Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the story idea and only some of the witty remarks. I own so little; so please don't steal.

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Her name was Isabella, and she was the catalyst that sped up the reactions in Romano Vargas's life, leaving him in a jumble of products and particulates. She was just one girl, one body in the whole human race, that made him realize he was undeniably, helplessly attracted to his (he hesitated to say best) friend Antonio Carriedo; and she was the one who stole Antonio's heart away.

At first, he did not know she was trouble. When she walked in, in fact, he thought her pretty; her hair had the same curly consistency as Antonio's and he vaguely wondered if they had similar origins. She was their Portuguese exchange student. She introduced herself in a flurry of garbled English, but she was genuine – she smiled brightly and hoped they could all be friends. For a moment, Romano wanted to be so, to be her friend, when Antonio leaned over from the desk next door and whispered, "She's pretty, isn't she, Roma?"

First, that troubled him for obvious reasons. He did not want to have the same thought process as Antonio, of all people. That would be akin to having perverted tendencies like Francis or an inflated ego like Gilbert. If Antonio thought she was pretty, he had to up the ante on his standards, to avoid being in any way similar to his Spanish classmate. On the other hand, if he so chose to pursue this Isabella, Antonio would definitely be considered a rival. While he did not have a problem bothering Antonio, the latter had an uncanny knack of making you feel bad for abusing him; for that reason, Romano hesitated in getting in anything competition-wise with him.

Second, the very simple question had suddenly made him destroy all kind thought toward Isabella, but he didn't know why. The way Antonio was staring at her as she made her way to the empty desk next to his brother Feliciano made Romano seethe as if he had been rejected. It didn't usually bother him before; but then again, Antonio never looked at a girl like that ever before. During class, he would often bother Romano. For once, Romano had quiet as the lecture started.

It was rather unsettling.

When the monotony of the day set in, Romano forgot about it. Isabella was just another girl in their class, although her "new" status had lost its sheen for him; he did not crowd around her during lunch to ask questions or flirt, as some of his male classmates were doing. He did not find her accent charming. He did not see her carefully timed flips of hair as cute. In short, he pretended she did not exist even though she had done nothing to him; he focused on listening to Antonio, who happened to be discussing something about Isabella.

Days past and Romano pushed the ominous thoughts of his mind; he set his mind on surviving the year, preventing Feliciano from having the hots for Ludwig Beilschmidt (Gilbert's irksome, anal little brother), and spending time trying to think of ways to be more social than just shadowing Antonio down the hall. Out of the blue, as they were crossing the grounds to get to the language classrooms, Antonio announced it. "I'm going to make Isabella my girlfriend."

"Just because you say it doesn't mean it's going to be true."

"I'm going to make it true! She's going to fall head over heels in love with me, y'know." Antonio grinned. "I think she already has a bit of a crush on me. I'm just gonna have to gauge it to make sure it's right before I ask her out."

She's nothing; she's a common girl. You could do so much better. But because he didn't want to show he cared, he said, "Do whatever you want." It was his blessing, one he gave grudgingly and unknowingly.

From that moment on, Romano started seeing less of Antonio and more of Antonio-and-Isabella. During the free period they usually spent going over the history notes neither of them were actually conscious during to understand, Romano saw Antonio doing that very thing with Isabella, helping her translate her notes and surprising him with his knowledge of Portuguese. Although he could not see any outward sign that Isabella thought of Antonio as more than a friend, Romano thought it imperative to stick around the nearby shelves and step in if anything got anywhere remotely intimate.

Once, when they were giggling together and shifting closer together, Romano found himself at the table, the impulse preceding the excuse he wasn't ready to give. As he stammered something about copying notes as his face heated up to unnecessary temperatures, as Antonio looked at him without a trace of blame or accusation, Romano realized: I like this boy.

It was a passing thought, but the days that went after, Romano couldn't shirk around the feeling, what he thought when Antonio slid into a chair next to him and grinned and said, "Hey, I haven't hung out with you in ages, Roma, would you like to grab lunch with me today?" Feliciano had gushed about it for eons and Romano, who thought he was immune to something as trivial in high school like puppy love found himself trailing behind Antonio to the latter's car, because Antonio was a couple months older and already got his license. And when they were eating, Romano knew it when he found himself zoning in more on the way Antonio licked up the guacamole from the edge of his lips than to the words coming out of the mouth itself. He'd hit a speed bump and had been derailed from the road.

He'd spent hours agonizing about it; he was a boy, Antonio was a boy, they were both Catholics. It was against the status quo. The LGBT community at the school was still few and far between, and Berwald did not count. Feliciano had since gotten over the fact he was romantically inclined toward men (did he even know, Romano didn't know). It was more difficult for him; he was the one who didn't mind going to church, the one who really prayed when he bowed his head (unlike Feliciano, who sometimes fell asleep). He wasn't going to trick himself into thinking, if he had the chance, he wouldn't say no to Antonio if things ventured toward the bed. It was wrong, but he be damned, if he could change things, he would. If he could feel something toward Isabella, or any girl, he would be fine. He'd tried to talk himself out of this, and he'd failed.

