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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The innocent sound of knuckle against wood was something Romano would have been perfectly fine ignoring. When it persisted in erratic intervals even as the Italian did his best to radiate 'no-one-home', there seemed only one way to make the damn sound stop. So while he did not want to get out of the comfy chair (damn, Feliciano was good at picking out furniture after all), he didn't have a choice.
Knocking on the door could mean pretty much anything; Feliciano could have locked himself out, that damn Ludwig who was having sex with his little brother could be back to get something that scatterbrained idiot brother of his forgot at the house, or that damn Gilbert who was brothers with that damn Ludwig could be stopping by to have a few drinks before wobbling out a few hours later wasted. There were so many reasons for Romano not to answer the door (not to mention Jehovah Witnesses or rapists or stupid little kids playing ding-dong-ditch), but there was always that slight chance Feli could be in trouble so Romano forced himself to fling open the front door.
Instead of his (nearly) identical twin brother sobbing pitifully on the doorstep, the man Romano came face to face with was tall, broad, and ridiculously cheerful-looking. Dark curls framed a face grinning somewhat like a used car salesman (whom Romano had enough experience with, incidentally), and the man seemed to look even brighter as the door opened. "Hello, there! My name is Antonio and I want to tell you about this great new deal over at your local Horizon Wireless! For only twenty dollars start-up fee, you can have two new phones on a two year contract, with unlimited dialing to anywhere in the world!"
"Not interested," Romano muttered, making way to shut the door. He found his very private property invaded as Antonio stuck his foot in the doorway, making closing the door impossible.
"Wait, I'm not done yet! You can have a choice of whatever style of phone available and you can change it every year…"
"I already told you I'm not goddamn interested! Get your damn foot out of my house!"
"Is there perhaps anyone else interested? I'm sure you can't be living in this big house all by yourself~!"
"Who I live with is none of your business! I haven't got time to waste talking to stupid salesmen all day! I don't want to hear about your goddamn phones so tell it to someone who cares! Good day!" Slamming the door and not giving a damn if that bastard's foot was mauled in the process, Romano felt as if he dealt a swift backhand to life. He'd won the battle.
Feliciano had lost his watch a couple weeks ago and had taken on the habit of stealing Romano's specially imported Italian leather watch. When he had called his brother up, Feliciano had insisted he had not taken it. Well, if he hadn't, the watch must have grown little legs and walked away from the drawer that also held their bills, keys, and other miscellaneous items. Feliciano had giggled at that.
He hadn't remembered taking his watch off in the office, but it had happened once before so Romano was uprooting the place when someone knocked on the door again. Absent-mindedly scanning the office with his eyes, Romano was occupied with the location of his missing wrist watch that he opened the door without thinking and found himself with happy Antonio again.
"Hey again! I thought that maybe this might interest you this time!" Holding up a strange contraption looking like a mix between a vacuum and a mop (which Romano didn't know was possible), Antonio waved it around. "Last time you made it clear that you didn't like to waste time, so how about this baby? Not only does it suck clean your room of dust and filth, but instead of going to switch it with a mop for smooth surfaces, you can easily press this button and switch it to a mop! It's super efficient for cleaning your house, and it's only thirty-one ninety-nine!"
"I never said…what are you doing here?" Romano scowled. "I thought I told you I didn't want to buy anything you sold."
"Last time it was phones. This is something entirely different!" Antonio grinned. "I thought it would be something you could use! Want me to show you how it works?"
"No. Now unless that thing can find me my watch, it's not coming into this house. Now get off the doorstep or I'm calling the police on you." Antonio looked too stupid to know his empty threats from real ones, but he was grinning like he did. "Get outta here." Doors were so satisfying to be slammed. But this nuisance was not going to find his watch.
