"James thinks you should come out to my mum?" Eliza gasped.
William took a reviving bite of his chocolate bourbon before replying.
"He does. He has a point: if I can come out to her, I can tell anyone. I know she's your mum, but…"
"She's a dragon," Eliza finished. "You can say that to me."
It was their morning tea break and William had immediately told her everything. He needed her for his successful implementation as he had to know how her mother felt about homosexuals in advance. Luckily, he didn't even need to ask.
"I'm going to guess that you want me to tell you her opinion on gay matters."
"I don't know," Eliza replied with a shrug. "It's not really something she talks about. I think she mentioned last year when reading the newspaper that it was becoming very fashionable to be gay. I don't know if she's for or against it. I would have to directly ask her."
Was that a sign of success or failure?
That type of comment definitely sounded like her though. She clearly hadn't changed much since he'd lived with her.
"I would be very grateful if you asked her."
His cousin nodded enthusiastically.
"I need to help you in any way I can," she paused. "What if she hates gays?"
He had planned to tell her anyway, but the closer it loomed the less confident he was. He looked Eliza straight in the eye.
"I need to tell her."
Eliza raised her eyebrows. She didn't look confident in his success and he had to admit that he agreed with her. Aunt Victoria was very old fashioned. Those types of people tended not to be open to new ideas like accepting homosexuality.
"You can practise on my dad," she said and perked up. "He adores you and he won't care."
She was correct about that. Uncle Brian would be almost too easy to come out to in comparison. He had to admit that he needed all the practise and confidence building he could get.
"Did James say advise anything else?" she asked with a glance at the clock. "I need to get back to my office quite soon, I'm expecting a call."
"He says I should look more into my parents' death."
Eliza's eyes snapped back from the clock to him.
"I've always wondered if they killed themselves and left me here because they didn't want me," William admitted after a moment. "James seemed to know I felt like that."
"…William," Eliza said and burst into tears.
He awkwardly knocked everything over on his desk to get hold of the tissue box and pulled them all out together in a clump. William managed to separate one and handed it to Eliza.
"…Thanks," she said in between sobs. "I need a minute."
That minute was full of insecurity for William as he had no idea how to comfort her. Should he pat her head? Tell her it was okay?
"I knew you were greatly affected by their death, but I never imagined you felt that way," she said after recovering. "They didn't kill themselves. That's not right."
"I've come to realise that now," he said calmly and reached over his desk to give her a hug.
Eliza looked bewildered and then managed to smile.
"You gave me a hug; you must be doing better," she said and cried even harder.
William gave her another hug and that seemed to console her. He didn't speak for a while and she wiped her eyes.
"I never thought you would give me a hug," she explained and blew her nose. "I'm glad Noah has been able to help you so much."
William struggled to think of a reply to that and he remembered that she had something more important than his personal matters to worry about.
"Don't you have a phone call that you're waiting for?" he reminded her.
Eliza stood up hastily and rushed towards the door. Clearly it was an important phone call.
"We can talk about this later," she promised and ran down the corridor.
William began to tidy up his desk and gather up the tissues. It had certainly been an eventful half an hour. Eliza really did care for him. What would he do without her?
His phone buzzed during his lunch break. He paused eating his Noah-made lunch and found it was a call from his boyfriend.
"What cake shall I bring over tonight?" Noah enquired immediately.
William thought about it carefully. Because he had a pastry chef for a boyfriend and he worked in a professional kitchen, he could request anything. He also needed to keep him challenged and interested. The marble cake had almost been an insult to his abilities.
"A chocolate chiffon cake with mirror glaze?" he said after a moment of consideration.
A few years ago he had been briefly obsessed with watching mirror glaze cake videos and had wanted to try it for himself. Getting Noah to do it for him would be the next best thing. As for the chiffon cake, he selected it for its difficulty.
Noah said something inaudible and William frowned. He was sure it had been a swear word.
"...I might be a little late tonight," Noah said.
"Is it too difficult? You can skip the mirror glaze or do it on a regular cake," William suggested.
"No, my most important person suggested this so how can I skimp on it?" was Noah's reply. "I'd better go to get it started."
He rung off abruptly and William frowned. He'd made it too hard. What should he do? He just wanted to make it more fun for Noah.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice Katherine was in his office until she knocked on the open door.
He looked up sharply. "Yes?"
His secretary squinted at him. "I was going to ask if you had any tasks for me. Are you all right?"
William looked over his stack of paperwork and tried to get into the right mindset for work.
"…I don't think there's anything at the moment. Maybe you can ask the marketing department to write a report about how the latest issue occurred so we can avoid it happening again."
"I'll do that," she said and stayed in the doorway instead of leaving. "Did something happen?"
He stared at her blankly for a moment. How did he term 'I might have requested a cake that's too hard for my boyfriend to make'? He settled for a simpler wording.
"What would you do if you thought you might have unintentionally upset someone who's important to you?"
Katherine didn't pause to ask who or why before supplying her opinion.
"I would go to see them face-to-face as soon as possible. Your mind will keep stewing if you have to wait for a long time. You'll know if you really offended them as soon as you see them."
