Konoha Hair and Nail salon
It was loud, bright, chaotic—full to the brim with bustling people: hairstylists, makeup-artists, actors, celebrities, models, and those-who-just-can. Backstage was a place where people tripped over their costumes, screamed at their agents and scurried about in only their bra and underwear and demanded to see their lawyer. The New Year conference at Windstill Hall was such an important and influential event that, apparently, brought together a vast assortment of people from all over the world, as far as the eye could see, and almost just as much drama.
It was too loud and too bright for a young singer-aspiring-model, perched on a wooden stool as two almost positively lesbian hairstylists bitched over his hair.
"Look honey, you hold the straightener this way, this way, not that way, okay? We don't have that much time so get your ass up and running!"
"Well, at my salon," the taller, "beginner" woman with the pink Mohawk said hotly, "we straighten the hair one section at a time. It's quality, babe, not speed that counts!"
The squabble would have gone further if the model's agent didn't hastily intervene, shifting his clipboard under his arm as he physically separated the two.
"Look you, girls, I'm sure you're both fine hairstylists, but can we get a move on?" He pointedly looked at his watch, eyes darting from his client to the stage to the hairstylists, "Sasuke's up in ten and he hasn't had his make-up or clothes done yet, okay?"
The Mohawk-lady took the time to throw the finger at the other woman, drawing a gasp from the other. She stomped away angrily and Mohawk-lady continued on "quality-straightening" Sasuke's poor hair.
Uchiha Sasuke himself was up to his eyeballs in boredom.
He hated conferences, he hated Los Angelos, and he hated, hated his hairstylist. At least, the hairstylist dragging her claws through his hair at the moment. Why couldn't Kakashi book his own hairstylist, who would be (ideally) professional, fast, and didn't bitch with other stylists and take up wasteful time? Damn the man! He'd strangle the agent with his bare-hands if he wasn't so worried about ruining his manicure.
Dressed smartly in a black collared t-shirt, white jeans and designer shoes that Kakashi insisted to get him for his twenty-fourth birthday, he drummed his (so importantly) manicured nails on the table and gritted his teeth as the damn hairstylist practically tugged his hair out of his skull. Ow. The other lesbian was right; this girl was a beginner. He would have kicked her away if he wasn't "in the weeds", up in ten minutes. Kakashi's darting eyes was enough for his adrenaline to start pumping.
Why were girls always so slow?! They were loud, dramatic, and often waved the straightener so close to his face that he was afraid they were going to singe off his eyebrows.
They're boobs always bouncing around, they smelled funny, and, excuse him, but why weren't they in the least bit intelligent? If they didn't like someone, wasn't it much more efficient to tell it to their face rather than gossip behind their back and have the other party find out two months later?
The damn lady took four minutes to finally finish his hair (Kakashi was nearly dancing around in anxiety), wherein he was immediately whirled into the makeup section for a quick dab of sneeze-inducing foundation (but Sasuke was experienced enough to hold himself from sneezing) and some designer picked-out clothes before he stood in a line of singers and dancers and models and was resorting to lip-reading with his agent.
Every time it was the same. From concerts to shows to parties, he'd always ended up "borrowing" someone else's hairstylist and ended up ready only minutes before it was his turn. It was stressful. It was infuriating. It drove Sasuke up the wall and made him pull out his hair and bite Kakashi in the arm.
"Next time I'm getting my own hairstylist," he mouthed angrily in the gray-haired man's direction, hands pointing at his hair, "and it's got to be a guy. You understand?"
Kakashi cheerfully waved at him with his clipboard. Sasuke resisted the urge to stomp his foot on the floor and, instead, threw the older man the finger, before being dragged on stage in the spotlight.
He needed his own stylist.
He wanted his own stylist.
And if an Uchiha wanted something, he'd get it. Why?
Because Uchihas always get what they want.
It was a quiet—though chilly—day.
