Disclaimer: The characters and concepts belong to their rightful owner.
Warnings: m/m sex, swearing, angst etc. etc.
Author's Note: Final chapter guys! Thanks for sticking with me and I hope you've enjoyed the journey. I've included a song list that I've compiled whilst writing this story, and I hope you enjoy it. If anyone knows how to file share safely, I will gladly do so!
Chapter 39: Are You With Me?
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be – Douglas Adams
Sasuke pulled the keys out of the ignition and took a moment to look around the stable yard. Over the past few years, he had worked hard to expand the stables and arenas for the purpose of training new horses. The sprawl of stable and yards had more than doubled in size since he had met Naruto, and the amount of horses they house and trained had tripled.
They had a set number of certain horses that they owned, and they always remained at the Uchiha stables as breeding stock and competition horses. Other horses were bought, trained and resold, or used as racehorses. The racehorses were always retrained and sold to good homes once their racing careers were over. Sasuke wouldn't have any of his hard working and well trained horses go to any meat packer to be slaughtered for meat.
Sasuke had made quite the name for himself in the competition and racing world, and he didn't mean to sound boastful or greedy but he was raking in the millions from all of planning and work. And he liked to think that he passed on that good fortune to those that worked and lived on his property. He had slowly grown closer to the staff at the stables, breaking the tradition that his father has set of seeing them as nothing more than faceless servants. He even called many of them friends, and he knew that this was in a large way due to his relationship with Naruto. His beautiful, life loving partner had that effect on people, drawing them closer together and inspiring them to be better without even trying.
He had knocked down the old stable hand housing, and built them a new, bigger and more comfortable place to live. He had been told that it was more than satisfactory, and that they loved the new place and this pleased him. If they were comfortable, happy and well looked after then they would work that much harder. Of course, he rewarded them generously, with pay rises and the such, but he believed that quality of life was more of an incentive for loyalty, and it seemed that he had been right in that assumption.
Looking over his equine empire, Sasuke couldn't quite believe how lucky he was, or just how happy he had become over the last few years. He had Naruto, and even if that was all that he ever had, then that would be enough. He had learned that the hard way, and it was a lesson that he would not forget soon.
Kakashi was walking towards where he had parked his truck, leading pretty looking chestnut filly. Sasuke got out of his car and went to meet him.
"Afternoon Sasuke. Wasn't expecting to see you this late in the afternoon," the pale man commented nonchalantly.
"I've got to go see Naruto about something, so I thought I'd stop in on my way," he replied distractedly. "Is this Elusive's filly?"
Kakashi nodded as he passed a hand over her shining neck. "Yep, this is she. She's just started on her saddle work. I'm thinking in a month or so she'll be ready for sale."
Sasuke nodded thoughtfully. She was indeed a beautiful looking thing, and he was rather proud of her lineage. She would make a top competition horse for some ambitious rider one day, and he was expecting great things of her.
"Anyway, did you hear about the fiasco with Naruto this morning?" Kakashi asked with a grin and a gleam in his eye.
Sasuke rolled his eyes and huffed. "Of course I did. If that idiot Kiba has done permanent damage to Naruto then he's going to have to deal with me."
Kakashi laughed. "Well, you should have known that lending Kiba to Naruto would end in trouble. "
"I should have, yes. I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway, I'll be by tomorrow morning to exercise Taira. He's getting a bit lazy and stubborn."
"He's always been stubborn, Sasuke. Maybe you should get Naruto to do it. That horse adores him."
"All horses adore Naruto, Kakashi," Sasuke replied as he got in his car. "All animals adore Naruto. It's something I've learned to live with over the years, this habit he has of picking up stray animals and people."
"Part of his charm, I suppose," his stable manager agreed. "Say hi to him for me."
Sasuke nodded and put the car in reverse.
When Naruto had begun on his building project for his centre, Sasuke had insisted on creating a road to link his stable yard to Narutos'. It was convenient for all parties, and was about a fifteen minute drive between the two. It was also a well-used riding route for exercising horses and borrowing equipment and the like.
Naruto had thrown himself into his project with an enthusiasm that had taken everyone by surprise. He had been steadfast and dedicated, and poured every minute of free time into building his own business. He had established his rehabilitation centre, and added on to it a retraining facility for horses with behavioural problems. To go hand in hand with this, he ran a small riding school that was quickly gaining popularity and notoriety. His skills as a trainer were much sought after, and he always had a steady flow of work.
But it was his rehabilitation work that fuelled his ambition, and Sasuke sometimes didn't know how he did it. Naruto scouted around, finding and buying horses in atrocious condition and dedicating himself to nursing them back to health. Many of the horses were horribly abused or neglected. Sasuke didn't know how Naruto found the strength not to break his heart over the poor, near death creatures. But his lover was patient and calm, and the horses thrived under his attention.
