Hardison thinks maybe his first mistake is showing up with a state-of-the-art frying pan (and he did his research, he checked like sixty reviews to find one that's awesome but not so expensive that it would make someone suspicious about where exactly two supposedly broke twenty-somethings are getting their funds) as his opening gambit, because it makes 4C growl at him.
“Your girlfriend did something to my frying pan.”
“There may have been a small fire and … well, you can see the remains.”
4C closes his eyes like the world is against him and maybe he wants to punch someone in the face about it. Hardison shifts back as subtly as he can. “I just got that pan perfectly seasoned, damn it.” He opens his eyes again and gives Hardison and the package in his hands a suspicious look. “And what is that?”
“The internet said it was good? And I kind of thought, well, Parker messed the old one up, we should be the ones to replace it.”
“You two are goddamn menaces, seems like every time I come home it smells like burnt food.”
Hardison knows how to cook four things, three of which are different flavors of Ramen, and Parker can just about manage toast, but the last time Nana came over she looked at them despairingly and worried that they're going to starve themselves to death, so they've been sort of trying. And then Parker got ambitious with the frying pan so Hardison thinks maybe they should go back to ordering takeout when they need things with nutrients in them. “Hey, man, we aren't the only people in the city who don't know how to cook.”
“You're the only ones who live on my floor, though. One of these days you're going to set off the fire alarm.” And are going to end up messily dead as a result, Hardison is probably supposed to take that as subtext, but Hardison and Parker have been on the wrong side of the law for collectively way over a decade at this point so Hardison isn't too worried about that.
“Don't worry, we haven't set it off yet, not even during that fire the other day.” Because Hardison disables the fire alarm whenever he's awake and around, mostly, which is probably illegal but saves him a lot of noise whenever Parker tries cooking. “Are you going to take the pan, man?”
“It is going to take me weeks to season this like I want it,” says 4C, scowling at the package and taking it.
Hardison points at the package. “That says pre-seasoned, so I think you're okay there.”
4C looks at him in epic culinary despair. “Please find a cookbook or something before you try cooking again.” And then he slams the door in Hardison's face.
Cookbooks. Like anyone uses a damn cookbook with the whole internet at their disposal. Hardison can even use Google to find a food blog for beginners, and using Google is like doing it with his eyes closed.
Parker peers over his shoulder while he looks, discarding some as too fancy, some as too boring, one man's picture as being too scary (which is fair, he looks like someone's weird Uncle Bubba), before they find one called “Damn Recipes,” which Hardison feels is promising. Some of the most popular recipes include “How to Boil Your Damn Pasta” and “How to Spice Your Damn Chicken” and “How to Make a Damn Soup,” so Hardison decides whoever runs the blog is his new favorite person (after Parker and Nana, but that goes without saying). He even respects them enough that he doesn't look up their IP and everything there is to know about them, that's how much he likes them.
Turns out, Hardison can follow these recipes, and so can Parker, and they manage a week of meals that are practically gourmet (spaghetti with canned sauce, alfredo with canned sauce, some kind of stir-fry that Parker grudgingly puts vegetables in, soup that Hardison grudgingly puts vegetables in, baked chicken) before they decide to try “A Damn Chocolate Cake.” Parker likes chocolate.
“Baking isn't like cooking,” Parker says an hour later, frowning at the charred, lumpy mass sitting proudly in their cake pan. It's going to take a chisel to get out. “Maybe we should try brownies first.”
“Maybe.” Hardison opens up the comments on the chocolate cake recipe and starts typing. Most of your recipes have worked great for us so far, seriously, no complaints, my Nana would be proud, but the chocolate cake turned out as kind of a disaster. Any easier chocolate desserts?
To his surprise, he gets a comment back the next day, Parker reading it over his shoulder, a whole list of really grumpy trouble-shooting advice and then a recipe for brownies that turn out like dreams. So Hardison responds again, and after a week finds himself the recipient of at least four more special in-the-comments pieces of advice.
“I like him,” Parker says after reading the latest, something about chicken marsala, which seems ambitious and sounds like nirvana on a plate. “You should find him and we should invite him to dinner.”
“That would be an invasion of privacy.” Parker just looks at him. “It's like you have no faith in me, woman, do you think I hunt down every stranger I meet?” She keeps looking. “I'm not tracking down the damn food guy. But we are going to try to make chicken marsala.”
“Why the hell does this whole floor smell like smoke?” 4C asks, pounding on their door while Hardison is still staring sadly at his attempt at chicken marsala. He thinks maybe the wine cooked down too much. “And why the hell aren't the fire alarms going off?”
“Because there's no fire,” Parker says, frowning over the pan with Hardison. “Maybe we didn't use enough butter.”
“Is that ...” 4C stares at their pan and then at them. “Is that supposed to be chicken marsala?”
“We're working on the cooking thing, found a blog and everything, but I think this might be a little beyond us.” Hardison prods it sadly. It sounded so good.
Parker is staring at 4C instead of the chicken now, head tilted like he's a vault she's thinking about robbing. “Huh,” she says.
“Huh,” says 4C, because apparently the two of them are on a whole different level with this conversation, which is just great for them, because Hardison has some chicken to throw out and a takeout place to call. “If nothing's on fire, I'm going.”
“We won't set things on fire any more,” says Parker, and nods at him as he goes out the door before turning to squint at Hardison. “You didn't tell me it was him.”
Hardison raises his eyebrows, but she doesn't seem to want to say anything else, so he just shrugs. “Didn't know, that's all.”
“Huh,” she says again, and goes to find their takeout menus.
“How to Season a Damn Frying Pan” is the title of the blog post that goes up the next day, and the subtitle is “since my damn neighbors ruined mine.”
“Huh,” says Hardison.
“See?” says Parker, who is in the kitchen making cookies and not even getting egg shells in them, without even looking at him. She's more psychic than it's fair for any person to be. “I told you we should have him over for dinner. Maybe he can teach us how to make chicken marsala.”
Hardison laughs and starts typing a comment on the blog post. “Maybe he can.”