In the end, she came out as the winner.
It was her that he woke up next to each morning, her smell that lingered on his clothes, her meals that he came home to each day, her body that bore his children. He was hers in all the ways that mattered; all the visible, physical and material ways. She never minded the absence in his eyes or the emptiness of his touch. It was a part of their fair exchange after all, and besides, you can't have everything in life. Best to be happy with what you've got. And she was.
She was happy being Mrs. Uchiha Sasuke. It was better than being just Sakura.
The first few years of their marriage were hard on her; not because Sasuke did not treat her well, oh no. On the contrary, he was the perfect husband. He was a thoughtful and kind (and if he seemed a bit distant sometimes, could she blame him? He had a lot on his mind.) and generally never criticized her on her shortcomings.
It was the sudden bout of insomnia that made her life a living hell in those days. Sasuke did not know about it because she never told him—and since he was such a light sleeper, Sakura was careful to lie very still and not toss around in bed on those sleepless nights. For almost two years, her nights were spent gazing at her husband's sleeping form. She knew his body better than she knew her own, and sometimes when looking at the mirror or looking at her own hand, she saw not her own features, but only those which were not Sasuke's. He was an odd mirror, against which she reflected and defined herself in terms of how she differed from him.
The insomnia stopped for a while when she discovered that she was pregnant. It was the happiest day in her life. When he heard the news, even Sasuke—her Sasuke!—laughed as if he was truly happy and lifted her up into the air. That day they went out for the first time as husband and wife and bought stuff for the new baby.
A yellow crib, a rocking horse, a teddy bear, a blanket patterned with dancing kittens and puppies; a set of picture books, a pair of shoes, a set of shuriken ("Sasuke-kun, he's still just a baby!" she had said, laughing, and Sasuke had laughed with her and pulled her close to him and said "Thank you."); a little red dress with matching heels, a dinner out on the town, a box of chocolates for her, a bottle of wine which they took home with them; a bouquet of roses, a house lit with candles, a kiss which she felt so genuine she felt as if she would die with the joy of it; a night when sleep came and stayed with her, a body that pressed against hers until she could no longer feel her own existence, a husband that was still there in the morning.
Those were the days when she could revel in being a silly young wife, when she laughed just for laughter's sake. Sasuke started to come home from work earlier, despite his new promotion as an Anbu leader. They spent more time together, often with her just lying in arms. The silence which had been a barrier in their marriage suddenly became a bond, a comforting reassurance that words were not needed between them.
The child's birth devastated her. She was in labor for twelve hours. Her slight build made the delivery slightly complicated, but the baby turned out as healthy as could be hoped for. It was a beautiful, baby girl. A girl which, while beautiful and smart and everything Sakura had ever wished for in a child, was not a boy and could not possibly be heir to the Uchiha clan. A girl which, once married, would be unable to carry the Uchiha name and continue the line. A girl who, like her mother, knew Sasuke only in terms of absent smiles and halfhearted caresses.
The insomnia came back with a vengeance.
The dreams which sleep could not bring started to leak into her waking world and often she found herself staring in the mirrors for hours to make sure that she had remembered to dress herself correctly that day. Sometimes memories of her childhood drifted back to her, half-dreamt memories of her days with Ino, of Naruto and the days in the Academy. How far away they seem, how like the dreams of a stranger!
When her daughter was two, Sakura got pregnant again.
Her insomnia got even worse after the second pregnancy. The daydreams got so pervasive that she started to doubt her own sanity. Eventually she had to put herself under house arresting, telling Sasuke that the pregnancy was making her too weak to go out of doors. The groceries and all other necessities were delivered to her. She had no real friends to speak of and very few acquaintances, so few people ever interrupted her self imposed isolation.
The second pregnancy was more complicated than the first. Eventually, surgery was required, but in the end the baby was delivered safely. When the doctors told her she had delivered a beautiful baby boy, the knot tangled in her heart loosened and Sakura inhaled, breathing fresh air for the first time in almost three years.
And now, after five years, she was about to become the mother of three. Like an old friend that was loath to abandon her, the insomnia was back. Not quite as forceful as when she was pregnant with Nichiren, but still there.
Neither she nor Sasuke knew how to feel about this third pregnancy. To be blunt, it was not necessary. Nichiren had proved himself to be a skillful shinobi, perfectly capable of continuing the Uchiha line. Sakura did not think she would particularly mind having another child. Her daily routine was already warped to suit the needs of her children, so having another child would not inconvenience her in any way.
It was just that...
It was just that there was still that fear lurking in the back of her mind, a vague superstition that the third child would surely finish what the other two had begun. It was probably a silly thing. She was getting older, but not so old that having a child would pose a danger to her health. Besides, the doctors had said nothing about the pregnancy being a danger to her.
But the thought remained and the nine months that yawned ahead felt like an hourglass in which the sand was slipping far too fast.
When Etsuko's birthday rolled around, Sakura started to plan for her daughter's party. Her belly was starting to swell and everyone she passed on the street would stop and congratulate her on her new bundle of joy. Their words made her throat clench up and her cheeks would burn with a shame that she could not quite explain.
She bought Etsuko a yellow cake with pink candles, a yellow sundress, a pair of matching shoes, and a bag of party supplies. She came home to an empty house and started to decorate and cook for the party. She finished two hours earlier than she had anticipated and spent the rest of the time sitting on the couch, wondering what to do. She had planned out her entire day so well; finishing early threw a wrench in her day. What was she supposed to do with these two hours?
I could read, she thought. Or go out and take a walk. But even as she was thinking these things, she could feel the tears rising to her eyes, the choking sensation that clenched in her throat.
For the first time since her marriage to Sasuke, Sakura cried. For someone who was steadily running out of time, these extra two hours were intolerable for her. She wanted to make full use of them, but felt certain that they would go to waste anyway. She had wasted her entire life; how could she suddenly salvage two hours?
But I did it for love, she thought savagely. This victory was in the name of love!
But she thought of Ino, and by god, wasn't that a sort of love as well? And hadn't she lost completely there? Where had she gone wrong? At the sight of Sasuke or the sight of Ino? She loved Sasuke, but didn't she love him only because Ino did? And if she did, was that still love? It was, of course it was.
She had not spoken to Ino in years, even though the other girl had not moved and their new houses were still within walking distance of each other. For Sakura, those few yards had the distance of a dozen bitter years.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Sakura stepped outside and started walking to Ino's house. It was a lovely house, small but fashionable. The door had a knocker shaped like the face of a cartoon pig on it. Sakura laughed out loud when she saw it. Taking a deep breath, she lifted the knocker and let it fall.