Disclaimer: I disclaim all characters in this story.
Rewritten since April 22nd 2006!
The Delicacies of Life
Chapter Two – Food
He could hardly remember when he accepted the offer to be an Anbu captain, a position he vowed to never take after the massacre, but of course, vows are made to be broken. The one thing he could be completely certain of in his life is that nothing is certain. In any case, he already broke so many promises that breaking one more could not possibly do any damages. Of course, even if it could, he would still break his vow simply because joining the Anbu team solves his boredom. An Anbu, after all, is assigned three times more missions than a normal jounin.
And three times more challenging.
He has two obsession in his life, the first: revenge; the second: fighting. The anticlimactic fall of his brother ended his first obsession on a sudden note - who would have thought disease and not jutsu would be the end of such an evil genius? His second obsession silently too the place of the first and kept him sane. He was worried, no scared, that he would lose touch in battling. The consequence of losing the remaining obsession would be the end of him, he knew. Imagine his delight when he found out Anbu missions would bestow him quality fights as difficult as the ones he encountered in the war. On top of that–
With ease Sasuke calmly caught the three shurikens thrown at his direction. "Naruto!" he bellowed before physically demonstrated his anger by throwing the three shurikens at his best friend with full force, "Watch where your damned pathetic kids throw their weapons!"
"Did you hear Uchiha-san? Throw your shurikens with more accuracy next time," Naruto mimicked the warning to his three pupils after quickly dodging the flying weapons. He meant to sound serious, but he failed quite miserably when he broke into laughter. "I am sorry, Sasuke, but these kids needed practices on throwing at live targets and you so happened to sit so still on the tree..."
The three pupils, whose names Naruto mentioned multiple times but whose names Sasuke could never recall, snickered behind their teacher. Sasuke glowered and jumped down from the tree, deliberately landing directly in front of the still giggling teenagers. Instantly, the two boys and one girl fell silent.
Sasuke smirked as he watched the three each take an involuntary step back. Ah, the beauty of scaring the living day light out of little brats.
Yes, the other big incentive for being an Anbu: an Anbu does not train genin.
How he would live without this bonus he knows not. In his youth he had once wished to restore his clan but in dreaming he had forgotten a few important details: kids need to be taken care of and he generally dislike taking care of others. As a final blow to this ambitious dream, Sasuke also realized his twelve year old self never considered the origin of little kids - to his horror he discovered baby delivering storks never existed - that sadly, humans do not reproduce asexually. Who would possibly want to mate with him? Bad question. He grimaced as he recalled how, just last week, Kakashi in his singsong voice said, "According to "World Weekly"--you don't know what that is! -- I am extremely disappointed in you, Sasuke, 'World Weekly - your best source for the wildest stories in Leaf' is only the most popular tabloid in this village --You don't care! Well, you should because you are in it. Apparently a shocking seventy percent of the village's females had indecent thoughts about you in the past month, closely follow by Neji with sixty eight percent." Sasuke shuttered despite of himself.
Point is, he never liked kids, let alone teaching them. He knew jounins could avoid this 'privilege' for a long time, in Kakashi's case, more than ten years, but even ten years would not long enough for Sasuke. The prospect of looking after three kids, especially three that resembles Naruto in any way had been his worst nightmare, second only to seeing loved ones repeated stabbed in front of him. No one could comprehend how ecstatic he was when he found a way to keep this nightmare from becoming a reality.
Naruto sighed wistfully. What a beautiful way to start off their first day! He only hoped Uchiha's menacing glare did not leave these kids scarred for life. What's wrong with them anyway? Sasuke's trait mark glare never scared him, was it really that horrifying? He glanced at his three stunned pupils. Yes, apparently his glare was that horrifying. He guessed their training could start tomorrow. He sighed again, these three have a very long way to go. "Team 5 dismissed."
