A/N - I wrote this fic for the Valentalia exchange over on LJ, and if not for the prompt I would never have thought of this couple. It was surprisingly enjoyable to write, though, and it let me experiment with a different style than my norm, which was fun. I think I took it way further than I was expected to, but it was just one of those ideas that I couldn't possibly ignore, and I like how it turned out, though obviously any feedback would be highly appreciated :)
To a Summer's Day
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date
Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
A cool breeze was exactly what this hot summer day needed, Antonio considered as he leant further forwards, resting his forearms on the side of the bridge. It was an old bridge, made of stone, and the shadows from the tall buildings on either side of the canal fell in precisely the wrong places to offer even the smallest patch of shadows, choosing instead to keep the shade tightly sealed within the streets. Looking down at the water didn't help to ease his discomfort either. The water looked cool and refreshing, taunting Antonio as it flowed lazily onwards from the other side of the bridge.
"Goddamnit, what's taking them so long?"
However, the heat was the least of Antonio's worries. He turned to look at the scowling Italian man beside him and smiled encouragingly in an attempt to chase the dark expression from his companion's face. It didn't work.
"I'm sure they'll be here soon, Lovino," he said calmly, but Lovino was also suffering in the heat, making him even more irritable than usual. He turned with a frustrated huff and leant back against the side of the bridge, glaring at the water, the houses, and any passer-by who happened to come too close, as if the whole of Italy had personally offended him. It probably had, Antonio mused as the glare was directed at a couple of birds that quickly turned and flew in the opposite direction. Lovino was very easily offended.
"We've been waiting for ten whole minutes," he was complaining now. "What are they playing at, leaving us to shrivel up and die in the heat like this?" Antonio shrugged, but the question was clearly rhetorical as Lovino ignored him and carried on ranting. "I bet it's that potato bastard's fault," he growled. "Feliciano would be here already if he wasn't bringing that guy along." Antonio raised an eyebrow at that.
"But your brother is always late," he pointed out. The glare was turned on him with full force.
"That isn't the point, damnit!" Lovino snapped. "The point is that they're not here and I'm getting pissed off!"
"There, there," Antonio said unhelpfully, thoroughly amused by how irate Lovino was becoming. "But while we're waiting, tell me a bit about Feliciano's friend, will you? I don't even remember what his name was, except that it was foreign."
"You're foreign," Lovino reminded him. "And that bastard's name is Ludwig. He's some stupid German who's been hanging around my brother far too much recently. Honestly, it's like they're joined at the hip."
"So that's why he has to come out with us today?" Antonio asked. He didn't mean to sound quite so negative about someone he had never met before (he knew better than to trust Lovino's judgement), but he couldn't help but feel slightly put out about spending the day with a stranger. He enjoyed spending time with the Italian brothers and he didn't particularly want anyone else to intrude on their time together.
"Don't feel too bad if you find yourself hating him," Lovino said, noticing his tone. "We can piss off and leave the other two to moon over each other if the potato bastard is too unbearable." He leant his head back and squinted against the glare of the sun for a moment. After a pause, he snapped it back up again. "Fucking Hell, where are they?" he demanded to the world at large, before taking a slightly battered mobile phone out of his pocket and flipping it open. Antonio smiled as the Italian started to shout into the device at his brother, expressing his outrage by flailing about with the hand that wasn't pressing the phone to his ear.
Turning back to stare down at a gondola sliding smoothly along the canal, Antonio let the smile slip from his face. The more he thought about this Ludwig, the unhappier he became about the prospect of spending the day with him. He was especially uneasy about how close Lovino had described the German as being to Feliciano. Were they dating? Antonio had always thought of himself as being close to Feliciano, and to think that maybe the Italian was seeing someone and hadn't told him was slightly hurtful. It also stirred up his protective instincts, not because Feliciano couldn't look after himself, but, well, all right, yes, it was because Feliciano didn't know the first thing about looking after himself. Unless it came to running away, of course, in which case Feliciano was –
"Oi, Antonio!" A pair of fingers snapped next to Antonio's ear, making him jump slightly as he was startled out of his thoughts. He grinned guiltily, expecting to be told off for not paying attention, but Lovino merely rolled his eyes and grabbed Antonio's arm, dragging him across the bridge and towards the shaded streets. "Come on," he said impatiently, "We're going on ahead to the café. Dumb and Dumber can catch up with us when they feel like getting a move on."
