more for her pointy instruments of death than she did about her hair, but come on! The weapons mistress slept in those darn buns! The curiosity was eating Ino alive. So, she decided to do something about it.
At that moment, Rock Lee barged into the Yamanaka flower shop, startling Ino from her musings. He ran around the shop, darting from flower to flower like some sort of giant, green bumblebee. After a very animated, albeit a little one-sided discussion on which flowers were the most youthful and therefore more fitting for Sakura-chan, Ino made a seemingly innocent comment on Tenten while she wrapped up the lotus bouquet. "You know, Lee, I don't think I've ever seen Tenten without her buns."
Lee seemed to consider it for a moment. "Our precious Tenten-san does seem to prefer that style." He smiled, striking a nice guy pose, sticking his thumb up. "I can see why, they look so youthful!"
Ino nodded. "They do. But, don't you think she might look even more youthful, if she let her hair down?" She fussed with the wrapping on the bouquet, trying to make it seem as if the comment was relatively meaningless. She didn't want Lee catching onto her plan.
"You are absolutely right, Ino-san!" Lee was elated at the idea of one of his teammates further unlocking the awesome power of youth.
"But I don't think she would ever let us see… It's probably impossible." Ino continued, handing the flowers to Lee. When she looked up, she hid a smile at the determined look on the green ninja's face.
"I accept your challenge of making our Tenten-san even more youthful! And if I cannot, I shall run 500 laps around Konoha!" Lee paid for the offered bouquet with a grin, before running out of the shop at top speed, the lotus cradled in his arms. Ino smiled at the retreating green blur; satisfied her plan was coming together nicely.
Later that day, the Konoha 11 were gathered around Ichiraku's ramen bar. Dozens of empty bowls were stacked up around Naruto, Chouji, and Kiba, while everyone else was still on their first or second bowl. Ayame soon came over, arms loaded with a tray bearing multiple new bowls of steaming ramen. She carefully arranged them around the boys, trying not to elbow Tenten, who was sitting nearest to them. Naruto thanked her profusely, before turning to Kakashi.
"Thank you again for agreeing to cover the bill," he said around a mouthful of ramen.
The famed copy-nin almost fell off his chair. "What?!" After a moment, he recovered, regaining his typically calm exterior. "When did I ever agree to that?"
Guy-sensei suddenly stood up, calling out from the other side of the bar. "I will cover our most youthful members, if you wish." The giant green beast was always willing to one-up his longtime rival. Taking advantage of the distraction, Rock Lee had stood up, walking over to Tenten with uncharacteristic stealth. Pale eyes watched his approach, but Neji said nothing. Lee quickly grabbed the ribbons holding Tenten's buns together, giving a quick tug and undoing them before she knew what was happening. Gasps sounded, as soft dark curls tumbled down past her shoulders, framing her now flushed face. Pale eyes widened ever so slightly, a minuscule reaction that only someone who really knew the Hyūga would notice. However, Tenten was too flustered to notice.
"I was right!" Lee yelled, hair ribbons still clutched in his hand. "Tenten-san does look even more youthful!"
"Forget youthful, she looks hot!" Naruto, ever the obnoxiously blunt idiot yelled, ignoring the ramen in front of him for the first time in his life. Neji's expression took on a hint of anger that again, went unnoticed. Hinata stared down at her own bowl, depressed to hear Naruto say that about her friend. First, he was obsessed with Sakura, and now he liked Tenten? Was there ever any hope for her?
Amidst the catcalls and obnoxious comments from the other boys, mainly Naruto and Kiba, the sound of a chair being pushed back over the wooden floor went unheard and the ninja stalking towards Lee went unnoticed. Meanwhile, Tenten was unwillingly doing her best Hinata impression. Her face flushed crimson and she wished she could disappear as Lee held the hair ribbons out of her reach. Lee suddenly found himself the focus of an angry byakugan.
Neji held out his hand. "Hair ribbons, now." He said flatly, voice not revealing the anger in his eyes. Lee gulped and meekly passed the ribbons to Neji, before fleeing back to his seat, as far away from Neji as possible. Deactivating the byakugan, Neji turned and dropped the ribbons on Tenten's lap. She quickly grabbed them and pulled the curls back up into a sloppier version of her typical hairstyle, much to the other boys' disappointment. Neji silenced their grumbling with a single look.
Several days later, Tenten muttered under her breath as a ribbon tore, unraveling a bun. It had somehow managed to tear exactly halfway down, leaving both sides just a little too short to be useful. She cursed when she realized she didn't have any extra ones. No longer hearing the satisfying thud of projectiles hitting home in the wooden targets, Neji turned from his own training to look at Tenten. Half of her hair was still in a bun, while the other half was loose. She was glaring down at a torn ribbon in a way that made it seem like kunai were about to fly. He let out a small snort, the Hyūga equivalent of hysterical laughter. She looked ridiculous.
Wordlessly, Neji handed her the tie holding his own hair in place. He didn't like going without it, but he could live. Tenten took it with a small smile, restoring her hair. "You know, you're probably the only one who doesn't care about my hair at all," she said, thinking back on his complete lack of reaction when every other jaw in the room had dropped. Of course, she hadn't been able to see the rage in his eyes, as he demanded the ribbons returned and silenced the other boys. She turned, going back to impaling the wooden target dummies with kunai and senbon.
He raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. "Who said I didn't care?" Tenten continued throwing weapons, feigning disinterest. "You look beautiful with your hair down." The next senbon to fly out of her hand arced over the target, landing somewhere in the bushes behind it. Damn, she never missed. Neji smiled slightly at that. "I just happen to think you look better like this."