A single Californian city shuddered in the chill and bundled itself up in the nicely heated stores and shops and homes and wished the winter to be over and done with. Despite the cold, however, most markets were still open and running with the patrons and staff dressed up in mitts and jackets and completely determined to continue making a living.
The Konoha Hair and Nail Salon was no exception.
Located in the Japanese-district of the city, where most shops had everything written in both English and Japanese and where women and men alike greeted even the whitest Caucasian with "konnichi-wa" (at the appropriate time, of course), it continued to bustle and wheeze and work itself to the bone.
Some employees worried about their fingers falling off, though the heater was on full-blast.
Stupid, broken ventilation system. Tsunade needed to install a new one.
Though heating was expensive and aggravating and always incited a multitude of complaints, it was inevitable. No way in hell the blonde manager was going to go around wearing some poofy jacket while trying to paint some middle-aged woman's nails.
"Alright, whose turn is it to order lunch this time?" Tsunade barked from her spacious stand at the nails portion of the store, startling her current customer with her brash, loud voice.
Dressed in a loose green poncho, a white shirt, and some faded work jeans, she click-clacked her heels against the tile floor, blew bubblegum, and continuously inspired a sort of respected fear in the hearts of the employees.
She was loud, she was rude, she was blunt, and, most of all, she was untouchable, because she was the manager.
There was only one great, pure-bred Japanese bakery left standing alive in the hazy smog hanging over the city: a small whitewashed store located on the corner of a shopping mall near the salon. It tantalizingly displayed its lavish wedding cakes, drool-worthy lunch specials, and those delicious desserts of theirs in a small display case behind the window.
It was founded and run faithfully by the Akimichi family, a group of heavyset yet kind-hearted Japanese chefs, who had resided in the small Californian town for years.
They enjoyed food and enjoyed cooking and especially enjoyed the fact that their little bakery attracted every Japanese-American within a five mile radius, who apparently enjoyed their cooking as well.
Life was good.
Life was even better for them, because, though there were their ups and downs, good days and bad days, there was always the guarantee that their little bakery would receive a rather copious lunch-order from, yours truly, the Konoha Hair and Nail Salon. After a while, that was a lot of money.
Tsunade tossed her self-cut blonde pigtails across her shoulder with a slight twirl of her hand, showing off her blood-red nails in an almost menacing manner as she looked about the salon with a scrutinizing glare.
"I just know it's not Haku, 'cause he went and got it last time. Anyone up for the—"
The phone rang.
A blonde college student shrieked: "Sakura, isn't that the phone?"
"What? Pick it up, pick it up!"
"No, the other phone, the pink one with white polka-dots—no, the other pink one! That one! On the—oh, here, let me get it—" A perfectly manicured hand snatched the receiver up with an air of expertise.
A pink-haired secretary dressed in nothing but a t-shirt and skirt—how was that possible?—gave her blonde-haired friend a teasing wave before addressing the caller. Her voice became honey-sweet. "Hello, welcome to Konoha Hair and Nail Salon, how may I help you?"
"Anyone up for the job?" Tsunade repeated loudly, knocking on her stand..
"Yes, of course you can make reservations…I'm sorry? Ten dollars for a trim, Fifteen and higher for more elaborate hairstyles. Fifty for highlights and color. A haircut? At what time? Who do you want to be your hairstylist?" Sakura shot an urgent look towards her boss and mouthed: "Ooh, I would, but I can't" and waved her just-recently-painted fingers at the impatiently clicking woman.
The manager growled and turned around to glare pointedly at her two hairstylists, both busy with their own customers and ignoring their manager's scratchy voice. "Gaara?"
The addressed hairstylist cocked his head a bit, momentarily pausing in his cutting. Dressed in the classy maroon-apron, black Capri pants, and white t-shirt uniform of the salon, Sabaku Gaara—with his layered, stylishly-cut crimson hair; exotic green eyes; quiet, distant demeanor; and quick, unmatched skill in trimming—showed little interest in the chill or the broken ventilation or anything at all, for that matter. However…
"It's cold." he said flatly. Tsunade gestured for the youth to put on a coat or something, but the man remained obstinately rooted to the floor.
