It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

By: emeraldoni

CHAPTER I

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Sakura stared around the dreary space as her body collapsed against the slumping couch. Exhaustion rushed upon her, dulling her ears and closing her eyes. She had hoped that after college things would get easier, that maybe she could enjoy life just a little bit more. That was not the case though, because apparently life seemed and even deeper shade of gray.

Hadn't she wanted to be what she was, a nurse? She had always thought so, even in middle school had she kept that dream alive. Many told her that this was like heaven, at least they had at her job shadowing's. The smiling nurse's faces repeated the same thing, making her childish mind believe every word.

"I would not trade my job for anything. Life is good."

She had been brainwashed. Maybe she had too high of expectations, or maybe she just wasn't good enough. Oh, make no mistake, she did her job, and was praised for the work she did, but maybe she just wasn't fit for the mental strain.

But did that make her weak? She wasn't even a doctor. She was a nurse, for Christ's sake! Yet it seemed that's how it was. Her hours were long and sleep was thin, when she actually got it. Her shifts many times reached the max and over, with little time in between. More often than not she would spend the night at work, finding a an empty cot or stretcher to rest her eyes, hoping that she wouldn't be woken with a new inhabitant ready to take her spot.

She wished she could say it was worth it, either financially or spiritually, but she couldn't. She wasn't saving lives, not really. More often than not she saw a lot of the patients die. that was what happened in an overworked yet under financed hospital. They had neither enough tools nor employees to get things right. Which led to her paycheck, which was pitifully small; puny to the point of being on par with that of a waitress' income.

Sakura let out a soft, despairing moan as she rolled her shoulders. She was supposed to be taking a vacation, but she wondered how long that would last. They would probably call her in.

Dim light faded through the colorless room. All of Sakura's belongings were aged, faded beyond even able to recognize what the color once was. Drooping over the sagging arm of the couch, Sakura stared at the little kitchenette upside down.

Sad as well. The kitchen was barren, cupboards and fridge empty. She didn't even have to look to know, she hadn't been shopping in—what day was it? No matter, but the point was, she was lacking in anything edible, in everything worth anything, basically.

Well, she couldn't let herself starve. Sakura grabbed a hold of the yellow pages, which was aptly accompanying a large stack of books that held up her coffee table in the spot of its missing leg. Flipping through the thin pages, she finally came upon a little pizza place. Not good for her, she knew, but she wanted it. Screw health food, she deserved this.

After dialing the number and ordering a small pepperoni with olives, Sakura collapsed back on the couch, staring at the wall with lackluster eyes. Her gaze focused on a picture hanging from a bent a rusted nail. It showed her foster family, the one which had been her life, what her very soul revolved around. Sakura wished do hard that things could go back to what they once were…

They never would though, that part of her life was over.

Sakura was jolted away from her reverie as a loud knock came from her painted door, and ugly shade of green that flecked at the top from water damage. Hefting herself up, she answered it, absently taking the warm box and giving the pimply delivery boy some cash. He mumbled something, then sped away. Sakura thought the customer service could use some work, but she didn't really care, as long as she got fast, edible food.

She was about to shut her door when something caught her eye. Boxes sat in front of the apartment door next to her. they were taped messily, unreadable scribbles on them which probably signified what was in them.

So, someone was finally moving in. the place had been deserted ever since the last owner had died. He was an older man, crotchety, and had died from a heart attack getting groceries. At least, that's what Sakura had learned, she didn't know if it was true. She had never actually spoken to her neighbor.

Something about this seemed off to the young nurse, and she instantly made a resolution. Setting her dinner down inside quickly, she sped back out to greet her new neighbor. Even if it was an older weirdo who smelled funny, she wanted to be at least a little social. She would not be the wrinkled lady who never talked to anyone and growled at the poor checker at the store. Sakura tried to rationalize the fact the she was over exaggerating just a bit, but instead shoved it into the back of her mind when she could find no plausible reason.

Sakura maneuvered around the boxes—thinking the person probably wasn't very smart to just leave their stuff out like that, and she was surprised none of it had been stolen or rummaged through—and knocked at the door. Counting to ten, she waited another few seconds before she rapped again against the door identical to hers, but damaged even further by unforgiving elements.

Sakura sighed as only silence echoed her knock, and she slowly began to pick her way through the boxes, fingers trailing against the cardboard in an effort to keep her precarious balance. Tripping slightly, she grasped a box, waist high, then gasped as a shadow materialized above her.

