After a long absence, I'm back with more of the usual.
Just another arbitrary AU for you as an apology for my lack of writing for a while. This story's already halfway written so I'll be putting up the rest of it soon. Still, I know very well that some of my fics seem to have a penchant for getting out of hand out of their own volition and ending up longer than I'd originally expected.
All in all, I hope you enjoy my newest fall into GaaSaku lunacy.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of Naruto. This story was written for entertainment purposes only.
Chapter I – The dining table
"You're still in bed?" Kankurou exclaimed on the other side of the line. "I can't believe you! You said you were coming in today."
Sleepy jade eyes tried to blink away the last vestiges of the dream he'd been immersed in before the phone had rung loudly in his ear. There had been glimpses of street lights and cars, as he drove down the road himself during a night out on the town… he couldn't make it out clearly but there had been someone else in the car with him and he'd been having one hell of a good time.
Until his brother had decided to interrupt.
"I'll be there in half an hour," Gaara replied moodily, hanging up the phone before Kankurou could fall into another one of his complaining rampages.
The redhead was doing him a favour, after all. Of course, his older sibling thought it was the other way around, with him having been recently fired and all. Kankurou had offered him a job as part of his furniture delivery team, saying that his little brother could use the cash while he found more decent employment... employment befitting his college degree, which was sitting on top of a bookcase in his living room and accumulating dust at the time being.
Letting his head fall back unto the pillow, Gaara looked at the alarm clock on his bedside table and sighed. Yes, he had overslept. It was 10:30 already and yes, his brother had been right in his attempt to give him a lecture. But that didn't mean the redhead actually gave a crap.
After having majored in business and managed to live through the university experience relatively unscathed, Gaara had found it difficult to find a niche where he could fit within the labour force. Everyone said he had an attitude problem but he begged to differ: it wasn't his fault the majority of people in his field were complete and utter idiots, lacking even the most basic traits of common sense. It was only his obligation to let them know when they were being incompetent retards and informing them they should seek some other way to earn their living where their stupidity wouldn't get in the way.
This duty of putting people out of their misery was precisely what had gotten him fired a few weeks ago. It seemed you weren't allowed to say such things to the upper managers of the investment firm he'd been working at. Idiotic and pompous old men. They all knew that what he'd said was the truth but as was usually the case in the world of business, saying the truth could get your head chopped off… or your ass fired.
The redhead hadn't cared much, taking his things and walking out of the building without looking back. If people weren't willing to face the facts and see things how they really were in an attempt to make their company grow, the company wasn't worth his time.
Of course his siblings had other opinions.
"Not again," both of them had complained simultaneously.
Temari, after a string of punctual and imaginative curses, had tried to be supportive. She'd been the matriarch of their family ever since their father had passed away and they'd had to make a way through life as orphans. But in all honesty, Gaara hadn't been up to her condescending and had cut her speech short. Kankurou, on the other hand, had put out his cigarette and told him he could take on a temporal job at his furniture shop, just like he'd done a few times before.
Realizing very early on that he excelled in carpentry, the tattooed-faced man had specialized in his craft ever since his late teenage years. Starting out by manufacturing wooden puppets and the like, Kankurou soon realized he took on the role as a wood carver as easily as a duck takes to water. After some time, he'd been able to set up his own furniture shop. His original designs were greatly coveted by many interior designers and his clientele was always steady.
This was the reason why he thought he was doing Gaara favour. Ah yes, the older brother lending out a hand to his kid sibling in times of need. Yeah, right. All of them knew very well that he was a bit short of delivery personnel. The redhead had wanted to refuse his offer outright but he realized it was a good opportunity. Having always been physically inclined, Gaara knew he'd need some kind of exercise to cope with the boredom while he found a new job. What better way to do it than hauling heavy furniture all day? He'd been going out to jog and had attended some of Naruto's martial arts classes but this provided a better way to vent… and he'd be getting paid for it. Not much, mind you, but something was better than nothing.
