"Was it really necessary to bring all this stuff?" Lovino ground out beneath the pile of boxes in his arms.
Feliciano shrugged apologetically and opened the door for his brother, quickly running back to his side to help steady the luggage down to the floor. "We've never been away from home so long, I didn't know what to bring!" He laughed sheepishly, carefully unstacking the boxes so he could read the labels on each one.
Lovino assisted his brother, pulling a box cutter out of his back pocket and precisely cutting the tape securing the nearest package. "Still, do you really need all these pictures?" The older Italian griped as he lay picture frame after picture frame onto the younger boy's desk.
"I don't want to forget things," Feliciano pouted, finally locating his sheets and fluffing them out before carefully adjusting them on the thin, bare mattress.
"What's there to forget, I thought the whole point of us coming here was because it was miserable at home." Lovino mumbled, moving on from the picture frames and busying himself with refolding clothes that had gotten wrinkled from the drive.
"What?" Feliciano cooed, laughing lightly when he turned from making his bed to see Lovino sloppily folding his undergarments. His older brother meant well but he really didn't have a touch when it came to domestic things. "I thought we came here because we love art," he whined, kneeling down next to the older boy and playfully swatting his hands away from their abysmal folding job.
Lovino scoffed and folded his arms across his chest, leaning his back against the side of the bed while he looked around the small dorm. It wasn't a big space, but it was free and it allowed him to live away from his guardian, so for that he was grateful. "Maybe that's why you came, I don't care that much about art, I just do it to pass the time," he scowled before straightening back up to continue opening boxes.
Lovino's side of the room came together quickly, unlike his brother he didn't have any objects he was particularly nostalgic over. He preferred things uncluttered and simple, not bothering over extraneous details like dust ruffles or photographs. "We should probably head to the studio, orientation should be starting soon," Lovino sighed, grabbing the corner of his plain brown quilt and tugging it in an effort to remove some of the wrinkles. No matter how hard he tried he never made the bed look quite as nice as his brother.
"But I'm not done," Feliciano whined, he had been fretting over the arrangement of pictures on his desk for the past thirty minutes and was currently standing with his hip cocked to the side as he studied his handiwork.
Lovino sighed and grabbed his brother by his elbow, dragging him to the door. "We can finish tonight, is it really that important?" He growled, growing irritated at his brother's perfectionistic tendencies.
The italians trudged the short walk to the studios. While living in a dorm was neither boys idea of comfortable, both had to admit that the close proximity to their work place was extremely ideal. Lovino felt his body tensing as they neared the entrance of the large building and entered the long brick corridor lined with beautiful pieces of art. The older Italian stared wide-eyed at the paintings, drawings and prints, all marked as student work but seeming to be of a much higher caliber. He had always considered himself a slightly above average artist, even if he didn't come close to his brother's skill level, but seeing the work deemed only good enough to grace the hallway, he felt suddenly incredibly inadequate.
"Isn't it so nice to be surrounded by such beautiful work, Lovi!" Feliciano sighed happily. Lovino glanced at his contented brother and felt a surge of jealousy. How could he feel so totally confident and relaxed?
"Don't call me that, bastard," Lovino quipped back, trying to keep up a semblance of cockiness. The older Italian started to focus on the slap of his feet on the hard linoleum, anything to calm his nerves, "do you remember where they told us the office would be?" Lovino asked as they neared the end of the corridor.
"Ah, maybe it's on the second floor, ve~" Feliciano scratched his head in confusion and Lovino sighed. He should've known his air headed brother hadn't read the student manual. Of course, he hadn't either, but he thought he possessed more common sense than his brother and thus, wouldn't need to read it.
"Well, let's try it I guess," Lovino mumbled, clomping back to where he thought he had seen a stairwell. After what seemed like an hour of roaming around the hallways of the needlessly complicated building, the brothers made their way to the second floor. Lovino was immediately assaulted by the familiar scent of ink and mineral spirits, "this must be where the printmaking studio is," he mused out loud. Feliciano nodded, clearly uninterested as they passed through yet another corridor that ended in a glass wall with desks and computers visible behind it.
