Konnichawa everyone! I've written another story! Its quite a bit different from my other ones, so this is just a trial to see how it turns out! I haven't actually read many fics concerning this type of subject matter, so i thought I'd give it a go. Ifs its truely awfu, let me know and I'll see if it can be fixed. But at the moment, give it a read nad see if you like it!
Warning: OOC, Shounen Ai (boyxboy), swearing, mentions of self mutilation, some angst. You've been warned!
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters. Althoug I'm pretty sure you all knew that...
Pairings: mainly Sasu/Naru, Sasu/Gaa with some Kaka/Iru, Shika/tenten, Kiba/Ino, Gen/Neji
Chapter One: Distant Light
Would your love in all its finery
Tear at the darkness all around me
Until I can breathe again,
Until I believe again?
Clouds of dust swirled in the late afternoon sun, as the sound of erratic hoof beats penetrated the late afternoon quiet. Delicate nostrils were flared and sniffing the air nervously as the pert little ears were pricked forwards.
"Whoa there boy," Naruto spoke softly and soothingly. "Steady, steady."
At the sound of his voice, the unsettled colt (1) seemed to calm a little, and the creature stepped forward inquisitively.
As the young horse approached him, Naruto took a moment to admire its beauty. The horse's pure white coat gleamed with a healthy and well-cared for shine; the mane and tail were flowing sheets of silk which swayed gently with each movement the creature made.
The colt was the most recent addition to the Uchiha stables and it had fallen upon Naruto's shoulders to train him. Not that he minded at all. It was a pleasure to spend his time training such a splendid animal.
He offered his hand for the colt to smell; that slim neck stretched out cautiously and breathed his scent in before moving slightly closer. They were still getting to know each other, and Naruto wanted to take it slowly with the young colt. It was important that the creature trusted him, and got used to him; it would be important in the later stages of the training.
Naruto rubbed the bright-eyed colts face with a smile on his face. For as long as he could remember, he had been passionately in love with horses. It did not matter to him that he was a lowly stable hand in the Uchiha's rich estate. Why would he complain? Not only did he get to work with the sleek, gorgeous horses owned by the Uchiha's, he got free board and meals, as well as a small paycheck
The colt shoved at his shoulder playfully and Nruto chuckled.
"You and I will get along just fine, I think."
The colt wuffled through his nose in reply and Naruto smiled again.
"Come on. It's time I put you to bed for the night."
He gathered up the equipment he had been using and began to lead the colt back along the path.
When he was working with horses, especially young and excitable ones like this one, Naruto preferred to take them away from the noise and distraction of the stables. There was less of a chance of the horse spooking and bolting.
Naruto was in love with the Uchiha estate. He had been from the moment he had set foot here almost two years ago. It was the largest estate around, filled with acres of beautiful forests, open fields and landscaped gardens. Beautiful red maple trees and Sakura trees provided plenty of shade during the warmer months. Ponds and waterfalls bubbled quietly away to themselves, while many different varieties of fragrant flowers grew in the borders.
Whenever Naruto could get a chance, he slipped away to an isolated and sheltered corner to sit under the Sakura trees and watch the petals gracefully flutter to the ground. Everything was neat in the gardens. But the rest of the property, the forests and the open fields, they had an untamed, wild beauty. Sometimes Naruto would just walk and walk for hours, discovering things and places he hadn't reached the last time.
The stables and paddocks designated to the horses faced west and backed out onto a large proportion of the forested area. The stables and arenas were not visible from the mansion as they were shielded from view by a stretch of forest.
It was days like these when Naruto felt like life was worth living, like he could forget all of his worries and disregard the past. The warm afternoon sun basked everything in its golden glow and lit the sky a fiery orange. A gently breeze stirred the trees gently, and lifted the strands of hair from Naruto's forehead.
Back at the stables, his friends would be talking and laughing as they carried out the last of the days chores. Horses would be getting their evening grooming, rugs being put on, feeds would be measured out, the floors swept and equipment cleaned.
After that would come the evening meal up in the servant's quarters at the house. Although the stable hands living in the dorms by the stables, they took their meals with the household servants.
Naruto's stomach grumbled impatiently at the thought of food and he rubbed it ruefully. He'd skipped lunch so he could spend more time with the colt.
Beside him, the colt snorted and shook his head. He was completely calm and relaxed. A different horse than the one he'd faced a few minutes ago. The wind had blown a broken branch into its line of vision and had effectively panicked the colt into a bout of frenzied rearing and dancing.
