AN: My second entry for the event A Brief History of Time! This time with the two greatest interactions to ever happen between Spain and Denmark (probably the only two interactions). It's a weird couple, but I think they have more in common than one may think at first. They're two big dorks who fancy axes as weapons. :)
Before we start... I probably shouldn't have to say this, but I will anyway, just in case. Ahem. Every mistake Antonio commits while talking — false friends, funny syntaxis, wrong grammar — all of those are intentional. He's far from fluent in English, and I tried my best to capture the broken English of a Spaniard. In fact, native Spanish speakers may recognize where many of his mistakes come from.
Also, there's some Danish and Spanish here and there. I considered writing translations at the end... but I'm very lazy, so I didn't. :) There's little Danish, because I don't speak Danish (shoutout to Phyripo for acting as my translator; thanks a lot!). There's a lot of Spanish, because I do speak Spanish. So, if you speak Spanish, too, you're lucky and will understand more than someone who doesn't. (Of course, you can always use Google Translate, nobody's stopping you... but I wouldn't trust it too much :P) Anyway, I think most of it can be guessed from the context; and you won't miss big plot details for not understanding everything that's said.
Last but not least: special thanks to Shadowcatxx for helping me edit it. You the real MVP.
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia.
Without further ado, let's proceed to the story. Hope you like it! :D
THE FORGOTTEN WAR
Jutland, Denmark – 1808
Antonio sighs, relieved, when they finally reach the village. The walk hasn't been particularly long or tiring, but this foreign climate is much colder than what he's used to, and he has been dying to sit near a fire since they left the ships; not to mention that, besides his haversack, he is also carrying his guitar. Some of his fellow soldiers have mocked him more than once for refusing to leave his instrument behind, but Antonio doesn't mind. He's not the only one.
He listens half-heartedly to one of his superiors as he gives them basic instructions (don't cause trouble, respect the locals, be nice), most of his attention focused on the houses around him. The village is bigger than he expected, but he's not sure it'll be big enough to house all of them. Sure, they are only a small percentage of the fifteen thousand Spaniards that have been sent to Denmark, but they are still a fairly large group.
They are finally dismissed and Antonio hurries along with some others to light a fire. Some of the locals glance curiously at them, especially when Antonio, after having warmed up his hands, starts to play some tunes on his guitar. He doesn't play much, though, because he soon starts feeling homesick (and judging by his companions' faces, they are, too).
Sighing, Antonio puts aside his guitar and searches inside his haversack for some tobacco. He doesn't smoke often, but it is a good activity to kill nerves and boredom. Right now, he has a big load of both. He rolls a cigarette with skill and leans over the fire to light it, relaxing as soon as he takes the first drag.
And then he feels a light pat on his shoulder.
"Hvad er det?"
Startled, he turns to see a young Dane that looks at him in awe.
"Ah!" The Dane smiles nervously, realizing his mistake. "Do you speak English?"
Antonio bobs his head in a so-so fashion. "I speak good French," he says, a heavy Spanish accent adorning his words. "Bad English."
"I don't speak French."
"English, then," Antonio smiles, friendly, and moves to the side so the Dane can sit next to him. He hasn't missed how the other villagers glance at them, the foreigners whom they have no choice but to host. He'd better make a good first impression and be nice to whoever approaches him. "What do you ask?"
"What is that?" the Dane repeats his question, this time in English, as he points to Antonio's cigarette. "I know it's tobacco, I mean—you made it yourself?"
Antonio nods, a bit taken aback by the Dane's innocent curiosity. "You don't do this here?" he asks, waving the cigarette between them. "It is called, um…" he purses his lips as he thinks of the correct word. "Rolling tobacco?" he finally says. He thinks he has heard an English prisoner phrase it like that once.
"Can you teach me?"
The Dane's smile is bright and honest; captivating, even. Antonio can't help but smile back.
"Yes." As he reaches into his backpack again for the paper and leaves, he asks: "What is your name?"
"I'm Mikkel," he answers, offering his hand. "Mikkel Densen."
"Antonio Fernández y Carriedo," he says, shaking it.
Mikkel's handshake is firm, and also uncomfortably long. It takes Antonio a moment to notice that he's watching him in fascination, probably not aware that they're still holding hands.
"What?" he asks, effectively snapping Mikkel out of his stupor.
"Are you really Spanish?" the Dane asks, his curious gaze fixed on Antonio's face.
"Yes," Antonio answers, his lips twisting into a confused smile. "Why?"
Mikkel stretches his neck towards Antonio, as if to take a closer look. "Your eyes are green," he responds.
"I thought all Spaniards had brown eyes."
Antonio snorts, amused, and decides he likes Mikkel. He doesn't even care that he's been holding his hand for way too long now, and that they're receiving curious glances from soldiers and locals alike.
"And I thought all Danish had beard," he replies, playfully patting Mikkel's smooth jaw.
Mikkel gasps, offended, and Antonio fears he might have gone too far with his teasing, but then the Dane snatches the tobacco from his hand, and says: "Teach me. You owe me five cigarettes."
The first attempts are clumsy, but Mikkel catches on quickly, and by the time he's rolling the fourth one, Antonio allows himself to look away from his spontaneous student. He likes what he sees: some of the locals, following Mikkel's example, and surely encouraged by Antonio's friendly attitude, have started to mingle with the soldiers. There are many who still stare at them with distrust in their eyes, hiding their children behind them, and Antonio understands the suspicion. Hopefully, it will only last a few days.
"It's because of the French," Mikkel says. He has just finished rolling the last cigarette and hasn't missed Antonio's line-of-sight.
"Hm?" Antonio looks at him again. "The French?"
"We had them here before you. They weren't very nice." He puts one of his cigarettes in his mouth, then leans toward the fire to light it. "I hope you're better."
"We are good," Antonio answers, certain. "More funny."
"I believe you," Mikkel chuckles. "Hey, I have room for just one person in my house—want to be the one?"
"Me, in your house?" the Spaniard asks, head tilted to the side to make sure he has understood the proposition. Mikkel nods, and he smiles. "Yes. Genial. Um, great."
They shake hands again.
The house is small: just one room that serves as bedroom, kitchen and living-room all at once. Mikkel has never minded, nor needed anything else. The first time he realized that his place was small was a few months ago, when he had to share it with someone else. His assigned French soldier was a nice guy compared to the others, but still complained about the lack of space and privacy.
Mikkel already likes Antonio better.
The Spaniard's eyes scan the room as he crosses the threshold with his haversack and guitar, somehow dropping neither in the narrow space. Then he smiles, and says: "Is good."
"It's small," Mikkel acknowledges. "I sleep here," he points to the small cot on one side, "you sleep there," he points to a pile of straw on the other side, "we cook there," he points to a very basic kitchen, "and… that's it. It's small," he repeats, chuckling nervously.
"No, is good," Antonio reassures, raising a thumb in approval. "I have sleep in sites more bad." He puts down his stuff next to his 'bed' and then flops himself on it. "Estoy cansado," he yawns, and though Mikkel doesn't understand his words, he gets the meaning.
"It must have been a long journey," he says. He didn't miss how worn out all the soldiers looked when they arrived, and Antonio was no exception. At least his moving in has been quick, unlike the others, who are still submerged in the tedious process of being assigned to a house. "Good night," he adds, only to realize that his guest is already snoring. He smiles.
It's been a few days since the Spaniards arrived, but although the villagers have accepted them nicely, they're still suspicious of the foreign strangers. Maybe it's because they're soldiers and the local's previous experience with the French and Belgians wasn't entirely pleasant; or perhaps the difficulty of communication between Spaniards and Danes plays a key role.
Either way, Antonio quickly grows tired of the tense atmosphere, and decides it's time to change it.