"We found it!" Feliciano cheered happily, "aren't you excited, Lovi, we're starting a new chapter of our lives!"
Lovino just rolled his eyes and scoffed, he fixed his face with a scowl to hide the nerves coursing their way through his body. The truth was, when his brother had been offered a scholarship for art school he had panicked. He didn't want to be left alone, especially not with their guardian Roderick. The man was not very good at hiding the fact that he saw the older Italian as little more than a nuisance. So despite the fact that Lovino had little confidence in his skills and doubted if he even wanted to pursue art, he had applied for an assistantship to pay for his own way through school. If he was accepted at least he would be with his brother, he reasoned, and he was already miserable in Austria so if he didn't enjoy art school his situation would be no different. Lovino couldn't help but note when he found he had been admitted that he felt a small surge of happiness. He had quickly squashed it though, if his life had taught him anything it was to be wary of happiness. It was too easily taken away.
Lovino reached a hand out for the door when the brothers finally approached the office, he lifted a fist up to knock, only to let it hang in the air in hesitation. "Ve~ what's wrong brother?" Feliciano smiled lightly, afraid his ill-tempered brother was about to go off on one of his rants.
The older Italian had just opened his mouth to reply, stepping back in surprise when the door suddenly swung open. "Ah, are you two by any chance the Vargases?" A young blonde man asked, leaning his body against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest and a cocky smile plastered on his face.
"Yes, I'm Feliciano Vargas, nice to meet you!" The younger boy chirped immediately, holding his hand out to the stranger. The blonde stared at the boy for a couple seconds, quickly eyeing him up and down before smiling deeply and slipping his right hand other the boys outstretched palm, placing his left hand on top and squeezing tightly before giving one firm shake. "So nice to make your acquaintance, my name is Francis," the older man purred in a sultry French accent.
Lovino stood to the side, watching the exchange with a grimace, he didn't like the way this Francis guy was leering at his brother. He would have to keep an eye out for him. "This is my brother Lovino!" Feliciano grabbed the older boy by his elbow and pulled him forward. The older Italian tensed when the man slipped a hand beneath Lovino's chin, tilting his head up so he was forced to look him in the eye.
"Why the long face, Lovino?" Francis cooed, laughing when the Italian swatted his hand away.
"This building is too fucking confusing, it took my brother and I an hour to find this office. And who are you anyway, bastard?" Lovino demanded angrily, his outburst making Feliciano grab his arm and beg him to calm down.
Francis just laughed at the pair, ignoring the glare Lovino shot him. "This facility is actually 2 buildings, one staircase leads to the top floor, first floor and the basement and the other leads to all 4 floors." Francis explained, pushing himself off the doorframe and motioning for the brothers to follow him into the office. He sat down at a large table situated in the center of the room and nodded at two chairs across from him. "I'm a third year student here, a photography major. I was asked to be your mentor to, you know, show you two around the building and make sure you understand your schedule. Those types of things." He explained as the Italians took their seats.
"Here," he continued, sliding them both a sheet of paper. "Those are your schedules. Feliciano, you're here on full scholarship, right?" Feliciano nodded happily as he glanced over his agenda. "And you're a painting major?" Francis didn't wait for an answer before continuing, "I remember seeing the samples of your work, you're extremely talented, better than some of the more advanced students I'd say." he commented matter-of-factly, making Lovino feel a small twinge of jealousy at the praise his brother was already receiving.
"Grazie!" Feliciano blushed happily, soaking in the compliment. "I'm just so grateful to be accepted into school here."
Francis nodded, "right, well, you'll mostly have free studio time, but even though you're a full ride scholarship you'll still have to meet for a painting class four hours a day, two on Monday and Friday. But for the most part you'll be expected to produce work outside of your instruction periods." Francis turned to Lovino then, "and you-"
"Lovino," Feliciano piped in, continuing to scan over his schedule.
"Ah, right, Lovino," Francis continued, not noticing when the older Italian tensed from having his name forgotten. "What's your major again?"
"Printmaking," Lovino ground out, coming to the end of his already short fuse.
