A/N: So here's the newest creation of my over-imaginative brain. I really enjoyed writing Magnetism so I decided I would have another go at a GaaSaku AU. I was slightly inspired by the scene where Ino and Sakura are sitting together as kids while picking flowers. So I decided I would use this version of our favorite pink haired lady to propel this story… but don't worry, this doesn't mean she's not tough! You know I always love to make her strong in my stories, cause that's exactly the woman she is.
As usual, both Gaara and Sakura are in their early twenties here. I'm rating it 'M' just in case, since I will most likely explore some 'adult themes' with this one (cackles evilly).
Unlocking the door to the flower shop, Haruno Sakura breathed in the alluring scent of all the different kinds blossoms which filled the front room. If there was something she loved about working in her best friend's business, it was the smell of flowers in the morning.
Placing her bag on one of the back shelves as she went behind the counter, she proceeded to put on her apron, ready to begin another day of work. There were some flower arrangements which needed to get done by the end of the day and she had even promised Ino that she would try to get them finished before lunch.
She went into the back room to acquire the blossoms she needed for the intricate ornaments she was working on. Their storage room was relatively large compared to the size of the shop and many large water filled flower buckets rested along one side of the wall while other blossoms were kept on adjacent shelves. Ino's tiny office was located at the end of the room and a small table which would barely sit four people rested to its side. This was what they all jokingly denominated the 'kitchen area' and a small microwave and coffee maker rested by a small sink on a nearby counter.
Sakura looked around to make sure everything was in place before turning to the flower buckets and choosing the best blossoms from them.
Yamanaka Flowers always had all kinds of requests for many different types of occasions. Usually, Ino's mother would handle most of them, since she managed the central shop and had numerous assistants. But some of the time, the clients were just too many and she would delegate some of the tasks to her daughters. Ino, being the youngest, ran the smallest of the three shops the Yamanaka family owned, but this didn't mean she slacked off.
On the contrary, the blond had an amazing skill when it came to flower arrangements, an ability she shared with her best friend, Sakura. Both their ornaments were usually in high demand and reserved only for the most special clients.
Thus, Sakura found that she needed to get fifteen table pieces done before closing time, each one different from the other but using the same types of flowers. Some of their clients' requests were sometimes unbelievable and the amount of details they demanded would've driven anyone mad. But the pink haired girl found she actually had a knack for such jobs and arranging flowers was something she simply loved to do.
Apart from that, the pay was extremely good when compared to other flower shops and working in such a friendly environment was something she was constantly grateful for.
Taking the flowers she needed, she brought them over to the counter, where she arranged them in the order they needed to be placed. She took a large piece of green foam from one of the shelves and set it down, concentrating on the way she was going to go about creating her first art piece of the day.
As if on cue, the hands on the clock hanging on the wall marked 8 o'clock and Sakura walked towards the door, turning over the sign hanging on the window, letting the world know that Yamanaka Flowers had just opened for the day.
Staring out the glass, the pink haired girl watched the traffic drift by, with many people walking down the sidewalk, heading towards the centre of town. The shop was located near an office district, were tall business men and women walked and drove by in their impeccable suits, looking as if they were the busiest people in the world. According to Ino, having the shop in such a locality was ideal, since the crowd who worked in the nearby buildings was obligated to walk by their window every single day. Not surprisingly, the blond's schemes had worked and the flower store acquired a steady and constant clientele, making it extremely successful.
This didn't mean they were saturated with clients all day, but they did make enough profit to have a rise in their pay checks every so often.
Turning from the window, Sakura returned to her stool behind the counter once more. She knew that Ino wouldn't be coming in until around 10am, since she loved to have her morning beauty sleep. Lee, however, was a different story. Knowing that the pink haired girl would be covering the first shift of the day, it wouldn't surprise her to see him walk in the door at any moment.
Her co-worker's infatuation was something of a joke between the four who worked at the shop and it brought about all kinds of humorous antics. Sakura had made it clear to Lee from the start that she didn't want to have a relationship with someone she worked with every day and he had taken her rejection in stride. This didn't mean, however, that he would stop his advances nor that he would stop making all kinds of small gestures for her.
But Sakura wasn't overly worried about Lee, since he knew exactly where they stood and wouldn't expect more from her than an honest friendship. He was such a sweet man and especially skilled at flower arrangements too. The pink haired girl actually enjoyed his company since he could be extremely funny at times.
