A Haunting Kind Of Memory

Chapter One


Sakura cursed under her breath and gripped the safety handle above her tighter. She hated riding the subway, it was misery central. That, and God knows how much bacteria was fused into the metal, slithering and crawling over every available space ready to latch onto your skin, burrow in, and wreak havoc on your immune system. Her mouth twisted in disgust and she almost released the handle. Had it not been for the underground train hitting a rather rough spot in the tracks and jostling the passengers roughly, she would have.

"Stupid subway," she fumed as she regained her footing and fanned her face. It was so hot cramped together with all these bodies. How much longer would she have to stand in this inferno?

"Will be arriving at Isogashii Square shortly, please stay clear of the doors."

Oh, thank all merciful God. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief and pulled the front of her shirt away from her sweaty chest. She grimaced when the fabric clung to her sweat soaked body, and ground her teeth. She really needed to buy a new car, the old one that she sent the junk yard a few months back obviously wasn't doing her any good.

"For cripes sake," she muttered and sat her purse down on the metal floor beneath her. After a quick struggle, she yanked her overshirt off her and stood in just the plain white undershirt she had slipped on that morning. As she bent down to grab her purse, her bra strap slipped out from underneath her sleeve. It was black. Her undershirt was white. And thin.


Sakura straightened and stared in dismay at her damp undershirt. It was so see through it was beyond embarrassing. In fact, if she got off the station and stood on the corner, it would be like holding a neon sign saying, 'Come pick me up, I'll give you a ride you won't forget!'

But it was too hot to put on her overshirt again. This was the last time she went to visit her parents with only a duffel bag full of half-attempted thoughts of packing.

Sucking up her embarressment, Sakura clutched her shirt and purse in her hands and gripped the safety handle tighter. Blush be damned, she was not going to make herself suffer in the heat willingly!

Ten minutes and a few disgustingly leering looks later, Sakura stumbled from the subway and made her way quickly to the street above. The immediate heat wave that assaulted her had her head reeling and she swore that some part of her sweat fogged brain went into a dead coma. Well this is what she got for moving to the city where 'dreams happen'. At least, that's what the billboard had said, and the add, and the info-mercials. Just goes to show that when a vulnerable woman is searching desperately for a way into a new life, advertising becomes a two-faced friend from hell.

Slinging her duffel over her shoulder along with her purse, Sakura sucked in her pride and strolled down the street to hail a taxi. Her nerves were so frayed at the moment that if just one of those yellow bastard cars drove by her, by God, she'd rip it apart with her bare hands and--

As if sensing her frustration about to explode all over the block, a taxi swerved off the main road and screeched to a stop right in front of her. She refused to think that her revealing top had anything to do with it, though she knew it did.

"Forty-eighth and sixth street, please." Sakura huffed as she scrambled into the, blessedly, air-conditioned car.

The cab driver snorted as he pulled away from the curb. "Having a lazy day?"

Sakura's green eyes flashed as she glared into the rearview mirror at the driver. "Excuse me?" she bit.

She watched him shrug. "Three blocks away isn't that far a walk, ya know."

"Well, forgive me for wanting to get out of this damn heat for five minutes!" she retorted in a bristled tone. "Where do you get off thinking you can talk to me like that anyway?"

His brown eyes rolled, a spark of amusement lighting their depths. "Please," he scoffed and shook his head as he turned the corner sharply. "All you tight ass women are the same, thinking that everyone has to bow down at your feet when you pass by."

Oh, he was not even going there! "What--"

"Look at you, expensive clothes, and a look that clearly says 'I'm better than you, so kiss my pedicured feet.' Come on, can't you be more original? And that condescending tilt of your head with your nose turned up. Man, what I wouldn't give to whipe it off."

Sakura stared incrediously at the man manuevering the vehicle. Where did he get off talking to her like this?! And she was not looking down her nose at him! In fact, that would be nearly impossible since from what she could tell, he was taller than her! As if this day couldn't get any worse, now she gets verbally abused by a taxi driver!

"Look here--"

"Zaku." he supplied helpfully.