"Oh, that's right, well since you're here on an assistantship you'll be expected to attend your classes as well as assist the professors in helping the other students and keeping the studios tidy. You'll still have free studio time, though, and if you want to continue to have your stay provided for I would suggest you get your workload done." Lovino felt confused, did he look lazy? Why was he being scolded before he had even done anything wrong?
"I know that, bastard," He growled, crumpling his schedule in his fist and stuffing it in his pocket. Francis ignored the ill-natured boy and pushed himself from the table.
"Alright then, Feliciano, Lovino, how about a tour?" He started to make his way to the door, not waiting for an answer. Feliciano jumped from his seat, quickly scuttling after the Frenchman and Lovino trudged slowly behind.
Francis started at the top floor with the painting room, Feliciano marveled over the high ceilings and large sky lights, tall metal easels were scattered across the paint splattered floor and the smell of linseed oil was thick in the air. "It's perfect," the younger Italian gushed, marveling as he pushed around one of the many wheeled cabinets for each students supplies. Francis explained some of the finer details of the room, showing him where to dispose of his chemicals and unused paints and the different ways through which the room could be accessed. "Your professor will go over these things with you, but it's nice to hear them on a one-on-one basis," he cooed seductively, taking the boy by the shoulder to guide him back out of the room.
Francis pointed out how one of the staircases led directly to the first floor while the other gave access to the second, the brothers marveled over the construction. The doors to access the stairs were spaced far apart, but once in the stairwell you could hardly tell they weren't completely interwoven. Both had a glass front and offered an unobstructed view of the courtyard and glass-walled gallery below. "Natural light is very important to us here, for obvious reasons," Francis explained.
"But in the stairwell?" Lovino questioned, starting to sweat slightly from the warm sunlight filtering through the glass wall.
"Free light table," Francis explained easily, waving his hand at the window and the slight dusting of charcoal shapes that could be seen on it.
"How clever," Feliciano gasped, happy he was already learning things on his first day.
Francis nodded knowingly, "yes the students here are very resourceful," he agreed, "shall we?" He waved down at the stairs before gliding down them gracefully. Once back on the second floor Francis brought the boys to the printmaking studio. Lovino couldn't help but show some interest, he wandered between the intaglio and lithographic press, letting his hands gently brisk the cold hard metal of the pressure adjustors and crank arms. This studio, was also outfitted with tall ceilings and wall-length windows Lovino noted as he wandered into the attached dry room, studying the screenprinting set-up and scoping out the darkroom.
"Well?" Feliciano asked nervously, afraid what would happen if the room wasn't up to his brother's liking.
"I-it's nice," Lovino admitted begrudgingly, refusing to look his brother in the eyes.
"I'm so glad!" Feliciano squealed, wrapping the older in an unwanted embrace.
Francis hummed to himself as he watched the Italians fight, "would you two like to see my studio?" He asked, raising an eyebrow and casting a crooked smile.
"Of course!" Feliciano agreed immediately, ignoring his brother's protests. "You said you're a photographer, right?"
"Mmm," Francis said in affirmation, leading the boys down the stairwell into the basement.
"What's on the first floor?" Feliciano asked curiously.
"Ceramics and sculpture," Francis answered, looking excited as he pushed his way through the heavy metal double doors that led into the downstairs. Lovino shuddered inwardly, he had never enjoyed photography, he thought there had to be something wrong with people that enjoyed being in the dark or cast in red light all the time. The ceiling was low and the hallways were dim, the complete lack of windows might have been useful for developing film but it made Lovino feel claustrophobic.
"Advanced students like myself get their own small spaces to keep their pieces," Francis explained as he guided the boys through the hall, "ah, this is where I work." He said once he reached a door with a simple cursive F scribbled on a piece of paper and taped to the surface. Francis had an evil glint in his eye as he pushed the door open, Lovino stood on his tip toes to peer into the dim room and almost screamed in shock when Francis flicked on the overhead, revealing another body in the studio.
"Ah, Antonio! I wasn't expecting you yet!" Francis laughed, feeling startled from his friend's appearance as well.