The bells of the door chimed as someone walked in and not surprisingly, the only male assistant of the shop walked in, carrying a carton with two lattes on it.
"Morning Lee," Sakura greeted, a wide smile on her face.
"Lovely to see you, Sakura" Lee replied, teeth glimmering in the soft shadows of the morning. "I brought you your morning dose, since I know you need it. I came by early since you need to finish those arrangements quickly, so I can take care of any customers that come in."
"Thanks, I really appreciate it," she said, taking her cup of coffee and placing it to the side of the ornament she was working on. "I know I told Ino I would try to get these done before lunch break but I think it's going to be impossible."
"Don't worry, no one can beat you when it comes to making table pieces in record timing!" Lee exclaimed, giving her a thumbs up as he put his own cup of coffee down on the counter.
Giggling at his antics, Sakura continued to work on her adornment as Lee walked into the back room to retrieve his apron and leave his things.
"I just want to get as many done as possible this morning so that Hinata won't have too much work in the afternoon," she said when Lee came back carrying a broom. "She almost killed herself with those wedding pieces last week and almost had a nervous breakdown at one point!"
"I know," Lee replied as he started sweeping. "I swear I've never seen her so close to weeping over work before. She even pulled an all-nighter to finish them on time."
"Yeah, Ino almost killed her when she found out!" Sakura said, taking a sip of her coffee. "She should've told us she needed help. We would've pitched in after our shifts without any problem."
"Well, you know how she is. She always wants to get things down by herself cause she actually thinks she depends on us too much," he said, shaking his head.
"I think Ino might give her a day off this week, since Mrs. Setsuku was extremely pleased with Hinata's work. She said they were the perfect adornments for her daughters wedding," Sakura replied, imitating their customer's squeaky voice in the last sentence.
Lee laughed and was about to say something when the first customer of the day walked in the door.
"Ahh, good morning Kanna-san," he greeted. "Do you wish for the usual?"
The young secretary smiled at both of them. "Yes, please. I need the weekly arrangement to adorn the reception of the office. Even though Toki-san said she wished to have some different colours on this one."
"Hmmm, let's see," Lee said as he walked behind the counter and starting taking some flowers from the shelves. "We always give her some blue and violet hues. How about mixing them with some red and orange?"
"That would be lovely," Kanna replied as she walked forward to survey his work.
Sakura tuned out their conversation after a bit and continued to concentrate on her work. It really would be an extremely long day and she wished she could make it through unscathed. There was so much which needed to get done, but at least Lee was here to help her.
Taking some of the blooms in her hands, she started arranging them according to Mr. Hitsuro's preferences, losing herself in the blends of colours she was creating.
He hated his birthday.
He hated it from the core of his being.
The anniversary of his birth had never been a date to celebrate, to enjoy… it was marked by the very opposite concept of what a birthday stood for.
It was marked by death.
While taking his car keys from the small table next to his apartment door, the red head reminded himself of all the reasons why there would never be any joy when it came to 'commemorating' the day of his birth.
The day Gaara was born was the day his mother passed away. After an extremely difficult childbirth, she had finally succumbed to her weakened state and was only able to bless her lastborn son with the gift of his name. She had died while holding her newborn infant in her arms for the first and last time, looking down upon the frightened jade eyes of the baby who had exhausted her life.
Or so his sister had told him.
Many times throughout his existence, Gaara had imagined just what the scene of his birth had looked like, especially during the long lapses of insomnia he suffered from. The doctors rushing around the room, trying in vain to use the latest technology to safe the life of the woman in the hospital bed, who had by then given up on all chances of surviving childbirth for the third time. The red head could clearly picture his small self, cradled in the loving arms of his mother… but then, the image would always shift, and instead, he would see his small self being held in the hands of a rotting corpse.
Distractedly, he opened his car door and got in, turning on the engine as he backed out of his apartment building's parking lot, his mind completely lost in past events.
In his family, the fact that he had killed his mother had always been an unspoken knowledge. As he grew up, he felt the tension and disgust, especially from his father, as clearly as he felt the cold grip of loneliness surround his heart. He knew his siblings had hated him during their childhood… here was this newcomer to the household, small and useless, which had taken a mother and a wife away by coming into the world. What child would be ready for such a blow so early in life?
