Birthday Cake Magic
Disclaimer: I don't own DGM.
I know the title's cheesy. Bear with me. It was that or "Happy Birthday".
Apparently, decided this was posted on the 20th after all. The next morning, in fact. Anyway.
Allen stared at the somewhat damp, tan-coloured mess in front of him and sighed, letting his head fall into his hands.
This isn't working.
Between his fingers, he thought he saw it twitch. Gulping, he nudged the bowl away from him with one elbow. It probably wouldn't be doing that after being baked for half an hour, but he wasn't going to take any chances. He couldn't afford to.
"Allen?" The Exorcist turned around to meet the shaded eyes of Jeryy. "Is everything all right over there, honey?"
"Eh…" Allen nodded and plastered a fake smile on his face. "Everything's going perfectly!"
"Oooh, really?!" The chef clapped his hands together excitedly and, to Allen's horror, began to make his way over to where the boy was standing. "What step are you on?"
"I think I'm almost done… It's all right," Allen protested, "you don't have to-"
He was too late. Jeryy took one look at the concoction inside the bright yellow bowl and rushed to the sink. Allen couldn't help but cringe every time a noise drifted over from the befouled drain.
"It wasn't that bad," he murmured, "was it…?"
"I can't believe you'd ask someone to eat that!" Jeryy wailed in the brief moment before his stomach heaved yet again.
"I wasn't going to!" Allen pointed out defensively. "This is… I was going to try again…"
"And throw that out with the rest of the toxic wastes? It might eat them and mutate!"
Allen gave a nervous laugh and stole another peek at the tan lump. Jeryy was probably exaggerating about the mutating part, but there was definitely no way he could feed that to someone. He had honestly thought it was fine up until this point. It was the right colour for cake batter… except for the fact that he'd added six cups of cocoa. It was the right texture for cookie dough, except he wasn't making cookies. And how could he have expected that it would keep moving once he took his hands away?!
A snort came from a corner of the kitchen, and Allen shot it a sharp glare.
"It's bad enough that Jeryy has to see my humiliation," he muttered to himself, "but you too…?" He understood the reasons for the Inspector's presence, though. Still, he was allowed some moments of privacy. Why hadn't he insisted upon them right away? Of course anything he said now would only make him look like an overconfident and petty child!
Link sighed, shook his head, and wandered over to the younger boy, despite Allen's furious glare of warning. With a shrug, the white-haired boy stepped aside.
"You might want to wait until Jeryy-san's done at the sink," he said sarcastically.
Link just scowled at him and leaned over to look inside the bowl.
Fortunately for Allen, his only reaction was to turn faintly green.
"What recipe are you using?" the Inspector said in a somewhat strained voice.
Allen cocked his head at the older man, bemused. "Recipe?"
Link's jaw dropped. It took a few moments for him to compose himself and give an exasperated sigh.
"A recipe. You know, the ingredients and instructions to make… whatever it is you were making."
"I don't need one," Allen said petulantly. "I know how to bake a cake."
"Evidently not well enough." Link strode over to a small shelf on the far wall of the kitchen, and after a moment of staring at the coloured spines, plucked a book off the shelf.
Allen stared in disbelief as Link flipped through the pages and finally placed the open book down in front of him. "Okay…?"
"This one." Link tapped the page with one gloved finger. "It's a chocolate cake, isn't it?"
"How do you…?" Allen shook his head. "It's fine; I don't need this, Link!"
Link scoffed at the Exorcist. "You'll end up making that again without some help."
"What is this, anyway…" Allen reached for the edge of the book, peering underneath to look at the cover. A disgusted look suddenly appeared on his face and he dropped the cover, letting it slam against the counter. Unconsciously, he wiped his bare left hand on the burgundy apron he'd borrowed from Jeryy. "Him?!"
"Secretary Levellier happens to be quite the accomplished pastry chef," Link stated calmly. "His recipes are of the highest quality. I have read no better book."
"You read them for fun, don't you," Allen muttered, hesitantly pushing the recipe book away from him with one finger. "Isn't there anything better?"
