For the next few months, Germany devoted quite a lot of thought to his mysterious condition. He examined his feelings when interacting with other nations to see if anyone else could invoke them (so far, no one else had), and read through every manual he could find on the human psyche. Germany even tried asking a few of the others to approach Italy and see if they experienced any of his symptoms. When they asked him what symptoms they were supposed to be looking for and listened to his description, some of them would smile knowingly and tell him amusedly that no, they didn't feel anything of the sort.

Despite his efforts, he was no closer to understanding what was wrong with him than he had been after talking to Prussia. Germany felt frustrated and lost. Why did it seem like almost everyone understood the nature of his problem except for him? He was approaching his investigations in a very scientific and rational manner. Why couldn't he seem to make any real progress? So far all he understood was that it had something to do with Italy and was supposedly a completely normal phenomenon, even though he was the only one who seemed to experience it. That didn't make sense to him; if he was the only one who experienced it, that meant that it was abnormal, right?

When Germany came home that fateful night after a long, hard day of meetings, he had exhaustion to add to his growing list of woes. As much as he had tried to focus on the matters that had been discussed in his meetings, he found his thoughts constantly drawn back to Italy. What was Italy doing right now? Was he well? Was he thinking about Germany? As he wondered these things, his symptoms returned and he was struck with a strange and almost overpowering desire to see Italy right at that moment. Of course, he was in the middle of all-day meetings so that was out of the question and for some weird reason that made the tightness in his chest even worse. How could Italy be affecting him so severely even when they were nowhere near each other?

Germany stepped wearily out of his car and onto the pavement of his driveway. This whole ordeal was really starting to tire him out. He loosened his tie as he made his way to the mailbox in the dark to get his mail. His hand emerged from the depths of the mailbox with three envelopes. Germany pieced through them disinterestedly on his way to the front door. One was a bill, the other some documents he had been waiting for from one of his ambassadors in Japan, and the other was a small, white envelope, addressed to him in elegant black scrawl.

Germany let himself into the house, examining the white envelope with marginal curiosity. It almost looked like a personal letter, but who in the world sent those anymore in this era of email and cell phones? He turned it over to open it up and his curiosity spiked when he noticed that the wax seal on the back bore Italy's coat of arms. Germany tossed the other mail on the counter and tore the envelope open eagerly. Inside was a simple white card, covered in ornate silver writing. Germany sat down at the table to read it and at the first few words, he felt as though his heart, which had been troubling him for so long with its hyperactivity, had completely stopped.

"04.13.2010, Repubblica Italiana Veneciano and Republique Francaise request the pleasure of your company at their wedding celebration…"

Germany's throat felt as though it was closing and he couldn't continue. No, this couldn't be happening… There was no way Italy could possibly be… Italy and France… married? Surely he had read it wrong or misunderstood or something. He looked down at the card in his shaking fingers again. No, there was no mistaking it, it definitely said 'wedding celebration'. The desperate thought that this was a fake flashed across his mind, but both of their signatures were fixed at the bottom. Germany ran his fingers over Italy's signature. The luster of the ink and slight indent left by the pressure of Italy's pen as he'd signed his name were clearly evident, and Germany would recognize that penmanship as his friend's any day.

And as if to add insult to injury, there was a picture at the bottom of Italy and France together, their hands joined, wearing matching engagement rings. France was kissing Italy's fingers tenderly, and Italy was giggling, a delicate blush on his soft, round cheeks. They were the perfect model of a couple deeply enamored with each other. If Germany hadn't known the people in the photo, he would have said that they looked like a good match.

But he did know them and the very thought of Italy getting married to France, France of all nations, filled him with a revulsion so strong he literally felt ill. Had France ever cared for Italy when he was sick or hurt? Had France ever comforted him after a nightmare? Would fucking France stay faithfully at his side through thick and thin, handling every mess that Italy made, getting himself through the struggle by telling himself that once it was over he could go back to admiring Italy's smile and treasuring his laughter as he always had? No! The answer to all those questions was no! Not only had France never been there for Italy, there was every likelihood that he never would be, even if they were married. France would remain the same lecherous, self-absorbed wino beardy bastard he had always been. And poor, sweet Italy, who, at least in the picture, looked like he genuinely had feelings for his groom-to-be, would cry himself to sleep night after night, waiting faithfully for the return of the husband who was out late every night cheating on him.