"Aren't they nearly here?" Antonio asked curiously as he let himself be tugged forwards, oblivious to the stares they were receiving from the other people on the street.
"No," Lovino growled, and Antonio wisely decided not to say anything more.
A while later – a good fifteen minutes after they had arrived at the café – Lovino had been somewhat placated by a cold drink that he was now sipping in the shaded area in front of the café. The air here was no less hot and still than it had been on the bridge, but the sunshade hanging out over the front of the café protected them from the glare of the sun, and some of the chill from the air conditioning inside reached them, cooling the sweat on their skin and Lovino's anger at the same time.
Antonio had just become comfortably relaxed, listening to Lovino talk about a trip to France that he and his brother were planning, when Feliciano appeared at the table as if he had popped out of nowhere. He was all smiles and cheerful energy, despite the oppressiveness of the heat. On seeing him, Lovino slammed his glass down onto the table.
"Where have you been?" he demanded in place of a greeting. Feliciano looked slightly abashed.
"I overslept during my siesta," he explained, but Antonio was no longer listening. He was staring past Feliciano at the taller, paler, calmer man who had arrived several paces behind Feliciano. His blond hair was slicked back, and his eyes were a soft blue that could rival the sky. He was gorgeous, Antonio thought distantly. And he looked like he worked out.
Slowly and almost awkwardly, those sky-filled eyes came to rest on Antonio, who smiled brightly in return. Lovino must have noticed, because he stopped scolding his brother and tapped Antonio's leg lightly with his foot under the table to catch his attention.
"Antonio," he said sardonically, "Meet the potato bastard." The newcomer turned to look at him in exasperation.
"It's nice to see you too, Lovino," he deadpanned in heavily accented Italian, before turning back to Antonio and holding out his hand with the same awkward shyness that showed in his gaze. "I'm Ludwig," he introduced himself, and Antonio reached out to shake his hand, feeling a cheap thrill at the touch of Ludwig's skin.
"And I'm Antonio," he replied pleasantly. "I've heard a lot about you, but I'm sure none of it's true." He flashed a grin towards Lovino, who folded his arms and huffed. Feliciano pulled up a couple of chairs so that he and Ludwig could join the other two at the table.
"My brother never says anything nice about anyone," he said consolingly to Ludwig. "Don't listen to a word he says."
"Hey!" Lovino protested. "That isn't true!"
As Feliciano continued to tease his brother, Antonio turned back to Ludwig. Maybe it was shallow of him, but he no longer had any problem with the extra member of their group. He was about to strike up a conversation, but Ludwig beat him to it.
"I'm sorry we left you waiting for so long," he said, looking slightly worried that he hadn't made a good first impression. Antonio repressed a grin. If only he knew.
"It's all right," he said cheerfully. "We survived." Ludwig nodded, relieved, but he seemed to have something else on his mind as he stared at Antonio curiously. The Spaniard raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"Oh, sorry," Ludwig said, flushing slightly. "I was just trying to place your accent. I've never heard anything like it before."
"That's because I'm Spanish," Antonio explained. "My family moved to Italy when I was eighteen." He leant back in his seat and took a sip of his drink, the ice tinkling against the glass. "What about you?" he asked. "Why did you leave Germany?"
"I wanted to improve my Italian, so I came over here three years ago to teach German," Ludwig said.
"Your Italian is very good," Antonio assured him, and was rewarded with the first smile he had seen on the other man's face. It suited him, Antonio thought as his heart sped up a little. It was every bit as beautiful as the rest of him.
"Thank you," Ludwig replied. "Feliciano has been helping me a lot. I don't think I'd be half as good as I am now if I hadn't met him." At the mention of his name, Feliciano looked up from where he had been talking to Lovino, and Ludwig and he shared a little smile. Then Lovino snapped his fingers impatiently to regain his brother's attention and the moment was gone. Antonio tilted his head to the side, curious. Maybe there really was something between the two of them after all. It would be slightly disappointing if Ludwig was taken, but at least Antonio wouldn't be able to fault Feliciano's taste. He started to steer the conversation towards a place where he would be able to ask.
"So how long have you and Feliciano known each other?" he asked, genuinely interested in how long his friend had been hiding away this gorgeous blond.