"It's cold." he repeated.
Oh, silly her. It seemed like, though he wasn't affected at all by the cold, he didn't like it. Wonderful. She would've put her red-lacquered nails to his throat if the man wasn't the only professionally trained stylist in the salon and was the only one she hadn't gotten around to know well.
She tried to exhale calmly. "Naruto?"
"Tell whoever it is on the phone that I'm taking the day off on Monday!" The blonde stylist shouted humorously at Sakura—ignoring Tsunade in the process—as he madly blew a customer's hair off with a blow-dryer, equipped with two combs in his left hand, one in-between his teeth, and a bottle of mousse in his right. "Tell him he's gotta pick Gaara, 'cause I'm not gonna come back on my free day just to please a single damn customer!"
Uzamaki Naruto turned around with a brilliant, lip-stretching grin, lowering the speed of his hair-dryer and patting his patron—too casually for Tsunade's professional side, but she could scold him later—before seating himself down in one of his self-proclaimed breaks.
"Go get our damn lunches!"
"Can't!" the rambunctious blond called out from his position in a dresser's chair, "I got my nails done too! You see? Sakura and I did them together!"
"Tough luck, kid! You go get the orders!"
Naruto's wail was heard all the way into the lobby, "Whaaaat? Oh, c'mon, how's that fair? Tsunade-baachaaaaaan!"
"Shut up!" the woman's roar shook the foundations of the store. "Just go and get our damn food already, I'm hungry!"
Naruto gestured wildly at his current patron, as if saying: How can I abandon a customer during work? Huh?
"A-ano," his client stuttered from her chair, a young journalist on her lunch break that often came by to get a trim, "It's okay, Naruto-san, you can go get lunch. I'll wait, it's okay."
"Hinata-chan!" Naruto pretended to burst into tears and encircled the small woman—who gave a little shriek—in a bear hug, lips pouting, "So kind! You have such a kind heart! Unlike some other women out there." He pointedly looked at the bubble-gum chewing manager with daggers in his blue eyes.
Tsunade wanted to smack the kid in-between the eyes. Damn casual child! Didn't the man know how to act professionally for once in his damn life?
Though she could immediately see why the Uzamaki's casual manner would appeal to the more every-day worker-type customers: carefree, chipper, and usually smiling, the boy was an expert at making small talk and acting in a generally crude yet somewhat relaxing manner, becoming extravagant at times to try and keep the customer's attention.
Despite that, however, she sometimes wished the boy had Gaara's quiet, meticulous, professional demeanor. The redhead was an expert at cutting and trimming and working into fine detail, and always managed to finish his work before an hour was up. He never said a word, got the job done fast, and was always cordial and polite and skilled and didn't make a habit of touching the customers or chatting with customers or being too damn close to customers.
The kid was so—so—gaaaah!
The blonde woman growled, crossing her arms over her rather buxom chest, "Do I look like I care?"
The addressed hairstylist spent a precious moment pouting (in a very manly fashion, of course), mouth pursing into a thin line, peering at his still freshly painted nails with a somber expression—well, if they got messed up (and they would), he could always have nice, quiet Haku to do them over for him.
Tsunade was a great nail-polisher too, but, damn, that woman pushed your cuticles back so hard, you wanted to scream and beg for mercy.
"That is sooooo not fair!" he continued to protest, blowing on the nails as he went to pick up the printed-weekly order sheet set underneath the left storage cabinet, "My nails are drying! Why can't you guys respect that?"
"No one cares if your nails are drying, brat! They dry faster in the cold!"
"But Sakura's nails are drying too and you don't make her go and order food!" Naruto yelled crossly, but received no response from Tsunade other than a very wicked, very sharp smile.
Growling in reluctant defeat, he purposely snapped a checked headband onto his forehead with a loud crack and pushed back his fringe of tousled blonde hair.