Garden time was the only time he felt totally in control of everything. Picking weeds was much easier than having to deal with Gilbert whining about how his coworker Elizavita did not acknowledge his presence. Making sure his stakes were straight was much more straightforward than listening to Feliciano prattle about Ludwig. Filling holes in the fence from rabbits was more tolerable than having to engage in small talk with Ludwig while Feliciano primped himself for a big date. No one was aloud to bother him when he was tending to his tomatoes, not even Feliciano. So when he heard shoes coming up the gravel path from the front of his house to the back where he was gardening, he already had little patience for the intruder.
"So that's where you were! I was knocking for a good five minutes when I heard sounds back here!" Antonio was radiating so much it made Romano sick. It was so easy to be mad at someone who didn't know it. "Anyway, I remembered last time you lost your watch." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a watch case (with a watch a far cry from his own, which Feliciano finally admitted to taking). "So I thought you might want another. It's straight from one of the bulls from Spain! It sells for pretty high prices elsewhere, but it's a steal at nineteen ninety-nine!"
"I already have a fucking watch," Romano said, smearing dirt on his face as he wiped it with his glove. He was well aware of it, but Antonio tried to reach over to him from the other side of the gate.
"You've got some dirt on your face…"
"Don't touch me!" Romano backed away to a safe, unreachable distance. "Why do you keep trying to sell me stuff? Leave me alone."
"You just seem to need it!"
"Is that what your damn company tells you to tell me?"
"No~." Antonio cocked his head, the watch case still in his hand. "And I just realized I don't yet know your name. I'm Antonio, Antonio Carriedo. What's yours?"
"If I'm just a customer, it shouldn't be of much importance to you."
"Oh, but every customer is a valued customer!" Now he was looking like a pathetically happy stray. Romano figured they all looked like this. Charmed you into thinking they all cared when all they wanted was your money. Figures.
"Romano? Nice to meet you!" He held out his other hand, which Romano did not shake. "So you like to grow things? Your tomatoes look really nice. I grow tomatoes too, you know~! You seem to know what you're doing, so you aren't just starting out!"
"I don't want to talk about my tomatoes with you. Please leave."
Antonio looked ready to protest, but merely blinked before turning on his heel back to the front of the house. "Alright then. I'll come by soon with something else!"
"No, I don't want you to!" But by that time, Antonio was out of sight. Romano kicked the side of the gate.
"Fratello, do you know anything about this?" Feliciano asked later that evening. Romano looked up from the newspaper to see the blue watch case Antonio had been holding. "I found this crammed in our mailbox."
"It's…nothing. Go throw it away."
He thought it was a weird dream when all he could hear was the incessant sound of knocking as he was wandering a wonderful world where Ludwig did not exist. When he blinked himself awake, Romano was aware that someone was knocking on the door, and if it was who he thought it was, he had to go answer it. He had just been rudely knocked (ha. Pun.) out of his siesta, so Goddammit if he was going to actually put clothes on. Throwing a shirt over his shoulders, Romano took his time getting down the stairs before opening the door.
"Hey, Romano! I thought you might be interested in these. Garden shears! I use them all the time and they're great! You can prune anything! I have a whole set in my car; they come in all sorts of sizes!" Antonio stopped briefly in his pitch to absorb Romano's half asleep face. "Am I interrupting something?"
"My nap, bastard."
"Oh. I'm sorry." He looked Romano up and down. "You don't wear pants when you sleep?"
Mm. He'd forgotten about that. The shirt was long enough to cover what mattered, but not much else. Antonio wasn't looking at him in any sort of perverse, hot-damn sort of way; just curiosity. "A man can sleep in whatever he likes," Romano retorted.
"Yeah." For once, Antonio seemed to be at a loss for words. Romano took this opportunity to free his neck from the kinks he had slept it into. "So…I guess I shouldn't disturb you. I'll come back later!"
"How about not at all?" But it was an improvement, Romano noted, Antonio leaving on his own. He watched the man walk back to his car before closing the door and collapsing back in bed, realizing lackadaisically he had not given Antonio anything for the watch sitting on the bottom of his trash bin.