'Silly thing,' Naruto thought affectionately. 'I wonder why they haven't named you yet? I can think of a dozen fitting names for you at this very moment.'
Tomorrow was inspection day. Uchiha Itachi, in the place of his father who was often away on business, would be visiting the stables to give everything a routine check. This happened every month, and if Uchiha Fugaku (his father) wasn't available to do it, then Uchiha Itachi, would do it instead.
The Uchiha's were all skilled riders, and it wasn't surprising seeing as horse riding was a popular sport among the upper classes.
Exactly how horse riding related to the world of the wealthy was beyond Naruto. What would he know? He was only a stable boy after all, and he was content to remain so. It was only a hobby to them after all.
Naruto often assisted in preparing horses for hacks and pleasure rides for people staying at the Uchiha estate. He also readied the horses for the regular dressage and jumping that many of the Uchiha family did.
The colt neighed loudly, effectively startling Naruto out of his thought. An answering call came from the stables, which had come into sight. The colt picked up its pace as if it knew that it was time for its evening meal.
The wide dirt road led into the stable yard and the excited colt pulled at the lead rope. Naruto held him in check, and attempted to calm the excited colt as he led him through the wide double doors of the stable. He stopped the let Genma pass with an armload of tack.
"How was he today?" Genma asked as he headed for the tack room.
"Better." Naruto replied. "We're making progress."
"I'm not surprised. You're an excellent trainer, kitten." Genma called over his shoulder. Naruto blushed hotly as he led the colt into his clean stall. He didn't hate that nick name, but when Genma said it like that, he always found himself blushing. That nickname had come from Kakashi when he had first started working here, and it had stuck.
A sharp, impatient nudge from the colt got his attention, and he got to work grooming the creature. He settled into the hypnotizing rhythm of the brush strokes, and breathed in the smell of clean horse. He'd always loved the smell of horses and hack. It was familiar to him, and one he'd known since his childhood. It had been a long day, and all he really wanted was a hot shower, and a quiet evening curled up with a book That would have to wait awhile though. He still had things that needed to be done.
After giving the tired colt a thorough groom, he threw on its cotton rug, and stepped out of the stall. Cheerful chatter and laughter reached his ears as he shut the stable door.
He slipped into the cool darkness of the tack room to pack away his grooming kit and hang the equipment up in their designated places.
"Naruto?" a voice called.
Sakura, Tenten and Shikamaru joined him in the room.
"You ready to go?" Sakura asked brightly. "You know Iruka likes us to be clean for dinner."
"Just about. What about the others?"
" 'Kashi and Raidou haven't come back from town yet." Shikamaru replied.
"They were picking up the feed weren't they?" Tenten frowned. "It doesn't take….three hours to pick up a few sacks of grain!"
"You know them." Sakura rolled her eyes. "Always getting distracted by something. And always late."
"It's amazing they haven't been fired yet." Shikamaru grumbled.
"Humph. Whatever." Tenten grumbled.
Sakura smiled secretly at Naruto. Those two had always had something between them, but neither had done anything about it, or even admitted their feelings for one another. Sakura was getting impatient, and was bound to start scheming eventually. Naruto was content to just leave them alone and let them sort things out on their own. He was a private person himself, and always made a point to respect each other's privacy. It was only fair.
"What about Kiba?" he asked quietly.
"Genma sent him up to the house a little while ago. He managed to get clobbered by that psycho bitch of a mare." Tenten said disdainfully.
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, just a little bruised and put out. Nothing he can't handle." Shikamaru stood up.
"Oi! You kids ready? I'm locking everything up." Genma called.
"Kids?" Tenten shrieked simultaneously as they stormed out to hunt chase Genma down.
Naruto shared a sympathetic wince with Shikamaru as they followed at a more sedate pace. Whatever Genma had been doing, he'd probably have dropped it by now and gone into hiding for fear of the women's wrath.
The sun was finally setting, signaling the end of another day. The sight of the disappearing sun made Naruto feel a little sad, and perhaps a little lonely. During the day, Naruto could distract himself with the pleasures of his daily routines, but at night, there was nothing to keep him from losing himself in his thoughts and memories.
He followed the others along the wide path, which led through the trees to the mansion. Naruto walked a little behind his friends. The girls were still bickering with Genma. Raidou was throwing in a few teasing comments now and then to stir things up again, while Shikamaru merely yawned and told them all it was too troublesome to get involved with their arguing.
None of this was unusual, so why did he feel so depressed. He should be happy; he had everything he been longing for. Security, caring friends and a job he loved.