Getting up with a resigned groan, Gaara made his way to the bathroom, intent on taking a quick shower. A few minutes later, he threw on long pair of khaki cargo shorts, put on a pair of trainers and slipped his black and red uniform polo shirt over his head. Kankurou had insisted he wear a uniform just like everyone else; it made him look like part of the team, he'd said. But the redhead knew the real reason behind it was for clients to actually acknowledge him as the delivery guy of the store and not slam their doors in his face. It'd happened a couple of times before, him showing up at a pretentious residence with his unkempt crimson hair, piercing jade orbs, dark rings around his eyes and an angry sneer on his lips. The lady that had opened the door had thought he was a mugger, much to Kankurou's frustration.
Gaara, only recently graduated from high school back then, had thought the whole incident was hilarious.
Still, some years later, his brother wasn't capable of putting the episode behind him and to humour him, the redhead agreed to wear the uniform shirt to work.
He poured some milk into a bowl over his high-sugar content cereal and sat down to it eat in the TV room, turning on the news channel and see what the weather forecast was for the day. There'd been some intense summer storms lately and the last thing he wanted was to get caught out in heavy rain while delivering wooden furnishings. Kankurou got excessively annoying if his creations got tainted by even the slightest raindrop. From his intense reactions, Gaara would've thought the damned things would shrink if ducked in water; he'd even thought of leaving one of them out in the rain just to see what happened… and to see the look on his brother's face, naturally.
Grinning at the thought of Kankurou going insane, he was happy to find that the forecast was favourable for the day: a bit of overcast but no rain until late at night.
He placed his finished cereal bowl in the sink, brushed his teeth in a hurry and was out the door in record timing.
- XXXXXXXX –
"So glad you finally decided to join us," Kankurou drawled, his eyes narrowing as Gaara stepped into his workshop. "Before you waste any more time, your list of deliveries is on my desk."
With that, he went back to work on the large bookcase he was finishing, carving out the last of the decorations it needed with one of his special chisels. His assistants were all over the place and the sound of metal grating against wood permeated the air. Small specks of sawdust floated around the large room as all of them diligently worked, turning to Kankurou from time to time to ask for his advice.
Gaara simply shrugged, ignoring that strange feeling he got whenever he saw his brother working so passionately on what he liked. When he was younger, the redhead had envied him that sense of purpose, of knowing what it was that he wanted to do and simply going after it. For the redhead, it had never been simple, especially with how lacking he was socially. In the end, he'd chosen to study business because it was the newest trend and there was the possibility of making large amounts of money in the effort. It was never what he'd truly wanted… if he only knew what that was.
Years later, with his degree tucked under his arm, he still didn't know what it was that he wanted from life. Everyone else seemed to have the answer, or it seemed they did, while he simply drifted and changed jobs because he simply couldn't keep his opinions to himself. It was impossible to do so because of his temper. Still, he'd decided some time ago that he wasn't going to worry overly about it. 'You can't stop what's coming your way,' someone had told him once, and something deep inside of him knew it was just so.
Thus, the envy he felt for his brother, a trait that had marked the early years of their tumultuous relationship as siblings, had vanished. Gaara now only wished the best for him… of course, that didn't mean he didn't get on his nerves just for kicks, especially when he was working as one of his delivery men. His brother was so easily riled when it came to his artwork, as he liked to call it. The redhead simply couldn't pass on the opportunity to irritate him and make his skin turn as purple as the tattoos on his face.
Kankurou said he needed to grow up; Gaara countered he needed to stop taking himself so seriously… either that or get laid.
The chisel would usually fly for his head right about then.
The redhead made his way into Kankurou's office down the shop's corridor and picked up the list of things he needed to do today. He needed to pick up some supplies along with some orders of pine, oak and cedar. Afterwards, he needed to deliver some furniture: a night table, a few high stools and a dining room set.
He had his day set out for him.