Without protests the three numbly nodded and ran away. Naruto watched until the three went decidedly out of hearing range before speaking again, "Well someone is cranky." He watched Sasuke's eyes darkened and nodded knowingly. "Right, you are on holiday."
Sasuke chose to ignore his friend. He could never understand why anyone should worry about stress-level or the dangerous nature of a profession, but for these very reasons an Anbu is given two times more holidays than a normal jounin. Imagine his disappointment when he found out amidst all the tempting conditions hid such a hideous flaw.
Naruto gave another pensive sigh, but he, being naturally optimistic, inevitably found himself looking at the bright side almost instantly. "I guess I should be thankful that your insanity scared my students away and give me bonus free time," He beamed as he took a glance at his watch, it was almost twelve, as good as any time for lunch. "You want to go to eat Ramen with me?" He jumped up to a tree without waiting for Sasuke's response. As far as he was concerned either answer would not affect his appetite.
Sasuke followed wordlessly, he had nothing better to do.
They made their trip to the ramen stall in silence and covered almost six kilometres of forest and dirt road that separated them from their destination in five minutes. When they arrived, both were considerably hungrier. Naruto, whom always have stomach for ramen ordered four bowls straight away. Sasuke ordered two.
Assuming the Ramen Man would make one bowl of ramen at his average speed of two minutes, through simple mathematics, Naruto calculated he would need to wait eight whole minutes before his order would be ready. In other words, eight long minutes to waste and distract himself from his hunger. He decided to start a small talk despite knowing his companion hated them, "Kakashi left for a mission today, right?"
"Yes," came Sasuke's uninspiring one word answer, never taking his eyes off the menu which he had been reading for the sake of wasting time since entering the shop.
"I heard this is a secret mission, but you being an Anbu captain, you should know more than the rest of us. Where is he going? Do you know why?" Naruto asked in an effort to force something more than a one word answer.
Sasuke shrugged, finally bored of rereading the menu. He put the menu back in its holder and dragged the tray of sauce and spices toward himself. For a moment Naruto thought he would not receive an answer, but at last his friend spoke. "He is going to Waterfall Country," Sasuke replied half heartedly and began to move the small bottles and dishes off the tray in a methodical manner.
There Naruto smiled a sheepish smile. He had no doubts that Sasuke must know much more than he disclosed. There were good reasons why he never became an Anbu when Sasuke did. He could never keep secrets. But knowing full well that Sasuke could and would, he decided to move onto another topic, "Hinata told me yesterday that Sakura got promoted. I heard she is the head healer in the medic center as of today and will answer only to Tsunade."
Sasuke began his task of moving the bottles and dishes back onto the tray according to their height. "I know."
"You do? How do you know? She told you when she did not tell me?" Sasuke disappointed him with no reply. Naruto pouted, dissatisfied. Sasuke talked way too little to make him forget his empty stomach. He ran his hand through his hair in frustration and was about to give up talking when suddenly an absolutely brilliant idea came to him. He could only curse at himself for not thinking of it earlier. A fox grin appeared on his face as he finalized the words in his mind, Sasuke had always been sensitive to such things. "You seduced Sakura into telling you didn't you?" It was an awfully wonderful line even if it could potentially worsen his friend's already not-so-wonderful mood.
For a moment Sasuke froze, but composure quickly regained, his eyebrow twitched. Without wasting another moment he riposted, "I am not desperate like you." He paused when he saw Naruto rolled his eyes. "I overheard some healers talking last week when I broke my arm."
Naruto sulked, but food came and all dissatisfactions must give way. He was about to fill his mouth with ramen when another customer came and rudely sat down in the empty seat between him and Sasuke. His eyes opened wide when he realized who it was. "Sakura."
"I know you are predictable, Naruto, but I thought Sasuke would be harder to find..." she commented triumphantly before she quickly gave her orders to the shop keeper.
"You were looking for us?" Naruto exclaimed, slightly flustered. Sasuke did not speak, but he concur Naruto's amazement with a curious look.