It was a valid suggestion. He just didn't have time to do that.
"Would you like to leave early today?" Katherine questioned. "You don't have any appointments and I can help you with some things."
Should he do that?
As Katherine said he didn't have any appointments so he wouldn't be cancelling on anyone. The paperwork didn't all have to be done by him either.
He made a decision.
"I would like to leave early. I'll sort the paperwork into things that have to go through me and ones that can be done by you."
Katherine smiled and sat down opposite him.
"I'll be glad to help."
Between them they managed to finish everything by four in the afternoon. By now William was feeling a little guilty for his hasty decision and was questioning himself. Katherine managed to allay most of his fears.
"What if someone really needs to see me when I'm not here?"
"I'll tell them you're indisposed," Katherine replied immediately. "They can go to Eliza."
"What if there's an emergency?"
"I'll phone you," she promised him. "Just leave and do what you have to do."
Noah read the recipe again and then again a minute later. He needed to do this right first time or he would have to start everything again. A mirror glaze was in his abilities.
He couldn't disappoint William.
It was just that he hadn't done a mirror glaze before. It wasn't exactly something he had learnt in his training, it was more instagram trend material and a dated one at that.
The chocolate chiffon cake had been a breeze to make and it was currently in the fridge as he needed it to be cold. Now all was left was the mirror glaze and he was running out of time.
The other kitchen staff had been entrusted with making the sweet treats for the pâtisserie. He'd left them very simple things to make because he didn't trust them to tackle anything too complex.
The manager poked his head in the door at around four o'clock.
"Are you okay? We need some more Danish pastries and there were on your list to make today."
Noah looked over at the kitchen staff and the nearest one to the door handed over a plate of Danish pastries. Dave looked them over and sighed. The wonky application of icing was obviously not impressing him.
"I'll let these pass because we're winding down and there's less customers. Whatever you're making had better be good."
Noah motioned him over and whispered in his ear.
"It's for William. He's asked for something very complicated."
Dave looked over his preparations and nodded.
"I won't say anything since it's for my boss. Just get it done and get baking some other things."
"I will," Noah promised. "I've just not made this before and baking for him still makes me feel nervous."
Dave poked his cheek.
"You two are adorable. You need to let people know sometime soon because they're missing out on cuteness."
The manger strolled back out the kitchen and Noah shook his head in wonderment. Who would have thought their biggest supporter would be his chain-smoking manager?
He prepared gelatine sheets and started work on the mirror glaze by heating double cream, sugar, cocoa powder and water. That was the easy part over. He added the gelatine sheets and checked the temperature of the glaze. It couldn't be over a certain temperature and he swore when he saw it was one degree over. He put the glaze into the fridge and waited an agonising five minutes for it to reach the right temperature.
Noah knew he was running out of time. He grabbed the cake out the fridge and placed it on a stand. It was time for the moment of truth. He lifted the measuring jug full of glaze and was about to pour it over the cake when someone spoke.
"You're supposed to have a crumb coat on the cake before applying the glaze."
He turned around to see William standing behind him. Noah took a moment to process a few things.
Firstly, William was actually there and not a figment of his imagination, he had actually forgotten to apply a crumb coat and William should have been at the office judging by the time the clock was showing.
"Were you worried about the quality of your cake?" he teased.
William looked around at the other kitchen staff and stepped closer.
"I was worried that I had asked too much of you."
Noah resisted the urge to kiss him. William had come all this way because he was worried about him. He settled for a pat on the shoulder and accidentally smudged some of the glaze on his shirt.
"It is a little challenging because I've never made it before," he admitted. "I like to do my best for you so I'm not complaining. In any case, I need to keep learning new techniques."
"So I haven't upset you?" William asked with a worried face.
"Not at all," Noah assured him. "Did you come all the way here for that?"
William nodded with a red face and Noah wanted to squeeze his cheeks so badly. He distracted himself by retrieving a container of frosting and applying a crumb coat.
"Thanks for noticing my mistake. I've been rushing."
His boyfriend peered into the jug containing the mirror glaze.
"It looks fine. I would eat it no matter how it turned out."
"I won't let you eat something inferior," Noah argued. "You're worth the extra effort."
William's face turned even redder and Noah smirked. He was glad he could still make William blush.
"Can I watch you apply the glaze?"
"You can watch me do anything," Noah replied and picked up the glaze again.
He poured it over the cake and watched it form a reflective layer over the cake. He would have preferred it to be shinier. William looked enthralled with the sight and he knew his boyfriend really didn't mind.
William stayed with him in the kitchen until it was closing time. Noah packed up the cake in a box and they left together with the other employees. He could see the other staff members giving William curious looks and was concerned about his boyfriend becoming anxious over the stares. Instead he was talking to Dave and cheerfully waved after the departing employees when everyone dispersed.
"I think you're doing a good job," he told him when everyone had gone.
William grinned at him and they walked down the street hand in hand.
Noah had a lot of hope that William would soon have the confidence to be honest about who he was and to not care what other people thought.
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