Title: long-stemmed roses

A/N: For the Flowers of the Host Club zine! I got overly ambitious with this piece, and the idea was too big for the word count. I do like the idea still.

Summary: The Host Club loved playing games and spotting Haruhi with a dozen roses gave an obvious one: using all their tricks of the trade, could they flirt or con their way into getting one?

Hikaru was used to seeing strange sights on a daily basis. It was the selling point of their club, the ability to transport their guests to different worlds, change seasons, and perform magic. He had ridden elephants to school, created an indoor jungle, and discovered there were very few things that couldn't be done without money and an Ootari.

Very few. Sometimes he worried that world domination was the next logical step.

Either way, by this point, he didn't think he could be surprised anymore. Yet standing here in his classroom, staring at Haruhi's desk, he discovered that he was utterly wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. With ten minutes left before lunch ended, students slowly trickled into the classroom around him. The ordinary framing made the sight before him even more extraordinary. Rubbing his eyes, he asked, "You see it too, Kaoru?"

"I do. I don't believe it though." Next to him, Kaoru squeezed his eyes shut before slowly opening them again. When the sight before them didn't change, he pinched his cheek. "This isn't a dream."

Hikaru clicked his teeth. "That was the only explanation. Unless…" He paused dramatically and covered his mouth with a trembling hand. "It's an illness?"

Kaoru's eyes widened and he pressed his palm against his forehead. "Terminal?"

Grimly, he nodded. "Possibly."

"No!" Kaoru leaned against him, trembling. "It can't be—"

"You know I can hear you, right?" Haruhi cut in dryly, resting her cheek on her hand as she stared up at them. Seated at her desk, she gestured at the clock. "Don't you need to get to your seats?"

"And she's worried about us! Her!" Hikaru wiped a tearful eye. Leaning forward, he squeezed her shoulder and gave her a pitying smile. "You don't have to be so brave for us. You can let us know how you really feel."

"Trust me, I do." Haruhi sighed, running a hand through her hair. Giving a troubled sigh, she accepted her lot in life and gave in. "What are you talking about?"

Wearing matching identical grins, Hikaru and Kaoru pointed at the small bouquet of roses balanced precariously on the edge of her desk. At least a dozen long-stemmed red roses poked out of pink wrapping paper. "Who's that for?"

"None of your business," she answered immediately, adjusting the bouquet so it rested more securely on her desk. With a tender smile, she patted the bundle.

That abrupt brush off just made him more curious. Undeterred, Hikaru pressed, "Is it a lover?"

"No—"

With a teasing grin, Kaoru guessed, "Multiple lovers?"

"Definitely not." She massaged her forehead, her frown deepening. "I can barely handle you guys as it is." As though she just realized something, Haruhi froze and her skin paled.

"What's wrong?" Hikaru asked, as though he didn't know exactly what was on her mind. Or rather, the five somethings on her mind.

Slowly, like a broken robot, she turned to them. She looked both silly and cute and he stifled a laugh. "You're not going to tell Tamaki, are you?"

"Milord?" Kaoru gasped. "You're right, he certainly does have to know about this."

Haruhi looked at Hikaru pleadingly. Instantly, he felt his skin flush and she had to be doing it on purpose, right? She had to know what she did to him, right? Kaoru smirked at him from over her head and Hikaru sighed before relenting. "Well, maybe if we had a bribe…"

"A bribe?" Haruhi blinked before clapping her hands. "Got it." Gently, she extracted two roses from her bouquet and held them out. "Will this do?"

The oblivious smile on her face said it all: she had no idea what this looked like. Haruhi was a weapon just waiting to go off, with all of her natural flirting. Her rose dangled in front of him innocently. Well, a flower was a flower, and he could deal with it. In fact—as a thought struck him, he looked up and exchanged glances with his brother.

They could have a lot of fun with this.

"We'll take it."

-x-

If the sight earlier was an unexpected one, this next one was anything but. Kaoru stared blankly at the corner of the music room, where a dark gloom had set in. Tamaki was crouched in the corner, drawing circles on the ground with a finger. If he listened closely, Kaoru was certain he'd hear the soft mumbling of a lunatic.

He'd heard it often enough from his brother as Hikaru realized that his feelings might be more than a crush.

"What's wrong, milord?" Kaoru asked, dropping his school bag and trotting over to Tamaki's right.

"H-haruhi…" Tamaki mumbled, looking up all teary-eyed.

"What about her?" Hikaru asked, standing on his left.

"She's…she's…" Tamaki warbled, a fresh set of tears forming in his eyes. He wiped them with a sleeve and wailed, "She's abandoning me!"

