Disclaimer: I do not own any of the original characters, names, settings, plots, or any part of the Naruto manga and anime-they were created by Masashi Kishimoto. This is simply a creative exercise.

Author's Note: This fic is written with the mindset of the initial stages of Shippuden (around the time when Naruto and Sakura head out to rescue Gaara) so there will be major differences from the current Naruto Universe & plenty of liberties:

These liberties Include:

1)Danzo did not take control of Konoha after the invasion.

2)Sasuke returned to Konoha after his brother's death.

3)Changes in the government and infrastructure of some of the Shinobi nations.

4)Other alterations which you'll have to read about to find out;P

So, basically, when you read, think about what the characters are saying has happened rather than what you know has happened in the Naruto world. That being said, enjoy!

House of Cards

Day -1,460: Prologue

The clouds overhead were blotting out the sun when Kakashi stood at the podium, smoothing out the creases of his speech with slow hands. He lowered his head to read, but the words in front of him swam, refusing to come together. Frustration wrinkled the skin over his brow. He placed his palm flat over the sloppy, hastily penned eulogy. With the measured curl of his fingers, he crumbled the cocktail napkin within his grip. Such words wouldn't do him justice anyhow. It took him some time to finally look at the crowd gathered, men and women, dressed in mourning. His gaze swept to the mop of pink hair in the front. Her eyes were dry, but her shoulders were shaking and her chest was heaving. Kakashi swallowed dryly, fingers biting into the podium, knuckles white. He cleared his throat and began, speaking from a place that was raw with new pain.

"Sakura, I'm so sorry."

Ino's words fell on deaf ears. Sakura didn't move an inch from where she sat. It continued that way for the rest of the afternoon; a procession of mourners and one broken girl who'd sell her soul to bring him back. At one point, Sakura imagined throwing a kunai at the next hypocrite who came her way. Kakashi must have felt her anger; he dragged her away before another civilian could offer condolences. She held her breath when they passed the casket and only started breathing again when they were outside the throng.


She didn't look at him, focusing instead on the cemetery ahead.

Kakashi grabbed her hand and tried again, "Sakura."

"What." she finally said, making it sound more like a statement than a question. She knew, after all, what they were going to talk about.

When the silver-haired man met her eyes he found they were loaded with everything he felt and things he hadn't allowed himself to feel in a very long time. They looked like the eyes of a widower and he couldn't hold her gaze for more than a second. He felt like a coward when he turned away.

"I'm not going to say I'm sorry."

"Good, because I'd probably stab you if you did." She watched a hesitant smile tease the corner of his lips, aware that it was the first time she'd seen his face. Figures that the only time she'd see his face was the only time she didn't care.

"I know how empty their words feel. But, I also know that it gets better." He heard her anger before he saw her snarl.

"How the hell do you expect me to believe that! It will NEVER EVER be the same again!" Her words were whispered, but every bit as bitter and sharp as shattered glass.

Kakashi ran his thumb over the back of her hand while he answered in a soft voice, "No, its never the same. But that's not what I said, was it? I said it will get better, that emptiness in your heart will lesson, until it's less a black hole and more of a scar. The pain grows bearable and one day the memories won't crumble you."

Her head turned side to side, hair swaying with her, "This isn't what we should be talking about. I'm not ready to talk about this!"

The green of her eyes was spinning in a shadowy whirl of anger. He waited for her to continue, aware that she had more to say.

"Plus, You're lying. If it got so easy, you'd talk about them, about your father, about the Third, about Rin and Obito." she pushed on despite the old pain in his eyes. It only proved her point, and anyhow, she wanted to hurt something, even if it was one of the few somethings she had left. "If it got so easy, you wouldn't visit that damn memorial every morning. That fucking memorial that now I'm going to visit too."

With the same patience he'd always shown, he spoke again. "It's not easy. It's never easy. But you move on. it's the only thing you can do for them."

"I should have done a lot more for him."

Kakashi looked towards the memorial, its body hidden by the heavy boughs of grandfather trees. "You always think you could have done more."

The wind picked up and for a second the waving of an orange scarf in her peripheral made her think he was there, running towards her to tell her it wasn't true. She almost started crying. Kakashi followed her gaze and drew her towards him.

"It's not fair," she muttered, hiding her tears behind a dam she knew would break as soon as she got home, when she saw his shoes by the door, his jacket on the couch, that ridiculous mug he hauled around the house. All the pieces of his life, of him, left behind as cruel reminders of his absence.

He settled his chin against her head, "I know."

"I'll never forget him."

"Naruto wasn't someone you can forget."

She sobbed into his shirt, a dry, racking sound that twisted his heart. "Its not fair."

"No," he said softly, "it's not."