So he wakes up in the morning a little later than Mikkel, as usual, but instead of sharing breakfast with him on the small table, he grabs his share, hangs his guitar over his shoulder and leaves the house, claiming he's going to "make new friends". Mikkel doesn't follow him, too shocked to react.
Antonio walks to the centre of the village, a small plaza with stone benches, and sits on one, takes a bite from his breakfast, and starts tuning his guitar. The few people passing by stop and stare, weary of the crazy Spanish soldier who has casually decided to spend his leisure time invading public space.
The crazy Spaniard, of course, couldn't care less about the staring: once his guitar is tuned, he plasters a smile to his face and starts playing some happy melodies. Some are simply music; with others, he sings along. It takes some time, but the curious glances soften and his audience relaxes. There aren't only Danes, now: some Spaniards have joined, drawn in by the familiar strum, and a few of them dare to dance along to Antonio's playing. This makes curiosity return to the locals' eyes, though this time it's tinted with amusement.
After what must be the sixth or seventh song, Antonio decides he deserves a break and puts his guitar down. He receives some applause, more enthusiastically from the Spanish than from the Danes, and he bows before attacking what's left of his breakfast.
Then, as he eats, he spots a little girl who's staring at him from behind her mother's skirt. He smiles and waves at her; she blushes and hides, but waves back. Antonio pretends to focus on his food, but from time to time he glances back at her. She doesn't stop staring. Little by little she abandons the safety of her mother's proximity, and it's only a matter of time until she trots to his side.
"Hej," she says, a bit timid. It means hello, Antonio knows. It's the first word Mikkel taught him.
"Hej," he replies, his pronunciation a bit lousy but his smile sincere.
"Hvad hedder du?"
Antonio has no clue what that means. "Eh…" he chuckles nervously, scratching his neck.
"She wants to know your name," someone says behind him.
Startled, Antonio turns to see Mikkel standing there, flashing an amused smile at him. He briefly wonders how long he's been there. "Thanks," he smiles, then turning to the girl again. "Antonio," he says, pointing at himself. "¿Y tú?" he asks, now pointing at her.
"¡Qué bonito! Um, pretty?" He turns to Mikkel for help. "How is 'pretty' in Danish?"
The Dane's eyes gleam with amusement before he sits on the bench next to him. "Han siger dit navn er smukt," he tells Anja, and her face brightens.
Using Mikkel as a translator, she tells Antonio that she loves his music, and that her mum had warned her not to get close to the soldiers but she has done it anyway because he looks so nice and funny. (Antonio's smile becomes a bit smug — he is nice and funny.) It doesn't take long for her to sit on his lap, her fingers clumsily strumming the strings as the Spaniard plays the chords, while Mikkel tries to convince a scandalized mother that her daughter is safe. Antonio has to give her instructions in Spanish, which she doesn't understand, but follows his example as best as she can.
Antonio loves children. He loves their sincere smiles and cheerful laughs and brutal honesty; loves their genuine curiosity and seemingly endless energy. There's something so pure an innocent about them that he deeply appreciates. So, of course, he's thrilled when a few more kids follow Anja's example and join them. Mikkel does a good job appeasing the parents, and soon returns to his position as translator next to Antonio.
"You're good with kids," he comments after the Spaniard helps the last boy get off his lap.
"Yes," Antonio admits easily. "I like them."
"The French weren't nice to the children. The parents were worried you were going to hurt them."
"We are not French."
Mikkel smiles and looks around. The wary glances the Spaniards have been getting since they first arrived have disappeared; the villagers are now much more relaxed in their presence. No, they definitely aren't French. There's something new, different — exotic, even — about them. They are a box full of surprises, and Mikkel is eager to discover all they have to offer.
It's lunch time. Mikkel is cooking, as usual, and he cheerfully blabbers on and on about the positive atmosphere that has settled over the village. After housing the French soldiers, the locals feared that the Spanish would be similar — turns out that what they have in common as soldiers has nothing to do with their national differences. Now it's easy to see Spaniards and Danes chatting animatedly (even though there's a lot of miming involved due to the language barrier) and, even better, Spaniards playing with the Danish children. The locals seems to be in agreement that there's something incredibly endearing about a rough-looking, bearded war veteran carrying a laughing five-year-old on his shoulders.
Antonio can't help but smile proudly at Mikkel's blabbering. It's an unspoken truth that his improvised concert a few days ago was what prompted the start of good relations. In war times they must enjoy whatever peaceful oasis they may find, or so he believes, and he loves the one they've landed in. Denmark is cold and flat and so far from home, but it hasn't taken him long to see how warm and welcoming its people are. They only needed to know that the Spaniards are not like the French.
After almost two weeks, Antonio still hasn't found a reason to complain.
Until Mikkel drops a plate of salad in front of him.
"¿Ensalada?" He raises an eyebrow at his food. It looks dull. The tip of his fork stabs some lettuce and he raises it to eye level to study it carefully.
"Is something wrong?" Mikkel asks, taken aback by Antonio's attitude. If there's one thing he's learnt about the Spaniard, it's that he loves food. Never once has he complained about anything he's been served, even if it was a dish he had never eaten before. His animosity towards the salad is completely new.
"Yes," Antonio answers, dropping his fork. "You always eat salad like this?"
"… Is there another way?"
Antonio lets out a heavy, exasperated sigh and, without a word, he picks up both plates, stands up and walks to the counter. There's not a single ounce of hesitation in his movements as he grabs oil, salt, vinegar and starts dressing the salad. It doesn't take long for a very curious Mikkel to peek over his shoulder.
"What are you doing?"
"A decent salad."
"Hm." The Dane leans closer, resting his chin on the Spaniard's shoulder. "Does that have a name?"
Antonio shrugs. "Don't know." He turns his head to face Mikkel, their noses brushing, and adds: "Don't care." His gaze remains fixed on the Dane's blue eyes for a few seconds longer than necessary before he turns his attention back to the salad, which he sprinkles with more salt and oil, finally deeming it complete. "Toma, anda," he says as he hands one of the plates to Mikkel. "Una ensalada decente."
"A decent salad, eh?" Mikkel snickers, taking it. "We'll see about that."
But after a taste, the Dane has to admit it is much better. He'll have to get Antonio to teach him how to make it. Or any other Spaniard, as he soon finds out that all of them have, sooner or later, encountered the lack of salad-dressing skills in Denmark and are working to fix it.
A few days later, Antonio confesses between chuckles that many of his countrymen are very upset about that, "barbaric" being the softest adjective they've used. Mikkel wants to protest and say it's just food, but he thinks twice. His instincts tell him it wouldn't be a good idea to criticize the Spanish gastronomic culture in front of them; not now, not ever. "You are the cook now," he says instead.
Antonio is more than happy to comply.
One day, tired of always being in the village, Mikkel packs up some food and takes Antonio for a hike through the woods. He knows them well, and they're beautiful. The war can wait.
The war is the last thing on their minds as they stroll, surrounded by tall, green trees and accompanied by the chirping of birds and Mikkel's blabbering. He tells Antonio about his childhood in the forest — that one time he got lost, that one time he tripped and fell face-first to the ground, that one time he ate a plant he shouldn't have and spent three days vomiting — all in a cheerful tone that makes the Spaniard smile, even though he can't understand half of what Mikkel is saying.
Mikkel is halfway through telling how he almost chopped his finger off at the age of seven when they arrive at what Antonio can only assume was their destination from the start. The trees suddenly disappear and they're welcomed onto the shore of a big lake.
Antonio smiles at the sight, which looks taken straight out of a fairy-tale. "Es precioso," he says, not knowing how to express it in English.