"Only about six months," Ludwig replied, a cute little line appearing between his eyebrows as he tried to think back to when they had met.
"Really? You seem to have become quite close in such a short amount of time," Antonio observed. Ludwig nodded in agreement.
"We're good friends," he replied, and Antonio seized his chance. Trying to look as innocent as possible, he asked the question he had been building up to.
"But are you just friends?" he asked. Ludwig looked confused. "Lovino said some things that implied you were dating Feliciano," Antonio expanded casually. He was barely able to hold back his laughter at the shade of red Ludwig turned as he spluttered incoherently, trying to form a reply. He was saved from having to, though, when Feliciano turned, surprised by the suggestion.
"No, we're not dating," he said, and everything about him screamed honesty. "If you got the wrong impression, it was probably just Lovino being misleadingly crude."
Antonio looked at Feliciano's open face and read him like a book. He moved his gaze back to Ludwig's blushing beauty and saw opportunity beckoning in those blue, bottomless eyes.
"I see," he said. "My mistake." And he smiled.
It was a colourful day, Antonio thought as he stared at the trees. In fact, it was a colourful season. He moved his gaze to Feliciano's canvas, where the reds, golds and oranges of the autumn leaves were mirrored by the skilful strokes of Feliciano's paintbrush. Antonio had once thought, years ago, that if he kept watching the artist paint, he would eventually pick up enough that he could develop some artistic skill of his own. This had never happened, but Antonio still liked to watch Feliciano paint. It was soothing, and the warm, fiery colours on the canvas seemed to warm him in a way that his jacket just couldn't manage.
Stretching his arms, Antonio shifted slightly on the park bench and immediately wished that he hadn't as he inadvertently moved to a cold part of the wooden seat. As he tried to relocate his patch of body heat, he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye, and, looking up, he was pleasantly surprised to see Ludwig making his way towards the bench. The German waved a small hello as he approached, and then sat down beside Antonio, wincing slightly as the cold made its way up through his trousers. His cheeks were flushed a healthy pink from the chill, and the sight of him made Antonio's heart burst into flames.
"You just couldn't stay away from me, could you?" he asked, grinning and wondering if anyone else would ever be able to make him feel as though he were on top of the world merely by existing. Feliciano looked up from his easel, several feet in front of the bench, and waved cheerfully to Ludwig before returning to his work.
"How did you know?" Ludwig deadpanned. His eyes locked briefly with Antonio's before they flickered off, focusing instead on Feliciano's painting, seemingly fixated on each stroke of the brush.
"How's your student coming along?" Antonio asked after a pause. "The dyslexic girl you were telling me about last week." He watched carefully as Ludwig fidgeted with the hem of his jacket, frowning slightly at the unusual nervousness in the action.
"She's doing well," Ludwig replied vaguely. "I don't think her grades will suffer too badly." His hands twisted on the fabric, and Antonio pressed his own hand over them to put a stop to it. Ludwig jumped at the unexpected touch and stared down at Antonio's hand as if he didn't understand what it was doing there. Antonio didn't move it as he spoke.
"Are you all right?" he asked. "You're acting strangely." Ludwig looked up at him, and something in his eyes stole the breath right out of Antonio's lungs.
"I need to talk to you about something," Ludwig said. He looked away, and Antonio could breathe again. But the air tasted stale and unusable, so he breathed it back out as he copied Ludwig's action and rose to his feet. As the German called out to Feliciano, telling him that they were going for a walk, Antonio wondered when the atmosphere had become so thick between them and why it was suffocating him now.
They walked in silence for a while, crossing the wide, open space until they were treading a path beneath the trees. The leaves rustled quietly above them, like a whispered prayer in a language they couldn't understand. When they were far enough away from the few other people in the park, Ludwig stopped and stood still, his head tilted up so that he could glimpse the blue of the pale, autumn sky between the branches.
"I'm moving back to Germany," he said. And, just like that, a spider web crack, so thin that it was barely there, splintered through Antonio's body and broke his chest in two. "My brother's been in an accident," Ludwig continued, and his voice was as flat and lifeless as the muddied, trampled leaves on the ground that had already fallen from the trees. "The hospital called me three days ago to say that they've put him into intensive care. They think he's going to pull through, but he'll need me to take care of him when he's released." He moved his eyes down to stare out at the park, where a few figures were wandering aimlessly, unaware that a small but significant part of Antonio's world was falling apart mere metres from them, beneath the misleadingly beautiful shades of the autumn trees.
