Title: potato chips
Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 3952
Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #26, potato chips
Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: Ramen-verse Non-Massacre AU. A few days later, Mikoto insisted on seeing Sakura, and when the younger kunoichi went with great trepidation, the Uchiha matriarch surprised her by thanking her for netting her elusive son. Who would have thought that she would gain such approval from his mother just by teaching him how to grocery shop?
Created on: 03/09/08
Completed on: 05/09/08
Chapter Last Revised on: 19/10/08
The first time he went grocery shopping with her, they both got to learn more about each other.
For example, Sakura was secretly an avid grocery shopper.
Whereas most women adored looking at clothes, jewelry, and shoes, the pink-haired kunoichi was perfectly at home slowly browsing through the many stalls in the marketplace, happily meandering about and taking her time picking out quality produce. She genuinely enjoyed the bustling, everyday atmosphere around her, and secretly delighted in the utter domesticity of her errand. For a kunoichi whose hectic and sometimes dangerous lifestyle didn't allow for much of a hobby, this had become something like a pastime for Sakura.
Her friends and teammates were somewhat exasperated by this odd quirk of hers, and it was no wonder that whenever she mentioned 'grocery shopping' all who knew her strange love for the normally tedious chore would never volunteer to go with the enthusiastic kunoichi. She could linger for hours in the marketplace, and really wouldn't leave until she was well and ready to do so.
For the men of Team Seven, who normally wouldn't even think of grocery shopping until their larder was absolutely empty and they were beyond the point of starvation, their female teammate's bizarre hobby was beyond…bizarre, according to them, not to mention a complete nightmare whenever she managed to trick them into visiting the marketplace with her. Not surprisingly, Naruto, Sai, and Sasuke eventually became very adept at choosing and picking out fresh foodstuff; Sakura had trained them well, so much so that everyone in the team could literally sniff out a good deal from the bad from as far as a mile away.
When Itachi decided to go 'get some things' with her, the man really had no idea what he had inadvertently agreed to.
Moments after they entered the marketplace district and after the fifth time Sakura had been stopped by yet another friendly stall owner for a quick chat, the Uchiha was beginning to get the idea that the kunoichi was rather well known around this area. It was also rather interesting to him how she was not only able to greet everyone by name, but was also able to enquire about their respective family members as well, all without mixing up anybody.
Unlike himself, it was glaringly evident she could interact with others with great ease. Warm, open, and genuinely earnest, it was rather difficult to resist her unique brand of charm.
…Of course, there was no one more aware of that than himself, and it was certainly gratifying to see that he was not the only one to have been affected by her.
Though he was probably the one who had been the most beguiled by her.
Surprisingly enough, the various shopkeepers also did not seem to be particularly intimidated by his silent presence, and accepted him easily when Sakura introduced him to them. It puzzled him briefly, for the same stall owners had never been quite this genial to him whenever he had passed by in the past. Quietly listening in to the lively, cheerful conversations informed him that his younger brother and his other two male teammates sometimes accompanied Sakura to the marketplace as well, and it did make sense that they were probably used to Sasuke's silence as well, and therefore largely left him to his own devices as they continued to chat with Sakura.
Itachi also had no doubt that their casual acceptance of him was due to the fact that he had come with Sakura. Like it or not, she was becoming more and more like the bridge that linked himself to the people around him; she seemed to understand him a lot better than anyone else and now often helped others to demystify the enigma that was Uchiha Itachi, much to the his quiet chagrin.
There was simply no denying it; after they started seeing each other, he had miraculously gained more friends as well as various acquaintances than he ever had in the past.
This time was no different, and he even had bags of generously given, sample produce to show for it, much to his bewilderment.
And they haven't even bought a single thing yet.
Sakura had apologized with slight embarrassment.
"I haven't been by for quite some time," she had explained to him. "They normally don't give me this many things." Then she had given him a small grin. "I think they like you."