"Beautiful?" Mikkel correctly guesses. "It is." He flops down to the ground and lays on the grass. "I like to come here to relax," he confesses with a sigh, closing his eyes and enjoying the warm caress of the sun, still not strong enough to be a bother.
Relax. That's something Antonio hasn't done in a long time. He's not even sure he remembers what it feels like. He picks up a pebble from the ground and tosses it at the lake. It splashes and creates some ripples. He throws a second one; and a third. He has just picked up the fourth one when Mikkel's voice catches his attention.
"Hey." He's propped up on his elbows, staring at Antonio with one eye closed because of the sun, his blond hair pointing in every direction except downwards. "Tell me a story from your childhood."
"Childhood?" Antonio asks, tilting his head.
"When you were a kid."
"Ah." He falls silent. There isn't much to tell, really. He's from a small town of farmers, where nothing ever happened. The only reason he joined the army was to leave that idleness behind. He has no stories that can compete with Mikkel's. "I don't have nothing," he shrugs.
"Then tell me stories about the war."
The war. Mikkel seems to be fascinated by it. Antonio doesn't know why, and it worries him; it worries him to see how the boy's eyes sparkle in anticipation, expecting to hear tales of glory and victory.
"You haven't never be in battle, no?" he asks quietly. Mikkel shakes his head and he sighs. "I will pray to God for you never do." He tosses the pebble in to the lake and then sits down heavily next to the Dane. If he wants stories, he will get them.
For the next hour, Antonio just talks and talks. He tells Mikkel how he joined the army at fourteen years old, only as a drummer, and how he saw good men blown apart by cannon-balls. How he killed someone for the first time at fifteen, and how the life leaving the Portuguese's eyes still haunts him to this day. How he got severely injured in battle once and spent a whole day laying between corpses in the mud, certain that he was going to die, until someone found him and dragged him away.
Mikkel takes it all in, not missing a single word, and it's not hard to see how his illusion of glory slowly gets replaced by the cruel, hard reality. He's also scared by how much richer Antonio's vocabulary is when it comes to warfare. The Spaniard doesn't know "beautiful", but can name any weapon, any formation, any part of the uniform. He knows "injure", "blood", "death".
"War is hell, Mikkel," Antonio finishes with a sigh. His gaze travels across the glimmering waters of the lake, a sad smile on his face. "War is not beautiful."
At least, Mikkel consoles himself, Antonio is learning nicer words now.
There's a lot of teasing between them.
It starts one morning after Antonio witnesses a conversation between Mikkel and a neighbour. "Your idiom is funny," he says when they're finished. "It sounds like..."
"Potato," Antonio concludes, lacking a better word, when his gaze lands on a small vegetable stand.
"Potato?" Mikkel gasps, offended. "What does that even mean?"
"Potato," Antonio confirms with a nod, grinning like a kid.
"Oh, yes? Well, Spanish sounds…"
Like a song. It's not something he's willing to admit aloud, now even less, but he's been thinking it since the start. There's something purely melodic about the southern language, even when the Spaniards use it to insult each other (a healthy symbol of friendship, Mikkel has learnt), something that lingers in their accent when they speak English or attempt to pronounce Danish words. Maybe he likes it a bit too much when Antonio's tongue slips and calls him Miguel by accident.
But Mikkel is a proud Dane, a descendant of Vikings, and he'll die before admitting any of this.
"Spanish sounds like carrot."
Whatever that means.
The second linguistic clash comes a few days later, when Antonio tries—and fails—to repeat the Danish he hears Mikkel speak. This is very amusing for the Dane, who starts to say difficult words on purpose and then laughs at Antonio's attempts to repeat them. His favourite is rødgrød. Antonio tries and tries, but he's unable to wrap his tongue around the word (it's a fucking mouthful), and Mikkel's contagious laughter doesn't make it any easier.
"No me jodas, Miguel, que parece que te estás ahogando," he protests as he tries not to laugh.
"Rødgrød," Mikkel replies, having no idea what he has just been told.
They laugh so hysterically that they both end up in tears, out of breath, and with a sore abdomen.
Mikkel's sense of superiority doesn't last long, though, because not even a full day passes before Antonio finds out that he's completely unable to roll his tongue. For the next few days, their conversations consist mostly of Mikkel yelling "rødgrød" and Antonio replying with a loud "rrrrrrrr".
By then, everyone else knows two things for sure: one, Antonio and Mikkel have formed a very close friendship; and two, half of the kids in the village are more mature than them.
One day, some Spaniards decide they're going to throw a party. The reason: they feel like it. That's all they need. Of course, Antonio is one of them.
He walks into Mikkel's house in the afternoon, a big grin on his face, and he simply says: "Fiesta."
"What's that?" the clueless Dane asks.
"Music, dance, drink."
Antonio nods and grabs his guitar from the pile of straw that is his bed. Then he leaves again, and Mikkel barely hesitates before rushing after him. He has many questions: why a party, why now and not some other day, why the Spanish are so carefree and nice to be around? But he doesn't ask them, because he doesn't want answers. It's more fun this way.
"We make big, big fire," Antonio says as they walk to the village square. "Is important. Then we sing, and dance, and, um…" He points at his instrument. "Tocamos la guitarra. Eh, touch the guitar?" he literally translates the expression from Spanish.
Mikkel chokes back a laugh. "I think you mean play the guitar," he corrects.
Antonio shrugs and makes a face. It's a gesture Mikkel has come to interpret as "I guess what you're saying is correct but I can't know for sure because my English is crap". He does it quite often.
When they reach the plaza, they're welcomed by a bunch of Spaniards that immediately start talking to Antonio in quick Spanish. All of them speak very fast, Mikkel has noted. He always tries to catch some of the words Antonio has taught him, but it's damn near impossible. Thankfully, there's also a lot of gesturing involved, so it's easy to guess where they want to light a fire, where they want to play the music, where they want to dance.
The preparations are swift. The Spaniards organize everything with the efficiency expected of soldiers, and the Danes who offer to help follow their guidance with excitement. Mikkel is one of them, although, much to his disappointment, he's separated from Antonio, who's working on making a small stage for the musicians, being one himself. Instead, he's following the orders of Gonzalo, an equally goofy Spaniard who doesn't speak a single word of English (let alone Danish) but that gives his instructions in Spanish and expects Mikkel will understand if he repeats them loud and slow. Needless to say, it doesn't work, so Mikkel just imitates what he sees the others do. It's mostly carrying wood for the fire anyway.
When he comes back from what seems to be the last trip, Antonio is talking to Krista.
She's a neighbour, a nice girl his age.
And she's clearly interested in the Spaniard.
Antonio isn't the first soldier to receive the coquetry of a local woman; he surely won't be the last. He wouldn't be the first to flirt back, either. The Spaniards find the Danish women just as exotic as they find them. After the initial apprehension passed, it was only a matter of time before affairs started to sprout. In fact, if Antonio hasn't been targeted before, it's probably because Mikkel has almost always been with him.
As he faces the flirting for the first time, Mikkel realizes that he doesn't like it. At all.
He rushes over, and, much to his satisfaction, he has Antonio's attention before he even reaches them. The Spaniard smiles at Krista, asks her to please come to the party tonight, and then goes to his friend.
"Tired of carry wood?" he asks, teasing.
"You wish," Mikkel scoffs, and Antonio laughs. But then curiosity beats him, and he asks: "What were you and Krista talking about?"
"Ah!" Antonio chuckles, a bit embarrassed (something so out of character that Mikkel can't help but wonder if the reason is him). "She ask me to show her to dance."
There it is again, that pinch of jealousy Mikkel knows he shouldn't feel. It can't be helped, though: he has come to think of Antonio as his Spaniard. Like a pet, he realizes, ashamed of the thought. But possessiveness has always been one of his most notorious traits, and he has found that he and Antonio have a chemistry, a connection that he doesn't want to lose.