Turning around to give his manager a futile puppy-look with his large blue eyes, he, with a melodramatic sigh and a wave at Hinata—who shyly waved back—pulled on a large overcoat and sulkily slunk out of the store.
This small Japanese district has always been considerably quiet from its origins back in the day, other than the odd crazy gossip chain of Japanese women and drama in the office and the occasional racist battles or two that occurred every year. Despite these issues, however, the residents have always enjoyed relatively Californian peace (aka flashing lights, booze parties, crazy college students), detached from the outside world of fad and fashion and celebrities.
That is, until the day Uzamaki Naruto accidentally barreled into a certain ebony-haired celebrity and knocked him out on the sidewalk.
It had been Itachi's idea for Sasuke to dab into the modeling business.
It was brought up during one of their occasional I-am-better-than-thou-so-obey-me sessions at IHOP on a Saturday morning; sessions that Sasuke had been reluctantly dragged to by his agent every week for a year.
Their family counselor had suggested that constant exposure between the brothers would "increase" their affection for each other.
In reality, it just made the singer want to strangle his brother even more, if that was possible.
"Since it obvious that your meager voice will never hit mainstream," his holier-than-thou brother remarked icily as he picked his nails, pointedly ignoring his barely-nibbled-on pancakes and, instead, drank his coffee, "I think it may be better if you put those looks of yours into the modeling market. Do something you're actually good at."
Sasuke resisted the urge to snap that he was already mainstream and he was good at singing (whatever his brother said)—and that he had absolutely no intention to flaunt his abs to the public—and, as if to mock Itachi, took a huge bite out of his pancake. Hey, he wasn't the Uchiha brother who refused to eat even a sandwich because he was self-conscious about his body image.
"What about you, brother?" he said coldly after the two had lapsed into an uncomfortably stiff-necked silence. "Shouldn't you be working as a nail-painter or something? You seem to have more skill in that then your own singing."
The older brother narrowed his eyes, a dangerous glint playing in its depths, and nonchalantly slipped his painted nails under the table.
"Touché." He murmured, and asked for the check.
As Sasuke aimed dirty looks all throughout the transaction—Itachi seemed to relish in making Sasuke indebted to him by paying the damn check every time—the older brother coolly flicked back a strand of hair and made a move for the exit.
"Think about it." was all he said before he was gone.
Sasuke stomped all the way back to his hotel room, hissed at cats, threw the finger at a kid who had the nerve to try and rub his boogers onto his pant leg and called Kakashi. Two days later, he was on his way, sulking, with sunglasses covering his eyes to his first photo-shoot uptown.
An Uchiha always got what he wanted. And if Uchiha Itachi wanted his brother to be a model, than his brother became a model.
One wonders if Itachi ordered Sasuke to jump off a cliff, the singer would be so enraged that he'd actually do it.
Foolish little brother.
Hatake Kakashi was an odd man, to say the least: with his questionably natural grayish hair, laid-back pose and expression, and his habit of blatantly carrying around porn in public, he often stood out in the crowd like a whale does amid a sea of plankton.
Despite his odd quirks, however, he proved to be a rather viable and valuable agent—he seemed to know all the right people and had the right connections and had an interesting talent of being able to generally wriggle his clients into whatever company or occasion they wanted.
He was the one who did the research on the hair stylists, makeup artists, fashion designers, upcoming events and radio stations that Sasuke dropped by every so often, designing a schedule that craftily promoted Sasuke's songs and image without forcing it on others with such desperation that all the victims felt would be resentment.
Resentment was beyond Kakashi. That man could do wonders.
Despite Kakashi's wonder-inducing magic, however, Sasuke was not happy. In fact, the man was ferociously outraged.
"Is there not a single hairstylist that is decent, intelligent, and professional in the whole United States?" he howled as he flung his water-bottle into the mirror—Kakashi flinched when the thing cracked—before throwing himself onto the couch, mood immediately shifting from enraged to moody. "Damn you, Kakashi, I thought you had connections!"