"Yeah," Sakura replied, her voice excited, her eyes sparkled in rapture, her lips turned up into a gleeful smile. She broke into laughter as Naruto and Sasuke waited anxiously for an answer. "Guess what, guys! I got promoted!"
They said living in a ghost town where close to a hundred people died, by murder of all things, could not be healthy for anyone, let alone a seven year old survivor of the massacre that took place there. They were probably right, but choosing difficult paths seemed to be Sasuke's style. The more people warned him not to live there, the more he felt convinced he should live there. When the boy moved back into his old home after the clean-up team scrupulously washed the houses and streets for blood stains no one could do anything to stop him. After all, being the next of kin to everyone who died entitled him to everything in the ancestral home of Uchiha.
Maybe he should have listened to them.
Every night in the first three months he had nightmares about his parents and his brother, he would start awake at around three and then unable to return back to sleep. A few times he found tears on his cheeks, which he would have been ashamed of if anyone knew, but no one did. He was alone. No pride was hurt. He cried sometimes for no reasons too, smallest tidbits in life often triggered unwanted memories, like when he walked home and passed what used to be a lively dessert store, or when he sees a withered flower, or when he smelled a dish he mother often made when passing a restaurant...
His quality of life took a dive physically when he confronted chores he had always depended on his mother to do: washing clothes, washing dishes, washing the floor... Food tasted horrible. Burnt rice was all he ate in the first two weeks. He never cooked in his life and pride stopped him from asking anyone for tips. In short, his life in the first few months was a total disaster.
Of course, time consoled all things.
He learned a few tricks in time, he learned to cook, to wash clothes, and to organize his time so he could do everything without affecting his training. Eventually life became semi-normal again. After so many years, he could hardly imagine the feeling of living with others. He found many advantages to living alone – he could live by his own rules, his home would stay clean in his absence, and most importantly he could enjoy the delightful silence.
Unfortunately, like all good things in the world fall short from perfection– he could not avoid food shopping.
He refused to eat out every meal and he hated grocery shopping, yet he must eat everyday, such was the catch 22. He tried to keep shopping to a bare minimum. Once, he did not shop for a month, but by the last week he lived on plain rice and soy sauce, not exactly the most nutritionally balanced meals, and promptly fell sick. Thus he came to the conclusion that he must shop at minimum once every three weeks and three weeks had passed since he last shopped.
He supposed that accounted for why he agreed to accompany Kakashi to the market when the latter appeared at his door this morning, three days into his five days holiday. Why Kakashi asked him to go to the market with him (and why he had that silly grin on his face) Sasuke did not know. Kakashi said he could bargain better with an Anbu by his side, but that was definitely a lie since he never got any special discounts from any of the shop keepers. He kept quiet though, deciding his nerves would rest better not knowing.
"Hey, those eels look fresh," Kakashi observed as he peered into a tank on a small stall. Sasuke looked at the lively fish indifferently. He could not help but wondered, rather sadistically as one may suspect, whether the eels knew at any moment they may die the most violent death: scooped out, skinned, and chopped. Maybe they were too stupid to know. A blessing really, after all, Ignorance is bliss.
"Well of course they are, only fresh eels are sold in my shop," bragged the cubby, merry merchant with two ratty eyes and a disproportional small nose, "I hand picked all my eels from the harbour five every morning. They are better than any other eels in this market."
"These are the liveliest ones we have seen yet, right, Sasuke?" Kakashi asked before turning to the almost comical sight of Sasuke glaring at eels. Kakashi quickly turned back to the merchant, "He thought so too. Will you give us a discount?"
Funny how the strongest one would probably die first. Sasuke thought wryly, still gazing at the fish. No one would choose to buy one that floats on its back.
"Well it is not every day young men like you two come to my shop, how about forty pieces each?" the merchant offered cheekily.