He suddenly wants to ask Antonio to teach him how to dance, too.
But that's inappropriate, isn't it?
"Are you a good dancer?" he says instead.
"I am the most good," the Spaniard replies. It's not a smug retort — it's a fact. A statement Antonio says just as casually as if he were talking about the weather. And Mikkel has no reason to doubt him.
He really wants to dance with him, now.
But that's even more inappropriate.
Rain starts pouring in the evening and keeps falling all night and into the following day.
The party is postponed.
Antonio hates the rain. He spends the entire time at home, sulking in his pile of straw, complaining about how much he misses the sun. In Spain, he says, it shines bright for most of the year, and there are few things he likes more than feeling its warm caress on his skin. "I want go back to Spain," he whines after a whole twenty-four hours of rain.
"I'm not in Spain," Mikkel replies, cheeky.
The complaints stop after that.
When it finally takes place, three days after it was supposed to, the party is a huge success: everyone attends it. Villagers and soldiers alike gather around the fire to drink and dance and sing and forget about the dark times Europe is undergoing.
Mikkel finds a nice spot for himself, close to the fire to be warm and right next to the stage so that he can lean on it. From there, he simply listens and watches.
Listens to the happy tunes that a bunch of Spaniards (Antonio among them) draw from their guitars, to their cheerful singing voices as they chant in their beautiful language, to their hideous pronunciation when they drop in Danish words just for laughs; and watches the rest of them dance around the fire, their dark silhouettes against the bright flames, the clumsy steps of the Danes who try to follow them. He sees Gonzalo swirling a giggling girl around, he hears Antonio's melodic voice coming from the stage, he spots Krista waving at the green-eyed Spaniard, and notices one of the singers start to slur after drinking too much.
"You don't drink?" he asks Antonio when the musicians take a break and the Spaniard flops down next to him. He offers his own mug.
"Ah, yes. Gracias. Tak," he attempts the Danish as he accepts the drink. "Just a little."
"Just a little? No, no, no. No friend of mine shall drink just a little."
Antonio ignores him and only takes a small sip. "Not good if I drink much," he warns, returning the mug, and immediately leaving to dance with Krista, as promised.
Mikkel decides not to pay attention to them. Instead, he goes to chat with some other Spaniards. After a few inquiries, they tell him that sweet, laid-back Antonio becomes a total monster when drunk. 'The Beast', they mockingly call him, and someone even jokes that, if they get him drunk enough, he could single-handedly win the war for Napoleon.
That's a sight he doesn't want to witness, the Dane decides as he moves back to his spot. Despite being a soldier, Antonio has never once shown any hint of violent behaviour — he's all about the little things, about enjoying every day; has such joy for life itself that it's contagious. He's like an earthy representation of that Spanish sun he so misses: bright and warm and powerful, yet kind…
And one heck of a dancer.
His gaze has involuntarily found Antonio, and once he has seen him, Mikkel can't look away. The Spaniard wasn't kidding when he had claimed to be the 'most good' dancer. His moves are fluid, gracious, even with Krista stumbling by his side. There's something hypnotic in the way he sways his hips, his arms, his legs, his whole body. The dim lighting of the fire makes him look almost ethereal, like a being from another world. It's the most beautiful thing Mikkel has ever seen.
It stops when Krista trips on her own feet and doesn't land face-first on the ground because Antonio catches her. She giggles in embarrassment, and excuses herself. Antonio waves her off and then, tired and sweaty, goes sit next to Mikkel again.
"You dance well," the Dane comments nonchalantly, handing him a drink so that he may quench his thirst.
"Bailo de puta madre," Antonio replies, and Mikkel assumes it means something along the lines of 'I'm a goddamn fantastic dancer'. "Krista is not good," he adds in a whisper.
"Maybe not," he agrees, snickering. "But she likes you."
Antonio hums, but says nothing. Instead, he pats the Dane's shoulder to catch his attention and discretely points at another couple.
Gonzalo is sitting on a chair with the woman he was dancing with (Mikkel recognizes Sonja) on his lap, and he's peppering kisses all over her face and neck. She keeps saying "no" and "stop" in three different languages, but she's giggling, her arms around the soldier, hugging him close rather than pushing him away.
Mikkel has to choke back a laugh when he sees them. Pressing a fist against his mouth, he looks at Antonio and wiggles his eyebrows up and down, making him chuckle. He'd be lying, though, if he said the sight doesn't make him happy.
Sonja used to be engaged. Then her fiancé was sent to war and never came back. She had barely smiled in a long time, let alone laughed, so it's nice to see her having a good time now, to have Gonzalo fill that void.
He briefly wonders how many couples the war has torn apart.
And then he realizes he's never asked.
"Are you married?"
"Married?" Antonio tilts his head, smiling cluelessly. Mikkel explains the concept as well as he can, and eventually Antonio's eyes light up in understanding. "¡Ah, casado! No, no," he laughs. "I am not… merrid?"
"Married. Not married."
And why not, Mikkel wonders. Antonio has everything: he's good looking, charming, strong in both body and spirit, and has a kind soul. He doubts Krista is the first woman to ever show interest in him.
Maybe, he muses, it's not that women are not interested in Antonio, but that Antonio is not interested in women. He has suspected it for a while. But he doesn't ask, because he's afraid of offending his friend.
Instead, he nods towards Gonzalo and Sonja and says: "Maybe you'll find someone here."
Antonio glances sideways at him for the briefest of moments before losing his gaze in the fire. When he speaks, his voice is a murmur, soft and honest: "Creo que ya he encontrado a alguien, pero me da miedo decírselo por lo que pueda pensar de mí."
Mikkel blinks, expecting a clumsy translation of the Spanish that he doesn't get. All he can do is stare at Antonio's green eyes, at the golden sparks the fire reflects in them like a thousand tiny stars, and hope it was a heartfelt confession.
It's late when they decide to call it a day. The moon has been shining over them for a long time when the fire is finally reduced to embers. Few have missed that Sonja and Gonzalo had left earlier, and they weren't the only couple to do so.
Antonio and Mikkel stumble back home together, leaning on each other. They're both a bit tipsy, but neither has drunk enough to regret it in the morning. Mikkel, who's a little more flushed, leans heavily on Antonio, who has one arm around his waist and the other carrying his precious guitar. He hums a tune as they walk, and Mikkel can't help but bob his head to the rhythm. He could listen to Antonio forever.
They make it through the door with difficulty, but once they're in, Mikkel stays there, resting against the wall as Antonio, still humming, dances his way to his pile of straw to leave his instrument. Then he prances around the small house to his own music and, he'll be damned, Mikkel can't take his eyes off him.
"Du er smuk," he breathes out before he can control himself.
Antonio stops moving for barely a second. His eyes gleam in the dark, and Mikkel knows he knows what he has just been told. He doesn't understand, but he knows. So, when the Spaniard keeps dancing, the Dane isn't surprised that he's moving towards him, an inviting smile on his face. Mikkel doesn't hesitate and takes the hand he's offered.
He's a clumsy dancer, but that doesn't throw Antonio off in the slightest. The Spaniard helps him move and twirl and spin as if they'd been dancing together for ages. It's not clear who starts, but soon both of them are laughing, sharing a moment of pure bliss with each other and with each other only.
It comes to an abrupt end when, entangled in each other's arms, they crash against the wall. Antonio takes all of it, hitting his back, and lets out a breathless oof that's covered by Mikkel's almost hysterical giggles. He's having fun.
Maybe, Mikkel muses, he should push away before it becomes awkward.
But then their eyes meet, and screw it. He's not letting go. Not yet.