"I do have connections," the man said sulkily, arms crossed and back plastered onto the hotel-room wall, "you just keep shooting them down."
It was a rather true statement, as a matter of fact—after discussing his complaints with Kakashi after the New Year Conference, the agent had paired him up with at least six different hairstylists, all of which had been tossed aside after no more than two photo sessions.
They were either too slow, too ugly, too talkative, too casual, too stupid… the list went on and on and Kakashi was running out of alternatives while Sasuke sat around picking at his hair.
"Is that my fault?" the brunette suddenly shrieked, rising up from the seat with a fringe of black hair framing his face, "Is it my fault that all those damn men you paired up with me were insane and inefficient? All I ask for is someone who is skilled enough to do my hair in a professional manner every time I go to a photo shoot. That's it! No biggie! God!"
Kakashi watched humorously—a screaming Sasuke was rather funny in a weird twisted way—as the brunette pulled on an oversized overcoat and stalked out of the room with an audible slam, hopefully heading towards the Japanese district of the city to maybe go sit in a café, drink green tea and calm down.
The agent was briefly reminded of the days when he used to baby-sit the young Uchiha for ten dollars per hour all through his college years until the kid was almost twelve, when Itachi was still starting up his own singing career and their parents were still up and around. The young heir would run around screaming at the top of his lungs, throwing himself onto the couch in a fit of wails and shrieks and bit and clawed the gray-haired man whenever he tried to wrestle him off.
Sasuke was the demon child back then—not saying that he was any better now, but at least his tantrums didn't include shrieking or biting anymore.
Sighing, Kakashi reached for the cellphone tucked snugly inside his belt, and dialed the number of his sweetie down in San Francisco.
Talking to Iruka always made him feel better.
Naruto staggered back into a few Japanese shoppers—who indignantly shoved him back—clutching his sore forehead as his narrowed, blue eyes tried to make out who was stupid enough not to see where the hell he was walking (though he never considered that it was he who hadn't been looking where he was going. Oh well. Naruto was just like that.)
His biting words died in his throat when he realized that the aforementioned man he was looking for was currently lying unconscious on the sidewalk, a small puddle of blood oozing out from the left side of his head.
It looked painful.
Hyuuga Neji was a regular customer at the Konoha Hair and Nail Salon.
A quiet, though not shy, businessman who worked in the family business, he regularly attended dinner at the main house every Saturday and just happened to like to get his hair and nails done before the said event.
Thus, he found himself seated once again in the soft, cushiony dresser's chair, reading a magazine from eight months ago as he waited for Gaara to come back from tending another customer.
Meanwhile, he attempted to tune out the gossip being flung from the secretary to the regular that just so happened to be one of the loudest woman he'd ever heard of.
He attempted to tune out the weight of an argument he'd had with his lover that morning, though he found his mind alternating between this and the gossip, and it was driving him insane.
He attempted to think of the normal, happy, everyday goings of his office: director's meeting next Tuesday, small informal dinner at Hinata-sama's house at eight o' clock tomorrow, must send offer letters to those miniscule little underlings out in Chicago somewhere, file lawsuit against rival company for publicly slandering the Japanese culture… yet all he could think of was this:
"And she was like, no way! And then he just stood there! He's quite a looker, too, and she was leaving so many hints, and Tenten and I were like, oh my god! Why didn't she just go out with him?"
The argument had been his own fault, he knew that, but he wasn't sure if he could apologize. Did he need to? It had been partially his fault too, dammit, so he had to apologize, too—
"You know what I think? I think Temari's playing hard-to-get. She wants Shika to trail after her like a puppy and roll over on his back in submission, so she can rub it in later. You know what I mean? It pisses me off so bad, 'cause Shika's a good guy, though a bit lazy, and he's honest and hardworking and she's all like 'nuh-uh! You gotta show me you love me before I'm gonna start letting you in my bed'."