"Thirty, last offer."
"I will get that one, skinned and cut." Kakashi pointed one of the eels, the liveliest one. He emptied a few pieces from his wallet, frowned when he realized he did not quite have enough small bills, and He took a sly glance at Sasuke, who mistakably heeded him no attention, "I think he wants one as well."
Three minutes later the eels were properly skinned, cut, clean, and of course in the process efficiently killed. The merchant handed Kakashi a clear plastic bag, the big grin never leaving his face, "There you go, sir." Then turning to Sasuke he held out another bag to Sasuke, who was still glaring at the eels, "And here you go."
Attention still immersed in the swimming eels, Sasuke mindlessly took hold of the bag offered. For a moment he glanced indifferently at the bag, it was raw fish. Uninterested, he turned back to the living eels. Then it hit him. Raw fish? He blinked and turned back to the bag. The merchant was looking at him expectantly. Again he blinked. This must be one of the two eels, two very lively ones, he saw the merchant scoop out of the water. Kakashi was the one who wanted eels, what was the beg doing in his hand? He glanced at the Kakashi, who looked like he was about to laugh, then at the bag, then at Kakashi, then the bag, then Kakashi...
"Sir that would be thirty pieces," the merchant interrupted his thoughts, the wide grin on his face had disappeared.
"Come on, Sasuke, you are an Anbu, you should be rich enough to spare thirty pieces," Kakashi urged and winked.
Sasuke glowered. Reluctantly, he pulled out his wallet and roughly shoved money into the merchant's out stretched hand. The eel incident left his mood murkier than even before.
"Someone is unnaturally cranky today."
Sasuke walked speedily toward his usual vegetable shop, decidedly ignoring Kakashi. Silence treatment, people called it, he used to give this to his mother when she refused to buy him the toy katana on the display window. It was somewhat immature, but not when used on Kakashi.
"The eel was very fresh... they are nutritious, and really tasty too, if you grill them – How many tomatoes are you going to get?" Kakashi paused to watch Sasuke load at least thirty large tomatoes into a large paper bag. "How can you eat them in time?" The tomatoes were paid, and the buyer left for the fruit stall without a word. Kakashi followed. "Missy, I want to get two mangoes, a pineapple – No, not that one, to your left. Yes that is it – And oh this tray of oranges – Sasuke, are you going to buy anything here other than apples?" Sasuke continued to fill a doubled plastic bag with apples. "You should really try more fruits, take pineapples, they are really sweet after you dip them in salt and –"
"You talk too much."
Kakashi grinned, triumphant, the best retaliation to silent treatments was to continue talking without being self conscious. "Do I? I think you talk too little."
Sasuke grunted, infuriated by the almost constant talk. Doesn't Kakashi ever get tired of talking? Honestly, sometimes Kakashi could be even worst than Naruto. "What are you here for in the first place?"
Something that sounded frighteningly like giggles from gushing academy girls escaped Kakashi's mouth. Sasuke felt the hair on the back of his neck rising. "It is down the street, don't be impatient."
There was something in his voice he did not like, but Sasuke could not really place it. All he knew was that no matter what it was he would definitely not like it. Then again, he almost never liked anything. Why did he come in the first place? Couldn't he just leave? He hated shopping, he hated the market, he hated people and all of that he could avoid if he leave. After all, he already bought everything he wanted to buy and something that he did not want to buy.
"And don't think about leaving, even if I have to put a full body bind on you, you are coming along," Kakashi warned as if reading his thoughts.
"I can easily counter," Sasuke retorted, but in the end kept walking with Kakashi.
"You hate shopping don't you?" A look was all it took to convince Kakashi that his student did. No surprise, Kakashi mused, Sasuke was not known for enjoying normal everyday life. Sasuke Uchiha never treasured those little things in life, those small delicacies that make every life so much more... happy. "There is a solution to this problem."
