He was sour and insecure, aggressive and juvenile. The man was lazy and weak like his brother but lacked any of the softness. Unless you were a pretty girl. Then he was all charm and sexuality.
Lovino Vargas was a creature of great confusion to Ludwig.
Trying to understand Lovino as the personification of Italia Romano was even more difficult. Italy was a country of good food, romance, fast cars and great works of art. Yet it was also tradition, religion and mafia men. The contradictions made Ludwig want to reach out and dig his fingers into Lovino's shoulders just to see if he was real.
Feliciano was made up of some of those same contradictions as well. Yet he didn't seem at all mysterious to Ludwig. Oh, Feliciano could be just as exasperating as his twin. It was a more tangible kind of feeling though, in the way extroverts mystified introverts. Feliciano confused Ludwig simply because their personalities were so different. Ludwig certainly didn't want to strip Feliciano naked just to see if he had wings like one of those fae things Arthur believed in.
No, that was something Ludwig only wanted to do to Lovino.
Eventually Ludwig came to realise that there may have been a sexual aspect to his fascination with Lovino. Well, that wasn't quite accurate. He was certain there was a sexual aspect to it. It just took Francis to explain it.
They were at an EU meeting and it was break time. Most of the other nation personifications had left, leaving Ludwig alone with the Italies and Francis. The brothers had been engaged in some fight or another, Lovino red-faced and Feliciano about to cry. Ludwig never liked when Feliciano cried because they were friends and Ludwig cared about his feelings. But Ludwig especially hated when Feliciano looked like he was about to cry during a fight with Lovino. That usually meant that Lovino was the one that actually wanted to cry but wouldn't let himself do so, so Feliciano felt like he had to cry for him. Lovino did the same for Feliciano in his own way. Whenever Feliciano was angry but did not want to cause conflict Lovino would become especially enraged.
Ludwig hated both scenarios. He felt it meant that he had failed the brothers in some way.
So the German nation took it upon himself to put a stop to the argument. And he did so by grabbing hold of that strange strand of hair on Lovino's head. Ludwig had a lot of respect for that strand of hair that both brothers possessed. It always worked to get either one to stop doing whatever troubling thing they were doing.
"You shouldn't be fighting." Ludwig had told Lovino, watching as the older man shuddered and moaned. Ludwig gave a couple more tugs to prove his point.
Feliciano panicked- why did one Italy always react like that when the other's hair was pulled? - and tried to detach Ludwig's hand from Lovino's head.
"Doitsu, you shouldn't do that!" Feliciano cried.
"Hm? Why not?" Ludwig asked. He never could get Feliciano to explain why the piece of hair was off limits.
"Because you just shouldn't." Feliciano said at the same time that Francis announced, "Because Romano just came in his pants."
Lovino and Feliciano both froze with matching looks of red-faced embarrassment. Ludwig released Lovino and looked at Francis in shock.
"Ve! That's supposed to be a secret." Feliciano scolded Francis. Lovino, shaking, snapped, "Never mind France. We're leaving!"
Ludwig had watched the brothers leave before turning to Francis, knowing his own face expressed his total incomprehension.
Francis frowned, then shrugged it off. "I guess you did not know? I realised it the second time I pulled North Italy's hair when we were young. That strange strand is an erogenous zone. I have been told that Rome may have had one too. Anyway, if you pull on the strand long enough the Italy it is attached to will orgasm. I do not know why they keep it such a secret. That hair is very convenient, non?"
That was the moment Ludwig wished the ground would open up and swallow him. He did not want to think of all the times he had pulled on Feliciano's hair over the decades.
And while he would never admit it to anyone Ludwig kept playing that moment over and over in his mind, trying to pinpoint the exact moment that he made Lovino Vargas climax.
For a long time after that Feliciano was the only Italy that attended any sort of international event. That was not necessarily unusual except when it was an event that also required Spain to attend. If both Spain and Italy were both invited to a meeting then Antonio was guaranteed to bring Lovino along. Yet during that post-climax period, all Antonio brought with him was a kicked-puppy expression. It did not help that Francis was continuously making comments about Italian landmarks in Ludwig's general direction instead of harassing Antonio, Arthur or Feliciano- his favourite targets,
At least Feliciano had forgiven Ludwig for all those years of accidental sexual assault. The last thing Ludwig had ever wanted was to hurt anyone.
Ludwig was not ready to let go of his fascination with Lovino, no matter how problematic it had become. As guilty as he felt about all those years of pulling on erogenous pieces of hair, that same strand would haunt his dreams. Ludwig had awoken on more than one night with his shorts damp after a dream about that fateful meeting. Considering all the sleepovers Feliciano insisted on it was particularly worrisome. Especially once Ludwig did eventually have a wet dream while Feliciano was in his bed.
"Ah, Doitsu, everyone goes through this at some point in their lives." Feliciano had told him good-naturedly. "You may be a little old to be going through this but it just means you've discovered the charm of cute girls!"
