Yahiko gets jumped by some thug. Refugee trash putting on airs like he's a ronin. Bullshit.

Bastard gets him on a hill. Comes up and nails him from nowhere. And with a vantage point like that there really is nowhere to spring from.

So.

Yahiko got careless. Cusses himself for it.

Gets up and brushes himself off.

Checks: no wounds, no scratches. No pain or pressure of internal bleeding.

He's dizzy, but that shit happens. All the time. Genjutsu is like getting whipped around by your ankles and dumped headfirst underwater.

Motherfuckers need to stop springing it on him, but Yahiko understands. His taijutsu is amazing.

"Don't worry, I'm a professional!" he says to Nagato and Konan. Whichever one of them in is earshot. He feels that his arm and fingers are all still working right when he waves. Dismissively. "Didn't hurt!" He hunkers down to wait for his head to stop ringing.

When he sees his body, he figures that he just lost it. Shit like that happens. Eyes, hands, bodies, weapons, techniques- ninja steal them. Some asshole took his body, that's it. He nudges Nagato. "Hey. Buddy. Gotta break a genjutsu for me."

Nagato doesn't respond.

Nagato's crying, but that doesn't mean anything. Yahiko waves his hands behind Konan's turned head. "Hey! Little help here?"

But she doesn't turn around.

"Come on," he sighs. He knows she can hear him.

"Don't make me start singing!" he warns.

Both of them are in a snit, that's all it is. Both of them are being pussy weirdoes again. Nagato is. Konan must be in some weird girl mood. Yahiko crosses his arms.

"You guys."

They pack up his body instead.

"Yeah, bring it home. Good idea!" he jeers at them. He's a nice guy, but he only goes so far with that. He knows they need time for emotional stuff, but this is ridiculous! "Have your little pity shit and then maybe you can help me out?"

"Fuck." he mutters, later that evening. It's just like when he was little. People all around him, busy and ignoring him. Lost in little miserable silences. Turning their backs to him. "I know you can hear me!" he shouts at Nagato. "Asshole! This isn't funny anymore!"

But both of them are crying, so Yahiko cuts them some slack.

Yahiko sits on the bathroom counter. Bangs his heels against it. Nagato hates that shit. "See? This is what you get when you ignore me."

Nagato just keeps brushing his teeth. His eyes are ragged red stains, Yahiko figures he can't even see when he cries like that. His eyelids all swollen closed. His swirly pupil is bloodshot.

"You dumbass." Yahiko sighs. "Okay. You wanna talk? I guess I can wait."

The body ain't going anywhere, after all.

"Fuck you, I'm going to put your underwear in the rain barrel." he mutters after Nagato turns and leaves.

It's midnight and dark everywhere. Rain everywhere. Everyone is sleeping, which is just the same as being dead.

Stop whining, he thinks to himself.

"I guess I'm dead?" he says to Konan in the morning. She has that spoiled milk pallor and her face is all red from crying. She's making tea and tears are running down her cheeks.

"You're no help." Yahiko says.

Rubs his face with both hands. It's not her fault.

____

"If I'm dead why don't you bury it?!"

Yahiko doesn't get either of these wussies anymore.

Nagato's in a real bad way. Yahiko follows Konan around. She's putting the body in a storage locker.

The refrigerated one where they keep meat so it won't spoil.

"The fuck?" he says to her. He points. "The FUCK?!"

They keep it there.

Sometimes Yahiko goes down to the basement just to stare incredulously.

____

But Yahiko tries to be philosophical about this shit.

He's survived worse.

"Nothing's gonna stop me." he tells himself.

Even death couldn't stop him! Death! He laughs in that bastard's face.

Be nice to have someone to talk to, though.

"Y'know, Nagato." Yahiko says as Nagato shaves. He whacks his heel twice against the counter.

He watches Nagato cut himself. "Idiot." he laughs. "Quickest draw with a kunai- and look at you!"

"But I was saying." He stretches, cracks one shoulder after the other. "I know you're kinda weird. That's okay. I still like you. Even if you're a wuss!"

He leans back against the glass and watches Nagato's reaction.

It's no fun to tease Nagato anymore.

"Shit." He puts a hand through his hair. "Look. You're acting weird. Bad weird. This is serial killer stuff, Nagato. You've got my body in the freezer."

He looks forward to these chats. He has another one in the afternoon with Konan. She folds flower after flower.

"You're not okay either, huh?"

She doesn't show it as much.

It hurts that they don't hear him but it's worse that he can't help.

______

Yahiko figures that most ghosts are perverts. But he actually doesn't watch Nagato and Konan do it.

"I'm not that kind of guy!" he laughs. He watches Nagato cut himself. His cheekbones are starting to stick out.

"Dumbaaaaaaass." Yahiko sighs. "You idiot. Don't, okay?"