If anyone else were to see them right now, the word scandal would be an understatement. Antonio is against the wall, his arms wrapped around Mikkel, keeping him close; and Mikkel, he's pressed against the Spaniard, his arms trapped between their chests and his hands resting on the base of Antonio's neck. And they're staring, staring, staring into each other's eyes, Antonio's olive-green facing Mikkel's sky-blue, and if the war that's razing Europe were to knock on their door, they wouldn't move a muscle.
The first to look away is Mikkel, but his gaze doesn't travel far. His eyes are now fixed on Antonio's lips. His tongue darts out to lick at his own, which have gone dry. Then, slowly, he looks back at Antonio's eyes. They stare back at him with curiosity, expectation even, but not a hint of rejection or disgust.
Their gazes don't part when Mikkel moves forward and presses their lips together.
It's not an actual kiss — it's more lips touching in a silent question; a question Antonio answers by oh so softly nibbling Mikkel's lower lip.
A fraction of a second later, their eyes are closed and they're sharing a kiss that starts slow, tentative, but soon becomes heated and passionate. Mikkel sneaks his arms around Antonio's neck, his hands finding his hair and gently pulling at it, which in turn makes the Spaniard tighten his grip around the Dane's waist.
Mikkel gasps in surprise when Antonio leaves his lips to pay attention to his neck instead. He has to be grateful that the Spaniard is supporting his weight, because his knees suddenly feel so weak that he might otherwise fall. He's not going to admit it to Antonio, but he's very inexperienced at this.
That doesn't seem to matter, though, because he senses Antonio knows exactly what he's doing.
Any pinch of jealousy he had felt for anyone who has touched his Spaniard before him is completely washed away by the nimble touch of Antonio's hands, which have just sneaked under his clothes. He pants, needy, and it's only then, when he feels Antonio's smile against his skin, that he completely surrenders.
The rest of the night passes in a haze of moans of pleasure and soft Spanish murmurs.
Antonio falls asleep right after it's over, but Mikkel, although dead tired, makes an effort to remain awake for a few more minutes. He just wants to look closely at his… lover, he supposes. Lover. That's a beautiful word. Biting his lower lip, he sneaks closer, until their noses are brushing, and pushes some stray locks of hair off Antonio's forehead.
He's so goddamn gorgeous, even when he's snoring and drooling all over the pillow.
In that very moment, Mikkel thinks he might be the happiest person in Denmark.
Letting out a content sigh, he cuddles next to Antonio and falls asleep to the rhythm of his breathing.
When Antonio wakes up the next morning, and after his groggy brain recalls everything from last night, a single thought flashes through his mind:
We shouldn't have done that.
But the thought is fleeting, because even though it's true, he knows he won't follow his own advice. Was last night a mistake? Maybe. Does he regret it? No. Would he do it again? Definitely. He's always been too emotionally-driven; he's not about to start listening to Logic now.
Even less now that he has awoken to find Mikkel completely wrapped around him, cuddling him lovingly.
His preferences have never been a secret among his fellow soldiers — he doesn't go around telling everyone, but he doesn't hide either. In fact, most of his affairs, if not all, have been with a comrade-in-arms. They're not relationships; even the word 'affair' might be too much. It's more like certain colleagues that will agree to a quick fuck to blow off some steam, no strings attached.
And that's exactly what bothers Antonio.
He's not naïve enough to expect something more from those encounters, but a part of him has always wished for a little bit of sentiment in them. Not an 'I love you', but maybe a 'how was it, 'are you okay', 'that was good'; not cuddles, but maybe a farewell kiss.
Now that someone is finally offering him what he has been missing, how can he even think of letting it pass?
His left arm wraps around Mikkel's shoulders, protective, as his right hand brushes through his messy blonde hair. Inside his head, Logic screams: This is a bad idea. You can get in trouble. You're going to get hurt. But he ignores it in favour of his swelling heart when he presses his lips to Mikkel's forehead.
The Dane sighs in awakening and Antonio smiles fondly at him. "Buenos días," he mutters against his brow.
"God morgen," Mikkel slurs back, still not fully awake.
"You are good?" he asks, his fingertips brushing over a bare shoulder.
The only reply he gets is an affirmative hum.
And it feels glorious.
Their dynamic doesn't change much after their relationship does. To everyone else's eyes, they're still two very good friends who enjoy spending time together, taking walks in the woods and playing with the children. Antonio keeps receiving Krista's coquetry, and although it's incredibly fun to see Mikkel turn into a raging ball of jealousy, he ends up politely rejecting her, using the exact same arguments he won't use for Mikkel. That generates some gossip, but no one notices any odd behaviour from Antonio and soon the issue is forgotten.
The couple is glad to stop being the centre of attention after that. They're not bold enough to do anything suspicious out in the open, but it's not enjoyable to feel half of the village following their every move.
Despite this, privacy is never a problem. Living alone in the same house proves to be an important point in their favour, reducing the risk of being caught to almost zero. After a whole day of playing friends, it's a relief to finally close the door behind them, lock the rest of the world outside, and let go of all inhibitions. They both try not to act too desperately, if only out of pride, yet they can't help but jump into each other's arms the moment they're alone.
One night a couple of weeks after the party, Antonio is cooking dinner. He's making broth. There's a pot of water heating up and he's dicing up vegetables and some meat. Or, rather, he's attempting to. Mikkel has wrapped his arms around his waist and is playfully kissing his neck and jaw. It's very distracting.
"Miguel…" Antonio whines for the umpteenth time, after having tried to shake him off (to no avail).
"Yes?" Mikkel whispers in his ear, feigning innocence.
"Eres un puto pesado," he growls in Spanish, immediately after adding a literal translation that makes Mikkel laugh out loud: "Heavy."
"I think you mean annoying," he corrects. "But what you actually mean is adorable."
Antonio wants to glare at him, but when he turns to do so and his eyes fall on the, indeed, adorable pouting lips of his lover, all he can do is kiss him instead. Mikkel might be cute, but he's also a manipulative little shit.
"Help cook," the Spaniard mutters when they part. "Then supper." A pause and then he adds: "Then sex."
That catches all of Mikkel's attention. "Oh?" He swirls Antonio around so that he's standing in front of him, not behind, and his hands slide down to cup his buttocks. "Is there a chance we can alter that order in any way?" he inquires, seductively batting his long eyelashes.
Seconds later, the tip of Antonio's cooking knife is tapping his nose. "Food first," he smiles, a threat lingering in his smile.
"Alright…" Mikkel sighs. "How can I help?"
Antonio pulls free of his embrace and hands him the cutting board, filled to the brim with diced vegetables. "Put in there," he points to the pot, where the water is already boiling, "and remove it."
As Mikkel does as told, Antonio starts cutting the little meat they have. It's mostly leftovers; leftovers that the Dane intended to throw away, much to the Spaniard's dismay. If there's one thing he learnt early in life it's that there's no such thing as throwable leftovers—everything that's still edible must be eaten. It took him a while to convince Mikkel to let him cook with it, but now that he finally has permission, he's going to make the best fucking broth in Denmark and make the idiot swallow his critiques.
"Antonio?" the idiot calls, bringing him back to the present.
"What do you want me to do with this?"
Frowning in confusion, Antonio turns to look at Mikkel, who's standing by his side with the pot in his hands. "What are you doing? I said to remove it," he says.
"Yes—that's what I did?"
"No, I mean… Remove?" Antonio tries again, this time adding a swirling motion with his finger.
Mikkel purses his lips to hold back a laugh. "Do you mean stir?" he asks, smiling in amusement.
Antonio breathes out heavily, irked, and in one swift move he grabs a wooden spoon and drops it in the pot. "I mean que lo remuevas, coño," he grumbles.
English is a fucking stupid language.