Germany didn't even notice that there were tears in his eyes until they pattered softly on the surface of that accursed wedding invitation. It was then, as Germany's heart broke quietly in the partial darkness that everything finally clicked in his head. Suddenly the general fluster he felt around the other nation, the heart throbbing, he constant desire to see him… it all made sense. He was madly, desperately, head-over-heels in love with Italy. How could he have been so blind?

Feeling empowered by his new knowledge and desperate to take some sort of action, Germany got to his feet and wiped his eyes forcefully. This was no time to sit around crying. He didn't know what he was going to do, but he had to do something. It was either that or he would have to bite his tongue and swallow his feelings until Italy and France eventually parted ways, and who knew how many decades that would be. With that thought fixed stubbornly in his mind, Germany raced out the front door, jumped into the car and set the course on his trusty GPS for Italy's house.

Germany shuffled his feet anxiously as he stood on Italy's front step, waiting for him to answer the door. He had rung the bell six times in quick succession so Italy should have heard him. The blond rang it again, just for good measure. To his relief, there was a groggy "Coming, coming" from inside and the door finally opened. Italy stood there in nothing but an oversized shirt (one that would have looked suspiciously familiar if Germany hadn't been too uptight to notice), yawning and rubbing his eyes in a manner that tugged fiercely at Germany's heartstrings, his hair tousled. When Italy saw Germany standing before him, he offered him a sleepy smile.

"Germany," he cooed. "I was just dreaming about you."

The smaller man curled his arms around Germany and hugged him contentedly. Germany returned the embrace uncertainly. Now that Italy was in his arms, he felt as though he could breathe just a little easier. But should he really be hugging Italy when he was betrothed? Even if Germany didn't think Italy's groom-to-be deserved him, it seemed wrong to hold him this way. For some reason, though, he couldn't make himself let go.

"I'm sorry to wake you up like this in the middle of the night," Germany mumbled into Italy's silky hair, "but I… I had to see you."

Italy frowned. "Germany, are you ok? You're shaking…" He released his friend from the hug, moving his delicate, artistic hands up to cup the German's cheeks. Italy's worry only increased as he examined Germany's face. The other man looked upset and exhausted and seemed to be in pain. Italy's soft fingertips explored the skin beneath Germany's eyes gently, his own eyes widening in wonder. "And your eyes look a little bit red…"

The blond's cheeks reddened in shame as he carefully studied the ground in order to avoid Italy's gaze. Italy stood on his toes so that he could touch a light kiss to Germany's cheek. "Why doesn't Germany come inside and let me make him some warm milk tea with honey?" he offered quietly. "You look like you've had a bad day."

Germany allowed himself to be led inside by the hand, shutting and locking the door behind them. He let Italy direct him to the couch and watched him disappear into the kitchen. Germany sighed and lowered his face into his hands, trying to collect himself and organize his thoughts. The only thought that had been in his head during the drive over to Italy's place was that he had to do something. He honestly hadn't thought this far ahead. What on earth was he going to do? It wasn't as if he could get down on his knees and beg Italy not to get married. Even confessing his feelings to him at this point seemed callous. If Italy really loved France, Germany had no business getting in the way.

Italy reappeared in the front room with two mugs. He pushed one of them gently into Germany's hands and sat down beside him, snuggling up to his side. Once he was settled, Italy took Germany's arm and gave it a little squeeze of encouragement as he sipped his tea. It took all Germany's willpower to refrain from scooping the smaller man into his lap and holding him and refusing to ever let go.

Italy was watching him silently in amazement. Germany was always so strong and level-headed. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he had seen him so upset. It was the redness under his eyes that really mystified him, though. He recognized it well as it was something he himself had worn many times. But the thought of Germany crying was almost unfathomable to him. His heart clenched painfully as he wished he could have been there to dry Germany's tears.

"What's wrong, Germany?" he asked quietly. "Did something bad happen at your house?"

Germany hesitated. He should have expected this. It seemed that Italy was as oblivious to Germany's feelings as he himself had been until just a few hours ago; he didn't even realize how much that wedding invitation had hurt him. In all likelihood, Italy probably expected Germany to be happy for him and give him his blessing. Italy was always saying that Germany was his best friend; what if he asked him to stand up in his wedding ceremony? He didn't think he'd be able to handle that. Germany tried to calm the excruciating lump in his throat with a swallow of tea but it didn't help much.

