title: of love and hair-care
pairings: Slight NejiIno. Peripheral SasuSaku.
summary: CRACK. AU. NejiIno. SasuSaku. The beginnings of Pretty Love are rarely Frizz-Free. "Being around you makes me forget why homicides are illegal."
warnings: Alternate pairing. AU. I swear that one day I will write a proper NejiTen, but this story belongs to Neji, Ino, and their very pretty hair. :)

notes: Sometimes, it just comes to me. I have no idea, actually. I think it's because they're both pretty. Also, I'm working on my dialogue, so I can write the second mock tale, and CAW! Because CAW really needs an update.

Also, why is Neji so fun to mess with?

disclaimer: I don't own any of the rights to Naruto, or really, any of the rights to any of the fabulous products I include in this piece.

"If you're going to spend half-a-lifetime figuring out what you want, could at least have the decency to do it elsewhere? You're in the way."

It was the condescension in that almost-familiar voice that forced Yamanaka Ino to turn away from the four-foot wall of hair-care products in front of her. Her eyes were shut in an attempt to regain her calm, but her mouth was half-open, and more than ready to deliver a scathing retort—she had, after all, never been one to ignore blatant breaches of social etiquette. Here she was, innocently debating the merits of finally switching over to Phyto—because Bumble was just not getting it done anymore—and some indelicate boor decided to go ahead and interrupt her thought processes.

Brows twitching, she opened her eyes, only to be greeted by an Imperious Glare.

It was Hyuuga Neji—in the flesh.

And, said that annoyingly persistent voice in her head—the same one that had convinced her to wear the shamelessly scarlet sheathdress to Shikamaru's wedding to Temari, instead of the conservative pale peach number that Sakura had suggested—what fine flesh it is, isn't it?

"Oh. "It's just you," she said haughtily, somehow managing to make her last word sound like the vilest of curses, even despite her wayward thoughts.

He gave her a discreet appraisal, which Ino bore with as much dignity as she could gather, before he gave her a look that told her in no uncertain terms that he'd found her lacking.

"Yamanaka," he said blankly, inclining his head in what she supposed must have passed for a nod in his level of atmosphere. "Your shirt's buttoned up the wrong way, did you know that? Though, I suppose you can't be blamed, completely. I imagine you were in quite the hurry to leave wherever it was you came from...angry wives, and all that. Such a bother, I'm sure."

Ino looked down at the artfully tousled asymmetrical button-down shirt she'd worn during her photo shoot earlier in the day, and tried very hard to remember why homicide was illegal. Being around Hyuuga Neji had the ability to make her forget such things, after all.

"I'll thank you not to make anymore observations about things that are both patently untrue, and definitely none of your concern. Besides, this is one of your cousin's newest designs. If you didn't spend half your life chasing rainbows, you'd know that already. Hiding something, are we? Really, Neji. Metaphors are so passé," she finished sweetly.

Neji scowled. Ino tried not to feel too pleased with herself.

"I've asked you before to stop making those insinuations, which, if I might borrow your earlier words, are 'patently untrue'. And," he said tightly, "I've told you before—I do not chase rainbows. I chase tornadoes."

"Right," Ino said placidly, determined to be irritating. "That's much more practical." Normally, she wouldn't have been so keen to pick a fight, but from the moment they'd met, Neji had known how to push her buttons in a way no one else in her life could rival. Even Sakura—who, with her perfect surgeon's career, her darkly handsome Sasuke, and two adorable children had, for a long time, been the prime source of Ino's envy—on her worst day during that time of the month, couldn't hold a candle to the irritation Hyuuga Neji managed to incite in her, almost effortlessly.

Besides, she'd had an exceptionally long day, and Neji's earlier rudeness had been the final straw—she wasn't going to waste the opportunity to work out her frustrations on so worthy a target.

