For once, he had managed to wake up before him. He didn't know how that was possible – he did like sleeping in and Germany did like his morning training sessions – but for some reason, this morning, his usually energetic friend, seemed exhausted. Italy didn't mind. In fact, he was quite happy about it. He had never been able to study him this close up before. Mostly because he always went to sleep early and woke up late and the few times he had barged into Germany's room while he was sleeping, he had other things on his mind than his sleeping face.
It was rather strange – no, not strange – fascinating to see him so unguarded, his usual tense features, relaxed. He was vulnerable somehow and that thought alone stirred up a warm feeling inside Italy. He reached out a hand and touched that strong jaw, then immediately removed his hand when Germany stirred, muttering something about saints and bastards. Italy chuckled and leaned over him, gently passing a hand through his hair. It was surprisingly soft and smooth. He pressed his thumbs between his eyebrows right where that crease always appeared when Germany was angry. Only a barely noticeable trace of it remained in its place when he was sleeping. It never completely went away – proof that Germany had been frowning for a very very long time. Italy felt the sudden urge to kiss that crease. To kiss it into sweetening, to kiss it into disappearing.
"What a strange thought," he laughed to himself. If only kisses did heal.
He had dark circles under his eyes. Was it because he worried too much? About the war? About the outrageous demands of his leader? About stupid Italy? And then his lips, thin, but soft, unmoving. Not barking orders, not admonishing him. Before he knew what he was doing, his lips were only an inch away from his. He had no qualms about stealing a kiss from a sleeping man, but something happened that suddenly stopped him. A memory from his childhood rushed back into his mind at lightning speed. The touch of another pair of lips. Lips that belonged to a blond blue-eyed boy that had loved him.
It occurred to him only then, as he staggered out of bed and Germany shifted on his side that Germany was a blond, blue-eyed man and at that moment Italy wondered for the first time, whether he was the man that blond blue-eyed boy had turned into.
"Nee nee, Germany, Germany," he was absently playing with his food – pasta – of all things. Germany thought he would be so happy with the menu he would jump to the moon. It was after all why he had chosen it. He muttered to himself that it was the last time he would try to do something nice for that idiot. "Nee, nee, Germany…"
"What is it? Is the pasta overdone?" he asked sighing, but stopped when he noticed the look on Italy's face. There was something strange about his eagerness this morning, probably because it didn't come from the pasta for once, but every time Germany looked at him. Which made Germany highly uncomfortable and gave him a constant red flush.
"No, the pasta's great. Maybe a bit too soft, but much much better than wurst," he said cheerfully and Germany was about to breathe relieved that it had all been his imagination, when Italy asked something strange: "Nee, Germany, do you remember your childhood?"
"My childhood?" he frowned and Italy smiled mysteriously to himself.
"Yes! Do you remember it? Like where you lived? Who you used to play with? Your first love? Those kind of things?" he asked and blushed a little, although Germany had no idea why.
"Not much of it. I know there were a lot of wars when I was younger. A lot of battles I took part in," he frowned and struggled to remember something more detailed that would answer Italy's question, but that time of his life seemed lost in a thick fog. The earliest that he could remember was… "Prussia."
"He was your first love?" Italy asked pouting all of a sudden.
"What?? No!" It was just that his earliest memory was of his brother caring for him. "You know, I can't really remember that much about my childhood. Those were turbulent times after all. I mean do you remember your childhood perfectly?"
"Oh, I remember everything," Italy said giving him a teasing look that made even Germany's ears turn red. Just what was he thinking about? What kind of depraved childhood had he had? The previous night's dream of Ancient Rome and his amazement that Germany didn't indulge in debauchery came to mind. Italy was his favourite nephew, wasn't he? Germany looked at Italy with doubt, but his features were carefree once again.
"Italy, is something bothering you? You seem a little…uhm…off today," Germany reluctantly said.
"I just woke up in a funny mood," he said with a smile.
