Sunlight is already pouring through the gaps in the blinds when Ashe wakes up that morning. According to the phone lying on his bedside table, it’s a little after 9:00 AM, Saturday, February 20th. Perfect. Felix, who is still asleep at the other end of their small double bed, probably won’t wake up until 11:00 on his own, which gives Ashe all the time he needs.
It’s easy for Ashe to slip out from under the covers and fold them back over where he’d been sleeping without disturbing his partner. Eli is curled up into a small Cheeto-colored ball at the foot of the bed, and although he blinks a few times as Ashe walks past, the cat doesn’t meow at Ashe for breakfast. He’d probably slunk in through the cat flap on their bedroom door sometime in the early morning, since he hadn’t been there when they’d gone to bed last night. The mound of sleek, short hair tempts Ashe, who pauses to give Eli a few head scratches before heading into the kitchen.
February 20th; Felix’s birthday. Ashe knows by now that Felix prefers to not do much in celebration, but it’s not for any good reason. Just a week earlier is Valentine’s Day, and because Felix insists on taking every chance he can to celebrate Ashe with gifts, Ashe always receives something on February 14th. He expects it now, after their years together, so he always plans something out for Felix in turn – who will then claim that he’s because he’s gotten a gift recently, he therefore doesn’t need any birthday presents.
He makes this argument. Every. Single. Year.
And yet, Ashe smiles as he pulls out the ingredients he’d bought last week while shopping. For all of Felix’s bluster, there’s nothing quite like the small upturn of his lips when Ashe showers him with affection. Or when his face flushes after Ashe says something sickly sweet, or when he nervously tries to repay Ashe’s kindness even though he doesn’t need to – there’s a dozen things Ashe loves to see in Felix and more.
With all the food he needs laid out on the kitchen island, Ashe begins mixing the dry ingredients for pancakes. He has the recipe practically memorized, although there’s a small notecard somewhere in a drawer with Lonato’s scribbled handwriting explaining the ‘family’ recipe. (In reality, it’s from Joy of Cooking, but Lonato had tweaked it during years of cooking, so it’s still a family recipe in its own way.) Before adding the wet ingredients, he sets some batter aside; he’ll need two types of batter thickness for pancake art.
Ashe can recall plenty of memories from his childhood, but only so many have Christophe in them. Family pancake mornings is one such memory, and Ashe can’t help but laugh as he recalls those times. On the days Lonato had enough time in the mornings, he would get up early and prepare mounds of pancake batter for his household-famous Mickey Mouse Pancakes: one big pancake blob, with two circular blobs added to make ears, and a small dab of batter added at the end as a nose. Everyone would get a plate of them, and Lonato would guide Ashe and the others through a very important ‘surgery’ with the help of their trusty assistant, Maple Syrup. Precise cuts were important in surgery, so Lonato sliced up everyone’s breakfast, and then they all ate together at the dining room table. Ashe and his younger siblings had milk, while Lonato and Christophe drank coffee. As the years went on, they had less time to eat together in the mornings, but it was a common birthday celebration.
However, Felix isn’t much of a Disney fan. He always has commentary for whatever show they watch, be it Cutthroat Kitchen or the latest superhero film, and Disney products are no exception. Every single medieval movie receives the same critique: an idealization of knighthood that needs a harsh dose of reality. So, instead of Mickey Mouse Pancakes, Ashe figures pancake art will earn Felix’s stamp of approval. Although Ashe isn’t much of an artist – the most he’s in charge of for his class is the macaroni ornament art kids do with their yearbook photos – he can at least draw a decent cartoon-style cat. Hopefully.
The griddle is hot now; he’s using the long one, since there’s quite a bit of batter to get through. Working on multiple arts would be too much for the time frame, so Ashe is planning for one artsy pancake atop a pleasant mound of usual fluffy goodness. He fills the small squeeze bottles with the two batters and begins an outline on one half of the griddle with the thicker batter, putting a general dollop on the other side. The back burner always seems to cook a little faster than the front one, so Ashe tries not to lose focus as he moves onto the second stage of Felix’s breakfast: scrambled eggs and bacon.
Just pancakes would definitely be too sweet, even though Felix refuses to double- or triple-soak pancakes in syrup like Ashe loves to. On most days, Felix ends up eating a granola bar before heading out, but whenever they eat out for breakfast, he orders savory meals like ham and eggs. Scrambled eggs are easier since Ashe doesn’t have to worry about preserving the yolk, and who doesn’t love a nice slice of fatty bacon?
At the sound of sizzling bacon, a black shape darts across the room, getting its fur on Ashe’s pajamas as it meows loudly and rubs at his shins. Macuil is even noisier than usual, since he can smell an unusual treat, and Ashe sighs, chopping off a small cooked piece of the bacon with the spatula.
