The rose had not been there when he had gotten into the shower, that much Iruka knew.
It lay on the vanity, its long stem stretching across the bowl of the sink. Its petals were the palest yellow, shading to a warm pink near the tips. It was a perfectly innocent flower, except for the implication of how it got there. The fact that it was his favorite variety of rose didn't escape his notice either.
He knew Kakashi had left their shared apartment on a short mission just before daybreak. He vaguely remembered a gentle kiss on his forehead and a whispered Happy Birthday, love, but he had only been half-awake so maybe it was his imagination. The presence of the rose argued otherwise, of course. It would be just like Kakashi to have planned something before he left.
The idea that even from a distance his lover was determined to make his birthday special made Iruka smile. He lifted the rose to his face and breathed in that wondrous fragrance, his smile expanding into an all-out grin. This was definitely one of the better ways to start the day.
Once he was dressed he made his way into the kitchen for coffee and something that would qualify as breakfast. The second rose was on the counter top in front of the coffee maker. The third was in the refrigerator next to the carton of eggs. The fourth appeared in a puff of smoke when he opened a cabinet to look for a vase, and the fifth when he fed the cat. There was still a slight trace of chakra detectable when he touched them, and it was definitely Kakashi's. It tingled slightly, feeling almost as if Kakashi was rubbing the back of Iruka's hand with his thumb. A small shiver of desire raced across his skin before he gave his head a determined shake.
No more flowers appeared while he ate and then gathered the things he would need for the school day. He was stuffing the last pile of graded quizzes into his bag when he heard the pop of more chakra. And there was rose number six, its stem threaded through the zipper pull on his bag. He detoured away from the entrance hall to put it in the vase with the first five, then stopped in front of the hall mirror to tie up his hair before exiting the apartment.
Numbers seven and eight appeared as soon as he put his key in the lock, stuck to the door with some sort of chakra tape. A quick glance at his watch told him that going inside to add them to the rest might cause him to be late, so he simply pulled them off the door and started down the stairs. Arriving at the Academy with two roses in hand was sure to elicit questions from his colleagues and students, but that wasn't anything he hadn't dealt with before since getting involved with the famed Sharingan no Kakashi.
Arriving at the Academy with twelve roses in hand was not in his plans, but the damned things just kept appearing at his feet as he walked. Even when he took to the rooftops they followed him, but at least up there the entire ridiculous mess didn't attract as much notice as it had in the street. Once inside the Academy gate he used a special water jutsu his mother had taught him to make sure the stems stayed hydrated and made his way to his classroom. He gingerly slid the door open, then sighed in relief when no roses appeared. Not that he thought Kakashi was quite finished; counting the six at home there were only eighteen of them, and this was his twenty-fourth birthday. He figured he could count on a minimum of six more. And as pleased as he had been at first the regularity with which roses were popping into existence around him was starting to get a little annoying.
So the empty classroom was definitely what he wanted to see. That and the respite from gathering flowers was more than welcome. He crossed the room to his desk and hung the strap of his satchel over the back of the chair. He was on the verge of sitting down when he heard an unusual swishing sound coming from the hallway and turned to look. His jaw dropped.
Entering the room from the corridor, and falling in every spot that his feet had touched, were sprigs of lily of the valley. He laughed, a little shaky, and quickly formed the hand seals to teleport himself into the hallway. There were bunches of the tiny, white flowers spaced out down the hall, and making their way around the corner in the direction of the building's entrance. All of them a pace apart and alternating – left and right – just like the steps of someone walking. And when he glanced back into the classroom he saw two more sprigs, side by side, exactly where his feet had been before the teleportation jutsu.
He grinned. One had to give Kakashi credit for impressive creativity, if nothing else. He squatted down and began to collect the flowers that were within reach, reluctant to move his feet and cause more to appear. If this was going to go on all day there was a chance he might just get buried by the little blooms.
He looked up to see Keiko, the head teacher, come out of his classroom and stop at the floral display before him. Iruka's smile turned a little sheepish as he held up all the flowers in his hand. “It's my birthday,” he said by way of explanation.
Keiko didn't return the smile, just crossed his arms and looked stern. “I'm well aware that it's your birthday, sensei. I have access to your personnel file. I'm more interested in why your birthday is making my school look like a florist's shop.”
Iruka flushed. “I. . . Well, my -” He bit off what he was going to say, remembering that Keiko had been rather obvious in his disapproval of an Academy teacher involved in a relationship with someone of the same gender. Not that he had ever said anything out loud; he wasn't stupid enough to antagonize both Hatake Kakashi and the Godaime (who heartily approved of the relationship). But Iruka always made a point of not making bad situations worse, although he did inwardly admit that Keiko's stiff-necked attitude tempted him; just a little push with his power was all it would take. But he wasn't about to open that can of worms, so he left his sentence unfinished, knowing that the head teacher would figure it out on his own.
