A/N: This chapter was written for the Sumigakure Halloween Event of 2016 prompt "Awkward Haunting."
Naruto had gotten very used to the world being a weird place, after he reached a certain age. Reality just happened to be absurd sometimes, and that was all there really was to it.
He still really, really didn't like ghosts, though.
"Are you certain that isn't going to explode in your face?"
Naruto froze. He was half an inch away from putting the next brushstroke down on the page when he heard the words, and he… he almost recognized the voice in question. Almost. The one person he could tie it to, though, had been dead for nearly a decade, and Naruto never really knew him in the first place. He'd only met the man once, so obviously he was just remembering the voice wrong, and—
"No, I'm pretty sure that's going to blow up." Another voice said, and the head of a very definitely dead man entered the air next to Naruto's face.
Naruto was not entirely proud of the fact that he screamed, flailed, and fell out of his chair.
When his head stopped spinning, he met the gaze of the speakers. His eyes went wide, and he scrambled backward, and all he could think to say was, "What the fuck."
"Well, that's rude." Yahiko complained.
"What the fuck." Naruto repeated. It was better than just screaming 'ghosts!' and running away or fainting, which was what he would have done a few years ago, but not by much. "You're dead. All three of you, dead. I know Yahiko was dead before I ever met him, and I watched Nagato die."
The man in question shrugged. "I'm not in the habit of questioning what chakra can do where the dead are concerned anymore, considering what I managed with Rinnegan."
"Same." Yahiko agreed with a grin. "By the way, I wasn't joking about that blowing up in your face. Konan can tell you exa—"
"It was absolutely going to explode, yes." Konan nodded. "I'm not entirely sure what you were aiming for with that seal, but it wasn't going to work."
"I don't exactly have a teacher, you know." Naruto huffed, crossing his arms, having momentarily forgotten to be scared. "Jiraiya's dead, and Kakashi's getting set up to be Hokage or whatever. I'm basically just dropping by TenTen's place and getting tips from her whenever I can."
There was a beat of silence.
"Sorry." Nagato said, scratching the back of his head. "I'm… yes, that one was on me."
He took a step forward, as though to hold out a hand to help Naruto to his feet, and stopped. A strange look crossed his face. "Naruto, are you… scared of ghosts?"
"…No." Naruto looked away, bottom lip sticking out in an exaggerated pout.
"That's a 'yes.'" Yahiko said, grinning. "Oooooh my gosh. You're scared of ghosts. The hero of Konoha is scared of ghosts. That's adorable. Konan, that's adorable, right?"
"…Sure, whatever." Konan shook her head in what might have been exasperation. Naruto wasn't sure. "I'd be a little more concerned about the fact that he can see us than the fact that he's scared of us."
"I'm not scared!" Naruto argued, face coloring in red. "I'm just… not super used to you yet!"
Nagato raised an eyebrow. "Do you expect us to stay long enough for you to become 'super used to us,' then?"
Naruto flailed again. "How am I supposed to know? I don't know anything about ghosts!"
As it turned out, they did.
"You're, like, twenty-three. How do you not have a girlfriend by now?" Yahiko demanded, floating upside down above Naruto, in just the right position to put his head in front of the living man's. Naruto buried his face in his hands and nearly screamed in frustration. Yahiko ignored this and plowed on. "And don't give me anything about not wanting one; I overheard a very funny conversation about several years of attempts to get a date from a cute little pink-haired kunoichi that I also saw punching canyons into the training fields."
"Oh my god, Yahiko, why were you eavesdropping on Sakura-chan?" Naruto demanded, picking up his head and glaring at the ghost.
"I didn't eavesdrop on any 'Sakura-chan,'" Yahiko sniffed. "I just visited Jiraiya-sensei's grave and heard that blonde Hokage of yours talking to it. They're old teammates, right? And she mentioned that you'd finally given up on chasing this chick or whatever."
