As he sat at his work station in the kitchen, fingers drumming against the stainless steel in irritation, Lovino Vargas realized that the book entitles 1001 International Recipes for Everyday Life did not live up to it's name. Half the recipes were French, and no way in hell was he cooking anything French.
Lovino groaned, sliding the disappointing volume away from him. Their instructor had clearly stated that the midterm assignment was to be something unique, something they weren't used to making and something not from their motherland. But every way he looked at it there was nothing better then his Italian. The herbs, the freshly squeezed olive oil... The garlic breads and the linguini perfectly covered by either the freshest marinara or the creamiest alfredos with mushrooms and cilantro... It was making him hungry just thinking about it.
Glaring at the cookbook he dragged it back, flipping through the pages one more time. After passing through the disturbingly long French section he slowed his turning to look at the recipes more carefully in case he had missed something actually manageable.
German? As if he would cook any of that potato bastards food. Russian? Too much vodka. American? Yeah right, like they made anything edible. British? ...They had to be joking. Japanese? Too much raw fish...
And that's where the index started.
"Dammit!" slamming the book shut with a bang he chucked it against the wall as hard as he could, dropping his head into his hands and rubbing his eyes.
"Um... That wasn't meant to hit me, was it?"
Lovino peeked through his fingers to find a student standing in the door, large green eyes wide in shock under chocolate bangs. The book lay at his feet, cover hanging limply off the spine. Lovino grinned the tiniest bit, the damn thing got what it deserved after all, before his face fell into a frown.
"Why would I try to hit you, dumbass? I don't even know you!" he said.
The other man's face fell, "You don't? But we're in the same class."
"So? Doesn't mean I know you," he looked away, resting his chin in his hand. Now that that idiotic book was out of the way maybe he could finally figure out what he was going to make.
The next thing he knew the man from the door was standing in front of him, holding his hand out, "I'm Antonio!"
Glaring up at his face he scowled, "And?"
"Well..." Antonio's smile fell a bit as he pondered the question, "I just thought you'd like to know."
Great. Just what he needed. Some overly friendly odd ball who just had to talk to him while he was trying to think, "Well now I know, bastard. So leave me alone."
"What are you doing for this midterm assessment?" Antonio asked.
Lovino groaned, "What part of leave me alone don't you understand?"
Antonio grinned, plopping down on the stool next to him, "I'm making chocolate cake!"
"You've already decided? Wait, how does chocolate cake count?"
"I have a cousin from Mexico. He sent me a recipe," bending down, Antonio pulled a wrinkled sheet from his bag and showed it to him. He snatched it away, scanning over the ingredients.
"Chili peppers?" he mumbled.
"Yeah, I thought that was weird too. But I tried it and it tastes really good!"
"You tried to make it already?"
Antonio smiled obliviously at him, "Yeah!"
Lovino gaped at the idiot sitting next to him, "That was assigned yesterday!"
Lovino's face made contact with the countertop, "So I haven't decided yet! Now leave me alone and let me think! Who the hell are you, anyway?"
"Just shut up!"
For another moment they sat in silence. He concentrated on his breathing, and what he assumed was the light tapping on Antonio's foot on the metal supports. Dammit, he needed to figure something out.
"So... I guess that's why you threw the book?"
"It got what was coming to it."
Silence reined the classroom again. Lovino decided to focus on the ticking clock situated over the doorway. One, two, three, four... That many less seconds he had to find something to cook that didn't make him want to gag.
"I could teach you something."
His head shot up, no doubt his hair sticking at odd angles from where he'd been worrying his hands through it, "What?"
Antonio grinned, "Why not? I'm all set with my stuff. And I'm Spanish so I can teach you one of my family recipes! Unless," he gasped, "are you Spanish too? Because then it wouldn't work!"
Lovino slammed his hand on the counter, scowling at the intruder, "I'm Italian, jackass!"
To anyone but Antonio the outburst would have been disconcerting, but his smile only doubled, "Really? Where?"
Crossing his arms he looked away, "The best part. Obviously," why should he say where he was from? They'd only just met dammit!
"That's cool," Antonio said, "I've always wanted to go to Italy..." Standing, he wandered over to the large industrial fridge and swung open the door, "Should we get started then?"
"Bastard. I never said I was going to learn from you."
A head poked out of the fridge, "Why not? It's not like you have anything to loose."
To this Lovino could think of no response. So instead he stood and headed to the fridge as well, swearing under his breath the whole way, "What are we making?"
When Antonio came out of the fridge he was holding a bag of perfectly ripe tomatoes, so red and perfect that his mouth began to water, "Gazpacho!"
"Gazpacho," Antonio ducked into the fridge, pulling a few more ingredients out before depositing them all on a nearby counter, "Cold tomato soup."
Lovino scoffed, "Doesn't that seem kind of simple?"
"But it's so good!" leaning in close, Antonio smiled at him, eyes shining, "Trust me, Lovi."
Face red and spluttering he pulled back, "I-I- Who said you could call me Lovi?"
Laughter filled the room, "Anyway, what you want to do first is..."
Lovino rolled his eyes again, but couldn't help but lean in closer as the Spaniard spoke. Couldn't help but watch as he took out everything they needed to make the soup.
"Here," Antonio placed a bright green pepper on the cutting board, looking at him, "Can you cut this up for me?"
Silently Lovino moved forward and started chopping at the vegetable, the knife moving in his hand with practiced speed. Once they were cut into long strips he looked at his impromptu teacher, who was currently at work slicing scallions into little rings. The tomatoes he had removed earlier sat next to his hands, shining and bright from just being washed, "What do I do now, bastard?"