Knowing this, he decided to seal his ticket to eternal damnation. Antonio didn't seem to feel anything like that toward him, so perhaps it was unrequited. That didn't stop him from asking, "What do you like so much about Isabella? She doesn't seem like anything so goddamn special."

"She's a sweet girl," Antonio said as he poked around in their biology class to find creepy crawlies to study. "In case you didn't notice, she's gorgeous. But not only that. I'm not that shallow, y'know! She's dainty but she's not delicate; she speaks her mind, but she doesn't impose. She's like a high class lady." He stopped, straightening up with realization. "That's it; she's a lady. That's why I like her."

Romano knew better than to take those words at face value; he didn't like Isabella because she was a woman. It was her qualities, the qualities that he didn't have: while Isabella giggled and kept her thoughts to herself, Romano would complain and sulk. She would keep her posture and endure, while he ran away and cursed up a storm. Antonio would not have to worry about her at all; he, on the other hand, needed Antonio there to check up on him or he would definitely fall flat on his face. She was an eyeful; he was a handful. To tip the scales, she was a girl, he was a boy, and Antonio was…straight.

"Feliciano." The shower water was soothing on his head. He disliked showering in the morning, since it calmed him and made him more susceptible to sleeping during class, but he'd forgotten in the process of writing a paper due this morning last night. It soaked his hair and he brushed it back as his brother hummed to acknowledge him while brushing his teeth on the other side of the shower curtain. "Do you ever wish you were a girl?"

"Eh?" There was the soft sound of spit as Feliciano emptied his mouth to speak. "I mean…I've always wondered how it felt to be able to wear dresses and stuff…they look really cute…people always put more effort into girls' clothing than boys' clothing…but…I don't know what you mean."

"To have people see you as. Have you ever wanted to be a girl in that aspect?"

"No." Feliciano sounded thoughtful and Romano almost could see him tap his toothbrush against his chin. "I don't care how people see me now, so it wouldn't matter if I was a girl or a boy."

Feliciano didn't care. He never did. And he was always fortunate, or at least had the wherewithal, to fall for someone he could actually attain.

He didn't know what he was thinking. Antonio had always thought of him as a friend. Since they were young, and Antonio let him tag along when they went to the park with Francis and Gilbert, there was nothing but genuine friendship. Antonio never looked at him in any way than camaraderie, and when he put his arm around him or smiled at him, his heart never skipped a beat and he never lost a breath. Now, Antonio was spending more time with Isabella, who was starting to look prettier and prettier as the days went past, more work put into makeup and fancy attachments to the uniform, and when he looked at Romano, he had the sly look of someone who was about to score.

And finally, one day, he did. When Romano accidentally stumbled into homeroom to pick up a book he'd left behind after school one day, he walked into Antonio kissing Isabella in the back of the room. He'd stood stock still, mortified, but when they didn't stop to notice him, he'd backed out and ran out of the classroom. If Antonio had seen him, he didn't make any sign; Romano had to ask the next day.

"Oh? Yeah, we did." Antonio grinned. "I thought she liked me, so I asked her after class. I won't go into any of the gory details, but one thing just led to another…and we sort of kissed, I guess."

"You guess?" Romano wished he sounded unaffected, but the scoff he had been hoping for came off rough, accusatory. Antonio raised his eyebrows. "Doing it in a place everyone can see you at. What will people think?"

"What do I care? I like her and she likes me."

"I mean, not for your sake. Or hers. But for everyone else." Romano glowered at him, helplessness clawing at his stomach. "What about people who might like you like that?"

Antonio blinked, looking completely unconcerned about the subject. "Like who?"

Like me! Like me! I like you, Antonio, me! But the words would not leave the safety of his inner thoughts. He would not even try to convey it through body movement, or eye contact. He slammed his notes on the desk, the ones that Antonio needed for math because he'd spent the entire period texting Isabella instead. He stormed out of the room, passing Isabella, who smiled cordially at him. He wished Antonio had called for him, or had come out to follow him and ask what was wrong. He'd wished with his entire body that he'd get a call, or have the boy show up at his house to apologize. But when he checked his phone the twenty-second time that night, around midnight, with no calls to his name, he shoved the phone under his pillow and closed his eyes.

This time, when the alarm clock next to his bed rang at seven-fifteen, the time he usually forced himself out of bed and collided with Feliciano in the hallway to get to the bathroom, he only slapped the timepiece to silence, and instead of swinging around to get out of his comfort zone, merely turned over in the sheets.


Note: Spain/Portugal, one-sided Spain/Romano. If any of you have any important physics or pre-calculus tips to share with me, that would be EXTREMELY helpful. Thanks!