It was, Q reflected, vaguely like a cake. Granted, he didn’t actually have a proper cake pan, but all he’d needed was a way to contain the batter for the application of the heat. It wasn’t as if the final shape mattered.
Chemically, it certainly qualified as a cake. Egg whites, sugar, flour. Mix ingredients in the proper configuration, apply heat, and the end result should have been cake.
Really, it wasn’t even meant to be a cake so much as a way to use up the growing collection of egg whites frozen into an ice cube tray in the freezer. Egg yolks, as it turned out, were a critical base for homemade ice cream, and as summer had approached, Q had discovered the delights of a ridiculously expensive, self-cooling, self-churning ice cream maker.
And that led to surplus egg whites, which led to a quick Google search on what the hell to do with them. Q had no idea what meringue was, beyond an ominously food-like substance, but angel food cake... Well, everyone knew angel food cake. Lighter-than-air sweetness that dissolved on the tongue... What about that wasn’t perfect?
Other than the end result.
He’d ended up baking the cake in a glass casserole because of a simple chain of logic. Angel food cake was cake. Cakes came in all shapes, including sheet cakes, which were square (or, well, rectangular). He didn’t have a proper cake pan, but he did have a casserole, primarily because Pyrex resisted heat and chemical contamination. A good wash and parchment paper liner fixed the issue of any cross-contamination as well as addressing Q’s deep mistrust of using butter or spray to grease a pan. In his opinion, that yielded a fried edge — not necessarily a bad thing in some cases, but definitely undesirable for the fluffy goodness that was a proper angel food cake.
Besides, he couldn’t quite recall which chemicals he’d used in this particular Pyrex dish. He’d sterilised the dish, but it was best not to take chances.
The end result, though, was decidedly not-quite-cake. In part, Q himself was at fault. The batter had overfilled the casserole, but thanks to the beaten egg whites, the batter was stiff enough that he’d been able to pile it up and trust the ends of the parchment paper to keep everything from mushrooming over and catching fire on the bottom of the oven. But that didn’t explain why it had deflated. Spectacularly. If anything, the cake should’ve been higher in the centre.
“My god. What have you done now?”
Q winced at James’ amused voice. “Cake.”
James was too kind to contradict the obviously false label. He walked up behind Q, wrapped an arm around his waist, and prodded cautiously at the surface of the cake with one finger.
To Q’s immense frustration, the cake behaved exactly as the recipe had predicted. It sprang lightly back under the touch. And it had pulled away from the casserole, though it had adhered to the parchment — something Q had previously thought impossible. It wasn’t quite golden brown but rather an ashy brown that felt borderline alarming, which prompted Q to take it out of the oven.
It had also been in for fifty minutes, rather than the specified forty to forty-five. Could overcooking cause a structural collapse?
Then James’ hands were on Q’s shoulders, gently turning him. When their eyes met, James asked, “Are you awake?”
“I’ve had coffee,” Q said in his own defence.
“That’s not a yes.” James pressed a kiss to Q’s lips, soft and gentle. “Were you awake when you started?”
Q was, as they’d both learned, a terrible liar. He couldn’t say yes or no, because he didn’t actually remember — which was probably answer enough.
James laughed softly and pulled Q into a hug. Criminally, Q only then noticed that James was wearing nothing but boxers. He rubbed his jaw against a strong, bare shoulder, allowing his eyes to close contentedly.
James held him, hands running up and down his spine. “It’s a lovely cake,” he said kindly.
Q huffed against James’ skin and buried his face in the crook of James’ neck. “It’s rubbish.”
“This is why we have icing. Enough icing and it’ll be perfect.”
“Enough icing and one bite will put us into a sugar coma,” Q said with an embarrassed laugh. “We can bin it.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.” James released Q and reached behind him to break off a piece of the cake with a sharp rattle of parchment paper. He brought the crumbling confection around and ate it in one bite.
Then, deliberately, he licked his fingers.
The last tattered remnants of sleepiness left Q’s mind as he stared at James’ mouth. James smiled that sly, knowing smile of his and reached back again. This time, he brought the bite of cake to Q’s lips.
“Taste,” he said, his voice a low, sensual purr.
Q didn’t think of protesting. He opened his mouth and took the morsel. One corner of his mind registered the taste — somewhat light and airy, a couple of crunchier bits at the edge — but most of him was lost in the sensation of James’ callused fingers and rough knuckles against his tongue and lips.
James let out a soft breath. When he took his fingers away, he leaned in for a lingering kiss. Then, softly, he asked, “Icing?”
“Bed,” Q countered, opening his eyes.
James grinned slyly. “The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”