Antonio glanced over, brow furrowing for a moment before breaking into an infuriatingly bright smile again, "Not like that, Lovi. Like," he moved over to him and his face flared up as Antonio took his hands in his own, "this."
Lovino's face retained its red color as Antonio's hands moved around his fingers, guiding the knife to cut the strips of pepper into smaller cubes. His breath caught for a moment as his mind ghosted over thoughts of how surprisingly smooth those hands were, how they gently moved so that each cut was fluid and perfect. When Antonio's hands slipped away he was left standing, stunned and staring at the little pile of pepper cubes.
The moment was broken when another pepper was shoved in front of his face, "And then this one just like that."
Shaking his head and cursing under his breath he took the pepper and angrily chopped it up. What the hell was that? Antonio just touched his hands, that's all! So why was his face on fire?
When they were done prepping everything, small bowls of peppers and onions and scallions and everything else they needed scattering the counter, Antonio reached into a cabinet and brought out a blender, "Alright. Now usually, people would use a Cuisinart machine for this but I think it makes the gazpacho too thin. It's much better nice and thick," He plugged the blender in, tossing two of the tomatoes into pitcher and securing the lid before hitting 'liquefy'. Inside the fruit spun a couple of times before transforming into a gooey pulp. Antonio stepped back, gesturing Lovino forward. The Italian scowled but eagerly took control. He had always learned better by doing instead of watching.
Pondering his selection, Lovino took hold of the scallions and cilantro, tossing those in and turning the blender on. After that was properly integrated with the tomatoes he tossed in the garlic and onions, followed by a splash of olive oil. Before he hit the on switch he stopped, looking at Antonio and suddenly remembering that he had never said anything about olive oil. The man was staring at him, mouth hanging open so wide a bird could fly in.
"How did you know about the olive oil? I completely forgot..."
Despite himself Lovino felt a small swell of relief and pride grow in his chest, "I always cook with olive oil. It's natural, dammit."
Antonio grinned, "Well either way it's good. Keep going."
So he did. Mixing all the ingredients with an expert but hesitant hand, feeling his way around every corner of the recipe. And when it was all done, he grabbed a spoon and stuck it in, tasting his creation. It was actually pretty good like Antonio had promised. It did have tomatoes in it, after all. But...
Lovino scowled, "It's missing something..."
"What? No it isn't," Antonio came over, tasting it for himself and smiling, "Tastes perfect to me."
"I'm telling you it's missing something, goddammit!" He looked around trying to think of what it was, "Something... Something like..." Suddenly he ran over to the fridge, yanking a lemon out of it's endless confides. Taking a knife he dug into the fruit, squeezing the whole thing into the blender. Much to Antonio's horror.
"What are you doing?"
"Just trust me!" And with that he flipped the on switch, fully confident that it would taste even better.
The next thing he saw was red, bright red chunks of tomato landing everywhere. The counters, the floor, him and Antonio: nothing was safe from the pounding rain of tomato. Spluttering, Lovino dove forward, yanking the plug out of the socket. The mad whirring stopped, leaving the kitchen silent. His face stung from embarrassment and shame. How could he be so utterly stupid? Dammit, he-
He turned around to see Antonio, covered in gazpacho and doubled over, laughter shaking his body, "Tha-that was amazing!" he choked out between gasps, "I've never actually s-seen anyone do that before...!"
If his face was burning before then it was a downright inferno now. Angrily he stomped over, tomato squishing under his shoes, "You think this is funny, asshole?"
Antonio just kept laughing, unable to stop. He scowled and crossed his arms, "What the hell is wrong with you..."
"H-hey!" he smiled, "Lets see if you're right," The Spaniard swiped a finger over his cheek promptly sticking it in his mouth. As Lovino felt another rush of embarrassment rush through him Antonio's face lit up, "This is good! This is really good! Why didn't I ever think of that before..."
Lovino allowed himself a small grin, "Maybe because you're an idiot."
Antonio just shrugged, "Either way we should probably get to cleaning up. This place is a mess."
"Yeah, I guess. I'll get a-" As soon as he took a step his foot landed on a particularly large chunk of tomato. His balance disrupted he swung his arms out, desperately trying to stay upright. One hand found Antonio's shirt, the other the bottle of olive oil, and all three of them came tumbling down. When he opened his eyes Antonio was on top of him, the olive oil tilting precariously on the counter edge and pouring it's contents onto their heads. Opening his mouth, whatever he was about to say was halted when he saw the other student's deep green eyes, and the small blush that covered his cheeks.
"H-hey..." Antonio started, almost nervously, the olive oil soaking his hair, "Can I have your number?"
The next day Lovino walked into the class room, eyes searching for the highly unusual Spanish student who, for what ever reason, he had decided to give his phone number. And what did he have to show for it? Three messages on his phone, one confirming the number, one leaving his own number because he forgot to the first time, and one apologizing for leaving his number because he realized that he'd b able to find it on the recent calls list anyway. In his opinion it was pretty damn annoying but... nice? He shook it off as his gaze finally landed on the familiar head of shaggy brown hair. Antonio was leaning on his arms, eyes closed and shifting lightly with the heavy breathing of sleep.
A small smile pricked at the corner of his lips and he went to go sit in his own seat, "Idiot..."
Before he sat down he noticed a small package on the stool, thankfully not sitting on it. It was a simple white box, tied with a bright red ribbon. Upon opening it he found a single piece of chocolate, and written on the bottom of the lid in messy but legible handwriting the words, 'It Reminds Me Of You'. Casting a glance back at Antonio, he shrugged and popped the chocolate into his mouth.
Lovino couldn't help but grin as underneath the smooth layer of sweet came the unmistakable bite of chili pepper.