His father would always treat him differently, and try as he might, he just couldn't bring himself to love his youngest son. Gaara knew that he probably saw too much of his mother in him, and every time he would gaze upon his face, he would be reminded of his loss. This feeling was passed down to his other children, Temari and Kankurou, who would take their cues from their father and kept a deliberate distance from Gaara to avoid his displeasure.
Or so his brother had told him.
Many years afterwards, Kankurou had explained to him how the alienation his younger brother had suffered was a condition established completely by their father and both him and Temari did not dare disobey the tyrant. The man was an extremely disciplined person and he wanted his children to be no less, therefore, when he gave an order, he expected it to be obeyed… or the consequences would be dire.
Hence, in their own way, the three children of the household had lived a childhood of terror and fear, not daring to step out of line even for an instant. Temari and Kankurou had been forced to watch their younger brother grow up a lonely child, with no one to help him ease away the fears of his nightmares.
Driving down the road in his Range Rover on the way to the office, the red head kept reminiscing about his childhood, something he was wont to do in this most wretched of days. Try as he might, there was no stopping his mind on his birthday from returning to that time when he had been the most miserable.
Wanting to get his son as far away from him as possible, Gaara's father had enlisted him in a private boarding school for boys and he would spend most of the year away from home… much to his relief as well as his fathers. There, the red head would vent out all of his frustration on the other kids and was quickly singled out as the school's bully. He would pick a fight whenever he could and developed an unusual skill for such encounters, gaining a notorious reputation.
He would skip classes very often and would leave the school for extended periods of time. It was on these fieldtrips that he had developed the habit of smoking at the age of twelve, and no punishment from his teachers would change his behaviour. Word of his escapades and of his inappropriate conduct reached the ears of his father, but the man just couldn't be bothered to care. In any case, the red head was an extremely intelligent boy and would always pass his courses with exceptional grades. Therefore, in the end, his teachers and principal dictated that it was best to leave him alone.
So, for a long time Gaara lived the early years of his life in a bustling school full of young vibrant boys, where no one, not even his mentors, would acknowledge his existence. Bitterness and resentment tore him apart from the inside and his violent behaviour was only the outcome of the tormenting chaos which raged within him. With no one to turn to, he closed his contact with the world and painfully realized that the only person he could ever count on was himself.
But life always had a way of opening doors when you thought there were none… and thankfully, just when the red head's life was about to take a turn for the worst, a little light shone through.
He was taken out of class one day and told that he needed to go home. Some kind of emergency had happened but no one would tell him exactly what. When he arrived at the mansion, he was greeted by his siblings and bluntly told that his father had passed away.
"Good," he told both of them and he walked up the steps of their luxurious house, making his way to his room. He locked himself away for days and didn't attend the funeral. No matter what Kankurou and Temari did, he didn't emerge, not even to eat.
But just like him, his siblings were thankfully a stubborn pair and they were determined to crack their baby brother's shell once and for all. Now that the ever-looming threat of their father was out of the way, they were resolved in making up for the time they had missed.
Gaara was fourteen the day he knocked Kankurou out for the first time and it wouldn't be the last. All kinds of verbal and physical fights ensued as the trio tried to establish some sort living arrangement. Being the only one over eighteen, Temari was their official caretaker and had been given the authority to manage their vast inheritance and their father's business until her two brothers came of age. Therefore, she was the one in charge, at least in theory, and most of the time her siblings would do as they were told.
Of course, the one who always gave her a headache had always been her younger brother. He refused to go back to his boarding school and she refused for him not to finish his education. Physical prowess being his forte, the red head found he simply couldn't match his sister's level in skill when it came to verbal lashing and discussions… even though he did try. Coming to a compromise, Gaara agreed to finish high school at a local institution but only if Temari stayed out of his life and didn't bother him; she agreed to keep her distance only if he managed to get good grades and not come in drunk on a school night.
They shook hands on it and the issue was never discussed again… that is, until Gaara brought in a slutty girl late one evening and Kankurou discovered both of them naked in the bathroom.