They turned around to where Honey and Mori were sipping tea, looking utterly nonchalant. "Haruhi didn't come for lunch," Honey explained, looking a little disappointed himself.

"She's also not joining us today," Kyoya said and Kaoru had to fight the urge to jump. The shadow king had an alarming ability to disappear and suddenly reappear.

"WHAT?" Tamaki's jaw fell and an incoherent stream of sounds escaped his mouth.

Kaoru raised a brow. So she'd cleared it with Kyoya first, then. Judging by his expression, the slightly amused curl of his lips, he probably knew exactly what was going on. Hell, he probably knew about the flowers too. In that case, though, he wouldn't mind them having a little fun with it. Resting a hand on Tamaki's shoulder, he smiled gently. "Haruhi has a good reason."

"She does?" Tamaki's eyes grew wide and he looked up at him hopefully.

"A very good reason," Hikaru continued, grasping Tamaki's other shoulder.

As though rehearsed, they both added, "She's giving someone a bouquet of flowers."

Tamaki nodded. "Okay. That makes sense—" Cutting himself off, he looked from one twin to the other desperately. "What?"

"She got them at lunch," Hikaru mentioned idly.

Kaoru crossed his arms. "And she wouldn't tell us who they're for."

"WHAT?" Tamaki yelped, jumping to his feet. "DADDY DOESN'T APPROVE OF ANY BOYS."

Trying not to grin, Kaoru nodded to Hikaru. It'd only take one more push. One more really easy push. Together, they pulled out their roses. "She gave us one though."

Kaoru could hear the straw snapping. Tamaki moved from rage to jealousy. "She gave you flowers?" He twiddled his fingers. "She'd give me flowers too, right? As her daddy, I get one, right?"

"Of course, milord," Kaoru lied, patting him on the back.

"I want one too!" Honey swiped the last cookie and swung off his seat.

Kaoru exchanged a smirk with his brother. Sometimes, it was all too easy.

-x-

There were many ways a matter like this ought to be handled. Delicately, since Haruhi never liked it when they focused all of their attentions on her. Subtly, because she wasn't supposed to know what they were after. Individually, since they didn't want to overwhelm her.

Tamaki, of course, threw all of that out the window. The second he spotted Haruhi in the hallway, he charged like a bull in the china shop. "WHO IS HE?"

Reportedly, the desperate screech of a terrified not-father was heard all around the world.

As they were all good friends, the host club understood that this was who Tamaki was and that while he remained a dense brick about his feelings, this was the only way he could deal with the muddled emotions buried deep in his heart. There was something sad and poetic about it.

It was also terribly amusing to watch Haruhi assassinate him with her response and they didn't want to interfere with that at all.

-x-

Their school was a strange one, Honey knew. The seasons changed yet no one aged, the grounds had room for every type of scenery conceivable, and the hallways extended as long as narratively convenient. As long as he waited in a hallway, Haruhi had to go past him at some point.

Almost as though on cue, he heard a soft tapping as Haruhi walked down the hall. Clutching his Bun-Bun close, Honey skipped over to her, a bright smile on his face. "Haruhi!"

Surprised, Haruhi stopped in her tracks. "Honey?"

Standing in front of her, he clutched his rabbit and stared up with big, teary eyes. "You're not coming to the club today?"

"I…" Bingo. While Haruhi might not be all that feminine or tapped into her motherly instincts, Honey prided himself in being able to find even the most dormant of instincts and pry them out. Haruhi rubbed the back her neck, giving him an apologetic look. "I can't today."

"Oh, that's too bad." Honey sighed, rocking back and forth on his feet. He stared at the ground. "I had dessert ready and everything."

Haruhi's brow knit. Troubled, she scratched her cheek before giving up and sighing. "Maybe next time?"

"Yay." His expression brightened and he looked up at her once more. Pointing at her flowers, he asked, "What are those for?"

"It's nothing." Haruhi shrugged, straightening up now. "I have to get going, okay?"

No, this wasn't good. He hadn't gotten the flower yet. Pushing down his panic, he shot her a winning smile. "Could I smell them?"

"What?" Haruhi raised a brow.

"They must smell nice." Honey looked at her innocently, batting his eyes. "I can't?"

"Ugh. No, it's fine." Haruhi held out the roses delicately.

"Yay!" Honey leaned forward and pulled out a rose. There, mission accomplished. Smelling it, he grinned. "It's so sweet!"

-x-

"Alright, next is milord—" The twins stared at Tamaki, who was still sulking in a corner. "Nevermind, too much damage. Mori's up next!"

