Never enough. Never enough. It was never enough.
The icing in those tiny damn cans, so few on the shelf. Kiefer had hit thirteen stores in one day, and he still couldn't find enough. It was the same scenario played out in every location from Whole Foods to Joe's Groceries -- the wide-eyed housewives nervously directing him, dismissive "shoo" handwaves sending him off to the other end of the store. And why in the vanilla-scented, highly flammable shortening hell was the icing kept in the spice aisle? The mind that had created this system was poorly organized and weak. A solvable problem, but a problem for another day.
Today, all he could focus on was perfection of another sort. Delicious, crumby, paper-wrapped, delicate, and above all: Explosive.
Greg wasn't one for interfering with what Kiefer called his "process," even when the process looked just a teensy bit like madness. Mostly his job was to facilitate, to make things happen. To not use Google. To track down sources for the perfect shade of apocalyptic red food-safe dye and the largest culinary butane torch on the market. The dye had been relatively easy to find, just a few phone calls and a quick jaunt over the border to Canada. But the torch was a special order from a guy in Duluth who owned a junkyard and an arc welder and spoke in worrying tones about the coming endtimes, a time when there would be no cake.
Greg didn't dare tell that one what the massive torch was for. A man like that doesn't think that cupcakes are real cake. Hell, a man like that thought that anything less than top-shelf red velvet was child's play. But a man like that had never seen the blast radius caused by Kiefer's Dynamite Cupcakes™.*
The man building the superpowered butane torch had a Victory Garden out behind his junkyard that would have been the envy of all his neighbors, if they had been able see it through the cleverly draped camo netting. His strawberries were his most prized crop, with the best and plumpest reserved for use in his County Fair Blue Ribbon strawberry jam. If there was a secret to growing them, he was keeping mum about it, but he did speak of a deal he'd cut in a back alley in some South American country for a few precious seeds. Whatever their origin, the plants yielded the most enticing fruit Greg had ever seen. Perfectly red, almost apple-sized, the strawberries made his mouth water just to look at them.
Stealthily, when the man had gone off to load the custom torch into the back of Greg's latest SUV -- so far, he'd lost a Chevy Blazer, a Ford Explorer, and five and a half HumVees to Kiefer's unstable cupcake experimentation -- Greg slipped a few of the juicy, oversized berries into the pocket of his cargo pants. He'd take them home to Kiefer, and maybe the fresh red fruit would entice him into eating something healthy for a change. Greg always wanted to tell Kiefer that a man cannot live by cake alone, but Kiefer never asked his opinion. And never, ever came down from his sugar high.
Later, they were sitting together on the leather couches just outside the blast doors leading to the kitchen. It was their evening routine, wrapping up the final to-do items for the day. Greg sometimes put in a few orders for the storefront, but more than anything he just enjoyed the proximity to a Kiefer that wasn't a constant blur of motion. The warm lighting was flattering; you almost couldn't see the nitroglycerin flour residue on Kiefer's tattooed arms as he typed away. His face was intent; earnest. Beautiful. Greg loved this part. They would sit here for an hour or more while Kiefer made his notes for the day. Greg would pretend to work, and Kiefer would pretend he didn't notice Greg watching him.
Then: A sideways glance, a murmured phrase. Some excuse to announce the end of the working day. Maybe hunger would be the excuse tonight, Greg mused. He fantasized about slipping one of those succulent berries between Kiefer's lips. Watching the juice drip down his chin. Maybe they would go back into the kitchen, which tended to be a mixed blessing. On the good nights, Kiefer would let him wear his welding apron and called him "cupcake." On the bad nights, Greg would be hunched over lousy coffee in the waiting room at the ER, wondering how long Kiefer would be down for the count. As many close calls as they'd had, Kiefer had never, ever let Greg get hurt.
Tonight, Kiefer took him right on the couch. No whipped topping, no floury counter, no slipping on the padded mats in the kitchen. All thoughts of healthy food were driven from Greg's mind by the insistent pounding of Kiefer's hips, the frantic fingers just reaching him, expertly bringing him off. Fireworks in his mind, sweat on the sofa and in a thin layer all over Kiefer's body. They cried out together and collapsed on the couch, Greg on top of Kiefer as they caught their breath. After a few moments, mind humming with sweet relaxation, Greg let himself trace Kiefer's scars with his tongue, lazily tasting the salt that persisted no matter how much sugar that man consumed.
They didn't usually talk much afterward, so Greg was surprised when he felt the vibration through Kiefer's chest. "I've been thinking," Kiefer said.
"Mmm?" said Greg, his mind not quite stirring from its hazy bliss.
"Yeah. That I like this. Between us. It feels...safe."
Greg blinked. "Safe" was not a word Kiefer threw around casually. The internet wasn't safe, the warehouse was never secure enough, the baking business, the storefront, nothing was safe. He lifted his head. "So what are you saying?"
"Come here." Kiefer drew Greg's face close to his, and kissed him gently on the lips. He reached down beside the couch and ran his fingers underneath it, seeming to search for something. To Greg's surprise, it was a small, rectangular box covered in black velvet. His heart began pounding. Hard. He wasn't ready for this, Kiefer was his boss, he had an affinity for danger that Greg would never share, he was gorgeous and dangerous and so very, very many things that Greg was not.
Kiefer reached his arms around Greg to open the small box, manipulating it beforehand in a way that Greg couldn't quite see. Then he handed the box to Greg. Inside was a small piece of paper, folded in half.
"My secret recipe," Kiefer whispered. "I think it's time you have it."
Greg let out a breath he didn't even realize he'd been holding in. He smiled up at Kiefer and kissed him on the cheek. "You're right," he said simply. "Your secret is safe with me."
*$15 a dozen if you have your own insurance, $30 with damage / casualty rider included. Buy one dozen, get the second dozen half off during Hyperdemolition Hour, 3-6 PM weekdays. Nuclear option by special order; 24 hours advance notice required.