He watches Nagato's ribs start to poke out like fenceposts, his cheeks start to collapse, his eyes start to turn to bony sinkholes.

"Awwwww, fuck. Man, come on. Don't do this."

"Why aren't you doing something!" he yells but Konan just sips tea. Folds.

"Useless, goddamnit!" He sounds exactly like his dad. Fuck. "He's starving himself, do something!"

He kicks over her paper shelf. Paper everywhere!

Watches as her hair almost stands on end and her eyes are round and huge.

"Got your attention now? Good morning!" he shouts. "Fuck! You're sitting here doing this paper shit and-"

Her lips are moving.

And she's looking right at him.

He makes an idiot of himself, jumping and waving. Later she tells Nagato that she saw something.

Something.

"Oh, for-" Yahiko can't believe this! "Hello! Remember me? I'm your friend! Kept both of your asses out of the fire!"

"I'll watch you guys doing it!" he warns, only half-kidding. "I'll make fun of the dumb faces you make! Smarten up, yeah?"

He's imitating his dad all the time now and he can't stop.

"Fuck!" He dumps Nagato's entire kunai pouch onto the floor.

He puts Nagato's boxer shorts on the balcony where everyone can see them.

He hangs Konan's lacy underwear all over the light fixtures.

"Yahiko." she sighs.

"About time!" he yells, but he's grinning as he does it.

______

"I think it's an imprint." Nagato says- to Konan. He still acts like Yahiko isn't there.

His eyes do that swirly thing.

And the bastard still isn't eating.

"It's just an echo of him. He's not really here." Nagato explains. Yahiko can't believe this dumbass.

"What about all that spiritual god shit?" he says. Nagato and Konan are sitting on tatami cushions and talking. Yahiko has flopped down on the pile near the window. "Come on, Nagato... you love that stuff."

"We can't worry about ghosts." Konan is saying. Her eyes are low and she's folded her hands in her lap like a little girl. "We have other problems."

"We have to let him go, then." Nagato says.

"Maybe he'd want that." Konan is acting nervous. Her way. Little twitches in her shoulders. She won't look up.

They have one of their silences. The ones where they both understand something, but damned if Yahiko can figure out what.

"I'll tell him..." Nagato says hesitantly.

As Konan nods. Twice. Shaky.

"...that we'll meet with him."

Yahiko blinks. "What?" He moves too suddenly and loses his balance.

"It's nothing." Nagato says as Konan watches the tatami scatter. "It's nothing."

"We have no choice." she says. Her face all tight and miserable.

A day later this asshole comes to visit them.

_____

There's lots of small time conmen in Amegakure. There are people who'd kill you for five dollars.

Yahiko's seen a lot of scams.

This guy is really fucking slick.

Says his name is Uchiha. Nice clothes. And he hides his face.

One little eye poking out. Yahiko wants to laugh, but.

That eye is like a fist. A senbon coming right at you.

"Guy's dangerous." Yahiko says to Konan. "You know that."

He keeps talking and these dumbasses don't listen.

He keeps talking.

He stops talking.

Uchiha comes to visit and it's like he never leaves.

_____

"Well, fuck." Yahiko says. Just to say something. He knew he'd end up talking to himself.

All that spiritual Buddhist hooey Nagato likes? It turns out to be real simple.

There's a hill.

Kind of like the flood plains all around Amegakure. It's not even a really big hill, Yahiko just can't see over it.

His parents are there.

Nagato and Konan are asleep and the rain is getting bad, it's all around Yahiko like a barred wall. He sits on the tatami and thinks about that hill.

"Not yet." he says.

He starts to notice things. Like what he can do at night.

______

He figured that Nagato would be easier. But instead, it's Konan.

Konan's dream.

She's dreaming of explosions. The ground shakes under Yahiko's feet.

Yahiko scoots under the concrete rubble. Sits down where she's hiding.

"I can't seem to fucking write." he tells her. "I can pick stuff up no problem. I can throw things. But I can't do the.. whaddya call it..." He waves his fingers. "Fine motor control."

There's chewed-up steel bars all through the concrete and they whine with each impact. Like a damn tuning fork.

"This Uchiha guy," he begins.

He hauls Konan into his arms because she's crying and crying.

He tries to talk but dirt and smoke just gets in his mouth.

______

And meanwhile, Uchiha's talking some shit.

Sitting in their living room like he owns the place.

Fucker practically has his feet up. He opens his mouth and all Yahiko hears is blah blah blah.

Yahiko makes bunny ears behind his head.

Nagato could at least smile.

Yahiko leaves rice and seaweed out on the kitchen table all subtle-like for Nagato.

But the guy is eating again. Yahiko just wishes it hadn't taken this Uchiha jackass to make it happen. He's eating and he's starting to dream again.

Nagato's dreams are like...

Yahiko tries once and can't find the exit.