Mori stiffened. The club's activities were fine when they involved the other members, when it was a group thing and not an individual issue. Alone, he didn't know what he was supposed to do. Especially since he was hiding at an intersection, watching Haruhi walk down the hall. Behind him, the twins and Honey were gently egging him on, trying to get him to do something. Say something.

But what?

Mori didn't know the answer to that. He could only watch as Haruhi walked further away, cutting past another intersection. She looked to her left in surprise before disappearing around the bend. Immediately, the twins broke into laughter.

"That was even worse than milord!" Hikaru guffawed, hunched over as he laughed.

"He didn't even try!" Kaoru added, wiping the tears from his eyes. "He just watched her go!"

"Wait!" Honey peeked around the corner and gasped. "Look!"

Mori quickly rushed to the corner. As did the rest of the host club. Honestly, it was a miracle they hadn't been spotted before this point. "What?" he asked, steeling himself.

"Is that?" Kaoru asked, surprise colouring his tone.

Mori could only nod. Eagerly heading toward them were two small forest animals: a tanuki and a rooster. In their mouths was a single rose. The constantly fighting pair were working together for once.

A wave of love washed over him. He'd have to spoil them tonight.

-x-

Tamaki stared vacantly as he sat under the staircase. Honey had a rose. Mori had a rose. The twins had roses. Everyone but him had a rose. Well, him and Kyoya, but Kyoya didn't seem interested. It was unfair that Tamaki alone didn't have one. He was her father!

No, wait, that wasn't quite right. He wasn't here to get a rose, he was here to find out who she was meeting. Who exactly those flowers were for. There was the soft thud of footsteps and he looked up to spot Haruhi. Finally. "Haruhi," he called out, slowly getting up.

Haruhi groaned before turning to look at him. With a deadpan expression, she asked, "Yes?"

"Haruhi, I…I.." Tamaki stared at the roses in her hand. A pang hit his chest and he clutched his shirt. Was that the pain of fatherhood? It had to be, right? "Those roses…" Standing up, he staggered toward her. "Are they for someone important?"

Instantly, Tamaki turned red. No, that wasn't what he was supposed to ask. That wasn't it at all. Haruhi looked at him in surprise. Her expression softened and she nodded. "Yeah."

"Oh." Tamaki felt boneless and almost crumpled onto the ground.

"I should have realized what would happen the second the twins found out." Haruhi sighed, pulling out a rose. She sniffed it. "I can see why you use them, they're sweet." Holding out the rose, she smiled at him. "They suit you."

Tamaki blushed. "W-what?"

"Here, take it." Gently, she pushed it into his hand. "Now you can tell them to stop bullying you, alright?"

Bullying? No, that wasn't what this was about! Well, it did get him a rose from Haruhi, but that wasn't the point! Who were the roses for? That's what he had to ask. That's what—

When he looked up, Haruhi was already gone.

-x-

Kyoya chuckled as Haruhi hastily headed toward the entrance. She looked like a woman on a mission, which, he supposed, she was. After all, the entire host club had been blocking her exit until now, a dense obstacle course that maybe he should repeat for a future host club event. Leaning against the wall, he raised a brow. "You should have known this would happen."

"Yeah." Haruhi didn't look surprised to see him. He wasn't sure if that rankled him or not. "I should have just gotten these after school."

"Well, it was at a good discount." He adjusted his glasses. Digging into his pocket, he pulled out a small card. "You can come here for the pictures later. In exchange, I'll remove their proceeds from your debt."

"Business as usual, huh?" Haruhi rolled her eyes but accepted the card nonetheless. "Still, thanks for the flowers. Oh, and here." She pulled out a rose and held it out.

"What?" Perplexed, he looked from the rose to her.

Haruhi shrugged. "I already gave them to everyone else. It wouldn't be fair to leave you out."

-x-

"I'm home!" Haruhi called out, slipping off her shoes as she closed the door behind her.

Her father poked his head out of the kitchen. "Great." His smile grew brighter at the roses in her hand. "And you got them!"

"Yeah." Out of habit, she added dryly, "But it is a waste of money."

"Nonsense, things for your mother are never a waste of money." Ranka clicked his tongue, giving her a disapproving shake of his head.

She couldn't disagree with that entirely. If there was one thing her time with the host club had taught her, it was that there were times when money had to be spent. That there were things, people, where the expense was worth it.

And her mother was definitely one of them. Approaching her mother's altar, Haruhi gently placed the diminished bouquet of roses. "Happy birthday, mom."