His grandmother had been prone to morbid thoughts.
"Boy," She would say, black eyes clouded and staring into a story only she could see, "For ordinary people, Death takes them gently enough. He spirits them away in their sleep at a ripe old age, or comes to them in the form of a falling tree or an illness."
He would shift restlessly, because when Grandma was in a remembering mood it was nearly always on a nice day and he wanted to go play outside or train with Older Brother.
"But," She would snap suddenly, her voice so sharp he would freeze like a rabbit caught in lampglow, "The ninja are not ordinary people. For the ninja, Death reserves a special welcome into the afterlife." Her eyes would clear and she would look at him strangely, sadly.
"When a ninja's time to move to the afterlife has come," she would rasp, "Death arrives wearing a human face."
After the funeral, as he watches first his father, then his mother and finally his grandmother consigned to the earth, he thinks: Death came for my family wearing Older Brother's face.
As he lies spread-eagled in a pool of his own blood, watching the trees overhead ripple with the descent of a Leaf hunter ninja, he thinks: I wonder what face Death has decided to wear for me? When the hunter lands in a crouch at his side, it takes all his strength to lift one hand and croak, "Wait. One...request."
The hunter leans in so close their noses could have touched, if not for the glacial barrier of the mask.
"You didn't give our team a chance to speak before you killed them, you bastard." The hunter snarls, voice shaking in fury and exhaustion.
The hunter has a woman's voice.
Team? The woman had come alone, as far as he knew.
"Let me know...who killed me." It's so hard to talk when you're trying not to choke on your own blood.
Another long pause as she considers and his lifeblood flows out of the gaping wound in his stomach. Finally, she shrugs and lets out a mirthless chuckle.
"I guess I've always had a soft spot for your, Sasuke." she says, before reaching a hand up and pushing the mask to the side.
Thick pink strands of hair that have shaken loose from their pins fall into the hunter's face. His eyes, widened in shock and dulled by pain, meet her eyes, narrowed in anger and dulled by hatred.
Her face has grown thinner, harsher. A long scar starts from just underneath her left eye and ends jaggedly in the middle of her chin. She smirks, strips off her gloves with hands that have begun to glow with lethal chakra.
"You know," she begins, casually performing a series of hands seals, "Tsunade once told me and Naruto that Death reserves a special welcome for the ninja."
His breathing is shallower now, broken more frequently by blood-clogged coughs.
"She said," Sakura continues, tracing a chakra pattern on his chest, "That Death will always come to a ninja wearing a human face. Naruto laughed and said that his face was the last thing you probably wanted to see, then."
Sakura presses a glowing, burning hand ever so gently at the spot where his heart lies. "Death came to Naruto and Kakashi wearing your face. It's suiting, Sasuke, that Death chooses to wear the mask of the last member of team seven for you."
He opens his mouth to answer, to plead with her, to try to explain- but she has already slammed her hand into his chest and now he only has the energy left to scream.
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