When Uchiha Itachi is seventeen, he moves out of his guardian’s house and leaves the neighbourhood for a small apartment complex downtown near his university. He thinks at the time that he is going to study engineering. He ends up declaring his major as history instead, but isn’t too concerned, and that is approximately the time he meets Sasori at the local theatre during a performance of The Cherry Orchard.
Sasori, a master puppeteer, self-proclaimed artist and lover of Russian theatre, introduces Itachi to the members of his puppet troupe, who are all remarkably reasonable people in Itachi’s opinion save for a man named Orochimaru, who reminds Itachi uncomfortably of a snake.
One fine morning Orochimaru professes his undying love for Itachi, who runs fairly quickly back to his apartment and shuts himself off from the world for a good two weeks. When Sasori comes over finally to ask where he’d been, the news comes out and Orochimaru mysteriously disappears from Sasori’s entourage.
“Have you ever thought about finding a roommate?”
“What would I need the company of others for?”
“I don’t know. You’re young, Itachi, and you act like you’re my age.”
Itachi ran his fingers around the rim of his coffee cup.
“You don’t have a roommate.”
“I’m a 31 year old man. You’re a 17 year old university student. It’s different.”
Itachi frowned, “do you have anyone in mind?”
“I doubt you’d listen to anything I’d suggest after the Orochimaru incident.”
Despite this, Itachi asks Sasori to see if anyone he knew was in need of a roommate, someone to share the gas bill and the rent, and the cost of paying for several television channels that Itachi never found much use for anyway. Around the same time, he also decides that he needs a part time job as his guardian back home had cut all ties with Itachi the day he left, and the funds in his back account are rapidly shrinking.
(and thinking of home was too painful anyway, memories of water and blood and the face of his brother, stark white against the darkness of the night sky.)
In a strange masochistic twist of fate, the only job opening he finds is at the local aquarium, and during a rather aggravating presentation in which he is forced to explain to a group of snot nosed fifth graders how exactly hammerhead sharks mated whilst simultaneously attempting to suppress his panic at being surrounded by so much water, a heavy hand lands on his shoulder and he looks up into the grinning face of one of the other employees; a man he had noticed around the building but had never really approached.
Itachi never really approached anyone if he could help it.
“You look like you’re having fun.”
“I am trying to work.”
“Sure you are. Come on, I’ll handle this.”
The mysterious employee then launches into an entire discourse on sharks, which thankfully leaves the children in awe. Itachi is grateful, and is about to leave when the tall man appears again.
“What’s your name?”
“…You can’t read my name tag?”
“I always prefer it when people tell me themselves.”
“Itachi, huh? I’m Kisame.”
“I know,” replies Itachi, who had already looked at his name tag.
Kisame drags Itachi around the entire aquarium, talking incessantly on just about every different kind of fish there is, and Itachi can’t quite tell if Kisame is genuinely attempting to make friends with him, or if he’s just glad to find someone to listen. After he realises his shift is up, he moves to go, but Kisame stops him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then, huh.”
“It was nice meeting you, Itachi.”
Itachi doesn’t reply, but walks out of the automatic doors, ignoring the sense of panic that washes over him every time he passes under the glass arch connected to the tank in which ten sharks swim languidly around.
(that night, he doesn’t sleep well, images of kisame’s sharp-toothed grin and black curly hair and screaming amidst the splashing of water.)