"Try this." Jeryy appeared at Allen's other shoulder with a different book, also opened to a page with a chocolate cake recipe. Allen's mouth watered at the sketch on the opposite page; if he could bake something like that… "I haven't tried this one before, but I simply adore the authour. This'll be a pleasant surprise for her!"
"I don't know…" Allen gave Jeryy an apologetic look and lowered his eyes to the countertop. "I really wanted to do this on my own…"
"Allen-kun…" Jeryy sighed and patted Allen's shoulder gently. "I know how you feel, but using a recipe won't make it any less yours, right?"
"But…" Allen chewed his lower lip as his eyes darted from the mess of cake batter to Jerry's recipe to the Levellier book he hadn't quite been able to move out of his field of vision. "It's still…"
"You are a man," Jeryy exclaimed. "I bet you wouldn't ask for directions if you got lost, either, would you? Just like them…"
Allen flinched; did Jeryy know about his horrible sense of direction? That was too coincidental…
"Anyway," the Indian chef continued, "everyone uses recipes. It doesn't mean you didn't do all of the hard work or anything. Link here uses them-"
"He uses Levellier's," Allen commented, scowling at the recipe text. "Does that count?"
"-Lenalee uses them," Jeryy continued blithely, "I use-"
"Yes?" Jeryy raised an eyebrow at the boy.
"Lenalee uses them… you said?"
"Ah," Jeryy said with a satisfied smile, "and that makes all the difference?"
He'd expected the mention of Lenalee's name to change Allen's mind instantly. After all, she was the reason the boy had come here in the first place. Jeryy could still remember his surprise at seeing the door thrown open, the white-haired boy darting over to him with a panicked look on his face and practically begging Jeryy to let him use the kitchens for the day.
"You want to cook something?" the chef asked, still in disbelief. Allen nodded rapidly, eyes wide. "For yourself? Because we kitchen staff are very happy to keep cooking for you; it's so great to see someone appreciate our dishes as much as-"
"N-No, it's… It's not for me!" Allen scratched the back of his head as an embarrassed blush spread across his cheeks. "It's… well, you see, it's for…"
Jeryy directed a curious look at the blond man standing behind the Exorcist. Link merely shook his head.
"For who?" he finally asked when it became clear Allen was too shy to bring up the name on his own.
"It's… today is…" Allen shuffled his feet nervously, grey eyes fixated on the tiled kitchen floor. "Today…"
The lightbulb went off over Jeryy's head. Today, February 20, was…
"Oh…" He smiled slyly, making Allen's eyes widen even more. The boy swallowed nervously at that knowing gaze. "Today is Lenalee's birthday, isn't it?"
Allen hesitated, then nodded. "I don't have anything for her…"
"So you wanted to bake her something?"
Allen nodded again. "I know she loves chocolate cake…"
Jeryy practically squealed with excitement. What an adorable sight! So Allen wanted to bake a cake for the girl he was interested in, did he? It was all the man could do to refrain from cooing aloud at how romantic it was. Baking her favourite food, a chocolate cake! What woman wouldn't fall for him at the mere tale?
"F-Feel free to use anything… anything in this kitchen!" Jeryy bubbled excitedly, barely managing to contain his excitement as he showed Allen where the tools and ingredients were kept. "Call me if you need anything!"
Except Allen hadn't called him at all, even when it had become clear things had gone horribly wrong somewhere…
"Then…" Allen took the cookbook from Jeryy's hand and stared blankly at the page with the recipe written on it. "This will make a real cake, and not…" His eyes flickered over to the mess of cake batter again. "But what if I mess this up, too?"
"Then we'll help you." Jeryy winked at Link. The Inspector did not wink back, although he did give what might have passed for a nod. "We're both much more experienced at this."
"I want to do this on my own," Allen said, somewhat less confident than before.
"But you can't bake a cake for Lenalee from that."
"I know…" Allen was torn. On one hand, he wanted to bake a good birthday present for Lenalee; it may have been the thought that counted, but it was the taste (and appearance… actually, the cake as a whole) that would affect his pride and Lenalee's stomach. On the other hand, this was his present. If Jeryy and Link helped him, it wouldn't feel like his individual contribution to Lenalee. That shouldn't have mattered – they were all companions, if not friends in Link's case – but it did. It had to be his cake, and his only.