"Oh, sorry," he deadpanned. "Clearly, primping and preening in front of an invisible audience is so much better for the good of humanity. At least my work helps people." Neji smirked at Ino in a way that had her wishing she hadn't given up karate for ballet at the age of eight.

"Yes, because it's important that all little boys know to run towards tornadoes, instead of away from them," Ino said, turning back to the shelf, but moving slightly to accommodate the request that had started their exchange.

"Better than teaching little girls how to dress like strumpets," he retorted, considering a bottle of Ojon. "I saw your last ad, you know. Green's not really your color—it makes you pasty."

"Unlike you, Neji, as you're pasty without any help at all," Ino retorted. She tried very hard to ignore the fact that her words didn't seem to apply in this particular instance—Neji looked irritatingly attractive in forest green.

"Yes, well, I'd be much obliged if perhaps you could recommend a good fake-tanner," Neji replied, without missing a beat. "From what I understand, you're something of an expert—covers it up, does it not? Your unhealthy pallor, I mean."

In response, Ino—who was only barely resisting the urge to snarl—squeezed the bottle of Phyto in her hand so hard, she was surprised it was still intact.

"I hate you," she said simply.

"Nonsense," Neji said, not even looking at her. His long dark-brown hair hung down over his the broad expanse of shoulders and down to his waist, tied in a loose queue. It was a bit unfair, Ino thought—on any other man, the style would have looked absurd, or, at the very least, effeminate.

"…Ojon or Fekkai?"

"What," she said blankly.

Neji smirked, clearly amused by her obvious inattention.

"I said," he drawled, "would you recommend Ojon or Fekkai?"

Ino arched a brow in question.

"I'm flattered. You're asking little old me for hair-help?"

Neji turned away.

"The state of your own hair tells me that you really do have much experience in this area."

She grinned widely at him, and ignored the answering groan.

"Why Hyuuga Neji," Ino said delighted by the faintest of flushes on his face. "Are you calling me pretty?"

"No," he said quickly—too quickly. "I'm merely saying that you are not totally incompetent in the area of grooming."

"Pretty," Ino trilled. Still smiling, she plucked three bottles from their places on the shelf in front of them.

"Phyto shampoo, Terax conditioner, and Living proof No-Frizz,"she said, placing each of the bottles in his hand in turns. "Use Phyto every other day, Terax daily, and No-Frizz at will."

She made a face at him.

"Not," she continued, "that you'll need much of the last one, damn you. I go through these like an addict, but I've never seen you with anything less than a perfect head of hair."

A slow smile, this one untouched by any semblance of mockery, made its way across his face, and Ino felt an answering rush of heat.

She told herself it was the adrenaline left over from their verbal match.

"My thanks," he said simply, as he walked away.

Ino sighed.


It was two days later, not fifteen minutes after Sakura had dropped off Kimi and Hiro so that she and Sasuke could enjoy some "time alone"—she'd rolled her eyes when Ino had mock-gagged—that the door began to ring.

Ino left Hiro in the kitchen with a near empty container of smashed peas, and followed Kimi as she toddled to the foyer of her penthouse, her little feet sliding deeper into the Christian Louboutins stilettos she'd managed to unearth from the depths of Ino's walk-in shoe-closet.

"Slowly, darling. We'll see about getting you a pair in the right size as soon as you get big enough," she said softly, as she guided the little girl forward with gentle hands.

Kimi gurgled, and her green eyes crinkled as she smiled. Ino swept her up in her arms, and made her way to the front door. When she opened it, there was a small box on her doorstep, wrapped in green paper, and tied with twine. Underneath the bow, there was a slip of paper.

She opened the note first.

I. —

To help with the bird's nest.

N. Hyuuga

Torn between irritation and anticipation, Ino gave the box to Kimi to be unwrapped, and at the sight of what was inside, she had to laugh.

There, in the box, were seven bottles of Living proof—each one individually wrapped in a different color of the rainbow.

Please let me know what you think! :)