A Marvelous Mess

A shake.

"Mum."

"Mmmph."

Another shake. "Mum."

Alannah cracked one eye open and glared at Victoria. "What?"

Victoria gave her a guilty smile, and then began to speak rapidly. "Well, don't you remember that you promised Arianna that you would make her a cake for Fiona's birthday?" Alannah thought for a moment, and then nodded.

"Yes, but why are you waking me up at this ghastly hour?"

Vicki glanced down at the floor, scuffing her toes, and Alannah took a deep, calming breath. "Victoria, what is going on?"

At that moment there was a loud crash from the kitchen. Alannah bolted out of bed, throwing on her robe and heading for the kitchen at a dead run. She stopped dead, eyes widening in shock at the sight before her.

Her kitchen was in complete and total chaos. Thackery was hopping everywhere, singing to himself as he frantically mixed a bowl of cake batter. Tarrant and Mally were smashing berries and dumping them in another bowl, and Arianna was blending together berries and cream to make frosting. Seated on the floor, happily banging on an old pot was Fiona. Flour was everywhere, and Alannah groaned as she realized that bits of egg were smashed on the counter.

Alannah took a deep breath. "What the bloody 'ELL are you all doin?"

Everyone froze, and Tarrant turned to face her, his mad grin dying on his face as he noticed her furious expression. She glared at the interlopers in turn, and then faced her daughter, who had started to slink away. "Victoria Stayne, you get back here this minute!" Victoria slowly walked up to her, biting her lip. Alannah glared down at her. "You had better have a good explanation for this!"

"Ummm…."

Alannah crossed her arms. "Umm isn't good enough, young lady. Try again."

"I…I…"

Tarrant spoke up. "It's my fault, Alannah. Vicki told me that she was thinking about making a cake for Fiona, and I offered to give her a hand. Thackery and Mally were with me, and they offered to help as well. I didn't mean for things to get so out of hand."

Alannah looked down at Victoria. "Is that true?" She nodded, tears leaking from her eyes, and Alannah knelt in front of her. "Alright, then I forgive you. Tell you what. We'll get the kitchen cleaned up, and we'll all make the cake together. I'll even let you taste the frosting, alright?"

Victoria sniffled and nodded, and Alannah kissed her forehead. "Go wake your daddy, tell him there's cake to be made and frosting to sample." Victoria went to wake up Ilosovic, and Alannah stood, heading for the kitchen and scooping up a giggling and wriggling Fiona, who immediately began to play with her long hair. "Ari, if you're looking for good frosting berries I've got a box of squimberries in the pantry above you. So, what kind of cake are we making?"

Tarrant giggled. "One with lots of yummy frosting and fruit and one that's nice and sweet!"

Alannah laughed. "Lots of yummy frosting? Sounds like my kind of cake."

"Mine too."

Alannah turned to Ilosovic. "Morning, love."

He gave her a quick kiss. "Morning. Ummm…do I want to know what the Lunatic Trio is doing in our kitchen?" Alannah shook her head, and he nodded. "Right. Morning, Fiona."

Fiona gurgled happily at him, and he planted a soft kiss on her forehead before addressing Arianna. "You know, we still have Vicki's old playpen. If you like, I could get it for Fiona. It's still in decent shape."

Arianna nodded. "That would be wonderful, thank you. Oh, and Michael says thanks for the leave. We're planning to go to the White Sea for the weekend."

Stayne grinned. "No problem, you both need some time off."

After Stayne had pulled the playpen out of the closet and set it up, Alannah placed Fiona in it, making sure that she could still see all the activity that was going on. The three month old gazed wide eyed at the hustle and bustle happening in the kitchen.

Under Alannah's supervision, and after the kitchen had been restored to some semblance of order (Alannah threatened to make Thackery into stew if he dared to throw so much as a grain of salt), the making of the cake proceeded in a much more orderly fashion. Thackery and Mally layered Tarrant's batter with crushed berries, then Arianna spread her frosting on top of the berries. A second layer of batter, this one filled with whole whortleberries, was placed on top, then a second tier of frosting spread on. After that was done, Arianna popped the cake in the oven.

Alannah got down a large mixing bowl, then boxes of strawberries, whortleberries, squimberries, blueberries, raspberries, and one large purple plum berry. She dumped all the berries into the bowl, than began to squish them with her hands. "Tarrant, do me a favor and get me down the sugar and milk. Sugar's in the cupboard above you, milk is in the cold cupboard."