"We get it, we get it." Jeryy squeezed Allen's shoulder affectionately and withdrew the hand. "You want to bake the best cake for the girl you like, right? Can't have someone else do it and pretend it's yours!"
Allen nodded weakly. "What do I do?"
Two heads swivelled to look at Link in disbelief.
"Just start," Link repeated, "and see what happens."
"But what if I-" Allen began, but he was quickly interrupted by Jeryy.
"That's what we're here for!" the chef piped, exchanging a knowing look with Link. "When there's something you don't understand, or you're doing something wrong, we can advise you."
"You're the one baking the cake, though," Link added. "All on your own. We're not doing any work for you."
"The recipe will tell you everything you need to know." Jeryy beamed at the boy. "So what are you waiting for? Lenalee's going to be having her fabulous birthday dinner soon…"
Allen was silent for a few moments, staring at the cookbook and tracing the lines with one finger.
"Thank you," he finally said, loose bangs hiding his eyes yet unable to do the same for the gratitude and happiness in his voice. "Thank you, Jeryy-san, Link."
"You're welcome," Link said softly.
"Happy to help," Jeryy whispered, "for the greatest cause of all."
"Saving the world from akuma?" Allen quipped as he reached for the stump of butter left over from his last disastrous experiment.
"Can't do it without love, right?" Jeryy responded. He grasped the container of sugar, then quickly let it go and withdrew his hand.
Allen smiled at the comment and the gesture and took the sugar next. That's what I'm doing right now.
After he baked this cake for Lenalee, anyway. If he couldn't do this for her, how on earth was he supposed to save all of humanity and the akuma?
It didn't take long for Allen to fully appreciate the aid of the written recipe.
"So you use half a cup of cocoa?" he marvelled, carefully measuring the amount. "That doesn't seem like a lot to me…"
"It's enough," Link assured him without taking his eyes off the novel he was reading.
"But I'm using four times that amount of flour, and-"
"It's enough," Link repeated.
"Trust the recipe," Jeryy called from over his shoulder. Allen gave the Indian man's back a cautious glance and turned back to the cake.
"I must be doing this right," he said to himself. "Otherwise, Jeryy-san would be here right now, getting away from cleaning up the mess in the-"
"Talking about me?"
"Ack!" Allen nearly upset the bowl as he gave a start and spun around to see the sunglass-covered eyes peering at him over a wide smile. "Y-you surprised me, Jeryy-san…"
"I heard my name. Do you need anything, sweetie?"
Allen shook his head and put down the empty measuring cup. With a depressed sigh, Jeryy went back to the messy sink, leaving Allen to mix the dry ingredients on his own.
A few minutes later, the cake batter – looking like proper chocolate cake batter this time – was safely in the oven. Allen collapsed against the counters, wiping his damp forehead with the back of his forearm.
"That was easier than I thought," he said lightly, grinning.
"I'd be surprised if it wasn't," Link commented in a neutral tone, "what with Jeryy and I correcting you about mixing or ingredients every five seconds."
"Now, now," Jeryy scolded the young man, clicking his tongue. "It also helped that Allen here was so careful with measuring amounts. He did that without any need for corrections."
"It doesn't have to be perfectly level," Link reprimanded him.
"Yes it does," Allen insisted. "The recipe said so, and if I don't follow it, the cake will end up like-"
"I mean, you don't need to spend two whole minutes making sure it's perfectly flat and filling in all the little gaps and evening it out." Link rolled his eyes at the memory. "Well, at least it's done now."
"You can get back to your book now," Allen muttered, turning around to prop himself up on the countertop by his arms. "I saw the way you scowled every time you came over to correct me."
"I couldn't concentrate because of it!" Link retaliated. "I had to keep one eye on you constantly!"
"Isn't that your job, Inspector?!"
"Boys, boys…" Jerry beamed at them as he strutted over to the pair and lightly cuffed each of them across the back of the head. "In my kitchen, we don't fight. This is a happy place. Understand?"
Allen and Link muttered sullen apologies and went back to their respective jobs of waiting and reading, both while rubbing their heads and pouting.