"I don't even know what I'm doing here," he muttered, mostly to himself. "It's already too late. I know that. I know that but… I can't just give up and not say anything."

"If there's anything Germany wants to say, I'll listen as closely as I can," Italy promised quietly. "And if it's a secret, I promise I won't tell anyone, even if they point a gun at me, so don't be afraid, ok?"

"I shouldn't say it, though," Germany continued. "I… I have to respect your feelings and choices, even if I don't understand them. It's my own fault for even letting it get to this point. If I would have just noticed sooner, then maybe I could have… Anyway, speaking out at this point would just be selfish."

Italy plucked the mug from Germany's hands and set it with his on the coffee table so that he could climb into the taller man's lap, straddling his thighs so that he could face him as he gently stroked his cheek. "Germany is always working so hard and thinking about other people before himself," he whispered against the blond's lips. "I think it would be ok if he did something selfish for once."

Germany could feel his face growing hot as Italy's warm lips grazed his teasingly and it sent another shock of pain through his heart to be toyed with in such a manner. He wanted more than anything to pull Italy's lithe body against him and taste those candy-sweet pink lips of his. I can't, he told himself. He's engaged, I can't kiss him. I shouldn't even be letting him sit on my lap like this and I certainly can't kiss him. I can't…

But Italy's soft mouth tempted him again by touching his lightly and the dam of self-control in his head splintered and broke. Before he was even fully aware of what he was doing, he had jerked Italy flush against him, closing that miniscule distance between their mouths in a shamefully needy way. In his desperation and inexperience, he accidentally nipped Italy's lip a little too hard, causing the Italian to startle at the sudden pain. Italy separated from him a fraction of an inch.

"No need to rush," he breathed soothingly. "We have all the time in the world so let's just take it a little slower, ok?"

"Sorry," Germany mumbled, his face scarlet.

He could feel Italy smiling against his lips as he leaned in again, reinstating the kiss gently. Germany let his eyes flutter closed, allowing the more experienced man to lead. The kisses started out brief and light, a playful meeting of mouths. Then Italy nibbled Germany's lower lip, swiping across it with his tongue in a silent request for entrance. Germany failed to bite back a little moan as Italy's tongue slipped into his mouth.

All of Germany's senses seemed to be heightened at that moment. He was painfully aware of the gentle pressure of every contour of Italy's body against his, and the sensation of the smaller man's tongue teasing his own skillfully. His suddenly sensitive nose picked up the fresh scent of Italy's shampoo and body wash from his evening shower. Italy's mouth tasted wonderfully of honey, cream and lemon from his tea, the flavor a feast to his taste buds that was second to none in his opinion. Their combined hums and moans of pleasure were music to his ears, and the fact that Germany's eyes were closed didn't stop him from seeing fireworks. The whole experience was so sublime that Germany managed to completely forget the pain in his heart, just for those few moments.

Finally, Italy pulled away, his eyes slightly hazy with bliss after the unexpected outpour of passion, his cheeks flushed adorably, his lips slightly swollen from the loving attention Germany had just lavished on them. Italy's smile evolved into a giggle and he nuzzled his face happily into the crook of the blond's neck. Germany could feel the wounds in his heart being ripped open again even more harshly than before as the reality of his situation came crashing back down on him. With every ounce of resolve he possessed, he pushed Italy away gently. Italy looked at him questioningly, hurt reflecting in his soft brown eyes.

"The… the reason I came here t-tonight…" Germany ground out, "was… was to say that I… I l-love you… Even if we can't be together, I… I can't help feeling that way…"

The pain and confusion in Italy's eyes deepened. Germany was too busy trying to fight back his own tears to notice.

"I'm… I'm sorry for doing something so selfish…" he continued. "I…I wish you and France e-every happiness… and pr-promise not to get in your way…"

"Why can't I be with Germany?" Italy asked softly. "I don't understand… if we love each other then we should be together, right?"

"You're getting married to France next month!" Germany choked, his voice cracking humiliatingly. "Don't tell me you've forgotten your own wedding!"

"Oh… to France nii-chan?" Italy replied slowly.