Picking up the keys of the truck he'd been assigned from the wall, he walked down to the storage room where the completed furnishings were kept. Hopefully, the items he needed to load would already be prepared for hauling. Kankurou made sure that every piece that was delivered was wrapped in plastic and with styrofoam taped around the edges. This would prevent it from suffering any damage during transport. Since he'd slept in this morning, Gaara found all the things he needed to deliver waiting for him and ready to be taken on the truck.
The bedside table and stools weren't much of a problem. He easily moved them towards the platform where he could load them unto the truck. But he had to admit that the round dining table was a bit on the heavy side. The four chairs that came with it were made of the same wood and were relatively weighty as well. Still, it wasn't anything he couldn't handle and he got into the truck so he could back it up towards the loading platform at the back of Kankurou's shop.
After getting everything in and arranged in a way so the pieces didn't bump into each other, he closed the door and locked it. It was close to midday by the time he drove out of the alley at the back of the shop.
Gaara decided he might just take his lunch break now before going out, considering the hour. Chuckling darkly, he knew exactly what his brother would say if he mentioned that to him.
- XXXXXXXX –
There really was such a thing as karma and it really wasn't helping with his foul mood.
After starting work late and delaying his tasks, Gaara had ended up having to deliver the bedside table to a chattering old lady who couldn't decide on which side of the bed she wanted the damned thing. After moving it for the fourth time, the redhead was about to tell her what she could do with the table when she suddenly went all quiet-like. She proceeded to inform him, in a teary voice, that she was a widow. Something in his brain malfunctioned at the absurdity of it all when she started telling him her life story and how her dear husband had died some years back.
He always occupied the left side of the bed so she couldn't possibly have the table there. Then again, he would have liked the woodwork on this precious piece, wouldn't he, and so maybe it really should be on the left side.
Developing a permanent eye twitch was imminent and the redhead would've told her a thing or two if she hadn't been close to a hundred years old with one foot in her grave already. She couldn't possibly even begin to lift the freaking bedside table so he'd been forced to do it for her as many times as she wanted until she was finally satisfied.
Before he knew it, he'd spent over an hour doing just that and needless to say, he was fuming when he finally got back in his truck. The aged granny had attempted to apologize for her lack of decisive power by offering tea and cookies but one more minute of her jabbering and he'd be the one in the grave.
Luckily, he'd already picked up the supplies Kankurou needed and had delivered the tall stools to the coffee house that had ordered them. Now, he had only one delivery left and he could call it a day. This was a good thing too since it was nearing 4:30pm already. He'd told Naruto he wanted to drop by for the 6 o'clock aikido lesson; he'd been inclined to try out that martial art for some time and wanted to see what the whole thing was about.
At least the traffic wasn't as bad as he'd expected. Soon he found himself driving down a pleasant enough neighbourhood, with nicely painted houses and mowed lawns. He'd actually looked for a place around this part of the city when he'd finished college but had finally decided to buy a flat closer to the downtown district. Gaara needed more bustle in his life than what this sector had to offer and the last thing he wanted was one of those perfect families with their supposedly adorable children living next door and trying to be all friendly-like with him. He would've most likely ended up hanging the brats by the heels from the nearest tree for their parents to find. Indeed, making the decision to live in an apartment building where no one would bother him had been the right decision.
He finally reached the house where the dining table had to be delivered and backed up the truck into the paved drive. Jumping out, he took the clipboard with the delivery papers on it and made his way to the front door, following a little gravel path. The residence looked nice enough but as he looked through one of the windows, he found it suspiciously empty inside. There was no furniture in sight and there was a distinctive lack of curtains in all the windows. If he'd been sent out on a ghost delivery, someone's ass was going to pay for this. This did nothing to improve his already sour disposition, courtesy of the blabbering granny, and he gritted his teeth as he rang the doorbell.
Much to his relief, he heard footsteps approaching on the other side a few seconds later.
"Coming!" a female voice called out.
