If Romano was a nightmare as a child, I dread to think about what he was like as a teenager.

Romano scowled furiously at his reflection, before throwing Spain's shirt to the floor in frustration. His glare shifted to the inoffensive material, not weakening in intensity, even as it lay crumpled and defeated upon the wooden floor, one sleeve reaching out as if in a silent plea for mercy.

Romano had none. In fact, he was barely containing the urge to stomp on it, kick it, and grind the material into the wood's grain under the heel of his boot. He wanted to see it suffer under the stunning brutality of his would- be assault, maybe even rip and tear, but then Spain would inevitably find it and start whining about how "not cute" he was.

Bastard. It was all that bastard's fault in the first place! Romano wasn't even supposed to be "cute" any more! He was growing up fast, but fuck if Spain noticed. He was almost five foot tall now, damn it, but Spain still treated him like he was a kid, insisting that he carried on wearing his ridiculous maid dress that was rapidly growing too tight and too short for him. Clearly it was too much to expect that Spain notice that little fact, and Romano's continuous ranting and raving about how it was no longer just humiliating, but uncomfortable was simply taken as Romano being difficult as usual, and should therefore be ignored.

Turning back to the mirror, Romano felt tears of frustration prick at his eyes. He wasn't cute, damn it. He wasn't. The boy staring back at him (with bottom lip jutting out and threatening to tremble, and eyes that shined with angry, unshed tears) looked about fourteen or fifteen years old, which was even more fucking stupid because Romano wasn't a boy and he was much, much older than "fourteen or fifteen". Something that Spain, in his privileged position should have known better than most. That damn ignorant fool and his stupid, blithe smile on his stupid, Spanish face.

With a fresh, comforting surge of anger blanketing his misery, Romano focused upon his image incredulously. Really, how could Spain not notice that Romano wasn't the same small child that he'd been granted guardianship of? His former chubbiness had retreated to a slight roundness in his features, and his legs and arms were growing at an embarrassingly faster rate to the rest of his body, leaving him awkward, gawky, and gangly. Sure he was short, but he'd heard that boys often underwent a sudden growth spurt around the age of fifteen and sixteen, and he was sure that it would happen to him too. In fact, though it was only a vague memory, considering the size of his grandfather, Romano wouldn't be at all surprised if he ended up taller and burlier than Spain. Even then, his mind added in a snarky tone, I doubt Spain would notice.

With that thought he reached down to reclaim Spain's shirt, sighing as he straightened up and held the shirt against himself, anger deflating as his eyes fixed upon the way that the hem brushed against the tops of his knees. How was Romano supposed to get Spain to stop seeing him as a kid when his shirts looked like Goddamned nightdresses on him?

Life wasn't fair. It just wasn't fucking fair, and damn it all if Spain walked in right now and caught Romano holding back his sobs as he clutched onto the shirt as if he was trying to wrench the life out of it, because life was shitty enough to do just that to him.

He bunched the shirt up and buried his face in it, heel of his hand grinding it into the bridge of his nose, the sharp pain enough to force him to hold back the torrent of tears. He breathed in deeply, though shakily, and was immediately assaulted by the scent of saffron and tomatoes. There was more beneath it, interwoven subtly and permeating through the layers of the faint scent that the owner had left upon the shirt. If Romano closed his eyes and breathed he could smell the carnation fields on sunny days that made his head swim; the sweet conquest in the metallic tang of blood and gunpowder that lingered at the back of his throat; the furious joy of lively festivals that made his pulse flitter excitedly. It was Spain. It was something familiar and yet it was something new. It made his body feel warm, made the pit of his stomach churn as his senses were overcome with the image, and the sound, and the scent of the man that he had lived with for nearly 300 years.

He dropped the shirt, mortified. His red- faced twin in the mirror stared back at him accusingly. Pervert, it said. You're a fucking pervert, just like that bastard, France.

Romano tore his gaze away, staring at the ground in shame, shaking slightly as his body shivered with arousal.

