Okay darlings, here's one of the things that's been keeping me busy. Next up should be another chapter of Parting of the Ways, and then Tell Everybody I'm on my way. I'm stepping into unfamilier territory here, but the idea has been pestering for AGES! Ciao!


Iruka's birthdays were always hectic. This was usually because Naruto insisted on organizing a party for him, which always morphed into two parties; one during the day, which was attended by students and exceedingly underage friends, and one at night, which the older Shinobi came to.

Today was Iruka's birthday. Naruto had not given him several days notice, so the teacher had no time to prepare for it. The party started at one o'clock. Thankfully, Naruto had thought ahead (for once), and the party was held in the classroom, rather than Iruka's apartment. (This meant that Iruka came back from his rather late lunch break to find decorations, presents, and a slightly burned birthday cake waiting for him in the room, accompanied by Naruto, Iruka's students, and enumerable others.) There followed the usual off-key rendition of 'Happy Birthday', a relatively quiet period of about ten minutes while the kids devoured their slice of cake, and then they began presenting their favorite sensei with gifts.

As usual, a large percentage of the gifts were stuffed animals. Mainly dolphins. Iruka had built an incredible collection over the handful of years he'd been teaching; what scared him was that he had yet to get two of the same plushie. Ever. Sweets and chocolate made up the majority of the other gifts. These Iruka was always happy to receive, seeing as he had quite a sweet tooth (which he openly denied). The remainder included books, artwork, a set of rubber shuriken (to throw at the class), and brightly colored chalk for the blackboard. By three, Iruka's students had left, and Naruto was cleaning up, assisted by Sakura and Sasuke, who he'd drafted. The blonde helped carry the gifts not intended for the classroom back to Iruka's apartment, then vanished. Iruka showered, sampled several of his sweet gifts, and then headed off to the Mission Room…

His apartment was loud and crowded when he got back. Iruka was greeted by Genma as he entered. The Jonin promptly announced that Iruka had arrived, then marched him into the living room, where a ridiculous number of Jonin and Chunin were gathered around a birthday cake. (This one wasn't burnt, but decorated with dolphins. Iruka was sure it was the work of a jutsu, or someone had previously unknown cake-decorating talents.) There was the usual cake induced silence, although the silence wasn't as absolute as with kids. And then Iruka was led to the couch, and opened gifts.

The array of gifts Iruka received was quite a bit more varied at the party attended by the adults, partially because they had a better idea of what Iruka would like, or what would earn the best blush.

Someone always asked Iruka why he didn't have a girlfriend yet, and he never had an answer. Iruka had gotten quite a few offers from various women, and from a few men, over the years. Granted, some of them were just joking, but Iruka turned them down all the same. This year however…things were going to be different. Very different.

Several hours later, when everyone had left, Iruka found an envelope on the kitchen counter. As it was addressed to him, he hopped up onto the counter and opened it. The note inside was written in a spidery hand he instantly recognized as belonging to Genma.

Iruka,

We thought long and hard about what to get you this year…and decided that you could use some company. It took some searching, but we're sure that you're going to like him. He's well behaved, house-trained, does what he's told, and will eat just about anything other than tempura. He is a bit on the big side, but we're sure you can handle him. We left him in his kennel, out on the front porch. Happy Birthday!

Genma, Raido, and Hayate

Iruka smiled. They must have gotten him a dog. He'd been considering getting a pet; now it seemed that he had one. He headed out the front door, and found the kennel just to the right of the door. Iruka whistled softly. It was big. He guessed at least a six feet by six feet base, and at least four feet tall. Just what kind of dog was it?

It looked like the entire front panel opened as a door, so Iruka undid the latch and peered into the dark interior. "Here boy." He called. There was a rustling sound, like cloth moving, and a long, pale figure stretched out. After a moment, it moved out of the kennel and stood up. Iruka stared.

"Kakashi?"

"Yo." Kakashi mumbled, standing up and stretching. Iruka gaped. Someone (it had actually been Hayate and Raido, but he didn't know that) had forced Kakashi out of his uniform and left him in his boxers (shuriken patterned) and a sleeveless black shirt. He'd never seen Kakashi bare so much skin. Ever.

"What are you--why are you--what's going on?"

"Simple. Happy Birthday. I'm yours. Genma's going to be by to explain the terms tomorrow, and I was asleep before you found the letter, so can we continue this in the morning?" Iruka took several minutes to try and process this, failed, and nodded dumbly. "Great. Goodnight." Kakashi vanished into his…kennel…and half-closed the door. Iruka stood and stared for a short while, then headed back inside in a daze.

This is just a dream…a really weird dream…It's okay, I'll just wake up, and none of this will have happened…I must have fallen asleep at the Mission Desk… Someone will wake me up any minute now…

Iruka continued to think this as he changed into pajamas and got into bed, and was still thinking it when he drifted off to sleep.

/Morning/ Iruka stumbled out of bed, opened the front door, and peeked outside. The kennel was still there, and he could just see Kakashi's leg from where he stood. Iruka squeaked and pulled back, but not before Kakashi noticed him.

"G'morning." He murmured, stretching in a decidedly feline way. Iruka responded in a slightly halting fashion, once again in a state of shock. Kakashi rolled his eyes and got to his feet, then carefully steered Iruka back into the house and into the kitchen. He got the teacher onto one of the stools, which sat behind the kitchen island, where he couldn't fall, and set about making coffee. After a few minutes, he pushed a steaming mug of coffee into Iruka's hands and hopped up to sit on the counter with his own. Iruka stared at the mug for a moment, as if he wasn't sure what to do with it. Then he sipped cautiously at the liquid, and gave a gentle sigh of relief. " A word of advice Iruka. Never check to make sure you weren't seeing things until after you've woken up. Ever."