"God, if only I'd… r-realized my feelings sooner…" Germany sighed shakily. "I feel like s-such a fool…"

"Hmm, this is kind of weird…" the Italian muttered to himself.

"If you think it's weird, imagine how I felt when I saw the invitation!" Germany pointed out. "That was the first time I'd even heard that there was anything between you two! I thought you were afraid of him!"

Italy's frown deepened. "Germany got an invitation?"

"What, wasn't I supposed to?" Germany snapped. "Were you just going to get married and not even mention it to me?"

"No, no! I swear!" the Italian squeaked. "I just thought it was weird that Germany got an invitation to my wedding before I did! Waah, I'm sorry! I'll do anything so don't hit me! "

"Wait…" Germany said slowly. "What? What do you mean, you didn't get an invitation? Who in the world sends themselves an invitation to their own wedding?"

"Well, see… " Italy began. "I don't remember France nii-chan ever proposing to me so I thought it was kind of weird. But what Germany says is usually true so if Germany says I'm getting married then I must be getting married…"

"Huh? This… this is the first time you've even heard of it?" Germany gasped. "Then what the heck is this?"

Germany reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the invitation he had received. Italy examined it curiously.

"That's your signature down there, isn't it?" the blond demanded, jabbing at the name at the bottom.

"Hmm… sure looks like it," Italy admitted. "I wonder… last week, France nii-chan came over and asked me to sign a blank card. When I asked him what is was for, he said it would help Germany. I wanted to help Germany, so I signed it right away!"

"Then… what about this picture?" Germany asked urgently. "That's you, right?"

"Um, yeah… but…" Italy trailed off, frowning thoughtfully.

Then without warning, he pushed himself off of Germany's lap and rushed into the other room. Germany could hear him rummaging around for a moment before he returned with a photo in his hand. He handed the photo to Germany. The taller man's eyes widened. It was a picture of him and Italy together, one they had taken at the park after their picnic last autumn. Italy's arms were curled around Germany's shoulders, which looked slightly stiff as Germany returned the camera's gaze self-consciously. What stood out most (besides Italy's beauty among the fall colors) was the fact that Italy's face looked exactly the same in both pictures. The joyful laughter and soft blush that Germany had thought were directed at France were actually directed at him. His heart rose hopefully.

"Germany's the only one who could make me smile like that," Italy said softly, touching a kiss to Germany's cheek.

"Italy…" he breathed. The smaller man just smiled at him warmly. Germany blushed and cleared his throat as he turned back to the two pictures. "So this was Photoshopped? But who on earth would…" He paused as something clicked in his head. "Prussia!"

Of course, Prussia was always screwing around in Photoshop, making ridiculous pictures by sticking Gilbird's head on Godzilla's body in a scene of it rampaging around the vital region Moscow to send to Russia, whom he hated. Besides that, he remembered what Prussia had said to him a few months ago when he had confided in him: "The awesome me would never leave his silly little brother in the dark. There are other ways I can help, besides just giving you the answer. Just you wait; I'll have you praising my superior intellect in no time." And Prussia had always been pretty buddy-buddy with France.

Germany actually laughed out loud in relief. "You're… you're not getting married."

Italy grinned and shook his head. Germany couldn't bite back the smile that was spreading across his own face as Italy threw his arms around him.

"Italy, I, um…" Germany trailed off, blushing as he gathered his courage, "forgive me if this seems too forward or awkward; I've never really asked anyone this before, but… I'd like it if we could be together. I mean, as uh… as lovers."

Italy giggled in adoration at Germany's stiff, inexperienced manner in voicing this request, thinking that he wouldn't trade him or his awkwardness for anyone or anything in the world. He pressed his lips to Germany's again happily.

"I'd love to," he purred.

Germany's small, shy smile returned as he stole another tender kiss. When they pulled away, Italy yawned and rubbed his eyes sleepily, which in turn set Germany off yawning.

"Mm, is Germany sleepy, too?" Italy asked. "Germany can sleep with me in my bed tonight."

"I… ahem, ok," Germany replied, blushing hotly. The Italian kissed his flushed cheek with smiling lips as Germany shifted him in his muscular arms, cradling him like a child as he carried him to bed. As Italy's warm, slender body snuggled up to him under the covers, Germany decided that he owed Prussia a big thank you and might even be inclined to nod his head (bowing would just be too much) to his older brother's so-called "superior intellect".