There’s a relief in the knowledge that she is finally done. No more fighting, no more struggling, no more reaching after the others only to remain so far behind. It doesn’t matter that she couldn’t love Naruto like he wanted, or that she can’t stop loving Sasuke despite what she herself wants, because soon enough she’ll be gone and forgotten and the swallowing maw of guilt that lives in her stomach can finally leave her at peace.
It hurts. Don’t get her wrong, it hurts- not to be an asshole, but the crackling, stinging, all-burning pain of the hand around her throat is far worse than the heart-shatteringly blank look to Sasuke’s eyes. Sometimes the physical is just too much to ignore in favor of the emotional. She can’t breath, both from the pressure on her throat and the wind being knocked out of her as she’s pushed back, back-
She wakes up, still struggling to breath, only this time the only force on her throat is the constriction of panic . She has no idea where she is, but the world has grown larger in the second her eyes were closed. Larger- and familiar.
The sky has changed from dismal gray to a light blue dusted with clouds. The trees around her are alive, a healthy warm brown natural to Konoha, as opposed to the fractured dying trees scattered in the small village she’d hunted Sasuke down to. The sight of the small, red bridge in the distance is what makes it finally click- she’s in Konoha again.
She notices him before herself- Naruto, looking at her nervously, like he hasn’t in years, not since he left her that first time, and he’s so tiny. Tiny and round, with chubby cheeks and his hideous orange jumpsuit instead of his new hideous orange-black jumpsuit, and he’s staring at her and says- again, she realizes distantly, he’s repeating himself, “Sakura-chan? Iruka said we gotta come in now, didn’t’ya hear?”
Seeing him like this is enough for her to realize she’s smaller, younger, too. Long hair brushing against her arms from the gentle breeze, her skirt fluttering as well, and the weight on her forehead is too light to have her headband attached- her chakra is gone, and her muscles with it. She’s scrawny, tired already, and poorly dressed for a fight.
This is probably a genjutsu, she decides, but she doesn’t bother to break it. It’s not like she expected to win this fight, didn’t really intend to, and it’s honestly surprising Sasuke would go the extra effort to throw in a distraction like this to make it even easier for him to kill her. She’s not fighting back, after all.
There are worse visions he could trap her in, anyways. She’ll play along, but she’s not ready to see their classmates again, some who’s she’s recently betrayed to play at a mission she was ill-equipped for, others who likely have passed, and- that’s not even considering Sasuke. Sasuke from before the cursemark, or any of his betrayals.
“I’m not feeling too well Naruto, I’m gonna go home early, okay? Could you tell Iruka-sensei for me?”
Naruto pauses, probably surprised she didn’t snap at him, before breaking into a wide grin and nodding eagerly. “Sure thing, Sakura-chan, you can count on me- believe it!”
Then he dashes back to their schoolyard, where Sakura can even see the blurry image of Ino towards the door, waiting for her too if more discreetly- she wonders if that’s something Sasuke had actually noticed, that Ino was a good friend to her even then when she didn’t deserve it, or if it’s her own brain supplying the details for this world. She’d guess the latter, considering how much attention Sasuke had payed to either of them at the time.
She wanders home slowly, nervous about what she’ll find if she makes it all the way there. She doesn’t doubt Sasuke would happily ruin her nicer memories of her family life if he found it entertaining, and as low as she feels right now, she doesn’t know if she can handle that. She doesn’t have many nice memories of them to hold onto, not after she lost them in the Invasion- Mama in the first attack, Papa when he took back his old job as a genin in an effort to avoid the silence in the house, the discomfort of grief that sat on both their backs. She had to identify his body, not like how he’d done it for the both of them when it was Mama, and she can still remember the glass shards that had been left in his face from the bottle that had been smashed into his head in the bar brawl that had killed him. Without the Uchiha, after all, the village had been low on police forces for years, relying instead on undertrained and understaffed genin. She can’t imagine a worse image to return home to, but she’s sure Sasuke easily could, especially with his time in Sound.
She gives in to the fear- don’t I always? She thinks half heartedly- and mutters, “Kai.”
She’s not expecting to break free, really, but she’s been practicing with Kakashi since he returned enough to get a sort of waver to the world inside of a sharingan-induced genjutsu trap. Sometimes a layer or two of it will slip, if she does well, but instead...nothing changes. Frustrating, and a little unnerving, but what, did she really expect to best Sasuke at what his clan is famous for?
Sakura stops waiting and walks into her house, hears the once-familiar clatter of dishes that mean Papa is cooking dinner already, and he calls out, “Dear?” from the kitchen. She steels herself for whatever she’ll face when he comes out, and replies, “It’s me, Papa. I had to come home early, my stomach started to hurt at lunch.”
Her father walks out from the kitchen, drying his hands with a dishrag, a worried expression on his perfectly fine face. There’s some weathering to it from the sun, a downward crinkle to his eyes from the concern for her, but not a speck of glass in sight. It’s- confusing, even if it is a relief.
“Do you need me to take you to the doctor?” He asks, and Sakura gives a dazed shake of her head no.
“I think I just need to lay down. Thanks, Papa.” She says, and starts towards the stairs, before pausing to turn around and give him a hug. She presses her head against his chest, reaches her now-slender arms as far as she can around his barrel-sized waist, and feels the soft silk her mother likes to dress them in press against her cheek from his shirt. “I love you, Papa.” She tells him, and he hesitantly pats her head before pressing a kiss to her forehead and replying,
“I love you too, blossom.”
She goes back upstairs, more confused than before, because it seems like instead of a punishment, Sasuke is giving her a gift. She’d always wished she’d said that more to her parents, after losing them, and now it feels like she’s gotten to, as much of an illusion it might be. Why would he do that? She’s far past any of her delusions of him having compassion for her- or anyone, except maybe Naruto. There’s no reason for him to do this. He has nothing to gain from it, at this point, and he’s never been one to do things without a belief he’ll get something out of it, and she really can’t think of a single way he could make this work for him-
This isn’t for him.
Oh God. Sakura thinks, sinking to the floor of her room, breath stuttering alongside her heart, grabbing fistfuls of her hair to tug anxiously at like she did when she was this age and had the lengths for it, Oh god, this isn’t Sasuke.
Sasuke isn’t doing this.