Something was still missing…
Maybe he was just tired.
He jumped slightly when a strong arm slung itself around his neck. After identifying who it was, he smiled at the newcomer.
"Yo," Kakashi grinned at him.
"What's happening?" Kakashi said, lazily eyeing the group ahead.
"Nothing much. I'd hide from Sakura and Tenten though."
"Don't tell me why. I can already guess." Kakashi groaned with a slight wince.
Naruto smiled at him gently.
"The sooner you face them…"
"The better, yeah I know." Kakashi sighed before focusing on Naruto. "How was your day?"
Kakashi's white hair shone glowed brightly in the moonlight, and his one eye was watching Naruto closely. His other eye was hidden behind some stray strands of hair which hung down over the side of his face. It was always like that, Naruto had realized. In exactly the same position and always covering his left eye. He was a handsome, tall man and from the moment Naruto had met him it had seemed like Kakashi knew him better than he knew himself. It had made him nervous at first but now he was grateful/ He didn't need to explain anything to Kakashi, because he always seemed to know exactly what he was feeling and what was running through his head.
"Good. I got a lot of things done." He replied quietly, swiftly returning his mind to Kakashi's question.
Kakashi sighed and straightened, releasing Naruto. For a moment, Naruto missed the warmth of the other man, but then was glad to have regained his personal space. Sometimes, he craved contact with other people, but most of the time, he preferred people not to touch him.
"You need to relax, Naruto. Not everything's about work."
"I know that. But we have the inspection tomorrow and.." he began but was cut off by the sound of Kakashi smacking his own forehead.
"Shit! I completely forgot!" he swore and Naruto grinned.
' Not surprising really. He would forget his head if it wasn't already attached,' he thought.
Sakura's head whipped around at Kakashi's rather loud curse.
"Kashi? Is that you?"
Kakashi tensed for a brief moment before taking off at a flat out run towards the mansion, Sakura hot on his heels and yelling death threats at his retreating back.
Naruto lifted his eyes to the mansion. It was a elegant building three stories high and it sprawled over quite a large area. The entrance faced south, and the large sweeping driveway, lined with red maple trees, swept all the way up to the front doors before curving away to the garage tucked away out of sight. It had always reminded Naruto of a hotel, even though he had never seen much of it. He only ever entered the kitchen and the mess hall meant to be used by the hired help. The household servants stayed in the servants quarters near the kitchen.
Naruto felt as if his tiredness was bone deep as he trudged through the kitchen courtyard to the kitchens. The others had already disappeared into the dining hall, their conversation filling the hallways.
He slipped through the small adjoining hall to the Kitchen where Iruka, Kurenai and Choiji were finishing preparing the meal.
Iruka was in charge of running the household, but Choji was the real ruler of the kitchen. Iruka, being the person that he was, didn't mind in the slightest and happily let Choji do as he would.
Naruto slid himself onto a vacant stool that sat out of the way. The kitchen, like everything else, was large and industrial sized. It was equipt with the latest technologies- all stainless steel and professional looking. Naruto was a little uncomfortable here, even in the casual atmosphere that always accompanied the meals. He didn't like to touch anything in the mansion for fear of breaking or dirtying it.
After a moment, Iruka came over to him bearing a warm smile and a cup of iced water.
"Hey there," Iruka greeted him as he handed him the cold glass. Naruto smile gratefully.
"How was your day?"
"Long. Busy. How was yours?"
Iruka ran a hand over his messy ponytail and sighed.
"Hectic. I have not sat down in hours. The house has been in an uproar."
Naruto licked moisture from his lips and frowned in confusion.
"No one knows. We've been cleaning like demons all day, preparing guest rooms and the like." Iruka scowled. "No doubt they'll decide to tell us why at the last moment."
Naruto grinned and Iruka smiled back, ruffling his hair affectionately.
"Never mind. Come on. Let's get some dinner into you. You're scrawny." Iruka teased as he pulled Naruto towards the door.
"Anyone would think we weren't feeding you properly."
Naruto followed him obediently into the hall. Iruka was not one to cross. He was a kind, friendly, dedicated and hardworking man, but you didn't want to get on his bad side. When he got mad, people had a tendency to avoid him, because he had one hell of a mouth on him.
The dining hall consisted of one long table and was surrounded on three sides by windows, providing a view of the gardens.
The servants and stable hands were all good friends, kind of like a makeshift family, so the atmosphere was always relaxed and comfortable. He seated himself between Kurenai and Tenten, and proceeded to serve himself. Now he was craving peace and quiet, but he sighed inwardly and resigned himself to at least another hour of noise and company.