There had been no mistaking those discreet, appraising glances that had been sent his way more than once as he tailed after his cheerful lover like a particularly silent, intimidating wraith, and he had returned their regard with his usual polite, yet somewhat blanked stare. He hadn't done anything out of the unusual, why would they think differently of him now?
She glanced at him, saw the frown that threatened to creep over his aristocratic features. Really, everything had to be painted out in black and white when it came to him.
"Do you come here often?" she asked, gesturing to the market.
He shook his head once. There had been no need for him to accomplish such domestic chores when there were servants at home to take care of the matter, and therefore he seldom, if ever, interacted with the civilians making a living here.
"Do you like grocery shopping?" she continued to ask, and it was such an odd question that he had to pause, mentally evaluating her query for any hidden meanings before answering.
"…I understand that it is a necessity," he informed her at last. It was the truth; procuring food as well as other common provisions that would be needed for daily life was something that had to be done. He had never necessarily thought of how enjoyable such an errand would be, but then again, there weren't a lot of things under the sun that Uchiha Itachi would deem 'enjoyable.'
Sakura's smile widened a fraction.
"But yet you have been wandering around here with me for the past three hours, and we haven't even bought anything yet," she mused. "What does that tell you?"
He didn't seemed surprised that time had passed so quickly. It normally did whenever she was around. What surprised him, however, was that the trip hadn't been what he had expected to be.
After this, he was beginning to understand why she seemed to enjoy lingering here. In a dangerous world where one's words and actions don't necessarily correlate with one's intentions, and they were always taught and reminded time and again to 'look underneath the underneath,' the normalcy and simplicity of these civilians was almost something to be envied. These humble folks didn't earn as much as nin, but they were honest people with big hearts and were always more than happy to spare some time exchanging interesting gossip and humorous anecdotes with anyone who bothered to listen.
It was almost…idyllic, and surprisingly enough, he hadn't been as tense or as wary as he had always been when made to interact with others.
He looked at her with quiet wonderment, but she only continued to walk beside him and appeared as contented as can be.
Once again, she had managed to open his eyes to something that was so very simple and right under his very nose the entire while; only he had been too blinded by duties and responsibilities to notice it. For someone who had been hailed as quite possibly the greatest genius to have been born from his proud clan, she could sometimes make him feel like an inept, bumbling, unknowledgeable child without even meaning to do so.
He didn't mind; it was tiring and terribly dreary, when one already knew all there was to know and there seemed to be nothing more to look forward to. With Sakura, she bought with her not only her genuine, guileless affections, but also new insights into his life from the very moment she had barreled across his existence with a determined confession to him; the bright, short bursts of colors that was uniquely her interspersing the formally monotonous drone of duties—duties to his clan, his team, his country.
Her mannerisms and thought processes were so vastly different from his that he actually had to make some effort in order to figure her out. Attempting to overanalyze her seldom seemed to work; her behavior differed with different situations, and then there were times when he was completely at a loss when it came to her. Vexingly enough, she didn't seem to have the same problem identifying his disposition, though thankfully, he was a quick learner and was catching up rapidly.
"…I don't mind returning here again in the future, should you require the company."
Her eyes lit up with surprise—and pleasure. She smiled up at him again.
"I'm not sure you quite understand what you are signing up for," she told him dryly, but still quite happy all the same. "But if you really mean it, I would be glad to have you come along."
The stoic male glanced at her calmly.
"I mean my words, Sakura." The sure, even way in which he spoke told her immediately that he would keep his word, as well as the quiet, yet intent look in his onyx eyes. Faintly, Sakura wondered if there was anyone else who had seen the banked fire burning within those deceptively icy, obsidian depths, kept well under control, but not non-existent like most believed, or if it was only her whom he showed it to.
Her cheeks started to tint pink.
Really! Other normal females would swoon only when their other half promised love and eternity, but here she was, so ridiculously touched by his promise to go to the market with her.
