A/N: This is a collaboration with SkytheHawk (who wrote the first scene) and Eastern Rose (who wrote the second scene). I wrote the last two scenes. We wrote this for Essence of Gold's birthday.
Keiichiro opened the oven door and reached in to grab his baking cake. The red velvet batter had baked to perfection and it was ready to be iced as soon as it cooled off. Keiichiro put the steaming cake on a plate to cool and discarded its mould on the stove. He smiled as he started to work on the icing, beginning to hum a merry tune.
He heard the doors squeak open, and Retasu appeared in front of him, smiling politely. "Ohayo, Akasaka-san."
"Retasu, ohayo," Keiichiro greeted in return, an identical smile on his face. Retasu moved her ocean-coloured eyes to the cake. "Is that red velvet?"
"Hai. It's my own recipe," Keiichiro said, beginning to ice the cake. Retasu grinned. He was full of ideas to make baked goods even sweeter. She then gripped her apron, beginning to feel slightly flustered. "Ano, Akasaka-san...?" Keiichiro stopped icing and moved his eyes towards Retasu. Retasu smiled sheepishly, "do you mind if I take over for you?"
Keiichiro's eyes went wide. It was obvious nobody had asked him if they could help bake the cakes before. Why now? He brushed his bangs away from his eyes in the midst of mild confusion. "You want to bake, Retasu?"
Retasu nodded, "I think it would be a nice change of pace, ne?"
"But, why now?" A thought emerged from the back of Keiichiro's head. 'Does she know that today's my birthday?'He shook that thought from his head. The only person who knew it was his birthday was Ryou. But Retasu knew something that Keiichiro didn't. It involved Ichigo, Minto, Purin and Zakuro ganging up on Ryou and basically begging to get the details out of him. He gave in since the girls wouldn't shut up until he told them. Retasu would never admit it, but she would have done the same if she was in Ryou's place.
Keiichiro couldn't resist letting her help. He had to admit, having someone want to help him for once was nice. His sweet smile washed the tense atmosphere away and Retasu relaxed when he nodded. "Sure. I'd love to have some help, Retasu."
"Actually, I'd like to bake alone, Akasaka-san."
Keiichiro's eyes went wide all over again. He stared at a flushed Retasu, thinking he had heard her words wrong. "Wh-what?"
"Take a break, Akasaka-san," Retasu said, tugging on Keiichiro's arm. She smiled at his confusion. "You really shouldn't spend all day in here."
"Not another word, Akasaka-san," Retasu said, pushing him out of the kitchen. She grabbed the icing from his hand. "You need a break."
Retasu then shut the door in his face. Keiichiro had to blink. He was so confused. "What just happened?" A scraping sound entered his ears, and he saw that the other girls were cleaning up in the main room. Keiichiro was confused before, but now, he was downright clueless. Why were they cleaning up so early?
"Akasaka-oniichan, Masha detected an alien presence in the park na no da!" Purin said, running to the door in a hurry. Minto held her back before she could run off. "We're going to investigate, so we're closing early."
"Are you sure? I mean, I-"
"Retasu's staying here, so don't worry about it!" Ichigo shouted, running outside. The others followed her, leaving Keiichiro alone. He sighed, wondering why everyone had acted so distant. He decided to see if Ryou was upstairs, then began climbing up the stairs.
Ryou was indeed upstairs, and he was wrapping a present on his bed. He smiled as he taped another piece of wrapping paper onto another side of a cardboard box. The box held Keiichiro's present, and he hoped that he would enjoy it. He then heard his door open, and in an instant, he slipped it under his bed.
Ryou turned towards the door, hiding tape and scissors behind his back. "Hey, Keiichiro. What's up?"
"Well, the girls left because there was an alien alert, so the cafe's closed early."
Ryou raised a brow at first, but then realised it was the girls thinking fast. He nodded, smiling. "Alright. Thanks for telling me. I'll send them home if they come back for you."
"Thanks. I'll put the sign outside." Keiichiro shut the door, and Ryou breathed a sigh of relief. He put the stuff on his bed, then pulled the present out again.
"That was almost too close."
Ichigo, Minto, Purin and Zakuro went shopping for party decorations.
The Mews, apart from Retasu, walked into the Tokyo Shopping Centre with one mission in all of their minds: buy party decorations.
Purin was all ready to go to the fancy dress store if it wasn't for Zakuro making her wait until they had gotten the decorations first. This sent her into a mini sulk.
"No fair, na no da!"
"We can go in after." Zakuro promised.
Going into the nearest party shop they were greeted with many different coloured ribbons, cards, themes and banners.
"What theme should it be?" Ichigo asked the unspoken question after two minutes of silence.
"Cake theme, na no da!" Purin shouted happily.
"With a hint of brown." Minto nodded, pleased with her input.
With that settled, Purin darted off to go find some pretty cake-themed decorations. Zakuro looked at Ichigo and Minto coolly, then followed Purin. She left them to find the brown-themed stuff.
Most of the stuff Purin picked was too girly and so was put back after Zakuro took one look at it.
"Purin, Akasaka-san is a man and he wouldn't want to have pink and purple sparkly banners." She explained calmly.
"How about this one?" Purin held up a brown banner with cupcakes dotted all over.
"That one... is good." She smiled.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the store, Minto and Ichigo were arguing over what they should get.
Ichigo wanted to get the balloons that said 'Happy Birthday' as well as a brown and silver sash while Minto wanted the balloons that said 'Happy 34th Birthday' and some party poppers.
"We are not getting him them!" Ichigo exclaimed, "Akasaka-san doesn't want to be reminded of how old he is!"
"Why? It's the truth!" Protested Minto, "And it's better than what you picked!"