She clenched her fists, "Zaku," she growled. "I haven't even done anything to you, and you start snapping at me? I'm sure you have your own share of problems but I refuse to sit here and let you take it out on me, someone you hardly know!"

His eyes flicked to her reflection in his mirror.

"You're the one that stopped and let me in when you could've drove on by." She didn't think of her earlier threat of tearing apart the first cab that passed by her."You're the one that started yakking at me as soon I got in. You're the one that really needs to get your priorities straight and obviously learn some damn manners!"

The silence was almost deafening in the cab and Sakura forced herself to take take a few slow breaths and calm down. This heat was seriously taking a toll on her suddenly delicate psyche. Just let him say one more word. One more word and she'd rip him a new one.

"I like you, what's your name?"

Of course she wasn't expecting that type of response. Maybe an insult or a threat dropped into a crescendo of shouting, but definately not that.

In her confusion, she managed to mutter out a broken: "E-eh?"

"Your name," he repeated slowly, as if speaking to a little three year old. "I told you mine, don't you think it would be polite to tell me yours?" he sneered, a mocking smirk on his lips.

"What are you, bi-polar?" she managed, a taunting laugh echoing her words.

He rolled his eyes again. "You're one to talk. Name?"

Biting her tongue and clenching her fists, she replied with a grunt. "Sakura. Haruno Sakura."

He gave a pleased smile. "Well, Haruno Sakura, it was nice to meet you. I hope to see you again one day."

And then the cab pulled up to her apartment complex and she sat staring in frustrated annoyance at the driver. What the hell--

"That'd be five hundred yen, Sakura." he tilted his head and gave her a charming smile, eyes glinting humoursly.

Shaking her head in amazement, Sakura plunked the necessary amount in his hand. As she made to pull back and exit the infuriating cab, his hand enclosed around her wrist and stopped her. Her eyes whipped back to his and she didn't hide the baleful look she knew she was wearing. He looked undetered as he placed a small business card in her hand.

"Have a nice day, Miss Sakura." he said, his face actually serious for the first time since she stepped into his cab. "I hope to hear from you..." his eyes dropped from her face to her chest. "...nice shirt, by the way."

And there was the cocky grin.

Only after Sakura unlocked her apartment door and trudged over the threshold to plunk onto the cushions of her soft couch did she lift her hand and stare at the card clutched between her fingers.

Abumi Zaku

Tax Driver and Part Time Bartender

Under this it listed two contacts, one landline and another--a cellphone. Circled with a swift hand. Off to the side was a trademark, three music symbols adjusted into a small triangle. On the bottom left corner was an address (to the bar he owned, she supposed) and a name. Sound Bar Three, it read. Which, undoubtedly, was the bar he owned. Apparently he liked the number three since it was the amount of music symbols and also in the title, and, obviously, music signs.

Sakura rolled her eyes. Cocky little bastard, thinking that she was going to call him. She smirked remembering his parting words, "...nice shirt, by the way." and then her answering smack to the face. It did nothing to dampen his mood, though, she noticed. He had just chuckled lightly under his breath and nodded as if somehow she had answered a question of his and turned back around in his seat as she left his cab and entered the apartment lobby.

She scoffed under her breath and rolled onto her side. Her shirt clung to her body and she wrinkled her nose. Right. First, give Sakura a shower. Second, feed Sakura. Third, maybe, just maybe, entertain the thought of calling this Zaku.

After all, it wasn't as if she was married or anything.


"Gaara, you are ready. Now stop looking like your staring down the barrel of a gun." Tsunade snipped, placing a reasuring hand on the young man's shoulder and handing him a piece of stiff paper with the other. "Here's your bus ticket. You should arrive at your sister's house around eleven tonight. I just spoke to her on the phone," she paused at his slightly pained look and continued on in gentler voice with a small smile. "She's happy you decided to come stay with her for a while instead of trying to find a place on your own....she's sorry about everything that happened."

Gaara's eyes averted from the blonde's sharp eyes and looked at the door to his left. She was sorry? Could he accept that, after all the years spent in confinement and then this past year and a half hidden away in the mountains of Iwa like some animal and she had never once tried to patch things up with him? He squeezed his eyes shut. No, not like an animal. It had been a good experience for him. He was...he was better now.