There was really something very wrong with her, but yet she understood him enough to know that this was all for her sake. He had always been so wary of changes in his daily routines and lifestyle, but for her, he would make the exception.
Her gaze warmed further, and she had to give herself a fierce mental shake to prevent from telling him on the spot how sweet she thought he was. Truth or not, she was certain that even one as normally placid as he would not appreciate being called 'sweet,' of all things.
Still, he truly was so much more than what he had allowed the world to think, and she was glad she had got to see him that day in the courtyard, unguarded and unwary in sleep. She would have told him so too, but like the above case, he probably would not take kindly to being likened to some innocent forest critter that she had accidentally chanced upon. That thought made her smile. Forest critter? A weasel, perhaps?
It was difficult to put away her amusement, but she managed to do so before he could even ask what she was so cheerful about.
"Come on," she urged, badly concealed humor dancing in her voice. "I may as well teach you a little on how to choose fresh produce wisely now that you are here. If I know you like I know your brother, you are going to need what I tell you. It's really more than just randomly picking one and then praying for the best. There's a lot more to grocery shopping than just junk food, potato chips, and trail mix. I would know."
Without waiting for his reaction to her remark, she proceeded to lead him towards the nearest fruit stall.
"Pay attention, so next time we come you will actually have something to talk about, instead of just standing around sticking out like a sore thumb, huh?"
A few months down the road, the Lady Uchiha was very surprised when her eldest son volunteered to accompany her to the market district when she failed to budge in getting her youngest boy to go with her, never mind that the abovementioned boy was no longer anywhere near adolescence.
Sasuke had given his aniki a disbelieving stare, followed by that of a resigned one as he questioned his brother flatly.
"She got to you too, didn't she?"
Itachi did not even pretend to feign confusion. He did not confirm either, just gave the younger Uchiha his normal, quiet stare before turning to their mother.
"She?" Mikoto asked, her ears perking up at the mention of an unknown female.
Her youngest son merely shook his head warily, well aware of his mother's growing obsession with the single status of both sons as well as her overwhelming desire to change that fact. Hell, Sasuke had no intention of stoking his parent's interest when it came to that. The last omiai she had made him go through had been beyond embarrassing, boring and a nightmare he didn't wish to repeat anytime soon again.
"It's nothing, kaa-san," the younger Uchiha mumbled, and without further ado, quickly excused himself before his mother could call him back, beating a swift retreat and unabashedly leaving his apathetic brother in the inquisitive clutches of their parent. After all, Itachi and his poker face stood a greater chance of survival than Sasuke and his usual grouchy self, which certainly explained why his nii-san had managed to blithely escape that mortifying matchmaking session completely unscathed whereas he himself had been guilted into going there and left with no room for escape.
Besides, both brothers were very well aware that Itachi had already been thoroughly snatched up by a certain pink-haired kunoichi, whom beneath her normally sweet-tempered and cheerful temperament, hid a vicious and violent personality that would very well emerge if her claim over the older Uchiha was ever threatened, accidentally or otherwise.
With Sakura at his back, Itachi was now safe from the matchmaking machinations of their mother. Sasuke knew his teammate enough to understand that Sakura would definitely not share his nii-san with anyone, and most importantly, had a belligerent, though seldom seen, side to her that would be more than happy to bring across that point loudly and emphatically to anyone else who would say otherwise.
Besides, Itachi appeared rather content with the pink-haired kunoichi by his side, and since his stoic brother tended to stick to what worked and didn't appreciate any unnecessary changes in his lifestyle, Sasuke really couldn't see things developing any other way in the future.
Of course, their dear mother had no idea yet that her seemingly asexual eldest son was already romantically attached to a vivacious, feisty female who could at times be even more intimidating that Mikoto herself. And so, the Lady Uchiha turned her attention to Itachi, fully expecting for her query to be answered.
Unfortunately, Itachi was made of sterner stuff than his younger brother and could not be moved to speak unless he so wished, and mother and son, together with a pair of servants, headed off to Konoha's marketplace with little preamble.