Gaara chuckled evilly at the memory as he stopped for a red light at one of the city's busiest cross roads. It hadn't been his brightest moment, but there were some things hormones did to you which simply couldn't be controlled, especially when you were a teenager. The girl hadn't meant anything to him, just like all the ones after her, but she had surely given his older siblings the fright of a lifetime.
The red head thought Temari's head would come off from all the yelling she did that night. As she said herself sometime later, it was one thing to try and help steer your younger brothers in the right direction but it was another thing entirely to put up with their antics when they hit puberty. Try as she might, she couldn't avoid having the conversation about contraceptives with him, so, she 'discussed' it with him at the top of her lungs while he stood in front of her dressed only in a pair of boxers while the girl stayed hidden inside the bathroom.
After that, the three of them came up with an agreement concerning such circumstances and concluded that 1) no sex buddies on weekdays, 2) there should always be a stash of condoms hidden somewhere, 3) no condoms meant no sex, 4) keep the noise down to the bare minimum and 5) always stay inside the bedroom. These rules applied to all three of them and if they were broken, punishment would be handed out accordingly.
Surprisingly, even though a little bit of chaos would always be present, some strange semblance of order reigned over the household from then on and living together became more than bearable for all of them. At one point, they were all somewhat shocked when they found themselves giving each other Christmas presents and the like, or when they found they were sharing a quiet dinner and discussing the events of each other's day.
The process was slightly slower for Gaara, who had never had any type of close relationship with anyone in his life. But his siblings were patient and they didn't force him. They wanted him to open up to them when and if he was ready, and tried not to pressure him in the least. Even though he never said it, the red head had been extremely grateful to them for this and it was something he would always cherish secretly.
So, at the beginning, he would stay in his room and they would only see him a few times a week. He started emerging little by little however, and whenever he did, Kankurou would always try to strike up a conversation of some sort or would challenge him to a game of pool down in the basement.
The red head scoffed such invitations at first and thought himself above such interactions. But he found he was lured to linger slightly longer each time he came out of his room and eventually, he would sit for a while with his brother and sister while watching TV. He didn't say a word but his presence was duly noted and bit by bit, he came to be a part of his home's world, something he had never been able to accomplish during the early years of his childhood.
Now, after having successfully graduated from high school and obtained a business degree with outstanding grades, after having acquired a job as assistant manager for their family's company and having started an independent life of his own, he found that many years had passed since those times…
And like it or not, it was time to celebrate his wretched birthday again.
Which meant that it was the day he visited his mother's grave.
A scowl formed on his face at the thought as he arrived at Suna Electronic's building. Going into the parking lot reserved only for the high managers of the company, he parked his car in his own private spot. He took his bag from the passenger seat, the backpack he had used since high school. Gaara had never actually cared about following the 'established protocol' when it came to business etiquette and Temari had actually fought with him for many months just to get him to wear a decent shirt and trousers when he had started being her assistant. After a while he had complied but would not go far enough to wear a tie everyday and reserved its use for extremely special occasions.
Riding the elevator up to the 10th floor, Gaara prepared himself mentally for the day. He was sure his sister wouldn't forget his birthday, much to his aggravation, and he slightly wondered what stupid festivities she had hidden up her sleeves. Temari had always made a point of spoiling her baby brother whenever she had the chance, even though she was an extremely stern woman when it came to being the chief manager of a multinational corporation. The red head usually didn't mind the softer side of her nature on occasion but he didn't wish it to show up on the day of his birth, especially since she would openly tell the world that it was his day.
It wasn't nice to be reminded of his nativity, for whenever someone came up to him and congratulate him, he would always remember his mother.
For this reason, he was always morose and ill-tempered on this day, something which didn't seem to deter his sister, no matter how hard he tried.
Gaara walked out of the elevator. Their main secretary greeted him amiably and congratulated him, but he only nodded in response and headed directly towards his office, which was located to one side of Temari's. Luckily, her door was closed and he managed to slip by unnoticed.
He sat down on his large desk and looked out the large window which offered an amazing view of one of the city's parks. He always loved to stare out the glass in silent contemplation but found he didn't have as much time as he wanted to enjoy this strange hobby of his.
A blinking light caught his attention and he clicked on one of his phone's buttons to listen to the pending message.
Temari's voice popped up on the speaker as she sang 'Happy Birthday' to him at the top of her lungs.
