Yes, this is a Bleach/Naruto cross over. Yes, there is a yaoi element, although romance won't be the central theme. I doubt any of the boys will even kiss or say 'I love you', so if the idea interests you, but the yaoi doesn't, go ahead and pretend its not there. The guys are just really good friends. Riiiight.
"Shit," cursed Ikkaku, looking around pointlessly for their escaping prey, "I hate shinobi."
Beside him, Rukia said nothing, scanning the trees for any sign of movement. Ikkaku had requested her three days ago when his current assignment had escaped him, disappearing into area the ghost was far more familiar with. She wished she could say her superior reaitsu sensing abilities had been of some use, but this one was proving too clever. It wouldn't be long before she shared Ikkaku's opinion of ninja. They really were a pill.
"There's two of them now," she said, "That flare in reaitsu wasn't Uzumaki's. Whether they left together or one chased the other, I can't tell."
Giving up on locating the escapees, she returned to Ikkaku's side and they headed back towards the village. Uzumaki, for all his cleverness, hadn't fled the area. Whether it was because he was bound there or simply desired to be there she wasn't certain, but he'd show up again eventually.
And disappear again.
"Perhaps we should get one of the captains on this," he said, not looking at all pleased with his own suggestion. "Kurosaki-taicho is faster than me. Zaraki-taicho might like the sport too, although that might be more trouble than it's worth."
Rukia shook her head.
"Ichigo won't risk exposure in the human world for anything less than immanent catastrophe, and Zaraki-taicho isn't allowed to fight near human settlements. Soi Fong-taicho or one of her higher ups would be best. Their training is the most similar to a shinobi's."
Ikkaku made a face. Rukia smirked.
"What's the matter? Are you both on the outs again?"
"Shut up! You're hardly one to mock people's relationship difficulties!"
A dark flush of pink crossed the female Shinigmai's cheeks, whether in embarrassment or rage Ikkaku couldn't tell.
"OW! Get off!"
Sasuke and Naruto slept in the hollow tree until morning, curled against each other though neither produced nor needed heat. When the sun rose, the tree became uncomfortably warm and Naruto led Sasuke through the wooden barrier yet again, demonstrating how easy it really was. They walked leisurely through the forest, Sasuke attempting and failing to move up into the trees. He landed on his back, breath he didn't need knocked out of him. Naruto laughed at him.
"What'd I tell ya? You ain't got chakra anymore, teme. We got something else. It's similar, but different enough were the same techniques ain't gonna work. We're just gonna have to play genin for a while."
Sasuke grumbled, feeling very much like a genin, and not a very talented one at that. He followed Naruto, having no where else to go, while the blonde ghost started filling him in on what he had missed over the last five years.
"And Sakura got over you and is engaged to Lee, and how unfair is that? I mean, I'm WAY cooler than Lee. Shikamaru's been dating that blonde chick with the fan from Sand, and you can bet it's 'so troublesome'. Oh, and you should see Hinata. She can totally kick ass now. Her dad's gonna reinstate her as his heir, even though the rest of the main family is against it."
His cheeks got a bit flushed when he talked about her, and Sasuke couldn't help but noticed he talked more about Hinata than Sakura, whom he hadn't seemed very heartbroken over.
"Oh, and Iruka-sensei was dating a civilian, but they broke up. That lady was crazy. She had this weird grudge against Kakashi-sensei, but he was kinda mean to her too. They threw knives at each other, Sasuke! And not those little throwing knives either. I mean like Butcher knives."
Now that was something Sasuke was sorry he had missed. Naruto continued to ramble, highlighting five years worth of drama about everyone he knew and many he didn't, though Naruto's own story remained nothing more than a side note. He remained quiet, barely listening, though his attention was clearly fixed on the story teller.
He hadn't been able to study him very well last night, but in the morning sunlight Naruto looked very similar and very different than he remembered. Some things were constant, like his spiky blonde hair and whiskered scars, while others were completely alien, such as his predominantly black clothes and the sharpness of his blue eyes. The way he was amused at his own jokes and stories was familiar, the way his eyes were constantly scanning for danger was not. Walking beside his old friend, Sasuke couldn't help but feel stunted.