The silence between them grew more tense before Keiko finally shook his head. “Is this going to go on all day, sensei?” he asked with a sigh.
“I'm not sure,” Iruka replied, opting to hedge his bets. Knowing Kakashi as he did he expected that the real answer to that question should be an emphatic yes. Also that it wouldn't just be bunches of lily of the valley appearing wherever he stepped. Heaven only knew what else a crazy (and slightly lovesick) jounin might have planned.
Keiko sighed again and pushed his hair out of his face. “Keep yourself confined to you own classroom as best you can today,” he ordered. “I'll not have this – whatever it is – disrupting the entire Academy.” And with one last disgruntled glance at the corridor he retreated to his own classroom and slammed the door.
Iruka let out the breath he had been holding, relieved. Keiko would have been completely within his rights to insist that Iruka return home, but he hadn't. The uncharitable half of Iruka suspected that was because of the difficulty in getting a substitute to come in on such short notice, and he pushed that thought away. He had no doubt that he'd be able to keep the worst of the flowers within his classroom for the rest of the day, but there was still the mess in the corridor to fix. He briefly considered walking the walls and picking them up as he went, but suspected that Kakashi – brilliant and slightly sadistic genius that he was – would have planned for that. The mental image of lily of the valley sprouting across the walls in the wake of his steps immediately put paid to that possibility.
He was still crouched there, still thinking, when he heard the Academy's front door slam and a voice call out “Whoa!”. A voice that he immediately recognized and thanked the gods for.
“Gai-sensei?” he called out and was immeasurably pleased to see that bushy-browed face appear around the corner of the corridor. Gai immediately smiled.
“I see my esteemed rival has not neglected the birthday of his most precious person,” he commented with one of his sparkling grins. Iruka had to resist the urge to roll his eyes.
“No, he didn't forget, but in typical Kakashi fashion he may have gone a bit overboard.” He felt a fond smile curl his lips. “Could you collect all the flowers and bring them into the classroom? I'd help, but if I move my feet more will appear.”
Gai laughed then, and he disappeared to start gathering blooms from the front door. He was still laughing as he came around the corner. “This is a birthday present worthy of your own status as a champion prankster, Iruka-sensei,” he said.
Despite his frustration Iruka wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment, and once his birthday was over he planned to grill Kakashi on how, exactly, he had pulled it off. But for now he wanted to keep things as low-key as possible; under the radar, so to speak. He straightened up as Gai came closer and handed the other man the bunches he was clutching before teleporting back into the classroom.
The morning passed in a fairly uneventful fashion. He tried to keep as stationary as possible, but everything was working against him. Between the way they were getting him to walk around the classroom and the alacrity with which they picked up the flowers that materialized Iruka was beginning to suspect that his students were in on the whole thing. But their delighted surprise when rose number nineteen appeared the moment he set chalk to blackboard changed his mind about that, and he fought to keep his sensei-stern face intact.
Luckily the day's lesson was an easy one, mostly reviewing and revising in preparation for the upcoming exams. If it had required any more thought the entire situation would have fallen to pieces, but they made it through with minimal fuss. The only new thing was Iruka taking the time to teach the class the water jutsu for all of the flowers. He made a mental note of which students were actually able to perform it, intending to tell their parents that water affinity was a distinct possibility.
He was wiping down the blackboard, about to dismiss the class for lunch, when he felt a pulse of chakra and turned around. He caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and saw a furry tail disappear around the edge of the door. A bento box and roses twenty and twenty-one were on his desk, and every student in the room was grinning.
“Bisuke?” he called out.
The dog didn't re-appear, but Iruka could feel his presence in the corridor. Finally he spoke. “Yes boss?”
Iruka grinned at being addressed like that. All of the ninken – except Pakkun – called him boss whenever Kakashi wasn't around. It was certainly better than being referred to as the boss's bitch, even if that title was one of great respect in their minds. “You may as well stay, at least through lunch. You probably know that I can't walk around much -” A distinctly canine sound of amusement was heard. “- and I could use a little help keeping an eye on the class while they're outside.”
Bisuke came back in to the classroom. “Fair enough.” He lifted his head and looked at the children. “Well, what are you waiting for?” he asked, surprising all of them. “Lunch time! Let's march!”
Rose number twenty-two popped up like a jack-in-the-box when he opened his lunch.
Bisuke ended up staying with the class for the rest of the school day, making things a little easier on Iruka. Mainly his canine helper allowed him to stay in one spot for extended lengths of time, so the afternoon produced significantly fewer flowers than the morning had. Even so by the time the final bell rang every surface in the classroom was all but covered in lily of the valley, and Iruka was racking his brain to come up with a solution to the problem.
“We could take them over to the hospital, sensei,” Konohamaru suggested.