“Here; now be quiet, you little motor engine.” Macuil stops meowing once he spots the treat, and instead rumbles loudly, making sure to lick Ashe’s hands completely clean of any grease. Satisfied, the cat flicks his tail and strolls off to who knows where in the apartment. Eli might be a saint, but Ashe swears that Macuil goes out of his way to get exactly into the places he’s not supposed to go.
The pancake art is filled in now, with bubbles rising on its surface, so Ashe flips it. “Not bad, not bad.” It looks like a cat, certainly, although not like any particular breed. At least it’ll be tasty. He continues bouncing between the pancakes, which are slowly stacking higher and higher on a plate, and the bacon, which is replaced by eggs once it finishes cooking. Re-using the bacon pan for the eggs lets the grease soak into them; it’s not healthy, but it’s certainly tasty.
By the time Ashe finishes cooking breakfast, it’s around 10:45. There hasn’t been any rustling from inside the bedroom, so Felix probably isn’t awake yet. The electric kettle, which Ashe had started up earlier, finally clicks to alert him that the water is boiled, and he grabs it to pour a mug of Four-Spice Blend tea. Then he sets the tray, balancing the items on it so its easy to carry, and heads to the bedroom.
He has to balance the tray on his knee, since he’d closed the door earlier, so although he knocks, Ashe opens the door without waiting for a response. Inside is Felix, shuffling amidst the sheets in his usual ‘I’m awake but I don’t want to get out from the covers’ pattern.
“Happy birthday, Felix. Are you hungry?” Felix’s face pops out – slightly confused, 100% cute – from the sheets and takes in the sight of Ashe already at his side.
“I don’t need so much food.” His voice is still heavy with sleep, so whatever bite Felix might normally inject instead falls flat.
“You just have to eat what you want, you know. I made it just for you; don’t you want some?” Ashe probably doesn’t have to add the question at the end; he already knows Felix will eat it happily no matter what he claims, but now Felix huffs (pouts) and scoots up in the bed, silently allowing Ashe to set down the tray in front of him.
“I’ll be out doing the dishes, so you can stay here and enjoy. I’ll come back in when you’re done to clean up the tray, so don’t even think about getting up, alright? Love you.” Ashe turns, thinking that he’ll let Felix enjoy a quiet morning in bed, but a gentle tug at the sleeve of his pajamas stops him.
It’s Felix, who frowns in a way that reads suspiciously bashful to Ashe. Felix doesn’t speak up immediately, but he holds firm to the sleeve, so Ashe waits patiently.
Finally, he is rewarded with a response. “If you’re going to make me breakfast for my birthday... Why bother celebrating it, if you aren’t here to celebrate with me?” Felix looks directly at him, and now Ashe is the one turning his gaze away, his face warming. No matter what Felix says to him, there’s times where his tender words feel as though there the first Ashe has ever heard, and they leave his heart fluttering.
“Okay, just let me grab some breakfast.” Felix nods, finally letting go; Ashe turns to quickly grab some fruits from the kitchen and put them in a bowl before returning. Apparently, Felix is waiting for him, because the food is still untouched. “You’d better eat before the food gets cold. Pancakes are best when they can melt the butter on top.”
“Sit first,” is all he gets in response, so Ashe slides back into his still-warm spot in the bed, scooting closer so he and Felix are hip-to-hip. Normally, Felix would wrap an arm around him, but he needs both hands to eat, so Ashe settles for snuggling up as much as he can.
Eli has been an angel this entire time, still on the bed but not swatting his paws at Felix’s meal. Macuil, however, knows that Felix isn’t certain that Ashe already fed him, and he runs in, meowing loudly for food as he jumps onto the bed. Felix sighs, a smile dancing on his lips, and gives the black cat a small piece of bacon and scrambled egg. But Ashe can already guess that he’ll give Eli a treat as well to be fair, and Felix unsurprisingly snaps his fingers to coax over the ginger cat.
“I already gave Macuil some, if you weren’t aware.”
“Of course I’m aware; he wouldn’t be Macuil if he didn’t vie for every morsel he can get.” So Felix lets Ashe give Eli a piece of bacon as well (since they are just and impartial kitty caretakers), and the two cats happily curl up on top of their owners’ feet afterwards – probably hoping for leftovers if they’re lucky.
“Hey.” Ashe feels warmth flooding his chest as he watches Felix eat breakfast.
“Yeah?” Felix decapitates the cat pancake, which is dripping with a decent helping of butter and the smallest amount of maple syrup.
“I love you.”
“You said that already.”
That gets Felix to turn his way, and Ashe breathes in as he sees the details of Felix’s face up close. Every sharp angle, every shadow, every inch is breathtakingly beautiful, he thinks, and he wonders how on Earth he’s so lucky to have found someone like Felix, who cares and loves so deeply, so fully.
“Well... I love you too.”
Ashe gently kisses Felix for that; his lips taste like bacon and maple syrup. Their noses brush against each other as Ashe pulls away, grinning.