Soon, the delightful smell of freshly baked cake wafted through the kitchens, intensifying as Allen removed the fully baked dessert from the oven. Everyone, even Link, couldn't help but inhale the scent deeply as it filled the room.
"I think it's okay," Allen said cheerfully as he placed the pan on top of some nearby hot pads.
"It smells great to us, Allen," Jeryy cooed reassuringly. "Now, what are you going to do about decorating it?"
"Decorating?" Allen's eyes nearly popped at the sudden realisation. "I hadn't thought of that…"
"You'll have to make the icing, then," Link pointed out. "And any additional decorations. Flowers?"
"Those always go well on cakes," Jeryy agreed.
"I don't think I can do that," Allen said shakily. "I can bake it, but… how do you make those? Candy flowers? Aren't those… you know… really hard?" His shoulders slumped dejectedly.
"Mm… well, that's true…" Jeryy tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Then forget about the flowers. Just do some nice chocolate icing, and we'll find another way to decorate it. What do you think, Allen?"
"If I can make the icing…"
"It's not difficult," Link said flatly.
"We could make little icing rosettes!" Jeryy clapped his hands excitedly. "They're always so pretty, and you only need the right tools-"
"What about fruit?" Allen suggested, hesitant to interrupt Jeryy in his glee.
Jeryy nodded slowly. "Fruit could work… And this is your cake, after all, Allen! You decide what you're going to decorate it with!"
"Fruit and…" Allen's eyes flickered around the kitchen. "Do we have any little pieces of chocolate, or… I've seen them on other cakes before…"
"Chocolate curls are too advanced for you to make," Jeryy said. "If you'd like, I could…"
"Thank you, but…" Allen smiled weakly. "Just the fruit, then. I'd like to use strawberries, if we have any…"
"I'll get them," Jeryy burst out, dashing for the fruit bowl near the kitchen doors. It took all his effort to refrain from making suggestions about how to display the strawberries. With their colour, and shape, they would make a perfect heart!
Icing proved to be a relatively simple thing to make, although it didn't turn out quite as perfect as the cake, to Allen's dismay. Spreading it was a different matter entirely. At one point, Jeryy had to physically restrain a short-tempered Link from storming over to Allen, grabbing the bowl, and doing the task himself.
Just as he'd done with the cake batter, Allen was being more cautious than usual when it came to the cake. That meant that every single bit of icing had to be perfectly spread over every part of the cake, which must be perfectly cut in half. Every hole must be filled, and the gap in the middle must appear not to exist. Nothing could be sticking up, out, or sunken in. Allen's cake for Lenalee must be perfect, or he would frown and spend a ridiculous amount of time fixing the mistake to make it seem as if it never existed.
By the time Allen stepped back with a satisfied smile an hour later, the icing was so evenly spread it looked more like plastic than something edible.
"Done," Allen breathed, wiping remnants of chocolate icing on his apron.
"It certainly looks perfect," Jeryy commented, eyes wide.
"I can see no flaws whatsoever," Link agreed, wearing a similar expression of shock.
"Now I just cut the strawberries, place them, and write Lenalee's name," Allen listed to himself. The two men could only nod in disbelief as he wandered over to where Jeryy had left the strawberries, humming a perky tune to himself.
"Inspector Link," Jeryy hissed in a loud whisper, "watch Allen very carefully. I'm worried he might cut himself and…" The chef's voice took on a dramatic edge. "Not even notice!"
"In this mood, he really might just wave it off as nothing," Link agreed, keeping one wary eye on the boy.
Fortunately, Allen did not receive any dire injuries beyond a paper cut from the edge of a strawberry leaf. By some miracle, not only did the cake and decorations turn out perfectly, Allen somehow managed to absentmindedly arrange the strawberry pieces into a heart above Lenalee's name (to Jeryy's delight). Only one problem remained…
"I have to move it onto a nice plate." Allen frowned at the cake, twisting his body to examine it from a variety of angles. "But I don't want to ruin anything…"
"This is why you do it before decorating," Link reminded him, sounding more than a little impatient.