"Will you ever come back?" he heard himself ask, and wondered faintly when he had become so direct. It must have been Ludwig's influence during the last three months. Had it only been three months? It felt like a lifetime had passed since Ludwig's foreign name hadn't flowed naturally from his tongue.
There was a long, long silence in the midst of the dying leaves.
"I don't know," Ludwig finally replied. His gaze finally came to rest on Antonio's face, and he jerkily, hesitantly curled his fingers around Antonio's, clasping their hands together. It felt new, and awkward, and far too late, and it made Antonio want to kiss him and kiss him and tell him to stay. But he didn't.
So instead, he stared into Ludwig's eyes and tried to commit all the hues and the shades and the depths of their blueness to memory, even as he knew that he never quite could.
There was too much of the sky in them.
The taxi crawled slowly along the icy road as the driver counted the houses, looking for number 102. It was only a little after four in the afternoon, but the sun had already started to set, and a faint glow of pink was steadily growing duller on the western edge of the horizon, tinting the clouds that had wandered too close to the sun.
Antonio stared out at the pavement, where the snow had been trampled by who knows how many pairs of feet into a solid layer of ice. He wrapped his coat around himself more snugly, knowing that soon he would be stepping out of the taxi with its central heating and into the cold, frozen winter outside.
Just as he was adjusting his scarf, the taxi drew up in front of the address he had given to the driver, who turned around and told him the fare. As Antonio paid the man and lifted his single suitcase out of the boot, he felt his heart speeding up until he could hear his pulse in the air around him, drowning out the gentle purr of the engine as the taxi drove slowly away into the dusk.
There weren't any lights or signs or life in number 102, but Antonio couldn't care less if he had to wait outside for an hour or two until its occupant returned home. Not even a spectacular slip on the ice that nearly sent him sprawling to the ground could put a dent in his spirits or wipe the grin from his face. He merely laughed to himself and put more care into navigating his way over the pavement and up the drive, where an outside light switched on at his presence.
It wasn't quite a matter of now or never, but Antonio was always one to seize the moment, and so he knocked loudly on the door in the quiet street where the sunlight was fading on one side of the sky, and the first stars were shining on the other.
For a moment, the only sound was the thrum of Antonio's heartbeat, but then there were footsteps inside, and the metallic sound of a key in the lock, and then the front door opened, spilling warmth and light and life out onto the street. Antonio smiled.
"Surprise!" he said, and then laughed as Ludwig's mouth dropped open. "Can I come in?" he asked as Ludwig struggled for words. "It's kind of chilly out here."
"Oh, of course," Ludwig said, moving hastily back to let Antonio cross the threshold into the unfamiliar hall, dragging his suitcase along behind him. The door closed with a click, and then Ludwig was pulling him back to face him so that he could stare at Antonio in wonder, a million questions poised on his lips but taking a back seat until he could voice them. Antonio looked back at him in equal awe, wondering how Ludwig could look exactly the same and be a thousand times more beautiful at the same time.
"I probably should have called ahead," Antonio said, as if he had only just thought of the idea, "But I didn't think you'd mind if I showed up to visit." Judging by the look that Ludwig was giving him, Antonio had never been more right in his life.
"You can hang up your coat in here," Ludwig said, opening a small cupboard underneath the stairs. "I'll put your suitcase upstairs for you." Their fingers brushed against each other as he took the handle from Antonio's grasp, and their gazes crashed together with the force of stars exploding. And then Ludwig was gone, and the hall seemed as cold as the view through the misty glass in the front door as Antonio hung up his scarf and coat and kicked off his shoes. Shivering, he climbed up the stairs and found Ludwig setting his suitcase down next to the bed in one of the rooms.
"How's your brother?" he asked from the doorway, and when Ludwig looked up, he felt warm again.
"He's no better than he was the last time I spoke to you," Ludwig replied, and his winter-blue eyes seemed to shimmer with heat in the gloom. "But he's not any worse either."
"That's good." There was a moment of silence.
"Antonio," Ludwig said softly, "What are you doing in Germany?" Antonio shrugged, and started to make his way slowly across the room, closing the gap between them.