At last they reached their destination, which Sasuke's hadn't been aware that there was one and felt all the more foolish for not realizing their location sooner. The Uchiha compound loomed before them, and he felt a sudden mix of dread and hope.
"Are there any...?"
Naruto gave him a sad look and shook his head.
"There might have been once, but they're all gone now. I think the Shinigami got anyone who was left behind."
The disappointment felt like something physical, making his head and chest hurt. Unconsciously, he pressed his hand to his heart and felt something metallic. He looked down and found what looked like a broken piece of chain sticking out of his chest. Taking it in hand, he tugged it experimentally and felt entire chest ache. He dropped it quickly.
"Yeah, I got one too," Naruto said, pointing to the metal ring that Sasuke had mistaken for a zipper. "Mine's shorter though. I'm not sure what they're for, but it hurts to mess with them."
Sasuke moved his shirt closer and further away from his chest, and found the chain links passed easily through the material though not his body, and peaking down his own shirt reveal the chain firmly attached to his undead flesh. It was an unsettling reminder that he was dead, and didn't have any idea what that meant.
"Come one, teme," the other boy said, walking towards the compound.
More than willing to be distracted, Sasuke followed him around the familiar houses to the very back where the Uchiha graveyard was located. The family plaques and boards were in disrepair, and had been long before Sasuke had left. Too many dead, and not enough living to keeping them clean, and Sasuke hadn't been able to bring himself there since his parent's funeral.
Kakashi was already there. Sasuke stopped a ways away from him in order to determine what he had been doing. His body was gone, but there was small pile of disturbed earth at the older ninja's feet, small enough for Sasuke to realize his body had been cremated, mostly likely via a jutsu. Kakashi was putting the finishing touches on a wooden grave post. His eyes were frighteningly empty. Naruto sat down beside him, close enough that parts of his own insubstantial form passed through his sensei's, and set his chin on Kakashi's shoulder.
Kakashi's hands froze for a moment, life returning to his dark eyes. He looked left and then right, then back at his hands in consideration. Finally, he looked up, squinting against the warm sunlight in his eyes. Naruto moved behind him, wrapping his arms around Kakashi's waist and closing his eyes in concentration.
Watching the embrace, Sasuke felt like a shameful voyeur, peeping in on something far more intimate than sex. Kakashi's expression, though only his one eyes was visible, was so pained and hopeful and alive.
He didn't know how long he watched them, but eventually Naruto pulled away and Kakashi seemed to sense the absence. He looked around again, rubbed his shoulder, and then returned to carving out Sasuke's name. His eyes remained more focused this time.
"What did you do?" Sasuke asked, as Naruto started to move off.
The other boy just shrugged.
"Sometimes, only sometimes, I think they can feel me. This is the first time it's worked with Kakashi. I tried it on Baa-chan when she was drunk, but it only upset her more."
The playful disposition Naruto had demonstrated earlier was gone now. His blue eyes found the ground and stayed there, his thoughts drifting off to those who were in pain now and whom he could no longer protect. An entire village he could no longer protect.
Sasuke watched silently as a myriad of expressions flashed and faded across the blond's face. Sadness, anger, frustration, regret. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do just then. A part of him just wanted to walk away, to leave Naruto to sort out his own problems and come back later when he was done. Another part of him wanted to comfort the boy, but he felt as qualified to make Naruto feel better as he did to compose a symphony.
Sasuke had died with his dream completed. His brother was dead, and though he hadn't revived his clan, he had become so disgusted with himself he could not bring himself to desire siring children even as a means to an end. Surely, insanity and obsession would plague his descendants with every manifestation of Sharingan, and the horror of Mangekyou was not a legacy he wished to leave behind. His own mortality had made itself known months ago, and truthfully he had been tired and ready to go.
Naruto though... his suffering was a reflection of his own before he had been able to kill Itachi, and everyone knew how poorly he had been able to manage that. So he just stood there and watched and waited, hoping for some instruction that might make this all better.
His eyes narrowed a bit as Naruto rubbed at the chain on his chest.