He doesn't stay mad for too long, though, because after the misunderstanding is cleared and the broth is finished, Mikkel reluctantly admits that it does taste very good, and after dinner is finished they fall into bed together with the whole night ahead of them.
That, right there, is the downside of living together. Yes, they have privacy, a place where they can forget expectations and rules and simply love each other. But it's all happening too fast.
They've been living together for nearly three months; they've only been in a relationship for a couple of weeks. Yet everything is so domestic. It feels like they've been together for ages — even worse, it feels like they could be together forever.
And they can't.
Antonio isn't visiting Denmark on vacation. There's a war raging all across Europe, from the British Isles to Russia. Napoleon's armies march undefeated through the continent, making France the greatest military power of the day, and her allies, few as they may be, must provide support. In the south, Spain should be preparing a joint invasion of Portugal. In the north, Denmark gets ready to attack Sweden. It might not be tomorrow, it might not be next week, but sooner or later the Spaniards will receive orders to pick up their arms and march into Swedish territory.
What will they do when the moment comes? If they allow themselves to fall into a routine, to submerge in the fake belief that it may last forever, just how hard will the inevitable separation hit them?
Those are bleak thoughts, so both decide not to think about them, even though they know that's a mistake. They'll deal with heartbreak when it comes. For the moment, it's better to enjoy the little things, like taking long hikes in the woods and eating by the lakeshore or sharing a cigarette after making love (the ones Mikkel rolls are still amateurish and it makes Antonio laugh).
They let the days pass by, one after the other, and pretend to ignore the future that waits for them.
The second big party comes a few weeks later. This time, however, there is something to celebrate.
One morning, Mikkel is sitting by his doorstep sharpening his knives when he hears a big uproar somewhere nearby. Curious about the Spanish being yelled, he walks towards the noise to find a big group of Spaniards, Antonio among them, who cheer and laugh and nudge each other. In the middle of the fuss stands Gonzalo, whose back is being patted so much and so hard that Mikkel wouldn't be surprised to find a red handprint on it.
"¡Miguel!" Antonio exclaims cheerfully, and trots to his side with a wide grin on his face.
"What's the matter?"
"Ah, um…" the Spaniard giggles, maybe a tad too amused to find the proper words. He glances back at Gonzalo and then snickers at Mikkel. "Is Sonja." And then, not even bothering to think of the word, places a hand over his stomach and waves it over an imaginary bulge.
Mikkel's eyebrows shoot up, his mouth twisting into an incredulous smile. "She's pregnant?!" he laughs, understanding now why the fuss.
"Yes! And this means—¡FIESTA!" Antonio screams, throwing his hands up in the air.
"Cool," Mikkel nods. "I quite enjoyed the last party you threw," he adds with a cheeky wink before going back to his knives. He only looks back once to verify that Antonio has gone scarlet.
In form, this second party is very similar to the first one: there's a big fire and music and dancing. But in feeling, it's much more intense.
By now, they have had more than enough time to mingle, get to know each other (as evidenced by the number of pregnant women—turns out, Sonja wasn't the only one), and this time everything flows wonderfully.
There are Danes singing on stage with the Spaniards; there are Spaniards helping the Danes distribute food and drinks. There's not a single couple dancing by the fire in which both components are the same nationality. Every Danish child has found a soldier willing to let them stand on his feet and pretend to dance with them — the most fortunate ones even get piggyback rides!
Mikkel is one of the Danes who joins in on the stage, invited by none other than Antonio himself, and they have the time of their lives singing in something that isn't Spanish or Danish or English, but more like a weird blend of the three. When they finally take a seat, Antonio forces his guitar onto Mikkel's lap and starts to teach him the most basic chords. He has to ditch him at some point, though, because Anja shows up with a pout — her assigned Spaniard has retired from babysitting due to a sore back, and she requires Antonio's services.
"Practice!" Antonio orders, wiggling a tutoring finger at Mikkel before the little girl drags him away.
It'll be a while until she returns him.
It's very late in the night, almost dawn, when Mikkel and Antonio finally make it back home. Yawning, the Spaniard carefully leaves his guitar on the straw that used to be his bed and then collapses on the one he now shares with the Dane.
"Playing guitar is difficult," Mikkel mumbles, snuggling next to him.
"No," Antonio disagrees, already half asleep. "Needs practice, that is all."
"Hmm." After a pause: "Antonio."
"Do you want to have kids?"
A tired green eye cracks open to look at him. "Have kids? Like, be father?" When Mikkel nods in confirmation, he sighs. "It is not my priority one."
"No? But you love children."
"Yes," Antonio admits easily. But then he cuddles closer to Mikkel, and adds: "But I can't have kids with you."
Now it's time for Mikkel to blush red. Not for long, though, because it's in him to reply with a snarky retort:
"Well, we can have fun trying."
The day it happens starts like a perfectly normal one.
They wake up, share a few good-morning kisses, flirt with each other, comment on how it's almost been four months since they started their relationship and whoa how fast time passes! It seems like it was only yesterday that Mikkel approached Antonio out of sheer curiosity, but it's already been six months since then. Half a year! That, they decide, deserves a celebration.
But that'll be at night.
In the morning, Antonio goes with a couple others to help Gonzalo, who wants to make a crib for when his baby is born, and Mikkel stays with Sonja, whose bulge is becoming noticeable. She talks to him nonstop about how adorably thoughtful Gonzalo is, even though they can't communicate to save their lives, and just how fun it is to be around him. She's not the only pregnant woman in the village, but she sure is the most excited. Mikkel hasn't seen her so happy in ages.
In the afternoon, the crib is almost finished and the Spaniards have some drinks to celebrate.
In the evening, the messenger comes.
He arrives by horse, a Spanish soldier wearing his uniform, from one of the other villages. He's panting, covered in dirt and sweat, but refuses every offer of food or water, and only asks for one thing: for all the Spaniards to gather around him to hear what he has to say. His features are grave. It doesn't take a genius to know he doesn't bring good news.
Mikkel watches from the side, worried. He hears the messenger speak low and fast for a long time, the soldiers around him listening in a silence he's not sure is respectful or stunned. What he can tell is how their expressions change: from surprise to outrage to plain anger. It's a scary sight, that of such nice and cheerful men muttering darkly, fists clenched and eyes on fire. But when he spots Antonio among the crowd, that is the worst sight of all. His lover looks particularly enraged—looks like a different person from the man he knows.
As if he has sensed his staring, Antonio suddenly looks at him, and even in the distance Mikkel can read the pain in his eyes.
The Spaniard leaves the group and marches to his side in fast strides, his breath uneven and his fists still shaking with rage.
"W-What's going on?" Mikkel stutters when he reaches his side. He needs an answer; he needs to know what bad news has reached them.
But Antonio grabs his arm and, shaking his head, drags him away. Not here, his whole being says. I will tell you. But not here.
Mikkel grasps that they need privacy for whatever is to come, and that scares him. Being alone to receive good news can only mean good things; the same can sadly not be said about bad news. So, by the time they cross his front door and enter his house, their own little world, he's shaking in anticipation and fright.
"What's going on?" he asks for the second time as he sits heavily on his bed.
Antonio stays on his feet, too anxious to sit, and paces around, visibly distressed. He seems to have trouble finding the right words. "We go," he finally says, low, not daring to look Mikkel in the eye.
Well, that's not a surprise.
He has known that this moment would come from the start.
So why does it hurt so much?
"You're leaving," Mikkel repeats, somehow managing not to choke. He takes in a deep breath and plasters on a fake smile. "To Sweden, right?"
There's an odd blend of seriousness and pain in Antonio's features when he looks at him and shakes his head. "Home," he corrects. "Spain."