Deleting the message even before it finished, the red head held his face in his hands as he leaned on his desk and tried to control his rising ire. He was bound to yell at someone by the end of the day, he simply knew it. He could only hope that his sister wouldn't even think about getting him a cake during their lunch break like she had last year. It was one thing to blow out the candles in the private of his home but it was completely different to do so when surrounded by a bunch of idiots who worked for him that he didn't even pretend he liked.
Even though his people skills had improved somewhat, Gaara wasn't exactly the friendliest person around. People mostly irritated him with their inefficiency and stupidity and their office was infinitely plagued by such morons. Personally, he would've fired most of them and retained only a few who did their work right, but Temari vehemently refused to even think about such an idea. She always said that it was partially his fault for not even trying to get along with his co-workers and he guessed she was right to some extent.
In truth, he really didn't care what they thought about him as long as they did what they had to do. They kept their distance and respected him, knowing he was the co-owner of the company. This was more than enough for Gaara, who had learned to play the roll of the bully all through school and was happy to keep playing the part in his adult life.
Turning on his computer, he checked the pending tasks he had for the day and started them without a second thought, more than glad to be given a chance to forget what day it was. He knew someone would remind him about it sooner or later, so he welcomed any opportunity at forgetfulness that he could get.
Just as he had started to fall into his usual work rhythm, his office door crashed open.
In walked Temari wearing a gigantic jester hat, a plastic whistle in her mouth and making the nastiest din in the world as she paraded around.
Gaara closed his eyes in an attempt to control his temper and prayed for the day to be over.
"Sakura, how far ahead are you?" Ino asked around a mouthful of salad.
The three of them, Sakura, Ino and Lee were sitting at the 'kitchen' table, having a quiet lunch. The day hadn't been extremely busy, so they were able to sit down together to eat and if any customer walked in, the bells from the door would let them know.
"I'm almost done," the pink haired girl replied, stopping a moment in her eating. "I only have three ornaments left and if this slow day keeps up, I'll finish them in no time."
"Good," the blond replied. "That way Hinata can have an easy afternoon. Did you remember to add the bluebells to one of the pieces?"
"Yes, I've already done the central table's arrangement," Sakura said. "It was one of the first ones I did since it was slightly more complicated."
"Great! I can always count on you," Ino told her, a smile on her lips.
"What's going on with that large request we have for next week?" Lee asked, looking up from his meal.
"I haven't decided how exactly we're going to tackle it since mother said we should work on it together. But I think all of us will have to toil extra since it's B-I-G. We're doing the arrangements for a darned business conference… I think it's about electronics or something. Whichever the case, we have to decorate an entire hall of the Fujima Hotel."
"The Fujima Hotel?" Lee asked, slightly shocked. "Not again!" he finished, partially covering his face with his hand.
Sakura shuddered as well. "That wedding last year really did some horrible things to us, didn't it?"
Her raven haired co-worker nodded her way, a look of dread in his eyes.
"Don't worry too much about it," Ino told them, sounding confident. "This time, my mum's covering our backs… we won't have to do it all by ourselves again."
"I truly hope so," the pink haired girl said.
"Yosh! No need to worry then!" Lee exclaimed suddenly, standing up and looking down at them. "We have the vitality to get the job done and nothing will stop us!" With that, he gave both of them one of his characteristic smiles and a thumbs up.
Bursting out in laughter, Ino couldn't help but laugh at his pose. Sakura tried to hide her giggles behind her hand, but she knew it was useless.
The bells on the door chimed as someone stepped into the shop.
"Good afternoon, everybody," Hinata greeted in the loudest voice she could manage, which meant that the occupants in the storage room barely heard her.
"We're back here, girl!" Ino shouted to her.
The silver eyed girl stepped into the back room and sat down at the only available chair at the table, placing her bag on a nearby shelf.
"How's the day going?" she asked.
"It's been pretty slow, thankfully," Sakura replied. "I've been able to get most of the ornaments for Mr. Hitsuro's party done. Lee's been helping out, so I'll get those finished today and we can ship them tomorrow morning at the latest."
The quiet girl nodded. "Good, then maybe we can start working on next week's project."
"Not so fast, missy," Ino interrupted. "You almost died on us last week, so you're going to take it easy. Why don't you take the day after tomorrow off?"
"Friday?" Hinata asked, her eyes lighting up at the news.
