Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)
****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.
Part Three last week. Read it here.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Ash placed Cael on his feet, letting him get dressed while he pulled out ingredients and placing them on the counter. Cake flour, sugar, large eggs at room temperature, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Unless he was on a double shift, he pretty much baked daily, so his pantry was well stocked. Baking helped relax him. He could get lost in the process, in the art of precision, the creation of something perfect. Few people knew he baked, and those who did know didn’t get it. They only saw what didn’t fit. The cakes, cookies, frosting. It didn’t fit with his nature.
Then there was the part where he rarely indulged in any pastries or sweet baked goods while he was out. People assumed he just didn’t like it, and although he didn’t necessarily have a sweet tooth, his not eating pastries or muffins or cakes had nothing to do with his sweet tooth or lack thereof, but because most often than not he was left disappointed. He could taste when too much sugar was added, or not enough. When someone substituted an ingredient, or altered a recipe. Unless a place had really great feedback, he didn’t bother.
As soon as all the ingredients were out, he readied the equipment and utensils. Once everything was ready, he turned to Cael with a smile. “Why don’t you show me how you do it, then we can see how it differs from how I make mine.”
Cael got to work. He turned on the oven and set it to the right temperature before sifting the cake flour and sugar. He combined the extracts and set them aside before beating the eggs whites, cream of tartar, and salt until he’d formed peaks. When it came time to add some of the sugar, Ash pinpointed where Cael was going wrong, but he let Cael continue, watching him. He beat the mixture in the bowl, added the flour mixture, and extracts, mixed it, and poured it into the angel food cake pan then set it in to bake. He turned to Ash and frowned.
“It’s not going to come out fluffy. I don’t know what I do wrong.”
Ash pulled him into his arms and kissed the top of his head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Now, do you want to watch me do mine?”
Ash started the same as Cael, but when it came time to add the sugar, he stopped and turned to Cael. This part was going to be tough for his swift little cheetah Therian. Cael was never still for very long. “There’s a couple of very important steps. Angel food cake is supposed to be very light and fluffy. To get that lightness, you need to be gentle, and take these steps slowly. You need to add the sugar slowly.” He demonstrated, and when it was time to add the cake flour, he paused again. “I like to fold in the flour mixture by hand, but you don’t need to do that. But you’ll still need to beat on low, and then add your flour and extracts in slowly, like this. Don’t forget to fold in the sides and the bottom.” Once that was done, he spooned the mixture into his angel food cake pan.
“Another important step is to try and remove air pockets.” He took a knife and moved it through the batter before placing the pan in the oven then setting the second timer.
“I was going too fast,” Cael said with a sigh.
“Yes.” They had some time before the cakes were done, so Ash put away the ingredients and started cleaning up with Cael’s help. “So what do you want to have with your cake? Strawberries and cream, or—”
“Aren’t you terrified?”
Ash wiped his hands on one of the kitchen towels before turning to Cael, the fear and heartache in his eyes had Ash crossing the distance between them, and drawing Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of Cael’s head.
“A lot more scares me than people realize, sweetheart. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“That something will happen to Sloane and you won’t be there.”
Ash closed his eyes, his cheek resting against the top of Cael’s head. When he spoke, his voice came out rough. “Of course I am.” He had every faith in Sloane and his abilities. There was no doubt in Ash’s mind that when Sloane was done with his training, and got his stupid color tie, that he’d be a force to be reckoned with, but that didn’t mean that Sloane didn’t need his family.
Taking Cael’s hand, Ash led him into the living room and the cozy loveseat Cael loved so much. It was usually where Ash found Cael when he got home from work, usually when they were on different shifts. Cael would be curled up in fluffy blankets and a hoard of pillows. Sometimes he’d be engrossed in one of his comic book movies, or binge watching a TV show. Sometimes he’d be fast asleep, his reader on his chest. Then there were times when he was feeling anxious and just needed space. The loveseat had become his safe place. Not that Cael didn’t feel safe in their apartment, but the chair was his. Ash never intruded, joining Cael only when he was asked.
“Sit with me?”
“Sure.” Thankfully the loveseat was extra wide as were the other two couches. He sat with his back against the armrest, his legs too long to stretch out, so he brought his knee up, his other leg on the floor until Cael had climbed up and snuggled against him, then he brought his leg up. Cael let out a heart-wrenching sigh.
“I know Dex is going to be given all this kickass training,” Cael said, his eyes closed. “He’s going to be some super-secret ninja agent, God help us all, but he’s still going to be Dex, which I’m really glad, but at the same time, it’s Dex. What of Sloane’s not around to keep him grounded? What if he ignores protocol? It won’t be like at the THIRDS where Sloane or my dad yell at him and put him on equipment duty for a month. He could be killed, or left trapped behind enemy lines, and TIN will go on as if he never existed.” Cael buried his face against Ash’s chest, and Ash held him close, rubbing circles around his back.
“Cael, look at me.”
Cael reluctantly did.
“This is all new. Hell, they haven’t even been officially sworn in, and I know you’re worried. I’m worried too, but we have to believe in them. Look at everything your brother’s been through. I have never met anyone more stubborn, more resilient than your brother.” Ash put his hand to Cael’s cheek. “Sweetheart, your brother died and came back to life. If there is anyone, anyone who is going to fight to stay alive with every fiber of his being, it’s going to be your brother.”
Final part next week on 3/30/17!
Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.