It was happening more, and more often, and Romano didn't know how to stop it. He was becoming a pervert, and it terrified him. Spain was the man who had raised him, the man who irritated him, who was a touchy- feely idiot even though Romano hated it, who whined at him about him not being as cute as his brother, who protected him against anyone who came to take him away, who always did his best for him, he was… he was…

He was someone who would never stop seeing Romano as a child, and of all of his complaints about the other nation, that was the one that hurt Romano the most. Genuine, heart- clenching hurt. Romano needed Spain to start seeing him as he was, he desperately needed it, and yet he didn't understand why.

Everything was so confusing and it was all Spain's fault.

Despite the humiliated tears streaking down his cheeks, Romano strode purposefully from the room with the intention of finding a bathtub, filling it with cold water, and throwing himself inside of it, because he'd be damned if he gave in. He would not climax with Spain's name on his lips a second time this week.

Romano had forgotten, of course, that life fucking sucked for him. He was reminded the moment that Spain practically jumped out at him from around a corner.

'Hello, Romano- oh! Why are you crying? Did you break something again?' Spain gasped, characteristic smile fading to be replaced with worry.

'What? No, you bastard!' Romano shouted back indignantly. 'Why is it every time I get upset you assume that I've broken something! Maybe I'm just upset because I had to see your stupid face!'

'Romano,' Spain whined, pouting childishly. 'That's not very cute at all. You should try being nicer to your boss. I bet Ita- chan would be happy to have a cool boss like me.'

At being reminded of his brother, Romano felt a hot surge of jealousy wash through him. 'No one would be happy to have a boss like you! Now go away and leave me alone!' he yelled, already stalking past Spain with the intention to run all the way to one of the bathrooms as soon as he'd rounded the corner ahead of him.

Spain's hand on his shoulder stopped him. 'Romano!' Spain admonished. 'What's the matter? Are you hurt? Why are you so red?'

'Will you save your inquisition for someone who gives a shit?' Romano snapped back, horribly aware of how hot Spain's hand felt through the fabric of his shirt.

'I'm allowed to be worried,' Spain informed him. Romano knew without needing to look that Spain was smiling again. 'Especially when my cute, little Romano looks like a cute, little t-'

'Don't say tomato,' Romano hissed, interrupting him. 'Don't you dare say tomato, you bastard!'

'Then tell me where you're going in such a hurry!' Spain demanded. Actually a demand from Spain usually sounded more like a desperate plea for some kind of respect, but Romano was willing to let him believe that it was a command if it meant that he'd let him go.

'Fine,' he huffed finally. 'I'm going to go and have a bath, I'm dirty from cleaning and I feel disgusting, so let go of me and go away.'

'Oh!' Spain clapped his hands together, releasing Romano from his grasp. 'That sounds wonderful! Let's take one together!'

Romano froze, slowly turning to face Spain with a disbelieving look on his face. 'You can't be serious.'

Spain frowned, the delight from moments ago leaving his face momentarily. 'Why not?'

'What do you mean "why not"?' Romano exploded, waving his hands for further emphasis. 'Do you even hear yourself speak? It's… it's inappropriate is what it is!'

Spain looked confused. 'But we always used to…'

'Yeah when I was a kid, Spain! I… I need my privacy now, why don't you understand that?' Oh God, Romano could feel the tears again.

Spain on the other hand looked as if he had had a revelation. 'Oh! Oh, Romano,' he smiled gently. 'There's no need to be embarrassed! It's nothing I haven't seen before. Besides,' he added with a bright smile, 'we've both got the same parts, right? So there's nothing to be shy about! Come on, it'll be fun! We can splash each other and I can wash your hair for you!'

Romano flushed bright red at that, and stared at Spain with wide eyes. "I… I…' The tears spilled down his cheeks, hot trails of sheer outrage. 'I hate you!' he yelled, sobbing as he took off down the corridor.

'Did I do something wrong again?' Spain wondered aloud, watching Romano run away with wide, confused eyes.

By the time Romano submerged himself into the tub of room- temperature water, his embarrassing state of arousal had long since faded. He still trembled, but rather than with suppressed desire it was with suppressed rage.