Sasuke looked at him perplex, slightly curious until he saw the familiar Cheshire Cat's grin forming -- after that, he only felt dread.
"If you find a girl, I am sure she would be more than willing to do all the shopping for you," Kakashi explained, as if he was explaining to a child how one should find shells on sandy beaches. "The bath house is the best place to choose a chick, I am telling you this secret just because you are my student."
Said a man who never had a girl friend for the last fifteen years and possibly much longer... Sasuke narrowed his eyes, how hypocritical could one get? "Take your own advice," he muttered darkly.
"What?" Sasuke said, a bit louder than he meant. He glared at everyone who gave him a strange look before turning to his teacher, "What do you mean, 'you did.' I said –"
"But I do have a girlfriend."
That woman must have very bad taste. "What?"
"...For almost a month now..." Kakashi broke off suddenly when his eyes caught sight of a certain book in the bookstore stand. "Yes!" Without give any other warnings he ran off to the stand leaving Sasuke in a moment of confusion.
Yes, only a moment.
The second he saw, however deceived he felt by the sight, an orange book on the stand, he understood right away. If his eyes did not fail him, and they almost never did, it was the newest issue of Come Come Paradise. Somehow he felt cheated. He came all the way out there just because of some perverted book? "You asked me to come with you just so you can get that junk?"
"Hey this is not junk," Kakashi defended as he protectively hugged the new addition to his collection. "This is the newest issue of Come Come Paradise I have been waiting for three months!"
Sasuke only stared in distain as his teacher hungrily read the first page of the novel. "That girl you were talking about must be very liberal."
"What she does not know would not hurt her," Kakashi mused, giving a quick wink. "Don't tell her, alright?"
Could he tell her when he did not know who she was? He wished he could, it would be a brilliant way to get revenge on Kakashi for dragging him around the market and forcing him to buy that, literally and figuratively, stupid eel. It was a shame, a big shame.
"Where do you think you are going?"
Sasuke kept walking away, "Away."
"You can't leave so soon!" Kakashi protested and caught up with him, "We still have to go eat lunch."
"I want to eat alone," Sasuke make sure he stressed the word alone, hoping or more like wishing the man would take the hint and leave him be.
Of course, as usual, his wish was not granted. "After all these years I thought you would have grown up with better EQ," Kakashi cried in false exasperation, "You must be around human beings more – Don't you understand I am doing everything for your good the whole time – You must learn to mature like Naruto and Sakura! You should honestly be thankful that I would waste so much time on you to –"
Abrupt silence. Unlike the conversation, that actually caught the listener's attention.
Sasuke was beginning to wonder if his old teacher would shut up at all, he looked up curiously when he did. He saw his teacher paralyze in unmovable surprise, his face contorted in a mix of fright and panic. He swore, contemplated, then he looked at Sasuke with a misplaced innocent smile... Before Sasuke knew what happened, the newest issue of Come Come Paradise was shoved into his free hand.
"Kakashi-sensei, Sasuke," greeted a familiar voice.
He did not need to turn to know who it was, if her voice was not a good enough hint, her chakra would tell it all. It was a moment of unthinking, before he could stop himself he impulsively turned toward the speaker. Big mistake. "Sakura," he acknowledged without smiling or any facial expression.
Sakura smiled at him anyway. Sasuke noted the two large plastic bags in her hands, one filled with packages of instant ramen and the other with soft drinks, she must have beenfood shopping too.
"Shiori-chan! What a surprise!" Kakashi addressed the older woman beside Sakura.
Shiori-chan... An omniscient smirk formed on his face, she was the woman Kakashi talked about. She was a former Anbu member who retired a few years after he joined the team. Come to think of it he did recall seeing Kakashi sitting next to Shiori in the last general Jounin meeting...
Shiori flicked her long purple hair, her eyes narrowed when she saw spotted the books in the book stand. "I hope you are not here for the newest issue of those dirty books."
