The scent of something spicy drifts through the air as I wake up. It wafts in from the kitchen where I can hear something sizzling on a pan followed by the movement of someone looking through cupboards.
So Duke decided to cook this morning.
I smile and heave myself out of bed. Dressing in the first thing I can find, Duke’s business shirt that he discarded last night, I slip out the door and into the kitchen.
The morning light is streaming in through the window casting a beautiful glow over the apartment. Rays of light and warmth illuminate the kitchen where Duke is preparing something. His back is to me, entirely concentrated on whatever he is cooking, and this gives me the perfect opportunity to strike.
While he is distracted adding a blend of spices and herbs to the dish, I wrap my arms around his waist and press a feather light kiss to his cheek.
“What’s cookin’ good lookin’?” I mumble out. My voice is still groggy from sleep and my hands come to rest around his frame.
Duke jolts in place, angles his head so he can see me from the corner of his eye, and smiles. In the streaming sunlight, I can see a fine mist of red dust across his features in a blush.
“Morning, Val,” he greets. He tilts his head further so that he can press a light kiss to my nose.
I blush in turn and move away from him. The dish on the stove sizzles and the aroma helps clear my head. I peer over it and see a mixture of vegetables and condiments.
“You cooked breakfast?” I move away and go to his fridge. It is stockpiled with ingredients from other countries. I move aside something worth more than the apartment I share with Robin to find an organic orange juice container.
Duke gives a final stir to the plate, turns off the stovetop, and goes to serve it. “I thought you’d want something more than takeout or cereal. My nutritionist recommends preparing a homemade meal to start the day.”
I snort as I pour myself a glass. “Of course you have a nutritionist. I’m not complaining, Duke, I love your cooking.”
“I would have asked you what you wanted me to make but you were out like a light all morning. I guess someone was exhausted,” Duke’s tone turns teasing. He slides a plate of whatever he was making at me.
I grab a fork and make a sound at the back of my throat in acknowledgement.
“Well between working in your office, chasing Optimus security around, and keeping you up at night, I don’t get much sleep.”
Duke coughs lightly, flustered at the implication in my words, and turns away so that I can’t see how he blushes. He takes the seat next to mine and twirls his fork around his own plate.
Before I can taste my dish, he lifts his fork up to my lips with a soft smile. Feeling more than a little shy, I accept his offering and open my mouth.
I don’t know what he’s prepared this morning, something foreign that tastes of expensive spices and healthy herbs, yet I know I’ve found my new favorite breakfast option. Perhaps I will have to sleep in from now on if it means getting more of Duke’s cooking.
“Do you like it?” Duke asks. He takes a bite of his own dish.
“It’s better than ramen,” I quip lightly. My fingers go for his hand and I hold it in mine. He intertwines our fingers together and sets our hands on the table top.
“Considering how often you eat that, I will consider it a compliment,” Duke quips back. He lifts my hand to his lips and presses a kiss against my fingers.
I playfully stick my tongue out. “Not my fault I’m too broke to afford imported ingredients like a certain someone I know. We can’t all cook five star meals, Duke, sometimes a cup of noodles is our only option.”
I wag my fork playfully at him and he moves forward stealing the food off of it. I laugh and shake my head before pressing another kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“Seriously, though, it’s really good. I’d ask you what it is but I doubt I’d be able to pronounce its name,” I close my eyes, “but I like your cooking.”
Duke presses his forehead to mine and gives me a shy Eskimo kiss in return. He isn’t usually this affectionate, often times he’s too shy and reserved, but today he is in a good mood. I don’t question it, grateful that I get to see this special side of him.
The tabloids often print stories of the elusive and secretive ChatSphere owner who created a Fortune500 company at such a young age. They portray him as this stoic and chilly ice sculpture who keeps others away and never lets anyone get too close, but they’re wrong.
Duke isn’t some cold and aloof businessman with no regards to anything but his wallet, he’s a shy and serious man who loves so much but struggles to express himself. A lifetime of being on his own has made him awkward with social interactions and clueless as to how to express himself, but he is slowly learning to open up. With every day, his ice walls come a little more down and his frosty exterior melts.
Moments like these, where he smiles at me and shows me how much he cares, warm me inside.
Duke’s fingers brush my cheek lightly. I am jolted out of my thoughts as he leans forward.
“What are you thinking of?” Duke mumbles.
I smile and take him in. The morning sunlight is streaming in through the windows and casting a soft halo across his platinum hair. His features are softened by a pink blush across his cheeks and his blue eyes are filled with warmth and affection. He looks as radiant and bright as the San Francisco morning. If I didn’t think he’d be bothered by it, I would call him beautiful. Instead, however, I smile at him and shake my head.
“Nothing. I just really love you,” I reply.
Duke offers me a smile of his own and presses a kiss to my forehead. When he draws back, he gives me a look of pure warmth and devotion.
“I love you too.”