The chain suddenly jingled a bit, and the blond doubled over, crying out in pain. At the same moment Sasuke felt something like chakra tingle against his skin. He shivered, feeling the cool pressure. It was eerie and unpleasant. It disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
"Crap," Naruto groaned, straightening himself out painfully. "I did it again. Come on, we got to go before the Shinigami show up."
Despite his command, it was Sasuke who lead them both away from the grave yard. In this section of Konoha, he knew where best to hide and quickly found shelter in one of the many empty houses. He set a still pained Naruto on a dusty mattress, and checked him over. He wasn't sure what he'd find; heart rate, breathing, and temperature all seemed silly things to check in a dead person but Sasuke could strangely find all three.
"You don't look well, dobe. You even have a fever. How can you be a ghost with a fever?"
Naruto smirked, cocky despite being curled up like an invalid.
"I'm just special I guess."
Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"What happened? Was that weird sensation caused by that 'chakra-like' thing you were talking about?"
"I dunno. It's never hurt before."
For a long time neither said anything, and finally Sasuke just sighed.
"Take a nap. I'll keep watch."
Sasuke rolled his eyes and left him to his thoughts.
"Kakashi-sensei, are you alright?"
Said ninja looked up from his bowl of... something he couldn't remember ordering, to Iruka Umino staring worriedly at him. He blinked once, coming back to himself and mentally cursed himself for his lack of discipline. His one visible eyes folded up in a happy crescent.
"Ah, yes. Just planning my method of attack on this..." he said, pointing to his rather frightening looking meal, "culinary adventure."
Iruka rewarded him with a smile and took a seat across from him. Kakashi couldn't help but notice how tired the other man looked, and wondered how he was coping with it all. The other man had known Naruto longer, if not necessarily better, than Kakashi and their relationship had always been that of siblings. It made Kakashi feel a bit guilty for provoking Mia, Iruka's former girlfriend, into leaving him. The woman had been a horrible match for the man, hadn't liked Naruto, Kakashi, or really anyone who held Iruka's attention, and was insanely jealous, but at least she would have comforted her 'cuddle bunny'.
He'd have done it himself except the man was straight. He'd have asked for comfort for himself, if it weren't for the very same reason. Sakura was engaged, and she'd punch him just for suggesting it. Mayeb Sai... except he looked too much like Sasuke, and he really didn't think he could cope with that.
"You don't look so good, Kakashi-san," Iruka said.
"How can you tell?" he asked, pointing at his masked faced.
"'Look beneath the underneath'. I'm a ninja too. And it's pretty obvious. Have you been visiting Naruto all night again?"
The elder ninja gave a definite pause, his chopsticks hovering what might have been chicken or a bit of mushroom. He debated for a moment on whether he should just say yes or ...
"I think..." he began, paused, then pulled down his mask on the pretense of taking a bite of... ugh, water chestnut. "Naruto visited me this morning."
Iruka was sudden very still, his gently smiling face a rather unnerving tableau. Kakashi quickly looked back to his meal, wishing he'd said nothing. How could the other man respond to something like that? It was crazy. Possibly insensitive. Definitely a very touchy subject.
"Sorry, I know it sounds like something weird to say, but... it was just this feeling I got."
"... Have you told anyone else about this?"
The copy nin shook his head.
"Hn. I'm not naive. Talking of ghosts isn't going to help with the current situation. It certainly won't endear the hokage to me any."
Iruka nodded, then looked considerate. "So why tell me?"
"Hhmmm... Well, if Naruto were still in Konoha, in whatever form, wouldn't that make you feel just a little bit less sad?"
The chuunin considered, thinking of Naruto, which until this point had brought intense pain and sadness. But thinking of Naruto wondering around the village, invisible, undetectable, but there, watching over them, laughing at them, crying with them...
Iruka smiled just a bit, and Kakashi smiled back.
"For bachelor's like us, it's important to take whatever comfort you can get."
"Ha ha ha, that sounds rather dirty coming from a bachelor."
Kakashi laughed along, more from the irony of his friend's statement than anything else.