Once the horses were healthy and fit again, he would find them new homes, and he made certain that he selected the right home for each individual horse. There were several horses, however, with ongoing health problems that could never be rehomed, and they were permanent residents at the centre.
But somehow, despite all of the long hours and hard work that Naruto poured into the centre, he always had time for Sasuke. He didn't know how Naruto found enough time in a day to get everything done, but somehow he did.
To add to his incredible workload, he still found time each week for his therapy sessions which Sasuke drove him to and from. Usually afterwards, they did something together, like going to lunch or visiting a gallery or the markets.
Naruto's moods after these sessions were variable, and often left him in a pensive and quiet mood. It was the only time when Sasuke saw him close to being down, but he usually picked up again after a few hours. Sasuke didn't ask about what made Naruto like this after the sessions, and Naruto respected that. Sometimes he would reveal the cause to Sasuke on his own, but mostly, he kept his thoughts to himself.
There had been one time when Naruto had taken a turn for the worst. About four months into the building of his centre, he had started to experience mood swings. People had noticed, and Sasuke had been concerned, but Naruto had been adamant that he was okay. He had tried to convince Naruto to slow down and take some time to get his bearings but Naruto had refused.
And then came the day when Naruto couldn't make himself get out of bed. Sasuke had been frantic with worry, but he liked to think that he had remained calm enough around Naruto. On the second day of Naruto staying in bed, Sasuke had gone against Naruto's pleading and called his therapist, who had come straight away. His lover had thanked him for that profusely later because once he had recovered he had admitted how much he had scared himself. The therapist had said that his combination of medication had stopped being as effective as they had been, so she had changed his prescription and increased his therapy sessions until Naruto had been back on solid ground.
Since then, Naruto had been improving in leaps and bounds, and his medication dosage had gradually lowered until he was on the bare minimum. Sasuke could breathe easier again. It had been hard to accept that Naruto may always be on medication for his condition, but he had come to terms with it gradually, with Naruto's help.
It was a beautiful day to be outside, Sasuke thought to himself as he pulled into a parking space. The weather was warm, the air was scented with the pleasant smells of horses and flowers and the sun was shining brightly.
Naruto wasn't anywhere to be seen when he entered the courtyard, but his dog Chance was. That puppy that he had rescued was lazing about in a patch of sunshine, and paid Sasuke no heed as he passed. Walking about the back of the first barn, Sasuke stopped and drank in the sight of Naruto hard at work.
There was a scarily thin dun coloured horse that Kurenai and Anko, two of Naruto's employees, were inspecting closely and talking about quietly. Next to them, Naruto was showing Choji how to dress a wound on a chestnut that was in even worse condition than the dun.
Sasuke was slightly appalled at the sight of the horses; he could see every rib, every bump of their spines and their hips jutted out grotesquely.
"Oi, Naruto! Lover boy is here!" Anko called out, having spotted him.
Sasuke scowled at her. Naruto had somehow picked up a raggedy team of dedicated employees that were fiercely loyal and more than a little crazy, Sasuke thought. Anko and Kurenai were both strong willed women who were staunchly dedicated to their welfare work with the horses. Choji was a rather laid back, food loving and bumbling guy who seemed to adore Naruto and Shino was a near silent man who had a way with animals just like Naruto did.
His other employee, Zaku, could have been a clone of Kiba. He was loudmouthed, over confident and boisterous, and seemed to love convincing Kiba to participate in all sorts of trouble. He didn't know how such a rag-tag team of type A personalities got anything done, but somehow, they worked well together.
Naruto was heading over to him now, a broad smile on his face. Sasuke was graced with a chaste kiss and hug.
"Hey! What are you doing here?"
Sasuke smiled at his love and rested his hands on Naruto's hips as he inhaled the scent of the man that he loved.
"I have a proposition for you."
Naruto grinned even wider. "Oh really? Right here?" He pressed even closer and slid his arms are Sasuke.
He rolled his eyes and pinched Naruto lightly, earning a wince and a sheepish grin in return. Sasuke's eyes were drawn back to the horses behind Naruto.
"What's going on there?"
Naruto pulled away and turned around.
"We had a surprise delivery an hour ago," he responded, all mirth fading from him. "It was an emergency welfare seizure. They were worried that the horses wouldn't make it another couple of days."
Sasuke sighed and slipped his hand down to take Naruto's. "What's the prognosis on them?"
"I think the dun will make a quick recovery with just some TLC, but the chestnut has some really nasty wounds that are going to take a long time to recover. I'm not so sure about him, but we'll see how it goes. We may have to put him down."
"Well if anyone can help him, you can," Sasuke said confidently. "How many do you have here now?"
"At the moment we have thirty that need close care. We're just about at capacity. Luckily the weather is good and the long term residents can stay out overnight."
"You know that if you need extra accommodation then you can use some of mine, right?" Sasuke frowned. He hated to think of Naruto struggling to come up with accommodation for sudden influxes of horses needing care.