Naruto made a face. "Okay, still weird, but like… not as creepy. And, uh, there's all these weird books on sexuality stuff these days, dude. And one of the very important bits is that who you thought you were interested in before doesn't necessarily mean anything for how you identify now, right?"
Yahiko blinked at him. "So… you realized your gay and gave up for that reason?"
"No! I just meant don't make assumptions!" Naruto once more buried his face in his hands. "Why am I having this conversation with a ghost? Why is this a thing that is happening to me?"
"I'd pat you on the back, but I'm a ghost, and also I find your emotional pain hilarious in such small quantities." Yahiko said. "Seriously, though, I have been paying attention. You've reportedly shown interest in people, and people have reportedly shown interest in you, and you have the free time to date, so… what gives?"
"First of all, on the gay thing: I'm pansexual." Naruto held up one finger when he said this, and then put up another as he continued. "Second, this really isn't any of your business. Third, the people I'm interested in aren't interested in me that way, and the people who are interested in me are people that I'm not interested in that way, and the one or two exceptions to this rule have other issues going on."
"Like having died in the war or being Kazekage." Naruto had to consciously keep himself from snarling the words. "And while you might have come back from the dead, most people don't, and Neji wouldn't have agreed even though he was interested because of Hinata-chan, and I can't become Hokage if I'm in a long-term romantic relationship with the Kazekage, because that's a political disaster waiting to happen."
Yahiko blinked. "Oh."
Naruto turned around and stalked out of the room. He needed to punch something, probably.
"You keep dropping the bird sign between hare and dragon." Nagato said, once more demonstrating the proper sequence. "It's a long series of signs, but if you want the technique, then you need to practice with the full pattern before you can start dropping signs."
"I know," Naruto moaned, though it wasn't entirely intelligible as he was currently laying facedown in the dirt.
"Get up, Naruto, we both know you're fine," Nagato sighed. "Come on, up, up."
"You can't make me." Naruto muttered, letting his head fall to the side and consequently making his own voice much clearer.
"I can get Yahiko here to bother you about your love life again." Nagato said, though he didn't bother to try making it sound threatening.
"No, that's bullshit." Naruto huffed, still lying on the ground. "Yahiko's toned it way down since I told him what the problem was."
"…I would apologize, but I was largely uninvolved in the death of, ah…"
"Neji." Naruto said, pushing himself to his feet. "It's been like seven years, I'm over it."
"But it keeps Yahiko from bothering you?" Nagato asked.
"But it keeps Yahiko from bothering me, yeah." Naruto took his stance again. "Okay, so, run me through those signs again?"
Nagato smiled and did so.
"Careful, now." Konan hovered just a few inches behind Naruto's back. "If the angle is off by more than a handful of degrees, the entire thing could be prematurely activated."
"Gee, I don't know what that's like!" Naruto said as happily as he could force himself to fake.
"No sex jokes." Konan reprimanded. "You have a seal to work on."
"Did you ever try teaching Nagato this stuff?" Naruto complained. "Because if your only reasoning is that I should learn 'cause I'm an Uzumaki, then I gotta ask."
"We didn't know Nagato was an Uzumaki, but yes, I did teach him on occasion as well. He simply preferred his Rinnegan techniques."
"And what if I prefer my other—"
"Focus," Konan said. "You have to finish the tag and stabilize it. Stop goofing off."
"Fine," Naruto whined.
"You are twenty-three years old." Konan said in what could almost be interpreted as disgust. "How are you still like this?"
"Stubborn refusal to turn into a real grown-up, mostly." Naruto shrugged. "But hey, I pay my own rent and taxes and cook dinner for myself and everything!"
"You are a disaster in the kitchen." Konan sniffed. "Now, the seal, Naruto. Finish it."
Naruto screamed and fell out of his chair in a parody of the first time the ghostly Ame trio showed up in his life, as Jiraiya's head popped out of the wall, grinning at him.
"What the fuck." He repeated to himself, ignoring both Jiraiya and Yahiko's laughter. "What the fuck, why is this my life."
They just kept laughing.