It was a man, a kind of scary looking man. She locked her leaf green eyes with his washed out opaque ones, hers in shock while his expressed a glare.

"S-sorry!" She shot out in a rush, cheeks pinking as the man—he was carrying another box identical to the others—stared down at her. Sakura immediately let go of her supporting box, adjusting herself so she was away from her new neighbor's scattered belongings.

"I wasn't prying or anything!" She laughed nervously, "I just came over to greet you!" She reached her hand out in the motion of a shake, "Well, then, nice to meet you! I'm Haruno Sakura!"

Sakura awkwardly pulled in her hand when she realized he wouldn't be able to shake it anyway. His hands were obviously full. She let another laugh, "Heh. Sorry."

There was an uncomfortable silence.

"And you would be…" Sakura hesitated, and she vaguely thought that maybe her new neighbor wasn't completely right in the mind.

But he answered, in a simple concise answer, "Gaara."

"Ah! Well, nice to meet you Gaara!" She lied, trying not to look at his tattooed eyes and forehead, or his hair that looked like aged rust. Or the muscles that were revealed adorning corded arms…

She shook her head, "Well, yeah… Do you need any help getting settled in?"

Another silence ensued, until finally Gaara answered impassively, "No."

"Oh, well, okay then… if you need anything, don't hesitate to knock. I live right here, so, you know, yeah…"

Sakura fumbled with the doorknob, before finally stumbling in, "See ya!" She waved, then sealed herself away.

Shit, Sakura thought.

She had made a complete fool of herself.

Oooo000OOO000oooO

Gaara settled down on the stained floor as his shoulders slumped in weariness. Surrounding him were all the boxes that had once been littering the hallway outside. Grungy hands gazed back at him as he studied himself. Gaara was sweaty, his body smeared with dirt from the packing and the move. His rear was slightly muddy form slipping once as well. Thankfully no one witnessed that shameful event.

Gaara turned his attention back to the ceiling as he glared at the drywall spirals circling about. Discolored spots peppered it, mutating it in what Gaara assumed was water damage, not that he cared.

Slowly, after reviewing the day, the red-head's mind turned back to the odd girl that had been loitering outside his apartment. She was…weird, of that he was sure. And it wasn't just her personality either, with her fingering his luggage and stuttering and all that nonsense, but her looks were different as well. It was not everyday you saw someone with bright pink and glittering green eyes.

Not that Gaara cared, but it bit at him slightly, the way she was touching his stuff, and the way she was so…friendly. She was obviously not right in the head, else she would have steered clear of him, like everyone else.

Gaara twitched slightly as the off-tune, grating ring of his doorbell assaulted his ears. Why the hell anyone would be visiting him at the time was beyond him, but he went to answer it anyway.

His bare feet padded softly against the cool floor, but he paid no heed. Neither temperature, nor feeling in general, had ever bothered him much. The loose pants and shirt made a swoosh swoosh sound that was obscenely loud in the silent apartment, yet ridiculously quiet after the raucous ring of the bell.

Opening the door, Gaara found the person he least expected, the girl next door.

The weird one.

Oooo000OOO000oooO

What the hell she was doing, Sakura hadn't a clue, but after a few minutes of shock at her shameful display of social prowess, Sakura decided to brave a second try. The cooling pizza sat in front of her mockingly as if to say, "You loser, you have to eat a whole one of me by yourself? How pathetic can you get?"

Embarrassment colored Sakura's neck, yet there she stood, facing the enigma at his door with a dorky grin on her face. Again.

"Hey, Gaara!" She waved with a tense hand, "Well, you see, I got this whole pizza, but I was thinking, 'I wont be able to eat all this by myself!' so then I thought of you and how you might not have so much food because you just moved in and I was thinking that maybe you would want some pizza too since you know, pizza is really good, especially the stuff I get from this little place on the corner of 86th street, though the tables are kind of gross, especially with all the gum stuck under them and you never want to touch those tables because you might get diseased or something but the food is okay delivered—"

Gaara held up a hand, taking an unnoticeable step backwards as his face remained completely blank. Deep in his mind, though, blaring warnings were going up, telling him to stay away from this female who could not seem to shut up. Finally, he surrendered.

"What?" It was a question, but it sounded more like a defensive statement.