Ilosovic wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her throat. "What can I do to help?"

Alannah rolled her eyes. "For starters, you can start by behaving yourself. Then if you would kindly get down the small red box on the shelf above the stove I'd be most grateful."

Ilosovic pouted, but got the box down, frowning at the writing on it. "Cocoa?"

Alannah nodded, grinning. "Helen bought some by the last time she visited, and I thought it might be worth trying. It's chocolate, Ilosovic." She laughed as her husband's face lit up. He started to dump the entire can into the bowl, and she grabbed his wrist. "Not all of it. Pour in two big cupfuls, alright? That should make for a nice chocolately frosting. Tarrant, could you pour in a cup of milk and a cup of sugar? Thank you. Ari, I think Fiona's calling you."

Arianna went out to the living room and lifted a wailing Fiona out of the playpen. "You hungry, love?" Fiona gurgled, and Arianna sat on the couch and began to nurse, giggling as she watched her father start a frosting fight with Ilosovic.

Tarrant had scooped up a gob of frosting in his hand and was sneaking up on Ilosovic. Just as he was getting ready to pounce, Stayne turned, and Tarrant jumped, sending the frosting flying off his fingers to land with a splat on Ilosovic's patch. "Ooops."

Ilosovic wiped the frosting off his patch, nodding, then scooped some more out of the bowl and flung it at Tarrant, hitting him square in the face. "There, now we're even."

Thackery and Mally laughed, clapping, and Mally shouted encouragement to Tarrant. "Give 'im another blob o frosting, Hatta! Show 'im who's boss!"

Tarrant had scooped up another blob and was about to throw it when he noticed Alannah was glaring at him, her eyes deep red. He gulped and quickly stuffed his fingers in his mouth. Ilosovic noticed, and Tarrant cast a nervous glance in his direction.

Alannah's voice was calm as she berated her husband and friend. "If the two of yah wanted tae act like a bunch o' toves than I woulda made sure tae 'ave me wabe all set up. Naow, I'm only goin' tae say this one time. BEHAVE. Ye two ken what I'm sayin? ! I see either of ya start tae act up agin, and I'm force-feedin both of ya my Hardelberry Tonic!"

Ilosovic went paler than normal. "I'll behave."

Alannah grinned. "Good. Tarrant?" The Hatter nodded, and Alannah nodded. "Alright then, let me finish the frosting…Ilosovic get your fingers out of that bowl! Go…go sit in the living room, the both of you. Keep Ari and Fiona company."

Stayne and Tarrant slunk out to the living room, sitting on either side of Arianna. Tarrant was the first to speak. "So…what's her Hardelberry Tonic?"

Victoria, who was seated on the floor playing peek a boo with Fiona, glanced up, her face scrunched up in disgust. "Mum threatened you with Hardelberry Tonic?" Tarrant nodded, and Victoria shuddered. "Ewww."

"What is it?"

Ilosovic grimaced. "It's a tonic she made for the Bandersnatch. It's got rotten squimberries, three fennel leaves, boiled water, and grimacing ganderflower leaves. She made it once here and the whole house smelled like wet Bandersnatch for hours, and he doesn't smell that wonderful dry."

Tarrant shuddered in revulsion. "And…what does it taste like?"

Ilosovic spoke in a dry voice. "I've never asked, and I don't intend to find out. But Bandersnatch loves it."

Thackery had retrieved the cake from the oven, and the delicious smell of fruit wafted through the cottage. "Tha' looks wonderful, Alannah!"

Alannah grinned. "It does. Now all that's needed is the frosting." She spread the chocolate frosting on the cake, making sure it was nice and even, then stepped back to admire her handiwork. "I'd say this cake looks good enough to eat! I say we gather everyone together at the Windmill for a fine feast of cake and tea!"

Tarrant grinned. "A frabjous idea!"

Later that night, as Ilosovic and Alannah were cleaning up, he noticed that she hadn't removed the leftover frosting from the bowl. He also noticed that there was quite a bit left. "Alannah? What do you want to do with this frosting?"

She wrapped her arms around him from behind, leaning up to nip at his neck. "I want you to decorate me, of course. If you need me, I'll be in bed naked." She left, and after a few moments of complete incomprehension, Ilosovic grabbed the bowl and bolted for the bedroom.