"I spent Christmas with my family," he said, "and then New Years Eve with Lovino and Feliciano. And both times I found myself waiting for you to arrive." He smiled sheepishly as he came to a halt in front of Ludwig, so close that they were almost touching. "I guess I just missed you too much to stay away any longer."
And then suddenly Ludwig was kissing him, and Antonio pushed him down onto the bed where they moulded the heat of their bodies together and melted the winter outside into spring.
In the aftermath, when they were curled under the covers in each others' arms, Antonio made the simplest and most important decision of his life.
"How long are you staying for?" Ludwig asked softly. Antonio traced a heart on his chest.
"For as long as you'll have me," he said. And he meant it.
"Ludwig," Antonio called, "What's a bleiben?"
"It's a verb," Ludwig's voice replied from the next room, dryly amused. "I gave you a dictionary, didn't I? Look it up."
As Antonio flicked though the pages of the dictionary, he heard another voice – Gilbert's voice – say something in German that Antonio couldn't quite hear, although he guessed that Gilbert was scolding his brother for speaking in Italian. Antonio smiled slightly to himself as he continued to translate the sentences that Ludwig had set for him. It was Gilbert who had put his foot down on the bilingual household and declared that if Antonio wanted to live in his house, he was going to learn the German language. So Ludwig had taken it upon himself to start teaching Antonio German, as well as acting as an interpreter between his brother and his lover, although if worst came to worst and he wasn't around, Gilbert and Antonio could communicate, more or less, through stilted, broken English and exaggerated body language.
After scribbling down the rest of his translation, Antonio sat back in his chair, feeling triumphant. However, he had only a moment to spend on mentally congratulating himself before Gilbert appeared in the doorway, beckoning him and saying something that Antonio only half understood.
"I go to garden?" he repeated slowly in German, and although Gilbert winced at his pronunciation, he nodded enthusiastically and said something about Ludwig before he disappeared back into the kitchen.
Outside in the garden, Ludwig was waiting for him. The flowers that Antonio had bought and planted almost a month ago had opened up their petals towards the sun, and their burst of colour made Antonio feel alive as he placed a gentle kiss to Ludwig's lips. The flowers had been a thank you to Gilbert for allowing him to stay in his house when the German had been let out of the hospital. His only condition had been that Ludwig and Antonio were not keep him up all night with loud sex (Ludwig had turned bright red and refused to translate this, but Gilbert had managed to make himself clear through several explicit hand gestures and sound effects).
As Gilbert was still housebound, despite his gradually returning health, he had become very frustrated by the fact that the only parts of the outside world he could see were the street at the front of the house and the plain, boring garden at the back. Now, when he felt that he had enough energy, he would wheel himself out into the spring sunshine and try to convey to Antonio what the birds were saying through an intricate game of charades. Sometimes he even felt strong enough to leave the wheelchair on the grass and walk for a few paces, gripping on to Antonio for support.
Today, however, it was Ludwig who walked with Antonio down to the end of the garden where the daffodils and snap dragons bobbed their heads lazily in the breeze.
"I've been thinking," Ludwig said suddenly, "about what we talked about before." Antonio waited patiently for more. "I'm going to stay here in Germany," Ludwig continued, and he wasn't avoiding Antonio's eyes like he sometimes did when they spoke about the future. Today, his eyes were the ambiguous blue of the spring sky when it was impossible to tell if the weather would stay fair or if later the clouds would creep up and bring the rain.
"I know," Antonio replied. "Your brother needs you and Germany's your home." He reached out and gently took Ludwig's hand. "So I'm staying here too," he said firmly, but Ludwig shook his head, an expression of deep pain on his features.
"You've already given up too much for me," he said, forcing out the words that he would rather have kept buried. "Your whole life is back in Italy: your family, your house, your friends." He tried to smile, but there was too much heartbreak in his eyes. "Don't make me yell at you like I did when you told me you'd quit you job to stay here." Antonio shook his head stubbornly.
"You think it's a big deal for me to leave all that behind," he said, "but it's not as if I'll never visit Italy again. Everything I'm leaving is still there, waiting for me." He stroked his thumb over the back of Ludwig's hand. "The world isn't as big as everyone makes it out to be," he murmured.