Iruka scowled. “You have detention, Konohamaru,” he declared as the boy's face fell. But then one corner of his mouth started to twitch. “But I may be willing to forgive that in exchange for a good deed.”
Konohamaru immediately brightened and ran into the hall to call back a few other volunteers. It took three trips but they were able to get the vast majority of the flowers delivered to the hospital, where they improved the outlook of nearly every patient. It made the few remaining bunches that Iruka needed to take home with him much easier to handle. He glanced down at Bisuke, who was sitting attentively at his feet.
“I'm not going to ask you to give anything away, but just answer one question.” He smiled when Bisuke looked at him, one ear cocked. “Should I teleport home?”
If a ninken could grin Bisuke definitely managed it. “That would probably be best, boss.” Then his face grew a little uncertain. “Just. . . Not directly inside.” And then he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
And Iruka was left wondering what would greet him when he went inside.
Heaven only knew how many of them, but the apartment certainly appeared to be packed, floor to ceiling. Thankfully that wasn't literally the case. There was just enough space between the inflated globes to move from the entryway to the kitchen. Just.
Iruka was sorely tempted to start throwing shuriken about the place to pop as many of the damned things as he could, but decided the chance of killing his cat made that plan untenable. He could hear Haineko's angry, grumbling mutters coming from the direction of the bedroom, and when she finally appeared in response to his chirruping greeting he had to bite back the urge to laugh. Making her way out of the bedroom and down the hall had obviously meant rubbing against a large number of balloons because nearly every strand of her fur was standing on end, ruffled up by the static electricity. The look in her amber eyes promised all sorts of insidious feline retribution against the one who had reduced her to that undignified state, and if he had been in a more charitable mood Iruka would have felt sorry for Kakashi. As it was he had every intention of aiding and abetting the cat.
He squatted down and extended a hand. “Come here, sweetheart,” he said in a coaxing voice. Haineko mewed once, sounding much less angry, and moved within range of Iruka's hands. He quickly stroked and smoothed all of her fur back down, smiling at the crackling sensation that flowed over his hands. She purred when he paid a little extra attention to the top of her head, and twisted sinuously through his hands, flicking her tail against his chin.
“Okay, okay, I get the hint,” Iruka laughed. He scratched at the base of her tail, smiling at the look of satisfaction on her whiskered face. Then he lightly closed one hand and stroked the entire length of her tail, smoothing that static-ruffled fur, earning himself an extra purr and the twenty-third rose of the day, which appeared as soon as his hand was free of the furry appendage.
He reached out to touch the flower's silky petals, and as expected felt the tingling traces of Kakashi's chakra. He reveled in the sensation for a brief moment before his smile turned slightly grim. “Damn you, Kakashi,” he whispered. “What have I told you about casting justsus on my cat?”
“That I'm never supposed to do it. Ever.”
Iruka froze on the spot. “You're back earlier than I expected,” he said. He reached out and carefully picked up the twenty-third rose, turning before rising to his feet. Kakashi stood just a few feet away, uniform mud-splattered and smelling of fresh air, forest, and honest sweat.
He was also holding rose number twenty-four in his hand.
Iruka stepped closer and plucked the flower from Kakashi's hand, adding it and the one he still held to the vase on the counter. And then, so quickly the motion was almost a blur, he plastered himself against his lover, tugged down the mask, and was kissing Kakashi as if his life depended on it.
“You crazy bastard,” he growled against the older man's mouth. “Do you know what you've done to me today? Every single flower had traces of your chakra on it, and every time I touched one of them it felt like your hands were on me! Touching me, teasing me!” He sucked in a breath. “I've been half-hard since I started collecting roses in the street!”
“That was part of the plan,” Kakashi muttered, lips pressed against the column of Iruka's neck.
Iruka made an inarticulate sound of pleasure deep in his throat and plunged his hands into the jounin's silver hair, tugging Kakashi's head up to claim his lips once again. Kakashi took advantage of the distraction of tangled lips and tongues to slide his hands down Iruka's back to cup his ass, lifting slightly. The chuunin responded by wrapping his legs around Kakashi's waist, eliciting a groan from the older man.
“Bed,” Kakashi gasped out against the younger man's mouth.
“Mmmm,” Iruka made a sound of agreement before his mouth was crushed against his lover's. His arms went around Kakashi and he reached into the weapons pouch on his belt, pulling free two handfuls of shuriken. Without missing a beat (or ending the passionate kiss) Iruka slung the shuriken into the hallway behind him, smiling when he heard the sound of multiple balloons popping.
Kakashi tore his mouth free when he heard the shuriken connecting with the walls and the bedroom door with resounding thuds. “You know, I could have just dispelled the damned balloons,” he said, breathless as he carried Iruka down the hall.
Iruka laughed and tightened his legs around his jounin. “And spoil my birthday? Never!”