It was now completely dark outside and the meal was finished. Everyone was still sitting around talking and drinking. Naruto got up and quietly headed towards Iruka, Kakashi and Asuma.
He note, with slight curiosity, the intense gaze Kakashi had fixed Iruka with, and the responding faint blush dusting Iruka's cheek bones.
Perhaps there's something developing there as well…
He leant over Iruka's shoulder.
"I'm turning in for the night." He said quietly in his ear.
"Okay." Iruka turned his head and kissed his temple lightly. Naruto didn't mind; Iruka was like a father to him, so he was okay with such displays of affection. A few years ago, he would have shied away from any form of physical contact whatsoever…
"Sleep well, Naruto."
He nodded and slipped out of the mansion. The cold night air hit his skin and he shivered. He'd always preferred warmth to the cold. Summer and spring to autumn and winter…although he did like the colors in autumn, and snow was very pretty.
The trek back to the stables and the sanctuary of his bedroom seemed long, but in reality only took ten minutes. Before he retired to his room for the night, he let himself into the stables and inhaled the scent of warmth and horse. He loved this smell.
His father used to smell sweetly of horse and fresh hay…
The horses were settled and quiet for the night, and he moved from stall to stall, checking that all was well.
Knowing that they were all comfortable, he decided it was time for his shower.
There was ample room in the living quarters. Each had a room of their own and they all shared three bathrooms between them. The rooms were comfortable with wooden floorboards, and were furnished with modern commodities that made living there an enjoyable and comfortable experience.
After his short shower Naruto closed his door and looked around with a contented, if tired, sigh. His room was truly his home. The place he could run to whenever he felt threatened or upset. With the money he had earned and saved, Naruto had decorated his room to his tastes. Beautiful woven rugs in cool blues and purples were spread on the floor and he had bought matching pillows for his small couch. Thick comforters were thrown on his bed along with half a dozen pillows.
Books were tucked neatly into every available place. His other passion was reading. His thirst for books and reading was a trait passed on to him from his father, who had taught him the value of such things. He never let go of the lessons that his father had taught him, and this was no exception.
There were a few photo frames around the room of his friends, some horses, and perhaps the most treasured of all, photos of his father.
Naruto wandered over to his wardrobe and opened the door, revealing a full-length mirror on the inside of one of the doors. After a moment's hesitation, he let his towel drop and stared at the naked figure in the mirror.
No smile graced his features. For awhile now, he had found it hard to smile. His smiles these days didn't seem genuine, and he hated anything fake and superficial, so he found it easier not to smile.
Deep, dark blue eyes stared back at him. They were different from his old eyes. His old eyes used to laugh and dance, overflowing with energy and life. Now, they just seemed quiet somehow. Sad and lonely, eyes that had known suffering. He sometimes scared himself, looking into his own eyes. They weren't eyes he knew anymore.
He was small for his age (only just nineteen). Years of handwork had left him fit and slender with lithe muscles. Working outdoors had given his skin a golden tan.
Reaching up, he ran a hand through his damp hair. Smooth, soft locks of sun kissed gold. As he did so, his eyes caught on the white scars marring the skin of his arm. He ran a thumb over them. There were many scars. They raised white lines on the golden skin which only made them more visible to the eye. He always wore long sleeved shirts to cover them up. He didn't want people to think they were recent, so he hid them from view. He hadn't cut himself for several years now, and he didn't want to remember why he had started in the first place, so he resumed staring at his face in the mirror.
He did not know this person. Not anymore.
Old and painful memories nagged at the edge of his mind as he turned away from the mirror and fell onto his bed. He was too tired to deal with these old scars tonight. All he needed was a little sleep. A little rest and he would be able to get up tomorrow, ready to face it all once more. Ready to do battle with his demons with the coming of the new day.
But not tonight.
1) a colt is a young male horse, a filly is a young female horse. The terms colt and filly can be applied from birth up to ages of 3 or 4 years old. Horses which are fully matures are called either a mare (female) or a stallion (male). A male which has been castrated is called a gelding. I hope that all made sense!
2) tack is equipment used to ride a horse, ie. saddle and bridle.
3) A tack room is where the tack is stored (suprise, suprise!)
Okay, well i understand that there will be alot of terms many of you won't understand, but I'll try to eplain it all as clearly as possibel. But the point of this isn't just the horses. Its about the emotions and how the characters develop. So keep this is mind when reading!
Review and let me know what you think of it! I hope you all liked it! Thanks for reading!