The door opened to reveal a streak of short pink hair, partly hidden beneath a bandanna, followed by a dirt smeared face with salient emerald eyes. Even under the grime, her features were comely and the redhead couldn't help his gaze from travelling further down to find an appealingly shaped body in a grey spaghetti-strapped tee and a pair of surf shorts. This, unavoidably, led him to admire her agreeably shaped legs... by the time his eyes came back up to her face he curiously found her surprised emerald eyes blinking up at him.
They stared silently at each other for a few seconds and Gaara found that his awful mood had abruptly evaporated.
"Good afternoon, miss" he said, an arrogant tone in his voice. "I'm here to deliver your dining table."
The woman seemed to come back to her senses. "Oh yes, of course! I've been expecting you," she replied enthusiastically. "Thank goodness you're here! I've been forced to take my meals on a measly camping table."
Her smile was quite disarming and he noticed how it lit up her whole face. His day suddenly seemed to have taken a turn towards improvement.
"Haruno Sakura, right?" he asked, looking her up and down again.
She blushed slightly under his intense jade gaze. "Yes, that's me."
"Could you sign here, please?" Gaara asked as he handed her the clipboard gruffly and turned round to walk back to his truck without waiting for her.
"Sure," she murmured in reply as she let out a long breath, taking the pen in hand and signing the papers.
- XXXXXXXX –
Moving out had been a hassle. As much as she wished Ino and Shikamaru the best in their married life, finding a house she could afford and in a decent neighbourhood had been terribly aggravating. She'd been looking for something ever since Ino, her former room mate, had given her the happy news of their planned marriage but it had taken a painstakingly long time to find anything. Nevertheless, she'd found a place just before they returned from their honeymoon and obviously, she'd moved out in a hurry with barely anything inside her new home.
Of course, finding a house was only the beginning… now she had to take the time to furnish it. Naturally, some of the things in their old apartment had been hers but most of them had been hand-me-downs from college. Since she was starting out her new life on her own, Sakura had decided that she finally wanted to have stuff she had chosen and that marked her home as hers. Nothing extravagant, obviously, she just wanted to get something pretty with personality.
So she'd set out to choose some things, even though in the end, she had to accept her mother's offer to donate a set of couches for her living room. They were stylish and Sakura couldn't complain. The problem was that things took a while to be delivered and since she had moved out in a flash, she hadn't had been able to buy them on time for them to be there when she moved in. Thus, she'd been mostly living on the floor and making the best of things.
Finally, things had been starting to show up this week and her house was now starting to look suitable enough to live in. Her fridge and dishwasher had been delivered the day before and today, she would be getting her dining table.
Of course, she hadn't been counting on who would be delivering it.
Delivery men did not look like that. As much as you wanted for it to be different, they were always middle-aged men with large bellies who had been wrestlers in their younger days and had been forced to look for another job when they got older. Delivery guys were not amazingly handsome young men with bright jade eyes and deep crimson hair. They did not dress in a hip style and did not sport tattoos on their foreheads. They didn't have haughty attitudes towards their clients and they definitely didn't take your breath away even without throwing anything similar to a smile your way.
It simply did not happen.
'This seems like a scene right out of a cheap and corny romance novel,' Sakura thought in consternation, 'and you're suddenly the main character.'
Of course, this fact didn't stop her from admiring the way his calves flexed when he climbed up unto the back of the truck… not to mention his nicely shaped rear. In that moment, she suddenly became aware of her own dishevelled appearance. She'd taken the day off to clean her house from top to bottom and knew she looked anything but appealing. At least she'd had the sense to tie a bandanna round her head to keep her hair out of her eyes… this kept its dirty and mangy appearance mostly out of view.
'Steady, Haruno, steady' she said to herself. 'He's just a delivery guy. He'll bring your table in and then he'll be gone and you'll never see him again.'
Putting on the sandals she'd left by the door, she walked out into the yard and made her way to the driveway.
"Here are your papers," she said, placing the clipboard inside the truck while keeping her receipt.