He had made heavenly Alfredo sauce before, but Romano was sure this time he had gotten everything right and was refusing to leave the stove, lest Feliciano's spacey mind made it bubble over. He was stirring it satisfactedly with a ladle when someone knocked on the door. Romano had mindlessly waved Feliciano off to the door and hadn't realized his mistake when he'd heard Feliciano say, "Hi there!"
"Hey! You…you must be Romano's brother!"
"I am! Feliciano Vargas! Who're you?"
Romano could not get out of the kitchen fast enough.
"I'm Antonio," Antonio was saying, grinning wildly like the first time Romano had met him. He was completely captivated by the stupid, innocent charm his brother had, Romano could tell. Everyone got that idiotic look when Feliciano talked to them. Didn't Antonio know Feliciano had a boyfriend (first and only time Romano was glad about that fact)? "Didn't Romano tell you about me?"
"No, fratello didn't say anything about you." Feliciano turned as Romano thundered down the foyer toward them and yelped as Romano pushed him aside.
"Don't talk to him, Feliciano, you'll only encourage him."
"Roma, I thought…the sauce…"
"You take care of it." Romano was glaring at Antonio, trying to convey never return without actually speaking. Feliciano looked at him, then at Antonio, who seemed oblivious, before wandering back to the kitchen. "And what are you doing here?" he hissed.
"Here!" A puffy white mass was thrust into his face and Romano thought for a moment that Antonio was trying to smother and kidnap him. A punch through the object revealed that it was very fluffy and when pulled farther away for further inspection, happened to be a pillow. "Last time you had kinks in your neck when you were sleeping. Your pillow probably isn't as good as this one! It's got down feather and molds into the shape of your head for better comfort. It won't get all saggy very easily!"
"I don't need another pillow," Romano retorted, although he agreed to himself that it was a rather nice one.
"Don't be silly! You can't be abusive to your pretty little neck!"
Romano threw the pillow back at him. "Wait here and don't step foot into my house," he said, before rushing back to the kitchen where his wallet was. Feliciano was making a knowing face at him that he was ignoring as he grabbed a twenty out of his battered wallet and made back to the door before his brother could say anything. "Here. For your damn watch."
Antonio stared at the money before frowning. "Watch?"
"Just take it!" Romano shoved it into the startled salesman's hands before reaching for the door. "I don't want your pillow and I don't want you saying around that I take charity! Now get out of here, 'cause I've got sauce to make, dammit, and you're going to ruin it!"
The pillow was sure to ease the intensity of the blow the door made, Romano reasoned, so he shouldn't feel bad about slamming the door in Antonio's face. And the stupid man should be used to it already! Fuming slightly to himself, he returned back to the kitchen, where the Alfredo sauce was already giving off a pleasant aroma.
"So, fratello, who's Antonio~?"
The next time the door beckoned, it was six-thirty and half an hour before they were to meet their reservation at some fancy pansy restaurant Ludwig knew (if this was how he was going to impress Romano enough to give them his blessing, the kraut had another thing coming). Feliciano was upstairs still trying to decide between the pasta cufflinks or the Italian flag. Gilbert and Ludwig were going to be there any minute!
(Why Gilbert was coming made no sense. Romano, sure, because Ludwig still needed his approval! If this was some sort of set up, blind date sort of thing, Ludwig would never, ever get his okay.)
When Romano opened the door, Antonio was waving around a frilly, useless thing of an apron. "Hey, Roma! I saw this and I thought of you!"
"I hope not. That would be an insult." Before he could make any more snide comments, Antonio had already forced the apron over his head. The bastard was even trying to pull a fast one on him by leaning forward to the tie a knot in the back! "Don't try and cop a feel, dammit!" The red handprint on Antonio's face had better stay there as a warning sign to all humanity.
"This apron," Antonio announced as Romano struggled to free himself from the hold of frilly horror, "is designed to protect your body against the heat of any stove! It is flame resistant and stain resistant and the pockets easily hold anything you need at hand's reach!" He nodded proudly. "It's a great bargain at fifteen-fifty!"
"Frills?" Romano savagely crumpled the white fabric into a mess. "Dammit!"