It wasn't entirely Temari's fault though, Tsunade had declined any outside contact for him for the duration of his stay. Deciding the best option would be for him to start out fresh on his own. Almost like a new born baby. Besides, he learned fast anyway. It wouldn't be too difficult.

At least, that's what he told himself.

"Alright, you better get going if you're going to catch that bus."

He turned back to her and nodded slowly. His brow furrowed as he tried to form feelings into words. He had never been good at this, even before this new treatment. Thankfully, Tsunade understood and wrapped her arms comfortingly around him, bringing him into one of the most motherly of embraces he had ever experienced. His stomach jumped into his throat.

He stood rigid in her arms for a moment before consenting and hesitantly returning the embrace. His arms were stiff and awkward around her, uncomfortable beyond reasoning but still satisfied that he didn't have to try and explain what he was feeling inside. He heard her laugh as she pulled back and took a step away.

"Well, one thing's for sure. You still don't know how to give decent hug, but maybe that'll change once Temari gets a hold of you, hm?"

A small smile graced his lips.

"Okay Gaara," she grinned, clapping her hands together once and bending down to hand him his bag. "You made it this far and I hope you never stop fighting. In fact, promise me you will never stop battling that uphill war to happiness, okay? I'm an old woman, I need the reassurance."

"I promise, Tsunade."

She smiled softly to herself, noting that his voice was deeper, too. He had changed more than she noticed being around him for so long. But now, as he got ready to leave for good, the changes in his physic and personality were as clear as glass. His face was more defined, though his eyes still retained the bruised look of a compulsive insomniac. She doubted they would ever fade. Just another scar to remind him of the person he would (hopefully) never be again along with the faded love kanji scratched into his forhead.

His eyes, once sharp and cold and deadly, were now soft--if not gentle at times--and readable if you squinted and tilted your head and actually concentrated on the change. His hair still maintained the messy, spiky mass of crimson style tumbling over his eyes and outlining the handsome face of a new man. It seemed to be less wild now, though. Even the way he held himself, once the 'stalking predator hunting for prey' stance and gait, now melted into one of calm rationality.

Tsunade couldn't help but think if she was a few thirty-or-so years younger, she'd be swooning over him like a schoolgirl with a crush. She suddenly felt very aware of her age.

"Then all that's left for you to do is walk out that door." she smiled encouragingly.

He shifted the weight of his bag on his shoulder and shuffled his feet. After a moment's silence he held Tsunade's gaze with a look of guilt and apprehension, sorrow reflecting in the pools of his eyes. "I'm sorry."

Tsunade was thrown for a moment. Sure she had been around him for a while and witnessed him develop into a completely different person, but there was still some things she wasn't even used to Gaara doing. Apologizing fell deftly into that category.

Smiling wistfully she rested a hand on his cheek, having to lean on her tip-toes just so to get at the right height to do so. "There is absolutely nothing to be sorry for. Now, you need to know that I am very proud of you, Gaara. I have never met anyone like you, and probably never will again. Embrace that orginality, alright? Don't fall for conformalities' tricks. Just be you and everything will be fine." she sighed and withdrew her hand and rocked back on her heels. With a teasing smile she added: "Now go live your life and I hope to never see you again."

His eyes reflected a brief flash of shock before realizing the joke in her words. He smiled and turned to the door. Pushing it open, and blinking at the sudden blazing sun, he paused in the doorway and turned back one last time.

"...Thank you."

As she watched him leave, Tsunade refused to believe the sudden burning in her eyes and watering sensation on her senses was nothing more than the sun blinding her. After all, it was a bright day and the sun tended to be vengeful like that.

God, she thought. Let it be easier for him this time around.


The bus wasn't crowded, which he was highly grateful for. He took the farthest seat in the back, propping an elbow on the slim ledge by the window and leaning his forhead against the reflective pane. The sun burned his eyes and he blinked, switching his gaze to the sidewalk below the window. It didn't surprise him that he could see the waves of heat seeping from the asphalt.