Ichigo scowled deeply and was about to reply before Zakuro cut her off.
"The Happy Birthday balloon, sash and party poppers."
"Yatta!" Ichigo cheered, pumping her fist into the air.
"But Oneesama!" Minto frowned.
"That is what we're getting."
Still frowning, Minto and the others went to pay for their decorations and then headed back to the café.
Retasu pressed her back against the door as it was shut in Keiichiro's face, for she feared that he would attempt to enter again. She bit her lip to stifle any noise that would escape her throat, listening to Keiichiro's footsteps as he walked away. When everything went quiet, Retasu sighed in relief. Keiichiro had gone.
She acknowledged a plain cake atop the counter immediately. She felt guilt-ridden having prevented Keiichiro from another masterpiece, but she would soon compensate for that. After all, Retasu possessed a tube of brown icing in her hand.
Retasu smirked, an expression that was often associated with evil. Only good could come from her intentions, however.
Retasu positioned the tube over Keiichiro's cake. She squeezed.
Long hours had deteriorated. The sun was sinking into the horizon as though gravity had impacted its weight. Keiichiro retreated to his bedroom earlier in the afternoon to sleep through a newly-acquired boredom, opening an opportunity for the other girls to sneak in undetected by him. With their animal reflexes they managed to climb the roof and swing down onto the balcony from there. Their stealth was perfect that Retasu almost dropped the two plates she was juggling.
"Ah!" Luckily she maintained her balance, setting the plates down on a table usually reserved for customers. Her face brightened as she recognised the intruders, adjusting her glasses shyly. Retasu smiled, extending her warmth. "Did you girls buy everything?"
Purin bobbed her head, throwing her braids back and forth recklessly. "Purin and her oneechans could have bought the whole shop if Minto-oneechan paid!"
"And she wouldn't because she has Cheapskate Syndrome…" Ichigo muttered cattily, gritting her teeth.
Minto lifted her gaze from Zakuro's sleek shoes, having noted the brand in her mind for future reference. She would refer to it when increasing her already large shoe collection. "Did you say something, vulgar peasant?"
Ichigo scowled. Zakuro stepped forward, intervening. "Where's Akasaka-san?"
"Upstairs asleep." Retasu answered. "Shirogane-san's been there too – all day."
Ichigo clasped her hands together as she hatched an idea. "Excellent. We don't have to ask Shirogane if we can decorate then!"
Purin grabbed a banner from the bag she carried, pulling it out. She dragged it through the air like a kite. "Decorate, no da!"
Minto smirked, producing a balloon that had not yet been inflated. "Let's do it."
Keiichiro awoke to a sound reminiscent of heated popcorn in the microwave. At first he believed it to be a wistful figment of his imagination, but then he was forced to address the possibility he was not dreaming.
Keiichiro blinked, sitting upright. Did he not place a sign outside of the café? Have the girls returned?"They must be celebrating another victory." He mumbled groggily, rubbing the drowsiness from his poignant eyes. After the grit had been eradicated he spared a glance at the neon clock pinned to his wall. It was six in the evening: tea time. He realised nothing had been done to commemorate his thirty-forth. Not even Ryou had bothered to wish him a good one, but that was understandable. Ryou treated his birthday like a normal day too.
Sighing, Keiichiro headed downstairs. There was a third 'pop' as he proceeded to the floor below, but once he reached the bottom there was dead silence. In fact, there was no light either; Keiichiro was temporarily blind. He wondered if the noise was a figment indeed.
Suddenly a candle was lit in the darkness. Keiichiro stared at the single flame for a second before the whole room lit up miraculously. His ears rang as everybody shouted at him in unison. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
Keiichiro was stunned, surveying his surroundings. A chocolate-coloured banner complimented by pink cupcakes was strewn across the ceiling, reading the default 'Happy Birthday' message. Balloons of a similar colour scheme occupied any empty space (meaning that they floated everywhere feasible) whereas the remnants of party poppers were scattered on the ground. At the heart of the room was a plate that hosted his unfinished cake, except Retasu had added the last touches on his behalf. Accompanying plates presented red velvet cupcakes that Retasu had created from scratch.
Keiichiro was snapped out of his trance when Purin fitted a sash on him. "Happy birthday, Akasaka-oniichan!" She wrapped her arms around him in a heartfelt hug.
Keiichiro chuckled, ruffling Purin's blonde bangs. "Thank you, Purin. Thank you all." He registered that somebody was absent. "Where's-"
"-Happy birthday, Keiichiro."
The girls were slightly sceptical to witness Ryou's entrance; nonetheless they could see he brought a present.
Ryou outstretched his arm to highlight it. "I'm sorry I didn't say it sooner."
Keiichiro accepted the nifty box into his palm. As he spoke his eyes never abandoned its toffee-coloured wrapping paper, as well as the yellow bow which flattered its overall appearance. "At least you said it, Ryou." He tugged at the bow, unfurling it. The wrapping paper detached itself naturally, and Keiichiro removed the box's lid himself.
Keiichiro discovered a simple rectangle of paper enclosed. Nevertheless it raised a smile to his face.
Keiichiro smiled at Ryou. "Thank you."
Ichigo tilted her head in the hope a fresh angle would provide more insight. "What's inside?"
Keiichiro's smile just stretched. "A backstage pass to my favourite cooking show."
"That's wonderful." Retasu praised.
Ryou was clearly bathing in the limelight that arrived with his good deed. Ichigo rolled her eyes. "Ego." She coughed.
Ryou's brow furrowed. "What was that?"
Retasu offered a slice of cake to the person whose birthday it was. "Here you go, Akasaka-san."
Keiichiro indulged in a bite. Red velvet was his favourite.