Of course he was, Sasuke thought sullenly.
"Of course not!" Kakashi lied with a perfectly straight face, "Why would I want to read Come Come Paradise when I have you?"
Liar. Of course he was there for Come Come Paradise... But speaking of Come Come Paradise...
He cursed silently when he suddenly became very conscious of what was in his hand and the message it suggested. If anyone saw his reputation would be forever ruined. Without wasting another moment, he quickly disposed the orange book inside his bag of apples. He made a quite survey of people around him and found to luck was on his side this time. No one was paying him any attention. Shiori was too absorbed in giving Kakashi mistrustful glares. Sakura was engrossed in the exchange between Shiori and Kakashi with full amusement. No one was looking. No one noticed. No harm done. He could stop panicking.
"Have you eaten yet, Shiori?" Kakashi changed the subject, steering away from dangerous ground. "Let's go eat together."
"I already promised to eat lunch with --"
Sakura cut in quickly, "No you did not, go eat with Kakashi-sensei, Shiori-san." With that she gave the older woman a gentle push toward her old teacher. "We can eat together some other day." The older woman shot Sakura an apologetic look before setting off with Kakashi by her side.
It was finally quiet. Well, not exactly really quiet since he was still at the market, but at least without Kakashi constant babbles the noises were reduced to a bearable level.
"They are cute together, don't you think?" Sakura observed as she watched the couple disappeared into the afternoon crowd, her voice soft, somewhat wistful.
Sasuke said nothing as he looked into the air in front of him. Her voice, so unlike Kakashi's was calming, he almost wanted to listen to her speak more.
"Kakashi having a girlfriend despite his habits is almost unthinkable," she added in the same tranquil voice.
Sasuke gave a slow nod, the sun was warm on his face and suddenly he felt tired, sleepy almost. He did shop for a whole morning, shopping always make him very tired. Spending a whole morning with Kakashi in talkative mode was also very tiring, almost as tiring as spending a whole morning with Naruto.
He had momentarily forgotten someone was with him, he turned his head slightly to notice she was staring at something he was holding, to be exact something in the double bagged apples. His brain screamed in alarm.
"Is that Come Come Paradise Seven?" she questioned, her voice was not accusing, just genuine curious.
He felt his face burning, nevertheless, a restricted book implies volumes. "It's Kakashi's," he quickly explained.
Sakura laughed – at him. She reached up and awkwardly patted his head. "Aww, don't panic Sasuke," she teased coyly, "I know. I saw Kakashi shove the book to you, didn't tell Shiori though, she would have blown. I was just teasing"
He wanted to glare at her but could not, so he settled with a frown. They both turned silent, partially because he refused to initiate talks, and partially because she no longer gushes over him. They stood there, and waited. It was like a game of will to see who could stay silent the longest. A game academy teachers played with their youngest kids to keep them quiet during the afternoon nap time, he always managed to win back then.
"So..." Sakura lost.
"Is that eel?" Sakura inquired, obviously desperate for conversation.
He was puzzled, then he remembered what Kakashi forced him to buy earlier. He nodded.
She smiled. "They are good aren't they?"
He shrugged. "I don't know."
Her eyes grew wide, as if she had just heard the most absurd news. "Really?"
It was simply a matter of his mother never liked eels and his lack of desire to try foreign food. "Yes." Was it really that shocking?
She looked at the fish thoughtfully. "I can cook it for you--" She paused, realized how inappropriately assertive and aggressive her offer may have sounded, and mentally slapped herself. "That is," she timely saved herself and looked away, abashed, "If you want."
He eyed at the pink pieces in the clear plastic bag, it was true he did not know what to do with them... Then he glanced at Sakura, who was shifting the plastic bags in her hands, out of fatigue, most probably. "Give me one of your bags."
Chapter Two Ends
I editted this chapter quite a bit. Added a bunch, reworded even more. If you see any mistakes please tell me.