Sakura paused, taking a deep breath. She was in shock herself. She had no idea that it was in her to babble like that. Never had that possibility come to her mind. She kind of wished she could time it, but…well, too late. Apologizing, Sakura got to the point.

"I was wondering if you would want to come over to eat."

"No."

Sakura blinked, then backed away as her face flushed, "Oh, okay, sorry, then, for bugging you. You know, just ignore me, sorry."

Gaara sighed. This girl seemed, well, a slight bit pathetic. Was she really so desperate as to seek his company, then feel upset when he rejected her? Obviously, and it really ate at him.

"Fine. I'll come over."

Sakura did another blink, then grinned, "Really? Great! Wonderful! Come on, then, let's eat before it gets cold!"

He did not want to do this, but he was hungry, and his phone line had yet to be connected to call for delivery.

Dammit.

Oooo000OOO000oooO

Sakura leaned back with a contented groan, rubbing her belly with a smile, "That was so goooood. I haven't eaten like that in forever!"

Gaara stared blankly at his plate, which held to two pizza crusts, to hers which was empty, then to the box, which was just as barren. He wondered when the last time she ate was.

His eyes widened marginally as her gaze landed on the crusts on his plate, "Hey," She asked slyly, "Are you going to eat those?"

For a moment, Gaara was still, then shook his head, shifting away as her invasive hands slithered over and snagged his food, "Thanks!" She mumbled through a full mouth. Gaara just inclined his head, his eyes riveted on face, which had some sauce on it.

He decided not to say anything.

Sakura grinned at her guest as she finally swallowed the food he gave her, leaning back in her chair once again. Before she could even begin to relax though, and idea popped into her head.

"Hey! Hey! Why don't we watch a movie?"

Gaara looked at his watch, regretful since it was barely passed eight, then shrugged.

"Great! What do you like to watch?"

Abandoning the mess at the table, Sakura strode over to a little cabinet on the floor. With a small flourish, the nurse revealed a case full of tapes. Slowly walking over, Gaara studied the cases with a detached interest, noting that all of them were quite old.

Sakura pointed at one case that might have once been colorful, but had faded quite a bit, "What about this one?"

Gaara shrugged, then walked over to the couch, sinking into the dilapidated piece of furniture while still trying to retain his dignity. He was proud to admit he only held onto the sagging arm for a second. Sakura watched him for a moment, then completely immersed herself in the small variety of videos. With a laugh of glee, she pulled out another indiscriminate case, quickly setting it up in the VCR.

Gaara squinted at the minute television, but said nothing, feeling dread at the thought of sitting over an hour with the annoying girl watching a stupid movie.

"I really love this one!" Said Sakura.

Gaara just sighed, turning his attention to the flashing screen.

Oooo000OOO000oooO

His eyes were going to fall out of his head, he was sure of it. The credits rolled before him and Gaara made a steely resolution. He would never, ever, let this girl pick out a move. Never.

Somehow, her tastes were…horrendous. The movie had been a B rated Sci Fi flick, and the moronic characters and plotline nearly killed him. The spiders going after the group of teens—and he wondered if they ever graduated form high school—were made of clay, and quite obviously fake.

What was worse was that Sakura had enjoyed the whole thing, even laughing when the clay figures—supposed to be the stupid characters—were ripped apart by the clay spider. There was even a point when she had clapped her hands. If Gaara was normal, and not a bit on the unbalanced side himself, he might have lowered himself to admitting that she made him a bit…nervous.

Gaara glanced over at the figure next to him on the couch. She was completely conked, splayed over the arm in a complete snooze. With a silent sigh, Gaara got up lightly, quietly shutting off the VCR, then turning off the TV.

Sakura mumbled something under her breath, but Gaara paid no heed, glancing at her as he left the apartment. For a moment, he though he saw tears on her cheeks.

Quickly Gaara convinced himself it was an illusion in the darkness.

Not that he would care anyway.

Oooo000OOO000oooO

A/N: I am so sorry! Really, I am! I know I said I would get this out quickly, bit I've been so busy lately. School started, and I've been being worked to the ground. Working thirty hours a week, with school, is exhausting. Then with homework to top if off, I am about ready to buy a gun and eat it.

Also, I wasn't feeling very inspired. Anyway, this was kind of a patchwork, writing bits and pieces every here and there. I'm sorry if this isn't my best work of art, if you could even call any of them that. Anyways, I don't plan on this series lasting long, but we'll see what happens.

Until next time

emeraldoni