Even though the heat was almost unbearable, and he knew it would most likely be even worse at his destination, he couldn't find it in him to wish for cold weather. He hated cold weather. The sun and heat and stifled scorching of the air was what he was used to, really, and when the seasons changed to winter, he spent a good part of the time glaring at the clouded sky in disdain. Though it couldn't hurt if the temperature lowered just a little.

"Is this seat taken?"

Gaara glanced up and shook his head, watching out of the corner of his eye as a young woman, probably a few years older than himself, moved to sit in the seat across from him. His eyes were immediately drawn to the oddly shaped tattoos on her cheeks which resembled upside down triangles. Hadn't he seen those somewhere before...?

Her mouth twisted into a grin and he looked back into her dark eyes. "Funny looking things, aren't they? It was my mother's idea way back when." she waved a dismissive hand, ending his thoughts on the familiar tattoos. "Crazy mothers and crazy obsessions, right?"

He only gave a faint smile and nodded, not bothering to point out that he didn't have a mother and never had. It only made people uncomfortable and forced them to feel the need to unnecessarily apologize to him.

She huffed out a breath and fanned her flushed face, unbuttoning her outer shirt and using it to wipe the perspiration from her forhead. "Crazy weather we're having. I don't remember it ever being this hot."

"Better than the cold." he said, forcing himself to make small talk, even though it was another thing he could do without, but Tsunade had always encouraged him to be more social.

The woman nodded and smiled. "Isn't that the truth. I'd rather sweat off my skin before I go out and freeze my ass off somewhere. At least in the heat you manage to get into shape. Oh, sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. My name's Hana," she stuck her hand out with a wide smile. "Yours?"

"Gaara." he said, shaking her hand and nodding respectively to her. After releasing her grip she began digging in her bag.

"Well, Gaara, care for a peppermint? They're the mint-chocolate flavored type, the kind you can only get on Halloween." she laughed, pulling out a small bag of green and black mints.

"I don't really have a sweet tooth."

She dug out two pieces and handed him one anyway. "You'll change your mind after you try that, believe me. They have addictive tendencies branded into their system."

He unrwrapped the candy and popped it into his mouth. "Addictive? That can't be too good."

She popped her own in her mouth and nodded her head gravely, speaking in a mock serious voice, "Rumor has it, if you stop eating them, you'll go into such intense withdrawels your liver will eat itself."

He raised a brow and sucked on the sugary sweet candy, crossing his arms over his chest. "Mm, looks like I'm obsessed with them already." he shrugged. "Livers aren't that important, anyway."

"That's the idea." she smirked and settled back in her seat. "So, where you headed, Gaara? Have the urge to just up and run or you going to see family?"

"Something like that." he replied, carefully thinking over his response. After all, it's not like he could outright say, I just finished therapy sessions with the lady that has been taking care of me since I was a kid in an insane asylum. Oh, yeah, and, according to said caretaker, I'm not legally insane anymore. "Moving in with my sister until I can find my own place."

Her warm eyes dropped to the lone backpack by his side. "Not many possessions, huh?"

He shook his head. "Never been very materialistic."

She nodded in understanding and turned to look out the window as the bus finally started and began to pull away from the station. "Finally," she muttered under her breath. "I'm going to see family myself. My mom owns a dog shelter and she's in need of a vet." she pointed a thumb at herself. "And naturally, she's going to be needing the best!" he returned an amused smile at her cheeky grin.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, interrupted only by the sound of the engine purring and the wheels carrying them quickly over the blacktop. Gaara's eyes drifted to the sky and lazily watched as the clouds seemed to melt in the sky from the sun's glare. A few sly clouds managed to drift by the sun unharmed and turned a faint shade of pink as they passed in front of the fireball's rays.

Unconcsiously, Gaara's hand drifted to his pocket and he found himself staring at a faded photo that had definately seen better days. One corner was ripped and jagged and the entire span of the picture was creased and delicate in such a way that his fingers handled it the upmost care out of habit. His eyes drifted to the shocking pink color framing charmingly green eyes as they concentrated on a task before them. Gentle fingers curled around a pen as it poised itself above a sheet of paper. She seemed so determined sitting there, and his finger traced her profile, barely touching the surface of the picture.