The tanned man slid from the small table he had been sitting on laughing as he made his way over to the group. "I'm sorry about that," he chuckled, "didn't mean to scare you, Franny, I got off work early today because we were slow and since you tend to always be in here, I thought I'd pay you a visit."
Francis motioned for the brothers to follow him into his studio, "I forgot to tell you I had to give a tour, Toni, but if you still have time I'd love to take some photos when I'm done."
Antonio nodded knowingly, "yeah, I figured, I'm free all night so it's fine with me." He smiled warmly, eyeing the smaller boys trailing behind his blonde friend.
Lovino glanced around the room as the older boys talked, scowling deeply as he peered over the nudes plastered to the walls and placed lovingly on the drying racks. He felt a shiver race up his back as he eyed one print in particular, the person's face was obstructed but the muscular shape of the body and the short wavy hair gave clear indication as to whom the model was.
"Oh, do you like that one, Lovino?" Francis asked, leaning over the boy and whispering in his ear.
The older Italian jumped back, blush creeping across his face, "o-of course not!" He yelled, crossing his arms in front of his chest in indignation. "It's distasteful." He pouted, making Francis laugh merrily as he picked up the print and held it in front of Feliciano.
"What about you, do you like it?" He purred, hovering his chin over the boy's shoulder.
"Ve~ it's really nice!" Feliciano gushed, "he has a nice body," he added easily, making Lovino wince when he saw a light blush cross the Spaniard's features.
"You think so?" The wavy haired boy laughed shyly, studying Feliciano's face a little too long for Lovino's liking.
"Who are you anyway, another student?" Lovino interrupted suddenly, growing irritated with all the flirtatious behavior being directed at his brother.
"Ah, no," Antonio began, scratching his head and laughing as Francis came over and grabbed him by the shoulder.
"This is Antonio," he explained, "he's a Culinary Arts student at our sister school."
"That still doesn't explain why he's here," Lovino deadpanned, frowning and stepping back in disgust when Antonio held out a hand to him.
"Franny is a good friend of mine!" Antonio cried, smiling deeply when he directed his sights to Feliciano and the boy shook his hand kindly. Lovino felt his stomach turn when the Spanish pervert touched his brother. Keeping Feliciano safe from all these bastards was going to be a major chore for him, and it didn't make it any easier that Antonio had such a nice smile. Not that he liked it or anything, he just new his clueless brother was the type to be fooled by that effortless charm.
"Ve~ nice to meet you Antonio, I'm Feliciano," the younger Italian grinned warmly.
Lovino felt his pulse racing, he couldn't let these two make a connection. In the back of his mind he wondered why he cared so much, he had always protected his brother from lecherous potential boyfriends, but never did he remember having such a visceral reaction. Deciding to forgo further contemplation for the moment, he stepped between the two men, staring up sternly into Antonio's bright green eyes. "That still doesn't explain why you're here." He growled, "didn't Francis tell you he had students to mentor today, or are you just so self absorbed that you don't care?"
Antonio threw his arms up in front of his chest in defense, closing his eyes and offering an apologetic smile, "ah its nothing like that, I-I just didn't know," He laughed half heartedly, backing away slowly until he bumped into Francis.
Francis placed a hand on Antonio's shoulder, squeezing gently as he side-stepped the man to stand as a mediator between the two parties. "Antonio models for me on the weekends," he explained to the brothers, "if his presence is really so bothersome I can ask him to go home. Of course that means I'll be behind in my production."
"No, no, don't do that, it's nice to have extra company right, fratello?" Feliciano said kindly, tilting his head on to his brother's shoulder. Lovino flinched at the touch, Feliciano had a bad habit of trying to get his way through cuteness, and the worst part was he almost always gave into it.
"Fine," Lovino muttered, folding his arms in front of his chest and throwing his gaze to the floor.
"Ok, then," Francis chirped, motioning for the group to exit the photography lab, "enough distractions."
