Eric wasn't sure what he did to deserve this cruel and unusual punishment.
He made it very clear to Isabelle that he wanted nothing to do with the service. He just wanted to attend as a guest. He didn't even have the energy to pretend he wanted to be there more than he wanted to be asleep. He already had to hold in a few yawns while he spoke to certain people.
Yet, Izzy wouldn't stop relenting and pushing that damn cake on him.
It's a minute walk, she told him.
It'll be no problem, she said.
It was only from the kitchen to the reception area. And then, because some vengeful God has it out for Eric, out of nowhere, some bastard crashed into him and Eric's instincts kicked in immediately. He dropped the cake and grabbed the guy. Preserve flesh before anything. That was what he knew. Instincts told him that.
Then, this James person had the nerve to rudely interrupt Eric every time he tried to open his mouth. To think, all he was going to ask was if he was alright. Eric would do well never helping anyone, but his own kind ever again. James even managed to stick his nose into Eric's business, forcing himself into the situation.
Eric would be better off without him.
Following him only led Eric back into the kitchen. They were put in the corner, far away from the real action. Half a dozen men and women in white chef jackets barked orders and times over the sizzling pans and the hissing food. Steam clouds swelled into the air, threatening to brew a storm.
On their own cold clunky metal table, James laid all the cake ingredients with no real system. He'd mutter what he needed and then, he'd go fetch it. He wasn't a quiet person. Nothing about him was reserved. He had feathery brown hair that knew no obedience and freckles that splattered all over his skin. After abandoning his blazer, James rolled up his sleeves and revealed even more freckles. On his fingers, his ear lobes and even on the back of his neck, there were freckles.
A mess of freckles and a mess of words, thy name was James. Parts of his skin were stained, a little darker, a little browner that his natural paleness the way a tea bag stained a white shirt.
"This is ridiculous," Eric grumbled, but he still took off his blazer and rolled up his sleeves up too.
"I swear it'll work," James promised, but to Eric that meant little. James set a large metal bowl in the middle of the counter. He said, "just toss it all in."
Eric wouldn't budge. "Didn't you say Oracles weren't equipped to do real magic?"
"Yes, but!" He smiled and opened the egg carton. "This is just rudimentary stuff. I'll start." He dropped four eggs into the bowl, shell and all and Eric's stomach turned away in disgust. James nudged him, nodding to the milk. With another sigh, Eric poured the milk into the bowl, without the proper measurements. He grimaced, hating every bubble that rose inside the sloppy white mess.
A world without plans was a world of chaos. Wolves wouldn't hunt in packs. They'd run through dangerous territory and get themselves shot or skinned. It would be a world overrun by messy freckled children. At least James stopped talking so much. If he continued his relentless stream of words, Eric would be forced to throttle him.
"I'm not taking the fall if someone kicks the bucket from this," Eric pointed out, dropping the bars of white chocolate in the bowl.
James chuckled, "How noble..."
He may laugh, but Eric was entirely serious. He shook his head at the bowl as James poured far too much flour. It didn't make any sense. James dropped a whole tub of frosting too. Now what? Was he going to snap his fingers and a cake would magically appear? Magic was strange, unpredictable. Wizards and witches could conjure new things into the world out of nothing. A normal person made things with their own two hands, using their own sweat and blood. A wizard could blink and manage the same result. That kind of power put Eric on edge.
James took a cookie tray from a nearby shelf and sat it on top of the bowl, keeping his hand on top. Eric figured out his plan as soon as James slipped his hand underneath the bowl of ingredients.
"I'll do it," Eric grumbled, putting his hand down and nudging James out of the way.
"I got it," James insisted, but Eric couldn't trust him. He didn't want to deal with James spilling it all and then, they'd be forced to do this ridiculous charade all over again. No way. The sooner Eric finished this, the better. Eric ignored him and pushed a little harder.
Giving up, James raised his hands and let Eric slip his hand underneath the bowl. He flipped the bowl upside down perfectly, keeping everything inside and mess free. He reached to the side and grabbed the bag of sugar. He gently sat the bag on top to keep the bowl in place. Carefully, he raised his hands and stepped away.
"Okay Indiana Jones," James rolled his eyes. "I'm very impressed."
Eric frowned. He just wanted to help speed the process along. Sue him. He crossed his arms and shut his mouth, relieving himself of all expectancy to help. He motioned James to the bowl.