"Something smells good." Integra said, walking into the kitchen. She had been trapped behind her desk all day and wanted to go for a little walk. She found herself in the kitchen with Walter. He was wearing the black apron she remembered from her childhood. She smiled softly.
Walter smiled and started spooning the mixture in the green bowl before him into the little paper cups lining the muffin tin.
"I am glad that you think so." He said, looking up at her. She pulled up a seat at the counter and watched him as he put the tray into the oven.
As she caught the reflection of the woman in a man's suit in her butler's monocle, there was a brief flicker of sadness in her heart. She remembered a time before she had to be the strength of the organization. When she was allowed to be a child sometimes…
"Oh, Walter! That smells delicious!" Integra said, skipping into the kitchen, her little skirt flouncing around her socks. She smiled up at him through her glasses that made her look like a blonde owl. He chuckled.
"They're for you, little Miss." He said, smiling down at her, turning to the green bowl on the counter. She watched him dump a cup of flour into the big bowl. A small white cloud puffed up from the impact, dusting the black apron. He scowled down at it, an exaggerated gesture for her amusement.
"Can I help?" She asked eagerly. Walter looked at her for a moment.
"I am not sure how your father would respond to his daughter acting like kitchen help." He said, appraising the small girl before him.
"But Walter… PLEASE?" she begged, big blue eyes locking with his. He sighed, reaching around behind his back to untie the apron and drape it around her, tying it so that it covered her school uniform easily without dragging the floor. She giggled happily and twirled, looking down at the mass of black material that threatened to swallow her whole. Walter grabbed a chair from the adjacent dining room and brought it to the counter's edge, picking up the doll and standing her in the chair. He handed her a spoon and showed her how to stir as he added the milk and other ingredients. He looked at her angel's face and saw it aglow with childish glee. He smiled a small smile himself as they finished the batch and placed it in the oven.
"Now comes the boring part." He said conspiratorially, "The dreaded clean-up." He was smiling beneath the mask of false terror. Integra held up the spoon like a sword, the gooey mass of batter dripping down toward her small hand. She gave a small battle cry and threw the spoon into the sink, turning to smile at Walter who was laughing harder than he had in a long time.
"Exactly, little miss, although we should be gentler with the enemy. They are to be hostages, not casualties."
"Yes, sir!" She said, grabbing the big bowl and hopping out of the chair to take it to the sink, setting it gently but firmly into the deep basin, glaring at it until Walter came to turn the water on. He handed her a soapy dishrag after rinsing the bowl and showed her how to clean the dishes. Then, once they were washed and rinsed, showed her how to dry them and where they went, doing most of the work, amused at her eagerness.
"That was fun, Walter." She said, after all the dishes were done and put back in the cabinets and drawers. She started out after giving his apron back to him. He couldn't help but smile as he noticed it was a little worse for the wear, covered in batter and soapy water and dry ingredients. He tied it back on, untying the knot that he had put in the bottom to keep it shorter than her legs, watching the tie-dye pattern of batter unfold.
"Wait just one second, little miss." He said, pulling the pans out of the oven. She stopped and looked at him.
"Your reward?" he said, handing her a muffin on a little saucer. She hugged him. He wrapped his free arm around her tiny waist and smiled.
"Thank you, Walter." She said, taking the saucer and skipping off again. He laughed after her.
Integra stood from her seat at the counter and crossed to the butler's side, picking up the spoon and smiling at him. The reflection in the glass was still the woman-soldier in the man's suit, but the reflection in his eye was of the child she once was, and would always be to him.