Naruto grinned at him and squeezed his hand. "I know. We've just got a couple of horses that are waiting for their new owners to be ready for them, that's all. In another couple of days things will be back to normal."
Sasuke nodded. "Well, my offer still stands."
Naruto pressed a kiss to his cheek. "You're amazing, you know that?"
Sasuke shivered as Naruto rested his forehead against his cheek. Being so near Naruto always had the same effect on him, no matter how long they had been together for.
"Funny," he murmured. "I was thinking the same thing about you."
"You're both a pair of hopeless, romantic fools," Kurenai snorted, and tried to hide her smile. "In fact, you deserve each other. You should continue to inflict yourselves on each other. Elsewhere. Some people are working."
Naruto grinned and gave Sasuke a gently nudge towards his office. "We'd better go before her highness decides to take action."
"I heard that!"
Naruto's office was a cosy place, and was always welcoming. He had moved his furniture from his old stablehand accommodation into here, but instead of the bed he had acquired a desk and comfy chair. Sasuke threw himself onto the little couch and pulled Naruto down with him.
His lover stretched out on his back with his head in Sasuke's lap and sighed. Sasuke rubbed his chest gently, feeling the day's tiredness ease from his muscles.
"Long day, huh?"
Naruto nodded. "Long but good." He turned those big blue eyes onto him. "I missed you today."
Sasuke couldn't help but smile at him. "I missed you too. Especially when I woke up this morning and you were already gone."
Naruto grimaced and wrapped his hand around Sasuke's on his chest. "I had an early appointment with my business manager. Unavoidable, I'm afraid."
"Ah, I'll forgive you. Eventually. But I'm expected a lot of make-up sex, just so you know."
Naruto grinned again, before flipping onto his stomach, and crawling forward to straddle Sasuke's lap. "How about we start right now?"
"I don't think Kiba would take too kindly to walking in on us again," Sasuke replied wryly.
"Well, he should have knocked!"
"Maybe we shouldn't have been doing it over your desk."
Naruto chuckled. "Well, maybe not. But the look on his face was totally worth it."
Sasuke pulled Naruot flush against himself, and wrapped him in a warm hug. This was what made each day bearable, the thought of spending his evenings with Naruto, wrapped up in each other and lost in the little world they had create together. He could bear anything if he had this every night. That sense of belonging to someone was an amazing feeling, and there was nothing like it in the world.
"Anyway, there's something I want to talk to you about first."
"Oh yeah?" Naruto sat back a little, with a frown on his face. "Nothing too bad, I hope?"
"It's a business proposition." Sasuke smiled, knowing that Naruto would go for it without a second thought. "You know how you're always talking about wanting to help underprivileged and orphaned children, but you don't quite know how to?"
"Yeah. Giving money just seems too…dismissive," Naruto's face became thoughtful. "I want to help give a little happiness to children who are going through hard times."
"Well, I thought that we could run a couple of camps a year."
"Yeah. We can set up some sort of curriculum for a couple of days or a week during the school breaks. You could take them trail riding, and show them how to look after those poor neglected animals that you take in. It would teach them compassion, and how to be responsible for animals. Show them that there is still good in the world, and that life can be fun."
"I can see that you've put a lot of thought into this," Naruto said slowly.
"I have. I was even thinking of building a house for accommodation so they could stay for the week. We could hire some extra…"
Sasuke was cut off abruptly by Naruto kissing him. His surprise quickly morphed into desire, and he wrapped his arms around him tightly, letting Naruto maul him in the best possible way.
"I probably don't tell you enough but I love the hell out of you," Naruto told him as he pressed desperate kisses to Sasuke's face.
Sasuke smiled as he bit gently into Naruto's warm skin, breathing in the scent of sunshine and outdoors that clung to the golden skin. "I love you back."
Naruto stripped off his shirts and began in on Sasuke's as the Uchiha himself unbuttoned Naruto's jeans and slid his hands inside. They kissed again, deeply and languidly as they wallowed in the ever bright desire and love that they had built and nurtured.
The door burst open as Sasuke encouraged Naruto to move his hips.
"Oh for crying out loud! There's a time and a place, guys!" Kiba shouted as he slammed back out of the office. "Time and place!"
1. Bed of Lies by Matchbox 20
2. Breathing by Lifehouse
3. Gravity by Vienna Teng
4. Nothing Left to Lose by Matt Kearney
5. Heart Like a Wheel by The Corrs
6. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer
7. Electrical Storm by U2
8. Different by Acceptance
9. Forget About Us by Tim Mcgraw
10. Let Me Go by 3 Doors Down
11. Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
12. Audience of One by Rise Against
13. Endless Summer by the Jezabels
14. Good Life by Onerepublic
15. Stars and Boulevards by Augustana
16. Anchored in You by Shawn Mullins
17. Let You Go by Pete Murray
18. Dig by Incubus
19. No Apologies by Trapt