Mikkel's smile falls. What the hell happened? he wants to scream. But he needn't: the question is visible all over his face. Antonio lets out a shaky breath and starts to explain as best as he can.
The information that has reached them is incomplete and scattered, but good enough to get a general idea of what has happened: Napoleon has betrayed his Spanish allies and the French troops have invaded Spain. The king is missing, no one knows who's in command anymore, so the people have taken matters into their own hands. On May 2nd (four months ago!) a popular revolt in Madrid against the invading French army was the spark that lit a fire; a raging, incessant fire that even the feeblest of peasants carry as they take up arms to recover their country. It's a fire that has given France its first defeat in the field since Napoleon rose to power.
It's a fire that now blazes in Antonio, too.
They have been the last to be informed, and all the arrangements have already been made: the British Navy, which just yesterday was an enemy, will pick them up on the shores of Denmark and take them back to Spain.
"I not want to leave you," Antonio finishes quietly. "But I have to go."
Mikkel swallows, choking back the tears, and nods in understanding. "If you leave like this," he says, standing up but feeling downcast, unable to look at Antonio's eyes, "you will be considered traitors."
He hears Antonio walk closer, and it's a matter of seconds before he feels a hand on his chin, gentle yet firm, that forces him to look him in the face. His green eyes are full of sorrow and his voice shakes when he asks: "I am a traitor for you?"
No, of course you're not.
You are the most wonderful man I've ever met.
Incapable of voicing his thoughts, Mikkel answers by wrapping his arms around Antonio and pulling him into a constricting hug. "No you're not," he manages to whisper into his shirt as stray tears roll down his cheeks. He's falling apart, and the tight hug he receives back from Antonio will only keep him together for so long.
It's hard to remain strong when he hears his precious lover sob against his hair.
"When do you leave?" he asks quietly, dreading the answer.
Too soon. Tomorrow is too soon. How can they fit the eternity they want to spend together into just a few hours?
"Do we still have the night for us?"
Antonio has barely finished the word before Mikkel's lips find his.
And then nothing matters anymore.
It's early in the morning. The sun has barely started to rise, and everything is grey and cold and sad. The usual hubbub of laughter is replaced by quiet farewells — even the children are silent and teary-eyed.
One of the worst sights is Gonzalo trying to console a distraught Sonja, putting on a brave smile for her sake and kissing her tears away.
Mikkel wishes he and Antonio were allowed to do that too, to abuse every single second they have left. But they're already out in the open. Their time for a more private, personal farewell has already expired. They're just friends now.
"Care of her, ¿vale?" Antonio requests by his side. He speaks of his guitar, which he's leaving behind because he can't take it with him. "Practice," he adds, a soft smile on his lips.
Mikkel nods and offers his hand for a handshake that, like their very first one, lingers for much longer than necessary. "Safe trip," he mumbles. A silly thing to say, really, because the peril Antonio will face won't be during the journey, but at his destination.
But Antonio just smiles a little wider, and says: "Thanks for all."
Then the commander gives the order to leave.
Antonio's smile falters. Mikkel's grip loosens. It's over.
The Spaniard adjusts the haversack on his shoulders into a more comfortable position, turns around and starts walking away. His steps, usually long, confident strides, are now short and hesitant. His shoulders are hunched, and not because of his luggage's weight.
It's such a goddamn heartbreaking sight that Mikkel has to look away.
His gaze happens to land on Gonzalo and Sonja, who are still saying their farewells. She's clutching his hand between hers, the soldier's other hand placed on her bulging abdomen, and it's all tears and kisses, tears and kisses.
"Anotnio!" he calls, rushing towards him. The Spaniard turns, surprised, just in time for him to receive Mikkel's rough embrace. "Jeg elsker dig," he whispers into his ear. He hasn't said it before, not aloud, but judging by the way Antonio tightens his arms around him, he has understood.
Just as Mikkel understands when a quiet "Te quiero" is whispered back.
Then Antonio pulls back, abruptly, but only so he can look him in the eye. In all seriousness, he says:
"I will come back."
Taken aback, Mikkel can only blink.
"I will come back," Antonio repeats, this time managing a heartfelt smile. "When the war finish."
It's a promise he can't keep, and both of them know that. But it's also all they have, so they hold on to it as if their lives depended on it. Mikkel nods, smiling back.
"I'll be waiting. Don't be late."
This time, Antonio walks away without interruptions.
It's a long walk to the shore where the British ships are anchored waiting for them. A long walk made in silence.
Everything goes smoothly and without trouble.
Most of them almost wish it hadn't.
Antonio stands at the stern of the ship, his green eyes staring at the piece of land that grows smaller and smaller as they sail away from it. He hasn't moved from this spot ever since they set sail, ignoring everything that goes on around him on deck. He keeps looking, even though he can no longer see Mikkel.
"What are you leaving behind?" someone says by his side, startling him.
It's an Englishman who had introduced himself as Captain Kirkland when the Spaniards boarded his ship. He stands tall and proud, not even looking at Antonio when he addresses him, his gaze focused on the horizon too.
"Someone I love," is Antonio's muttered reply.
"I figured." His hand finds Antonio's shoulder and squeezes. It's a comforting gesture that says, I understand. But his next words are as cold and hard as reality: "You'd better stop looking back, son. You're going to war."
Antonio clenches his fists. Stop looking back. If only he could.
He's going back home, but the only thing waiting for him there is war. He's not sure he can call it home anymore; not when the first thing that pops into his head when he thinks of the concept is Mikkel's wide grin. Is he going back home, or is he leaving it?
It's okay, he thinks. It's okay—I'm coming back. I promised.
"Supper will be served soon," Kirkland says. His voice reaches Antonio, but he doesn't process the words.
I will come back, Mikkel.
"You won't want to miss it."
Please, wait for me.
"Stop looking back."
We will meet again.
The Captain leaves not much later, after it becomes apparent that there's no cheering up for the Spaniard. Antonio keeps staring at the horizon, where Denmark keeps getting smaller and smaller, until it disappears completely. Only then does he finally move and turn his back to the place where he has been happy.
He dedicates one last thought to Mikkel before he buries everything deep, deep within himself. Because Kirkland is right. Looking back on the past makes one lose focus on the present.
And he's going to war.
He walks away without looking back and joins a small group of Spaniards who chat without much enthusiasm. Gonzalo hands him a cigarette and Antonio accepts it, not a single word between them. They don't need to speak. Gonzalo, too, is leaving something precious behind. (Later, he will confess he doesn't expect he'll ever get to meet his child.) They smoke together in silence until they're called for dinner, which they eat together in silence.
There's little talking, and only before they go to bed. They agree that they miss Spain, the sun and warmth and familiar colours and smells, and the thought of going back isn't as depressing. But at night Antonio won't dream of his motherland.
He'll dream of curious blue eyes shimmering by the firelight as their owner asks how to roll a cigarette.
The war that waits for them in Spain will be long and bloody, and although it will play a major role in the defeat of Napoleon, it will also leave behind a devastated, deeply wounded country.
France will lose two hundred thousand men. Spain, many tens of thousands more.
Antonio will be one of them.
Mikkel will wait for a long, long time.
Huescar, Spain – 1981
1. Napoleonic Wars: Spain & Denmark are allied with France
2. Dirty French rats invade Spain – Spain & France are now enemies
3. Therefore Denmark & Spain are now enemies
4. People from Huescar are batshit crazy? They declare war on Denmark?
5. People from Huescar decide that killing invading Frenchmen is funnier and easier than sending an "army" to Denmark (did they even know where Denmark is?)
6. People from Huescar forget about the "war" with Denmark
((7. People from Huescar are my fucking heroes))
Antonio puts down the pen and tries not to burst out laughing as he rereads his notes. Spanish history will never fail to amuse him.