Ludwig blushed. Of course Feliciano thought that he was dreaming about girls. Feliciano, for all of his naivety, adored pretty women. Flirting with females from anywhere in the world was about the only thing either Vargas brother was competent at. Ludwig pushed the thought of two very sensual, nearly identical brothers out of his mind. It was bad enough that he had seen it happen in real life. He did not want to create a space for Feliciano to appear in his fantasies. One Vargas was bad enough.
Sighing, Ludwig murmured, "It's not about a girl."
Feliciano frowned. "Not a girl? Does that mean Doitsu likes many girls? You don't seem the type…" Then his eyes lit up and Feliciano exclaimed, "Oh! Doitsu just discovered the charm of cute boys!"
Ludwig wondered if it was possible to blush any harder. "It's not a boy either. Not really. He's older than me for one thing. And… he's not human."
That confession seemed to excite Feliciano. "Oh! That means it's a nation! And someone I know! Well, if he's older than you then it's not Alfred or Matthew. You are close to Roderich."
"Nein! It's not Roderich." Ludwig shuddered. He cared about Roderich, certainly, but not in that way.
"Ah…" Feliciano then looked concerned. "Hey, Ludwig, you know you're my best friend right? I really do love you but not like that."
Ludwig should not have let that get to him but he had reached his maximum level of embarrassment. "God no. Feliciano, it's your brother."
Feliciano seemed to freeze into a block of ice. He did not move, he did not seem to breathe. Ludwig was worried that the Italian had finally had a mental breakdown when Feliciano suddenly pulled out his cellphone.
"I have to tell Lovi! We're going to be brothers-in-law Doitsu!" Feliciano cried cheerfully.
Knowing that telling Feliciano had spelled his downfall, Ludwig tried to steal the cell phone. But Italy could be quick when he wanted and he had his brother on speed dial. Feliciano was capable of running and talking at the same time so although Ludwig was giving chase he knew that Lovino was being told everything.
Feliciano only let Ludwig catch him when he had ended the phone call.
"Well, he wasn't mafia level mad so I think you have a chance!" Feliciano said. "I'll arrange your first date myself. I know a great little place that serves gnocchi."
Feliciano had picked out the restaurant as well as Ludwig's clothes, overriding all of Ludwig's objections to the date. When Feliciano pointed out that if Ludwig did not go then he would be in effect standing Lovino up then Ludwig knew that he would have to go. He couldn't bear the thought of upsetting Lovino, especially as he did not know what Feliciano had done to his brother to make him agree to the date in the first place. And Ludwig had the impression that if he stood up Lovino then Feliciano would never forgive him even though Feliciano knew that Ludwig did not want to go on the date.
In addition to all of this, Feliciano had called in Elizabeta and Roderich to ensure that Ludwig went. Roderich was simply there for the moral support. It was Elizabeta that Feliciano was truly relying on as the woman was known to obsess over gay romance. Feliciano could not help Ludwig get ready as he had to make sure that Lovino did not back out of the date.
"If Feliciano knows that both Lovino and I would rather not do this then why he is going to such trouble?" Ludwig sighed. "And to think he dragged you and Elizabeta into this."
Roderich, who was making Ludwig some tea to calm his nerves, shrugged. "Italians believe in love. Feliciano probably believes that this well do you and Romano some good. And it is certainly no bother to Elizabeta. She seems to be having a grand time."
Indeed, Hungary was enjoying herself immensely. She had pressed Ludwig's white button down shirt for him and had nodded approvingly at Feliciano's choice of soft grey trousers and no suit jacket. Feliciano was definitely going for casual with a touch of formality. Elizabeta even squealed in glee when Ludwig walked out of his room after he finished getting dressed.
Before they pushed Ludwig out into the world to face his fate, Elizabeta asked, "How long have you been in love with Romano?"
Ludwig sighed and had replied, "I'm not. I don't think… it's complicated."
Although Ludwig had said it wasn't love he felt he would have to change his tune if Lovino was going to dress like that. The brunette was waiting for Ludwig outside of the restaurant, dressed in a green fisherman's knit sweater that matched his eyes. Tight black dress pants hugged his hips and emphasized the shape of his legs. And Lovino was even wearing shoes with a slight heel; as if to make himself taller so that Ludwig would have an easier time kissing him. Which Ludwig suddenly realised he wouldn't mind doing right now.
The German nation told himself that Lovino's outfit was Feliciano's doing. He did not think he could handle it if Lovino had dressed like that for a date with Ludwig.
"Potato Bastard." Lovino greeted Ludwig calmly, as if they had always gotten along despite the particular greeting Lovino had chosen. "What did you say to my fratello exactly to get us into this situation?"