Antonio cocked his head. "You look nice~!" he said, taking the wrinkled apron from Romano's destructive hands. "You doing something tonight?"
"Big date," Romano grumbled, rolling his eyes. He might have specified it wasn't his date, but mentioning his brother might get Antonio to talk about Feliciano, which would bring Feliciano downstairs at hearing his own name, which would ultimately lead to the two of them having a nice, stupid conversation while he was ignored. He didn't like Antonio coming here all the time at all! But a bit of his pride was proud of the fact that it wasn't about Feliciano.
"Oh." For the first time, Antonio's face wasn't smothered by a grin. Granted, the smile was still there, but it seemed to have shrunk by a considerable magnitude. "I…should be going, then, I guess."
"…the hell is this?"
Feliciano was out with Ludwig (Romano wondered if they ever got tired of each other always spending time with each other like that), Gilbert had said something about meeting with some Francis to discuss the deteriorating love life of a mutual friend, and Romano had been left with house-sitting. It was something he was good at! He might have broken some things in the past, but that was the past!
Now Antonio was standing at the door, holding out a jewelry case at him with a sparkly diamond necklace that Feliciano might have cooed at. The lopsided smile was still present, as if he had not yet recovered from date night (which went…alright). "It's a necklace. For your pretty girl~! How was your date?"
Pretty girl? Romano wracked his brains to think of a time when he had gone out with a girl in a place Antonio had seen. In between his shifts at the pizza parlor and dealing with Feliciano, he had not had much time to pick up girls or go on dates. Ah, but he had said your date.
"It's real diamonds! She'll love it a lot! Just under a hundred, at only ninety…"
"I didn't go on a date." Romano twisted his lips as he closed the jewelry box. "My brother and his stupid blonde suitor was on the date and I was only invited along."
Antonio stared at him. "So you're single?"
"Yeah, and what's it to you?"
"Just…never mind!" The foolish grin was back. "Then I guess you won't be needing this~!" Antonio shoved the necklace back into his pocket and started babbling something about something when Romano interrupted him.
"Why are you so happy about this?"
Antonio stopped in mid-sentence, mouth open to attract flies. He was still for a moment, before his face flushed and he burst out in a nervous laugh. "Would you look at the time! I'd love to sell you something more but I've got nothing on me and I've still got rounds to make! See you later, Roma!"
Antonio had run away so fast Romano was starting to think his skills of escape were actually not that good after all.
Antonio looked good in red, Romano mused, breezing along the thought before he could dwell on it. "What did you bring to sell to me now?" he asked, noting that the man on the step had nothing in his hands. He just stood sheepishly in a red button-up and jeans.
"I thought of bringing you something. But then I thought about it some more, and you haven't bought anything I tried to sell you."
"I don't think you actually kept it."
"My friends told me to just nip it in the bud and get it over with. I was driving around your neighborhood for a while…debating if I should just do it or not…but here goes." He took a deep breath, looking fairly uncertain in the evening light. "For sale today, I have myself. Gently used, has had a few heartbreaks in the past with no emotional baggage whatsoever. He can cook and clean and take care of anyone. He would look great in your house. You can take him anywhere and he is easily accessible."
Romano cocked his head, biting the inside of his cheek to keep his face apathetic. "Sounds interesting. How much you offering?"
"Just a kiss."
Romano made a disbelieving sound. "That's a splurge from what I'm used to. Is it worth it?"
"Of course it is!" Antonio mustered a smile. "But I'm paid to say that."
Romano tapped his chin thoughtfully, a smirk crossing his face. "I'm tempted, but I'm not convinced. Can I take it on a test run?"
Romano's hand closed over the doorknob, the mean bone in his body tempting him to slam it back in Antonio's face. He made a movement in that direction, laughing when Antonio's eyes widened slightly, before keeping the door open.
"Come in, then, dammit."
Note: I have carpal tunnel, and this is not making it better. On the Hetalia LJ, there has been talk of Spain as a salesman from Himaruya's latest posts, so here is my take on it. Thanks for reading!