His face tightened in fury as he glared intensely at the scrubbing brush that he was reaching for, snatching it up and rubbing it viciously against the back of his left hand until the skin turned red. The sting was somehow satisfying, distracting him from the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that stormed within him, and he continued his path further up his arm, to his chest. Once he had mirrored the motions on the other side of his body, he hurled the scrubbing brush at the other end of the tub, not even waiting for it to crack against the side and bounce into the water before he plunged himself further into the water, wetting his hair and allowing the cool water to soothe his abused skin.

When he sat back up he was feeling marginally calmer, anger subsiding to a miserable sort of frustration. Still, when he reached for the soap, he scrubbed it through his hair with a little more force than necessary. Spain had always been gentle with him when he'd been smaller and unable to wash his hair without getting soap into his eyes, stroking and petting his hair like some kind of doting parent figure, laughing at him and poking his nose whenever his eyes had fluttered with content. Once done, he used to lean Romano back against his chest in order to scrub his feet, legs, chest and arms, calling him cute, even as he had tried to squirm away, complaining that he didn't want to smell like a girl.

Spain had seemed so much bigger then. Romano remembered how broad his chest had seemed, and how strong his arms had looked. Now that he was older he realised that Spain was much slimmer than he used to think, his body comprised more of smooth muscle than hard lines, still looking young despite the years he had seen and the blood that had been shed in his name. His skin was always so soft and warm, and his eyes always seemed to shine as if he knew a joke that he wouldn't tell anyone else. He was a useless boss who didn't understand him, but something about him felt like home, so much so that as much as Romano longed to be independent and free of him, the alternative didn't really seem that bad. Being by his side, being clung to, and cuddled forever, being held close to him, being kissed by him.

'Bésame,' he gasped out, the word escaping him before he had even been truly aware of his own thoughts, rasping into the heavy air of the bathroom and dying before it could reach the walls and return to mock him. Awareness crawled back towards him, slowly sharpening his mind as if he was sobering up from drinking too much wine. His body was flushed with heat (when had the water gotten so hot?), and his vision was dazed, eyes adjusting to the light once more (when had he closed them?). He released a shuddering breath as a wave of sexual excitement ran through his veins, almost as if he could feel it in his very blood, slithering around his body and setting every nerve on edge. His hand, trembling under the force of his desire, hovered in the air, feeling suddenly heavy, fingers pausing in where they desperately twirled and tugged at that one errant curl.

Realisation was quickly followed by mortification, his face freezing in a horrified expression as he snatched his hand away and brought his knees up to his chest all in one motion, an automatic response to hide the evidence of his sinful thoughts from his eyes despite the fact that he could feel it, mocking him with cruel persistence. His fingernails dug into his kneecaps, the sharp pain giving his mind enough clarity to hold in the emotion that threatened to burst out of him, clogging his throat in a way that felt like he was going to puke. He wanted to scream. He wanted to shout, and curse, and sob, and smash that fucking scrubbing brush right through the fucking window.

He couldn't. He couldn't because Spain would worry. Spain would hear him, and come to find him, and fawn over him, and then Spain would know what a dirty little piece of shit Romano was. He'd probably try to assure him that it was okay, babble inane little words to him in a pathetic attempt to comfort him, call him cute. He wouldn't understand. He never understood. He thought that Romano was still just a kid. Even if Romano pointed at his jutting cock, made Spain look at it, made Spain know that it was all because of him, Spain wouldn't see him as anything more than a stupid, fucking kid.

Confused, miserable, and feeling horribly alone in the world, Romano buried his head into his knees, pressing his closed eyes to the skin as he sobbed softly to himself.

'Romano, I've been thinking…' Spain said that evening, sounding faintly hesitant.

Romano looked up from where he was clearing the last of the food from his plate, giving Spain a bored, put- out sort of look. 'What is it, idiot?'

Spain smiled fondly at him for a moment, before it wavered slightly and he looked away. Romano felt his interest rise. 'You've been more moody than usual lately, and I'm worried about you. I mean, you've always been moody, but at the moment it seems worse than ever—'

'Are you going somewhere with this?' Romano snapped, cheeks flushing.

'Ah, well yes,' Spain responded uncertainly. 'Anyway, this afternoon after I somehow managed to offend you, I went to talk to France, and—'

'You what?' Romano shouted, dropping his fork, not caring in the slightest that it sent tomato puree spattering onto the tablecloth. 'You talked to France about me?'