"Sure. You can have a long weekend and come in for a fresh start to the chaos which will definitely ensue on Monday," their blond boss replied.
"Thank you, Ino!" Hinata exclaimed, clapping her hands excitedly.
"Now, now, I think I know why you're so happy," Ino said while narrowing her eyes suspiciously. "If my sources don't fail me, you went out for coffee with a certain blue eyed young man I saw hanging outside the shop the other day… he was kind of loud, if I recall correctly."
The silver eyed girl blushed to the ends of her hair, turning her gaze away and trying to look anywhere but at Ino.
"Bingo!" the boisterous blond cried out, banging her hand on the table. "We still have 10 minutes left of our lunch break and I think that's enough time for you to let us know all the juicy details…"
"Errrrm…" Hinata said, fidgeting with her hands.
Sakura giggled at her best friend's antics. When Ino wanted to get information concerning a man out of you, there was no way of fighting her interrogation. She wasn't exactly sure how she did it, but you ended up telling her everything, even the things you would've liked to keep to yourself.
"Spill it!" the blond exclaimed, leaning forward towards Hinata.
The shy girl sighed in defeat. "Well… we went to the Creamy Café…"
Lee and Sakura leaned in with interest, just as curious to know about their friend's date.
"…his name is Naruto and he's really sweet…"
Gaara felt as if his prayers had been answered.
Thanks to the will of some benign deity, Temari had been blessed by sudden enlightenment, and instead of putting her younger brother through torture by celebrating his day in front of the whole office, she had allowed him to leave work early.
All three of them always visited their mother's grave on Gaara's birthday, but Kankurou and Temari always allowed the red head to go first, since they truly thought it was a privilege neither of them had any claim to. This was probably the reason why the dark blond had let him go, thinking he would have more time to spend with their mother.
Inwardly, Gaara had thanked her for this but didn't say anything out loud.
Hence, just before the clock of his office struck 2pm, he was out the door and making his way down to the basement, avoiding any type of contact with any idiot who would've likely stopped him to wish him a happy birthday.
He had had more than enough with Temari's hat, which he had promptly dropped into the garbage can under his desk as soon as she walked out his door. The red head could only hope that she didn't find it and use it to torment him further.
The sunny morning had darkened into a cloudy afternoon. The cemetery his mother was buried at wasn't that far away from the business district and Gaara thought he had more than enough time to visit her grave before it started pouring. As he drove along the relatively empty streets of the city, he decided that it might be a good idea to bring his mother a bouquet of flowers.
After giving her life away so that he could have his, it was indeed the very least he could do for her.
Turning a corner, he swiftly looked around for a flower shop. He was sure he had seen one around this part given that he drove past here everyday on the way to his apartment.
After a few seconds of searching, he was regarded with the sign of 'Yamanaka Flowers' some distance away and he proceeded to park almost in front of the shop.
Making his way over to the side walk hurriedly and locking his car as he went, he opened up the door of the flower shop and stepped inside.
He was met by the sight a small black haired girl who was showing an old lady some colourful flowers which seemed to have been taken directly out of a rainforest. He swore he would've been blinded if he were to stare at their almost phosphorescent glow for too long.
Looking around, he spotted the counter to his right where he found a loud blond talking on the phone and apparently taking an order from a client. To one side, a pink haired girl worked silently on what he could only guess was some type of ornament. Deciding she was his best bet to getting out of here fast, Gaara approached the counter and stood in front of her.
"I need a bouquet," he stated simply, the command in his voice evident.
Seemingly startled, the girl dropped the flower she was holding and looked up abruptly as she voiced an apology.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't hear you come…"
Brilliant emerald eyes looked up at him, as the look on her face turned from startled to surprised. Her mouth was open as she stopped in mid-sentence and she simply kept looking at him without finishing what she was saying.
Not understanding what was exactly happening Gaara stared back at her, his gaze steady, waiting for her to fulfil his order and be done with it as fast as possible.
But then, out of the blue, she smiled at him… a genuine charming smile and the red head couldn't help but realize how truly beautiful she was.
Maybe he should repeat what he had said.
"I need a bouquet… please."
"Sure sir, give me just a second," the girl replied, her smile widening as she stood up from her stool.
I'll probably be updating by the end of the week. Leave your reviews, people!