"And what if we break up?" Ludwig asked, looking terrified at the very thought, but needing to face every potential future head on, as if by voicing his fears aloud he could stop them from turning into reality. "You'd be stuck in a strange country all by yourself and regret that you ever came here. For God's sake, Antonio, you've known me for less than a year!" Antonio shrugged, but he was gripping Ludwig's hand like a lifeline.
"If that happens, my family will be there to help me," he said, "and Lovino will always be waiting for an excuse to fly over here, kick your ass and take me back." Abruptly, he flung himself forwards into Ludwig's strong, comforting arms and buried his face into his lover's neck. "Don't make me leave you," he choked through the lump in his throat, and Ludwig's arms tightened around him. He felt a small kiss on his temple.
But Ludwig didn't say anything at all.
Antonio stood on the bridge and stared at the water, drowning in déjà vu. The hot, Italian sun beat down upon the top of his head, causing a light sheen of sweat to break out on his brow. The day was almost exactly the same as the last time he had stood here, but this year there was a light, cool breeze to remind him that he hadn't stepped back into a Ludwig-less world.
There were other people walking past, and it felt good, in a way, to be surrounded by a language that he understood perfectly, but beneath that he found himself longing for German. Lovino had scoffed and said that Italian was the only language worth speaking – and yes, all right, maybe Spanish was acceptable – but, to Antonio, German was a thousand times more beautiful. He had continued to study, and he was determined to reach total fluency, despite Lovino's horror at the very suggestion.
Looking up, Antonio stared critically at the sky. He had always thought that the cloudless blue was breathtaking in its simple magnificence, but today it seemed oppressing and the air sticky, as if the sun were melting everything it touched. The Italian sun in the Italian sky that was cracking the Italian earth beneath Antonio's Italian shoes. Somewhere, deep down, he felt like he was at home, but that was a betrayal. How could home possibly be anywhere but the house where Ludwig lived?
As he leant forwards, his forearms resting on the side of the stone bridge, Antonio wondered whether the flowers in Gilbert's back garden were surviving the heat. He wondered whether the grass was yellow and dead. And he wondered how Gilbert was getting on now that he had traded his wheelchair for a walking stick. It probably wouldn't be too long before he wouldn't even need that and he would be able to run again, but not in this heat, because even the breeze wasn't really helping.
He wondered if the summer in Germany felt like this; if the people in Berlin were desperately seeking the shade and sitting indoors in front of their fans, and maybe wondering if it was just as hot in Italy as it was there. It's hotter, Antonio wanted to say to them. So if you're waiting for a pair of Italian brothers on a bridge, you're not suffering as much as I am. You could never possibly suffer as much as I'm suffering now.
He put his head down, resting his forehead on the bridge, and closed his eyes, trying to block out the rest of the world that glowed red in the sun through his eyelids.
Something cold touched him on the shoulder and he winced.
"You look like your whole world's ending," a voice commented behind him, and Antonio looked up, squinting against the sun, to see Ludwig raising an eyebrow at him and pressing a cold bottle of juice against his arm. Antonio took it gratefully and downed half of the contents before he stopped to breathe.
"Thanks," he panted. "I think I would have died if you'd been any longer." Ludwig smiled and sipped from his own drink.
"I see that Lovino and Feliciano still haven't turned up," he commented. "Honestly, we come all the way to Italy to spend our precious holiday time with them and they leave us to bake in the sun." Antonio nodded vehemently, in total agreement that this was an outrage.
"Maybe we should only speak German to them as revenge," he suggested, and Ludwig laughed.
"You're not that good yet," he said, amused. "Maybe after you've lived in Germany for a couple of years we can pay them back for today." Antonio tilted his head up to kiss him, oblivious to the stares they received.
"I like that plan," he said when they had broken apart, a smile on his lips, and the heat momentarily forgotten due to the cooling blue eyes of the man he loved. "But for now, you should phone Feliciano. He's probably overslept during his siesta again."
Later, as Feliciano arrived at the café, apologising for his lateness, and Lovino stormed after him, complaining but not dreaming of being anywhere else, Antonio turned to look up at the sky and found that couldn't because the sunshade was blocking it from view. So instead he looked down and saw his two best friends in the world, unmoved and unafraid of any decision he made, quietly supporting each one of his possible futures.
And then he caught Ludwig's eye and looked straight down into his soul, and saw so much of himself reflected in that gaze that it covered the colour of Ludwig's irises until Antonio couldn't see them at all.