"Well, I didn't, and now-"
Jeryy hummed to himself and promptly lifted the plate off the counter, placing it firmly in Allen's open hands from when he'd been gesturing at it moments earlier. "Just leave it, honey. It's not the plate that matters."
Allen struggled to form a protest, looking down at the plate, then up at Jeryy again, but finally gave up and sighed, too weary to think of doing all that work over again. "Are you sure?" he finally managed to ask. "This is just a regular plate, and it has icing all over it-"
"The cake looks… perfect, Allen. That's what's important, right?"
Allen nodded numbly.
"Good. Now go and give it to her." Jeryy patted Allen on the head, ruffling his hair slightly. The boy scrunched up his nose in a pout at the action, but quickly thanked the chef and, careful not to disturb the cake he held so steadily, wandered out of the kitchen to find Lenalee.
Link followed him, but turned around before he left the kitchen to give Jeryy an incredulous stare.
"He'll thank me for it later," the chef said confidently. With that, the two men left to do their respective jobs, thankful that the ordeal of watching Allen bake a cake was finally over.
Only one would have the pleasure of watching Allen's subsequent embarrassment when Lenalee actually received the cake.
Lenalee had already arrived in the cafeteria by the time Allen entered, Link just behind. Her back to the entrance, Lenalee didn't notice a thing until the plastic-like cake was carefully placed onto the table beside her and slid to its destination with one careful hand.
"What…" Lenalee glanced over her shoulder to find Allen smiling warmly at her, a dab of unnoticed icing on one cheek. "Allen-kun?"
"Happy birthday, Lenalee." Allen slid onto the bench next to her and nodded to the cake.
"For me?" she asked in disbelief. It was a silly question, but she honestly hadn't expected this. Allen buying her a cake, all right, that was possible, but that smear of icing suggested otherwise. "Did you make this, Allen-kun?!"
He nodded shyly, blushing slightly.
"Thank you…" Lenalee exhaled and shook her head, marvelling at the appearance. It certainly looked… well, perfect. Not necessarily edible, but it was clear Allen had put a lot of effort into making it look absolutely beautiful.
What is that heart about, though? Surely, he couldn't be-
"Sorry," Allen murmured, "I know I'm not very good at this…"
"No, it looks really great, Allen-kun!" she reassured him. "Um…" What do I say now? "Do you have a knife…?"
Allen's eyes widened and he suddenly stood up, dashing over to the counter where Jeryy stood. Unable to hold back her smile at Allen's earnest effort, Lenalee took a moment to look at the cake again. It was too perfect, she decided. Everything looked too neat, almost as if a machine had made it instead of a sixteen-year-old boy. A sixteen-year-old boy with relatively few cooking skills, no less.
But it had to be Allen's handiwork… and he wouldn't lie about something like that.
"Here," Allen gasped, dropping a knife, fork, and dessert plate onto the table in front of Lenalee. "Sorry… about…"
"Thanks," Lenalee murmured again, picking up the knife. "Is it all right if I cut it?" She lifted the utensil hesitantly; the cake looked almost too perfect to ruin!
Allen merely nodded, however, seemingly bemused at her confusion. "I made it for you," he responded, eyes flickering between the knife, the cake, and Lenalee – much prettier than the cake, to Allen's eyes. "I think it should taste all right… Link and Jeryy-san helped me avoid making mistakes, so don't worry about that!" He almost stumbled over the words in his rush to assure Lenalee of its edibility. When Allen realised how fast he had been speaking, his blush deepened.
Lenalee merely laughed softly and smiled. "I'm sure it will be delicious, Allen-kun," she told him, "if you put so much effort and care into it!"
"It's the thought that counts," Link muttered from the other side of Allen. The boy shot him a glare.
"I believe in Allen-kun," Lenalee said, just before plunging the knife into the cake. Allen's heart gave a flutter even as his precious gift was being destroyed.
How was it that love could make that, the destruction of his hard work and effort, seem nothing more than a mere thing to shrug off and forget about so easily? A miracle indeed…
Lenalee happily cut herself a moderately sized piece, avoiding the strawberry heart in her cutting; for some reason even she couldn't understand, she didn't want to break it just yet. Carefully, she slid it away from the rest of the cake and onto the awaiting plate.
