AN- This is horribly out of character but it just begged to be written. Please forgive me.
Italy did not know the correct procedure in the rest of the world, but in Italy when one was gazing sorrowfully at their old lover with his new love, they were not interrupted by beetle-browed Englishmen offering cups of tea.
Perhaps that was why Italy stared at the proffered, slightly chipped mug in confusion. He'd never really spoken to the former pirate before and was in truth rather afraid of the irritable man. He half expected his inaction to cause England to insult him and storm off so the arm around his shoulder guiding him to a nearby chair was even more of a surprise than the tea.
The tea which England had placed in Italy's cold, limp hands and had not let go off until Italy's fingers curled around the handle.
England then settled himself into the opposite armchair, sipping his own mug appreciatively and looking at Italy with an awkward air, as if shocked by his own actions.
"I'm sorry about the mug; I never bring my china to world meetings, well not after France smashed my Tudor Rose set."
Italy looked like he'd been punched in the stomach.
France and Germany.
France and Germany together.
All blonde hair and tangled limbs and soft cries in languages Italy can't understand and accents he can't decipher. Flashing blue eyes and desperate mewling, tumbling about the bed he and Germany used to share in breathless excitement and a mess of sheets that smelled of them.
"Don't" said England, interrupting Italy's memories. "Don't think of them, don't do that to yourself."
Italy is not by nature a nation that hides his feelings but the speed by which England reads him is still shocking. Is it really that obvious? Can everyone see it? Are they laughing at him?
Is Germany laughing at him?
Italy hadn't realised he'd said the last question aloud until he heard England reply.
"He's not laughing at you, he barely notices you. France is rather consuming in that regard. He doesn't leave much time for anyone else."
England's words are brutally honest and not so much tinged as drenched in bitterness. They're as bitter as Italy feels and he can't help but wonder if England's hiding behind anger, embroidery and fairies the same way he's hiding behind pasta, painting and women.
Perhaps England senses the sympathy because the next time he opens his mouth the prickles that hide the pain have returned.
"Now drink your tea before it gets cold."
England sounds a bit like Grandfather Rome, albeit in a repressed English way, as he fusses around adding sugar and so despite his longing for a plate of pasta, Italy does what he's told.
The tea's still almost scalding hot and Italy can only manage one or two gulps before he has to stop. England on the other hand seems immune and his mug is almost half empty by the time he pauses.
They talk about their economies for a bit; comparing deficits, debating the proposed austerity measures and inquiring about each other's health before lying about their own as if the truth isn't before them. Italy tries to understand what England's talking about, to be serious like Germany would want him to be. But he can't help but sneak glances at Germany.
He looks tired, slightly run down but nowhere near as bad as many of the other nations in the room. He's still sitting slightly too close to France and the intimacy is so obvious it's painful. And Italy's hands are shaking and the mug's shaking and...
"You're hurting yourself."
England's words force his attention back to his tea-burned hands and the soft white handkerchief that England's cleaning them with. There's a red rose embroidered on one corner and it's such a France flower that Italy can't help the associations his mind makes nor the choking pain it brings.
To Italy it seems like most of the tea is now either on the floor or on the handkerchief that England is tucking away but there is enough remaining in the cup for England to continue to coax him to drink. He doesn't entirely like the taste and it is still too hot but he drinks to please the nation who is being so kind to him.
Besides it offers a distraction from what England is saying, words that come wrapped in cotton wool but still stab like daggers.
"You need to stop you know. They've made their choice. We have to live with it."
Part of Italy wants to ask where the we came from.
The other part already knows.
England's drinking his own tea now and his knuckles are white around the mug. He looks towards the same two people that he has forbidden Italy to watch and flinches. It's barely distinguishable from his normal scowl. No one who didn't already know would notice anything.
And watching it, Italy's heart breaks a tiny bit more.
Italy wants to hug England, mug, tea and all but he doesn't. It's not wanted and would be more for his sake than the nation opposite. England exudes an untouchable air that reeks of coldness and Italy wonders how long you have to be broken-hearted before that defines you.
"It gets easier."
England has no answer so they sit there with their cooling tea until a shout drags them from their melancholy. France has successfully sprawled his way across Germany's lap distracting the other nation and sending the papers he was working on flying across the room. And he's laughing.
They're both laughing.
England stands up abruptly, his empty mug held loosely in his left hand and Italy swears he could see the Englishman's upper lip quiver slightly before the shutters slam down.
"I'm going to get myself another cup. You should finish that one, it will help."
Italy doesn't react to the bizarre claim but England still feels he needs to elaborate.
"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a cup of tea. If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. Where there is tea, there is hope. It is, in short, the answer to everything. It gets me through wars, terrorist attacks, penalty shoot outs..."
England's moving away now, tenser than ever despite his eulogy on what must be one of his favourite subjects. Italy finds it fascinating and indeed slightly scary to watch England straighten up and mould his features. To realise that everything he thought he knew about the nation is in fact a mask.
Perhaps that's why Italy did what he did. Because he hated seeing England change almost as much as he hated the thought that that could be his future.
"And broken hearts?"
It's a hit below the belt and England recoils from it as if he's been physically kicked. Despite this though, Italy presses on because misery, like pain, loves company.
"What of the broken-hearted? Can tea help us?"
And Italy watches as England turns around with a soft smile on his lips and the agony of the ages in his eyes.
"Boy, nothing can help us."
AN- Should just point out that I have stolen some quotes about tea for Arthur's little speech so most of that isn't mine (kudos to anyone who knows who really said them). And thank you for reading this far. This fic was an attempt to reconcile the fact that in real life, the EU is basically France and Germany's love child with my knowledge and love of Hetalia.