And it was right there, in the middle of the market square, that Mikoto received the second shock of the day. Her opinion of her eldest child was about to undergo some sort of a major renovation by the time the day was through.
"Oh, good morning, Itachi-san! Come to get some groceries with your mother?"
"The vegetables today are especially fresh; I will give you a special discount if you are interested!"
"Here, try these fruits; they just came in from Mizu no Kuni. Don't be shy! Do you want to take some back to Sakura-san as well?"
"How is Sakura-san? Tell her that the remedy she had prepared for my son worked marvelously; he is all healed and running about now! Tell her that I said thanks! And here, feel free to take some of these tunas back with you; it's the least I can offer!"
Right before Mikoto's bewildered eyes, her son dutifully accepted some samples from the friendly vendors and politely declined the rest, sometimes replying to the civilians' greetings and remarks in his usual quiet, distant voice. At the same time, he was able to help his mother pick out the freshest produce like an old pro when Mikoto could not distinctly recall Itachi ever possessing that type of domestic ability before.
Come to think of it, neither did Sasuke, but her youngest son had also somehow developed a keen nose and eye when it came to the purchase of fresh food.
The stall keepers hadn't greeted Sasuke with as much enthusiasm as they had reserved for her stoic eldest son, though.
It was utterly puzzling, not to mention how they kept mentioning a 'Sakura-san.' 'Sakura-san,' as in Sasuke's teammate, Sakura? It must be so, since the dear pink-haired kunoichi was the only medic Mikoto knew who could concoct remedies and had the same name as cherry blossoms. What the Lady Uchiha did not understand, however, was why these civilians kept implying with their remarks and comments a sort of closeness between Hokage-sama's prized student and her apathetic, woman-wary, eldest son when they barely even knew each other. Then, she had continued to observe with the sharp eyes of a suspicious mama and was further surprised by the fact that not only did Itachi fail to refute their statements, but, in his usual subtle, nearly unnoticeable manner, had seemed to allude to the fact that he was actually rather well acquainted with his brother's female teammate.
More questions flooded Mikoto's head, but she refrained from interrogating her son until they were back home again.
"Do you know Sakura-san very well, Itachi?" she had asked in a deceptively idle manner the very moment they returned to the compound, right after the servants had been dismissed to store their earlier purchases.
It was evident, judging by his mother's tone, that she wasn't going to go anywhere until her curiosity was properly assuaged. The Uchiha heir glanced at his mother with a slight hint of wariness in his eyes. In a manner, she was easily just as dogged as Sakura when it came to rooting out mysteries.
He nodded once.
"I know her well enough," he replied vaguely. "She showed Sasuke and myself how to-"
"Buy food wisely?" Mikoto hazarded a correct guess. Itachi agreed in his usual calm manner, and Mikoto appeared pleased. So that was where her two sons had suddenly learned to be so domesticated. The Lady Uchiha wondered just how Sakura had achieved that particular feat of getting her boys to listen to her, but was most impressed all the same.
"It seems that she is rather well-liked as well," the older female mused as she walked into the house with her son. "Pretty, smart, and capable."
Itachi did not disagree. It was the truth, after all.
"I think she would make an excellent daughter-in-law, don't you think?"
The normally impassive raven-haired ANBU captain paused, eyes widening imperceptibly in surprise. Thankfully enough, his mother was too caught up in her fantasies to notice.
"…Really, she has always been right under his nose! Why must he insist on being so difficult about this? Don't you think that they would complement each other well?" Mikoto asked, growing slightly miffed as she glanced askance at her subtly frowning first born. "If he doesn't do anything soon, Sakura-san is going to be stolen away before he can even court her!"
The Lady Uchiha looked at her son.