It was the moment of truth. Taking a small piece of iced cake onto the fork, she brought it up to her mouth-
"It's really good!"
Allen released the breath he didn't know he'd been holding, shoulders sagging in relief. "It is?!"
Lenalee nodded, violet eyes wide as she unconsciously brought her free hand up to cover her open mouth. "It's delicious, Allen-kun!" she laughed, cutting off another piece of cake.
"That's…" Allen shook his head. "Really?!"
"It's amazing," Link commented. "You actually baked a good cake."
Allen nodded numbly, still wearing an expression of shock and disbelief. "That's great…"
"It looked too perfect to seem real," Lenalee babbled between bites of cake, "but it really is delicious! This is a great birthday present; thank you so much, Allen-kun!"
The boy simply blushed even deeper, surprise finally replaced with a very wide smile.
From the counter, Jeryy watched the scene with a fond expression. To his eyes, everything had turned out perfectly for Allen and his love. The joyous laughter echoing from the table, the smiles and blushes from the pair… everything looked just as it should for a new couple that he had a hand in creating. Oh, Komui would be unhappy, of course, but how could Jeryy not care about the blossoming of young love? It was just so fabulously adorable!
And any moment now, Lenalee would notice…
"Ah," Lenalee began, placing the fork down on the empty plate, "Allen-kun, what's that on your head?"
"Huh?" Allen looked upwards, then scrambled to feel the top of his head. "What…"
"It's… Wait," Lenalee told him, pulling his hand away as she stood up to see the strange item for herself. "It's… A bow?"
"A…" Allen quickly pulled free and grasped the bow in one bare hand. He pulled on it – and strands of his white hair came with it. Yelping, Allen released it and rubbed his head tenderly.
"It's stuck," Lenalee commented, pale fingers gently prying it from the boy's hair. "How did this get here, Allen-kun?"
"Jeryy put it there," Link said nonchalantly, ignoring the scene beside him.
"Jeryy-san?!" Allen blinked, puzzled. "But why would he do that?"
"Put a bow on you?" The Inspector shrugged. "Isn't it obvious?"
"But you put bows on gifts-"
The two other teenagers suddenly turned bright red. Lenalee released Allen and sat down, fingers clasping in her lap.
"Um…" Allen gulped, unsure how to improve the awkward mood that had fallen. The embarrassment was so powerful he couldn't even find it in him to become angry at Jeryy for causing it.
"I…" Lenalee began, violet eyes focused on her fingers, "I'm sorry, Allen-kun."
"For what?" Allen looked up at her, confused. "If it's about the cake-"
"N-No, it's not… See…" Lenalee fidgeted nervously. "I had originally thought that you'd given me the best birthday present I received today…"
Allen nodded slowly, the sides of his mouth quirking upwards in a soft smile at the thought.
"…but I can't say that anymore."
The white-haired boy cocked his head to the side, still smiling faintly.
"After all, Jeryy's just given me the opportunity for more cakes, hasn't he?"
Allen flushed a darker red than even the ripest strawberry.
No one noticed Jeryy's suggestive grin, only barely visible from where they were sitting.
"Enjoy your present, Lenalee darling," he whispered, smiling smugly. Hopefully, she'd get something better than the cake out of it.
It was probably a good idea to convince Komui to let her keep it, now. He'd never let a jealous older brother ruin such a darling girl's special day.
"Happy birthday, Lenalee," Jeryy whispered, leaving the still-blushing pair to their cake and flirtation under the temporarily watchful eyes of his co-conspirator, Link.
Lenalee had a very happy birthday that year… although the next year turned out to be even better…
Authour's Note: Happy birthday to Lenalee. I hope this fic was a sweet tribute to Allen Baking a Cake- er, that special day. And, you know, cute and all. Please review with any comments – any comments – and tell me how you liked this average piece of fluff. Thank you!
…And speaking of 'thank you', I just realised I could have done an equally great fic based on the song 'Happy Birthday' by NEWS. Argh. Maybe another time. Listen to that song, by the way. It's lovely, catchy, and very sweet.