"I'll remember that." Iruka mumbled. "Why are you here?"

"Why am I here in your kitchen, or what is the purpose of my being here in this life?"

"Kitchen."

"Because I thought your knees were going to give out."

"Why are you at my house at all?"

"I'm a birthday present. We generally stay at the home of the person we are presented to."

"But why are you my birthday present?" Kakashi made a face. Well…he made as much of a face as one can when wearing a mask.

"I lost a bet. I- here he comes." Iruka never figured out where Kakashi grabbed the collar and leash from, but when the door opened, the Jonin had a thick leather collar around his neck and the other end of the leash attached to it was tied to the leg of Iruka's stool. Kakashi was on the floor with his coffee, looking as though this was how he normally spent his mornings: tied to his student's former teacher's chair.

"Hey Iruka. Whatcha think of your present?" Iruka sighed, and let his eyes wander around the room as he tried to think up a response.

"I think- Oh my God! It's already 6:30!" Iruka yelled, eyes falling on the kitchen wall-clock. Genma never had another chance to speak; Iruka was off, scrambling around the apartment in a whirlwind of notebooks, paperwork, lesson plans, and other things. Calmly, Kakashi untied himself and made several quick batches of toast. He sandwiched peanut butter and strawberry slices he'd found in the fridge between two slices, applied various toast toppers to the other slices, and had them stacked up beside a bottle of milk in an old fashioned metal lunch-box just as Iruka had gotten to the door. He shoved the strawberry sandwich into Iruka's mouth while the teacher was putting his sandals on, and stacked the breakfast-box on top of Iruka's armful of things as the Chunin scrambled out the door. Genma watched in shocked disbelief as Kakashi stood in the doorway, waving merrily at Iruka as he frantically took to the rooftops in his rush to get to school. When he turned left to avoid the market, the silhouette of the rather odd sandwich Kakashi had made for him was clearly visible, still sticking out of his mouth.

/Two hours later/ Iruka's class was well underway, studying history, a subject they loathed. After unsticking his teeth from the peanut butter and strawberry sandwich, which turned out to be quite tasty, Iruka had steadily munched his way through the toast Kakashi had made for him. Mixed in among the normal sorts of toast toppings were others that weren't so commonplace, especially for being prepared in under ten minutes; Iruka's favorites included the cinnamon-and-honey, and the apple-butter. He wondered vaguely where the apple-butter had come from, but forgot about it. Somewhere between the first and second Hokage, a student from another class came in.

"Excuse me sensei."

"What is it?"

"There's someone who needs to talk to you in the office."

"Right now?"

"Yes sir."

"Alright, tell them I'll be there in a minute." Iruka turned back to the class, giving them strict orders to stay out of trouble while he was gone. Then, he left.

Genma was waiting for him in the office. "Hey Iruka!" He said, in a tone that Iruka classed as 'uncharacteristically perky'.

"Genma." He acknowledged. "What is it?"

"We need to discuss the…er…care of your present."

"Right. Genma, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" Genma flinched, and the other occupants of the office suddenly found a myriad of things to be doing. Iruka grabbed Genma by the sleeve and hauled him outside, onto the practice grounds, which were currently uninhabited. He was about to continue yelling when he saw who was tied to one of the trees.

"Yo."

"KAKASHI? GENMA, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!"

"Well, it's part of the deal."

"Deal?"

"Yeah…he lost a bet, and now he belongs to you until further notice."

"Until further notice?" Iruka hissed, using a tone of voice that made Genma want to curl up in a ball under his bed and never come out.

"If he deliberately breaks any of the rules, then the time is extended."

"Extended from what?"

"Er…four months…"

"Four…but that's-it's…he's…oh dear." Just like that, Iruka lost all his steam. He slumped down onto the grass, looking from Genma to Kakashi with a helpless expression. Then he sighed. "What are the rules?"

"What?"

"If he's going to honor this idiotic bet, I need to know the rules."

Oh. Uh…he either has to be within twenty feet of you, preferably on a leash, in the same room, or with you at your apartment at all times. The only exception is if he's running an errand for you, or on direct orders from the Hokage…" Genma trailed off, watching Iruka and preparing to defend himself.

"How do you propose I keep him in my classroom, pray tell?"

"Huh?"

"If he just lies around the classroom without a reasonable explanation, then my students will come up with all sorts of ridiculous and highly imaginative reasons. And they'll tell their parents, some of whom will undoubtedly assume that I'm having some sort of love affair with Kakashi!"

"Good point." Genma murmured. "I think this calls for a costume change."

"Costume change? …Oh dear."

/ 12:55pm/ Iruka sat at his desk, trying very hard to ignore the large, dark shape on the floor at the foot of his desk, and waiting for his students to get back from lunch. The large dark shape on the floor was Kakashi. His hitai-ate had been replaced with a black eye patch, for two reasons: Kakashi's 'hitai-ate-pulled-over-one-eye' style was too recognizable, and, for costume purposes, Kakashi's hitai-ate had been relocated to his right bicep. The rest of his clothes had changed too; He wore black cargo pants, loose and low slung, and a tight fitting dark green shirt, the sleeves of which he had torn off. The collar was still around his neck, though it was now attached to a heavy chain, with the other end securely fastened to Iruka's desk. Without the hitai-ate to keep it up, Kakashi's hair had assumed a messy arrangement over his eyes and cheekbones, and an improvised tattoo, created by illusion, drew attention to the left side of his neck and shoulder, and away from his lower face (devoid of mask).

"I hope you know what you're doing." Kakashi whispered.

"I'll be fine, aside from forever remembering today as the strangest and possibly most potentially embarrassing day of my life."

"Not ready?"

"No. You?"

"Of course not. But they don't need to know that."

"Gee, thanks. I feel so much better."

"That's what I'm here for."