He didn't even glance at her and simply continued to pull the plastic wrapped table closer to the edge. When it was almost about to fall off, he jumped back down unto the pavement and moved to haul the table down.
Sakura was about to ask if he wanted some help but he picked it up from its legs and placed it on the driveway. Its girth wasn't too big so he managed to place one hand on either side of it, lifted it up and started walking towards her front door again.
Trying hard not to notice the flexed muscles of his arms, the pink haired girl followed quickly after him. He turned sideways and got the table through the door without mush of a hassle.
"Where do you want it?" he asked curtly once he was inside.
"Over here," she said, moving past him and through an archway.
The house had only one floor and was very clean. The wooden floorboards had been polished and the walls recently washed. Gaara could smell the freshly used cleaning products. Apart from that, the house was mostly empty with a few furnishings here and there.
You had to cross the living room and go through another door to reach the space the dining room and kitchen shared. Sakura quickly moved the plastic camping table she'd been using and placed it to the side.
"You can put it right here," she told him.
Placing the table down where she indicated, the redhead let out a deep breath after carrying the hefty piece of furniture through the house. Of course, he wasn't about to let her know that it had been a bit too heavy and that his back might complain about it later.
Looking around the house for a moment, he finally turned to her. "It seems you were in a hurry when you moved in. Someone didn't want you where you were living before?"
Sakura chuckled quietly at his question. "Sort of, yeah."
He turned his head sideways in mock contemplation before sneering slightly. "Got caught doing something you shouldn't have and your boyfriend throw you out?"
Her eyes narrowed slightly and a spark of temper ignited in her emerald orbs. "No! As a matter of fact, my room mate and best friend with whom I was living with got married. Her husband was moving in and I couldn't very well stay there with them, could I?"
Gaara realized she was even prettier when she was annoyed.
"Ah, so you were thrown out."
"No I wasn't!" she replied, gritting her teeth.
"Suit yourself," he said, "whatever helps you sleep at night." With that he turned round and walked back towards the front door.
'The nerve of the man!' Sakura thought annoyingly. Still, she wasn't about to let his stupid comments get to her. What did he know about her after all? It wasn't her fault he had an attitude problem.
She followed him to the door and saw him lowering the chairs from the truck. "I can help you with those," she offered, approaching him with a quick step and wanting to get this whole thing done as quickly as possible.
He simply chuckled in derision at her. "They're your chairs, you do whatever you want. Don't complain if they're too heavy for you."
"I'm tougher than I look," she countered indignantly, hands on her hips.
He threw her an unconvinced glance over his shoulder as he picked up one of the chairs with seamless ease and moved towards the house.
Sakura gestured disdainfully at his back and turned to her own chair. Picking it up, she realized that he had been right, the damned thing was heavy. She remembered that Kankurou, the owner of the shop were she had purchased the set, had told her that the wood it was made of was heavier than most. That was the reason she'd liked it in the first place; the chairs were bulky and rustic, commanding the attention of whoever entered the room along with the table. She was an idiot for remembering that now but she wasn't about to admit defeat.
By the time she reached the door, she needed to take a little breather because her arms were straining. She met with the redhead who was coming back for another chair.
"I see you're doing well," he commented sarcastically as he walked by.
Sakura wanted to throw the chair in front of him at his head but didn't give in to the temptation. She thought of pushing it all the way to the dining room but there was a possibility that it would leave marks on her recently polished floors. There was no going around it; she would have to lift it again.
Gritting her teeth, she managed to make it to the dining room without stopping again. She breathed out in triumph as she tucked it under the table and stroked the plastic wrapped wood lovingly.
"Will you look at that, she did make it after all," the redhead remarked as he came back in, hauling another chair.
Something inside her snapped.
"What the hell is your problem? Do you always treat your clients like crap, Mr. Egotistical Delivery Man?" she yelled at him.
He dropped the heavy chair with a loud thud next to the table. Leaning forward and crossing his arms over its back, he surveyed Sakura with an irritatingly lofty look on his face.