Ludwig thought that 'I had a wet dream while Feliciano was in my bed and then told him it was about you' was probably not going to impress Lovino. Although there probably was not much that Ludwig could say that would impress the ill-tempered man. So Ludwig simply shrugged, not knowing what to else to do.
Lovino raised an eyebrow at that response but he did not press for more. He knew as well as anyone what Feliciano was like when he got an idea into his head. Instead, he held the door to the restaurant open for Ludwig and said, "Well, I'm still Italian and a date is still a date. So don't be surprised that I'm charming and romantic. Just don't get any ideas in your potato head."
"Does this mean that you're paying for dinner?" Ludwig asked. The German was not sure how they would be splitting the bill but he had made sure to bring enough for both Lovino and himself as well as a generous tip for the unfortunate wait staff.
Yet Lovino simply grinned. "The person who asks the other person out pays for everything. And as Feli asked us both out he's paying. I don't care that this isn't his date."
It was likely due to the fact that Feliciano was paying for everything that got Lovino to agree to the date and even to be somewhat nice to Ludwig. It was certainly the reason Lovino convinced Ludwig to drink two bottles of extremely expensive wine with him. Although Ludwig felt that Lovino could convince him to do nigh on anything. The German, normally very sure footed in life, felt that he was in over his head. Lovino was too pretty, too friendly and too close. To anyone else he would have appeared sullen and rude but it was so much less so than what Ludwig was normally subjected too. Lovino had only gotten irrationally angry once and he did not use any cuss words during his arguments with Ludwig. It was overwhelming.
It was eye-opening.
For Ludwig was starting to realise that he really rather liked Lovino.
Ludwig supposed that he should have realised that he would be attracted to someone like Lovino long before now. He had always found Feliciano to be beautiful. He had admired Rome for as long as he could remember. Ludwig was truly a man that appreciated Italy. Yet Ludwig also enjoyed challenges. He had trained hard and worked hard, keeping order in his home life and in his work relationships because he felt that meeting challenges made him better. With Lovino, Ludwig had to be quick thinking, finding ways to either defuse Lovino's temper or prevent a meltdown before it even occurred. Ludwig immensely enjoyed nearly every victory against Lovino, especially when Ludwig was so successful that Lovino almost smiled at him. So yes, Ludwig should have realised long before now that he would fall for Lovino. Instead he let the feeling slowly sneak up on him over the decades.
Ludwig carried that knowledge with him throughout the rest of the date, unsure of what to do with it.
He briefly entertained the notion of asking Lovino to come home with him. But that was too impulsive for Ludwig's nature, Lovino would likely be offended and Elizabeta was probably still in Ludwig's house as she waited for the chance to see two men kiss.
The thought of kissing Lovino caused Ludwig to blush deeply. Lovino, who had been in the process of choosing a dessert, asked "What? You don't like tiramisu?"
"Oh, no, that is fine." Ludwig coughed.
"I'm not buying that. What's wrong with you potato bastard?" Lovino asked.
If asked, Ludwig would have said that he put up a valiant effort in not letting Lovino embarrass him. But Lovino would not let the subject drop and the Italian was getting agitated. Of course, that did not mean that they did not come close to having a full-blown shouting match in the restaurant. Lovino did not care that there was an audience. Planets had no choice but to rotate around the sun. People had no choice but be drawn in by Lovino's gravitational field. There was no point in lying to Lovino.
He didn't need to come right out and confess anything though.
"You told me not to expect anything if you acted charming or romantic." Ludwig said.
"Yeah, but I mean stuff like sex." Lovino said, confused but within an acceptable speaking volume. Then he flushed a red so deep it went beyond cherry tomato. The blush clashed terribly with Lovino's sweater and Ludwig found that even that look was desirable. But then Lovino said, "Oh. You mean stuff like sex."
"Nein, nothing that explicit." Ludwig muttered. He deliberately pushed his obsession with figuring out all the times he accidently made his date orgasm in the past. "I just wanted to kiss you or maybe bring you home for coffee."
"But you shouldn't come to my house. Elizabeta is there."
"I don't think that Hungary is the most important reason for me to not go home with a man on the first date."
The stress of the past weeks had led to this night. Ludwig felt his nerves fraying and perhaps that was why he said the most irrational, ill-conceived thing he could. "After our second date then?"
Lovino sputtered, then laughed, then shook his head in exasperation. "Feli wasn't joking then. You're awfully full of yourself if you think you're good enough for me. But… if we make it to a third date then you can take me home."
He was as red as Ludwig himself. They ordered dessert and ate it in quiet embarrassment. Ludwig was beginning to suspect that Lovino did not have fairy wings hidden under his clothes. Ludwig certainly did not feel the need to dig his fingers into Lovino's shoulders just to see if the Italian was real. Yet Ludwig still found that he wanted to take off all of Lovino's clothes and run his hands through that thick crown of brown hair.
And, more than anything, Ludwig wanted date three to turn into date four into date five until there were no more days to come.