It hasn't been three months since the formal war declaration was rediscovered in Huescar by a very bored researcher, but the hilarious news didn't take long to spread from Huescar to Granada, then to Madrid, and finally to Denmark. The Danes, of course, were thrilled to find out they had been at war for over a hundred and seventy years without knowing it (who wouldn't?), and promptly accepted the peace offering from the Spanish town.
And now there has been a party going on in Huescar for the last three days, after a symbolic signing of a peace treaty. Hundreds of Danes have come all the way from the north dressed up as Vikings. Freaking Vikings.
Not for the first time, Antonio wonders how he can chronicle the event without making it sound made up.
The noise from the street tells him that another crazy Spanish-Danish parade is passing by, and he quickly grabs his bloc and a pen before rushing outside, hoping to get a somewhat decent interview that isn't entirely drunken blabbering. All his other attempts have been futile, and everything ends today, so this is his last chance.
He stands by the end of the road and watches the people passing by in front of him with calculating eyes. It's too early for anyone to be very drunk, but he immediately discards anyone with a beer in their hand anyway. He knows how much his fellow countrymen love to party, and the Danes don't seem to be any different.
As if to prove his point, a large group of (very lame) Vikings carrying six-packs walks by him chanting and singing in what he assumes is Danish, but could just as easily be drunken gibberish. Antonio rolls his eyes and doesn't intend to look at them twice — until he sees that one of them has accidentally dropped his horned helmet and hasn't realized.
"Hey, Viking!" he calls after him, picking up the fallen prop. "You dropped your helmet!"
Some of the Danes turn around, including the owner, and his eyes light up in recognition. "Aw shit," he says, leaving his group. "Thanks, man." And before Antonio has time to react, there's an arm around his shoulders and he's being dragged along with the parade. "I feel like I owe you… Ah, here, you can have the last one," the Dane offers, presenting Antonio with a lonely can of beer hanging from the plastic rings. "Drink with me."
"Oh, no, no," Antonio laughs. The Dane is young and charming (and very handsome); his offer, more than tempting. But he can't allow himself to give in — he has a job to do. "I can't."
"Why not? It's a party! Fiesta, right?"
Antonio makes a face at the lousy pronunciation of the Spanish term, though the smile never leaves him, and he shakes his head. "I can't," he repeats, and then wiggles his bloc in front of the Dane's face. "I'm working."
"Ah, a reporter! That's too bad. I guess you'll have to join me when you've finished, then," he says casually.
"I think you already have enough friends with you," Antonio replies, playing along.
"I do, yes. But, you see, out of all my friends, I'm the unlucky one who got a single room at the hotel." He takes a sip from his beer, and then glances sideways at Antonio, blue eyes blazing. "It gets lonely at night."
Antonio's jaw drops. "That's bold, Viking," he mutters, unable to look away from the Dane. It's not hard to read the lust in him. "That's very bold." He finally breaks eye-contact to look around himself, an almost paranoiac reflex, but soon realizes that no one is paying them any attention. He relaxes and his lips curving into a playful smile. "You can get yourself in trouble. What's worse, you can get me in trouble."
"Hmm, well, you're a big boy," the Dane replies, shamelessly checking out Antonio's entire body. "I think you can handle it." Smoothly, he snatches the bloc and pen from the Spaniard's hand and makes him hold his beer as he scribbles down an address, a hotel name, and a room number. "Drop by at midnight," he says. And then, without warning, he pulls Antonio closer and kisses his cheek, dangerously close to the corner of his lips, and exchanges all the items again. "Don't be late," he whispers into Antonio's ear seductively, winking at him, and then rushing back to his friends.
For a while Antonio just stands there, too shocked to move or even think, until the Dane gets lost in the crowd, and then a little longer, until someone who's too drunk to look where he's going accidentally collides with him. Only then does he pull away from the crowd and take a look at the information in his bloc. It's signed:
The name's Mikkel :)
A wide grin spreads across his face and he isn't sure why.
Antonio knocks on the door a bit uncertainly. Then Mikkel opens it wearing only boxers, his Viking helmet, and a pouting smirk that tries to be seductive (but that only confirms he's one big dork), and Antonio is sold.
"Charming," he chuckles, eyeing the Dane's almost naked figure. "So sexy."
"Me? Always." Mikkel winks, then grabs the front of Antonio's shirt and pulls him inside.
Then he stands at the door for a moment, trying to figure out how to lock it.
What a dumbass, Antonio thinks, amused. What a huge, enticing dumbass. As he waits for Mikkel to work out the complex mechanism of the lock, he looks around the small hotel room.
His gaze ignores the rest of the Viking costume and the messy luggage, and instead falls onto the guitar case that rests against the wall. The musician in him makes him go to it and open it just a little to peek at the instrument inside. "Do you play?" he asks, sliding a finger across the smooth wood.
"Hmm?" Mikkel leaves the door, having finally managed to lock it, and he laughs when he sees what Antonio is talking about. "No, no I don't," he admits. "I actually bought that yesterday, quite spontaneously. I hoped I could learn… somehow."
"I could teach you," Antonio offers, closing the case and standing up. "How long are you in town—?"
He can't finish the question — Mikkel's lips on his prevent it.
Mikkel is smiling brightly as his quick breaths slowly calm down. He sinks some down into the bed, and then covers both their bodies with the sheets.
Antonio had fallen asleep right after they finished, and Mikkel can't blame him. He can only imagine how much he's been working the past few days — covering such a peculiar event mustn't be easy. Besides, it's not like he cares: Antonio looks adorable sleeping on his stomach, half of his face buried in a pillow covered in drool and sometimes mumbling soft Spanish words under his breath.
If he's being completely honest with himself, Mikkel has no idea why he flirted with him earlier. He hadn't even stopped to consider the more than likely possibility of the handsome Spaniard not being interested in him — he had simply acted on instinct. Maybe it was the alcohol giving his self-esteem an unneeded boost. Or perhaps it was Antonio's kind eyes. They're the most breathtaking shade of green Mikkel has ever seen, and he can't help but want to get lost in them. Where he's from, in Denmark, there once lived a group of Spaniards that left an everlasting good impression on the locals, and he has always been told that brown-eyed Danes are descendants of those southerners. Of course, that led him to believe that all Spaniards have brown eyes.
Staring at Antonio, he's glad he was wrong.
Staring at Antonio, he realizes he doesn't want him to be a one-night stand.
The Spaniard squirms and sighs, dreaming. "Mikkel…" he mumbles.
"Ja?" Mikkel answers, happy—and proud—to be in Antonio's dreams.
"I'm sorry I never came back."
The words are barely a whisper, muffled against the pillow, but Mikkel hears them and for some reason feels touched. He feels connected to the Spanish stranger.
And when he moves closer and wraps his arms around Antonio, he feels like this is how it was always meant to be.
· FIN ·
AN: I don't think historical notes are needed, the fanfic is very self-explanatory, so I won't be adding anything down here. But if you have any questions, feel free to ask! n_n The only comment I'll make is that there was, in fact, some trouble when the British ships picked up the Spanish: not all of them made it, and many were captured by the French (and sent to prisoner camps and later forcefully enrolled for the Russia campaign—good times). But I didn't include that in the fic because... I won't lie, I was sick of it by the time I reached that part :'D (And it had more impact if there was no trouble, I think.) So please allow me that small artistic license.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this beast that was a pain to write and consumed way too much of my study time. Please consider leaving a review so I feel like writing this monster was worth it :'D
PS. Danish does sound like potato. Google it. ;)
PPS. I'll be away for two weeks starting tomorrow, so it'll take me a while to reply to the lovely reviews I'm sure you all will leave. But know that they're very appreciated and I love you very much. n_n