The pink haired girl refused to cower before his glare and placed her hands on her hips once more, meeting his jade stare squarely.
Her jaw almost dropped open when the glint in his eyes shifted some seconds later and his lips turned upwards into a devious grin. It made him look three times more handsome than he already was.
"The name's Gaara, not Egotistical Delivery Man," he said. "And no, I don't treat all my clients like crap. Only you've received special treatment."
With that, he turned round once again to bring in the last of the chairs.
Sakura wanted to scream and bang her head against the wall. The insufferable man! How dare he? It didn't matter that he looked positively gorgeous when he smiled or that he'd left her fumbling with that unexpected grin. He had no right to treat her like this, especially since she'd never seen him before in her life.
She breathed in deeply in an attempt to centre herself and stayed were she was, waiting for him to bring the remaining chair and get out of her house. He came back just a moment later and finished his task. He wasn't going to win this game, oh no… she wasn't going to let him.
Eliciting her most charming smile, Sakura turned to him with an overly grateful look on her face.
"Thank you for everything, Gaara-san! I couldn't have done it without you," she said sweetly. With this remark, she proceeded to escort him to the door while he gave her a sideways glance.
"Yes, I know you couldn't have coped without my help, not with the trouble you had with a single chair," he said when they came to the front door, his jade eyes mischievous.
He was trying to pull her strings on purpose, damn it! She was not going to fall for the ruse and give him the satisfaction of seeing her angry.
"Of course not," Sakura replied, seemingly agreeing with him. "Enjoy the rest of your afternoon, goodbye." With that she started closing the door and forced him out of the house.
"What, I'm not getting a tip?" the redhead asked, that irritating grin back on his features.
"No. You're not," Sakura replied before slamming the door in his face and proceeding to lock it loudly.
With a triumphant feeling surging through her, the pink haired woman made her way back to her living room. It was time to continue with her interrupted cleaning duties and to unwrap her lovely furniture.
It was belatedly, as she was polishing the windows some time later, that she realized she had not only ordered her dining table from this particular store. Her living room coffee table, her dresser, a vestibule stand and her new bed were all coming from the same establishment. She felt like breaking the window she was cleaning with her forehead in that instant.
It wasn't her fault that the furniture at 'The Puppeteer' was so pretty and you couldn't possibly begin to dream of getting customized furnishings made at such affordable prices anywhere else. Besides, she had wanted to get her shopping done as quickly as possible and it was convenient to buy several items from the same store while she was there.
Even so, she had to be positive. The store probably had many other delivery men. Chances of the intolerable redhead showing up once again at her door were slim. Especially not after the way she'd rudely thrown him out…
…or so she hoped.
- XXXXXXXX –
Driving down the road, Gaara couldn't help but chuckle darkly to himself as he relived the whole incident with the pink haired spitfire. It hadn't lasted more than 20 minutes but she'd aroused his interest more than he'd thought possible. Admittedly, he'd been trying to get on her case just for kicks. In his experience, pretty girls like her had a tendency to be moronic and docile to a point that it was just simply irritating to witness their lack of personality; but not this woman.
Standing up to him the way she did was something very few people who valued their lives had ever done. His temper was just that nefarious. But even when he'd treated her with disdain, the woman had squared her shoulders and met him head on, pulling that sardonic stunt at the very end and slamming the door in his face. It was something that hadn't happened in years whenever he was out on delivery for Kankurou.
The woman wasn't afraid of him.
It was an intriguing thought and the redhead wondered what other traits she was hiding under that roseate disposition of hers. But to unravel said mystery he would have to ask his brother about his pink haired client and find out a few more things about Haruno Sakura. Coincidentally, he'd seen a few orders under her name back at the store. Making sure he delivered all her furniture was a given.
He couldn't wait to see her face when she found him knocking on her door again.
Gaara turned out extremely annoying in this chapter… and I loved him for it. Hehe. Let me know what you think, guys. Thanks for reading!