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The Sugar Incident

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Umi dropped her two shopping bags to the floor the moment she hit the receiving hall. They had ended up being heavier than expected. Or rather, got heavier the longer she held them. A few swift walks and train rides between her house and Tokyo Tower definitely made anything feel like a considerable weight. She rolled her shoulders back and shook out her arms before picking them up and heading for the central tower residence level. Next time, she was going to bring the ingredients in multiple trips - or at least enlist some help carrying things.

Ascot was supposed to be meeting her in the little kitchen at the end of the corridor where her room was. That one had had an oven in it for over a year. (Since she'd decided she wanted to try baking something in the middle of the night on a long visit and bugged Clef into adding that little feature. He'd been grumpy about being dragged away from his work but had been obliging.) The controls were still a little foreign, and she needed to keep a close eye on things and the oven thermometer she'd fit in it, but it worked well enough.

"You did say chocolate, right?" she asked as she kicked the door open with her foot.

"Ah!" Ascot rushed forward to help her with the bags, taking them from her and setting them on the counter with a lot more care than she'd have done. "Yes. That's right. You're sure it's no trouble?"

"Well, I've already got the stuff here, so there's not much else to worry about," Umi said, tying her hair back. She set Ascot to work unloading the bags while she raided the kitchen cupboards for the other things they needed that didn't fit as easily into the bags - a large bowl and something like a whisk.

Most of the time, Umi baked things at home before bringing them to Cephiro, but Ascot had asked her to help him bake something and she wasn't going to refuse, especially because Ascot had been in a bit of a panic.

It was getting close to Autozam's visit to Cephiro, and every visit so far, Zazu had been bringing various treats from Autozam to share. Usually, it was some sort of alcohol and a fancy sort of snack to go with it. Once she was old enough, Umi had started partaking, but she wasn't always so sure the combinations worked as well as Zazu thought they did, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.

Ascot, however, didn't drink alcohol, and he didn't always like the snacks.

At some point, Zazu had started bringing him sweets. Each visit it was a different type. Usually, something that was the specialty of whatever place they'd most recently visited, and Ascot had said he wanted to reciprocate with something, only Cephiro didn't really do the sweets thing. Not the candy like things that Autozam had. There were a few sorts of sweet syrup-coated dried fruit things that Clef sometime ate that had Umi pulling faces, but that wasn't the same sort of thing.

It wasn't like Umi could give him something from Tokyo to pass on. Hikaru had already introduced all of them to most of the basic sweets from Tokyo about now. And it definitely wouldn't be something from Cephiro, like Ascot wanted.

Then again, a chocolate cake made from Japanese ingredients wasn't really from Cephiro either.

Which was why Ascot had wanted to help bake it. At the very least he would be part of the creation of it, even if it wasn't from his land in particular.

Umi was doing her best fighting back the impulse to pester Ascot about his intentions regarding Zazu. She was pretty sure it getting to something a bit more than just friendship, but she could be wrong. Only, there was something about the way Ascot lit up when he spoke about Zazu, or the happy little smile he had after he'd taken a call from the NSX - those were getting more and more frequent.

Ascot tended to keep his feelings quiet. Umi hoped it wasn't her fault for refusing him a few years ago. She'd not been as kind about it as she could have been, but she had been caught up in a muddle of her own, and it wasn't like she ever really thought before she spoke. It hadn't ruined their friendship at least, even if it had strained it for a few months there.

The cake part went well enough. Ascot had managed the measuring out of the flour and cocoa with little trouble once she'd shown him how. The eggs startled him a little - especially when one was already broken all over the carton from her dropping the bags earlier - but he managed those well too.

The trouble came after the cake was cooled.

When Umi asked Ascot to open the packet of icing sugar, it didn't open so much as explode into a white cloud of blinding sweetness.

Umi flailed from the room to escape taste of it in the air.

"I'm sorry," Ascot said, stumbling out after her, his face and robes coated in white. "It wasn't opening, so I - I just pulled it a little harder. Only a little bit."

"Don't worry about it," Umi reached up to wipe a little sugar off his nose, not that it helped much.

Ascot brushed a little off her shoulder, which did about as much good given she was nearly as coated as he was. When they met each other's eyes, they burst into giggles.

"It's in your hair," Umi laughed.

"Yours too." Ascot covered his mouth with his hand as he snorted back another laugh.

"We should probably go check the damage," Umi said after another fit of giggles.

Umi pushed the door open and looked inside. Sugar coated almost all the surfaces of the kitchen like a fine dusting of snow. What little remained in the package wasn't nearly enough to cover an entire cake in icing, even if they did more cocoa powder than sugar to make a bitter chocolate frosting. That was the only bag they had, and Cephiro's weird fruit juice sweeteners wouldn't work for the task. They were going to need a different plan.

Sending Ascot off to go and get some sort of fruit - puragu or uinka, preferably - Umi set about trying to clean up a bit of the mess. A damp cloth got her a long way before Ascot returned with an uinka. Umi traded him the cloth for the giant cherry-like fruit and found a chopping board and a knife.

The cake was still pretty enough when they were done. Two dark layers of rich chocolate fudge cake with a thick layer of the chocolate icing and thinly sliced uinka in the middle with a dusting of the last dredges of sugar over the top.

But most importantly, Zazu liked it.