"Your younger brother, of course!" the Lady Uchiha exclaimed softly. "Don't you agree that Sakura-san would make an excellent wife for your brother?" she asked not-so-rhetorically. "She is such a darling; sweet and always smiling, but yet it is apparent that she could control that grouchy temper of his. She even got Sasuke to follow her into the market; I really want to know how she did it. I'm quite sure Sasuke must have put up quite a struggle."
Mikoto smiled, a delicate hand coming up to cover her mouth as her eyes lit up with amused fondness. Then, she frowned again, as another thought caught up to her. "Since your otouto had reacted quite negatively to that omiai last time, I suppose I must nudge him towards Sakura-san's direction. No doubt the elders would approve of her; she is Hokage-sama's protégé, after all. What do you think, Itachi?"
The other Uchiha had fallen silent the moment his mother had revealed her plan to match his younger brother and his lover together. Not surprisingly, he managed to conceal the abrupt flare of agitation from his mother, his expression bland as ever, though those obsidian eyes of his that Sakura adored so much were darker than normal, hinting at his disagreement with his parent's plot.
"Sasuke would stand no chance with her," Itachi merely informed Mikoto in a steady, seemingly unruffled dulcet tone.
If Sasuke was present, he would have been mortified that his mother had tried to push his brother's woman to him, but since the younger Uchiha was nowhere nearby at the moment, it was up to Itachi to clear the air. And because the elder Uchiha was not as adept at such declarations as compared to his (slightly more so) younger brother, he was doing it at his own pace, in his own sweet time, slowly and delicately…and confusing his mother while he was at it, too.
The Lady Uchiha frowned slightly. "Is that so?" she asked, disappointed. "Does Sakura-san have a significant other?"
Her son nodded slowly.
"Oh dear." Mikoto appeared thoughtful. "Perhaps her current relationship is only a temporary affair? Sakura-san is still young after all; she may change her mind in the future."
Itachi stiffened slightly at his mother's oblivious comment. Predictably, he was less than appreciative of the implication that Sakura may absolve herself of him eventually.
"That is unlikely." His normally mild tone was slightly curt now, almost on edge but still hardly noticeable under the deceptive veneer of his blanked tenor. Mikoto gave her son an odd look. "Her other half is intent on her and no other, and Sakura is very…loyal."
That was true, after all. He had never looked at any woman in the same way he had looked at Sakura before she had opened his eyes to her, and now, she was the only one he would give his undivided attention to. His pink-haired kunoichi had never strayed from him even after she had fully understood his character, and it had taken awhile, but eventually, he had come to the inevitable understanding that she had truly meant what she said when she had fearlessly proclaimed herself his that day so long ago. He had learned to trust her, and she had not disappointed him yet.
Mikoto eyed her son once more. He seemed to be suspiciously aware of Sakura-san's private life, when he was normally more or less oblivious and uncaring about such matters. Not to mention that he also appeared to be growing mildly agitated over her queries. It wasn't noticeable to anyone, but he was still her son after all, and she could tell when that stoic, apathetic firstborn of hers was behaving in a manner that was out of the ordinary.
Mikoto's curiosity was piqued.
"Do you happen to know who her significant other is, Itachi?" the Lady Uchiha probed further.
Once again, her son nodded, and Mikoto put her hands on her hips in exasperation. Getting answers out of this son of hers was sometimes as hard as pulling teeth. Now was one of those vexing times, unfortunately.
"Who is this charming young man then, whom Sakura-san is so hopelessly devoted to that you are sure your brother would stand no chance against?"
Itachi met his mother's curious eyes as he answered her.
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
And here is the third Ramen-verse sequel! I do hope you enjoyed it! There will be a few more of these to come, not necessarily related, but definitely containing bits and pieces of Itachi and Sakura's life together. As I said before; I simply adore the personalities of this version's pairing and I really enjoy exploring them as much and as often as I can. If you have already suspected that there will not be a lot of angst in this verse, you are darned right!
Ramen-verse is my happy little world whereby my OTP lives happily ever after, skipping into the sunset hand in hand, rainbows, unicorns and Gamakichi strewn everywhere, no Uchiha Madara, the Uchiha Clan is happy as can be, at least, as happy as they can be, haha.