"That makes two of us," Germany said more to himself. "We're starting training in twenty minutes. I'll do the washing up quickly, why don't you go and wait outside with Japan?"
"Oh, okay," he jumped up and as he headed for the door, he stopped in the doorway, chuckled to himself and said: ""Hey, Germany, I'll wait for you, I'll always wait for you."
"You better! If I find you sleeping in the bushes again, you'll have to run double the laps," Germany said although he thought Italy's words were a bit odd. After all, he was only asking him to wait for 20 minutes, not a lifetime.
As he waited outside, Italy sighed. His plan was so far fruitless. Germany did not seem to remember at all. At least, he thought to himself, it was a good sign that he didn't recall much of his childhood. He had probably gotten hit in the head during one of the wars. It was time to take more aggressive actions, he decided as he saw Japan approaching.
"Hey, hey, Japan, can you help me make a costume? You're good at that sort of thing, right?" he asked and Japan looked at him suspiciously:
"What kind of costume?"
"A maid costume," Italy smiled.
"Oh…sure, I'll help…" So Germany had that sort of interest, Japan thought to himself.
Germany had just gotten out of the shower and was planning to go straight to bed. He was hoping for a better night's rest than the one before. He couldn't handle another one of those disturbing dreams.
When he entered his room however he got a surprise. Not only was Italy there, sitting on his bed, but he was wearing a maid outfit of all things. Complete with frills, bows and an apron. It didn't look bad on him, but it felt somehow indecent and incredibly embarrassing to see him like that. Italy didn't say anything. He was just watching him for the slightest reaction.
"Why are you dressed like that?" Germany asked clearing his throat after a while.
"I thought you would like it," Italy said and his smile fell a little. There was a certain sadness in it. Germany wondered whether Italy had been struggling with something and that's why he had been behaving so strangely lately. Did he think Germany would like him better as a girl? His face became red – did that mean Italy had those sort of feelings for him? Italy's face suddenly lit up when he noticed his embarrassment.
He stood up from the bed and neared Germany, looking their eyes in an intense gaze. He approached him with such care as if Germany was a dream he was afraid would be chased away by reality any second before he would ever reach him. He stopped when he was just a foot away from him and reached out a hand to touch his cheek gently. He wanted to ask:
"Do you finally remember?"
But before he had the chance, Germany suddenly pulled him into his embrace and almost lifted him off the floor.
"You don't have to do this," he whispered in Italy's ear. "I like you just the way you are."
Tears filled Italy's eyes - he didn't remember. But wasn't this good too? Wasn't this good enough? He felt Germany's arms letting go of him, but Italy snaked his arms around his waist and stopped him from leaving him.
"Germany, Germany," he cried into his strong chest and suddenly, in those clothes, in those arms, he felt like that helpless child that had lost his love again.
"What's wrong? Italy, I said I like you, Italy…," he tried to calm him down and didn't understand what he was doing wrong. Everything he said only seemed to make the Italian feel worse.
"Germany," Italy looked up at him with tears running down his face. "Kiss me," he said and Germany blushed slightly, but kissed him lightly on the cheek as he usually did.
"No, give me a real kiss," he said and closed his eyes. Germany's heart began to pound in his chest loudly as he leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss upon Italy's lips. He then cleared his throat and said. "You should go to bed now."
"Can I sleep here?" his tears had died out.
"Yes," Germany said and told himself it was only this once given Italy seemed so shook up for some reason.
* * *
In the darkness, in the night, Germany found he couldn't sleep. He kept touching his lips for some reason. He envied Italy's sleeping form that lay naked beside him, exposed in the moonlight. He put his hand through Italy's hair, intending only to give him a comforting caress, but he unwittingly also touched that one sensitive hair and Italy shivered in his sleep. That shiver made Germany uncomfortable, as if he was touching Italy while he was having a wet dream, so he took his hand away. He touched his lips again. What was it that he was trying to remember?