He wondered how mad the other man was at him? Enough to—dare he think?—dump him for good? Just the mere suggestion them breaking their relationship suddenly turned Neji's fingers cold.
"Well, there's nothing wrong with playing hard-to-get, really. You just got to have tact. Sakura, can you pass me that body spray? I'm starting to smell like burned hair. Oh, did you hear about Kiba? What he did last week?"
He wouldn't do that, would he? After being together for so long? Neji attempted to reassure himself… but, still, he felt sick. As if he ate too much slightly undercooked pancakes.
"When he spent the entire day with a hole in his trousers? Yeah, heard it from Hinata. The coworkers were snickering at him for days."
You certainly growled at him enough, a small voice mused in the back of his mind. You made him feel like trash for just talking to someone—what else would you expect?
"You know what I heard, too?" Yamanaka Ino, a college student majoring in Psychology gestured at Neji's quiet cousin patiently waiting for her hairstylist to return from a short lunch break, lowering her voice, "I heard that it was Hinata herself was the one that told him about it by asking him, right in front of everyone else, if he would like her to sew that up for him. In front of everyone. Poor girl, thought she was smarter than that!"
She is smarter than that, Neji thought with a tick on his forehead, covering up his face with the image of a model posing in lingerie, suddenly tuning back to the gossip, and your gossip is horrible. Temari told Shikamaru that she'd think about it and get back to him, and Kiba had a hole in his shirt, not his trousers. That, and it was Shino who told him, not Hinata-sama. But by now, the Hyuuga had enough wits about him to keep his musing silent, and, instead, checked the clock.
Thankfully enough, Sabaku Gaara finished doing whatever he was doing with another customer and returned to the quiet business man, cool and aloof as usual, glittering green eyes scrutinizing the Hyuuga's fine, wet and shampooed hair.
Sabaku Gaara had always been odd. Though he was quiet. Neji liked that.
Being a rather complex man who delved often into the world of trade secrets and business, he'd rather not be put into a situation where he'd accidentally blurt out information about a personal affair and have it spread like wildfire through the gossip chain of insane, Japanese women.
Despite his usual oddness, however, Neji began to seriously worry about the man's sanity when the hairdresser picked up a seemingly normal hairdryer and began scrutinizing that, too. After what seemed to be an eternity, he finally turned it on, allowing a welcome stream of heated air suddenly coming in contact with Neji's wet face.
Directing it towards the now alert businessman's hair, he very carefully dried the ends out before viciously scrubbing the man's head with a towel and wrapping the dripping locks of hair into a temporary turban.
He paused a moment in his routine shampoo-and-cut pace. "The usual?"
The soft, questioning comment caught Neji by surprise, as the redhead had never asked such a thing before. He had always quietly given the business the same trim and shampooing every time, a quiet yet avid observer who had accurately tagged the Hyuuga has a man of routine. The man quickly wondered if his—what he considered well hidden—depression had come to notice. To be depressed to the point where even one of the most apathetic stylists he knew was concerned over his wellbeing was astonishing.
Before he could say anything—or perhaps accidentally blurt out every piece of his personal life—however, a sudden shriek startled every living soul in the store, directing everyone's attention to a certain blond waving his arms about in the doorway. It wasn't the shriek or the waving or the expression on the man's face that caught attention first.
What horrified the alert staff and patrons the most was the red on his face and hands.
"Someone call an ambulance!" the hairstylist shrieked, all drama and jokes lost in the very franticness in his eyes, "Oh my god, I think I killed someone!"
AN: As a general warning, this story may move a bit slow. In fact, I'm well known for a being slow. Thanks for reading this far! Reviews were much appreciated XD. I apologize for any errors (Sasuke is purposely prissy in this fanfic and will remain prissy), especially typos. I try and fix as many as I can, but, without a beta, I'm always bound to miss something. Some hints of Gaanaru are going to appear in Chapter Two... so it does exist. Hopefully something happens in chapter three? Thanks again!