Genre: Introspective, gen
Warnings: Itachi spoilers
Summary: He only likes dango because it reminds him of something he has long since lost.
A/N: I just wanted there to be a reason for the dango fixation. Otherwise it was just Kishi's way of making this fandom even more crack-tastic. Btw, machine table is a term used in the philosophy of consciousness; it's associated with the idea that there is no true consciousness, only a set of behaviors to be applied to any given stimulus.
Ten of the smallest coins, the ones that are far too light for their golden color, plunk into the woman’s hand. Itachi likes that; you can’t buy much with small change like this, but you can buy dango. He doesn’t need expensive things; what is best is that which is cheap, disregarded, and disposable. (He has money, of course, sitting in a bank in Water Country under an assumed name, but he has never found anything to do with it; he can’t think of anything that he really wants. Since he has yet to come up with an innocent-looking excuse to leave it to Sasuke, he supposes that it will continue to sit forever.)
He likes their perfect smallness and roundness– it isn’t hard to knead a piece of dough into a ball and boil it; there are no complexities or mistakes. He likes the way they’re casually stuck through with their bamboo sticks– look, she’s almost finished with another batch now, and she spears them with a nonchalant, almost bored manner. Unlike half of the people in the marketplace, she has no illusions that she is some kind of an artist or a commercial genius; she just cooks and sells her little sweets. That’s an enviable quality, he thinks; imagination is a dangerous beast.
(Like all groups of new Academy graduates, his was asked by their new sensei to tell the group about themselves, their goals, and so on. When his turn came he ran through his list of goals, speaking scientifically and precisely as if he were reading them off of a book. Sensei smiled and told him, Of course you’ll go into ANBU; I didn’t really have to ask, did I? I can tell from your dedication how important that must be to you. That baffled Itachi. Like any other tool, he had only followed a machine table. He didn’t actually want. Perhaps the only ones who recognized this were his other teammates, two teenagers who sat as far away from him as possible and cast him sharp, almost fascinated looks from time to time. Nobody wanted to be on the team with the baby; how could a seven-year-old be a genin anyway?)
It’s doubtful that there is anything else around here that he wants to buy, but he has nothing else to do, so he wanders down the street, only half looking at the carts of vendors on either side. He eats slowly as he walks, savoring each bite. It is still early in the day and the sun is too bright; he is grateful for the shade afforded by his wide-brimmed hat. People crowd all around him, elbow him out of the way because they need to buy that duck, the big fat one right there. Nobody gives him a second look; they are all absorbed in their own business.
A man walks up and tells him that he will definitely want to buy this octopus; look at how fresh it is; it’s still moving around, you see? He shoves the thing right into Itachi’s face so that its eight tentacles writhe and drip against his collar. He wouldn’t do something like this if only he knew who he were talking to, but he smiles on obliviously and continues his sales pitch.
Clearly he cannot see the tight bundle of history that is just waiting to unfold: the madman, the young avenger-hero, the triumphant return to Konoha and the way the village elders decide that Sasuke is not a threat since he has done them such a favor (and he will bring back the severed head and the ring as proof and throw them down on the desk of the new Hokage, and she will examine them and then give him a long, appraising look and a smile– not the kind of smile that signifies happiness but the kind the might be found on the face of a jeweler who has just come across an absolutely flawlessly cut diamond).
He shoves the man and his octopus aside without a thought, and the crowd reabsorbs the space between them. He has eaten one stick of dango already and dropped its bamboo skewer somewhere along the way; he is looking around and thinking about nothing in particular, and it is awhile before he remembers that he has had another in one hand the whole time.
And he glances at them for a second and thinks that they almost remind him of a memento of some long-vanished thing, a key to a door that no longer exists– and he tilts his head and wonders what that thing is. If he tries, he can almost feel it with his mind: it is such a small, simple thing, something so long neglected that it has almost blinked out of existence....
But then it flits away, and he shakes his head and forgets about it. He reaches a broad street that leads out of the market and eventually shrinks to a twisty path that runs out of town and through the countryside. And then he is gone.