Those mirrors where they reflect themselves.

Some crazy-ass genjutsu.

He puts all the pots and pans and dishes, all the chopsticks, all the teacups- everything!- onto the kitchen floor.

He goes downstairs and kicks the storage locker. That's when he notices that two others are full too.

He wants to throw that damn thing out the window! He takes the laundry hamper and puts all the dirty clothes in the bathtub. Takes all the origami paper. Takes every stick of furniture and turns it upside down.

Runs out of stuff to mess with, in fact. Finds all this crazy metal shit. Black and heavy and smells blood-sharp like iron. Dumps that onto the laundry.

Nothing works.

Yahiko knows what's going on.

"Fucking bitchass thief cheater!" he yells. "You fucking asshole, Nagato! I saved you! You and that damn mutt and I-"

And I-

"I was going to do it." he mutters. He sits on the windowsill and watches them clean up.

They have a guest coming.

______

The slimy bastard butters them up. Mostly with money.

Yahiko watches Nagato and Konan walk around their new apartment. It's some kind of penthouse.

Where the rich people live. The important people.

The rulers of the world.

He watches their eyes widen.

"I guess it's different when you still can feel hungry." he says. Feels like their defense lawyer.

But there's nothing to say.

Sighs and walks right out of that rich-ass building.

_______

Mr. Bullshit Uchiha is around a lot. So Yahiko tries to get out of the house.

There's no house anymore, actually. Nagato and Konan are moving.

This is the place where Yahiko lived with them.

"No more ghost problems." Uchiha smarms.

Yahiko figures he can break this motherfucker's face in the afterlife. There's gonna be a lineup, true. But Yahiko's reserved his ticket right now.

He gets out and the wind hits him and that hill calls to him.

Can see himself walking out of the city. No bags, nothing. Free as those birds circling in the sky.

But.

It truly pissed him off, dying like that. Jumped by trash on the foothills outside the city.

He thinks about himself on that hilltop, fighting like a madman with a jitte in either hand. Hands like those pressure bomb tags from the end of the war. Scary-fast and crushing. Killed how many that day? Twenty?

He talked a lot of shit, yeah. But he backed it up. Going down like a desperado, he thinks. Like in one of those foreign movies they never had the money for. Some crazy badass on a train. Fighting like a demon outta hell.

"Lookin' good." he tells himself in the mirror. "Not bad for a dead guy."

Better than his body now. All frozen and grey. Like bad meat. Freezerburn.

"You are fucking scaring me, man." he tells Nagato.

They've got his body out and Uchiha is cleaning knives like he's gonna do some butchering. Yahiko doesn't wanna look at that.

He's hovering around Nagato and for the first time he really feels like a ghost.

Losing his cool.

"I knew you when you were normal." he says. "You had a dog. And you didn't..."

He wants to gesture at everything around him.

Gets a grip.

"Just talking to myself, I guess." he says. Tries to laugh.

Yahiko thinks about that hill all the time now.

_____

Like when he used to steal and beg all day. Get tired and start to think about his bed. Whatever he had for a bed.

"Shit. Too deep for me." he says to Konan. Scratches the back of his head.

"No hard feelings." he says.

"Take care of her, okay?" He slaps Nagato on the back. "We'll have a drink after this shit is done."

Yahiko figures that won't be too long, not the way Nagato's going.

Can't find the words to tell Konan anything. Doesn't want anything bad to happen to her, that's all. Wishes he could take her back to that cave and keep her dry and safe.

Looks down at his feet. His toes. Shuffles them around a bit.

Doesn't know what to do with himself, really. It's not like he's got anything to pack.

_____

But it feels wrong to just do nothing. So he teases them instead.

They're running around doing Uchiha's shit now. Dressing really weird. They've still got the body out and Yahiko knows.

They're just waiting for it to thaw.

"You guys, you guuuuys." Yahiko singsongs as they dress, on opposite sides of the room. "You guys are all acting like you don't wanna be together! Bullshit."

There's an awkwardness there. But it's their problem now.

Konan zings Uchiha and Yahiko laughs appreciatively.

"Don't let the door hit ya where they split ya!" he yells after Uchiha.

Uchiha feeds them shit about the dream all the time now.

This time Yahiko has to laugh. Dreams! A bunch of fucked-up orphans with a dream. And himself the biggest dumbass of all!

That dream lighting a fire under his ass all his life. Big dreams. Too big for a ghost. His parents will understand.

They're dousing Yahiko's body with formaldehyde.

"You're gonna be so embarrassed when you're a ghost, man." he whispers to Nagato. Guy looks like a porcupine.

Hard to hug him with that much metal in his back, but Yahiko gives it a shot.

Hugs Konan too on his way out.

Gives Uchiha a good kick up the ass.

Does he give up? Nah.

Their dream eclipses his. Down under the crown of that hill like the setting sun.