"That your girlfriend?"

His eyes shot up in surprise and looked dazedly over at his seating companion. Hana cocked her head as a knowing smirk curved her lips. "Oh-ho! So it is! Well, she's quite a looker. Is that really her natural hair color?"

His throat closed and he glanced back down at the picture. Feeling his heart pound just a little bit faster in his chest. "Yes," he muttered and stuffed the picture back in his pocket. A sudden surge of frustration enveloped him and he scowled out the window, not knowing exactly why he felt so helpless all of a sudden.

Hana fidgeted across from him. "Sorry, I didn't mean to pry. I seem to do that a lot, you'll have to warn me when I do it."

Gaara only grunted.

After a while of tense silence, Hana cleared her throat and spoke up again. "I know it's none of my business, but...from the way that picture looks I'm guessing you've had it for a while and--and I'm only guessing here--it looks like you're pretty fond of her." his expression tightened and his body stilled. Hana sighed heavily and nudged him with her foot, gaining his attention and staring unblinkingly into his hard eyes. "Don't let the good things slip through your fingers, okay? You only live once and life's too short to pass up these kinds of chances."

He stared at her with blank eyes, not daring to breathe as she managed to hit a nerve. She didn't understand that he had already let this good thing slip through his fingers. In fact, he had forced it out of his grasp and ran from it with his tail tucked between his legs. But that's what he was trying to fix, trying to mend and make better. The only problem was that he wasn't so sure that fate was going to be so compliant and that the chance was already gone.

Hana closed her eyes and turned her face to the window, effectively ending the conversation and leaving Gaara to his thoughts. His hands clenched and he gritted his teeth, not understanding why he wanted to punch something and grind a rock to dust with his bare hands. Taking a deep breath, he followed Hana's example and leaned against the window with a heavy sigh. The picture in his pocket felt like it was burning a hole through his jeans and scorched his skin much like a pair of emerald eyes had done to him so long ago.

Okay so how was the first chapter? To your liking, I sincerely hope. And just so you know, Abumi Zaku IS a canon character. He was in the beginning of the Naruto series in the chuunin exams from sound with Dosu and Kin. Remember now? Maybe this will jog your memory, Sasuke broke his freakin' arms. Yeah, that's right, the guy that was at the mercy of one bastard Uchiha when Sasuke went ape-shit crazy the first time.

Well, that took forever and a day now didn't it? Sorry, sorry. It's just that it felt kind of good not to worry about the next update for A Twisted Kind of Sane and I was basking in it you guys. Just to warn you, THIS WILL NOT BE UPDATED QUICKLY, alright? I know, that's pretty annoying considering how long I made you wait for it in the first place, but I DO have other projects I'm working on. Which reminds me, if any of you have an account on LiveJournal, please send me a PM because I just made an account on there and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Seriously. I need help. I will be forever grateful! (once I get help, I'll post the link on my profile so you guys can read some of my stuff on there. Of course I'll post the stories that I put on there on here, too, but for first reads you can see it on there. Depending if I get the help I need, that is.)

Also, before I forget, credit for this title goes to none other than Only if you wish it who put forth quite a few awesome sequel names. Hers was the ONLY one that went so well with the first story! Ya know, A Twisted Kind Of Sane and then A Haunting Kind Of Memory, see? Fits so well. And funny thing is how the title will have significance in the story considering Gaara is a haunting memory to Sakura and vice versa.

So anyway, if haven't got it yet, there will be a number of crack couples in this. There's quite a doozy coming up in the second chapter. (wink) If you have any suggestions on crack couples (not involving Gaara or Sakura since I already have plans for that, thanks) then include them in the review and I'll take them into consideration. Afterall, crack couples ALWAYS make a story better. I'm not saying things like OrochimaruxHinata and stuff like that. I mean people who are a part of the Rookie 9 or even a few of the senseis (including ones like Anko) and people like Izumo and Kotetsu. People like them I can mention in passing or something. So here comes your part in all this! Review please! I love my reviewers!