I borrowed the title of this piece from a fifteenth-century Italian chef named Maestro Martino, who wrote the first culinary guide to specify ingredients, utensils, cooking procedures, and amounts. To me, Damon and Elena are at their most savory when they're cooking together...or just spending time in the kitchen. I'm curious to see where my recipe for them will take me. :)

She always ends up with him (thinking of him, shouting at him, falling for him) in the kitchen.

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She's making fettucine alfredo and he keeps getting in her way, handing her utensils she doesn't need, making sarcastic remarks she doesn't want to notice. She tries to focus on the recipe, ignore the way his gaze on the back of her neck is making tiny hairs stand on end.

Garlic. Heavy cream. Sprigs of basil scattered across the counter. She counts cups of water in her head and switches on the oven, watches the orange-blue flame leap up to caress the bottom of her heavy stockpot. Wonders if it ever tires of constantly burning, licking helplessly at the base of unresponsive metal. Refuses to draw the obvious parallels.

When she turns around, she knows there's a flush creeping up her neck to stain jawline and cheeks, and she hopes he'll attribute it to the heat of the stove and not to…anything else. He doesn't say anything, but the glint in his eyes is unmistakable. She brushes past him on purpose to feel the smooth fabric of his shirt against her arm.

"Move, Damon," she orders, and he does.

She pretends not to notice that his eyes are on her face even as he obeys.

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The night after Stefan goes crazy at the Miss Mystic Falls pageant she sits in the basement, back against the cold stone, until she almost falls asleep. She barely registers Damon carrying her upstairs, just snuggles into the over-soft cushions of the sofa and lets herself fall into oblivion. When she wakes up, she hears the muted clatter of dishes from the kitchen and smells coffee, bitter and inviting on the air.

She stumbles in, mascara smeared and face tear-stained, too tired to worry about how miserable she must look. (At least she can pretend that this is true.) His back is to her, and he's stirring what looks like the makings of an omelet. She edges toward the coffee and sees the other ingredients—diced ham, grated cheddar, onions, tomatoes—and is surprised that he's not much of a traditionalist.

He doesn't turn around, just says "Good morning" as though it is perfectly normal to have his brother locked up in the downstairs basement and his girlfriend in their kitchen, sipping coffee from an oversized mug that says "Teacher's Pet" on the side. After a minute, she raises an eyebrow and taps the ceramic words.

"Where'd you get this?"

He looks at it briefly, with that smug kick at the corner of his mouth that she now knows does not mean what it pretends to say.

"Cute little elementary school teacher in Kalamazoo," he says coolly, and she realizes afresh that his outrageous statements have the power to loosen the tight knot that seems constantly coiled in the center of her chest. She nods and takes another sip.

"Why are you cooking for me?" she says next, because sometimes with him, bluntness is the only thing that keeps her sane. He slides the egg mixture into a hot skillet and waits for the sharp hiss of liquid to pan before he begins scooping up the other ingredients.

"Who says I'm cooking for you?" he counters, off-hand words belied by the infinite care he takes in placing ham and onions in a precise line, dotting cheese at closely-eyed intervals.

"Damon," she sighs, and the breath seems to take all the energy out of her body. "Stop trying to take care of me."

He spares a moment to turn around and roll his eyes at her, and she is forced to swiftly stamp out the traitorous thought that he is incredibly beautiful when he's being an ass.

"I am not 'taking care of you,' Elena," he says condescendingly, and then turns to check on his omelet with the obsessive care of a gourmet. "I am making breakfast. Which I may or may not share with you."

She fantasizes for a moment about ripping off his ring and letting the sharp morning sunlight roast him to a blackened crisp and then sets down her coffee mug with a thump.

"What are you doing now?" he grouses, gently lifting the edge of the omelet to check for doneness. She grabs two plates and two forks from the corner cabinet and plunks them on the table in the side nook, pulls back the curtains from the large bay window and moves junk mail and a random set of keys out of the way.

"You should really clean your table off more often," she informs him by way of answer, and ignores the muttered profanity of his reply as she pours orange juice into glasses and places it back in the refrigerator.

They're sitting across from each other, digging into the first bites of what promises to be a truly excellent omelet (he learned to cook in Paris, he tells her while doing that eye thing that makes her stomach do flip-flops against her will) when he leans over and grabs her wrist before she can raise her fork to take another bite.

"He'll be all right, Elena," he says, and she can't help but believe the earnestness in his fingers, the conviction of his firm-set mouth. She blinks for a moment, glances down at her fork as though the pattern of the chased silver will somehow give her a clue about how to handle this man who will give her anything she asks for (even if it tears him asunder).

"I know," she whispers back, and she can feel the beat of her pulse against his hand, blue vein pushing skin against skin. She realizes that there is an intimacy to this moment that she's never felt with another man, not with Matt, not even with Stefan, and the bitterness of fear coats her throat at the thought. She pulls away abruptly and puts cold omelet in her mouth, not tasting the melding of flavors as she thinks instead of how he would taste on her tongue.

"Eat," he murmurs, and she automatically chews and swallows and thinks of ice-blue eyes and trembling hands. She will dream of him tonight, she knows it.

It is with effort that she pulls her thoughts back to the problem that is waiting for her, locked into remorse downstairs.