The rest of the tour was a blur for Lovino. He found it harder and harder to focus as he watched Antonio cast side-ways glances at his brother. His stomach churned miserably and he supposed he must be coming down with something. He trailed a couple feet behind the rest of the group, watching the way Antonio's well-toned back moved when he walked, and the way his wavy brown hair bounced slightly with each step. Yes, this boy was going to be a chore to take care of.
The older Italian continued to walk, unaware that the trio ahead of him had stopped momentarily to eye a piece of art. Lovino ran right into the Spaniard, squeaking with surprise when the sudden impact made him lose his footing. He braced himself to slam against the cold linoleum floor, only to peak his eyes open after a couple seconds of no impact. "Careful," a kind voice laughed. Lovino jerked his head up and squinted his eyes at the tan hand wrapped around the crook of his arm, then looked at its beaming owner. "Are you ok?" Antonio mouthed. Or maybe he said it, Lovino wasn't sure, all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears.
"Fratello?" Feliciano knitted his eyebrows in concern, walking up behind his brother and gently pushing up his shoulders so he was standing again. "Are you ok?"
Lovino stared from his brother's worried face to the half smiling Spaniard behind him and shook his head abruptly. "I-I'm fine. Just tired." He said quickly, not realizing how true the words were until they had left his mouth. His whole body felt exhausted, all the effort of unpacking, exploring the art building, and meeting new people had left him drained. It didn't help that the people he met were so tiresome to begin with. "This is going to be a long two years," he mumbled to himself.
"What was that?" Feliciano pressed, growing more and more distressed by his brother's odd behavior. Lovino just shook his head, a warm blush coating his cheeks, he hadn't meant to say those words aloud.
Francis shrugged his shoulders and walked towards the brothers, casually sliding an arm over Feliciano's narrow shoulders. "I'm basically done with the tour anyway and you have your schedules, you two should go rest up. Tomorrow's going to be a busy day." Lovino scowled at the Frenchman's contact with his brother, he was more than ready to be away from these perverts. "Oh, but before you go," Francis added, gracefully reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small rectangular card, "here's my number, in case you need me for anything." He locked eyes with Feliciano, smiling evily, "I mean anything."
The young Italian nodded happily, "ve~ that's so nice!" He said, making Lovino shiver from the boy's naivety.
"We don't need your stupid card," the older Italian snapped, pulling the paper from Feliciano's grip and holding it back to Francis.
"Oh so I guess you know your way around perfectly by now, huh? And you have the layout of the town memorized too, I'm sure," the blonde teased, smirking as he eyed the fuming Italian.
Lovino bowed his head slightly in defeat, "fine," he seethed, "but I'm going to keep it, not him."
Francis shrugged, "either one works for me," he winked as he turned to walk back to Antonio, grabbing the man by the elbow and directing him back to his studio.
The Spaniard stared at the brothers as Francis pushed him lightly towards the stairwell, "ah, hold on a second," he chirped suddenly, breaking free from the blonde's hold and jogging back to the Italians.
"What do you want?" Lovino growled as Antonio dug around his pockets, locating a crumpled piece of paper and flattening it against the wall as he pulled out a pen and scribbled something down.
"Here," he held the scrap out to Feliciano, smiling widely. The younger Italian grinned and cocked his head to the side in wonder, "it's my number," Antonio clarified, "in case you need anything, o-or, want to hang out or something."
Lovino felt the world spinning again as his brother laughed and took the paper happily. The older Italian leaned his back against the wall, concentrating on his breathing as Feliciano cheerfully waved goodbye to Francis and Antonio. "We're so lucky to have met such nice people, right brother?" The younger boy gushed, beaming happily.
Lovino took a deep breath as he felt his pulse calm down and pushed himself from the wall, "nice people?" he asked incredulously. "They're both perverts if you ask me, I think this whole idea was terrible." He scowled, slowly clomping down the hallway to the exit.
"Aw, don't say that fratello," Feliciano whined, quickly hurrying after his brother, "you'll feel better once you're in the studio tomorrow, promise!"
Lovino just shook his head,"it's definitely going to be a long two years," he reiterated, sighing as continued to make his way back to the dorm.