'Now, now, Romano,' Spain responded with an uneasy smile, hands raised in a mock gesture of surrender. 'I just want to stop doing the wrong thing and you won't tell me how. I need some help, sometimes.' He paused to gauge Romano's reaction. When his charge didn't respond, Spain took it as his cue to continue. 'Anyway he pointed out that you're growing up and, much as I want you to stay my cute, little Roma forever, I guess he's right. I mean, I honestly didn't realise how much bigger you've gotten, but it suddenly occurred to me when I was talking with France that you've shot up! I didn't even notice it, to be honest, but I guess it just takes me a while to notice these things. Anyway, Romano do you think about sex much?'

Romano, having previously been carefully listening to Spain's words, paled suddenly. He meant to shout, and rage, and splutter indignantly, but his 'W-what?' came out instead as a shocked whisper.

'Ah well, it's something that grown- ups do, Romano—'

'I know what sex is, you fucking moron!' Romano screamed this time, having found his voice. He still blushed, however, when some small part of him lurched at having said the word "sex" in front of Spain.

'Oh,' Spain responded, looking a little worried. 'France warned me about that. He said that you're emotional because you have a lot of hormones bouncing around in that little body of yours, but it's okay, Romano! I don't remember going through puberty very well myself, but I'll do my best to help you through it, and I want you to know, well… if you ever want to talk about… sex, or about the changes that your body will be going through, then you can always come to me.' Spain paused for a moment, taking in Romano's frozen expression, before tentatively adding a slightly embarrassed prompt of 'So, Romano… do you want to talk about any changes in your body?'

'I…' slowly the ice that froze Romano in place cracked and melted from the rising heat of humiliation in his cheeks. 'I am not talking about sex with you, you pervert!' he screamed, surging to his feet in a motion that sent his chair falling over backwards to crash onto the floor.

'Wait, Romano!' Spain wailed as Romano made to run for the door.

He made it as far as four strides before Spain caught his arm.

Romano tensed, seething as he cursed the Spaniard's longer legs to Hell and back, and waiting for an opportune moment for Spain to shift around him enough for him to deliver a sound head butt.

Spain seemed to realise this, not moving from his position behind the youth. 'Look, Romano. I'm sorry that I made you so angry, but I just want to help you,' he said softly. Romano knew without looking that he was looking at him in pity. Insensitive idiot. 'I'm here for you, Roma. I want you to know that.'

'Go away,' Romano muttered despondently. 'Just leave me alone.'

'I can't' Spain chuckled, moving closer and slithering his arms around him from behind, holding him protectively as he rested his cheek atop his head. 'It's such a confusing, crazy time for you, but I'm going to help you with it, because I love you. No matter how old you get, or how grumpy you look, you'll always be my cute, little Roma, and boss Spain will always look after you.'

Somewhere within him, Romano felt his heart break.

Shifting awkwardly, he pulled Spain's arms from around him and took a step away. Spain watched him silently, worrying if he had, yet again, done something wrong.

Romano turned back around with a scowl on his face. 'Well you could start by getting me some clothes that actually fit me, idiot.'

Spain beamed back at him. 'Tomorrow, bright and early, we'll go to the market and buy you some nice, new clothes then!'

Romano snorted. 'If by "bright and early" you mean past noon then fine, whatever.' Spain laughed in response, previous awkwardness seemingly forgotten.

With that, Romano left the room. As he made his way through the darkened corridors of Spain's excessive mansion, walking steadily towards his own bedroom, his expression hardened to one of slowly developing, but deep resolve. Puberty, hormones and emotions be damned straight to Hell, he'd made up his mind.

One day, not tomorrow, maybe not even for a hundred more years, but one day he would have his independence, and on that day, some time in the future, when he stood proudly as Spain's equal, perhaps Spain would understand. Perhaps he would see Romano as the man that he was becoming.

Until that day, well, Romano would just have to do his best to make Spain's life as difficult as possible.

This fic assumes that Spain, prior to being 'Spain' was the Kingdom of Aragon, which had control of Southern Italy as early as the 1380s. o3o