I think I made Sakura a bit of a weirdo by turning her into a grocery-fanatic, and then I went and compounded my sin by turning Itachi into her accomplice/follower/bag-handler as well, as amusing as the mental imagery is. I myself am not really that into visiting supermarkets, that is, unless we are shopping for Japanese goodies, whereupon I would behave with the excitement and temperament of my pet squirrels, squeaking madly to myself and rabidly hoarding all sorts of foodstuff.
That was definitely out of context, but honestly, don't you get a little tired of reading/writing about all the jutsu-flinging and impossible anime-style acrobatics? We are all aware that they are all kickass ninjas, but ninjas still need to eat, si? They need to buy groceries like any normal human being, and that means they definitely need to visit the market too. I'm sure there is at least a bit of normalcy in their daily lives. I happen to like normalcy sometimes. Don't you?
…Also, my apologies to the devoted fans who were simply scarred for life by the mental imagery of the 'cool, eternally badass' Itachi exchanging gossip with the stallholders (actually, more like standing there all frozen up while the civilians chattered around him) and having all sorts of freebies stuffed into his hands.
I won't apologize for liking this slightly awkward, inherently gentle, side of him, though.
This is the first time I have written Mikoto in such detail, so do tell me what you think of my characterization of her. I know I normally describe her as weak, subservient, and unable to protect her family and children in canon-verse, but as this is a Non-Massacre AU, I have decided to depict the Uchiha clan as a more positive family as a whole. Still somewhat strict and rigid like most noble clans are wont to be, but they are a lot more peaceful and genuinely protective and loyal to their country, village and clan, very fussy and sensitive about their pride and honor, and they certainly are not planning any coup d'état against the ruling Hokage of Konoha.
As you can see, Mikoto is quite anxious about the non-committed status of both sons, as most Asian mothers are wont to be when their sons are of a certain age with no courting partner anywhere in sight. Like most mothers, she is a little pushy, likes to involve herself in the private businesses of her children regardless of their liking or lack thereof, and wants nothing more than to see her two grown children happily married and bearing some darling grandbabies for her to play dress up with and carry on the proud Uchiha line.
Personally, both my beta and I rather liked how this version of Mikoto turned out. Again, let me know if you like her too!
Last but not least, as a suggestion thoughtfully provided by my dear friend Zelha, here is a definition for 'omiai,' for those who are not aware of its meaning, as referenced from Wikipedia:
Miai (見合い, literally "looking at each other") or omiai (the "o" is honorific) is a Japanese custom whereby unattached individuals are introduced to each other to consider the possibility of marriage. Currently, it is estimated that only between ten and thirty percent of marriages in Japan are arranged.
The participants in the Miai process include the candidates who are to potentially be married and the families of these candidates. The candidates and their families are judged on a large set of criteria aimed at determining the suitability and the balance of the marriage. This criteria is formally known in Japan as iegara (いえがら). This includes level of education, income, occupation, physical attractiveness, religion, social standing, and hobbies. Many modern women are stereotyped as looking for three attributes: height, high salary, and high education. This is commonly known as "The Three H" syndrome. The participant's bloodline, or ketto (けっとう), also plays a large role. Many fear that a candidate's blood is contaminated with diseases such as epilepsy, neurosis, or mental illness. The fear is so prevalent that the Eugenic Protection Law of 1948 was passed in order to legalize sterilization and abortion for people with a history of mental defects and other hereditary diseases. Social status also plays a large role in selecting a candidate. Ideally, paired candidates and their families should be of equal social status. A candidate will have a hard time finding a mate if his family is not of a matching social status as the other family – even if the candidate is of equal social status. Family lineage can also affect the quality of a candidate. For example, a candidate with samurai blood is more likely to be picked than one with ancestry from a different Tokugawa-era class.
Long live Wikipedia!!
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